Prose Header

Skull Hunter

by S. Michael Leier

Table of Contents
Part 1 appears
in this issue.

We made our way to the fifth-floor apartment where several uniformed officers were standing just outside the door.

“Brogan, let me go in first. If there is something in there I don’t want your ugly mug frightening it away.”

“Keep pushin’, Vargo and they’ll be sending me after some other nut to talk to your ghost.”

I slowly entered the apartment and stood for a minute, gathering the feel of the place. Usually I could tell right away if something or someone was there. People would be amazed at how many souls wander lost. They seem to be everywhere: in hallways, kitchens, on sidewalks, even bathrooms, dazed and confused as if not knowing that they’re dead.

I closed my eyes but nothing came to me, not even the usual feeling of chilled air that seems to signal a presence. After several minutes, I walked back into the hallway to Brogan.

“I’m not picking up on anything,” I said.

“What the hell does that mean?”

“I don’t know. From what you’ve told me there should be something, but I’m just not sensing it.” I turned back to the apartment confused. “Where’s the mother and the boy?”

“They’re down the hall at a neighbor’s apartment,” answered one of the uniformed officers.

“Let me talk to them. Maybe... well I don’t know, but it might help.”

“All right Vargo, but I got you on a short leash, so mind your manners.”

We entered the neighbor’s apartment where two women were sitting on the couch. One had reddish hair loosely tied in bun. She was weeping while the other tried to comfort her.

Brogan removed his hat and was surprisingly gentle as he approached the pair. “Mrs. Reilly, I am Detective Sergeant Brogan and this is Rick Vargo who is helping with the investigation of this terrible happening. He would like to ask you a few questions if you don’t mind.”

Sara Reilly wiped the tears from her swollen face and tried in vain to straighten her hair. I could see that she was exhausted and the toll of the night was evident in her face and reddened eyes.

“I guess it would be all right,” she whispered hoarsely.

“Mrs. Reilly, did you or your husband notice anything strange in the apartment, like a sound or things moving that shouldn’t?” I asked.

“What kind of fool question is that... things moving, strange sounds... of course not.”

“How long have you lived there?”

“We moved there just after we got married last month.”

“So this man isn’t the boy’s father?”

“No he isn’t, if you must know. Ben’s father died working in the mill nearly two years ago.”

“What kind of man was your new husband?”

“Carl was fine man, a good man. He took us in when no other would. He was a little rough, I admit, and was taken to temper at times, but... do you know how hard it is for a widow to find a husband, especially now with things so tough. He loved us and now he’s gone. What are we to do now with no money, and no man to take of us? What are we ever to do?” Sara broke down into her friend’s arms and began sobbing again.

“Mommy,” a small voice called from the other room. I turned just in time to see a small boy run to his mother’s side. As he passed me a wave of chilled air gripped my chest, almost knocking be backward. It was as though fingers pierced through my flesh and grabbed my heart for a brief second.

I stared at the young boy curled up beside his mother, his faced buried into her back. Cautiously, I reached my hand toward him I felt the skin on my hand rip as blood slowly trickled down the skin. Pulling back quickly I hid my bleeding hand inside my coat.

“Brogan I need to talk to the boy alone.”

As I said this, Brogan could tell by the look on face that something was wrong. “Fine, take him into other room.”

“No, I think it would be best if you all went into the hallway.”

“Now wait a minute...” Brogan shook his head until I opened my coat slightly showing him my bloodied hand. “What the...”

“Take the others out of here and leave the boy with me,” I said firmly.

Brogan hesitated for just a moment, placed his hat on his head, and then walked over to the two women. “Mrs. Reilly, I need you and the young lady to come with me.”

“What about Ben?”

“Please Mrs. Reilly, trust me,” I said calmly. “Ben will be fine.”

She turned to her son, hugged him tightly, and then walked with Brogan to the outer hallway. I knelt down in front of the small boy as he curled tightly into the couch.

“Ben I promise I won’t hurt you.”

As I said this, the boy just curled up tighter.

“You can trust me. I’m here to help you so that you never see the monster again.”

“You believe me?” his small voice asked.

“Yes, I believe you. Now I want you tell me about Carl.”

He’s mean.” as Ben spoke I could see the air around him begin to pulse. “He tried to hurt me.”

“How did he hurt you?”

“He grabbed me and hit me,” the air pulsed red and began to darken around the boy as his voice became angrier. “He called me names...” the boy’s voice changed to a deeper, gravelly mix. “And told me he would...”

“What did he say he would do?”

“He said he would kill me!” Ben shot forward and opened his mouth wide as a creature sprung from him. I was barely able to move away as the snarling beast’s massive claw swiped the air near my face. Rolling away, I leaped to my feet. The monster followed my every movement as it held its position between the boy and me.

“Ben I’m not here to hurt you,” I said as I back away. “You must stop this.”

“But I’m not doing anything,” the boy cried as the beast growled loudly with drool-laden fangs.

“Yes you are, Ben. You created this monster. You have the power to stop it.”

“No! I won’t let anyone hurt me again.”

“I know you’re frightened and angry, but you must trust me.”

“That’s what the others said.”

“Ben what would your father say if he knew about this?”

“My father is dead!” The creature started to move forward. “They killed him... the bad men killed him.”

The beast jumped to the air and grabbed me with its fangs knocking me down. I grabbed at the monster as it lifted me and threw me across the room. My clothes were torn and I could feel blood seeping from deep wounds underneath. Again, the massive creature moved towards me with each footstep shaking the floor as it snarled wildly.

“Vargo, are you okay? What’s going on in there?” Brogan called from the hallway. “The door is stuck. I can’t get in.”

“Everything’s fine. Don’t come in here.”

Actually, everything wasn’t fine. The monster grabbed my torn coat and threw me hard against the wall. My sight began to blur and I could feel consciousness slipping away. I struggled to stay awake as the lumbering beast cocked its body to strike again when somewhere in the distance I heard a voice call out: “Ben.”

The creature paused in mid-motion as Ben turned toward the direction of the voice. A bright light began to grow in the room and form into the shape of a tall thin man. Ben’s eyes grew as the man walked from the light into the room.

“Father?” said Ben, surprised.

“Ben you must let go of your anger.” The man spoke in a voice like an echo.

“I don’t understand. They killed you... the bad men...”

The man reached out to the boy, and they were both bathed in brilliant light. Suddenly the apartment door flew open in a hail of splintered wood as Brogan barreled inside, gun drawn. “My god what happened?”

I saw Brogan’s face turn ashen white and his body went limp as he saw the boy and his father. The grip on his pistol slackened as the sight chilled him to his very soul. Then he turned his attention to the snarling beast.

“What the hell is that?” he screamed firming his grip on the pistol once more.

“Ben, there has been an anger inside you that must stop,” said Ben’s father as he held his son.

“I don’t understand,” said Ben in tears.

“Let go of your anger. Destroy it in your mind and the monster will be gone.”

“How?” asked Ben, still confused.

“Think of a time when we were together and happy. Think of that whenever you’re angry. Think of it now and kill the monster.”

“I’ll try,” said Ben as he closed his tear soaked eyes. The creature began to fade as Ben began to smile.

“You have the power. It is inside of you, whenever you feel the monster wanting to come out use that power.”

Ben’s father stepped from the boy smiling as the ball of light swirled around him. “Remember always that I love you.” The swirling ball slowly faded until Ben’s father disappeared.

“Father,” Ben cried as the tears streamed from his eyes. Still weak, I managed to summon enough strength to crawl to the couch. Ben rolled to me, wrapped his arms around my neck, and held tightly.

Stunned, Brogan stared at the place where Ben’s father had disappeared. “What the...”

“It’s a long story,” I said as Ben’s mother rushed to her son and took him from me. “I’ll fill you in if you’ll do me one favor.”

“Yeah, what’s that?”

“Could you stop by a bar on the way to the hospital. I could use a drink.”

“Yeah, I think I’ll join you,” said Brogan, still shaking as he helped me off the floor.

“Asking me out for a date, Brogan? I didn’t think you liked me.”

“You’re a real smart-ass, Vargo. A genuine 100-proof smart-ass.”

Copyright © 2006 by S. Michael Leier

Home Page