Strigoi (Part 6)

“What the hell?” Sheriff Ward asked, looking up at the mutilated corpse of a deer swaying on a high branch of a sycamore tree. droplets of fresh blood pattered over a puddle of congealed blood that formed underneath the swinging deer. The buck was completely skinned, as if a skilled hunter skinned it precisely. It’s eyes wide open, possibly in shock from pain and torture. The Sheriff noticed that there was a deep gash in the buck’s neck almost to it’s spine. “A hunter must have strung up there to prepare for dressin”, another deputy said. It was Deputy Jordan Shane, a kid who joined the department two years ago. Shane’s older brother, Jonathan Shane was in Ward’s graduating class. “A hunter would not string up a buck that high to dress it. It’s ten feet off of the damn ground”, Ward countered. He waved flies and gnats away as he stepped closer to the puddle of blood, looking up, careful as to not allow any of the blood dripping from the carcass on to him. Ward stepped closer, making sure not to step in the gruesome puddle, and peered closer at the animal. While looking up at the deer, Ward noticed what looked to be a gash, which where the majority of the blood was dripping from. “Call the county and get municipal out here to clean cut it down”, Ward said aloud, not asking a specific person. One of the deputies said he’ll get right on it, talking into his walkie talkie while walking out of the woods.

Michael Ward felt in his gut that everything was off kilter. He felt it as soon as he opened his eyes at 4am this morning, sweat pouring from his forehead, to his chest, pajamas sticking to him. The air was thick in his bedroom, so thick that if he didn’t know any better, he would have sworn an invisible hand was over his mouth and nose. Ward had gotten up to turn the heat down and he was surprised to see that it was only on 75 degrees. He figured the central heating must have kicked up higher through the night when the temperature outside dropped lower. But when Ward went outside to do his daily early morning run, he was surprised to be greeted with humidity and warm air. He checked the weather on the cell phone which read 85 degrees. “What the hell”, he thought. Any other person at any other time would be pleasantly surprised, but Ward felt a pang of anxiety. He became overwhelmed with a dizzy spell and grabbed his porch railing to keep him from toppling over on the steps. The flight or fight response suddenly clicked in his brain, which made Ward decide to skip his daily jog and go back inside.

When he got the dispatch that Mrs.Webster reported a man looking through her window and another dispatch that her neighbor who was married to the doctor who worked in the next town, reported the exact same thing, Ward’s stomach churned so bad he thought he was becoming ill. At first, Ward tried to brush it off as it was probably that wino, Roy Armstrong who was probably knocking on their doors to ask for money. But he knew Mrs.Webster sometimes invited Roy over for dinner and when the weather was bad, allowed him to spend the night. Roy was a bum, but he was harmless and he never bothered anyone. Ward knew that Roy was fighting demons. Demons that occurred about twenty years ago when all of those people disappea-.. “Sheriff?” Jones, a deputy about the same age as he called out to him, interrupting his thoughts. “Oh yeah, hey Jones whats up?” Jones had joined the Sheriff department, fifteen years ago after being honorably discharged from the army. He and Ward played high school football together. “You alright? I was saying that the county will be here in about a hour to cut that carcass down”, Jones repeated, giving Ward a quizzical look. “You sure you alright, Mike”? Ward wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand, looked up at the stinking, bleeding, mass off fur, antlers and flesh swaying on the tree limb. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just trying to figure out who the hell peeking through windows and hanging dead deer up on trees”, Ward chuckled.

Ward finished taking statements from Mrs. Webster and the young lady who lived next door to her. The lady who lived next door to her, must have told her husband what happened on the phone, while he and his deputies were in the woods, because when he walked over to the couple after speaking to Mrs.Webster, he noticed a look between anger and concern etched across his face. Ward didn’t miss the chrome pistol in the holster on his hip gleaming in the sun either. Ward assumed that the husband rushed from the practice, because he still had on his white coat. He comforted his wife, his hand on her chin as if he was inspecting her for any bruises.

“Hey how are you, I’m Sheriff Ward”, Ward introduced himself as he held his hand out to the doctor. “Oh hey! How are you? I’m Daniel Scott,” the young man said pleasantly. “My wife said you spoke with her earlier. Thank you for your help. We’ve been living here for almost six years and heard of any crime in this town. I came here as soon as the nurse gave me the message”. Daniel Scott was tall, had to be close to 6'2, with a muscular frame. He wore a set of wire rimmed, black framed glasses, a shirt and tie under his lab coat, a pair of black slacks, with black leather loafers. Ward noticed that when he introduced himself to him, Daniel tried to discreetly cover the gun with his coat.

““We hardly don’t have crime here. Even though I only been two years, I was born and raised in Stamburg. The only crime we ever hear about is somebody fighting over at Ray’s bar or the occasional kid shoplifting. That’s why when your wife and Mrs.Webster called in we came out immediately. We take care of our own, Mr. Scott. I see you take good care of your own too,” Ward said, pointing at the glock sitting in Daniel’s holster. Daniel embarrassingly rubbed the stubble on his face, and closed his lab coat. “No worries son, as long as you got a permit to carry and it’s legal you alright by me”. Ward clapped the young man on his shoulder. “You alright Miss Lina?” Lina nodded her head with a grim smile, she leaned closer to her husband. “I’m just worried that he may come back”, she said her voice shaking. “That’s why we’ll have a patrol car driving around the neighborhood tonight and through the weekend”, Ward assured her. “We want to make sure all of our citizens are protected. You won’t have anything to worry about and if he does come back and try to bother yall, well your husband here know what to do”. Ward pointed to the gun on Daniel’s hip again. Lina laughed “I used to hate that he bought that thing but now I guess we really do need it”. She shivered wrapping her arms around herself as her husband put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her close. “We’re going to walk around and canvass a little bit. Ask the rest of neighbors if they heard or seen anything”. Ward patted Daniel on his shoulder and walked back across the street. Although he assured the Scott's that they were good hands and nothing would happen to them, Ward still felt the heavy weight of dread deep in his belly.