THE BEAST OF BAY ROAD – A Frost Harrow Story

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“The Beast of Bay Road”

October 1997

Nancy Stapleton liked to drive fast—not always, but whenever she could get away with it, and especially when she was pissed off.  A bumper sticker on the back of her maroon late model sedan declared: “I brake for cats… Not humans.”  And tonight, that’s exactly how she felt.  Nobody had better get in her way.

She gripped the steering wheel so tightly that her knuckles turned white and muttered curses under her breath as she pressed the Lincoln’s accelerator pedal toward the floor.

Normally a drive down Bay Road at this time of the year would have been quite relaxing.  The thick forest of the Frost estate lined most of the rural thoroughfare as it meandered between the bays of Frosthaven and Winchell.  In the daytime, those trees would have blazed with spectacular fall colors, and even at night they possessed an almost supernatural allure.  The nearly full moon threw dappled, ever-changing shadows across the winding roadway.

But this night, Nancy was having none of that charm.

It was bad enough that she’d driven all the way out to Winchell to meet an agency client…  (Nancy didn’t like Winchell; too many hicks who thought they were important.)  Bad enough that he’d shown up to the restaurant an hour late and was considering cutting back on his ad campaign…  (Hick!)  But then he’d stuck her with the bill and resisted her advances, too!

It was this last that really rankled.

Nancy wasn’t sure if she wanted to bed the man to keep the account going, or because he was relatively good looking, or because her day had been shitty, and it had been too long since she’d gotten laid.  Her target hadn’t been wearing a wedding ring, so there wasn’t even that excuse for the turn down.

Maybe he’s gay, she thought spitefully, pondering how—if it were true—she might turn that against him, especially if he really did cut back on funding for the campaign her agency had created.

Nancy’s Lincoln practically flew as it hit a rise at the end of the woods and zoomed into the farms and fields outside of Frosthaven’s eastern suburbs.  Rows of corn, drying for silage, lined the north side of the road, while to the south the hills continued, rising up toward Frosthaven’s oldest cemetery.

Then suddenly, a huge shape appeared in the road at the edge of the cornfield.  It looked black in the moonlight, a dog or maybe a coyote…  But then it rose up on two legs and stared at the oncoming sedan, its eyes glowing bright red.

Nancy slammed on the brakes as hard as she could and shrieked as the figure loomed closer, its wolfish face contorted in a hideous grin.

*

Officer Rick Christopher grimaced as he headed northwest on Bay Road out of Frosthaven toward the scene of the accident.  He could already feel a headache building behind his eyes.

“Please don’t let this be what I think it is,” he muttered.  “Please!”

The lights from the news camera and the big, white WFST van made the location of the incident super easy to locate.  On the north side of the road, an expensive-looking car—a Lincoln or Caddy, maybe—had plowed across the culvert and come to rest in the cornfield, brittle tawny brown stalks scattered everywhere.

“Shoot!” Rick cursed.  (He tried to avoid actually swearing.)  “Press is here already.”  Reporters always made his job harder.  How the WFST news team had beat him to the scene, he couldn’t figure.  If he hadn’t known better, he’d have sworn they set up accidents themselves, just so they could film them.  Already, the news folk were interrogating a blonde standing by the sedan mired in the field.

Rick pulled his patrol car onto the shoulder of the road next to the field, between the news van and the grounded sedan.  He switched off the squad’s siren, but left the red and blue beacons flashing.

“Everybody all right here?” he called as he got out of the cop car.

“No, I’m not all right!” the blonde snarled.  “My car is a fucking mess!”

Rick recognized the interviewee now: Nancy Stapleton—fortyish, blonde, attractively built, and dressed like she’d just come from a dinner date, though it was nearly 11 PM.  She owned a well-regarded ad agency and mingled in Frosthaven’s high society.  He’d seen her on the news a few times before.  Could this be some kind of publicity stunt?

“Have you called an ambulance?” Rick asked as he carefully strode over the cornstalk-strewn broken ground to where the Lincoln had come to rest.

“I don’t need a fucking ambulance!” Nancy, clearly furious, shot back.  “And I already called a wrecker for a tow.”

“Please, Ms. Stapleton,” said the good-looking black newswoman holding a WFST microphone.  “Watch your language.  We need some kind of statement we can actually broadcast.”

The camerawoman with the reporter, a slender gal with short-cropped dark hair, seemed to be holding back a snicker with her wry smile.

Rick knew both newshounds: Jenelle White, reporter, and Zelda Baker, Jenelle’s frequent camerawoman.  Both were good at their jobs and not too much of a pain in the ass to cops.  Rick had caught a break there.

“So, you’re sure this wasn’t just a dog or maybe a coyote?” Jenelle asked Ms. Stapleton as Rick reached the “beached” Lincoln.

“No, it wasn’t a dog, or a coyote, or even a cat like that crazy Frost girl said ran her off the road last month!” Nancy snapped.  “It was a fucking werewolf!”  She took a breath and composed herself.  “I mean… it looked like a werewolf.”

Zelda Baker snapped her chewing gum.  “The Beast of Bay Road strikes again.”  Her wry smile turned into a full grin.

Rick rolled his eyes.  “Shee-ooot!  Let’s not start that up again, please.  We don’t know anything for sure, at this point.  Ms. Stapleton, can you…?”

Nancy Stapleton cut him off, gazing at Zelda with a puzzled look.  “I thought that beast was a southern Wisconsin thing.”

“No, that’s the Beast of Bray Road,” Jenelle corrected.  “It popped up in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, around 1991—made national headlines.  We got our own version two years later.”

“I’m surprised you didn’t hear about it on the news,” Zelda noted, snapping her gum again.

Nancy frowned.  “I’ve got enough to do without paying attention to a lot of supernatural nonsense.  Besides, I thought that was a prank, and the man who did it was caught.”

Janelle turned her mic toward Rick and the camera followed.  The newswoman smiled winningly at the cop.

“What about that, Officer Christopher?  Was the Beast of Bay Road prankster ever caught?”

Rick tried not to grit his teeth as he replied; he never liked being on camera.  “The police had some suspects, but we could never prove anything.  And, as you know, occasional incidents have continued since that time.  If you have further question, you really should talk to the chief.”

“The chief’s not at the scene of this new werewolf accident,” Jenelle replied, still smiling that annoying professional newswoman’s smile.  “But isn’t it true that police searched the house and grounds of Mitch Mihm, whose family owns a farm near here?”  She looked from where they were all standing across the cornfield.  The lights of a farmhouse—the Mihm farm, Rick knew—twinkled in the distance.

The cop tried to keep himself from looking that direction, but didn’t entirely succeed.  “I wasn’t on the force then,” he said, “but my understanding is that the search didn’t turn up anything.”

Following the newswoman’s gaze, Nancy Stapleton murmured, “Is that where the bastard lives?”  She looked back at her grounded car, furious.

“What about the sightings every year since the initial report?” Jenelle pressed the officer.  “Was Mr. Mihm questioned about those?”

“I did talk to him last year,” Rick admitted.  “Before that, I can’t say.”

“And…?”  The reporter’s question hung pregnant in the air.

Rick loosened his collar.  “As I said: no evidence was found.  No charges have been made.”

“So, you still think that the Beast is a prank then?” Jenelle asked.

“Of course,” he replied.  “What else could it be?  Now if you’ll excuse us, Ms. Stapleton and I have an accident report to fill out, before the wrecker gets here.”

Rick walked away, taking Nancy by the elbow.  The attractive advertising exec smiled at him as he maneuvered them around her car, away from the reporters.

Jenelle nodded at her camerawoman.  “I guess we’ve got enough, Zel.  Let’s get back to the shop so this gets on the morning show.”

Zelda nodded, still chewing her gum.

As the newswomen walked away, Rick called after them.  “And these pranks might not be just one person.  There’s been a lot of publicity about this over the years.”

“We know,” Jenelle called back.  “With the full moon coming, we’re hoping to interview a bunch of ‘werewolf tourists’ this week.”

Rick held back a groan.  More supernatural buffs… That’s all the cops needed.

“Please, don’t encourage them,” he pleaded.  “You news folks keep blowing this stuff up, and we’ll have copycats all over.  Heck, that’s probably what we’re dealing with now.  There are no werewolves—just copycats!”

*

Rick didn’t believe any copycats were involved in these werewolf incidents.  All these pranks, all these past years, were the work of one person: Mitchell “Mitch” Mihm.

It had started five years ago, when the “werewolf” jumped out in front of the car of Stephanie Gonzales, on her way from her job as a second-shift factory worker in Winchell to her home in Frosthaven.  Gonzales just happened to have broken up with Mihm recently, and the incident took place relatively near this one, on Bay Road within sight of the Mihm farm.

Ms. Gonzales had run off the road into a tree, wrecking her Toyota, breaking her arm, and suffering a concussion.  The cops on the scene described her as “hysterical.”

From what Rick had read in the incident report, the Gonzales woman—who professed a strong Catholic faith—was convinced that Mihm had cast some sort of evil spell and summoned up a demon to kill her.

The investigating officers thought it far more likely that her ex had bought a Halloween werewolf costume somewhere, donned it, and set up an ambush-like prank to frighten her.  Gonzales drove the same route home from work at the same time every night, and Mihm was well familiar with her routine and schedule.

Because of the victim’s injuries, the cops put some serious effort into investigating the case.  But, despite some circumstantial evidence, and a search warrant for the Mihm farm, they’d never been able to find the costume or make any definite connection.

Gonzales, frightened by the incident, had moved to Minneapolis later that fall.  The “werewolf” or “demon” didn’t follow her, and that should have been the end of it.

Except that something similar happened the next October, with a werewolf-like creature frightening two travelers in the vicinity of Bay Road that autumn.

Thankfully, neither motorist had crashed or suffered any injury—aside from psychic trauma—but the police had nosed around again, and again found no evidence to link the incident to Mihm.

At that point, the “supernatural buffs” had started coming out of the woodwork.  Because while one werewolf report might be a prank, a series of them—on or near the first full moon of October—surely must be a pattern of some kind, and must be real.  (Or so the kooks reasoned.)

“There’s a pattern, all right,” Rick grumbled to himself as he turned off of the road and drove down the long driveway to the Mihm farm.  His headache had come on full force now, and the Tylenol he’d taken to quell it hadn’t kicked in yet.  “But it ain’t anything supernatural.”

There’d been a handful of sightings each year since the initial report, and every year, more and more tourists were coming to Frosthaven to go monster watching along Bay Road during the full moon.  The second year after the Gonzales incident, a handful of “seekers” showed up; the next year, over a dozen.  This year, the cops were expecting twenty or thirty, but they had no way of knowing how may buffs might really be on the way.  It could be just a few; it could be hundreds.

Rick felt a bit surprised there weren’t more True Believers patrolling Bay Road already.  But certainly, once this new report hit the airwaves, there’d be a surge—all because some jerk wanted to frighten his ex.

Some folks said Mihm’s grudge didn’t explain the recurrence since 1993, but Rick and the rest of the force had a theory: Mihm had gotten a kick out of that first scare.  It had gotten good to him, and now he’d made it an annual tradition.

But every year, the police had looked into it and had found no proof of Mihm’s involvement.  After the first incident, many of the sightings even took place far away from his farm, though still along the vast, winding length of Bay Road.

So, Mihm wasn’t stupid.  He was good at hiding his involvement, and he knew not to defecate in his own yard—at least not too often.  Though every year, at least one sighting—like tonight’s—occurred on lands adjoining his farm.

Not stupid… But maybe a bit lazy, now and again.

“Definitely a bit lazy tonight,” Rick muttered as he pulled the prowl car up to the aging farmhouse.  “Let’s see how smart he’s feeling.”

The place was a traditional white farmhouse, but the paint was peeling and the porch on the front sagged a bit.  The roof didn’t look too good, either, nor did the nearby barn—more gray than red now—which had developed an obvious lean.

Before Rick got out, a huge mutt that was at least part rottweiler bounded out of the darkness, barking loud enough to shake the squad car’s windows.

Rick scowled.  “Figures.”

Several lights burned inside the building, two on the first floor and one on the second.  A battered Ford pickup with a current license plate sat nearby in the driveway, too.  To the cop, it appeared that Mihm was at home.

Rick wasn’t about to get out with the dog making such a fuss, and he didn’t want to use his dog spray on what was supposed to be a cordial call.  So, he flicked on the beacons again and honked loudly several times.

The scowling form of Mitchell Mihm promptly appeared in the home’s doorway.  He was dressed in a wife-beater undershirt, jeans, and bare feet—not bad attire for wearing under a werewolf costume.

“What do you want?” Mihm shouted.

Rick rolled down the window enough to be heard, but not enough to give the dog an opportunity.  “Just wanna talk a minute,” Rick replied.  “You mind calling off your dog?”

Mihm gave a short whistle and pointed at the doorway.  “Killer… inside!”

The dog wheeled and dashed into the house, still barking.

“And shut the fuck up!”

Mihm closed the storm door, shutting the dog in the house, and meandered toward the cop car.

Rick got out and met him halfway.

“Whatta ya want?” Mihm asked, suspicious.

The cop put on his best professional smile.  “Just a friendly chat.”

Mihm clearly didn’t believe him.  “About what?”

“What have you been up to tonight, Mr. Mihm?  Where’ve you been?  Anything going on?”

Mihm crossed his arms over his chest; he had a good start on a beer gut, Rick noticed.

“Home.  Watchin’ TV.  Why?”

“What’s on the tube tonight?  Anything good?”

Mihm’s eyes narrowed further.  “It’s another one of those damn Beast sightings.  Ain’t it?”

“What would make you say that?”

“’Cause every time you cops come out here for a ‘friendly chat,’ that’s what it’s about.”  He gave a short bark of a laugh.  “It’s that time of year again.  Ain’t it?”

Unsure if that was a deduction or confession, Rick asked: “Mind if I have a look around?”  His eyes strayed to the barn before he could stop himself, and Mihm spotted it.

“Sure,” Mihm replied.  “Assumin’ you got a warrant.”

“Now why would I need a warrant for a friendly chat?”

“I dunno.  Why would you wanna go pokin’ around in my barn in the middle of the night?  Every year about this time, you cops come sniffin’ around my place, looking for some evidence that I’m behind these Beast sightings.  Well, you couldn’t find any when that stupid ex of mine first put you up to it, you ain’t found any since, and you ain’t gonna find any tonight—especially not without a search warrant.  Now if you don’t mind, I wanna see the end of Letterman.”

Rick shrugged cordially and turned back toward the car.  “Knock yourself out.  Though I would have pegged you as a Leno man.”

“He’s okay.  I like the gap in Letterman’s teeth.  It’s like he’s a normal joe or something, not some rich fuck.”

Rick opened the patrol’s door and paused.  “You give us a call if you see or hear anything funny, though.  Will you?”

“Only funny thing I seen is a black cop poking around my farm in the middle of the night.”

Rick got in and shut the door, trying not to slam it.  “You have a good night, now.  You hear?”  He rolled up the window.

Mihm went back to the house, cuffing the over-enthusiastic dog as he opened the storm door.  “I told you to get the fuck inside,” he snarled before vanishing into the gloomy farmhouse.

Rick felt certain that before Mihm turned away though, the farmer had flashed a sly smile that said: “I got you!  I got you cops… again!”

“Motherf…!” Rick said, almost swearing—despite his longstanding vow—as he drove away.

There was nothing more he could do.  Not tonight, anyway.

*

Rick wasn’t too shocked when he got another Bay Road accident call the following night.  He felt a bit surprised that, again, the report came from near the Mihm farm—barely half a mile from the previous incident.  Was it “lazy,” or…?

Was Mihm taunting them, now—rubbing Rick’s face in the fact that he’d stopped by the house last night and neither he nor the other cops could do anything to stop this series of malicious pranks?  Given the Beast’s past history, that seemed the most likely explanation.

“Just keep it up, Mihm,” Rick said to himself as the accident site came into view.  “One of these days, you’re gonna make a mistake.  And then…!”

At least the reporters hadn’t beaten the cop to the scene tonight.  An ambulance had, though.

One of the attendants was talking to a guy standing next to a cream-colored station wagon crunched against a telephone pole in the cornfield on the far side of the north culvert.  The man, a pudgy middle-aged fellow with glasses wearing a Hawaiian shirt and khaki trousers, didn’t look injured.  He seemed to be jabbering excitedly to the EMT.  The wagon’s front passenger-side fender looked like an accordion, and that side was missing a headlight.  The other light continued to shine, though, spreading long dark shadows through the corn rows.  The telephone pole seemed intact, aside from a major scuff mark.

Beyond that, down Bay Road to the west and nearer to the ambulance, a second EMT stood on the gravel shoulder, gazing down, and examining a prone form.

“Merciful Allah,” Rick prayed softly, “please let that be a dog… or a deer!”

He pulled the prowl car up so that its headlights shone on the dark, hairy shape.  He stopped the vehicle and got out.

A shudder ran through the cop.  The body didn’t appear to be a dog, or a deer, or even a bear, which were rare but not unknown around Frosthaven.  It looked like nothing Rick had ever seen before.

Its shape was manlike, but it was covered with coarse, grayish hair.  Its hands and toes appeared to be claws or, more accurately, paws—and its shaggy face was that of a wolf.  The thing’s bloodshot yellow eyes were open in a glassy stare.  The body was contorted and covered with dark red blood; the lupine face gazed sightlessly at the moonlit sky.

“Is it…?” Rick began, his throat suddenly dry.  “Is it alive?”

The EMT crouched down and shook his head.  “I don’t think so,” he replied, swallowing hard.  His voice came out soft and dry.  “It was still twitching when we got here… But I didn’t want to get close until… Until it stopped.  You can’t be too careful.  You know?”

Rick nodded.  “What is it?”

The paramedic leaned closer to the hideous corpse, his rapid breath puffing out as tiny clouds in the cool night air.  “I…” he began.  “I think…  Shit!”

Rick came up next to him as the EMT grasped a bit of fur below the creature’s chin.  He pulled, his voice little more than a whisper.

“I think… it’s a mask.”

With a wet sucking sound, the savage wolf head came away from the pale, staring face beneath.

“Jesus…!” Rick gasped, momentarily lapsing into old habits.  “Mitch Mihm.  Well, that figures.”

The EMT stood up, almost wiping his bloody gloves on his pants before remembering himself.  “You know this guy?”

“He’s a farmer who lives over yonder,” Rick said, indicating the distant house.  “We—the force, that is—suspected he’d been up to this shi… stuff for years, but we could never prove it.  Looks like this is the end of the Beast of Bay Road.”

“Are you kidding me?” the paramedic, who couldn’t have been more than twenty years old, said incredulously.  “That was just a hoax?  I thought it was real!”

“So did a lot of people,” Rick commented, turning away, “including this guy’s ex.  See if you can do anything for him.”

“I… I think he’s dead.  I mean, if I’d known it was a guy in a suit, I wouldn’ta waited.  I woulda…”

“Look, nobody’s gonna blame you for not tending the injuries of an apparent werewolf,” Rick said as he walked toward the crashed car.  “Just make sure.  Okay?”

“Yeah.  Okay.”

Rick noticed now that the back of the damaged station wagon was plastered with bumper stickers:  My Other Car Is a Flying SaucerBigfoot’s Baby on BoardPSI-ET (which Rick recognized as a paranormal group that had a local chapter)… I Want to BelieveWanna Join My Coven?  Honk If You Love Nessie… plus astrological signs, pentagrams, and more, including: I Brake for Aliens.

Too bad he didn’t brake for werewolves, Rick thought.  Though he could hardly blame the guy for hitting some kook in a creepy Halloween costume.  The police had tried to warn Mihm that if he kept up these pranks, sooner or later, something like this was bound to happen.

Just this poor sap’s luck that his was the car that Mihm chose to play chicken with.

The pudgy guy was now sitting on the slope of the culvert, while the paramedic stood nearby, talking calmly to him.  The man looked pale and sweaty and had an ambulance blanket draped around his shoulders.

“How’s this guy doing?” Rick asked the EMT, who, now that he was closer, Rick realized was a woman. “Anybody else in the car?”

The paramedic shook her head.  “Driver was the only passenger.  He’s doing okay.  Just pretty shook up, is all.”

“Glad to hear it,” Rick said.  “How you feeling, Mister…?”

“Cross,” the man replied.  “Michael Cross.  I drove up from Texas to join the cryptid hunt, and I…  I didn’t… I didn’t mean to…”

“That’s okay, Mr. Cross,” Rick said reassuringly.  “The guy in the costume was a local crank.  We warned him that if he kept pulling this kind of stuff, it’d catch up with him.”

Cross’ eyes went wide.  “You mean it’s not a werewolf?  It’s not the Beast of Bay Road?”

“Oh, it’s the Beast all right,” Rick replied.  “Or was.  But it wasn’t any werewolf.  Just a disgruntled farmer with a pretty twisted idea of Halloween ‘fun.’  We’d have put an end to it years ago, if we’d been able to find any proof.  But Mitch Mihm, he was one clever S.O.B.”

“W-what about the other one?” Cross asked.  “Was that a man in a costume, too?”

What other one?” Rick and the woman paramedic both asked.

“The one that was fighting with that one up on the roadside,” Cross replied.  “The two of them rolled across the pavement just as I was driving up.  I was planning to get a hotel room tonight and then join the hunt tomorrow, but the pair of them scared me so bad that I ran off the road.”

After you hit the guy in the costume, you mean,” Rick elaborated.

Cross shook his head vigorously.  “I didn’t hit anything.  I just got spooked and… BANG! …off the road and into the telephone pole.”

“Nobody will blame you for running the guy over,” Rick assured him.

“I’m telling you, I didn’t hit anything… or anyone,” Cross insisted.

Rick looked at the paramedic, who shrugged.

“Look after this guy,” Rick told her.  “I want to get a few things straight.”

He walked back to the other EMT, who stood by the still-unmoving body, his gloves now very bloody.

“Is he…?”

The EMT shook his head.  “I tried everything I could, but he was a goner.  Sorry I didn’t start working on him sooner.”

“Not your fault,” Rick said.  “You didn’t know, and I guess he was run over pretty bad.  People used to say the Beast ate roadkill.  Ironic that he’d end up as roadkill himself.”

“Is that what the guy told you?” the paramedic asked.  “He ran him over?”

Rick sighed.  “Well, he denies it… Says he didn’t hit anything but…  Here’s the body, and there’s the car.”

The EMT nodded but looked troubled.  “That’s weird, though.  ’Cause this guy doesn’t really look like he’s been run over—more like he’s been torn up.”

To Rick, the night suddenly felt a lot colder.  “You certain about that?”

“Hey, I’m just a paramedic, but…  Those look more like claw marks than crush wounds to me.  There’s no tire prints, and the guy practically had his guts ripped out.”

“So, maybe a coyote, or a bear or something.  Dude had a big dog that he didn’t treat too well…”

“Yeah, maybe,” the EMT conceded.  “I don’t see any animal tracks in the dirt and gravel, though.  Do you?”

Rick didn’t.  And the road shoulder was still soft from that afternoon’s rain.

And he was almost willing to bet that Mihm’s dog, Killer, would still be locked up in the farmhouse across the field.

Rick gazed at the full moon poking through the clouds overhead, and the chill that had run up his spine seeped through the rest of his body, too.

This time, he didn’t even try to hold back the swear.

“Shee-iit!”

END

In Memory of Michael Cross, great friend of the Mihimverse. R.I.P.

Thanks to THE INFINITE BARD for sponsoring this story.  Find more cool FREE stories on The Infinite Bard!

About the Story

Once again, my beloved wife (and frequent muse) Kifflie Scott is responsible for this year’s Frost Harrow Halloween story.  At the start of the month, I was befuddled about what I should do—a quandary that has struck me more than once with these annual stories.  I had a second Halloween story I’d written last year, but the theme/content of it was so close to “A Walk on Witches’ Hill” that I was reluctant to run the two stories in back-to-back years.  (Don’t worry.  I’ll find a place and time to reveal that unpublished tale in future.)

So, Kiff said: “Why don’t you do something with Rick the cop.  You haven’t done one about him, have you?”

This is the advantage of having a wife who has read all six of the original Frost Harrow books.  And the amazing thing is, she remembers them mostly from the brief period of time when they were published online around the turn of the century.  (That they stuck with her so strongly is one reason I decided to finally stop trying to update them and just release them as they were originally intended, with a few minor corrections.)

“You’re right, hon,” I agreed, and then she added: “Maybe you could do some Beast of Bray Road kind of thing.”

Well, dang if that wasn’t a good idea, too.

Bray Road, home of the original Beast sighting, is not too far from where we live.  In fact, it’s on the way from my house to my favorite bar in Elkhorn, Wisconsin.  I’ve driven down that farm-country road many times.  Plus, I still have my official Werewolf Capture License from February 1992, which was issued as a fundraiser by a local animal shelter (if I remember correctly).

Also, Linda Godfrey, the reporter who first broke the Beast of Bray Road story, is a good friend of mine.  For a year, we did Uncanny Radio together, a show looking at all things strange and cryptid.  (Since the original incident, Linda has written numerous books about the Beast and other weird encounters.  Check them out if you want some good reads on the uncanny!)

Despite my wife having handed me the idea for this year’s Frost Harrow Halloween story on a silver platter, I remained skeptical.  Sure, I could write a Rick story or a beast story, but how would that really work?

I decided to mull it over during an afternoon nap.  I frequently muse about upcoming stories just before I fall asleep.  Often, I find that pondering such things as my mind drifts into slumber frees my brain from the constraints of conscious brainstorming.  And it worked this time, too.

As I started to doze, I remembered that a parent we knew through our son’s little league team once claimed he knew the guy who had donned a werewolf costume and started the Beast legend.  Linda checked into that, and said it didn’t seem credible, but the idea remained.  What if someone in Frosthaven was pranking a werewolf scare?  Why would that happen, and what might be the result?

Clearly, that was something a cop could become involved with.  And I already had a Bay Road in Frosthaven.  It was a tribute to where I grew up in Massachusetts, but now it played nicely into a title for my burgeoning tale.

Thinking along those lines, the ideas for the story quickly came together.  I jotted them all down in my commonplace book, to consult while writing.

I further pondered the best way to approach the story, where to start, whose POV, etc.  Adding a few more characters from the Frost Harrow books—the media, the ad exec—helped to round things out and further connect the story to the series.  And then it was blast off into writing with only the fiddly details to work out and…  Names.  What names to use for the perp, victim(s), and so on…

Listening to October 2020’s Mihmiverse Monthly Audiocast gave me those final pieces of the puzzle.

The Mihmiverse is like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but older.  It encompasses the films of retro filmmaker Christopher R. Mihm, including all his film characters and settings (which are all inter-related) from The Giant Spider to Destination Outer Space and beyond.

Chris and I became friends a good while ago, and my book Canoe Cops vs. the Mummy is based in the Mihmiverse and uses some of his characters and settings.

This month (as I write this), Chris and the whole Mihmiverse community are mourning the loss of Michael Cross, a super-fan whose support helped spread the fame of Chris’ films and who had become part of the Mihmiverse family.  He left us suddenly and apparently unrelated to the pandemic currently plaguing the US and the rest of the world.

It was a shocking loss and hard to take.

I asked Chris if he thought I could put Michael into my upcoming Frost Harrow story.  He said he thought that’d be a great idea that Michael would have really liked.  Thus, I gained a supporting character, and after that filled in the rest of the cast with names inspired by my Mihmiverse friends—tributing Christopher & Stephanie Mihm and Mitch Gonzales.

So, there you have it, the story behind the story—the DVD extra, as it were.

And, of course, I’ve thrown in a bit of a twist at the end.

Because who wants a total Scooby Doo ending in a Frost Harrow tale?

Not me.

Enjoy!

Happy Halloween 2020 – Steve Sullivan

Thanks again to THE INFINITE BARD for sponsoring this story.  Find more cool FREE stories on The Infinite Bard!

Read the FREE Frost Harrow Halloween stories:
The Weeping Ghost” (2012), “A Trace of Violet” (2013),  “Lunchroom Zombies” (2014), “Omens & Visitations” (2015), “Fata Morgana” (2016), and “At the Appointed Hour” (2017), and “Devil’s Lake” (2018), “A Walk on Witches’ Hill” (2019)

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