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And now, the story continues! (After this brief commercial message.)
INCIDENT ON THE ROAD
DEPUTY CHIEF NIKKI SHERIDAN – Phantom Lake P.D.
Lt. Agar rushes out the door as I pull up outside his house; he’s climbing into the passenger seat even before I bring the squad car to a full stop.
“Let’s go, Nikki!” he says, his voice tense, urgent.
“I’m on it, Rich,” I reply, cruising back out onto the street. “Hang onto your hat!”
He hangs on. The Chevy’s V8 roars like thunder, and the tires howl as I push the throttle to the floor. We don’t have a moment to waste.
“Buckle in and flip on the cherry-top, will you, Rich?” I say, concentrating on the road. The night is dark, and a heavy fog has rolled in off of Phantom Lake. That’s not unusual in our little town, but it does make answering urgent All-Points Bulletins—like this one—trickier. The emergency is clear across town from where Lieutenant Agar lives, but I couldn’t take this call without dealing him in. He’s a friend, after all—even if he’s not a land-side cop—and the Ankers’ Boarding House is where his girl lives.
Rich buckles up and then flicks on the lights and the siren, like I told him. “Did the call say anything about Julie… specifically, I mean?” His voice is nervous… impatient.
“Dispatch said the report was pretty incoherent,” I admit. “The lady on the phone wasn’t making much sense.”
“Who made the call?”
“Kay something-or-other… Some biblical name… Eve… No… Adams, I think.”
Even in the dim light leaking into the squad from the city streetlamps, I can see Rich go pale.
“That’s Julie’s best friend!” he says. “Step on it!”
“Already am, lover-boy. Don’t get your shorts in a knot. I’ll get you to your girl’s house as fast as humanly possible. And try not to fret. I already sent another car to the scene; they were patrolling nearby. They should arrive at the Ankers’ place any minute.”
“God, I hope so,” Rich whispers.
We sit silently as the fog-shrouded streets race past the Chevy’s windows. The mood is grim, because what can either of us say? Either Julie Browning is involved in this incident or she’s not. No platitude I might offer will change that—and Rich isn’t the type of guy who likes to be mollycoddled, anyway.
The Ankers’ place sits on the northeast side of town, a short walk through the countryside past the business district. As we reach the outskirts, Rich nods approvingly; we’re making good time.
“This is some boat you’re driving!” he says admiringly. “Got some real horses under the hood, doesn’t she?”
“One-hundred and ninety-five with 250 cubic inches and a four-barrel carb,” I reply. “She’s the ‘Chief’s Special.’ Chevy’s magazine ads call her ‘The Hot One.’”
He laughs despite his nerves, and I chuckle, too.
“The prowl car I usually drive’s not nearly this cherry,” I note. “Pity I have to give her back when the chief returns from vacation.” I flash my pal a grin.
“Watch out for those cats!” Rich blurts.
Ahead of us, just at the edge of the squad’s headlights, a line of felines is crossing the road, single file, as if somebody recruited them for a parade. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and they’re pretty scruffy looking. I’m thinking they must be a feral pack.
I lay on the horn, but the damn things just stop—right there in the middle of the road—and stare at my onrushing Chevy.
“Dammit!” I hit the brakes—hard.
The Bel Air screeches to a halt, and only our safety belts keep us from going through the windshield. (Guess it’s a good thing the chief had that option installed.)
Annoyingly, the cats still don’t get out of the road. In fact, now that we’ve stopped, they’re prowling around the car, almost like they’re surrounding us.
“Nikki…” Rich says impatiently.
“I know! I know!” I lean on the horn again and start to creep the Chevy forward. I yell at the cats between honks. “You critters better get out of the way, or you’ll get flattened!”
Naturally, the felines can’t understand me, but if I didn’t know better, I’d swear they were deliberately trying to slow us down.
As I do my best to get going again without squashing the whole pack, the squad’s two-way radio squawks.
I shoot Rich a quick glance, and he picks up the hand set.
“Chief…? I’m out at the Ankers place…” says the crackling voice on the other end. It’s officer Selby, and he knows damn well I’m only the acting chief. Part of me wants to chew him out, but I realize my anger really stems from the cats—which are still impeding our progress—getting on my nerves.
“Nikki’s driving,” Rich says into the mic. “What’s the situation?”
“Who is this?” Selby asks.
“Lieutenant Agar,” Rich replies. “Acting Captain of the Canoe Cops.”
“Oh. Hey, lieutenant…”
“Cut the small talk, Selby, and spill!” I shout loud enough for the hand set to pick up. “What’s the deal out there?”
“The place is a mess,” Selby squawks. “Looks like a tornado hit one side of the building—and there’s a hole in the wall big enough for an elephant to walk through.”
Rich and I exchange a worried glance; both of us are thinking about the big hole in the wall we saw two nights ago out at Banning’s place, where Burl Shaw got murdered.
I hit the gas. To hell with the cats!
The Bel Air’s tires screech, and the Chevy shoots down the road, into the fog. Happily, I don’t feel any bumps under the tires, so those pesky felines must have cleared away.
“Was anybody hurt?” Rich asks Selby, and I notice a sheen of nervous sweat beading on the Canoe Cop’s face.
“I don’t think so,” Selby replies. “Other than the girl that called. She’s scared half to death.”
“You mean Kay Adams?” Rich says. “Is she all right?”
“Yeah, that’s her. She’s okay, I guess. She’s not making a lot of sense, though—keeps babbling on about some giant in bandages smashing through the wall—like something out of a Universal horror movie.”
Rich and I exchange another glance because, believe it or not, before we got to the murder scene the other night, we both thought we caught a glimpse of…
“A mummy?” Rich asks. “Is that what Kay claims she saw?”
“Well, yeah,” Selby says. “I guess you could call it that. She says the thing carried away her friend, but I’m not sure whether…”
“What?!” both Rich and I exclaim simultaneously.
“What friend?” I ask.
“Are you telling me that thing took Julie?!” Rich adds.
“Yeah, Julie Browning,” Selby says, puzzled. “This Adams girl says the monster snatched her up. I mean, none of it makes any sense to me, but… How did you guys know?”
“Never mind that,” I insist, grabbing the handset away from Rich. “Is the Ankers scene secured?”
“Yeah. I guess,” Selby replies. “Aside from the big hole in the wall and the stray cats wandering around the place.”
Cats again! What is it with the cats?
“No sign of no mummies or anything like that, if that’s what you mean,” Selby finishes.
I glare at the road ahead, anger burning in my gut. “If this is some kind of publicity stunt…” I say through gritted teeth, “I’ve got a nice, cozy cell waiting for Mr. Corman!”
Rich shakes his head. “I don’t think it’s a Hollywood stunt.” He takes the handset back from me. “Selby, which way did the mummy go?”
“I can’t rightly say,” Selby replies. “Like I mentioned, that Adams girl is scared half out of her wits. I could hardly get her to string two coherent words together.”
“Okay. Hang tight. We’ll be there in a minute or two,” I tell both Rich and Selby. “Over and out.”
Rich hangs up the handset.
I glance over at my Canoe Cop buddy, and he looks all kinds of grim. “Don’t worry,” I say. “We’ll track this thing down—whatever it is.”
“Hit the brakes!” Rich yells.
I do, swinging my head back around to the road at the same time. I expect to discover more feral cats blocking the street.
But what I see instead makes my blood run cold:
A mummy… huge—maybe seven feet tall—standing right in the middle of the road.
And in its arms lies Julie Browning.
Julie’s body is limp, her eyes closed. I can’t tell whether she’s unconscious or dead. The thing’s carrying her like she weighs nothing.
“Julie!” Rich shouts, as the Bel Air screeches to a halt, half-a-dozen feet away from the monster.
The creature doesn’t even flinch. Instead it calmly sets Julie’s body down on the road.
As soon as the prowl car stops, both Rich and I grab the handles to open our doors. With my other hand, I reach for my holster.
But the sudden appearance of the mummy has rattled us both, and neither one of us remembers to unbuckle our seatbelts. So, when we try to roll out of the car and spring into action, we just jerk to a stop, like a fish caught at the end of a line.
I curse, realizing what’s happened a few seconds before Rich does.
I grope for my seatbelt and manage to yank it loose.
As I do, though, the mummy grabs the front of the car, and with a mighty heave, flips the whole thing right over.
The Bel Air crashes onto its side and keeps rolling.
The world spins as I smash into the car’s roof (which is now the floor) and then the actual floor (as it comes back around), and right about then the entire world goes black.
And Doc, that’s the last thing I remember until waking up here in the hospital, just a few minutes ago.
Extra-special thanks to these wonderful patrons at Credit Creature level and above:
Shawn P. Conlin – Wolvesbane Accademy
David Lars Chamberlain
Rich Chamberlain – Monster Movie Kid
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