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THE DUXBURY CHRONICLES
“The Detective and the Hangman”
Plymouth County Massachusetts, December 21, 2015, 11:21PM. Five miles outside Duxbury.
Detective Johnathan Mcarthy stood in the ankle deep snow, blowing hot air into his cupped hands, while examining the scene. There really wasn’t much to see. Just a guy hanging from a tree. A guy hanging from a tree in a dark, snowy forest, that is.
It really just looked like some redneck had decided life wasn’t quite panning out, and hung himself in the woods. But Sheriff Dan George had called the Detective anyway. As a general rule of thumb Dan, and Johnathan didn’t like each other. Johnathan being a ten year veteran of the force in LA, and the Sheriff being a fifty something backwoods, red neck. The two were natural opposites.
Still, Johnathan knew that the fat man hadn’t called him out of bed at this hour out of spite. Not this time anyway. Even over his cellphone Johnathan could tell Dan was spooked. Now that he was on scene, he guessed it was because of the plastic bag over the dead guy’s head. To be honest it looked spooky as shit. But Johnathan had seen far worse back in Los Angeles.
They hadn’t been able to identify the Vic on account of the bag. His face was completely hidden by the thick plastic. Now they were just waiting for forensics to finish up, before they cut the guy down, and figured out who it was that decided to off themselves today.
The wind picked up suddenly. Blowing through the trees, and causing a chorus of creaks, and groans from tree limbs. Johnathan cursed, and shoved his hands into the pockets of his trenchcoat. Giving up on the idea of warming them with his breath. A camera flashed, as Billy Thorton, one of the two forensics guys took another photo.
The scene was briefly illuminated by the brilliant blue of the camera, and Jonathan thought he caught sight of something he hadn’t seen before on the dead man. He moved to the right. Trudging through the snow in a wide circle around the hanging man. His breath coming out in big white puffs. It couldn’t be more than twenty freakin’ degrees out here!
“He’s got a bag over his head Johnny.” Johnathan remembered the Sheriff saying in a shaky voice over the phone. He could practically here the man’s double chins quivering, out there in the snowy darkness.
As soon as Johnathan had laid eyes on the body his first thought was that the bastard had wanted to be thorough. If the noose for some reason hadn’t been enough, the plastic bag surely would have finished the job.
Johnathan continued to trudge around to the right of the corpse. Giving the body a wide berth, as he circled through the snow. Still looking for whatever it was that had caught his eye during the flash of the forensic guy’s cameras.
He was a big guy, whoever the Hangman was. He wore a black, and red plad jacket. Bob Vila style. And a pair of rough cut blue jeans. The boots that covered his dead toes, and swayed in the bitter wind, were a brand called “Bear Claw”. Johnathan had never heard of it.
“Hell of a way to go.” Mike Lawry, the other forensics guy said through a mouthful of chewing tobacco.
“Who you think it is Mike?” Bill asked, as his camera flashed a few more times.
“Dunno. Maybe Darby Gents?”
“Darby?! It’d be a God damned shame…”
Johnathan half listened to the two men, as he continued to circle around the body. Duxbury was a small town. Everybody knew everybody.
Darby Gents was the football coach for the local high school. And by virtue of the local grapevine, Johnathan knew that Darby’s wife had left him a few weeks ago.
Still, he wasn’t sure if that’s who was hanging in front of him. There was something unfamiliar about the body. Johnathan had come to know virtually everybody since he’d moved to Duxbury two, and a half years ago. And the Detective in him was saying that this wasn’t anyone he’d ever seen…
Thunder suddenly boomed in the distance. Halting his movement, and drawing the Detective’s attention from the hanging corpse, to the dark overcast sky above. The moon was full, but hidden. Illuminating the clouds above in a pale ghostly light.
The forest itself was well lit for such a late hour. It had snowed three inches the previous night, and now the woods were lit up in that magical pinkish, purplish glow that only a freshly fallen blanket of snow can create.
“Sounds like a storm’s a’comin’.” Deputy Jimmy Mcduff said to no one in particular.
“Hm.” Was all Johnathan offered in reply. The Detective turned his attention from the sky, back to the dead man.
The guy had to be at least fifty pounds overweight. His jacket and undershirt were pulled up, as a result of the noose and the corpse’s weight. His belly sagged out over his pants. Yeah. He’d been a big dude. But who was he?
Without taking his eyes off the corpse, he reached into the breast pocket of his jacket, and pulled out a Marbaro Light. He tried to be slick, and light the smoke without looking away from the dead guy. But the wind forced him to look down, and light the cig like a normal person.
“You guys think we can wrap it up soon? There’s a storm a’comin’.” Sheriff George said from the shadows.
Johnathan turned to gaze at the six foot, burly, fat man standing against the trunk of a tree. His normally imposing figure looked strangely small as he stood there. The Sheriff had his arms crossed over himself, but Johnathan could tell it wasn’t for warmth.
“What the hell was wrong with him?” He wondered. Johnathan didn’t like the man, but he knew he was no coward. And certainly not afraid of the woods, at night. Sheriff George was a born and bred country boy. And yet there he stood. Hugging himself in his big trenchcoat. His eyes nervously darting around the surrounding forest.
All told there were six of them out in their woods. The two forensics guys Bill Jenkins, and Mike Lawry. The Sheriff, and himself. Deputy Jimmy McDuff, and the local reporter Jennel Buttchins. Six grown adults, and the Sheriff was shaking like a leaf.
“What the fuck?” Was all he could think to say to himself.
“Sheriff would you care to make a statement?” He heard the reporter ask. She was quite the looker. Johnathan supposed that’s how she got the job. It had to be, because the chick was definitely no rocket scientist.
“A statement?” Sheriff George asked condescendingly.
“Why yes Ms. Buttchins, I surely would. Here goes- It’s as cold as the ice Dante found Lucifer in. There’s a blizzard the size of Texas coming this way. And we should really think about getting the Hell out of here. How’s that for a statement Ms. Buttchins?”
Jennel gave a “hmph” in response.
Jimmy McDuff gave a somewhat stifled chuckle.
Bill Jenkins, and Mike Lawry continued on with
their tasks. Chatting away about who they thought the dead guy was. They were either oblivious, or didn’t care about the Sheriff’s obvious discomfort with the situation at hand.
“What the Hell is he so nervous about?” Johnathan asked himself again.
Finally he decided he’d had enough. He felt bad calling the Sheriff out on being scared, but the Detective in him wanted to know what his problem was. So he momentarily turned his attention from the hanging man, and started to walk over to Sheriff George.
That’s when there came a sudden sound that he couldn’t quite place. It was a sort of quick “swooshing” noise that came from behind him. Followed by the cracking of several branches, and then the frightened cries of his companions.
There was a – “Holy Christ!”, That came from the Sheriff.
A -“Sheeeezus!”, That was from Deputy Jimmy.
And a sort of high pitched muppet sounding “Meep!”, that had come from Jennel.
Johnathan whirled back around in the direction of the corpse. For a second the Detective did not understand what he was seeing. The hanging man was nowhere to be seen. And neither was Mike Lawry.
Bill Jenkins was on his ass, frantically scooting backward through the snow. His mouth agape and his eyes on the dark canopy above.
“What the fuck?” Was all Johnathan could think to say.
“He’s not dead!” Bill suddenly shrieked, as his frantic ass scooting took him passed where Johnathan was standing.
“Jesus, he’s not dead!”
“What the fuck?” Johnathan asked again. Feeling suddenly very much like how Sheriff George looked. He reached for his pistol.
“Did you see that?!” Sheriff George cried. “Holy Christ did you see that?!”
“Where’s the body?” Johnathan asked.
“It took him!” Bill was shrieking. The man used his ass to carve a path through the snow, all the way back to the Sheriff. “Oh god, Mike!”
At this point Johnathan was feeling very out of the loop. “Could someone please tell me what the fu-!”
The loud snapping of branches above his head made his words catch in his throat. Instinctively Johnathan dove out of the way, blindly rolling through the snow. A split second later there came a heavy “thwump!” from the direction he’d dove from.
Jennel, and the Sheriff shrieked. And Deputy Jimmy shouted “freeze!”
Johnathan combat rolled and came up on one knee, with his gun pointed, and at the ready. A maneuver that had saved his life more than once. But then his eyes settled on the sudden source of all the commotion, and his mind missed a step.
For what he beheld made no sense. The dead man was back. He was still hanging from a noose. Except this time the noose wasn’t wrapped around the original tree branch. It was just stretching up, and up, into the dark canopy above.
The man was hanging over where Johnathan had been standing only seconds ago. The man’s arms were outstretched, and his head tilted upward, in a position Johnathan found reminiscent of Christ on the cross.
“Holy shit he’s not dead!” Johnathan’s mind screamed. He aimed his weapon at the hanging man.
“Freeze!” He shouted. Repeating Deputy Jimmy’s words. “Get on the… Ground?”
His words faltered as the noose around the man’s neck suddenly yanked him upward. Neck bones, and vertebrae cracked sickeningly. And the man rocketed up in a blur. Disappearing into the darkness above.
“Well that’s certainly not something you see every day.” Johnathan thought to himself as he stared up into the dark canopy.
“Detective we’ve got to get out of here!” The Sheriff’s voice cut into his thoughts.
“What?” He asked, dumbfounded, and turned to face the big man. Sheriff George wasn’t waiting for a reply. He and Jennel were already high tailing it out of there. Deputy Jimmy for his part, had stood his ground. Bill Jenkins was nowhere to be seen.
“Are you fucking kidding me right now?” He asked the rapidly fading figure of Sheriff George. “A perp just took one of your men Sheriff! And you’re running away?!”
“That ain’t no perp Detective!” Sheriff George shouted back over his shoulder, as he disappeared into the darkness.
“I-I think the Sheriff might be right Johnny.” Deputy Jimmy said to Johnathan’s right. Keeping his gun trained on the darkness overhead. “I think we need to call for backup.”
“Now that does sound reasonable Deputy.” Johnathan agreed. Straining his eyes to catch any sign of the Hangman. There was nothing up there. It was all just shadows and, leafless branches, against a dark gray sky.
Then there came another loud snapping of branches. This time from the direction the Sheriff, and Jennel had run. A scream erupted from Jennel’s lips, followed by the deafening crack of gunfire.
Both Johnathan, and Deputy Jimmy took off in the
direction of the sounds. There were six shots in total. Johnathan could tell that the Sheriff was firing “Old Betsy”, his treasured Smith and Wesson 500.
The ridiculously huge pistol fired .44 Magnum rounds. Pretty light on the ammo side, but a round fired from that weapon could blow the trunk of a small tree in half.
Johnathan heard that unmistakable sound of an empty chamber “clicking”, followed by a loud jumble of curse words from the Sheriff. Then came another cacophony of snapping branches, and a scream from Jennel.
Both Johnathan, and Jimmy rounded the large trunk of an ancient oak, and almost ran straight into the Sheriff, and Jennel.
Jennel screamed, and the Sheriff swung wildly with the butt of his pistol. Jimmy dodged just on time. Narrowly avoiding what Johnathan was sure would have been a concussion.
“Jesus Sheriff it’s just me!”
“Jimmy?! Mother Mary! You’re lucky I didn’t just knock your block off!”
“Sheriff…” Johnathan gasped, as he struggled to catch his breath. “We need to stick together.”
“Then move your ass Detective! George snapped.
“For Christ’s sake, I’m thirty years your senior, and twice your weight!”
“Are you kidding me?!” Johnathan snapped back. “You just took off, while you’re Deputy, and I stood our ground! I don’t know what’s going on, but someone just assaulted an officer of the law, and you’re the God Damned Sheriff!”
Sheriff George flinched from Johnathan’s words, as if he’d been struck.
“I saw what just happened.” He said, in a quite growl. “A dead man hanging from a noose, just grabbed one of my men, and went rocketing up into the trees with him.”
“He wasn’t dead.” Johnathan said matter-of-factly. “He couldn’t have been.”
The Sheriff suddenly laughed. “He wasn’t dead?! Well he sure as shit should have been after I hit him with four of my six shots from old Betsy! Cause that fucker dropped right down beside me, and little Ms. Jennel here, and I can tell I just pegged that fucker at least four times at near point blank range! Any normal person would have had the courtesy to keel over and die! But that son of a bitch just went right back up into the trees!”
As if on cue, there came the sound of tree branches bending, and breaking from the canopy above. The three men simultaneously snapped their weapons up toward the darkness above. The Sheriff realized he hadn’t reloaded his weapon, and cursed. Quickly bending down to the task.
Johnathan thought he saw a dark man sized shape swoop by overhead through the shadows. But then it was gone.
“Johnny here don’t believe me.” Sheriff George sneered. “Tell him Ms. Reporter. Tell him what you just saw!”
“It’s true.” Jennel said in a shaky voice, as she stared at the dark canopy. “That man just came falling out of the trees right beside us, and the Sheriff shot him! I think he might have even…” She struggled not to vomit as she said it. “I think he might have even shot off one of his arms.. And he… And he, just went flying right back up into the trees.”
Johnathan glanced away from the canopy, and scanned the ground around them. It was too dark to be sure, but there were black puddles all over the ground, that he guessed was blood. There was no sign of a disembodied appendage though.
“So where’s the arm now?”
“Oh for God’s sake, how should I know! He took it with him!” The Sheriff shouted.
“Look, you ain’t from around here Johnny.” George said as he slammed a 45caliber round into the last open chamber of his gun, and then snapped it back into place. “But there’s some strange things that happen sometimes in Duxbury. City folk just don’t understand.”
“It’s true what the Sheriff says Johnny.” Jimmy said, in little more than a whisper. “My Grandaddy used to tell me stories about this part of the land.”
“He used to tell you the land was bad out here, didn’t he?” Sheriff George asked.
“Yeah…” Jimmy nodded, as he gun played across the darkness above. “He told me these woods got something in em’. Something that lives beneath the ground. I never believed him of course. But I never really come out here either.”
“Not many people do.” Sheriff George said. His voice taking on the same whisper-like quality as his Deputy. “Now Detective I know that you’re a practical man. And I begrudgingly respect you for it. But there’s what appears to be a dead man, hanging from a noose, whose flying through the trees.”
There came a sudden peel of thunder, and everyone tensed up for a moment. Johnathan noticed for the first time that Jennel had a can of mace in her hand. He almost laughed despite himself. The guy was wearing a bag over his head! What was mace going to do?
“So what do you suggest Sheriff?” Johnathan asked finally.
“I suggest we get back to town. Get backup. Come back with an armed posse, and clean house.”
“Tonight? Not tomorrow? We come back tonight, and find Mike?”
“Of course! I ain’t leavin’ him out here!” The Sheriff spat. “Now common! It’s more than a half hour drive back to town. This storm’ll be on us before we get back anyway, so I suggest we get a move on.”
The storm was getting closer. That was a fact. The wind was picking up, and big fluffy flakes were already beginning to fall through the air. Johnathan pondered their options for a moment. Finally he spoke.
“Fuck that.” You go back to the SUV, and radio for backup. Then go get your posse. I’ll stay here.”
“What?” Sheriff George asked. Incredulous.
“You’re right Sheriff. I’m not from around here. And because I’m not from around here, I’m not buying into this supersticious bullsh-.”
Johnathan’s words were abruptly cut off as the large figure of the Hangman suddenly dropped from above, and landed on the Sheriff with bone crushing weight. There came a sudden explosion of snow as both figures collided with the ground. Johnathan instinctively raised his hands to protect his face, and took a few faltering steps backward.
Jimmy shouted out in surprise. And Jennel screamed. Johnathan heard the snapping of several bones, along with a sort of guttural, gargling from the Sheriff. But by the time the Detective lowered his hands, the Sheriff’s broken body was wrapped in the Hangman’s embrace, and rocketing upward toward the dark canopy above.
Johnathan got a better look at the Hangman as he rose back up into the trees. The man had three large holes in his chest, from where the Sheriff had shot him. And his right arm (though still attached) looked like it could fall off any second. Never mind the fact that the arm was bearing the weight of a man who had to be at least two hundred and fifty pounds.
Johnathan took aim with his weapon but did not fire, for fear of hitting the Sheriff. In another instant both fat men had disappeared entirely into the trees above. That’s when Johnathan noticed the coughing, and gagging sounds coming from behind him.
He whirled around. Jimmy was on his knees gagging, and shoveling snow into his face like a madman. Jennel was standing over him, Just patting him on the back and saying “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” Over, and over again, in a shaky voice.
“What the fuck?” Johnathan asked for the umpteenth time this evening.
Jennel looked up from Jimmy’s gagging form.
“I’m sorry!” She squeaked. “I maced him by accident!” The would-be reporter was almost crying.
Jesus. And for a second there he had been considering giving the chick his spare sidearm. Johnathan quickly sprang into action. Running over to Jimmy, and helping the man to his feet.
“Alrighty buddy. We’re gonna take the Sheriff’s advice and get the fuck out of here.”
Jimmy sputtered in reply.
“Jennel, you stay close. We move quickly, and quietly. We’re only about a half mile from where we parked.
Jennel sobbed, and nodded. “O-Okay. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to spray him.”
“I know.” Johnathan said, with as much sympathy as he could muster. “It’s okay Ms. Buttchins. Let’s just get out of here.”
“Okay.” Jennel’s crying quieted somewhat.
And with that the trio started moving. It wasn’t easy. The ground was uneven, and the snow was deep in some places. Snow was starting to fall more heavily as they moved through the forest.
The wind began to pick up. Blowing through the dark trees in great gusts, that kicked clouds of the winter elements up into the air around them.
Jimmy moved well for a man who could barely see. Recovering quickly each time he stumbled. And with every moment that went by, his vision cleared up more.
“Can’t believe she fuckin’ maced me.” Jimmy said under his breath.
Johnathan smiled, despite himself. He could believe it. Johnathan was of the opinion that in this day and age, the only thing reporters, and journalists were good for was spreading lies, and rumors. Most, he thought, simply worked for the military propaganda machine.
“Almost there.” Johnathan said, as they neared the edge of the forest.
There came a sudden horrified shriek from out from somewhere in the darkness behind them. That’s when it had occurred to Johnathan that he hadn’t seen Bill Jenkins since he’d gone scooting passed him on his ass, more than ten minutes ago.
The shriek lent strength to their legs, and the trio picked up the pace. In another moment they were out of the woods, and crossing the field they’d parked the police SUV in. Thunder boomed overhead, and the wind howled. There was no doubt now that the storm was upon them.
By the time they’d all gotten situated in the vehicle, Jimmy’s eyesight had recovered significantly. He snatched the radio receiver.
“This is Deputy Jimmy McDuff, we’re out at the edge of the Northern woods. We have…Officers down. Requesting immediate backup.”
The only answer they got was static.
Jimmy repeated the message. More static. Johnathan turned the key, and the engine of the SUV roared into life. The headlights illuminated the field, and the edge of the forest. Johnathan strained his eyes for a moment. If something was out there watching them, the falling snow was keeping them well hidden.
“God damn storm must be messing with the radio.”
Johnathan nodded, as he threw the SUV in reverse.
“Like a badly written horror story.” He said.
Then he punched it, and the vehicle took off in the direction of town. The three sat in tense silence for a moment, as they flew down the bumpy dirt road. Johnathan kept his eyes focused on the land in front of the bright headlights. Not wanting to think what may be stalking them from the darkness of the trees that zipped by on both sides.
The snow was falling even more heavily now. Coming down in sheets so thick that using the brights would have been suicide. And so Johnathan kept the low beams on as they rolled down the dark road that looked more like a tunnel than a street.
Finally after what seemed like an eternity, they crested a hill, and the lights of Duxbury came into view in the valley two miles below. They reached the end of the dirt road, and Johnathan took a hard left onto Apple Tree Lane.
The tires would have squealed loudly had there not been four inches of compact snow between them and the pavement. As it was, the SUV swerved and careened dangerously to the right. But then the vehicle regained its traction, and straightened out.
A few seconds later they were shooting down the road. There was roughly two and a half miles of rural darkness between them, and the edge of town. Johnathan decided to slow it down to about forty-five.
“What the Hell just happened back there?!” Jennel asked in a shaky voice.
“You tell me.” Johnathan said. “You know a helluva lot more about the lore of this county than I do. And that sure as shit looked like something straight out of some old horror story.”
“Jesus. My Grandaddy wasn’t kidding about Kene’s Road.” Deputy Jimmy said, in an exasperated voice.
“Kene’s what?” Johnathan asked.
“My Uncle used to tell me about this old road that used to run through these woods somewhere out here. Said it was there before the colonists arrived, and that no one had any clue who made it. He said the first settlers of Duxbury were warned by the local Indian Tribes that the place was bad ju-ju.”
The SUV went over a bump in the road, and Johnathan had to swerve slightly to keep control.
“You know now that I think about it, there was a story about a man being hung on Kene’s road.” Jennel chimed in. “Supposedly a gallows was built out here a long time ago. But only one execution was ever performed there before the place was abandoned.”
“So… You’re saying that there’s an ancient, haunted road somewhere out here?” The Detective asked. His voice a mixture of incredulity, and apprehension.
“That’s how my Grandaddy told it.” Said the Deputy.
Johnathan shook his head. He couldn’t believe he was having this conversation. This was ridiculous! This was fuck-ing ridiculous! Why on Earth had he moved out to the country?!
“Jimmy.” He began. Trying to sound like a logical Detective once again. “I don’t mean to be disrespectful toward your Grandfather but doesn’t that sound a litt-?”
His words were cut short as something heavy landed on the roof. There was a heavy “thwump!”, and the frame of the SUV shook violently. The roof buckled, and caved in, as if a boulder had been dropped on top of it. The SUV swerved to the left, then to the right.
“Shit! Shit!” Johnathan cursed, as he fought to regain control of the SUV. He glanced in his side view mirror just on time to see a bloody hand wrap around it. The mirror was violently yanked upward, and both hand, and mirror vanished.
After a few tense seconds of swerving left, and right, Johnathan managed to regain control of the vehicle. The SUV straightened, and Johnathan accelerated as fast as he dare. Jimmy was already in the back, struggling to unhook the 12-gauge shotgun from it’s mount, as the car jarred around.
Before Johnathan could say anything else, his
eyes were drawn to a dark shape falling through the sky just in front of them. The Hangman landed on the hood of the SUV, and the hood violently buckled inward. The SU V careened dangerously once again.
The Hangman reached up and grabbed both windshield wipers. Then the noose pulled tight, and the man rocketed back upward. Ripping off the wipers, and taking them with him on his rapid ascent into the overcast sky.
Johnathan simultaneously fought to keep the SUV on the road, while continuing to watch in disbelief, as the man disappeared into the swirling snow over their heads. Looking like some sort of twisted marionette making a rapid exit from the stage. The last thing he saw of the man was his “Bear Claw” brand boots being swallowed up by the gray clouds.
“You have got to be, fucking kidding me…” He said to no one in particular.
Jennel screamed once again. As if that was going to help anything.
“Well at least she put her mace back in her purse.” The Detective thought to himself. The hood of the SUV looked like shit. He couldn’t tell if there was smoke rising out of it, or if it was just swirling snow. He supposed that if the engine had been damaged, they’d know either way soon enough.
Johnathan heard the distinct “Ca-Chak!” of a round being loaded into the 12-Gauge Jimmy had pulled off it’s mount.
“I’m gonna blow that fucker to kingdom come!” He heard the Deputy say. The shaky timber of his voice had been replaced with one of wrath.
Johnathan was impressed with the man’s intestinal fortitude. Anger in a situation like this was much more useful than fear. And the man seemed to be holding it together a lot better than Johnathan. The Detective’s hands were shaking badly. It made steering the vehicle that much harder.
That’s when the engine first started going wonky. There came a sudden slamming noise that came from under the hood, and echoed loudly throughout the interior of the SUV. Johnathan glanced down from the road to the dashboard, and saw that the engine’s temperature was rapidly climbing.
Then there came second slamming noise from under the hood, this one much louder. It was accompanied by a violent jarring of the entire vehicle. The SUV began to slow. The gas pedal no longer responding, no matter how hard Johnathan pressed it.
“Shit.” Jimmy said from the back seat. He started to climb over to the front passenger seat.
“Well Jimmy.” Johnathan said, with as much composure as he could muster. “It looks like you’re gonna get your chance to blow that fucker to kingdom come sooner, than later.”
“Good.” Was all the Deputy said in return. There was steel in both his voice, and his eyes.
“There – There’s something in the road. ” Jennel said shakily, from the backseat.
Both Detective, and Deputy strained their eyes to see what she was talking about. It took Johnathan a moment to realize the reporter was right. There was something in the road. Something was a far more accurate description than someone. That was for sure.
Through the swirling snow, and darkness, barely outlined by the headlights, was the Hangman. He was hanging about three feet off the ground. The rope attached to the noose around his neck just stretching up, and up, and disappearing into the night sky. The man’s arms. outstretched in a Christ-like fashion once again.
“Fucker must know that the SUV’s done for.” Johnathan said through clenched teeth.
“Looks like it’s do or die time.” Jimmy answered back.
The SUV continued to slowly roll toward the Hangman. The engine sputtered it’s last, and finally died. After a few more seconds the vehicle lumbered to a stop, in the middle of the dark, snowy road. For a minute they just sat there in silence. Listening to the wind and snow blowing around in the darkness outside.
Johnathan stared at the Hangman, looking the distant figure up and down. What was this thing? It just didn’t make sense. Gangbangers, and serial killers made sense. Johnathan was not a superstitious man. He did not believe in ghosts, or goblins.
Monsters he believed in. He’d killed monsters with his own two hands. But monsters were just flesh, and blood men. Men made into beasts, by the unfair, economically imbalanced society that the U.S. tries so hard to pretend that it isn’t comprised of. But this, this was a different kind of monster.
And suddenly Johnathan found that he very much missed the monsters of old. The old monsters were back in a reality he’d left behind, in a dark forest, about an hour ago. The old monsters were much easier to deal with. You can’t arrest something like this.
Johnathan took note of the ragged holes, torn through the Hangman’s chest. Even in the dark he could see the big red spots where, the blood from the bullet wounds had frozen. If the man wasn’t wearing a shirt, Johnathan knew his chest would look like Swiss Cheese right now.
The thing’s left arm was barely attached anymore. The bone had been clearly obliterated when Sheriff George had put a round from “Old Betsy” through it. Now it was just hanging by a few tendons, and muscle.
“Well at least it bleeds.” He thought to himself.
“If it bleeds we can kill it.” Now where had he heard that line before? It seemed like pretty sound logic. Except in this case, it didn’t seem to apply. The Hangman had bled. But it didn’t seem to be having much of an effect…
Then suddenly a thought struck him. It was a true Eureka moment! At least he hoped that it was.
“Jimmy, when we get out, I want you to aim for the guy’s rope.” Johnathan said.
“The-rope?” Jimmy asked in a confused voice.
“Yeah. Let’s see how dangerous this fucker is when he’s stuck on the ground like the rest of us normal people.”
Jimmy’s eyes widened in sudden comprehension. He even let out a short laugh.
“Alright.” The Deputy nodded, a grim smile playing across his face. “Let’s do this…”
“Ms. Buttchins.” Johnathan said just before he stepped out into the cold night. “You better just stay here.”
All the young woman could do was nod. She had been staring in wide eyed terror at the motionless Hangman, ever since the engine had died.
Johnathan pulled out his nine millimeter, and checked that it was fully loaded. He already knew it was. He hadn’t fired his weapon once since this whole ordeal began. But still he checked anyway.
Then the two men opened the doors, and stepped out into the darkness, and swirling snow. They were instantly wrapped in the night’s cold embrace. It seemed to have dropped at least ten degrees. Thunder boomed overhead, and the snow continued to fall in sheets.
The Hangman for his part just hung there. His body swaying back in forth in the wind. It was as if the thing was waiting to see what the two officers were going to do next. Johnathan knew that hitting the rope at this distance would be near impossible. They would have to get closer.
And so they trudged on through the snow. Slowly making their way toward the Hangman. When they got to about twelve feet away, they stopped and raised their weapons to the rope, just above the man. The Hangman cocked his head to one side in confusion.
Both men fired nearly simultaneously. Neither shot found it’s mark. The Hangman suddenly came rocketing toward them. Gliding over the icy road at frightening speed. Johnathan took another shot with his revolver. Missing again.
The hangman had halved the distance between them in a split second. It would be upon them in the blink of an eye.
Johnathan switched tactics, and let off a few rounds into the oncoming nightmare’s chest. The Hangman’s body jerked violently, as three rounds tore through him. Adding more to the Swiss Cheese quality of the thing.
Jimmy took another shot with the twelve gauge. Even before he took it Johnathan knew it would be the man’s last, before the Hangman was upon them. The weapon boomed loudly. The sound of modern man winning out over the cacophony of nature for a second.
The wide spray from the twelve gauge gave Jimmy a much better chance of hitting the Hangman’s noose, than Johnathan’s pistol. The Detective almost “hooted” in elation as the Deputy’s shot found it’s mark.
The Hangman’s noose violently snapped. For a second Johnathan thought the monstrosity was just going to keep hovering over the ground. His body jerked in the air as the noose snapped. And for a second Johnathan swore that the unholy thing did defy the laws of physics.
But then gravity kicked in, and the Hangman collapsed in a heap. Johnathan, and the Deputy just stood there watching the motionless body, as snow blew around it in great gusts.
“Holy crap, would ya’ look at that?” Jimmy said, as he pointed upward.
Johnathan’s eyes moved upward in the direction the Deputy was pointing in. The Detective’s eyes went wide, as his gaze settled on what Jimmy was pointing at. Even in the darkness he could see the seemingly impossible length of the Hangman’s rope falling out of the sky.
It was piling up on, and around the motionless body. Forming great cords. The two men stood in the blistering cold, watching in disbelief as the rope continued to fall out of the sky.
“What- what the Hell was it attached to?” Jimmy wondered out loud.
Johnathan shrugged. “Satan’s dick maybe? At this point I’d believe just about anything.”
“This… This is crazy Johnny.” Jimmy sounded exasperated. Fear had not yet returned to his voice, but the steely edge had gone out of the man, that was for sure. Thunder boomed once again overhead. The chords of rope were starting to obscure the body from view.
Finally after what seemed like an eternity, the end of the rope came falling out of the darkness. Johnathan guessed that there had to be at least a mile’s worth that had just come out of the sky. It was the sight of that rope that had finally unhinged Johnathan’s concept of reality. And in that moment the Detective from LA truly did believe in monsters.
As one the two men started to approach the body. Keeping their weapons trained on the Hangman all the while. A few seconds later and they were standing over the seemingly dead monster/man, half buried in rope.
It now looked as lifeless as it had when Johnathan had first seen the man hanging from a tree branch in the woods. The detective looked down at the thick plastic bag covering the man’s head. He just had to know…
Slowly he began to reach down for the bag. Jimmy read his intent and stepped back a few feet. Keeping the twelve gauge leveled at the seemingly dead man. Johnathan’s hand closed around part of the bag. He took a deep breath. Steeling himself.
Then, much like one would rip off a band-aid, he gave the bag a hearty yank. It gave a bit of resistance as it’s lower section caught in the noose, still wrapped tightly around the man’s throat. But then the bag gave way.
Both men gasped in surprise. Johnathan really hadn’t known what to expect. But what he beheld certainly wasn’t anything he’d even considered. As the plastic ripped free, the two men were greeted with a sight as disturbing as the plastic bag had been. Covering the man’s head was an old style Hangman’s mask.
It was made of rough, weather worn burlap. It was like something you’d see in execution scenes in old black and white westerns. Except that there were two buttons sewn into the mask, made to look like eyes. And there had been a ragged cut made where the mouth was. Though this had been crudely stitched shut with what looked like old-style fishing twine.
“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.” Jimmy muttered. His voice barely audible over the wind, and snow. For a moment the two men just stared down at the mask. Already, snow was beginning to cover the body.
“Well what do you make of that Jimmy?” Johnathan finally asked.
“My Grandaddy never had any stories about something like this. That’s for sure.”
“Did you guys really kill it?!” Jennel Buttchin’s nervous voice, came echoing from down the road near the SUV.
Just as both men turned, there came a loud
“swooshing” from behind them. The noise was not unlike that sound he’d heard back in the forest, when the Hangman had first sprung into life. Out of his peripheral Johnathan watched Deputy Jimmy McDuff get violently ripped off his feet.
The man gave a cry that was quickly cut short as his back slammed into the snowy ground, and the wind was knocked out of him. Jennel screamed (helpful as always), and Johnathan spun back to face the Hangman.
The Hangman’s body suddenly went rocketing down the street, dragging the Deputy through the snow with him. Johnathan saw that the monstrosity had grabbed one of Jimmy’s ankles. And that the rope. That God Damned unholy rope, was just stretching off down the road into the darkness, pulling the Hangman by the throat.
The Hangman, and the Deputy kicked up a cloud of snow as they carved a path down the road. Johnathan took off running after them. Although he knew it was hopeless. They had to be moving at least twelve miles per hour! Jimmy was kicking, and screaming, for all the good it was doing him.
“Hang on Jimmy!” Johnathan shouted after the rapidly disappearing figures.
Deputy Jimmy McDuff answered back with an “Oooaahh!” just before he disappeared into the shadows.
“Shit! Shit!” Johnathan shouted, as he stumbled through the snow.
His heavy breath came out in big white puffs. The Detective ran. The snow fell. The wind howled. And the sky rumbled. Johnathan just kept following the trail they’d carved. If the storm kept up, the path would be hidden in a matter of hours, maybe less.
He followed the path through the snowy night at a full sprint, for about ten minutes, before doubling over. He struggled to catch his breath. Johnathan glanced back. He could no longer see the SUV, or Ms. Buttchins. Shit…
“Johnny!” Johnathan turned back at the sound of Jimmy’s voice.
The Deputy was sprinting up the road toward him. Running like Hell itself was fast on his heels. Which might actually be the case. The man’s clothes were torn, and tattered from being dragged across the icy road. And there was something about three feet long attached to his ankle, that was just sort of flopping around.
“Jimmy! Jesus man!” Johnathan went running toward him.
The two men reached one another and their eyes locked. Jimmy was pale as a ghost. Despite himself Johnathan laughed.
“Holy shit Deputy! I thought you were a goner!”
The Deputy doubled over. Hand’s on his knees, as he struggled to catch his breath. He was in slightly worse shape than Johnathan.
“How’d you get away?!” Johnathan asked. Elation, and relief etched in his voice.
Jimmy shook his head. “I don’t know. That- that thing was just dragging me down the street, when I heard this loud popping noise, and I suddenly stopped moving. When I looked up the guy was nowhere to be seen. So I just took off running!”
Johnathan’s eyes turned back to the Deputy’s left ankle. His breath caught in his throat, and his eyes went wide.
“Holy shit.” He murmured quietly.
Jimmy’s eyes turned down to his ankle, and he let out a gasp. Clearly in his mad dash to get away, he hadn’t noticed there was a hand wrapped around his ankle. The hand was attached to a stump, where the tendon’s had finally snapped. It was the appendage Sheriff George had weakened earlier with “Old Betsy”.
Jimmy yelped and started dancing around like a madman. Trying to kick the thing off. But to no avail. The hand had a vice-like grip on him. Finally after a few minutes Johnathan got Jimmy to calm down enough to stop jumping around.
They sat there in the middle of the dark road. Prying the Hangman’s fingers off of the Deputy’s ankle, one at a time. After another couple minutes they finally got the damned thing off him. Then the two just stood there in silence, staring at the torn appendage.
“We’ve gotta take it with us.” Johnathan finally said.
“What?” Jimmy asked back. Not comprehending the words he’d just heard.
“Even if I have to carry it all the way back to town myself, I want the forensics guys to take a look at it.” Tonight he’d come to believe in monsters. And he’d be damned if he wasn’t going to take some evidence back with him.
“Okay Jimmy said, with trepidation in his voice.
“Let’s go back and get Ms. Buttchins, and high tail it back to town.”
Johnathan nodded, as he stared down at the arm. Finally he reached down and picked it up by the wrist. He half expected the thing to snap into life and latch onto him. But nothing happened.
The two took one final look down the road. Hoping that the Hangman wasn’t going to come flying out of the darkness, at them. Darkness, and swirling snow, was all there was to see. Then they turned, and started making their way down the snowy street…
Credit To – Lebooski