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August 6th, 1982 was a day that no one in Duxbury liked to talk about. No one who is still around who remembers it anyway. It had been a hot one. Hot, humid, and most of all, wet. It had been that way all summer.
“Unnatural,” The old timers were wont to say.
By mid-summer rainfall all along the East coast had hit records not seen since the 20’s. The nearby swamps and bogs had deepened, dark, murky water encroaching onto lands normally dry. The Duxbury Bogs and the North Hill Marsh Sanctuary in particular had been cause for concern.
By mid-July (Courtesy of the Bogs), Pilgrim’s Highway had been flooded over, blocking Mayflower Street all the way down passed East Street. Island Creek Pond and the North Hill Sanctuary had joined forces, turning the lands that divided them into one giant wilderness of muck and water.
And by the end of July it looked like Cranberry Bog and Pine Lake were on the verge of rising up high enough to join the other two and submerge the whole damn area. It had been an ugly business already.
Homes in and around Pettibush Lane, Maple Pond Lane, and Evergreen Street had already been lost to flooding. And there had even been talk during the Duxbury Town Hall Council Meeting the previous weekend of the possible necessary evacuation of Tinker’s Ledge Road if the rains kept up.
That had gotten people buggin’. Markus McDuff had leapt up and shouted with the vigor of a man half his age, declaring, “They’ll have to drag my dead body,” off his Apple Farm if they came to evacuate him.
There had been a grasshopper boom as well. Everyone said it was because of all the rain. The population thickened as one got further from the busier streets. Certain sections of the Whiton Woods were so thick with the little green bugs that it was hard to describe it in words.
One had to “see it, to believe it.” On some of the trails every step one took would literally be accompanied by a multitude of tiny springy noises as the brainless bugs leapt away from whatever giant passed them by.
They hadn’t been the only insects to flourish in the unusually wet weather. The cicadas had come out in force for the season as well. And they sang their summer songs with an unprecedented fervor. Every evening around dusk, they’d alight in the branches of the trees and chirp up at the brilliant, shifting purple and orange canvas in the sky.
In the trees all along Island Creek, the insects seemed to be especially prevalent. There were certain sections of the creek where one would have to practically shout to be heard over the buzzing cacophony. It was, needless to say, not a good season for insectophobes.
Despite all the climate issues, the “tourist” season (small as it was) did not seem to really suffer. Which had been quite a relief to the local business owners. And ever since August started it hadn’t rained. As a result, the general mood around town was brighter than it had been.
But on this early afternoon, one resident’s mood was especially chipper. Officer Robert Maxwell was walking down Harrison Street with a particular “pep” in his step. That was because Bob had just scored a dyno date with the town Betty!
She was a bodacious babe by the name of Mary Barbadino. She’d been the morning waitress at Alice’s Restaurant for going on three years now. Bob had grown up in Duxbury and had always liked Alice’s. But it had been Bob’s pre-shift breakfast spot pretty much every day since he’d first laid eyes on Mary in that tight-fitting waitress uniform. Even on his days off.
He still couldn’t believe his luck! Bob, at the ripe old age of thirty seven, was not exactly known for being a lady’s man. He wasn’t some hoser or anything, but he was no primo stud either.
And she’d approached him! Bob had known that Mary had broken up with her boyfriend Marcus Greene four months prior. But he had never had the cahones to do anything about it.
The situation between Mary and Marcus had been like a badly written movie. Marcus and his posse were the local tough guys. He and his crew seemed to always be getting into trouble. Be it a fight at the local bar, or a “domestic dispute” at one of their biker parties.
If it was true that in life everyone had a role to play, then it was Marcus’s destiny to be an asshole. That’s not what had stopped Bob from making a move on Mary, however. Bob was a Roller after all. He’d just been too chicken.
So this morning when Mary had come over with a cup of coffee in hand, and slid into the empty booth across the table from him, he’d been struck speechless for a few seconds. The conversation had been quick and direct. Mary talking, and Bob mostly nodding while trying to keep his mouth from hanging open.
She’d wanted to know if he was interested in catching a movie after her shift. Bob would have watched the bunkest movie in the world with Mary. He’d quickly agreed, and the two had made plans to meet when she got off at five.
Bob made it to the corner, and took a right onto Washington Street. He was headed to Barry’s Meats, the local butcher shop. Barry was legendary in the region for his kielbasa. And tonight after whatever movie they ended up seeing, he was going to surprise Mary with a better meal than Alice’s had ever put on a plate!
He walked briskly, passing Beaver Brook Lane and making a mental note to stop at Snug Harbor Wine on his way back home. It was nearly 12:30, which gave Bob approximately four and a half hours to get dinner made, get dressed, and be back at Alice’s.
He had been originally scheduled to be on duty until six and had agreed to meet Mary without giving it a second thought. After realizing it, he’d been worried that the “boss man” wouldn’t be accommodating to his sudden plans. But after he’d made it back to the station, Sheriff Copper had been all too happy to give Bob the night off.
In truth Copper had at first been as incredulous as Bob had initially been. But the Sheriff was a good (if not gruff) man., and had granted his request with a hearty laugh. He gave him a hard pat on the back and left him with the wise words, “Happy hunting son!” as Bob had walked out of the Station doors.
He swiftly passed by a group of children playing in Washington Park. Off in the distance a baseball game was going on. He vaguely remembered seeing a flyer earlier in the week stating that the Duxbury Dragons would be playing their first game of the season today.
On the other side of the street loomed the Saint John’s Evangelist Church. The ancient stone structure cast a long shadow across the asphalt. Bob only gave it a cursory glance as he passed it by.
He was not a religious man, though his Mother regularly attended. In truth, the place had always kind of creeped Bob out.
He looked around. He didn’t see the local Pastor, Father John, anywhere. Which he ironically thanked God for. The short, fat man was always lurking about somewhere in town. Always looking to “add to the flock” as he put it.
“Lurking.” No. That wasn’t the right word for it. For all their brief encounters, and by all accounts, Father John was a pleasant man. Known for his charity work, and volunteering at the local soup kitchen in fact. He felt like a dick for having the thought in the first place, and quickly pushed it out of his mind.
By the time he’d crossed Freeman Place and was walking alongside the monolithic structure of the Hudson Bank, his thoughts had once again returned to Mary and what exactly he’d done to make this morning so different than all the countless others. He glanced to the left. Looking at his wavy reflection as he passed by the floor-to-ceiling windows of the massive building.
Well, he had started working out. In fact in the last two months he’d lost almost twenty pounds! A big part of it was the change up in his diet.
Egg whites and coffee for breakfast, instead of pancakes. Salad for lunch, instead of a burger. Come to think of it, hadn’t Mary been the one to first suggest his change- up in breakfast?
Or maybe it was his fresh new ‘stache. At first he’d been hesitant to try and grow one. Never being one for stylized facial hair. But he quickly realized that it was totally choice. His mom said he looked like Tom Selleck.
Bob was enwrapped in these thoughts as he reached the corner. He wasn’t looking in any particular direction, and only half heard the quick, panicked steps just as someone came sprinting around the other side of the building and collided straight into him.
Bob was knocked off his feet. Landing hard on his back, he managed to keep his head from bouncing off the pavement. But for a few seconds he saw stars anyway.
“Bab!” He recognized Boston George’s voice. He sat up, and attempted to bring the man into focus.
“Oh, Babby, thank Gad it’s you!”
Bob began to slowly climb to his feet, but the skinny forty-something man was faster. He practically leapt up and dashed over to the deputy. Offering him a hand, the man helped him up.
“We got a real situation here, Babby!” the man said, his eyes darting around frantically.
Georgey McCabe, or “Boston George” as he was known by the locals, had gotten his name because of his heavy accent. And because, well…he was from Boston. Which could be quite a big deal in some circles within such a small town.
He was a “born, and bred Irishman of the Big City on a Hill”, as he was wont to say. Bob had never been, but he imagined that Georgey was a pretty accurate representation of the average Bostonian.
Boston George had moved to Duxbury from Beantown three years prior. He always seemed to have a lot of money, though no one knew exactly what it was that he did. He drove a candy apple red BMW M1. Anywhere he went with it he drove like a man on his way to save the world.
Georgey had accumulated quite an impressive pile of tickets and citations since coming to Duxbury. But he always had the money to pay off his fines, and so had remained on the road.
“For now,” Sheriff Copper had said to Bob one night at the Station.
Copper didn’t like Boston George, though Georgey seemed oblivious to the fact. He kept speeding, and the Duxbury Police Department kept profiting off his “stuntman” antics.
Bob had never ticketed Georgey personally, however. He and the Irishman had become some-time poker buddies shortly after his arrival. Bob liked to gamble once in a while. Georgey loved it. And the man had one hell of a poker face.
Over the last two years, he’d taken far more of Bob’s money than Bob had his. That was for sure. The man also liked to sometimes go out “day drinking” as he put it. And as Bob took in George’s disheveled appearance, he began to suspect that was exactly what the man’s afternoon activities had consisted of thus far.
The thinning hair on his head stuck out in tufts, pointing in all directions. His Aloha shirt was only half tucked into his trouser shorts. Bob realized that the man was also missing one of his flip-flops.
But there was a distinct panic in Georgey’s eyes. A sort of wild terror that gave Bob pause. The man was talking, Bob realized. Thickly accented words flowing out of his mouth a mile a minute. Though he had no idea what he’d been saying.
“Take a red, Georgey!” Bob shouted, raising his hand in a silencing gesture as he did.
George fell quiet. For a few seconds all that could be heard was the birds chirping, and George’s ragged breathing.
“What is the problem?” He didn’t have time for this.
“There’s…” George gulped in a lungful of air, trying to steady his voice. “-There’s some kind of mahnstah in the dampstah behind Bahne’s Mahket. And I think it got Old Man Pete!”
“What?” Bob asked. Truly at a loss.
“Oh for Gad’s sake, Bab! I’m tellin’ you that there’s something in the dampstah behind Bahne’s Mahket, and I think it got Pete!” The man was quickly becoming hysterical.
“Okay. Okay,” Bob said, raising his hand once again in a placating gesture. “So tell me what happened.”
“I was sittin’ outside Lux Cafe. Out in one of the chairs on the patio. Just having a drink ya’know?”
At this Bob quirked an eyebrow. Georgey didn’t seem to notice.
“Anyways, so I’m sittin’ there out on the patio when I see Old Man Pete come out of his store, and go around to the back alley with a bag full of trash.”
Peter Barne’s was the elderly owner of Barne’s Market, the local grocery co-op. Pete was in his seventies, but had moved like a man half is age up until his wife Edna had passed last winter.
Since then Pete had developed a noticeable stoop in his stance. Now he walked with slow, pained movements. These days he seemed to look at the ground more than anything else.
In truth it pained the Deputy to see the old man slowly fall apart. Bob had known Pete since he’d been just a boy. He’d been known as “Old Man Pete” even back then. But in those days he’d sported a full head of gray hair.
“So like after five minutes go by,” Boston George was saying, “I notice that Petey hasn’t come back out from the alleyway yet. So I staht worrying that the poor old bugger’s hurt himself or something ya’know? So I get up, and I go across the street to go check on him.”
Bob knew the area George was referring to well. It was called East Cove Plaza, and was consequently the only spot on Surplus Road that had any businesses on it. Four to be exact.
All located around the same two square blocks. Barnes Market and the Red Herring Diner on one side of the street. East Bay Salon and Lux Lounge on the other.
Up until a year, and a half ago there had only been three businesses. But Lux had opened up next to East Bay. It was this “new age” hippie cafe/bar. And was owned by this unbelievably sexy red-headed fox named Gretta Thompson.
She’d moved to Duxbury about two years ago and after about six months had opened up shop. That was all he really knew about her. He’d never been in the bar, though it had simultaneously become a hit with the younger locals and an endless source of gossip for the elders.
“So what did you find when you went to go check on him?” Bob asked, feeling a faint sense of apprehension as he did so.
“That’s the thing, Bab,” George said in a hushed tone. “There wasn’t no one back there when I got up there. Just an empty alleyway with the dampstah in the back.”
“But I got this real weird feelin’, Bab. This real weird feelin’ that Old Man Pete was in that dampstah,” Georgey continued.
Bob already did not like where this was headed. Though admittedly he had absolutely no fucking idea where this was headed.
“So I get to like about ten feet away from the dampstah, and somethin’s telling me—somethin’s telling me not to get any closer. So I call out Pete’s name. Feeling a bit silly as I do, mind you.”
Bob smirked despite himself. Yes. Silly was one word for it.
“And just as I say his name there comes the sound of trash slammin’ around. And I mean a loud sound! And the dampstah…” George trailed off as he gave a shudder. “The dampstah, Bab… it jerked towards me!”
Bob raised an eyebrow.
“The dumpster jerked towards you?” The words just didn’t sound right.
“Yeah, Bab. And I mean like three freakin’ feet!”
“So what did you do?”
At this George looked incredulous.
“What did I do? I fackin’ ran for my Gad damn life! That’s what I did Bab!”
“Okay. Okay,” Bob said, raising his hands once again. “Let’s go.”
“Back to Barnes Market.”
“Yes,” He said,pinching his nose. “Back to the Market.”
“Come on, Georgey,” Bob cut him off and started walking.
Five minutes later they were moving down Surplus Road, almost halfway to their destination. Up ahead loomed the wooden bridge that went over Bluefish River. The raging waters echoed off the surrounding trees that bordered the street on both sides.
Bob had kept up a brisk pace. Partly because he was worried for Old Man Pete, and partly because of his rapidly shrinking timetable. George, to his credit, had kept up.
“Are you sure you don’t want to call for backup, Babby?” he half shouted over the thundering river, just as their feet met weather worn wood.
Bob glanced down at the rushing waters of the Bluefish as they clunked along. The river was normally more than a dozen feet below the bridge. On this day however, it was half that. If it got any higher, the city would have to close it off.
“Not quite yet, George,” he shouted back. “I think I’d like to check things out for myself before I go and do that.”
After another moment they were across the river and back on asphalt. With each step the thundering of the Bluefish faded.
The pair looked up at the looming trees on either side of them. The White Pines had grown fuller, and lusher than ever before, it seemed. Bob gazed off into the shadows of the surrounding forest.
There was pretty much nothing in the remaining half mile. Nothing but trees and encroaching swamp water that is. Pretty much everything West of Tremont Street was flooded.
But thankfully the four business that made up East Cove Plaza had thus far been spared from the weather thanks to their location about a half mile East of Tremont, on the corner where Reynolds Way crossed Surplus.
As they walked, Bob reflected on the dumpster in question. It was a fifteen yarder, if he recalled correctly, situated between Barne’s Market and the Red Herring for the convenience of both businesses. With all the flooding, it really wouldn’t be too outlandish if a bear or some other critter had made its way down and jumped in looking for food.
They came to a flooded part in the road just as they hit the intersection of South Station Street. The water stretched all the way to the woods on both the right and left. They wordlessly walked to the right.
Entering the edge of the woods, they used the rocks and roots to keep their feet as dry as possible, as they made their way. The water stretched on down the street for a good twenty feet before relinquishing its hold on the road.
Soon the surrounding forest gave way once again to a suburban sprawl. Up ahead in the distance stood East Cove Plaza. He felt an inexplicable twinge of apprehension at the sight of the buildings. And for about a second, he really did want to call for back up.
But what would he tell dispatch? Boston George thinks that there’s a monster in the dumpster behind Barne’s Market? Yeah, that would go over well. Then he realized he didn’t have his radio on him anyway. So the point was moot.
After another moment of walking they had reached the front entrance of Barne’s. The “Now Open” sign still hung in the window. Bob opened the door and stepped inside. They were greeted by the refreshing coolness of the air-conditioned store.
“Mister Barnes?” Bob called out.
No answer, save for the soft hum of the air-conditioning unit. Bob walked deeper into the store, swiveling his head this way and that as he continued moving down one of the aisles.
Again no answer. This wasn’t good. Something was up.
“I’m tellin’ you, he’s not in here, Babby,” Boston George said in a hushed tone from behind.
“Officer Maxwell?” Came a voice from the back of the store.
Both men turned to see Pete’s nephew Doug Jenkins emerge from the back storage room. Doug was in his forties. He seemed to possess an endless supply of plaid shirts and blue jeans that he wore no matter how high the temperature was. A nice guy, though a bit slow.
“Hey, Doug,” Bob said, with a wave. “I was just looking for Pete. Have you seen him?”
At this Doug shook his head.
“I was supposed to meet him here. We’re going down to the dinner at Saint John’s tonight. But I can’t find him, Bob.”
That last part carried with it a tone of worry.
“Don’t worry, Dougy.” Bob managed a smile. “We’ll find him. I’m going to take a look around outside. Why don’t you stay here in case he shows back up?”
“Okay,” he said.
“Cool beans. Alright, me and Georgey here are gonna take a look around back. We’ll meet you back here in ten minutes if we don’t find him.”
And with that George and Bob turned and walked back out. The sticky summer heat practically slammed into them as they stepped back outside. Together they walked in silence to the entrance of the alleyway.
They rounded the corner and just stood there for a moment. The area was empty, save for the hulking form of the dumpster that stood in the back. It was a big, ugly thing, standing about six feet high. And, yeah, it was a fifteen yarder.
“There’s no way Pete fell in there,” Bob thought to himself as he scrutinized the hunk of metal.
There was something off about it though. But he couldn’t quite put his finger on what. At first glance it appeared the same as it always had.
It was just as rusty and weather worn as ever. Still the same dirty green color, with the words “Patterson Waste Disposal” written in big white letters on its beat up exterior. He was pretty sure that Boston George was right though. The dumpster seemed like it was farther from the back wall than normal.
Maybe George had been partially correct. Perhaps some bear or something had wandered down and climbed in looking for food. Again, considering the flooding, it wasn’t outside of the realm of possibility. After all, the wildlife was known to wander into town from time to time.
Bob moved cautiously forward, and then stopped when he was about fifteen feet away. Some vague, primal instinct warned him not to get any closer.
He stood there in silence for a moment, listening for any sign of movement from within the rusty metal structure. Nothing. Not a sound. He straightened, and let out a sigh. Jesus. He was being ridiculous.
Georgey was just buzzed. Pete Barnes had just gone out on some sudden errand and forgotten to lock up. Yeah, that was it. He started to turn back to George. That’s when he noticed the shoe…
It was just lying there about three feet in front of the dumpster. It was black. That was about all he could tell from this distance.
But he knew. He just \*knew\*, that it was a black penny loafer. And there was only one guy around here who sported those kind of kicks.
“Mister Barnes?” Bob called out toward the dumpster, knowing full well how ridiculous he would look to his peers in that moment. He received no reply.
He took a few more cautious steps forward, calling out again and once again being answered with silence.
God, what if he had fallen in? As impossible as it seemed. What if Pete had fallen in and was lying broken and bleeding right now as he stood there like an idiot?
“What’s goin’ on fellas?”
A voice suddenly asked from behind, causing both men to jump. Bob turned around only to see Christie Villarmarin’s pug-like face. Christie was the “owner” of East Bay Salon.
What that really meant was that her husband, District Circuit Court Judge, Troy Villarmarin, had bought his incredibly unpleasant wife a business so as to keep her out of his hair. And quite literally in someone else’s.
“Everything alright, Officer Maxwell?” she asked innocently.
Bob didn’t really dislike people as a rule of thumb. It was not in his nature. But God Damn if Christie just didn’t naturally piss him off.
She was one of the town gossip “ring leaders,” as his mother always put it. Christie had an affinity for other people’s business. Her Salon only amplified her powers. Bob noticed a few of Christie’s customers/cronies had gathered on the sidewalk in front of the Salon and were watching their conversation with rapt attention.
And God Dammit if he didn’t have time for this! It was going on 1:15 and he hadn’t even made it down to Barry’s yet! Christie was a shark circling a piece of meat on a hook. But he wasn’t going to give her one bite.
“Yes, ma’am,” Bob said, beaming. “We’re just looking for Old Ma- Mister Barnes. I think he may have stepped out, and forgotten to lock up.”
“Oh,.” was all Christie said, mirroring the Deputy’s smile right back at him.
She knew that he wasn’t telling her something. And she was determined to find out what. As a member of the upper echelon of the community it was her duty to. After all there were very few police officers in Duxbury who were truly mentally adequate to do their job. But what could you expect from a profession that literally accepted anyone who applied?
For a moment the two just stood there, beaming their smiles at one another. Boston George looked back, and forth between the two of them. Lifting a brow in confusion at their “smile duel.”
“Why, good afternoon everyone!”
The three turned to see Father John standing in the mouth of the alleyway with Sheriff Copper and Deputy David Quimby. The Priest was dressed in his usual black underwrap. He was carrying a cake with pink frosting in a big tupperware. The short, balding, round man wore his usual warm, toothy grin.
“Bobby!” the Sheriff said in greeting, and began walking up.
“Great,” Bob thought.
Copper nodded at Christie.
“Sheriff,” Christie smiled. This time the expression was genuine though.
Copper reached Bob and gave him a clap on the back.
“Don’t tell me you got stood up?!” He said. Letting out a great bellowing laugh as he did.
“No, Sheriff. I-
“I’m just teasin’ you Bobby,” Copper cut him off. “Ol’ Dougy told me about Mister Barnes.”
Bob noticed Doug poking his head around the corner.
“I told the Sheriff you was looking for Pete,” he said.
“Thanks Doug,” Bob replied.
“Me and the boys here were just on our way down to get ready for the Church Cookout tonight,” Copper said with a grin as he turned to face the others.
“Now this right here is a shining example of an outstanding Officer of the Law. Even off duty, right before a big date no less, we find Bobby here still ensuring the safety of the good citizens of Duxbury.” He laughed once again. His big belly bouncing up and down.
“A date?” Christie quirked an eyebrow at this.
“Shit,” Bob thought.
“Yes, Deputy Maxwell,” Father John cut in, smiling up at Bob, who stood a full head taller than him.
“You truly are a good man, aren’t you? You know you are always welcome in God’s house, my son. Perhaps tonight you and your lady friend might stop by and partake in the festivities?”
“Th-— Thank you Father. We just might do that,” Bob lied.
“Tell ya’ what Bobby,” Copper said, “why don’t you go run along, and let me handle finding Mister Barnes?”
Bob let out a sigh of relief.
“Thanks, Sheriff. I owe you one.”
The Sheriff waved this off with a grin.
“Don’t mention it, Bobby. But before you go, do you have any leads?”
“Leads?” Bob asked, not understanding.
“Yeah, ya’know? Like any idea where Barnes might have got off to?”
Just then there came a brief, faint echo of shifting trash from within the depths of the big, green dumpster behind them. Everyone turned.
“I don’t know. But I noticed a shoe that looks like one of his beside the dumpster.”
“Um, so did you check it out?” Quimby asked.
Deputy David Quimby could have passed for Larry Wilcox’s twin. He acted like it to. The all American high school football hero turned cop. Every day on the job you’d think that Quimby was acting out an episode of Chip’s Patrol.
The man was wearing his pump-action Mossberg 590 strapped to his back. Despite the fact that he didn’t need it, the Deputy almost always had the weapon on him. He thought in made him look tough. And in truth it really did help him get laid.
“I actually just got here a minute before you did,” he answered. “I was about to look. But George said that he thought there was some kind of animal in the dumpster. So I was… assessing the situation before approaching.”
“Hah!” Quimby exclaimed in a clearly fake laugh, slapping a hand across one knee. “Ya’ll are scared of a raccoon in a dumpster?!”
“It ain’t no raccoon, Officer Quimby,” Boston George replied in a foreboding tone.
Christie Ackerman huffed.
Bob just ground his teeth. Partly because he couldn’t think of an adequate retort, but mostly because the answer might very well be “yes.”
That’s when Bob realized how quiet it had gotten. The near constant chirping of chickadees was suddenly absent. He tried to remember if he’d heard any birds when he’d first gotten to the neighborhood.
“Don’t none of ya’ll worry your pretty little heads off ,” Sheriff Copper said as he began walking down the alleyway. “The Sheriff’s on the jo– Oh, what in the Hell?”
The Sheriff looked over the other’s shoulders. Bob turned. The small group of onlookers from the salon had been joined by a group of curious younger folks from the cafe. They were now gathered in the middle of the road watching them.
“Alright!” the Sheriff shouted toward the street, “There ain’t nothin’ to see here people! We’re just havin’ a conversation, and ya’ll are wastin’ your time if you’re hoping for some action.”
“And since ya’ll are grownups, I don’t think that I have to lecture you on how dangerous it is to bestanding in the middle of the road. Now I suggest that ya’ll git!”
A couple people shuffled their feet. But no one really moved. The Sheriff huffed and turned back around to face the dumpster.
“Fine,” he said and began walking.
“Sheriff,” Father John said. And Copper paused.
“I’d be careful. The woods and swamps are not far away. And there’s no telling what may have crawled out of the bogs this time of year. Keene’s Road is flooded over you know.”
The Sheriff smiled.
“Aw Father, your concern for my well being is truly touching. But I’m a big strong man, and I think I can handle some little woodland critter.”
“Besides, Keene’s Road and all its ghost and goblin stories are a long ways off.” He winked, and continued moving forward.
“It’s never really that far,” Bob heard the Priest say under his breath. It was a peculiar statement.
Copper walked up to the dumpster while the others watched with trepidation. Everyone except Quimby. He was standing there with his hands on his hips, smiling ear to ear. No doubt thinking about how he was going to tell everyone at the station of Bob’s newfound dumpster phobia.
The Sheriff made it to within a foot of the dumpster and looked in. Nothing happened. He turned around to face the others, a big shit-eating “I’m better than you grin” plastered on his face.
“Ya’ see, fellas,” he said, “there ain’t nothing to be afraid of.”
“Are ya’ sure sheriff?” Boston George asked hesitantly.
Copper shrugged and turned back around. Stepping up to the lip of the dumpster, he stood on his tip-toes to get a better look.
“Whatever animal it was prob-” The Sheriff’s words caught in his throat, and his body froze up like a dear in headlights.
“Jesus, Mary, and Jose-!” Copper’s words were cut short as the two hundred and thirty pound man was violently ripped off his feet. Simultaneously there came a small explosion of trash. Garbage whizzed by and Copper’s uniform billowed as if caught in a strong gust of wind.
The big man went up, and over the edge, disappearing in a blur. He didn’t even have time to scream. Everyone instinctively back-pedaled.
The group of onlookers that had gathered in the street quickly herded themselves back across to the sidewalk on the other side. The smaller group that had been near the Dumpster practically leapt backward to the lip of the alleyway.
Deputy Quimby shouted in surprise.
Christie screamed, and Bob joined her. To the passerby it might have sounded like the two were having a “damsel in distress ” screaming contest. If they had been, Deputy Maxwell, to his credit, would have won.
“Oh my Gad! Oh my Gad!” Boston George was shrieking over and over as he back-pedaled into the street. His hysterics were abruptly cut short as he was struck by Henry McDuff’s truck.
Marcus’s son hadn’t even noticed Georgey until the man was rolling up onto his hood. The farmer panicked as George smashed into his windshield, simultaneously jerking the wheel hard to the left, while slamming on the breaks.
A split second later the rusty, red pickup smashed into a car parked in front of East Bay Salon. George went rolling off and over the hood of the other vehicle, falling over the other side and disappearing from McDuff’s view as quickly as he’d appeared.
The open bed of the truck had been literally overflowing with freshly harvested apples. Upon impact, the fruit erupted out of the bed like a volcano, creating a small apple tsunami that rolled across the street.
The screeching of tires forced Bob’s horrified gaze from the spot where Sheriff Copper had recently occupied to the street behind him. But only for a moment. Once he realized that it was just a car accident, he quickly snapped his gaze back down the alleyway, pulling out his service revolver as he did so. Carnivorous dumpsters took precedence over car accidents.
For a moment everybody just stood there in silence. Then there came a great rumble from within the Dumpster that sounded like a giant belching to Bob. A small explosion of assorted trash shot up high into the air.
The crowd took another collective step backward as the assorted debris came raining down, clattering and clanking to the ground between them and the alleyway. Glass shattered. Empty metal cans went bouncing across the pavement.
The smaller group at the edge of the alley raised their hands over their heads protectively as debris rained down upon them. A big aluminum can bounced off Bob’s shoulder. It didn’t really hurt, but it did make him jump.
The last thing to land was the Sheriff’s hat. The brim had a jagged tear that looked like a shark had taken a bite out of it. The sight of the hat was apparently Quimby’s breaking point, for a second later, the man let out a howl that was one part terror and one part war cry.
He raised the Pump Action (which Bob only now realized the Deputy had unslung from his back), and the weapon boomed deafeningly. It happened so fast that Bob didn’t even have time to shout at him to stop or he could hit the Sheriff.
The buckshot struck the side of the Dumpster, sending out a shower of sparks. But as far as Bob could tell, it failed to penetrate the thick metal.
Quimby continued moving forward. Pumping his shotgun and firing over and over, howling all the while.
One. Two. Three.
Each shot that hit the rusty metal sent out another shower of sparks. Every round ricocheted off. Bob saw a chunk of the red brick wall of Barne’s Market disintegrate beneath the weight of buckshot.
Everyone but Quimby seemed to be aware of the danger, the crowd collectively panicking as the Deputy continued to unload the contents of his weapon.
Another shot rang out.
Just then one of Quimby’s shots finally did manage to penetrate the damaged metal. And that’s when the proverbial shit truly hit the fan. The Dumpster suddenly exploded into motion.
It came rocketing forward in a blur. Its wheels screamed maddeningly as the rusty behemoth attained a speed it had never been meant to. Quimby, who had only been about ten feet in front of the nightmarish Thing, had no hope of getting out of its way.
It smashed into him with bone crushing force. Bob was sure that, had it not been for the screeching tires and the shrieking people, he would have surely heard Quimby’s bones shattering.
Several things happened in the next three seconds. The unfortunate Deputy Quimby was violently dragged beneath the rusty behemoth. Except no part of him really fit between the five, or so inches of space between the bottom of the Dumpster and the pavement.
What quickly followed reminded Bob of what he compulsively did every morning with his toothpaste at home. Everything inside the Deputy’s body was forced forward, rocketing up under his skin until the bottom of the Dumpster met with Quimby’s head. Then his head exploded as it was crushed beneath the weight of the monstrous Thing.
In some grotesque feet of physics, most of what had made Quimby tick blew out of the top of the man’s head like a cannon. There came a loud “thwop” that sounded a lot like the noise a balloon might make if one jumped up and landed down on it with both feet.
Bone, entrails, and other less identifiable things quite literally erupted out into the street, blood and bone mixing with the apples and broken glass.
That was all in the first second. Bob and Father John were the next people standing in the monstrous hunk of metal’s deadly path. There was no time for words. Bob prepared to leap for his life, but everything felt like it was moving in slow motion.
The rusty monstrosity was practically already on top of them. That’s when Bob felt Father John shove him with a strength that seemed impossible for a man so small. It felt like Conan the Barbarian had steam rolled into him with all his fictional might. The Deputy went flying off his feet, hitting the ground and tumbling out of the way just on time.
For one split second, just before his mad rolling forced his eyes away from the passing monstrosity, Bob thought he caught sight of Father John standing calmly on the other side. And as insane as it was, he could have sworn that the man wore a look of mild amusement.
Bob felt the wind of the massive Thing on his face as it passed. He caught the scent of trash, and blood, and…something else…. Some ungodly stench that made his eyes water and his stomach lurch.
Then the Dumpster was rocketing across the street. It kept going on its straight path. People shrieked as they tried to get out of the behemoth’s way, slipping and falling over each other and the apples. There came the near defending crash of metal hitting concrete as the Dumpster went up and over the curb.
The Thing (to the great misfortune of those still in its path) barely slowed as its nightmarish momentum took it onto the sidewalk. There was a fire hydrant in its way, but it offered up little resistance as it steam rolled over it and into the shrieking crowd.
The hydrant was ripped from its base. Water instantly began to geyser up into the air from where it had been. But the Dumpster paid it no mind as it continued on its deadly path. Several people who had failed to get out of its way were struck and carried along with it.
It then slammed into the front of East Bay Salon with a deafening boom that was followed by a chorus of shattering glass. The Thing bounced off the brick building, and slowly rolled backward and back off the sidewalk before coming to a stop.
Bob dazedly climbed to his feet. The front of the Salon was painted red. He didn’t have to see the other side of the Dumpster to know that it was covered in something akin to what you’d see on a conveyor belt in a meat packing plant.
Most of the crowd had finally decided to take the late Sheriff’s advice and “git”. People were shrieking and running down the street in both directions. Bob for his part just stood there in a shock as the icy water from the broken hydrant rapidly flooded the street.
The water reached where he was standing and soon his socks were soaked. But he paid it no mind as his gaze roamed slowly around the scene. There were still about a half dozen or so people stumbling about in a shell-shocked daze that mirrored his own.
“Christ! Robert, are you okay son?” Henry McDuff’s panic etched voice brought the Deputy out of his stupor.
Bob turned to face the farmer. The grizzled forty-something man was holding a double barrel Remington in hands that weren’t shaking quite as badly as his.
Bob managed a nod.
“Babby!” Boston George came running and limping up, huffing all the while. “Oh, Bab, thank Gad you’re okay!”
Bob turned and met the man’s concerned eyes, thinking in that moment that George was a lot nicer of a guy than he’d ever given him credit for. He’d just been hit by a truck and was asking if he was okay!
“We gotta get outta here, Bab!”
The Deputy nodded, and just as he did the Dumpster turned. Not at blinding speed, but not slowly either, wheels squealing shrilly into the air. As ridiculous as the thought was, Bob swore that the rusty, blood stained hunk of metal had turned to look at them.
“Oh shit,” McDuff said under his breath.
Without another word the trio took off toward the row of cars parked in front of Lux. They all sensed what was coming next.
Like a dog giving chase to a rabbit, the unholy Thing came for them. Everyone who’d been wandering around after the initial impact had been brought out of their stupor when the Dumpster once again began moving. But at that moment Christie Villarmarin was awful close to it.
She shrieked and began running. Her massive blubbery form bobbing up and down so violently that for one insane second Bob half expected her to start bouncing away. She did bounce once though. Just before the speeding Nightmare struck her she gave one last panicked leap into the air.
The woman attained an astonishing altitude. As impossible as it seemed, her tennis shoes had to be at least three feet off the ground when the Dumpster struck her. She bounced off the frame and even higher into the air, cartwheeling round and round before falling directly into the Thing’s open maw. She made a sort of gurgling shriek as she fell away from sight.
A split second later Bob, George, and McDuff were busy trying to scramble over the hood of a big gray Buick Century in front of them. The cars lining the sidewalk, having been parked nearly bumper to bumper, seemed to offer up as good a defense as any.
McDuff was the first to make it over. The farmer was surprisingly quick on his feet. He turned to help Bob, who was right on his heels. He made it to the other side just as McDuff was once again saying, “Oh shit!”
Bob whipped around. Boston George was about halfway across the hood, the un-athletic man doing his best to move quickly. But the Dumpster was a second away from plowing into the car.
Bob and McDuff instinctively stumbled backward. The Dumpster blasted into the Buick. The side of the car crumpled like an accordion as the vehicle was forced up onto and over the curb.
All the windows exploded at once. The sheer force of the impact was so powerful that it shattered the floor to ceiling windows in the entrance of Lux and knocked both men on their asses. And for the second time that day, Boston George was sent hurtling off the top of a vehicle. He landed on Bob and McDuff, who were blindly scrambling (and failing) to get out of the sliding vehicle’s way.
Miraculously the Buick slid to a stop mere inches from the three men. They only had a second’s reprieve though. For as they began climbing to their feet, a massive tentacle came shooting through the broken passenger side window.
The Thing was terrible to behold. Rippling with corded muscle, at its thickest it was the circumference of a hubcap. The flesh that covered it was the color of bile. And the smell. Oh God, the smell!
It thrashed around madly over their heads, the entire frame of the Buick rocking back, and forth with the Thing’s movements. Bob reached for his gun.
Only it wasn’t in its holster. Where the fuck was his gun?! That’s when he remembered that he’d taken it out before the monstrosity’s initial charge.
His shock was broken by the sudden retort of McDuff’s Remington going off deafeningly over his head as the weapon unloaded both rounds into the Thing. The nightmarish appendage jerked violently as both shots found their mark.
The flesh about four feet down from the tip exploded like a watermelon. A sizzling, purplish fluid came out in a spray as the top part of the tentacle struck the ground with a heavy thud. The severed appendage began violently thrashing about.
There came a hellish shriek that shook the very air around them, and the stumpy tentacle violently snapped back through the ruined car as the Dumpster quite literally jerked backward. The metal behemoth rocketed back across the street, attaining a speed that defied reason.
It grated deafeningly along the sides of several parked cars in front of East Bay before abruptly changing direction. It flew across the street, slamming into a sedan parked in front of the Red Herring. The frame of the vehicle folded inward, metal shrieked deafeningly.
Bob quickly leapt to his feet. Stumbling to avoid the thrashing tentacle, he looked down. The sizzling purplish blood (if it could be called blood) was burning holes in the concrete, making a patch of the sidewalk look like smoldering Swiss cheese.
He turned to help McDuff up, realizing at the same time that it wasn’t the farmer who had fired the weapon. In front of the gated entrance of Lux stood their savior.
It took Bob a moment to recognize the woman. It was Gretta Thompson. She was standing there in a blue and white dress, holding the smoking Remington, her face a mixture of rage and terror.
“My fucking windows!” she shrieked at the Dumpster, as it rocketed back across Surplus and smashed into a Volkswagen van with a giant “Peace” sign painted in bright yellow on the sliding door.
The three men stood and looked at her with dumbfounded expressions. Gretta fixed her green eyes on McDuff.
“You have any more bullets for this thing?”
“Uh, yeah, back in the truck.”
“Well that’s just fu-” her breath suddenly caught in her throat as her gaze shifted over their shoulders and her body stiffened.
“Come on!” she shouted a darted back through the entrance of her cafe.
There came another deafening roar from behind. The three instinctively began sprinting for the entrance. Bob was the last one in and, just as he entered, he turned to see the Dumpster once again rocketing toward them.
This time, though, it had clearly given itself room for a running start. It plowed once again into the accordioned Buick with a deafening crash. The car was lifted up off the ground and sent tumbling toward the front entrance of Lux.
It smashed through the little iron gate that bordered the patio. Bob saw the “No Alcohol Past This Point!” sign blast off the gate and come rocketing toward the cafe. A second later, both the rolling vehicle and mangeled gate slammed into the main entrance.
The frame of the building shook with the impact. The double doors were blasted off the hinges and sent clattering to the floor. More glass shattered somewhere in the background.
The Buick had rolled and slammed into the Cafe while on it’s side, wobbled back and forth for a moment before finally tipping backward, and hitting the pavementan impact that shook the ground.
The roof collided with the pavement and instantly flattened. The mangled metal fencing clanged to the ground a second later.
Gretta gave a primal shriek from behind Bob. “My windows!”
The Dumpster began to slowly roll backward, lazily twirling round and round as it did so. In the distance could be heard the faint but distinct sound of approaching sirens.
“Alright, ya’ Gad damn trash manstah!” Boston George cried out to Bob’s right.
The Deputy turned, and watched in disbelief as Georgey pulled out an entire bottle of moonshine from his trousers as if he were a magician and this was really just some elaborate performance. Then to Bob’s further disbelief he watched as George unscrewed the cap and began stuffing a handkerchief into the open top.
“George what are you—” The Deputy’s words were cut short, as his attention was drawn to another deafening crash. The Dumpster slammed into another car in front of East Bay Salon.
“Let me show you a city folk trick, ya’ unholy bastad!”
Bob turned once again to look at George just as the man was stepping back out onto the ruined patio. To his disbelief he saw that the he’d ignited the handkerchief and was drawing his arm back.
“Oh, Christ,” He heard McDuff say.
“George what are you—” the Deputy attempted to ask the question once again, but his words were cut short as Georgey hurled the flaming bottle in the direction of the Dumpster.
Whether it was blind luck or the fact that Georgey’d been an accomplished pitcher at some point in his youth back in Boston, Bob did not know. But the makeshift Molotov cocktail flew nearly seven yards, and hit the erratically moving target right on the mark.
“Yeah!” Gretta cried her approval. “That was totally flange baby!”
Georgey blushed despite himself.
Bob gave a cursory thought to poor Christie Villarmarin just as the flaming bottle of liquor disappeared behind the rusty, blood stained walls. He assumed that she had to already be dead. At least he hoped she was. Because a second later there came the shattering of glass, followed by a small explosion of flames.
It was as if every piece of garbage inside had been bone dry. Within seconds the interior of the Dumpster became a raging inferno. At least the top layer of trash had.
God only knew what occupied the depths of the behemoth. Flames shot out in a pyre, adding to the nightmarish quality of the Thing.
An unholy howl that all who were present would remember for the rest of their days erupted from the bowels of the Dumpster. Then the Thing took off once again, this time rocketing straight down the street, moving East.
“Oh, God,” Bob thought, “it’s headed into town!”
Just then Bob caught a glimpse of how the Thing propelled itself for the first time. Jutting out from the bottom of the Dumpster were at least a dozen of the sickly yellow tentacles, each of them thicker and more muscular than the first one they’d seen.
The tentacles were moving in a blurred frenzy, all of them swiping at the ground and tearing up chunks of asphalt as they propelled the monstrosity down the road with incredible strength. The way they moved somehow reminded him of the frantic, spasmodic way a centipede’s legs moved when the insect was suddenly flipped onto its back.
The Dumpster continued to roar as it rocketed down the street, its unearthly howl echoing off the sides of the buildings. The sheer volume of the sound vibrated the windows of the glass that still remained intact.
For a moment the four companions just stood there in the shattered remnants of Lux’s entryway watching the rapidly shrinking form of the Dumpster. It was moving faster than ever. Whatever passed for the Thing’s adrenaline had clearly kicked in.
The sound of approaching sirens was growing louder, though they were still a long way off. Much to Bob’s dismay, they were coming somewhere from the East. The crunching of a pair of shoes on broken glass drew everyone’s attention to the door. It was Father John! He rounded the overturned Buick and greeted them with a smile.
Bob looked at the Priest incredulously. For all the horror that had so recently transpired, the man looked no worse for the wear. He realized that he was still holding the cake in one hand; the bright pink frosting appeared to be completely unharmed.
“My children,” he began as if addressing a congregation, “it is truly the Lord’s will that has put us all here today. And I think that he would want us to see this adventure through.”
McDuff grunted in agreement.
“What makes you think God’s a man, Father?” Gretta sneered.
At this the Priest quirked an eyebrow. Then smiled.
“Freudian Slip my dear. But I digress… The Lord has willed us to survive thus far. And I believe that the Divine Creator would want us to drive this beast from our lands.
“I’m all for that!” Gretta exclaimed. “Let’s kill the shit out of that Thing!”
Father John cleared his throat at this, and Gretta looked over at him, pushing a lock of curly red hair out of her eyes as she did so.
“You know, I’d say I’m sorry. Father, but I’m not.”
“That fackin’ Manstah messed up my new favorite bah!“ Boston George added, his voice carrying with it an unnatural tone of wrath. ”Let’s finish that Fackah!“
Bob looked incredulously at the others, especially at Boston George. Until about two minutes ago, the man had been practically pissing himself. Now he and everyone was juiced up all of a sudden. Bob looked around at the unexpectedly determined faces with confusion.
Then his eyes were drawn to the cake in Father John’s hand. The bright pink frosting shining clearly through the container, practically glowing.This was insane. Go chasing after a two-ton carnivorous Dumpster that could move upwards of fifty miles per hour?
“Are all of you out of your fu—” He stopped mid-sentence, suddenly realizing his position. Realizing that this was his town! And thatthere was a living nightmare headed straight into the heart of it!
Bob nodded in affirmation. “Judging from the sound of the sirens, I’d say someone’s already called in the cavalry. And God help me if I ever walk around off duty without my radio again McDuff, go get your ammo out of your truck. If you can still get into it that is,.” he added.
“Gretta,.” she said flatly.
“Gretta then. Ms. Gretta, I like where George is headed with this Molotov cocktail idea. Would you mind if we bor—”
“On it,” Gretta cut him off as she turned and raced toward her bar.
Boston George suddenly let out a hoot.
“Alright! Let’s do this!” he exclaimed and took off running out across the decimated patio.
“I’ll get ol’ Lassie!” he shouted.
“Get what?” Bob asked, staring after the man in confusion.
Georgey paused and looked back at Bob with an incredulous look on his face.
“My cah Bab. My cah. It’s paked right around the corner.”
“You call your car Lassie? he asked, despite the fact that time was of the essence.
Yes Bab. Lassie’s my baby. Jesus Gad, do you even know me?” And at that he took off running.
With everyone in motion, Bob turned his thoughts to the fact that he didn’t have a weapon. He patted himself down frantically. The clinking and clanking of glass bottles echoed throughout the bar as Gretta presumably pulled down her higher proof booze.
Shit! All he had was his baton and mace. He slapped an open palm to his head. There came the sound of Lassie’s engine roaring to life somewhere down the street, followed by the screeching of tires.
He’d forgotten his spare sidearm at home! It was a Beretta M9 that his Mother had “uncharacteristically” gotten him as a gift for Christmas last year. He almost always carried it on him! Not that 9mm rounds were going to be much use against a two ton Dumpster from Hell.
“Could you perhaps put this to good use son?” Father John asked.
Bob turned and gave a start. In one hand the short, bald man still held the pink cake. In the other, he held Quimby’s blood spattered Mossberg 590. Bob stared at the little, chubby man in disbelief. The Priest beamed.
“I thought that it might come in handy. And that the unfortunate recently departed Deputy Quimby would have no objections to it being used as a tool to avenge his death.”
“I took the liberty of reloading the weapon for you, Officer Maxwell.” Father John smiled. “Also it appears that the late Deputy Quimby had been carrying a copious amount of ammunition on him.”
Father John held out the pump-action, and Bob hesitantly (though he didn’t quite know why) took the weapon, feeling Quimby’s blood smear on his hands. It was still warm.
Then the Priest reached into his garments and produced a box of shotgun shells. At this Bob’s incredulousness increased two-fold. For in Father John’s hand was an opened box of Brenneke Shotgun Slugs.
Brenneke were top of the line. The closest thing to armor piercers that you could get for a shotgun in this day and age. They were damned expensive, too. What further perplexed the Deputy was that he was almost one hundred percent positive that the late David Quimby kept his weapon loaded with the cheaper, standard 00 Buckshot.
And to have been carrying a box of twenty-five slugs? Why in God’s name would Quimby have had all that ammo on him? With these questions echoing through his mind, he accepted the bright orange box, Father John smiling up at him as he did so.
“Th-Thank you, Father.”
Just as Gretta was rounding the corner of the bar with an armload of bottles, the sound of screeching tires echoed in through the shattered windows.
“Let’s go!” Bob shouted, and everyone ran for the door.
Thirty seconds later they were practically flying down Surplus Street in the candy apple red BMW, Boston George at the wheel. The trees whizzed by in a blur. Bob was in the front, while Gretta, McDuff, and Father John rode in the back.
They passed Christmas Tree Way so fast he couldn’t even make out the sign. George took the bend in the road ahead at a death-defying sixty-five. Bob realized he was subconsciously stomping on the floor as if he were going to magically find a brake pedal there.
For the first minute, all they did was follow the trail of black smoke the flaming nightmare had left in its wake. Lassie took another turn with speed and precision that would make Steve McQueen jealous. George really did know what he was doing, Bob realized.
Just as the racing vehicle passed South Station Street, they hit the flooded section. Bob remembered the water hazard only a second before they hit it. The BMW instantly began hydroplaning dangerously. George (much to Bob’s relief) slowed down a fraction.
The patch of water must have given the Dumpster some trouble too, because just as they cleared the mini-lake and hit asphalt again, the flaming behemoth came into view. It was racing over the wooden bridge of the Bluefish.
For a second Bob was sure that the bridge would collapse beneath the weight of the Thing. And had it lingered longer upon the aging wooden planks it just may have. As it was, the Thing was moving so fast that the bridge remained upright.
A split-second later, Lassie was crossing the Bluefish and gaining on the speeding nightmare. Now that they were on a straightaway of sorts, Bob was sure they’d be able to catch up to the Thing. But the billowing plume of smoke became blinding as they closed in.
The wind from the Dumpster’s momentum only added strength to the fire. The flames leapt up high and bent backward against the wind. The top was down on the BMW, and as they got closer Bob, could literally feel the heat from the Thing on his face.
Within the flames could be seen huge sickly yellow tentacles thrashing madly about and flinging pieces of trash high up into the air. Bob silently thanked God for how wet everything was as he watched some large, unidentifiable piece of flaming debris disappear into the shadows of the nearby forest.
And that wasn’t the only obstacle. The thick tentacles jutting out of the bottom of the Dumpster were literally tearing up the road as they propelled the Thing forward. The car swerved this way and that, bouncing and bumping along ruined asphalt.
“Holy Moses!” McDuff cried out from the back seat. “Maybe we should just let it burn itself out!”
At this Bob shook his head.
“Who knows if the fire will be enough to kill it?” Bob asked. Then turned to George.
“Georgey,” he shouted over the wind, “try and get up alongside the thing! Me and Henry will try and shoot out the wheels!”
“Ten-Four, Bab!” The man answered and took the BMW into the left lane. Fortunately there was no oncoming traffic.
Boston George put the pedal to the metal, and Lassie’s engine roared mightily. The vehicle began to rapidly close the distance now that they were out of the plume and away from the ruined asphalt. When they were about eighteen feet away, McDuff’s Remington suddenly boomed deafeningly over his head.
The buckshot struck the lower right side of the speeding Dumpster. There came a brief shower of sparks about eight inches above the wheels. Close but no cigar. Bob turned to find that the Farmer had climbed to his feet, balancing precariously on the seat of the speeding car as he aimed with his weapon.
“Hold up, Henry!” Bob shouted. “Let’s get a little closer first!”
“Alright!” Henry shouted back, as he bent to the task of reloading.
“Here, use these,” Bob said, handing him the open box of Brenneke. “They’ve got a way better chance of doing some damage.”
McDuff’s eyes widened. He gingerly took a handful of slugs, placing them in one of the pockets of his blue jeans.
“En’ how they do!” McDuff exclaimed. “Where’d you get these?!”
Bob nodded to Father John, just as McDuff finished reloading. He snapped the Remington back into place. The Farmer looked down at the smiling Priest in disbelief.
The next few seconds saw Lassie and her “stuntman driver” managing to nearly pull up alongside the Dumpster. The Thing was no more than a half dozen feet ahead and twice that to the right. At this distance, Bob had a chance to get a good look at the blood stained Thing, and he took in its nightmarish details for a brief second that seemed to stretch on for an eternity.
The flailing bile colored tentacles, thick with corded muscle, looked like they could crush the life out of a buffalo. He saw one of the tentacles below the frame of the Dumpster smack the ground. As it pushed off the street, adding to the momentum of the Thing. A few sizeable chunks of asphalt tore off and up into the air.
There were rows of…bone? Cartilage? He couldn’t even begin to guess at what they were made of. At any rate there were these rows of triangular shaped objects that lined the bottoms of the tentacles.
They looked terribly sharp and were clearly incredibly strong, considering what they were currently doing to Surplus Street. Bob shuddered at the thought of what it must feel like to be dragged deep down into the stinking, darkness of the garbage by those things.
Suddenly, a flaming bottle of liquor went flying over his head, snapping him out of his trance. Gretta having stood up in the backseat, and hurled it at the rusty Beast. He had no idea how she’d managed to get the thing lit amidst the howling wind. The bottle burst just on the lip of the bloody frame, exploding on impact and adding to the inferno.
“Yeah, motherfucker!” she exclaimed, apparently pleased with the damage she’d done.
The action had startled George as well, and he reflexively jerked the wheel to the left. The car swerved back and forth perilously for a few seconds. Finally the BMW straightened back out, as George regained control of the vehicle.
“Jesus, woman!” Bob said breathless, turning back to look at her.
In that moment, to Bob, she looked like something out of a comic book, her blue and white dress billowing in the wind, her curly, red hair flying all around her face.
“What?” she answered back in a perturbed voice.
In those green eyes Bob saw a madness that made him turn back around in his seat. He instead busied himself with preparing his own attack on the metal monstrosity. Bob propped himself up on one knee as best he could, leaning into the seat for balance.
“Alright, Henry,” Bob shouted, “let’s do this!”
Henry said something Bob couldn’t quite make out. George took Lassie as close to the Dumpster as he dared. Both men took aim. And that was about as far as they got, for a second later the flashing lights of an ambulance turning off of Washington Street suddenly appeared up ahead.
The ambulance was followed by two police cruisers. George hit the brakes. The wheels of the BMW locked up, and Bob flew forward, smashing the side of his face on the windshield as Lassie’s tires cried out in protest.
The three oncoming vehicles swerved erratically to avoid the flaming Behemoth. One of the cruisers went off the side of the road. The Dumpster whizzed by the other two, missing the ambulance by mere inches.
Then the worst happened. A half second before the Dumpster crossed Washington a fire truck came racing around the corner, intending to turn onto Surplus. The Dumpster, which had been veering slightly to the left, T-boned the emergency vehicle almost dead center.
Glass shattered. Metal bent and shrieked. Flaming garbage erupted into the air.
Upon impact three of the fire truck’s wheels were blown off the frame and sent bouncing down the road. Bob saw all this as Lassie skidded across the road, nearly turning completely parallel to her original position.
The Dumpster bounced off the emergency vehicle and rolled back lazily, whatever was inside of it seemingly dazed from the impact. Lassie finally skidded to a halt.
Firemen stumbled out of the ruined fire truck in a daze, and water spewed out from the broken water tanks. For a moment the men just stood there, watching dumbfounded as the Dumpster slowly spun round and round, flailing tentacles frantically hurling out flaming pieces of trash.
Then almost as one, they snapped out of their trance, springing into actions that had been drilled into them. A man unhooked a hose from the disabled truck. Two others joined him and together they began running for the nearby fire hydrant.
As if caught up in the same spell, everyone leapt out of Lassie and began running toward the firetruck, Gretta already attempting to light another Molotov cocktail.
“Don’t put it out!” they were shouting.
Flaming trash of assorted size fell out of the sky. The firefighters looked on at the small group with perplexed expressions, but only stopped when they saw McDuff’s Remington and Bob’s uniform.
“Don’t put it out?!” A frazzled looking Firefighter with the name “Gacy” emblazoned on his uniform stepped up to the approaching group. “What the Hell are yo—”
His words were cut short as a deafening roar shook the air. Everyone turned to see the Dumpster rocketing backward, the Beast within seemingly have regained its senses.
It slammed into a telephone pole, snapping the wood like a toothpick. Slowly it fell over, the upper half landing on the roof of the Fire Truck with a loud crash. A second later the power lines hit the street and the rapidly growing pool of water from the leaking tanks.
Two of the Firefighters standing in the water realized the danger too late, and Bob watched their demise with a mixture of disbelief and horror. For a brief second Bob swore he saw the two men’s skeletons beneath their uniforms, outlined in blinding blue light.
A second later they were no more than blackened husks smoldering in the shallow water. Everyone ran in a blind panic from the spreading pool.
McDuff was the first to reach the relative safety of the sidewalk. He turned and unloaded both rounds of his Remington into the Dumpster. Bob quickly followed suit.
Their shots were joined by a few others, the cops who had been in the squad cars instinctively following the actions of their fellow police officer.
Amidst the shower of sparks Bob knew that at least one of the rounds had penetrated the rusty metal hide, because a second later the Dumpster jerked like an animal being shot.
It roared again, but Bob was reasonably sure that he was partially deaf by now because the volume of the sound wasn’t as painful as before. The Dumpster took off once again, this time South down Washington.
A split second later Lassie was roaring up to Bob and McDuff, George behind the wheel and Gretta riding shotgun. Bob wasn’t sure when the two had run back to the car. But Father John, and his pink cake were nowhere to be seen. Wordlessly the pair leapt into the back, and the BMW took off.
As Bob reloaded, he saw his fellow officers running back toward their vehicles, but he didn’t have time to see how long it took them to get their squad cars moving. His attention was focused on the task at hand.
The task at hand? What exactly was he doing? Did he really just allow a group of citizens to help him chase down a literal monster? Is that something a Roller should do?
Bob suddenly found himself doubting his actions. How had he been convinced to go about this the way he had? Father John? Had a Priest really so easily riled them up? Bob turned to look at George.
Boston George had apparently learned from his previous pursuit of the Beast. He kept Lassie to the Thing’s right, avoiding the paths of ruined asphalt that he knew would be there. They were caught up to it by the time the Thing was passing Josselyn Avenue.
Bob and McDuff both took shots at the wheels, but only succeeded in further damaging the rusty beast’s hide. The Dumpster seemingly took no notice of them as it flew down the road, pushing sixty.
Then unexpectedly, the Thing suddenly took a hard left onto Wadesworth Lane, bouncing off the side of the Eagle’s Nest Grocer’s as it did so. George for all his driving skills could not take the turn quite so well.
He stomped on the brakes as he spun the wheel. The car slid. Mimicking the motions of the Dumpster, Lassie struck the side of Eagle’s Nest, but maintained her forward momentum.
“Lassie!” George cried out in horror.
“Where the Hell’s it going?!” McDuff shouted over the wind. His voice had lost its determined timbre.
Bob already thought that he knew the answer to that. After all, about a mile up the road was Eagle’s Nest Bay. But first there was a hill to climb, not that the Dumpster seemed to care. In fact it looked like it actually picked up speed as it went up the slope.
It was a steep one. Steep and tall, offering up a beautiful view of the Bay below. It was also a favorite for fitness freaks, but fortunately none of them were currently jogging or cycling up it.
No wait, there was someone on the sidewalk! Bob couldn’t tell who it was at this distance, but he saw them turn and run away from the street, kicking rocks as fast as they could across the unused field to the left.
The Dumpster seemed to have no appetite at the moment, and it continued to rocket up the hill. And Bob thanked God for that, because it surely could have easily caught the would-be jogger if it had wanted.
“Bab, what are we doing?” George asked in a voice that sounded much more like himself and not the super hero persona he’d put on for the last ten minutes.
Bob turned. Much like McDuff, the man had clearly lost that steely edge. It was as if scraping his beloved BMW against the side of Eagle’s Nest Grocer had sobered him up. Though he was still keeping the pedal down.
“Just back off a bit,” he heard himself saying. It was as if his reasoning abilities were returning to him one by one.
George did just that. No one offered any objections, as he eased off the gas slightly, putting about thirty feet between themselves and the Beast. They watched in awe as it reached the crest of the hill and launched itself over the other side and soared. through the air like the General Lee. For a moment time seemed to slow down. And in that brief time lapse Bob took it all in.
The roaring flames. The billowing plume of black smoke. The monstrous tentacles jutting out of the bottom of the rusty frame. Any second now, he was going to wake up. He was sure of it.
This had to all he a dream. It had to be! After all, he’d scored a date with Mary Barbadino! Which in retrospect had definitely been a sure sign that this was all in his head.
But then the Dumpster slammed into the ground on the other side with another deafening crash. The impact was so strong that it shook the car. And in that moment Bob knew that all this had to be real, since nothing could sound that loud in a dream.
Now on the downward slope of the steep hill, the Dumpster began rapidly picking up speed. The tentacles hardly had to do any work at all as it flew down the hill toward the bay, putting more distance between them.
“Jesus,.” Gretta said breathlessly from the front passenger seat. . “Why the fuck were we chasing that thing?”
The Dumpster became a blur of speed and flickering flame as it rolled downward. The Thing’s sheer weight, in combination with the wheels, allowed it to accelerate to incredible speed.
It cleared the remaining distance between itself and the entrance to the bay in a heartbeat, smashing through the chain link fence like papier-mâché. There was no heavy equipment in its path. And as they rolled down the hill, Bob could see the dock workers scattering.
Bob honestly couldn’t tell if the Dumpster had hit anyone on account of that God Damned plume of smoke. By the time Lassie was crossing over the ruined fence, the Dumpster had reached the edge of the land.
It raced across a dock, fortunately a far more sturdy construction than the bridge over Bluefish. Then it went off the edge, soaring out over the water.
The unbelievable momentum the monstrosity had gained on its mad race down the hill caused it to launch more than twenty feet out over the water before the rusty wheels touched the surface.
Then, as if to further defy reality, the Dumpster skipped across the water like a stone, bouncing once, twice. Then on the third time it hit the water, physics kicked in, and it went tumbling.
Flaming trash exploded outward in an awe striking display as the Dumpster flipped end over end. Bob couldn’t be sure, but between the flames and the white spray of water, he could swear that he saw the dark outline of some massive Thing fall out.
A second later the Dumpster lost its momentum and sank like a stone. A two ton stone that is. A great plume of bubbles and roiling water rose up to mark its final resting place.
The group pulled up close to the dock and got out. Behind them came the sounds of men shouting, and behind that were the sounds of rapidly approaching sirens.
The four just stood there in silence for a while, staring out at the water. The afternoon sun was reaching its zenith, casting the bay in its golden light.
It looked picturesque. Though Bob guessed that it would be a long time before anyone went swimming in the Bay again.
“Good work, Deputy!”
Father John’s words startled Bob out of his trance. He turned to see the Priest approaching with several police officers and other emergency responders. Bob noticed that the Priest no longer had his pink cake.
“You got here awful fast,” Bob heard himself saying, an accusatory tone in his voice, though he didn’t know why.
At this the Priest quirked an eyebrow. Then he let out a laugh and clapped a hand on the Deputy’s shoulder, having to reach somewhat upward to do so.
“Your actions and quick thinking drove the beast from this land,” Father John said, addressing the four companions. “Had it not been for your bravery I am sure that this foul creature would surely have done much more damage.”
Bob just looked at the little man. He felt like he was seeing the Priest in a new light. That smile that seemed perpetually plastered to his chubby face suddenly appeared more forced than genuine.
It was as if… As if…
“Officer Maxwell!” Bob turned to see Lieutenant Dan George, who he assumed was now his current ranking Commanding Officer, fast approaching. “What the hell happened here?! Where is the Sheriff?!”
The line of questioning was not intended to be intimidating. There was panic in the Lieutenant’s voice. The young man was not used to being in charge.
Bob began to explain all the events leading up to the Docks. He told him about Sheriff Copper being attacked. About the chase down Surplus Street and then Washington. As he did, Bob watched Father John slink off and out of sight.
Slink. No. That wasn’t the right word for it. For all their brief encounters, and by all accounts Father John was a pleasant man. Known for his charity work, and volunteering at the local soup kitchen in fact…
Special Thanks to Katherine C for editing this story!