Read Part One Here
I’d come back from another visit to the forest by Dr. Greenwich’s former ‘clinic’, when Harlowe gave me another of her trademark looks. I was barely two paces into the precinct when she ushered me aside to her office.
“Out for another unauthorised reconnaissance, officer Suthers?”
“And given that this is your third visit so far this week, what have you to report for your efforts?”
I swallowed as her eyes bore through me.
“Nothing so far m’am. I just-”
“Then cease and desist. That’s an order.”
“M’am, that thing that killed O’Brien could still be out there, in that forest!”
“And I won’t lose another officer to it, especially when I have no guaranteed information on their whereabouts. Understood?”
I clenched my jaw and said nothing. Harlowe had been particularly on my case since Molloy’s interview and subsequent temporary leave.
“So then what do we do about a still existing threat?”
“I don’t like your tone, Officer Sutherland. I believed Molloy because he was, as you put it, of sound and sober mind. But we have no proof, no warrant, and no way in hell do we have a way to convince people we need one for…” She didn’t finish her sentence, seemingly contemplating something.
“So what if we do it unofficially? Off our own backs?”
“To do so Suthers would invite disaster. We’d need backup armed to the fuckin’ teeth if this thing is as dangerous as Molloy described. Not to mention it would be illegal and we wouldn’t have a leg to stand on come building a case against Dr. Greenwich. If that’s even his real name.”
I sank back, feeling my face go a little paler. “How many names has he gone by?”
“According to what Iyanavich and I could dig up, at least sixteen.”
“Jesus Christ” I sighed.
“Have we at least had any tips or hits from having put out a wanted announcement for him?”
Harlowe sighed heavily. “Not yet. A couple of people who looked similar to him, but that’s it”
The door for the office opened and one of the precinct crew had an intense, worried look about him. Couldn’t remember the guy’s name for the life of me.
“Miss, you’ll want to see this”
He didn’t have to explicitly state it was part of the Dr. Greenwich case; an unspoken and innate understanding of the case had weirdly permeated the precinct. It was the most important one, was spoked about sideways most of the time – never openly referred to.
We marched out of the office, to be greeted by an already gathered crowd of officers, clerks, and a lone courier who looked (understandably) rather uncomfortable with the level of scrutiny they were being subjected to. I pitied the poor bastard when Harlowe got to him. The rest of the crowd shrank back somewhat at her arrival.
“Where did you get this? Name, address, and physical description”
The courier, whose name badge read ‘Phil’, stammered and floundered. “He uh, he had a weird name… Dmitri Greboyovich, or something?” as Phil was speaking, he passed a glance over the blocky, black device he held in his hand. He called out an address I didn’t recognise, and disappointingly didn’t have a physical description.
“When I went to the address to pick up the package, it was left out on the porch with a label, receipt and signature. Never met the guy. Weirdest pickup I’ve had, I even cleared it with my supervisor – the fact there was a signature, and proof of purchase meant we could take it, no questions asked”
Harlowe said nothing, she just stood there glowering. Phil was just beginning to cower somewhat when she waved him away. He practically left a dust imprint of himself behind, he took off so fast. I could hear Iyanavich, somewhere in the group call out in her unmistakeable smoker’s voice – “May as well play it, we have it now and it could be used as evidence.”
Harlowe furiously ripped open the package to reveal a USB stick, with ‘play me’ written on its side in permanent black marker. We ran it on an old laptop that didn’t have any sensitive files on it and made sure it couldn’t connect to our network, and plugged the USB in. It didn’t fry the machine, so that was a plus, and didn’t seem to harbour any malicious files. In fact, it only had a couple of files on it – a video, labelled ‘Untitled1’, and a couple of photos with gibberish .jpeg labels. Harlowe pressed play on the video file.
The figure that came into frame was undoubtedly Dr. Greenwich, but what he wore for a mask made my stomach want to leave my body. On top of what looked like some sort of black leather mask thing, he had placed the flayed skin of someone else’s face on top of it. I tried to convince myself it was fake, but knowing this monster, it was anything but.
“Hello officers. You know who I am. However you seem to fail to understand what I am. As a result, I will make this simple. Alert me to the whereabouts of my test subject, temporarily labelled as ‘Sebastian’ – you may or may not already call it the Flesh Golem, given that you stole my possessions, without a warrant I may add. I will then collect my test subject, unmolested and without any pursuers once I leave. When I have done so, I will collect my research notes from a representative of your choosing, at a time and location of my choosing. In return, I will refrain from abducting any more citizens for the purposes of building up my resources again, or any other purpose. I will also refrain from unleashing more creatures like Sebastian upon the world, in very public places. Finally, if these demands are not met within the next forty-eight hours, or the terms and conditions are broken in any way, I will proceed to kill at least two people a week for two months. Send correspondence to the photographed address. Do not linger once you’ve delivered, and do not secretly take photographs of my person as I collect said correspondence. I will know.”
The video ended, and as you may guess, the temperature of the room felt as if it went down about six degrees.
“He’s bluffing” I declared.
I thought Harlowe was going to take a swing at me.
“Are you out of your fucking mind? Bluffing or not, that is too great a risk to take, Sutherland. He starts stirring up that level of pandemonium we won’t be able to keep a lid on things.”
“Think about it – he starts creating that much chaos, he’s going to attract a lot of attention. The last thing he wants is attention, trust me. We already have several neighbouring counties, even state departments, looking for him. He so much takes a piss in the woods and somebody tags him, he’s a goner. Why would he start bringing attention to himself now?”
“I don’t much care for the reasons of an insane person. I just know I can’t afford the risk, Suthers. We find out for certain whether that thing is in the forest or not, and let this freak know. We’ll set a trap for him later. For now, you get your wish.”
“Yeah, just like I always wanted.” I replied dryly.
Prior to our search for the Flesh Golem, ‘Sebastian’ – what a weird thing to name it – I did some hasty Googling to see how much, if any, notice it had drawn. There’d been a noticeable number of incidents where somebody must have crossed the tape around the forest and uploaded blurry pics to Reddit and other horror-enthusiast social media pages. Thankfully, while it was undeniable there was something in the pictures, something abnormal, the mainstream media looked at it as another ‘Slenderman’-esque phenomenon. Clever photoshopping and enough people convinced that it was something real. Mainstream influencers and others with a large audience either didn’t talk about it, or were simply morbidly curious as to what it could be – not considering the paranormal a possibility, in other words.
Fuck me, it was freezing.
The trees had been stripped of their leaves by winter’s hands. No snow had fallen, despite the forecast. What we got instead was hand and toe-numbing cold.
Molloy had joined the search, despite my protests. In my opinion, the guy needed to recover, not go charging head-first and full of revenge into something we didn’t understand. He needed to process his grief and come back with a clearer head. Harlowe had disagreed.
The search team comprised of Harlowe, Molloy, Iyanavich, myself and four other officers whose names I couldn’t remember. Fadhzee would’ve been part of the search party, but he’d unfortunately sustained severe brain injuries and could just about move his eyes and head.
It was the middle of the afternoon, the light lethargic and overcast with tones of grey. The infamous doctor’s house remained in the background like an ominous, leering spectator.
I heard some crunching leaves to my left. Snapping to attention, I saw it was only another colleague – Jade? I think that was her name, but I wasn’t sure.
There was dead silence apart from our advance – no crows, no birds, not even squirrels. I’m no zoologist or whatever, but I know that even in winter there’s still some activity from wildlife.
It didn’t take long to latch on to the thick trail of blood – it was old, but still clear as day. We continued following the trail, all of us concentrated into a knot now, not wanting to take chances. Molloy went to take point, when Harlowe stopped him. Given the deal with the good doctor we’d signed up for, we needed it alive. Preferably, anyway.
The forest itself wasn’t the biggest one you’d ever go into – certainly no hiker’s spot, or of attention worthy of tourism. But it was just about big enough that you’d have a noticeably long trek back out of it if you had gone far enough. The further in we went, the dimmer it was getting, and the less blood there was to follow. Eventually, the blood trail disappeared altogether.
“We should head back” I advised Harlowe in a hushed tone.
“Not on your life, or one the lives that sick bastard would take. We’ll use our phones for torches if we have to.”
I opened my mouth to object and shut it again. This wasn’t the first time she was dead-set on something, like a dog with its jaws locked on to it. I reckoned there was a fifty-fifty chance whether her persistence would end badly or not. Not my favourite odds, obviously.
I also didn’t like the look in Molloy’s eyes. Last time I saw them we were chasing down a child predator and he nearly beat him to death. Still get shivers from how close we had all gotten to sabotaging the trial before it had even began. I approached him.
“You aright man?”
I immediately wished I hadn’t asked, having turned those same intense eyes on me.
“What do you fucking think?”
“Jesus man, easy. I’m worried about you. We don’t need any heroics or Batman-type action, you know what I mean?”
“You’re right, Suthers. That’s why I’m not going to get mad, I’m going to get even.”
Oh, sweet Jesus, here we go.
I don’t know how long more we spent hunting in that forest, getting deeper, but it sure felt like hours. My back and shoulders were killing me from being tensed all the time. It was about dusk I reckon, when we all heard it. An unnatural overlap of voices ranging from adult to child-like, all at once sobbing. Guess I should’ve realised that there’s only one sizeable cave in this forest, and Harlowe had marched us straight to it. Molloy made to practically charge forward when Harlowe stopped him. For a moment I really wasn’t sure whether or not Molloy would just bowl her out of the way or not, but she stood her ground and he relented.
“We do this my way” I could see her mouth to him.
Instead of spreading us out thin to cover exits, she had us converge closely enough together so that we could still open fire, but still block the mouth of the cave if the thing chose to bullrush us. The weird, cold hard echoes and reverberations in the cave of what sounded like dozens of voices at once was god-awful. A group of people all sobbing and crying in all sorts of pitches simultaneously. Harlowe took point, and stood at the mouth of the cave, gun steady.
“This is the police, come out with your hands above your head!” she roared. Immediately the crying pitched higher, and more intense. “Come out with your hands up!”
Her command was punctuated by pure silence. The wailing and sobbing had stopped, and there was an incredibly uncomfortable void left in its absence. There was the faintest sound of something lurching, crunching stones as it shifted its weight. We heard slow, heavy footsteps, and everyone tensed. I’d never been more conscious of the amount of sweat on my back or brow than now. And then there it was.
It was every bit as ugly and terrifying as Molloy had described. Just – god, just random bits of people stitched together to make something that shouldn’t exist. The most disturbing thing wasn’t its appearance though – oh no – it was the look of something genuinely human in its one good eye. Something intelligent. Something in absolute anguish. Molloy didn’t look any less prepared to kill it in an instant, but I thought I caught a glimpse of something other than anger for split second. Might have been pity, but I’m not sure.
Harlowe was at a loss for words. We all were, when it spoke.
“We – I – am… sorry… so sorry”
It particularly struggled with ‘we’ and ‘I’. No prizes as to guessing why.
I was the first to speak, given Harlowe was completely dumbfounded.
“Sorry for what? What are you trying to say?”
It struggled with its mess of a jaw, and chewed out the words:
“For… man… men… We – I – hit”
“What the fuck?” Molloy whispered as he began lowering his gun.
My words died in my mouth – no sooner had Molloy whispered his incredulity, Harlowe’s gun barked in response. A neat bullet hole in the centre of it’s head. It swayed for a moment or two, its body still at a loss as to where its brain signals went. Then it flopped to the ground, and ceased to be.
There’s been plenty of times I’ve been intimidated by Harlow’s presence or her gaze. But never afraid.
I didn’t like the cold, dead look in her eyes after she killed the Flesh Golem, Sebastian.
After a long, drawn out silence, Iyanavich, eyes still burning with contempt for the Golem, decided to be the one to break it. “What now, boss?” she asked.
“We leave it here. Burn it to ash after we deal with the doctor. Suthers, a word.”
I didn’t like her tone.
Some distance away from the group, all of us heading back, using our phones for lights now, Harlowe spoke to me.
“Don’t ever do that again.”
“Think you can use a freak of nature, something that shouldn’t exist, as evidence in court. We put it out of its misery, we can go to sleep with a clean conscience.”
“You can. I won’t.”
“For fuck sake, Suthers, get a grip. What did you have in mind for it after? Playschool? Fucking college? A regular nine to five job with the shoebox apartment in the city? Get it together, I need everyone on the same page.”
“Regardless of what it was, Harlowe, it was innocent.”
“That is not your call.”
“It wasn’t yours either.”
“Oh, so now we’re also entertaining the idea of a jury too? Looking at that thing? C’mon Suthers.”
“You’re not right. Stop trying to convince me otherwise.”
She stopped in her tracks right in front of me with her staring straight into me, the phone light more an interrogation lamp now.
“Are we gonna have to drag this baggage back to the station? Or are we pulling ourselves together and leaving it here?”
“Oh, you can, Harlowe. But I can’t. I’ll take it to my grave with me.”
For the first time in a long, long time, I saw something resembling resignation in her posture, in her downcast expression. She sighed.
“Fine. Have it your way. Just don’t hesitate if Greenwich pulls any tricks. I have no doubt they’ll all be similar to that thing we’ve just dealt with.”
“I’m going to stop you right there, Harlowe. We didn’t ‘deal with it’, you killed it. And I’m well aware they’ll all be similar to the Flesh Golem Sebastian. I’d just prefer to ask questions first.”
She shook her head and simply marched on ahead of me now, keeping a good distance between us the whole time.
I didn’t sleep well that night.
The morning after, I was on autopilot. I hadn’t the energy to be at the same level as the rest of the team, so I kept slugging coffee after coffee in the hopes the caffeine would overcompensate. At least then I could be of use to the team. Molloy was oddly out of sorts – I thought he would’ve been in the same boat as Iyanavich – the absolute picture of contentment now that O’Brian’s death had been rightfully avenged. I could’ve sworn Iyanavich even flirted with another one of the officers, she was in such a good mood. Harlowe hadn’t even come out of her office yet. About halfway through the morning routine of the precinct, Molloy’s disposition took on a distinct change, and he approached me as I was finishing my report, a look in his eye that was unfamiliar to me. “Hey man, can we talk for a minute?”
“Uh sure, what’s up?”
“No, I mean like… Not here.”
My eyebrow involuntarily shot up. “What do you mean, ‘not here’? You aright man, you’ve been out of it all morning. And if I noticed, out of it as I am too, you can bet everyone else has also clocked it.”
I heard someone call everyone’s attention as they held open Harlowe’s office door. What the fuck had she been doing all this time? Certainly it wasn’t anything good judging by the look on the officer’s face.
We all drifted towards the office door when I could swear my soul left my body.
She was dead. Some coward had put a bullet in the back of her head. There was another USB on the desk.
Iyanavich entered the office, somewhat robotically, and picked it up. Underneath it was a sticky note:
‘It’s rude to break other people’s things.’
Well that confirmed who was behind it.
We did the same thing as before, only this time there was just one video file. Same thing again – Dr. Greenwich enters frame with a leather mask adorned with the flayed skin of some poor bastard. It was only now I noticed how otherwise unremarkable his appearance was. His clothes looked like any other normal office clerk.
“Good morning officers. No doubt you have discovered the repercussions of your actions from last night. Sebastian was a valuable test subject, with many man hours having been poured into it. As you may well grasp, I do not take this loss lightly. Therefore, I will be ‘upping the stakes’, as it were, until I feel I am adequately compensated. Burn Sebastian’s body, or however you wish to dispose of it, it’s of no concern to me now. I will be meeting one of your representatives at the appointed location contained in the previous USB I sent you. Send along whoever you wish, with whatever company you wish. I will have safeguards should you attempt to arrest me or kill me. Additionally, you will more than likely get a call from-”
The message didn’t finish when one of our phones rang. A Hispanic officer answered it, couldn’t tell you his name if my life depended on it. His face became about three shades whiter after answering the phone, clearly half-listening to the message the good doctor had left us. I paused the doctor’s video and concentrated on the other officer.
“What happened? Who’s missing?”
“A child of seven, female, named Natalie. Went missing early this morning, on her walk to school.”
The sick fuck.
Another phone rang. More or less the same thing – another missing person from this morning, male, adolescent, named Jacob.
Well, he carried through on his threat with extra vengeance I see. I resumed the video after our officers took details and went out to post up some signs about the missing people.
“This is the beginning of my compensation. The rest will be in correlation with the consequences of breaking our original agreement. Be at our prior arranged location by six pm today.”
And with that the video ended.
Christ, as if things were bad enough already.
There were calls to be made, internally, about the mess we were left with after Harlowe’s death. It reeked of an inside job, though I couldn’t imagine anyone doing it in cooperation with the doctor. More likely, he had threatened them with blackmail or had abducted someone near and dear to them.
Once more I found myself wishing so much that she hadn’t acted so rashly when we found the Golem. With it – him? They? – alive, we would’ve been able to question it about Dr. Greenwich, learned something before putting it to sleep peacefully. I was never under any illusions about evidence or trials or a life resembling normal for it – that had all been stripped away, stolen from the people that it was comprised of. It still would’ve been such a useful damn resource while we had it.
Guess there’s no helping it.
Can’t remember the last time I’ve been to see a doctor…
Credit: Robert Galvin
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