She turned back for one final wink
and a wave of her daintily gloved hand, before stepping out of the gentleman’s
carriage and onto Rue Chartres. She was
not proud of her profession, in fact she detested it; in another life, she had
been a proper lady with a good husband and a beautiful family. That distant, fading memory was but a vague
ember now. The War had taken her husband,
the famine had taken her sons and daughters, and after Sherman’s fires took her
home, she fled west with nothing but the clothes on her back.
She made it as far as the muddy,
decadent streets of the Crescent City by way of the rails before stopping to
rest her weary bones. That first night,
the city had welcomed her into its beckoning arms and provided for her more
than anyone else. She had walked the
streets of the Quarter since that night in the winter of ‘64. The Quarter had aged her beyond her years
though, or perhaps it was the green muse she had turned to, like an old friend,
to dull her senses and help her forget her antebellum memories and plantation
She never believed a man should be
the property of another, and she even welcomed Lincoln’s Proclamation, but she
never understood why they insisted on the harsh punishments that crushed the
good people that were left. When there
was no flour, they had only hate to fill their stomachs with. Had enough people not starved already? Had old Dixie not suffered her share?
Tonight was particularly difficult
for her; the man had been a perfect gentleman.
The way he had treated her had caused the memories of her husband to
come flooding back to the forefront. Try
as she might, she could not erase the image of him smiling at her in his CSA
grays before riding away, never to return.
She had never cried with one of her patrons before, but tonight she
could not contain her sorrow. She turned
south off of Chartres until she reached New Levee Street, on the banks of the
Mississippi. She stared into the heavy
blanket of fog that hung low over the river and the surrounding city. She retrieved her pot metal flask and gulped
the strong, licorice-like Absinthe before throwing the empty container into the
murky water. She looked out across the
river at the crimson moon that hung low on the horizon. It seemed so close that she might stretch out
her arm and touch it with the tips of her fingers. She buried her head in her hands as she wept
for what her life had become.
She heard a faint rustle somewhere
behind her and turned to see who was there, but there was no one. A cold, sepulchral draft stirred her loose
bangs and sent a chill across her body.
The deep, hollow tones of a church bell could be heard somewhere in the
distance. It’s just the Absinthe; pull yourself together, she thought to
A long shadow passed across her by
the light of the blood moon and several dim street lamps.
“Hello?” She meekly called out to the
night, but no one answered.
She retrieved a slender, pepper-box
revolver from her garter belt and shakily pointed it into the fog-filled
Again, she heard the movement
somewhere in the darkness, this time on her other side. As she spun the revolver in the direction of
the sound, she called out again.
This time, a low, baneful snarl
answered from somewhere nearby.
She turned and ran as fast as she could along
Levee Street, the lights of the Square a distant beacon in the night. There would be someone there that could help
her; there had to be.
Two blocks to the Square.
A malevolent moan chased after her
from somewhere along the levee, followed by a deep, hellish growl. She shrieked as she heard the sound and
pushed forward with every fiber in her body.
An errant cock-crow could be heard somewhere deep within the city. If only
he was right; oh God, if only he was right.
One block to the Square
The heavy footfalls behind her grew
louder with every stride. As the wind
shifted directions, a foul, musky stench filled the air and assaulted her
nostrils. This was the moment; despite
her terror, she spun in the soggy street and swung the revolver in a wide
arc. As her eyes locked with the
creatures’, her heart pounded as if it might burst out of her chest. Her knees weakened and threatened to give out
at any moment. Despite the horror that
gripped her, she did not relent; this was not her first Rebel stand on the dark,
city streets. She pulled the heavy
trigger and felt the recoil as her arm was pushed up and back. She watched the beasts’ head tilt back as a
macabre, crimson display of blood and matted fur erupted from its brow. She watched the beast emit a low, guttural
gurgle and tumble backwards onto the filthy alley. Her heart raced as she turned and fled
towards the faintly glowing plaza.
The Square was empty when she burst
forth from the night and into its irradiated domain. With the revolver still in her hand, she tilted
her head back spun in a circle as she wailed for help. After realizing the persistence of the
terrified woman, several windows began to glow around the perimeter of the Square. An annoyed man pushed open a distant,
second-story window and leaned out to address the fearful woman in the street
“What’s your business, woman?”
“There’s something out here, please let me in!”
“Go home; you’ve had enough to
“Please, no; you don’t understand!”
“If you don’t stop with the noise,
I’ll have the constable come and drag you away!”
“Send for him, please! But please let me in first, someone!”
The window slammed shut as she continued
to cry for help.
The low, guttural growl from across
the village green only served to push her further into a frenzied state. She shakily turned to face her fate and
leveled the revolver at the beast. The
creature snarled and then began to gallop at a full-stride across the
plaza. Mud shook from its matted fur
with each additional leap and bound. She
fired her final round at the monstrosity, hitting it firmly in the shoulder,
but it only served to further anger the demon.
Twenty feet from its prey, it leapt
through the air and tackled her like a weightless, rag doll. Her desperate cries in the green went
unnoticed, or ignored, by the people in the surrounding buildings. She screamed in agony as it ripped and tore
at her body, shredding it in mere moments.
The beast flung its head skyward and bayed a fiendish song, before
continuing with its savagery. A faint,
near-imperceptible howl could be heard in reply, somewhere deep in the sinister
darkness beyond the city.
An exhausted, young deputy rounded
the corner and happened upon the carnal scene in the square. The woman’s ghost was gone, but the beast
continued to menace her body.
He fired two successive rounds from
his 1860 Army and struck the creature twice in the back of its head. The beast turned and snarled at the officer,
but he only further entrenched himself in his position and struck the beast
twice again in its chest. The brute
recoiled as the .44 caliber rounds exploded against its chest, but did not
retreat from the area. It batted the
mutilated remains with a heavy paw before turning and charging the officer.
The raging blur was swiftly covering
the distance between itself and the man with every passing moment. The deputy began to sidestep the blood-soaked
monster, forcing it to reevaluate its trajectory, while continually delivering
a steady stream of lead along the narrow tunnel that separated man and
beast. Two rounds into the dire exchange
of animal and mortal, the deputy was forced to swiftly transition from his
spent, service revolver to his smaller, secondary Model 1. The diminutive .22 shorts had no noticeable
effect on the creature, so the officer was forced to aim for its wide, yellow
As the creature reached the man, it
leapt and spread its front arm wide so that it might gore the man with its
razor-like claws. The man dropped low to
the ground the moment before impact and aimed high; the round exploded from the
barrel of the Model 1 and connected perfectly with the brute’s right, ocular
cavity. The malevolent eye burst like a
flattened grape, spraying vile fluid throughout the air.
The sharp claws slashed the man’s
shoulder to the bone and sent him reeling across the cobblestone sidewalk. The man rolled to his feet and turned to run,
while lose flesh dangled from his blood-soaked arm. The creature shrieked in agony from the wound
and spun furiously in the direction of the man to devour him whole. The man cried out for help as he staggered
down the avenue, while clutching his gored shoulder.
The beast leapt once again towards
the man, but was violently rebuked in midair. The massive, two-inch, lead ball from the
short-barreled musketoon of a second deputy tore through flesh and bone, as it
robbed the beast of its will to destroy. The musketoon clattered on the
cobblestone walk below as the second deputy stepped out from darkness of the
adjacent alley and transitioned to his herculean, double-barreled, LeMat
revolver. He thrust the revolver into the thick, night air in front of
him, searching for his adversary, but the thing was gone.
The second officer rushed to the aid
of his fallen brother who was beginning to go into shock, either from his
wounds or from the realization of what he had encountered. He cradled the
man’s head in his arms and strived to sooth him as he kept repeating, “Stay
with me, it’s going to be alright.”
“Stay with me; help’s on the way.”
“Stay with me, brother.”
Thick, grey smoke billowed from the
steam pipe of the aging locomotive and disappeared into the night. As the smudge-face stoker shoveled heaps of coal
into the glowing firebox, water in the pressurized boiler began to phase change
into steam, producing the necessary energy to push the engine’s piston down the
track. As the heavy, iron wheels
completed their revolution, the crank and connecting rods in turn pushed the
piston forward again. As the piston
slammed forward, another heavy plume of smoke surged from atop the iron
workhorse. And so the characteristic,
rhythmic chuffing sound produced by
the seemingly eternal labor of the sinewy boilerman and his iron sweatshop,
pierced the night.
In a dining carriage, several rail
cars back, Talmadge meticulously oiled his Colt Dragoon. The heavy pistol had been developed during
the Mexican-American War, and was originally designed for killing the mounts of
charging, Mexican cavalrymen. A broad,
silver cutlass was sheathed on the dark-stained, oak table beside him. His dozen-man, volunteer entourage of Federal,
Confederate and other allegiances, were seated throughout the car as well. Though resentment still ran high in the
shattered South as the region struggled through the crippling realities of
Reconstruction, the men had united under Talmadge for a common cause that
transcended their regional differences.
Talmadge insisted on volunteer
enlistment for his unit; if any man grew weary of his post, he was free to
leave without fear of a court martial.
To date, there had been no deserters.
The men came from all walks of life and all corners of the fledgling
republic, and beyond. Talmadge’s squad
included Secret Service agents from New England, Gray Riders from Virginia,
leathery frontiersmen from the Black Hills of the Dakota Territory, Indian
trackers from the borderlands and pair of seasoned emissaries from the
Austro-Hungarian Empire. The men bided
their by attending to their weaponry, studying various tomes or finishing a
The rail guided the men south through
the thick forests and bayous of Louisiana, until they emerged on the western
shore of Lake Pontchartrain. As they
left their wooded confines behind, they were immediately engulfed by a fog so
deep and heavy, it seemed to push angrily against the very motion of the
locomotive itself. The windows of the
carriage were soon drenched from the condensation that was suspended in the
Creole air, further obstructing Talmadge’s view of the world beyond their
temporary refuge. He rested his forehead
against the cool, glass pane of the window and craned his head up to peer at
the one remaining landmark that he could descry - the waxing, sanguine moon of
the October sky.
Caleb, one of Mosby’s Riders during
the War of the States, stood watch for the men at the carriage’s entrance
door. A loud knock at the door startled
the man and garnered the attention of the entire room. Though the man had been attentive, the
impenetrable fog had nonetheless shrouded the figure’s approach.
“Who goes there?”
“It’s the conductor, son.”
The men in the room instinctively
readied their arms as Caleb slowly opened the door for the gray-haired
gentlemen. As he stepped into the room,
he surveyed the eclectic group before regarding, “Well, you’re an apprehensive
bunch, if I’ve ever seen one.”
None in the room replied.
The conductor awkwardly cleared his
throat and continued, “We will arrive at our destination within the hour,
The conductor’s forehead wrinkled in
thought as he scanned the room, before finally settling on Talmadge. “Mister McKinley, as I’m sure you are already
aware, your host is to meet you upon your arrival at the station.”
“That I am; thank you.”
As the conductor left the car,
Talmadge stood to address the men.
“Gentlemen, as you all know, there
will be no defections when we arrive in the city. There’ll be no visiting the drinkeries or
carousing with the courtesans. We move
as one man, never leaving another behind.
There are no exceptions; all or none.
The men nodded in understanding at
his address, before returning to their various labors.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The wheels of the iron horse
screeched in protest as the engineer applied the brakes to the hulking machine. The man jerked the pull cord with his own
unique style to announce their approach.
The station hands could easily discern who was at the helm by the pitch
and cadence of the steam trumpet. The
whistle belted three short yips followed by a long, throaty bawl.
The station was sparsely illuminated
by several dim lamps. Talmadge and his
men gathered their equipment and exited the rail car. A small fleet of horses and carriages awaited
their arrival on the opposite side of the open rail yard. The carriage attendants rushed to the men to
help them stow their baggage for the short, midnight ride across the city. Caleb and the two other Gray Riders in the
detachment handed off their bags to the attendants and aimed to a distant rail
car near the back of the train.
As they sensed the men’s presence,
the yips and howls of the dogs grew increasingly excitable. By the time the men reached them, they were
in a howling frenzy. The Catahoula Curs
knew of only one reason they ever rode the rails; soon, they would hunt. The pack of Blue Leopard Catahoulas was worth
a small fortune to the affluent sportsman of finer tastes. They were choice selected from the finest
pedigrees for their size and temperament.
Most were white-chested with a full spectrum of blues and greys on their
backs; their legs and faces were interspersed with rich, brindled-tan
markings. Though the breed was not
typically known to exceed ninety pounds, several of the blue merles in the pack
weighed, or exceeded, three figures. The
dogs were royal descendants of the Wright Line, developed by Preston
Wright. The Wright Line represented a
storied breed that could be traced back to Hernando de Soto.
As the men attended to the
Catahoulas, their excitement began to arouse their more aloof brethren in the
next car. While the attendants escorted
the Leopard dogs to their kennels on the backs of the carriages, Caleb and the
former Gray Riders approached the second kennel car to release the remainder of
the pack. As they unlocked the door and
slid it open, six towering monsters stood patiently at the opening. The Spanish Mastiffs, all weighing well over
two hundred pounds, stepped off of the rail car and silently followed the three
men to the carriages. As they walked,
two of the massive beasts split off from either side and formed an
impenetrable, protective, wedge formation around the three men.
The Spanish Mastiff was a beast bred
for conflict. The hulking creatures were
said to have descended from ancient Greek war hounds. The war dogs eventually found their way to
Spain around 1,000 B.C. by the way of Phoenician mariners. Spanish royalty were enamored by the hounds
and began to refine the breed for their own purposes. Much later, conquistadors would use the
mastiffs and other, similar molossers, against the natives of the
Americas. Even the renowned Aztec
warriors were terrified of the war hounds’ strength and ferocity.
During the War, the Gray Riders had
learned how critical the bond between man and beast was to their survival. They talked to and understood their horses as
if they were fellow men-at-arms, because in fact, they were. The three men had immediately taken to the mastiffs
and curs, learning their language and becoming an integral part of the pack. In the dark, Louisiana bayous, Caleb would
prefer the company and watchful eyes of the mastiffs over any of the other men,
despite the immense respect he had for all of his comrades – even the Yanks.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Once the men and their equipment were
in the carriages, they braved the short ride from the depot to their
destination in the French Quarter. Their
drivers whipped the horses east along Tchapitoulas for several miles, before a
short jog north on Rue Canal and then finally Rue Bourbon. The men who had never been to the city were
amazed at the sights in the city that refused to sleep. Streetwalkers catcalled to the ornate,
Victorian carriages in hopes of a profitable rendezvous. Drunken disputes spilled out of the
drinkeries and taprooms, and into the streets.
A pair of muddled brawlers each withdrew their long-bladed Bowies and
commenced to spilling one another’s blood in the muddy streets. The lesser man, pale from his wounds, finally
yielded to the other before collapsing on the cobblestone promenade.
After several blocks, they arrived at
their destination – the Old Absinthe House at the corner of Rue Bourbon and Rue
Bienville. The loud commotion coming from
the Catahoula’s kennels only fueled the spectacle of the carriage convoy that
encircled the establishment. Late night
itinerants stopped to survey the scene as the Leopard dogs pleaded for their
release. The droves of heavily armed men
garnered curious stares as they filtered out of the carriages and into the
tavern. Several of the group’s escorts
remained outside to bar the doors and stand guard.
The popular speakeasy was completely
devoid of any customers; the entire establishment had been rented for the discrete,
late-night assemblage. The only living
soul downstairs was Ferrer, the eccentric bartender only recently stolen away
from the French Opera House. Despite the
empty room, the cool waters continued to flow from the marble fountains, while
trays of sugar cubes lay ready on the copper-topped, wooden bar. The wrought-iron chandeliers and sconces only
served to illuminate the room just enough so that it was navigable.
As the men entered the bar, Ferrer
nodded and motioned to the narrow staircase in the back corner of the room,
before returning to his seemingly idle duties.
He carefully poured the greenish Absinthe from a crystal decanter into
the reservoirs of a half-dozen, meticulously-aligned glasses. After filling the reservoirs, Ferrer
retrieved six silver, Absinthe spoons and placed the special lip of the
utensils on the rims of the glasses. He
then placed a large cube of sugar on each spoon before drizzling the cool water
over them; the water dissolved the cubes, and the solution dribbled down into
the reservoir glasses. Upon completion
of the task, Ferrer alternated between consuming the elixirs and sliding full
glasses across the bar to various empty seats.
As the men passed by the bar on the
way to the staircase, they watched curiously as Ferrer began anew with six more
glasses. Finally Josiah, their liaison
and escort, addressed the man.
“Why, yes sir?”
“Ferrer, what are you doing?”
The bartender looked at the Josiah
quizzically and replied, “Why, my job of course, good sir; could I interest you
in one of our signature elixirs? It
cures what ails you just as well as any apothecary’s tonic.”
The man ignored Ferrer’s attempt to
hock his tinctures and continued to press him.
“Your profession is a barkeep, is it not?”
“Precisely; indeed it is.”
“But tonight you have no patrons;
there is no bar to keep, Ferrer.”
always patrons in Vieux Carré, my friend, even if you can’t see them. I expect
tonight to be busier than most, actually.”
“You’ve drank the muse too long, old
friend. The wormwood has withered your
“Tell me, how is a man so tralatitiously parochial expected to assist in the
expulsion of the transcendental?”
“Gentleman,” Josiah called out to the
others, “please ignore the loon in the corner and follow me, if you will.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The upstairs room was brighter and
warmer than the speakeasy, but only slightly.
Rough-hewn timbers were exposed along the walls and the ceiling
overhead. The same style sconces and
chandeliers found downstairs also lined the walls and hung low over the large, round
table in the center of the open room.
Numerous tomes, documents and maps were scattered aimlessly across the
planked surface of the table as several men studied them intensely. Numerous officers from the Fifth Military
District were already seated around the table as Josiah, Talmadge and the other
men crossed the threshold into the gloomy room.
A pair of armed officers closed the double-doors behind Talmadge’s
entourage and stoically stood at attention.
Talmadge recognized the senior
officer in the room as none other than General Sheridan. He sighed deeply in anticipation of the
encounter. He had hoped that a more
affable, junior officer of Sheridan’s would be in attendance in his absence. The infamous general was well known for his
hostility towards the South and the former soldiers of the Confederacy. General Sheridan was the military governor of
the district that encompassed Texas and Louisiana. He was probably best known in the postbellum
South for his quote, “If I owned Texas and Hell, I would rent Texas and live in
Hell,” a statement that he was known to proudly repeat often.
“Gentlemen; please, have a seat. Might we offer anyone some coffee?”
Talmadge nodded as he took a seat,
“Yes sir, coffee for all.”
As an aide served the men, the
general continued, “Mr. McKinley, I assume you and your men know why you’re
“Only vaguely, sir; you’re office has
not been forthcoming with details.”
“By my office, are you inferring I am withholding information from you,
“No sir, I was only-“
“I prefer to deliver news of this
order in person, Mr. McKinley. It seems
there are scarce few men in your grande
old South that can practice the necessary discretion that this subject
Talmadge fumed and his face flushed,
but he refused to step into the snare the general was setting for him.
“I understand your concerns,
general. We’re here now; tell us what’s
“Six bodies in as many days, that’s
what’s happened; six bodies that had been savaged in the most abhorrent ways.”
“Is there a pattern as to where these
“All six have been within a few
blocks of the river and have occurred in, or very close to, Vieux Carré.”
“Tell me about the bodies.”
“What little remains of the bodies
were mutilated – ripped to shreds. The
injuries are animal in nature, no doubt, but not from any animal I can
imagine. I’ve never seen anything like
it before, and I don’t have to remind you how many of your boys I’ve watched
fall in battle in some of the most deplorable ways.”
Unable to contain his rage, Caleb
slammed his chair back and towered over the table. The chair scraped noisily across the hardwood
floor before tipping backwards and crashing against it. Several of Sheridan’s men arose and unsheathed
their cavalry sabers as they began to close in on Caleb.
Talmadge growled, “Take your seat, now!”
Caleb menacingly eyed the Union men that were
encircling him with sabers ready. He
maintained his focus on the men as he slowly leaned down and restored the chair
to its proper position at the table.
As Caleb reclaimed his seat, Talmadge
apologized to Sheridan, “Please, forgive us.”
The general smirked at Caleb as he
replied to Talmadge, “Discipline is strongly lacking in your unit, McKinley. Is this how you operate?”
“So let’s quit dancing around the
subject. I’ve been told quite a bit
about your unit. How many of these
things have you apprehended?”
Talmadge paused momentarily before
Well, how many have you killed?”
many have you even seen, McKinley?”
Talmadge looked down at the table and
shook his head from side to side.
“So let me understand this,
McKinley: There’s something out there ravaging my citizenry in ways that are
thoroughly unspeakable, and it’s only
getting worse!If this leaks out onto the streets, I’ll
have an entire city in panic! I already
have my hands full with Klansmenlynching free men all across my
district. If this gets out, they’ll
blame it on the negroes. I will not
have another St. Landry!”
General Sheridan arose from his seat
and pounded the table fiercely as he continued, “My God! The district is on the edge, and they send me
And all you can do is shake your head no and tell me that none of
you professionals even know what
we’re dealing with!”
Two figures stepped forth from a dark
corner of the room and interrupted the general’s malediction.
“We know exactly what you’re facing,
“And who are you?”
The creature slogged through the dark
thickets across the river with surprising stealth and efficiency for its
size. Its footfalls were scarcely
noticeable by the other creatures of the forest. As the hulking beast reached the banks of the
Mississippi River, it squatted for a moment to observe its surroundings from
the shadows. It dug an errant claw into
the soft sand at its feet as it surveyed a distant pair of ospreys. The seasonal visitors circled the swirling
waters below in the bend of the river, searching for an unfortunate bass or
sunfish. The brute listened keenly to a
herd of wild boars as they noisily grunted and rooted in the soft, rich soil of
the river swamp.
After several moments of silent
observation, it strode into the murky depths and began to glide through the
black waters toward the city lights on the other side. The creature’s strokes were powerful but
discrete as its chin gently bobbed in and out of the water. Eddies swirled in its wake as its broad legs
kicked out and propelled it forward.
A pair of wide, red eyes followed the
waterlogged beast as it cut across the swift current. The ancient alligator began to shadow the
intruder that infringed upon his domain.
His long, muscular tail cut back and forth through the muddy waters with
unrivaled power as he closed in on the brute to investigate its
intentions. The gator sunk below the
surface for a distance before appearing again in front of the outcast. The scaly, prehistoric monster refused to
yield to the strange, exotic beast that had trespassed into his territory. The gator began to close the distance, ready
for the challenge. The brute refused to
so much as acknowledge the ancient reptile’s presence as it continued swimming
the river unmolested. The two ospreys
curiously circled the titans overhead to see which of the challengers would be
When it seemed all but certain that
the two forces would collide in a furious contest of dominance, the creature
released a low, menacing snarl at the gator.
The muddy, river water gurgled and bubbled around its mouth as it eyed
the massive reptile unblinkingly.
Surprisingly, the alligator abdicated the river to the monster and sunk
into the black depths. When he reemerged
to gaze once again at the strange foe, they were distant adversaries separated
by half the river’s width. The gator
turned in defeat to find easier, more accommodating prey. He slowly navigated through the night toward
the sounds of the distant boars.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The two men passed the near-empty bottle
of bourbon back and forth as their lines bobbed in the water. The
excursion was less about catching fish than it was about drinking until the bottle
was gone, or until they woke up sober.
They had been drinking since early in the evening, and now it was well
into the night.
The cool breeze swirled about the
men, but they were swiftly becoming too inebriated to notice its chill. The blanket of fog over the river was impenetrably
thick. The light of the heavy moon
illuminated it like a second river, strangely floating atop the first. As the midnight gusts waxed and waned, the
fog pushed increasingly deeper into the surrounding city.
Vieux Carré proper, the center of the
Quarter, was only several blocks away, but it was sheltered from the men’s
riverfront alcove by a series of dark allies and narrow passages. The men often boasted to themselves and
others that the fishing was better in their secluded nook than anywhere else in
the city, but they both knew that they preferred the hidden pier because it was
a quiet spot to overindulge without interruption.
In spite of their delirious
ramblings, one of the corks began dance atop the water before disappearing
The fat man bellowed with laughter as
his friend struggled to process the command and react appropriately. The
sounds of the fat man's voice echoed across the river and beyond.
"You old drunk! We'll
never catch anything with you behind a pole!"
William jerked the pole forcefully,
sending the line sailing through the air, with no fish in sight. The
hook's trajectory appeared to be heading directly for the fat man; he recoiled
in anticipation and tumbled backwards off the bench.
"You fool! I'm in more
danger than any fish!"
The William merely chuckled to
himself, before casting his line back into the river.
"You have to bait the hook!
I swear you’re cutoff; I’m not wasting any more good whiskey on you, old
William tried to retrieve his line
from the dark depths, but it refused his tugs. He teetered to his feet so as to
pull harder, but the line still would not break free.
“I think I’ve got a bite.”
"You don’t have a bite; give it here!
I might as well do everything for you.
I’m just glad no one else is around to see the shape you’re in.”
The fat man grabbed the pole and
began to tug at it forcefully, but it still would not yield, even to him. William muttered to himself as he gently
swayed from side to side. The fat man
gingerly leaned over the edge of the pier and began to tug fiercely at the
line. Suddenly, a snarling blur of fur
and claws burst forth from the obscured depths and grasped the man, before
pulling him down into the water.
The man shrieked in terror as his
gaze locked with the beast’s single, yellow eye. He cried out in agony as it sunk its sharp
canines into his shoulder. The man
thrashed about for a brief moment in the shallow waters near the river’s edge,
before being dragged into the deep waters beyond.
William leaned over the pier railing
in muddled disbelief as his friend screamed and pleaded for his life. He strained to reach his friend, but it was
too late. William watched the brute
savage the man and rend his flesh, before pulling him down and out of
sight. William turned to his side and
retched on the rotting, wooden planks as a sudden sickness overwhelmed
him. He muttered incoherently in a
drunken attempt to cry out to the fat man, but it was in vain – his friend was
After several minutes in a near-stupor,
William heard a blood-curdling howl from the opposite bank. A wave of great trepidation and unease
consumed him; the sound was like none other he had heard before. He suddenly felt alone and completely vulnerable
to whatever was across the river. He
turned and began to stagger precariously off the pier and to the Quarter in
search of help, if anyone would believe him.
He closed his eyes in terror and cringed as a second howl could be heard
answering the first.