Reindeer Games Chapter Five
We walked in silence following the tiny cloven prints. After a mile Mike squatted, surveying the tracks, then pivoted on his heel. "Our friends veered off. Looks like they're heading for the bluffs.
Thrown off by the weight of the field-pack, he overbalanced while trying to stand.
I grabbed onto his arm while he regained his footing.
The chirp of a police siren split the air. We turned as one, watching the sheriff's car, as it pulled alongside us.
Deputy sheriff Jess Walker, a friend of my brother Danny, was driving. He looked us over quickly, then grinned.
"Morning. Guess I don't have to ask what you're doing."
He looked towards the rolling hills off in the distance. "You planning on hiking to the bluffs?"
His smile vanished as his voice took on a serious tone.
"We didn't plan to." I replied, "But we've been following some weird animal tracks, and that's where they seem to be going. Anything wrong?"
Jess exhaled and shook his head. "It's more what's not wrong. I haven't had a decent nights sleep in days."
He placed the cruiser in neutral, then stifled a small yawn.
"You really want to hear this?"
"Sure, fire away."
"The office has been flooded with calls. It's almost non-stop. Every kid in the county is seeing monsters in the woods, around their homes, or in their rooms."
"Problem is, if it was just one or two, we could write it off to vivid imaginations. But that's not the case. Adults have called with the same story." He paused to take a sip of coffee.
"Add to that Myron Acker's little girl is in the hospital. She said gremlins pulled her from her bed and tried to pull her out the window. She has a bad infection and 3 long scratches on her leg. Doctors say it looks like a bear mauled her. Yesterday Pete Johnson's dogs went charging after something in the woods near his house."
He drummed his fingers on the car door. "Never came back. The funny thing is; all the descriptions have been the same. Big..."
I finished his sentence. "Fugly looking creature, surrounded by lots of little four foot tall and equally fugly creatures. Strange music playing."
Jess eyed me with a Policeman's stare. "You've seen them to?"
"Not up close and personal, but..."
It was his turn to interrupt. Jess tapped his forehead. "Up here then."
I was taken aback and didn't answer.
Jess snorted. "It's all right, I've known about that for years. Danny told me. Don't worry, it won't go any farther." He sighed. "Actually as far I'm concerned it just adds to the credibility of what I've been hearing."
The car's police radio crackled. To me it sounded unintelligible, but it was clear Jess understood every word. He held up his finger signaling us to wait, than slid the window up and placed a call on his cell.
After a minute, or so, he opened the window and flicked the car's emergency lights on.
"Damn, it's gone from bad to worse. Mark Keller's little girl and the Brayton twins just went missing. They were having a sleepover."
Jess pounded the steering wheel with his fist. "Mark was down in the basement when he heard screaming. By the time he got upstairs, the room was torn to shreds and the kids were gone. He sent a picture of the prints he found outside."
Jess enlarged the picture then held up his phone. "Is this what you're tracking."
I nodded yes.
"Thought as much."
"Don't take any chances," He put the car into drive, "And stop by the office when you get back." He pressed hard on the accelerator.
I stepped back as the car's police interceptor kicked in rocketing it forward. The tires spewing gravel and grass as it shot off down the road, siren blaring.
Mike watched the cruiser's lights disappear around the bend. "Still up for this?"
"Try and stop me."
Reindeer can't fly.
But one thing was certain. This had just become personal.