by Louise Dragon
Toward the end of Brad's second week of surveillance, he was beginning to feel the effects of his nightly vigils. His days spent collaring shoplifters and cruising the streets of Memphis had become tiring and boring. There was a new woman in Brad's life, and he longed to be out at the park waiting for her.
Odd, Brad thought as he readied reports for filing, that he had begun to think of the demon as a conquest: like a pretty new babe eager for a one-night-stand. Thoughts of the Wrenge made his blood race and his hands tremble with pent up frustration.
Don't be an asshole, he chided himself. She's killing guys, you're supposed to stifle her, not screw her. But the tenderness of that remembered dream -- of their first encounter -- sent such craving pangs of lust to Brad's loins that he again wondered if the lusty union had been only a dream.
"Help me. One of you guys has to help me." Shouts from the precinct front desk grabbed Brad's attention.
"I'm telling you, I want to talk to somebody. I'm confessing, damn it."
Kelly Marshall, the front desk officer, looked back at Brad and raised her eyebrows. Brad threw out a "come on" wave, informing her to send the creep in.
Ernie Monks was an ox of a man. A thick white scar ran across his left cheekbone. The unmistakable fear entombed in his bloodshot eyes broke down his tough appearance leaving him with a skewed, bad-boy look.
"Officer, I killed my girlfriend. I want you to throw me in jail."
"I think we may need a little more to go on. Why did you kill your girlfriend?"
"The bitch was gonna leave me, so I offed her. You can lock me up now."
"Hold on, your girlfriend's name was . . ."
"Angie, Angie Gopez. Her body's in the morgue. Cops chalked it up to a mugger, but it was me that killed her. Found her in the city. Knew she was lying to me. Beat her up in that alley, beat her real bad -- knew I killed her -- took her money so's you guys would think it was a thief. Worked too."
"I see, and if it worked so well, why are you confessing, Ernie, why have you suddenly seen the error in your ways, so to speak?
The thug's face clouded over with a dark stain of fear.
"I seen it, man. This morning I seen the Memphis-Mangler. It'll be comin' for me tonight. I just now it. Now are you gonna lock me up or what?"
"What do you mean, you've seen the Memphis-Mangler? Nobody's seen the Memphis-Mangler and lived. Here you are telling me you've seen him. What you been smoking man?"
The fear in the guy's face excited Brad, he squirmed in his seat to keep that excitement from showing.
Monks lowered his voice an octave. "Ain't no he. Tain't human neither. Had me this neighbor, Ed Morelli, 'member Ed? Memphis-Mangler took him out last week."
Brad knew the name. So far Monks was telling the truth.
"What you guys don't know is this: Last year Ed killed a hooker. Dame was blackmailing him. Gonna snitch to Ed's wife. Ed knew his wife was looking for an excuse to leave him so he went into the city and gave the hooker a super dose of the H one night, then made an anonymous call to 911. Hooker died in the ambulance -- over dose. Nobody ever connected her to Ed. I knew, cause Ed made that 911 call from my place. He thought he got away with it. Hell so did I."
(What are friends for? Brad thought, ironically.)
"What's this got to do with the Memphis-Mangler?" Brad wanted to know.
"Hell, don't you guys get it yet, man? Them are the kind of guys the Memphis-Mangler wants. The ones who kill girls and get away with it. Don't cha read the papers? Can't you see it? All them guys were pimps or had dead wives! I figure if I turn myself in. It'll leave me alone. I saw what the thing did to Ed. Freaked me right out. No thanks, put me in jail, man. I need to get locked up today, before it's too late."
"How can you be so sure that today is the day for that, Ernie?"
"Oh, man, cause I saw it this morning, you see? That damn purple freak flew right over my head -- big as you please. Threw a shadow as big as a freight train. Smelled like rotten meat!"
Monks, mistaking the frown for one of disbelief, kept on talking. "It's true, man. Ed was my neighbor. That afternoon before he died, he came over to see me. Said he was walking home from work and a big purple thing flew over his head. Said it smelled funny. Thing cast a shadow like a tornado. Gave him the heebie-jeebies. I blew him off. Thought he was sipping from the old brown bottle again. Don't blow me off, man. I'm stone-cold-sober and this is serious. I knew Ed. After his wife left him, he kept his house locked up tight as a cork in a wine bottle. Nothing coulda got in there. Cops had to use a crowbar to break in and get the body. You tell me, how the hell did the Memphis-Mangler get in?"
(Shadows cross where mortals walk. No more pretext, no more talk. Cast your shadow in his wake. Blood and bone from the wicked take.)
Brad's mind worked fast now. The cloudy riddled words began falling neatly into place. He was sure that he could stop the Wrenge in her tracks. And, with the help of Ernie Monks -- he would do it tonight.
(Careful, now, don't spook this man.)
"I know you think this is serious, Ernie," Brad chose his words carefully. "And I'm going to help you."
Monks leaned forward in his chair. "Put me in a cell, man. Do it now."
Brad shook his head. "I'm afraid I can't do that, Ernie. At least not until I check out your story."
"Oh, man. It'll be too late then. You've got to lock me up now. Don't you see?"
Brad held up a silencing hand. "I can see that you're afraid, which makes me tend to believe your story. But the law is the law. Until I verify that a crime has been committed, I have no recourse but to let you go."
Monks by now was swooning, his face a sweating mask of fear.
"However," Brad went on, rubbing damp palms across his knees. "I want to get this Memphis-Mangler creep as bad as any cop in this station. So, tell you what I'm gonna do. I'll give Officer Marshall, over there, your statement to check out. While she works on verification, I'll personally offer you police protection. I'll stay with you, around the clock, until the good officer weeds through the red tape and comes up with a proper arrest warrant. If the Memphis-Mangler shows, I'll blow him away. Deal?"
Monks looked unsure, but some of his color returned. "This thing is pretty big, what if you can't handle it with that pea-shooter, got any elephant guns?"
Brad laughed. "You let me worry about that. See that dark blue Chevy out there by the curb? Why don't you go out and make yourself comfortable in it? I'll make a few phone calls and then we'll take you home."
"If it's all the same to you, I'll wait for you over by the door."
Once Monks was out of ear shot, Brad dialed Alec Nietupski's home.
"Alec, I've figured out those riddles and I know where the Wrenge will be tonight. I'm going after it."
Nietupski's voice came guardedly across the wire. "What do you want me to do?"
"Nothing. Watch that portal, if the symbols disappear, you'll know it worked. If anything happens to me, it'll be up to you to stop this thing. You got it?"
"Yeah, be careful, Brad."
Continued . . .
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