“I joined a secret society over there called Die Wurf. I thought they’d leave me alone once I’d come back to the States. Apparently not. I think they’re tied up in this Bonami business. They don’t like me much.”
“Let me make sure I understand this.” I sat up in my chair, but slumped back down again. “You’re telling me that you’ve got some murderous secret society on your heels, and you’ve come here to live with me?”
“They won’t harm you,” Reggie said.
“Oh? Really!” I laughed. I’d reached my tipping point. “I ain’t sure which I believe less, Reggie. The notion that you’re entangled with some clandestine group, or the notion that such a group would so sweetly and politely leave me alone and focus on you.”
“No, I swear!” he said. “They won’t harm you, so long as they believe I haven’t told you anything about them.”
“Why do I fall for this? Why ain’t I turning you in at some loony bin? I’m a real patsy, huh?”
“Yeah. You are,” Reggie said. “You’re an easy mark. But you’re a good friend. And I’m not pulling the wool over your eyes. And I’m not crazy. And I won’t let anything happen to you.”
“I should be outraged,” I insisted.
“I should throw you out on your ass.”
“You really should.”
“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t.”
“I don’t have one. I’ll get my bags, Sam.”
“Damn it!” I slammed my beer down, spilling some.
“I can’t do it,” I said.
“If you were trying to screw me over, you’d be talking me out of this. You really don’t have any other choice, do you?”
“No,” he said, “I don’t.”
“I’ll see you in the morning,” I said, standing up. “I’m turning in.”
“Okay. Hey! Want to ride out with me to the Renards’ tomorrow?”
“Alright,” I nodded heavily. “Hey, did you call her at all today?”
“I did. She was disappointed I didn’t go out there today and search the property, but I told her I had something come up. I’m afraid she’s not terribly impressed with me at this point.”
“Well, we’ll fix that tomorrow,” I said. “Good night, Sherlock.”
“You know,” he said. “Bates? Psycho?”
I chuckled all the way to my room. As I passed my studio, I caught sight of the easel in the corner, with its blank canvas, and promised myself I’d get some painting done in the morning.
I woke several times in the night, four times to urinate, and the other because of the Noise. A loud rumbling, together with a rough screeching sound was coming from down the hall. Reggie’s room was separated from mine by my own bathroom and by a small closet. As I worked my way down the hall the chill running up my spine may have only been from my bare feet on the hardwood floor. Or it could have been from the Noise. It was growing louder.
The Noise was a long, grinding, shrieking sound. It brought me back to my elementary school days, when that brat Aubrey Kendrick would run to the front of the room and drag her long, red nails down the blackboard. Why her parents let their nine year old paint her fingernails I never knew. She invariably chipped them on the blackboard during her regular tantrums. No one likes that sound, but I felt especially sensitive to it. I dissolved into tears nearly every time she did it. In the 11th grade we went to Homecoming together.
The Noise now coming from Reggie’s room, however, was much worse. It was louder, with a higher pitch that was accompanied by a lower rumbling, as though someone had hooked our 4th grade blackboard to a stereo system with tweeters, woofers, subwoofers, and poor reverb control. Then came the growling, accompanied by ripping and shredding sounds. Afraid for my new tenant’s life, I rushed down the hallway, and threw open the door, which had been unlocked. What I saw by the light of the full moon streaming in through the open window took more than a moment to register.
Reggie’s bed had been torn to pieces: mattress, sheets, and all. Long, deep gashes had been made into the exterior wall. I spent no time wondering who or what had done this, as the answer was clearly in front of me. A large grey creature was chained in the center of the room. It looked like a giant dog, perhaps an oversized wolf or coyote, except that its gray hair was shot through with black streaks, and its eyes, which stared menacingly back into my own, were considering me with some semblance or imitation of intelligence. Its great black nostrils flared as it took in my scent. The great beast was bound about the neck with a thick leather collar connected to a chain that ran out the window and wrapped around the fire escape. It snarled at me, its gaping maw open, tongue lolling to the side, and teeth dripping with saliva. It tore at the collar around its neck with claws that almost looked like hands. It howled, then jumped straight out the window, shattering glass.
It was at this point that I turned and ran like small child, slamming the door behind me. I shut my own door, locked it, bolted it, and stood on my bed quivering.