(This is NOT "Public Domain", and may not be copied/republished, in any form, without the author's expressed, written, permission.)
Chapter One of ? ...
“Get in here!”, shushed through the fog, as my right wrist was firmly grabbed, and tugged. I stubbed my toe while stumbling.
It had only been maybe 20 minutes ago that I'd woken up on the boat. I'd laid down for a brief nap after working a long summer day on Captain Rob's charter. He'd left me to swab down the deck, and put stuff away, after he'd filleted the fishing party's catch, and bid them farewell. Thankfully, the four middle aged guys had added a nice tip for me when they paid Capt. Rob for their successful trip. That was around 5pm.
Getting everything shipshape, for the next day, took a little more than an hour, or so. When I first started this job that took me at least twice as long. Capt. Rob had been patient in his training,. It was only a few weeks until I'd gotten good at it, and he'd become confident enough to leave me on my own to do it to his exacting specifications.
Normally, I would have gone to “Mother's” to treat myself to a nice dinner, and see who was out and about, before going “home” to Mrs. Neumann's boarding house. However, I'd felt more like stretching out on the cockpit couch, on the port side of the 46' cabin cruiser, under the fly bridge. I'd kicked off my boat shoes, and lay down for just a few minutes.
I woke up to SILENCE! No creaking dock lines. No lapping water. NOTHING! It took me a few groggy moments to realize where I was, and that night had fallen. I swung my feet to the deck as I sat up, ruffling my hair with both hands, as I tried to clear my mind.
I looked out over the open stern, and to starboard. The harbor's surface was strangely glassy smooth. It had chilled a bit when the sun had set. The tendrils of mist, rising into the full moon light, told me that the air was cooler than the water. About 4 feet off the surface everything was perfectly clear. There wasn't even a slight breeze. I was momentarily transfixed by the ghostly beauty.
What time was it? How long had I been dozing? Why was it so QUIET?
There weren't even any sounds from town. That meant it had to be fairly late. Most shops in this little New England tourist trap closed at 10pm, with the bars, and some restaurants, staying open until 1am. However, with the recent “troubles”, the City Council, a majority of which were also members of The Chamber of Commerce, had gotten everyone to agree to shut down by 11pm on full moon/new moon nights.
Though that seemed contrary to robust business, even the bar owners realized it would be much worse if any of their precious tourists disappeared while vacationing, and word of “the troubles” gained further broadcast. It was far better to subdue the possibilities of negative publicity than to have all of the tremendously profitable summer trade dry up entirely. Therefore, without it being officially declared, a pseudo curfew, of sorts, had been agreed upon, on “those” nights.
The first one that went missing, without a trace, was an eighteen year old named Talon Mason. And, yeah, that was his real name, not a nickname. He was a “local”. Both of his parents were teachers, and yearlong residents. Talon was set to graduate from High School in June. He disappeared during the March full moon while walking home after studying at a friend's place. At least that what he had told his parents that he was doing.
There were some “hints” around town that he, and Gabe Collins, were maybe more than just “study buddies”. Both were on the wrestling team, very fit guys, and it had been noted that they spent more time with each other than they did with anyone else.
Just like any other small town, everyone knew everyone else's business, and except for a few gossips, most kept it to themselves. Even so, had there been “something more” going on with those two, around here it still didn't matter much.
This old seaside village has a reputation of being one of the country's “Gay Meccas”. It's location has attracted an almost overwhelming summer population of artists, potters, playwrights, jewelers, and all sorts of other craftsmen cashing in on the summer trade. I'm not saying any of that is “Gay” per se, it's just that the place became known as being tolerant of just about any, and every, one.
I don't know when the town was actually founded, but I do know it dates back to the earliest of Colonial times. It was a small working fishing port long before it became today's mainly tourist destination. It has seen it's up and down times. It's nearby sand dunes, and extensive beaches, are what has sustained its survival all the way up to these modern times. It's “Gay Reputation” is FAR surpassed by its Family Friendly Summer FUN attractiveness, not to mention it's picturesque Historical atmosphere.
The next to disappear was Mike Taylor during the early April new moon. He was in his mid 30's, managed the local hardware store, and lived with his “house mate”, Carl Heathers. Carl had kept dinner on “warm” waiting for Mike to get home after closing the store. When dinner had approached “too well done”, Carl had turned it off, and eventually dinner become cold. Mike was never seen again. Carl was found Cold, of an apparent suicide, just one week later.
April full moon brought about the vanishing of Amy Gates. She, and her “known partner”, Marsha Wells, successful owners of one of the art galleries, had arrived just the day before, to begin setting up inventory, etc. Granted, that was a bit early for most seasonal shop owners, but those two considered that time a “working vacation”, being able to take it slow and easy, after closing their other location in the Florida Keys.
Since they hadn't had time to fully stock groceries, and stuff, Amy had headed off to “Mother's”, which was open year round, to pick up dinner to go. She was the last customer right at closing time. Marsha never did eat anything that night.
By this time, the small local police department saw a pattern emerging with full moon/new moon. And, sure enough, May new moon was the last they saw of their own officer, Hunter Winter.
Hunter had joined the department, as a locally raised former Marine MP, two years ago. Though he had been stationed in several posts around the world, Home was where his heart truly was. His family owned one of the oldest hotels, where they also lived, right across from the town square. However, Hunter, and his “buddy”, Brian Taylor, from Kansas, had bought a good sized house out in the dunes.
Hunter had turned over his squad car keys to his fellow officer, Carey Evans, jumped in his Jeep, and headed on out. His Jeep was found the next day, with the keys still in the ignition, on the bluffs at “Break Point”, several miles in the opposite direction of his and Brian's place.
Hunter was never seen again. Nor was he the last to “Evaporate”.
The local newspaper had reported the mysterious vanishings, but being of limited circulation, especially during “off season”, the stories had not gained much attention beyond the general area, which, come to think about it, was rather amazing in, and of, itself. However, that was also somewhat of a boon to The Chamber of Commerce/City Council which valued, perhaps one might say “Greedily”, it's own interests, as harsh as that may sound. They managed to keep it all mostly “under wraps”.
The local journalists had been coerced, some say with Lots of bucks, to stop reporting such things, even though the pattern continued, and is still continuing. Luckily, if you think of it that way, the ones that were “taken” later, even as “The Season” began, were also locals, or workers, and not any of the freely spending tourists.
Most of those who were the prime components of “The Money Machine” had NO idea of what had been happening around here. And, though the early closing hours, on what they thought were “odd” nights, had some of them wondering, the overall financial windfall was kept throbbing.
Did I mention that those soft, fragile, silvery, mists that I was fascinated with, rising off the becalmed water, were illuminated by the full moon? It suddenly stuck me that I might be in danger!
I'd made it up to, and along, the dock, through the mostly empty (huge) central town parking lot (which was usually full of cars), and turned left along (the very aptly named) Commerce Street. A block later I was passing “The Crown and Anchor Hotel” (Hunter's family place) to my left, and Town Hall Square to my right.
The mist, also rising from the ground, was quickly becoming fog. Though the air was chilly, the cobble stones under my bare feet were still warmish. Yeah, in my haste to get moving, I'd left my shoes on the boat.
I'd thought of staying on the boat for the night, but given the chill, I'd decided to chance the dash for my warm bed at Mrs. Neumann's. And, perhaps it was a good thing that I'd left my shoes on board. I wasn't exactly running, but I was walking quickly, and the cobble stones were a bit slick with moisture. Without my shoes, I was able to move more stealthily, being able to “grab” the slippery stones with my toes and soles, silently padding through the thickening cloud around me.
Though some might call Commerce Street the main drag, there was no way anyone could race along it, at least not in a car. It was a one way, very narrow, Colonial path. Driving down it, especially when the crowds were out, amounted to very carefully letting pedestrians move out or your way in the (perhaps) four feet of space, on either side, between your car doors and the doors of the close set shops lining both sides. Sidewalks, except in front of Town Hall Square, were nonexistent.
A block later, I passed the blacksmith shop, and turned right between it and “The Atlantic House”, which was a big gay bar, and hotel, also known as “The A House”, into what was a walkway/alley that ended in a stairway up to First Street. As I made my way to those stairs, at the back of the blacksmith’s …
“Get in here!”