“That’s OK,” Dex said reassuringly. “Most people don’t. Even we have a hard time with it.”
That was an understatement.
Will nodded. “Well, I’m glad then that you are here. I needed some proof that I wasn’t going crazy.”
I suddenly felt a flooding of warmth towards him. “You aren’t going crazy Mr. Lancaster. We won’t leave until we figure this whole thing out.”
“Please, call me Will. And thank you. It helps to hear that.”
“So, Will, what have you been seeing? And when did it start?” Dex prompted. “And do you mind if I get my video camera?”
I had totally forgotten about the filming. Somehow it just felt wrong at this moment. Will, however, just lifted his hand and nodded. “It’s fine. I understand.”
Dex left and quickly came back with his small camcorder in hand and some papers. Much less intrusive than the big number he had filmed me with before. He walked over to Will and plunked the papers in front of him.
“Just need you to sign this. Basically that you don’t object to being on camera…unless you do, which may make things a little trickier.”
Will nodded and signed them after a slight hesitation.
Dex smiled. “Perfect. We’ll see if we can get Bird and the others to sign off on them tomorrow as well. I’d like to interview them.”
See, this is why Dex was in charge. I had no idea about these waivers and whatnot.
Will looked skeptical. “I don’t know if Shan or Miguel will sign them but you’re welcome to try.”
“I got the feeling Miguel won’t be singing that,” I said.
“Oh, you met Miguel already?”
“Yeah,” Dex said as he sat down across from me and flipped on the camera. “Charming fellow.”
Will cleared his throat a few times. “He’s not easy to get along with but he works hard and he’s easy to afford. In better times, I wouldn’t have him here but, well, we don’t have much choice. He’s also had a tough life. It’s hard to judge him.”
Strange, it was easy for me to judge him. I gave Dex a quick look across the table but he was fiddling with the camera.
“And what is Shan’s deal?” Dex asked carefully without looking up.
“Shan?” Will sounded surprised. “Shan’s a good man. He’s been a friend of the family for many, many years. Grew up with Sarah, in town. Smart as whip. Doesn’t say much but he’s easy to get along with. He gets the job done.”
“OK,” Dex raised up the camera and pressed play. The red button stopped flashing. Thankfully, he turned the camera to Will and not to me.
Dex asked him a few questions, mainly about the working logistics of the ranch. How many sheep they had, if they had cattle, when they first started farming, how the economic climate has changed things, the government, the decline of Red Fox, etc. By the time the set-up questions were done, Will had relaxed considerably and I felt pretty empathetic for the guy. I thought I had it bad; I thought times were tough where I lived but seeing this grown man almost get weepy over the decline of his livelihood was something else. Being a native man, in this area of the country wasn’t easy and all the added turmoil was just the piss icing on a cake made of crap.
Dex got down to business. He aimed the camera my way, which made me flinch considerably. My looks had certainly not improved since the last time I looked in the mirror, but I couldn’t be vain about it.
“Start asking questions,” he urged. “About what’s been going on…here…lately.”
You know, I had all day to prepare for what we were doing but somehow it never crossed my mind. Was it procrastination or just lack of attention? I hated how my bad habits were catching up with me.
I took a deep breath and put my faith in Dex’s editing skills. I turned to Will and put on my “investigative reporter” face.
“Tell me, Will, when did you first notice anything unusual happening?”
He sighed reluctantly before saying, “It was a few weeks ago. I was lying in bed and heard something growling. I thought it was a dream at first but the more I listened, the louder it got. It was coming from the door. I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t want to get up but if Sarah was down the hall, she might need my protection. I grabbed my old baseball bat and opened the door. The growling stopped. There was nothing there. I didn’t want to wake up Sarah if I didn’t need to but the next day she said she heard growling too. She also thought it was a dream. Then Bird came over and told us a few sheep had been…ripped to pieces. Three of them, up on the ridge. Heads, legs…all separated. But the sheep hadn’t been eaten at all. It’s like whoever did this, did it for fun.”
His story gave me the creeps. Didn’t help that the house suddenly felt so large and dark.
“Who do you think did it?”
“Obviously coyotes did. Or wolves, though they are rare in this area. But it just doesn’t make sense. They would have eaten the sheep. Especially before winter. Now is the time to fatten up.”
“You don’t think young punks or kids from town did it? People can be pretty fucked up when it comes to animals,” I said, remembering a bunch of cat-killings we had in our neighborhood a few years ago.
He shook his head. “No. I know the kids in this town sometimes don’t have anything better to do, but they would never do anything like that.”
“You don’t have any enemies that would want to hurt the ranch?”
He shook his head. I believed him. He was a hard man to dislike.
“What about Sarah?” Dex asked carefully.
Will managed a smile. “Who would want to hurt a blind woman?”
I resisted the urge to exchange a sarcastic glance with Dex. This was on camera, after all.
Will continued on, “Also, a few days ago a bunch of kids were roaming the hills above here. Doing what, I don’t know. Sometimes they go looking for Navajo artifacts to sell. They said they were attacked by a pair of foxes.”
“Foxes?” I repeated. Cute little foxes?
“That’s what they say. I think they meant to say coyotes but even that is strange. Coyotes never attack people, unless it’s an infant and alone. Never heard anything like that before. I’m sure if you go to the pub, maybe not tonight but tomorrow night, you’ll find them. Ask around.”
“So, people and sheep have been attacked by canines, basically? And you heard one in the house…”
“And saw one in the house.”
“Right…” I didn’t really want to be staying in the house anymore.
“It was right before Maximus arrived to do the reading. I was sitting in the living room all night because of the rock throwing-”
Dex kicked me under the table. “He’ll get to it,” he hushed.
I glared at him though the camera was on Will. Dex motioned for him to continue.
“And I heard something creak on the upper step. I called out for Sarah, thinking it was her. Obviously. Who else would it be? No answer. And from the living room, I can’t see the stairs. But I heard a snuffling noise. Then the clack of nails on the floor. Then the shadow of an animal came around the corner.”
He pointed around the corner to where the dining room floor met the living room. I shivered.
“I couldn’t see it clearly but it certainly looked like a coyote. It wasn’t all that big but the hairs on its back were standing up a lot higher than normal. It was like its coat was about two feet long. I couldn’t see its eyes either. They didn’t glow. It was just blank. I thought maybe it didn’t even have eyes, just empty holes. I didn’t know what to do so I froze. The rock throwing continued all the while too but the animal didn’t notice. Finally, it went around to the kitchen and disappeared. Then the noise stopped. I must have sat there for ten minutes before I gathered enough strength to run up to Sarah and see if she was all right. She was fine. Asleep.”
“And the rock throwing…someone’s just throwing rocks at the house?” I asked.
“Yes, the house. Sometimes the barn. Sometimes the worker’s quarters. I know Miguel has heard it.”
“Where do they sleep by the way? I don’t think I saw it earlier.”
“There’s a small house behind the big barn. It’s hidden by some trees, privacy you know. Nothing fancy but they all get their own rooms. Well, Shan and Miguel. Bird lives in town.”
I nodded and looked at Dex for feedback. I had no idea if I was asking everything I should. He sensed my gaze and brought his eyes off the display screen to meet mine. Then he paused. His eyes shifted left, fixed on a point past my shoulder.
I immediately felt afraid. I opened my mouth to say something but he slowly shook his head, keeping his eyes on the spot. I turned my head and looked in to the dark kitchen behind me. I couldn’t make out anything but shadows.
I looked back at Dex and at Will. Will had his ear cocked, listening. Dex raised his finger and motioned for me to stay quiet. He picked up the camera and aimed it at the kitchen.
I looked again. Still, I saw nothing. So I listened. And then I heard it. A small tap at the kitchen window. Followed by another tap. I felt very uneasy.
It was as if someone stood outside the window and tapped a single finger on the pane. It was low, quick and sporadic. It could have almost been a tree branch bumping in the wind but there was no tree.
We were surrounded by a wall of sound, the taps, clattering, rattling of rocks falling on the roof and flying at the windows. The sound was deafening.
“Holy shit!” exclaimed Dex. He jumped up and ran for the kitchen.
I looked at Will, confused and scared. “These are the rocks?”
His eyes were wide. “They’ve never been this loud.”
He got up and went after Dex. Naturally I couldn’t sit alone at the table while this storm of sonic violence engulfed the house, so I got up and ran over to join them in the kitchen.
Dex switched the night vision on the camera and was aiming it at the window, which was physically being shaken. You could see stones bouncing off the glass and ricocheting back into the darkness.
“This is unbelievable,” Dex said, barely audible, and beckoned for me to join him by the window. Though the rocks seemed to be coming harder, being beside him felt safer than hanging in the kitchen doorway with my back exposed to the depths of the lonely house, so I scuttled over and sandwiched myself between the two men.
Up close, you couldn’t see anything. It was a hailstorm of rocks. But only a few were actually hitting the window. It seemed like a cloud had opened up above the house with the roof taking the brunt of it.
“So this isn’t normal?” I yelled above the noise.
“No!” Will shouted back. “It’s never this bad.”
“We’ve made it angry by being here,” Dex said cryptically.
“It?!” I cried out. What the fuck was “it?” A rock shower was not the work of a poltergeist. Opened cupboards were the work of a poltergeist. I didn’t know what the hell we were dealing with.