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Friday, November 16, 2012

Dogged by the Curse 10

Chase stumbled down the staircase from
His room above the tobacconist shop,
Sleep still heavy on his eyelids.
It was early, much too early for
The heavy knocking at his door.
What kind of fool would wake a man this early?
He staggered to the door and snatched it open,
Prepared to give this fool a sound tongue-lashing…
But stopped, dumbstruck, facing Constable Garrett.
"Mr. Chase?" Garrett asked. "Mr. Simon Chase?"

"Why, y-yes, Constable," Chase mumbled,
Trying to appear more sleepy than shocked.
"Forgive me, I'm not used to customers
This early. What can I do for you?"

"I'm sorry to bother you, sir,"
The Constable said, "but this is important."

"By all means, come on in," Chase said,
Stepping aside and motioning awkwardly.
"Have a seat at the counter. You look stressed;
I'll brew us both some tea."

"Thank you, Mr. Chase," he said, removing
His hat and nodding his head as he entered.
"My morning's already been quite long."

As he brewed the tea Chase asked – as
Nonchalantly as possible –
"Does the cause of your long morning
Have something to do with me?"

"I'm not sure," the Constable said, accepting
A cup of tea with a nod of his head.
"You've heard about the animal attacks?"

"Of course. My customers talk of little else.
Why do you ask?" Chase hoped he didn't sound
Unduly interested. He feared he did.

"A small group of revelers left the tavern
Late last night – a surprise to the owner,
Who thought them far too drunk to sit
Aperch a barstool, let alone stand long enough
To leave the tavern. But leave they did.
Supposedly they spoke of going fishing.
And when they didn't make it home last night,
The wife of one complained to me at dawn.
I feared they might have perished in the river,
So I took several villagers to search."

"And did you find them, Constable?" Chase asked,
Uncertain where this little speech was leading.

"I did," he said, "and all were fine. They never
Made it to the river. Too much beer!
The poor sots fell asleep beside the path;
We found them trembling, sound asleep and
Drenched in morning dew."

Chase squinted at the Constable. "That's good…
But tell me: What has this to do with me?"

The Constable looked up, and Chase could tell
That Garrett hoped to find an answer also.
"Our drunkard friends are fine –" he paused and
Studied Chase a moment "—but other men
Fared not so well. We found their bodies,
Victims of an animal attack
Or so we think – the wounds match well to those
We found on other victims recently.
The bodies were mostly a bloody mess but
One of the villagers thought he knew one
From your shop… a man named Burgher."

"Burgher, Burgher…" Chase looked thoughtful.
He murmured the name as if it dangled
Tantalizingly just out of memory's reach.
He gently bit his lower lip, then asked,
"Was Burgher about so tall –" he held his hand
About chest level "– and slightly balding?"

Garrett nodded. "That would be the man."

"I didn't know him well," Chase lied.
Staring into space, he added,
"He rarely spoke except to make a purchase.
Strange little man… preferred snuff to cigars."
Then, looking back at Garrett, he asked,
"You said there was more than one body?"

"Indeed," Garrett said. "We found nine altogether."

"NINE?" Chase blurted before he could catch
Himself. He couldn't believe it.
The beast had killed Burgher's whole team!
Then he came to himself and,
Aware of the Constable's studious gaze,
Chase added, "Good God, man! Is anyone safe?"

Mistaking his angry outburst for fear,
The Constable said, "Relax, Mr. Chase.
As long as you stay in your home after dark,
You should be alright; it hunts in the woods,
Not in town. In the meantime,
I've sent for some help – a man well-acquainted
With problems like this. The beast isn't long
For this world." He slid off the barstool.
"Thanks for your help… and the tea.
I'll keep you informed." And with that, he left.

But now Chase was certain of one thing.
It made no sense, but he couldn't escape
The conclusion: The beast had singled him out.
Why else was it killing only his men?
Something would have to be done… and soon!

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