“Children of the Moon”
I was never really a superstitious person. I had a normal upbringing. I’d seen my share of horror films when I was a kid. But, never imagined in my wildest dreams any of the Hollywood fiction was real. I never bought into any of Billy Black’s stories about the Quileute legends down in La Push. Not until the time Jacob had shown me he could changed into a gigantic wolf right in front of my eyes. That image was ingrained in my memory forever. Bella had tried for a little while to keep her secret about being a vampire. That didn’t last too long though. She eventually had to spill the beans when Renesmee reached her second birthday and she looked more like a 5 year old. As I was getting ready for work I took a long look at myself in the mirror. I was getting older. The lines of age seemed to get deeper every day. I was seeing more gray throughout my hair. I kept thinking of my daughter, Bella. How the news of her new life meant that, she was never going to look any older than she did when she turned 18 years old. Then I started to think about Renesmee again. Ah, my little Nessie. My only granddaughter had grown up so fast. Overnight she just grew and grew. She had shot up so fast the Bella and Edward were not able to put her into school with the other kids. Nessie had to be home schooled because of her unique condition…being half human and half vampire. The whole explanation Bella gave me never sat too well in my stomach. Where did I go wrong? I thought I was playing it safe by bringing Bella to Forks to live with me. I thought I could give her a normal life since her mother and I split up. A fresh start. Protect her from the monsters out in the real world. I never thought she would actually fall in love with one. I’m the chief of police for crying out loud! How did I manage to miss all the obvious signs? How the heck did I not see all this? The Cullen’s being vampires, the Quileute being werewolves. What planet was I on? This stuff doesn’t just happen to normal people. These things just couldn’t be real. But all of it was true. I tried to be left out of the loop. I didn’t want to believe any of this. But now Nessie was hitting her 7th birthday and she looked like a high school teenager.
“Oh man…Charlie you really dropped the ball” I said to myself looking back into the mirror. But I couldn’t linger on these facts any longer. I was due into the station in an hour.
The day started out pretty normal… my usual routine. I made myself coffee, had a bite to eat. Read the paper. Stared for a bit at the chair next to me where Bella used to sit reading “Withering Heights” before everything went to hell. Before long it was time to head out to work.
Work had been getting pretty mundane lately. The days seemed to just creep by slower and slower. I hired a new deputy, Mike Turner, even though Forks hadn’t had any incidents in years. No murders, no home invasions, nothing except the occasional fender bender. Mike was a good kid. Twenty five years old straight out of the NYC police academy. It always made me wonder a little why he had traveled all the way to this quiet little town in the state of Washington. I had expected he would have stayed in New York City where all the action was. When I asked him about it in during his interview he told me “New York just had a little too much drama for my taste” I didn’t think to ask him anymore about it. I wasn’t about to tell him any of the hideous things he had missed before he came here. Better not to scare the kid. He was only supposed to be a temporary for the summer tourist season but when the season came to a close I kept him on permanently. I think I hired him just so I would have someone to talk to down at the station. “Oh man… was that a pathetic idea” I said to myself. I was really hoping I wasn’t losing my marbles as I pulled up to the station. “Ok let’s get this day over with” I said to myself walking in through the door.
“Good morning, Mike… anything interesting going on today?” My tone caught Mike as he snapped his head up from his desk to look at me.
“Hey boss! Good morning. Nah all’s quiet on the western front. You have a message from Bella, she asked you to call her when you get a chance” he answered cheerfully.
“Oh, thanks.” I mumbled at him as I flipped for moment at the mail lying on his desk waiting for me to retrieve it.
“Boss, are you going to catch the game over the weekend?” Excitement in his voice. Apparently he couldn’t wait.
“Hope, haven’t been interested lately. And how many times do I have to remind you not to call me boss. It’s been a couple months already since you started here. Seems like I tell you everyday”
“Sorry, Charlie…force of habit.” He responded a little distressed.
“Well break the habit already will you…I’ll be in my office for a bit” I turned with a huff and walked away.
“Sure boss, er, I mean Charlie” I could hear the whoops in his voice again but I ignored him.
I walked away before I did something rash. Like I said Mike is a good kid. A bit annoying sometimes though. I picked up the phone to return Bella’s call.
“Hey Bella honey…you called me” a ring of happiness came across my voice to her.
“Hey dad! How are you? Sorry to call you at work…”
“Nah, it’s okay. What up? How is Edward doing?”
“He’s good...he went with Alice this morning to Seattle. Alice is having a field day planning Nessie’s birthday party. That’s why I called you. I wanted to remind you the party is a noon this Saturday at our place”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the entire world. That reminds me Bella…what are you and Edward giving her for her birthday?”
“It’s kind of a funny story actually… you see she wants to learn how to drive a car. Jacob has been after us for months to let him teach her already. So Edward and I forged her birth certificate and at least let her get a driver’s permit first…you know just in case they get pulled over by you or something. Wouldn’t want you to have to haul your own granddaughter down to the station to call her parents”
“Hah, haa very funny. But seriously do you think she is really ready. I mean I know she looks old enough but Bella she is only turning seven years old”
“I know dad…but come on she’s so advanced mentally. Edward has already started her on college level courses at home here. Plus we were getting tired of listening to her about it. And I think Jacob is planning to surprise her with her first car”
“Really! Why do I have a problem with that suddenly…What kind of car is it?”
“He won’t say anything to me. He asked Edward to keep it a secret. “
“And remind me again how does Edward know and you don’t. Shouldn’t both parents know what’s happening with their daughter at all times?”
“Dad…I told you about this…the mind reading thing. Remember?”
“Oh yeah, I forgot. You have to forgive me Bella…I’m still not used to all this new information”
“Don’t worry dad. It’s no big deal. So what are you getting Nessie?”
“I’m not sure yet. Any ideas? Come on help your old dad out?”
“I’m sure whatever you decide to get she will love”
“Well you’re no help. I’m mean… what is she into these days. Seems like just yesterday she was a little girl…”
“Dad… stop it okay. She’s fine. Really. Do you want me to take care of it?”
“Please do…I had a hard enough time figuring out what to buy you when you were her...er...age”
“No problem dad”
Suddenly Mike popped through the door all anxious.
“Hey Bella can you hold on a moment…” I covered the receiver end of the phone with the palm of my hand.
“What’s up Mike?” I asked a bit irritated by the interruption.
“Hey boss...uh Charlie. We have a Park Ranger holding on line two. Says he needs to speak to you immediately. He quickly looked down hoping I didn’t notice he had slipped again by calling me boss.
“Okay, Mike can you tell him to hold a moment”
“Sure” Mike returned to the other room
“Hey Bella, I’ve got to go I have another call waiting”
“Okay dad. So don’t forget. Saturday, noon, at our place, okay”
“Okay, honey, see you then. Love you”
“Love you too dad, Bye”
I clicked quickly over to the other line.
“Chief Swan here”
“Hey Charlie, Its Hal Dudley up at the Ranger station”
“Hey, Hal. What can I do for you?”
“Charlie we think we have some hikers missing up here. Phil Stevens was making his rounds and came across a camp. Said the tent was shredded up and the camp looked turned upside down. He thinks it might be an animal attack. He found prints everywhere. Some small traces of blood around…but he can’t seem to identify the prints. He said they are not like anything he has ever seen before. Definitely not a bear or predatory cat. We need you to come take a look as soon as you can”
“Okay, Hal…I’m on my way”
“Thanks, Charlie. I’ll meet you at the trail head”
I hung up the phone and headed out of my office to fill Mike in.
“Mike, I’m heading up the mountain to the rangers station to meet Hal Dudley. You hold down the fort till I get back”
“Okay Charlie…no problem. Hey just curious… what happened up there?”
“Couple hikers disappeared apparently. They want me to come take a look”
“Oh, want me to come with you?”
“Nope I got it. I shouldn’t be long. I got my radio on me. In case anything else comes in while I’m out”
“Sure thing. I’ll be here” Mike murmured. Sounding like he was real disappointed.
I was in my cruiser in a flash. Finally some break from the redundant. Not that I was happy to hear that hikers were missing. But at least something to do to get the day moving. I headed up the mountain pass to the mouth of the trail head. Hal Dudley was waiting for me. Like I said before it was getting too quiet around here. Even for me.
I parked off to the side of the trail head. I met up with Hal Dudley. He looked pretty serious.
“Hey Charlie. Thanks for coming. The camps about a mile up on the left this way. Here I’ll show you where it is. Phil Stevens is still trying to follow the tracks away from the camp. Looking to see where this thing was heading.”
“You said he can’t identify the prints”
“Nope…he said it’s the strangest thing. There are big…real big. Kind of like a wolf print. But the stride pattern is all off. According to Phil…he said the thing looks like its walking upright”
“Walking upright? What do you mean?” I asked him.
“Well like I said, Phil thinks it looks like a wolf print. I know we have had our share of weird wolf incidents in the past, but he said there aren’t four distinct paw imprints in the pattern like our wolves before. He said there are only two. Like the wolf was walking on its hind legs or something. So that’s when I decided to call you”
The climb was starting to get steep and narrowed off. I started to get a bit winded at the ever increasing incline. Hal took notice right away.
“Hey Charlie, you okay there?” Hal asked me looking a bit concerned.
“Yeah, I’m okay. Just don’t know why people are always camping so far off the beaten track” I said as my breath got heavier under the increasing climb.
“Yeah I know what you mean. You think out of all the times we tell people not to camp too deep off the trail that someone might listen for a change…city people” he grunted. “It’s not much further though, just up ahead”
“Thank goodness” I replied huffing along thinking to myself again how old I was getting.
As we came through the trees to the clearing I could see the remains of what was once a camp site. As Hal had said earlier, the tent was completely shredded. I saw two sleeping bags thrown about the site. Various articles of clothing were scattered everywhere. The camper’s food was still tied to the tree where they had left it. I thought that was odd at first.
“Hey Charlie, thanks for coming.”
“No problem Phil…Hal was telling me a little about what you have found up here. Care to fill me in on the details”
“Well I came across the camp 2 hours ago. It’s quite a mess I gotta admit. I checked the fire pit. It was still throwing off some warmth. So this had to have happened sometime last night. Looks like two male campers based on the clothing and personal effects on the ground. They were probably on a hunting trip. I found two rifles, but no discharged shell casings. The rifles don’t appear to have used as a means of defense. This must have happened while they were sleeping. I traced the blood trail off to the east about 300 yards…but once it became too densely overgrown I lost the trail. “
“You found animal prints though…can you show me”
“Oh, yeah they are over here”
Phil led Hal and me over to the location where the prints were found. I squatted down near the line of prints to get a closer look. Phil was right; the prints were very unusual. They looked like a two prints crossed over each other at the same time. It looked like a size fifteen barefoot human except the toes looked like wolf or bear. Long nail marks were protruding from the toes deeply set in the soil.
“So chief, any ideas? Do we start looking for Bigfoot the legendary Sasquatch? Phil asked
“Sasquatch? They aren’t real! Hal cackled at Phil and me.
“Your guess is as good as mine, guys. Hey, do you guys have the ability to made a mold or casting of these prints? I would need it, if you could.” I asked Phil
“Sure, I think we can handle that, Charlie. I’ll call down to the ranger station. We’ll send someone out to do some shopping and have the print ready for you soon.” Phil said to me
“Thanks, I’d appreciate it. Listen I’m going to take some pictures in the mean time and try to collect some blood. Can you guys gather up the remnants of the camping gear and bring it to the station. And do your best to keep people out of the area.” I asked
“Sure Charlie. We will do what we can to help.” Hal added
I combed the camp site snapping as many pictures as I could. I was going to have to try and locate the family members of the campers. I got a couple of blood samples and when I was done, I began the long haul back down the mountain to my cruiser. It didn’t settle well with me that we had some unidentified creature out in the woods. When I got back to the station and filled Mike in on the details, I called Billy Black. I wanted to make sure the boys down in La push hadn’t been on the mountain. I picked up the phone and dialed Billy’s house. Luck for me Billy was home.
“Hello?” Billy answered
“Hey Billy, its Charlie.”
“Hey Charlie, what can I do for you?”
“Billy, I got a call about some missing hikers up on the mountain. When I got up there we found some really odd prints. Has there been any unusual activity down at La Push I should be aware of. Have the boys been on the mountain in the last couple of nights?”
“No, Charlie…they haven’t. We haven’t had a need to go up there. Things have been so quiet for so long. The boys have been at Emily’s house every night. If something unusual had been going on Sam would have told me about it.”
“Okay, Billy. Look you’re a good friend. So pass the word along to Sam and the boys to stay off the mountain till I have a better idea of what I’m dealing with here.
“Sure, sure. I’ll let them know.”
“Okay Billy, I’ll talk to you later. But before I go…what’s Jacob been up to. I hear he has a surprise present for Nessie. Do you know what it is?”
“Yeah, Jacob built her a car. A Mustang. He’s been working on it all year. Rebuilt the whole thing”
“A car. Well that’s generous. Okay Billy, thanks and I’ll talk to you soon.”
“Okay Charlie. Bye”
I hung up the phone and shook my head. Jacob was always a good kid. He absolutely loved Nessie. I was grateful that all the feuding had been put behind everyone when Nessie was born. I looked at the clock and realized how late it was getting, so I told Mike I was heading home and left the station. Tomorrow was an important day. I wanted to be well rested. Still my mind kept thinking of the weird print, the trashed campsite, missing hikers and possible Sasquatch running around in the woods. Could the peace that had been around Olympic Peninsula for seven years…be over.