ASN 4.4 A Blur in the Woods

by Matt P.

The Richards house sat in a nicer neighborhood of the city, near an area of fairly heavy woods and a lake. The houses that actually fronted the woods or the lake were desperately expensive—it was where Monica’s family lived—but the houses a little bit away had been surprisingly affordable. Siobhan’s jokes about the house being built on a Native American graveyard were funnier before they started learning the truth about Border.

“I think it’s coming from the woods,” Monica said quickly. Walter nodded, and moved to the closet to pull out his coat and his shoulder holster. He shrugged in to them as Andre and Leah did the same, and Ryan all but shoved him out of the way to grab his. All three police officers, and Ryan, moved to the door without drawing their weapons—but all three police officers drew small flashlights from their coats.

“Got a light?” Walter asked as they opened the door and began spilling on to the porch. As they did they heard the sound again—definitely a scream, not to be confused with anything else, and definitely coming from the woods. Ryan shook his head.

“No need. Running or driving?” He asked, and Walter glanced in the direction it came from. Leah apparently had better ears, and a better mental map of the area, shook her head quickly. Inside, the phone began to ring.

“Driving gets us to the woods faster, but on a weird side; gotta run. Keeping up with PT?” She asked, giving a little grin to Ryan. They walked toward the edge of the porch, and as he did so Walter turned around to the house in time to catch Siobhan trying to sneak out behind them.

“Stay here,” he told his daughter, in his most commanding voice—the one even she would recognize as ‘the voice not to be messed with’ that he only used in emergencies. She pouted, but started slinking back to the door. Walter looked inside past her, to Antigone who was standing by the phone. “Whoever it is, I’m not here,” he told her, while beginning to match action to word and begin jogging in the direction of the screaming.

“It’s Tums!” Antigone called out after him, which drew a laugh from Walter as they ran out of earshot.

“Never thought I’d be happy for screaming,” Walter snorted as they ran.

True to Leah’s word, the roads initially ran them toward the woods but then turned off, and they ended up having to dodge around houses and down a very narrow alley between a row in order to get right in to the woods—but once they were there it was clear the road they had been on had long since turned away. They had only gotten a couple of odd looks from people in kitchens, but hadn’t even stopped to flash their badges.

There hadn’t been another scream since they started running, and as they hit the edge of the woods their flashlights came up to begin scanning the area. “Leah, you and Andre go twenty feet out; Ryan and I will keep going straight.” Two flashlights bobbed in agreement, and the two officers split off. Walter and Ryan exchanged a look. Then both men drew the pistols out of their coats, turned on the flashlights attached to the Picatinny rail on the bottom of their pistols. With that done, they resumed advancing carefully.

Walter was pleased with how well Andre and Leah did in the woods, both of them moving with a care and precision, and Ryan was as silent as he could have expected—and as he remembered. Neither man spoke as they moved, easily falling back in to the habits of covering one another that had come wit long practice and work together.

Which is why both men were so unprepared when a nearly invisible blur slammed into Walter, and sent him sprawling.

**** ****

Siobhan paced behind the couch again for the fifth time, shaking her head from side to side in anger. “It isn’t right. We should be out there helping—we can do something to help!” She protested.

Monica’s response was a flat look, and a shake of her head. “So you want to go out there and chase something in the dark.” When Siobhan nodded eagerly, Monica’s head shook again in reproach. “Siobhan, this is Border. You do not go chasing random things in the woods at night in Border, unless you want to get turned in to…what was that phrase you’re so fond of…” she paused in faux-consideration. “Oh right. Chunky salsa.”

Siobhan made a ‘pff’ noise, and waved her hand. “I can pull a sword out of my chest, and then there’s the dog. We’d be fine,” she reassured, albeit with a look on her face that was not entirely sure. For a moment she saw flames in a hallway, a dark and inky blackness spreading all around her, and the face of her mother begging her to die. She shuddered, and reached out a hand to steady herself on the back of the couch.

“Whoa,” Lacey said quickly, bounding up at the same time as Antigone and moving to support her. Monica, only a moment later, went and pulled a bottle of water from the refrigerator at the sight of her pale face. “You alright, Von?”

Siobhan nodded, taking the water when Monica offered it and draining a long slug of it. “Yeah,” she muttered after a second. “Just…not feeling well all of a sudden.” All three of the other girls stared at her as she moved to sit down, and Siobhan sighed. “Bad memories.”

Monica gave that a look that was somehow even more flat then the previous one. “Are you going to tell us at some point what really happened when you two worked at the hospital?” Siobhan started to respond with her standard brush off, but then she saw the look in Monica’s eyes—a very no-nonsense look, or at least a taking no nonsense look—and the one on Antigone’s face. She sighed, putting her hands against her face to steady herself.

“It was so ugly, and so weird, and we haven’t wanted to tell you because for all we know it will be almost as terrible for you,” Siobhan explained. Lacey put her hand on Siobhan’s shoulder, which was expected from the sensitive young woman—it was Monica’s hand a moment later that was more surprising, as she was less outwardly expressive.

“We’re your friends, Siobhan,” Monica said softly. “Do I need to be really cliche and say you can tell us anything?” She then smirked. “We helped you fight in the basement of our high school and then lie about it. Come on.”

Siobhan and Antigone shared another look, on uncertain and one pleading. Antigone needed to share things, and commiserate; Siobhan had a much stronger need to keep things internal. But she nodded.

“Fine,” Siobhan acquiesced. “Let’s talk about what goes bump in the night.”