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They say that everyone has a case that haunts them. Personally, if it’s just one case, then clearly, whoever “they” are isn’t doing very good police work. Being a detective is gritty and bleak. You aren’t dealing with happy endings, you’re dealing with the cold hard truth. Sure, every now and again, you’ll get an easy case—the missing kid who just so happens to be at a friend’s house. Or the argument turned bad where the bullet just happens to miss every vital organ. Open and shut, everyone goes home with a smile on their face or at least the life they were given.

But that’s not the norm. Something you learn quickly from this job is how different we all are. Each person taking you down a wholly unique path filled with their own challenges. Each time you try and understand the person you’re dealing with. But most of the time, you never really do. Even if you “solve” a case, you’ve opened doors that can never be shut, and just like that, you’re now involved in the lives of people that extend beyond a court date. Someone doesn’t stop being dead after a guilty verdict. A woman doesn’t stop crying after her abuser is sentenced. And a person doesn’t stop being missing just because you moved on to another case.

At the end of the day, if you can’t cope with being haunted by what’ll eventually amount to a hell of a lot more than one case, then this isn’t the job for you. That being said, when the case of a missing girl was casually dropped on my desk one rainy August afternoon, I was less than reluctant to make it a priority.

“Don’t ignore that one, Smith.” the woman hovering above me said sternly with her finger firmly pressed down on the stack of paper.

Detective Eveline Joss had been hard on me from day one. I’m not quite sure what started our “rivalry,” but from the second we had our first conversation, I knew that she’d had a whole life of being a hard ass. Naturally, being someone who likes to push people’s buttons, it made her fun to mess with, which in turn forced her to push me harder. But this time around, I could tell she wasn’t in any sort of mood to play.

“Chief wants you on this case immediately. He said if you don’t make progress with it, then he’s coming for me, which means I’m coming for you.”

I looked at the papers on my desk and quickly thumbed through them, scratching at my short beard as I went. “Missing kid? Shit, OK. I see why he wants me on this. But why in the hell does he think I need a babysitter?”

She shrugged. “Not sure. Chief is just really set on this thing getting looked at.”

As I started to skim the documents, I quickly realized there wasn’t much to go on. Fay Mizuki was your typical fifteen-year-old girl. From what I saw, not much stood out, and that was the problem. All that we really had to go on was some interviews with known acquaintances, some known locations, and statements from the family. This was odd. Why would a girl who lived an otherwise boring routine life just disappear? I didn’t feel like she seemed like the type of girl to run away independently, so it appeared obvious one of two things was true. Everything we knew about her was wrong. Or she was taken.

It wasn’t much to go on but boiling down a disappearance to one of two scenarios immediately cut out many potential dead-ends. And by the next day, I planned to have it down to one.

I could feel determination starting to fill my body. In response, I took a big gulp of the cold coffee sitting near my computer. As I began to furiously type away as I could feel inspiration starting to make the neurons in my brain fire like an old Western shootout. Eveline had seen me make this change before. As soon as she noticed me going into “work-mode,” she turned away without a word and let me get down to brass tacks. I think I even caught what I thought was a slight smile as she let me do my thing.

And in doing my thing, I found exactly what I was looking for. Absolutely nothing. Even when doing a deep dive into her immediate and extended family, there wasn’t a single iota of noticeable information. These people were spotless. Not even so much as a traffic ticket to speak of.

When I reviewed some of the documents I had been given in more detail, I noticed a trend in those interviewed. They had all come from spots that Fay was known to frequent, but the same things said were practically the same. “Quiet. Polite. Never stuck out from her group of girlfriends.” If I didn’t know any better, I’d think they didn’t even know she existed. It almost seemed like they were just talking about some generic teenager. The only person who had slightly more to say was the owner of an Italian place. He mentioned that she and her family visited the restaurant a lot and that Fay seemed really close to her parents. Unlike a typical teen, Fay engaged them. She wanted to have a close relationship with her folks and never took the opportunity to be out with them for granted by being on her phone. If only all kids felt like that, but I digress.

Either way, this was all useful information. I had an idea of who Fay was. While I’d still do my due diligence on the facts, I knew what I was looking for. I was looking for the thing or person that stuck out from the blandness.

However, I also knew I wasn’t going to do that by talking to the people accustomed to seeing that side of her. By the next morning, I was drinking warm coffee in the office of her principal, Ms. Thompson.

I could immediately tell that Ms. Thompson was a no-nonsense type of person. She came off as mean-spirited. Her sharp tongue betrayed the image of the short, almost sweet-looking old lady one could easily mistake her for.

“I already talked to the cops. I don’t know why you’re here.” She said, waving me off.

“And I understand that, Ms. Thompson.” I started. “But I’d just like to ask some follow up questions if you don’t mind.”

This must’ve offended her because she stopped typing at her computer and gave me an “Are you serious” type of look. I could tell through her dark lenses that she was rolling her eyes, and she made it a point to say her next words slowly, “I. Don’t. Know. What. Happened. I know your people are slow, but that should be pretty straightforward.”

Being a black detective in a very non-black area, you always expect some people to treat you differently, but her uh… “bluntness” caught me off guard.

As much as I wanted to cuss her out right there and remind her that I don’t give a damn that she’s an educator because I’m still a cop, I knew I needed her information. I instead opted to smile and forced out a fake laugh. “Look, I really don’t want to take up much of your time. If you say you don’t know anything about her disappearance, then fine. But surely you know if she’s been into any trouble. Maybe some kind of an altercation with a teacher or classmate?”

To her credit, she actually stopped to think for a moment. “Her history teacher, Mr. Berkley. He’s mentioned her name a couple of times, and I thought it was odd because she’s never had issues in any other class. Maybe he knows something.”

Bingo. A hint at a break from her norm. “And when could I see him?” I asked.

“If you come back at lunch, he should be in Room 2105.” She turned her attention back to her computer. Her hand waved frantically towards the door, signifying that she’d done her part in setting me in the right direction and that I needed to leave her alone.

I took the hint and walked towards the exit, but I couldn’t help myself from stopping at the door. “You know, I was always the fastest kid in my grade. Though when you’re in your thirties, I guess you’re not as fast as you used to be. But I’d imagine that’s something you figured out many decades ago. Tragic.” And with that, I slipped out the door, only glancing back to see the look of pure anger she had plastered on her face.

When twelve o’clock rolled around, I returned for my rendezvous with Mr. Berkley.

I strolled into the messy classroom and noticed the balding shorter man tucked away behind his desk with a stack of papers neatly placed beside him. I waited for a moment by the door, but it wasn’t until I intentionally cleared my throat to get his attention did he break from his work to look up at me.

“Oh!” He said, startled, jumping a bit in his seat. “I apologize, I didn’t see you there. You must be the ‘asshole’ detective I was told needed to talk to me.”

“Asshole detective?” I chuckled. “Maybe Monday through Sunday, but other than that, I swear I’m the nicest guy in the world!”

He laughed, and the mood seemed to lift a bit. “What can I do for you, Detective, uh…?”

“Smith. Detective Smith.” I said, pulling out a chair from a nearby desk while opening up the notes app on my phone. “You’re Fay Mizuki’s history teacher, right? I’m assuming you’ve heard the news of her disappearance. Is there anything of note that you can tell me about her?”

He thought for a moment. “No, not really. Fay is a pretty good student. Does all her work, shows up on time, gets good grades.”

“All of that would seem to make her better than just a pretty good student, yeah? I heard from my sources that she’s a straight-A student, so surely she’s better than that.”

He shrugged. “I suppose. Nothing major separates Fay from the great students in my opinion.”

“Nothing major? Tell me about the minor stuff then.”

“Really just some disciplinary stuff. She’s very talkative in class, and I’ve had to have a few conversations with her about being disruptive.”

“Everything I’ve read about her says that she’s a quiet girl. Seems a little odd that she’d be a chatterbox in your class all of a sudden.”

“Not that I don’t believe you. But things change when your best friend is in your class.”

“Best friend? Do you have the name of this person?”

“Yeah, Hannah Sterling. Sixteen, blonde hair, freckles, green eyes, I think she swims with Fay on the water polo team.”

Interestingly enough, Hannah hadn’t been in any of the reports I’d read. How could we have missed a best friend? I wanted to push further on this fact, but as a fifty-year-old teacher, Mr. Berkley didn’t have much insight into the personal lives of these kids.

“Hannah Sterling?” I pushed. “From what I’ve come to understand, she’s not someone that I know of to be in Fay’s main group of friends, and yet they’re constantly chatting it up?”

“They seem pretty friendly in class, that’s all I can say.” He said. “Whether or not they hang out outside of it isn’t really my place of expertise, but I always assumed they were close.”

The well of information there was running dry. After a couple more questions, I thanked Mr. Berkley for his help and proceeded to make my way back to the car. On my way out, I sent text messages to my officers back at the station to find me all the info they could on Hannah Sterling. I also asked them to check-up on the people we had interviewed to see if they had recognized the name or the description.

By the time evening rolled around, I had exactly what I needed. A location and all the pertinent background knowledge to break the case wide open.

Hannah actually had quite a history. Drug dealing, running away, multiple suspensions from school, and a long list of other more minor offenses. She was a young girl on the wrong path. Not exactly someone you’d expect Fay to be associated with. And apparently, she wasn’t someone her family expected her to be associated with either.

From a follow-up interview that one of my officers did, I learned that Fay and Hannah were friends in Middle School, but Fay’s parents disapproved of the friendship and had thought the two split ways. Even Fay’s close friends had no idea that the two were friendly.

This was the abnormality. The thing that stuck out from the blandness. And likely the key to where to find Fay.

At seven on the dot, I was knocking on her door and flashing a badge. Having seen this kind of thing many times before, Hannah’s parents didn’t put up much of a fuss when I said I needed to speak with her privately.

In the next couple of minutes, the young girl was sitting across from me in her living room, seemingly trying to make my heart stop with her stare. Obviously, the last thing she wanted to do was be talking to the police, even with her friend’s life potentially at stake.

“Whatever it is, I didn’t do it.” She said with no hint of emotion in her voice. She simply stared forward at me with her arms crossed.

“Well, I guess my work here is done then.” I joked. There wasn’t even a hint of a smile from the girl in response. I cleared my throat and followed up, “Right. Look. All I care about is finding Fay, and I have reason to believe that you can help me with that.”

She scoffed. “Why? I didn’t have anything to do with what happened. Maybe you should go look for the person that’s actually responsible.”

Obviously, I wasn’t getting through and needed to try a different strategy.

“That’s fair. Look, I believe you, and I’m not here to get you into any trouble. I just wanna know some things that I don’t think other people are willing or able to tell me. Whatever you say won’t be used against you. But I need your help.”

“And how do I know that you’re not just saying that to get me to talk?”

“Because you have my word that if you get caught for anything in the future, I’ll be in your corner defending you. I know you’ve had a rough life, and it would surely behoove you to have someone on the inside that can vouch for you if you work with me, yeah?”

She raised an eyebrow at this and thought for a moment. I could tell my proposal piqued her interest “I still don’t know how I can help.”

I quickly pulled out my notes app and replied, “All I need you to do is lead me down the right path. First, why don’t Fay’s parents know about you if you two are still friends?”

She shrugged. “We don’t really advertise our friendship. Fay is very much a goody-goody, and it’d be bad for her image if we were seen hanging out, but I do really care about her, and we have fun together.”

“So you’d say you make it work behind closed doors?”

“I guess. We see each other on the weekends when she’s not with her other friends. Mostly in secret spots I know of around the area.”

“And where would those spots be?”

A slight laugh escaped her, and I could see her body start to relax. “I’m definitely not telling you that, cop. Doesn’t matter, though. She wouldn’t be there anyway. Fay is terrible with directions. Plus, she wouldn’t have a reason to visit without me.”

“Still, though. A young person breaking from her boring life is exciting. I’d imagine she wasn’t just hanging out. I’d think she would also be looking to you for other uh… New… things into her life.”

“I mean, she started smoking and drinking a little bit recently.”

“Really? You’re underage girls. Where on earth are you getting the drugs from?”

“Weed comes from a lot of places.” She said with a slight smile. “Can’t say exactly. The alcohol is usually brought by this guy we’ve been smoking with.”

“A third player in all of this,” I whispered to myself. I leaned in for more details and asked, “A guy you’ve been smoking with? Where’d you meet him, and what’s his name?”

“We just know some of the same people. I think his name is like, Walter something? Seventeen, tall, pale skin, dark circles under his eyes like he hadn’t slept well in weeks. I think he goes to one of the schools around here.”

“Did he and Fay talk a lot?”

“Fay talked about him a little bit to me, and I thought there was some chemistry there but nothing I really ever looked into.”

After about a half-hour more of asking standard questions and exchanging phone numbers, I left with my mind made up. The threads were leading me to this Walter kid. Something in my gut told me he knew exactly where Fay was, and one way or another, I was going to get that information out of him.

The next day in the office was a mad rush of writing reports and trying to do my research on just who this kid could be. But just going off of a name and vague description wasn’t enough. There wasn’t anything in our databanks that helped me, and I was afraid I’d have to go through every kid with a first name beginning with W in the area.

Frustrated, I decided to step outside to take a break, but before I reached the door, I bumped into Detective Joss.

“Smith!” She said a little too forcefully. “How’s your case coming along? It’s been a couple days, and you know what they say about 48 hours. You’re not slacking, are you?”

I shook my head and threw my hands up. “I’m making progress. I think I’m close to it. There’s just one little detail to solve, and after that, I’m off to the races.”

She leaned against a wall and sipped her coffee. “Oh? And what’s that?”

“Some kid named Walter something. Seventeen, tall, pale skin, dark hair, circles under his eyes. Apparently, he’s from the area, but I have no idea where to find this guy.”

She thought for a moment and snapped her fingers. Without a word, she ran off. A couple minutes later, she came back and motioned for me to follow.

A couple of the officers were sitting around a computer with a picture pulled up of a rather rough-looking young boy.

“This the guy you’re looking for, detective?” The younger of the two officers asked in a distinctly New York accent. “We’ve had some calls about him before. He’s run away from home a couple times, and we had to bring him back. Nothing else on the rap sheet, though. Walter Crane is the full name.”

Hoping it was who I was looking for, I snapped a picture of the boy and sent it to Hannah. Within minutes I had a response confirming that it was indeed the same kid.

My eyes grew wide reading her text. Immediately I grabbed the address for Walter’s school from the guys at the computer and bolted out the front door, shouting that I owed them big on the way out.

I made the drive from the station to the school in record time. In what felt like seconds, I went from demanding that the principal grab Walter to sitting down with the kid in a private room.

Right off the bat, I could tell he was nervous. I didn’t even have to say Fay’s name for him to know precisely why we were sitting across from each other.

Without saying a word, I wanted him to know that I was sizing him up. But it was apparent I didn’t have to do much to intimidate him. It was like Hannah said, it looked like he hadn’t slept in weeks. He was skinny, smelled like cigarettes, and struggled to make eye contact. But even beyond that, his general unkempt look, loose-fitting clothes, and pale skin belied a kid that was obviously struggling with something pretty serious. No visible bruises to indicate that there was abuse, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t any going on. Either way, something was deeply wrong.

“I um… Don’t know why I’m here.” He eeked out.

I wasn’t in the mood for games. “Look, kid. A girl is missing, and I have reason to believe that you know something.”

“Why me?”

I sighed. “Tell me how you know Hannah Sterling. Don’t lie either. I’ve talked to enough people to know the truth here, and I swear it’s gonna look awful for you if you start jerking me around.”

He fell for the bluff. “Okay! Okay! She sold me drugs.”

“What kind of drugs?” I demanded.

“Um… Just weed.” He replied softly.

“Did you ever smoke weed with Hannah?”

“Sometimes, yeah. Why?”

“Was there ever anybody else there? And if so, then what was their name?”

“Yeah, a girl named Fay.”

Bingo. “Did you ever talk to Fay outside of smoking with Hannah?”

He started to choke up. His hand twitched for a moment, and I could see he was debating whether or not to come clean.

I realized I might’ve been pushing too hard and pulled back the intensity a bit. “Look, Walter. I know this is hard, and I don’t want you to worry about getting into trouble or anything.” I leaned in closer and put my hand on his shoulder. “But, right now, I don’t care about any of the other stuff. I just need to find out where Fay is. Please help me do that.”

He shook his head. “You don’t understand, I… You won’t believe me.”

I leaned back in my chair and took on a softer tone, “Try me. Start from the beginning.”

He took a deep inhale before a slow exhale and nodded. “I’ve been dealing with some… Stuff. No. Some…. thing. This “thing” has kept me up for the past couple of months. I’ve been really scared. I… It said it’d take me to its home just like it took other people unless I gave it something to take my place. It visited every night. I knew it was getting closer and closer to taking me. It reminded me every damn day of what it wanted. I started buying weed from Hannah to help me sleep, and that’s where I met Fay. She’s a really nice girl, just really naive. I could tell that she liked me a bit. And I… I used that. I’m so sorry that I did, but I needed someone to take my place. I told her I knew a cool spot we could hang out at, so I drove her out there, and that’s where you’ll find her… At its home. I promise I didn’t hurt her, but you have to see.”

None of this made any damn sense to me. I couldn’t tell if Walter was admitting to murder, maybe with an accomplice or if he was hinting at something else entirely. I must’ve not even noticed how long I was in my own thoughts while taking notes because before I knew it, the kid was rocking back and forth, crying about how sorry he was.

I tried calming him down but to no avail. The best I could do was wait until his panic attack was over, but even then, he profusely stated how he never hurt Fay and that he was just doing what he could to survive. The kid was spooked out of his mind, and suddenly, his appearance made more sense. This was caused by stress and a hell of a lot of it.

Eventually, I managed to get an address for the place and got all of Walter’s contact info, telling him I’d be in touch. On the way out, I took a few minutes to try and convince the principal that she should send Walter home for the day. For whatever happened, he was a teenage boy under a lot of stress. I had no qualms about bringing him to justice if and when the time came, but I also felt sympathy for whatever he was going through.

She seemed to respect my suggestion, but I’m not sure if she ever actually did anything.

Either way, that was a secondary concern. At the moment, I had my location about a forty-five-minute drive away, and nothing was going to stop me from getting there.

I jumped in my car and burned rubber towards the address. My attention never once broke from the road ahead of me, and my mind was solely focused on finding Fay, not a single stay thought entered my brain.

When I finally arrived at the nearly dilapidated house out in the middle of a random plot of land surrounded by nothing, I truly started to fear the worst. By the looks of it, it was an old abandoned two-story farmhouse. I’d done this job long enough to know that with nothing around for miles, it’d be the perfect spot for a murder.

Even standing a reasonable distance from the old farmhouse, I could catch a whiff of a pungent odor. As I walked closer to it, the stench only intensified.

“What the hell?” I thought to myself as I went for the door. It only took a slight nudge for it to open. But what I saw inside I… Jesus, it was fucking horrible.

The light from outside poured in through the various holes in the farmhouse, illuminating the various dead bodies strewn about. Most of them appeared to be animals, but some were undoubtedly human, and most were very young.

“What kind of sick bastard would do something like this?” I thought. I pulled my gun and shouted for whoever was there to come out slowly with their hands up. I waited for about thirty seconds, with no response from anywhere in the building. I shouted again, and still no response. But despite the silence, I knew I wasn’t alone.

To this day, I don’t know what force drove me to do it. But, I had this indescribable urge to look up. For a moment, I thought I saw what appeared to be a massive four-legged spider scurry from the ceiling into one of the rooms on the second floor. My brain couldn’t quite process what I had just seen. If that was a spider, it was easily as long as a polar bear. It had to at least be nine feet, with legs easily matching the length of its body. But the more I thought about it, the more I questioned, what spider had smooth skin with a head of long black human hair?

Gun pointed in front of me, I ran up a set of dangerously old stairs and followed the thing into the room I had seen it enter. What stood before me was most definitely not a spider. It was a woman.

She did stand at approximately the nine-foot height I assumed when I first got a glance. Her body was rail thin with loose-hanging grey skin and arms that dragged behind her on the ground. But it wasn’t just the impossible proportions of her body that terrified me to my core. It was looking at her eyeless face and rubbery lips. The corners of which drooped far past her chin in a permanently distorted frown. Inside her mouth, it appeared as though she was sucking on what I thought was a skull like a cartoonishly sized jawbreaker. Her long grey tongue wrapped entirely around it, and milky, viscous saliva dripped from her mouth as she moved it around. I wanted to gag at the sight of her.

My body was frozen in fear. I didn’t know what to do or how to react. For a moment, we just stared at each other until I heard moaning. My eyes darted from the monster of a woman to the source of the sound. In the same room was a young girl. One that I recognized. Fay Mizuki. She was lying on the ground, her eyes rolling into the back of her head. It looked as though she was covered in dirt. I finally found her. But I knew this thing wouldn’t just let me take her with me.

I had to make a quick decision. It was now or never. I fired off multiple rounds into the thing and rushed towards Fay to grab her and get the hell out. But only after taking a couple steps forward, I found myself flying backward and smashing back onto the ground. Despite her lack of apparent muscle, she was incredibly strong. I tried scrambling for my gun, but she snatched where it had fallen beside me and flung it into some dark corner. Now, I was utterly defenseless.

By the time I realized what happened, I felt the woman’s ice-cold fingers double-wrapped around my throat. She carried me to the first floor and slammed me against the splintering wall. I struggled to breathe against her might, and as my vision started to blur, I could see her puffy grey face come close to mine.

The two words she uttered through rotten breath in her deep voice chilled me to the bone. “Get. Out.” I knew she wasn’t going to tell me again. And realistically, I had no means of objecting. I took one glance at the room on the second floor and saw Fay looking down at me with tears in her eyes.

And what did I do? I’d like to say that I stayed, and like a good cop, I fought against the odds to do the right thing. But no. One more glance at the figure towering above me and I… I ran. I ran like a fucking coward with his tail between his legs.

The fear of the moment and of that god damn “thing” was too much. I didn’t even look back at the farmhouse until I was safely locked in my car and calling for backup. The desperation in my voice as I begged them to save me from that monster was apparent.

It took a while for them to arrive. All the while, I was trying to process just what the hell had happened.

When the officers arrived, I broke down what had happened, and they just looked at me in disbelief. When I realized they didn’t actually believe me, I just told them to shoot any damn thing that moved in there except for the little girl.

I watched as they disappeared into the house, but no sense of comfort came over me. Moments later, I saw a familiar vehicle pull up beside me and a gravely voice yelling out my name.

Turning to the large figure behind me, I asked, “Chief? What are you doing here?”

He fumbled in his pockets for a bit and then pulled out a lighter and cigarette, setting the tip ablaze as he answered. “I wanted to see this one through personally. You look like shit, Smith. What the hell happened?”

Flashbacks of that horrible thing crossed my mind, and I shook my head, repulsed at the thoughts. “I found the girl, and uh… Something else. Look, everything will be in my report tomorrow. But when the officers kill whatever the hell is in there, you need to see it with your own eyes.”

He stared at me for a moment puffing on his cigarette. I couldn’t read him. All I knew is that the look on his face wasn’t disbelief but something else entirely. Pity maybe? I’ll never know. Either way, he played off my fears and simply said, “Go home, Smith. We’ll handle things from here. You’ve worked hard on the case, and it looks like you’ve been beaten up a bit. Detective Joss will be on the scene soon to tie up loose ends.”

I was shocked and found myself speaking at a little louder of a tone than I had expected, “What? No! I have to see this thing through! I have to make sure she’s okay!”

The look in his eye implicated he wasn’t going to argue with me. “No, Smith. You’re going home. We will take care of everything. You have my word.”

I wanted to fight it. I wanted to scream and yell that this was bullshit, but I knew my place, and I knew I didn’t have any standing to force the issue. Reluctantly, I got in my car and drove home mad at the world.

That night was awful. I couldn’t stop thinking about that monster I had come face to face with or the conversation with Walter that now made complete sense. The thing was hunting him. And it was smart enough to get him to sacrifice someone else in his place. I wouldn’t be able to sleep either if I knew that thing was coming for me. Hell, it probably explained him running away too. He was probably trying to get as far away from it as possible. Still, He knew he’d never succeed until either it took him or until it took someone else. But why? Why not just take the kid? Why did it matter who it was if it was just hungry? Did it just like to fuck with people? Did it have some kind of sick mind that matched its even sicker appearance? I wish I knew.

The next day I tried to keep a sense of normalcy. My morning was fine, albeit I scared myself a couple of times, thinking that lady had found itself in my house.

I threw myself into my work the next day. Finishing my report in record time. I wanted to hand it to the Chief personally in part so that I could ask him about what went down the previous day. But in response, he simply asked me to close and lock the door behind him.

“Sit down, Smith.” He said calmly. And I did. “Look, I appreciate you doing the work you did. You’re a damn fine cop. Damn fine. But here’s what’s going to happen. I know you. You’re an honest guy. You want to do things the right way. And your report is going to reflect that. Isn’t it?”

“I… Yes.” I replied cautiously.

“I respect that. But this report on my desk doesn’t exist.” He pulled out a stack of papers from his desk. “This is actually the report that you emailed me today and handed to me in person. It says that you talked to the Walter kid. He told you that Fay had tried some new drugs, found a spot to use them in, been killed by an unknown assailant, and that the farmhouse she was using had been burned down. Likely by a homeless squatter on accident. That sounds more realistic, doesn’t it?”

What was he saying to me? My blood was boiling, and it took everything in my power not to rush the man right there and crack him across the jaw. “Sir, that’s not at all what happened. The girl was alive when I saw her. There were armed officers who went in to take her.”

He nodded. “And what, Smith? They went to fight a creature of the night like superheroes?”

“You were there! There’s no way they didn’t see! There’s no way you didn’t see!” I was beginning to crack.

He sighed and leaned back in his chair. “I was there, and I did see a lot. Look. It doesn’t do either of us good to lie. Smith, there are… things out there. Things that we are completely incapable of dealing with.”

“So we just run and hide?” I snapped.

“Isn’t that what you did?” He calmly replied.

“I…” He was right. His words stung like a salted dagger to the gut. What could I even say? “But that’s not what we do. I was wrong.”

He exhaled loudly. “Let’s say that people believed us. We don’t live in a world where anyone could ever accept that things that go bump in the night are real even if we say it’s true. We’d get looked at as crazies who aren’t doing their job. But let’s pretend like that’s not the case. Where do we go from there? Arrest something like her? Keep her in jail with all the other criminals? Smith, do you thinking burning down that farmhouse killed her? Fuck no. Just scared her off. We literally don’t have the capacity to deal with things like that. So what’s the next best move? Stop the panic. Move those things to more obscure locations if we can but otherwise operate as if things are normal and move on. We focus on the real crimes that we can deal with.”

I was speechless. My own damn Chief was telling me to just forget that a family had lost a daughter because he didn’t think there was anything we could do to help. The only thing left to do was ask, “Did you know?”

He went silent for a moment and said, “I had a hunch. I’ve seen cases like this before. After talking to some other counties about similar disappearances, the signs pointed to this maybe being the case. When your frantic call came through, I wanted to confirm it for myself. Smith, you did good work. This was a problem we needed to address for a while. And I…”

“And if she strikes again?” I interrupted.

“Then we figure something else out, I suppose. Look, you’re going to be on some easy cases for a while. You’ve earned the break, and I don’t want you seeing anything else traumatic, even by normal standards, for a while. But I’m demanding that you play ball on this one. Just trust me.”

Without saying a word, I nodded and walked out. I never said a peep to anyone. I never even spoke about it to the officers that I knew were there.

Little did I know, I would eventually become a trusted person in these types of cases. Someone good enough to investigate and trustworthy enough not to say anything. It was hard to live with. Knowing the truly messed up and outright terrifying parts of our world. The creatures we live with daily do horrible things, while the people sworn to protect us just stand by and do nothing. It was a significant source of conflict and eventually led to me leaving.

But these stories will always stick with me. Forever burned into my memory as genuinely defining moments of my life. When the time comes, I’ll share more of these tales but for now, just remember, when you hear something go bump in the night, don’t think for a second that it can’t reach out and drag you away. Stay safe, everyone.

Written by: Bryan A Young (https://www.reddit.com/user/bryany97/) (https://twitter.com/BryanIsTheKing)