FERAL NIGHT

I sat for a long while in the hospital waiting room.  I waited for the salvation that I hoped would come.

I had received a call shortly after one in the morning that my only daughter, Anna, had been brought into the St. Mary’s hospital.  They had no idea how bad the accident was, and they couldn’t tell me anything else except that she had been brought here and should come as soon as possible.

I was listed as her “in case of emergency” in her phone. When an hour had passed, I stood to pace around the waiting room.  It was getting lighter outside now.  I received a tap on the shoulder by a friendly nurse that the doctor wanted to see me.

I went into the family room for a consultation.

The look on his face told me everything I needed to know.  Anna was dead.  The person or persons that had killed my daughter was still on the loose. It was not a car accident, as I had first assumed.  She was supposed to leave that very afternoon for Tulsa to visit a friend. I just figured late night- a swerve in the road that would make sense.  But homicide?  Not my daughter.  

I identified her body. They had done a relatively decent job of fixing the wounds to her face and neck.  The autopsy ultimately ruled that a sharp object had done it. However, they couldn’t figure out what sort of thing, but a very sharp knife was suspected.  Another suggested an animal attack, but given it happened to her in her very bed was not plausible. 

I answered as many questions as I could when the detective came.  They had noticed there were children’s things at her tiny house.  

The twins.  My two grandchildren, where had they been?

“It is okay, Mr. Meadows; a neighbor has had the children since yesterday. They were staying with her and her son.  She had planned on watching your two grandchildren while your daughter was on vacation.”

I sighed with relief. That did bring me a small amount of comfort. 

I worried it was her ex-husband, Tommy.  He had been in and out of jail for domestic abuse, and I mentioned it to the detective. 

He, whatever his name was, said he would look into it.  

It was a blur now. 

I was released from questioning, and I would go home and begin making arrangements.

 First, I needed rest. It came faster than I thought it would.

When I woke, it was from a loud knock at my front door.

Maybe it was the detective asking more questions.

I rubbed my eyes and stood up. I was still in my clothes from earlier.  I felt sweaty and gross, but I managed to get down the stairs and open the front door.

“Mr. Meadows?” a young woman asked.  

“Yes, that is me,”

“I’m Carol; I’m the one who was watching Jason and Jillian.  Anna had given me your name and address said to call you or bring the children here should there ever be an emergency.  Well,  I apologize for the short notice, but I work today, and there will be no one to watch them.  My own goes to daycare.  If work hadn’t put me on the schedule, I would have gladly kept them for you until this blows over,” she looked down solemnly.

“No, it is fine,” I looked down at her understandingly.

Standing behind her was a little girl of now more than eight and a boy the same age.  They were twins.  I had not seen them since they were two.  I worked overseas until recently, when I finally retired.  Retired of sorts, I bought a convenience store at the end of town that I ran six days a week.  I made a lot of money because there was a lovely lake and it was the only store around for miles.  

“Come on in, kids. You are probably starving,”

I said goodbye to Carol, but before she let me go, she handed me a book.

“This is Jill’s, Jillian’s book. She likes to draw and write in it.  No one can look at it. I wanted to make sure she got it.”

I took the red book and handed it to my granddaughter.  

She didn’t say anything; she just looked up at me with the darkest eyes I had ever seen.   They reminded me of my late wife, Hannah.

Jason was a bit more talkative. 

“So you are our grandfather? Will Jill and I be living here with you?”

“I don’t know,”

“Will we have to go live with our dad?”

“I don’t know,”

“You don’t know much, do you?”

“Look, Jason, eat your eggs I made you, and we’ll figure all this out real soon, okay?”

That seemed to work, and he dug in.

Jillian sat there just looking at me.  I looked at her and noticed she wasn’t looking but staring at me. I made a funny face, and for the first time, she smiled at me.

I didn’t know what would happen; I certainly didn’t want them to have to go live with Tommy.  That is if child services could even find him.

It was a strange first few days planning a funeral and watching two children not to mention I had to close my store down for a few days until things got back on track. 

Everyone that came to Anna’s funeral was kind, like her.  

We still didn’t know who would have murdered her in cold blood.  She was just in her bed sleeping when she was murdered.  

There were very few suspects, and one stood out to me.  Her friend from Tulsa came to her funeral, a young man much younger than my daughter.  He introduced himself, and Todd was his name.  He looked like a damn Todd.  All I kept thinking was, did he drive all the way here and murder my only child? Had she refused his advances?  Had she canceled her trip to visit, and had that angered him?

The children seemed very familiar with Todd.  He patted their heads, and I saw him hug Jillian.  She didn’t seem to want it but took it anyhow. Which I thought was odd.

When we got home that night, and we had settled in, I asked Jillian about it.

“How well did you and your mom know Todd?  He seems nice,”

“We met him over the summer on a hiking trip with mom,” Jillian said, opening her red sketchbook and drawing something. When I leaned in to take a peek, she caught me and closed her book, getting up from the table and moving onto the couch where Jason watched a cartoon.

“Todd was a park ranger, but now he teaches rock climbing. Mom took lessons so she would get better and be able to go with Todd on her trip,” Jason said, matter of fact.

Seemed harmless enough.

“When can we go back home?” Jillian asked me

“Well, how about we go tomorrow and pick up a few of your things?”

“Peter needs to eat,”

“Who is Peter?”

“That is Jillian’s rabbit.  Miss Carol said she’d feed him.”

The following day I woke up early.  It had been nearly two weeks since my daughter had passed on.  The detectives cleared the house to be entered.  They didn’t seem to be concerned about my daughter’s murderer.  It perplexed me.  It was like a dream.  One minute your life is on one path. The next, you are on another.

I drank my coffee and then woke up Jason and Jillian.  It had been years since I had to wake up a child.  I admitted to myself I missed having a kid around.  There had been so many years I had missed with Anna; traveling for business does that. Then when they sent me to Switzerland, I was never around unless it was the holidays.  Then pretty soon, not even the holidays. By then, my daughter was in her twenties, raising two babies.  

The door let out a deep moan as I entered the house.  I was the first to go in, and then Jillian and Jason followed. Both went to their rooms and began to grab things they wanted to take back to my house.  I knew the bank would be taking the house, so I tried to find everything I could use and anything of personal value. 

I didn’t find much because Anna was more like me than I ever realized. The house was sparsely furnished—only a tiny kitchen table with three chairs.  The cupboards were bare for the most part except for a box of Lucky charms and generic coffee. 

The children’s bedrooms were across from one another.  I noticed they had only a bed and a few toys, but they didn’t have a lot either.  I had no idea it was so bad.   There was a knock at the front door just as I was about to go into Anna’s room, the last place she was alive. 

“Yoo Hoo! It’s me, Carol; I brought Peter!”

Jillian ran towards Carol as she set the cage on the floor, and Jillian pulled Peter out of the cage picking up a sizeable floppy-eared bunny.

“Sorry to barge in,”

“It’s alright we only came to get the children’s things, but there isn’t much to be taken,”

“Yeah, Anna kept things simple on purpose. She was always afraid her ex would find out where she lived, so she needed to be ready.  Looks like he may have found her anyway,” Carol said under her breath.

“The detectives were notified by me that Tommy might have attacked her,”

“I just don’t know how I didn’t hear even a scream,” 

“They said it was fast; you can’t blame yourself.”

“Anna was a lovely girl, I loved your daughter. We spent a lot of time together. We were both single moms, so we had that in common. We looked out for each other,” Carol choked up, and I patted her on the back.  

“I’m sorry, I’ll let you go.  Here is my number if you need anything, a babysitter, anything at all you call me,” she said, trying to smile as she walked out.

I put the kids in the car with all their things, and then I went back into the house to lock up.

I slowly walked down the short hallway to Anna’s room.  

I hesitated before I walked in, and that is when I saw blood.

For a crime scene, it had been relatively clean.  The only blood was in Anna’s bed.  I looked away and walked towards her dresser, where there was a photo of herself with my wife and me.  It was before she died.  Now I was the only one in the image alive.

I picked it up and put it in my coat.  There wasn’t anything else to take.  The kids had the tv and DVD player.  They had a few movies they watched, but the only thing Jillian cared about seemed to be Peter and her red sketchbook.  

That night I prepared the kids for bed. We had an early day. I was opening the shop back up.  Carol was lovely enough to agree to pick up the kids at my convenience store.  I told her I’d let her pump a full tank of gas for free for taking the kids.  

Four in the morning came faster than I wanted it to as I had always been an early bird, but now I had more than just me to care for; I knew it would be a bit more work.

I made my coffee and got Jason up first, then Jillian.  I fed them and let them shower, and get ready for school. 

Jillian yawned loud as we climbed into my old car.  I chuckled to myself.  

When I pulled up to the store, the outside security light was on.  It made things easier to see in the morning, so I kept it on even when I wasn’t there. 

When I opened the shop, I let the kids sit behind the counter with me while I put cash in the drawers and got the store ready to open at five. 

They were both quiet and pale, which I attributed to them being tired.

“Free coffee for any takers,” I said, pouring myself a cup.

They grinned at my stupid joke.

Five came, and the first customer of the day was Sheriff Darby.

“Morning you all,”

“Morning coffee is on the house,” I said, knowing damn well he didn’t have to be told.

“These must be your grandkids from over at Covington,”

“Yes, this is Jillian, and this is Jason,”

“Pleasure to meet you both,” Sheriff Darby said, twirling his black mustache.

“Are you planning on going hunting this weekend?”

“No, got responsibilities now,” I said, wishing he’d get his coffee and leave. The man gossipped more than he did any protecting.

“Oh, well, Martha can watch them for you if you want to go with Harry and me.  You know that Buck from last year is still on the loose.  I figure I would have beat Jimmy Johnson if I had that buck as my prized possession.  Same as fishing, he always seems to win. He cheats if you ask me,” he continued.  

I looked over at Jillian, and she was whispering something to Jason.  Then she opened her red sketchbook and began coloring in it again.

“I don’t participate; you guys are too competitive,” I said to him, hoping that would be a clue to get the hell out.

“Oh, you just don’t know what you’re missing.”

“A pissing contest sounds like,” I said.

“Oh, you old cranky man. Kids, whatever, you don’t pay any attention to your grandpa.  He doesn’t know what good fun is!”

Sheriff Darby thanked me for the coffee and finally left.

Carol came to pick up the kids at seven sharp.  She was always on time. I liked that about her.  

Later that night, I went to pick up the kids at Carol’s, and we went home.

I woke up sometime in the middle of the night to a loud thud.

It sounded like someone was on the roof.

I sat up in bed and peered out the window.  There was nothing there.

I crawled back into my bed and then heard glass shattering.

I grabbed my rifle from beside my bed and made my way to the kitchen.

“Who’s there?”

No sound came, so I moved slowly into the kitchen and quickly hit the light.

Jillian stood in front of me, just staring at me.  Her face was white, and her eyes black as night. She had blood on her nightgown, and I suspected it was from the broken glass.

“Jillian, what are you doing?”

“I was thirsty,” was all she said.

I cleaned the glass up, got her some milk, and then sent her to bed. 

I went back to bed, and then the alarm went off.  

I got up, and as of now, Thursday, this has been my new routine.  The kids were less tired today than they were on Monday. 

When we pulled up to the store, I noticed Sheriff Darby was already there. It wasn’t even four-thirty, and here he stood. Indeed the coffee wasn’t that good.

“Hey, I came by to see if you had heard anything weird last night,”

“I don’t reckon,” I said, forgetting about the sound on my roof, which I now attributed to lack of sleep. 

“Had a few complaints from Mrs. Ashcroft.  I guess she claims she saw an intruder looking in her window.”

“Mrs. Ashcroft likes to claim a lot of stuff,” I said, looking at Sheriff Darby.

“I know.  She lives alone, so every dang sound she hears, she is on the phone to law enforcement,”

Sheriff Darby got his free coffee and went on his way. 

I didn’t think much about Mrs. Ashcroft or the sounds I heard myself.  I had too much going on these days. 

Later that night, I noticed that Jillian was in her room after dinner and had the door shut.  I knocked on the door to see if she was hungry as she hadn’t eaten dinner.  I had made a pact with myself I’d give them space no matter what.  Yet, when I went to open the door to her room, she had her door locked. I sighed, a bit annoyed by it.

“Jillian, can you unlock the door?”

There was no sound. 

Jason came over then “Maybe I can get her to open the door; she does that sometimes when she is drawing in her journal,”

“Well, drawing or not, you kids can’t lock your doors. You could have an accident, and I wouldn’t be able to get to you in time,”

“Jill, open the door. I have that candy you said you liked,” Jason tried.

Jillian slowly opened the door and looked up at me.  She walked past me and then went into the kitchen and sat at the table.  I went back to the kitchen and gave her her fried bologna sandwich and macaroni and cheese.   

While she ate, I managed to go into her bedroom, and I tried to take a peek at what she had been doing.  Curiosity had gotten the better of me between her and this red sketchbook.

Just as I opened it and read, “This book belongs to Jillian,” I saw her in the doorway.  I dropped it, realizing I had been caught.

I don’t know why but I felt guilty like a small child. 

She didn’t say anything. She just walked over to me, and I handed her the sketchbook.

When Jillian left, I took a deep breath.  

###########

A few months had passed, and I noticed that Jason had finally settled in nicely.  He was making friends and had even asked my permission to join the baseball team.  I was now a proud grandfather of a very decent batter.  I sat behind Jillian, who still had remained mainly close to only her brother.  

She sat drawing in her sketchbook, and by now, it had become part of who she was.  I no longer paid it any attention.  I let her draw her pictures and stay in her world. 

“Hey, you dummy, did you see him running by you?”  a loud man yelled out at the field. I gathered he was one of those parents that liked to yell at everyone.

Jason got up to bat, and I braced myself for a homerun. The kid was that good at his age. 

“Hey, asshole! Trevor hasn’t had his chance yet!” It was the same man.

The coach ignored the man and had Jason get up to bat.

“That kid can’t even hold his posture correctly!” the man yelled again.  “Put Trevor in, or you will see me in the parking lot after the game!”

Now he was pissing me off.  “Look, man, everyone wants their kid to play, but he will get his turn. Come on; it is just kids sports,”

“Fuck you,” said the man as he walked closer to the chain-link fence keeping all the players inside the field. 

If I had been ten years younger, there might have been an issue, but at nearly sixty-five, you learned how to pick your arguments a long time ago. 

Jillian was scribbling fast in her book while she was staring at the man.  I only noticed it because she seemed to be in some trance while she focused on the man. 

When the game was over, we went and had ice cream.

“Did you see me hit that home run, grandpa?” Jason asked as his superman ice cream dripped down his chin.

“Yes, here have a napkin,”

We had what I would refer to as an enjoyable evening.  Even Jillian seemed a bit more animated than usual for the quiet child she was.  I had grown used to her ways over the last few months, so if I caught her smiling, that was good enough for me.

Later that evening, I woke to blue lights shining in my eyes as a police car sped down our street.

When I looked out my window, there was a slew of cop cars at the end of the street.  I knew it had to be something terrible, but I couldn’t say.  It didn’t concern me, so I went back to bed.

The following day I saw Sheriff Darby, and as usual, he had a tale for me.  

“Was one of the worst things I have ever seen in my life.  You may want to ensure your doors are locked and secured at night.  You know Eric Montana?”

I shook my head as it didn’t ring a bell.

“His son Trevor goes to school with your grandkids.  They found him ripped limb from limb by some animal. They still don’t know what it was, but my guess is grizzly.”

“Didn’t think there were grizzly’s in this part of the country,” I said, smirking at his odd suggestion.

“Could be privately owned.  Do you remember Bryan Jones that had those tigers? They finally escaped one day, and they had a hell of a time wrangling them back up.  One got shot by a farmer.  Just saying it could be something like that.”

I listened, and part of me looked over to Jillian.  She was scribbling in her red sketchbook, as usual. No, I told myself.  It was just an odd coincidence.  

I was quiet through most of the day and barely had any customers.

That afternoon I got a phone call from the elementary school about my granddaughter. She had been pushed down a flight of stairs, and she now was in the nurse’s office.

I closed up early and went to school.

When I got there, I met the nurse in her office, and she let me know that Jillian was okay except for a couple of bruises. 

“My god, Jill, what happened?” I asked her.

“Laura Anderson tried to take my sketchbook, and when I told her she couldn’t, she pushed me,”

“I’m very sorry for what happened today in school,” said the nurse.  

“Oh, kids will be kids,” I smiled up at her.

I could see Jillian was upset, and she kept staring at her feet.

“The principal asked if you could stop in her office before you take Jillian home.”

I nodded, patting Jillian’s head, and then went to see the principal.

Mrs. Karlisle was a heavy woman with short red hair.  She smiled, and her smile was wide with the whitest teeth I had ever seen. She stood and shook my hand.

“I want to first apologize for what happened today. I have ensured that the parents of the other student were notified.  There is one thing we don’t tolerate here, and that is bullying of any kind.  It’s bad enough they are bullied just by looking at Instagram every day.  They want to be perfect even children as young as Jillian,” Mrs. Karlisle sighed.

“Except Jillian, all she does is color in her sketchbook all day,”

“That is actually what I wanted to talk to you regarding.  That sketchbook has been a bit of an issue.” Mrs. Karlisle said, looking at me with a frown.

“Oh?” 

“She won’t put it down even for her physical education class, and in all her other classes, it has to be with her while she does her homework. Normally I might ignore this and give it time, especially since her mother passed away, not in a dignified manner from what I understand.  It was what another student saw in her sketchbook that caused the riff.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, leaning in now.

“There was a drawing of a monster eating someone in bed, and I think it may have been concerning what happened to her mother. May I ask you something?”

“Yes,”

“Did Jillian see her mother being killed?”

“No, the children were at a neighbor’s house the night of the murder,”

“Perhaps that is how she processes hearing about the death of her mother.  Look, I think Jillian may benefit from some counseling.  I wanted to run that buy you first,”

“I guess I hadn’t thought of it.  Her brother, Jason, has adapted very well to the changes. I guess I just assumed Jillian would too eventually,”

“Well, in sibling relationships, one is often the caretaker or the funny one.  It is how they survive.  I’m sure Jason is just Jillian’s protector by seeming as normal as possible.”

“Children are funny creatures,” I joked.

Upon leaving the school with Jillian, I went back to the store.  I thought about what Sheriff Darby had said about securing everything. I double-locked the front door, something I never felt was necessary for this one-horse town.  I went home, where Carol was waiting with Jason.  This time for once, I offered her to stay for dinner.

“Oh, that sounds great.  I haven’t had a home-cooked meal that wasn’t an Encore dinner in three years,” she laughed.

“Well, I can’t promise it will be as good as Encore,” I laughed.

I tossed some burgers on the grill out back and put some veggies in the steamer.  

I had Carol over to pick her brain.  Something about my daughter’s death hadn’t felt right.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, but just something was off about it.  I kept wondering if Carol knew anything, something that maybe she wasn’t aware of. 

I let the kids eat in the living room while the television blasted some Disney movie.  I had some things I wanted to discuss with Carol.

“So Carol, how long had you known Anna?”

“As long as she was my neighbor, man, this is a great burger!”

“Thanks, I think the charcoal makes a difference. Never been one for propane grilling.”

“Yeah, I still remember the day Anna moved in.  I was so relieved because she had not one but two kids my son’s age.”

“You said you were a single mom, and you bonded over that?” 

“Oh yes, it was so awesome having someone that could relate to me and living so close to home!”  

I smiled and thought about what to say next.

“Carol, did you see anything at all out of the ordinary the day my daughter was murdered? Something has been eating away at me, but I can’t seem to place it.  I have this gut feeling that it had to be someone very close to her,” I looked Carol dead in the eyes, and she put down her fork.

“I wasn’t going to say anything, but that guy she was dating, Todd, he used to give me the creeps.”

This was the first I had heard about it. I had met him briefly at the wake for Anna.  He seemed like an average caring guy. 

“Why did he give you the creeps?”

“It was the way he used to look at Jillian, I dunno. I can’t explain it.  I mentioned it to Anna a few times. She would laugh it off, but after they were dating for a while, they went on this planned Colorado trip.  The kids were excited to go; Jillian especially was excited.  When she came back home, she had that damned Sketchbook with her. She said Todd had given it to her. From that moment on, I started to suspect something happened on that trip, but what I didn’t know.”

I sat in disbelief that my daughter didn’t see the signs that perhaps she had been dating a predator. 

Carol and her son left that evening, and after which, I decided it was time to talk with Jillian.  I braced myself because I knew that whatever I heard would possibly hurt me if not her.

After Jason had gone to bed and Jillian had crawled into her bed for the night, I went in to see her. I shut the door behind me and sat at the end of her bed.

“Jillian, there is something I have to talk to you about.”

“Okay,” she said, curling up tighter in her red blankets.

“Before your mom died, did her friend Todd ever do something that you or your mom didn’t like?”

Jillian only stared at me blankly.

“Jillian, what is in your sketchbook you don’t want anyone to see?”

She continued to look at me as though she were fighting not to say something. She bit her lip and sat up.  “Mommy gave me that sketchbook when we went with Todd to camp. She said to sketch whatever my heart desired.”

“Do you?” I asked, smiling at her. 

She nodded.

“Can you show me any of your pictures?  Any great artist has to share their art with at least one person they trust.  Don’t you trust me?  I promise not to share.”

She nodded and handed me the red book.  I took a deep breath when I opened it. It was almost as if I kept expecting something to jump out at me from inside of it.

I turned to the first page, “This Sketchbook belongs to Jillian,” it read in shaky writing.

There were pictures of flowers she had drawn, blue skies and a waterfall, and a rainbow.

“That was my favorite place,” she pointed to the waterfall.

“Is that where Todd and Mommy took you?” I asked her, and she nodded again.

“I don’t like the next place,” she said, turning the page.

When I turned the page, there was a red mountain and sun. Beneath it was a black mountain and what looked like a hole.

“What is this place?”

“It’s where Todd took me. He said all big girls go there.”

I gulped, afraid to know anymore.  

“Why did he say all big girls go there?”

Jillian wouldn’t say anything else. She just turned the page of the sketchbook.

“Wait, what is that?”

“The wolf.”

“Who is the wolf?” I asked her.

“He protects me from when people do bad things,” she said, turning the page again.

“But Jillian, is that Mommy in her bed?”

She nodded.

“Why did you need protecting from mommy?” 

“She didn’t believe me when I told her about the monsters.  Todd showed me the monsters.”

I was still unclear as to what she meant by all of this.

What had Todd done to my granddaughter?

“I think we should get some sleep.”

I knew then I would be contacting Todd.  No matter what I thought he might have done or tried to do, I needed to learn more.  The mind of a child was like a puzzle.  What Jillian had said didn’t make much sense. 

After Carol took the kids to school, I put the be right back sign on my store door and went to make a call.  I knew Todd’s last name from the funeral, where he signed the guest book. His address was listed there as well as his phone number.

I called his telephone number, but it said the number was disconnected. 

Sheriff Darby came in then, and I thought now was an excellent way to find out a bit more.  

I approached him about looking into Todd for me.  There had to be someone that could get in contact with him.  

“You think he may have done something to Anna?”

“Maybe, or maybe he knows more than he originally let on,”

“I’ll see what I can find out,” Sheriff Darby took his daily coffee and left.

##############

A few days later, I was sitting at the dinner table when I got a phone call.  It was Sheriff Darby.

“Sorry to bug you during dinner, but I have some news about that fella out in Tulsa,”

“What is it?”

“He was attacked by a bear or something while he was out hunting a few weeks back,”

“What?”

“Sorry I can’t be of more help. If Todd did have something to do with Anna’s death, we might never know now,” Sheriff Darby sighed into the phone.

This was beginning to get strange.  When I hung up, I went into Jillian’s bedroom and found the book sitting on her nightstand.  I opened the pages up, and the first thing I saw now was that “This Book belongs to Jillian” beneath it said “Gift from Mommy,” yet below it was another name scratched out.  I looked at it again, and this time, I realized that whoever had initially given the sketchbook to Jillian wasn’t Mommy. 

“Jillian, can you come here please?” I asked her.

Jillian came in and stopped at the door when she saw me holding the book. 

“Mommy didn’t give you this book, did she?”

Jillian shook her head slowly.

“Who gave you the book?” 

She wouldn’t look at me.

“Jillian, who gave you the book?” I was getting angry now.

“Miss Carol gave me the book,”

I sighed, and then I flipped through the rest of the pages of the book.  Some of the drawings were dark and monstrous. Others were sweet, like one of us all eating dinner together.  There was one of Todd.  There was a wolf in the photo, and he was eating Todd’s neck.  The wolf held Todd’s heart on the next page, and then on the third page, Todd was dead.

I didn’t want to believe it.  This book could be what I suspected was the cause of all these deaths.

“Why did Miss Carol give you the book?”

“She said whenever I was happy, sad, or angry to draw it.  To draw what I wanted, and it would.  She said mommy was a bad mommy because he let Todd put his hands in my special place. She said if mommy were a good mommy, monsters wouldn’t come and take them away.”

I was still flipping through the pages when I got to the most recent one.

There was a knocking at my door.

I took a deep breath. 

“Jillian, who is that at the door?”

Jason came running into the bedroom with a pale look on his face.

“Jillian, stop it!  Grandpa is good; he isn’t like the others!”

“He knows,” Jillian growled at me.  Her eyes were practically red and feral.

“Jillian, tell me who is at the door?” this time, my voice was harsher.

Suddenly, the front door exploded.  

Jillian grabbed the book from me, and on the last page, a giant monster was standing in her room. There was me, Jason, and Jillian facing a menacingly dark creature.

I heard the creature’s footsteps coming down the hallway.  

“Stop this, Jillian!”

“I can’t, grandpa! I don’t know how!” Jillian began to cry.

Then the creature came slowly around the corner to the bedroom.  The first thing I saw was its snout. It was long and wet like it had been drooling over this very moment.  Then the creature turned the corner and covered it in fur.  Its ears stood atop its head, and the hair sparsely covered its back.  One thing I noticed was that it was a female.  The creature’s breasts hung down in front of her touching her belly as they were covered in fur. 

The creature had long gray claws that matched the long grayish-brown fur.

The creature’s eyes were dark red like blood. 

I looked at Jillian, who was cowering in the corner.

Jason held his sister, which I suspected he had done like this thousand of times by this point.  There were hundreds of drawings of this feral creature murdering innocent victims.  Now it was attacking me.  

I tried to figure out a way to stop it, but the damn thing scratched my face, and I pulled up a baseball bat hitting it in the face.  It seemed only to make this creature mad.  Fighting it off me, I looked back at the pages of the sketchbook. 

I had an idea.

“Jillian, rip up the page!  Rip it up now!”

She listened to me, and as I stood there, I watched the creature begin to dissipate.  It was as if the book held it by puppet strings. Only I knew who that puppet was, and I wanted answers.

I grabbed my gun and put the kids in my car.

Together we drove to Carol’s house.

################

I pulled up to Carol’s house. I had the kids lock the car door as I made my way up to her door alone.

I banged on the front door, and to my utter shock, she answered the door with a frown on her face but then turned it around into the happiest looking smile I had ever seen on any woman.

“I think you know why I’m here.”

“Oh, Jason forgot his mitt,” she said, walking away. “Let me go grab it,”

“Not that, the sketchbook.  The one you gave Jillian.”

Carol looked annoyed.

“Okay fine, I was the one that originally gave it to her.  The poor kid needed an outlet,”

“Do you call murdering people an outlet?”

“Murdering?”

“What happened to my daughter Carol?”

“It isn’t what you think, and I had nothing to do with Anna’s death,”

“Then what is this bullshit?”

“I don’t know exactly,”

Carol sat down on her sofa with tears in her eyes. 

“What do you know? Can you tell me that much?”

“I bought Jillian the sketchbook, but after she went on that trip with her mom and Todd, she came back, different.  She only wanted to be with the sketchbook. It was like as long as she had it, she was safe.  Then these strange things started happening.  I noticed them too. The night Anna died, she had been upset at something her mother had told her. When Anna dropped her off, she mentioned Jillian was upset but never said why.”

“I suspect it had something to do with Todd. I think he hurt her in some way.”

“That is what I suspected for a long time too, but it was more than that. She drew some dark energy after that.  I can’t explain it.  Like something took hold of her.”

“She said Todd showed her the monsters,”

“Monsters?”

“Yes, I saw one for myself tonight,”

“Oh my god, what happened?”

I told Carol everything that had happened up until this point.  Part of me still wasn’t sure who to trust, but I had to trust someone.  Carol had an idea then.

“I think that she brought home one of those monsters.  I saw something in a brochure that Anna had talking about Skinwalkers, Cryptids, and other spirits.  They had taken a tour of an Indian burial ground.  It was right after that that Jillian started acting differently.  Anna even mentioned it to me.  It has to be related.  How exactly I don’t know,”

I looked down at my hands, and then I looked up at Carol. My hands were shaking; something was wrong, but I couldn’t figure out what, and it was making me crazy. 

Then we heard a scream.

I ran outside with Carol behind me. Jason was still in the car, but Jillian had jumped out and was now running down the street. 

All three of us tried to chase her down.  She ran fast as lightning.  I didn’t understand it at first, then Jason handed me the book.

“Jillian made this drawing while you were inside the house,”

I looked down and saw that she had drawn herself as a monster. 

“No!” I knew then it would be even worse trying to catch her. 

We ran towards the forest near my house, and I could see that Jillian had left bread crumbs like her hair scrunchy and a scarf. I knew where she was going, at least even if I didn’t know why.

When I got to the clearing, I saw my granddaughter barely clothed, her eyes piercing red. 

“Jillian, come down from there. Please let’s talk,”

“NO!” she growled, no longer sounding like a little girl.

“Jillian, I know what happened to you, I’m sorry, but I will never hurt you.  Neither would Jason or Miss Carol.  Please can we talk? Sometimes you feel better if you talk it out.”

“I hurt mommy; I’m a monster,”

I knew then that she had so much guilt and anger inside of her, not only for what happened to her but for what part she had blamed herself for Anna’s death.  Anna didn’t want to believe her when she told her what Todd had done.  So Jillian took her anger out on her mother in a drawing.  Whatever power she wielded from deep within created something that she built around her to protect herself. 

The creature that lived inside that book, that wolf monster, was her protector.  What she drew in that sketchbook would come to life. Now, I had to find a way to stop it. I couldn’t let any more innocent people die. 

“Jillian, it isn’t your fault,” I said to her, tears welling up in my eyes.

“Every kid gets mad at their parents.  They say things they don’t mean.  How would you ever have known?  You didn’t hurt mommy. Suppose anything mommy should have believed you.  Don’t let yourself feel guilty for what happened.”

Her feral red eyes began to soften.  Then she let out a scream like one I had never heard before in my life. There was so much pain inside of her tiny body.  

I ran and picked her up, covering her with my jacket. 

That night, we burnt the sketchbook in Miss Carol’s fireplace.

The next day I made up my mind to sell the store, pack up, and move the kids out of here.  There were just too many reminders. I hoped a change of scenery would help.

I found a buddy in Del Rey, Florida, that had properties near there.  I rented a beach house from him.  For a while, it was an ideal paradise. Jillian and Jason made new friends, and I settled in my retirement officially.  The sunny sands and blue water will do that.

One afternoon, I drank a beer on the screened-in porch, just admiring the breeze, when I noticed a mighty storm cloud coming up the shore.  It was out of nowhere.  I stood up as the wind began to blow the screens inward. I shut the glass windows and locked up the porch. When I went inside, I turned on the television.  

“Twenty miles per hour winds are hitting the shore today; looks like from the Doplar storm center we will be getting a few days of nasty storms.  Just in time for the surfs up festival in a week or two.”

I switched off the television and called Jason and Jillian in for dinner.

“You guys ready to eat?”

“Just a minute, grandpa, I’m painting a picture,”  I walked over to what she was painting.  It was a dark storm cloud with boats being tossed about and floods.  I looked down at her.

I picked up the painting, and at the bottom was a chest full of gold coins.  “Isn’t it pretty?  Jason said I couldn’t find any real pirate treasure, and I told him I’d show him.  So when the storm is over, you’ll see! Everyone will see what I can do,”

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