Read Time: 7 Minutes | Episode: 1
When he finally looked at his phone, Officer Dalrymple saw that the alert was for three houses down his street. The Hamilton’s lived at 175 Purnell. Scrambling to find his uniform, he could make out the red and blue lights of the two squad cars parked in front of his neighbor’s home. Then his phone rang. It was dispatch, and he had only been off his watch for an hour.
“Yeah, I’m already on my way.” He yelled to no one. A half-eaten sandwich in his mouth and duty belt in one hand.
“The area has been cordoned off. We have a perimeter extending two miles, she won’t be missing for long.” Officer Sancho greeted him.
There was a slight drizzle, the wet sidewalks and shimmering, shaking puddles, made for ghostly reflections. Mrs. Kathleen Martin, a short, powerfully built woman was inconsolable.
“Her friend was calling to her.” She sobbed on the verge of hyperventilating. Barely getting the words out as she walked toward him.
“Which friend?” Placing his jacket around her, he led her back into her garage, out of the rain.
“I didn’t recognize the voice, but it was a child. Had to be one of her friends.”
“It was not a child Miss Kathy. It was something a little more evil that took her away.” Travis, the neighborhood vagabond had arrived at her front door.
“You saw him, Travis?” Officer Dalrymple grabbed him by the wrist, and he wrung his arm free.
“He ran off into the woods.”
“Did you get a good look at him?”
“Him had no face officer.” Travis’ eyes were looking through Mrs. Martin, into the forested area behind her home.
“Can you show me which direction he went?” Officer Dalrymple pressed him.
Travis pointed in the direction he was looking. A dense, lush, wooded area, that stretched several miles deep.
“There’d be a lot of hiding places in those woods. Call for the K9 unit. Tell Mr. Lee to get his hounds ready. Mrs. Kathy, I need something of Alices’, give the dogs something to work with. And Travis…” Officer Dalrymple paused.
Travis had already backed away. He grabbed him by the collar and pulled him closer.
“Travis, I would need you to lead us into the woods. You practically live there.”
“Not any more I don’t. I ain’t chasing no Douen in this weather.” He pronounced it, Dwen, with his West Indian accent.
You will do as I tell you to.”
“No sir. If a Douen took the child, she’s as good as gone.”
“Travis, have you been hitting the pipe again?” Dalrymple could see fear in his eyes.
“Officer Daly sir, I have been clean, for more than twenty-four hours.” Travis said proudly.
“And before that?” Officer Dalrymple tested his flashlight by shining it at him.
Travis flashed a toothless grin. “Onward ever, backward never. I don’t worry about yesterdays, Officer Daly.”
“What is a Douen, Travis?” Only Travis knew what he was talking about. He was always hallucinating. Fentanyl was probably gonna be his undoing. But he had the resilience of a stray dog.
“The souls of the lost, Officer Daly. The unbaptized. Neither heaven nor hell has a place for them.”
“Alright Travis. Ghost stories and Fentanyl are not a good combination.” The chopper had arrived overhead. Its powerful light illuminated the area, making it as bright as midday.
“I believe him officer. In Trinidad, Douen are real.” Mrs. Kathy rested her hand on her heart. A despondent look directed at Travis.
She and Travis were part of the immigrant community that had settled in the area. Officer Dalrymple had been friends with her family since he was a kid, and Travis… Travis was a friend too. He had just fallen on hard times. But Officer Dalrymple had no time for folklore or stupid ghost stories.
“Travis, I need a description of the person you saw taking Alice.”
The search party gathered around, and Travis took center.
“If you step into those woods, after a Douen, be very afraid. Do not hurt the creatures you encounter. Be as silent as possible. Communicate only when you have to.” Travis was spacing out
“What does he look like Travis?’
“It has no gender, Officer Daly. Naked it came into the world, and naked it will leave. But the soul was never given to the Lord. So, it lingers… here, seeking a companion.”
“Our suspect is naked. Sanchez, get a list of registered sex offenders in a ten-mile radius.” Officer Dalrymple tapped Sanchez on the shoulder.
“Anything else Travis?”
“Naked… a large straw hat. Wide enough to blot out the moonlight. They only play in the full moon. It is no taller than Alice. And its feet, they face the wrong direction.” Travis tried to twist his feet to demonstrate.
“Travis. There is no moonlight. So, it isn’t your Douen. And you’re high again.” Dalrymple was exhausted.
“Sir, it is a full moon tonight sir.” Sanchez interjected.
“Don’t you be encouraging his nonsense now, Sanchez. Everyone, listen up. Our suspect is naked, about four feet tall, wearing a straw hat. Last seen heading into the Devil’s backyard.” As soon as he said the last words, he regretted it. But that’s what everyone called the woods since he was a kid.
Mr. Lee finally arrived with his bloodhound. Mrs. Kathy handed him a piece of clothing and a broken doll which belonged to Alice, and the hound picked up a scent almost immediately.
“She’s got him, officer Dalrymple.” Mr. Lee informed as the hound began straining at the leash.
“If the hound sees a Douen. She will sit still, and go no further. Animals are friends to the spirit world.” Travis looked like he wanted to curl up into a corner and hide.
“Don’t you worry. Bertha here, will find your Alice. She loves hunting.” Mr. Lee tried to reassure Mrs. Kathy.
“If it’s a Douen, Mister Lee, you won’t find her. It will find you.” Travis spoke again.
“Is it dangerous?” Another officer asked.
“Only if you harm the creatures in the forest.” She responded.
“Let’s move out. Bertha has a scent. Travis, you, and Mr. Lee will take point. Everyone; her name is Alice, and we’re bringing her home tonight. Alive.” Dalrymple barked.
Bertha was given the command, and the hound pressed forward eagerly, nose to the ground. Then her pace accelerated, into the woods. She was on to something. Lee pulled on the leash to slow her down, then he signaled everyone to stop.
“Found something Mr. Lee?” Dalrymple asked.
“Tracks. Two children. But one is headed back to the house. The other into the woods.”
“Officer Daly. Both them tracks are headed into the Devil’s backyard. The Douen’s feet face the opposite direction.”
“I don’t believe what he’s saying officer Dalrymple, but Bertha’s nose doesn’t lie. That kid is still in there somewhere.” Mr. Lee, an old army Vet, was determined.
A cold shiver ran up his arm. Officer Dalrymple could not believe some silly folklore. But what if Travis was right, and some strange creature had taken Alice? The search light from the chopper was fixed on where they were. There was nothing to fear here. But Alice was in the darkness with a stranger.
“I don’t believe in ghosts Travis, and the only monsters I have ever seen, were men just like you and me. We follow Bertha!” he yelled, and gave the signal to move on.
NOTE: – This series will continue on Wednesday 4:26:2023 at 5:00 EST. Tomorrow, we lighten the mood with a short story “The Custodian” on MasticadoresIndia, as part of my collaboration with the fantastic Terveen Gill and the crew of amazing contributing writers on her site. I will post the link tomorrow morning.
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