Lawyer (whose client is under arrest)- “You say you’ve a perfect answer to this wife murder charge. What is it?”
Client- She wasn’t my wife.”
It happened one night. A sheepherder had just left the Swan Inn and was heading home. Lately, he has been spending more time there than at home. His sheep were missing and he had couldn’t find them, but there was no trace of them or of any predator that might have stalked them away. Without his sheep, he had not much else to do, but drink.
Drink because he was bored, drink because he was upset and worried. He wondered if that creature was back. They never did see the body. How can they be sure it was dead? “Poppycock,” he muttered. Without his sheep his livelihood was gone. This was not the first time his sheep had gone missing. Every time that darn light appeared in the mountains it scared off his sheep. “Poppycock,” he said again.
They always came back after the witching hour, but it would cost him a whole months’ worth of income. He lived alone in his hut, never got married. He didn’t have the time to get married. “Some man aren’t made for marriage,” he mumbled, many times before. He was content that way. He came and went as he pleased, spent his gelt on liquor and never answered to no one. A man who lived like this, was hard to break his habits. He was a free bird and he wanted to stay that way. Though, at times, he didn’t like to admit it, but he got lonely.
He staggered back to his hut, but he never reached it. A dark phantom, pussyfoot behind him, engulfing his every breath. The phantom, outlined by the moon’s light had claw like hands, wore a top hat and had jagged sharp teeth. The sheepherder’s shadow had tried to fight the phantom off, but it was too strong and powerful. It had been prowling for the sheepherder for days. It knew the sheepherder had seen him, but he had been too inebriated to be certain. The phantom had smelt his fear and craved for it. Once it was done with its victim it slinked off into the night.
Walter was beginning to see it clearly. The outsiders had begun their quest for the light and the hunters kept out of their way. Walter noticed the hunters barely left the town even after night. Word got around that the outsiders were trying to hire the hunters to lead them into the woods, through the marsh, and up the mountain. They knew their way around better than any other person. They also knew how to kill any savage wild beast that might attack them, but the hunters declined. Hunters did not want to partake in any of their quest.
Hunters kept to themselves and rarely spoke to others, but luckily, for Walter, he knew where they got together to talk about their affairs. One such day, he was sweeping the taproom when he overheard a conversation between three hunters that were huddled in the corner. “’Em outsiders are asking anyone to take’em through the woods,” said one, dressed in a hunter’s attire of Preacher boots, dark pantaloons, a black shirt and their knee length black cloak.
“Fools! Oi wouldn’t go in there even if they paid me in gold,” said the second companion.
“Aye, especially after the body of Hopkins was found,” said the third companion. “He had been drinking more when his flock vanished. Lives up there, near where they saw the last creature. The Black Coats are keepin it hushed for now. Don’t want te create a panic.”
“Fools they are,” said the first. “Oi have seen a lot in me time but Oi sense it’s not safe.”
“Aye, as if creatures are escaping out of the Black Forest,” said the second.
“They don’t belong te this world that is for sure,” agreed the third.
“Oit hasn’t stopped some for leadin ‘em outsiders into the woods,” said the second. “Heard Albert’s son has gotten paid te lead some men up there.”
“Can’t hardly blame him, since his father’s death, he’s been the sole bread winner of his family,” said the third. “Maybe he will have better luck than us an find something worth killing in those mountains.”
“There is nothin in those mountains,” said the first. “Nothin worth findin.”
Walter wondered if it was true. Maybe the light had some scientific basis, caused by natured or maybe not and it was caused by a two headed bird. If it was the woman from the Thatch Castle in those mountains, it must not be anything good. The men left and Walter finished his chore. He wanted to meet up with Alden and Mr. Clough at the church’s courtyard. It turns out Mr. Clough was a good story teller and Walter very much enjoyed everything he had to say. He talked about the old days, the town, and the unexplained things he saw. He could see where Alden got his flair for storytelling. He went to his room to grab his coat when he saw Aunt Edith open the back door to the courtyard and saw a black cat meowing at her feet. “Cadi,” he whispered.
“You poor thing,” Aunt Edith spoke in her high, shilled voice and put a bowl of milk down for the cat. “Here you go.” She closed the door and went back to her room.