Vidor, Texas – January 2012
DeMane hated this part. Peavey’s body hadn’t been in the hospital an hour yet and it was his job to contact Missy, Delbert’s wife. He’d tried to reach her by phone to see if she was home, but she’d never answered. He thought it unusual that Missy hadn’t been with Delbert when he’d come barreling down the road. But Delbert may have been away from the farm when whatever it was had gotten a hold of him.
The doctor on call at the hospital and the coroner had agreed that the puncture marks on Delbert resembled those of wild boar tusks, but they weren’t quite right. The coroner had faxed photos to an animal expert in Houston and was waiting on a reply. In the meantime, they were starting a tox screen and every other test available to figure out exactly what the hell had happened to poor Delbert.
DeMane glanced over at Patrol officer Dustin Bailey sitting beside him. It was policy when notifying the next of kin that there should always be two officers present.
The young officer turned to look at DeMane. “You ever have to do this before, Cap?”
DeMane nodded. “Yeah, three times when I was on Patrol in Dallas and once here. It sucked every time.”
Bailey looked back out the window, watching empty cotton fields fly by. He looked down at his uniform and smoothed down his shirt. He reached into his shirt pocket, pulled a handkerchief and wiped his brow.
DeMane finally said, “Say it.”
Bailey gave him a look of bewilderment and then sighed.
“Does anyone know what happened?”
“No, but they’re trying to figure it out. They’ll probably know something by the time we leave Delbert’s place.”
“What the hell could do something like that?”
“I don’t know. Everybody says it looks like a wild boar, but then they won’t commit to that as the answer. So when we get there, I’ll take the shotgun and you take the AR out of the trunk. We’ll try and talk to Missy. If she’s there we tell her about Delbert and then see what she might know. If she’s not there, we search the property. If you spy a pack of boars, you open up.”
“Isn’t a group of boars called a sounder?”
They eased onto the dirt road that led up to the Peavey farm. It took them only seconds before they pulled into the circle of dirt that the Peavey’s used as a driveway.
DeMane hit the trunk release as Bailey opened his door and headed for the back of the car. He then unlocked the shotgun mounted to the vehicle’s console and stepped from the car.
The two men made sure their weapons were ready and then set their safeties. They made their way toward the house, guns at port arms.
The main house was a white, two-story with a columned front porch and an upstairs balcony that allowed you to look over the entire Peavey farm. The porch was lined with Violas and Geraniums and on its deck sat a glider and swing that Delbert had painstakingly made himself.
To the left was the homes oversized propane tank, looking, for all the world, like a giant, silver Tylenol. A little further beyond laid the guest house, barn and the chicken coop. Behind the house loomed a massive pecan grove, its winter branches looking like those of a haunted forest.
DeMane raised his hand and then put his arm in front of Bailey.
He clicked off the safety of his shotgun. Bailey did the same on his AR.
“What’s up, Cap?” The nervousness in Bailey’s voice was evident.
“I don’t hear anything.”
“And that’s bad?”
“I don’t hear anything, no chickens, no cows, no birds, nothing.”
Bailey paused for a moment and then nodded. He pulled the stock of the rifle to his shoulder and scanned his surroundings.
“Okay,” he whispered, “I’m sufficiently scared shitless. What do we do?”
“We find Missy and figure out what’s going on.”
Bailey swallowed hard. “Shouldn’t we call for backup?”
DeMane gave him a “Are you Serious” look and then started forward.
They mounted the porch and made the front door. DeMane hefted the barrel of the shotgun to his shoulder and knocked.
“Missy, it’s J.J. DeMane.”
There was no response. DeMane knocked again and still no one came to the door.
“What now, Cap?”
DeMane thought for a moment and then knocked again.
“Missy, we’re here to check on your wellbeing, so I’m coming in with another officer.”
He pushed against the door and found it locked. Stepping back he levered a kick near the door’s handle. There was a loud crack as the door gave way and jerked inward. The door’s security chain stopped its inward momentum and the door snapped back. Another kick and the officers were inside.
The front door led into a large living room. The only modern thing in it was Delbert’s fifty inch plasma television. An “L” shaped sectional and coffee table, stacked with periodicals, filled out most of the room.
To the left of the entryway was a hand-hewn staircase that had been built by Delbert’s grandfather at the end of World War 2. The bannister was a beautifully stained pecan tree wood that had been sanded and polished to a silky smooth finish.
Bailey swept the staircase with the muzzle of his AR.
“Cap, that door was bolted from the inside.”
DeMane, shotgun at the ready, eased forward. He’d been here a few times for parties and knew the layout of the house. Beyond the main living room was the dining room and the kitchen.
Passing through the arched entryway of the dining room, he noticed that the dinner table was missing a pair of legs and was canted at an odd angle. DeMane indicated the table and Bailey nodded, swinging his AR around. DeMane lifted the edge of the table carefully. Seeing nothing underneath, he lowered it.
“Alright, Bailey, you go upstairs. I’ll check down here. If you see Missy you holler. If you see anything else, holler. If something comes at you, shoot it.”
“Yes, sir,” Bailey nodded.
The young officer let his rifle lead the way as he moved toward the stairs.
DeMane moved around the room for a moment longer looking for an indication of what might have happened to the table legs.
The dining room windows were open and a chill breeze began to puff the oak and acorn patterned lace curtains. The only sound was that of the wind whistling through the eaves and the ticking of a cuckoo clock on the wall.
DeMane shouldered his shotgun and eased himself toward the kitchen door.
Gunfire erupted from the second floor. He heard Bailey’s AR-15 crack out several rounds and then stop. A moment later it was firing again, this time in a three round burst.
DeMane sprinted for the stair case. He heard the AR stop firing again. He’s out of ammunition and is reloading, he thought. Just as he made the second story landing, he heard the AR again. He saw Bailey backing out of the bedroom at the end of the hall, his muzzle flash lighting up room’s interior.
“Bailey, what the hell is it!”
There was a crash at the base of the stairs and DeMane turned to stare in horror at what was coming up. He lifted his shotgun and began firing.