A Favour For The King – Chapter Five

A Favour For The King – Chapter Five

Saturday, May 16, 1925 – Rocksport, Maine:

Ed Berkeley had been gored by the teeth of that foul back serpentine beast and was comatose. Sheesh! Anyone with a softer head would have been dead. He was lucky though I doubt he would have seen it that way. McGee did his best to administer first aid but such a wound was beyond his experience. Soldiers or wise guys attacked with heaters or knives not teeth. All he could do was staunch the wounds to prevent further blood loss. Ed would need hospitalisation but fast.

The closest hospital to Rocksport was back in Bangor so we headed back upriver. Piloting from Rocksport in the dark meant we had to go slow so it took us the best part of three hours to get back to Bangor.

We fashioned a stretcher from one the boats hammocks then carefully carried Ed to hospital.

We left him in their care but left Morello keeping watch. The bed next to Ed’s was occupied by Running Deer. His wounded shoulder had been further treated to prevent infection. It was a testament to their forward thinking that they allowed him in there at all, being a Native American and all, but Maine was too small to have separate hospitals for the non-white folks so they had no choice.

We had two more casualties from his tribe on the boat but since they had both just fainted dead away at the hideous sight of the monstrous Byakhee we had left them in cots on the boat.

They had no visible wounds so the hospital would have nothing to treat. If they were given smelling salts they might have spoken out about things we wanted kept quiet about so we figured it was the best option to keep them aboard. We intended to show them to Horace and Philomena as soon as we could.

After sending a message off to Indian Island we grabbed some shuteye between nervous watches.

Thankfully the rest of the night was uneventful. I guessed our enemies had grabbed all they wanted from us, including Cagle’s body which was our payola for this “easy” caper, so they didn’t feel the need to bother us anymore. Certainly the sense of being watched had left us. We might have been potentially broke but we weren’t being hunted no more.

The next morning, with Morello still on guard at the hospital we grabbed a quick bite of breakfast then headed to the library. A couple of days earlier we had copied Professor Christoff’s notes which had been deviously written down in Latin. McNifey and McGee grabbed the biggest English/Latin dictionaries they could find and hit the books. It was probably the most school work they had ever done. Even the army didn’t put you in a classroom unless you were an officer.

McGee’s head was full of additional considerations so he couldn’t get it but MacNifey persevered to save the day. His hard work paid off in spades so that in a few hours they were finally able to read Christoff’s journals.

Christoff Expedition Journal Entries

(Copy of Journal located in Christoff’s tent at the dig site on Thursday 14th May 1925. Translated from Latin.)

Saturday 2nd May 1925

Arrived at Mattawamkeag just north of Lincoln. The burial ground is not far away. Met “Riverman” in Lincoln. Although a half breed his lineage intrigues me. He has similar features to the Father Miles rendition of Assaminasqua in the Hudson Bay Company records.

His Panawahpskek name is Conajinasqua.

Sunday 3rd May 1925

C has knowledge of Panawahpskek “medicine”.  He relayed a story of Razorshins which was similar to one I heard from a tribal elder in Canada. At the very least there is a shared vocal legend. Perhaps it is allegorical, designed to deter people from the demon drink. R does groundwork for the dig. Thorough but slow. I wonder if he is up to it so ask the girls to help him.

Monday 4th May 1925

The site has now been mapped. It covers several acres. R has laid out a grid. Hank, the trader at Lincoln promised to get some silver by Friday.  

Tuesday 5th May 1925

We exhume our first body. It is far, far older than expected. Nor is this an ordinary warrior. He appears to be a medicine man. Review of the pelvic bones confirm it is male, late 20s. There is a flint knife and spearhead. The totem stick is evidenced by a few residual wood fragments.

Wednesday 6th May 1925

Several more bodies were exhumed. They are of varying ages confirming my theory that this a burial ground solely for tribal leaders. If our estimate of 400 bodies is correct, considering that there are 5 generations per century; we may extrapolate this could be 4-8,000 years old depending on how many members of each generation were interred. Still no blades or totem sticks intact. 

Thursday 7th May 1925

C was getting anxious. Was he worried by the impending full moon tomorrow afternoon?  Insisted on silver bullets. Curious. The Panawahpskek have no Loup Garou. That is a European Quebecois tradition. R got quite exhausted today.

Went to Lincoln as Hank got the Silver. Quite efficient for a degenerate backwoodsman. I make silver bullets. At C’s urging I warn the others also. He seemed to think it would be safer if all of us had the ability to fire them.

Friday 8th May 1925

A Full Moon rose just after 2.30pm this afternoon. By strange chance it was also the day we found the grave of Assaminasqua. The knife was not there nor was the totem. R noted that the grave looked to be quite recent but he doesn’t see everything. It was reburied. Someone has got to the grave before us. C is angry. I cannot placate him. It seems clear now that he wanted these things for himself. I do not believe he would ever let me take them away for further analysis. 

C’s chanting keeps us up all night but nothing else of note occurs.

Saturday 9th May 1925

We continue to exhume bodies and review artifacts. There is nothing fully intact except the stone arrow heads or flint blades. R has stopped coughing so much and is almost efficient.

Sunday 10th May 1925

C has had enough. Despite my purchase of authentic Panawahpskek trappings for his accommodation he will stay with us no longer. He storms off, unhappy that I have not been able to recover what I promised. Nothing at a dig is ever guaranteed. Were he an academic he would understand that. Late into the night we heard his cacophonic wailing echoing around the forest. 

Monday 11th May 1925

All of my staff insisted that the dig cease after reading of the death of Harry Solomon so we are now about to return to Bangor to visit Joan Solomon. Apparently it is more important to comfort a recently bereaved collegiate friend than to continue!  

They then called the hospital. Horace and Philomena together with other tribal elders had visited the hospital. They had a few other guys with them who took over guard duty allowing Cherry to take off to meet his two buddies.

Over coffee they went through the notes. Since the dig site was located near the location of Cagle’s still, maybe he had found the knife and totem? The grave had appeared to have been recently disturbed after all. Was that why Cagle had been grabbed by that thing? Very possibly; but we still didn’t know who was controlling the beasts.

Cherry left us to freshen up at the hotel. On his way back he too went to the library. Get a loada us! Suddenly we’re all scholarly academics leaving apples for teacher. What’re we gonna do next? Stab someone with a pen?

He wanted to look up Aldebaran in the Astronomy section. It’s a large red star. Not normally visible at this time of year, but due to strange irregularities will be visible low in the sky for another couple of weeks. If what Macnifey babbled about was true, those Byakee things would be able to appear once the star disappeared below the horizon.  But how had he known?

We had other questions too.

Was Razorshins roaming the forest on his own accord or being controlled somehow? If so by whom?

Where did he carry off Riverman’s body to? We had followed his trail about 12 miles north but had been worried about getting isolated in the forest and headed back to the boat.

Who was buying Cagle’s hooch? Could we get any leads on Cagle’s other hangouts from them.

News had got around town that we were back. We were a regular star turn in this burg. Joan invited us to a late lunch. She was concerned about “poor Ed”.

Weird. He mostly scared the living daylights out of people but here was a dame that actually wanted to meet him again! Her message also said that she had someone that she wanted us to meet. We hoped it wasn’t to request another favour of us, the novelty of all this do-gooding was wearing off.

We got news that our Native American escorts had both come to. Otherwise unharmed but for feeling a little sheepish they returned to Indian Island leaving a note of thanks on the boat.

We met Joan at her club at 2pm. She was accompanied by younger woman.  It was good to see her again. Having beautiful female company once in a while was never a bad thing, it was even better if they were smiling and not singing too. She did seem genuinely concerned about Ed’s injury, almost as if she blamed herself for somehow being the cause of it. Down the line, if she was gonna run King’s operation in Boston she would hafta lose the guilt. She’d need to be able to whack people. But her future job suitability wasn’t our problem. Right now we liked the fact she wasn’t cold or hard-hearted.

She then introduced her companion, her cousin Sarah Solomon, a reporter who worked for The Bangor Daily News. Sarah promised to help us any way she can. She’d even cleared her afternoon so she was at our disposal.

Joan also confirmed that Christoff had returned to the dig site with his three students. They had left Bangor the previous day – Friday 15th May 1925. Why did he have only 3 helpers for a dig site that large? I knew it wasn’t like King Tut in 1922 but that had involved 100s of workers.

Was it because he only had interest in the missing knife and totem? McGee pointed it could be a more basic reason than anything devious: funding. Things always but always came down the amount of folding green available. Native American wasn’t as popular as Egyptian that was for sure.

After we outlined our interest in Cagle’s Bangor outlet to Sarah she promised to get right on it. Then we chowed down on the good eats before leaving.

As Horace was also still in Bangor we met him late afternoon.  We quizzed him about Riverman as we wanted to know where in the forest he might have lived.

Horace didn’t know for sure since Riverman had been shunned by the rest of the Panawahpskek peoples. However Horace believed he kept some affinity with the tribal grounds as he had been regularly seen wandering in the surrounding area. The tribal lands extended north about 25 miles past Lincoln.

There was a mountain on the edge of Panawahpskek lands called Mount Katahdin. The tallest one in the State. No Mount McKinley or anything, it being only 5,300 feet high. You could pretty much walk up to its summit. It was holy to the Panawahpskek. Its name meant “Mountain of the Wind”. Wasn’t Ithaqua, their evil god or devil character a god of the north wind? According to Christoff’s journal he appeared to be a medicine man. Was he getting into things he shouldn’t like his folks had done? Oh wow.

A couple of months ago we wouldn’t have ever believed in any kind of magic but now…. That was the trouble with banishing folks. Once you’d done that you couldn’t keep an eye on them or steer them right once in a while. Left on his own, he was only going to get worse.

What was keeping him there? If I had been kicked out by my people I wouldn’t hang around. America was a big place. Easy for a man to pick up and start again somewhere new. Could be he was looking for something.

We thanked Horace for this info, and then headed back to our hotel for a bit of R&R.

Sarah Solomon called. She had chased down Cagle’s outlet in town. It was a small place on the northern outskirts owned by one Jake Black. There was a false name if ever I heard one. She left us the address. Sarah also told us that up until around 1850 the Cagle clan had had an estate up by Mount Katahdin.

Cherry went back to the library. It was no problem being Saturday night. He had struck up a friendship with the librarian there on his previous trips. He didn’t even need to mention Joan’s request to get it opened up for him. Either that or she had been told to be nice. No need to burst his bubble!

Cherry hit the books again looking for Cagle family histories. Turned out that they had been really quite well to do until the middle of last century when the alcoholic head of the Cagle clan had gambled away the entire family fortune.  With no-one able to maintain it, their fine mansion had fallen into disrepair until being abandoned just before the Civil War.

Their family had swiftly fallen from grace at almost exactly the same time as the Solomon’s first came to town. Could be coincidence but Cherry reminded himself never to play poker with Joan or Sarah just in case card sharps ran in the family.

We decided to get some rest before making a move on Mr Black the next day. Horace had some people watching Ed and Running Deer so we didn’t need to worry about watches.

Sunday, May 17, 1925 – Bangor, Maine:

We awoke well refreshed after another incident free night. At last we could go back to what we did best with no more schooling.

Incredibly Ed arrived at the hotel to join us for breakfast. Hadn’t he been in a coma? Turned out Philomena had visited him in hospital along with some tribal elders. After an hour of chanting Ed had briefly woken up the previous evening then slept again. In the morning his wounds had healed quite rapidly. While he was still groggy he could at least move around. Perhaps he shouldn’t but he was too pig-headed to be told otherwise. If the headaces made him grouchy we would never tell.

As we wanted to catch our man on the hop so we headed there quite early. His ramshackle general store was hard to miss.

Macnifey went round back and piled up some crates against the rear door preventing any speedy exit. Then as the four of us then went in the front door Morello turned the open sign over. No point in unnecessary disturbance.

Black didn’t offer us any resistance. Whether he knew of us or whether he was put off by the four heaters pointed his way or the steely glare of the man with the bloody bandage around his head, it didn’t matter to us. Black spilled his guts before we’d even started. We noticed his supply of moonshine as we came in. Black admitted it was Cagle’s brew. But his real bag was mushrooms apparently. They grew thick up by the old Cagle place near Mount Katahdin. Native Americans had used them for centuries for spirit walking but adventurous dilettantes in Bangor were now interested too. Apparently these mushrooms did for the Panawahpskek what Peyote did for the Apache.

They were brewed into a bitter tasting tea which was then slowly drunk over the course of an evening. Any quicker would cause poisoning.

Cagle had supplied Black with both for a while. However Black had not seen Cagle since before the murder. Morello advised Black to get used to life without Cagle but quick.

Black described his most recent meeting with Cagle.

Black: “Last time he came in he was pretty pleased with himself…said he’d found something that was going to make him a fortune. Said he’s dug it up near to the Columbia University dig site” (Also near to his still!)

Black: “He said he’d made a real big score.”

This confirmed our belief that Cagle had found the knife and totem sought by Christoff and Riverman.

After helping ourselves to a selection of axes, a bag of mushrooms all for Ed and a quart of Cagle’s hooch for each of us we left a startled Black to wonder who his new supplier would be.

Sunday, May 17, 1925 – Indian Island Reservation, Maine:

We headed downriver to Indian Island in the boat to parley with Horace once again. On the journey upriver Ed had a strange look in his eye. Almost wistful. He said he wanted to “spirit walk”. We figured it was the head wound but then again he’d always been a mite outlandish. He could ask when we arrived but we had questions first. The sideshow would have to wait.

Horace provided us with a new tracker. Great bear was famous; he was Columbia University’s high jump champion. The second Native American to go there after Molly, his cousin. Ed thanked Philomena for her aid the previous evening.

Philomena warned Ed that despite feeling invigorated he was yet to fully heal. He should stay in bed for at least another week to get the maximum benefit of her healing ritual. She explained that the wounds had been made by a beast called a Hunting Horror. This was bad medicine. A thing as powerful as a Hunting Horror was so dangerous that it has never been summoned in many generations. The knowledge of how to do so was thought to have been lost to the Panawahpskek people for over a hundred years.

Macnifey asked her about the knife and totem of Assaminasqua mentioned in the Christoff journals. Philomena told us that the knife was unique. It was not stone or flint but metal. Old metal. It was brought to Panawahpskek lands by the sea peoples long, long ago. She described the sea people as speaking a strange language, using axes with shields, having thick beards and sailing in huge canoes. Was she talking about Vikings? Maine was not far from Nova Scotia where Viking remains had been found.

She said that the knife was imprinted with the strange angular signs or runes used by the sea people. They had a blonde haired watchwoman with them who had, according to legend used it to summon evil things. When she had been killed it was taken by the Chief either as a trophy or to prevent it falling into the hands of more enemies to be used in bad medicine against the Panawahpskek.

Philomena went on to say that Assaminasqua’s totem stick was wooden so it probably could survive burial intact. With ground so damp around there she just couldn’t how it wouldn’t rot away.

McGee then asked her about Razorshins and whether she would be upset if we killed it. Philomena replied that Razorshins had harmed lots of people in the area so she would not be upset to see it killed but doubted whether we could do it. Just great. Thanks for the vote of confidence.

Producing his bag of mushrooms, Ed then asked if he could spirit walk.

Reluctantly Horace and Philomena agreed. However they insisted on Ed promising to do exactly as they said.

Ed’s Spirit Walk – Indian Island Reservation, Maine:

In the sweat lodge Ed clutched his totem stick firmly in his left hand as he had been instructed. Then as if distrusting his grip, he asked Horace to tie his hand around it so that it was impossible to drop. Despite his outward confidence Ed was worried his nerve might fail.

The bitter tea took effect. Ed felt lightheaded. His head swam in a fog of nausea.

He came to in a forest clearing. Ahead of him beyond the trees rose a mountain with a u-shaped ridge. Without being told Ed knew this was Mount Katahdin.

As he gazed at the mountain a black squirrel approached him from across the clearing. It spoke in Panawahpskek but somehow Ed comprehended.

Black Squirrel: “I am your Gahn. Your spirit guide. I am showing the path that you must take. Though you are a white man we will allow onto the sacred mountain. At its foot you will find the broken house. A man there has taken something from us. It lies within. The Sea Knife.

All the dead now live, but Gluskabe, The Spirit Lord and god of the Panawahpskek seeks the souls of the three. They should not walk the earth. It is no longer their rightful place to be as their time for living has passed. The banished half breed, long dead Assaminasqua and the white man Cagle. But beware they are all broken. Their minds are no longer whole.

Assaminasqua’s mind was broken in the act of summoning Ithaqua long years ago. But when he was brought forth again the rite of awakening broke his mind even more. This same rite also broke the mind of the half breed and that of Cagle when they too were brought forth.

The spirits would have them come back to the shadow lands. They should not be in the world of the living.

I am your Gahn. Look for me as you travel in the real world. I will have important things to show you when it is time.  Now leave and return to your world.”

As Ed recovered from the dizziness he found that his throbbing headache had lessened as had the burning pain of the bite marks on either side of his head.

Before we left Horace and Philomena explained that they had taken out an injunction against Christoff for desecrating their burial site. Fearing violent protest, The Indian Agent in Bangor had already enforced the order while a formal investigation is carried out.

We planned to leave for Mount Katahdin at dawn the following day so that evening we took remaining supplies on board. We planned to head north along the Penobscot River as far as we could before completing the journey on foot.

Monday, May 18, 1925 – Penobscot River, Lincoln:

Lincoln was just over 30miles upstream of Indian island. We arrived there mid-morning accompanied by our new tracker Great Bear. Unlike his predecessor Running Deer he opted for army uniform rather than native garb. He sported a bolt action rifle with a scope. He also had a .45 revolver. As we approached Lincoln he silently patrolled the boat, gun at the ready, scanning amongst the trees of both banks. He looked like a good man to have in a fight.

We topped up on our fuel at Hank’s General Store where we picked up news at the same time. Hank told us that Rose had visited the night before. She had been very upset following an argument with Christoff. She had paced about the village muttering “That Idiot!” before finally returning to the dig site. She wasn’t the type to get rattled easily. Christoff must have really got under her skin.

Rounding a bend in the river we approached the landing area nearest the campsite. We could see smoke form a campfire giving us déjà-vu of first meeting with Cagle.

Expecting another trap we tied up then disembarked cautiously. We approached the camp from two sides. Great Bear, MacNifey and Cherry peeled off to approach the camp from the western side while McGee and Ed headed the opposite way to approach via the east.

Both groups heard Rose shouting. She was controlled but again, something must really have got to her to make her raise her voice. We all continued on taking our alternate routes.

As we got nearer we managed to make out what Rose was saying.

Rose: “He lied to all of us. He didn’t have permission to dig here. He has ruined our reputations and that of the University. More than that, he has insulted the Panawahpskek nation. We could all be shunned! They’d be justified too. It’s unforgivable! I’ll barely be able to look Horace and Philomena in the eye. I’m so ashamed. What will I say to Molly?”

Rose: “Let’s just go! Right now.”

We heard other expedition members moving about so we figured out it were safe to approach. Why we’re they feeling so on edge, especially Rose. Wasn’t like us to feel jumpy before a job, we’d been around too long. Despite her upset Rose waved to us. Forcing a smile she greeted us warmly.

They had been busy. All the strings and markers had been removed. The graves had been covered over with all the bodies reburied. They had been thorough. They had done their best to return the burial ground to how it had been before their arrival.

Rose invited us to her tent for some coffee. It was the only one not being taken down.

Rose: “Oh that arrogant, foolish man. I should have known not to trust him! I just hope the Panawahpskek will forgive me.”

Rose: “Anyway how are you? That looks nasty Ed, are you sure you should be walking around?”

Ed replied

Ed: “I’m fine really. Looks far worse than it is. Listen we’re a little pushed for time here.

Ed: “Can I just ask you how you knew to prepare silver bullets? “

Rosethen answered.

Rose: “How did you..? Oh of course! You would have checked our camp. Yes I had silver bullets for my .45. It was the queerest thing. Before I left Bangor on our final night there I had the most vivid dream. As I was walking in the forest a disembodied voice warned me to prepare for the coming of Razorshins. Silver would protect me. I thought it most unusual but the voice seemed so compelling I felt I should do so. I felt embarrassed telling the others but procured Silver in Bangor then bought some metallurgical kit before we set off.”

Rose: “Then I found Christoff was doing the same. Riverman had apparently advised him.”

Rose: “But I don’t suppose I’ll need them now. If that’s all gentlemen I’d really like to pack. I don’t wish to be illegally present on sacred Panawahpskek lands any longer than necessary.”

We left Rose, Helen and Rinecker to their packing then looked for Christoff.

Morello spotted him stomping angrily out of the trees back to camp.

McGee catches up with him first. “Hey fella, you oughtta show more respect to the Native Americans! What the hell were you thinking? And why didn’t you come clean about the Knife?”

Christoff reddened, glaring. “

Christoff: “You went through my journal! That’s private! I’ll have you shot. In fact I’ll…”

Christoff pulled out a revolver from jacket.

McGee: “Cool it buddies. See over there?”

McGee pointed to Ed who was pointing his rifle at Christoff’s head.

McGee: “And there?”

He pointed at Morello who had drawn his own pistol and was levelling it Christoff’s chest.

McGee: “Put it away before you get hurt. You’ve been found out. It’s over. Now pack your stuff and leave. Pronto!”

Christoff screamed in frustration, rolling his eyes. But as he looked up away from the guns pointed at him, he must have spotted something because he wailed “Oh no! What have you done! The spirit trees! What have you done?”

We looked over to where he was staring.

The ridge of three spirit trees overlooking the burial grounds now showed three stumps and some firewood. That explained our foreboding but why hadn’t we noticed it before? We remembered that this was the only place in the forest where more than one spirit tree grew together. Some lunatic had axed them all.

Not good. We knew what happened the last time that had been done. We didn’t want to end up like George Clenton.

McGee took charge.

McGee: “Right boys, this is for keeps. Skirmish line.  Escort the students to the boat. Triple time. Now!”

It was a good ten minutes’ walk back to the boat. We hoped we’d have time. Was this to be our Argonne?

Encounter In The Forest

We told the students to drop everything except guns and hooch as they hightailed it for the boat.

As we headed downhill, Rose yelled out

Rose: “Mc Gee! Six o’clock”

Pulling two bottle of moonshine out her backpack even as Rose yelled her warning.

We heard a distant crashing in the forest behind us. Trees fell away a hundred yards or so behind McGee.

It was time to run.

As we ran Rose placed moonshine at intervals behind us. The trees thinned. We could see the boat now. We were going to make it. But where was Christoff? In a fit of pique or maybe an act of madness he had driven away from us. Away from the boat. We yelled but he was too focused. Panic stricken he no longer heard us.

MacNifey laid down his last keg, gallantly keeping Rose and the others ahead of him.

From the boat Great Bear leapt down, carrying another large keg. Thank goodness we had stocked up so well. He shouted out.

Gret Bear: “Run past me. I can’t be harmed! I am Panawahpskek! Razorshins can only harm others. I will slow it down with these.”

With incredible speed he bounded uphill towards the fleeing fixers. No wonder he got that athletics scholarship.

We can hear crashing as Razorshins got closer to us. But we also heard it stop periodically too. It must have been stopping to drink the moonshine.  It was working, but we dared not look back. We recalled how just the sight of that thing could cause shellshock sufficient to stop us in our tracks.  If that happened we were dead. We saw what it did to trees. We’d be cut in half.

Helen clambered aboard, followed by Rinecker, then Rose. Ed followed heading for the wheelhouse, then McGee dropped his final keg ten yards before the boat.

Only Morello and Great bear remained ashore. But then Morello scuttled up the side of the boat to get aboard. He always had been good at climbing.

Finally we all looked back.

The last tree before the shore fell as Razorshins rushed towards us. It was a stretched 8 foot tall parody of a man. Longed limbed. Cadaverous. Skeletal. The bright sun accentuated its wind scoured limbs. The skinless ivory bones shone, honed to the keenest edge by the unnatural song of Ithaqua the accursed.

Helen was momentarily frozen to the spot by the horror of its ghastly visage but recovered herself quickly, Rose was fine. Great Bear jumped up back on the boat, landing on deck.

Ed revved the engines sending the boat away from shore. Hopefully to safety. Could Razorshins swim? We hoped not. The boat skewed back to shore. Ed had over revved. He fought with the rudder to get us back into the centre of the river again.

McGee pulled out a grenade. MacNifey opened up with his scattergun firing silver bullets. Rinecker shot a pistol as did Rose.

The thing just glared malevolently as bullets thudded harmlessly into the gaps between its bones or bounced off its leathery cadaverous hide. The premonition was wrong. The silver didn’t work.

McGee hurls his grenade but Razorshins dived away. It landed near one of the last remaining kegs.

As the hideous dead think drank we could see the moonshine leaking from its rotting flesh.

Morello had been waiting for that. Let it burn! He fired his very pistol right square into the chest of Razorshins. Immediately the creature erupted in a flash of blue flame as the alcohol ignited. Razorshins just stood gurgling. Or was it the monstrous equivalent of laughter. Although lit up like a rotting Christmas pudding this thing was no more harmed by fire than by silver.

Out the corner of McGee’s eye he spied movement to Razorshins left. Christoff broke cover. He sprinted for the boat. But that thing was so fast. In the blink of an eye it raised its leg connecting with Christoff’s forehead.

A crimson spray spurted from the top of Christoff’s head as part of his skull skated into the river.

In a bestial roar of triumph Razorshins tore at the broken body shredding it with its claws.

Or was it a roar of frustration? For all its ferocity it didn’t enter the river. We were safe for the moment.

We headed upriver against the current for a few minutes. Then we let off Rinecker and Helen Winters on the opposite side where they would be safe. They could walk down to the bank opposite Lincoln.

Rose opted to travel with us. We were all shaken. We had also used up a good stock of the hooch we had with us. But it had worked. While we couldn’t harm it, we could slow Razorshins by tempting him into bouts of drinking.  We had also confirmed that it couldn’t swim. If we stayed near shore even if we had no alcohol we could fling ourselves into the safety of the river. We also had Rose to aid us.

Time to get our man so we could claim our dough. We needed to end this.

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