by M. Scott Carter






From Issue 12 (August 2011)

Old man Withers was the first to die.

A mean, ornery bastard with a craggy, rough face and the temper of blind sewer rat, the old man hadn’t lived in Bayside very long – two, maybe three years.

The boys at the VFW hall had warned him about Bayside. They’d told him the stories, and the legends, but old man Withers didn’t care. He was the type of crank who’d sue a ten-year-old kid for laughing. He spent his days spying on his neighbors, complaining and making life miserable for the rest of the residents of Bayside.

And old man Withers didn’t believe in legends or spooks. So he gave the boys the finger and moved into the big white house on the hill that looked out over the bay.

Old man Withers should have listened to the VFW boys.

Barbara Chaney, the slender, brunette postmistress, first noticed that the old man had disappeared.

“Have you seen Mr. Withers?” she asked Bayside’s sheriff, Pete Jacobs. “His post office box is stuffed with mail. I haven’t seen him in almost a week.”

“Nope, I ain’t,” Pete said. “But if you want, I’ll stop by there this afternoon and check on the old grump.”

Pete was sweet on Barbara, so he didn’t mind driving the few miles to the big white house.

Built like a wrestler, Pete could just as easily toss a scowl as a smile. He understood most of the people who lived in Bayside. The people liked Pete and most of the criminals stayed out of his way.

Pete drove up the gravel drive, parked his Jeep, and walked up to old man Withers’ porch. He knocked on the door and looked around. The house was empty.

Doesn’t look like anything’s wrong, Pete thought. He’s probably off somewhere trying to sue someone.

Pete walked around the house to the back yard; everything – the small, overgrown vegetable garden, the haphazard pile of firewood, and several strange-looking oak trees with willow leaves – was normal.

Then he saw the back fence.

There, under the bright Maine sun, Pete found what was left of old man Withers -tossed over the barbed wire like a well-used rag doll.

The old man’s face was smeared and twisted like a bad charcoal drawing.

The body was naked; swollen and distorted in the heat. Portions of the old man’s scrawny, chicken-like legs were puffed full of fluid like some macabre balloon. Large sections of the trunk had been torn away, and there were places where the flesh had been eaten.

Pete vomited. He wiped his mouth and willed his stomach not to turn over again. He pulled out his camera. He took photos of how the old man had been torn apart and he photographed the purple, quarter-sized knot on the back side of the old man’s skull, right where the neck and the skull joined together. Then he took out his notebook, and tried to describe the old man’s smeared, rotting face.

He also made notes about the strange, sickeningly sweet smell that drifted on the air, and the tiny wood chips scattered inside the raw, jagged wounds.

Pete wrote everything down. Then he stretched some plastic yellow crime scene tape in a large triangle behind the old white house, drove back into town, and called Race Holder, the county’s medical examiner.

But by the time Race finished the autopsy, and the undertaker cremated what was left of old man Withers, word had gotten around town that people were being killed again in Bayside.

Jeff Currier jumped into his convertible. He redlined the motor. Then he stomped on the clutch and shoved the shifter into first gear.

A senior, Jeff wasn’t much on high school. Instead he lived for football. Tall, solid and muscled, Jeff believed that the world was filled with two types of people: fighters and losers.

Jeff was a fighter, and that gimp, Mr. Manguel, he was the loser.

Manguel kept him after class – all the time – and Jeff was sick of it. Today he’d had to stay after because of the Parker kid. Hell, didn’t Manguel know it was just a joke?

It wasn’t Jeff’s fault that the Parker kid was such a retard. Kids like that, freaks that drooled and pissed themselves, needed to be taken out.

His coach had taught him that. “Only the strong survive,” Coach said. “Strength rules.”

Jeff Currier was one of the strong.

Jeff had learned those lessons early, from the rough end of his step-dad’s fist. The weak just slowed things down; the gimps just got in the way.

Neither of ‘em deserved to live.

The convertible whined as Jeff shifted into third. He pushed the accelerator to the floor, and jerked the wheel to the right. The small car skidded around the curve to where Highway 61 made a big “Y”.

One stretch went south – the long way – around Bayside. Most folks took this exit, even though it took longer and the road twisted and curved. Going south, traffic was always heavy.

The other way, to the left, was faster; but few people traveled The Old North Road. Even though it was a straight shot to Rusville and eventually the Interstate, The Old North Road was hardly ever used – and no one went there at night. Rumor was, the road was haunted. A few folks, the weird ones like that crazy preacher, Reverend Allgood, said the dead still traveled The Old North Road.

Plus, the big trees grew there. The trees just made things worse.

Tall and straight, the trees looked like oaks, but their leaves – long and sinewy – hung down like slender, wooden ribbons, more like willow leaves.

The trees lined both sides of The Old North Road, overhanging it like a canopy. During the summer, the growth was so dense the trees blocked the sun, making the road dark and menacing, even in the early afternoon.

Few people went that way anymore; anyone who did prayed they didn’t break down.

Jeff Currier didn’t care. He wasn’t afraid. Right now he was late for a party. A few of the guys from the team had stolen some beer and Jeff was invited.

Jeff pushed the accelerator to the floor. It was getting dark and he had to make up lost time.

“Stupid Mr. Manguel,” he cussed. “If I ever catch that gimp bastard in the parking lot, I’ll fix him.”

Jeff imagined slamming his car into Mr. Manguel’s wheelchair. In his head, he heard the teacher scream. He heard the screech of metal as it snapped fragile bones. He saw the blood spray. The image made Jeff laugh.

Jeff didn’t laugh very long.

Instead, he pissed himself when he took a curve too fast and his convertible skidded off The Old North Road into the ditch.

Jeff jumped out of the car and kicked it, hard. He didn’t have time for this. He flipped open his phone – no service. His friends were waiting for him and the party was supposed to be huge. He couldn’t go like this.

Jeff walked to the back of the car. Maybe there was a spare pair of sweats in the trunk. He opened it – nothing. He slammed it shut and kicked the car.

Right after Jeff kicked the car, he started to scream. And once Jeff Currier started to scream, he was the second to die.

By the time Pete found the kid – his face smeared, his body twisted, bloated and ripped apart, just like old man Withers – seven more residents of Bayside were dead.

And all of them – the three old Harrison sisters, Reverend Allgood, Mr. and Mrs. Cole, and the guy who ran the Army Surplus store – had a strange purple knot at the base of their skulls.

And all of them had died screaming.

About ten miles from Bayside, the countryside rolled and pitched like the waves of a bright green ocean. The fields, filled with crops, bumped right up against the mountains on the left side; on the right, the mountains slowly transformed into beaches that bordered the ocean.

A mile south of where Highway 1 intersected with Highway 3, an unmarked, paved road veered to the right, slicing back through the green fields toward a small farm.

The small, yellow house sat at the end of the road, Tessa Cosindas’ house. She’d lived there for years.

Tessa did things simple. She sold fruit, vegetables, and homemade jam during the summer from her roadside stand. In the winter, she made real wool sweaters with wool harvested from her sheep.

For two decades, Tessa had worked the earth, tended her animals, and sat in the sun enjoying a quiet, peaceful life.

Then, a few months ago, her visions returned.

Today Tessa wasn’t working in the fields. She hadn’t picked up the pecans and walnuts that dotted her lawn. Instead, she just sat on her porch and cried.

She cried because her past had returned; the balance disturbed.

The first time it had happened, she was thirteen, then again when she was in her thirties. Now, twenty years later, the visions had returned: the killer was back. And again, Tessa had seen the people die.

Tessa wanted to tell the police. She had before, but that was many years ago, and the police hadn’t listened.

For the third time that day, Pete Jacobs stared at the large map behind his desk. Dozens of small, yellow pushpins were clustered across a two-mile section of Bayside. Each pin represented a dead person.

Pete walked toward his desk. It was in the corner of a small, dingy, gray and white office filled with metal desks, maps, and a few faded anti-drug posters. Across the back wall sat a million dollars worth of electronic equipment.

“I don’t understand it,” Pete said to the small scrum of men who stood in his office. “All this technology around me and the only thing I can find connecting all these deaths is that they all live in Bayside.”

Marvin Boyd rocked back on his heels and cracked his knuckles. Marvin, Bayside’s mayor, always cracked his knuckles when he was thinking. Of course, Marvin also cracked his knuckles when he didn’t know what to do, or when he was trying to figure out how to get his ass out of a jam.

Pale and sweaty, Marvin reached down and wiped a spot off his well-shined shoes with a chubby hand. “Well, Pete, you gotta do something, ‘cause dozens of dead people on your watch ain’t gonna help you get re-elected.”

Pete slammed his fist on the desk. “Hell, Marv, I know that, I’m not stupid! And I’m not just worried about getting re-elected, you pompous ass. Somebody’s out there killing folks. While you’re polishing your shoes, I’m bustin’ my hump here, trying to figure out what’s going on.”

Race Holder, the medical examiner, stepped between the two men. “Gentlemen, there’s no reason to fight.”

At 62, Race could have retired a few years back, but he liked being a doctor. He certainly looked the part – tall and sinewy with watery gray eyes and a head full of silver hair.

Race wasn’t ready, just yet, to quit. He liked his peaceful life and he wanted it to stay that way.

“I think I speak for everyone in this room when I say we know Pete is doing everything possible to stop this,” Race scowled at Marvin, defying the portly mayor to challenge him.

“I agree,” a young man said. “Pete’s been working nonstop, he needs our help.” Neal O’Bannon, editor of the Bayside Reporter, stood and walked to the center of the room. He patted the sheriff on the back.

Neal wasn’t the typical Bayside resident. Young, and perpetually dressed in jeans and a sports coat, he liked heavy metal music, dated several women at a time, and had been known, on more than one occasion, to question the motives of Bayside’s political leaders.

“You all can stand around and complain or you can roll up your sleeves and help Pete figure out who’s behind this.”

Marvin cracked his knuckles again. “Well, we’re a small community,” he said. “Could be anyone here. It shouldn’t be that hard. What about that weirdo at the bowling alley? What’s his name…Graves?”

Neal laughed. “Do you really think that this is someone local, Marv? Honestly, with the collection of busybodies living in this town, a local wouldn’t stand a chance. Besides, you’re just pissed off at Charley Graves because he gave money to your opponent. It ain’t Charley. No sir, something else is goin’ on.”

Marvin leaned toward Neal. “Well, who do you think it is? Mister from-the-big-city newspaper editor?”

“I haven’t the slightest idea. But I do know that you should never speculate without facts, and we don’t have many of those. Pete has his people working around the clock. He’s called in the state police and requested help from the FBI. What else would you have him do?”

“I… I don’t know,” Marvin said. “But we gotta do something. The Coles were friends of mine. This can’t go on.”

Marvin turned his round face toward the medical examiner. “Race, isn’t there anything else you can tell us?”

Race Holder really didn’t want to talk about the autopsies. Bayside folks were simple, honest, and hardworking; if he told them the truth, the shock would push them over the edge.

Hell, Race hadn’t even talked to Pete, yet. He knew the exam on old man Withers was solid, but right at the moment, he wasn’t ready to talk — not even to the sheriff.

Race looked around the room. “We’re not finished just yet,” he lied. “There are a few more tests we need to run. I… I… need to send some blood samples to Bangor and…”

“You mean you can’t us tell anything?” Marvin rocked back on his heels. His round, white face turned dark. “You’ve had the bodies for close to a month now.”

Race glared at the mayor. “Marvin, I know how long they’ve been there. And I tell ya’, we’re not finished yet. The cause of death is still listed as ‘a possible homicide by person or persons unknown’. That’s all I can say.”

The mayor flopped down in a chair. “Well, I wish somebody would do something. I just don’t get it. I don’t understand why this is so damn hard. I thought you guys…”

From the back, a rough, coarse voice interrupted him. “Ahhhh shut up, Marvin,” the voice said. “What you don’t know would fill an ocean.”

Elijah Kent stood and walked toward the door. His bony, wraith-like frame moved stiffly through the small office.

“Why… why, Elijah, I didn’t realize…” Marvin looked away from the worn, gray-haired old man. “…I didn’t see you back… back… there. I didn’t know your ship had returned.”

Elijah sat down in a small wooden chair. He leaned back against the door and pulled his long, greasy hair back.

“That’s because you’re too damn busy listening to your own gums flap. Good God, Marvin, you were born yammering and now, more than forty years later, that fat, over-fed mouth of yours ain’t shut up yet. This town ain’t had a moment of peace.”

The mayor puffed and turned his back to the old man. Elijah pointed a withered, shaky finger at the sheriff.

“Pete ain’t been here long enough to know. And most of you are too young.” The old sailor scratched his head. “Now you, mister newspaper editor, well, I’m not too sure about you, yet. But the rest of you either don’t know or you just don’t understand. You don’t have any idea what you’re facing here.”

Race Holder looked at the old man. “Elijah, I know what you’re gonna say, but you and I have already talked about that. Don’t go spreadin’ a bunch of old spook stories that won’t do anything but get people all stirred up.”

Elijah stood and drifted toward Pete’s desk. He leaned against the front of the desk and pointed to the map on the wall.

“Stirred up? Hell, Race, people are droppin’ like flies and you’re worried about getting people stirred up? Look at that map, Doc. You know where all those bodies were found. Put two and two together. You were here back in ’71.  You tell me a better reason for having so many folks dead.”

Race loosened his tie. “I know… and I’m not disputing that fact. But… it’s just…”

“Well, I certainly would like to know what in the hell you two are talking about,” Pete said.

Race nodded. “You’re right, Pete. Sorry.” He turned to the other men. “Earlier today, Elijah came to see me. He said he thought a friend of his could help. But I really don’t think…”

“That’s your problem, Doc,” Elijah said. “You don’t think. You haven’t been thinking and you’re not thinking now.” He swept a stack of papers, files, and the telephone on Pete’s desk onto the floor.

“Now, you bastards, listen up, ‘cause I’m only tellin’ this once. I lived here a long time and I don’t plan on stoppin’ just yet.”

Elijah settled his thin, skeletal frame on the desk. “Used to be a sailor. Been all over the globe. Even spent a little time in the Navy. Ain’t much I haven’t heard and even less I haven’t seen.”

Pete scowled. “I… don’t understand how this is going to help the investigation. I really need to get…”

Elijah coughed, then pushed more files onto the floor. “Now like I was sayin’, I’ve seen it all. Anyway, more than thirty years ago, I dropped anchor here at Bayside. Liked the look of the country and the size of the town. Didn’t know about Bayside then. But me, not bein’ big on cities, thought Bayside was the perfect place. Small. Comfortable.”

Marvin rolled his eyes. “Is this really necessary? Honestly.”

Elijah dismissed Marvin with a wave of a bony hand. “Anyway, I hadn’t been here very long before I met Tessa. Tessa Cosindas.” The old man smiled. “She was young and beautiful then. And, well sir, for a while, we were pretty thick.”

“Will you get to the point?” Marvin shuffled his feet. “We don’t have all night.”

“If you’ll shut up, I’ll be g’tting there a lot quicker.” Elijah took out a brown clay pipe, stuffed it with tobacco, and lit it. “Now, like I was sayin’, I was squirin’ Tessa around and things were going real nice.”

He puffed out a ring of blue smoke. “Then she started seeing things. Horrible things. Death and blood and pain, things like that. Saw folks’ faces all twisted and messed up. Then the folks she saw, well sir, they started dyin’.”

Neal O’Bannon leaned forward. “Are you saying that this woman you used to date might be the killer?”

Elijah shook his head. “No sir, that ain’t what I said at all. Tessie wouldn’t hurt a kitten. And she was always with me when the killin’s happened. But she… well, she’d start seein’ things… in her head… as they happened. She’d see the face of the person gettin’ killed.”

Pete cocked his head. “This the same lady that has the fruit stand off Highway 1?”

“Yes sir.”

“I’ve heard of her,” Pete said. “Now, you say she saw who was being killed? When?”

“This was years ago,” Elijah said. “I was a lot younger then and, well, I just thought she was crazy or hopped up on dope, something like that. I got spooked and pulled up stakes. Left her cryin’ on the dock.”

“So why are you telling us this now?” Neal asked. “If it was so long ago, what does that have to do with these deaths?”

Elijah took another long draw on his pipe. “Mister newspaperman, that’s the second intelligent question you’ve asked tonight, so I’m gonna answer it: I’m telling you boys this because Tessie called me the other day. Said her visions had returned. Said she saw Withers, that punk Currier kid, and a bunch of other folks die. She was all cryin’ and the like.”

“I don’t believe a word of this,” Marvin hissed. He turned toward Elijah. “That’s the silliest story I’ve ever heard. Elijah, you’re an old fool. I know this woman and she’s nothing more than an ex-hippie trying to make a fast buck.”

Elijah slid off the desk and stood, his face shrouded in smoke. “Well you can laugh all you want. But if I was you, Mr. Sheriff, I’d go see her. ‘Cause I think Tessa may know a helluva lot more than anyone thinks.”

“If you think she’s so damned important, why don’t you go talk to her?” Marvin whined. “Let these people get on with what they need to do.”

Elijah looked down at his boots. “I ain’t seen Tessa in years,” he said, his voice quiet. “And I don’t plan on goin’ back. That was all a long time ago.” Neal O’Bannon looked at Pete. “You know, Pete, if you want, I’ll go out there with you. Who knows? This woman may know something that helps.”

“Or Marv may be right,” Pete said, “and Tessa may just be crazy.”

The woman was close to fifty. Tall, slim, with that look that said she was perpetually stressed. Tessa saw her, in her mind. The vision woke her.

In her head, Tessa saw pearls, a cream-colored suit, new shoes – a businesswoman. The woman’s silver Lincoln was stalled on the side of the road. She stood next to the car, cell phone in hand, yelling – reading the riot act to some poor soul on the other end.

Tessa scrunched her eyes. She tried to make the vision go away. She covered her ears with her hands and burrowed under the covers of her bed. Outside, the rain fell against the roof.

Another flash, and Tessa saw the woman’s face up close; she was heavily made up, her face harsh and angular. She saw the woman’s tight, thin lips part. Then the woman screamed.

The screams pounded Tessa’s ears like a thousand drums being beaten all at once. Tessa saw blood and flesh and pieces of the woman fall away. She saw something strike the woman’s head. She heard the flapping of the buzzards’ wings as they descended from the sky, ready to feed on the woman’s corpse.

Another flash; she saw the dead woman’s face, smeared and distorted.

After that, everything faded to black.

By the time Pete reached Tessa’s farm, the sun had dipped low against the horizon, painting the sky a bright, fiery orange.

Originally, Pete wasn’t going to talk to Tessa, but after a week, and another grisly death, he had his back to the wall.

He was angry and frustrated. He’d done everything he could to protect people, yet the dead were stacking up like firewood. And Bayside, the little village he loved living in, was coming unraveled.

People in town were frightened; he knew. And frightened people did stupid things. If he couldn’t stop the deaths, Pete knew, Bayside was a time bomb waiting to explode.

Already, the town selectmen had circulated a recall petition to get Pete out of office, and Marvin, still pissed off about Elijah’s lecture, had been the first one to sign.

Things were bad, Pete thought. He just prayed they didn’t get any worse.

He had gone back and forth over the whole idea. This wasn’t what he had been taught. Law enforcement was methodical, organized. Good police work, Pete believed, did not involve asking for help from people who had visions.

But what if Tessa did know something? That thought, along with the fact that Pete was just about ready to pull his hair out, now had him sitting in his Jeep, in Tessa Cosindas’ drive.

“Crazy woman.” Pete opened the door, then turned and put his gun on the seat. Elijah had told him not to take the gun with him; he said Tessa wouldn’t talk at all if she saw a gun.

Pete turned off the motor. He walked slowly through the yard and stepped around the bright orange planter, made from a chipped toilet.

This was a bad idea, he thought.

Pete knocked on the door. Around him, he saw wind chimes, broken pottery, and a collection of rusty tin cans, each sporting a large flower.

He changed his mind. The thought that Tessa was indeed a tie-died, fruit-selling nutcase, flashed through his brain.

“This is a waste of time.” He turned to walk down the stairs just as the door opened.

Elijah was right. She was beautiful. Even at her age – which Pete knew better than to try and discover – Tessa was stunning. Her long, auburn hair framed a round, gentle face and large, green eyes. She had the body of a woman much younger. Pete immediately felt at ease. Now he understood why Elijah smiled when he talked about her.

“Yes?” Tessa said. “Can I help you?”

“Sorry to bother you, ma’am, but… but I wondered if I might have a few minutes of your time. My name’s Pete Jacobs, I’m the…”

“I know who you are, Sheriff Jacobs,” Tessa said. “I’ve been expecting you. Can I get you some coffee?” She directed Pete to a pair of high-backed wooden chairs at the far end of the porch. She stepped back inside the house, and after a few seconds, returned with two cups and a silver carafe of coffee.

“You look troubled.”

“I am, ma’am,” he said. “Elijah… Elijah Kent suggested I speak with you about…” Pete took a small notebook out of his pocket.

“About all the deaths in Bayside?”

“Yes, ma’am. Those.” He took out a pen. “Do you mind if I take a few notes?”

Tessa shook her head. . “What would you like to know, Sheriff?”

“Well… Elijah, he said you’ve seen… you’ve had visions of… those folks who were being killed. Is that true?”

Tessa shifted in her seat. She pulled her bare feet under her skirt. “I called Elijah several weeks ago. We talked, briefly. I wasn’t sure if I should even speak to him or you. Elijah said I should, it was actually his idea.”

“I understand,” Pete said. “But please, I am interested in what you have to say.”

Tessa drew a deep breath. “Yes. I… I have witnessed several deaths… in visions. They’re like pieces of an old movie. I see the person’s face for a few seconds. Then I see them scream. After that, there’s bright white light, like a flash from a camera, and I see the person die. It’s… horrible.”

Pete leaned forward. He scratched his head. “And you have these visions frequently?”

“Years ago I did, from the time I was ten until I was about twenty-two. Then, suddenly, they stopped.” Tessa folded her hands around her coffee cup. “I’ve lived peacefully for the past twenty years or so, but about… two months ago, the visions started again.”

“That was about the time Mr. Withers died?”

“Yes, it was,” Tessa said. “I saw him die.”

Pete cocked his head. He wasn’t sure whether or not to believe her, but he wanted her to keep talking. “You say you saw him die. Can you describe it? Do you remember where?”

“I’m not sure. It must have been outside, because I caught a glimpse of grass and sky. But I don’t know where.”

“Did you see anything else?”

“No. I could hear things, though… sense them. I could hear the flapping of wings… buzzards I think.”

“Buzzards? Are you sure?”

“Mr. Jacobs, I’ve lived here a long time. I know the sound a buzzard’s wings make.”

Pete smiled. “It’s just that the bodies were… well, the buzzards got there and…”

“And the buzzards were eating the flesh, weren’t they?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I thought so. Once, when I was a teenager, in one of my visions, I saw a buzzard… eating a corpse.”

Pete scribbled another note. “Do you have any idea who we’re dealing with? Have you ever seen who is killing these people?”

Tessa shook her head. “No. Never. It’s… it’s almost like I’m looking through the killer’s eyes. I’ve never seen a face.”

“How long do your visions last?”

“Not long,” she said. “Usually a few minutes, and they are very painful – think of the worst headache you’ve ever had and multiply it by ten. They always start out the same. The person is alive and doing whatever it is they’re doing at that moment, then I see images of their death. After that, I hear the flap of wings and, well, you know the rest.”

Pete closed his notebook. “Is it a person or… or is it something else?”

“I wondered if you would ask me that question,” Tessa looked down at the porch, “and I’ve wondered how I would answer it.”


“Well, I’m not sure.” She took a long sip of coffee. “I think whatever is killing was human, but I don’t sense that now. All I feel is blind, white-hot hatred and rage and pain. I’m… I’m not sure. But like I said, I believe at one time it was human.”

Tessa leaned forward and stretched. Pete could tell she was worn out. Maybe it was the visions, he thought, or something else.

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, Sheriff. I feel the need to rest. This… this has been most difficult.”

Pete stood, finished his coffee, and walked toward the steps. “I understand. I appreciate your help.”


“Yes, ma’am?”

“Thank you for not laughing. It’s… it’s been a long time since someone listened.”

Pete nodded. “You’re welcome, ma’am. I believe you’re the first person in several months who hasn’t tried to tell me how to do my job.”

Tessa smiled. “Perhaps it was for the best that you came to see me, then.”

Pete stopped, placed a worn business card on the porch rail and walked back to his Jeep.

The green neon light that flashed over Billy’s Diner was burning bright by the time Pete returned to his office. Keri, the dispatcher, was waiting for him, her face red. She was ready for a fight.

“And just where have you been?” she hissed. “I’ve been tryin’ to reach you for hours.”

“I was busy,” Pete said.

“Well, why didn’t you answer your radio?”

“’Cause I was out of the car, mother.” Pete rolled his eyes. “Now, is there something you need? Or are you and Dad gonna send me to my room?”

Keri shoved her ample chest toward him. “Fine.” She handed Pete a stack of small, pink notes. “But Neal O’Bannon has called about fifty times tryin’ to reach you. Said it was really important. Just thought you might want to know.”

Pete finished typing his notes from the interview with Tessa before he called Neal’s office. He really didn’t expect find Neal there, but then again, Pete didn’t understand newspaper people.

The phone rang twice.

“Bayside Reporter,” the voice said. “This is Neal.”

“My dispatcher says you’re a real important fellow, Mr. O’Bannon. Said I was supposed to call you right away.”

Neal laughed. “She’s a good girl, that Keri. I know I wouldn’t want to make her mad.”

At his end, Pete smiled. “Me either.”

“Pete, I wish you would have called earlier,” Neal said. “This is important; too important to talk about on the phone. You should probably come over here.”

Twenty minutes later, Pete sat in Neal O’Bannon’s bright, comfortable office. Like Neal, the office wasn’t what one typically associated with reporters; tan walls, a large, overstuffed couch, and several bright Van Gogh prints. “I thought newspaper reporters smoked, kept whiskey in their desks, and worked in dark, inky places?” Pete said.

“Some do.”

Pete surveyed the room. “What about you? This place looks too nice to be a newspaper office.”

Neal laughed. “I don’t function well in clutter. And I gave up smoking – except for the occasional cigar; but the whiskey is there, in the other room, above the coffee maker.”

Pete stood. “Now that’s my type of newspaper man.” He walked to the small kitchen Neal had pointed out and rummaged through the cabinets until he found a large bottle of amber liquid.

“Like the expensive stuff, huh?” he said.

“It was a gift,” Neal shouted back. “Bring the bottle. You’ll need it.”

Pete stretched out on the couch. He poured a large shot into a coffee mug. Then he handed the bottle to Neal.

“So what’s so important we can’t discuss over the phone?” he asked. “And why do I need this drink?”

Neal pointed to a stack of musty, yellowed newspapers on the floor. The papers were bound, like books. Only the books were the size of a television.

“Those are our historic files,” Neal said. “I’ve spent the last two days going through them.”

“They look old.”

“They are,” Neal said. He pointed to the top of the stack. “This one goes back to .”

Pete took a long sip of his coffee. “So why were you digging in your old newspaper files?”

Neal leaned back in his chair. “In college I was a history major. And I learned that there are very few tragic events that don’t get written down. Especially if there is a newspaper around.”

“Okay,” Pete said. “But I’m not sure I follow you.”

Neal pushed a stack of papers toward Pete. “It’s like this: For several months now, I’ve heard people talk about Bayside’s past, saying there were ‘horrible, evil events’ that happened. But nobody ever seems to know anything more. Elijah even mentioned it the other day, when he was at your office. He said something about ‘not knowing about Bayside’ when he settled here and how ‘most of the men in the room didn’t understand’. Remember?”

“And that got you to thinking…”

“Yes, Mister sheriff, it did. So I went down to the basement and went through these files.”

“I thought all this stuff was online?”

“Most is. Including ours. But those files only go back to 1920. Want anything before that, and you have to use the old-school approach.”

Pete smiled. “And…?”

Neal O’Bannon took a long drink, and then wiped his mouth. “Pete, you won’t believe what I found.” He pointed at the dark, water-stained file on his desk. “Open this one to the page with the marker.”

Pete eyed the headline. “‘Tragedy on Holly Farm’,” he read. “Bayside residents killed by marauders.”

Neal took another long drink of his scotch. “Keep reading.”

Pete’s eyes scanned the story, then, like he’d been bitten on the ass, he abruptly sat up, and spilled his drink.

“…comes a report to us that the entire population of Bayside Township perished a fortnight ago when all the township’s buildings were burned to the ground by a group of heathen marauders. Many of the town’s children were celebrating the construction of the new church at Holly Farm when the building’s doors were blocked and the building set aflame…”

Pete continued reading: “…at least one witness has claimed those who tried to assist the victims and extinguish the blaze were shot by armed gunmen. A rumor has come to us, through most trustworthy sources, that the marauders were part of the apocalyptic group, the Spiritus Sancti.”

Pete looked around. He felt his face grow warm. “Neal, what the hell is this?”

Neal handed him a book. “Spiritus Sancti was a cult that believed they could bring about the end of the world through the blood sacrifices of virgins,” he said. “They must have started around here, sometime after 1800. Eventually, they spread all over the country.

“Shit. But what’s this have to do with the murders?”

“Keep reading. You’re not done.” He handed Pete a water-stained map. “Look at this, look at where all those buildings were located.”

Pete followed Neal’s finger. “This Holly Farm, it was owned by the Cosindas family? Is that the same family that Tessa…?”

“Yep, Mister sheriff, it is, her great-great grandfather.”

Pete looked back at the musty, brittle page. “‘…the structures burned quickly, preventing the noble firemen from Rusville, situated only a few miles to the north, from defeating the conflagration with their new one hundred gallon pumper…’”

“I’m not sure I follow,” Pete said.

Neal turned the map toward Pete. “This map shows Rusville was originally about four miles away from Bayside, before they built Highway One. The road mentioned there is The Old North Road.”

“You mean the original village of Bayside – those buildings they were talking about – sat along The Old North Road?”

Neal nodded. “I believe so. I think there was a church and a parsonage, a small store, and some houses scattered along that two-mile stretch.”

“And somewhere along that road…”

“Two hundred and seventy one men, women and children were sacrificed. Most of them on a burning funeral pyre intended to bring about the end of the world.”

Pete wiped his face. “Sweet Jesus.”

“Keep reading,” Neal said. “It gets worse.”

The vision wasn’t like the others. It didn’t wake Tessa from her sleep. It didn’t come at night. This one caught her while she worked the crossword on page 28-C of the newspaper.

For more than a week, Tessa’s mind had been clear. She thought the visions might have stopped.

She was wrong.

This image hit her like a hammer – a shock of electricity that seemed to split her brain in two. Tessa covered her face with her hands. The pain sliced through her head like a sharp knife.

She saw the bright flash of light. Then she fell into darkness.

Tessa stood next to a man near a grove of strange-looking trees. She stood next to Marvin Boyd.

Her mind reeled. God, was it her? Had she somehow managed to kill dozens of people? Her heart raced. Sweat poured down her face. It matted her hair and soaked her blouse.

Another bright flash, and she heard – and saw – Marvin cuss and whine. He said something about the land being priced too high. She heard another voice, another man behind her, argue back. She heard something about a shopping center; about money and interest.

Then the voices faded, like someone had turned down the volume. Tessa strained to listen, but the voices had moved further away, off in the distance. For a few seconds she didn’t hear, or see, anything. Then she saw the back of the second man. He walked to his car and drove away.

Tessa turned and looked. She recognized this place, a place she’d avoided since she was a small girl – The Old North Road.

She watched herself walk toward the highway, away from the trees.

Then she heard the scream.

A bright flash, and she saw herself next to Marvin again. He turned toward her. Behind him, the sky was dark, stormy – the clouds looked like old grease in a cast iron skillet.

She saw another flash, something bloody, dark and twisting. It struck Marvin – a snake, twisting, flailing, thrashing. She watched Marvin’s face bend and warp. The snake-like thing wrapped itself around Marvin and pulsated; blood dripped on her feet.

She felt the anger, the hatred; it boiled through her blood like acid. Her heart raced, she couldn’t breathe. Her chest felt as though a huge rope had been twisted around her and pulled tight.

Gasping for air, Tessa moved her hands to her throat. She was choking, dying. Another flash: something dark and slender twisted and curled around Marvin’s face. The black began to pulsate. Bones snapped. The snake-like band continued to wrap itself around and around. One end coiled, then rose and struck Marvin in the back of his skull.

Another flash, and the snake – was it really as snake? – twisted and slithered and pulsated. Flesh ripped. Pieces of Marvin’s body tore away.

Tessa felt a rumble. Beneath her, the ground split; more black snakes shot out. They twisted around Marvin and yanked him deep into the earth. The ground flexed and vomited. What was left of Marvin’s naked body was spewed out, tossed like trash onto The Old North Road.

Tessa stood silently. She saw herself lean down, toward Marvin, then stop. Behind her, she heard the flap of wings; the buzzards were on their way. Then there was darkness.

Pete stayed at Neal’s office late into the night. Along with the newspapers, Neal had laid out maps, files, and a stack of old, faded photographs.

Pete read through the old newspapers, working toward the present, making notes about the stories Neal had marked.

“So there have been several incidents like this?” he said. “Beginning in 1861?”

Neal nodded. “Yeah, and they’ve been roughly spaced about twenty years apart. There was another incident in 1885, then another in 1906.”

“But these stories don’t say what the bodies looked like. What makes you think…?”

Neal handed the sheriff a stack of tan paper tied with a red ribbon. “Those are copies of several coroners’ reports. The top ones are from 1906, the bottom ones from 1936.”

Pete cocked his head. “Why would you have coroners’ reports?”

Neal smiled. “I think Frank – you remember Frank Reeding who owned the paper before me – well, he was researching these killings, but stopped. Those were in his files. All this stuff was down in the basement.”

Pete’s gaze skipped across the pages; his expression changed from curious to sick. “They describe the bodies pretty much like old man Withers and that kid, Jeff Currier,” he said.

Neal nodded. He took a long drink. “Sounds like the same type of killings have been occurring in Bayside for more than a hundred years.”

Pete scowled. “Okay, so now we know Bayside’s ugly past. But we’re still not any closer to discovering who – or what – is killing these people, and why.”

“I know,” Neal said. “I called Homer Wallace, at the historical society. He said they have a file about the killings, supposed to contain some personal letters from some of the families around here. I’m going over there tomorrow, see if there’s anything there that will help.”

Pete rubbed his face. He yawned. “Good idea, ‘cause tonight, I need some sleep,” he said. “All these late-night investigations are eating my lunch.”

Neal laughed. “Yeah, you better go. We’re outta whiskey.”

Two hours after a pair of tourists found Marvin Boyd’s body, Bayside fell apart. The people panicked. Fall festival plans were canceled and, by that afternoon, Highway 1 was pregnant with traffic heading out of town.

By nightfall, the small antique shops along the sea walk and every business downtown had shut their doors. The bright green sign at Billy’s Diner was turned off. Billy said he didn’t care what he left behind, he was going back to Bangor.

Across the community, the families that remained had locked themselves in their homes. Churches held round-the-clock prayer vigils; their pastors spoke about the end of the world.

Bayside, it seemed, had given up and retreated in fear.

At least, that’s how it felt to Pete Jacobs.

Only, unlike most of the town, Pete didn’t leave. Instead, he drove back out to Tessa Cosindas’ house and banged on the door.

“Tessa?” he called. “Tessa, let me in. We need to talk.” He banged on the door until his hand was numb.

Then he kicked the door open.

There, next to her spinning wheel, Pete found Tessa spilled across the hardwood floor.

She opened her eyes, slowly. Her head throbbed. She felt groggy, like she just woke up from a three-day hangover.

“There you are,” Pete said.

Tessa tried to sit up. She touched her forehead. Her face felt warm.

“Careful,” said Pete. “You have a nasty bump there, but I think you’ll be okay.”

“How long was I out?”

“Don’t know,” Pete said. “But from what I can tell, it wasn’t that long. I just got here a few minutes ago.” His face flashed concern. “Did… did you have another vision?”

Tessa nodded. “I saw Marvin… Marvin Boyd.” She pulled Pete close. Tears filled her eyes. “I think he’s… I saw…”

Pete held her hand. “Deputy Jones found Marv, torn to pieces all along The Old North Road.”

Tessa’s sobs filled the room. “I… I don’t think I can take this anymore. Not after this. It was… was the worst.”

“How so?”

“I saw myself there,” she said. “I saw myself standing next to Marvin. And I saw something strike him. I think… I may be the killer.”

“What do you mean, ‘strike him?’”

Tessa covered her face. “I saw him being attacked. Something hit him; something that was dark, and slithering, like a snake. I felt what it felt – hatred, and a desire for revenge. It wrapped around Marv and thrashed and whipped. It covered his face and tightened until… Then it stuck Marv on the back of his head.”

Pete wiped his face. He walked to the kitchen and returned with a small plastic bottle of water. “Here, drink this,” he said. He handed the bottle to Tessa.

“So this time you saw what killed Marv?”

“It may have been me, sheriff.”

Pete smiled. “No, Tessa, it wasn’t you. But I do believe you saw what happened.”

Tessa gulped the water. “I… I guess,” she said. “It wasn’t human. It was, like a snake, a huge, twisting snake that slashed him to pieces.”

Pete shook his head. He had seen the fear on Tessa’s face. He’d heard the terror in her voice, but a snake? And her, could she be the killer? Those ideas, he thought, didn’t make sense.

“Tessa, I’ve been out there. Searched all around. There’s no sign of snakes. Not snakes the size you’re talking about.”

“All I know is what I saw. It was twisting and slashing, then the ground opened, and the snake pulled Marvin down, into the earth.”

“What did you say?”

“I saw the ground open and the snakes pulled Marvin inside.” Pete gulped. He wiped the sweat off his face and reached for his cell phone.

“She said the ground opened?” Neal O’Bannon wasn’t sure he’d heard the sheriff correctly. “She actually said that?”

“With God as my witness,” Pete said. “I was sittin’ right there, on her couch.”

“Amazing,” Neal said. “Pete, you probably should bring her down here. Don’t go to your office. The few folks left in town will see. Bring her here, the back way.”


“I don’t understand any of this.” Tessa shook her head. “Why are we at your office? I don’t want this in the paper.”

Neal smiled. “That’s not what we’re trying to do, Tessa. I just thought this would be better, you know, so people wouldn’t talk.”

“According to Pete, there’s not that many people left in Bayside,” she said.

“True. But the few still here don’t have anything else to do but watch Pete and gossip. See?”

Tessa nodded. “So you still haven’t told me why you brought me here.” The sheriff handed her a tan leather portfolio. “Do you know Homer Wallace?”

“Yes,” Tessa said. “He’s the president of the Bayside Historical Society.”

“He’s also the world’s biggest pack-rat. Homer doesn’t throw anything way. Ever.” Tessa giggled. “I understand that. I’m kinda that way, too.”

Pete pointed to the folder. “Lots of folks leave stuff to the historical society when they die. Homer catalogues them under ‘family legends’. That portfolio, there, was left to the Historical Society by one of your relatives.”

Tessa looked hard at the tan leather. “I… I don’t recognize it,” she said. “I’ve never seen this before.”

“You probably wouldn’t have,” Neal said. “Homer told us he was under strict orders never to show it to you.

“Why? Why would someone in my family not want me to see this?”

Pete reached over and clicked open the small gold lock. “Read it. I think you’ll understand.”

Tessa unfolded the leather. The portfolio smelled old, dusty. Inside, tucked into the pocket, were several pieces of thick, brown paper.

The handwriting was delicate, almost feminine and the ink, once dark black, had faded to a thin purple.

Tessa began to read: “November Twenty-ninth. Eighteen hundred and eleven.

“To all those whom are descendants and who come after me. I, Thaddeus Ezra Cosindas, do hereby attest to the veracity of this document.

“As witnesses, I offer the solemn oath of the honorable Judge Edwin Colson, and that of my dear friend and pastor, Moses Ezekiel Procter.

“We each have sworn our sacred oath that what we are about to set forth is true.”

Tessa paused. Gently, she laid each thick, brittle page on the desk.

“Five days prior to the date of this document, we three men, the remaining survivors of the Village of Bayside, Maine, buried our loved ones.

“Under a dark, fire-scorched sky, we toiled until we had placed our wives, our children, and those so dear to us in the bosom of the earth. Our families and friends rest in the ground where they were slain.

“We curse Heaven, and we curse God and his Creation for authoring this tragic story. We weep when we remember the day we allowed the Spiritus Sancti into our small village.

“Had we known then, what we are so surely conscious of now, we would have slain the Seven and Four and the Spiritus Sancti, who claimed to be workers of God.

“Yet we did not.

“Instead, we allowed them into our homes, treated them as friends, shared with them our food and, most assuredly, signed ours and our own family’s death warrants.

“As this was during the hot summer, we welcomed the strong, able men who seemed, at first, so devout, so God-fearing. With their help, our crops were harvested quickly and our new church building finished.

“But then, not but five days ago, Talbot, the leader of the Spiritus Sancti, urged us to fast, pray, and seek God’s continued blessing for a good harvest. At his bidding, we brought the entire town together at the site of the church.

“He called it a revival. We now know it was the stage for slaughter.

“As our families knelt in prayer, the Seven and Four, and the Sancti, those monsters, the spawn of Lucifer, sprung their trap. They burned our church as our little children celebrated inside.

“The Sancti stood silently while our young screamed and cried in terror, beseeching their families to free them. The Seven and Four stabbed and shot those who tried to enter the flaming building.

“By some unholy means they brought forth Hell-fire and great explosions and death, most surely from Satan himself.

“As for myself and my companions, we sequestered ourselves behind a small grove of willows, fearing our own deaths. We watched, unable to save our families. We hid even as our children burned and our wives bled.

“Upon the rising of the sun, the Seven and Four and the Spiritus Sancti had departed our village, leaving Bayside a desolate ruin.

“But we shall have our revenge.

“We shall ride the earth, unending, until we find the Seven and Four and the Sancti and they, like our children and our wives and our friends, will most certainly meet their doom.

“Further, with the help of the Haitian woman called Gianna, we call upon Satan – for the Almighty has betrayed and forsaken us – to curse this very ground, the ground which now holds the bones of our beloved.

“We have pledged our souls to Lucifer himself. We will fight his spawn with his own Hell-fire. We have asked the Dark One’s aid to strike down all those who would descend from the Seven and Four and the Spiritus Sancti, from now until the end of days.

“May they, unto their thousandth generation, know our wrath. May the very ground itself avenge us.

“To sanctify our pact, we have placed no marker. Instead, we have planted four and twenty trees supplied by the good Reverend Procter. Those trees, for as long as they stand, shall serve as the only monument to our loss.

“We sign this oath with our own blood, just as surely, as we condemn ourselves to eternal Hell.”

Tessa folded the leather closed, and stood quietly at the window. She stared out into the night. “Sheriff,” she said, “I think you know what needs to be done.”

“You want what?”

Pete leaned forward. “Honestly, Father, I’m not insane.”

Father Michael Flanagan shook his head. He wasn’t sure he’d heard the sheriff correctly. “You need me to bless a dozen chainsaws?”

Pete nodded. “And water. I need twenty-five thousand gallons of holy water, father. And… I need it by Thursday.”

Father Flanagan rubbed his forehead. “And why do you need so much?”

Pete smiled. “Well, sir, it’s a long story.”

The priest leaned back in his chair. “Sheriff, for this, I have plenty of time.”

Pete stood quietly in the middle of the road.

The November wind felt raw; the cold seemed to seep inside his coat and creep deep into his veins.

Above him, the sky hung low – a murky gray canvas covering a stark, barren stretch of land. The road was deserted.

Around him, the trees had grown together. They formed a large, twisted tunnel that stretched for what seemed like miles. Pete saw patches of the gray clouds through the dark, twisted limbs.

The ground was still. There were no sounds of nature – no bird chirped. The very earth itself seemed to have fallen silent. The whole place, Pete thought, was like a giant, open tomb. Pete walked to the closest tree. Gently, like a mother would a new child, he touched the trunk. The tree felt warm. Its rough bark scraped his hand.

Pete looked down. His work boots stood across long slender roots that twisted themselves in and out of the earth like so many dark, gnarled fingers.

He understood now. He wondered why it had taken him so long; why he hadn’t seen sooner.

Tessa had been the key.

Had they listened to her, all this might have been avoided. Had Pete used a little imagination, many people might be alive today. But Pete was slow. He hadn’t gotten the full picture until Tessa had told him about Marvin’s death. As she had talked, Pete had understood – the warning lights had flashed; the alarm had sounded.

With Neal’s help, he’d learned how the monster was formed. And thanks to history, he now understood why the monster killed. Now, almost two hundred years later, it was clear what, exactly, the monster was.

Standing in the silent cold, Pete knew how to stop the deaths – he also knew the attempt could cost him his own life. But Pete Jacobs didn’t have a choice. He was the law in Bayside, and even if it killed him, he had to try and protect those people who remained.

Pete clicked on his two-way. “You guys stand ready,” he said. “But don’t do anything until you hear from me. Got it?”

“Yes sir,” said a distant voice covered in static. “Ready when you are.”

Pete Jacobs smiled.

He wiped the sweat from his face, then reached down and picked up a large, razor-sharp axe. The axe head, forged by an artisan blacksmith from the local monastery, was made of silver and fitted with a polished mahogany haft.

Pete took a small bottle of holy water and poured it over the axe head. He ran his fingers across the flawless silver, then touched the image of Saint Peter, etched into the side.

It was a work of art, he thought.

Silently, he made the sign of the cross. Then he raised the axe over his head, turned, and, with every ounce of strength he had, slammed the silver blade into the trunk of the tall, strange tree.

The tree screamed.

There on the road, the sky echoed with huge, anguished cries.

With Pete’s first cut, the tree unleashed the hideous sound of loathing and fear and fury which had grown inside its trunk for years.

The scream grew louder. Blood, centuries old, poured from the large, jagged wound and spilled onto the road. Pete swung again and again. Pieces of bloody, dark bark filled the sky as the first of the strange trees died.

The trees had stood for two centuries. They had absorbed the evil, the hatred and the pain spilled on the ground so long ago. They stood and waited, called as demonic sentinels and charged with killing the descendants of those who had first spilled blood along The Old North Road.

Finally, the scream forced Pete to his knees. He dropped his axe and covered his ears, trying to shield himself from the pain.

He shouldn’t have.

In that moment the tree attacked. Branches twisted and turned and bit and slashed. The ground beneath Pete trembled and shook.

A huge black root forced its way out of the dark, moist earth and twisted around the axe. Pete yanked the axe away and rose to swing again; more raw, bloody pieces of wood fell away as gallon upon gallon of dark, red blood filled the ditch along the road.

And still the tree fought.

Black roots slithered out of the ground and wrapped themselves around Pete like so many snakes.

Pete ripped pieces of root off his belt. “You’re not dragging me to your Hell hole,” he screamed. He swung the axe again and again.

But the plant continued to grasp and twist and slash. The branches, thin and sharp, slashed Pete’s face like thousands of razors.

Bloody and hurt, Pete turned, chopping his way through a bowl of twisted roots that pushed their way out of the ground. He had to fight his way back to the pavement and his Jeep.

The roots slithered toward him, winding around his legs like thousands of tiny wires, ripping through his uniform and gouging at his skin.

Pete fell to his knees and crawled across the bloody ground. Tessa was right, he thought. The roots twist and slither. They can…

A huge taproot forced its way around Pete’s gut. It squeezed like a python. Pete felt the air being forced out of his lungs. He gulped air, trying to breathe, but the root’s hold was unbreakable.

Pete flexed his right arm. Several of the small, wiry twigs snapped, freeing his hand just long enough to click the button on his two-way.

“Okay guys,” he coughed. “Come get ‘em.  They’re all yours.”

Pete gulped again. He tried to force air back into his body, but the root twisted tighter, suffocating him. He felt another root twist around his neck, toward the back of his skull.

Pete fell to the ground. The silver axe fell from his hand. As he slid into blackness, just down the road, just beyond the reach of trees, the roar of chainsaws filled the air.

He heard music. Loud, loud piano music – rock ‘n’ roll, he was sure. Death wasn’t so bad, he thought. At least it had a soundtrack.

Pete opened his eyes.

“Thought we’d lost you there, chief,” Deputy Jones said. “How do ya feel?”

Pete rubbed his face. He was alive. Alive, but in serious pain. His sides ached and his back felt like someone – or something – had twisted him in half then put him back together.

“I’ve been better,” he said. He looked around. “Where am I?”

“Hospital,” the deputy replied. “Rusville Memorial. We got ya here as fast as we could… Thought you’d like the tunes.”

Pete pushed himself up. “And… The Old North Road?”

The deputy smiled. The first genuine smile Pete had seen in a long, long time.

“We took out ever’ damn tree,” he said. “They fought us like hell, too. But between the chainsaws and the flame-throwers – well, sheriff, there’s nothin’ there but a bunch of stumps and about a million gallons of dried black shit that I’d swear was blood.”

Pete nodded. He rubbed the back of his head. “Damnedest thing I ever saw, Jonesy. Trees that scream and bleed and kill. Hell, maybe those people at the church were right. Maybe it is the end of the world.”

Jones laughed. “Naw… just some real strange shit.” He reached down. “But you might want to keep this handy, just in case.” He laid the blood-stained axe across the bed.

Over the years, folks slowly returned to Bayside. The new ones, well, they don’t know, and most of the ones who stayed won’t talk. The few that do, well, they usually refer to the “official account.”

That story, complete with police files, photographs and written testimonials, tells of a deranged stranger who, hoping to bring about the end of the world, attacked and killed several people with a knife carved out of wood.

That’s the public story.

But for the curious, there’s a small safe in Neal O’Bannon’s newspaper office. Inside it are several hundred photographs.

Those photographs never appeared in the Bayside Reporter. Neal put them away. They were never printed because they showed the dozens and dozens of bodies – some burned, some ancient and withered and some bloody and newly rotting – that were found twisted among the roots of the tree stumps.

Neal keeps the photos hidden because they prove the bodies were slowly being eaten by the trees who guarded The Old North Road.

Filed with the photos is a list of names. Names like Currier and Withers and Boyd – descendants of the original group of the Seven and Four. But the names of the Spiritus Sancti were lost forever. Neither the Sancti, nor their ancestors, were known ever to have returned to Bayside.

Also in the safe are several letters from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

The letters, found in an old desk at Bayside’s Our Lady of Sorrows Church, were written by a Catholic priest. The priest wrote of a woman he met who had been condemned to death.  He said the woman – who was burned at the stake in 1813 – told him she was given a thousand dollars in silver and two cows to try and bring dark spirits from Hell to earth. The woman said she was asked to perform this task for three men seeking to avenge the deaths of their families.

The priest’s letters said the men were from Bayside Township. And while the letters don’t name the woman, they note that right before her death, she confessed she had tried to call forth demons.

The letter does not say whether the woman had been successful.

Pete won’t talk about the letters or the photographs. He had wanted Neal to burn them, but Neal refused and they remain, today, locked in his safe.

Pete stayed silent. He won’t show people Race Holder’s autopsy reports; reports that tell how each victim’s skull had been penetrated by a razor sharp tree root, which separated the skull at its base from the spine.

And neither Pete nor the medical examiner will discuss how slivers of wood were found in each wound on each victim – proof that they had been ripped apart by the tree roots themselves.

Pete doesn’t like to talk about the day he killed the trees, either.

All he will say – for the record – is that on a cold November day, he and several dozen men worked non-stop until every tree lining The Old North Road had been cut down, chopped into logs, and fed into an industrial wood chipper.

However, at the Harrison Brothers’ Sawmill, a work order confirms that during November, the mill received four and one-half tons of bloody wood chips, which were burned to ash, then mixed with 25,000 gallons of holy water. The gray slush was sealed in plastic drums which carried the Papal seal.

Attached to that work order is a handwritten manifest that accounts for 271 sealed plastic barrels. Those barrels were shipped to the middle of Penobscot Bay and dumped in the ocean.

Folks don’t talk about the Bayside Incident anymore. Many years have passed. Tessa stills sells homemade jam at her fruit stand, and Elijah still smokes his pipe.

Pete has retired now. These days he just sits in the sun at the big white house and watches the boats out on the bay.

But behind him, near the back fence where he first found old man Withers, a small tree has started to grow – a small tree that looks like an oak, but has wispy willow branches.


Copyright © 2011 by M. Scott Carter

[hana-code-insert name=’ArticleBlockOpen’ /]

M. Scott Carter

An Oklahoma native, M. Scott Carter is a political-investigative reporter and columnist for the Oklahoma City Journal Record where he covers the Oklahoma legislature and state government.

A graduate of Northern Oklahoma College and the University of Oklahoma, Carter has spent the majority of his career writing about the impact of government policy on the general public.

In 2007, he was awarded the Marshall Gregory Award by the Oklahoma Education Association for a series of stories exploring teacher pay in Oklahoma. Carter has also earned numerous state and national awards for his work; he is the author of two novels both scheduled for publication in 2011.

Carter lives in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with his wife, Karen and their four children.

[hana-code-insert name=’ArticleBlockClose’ /]

One Response to “The Bayside Incident”