Strange murders are taking place in Seabridge County and a trio of skater teens suspects the new 5G towers are responsible. When government agents start showing up in the small town, things really start to get weird.
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Written by Gregory Patrick Travers
The three boys’ skateboards remained at their sides as they stood on the sidewalk on the corner of Elm St., staring up at the newly installed 5G antenna on top of the lamppost at the bend in the street. Wade, the chubbiest of three, squinted in the late afternoon sun sinking into his eyeline, using his free hand to act like the brim of a cap as he reiterated, “I’m telling you, guys! It’s because of those things that everyone is acting so crazy.”
Marcus, the darkest of them in complexion, tilted his head at Wade and raised an eyebrow questionably. Donnie beside him remained hypnotized, gazing up lazily at the lamppost, wavy blonde bangs hovering over his brow line. He at least seemed to be considering Wade’s claim; Marcus was having nothing of it.
“How else do you explain it?” shot Wade, eager to prove Marcus stupid for doubting so quickly. “All kinds of shit’s been happening since these things went up! Haven’t you watched those videos on YouTube about how 5G frequencies mess with your head? They say it can be weaponized. Like New World Order stuff. That’s what’s happening in Seabridge! First, that nine-year-old girl suffocated her baby brother. A week later, crazy Norman from the barbershop stabs that new cop in the parking lot of the Eat N’ Save, and then Lester hangs himself in his basement! Before these towers went up nothing like this ever happened and now…it’s like people are possessed or something!”
Marcus remained unbothered. “I’ll tell you how to explain it. Lester was depressed as hell. And as for that little girl suffocating her brother and snorin’ Norman going knife crazy, that’s simple too–white people are crazy.”
“But your mom’s white,” noted Donnie, finally breaking from the antenna’s hold.
“And she is crazy,” said Marcus, quick in his reproach. “My point is proven.”
“I don’t get it though,” Donnie went on. “If it’s the 5G that’s frying people’s brains then why isn’t the whole town going postal?”
Wade paused to think, his finger resting on his bottom lip. After a moment his eyes became wide, “Braces!”
“Braces, you assholes! All the people had braces.”
“Did snorin’ Norman?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Yeah, he does.”
“How would you know, Wade? You kiss the guy or something?”
“Okay, I don’t know if he does. But I know for a fact that the other two did.”
Marcus was showing the seldom seen, but always impish, grin of his. “They’re keeping him in lock up at the Sheriff’s Office. I bet Deputy Davidson could settle this for us.”
Donnie put his hand over his mouth and looked to Wade for a reaction.
Wade kicked a pebble and muttered something nasty under his breath.
The boys got to the skatepark just as the after-dinner crowd was starting to arrive. Donnie hit the bowl while Marcus and Wade stayed near the bleachers and worked on their flip tricks. Sometimes when he got bored or frustrated, Wade would take a break to sit on the bleachers and watch Donnie for a while. Donnie was really good at skating. For Wade, and Marcus, too, skateboarding was just a hobby, something to pass the time and help blow off some steam, but for Donnie, skating was life, and that dexterity was clearly evident in his performance.
About a half-hour into the skate, just about the time that Wade was getting ready to give up on trying to land a heel-flip and hit the bleachers, his attention was pulled to the other side of the park by a loud, inhuman growling, followed by the same roaring voice yelling, “I’ll kill you! I’ll fucking kill you!”
The voice belonged to a kid named Charlie, a regular at the park. He was one year ahead of the boys in school. Normally Charlie was cool as a cucumber and a pretty nice guy to get along with. That is why it was so alarming to see him in his present rage, wide-eyed and rabid, swinging his arms about violently at a younger, very terrified, kid, who was starfished on the pavement, limp with fear.
Someone yelled, “Fight!” and the heavy gallop of the swarming crowd grew into a thick circular fortress of excited spectators surrounding Charlie and the frightened little kid. Wade used his weight to his advantage and edged himself through to the front of the crowd. He looked over his shoulder to see Marcus was right behind him.
Now in the epicenter of the chaos, they saw Charlie sitting on the kid’s chest; the kid was already unconscious, but even still, Charlie kept hitting him; over and over again, bouncing his head off the concrete.
Once the kid’s nose squirted blood, the spectators’ smiles became frowns and some people even looked away. Those who were cheering at the brawl were now pale with concern.
But still, the rust stains on Charlie’s knuckles grew larger.
That’s when Wade saw Donnie burst through the crowd of onlookers and charge at Charlie. He leaped off his feet and tackled Charlie to the ground like a defensive linebacker sacking a quarterback. They rolled in a ball off the beaten kid, onto the pavement, and when they straightened out, it was now Donnie who was kneeling on Charlie’s chest.
Charlie, as if unaware he had been bested, continued to swing his arms violently and without direction, growling like a pissed off pitbull. Donnie leaned back, out of Charlie’s reach, and grabbed hold of Charlie’s flailing wrists, trying to hold him still.
“Chill!” Donnie kept yelling.
But no matter how many times he told him, Charlie would not chill. Eventually, Donnie had no choice but to slug him one. Charlie’s head bounced off the pavement and his whole body went limp, unconscious.
Donnie immediately grabbed his fist and winced like he was in pain.
Wade and Marcus joined Donnie standing over Charlie while excitement and chatter started to circle the crowd once again.
Wade looked down on Charlie, now peacefully asleep. “Dude…Charlie snapped.”
Marcus was inspecting Charlie, too. “I have never seen anyone lose it like that. And my dad is a Clippers fan. He’s always losing his shit.”
Donnie stared down at Charlie like he was looking at a ghost, still rubbing his scarred, swollen knuckles. “Guess what, guys?…”
Police sirens in the distance grew louder.
Donnie pointed to Charlie’s mouth, hanging open in his slumber, revealing a thin silver rail running horizontally across the center of his teeth. “…Charlie wears braces.”
Deputy Davidson sat at his desk in the seclusion of his office, attempting to put a dent in the tower of paperwork leaning dangerously to the right in front of him. His “shift” had officially ended a couple of hours earlier, but with all that had gone on in the last month compounded with his skeleton staff, the deputy was looking at at least a week’s worth of major overtime.
The ticking of the office clock and the clicking of keyboard keys were starting to nip at him in a bad way. It seemed like the walls were getting closer by the minute. When Davidson moved to Seabridge County in his early thirties, his third year out of the academy, he imagined a peaceful, serene small town where he could marry and raise a family away from the evils of the big city. But here he was, seven years later, still single and childless, with a mountain of paperwork for violent cases that one would only expect to see in the grungiest corners of a large, faceless metropolis, yet alone from a county hidden in the evergreens of the Midwest, with a population of nine hundred and thirty-seven law-abiding citizens. .
Crimes like: a young girl, six years old, putting a pillow over the face of her newborn baby brother while her mother is in the kitchen warming up soup, or another where the County’s resident barber of forty-one years loses his mind in a grocery store parking lot and drives a kitchen knife into the gut of one of Davidson’s rookie officers; he was a transfer, poor kid.
And a dozen more cases of similar strange and unexpected evil thickened manila folders in multiple lofty columns, waiting for Deputy Davidson to put reason to them.
The second hand on the office clock continued to tick. The walls inched closer.
Davidson was about to break for coffee when the door to his office opened and the blinds he had closed to put some space between himself and the rest of the station snapped against the glass pane with his name on it. Officer Knotts, a veteran of three years, leaned in, looking sorry to have to bother his superior.
Not sorry enough, apparently.
“Hey, Dale,” he sighed. “I got a kid out here who wants to see ya. The son of Miss Avery?”
Knotts couldn’t help the grin that followed, though he quickly corrected himself.
Davidson let it slide. “Well, what’s he want?”
“He says he’s got some information on the 148 we just brought in from skatepark.”
“He was there?”
“He and his friends witnessed the whole thing. One of them was the one who broke it up.”
Deputy Davidson sat back in his wooden chair and let out a heavy exhale, tiredly rubbing his eyes. Wade Avery: the stepson who never was. When Davidson had been dating Wade’s mother all those months ago, he couldn’t win the kid over for the life of him. And now that the relationship had gone cold, it seemed he couldn’t be rid of the kid if he tried.
At least it was a break from paperwork.
“Send him in,” said Davidson.
Wade, Marcus, and Donnie sat in the Sheriff’s Office watching Charlie across a few rows of desks being interviewed by the arresting officer from the skate park. The trio tried unsuccessfully to eavesdrop on the conversation over the ringing phones and cacophony of office chatter. But it clearly was not much of a conversation. Charlie looked distant and disoriented, his head buried in his chest, staring blankly at his still bloodied hands, only responding to the officer’s questions with a head nod or a head shake.
Wade found it hard to look away. It wasn’t like Charlie to act like this. For as long as Wade had known him, Charlie had been like an older brother to the kids at the skate park; lending his time to help kids with their tricks and getting the loitering drinkers to go hang out somewhere else so the park remained safe for children. Everyone loved him.
Something strange was going on in Seabridge County and Wade was intent on finding out what.
“Deputy Davidson will see you now,” said the skinny, large-headed, Officer Knotts, upon his return.
Wade popped up from where he sat and led the way across the floor. “I know where he’s at, Knotts. This isn’t my first rodeo.”
“Of course,” muttered Knotts, with a subtle rolling of the eyes.
Marcus and Donnie stood by the wall, next to the file cabinet as Wade, acting as the official spokesman of the group, sat down in the wooden chair across from the Deputy and revealed his theory on the 5G frequencies being responsible for the recent irrational behavior in Seabridge, and how braces might have had a part to play in it as well. The Deputy listened to Wade’s story in its entirety without interruption but did so with heavy eyes and little enthusiasm. And when Wade had finished, the Deputy spoke in a familiar condescending manner in which all adults spoke to kids they perceived as foolish or ignorant.
“Now, this is serious business, Wade. That boy Charlie Morgan was beating on has a broken nose. His parents want to press charges. In fact, if he weren’t only sixteen, he’d be back there in lock up with Norman Polinski from the barbershop instead of in the custody of his parents.
“I appreciate you coming down here, trying to vouch for your buddy, but guys–Braces? Radio frequencies? Don’t you think this is all a little, I don’t know, science fiction?”
Wade went on without heed, “What about Mr.Polinski? Does he have braces? They’re keeping in him in lock up, you can check. Can you check?”
The Deputy had heard enough. He put his hand up for silence. It was a big hand. A man’s hand. “You boys need to get on home. Now. Go on, get out of here.”
The three boys reluctantly shuffled out of the Deputy’s office with glum faces.
“So what now?” asked Marcus as they walked through the rows of desks toward the lobby.
Wade grew a toothy grimace. “Does your dad still have that chainsaw in the garage?”
By the time Deputy Davidson started to pack up his things for the night, it was dark inside and outside of the office. Besides Larry, the overnight holding cell guard, the Sheriff’s office had all but cleared out. The silence of the normally bustling building only added to Davidson’s fatigue. His eyes burned and his stomached grumbled in surrender. His exasperated mind knew it would be another long day tomorrow.
Though most of the thoughts running through his head at that moment were of having a hot shower and a cold beer, he couldn’t help but think back to how utterly convinced Wade had been about the 5G towers being responsible for the recent strange behavior in Seabridge. He even found himself opening the file on Charlie Morgan and reviewing his statement to the arresting officer. The boy said he didn’t know what had caused him to lose his temper; that it was like some sort of out-of-body experience.
Put the file away, Davidson told himself. It couldn’t really be the 5G frequencies causing the violent behavior.
Possessed by curiosity, Davidson stuffed the file back in the cabinet and headed for the holding cells.
By design, the holding cells were a hostile environment; with no insulation, air conditioning, or heat it was brutally cold in the winters and stifling hot in the summers. Currently, it was dead in the middle of August and even in the nighttime the heat reverberated off the thick concrete walls. That night there was a slight breeze working its way in from the street, but even still, Larry the night guard’s uniform was puddled with sweat stains under his skeletal arms, his bald crown shining with free-flowing perspiration while he slouched in a chair behind his desk.
He looked up from the newspaper, his reading glasses low of the brim of his crooked nose, and gave Davidson a silent greeting.
“Hey, Larry,” Davidson sighed. “Just want to have a quick word with Norm.”
Larry’s eyes went back to his paper.
“He’s got time,” he grunted.
Davidson walked to the far cell where Norman was immured and saw him beyond the iron bars, slouched on the concrete slab of a bed, shrunken inside a misfitting orange jumpsuit, staring down at his rough hands with a glazed, empty expression as beads of sweat fell off the ridges of his wrinkled, pore-dotted brow. The Deputy’s presence went unacknowledged.
“Hey, Norm,” said Davidson, soft in his approach.
The old man raised his head but offered little else in the way of response.
Davidson took a minute to prepare his words in his head before speaking.
“Say, Norm…You don’t wear braces by any chance, do you? Maybe some kind of retainer?”
The old man’s expression lightened slightly. He shook his head and let out a soft, “No” under his breath.
For a second the Deputy found himself relieved, almost laughing at himself for humoring Wade’s ridiculous conspiracy theory.
“No, I thought not…”
Davidson turned to leave, but a nagging question kept his boots planted.
“Hey, Norm…” he started again. “I know you decided not to give a statement but I have to ask, off the record, why’d you do it? You’ve never been a violent man, you’ve never had any problems with the law. What happened?”
“I can’t say for sure that it was me who did those things,” muttered Norm.
“Well, it was you,” said Davidson with some aggravation. “There’s no debating that. You were still holding the knife when the first responder arrived on the scene. There were a dozen witnesses.”
Norm’s eyes fell to the floor as he muttered something under his breath. All the Deputy could make out was the word, ‘possessed’.
“Possessed?” Davidson said, fishing. “Is that what you said? You were possessed?”
When Norm’s head rose again he looked the Deputy in the eye and, firmly and clearly, said, “Son. I was a god damn dummy. And something or someone had their hand right up my ass. Sure, I was talking. But they weren’t my words.”
A chill ran down Davidson’s spine. He looked away.
“Alright, Norm,” Davidson said off to the side. “I’m heading home for the night. Don’t give Larry a hard time, you hear?”
As Davidson started to walk away Norm called out, “I don’t suppose there’s something that can be done about the humidity in here? It’s doing hell to the metal plate in my knee.”
Davidson stopped in his stride and backpedaled to Norm’s cell. “Metal plate?”
Norm nursed his right knee cap. “Really acts up in the heat.”
Davidson’s intercom shot out static, startling him, and an officer on the other end called for the Deputy.
Davidson pressed his thumb to the side of his intercom. “Go ahead.”
Static crackled again. “Deputy, I’m over here on Elm St. and I got two 5G towers down. Looks like somebody took a chainsaw to them, cut the things right in half, smashed the antenna all over the road. You might want to get down here and give her a look.”
Davidson’s jaw clenched.
Those god damn kids.
Deputy Davidson pulled up to the scene and put the cruiser in park. Across the street, he saw Officer Clark standing stiffly beside his cruiser. The red and blues were flashing silent and the headlights acted as a spotlight on the fallen lamppost laying headlong on the sidewalk. Just as Clark reported, the pole had been rigidly severed. It was a mess. Slivers of metal surrounded the remaining stump and reflected the cruiser headlights like glitter. The antenna was smashed into hundreds of pieces scattered on the grass and the road.
There were two other cars at the scene. Behind Officer Clark’s vehicle was the County Repair truck parked with its lights off, the repairman slouched in the driver seat, only visible from the icy blue glow off the cell phone in his hands. He stared down at the screen, scrolling mindlessly. The other car, a black Cadillac with limo-tinted windows, was parked opposite Officer Clark’s vehicle. The Cadillac’s headlights were also beaming spotlight on the fallen post. Two men in black suits that Davidson had never seen before stood by the car, surveying Davidson behind dark, boxy sunglasses. Both men were slender and somber, one with jet-black hair kept short and the other with ghost-white hair kept the same.
An uneasy feeling in the pit of Davidson’s stomach accompanied their presence.
Davidson exited his vehicle and walked over to Officer Clark, one eye on the damage and the other on the two strange men in suits. The two men were watching Davidson right back.
“Talk to me, Clark,” said the Deputy.
Clark looked nervous. Maybe it was having his superior check up on him, reasoned Davidson. Or maybe it was something else.
“Called repair as soon as I saw the damage,” offered the rookie officer. “Looks like vandals. Probably kids. Maybe environmentalists. Repair says he could have it up in a few days.”
Not environmentalists, Davidson thought, steaming. Kids. Asshole kids.
“And the suits?” asked Davidson.
As if the two men had heard Davidson’s inquiry, the suits began a bound from the black Cadillac toward them, robotic and synchronized in their movements, so quick in their stride that Clark didn’t even have time to answer the Deputy before the two men were upon them.
The one with jet-black hair spoke to Davidson first, “Good evening. Are you the officer in charge?”
The man’s voice was as mechanical as his movements.
Davidson raised his chin and straightened his posture. His tone calcified. “I’m the Deputy of this county, gentlemen. And who might you be?”
The white-haired suit spoke next while the black-haired one reached inside his suit jacket breast. This reach caught Davidson’s eye and he went for the pistol on his hip. Fortunately, the suit was reaching for his ID. A Federal badge next to a straight-faced photo.
Did these guys ever take their sunglasses off? wondered Davidson as he glanced over the official identification.
“This is Agent Mayweather. My name is Agent Cross. We’re with the NSA.”
The white-haired suit, Agent Cross as he claimed, reached into his inner breast and produced a matching identification cased in leather and shiny plastic.
Davidson nodded, satisfied enough to take his hand off his service revolver, though his confusion remained. “NSA? What’s the NSA got to do with all this?”
“I’m afraid that information is classified,” answered the black-haired Agent Mayweather.
“The important thing to understand is that the functionality of these antennas is a matter of national security,” followed Agent Cross. “Do you know who may have done this?”
Davidson lied. “No clue, gentlemen. It’s been a long day. But I can assure you I’ll be looking into it first thing in the morning. For now, I think it’s best if you let County Repair get this clutter off the street and start getting things patched up.”
“I’m afraid that’s not possible,” answered Agent Mayweather, flatly.
“We have a cleared technician on the way,” added Agent Cross.
“Security clearance, sir.”
“Right. It’s confidential,” said the Deputy, trying not to sound too condescending. “Boys, if these cell towers are anything but regular old cell towers I think I have the right to know. This town and the people in it have a right to know. I mean, what’s going on here? Some kind of top-secret experiment?”
Davidson wanted to laugh at himself. He was starting to sound like the boy.
“That information is classified,” repeated Agent Mayweather.
“It’s an issue of national security,” added Agent Cross.
Davidson was starting to lose his patience. “Well, what would you like me to do?”
“The towers will be functional by morning. It would be best if you find the ones responsible.”
“Before we do,” added Agent Cross. He stared at Davidson behind his boxy dark shades until Davidson faltered under his gaze.
“Okay. Will do,” answered Davidson. He turned and started for his cruiser, calling out to Officer Clark, “Pack it up. I’ll be wanting to look over the report tomorrow.”
A little looser now, Clark nodded and headed for the repair truck.
It was clear to Davidson the agents doubted his honesty about who was responsible. But how could they know he was lying?
They’re the NSA, that’s how, smart guy.
And what was that about finding the ones responsible before they did? Was that some kind of threat? What were they going to do when they found him?
Davidson clenched his jaw and wrenched open his driver side door.
Deputy Davidson was surprised to find himself combing his hair to the side with his palm as he stood on the front steps to Miss Avery’s place. He had assumed that any romantic feelings for her had flushed through his system since they had called it quits, she more than he, all those months ago, and yet here he was: concerned, nervous even, about his appearance.
Davidson glanced down at the garden gnome guarding Miss Avery’s lilac bush and grinned at it as if to break the tension.
“Long time, huh?”
The gnome’s unblinking eyes showed no humor.
The front door opened and there stood Miss Avery at the threshold, dressed in a familiar floral summer dress, her body still as tight and limber as Davidson remembered, though the lines under her eyes had deepened and darkened, and her shoulder-length ashy curls were a mess with frizz, looking as though she had just woken from a nap. Despite her sluggishness, she offered the Deputy a warm smile and a greeting that sounded like a pleasant sigh.
“Hey, Maggie,” said the Deputy. “I’m sorry. Were you asleep?”
Miss Avery suddenly became aware of her appearance. “Oh! Yes. I had a dentist appointment earlier in the day. They gassed me. Really took the wind out of my sails. I was just lying down on the couch. Would you like to come in?”
“I better not,” he said despite himself. “I actually came here to talk to Wade. Is he home?”
“He went out with some friends from school but I imagine he will be home soon. Is everything okay?”
Davidson bit down on his lip, wondering how to answer that question. “I’m not sure,’ he said. “He came to see me today. He had some concerns about these new 5G towers they’re installing. I think he and his friends might have gotten in some real trouble. It’s very important that I speak with him. Do you know where he might be at?”
Miss Avery’s smile dropped. “What’s going on, Dale? Should I be worried?”
Davidson told her about the vandalized towers, the government agents, and how he believed that Wade and his friends were the ones responsible. Miss Avery became visibly upset. Despite his urge to console her, Davidson remained professional and waited until Miss Avery composed herself before speaking again.
“If you have any idea of where he might be. It’s better that I be the one to find him.”
Miss Avery stared off to the side, searching her mind. “I know they like to spend time at the railroad tracks, in the yard over on Jackson. That might be a good place to start.”
The train yard on Jackson Ave. was only a few blocks away. “Thanks, Maggie. I’ll check it out,” said Davidson.
When he turned to leave, Miss Avery reached out and grabbed him softly by the wrist. A tickling wave rushed through his stomach and for a moment he remembered what it was like to be wrapped in her embrace; her warm, gentle skin breathing against his.
He shook off the rush of emotion and pulled away politely, finding it hard to meet her pleading blue eyes.
“Take me with you,” she said. “If my son is in danger or gotten himself into some trouble, he needs me. Please, I want to come.”
Her plead went against every rule in the book. And yet, if anyone could help in locating the boy, it was his mother; she knew his movements better than anybody. The important thing was they got to Wade before the government agents did. There was something off about those agents. Something sinister.
“Alright then, let’s get going,” Davidson said with a friendly smirk.
Miss Avery grabbed her keys off the table and her purse, which was more like a large leather traveling bag, from off the coat rack and shut the front door, locking it. They hurried down the front walkway and across the road to the cruiser. Davidson forced himself not to come around to the passenger side and open the door for Miss Avery.
She did look good under the moon in that dress, though.
Keep it professional, you dog, Davidson scolded himself.
As the cruiser started up and pulled onto the road, the headlights lit up on the car two lengths behind them. If Davidson had not been so focused on keeping his eyes from wandering, he might have made the vehicle to be a familiar color and model.
A black Cadillac.
The 9:16 to Rexdale chugged ferociously through the desolate train yard. The lowered cross-guard dinged serially. The red bulb on the post blinked on and off, shooting short beams of blood-red light against the bushy, weeded area before leaving it in darkness once again. Wade, Marcus, and Donnie stood a few feet away, at the base of a large hill, watching graffiti riddled boxcars whiz by in a blur of shape and color. The train had stopped their sprint and now the boys huffed and puffed, doubled over with their hands on their knees; all except for Wade, who held in his antsy grip a bulky chainsaw.
“I can’t believe you actually did it!” laughed Donnie over the passing train.
And he had done it. Wade had cut those posts like a lumberjack in a forest and then stomped on those antennas until they were close to the size of pebbles on the road. Even if it wasn’t the 5G frequencies that were turning the people of Seabridge insane, Wade felt vindicated. It was what Deputy Davidson deserved for leaving his mother stranded the way he did.
“My dad is going to kill me!” yelled Marcus. “Literally kill me!”
“You are in deep shit, Wade,” said Donnie, still chuckling.
Wade shrugged. “Whatever. Maybe I just saved somebody from getting stabbed by a maniac with braces. Guess we’ll find out.”
Thinking back to the act, which hadn’t lasted more than five minutes at most, Wade couldn’t shake off the memory of the huge fountain of sparks that bloomed as he sliced through the dense metal or the reverberating, deafening ding that rang out into the night when the falling pole hit the concrete.
The whole street shook like an earthquake.
Wade had never felt so alive in his entire life. The feeling of freedom to act on impulse the way he had was like a high off a drug, or at least what Wade imagined what a high off a drug might be like; he wanted to do it all the time.
He was so involved with recounting the event in his head that he wasn’t watching Marcus and Donnie, who, when he turned back around, had already made the climb to the top of the hill. They stood there, still. Something had captured their attention and smeared a look of terror on their face.
“Hey, you assholes! Wait up!” yelled Wade, scrambling up the steep hill after them, struggling with the weight of the chainsaw in his hands and the pull of gravity behind him.
When Wade reached the top of the hill, he looked out and gasped. The chainsaw fell out of his hands and rolled down the other side of the hill, stopping in front of a pair of skater sneakers.
Charlie Morgan, no longer in the custody of his parents, stood at the center of six or seven kids from the town, lined up in a human chain, watching the boys with snarling faces, grinding their teeth and showing off the braces in their mouths, gleaming under the full moon. Some of them held knives. One of the kids, dressed in baby blue teddy bear pajamas, with soft cheeks and a bowl haircut, looked to be about seven years old. His knife was the biggest.
Charlie bent over and retrieved the chainsaw from off the grass. His head rose with a chilling grimace.
“You shouldn’t have smashed those towers, Wade!” he yelled into the dark of night.
Wade swallowed hard and his voice squeaked saying, “Uhh…I’m sorry?”
Miss Avery leaned into Deputy Davidson’s shoulder as the 9:16 to Rexdale sped thunderously along the tracks beside them. If not for the narrow beam from Davidson’s flashlight guiding the way through the train yard, the two of them would have been swallowed by the all-encompassing black.
The part of Davidson that was enjoying the nighttime walk with Miss Avery was at odds with his concern for her son and his friends, and about the motives of the strange sunglass-wearing government agents mucking about his county.
“I don’t know how these kids do it,” whispered Miss Avery as the 9:16 shrunk into the horizon and the night went quiet once again. “Hanging out in a place like this…it’s like a horror movie out here.”
“I’ll level with you, Maggie. This entire day is shaping up to be something out of an episode of X-Files.”
“Do you really think it was Wade who cut down those poles?” asked Miss Avery. She sighed with disappointment as if she had already answered her question. “I wouldn’t put it past him. He’s really been acting out since you and I…you know.”
Davidson looked off to the side for a moment. “I don’t know, Maggie…I swear, I think Wade might be on to something. I must be crazy to believe it. But these agents, they have some stake in these 5G towers. What if they’re conducting some sort of top-secret experiment? And using us as lab rats?”
“And that’s why Judy Bloom’s daughter murdered her baby brother?”
“I know it sounds ludicrous. But the instigators of these crimes all had some sort of metal conductor in their body. Braces, a metal plate…”
Miss Avery thought about it.
“And you think they’re picking up the signals like the antenna on an old black and white?”
Davidson raised his eyebrows and nodded.
Miss Avery smiled. “Sounds kind of science-fictiony, no?”
“Like I said…X-Files.”
A faint buzzing could be heard in the distance up ahead, growing louder by the second. Soon the buzzing was accompanied by what sounded like kids screaming.
Davidson shined his flashlight further into the distance, illuminating the figures of Wade, Marcus, and Donnie sprinting frantically toward them, waving their hands and screaming over the high pitched rip that grew more intense as their figures got larger.
It was the sound of a chainsaw.
“That’s them!” pointed Miss Avery. “That’s the boys!”
The boys were looking back over their shoulder with expressions of horror. Behind them, a clump of shadows barely discernible from the night was hot on their heels. Davidson pointed his light at the shadow and illuminated a cluster of more kids from town, running after the boys with rabid intensity.
My god, thought Davidson grimly. That’s Charlie Morgan…And he’s waving a chainsaw.
And Charlie wasn’t alone.
With him in the cluster was Jenni Grossman, a freshman at Seabridge Academy, still in her gray private school uniform; knee-highs and all. She was wielding a hatchet and had smears of dried blood sloped across her face.
Beside Jenni, running faster than Davidson had ever seen them move before, were the Markham twins. Two preteen gingers whose ponderous weight made them formidable football players, but little else. Their chins gobbled as they snarled and drooled, arms outstretched and clawing at the boys who were quickly losing their lead.
And behind those four, more shadows started to appear. More kids brandishing knives. The one commonality among them was that they were all wearing braces.
Davidson took Miss Avery by the wrist and pointed to the small, glowing red taillights parked just over a hundred yards behind them. “We need to get to the car! Now!”
“But the boys!” cried Miss Avery.
“They’re coming! Go!”
By now, Wade and the boys were just a few feet away, Charlie about ten feet behind them with the chainsaw raised over his head. The motor’s buzz was so loud it rattled the Deputy’s skull.
Davidson withdrew his firearm and took aim at Charlie as Wade and the other two boys ran past him without so much as a glance.
“Get to the car! Take your mom!”
“No shit, Sherlock!” Wade yelled over his shoulder.
Charlie zeroed in the Deputy and screamed out at the top of his lungs, racing forward, chainsaw waving above his head.
“Drop the weapon!” yelled Davidson.
Charlie lunged at the Deputy. Davidson pulled the trigger. A resounding shot rang out. The bullet whizzed through Charlie’s shoulder. Charlie shrieked, twisted, and fell to the grass. The chainsaw fell beside him, digging into the ground and splashing a fountain of grass and dirt toward the night sky before tipping on its side and convulsing unattended.
Next, Davidson took aim at Jenni Grossman, approaching full steam, her skirt flailing at the will of her supple galloping thighs. Not morally able to drop another youth, he lowered and sided his weapon, turning around and following Wade and the boys to the cruiser as fast as his aching middle-aged legs could carry him. Behind him, Jenni Grossman’s flats stomped through the grass, her breath getting heavier and faster. He thought he could feel it on the back of his neck.
Should have shot her when I had the chance, he cursed to himself as he fled.
Now at the car, Miss Avery opened the rear door and yelled at the boys to get in before swinging open the front passenger door and diving inside. The three boys didn’t argue. They were all in the car as quickly as she was, doors closed and locked, ducking in their seats and peeking out the back windshield.
Davidson got to the driver side door and tugged it open. He kicked his leg back as hard as he could and knocked Jenni Grossman back a few steps, branding her white blouse with a muddy male size eleven bootprint. She faltered only momentarily and came for him again, but Davidson slipped into the car and gotten the door shut just as her hatchet was swinging for his head. The window took the hit instead of the Deputy and cracked into a spider-web.
Davidson locked his door and started the car.
“Holy shit!” yelled Marcus.
“Get us out of here, Davidson!” yelled Wade.
The cruiser rocked back and forth like a boat as the Markham twins clambered up on the trunk of the car and banged on the back window with their lumpy fists, their rapid breath staining episodic steam circles on the glass.
Davidson stomped down on the gas pedal and, as the cruiser jerked forward, the Markham twins rolled off the trunk, onto the grass. He watched the rest of the psychotic mob of kids get smaller and darker in his rear-view as the cruiser sped away into the night. Davidson swore he saw little Tommy Wilson, seven years old, clutching a butcher knife and wearing teddy bear pajamas.
Once they were back on the main road, the kids, and Davidson with them, started to breathe again. Miss Avery was slouched over in her seat, sobbing over the purse in her lap. “This is really happening!” yelled Wade. “I can’t believe I was actually right!” He turned to Marcus and Donnie and pointed. “I freakin’ told you!”
“My dad’s chainsaw is back there, you asshole!” Marcus shot back at him.
“Marcus, I think your dad might have some more important things to worry about. Like, I don’t know, the whole town going crazy?”
“You shot Charlie!” Donnie yelled at Davidson from behind the driver’s seat. “I think you might have killed him!”
Miss Avery’s head rose, her pale face peeking out from the tangled mess of hair. Her voice was shaking, “Where are we going?”
The Deputy answered calmly, though Donnie’s comment had sucked the wind from his sails; he had shot a child. The boy was only a child. “Back to the station. I’m going to contact the Sheriff and we’ll get this whole thing figured out, okay? Everybody just cool out, okay? Try to relax…”
Davidson’s eyes went from the road to the rear-view then back to the road. He reached over and switched on the siren.
Davidson’s cruiser sat idle in the Sheriff’s Office parking lot, headlights glaring a spotlight on the front brick of the building. Outside was quiet. Inside the car was just the same. Davidson had spent the ride wondering if it might have been better to turn the car around and flatten those rabid kids. They were evil. Soulless. He couldn’t get the image of their bloodthirsty eyes out of his head.
Leaning back in his seat, Davidson exhaled slowly, rubbing his eyes tiredly. “That must have been every kid in town with braces,” he said, knowing full well there were many more.
“I want to go home,” said Donnie. “When can we go home?”
Wade spoke before Donnie could get an answer. “So what do we do now? Those things are out there!”
The Deputy looked at Miss Avery beside him, still hunched over the bulky purse on her lap, tangled hair draped over her face. She had stopped withdrawing tissues from her stash inside the bag, and her sobbing had mollified. Now she was silent and unmoving, Davidson thought maybe sleeping.
He spoke softer, “I’ll figure something out. There’s definitely something ungodly going on in this town. But Wade, I’ve been asked to bring you in. Some government agents from the NSA responded to the 5G towers you smashed. They want you arrested.”
“Oh, man. This is serious…” sobbed Marcus.
Wade leaned forward. “You’re not going to hand me over to them, are you? They’re in on this! They have to be! They’re using the frequencies to control people’s minds! What about snorin’ Norman? Did he have braces?”
“No. But he had a metal plate in his knee,” answered the Deputy, regarding Wade through the rear-view.
At that moment the squad car flooded with light and, with squinting eyes, the Deputy looked out his window for the source of the beam. The pebbles on the gravel driveway popped under the rubber tires of a car pulling in to the lot. Davidson’s heart sunk.
“Who is it?” whispered Marcus.
“It’s a black Cadillac,” answered Donnie, peering outside the window.
“So that means that it’s not just braces, it’s anyone with a metal implant,” said Wade, more to himself than the rest of the car.
Davidson’s attention remained on the Cadillac.
Wade continued, “Mom, didn’t they give you a silver molar today at the dentist?”
A flash of panic tightened Davidson’s chest, followed by an alarming pinch in his back that sent a shock of agony through his entire body. He gasped and the world spun, pain traversing every nerve and limb. Another moment of excruciating suffering rang through his body as whatever had just been jabbed inside him was being pulled out.
The kids in the backseat screamed out in terror.
Davidson turned in his seat, hip searing, and saw Miss Avery holding a bloody knife in her hand. The blade was about six inches. Just long enough to fit comfortably inside her bulky purse.
Through the hair strewn over her face, he saw tears in her eyes.
“Maggie…” Davidson uttered.
Miss Avery’s lips quivered. “I’m sorry…I just haven’t been myself today.”
She extended her arm and drove the knife deep into Davidson’s side. Another piercing shock flooded his body and he screamed out in unbearable woe.
Wade yelled, “Mom! No!”
Miss Avery pulled out the blood-streaked knife from Davidson’s insides. Davidson moaned and looked down at the blood blooming under his uniform. Everything was spinning and it was hard to catch his breath.
Davidson pulled the handle on his door, using the weight of his shoulder to force the door open. He tumbled out of the car onto the gravel, the sharp points of the rocks digging into his back as he rolled over. He was staring up at the night sky, the constellations blurry through tears.
He heard the doors from the Cadillac open and shut; footsteps on the gravel approached, then they came into view, looking down on Davidson behind dark sunglasses.
Agent Mayweather and Agent Cross.
The Deputy was starting to fade in and out of consciousness. Everything sounded garbled, like he was underwater. From inside the car, he could hear Maggie say to the boys, “Don’t be afraid…it will all be over in just a minute.”