* * *
By 9 p.m., Johnson was posted in at the edge of the canal that ran along the bayou, watching the front of the hardware store. DeLuve was posted by a building where he could see the back of the building. McCree waited, hidden, at the motel, watching the office there.
DeLuve saw several men he recognized arrive and an older man in a nice suit whom he didnâ€™t. Sheriff Dundee arrived in his motorcar and took a small crate into the place as well. Each person went to the door, knocked, it opened, and they would exchange a brief word or two before entering.
When Burke exited the motel office, McCree followed him to the warehouse, where he entered the back door. McCree crept up to the back door and put his ear against it. McCree heard some kind of chanting from within the warehouse. It sounded like a sing-song chant and response.
Johnson came around the back of the building as well, hiding in the darkness.
Fog crept in from the bayou, starting low, along the ground, and then lifting up to cover Montegut with mist. They could just see each other.
DeLuve went to the door and pointed at one of the warehouse windows, motioning for a boost up. McCree gave the man a hand, DeLuve grabbing the window sill as soon as he could reach it. He peeked into the window.
The room was lit by a red light that came from a standing lamp with a piece of red cloth thrown over it. The men stood around in robes, their heads covered by cowls. One of them rang a bell and several of them waved banners with owls upon them. They chanted rhythmically. The crate the sheriff had brought sat on one side near a table. It was still closed.
DeLuve climbed down.
â€œWho wants to knock on the door?â€ he whispered.
â€œI feel like these people are really weird,â€ McCree said.
â€œYeah, but I donâ€™t get a necessarily threatening feel.â€
â€œIâ€™m used to more â€¦ tentacle-based threats.â€
â€œYeah! So you should knock on the door!â€
McCree looked at him.
â€œSheriff is in there, right?â€ McCree said.
â€œIâ€™ll knock of you want,â€ he said.
â€œLetâ€™s get with Joell real quick,â€ McCree said. â€œBecause everyone seems to think itâ€™s this Eben Murrow anyways. With all this evidence, we might be able to stay, â€˜Hey, we saw the sheriff come in here and now we need to alert him immediately to what are findings are. What are yâ€™all doing in here?â€™â€
They waved Johnson over.
â€œIâ€™ll go knock on the door,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œSo Joell,â€ McCree said. â€œThe Cajuns believe itâ€™s Eben Murrow â€¦â€
â€œThey also donâ€™t like you using his name,â€ Johnson said. â€œThey just say the witch-man.â€
â€œAnd we think we know where Eben Murrow took the girl as well.â€
â€œWell, now we just need to convince the sheriff we need to act immediately and then that way we can also catch them doing whatever this ludicrous act is. â€˜Cause with all the things Iâ€™ve seen, itâ€™s outdoors and itâ€™s much more dangerous.â€
â€œYou want to get the sheriff on a witch-man hunt?â€
â€œI want to go knock on the door,â€ DeLuve said.
He walked to the door as Johnson got his bat ready. DeLuve knocked with â€œshave and a haircut.â€ He heard muffled voices within and he straightened up. There were some rustling noises. Then the door was unlocked and opened a crack. It was the owner of the hardware store.
â€œUh â€¦ weâ€™re closed,â€ he said.
DeLuve looked at the man for a moment.
â€œThe owl knows all,â€ DeLuve said.
The man just stared at him.
â€œWhat?â€ he finally said.
â€œSeekers of knowledge, high and low,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œUh â€¦ no sir,â€ the man said. â€œWhat? Iâ€™m just gonna go. So, good-bye.â€
McCree stepped out of the darkness.
â€œSir, weâ€™re looking for the sheriff,â€ he said. â€œI saw his car out here. We actually have some alarming news of another missing person.â€
â€œAll right,â€ the man said. â€œHold on.â€
He closed the door and Sheriff Dundee opened it a few moments later. He stepped out and closed the door behind him.
â€œIâ€™m sorry, what?â€ he said. â€œThereâ€™s another missing person?â€
â€œAnd we believe we know who the prime suspect is,â€ McCree said.
â€œWhat? Who? What?â€
â€œApparently Eben Murrow is the one that everyone thinks is controlling the dogs and kidnapping some of the people.â€
â€œEben Murrow? Eben Murrow has been living out â€¦ he lives out in the bayou somewhere.â€
â€œAnd isnâ€™t that where the dogs come and go from?â€
â€œThatâ€™s a bit of a stretch, sir, just to pick a name out of a hat because he lives in the bayou and expect that he sent the dogs.â€
â€œI tell ya what. Iâ€™ll go out there tomorrow morning and I will talk to him. All right?â€
â€œThe owl protects!â€ DeLuve said.
â€œIâ€™m sorry, sir?â€ Sheriff Dundee said.
â€œThank you sheriff,â€ McCree said. â€œYou have a nice night.â€
â€œYou too,â€ Sheriff Dundee said.
He gave DeLuve one last look as McCree turned and walked away. DeLuve pursed his lips and opened his eyes wide, trying to make a face like an owl. He stared at the man.
â€œYou have a nice night, sir,â€ Sheriff Dundee said.
He turned around to go back in and DeLuve hooted like an owl. Sheriff Dundee stopped, looked over his shoulder at the man, and then reentered the building. The door locked behind him and DeLuve could hear people talking quietly within.
He looked up and saw the light, formerly red, was now a clear, white, electrical light.
Johnson, standing by the side of the building, stifled laughter. He went over to DeLuve as noises like moving furniture came from within the warehouse.
â€œWell, that plan went even worse than I thought it was going to,â€ Johnson said.
DeLuve just pointed at him.
â€œDo you at least know what theyâ€™re doing in there?â€ Johnson asked.
â€œI figured it was like â€¦ like â€¦â€ DeLuve said.
â€œLike they just let the tourists in if you made owl faces at them?â€
â€œHey! Can I get a boost up?â€
â€œYeah, I can boost you up, I guess.â€
They had a little more trouble with it than when McCree boosted the man before, but they finally got DeLuve up to the window and he peeked in.
The men within had removed their robes and had moved a table to a well-lit area. The crate was open and appeared to be filled with brown bottles. More bottles were on the table and the men sat around, playing cards. He guessed the bottles were beer.
â€œAre they sacrificing people yet?â€ Johnson whispered to him.
When Johnson lowered the man again, he told him they were just playing poker. That annoyed Johnson and they looked around.
â€œWhereâ€™s McCree?â€ Johnson said.
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œI thought Eben Murrow was more of a legend than an actual person,â€ Johnson said. â€œIf heâ€™s actually out there in a shack, I want to go see it. You want to go out there to look at the lights with me?â€
DeLuve nodded. They headed back to the motel.
* * *
McCree was in his pajamas when he heard a knock on the door. When he saw Johnson and DeLuve, he remembered they planned on going into the bayou that night. He got dressed and got this rifles and bags. They all donned their waders and headed back out.
On the way, Johnson asked if they wanted to go out into the bayou or just see the lights that night. There was some discussion on it as McCree just wanted to look at the lights. He didnâ€™t want to enter the bayou at night. They all agreed to just look.
They walked across the fields by the bayou until they reached the Margeau house again and then waited there, watching. It was about 11 p.m. when the strange greenish-purple light appearing in the distant bayou. DeLuve took a photograph but realized it would probably never turn out. It would probably not even show anything in the dark. The strange colors moved around in an odd and unnatural fashion. They heard the chanting and odd fluting of pipes somewhere deep in the swamp.
â€œThatâ€™s what I heard before!â€ Johnson whispered to them. â€œWhateverâ€™s happening out here, is the real stuff. Poker night over there is crap!â€
â€œIt seems in a more appropriate location to what Iâ€™m used to,â€ McCree said.
He guessed it was probably where the mark on the map further from Montegut in the bayou was.
The light got bright at one point and then dimmed again.
â€œIt seems itâ€™s not safe to go in at night,â€ McCree said. â€œThat looks alive.â€
â€œThe smoke?â€ Johnson said.
â€œThe lights. The lights look alive.â€
â€œWell, Joell, I donâ€™t expect that youâ€™ve seen what Iâ€™ve seen.â€
â€œThe lights arenâ€™t here during the day,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œYes,â€ McCree said. â€œSo? The lights arenâ€™t killing people at the moment. I donâ€™t know what happens if we get close to them.â€
â€œSo, you just admitted we can go close to them.â€
â€œIâ€™m still worried about the dogs.â€
They heard a strange and unnatural howling in the distance.
â€œThe dogs come out during the day too,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œAnd the dogs seem to be out right now as well,â€ McCree said. â€œIâ€™d like to see them from a distance.â€
â€œI havenâ€™t seen anyone get killed at night.â€
â€œIâ€™m going back to the motel.â€
â€œYou said you saw a man get killed in the streets in the day!â€
â€œDo we want to go see someone die at night?â€
â€œThis is where we need to go,â€ Johnson said.
â€œI agree,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œI donâ€™t know if it matters when we do it, but this is where we need to go,â€ Johnson said. â€œThis is where, if we find any of those missing people, where theyâ€™re going to be. Thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m betting.â€
â€œWell, weâ€™ve ignored it for one night,â€ McCree said. â€œWhatâ€™s one more night?â€
â€œThree people missing,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œFour,â€ Johnson said.
â€œFive,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œWhat?â€ Johnson said.
â€œMaybe the sheriffâ€™s dead tomorrow,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œThatâ€™s why we go with the sheriff,â€ McCree said.
â€œWeâ€™re already here.â€
â€œFine. I was going to use the sheriff as bait but you can be the bait instead.â€
â€œI donâ€™t make good bait.â€
â€œYou use people for bait!?!â€ Johnson said.
â€œI do look tasty though,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œYou also canâ€™t take pictures of my kills at night!â€ McCree said.
â€œThatâ€™s why I have flashbulbs,â€ DeLuve said, holding one up.
â€œJust remember, you donâ€™t get paid if we donâ€™t get pictures,â€ McCree said.
DeLuve looked at the man.
â€œIâ€™ve already got pictures,â€ he said softly. â€œThe zombies. Sir. Iâ€™ve already done work for you.â€
â€œYou donâ€™t get that bonus!â€ McCree said.
They headed across the field and crossed the canal, going into the bayou again.
â€œWe donâ€™t need to go in, guns blazing,â€ Johnson said. â€œBut I think we need to see whatâ€™s going on.â€
A blanket of fog covered the ground of the bayou though the fog in the air was not thick at all. It was tough going without flashlights. Though McCree and DeLuve had electric torches, they decided not to light them at that time. McCree led the way, being as quiet and careful as he could. The mosquitoes were terrible, much worse during the day. They saw what appeared to be a log in the water and avoided it. Then they saw what appeared to be the shape of a hand on the side of a tree, which was odd. The cicadas practically roared in the background.
Johnson, bringing up the rear, kept thinking he heard someone following him. He would look back but in the darkness and the fog, could not make out anything. It was unnerving and he tapped DeLuveâ€™s shoulder, telling him to hold up. They listened but heard nothing. They continued on, catching up to McCree again. When they reached the man, he handed over his flashlight to Johnson.
DeLuve had a terrible time navigating in the pitch blackness, slowing them down.
It was a miserable, long, arduous march through the swamp, avoiding the large bodies of water and always making their way towards the light, which faded as they got closer. The chanting and piping had faded by the time they thought they were close. However, a strange, nasty stench assaulted their nostrils as they got closer.
They finally found a clearing with a pool of water within. A foxfire glow seemed to hang about it. The pool was sheened over with greasy, multicolored slime that looked unlike anything else in the swampland. All the plants around the pool were dead and rotten to the root, covered with strange decay and odd mealy grubs. On one side of the pool was a flat rock. The clearing was silent. Even the mosquitoes seemed to stay away.
They looked at the clearing from the edge of the trees, realizing the strange foxfire in the area was not nearly as bright as what they had seen from the edge of the bayou.
â€œDo you have the map?â€ McCree asked Johnson.
The other man pulled out the map but it was far too dark to read it.
â€œYou want to look in the pool with a flashlight?â€ DeLuve asked.
â€œNo!â€ McCree said. â€œDo you?â€
â€œWhereâ€™s your flashlight?â€
DeLuve pulled out the torch.
â€œHave a gander,â€ McCree said.
â€œOkay, but youâ€™re going to watch my back, right?â€ DeLuve said.
â€œWill you watch me with your flashlight?â€
â€œTell you what, I will. Joell, if you donâ€™t mind shining the light on our good friend DeLuve.â€
DeLuve moved closer and saw that the phosphorescence was in the ground, possibly even the grubs and maggots in the dead plants. He lit his flashlight and crept close enough to the water to shine it in the pool. The water was impossible to see through as the multicolored slime atop it obscured the already murky water. It was unlike anything heâ€™d ever seen before in the swamp. He wondered if it might be oil instead of water. He crept closer. The light still didnâ€™t penetrate the liquid.
He looked around, noticing several rocks embedded in the sides of the pool. He ignored them and found a fist-sized rock nearby. He threw it at the pool, overshooting it. The rock clattered onto the ground on the other side. He looked around and found two more rocks. He tossed another rock, this one going into the water with a small gloop-like splash. He saw the liquid move like typical water and guessed he had been wrong about thinking the pool was filled with oil.
In the trees, McCree looked at the map, Johnson holding the flashlight so he could see it.
â€œSo, do we look for that other â€˜xâ€™ while weâ€™re out here?â€ McCree said.
â€œI mean â€¦ I donâ€™t know where we are right now so I canâ€™t find us â€¦â€ Johnson said.
â€œWith my assumption, weâ€™re probably at the further â€˜xâ€™ at the moment.â€
â€œSo weâ€™ve seen both of them?â€
â€œWe havenâ€™t see the closer â€˜xâ€™ yet.â€
â€œI thought you were the one who didnâ€™t want to go anyplace here at night.â€
â€œI donâ€™t! But you people are crazy.â€
â€œThen we probably shouldnâ€™tâ”€â€
A strange cackling came from somewhere nearby.
â€œPerfect,â€ McCree said.
Johnson shined his flashlight around himself desperately. He had his baseball bat in his other hand.
â€œWould you do me a favor Joell, and shine that on the giggler?â€ McCree said.
The light was not going very far due to the intervening foliage and trees. They had no idea which direction the laughter had come. Then McCree heard chanting coming from somewhere in the darkness. He wasnâ€™t sure where it was though. He moved behind a tree near Johnson so the light wouldnâ€™t strike him.
A greenish-purple light began dancing over the pool of stagnant water. DeLuve grabbed his camera and photographed it was best he could. Then he backed away from the pool. The water there splashed. The chanting stopped and someone giggled insanely in the darkness again.
The thing arose from the pool, the air filled with a sickly greenish-purple light and a weird piping noise. It was an amorphous blob, brownish-gray like the color of the mud around it. Numerous pseudopods covered with slobbering mouths slapped down on the flat stone on the edge of the pool. Then it flopped back into the tainted water.
â€œSomebodyâ€™s on my land â€¦â€ the voice of an old man called from the swamp.
It was followed by an insane cackle.
â€œSee, now we should slowly back away,â€ McCree said.
The three men did so and then heard a high-pitched whistle. Then the laughter came again.
â€œYouâ€™re marked!â€ the manâ€™s voice called. â€œYouâ€™re marked now!â€
He laughed insanely again.
Then they heard the horrific howl of the terrible dogs, like a wolf dragged by a burning hook in its belly. The howls faded into a stridulating noise like a gigantic cicadas call. McCreeâ€™s blood went cold as he recognized the howl from the day before. Johnson desperately tried to point is flashlight in the direction of the noise. McCree turned to run but realized he had no light to do so. DeLuve pulled the sawed-off shotgun from his bag.
McCree was the only one who spotted the one of the dogs before they were upon them. He was shaken by the terrible sight but took aim, bracing himself on a tree. That gave the dogs time to launch out of the darkness at Johnson and DeLuve, making horrible slobbering noises. Then they crashed into the men.
The things were terrible. They were bony, four-legged things glistening with the froth from fanged jaws, their eyes glazed with a sickly whitish film. They had semi-exposed spinal columns and bones, heavy frothing jaws, leprous skin, and mucoid nostrils and ears.
One lunged at Johnson, grabbing his left foot and knocking him down. The dog bit down on the manâ€™s ankle. He heard a terrible crunch and felt a wave of pain as bones broke and his foot went numb. He screamed and dropped the flashlight, which landed on a something soft and didnâ€™t go out.
The other leapt at DeLuveâ€™s left leg, ripping into the soft flesh there, tearing it out to the bone, and knocking the man down. He lost consciousness as the horrible thing ripped into him.
Johnson swung his baseball bat at the head of the horrible thing but the solid wood club just bounced off the its skull. A cackling came from the darkness somewhere.
McCree finally fired. The slug from the elephant rifle struck the animal that was mauling Johnson, knocking it off the man and sending it flying backwards with a wail.
â€œYou sonuvabitch!â€ an old man cried from the darkness somewhere.
Then he laughed insanely again.
McCree shot the horrible thing, which was climbing to its feet, again even as he noticed the first hole was closing up. The blast struck the thing solidly and knocked it back into the brush and out of sight.
The other animal mauled DeLuve, tearing into his leg and ripping flesh from bone. The manâ€™s femur was exposed as the skin and muscle were eaten by the horrible hound.
â€œGettum Betsy!â€ the old man called from the darkness somewhere.
Johnson struggled to get the shotgun off his back and around to fire. He scooted right next to the thing and shoved the shotgun barrel up against its side and fired with both barrels. Some of the buckshot actually ricocheted off the horrible things thick skin, but it was still badly injured. It stumbled away from DeLuve and then turned and disappeared into the darkness.
â€œYou son of a bitch!â€ the old man called from the darkness.
DeLuve was gushing blood and Johnson dropped the shotgun, pulled off his jacket and shirt, and then used the latter to bind the horrific wound as best he could. DeLuve came to with a shout of pain.
â€œGonna feed the master!â€ the old man called. â€œFeed the master!â€
He cackled uproariously.
â€œYer marked!â€ he called again. â€œYer marked now!â€
He cackled again.
There was a blast and a flash of light from the direction of the manâ€™s voice. Johnson heard the leaves and foliage over his head rip and tear with the buckshot from the old manâ€™s shotgun. Debris landed on the two of them. The blast struck the tree just above McCreeâ€™s head, blasting off the top of his pith helmet. Splinters struck the man and he felt air on his hair.
McCree quickly reloaded his elephant gun as the old man giggled somewhere in the darkness. He moved to one of the fallen flashlights and pointed it in the direction he thought the old man was in. He couldnâ€™t see the old man anywhere. He could only hear the cicadas in the distance.
Johnson grabbed the flashlight by DeLuve and also shined it in the direction of the laughter. He didnâ€™t see anyone. He pulled the little pistol from his pocket and fired it blindly into the bushes. He was unsure if he hit anything.
It went quiet aside from the normal sounds of the swamp.
â€œYou canâ€™t stop me,â€ the old man called from what sounded like further away. â€œIâ€™m gonna have a kid!â€
He laughed insanely again.
â€œLetâ€™s work on getting DeLuve to a hospital,â€ McCree said.
â€œI think I need one of them too!â€ Johnson said.
DeLuve continued to writhe in pain. Johnson tried to stand up but when he put weight on his foot, he heard a grinding, crunching noise and quickly sat back down after nearly passing out from the wave of pain that accompanied it. After taking a moment to compose himself, he slung McCreeâ€™s shotgun on his back and then picked up his baseball bat, using it like a walking stick while staying on his knees. Every time he moved, it was terribly painful.
McCree took DeLuveâ€™s camera and looked for the dead dog, finding it by the stench. He took a photograph of it, using the flashlight for light, and then took another. When he looked back around, he saw Johnsonâ€™s light moving into the woods. He went to DeLuve and picked him up. DeLuve writhed at the terrible pain.
â€œTonic in the bag,â€ he mumbled.
â€œWe can give it to you when we get back to the road,â€ McCree said.
DeLuve made a horrible choking noise in response.
They moved through the bayou for a minute or so, making very slow progress. Then they heard the terrible howl of one of the horrible hounds again. Johnson cursed and struggled to reload the shotgun as McCree put DeLuve down swiftly and took out his rifle. Then they heard the insane laughter of the old man again. DeLuve took out his sawed-off shotgun and swung it around, not really conscious of what he was doing.
They heard a growling on one side of them and then movement on the other side. McCree moved to try to keep DeLuve between himself and the danger. The cicadas were so loud! The movement seemed to come from all around them, sometimes close and sometimes far away. Then it went quiet suddenly.
â€œHoo hoo hoo hoo!â€ the old man called.
It was followed by a cackle from the direction they had been heading before they stopped. The brush back the way they came rattled. Johnson cursed.
â€œYou shoot the crazy man,â€ McCree said. â€œIâ€™ll get the dog.â€
They waited for a minute and then two and then three. Aside from the cicadas, it had gone quiet all around them. McCree nudged DeLuve with his foot. He pointed the flashlight downward and then dragged DeLuve. The man let out a shriek and then grunted in pain.
When Johnson saw them approaching him, he put the shotgun on his shoulder and then started to lead, flashlight in one hand and baseball bat in the other, being used as a cane. McCree kept an eye out behind them.
They crawled through the swamp that way for maybe a quarter of an hour.
As Johnson was struggling through the foliage, he put his baseball bat down to help support himself and pulled himself forward. Then a hand reached up from where the old man was laying on the ground and grabbed the flashlight. The man silently came up at him with what looked like a little hatchet and cut into Johnsonâ€™s underbelly. Johnson fell without a word.
McCree, walking backward while dragging DeLuve, nearly stumbled over Johnsonâ€™s prone form. He dropped DeLuve and spun around, shining the light. Johnson was lying on his belly, face down in the dirt. McCree reached down and checked the manâ€™s pulse, finding he was still alive. He could smell blood and bowel.
He looked around desperately. Then he tore the sleeves off his shirt, tied them together in a makeshift bandage and bound Johnsonâ€™s wounds. The man blinked and regained consciousness. He was in terrible pain in both his foot and his gut. For a moment, he thought he was in a hospital, but then realized he was still in the swamp.
â€œIâ€™m dying,â€ he muttered. â€œIâ€™m dying.â€
They heard the cackle of the old man again.
â€œGive the white book to Suzanna Edington!â€ Johnson grunted.
â€œEdington?â€ McCree said.
â€œI tell you what boys, Iâ€™ll let two of yâ€™ go, if yâ€™ take one of yâ€™ and put him back on the altar by the pool!â€ the old manâ€™s voice came from the darkness, followed by another insane cackle.
â€œThatâ€™s pretty far,â€ McCree called.
â€œThen leave one behind,â€ the voice came from a different place. â€œIâ€™ll let two go.â€
Something moved around them from a different direction from the voice.
â€œLeave one behind!â€ the old man called again. â€œI need some dog food!â€
He cackled again.
â€œVery generous offer!â€ McCree called.
â€œGet out!â€ Johnson muttered. â€œGet out!â€
â€œSo, why Miss Edington?â€ McCree said to him. â€œShe a purveyor of those books?â€
â€œJust get the book to her!â€
â€œAre you volunteering?â€
â€œIf it saves two people.â€
There was a shotgun blast from the darkness again. The blast missed McCree, blowing a massive hole in a nearby tree. He looked in the direction of the flash but he could see nothing. Then they heard a weird, screeching howl of one of the dogs coming from the other direction.
â€œSo, we can leave this guy right here,â€ McCree called.
He poked Johnson.
â€œHeâ€™s even semi-conscious for you,â€ McCree called.
There was silence for what felt like a long time. Then the old manâ€™s laughter came again.
â€œLeave â€˜im behind!â€ his voice called from the darkness.
â€œAll righty,â€ McCree said.
â€œJust give the book to Edington,â€ Johnson whispered. â€œEverything else: I have a will at my apartment.â€
â€œExcellent,â€ McCree said. â€œIt was good knowing you Joell, for the train right and what was left of this.â€
McCree dragged DeLuve, turning off the flashlight as he went.
Johnson sat in the swamp alone in the light of his flashlight. He dropped the shotgun in the mud and heard insane laughter in the darkness. Then he turned off the flashlight, plunging him into complete darkness. He waited for death.
* * *
McCree continued through the swamp in the darkness. He tried to be quiet but it was impossible while pulling the semi-conscious DeLuve. He had been moving for only a little while when he heard something coming at him from his right with great speed. He dropped DeLuve, aimed where he was hearing it, and then turned on his flashlight.
One of the horrible dogs leapt at him through the brush, coming into the light with terrible abandon. McCree fired both barrels of the elephant gun, knocking himself backwards even at the slugs tore through the horrible creature. The flashlight went out with the force of the blast. The thing struck him as he fell back, landing atop him in the dark and thrashing around but it only took a few moments for him to realize it was in its death throes.
* * *
Johnson, waiting in the dark, heard the blast of McCreeâ€™s elephant gun in the distance. He couldnâ€™t believe he was still alive. He took out his little pistol and waited.
* * *
McCree pushed the dead thing off him and then reloaded the elephant gun. McCree left DeLuve and headed back to where he thought Johnson was. He found the man gone. He found his way back to DeLuve, stumbling across the man.
He dragged the man again, pulling him as quietly as he could through the swamp. He made very, very slow progress. He continued for almost an hour, moving quietly through the swamp. Just as he could see the canal and the fields outside the bayou, DeLuve started screaming. Something sharp, possibly a stick or a stone, had rubbed along the bottom of his bad leg, catching on the makeshift bandage Johnson had placed on it and cutting deeply into the man.
* * *
Johnson felt like heâ€™d been laying on the ground forever, though it was still dark, when he thought he heard screaming somewhere off in the bayou.
Maybe this is just what itâ€™s like, he thought. Itâ€™s just how you go in your final moments. Youâ€™re stuck there â€¦
He felt something slide by him and realized a snake had just moved by without even noticing him.
* * *
McCree put DeLuve down and got out his rifle, thinking something had hit the other man. He couldnâ€™t get a cognizant answer out of the delirious DeLuve. He backed away from him, who choked and gasped in pain. He waited in the darkness, looking around desperately for a target.
He thought he heard something moving in the trees off to his right. It was too dark to see anything though. Then it went quiet except for the normal swamp noises.
* * *
Johnson thought for a moment. Had he seen some kind of path leading away from that pool of water? He wasnâ€™t sure. Everything happened to fast and he had mostly been focused on that horrible pool of water. He decided to crawl that way and see. He didnâ€™t have anything left to lose.
Leaving the shotgun behind, he crawled nearer the pool and saw the barest path that led from the clearing. He followed it. He felt like he was being terribly loud as he made his slow, painful way down the narrow trail, expecting something terrible to happen at any moment. He couldnâ€™t see far in the low mist and the dark, but he just kept going.
Eventually, he spotted what looked like some buildings ahead of him. He thought he saw a dim light in one and thought he heard movement in what might have been a shed. A third building was partially in the water and he guessed it might have been a boathouse. An outhouse was off to one side.
The woodshed with something moving in it was closest to him. It sounded like someone was crying in there.
He painfully crawled to the building. The door had a latch with a stick of wood holding it closed. Someone inside was definitely crying. It sounded like a woman. He pulled the stick out and pulled the door open. The person inside gasped, startling him.
â€œYou stay away from me!â€ a young womanâ€™s voice said. â€œYou stay away from me, you crazy old man!â€
â€œMy nameâ€™s Joell,â€ Johnson said.
There was a long silence.
â€œWhat?â€ the girl finally said.
â€œYouâ€™re Taylorâ€™s cousin, right?â€ Johnson said.
â€œYeah, Iâ€™m Taylorâ€™s cousin! He was going to take him. Eben Murrow! Heâ€™s crazy!â€
â€œAre you locked up?â€
â€œI canâ€™t get out the door. Wait. Is it open?â€
â€œI got the door. My legâ€™s broken but â€¦â€
He heard someone moving carefully towards him and then felt hands on him.
â€œOh my God,â€ Miss Cabe said. â€œOh my God. He says heâ€™s going to rape me and make babies to feed to his dogs.â€
â€œDo you know your way through the swamp?â€ Johnson said.
â€œI can try to help you but Iâ€™m â€¦ Iâ€™m crawling right now. My legâ€™s broken.â€
â€œLet me try to help you.â€
She got under Johnsonâ€™s left arm and helped him stand. It was amazingly painful.
â€œWhich way?â€ she said. â€œWhich way? Which way do you think we should go?â€
He suddenly realized he had a flashlight in his pocket. He turned it on and shined it around, noting the shack and the other building that appeared to be a boathouse.
â€œCould we take a boat?â€ Johnson said.
â€œLetâ€™s go,â€ she said. â€œLetâ€™s go. Letâ€™s take a boat.â€
She helped him to the boathouse. The small shed held a raft and a couple of small boats. Part of the shack was in the water. Johnson noticed a body underneath one of the overturned boats. It was so rotten and so completely covered in a fuzzy, musty fungus that it was impossible to tell if it was a man or a woman or how long it had been rotting there.
â€œYou know how to drive a boat?â€ Johnson said.
â€œI can paddle,â€ Miss Cabe said, pointing out a couple of paddles leaning against the wall.
â€œI think I can too,â€ Johnson said. â€œUnless you know a better way out of here, itâ€™s the swamp or this.â€
â€œLetâ€™s go!â€ she said.
â€œAll right,â€ he replied.
They manhandled the boat into the water. Johnson took the front of the boat and Miss Cabe took the back so she could steer. They both had gotten paddles and were ready to push off when they heard the noise of the other boat moving. Johnson spun around and shined the flashlight at the dead body that was standing up.
Eudora Cabe turned towards him.
â€œRow!â€ she hissed.
They both dug the paddles into the water and rowed as hard as they could. They heard splashing behind them.
* * *
McCree sat there, hidden in the dark, for 20 minutes without hearing anything around him. He crept away from DeLuve and headed for the edge of the bayou. When he reached the canal, he quickly made his way across and onto the farmland on the other side. When he reached it, he backed across the farmland, facing the bayou, gun at ready.
A blast of a shotgun came from the tree line but missed him by a considerable margin, going over his head again. He took a shot at the spot where he thought the blast had come from and thought he heard the slug smash into trees or something. He also heard a cry of distress from that general area as well.
McCree continued backing up. He heard cackling from the tree line.
â€œKeep trying, little boy!â€ the old man shouted.
He fired a shot at the general area of the noise and heard another shouted gurgle from the general vicinity of the shout as if someone had been hit.
* * *
DeLuve, lying in the dark, heard the gunfire. He reached in the bag and got the bottle of tonic. He drank it down, taking all of it. His hand was on his sawed-off shotgun. The pain was terrible.
He started crawling towards what he thought was the edge of the bayou.
* * *
McCree slowly backed up and reloaded.
â€œDonâ€™t worry, Murrow!â€ he called. â€œIâ€™ll see you tomorrow. I do better in daytime.â€
He heard another cackle from the darkness.
â€œItâ€™ll be too late tomorrow!â€ the old man called.
McCree fired another shot into the darkness of the bayou. It was from another part of the trees.
He continued backing slowly across the field.
Something splashed in the canal, struggled across and crawled into the field. He actually noticed two things cross the canal and into the field. Both were grunted and groaning as they crawled towards the house. McCree stopped to watch the two. Both crawled in his general direction.
McCree moved off to his right. Both of the crawling figures moved slowly and painfully towards the farmhouse. They were moving slightly towards each other and towards the house.
â€œDeLuve,â€ McCree called out.
â€œMcCree!â€ one figure said.
Then the other one said it as well. He was unsure which had said it first. Then both of them stopped crawling, laying there in the field.
â€œMcCree!â€ one figure called.
â€œMcCree!â€ the other said as well.
â€œWhere are you?â€
â€œWhere are you?â€
â€œAssistance is pain.â€
â€œAssistance is pain.â€
To DeLuve, it sounded like there was an echo in the area.
â€œCould you crawl to your right?â€ McCree said.
â€œI drank my tonic!â€ both figures called.
â€œNo â€¦ crawl to your right,â€ McCree called again.
â€œOkay,â€ both said.
They both started crawling to their right.
â€œMcCree, why wonâ€™t you just come help me?â€ they both called.
â€œBecause it looks like thereâ€™s two of you out there!â€ McCree called.
â€œWhat do you mean?â€ they both called. â€œThereâ€™s just one me!â€
â€œWell, it seems thereâ€™s somebody mimicking you!â€ McCree said.
â€œOh,â€ both figures said. â€œOh. Oh. Oh. Oh.â€
â€œYou can stop that now,â€ McCree said.
â€œMcCree come help me!â€ both men called.
One of them and then the other fired a gun in the air.
â€œOwl hoots at midnight!â€ both called.
Then they hooted like owls over and over.
McCree made a choice. He aimed and fired at the figure on his right, blasting it in the head. The body tumbled over and went limp.
â€œMcCree!â€ the other figure called. â€œHelp! McCree!â€
The figure started crawling towards McCree, calling his name.
â€œIt hurts,â€ the figure called. â€œMy leg.â€
â€œWhy, whatâ€™s wrong with your leg?â€ McCree called.
â€œDog got it. Dog will hunt.
The figure called his name again.
â€œWhere are you?â€ the figure called. â€œMy leg hurts from you dragging me. I canâ€™t get up. Whereâ€™s â€¦ whereâ€™s â€¦ uh â€¦â€
â€œWhereâ€™d you buy that tonic?â€ McCree called.
â€œThe tonic?â€ the figure said.
The manâ€™s head dropped to the ground.
McCree moved towards the figure, reloading as he approached. He kept the rifle aimed at the dark figure. He walked up to it and kicked it gently in the shoulder. Something bumped into McCreeâ€™s leg and there was a blast from the shotgun Murrow had kept hidden under him the entire time. The shotgun blast blew off McCreeâ€™s leg at the shin and he crashed to the ground on top of the figure.
He heard the old man laugh just before he died.
* * *
Johnson and Miss Cabe rowed for what felt like a long time before they came to the canal at the edge of the bayou. She helped take him across the fields to a farmhouse. She banged on the front door and the lights eventually came on. She told them her story and the people got Johnson into a bed. The sheriff was sent for and soon arrived. Both Miss Cabe and Johnson told him their story and Sheriff Dundee said he was going to form a posse in the morning.
Johnson was returned to Montegut but wanted to stay long enough to find out what happened the next day.
* * *
The deputies returned to Montegut on Sunday, April 28, 1929, and Sheriff Dundee informed Johnson that Eben Murrow was gone from the shack he lived in out in the bayou. However, they found dozens of peeling old shoes, ragged shirts, and other garments nailed to the walls and ceiling of Murrowâ€™s shack, including items the Cajuns identified as belonging to the three people most recently missing.
They also found the bodies of McCree and DeLuve dead in a field not far from the Margeauâ€™s house.
Sheriff Dundee told him the man was still in the boathouse but it took all four deputies unloading their pistols into him to put him down and, when they examined the man, he looked like heâ€™d been dead for years.
After that, Johnson was taken to the hospital in Houma. Unfortunately, he had numerous broken bones in his foot and ankle and it would be a long, lengthy process of rehabilitation and hospitalization before heâ€™d be able to walk again. He was unable to afford all of that immediately but they did set the foot as best they could. The terrible wound in his gut was going to leave a nasty scar on his belly.
Ballistics soon proved McCree had shot DeLuve in the head. Johnson said that didnâ€™t make any sense but police told him ballistics identified the elephant gun McCree had with the bullet that finished off DeLuve after he was mangled by a dog.
He got a telephone call while he was still in the hospital in Houma. It was Ralph Hutton, the union representative that had sent him to Louisiana in the first place. The man wanted any information on the wildcatters. Johnson told him the location where they were at and the man thanked him and said he was going to send someone to confirm it. He seemed very sympathetic.
Hutton called back a few days later.
â€œGreat job,â€ the man told him. â€œWe shut â€˜em down. We shut â€˜em down â€¦ with extreme prejudice. I want to send you something to help tide you over.â€
The next day, he got a letter with a check for $5,000. The letter that accompanied it was from Ralph Hutton who worked for an oil company that wanted the wildcatters out of the bayou. The money would more than cover the medical bills and in the end Johnson decided to use it to pay for his medical bills so he could get his ankle reconstructed.
He later did some research and learned that the wildcatters had been from a small oil company that got involved in the Louisiana oil late and so were using underhanded tactics to find oil.
Johnson was very upset at learning heâ€™d been used by a big company. He never took the reward the Cajuns were offering.
* * *
Johnson returned to Providence, R.I., still seeing doctors and going through surgery and therapy. He went to McCreeâ€™s funeral but didnâ€™t recognize anyone else there. However, one woman stayed until after everyone else had left. Johnson also loitered nearby after everyone but her had gone. She looked at the grave and smiled. She spit on it and then she walked away.