Simon Banks, Captain of Major Crimes, bit down on his unlit cigar as he looked at the paper in front of him. It was an official request – through the commissioner’s office – for the assistance of Detective Jim Ellison and his partner, Consultant Blair Sandburg, to help with an investigation near Seattle. Several farms had started up near Seattle, small family owned farms that were still barely breaking even, most of their profits going back into the business. One of them, Green Family Farm, was having a problem. It had recently been the scene of a series of bizarre murders. In the farms’ 100 acre apple/pumpkin/corn fields, eight people had been killed.
Taking a sip of the cold coffee on his desk, Simon considered the request, shaking his head. This kind of request was what he had been dreading ever since he had gone to Commissioner Wallace and explained that Jim was a sentinel – a man with five heightened senses – and needed Blair to use those senses to the fullest. After Jim turned his senses on the commissioner in a demonstration that left the man with no doubts regarding what he could do, the commissioner had quickly found a budget line to hire Blair as a consultant to the department thus allowing Jim to do his best work. “Payback is a bitch,” he muttered and stood walking to the door.
Out in the bullpen Jim and Blair had their heads together working on an auto theft ring, both reviewing evidence. “Ellison, Sandburg, my office,” he called out and Jim and Blair raised their heads, noting Simon’s grim face before logging out of the computer on Jim’s desk and walking into the office.
Simon, closing the door, indicated they should take seats by his desk and then handed them the request. “This just came down from the commissioner.”
He watched as Jim and Blair quickly scanned the paper and then Jim glanced up. “This is outside our jurisdiction.”
“I know,” Simon agreed with a sigh. “I was on the phone this morning with the commissioner and he said he would consider this a personal favor and would arrange for you to have all the cooperation you need from local law enforcement. Additionally, he will see to travel arrangements, expenses and accommodations.”
Jim, about to respond, stopped when Simon held up his hand. “Commissioner Wallace made it clear that a personal request like this would not be repeated, but he is related to the farm’s owners and would consider it a favor if you and Blair would lend your investigative skills. Eight people have been killed on that farm and the family is afraid to go home.”
And while killed might be the operative word used by local police, butchered was a better description, or so Jim and Blair decided as they read through the report. Of the eight killed, six were men (one a police officer checking on the farm) and two were women. The current theory was that either a cult or a psycho was stalking the farm and dismembering people. After the second murder the Green family had decided to take a vacation and headed to Cascade, leaving the authorities to investigate the farm and crimes. Then the third, fourth and fifth murders had taken place. The third and fourth murders were teenagers who lived nearby and on a dare decided to stay in the “haunted” field overnight. The fifth, Officer Donald Beacon – he had stopped to chase the teenagers out of the field. His last report listed him as going to chase the kids out of the area. It was noted his weapon had been discharged when his body was found the next day.
The sixth, seventh and eighth victims were killed on the same night as Officer Beacon. They were three homeless people who, not having heard any of the information circulating about the farm, had camped out on the edge of the farm for the night after bumming a ride up from Tacoma. The bodies were all left strewn about the field, pitchforked and hacked apart – or, more precisely, at least most of their bodies were strewn about the field Every victim’s head was missing.
“What forensic evidence did the local police find?” Blair asked glancing up at Simon.
“Nothing. Forensics found nothing. They have no clues. That’s why the commissioner asked if you and Jim could take a look.”
“Nothing?” Jim frowned. “With this kind of crime there should be something, blood, tissue, some evidence of violence.”
Simon nodded at the report. “All they found were cornhusks and straw which isn’t surprising since this is in a cornfield.” He sighed and put his unlit cigar in the ashtray on his desk. “The local police have tried to close off and set a curfew near the area but it is a 100 acre farm with a lot of entry points.”
“Do they have livestock?” Blair asked.
“There is nothing listed about livestock in the report,” Simon answered. “Why?”
“I was wondering if any animals might have been mutilated.”
Simon nodded. “You can find out when you check in with the local police. The commissioner has arranged a car rental for you. Go home, get packed and head out.” He watched his best team stand up. “Jim, Blair,” he called as they neared the door. “Be careful,” he watched them nod before shuffling out the door.
Six hours later, after driving out to the small county in the suburbs of Seattle and checking into a small but clean hotel, Jim and Blair made their way to the local precinct. They were expected and though they weren’t sure how they would be received, they were after all stomping through other cops’ jurisdiction, they were welcomed and handed coffee by the local law enforcement. Brought into the sheriff’s office and given seats at his work table, they were handed their coffee by Sheriff Michael Monroe, a thin wiry man, who looked in his late 50s with a shock of white hair and intelligent brown eyes.
“Gentlemen, I’m not going to beat around the bush,” he said. “This case is beyond us and we’ve lost one of our own. My force is itching to get whoever it is that’s out in those fields.” He gave a weary sigh and looked over Jim and Blair. “When Commissioner Wallace called to offer help, I looked you two up. You’ve got the highest solve rate in the state. So, I’m hoping you can find what we couldn’t. We’ve also had the Seattle FBI office in. They haven’t been able to find anything.”
“Was there anything unique about that farm?” Blair asked.
“Not that any of us know about. The Greens, they bought the acreage from a Washington State sale. The land had been sitting undeveloped for as long as I remember and I’ve been in this county my whole life.”
“Why would that be?” Blair asked. “I mean why would farmland not be utilized?”
Sheriff Monroe shrugged. “The state got that land in the early 1800s. They decided to parcel it out and sell it off a few years ago. They divided it into four 100 acre parcels. The other three farms run adjacent to the Green Farm but they haven’t had any problems. Of course, they’re worried that something will happen there next.”
“What’s your theory about this, Sheriff?” Jim asked.
“You mean psychos or cults?” the sheriff answered and Jim nodded.
“Honestly, I’m not aware of any cults in this area. I’ve never heard of covens or Satanists around here. No practicing witches as far as I know. So, that leaves some kind of psycho. But there’d have to be more than one involved. Officer Beacon got off six shots and he has…had awards for marksmanship from state championships. Even moving he could hit a target and yet the only blood on the scene was his and the kids. To find him and the teenagers all dead…” the sheriff shook his head and sighed.
“The Seattle FBI office is checking into mental patients and their profiler is working on the theory that the killers are headed up by some charismatic leader but I don’t know. Nothing has been seen in the area, no strangers. I’ll give you the profiler’s report but I honestly don’t think it matches the area.” He paused and took a deep breath. “The break room has been commandeered as the situation room and all the forensic pictures and charts are in there. You’re welcome to go in any time.”
“I guess we should go see the farm,” Blair answered.
“It’s already getting near sunset and there’s a curfew out there tonight and very nervous patrols. I’d suggest you look over the material tonight and wait until tomorrow when the rest of my force has a chance to meet you.”
“Good idea,” Jim agreed before standing and heading into the situation room, Blair following him.
Jim and Blair had seen some of the forensic pictures before they came so they were prepared when they walked into the situation and room and looked at the array of photos of the eight murders. Glancing over them and their positions on the ground, something that they hadn’t been able to do in Cascade, Blair frowned. There almost seemed to be some type of pattern to how the bodies were left.
Holding up his hand, he looked over the photos as Jim watched him. “You see something, Chief?” he questioned.
“It almost looks like they are laid out in a specific formation,” he answered.
“I thought the same thing,” Sheriff Monroe said from behind him. “I suggested that to the FBI, they’re looking into it.”
Blair nodded and began to sketch just the lines formed by the positions and outlines of the bodies as Jim looked over the photos. “It looks like a pitch fork was used to sever the heads,” he said quietly and the sheriff nodded.
“We haven’t released that bit of information but, yeah, that’s how the heads were severed. You have a keen eye.”
Jim nodded and took a step back, looking at the whole tableau as Blair finished up his sketch. Turning, he gave the sheriff his cell number, Blair’s cell number, and the name of the hotel they were staying at. “We’ll be here early tomorrow, Sheriff,” Jim promised before nudging his partner who was still staring at the board.
“Good. Somehow, I feel you two will find something we’re missing,” the sheriff answered and watched as Jim and Blair went back to their rental car.
Jim and Blair headed over to the hotel and then to a small bar/restaurant within walking distance of the hotel. Sitting in one of the booths, they looked over the menu, ordered beers and their dinner, and then sat back.
“You know,” Blair said quietly, glancing around to be sure no one was within earshot. “I think I’d like to do some research tonight, not only on the way the bodies were placed, but the history of the place.” Jim agreed, nodding thoughtfully, and they ate mostly in companionable silence before heading back to the hotel. The sun had set as they walked down the road and a waning moon was just clearing the horizon as Jim stopped, looking in every direction, his body shuddering.
“Jim what’s wrong?” Blair asked.
“I…I’m not sure. I feel…” The shuddering increased, Jim’s whole body shaking as Blair reached out to steady him.
“Easy, man,” he soothed, looking around and wishing they had the car with them. They weren’t far from the hotel but Blair didn’t want to try and carry Jim there. “Is it your senses?” he asked.
Jim nodded. “The dials are inching up and I feel…I don’t know what I feel but I can smell decay, like rotting flesh.” Jim breathed out covering his nose. “And I feel like they are insects crawling over me.”
“Okay,” Blair whispered pulling him further from the road. “Let’s get the dials down. Smell first, picture the dial. I’m going to count backwards. Every time I say a number, picture that as the dial number. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, three,” he counted softly before repeating the same process with touch. Finishing, he watched Jim’s body relax and after a few breaths Jim was ready to head back to the hotel.
“Sorry, Chief,” he whispered, as they made their way to their room.
“Not a problem, Jim. I’m here to guide you through things like that. But we have to figure out what set that off. I doubt it was the food, we ate the same thing. It must have been something environmental. Maybe some weird plant common to this area. I’ll have to research the local flora.”
“I’m okay. Let’s concentrate on the murders for now.”
Blair nodded his agreement but noted Jim’s reaction. “Why don’t you take a shower in case it was something airborne? I’ll pull out my laptop and do some research on the area and that symbol.”
Jim nodded, putting his suitcase on one of the two queen size beds and pulling out sweats before heading into the bathroom. Blair watched him go and then turned back to his computer, typing in the county’s name and the word “history.”
Twenty minutes later, Jim came out of the bathroom and Blair glanced up at him. “I’ve got some information,” Blair said as Jim sat down on his bed. Jim gestured for him to continue.
“There were several Native American villages in and around Seattle. When settlers came west, many of the tribes were moved and a lot of the land was taken over by the government, including the lands in and around Seattle. Some of that land was built over tribal burial grounds and haunted locations. The Yakama, a local tribe, had a legend about demons called Tahtahkle’-ah that lived in the area.”
“You think someone is killing these people for desecrating their land?”
“I haven’t come up with a theory, yet,” Blair admitted. “But the fact that the farm is located near one of these haunted areas could be significant.”
Jim nodded his agreement. “We have to get an early start tomorrow.” He stretched out on the bed.
“Right,” Blair smiled. “In other words, shut up, get ready for bed, turn out the light, and go to sleep.”
“Right,” Jim agreed, happily, rolling over as Blair shut down his computer before getting ready for bed.
“You know I really should take some time to look up the local flora just to see what caused your reaction.”
“Maybe it was the demon Tahtah whatever that you mentioned.”
“I’d be really nervous if that was the case,” Blair answered, opening his suitcase to get out his toiletries.
Twenty minutes later, Blair turned out the lights, wished his partner a good night and rolled over. For a few minutes, he stared into the dark thinking over the day and then, punching his pillow, closed his eyes and waited for sleep to take him.
He wasn’t sure if it was the lurid murder photos or the internet search on demons but when Blair closed his eyes he found himself at a farm. Nearby, he could see a tree and inside the tree were nine heads, their faces showing the horror of their last few minutes of life. Leaning against the tree stood a demonic looking scarecrow, its face contorted, a grotesque smile playing across its features.
Opening eyes with a gasp, Blair looked around and noted the sunlight filtering in through the edges of the curtains. Jim’s bed was empty but Blair could hear him moving around in the bathroom. A glance at the clock noted the time as 6:00 as the phone beside the bed rang.
“Hello,” Blair grabbed the phone while rubbing the sleep from his face.
“Hello, this is Sheriff Monroe.”
“Uh, good morning Sheriff,” Blair answered.
“I hate to call you this early but I thought you might want to come out here. There was another murder last night.”
“We’ll be there in a few,” Blair answered, taking down directions before hanging up the phone and calling out, “Jim.”
“I heard,” Jim opened the door and answered. “I’ll be out in a minute.”
Blair glanced down at the phone. “A ninth victim,” he mumbled softly, “just like in my dream.”
“What?” Jim came out of the bathroom, wiping shaving cream from his face.
“I dreamt there were nine heads in a tree at the farm and a scarecrow was leaning against the tree.”
Jim didn’t say anything but nodded his understanding as he turned back to quickly finish his shave.
Twenty minutes later, Blair having raced through his morning ablutions, they were on their way, following Sheriff Monroe’s directions to the farm.
“Jim, remember you might have a reaction to something growing here. Make sure you dial down your smell.” Jim nodded as he pulled up behind three police cars with their lights flashing. Getting out they headed for the field but were stopped by one of the Deputies.
“I’m Ellison, this is Sandburg. Sheriff Monroe called us,” Jim held up his ID.
“Right,” the man nodded. “Head off to the left, there’s markers you can follow through the cornfield.”
“Thanks,” Jim answered quickly heading for the cornfield, Blair behind him. As he reached the cornfield, he stopped dead, Blair bumping into him.
“Jim?” Blair asked.
“The smell, it’s here and it’s strong.”
“The decay smell?” Blair asked and Jim nodded.
“And my skin feels like things are crawling over it.”
“Can you dial down?”
“I’m already dialed down but yeah I can go down to one. The smell is a lot stronger here and the closer I get to the cornfield the stronger the smell gets. I don’t know how to explain this but…I don’t think it’s a human scent.”
Blair considered Jim’s words even as he acknowledged that he didn’t smell or feel anything unusual. “It’s possible your heightened senses are picking up something the rest of us can’t. Do you want to stay here? I can go in-“
“No, I can do it,” Jim took a breath, steeled himself and stepped into the cornfield, following the markers to the latest murder.
Sheriff Monroe was there, looking down at the remains of a figure while forensic and crime scene personnel were searching the area. He looked up as Jim and Blair arrived. “A transient,” he indicated the body as Jim crouched down to get a closer look, Blair resting a hand on Jim’s shoulder to ground him as he used his senses.
Looking up, Jim glanced around the cornfield. “He was chased to this spot,” Jim said. “Look at the breaks in the cornstalks.” He indicated some cornstalks in the distance.
Sheriff Monroe turned looking where Jim pointed, frowning, as he noted a few broken stalks. Jim stood and after having a forensic photographer take pictures of the stalks started forward, Blair and Monroe behind him as Jim zigged and zagged through a trail of broken leaves and husks.
“How can he follow a trail like this?” Sheriff Monroe asked Blair as they followed Jim.
“He learned to track in the Rangers,” Blair whispered as they continued on, finally exiting the cornfield right by the house. Cautiously, his eyes on the house, Jim moved up to look at the front door. “I’d say he tried to break in to the house. Look the lock’s been tampered with. He must have been trying to get in when the perp caught him.”
Sheriff Monroe came over and looked. “I’ll be damned,” he muttered. “I better get some pictures of this.” He reached for his walkie talkie, calling for a photographer. “Now what?” he asked.
“Could we get a look inside?” Blair asked and the sheriff nodded.
“Sure, let me just get some pictures of the door.”
They waited as the pictures were taken and then the three entered the farmhouse.
It was a typical farmhouse with a large eat in kitchen, a comfortable lived - in living room and a rarely used dining room. On the second floor were three bedrooms. The master bedroom looked out on the fields. Adjacent to the master bedroom was a young girl’s room, decorated in pink with stuffed animals. The third bedroom was an older boy’s bedroom with baseball paraphernalia and various video games.
“Can you tell me anything about the family?” Blair asked the sheriff as he moved over to the bookshelf in the boy’s bedroom.
“Sure, the family’s normal. The Greens work the farm, their daughter is in second grade and goes to the local school. The boy is in his first year of high school and is a bit of a loner. He’s what they call a goth.”
Blair nodded and pulled a book from a shelf, glancing over it before turning back to Jim and the sheriff. “I’d like to see the apple orchard,” he said quietly. The sheriff shrugged but led the two men out to the apple orchard. Blair looked around, scanning the area, looking for the tree in his dreams. In his dream it had been separated from the orchard but near it. “Jim,” he whispered softly so the sheriff wouldn’t hear but a sentinel would. “I’m looking for an old rotting tree separated from the orchard.”
Jim didn’t answer but glanced around and after a moment started forward skirting the edge of the orchard and walking with determination though he was turning very pale and rubbing his temples.
“You okay?” Blair asked when Jim stopped for a moment, Blair’s hand coming to rest on Jim’s arm.
“I’ve got the beginnings of a headache,” Jim ground out before starting forward. A few minutes later, Jim, Blair and the sheriff stood before the tree that Blair had seen in his dreams.
“Sheriff,” Jim turned to Monroe. “There’s a lot of traffic around the ground here. Get your forensics people here.”
Monroe nodded as Jim picked up a stick and kicked at the trunk of the tree, the base falling open. Monroe immediately reached for what appeared to be a hole in the base but Jim stopped him. “Get forensics here first,” he said quietly and Monroe took a step back, his eyes wide.
“You think the heads are in there?”
Jim nodded. “I can smell decay,” he ground out, still rubbing at his temples.
Swallowing back nausea, the sheriff stepped back and waited for his team while Jim and Blair moved away, sitting some distance from the tree, Blair talking quietly to Jim.
An hour later nine heads had been removed from the rotted tree and the sheriff headed back to his office, Jim and Blair following in their car.
“How did you know the heads were there?” Sheriff Monroe asked two hours later, sitting in his office, a glass of scotch in his unsteady hand, water bottles and Tylenol in front of Jim and Blair.
Blair glanced at Jim. “We don’t make this common knowledge,” Blair said. “But we sometimes see things others can’t.”
The sheriff nodded. “I could tell,” he admitted. “I could see as he concentrated he was tracking things we couldn’t. It gave him that headache, didn’t it?” he didn’t wait for an answer but continued, “I won’t mention it.” He took a swig of the scotch. “The killer is still out there,” he muttered, “and I have to find him.”
“And I still have some research to do,” Blair answered. “And I think Jim needs to rest for a while. Can we meet again this afternoon?”
The sheriff nodded. “By then we should have some preliminary forensic information back.”
Blair drove back to the hotel, stopping at a local diner to grab sandwiches and coffee along the way. Once at the hotel, Blair directed Jim to eat and then to stretch out on the bed. Jim did and Blair glanced over him worriedly.
“You’re reacting to whatever it is doing this, aren’t you? Last night when you started shaking, it was when the thing, whatever it is, came out.”
“I think so,” Jim agreed, taking a deep breath to quell the nausea he had been feeling since entering the cornfield. “I can sense it.”
Blair nodded and turned to his computer. “The boy that lived in that farm had a grimoire in his room, a magic book for summoning creatures. Most of those books are ridiculous though some are really old and of historical interest,” Blair stopped himself and got back on the subject. This wasn’t the time to give a history lesson. If they didn’t stop this thing, this scarecrow thing, he admitted acknowledging his dream, someone would die tonight. “But I think the grimoire and that particular place, a place haunted by demons according the Yakama, had something to do with the murders. And I think that the way the bodies were laid out is a key to figuring out what that thing is doing. “
Blair could hear Jim’s grunt in reply before the sentinel asked, “What aren’t you telling me?”
“Incacha passed on ‘The Way of the Shaman’ to me.” He watched Jim nod. “You already know I had a vision last night. I saw the tree and the nine heads and a scarecrow. It wasn’t just any kind of scarecrow, it was demonic. I think we are after a living scarecrow and I think it is performing a ritual with the bodies. I’m going to see if I can figure out what the symbols mean and how to stop this thing.”
Jim closed his eyes actually dreading what he was about to say. “Chief, I don’t know how I know, but I’m the one that has to stop this thing, but you need to tell me how.”
Blair glanced down at his laptop. “I’m going to research the symbol and then I’m going to meditate. This is way outside the realm of normal and I think I need to study this on a spiritual level. In the meantime, you rest. Your senses have been knocking you for a loop, big time. Just do the breathing exercises we’ve been working on and let your body stand down.”
Jim sighed, and as Blair surfed the net, he could hear Jim’s breathing slow. Satisfied that the sentinel was relaxing, he focused on his task and two hours later moved away from the computer, sitting cross legged on the floor. Following his own advice, he slowed and evened out his breathing, clearing his mind. He closed his eyes and when he opened them again, he was in a blue jungle, before the temple of sentinels and standing on the stairs, a gray wolf beside him, was Incacha, the shaman who had passed on the Way to Blair.
“Greetings, Shaman,” Incacha offered.
“Incacha,” Blair bowed his head in respect. “I come seeking advice.”
“Yes,” the Chopec warrior nodded. “The spirits around the sentinel are disturbed. You hunt something with a foot in two different worlds and it is upsetting the balance of both.”
“How do I stop it?”
Incacha shook his head. “You do not, you guide the sentinel. He will stop it. The creature will be drawn to Enqueri.”
“But how do we stop it, bullets didn’t work?”
“How does one purify things?” came the answer as the blue jungle faded.
Opening his eyes, Blair looked around. “How does one purify?” he whispered quietly and stretched out. “With fire and salt,” he answered his own question before rising and, after leaving Jim a quick note, headed off to find a store.
And hour later he returned carrying a shopping bag full of salt and kerosene. Before he could unlock the hotel door, Jim opened it and grabbed a bag.
“Hi Jim, how are you feeling?” Blair asked.
“Better, what have you got here?”
“Salt?” Jim repeated.
“Salt is a purifier. So is fire,” Blair answered indicating the bags with salt and kerosene. “I know what that thing is doing and I know how to stop it. We are going to need salt and fire. The hard part is doing this without interference from the local police. And I have to admit, it’s going to be dangerous, especially for you. You were right; you are the one that has to stop this thing.”
“You had better explain this,” Jim answered, taking a seat on the bed.
Blair nodded. “Let me start with the symbols.” He reached over and grabbed his pad, showing the intricate lines he had drawn. “The pattern is three quarters completed. Three more killings will complete the pattern. If the demon completes the pattern, he can live in this world.”
“Isn’t he alive already?”
“Yes and no. He has one month from the time summoned to complete the pattern and he must have been summoned on the new moon.”
“You think the kid was dabbling with something and called up this demon?” Jim asked wearily.
“Yeah, I think so. To stop it, we’ve got to lure it into the symbolic circle it was creating, close the circle with salt and then set fire to it.”
“Okay,” Jim agreed and Blair bit his lip looking over at Jim. “Someone needs to be in the circle to lure it in and that someone needs to be you. The demon will recognize that you are a sentinel and a danger to it because you can sense and track it. It will crave your blood and head more than anyone else’s and come after you.”
“So, we do this tonight,” Jim agreed.
“If you’re ready. “
“I’d better be. We don’t want it killing anyone else.”
Sheriff Monroe voiced his objections to Jim and Blair going into the cornfield at night but when Blair looked him in the eye and said it was the only way to stop the killing, he eventually gave in. However, he insisted on going with them and would not take no for an answer.
Eventually, Jim nodded his agreement and the three met an hour before sundown just outside the farm.
“Okay,” Monroe eyed the bags Jim and Blair were carrying. “What aren’t you telling me?”
“Sheriff, if we told you, you’d lock us up as crazy. Just go along with us tonight and hopefully this will all be over,” Jim answered before heading into the cornfield.
Going to where the bodies had been laid out, Blair handed Jim the bags of salt. “You can see the pattern that the…” about to say demon Blair finished with “scarecrow made? You need a circle of salt around the lines and around where the rest of the bodies would be laid. But remember to leave an opening. I’ll close the circle once it enters.”
Jim nodded. “I see fiery lines in the ground. I can see the pattern.”
The sheriff, beside Blair, said, “I don’t see lines.”
“Neither do I,” Blair admitted. “But I guarantee Jim does,” he answered as Jim began running a circle of salt around before leaving the bag just where the circle hadn’t closed.
“What’s the salt going to do?” Sheriff Monroe asked in a tense whisper. Oddly, he could feel the tension rising as the sun set. Of course, the whole idea of this was crazy but his Grandmother had always told him he had the gift. She’d been an herbalist and healer way back and she told him, someday he would understand. As he watched these two men, he thought about the dream he had last night. His grandmother had come to him and told him to trust the shaman and guardian. They could stop the monster that kills and eats.
“Hopefully contain this thing long enough for us to stop it,” Blair answered, handing Jim the kerosene. “You need a bigger outer circle that can be a ring of fire.”
Jim nodded, concentrating as he began pouring the can of kerosene around the salt circle. As he worked on the circle, Blair began throwing straw into the circle. “Sheriff, throw in some straw but be careful not to touch the salt circle.” Sheriff Monroe nodded and did as told. A few minutes later, Blair and the Sheriff stepped back as Jim, holding a large machete, stepped into the center of the circle.
“Which direction is it coming from, Jim?” Blair asked.
“East so get behind me,” he ordered and Blair, grabbing the sheriff’s arm, pulled him behind Jim just outside of the salt and kerosene circles.
Jim, Blair, and the sheriff all heard what sounded like a scream and then the cornfield started to move as though a wind was creating a corridor heading straight for Jim. “Dial down everything,” Blair commanded as the corn parted and the sheriff gaped as a scarecrow stepped into the small clearing.
Carrying a pitchfork it moved awkwardly, relying on spindly legs made of straw and corn as it lurched forward. Its arms were nothing more than husks and burlap, its body a sack wrapped in barbed wire, as it inched toward Jim. It seemed a dark thing, absorbing the light around it like a black hole absorbing starlight – except for its eyes. They were cold, filled with hatred, inhuman eyes that burned with a fiery light as the scarecrow twisted its pitchfork, ready to thrust it at the sentinel.
The sheriff stood shocked to his very core as the creature drew close to Jim and Blair picked up the salt bag, sealing the circle. “Get out of there Jim, the circle is closed,” he whispered as the pitchfork thrust out, the machete blocking the blow with a loud clang of metal and forcing the pitchfork to slam into the ground. The scarecrow screamed and raised the pitchfork again but Jim had stepped back out of the circle. Looking into cold inhuman eyes Jim lit a match. “I send you back to hell,” he commanded and tossed the match onto the circle of kerosene.
Despite having no mouth, the scarecrow made a keening noise and tried to step back from the blaze as the straw Blair and Monroe had tossed into the circle caught fire. But no matter which direction it went, it was unable to move beyond the circle of salt. In minutes, as the three men watched, the scarecrow caught fire and flared up, its keening turning to screams and finally an eerie silence as it disappeared and the fire flared hot and then went out leaving nothing but ashes in the salt circle.
“My God,” Sheriff Monroe whispered. “What was that thing?”
“A demon,” Blair answered. “The native legends regarding this place are true.”
“Is it gone for good?” Sheriff Monroe asked.
“I think so,” Blair answered. “But I would suggest having the family get the field blessed and taking the magic book away from the teenager. You can see the book was what led a psycho to use this field.”
“How do I explain this, there’s no body?”
“You don’t,” Jim answered picking up the kerosene and crossing the field. He stopped before the tree where the heads had been stored and began tossing kerosene over the tree. “You chased the perp to this tree where he climbed in and set fire to himself.” Saying that, Jim through a match on the tree and watched it blaze.
“What about bones and things?” the sheriff asked.
“Oh there are bones in there,” Jim assured him and both Blair and the sheriff turned to stare at the blaze.
“Which of you is the shaman and which is the guardian?” Monroe asked, his eyes on the fire.
Blair and Jim looked at each other. “I’m the guardian,” Jim answered.
“My grandmother, my dead grandmother, told me to trust you two, shaman and guardian.”
“I’m glad you listened,” Blair answered as they watched the tree burn.
The next day, after a breakfast that Sheriff Monroe insisted on treating them to, Jim and Blair checked out of the hotel and headed home.
The ride was quiet and Jim and Blair said little during the drive. Getting to the loft they dropped off their stuff, ordered take out, got out a couple of beers and settled down.
By unspoken consent, neither had talked about the demon scarecrow during the drive but now Blair looked over at Jim. “You realize that you were able to sense the demon even from a distance.”
Jim nodded. “And I hope to never sense another. But you know what is a good thing about this experience?”
“That we stopped the killings.”
“That’s a given,” Jim waved his hand. “But there’s no way for you to run tests on this. Not without demons around.”
“And I hope never to have to,” Blair agreed.