She ran through the dark woods in panic, her short, blonde hair bobbing as she gasped for air. It was still behind her, she could hear it. Then the unmistakable sound of a sword being unsheathed sliced the silence in the air. "Oh God!"
She began to cry as she kept running. She emerged from the woods, a head of her was her barracks. The gray-brick buildings towered in the night like a looming haven.
The sword caught up with her. The silver blade tore through her neck, ripping the muscles and slicing cleanly through her bones. Her head toppled from the top of her neck onto the ground, followed by the slight thud of her body crumpling, lifeless still spilling the crimson liquid.
"I knew something was up!" shouted Sean, not lifting his gaze from the illuminated computer screen. "Another person was killed in New York last night!"
"I told you, 'they' don't want us going so we are going to stay put," stressed Ben.
"How can you seriously stand there and say that? People are dying and you're not doing anything about it!" Sean screamed.
"We're supposed to follow orders! They want to learn more before sending us to check it out," Ben said trying to calm himself.
"No! I won't do it! I won't stand by as people are slaughtered right and left just because you're too lazy to go to a library and research the damn thing yourself!"
"Oh, so you fucking think it's my choice to not go?"
"You seem pretty fine with just sitting back and waiting!"
Sam, Josie, and Joel walked into the motel room carrying bags of supplies and weapons. "Looks like you guys are fighting again. Sean, why can't you just be patient? Just wait, it'll all work out," Sam coaxed.
"You too? You of all people are just going to sit back and watch people die. What if that was one of your relatives dying up there?"
Sam was speechless for a moment. He tried to utter a sentence, but only a slight hiccup escaped his lips. He didn't want to offend either party.
"What if it were Mom or Dad?" Sean continued to press.
"Oh, so this is about Mom and Dad? Is this your method with dealing with their death? You just want to go on a vigilante killing spree? That won't help Sean! They're dead, they're not coming back, and there is nothing you can do, and killing this demon or any other demon won't ever change that!"
Sean stood up walked towards his brother. Standing at five-eleven, Sean was four inches shorter than his older brother, but he and his brother shared the same muscle build. Sean swung his right fist and smashed it into his brother's cheek. Sam grabbed his face and raised his fist above his head, but Joel jumped up and grabbed it, straining to keep Sam under control. Sam's arm wavered in the air, although Joel was grasping desperately, Sam could just have easily swung and punched his brother, Joel was miniscule compared to Sam's hulking build. It was his internal doubt that kept him in check.
"What has gotten into you two? Stop it, both of you!" screamed Josie as she stood between the two brothers.
"I don't have to fucking deal with this!" Sean shouted as he grabbed his duffle bag and slung it over his shoulder. "I'm going to New York!"
Sean yanked the door open and stomped out of the motel room. "You're fucked up! You know that?" Joel said glaring at Sam as he too grabbed his backpack and followed Sean out or the room.
Sam stood there for a moment, staring that the open door. "Well?" Josie began, "are you going to follow them?"
"They have no where to go, I've got my keys," Sam said.
"Oh my God! You are just going to let your brother and Joel just walk off?" Josie asked exasperated.
"He's going to come running back, you'll see," Sam said, trying to convince not only Josie and Ben, but himself as well. "You want to follow him?"
"No," Josie sighed, "I think we should stay put and wait for orders, but you should go talk to your brother. You and your brother's relationship is special and you shouldn't let this stupid thing ruin it."
"Whatever," Sam said.
"We'll just wait for the word from 'them' before taking off," Ben began, "Sean and Joel can do whatever they want."
"So, what is the plan?" Joel asked.
"Well at first I thought I would just hitchhike, but that'll work just fine," Sean said pointing to a giant bus station across the wet road. "You can't create a portal, right?"
"Yeah, I've never been to New York."
They headed inside the bus station. The walls around them were a cream white and the floor was tiled in a similar color. Sean walked straight up to the ticket sales.
"How may I help you, sugar?" The woman asked in a deep southern accent.
"When's your next bus to Highland Falls, New York?"
"Ahh, visiting West Point?"
"Ya know, USMA, United States Military Academy?"
"Oh, yeah, uhh, duh, yeah can't wait!" Sean scuffed his feet nervously.
"Ya lucky, the next bus is leaving in three hours and there is still room."
"Can I have two tickets please?"
"Sure honey. How you goin to pay?"
"Do you guys accept Visa?"
Sean handed her a fake credit card, with the name Sylvester Stevens printed on it. One of many cards he had managed to scam for free money. She quickly processed the card and handed Sean his two tickets. "Thanks!" Sean turned and walked over to Joel. "I'm a high school student visiting the college."
"Ahh, good cover," Joel said as they sat on the floor leaning against their bags.
"It's been a while Sam, I don't think they're coming back," Josie suggested.
Sam looked slightly nervous, "Oh what the hell, I don't give a damn, he fucking ditched me."
"You know, sometimes I just don't understand you!" Josie screamed and stood from her seat next to Sam, "I'm going out to get some fresh air, I'll be back in a few."
Sam sighed as Josie left the room, "Do you think Joel opened a portal? Cause if he's helping my brother run away I'm going to kill him!"
"Last time I checked, we were all already runaways. In fact, you were the first runaway. And no, Joel couldn't have, he doesn't know where he was opening a portal to," Ben said typing furiously on the computer, though Ben couldn't be sure of that fact, he was hopeful that it was true.
"Whatever," Sam sighed.
The bus pulled up in front of the school, six hours later. Sean and Joel stepped onto the wet, muddy ground. A light drizzle fell on them. "You think, they'll let us use the university library?" Sean asked.
"Okay, a couple things you need to take into account. The entire campus is surrounded and guarded heavily. This isn't an ordinary college campus. The only way we'll get into the college is by taking a tour and maybe they'll take us to the library."
"Look, a tour, right over there, let's just join them," Sean said running up to the group that was now just entering the campus. It was led by a cadet in his gray jacket and slacks. The campus was enormous and consisted of old, almost ancient-looking gray buildings which towered over the tree-studded landscape of the mountain that the campus was located on.
"Our first stop will be the library. This library was first…" Sean smirked, perfect.
The group entered the large building and Sean and Joel quickly dove from the group and began to search for any evidence of a haunting.
"The victims were found with out their heads," Sean began. "So, we should look for killed or missing cadets."
"I hate to break it to you Sean, but this place is probably full of them. It's a training facility for the United States Army."
"Yes, but if we just look for anything involving decapitation, that might narrow the sources."
After about two hours of examination of dozens of files, Sean found one, "hah! It says that shortly after the academy was founded, a cadet by the name of Rick Cook was killed by decapitation, his body was found, but the head was never recovered. Just like the victims. This happened in 1807."
"Okay, so you think that's our guy?"
"Who else could it be?"
"Well, I think it's strange that it would take him two hundred years to begin killing."
"You're right, but this is the best we got so far."
"Wait, check this out, in 1907 a killing spree took place in Highland Falls, ten people were killed by beheading, and like Cadet Cook, the heads were never found. Although none of those killed were cadets, that's exactly one hundred years after Cadet Cook was killed."
"So it could be him and he kills every one hundred years?"
"It's possible," Joel shrugged.
"I don't know, something about this seems weird," Sean said resting his chin on his palm. Something was familiar. He felt reminded of something.
"I've got the message from my dad," Ben said reading his computer screen. "It says here that we shouldn't go to New York, but instead we need to go to Pennsville, New Jersey to investigate. It says here that people are being mauled by some kind of wild animal, but my dad says that there is something else there, something evil. It's a werewolf."
"Sounds good," Sam sighed.
"What?" Josie screamed, "You're just going to leave your brother, helpless?"
"He's got Joel," Ben interrupted.
"Hey, Sean ditched us! He can do whatever he wants, he's an adult now!" Sam added.
"He's eighteen Sam!" Josie wailed.
"He can take care of himself! I trust him!" Sam screamed.
"If you really trusted him, you would have gone with him to New York," Josie growled.
"He doesn't need my help!"
"He's your brother!"
Sam stood completely still, frozen. His eyes began to shimmer with a glaze of tears, "I can do this." His voice was weak. It was the first time Josie had ever heard Sam so unsure of himself, it was like he had lost all will to speak. "We are meant to follow our orders and save people. I can't put my brother's care in front of saving people's lives."
Josie's face, which had been red with anger, softened as she spoke. "It's your decision to make, Sam. You seemed to have made it. You chose the world over your brother. Your parents would be ashamed."
The night was filled with the sound of chirping crickets. Sean and Joel snuck through the dark woods with only flashlights guiding them blindly.
"Remind me again, what are we looking for?" Joel asked.
"I figure we try to take the thing down tonight. With these rock salt bullets we can hurt and repel the ghost," Sean explained.
"We don't even know if it is for sure a ghost," Joel said in a harsh whisper.
"Wait, do you hear that?" Sean asked halting in his position. The unmistakable sound of galloping hooves could clearly be heard among the chirping crickets.
"Is that a horse?"
"It sounds like…" Sean began but he lost his ability to speak as he stared into the darkness at the oncoming man on a horse. The man had a large sword outstretched in his hand as he charged towards him.
"Sean, he doesn't have a head!"
Joel dove out of the way of the sword as the ghost swung at Joel's throat. After missing Joel, the ghost tried to get Sean.
Sean lifted his shotgun and aimed at the ghost. He fired two shots which caused the ghost to flee. "I knew it!" Sean exclaimed with glee.
"Knew what?" Joel asked.
"I knew it wasn't Cadet Rick Cook!"
"Well, who was that?"
"The Headless Horseman."
The ride in the Truck to New Jersey was silent and awkward. When they were about ten minutes away from Pennsville, Sam broke the silence, "So how do you kill a werewolf?"
Ben looked up from the computer screen, "You separate the head from the body."
"What, so no silver bullets?" Sam jokingly asked.
"Silver bullets do effect most shape-shifting creatures, however, werewolves are special, since they work on the lunar cycle, only decapitation is truly effective."
"Who are we looking for?" Josie asked Ben.
"Britney Harland was taken by the werewolf last night. She's probably got some family in the area that we might be able to talk to" Ben replied.
"Wait, I thought you said that people were being killed by this thing, not 'taken,'" Sam pointed out.
"Well, it's complicated, the deaths suggest that the werewolf was hungry and needed to eat to sustain itself, however during the lunar cycle werewolves hunt people as sacrifices and keep them until the last night of the lunar cycle. That's tomorrow night," Ben explained.
"How are we going to find this girl's family, anyway?" Josie sighed.
"Well, this doesn't give an address, but this is a small town. I doubt it will be hard to locate her family," Ben replied as the car continued to drive down Pennsville's Main Street.
"So what are we going to go door to door searching for her parents?" Josie asked.
"I don't think that'll be necessary. Look over there," Ben said pointing to a girl stapling missing posters to a wooden light post.
Sam and Ben walked across the street towards the girl hanging the posters. Josie decided to stay in the truck. "Excuse me, you wouldn't happen to be related to a Britney Harland would you?" Sam asked.
The girl turned slowly, pushing her light brown hair out from in front of her face, "Yeah, why?"
"We're federal agents with the FBI. We were wondering what you could tell us about your sister," Sam lied.
"Sister? Britney is my cousin. What kind of agents are you? What do you want? I don't know anything about her disappearance. I already had to talk to the fucking cops, why should I have to go over it again?" Britney's cousin looked at the tall agent who had just spoken. She couldn't help but blush, he was fashionably handsome and he flashed a smile which took her breath away. It was unlike her to be affected by a guy like that. This one was different. "Hi, I'm Amanda."
"Hi Amanda, we just need to ask some additional questions. When did you last talk to her before she went missing?" Sam asked.
"She called me yesterday evening. She said that she was going to be home in ten minutes. She said she was walking home from work. I always told her it wasn't safe to walk after night, even in a small town like this," Amanda said looking off in the distance, as if recalling a lost memory.
"Did she say anything else?"
"No, I just told her that dinner would be ready when she got home and she hung up. She didn't come… home," Amanda said, her eyes watering with tears.
"What can you tell us about the recent animal attacks?" Sam continued to grill Amanda.
She looked up at him with distraught confusion, "What? Umm, all I know is that there is some sort of bear on the loose or something, what could that have to do with Britney. You don't think that the bear got her do you?"
"No, we just were suggesting that it was a possibility," Sam lied again. He knew full well what had gotten Britney.
"I can't do this anymore, please, no more questions. I'm just going to finish hanging these posters and then I am going to go home and rest. Please," Amanda pleaded.
"That's fine Miss Harland," Ben said interrupting Sam who had just opened his mouth to ask another question.
Amanda walked off. Sam and Ben got back into the Truck, "Well, the Harland family doesn't know a thing."
"She had nothing to say?" Josie asked from the back seat where she was lying down.
"Nope, don't you think someone should look out for her? I mean, she could be in danger right?" Ben suggested.
"Yeah, that sounds like it might be a good idea. I think Josie should do it, she's already seen our faces, but she hasn't seen yours," Sam replied pointing to Josie.
"Alright, I'll do it. Give me a gun," she said holding her hand out.
Ben pulled out a pistol from the glove compartment, "I loaded this one with silver bullets."
"I thought you said silver bullets were useless?" Sam asked.
"I said they don't kill the beast, but they will harm it and possibly scare it off," Ben replied.
"I'll call if I run into trouble, Josie said as she stuffed the gun in the back of her pants and opened her door, stepping onto the dark tarmac and pushing her golden hair behind her ear as she began to shadow her target hanging posters on every surface of the town.
"The Headless Horseman?" Joel asked. "It sounds crazier every time I say it!"
"Yes, it's obvious isn't it, the beheadings, it all makes sense! Cadet Cook must have been one of the Horseman's victims."
"Yeah, but the Headless Horseman?" Joel couldn't stop saying it.
"Yeah, we just need to…" Sean's mind seemed to trail off as he spoke. He was thinking deeply about his brother, wondering where he was and whether or not he was okay.
"Sean, 'need to' what?" Joel asked waving his hand in front of Sean's glazed eyes.
"What? Oh sorry. Umm, we need to figure out umm how to kill it," Sean said, his statement sounding more and more like a question.
"Okay," Joel said stretching out his syllables. "Hey, do you want to tell me something?"
"What? No! No, nothing," Sean lied. Joel could see that something was bothering Sean and he had a hunch as to what it was.
"You could call him you know?" Joel said unwillingly.
"You know exactly who I am talking about!"
"It doesn't matter to me, as far as I am concerned he left me out to die!"
"But he didn't! You left him!"
"Just shut up! I don't want to talk about it, let's just figure this thing out."
Joel turned away from Sean and smirked. It was working.
Josie sat outside Amanda's house. This is really creepy, she thought to herself, I'm just sitting outside this girl's house.
Nothing had happened all night and Josie was beginning to nod off to sleep when just as she was about to fully close her eyelids she saw something out of the corner of her eye. A large, black figure was sneaking, no not sneaking, stalking behind Amanda's home. Josie silently stood placing her hand on the butt of her gun as she prepared for the worst.
She watched the thing turn the corner and quickly attempted to follow it. She peaked around the corner just in time to see it turn right into Amanda's backyard. She crept up to the corner and peered around spying on the creature as it seemed to wait behind Amanda's house.
The dark atmosphere made it difficult for Josie to make out the figure. It seemed almost human. Though it was dark, she could tell that it was easily six feet tall. She slowly began to pull the gun she was grasping so hard from behind her. She was taken by surprise when she heard the cracking of a stick from behind her. She jerked her head violently to see what was behind her. Nothing.
She instantly remembered the beast and turned to face it. It was no longer far away from Josie. Instead it was staring deep into her eyes only feet from her. The most surprising part about this was not that it had spotted her, but that it was not a werewolf at all. It was her. It was true evil. It was pure evil. It was Cleopatra.
"I don't think we can kill it," Joel said disappointed.
"What do you mean?" Sean asked.
"I mean, the Headless Horseman is an institution. I am all for killing the thing, but how. Okay, everyone knows the story. And why does he attack here? I seem to remember the story taking place in Sleepy Hollow," Joel questioned.
"Sleepy Hollow isn't far. It's just across the Hudson. Maybe the story got it wrong. Or maybe, there are more attacks than just these and they take place in Sleepy Hollow and for some reason every hundred years he decides he wants to kill some of America's soldiers. I have no idea, but that is not the point. We don't need to know the motive, we need to know how to kill the thing," Sean explained.
"Okay, I get that, but how are we supposed to do that. We don't have Ben's dad to explain everything for us. We need professional help that we don't have."
"Maybe we don't," Sean said instantly stricken with an idea.
"What do you mean? What?"
"Well, when he attacked us earlier, the shotgun seemed to work just fine. Sometimes you just have to think simple to carry out the complicated."
Sam and Ben had decided to camp out at a local motel that was not far from Amanda's house. This would make it easier for Josie to communicate with them if they needed to.
Sam was lying on his back and staring into the blank ceiling as he wondered what his brother was doing. Did he actually go to New York? Sam wondered to himself.
Ben was not in the room, he had gone to speak with his father to see if he could find out more about what they would be facing. Sam's thoughts were interrupted when sparkling blue lights appeared and Ben emerged from the portal.
"Any news?" Sam asked.
"No, my dad couldn't say much. He did tell me that the werewolf was still here," Ben replied.
"Well that's good I guess. What do you think…" Sam's words were cut short by the deafening bang of the door slamming open. Sam leapt from the bed, gun drawn at the intruder. She stopped just in front of the barrel, staring into it like a black, empty pit. "Josie?" Sam said quickly lowering the gun.
"She… she… she's here," Josie gasped.
"Sit down, sit down and calmly tell us. Who? Who's here?" Sam asked placing a reassuring hand on Josie's shoulder.
Josie took a seat on the bed next to Sam and took a couple deep breaths before beginning her tale. "I was sitting outside Amanda's house, like I was supposed to. Then I saw what I thought might be the werewolf sneaking behind her house, so I went to check it out. I looked around the corner of her house and saw the thing staring into her window. It was really dark, but still, something didn't seem right, it didn't look like an animal."
"Well werewolves are part human. Perhaps you saw the human form better because of the darkness," Ben suggested.
"No, no I'm sure, this was human. Anyway, I heard something behind me and looked to see what it was but nothing was there. When I looked back, she was right in front of me. Right there!" Josie said motioning two feet in front of her. Her shock still prevented her from mentioning the woman's name.
"Who? Who Josie? For God's sake who?" Sam asked almost shouting now.
"Cleopatra," Josie whispered.
Sam waited a moment before reacting. "What?" Sam asked in disbelief.
"It was her, I know it."
"Josie, your mind must have been playing tricks on you. You said it yourself, it was dark. You probably saw the werewolf outside of Amanda's house, but when it spotted you it ran off," Ben stated, also in disbelief.
"Why would it have run away from me? It should have killed me if that was the case."
"It probably saw your gun," Sam suggested.
"No, I know what I saw and this thing was human, or at least close enough!"
"Josie, you're just in shock, calm down," Ben said in a hushed voice.
"Don't tell me to fucking calm down! Fuck you!" Josie said to Ben then turned to Sam and shouted, "Fuck you too! I know what I saw, and I don't give a damn if you don't believe me! Fuck you both!" Josie screamed as she turned and ran out of the hotel.
"Shit, what are we supposed to do now?" Sam asked Ben.
"We're going to have to find her."
To be continued…