Spent the last two nights in a Jail Cell. I'm somewhere in Texas. I know good people in Texas. These aren't any of them. Highway Patrol pulled me over. The next thing I knew, he's slamming me against the hood of the car and I'm being carted off to jail. I was happy about this, actually. I'd been driving for at least two days straight. So as soon as I was tossed into lockup for reasons I didn't know, I conked out and went to sleep. I spent about a day asleep in the cells before Patrol Guy carted me out into a windowless room with a single one-way mirror on one end. He cuffed me to the chair, and I felt my insides churn a bit as I wondered: What the hell did I do? I looked around the room. Small, sterile, stupid looking. You know the drill, I was being interrogated.
Lets observe me for a moment. Your hero hadn't showered or shaved in two days. He was bleary eyed from having just been awoken from a glorious, glorious sleep. He was wearing a Penny Arcade T-shirt that said, "Some people play tennis. I erode the human soul." He was also wearing some blue cargo jeans, and an expression of dumb incomprehension.
Patrol Guy was a big guy, only slightly overweight. He was a white guy, with a thick white mustache and a shaved head. I'm about 5 foot 11, this guy was at least 6 foot 5. It was about then, with comprehension improved by 24 hours of sleep, that I realized he was NOT a highway patrolman. This guy was a local sheriff. I could tell by the fact that it said "Sheriff" on his badge. We'll call him Sheriff Wiseass.
The first thing he said to me was, "Alright kiddo. I've looked over your identification. Your criminal record consists of parking tickets. You're completely unremarkable. So I'm only going to ask this once: Where's the girl?"
I blinked, and said the first thing that came to mind, "Look, I was dead tired when you brought me in. I just woke up after two days of driving and-"
"Let me spell it out for you. Everyone saw a car matching yours leave the diner like a bat out of hell. When I went the way it went, I found your car. They saw little (Victim) get into that car. Now she's been missing for the past four days. Do you have any information leading to her whereabouts?"
Now I was just plain peeved. I had been running from the Jersey Devil, throwing the spiritual equivalent of Shiny Objects out my window now and then to distract him. This asshole sheriff was... wait.
I said, "If you looked through my ID, you found a big stack of receipts from gas stations and diners I visited on my way here. You'd have also checked to make sure they're legitimate. You'd have a timeline that would show I wasn't anywhere near any diner in this area, and you'd know that I couldn't be a suspect. Or am I still dreaming?"
Sheriff Wiseass gave me this little smile, and said, "Yeah. All that is true."
We eyeballed each other for a while.
The sheriff said, "The trouble is, that the prosecutor wants someone to hang. As it is, I needed someone to hold onto for a day or so to keep everyone thinking I had all this under control. After all, having arrested a suspect is better than having nothing. I thought I could find the real bad guy with that extra time, but you know I guess I ain't all that lucky right now. You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I let you sleep yesterday after I figured it couldn't be you, because it was convenient, and I'm allowed to hold someone for a good 24 hours or so. And you were sleeping oh so peacefully. But nobody's going to believe what I've got at this point. I mean, dead goats and disappearing acts don't lend well to legal proceedings and all that..."
He trailed off. He had this folksy, slow way of talking. I knew it quite well, having plenty of relatives in Louisiana. I wouldn't have wanted to play this guy in poker. The alarm bells were going off in my head though. When you've been in my business as long as I have, you learn: there are no coincidences.
The sheriff said, "Dead Goats. No blood. All in a nice patch where the suspect's car should have been."
Chupacabra. Depending on the size of the patch, maybe two or three. The word "Chupacabra" actually means Goat-sucker, for their habit of nabbing goats and sucking them dry.
I said, "I didn't see anything when I was driving in. As it was, I was about to roll into town and pass out in the nearest parking lot."
The sheriff sighed, sitting back in his chair. Then he stood up and opened the door out of the room and walked out. I waited for another five minutes or so before he came back with a cup of coffee and the keys to my handcuffs. He uncuffed me, and I rubbed my wrist a bit. I didn't even notice it had been drawn so tight. I was too damn out of it. He handed me the cup of coffee.
Sheriff Wiseass said to me, "We're having a bit of paperwork trouble with your car. It'll be stuck in impound for a few days, or until we find the girl, whichever comes first. I don't need to tell you not to leave town, right?"
I sipped the cup of coffee. By the power of sweet, murderous caffeine with two sugars and creamer, I was restored.
"Look, whoever you're looking for, it's not me-"
He cut me off, "Now son, I don't think it's you, and the paper trail says it ain't you, but I pulled you over about thirty yards from my goat circle. That seems like an awfully co-in-see-dental, if you catch my drift. It's a small town. Everybody knows about you at this point. Now, I've made it clear that you're innocent until proven guilty, but I wouldn't be surprised to find dead yankee on the trail if you step wrong. Are you sure that you've got nothing to say?"
I said, "So how much do they want my ass on a platter?"
Sheriff Wiseass said, "Well, District Attorney's looking to run for state senate, and this is the sort of feather in my cap that kind of guy wants. The Mayor is feeling pinched, he wants all this resolved right quick. If something doesn't come up soon, you're definitely going on trial, hard evidence or no."
I sipped more wonderful, life-bringing coffee.
I said, "And if that happens, I'll be armed to the teeth with documents and lawyers. Thanks for the coffee, Sheriff..." I read his name tag aloud. I'm still going to call him Wiseass, but so you know I DO have a name for this guy.
I stood up.
Sheriff Wiseass looked me in the eye. I met his glare with a blank stare.
He said, "Records of an Impossibility. That's a strange story you're telling. I was never one for science fiction, myself."
My mind raced, but my mouth was always faster:
"Fantasy. Urban Modern Fantasy to be precise. It's a hobby."
He said, "Kind of like the clothes in your car that match that 'Gonzo Journalist' totem?"
Well shit on a fuck sandwich. This was going to get twitchy.
He said, "Heading west to outrun the devil?"
I twitched. Yeah. He had me. But what did it actually mean? Could he find a way to get me prosecuted for any of this?
Sheriff Wiseass said, "Don't look so surprised, son. My boy (Smartass) is one of the deputies, and he knows a damn sight more about computers than most. A few warrants in a kidnapping case will get you a lot of things, and I'm a fast reader. So, what does all this look like to you, Mr. Shaman, in your professional opinion.
If I've lost the Jersey Devil, then I need to get to Philadelphia and initiate The Plan. I need to get Spinner, Weaver, and Cutter ready. I don't have time for this.
I leaned in close and whispered, "Chupacabra. Two or three. And someone took a car into one of their holes. And now it gets tricky Sheriff. What happens now?"
Sheriff Wiseass had an awfully big smirk.
"Now son, now you tell me everything I need to know about hunting Chupacabra. There's a little girl that needs to be with her parents, and you look to be the only hope I've got."
I hate my life. At least he gave me back my laptop. Ladies and Gentlemen, Amalgamation Sage has to go Chupacabra hunting. I'll keep you posted. Bah. I hope I didn't make any grammatical errors on this one, but I"m short on time. Say something if I did. I take pride in my editing.
Fuck me sideways. I have to go Chupacabra hunting.