The Shapeshifter (Part 6: The Teacher)
We finally got a hint on where to find this thing. Admittedly the way we found out was far from ideal. We needed the information, though. As mentioned in my last post, Kelly and I went to the next interviewee together. It was the one involving the six-year-old boy. We didn’t know where to begin.
The other accounts were already hard enough to hear, but this was going to be an order of magnitude more harrowing. That’s why it took us longer than the others to get around to pursuing it. We discussed things while driving through town, later in the afternoon at that point.
“What if they moved?” I asked. “I mean, would you want to stay somewhere where something that horrible happened?”
“No, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still there.”
“I know. The issue is who can tell us where…?
At the right of the stop sign we were at, was a school. We looked at each other. Despite it being a long shot, we thought there might be someone there who could help us. That is assuming any teachers who were working there when the incident happened still did. We parked, got out, and headed for the entrance. An older-looking woman was exiting it.
“You must be Kelly and Neil,” she said upon seeing us.
That caught us off guard. There was a pause and then Kelly answered her.
“How do you know that?”
“Isaac said you might come looking for me. Call me Alma. Now, why don’t we go somewhere else to chat?”
Across from the school, was a park where we sat at a picnic table with Alma sitting across from us. It took a moment before the conversation resumed.
“We thought about asking Isaac,” Kelly said. “ We just didn’t feel right bringing up something this horrible to him, especially since he’s already helped us.”
To our further surprise, Alma smiled.
“You underestimate him,” she said. “He may seem soft, but he’s actually tougher than you’d think. He’s always had good intuition.”
Her smile faded and she sighed.
“I really don’t want to talk about this, but if it means that family finally gets some justice, I’ll tell you everything I know.”
“What can you tell us about Marty and Roy?” Kelly inquired.
As Alma spoke, I listened closely, quietly tapping my finger on the table.
“They were some of my favorite students, always eager to learn. Roy tended to act out a bit more, but both hardly gave me any trouble.”
The brothers were a year apart in age with Marty being the oldest.
“I was good friends with their mother, Kari. She was the most patient of all the parents I dealt with.”
“And their dad?”
“She told me they were divorced, not that she had anything negative to say about the man. Things just didn’t work out between them. I met Ellis a few times and he seemed nice enough.”
“Was he there when the murder happened?”
“No, he was out of town that week. Poor man. He blames himself for what happened. I haven’t seen him since the funeral and that was over two decades ago.”
Alma sighed and continued.
“As for Kari, it was hard for her. Losing him made her have a breakdown.”
I winced at that. I’ve already made it clear how hard Jake’s death hit me. However, I know that pain is different for parents. It’s far more intense.
“And if it weren’t for Roy,” Alma continued, “I’m not sure she would’ve been able to recover. From what I hear, she’s been doing good. Although, it’s been years since we spoke.”
“Does she still live in town?”
“No, she moved five years back.”
“What about Roy?”
Alma hesitated and her eyes became misty.
“Are you okay?” Kelly asked with concern.
“I’m sorry, “ she replied, wiping away her tears. “It’s just that, I think in some way, Marty’s death changed him most of all. He became quieter and wouldn’t play with the other kids as much. Kari got him therapy, but he was still never quite the same.”
“Can you tell us where we might find him? We know it’ll be hard for him, but if he can help us, we might be able to take down his brother’s killer.”
“He works as an electrician, mainly in the next town over. He’s worked at our school before so I have his number.”
“Is there any way you can ask him to meet us?”
Alma thought for a moment.
“I can try. However, I can’t guarantee anything.”
“We understand and before we go, there’s one more thing we’d like to ask you.”
“What is it?”
“Did you see anything unusual around the time of Marty’s death?”
Kelly put slightly more emphasis on the word unusual. Alma’s expression became dark and in spite of the heat, I felt a chill run down my spine.
“I did. It was a week after the funeral. I was visiting a friend who lives in the same neighborhood Kari’s family did. On my way home, I had to stop for gas, and as I was about to pull out, I saw it. There was what I assumed was a terrier exploring the woods across the street.”
Alma’s hands began to shake.
“I thought it had gotten lost. I was actually going to pick it up and see if I could find its owner.”
She shuddered. My cold feeling deepened.
“Thank god I didn’t or else I wouldn’t be here right now. I should also count myself lucky that it didn’t notice me.”
“What did you see it do?” Kelly asked.
“There was a fawn and I thought I was about to see something really cute happen. Imagine my horror when instead I saw the terrier’s mouth grow and chomp off that baby deer’s head in one bite. I was too scared to scream.”
I felt my hands ball up tightly. After a brief period of silence, Alma continued.
“That’s been haunting me for years and I’m glad I could finally tell someone without them thinking I’m crazy.”
“Well, it’s the least we can do,” Kelly said. “And thank you for your time.”
“No, “ Alma smiled again, “thank you.
We gave her our numbers and she told us she’d let us know if Roy would be able to speak with us. I guess all that’s left to do now is wait. There is a theory we or rather, Kelly has come up with. That is that the shapeshifter’s lair might be somewhere in the woods. Assuming that’s the case, if we line up everywhere it was reported to have struck, we may be able to approximate its location.
Then when it’s time to put that horrid thing down, they’ll be a decent chance for us to get the drop on it. However, I want to wait until after we’ve talked with Roy before going over there. Now, I’m going to try and get some shuteye.