[Vfw-times] story: the two-sided town (1/3)

Oren Otter bevary at atcjet.net
Wed Apr 19 07:55:30 CDT 2000

This is a story which ran on the TSA roughly a year ago.  It's one I never
get tired of re-reading, and so I thought I would post it here for my new
friends to read.

The Two-Sided Town

                                   by Oren the Otter

Lunacorpora, Montana was a pleasantly quiet place, Craig Wilder decided. It
was out of the way, peaceful,
and comfortable-looking. Craig thought that he might just get a chance to
relax before this assignment was
over. Relaxing is something you don't get to do often when you're a busy
federal agent. Craig looked over at
his partner, Luke Watson, as the two of them pulled into town in their
nondescript white sedan. He could tell
from the tension in Luke's face that the youngster was not looking forward
to any kind of easy time. Rather, he
was already taking in clues. His mind was wrapping around miniature
mysteries even as he drove. 

"All right, Luke." said Craig. "Spit it out." 


"I know you. You're noticing things and they're bugging you." 

Luke smiled, showing a mouthful of teeth which still bore white patches
where braces had been recently
removed. "You know me too well for what little time we've been together."
he said. 

"I notice things." replied Craig. "That's my job." 

"All right. There are some things about this town I just can't figure out." 

Craig nodded. 

"Like the fact that there are so many businesses here. Two grocery stores,
a gas station, a clothing store, a
craft store, a store that sells nothing but doll clothes, a pet store...
and yet, have you noticed...?" 

"Less than an acre of housing. Yes... this town is much too small to
support businesses like these. But did you
see the sign as we came in?" 

Luke didn't answer. 

"Population 4,197." said Craig. "According to that sign, the town IS big
enough. My only question is 'Where is

"What's more," added Luke. "The place has no hotel or motel. You'd think
there would be one with the camp."

"Good point." 

"Speaking of which, where IS the camp?" 

Craig looked around. "I haven't seen any signs. Let's find someone to ask." 

"Or we could just look at the map." 

Craig smiled knowingly as his wrinkled brow wrinkled even further. "My dear
Luke, the map isn't going to tell
us anything but where the camp is. There is so much more to be learned." 

Luke nodded and blushed at himself as he steered the car into the parking
lot of the local grocery store. 

Both of the federal agents were most pleased to find that the store they
had walked into was not only a grocery
store, but also a fully functional delicatessen. Craig helped himself to a
delicious- looking tray of fried chicken
and an oversized cola and took it to the cashier, where his partner was
already purchasing a pizza. 

"Two fifty please." said the man at the register, a stout man with thin
fingers about Craig's age, as slightly
graying hair attested. 

"It's nice to be able to get a meal this early in the day." Craig commented
as he handed the shopkeep a fiver.
"Most places don't serve lunch at nine-thirty." 

The clerk flashed a smile which Luke recognized as one belonging to someone
who knew something, having
seen it on his partner so many times. "You'll find that Lunacorpora has a
different pulse from most other places.
Around here, things start with the sunrise and close up when the sun goes
down. Here's your change. Two

"No night-life?" asked Luke. 

"Oh, there's night-life, if you know where to look for it. What brings you
gents around these parts, anyway?" 

Craig's pepper-colored brows dropped just a smidgeon at the abrupt subject
change. "We're on our way to
camp Zoascota. Do you know the way there, perchance?" 

The man at the register chuckled. "Oh, the sign must have blown over again.
You just get on this road going
north. Round about five miles out, you'll see a huge hollowed-out oak tree
on the left side of the road. It'll be
the only one. Take a right turn there and head on out for another couple of
miles. You'll see lake Zoascota on
the left and the camp on the right." 

"Much obliged." 

"Are you two cops?" 

"What makes you say that?" 

The cashier motioned to Craig's clothing- black slacks, white shirt and a
tie. "You're not exactly dressed like a
camp councilor and I don't see any kids with you. Unless you're a Jehovah's
Witness to be dressed like that,
I'm guessing you're on your way up there to look into why those kids

"That's right. We're federal agents. I'm Wilder, and this young fellow is
agent Watson." 

"Roy Canaber. Pleased to meet you. I wish you both the best of luck,
gentlemen, but I have my doubts that
you'll find them." 

"And why is that, Mr. Canaber?" asked Luke. 

Roy seemed to hesitate for a moment before responding by saying "These
parts ain't for the timid, Mr. Watson.
Wander off at night into the woods, bump into the wrong sort of animal, and
it's not likely you'll be seen again."

"So you think it was animal attack?" 

"I do." 

Craig gave a nod. "Thank you, Mr. Canaber. We'll probably be dropping by
later if you're still around." 

"We're open till sunset." 

The two feds went out the door and were on their way. 

* * * 

Camp Zoascota was right where Roy Canaber said it would be. Craig instantly
began observing the layout.
>From the road he could see the administration building and the mess hall.
They were set up in a fairly straight
line, as a sort of boundary between the girls' camp on the left side and
the boys' camp on the right. He thought
it more than a little unusual that the two parts of the camp should be so
close together, but there they were. The
area around the camp was forest so dense that one could scarcely see
through it, with the exception of the lake
at the end of the road. 

Quickly, Luke and Craig made their way to the administration building. 

Inside the rough-hewn cabin was an environment which looked very much out
of place. There was a waiting
room on one side and on the other, a horse-faced secretary who regarded the
men over the top of her glasses
only after Luke had cleared his throat at her. 

"May I help you?" asked the woman. 

"We're here to see Mr. Wolftongues." 

"And you are...?" 

"Agents Wilder and Watson. He's expecting us." 

"Have a seat. Mr. Wolftongues will be with you in a moment." 

Craig did as he was instructed. Turning to Luke, he whispered "What sort of
camp administrator needs a
personal secretary?" 

"One who's a little full of himself?" Luke shot back with a grin. 

There was only a moment's wait before a well-dressed man with long pony
tails entered the room. His visage
was severe, like the face of a large cat or a bird of prey. His skin was
deep red, almost to the point of looking
unnatural. He spied the two visitors and broke into a smile which on a face
like his, looked fairly frightening. 

"Henry Wolftongues, I presume." said Craig rising to his feet. 

"I am. And you are..." 

"Agent Craig Wilder. This is my partner, Luke Watson." 

"Pleased to finally meet you. Would you step into my office, please?" 

The agents followed Wolftongues into his lair, which was even more
out-of-place than anything they had seen
so far. Upon entering, the smell of air freshener was nearly overpowering.
The log walls of the building had
been hidden behind drywall, which in turn was hidden beneath a coat of
blindingly white paint. A grey security
monitor failed to adorn a corner. The room was stark and utilitarian,
looking as severe as Mr. Wolftongues
himself. The only thing which seemed to add any feeling to the room at all
was a small decorative box on a shelf
next to the desk. Craig decided it might be worth his while to learn a few
things about their unusual host. 

"Wolftongues. That's an interesting name. Is it Yondak?" 

The administrator seemed slightly amused. "Hardly. My ancestors are from
the Shima tribe. My great-great
grandfather was known as "Speaks-with-the-tongues-of-wolves." 

"Shima? Really? My studies show that the camp you run is on Yondak land." 

"A coincidence, purely." 

Luke made no attempt to hide his confusion. "I'm feeling a little lost
here. What's the significance of being
Yondak or Shima?" 

"Ah. I take it you've never heard of the old legends." said Wolftongues. 

"Enlighten me." said Luke. 

Henry leaned forward in his chair and caught Luke's eyes with a
spellbinding storyteller's gaze. "The Shima
were not your average American Indians." he began. "They were perhaps the
only tribe in North America who
were truly cannibalistic, in the way most people think of the term. They
were savages. They would come upon
a village in the dead of night and attack!" He lurched forward, causing
Luke to draw back, startled. "They
would kill everyone and everything, and they would devour every ounce of
flesh, whether it be human or
animal. Then, when their food ran out, they would move on to the next
village. No one could stand against the
Shima. They cut a swath right down through Canada, destroying everyone and
everything in their path." 

"Until they came to the Yondaks." said Craig. 

"That's right." said Henry. "The Yondaks knew that the Shima were coming,
so they sent out emissaries all over
North America to bring in warriors, fighters and hunters to make a united
stand against the Shima. It worked,
too. They hurt the Shima so badly that nearly all of their warriors were
wiped out. However... and this is where
the story goes north... They say that the Shima brought out their dark
magicians and cast a spell on the
Yondaks. Every single person in the Yondak village, whether native or
outsider, suddenly turned into little
forest animals. Once the spell took hold, the few Shima fighters who were
left would come in and hunt them

Luke was completely entranced by the story, and Henry was enjoying it. "The
Yondaks were smart, though.
They knew that the Shima were people of the night, and that their magic
only worked at night, so they hid deep
down in the nearby caverns. They stayed out of sight there until sunrise.
Then they came out, and as soon as
the sunlight touched their fur, they turned back into people and
slaughtered the remaining Shima." 

"Thus lifting the hex?" asked Luke. 

"No. The Yondaks kept transforming into animals every night at sunset." 

"So when was the curse lifted?" 

"It wasn't." 

"It wasn't?" 

Wolftongues stared at the federal agent. "Mister Watson, you don't believe
any of this, do you?" 

"No... but I don't expect people are still turning into animals around here." 

The administrator folded his hands. "I'm going to speak frankly. This is
Lunacorpora. The people around here
are, quite honestly, backwards and stupid. They're a superstitious and
gullible lot who believe that when a
person disappears, it's because they were eaten by a werewolf." 

"Which brings us to our reason for being here." said Craig. 

"Exactly. Five of our kids are gone without a trace. As I said, the local
yokels believe it was werewolves.
They're actually saying that. That's why I haven't been able to get any
help on the local level in finding out what
happened to them." 

"It was my understanding that Lunacorpora does not have a local police

"They don't. The Sheriff's office? They're scared to come near this place.
They think it's still hexed. State
police? They explain the situation away as bear attacks or something so
that they don't have to bother with us."

"I see." 

Henry Wolftongues reached into a drawer and produced a file. Inside were
photos and paperwork for five
preteen children. "These are the ones who vanished. Bud Brandon, Kelly
Kramer, Vince Brown, Amy Chu,
and Billy Fastrabbit. 

"Quite a variety, there." Craig mused. 

"Very much so." Henry agreed. "In fact, the only thing any of these kids
have in common is that they were all
campers here at Zoascota, and that they all disappeared in the middle of
the night." 

"Anyone see them before they disappeared?" 

"Only in one case. Billy announced that he was sneaking out to try to
snitch something from the mess hall
kitchen. The others were simply there one day and gone the next, though
there are conflicting reports from their
cabin-mates on where they might have gone." 

"Are you absolutely certain that there are no other commonalities?"
inquired Craig in a very serious tone. 

"Not that anyone here has been able to uncover." 

"What cabins were these campers staying in?" 

Henry handed Craig the file folder. "That information is all in here, as
well as everything else I've been able to
come up with in my own investigation." 

Craig opened the folder and leafed past the campers' files to several pages
of copious notes. "Very thorough."
he commented. "If you don't mind, I think we'll take a few moments took
look these over and come back
when we have more questions." 

"As you wish. Keep the file as long as you need it. If I'm not in, simply
have Mary page me." 

"Mary?" Luke echoed. 

"Mary Lynn, my secretary." 

"Thank you, Mr. Wolftongues." said Craig. "It was a pleasure meeting you." 

On their way out, Luke turned to Craig and asked "How did you know about
the legend of the Yondak and
the Shima?" 

"From agent Kelly." 


"He retired just as you were coming in. He handled a case near here some
years back- a case of
mismanagement at a nuclear facility that made it look like they were
missing a canister of plutonium. Anyway,
Kelly fell in love with the area and just couldn't shut up about it. He
eventually retired to this very town. I might
even pay him a visit if time permits." 

As the two men departed the administration building, they held a quick
planning conference. Luke would retire
to the mess hall and run through Wolftongues' notes. Craig, meanwhile,
would do a quick scouting run of
Camp Zoascota and the surrounding area. 

The entire camp seemed to be much to active for one that had so recently
suffered five tragedies in quick
succession. The kids, mostly new arrivals Craig surmised from their
appearance, were cheerful and busy, as if
nothing had happened to bring him and his partner here. 

Little happened to grab Craig's attention until he passed one of the girls'
cabins and heard someone say
"Wasn't it great to actually BE a werewolf last night?" 

Craig froze in his tracks and backed up. He stared at the two girls talking
on the porch on their cabin. "I know!
It was so awesome!" one of them said before looking up at the eavesdropper. 

"Pardon me," said Craig. "But did I just here you say something about

"Um..." responded one. 

"You interested in werewolves?" said the other. 

"I am. Very much so." 

"Diane's the person to see if you're interested in werewolves. She's in
cabin 21." 

"Thank you, but if you'll pardon an old man's curiosity, you were talking
about being werewolves?" 

"It's a game." said the first girl. 

"Yeah... a game." added the second. 

"A game. I see. Well, have fun then." 

* * * 

"I'm beginning to see why the local authorities are spooked by this place."
said Luke as he sifted through his
notes and sipped some coffee. "Wolftongues said that people are blaming the
disappearances on werewolves...
well there's a huge werewolf cult in Lunacorpora. In fact, the name of the
town translates into "Body from the

"I think I just met a couple of members." said Craig. They directed me to a
gal named Diane in cabin 21." 

"That's the cabin Amy Chu was in." Luke pointed out. 

"I think we ought to pay Ms. Diane a visit." 

* * * 

"Diane Thompson?" 


"I'm federal agent Craig Wilder, this is agent Luke Watson. We'd like to
ask you a couple of questions." 

The freckle-faced teen's skin went pale from fright. "You guys are cops?" 

"Of a sort." 

"I swear... I SWEAR I didn't smoke any of the stuff. They tried to get me
to, but I didn't..." 

Luke and Craig exchanged glances. "Where is the stuff?" asked Luke as if he
knew what she were talking

"Under Sammie's mattress, over there." 

Luke dug out a bag of dried leaves. He opened the top and sniffed, as did

"Peppermint?" asked the older agent. 

"Catnip!" replied Luke. 

"You're smoking this stuff?" 

"No!" Diane insisted. "I told you I didn't smoke it!" 

Craig smiled. "How old are you?" he asked. 


"Smoking catnip isn't illegal, you know." 

"It's not?" 

"Not at all. Just very weird." 

"Oh. Well, like I said, I didn't touch it. But if it's not illegal, why are
you guys here?" 

Craig sat down on the edge of a bed and tried his best not to look
intimidating. "Are you familiar with Amy
Chu?" he asked. 

"The girl that got killed? Not very. Why?" 

"It hasn't been confirmed that she was killed." said Luke. "What makes you
think that she was?" 

"That's what everyone is saying." replied the girl. "I only just got here.
Amy vanished the day after I arrived, so
I didn't get to know her very well." 

"I see. Do you have any idea what she was doing at the time of the

"No, but..." 


"Well, she had mentioned earlier that day that she wanted to collect some
phoenix tears." 

Craig knitted his brow in ignorance. "Phoenix tears?" 

"A type of stone." Luke explained to his partner. "A smooth teardrop-shaped
rock formed during a volcanic

"There's a volcano around here?" said Craig, unbelieving. 

"Well, yeah. Mount Christopher. It's been dead for centuries, but you can
still find some interesting lava rocks."

"I see. There's one other matter about which I need to speak with you." 


"I heard from some of the other campers that you know a thing or two about

Diane blushed. "A little, I guess. I'm president of the Werewolf Club." 

"And what is the Werewolf Club?" 

"I guess you would call it a game, more or less. Its..." 

Diane's explanation was cut off by shouts from outside. Immediately, both
agents ran outside to survey the
situation. Several large teenage boys were shoving a younger, chubby boy
around near the parking lot. The
victim was shouting for help, and Henry Wolftongues, having already arrived
on the scene, was shouting threats
and warnings at the older boys. 

"Shall we intervene?" asked Luke. 

"Not yet." replied Craig. "I want to see just what's going on." 

"You want to pick on someone?" Wolftongues bellowed. "Why don't you try
picking on me? Come on!" 

"You think we won't, man?" one of the teens responded. 

"Come on then! Show me what you're made of!" 

The boy who had spoken began laughing wildly as he advanced. 

"Bose!" called another boy. 

The first one turned around. 

"You really wanna do that and explain it later?" 

The fist boy looked downcast and backed away. 

"What's the matter?" Wolftongues egged. "Scared of little old me?" 

The one called Bose shoved the fat kid toward his rescuer. "Forget it,
geeknoid." he griped. "You're not worth
our time." 

The teenagers eventually departed, more out of boredom than fear.
Nonetheless, Wolftongues was clearly
counting it as a personal victory. 

"Who were those kids?" asked Craig as he strolled up. 

"They call themselves the Fang and Claw Gang." 

"Are they tied into the local werewolf cult?" 

The administrator harrumphed. "I wouldn't be at all surprised. Those kids
have been a thorn in my side since
the day I moved in here." 

Craig cast a glance at Luke, who nodded and made several mental notes. He
then turned back to Wolftongues
and asked "Can you tell me how to reach Mount Christopher?" 

Henry seemed unfazed by the sudden switch in topics. "Look out over the
woods." he said. "See that nice, big


"That's mount Christopher. If you go down to the gatehouse and take a left,
there's a footpath that goes down
about four miles to the foot of the mountain. I assume you're tracing the
footsteps of Miss Chu. 

"Yes. Thank you." 

With a bow of the head, Craig set off, with Luke in tow. 

* * * 

"Egad, there's a lot of ash around here." said Luke as he descended the
steep slopes into the crater. "You
wouldn't think there would be this much in an extinct volcano." 

"It is unusual, yes." Craig concurred. "However, in this case, it may work
to our advantage." 

"How so?" 

"Look very carefully. Right down here..." 

Luke stared at the ash on the ground. "It's been swept over." he said. 

"Exactly. Someone was here who didn't want their tracks to be identified.
They tried to cover them, but didn't
do a very good job." 

"Let's follow the sweep-marks and see where they lead." 

Carefully, the two men followed the odd sweeping pattern along until it
stopped and became... 

"A wolf print!" 

"Not a wolf." said Craig. "Look at the curvature of the finger pads, as
well as the narrowness of the palm pad.
This is a feline pawprint. The claws are extended, which leads me to
believe that the animal that made this is a
cheetah, the only large cat with non-retractable claws." 

"A cheetah? In Montana?" 

"Either that or one very ticked mountain lion." 

* * * 

-Oren the Otter
tlhaQ biQ Ha'DIbaH
The Changing Workplace: http://www.geocities.com/ottercomics

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