Friday, February 8, 2019

Missing: Jackson Green

Things calmed down, and a month later, everyone was just getting back from Thanksgiving break. School was going well, everyone was passing their classes, and a lot of the weirdness from the previous months was slipping into comfortable obscurity...

...When Will got a phone call from Jackson Green.

The two had met a few times, enough to exchange phone numbers at least, but Will wondered why he would be getting a call from him. He answered, and Jackson quickly interrupted in a strained whisper: "Hey, sorry, y'all're th' first person I c'get a hold of - sump'm's following me, and I need help. South Green Trailer Park, back corner o' th'-"

He was interrupted by a crash; his phone clattered to the ground, then the roar of a shotgun filled the line, just before the phone went dead! Concerned, Will called Toby and Alistair, and they quickly made their way down the street to the nearby trailer park. Jackson's trailer was obvious; a police car was there already, and another was just pulling in. Concerned neighbors crowded around. The large bay window in his trailer was smashed in, and there were dents from shotgun pellets across the side of the building. The door hung halfway off its hinges.

After a little snooping, Alistair and Will found there were no tracks around the back of the building - whatever cause the damage either stayed to the road, or took a rockier path to the side.

Toby spoke with a policeman, and after confirming that he was a friend of Jackson, the officer allowed him to accompany him into the building.

Inside, the damage was obvious: the broken-in window, pinpoints of light from the shotgun blast, and a knocked over lamp... as well as a smear of blood on the ground. Toby uncovered Jackson's cell phone - screen smashed - under the sofa, and almost invisible against the carpet, a three-inch, tapered, plastic-like object. He pushed it with his foot, and it shimmered a little in the dying light. He carefully palmed it, and headed back outside.

Meanwhile, one of the officers' radios squawked to life:
"Unit 3, check."
"Unit 3, we’ve had another boogeyman sighting on campus. Can you do a wellness check on a witness at the LeTourneau's student center?"
"Dispatch, we have another 45 minutes here then we can head over."
"Unit 3, roger that. Dispatch clear."

The officer sighed, something about "prank calls again," and went back to keeping the rubberneckers out of the building.

The three friends, meanwhile, decided to head over to the student center, as long as they were going back to campus. Just inside the building, they found Leslie Merspin, the student writer for Cryptid Underground! She looked pale and shaken, and as soon as they showed up, she jumped up and threw her arms around Will. Somewhat baffled, he did his best to calm her down.

"I was on my way back from Glaske, taking the long way 'round to get to my dorm - going behind the materials joining lab. I heard this freakish noise, like a growling, purring sound mixed with a swarm of bees. I tried to hide around the corner. Somebody came past, heading towards the maintenance building, and they were dragging somebody all hunched over with them. I didn't really see them... but nothing human could make noises like that."

Michele, seeing Alistair talking to a strange girl, immediately came over to see what was going on.

The ROTC student who was sitting with her looked a little skeptical, but offered to stay, while the party went to check it out. Will found some distinct tracks - footprints from a human, and footprints from something much, much different, a three-toed creature of some kind. They tracked them to the new greenhouses, built at the edge of campus for the biology and horticultural students. The tracks lead to the third building, and they could hear weak cries for help coming from inside!

Inside, the air was thick and humid, obviously designed for the tropical plants inside. Two paths lead down the center of the greenhouse; Alistair and Michele followed one, while Will and Toby followed the other. They stepped out at about the same time, to see a woman, holding a nasty-looking stomach wound, and... the chupacabra! Will, Toby, and Alistair weren't frightened by the creature, but Michele took one look and ran screaming from the building. The creature turned towards them, but the woman on the ground seemed to divert its attention through some mental means. She held it for a moment, but the effort proved too much, and she passed out. Immediately, the creature leaped towards Alistair! Alistair tried whacking the creature, while Toby and Will helped the woman; the chupacabra turned on Alistair, but its claws merely raked across his bulletproof vest harmlessly. He struggled with it, until Toby ran up behind, and with a mighty chop, hacked into its back. Already injured from Jackson's shotgun blast (as they correctly inferred), the creature fell to the ground, dead. Alistair immediately began harvesting quills from the creature, as Toby and Will pulled the woman outside and bandaged her up as best they could. As they finished, two black vans pulled up, and several men in suits stepped out. One introduced himself as Officer Johnston, and declared that he and his fellow officers were part of a task force hunting the creature inside, and were part of the Longview Police Department.

Alistair, meanwhile, had followed the path to the end, and uncovered a hidden lair the creature had undoubtedly been living in. Inside were bones from small animals, as well as what were likely the bones of homeless people it had killed and eaten!

He tried to hide from the agents entering the greenhouse, but only succeeded in tipping over a plant. The three were told to return to their rooms...

In the following days, they learned that the greenhouse had been burned to the ground; Will, through his contacts with the police, also found out that there was no special task force, and that no one named Johnston worked there. More intriguing was a package that showed up, with a simple note from Jackson Green to keep its contents safe, and secret.

The package includes a photograph, with the words, "June 17th, 1986 - Monica & Jake B at Dad's office! Best buds!" written on the back. It's a picture of a young girl, maybe 8 or 9, and a slightly older boy, maybe 13 or 14; behind them is a middle-aged man, wearing a small label pin (a phi symbol), a white-haired man, and a younger man, standing a little apart with his arms crossed.

A little research later, and Toby was quite sure that the girl in the picture was Monica Dragic, current owner of EyePhi! The middle-aged man was her father, Morgan Dragic. The other name - likely the young man - resulted in no information, but everyone was sure they had heard the name before, but just couldn't remember where...

After Christmas break, there was still no sign of Jackson Green. GlenMac was sure he was still alive, somewhere, but there were no leads available.

The group was contacted by a radio show, Lurk Until Dawn, a show that interviewed interesting personalities and touched on the strange, the alien, and the supernatural. Having heard about their interactions with the chupacabra - called by students the Needler, due to its ridge of spines - the show invited them to come and talk about their adventures for a little.

The interview went well, but halfway through, there was a commotion out front; as they raced to find out what was going on, they saw a man holding a gun! The secretary was standing nearby, her hands in the air and her face white as a sheet, as he forced her to unlock a display case and yanked a golden microphone from it. Waving his gun, he dashed out of the building and to his running vehicle.

Alistair ran after, trying to spot which way it went, but it had already vanished in traffic.

Inside, the manager fumed; the microphone was really only of sentimental value. It was a gift at the station's 75th anniversary, back in 2004. He promised a reward if it could be returned. The station engineer, Jessie Achord, loaned the group a laptop to do any research they needed, while Ryan Lunemann, the "voice" of Lurk Until Dawn promised to reschedule, as they had already gotten a good response from the interview.

The only information they had to go on was a video of the getaway truck - free of a license plate - and a good shot of the thief.

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