She devoured the flock.
Paul Black came ‘round in the morning, his face white and his hands trembling. Paul had fought with the Marines at Belleau Wood, and I’d known him a long time. The idea that something might frighten him so was disturbing.
Sitting in my parlor, I got some whiskey and hot coffee into him, and it settled his nerves some.
“My flock is gone, Duncan,” he told me, his voice hoarse. “All thirty-two sheep. Meat’s spoiled, too.”
“What got at them?” I asked, getting ammunition for the Spenser.
He shook his head. “Don’t know. I saw shoe prints in the mud and claw marks in the flesh. Looks like a man might’ve done it, but I pray like hell I’m wrong.”
I nodded. “Where?”
“North pasture,” he replied and finished his drink. “Don’t think I can look at it again. Not yet.”
“No shame in it,” I told him. “You head home. I’ll stop by when I find who did it.”
We left my house together and went separate ways once we reached the road. I traveled at a good pace out to his North pasture, and I could smell death long before I saw it.
The sheep hadn’t just been butchered. They’d been savaged.
There was neither rhyme nor reason to the killing. Some had bites from them. Most did not. There weren’t even any signs that the killing had been done for pleasure.
I found the tracks Paul had mentioned, and I followed them to the tree line. Bits of blood and flesh were splattered on leaves and bark, and soon I heard wheezing. I brought the Spenser up to my shoulder and eased forward.
What I found was a young woman, her clothes were splattered with blood, and there was a dull look in her eye. She looked at me, tried to speak, and I saw her tongue had been torn out at the root.
Then, her gaze focused, intensified, and she let out a low, deep growl.
She sprang at me with arms outstretched, and where there should have been fingers were long claws instead.
I put a round through her throat, and it took her head clean off her shoulders.
But she didn’t die.
Her mouth worked silently, her eyes locked on mine.
With a sigh, I put the barrel against her forehead and blew her brains out.
She was dead, but Paul was still out thirty-two head of sheep.