The Wildman - By Rick Hautala



You could say it all started with a late-night phone call in July, but that wouldn’t be strictly accurate.

Pre-conditions can be set, and there are always unseen forces in motion long before we become aware of them. It’s rather egocentric or, we might say, “human-centric” to declare that anything starts at any particular point in time simply because that’s when we first notice it.

And we should never forget that there are always things we don’t know, buried secrets that might eventually come to light with or without our help. Like it or not, there are things that will knock us down before we see them coming.

That’s life, and as they say: “Life moves in mysterious ways.” Like an underground river slithering silently through dark caverns deep within the earth, we never know when something long hidden is going to boil up suddenly into the light. Worst of all, we never know what might be drifting on those dark, mysterious currents until they sweep us away.

So to say all of this began about twenty minutes before midnight on a humid night in mid-July last year when Jeff Cameron got a phone call from someone he hadn’t heard from in so long that it might just as well have been a ghost on the other end of the line is as good a point as any to say this is the moment when this particular story begins.

Jeff and everyone else involved—Evan Pike, Tyler Crosby, Fred Bowen and Mike Logan—and even some of the people who were already dead at this point—Jimmy Foster and Ralph Curran and Mark Bloomberg—had secrets enough to hide and reasons enough to hope those secrets would never see the light of day. The late-night telephone call that begins this story was just the first spark of light that would grow brighter until it ultimately revealed much more than anyone involved ever wanted revealed.

It was Wednesday night.

As usual, Jeff had had a hard day at work at the real estate agency. Every day was tough. At least today was Wednesday—“hump day.” Just two more days on the downhill slide to the weekend. Of course, Jeff’s prospects for the weekends weren’t all that thrilling either, but at least he wouldn’t have to put in any time at work. His assistant, Betty Schroeder, was more than eager to cover the few showings they had scheduled on Saturday and Sunday.

Susan, Jeff’s wife, had left him almost a year ago, and Jeff still hadn’t adjusted. The house seemed unnaturally large and empty without her around. More and more, Jeff found himself wondering why he even stayed at his job when he no longer needed to maintain such a high standard of living, much less a big house like this—especially now that Matt, their only child, was off to college. He could probably make a killing if he sold now, but the real estate market, which had been booming in southern Maine for the last ten-plus years, was finally getting a little soft.


How about house prices and sales in free fall?

It figures, Jeff thought bitterly. Just when I’m thinking about bailing out, prices drop through the floor.

For the last six months or more, he had been forced to admit he didn’t really enjoy the peace and quiet at home the way he thought he would. With Susan and Matt both gone, this place with its four bedrooms, huge living room and dining room, family room, and game room in the basement, wrap-around porch, two and a half baths, and three-car garage was much more than he needed or, the ways things were looking, would ever need.

So why not just get a shack somewhere out in the boondocks and save some bucks?

As always, Jeff had eaten supper alone. Tonight, it had been take-home Massaman curry with tofu from the Thai restaurant downtown. He watched the evening news—which was as depressing as ever—and then settled down to read a little before taking a hefty shot of rum—but just one shot to help him sleep—and gone to bed.

He had slept soundly until the phone rang, shattering the quiet.

Confused and disoriented, Jeff sat up in bed and reached for the phone as he glanced at his bedside alarm clock. He’d already taken out his contacts, so the numerals were a bright smear of glowing red lines. Leaning closer, he was finally able to make out the time. His heart jumped.


Shit! … Something bad’s happened … Someone’s died!

His throat felt suddenly parched as he mentally flashed through the short