/ A TALE OF BEASTS AND BROTHERS /
Of course, it would be a while before he got there. He still needed to be charged, tried, and sentenced, but despite the stops along the way, there was only one destination for him.
At thirteen years old Will had sealed his fate with four heinous murders. The worst part was that Will couldn’t even remember why he did it.
As clear as day, he could see the dark blood pouring from Mr. Vollmer’s neck. It ran down his body, draping his white shirt in a vibrant red. He trembled from fear and pain before he fell limply to the floor. Will could still feel the hot stickiness of Alex’s flesh and organs in the palm of his hand. He had dug through the boy’s abdomen with rage, searching for restitution for an insult already forgotten. Now, Will’s skin looked like it had been scrubbed clean, but he had absorbed their lifeblood and that could never be wiped away.
Will’s stomach churned as he remembered the smell of Mrs. Vollmer’s fear. A combination of sweat and blood, it was intoxicating at the time, but now he only wanted to wretch. Catherine’s heart had been beating rapidly during the entire event. Will used the thumping to discover her hiding spot, and he was only satisfied when the noise had silenced.
It was too quiet now.
Will sat alone in a room of a Missoula police station. He had been brought there from the Vollmers’ home after being handed over to two officers by the paramedics. It felt like years since the medics had examined every inch of his body and declared that he was not injured or suffering from shock.
The officers dumped him in the room after mumbling something about reporters, and the fatter one returned briefly to drop off a paper cup full of water. Will tried to drink, but nearly choked on the first sip.
Thou shalt not kill. It was a commandment of the Lord. It was given to Man by Moses. It was written in stone. Will had broken that commandment. He had betrayed his Lord.
But as his clouded memory became clear, Will doubted that he truly was Man. They had not been the claws of Man. Nor were they the teeth of Man. He had become an entirely different being. The Ten Commandments were not written for beasts.
Police officers had discovered him among the Vollmers’ remains. Their guns had been drawn, but upon seeing him--pale, shaking, and so very young--they holstered their weapons. The officers were nearly as shocked as him at the sight of the carnage, but their rapid grasp of reality outpaced his own.
They called in more officers, paramedics, investigators, and the coroner. Dozens of men and women poured into the scene, several of them asking Will to stay still for a photo, move to another location, and try to breathe. More than once he felt their stare, and heard their hushed comments of his age. None of them could comprehend the innocent boy at the center of the horrifying scene.
Will was the only one to realize that it was the other way around; a horrifying boy as the center of an innocent scene.
The reappearing memory brought him to tears once again.
There was a light knock on the door. It cracked open to let in a woman about the age of Mrs. Vollmer. The woman wore a light blue collared shirt with a black blazer and matching pants. She had a black leather messenger bag that she set on the table across from Will. She sat in the wooden chair, and Will noticed an ID badge dangling from her blazer lapel.
"Hello, Will. My name is Kelly Reed. How are you doing?"
Will did not answer her question. Who was this woman? What was she expecting to hear? If he told her he was the worst he’d ever been in his life, would she wiggle her nose and make it all go away?
His silence caught her off guard.
"Uh, well, I work for Social Services. I’ve been sent here to make sure your safety is first and foremost." She pulled a notepad and pen from her bag. The pen clicked out with authority. "Have they asked you any questions yet?"
Shrinking from her bright brown eyes, Will looked at the surface of the table. Sorting through all of the voices from the past few hours, he shook his head.
"That’s good," she said as she scribbled on the pad. "Have you had anything to eat?"
Will clenched when the taste of their flesh resurfaced. They were inside of him, and despite his wishes, his body would not allow him to expel them.
"Would you like something to eat?"
Will kept his gaze on the table and shook his head.
"We are going to try to get you out of here as soon as we can. But first some detectives have to ask you a few questions." She set down the notepad. "I want to introduce you to a man who is waiting outside the room. His name is Donald Liggett. He is a lawyer. Do you know what a lawyer does?"
Will raised his eyes to her. Of course he knew what a lawyer does. Lawyers tell judges why people should go to jail. His glare warned her to stop asking dumb questions.
"Mr. Liggett is here to ensure the detectives are asking you appropriate questions."
Kelly stood and walked over to the door. She opened in and gestured for a balding man with a round face to enter. Mr. Liggett introduced himself and held his hand out to Will. He reached for it slowly and gripped softly. Mr. Liggett sat down next to Will, his light gray suit radiating with the smell of cigarettes. He spoke as if he had a bucketful of phlegm caught in his nose.
"Will, the detectives are going to ask you some very basic questions. Do not be afraid to answer. If you are uncomfortable with answering, let me know immediately. If they ask something they should not, I will tell you that you don’t have to answer the question. I implore you, heed my words when I tell you not to answer."
Kelly looked to Will, her face a screen of empathy. "Are you sure you wouldn’t like anything to eat?"
Will shook his head again.
"Are you ready for the detectives?"
He wasn’t. He hadn’t been ready for any of it. How could he be?
Will wanted it to be over. When the fury had passed--when his body had returned to normal--he believed that it was over. He had sat there, staring at the bodies of the Vollmers, praying for Jesus to tell him that it was over. After the officers had come, he knew that it was nowhere near the end.
He prayed to Jesus again. He sought the guidance of his Lord.
When Jesus had been arrested by the Roman soldiers, he did not resist. When he had been accused of heresy, Jesus did not defend himself. He accepted the verdict, withstood the beatings, and walked with pride to his crucifixion.
Will was no son of God. His suffering would not save others. If the day had taught him anything, it was that he was not even a saint. But he still believed in Jesus. Even in suffering, his unyielding faith would save him.
Kelly called the detectives in, then sat down next to Will. The detectives introduced themselves, but Will immediately forgot which was which. One detective pulled out a tape recorder and started it.
"Son," began the first detective, a tall man with wide shoulders, "the Vollmers were your foster family. Is that correct?"
Will looked to Mr. Liggett, who gestured for him to answer.
The second detective stared at Will, but did not speak. He had a full, dark beard that hung below puffed-out chipmunk cheeks.
"How long did you stay with them?"
Will had to count the weeks in his head.
"Did you enjoy the time spent with them?"
Mr. Liggett interrupted before Will could respond. "You don’t have to answer that."
Will looked to Mr. Liggett, then back to the first detective. He kept his lips pressed together.
"My client will answer questions related to the scene of the crime. His personal opinion of the victims is not relevant."
The second detective’s chipmunk cheeks reddened and his nostrils flared. Will could feel his silent scorn.
"Fine," the first detective continued, "You were with the victims at the time of their death?"
"Detective, are you charging my client with a crime?"
"I’m trying to conduct an interview," the first detective fumed. "Stop cutting off my balls every time I ask a question."
The second detective held back a smirk.
"My client will not be answering any questions that could incriminate him. If he was with the victims at the time of their deaths, that will come out in court." Then he added, "If we ever get there."
The first detective turned to Will. "Son, you understand that you don’t have to answer any of our questions?"
The hair on Will’s neck rose every time he was called Son.
The detective looked back at Mr. Liggett. "Let your client decide what he wants to say."
Remaining tense, Mr. Liggett sat back in his chair. The second detective reached for a file folder and pulled out a couple of photographs. He slid them across the table to face Will. Kelly leaned in to get a glimpse and immediately turned away in disgust. Mr. Liggett kept his back firmly against the chair, but darted his eyes from photo to photo.
As Will looked down he returned to the scene of the morning. Mr. Vollmer’s throat hanging out of his neck like an open car door. Alex’s stomach hollowed out, all flesh and gore splattered in a gag inducing circle around the corpse. Mrs. Vollmer’s bloodied face completely unrecognizable from the severe gashes, her skull caved in. Catherine’s remains dripping from the coat closet, her arm completely severed from her body.
Will’s mind floated away from his body. He was a different being when they died. He was a different being now. He had killed them. But it wasn’t really him.
The second detective finally spoke. "Have you ever gone hunting?"
Will had, just that morning. But that wasn’t what the detective was asking.
The Harbacks had taken him deer hunting. They taught him how to hold and fire a rifle, although he wasn’t very good at target practice. Only one deer had come close enough for him to shoot at, but he missed it by a wide range.
"I love to hunt," the second detective continued. "I’ve got a license to hunt every animal there is. So you can imagine, with the time I spend hunting and the time I spend doing my job, I’ve seen a lot of bodies. Look at these photos. We know you didn’t do this to these people. The Vollmers were not killed by a human, were they?"
Will’s mind snapped back to his body. The jolt caused tears to pool in his eyes.
Will croaked out a response. "No."
"Investigators at the scene collected dozens of bags full of loose animal fur. It was like nothing I have ever seen before, but if I had to guess, I’d say it came from a wolf. Now, an average person might ask how a wolf got in and out of the Vollmers’ house without breaking a door or window, but what I really want to know is how you ended up in the middle of all this carnage without a scratch on you."
The second detective took a breath, inflating his already puffy cheeks even more.
"So--and I think it’s a fair question--were you with the Vollmers at the time of their death?"
Will did not look to Mr. Liggett or Kelly, but he could feel that they both wanted to speak up. After a moment of silence, he realized they weren’t going to.
"We just finished breakfast," Will blurted. He had relived the scene over and over in the past hours that his words seemed like another recollection in his head. He barely recognized he was speaking. "We were getting ready to go to the zoo. Mrs. Vollmer took Catherine upstairs to change her clothes."
Kelly held her breath as Will spoke of the zoo. She must have inferred that it was the origin of the wild animal.
"Alex told me I should use Mr. Vollmer’s razor to shave my beard. Ever since I got to their house Alex made fun of my stubble. He said if I went to the zoo looking like I do, they would think I was one of the animals and lock me up. I told him to stop. He began chanting ’Will-a the Gorilla’ over and over.
"I’ve been teased before. No matter how much I cried, they would only stop when I stood up for myself. This time was different. I couldn’t stop it. I wanted to fight back and I didn’t want to hear ’Will-a the Gorilla’ ever again. My heart was pounding so fast. I thought it was going to break through my chest."
The four adults did not take their eyes off of Will. His story had cast a spell over them.
"My skin itched all over. My senses changed. I could smell more. I could hear better. Everything seemed clearer. Alex was taller than me, but suddenly I stood over him. This was not just a feeling. I actually stared down at him as he stared back up at me. He was so scared. Mr. Vollmer stepped in front of Alex. I swung my arm to push him out of the way. A claw sliced through his neck. His skin was so soft. It felt like I had run my fingers through a pool of water. Mr. Vollmer grabbed for his hanging throat as he fell to the floor. With him out of the way, I tackled Alex."
The second detective slammed a finger down to stop the recorder.
"I’ve heard enough of this!"
Kelly was sobbing at Will’s side. Mr. Liggett wiped a coating of sweat from his forehead.
"Miss Reed, you’d better get this little lying shit out of my sight before I start smacking him around!"
Will’s head was drowning in memory and anxiety. His heart worked double-time to keep him from fainting.
The first detective grabbed his partner’s shoulder. "Dave--"
"I am not going to sit here and let this kid try to convince me he is some sort of werewolf." The second detective pointed a long finger in Will’s face. "This is not one of your kid’s books. Four people are dead. Good people who took you into their home. I don’t care who you are covering for, if you want to take this to court, we will. And I will make it my life goal to see you in juvie for aiding and abetting."
Will had to control his breathing before he could speak.
"I didn’t help someone else do this. I did it all by myself. I turned into a wolf and killed them."
The second detective reeled back for a second, then jumped forward, scrambling over the table at Will.
"You little fuck! I’m going to teach you some respect!"
"Dave, stop it!"
The first detective tried to hold back his partner as Mr. Liggett positioned himself between the enraged detective and the boy. Kelly hugged Will in the scramble. Everyone screamed at each other. No one could keep calm.
Will had confessed. He had told them the absolute truth. They must allow him to do his penance. He followed Jesus’ teachings. He trusted the Word of God. Why could they not accept his remorse?
Kelly’s fear made her hug Will closer. His mind sparkled as she cut off his air. Will needed to be set free. He had to be let loose.
His teeth were released first. The canines growing an extra inch, Will began gnashing at the air. He squirmed in Kelly’s arms until she had no more strength to hold him. His wild, chomping bite caught her in the neck, just above her shoulder. She screamed in agony.
Will shoved her to the ground to bleed out in anguish. With one step Will felt himself grow two feet taller and two hundred pounds heavier. Fur sprouted from his skin, and claws emerged from his fingers.
The jumble of men looked up at the sight with disbelief. Will snarled and transformed their disbelief into terror.
Will slashed Mr. Liggett down his chest and into his stomach. He grabbed the first detective by both shoulders, digging his claws deep into the man’s back, and tore his muscles apart by tossing him across the room. The second detective, still laying over the table, rolled to escape. Will caught his leg with clasping teeth. The detective whimpered as he tried to get away from the beast, but his leg was now useless. Will wasn’t going to let him leave, and he was going to make sure the detective would never forget the boy’s confession. He flipped the detective onto his back, and floated a claw over the man’s face. Slowly, painfully, memorably, Will ripped four gashes diagonally down the detective’s face, popping his chipmunk cheeks and tearing through his beard. His screams were not heard over Will’s immense howl.
Several more officers burst through the doorway and screeched to a halt. Their shock at the sight gave Will enough time to barrel over them and into the hallway. Will bound through the police station, knocking over anyone and anything in his way. He was not going to be held again.
Exploding onto the Missoula street, the wolf that had been Will was blinded by the setting sun. He turned away from the brightness and began running toward the approaching night. Speeding cars swirled around him, their headlights illuminating him for a second before darkness bathed him again. He increased his speed, keeping pace with several of the cars, before he leapt from the road and sprinted through yards and behind homes.
Will had to leave Missoula. He had to get far from the light and the noise and the memory. He trusted the wolf to take him as far as it could, and he wouldn’t stop until he was sure that he and everyone around him would be safe.
He had a long way to go.