Jake gazed through the frosty mist clinging to the window. He saw the wolves running and then heard them howling.
Cold memories crept into his soul like a dark presence. It first happened many years ago, but now a more recent image
haunted his shadowy nightmares. He glanced at the bowie knife in his hand and felt the razor edge. He drew his thumb
over the sharp edge and gazed absently at the thin strip of blood that oozed from the cut. Narrow beams from the moon
crept like frozen tears across pine boughs laden with glistening yellow icicles as he watched out the window. Jake was
finding it harder and harder to reconcile the dull ache in his mind. The guilt remained like an open sore. Vivid
nightmares of the incidents occurred nightly.
He grabbed the coffeepot and poured a mug of thick, black coffee. He laced it with whiskey. He looked at the cup and
took a big swallow. His mind roamed back and forth like a confused animal to two months ago. That was when the last
incident happened. He looked down and tried to wipe the blood off of his hands. The problem was the blood didn’t exist
and he could never wipe it off. He put his leathery and gnarled hands to his creased temples and pushed. The images
remained like clear sap slowly crawling down a gnarled pine tree trunk, sticky and thick.
He was awakened out of the disquieting trance by a loud noise. It was a banging on the door of his cabin. He tried to
ignore the noise, but the knocking got louder. He finally put his mug on the table and walked to the door.
“Yeah, what do you want?”
“Are you Jake Withers?”
“Yeah.”
“I need to talk to you.”
“About what?”
“Open the door Mr. Withers!” The voice of authority ordered.
Jake scowling at the tone of the voice unlatched the metal chain and pushed back the bolt. He opened the door a few
inches and looked outside. A huge Sheriff was standing on the stoop.
“Jake Withers?”
“I said yeah! What the hell do you want?”
“I’m Sheriff Buford Bunning; I need to talk to you Mr. Withers!”
“What the hell about?” He said brusquely, befitting his large imposing stature and scraggly appearance. Jake thought
about slamming the door in the officer’s face, but then sighed and said, “Come on in.”
Jake felt the pressure around his temples again. He tried to wipe the nonexistent blood off his hands on his pants again
as he stepped aside so the policeman could enter.
“Okay, now what the hell do you want?”
“I came here to question you about a death in Bluff Meadows. Did you know a Marcia Strong?”
Feeling his throat tighten, his mind thought back to a girl named Marcia he once knew, or maybe it was only a dream. He
felt sweat slowly trickling down his spine.
“I don’t think so, who is she?”      
“It’s who she was actually, she is dead now. She was slashed with a large knife. Her body was left along the stream near
the Bluff Meadows campground about two miles from here. A trapper found her. If he hadn’t come along, the wolves
would have cleaned everything up and we probably never would have know it was murder. She went camping about two
months ago, before the big snow storm arrived.”
“I didn’t hear about no trial.”
“You didn’t hear anything about a trial, because there was no trial. We are still looking for the murderer. How long have
you lived up here Mr. Withers?”
“About six months, I came in July of this year, when it was warm.”
“Is this your cabin Mr. Withers?” The policeman asked looking at Jake’s bearded face and dark, deep-set eyes.
“I just rent, don’t have enough money to buy. I pay two hundred dollars a month.”
“Hum, where do you work?”
“I don’t, I’m disabled. In eight years, I’ll get my Social Security then life will be a hell of a lot easier.”
“How are you disabled Mr. Withers, you seem healthy to me?”
“I was in Nam and was shot by a gook. The wounds in my head healed, but I couldn’t think straight anymore. What the
hell has all these questions got to do about me or the lady?”
“Where did you live before here Mr. Withers?” Bunning asked ignoring Jake’s questions.
“Down in Williams, I moved there from Orland.”
“I see, Williams...wasn’t that the town where four girls were murdered in 2000?”
“I think I heard something about that,” Jake answered feeling a dark anger building.
“Yeah, and wasn’t there a string of murders in the city of Orland? If I remember there were six girls murdered there
from 1994 to 1997, all stabbed forty times. We found forty stab wounds on Marcia’s body too.”
“I guess there was a lot of crime in that county,” Jake said angrily, his temper starting to flare.
“Mr. Withers, where were you two months ago, October 10 of this year?”
“Hell man, I don’t remember things too damn well, and to remember a single day two months ago is impossible.
Sometimes I hunt deer or go see old man Beng, I might have been there.”
“Nope, Mr. Beng’s son said he didn’t see you there or even around your place all that day, he seems to have a very good
memory.”
“Oh...well hell, I don’t know then,” Jake said as he rubbed his hands on his pants again.
“Do you own a bowie knife, Mr. Withers?”
“Yeah, I use it for skinning deer, why?”
“I would like to see it Mr. Withers.”
Jake glared at the huge policeman then slowly went to the cupboard. His head was aching and his rage was rising as he
picked up the knife and slowly turned around.
***
It was a struggle to drag the body on the sled down to the frozen stream. A slender trail of blood like a scarlet, velvet
ribbon glistened in the pure white snow. As he pulled the body near the stream, it was snowing softly and the crimson
ribbon was slowly being covered over. Jake expertly skinned the body and cut it up into pieces, he packed the meat into
plastic containers. He left the rest of the bloody carcass for the wolves, placed the meat on the sled, and hiked slowly
back to the cabin. When he arrived home, he placed the containers next to the many others he had frozen in his freezer.
He sighed, went to the kitchen and cleaned off his bowie knife with hot water and soap. He took off his blood-splattered
clothes and put them in the washer. He then went into his shower turned on the hot water and stepped into the hot,
flowing steam. He tried to relax, but shadowy images of the bloody body still flooded into his mind. He watched the
blood run down the drain and washed his hands over and over. He heard the wolves howling again.
After his shower, he sat in his chair gazing out the window at the wolves running up from the trail where he left the
bloody carcass. He knew with the oncoming storm, there would be very little trace of anything left, no one would ever
know. Sipping his hot coffee, laced with bourbon, he tried to rub the nonexistent blood off of his hands again.
A few days later as dusk was settling into the forest, he sat by the fireplace warming his hands and watching the news. A
blond anchor with bright, red lipstick gasped as she read the piece of paper placed in front of her.
“Oh my god,” she said with a pale face. “We have breaking news, Ranger Bill Moore found the body of Sheriff Buford
Bunning about 4:00 today. Moore said officer Bunning had been eaten by wolves and there was little left. They found
his badge near the bones. It is not known if it was an accident or a homicide. A new storm is arriving and they will not be
able to get back to the site immediately, which means any trace of evidence might be lost.”
It was some days after the incident when Jake heard a knock at his cabin door. Getting up, he looked out the window.
The snow had stopped, and the sun painted pale, yellow rays through the white snow laden pine trees.
“Yeah, what the hell do you want?” Jake asked angrily.
“I would like to talk to you; your Jake Withers aren’t you?”
“Yeah,” he answered and then opened the door slightly.
A comely Policewoman about five foot six stood in the doorway. Smiling, Jake opened the door wider and grinned. She
entered the cabin and looked around the cabin warily.
“I’m Officer Timms, Mr. Withers. Did Sheriff Bunning stop by here about a week ago?”
“Yeah, so what!”
“Did you hear the news about his death?”
“Yeah.”
“Well, we are investigating his death. We aren’t sure if it was a homicide or accidental. There wasn’t much left after the
wolves got through.”
“Hum, that’s too damn bad. What do you want to talk to me about?”
“Do you know where Officer Bunning was going after he left your cabin?”
“I’m not sure; he may have said something about going over to the Beng’s place.” Jake said as he tried to rub the
imaginary blood off of his hands.
“That’s the small farm across the meadow?” She asked as she watched him vigorously rub his hands on his pants.
“Yeah, it’s about three hundred yards or so from here.”
“I see, well, I guess I’ll go down there. Did you happen to be down in Bluff Meadows about a week ago?”
Jake hesitated and started to feel the pressure in his temples.
“Uh, yeah, I think I was down there three days to a week ago. I was following a deer; I hunt for deer down in that area.”
“I see,” the officer stated as she looked at Jake. “Did you see anyone in that area?”
“I think I saw tracks from a set of snow shoes, but I didn’t give it no mind.”
“I see.”
Jake stared at her, trying to rub the nonexistent blood off of his hands again. The officer frowned as she watched the
odd behavior.
“How long have you lived here, Mr. Withers?”
“About six months,” he said guardedly.
“And before that?”
“Uh, Williams.”
“Did you live anyplace else prior to that?” the officer asked suspiciously.
Jake flinched, and the anger inside him started mounting. He crossed his huge arms and answered angrily, “Yeah, I lived
in Orland, so what!”
The officer narrowed her brow and stared at Jake. She then saw the large Bowie knife sitting on a coffee table.
“That’s a very big Bowie knife.”
He picked the Bowie knife and held it in his hand. A sardonic grin appeared on his face as he turned around and stared at
the officer.
The officer backed up looking at him in fear.
“I had better head over to the Beng’s farm now.”
***
About four hours passed since Jake returned from Bluff Meadows. The wolves passed him in the opposite direction
through the pine trees on each side of the trail. He could hear them in the distance now as he neared his cabin. He knew
they were feasting again.
Later that week he was sitting by a huge fire and listening to TV. The same blond anchor was looking at the piece of
paper that had been thrust in front of her.
“Oh my god,” she stated out loud. She then shook her head and read tearfully from piece of paper. “We have another
murder in Bluff Meadows, this time it was Officer Maryann Timms. A man named Tommy Beng found her remains. He
said it was horrifying to see the wolves gnawing on her body. He stated that he vomited then ran as fast as he could back
to his place. His father called the authorities. This is the third recent death in the Bluff Meadow area. A few months ago,
it was Marcia Strong, then Sheriff Bunning and now officer Timms. It is now believed by the authorities that all three
were brutally murdered by a serial murderer. An all out investigation is being initiated and the FBI is on the scene. Jake
put his hands to his exploding temples, his heart was pounding like a jackhammer and gory images kept flashing across
his mind.
The next morning, as he was finishing his breakfast of meat and potatoes, he heard a loud rapping on the door. He
flinched, rubbed his hands on his pants and went to the door. This time there were two policeman and two other men in
suits standing on his porch.
“Yeah, what the hell do you want?” Jake stated angrily.
“We need to talk to you, Mr. Withers!”
“What about?”
“Let us in, Withers!” The voice demanded.
Jake hesitated then reluctantly opened the door. The four men entered the cabin in a rush and took Jake to the floor.
“Officer Timms contacted us before she came to your cabin, Mr. Withers and that was the last contact she ever made.
We also know that Officer Bunning came here too. You are under arrest for the murders of...”
The voice buzzed on and on. Jake listened as if in a heavy fog. He heard the wolves howling in the meadow and indistinct
voices going on and on. Jake couldn’t rub the blood off of his hands this time. They were handcuffed behind his back.
***
Jake Withers was found guilty of the murder of Officer Timms, he was also suspected of murdering Sheriff Bunning and
Marcia Strong and the girls in Williams and Orland, but there was not enough evidence to charge him with those
murders. He was sentenced to death, but the execution was stayed when a psychiatrist pronounced him schizophrenic
with delusional thinking. He was sent to a mental asylum.
***
Jake sat in a steel chair starring out iron bars. He was trying to rub nonexistent blood off his hand on his robe. He heard
the howling of imaginary wolves in his mind and images of the fawn’s blood filled his mind. He had never wanted to kill
the beautiful fawns, but they were the tastiest of all the deer and the wolves were happy to clean up the remains after his
kills. He thought no one would ever know.
***
Tommy Beng laughed hysterically as he gazed at the blood dripping from his Bowie knife. He then sighed contentedly as
he repositioned the bloody body of his father lying crookedly on a sled. Mr. Beng had been stabbed forty times. The
wolves were howling and circling again, waiting for their dinner. Tommy started pulling the sled towards Bluff Meadows
and humming.
the Meadow
by James G. Piatt