The details of the story you probably saw on
the evening news, read in the papers or on the Internet involving the
incidents I am about to relate were nearly wholly untrue; fabrications
invented by certain factions to allay political finger-pointing and
prevent full-blown public panic. Publicly, officials will
categorically deny most elements of this most bizarre story, but that
does not make my recording of the events any less true, quite the
contrary. As has happened too often in the past, the facts have been
suppressed, manipulated or obsfucated. Once more, I will attempt to
set the record straight, however impotent the outcome might be. The
fact remains that people died -- horribly, needlessly.
You may have heard my name before, I was a
newspaperman of some repute (both honorable and ill) during the
mid-forties through the mid-eighties. After several years of
bare-knuckle brawling on the streets of New York City in my final tour
as an investigative reporter (finally procuring my coveted
Pulitzer), I semi-retired to Central Florida in 1986, purchasing a
small daily called the Lake Obsidian Sentinel, where I serve as
Publisher, Senior Editor, Chief Copywriter and Janitor. I do have a
receptionist (a corpulent, daytime television-addicted senior citizen
named Betty), an ancient printing press, and my indispensable laptop.
Due to certain -- shall we say -- past
indiscretions, for this accounting, I must change my name, location
and some names of persons close to me in order to protect myself; it
seems there are still particular individuals who would take great
pleasure in charging and imprisoning me, even at my advanced age. As I
have been advised on many occasions in the past, the statute of
limitations for a murder warrant -- even a bogus, trumped-up one --
never expires. That said, the following events, as unbelievable as
they may seem, are indeed factual.
Item: June 1st of this year, 9:15
a.m., town of North Bay on the northwest bank of Lake Okeechobee,
Florida. A Condition Red was sounded at the North Bay Nuclear Research
and Development Facility. HazMat and the EPA were both dispatched and
a twelve-square mile area around North Bay was cordoned off for nearly
a month. The official story from the EPA indicated that it was a ‘test
drill’ to determine safety protocol for the facility. HazMat teams
were on hand for the entire month of July and classified telephone
and Internet records would later reveal that there was constant
communication with the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta during
this time. Officials from an ‘unspecified government agency’ made
their first appearance at 6:15 p.m. on June 1st. Pirated
flight records indicate that they were flown in via military transport
from Washington, D.C. to Palm Beach International Airport. All records
of vehicle rental or lodging have been conveniently lost or destroyed.
Item: June 10th through 25th, North Bay.
Numerous incidents of alleged UFO activity were reported to local
police, federal authorities, the FAA as well as several assorted and
sundry secular UFO-sighting agencies, such as MUFON and others. These
were unusual ‘sightings’ in that they seemed to be very small
craft, flying in formation accompanied by a high pitched trilling
sound. Officials summarily dismissed these sightings, explaining them
away as radio-controlled airplanes being flown by a local RC club. A follow-up
interview later confirmed no such activity on those dates by the North
Bay Radio-Controlled Aircraft Association.
Item: July 1st, 11:45 p.m.. North
Bay, on the Bar None G Cattle Farm of 85 year old MacKenzie Gavin.
After hearing a loud ruckus outside his barn, Mr. Gavin rushed outside
with an ancient side-by-side double-barreled shotgun. He found five of
his prize cows dead, one bull near death. There were no predatory
tracks near the slain animals and no blood had spilled on the ground.
He did find a long, hollow shaft imbedded in one of them, which was
later confiscated by authorities along with the cattle carcasses --
none of this evidence has ever been seen again.
Item: July 4th, 6:15 p.m., Cove
City Campground on Lake Okeechobee, 10 miles east of North Bay, 25
miles south of Lake Obsidian. The Carlisle Family, hailing from
Chicago, Illinois, on their first family vacation in nearly five
years, vanished without a trace. Their camping gear was intact, dinner
sitting uneaten on their rented Winnebago’s foldout table.
Frantically running footprints seemed to disappear near the water’s
edge. Six months later, five skeletons found in the shallow water near
the camp site were confirmed as belonging to the missing family.
Subsequent to the initial disappearance, however, the Campground was
closed by authorities, who posted 24 hour guards (in protective gear)
to ensure no one entered the area.
Item: July 5th, 8:00 a.m., Cove
City. The mayor announced on the local radio station that as a result
of a sentinel chicken testing positive for a particularly virulent
strain of mosquito-borne St. Louis encephalitis, there would be a
mandated sundown curfew in and around Cove City. It was merely a
precaution, but one he and the city council felt was a necessary one.
By all accounts, you could almost feel the smarm oozing over the
Item: July 23rd, 7:45 p.m., Cove City, again.
Lester and Chester Boggs, a twin brother fishing tag team, along with
friend Jim Everette, were braving the early evening humidity and
violating curfew, as they tried their luck with the large mouth bass
inhabiting the big lake. They had no idea just how unlucky their
evening would be.
Lester swatted the back of his neck.
"Damn, Ches, hand me some of that Off, and a Busch."
Chester regarded his twin mock seriously.
"Just don’t drink the Off and rub beer all over yourself like
last time . . . " He and Jim Everette laughed raucously.
Lester attempted giving the pair the finger,
promptly dropping his rod and reel clattering to the small bass boat’s
fish gut-strewn deck. Accompanied by a string of misused expletives,
Lester bent over to retrieve his fishing equipment. Chester’s eyes
widened and Jim screamed (in a very manly fashion, he would later
Hovering tentatively above Lester’s back in
the dark was an obscured, rapidly vibrating form, strikingly obvious
due to the fact that, even shrouded in the blackness, it appeared to
be half-again larger than Jim’s ham-sized head. A thick, viscous clear
fluid dripped onto Lester’s torn, soiled T-shirt.
"Whut?" Lester started, then
observed the pure terror on his brother’s and friend’s faces.
Chester Boggs reflexively pulled his chromed
Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum from its worn leather holster and aimed
at his brother’s back. Jim Everette got up to run and fell overboard
into the black Okeechobee waters. (It was his claim that he fell; my
suspicion is that he purposely jumped. In either case, the action
doubtless saved his life.)
"NO!" Lester shrieked, thinking his
brother was preparing to kill him. He would’ve been much better off.
Something abruptly speared Lester through the back, piercing layers of
skin, fat, muscle and sinew until finally impaling his rampaging
What actually happened from that point is
unclear. The ‘official’ autopsy reports contend that Chester and
Lester Boggs both died almost simultaneously from massive coronary
thrombosis, unrelated to the hazards normally related to nocturnal
fishing activity. Jim Everette, after several beers and Jack Daniels’
shooters courtesy of the Lake Obsidian Tavern, related a quite
different, quiet terrifying story.
The big gun fell to the deck, thumb-cocked,
and discharged, briefly and indistinctly illuminating the dark form
hovering directly over Lester’s heart. Accompanied by a shrill
humming that sounded like small aircraft landing, Chester was abruptly
enveloped by a dozen or more of the black shadows, waving his arms and
screaming frightfully. Mr. Everette swore he could hear loud slurping
sounds coming from the boat. "Sounded like a buncha teenagers
down to the Seven-Eleven sucking down Slurpees." Jim Everette
said he treaded water for more than two hours, daring only to take a
quick breath through his nose every several moments, for fear of being
the "Black Death’s" next victim. Finally, assuring himself
that they had left, he fearfully dog-paddled toward the drifting boat.
An arm dangled over the side, the middle
finger dipping into the dark waters. The skin was wrinkled, pruned as
if it had been under water for an extended period of time. Everette
once saw an unfortunate fisherman, what the Coasties called a ‘floater’,
who had been retrieved after a week in the big lake, and the mottled,
ruined skin looked similar.
He finally mustered enough courage to hoist
himself above eye level to the railing, straining to listen for the
high-pitched, menacing droning that had been the harbinger of doom for
his twin friends. He said he screamed aloud (again) when he saw what
had happened to the Boggs Brothers. I imagine he actually urinated on
and quite probably defecated himself.
Both brothers appeared desiccated, as if all
fluids had been drawn from their bodies. There were large, oozing
puncture marks surrounded by virulent red welts. Worst of all, Lester
Boggs was actually still alive. "Heeeeeellllp meeeeeee . . .
" he croaked. There would be no helping Lester. Before Jim
Everette’s eyes, both brothers’ shriveled flesh turned a violent,
mottled purple and black, and then – by his account – began to
melt bloodily from their bones, falling to the boat deck in a series
greasy splats. Still staring at him, Lester’s pleading eyes
deteriorated into something that resembled curdled milk, and dribbled
down the exposed cheekbones. Ultimately, nothing remained except two
skeletons, and a boat sloshing liquified, lifeless junk. Everette said
he blanked out after that and knew nothing until he woke up in the
hospital the next day.
Of course, none of Mr. Everette’s
terrifying story can be corroborated, since what little remained of the Boggs Brothers
‘accidentally’ cremated courtesy of the Okeechobee County Coroner’s
Office, and all tissue and blood samples were conveniently misplaced
I came into it a few days after the Boggs
Brothers incident. I wheeled my tired ‘65 Mustang into the parking
space marked ‘Editor’ in the small, dilapidated strip mall just
outside Lake Obsidian, which housed my paper, the Sentinel. My
employee, receptionist Betty, was sitting just where I had left her
the day before, transfixed before the image of Jerry Springer
refereeing a family of inbreds. A randomly tossed bonbon ricocheted
from her mouth and bounced across the floor, but she kept chewing
"Hello, Betty, my dear. Lovely as
ever," I beamed, "Any messages?"
Without looking up, she replied, "You’re
I gave her my most winning smile. "On
both counts, love." She re immersed herself in the televised
madness as I threw my jacket and hat in the general vicinity of the
coat rack, and sat at my alleged desk. Firing up my trusty IBM laptop,
I hammered out a quick editorial about the town’s most recent
ridiculous initiative to purchase ten thousand acres of worthless
swamp land just east of town. I had just mustered the appropriate
amount of venomous sarcasm when the phone rang.
"Sheriff," Betty announced.
Thankfully, a Metamucil commercial had been extolling the numerous
virtues of fiber when the phone made its plaintive cry.
Sheriff John Glenn Sharkey and I had a
relationship that was long and bloody, and yet he was one of the rare
few I have ever called friend. Sharkey had been a Navy SEAL, trained
in death, blood and destruction. Burned out over the years, he elected
to move to the quiet village of Lake Obsidian with his family and run
for county sheriff. A decorated veteran, he won hands down. As it
happened, however, he would see more death and horror in this small
town than he could have ever imagined.
"Yeah, Shark?" I queried without
"Mr. Kovacs, I need you." The voice
was terse, much too formal for the man I had gone through so much
with. Not to mention all the horror stories over beers at the Lake
"But of course, Mr. Bell." There
was a pleading silence from the other end.
"You got someone sitting on your lap,
"My office?" He exhaled,
exasperated. "Please?" This couldn’t be good.
"Okay, Glenn. I’m on my way."
The last time Glenn Sharkey had been this
laconic -- and at the same time, terrified -- we both were nearly
killed. I headed to his office, posthaste.
They were all gathered in Sharkey’s
cramped, private office. The Mayor, Harlan Orison, was there. The
Assistant County Coroner, Dr. Lucy McEvoy, known not so affectionately
as ‘Lucretia McEvil’, was also there, holding forth with her
inimitable cool irritability. She was clearly annoyed at my arrival.
"Sharkey," she practically
screamed. "You didn’t tell me that – that parasite was going
to be here!"
"Why, thank you, Lucretia," I
countered. "Autopsied anybody alive today?"
She shot me a smouldering glare. "Not yet."
I gulped in spite of myself.
Sharkey rolled his eyes. He’d seen this act
before. "Dr. McEvoy, please. You know I value Charles’ input. I
think in your heart of hearts, you do too."
"Heart? Yeah, right." I murmured.
"Listen, you little – " had she
not been a quite lovely shade of dark mocha, her face would’ve
Sharkey really looked bad. His eyes were
sunken, his hair shot almost completely gray. He almost looked as old
as me. Almost.
"Please," he pleaded. I nearly felt
sorry for him. "Charles, what do you make of this?" He
handed me an eight by ten glossy, the stock in trade crime scene
In the bottom of a fishing boat, the skeletal
remains of the Boggs Brothers floated in the gelatinous soup that used
to be their bodies. Nonplused, I tossed the grotesque image back on
"Looks like a fishing trip gone bad to me.
Maybe should’ve brought along some sandwiches or Twinkies or
Dr. McEvoy snorted. Mayor Harlan looked as
though he might swallow his tongue. Sharkey was used to me, though.
"What could do this?"
I retrieved the photo. "How long?"
"They went out on the lake Friday night.
Found them Saturday afternoon."
"Well, Sharkey, you know the critters
out in the swamp . . . "
Finally, Dr. McEvoy spoke up, albeit quietly,
sans her usual bluster. "No. Nothing I’ve ever seen could do
this. Nothing in nature, at least."
I almost smiled. They were all absolutely,
quietly terrified. One of the few luxuries of living as long as I have
and witnessing the unimaginable horrors I have witnessed is that
practically nothing scares you.
"Serial killer, then? This state is a
magnet for nut cases." I handed that one to Lucretia on a silver
platter, but she didn’t bite.
"Maybe," Sharkey said doubtfully.
"Maybe. Charles, this happened near Cove City. We discovered a
similar skeleton just outside Lake Obsidian this morning. There have
been several other unconfirmed unexplained deaths in the area."
I looked at their frightened, hopeful faces.
Harlan’s face was hovering around pale green, McEvoy was pensive,
and Sharkey looked like he had just been given a suicide mission. I
shrugged, headed for the door.
"I’ll see what’s out on the
"Kovacs . . . " It was Sharkey.
I inclined my head in his direction at the
door. He was looking at me as though he might never see me again –
which, at my age, is always a possibility. "Charles, be
I saluted slovenly, mock cavalierly. "Of
First stop, the outskirts of town and the
modestly splendid dwelling of one Professor Erich Von Ehrlich. Von
Ehrlich was the antithesis of this broken-down old reporter, although
he was roughly my age. He had a mane of thick silver hair and a neatly
cropped van dyke. He also dressed like the millionaire he was, twelve
hundred dollar three-piece black suit, felt fedora with the brim
snapped rakishly over his right eye. Von Ehrlich had been the lead
tenured professor of psychology at the prestigious University of
Austria at Vienna in the mid-1960's until his wife had been found
inexplicably murdered in their home. Naturally, he was the prime
suspect initially, finally exonerated after weeks of investigation
determined that the time of death concurred with the Professor’s
appearance at a psychiatric conference at the university. Von Ehrlich
developed a strong interest in the paranormal at that point, focusing
his efforts – and his inherited millions – on the investigation
into what he believed to be the supernatural demise of his beloved
wife. He kept a picture of her – her corpse in quiet, forever repose
to be precise – on his desk. Charming.
"Good to see you again, Charles,"
Von Ehrlich said in his thick Austrian accent. "Please come
His deaf mute assistant, a huge, muscle-bound
Swede named Sven brought tea. "Thanks for seeing me on short
Von Ehrlich spread his arms in welcome.
"You are always welcome here, my friend." He sipped his tea.
"This is regarding the deaths?"
I slipped a little bourbon from a flask into
my tea. "Yeah. Got anything?"
He studied his tented fingertips. "As
bizarre as these deaths are, Charles, it is my educated guess that
they are not supernatural at all. The hand of man is definitely at
work here." He smiled. "Technology rearing its ugly head
once more, I should think. A starting place for you might well be the
North Bay Nuclear Research and Development Facilty. I believe
they were having some 'problems' there just before the deaths started."
I was scribbling furiously. "Gotcha. You’re
not interested in this at all?"
Von Ehrlich exhaled tiredly and adjusted his
vest. "Only casually, Charles. I have other concerns at this
time." He glanced furtively around the room as if someone –
something – unseen were listening to us.
Sounded like a can of worms I was reluctant
to open, so I thanked the good professor and showed myself out, under
the watchful eye of the silent sentinel named Sven.
Next stop, a thirty-five-mile trip north and
an old friend of mine from Chicago. One who was intimately
knowledgeable about the reared ugly head of technology as well as
Gordon Spangler had been a morgue attendant
for many years for the Cook County Coroner’s Office. He had the
great fortune of winning the Illinois lottery several years ago, only
to nearly kill himself with the first purchase from the proceeds of
his winnings. Gordy smashed his new Corvette convertible into a
retaining wall on the Adelei Stevenson Parkway and wound up a
paraplegic. He immediately retired to Central Florida, building a huge
estate, complete with an Olympic-sized swimming pool that always
seemed to have a plethora of bikini-clad young ladies in attendance.
"Charles, you old cadaver," Gordy
said in his high-pitched voice, "great to see ya!"
"How’s it goin’, Gordy?"
"Ah, you know, I’ve got my work with
the Paralysis Foundation. And there’s always the Spangler Bikini
team . . . "
"Yes. Yes, quite impressive,
indeed," I said, trying in vain not to stare at a very buxom
young lady in three tiny swatches of gauzy cloth held together by
dental floss, who was bringing me an ice cold beer. "Er, why
thank you dear." She smiled, nearly blinding me.
"Charles . . . ?"
"Wha – ?"