A Taste of Home – Chapter 20

chapter Twenty

“I don’t care what in the hell you have to do or whose head you have to jump over, cut the power to the fairgrounds!” screamed the deputy over the radio. “I’ve got some guys that are pretty close to losing consciousness if they don’t stop spinning soon!”

Toby was perched behind grass tall enough to hide his presence from the officers, but their confused conversations were perfectly audible through his canine ears. The chaotic dialogue was coming in loud and clear. Had he not been so worried about Katie’s well-being and the possibility of the mausoleum swarmed by a dozen amped up guys with guns, he would’ve found the entire situation a little more amusing. Now, he waited for the ideal opportunity to show himself. He knew his adversaries were unable to resist giving chase.

“No, the Air Force Base is on a totally different grid!” the hysterical deputy shouted again. “I don’t care what you have to do! Cut the whole town off!”

He’d barely finished his sentence when the entire area fell dark. All the midway rides were quieted, leaving only the rain to provide a rhythmic soundtrack for whatever was to come. With a blast from a deputy’s service weapon, the jumbled, metallic mess Toby made of the Gravitron’s locking mechanism was shot off the door, and the nauseated men were escorted down the steps. They writhed frantically, clutching their guts in pain, in the wet grass, praying the world would come back into focus. Again, Toby stopped himself from laughing aloud. The comical scene playing out was an accurate illustration of the taxpayers’ dollars hard at work.

“Where do we go now?” a young, clean-shaven deputy asked the others.

“We need to go help Sheriff McGee find Liberman’s hiding place in Clark Cemetery,” replied an older officer with stripes on his sleeves. He was obviously the one in charge. “If we can get this guy where he sleeps, he’ll have nowhere else to run.”

“Are you crazy?” the young one asked. “The last thing in the world I want to do after tonight is hang out in a creepy old cemetery to try and find a werewolf’s nest!”

“You’ll do exactly as you’re ordered, or you’ll face the consequences!” the elder informed him matter-of-factly. “You don’t know what it’s like to cross Jessie McGee. I can tell you from experience it’s something you don’t ever want to do.”

The men who’d been scrambled by Toby’s longtime nemesis, the Gravitron, were now back on their feet and beginning to gather their bearings. It wouldn’t be much longer before they’d be heading back to their vehicles and toward the cemetery. Somewhere along the way, Toby’s mortal fear of confrontation between himself and the men with guns had evaporated.

His reflexes were far swifter than the deputies’ clumsy trigger fingers and, no matter how many of them he faced, had the advantage of their fear. He continued to listen for his opportunity. The young deputy spoke again.

“Where in the hell do you think that furry bastard went, anyway?”

“The same place any scared animal would go when it’s being hunted,” the ranking officer bellowed. “To his hideout. That’s where we’re going.”

With heavy feet, they all turned toward the parking lots and began their muddy trek to their vehicles. The sergeant’s hollow words of encouragement failed to inspire much more than a fleeting bit of courage in his subordinates. There’d been a dozen of them before, and Toby Liberman had lured them one group at a time into separate traps. Only a few remained. As they walked, each wondered silently if there were enough of them to get the job done.

From his hiding spot, Toby measured their distance at a good 50 yards. It would give him more than enough to build the speed needed to carry out his impromptu plan and divert their attention from his last remaining loved one. As he walked quietly behind them in the pouring rain, his dark fur and enhanced muscles appeared underneath his torn clothing. In the span of a nanosecond, he dropped to all fours and began to sling the moist earth behind him as he barreled down on their position. With a powerful leap and bloodcurdling howl, he cleared all their heads and landed on the lowest branch of a tree at the edge of the fair’s midway. Slowly, the disguise faded away and he stood tall as the man they all recognized as Toby Liberman.

His screeching sent them all diving fearfully to the mud-covered ground. Clumps of grass flew about as they shook their hands and feet. They wiped their muddy faces with their sleeves, their furious faces clear to the ragged man who stood on the tree limb separating the officers from their vehicles. Silently, they all stared in amazement. They each had one hand on their weapons

“Hey, boys! Wow. You guys look like crap!” Toby taunted them.  “You want to go play with some airplanes?”

“Liberman!” the sergeant shouted as he stepped forward.  “You must really have a death wish to come back now and challenge us!”

“Nope,” he replied. “I don’t have a death wish of any kind. I just know what I’m capable of doing to each one of you before you could even think about pulling your little peashooters out of your belts.”

The events of the evening lent undeniable credibility to his statement, and it resonated deeply with each of them.

“Listen, I’m going tear your Sheriff limb from limb, but first we’re going to go play a little hide and seek.”

“Liberman!” the sergeant continued, “If you so much as step one of your hairy feet onto that air base, then you’re a lot dumber than I thought. Those military police will rip you apart! Now, why don’t you be a good dog and come over here and turn yourself in?”

Ahh, the easiest of scenarios. Sure, he could’ve just hopped down from his perch with his hands held high and saved both himself and everyone else involved a load of trouble, but why? All these men followed the orders of the man directly responsible for the death of his beloved wife and his best friend. They could be trusted about as far as they could be thrown. He mused silently if he was the one doing the throwing, that would be quite a distance. All contradictions aside, he couldn’t trust them. No sooner would he be cuffed than they would open fire on him. His death would leave Katie alone in the world. Alone, and at the mercy of Jessie McGee.

“No, I don’t think so,” Toby spoke again. “But it was a pretty nice gesture on your part.”

“So help me, if you jump off that tree branch,” the sergeant threatened again.

“You’ll do what? Follow me?” Toby questioned. 

It was exactly what Toby wanted!

“I triple dog dare you!”

Toby transformed again and bolted into the darkness toward Ellen Air Force Base. As his pace quickened, he knew bullets and badges would not be far behind. He landed directly on the windshield of the first squad car, shattering it into a million pieces. Hopping deliberately from car to car, he repeated the process until every vehicle looked as though it’d been competing in a demolition derby. Still one-hundred yards behind him, the officers clenched their fists in anger at the repeated smashing sounds coming from the parking lot. Having completed his complimentary auto-detailing for the Sherriff’s department vehicles, he bolted across the deserted two-lane highway which separated the fairgrounds from the fence line of Ellen AFB. Stopping to glance over his shoulder at his pursuers, he raised his head high and sent a victorious howl up into the rainclouds. Once he was certain the deputies saw his location clearly, he leapt over the razor wire fence and vanished among the hangars lining the roadway.

“Come on, dammit!” the senior officer shouted to the others. “We’ve got to get over to the front gate, or we’ll never get in this place! Someone call dispatch and tell them to warn the MPs!”

As they ran through the muddy field toward the lights of the base’s west entrance, search lights along the flight line came to life. If ever a man existed who felt like the entire world was against him, that man was Toby Liberman. Luckily, he knew this place like the back of his own hand.

His plan was to wait until they were all deep within the labyrinth of Ellen AFB and caught up in their search, then he would exit the way he’d entered leaving them to their madness. After that, he’d make a frantic dash for Clark Cemetery, grab Katie, and head toward the big city through the cattle fields and country roads separating Twin Oaks from Dallas. Once there, they could find a place to lay low long enough to figure out the next step. Jim Savage would have to wait for his exclusive and Jessie McGee would earn a temporary reprieve from Toby’s vengeance.

Toby’s emotionally driven quest for murder began to take a back seat to his survival instincts. The opposition against him was a little too overwhelming. Ducking inside of a familiar hangar and crouching in the darkness, he watched the first of many armed patrols run past the doors with assault weapons at the ready. Temporarily safe, he returned to his human form and caught his breath.


Mike Hathcock was a civilian worker at Ellen Air Force Base for nearly a decade and never heard the emergency sirens before. He was much too creeped out by their never-ending wail to ask the military security personnel why they were activated. This was one of the most difficult weeks of his career, and he didn’t want to make any waves.

Production at the base had almost come to a complete halt as workers took personal leave to attend the numerous memorial services taking place in the small town. Many of the projects and planes assigned to him were already weeks behind schedule. Mike commuted from Dallas each day, and he hadn’t known many of the deceased personally, but most of his subordinates were well acquainted with or related to one or more of them.

First was the boy, Ryan Weldon. He was only a school kid and nowhere near the legal age to work, but he’d shown up quite often to play football with a lot of the guys after their shifts ended. It was rumored he’d lost his mother in an automobile accident and his father was a complete deadbeat. To most of the men, he was just another kid that showed up wanting to prove something by running circles around them. To Hathcock, it seemed the boy was looking at each one of them as a surrogate father to take the place of his fallen personal idol who ignored his very existence.

Second was Johnny Haynes. Johnny was a thorn in his side since day one of his employment. Smart-mouthed and cocky, he’d made Mike the butt of so many of his jokes and pranks, he felt as though high school never ended. When Mike finally made the position of supervisor, he was overjoyed discovering Haynes was not a member of the department to which he’d been assigned. Of course, the hope the bully would bow to a superior was short-lived since the abuse only seemed to intensify. He was the brother-in-law and best friend of Toby Liberman. Part of Mike Hathcock’s team, Toby was currently wanted for murder and on the run from every gun in Myrtle County.

Then there was Toby Liberman’s beautiful wife, Jessica. She was rumored to be killed by her husband and then burned in their house. He’d seen her once at one of the many Christmas parties the base threw for its civilian employees but was too intimidated to approach her. His thoughts rarely strayed from his own lovely wife, but Jessica Liberman just seemed to illuminate the entire room with her elegance. That one memory stayed with him all this time, and it nearly brought him to his knees when he heard the news of her demise. Such beauty and charm seemed wasted on a lump like Liberman.

Toby was a different story altogether. Granted, he’d been a good worker and, for the most part, followed orders except when Johnny Haynes came around. Together, the two of them were a little hard to swallow from time to time. Mike would’ve never thought Toby Liberman was even remotely capable of the things the local law enforcement was accusing him of, but when he placed all the puzzle pieces together, it seemed to make sense. There was no denying the evidence made public so far. Unfortunately, Toby was so successful in evading law enforcement over the previous week it seemed the truth behind all the grisly business might never be known. Hathcock was an outsider but he knew the ways of Twin Oaks well enough to know local law enforcement would shoot Toby Liberman on sight if the opportunity presented itself. This knowledge was one of the reasons he was grateful to call Dallas his home. Murders happened there daily, but he didn’t know any of the victims or killers personally.

The most recent update via the news media stated Toby’s teenage daughter was missing as well. They presumed her to be dead. If this proved true, it took the crisis to a completely different level of twisted. To think that he’d spent years within the same breathing space as a psycho murderer.

Reaching deep into his pockets, he retrieved his cluttered key ring and locked his office door behind him. He’d never really liked traversing the darkened spaces of the hangar at night because there were way too many obscured hiding places. Mike Hathcock’s management style was pleasant, but still, one could never know when a disgruntled employee might snap and possibly direct dangerous, misguided anger at an uninvolved party. Suddenly overcome with OCD, Hathcock tried the door to his office to be certain it was locked. It was. He tried it again just be sure. The sirens echoing against the empty walls weren’t helping to calm his increasingly agitated nerves. Finally coming to the hangar’s exit door, he could see the military police assault vehicles shining their spotlights into the dark spaces between the dozens of planes parked on the flight line. Who or what were they looking for? Oh well, it didn’t matter. He was going home and leaving them to it. With any luck, it would all be over in the morning.

“Sir! Go back inside the hangar and lock yourself in the office until we give the all clear!”

The jolt of the unexpected shouting combined with his now completely frazzled nerves caused him to utter a slight yelp at the airman’s orders. Betraying his better judgment, he inquired again as to what was happening.

“Excuse me, what’s going on?”

“Sir, go back into your office and lock the door! That’s an order!” the airman barked again.

“Well, lucky for me, I’m not in the Air Force,” he laughed.  I’m a civilian employee. Now, would you please tell me why I can’t go home to my family tonight?”

The military policeman was beginning to lose his patience. He despised working so closely with the civilian managers.

“Sir, for your own safety, please go back inside the building await further instructions.”

“Wait!” Mike Hathcock interrupted. “What do you mean, ‘my own safety?’ What the hell is going on here?”

Having reached the end of his patience, the airman shoved the insubordinate man back into the hangar and slammed the door behind them both, filling the empty air of the immense structure with a resounding metallic echo. As soon as complete quiet returned, Mike Hathcock got his answer.

“Look, if you absolutely must know,” the airman started. “That murdering bastard Toby Liberman is running loose somewhere on this base!”

The words Mike Hathcock heard began to run together in a confusing, never-ending stream of incomprehensible sounds. His stomach lurched forward as his darkest fears came to fruition.

“The local cops were chasing him around at the fairgrounds and he jumped the fence!”

“The razor fence?” Mike gasped. “How did he jump that?”

“I don’t know,” the airman replied. “It trips me out, too! Anyway, they’re all here, and they’re pissed off and trigger-happy. Damn rednecks.”

“Well, what in the hell are we going to do? Why can’t I just get in my car and drive out of here before that lunatic decides to punch the clock and come back to his old stomping grounds?”

The military cop jerked suddenly at the realization.

“Wait,” he paused to process what he’d just heard. “He worked for you?”

“Yeah, but what does that have to do with anything?” Hathcock asked nervously.

“It’s all the more reason to get back into your office and lock the door! If he hides out anywhere on this base, he’s going to do it in a familiar area!”

The airman turned suddenly, exited the hangar, slammed the door behind him again, and ran in the direction of the gathering military patrols. Alone in the dark, Mike Hathcock’s dread came to life in the emptiness of the spacious building. Every shadow was suddenly out to get him. His knees shook uncontrollably. Opening the door slightly to peer out at the activity beyond the blue and red illumination of the airstrip, he contemplated his immediate future. 

His initial instinct was to run as fast as his legs would carry him toward his car and head for home. He would almost certainly be stopped at the front gate, but as far as he was concerned, the front gate was far enough. At least he would be in the presence of people with weapons instead of cowering alone in the darkness of what he hoped was an empty hangar. His only other option was to do exactly as the military police officer instructed and hide like a frightened child underneath his desk. To calm his nerves, he began to speak aloud into what seemed like endless darkness and prayed that no one was available to answer.

“Okay,” he began nervously “If there’s anyone else in here, you better come out now and show yourself! I have a gun!”

This did nothing to calm his fears. 

“No, you don’t!” came a voice from an unknown direction. “Has there ever been a point in your life when you weren’t an exaggerating liar?”

“Who’s there?” Mike screamed, nearly crying.

There was no response. His knees began to tremble so violently that he had trouble remaining on his feet. Who’d spoken to him from the darkness? Was it one of his workers hiding out just as he was? He was not particularly inclined to investigate. Flinging open the metal door to the hangar to run for his life, he was halted by the voice again.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

 “And why not?” Hathcock demanded.

“Because they’ll all come running in here blindly, and they’ll probably shoot you along with everything else in here. They’re idiots, you know. Idiots with guns.”

“Yeah, but they can protect me!” Mike snapped back.

“Why would they need to protect you? You said that you had a gun. Remember?”

No longer in control of his own legs, Hathcock slid against the closed door to a sitting position. Crying softly in the darkness, his tormented psyche neared a state of mental breakdown.

“Don’t cry, puss. I’m not going to hurt you or anything,” came the voice again.

“Then, what are you going to do?” Mike sobbed loudly to the unknown.

“My plan is to sit here until everyone calms down and goes away,” explained the voice. “You’re going to do the same.”

 “And if I don’t?” shouted Hathcock with a mix of fear and anger.

“Trust me,” came the voice after a long pause. “You will. You’re too much of a joke to do anything brave.”

At this point, Mike knew for certain it had to be one of his workers playing a horrible game with him because the voice in the darkness knew him entirely too well. He didn’t have a brave bone in his body but that wasn’t exactly public knowledge. The fear of termination kept the workers in line every day. Money wasn’t easy to come by in Twin Oaks. The intimidation of workplace superiority and the mighty ink pen were all he needed to meet his deadlines. 

“Are you one of those damn football-playing, goof-offs that work for me?” he asked with a bit more tact.

“Maybe,” came the voice again in reply.

“So help me, if I find out exactly who you are, I’m going to make sure that you’ll be in the unemployment line by the middle of the week. Show yourself!”

 “I can’t.”

“Why not?” the supervisor demanded as all signs of fear gave way to righteous anger.

“It’s dark and you won’t be able to see me,” came the reply with a slight laugh.

The man was nearly at the end of his wits. This was his hangar, and he was responsible for the people and planes inside. Someone who answered to him when the lights were on had grown a pair of balls, and Hathcock was going to do everything within his power to make sure he ripped them off before the night was over. He was convinced this was not Toby Liberman he was dealing with. After all, Toby was so clever in avoiding everyone else. He’d never be so foolish as to put himself in a situation as precarious as this one.

“I’m going to count to five, and you’re going to come out of hiding OR I’m going to go outside and bring everyone else back in here with me to kick your ass from this base!”

“I told you I can’t show myself,” the calm voice replied.

 “Why not?” Hathcock screamed again.

“Because you’ll scream like a little girl with a skinned knee.”

The civilian supervisor had experienced more than enough insults for one night. On his feet again, he began searching blindly for the control panel which worked the lights within the hangar. If the man in the darkness didn’t want to reveal himself upon request, then he was going to be revealed on Mike’s terms. His hands hit the familiar buttons laid out on the control board and he flipped them all simultaneously to reveal his hidden adversary.

The hangar door had no sooner burst open than the terrified man ran through it, screaming into the night and drawing the attention of the search party. Toby could see perfectly in the darkness and when he saw Hathcock’s hands on the control board, quickly transformed into his wolf persona. He wanted to terrorize Mike Hathcock while simultaneously concealing his true identity. He’d succeeded in both. His only real regret was that Johnny hadn’t been there to witness the tormented look in Hathcock’s eyes.

Springing high into the air and ascending the sloping tail of one of the hangar’s multiple cargo planes, he exited through the open skylight of the building onto the roof. From there, he could see his pursuers were dispersed widely, trying to locate the source of the interminable shrieking. Screaming at the top of his lungs, Mike Hathcock was now comically running down the wet asphalt of the flight line in soiled shorts. Toby paused momentarily to be sure he was alone then leapt agilely from rooftop to rooftop until he again reached the razor wire fence at the outer perimeter. With the lights still extinguished in Twin Oaks, he could see clearly for miles. There was no traffic on the highway, and he had a clear shot into the woods beyond the fairgrounds toward the cemetery.

The deafening sirens fell silent. The military police, basing their assumption on information provided by Mike Hathcock, believed they had Toby cornered. They’d lost a few moments waiting for Hathcock to catch his breath and stop speaking gibberish. All those currently in pursuit were now busy searching the interiors of the base’s structures. That is what Toby wanted. He made his escape by leaping the fence and running toward freedom and Katie. It would be hours before the military police figured out he’d led them all on a wild goose chase. Of course, this ideal eventuality was completely contingent on Jessie McGee and whether he’d catch up to Toby on his way back to the mausoleum.

     When his luck ran out, he hoped McGee was around to force the final confrontation. Pushing those thoughts to the back of his racing mind, Toby lowered his head and picked up his pace through the forest toward his daughter.

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Toby Liberman is nearing the end of his rope. After a fateful confrontation with his wife’s lover, he is chased into the woods only to be discovered by an unidentifiable creature. He is attacked and rendered unconscious. Upon waking at the scene of a gruesome triple homicide, Toby is arrested as the sole suspect and thrown into a jail cell with a strange man that knows way too much about his predicament. The stranger reveals to Toby that he now possesses the curse of the werewolf. Using his new-found strength to flee his captors, Toby begins to discover that things are not what they seem in the sleepy town of Twin Oaks, TX. Now hunted by law enforcement, as well as the town’s gun toting civilians, Toby seeks vengeance against his false accusers and embarks upon a quest to clear his name once and for all. 



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