Kolchak: The Night Stalker
One Voice in Your Defense
Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is! The title is inspired by a line in the song It's Probably Me. The monster is based on the Lovecraftian Shudde M'ell created by Brian Lumley, but is most likely going to be something else. Thanks to Crystal Rose and Kaze for plot help!
Carl Kolchak was hiding behind a tree, his tape recorder clutched in his hands. Next to him, stuck upright in the ground, stood an old and heavy sword. He cast a furtive glance over his shoulder before quietly hitting the Record button.
"Usually I don't document my ventures at this point of investigation. I'm too busy getting ready to contend with whatever's running loose." His eyes narrowed. "However, if I don't get down what has already transpired, the world may never know. I honestly can't say that the one coming back from this battle is going to be me. And if it isn't, well . . . the world is facing a danger unlike any they can even conceive of."
In the far distance, lights in several of Chicago's high-rise buildings flickered and went out. Kolchak regarded them in concern, but did not stop to take a picture.
"For the last several days Chicago has been terrorized by an evil so ancient, it may have existed long before the first human walked the Earth. It knows of right and wrong, good and evil, but it considers itself above any such moral alignments. To others of its kind, and perhaps even the Druids and other long-ago peoples, it was a god.
"To the people of Chicago, including my former boss Tony Vincenzo, it is a horror that they cannot—or will not—believe in. But . . . they may be forced to now."
"September 1st, 10:25 P.M.
"Marion Jackson wasn't expecting to see anything unusual as she walked home that late summer night. According to meteorologists, autumn starts at the beginning of September, and the temperature was certainly chilly enough to go along with that. But what Marion found in Cantigny Park made her forget all about the cold.
"It also made headlines across Chicago before anyone could put a lid on it.
"At INS the next morning, keyboards clicked and clacked, telephones rang off the hook, and people were all a-chatter. No matter what they believed about what had happened the past night, there were several facts that could not be denied. Two people had been brutally killed, and a third, stricken with amnesia. The only witness—or so Marion Jackson claimed to be—had a story that only added to all the commotion. And that gave rise to a scene all too familiar to the employees of the Independent News Service."
Tony Vincenzo slammed the newspaper on his desk in utter disgust. "A giant worm?" he roared.
"That's what it says, Tony! Marion Jackson claims that those people were killed by a monstrosity of a worm with tentacles all over its head!" Kolchak tapped the paper. "And it did something to that third person so that now she's wandering around without any idea of who she is!"
"Then it did something to Marion Jackson so she'd come back and tell a crazy story that no one in their right minds would believe!" Tony shot back. "I don't believe this! Several of the biggest papers in town are running this copy! The police must be going out of their minds that this slipped through."
"The whole crime is pretty unbelievable, Vincenzo," Kolchak said. "The first victim's spine was snapped in half. The second was found strangled at the top of the tallest tree in the park. And then you have the amnesia victim wandering around in a daze, seeming to be suffering from some unknown, untraceable drug in her system."
"And you have Marion Jackson claiming that she saw a big worm cause all of that chaos before disappearing back into its hole in the ground!" Tony got up, agitated.
"And there was a hole in the ground!" Kolchak said. "Some of the dirt had fallen over it, but it was loose, and the S.W.A.T. team dug through and found a long tunnel! They followed it until they discovered an offshoot that had completely caved in. Explain that, Vincenzo!"
"I can't explain it!" Tony snapped. "I don't want to explain it."
"You don't want to face the possibility that a huge worm came out of the ground and killed those people!" Kolchak said.
"Of course I don't! Do you, Kolchak? Do you really?" Tony started to pace.
"No!" Kolchak said. "I'd really rather not. It's frightening. In fact, it's downright horrifying. But! If it's the truth, then it has to be faced—by me, by you, by everyone!"
Tony turned away, throwing his hands in the air.
Kolchak pointed after him. "Aha, aha, see? You can't say anything against it because you know I'm right!" He crossed his arms. "I just wish I'd gotten the exclusive on this," he said. "But the ironic thing is, if I had, it never would have gotten printed and Chicago probably wouldn't be in an uproar today!"
He grabbed his camera and tape recorder and reached for his hat in the bin. As he walked in determination toward the door, Tony turned to look.
"And just where are you going?" he demanded.
"I'm going to see what else I can learn about last night's crime," Kolchak said. "After all, Vincenzo, even you can't deny that it's news. All of it, including the mention of a giant worm!"
"Kolchak!" Tony chased him to the walkway. "You are not going to follow up on the angle of the giant worm! The police are saying that . . ."
"Whatever they're saying, it's probably a cover-up," Kolchak called over his shoulder. "But I'll be sure to look into that, too. Just wait, Tony! I'll bring back a winner for the evening papers!" He marched through the door and towards the entrance.
Tony watched him go, running a hand through his hair. This was a scene that had repeated countless times since he had become acquainted with the maverick reporter. One instance blended into another until it all felt like déjà vu. At last Tony turned away, shaking his head.
Kolchak really wanted to do his own thing. That was what he did time and again, no matter how many times Tony yelled and screamed and tried to order him to cooperate. And, like a fool, Tony kept him on in spite of all the defiance and all the wild stories he brought back.
The thing was, when Kolchak got down to it, he was a heck of a reporter. Editors and publishers across the country had recognized that too, but they had not had the patience or the will to put up with his shenanigans. Why was it that Tony did?
He sank down at his desk with a sigh. Well, at least in this case he had to admit that Kolchak was going after a big story.
He just did not want to end up putting a story about a humungous worm on the wire.
"Have you seen this rot?"
He looked up with a sigh. Ron Updyke was standing in the doorway of his office, holding up a newspaper. The headline boomed, Witness Claims Giant Worm Murderer.
Tony sighed again. "Yes, Ron. I've seen it. All of Chicago's seen it. Probably by now, the entire country's seen it!"
Ron sniffed as he turned away. "Who would have thought that someone else would have Kolchak's initiative?" he remarked as he walked to his desk. "And more than that, that their story would even get published?"
Tony stared at his own copy of one of Chicago's leading newspapers. Police Intensify Search For Giant Worm. "Who would have thought," he echoed.
"September 3rd, 12:05 A.M.
"The papers didn't last very long, I'm sorry to say. By the evening editions, every one of them had retracted the story and was running a piece about the witness—whom I had tried and failed to contact all day—having obviously been under too much stress from the horrific kills she had seen. She had not really seen a giant worm; perhaps her mind had convinced her of that so she would not have to face the fact that a human being had done something so gruesome.
"It left several gaping holes in the story, such as how the second victim had been placed on the top of a tree and where the tunnel had come from. But by now you have surely come to realize that those who cover up stories such as giant killer worms really don't care how outrageous and unfathomable their forced retractions sound. I came to that knowledge several years ago and somehow am still shocked and appalled that they think the American people are so stupid they will believe such cover-ups.
"Unfortunately, most of them do. Many of them simply don't care. Others are certain that they are not being lied to. They're little more than a flock of ostriches sticking their heads in the sand.
"I do get a great deal of satisfaction out of the fact that these days, more and more people are getting wise. In Chicago that chill autumn night, there were a lot of our fair citizens who weren't buying the sudden retraction.
"Especially after the next murder.
"I arrived on the scene fresh from an argument with Tony Vincenzo over the aforementioned human ostriches and asinine retraction stories. I wasn't in the greatest of moods. And I was looking to prove that the original articles were closer to the actual truth, a goal that my dear nemesis Captain Mad Dog Siska was determined to thwart."
Kolchak pulled up in his yellow Mustang, nearly cutting off a squad car in the process. He leaped out, surveying the scene ahead in stunned disbelief. Just as before, there were two dead bodies. There was also a large quantity of disturbed dirt, quite possibly the entrance to yet another tunnel. Kolchak snapped a picture before advancing.
The sudden flash gained him the attention of the great majority of the law enforcement officials who were present. "Kolchak!" Siska roared.
"I got here as soon as I could," Kolchak said. "I see that something has been at work again." He frowned at the bodies. They were grotesquely mangled. Ron probably would have fallen ill then and there if he had come. Not that he had wanted to.
"Someone," Siska snarled. "Not something. Just forget everything you and all of Chicago read in the morning papers!"
"And you expect me to believe that one person did this?" Kolchak gestured at the corpses. "They're twisted like pretzels!"
"So the perp had help!" Siska snapped.
"And when they were all done they dug their very own escape tunnel that would collapse behind them," Kolchak said, his voice dripping sarcasm. "I wonder why. Did it feel like the thing to do? Maybe they dug their way out of the state looney bin first, so it was becoming a tradition!"
Siska's eyes flashed. "Kolchak, get out of here right now!" he screamed. "You're obstructing a police investigation!" He looked to two bewildered officers. "Get rid of him!"
They stepped forward, reaching for Kolchak's arms. He jerked away in indignation.
"I'll walk," he said. "But just tell me this, Captain—how long do you really think you can keep something like this a secret? The witness described the worm as being probably fifty feet in length, perhaps more. And no matter how hard you try, not even the Chicago Police Department can conceal a fifty-foot worm. Sooner or later, it's going to come out where a lot of people will see it. What will you do then? Say they're all suffering from a mass hallucination?"
Siska refused to dignify the question with an answer. Particularly since he feared Kolchak was right. "OUT!" he boomed, pointing towards the cars.
Kolchak turned away. "I'm going, I'm going," he retorted. "Don't get your moustache in a bunch."
He was smouldering as he got back in his car and started the engine. The police did not know how to deal with this. Before long they would probably be calling the National Guard. Either that or the National Guard would simply show up. And they probably would not know what to do either. What could be done, until the worm was seen again?
Somehow he had to find Marion Jackson. After searching all day he had finally managed to uncover her address, but she was not home at all. Maybe they had stuck her in the psychiatric ward of one of the city's hospitals. That was something he intended to check on come morning.
As usual, Tony would not want him to publish anything he came up with in connection with this angle. Tony's last words before they had parted ways involved an order that Kolchak either get a new angle or else go interview the actress Adele Lomax, who was in town promoting her upcoming movie.
It was highly unlikely that Kolchak would do either. And Tony likely knew that.
Good old Tony, long-suffering as Ron sometimes called him for some reason. Now, if Kolchak could only convince him of the worm story enough that he would be more receptive to printing it.
But that was unlikely too. Especially since all the influential people in Chicago would be breathing down Tony's neck for it to be left alone.
Kolchak frowned. No amount of pressure could make him give up a case. Because of that, he often expected the same of others. He absolutely did not feel that people should allow themselves to be pushed around and bullied.
Tony had a different opinion. While he did not like being pushed around and bullied, he did not usually fight back or defy. He was generally content to be careful, to not do anything to rile the Big People. Still, when there were enough facts, he could be persuaded to go along with Kolchak's ideas.
That was what Kolchak needed now—enough facts. And without Marion Jackson—or the worm itself—he would probably not get them.
"September 3rd, 2:15 A.M.
"As I drove off, Captain Mad Dog Siska's beloved screams ringing in my ears, I had no idea that within hours my life as I knew it would be drastically changed. And not only mine, but the life of someone I knew—or thought I knew—very well.
"Tony Vincenzo, harried and frustrated as usual, had stayed late at the office. It had been an exceptionally busy day and night, and he only was able to find time to break away in the two o'clock hour. If he had left sooner, or even later, maybe it would not have happened."
Every muscle was aching as Tony navigated the darkened Chicago streets. And he had a classic tension headache. It was no wonder, after the workday he had had. And he still did not know where Kolchak was off to. He had tried several times to call, without success. Honestly, sometimes he had to wonder why Kolchak even bothered with a phone.
He had practically had to twist his reporter's arm to get him to upgrade to a computer. And he still used film cameras and his beloved tape recorder. They worked just as well, or better, than modern technology, Kolchak insisted. And while electronic devices continued to be upgraded and easily break, the old things chugged along, working and faithful as they had always been.
Tony let Kolchak do what he wanted on that matter. Then again, with a wild spirit like Kolchak's, it was almost impossible to do otherwise. He did exactly as he pleased, no matter what anyone else told him. That was a large part of the reason for Tony's headaches involving him.
Tonight, Tony just wanted to shove it all in the closet for a few hours and forget altogether. He would go home, have a nice drink, and go to bed. After the day from Hell, he needed to break into the hard stuff. He had a bottle of chocolate milk in his fridge, as well as a bottle of strawberry milk, for just such times.
The ground rumbling underneath the car sent a chill down his spine. He looked out the window, frowning at the road. What was going on? An earthquake? Or maybe it was nothing more than bumpy asphalt and his stress was magnifying what he was feeling.
But the tremors continued. If anything, they grew worse the farther he traveled. He fumbled with the radio. Were there any reports of earthquakes hitting Chicago? He had heard nothing of the kind before leaving INS. Still, it had become impossible to deny what he was feeling. He pulled over to the side of the road.
Whatever it was, was right under his car. The vehicle rocked from side to side, bucking almost like a mad bronco. Tony gripped the wheel, panicked. Undoing his seatbelt, he fumbled for the door and stepped into the street, shaking.
The grass just to the side of the road exploded into the air. A ghastly, horrifying creature burst out of the ground. Just outside the cemetery, someone screamed.
Tony's mouth fell open in horror. This . . . this was . . .
The thing reached out with the tentacles sprouting from its head, curling them around a hapless passer-by on the sidewalk. As Tony watched, it lifted her into the air and began to twist her limbs unbearably, apparently trying to tear them out of their sockets. She struggled and fought and clawed and cried, desperate to get away.
Tony shook himself out of his daze. "Hey!" he yelled. "Let go of her!" At the moment, he did not even stop to think that he was ordering an astronomical worm around. Not knowing what else to do, he grabbed up a large rock and heaved it at the thing. It glanced off the beast's head, but that was plenty of damage.
The worm turned to face Tony. Still not releasing the woman, it shoved Tony's car out of its way with several more tentacles.
Tony backed up, his heart pounding violently in his ears. If he had stayed in the car, he would probably be seriously hurt or dead now. Not that he was not about to have the same fate anyway. How could he ever hope to go up against something like this?
The monster would have none of it. Even as Tony tried to look away, some sort of beam bore into his face. He cried out, his hands flying up for protection. The pain exploded behind his eyes, overwhelming him. He sank to the road, slipping out of consciousness.
His senses made a slow return. The pounding headache in his temples, unfortunately, announced itself very quickly and with insistence. Tony groaned, turning onto his side as he tried to crack open his eyes.
It was still night; a streetlight shone on his location from across the road. And everything was quiet, eerily so. Tony started to rise up on his hands.
"What the . . . what happened?" he rasped. His car was lying on its side further down the street. Had he jumped free of it when there was trouble? He surely could not have been inside it when it crashed. It had fallen on the driver's side. And the windshield was not broken. Anyway, if he had gone through that, he would never be in as good a condition as he seemed to be.
He hissed in pain as the headache raged. Maybe in a few minutes he could get his phone and call a cab and a tow truck. Perhaps he should have a doctor check him over, but he would far rather just go home and rest. In the morning, after sleeping in a bed and not on concrete, he would surely feel better.
After a moment the pain subsided enough that he reached into his pocket for his cellphone. He frowned at the list of missed calls. There had been two from Carl Kolchak. What was that nutcase reporter doing, calling him at four in the morning? Wasn't it bad enough that he had to deal with Kolchak day in and day out at the office without being bothered after hours?
Kolchak really should not even be at the news service at all. Why hadn't he been fired? He had been going on about that outrageous giant worm story earlier that day. In fact, that was probably what he had called about. And that was the last thing Tony wanted to hear.
Tony searched through the Internet on his phone until he found the number of a good tow truck company. Maybe they would not even be open so late, but he was going to try anyway. He wanted to get his car out of the road and get going on getting it fixed. And he would like to know what was wrong with it in the first place, too.
He never realized something was also wrong with him. As far as he was concerned, other than the headache, he was perfectly normal. But if anyone he knew had seen and talked with him, they would have recognized it within moments.
Slowly and shakily he pulled himself to his feet. Holding a hand to his head, he cast an idle glance towards the cemetery on his right.
His mouth dropped open in shocked horror. A mutilated body had been draped over the iron spikes on the cold gate. Deep crimson blood had dripped around the spikes and pooled on the ground.
His hands shaking, and unable to tear himself away from the unimaginable sight, he tapped out 911 on his phone.