Author's Note: thanks for all the great reviews and support!
On the walk back neither was ready to broach the subject of what they had seen and by unspoken agreement, they didn't.
Until, that is, the Recovery Room nurse called to them. "Excuse me? Boys?"
Both boys turned toward her, worried that something had happened to Brian in the short minutes since they left.
"Hi," she said, smiling at them. "I, uh, didn't want to bring it up in front of your brother – we'd just gotten him calmed down again," she said, adding, "Seeing you two really helped."
Daniel caught the tone of her voice, though. She knew. "What can we do for you, Ma'am?"
"Your brother," she began, quickly glancing back to the Recovery Room area. "Before you two came, he was real scared. He believes he saw something out in the woods." She quickly picked up on the shared look between Evan and Daniel. "You saw it, too."
"I don't wanna talk about it," Evan told her and moved to leave.
"I think it's a wendigo," she blurted out, stopping Evan's movement.
"A what?" Daniel asked. "And who are you that you think you know what we saw?!"
The nurse looked around quickly, and then motioned the brothers into a small alcove. "My name is Marcia Singer. Obviously, I'm a nurse here in the Recovery Room," she began. Then, continuing in a hushed voice, she said, "But my Uncle Bobby – he… he hunts things. Nasty things. And I'm telling you that what your brother described – a scary looking man-thing – pale, hairless, skinny, yet muscular – it sounds just like something called a wendigo. Legend says it's a man that's gone feral; lost to the wilderness; turned cannibal."
"A cannibal?" Daniel balked. "This is Murphys, not some tropical wilderness with head-hunters and voodoo dolls!"
"We'll just tell the sheriff that thing's out there," Evan said. "He'll get a hunting party to go after it."
"You don't just hunt these things like deer or coyote!" Marcia exclaimed.
"You said your uncle does," Daniel countered.
"Look, I'd keep out of those woods for a while," Marcia warned them. "Leave the hunting to the professionals, like my uncle!" Looking at her watch, knowing she had to get back to work, she turned back down the hall.
Evan looked to Daniel, his older brother. "I think I believe her," he said.
"What?" Daniel asked.
"Can you explain what we felt? What we heard? What we saw out there?"
Daniel met Evan's gaze. He put his head down and shook it. "No."
"We gotta tell Adam what she said," Evan said and started back to the waiting room again.
A few minutes later they met with the rest of the family.
"How is he?" Adam asked.
"Groggy," Evan replied, dropping down onto the couch, feeling a little groggy, himself.
"He's gonna be a hurtin' pup this week," Daniel said, leaning against a wall. "But he'll be fine. Plenty of cute nurses to take care of him."
"He wishes," Crane put in with a smile.
"Hey, um, Adam," Daniel spoke quietly, getting his brother's attention, "we gotta talk to you. About, you know."
Hannah picked up on things. Things she wanted no part of yet. "You boys head on down to the cafeteria and talk. I'll stay here with Ford and Guthrie and take a little nap," she offered.
Adam nodded and leaned down, giving his bride a kiss. "Don't worry," he whispered to her. "We'll figure something out."
Adam, Daniel, Evan and an intrigued Crane were soon heading toward the cafeteria.
"So what's going on, boys?" Crane asked as they walked.
"Wait until we sit down, Crane," Adam replied. "You'll be needing to sit down for this."
After the brothers went through the line, picking out some drinks and pastries to hold their hungry stomachs for a while, Adam led them to a table at the rear of the cafeteria, away from anyone that may walk by.
After a few requisite sips from his coffee cup and a bite of a cheese Danish, Crane looked at his brothers and demanded, "What the heck's going on? You three looked more spooked than a Halloween ghost!"
"We… we saw something; crossing in the road on the way here," Adam started.
"It's a wendigo!" Evan blurted out.
"What?" Adam and Crane both questioned.
"It's a monster. Brian saw it in the woods. We all heard it," Evan explained.
"Monster?!" Crane balked.
"We saw something! It didn't look human!" Adam added, then turned to Evan and questioned, "Wendigo?"
Daniel broke in, raising his hands, silencing the others. Looking at Crane first and then the others, he asked, "Let me start from the beginning?" Evan and Adam nodded their heads. He began the story. "Brian, Evan and me went to Bob Carver's and got them cows back. We knew they'd been spooked by something – they broke right through the damn fence. On the way back, after fixing the fence, we looked around some, wondering what mighta scared them like that. Evan found a deer – looked like it might've been killed by a wolf. But…"
"But what?" Crane asked.
"It was a feeling," Daniel replied quietly.
"The kind you just can't explain – like when the hair on your neck just stands up," Evan put in.
"When that little voice in your head starts screaming at you, telling you that something's wrong," Adam added.
Adam, Daniel and Evan all looked at each other, knowing that they were each describing the same feeling of fear that they'd had in the woods, and then, later, on the road when they saw the… thing.
"Later on," Evan began, picking up the story, "Brian's horse picked up a rock or something. We stopped to get it out. It was while Brian was down next to the horse that they all got spooked and started jumping around. When the pack horse knocked Brian down to the ground."
"I'd swear a bobcat had swooped in and clawed the dang thing, but there wasn't a mark on him," Daniel remarked.
"Okay, so we've all had scary feelings out there. It's dark and lonely and on certain nights, anyone can get the heeby-jeebies," Crane remarked, trying to give his brothers an out.
"Brian saw something in the trees. Scared the shit out of him," Daniel said. "Almost clawed himself out of the backboard straps – and Marley had tied him in tight!"
"He was scared and in pain," Crane again tried to reason.
"We saw it, too," Adam said, his tone flat. "Crossed the road in front of us on the way here. Almost crashed the Jeep."
Crane saw the look in his brothers' eyes. They weren't scared or in pain while driving. Stressed, maybe… but he was beginning to believe they'd seen something. "What are you talking about? Bigfoot?"
Adam looked at Evan. "Where did you get that word?"
Daniel took over again. "The Recovery Room nurse, Marcia Singer. She said that she'd heard Brian talking about it – worried about us – describing it." He looked at Crane then, and said, "Man-sized, but it wasn't a man. Skinny, but with muscles. No hair; almost white it was so pale."
Crane couldn't believe what he was hearing. Had his brothers seen a monster? They were serious.
"The nurse called it a wendigo. A man that's gone feral, turned cannibal," Daniel continued.
"She said her uncle hunts things like that. That she was gonna call him," Evan added.
"We should just call the sheriff," Crane suggested, matter of factly.
"Oh, like he's gonna believe us?" Daniel asked, disbelieving.
The brothers looked at each other and then back at Crane. "No, I guess not," Crane replied. He played with his Danish, spinning the plate around. "So what do we do?"
"That nurse is gonna call her uncle. We'll help him hunt it down," Daniel replied.
"I don't want any part of that thing!" Evan exclaimed.
"We can't just let it roam the woods!" Daniel retorted. "Our woods!" he added for emphasis, looking toward his older brothers. "Adam?"
"We go on and take care of Brian and we take care of the ranch," Adam said.
"No, Daniel!" Adam interrupted, pointing a finger at him. "Not yet," he added softly. "Just like we hunt anything – deer, wolf, coyote or cougar – we don't go off half-cocked. We have a plan, and we stick together."
"We gonna wait for this Uncle Bobby guy?" Daniel asked.
"I think we should," Evan suggested. "I don't know, guys, but I believe that nurse."
Adam nodded his head. "And in the meantime, no one works alone; no one rides alone; no one goes out after dark," he ordered.
Marcia followed alongside Brian as he was moved from Recovery to a room in the Orthopedics wing of the hospital. She normally didn't follow patients beyond her assigned area in the Recovery Room, but she didn't have any other patients at the moment, and wanted to make sure she kept tabs on this one. She'd grown up hearing the horror stories and even seeing some evil in her lifetime, before she left her family behind to be a nurse. She didn't think she'd encounter anything like this again.
She winced in sympathy as Brian groaned in pain as he was transferred from the gurney to the bed and positioned in as much comfort as he could be. She helped the receiving nurse set up his IV lines and raise his injured leg.
"If he asks for his brothers, Evan and Daniel, they're fine," she told the other nurse, a guy named Tom. "Remind him that he saw them in Recovery."
"Yeah, I heard he had a long, rough night in the woods," Tom replied.
"That's… an under…statement," Brian whispered sleepily, having heard their conversation.
"Well, you're safe, now, Brian," Marcia told him.
"And so are your brothers," Tom added, figuring he might just prevent some issues from coming up later.
"s'good," Brian replied.