Jeremy spend a week locked in the confining cell of a hospital room and was finally dispatched after he threatened to sue for overcharge. Some policemen came by to investigate but he could tell their interest wasn't that great, after all he hadn't died. Obviously this little fun trip to the ER via ambulance wasn't going to be cheap. He could already feel it in the way his stomach twisted, saying 'yep, Remy ol' buddy, time to start savin'." he'd been right, much to his eternal dismay. The bill was huge and would surely put a sizable dent in his savings, something he couldn't afford to have happen. Agnes needed all the money he could get and yet at the ripe old age of thirty-three, he couldn't even get a proper job. It was a sad and somewhat harsh truth when he looked back on his past and realized that at some point in his miserable life, he could have gotten a decent start and turn things around.

The first thing Remy did after getting out was to go to the bank. There had been nine thousand dollars the last time he checked. he had gotten five thousand as the initial ten percent deal and a part of him wished that crazy company could maybe cash in the rest. There wasn't much hope, but a man could dream.

To Remy's great surprise, the digits glowed almost smugly in the small ATM machineAll fifty thousand dollars were in his account. For a tiny instant, Remy almost felt that getting his chest cut open was worth all the trouble and pain. He rubbed the stitches through his shirt and shrugged mentally. He didn't really want to go to the police on this one, after all they did give him the money. Maybe there had been some part of the contract that he hadn't really read thoroughly before sloppily jotting down his name. After withdrawing then thousand dollars for his and Agnes's hospital bills, he left for Benny Leto's diner/bar.

Benny's place was located in a tiny corner of their town, a good couple of miles away from the city hospital. Remy rattled along the bumpy road, his snow tires churning up flecks of ice and grit. He'd stuck his left arm out the window, tapping on the side of his battered silver Volvo SUV. The clean cold air was crisp and sweet, the sun shone in a clear blue sky and their tiny Colorado town was at her best, buried under six inches of sparkling cottony snow. The radio announcer at their local news station prattled on and on about the weather. He hummed tunelessly and let his mind wander.

Evelyn had divorced him. Even after two years, his heart still swelled painfully at the thought of waking up to an empty bed and an empty house. She had been his high school sweetheart and had been truly the love of his life. There had been no hesitation, the first moment he had set eyes on her, he just knew. She was the one. And she had been, with her rich brown hair and sparkling grey eyes and beautiful smile. They had loved and supported each other throughout their ten years together. Had it been that long? He couldn't remember. They had, despite the strong disapproval from both sides of the family, gotten married at the age of twenty three. Then they'd built a small haven in their hometown of Austin, Texas. He'd gone on to train in the military and would have gotten pretty far had it not been the explosion that had embedded over thirty pieces of broken shrapnel in his back. He'd been honourably discharged two months later and when Evelyn got to him, he'd still been in a deep coma. The doctors had told her he was probably going to remain like that for the rest of his life, an empty shell without so much as a flicker of brain activity.

But his wife hadn't given up on him. They moved from Texas to Colorado and she hid the knowledge from her disapproving parents who urged her to find someone else while she was still young. She'd come to the hospital everyday and sometimes she would bring their tiny baby daughter and Evelyn would read him books, old classics like Moby Dick and The Old Man and The Sea. It was odd how despite being in a coma, he could still remember the stories in clear detail. Then one day, he'd just sat up and grabbed her hand. It was simple as that, he didn't know whether it was god that had been moved by his family or the great love he had for his wife and daughter that gave him the strength to find his way out of the fog, but he had a feeling the sound of his wife's voice had a lot to do with it.

Then his life had spiralled out of control. He'd taken up drinking and drugs, had smashed their bathroom mirrors, unable to look at his hideously scarred back. He'd refused some job offers and had been kicked out of others for fights and brawls. His wife had taken on a secretary job, Franklin D. Royce's actually. As time passed, she slipped away from him little by little and he made no attempt to persuade her to stay. Then Agnes had gotten sick and he knew it was over. But she had given him one last gift and left Agnes under his custody.

He'd sobered up pretty quick and realized that his life lay in ruins around him. He'd gotten different jobs, dangerous ones and safe ones, just to get enough money for his daughter's treatment. She was now required to stay at the hospital twenty four seven. Benny had been the only guy that hadn't kicked him out for fighting and Remy was grateful for the bartender job. It didn't make a lot of money but he had other incomes, dangerous and illegal stuff yes, but he couldn't let his baby daughter die.

Something red and black shot out of the woods on the right and Remy jerked hard in his seat, coming out of his daydream as he stomped on the brakes. The car skidded to a halt, the engines whining in protest. He hopped out of his car and patted her side. He had heard a shriek and a thump but the thing had been moving too fast for him to identify what type of animal it was. There had been a huge tail alright, he had seen it. He circled to the front of his car and stared.

There was a gash about a foot long in the front bumper, the metal was hissing and steaming gently, some sort of strange green liquid oozed from the puncture. He felt the hair behind his neck rise and Goosebumps broke out over Remy's skin. The forest around him was suddenly silent. He looked around, eyes scanning the woods for any signs of movement. There was a flash of red on his left and he whirled around. There was nothing there.

Remy crouched down and raised a gloved finger to the gash in his car. The stuff ate through his leather gloves like fire through ice and he felt its heat over his finger tips before he shrugged the ruined glove off. Smoke drifted from it slowly. He stomped on it and went back to his car, in a foul mood. Fuck, he'd have to spend money to get it repaired.

Remy drove off, mindless of the thing that watched him hungrily from the safety of the trees.

He arrived at Benny's diner in twenty minutes, parked outside and walked into the surprisingly nicely furnished place. It was a diner by day and a bar by night. It was a pleasant place to work in and he loved the couple who owned the place. Benny sat in all his five foot three inches of glory upon a tall stool.

"So, you're back." he drawled. Some of the normal customers sitting in the back let out hooting laughs and someone wolf whistled. Benny looked Remy over and sighed. He pointed to the empty space next to an olive skinned woman.

"Take that side of the bar, kiddo. By the way, Olivia has missed you." he paused. "And I have too, kid. Don't do that. Again, okay? And I expect you to be here all night on New Year's Eve to make up for it."

Remy nodded gratefully and Benny patted his shoulder, the gesture incredibly smooth despite the fact that Remy towered over him.

Olivia elbowed him the moment he walked over. She pointed to the laughing group and scowled. "They've been passing rumours that you got man-raped."

Remy snorted loudly and she elbowed him again, looking serious. "Have you been, you know?"

He put on an expression of delicate pain and clutched his hip, "yes, you wouldn't believe how much it aches. I think I'm going to try it again sometime soon."

She glared and he laughed. "Sorry Olivia, but your expression was just great. No, I got into some trouble and I was in the hospital." Remy informed her.

After making sure he was okay, they went back to their old routine of her serving and him mixing. There was a nice comforting silence until some unfamiliar guys came in. They placed their orders and Remy couldn't help overhearing tidbits of their conversations.

"Haven't found it yet, there could be more...escaped..."

"Deaths... Learning pattern... It's really intelligent but...can't survive out here alone surely..."

"No deaths yet...town..."

"I got this one." Remy said and took the drinks over to the men. He set the coffee down onto the table and glanced at one of the men. He had a pale narrow face and limp black hair that kept falling into his pale washed out grey eyes. He kept dabbing a handkerchief to his upper lip as if by habit and the skin there was already a mild red colour. The other man was old and had an air of command to him. His hair was silver grey and swept back from his face, his lips drawn down in a mighty frown. They both stopped talking when Remy came close and the pale younger man gave a wet gasp that he muffled with his handkerchief.

"Anything else, sirs?" Remy asked dutifully. They both said no and he wandered back to his place at the front. The rest of the day passed uneventfully and the men left after finishing their coffees. The pale one kept staring at Remy as he walked out the diner doors. Remy rolled his eyes when Olivia said the guy probably wanted to sleep with him.

He left at eight thirty after promising to stay on New Year's Eve, but he would get the day off on New Year's Day. Snow had started to fall again and he was halfway to his car when someone grabbed the back of his jacket and shoved him into the side of a building.

His heart fell when he saw his assailant. The five men crowded around him in the tiny alley, all big and beefy. Damn it, he had forgotten about Leon Whitman and the borrowed money.

"Mr. Whitman is getting tired of your sorry excuses. You better pay the money back or else we'll take your precious little snivelling daughter and-"

Remy's fist shot out and met the man's jaw, cutting him off. After that, they all charged at him, punching and kicking at Remy with frenzy. Normally, Remy would have been fine in a fist fight against five men if he hadn't been wounded; he hadn't taken training for nothing. But he was, and after dodging a large fist to the face, someone elbowed him in the chest. Stars exploded in his vision and there was a loud ringing sound in his skull. He doubled over, arms wrapped around his middle to shield his stitches, he couldn't afford another visit to the hospital if his stitches reopened.

The thugs soon got tired of beating him up because Remy had stayed stubbornly silent the whole time. Someone spat at him and they said something but he couldn't hear over the sound of shrill ringing in his ears. He felt them walking away, laughing and jeering at him. Remy pressed his bruised face into the dirty icy ground; it was probably going to swell up tomorrow morning. He slumped there for about ten minutes until he found the strength to stand and walk to a pay phone. Remy dug out four quarters, slotted them in and called Victoria. His nose was still. Dripping blood onto the ground and it felt a little bit broken. Someone had kneed him in the face. He wiped the blood away with the back of his sleeve. Victoria answered on the third ring.

"Hey Vic, I ah, I can't go see Agnes tonight. Tell her I'll be there in about two days." after my face stops swelling. He didn't say that part but Victoria could hear his slightly off-keyed voice and could probably deduce that he'd been in a fight.

"Oh, god. Jeremy, have you been fighting again?" she demanded in the phone. He winced and wiped his face again. Blood had crusted on his chin and his nose felt like it was swelling fast.

"Have you ripped your stitches? Is it bad?" she asked impatiently and he told her no, the stitches were fine. They were in fact fine; except the clear yellow pus had started seeping out again and it had swollen too, so much that it looked like he had a huge earthworm taped to his chest.

"Remy, you need to keep it in check. No more trouble from now on or Evelyn is going to take Agnes under her custody; I overheard her saying she was going to sue if you disagreed. Your daughter wants to stay with you but I doubt the court would be in favour of you if you keep up the fighting."

He cursed under his breath and was about to say something else but the toneless voice was telling him he was out of minutes. Remy hung up after telling Victoria he would visit his daughter as soon as his face was back to normal. With that in mind, he hobbled out of the booth and slowly made his way back to his car in the drifting snow, unaware of the carnage soon to take place.

Darry Fields and his goons wandered out from the secluded alleyway, feeling pretty good about themselves. Jeremy Brooks was the last name on the list of people to terrorize for today and they had successfully finished their job without any casualties. The boss would be pleased, not that any of them small fries had ever laid eyes on the loan shark named Leon Whitman. Now they were headed to the nearby bar for a couple of drinks.

Snow and wind picked up flecks of ice on the ground, the sound chilling and rattling like the howls of the demented. Darry pulled up the collars of his snow suit and walked a little faster. The light from an old lamppost illuminated his shadow and three others walking behind him. Darry walked on, his slightly drugged mind sluggishly turning its gears, trying to figure out what was wrong with that picture. Then he stopped and realized something. One of them was gone. Darry turned around and scowled at the startled faces looking at him. One, two, three.

"Where the fuck did Eddie go?" he demanded. The other three men all shrugged and mumbled useless things. Darry rolled his eyes and started to retrace his footprints. "He'd better not be thinking of slipping away this time, it's his turn to pay for the drinks."

They all turned back and headed back along the way to the alley. Darry squinted as something red streaked past him. He snorted and walked fast, squinting through the low light and snowflakes. Someone was sitting at the far end of the alley with their back to him. Darry squinted some more. Was it the dude, Jerry what's his name? Had they beat him stupid?

Darry felt impatience welling inside is chest and stalked over to the man. The man was seated Japanese style, with his hands in his lap and his legs tucked underneath his ass. Darry walked closer and saw the familiar yellow snow suit Eddie had been wear that week and cursed. He kicked the dude, thinking it was all just a stupid prank. That retarded bitch. He was fucking freezing out here, no way was he going to find this funny.

Eddie toppled over, his shoulders slumped and his head rolling back. It kept rolling and rolled off his shoulders with a wet plop, white steam coming off the severed area as his hot crimson blood met the cold snowy ground with a loud hiss. Darry stared and the shining wet skinless face grinned at him mockingly, its tongue ripped out of its mouth and gushing blood from the hole.

Darry screamed. One of the other men screamed too. He whirled around, cold sweat and goose bumps rising out of him like lava. There were two other men left. What?! There were two other men left? Where had the other guy gone? He ran toward them, they would have a better chance of survival if they stayed together. Darry drew out the small hand gun he always carried with him and raised it up.

"Who the fuck is this?! Come out or I swear I'm going to shoot!"

White vapour clouded the air in front of his face and Darry brandished his gun wildly. Something dropped down from above and he emptied his rounds into it. There was a wet gurgling sound from the thing as it went still. He approached cautiously and toed the thing. It flipped over and he saw with horror that it was Joe, the other guy that had gone missing just a second ago. He swore. Whatever it was, the thing was playing with them like a cat with mice.

There was a flash of red and something came down one of the old building walls and the next instant the guy next to him went down in a bright burst of red. Hot metallic blood splashed the right side of his face and Darry felt hot liquid run down his pant leg. He had peed himself. He'd fucking peed himself.

Darry's legs stopped working. The other man, Jackie, a huge black guy, was running blindly out of the alley. Darry knew he would be dead before he even set foot outside the alley. The thing stalking them was getting tired of games. The kills were now efficient and quick. Darry saw the thing jump down from the shadowy sky, land gracefully and raise its long sleek black tail to strike and down went Jackie.

It turned to him, saving him for last. The thing slid closer and into the light. Snow swirled loudly around them, howling like lamenting souls from hell. Darry saw it. He would have laughed if he wasn't so scared, would have given a hysterical giggle because the monster, and yes it was a monster, was wearing a faded red flannel shirt. He saw its elongated head, sleek and black as the gaping jaws of death, he saw the strong jaw and the gaping teeth and he saw the strong muscular body underneath the flapping flannel, but he still wanted to laugh so much that he felt like crying. Because what the hell, he didn't know monsters from the black lagoon preferred wearing red flannel shirts. Strong arms poked out awkwardly from the sleeves of the shirt and the thing hissed at him, a smaller set of teeth shooting out of its mouth. Darry raised his gun and at the same time, the thing lunged.

There were a series of gunshots, a long piercing scream and all was silent once again. Snow fell lightly over the five dead bodies piled in the cold abandoned alleyway.