The sun beat down on Rusty and Sharon as they trudged through the Grover County Forest Preserve. Sharon swigged from a bottle of water and wiped her brow.
“An alligator?” Sharon asked.
“I shit you not,” Rusty answered. “Longer than a super duty pick-up truck and it must have weighed just as much.”
“And you’re sure you weren’t…”
“What?” Rusty asked.
Sharon pantomimed tipping an invisible beer up to her mouth. “Glug, glug, glug?”
“No,” Rusty said. “OK yes. But so was Gordon. That didn’t matter. We both saw it. If he were here, he’d tell you the same thing.”
“”You have to admit it’s a pretty unbelievable story,” Sharon said.
“You think I want to believe it?” Rusty asked. “I’m telling you, thoughts of that giant monster will haunt my dreams forever. And just like I told Hammond, Buford is somehow behind it all.”
“So what are you saying?” Sharon asked. “Buford controls the alligator like he’s some kind of pet?”
“Yeah,” Rusty said. “Only they were having some kind of squabble, like the gator wasn’t listening to Buford and trying to do its own thing.”
Sharon sighed. “A misbehaving alligator.”
“Talk to Britney Chase,” Rusty said.
“The holes in the floor at the bathroom scenes inspected would, in theory, be commensurate with a large alligator busting through,” Sharon said. “But still. An alligator coming up through a toilet to eat an unsuspecting bathroom user? I thought that was an old wive’s tale.”
“Apparently not,” Rusty said.
“How could an alligator even fit into the pipe that connects the toilet to the sewer?” Sharon asked. “There’s no way he could squeeze into a space that tight.”
“I don’t know,” Rusty said. “But it makes sense when you think about it, doesn’t it? How else could a killer have gotten to three separate locations in such a short amount of time unless he had a means of travel other than a traffic clogged highway like, say, a sewer system?”
“I guess,” Sharon said.
“And how could he sneak into a bathroom, kill the victim, not just kill but totally splatter them everywhere?” Rusty asked.
“I’d been thinking a woodchopper was involved,” Sharon said. “But I suppose a big set of gator jaws would do.”
“These were the biggest I’d ever seen,” Rusty said. “Chock full of razor sharp teeth.”
Sharon sighed. “I want to believe you but…”
“But what?” Rusty asked as he slapped a mosquito that was buzzing around his neck.
“This is so…unlikely,” Sharon said. “There’s got to be another explanation.”
“I wish there was,” Rusty said. “Believe me, I wish there was.”
Rusty and Sharon stopped near a big swampy mud puddle to catch their breath. As they stood quietly, the frame of a man slowly emerged, commando style, from the mud behind them. When the man was on his feet, he was completely covered with mud, save for the whites of his eyes, which he used to stare intently at the intruders. The handle of a big, jagged knife sat precariously between his teeth.
The man removed the knife from his mouth. “Halt! Who goes there?”
Startled, Rusty and Sharon turned around. Rusty squinted at the mud caked man. “Moses?”
“Rusty?” Moses asked. “Sharon? Aww hell.”
Moses looked down to the mud puddle, where a hollowed out bamboo shoot was being used to provide air to another underground dweller. “False alarm, Felix!”