The Starkweather clan has a long, wide-spread history of monster hunting. Two of their number, Rex Starkweather and Allen Starkweather, met for the first time when a relative died and left them a parcel of land. They sold it and split the profits, and decided hunting together was safer than hunting alone. They got a 60s era Mustang, fitted out the trunk as an arsenal, and hit the road.
- Rex Starkweather (Shaun) a.k.a. Ryan Starkwater, a skilled investigator with a taste for tequila. He also is close to a sister his age named Charity.
- Allen Starkweather (Simon) a.k.a. Alex Starkman, an outdoorsy hunter with a talent for relentless pursuit and a tendency to show off.
They were friends with a Special Agent Kylov; he worked for the FBI and quietly involved “subcontractors” on the weird cases. They attended his funeral a couple months ago; he was meeting a contact at a traveling fair, and got stabbed by an old blind man. A policeman witnessed the attack and shot the blind man, but Kylov died. Before he was reassigned, Kylov’s partner Rozenbaum quietly contacted the Starkweathers and told them Kylov had been looking into reports of old blind men around the edges of lots of other strange occult activity, and also checking into a cold case, Brandon Carraway, who was murdered in 1812 but may have been cropping up here and there since.
The luminaries of the Starkweather clan are growing more and more concerned about the old blind men cropping up in unrelated cases. In the meantime, hunt where the weirdness pops up.
Dissolution in Biloxi
Three unrelated victims died in Biloxi of a toxin or venom that almost liquefies them over time. The Starkweathers rolled into town to investigate, going with a Center for Disease Control cover to talk to the coroner. Rex’s charm and projected authority wasn’t enough to convince the coroner to cooperate, so the coroner called in to the CDC number on Rex’s card, and talked to the hunter they had working the phone bank in Maine. Checks out.
The three victims were Carl Smit, an algebra detective; Ada Wilson, a police detective; and Sally Welder, a city inspector. Smit died in his bed with no signs of a struggle, and what looks like thousands of spider bites, but no sign of any spider infestation or incursion. Wilson died in bed with her spouse, who was not woken, again with no sign of a struggle or sign of any actual spiders. Welder died in a hammock on a Saturday afternoon out in the backyard, otherwise the same as the others.
Even days later and after an autopsy, the bodies continue to break down; the bones are now the consistency of jelly, and massive puffing up has happened in the corpses. No eggs or anything were found, contrary to the coroner’s expectation.
They left the morgue and had a fantastic catfish dinner, then descended into a montage of investigation.
- Rex went to Smit’s house and interviewed the neighbors; Smit was unfriendly but kept a super-clean residence and landscaping. Rex followed up at the school, where the principal explained Smit was always happy to help with disciplining children. In looking for environmental samples in the room, Rex found the grade book (half the class was failing algebra, and Smit died the day before the big test) and he found a desk where a kid carved a picture of Smit being bitten by a huge spider. The seating chart said that kid was Kelly Saunders. Rex checked the student records, noting Kelly Saunders transferred in from New York in February, and had discipline issues with Smit, including a screaming breakdown the day before Smit died. Kelly lived with her aunt, Selene DuMont.
- Allen went to the Biloxi Conservation Center and talked with Mary Childers, the director. A quick review of the horror show of venomous or poisonous creatures in the American South yielded no close matches for what happened to the victims. (Though he did learn a lot about the terrors in nature’s food chain.) Childers did direct Allen to talk to Selene DuMont, an arachnologist (a made-up title) or spider enthusiast; Childers did not approve of the way she imported spiders from all over the world for a personal collection.
They had a brief conversation to touch base and update, then split up for another round of investigation.
- Allen dug into the internet to see what he could find out about Selene DuMont. He got her address and contact information, and an article in National Geographic a year ago, showcasing her greenhouse converted into thousands of plexiglass compartments for spiders so it looks almost like peering out of a compound eye to look around in there. Her niece, Kelley Saunders, had a juvie record in New York, and attended 3 schools in 6 years, had many behavior problems. She shed much of that documentation in moving to Mississippi.
- Rex interviewed Sally Welder’s widow, who was happy to help. Consulting the victim’s day planner, Rex discovered that Sally had been out to the DuMont estate the day before she died. The widow confirmed that Sally never thought much of the DuMonts, because of their comfort through Hurricane Katrina when so many others’ lives were destroyed. Not sure why she had an appointment out there, he’d have to check with her work place to find that out. Rex took a tequila break before wandering back to the hotel room.
Invasion of Privacy
They decided the next move would be to stealthily investigate the DuMont house and see what they could see about who was doing what. After a pleasant supper, they drove out to the outskirts of town, and parked the car off the road side, sneaking through the woods to creep up on the house. They evaded the security guard on the golf cart, and got up close to the house.
They looked into the study to see a woman they recognized as Selene DuMont having a conversation with two guests, who the Starkweathers realized were vampires! The biker dude spotted them, and charged. As they ran, Selene turned on the flood lights and said there were spiders in their clothes from the bushes, and if they tried to run they wouldn’t make it to the edge of the property.
They called her bluff, sprinting away, but the vampire was gaining on them. They pivoted and opened fire; the vampire shrugged off the clip of .45 slugs Allen fired, and hurled him aside, pouncing on Rex, who staggered him with the sawed-off shotgun. They wrestled the vampire down long enough to “cut his head off” with point-blank buckshot.
The slain vampire’s partner was racing out towards them, so they made the most of their lead and dashed for the woods. After a harrowing chase, she cut them off, and Allen staggered her with gunfire. She got around him and knocked Rex back through the trees, savoring Allen’s imminent death when Rex pulled himself together and shot her in the back. Allen managed a gruesome beheading with a clasp knife and a LOT of adrenaline.
They took some documents off her body and spent the time to look around for the pistol she slapped out of Allen’s hand, then they retreated to the Mustang. They took the back roads home, as the cops seemed to be out in force.
After taking showers, they consulted the documents. A fake driver’s license for the gorgeous vampire put her name as Elsie Smith. She had a Latin document they used the computer to translate that said she was to agree to any reasonable trade of violence in exchange for her silk services, signed Carraway.
Rex lulled himself to sleep with tequila, and both of them had a good night’s sleep, rising somewhat refreshed.
Now they were looking at a witch AND vampires, and ALSO a possible connection to their murdered friend Kylov (who was looking into Carraway.) Looking through the morning news, they didn’t see anything about their armed exploits the night before, but they did see a “human interest” piece on the Famous Fandabulum, a traveling fair that was in town camped on the outskirts. Also, some probing into recent real estate transactions, missing persons reports, and related matters revealed a possible hit for a new vampire nest; just days ago a junkyard near town was purchased with cash. That could be a nest with more vampires.
They decided to check the fair out first, loading a backpack with sawed-off shotguns, machetes, and holy water. There were the standard booths for games of chance, two mechanical rides, a big tent, a center stage out in the open, buskers with or without small stages, and then RVs and trucks and trailers parked behind it all. They bought tickets for microtransactions, and strolled around taking in the sights and sounds and smells.
A slick and friendly man named Strazi returned Rex’s wallet from where he “dropped it” (all the money was there.) He encouraged them to see his knife-throwing show in the tent that afternoon.
Looking around the RVs they saw that most of them were sun-proofed and could serve well as vampire lairs. Then they noticed one, parked furthest away, with peeling ancient paint and radiating a sense of foreboding. A man sat outside, casual. But the RV was distressing at some primal level.
Leaving that for later, they were returning to the fair and saw a fortune teller’s tent. On a whim, Rex had his sister’s fortune told; overall, things were looking up for her. He got a palm reading too, with a short life line but a deep passion line.
Allen aggressively competed at the balloon popping booth, winning a torso-sized panda. He gave the panda to some admiring young ladies, who went with the Starkweathers to the tent show to see Strazi’s show.
They observed that Strazi was making shots with his throwing knives that didn’t seem possible; over the shoulder at thirty feet hitting between the target’s spread fingers while she spun on a wheel? Then they spotted the old man standing almost invisible in the shadows by the stands.
The old man in the black suit with the bowler hat and the dark glasses.
(Stay tuned for next time!)