Were-Chair: Yet Another Short Story.

Flipping through the pages of an open book.

Morgan was lying flat on their back, on something lumpy and slightly damp. They could feel a thin blanket covering them, not doing much to protect from the cold. Several chattering voices could be heard close by, and Morgan could feel footsteps around them. They opened their eyes.

“He’s coming to,” a police officer attracted the attention of a nearby paramedic.

“They”, Morgan said automatically, before trying to sit up.

“Easy there, don’t move, we still don’t know what’s happened to you,” a paramedic rushed to their side.

Morgan lay on the grass gazing up at the fading full moon through the trees as the paramedics poked and prodded them, with only a blanket preserving their modesty.

“Is this your blood?” the paramedic held up Morgan’s hands, both of which were streaked with blood, “I don’t see a wound.”

“I’m fine, really,” Morgan responded, slowing sitting up, “where’s my-“

“Wheelchair?” the police woman said, pushing a wheelchair towards them, “here. It looks damaged, the seat cushion is ripped, and there’s hair all over it. What happened?”

“I was attacked,” Morgan replied, “by a big dog. It pushed me over and I must have blacked out.”

“And it took your clothes?”

Morgan pulled the blanket a little higher, “it happened so fast-“

“Constable Lang, this poor disabled ma-, sorry – man with a disability, has just been attacked and you’re interrogating him as if he were a suspect? Sir, I’m so dreadfully sorry. Let’s get you back to the station to take a statement. I’m Detective Inspector Parks, Constable Lang’s supervisor,” the detective held out his hand for a handshake.

“It’s “they”, sir-“ Lang began before being interrupted.

“Just go put this poor man’s wheelchair in the car so we can get him somewhere warm and dry,” Parks barked. Morgan did not bother to correct him; they knew it would make no difference.

***

Back at Brightwater Police Station, Morgan had a shower and was given some ill-fitting clothes, before providing their statement. It was too vague to provide any solid leads to investigate, but only Constable Lang looked sceptical of it’s truthfulness. Two hours later, Morgan was driven home.

“Is there anyone who can let you in?” Detective Parks asked as they pulled up outside the home which still had the “sold” sign hanging outside.

“I keep my keys in a pouch on my wheelchair,” Morgan responded, “I can still feel them there. Phone and wallet too.”

“It seems you’ve been rather lucky then,” Parks said, “but maybe don’t go out on your own after dark. It’s not safe for someone like you.”

Morgan bit their tongue before unlocking the front door.

“Thanks for the lift,” Morgan said before going inside and closing the door behind them. They breathed a sigh of relief as the police car pulled away, before picking up the lint roller on the coffee table and methodically removing the fur from their wheelchair. The ripped cushion took some more work, but fortunately Morgan was skilled with a needle and thread. By the time they were ready for a daytime nap, their wheelchair looked as good as new.

***

“999, what’s your emergency?”

“It’s after me again! It’s hunting me!” a panicked voice came down the line.

“Sir, I need you to calm down and tell me what’s going on,” the responder replied calmly.

“The beast! I hit it and got away last night but it’s come back! You have to send someone to me now!”

“Where are you? Can you get to a safe location?”

“I’m in Brightwood village church,” came the response, “there’s steps so it can’t get in!”

“Can’t get in?”

“It uses a wheelchair. It could only get in if, oh God-“

“Sir?”

“The lift. We only had it fixed today. I can hear the lift.”

“I’m sending officers to your location now, just try-” the responder said. There was a growl and a scream before the line crackled and went dead.

***

A police car pulled up outside the church and two officers climbed out.

“Sounds like Pastor Martin’s been at the communion wine again,” one joked.

“Looks like it’s even spilled under the door,” his companion responded, laughing

The laughter stopped when they opened the church door. Pastor Martin’s mutilated corpse lay at their feet in a pool of his own blood. Pews were overturned, Bibles scattered, and splashes of blood decorated the walls. Two tyre-tracks of blood led away from the body to the back of the church, towards the lift.

As one officer left to call the murder in, the other noticed an envelope sticking out of the pastor’s pocket. He gingerly removed it before opening it to remove a USB stick which, after expressing disbelief that anyone still used such technology, would turn out to contain enough evidence of distributing child pornography to send Pastor Martin to prison for the rest of his life, had he had any life left to live.

***

Almost a month later, the hubbub surrounding Pastor Martin’s true nature as well as his demise had mostly quietened down. Morgan had been quietly keeping busy during that time, their status as an excellent Private Investigator having finally reached the ears of the citizens of Brightwood. The majority of their focus had been taken up by the strange illness that was affecting livestock on local farms with no apparent cause, that was decimating the animals. Even some of the people who worked on the farms were beginning to show signs of the same illness.

Morgan was pouring over charts of the local water supply, overlaid with a map showing where cases of the mysterious illness had been reported, when they began to notice a pattern. All of the farms affected were drawing most of their water from a small river nearby, and upstream of the river was a chemical waste plant, Helsen Ltd.

The name rang a bell. Googling the name quickly brought up a series of news articles about the factory, documenting the money-saving strategies employed by the owner, a Ms Lizzy Helsen. Employees had been paid below minimum wage, there had been reports of wage theft, and quality assurance inspectors had raised concerns over unsafe cost-cutting strategies including failure to maintain and replace equipment. Inspectors had even warned of the potential to cause severe and potentially fatal illness were practices not changed, but despite significant evidence of Ms Helsen’s wrongdoings, it would appear that her legal team were able to buy their way out of trouble each and every time an issue arose.

Morgan looked out of the window; an almost-full moon could be seen shining even in the daytime sky. Perhaps it was time to pay Ms Helsen a visit.

***

Detective Parks stared at the chaos. A crime scene almost identical to that of Pastor Martin’s murder lay before him. Ms Helsen was lying in a pool of her own blood; claw and teeth marks were visible all over her body. Her desk was over-turned, her computer smashed, and papers were scattered all over. An envelope poked out of her bloodstained handbag containing another USB drive.

“If this contains evidence of Ms Helsen’s activities, then I think we have some kind of vigilante on our hands,” Parks sighed, turning to Lang.

“Tyre tracks,” Lang responded.

“Huh?”

“There were tyre tracks at the last crime scene, and there are tyre tracks here too. They’re too big to belong to a pram, but small enough to be indoors. There’s only one wheelchair user in this village; the P.I. that was ‘attacked’ the day before Pastor Martin was killed. They’re our primary suspect.”

“Are you out of your mind? Morgan Croftwell is clearly a victim here! Whatever monstrosity is going around slaughtering people is obviously stealing his wheelchair so he gets blamed. You can’t expect me to believe a person with a disability would be capable of such heinous crimes!” Detective Parks fumed.

“They, sir, and I really do think they should be brought in for questioning.”

“Fine. But no funny business.”

“You know I don’t join in with that, sir,” Lang sighed.

***

Morgan sat in their wheelchair in a bare interview room, sipping water and gazing at the single-sided mirror. Constable Lang entered the room and took a seat opposite them.

“Where were you on the night of Pastor Martin’s murder?” she began without greeting.

“At home,” Morgan replied, “like the Detective asked me too. Not that it helped.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, that big dog, beast, werewolf thing still came and took my wheelchair,” Morgan said.

“Why didn’t you report anything?”

“I was embarrassed enough for the first time when you found me naked in the woods. I knew it would be returned so I didn’t bother you with it.”

“So, a werewolf came in, stole your wheelchair, and committed a murder in it. On two separate occasions-“

“Both on a full moon,” Morgan interrupted.

“Both on a full moon, “ Lang continued, “and you still didn’t report anything?”

“Why would I?”

“I’m asking the questions here. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that you murdered both Pastor Martin and Lizzy Helsen, and if the plaster cast of your tyres matches the tracks at both crime scenes, you could be going away for a long time. Because I presume you don’t have an alibi for your whereabouts on either night,” Lang continued.

“You already know I live alone, of course I don’t have an alibi. I didn’t think I would need one because I wasn’t going around murdering people,” Morgan returned calmly.

Lang opened her mouth to continue but was interrupted by Detective Parks’ crackling voice on the intercom.

“That’s enough, Esther. I’ll take it from here. I think those plaster casts you mentioned are ready.”

Constable Lang glared at her commanding officer as he entered the room before storming out.

“I really am very sorry about that,” Parks sat down, “now listen, son, I won’t lie. It’s not looking good for you. Not everyone has such a high regard for people with disabilities; they want to see you locked up because they hate you. But, for a small price, I can make all this go away-“

“A bribe?” Morgan asked.

“Think of it more like an investment into your local community. I can have those plaster casts accidentally destroyed, for starters-“

“Is this something you do a lot?” Morgan interrupted.

“Only when I can see someone’s innocent or guilty. Esther has a habit of wrongly accusing people who are clearly innocent, and protecting others who are guilty, due to circumstantial evidence. You know how it is with women; they really shouldn’t be in the police. Too emotional.

“Anyway, I’ll do this for you for less than half my usual asking price, just £200, and you’ll never have to worry about it again. You just can’t talk about it.”

“Have you ever planted evidence?” Morgan queried.

“It’s not planting if they’re guilty,” Parks brushed off the question.

“Fine,” Morgan said, “I’ll need to visit the bank to withdraw the cash, and I’ll give you it tonight. Meet me in the spot where you found me a month ago. That way, you can see this beast for yourself; the moon is still full enough for it to appear.”

“Great idea, you’re free to go,” Detective Parks stood up and opened the door just as Constable Lang came running down the corridor.

“They’re a match,” she said, holding up the plaster casts.

“That hardly proves anything,” Parks said, bumping into her. Both casts broke, and Lang watched in anger as Morgan left the building.

***

Detective Parks pulled up to the small wood where he first encountered Morgan, and turned the engine off. Despite the bright moonlight he could not spot Morgan among the trees. He turned on his flashlight and wandered into the trees.

“Morgan?”

Silence. He walked deeper into the wood, his flashlight illuminating only a small patch in front of him. He stumbled over a tree root but righted himself before falling.

“Morgan? If you don’t give me the money, I can make sure you’re incriminated again. A deal’s a deal,” Parks said.

A twig snapped behind him. Parks whipped around, but couldn’t see anything. He pulled out a truncheon anyway.

“Morgan!” Parks yelled.

He heard a growl and turned back around, coming waist to face with a wheelchair-using werewolf. It was larger than the wheelchair could comfortably accommodate, and self-propelling was clearly difficult with oversized paws.

“Sh-“

The werewolf sunk his teeth into Parks’ waist, and his claws ripped the truncheon from Parks grasp.

***

The next morning, a dog-walker reported a body in the woods. Constable Lang drove out to the crime scene with a horrible feeling that she knew what she would find, and her heart sank when her intuition proved accurate. In the woods lay Detective Parks’ mutilated body, with an envelope containing a USB stick in his pocket, and tyre tracks leading away.

Esther immediately left the crime scene with her colleagues and drove to Morgan’s house, intending to arrest him on suspicion of multiple accounts to murder. When she arrived, a fire engine and crew were putting out the smouldering remains of a fire. There was nothing left of the house but dust and ash, and the only sign that Morgan had ever been there were the dusty remains of tyre tracks leading to the stream, where any further trace of them disappeared completely.

Several months later, rumours began to circulate from a nearby town of gruesome murders of local figures taking place on the full moon, always with tyre tracks leading away from the corpse…

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