Genre: Man from UNCLE
Word Count: 1229
Written for the Spook Me Challenge 2017
My prompts: scarecrow and boogeyman
My photo prompts were:
Waverly had sent Napoleon and Illya to observe and report but not approach a suspected THRUSH lab. If they deemed it worthwhile, he would send additional men. No one knew what had happened, but THRUSH had seemingly abandoned it, lock stock and barrel. UNCLE was interested, but also suspicious as to why.
So far, they had been watching the site for a week and with the exception of one lone THRUSH guard, they saw no one. He walked slowly, as it carrying the weight on his shoulders.
As requested, they had observed and heard nothing until tonight. The guard was late for his appointed rounds and after a half hour, they went looking for him.
They discovered the guard’s body, mutilated and partially dismembered. His blood splattered the wall of the compound and it glistened black in the moonlight.
“What happened?” Illya shone his light around the immediate area. “I would swear that we were alone out here. You think wild animals?”
“I think we need to report back to Waverly and see what he wants us to do.” Napoleon’s voice seemed shaky and that puzzled Illya, but he was not one to question his partner. If Napoleon wanted to abandon the site, Illya would follow, questions momentarily unasked.
The moon was nearly full and it painted the dirt road and the fields a light blue. Dawn was close at hand as well. It was bright enough to not use their flashlights as they hiked back to the village and their lodgings and Napoleon seemed determine to make the journey as quickly as possible. For a long time, Napoleon walked in silence, but Illya could tell there was something wrong.
“Illya, do you believe in the boogeyman?” Napoleon asked.
The question so startled Illya that he tripped over a clump of grass. “The what?”
“The boogeyman. Surely you know what that is.”
“I know what a boogey is – that’s a golf term.”
“Bogey.” Napoleon automatically corrected his partner. Even after all this time, there were still times when slang jargon got the better of Illya. It wasn’t often, though, not anymore.
“Isn’t he an actor? Something about looking at kids.”
“Bogart. And it’s, here’s looking at you, kid.”
“That’s a nasty little thing that haunts kids.”
“That’s a boogeyman.”
Illya sighed. “I will never understand English fully.” He shook his head slightly. “Or you, I suspect, Napoleon. You are a big strong UNCLE agent with nothing or no one to fear.”
“Wasn’t there anything that scared you as a kid?”
“Well, Baba Yaga, but mostly I was just scared that my dad wasn’t coming home from the war. What brought up this topic, my friend?”
“Something I was remembering from when I was a kid. I grew up with more cousins than I knew what to do with, but there was one. Illya, she was something special.”
Illya chuckled at the change in his voice. “I’ll bet she was.”
“Her name was Ella. She was an older woman.”
“An older woman?”
“She was 16 and so worldly. She had flown all the way to California and back on her own. I thought she was a goddess.” Napoleon sighed and kicked a stone out of the way. “Maybe I still do.”
“So what does this have to do with the whatever-you called it?”
“The boogeyman. It’s like something that’s so foggy in your memory, you can’t be sure it happened.”
“I’m pretty certain that if you remember it, it occurred.”
“That’s what’s bothering me.” Napoleon smiled sadly at the memory. “Ella taught me how to be good to a woman and what they liked.”
“She seduced you?” Illya was dumbfounded. “That was technically breaking the law at your age.”
“We didn’t see it that way. I was madly in love with her and would have done anything for her.”
“That sounds like you. So, what happened?”
“It was late one night. I had been in the habit of getting out of bed and sleeping with her. Her room faced the sun and it would wake us up early enough that there was still time for me to get back to my room before my folks got up. They never understood why I was so tired that summer.”
“What would you have done if you were caught? I know your parents. They aren’t blind.”
“That I had a bad dream and hers was the closest bedroom.”
Illya laughed at that. “Oh, yes, they so would have bought into that.”
“We thought we were so clever. Anyhow, it was just after midnight when I got up and went to her bedroom, remembering to avoid the squeaky board in the hallway. I opened her door and that’s when I saw it.”
“The boogeyman. He was sitting on her chest and I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t think or even yell. I was paralyzed. It looked at me and grinned this horrible grin, all fangs. Then it winked, pulled back one arm and plunged its hand into Ella’s chest, ripping out her heart. I screamed then and passed out.”
Illya stopped walking. “My god, Napoleon.”
“I came to in my own bed. A lot of people asked me questions, but wouldn’t let me see Ella. I never saw her again and no one spoke of her. After a while, I got tired of trying. Then school started and I got busy and, God help me, I forgot about her.”
“What made you think of her tonight?”
“Something I saw. That night watchman…”
“When he passed by the shadows, I saw…” He paused, realizing that Illya was several feet behind him now. He looked back and then towards town. “Mr. Waverly is expecting our report.” Napoleon started walking again, waiting for Illya to catch up with him.
“What did you see, Napoleon?”
“Something, nothing. Honestly, I don’t know what I saw, but it looked like the guard was like a horse in a harness and something was holding onto the reins.”
“It winked at me. God, Illya, and I was so scared I did nothing, just like with Ella. He’s dead and it’s my fault.” He sounded so dejected that Illya stopped him by placing a hand on his arm.
“Napoleon, it’s not your fault. How do you kill a shadow?”
“With light?” The voice was hopeful, then Napoleon gasped. Illya spun. Standing in the middle of the road was a figure. It seemed to lash out at them with long talons.
Without thinking, Illya pulled his weapon and unloaded his special into the figure. It danced and jumped at the bullets hit it, but it didn’t fall.
Napoleon grabbed his flashlight and turned the beam on the creature. For a moment, neither man said a word, then Illya gave a weak chuckle.
“Guess we owe the farmer a new scarecrow.”
“Yeah,” Napoleon agreed weakly. “Illya, let’s get back, report in and head to the airport. I’ve had my fill of this place. Whatever THRUSH had in that place is long gone. It’s best we leave it in peace.”
Illya nodded and slid his weapon back into its holster. “I am in total agreement. Let’s go home.”
As they hurriedly headed for the beckoning lights of the village, they turned their backs on the scarecrow and missed its grin, a horrible fang-filled thing and it winked.