Entry 19: The Empty Stall

With Joe Farmer’s permission to go over most of the farm, so long as they didn’t get in anyone’s way, Kota and Miles decided to start in the fields where the most recent attacks occurred. There wasn’t much to see there, and the way Miles kept sniffing at the rancid smell that lingered in the area just served to get on Kota’s nerves until he suggested they go and take a look at the animals themselves.

“Sure, if you think that would help anything,” Miles said.

The chicken coops were all shut and the vampire tapped on the new lock on the nearest one.

“What, did he think the monster would use the door?”

“Erin said that was one of the things that bothered Farmer,” Kota answered as he walked around the outside of the coop. He could hear the chickens inside, who did not sound thrilled about missing their time in the yard. He checked the other coops to be sure, but even the oldest among them had been well-made and there were no holes he could find or any sign of recent repairs to cover up a break in the defense. “I think even a snake would have a hard time worming its way through these cracks. There’s no way a normal wolf could get in here.”

“It might have just been a normal thief or vandal,” Miles said. He shrugged and pulled at the lock again. “It would explain why they moved on to cows after they put on the locks.”

“Let’s take a look around the barn then,” Kota said.

A woman loading a cart with baskets of crops pointed them to the milking shed, explaining, “That’s where we keep the dairy cows.”

“What about the steers?” Kota asked.

“Nah, we have to keep them in another barn. They haven’t been bothered by the monster, just the dairy cows for some reason. We’ve lost two of them already.”

Miles waited until they left her to her work and entered the dairy shed before saying, “See? Who would want to mess with a bull when there’s an easier alternative?”

“I guess that would explain why I didn’t smell another animal around,” Kota admitted. He walked around the middle of the floor, noting the empty stall on the end. “There were so many people around by the time I got there, and I doubt they would have noticed another set of footprints. They were looking for a wild animal, after all.”

“I don’t think so,” Erin said from the door. “No one around here would do something like that. They said something ate those animals and tore them apart! Who would do something like that?”

“You’d be surprised what some people are willing and ready to do,” Miles said. He leaned against the wall of one of the stalls and stroked the head of the cow inside who barely acknowledged him. “I’ve seen much worse, and that’s from normal humans. Irregulars like me and Kota just add more fun to the mix.”

“There’s really not much to see here,” Kota noted. “With so many people on guard now, I doubt whatever or whoever is doing it could go on for much longer without being noticed anyways.”

“You think they weren’t paying attention before?” Erin asked. “Delilah says that they’ve had some of the workers on night patrols for the past couple of days and they still didn’t see what happened. The horse was attacked inside the stable, and they wouldn’t have even noticed anything if it hadn’t screamed.”

“Which building was this?” Kota asked.

“I guess I could show you, if they don’t have it locked already,” Erin said as they walked outside. “I think they said they moved the other horses to another building to keep them from panicking anymore, it’s causing some real space issues.”

The stable proved to be locked, but after a quick look around and a motion to Erin to keep watch Kota climbed through an open window and came out a few minutes later coughing and more than a little green around the face. He refused to talk to Erin about what he saw inside, just that they had cleaned it recently and the smell bothered him. He didn’t stop Erin from trying to look inside, but she could see little for the dark and the only thing she could smell was the strong cleaner they had apparently washed the whole building down with.

Kota walked away to clear his head and spotted Miles coming out of the dairy shed, wiping his mouth. “Oh, tell me you didn’t,” he said.

“What? It was only a little sip, it won’t hurt the cow in the long run,” Miles said. When that failed to wipe the disapproving look off of Kota’s face he added, “It’s better than taking a nip off of humans, but if you’re willing to volunteer just say the word.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Then don’t complain so much.” He patted Kota on the shoulder and looked at the device on his wrist when it beeped. “Uh-oh.”

“What’s wrong?” Erin asked, having finally given up on trying to get a look in the stable when Joe Farmer caught her at it.

“Weather report,” Miles said by way of answer. “Thank you for allowing us to look around your farm, Mr. Farmer, but I’m afraid I need to run.”

“What? Why?” Kota asked.

Miles pointed up at the swiftly moving clouds and said, “The winds are changing, delaying the storm, and the sun will be back out soon.”

“That’s some good news,” Farmer said, brightening up for the first time today. “That should give us enough time to get everything ready.”

“Wonderful, I’m sure,” Miles said, his eyes still on the sky. He thumped Kota on the back of the head and took off running, calling over his shoulder, “Race you back to the inn!”

“Ow! That’s it!” Kota took off running after the vampire, his thoughts more on retaliating than on outrunning the sun.

Erin and Joe shook their heads and she said her goodbyes before following them, all three unaware of the other presence that shadowed their steps.

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