Debris from the wreck was found as far as a half a mile away. Bits and pieces of each vehicle, some no bigger than the diameter of a Starbucks Grande cup, were widely scattered as if by some malevolent tornado. Two intact, round ruby reflectors from Paige Campbell’s vehicle landed in Mr. Luther Madsen’s front yard two streets over from the impact site. He almost ran over them with his lawn tractor. If the sun had not cleared the cloud cover when it did, making them flash red, they would have been chewed into hundreds of unidentifiable shards.
A packrat, Luther picked up the red discs and put them his pants pocket before finishing his yard work. He forgot about them until the 9 o’clock news when perky anchor Janet Dyer asked anyone living in the vicinity of the collision be on the look out for pieces of wreckage.
Luther knew from their distinctive harlequin pattern, that the reflectors were from a flatbed truck trailer. Paige, in her shiny new, black Ford F250 crew cab, was towing a trailer overloaded with pine needle mulch. The police department’s tip line telephone number scrolled across the bottom of the TV screen and Luther made a point to copy it down on the crossword puzzle he was working in the evening newspaper.
He turned off the television before he learned the fate of the people involved in the accident. In hindsight, he probably should have waited. Picking up the phone to call in his find, Luther wondered if there would be a monetary reward.
The knock on his door came the next morning just as he was sitting down with his first cup of coffee. Two men dressed in dark suits and wearing mirrored aviator glasses stood on his front porch. They were so brusque in their laconic demand for the reflectors, Luther didn’t hesitate to hand them over. One of the two men donned a pair of black nitrile gloves to accept the items in question, placing them carefully in a clearly marked evidence bag, then handed it over to his partner who shut it up in a plain metal attaché.
It was only after they left that Luther remember he never asked about a finder’s fee.
After his third cup of coffee, Luther was finally mindful enough to turn on the morning news, hoping to learn more about the accident and why all the secrecy. He found it odd that after so much coverage the night before, there was no mention of the event, and the police tip line number was conspicuously absent from the headline scroll along the bottom of the TV screen.
Carl spent the rest of the morning fruitlessly searching the perimeter of his yard looking for more pieces of wreckage.
Outside of town, in a rural location far off main roads, in a nondescript abandoned hanger, two mangled vehicles were undergoing forensic scrutiny. The cab of Paige’s truck was crushed from the half dozen times it rolled over. The bed of the truck had separated from the cab, but was surprisingly fairly intact. Her trailer was a wad of twisted metal and splintered wood, now devoid of its coniferous cargo. The mangled carcass sat in one corner of the hangar.
The second vehicle involved in the collision, which occupied the opposing corner, was draped in an olive drab tarp, its shape indistinguishable as any sort of recognizable automobile. A low hum was emanating from under the tarp, a rumble that could be felt anywhere inside the hangar.
Luther’s two dark visitors entered the building, carrying their curious artifact. Two other men in blue coveralls met them in the middle of the hangar to exchange few words and the attaché. As the visitors silently left, the handlers disappeared under the tarp with the attaché.
The humming increased in intensity and volume until the rafters began to squeal in protest, then it suddenly stop, soon replaced by a soft murmuring that could only be described as purring.
The two blue cover-all clad men reappeared empty-handed, and quickly left the building.
Once the hanger was empty of humans, the object under the tarp began to shudder and shift until it flattened out into the silhouette of large animal. The purring continued until the metamorphosis was complete, then the sound also changed… into a soft snoring.