Gwen Revmore guided the van down the rutted dirt lane to the address on
the call. The property was outside of the closest small town and well
off any decent street. Fields of tall dried grasses spread out on the
left and right, creating a buffer between the rough road and stands of
trees, mostly evergreens. It never failed to amaze her how quickly the
influence of the city and suburbs disappeared once you got off the main
roads. The relatively easy access to a more rustic quality of life was
one reason many people lived near High Point: they could enjoy a weekend
of camping or hunting, but quickly and easily return to the amenities of
civilization and their jobs in the city on Monday.
Her husband, Bill, had a city job with a brokerage firm and the
desk-time and stress that went with it. Gwen was grateful her work
allowed her to get outside. Well, she admitted to herself, she was
grateful most of the time, because being an animal control officer could
mean tough working conditions and situations that just tore at your
heart. There was always the chance of danger and injury, too, but at
least the time behind a desk was limited and her schedule was flexible,
unlike her husband’s.
Thinking of Bill, she glanced at her watch. He and their son, Sam,
should be on the way home from the scouts’ winter camping trip. The
troop had used a Council site about two hours north where there had been
snow, and she hoped they weren’t hitting any delays on the road.
Gwen and Bill had argued about the weekend and the wisdom of going on
this particular event in light of the forecast, but Bill had been
adamant. She suspected he felt guilty about choosing work over the
scouts several times in the past months and missing events he had
promised Sam and the troop he would help plan and run. Perhaps Sam had
finally said something, or maybe the other adults had spoken up. His
increasingly fanatical commitment to his job was becoming a contentious
point in their marriage as well and hurting his relationships with Sam
and their daughter, Becky.
Gwen wanted him to spend more time with her and the kids, but he waved
aside the pleas and argued that his time in the office gave them the
means to have the best of everything. Her argument that time together
was vastly superior to dollars was ridiculed or ignored, making her
angry and resentful. She tried to hide those feelings from the kids, but
she had a feeling they knew more than they let on.
“There it is,” said her partner, Frank, pointing ahead and breaking
into her reverie. “Already this doesn’t look good.”
The small home had seen better days. The dirty white paint was peeling,
some of the green shutters were missing, and the small yard was thick
with an uncut lawn that looked brown and brittle in the winter chill.
Traces of the latest snow flurries dusted the roof and grass. The front
door was closed.
In front of the crooked picket fence that struggled to mark the front of
the property, a young police officer was vomiting.
“Yellow tape and someone puking, nice.”
“Yeah, well, c’mon, let’s find out just how bad it is,” said
Gwen, suppressing her thoughts of home and husband; she reached into her
pocket for a tie to pull her long, dark hair into a ponytail in
preparation for work. “You got your god medal ready?”
Frank returned her grin and pulled out the chain that hung under his
“Damn right. You may not be afraid of anything, but Errin of Trian
goes everywhere with me; after all, he protects those who care about
animals. I can still get you one that’s blessed by the Second Voice of
“Appreciate the thought, but I haven’t needed it so far, my friend.
You know I have no use for any of those charlatans.”
Frank continued to smile tolerantly and tucked his medal back inside his
“Yet you always ask. I think that deep down inside you know you have a
need for someone to pray to; you just won’t admit it. But the day will
come when you commit yourself. Mark my words, it will come.
“And remember your promise not to rush in anywhere without me,”
Frank continued, changing tack. “Sometimes you don’t wait to fully
assess the situation, and frankly that scares me. You lack a healthy
dose of concern for possible danger.”
Now it was Gwen’s turn to offer a tolerant smile.
“I remember, dear senior partner; I remember.”
The animal control officers stepped out of the warm van and zipped up
their short blue nylon coats.
“Wait a sec,” said Gwen, her breath white in the cold air. She
reached back inside for a bottle of water. “I think our friend over
there could use a little of this.”
The slight woman walked to the patrolman who was doubled over by the
fence and gently patted him on the back.
“Here, rinse out your mouth.”
He twisted his head to look at her and then straightened up, a chagrined
grimace on his young face.
“Thanks. Sorry. I should be better than this, but it’s so bad in
“Nothing to be sorry about,” said Gwen, her deep blue eyes
sympathetic. “Take your time. Use the water.”
She scanned the front of the disheveled house again and shook her head
as she walked over to the small group gathered at the broken front gate.
Shoving her hands into the fleece-lined pockets of her jacket, she
shivered a bit.
“Well, gentlemen, what brings us out here on this clear, cold morning?
You need assistance?”
“As I was telling, Frank, Gwen, it’s all yours. We aren’t going
back in until you are done,” said the sergeant. “You need to get rid
of a big pig that’s been eating something it shouldn’t.”
“Pig?” echoed Gwen.
“Big pig. Nasty, big pig. He’s been eating his owner.”
Gwen and Frank exchanged startled looks.
“Martin, you say he’s been—” began the tall male ACO.
“Eating his owner,” finished the grim-faced officer. “Got a call
from a friend of the resident reporting he hadn’t been heard from for
several days. No answer to our knocks and shouts, so we forced our way
in. There’s what’s left of a body on the floor and lots of what
looked like empty liquor and beer bottles. The guy must have been on one
hell of a bender.
“Whatever happened after that, the pig was busy. The guy’s arms are
mangled stumps, and there are chunks missing from other body areas.”
“The pig—” began Frank.
“Charged us, man,” interrupted one of the other officers. “And I
warn you, he’s fast. The bastard ran right at us, mouth wide open. We
just managed to get out and slam the door.”
“How many days was this guy out of touch?” asked Gwen.
The sergeant shrugged. “At least four, maybe five.”
“Big pig, like this?” she continued, opening her arms and outlining
a large rectangle.
“A Hansen potbelly?” suggested Frank.
“Probably, and a very hungry one at that,” Gwen noted as she turned
to the officers again. “Why didn’t you shoot him?”
“And create a PR nightmare? ‘Cops shoot helpless, abandoned pig.’
Oh no,” said Martin emphatically. “This time you guys—the animal
experts—get first crack. Then, if needed, we have ample reason to
“Whew,” grunted the dark-eyed Frank as he wrinkled his nose. “I
don’t think a bite stick will work, and there probably isn’t room
for tranqs. Noose?”
“Depending on the size, I doubt that will work, but we can try. I’ll
bring the gun. If that thing has been eating its owner, it’s gotta go
Their work boots made minor crunching sounds on the lightly frozen,
brown matted grass that covered the remnants of the narrow walkway to
the porch. The dirty windows flanking the front door offered no view of
the inside, but the knob moved easily as Frank slowly tested a turn.
“All right, I’ll go in first, and you make sure to get in right
after me,” said Frank, arming himself with the pole and confinement
“You want to be the hero, be my guest,” said Gwen. “But if it’s
bad, just move out of the way, and I’ll shoot. This guy sounds
dangerous, and he may be getting peckish as lunchtime gets close.”
Frank threw her a mildly amused look and then laughed quietly.
“Just think—if that guy in there did drink himself to death, there
might still be enough alcohol in his tissue to intoxicate the pig. We
could have a nasty porcine drunk on our hands.”
Frank pushed the door slowly open and gagged as the smell of decay and
feces wafted out. As the scent reached Gwen, she quickly turned her head
and joined her partner in sucking in a deep breath of relatively fresh
air before stepping inside.
The scene was enough to make the most hardened officer flinch and vomit.
The living room was littered with empty liquor bottles and chunks of
what appeared to be decomposing human flesh. The debris led to the
remains of a human body. Gaping holes in the torso and ragged appendages
where arms had once been testified to the actions of a strong, hungry
“Gads,” coughed Frank. “Where is the beast?”
In answer, there was a deep grunt from around a corner just beyond the
scene of carnage. A moment later, a huge potbelly pig ambled into view.
“I dare you to say ‘nice piggy,’” murmured Gwen. “He’s gotta
be two hundred pounds. I don’t think your little rope is going to
“Let me try. Remember, he was once someone’s pet,” said Frank,
slowly moving forward with the noose ready. “Nice pork loin. Come
along quietly, darling.”
The black-and-white animal paused, and his whiskered chin quivered as he
sniffed the air to catch their scent. The huge head turned to track the
ACO as he moved slowly to the side and an angle that would make it
easier to slip the noose over the massive jaw and flickering ears.
Gwen stayed where she was but slowly raised the rifle and took aim at
Frank moved to bring the noose closer, but as he stepped forward, his
foot landed on a squishy piece of what had once been the owner. He
slipped a bit before catching his balance, spooking the pig. The giant
beast squealed in surprise and with blistering speed launched itself at
the ACO, its mouth wide open.
Without losing a beat, Gwen fired three times in quick succession,
bringing down the animal. But the pig’s momentum carried it into her
partner, knocking him down and pinning him under its mass.
“Frank? Are you all right?” she yelled as she slapped on the gun’s
safety and rushed to his side to roll the dead weight of the animal off
him. As she dropped to her knees to get better leverage, she also
slipped on what must have been a piece of the owner, and her left hand
went down hard on something sharp.
She gasped but ignored the pain as she continued to push with her good
“Gods…hurt, Gwen,” rasped Frank. “Ribs. I think something’s
“So much for your god, Errin,” breathed Gwen as she bent lower and
used her shoulder to push.
“Maybe not pretty, but I’m alive,” whispered her partner. “Could
have been worse. Glad you’re good with a gun.”
The shots had brought the police to the front door. When they saw that
their four-legged adversary was no longer an issue, they rushed in and
helped roll the pig off Frank. Once the animal was moved, Gwen backed
away to let the officers handle the first aid.
“You’re bleeding. Let me see that.”
The young cop who had been throwing up when they arrived reached for her
“Let’s find some water and see what you’ve done here; could be
some of that broken glass near your friend. The kitchen must be back
Excerpted from "The Dream King's Courier: Payback (Volume 1)" by Patrice Sikora. Copyright © 2014 by Patrice Sikora. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.