Chapter Six: The ‘Shadow Man’

In the Fall of 1970, Lucian wrote of his growing optimism for the American brotherhood. In the same entry, he also mentioned a new and conceivable danger to it. This threat he dubbed as the ‘shadow man’; a fleeting figure he had witnessed observing them during several missions. At first, he shook off his sightings as battle stress anxieties. Then others of the brotherhood’s rank and file also began catching glimpses of the enigmatic stalker.

To quell the endless conjectures regarding the shadow man’s identity and motives Andor ordered Lucian to put together a team to hunt down and capture or eliminate the will-o’-the-wisp entity, using any resources at their disposal to do so. Having noted the shadow man was frequently seen during missions, Lucian came up with a plan to surveil Andor’s men at a discreet distance throughout their missions. Should his quarry take the bait and put in an appearance they would approach from the rear, effectively ensnaring him in a pincer movement action.

Near the town of Sykesville, Carroll County, Maryland, sightings of a Bakaak – a skeletal-like creature with translucent skin and glowing red eyes – had been reported. Andor saw this as a golden opportunity to put their plan into operation, and possibly kill two birds with one stone. On researching the area, he came across an abandoned southern colonial building, situated atop a hill and overlooking rolling pastures, trees, and a fenced meadow. Strategically, it was an excellent vantage point for his team. The question now was whether or not the shadow man would put in an appearance?

An hour after Andor’s arrival at the deserted house, Lucian radioed in his arrival at the lookout point in the forest, a quarter mile east of the site. Unpacking their equipment from the Jeeps, he and his nine-man team settled into their vigil. From their position, they had an unrestricted view of the house and its surroundings. Nothing could get in or out without their knowing it.

Two days and nights passed without incident. Then, on the third night, a cry went out from a lookout on the third floor of the house. He had seen something that he described as ‘kinda scrawny and human-like’ moving around on the edge of the forest. Limited though his description was, Andor was in no doubt that he had seen the Bakaak and radioed in the sighting to Lucian.

As Andor’s men made their way down the meadow to the forest, Lucian’s team were vectoring in on the last known location of the Bakaak via a circuitous route that they hoped would place the creature between the two converging groups.

Lucian and his team crept forward through the pitch-black forest interior, their night vision goggles enabling them to navigate the treacherous terrain. Over the creaking boughs and branches of the windswept canopy a shrill cry went out, bringing them to an abrupt standstill. Lucian scanned the area He could see nothing in their immediate vicinity to account for the blood-curdling scream. Suddenly, his two-way radio crackled into life. It was Andor, warning him that the Bakaak had taken one of his team and was advancing rapidly on Lucian’s position through the tree canopy. Instinctively, Lucian ordered his men to take up defensive positions.

Lucian takes up their encounter with the creature in his journal.

Of all the beasts I had encountered the Bakaak was, to date, the most hideous and bizarre. Twenty-yards ahead of us, it had latched onto a tree trunk by one of a pair of elongated arms, terminating in an oversized, clawed hand. From the other hung the limp body of Brother Castillo. There was no way of telling if he was alive or dead. To open fire on the creature now could have serious consequences for our comrade. If he wasn’t already dead, the fall from the tree would certainly kill him. Having signaled for the team to hold fire, we watched to see what it would do next.

On sniffing the air, it began a slow descent to the forest floor, its cicadan-like legs taking the strain. Through its translucent flesh. we could make out the creature’s skeletal frame, internal organs, and sinews. As it drew to within five-feet of the ground, we targeted its barreled chest and opened fire, penetrating the fine membrane of flesh and blowing apart the organs within. Dropping its prey, it crashed to the ground.

In the short time it took us to arrive at the site the creature had almost regenerated itself, and had set about tearing open Castillo’s abdomen to eat his liver, as is the wont of all Bakaak. Another round of bullets ripped into its body. I was the last to empty my magazine into it. In doing so, one of the rounds passed clean through it and struck Brother Castillo. The creature fell to one side, temporarily disabled. Two of my team immediately dragged Castillo from the scene and began tending to his wounds. Andor and his men arrived moments later. They quickly doused the Bakaak in petrol and set fire to it adding kindling to maintain the inferno – a similar method to that chronicled in the ancient writings as the only way to destroy the unholy creature.

Come sunrise, only I and Andor remained at the scene. The others had returned to the colonial house hours earlier. By now, only ash and pulverized bone remained of the Bakaak. This, we took to the river at the foot of the meadow and scattered the remains into the fast-flowing waters. On doing so, we caught sight of a lone figure donned in a hooded poncho standing beneath the shade of a Chestnut Oak. It was the ‘shadow man’. I called out angrily to him. Annoyingly, he turned and walked away into the forest without uttering a single word.

As we made our way back to the house, a call came over the radio informing us Brother Morgan Castillo had died as a result of his wounds. Despite the assurances of the medics that he would most probably have died of the injuries inflicted on him by the Bakaak, I couldn’t help but wonder whether my action had helped to seal his fate. Plagued by an unbending sense of guilt, failing health, and never having discovered the identity of the shadow man over the years, I made the painful decision to sever all links with the brotherhood and go into hiding.

 

Chapter Seven: The End Game