I must say that my initial impression of Phillip Fletcher was a favorable one. I believed that he was what might be called blessedly ignorant. He had no idea whatsoever that his father was involved with what the papers were beginning to call “The Werewolf Affair of Haddington Heights”. Of course, in the end, I was slightly mistaken. Not about his thinking his father innocent of the whole wretched event — he truly had no idea anyone would accuse his sire of improper shape shifting — but about my impression that Phillip Fletcher was a true innocent.
Phillip was far from that. As the self-appointed leader of UlfgardR (once briefly known as the ‘League of Contemporary Werewolves’, immediately after the War, so I’ve been told) he incited the Haddington Heights panics by leaving well-chewed bits of its more illustrious citizens strewn about. The worst one was the mayor, discarded with well over half of his body eaten (the bottom half, for the facilitation of swift identification) in the gentlemen’s toilets at the local football club. The mayor, who had been nothing if not damning in his considerations towards local hooligans, was found by an elderly man who reported seeing a large pack of grey dogs leaving the area immediately preceding his ghoulish discovery.
It was this grey dog description that led everyone, in the immediate sensation that followed, to suspect Phillip’s father. After all, wasn’t the Fletcher pub named The Grey Dog? And, wasn’t The Grey Dog the long-held watering hole of the obnoxious and self-serving Haddington Football Club supporters? Furthermore, wasn’t that family of his shadily, but steadfastly, connected with that other, far more controversial, public house The Bloody Stump? The Bloody Stump had for years uncountable been reckoned as a hotbed of lycanthropism — closed, as it was, on full moons…
Still, from the start, I thought Phillip ignorant of all this. He’d been away from town for the past few years — military service was his reason. He certainly didn’t look the type that would encourage accusations of werewolfism about his own father. Indeed, whatever else he was, I will stand by my first impression that he was ignorant; he honestly did not know that his father was being blamed for what he, Phillip himself, did.
He told me later, in a confession hastily penned and sent through the police station’s front window, wrapped around a shank bone, that had he even an inkling that his family’s reputation would suffer, he would have foraged further afield. Say in Little Chalksey. And, never would he have half-eaten the mayor.
He stated, also, in the same note, that his leaving the mayor only partly consumed and easily identifiable was an accident on his part — having to do with his having eaten three sheep earlier that evening and having no room to finish up the rest of the politician. His starting at the feet he explained as a mere matter of personal taste — his preferring, as it was, the meaty tang of toes to the thick sludge of brains, all things considered.
It was a short time after the cessation of the Haddington Heights werewolf problems that I heard, through my barber, that Phillip had emigrated. The same barber also informed me that the Black Stump went out of business. It was rumored, my barber delicately hinted as he dabbed at my jaw with strong spirits, that the owner had followed Phillip in his emigrations.
As for the UlfgardR, all traces of them have vanished. Though, I expect, one of these days their deeds shall re-emerge in the headlines of some small newspaper or other. But the news shan’t be from here, it shall be from wherever Phillip and his flesh-eating wretches have flung themselves. I am sure of this for, in a postal card mailed to me from Liverpool, Phillip wrote that he was leaving the next morning, and that whatever he went on to do, he would make sure it was always so far away as to never mar his father’s name again.
He added, under that, that I should, please, understand that he was bitten as a soldier in France, which from that time on turned him into what he was, and that his family’s blood was quite free from all taint.
I never heard from him again.
Juleigh Howard-Hobson‘s work featuring war and its attendant horrors has appeared, or will appear soon, in Dead Letters, War Journal, Bewildering Stories, Mobius, Aesthetica, Dead Will Dance (1018 Press), History Is Dead (Permuted Press), Whistling Shade, and Black Box (Brimstone Press).