They all laughed at Wilkins.
He turned bright red and said, “Why would you not believe me?”
“Oh, please,” Johns told him. “As a child your father kept a Klanse out in your backyard?”
“Those things don't exist!” Mantle bellowed and drank down his whiskey.
We were at the Mud shark clubhouse meeting, initiating a new member named Donald Dollup. Dollup wasn't anyone important in town. He was a young man with big city dreams and just started University. Wilkins and I met him at Rose's bar a few nights ago and he began telling us how he was going to be a big man one day and own the world. Of course Dollup was completely drunk, and...we weren't too far behind him in glasses of beer, chasers of vodka and coke.
That was when the idea to make him our newest member hit me. I pulled Wilkins aside, convinced him that this would be good for the club. He raised an eyebrow, agreed with a drunken nod.
So, were at the club smoking cigars and drinking ourselves into oblivion, when Wilkins spilled a secret.
“Charlie!” I reprimanded him. “Telling your father's secrets. For shame! This is the man, who not only helped create your life, but cared and loved you!” I shook my head at him, showing disgust on my face. “For shame.”
“Oh, it's a big lie any way,” Johns slurred.
Peter Johns was the town banker. Daniel Mantle built every new building in the town. And I, Douglas Tart, supply everyone in town with goods from furniture to canned peaches and fresh fish. Two other members who tended to keep quiet during meetings were Billings the school superintendent and Rev, Smegly.
They knew better than to get in the way.
Wilkins moved in his chair slightly. He took a long drink from his glass and waved for the servant to fill it with more whiskey.
“Yes....father founded this club to hold secrets for the men of this great town. But it was not the first club this town had. My grandfather formed the first one. Farmers who had experienced the devastating drought in forty years. That was in 1909.
“And then the economic collapse in the thirties. Now, we face harsh times in it's beginning. All the bad luck is because we have turned our backs on tradition.”
“What in God's name is he talking about?” Dollup said and everyone fell out of their chairs in a scatter of laughter. Dollup laughed along with the rest of them. “What is a......Klanse......anyway?”
“Don't Charlie,” I begged. “Please. Remember tradition?”
“I am remembering tradition,” He threw his half -empty glass against the wall behind us. A servant ran to clean it up and Wilkins screamed at him to leave it be. He placed a hand on my shoulder, rose from his chair. “I am remembering tradition, Douglass.”
He baby-stepped his way carefully to a large bay window with black silk curtains drawn in front of it. He grabbed hold of the strings to the curtains to pull them open to expose a setting sun on a yard where tangled grass had grown waist deep and old dead gnarly trees intertwined.
Wilkins pointed to the window and staggered from side to side. “Look,” He whispered at first. “Look I said!” he screamed in the direction of Dollup. “You arrogant little ass....”
“Here, here,” Johns protested. “Don't insult a prospect----”
“Shut-up! I make the rules, here, Johns. If you don't like the club anymore, then leave.”
Johns said nothing else. He looked around the room for backup. There wasn't any. Johns sank further in his seat.
“You are going to be a big man someday? Change the world for the better? Make better mouse traps. eh? Better wine? Hogwash! The world doesn't change....just you. There are no better mouse traps. You, yes, you don't make a damned difference.
“My father thought the same...as did all of us at your age. My grandfather thought it as well. He purchased a Klanse from the mountains of Austria.. Out there, between the Alps. This...klanse is a man. Yes. No ordinary man. He is chosen by the demons of the shadow world and the angels of the constant light to keep order in this world. My grandfather used him to keep prosperity in the world, as did my father, as do I.
“If an unsuspecting person is devoured, bones and flesh...then yes, the town continues to avoid decline.”
Dollup laughed. “Bullshit. I don't believe....no. You all are pulling my leg. Simply, put, it's bullshit.”
“You care to put that opinion to test, young man?” Wilkins sneered at him. “Step outside that window and race to the end of the yard, and back to the deck.”
“I will do it.” Dollup stood, placed his glass on the table beside him. He straightened his tie, tugged the sleeves of his jacket. “Not only am I automatically in the club, I want the club and new members. All old cronies are hereby excommunicated.”
All heads turned to Wilkins. He raised a hand and nodded in agreement.
“Wilkins! Charlie...no. There is no reason---” I stifled myself when he shot me a look. I sighed deeply, went back to Vodka and orange.
Wilkins ushered the others out on the deck after he showed Dollup the backdoor of the clubhouse. He turned to me, said, “Get out here and bare witness, Douglass. It's your duty.”
Reluctantly, I did as I was told. I stood with the other old fools and watched this young vibrant man dash fifteen yards across high grass and weeds, avoiding several dead tree limbs. He stood there a moment, waiting for something awful to happen.
He faced us, laughing. “Now, I run back, I assume?” Shrugging, he had a sly pompous smile on on his thin-lined lips.
We looked on. The only one of us that was pleased with himself was Wilkins.
Dollup sprinted back to us and the deck. He was fast, I can say that. I imagined he ran track in high school and on a scholarship to University.
Out of breath, he shook his head. “This was too easy---”
The Klanse materialized out of thin air and whisked Dollup to the ground in seconds flat. Dollup screamed, tried to fight, but he was powerless. The Klanse had a growl that could rival the largest tigers in all of India. The Klanse tore into Dollup with its long twisted fingernails, blood splattering its naked,chalky- white body. Long yellow teeth ripped flesh from Dollup's throat.
Minutes later Dollup gave up the good fight. His dying eyes were set on us. The last he saw was all of us returning to the shadows, our ghostly presence disappearing completely as the Klanse devoured him.