Admittedly, the story you are about to read is bizarre – incredible. Those of you who wish to avoid being unsettled – who wish to avoid thinking – will label it insane. And though you, the read, would find these facts almost impossible to substantiate, that does not change their nature. Facts, they are. I know. I saw them happen.
Yellowstone County, Montana, December 11th. Horrified local authorities investigated the gruesome deaths of four area residents, the Rockwell family: mother, father, and two children. All had been discovered strewn about their isolated farm, their bodies mutilated. An official coroner’s report stated they had been dead three days. Cause of death: attack by wolves. Fact: the last sighting of a wolf in Yellowstone County occurred in 1948. Fact: in the entire history of this continent, there has never been one documented case of attack by wolves on a human being.
The INS office is celebrating its first Christmas party in a very long time during one of the worst winters in Chicago history. The party also serves to bid farewell to Tony, who is taking a long overdue vacation – a cruise on the Hanover he’s finagled the paper into purchasing by proposing it as a feature article. Then the New York office calls. Tony must host visitors from New York and cannot take the cruise. He’s desperate not to give the story and cruise to Carl. But with most of the office out sick, he has no choice. Carl flies to Los Angeles to board the Hanover.
The Hanover was built in the 1930’s and this cruise is to be her last. In her day, she’d outraced U-Boats and hosted many a wild party. She couldn’t outrace the age of air travel, and this cruise was her swansong before a last trip to the breaking yard. Going aboard, Carl meets his roommate, Mel Tarter, who confuses Carl’s place in the “Fourth Estate” (journalists) with the “Fifth Column” (Nazi spies and saboteurs). He also meets Wendy, Mel’s girlfriend. Well, actually, his ex-wife. They’re happier apart than they were together.
Also checking in is Bernhardt Stieglitz. Stieglitz suffers from terrible nightmares and his doctors have advised him to take a rest leave from NATO. A helpful steward named George introduces himself to Stieglitz. George is the sort of scrounger who can usually get whatever a guest might need or want. All Stieglitz wants is peace and quiet.
10:18. Two events had happened: one, the moon had just risen off the starboard bow, and two, an angry Mrs. Lois Prysock of Eugene, Oregon had just lost fifty dollars in dimes to the ship’s slot machine. 10:20pm. Mrs. Lois Prysock had lost everything.
A monstrous and furry... thing... darts around the corner as Lois Prysock passes; it seizes her and hurls her over the rail.
At dinner Mel and Wendy introduce Carl to Paula Griffin. While they eat, the monster breaks into the bridge and slaughters the watch crew. The constant blaring of the ship’s horn tips Carl to the potential story. When he sees officers leave the dining room en masse he follows. A crewman posted by the stairs keeps Carl from going to the bridge; Carl tries to persuade this warder that he knows and served with the captain but the man doesn’t buy it and sends him packing.
Back on the main deck Carl hears gunshots, growls, and the sounds of an extended fight. Following these sounds he comes upon a chaotic scene: men down, furniture smashed – and Gribbs, an officer who quickly hustles him away and claims the area is off limits to passengers. This time Carl’s gift for chicanery serves him well; he introduces himself as Carl K. Wells – the son of Captain Julian Wells. Gribbs still won’t let him through, but tells him his father will likely report to him personally.
Carl next visits the radio room but has no luck there. They tell him they’re “having a little trouble with the equipment” and no messages can be sent. Carl then returns to the dining room and recruits Paula Griffin to help him trick his way into the radio room. She distracts the operator while Carl sneaks in and copies details from the dispatches.
The first class pool – it was no longer in service but two couples from Wayne, Indiana, after drinking too much, decided they simply had to swim there. They should have gone to bed...
The monster leaps from an upper level, lands among the clandestine visitors and makes short work of them.
Carl learns from the radio dispatches that Captain Wells wants the passengers checked for police records and to maintain security and silence about the incidents. He also learns the ship’s officers are considering returning to Los Angeles. Carl tries for a ship to shore call to Vincenzo. The operator tries but before Carl can get through the sound of running feet lures him to the hall outside his stateroom. Crewmen race past and Carl follows them to the first class pool. There Carl manages a few pictures before the monster attacks, scattering and injuring officers and knocking Carl out cold. Carl does see several bodies in that empty pool.
Carl awakens in the infirmary. Stieglitz is already there as a patient, complaining of a wound on his left arm that has not healed properly in two months. On top of that Stieglitz suffers headaches and blackouts. The ship’s doctor offers pills, but he isn’t interested. Before this rest leave he was confined at the Billings Naval Hospital and pills did not help him. The doctor next suggests neuropsychiatric help and Stieglitz becomes irate. He’s not interested in why he has nightmares. He only wants to stop them – now! In the next room Carl discovers the film has disappeared from his camera. He overhears the end of the conversation between Stieglitz and the doctor. Stieglitz wants narcotics and the doctor won’t dispense them; Stieglitz dismisses him as a “babbling fool.”
As Carl prepares to leave the infirmary Gribbs enters, calling him by name but telling him his “dad” would like to see him. His imposture of Captain Wells’ son has been discovered and the officers aren’t too pleased about it. Wells lays it out: he must cease annoying crewmembers, fomenting trouble among his fellow passengers, and misrepresenting himself as the captain’s son. Carl’s protest that the First Amendment gives him the right to inquire is met with a stony recitation of the Maritime Code – the part that lets Captain Wells “throw him in irons” if his actions are contrary to the best interests of the ship. During this lecture, a junior officer arrives with an envelope. Although Carl doesn’t know it the envelope contains the pictures developed from Carl’s film. After finally dismissing Carl, Captain Wells and the officers examine the photos. The officers conclude that Carl won’t win any prizes for his photography – but that his subject is very startling.
Returning to the infirmary, Carl bumps into Stieglitz in the passageway. Inside the infirmary someone has broken into the drug cabinet…
Back in his cabin Carl again tries for ship to shore. This time the operator immediately informs him the lines are all busy and have been for the last two hours. The operator addresses Carl by name. Carl realizes the radio operator has been given specific instructions about him but can do little about it. About then Paula enters and reports that a long section of carpet near the lobby has been removed. Carl cynically replies that it’s a waste of time since bloodstains cannot be removed. Paul also reports that two Italian stewards who thought she couldn’t understand them were discussing a “wolf man.”
Paula’s nearly encyclopedic knowledge of movies proves useful; she remembers that one can kill a werewolf with silver bullets. Unfortunately, there are no silver bullets on a cruise ship.
In his cabin Stieglitz prepares a large injection from a stolen vial. After injecting himself, he gathers some heavy chains and locks. Perhaps now he will be able to sleep without his awful nightmares.
George has obtained several heavy iron pots for Carl. Mel and Wendy’s find the closest thing the ship has to a priest: a divinity school drop-out, who might just be able to supply a bit of Latin prayer.
Carl’s theory that he is the only one denied ship to shore privileges is correct: Paula has no trouble placing the call from her cabin. Tony isn’t happy to learn Carl wants background on mutilation murders. Tony’s mood is worse because he has contracted the flu but must come to work anyway, because the rest of the office is sick. He does find the information, and it is interesting: one month before this cruise, wolves attacked a family in Yellowstone County, Montana and killed them all. A month before that, a six-man NATO radar team in Greenland was attacked with one survivor.
George has continued scrounging but has found only silver plated utensils. There’s only one place to get solid silver on board but George won’t do it, not for any amount of money, because it’s the buttons on the captain’s dress uniform. Carl rifles the captain’s cabin and gets the buttons himself, barely completing the task before Wells surprises him. When he shares his werewolf theory, Wells’ reply is more of the Maritime Code: this time describing how a captain may deal with mentally unstable passengers. Wells does allow that there have been problems suggesting a psychotic passenger that have now stopped. Wells feels the situation has resolved itself; that the man has been injured and crawled off to the bowels of the ship to die. Carl knows the problems will reappear when next the full moon rises…
Back in his cabin, Carl improvises a crucible and melts the buttons. Mel shows up with Jay Remy, the divinity school drop-out. Remy says a prayer for the dead over the pot of molten silver. George brings a shotgun and a box of shells.
10:21pm: Bernhardt Stieglitz, ordinary career soldier, answered a primordial call and had a most extraordinary dream, a nightmare that no human being could ever imagine or begin to comprehend.
Stieglitz, chained to his bed, is clearly having a terrible nightmare. But as his fingernails lengthen to claws, and he bursts his chains, it’s evident others will soon be sharing his nightmare. George the steward hears Stieglitz’ frenzied yelling and knocks on his door. Getting no answer he starts to walk away, but the door bursts apart and the monster quickly finishes George.
Carl continues to make bullets while the crew chases the werewolf. Their merely leaden bullets do no harm, and it plows through the crew: Hallem, Gribbs, and many others are unable to stop it. Finishing his bullets, Carl loads his shotgun and pockets a few more shells, then joins the hunt. Carl spots the monster, chases it and shoots wildly, perhaps winging it. It lurks, hoping for a chance. Carl passes below its hiding place and it leaps, drawing a wildly inaccurate shot. Empty, Carl races off to reload with the werewolf in pursuit. It loses Carl briefly but a carelessly dropped spent shell catches its ear and the chase resumes. It catches up but Carl has managed reloaded and hits it twice. Bleeding but not dead, it seizes Carl and tosses him over the railing. Clinging for his life, Carl grabs the weakened monster and pulls it over the railing. It disappears into the moonlit sea and Carl struggles back aboard.
The body was never recovered. When the old ship was scrapped, all evidence was scrapped along with her. Of the eleven crewmen and four passengers attacked by the beast it is not known how many actually died. The injured? Well, they disappeared – rumor has it to Switzerland, to undergo treatment for a rare blood disease. The shipping line would only admit to having had a psychotic stowaway on board. The killer had fallen overboard after being cornered by ship’s officers, so they said. All traces of Bernhardt Stieglitz vanished. His baggage was gone. His name could not be found in any passenger manifest. NATO officials claimed no such man had ever existed in their organization, and any attempt to publish a werewolf story about such a man would be met with the heaviest legal artillery. Vincenzo, always gunshy, conveyed that message to me in no uncertain terms. So, here the story sits – for good I guess. No one but you and I know the real truth… the real story.
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