Three days later, I found myself in the Old Forge library, searching again through the archives. This time, however, I was in search of something else. Black Church Hollow. It was a name that had come up several times when I'd been searching for information about the Wellington cabin, and the fact that Ben Tibbit's body had been discovered so close to it had left me curious.
As I scanned the headlines for anything that would point to the fire that burned the church to the ground three years before, Andy suddenly pressed his body against my legs.
I'd convinced the old librarian to let me bring Andy inside, informing her of what Rebecca Link had instructed me to do. I had also reminded her that he was very well behaved, and after a few moments of deep thought, she had finally agreed to let him in. I reached down and stroked the top of his head.
"What's wrong boy?" I asked him, even though I knew he could never properly answer me. He glanced up at me and pricked his ears. When he looked away again, he jumped to his feet and pressed more tightly against my legs as I sat in the chair. It was then I realized what it was Andy had seen.
The big black wolfhound was positioned just outside the door of the library, his heinous yellow eyes fixed on me. He didn't breathe, only stared, as though he were paralyzed in his fixation. I was grateful there were no more rabbits dangling from his mouth, but those eyes were enough to frighten anyone who saw them. Then, with a surge of horror, I realized the old librarian was letting Miles into the building.
I tried to cry out to her, to warn her that the dog wasn't safe, but it was too late. The wolfhound trotted through the doorway and made his way to me in a few great, sweeping steps. Andy's body tensed beside me and he growled deep in his throat at our neighbors' dog. He made no move toward the creature, however, only baring his teeth and raising hackles I hadn't known he possessed.
Miles' gaze had not left my form, and I could only stare back at him, apprehensive, as he stood before me with his head lowered and his eyes raised upward. Again, he did not breathe, only stared.
After a minute or more I finally saw him release a breath and inhale another, and the motion seemed to have broken the trance. He walked behind me and took a seat on the opposite side of my chair. Andy eyed him warily, but did not attack as I had perhaps been expecting. Slowly, the hackles on Andy's back lowered, his teeth once again concealing themselves beneath his lips, and finally he too, sat down.
I glanced at Miles, still somewhat afraid to move—although I wasn't entirely sure why—and then, at last, dared to reach a hand out to stroke the top of the big dog's head. The moment I did, it was as if something in the dog's innermost demeanor changed, and I pulled back, startled, when I realized there had been a physical change as well. Miles' eyes had changed color.
Instead of the abnormal yellow they had been since I'd first seen the animal, Miles' eyes were now a deep charcoal black, save for a small circle of the same yellow as before. It was as if someone had reversed the colors, as if the pupils had gone yellow and the irises gone black. It was the strangest thing I had ever seen.
But the eyes didn't fascinate me for long, for in the next instant the enormous dog had let out an enraged howl and had torn into my wrist with his teeth.
I cried out as I felt him tear the muscle from the bone, as I felt hot liquid streaming down my hand and heard it splash onto the library table. Then Andy was there, snarling and snapping his own teeth viciously upon Miles' front legs, tearing at the wiry fur. Miles released me and turned on my dog, but Andy was quicker and more agile than the hulking wolfhound. He aimed for Miles' throat and somehow managed to grab hold, twisting his smaller body once he had a decent grip and spilling the wolfhound's dark blood on his face.
I cradled my mangled wrist in my good hand and stumbled away from the dueling canines, convinced the dog's attack would leave me dead from loss of blood. Somehow I managed to tie my sweater sleeves around my wrist to slow the blood flow and make my way to the front of the library, where the old librarian sat at her desk, headphones on, oblivious to what was happening.
I heard Andy yelp, but it was followed by a yelp from Miles.
The librarian at last realized I was standing there and tore her headphones from her ears, her eyes wide with shock, apparently at the sight of my injured wrist.
"What the—?" she exclaimed, and then heard the snarling dogs. "Goddammit, that fucking animal's done it again hasn't he?" Abruptly, she took off, moving faster than I would have thought her capable, considering her age. I leaned heavily against the desk, my head swimming and stars flashing before my eyes. I could feel myself losing consciousness, feel that sickening sinking feeling as it oozed through my head and then into the rest of my body. My legs were suddenly unable to support my 119 pounds. I collapsed, my back against the desk, and what felt like an eternity later, I slipped into merciful blackness.
I awoke with an IV in my arm and an oxygen mask over my mouth and nose. It took a few moments before the pain came to my wrist, but when it did, I felt myself let out a groan. When the wave had passed, I glanced around the room, trying to determine exactly where I was. I knew there were no hospitals closer than the one in Utica, and judging by the layout of my room, I was not there. I seemed to be in a cabin, as the walls were wood-paneled and Adirondack furnishings decorated the remaining space.
There must have been a town doctor I was unaware of.
"Ah, good, you're awake!"
The voice startled me and was unfamiliar. I tried to look in the direction from whence it had come, but found I was unable to move my head as freely as I had anticipated. As it turned out, the owner of the voice came around to stand at my bedside anyway.
"I'm Kyle Essex," said a blonde haired man, and I got the feeling he would have shaken my hand had I not been injured. He was relatively young, maybe in his early thirties, and he had dark eyes that would have made me swoon had I not had a boyfriend already. "I'm sorry we couldn't have met on less critical terms, but I am the resident doctor here in Eagle Bay. I understand you were attacked by some sort of animal, correct?"
As best I could, I nodded.
"It was that dog, the one that belongs to the Crofts."
Dr. Essex seemed unconvinced. He settled a stern gaze on me.
"Now, Miss Gerrard," he began, "I'm not going to discredit that claim, but I've dealt the Croft's wolfhound many times. That dog would never hurt a fly, let alone try to kill somebody."
Astounded that the doctor didn't believe me, I protested.
"What about what all the neighbors are saying about him? Audrey Mullen put a gun cabinet in my attic to protect myself from that dog. Chief Link told me to keep my own dog close by because of Miles. For God's sake, that old librarian shouted something about him having 'done it again' right before I passed out in front of her desk!"
The doctor set a hand on my arm, looking concerned.
"Miss Gerrard, please don't get yourself all worked up. You bumped your head when you fell, so that probably explains your confusion. And what is this about a librarian? You weren't anywhere near the library when you were attacked."
I stared at him.
"No, I was in the library, researching the fire at Black Church," I insisted.
Dr. Essex only shook his head more adamantly.
"One of the townsfolk found you alongside the road, Miss Gerrard. You were unconscious and bleeding from an animal attack. You're lucky to even be alive, Miss Gerrard."
Flabbergasted, I couldn't seem to find the words to reply. He didn't believe me. I knew I was in the library when I had been attacked, and I knew it was Miles that had attacked me. My dog had gone after him, tried to defend me, and the librarian had run to put a stop to the fight once she had seen my injuries. I decided I needed to find her. She was the one who would prove my story for me. Andy too. He had injured Miles, and Miles had done the same to him. They would both have the wounds to make the doctor believe me. But first, I needed to get out of this room. Dr. Essex had switched out the bag hooked up to the IV, and a few moments later I felt myself begin to drift into sleep.
"It was that dog, Doctor," I insisted weakly. I saw him purse his lips and shake his head yet again in the moments before I drifted off a second time.