All eyes turned to Jack as he walked back into the bar. He was ghostly pale which could've been attributed to the frigid cold outside, but the look in his eyes and the tremble of his body told the four men in the bar that there was another reason.
Bones had been spitting mad after being shoved aside by Jack, but Nigel, Burt, and Kyle had been able to calm his rage enough to get him seated at a table with a couple beers. His lip curled over his teeth as Jack came back through the door, but he kept his seat. "What's the matter, dirty hippie?" he spit. "Too cold for you out there?"
Kyle stared at the man as he stood there, covered in snow and not even trying to brush it off. He was surprised he's even come back and now felt a pang of regret that he'd been so quick to blame the murders on his old schoolmate. "What happened?" he asked. "You couldn't have gotten to the police and back that quickly. What's going on?"
"I…" Jack started, but then cut off. His head felt foggy and disoriented. He shook it to clear out the cobwebs (and the snow from his beard). "I don't know what's going on. All I know is that we're trapped here."
"Trapped?" Burt repeated. "What do you mean? The storm's too bad to get to the police? It can't be that deep already."
"More than that. I stepped out and I was practically blind and lost out there, but that wasn't it. There are…" Did he want to say wolves? Was that even truly what they were? It would be hard enough to convince these men that wild dogs were roaming the streets, but to try to convince them that there were wolves on there? That would be impossible. "There are dogs out there. Call me crazy, but they looked like wolves and they're out there and they wouldn't let me get by them. I only walked a few yards when three of them came out of the blizzard. They forced me back to the door and then left."
There was no sound other than the wind howling outside. They don't believe me, Jack thought. They think I'm either crazy or making it up as my excuse as to why I didn't get to the cops. They're going to still think I'm the murderer. "I know that sounds…insane, but-"
"Insane?" Burt chuckled. "Yeah, just a little bit."
"-but they're out there," Jack finished. "It's like they're…they're on guard duty. Making sure no one gets out of here."
"You've lost your mind." Kyle regretted that he'd regretted thinking Jack was the killer. It was obvious the man had gone off the deep end. "You've killed three people and now you're going to try to kill us. We were safer with you out there!"
"Shut your mouth, DeVille!" Jack shouted. "I haven't killed anybody and I'm not going to. Making accusations like that is just feeding into the paranoia."
"Was it the drugs?" Kyle asked as if he didn't even hear a word Jack had said. "All those years driving across the country doing God-knows-what and smoking God-knows-what. It finally caught up to you, didn't it?" Burt took a step closer to Kyle, never taking his eyes off Jack. The sides were becoming much clearer. "The paranoia you talk about, it's just your paranoia that you're feeling because we're on to you."
Jack slammed a fist onto the bar, rattling bottles and mugs. "You need to stop this, Kyle! You're getting everyone all worked up over false accusations and if you don't calm down someone is going to end up hurt."
"There it is again!" Burt literally leapt on his toes and pointed a shaky finger at Jack. "He just threatened to hurt us again."
"I am not threatening anything, Burt." He dropped his voice back to a calming register. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath in through his nose and out through his mouth. He had to get these men's minds turned around and focused. It was time for some psychology. "I'm not threatening anyone. I am just trying to figure out what is going on and get you guys to believe me.
"Look, if one of you had gone out and come back in saying wolves were keeping us hostage I would think you were just as crazy as you think I am. I would probably suspect you were the killer. I understand what you're feeling right now and that you think I'm the one behind it so if you all just want to sit here and wait out the storm," Jack sat at a barstool and raised his hands in surrender, "then I'll sit."
Kyle and Burt didn't sit, but the visibly relaxed slightly. They regarded him trying to figure out if he was being sincere or if it was some sort of trick. "Relax, gentlemen," Nigel said from his barstool. "Killer or not, he is right. Pointing fingers and blaming each other is getting us nowhere and all we can do is sit and wait."
"For how long?" Kyle protested. "There's no telling how long this storm could go on or how long the phones are going to be out."
Burt dropped down to a chair and held his head in his hands. "I just want to go home," he muttered. "I just want to see my wife."
Kyle wiped sweat from his upper lip. He was working himself into a frenzy over his fears and suspicions. He checked his cell phone again and still had no signal. "You're going to get home, Burt. I'm going to make sure of it." His face set with a grim determination he started to the door.
"What are you doing?" Jack stepped off his stool, causing Kyle to pause.
"Don't get in my way, Jack," Kyle said through gritted teeth. "I'm going to go get the police like you failed to."
"You can't go out there. Even if you don't believe me about the wolves or dogs or whatever they were, it's a total snowblind out there. You can't see more than two feet in front of you and the wind just throws you around like you're nothing. You'll get disoriented and lost out there."
"I'd rather be lost out there than stuck in here waiting for you to kill me."
Nigel chuckled dryly bringing everyone's attention to him. "What are you laughing at?" Kyle demanded.
The Englishman waved a bony hand. "I just find it humorous how the roles have reversed." He sipped his gin and tonic. All eyes were still on him expecting an explanation to his statement. "I just mean you were so desperate to get out of here and fetch the police force," he said to Jack and then turned to Kyle, "and you were the one wanting to stay and take no action. And now you've both switched sides, if you will."
Jack shook his head. "No, I still want to get help, but things have changed. The fact that there are wolves out there is strange enough, but the way they acted and the way the looked at me..." He swallowed hard. "It wasn't natural."
"What does that mean exactly?" Burt asked. "If it's not natural then are you suggesting there's something supernatural going on?"
"I...I don't know," Jack said. "I really just don't know what to think of any of this. We have three people dead and no one can explain how or why. It's like someone or something is keeping us here and picking us off."
Kyle rolled his eyes and scoffed. "You can't be serious." He turned to Burt and Nigel. "You don't believe any of this, right? Please tell me you can't believe this."
Burt threw up his hands. "I don't even know what to think anymore." The poor man was at the end of his rope. His nerves were wound so tight that he flinched at the clink of the glass on the bar as Nigel put his drink down. He wished he'd never even stepped foot into the bar. He'd come in to calm his nerves before he had to break the bad news to his wife, but he would much rather be at home with her now. She would take the news badly and blame it on him. She would call him lazy and spineless and question how he planned to care for her now as she sat in her La-Z-Boy with a pot pie and he would stand there and shrug his shoulders and mumble something about finding another job. He wished with all his heart that he could be in that scenario now and not here living in this nightmare. "I just don't know." He dropped his hands in his hands.
"I just don't like this, Kyle," Jack said. "This whole thing's got a bad vibe to it, man."
"Oh, really?" Kyle cocked his head in a show of mock interest. "You've got feel a 'bad vibe'? Where'd you learn to read vibes, huh? Some medicine man in a van in California or something? Or a tribe of indians on Wyoming? Did they teach you how to smoke the peace pipe until you saw the colors of the world or some crap like that and teach you how to read the vibes of the world?" Jack could only stare at the wild eyed man in confusion. "I don't buy into your hippie garbage, man." Kyle spit the word.
"Thinking you're all knowledgeable and crap because you've been out there and seen the world living free and living high." He waved his arms up in the air. "I don't think so. I lived me life right. I went to school and got a degree. Do you have a degree, Jack?" Kyle was fired up, his eyes burning and a vein bulging in his forehead. "No!" He slammed his hand on the counter to accentuate his point causing Burt to nearly jump out of his seat. "Then I got a good job, a great job, that I love and I'm good at and I make a ton of money. Do you have a good job, Jack?" Another slam on the bar. "No! You working in some factory? Scraping by on minimum wage because you got out there and lived life and now life's coming back to bite you? Not me, pal. I went to school and I got a good job and I got married and I got a house and I'm living the good life. I've worked hard and I've earned everything I have and the last thing I'm going to do in a life threatening situation like this is listen to some burnt out loser and his 'bad vibes'."
Kyle's rant caught everyone by surprise and stunned Jack. He was still processing what the man had said that he almost let him out the door. "Wait!" He called. "Is that what all this is about? You don't like me for the life I've led so you're going to ignore my warnings and risk your life?"
"That's not it. I don't believe in your warnings. I am telling you that I live in the real world, alright? Not some fantasy land where some supernatural being traps people in a bar and guards them with wolves and kills them off one by one. You probably saw something out there and your mind turned it into something else, something much worse, because you were scared. Your mind can't process what is going on here so its only explanation is that something supernatural must at play."
"I'm not imagining what I saw out there. I'm not making this up and if you go out there and try to get away those wolves will attack you. They pushed me back here, but they were ready to jump if I had made a step towards them."
"Right, right...because you can read the minds of animals." Kyle scoffed and rolled his eyes. This brought his line of sight back to Gus' decapitated body. He turned away as his stomach lurched. His sucked in a deep breath of fresh air and froze. With another breath, that he held in, he turned his head ever so slowly back to the area behind the bar. Of course, he thought to himself. He pulled a barstool away, hoisted himself up on the counter, and swung around to the other side of the bar. As everyone stared in growing confusion by his actions, Kyle pulled the shotgun from Gus' limp hand. The shifting of the bartender's body caused it to slip and slide down to the floor with a wet sort of slurping sound. Kyle's knees weakened and he had to reach out to the counter to hold himself up.
"What are you doing with that?" Jack was on his feet at the sight of the gun in Kyle's hands.
Regaining his composure, Kyle pulled himself upright. One shell spent on Gus, the gun only had one more shot loaded so Kyle searched under the counter for more shells. He found a handful on a shelf, loaded one into the gun and stuffed the rest into his pocket.
"Kyle, what are you doing with that?" Jack asked again. He stood tensed, ready to jump if Kyle raised the barrel toward him.
Burt was on his feet too. "Be careful with that thing."
"I'm doing what you couldn't," he said to Jack. "And if your wolves really exist," he hoisted the shotgun up as if he were posing for the cover of an action movie, "I'll be ready."
"And what? Take out one of them? There are at least three out there and if they let you get off one shot, they won't let you even get off two." Jack's reasoning fell of deaf ears. Kyle hurtled back over the counter and walked to the door. "Do you even know how to shoot that?"
Kyle scoffed. "My company goes on weekend retreats every year," he said as he pulled on his coat. "I've won awards for marksmenship with shotguns, rifles, handguns, you name it. I have trophies mounted all over my den. If there are wolves or anything else out there then I'm the most logical choice to go out there and get help."
"This is still a bad idea. You're going to get lost out there and freeze to death."
"I know how to find my way and stay on track, Jack. I've been out in the wilderness plenty of times."
"This is different." Jack stepped in front of the door. "You're blind out there. This isn't some company picnic we're talking about."
"Get out of my way, Jack." He spoke with authority. "I don't want to hurt you." Jack hesitated, but could clearly read the grim determination on the man's face. He stepped aside and let Kyle out the door.
"Don't like people not listening to you, huh?" Bones snorted with laughter and took another drink.