Robert Holmes, the chancellor for the University of West Texas, sat at his desk looking the single piece of paper over that Alec had given him. He didn't completely understand Alec's sudden decision to tender his resignation. By all accounts Alec liked his teaching position very much. And his students and the rest of the staff liked him. He just couldn't understand why one of his best professors would suddenly want to leave.
"I don't understand, Alec," Richard said. "You've seemed happy here. You're a good teacher and your students like you. Why are you suddenly resigning?"
"Like the letter says, Rich, it's for personal reasons. I can't really go into it. It's rather complicated. But I think the best thing for me now is to leave the university."
"Is it the money? I know we don't necessarily pay as much as some of the bigger universities do. If it's a question of compensation . . . ."
"No, it's not the money. The money is fine. And I've enjoyed teacher here. Let's face it. How many people actually get to get paid for doing something they love? No, Rich, I've enjoyed my tenure here very much. And this wasn't an easy decision for me to make. I just need to take a break for a while."
"Well," said Holmes, laying the letter of resignation on his desk, "if you think this is something you have to do I won't stand in your way. But let's call it a sabbatical instead of a resignation. Take whatever time you need. When you're ready to come back there will be a position waiting for you. Yours is one of our most popular elective courses. It's going to be difficult to find someone to replace you."
"I'm sure you'll find someone. Thanks for understanding. This is just something I have to do."
"Well we all have to do what we have to do. Good luck, Alec. And don't be a stranger. Let me know how you're doing from time to time."
"I will I promise," said Alec, shaking his friends' hand. "I'll send you a postcard occasionally."
Alec left the office and headed for his car in the parking lot.
Alec put the last of his bags in the car and closed the trunk. As he did he noticed that Deputy Brawley and Terry were talking over by Terry's van. The funeral and memorial service for Pat had been the day before. And Alec had been asked to deliver the eulogy. Now it was over and Alec could get on with his life. James and Terry looked over at him and Alec turned and walked over to them.
"So, how goes the investigation, Deputy Brawley?" said Alec. "Oh, excuse me. Sheriff Brawley."
"Interim sheriff," James corrected. "But come next election I plan to make that permanent. And I've even had some of the more prominent citizens already tell me they'll support me. I never made it any secret that I wanted to be sheriff one day. But I didn't want it like this. I figured I could get the job once Pat retired."
"I know," said Alec. "Pat was a good man. We were friends for many years."
"So he kept telling me. As for the investigation, I'm kind of at a dead end. That anonymous tip we received telling us where Pat's body was seems to have come from one of those pre-paid cell phones. The kind that can't be traced. You wouldn't know about that, would you Alec?"
"What would I be doing with a pre-paid cell phone?" Alec asked. "I have a very good provider for the phone I have. Besides, if it had been me making the call, it wouldn't have been anonymous."
"What about you, Mr. Hooper?" James asked. "Any ideas?"
"I've already told you sheriff, I wasn't even in town when you got the call. Sounds to me like just a good Samaritan wanting to do a good deed."
"Uh huh," said James. "As for the rest of the investigation, I don't suppose we'll ever find out who killed Boyle, Hamilton, or Douglas. Just not enough leads to go on. Decker, Sparks, and Gulliger are out on bail. The DA said he's going to make them a good deal. After all this time and them not really having anything to do with the girls' murder he figures all those years of guilt are punishment enough. They'll have to do a little time but it will be in a minimum security prison and the DA won't contest parole when they're eligible."
"Well, when you think about it, theirs was only a sin of omission, you might say," said Alec. "The girls' death was an accident. And they were young and they panicked. Who knows how any of us would react under similar circumstances."
"Yeah, that's what the DA figured, too. Anyway I'm trying to find any of the girls' relatives to let them know what's going on. After all these years it's not easy."
"I hope you do find them, sheriff," said Terry. "At least with the men finally coming forward maybe the girl can now rest in peace."
"You know," said James, looking at Alec, "I still don't think you've told me everything you know. Like what Pat was doing out at Straczynski's place to begin with. But I know what good friends the two of you were. I figure you have your reasons for not telling me everything. And since I can't prove you aren't telling me anything, there isn't much I can do about it anyway."
"Believe me, sheriff, if I knew anyone who might have murdered one of my best friends, I'd be the first to tell you. But I don't know anyone who might have wanted to murder Pat. Everybody liked him. I guess it was like you said. Probably just a drifter passing through and things got out of hand."
"Maybe," said James. "I hear you're leaving Mills."
"I just have some business to take care of, that's all. I'll be gone a while but I'll be back. I'm keeping the house. And you have my cell number if you need to call me for anything."
"You take care of yourself, professor. Pat was a real good judge of character. Something I hope I was able to pick up from him. Mr. Hooper, it was a pleasure to meet you. Maybe we'll meet again in the future."
"It's always possible," said Terry.
James got into his patrol car and pulled away from the house.
"You don't know anyone who might want to murder Pat?" Terry asked Alec.
"Well, to the Revenant it was justice. And justice isn't murder. I couldn't very well tell him the truth, could I? At least it's over. We won't have to worry about the Revenant coming back again."
"Are you sure you want to do this? As I told you, the life of a Hunter isn't an easy one. Most of the time you're putting your life on the line for people who never know what you're doing. And it's not like you can explain things to them. There's rarely anyone there to say 'thank you' once you've saved them. Most of the time," he looked in the direction that James had driven off in, "there are people like that. They know you aren't being honest with them and they're suspicious."
"You were the one trying to convince me to join you, remember?"
"I know. I just want to make sure that you're sure about this. A lot of Hunters never live to retire."
"I understand that. But now that I know these things are real, I can't just go back to my cushy teaching job. Someone has to be out there protecting the innocent who can't protect themselves. I'd feel guilty if I didn't do something. If it doesn't work out, well, I can always come back here. But I won't know unless I try. At least I know what I'm getting myself into. I've been teaching about these creatures since I graduated college. So I'm not completely illiterate about it."
"No you certainly are not. Well, I guess we should be heading out. I got a call from a friend of mine in Salt Lake City. Another Hunter. It seems there's been some mysterious disappearances there the past couple of weeks. He said he could use some help with it."
"What kinds of disappearances?" Alec asked.
"Just that: disappearances. Some of the locals seem to mysteriously disappear. A few days later a local artist unveils a new statue he has just finished and the person who disappeared was the model for the statues he creates. My friend thinks the two are connected."
"They could be. There are a number of mythological creatures that can actually turn someone to stone. The most prominent of course is a Gorgon."
"Don't you mean a Medusa?"
"Actually, Medusa was a Gorgon. That was her name. But there were others. It's just the name 'Medusa' seems to have been what most people remember. So most people simply refer to them as Medusa instead of Gorgons."
"Kind of like Frankenstein," said Terry. "That was the name of the doctor that created the monster. The monster never actually had a name. At least, not in the book. But most people confuse Frankenstein with his creation."
"Well, if we're going to go give your friend a hand we should be getting started. I'll follow you. Once we get there we can figure out what we're dealing with."
"Just see if you can keep up with me," said Terry. "I can get kind of impatient when I'm heading out on a hunt."
Alec just smiled and headed back to his car. He decided that in the coming months his life was going to be a lot more interesting than it had been up to that point. And he actually found himself looking forward to it. Following Terry he pulled out onto State Highway 183 north that would be the first leg of their journey to Salt Lake City, Utah.