Chapter 1:

To the Winter of Despair


It’s always the same [REDACTED] with these people. Quite honestly, I expected more than sitting at a desk all day. This career path had so much potential and I’m doing busy work all day instead of being in the field. Most missing persons cases turn out to be nothing. A lot of them are just cases from rebellious teenagers, so in the end, it's just a waste of my time. Even then, when we get legitimate missing persons cases, a majority of them simply don’t get solved after the first couple of days. What kind of difference am I making if ninety percent of my cases lead nowhere? Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if they were -- bzzzt bzzzt bzzzt -- good grief.

He’s ruining my peace. Now I don’t even remember what I was talking about. This damned phone, what does this bastard want now. The Chief never has anything important to say to me anyway, it's probably about my “laziness.” I don’t feel like talking to him on the phone, he’s just going to tell me to come to his office anyway.

It’s almost like school; as I walk to the Chief’s office, people give me all these weird looks. They immediately expect that I’ve done something wrong. I only legitimately got in trouble one time, it's not my fault that I forgot to put the safety back on. No one got hurt, so I don’t see the big fuss. Ever since then, my “peers” just assume the worst. They probably hope I’m finally about to get fired. Truth is, I don’t like the people here. It’s one of those situations where they think they know me and my demeanor even though none of them have actually met me. I’d tell them to walk a mile in my shoes, but they only see me at my desk anyway; none of us are walking.

What a surprise, Chad is throwing a fit inside the Chief’s office. It would be nice if I didn’t have to be in the same room with that overgrown child for too long. That’s what happens when you give your own son a position of power. Nepotism at its finest, giving your own son the Lieutenant position instead of someone who deserves it.

Chad bursts out of the door in a flaming rage. I really dodged a bullet after all. Honestly, I don’t care what Chad was whining about; it’s not my problem. The faint smell of bourbon lingers in his office and the mini TV right in front of him is probably -- tick -- playing baseball; and he calls me -- tick -- lazy. The stack of papers on his desk doesn’t do him any -- tick -- favors either. I’ve never understood why he has an entertainment center -- tick -- here, this isn’t his damn house. There’s no silence -- tick -- in this room, no relaxing, no peace. The amount -- tick -- of stimuli in this room is exhausting. That’s enough, I'm stopping this metronome, I can't -- tick -- stand it anymore. He’s not paying attention -- tick -- anyway, what’s the worst it could do. That worked, the Chief is staring at me like a rattlesnake, watching my every move. Is he going to strike? Is heIs he going to yell? He does nothing but stare… it's unnerving, even for me. What happens if I poke the bear a little more? What’s he going to do, kill me?

“You’re going to ask, ‘Why didn’t you answer your phone,’” I say to the Chief, fully knowing what he’s about to say. Maybe I have a superpower: I can read the minds of simple, shallow old men. Truthfully, we’ve been through this before, it isn’t like I’m expecting something new. “Why didn’t you answer my call? Don’t get smart with me Hugo, and don’t come into my workspace and touch my stuff. You’re already on thin ice here,” the Chief asks me exactly as I foretold, only a little bit more aggressive. I still won though, my predictions are never wrong, and I just won the jackpot. This is too easy. I bet I could guess what he’ll say next, generic responses for five hundred! What is Don’t get started. “Don’t get started with me, Hugo,” the crowd goes wild; It’s a home run--

“Hey mooncalf, are you listening?” the Chief abruptly responds.

“What the hell is a mooncalf?” Who calls someone a mooncalf?

“You’re a mooncalf, dipstick,” and they call me rude.

I bet no one else knows what that term even means. I don’t see anyone else putting up with this kind of abuse.

“What do you want anyway?” I might as well cut to the chase or he’ll think it's open season for giving me crap.

“I’m sending one of my finest officers to Myrtlewood within the week. You get the pleasure of tagging along with him. Get ready, we’ll need you there ASAP. He’s already en route” the Chief says more bluntly than I expected.

At least I know where I stand. I guess Chad wasn’t one of those “finest officers” he was talking about. The chief looks at me, lights a cigarette, and tosses me the case files he assigned me with no care or respect whatsoever. The smell of cigarettes truly is disgusting. All he needs is a wifebeater to complete the whole set--

“Mooncalf, be careful out there. We wouldn’t want anything to happen to you, two officers have already gone missing there,” yea… thanks. Looks like he’s just protecting his son by feeding me to the dogs. How sweet. The boss doesn’t need a response, I can’t argue with him anyway.

Guess who’s waiting for me outside the office. I can’t believe he has so much patience. As I walk out of the office, I can’t help but hate every second I have to be in the presence of this loser. The guy needs to get a life, knowing him he listened to the whole conversation we just had and he’ll try and say something “witty.” So help me god, if he calls me mooncalf I’ll kill him. “You feeling all high and mighty, mooncalf? Good luck on your promotion and good riddance,” that idiot Chad has no idea what he’s talking about, but when does he. His old man is sticking my neck out for him and he doesn’t even know it… he’s simple just like his father. For someone like Chad, intelligence runs in the family.

Back at my crummy apartment. It's a blessing and a curse, housing prices are way too high for trash like this. The apartment prices better be way cheaper at the place I’m being stationed to live at. From what I’ve researched about Myrtlewood, it has the opposite problem of this town; there's a lot of vacant housing and apartment options; no one wants to live in a town where people go missing at over ten times the national average. I better be able to afford something with more than five hundred fifty square feet.

Clunk. Clank. Clatter. Someone’s in my kitchen. Am I getting robbed right now? I hope I don’t have to shoot someone. I’m not in the mood to clean blood off my floor. Chk-chk. Just a normal Thursday night. The last time this happened a homeless guy “accidentally” wandered into the wrong house. I didn’t have to use my gun last time, this better be the same. If it is the same guy, I won’t be so lenient with this bozo. Here goes nothing. Sigh.

I’m going to catch whoever it is red-handed, you can’t run if you don’t know I’m coming for you. Only an idiot would think to make so much noise.

My god… it was an idiot... an idiot with four legs and a tail. Meow. The mess this idiot made. Actually, it's better than cleaning up blood. Rufus dropped my pots and pans everywhere. That’s what I get for adopting a half-blind feral cat.

“Hey doofus, who’s going to clean this up?”


“Also, Where’s my rent money? You’re three months late.”


“That was your excuse last time, you can’t just keep saying that.”

Purr. This guy thinks he can get away with it just by rubbing against my legs.

“This is the last time I am letting you off the hook, next time you’re getting evicted.”

Purr. Look at him, it's like he doesn’t even know what I’m saying. This is serious business.

After several hours of packing and getting ready to take off to Myrtlewood, it's finally time to head out. The nights are particularly cold in New Sheffield; you could freeze to death with how cold it is outside. It all makes me wonder how the homeless fare on these bitter streets. Really, my apartment is no better than being on these streets. The windows in my place don’t even close and my door doesn’t keep the cold air out… or the hot air in for that matter. My leaky roof keeps me guessing on whether or not it’ll eventually just collapse. Sigh. Who am I kidding, I’d never want to sleep outside in a place that routinely drops in negative double digits. Good riddance, New Sheffield. One can only hope that Myrtlewood is the opposite of a city like this. Time to head out, Rufus.

Of course, when I get to my car… It is frozen and sealed. It looks like my partner is going to wait longer than I thought. He’s one of the department’s “finest,” he’ll be okay without me for a while. Good thing I brought a BLOWTORCH. That should do the trick. Too much?


“Oh what, you got a better idea?” I know he doesn’t have any ideas, he’s a moron. Psssht. That’s what I like to see.

Guttural Angry Meow.

“Fine, fine, if you put it that way it’s not the best idea… you’re still a moron though,” I never really had to go that overboard with bringing out a blowtorch, I just wanted to scare the cat. I’ve got some WD-40. I know that when I was younger, my Grandfather used this method. I have no idea if that is normal or not, but this is how he taught me to do it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Like I’d ever resort to actually using a blowtorch. Psst. I’ve never gotten over how strangely pleasant this stuff smells, it’s almost unnerving.

I hope Rufus doesn’t mind driving.

“Rufus, I’m calling shotgun. You have to drive us for a few hours,” I really need the shuteye, I hope Rufus is a good driver.

Sad Meow.

Covington sounds like a place where nobody lives, but everyone knows because they had to stop there… and here I am stopping in Covington for some gas. You can instantly tell how rundown this town is by the layer of dirt on the gas station windows. They’re lucky that this place is still running and that's just based on necessity. There are no other gas stations for four hundred fifty miles. The only other one I could have gone to was way out of the way.

“Hey Doofus, want a slice of pizza?”


“Too bad, you’re getting pizza anyway,” most people rave over getting pizza. What a spoiled brat.

You’re telling me they can’t wash this place? It's disgusting how negligent you’d have to be as a store owner to keep a place looking this bad. When I walk up, I can see how much worse this place looked than I originally thought. I don’t even want to go in there, but Rufus needs some pizza. Jingle. It doesn’t look like the guy in the hoodie is buying much, just a pack of gum? Gas station pizza is notoriously one of the worst foods someone could buy. They sit there for days at a time festering. How can someone legitimately crave something like that?

“You make your pizza fresh here, or is it frozen?” they don’t have to look so surprised, I was only joking and I even said it with a smirk. People these days can’t take a joke.

What kind of gas station has shrimp on their pizza? It’s almost a crime, I should arrest them myself. I’ll be doing the world a favor. Chk-chk. That’s not a sound a pizza should make, I don’t think I should turn around.

“I want your money, not your life,” someone says to me. This can’t be Mr. Hoodie, he was buying gum across the store. I’m sure he can’t get over to me that quickly without me noticing.

“You’re not that guy, pal,” what kind of people go to a gas station and plan on killing people if it comes down to it. Petty thieves, petty crimes.

“Shu-ut up! I only want your money, keep your hands up. Don’t make this more difficult than it needs to be,” by the quiver of his voice you can tell he doesn’t have enough resolve to blow my head off. Doing this job lets you know a bunch of people and there is always one common fact: people, especially this kid, can’t focus intently on two things at once. You either threaten me with your gun or steal from my pocket, and there is no doubt in my mind he is focused on my pocket.

Seeing how focused he was, it was easy to toss him to the side. Bang. Oh god, the gun went off! My ears, I can’t stop the ringing! He pulled the trigger mid-throw and I have to pay with my hearing. Looking back to the counter, I now understand that Mr. Hoodie didn’t come to this gas station for gum. Mr. Hoodie and Misfire Michael are clearly working together, as he’s aiming his gun directly at us… I have no choice but to aim mine right back at him. Even though this guy below me is pinned, there’s no telling what Mister Hoodie will do next.

“Hey Tim! You okay over there?! Hey man, let him go!”

“Listen Tim, tell Mr. Hoodie to calm down. I’m a cop and this doesn’t need to turn into a shootout,” we can’t have this escalate any further. Who knows how good of a shot Mr. Hoodie is; if he’s just doing petty crimes, he could easily end up missing and shooting Tim over here.

“Brodie put the gun down, he’s a cop! We’re going to die if you don’t put that away!”

“Be reasonable, you and Tim don’t need to go to jail for murder. After all, this was just supposed to be a gas station raid right?” This guy is extremely nervous, he has a much higher chance of shooting me based on how he carries himself. Brodie is clearly unstable. I really don’t want to shoot the kid, but I don’t want to die either.

“I’m not afraid to shoot,” there’s no way, he’s clearly bluffing.

“Yes, you are.” Baang. Clearly, I didn’t read this kid well enough. Someone is paying the consequences and that someone is Tim, who has been shot in the leg. Unfortunately for Brodie, I’m actually a good shot. Bang.

The bullet goes clean through his leg and he falls to the floor. The gun falls out of Brodie’s hands and he clutches his leg. Even though it’s just a flesh wound, I still have to make sure he’s okay. I’ll quickly handcuff Tim and Brodie then rush over and patch them both up.

“Quickly, call an ambulance! Brodie and I are shot!” Tim screams in agony.

“Be grateful, you prophesied me killing you both. In the end, both of you just got shot in the leg. It could have been way worse if I wanted it to be,” but really, I was just as lucky as they were. Brodie shot Tim instead of me.

Upon quick inspection of their IDs, these two were or are residents of Myrtlewood. Maybe I could get some insight about the place before I arrive.

“Tim. Brodie. You both seem to be from Myrtlewood, does that have anything to do with your attempted robbery of this gas station?”

“We just hate that place, the people there--” What about the people Tim?

“Don’t talk to the cops! Think Tim, this guy just shot us! Do you really think he cares about our well-being?!” If this guy didn’t have such a big mouth, his friend might have provided me with some useful information. However, chances are these two are simply two dumb kids trying to run away from home. I’m on a deadline anyway, I’ll just get my pizza and leave. Before that, the Covington Police Department, if there even is a Covington Police Department, needs to know what just happened here.

That whole adventure really was just for Rufus’ Pizza; he better be happy. I guess I needed gas too, but I’m pinning this one on Rufus. I’m such a great guy, feeding Rufus SHRIMP pizza. What kind of cat gets to say they’ve eaten shrimp Pizza?

“Hey Doofus, I hope you like shrimp,” I sure as hell don’t, certainly not on pizza anyway.


“I’m glad you like it, buddy. Even though you're a moron, I still love you,” I hope he loves me too, I did almost just die for him.

As I sit there driving with my weird cat, I can see our journey is just about to get started. Next exit, Myrtlewood. Alright, partner, I’m coming for you and this town.