he'd slept in and it was now one p.m. His sleep had been dreamless, so he'd
floated through the morning like a log, without waking. The radio was on and as
he made a coffee, the news station began a fresh hour with the details of the
killing. It was the first of its kind in the area and the victim was a student
named Angela Wandsley. Speculation was that the killer was a strong male, young
and with a high testosterone level and previous history of violence.
Splashing cold water on his face, Russ tossed on casual clothes, and then he
phoned university information. His man turned out to be Sheldon Jameson by name
and he still had an office in the anthropology building. Jameson was his own
last name, and the thought that the killer could be a distant relative was
chilling. It gave him a real case of the creeps.
He hurried out, slamming the door, and he looked like a man on a mission as he
paced toward the university grounds. The streets were moist and spattered with
mud from a strong rain. It was windy and everything that could blow in the wind
was blowing in the wind. Once on the grounds he followed a snaking path to the
anthropology building, hearing a bell toll three times as he reached the
Plexiglas doors at the front. He knew the building fairly well, it was four
stories high and shaped as a half-circle. A garden and patio were enclosed at
Stepping inside Russ checked the info terminal and read Sheldon's office as
number 113. The odd numbers ran along the west side of the corridor and that
placed the office at the rear of the building. He decided to pop around back and
see if he could look in from the garden.
The wind and wet had kept the back garden clear of people. Russ slipped
soundlessly over the interlocking stones of the patio. Vaulting a sculpted
bench, he looked through a hedge and into Sheldon's window. The curtains were
richly embroidered and open and he was drawn forward. Keeping to the side of the
window, he leaned over for a good look. He didn't spot Sheldon at first, but the
rest of what he saw startled him. The office was set up like a weird bachelor
pad with colorful pillows and throw rugs scattered over the floor. The walls
were hung with tapestries, devilish masks, shrunken heads, decorative hunting
knives and bookshelves.
He was wide-eyed at what he saw and he jumped when he suddenly spotted Sheldon.
The office was a bit below ground level and Sheldon was sitting cross-legged on
a rug, right below the window. He was nodding his head slowly and he held a
black shrunken head in his palms.
Russ stayed by the window, held there by morbid fascination. Sheldon's tangled
curls shook as he spoke to the head. The window was ajar so Russ heard him
“You've got to come to terms with it,” Sheldon said, sending a chill up Russ'
spine. “Then you'll realize that I'm the headhunter and you're the prize.”
Russ's memory returned like a cloudy sky and he relived the killing. What had
been a blur was now a shrunken head swinging from the killer's belt. He leaned
away from the window. His head was swirling with dark thoughts. The world, even
his existence in it, seemed uncertain.
A door banged shut and Russ peeked back in the window. Sheldon was gone and he
wondered what to do. Then the answer came to him, a voice in his head. “You
must chase the headhunter, until it ends.”
Jumping the garden fence Russ dashed through the bushes and flowers and around
the side of the building. He stopped dead in his tracks by some sumac bushes and
watched for Sheldon leaving by way of the front walk.
Sheldon's tall, slim figure appeared on the walk. He was striding along
confidently, the fringes of his thigh-length jacket and high moccasins streamed
in the wind. Outwardly, he looked like a handsome young teacher; inwardly his
heart had to be as black as coal. Russ stayed by the bushes; he was riveted to
the spot. A strong feeling of deja vu was sweeping through him with the wind,
and he knew that when he put a foot forward to follow Sheldon he'd be repeating
acts he'd carried out many times, so many times they were the pattern of the
ritual he had become. A calm feeling entered him; it was like the calm that
possesses a wounded animal when it surrenders itself to the fact it is being
A ways ahead Sheldon turned sharply and strode on into the strengthening wind,
heading down a narrow path toward a stand of poplar trees and a mountain range
of dark slate clouds that had risen on the horizon.
Russ' calm mood slowly faded, a strong gust of wind pushed him from behind and
he raced off over the field in pursuit of Sheldon. The day had grown very dim
and the trees were leaning in the wind, their leaves rushing in a wave of sound.
Running with the gusts, he felt like an eagle, pulled on by an unseen updraft
from the wings of the sky. Drawn to his fate by an evil power no man could
Sheldon had gone out of sight in the distance, but Russ homed in on him without
seeing him. Before long, he reappeared, and he was sprinting as fast as he
could, halfway up one of the grassy hills that ran between the north downtown
area and the summer fair grounds.
Sheldon made it to the top of the hill in almost no time. Digging in hard and
lowering his head, Russ picked up speed, hoping he could get to him before he
disappeared in the grounds. Reaching the bottom of the hill, Russ glanced up and
stopped to catch his breath. Sheldon stood at the top in wind-ruffled ragweed.
His arms were outstretched to the dark slate sky. In one hand, he held a
shrunken head, and in the other, he held a long piece of fluted bone.
Russ was winded, his lungs burned as he sucked in air and the scene before him
became more and more hallucinatory. The effect was hypnotic; he was drawn slowly
up the hillside. At the halfway point, he stopped and waited.
Sheldon lowered his arms and looked down; his eyes were shimmering gold behind
blowing curls and a pale face. His deep voice traveled on the wind. “Russ, dear
brother! I took your head in Africa, to gain the power of your soul only! Now
how can I work with your ghost always interfering! We are leaving this city!
Your wretched spirit is too strong here at home! So come along Russ, it's time
you came to terms with death!”
Sheldon lifted the piece of bone to his lips and blew. A deep, distant, hollow
sound filled Russ' being and grew in strength like an earthquake. All he could
see was the shrunken head, which was his own head, and stormy darkness. Then the
bone began tapping against the head.
Russ knew it now, he was a ghost, he was incomplete in every way, and he wished
to be either whole or dead. The latter wish was the only one really left, so he
didn't resist as he was pulled to the top of the hill, the shrunken head, and
what was sure to be an evil end.
The head grew before him, large as a balloon, begging to be touched. Without
knowing why, he began to tap a finger on its desiccated cheek, and the result
was black magic -- its mouth opened, the jaws of a monster, ready to devour him
whole. He could only cower as it inhaled to suck him down.
Then he heard the voice again, telling him to chase the headhunter until the
end. It was his own voice and it filled him with strength. Throwing his body
into motion, he forced the jaws open wide and leapt like a tiger, straight down
the throat of the beast.
Brilliant daylight arrived with the force of an exploding star. Russ stood at
the top of the hill with Sheldon, and he felt whole once again. A blazing shield
of sun shone in the southeast, and under the sun like a mirage were the steamy
jungles of deepest