It was 10:30, they’d been searching the flat fields west of town only an hour, and already she needed to rest. Emily looked at her father, sweat glistening across his forehead, his skin flushed. But he showed no sign of stopping. His eyes were fastened to the ground, just as the two uniformed men had instructed. “Anything, no matter how small, could be a clue. Broken twigs…uprooted vines…overturned stones.” She’d heard about the disappearances when they first got to town, and when she saw the search announcement at the supermarket, she asked her father. He’d been reluctant to allow her to take part, but she pressed.
Her father stopped a few yards up the field. He lifted his head skyward, then turned away, pulled his shirt from his baggy blue jeans and wiped his face. His recent days in the sun accentuated the creases around his eyes. His forehead, giving way to a receding hairline, looked pink and painful. Emily had the urge to press her finger against his head and remove it, to see how long the pale imprint of her fingertip would stay.
Hands on his narrow hips, he said, “No way to spend a vacation, huh?”
“It’s definitely depressing…. There should be more people.” She thought of the missing girls, two of them twelve years old, a year younger than her. The third was only three. Emily imagined them abducted, struggling. She wondered which was worse, losing your mother slowly, over years, or, all of a sudden she’s gone, vanished.
“For you and me it’s new, we haven’t been up here that long, but these girls have been missing for months. When they first disappeared, I’m sure hundreds of people were out looking for them. Over time, though, people…”
Give up, Emily thought.
His words vibrated in her head – move on – and she felt a sudden need to find clues. Then memories: her mother, dead almost a year, the way her fine black hair had framed her face, so pretty; the tiny lines at the corners of her mouth, barely there, delicate.
She felt the sun’s oppressive heat. It shouldn’t be this hot so early in the day, as though the earth’s thermostat was out of whack. She wanted to pull her shirt over her shoulders and toss it into the sky, her pants too. She wanted to shed everything.
“Ready to keep looking?” he said from a bent position, his palms resting on his knees.
She looked out over the field, at the spattering of fellow searchers, leaning over, sweating, eyes squinting from the sun, just like her. The same thing was happening on the beach, along the roads leading into town, the cliffs. “What’s the point?”
“What’s that mean?”
“You think they’re still alive?”
“You have to have hope, Em. It’s what makes you… keep going.”
You have to have hope, the words hung between them like a vicious taunt. There had been no hope for her mother. She wondered if joining the search party had been a mistake.
Leaning heavily against her Louisville Slugger, she watched her father standing at the edge of his small garden. He held a dented gray watering can. “There should be signs of life,” he said.
“It’s only been a week, Dad.” She admired his enthusiasm for something he had no talent for. The raking, the research, all the seed and plant catalogues he’d been studying. In the city, the only vegetables he saw were in the market. Trying to keep his mind off Mom, she thought, something he hadn’t been able to do in Boston.
“I’ll pick up some tomato plants tomorrow,” he said. His eyes bored into the ground, as if willing things to sprout.
“They’ll grow soon.” She saw the shadows from the trees over most of the garden and said, “Is this the best place for it, the shade and all?”
“It’s where the last renters had it.” He gestured to the perfectly square patch of ground that had been overturned when they arrived, and the foot-high wire fence that surrounded it. “They must’ve known what they were doing. More than me….Hey look,” he said excitedly, on his knees in an instant, his thin body and lanky limbs surrounding a corner of the garden.
Emily dropped too.
“Something broke ground,” he said.
“Looks like a weed.”
“You think?” He leaned in, his nose almost touching the tiny green sliver. “Damn.” He pushed away from the garden and crossed his legs. “So, how was practice today?”
“The boys give you any trouble?”
“The usual….Hair’s too short….I should wear normal clothes….You might hear from one of the coaches.”
“What did you say this time?”
“Called one of the kids a fatass.”
“It’s about time girls played baseball. This summer there’s you. Next summer there’ll be two or three more. Stick with it. You’re a born leader.”
She was definitely going to stick with it. Not to be a leader, but because she loved to play, even if she had to share the field with morons; the game was worth it. Besides, there was that dark-haired boy she wanted to see again. “Do you know who founded the town?” she asked.
“Why?” He looked up at the odd question.
“They kept going on about how Cumberland was discovered by ghouls, and how the ghouls stole away girls. One kid was a real jerk. I almost punched him in the face.”
“Yes! He said that’s what happened to those missing girls. He said I was next.”
“Come on, Em, they’re just bullies. Ghouls kidnapping little girls? You want to find out about the town, we can go to the library.”
The noises came upon her so fast she wasn’t sure what she heard first, the chain, the growls or the neighbor’s door snapping shut. She looked up and saw a black German shepherd racing toward them. Her father stepped in front of Emily and picked up the rake at his feet.
The dog was enormous. It had a thick luminous black coat, except for the tops of its paws and around his eyes, which were light brown, and a large, perfectly round mole on the right side of its massive snout that drew attention to its menacing black eyes. The beast’s mouth was open, its teeth sharp and yellow, thick saliva dripping down. Her father stood at the edge of the garden, his rake out in front of him, the sharp metal tines inches from the dog’s head. “Get outta here!” he yelled. The dog lurched forward and her father jabbed the rake toward it, causing the shepherd to stop in mid-lunge. The dog looked capable of eating the tines in one gulp. They stood like that for several seconds, exchanging paces back and forth, each capturing a few feet, then surrendering a few.
“Baron.” A shout from the next yard over, the jangle of a leash.
The dog turned its head toward the new voice, but only for a second. The neighbor appeared, a short heavy man. His stomach rode high on his torso, right under his chest, his undershirt stretched tight across. He walked right up to the beast and leashed it. “Sorry,” he said while tugging the chain. “This has never happened before. He’s a gentle animal.”
“He’s a crazed animal,” her father said, finally lowering the rake.
The dog rushed toward her father once more, growling, jerking the neighbor forward. Immediately, the rake went up again, but the neighbor yanked the leash, stopping the dog.
“Really, this has never happened,” the dog’s owner said, struggling to contain the dog. “I’m John Cutler. Would’ve been here sooner, but we’ve spent the last couple of weeks in Vermont at my son’s place.” He looked down at the dog, then shook his head. “Baron’s usually playful. Funny – “
“Ha-ha,” her father said, watching the animal take short rigid steps toward the Cutler house.
Baron turned its head back to her father. If the dog could speak, Emily thought, it would’ve said, “I’m gonna kill you, you sonofabitch – kill you, eat you, and savor it going down.”
The following day was a game day and, as usual, the dark-haired boy was in the bleachers. She saw him from the dugout and from her position at first base. For most spectators, watching the game was secondary. They ate, played catch in the dirt parking lot, talked, crowded around the ice cream and frozen custard trucks. Not him. He more than watched the game, he seemed to examine it closely.
After the game, her father congratulated her on the win, especially her triple, and suggested a stroll to Cumby Corners, an intersection of stores where he bought hardware supplies and gardening tools, and she baseball cards and comics. She started to answer, then noticed the boy walking down Seashore.
“You know him?”
“He comes to the baseball games.”
“Is he on one of the teams?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “He sits in back.”
“Oh.” Her father continued looking after him. “So, what do you say? A little shopping, a little ice cream?”
“I think I’ll hang around here.” She saw a bandage on her father’s right knuckle. “What happened?”
“Oh, that dog. The damn thing won’t let me in the backyard.”
“He was loose again?”
“Yes. He nicked me before Cutler managed to pull him away. Swear to God, you need a bulldozer to move that animal.” He gave her hair a gentle tug. “All right, I’ll see you soon. Oh hey, you’ve been staying out too late. I want you home before dark.”
“Just been playing pick-up games when they let me. Sometimes they go late.”
“Not anymore they don’t.”
“Dad,” she moaned.
“Emily,” he returned the moan, then bent down and kissed the top of her head. “Want me to take that?” He pointed to her glove.
“Na, I’ll keep it.”
She moved quickly down Seashore, the boy still in view, a paperback sticking out of his back pocket. He took a left on D Street. She followed, but taking the turn she saw that he was moving faster now, until he finally disappeared into a driveway secluded by shrubs and a large willow tree. She slowed her pace as she approached Pine Rentals, a cluster of a dozen or so small white cottages. No sign of him, just an abandoned Big Wheel on the side of the road. She returned to the playground, watched a few innings of an America Legion game and walked to the beach.
It was her favorite time of day at the ocean. She tossed her mitt to the ground, kicked off her cleats, pulled off her socks and dropped backwards on her elbows. Burrowing her feet into the warm sand, the tiny coarse grains gliding through her toes, she watched the surface of the still water slowly darken. There was no one around, but she could hear distant hollers and laughs down the southern strip of the beach, where the skeleton of an old amusement park stood, apartment complexes and condominiums being built around it. She felt the breeze off the water and leaned all the way back, her fingers interlaced behind her head.
She thought of her triple, sprinting, head down, the approach and inside lunge to each base, the “Safe” call amidst a cloud of dirt; she thought of her mother, imagining how she would have spent time here, where they would have gone together; and of the boy, wondering why he intrigued her, why she followed him home, a boy who would rather watch baseball than play.
There was hardly any light in the sky and Emily wondered how long she’d been there. She remembered her father’s warning. The water’s edge drew close. She heard a sound from the dunes; no one there, just wind. She thought of the ghouls Fatass had teased her about and imagined a hairy fanged beast skulking out of the tall stiff reeds, sweeping her up in its mouth and lumbering off. Or maybe the ghouls were sea creatures, green and scaly, with webbed feet and tiny hooked spears for fingernails.
She thought of the boy again, the way her father had stared after him. Perhaps she’d made a mistake by following the boy. Maybe he hadn’t been simply staring at her. Maybe he was lurking, waiting. Was it him making noises in the dunes, parting the tall grass to get a peek at her? She quickly put on her socks and cleats and grabbed her glove.
The shriek of a gull tore through the darkening sky like a baby’s scream. It rose from the northern tip of the beach, Morden Cliffs. She glanced over and saw the mansions on the mountain slope, huge windows ablaze with warm orange light, lawns that seemed to roam for miles; the water tower, whose thin spindly legs, it appeared, could barely support its massive, bulbous dome. Where the mountain reached its peak, jagged rock erupted from the water like a battlement and overhung the sea like an extended claw.
The following morning Emily awoke, slipped on some shorts and a T-shirt, grabbed one of last night’s brownies from a foil-covered tin and stepped on the porch where her father was reading the newspaper. She took a couple of bats from an umbrella stand when her father said, “Someone from the league called. Practices are canceled, the heat and all.”
She turned away, disappointed, thinking of what to do instead. Maybe grab her mitt and bat, head to the park anyway. Scrape up a game. Maybe play some tennis against the old Deerpont shoe warehouse.
“How about the library?” he said. “I’ll throw some sandwiches together. We can have a picnic by the high school after.”
The library was on the other side of Cumberland, toward Newcastle Point. An old green Victorian house with a broad flat railing around the porch, its dowels carved into spiraling curves, and latticework of coiling grape vines and ivy about the shutters. Inside, the cool air enveloped them. Her father climbed the stairs to Periodicals.
Emily found a couple of books with the help of the librarian, then walked to the paperbacks. While spinning one of the racks, looking up and down as the books passed, she noticed him sitting alone at one of the two large tables in the middle of the room, reading a magazine. She strolled to the neighboring table and sat at the end, a clear view of the boy. His straight nose, tanned skin, wavy dark-brown hair. She opened one of her books, The Coast of Maine: A Close-Up Perspective, and quickly flipped to the index under Cs. Skimming her thumb along the column, she heard, “Hello.” She looked up to his smile, his wave. She’d never seen him this close before; something about his right eye. Not in sync with the other, or any part of his face. As if it were…dead. She said, “Hi.”
“You probably don’t – “
“Yes. From the bleachers. The games.”
“Right….My name’s Mark.” He fingered the pages of his magazine, folding the edges back and forth, big glossy pictures, baseball. Sports Illustrated.
She picked up her books, brought them over to the boy’s table and sat across from him. “I’m Emily. You go to all the games, right?”
“Right….Sometimes the practices.”
“How come you don’t play?”
“Wish I could. I was in an accident last year, around Christmas. My eye, see?” He rested an index finger below his bad eye.
“What about it?”
“You can’t tell?”
“It’s all right. Glass eye, but it’s made of plastic.” He said it like he was showing off. Maybe to make her comfortable, not a big deal to talk about it.
“Like Sammy Davis, Jr., right?” she said. “My mother used to sing Candy Man to me all the time.”
“Peter Falk’s got one, too.”
“Oh….What kind of accident?”
“Hit by a car,” he said, then fell silent. She vaguely noticed the sounds of the library…the clack of a typewriter…the turning of pages…a muffled cough. “Why are you at the library?”
“It’s just I’ve never seen you here.”
“I’m looking something up. The jerks I play with keep teasing me about the town, saying it was discovered by ghouls.”
“I’ve seen those guys. They’re the ghouls.”
She laughed. “They say these missing girls were abducted by monsters.”
Mark told her how, when the girls were first reported missing, the whole town, and even surrounding towns, gathered at the L Street Playground to form search parties.
“I went on one a few days ago,” Emily said.
“Were you here when they disappeared?” he asked.
“No, my father teaches in Boston. We’ve only been in Cumberland a few weeks. My folks stayed here for a couple of summers before I was born.” They sat there looking at each other, then Mark turned to the side, maybe to shield his bad eye, self-conscious all of a sudden. Maybe that meant he liked her.
Mark spoke quickly, as if to keep her there, “Why did you look for them?”
“I don’t know. It’s just…” She wanted to tell him about her mother, but didn’t know what to say. She’d never brought it up before, not even with her father, afraid he might sink into one of his crying or silent spells. “My dad said we should.”
More silence. She struggled for something to say, hoped he would say something. Anything so this moment wouldn’t just fade away.
She thought of all the days Mark had sat on the last row of the bleachers, leaning forward, studying every game, every inning, every out. And she wondered what it would be like not to be able to play. Her eyes on his skin, so brown and smooth, his eyes, that eye, then his mouth, small and somehow sad. She imagined what it would be like to touch his face, run her fingers along his cheeks, let them rest on his soft pink lips.
Practice ran late so Emily arrived at Cumberland High after the opening remarks began. Her first thought when she stepped into the gymnasium was that someone had played a joke. Only a handful of people stood in a room meant to hold hundreds. She walked toward Mark as the volunteer from the sheriff’s office finished his comments. The crowd seemed despondent, as though resigned to the fact they’d find nothing out there among the bogs, meadows, dirt roads and beaches.
She felt dwarfed by the massive yellow-tiled walls. At the top, where they met the ceiling, a wide row of windows ran along the gym’s perimeter, allowing in streams of sunlight that illuminated swirls of floating dust. Emily imagined the rest of the town out there – grocery clerks, lifeguards, retired couples – peering through the glass, looking down on them and laughing. When it was clear that no stragglers would arrive, the man from the sheriff’s department suggested boundaries where each party search and reminded them what to look for, then led them out the door into the sun.
Although most of the land along Morden Cliffs was private property, there was a public path known as the Cliff Walk. Mansions stood proudly on their left, with wrap-around porches, greenhouses and cupolas. To their right was the sheer drop of the cliffs and the ocean below. This was the hottest day yet, the sky a bleached slate; a weightiness to the heat, like burlap. It wrapped around them, pressing against their skin, their hair, their clothes. They wore bathing suits, she with shorts and her cracked worn sandals, Mark in a T-shirt and black ankle-high sneakers.
From behind her, she heard him ask, “Is your mother up here?”
She moved more quickly, arms pumping, a military drill. “She died about a year ago.”
“You must think about her a lot.”
She stopped suddenly and felt his hand brush against her arm. They were at an outcrop of flat rock that extended beyond the rest of the trail. She could see a small patch of the public beach; she saw St. Augustine’s steeple piercing the sky; the rolling dunes mottled with long wavy sea grass; but most of all she saw the sea, and when her eyes settled on it, she couldn’t pull them away. She wondered what it would be like to jump, spread her arms, feel her body stretch its full length. She knew she wouldn’t get hurt. The ocean would protect her, cushion her against the shallow bottom and jagged rocks.
A gust of wind shook her from her reverie. “Constantly,” she said quietly, turning to face him. “I try to remember everything…fill my head with every memory of her I can, but sometimes they fly away.”
“I don’t…I’m not sure what to say.”
“You don’t have to say anything.”
They made their way along the twisting path, which led inland, and soon found their feet sinking into soft sand, their vision obscured by tall grass and sprawling bushes. Rounding a bend, the vegetation suddenly stopped, giving way to an old cemetery. The water tower stood over the decrepit graveyard as though it were an ogre keeping guard, the bent cracked gravestones its malformed children.
Around the small weed-strewn cemetery stood a stonewall, waist-high. Centuries-old, Emily thought. Maybe even built by Indians. They straddled the wall and sat.
“Fatass said those monsters keep their victims’ hearts up in the tower. And at night, if the moon’s bright, you can see the dome pulsing, as if it were breathing. Stupid jerk, thinks everything’s a joke.”
“Do you think they’re still alive?” He appeared hypnotized by one of the tombstones, a miniature Washington Monument, crooked and warped, like the spine of an old woman. It stood in the row closest to them, or what must have been a row at one time; it seemed now the plots lay there indiscriminately, without thought, the earth’s movement over time causing the sites to shift, disengage from their original placement.
She imagined the skeletons beneath the ground moving ever so slightly, bit by bit over decades, in their disintegrating caskets. “You have to have hope,” she said. “It’s what makes you keep going.”
“If they’re alive why would they be out here?”
“Then go home. I’ll find them on my own.” He didn’t leave. His only motion was a slight lean to his side, toward the graves. “What’s the matter with you?” she said.
“Nothing…Just wonder what it’s like. When you die.”
“It’s like being asleep.” She’d never seen her mother’s body, but she remembered all the times she’d seen her sleeping at home and at the hospital. “You don’t really know.”
“Just because you don’t know you’re dead, you’re still dead. I was out for almost a month after I got hit. I mean, don’t you think about the people you’re never gonna meet? The books you’re never gonna read?” He stopped, caught her eyes, then looked to the field. “I talk to my father about it, he tells me to think of something else.”
Emily inched closer to Mark, until their knees touched. Her hands went to his without thought and he took them in. She leaned towards him and he did the same, their foreheads resting against one another’s. They remained that way, everything intertwined, fingers, breath, hair, neither of them speaking. She lifted her head and waited for him to do the same. Finally, she said, “Are you going to look up?” He did, but off to the side, to the grass again. “Why don’t you look at me?”
“You know what.”
“I saw it clear enough at the library.”
“Yeah, but I didn’t think you…we’d…end up…”
“What difference does it make?”
“It’s gross. I can take it out. It’s disgusting!”
She acted quickly. Before Mark could move away, her lips were resting on the lid of his fake eye. He seized up, but only for a moment, and when she lifted her lips from his lid, he opened his eye. She looked straight into his glass eye, saw its stillness, its separateness from the rest of his face. Then she kissed his left eyelid and held it for as long as she had held the other.
Even though the sun was making its descent toward the bay and the sandstone projects along windy Gulf Road, it beat down like a desert noon. It was almost 5:00, and Mark and Emily were crossing her lawn along the cement walkway that led to the outside shower and back porch. She saw her father and her heart jolted to her throat. Heat immediately rose inside her, sweat breaking out on her forehead, on the back of her neck, the surface of her skin alive with tiny hairs. He stood like a sentry in front of the garden, rake in hand. Baron stood unchained, its maw agape. And from its mouth, like a dark cave, emanated all that was unnatural – the endless unforgiving heat, the beast’s senseless wrath. The entire sight was completely motionless, the thick hot air cementing it in place.
In the distance, Mr. Cutler rose from the cellar bulkhead carrying the leash, but stopped just before the standoff. He took a few steps backward, confused, afraid to approach his dog.
The three of them stood around the silent battle. Mark crossed in front of Emily. She wanted to intercede, for all three of them to converge and drag the dog into its cellar where it belonged. But she sensed any slight motion might set the animal off. So she watched, for what seemed like minutes. She turned to call the police or fire department and noticed Baron taking a step to his left, as if wanting to circle her father, not kill him but whatever was behind him.
The garden. Her father must’ve realized it too, because he countered. The dog took another step left; her father countered again. Her father no longer blocking the garden, Baron sprung. With the force of a shotgun blast, grass and dirt exploding beneath his paws, erupting backward, he tore into the garden with his snout, his two front legs digging mightily. Tomato plants ripped from the ground, flying in the air like shredded paper.
Baron stopped, suddenly bewildered, then scampered to another section of the garden and began digging again, this time more feverishly, obliterating the fledgling carrot, onion and bean plants. From the garden rose a growling sound, deep and guttural.
An odor suddenly slammed Emily’s nostrils with the savagery of a hammer blow. Her fingers went to her nose. Breathing through her mouth caused a rotten foul taste at the back of her tongue.
Her father walked slowly toward Baron. She followed, but remained at a safe distance. The dog’s head shifted from side to side at the bottom of the hole, and when it rose she saw something in its mouth, several things. Maybe stones, or roots of some kind. Baron spit them out with a grunt. Pieces landed a few inches from her father’s feet. He dropped his rake and picked up a two inch-long sliver, ignoring the dog’s saliva that coated it like grease. He smelled it, then held it at each end, testing its strength until it snapped, leaving a jagged shard in each of his hands. He dropped them and rubbed his hands fiercely on the grass.
He bolted to Mr. Cutler and grabbed the chain, then ran to the dog and maneuvered the leash around its neck. He yanked the leash with his whole body, was joined by Mr. Cutler and they pulled Baron, howling and thrashing, from the ditch. They tied him to one of the supports of the back porch, after which her father ran up the stairs, three steps at a time, yelling, “Don’t go near…Stay away from that hole.”
Mr. Cutler cautiously gazed into the crater, then quickly backed away, a flurry of short steps.
By the time her father came back outside, sat down on the top step of the porch and extended his arms for Emily to sit with him, sirens could be heard in the distance. He took her hand and led her through the house to the front yard.
Four cars arrived in minutes, cops bursting from the doors. They followed her father and Mr. Cutler down the side walkway. Emily and Mark stood to join them, but were stopped by her father’s stern, “Wait here.”
They sat silently, their eyes on the police cars that practically blocked the street, red and blue lights spinning and flashing. In less than five minutes at least fifty people were gathered around the house and cars, pouring onto the front lawn. People she recognized from the beach, the neighborhood, the ballpark. More cars arrived, and a white truck with “MAINE STATE POLICE” across it. Uniformed cops poured out, removing barricades from the back panel doors and creating a corridor from the street to the yard.
So much waiting, people looking at each other, eyes darting from face to face. Emily felt the crowd swelling.
Channel 7’s news van came too fast around the corner of Cooper Street and almost rode the curb. When they pulled as close as they could to the house, they were immediately waved away by two cops and guided a block down to Central Ave. Several more vans and mini-trucks followed and were sent along. Emily saw men with cameras fixed on their shoulders and reporters talking into microphones. They made their way to the house, asking questions to officers guarding the blue barricades: “What happened?” “Will arrests be made?” “Have the bodies been identified?” “Can they be identified?”
Cops returned to the truck and removed large lights attached to adjustable metal stands and hauled them behind the house. Also, square black carrying cases and smaller ones, resembling tackle boxes.
Her father came out front to check on her. He bent down toward Emily and started to say something, but no words came. He placed his hands on her arms and brought her tightly to him and she felt his chin hard against her shoulder. His name was called and, in an instant, was back on the other side of the barricade.
She watched policemen walk down the side yard toward the street wearing transparent rubber gloves and carrying different-sized parcels. Most of them wore casual pants and short-sleeves, two or three buttons undone, revealing soiled t-shirts and shiny wet necks. The bundles were wrapped in black plastic and labeled with what looked like price tags. The men walked to the State Police truck and placed everything carefully inside, then shut the doors and quickly returned behind the house. Few words were spoken; a grim, meager parade.
Body bags were brought down the walkway next, the first two carried by a policeman at each end. Only one was needed to lift the third, a small bundle. The bag was the same size as the others, so its ends drooped as the man holding it made his way to the truck.
Even though Mark’s lips were moving, she couldn’t hear him, couldn’t hear the cops, the spectators, the car radios or walkie-talkies. Mark held her hand and led her past the press trucks, across Central Ave. toward the beach. The stench still clung to her nostrils. She walked faster, but there was no use running away from the scene behind her; it would stay embedded in her mind. As concrete a picture as bones spit up by a dog, or a zipped-up body bag. She thought of her father’s hope, what a waste, and how she had foolishly tried to pass it on to Mark.
The image of a ghoul flashed through her mind. She tried to give it shape, a face, anything definite. She thought of the hairy four-legged beast and the scaly sea creature. She wanted to see them clearly, conjure them up, stare into their bloodshot eyes, smell their rancid breaths. There was something comforting in these make-believe images. Then she thought of all the people she knew, teachers, friends, her father’s friends; and those she didn’t know, strangers on the beach, in restaurants, at baseball games, the people in front of her house right now. All of them potential ghouls.