The Puppet Hunter


Dunmeyer, Bethel County: Population: 6,283

They were watched. They were chosen with purpose. They were given a part they hadn't auditioned for.

Beth-Ann Peters vanishes on a warm, spring night, leaving no witnesses and no evidence behind.

In a small town community, like Dunmeyer, your neighbors are often your closest friends and feel more like family. As additional teenagers begin to disappear, the whole town is thrown into a chaotic mess and no one knows who to trust. The closest of friends are becoming suspect and the tourists are met with resistance.

The sheriff is ill-equipped to deal with crimes much above drunken brawls at the local bar and reluctantly calls in backup from his old city's station. Local residents are beginning to doubt his ability to serve and protect and don't believe he is doing enough to find their girls until his daughter goes missing as well.

The entire town of Dunmeyer is stunned by the news except for one resident who, observing from afar, finds great satisfaction in the destruction they've caused and takes pride in creating their greatest masterpiece yet.

Chapter 1

(First two scenes)

       Flames licked the side of the cabinet and reached for the corner of the kitchen curtains. Bobby lifted the metal trash can with his gloved hands, just enough to encourage the flames to go a little higher. He let it slip from his grasp, scattering the remaining contents across the floor and grabbed a hand towel from the counter. He took a deep breath and regretted it as his lungs filled with smoke. He leaned forward and dipped the edge of the towel into the expanding fire and threw it into the nearest corner before he walked out the door.

       The crisp autumn breeze bit at his skin through his sweatshirt and jeans and he longed, for a brief moment, to be near the flames again. He shivered as he remembered how warm the evenings were just a few weeks before. Fall moved in quick this year and the cooler weather seemed to put even more people on edge. It added an eerie covering to the already desolate feeling impacting the community.

       Bobby stood just outside the window and watched his handiwork. He had nothing to fear and no need to run. As soon as the fire consumes half the kitchen, he will call to report it. He will stay and wait until the fire department and sheriff arrive and he'll turn himself in. By nature, he is not an arsonist. But there are girls being kept here. Locked up in this house where no one can see them. They need to be found. They need to be saved. Even at the expense of his own freedom.

Ten Hours Earlier

       Like every morning before, the puppets were awakened by the monotone singing of their captor. They cringed as the voice grew nearer. They wanted to hide or cower in a corner but the strings were pulled taught and their muscles were tired and weakened from being strung in the same position for close to twelve hours.

       The routine was the same each day. Upon entering the room, the flashlight was positioned toward the wall and the curtains were pulled to the side to reveal a crudely drawn picture of a sun, shaded with yellow and orange crayon. It was held to the wall with scotch tape in the makeshift window. Rough cut pieces of cardboard were glued to the brick at awkward angles to create the illusion of a windowsill. Laughable, if not for the current situation. Every morning the same line was delivered: "My mother always told me to start each day by welcoming the sun." Most days that was followed by the muttering of: "Stupid, bitch. That was the only useful piece of advice she ever gave me."

       One by one, each of the four wooden hand cranks were turned and the puppet was lowered to the floor. Unable to stand on her own, the captor would lift her and use their body to pin her to the wall or hold her in an upright position. Their dresses were changed every morning and they each secretly hoped it would be replaced by one with a zippered back.

       They felt the caress of both hands down their back as the zipper was lowered but it was always better than the alternative of feeling them linger just a little too long as the front laces of the corset style dresses were tightened. The one touch they could never avoid was the removal of each dress. No matter the length, the hands always started on the inner thighs and slid slowly up their body as the dress was raised above their head.

     Before replacing the dress, they could all feel those eyes searing into their skin. Every two days their undergarments were changed and that brought a new type or torment with it. The changing ritual of those garments meant the slow caress of the hands down their body, followed by a lingering trail of kisses and gentle, slow flicks of the tongue, strategically placed. It made them all shiver and cringe no matter how many times it had happened before.

      Each string had a metal hook and loop attached to the top for easy removal and replacement of all garments. Sundays were considered laundry day and all clothing was removed in its entirety. They were all positioned and posed the way they came in to the world, fully exposed.