The Skinwalker's Tale

The Paranormal Investigator Book 4

by Christopher Carrolli

Brett Taylor has kept a dark secret his entire life—the fact that he is a shape-shifter. Now, his strange ability has reached a climax. The shifting from man to animal has become unstoppable, and a near tragedy unfolds as the shape of a wolf consumes Brett beneath the moonlight. The team must intervene to help him.

Tahoe Manoa, the Native American seer who aided Leah Leeds at Cedar Manor, has special knowledge of what is happening to Brett. He'd heard the "skinwalker" legends since childhood. But can he find Brett before his vision of a bloodstained wolf comes to pass?


Chapter One

Brett Taylor had been able to change ever since childhood. It was the dark secret he’d carried his entire life—the one thing that separated him from every other human being. He was a shape-shifter, a human capable of changing his physical being into the shape of another, usually that of an animal. At least, that’s the way it had always been.

Most often, he shifted into the shape of a wolf, though there were others. He rode an emotional rollercoaster just before the change would occur, the tension and friction exploding inside of him until the precise moment of metamorphosis. It was the shape of the wolf that provided him with the peacefulness, the tranquility his soul so desperately needed. The wolf was also the shape he shifted to best, the one with the most ease.

He remained certain of one thing; he was not a werewolf, if such a thing even existed. Whenever he shifted, he became the complete and utter manifestation of the shape, not a “Half-man” or a “Were,” as they were most often called. When he became the wolf, he was the wolf in every aspect, a howling king of the canines with no human trace of Brett Taylor. His former physical self would temporarily cease to exist as the transformation to the animal would become complete. Throughout his young life, he’d mastered various other shapes as well.

It was not something he’d ever understood. At some point, he’d stopped trying. Uncle Jack and Aunt Viv had known for most of his life. At the age of seven, he’d demonstrated his unique ability for them by shifting into a dog. That had been the moment when they’d discovered that the young boy they raised since birth was marked with a supernatural secret. They’d kept silent about this secret the rest of their lives.

They’d explained to him, at age ten, that they were his great-uncle and aunt and that they had adopted him. Their niece, Claudia, whom they had raised, was his mother. One day, Claudia vanished, leaving a note and her baby behind to be brought up by the same aging couple that had raised her. But Uncle Jack and Aunt Vivian had taken the best care of him, giving him the best in life, though they seldom mentioned or discussed his secret, freakish ability.

On the rare occasions when they had, they told him that he was special, that he was one of the many, though rare, people in the world with unique and unexplainable abilities. They instilled in him that what mattered most was what kind of person he was, not what he was capable of doing.

“A good person has a good heart,” Aunt Viv always said. “And that’s exactly what you are. The gift of your heart is a far greater gift to the world.”

“That’s right,” Uncle Jack had said. “But the fact that you can change like you do is something that should stay your secret. It’s something the world just won’t understand.”

He recalled asking them if that’s why his mother had left, because of what he was. Aunt Viv hadn’t disagreed, only hung her head to hide the heartbreak on her face. Aunt Viv had preached about having a good heart, yet ironically died from a bad one a few years ago. Now, Uncle Jack’s cancer had progressed; he didn’t have much longer. Brett was tending to him in his final days, having temporarily vacated his apartment to be with him full-time.

Now, he thought of all this as he sat on the front porch of Uncle Jack’s farmhouse, looking up at the stars that were spread through the summer sky in a brilliant display. Then, he turned his gaze out across the rolling green acres of land that would become his in the near and bittersweet future. Uncle Jack’s exit couldn’t have come at a stranger time, right when this secret ability of his had reached an unexpected peak, and he would need his uncle most. Up until now, his secret had amounted to sporadic occurrences when he felt the need to change building inside of him, and then the eventual metamorphosis would bring the expected release. Those occasions were sparse and scattered moments that came, passed, and were soon forgotten.

But around a year ago, after his twenty-fifth birthday, something changed.

The shifting, as he called it, had become more frequent. The rampant emotions he called chaos had displaced the miniscule urges he once felt in adolescence. Now, he’d even brought about the change at will, something he’d only been able to do once for Uncle Jack and Aunt Viv when he was seven. Recently, he’d initiated the change into the shape of the hawk. It was some months ago, before Christmas, when he’d searched for Tahoe Manoa in the Arizona desert.

As the mighty hawk, he’d swept through the desert in search of the old man until he found him. But little did Brett realize that when he did, the old man, a psychic paragon, had seen exactly what was in front of him—a shape-shifter. Tahoe became the only other person who’d ever been aware of his secret outside of Aunt Viv and Uncle Jack. He’d never even told the team: Dylan, Sidney, Leah, or Susan.

They were his were longtime friends who were like family, not to mention seasoned paranormal investigators. Before they’d all gone into Cedar Manor over six months ago, the team began to notice a wayward pattern in his behavior. Then, and now, he was having trouble focusing his concentration while dealing with the chaos, and maintaining a secret that was causing him to act irrationally. He would leave meetings and gatherings early and abruptly, and his behavior was rash, edgy, and unlike him.

They’d known something was up, especially Sidney. Then, they’d gone into Cedar Manor to help Leah confront the past that continued to haunt her. Brett had been operating the ghost-box-EVP technology, and Sidney had made verbal, ghostly contact with a demon. Sidney’s attempt to provoke the demon into identifying Leah by name had almost exposed Brett’s secret.

“Who is it that you see in this room?” Sidney had asked.

Brett remembered how his heart had sunk to his knees when the guttural voice responded.


No one on the team had understood the demon’s meaning, or use of the word, but Tahoe did. Brett would never forget the old man’s gaze as their eyes had met from across the room. Now, Brett recalled a conversation with Tahoe shortly before they’d gone into the house. He’d asked if the team was aware of his secret ability.

“Your friends need to know; they need to help you understand. There may come a time when you all need to understand.”

He’d emphasized the word ‘need,’ and now Brett was beginning to understand why as the old man’s words became haunting reverberations in his mind. His secret had now come full circle, and revealing it to the team was becoming inevitable, but there was so much more he needed to understand. Uncle Jack and Aunt Viv hadn’t told him the complete story, especially about his mother.

For years, he hadn’t cared to know everything. He was happy just living his life with Uncle Jack and Aunt Viv, and the occurrences were not consistent enough to warrant great concern. Now, things were changing. He felt the selfish need to know more from Uncle Jack before he died, and this fact made him feel heartless, crass, and shrewd.

But it was the tale of his life that was slipping away with Uncle Jack. It was a truth he needed to know before it was too late. Surely, somewhere there would be some divine exoneration for this one selfish thought of his? He wondered as he looked up at the starry sky above. Then, he thought back once more to something Tahoe had said.

“The ancients used to tell tales of such things. I used to think the old stories were parables passed down through generations...So, the stories are true, my friend.”

Stories, Brett thought. So, Tahoe had known of some pretext for what he was. He hadn’t bothered the old man with questions about Native-American legends that were passed down to him. His only interest, at that time, had been helping Leah.

Now, he could hear the rapid pop-pop-pop of the Fourth of July fireworks exploding in the background. Their rapport was deafeningly near to his ear in this remote, rural area that seemed so far away from the rest of the world. He tried to segue his thoughts into how beautifully scenic it was here, how he’d loved growing up here, and how soon, he would dwell in this large farmhouse alone. But the more he tried to distract himself, the more Tahoe’s voice sounded in his head.

“There may come a time when you all need to understand...”

The reality of telling the team was easier said than done. After Cedar Manor had burned, the team found themselves with quiet and much needed down-time, responding to simple cases that needed only minor attention. Brett managed to keep a considerable distance these past six months, especially since dealing with Uncle Jack’s illness. He’d therefore managed to avoid attracting any more attention to his out-of-character behavior.

The conflict began to twist and turn inside of him. Lately, all of his emotions seemed magnified by a thousand, and he felt them just as surely as he would the pricking of sharp needles. At this point, there was no sense in ignoring what would occur once the emotions reached an apex, but it didn’t matter at this moment. Right now, he felt the need for a good run as the wolf to clear his mind, settle his nervous state, and quiet his emotional surge.

"The Skinwalkers Tale" - Christopher Carrolli


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