The body was carefully set inside a body bag and driven back to the station. The sheriff demanded absolute secrecy, since he didn’t want to shock his little town. Deputy Quentin called a lab in Phoenix, which agreed to send a crew out to examine the body and take it back to the lab. As the sheriff’s department waited for the medical crew to arrive, Quentin remembered Miguel Michaels. Michaels’ story had seemed insane at the time, but now… now the deputy understood. After thinking it all over, Titus Quentin was sure this strange, mutant corpse was one of Michaels’s “maggot men”. How the creature had come from Michaels’ cavern down to the ravine was a mystery. Though it was common knowledge that a huge network of erosion tunnels ran down from the hills and criss-crossed the entire San Bernardo valley.
The crew from Phoenix arrived. In the town morgue, Dr. Patricia Ivanov, the head examiner, watched in hushed silence as two men unzipped the body bag and lifted out the shriveled corpse of the unknown creature. Even though it had been preserved in a refrigerated environment, it stank with a nauseating mixture of pitch and rotting flesh. Quickly deducing it was definitely not human nor of any animal species she knew of, Dr. Ivanov and her team rushed the corpse back to their lab in Phoenix for further analysis.
Deputy Titus called Michaels’ home in Chandler but got no response. He called Michaels’ work and was told that Michaels was currently on a trip out of state. Quentin, frustrated he had let Michaels slip away, told himself to try him again later. So Quentin went back to waiting to learn of the laboratory results. A few days later, Titus was in Flagstaff at the police impound to drop off his cousin after a DUI. Strolling down the line of cars, Titus’s eyes passed over the assortment of vehicles. Trucks, rusted vans, sedans dusted with a light coating of sand; the impound had a broad selection. One car in particular grabbed Titus’s attention. It was a nondescript, sky blue Toyota Corolla that Titus swore he had seen somewhere before. Titus looked up the car’s owner to find it was none other than Miguel Michaels. The car had been found abandoned in the parking lot of a Motel 6 down the interstate. With an apprehensive feeling of having stepped into something much larger and more sinister than first thought, Deputy Quentin drove to the motel. With the desk clerk’s help, Quentin found the day when Michaels had checked in. Together, the clerk and Quentin spoke to the man who had been working the reception desk that night. According to him, it was the night after Michaels’ arrival that a black SUV pulled into the parking lot. Five men in suits climbed out of the vehicle. As four of the men hurried up to Michaels’ room, the fifth man marched across the pavement to the reception desk. The man wore a black suit and had close-cut hair. Once inside, the man flashed a badge and said he was from the FBI and that Miguel Michaels was a wanted criminal. While he spoke, the agent kept his dark eyes fixed emotionless on the receptionist. Behind the agent, the clerk watched through the windows as the other men quietly forced Michaels’ door open and all rushed in at once. They came out a moment later with a hooded and cuffed Michaels, who they stuffed into their car. With a warning to forget what he had seen for his own good, the man left.
Titus Quentin drove back to San Bernardo, a sickening feeling in his stomach for the whole ride. He kept wondering how far up this mystery went.
Deputy Quentin received a nasty shock when he returned to town. A few miles outside of town, the sheriff radioed and said there was a man in his office who wanted to speak to Quentin. Quentin was to come at once. Quentin rushed to the sheriff’s office only to find a man in a black suit and with dark eyes waiting for him. The man explained to both the sheriff and Titus that he worked for the FBI and he had been tracking Miguel Michaels for some time. Michaels was a criminal with cartel links, he explained. They had just searched his residence in Chandler and found that he helped cartels transfer money digitally without detection. Since Michaels had passed through San Bernardo, the FBI was here just to make sure Michaels hadn’t deposited any evidence in the town. The FBI agent was especially interested in the cave. The sheriff and Quentin showed the agent where the cave was in the hills.
Over the following days, black vans and unmarked trucks arrived in San Bernardo. The cave that Michaels had discovered was cordoned off and the townspeople were forbidden from getting within a hundred yards of it. The locals complained to the sheriff but there was nothing he could do at this point. What the mysterious agents found down in the cave and the extent of their investigations remained a mystery. From this point on in the story, Deputy Quentin halted his investigation. He never knew the ultimate fate of Miguel Michaels and if he really was a criminal or just a hiker who stumbled into something he shouldn’t have. Even the body which had been sent to Dr. Ivanov in Phoenix was lost. Unable to reach conclusive results on the creature’s exact nature and origins with her equipment, Ivanov had sent the creature to a lab in California. However, when she called weeks later to check on their progress, she was told they had no definitive results as of yet. She kept calling every few weeks but always received the same answer.
After more than a year, she stopped calling.