The Legend of Baiowolf
It was a calm October night. Moonlight spilled down into the Valley. The California air was sweet with jasmine, orange blossoms, and the runoff of a nearby celebrity fragrance factory. Suddenly a terrifying shriek pierced the silence and a gust of wind swept the sweetness away.
Lt. Finazzo sucked the foam from a pumpkin spice latte off his thick mustache and stared at the purple streak of blood and entrails staining the cement.
“My wife thinks it’s an animal,” said Sgt. Wade Wender.
“Your wife’s an idiot,” said Lt. Finazzo.
“When was the last one?”
“A year ago,” said Finazzo. “Pretty much to the day. Killed something every night for a week, then vanished.”
“Could be a bear,” said Wender, shrugging.
Finazzo pointed to the sidewalk splotch. “What kind of bear you know got manners like this?”
A beat cop jumped out of a hedge holding a sneaker. “We got something!”
“Looks like a Skechers Shape-Up,” said Wender.
Blood dripped from its bloated heel.
“Whatever this thing is,” said Finazzo, “it’s getting stronger. And we’ve only got a week to catch it.”
“Should we call Baio?” asked Wender.
“Do it,” said Finazzo. He squinted into a sliver of dawn. “We should’ve called him years ago.”
Scott Baio shaved his gray stubble with a dull razor. The exorbitant price of razors infuriated him to no end. After a near brawl with a surly store manager, he’d taken his wife’s advice and written several letters of complaint. First he wrote to the razor manufacturer, then to the pharmacy chain store where he usually bought his toiletries, and finally to the editorial page of the local newspaper.
The paper had always been very receptive to his opinions on matters close to his heart (products with confounding packaging, bilingual traffic signs, unruly teens), but the editor hadn’t replied to his latest missive. When Scott finally tracked him down on the phone, the editor said the razor issue had been beaten to death, and anyhow the publisher wanted to devote any extra column inches to the random, heinous acts that plagued the area every year around this time. Vandalism. Overturned dumpsters. Missing pets and livestock. Strange howls in the night.
Scott wrote back with a list of other things he’d like to see beaten to death. The razors were a scam. They were a scam! What was happening to this country? Why couldn’t the people see they were being robbed?
Most people Scott complained to were tired of hearing about the razors, but Scott had just hired a new housekeeper. Tony was from Italy. In fact, Tony was from the same village as Scott’s great-great-grandfather. Scott thought that was pretty neat. He even signed up for a free trial of a genealogy website, but then he forgot the password.
Tony was tending to the koi pond in the garden, just outside Scott’s bathroom window. Scott opened the window and waved.
“These razors, man,” he said. His face was covered with foam. He rinsed the tired blades and swiped once down his famously sculpted jaw.
“Excuse me?” said Tony, poking the pond’s surface with a rake handle. It seemed all the koi were dead.
“I’m thinking of making the switch to a disposable,” said Scott. “You ever use a disposable? There any good ones?”
“You have a very heavy coat, Mr. Baio,” said Tony.
Scott ran a hand over his shoulder stubble. “Ladies love the fur,” he said.
“Is it true,” asked Tony, lowering his voice, “that you have been with both Pamela Anderson and Liza Minnelli?”
“A gentleman never tells,” said Scott, smiling. Tony did not appear sufficiently disappointed. “But let’s just say…”
The doorbell rang.
Finazzo and Wender arranged themselves awkwardly on the Davenport, sipping lemonade and nibbling Tony’s homemade blondies. Scott eyed the crumbs with obvious displeasure. He crossed his long legs at the knee. “Tell me gentlemen, how may I be of service this morning?”
“We’ve got a problem, Scott,” said Finazzo. He took a deep breath. “I’m sure you’re aware of our community’s mysterious annual scourge.”
“Sure,” said Scott. “I’ve seen a few headlines. It’s probably local teens having some fun. That or coyotes.”
“Actually, coyotes are among the victims,” said Finazzo.
“I see,” said Scott. “Perhaps it’s a mountain lion, down from the mountains.”
“Maybe,” said Wender.
“Maybe some local teens are keeping a mountain lion as a mascot,” said Scott. “Some kind of gang thing.”
“Listen, Scott, there’s something you don’t know,” said Finazzo. “Something that hasn’t hit the papers yet.”
“What is it now?” demanded Scott, standing up. “Another tax hike?”
“Not exactly,” said Wender.
“A citizen’s gone missing,” said Finazzo. “A woman. We have reason to believe she has fallen victim to the same, uh, being, that attacked the Randall’s llama farm and ransacked the Carl’s Jr.”
“Gentlemen,” said Scott, “aside from my well-documented love of women and my position as a prominent and, indeed, concerned citizen, I fail to see what any of this has to do with me.”
The two policemen shared an uneasy glance.
“We hear stories about you,” said Wender, bashfully.
“I see,” said Scott. “About me and various women?”
“I’ve read your letters in the paper,” said Finazzo.
“Come on, Mr. Baio,” said Wender, staring down at his beaten loafers. “You’re pretty much the king of this town.”
Scott nodded. His eyes narrowed as a newfound sense of responsibility hardened his already sharp features.
“There is some precedent,” said Tony, emerging from a shadowy corner.
“What do you know about it?” demanded Wender.
“This here’s Tony,” said Scott. “My new housekeeper. Comes from the old country. Pretty neat, huh?”
“I mean only to say that Mr. Baio’s family has some experience in these matters,” said Tony.
“Well, damn, that’s good to hear,” said Wender.
“We just ask that you keep your eyes and ears open,” said Finazzo.
“People trust you,” said Wender. “They respect you. They might say something that they wouldn’t share with just anybody.”
“I understand,” said Scott.
Tony brought the men their hats.
“Thank you for stopping by, gentlemen,” said Scott as he escorted them to the elegant foyer.
Scott retrieved a fresh Cohiba from the humidor. He sniffed its length and motioned for Tony to sit. “Tell me everything,” said Scott.
“Our village in Italy was besieged by a monster,” said Tony. “Your great-great-grandfather hunted it down and freed the villagers of their fear. He was known as Beowulf.”
Scott lit the cigar. Aromatic smoke swirled in the late-morning light. “Beowulf, Beowulf,” said Scott. “Where’ve I heard that before?”
“Perhaps you’ve read the epic poem about an even earlier ancestor,” said Tony.
Scott nodded thoughtfully. “Did you know I turned down Teen Wolf 2?”
“You mean, Teen Wolf Too?”
“Yeah,” said Scott.
“I did not know that,” said Tony. “Your great-great grandfather dropped the ‘wulf’ when he fled the old country and the spelling has been further bastardized.”
“Fled?” said Scott. “What’d the guy do? Knock somebody up?”
“He exposed the monster,” said Tony. “And the people turned on him. They formed a mob and forced him from the village.”
“What was it, like a wild boar or something?”
“One monster was known as Grendal.”
Scott finished Wender’s lemonade. “Grendal? Like, Grendalwyn?”
“Who’s Grendalwyn?” asked Tony.
“I think I met a chick named Grendalwyn once,” said Scott.
“Hmm,” said Tony.
“Grendalwyn, Grendalwyn,” said Scott, tapping his chin.
“You are the latest incarnation of the legendary Baiowolf,” said Tony.
“Grendalwyn,” said Scott. “Crazy orange hair, honkers out to here?”
“You are a descendant of the most celebrated warrior the world has ever known,” Tony continued. “The people’s respect for Beowulf was so great they made him king. Through the years your family has continued to battle manifestations of evil. Scott, it’s time to join the family business. It’s time to face who you really are.”
“Hold up just a second,” said Scott. “One thing I don’t get. If my great-great-granddaddy was such a big hero why’d he have to leave and change his name and everything? Why not stick around and get all the girls?”
“Well,” said Tony, “that’s where it gets a little complicated.”
“The whole thing is giving me a headache,” said Scott. He began to pace the room. “I wish to hell I could find that damn password.”
“For the website,” said Scott. His temper was rising.
“I’m sorry,” said Tony. “Which site?”
“The what-do-you-call-it!” said Scott. Waves of anger and frustration burst through his sandbags of self-restraint. “The genealogy thing.”
“Oh,” said Tony. “Did you write it down somewhere?”
“Of course I wrote it down,” said Scott. He took several rapid puffs of the cigar. “What, you think I don’t know how to work a computer?”
“It’s not a big deal,” said Tony. “We can recover the password.”
Scott was silent for a long time. Finally he lifted his head. Even in his anguish, there was a striking symmetry to his face.
We demand so much of the beautiful, Tony thought. Since the beginning of time the Baios have been celebrated and revered for their charm, beauty, and bravery. They are thrust into positions of authority, relied upon in times of darkness and need, only to be shunned for the purest expression of the traits we hold in such high esteem. When will humanity accept that we are drawn to monsters, predators, and psychopaths?
“I think all the fish are dead,” Scott whispered.
“I know,” said Tony.
“You’ll have to forgive me,” said Scott. He fell to his knees. “Celebrity is not always conducive to self-reflection, restraint, or responsibility. I’ve always been able to blame everything on rowdy local teens, the disenfranchised, various forms of wildlife.”
“They are the source of much evil in their own right,” said Tony.
Scott reached beneath the Davenport and returned with a blood-soaked Shape-Up. He flashed that famous smile, now framed with fearsome fangs. His stylish fade had sprouted into a shaggy mane. His eyes filled with watery relief. “I am the wolf,” he said.
“But you are also the hunter,” said Tony. He placed a hand on Scott’s back. The muscles, always gracefully defined, were swollen and twitching.
“I am the hunter and the wolf,” said Scott. “I am Baiowolf.”