“It was easier to be brave when you were someone else.”
― Stephen King, It
Shadows lay thick across the carpet of the girls room, as a shadow slipped over the sill of the window and onto the floor where it crawled on hands and toes to the bed, where a young girl lay tangled in her sheets an innocent smile on her delicate face. While Megan dreamed of a circus and a red headed boy who sat beside her the shadowy figure of a slender man rose from the floor and loomed over the foot of her bed watching her sleep for a moment his head cocked to one side. Images of blood and broken limbs danced through his mind, screams of terror echoed in his imagination like the call of drugs to an addict.
The girl shivered as a cool early morning breeze came through the window and blew over her still asleep she curled up and pulled her sheets tightly about her. Simon dressed as a Hobo clown stood there a moment longer gazing at the girl then dragged his mind out of the lovely dreams of death and carnage.
He looked around the room frowning in distaste at the decorations teen aged girls thought were nice. He had no interest in Rock and Roll singers he thought as he gazed at a poster with a long haired singer, bare to the waist flaunting his skinny torso as if proud of the absurd looking body he had been given.
The next time I am near LA I must remember to pay him a visit, Simon thought with cold amusement as he brought his attention back to the girl, who at least slept in a modest nightgown, one slender arm wrapped around a large stuffed bear that he recognized as one of the prizes from the circus.
So the boy had at least won her a prize and she had rewarded the boy with the filthy kissing and groping, Simon thought repelled by the notion.
He had no interest in the biological function of sex or courtship rituals other than using it as a means of control and power to humiliate a victim. But that the average person had paid an inordinate amount of attention to such things up to and including letting it control their lives was not something that Simon would debate nor understand.
He moved as silent as the wind across the bedroom and made sure the door was firmly shut. Like most teenaged girls she had a lock on her door which he engaged in case her father woke and came to check on her or she woke and began screaming.
Oh the young and trusting, demanding their privacy as if the only threat they might face would be from their parents snooping through the underwear drawers, he thought with a smile that would have frozen Megan’s blood if she had been awake.
Simon moved to the simple desk, a cheap one made of pressboard and shaped like cubes linked together, and gazed down at the pile of books on its surface then looked up at the bookshelf mounted to the wall over the desk. Books, stuffed animals and other cheap knickknacks filled the shelves.
His night vision had always been preternaturally sharper than other peoples and with the moonlight that spilled through the window, he could easily read the titles of the books.
Mostly they were books about a teen aged Female investigator, at least those were better than the teen age romance books on the shelf. There was also a popular series of teen horror novels written by some one named after a beer mug.
If you like Horror you should awaken right now, you little tramp, Simon thought knowing he was going to have to hurry. His dalliance with tonight’s victim had taken far more time than he had liked and resulted in his late arrival to young Megan’s room.
In a short while the sun would be rising and her father would probably wake soon and that would either result in a blood bath, he could ill afford or his precipitous withdrawal from the premises
He considered how entertaining it would be to slaughter the girl while her father at his breakfast and drank his coffee. And he could imagine the look on the fathers face when he would come up the stairs and open the bedroom door to find the meat doll that had been his daughter disassembled and strewn around the room. Oh how priceless, Simon thought. he could see the scene in his mind, the blood would still be warm and dripping so the father would know for the rest of his life his precious little girl had died while he enjoyed himself just a floor away, his soul would shrivel and die leaving him a husk, one of the walking dead and Simon would enjoy that almost as much as actually butchering the breeder and his girl.
No, sadly, I am here for another reason, Simon told himself as he noted the year books on the end of one shelf and pulled down the latest one. As he did so another smaller book that had between year books fell to the desk top with a oft thump..
He picked up the thin book. It was a simply made book of folded pages stapled along the center printed on the cover page was “High School student Directory” Oh this will do nicely he thought as he tucked the yearbook and the directory into the bag he carried.
He rather regretted there was now no reason to waken the girl, but these two books would tell him exactly who her rakish boyfriend was as well as the boys phone number and address alleviating the need to risk discovery by having to kill her and possibly her father. As regretful as it was he had to leave her alive.
With regret he looked down on her sleeping form, then gently touched her cheek before slipping out the window. In less than a minute he had slipped across the dew covered lawn and vanished into the narrow band of woods behind the house leaving nothing behind in the predawn light to hint that he had ever been there. .
0600 hrs Saturday
Hagen still bleary eyed from lack of sleep pulled in behind Pete Starrs and Buddy Morris’s patrol cars on the side of the road. He climbed out and settled his hat on his head. Pete was talking to Morris and Alex Wyland who had found the abandoned car.
Morris had answered the initial call, thinking that all he would find was a broken down car, then have it towed into town. Instead he had found traces of blood on the passenger seat. it was only a small amount and could have been from something as minor as cut finger or a nose bleed, but till they had answers Hagen would proceed as if there had been a murder.
“Morning Pete” Hagen said as he walked up to the three men. The car in question was a brand new Camaro parked in the grass along the side of the road.
“Morning Sheriff,” Pete replied then got down to business. “I ran the plates, the car belongs to Mark Sheffield out of Nashville. The locals are running down friends and family and will get back to us.”
“Any idea what happened? “ Hagen asked looking at the car which was totally unmarked. It looked as if the driver had just parked it and walked away.
“Not a clue, Keys are missing, no sign of a struggle and aside from the small of amount of blood on the passenger seat its as clean as it came off the show room floor yesterday.” Starr replied.
“Alex, you found it at what time” Hagen asked the Truck driver.
“three thirty this morning sir, I had to drive a ways down the road to call it in, then came back here to wait.” Alex replied.
“I thought you spotted someone as you came around the curve” Starr said remembering the initial report from dispatch.
“Just a trick of the lights you know how headlight can do that.” Alex said, but there was something in his eyes that told Hagen he wasn’t quite telling the truth. Alex shifted from foot to foot under Hagen’s gaze.
“What made you stop Alex, a car sitting on the side of the road isn’t something that unusual.” Hagen asked watching Alex closely. The other man looked like he was debating on whether to tell the whole story. “Alex, I have a missing girl I really need to be looking for. I have two deputies tied up with an abandoned car, we found blood inside and you are suddenly saying that you didn’t see some one and just had the urge to stop and be a good Samaritan.” Hagen said calmly.
“You wont believe me” Alex said. “and I weren’t drinking none either.”
Hagen remained quiet just gazing at the truck driver.
Alex sighed and visibly steeled himself. “I saw something odd Sheriff,” Alex finally said. “I came around the curve and I saw a hobo standing there behind the car, he had the weirdest face I ever seen Sheriff. Ghost white, with dark holes where his eyes were supposed to be and then he waved.
Just waggled his fingers like some kind of freak in a movie. That scared the crap out of me more than anything else and with the drivers door of the car standing open I thought something bad might have happened so I went and called your office. I only came back to wait when I knew Pete was almost here.” Alex said suppressing a shiver at the memory.
“The drivers door was closed when I got here” Starr replied.
“Any sign of a someone walking around the car” Hagen asked looking at the ground around the car.
“Not a thing, just tire tracks where the car drove in. but that don’t mean much Sheriff not with the ground here, would have to be a really heavy person to leave a track here” Starr replied casting a steely eyed glare at Alex for not telling him the whole story. “Ill have the thing dusted for prints of course.” Starr added.
Hagen had an uneasy feeling, first Julie Siemns and now this. If he were lucky, Mark Sheffield had broken down and some how cut his hand or some thing while trying to fix his car, then hiked into town and was sitting in the diner waiting for a friend to come pick him up. But Hagen doubted that was going to turn out to be the case.
“Call Possum and have him come out here with his dogs. Morris I want you to work with Possum checking the woods back there for any signs of the driver or the Hobo Alex here thinks he saw. I will go check in town just in case Mr. Sheffield is there, and Pete I need you to go talk to Julie’s parents again. Maybe they have remembered something that might be helpful, and then bring the uncle in for questioning.” Hagen said then added. “Quietly bring him in, I don’t want to have rumors spreading around and that might ruin the mans reputation when he might be innocent.” Hagen said, but if the man was in fact guilty Hagen wouldn’t care what was said about a sick child molesting Son of a Carpet bagger.
0630 Sloan residence.
Jared woke to early morning sunlight slipping through the cracks in the barn wall.
The nightmare he had been having followed him into the real world as his eyes snapped open, knowing that the clown would be right there. seeing nothing leaning over him, no leering clown face, no blood stained knife in his guts the nightmare finally loosened its grip and retreated.
Still shaking he sat up his breathing slowly returning to normal
Feeling a pressure in his bladder he reluctantly climbed out of his sleeping bag and climbed down the loft ladder. Pushing open the rear doors of the barn he stepped out onto the grass and into light ground fog dressed only in his boxers. He stumbled over to the old outhouse to relieve him self. Pappy kept the outhouse believing that any day the city water he was forced to use would stop working and leave him up ‘shit creek with out a paddle or a corncob’ as he liked to but it. Ever since Gordon had been annexed into Goodletsville Pappy had been on a tear about Commie liberal infiltrators bent on destroying what was left of his hometown. Jared wasn’t sure about all that, but life in Gordon had definitely changed.
Finished with his morning business Jared started back to the Barn, only to stop and stare his body going cold at the sight of something on the barn doors, then realized the shape was only caused by light and shadow and felt himself relaxing again. .
“Jared honey are you okay” Melissa Sloan asked, she had come outside to gather some fresh strawberries for breakfast and saw Jared staring at the barn door, pale as a ghost.
Jared turned to face her. Seemingly unaware he was wearing only his boxers Melissa thought as she hid a smile as Jared flushed, his shoulders and chest turning a bright red, as it finally dawned on him he was in his underwear. She was well aware Jared had a crush on her, it was flattering and amusing but she would never let on that she was aware of the fact.
“um, Yes Maam, I.. must have fallen half asleep standing up or something “ Jared got out, trying hard not to let his young body respond the way it wanted to at the sight of Melissa Sloan standing there with the morning sunlight, shining behind her, her blond hair glowing in the early morning light. The same sunlight shined through her white cotton dress, showing him the shadowing outlines of her body. “Sorry got to get dressed” he muttered turning and fleeing into the barn before his body betrayed him. He dressed quickly, and started shoving his things into his pack.
“What are you doing?” Jeff asked sleepily, “I thought we were going riding dirt bikes today.”
“We are, I want to ride over to Megan’s right after breakfast, then we can go hit the pit and do some jumps.” Jared said not wanting to explain why he really just wanted to get a move on and put some distance between himself and Melissa Sloan. .
“Aren’t you scared her dad will kill you after last night.” Jeff asked rubbing his eyes. Jared was happy to let the conversation lead him away from his already erotic morning..
“I only kissed her, but Vicky’s dad will want to skin you alive if he finds out what you two did.” Jared said with a grin the mental image of Megan was just barely enough to push aside the memory of sunlight shining through a cotton dress.
Jeff looked scared for a moment but the memory of his too short time with Vicky quickly banished the fear, he would risk death for a repeat of last night..
“I thought you didn’t like her” Jared said.
“I don’t” Jeff protested out of habit and a little too forcefully.
“Really? Sure seemed like you did last night” Jared said with a laugh.
“Well, Okay maybe a little. She just seemed different last night away from school” Jeff replied.
“You know she dressed that way to get your attention.” Jared said the wisdom was his uncles not any experience Jared had..
“oh like you know so much about Girls” Jeff shot back, holding his hand over his crotch he pretended to grip something and made a stroking motion.
“Do I look like I’ve gone blind” Jared asked, still not entirely sure that his grandmother had been telling the truth about that or not.
Before Jeff could answer, they both heard the creak of the barn door as it opened. “you boys come on in breakfast is ready” Melissa Stone called up from the door of the barn. “we are having Pancakes, Bacon, and biscuits with gravy”
“Ill try to save you some” Jared said as he ran for the ladder, Jeff cursed silently as he struggled to get out of his sleeping bag as Jared slid down the ladder. Melissa Stone cooked the best breakfast Jared had ever eaten and he wasn’t about to let Piggy beat him to the table.
“You had better, you Butt head” Jeff yelled after Jared who was heading for the door.
Jared pushed his chair back and picked his empty plate up from the old Formica table and carried it to the sink smirking at Jeff who was still annoyed at Jared for only leaving a couple of biscuits.
Pappy sipped at his coffee, waiting for his wife to leave the kitchen and Mrs. Sloan knowing that Pappy was aiming to cut loose on the boys was taking her time so the boys could escape with out one of her husband’s famous tirades.
Jared filled his own coffee cup and sat back down to enjoy it. He had been a guest here often enough to know what was going on. Mrs. Sloan would do the dishes taking her time to make sure every speck was removed, then if the Jared and Jeff were still here she would make more biscuits and gravy. While Pappy stewed, waiting for her to leave so he could speak plainly with out upsetting her with the words that he really wanted to use.
Jared looked around the kitchen, it was nothing like his moms more modern kitchen. Like the rest of the house it was old fashioned, the most modern things in the room was the running water and the fridge. Blue and white checkered curtains fluttered over the open window that Melissa Sloan used to cool pies on. A cuckoo clock that Pappy had gotten her during his trip to Germany hung on a wall. Every counter top gleamed, even the faded linoleum floor was spotless. Old the kitchen might be but no one could dispute that she kept a neat house.
As the sink filled with hot water, she placed another pan of biscuits in the old gas oven. Seeing Jared watching she smiled at him then went back to the sink.
“So what are you boys going to do today?” She asked, with a look at her husband. “Dear you really need to shave, why don’t you go take care of that while the boys keep me company.”
Pappy opened his mouth to protest then snapped it closed with a glare at Jared. “I don’t need to Fuc…. Er.. Shave” Pappy replied as he stroked the stubble on his jaw.
“yes you do, you have to meet with the lawyer this morning remember. And put on something other than overalls.” She said. Pappy rose from his chair, muttering softly under his breath, Jared thought he heard something about Ties, Satan and diseased hookers but that was about it. From the look Melissa Stone gave her husband she must have heard much more and wasn’t happy.
As soon as Pappy had left the kitchen, She turned off the water and turned to face Jared and Jeff, her arms crossed under her breasts. :”I want you both to promise me you will not return to that Circus with out us or Jared’s parents” She said sternly. “or next time I will let your father have his talk Jeff.”
“Yes Maam” Jeff said sullenly.
“Promise me” Melissa said watching her son closely.
“I promise.” Jeff said caving a little to easily as far as Melissa was concerned.
“And do not do that childish finger and toe crossing, a promise is a promise” she said watching Jeff intently.
“I said I promise” Jeff said with a glance at Jared.
“I Promise too” Jared tossed in. “The only thing I am doing today, unless I get grounded is riding my Dirt bike over to Megans and Jeff wants to see Vicky.”
“Really, Jeff that’s wonderful, Vicky is a pretty girl, very nice and has liked you for a long time.”
“She has cooties” Jeff muttered out of habit.
“You seemed like you wanted to catch them last night” Jared said with a grin.
“Jared!” Jeff exclaimed casting a look at his mother embarrassed and half afraid she would start lecturing him on the facts of life right there.
“Jeff was all googly eyed over her, even held her hand” Jared said with a grin as Jeff gave him a look that promised dire retribution sometime in the future.
“I think its sweet and about time you had a girlfriend Jeff” Mrs. Sloan said with a smile adding to Jeffs misery. Jeff groaned at the dreaded word Girlfriend. “now you two had better scoot before Pappy decides to slip out the window and try to catch you two before you can leave.”
Jared sat his coffee cup down and heading for the door calling out a cheery goodbye as he stepped out into the cool morning.
“I should kick you butt, now my mom thinks Vicky is my girlfriend” Jeff said as they walked to the barn and the dirt bikes, “and why was my mom smiling at you so much?”
“I don’t know” Jared said as he recalled the image of Melissa Stone in her Cotton dress silhouetted by the rising sun. “Would it be all that bad having Vickie as a girlfriend?” Jared asked seriously Jeff pulled the tarp off his dirt bike and let it fall to the ground.
Jeff was silent as he straddled his dirt bike, running a hand over the scarred gas tank. Truth be told he wasn’t sure why he tried to avoid Vicky, she was pretty and she had boobs that were killer and though he would never admit it to any one not even Jared, he liked the fact she was smarter than he was.
“I guess not” Jeff finally said then kicked down on the starter, his bike roared to life.
They shot down the Driveway, both boys pretending not to see Pappy, jaw covered in shaving cream, burst out onto the porch. Jared reached the road and slid into a turn, he twisted the throttle all the way and the dirt bike screamed like a banshee as the tires got traction then he was racing down the road toward town. Jeff right on his tail whooping like a maniac.
Hagen exited the diner with his coffee, more worried now than he was before. Mark Sheffield had never been to the diner and there was no other place he could have gone in this town at that time of morning. to add to his problems there had been to B&E’s, a wreck involving a drunk driver and the Cold war between Charley Crist and Pappy Sloan had heated up overnight.
Crist had called the Station ranting about Pappy having vandalized his truck, how he hadn’t stated but there was no way it was as bad as the time Crist had snatched up the station wagon Pappy had been about to buy.
He snorted a harsh laugh, Crist had damn near cut that station wagon apart to piss pappy off and had succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. Pappy had burned down Crist’s outhouse, somehow stolen the engine from Crist’s old truck and filled his well with cement all in the course of two nights. Hagen suspected that the Truck engine was encased in cement at the bottom of the well.
What ever the truth of the matter, no evidence had ever appeared to implicate Pappy and he might have gotten away scott free if he hadn’t shown up at the Co-Op with a saw to cut the top off of Charley’s Ford Pinto while Charley was inside the Co-Op jawing with the fellers.
What had landed him in jail was not the attempt at vandalism but his response when asked to step away from the Vehicle by the Police officer from Goodlettsville who had arrived just as Pappy was about to make the first cut. Pappy had ripped into the police officer with an impressive string of profanity that would have intimidated almost any other man. To Pappy’s surprise, and Hagen thought his delight, the Officer, a former Sailor had replied in kind.
Hagen had read the report, and the quotes attributed to Pappy would have resulted in the report being banned for public consumption on the grounds that it would offend ever race, nationality and species on the planet and that was just the English part. God knew what the untranslated parts in Korean, German, polish and Japanese meant.
Pappy had spent a week in Jail, and the laughter from the cell block could be heard on the street outside, making it sound more like comedy club than a jail. Pappy had been pretty popular with the inmates, and Hagen couldn’t help but think that Pappy would have been a full time resident if not for the influence of his wife who generally kept him from going overboard. .
Today’s antics were on the line of a Jr. High prank, Hagen couldn’t prove it but Crist had been leaving burning bags of Dog poo on Pappy’s porch and must have slipped up and been spotted by Pappy, who apparently had returned Charley’s gifts, smearing the offending dog poo all over Charley’s truck.
Hagen didn’t have time to deal with it so he had sent Morris out to Pappys to arrange a truce so that the Department could concentrate on the missing girl. Pappy would agree to a truce Hagen knew, but Crist would have to be convinced probably through the threat of arrest for filing false reports or anything else Hagen could truthfully and legally prove. If he couldn’t arrange a truce between the two, it would escalate as fast as the Cuban missile crisis diverting men and time away from Julie Siemns and now Mark Sheffield.
Hagen reached the staging area and pulled into the field where three deputies and a hundred volunteers waited to begin searching for Julie Seimns. Travis Siemns, Julies father, stood off to one side, surrounded by friends and family. The man was barely holding on, Hagen thought with sympathy. He couldn’t begin to imagine the pain Travis was dealing with.
Lord if your listening please let us find her lost and alive out here, Hagen prayed silently as he climbed out of his car and headed over to get things started.
0800hrs The Young residence.
Jared sat on his dirt bike watching as Mr. Young shut his front door. The man had been nice enough to Jared but from the looks he kept giving the dirt bike Jared was pretty sure Mr. Young didn’t approve of the two wheeled death trap as Jeffs grandmother called them..
He gazed at the windows of the home hoping to catch a glimpse of Megan, it was an urge that he couldn’t shake. He could die happy just staring at her.
“Lets go” Jeff said rolling his eyes at Jared. “he said she isn’t home”
“I think he just said that to get me to leave” Jared said quietly still looking at the house..
“if he wanted you to leave, he would have told you to leave and told you Megan isn’t supposed to speak to you again.” Jeff said, the logic unassailable to his teen aged mind.
“Maybe” Jared replied slowly thinking there could be a hundred reasons Mr. Young might not have felt like letting Jared know Megan was at home.
“Oh come on Jared he darn near gave you her shopping schedule Jared, so he cant think your all that bad. So lets head into town and see if we can find her so you can get this out of your system.” Jeff said really wanting to head to the pit and do some serious dirt biking instead of wasting the day trying to catch up to Megan so Jared could get all mush minded. “then we can go to the pit and play in the mud.”
“You think so?” Jared asked. Jeff shook his head from side to side in exaggerated disgust.
“Jared, you got it bad” Jeff said, even as his own thoughts turned at least for a moment to Vickie and last night. Pit first, girls second Jeff told himself.
“Yeah, I guess I do” Jared said then laughed. He started the bike and pulled slowly away from the curb, hoping that Mr. Young was watching and saw that Jared wasn’t just hot dogging on the bike.
1000hrs the Mason Home.
Pastor Barton, stood in the knee high weeds. Clutching his bible to his chest as he stared at the back door of the old home. Parking down the road he had come the back way in case Hagen had left a deputy down in the circus who might run him off.
He had been determined to bring the power of the Lord to this evil place and drive it out. But now, now that he stood here his determination had fled as he felt the power of what ever haunted this place.
It battered at his senses, cold and emotionless, dark and hungry. It was an almost tangible miasma of blood and pain that surrounded him. He shivered with fear and tried to ignore it, to wrap himself in the armor of god and marching singing into the maw of hell but he couldn’t feel the strength and conviction that usually came so easily to him.
“Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” he intoned, his voice weak and trembling, his congregation wouldn’t have believed his powerful speaking voice could be cowed so easily. Till today he had never confronted something so real, what he had once thought manifestations of Evil were nothing compared to the oppressive, heavy soul crushing weight that battered at his senses. Have faith, he told himself as he lifted his bible and took a step towards the back door, then another.
He continued to recite the passage as he drew closer to the door, but this wasn’t a movie where the devil fled at the word of god. No t seemed not to care that he spoke the holy word of god. It mocked his faith and god with its presence and cursed him with its silence. Once he might have felt a righteous anger at such treatment, but not today.
He reached for the door knob and froze as his vision narrowed to a tunnel, the knob become the center of the universe. Once he opened the door he could be facing his worst nightmare or nothing at all. Could he stand before the Satan himself with god at his side, did he have the courage, more importantly did he have the faith. His stomach churned, a nervous sweat sprang out soaking through his suit and his hand trembled.
Was it arrogance and pride that had brought him here today? Had God really chosen Him as Gods right hand to smite the unholy and save the godless from themselves? Was that it, the reason the word of God seemed to have no effect.
He could see every flake of paint on the door, every dent and ding in the old wood, the brass knob green with age. This was the exact spot there that hobo had been found dead six years ago, his face twisted into such terror that couldn’t be removed by the Mortician, or so the story went.
He turned the knob and the door opened with a squeal of rusting hinges, beyond lay the old kitchen. He got a glimpse of dust and cobwebs covering the old butchers table, and gas ranges then the smell that rushed out into the yard struck him, it reeked of rotting blood and spoiled meat.
He doubled over and puked even as he backed away, his heart beating so fast he thought he would pass out. Now was the time he should be raising his bible to smote the doorframe trusting in the Lord to send this thing packing.
But he found he couldn’t no matter how strong his faith might be, his mind screamed at him to run, to put as much distance between himself and this place as he could and he wanted to listen.
Was it the Lord telling him to leave, telling him that what ever this was, its was not to be confronted.
Its time was coming around but not here just yet. He didn’t know how he knew that but it was there in his mind as clear as day, and he knew when its time finally came it would enter the world in a storm of fury and hell would come with it and only one man could confront it. The thoughts, not his own whirled through his mind and he felt shame that he was relieved he wasn’t the man chosen to face this thing in the fullness of its power.
He backed away not even sure if he wasn’t imagining this whole thing. Finally he turned and headed back towards his car, his fear and confusion fading with each step that took him further and further from the old cursed home. .
Behind him, a face appeared in an upstairs window, watching even as the back door slowly closed by itself.
Jared chained his bike to a light pole, looking around with interest at the downtown area. His parents rarely came into Goodlettsville proper. Preferring instead to visit and use the old Gordon downtown area or drive into Nashville to shop.
They loved the old downtown area, the only sign that this had once been its own town years back. A town full of friendly rivalry with Goodlettsville, a rival that had swallowed it whole. The older residents despite having a Goodlettsville address still referred to their home as Gordon.
In a few years it would just be another nameless part of Goodlettsville, more rural perhaps, its residents still clinging to an identity that would fade and finally vanish till only a few remembered that it had once had another name.
“What are you thinking about” Jeff asked as he watched a woman walk past wearing a pair of Jordache jeans and a designer looking top. He licked his lips then grinned thinking of last night with Vickie who had worn a lot less than the woman he was admiring.
“Not what your thinking about” Jared replied slipping on the small pack he wore when riding his dirt bike.
Jeff laughed and then pointed to the arcade. “lets go in there I want to play Dragonquest”
“No, I’m not wasting money on stupid video games” Jared replied
“Your like some old guy stuck in a teen aged body did you know that” Jeff said then fell silent as a police car drove by.
“Kiss my butt” Jared said with a grin.
“Grin and bare it” Jeff shot back, half expecting the Police car to come back and tell them they couldn’t leave their dirt bikes here.
Jared shook his head then started walking down the sidewalk towards the book store, where Megan was supposed to be at.
“A book store, on Saturday.” Jeff groaned. To his mind a book store was the last place he wanted to be on any day that had a Y in it its name. “Lets get this over with so we can get muddy.”
“You can go play space invaders or something while I go inside” Jared said as he stepped under the bright green awning of the book store and peered through the plate glass window hoping to spot Megan inside.
“Space invaders is old school Jared. Besides, I know you, when I got finished you woud be long gone and I would have to follow the trail of drool to catch up to you and Megan.” Jeff said as Jared pushed the frosted glass of the book store open. A smell bell tinkled merrily above the door causing the the plump blond woman behind the counter to look up and gave them a friendly smile.
The store was neatly kept and smelled of ink and fresh paper inside. Bright banners hung over the different aisles announcing the Genre of books on each aisle. The customers were mostly women who were moving slowly along aisle’s scanning the titles, occasionally picking up a book and reading the description on the backs of paper backs.
“oh crap, Coach Roland’s wife is here” Jeff said.
“So its Saturday,” Jared said. “we aren’t supposed to be in school.”
“No, Pappy pissed her off last month.” Jeff said, “Apparently she reminded him of a woman he knew back in the war.”
Jared smothered a laugh, Pappy only talked about certain types of women from the wars and deployments he had been on and Jared could well imagine Mrs Roland wouldn’t have been amused to find out she looked like a Hooker that Pappy had liked.
Susan Roland, was in Jared’s book a fox, she was built like a professional cheerleader, which was exactly the type of women Jared thought men like the coach would be married to. Slightly curly blond hair cascaded down to her shoulders. She had the bluest eyes Jared had ever seen.
Susan suddenly noticed him and smiled, her gaze cooled a fraction as she saw Jeff, but her smile never really changed.
“Hello Jared, you’re looking no worse for the wear after your experience.” She said, stressing the word experience. “ Jeff” she acknowledged with a nod.
“Mrs. Roland” Jeff replied looking down at the carpet not wanting to meet her eyes. Pappy was always putting him in positions like this. .
“I am sorry to hear about your suspension Jared” Susan said “ Harmon was upset about it just so you know”
“its okay, I knew I was going to get suspended, at least Coach managed to keep me on the team.” Jared replied. Susan was silent for a moment then nodded as if Jared had just confirmed something she had thought.
“Harmon thinks you’re a good athlete and deserved a chance.” Susan said. “ are you going to the game tonight?” She asked.
“No Maam, as my Dad says, no sense in borrowing trouble”
“Your father sounds like a wise man” Susan said with a nod then gave a pointed look at Jeff who stood there silently, hoping she would just forget he was there.
“and how is your father, Jeff.” Susan asked only being polite, she could honestly care less but she didn’t want to treat Jeff like pond scum because of his fathers stupidity.
“Fine Mrs. Roland, I … uh… Pappy aint at his best dealing with people” he said trying to apologize for his dad. Pappy was hard to get along with, but once you got past the language, and the bluster, assuming you were not charley crist, he was a good man.
“You don’t say Jeff” Susan said with such a dry tone that Jared chuckled.
“He doesn’t mean anything by it, He… “ Jeff stopped searching for words then shrugged. “ you have to get used to him”
“I’m sure you do and please tell your mother I said hello” Susan said as Jared looked past her searching the aisle behind her. .
“Are you looking for someone Jared?” Susan asked, she could only think of one person she had seen in the bookstore that Jared might be looking for. Young love, she thought amused.
“Uh, yes maam, Megan Young. I.. uh.. wanted to… uh,. ask her a question.” Jared said.
“He wants to ask her to have pizza with him,” Jeff said grinning at Jared who blushed. “he has the hots for her” Jeff said relishing putting Jared on the spot after Jared had done the same thing to him over breakfast.
“I think I saw her in the back in the young adult fiction section” Susan said pointing. She smiled to herself as Jared thanked her and rushed towards the back of the store, Jeff following along laughing.
I truly hope Jeff does not grow up to be like his father, she thought shaking her head.
Jared found Megan sitting on the floor in front of a bookshelf reading the first couple of pages of a book she was interested in.
He slowed then stopped not sure what to say now, he had spent half the day trying to find her now his nerve were jumping around like those Mexican jumping beans you could buy out of ads in the back of magazine.
She looked up, one hand brushing her long hair back and gave him a dazzling smile as she saw him.
“Hi,” she said. A simple enough greeting and one that left him tongue tied. Jeff snickered behind him. Jared felt himself flush, his heart hammering wildly and his jeans were suddenly to tight. Say something you idiot, he told himself trying to force his tongue to work.
“Uh. Hi” He got out.
“I enjoyed last night” she said. Did she just bat her eyelashes at him, Jared asked himself not sure if he had actually seen it or if his fevered mind had imagined it.
“Me too” He blurted. He had hoped to sound like one of those suave actors who could just introduce themselves and women swooned and instead he couldn’t even figure out what to say. I went from Bruce Willis to Goober, Jared thought unhappily.
“Lunch” Jeff prompted poking him in the back.
“Shut up” Jared said.
“Ask her” Jeff said poking him again.
“Ask me what?” Megan said.
“I.. uh.. Wondered if you…” he took a deep breath, praying that dealing with girls got easier the older he got. “wanted to go eat some pizza with me.. us?”
Megan closed the book she held and rose to her feet. Jared tried not to stare at her long tanned legs, or the shorts she wore that clung to her bottom.
“I would love to go get pizza” Megan said, sounding much smoother than Jared had managed so far. “I just need to pay for my books”
“We will wait outside” Jeff said grabbing Jared by the arm eager to get out of the book store.. “Breathe Jared, breathe.” Jeff said as pulled Jared towards the door while Megan giggled.
Once outside, Jared shook his head. “I am an idiot, I couldn’t think of a single thing to say.”
Jeff started to laugh, then leaned close to Jared, a serious look on his face “Dude, I feel the same way around Vickie.” He said in a low voice. “ and if you tell anyone I will hurt you.”
“well, well if aint Jared Stone” Jared turned at the sound of Dale Smiths voice, and saw Dale standing there with his father behind him.
Jeff worried look around hoping that the cop that had passed earlier was in sight.
“Hi Dale” Jared said sounding totally friendly and sincere. “hope you do good at the game tonight”
Dale looked confused, of all the responses he had expected, even planned on that was not on the list.
Jeff gaped at Jared, of all the time to act square his look said.
Jared might have thrown Dale off, but judging by the glare Dales dad was giving him the man wasn’t impressed in the least.
“Boy you need to apologize to my son for jumping him from behind” Bill Smith said coldly.
From the quick look Dale shot his dad, Jared suspected that Dale hadn’t told him that.
Jared wasn’t sure what to do, if he got into an argument with an adult his dad was more than likely to get pissed at him. so don’t argue, he told himself.
“Good luck tonight” Jared said again ignoring Mr. Smith and turned away, half expecting Bill Smith to yank him around and yell at him or something. Jared didn’t know what he might do if it happened, but he knew what his dad would do if Bill Smith laid hands on Jared and Mr. Smith wouldn’t enjoy it.
“Ready” Megan said almost bouncing out of the bookstore and linking her arm in Jared’s breaking the tension that had been rising quickly.
“Ready Freddy” Jeff said looking back and saw that Dale and his dad were walking away. Relieved he followed Jared and Megan to American Pizzeria.
They got their pizza and sat in a corner booth, Jeff feeling both amused and left out as Jared and Megan sat side by side. Jared’s attention rarely left Megan. It was disgustingly sappy Jeff thought as he reached for his third slice and saw Vickie entering the Pizzeria. spotting him she waved and headed toward the table.
“Oh great” he muttered causing Jared to look up at and grin as he saw Vickie.
“Oh shut it Jeff, you like her, I bet you two end up married with a thousand kids.” Jared said laughing.
Jeff started to argue, then shut his mouth. He did like Vickie it was only habit and not being sure how to act around her that kept him acting like an idiot where she was concerned. He slid over and let her sit beside him.
Smiling she kissed him on the cheek laughing as he blushed. “Thanks for inviting me, Megan” she said.
“Your welcome, Its like a double date this way” Megan said with a wide smile. “hope you don’t mind I called her while I was in the book store” Megan explained.
Jeff groaned as four guys he knew came in the front door and saw him sitting with Vickie. One of them pointed and all of them snickered.
Jared seeing the look on Jeffs face glanced at the door and then looked at Jeff. “its going to be all over school come Monday” Jeff said, not even noticing the hurt look on Vickies face.
“Jeff, think about it. your with a girl you like, its Saturday, and they are with each other” Jared pointed out. :”Sausage fest” he added.
Jeff thought about it for a moment, then smiled and slipped his arm around Vickie who looked like she was half tempted to knock his arm away then decided against it as what Jared had said registered and the fact that Jeff hadn’t protested. Jeff likes me, she thought happily.
Hagen walked between the trees, the fallen leaves rustling under his feet. It would have been a beautiful day, what with the crisp clean air and the incredibly blue sky over head, but it was marred first searching for a pretty missing teen aged girl and now a body. His town was going to hell.
As he entered the small clearing, the knot of men around the body spread out so he could approach. It wasn’t Julie thank god and one look told him it wasn’t Mark Sheffield.
No the body that lay sprawled there in the grass, was Calvin Tredgar. Calvin’s 30 06 lay a twenty feet from the body.
Calvin’s face was twisted into a look of sheer terror, Hagen thought gazing at the corpse, but what could the man have seen that scared him that bad.
Hagen walked around the body, ordering the men to move back. They watched as he studied the ground around the body and all the way to the edge of the clearing. He returned and knelt beside the corpse. Using the pen from his pocket he lifted Calvin lips and frowned at what he saw.
He stood upright and waited almost twenty minute before Pete Starr and the assistant ME arrived, behind them two men followed carrying a stretcher and body bag.
“Murder” Star asked Hagen quietly.
”Maybe” Hagen replied walking a short distance away out of earshot of the search volunteers who had found the body. . “no sign of injury that I could see, of course the ME will tell us for sure. What it looks like is Calvin saw something over on the north side of the clearing there, you can see the tracks where he ran south, tripped, knocked out a tooth on a field rock, dropped his rifle then crawled here and died.”
“Calvin’s been poaching this area for most of his life, he aint one to get scared in the woods.” Star said.
“I know” Hagen said shaking his head. “I hope he died of a heart attack, because if he didn’t someone murdered him and if that’s true this town will go crazy.” And it will he thought, what with the Siemns girl missing and word will get around soon enough about Sheffield, and now this.
“Barton will be all over this, its another sign that the anti Christ has moved into town.” Starr said.
“I know, for once I might actually agree with him about ….” He shook his head “ Face it Starr this town has never had so much happen in so short of a time, at least not since the last Murders up at the Mason place.” Hagen said. “from the time that circus set up things have been happening in town.” Starr slowly nodded, like his boss he wasn’t happy admitting it. It just went against the grain to admit that Barton might be right, that the circus was somehow tied into the disappearance of Julie Siemns and Mark Sheffield.
“At least the circus cant be blamed for Calvin,” Starr said as he crossed his arms over his chest, his brown eyes roving back and forth..
“if he was murdered, that will be enough for Barton and his people and you can bet others in town will think the two are linked as well.” Hagen said shaking his head.
“Ill go up and ask around the circus see if I can dig up something, It aint likely I will find a thing, those folks aren’t happy about talking with us or anybody else for that matter.” Starr said.
“Yeah it probably wont do any good, but go on up there and talk to the Owner, who knows a miracle might happen and he might help us out.” Hagen said.
“If nothing else I can audition for a spot in case I lose me job over this case” Starr said.
“I’m kind of thinking that they don’t need a sex act for their show” Hagen said with a grunt that might be a laugh.
“Never can tell Sheriff,” Starr replied with a grin that faded as he looked over to see Calvin’s body being slipped into the body bag. “never can tell.” He said again then headed for the trail that would take him to his patrol car.
1445 hrs the Mason place
A light wind stirred the old trees, as Pete Starr walked up the over grown path to the rickety porch, where some of the so called gingerbread wood word was missing and what still remained was broken and covered in flecks of faded paint.
Pete climbed the creaking steps to the porch that wrapped around the front and one side of the old home and stopped facing the old door with its frosted oval pane of glass in the center of the door.
The last time he had been here he had been fourteen and been dared to enter the old house and bring back something, anything from inside. it had been one of those stupid things kids did and he had been no different.
The hair rose on the back of his neck as he reached for the ornate brass knob now green with age. Reminding himself that he was now a armed Deputy Sheriff and not a scared kid, he pushed the old door open and stepped inside. the smell of mildew and dust filled the air.
Footsteps marred the dusty floor marking the previous search of the property. Dust swirled and the strips of hanging wall paper rustled and rattled from a gust of wind that came through the door.
Starr pushed a decorative Iron door stop against the door to keep it open then walked slowly over to peer into the dining room, study and music room ignoring the stairs. Shadows lay thicker than dust on the floors, seeming to lap at his ankles. What light came through the dirty windows seemed dimmer than it should.
The kitchen had once been something to be proud of, full of what had been modern conveniences. Now it was a dirty, and outdated cloaked in dust and shadow.
He made his way back to the staircase and stopped at the foot of the steps, standing in clean light the splashed through the open door and looked up to the landing where a rainbow of light shimmered on the landing from the stained glass window.
His mind leaped back twenty two years, the fading light of the setting sun had spilled through the stained glass, silhouetting a man who had stood there on the landing, a knife in his hand the only sound the steady drip of hot blood that fell from the blade to splattering a drop at a time on the landing. Starr had not screamed, not from bravery but because fear had locked his voice away. he had ran though as fast as his legs could carry him back to the front door, a ceramic figurine from the old stone mantle clutched in his hand.
He had ran all the way to the nearest farm house and old Man Silas had called the sheriff, who ever had been on the landing was long gone by the time the deputies arrived, and in fact there was no sign that any one had ever actually been there. Pete had never forgotten that moment, but its intensity had faded like a nightmare exposed to the waking world, as the years rolled by. But standing here alone in this house, it came back roaring down on him with the scent of hot blood filling his nostrils. The feeling of something watching him from hiding washed over him, just like the other day on the side of the road.
He placed one boot on the first step and froze as something fell to the floor upstairs. ‘Come and get me Petey, I missed you twenty two years ago but I’ve been waiting here at the end of the line knowing you would come back. Come on upstairs boy, I have something for you.’
The voice in his mind didn’t sound like his own, he thought as his heart began to slam against his ribs and his hands grew sweaty.
‘Come on Pete, the whole family is waiting just for you’…..
Pete stood there, seeing in his minds eye, a room filled with the stumbling, rotting corpses of the people who had died here. their leathery hands reaching out, near skeletal fingers ready to rip and rend
He bumped against the doorframe and blinked as he found himself standing at the front door, the voice angry but fading as warm sunlight flowed over him. he didn’t remember retreating to the door, he didn’t remember anything but getting ready to go upstairs.
‘Son you need to step outside, the house isn’t for you, its waiting for another’, the voice in his head was different it sounded like his grandfather now. ‘move it along Pete, before the house decides to keep you’ his grandfather said urgently.
Pete stepped outside, and the fear and the subtle dark pressure vanished, in the light of the sun he felt foolish. His imagination had gotten away from him and like a scared kid he had ran outside. He hitched up his gun belt, half determined to go back inside and then the front door slammed shut with a boom, the Elephant shaped Iron door stop tumbled down the steps and came to a rest at his feet.
He just stared at the door stopper, then slowly lifted his eyes up half afraid that he would see, the desiccated half dismembered body of Mrs. Mason standing on the porch brittle dry hands reaching out for him.
“I think I’ve searched enough of this place” he said aloud looking up as movement at a window upstairs caught his attention. He looked up in time to see a curtain fall back into place. “no way in hell am I going back in there alone, and I will not tell any one what just happened.” Pete Starr, his reality shaken to the core turned and headed back down the hill toward his car.
1500 hrs Arcadia Theater.
The Arcadia was one of the last of the old town movie theatres with its grand marquee’s and gracefully curved Neon signs that decorated the front of the building where brass work glittered and lights were reflected from plate glass doors and windows.
Every Saturday as long as Jared could remember the Arcadia played double features from the previous year instead of the usual matinee. Sometimes they were old family movies that might have been fun the first time but were not so entertaining the second or third go around.
He smiled at Megan thinking that things were looking up, he had called his parents right after lunch and found out, that since they didn’t have to attend the game tonight, they were taking Eric, the suck up, into Nashville to go to the zoo, and would be staying for dinner and a show at the Oprey since he was staying at Jeff tonight they would be back late. And that happy little bit of news had led to his spending the afternoon with Megan and inviting her to a movie and dinner, which would wipe out the allowance he had saved up but it would be worth it.
With his arm around Megan’s waist and money in his pocket he looked up at the Marquees which proudly proclaimed in large black letters “Today’s Double Feature- The Keep, Starring Scott Glenn” Jared read “ and The Right Stuff, Starring Ed Harris and Scott Glenn.” Mr. Culpepper was a big fan of Scott Glenn after having seen him in Apocalypse Now. Jared hadn’t seen the movie thanks to his dad but it was supposed to have been great.
According to Culpepper, Scott Glenn was almost as good as the Duke. Jared’s Dad just laughed at that, no one came close to the Duke in Elliot Stones book.
“I don’t like scary movies” Megan said hesitating.
“Don’t worry Jared isn’t scared of anything but …” Jeff’s stopped talking as Jared gave him a look that promised a painful butt kicking if he got the word clown in there.
“I’m scared of vampires” Vickie announced, reaching down and clasping Jeff’s suddenly sweaty hand.
Jared knew how Jeff felt every touch of Megan’s was like electricity that surged through him, robbed him of his breath and at the same time made him feel like Superman. He bet Superman never felt like this when Louis Lane was around.
For the first time in his life Jared felt like an adult as he paid for the tickets and then waited in the slow moving concession line, just one couple amongst many, it was a special feeling one that he could have every explained if asked to. With popcorn and drinks in hand, the four of them slipped into the theatre and found seats as the lights dimmed.
The movie started with rolling thunder and heavy driving drums as a Misty countryside appeared with Nazis driving down a muddy mountain road into what looked like a Carpathian Village from a hammer flick.
He loved watching Nazi’s getting wiped out by some kind of vampire monster thing in the cursed castle, while a mysterious stranger, the enemy of the creature from pre history appeared. The stranger determined to end their war between light and dark once and for all.
The movie held Jared in its grip, though it was not the best movie he had ever seen. Its plot spoke to him, a creature of Darkness, who wished only to plunge the rest of the world into hell to destroy every thing that was good. The Hero, a man older then history, as old as the creature itself, had fought the thing through out time and in a moment of weakness, imprisoned the thing that had once been a man inside the keep, fearing that his long life was bound up with the creatures and that when it died he would die as well.
But when the creature had been released by the Nazi’s the Hero had finally be forced to face his fears and weakness or else see the creature escape and add to the horrors the Nazi’s had brought to the world till nothing was left but Ruins and the bones of the dead.
He had no idea what he would choose if he were in that situation, he wanted to believe there was always a way that the Hero could survive. But he had heard enough stories to know that Hero’s didn’t always survive. Sometimes the man or woman who fought to save others couldn’t survive, or could they he asked himself chewing over the idea as he watched the movie.
What would I do? He asked himself again.
He settled back letting the moment go, enjoying Megan leaning against him, her head resting on his shoulder as she held his hand. He knew that question would come back tonight as he lay there trying to sleep, all the big questions usually did he thought as he caught a whiff of Megan’s hair and smiled.
The Right Stuff left Jared feeling great, it was one of those movies that just hit in all the right spots. It even tempted him to give up his dreams of joining the Army and instead enter the Air Force and try to become an astronaut instead.
As the lights came up, Megan leaned over and kissed him on the lips, “thank you “ She said pulling away after a moment.
“Your welcome” Jared said breathlessly wanting to adjust his pants before standing.
Hand in hand they walked slowly back to the lobby, lost in each other’s presence. He never wanted this moment to end but knew it would and shortly. Megan’s dad had only agreed to Megan going to the movies and to dinner with Jared as long as Jeff’s Mom drove Megan, and by extension Vickie home. Not Pappy, no one in their right minds wanted to expose teen aged girls to Pappy and what he considered proper conversational topics.
“Damn there’s my mom” Jeff said seeing his mom standing just inside the old ornate lobby with its brass movie poster cases and art deco light fixtures, “she’s not supposed to be around till after we eat dinner”
It had taken half an hour for Megan to talk her father around to letting her go to the movies and out to eat with the Jared and now his mom was going to spoil the whole thing.
Jared didn’t reply he was to busy trying to decide which women was prettier Megan or Melissa Sloan. It was he thought, a tie.
“My aren’t you just the two cutest couples here” Melissa Sloan said to both boys embarrassment. Jeff just knew that every person in a hundred yards had heard that comment and would be rushing to spread the story to Mable so she could do her job and insert it into the rumor mill via her underground Geriatric agents who were still upset that the party lines had been removed by the phone company.
“ I was already in Town and I thought I would drop by and drive you to Rodolfo’s” Melissa said. Just in case we were tempted to ride our bikes there, Jared thought as they walked outside and headed to the parking lot.
“Awww mom its only a couple of blocks,” Jeff said plaintively as they walked around the theater into the parking lot. He didn’t dare say he wanted to walk so he had more time holding Vickie’s hand.
“Come on Mrs. Sloan, I promise we wont go anywhere else,” Jared added.
Melissa stopped at her car watching her son and Jared closely. Of the two Jared was the least likely to stretch the truth. About the only time the boy lied it was a lie of omission she thought, her son on the other hand was over doing the rebel stage. Dr. Spock be damned the man had no clue how to raise a child she thought.
“Okay, you can walk there but no where else and no dirt bikes. I want you both to promise” she said sternly. “I have shopping to do, and the moment I am done I will be waiting in the parking lot of Rodolfo’s.”
Jared promised instantly, Jeff grudgingly promised a heart beat after Jared. “good see you boys at eight o’clock” Melissa said, both boys had already turned and were almost dragging their dates after them before Melissa had finished saying Good.
I really hope Jared rubs off on Jeff, she thought with a shake of her head her mind conjuring up images of all the life Jeff might lead if he listened to half of the advice her husband slipped the boy on the side. Pappy was a good man, she knew that but he was definitely a salty , crust of the earth type of man when she wasn’t around.
1900 hrs The Circus.
Simon was in no mood for his act tonight, not with a deputy having spent the day prowling around the grounds and even exploring the old house. But to cancel his show would arouse suspicion and he was enjoying his little game far to much to have to end it and to elude the key stone cops.
At least he had been able to get his acts scheduled changed and had managed to slip away for several hours this afternoon. Locating the boys home had informed him that Jared Stone would be alone and with out parents this evening, he would be according to what Simon had overheard, staying at a friends house one Jeff Sloan who was also in the directory.
Once he had located the Sloan residence, which was just down the road as it were from the Stone residence, he had then discovered the boys were in town with their little wanton hussies. Always enjoying a challenge Simon had disguised himself and started looking for the boys, finding them and their girlfriends at the park.
It had been exhilarating to move along behind the boys and their dates as they left the park and walked around the small former downtown area, unnoticed by almost every one and those few who for what ever reason met his gaze saw only a homely blue collar worker, who might have lived here in town.
Simon was very good at remaining unseen. You might say it was magic, he thought with a smile, it was a Talent he had, had since he was a boy.
He adjusted his top hat and as the lights went out he confidently strode to the center ring where his equipment had been set up. he stopped on his mark and a second later the spots came on bathing him in light and the music began to play.
Tonight I will have fun, he promised himself as he gazed at the sea of faces that floated over the bleachers, but for now I must make these simpletons happy.
2100hrs Pastor Barton’s home
Stella Barton sat quietly, slowly eating the meal she had cooked, watching her husband pick at his food. There was something wrong she thought, even his prayer before dinner had been short, perfunctory, his heart not really in it. it was unlike him, she thought wanting to ask him what was troubling him but she didn’t, he would wrestle silently with what ever it may be before retiring to pray to god for guidance. It was his way and after twenty year of marriage, she was used to it. But she continued to hope that one day he would lean on her as much as he expected her to lean on him and god.
They sat there in silence for over an hour, as he picked over his meal his mind a thousand miles away.
Abruptly he rose from his seat leaving his meal half eaten, he picked up his bible and started for the stairs. He stopped at the foot of the stairs and looked back at her. “thank you for the meal Stella, I need to pray to work this out” he said then hesitate as if he had something more to say. then with out a word he headed up stairs.
Barton entered his bedroom and shut the door behind him, wondering if maybe he should have warned her about the revelation he had received this afternoon. Hell was coming, and the horsemen were already loose in the world. Out of all the people in Town, Stella was the one would completely believe him.
How he could explain the evil that haunted that place and the message of what was to come to any one else he didn’t know. In fact he had a strong feeling he was not to speak to any one else about it and that struck him as wrong. He was a man of god, was he not supposed to warn Gods people to repent; live godly lives because the end was really coming.
“Lord I am confused, was it the devil telling me not to interfere or you. If it was arrogance on my part that barred me from confronting the Thing up there, help me control myself so that I can help my flock survive what’s coming.” He said clutching his bible, trying to rebuild his faith from the battering it had taken in the confrontation at the mason place. .
There was no answer; if the lord chose to respond, it would only be once he had given proper consideration, meditation and prayer to the matter and then and only then the lord would reveal his plans.
Somehow, he knew he had failed the lord, through arrogance, vanity or something else, he didn’t know but he had to find the answers, so he could try to serve the lord better in the future.
Quietly he changed into his pajamas, a proper godly man did not sleep naked or in his underwear in case the lord called him home. He smiled for a moment as he fingered the material on his sleeve; Stella had bought these pajamas for him as a present for their first and only real vacation. Had it been so long ago, he asked himself as he knelt beside the bed. For some reason he felt nostalgic, his mind calling up pleasant memories from over the many years of his marriage.
I haven’t treated her as well as I could have and for that I am sorry Lord, he thought as he clasped his bible to his chest for the first time wondering if maybe the lord had expected him to put more work into his marriage and love of his wife than what he had put into his ministry.
He began to pray, hoping the lord would guide him. There had to be a way to convince Hagen that there was evil up there and it was responsible for everything going on in the town in recent days. He prayed aloud as he thought all good Christians should do when they could, he quickly became so wrapped up in his prayer he didn’t see the closet door behind him swing slowly open, or the pale almost fish white face that appeared in the dark gap, a face that smiled with hellish satisfaction as the door swung slowly open.
The kitchen was as lifeless as the rest of the house, with out the ornamentation that the heathen and the sinners used to show their vanity. The only color in the room was the beige fridge and the faded blue curtains that covered the window over the sink.
Stella washed dishes in silence as she did every night using the time to contemplate Gods plan for her in the Church and life. the only difference in routine tonight was the lateness of the hour. But she didn’t mind, God managed her time and if he had decided they would eat later then so be it.
Tonight like many nights before she pondered over the reasons the Lord had denied her the one thing she had wanted, children. The only answer she had ever been able to come up with the ministry. A child as joyous as one might have been, might have taken time and energy away from the important message of Gods love and salvation that would save souls.
At times, try as she might to accept Gods will on the matter, she found herself depressed and missing children, she had never had. “Dear Lord protect me from my own thoughts” she prayed aloud as she dried the last plate with a dish towel and sat it in the rack.
Upstairs, she heard her husbands voice thunder forth “ Be gone foul demon” Stella shuddered at the tone, then dropped to her knees and added her prayers to her husbands spiritual battle.
Pastor Barton held his bible out before him as if where a shield watching as the oddly dressed demon scuttled across the floor and rose up at the foot of his bed, its pale face seeming to glow in the light from his nightstand.
“Be gone, foul wretch” he bellowed again feeling the first glimmer of fear as something dark flowed into the room, the thing from the Mason house was here it had come for him. The Demon laughed, it was a mad sound like grinding jagged glass.
“I shiver in anticipation of your mighty wrath” the Demon said stepping around the bed with short mincing steps. “you interfered in something today, something that in due time you would have experience with the rest of the world.”
Simon wanted to laugh at the look of pure terror that swept over the portly preachers face, the man knew he had trespassed and now it was time to pay his dues. Simon blinked in surprise as the Preacher struck him with the bible he held.
He fell back onto the floor writhing around kicking and flopping as he shrieked in pain.
Pastor Barton, felt ten foot tall as the demon struggled against the will of God almighty his faith no longer shaken strengthened his voice as began to Pray with the same thunderous tone his congregation was used to. smoke rose from the things clothing, at first only thin tendrils, then it began to billow forth obscuring the tormented thing from hell as the power of god touched it.
He scooped his crucifix from the night stand and held it towards the smoke praying for God to drive this thing back into the pits of hell where it belonged.
There was a shriek of agony from with in the smoke and then silence fell, But Barton knew the Devil was wily and continued to pray keeping up the spirtual assault till the smoke cleared revealing the demon was gone.
”Praise the Lord” Barton gasped, sweat rolling down the sides of his face.
“Amen” a voice as cold as Dantes Hell said as the demon rose on the other side of the bed and laughed.
“How, but….” Barton gasped, his faith crumpling at last, a lie it was all a lie, he thought then shook his head, no only his faith was lacking. Lord protect Stella because I cant., he prayed as the demon flowed up on to the bed, a mocking smile splitting its narrow face.
“You have no power here Priest” Simon said quoting a movie, a bad movie about vampires he had watched in a victims home, that line was probably the only redeeming point to his first cinematic experience.
Barton shrieked as Simon leaped up and past Barton cutting him off so he couldn’t run for the door. “Times up preacher” the Demon said as it sprang at him a wide smile on its painted face..
Down stairs Stella gasped hearing the shriek of pure terror from her husband. Silence fell over the house. A silence that was broken by the creak of a floor board and then the oppressive feeling in the air vanished along with the smell of spoiled meat and rotting blood. She waited for a time but the silence finally drove her to walk heavily towards the stairs. The place in her heart where her husband had been was dark and empty telling her what she would find up there. She wiped feebly at the tears that coursed down her cheeks as she climbed the stairs determined to face what ever might wait for her.
0035 hrs the Barton Residence.
Hagen pulled up in front of the modest brick home and Parked beside Starrs patrol car. This was not a visit he looked forward to, already a small crowd had gathered outside the police tape. Most were praying for the Pastor and his wife, hopeing that the rumors they had heard so far were not true.
It had already been a busy night, a fight at a party, a B and E over the Morton place and Lisa Cantrell beating her husband with a skillet after she found out he was stepping out on her with her sister. Pete Cantrell would live, but Hagen doubted Lisa would let him back in the house.
He walked up the driveway, not even noticing the flashing lights of all the official vehicles as he greeted Steve Hapton the assistant ME before he stepped inside the house.
He could hear Starr in the kitchen trying to calm down Mrs. Barton as annoying as the couple could be, had been, he corrected himself, he did feel sorry for her loss.
For the moment Hagan avoided the kitchen, he wanted to do a walk through first to form his own impressions of the scene before speaking with a witness. .
Two officers were dusting the living room as he passed through; He nodded a greeting to them and headed upstairs.
It was apparent that the Barton’s didn’t believe in decorating, he thought looking around the living room for a moment, no TV, the furniture was five years out of date, the only two pictures on the wall, were of Jesus staring up at the heavens looking beatific, and of Pastor Barton and his wife, both of them looked sternly into the camera.
That picture pretty much said it all about Barton and his wife.
The one bookshelf in the room held two bibles and a collection of Hal Lindsey novels. Which took up two of the eight shelves, a large cross stood on the top shelf and the rest of the shelves were empty. He shook his head, wondering if Barton had ever truly lived or enjoyed life.
He climbed the stairs, steeling himself. this was the part of the job he really hated. And thankfully it wasn’t something he usually had to deal with. Regretfully it was becoming all to common an occurrence lately. He walked quickly down the empty hallway to the last door where Deputy Tim Mears stood and stepped inside the Master bedroom.
Pastor Barton’s body, dressed in Pajama’s that would have been in style in 1950, lay sprawled on the bed, his left arm dangling off the side of the bed, under his open hand a cross lay on the floor, a bible was clutched in his right hand. There was a look of horror on his face that truly bothered Hagan and not just because this was the second time today he had seen a dead man with the same look. What had the Pastor seen that had scared him so badly? He wondered as he examined the room.
The Bedroom window was cracked open maybe an inch, a glass of water sat on the nightstand. There was a small radio on the dresser and not much else. A cross hung on the wall over the bed, and there was another picture of Jesus on the wall opposite the foot of the bed and nothing else in the room.
It was the most un lived in looking home that Hagan had ever seen, it reminded him more of a one of the Sunday school rooms but with out the charm.
Steve Dahl the County ME was just finishing up, when Hagan stepped inside the room and walked from side to side, studying every thing in the room. Dahl, looked frazzled and Hagen didn’t doubt the man was it had been a busy three days for both of them. Dahl was a heavy set man with thinning brown hair and a square face that looked like it had been carved from granite, outside of work he was the clumsiest person Hagen had ever met.
Dahl finished writing his notes before he said a thing. Finally, he closed his notebook, and placed his pen in his pocket. “I place the time of death around eleven, all indicators point to a Heart attack. Of course, that’s opinion; I wont know for a fact till I do the autopsy. “ Dahl said as he placed his notebook into his bag .
Hagan knelt in front of the window examining the floor and the wall below the window he rose to his feet and walked around the room stopping at the closet door he opened it and peered inside, noting the seven identical suits that hung inside, above seven identical sets of dress shoes. Stella actually had more than seven dresses and shoes but not a lot more. The shelf above the hanger bar held boxes and a few old coffee cans.
“Almost makes you believe that nonsense about a curse” Dahl said watching the sheriff.
“Don’t you start on me Steve” Hagan said.
“I said almost, But you have to admit its damn peculiar, a circus rolls into town sets up at the Mason place, and this town starts coming apart.” Dahl said. “even Pappy Sloan is worked up over the idea”
Hagan snorted derisively, then stopped and thought about that. “What did Pappy Sloan say exactly.” Hagen asked, Pappy was older than most folks knew Hagen thought, he had been friends with Hagens Great uncle when Hagen was growing up.
“I wasn’t there to hear it of course, you know Pappy and I do not get along, but My cousin works at the Feed store, and was at work this morning when Pappy came in. Pappy got to talking to Jimmy and the others about the missing girl and that out of towner then made a few comments about the last time a circus was set up out by the Mason place Peter Mason Junior went nuts and killed his family, he seems to think that its related. Said the place needed to be burned down and salt spread over what was left. I am sure there was a lot of cursing thrown in with the rest of that”
Hagan nodded, Pappy took great delight in shocking every one with his language, especially churchgoers. Thank god he had married Melissa, even as shocked as the town had been at such a young sweet woman marrying a man as old and nasty as Pappy, they had been relieved too, because from the moment Pappy started courting her, he had begun to calm down considerably.
“I never heard that before, that a circus had been set up out there back then, its wasnt in any story I was told.” Hagan commented, it was strange he had heard all the stories growing up and not once had any of those stories mentioned a circus. .
“Neither had I, but I called Toby Altril, the editor of the Sentinel, and he looked it up for me. I thought I would prove that Pappy was just spreading tall tales but it seems that there was a circus out there when Peter Mason Junior killed his family.” Dahl said.
“I be damned” Hagen said shaking his head. Not even Mable, Gossip central and expert on local dirt and stories had apparently ever heard about it.
It always comes back to the circus doesn’t, Hagen thought, Pastor Barton here was worked up over that circus, a girl vanishes after that circus comes to town, Mark Shefield vanishes, Calvin dies of a heart attack and the Pastor dies after going out there earlier today.
And that wasn’t even counting all the reports that had come in today about people seeing clown like people haunting the woods behind their homes, Hagan thought. And why didn’t pappy mention any of that to me when I was talking to him earlier.
“I need to go talk to Mrs. Barton, not that I really want to.” Hagan said.
Dahl shook his head, “she didn’t see anything, only heard the pastor talking. She thought the Pastor was praying at first, and then he was shouting and trying to exorcise a Demon. She didn’t go upstairs for almost half an hour after he fell silent. And she is blaming the circus of course.” Starr said as Hagan sighed, this was going to get out of control well before the Circus left town.
0100 hrs the Sloan barn.
Simon crept slowly across the barn, easily avoiding anything that might make noise or get in his way. tonight was going to be so much fun he thought as he came to a stop at the base of the ladder that led to the loft where the two boys were sleeping.
He rubbed his gloved hands together in anticipation listening for any change in the sounds around him not wanting to be surprised by the sudden appearance of adults who might come to check on the children.
Oh yes children, the red head in particular, I have come to play and what games we shall experience tonight he thought as he climbed slowly up the ladder, like a great white lazily heading towards the surface.