There are places in the world where darkness dwells, Aushwitz, the killing fields, and countless other places that are well known or not. Not all bore witness to deaths on a vast scale. Some were homes, mountain passes, even business’s where the Darkness had been drawn regardless of the number of deaths. All were places that had been baptized in blood, sanctified in terror and consecrated to death.
And in those places, the dead are uneasy, in those places the Dark lurks like a predator stalking its killing ground. In the Days before the dead rose the Mason House was such a place.
Jared shivered as he faced the shadow-draped door. The cool night became cold and the feeling of something dark and immense rising and engulfing the home flowed through Jared like a storm front.
Leaves rustled, the wind sighted through tree limbs and the house creaked as it loomed over him. there was a slight scent of dew carried on the pre dawn wind. But under it all like some pallid writhing maggot there was a taint, a whiff of corruption
He shivered and looked back at the circus down in the pasture, a few lights burned feebly in the darkness, but near the ticket booths he could see headlights and a group of people milling about.
He shivered again, he was scared, he had no problem admitting it to himself. He wasn’t proud of it, not when he knew his dad wouldn’t have hesitated to burst inside knowing the life of a girl hung in the balance.
I could run down to the circus and ask for help, He thought, then shook his head. The adults down there would keep him from coming back up here and insist that they wait on the cops, and by then the clown could have show up and killed Megan or taken her away where no one would ever find her like he had with Julie. .
No I have to do this, he told himself, it was unfair that all this fell on his shoulders but like his Dad and Pappy were known to say life wasn’t fair, Pappy usually followed that up with and only Dim witted, Liberal ass lickers thought it was.
Well they aren’t here,, you are so stop standing here and go inside, He told himself as hitched up his mental pants and reached for the door knob.
The door opened with a squeal, revealing a dark foyer. Thankfully, it was too dark for Jared to see if the legendary blood stain was there. Drawing his hunting knife, he stepped over the threshold and into the home that had been the source of fear for the town for more decades than Jared had been alive.
He wished he had been thinking clearly enough to grab the flashlight from the pack he had left behind. He took another trembling step deeper into the house and looked around trying to make out details in the darkness. some where deeper in the house he thought he heard the sound of claws or maybe fingernails on the wood floor. he tried, he tried hard not to pay attention to the image of a bloody mangled body crawling inch by inch towards him in the darkness.
Simon, watched the boy enter the Mason home and smiled, now the real game starts he thought as he started towards the house. The boy would be deep into the home by the time Simon arrived and that was just perfect. He would grow more desperate and scared the longer he searched for his little slut and didn’t find her.
Simon looked forward to the fear that would roll off the boy filling air, a sweet almost suffocating elixir that did for him what sex seemed to do for lesser people. He smiled to himself as he bounced with boyish excitement towards the one place he thought of as home and what waited there to welcome him back.
what if Pappy was right, Hagen thought mulling over what Melissa Sloan had told him. What if Jared Stone was up at the Mason house. It made sense give everything else that had happened over the last week, even if almost every report of clowns lurking behind bushes and barns were so much BS or imagination, a few were most likely real.
And then there was the call that had come in to the station just as he was leaving the Sloan place, a gypsy fortune teller from the circus who thought all hell was about to break loose because her cards had told her so. the world was going nuts
Guess it doesn’t matter, that’s where I am heading and that’s where Pappy and Elliot Stone are heading. If Jared isn’t there, if he is in fact somewhere else I can only hope he isn’t dead. Possum should have his dogs out and running at the Owens Cemetery by now and would hopefully be able to follow Jared Stone or the Stalkers trail.
0420 The Mason grounds and home.
so this is what its like to be scared, Jared thought. He had only thought he knew what being scared felt like before this. the fear of being hurt from a fall or on his dirt bike, of getting hurt in a fight or even smashing or breaking fingers and bones doing something stupid he was familiar with. But none of that compared to the gut twisting, nerve shattering fear of death that threatened to overwhelm him.
He stood in wide hallway, that his grandmother might have called a reception hall, a set of sliding doors at the end of the reception hall, currently open let out into the stair hall. to either side of him sliding doors were placed that led into the dining room and living room. Back in the day, only family and close friends ever went past this point in a home.
Leaving the front door open, Jared pushed the door to his left open with a grunt and found himself looking into what had been a formal dining room. Very little light entered the room from the lead paned windows overlooking the porch, but what little there was allowed Jared to see a rickety table, surrounded by broken chairs.
He could picture mold covered walls and tattered drapes in his mind but there wasn’t enough light to really see. He moved into the room, old wooden floors creaking and groaning with each step. His mind screaming at him to run as fast and far away from here as he could get. He managed to ignore it for now.
“Megan” he whispered, wanting to shout but to scared some thing rather some one might hear him. he looked around and only by chance saw a door hidden in the darkness on the back wall. heart hammering he walked slowly over to the door trying not to think of all the things that could be on the other side of that door.
with a trembling hand, he opened the door only to see more darkness. “matches” he muttered then rolled his eyes feeling stupid as he dug into a pocket and pulled out a small tin he always carried with him.
Inside he carried a few essential survival items just in case. It was something his grandfather had taught him and it had helped him out a couple of times over the last couple of years.
Like tonight for example, Jared thought as he extracted a small emergency candle and a book of matches from the tin. He felt stupid for having forgotten the survival tin in the first place; of course I have been a little distracted he told himself.
It took two matches to get the candle lit, and if anything he felt his fear rise slightly higher as he held the candle up over his head the light sending shadows crawling and dancing across the walls. It was like being trapped in a movie, He thought as he opened the old faded door that once had been highly polished.
Tthe room beyond the door was filled with what looked like built in china cabinets and cubbies full of plates and bowls, directly across from the door he stood in was another door.
He had no idea what this room might have been called, but considering it was attached to the dining room and held plates and stuff the opposite door probably led to the kitchen. He opened the door and looked inside.
Simon slipped up the backstairs, once reserved for servants, to the second floor. he could hear the boy moving around down stairs whispering the name of the girl he so desperately sought no doubt hoping to find the girl before Simon arrived. Sadly there was no girl for the boy to rescue. It would actually have been far more entertaining if there had been.
He moved silently through the second floor, remembering the entries in his great grandfathers diaries. The shaving soap salesman had died in that bedroom, the wife of the business man from Philly had died at the door to the attic as she tried to escape. Their son had died in the hallway, the business man had died down in the study where he had been drinking sherry with the son of the Master of the house.
So much blood, so much pain, it was a monument to the true nature of mankind he thought. Man was a animal of betrayal, a creature that confused the rules it made for its self for those of higher powers, it killed, it whined, and the bulk of humanity as worthless as it was could kill for any reason or none.
But for all that, they were weak just cattle for the few real predators to cut through. And
Simon was a wolf, a predator born into a family line of Predators who served a greater power. Often it skipped a generation, but the line had never failed and now Simon would be the one who served as the plan reached fruition. The Dark had labored long to provide the champions it needed.
As it turned out Jared had guess right, The Kitchen did lay on the other side of the old door. it was a large room and in the light of the candle it looked like some one had rampaged through the place years ago. the tarnished copper pot rack above the massive eight burner gas stove, hung askew. The doors on the Ice box had been ripped off. There were dark stains and deep gouges on the old butchers block, and everywhere he looked were pots, pans, plates and bowls scattered across the floor.
He took a step into the kitchen holding the candle high, softly calling Megan’s name as he moved across the room stepping carefully trying to keep as quit as possible.
There were only two doors in the kitchen, one led out to the back porch, the other led into a rear hall with a door on the left that led into the old fashioned Water closet. Something that Jared had only seen in movies and TV shows up to that point. He checked quickly and found that the door straight ahead let into the study with its massive fire place.
Another on his right let out into the stair hall, but the third was locked and judging by its location it opened up to the space under the main stairs and probably led to the basement.
He called out Megans name again and pressed his ear against the door, if he heard her, he would find some one way to break down the door, or break the lock. Like most things it looked easy in the movies but he doubted it was that easy.
He called her name a few more times but heard nothing, he debated for a moment but then decided he would check the other rooms first and if he still hadn’t found Megan and the clown hadn’t shown up he would find a way to get into the basement.
And if the clown did show up, well he didn’t really know what he would do aside from trying really hard not to pee his own pants. Making his decision, he moved to the Den, or Study as people had called it.
He would have to hurry, he thought starting to worry about the candle burning down to low to be used.
Entering the study, the atmosphere seemed to change. It was impossibly darker in this room, the shadows writhed and curled along the walls and floor in a vain attempt to avoid the light. there was a faint unpleasant smell in the room that mingled with the smell of mold and age but he couldn’t think of what it might be.
The room itself was mostly empty of furniture; only a divan and huge old desk remained in the room. But it was the old wooden floor that kept drawing his eyes. Like every kid in Town, he knew the stories of what had happened here in this very room. And now he was standing here where, as far as he knew of, no other kid had stood.
His eyes grew wide as he saw what he had expected to see, what town legend said existed, a huge stain on the floor that could be nothing else but the spot where another human being had died. He moved closer almost entranced by the sight then realized there were several other stains as well. Each marked the spot where a peson had died. He stood over the largest spot wondering how much blood had it taken seep into the wood and permanently stain the wood. For the first time, the murders, all the stories that had been whispered over the years felt real to Jared it wasn’t hard to believe the evidence lay right here at his feet.
“You don’t belong here!” Jared jumped almost out of his skin with fear at the sound of the cold, whispering voice in his ear. “Get out you little bastard” the voice sounded furious.
At his feet, liquid began to seep up through the boards, glittering scarlet in the light of the candle as it began to spread across the stain filling it like water in a hole..
His head whipped around, seeking the source of the voice but there was no one there. he looked back at the blood stain and saw a tendril of blood snaking towards him. sinuously winding back and forth across the floor. he took a step back only to look around again as he heard more voices around him. they were just loud enough to hear, but not loud enough that he could make out words. It was like a crowd of people trying to talk over each other.
His skin prickled up even more than it had been, and it hurt. He thought feeling his hair do the same thing. If some one saw me right now I would look like a porcupine, he thought as he backed towards the sliding door that connected the study to the main hall. The voices swirled around him, growing louder almost shouting in his ears.
All he wanted to do was run, leave this room, leave this house, He bumped into the sliding door the voices following him. he reached blindly behind him to open the door, and the image of Megan face floated up in his minds eye.
“Help me” a voice screamed and then was swept away by that hurricane of sound
“Get out you before I kill you” a deeper voice bellowed over the cacophony of voices.
“Run, Run boy” another voice shouted.
There are no such things as ghosts, Jared told himself. Its just my imagination damn it!
“I will use your guts for garters boy” the deep voice yelled as the air around Jared grew ice cold dust swirled as a chill wind seemed to blow thru the room.
With that ringing in his mind Jared managed to slide the door open and stumble out into the hall and was halfway to the front door when he made himself stop and turn back to look. It was silent in the house now, the noise, if there had really been noise, was gone.
I cant run, not with Megan in here somewhere, he told himself. He knew he should never had tried to do this alone, he should have gone back to Jeff’s house, or rode over the sheriffs office, if nothing else he should have went to the circus folks and told the adults there what was going on, maybe a few would have come up here with him to get Megan back.
Well you didn’t, and you’re here now, he told himself. “ so stop spooking yourself and get on with it.” he said aloud. To prove to himself that what had happened in the study had been all in his mind he made himself walk back down the hallway to the door he had just bolted out of. Still shaking he peered into the study, where nothing moved and no sound disturbed it. There wasn’t a trace of fresh blood on the floor that he could see.
See, he told himself.. It was all in your mind. Now get moving before the clown shows up.
Jared made himself turn away he still had another room down here to search then he had to go upstairs he only wished he could shake the fear that flowed through his body as easily as he made the decision. .
Simon smiled he heard the boy start up the stair’s, the boy was brave, he thought. of course he didn’t really know what was awaiting him here in this place. If he had, he would have left the girl to her fate instead of running up here to play hero.
He wondered how the boy would react when he found out the girl was till safe at home. of course once the boy is incapacitated, I can delay things long enough to collect the girl. The thought satisfying as it was, was nothing more than a dream. Simon had rules to follow. Chaos was good, but taking the girl established a pattern and that was something he refused to do. No after the boy he would have to wait for a while probably a few towns down the line before he sated his and his friends needs. Far to many had died and soon days perhaps, the authorities would begin to notice a few other disappearances
Simon had planned for that, he would either use the iron clad alibi he had prepared or he would have moved on to greener pastures either suited him to be frankly honest. His time at the circus was drawing to an end. Either of his plans would work and so there was no need to move things along at a faster pace and make a mistake that would invalidate the plans he had in place.
Being arrested would hinder his ability to participate in the greater plan. He smiled at that, yes play this game then leave, it was time to solely dedicate himself his destiny to walk the path he had craved since childhood.
It was time to get this show on the road Simon told himself hearing the boards on the landing creak as the boy climbed the stairs.. His smile grew wider and like his eyes there was no humor in it.
Jared ignored the hot wax that occasionally dripped on his fingers as he lifted the candle above his head hoping it would throw a little more light. as ideas went it seemed like a good one, in practice all it did was stretch his muscles, since it threw no more light than it had before.
He moved slowly up the stairs, not really noticing the once fashionable paneled wall that was now discolored and had spots of mold growing on it. “ Megan” he whispered reaching the landing hoping that if she were up here, she might hear him and be able to respond somehow and lead him directly to her.
He was running out of time, the clown would be here soon, if he wasn’t already and Jared had hoped to find Megan and get her out long before that happened.
It had sounded so easy and logical when he had been escaping on his motorcycle, get here first, rescue Megan and that would be that. Why he had thought finding her would be as easy as walking in the door, he didn’t know. The house was larger than it looked and he hadn’t counted on being so scared that he could hardly speak and was moving so slow that a speeding snail could probably pass him.
The once elegant carpet runner was falling apart from age, each step he took sent dust puffing into the air. He was almost to the first door to his right when he stopped as a board squealed under his foot.
Around him it seemed to grow darker, the night kept at bay only by the candle in his hand. The silence became almost oppressive, and he could feel a presence as if some one stood just out of sight watching him. Fear rippled up his back, the hairs on his arms and the back of his neck stiffened almost painfully.
His eyes darted from place to place all he saw darkness. Darkness that pressed close trying to slip past the meager shield of light thrown off by his candle, and the moment that candle failed it would sweep in like a living thing and drown him.
“Megan” He whispered praying she was in the first room so he could grab her and run for the front door.
you can leave, run for help. Jared ignored the thought. if you leave now, you wont have to see the clown again. that was tempting, so damn tempting. He didn’t want to see that clown again, any clown for that matter. All he wanted was to get Megan and get out.
Your fifteen, almost sixteen what in the hell can you do to help her you dim witted ass, a voice in his mind asked sounding almost like Pappy. Do you have a gun, no of course you don’t, you have a knife. maybe the clown will throw himself on your knife repeatedly till he dies of his wounds or laughter.
Shut up, Jared told himself. “I am not leaving till I find her.” He said aloud.
“Noble of you” a voice full of cold amusement said from no where and every where. “Futile but noble.”
Hope crumbled in Jared’s heart, the clown was here already and there was no way he could find Megan and get out with out the clown trying to stop them.
So your going to give up then, if you run you might still be able to escape and get help, the voice urged.
Jared ignored it, his thoughts raced as his heart hammered in his chest. when a man is in a position to help, he has a duty to help Jared, and not just a duty it’s the right thing to do Jared’s dad had told him once
Jared had read all kinds of stories about hero’s in and out of the military, men who had done what needed doing even knowing they would die. Even at his age, he had been awed by that, and had wondered sometimes if in the same position if he could have done the same thing. well its time to put up or shut up, even if I escape, Megan will be killed and I will have to live with that for the rest of my life and if I stay we both will probably die. But thanks to my dumb butt running up here with out telling a single soul the only help she has is me.
What would Dad do? Jared asked himself, He wouldn’t run away that was for sure, especially if it was Jared’s mom being held by some evil demented clown. His dad would never have let fear or anything else keep him from doing what was right.
He didn’t want to stay, but he had to. The decision was the hardest one of his life. Beside he suspected if he ran for it the clown would be waiting and he would die anyway and he found the he wanted every extra second of life he could get even if that meant going deeper into the darkness.
The mental debate had taken maybe six seconds all told, but it seemed like a life time. Jared started forward only to stop as a wind sighed down the hallway, just strong enough for Jared to feel and then all hell break loose as every door up stairs began to open and slam shut over and over, but that sound wasn’t loud enough to drown out the sound of crazed laughter.
The cacophony of sound stopped abruptly, in its place an unnerving silence filled the old house. Surely, Jared thought, the people down at the circus had to have heard all this.
No, they wouldn’t have, the house had its secrets and it wasn’t about to let those outside hear or see anything it didn’t want them to know.
“Megan” he whispered forcing himself to step up to a door and open it revealing a bedroom still furnished after all these years he half expected the door to slam shut in his face but it didn’t.
There wasn’t much in the room, on dust covered shelves between windows, lay toys, books and a music box older than his parents. A narrow metal frame bed with a busted mattress, a scarred nightstand, moth eaten curtains and over it all an unpleasant musty odor lingered in the air. What wasn’t in the room was Megan. He turned back to the hallway and froze, a bright red balloon was slowly bouncing along the hallway ceiling towards him.
Jared stepped back towards the stairs, tearing his eyes away from the balloon. Afraid that the balloon was only meant to distract him while the clown snuck up on him from a different direction.
what if its behind me. Jared whirled around the candle flame dancing wildly as it guttered and almost went out. His eyes widened, his mouth worked as he saw a woman crawling up the stairs, her arms and legs spread out like the legs of some obscene human Spider that moved jerkily up the stairs. He couldn’t see her face, and he didn’t want to.
His mouth worked but thankfully for his pride no sound escaped, but if it had that scream would have been heard all the way into Nashville.
Jared turned to run and froze as he saw the clown lean out of a doorway further down the hall. He could only see it from the waist up but that’s all he needed to see. It lifted a hand from the door frame and waved slowly. Behind Jared the sound of something moving fitfully across the floor came closer.
Elliot Stone looked totally relaxed, there was a grim deadly set to his face and his eyes were as flat and dead as a sharks. It was not the face of the man his family loved it was the face of the professional operator that he had hoped he had left behind.
Now he embraced it once more, because his son needed him and as much as Elliot liked and respected Hagen. He didn’t, couldn’t trust that the Sheriffs department would find Jared in time to save him and if something happened to Jared, Elliot wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he had just sat back letting strangers look for his son.
His lips thinned at the thought of Jared lying dead some where, if my son is harmed I will spend the rest of my life hunting the bastard down who did it. There will be no trial for him to skate out of punishment on a technicality, no plea bargains and the body will never be found.
He looked over at his passenger and saw that Pappy was watching him. “if you thinking what I suspect you are Elliot, I will help you out. I aint never said as much, but I like Jared. He is a good kid and been a damn good friend to my boy. So if you need me to swing a shovel, provide an alibi or hold the low life, scum sucking, ass wipe while you slit his throat you just let me know.”
Elliot only nodded in reply, he believe Pappy meant every word of it and despite the fact that Pappy was a crude obnoxious, Curmudgeon, Elliot felt a surge of respect for the old Marine.
Just let him be okay God, you know I don’t ask for anything for myself I don’t deserve it, but this is my boy and he does. So let him be okay.
Up ahead over the trees, he saw the Mason house looming up into the night sky. “almost there” he said.
A minute later Pappy held on to the Jesus bar cursing impressively as Elliot barely slowed as he turned and half slid into the drive way. The car bounced over the ruts left by circus visitor jarring both men inside.
As they went past the circus, Pappy spotted two Patrol cars near the ticket booths and a small crowd of people. it looked like all of them turned and watched the car shoot past and then Elliot was turning up the Hill.
The House loomed over them, Dark and malignant. Pappy hadn’t been up here in years, the house looked older, worn by time and the elements. It wasn’t the fancy mansion, painted brightly with a shining copper roof any longer. But the feeling of a Dark presence, of something foul still surrounded the place. Oppressive and heavy, the hint of old blood tainted the air.
He had felt the same thing once before during the war in the pacific, and that was a memory he never discussed to much chaos and death attached to that day. But he had believed then and now what ever this thing was, it appeared only in places of death and madness. Maybe it fed off it or maybe it was the cause, he hoped he would never find out. It was the main reason he had avoided this place all these long years. This temple of Death as his pa had described it back in 51.
Pappy’s eyes widened in surprise as he saw a flicker of dim golden light in a second floor window. “There’s a light up there” Pappy exclaimed as hope flared in Elliot Stones eyes, then vanished. The man wasn’t going to let himself feel a thing till He had his son in his arms one way or another Pappy thought with complete understanding, Hope could be a dangerous thing.
Elliot hit the brakes and stopped the car near the steps, as the Engine died. They both heard a crash from inside the house as they climbed out of the car and the light what ever it had been vanished.
Elliot drew his pistol and rushed towards the open front door, Pappy right behind him, rifle ready. Elliot slid to a stop as the front door slammed shut in his face with a boom.
0430 Meadow Lake Road.
Siren wailing, Hagen raced along the road towards the circus. He wasn’t able to shaek the feeling that something was about to happen. Starr was on the way, and would probably arrive about the same time. Tremont had called in and reported a car had just raced up to the Mason House, but he was tied up with keeping Bartons people from rampaging through the circus and couldn’t go up to investigate.
I will arrest every one of those jack ass’s if it turns out Jared Stone was up at that house and hurt because my deputies were tied up trying to keep them from starting a riot with the circus folks.. He purposely did not think about the boy being dead.
Thank god Melissa Sloan had not been reticent about revealing where her husband and Elliot Stone had gone, he thought. In Elliot’s place I would probably do the same damn thing but what got into pappy.
He didn’t have time to think much about that, not that it would have mattered what reason he came up with for pappy’s actions tonight. The turn off to the mason place was just ahead.
0440 the Mason place.
Jared swiveled to look back and saw that looked like knee high fog rolling over the top stair and filling the hallway. It swirled and washed up against the walls. Some thing moved in that fog, leaving only eddies in the mist.. He turned back and saw the clown was gone from the doorway it had been standing in. What to do, it wasn’t really a coherent thought, just a flash across his mind almost as fast as the reply. There was fog behind him, empty hallway ahead and a clown that was hiding somewhere at the end of the hallway.
Jared chose the bedroom he had just looked in, he leaped inside, losing the candle in the process and scooped up a broken chair and heaved it out into the hallway where he thought the woman, thing, ghost, what ever might be. The chair vanished into the mist with a crash.
Not satisfied, Jared grabbed a large mirror that was mounted to a stand and dragged it over to the door then pitched out into the hallway where it crashed to the floor, the mirror shattering into a thousand pieces. I hope I live long enough to see seven years bad luck, Jared thought wildly as tears ran down his face, he was scared beyond anything he had thought possible.
Just climb out the window and you can get away, the thought was seductive and god knew he wanted to do just that. He even started to move towards the window then stopped himself.
He looked back at the open door, and the fog that was starting to flow into the room. He saw a pointed hat begin to rise out of the fog and something happened deep inside. He couldn’t have explained to any one what made him stay; he didn’t really understand it himself.
He could hear something moving out there in the fog that filled the hallway to waist height and was slowly pouring into the bedroom.
Will I scream when he cuts me, Jared asked himself silently. Then shook his head savagely in denial, its not over yet.
Out in the hall he heard the a sound like too large shoes flopping along the hallway. Then he saw white-gloved fingers curl around the doorjamb. Eyes wide he watched as the clown’s head slowly appeared.
“Welcome to my home” the Clown, said then laughed madly.
0435 the front porch of the Mason home
Elliot Stone tried the knob again, but the old door refused to open. “you gonna let a fucking door slow you down.” Pappy asked as they both heard laughter from somewhere inside the house.
Elliot shook his head, then took a step back.. Kicking a door open was an art form, and the correct way was not shown on popular TV and movies.
Elliot was a past master at entry and despite the fact that it had been many years since he had used the skills that had served him so well, they were so deeply ingrained he would never forget them.
He drove his booted foot into the sweet spot, wood splintered and cracked and the door slammed open. He was moving even before the door had fully opened, .45 up and ready.
Pappy smiled grimly it was nice to see a professional at work he thought as he followed the younger man into the house.
“what the hell” Elliot said softly as they stepped into the some kind of fog that covered the floor. he took a sniff and could smell chemicals. “its man made” He said lifting his flash light and turning it on.
Jared backed away from the bedroom door as the clown waddled into the room, it silently mimed being puzzled, then lifted a finger its eyes wide and formed it lips into an O of surprise. Suddenly it began to dance from foot to foot silently laughing at Jared while pointing a white gloved finger at him.
The clown stopped its mad dance as a boom filled the air and a slight tremor rippled through the building.
Impossible, Simon thought even as the wail of distant sirens reached his ears. It would seem the game has come to an end. No doubt the old farmer or possibly even the boys father was down stairs.
He flicked a hand, and the simple trick placed a knife in his hand once more. “time to die boy” he said coldly.
there are times for some people, possibly most people that they are pushed to far and the fear, or terror that held them in its grasp changes, transmutes to something else, sometimes it becomes fury, sometimes it’s a calm peaceful feeling, an acceptance of what they can not change.
For Jared, as he watched the clown advance on him, It became some thing he would use for the rest of his life in moments of crisis.
Anger, surged up washing away the fear. But it wasn’t the wild uncontrolled anger most would have felt. Not for him, for him every thing became sharper, more focused as the world seemed to slow down around him and his mind ticked over possibilities and outcomes with a detached computer like precision fed by the anger that burned deep inside. An Anger that held him close and wouldn’t let him run.
He picked up on soft voices downstairs, and the sound of sirens coming closer by the second, not a single plan that ticked through his mind gave him a good chance, but for any plan to work he had to get to the hall, and that meant going past the clown.
Simon should have expected what happened next, he had two large knots where the boy had pelted him with rocks in the cemetery. Simon waddled into the room, the comic appearance just part of the show. One should always keep up appearances, he thought then his eye widened as the terror stricken boy suddenly leaped at him, his long muscular leg lashing out in a kick that snapped Simons head to one side. Pain flared and fury filled his eyes
Why you insolent brat, Simon thought with a snarl as he managed to catch the boy by the knee and hurled him out into the hallway where he smashed into a door and fell to the ground. Simon scuttled forward, a knife in his hand. The little brat should have been quaking in his boots by now. Well I will take the fight out of him.
Jared hit the wall with jarring force but thankfully didn’t pass out, from the pain in his shoulder and neck something was dislocated or broken, almost crying with pain he rolled over and saw the beam of a flashlight shining up to the landing. The clown bore down on him, a dead smile spread across its painted face, flat dead eyes like a shark speared him.
Jared kicked out, striking the clowns hand deflecting the knife, instead of plunging into his leg it only cut through his jeans scoring a line along his calf. “DAD!” Jared bellowed not knowing if it was his dad, a deputy or even Pappy, but there was at least hope now and he wanted to believe it was his dad. But even as the shout ripped from his throat a hand grasped the back of his head and slammed his face into the floor and the world went black.
Elliot looked up, hearing his sons shout. The fear and pain in his sons voice tore at him. all the years away from his SF days fell completely away, as he flowed forward Pistol at the ready Pappy right behind him.
Doors began to open and slam shut, screams and cries for help filled the air around the two men, Elliot left any threat from the ground floor to Pappy as he moved up the stairs. He didn’t know what to make of all the crap around him other than to treat it as a distraction.
The chandelier over the stair hall, was swinging and swaying, it had hung there for over eighty years, the wood it was bolted too was old, and decaying the gyrations of the chandelier were too much, it finally snapped and the once expensive light crashed to the floor.
Simon saw the beam of the flashlight sweeping up the stairs, he had wanted to take his time with the boy. His friend had wanted it to be long and painful, but some how his plans had gone awry. He looked to his left into the deep shadows as if for approval then lifted the knife as he grabbed the boys hair and pulled his head up exposing his throat.
Slitting throats was so gauche, it was something that a foot pad would do, or one of the wop mobsters, it offended Simons sense of artistry but he had no time for anything else.
“Don’t touch him” a deep older sounding male voice said from behind him, Simons nose wrinkled as the smell of some kind of flower flowed over the hall. “He is not your’s” a deep older sounding male voice said behind him. he didn’t have to look to know what he faced.
“The dead hold no power of me” Simon said, but something held his hand none the less.
“Maybe not but my son does” the old man said with a smile and a look towards the staircase.
Simon did not waste time on swearing, partly because only the lower class would resort to profanity. The two men were passing the landing it might already be to late to escape.
“leave him” Simon let the boys head fall and scuttled backward, as his friend spoke at last. “He will be the guide, and you my friend will meet him again.” the voice was colder than the arctic and lacked anything that a human might call emotion.
Simon had grown up hearing that voice, in his dreams, from the shadows of his bedroom, during his long walks in the woods and it brought him comfort. He knew the chaos and death he had spawned here in this town was pleasing to his friend, just as the damage his great grandfather had done here had been.
Elliot started up the second flight of step, his light fell on a figure laying in the hall, the red hair flamed in the light in the same instant he saw there were three others around his son.
Elliot saw the clown, wave mockingly and then smoke, mist or what ever it actually was swirled up around the clown obscuring it from sight. Elliot didn’t care, he had seen where the clown had been, his mind did the math, his finger tightened and the pistol in his hand bucked three times, he shifted aim to the man he had spotted standing in the shadows beside Jared but there was no one there.
Pappy fired several shots into the fog that the clown had vanished into as Elliot’s pistol swung to the third man who stood furthest from Jared. He blinked in astonishment and then there was only he, Pappy, and Jared in the hall. But the Sad smile on his dads face before he vanished would haunt Elliot the rest of his life.
0900 hrs, Tuesday, Sheriffs Office.
Hagen smiled as the door opened and Jared Stone, his father Elliot and Pappy Sloan entered his office. Pete Starr hovered outside.
Jared looked damn good considering what he had been through. “you folks take a seat, good to see your okay Jared.”
“thank you Sir” Jared said as he dropped into a chair. Elliot remained standing, his hands on the back of Jared’s chair. Hagen wondered if the man was going to let Jared out of his sight any time in the next ten years he rather doubted it.
Jared had come out of the experience with a minor surface scar, and plenty of bruises, what mental scars the kid might carry for the rest of his life, Hagen didn’t know and he doubted Jared would recognize them himself. Except for one, Hagen was sure the kid would never be able to look at a clown again with out being scared.
“lets get down to it, what did you find” Pappy asked as he sat. “and don’t give me no shit about labs, test results or any other bull shit.”
“Would you like a coke Jared?” Hagen asked. “Elliot, Pappy something to drink before we get down to business.”
All three shook their heads, Hagen himself wanted a nice shot or ten of scotch but since he had quit drinking some time back it would be a long day in hell before he satisfied that itch.
He settled himself in the worn leather chair behind his desk and gazed at them for a moment. “I will start by saying, we have a suspect.” He said, he almost didn’t tell them who, but there was no point he was sure word had spread around town once the impounded van and gear had been brought. “The Great Simon, who vanished Sunday morning just after sunrise. He worked their fairway as a clown part time.” he said slowly watching Elliot Stone. there wasn’t anything in the mans eyes or posture to suggest he might go hunting on his own, but the man had been a professional and with his faithful side kick Pappy those two would make a hell of a mess, but with pappy around they might be easy to track too. It was hard to miss Pappy.
“He apparently had an escape plan in place, his assistant saw him enter his Camper van around 0600, while we were busy scouring the house. He never came from what she saw.”
“What about the spooks the boy saw, and all the doors slamming, and the fog.” Pappy asked curious.
“and the fact that I shot him” Elliot said still surprised that there hadn’t been a body on the floor.
“we found no sign of blood so I have to assume that you missed Elliot and you as well pappy. As far as all the spooky crap the man was a magician, it was stage magic, we found doors rigged up, a fog machine installed under the stairs, a dress and wig, so we assume he was the female ghost Jared here saw. We found small speakers mounted in the Study and a few other spots in the house.” Hagen went on to lay out what the lab boys had found. . “this guy had it all planned out ahead of time.”
As he spoke he saw much of the tension in Jared flow away as simple logical answers pushed aside the fear of the whole even in house being supernatural.
“Your telling me that this boy was trapped in a fucking episode of that Liberal hippy bullshit carton with the stupid dog.” Pappy asked disgusted as Hagen fell silent..
Elliot snorted something suspiciously like a laugh. Hagen himself smiled for a second at the thought of Pappy having to sit through that Carton thanks to his son.
Jared looked thoughtfully at Hagen for a moment then nodded to himself. “But what about the guy that was with him, I saw him twice hiding in the shadows.”
Hagen leaned forward placing his elbows on his desk and gazed at Jared for a moment his smile slipping a bit. “Jared, we never found any evidence of a second person. I think you were just worked up a little bit, lets face it you were under a lot of stress and our minds can play tricks on us during times like that.”
“I can see that” Jared replied, like most people he wanted to believe it was over. And he was young enough and resilient enough to accept that explanation+.
“I can say I don’t think you folks have to worry about the clown coming back,” god how stupid did that sound Hagen thought.
Pappy nodded in agreement surprising Hagen. “No, he wont be back. The circus is gone and it begins and ends with the circus.”
Hagen started to disagree then stopped himself. He couldn’t explain why he believed it was over and it made a much sense as pappy and half the town blaming the circus. In a way he had felt bad for the circus folks who had packed up and left Sunday evening instead of staying for their whole gig. But as far as Hagen and the Owner of the circus were concerned it was for the best. To much had happened and their revenue would only take a major hit if they stayed and the chance of something violent occurring was not something Hagen could discount..
:”so now what?” Elliot asked, with a glance at his son.
“Jared and you go on with your lives. Go camping , go to the range shoot some clown targets. I still have …”
“What about that worthless toupee wearing ass Barton? and that hunter you found, and the missing girl and…”
“Pappy do you mind,” Elliot asked.
“what your boy cant hear the word ass, after being chased around town by a killer clown.” Pappy asked.
Elliot ignored him, Tonto was about to get kicked to the curb Hagen thought half amused..
“Calvin Tredgar died of a heart attack, as did Pastor Barton Pappy” Hagen said. “thats the official cause of death.” He didn’t mention that Dahl had found what appeared to be an injection site in Bartons chest right over the heart. Dahl believed that Barton had been injected with something that induced a heart attack or at least made it look like a heart attack. Calvin how ever appeared to have died naturally.
“tell me that two bit, dim witted Dahl wasn’t the one who examined the bodies. A pregnant hooker in Labor could have done a better job” Pappy complained.
“as far as Julie Siemns and Mr. Sheffield,” Hagen said ignoring pappy’s outburst “we have no bodies and officially no murder. We searched the Mason house from top to bottom and found nothing, my men and volunteers have searched every abandoned building with in ten miles of the Mason Property and found nothing.”
“you said officially there is no murder” Elliot said, Hagen shrugged.
“Legally no there hasn’t been a murder in either case. How ever I am treating them like murders, I want that girl back alive if possible, but no matter what happened to her, her family deserves to know and so does the family and friends of Mr. Sheffield.”
Elliot nodded in agreement thinking of how close he had come to losing his son and knew that if the worst has happened he would have wanted to know. The uncertainty of not knowing month after month, year after year would have driven him mad.
“ To be honest at this point, the only thing I could possibly arrest Mr. Tobias for would be attempted murder and the only evidence we have is Jared who can identify him, a good lawyer would argue that with all the make up, the costumes, fog and darkness there is no possible way a man much less a fifteen year old could be certain that Tobias was in fact the clown who was trying to kill him. with out some kind of hard physical evidence”
“Well that’s your job to handle, I have my son that’s all I care about.” Elliot said resting a large callused hand on his sons shoulder. Hagen truly hoped the man was sincere about that.. Pappy rose from his chair ready to leave and Jared taking a cue from pappy rose as well.
Hagen shook hands with each of them as they left the room, Elliot was the last one to the door, “go on out with Pappy Jared, I will be right there.” Elliot said to Jared who waited in the hall.
As soon as Jared had left, Elliot gazed intently at Hagen. “I want to thank you for not letting Jared’s name be linked to this crap” Hagen and Pete Starr were the only ones who knew Jared had been up at the Mason house. According to the story that Hagen had released Jared Stone had left the cemetery on his dirt bike and wrecked down by Owens creek knocking himself unconscious. That covered the radio transmissions during the search neatly, and he had tied the whole thing up with the distraught father and family friend had gone to the Mason house looking for Jared only to find the escaped mental patient who had been working as a stage magician and Clown for the circus. Escaped mental patients were in vogue this decade, and besides there was no butler to pin it on.
“Your more than welcome Mr. Stone, your son and the town have been through a lot the last few days, but if we do catch Tobias the real story will come out.” Hagen said.
“Except you don’t believe you will catch him do you?” Elliot asked.
“no Mr. Stone I do no not,” Hagen said “I hate that, but I truly don’t think he will ever be caught. In the end he will become part of the legend of the Mason house. Assuming no one forgets about it.” Hagen said thinking of the news paper articles from over the years he had looked over and the stories they told as opposed to what was remembered in town.
Simon Tobias, should already be part of the legend. According to the article a Professional Stage Magician named Simon Tobias had been with the equally forgotten circus back when Pete Mason Jr went off the deep end and killed all those people.
Hagen didn’t know what to make of that and didn’t want to spend a lot of time thinking about it. those kind of thoughts might lead him to places he never wanted to visit.
Elliot turned to leave once more then paused “you know your wrong, that place is haunted Sheriff.” He said then left closing the door quietly behind him.
“you may just be right” Hagen said to the empty office.
2200hrs, Wednesday, Akron Ohio.
The man known as Simon Tobias, stood in front of a brick fireplace contemplating the last two weeks of his life. He slowly shed his clothes and tossed each garment into the fire a lazy smile on his face.
“it was fun while it lasted,” he said aloud. The two corpses in the room didn’t disagree with him. “I feel the planning was wasted how ever, the job was botched.”
His eyes turned towards the deep shadows in the corner of the small living room, but he aw nothing there. “I suspect the next time I will see you is when my part in the plan begins. I only wished that I could have killed the boy, He was strong one, disgustingly noble and heroic. Which is what I am sure drew the light to him in the first place, unless of course, “ he said then paused thinking about the dead man who interfered at the end. “…unless of course he comes from a family line on the opposite side of the game. My opposite number as it were. Its actually rather Droll when you think about it.”
There was only the hiss and crackle of flames, neither his friend or the dead couple behind him offered an opinion. He turned to the clothes he had laid out and began to dress. It was nice to once more dress correctly, one should always be fastidious about their appearance. It had been a lesson from his great grandfather passed down to him through his mother.
“sadly Cary and Wilma, our time together has come to an end. I appreciate you taking me in for the duration of my short stay here in your fair city. “ he said chuckling with dark humor as he turned to the corpses. “But it is time for me to get to started on my work, I am an artist you know.” He said as he walked to the door, “it is to bad you will never see the master pieces I will create as the world crashes down into ruin and desolation.” He said as he placed a spotless bowler hat atop his oddly shaped head, he adjusted it to a jaunty angle, brushed a wispy lock of white hair behind his ear. Then opened the door to the waiting world. “I think I will Start in Texas, they have such a nice climate at this time of year.” He said as he stepped out into the falling snow.
life slowly returned to normal for Jared and the town as October faded into November and the normal holiday rhythms as natural as a heart beat settled in. Elliot never told his son about the man he had seen, the man who looked exactly like Elliotts deceased father.
Just before Thanksgiving, the town was rocked by the arrest of Victor Hues for the Murder of Mark Sheffield, whose body was recovered from Hue’s backyard. The regional nightly news carried the now traditional neighborly comments, “ he was such a quiet man, he was never any trouble always polite to me and my kids.” Only Sheriff Hagen saw the note written in an elegant hand on the back of a circus flyer on Hues nightstand. “My dearest apprentice Victor, I so thoroughly enjoyed my visit to your house to watch you and your ‘friend’ play games. How ever my work calls me away, Take care my friend and hopefully one day we can compare our work once more in person.” There was no signature, Hagen palmed the message with out telling any one, it would be added to the private file he was compiling, hoping that one day it would lead him to the Killer of Julie Siemns.
That same night, some one went up to the Mason place poured a few gallons of gasoline and tossed in a match. Sheriff Hagen didn’t spend a lot of time investigating that case he had a town full of suspects and every one had an alibi.
Jared and Jeff were back to running the woods and planning for the long hunting trip they would be taking with Elliot and Pappy who for now had a truce going. Pappy even managed to keep his cursing down to a low limit. No one not the even their sons expected the two men to become friends but it was the closest Pappy had gotten to have a friend in years.
Megan went on her second real date with Jared, they would enjoy themselves and were convinced that they were in love. Neither realized that in a mere handful of years they would never see each other again. But that was the way first loves usually ended.
For Jared, the event faded much like a dream as his mind defended itself against the nightmares. By Spring time, he was outwardly his old self again, his dislike of clowns had how ever turned into a sever hatred, some like the family psychiatrist would say a pathological hatred of clowns. No one who knew about Jared’s ordeal was in the least surprised. But it did make going to Walmart and McDonalds interesting.
Life went on, people adjusted and like before people began to forget, all but a few which was the way of things in this town where things were finally starting to change for the better.
A few of the old timers believed that all the changes began the night the Mason place burned down, what ever the truth of the matter the darkness had haunted that old place was gone and the town felt different to every one who had grown up there.
The only thing that didn’t change, Julie Siemns remained missing and considering how the world turned out, maybe she was one of the lucky ones..