Authors: Glenn Rolfe
Kim and Heath excused themselves and went up to Kim's room. Sonya and Alex were finally alone. Sonya took his hand and guided him to the guest bedroom.
“Wait right here,” she said. She moved to the nightstand and lit a couple of candles. She grabbed the bottom of her T-shirt and pulled it up over her head. Alex stepped into the warmly lit room and followed suit. Sonya undid her leopard-print bra and tossed it to the floor.
Kim and Heath's sounds of ecstasy drifted down into the otherwise quiet room.
They moved to the bed together. Alex pulled the elastic out of his long brown hair.
“Do you want me to turn the radio on?” he said, pointing to the small gray CD player on the bureau next to the door.
Sonya didn't want to admit that the sound of their friends having sex was turning her on. She wanted Alex so bad right then. Maybe it was the anticipation of finishing what they'd started on the ride over last night. They hadn't had sex since summer vacation started three days ago. She couldn't deny that her impulses were being amplified by the banging headboard in the room above.
Alex crawled toward her. “Babe, do you want the radioâ”
Sonya lunged forward, climbed over him and slipped her tongue into his mouth. His hands went to her breasts as he pulled her down on top of him. She felt like an animal uncaged as she reached forward and undid his jeans.
He grabbed her by the wrists and guided her onto her back, meeting her mouth in a deep kiss as he slid his hands down her arms, then her chestâshe flinched as his fingertips fluttered over her erect nipples. Sliding his hands across her flat stomach and on to her hips, he grabbed hold of the waistband of her black stretch pants and pink-lace panties, and pulled them down over her ass in one fluid motion.
He stood up and took off his jeans and boxers. He lay back down on top of her.
She put her hands on his hips and guided him inside.
Alex felt her warmth as they became one. He looked down at Sonya's face and saw her biting her lower lip. He realized in that moment how much he loved her. It wasn't just because she was gorgeous or that she was in to him, nor for the fact that they could sustain a conversation for more than five minutes.
He cared for her more than he could ever remember caring for anyone in his life. He wanted to tell her, he wanted to say it out loud at that very moment. He needed her to know that he didn't just consider her the girl he was seeing, or the girl he was having sex with. He'd say it, but he was still too afraid that she might not feel the same way. He thought she probably did, but he didn't want to take the chance. Not yet, anyway.
Loud music erupted from Sonya's cell.
“Oohhh, not nowww,” she said.
Alex continued to thrust until she reached for his hips and nudged him away.
“I have to get that,” she said.
He stopped. “What? Why? Just call 'em back.”
“I have to get it; it's probably my dad. He's acting a little strange since last night.”
He watched her reach over the edge of the bed and snatch the phone up off the floor where it had fallen.
Alex plopped down on the bed, bummed out about the interruption, but relieved that he had not blurted out those three little words. He did love her, but he was definitely going to hold off a little longer before saying so. He wrapped his arms around her and tried to listen in.
Joe slowed the Range Rover, pulling off Old Gilson Creek Road, and headed between two large pines. The path, overgrown with tall grass and sporadically birthed blackberry bushes, was much as it had been the night he transported the carcass of the dead creature to what he believed would be its final resting place.
Joe reached for the pack of Camel Lights on his dash. He had started smoking againâanother secret he was hiding from his daughter. He kept telling himself it would all be over soonâ¦at least, that's what he was hoping. They could just go back to having the wide-open relationship he cherished so dearly. Until then, he would continue to be evasive when answering her questions, he would remain vague when telling her where he was heading and what he was doing, and he would continue to smoke his way through his anxieties.
About a hundred feet in, the path disappeared. He parked the truck before a small group of trees and cut the engine. Horace Cemetery was a little farther within the woods. He could find his way to the small group of crumbling gravestones that made up the old graveyard with his eyes closed. As the first of the old headstones came into sight, Joe was flooded with a rush of memories.
His introduction to Horace Cemetery, the first and original graveyard of Gilson Creek, and its haunted past was something he would never forget. He was out on his first hunting trip with his father and his uncle when they happened upon the old burial site. The graveyard was ancient and brittle, the result of being uncared for and forgotten, which had only made it that much more frightening as a child. It seemed so out of place, cast out like spoiled meat and left to rot in the middle of the woods. Joe's father only increased his unease by telling him that the place was haunted. His father did not elaborate on the subject; he just ushered them away with a quiet but stern sense of urgency.
It was his best friend, Jack McKinney, who told him about the soul who contaminated the place. According to the legend, a murdering monster of a man by the name of Gordon McDonough had been hanged and buried in the cemetery in the late 1800s.
McDonough killed thirteen people in allâfour adults and nine children. He then walked right into the town's small saloon, carrying an old potato sack that was dripping with blood and, supposedly, filled with body parts of two massacred families. The townspeople dragged him out to the cemetery to meet his judgment.
They say he never said a word as to why he committed the murders, that he just smiled as they grabbed ahold of him, and kept on grinning whilst being dragged up and down the dirt roads leading to the graveyard. They also say he was wearing the same ugly smile when they slipped the noose over his head and raised him up. The smile was said to have still been on his face as the cold, dark earth was shoveled upon it.
Townspeople, from then on, claimed to feel an evil presence lurking around them when visiting the graves of their dearly departed. Gilson Creek made a new graveyard the following spring, leaving Horace Cemetery to the surrounding forest and the ghost of Gordon McDonough.
Joe had not returned until the night he brought out the burnt body of the beast he shot down, burying it toward the back with the older, smaller and mostly unreadable headstones. He couldn't think of a better place than Horace Cemetery to put to rest such a hideous creation.
Standing now, in the presence of such wicked history, in the high-noon sun, Joe walked into the town's abandoned burial ground. The sky above was clear; the blanket of silence around him set his senses on high alert. Despite the eighty-eight-degree temperature, a cold chill full of sleeping skeletons, smiling demons and all things unnatural trickled carelessly down his spine.
It took him a few minutes to find the exact spot that he had dug for the monster, as the small wooden cross he placed to mark it had been knocked over. He found the crudely made cross laying at the foot of a tall pine standing ten feet from the otherwise unmarked grave. Joe plunged the shovel he had carried with him from the Range Rover into the soft earth and began to dig.
“Hey,” Dwayne said.
Ted leaned against the stairs to his apartment. The cigarette wobbled in his palsied hand, his eyes swam for the shore. When he brought his gaze up to meet Dwayne's, they ignited.
“Did you see it?”
“I need you to calm down.”
“Did you see it? The arm? The body? Did you?”
Dwayne stayed just outside the door. “Iâ¦” He hadn't had time. Not that he wanted to see it. Joe had sent him to grab Ted before he could walk the scene. “No.”
“Well I did, Dwayne.” Ted took a drag. “I don't know
did that, but I know what
“I'm not asking you to believe it, but I suggest you open your eyes. Three bodies, Dwayne. This makes three.”
“I don't want to get back into this with you.”
“Then what the hell do you want?”
“Joe wants you back down at the station.”
Ted dropped the cigarette butt, stamped it out and lit another.
“He needs to talk to you about the body.”
Ted shoved past him and climbed the first couple of steps before he turned back. “Tell him he can come and see me. I'm not going anywhere.”
He watched his best friend tromp up the stairs and disappear inside.
Soaked with sweat and grimed with dirt, Joe put down his shovel, giving up the slim ray of hope as he realized what he already knew on some level to be trueâthe grave was empty. The thing he had shot down and buried in this very spot was still alive. He didn't know how it had survived. All he knew was that it hadn't been breathing when he stuck its charred carcass in the ground. Nothing about the creature made any senseânot its murders, not its existenceâso why should its demise?
He made a stop back home, took a shower and had a few swallows of whiskey before heading back out. The whole time he was thinking about how much this felt like some kind of never-ending nightmare. The one thing that protected his sanity was the fact that if this was the same beast, then that meant he had time to prepare. And he would.
After checking in with Sonya and informing her that he was going to be tied up for the next few days with the investigation, he stopped by the laundromat and asked Kim's mom if Sonya could stay at her house for the time being. Sonya had tried arguing that she was almost eighteen and that she could handle being home by herself, but he'd told her the issue wasn't up for debate. He did not mention that they had found Old Mike, severed arm and all, down at the park in a pool of his own blood.
He arrived at the station, greeted by deputies Clarke and Hines.
Deputy Clarke noticed the change in the sheriff right away. He looked like someone being tormented from the inside out. The lines on his face were deeper than they had been earlier in the day. Dwayne didn't want to be the one to tell him that Ted had refused to come in, but his friend was his responsibility.
“Sheriff,” he said, “Ted's at home. I went to see him and, wellâ¦I didn't fight him. Hell, he lookedâ¦” Dwayne wanted to say “like you”, but did not, “â¦tortured.”
He waited for the sheriff's verbal scolding, but the admonishment never came.
“That's fine, Dwayne. I know where to find him.”
The sheriff turned to Deputy Hines. “Did Kimball get everything all right?”
“He brought the body over to Hollis Oaks General Hospital with the rest of them. Should be there by now. Said he'd get to it right away and ring you directly when he had something,” Hines said.
The sheriff turned to Deputy Clarke. “You and Glescoe are on tonight, aren't you?”
“Keep your heads on straight tonight. No fucking around. I want you armed and loaded at all times this evening. Understood?”
Joe looked him in the eye. “I mean it, Dwayne. Keep your sidearm and a shotgun with you at all times while you're out in the cruiser. I want you guys to be on high alert for the next couple of days, understood?”
The sheriff looked back to Deputy Hines. “You too, Randy.”
Hines nodded in acknowledgment.
Joe pardoned himself and strode to his office. Regardless of what Kimball had to say, the three bodies they had found in the last twenty-four hours meant one thing. They had another month before the next ones showed up.
Joe thought about the people who had been there to help the first time around. He thought of Stan.
He hadn't spoken to Stan since the day the man first came back from the mental health facility. That few moments of trivial conversation had taken place at Mel's CafÃ© while Joe stopped in to grab his morning coffee. He wasn't even a hundred percent sure as to why he had been avoiding the former sheriff, just that he had.
In the time since their last conversation, he had grown leery of the man. Stan's gruff, disheveled appearance, coupled with the fact that he was normally only seen while walking to or from the cafÃ©, all added to Joe's ever-growing apprehension.
Stan Springs had been his mentor, practically grooming Joe for his present position. He thought of the day Stan resigned. He remembered how scared he was when Stan said
“Joe, it's your turn to soar”
and handed him the gold pin of an eagle in flight, which he still had to this day. Joe had admired many things about the former sheriff and did his best to emulate those same honorable traits, along with his top cop etiquette.
Prior to Stan Springs's sudden and rapid mental atrophy, he had been everything that was good and right about Gilson Creek. He could have easily run for mayor and won. It wouldn't have even been close. Stan had been a straight-talking, no-nonsense type of guy with a penchant for making you feel as cool and calm as he was, even under the most intense or devastating conditions. It was Stan, along with the McKinneys, who had been there with Joe as he watched Lucy deteriorate from the cancer that had ravaged her body. After her death, it was Stan who, even in the midst of his own psychotic breakdown, had lent an open ear and broad shoulder for him to weep on.
And Stan was there again for Joe after the unexpected and messy demise of the McKinneys. And then, of course, there were the weeks of research and brainstorming that ultimately led to helping Joe rid the town of the curse that would be responsible for at least nine deaths over the spring and summer of '97.
That was the place Joe had been trying so hard to divert his thoughts from going since last night when he first laid his eyes on the body of Brian Rowel.