“Terrorist! Did you just call me a terrorist?” Paul slumps back into his metal folding chair. “You have it all wrong. No, no. Thingsdiseasesr5 aren’t like that…now”
“Your cell phone places you in a very bad spot. Frankly, there was noone but you there. Am I to believe in ghosts? Or maybe we failed to pick up a second signal?” Montague pushes his glasses back up his nose. His sharp features grabbing shadows from the dim stark room.
“You have it all wrong.” Paul runs his right hand against his receding hair. His right leg bounces slightly in a nervous twitch.
“You’re 45, recently unemployed, gun collector…. oh, yeah. Here’s a missing persons report from Olivia Stafford. Your wife? Correct?” Montague pauses and leans forward into the light. “Seems she thinks you might hurt yourself or somebody. Imagine that. You might hurt somebody.”
“She didn’t know. I mean the doctor told me but never mentioned about mandatory reporting.” Paul starts to panic. His eyes grow wide, needs ous sweat line up along his brows. “It’s cancer. They notified my employer! I was too expensive to insure. She had no idea. How do you explain that to your family? Fired because you need medical treatments.”
“Now the government provides opportunitiesfor people like you.” Montague smiles ” Ha, you didn’t care about the lifestyle that causes your problems.”
“I can’t support my family with those programs!” Paul’s mouth grows tight. ” Wait till it happens to you! You’ll see!”
“No excuse! Especially for what you and your kind have done!” Montague snaps a file shut. “Think deeply about what you have done. Grenade launcher with fingerprints. At the scene of the crime. And it’s all because your sick.”
“Souls don’t become lost. They grow deaf” Sam looks down at the mess that was Audrey. “It is not who could do a thing like this…. But rather, what they allowed to rule them. I would pray for their soul. However, it appears they have none left.”
Sam pulls down his black homemade stetson hat. His right hand reaches into a saddle bag. It finds a book of curled pages. It’s silver flaked cross peeled from a charcoal cover announces what it is.
He walks a few feet to the remains. His head nods to Jacob to remove his hat as well. The ritual is becoming daily. There’s darkness falling from the skies here. Like rain, it causes weeds to take root.
Silently Sam prays over the body. His eyes shed a solitary tear. His hands skim the well worn pages. His face moves to accent the wear and tear of the years. Deep set eyes have long sunk. His mustache lost most of it color and form. Age didn’t creep up on him, it ambushed him.
He wishes he had learned to read. Long lost shreads of time tie him to a respectable past. His title changed from miner to Marshall, to scoundrel to pastor. Heaven holds no lure for him. Neither did a fast trip to Hell. He fooled enough people and respected them into returning the favor.
His heart still drops when it’s a good person that falls. He knows each day has brought another body. Each of these bodies have been less connected to itself. Tomorrow there will be another one.
“Audrey was one of the few bright spots here. Chauncy Miller, he’ll need to know what…” Sam’s voice goes rough. “Damn it! Just don’t say how she looked when we got here. It’ll be enough to kill him knowing she’s gone.”
His eyes find the horizon. Mountains cut this place fron the rest of the world. It equally keeps demons on both sides of the ridge. The few here are harder to find.
A knock on the door. Followed by six more. Staccato wraps follow the first soft touch. A solitary light shone in a living room.
The full moon rises. It lights the last house on the pavement. The road falls to gravel and disappears into the woods. The woods reaches around the simple house and its barn. The white glow of the moon paints it better in the night than the Sun. The door hides within a small porch, shrunk by the boxes and tables stacked around.
The hand rises again. The knocks continue six at a time. Staccato beats.
“Hang on baby! hang on…. We’ll get you help.” Brian looks down. A face looks back.
“No one will open the door… it’s too late they’ll never open the door.” Connie voice fades. Her jeans covered in blood. The yellow t-shirt dirt covered and suddenly wore out. “It’s cold. Maybe there’s blanket in this stuff. Maybe morning…”
“I see someone. They are in there. They’ll help us.” Brian wipes his head. A streak of blood runs down fron his forehead. His face shows he doesn’t think help is coming.
Brian returns to the door. A series of knocks continues. Each becoming a little more panic stricken. “Hello?! We need help. Just call the police… anything! Please!”
Connie is on the wooden porch. She is sitting against soft boxes that lean over toward her a bit. She’s scared but holding on a brave front. “Sit next to me. The morning.. They’ll see us.”
Shuffling sounds inside stop her. The dragging and stopping catch their attention. The door had three little boxes that show how dark the inside is but little else.
“If you open that door, I’ll kill you both. Shotgun is in my hands.” The voice followed by a tapping on the other side of the door. “You live to see tomorrow…. I’ll habe to deal with Y’all then. Stop banging or you’ll wake up the Dead!”
The shuffling starts again. This time fading away. The single light flashes out.
“You have candy?! Give me candy and I won’t eat your brains. Not right away. I just need candy” Isabella circles like a puppy. Bright shiny eyes albeit a bit disturbingly colored.”I’ll be good. Really! I need chocolate.”
Mr Mills looks awkwardly at the child. “Who have you this hairdo? And those contacts? They are horrible! You look like a Halloween doll! Where’s you guardian little one?”
His hands twitch as they tug at the sleeves of the blue ill-fitting suit. His eyes stay down away from the child. His middle aged conditions knawl at him. He wants answers but the child is obviously spoiled beyond belief.
“I ate her brain. She told me to take of my wig. So i jumped up on her shoulders to chew hers off her head. I was surprised when it was real.” she looks around the room for an unseen need “I guess that’s what the screaming she was doing was all about. But I didn’t get my candy yet. So where’s it at?”
“Rich imagination child. I’m here on serious matters. It won’t take much more before in feed up with your game. Isabella, be a good girl. Go find Ms Maples….please.” His face is a tightrope. The words filter through clinched teeth.
“Ok, I’ll go get someone. Do you me too? Really she’s not much to talk to anymore…” Isabella kicks at the floor. The realization that no candy is coming sinks in.
“Yes, Isabella, I would like that very much.” Mr Mills watches her disappear. Little foot steps find a hallway and echo against dark wood panels.
He turns to look at the strange tapestry of a fox hunt on the wall. “No wonder she’s so dark.”
A squeaking sound builds within the hall that Isabella chose. He waits to turn. The woman clearly kept him waiting for a reason. No-one thinks child services ever sees these tactics.
“Here she is…Ms Maples. You wanted to she her. Here she is!” The little girl poses like the magician completing a trick.
“My God! What happened here?!” His voice quivers and fails. His face stretches and pales. Dark holes once held eyes can’t move. Slowly his body leans away.
“You asked. I brought her to you. Where’s the candy, Mr Mills?” her voice starts to sing.
Ms Maples is on a dolly. Her skull sticking out, part of its skin covers what’s left of a face. Her pale skin shows signs of bruising. Tied hands hold her together in a modified ball.
“Oh please, give me the candy. You adults are hard enough to deal with. My sugar is low….I don’t know weekday I might do next. Right, Ms Maples.” Isabella smiles.
Mr Mills runs for the door. Small feet move much faster than old feet.