Ghost stories from hell, p.35

Ghost Stories from Hell, page 35

 

Ghost Stories from Hell
 



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  “He is not the one you should be concerned with, Priest,” Feng grumbled. “My countryman is more than he seems. Much more. Your Cody was far too stupid to realize it. He had drunk far too much for him to see what was in front of him.”

  The Priest frowned. “What do you mean?”

  “Your father was a fool,” Feng said, grinning, “and not nearly as clever as he thought. They realized that he stole the beads, but they didn’t know what happened to them. Somehow, they found me, and so they placed a man here. A soldier to watch and to wait. He has done both.”

  “Who is they?” the Priest demanded. “And what do you mean by a soldier?”

  Feng ignored the questions as he said, “He is not the only one, Priest. No, not at all. There is another. An older man. I am already dead, perhaps I am ready for the next life. Perhaps I do not care if they cast me out of this world. You had best pray, Priest, that the two men do not meet the third.”

  Before the Priest could repeat his questions, Feng vanished.

  The dead dog whined in the cane, and the Priest snapped the top closed and sealed it. He seethed as he stood in front of Smythe’s grave. Beyond the iron fence, he saw Mann’s house, and Lavoie’s.

  In that pair of houses were two men who could deprive the Priest of the only pleasure he had left.

  And there was a third man as well.

  Which meant the Priest couldn’t strike out until he knew the identity of the third.

  Grinding his teeth together in rage, the Priest turned and stalked out of Pine Grove Cemetery.

  Chapter 26: Alone in the House, August 10th, 2016

  Connor wasn’t sure what to do first.

  The coroner’s office had removed his father’s body, and when the police had decided that there was no overt evidence of a crime, Connor had been told he could go back into the house.

  They didn’t ask him if he wanted to.

  Connor had no desire to enter his home, but he had to.

  It was his.

  With Rex beside him, Connor had gone up the stairs, crossed the porch, and entered the kitchen. It had been both difficult and frightening. The air was heavy with a foul, fetid odor. A low growl constantly rumbled from Rex’s throat, the dog pushing his snout into dark corners while questing for something hidden in the shadows.

  A nagging sense of guilt ate at Connor, the idea that his father had died because Rex had been with Connor, and not in the house.

  It was a difficult thought, because as much as he disliked the man, he hadn’t wanted his father to die.

  Connor sighed and turned on the light over the sink, the old bulb flickering for a moment before staying lit. He went to the stove, put the water on for tea, and then got a plastic bag. Cleaning would help take his mind off his father.

  The light above the sink flickered again, sputtered, and went out.

  Connor shook his head, walked back to the light switch, and flicked it up and down several times. When it still refused to return to life, Connor made a mental note to buy bulbs.

  Rex snarled behind Connor as the rattle of bottles came from the den.

  Connor’s stomach knotted with fear as he turned around. His blood pounded in his ears, and a pain sprang up in his head. He took a short, nervous step toward the den when he heard a soft chuckle.

  The sound was familiar.

  Connor passed by Rex and came to a stop in the entryway to the den. A dark shape moved along the far wall.

  “Who’s there?” Connor asked, hating the quivering way the words came out.

  The shape vanished into a corner.

  “Hello, Connor,” his mother said, her voice coming from near the floor.

  Connor shuddered at the sound.

  There was no love. Merely desire, a longing without a shred of maternal devotion within it.

  “You’re not my mother,” he whispered.

  Her laugh was cold and cruel, but it was still his mother’s voice.

  “We both know you’re wrong about that,” she said, her laughter fading away. “Send the dog away.”

  “No.”

  “Do it!” she snapped.

  “No,” he repeated.

  She changed her approach, saying in a voice false with sweetness, “Do it for me, Connor. I’m your mother. I miss you. Terribly. Don’t you miss me?”

  “Yes.” The word was little louder than an exhalation.

  “Then send the dog away,” she implored. “We can be together, for a little while. I’m cold, Connor. And you, my sweet, sweet boy, you can warm me.”

  The child he had been, the one deprived of his mother and witness to her death, begged him to send Rex out.

  But Connor wasn’t that little boy.

  “You need to leave,” he said, raising his voice. “You need to get out.”

  “You can’t make me,” she said, the shadow rising up in the dim room.

  He watched as the darkness spread across the entire far wall, the house seeming to ripple in front of him.

  “I will learn how,” Connor said, anger filling him. “You’re dead. Leave.”

  She swore at him, and the shadow pulled off the wall. It formed into a shape, and when Connor realized what it was, he took a desperate step back.

  A spider, absent of definition but as tall and as large as Rex, stood in the center of the room. Connor was horrified; spiders terrified him. For his entire life, he had been afraid of them, regardless of their size.

  And his mother knew it.

  The spider stepped forward and from it came his mother’s voice.

  “Come, Connor,” she said, laughing. “Embrace me. See if this form of mine has fangs as well. Wouldn’t you like to know? Can you imagine their size?”

  Fear took control of him, took the strength out of his knees, and dropped him to the floor. He sank down and stared at the dark arachnid as it approached him, his blood racing and drowning out all other noises.

  Then Rex leaped over him, smashing into the shadow spider.

  His mother’s pleased laughter changed into a terrified shriek, and she vanished.

  A moment later, Rex stood before Connor, the Shepherd’s tail wagging. Connor leaned forward, wrapped his arms around the dog’s thick neck, and held onto him. With his face pressed into Rex’s fur, Connor wept and tried to drive the memory of his dead mother out of his mind.

  He failed.

  Chapter 27: Ashland Avenue, August 10th, 2016

  Lloyd Strafford sat in his chair, book forgotten on his lap, and stared out the front window of his house. Through the clear glass, past the small yard and the freshly paved road, he looked down into Pine Grove Cemetery. From his seat, Lloyd could see his old place of employment, the caretaker’s office still the same ugly shade of brown as when he had worked there.

  He knew the young man who ran the cemetery, and most of the staff who did the burials. Lloyd even knew the men and women who served as the honor guard for the various military burials.

  He had warned them all about the ghost.

  Lloyd had tried to warn others when he was still employed as the caretaker until the town had threatened to have him removed. Then he had taken his own, quieter steps to ensure public safety while remaining employed.

  Even then, he had made himself a pariah in the town in general, and within the community of municipal employees in particular.

  He brushed aside the bitter feelings as they attempted to rise up and focused his attention on the cemetery. On the small, tilt-top tea table beside his chair was a pair of powerful binoculars. His hands, the fingers crooked with arthritis, picked up the binoculars, adjusted its focus and looked down into what he still thought of as the ‘new’ section of Pine Grove.

  For several minutes, he observed the cemetery. He would allow his gaze to linger on a headstone for a full five seconds, and then he would move on to the next.

  Lloyd sought out the hiding place of the silver fox, something he had failed to do while he was employed at the cemetery.

  And it wa
s a task which remained unaccomplished, well into his retirement.

  He returned the binoculars to their place on the table and settled back into his chair. His fingers tapped out a nameless tune on the book on his lap, and his eyelids began to weigh heavy. He fought against sleep, but the older he became, the less he slept at night, and the more he napped in the day.

  Lloyd yawned, closed his eyes, and rubbed at them.

  When he opened them again, it was night once more.

  His body ached, his neck stiff and crooked.

  Lloyd braced himself, straightened up, and stifled a moan of agony. He had fallen asleep in the chair more times than he cared to remember, and each time was worse than the last.

  He waited for his heart to slow down, its pace always quickened by the pain.

  When it had assumed a more natural rhythm, Lloyd pushed himself up. He tottered for a moment, keeping his hands close to the arms of the chair. If he fell, he might be able to catch himself.

  He didn’t have to.

  After several anxious moments, he had retained his precarious stance and straightened up. He walked to the television and turned it on. It was permanently set on the weather channel, which always gave him the time, and more importantly, the date.

  There had been more than one occasion where he had lost an entire day in the chair, having slept almost around the clock.

  The date and time revealed that he had only nodded off for a few hours.

  With a sigh of relief, Lloyd turned the television back off and limped into the kitchen. He fixed himself a bowl of cereal, sat down and ate it in silence. When he had finished his meal, he cleaned up his dishes, put them in the sink to soak and let out a scream of surprise when he looked up.

  Through the kitchen window, he saw the silver fox that he had seen so many decades before. The one that had killed Avery, and the women across from the cemetery.

  It was in the yard, looking at something in the distance Lloyd couldn’t quite see.

  The creature was just beyond the buried PVC pipes in the yard, the ones that were packed with salt and protected Lloyd’s home.

  Lloyd’s heart thundered against his chest as he stared at the back of the fox. He grabbed hold of the edge of the counter to keep his balance as his body shook with fear.

  Lloyd nearly jumped out of his shoes when he heard the sharp whoop of a siren from the front of the house. He blinked and saw that the fox was gone.

  A sense of panic welled up within him and Lloyd raced to the bathroom window. He caught sight of the fox as it passed around the side of the house towards the front yard. Quick steps brought Lloyd into the den and he watched as the fox broke into a run.

  The animal slipped between the open gates of the cemetery’s back entrance, raced by a police cruiser parked near the old Hall Mausoleum, and down the winding asphalt road.

  In the darkness of the night, the silver fox was still visible.

  Lloyd’s hands shook as he picked up the binoculars and trained them on the creature. He followed it as it sprinted through the cemetery. It would vanish behind headstones and trees to reappear a moment later. Soon the animal reached the far gate and slipped out onto Cushing Avenue.

  The animal turned to the left, picking up speed until it became a blur. It became difficult to keep track of as it raced around the corner of Cushing and Hill.

  But Lloyd never lost sight of the fox, and he watched it travel a short distance along Hill Street before it came to a stop. It hesitated for a moment, then snuck up the driveway of the first house on the street. For a heartbeat, the creature lingered near the stairs.

  Then the side-door of the house opened, and the fox vanished.

  Lloyd’s hands had become steady, all hints of tremors gone as he lowered the binoculars. He had recognized the house that the fox had stopped at, for it had once been the home of Mrs. Lavoie.

  In 1987, someone new had taken up residence in that particular house, and it had caught the fox’s attention then.

  Lloyd’s heartbeat quickened, and he sat down in his chair, forcing his aged heart to slow its pace.

  No! he thought. I need to know. I need to know what it is. Why it’s here!

  He repeated that single train of thought over and over, until his heart had calmed down and he could breathe without pain in his chest.

  Then Lloyd closed his eyes and willed himself to live until morning.

  He had too many unanswered questions.

  He had no time for death.

  Chapter 28: Pure Rage, August 10th, 2016

  The Priest had found lodging with the Order of the Sacred Heart, the Brothers of the community having a spare bedroom they had been able to let him use. He found them to be Brothers considerate and mindful of his desire for silence. Brother Joseph Guertin, the head of the house, believed the Priest was there on some personal issue in regards to a family member.

  The Priest didn’t correct him.

  The Priest sat at the room’s small desk, his father’s old aluminum case in front of him. He had it propped open, and he stared at the beads contained therein.

  The Priest prodded several with his index finger, wondering how such small, almost insignificant items could be so terrible. For all the years he had possessed them, he had never once had the desire to know why the beads were important. Nor had he examined the how of it. His control over the dead who had been bound to individual Mala beads was tenuous at best. He knew, from speaking with Buddhist monks and reading on his own, that a ghost bound to such an object would need to be placed with their bones or incinerated for them to move on.

  There had been an added layer of security as well. None of those Feng had bound to the Mala in China would be able to go to the next world until they were all gathered together again. None of them would rest until the Priest allowed it. And since he alone knew where the beads were, none of the dead would threaten him.

  Thus, the Priest had been content to use them as he saw fit, which was to sow death and sorrow along the East Coast of the United States.

  A smile twitched the corners of his lips and broke the bad mood that had hung about him since his conversation with Feng.

  The Priest sighed, closed the case, and put it away. He stood up and went to the window that looked out over the narrow street that curled past the house. His first parish, St. Lloyd’s, was only a few miles away. He remembered the ripples the woman’s death had caused, the way the community had reeled at the unexpected death of a young mother.

  If they had only known, the Priest thought, humming a soft tune. It took him several heartbeats to recognize it as the one his father had sung so often.

  The memory of that first death, much like the memory of his father, always made him happy. The Priest imagined the horror that must have gripped the woman as Feng assaulted her, the absolute terror.

  It caused his heart to race and his breath to quicken.

  The Priest could picture it perfectly.

  A knock on his door interrupted him, shattering the idea.

  He took a shuddering breath, forced himself to remain calm, and called, “Yes?”

  “May I come in, Father?” a voice asked.

  The person sounded familiar.

  Frowning, the Priest replied, “Perhaps later. I am not feeling particularly well.”

  Whoever it was on the other side of the door tried to open it, the doorknob rattling.

  “I just want to talk, Priest,” the voice hissed, and it was deeper, angrier.

  The Priest backed away from the window, pressing himself against the far wall. He was vulnerable, without the salt or iron he needed to defend himself.

  The doorknob continued to twist back and forth, and after a minute, the lock broke with a loud, nerve-jolting crack. An unseen hand thrust the door forward, and the intruder was revealed.

  A man stood in the hallway, wearing only a pair of boxer shorts. He was middle-aged and flabby, and dried blood covered most of his pale skin. The stranger had evidently committed suicide
, as evidenced by the long straight cuts that ran from the wrists to the elbows. Each wound was deep, the flesh spread apart to reveal the severed remains of veins.

  There was no light in the man’s brown eyes.

  The dead man took an awkward step into the room, moving with the same jerky, imprecise actions of a broken marionette.

  “Hello, Priest,” the man said, a foul, horrific stench rolling off the corpse.

  “Hello,” the Priest said, his voice hoarse.

  “Do you know who I am?” the dead man asked.

  The Priest shook his head, trying not to breathe through his nose. His head ached from the nauseating smell.

  “Why should you?” The laugh that followed the question caused the Priest to flinch.

  “Here is a name,” the corpse said. “And see if you remember it, yes?”

  The Priest nodded.

  “Geoffrey Mulvanity.”

  It took a moment for the name to register, for the Priest’s mind to recall the history behind it.

  Geoffrey Mulvanity had been a good Catholic on Sundays, if no other day of the week. He had been a brute of a man. One who had been so despotic that he had driven his wife and daughter to suicide. Although many, including the Priest, believed that Mulvanity had actually murdered both of the women.

  But Mulvanity had still been relatively young when the Priest had been transferred to another parish. The years had passed, but not so many that Mulvanity should have died.

  The Priest felt his eyes widen with surprise as he whispered, “You’re dead?”

  “Of course I’m dead,” the ghost of Mulvanity snarled with scorn. “How else would I possess a corpse? Hm? Yet he was not dead meat when I first slipped in. Oh no. He was a drunk, Priest. Deep within the bottle he was, when I snuck in. It was the old Buddhist who showed me this trick, how to take control. Oh, the things I’ve done, Priest. But, then this man cast me out when he became sober. You see, Priest, we can slip into drunks, so easily, they cannot refuse us. Not at all.”

 
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