Ghost stories from hell, p.37

Ghost Stories from Hell, page 37

 

Ghost Stories from Hell
 



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  The room had recently been scrubbed, and Tom could smell a faint scent of cleanser beneath the stench of decay. He passed through the kitchen, the cabinet doors hanging open on broken hinges, and then into the first room. It was a den of some sort, and it looked as though it was where the recently deceased had spent most, if not all of his time.

  Tom smiled.

  This is where it will be, he thought, using his flashlight to probe the dark corners of the room. This is it.

  Grinning to himself, Tom took a step forward and then stopped as a creature darted to the right, its tail illuminated for a split second in the flashlight’s LED beam.

  He hesitated, unsure whether he had seen a cat or a big rat.

  A scurrying came from the left, and Tom snapped the flashlight towards the sound.

  He watched as a dull gray rat raced into darkness.

  Tom grimaced. Revulsion swept through him, forced him to take a step back and reassess the house. Tom hated rats. He had seen corpses gnawed on by the rodents and it disgusted him on a primal level.

  Snarling, Tom stepped forward and aimed a kick where the rat had vanished. His foot plunged into the darkness and connected with something hard and cold. The force of the impact jarred his leg, caused his hip to flare with pain and a gasp to explode past his lips.

  Tom jerked his foot back and found he couldn’t.

  Something had a grip on him. A harsh chill penetrated the leather of his boot as Tom tried to free himself again. He brought the flashlight’s beam to bear on his foot and regretted the act instantly.

  There wasn’t one rat, but three, and as he watched, they shifted, twisted, and expanded. They pulsed with a sickening, flat yellow light, and as they grew larger, Tom saw that they were people and not rats at all.

  Tom dropped the flashlight, the tool shattering and going black. He twisted and tried to run but only succeeded in falling flat on his face. Hands raced along his limbs, locking them down to the floor. Tom opened his mouth to scream, but something wet and foul was stuffed between his teeth, pressing his tongue into the back of his throat. Gagging, he tried to breathe and could only do so through his nose.

  He struggled, twisting and jerking, but nothing worked.

  The strange, nightmare creatures had him pinned to the floor.

  His flesh became numb, the cold too much to bear.

  Tom exhausted himself, unable to continue without more oxygen for his efforts. When he lay still, dragging in shuddering breaths through his nose, someone got down onto the floor beside his face.

  A woman spoke, her voice thin and wicked, each word like a lash and shredding his sanity.

  “You’re not my boy,” she said, “not at all. And you are not sweet. No. We can smell your stench. You are nothing more than one of us, merely drawing breath instead of rotting in the ground. That will change soon enough. We cannot feed on you, thief. Your soul will not satisfy our hunger. But we will take what we can get.”

  And as they fed on him, and jagged spikes of pain pierced Tom, the gag muffled his screams.

  No one living heard him suffer, and no one living watched him die.

  Chapter 32: Protected but Not Safe, August 11th, 2016

  At a little before midnight, Connor was still awake. He had yet to break himself of the habit of sleeping during the day, and he doubted he would do so anytime soon. The dead were still too active during the day. Night was preferable.

  His mother had died during the morning, and daylight would always be far more threatening than the night.

  Connor climbed out of the bed, and Rex lifted his head, blinked, and then lowered his chin back to the mattress. A smile crossed Connor’s face as he gave Rex a quick pat on the head.

  Connor’s feet whispered across the wooden floor. He came to a stop at the window and pulled the shade over to the right, allowing him to glimpse his own house. A fog had risen up from the ground and hid the same from his eyes. Shadows passed behind the windows of the house he had so recently fled from and Connor wondered if one of the shapes he saw belonged to his mother.

  His throat tightened, and he ground his teeth, letting the shade fall back into place.

  He walked to his bag, took his clothes out, and got dressed. The dog remained asleep as Connor left the room. From behind a closed door, Connor heard Hu snore. He crept along the hallway, not wanting to wake his host up.

  The stairs creaked as he descended to the first floor. Once in the kitchen, he clicked the light on over the stove and found the long, fireplace candles he had seen earlier. He took several before he exited the house.

  Standing on the cracked asphalt of Hu’s driveway, Connor stared at the dilapidated building that had once been his home.

  His shoulders sagged, and for a moment his heart ached, tears filling his eyes. He swallowed his sorrow back, wiped his eyes with his hand, and walked through Hu’s yard to stand beside his father’s car. Leaves and debris were piled around the foundation, dead bushes and plants crowded against the cement. The trash that Connor had so industriously bagged and removed from the kitchen was still stacked against the house. Ancient paint hung in great strips from the wooden siding and all around the building was a void of silence.

  Nothing moved.

  Nothing lived.

  There were no crickets, no night birds.

  Connor walked to the house, and he heard thumps and scrapes against the interior walls. Fingernails clawed against the filthy glass, and people hissed his name at him.

  They would be out soon, and they wanted him.

  The idea of it drove nails of fear into his temples, bright white spots exploding around the edges of his vision while the pounding of his own heart almost made him deaf.

  Without further reflection, Connor hurried to the foundation to the left of the porch. He crouched down, and with shaking hands, struck the matches against the rough cement. The heads flared up. The strong smell of sulfur assaulted Connor’s nose, and he dropped the matches to the leaves.

  The debris burst into flame, the heat sending him tumbling backward. He scrambled to his feet, ran to Hu’s driveway, and turned to see what he had done.

  Flames climbed up the walls, the fire devouring the uncared for wood and the memories of Connor’s childhood.

  “Get in!” Hu commanded from the door.

  Connor turned his back on his old pain and hurried into the safety of Hu’s home.

  Chapter 33: An Investigation, August 12th, 2016

  Detective Noah Rattin popped another piece of Nicorette gum into his mouth and ignored the disdainful glance from Lieutenant Meg Ward. They stood together by the iron fence of Pine Grove Cemetery and watched as the fire inspector talked to a couple of firefighters.

  Noah yawned and ignored the desire to get a cigarette in spite of the gum.

  “You having a tough time this morning?” Meg asked.

  Noah paid no attention to the tone of her voice as he replied, “Every morning is a tough morning, Lieutenant.”

  “You know,” she said, scratching the back of her head with a thick finger, “I don’t know what’s worse, the fact that you gave up cigarettes, or the idea that you’re using gum to help you.”

  “I could always go back to bourbon,” Noah retorted.

  “And as your sponsor,” Meg said, turning to face him, “I’d have to counsel you. As your commander, I’d chew you out. And as your friend, Noah, I’d drag you into the gym and beat you seven ways to Sunday.”

  “Looks like Pete’s done,” Noah said, interrupting her tirade and gesturing towards the fire inspector.

  Pete Babcock, seven years past retirement and looking more like the Michelin man than a firefighter, crossed the street and took his helmet off. His thin, gray hair was plastered to his forehead with sweat, and his puffy cheeks were red.

  “What’s the deal, Pete?” Meg asked.

  “Definitely got a body in there,” Pete said, jerking a thumb back towards the burned out structure, “and the place was lit up. Doesn’t look l
ike any accelerant was used, but the fire started to the left of the side porch. Shouldn’t have. No wires, nothing at all.”

  “Intentional?” Noah asked.

  “That’s what it looks like,” Pete said, “unless your body had a partner and that one was smoking outside. But it isn’t likely.”

  “When can we get the body out of there and bring the arson team in?” Meg asked.

  “Couple more hours,” Pete said, his tone apologetic. “Still got a couple of hot spots in there, and we’ve got part of the second floor still up. Body’s not there, but I don’t want to see anyone get hurt. You know?”

  Noah and Meg nodded their agreement.

  “I got to get out of this gear,” Pete said. “Sweating like a pig in this, plus I had about a gallon of coffee before I got the call.”

  “Nice, Pete,” Meg said, frowning, “too much information. Neither one of us needed that.”

  “Speak for yourself,” Noah joked.

  Pete snickered, said goodbye and left as Meg gave Noah a punch in the arm.

  “Damn,” he complained, shaking his arm. Meg had been an Olympic finalist in the hammer throw straight out of high school, and her arms had never lost their superhuman strength.

  “Let’s take a look,” Meg said, leading the way across the street.

  The cloying scent of burned wood and trash hung in the air as the morning fog dissipated. Several firefighters manned hoses, keeping steady streams of water on the hot spots Pete had mentioned. A tarp had been set up around the location of the body. Fire trucks and engines were parked on the street. Yellow and dull gray hoses snaked out from the vehicles and from a nearby hydrant.

  Noah had been on his share of investigations with a body, and while most turned out to be accidental deaths or occurred due to natural causes, there was the occasional homicide.

  The corpse in the burned out house was a first. He had never helped conduct an investigation with a body and arson.

  He and Meg came to a stop a short distance away from the house.

  “So, we’re going to Sherlock this,” Meg said, and Noah rolled his eyes.

  She hit him in the arm again.

  “Jesus,” he muttered and walked around to the other side of her.

  “Why did you change sides?” she asked.

  “I don’t want a bruise on only one arm,” he answered. “I like symmetry.”

  Meg sighed and shook her head. “You are in rare form this morning, Noah.”

  “Whatever. Now, what were you saying, my dear Watson?” Noah asked.

  She hit him again, and Noah swore, rubbing his arm.

  “I’m Sherlock here,” she said, “and now let’s look at this. We know the body in the building can’t be the owner, right?”

  “Why not?” Noah asked.

  “He died a day or two ago at home,” Meg said. “So, unless he got up and left the morgue on his own and set fire to his house, well, it’s not him.”

  “Anybody else live here with him?” Noah asked.

  She nodded. “A son who recently returned and they had a German shepherd, according to the report filed the other day.”

  “A son. Where’s he at?” Noah wondered aloud. “Where’s the dog? Did the son have a car? Do we have a number on file for him?”

  Meg pulled at her left ear lobe, a habit she had when she was thinking hard on a case.

  “No car that I know of,” she said after a few seconds of silence. “Means he has to be around, or he took off.”

  “I suppose we’re going to have to start talking to some of the neighbors?” Noah said, the idea distasteful. While he didn’t have the legendary Sherlock Holmes’s investigating abilities, Noah’s dislike of people certainly ran a close second to the great detective’s.

  “Yes,” Meg agreed, “here’s hoping someone saw something.”

  “If life were that easy,” Noah said, “I wouldn’t have been an alcoholic.”

  Meg gave him a hard look.

  “Fine,” he said, sighing, “I know it was because of my choices. I was just running my mouth.”

  “Well, don’t,” Meg snapped. “Come on, let’s go meet the neighbors.”

  Noah grunted a response, rolled his eyes, and popped another piece of gum into his mouth.

  He absolutely hated people.

  Chapter 34: The Priest Decides, August 12th, 2016

  Father Michael Goyette had reached physical exhaustion.

  All of the television shows he had watched over the years made the dismemberment of a human look easy.

  They had lied.

  For three days, he had kept the body in the bathtub in his room with the Brothers of the Sacred Heart. He was fortunate in that they left him alone, and that they had left cleaning supplies in the bathroom sink.

  Father Goyette shifted in his chair and winced. His shoulders and arms ached, and his lower back was a massive knot of pain. The worst pain resided in his stomach, the core muscles worked the hardest. He flexed his hands and then massaged them, first the left, then the right. The fingers were stiff, the palms cramping at odd times.

  He had found a hacksaw in the basement and a package of replacement blades. The task had been difficult and distasteful. He had been fortunate in how close to the woods the brothers lived.

  Father Goyette closed his eyes and leaned his head against the chair. The situation had changed, and in a way he hadn’t anticipated. Feng had gone from being an interesting experiment to a distinct threat. Goyette understood the fault lay with himself, but it was still a bitter pill to swallow.

  Goyette had no idea how he might contain or control Feng. When he had been a young man, Goyette had believed any supernatural problems could be solved through his belief in God’s grace and might. His faith and spirituality had lapsed when he had finished seminary and taken his vows. Goyette had lacked the desire to do something different, and being a priest was easy for him. And he was addicted to death.

  There was a thrill in the observation of death that filled him with the same ecstatic sensations that prayer once did. He had spent years moving from parish to parish, planting the beads at various cemeteries and ushering dozens of people to the hereafter. Finally, in 2012, he had been given a great gift.

  The diocese had assigned him to an aged community in Rhode Island, a place where the median age was seventy, and death was commonplace. So much so that no one seemed to notice the slight increase when Goyette sowed more of the beads.

  Death was natural, and nowhere more so than in a community that had come of age in the turbulent sixties.

  Someone knocked at his door, and Goyette’s eyes snapped open, a brief flash of panic sweeping through him. He regained his composure and said in a clear voice, “Come in.”

  The door opened, and Brother Dominic walked in, smiling.

  “Michael,” Dominic said. “We’re doing some shopping this afternoon, and we weren’t sure how much longer you were staying. We would like to make certain we have some of your preferred foods in if you plan to remain for a time.”

  Goyette smiled, saying, “I appreciate the concern, Dominic, but I plan on leaving in the morning. I have a flock to attend to after all.”

  “Of course you do,” Dominic said, giving a small nod.

  “I would like to thank you,” Goyette continued, “for showing me such hospitality, especially considering I was such poor company.”

  “That is nothing,” the brother responded. “We were quite happy to have you here, and you were not poor company. I am glad you are returning to your parish, Father. Some of the old parishioners here remember you and speak well of you.”

  “That is very kind of them,” Goyette said, adding, “perhaps I will come back soon and see if the new priest will let me speak at Mass.”

  “I’m sure he would,” Dominic said, smiling. “I will leave you to your packing, Father, and I hope to see you before you leave.”

  When the brother left the room and closed the door behind him, Goyette got up and went to the de
sk. He took out his father’s case and tucked it into the inner pocket of his suit coat. The beads rattled and filled him with a mixed sense of anticipation and excitement.

  He would plant the others on his return trip to Rhode Island.

  Perhaps, he thought, smiling, I will find a cemetery alongside of the highway. What would occur then? Will the dead intercept the living at seventy miles an hour?

  The idea brought a chuckle to his lips, and he hummed his father’s marching song as he began to pack for the trip home.

  Chapter 35: Questions without Answers, August 12th, 2016

  Connor didn’t like police officers.

  He had been impressed with them as a boy, seeing them as saviors, people who would be able to find the creature that killed his mother.

  They hadn’t. And they had ridiculed and mocked him, one officer telling him to stop being a baby and grow up. Connor had always suspected his father had put the man up to it, but the experience had soured him to the police.

  Thus, his reaction to the ones who knocked on Hu’s door after the fire was colored with anger.

  When the introductions had been made, and all of them sat in Hu’s garden, there not being enough furniture in his house for so many guests, the female detective led off.

  “Mr. Mann,” Lieutenant Ward said, “did you have anyone staying in the house with you?”

  “No,” Connor answered, his voice flat and cold. “It was only the dog and myself.”

  “Did you see or hear anything last night?” she asked. “Did you go out anywhere?”

  “No,” Connor answered.

  “No to both?” Detective Rattin asked.

  “No to both,” Connor said.

  “Are you feeling alright, Mr. Mann?” Lieutenant Ward asked, her voice hard. “You look a little peaked.”

  “I’m fine,” Connor said.

  “Mr. Bayi,” Detective Rattin said, shifting his attention to the older man. “Did you see or hear anything out of the ordinary last night?”

  “No,” Hu said with a smile, “our neighbors are the quietest.”

 
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