Ghost Stories from Hell, page 4
“You open at 10:30, right?” Mason asked.
“Yes,” Julie answered.
“How about we meet at Anne’s Diner across the street for breakfast,” Mason said, smiling. “My treat.”
“I’d like that,” she said, hiding her smile behind her coffee mug. “I’d like that a lot.”
Chapter 11: Making his Decision
November 1st. 2014. Hollis, NH.
Mason sat at his desk, drinking his first cup of coffee and wondering if he’d ever be able to sleep past five o’clock in the morning. He doubted it.
He hadn’t slept well since 1980.
Turning the computer on, he waited a moment for everything to start up. Finally, he was able to check his emails; notifications of payments from different clients, requests for work, polite rejections of bids and different pieces, and a couple of reminders to pay bills, which he dutifully put in both his computer calendar and his datebook beside the computer.
With his mail read, he opened his web browser and turned his attention to the local news.
There were the usual morning regulars, a shooting in Dorchester, a prostitution drug bust up in Manchester, The Martian continuing to rock the bestseller charts, a successful probe launch into space, a heroin operation stopped in Nashua.
Boy missing in Monson.
Mason put his coffee cup down and clicked on the article.
“Jeremy Rand, age 13 years, last seen walking on Meeting House Road after Halloween trick or treating time had ended. Parents had attempted to take his cell phone away as discipline for continued poor grades in school. Police fear that Jeremy has wandered into the conservation land around Meeting House Road. Much of the land is wetland and swamps. Last night, temperatures plunged to fifteen degrees and they are fearful that the boy may have become confused due to hypothermia since he was last seen wearing a pair of basketball shorts and a New England Patriots t-shirt with sandals. The police will be calling a press conference later on to assist in going through the swamp areas in an attempt to find Jeremy Rand.”
Mason let out a long breath and picked up his coffee cup. He drank from it several times before putting it down and standing up.
You’ve known about this for a long time, he told himself. You need to try and do something.
There’s nothing to be done, he argued with himself. There’s never been any proof that there’s something in the house. Never any proof that they had been taken.
No, he thought. But there’s never been any proof that the boys have disappeared into the swamp either. After all these years, and the people that wander through the conservation land, something should have shown up. A shoe. A bag. A belt. Something.
Not necessarily, he started, but then he cut his own conservation off.
He walked to the opposite end of his office, the walls of which were lined with hundreds of reference books and histories. At the far end, though, was a shelf with only two items on it.
A bag of centuries old scalps and a Darth Vader mask from a 1980 Halloween costume.
No, Mason told himself. There’s something there, and I need to figure out how to stop it.
Chapter 12: Gathering Allies
Mason and Julie sat on the steps of the library together. It wasn’t time to open the library, and they had just finished breakfast at the diner, which Mason had found, made a hell of a western omelet. In their hands, they held coffees from the local café. The weather was perfect, just warm enough to go around without a jacket, just cool enough to wear a long-sleeve shirt and some jeans.
The granite of the steps, however, were cold under his ass.
“Are you okay?” Julie asked as he shifted himself on the step.
“Yeah,” he said, grinning at her. “I’m just old. Pretty sure I’ll get arthritis in my hips from the granite.”
“You’re not old,” she laughed.
“Oh no?” Mason smiled. “Don’t you know how old I am?”
“No,” she said.
“Think about it, just for a minute,” he said. “Remember, I was seven in 1980.”
Her eyes widened slightly. “Oh. You’re forty-two.”
“Well,” she smiled, “that’s still not old. How old do you think I am?”
“Twenty-one,” he said without hesitation, taking a sip of his coffee.”
She laughed, shaking her head. “Tack on another six.”
“Twenty-seven?” Mason said, looking at her. “Honestly, Julie, you really don’t look it.”
“Why, thank you,” she said. “My brother tells me that I look like I’m about fifty and that it’ll only get worse, the longer I stay a librarian.”
“Brothers are good for that,” Mason said. “But trust me, there is a definite shortage of hot librarians around. Don’t go and quit on me.”
Her laughter echoed off the stones of the library. “I won’t,” she grinned.
They drank their coffees in silence for a few minutes, simply enjoying the day and one another’s company.
“Oh,” Julie said suddenly, “I managed to speak with my brother, James, last night.”
Mason lowered his coffee cup. “What did he say?”
“He said that he’d meet you in front of the Boylan House a little before six, tomorrow night. Trick or treating is a day early this year, and the kids are out from six to eight. He figured if you two were out there for the whole time, that that would work out pretty well. Plus, he’s curious about the House. Nearly everyone in town has been, at one time or another.”
“And he won’t get in trouble?” Mason asked.
“No,” Julie said, shaking her head. “He’s just going to bring his personal vehicle. His shift ends at four.”
“That’s great,” Mason said, smiling at her. “Thank you very much.”
“You’re welcome,” she said. “You could pay me back, though.”
“How do I do that?”
“Buy me dinner, tonight.”
Mason smiled broadly. “I would love to.”
“Good,” she said, smiling at him. “I was hoping you’d say that.”
Chapter 13: A Chat with the Owner
Halloween. 2015. Meeting House Road.
Mason pulled his truck into the dead end of Meeting House Road, turned around and pulled up alongside the grass in front of the Boylan House. He shut the truck down, got out and pulled his flannel jacket off the front seat. Carefully, he buttoned it up, pulled a black watchman’s cap from the adjacent seat and put that on, tucking in his ears under the rolled sides. Lastly, he removed his shotgun from the seat, broke it open to double check the loads, then closed and locked it. He patted the pockets of his jacket, making sure the extra rounds, he had, were there.
Mason stepped away from his truck, closed the door and walked around to the back of the pickup. He lowered the tailgate and opened his lockbox. From that, he grabbed a powerful camping lantern and put it on. The light that it cast was cold but comforting, nonetheless. The Boylan House seemed to suck the light from the stars and the sliver of a moon that hung in the night sky.
Next, from the lockbox, he pulled a pair of thin, but warm gloves. He tugged each of them on, flexing each hand in turn. Nodding to himself, he reached in one last time and took out a small leather case. He unzipped it and took out the briarwood pipe that he had packed earlier in the day. Putting the pipe between his teeth, he clamped down on the mouthpiece and took the matches out of the case. He fished a match out of the box, and struck it.
In a moment, he had a strong and steady stream of smoke rising from the briarwood bowl. He put the matches in his back pocket, zipped up the pouch and returned it to the lockbox before closing it.
With his pipe in his mouth, Mason sat down on the tailgate, put the shotgun across his knees and waited.
Only a short time later, a large black pickup with an extended cab pulled up across from Mason’s own truck and parked. A younger man climbed out of the truck. He was a little taller than Julie, but he had the s
“Mason?” the man asked, walking closer.
“Yes,” Mason said around the stem of the pipe.
The man grinned and stopped by the tailgate, extending his hand. “I’m James.”
“A pleasure, James,” Mason said, shaking the offered hand.
When Mason let go, James nodded to the shotgun. “I have to ask, do you think something bad is going to happen, tonight?”
“I don’t know,” Mason said honestly. “But it’s loaded with salt.”
“Salt?” James asked.
“Ghostlore,” Mason said. “Salt drives them away. Something to do with the purity of salt and its association with the earth.”
“Okay,” James said. “Well, I’ve got my Glock in case something a little less supernatural is creeping around.”
Mason smiled. “That sounds fantastic. I’m sorry, does the pipe bother you?”
“No,” James laughed. “My grandfather used to smoke one. I love the smell. Reminds me of him. We used to hunt together when I was a little boy.”
“Okay,” Mason said.
“My sister tells me you’ve been to the Boylan House before,” James said.
“I have,” Mason said, looking up at the house. “Back in 1980.”
“Really?” James said.
“Yes,” Mason answered. “Did she tell you about it?”
“No,” James said, shaking his head. “She told me that I’d appreciate it more if I asked you about it directly. 1980 though,” he frowned, “that’s when the Peacock boy vanished, right?”
“And you were here that night?” James asked.
“Oh,” Mason sighed, looking at the house again, “I was certainly here.”
“Were you able to see anything from the street?” James asked. The cop in him coming out. “Did you notice anything before he disappeared?”
“I wasn’t on the street.”
“You weren’t?” James asked. “Well if you …”
“You were the boy with Peacock up at the door.”
“Wow,” James said, “that would explain you being so interested in the Boylan House.”
Mason smiled tiredly at the young man. “Yes.”
A few minutes of silence had passed between them before James asked, “What do you think is in the house?”
“Something evil,” Mason said in a low voice. “Something that’s been preying on boys for centuries. But all I have is an urban legend and the memories of a seven-year-old boy.”
“Julie said you’d been back a couple of times,” James said looking at him. “That some things happened. Do those count as the memories of a seven-year-old, too?”
“No,” Mason said, “but I don’t trust myself. I’m not impartial. And, quite honestly, I’ve always been a little afraid that I didn’t look at things the right way. Maybe I saw things that weren’t there.”
He shrugged. “I’m hoping tonight, though, there’ll be something I can hang my hat on. Something definitive I can rule out,” he said as he looked at James. “And you’ll be able to help me, too.”
“Yes, if you see something too, then I know I’m not crazy.”
James smiled. “That’s a valid point.”
“I hope so.”
“You know,” James said after a moment, “this place scares the hell out of me.”
“I’ve always been afraid of it. Kids used to talk about it at school; how some bum or drifter would snatch you up and kill you if you got too close. Boogeyman stories that I believed.”
“I still believe them,” Mason said.
“You’ve got more cause to,” the young man said. “I read the report about the disappearance. I read your statement. The cop who took it, wrote on the bottom that he thought you were just too scared to remember what you saw correctly.”
Mason nodded. “I know. I had a lot of adults tell me that. They still do. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t completely trust my memories on the subject.”
“Shit,” James said.
“Look,” James said, pointing up to the house.
A single light shined through the window on the far right of the second floor.
“There shouldn’t be anyone in there.”
“I don’t think there is,” Mason said softly. He climbed off the tailgate, holding his shotgun in both hands and switching off the safety. James unzipped his jacket, reached inside and drew out his Glock, slipping his safety off as well.
The light moved from one window to the next, then to the next, and then to the next. It stayed there for nearly ten minutes as if someone was watching them.
Then the light moved back, from window to window, until it reached the last window on the right, once more. It faded only to reappear in the lower floor’s far right window.
“What the hell is going on?” James asked in a low voice.
“I don’t know,” Mason said. “I really don’t.”
The door to the Boylan House opened.
Light shined out.
“Get out!” a voice deep and terrible screamed. “Get out and leave me to my work!”
“You kidding me?” James hissed, bringing his weapon up to bear on the door.
Mason did the same, clenching on the pipe stem so tightly that it hurt his teeth.
The light came out of the house, wobbling as if the hand holding it was nowhere near as strong as the voice to which it belonged.
“Get out! Get out! Get out!” it screamed. “I know you, foul boy! I know your
stench! Boy, no more and man you be, but I’ll eat your balls all the same!” it shrieked.
Mason felt a cold, primal fear rip at his stomach. Every childhood nightmare he’d ever had raced into his thoughts, and he frantically fought them back.
“Stop!” James shouted, his voice strong but thick with fear. “This is the Monson police, put the light down and your hands on your head!”
The thing holding the lantern shrieked and started to run down the short hill towards them.
James didn’t hesitate.
He put two quick rounds into the center mass of the person holding the lantern, and the result was instantaneous.
The lantern fell, the shape of a man collapsed to the earth. The light went out, and something black leaped up from the man shape and raced towards Mason and James.
And Mason fired both barrels of the shotgun.
An unworldly thing shrieked as the salt struck the shape, turning it around and sending it racing back to the house. The door slammed shut.
Looking at James, Mason nodded, and together they walked up toward the shape on the grass. Mason broke open the shotgun, emptied the casings and put two fresh shells in. He had the weapon ready as they reached the thing lying on the ground.
It was a body.
The body of a man. He wore filthy, foul-smelling rags. James, with a distinct lack of ceremony, put his foot under the body and rolled it over.
“Shit,” the young policeman exhaled.
The face staring back up was old, lips pulled back over ancient yellowed teeth. His flesh was white, his nails were long and yellow. Something silver glittered around his neck in the starlight. James squatted down and with a snort of disgust, fished the necklace out.
They were dog tags.
“Henry Marquis,” James said. He looked up to Mason. “So this is who I shot. What the hell did you shoot?”
“I don’t know,” Mason said, “but it’s still there.”
“What?” James asked.
“Look,” Mason said, pointing back at the house.
In the upper right-hand corner of the second floor, the light was shining in the window.
Chapter 14: 12:01 AM, November 1st, 2015, Monson
“What the he
“Liam Boylan happened,” Mason said.
The waitress came over. She was a young woman, and she smiled at both of them. “What can I get for you?”
“Double shot of whiskey,” James said, “and a vodka chaser.”
She raised an eyebrow but looked over at Mason. “And what about you?”
“Same,” Mason said, “except switch the vodka chaser for a bottle of Sam Adams, please.”
“You got it.”
She flashed them a tired smile and made her way to the bar.
“Who the hell is Liam Boylan?” James asked. He took off his jacket and hung it over the back of his chair. In the pub’s dim lighting, he looked pale, with black beneath his eyes.
“Liam Boylan is the owner of the house,” Mason answered.
“The owner?” James asked. “I didn’t think anyone owned the house anymore.”
The waitress came back with the drinks, put them on the table and Mason took a pair of twenties out of his wallet. He handed them to her.
“No change, please,” he smiled. She returned the smile and left them to their conversation.
Mason lifted his whiskey and drank it in one swallow. James did the same.
“So,” James said, sipping at his vodka, “there’s an owner?”
Again, Mason nodded.
“Has he inherited the place?”
“No,” Mason said. “There’s only ever been one owner.”
“What?” James asked, putting his drink back on the battered tabletop. “How is that even possible?”
“I don’t know,” Mason said. “But according to all of the research I’ve been able to do, there’s only ever been Liam Boylan.”
“So what are you saying?” James asked looking at him. “Are you telling me I just killed a, what, a four-hundred-year-old man?”
“No,” Mason said, “you didn’t kill Liam Boylan.”
“Who the hell did I kill?” James asked in a low voice.
“Someone named Henry Marquis,” Mason answered.