Ghost stories from hell, p.58

Ghost Stories from Hell, page 58

 

Ghost Stories from Hell
 



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  “Mr. Blackwell, are you alright?” the young man asked, still holding onto the rifle.

  “I’m not selling that!” Mr. Blackwell said shrilly.

  Philip looked back to the young man and saw his hands clench tightly on the weapon. Gently Philip said, “Put that on the counter, son.”

  The young man didn’t seem to hear him, his eyes starting to glaze over as they flickered from left to right rapidly.

  Mr. Blackwell came to a stop a few feet from Philip, panting. “Thurber,” Mr. Blackwell said, “put the rifle on the counter. Please.”

  But young Thurber wasn’t listening to either one of them, which was evident as he tilted his head slightly to the right, nodding.

  “Thurber,” Philip said in a commanding voice, “put the damned rifle down!”

  Thurber’s eyes snapped over to Philip, his lip curled into a sneer, and he cocked the weapon.

  “It’s not loaded,” Mr. Blackwell started to say, but Philip wasn’t paying attention to the man.

  Thurber brought the rifle up quickly to his shoulder, taking aim at Mr. Blackwell even as Philip launched himself forward. He grabbed hold of the barrel with both hands and pushed it up even as Thurber squeezed the trigger. The rifle roared in the close confines of the store, shattering a brass and crystal chandelier. Shards of the crystal scattered through the room, one piece cutting a path across Philip’s forehead.

  As the blood trickled down in front of his eyes, Philip wrested the weapon out of Thurber’s hands.

  Thurber stumbled back while Mr. Blackwell was howling in pain, obviously struck by some sort of shrapnel. And as Philip got a firm grasp of the Sharps rifle he was able to see who the young man had been listening to.

  A great, giant ghost of a man stood on the other side of the counter, glaring at Philip. The man wore an old Confederate uniform, crossed sabers on his forage cap.

  “Who the hell are you, you son of a bitch?” the man snarled, his voice carrying with it the faintest hint of a Southern accent.

  Philip didn’t answer. It wasn’t time to. He had to concentrate. He looked to Mr. Blackwell, who was hurrying to the counter to check on Thurber, who had sat down heavily on an old chair.

  “Is he alright?” Philip asked.

  “Answer me!” the ghost screamed at Philip.

  “Dazed,” Mr. Blackwell said. He looked at Philip and saw that he was still holding the rifle. His face blanched, and he said, “How can you hold it?”

  “The gloves,” Philip answered.

  “Take the god-damned things off,” the ghost spat. “Take them off and hold my rifle.”

  Philip ignored him.

  Mr. Blackwell looked from the rifle to Thurber, and then to Philip. “Will you be able to handle it?”

  “Handle it?” Philip asked with a surprised chuckle. “No. But I’ll be able to get it somewhere safe.”

  “I’ll gut you, you son bastard,” the ghost said, sliding through the counter and standing in front of Philip. “I will find a way to gut you.”

  “He’s talking to you,” Mr. Blackwell said simply.

  Philip nodded.

  “He’s a right old bastard is what he is,” Mr. Blackwell said tiredly, “but he’s been a friend at times. Ever since I was a boy and I found the rifle in my grandfather’s house. My grandfather killed a few men with it, and then himself. But they never found the rifle. Sergeant Hill told me what he’d done with my grandfather. I don’t know why he never had me do it.”

  “He was a good boy,” the ghost said. “You can tell him that. But you’re a bad man, and bad men end badly.”

  “The sergeant,” Philip said, “tells me that you were a good boy. I, however, should not expect any consideration.”

  Mr. Blackwell laughed, took a pocket square out of a pants pocket and dabbed at a cut on his cheek. “No, I imagine he won’t give you any.”

  Thurber looked at the men dazedly. “Why was the rifle loaded?”

  “It’s always loaded,” Mr. Blackwell answered. He looked at Philip and asked, “How did you know about the rifle?”

  “Yes,” Sergeant Hill hissed, “how did you know?”

  Philip ignored the ghost but answered Mr. Blackwell. “I’ve been going through the papers for years now, looking for curious deaths. When I read of your grandfather’s I dug a little more. Now, I hate to be rude, Mr. Blackwell, but I should like to put this away in my car and get it somewhere safe. I dislike holding onto it anymore than I have to.”

  “Understood, sir,” Mr. Blackwell said, straightening up. “Good luck.”

  “Thank you,” Philip said, and he turned his back on Mr. Blackwell and Thurber. As he walked out of the antique shop, the ghost of Sergeant Hill was fairly dragged along with him, screaming as he went. When they got to Philip’s car, and he opened the trunk, the ghost was quite literally frothing at the mouth.

  Philip continued to ignore him as he took out his key ring, selected a small lock key, and unlocked a long, lead lined box. Into the box, he put the rifle, and he closed the lid, locking it securely once more.

  And it was silent.

  The lead kept the ghost within.

  Philip sighed as he closed the trunk. He had read in some occult books that lead worked to bind restless spirits, but the Sharps rifle was the first real test of that theory. And Philip was exceptionally glad it had worked.

  A two-hour drive back to Nashua with Sergeant Hill screaming profanities at him would have been a decidedly unpleasant experience.

  Bonus Scene Chapter 2: Old South Cemetery, Hollis, New Hampshire, 1964

  Philip crept from headstone to headstone, staying as low as he could. For the entire day, he had been tracking the man, and now the man was in the cemetery. The man either had a victim in the cemetery already, or he was waiting for one.

  Philip had to stop him either way. In his right hand, Philip carried a shortened police baton, cut to size by a friend of his on the Nashua Police Department.

  Ahead, the unknown man was speaking softly in Latin, which is what had first grabbed Philip’s attention earlier in the morning. What had kept Philip’s attention, however, was the ancient brass ring on the man’s left index finger. It was engraved with a rough eagle with a cross above it. An early Roman Legionary ring.

  And it was there that the pieces had fallen together.

  In the Gilson Road Cemetery, the Nashua Police had found a young woman beaten to death with an iron pole. She had been stripped naked and her head tied into the fork of a tree.

  In Woodlawn Cemetery, a second young woman had been found, killed the same way and her head tied into the fork of a tree as well.

  The deaths were consistent with a style of punishment doled out by Caesar’s Legions in ancient Rome. Thus the Latin had caught Philip’s ear, and the ring had assured him the man was indeed the killer, albeit unwillingly.

  Whoever was still attached to the ring had a taste for murder, as so many of them had. And whoever it was happened to be living vicariously through this young man.

  Philip only hoped that he wouldn’t have to kill the man to get the ring away from him. But the murders had to stop, and if killing the man would ensure no more people were needlessly killed by someone being possessed by the ring, then so be it.

  Philip had killed before, and he knew he would have to kill again.

  He moved forward again until he found himself across from the outer stone wall and looking down into the small cemetery. In the center of the headstones, as the halfmoon’s light spilled out on the new grass, Philip could see a man dragging a naked young woman towards the far edge. A glance there showed a tree with the necessary fork in it, and a large iron bar leaned against an ancient headstone.

  Yes. This is who I’ve been looking for, Philip thought. I need to wait.

  And so Philip waited, as terrible as it was. He waited for the man to bring the woman to the tree and slap her back into consciousness. She screamed and fought the man as he started to bind her head into the fork of the tre
e and its limb, but there was no one to hear her. The cemetery was too far removed from town. The road too abandoned at night.

  But she wasn’t alone, although she didn’t know it.

  As soon as the man started his binding, Philip took a grip on the baton and sprinted forward. He brought the baton crashing down at the base of the man’s skull and spine, yet the man turned at the last moment, and what would have been a debilitating, if not an outright crippling blow, merely shattered the man’s jaw.

  The man stumbled back, screaming in rage and fury, spitting out blood and broken teeth as he lunged at Philip.

  Philip sidestepped the man’s attack and brought the baton down again, breaking the man’s left arm at the bicep. Quickly Philip struck twice more, in the chest region, the second blow cracking his sternum and causing the man to slip slightly, crashing into a headstone and tumbling down.

  Philip didn’t waste time checking on the young woman. He would do that after. He needed to keep the pressure on the possessed. At any moment, the man might gain the upper hand, and that would prove to be fatal for both Philip and the young woman.

  Leaping forward, Philip struck again with the baton as the man raised a hand to grasp a headstone. Philip smashed the man’s fingers, eliciting another howl of pain and rage. A torrent of Latin, which Philip couldn’t understand, flowed from the man’s mouth as he lashed out with a foot, the heel of which caught Philip in the thigh and deadened his muscle momentarily.

  Dropping to a knee and gasping in pain, Philip still managed to dodge another kick before slamming the baton into the man’s groin. The man let out a cough, followed by vomit, as he grasped his balls while collapsing to the grass.

  As quickly as he could, Philip pulled his cotton gloves out of his pocket, slipped them on and grabbed hold of the man’s left hand. He pulled on the ring.

  It stayed there.

  In his ears, Philip heard someone laughing, saying something in Latin. It wasn’t the man on the ground. He was insensible with pain, unable to talk.

  The voice continued to laugh.

  But this wasn’t Philip’s first time to the carnival, as the saying went.

  From his pocket Philip dug out a sailor’s folding knife, opened it with a flick of his wrist, and before the unseen Latin speaker could finish expressing outrage at the sight of the weapon, cut the man’s finger off.

  Philip ripped the ring off of the finger and dropped the finger onto the grass beside the man. The man’s blood did not stain the white cotton gloves.

  Standing up, Philip held onto the ring tightly, folded the knife and put it away before hurrying over to the young woman, who stood clawing at the bindings that were half finished.

  “Calm down,” Philip said gently, freeing her, “calm down. Where are your clothes?”

  “His car,” she managed to say after a moment, forcing herself into calm.

  “Where’s that?”

  “Dow Road.”

  “Alright,” Philip said, “I’ll bring you there. You can get your clothes and then I’ll take you home.”

  “What about him?” she asked, pointing at the man.

  “What about him?” Philip asked.

  “Shouldn’t we call the police?”

  Philip shook his head. “He’ll be dead soon.”

  “How do you know?” she asked fearfully, looking at the man.

  “One way or another,” Philip said softly, “he’ll be dead soon.”

  Bonus Scene Chapter 3: Sullivan Farm, Brookline, New Hampshire, 1969

  The wind shook the car as Philip pulled into the long driveway that led up to the white farmhouse. The main house and its country red barn stood atop a small hill. A chicken coop sprawled out to the right, and a paddock could be glimpsed behind the barn and stretching over to the back of the house.

  And while the sun was rapidly setting behind the apple orchard on the west of the property, there were no lights on in the house. Nor in the barn. A battered green pickup truck was parked by the side door to the house, but there was no one that Philip could see or hear.

  That was a decidedly bad sign.

  Philip pulled into the driveway behind the pickup, turned off the ignition and got out of the car. The wind ripped the door out of his hand and slammed it shut.

  He looked at the stairs leading to the house’s side door and took a deep breath, getting ready to go up and knock on the door when he heard music.

  Soft music, someone picking out a pleasant tune on a guitar.

  The sound came from the barn and as Philip turned to face the barn, he knew the sound wasn’t right. He’d heard enough of the dead to know when they were doing something. And this music was being made by the dead.

  But Philip had never heard the dead without actually touching an object he was collecting. I can’t tell, he thought, if this is a good or a bad thing.

  I’ll need to worry about that later, Philip thought. He started walking towards the barn, where the giant sliding door was open a few feet. When he reached the door, he didn’t bother peeking in, he had a fair idea of what to expect.

  Philip walked into the barn and saw a middle-aged man hanging from one of the rafters. Beneath the man’s gently swaying work boots was a turned over milking stool. In the stalls around the barn, cows stood, lazily looking at Philip as they chewed their cuds.

  The music came from the ghost of a young man standing beside the door to a small shop, playing his guitar happily, smiling at the body hanging from the ceiling.

  Philip went to the body and looked around for the letter. He knew that it was somewhere on the man, either a pocket or in his hands.

  And there it was held loosely in the man’s left hand.

  “What are you doing here?” a voice asked suddenly, and when Philip looked up, he realized the ghost of the young man was standing right next to him, fuming. “Who are you? Why can you hear me?”

  Philip didn’t answer, reaching into his pockets instead and taking out his gloves.

  “Who are you?!” the young man demanded, and Philip felt waves of sadness roll over him. The sadness battered at his thoughts and images of Korea flooded into his mind. Not his own battles, but those of the young man. Units falling back against the initial attack of the North Koreans. Being captured and sent north. Surviving years of torment.

  Coming home and not being able to change.

  Nothing helped.

  Nothing.

  Writing the letter, explaining why. Writing the letter and holding onto it as he climbed onto the top of the desk chair he’d sat in as a boy, and hanging himself from one of the exposed beams in his bedroom.

  Philip gasped and stumbled backward, nearly dropping his gloves.

  “You need to get out,” the ghost snarled. “You need to leave. They’re all mine, and you want to take them away from me. There’s a whole family left. A whole family. They’ll all understand soon enough.”

  Philip didn’t respond, pulling on his gloves instead and straightening up. The ghost sent fresh waves of despair rolling over Philip, but Philip was reinforced. The gloves helped, somehow, to blunt the worst of the despair.

  Delicately, Philip opened the dead man’s hand and freed the letter. Philip didn’t read the letter, didn’t even allow himself a glimpse of the words within as he folded the paper.

  “What are you doing with that?” the ghost said. “What are you doing with me?”

  Philip continued to ignore the ghost, whose questioning increased in volume the more Philip remained silent. When Philip and his ill-tempered guest reached the car’s trunk, Philip opened it, and unlocked the lead-lined carrying case within.

  The ghost howled in rage as Philip put the letter into the case, then closed and locked the lid. Philip closed the trunk and sat down on the bumper, his hands shaking as he removed his gloves and put them back into his coat’s inner pocket.

  Why did I hear this one? Philip asked. I wasn’t even touching the letter. I wasn’t even close enough to it.

  Shaking
his head, Philip stood up. I’ll have to call Thomas when I get home.

  With that thought in mind, Philip stood up and walked to the driver’s side door of the car.

  ***

  When Philip got home, neither Eleanor nor their daughter Samantha was home, which was a good thing. He hated having to tell the girl that she couldn’t go into the library. He’d always locked the door, but she was a teenager. And that, more than anything, would lead her to attempt to get into the library.

  Which would be disastrous, if not outright deadly.

  Eleanor understood what the items were and what they had done, even though she had no desire to have them in the house. It was only after Philip had lined the library with lead behind the bookshelves and put them in the door, as well as having a theoretically ‘unpickable’ lock in the doorknob that she relaxed slightly.

  At some point, Philip hoped to find someone who could take the items off his hands so he didn’t have to constantly fear his daughter entering the library.

  Until then, however, he had a responsibility. The things had to be kept away from society. Locked up and carefully guarded.

  When Philip had finished backing his car into the driveway, he got the letter out of the box and went inside the house. He hurried up the stairs, unlocked the library, turned the light on and went in. After placing the letter in a small glass case, Philip stripped off his gloves, put them on the desk and sat down heavily in his chair.

  He let out a long sigh and then straightened up, uncapping his brandy and pouring himself a healthy dose. Sitting back again, he held the brandy snifter in his left hand, rolling the liquid around in the glass, warming it with his own body heat. After a few minutes of silence, he took a small sip, then picked up the receiver and dialed the operator. When a young woman answered he asked for a long distance operator. Once transferred to the long distance operator, he gave the woman Thomas’ phone number and waited while she connected them.

 
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