Excerpt from The Devil’s Choir
|October 8, 2012||Posted by webmaster under excerpts, halloween, horror, jack-o-lantern|
By four o’clock Melanie was surging with nervous energy. She felt like a tightly coiled spring. It was a lovely day, sixty-five degrees and not a cloud in the sky. She decided to go for a walk. As she was crossing the parking lot she glanced toward her car. Something wasn’t right. Upon closer inspection it became obvious just what it was. The car was leaning awkwardly to one side. She had a flat tire. That’s okay, she told herself, she knew how to change a tire and she still had a couple of hours before she needed to get ready for the party. She lugged the spare out of the trunk and dropped it, only to find that it didn’t bounce because it also was flat.
Her eyes filled with tears and that made her angry because she was tougher than that, but she felt like giving up. She thought about Thomas. She couldn’t just give up on him. She threw the spare back in the trunk and shoved the defeatist thoughts away. She wasn’t going to let a few obstacles stop her from the biggest night of her life.
As she walked back to her apartment Melanie noticed a jack-o-lantern outside the door of a neighbor’s apartment and she chuckled wryly to herself. If only she had a fairy godmother who could come and turn it into a lavish coach. Sandy had already mentioned her intentions for the evening, the usual for a Saturday–leave Susan at a friend’s house and study at the university library. Sandy would drive her if she asked, but she didn’t want Sandy to know that she was going to the ball because Sandy was still under the impression that she was dating Ari, or Gabe Carlisle, as Sandy knew him. Ari had a night shift and Sandy might see him on campus. Asking Ann for a ride was out of the question. Ann’s inquisitive nature meant that she wouldn’t stop pestering Melanie until she knew who her date was. Or God forbid, she might insist on going too. The dance was being held at the municipal auditorium a block off the town square and not more than a mile from her apartment. She would simply have to hoof it. Of course that presented the problem of her costume. She really didn’t want to walk across town dressed like an adult trick-or-treater. For a moment she considered calling Thomas and asking him for a ride, but that seemed too over-the-top. Part of the allure, and what she hoped would be the magic of the evening, would be walking in and finding him dressed as he’d said, in his Zorro costume and him anxiously scanning the crowd for her. It all had a certain Cinderella quality to it and what girl doesn’t want to experience that just once.
When it came time to get going she bagged up her things and slipped on a tattered pair of jeans and an old stained sweatshirt she’d worn in high school art class, stuff she expected to leave wherever she changed. She stepped into a cheap pair of flip-flops and headed out the door.
The horizon was as orange as her neighbor’s jack-o-lantern. Soon it would be dark, and the thought made her giddy with anticipation. She’d always believed that fall evenings were exciting, that there was something playfully spooky in the way they held their secrets. Melanie wondered what things might be revealed this night.
Mr. Fulton spent the afternoon sitting under a tree next to the motel parking lot, drawing on a pad he’d had Mark buy at a nearby drugstore. Now, as they were getting their things around to go out and do what needed done, Mr. Fulton made them stop so he could show them the picture he’d made. It was the man alright, just the way Dallas remembered him.
“Oh, that’s him alright,” Dallas told the others.
“Yeah, I remember that guy,” Lowell said. To Mr. Fulton he asked, “How were you able to remember all the details about him?”
“I remember everything,” Mr. Fulton replied.
“There’s a lot of things I wish I didn’t remember,” Mark said with a chuckle. He elbowed Lowell in the ribs. “Remember that big ole nasty gal I picked up that night at that chicken shack?”
Lowell groaned. “Okay,” he said, “We got work to do. Let’s not forget anything. We got a big job to take care of tonight.”
They strapped on their gear and headed out. Dallas hoped that they would take the Hummer, but it was the Cadillac. “You overgrown child,” Lowell had said when Dallas asked why not the Hummer, “It’s too high profile. We need something that won’t attract attention. A beat up Caddy won’t attract attention.”
The sense of disappointment only lasted a couple of minutes because when they were three blocks from the motel, Dallas spotted the girl.
“Stop! Stop! Stop!” Dallas shouted. Lowell jerked the wheel out of surprise, nearly taking out a row of mailboxes.
“The girl! We just passed her!”
Mr. Fulton ran his tongue over his teeth. “This is shaping up to be a delicious game. Great fun. We shall have a memorable evening. Turn at the next block.”
Lowell steered the Caddy around the corner and the girl disappeared from view.
“Are you sure that’s her?” Lowell whispered.
Dallas huffed. How could Lowell think he could forget a face like that?
Mr. Fulton had heard the question. “Oh, that’s her,” he stated gleefully.
They stopped and Mr. Fulton began giving instructions. “You two go on to the university and take care of our friend. He is dangerous and very wise. Use caution. Kill him and go about it quietly, as to not attract attention. Dallas and I are going to have some fun. Dallas has earned some fun. Pretty girls are always fun, don’t you agree Dallas?”
Dallas nodded. As much as he wanted to look at the pretty girl again, he didn’t want her to be hurt and the way Mr. Fulton talked, it sounded like he wanted to hurt her.
“Come along, Dallas. She and I have met and we can’t have her recognizing me here on the street. Perhaps she will lead us to her friend. That is, if you two don’t kill him first.”
Mr. Fulton shut the door to the Caddy and started walking. Dallas followed him to a hedge-lined alley. Through the bushes the girl came into view, walking fast, her brown hair bouncing around her long slender neck. She was chewing on her bottom lip like she was thinking real hard about something.
Suddenly Mr. Fulton hooked his fingers inside of Dallas’ collarbone and yanked him back. Somehow Dallas had drifted out from behind the hedge while trying to get a good look at the girl. He didn’t remember doing it.
“Do not lose your focus!” Mr. Fulton hissed.
They remained hidden until the girl was half a block ahead of them. Then they began to follow her. She was going north up the sidewalk. They went north, but in an alley a half block away. She would disappear for a moment when a house or a fence would come between them and then she would reappear. Every single time she went away Dallas felt his shoulders slump. When she was there again, he felt his heart skip a beat.