By J Thomas Fussell
Chapter 23: A Bible and a Gun
Mary Sue’s house was a place of old-world magic. It existed outside of the normal rules of time and space. Rooms filled with exotic items of all sorts appeared one day and disappeared the next – usually at the whim of Mary Sue, but just as often randomly and chaotically. Tapestries and art from ages long past adorned many walls, much of it in various states of decay or ruin. An anthropologist could have spent a lifetime cataloging all she saw in this museum of old-world wonders and find only a minute amount of Mary Sue’s whole collection. But even amidst so much magic and awe-inspiring works of art, the attic stood apart as truly special. It was the one place Mary Sue could separate and still be together as their separate selves. This room existed outside of normal, and distances and space were relative within. From the perspective of the Seductress, who sat on one side of the room, the Crone appeared to drift lazily back and forth, staying at the center of the room approximately fifty feet away, equal distance between herself and the Fury who paced restlessly in the distant recesses of this space. The effect for the Fury – had she been paying attention – was of her colossal elder self, whom she thought of as the Matriarch in times like these, sitting at a gigantic table, lording over her as if she were a child who needed to be corrected for being needlessly cruel. To the Crone, who was in the middle for the moment, her sister aspects appeared to stretch away and then draw back, yoyo-ing with her attention. Mary Sue could never be truly apart from herself but neither could she find perfect unity and be whole. This did not bother her though. She gave up the concept of unity long ago.
“You lost control, dear sister. Don’t try to deny it,” the Crone accused her middle aspect, the Fury. “You shouldn’t have saved your plaything, not this time. You know as well as I, Tom Eastman has done all he can do for us.”
“But the feeding’s been so good,” interjected the Seductress in the voice of a pouty actress from the silver screen era. “It’s been decades since we’ve fed like this. We’ll simply starve if we lose him now. Don’t listen to her, you monstrous thing. I say we keep him alive and vital. Think of all the fun we’ll have.”
The Seductress had taken the appearance of a fit, middle-aged woman of such stunning beauty that any man susceptible to such things would be driven to madness. There were none still alive who would know, but the face she now wore belonged to none other than Cleopatra, although she had tweaked a few minor imperfections in the original. She lounged in the gable of the attic window, watching the police wander the streets as they searched every corner and dark shadow for the elusive Tom Eastman. Dark raven hair fell across half of her exquisite face. A simple smile on that face could melt a man’s heart, but dark irritation was all she felt now. Why couldn’t she just be left alone to feed?
She watched in dismay as another officer stopped at her fence and stared at the small, dark cottage tucked deep into the trees that surrounded it. The cops would not stay out of her yard forever, no matter the spell. At least for now, she’d been able to distract those who had drawn too close. And although dozens of police officers passed her house, or stopped and stared, not one had knocked on the door. She gestured absently and the officer turned away looking for the person who had just called his name. There was no one there, of course, but now that he was not looking at her house he was no longer thinking of her house.
The Crone sat at a table in the center of the attic. Books littered the table along with a few candles and other odds and ends. Her back was turned to her youthful aspect while she focused on the Fury on the other side of the room. She ignored the Seductress’ comment and continued to address her middle sister. She said, “You shouldn’t have killed those men on the Hill of Passage, sister; not to mention, how you displayed them like some macabre trophies. By the creator, how can they blame such destruction on one man? You…” The Crone pointed one boney finger at the Fury, “got carried away, again.”
The old woman sighed. She had not meant to raise her voice. She needed to convince her sisters or they would do something to force another move, and she was not ready to leave such fertile ground. This tact was getting nowhere. Anger only drove her sister on. She calmed herself. Reason was all that would work with the Fury now. She continued, her voice calm, almost pleading. “Do you not remember Russia? Or the stunt you pulled in Spain? You cannot just kill large groups when the urge strikes. Even then, in those places, all those hundreds of years ago, they came with pitchforks and fire. These are not the old days, my sister. They’ll come for us with guns and weapons far more dangerous than fire. They will drive us away, drive us apart…”
Mary Sue the Fury, stopped her pacing and eyed the Matriarch. At the moment, she appeared like the upright bear thing that had gutted the police in the forest. A thing some madman had woven out of rough sticks and vines. She pointed a huge clawed finger at the Crone and with the sound of a swarm of cicadas replied, “Do not chastise me, sister. You know why I acted as I did. The ground needed to be consecrated. It’s spring after all, and we must feed.”
She remembered how it felt to rip those men apart, glorious. Life taken with vigor and violence had always been her favorite way to feed. To be fair though, what happened on that hill had not been her intention. All she wanted was to allow Tom Eastman to escape again. She and the Seductress were on the same page on that topic. Tom had fed them so well in so short a time that it seemed foolish to waste him now. She felt sure he had more to give. Granted, she may have made a few mistakes, but what was done was done – not to mention, very satisfying.
“Besides, I only underestimated two of the men when we happened upon the Hill of Passage.” She sulked in the sound of the moan that can issue from the mouth of a cave in a high wind. She had only meant to give the soldiers and dogs a merry chase.
“You did not just happen upon the Hill of Passage. You led them there,” the crone accused, seeing where her sister was trying to lead her.
The Fury was lost in the memory though and did not respond immediately. Two of the men had surprised her. They did not come up the same path as the others. They circled around the hill instead and came up one on each side of the hill in a classic pincer move. It would have worked too if Tom had been on the hill. They would have been the heroes they had imagined. Unfortunately for them, they had made a mistake too; Tom Eastman was not on top the hill. Instead they found something they were not prepared for. They found Mary Sue, the Fury, the monster; they found death.
“And the soldiers saw me. I had no choice.” The Fury argued with the sound of tree branches scraping together in the night.
“You had a choice. You’ve already said, ‘the ground needed to be consecrated,’” the Crone chided. “Do not be ridiculous, sister. There’ll be no changing the story to suit your needs.”
In truth the soldiers had not seen her at first. She hid in plain sight in the shape of a large twisted bush until the dogs came into the clearing. The two animals immediately cowed in her presence – tails dropped between leg, heads hunched, and eyes dropped. The dogs would have no more attacked her than they would their own puppies, but they knew she was there and started to grovel and whine. If there had been another mistake, it was when she ordered the dogs to attack their master. And… maybe when she displayed the soldiers so creatively around the altar. Then again, there was that flying machine to consider. Of course, there was also all the blood and bits, which might make someone curious just how one man could have….
The Fury sighed as a stiff breeze through a forest of trees and said, “I might’ve gotten carried away… a little. What do we do now?”
The Crone nodded, relieved. If the Fury would remain calm, they might have a chance to save this mess. She said, “Tom Eastman will out himself given time. I’m not sure we can leave him to them unleashed though, if you know what I mean. We may have to intervene. But for now, we only observe his situation. As you two have so kindly reminded me, we also need to think about what comes next. Come close, dear sisters. I tire of raising my voice. I think I have a plan that’ll solve most, if not all of our immediate problems.” She waved absently at the window. “This includes the relentless searching by a police force on the edge. And if I have not read some of our dear neighbors wrong, this plan will also seed our next meal. Prepare yourselves though; we’ll have to be patient, my dears, after this. Fortunately, we’ve been blessed with gluttony for the last few weeks and will not need to feed for some time. Besides if we need a snack, we’ll have at least two of these foul human dwellings to reclaim and that takes time. So come close, dear sisters, come close. Hear my plan.”
As the sisters moved, the room shrank with them until they were all crowded around the table: the Crone, the Fury, and the Seductress.
“You first, my dear,” the Crone said, reaching out to hold the Seductress’s hand. “For this to work, you’ll have to play a different role. Yes, I think a different kind of seduction’ll be in order this time, my beauty, don’t you?” She reached up and began to knead the face of her sister, sculpting it like it was made of clay. After a moment she pulled away. “Perfection,” she said with a cackle. “I think a man’s touch will do the trick nicely.”
A handsome man in his mid-thirties now sat across from her. A hint of stubble shadowed a strong jaw. A full head of raven hair cut above the collar and styled in a wave crowned classic features. His deep blue eyes seemed to promise mystery and hope in equal portions. He wore a business casual sports jacket that stretched taut over a powerful body and had a smile straight out of a toothpaste ad.
A large mirror appeared next to her younger aspect, and she examined herself critically. After a few minutes, a mischievous smile spread across her face, and she winked at her reflection. She liked what she saw.
“It’s been a few years since you went in drag, love. How does it feel?” The Crone asked.
“Invigorating,” the Seducer said with a smile so big glimmers of candlelight shimmered off his teeth. “Who am I for?”
“You’ll know what to do, and with whom, when the time is right. Oh, and one other thing,” the Crone picked a black book up from the table and handed it to the young man. “You’re going to need this.”
The Seducer stared at the title of the book and started to laugh. It was a deep, full laugh that would get an entire room of people laughing, even if they did not know the cause. The title of the book: ‘The Holy Bible: King James Version’.
“And what about me?” rasped the Fury. “What can I do?”
The Crone looked at her with a wicked smile and said, “Have you got a gun?”
Mike Blanchart had no idea where he was or how he had gotten there. He woke up a few minutes before, sitting with his back to a flat boulder the size of a car with no memory of how he got there. He found a large cut on the back of his head, and it hurt terribly. He reasoned that the wound must be the reason he lost his memory in the first place. Maybe he went on a hike and fell, banging his head on a tree? Of course, that made sense. At least he knew who he was and where he wanted to go. He would get out of this, if he could just stay rational. Kathy must be worried sick. Mike wondered how long he had been missing. He would never hear the end of it.
Exhaustion rolled over him like a wave. Suddenly, all he wanted to do was lay back down and rest. A nice nap, just an hour was all he needed. His head slowly slumped forward. A spike of pain flared in his neck as if he had been speared. Pain shot through him like he had never felt before, then icy numbness buzzed down his body as if he held a live wire.
That’s not good, he thought when he got his breath back. What in God’s name is wrong with me? I need to find help and soon. I could very easily die out here – wherever here is.
He pushed himself up from a seated position by holding on to the rock for balance. Once up, he began scanning the area around him for the trail, moving his neck as little as possible. There had to be a trail, otherwise what had he slipped from? He found nothing, though, nothing at all. It’s almost as if he had just dropped out of the sky and landed by this rock. He tried to look up, but his head would not move in that direction.
Birds tittered in the trees, adding their song to a cacophony of insects and other forest sounds he could not place. A breeze picked up and felt cool against his head. He had to move, but in which direction, he had no idea.
Suddenly, a voice on the wind said, “This way, Mike. Follow the breeze. Come this way.”
When he looked in the direction of the voice, the trees in front of him split apart, and a path appeared where once there was none.
“Follow the path, Mike. It’ll lead you back to your Kathy,” the voice suggested.
Mike thought a moment and decided that made sense. Obviously there was no voice; that was all in his head, but the suggestion was sound. And he had not really seen the trail appear out of the woods as if all the trees and rocks had simply stepped aside. That kind of thing was impossible. Hallucinations from the head injury were the cause. Yes, that had to be the case. So with that thought firmly in mind, he began the arduous task of walking while dizzy and hallucinating. The problems seemed endless. For one thing, try as he might, his feet would not always move when he commanded. For another thing, roots and rocks seemed to literally leap into his path at every opportunity. Two times he fell only to wake up moments later with no memory of how he had gotten there. Each time he worked himself through similar logic, and each time a voice from the wind directed his path. On the third time, not only did he lose his memory when he awoke, but he found an ancient long gun in his hand.
Now where did I get this? He wondered, trying to make sense of the weapon. Had he been carrying it the whole time and forgotten about it? Yes, that made sense; that must be the case. Wait… did he even own a gun? Evidence suggests yes, he thought. He would figure it out later; for now, the gun made a perfect crutch, and he began to make much better progress along the trail.
Then, just as suddenly as it had appeared, the trail closed in on itself and was gone. Mike looked around, thinking he needed to backtrack and find where he had stepped off the main track, but there was no trail in any direction no matter how far he traveled.
Now that, friends and neighbors, does not make sense, Mike thought.
He looked up to try to get his bearings. Out of the corner of his eye Mike saw movement. He followed it for a moment before he realized that he watched another man; no wait, not just a man, but a police officer. Two more officers appeared from the trees a few paces behind the first.
They must be looking for me, he thought. Why else would they be here?
He tried to yell out, to signal the men that he was there, but his mouth would not work. He reached up and discovered for the eight time that day that his mouth would not close. He had no control over the movement of his jaw. He did the next best thing and began to wave his arms – and his crutch – around to get their attention. To his utter relief, it worked. As one the cops all turned to face him.
“Suspect spotted, moving north. Sir, put the weapon down and get on the ground! Hands behind your head.”
Mike could see the men pointing their weapons in his direction and could see their mouths moving as if they were speaking, but he could not understand what they were saying. A sudden buzzing, as if a million bees had been disturbed, surrounded him.
Oh god, he thought, Bees! That’s all I need!
Mike began to wave his arms at the sound. He swung his crutch left and right, swatting at raging insects that he could hear but not see. He had to get away and that was all there was to it. The police were here to help. They must help; it was their job. He began to move down the hill towards the officers, frantic to escape further injury, moaning through his broken mouth the whole way.
Something punched him hard in the shoulder. Brief pain flared as he fell back, until he slammed his injured head into the base of a nearby tree. His neck, already fractured when Tom Eastman attacked, snapped like a twig, and he could not move or feel anything beneath his shoulders. What had just happened? His eyes rolled up, and the last thing he heard as he passed out completely were the words, “Suspect is down. I repeat, suspect is down.”
Tom Eastman stood in the shelter of the trees that separated the Blanchart house from the Brennon house and watched four policemen step into the Brennon’s yard from the opposite side directly across from his hiding place. Behind him other officers, along with the tall, black, lady detective, stood in a small group over the cop he had killed just outside the Blanchart’s backdoor. He was in deep shit, yes sir. His only decision now was whether to give up or go out guns blazing. Well, that was an easy one. Fuck giving up now; he was not going to pussy out. He would kill as many of them as he could before falling.
He checked the gun he had taken off the cop – fully loaded. He had a maximum of twelve shots. That was not very many, but maybe, if he could kill a few more cops and get to their guns…
He shrugged and said, “No time like the present.”
He raised the weapon and took aim and the bitch detective. She made a very convenient target; besides, she had it coming. But before he could act, a voice game across the radio and changed everything. This was followed by a gunshot from somewhere up on the hill to the north.
“Suspect is down! I repeat, suspect is down,” the radio claimed.
A cheer went up in both yards. All three of the cops in the Brennon yard charged into the woods towards the sound of the gunshot as did most of those from the Blanchart yard.
“Well, hot damn. It’s my lucky day, bitches,” he mumbled, watching in dumb wonder as the yards on both sides of him emptied.
He did not see where that bigass detective bitch went, but that did not matter in the least. He moved with a slow, steady pace into the Brennon’s backyard like he had all the reasons in the world to be exactly where he was at that moment. He was just another cop now, invisible, unless someone got too close.
At the Brennon’s house, he slowed and looked around. The Brennon family had been gone for almost a month on one of their long, yearly vacations. Who knows where they went this time? Tom did not care, but their schedule rarely wavered. He tried to think about how long they had been gone. There was no way to be certain, but three or four days before they returned felt about right. If that were the case, he would have plenty of time to catch this breath and maybe get a bite to eat before figuring out what to do next. He smiled at the prospect and wondered if Mary Sue had saved his bacon again.
Obviously, she did, he thought. This suspect is most certainly not down.
Tom pulled out his ring of keys and flipped to 008, then let himself into the Brennon’s house. Water rushed out of the door, covering his feet, but that did not slow him in the least. He closed the door and locked it behind him.
“What the fuck is all this?” He asked aloud. “As if I care. Ain’t my house. But ole’ Darren ain’t gonna like this shit when he gets home. Hope they know how to swim.”
He laughed at himself, took three steps into the hall and fell through a water weakened floor into the basement. His head slammed against the concrete floor, and for a while, Tom Eastman knew no more.