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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Monster

STORM, chapter three for anyone following it. :)

Storm slipped into the passenger seat of Tracy’s beat-up 1996 Chevy Cavalier and buckled her seatbelt.

“Well?” Tracy asked expectantly. “I hope that bag you’re carrying has notes and fixes from today’s Physics, Chemistry, and Trig classes.”

“It does.”

“You are so annoying,” Tracy replied disgustedly, driving away from the curb. “You did all the homework due just since we left school?”

“And played on the computer,” Storm needled and then laughed. “If you’re unhappy about my progress, we can just forget about comparing notes.”

“I’m not that unhappy,” Tracy retorted. “I’m jealous. I get home, get interrogated, trade insults with my little brother, and it’s nine o’clock. Here it is only six and you have all your homework done. I hate you.”

Storm laughed appreciatively. Tracy joined in with her after pretending outrage for a moment longer.

“I’ve decided to take you up on your offer to buy friendship with my brain. My folks said it would be okay if we have the study group at my house.”

“Okay, I don’t hate you,” Tracy repented jokingly. “Does Saturdays at noon sound okay to you? We can break up around two and give Logan plenty of time to get ready for work.”

“Sure, that’ll work. Do you do any part time work anywhere?”

“Just babysitting for the neighbors,” Tracy answered. “My Dad pays me to do the tedious part of his job, entering stuff in his company’s ledgers and spread sheets. It helps me with my typing speed and I’m getting a real feel for accounting. Dad goes over everything I do afterwards. If I screw up, I get docked.”

“We can definitely have a knowledge exchange,” Storm replied. “I’m weak on business principles like balance sheets. I’ll trade you a little physics for a little accounting.”

“Deal,” Tracy agreed happily. “Logan is an all around smart-ass. He actually helps his manager with the books. If something can be self taught on the Internet, Logan will learn it. My Dad helped him out with some templates and websites to get the basics down. Logan took it from there. Now he makes extra money helping his Burger King manager out with inventory, ordering, and expenses.”

“My parents are really upset about moving into an area with a serial kidnapper and probable killer,” Storm said fishing for clues. “So, you said earlier you didn’t know any of the girls who were taken?”

“I recognized three of the names,” Tracy replied, turning the Chevy into the Burger King parking lot. “I had history with the two juniors last year. They pretty much kept to themselves. I didn’t know the other three.”

“Wow, did the cops talk to you?” Storm asked with some excitement as Tracy parked and turned off the engine.

“No… why would they?” Tracy asked, looking over at Storm with some confusion.

“Maybe to ask if you had noticed stuff they had in common,” Storm said, carefully shrugging as if she were just curious. “Did they know each other?”

“Yeah, now that I think about it. They always came to class together and sat together at the back of the room next to each other. Hell, you’re right, I should have been asked. I didn’t even think about them hangin’ together until now. Maybe I should call the cops and let them know.”

“I think you should,” Storm encouraged her, knowing Janet and Ted would allow the police to find out from Tracy rather than blow their cover. Can you think of anything else they might have done together?”

“Not really - they blew in and out of class without much socializing. This stuff really sets your panties on fire, huh?” Tracy kidded her, getting out of the car and walking around to the front near the Burger King building.

“Yeah, I admit it,” Storm replied truthfully as she joined Tracy on the walkway. “Did those two have any other similarities in dress, or attitude, or…”

Tracy gestured Storm in the door ahead of her while she thought about it. Logan saw them enter. He came around the counter. There were only five other people in the fast food restaurant and no one waiting. Storm could see Logan came from the back. She assumed they didn’t want him working the counter where the customers might get upset at his facial scars.

“What can I get you two?” Logan asked, grinning as Tracy gave Storm devil horns with her index and middle fingers from behind while mouthing ‘crazy’.

“Hey…” Storm twisted away from Tracy, looking at her accusingly as Tracy returned her look with one of utter innocence. “Are you trying to make me look bad in front of Wolvy?”

“C’mon, I only have a half hour before clean up.” Logan laughed. “Tell me what you want and find us some seats.”

“I’m starving,” Tracy announced. “I want a Whopper, a Whaler, fries, and a big coke.”

“We’re all out of those,” Logan deadpanned. “How about a salad and milk?”

“Get Harding High Barbie the same thing,” Tracy continued, giving Logan a push on his chest without moving him an inch. “I don’t want my face lookin’ like a pizza and her making me look bad. We need to put some weight on her before she’s mistaken for Skipper.”

“Coming right up,” Logan chuckled at Storm’s sudden gasp of indignation and hurried away to get the food.

“That wasn’t very nice, Beyonce.”

“Hey,” Tracy protested. “I don’t… oh, okay… Skipper. Of course you know, this means war. I thought of something similar about those two juniors. They were both into that Goth look, like they watched the Matrix a few too many times.”

Tracy, that’s huge!” Storm exclaimed, leaning forward with her hands on the table. “You need to talk to the police for sure.”

“Talk to the police about what?” Logan asked curiously, setting the tray of food down he was carrying. “What did you do now, Tracy?”

“Very funny, meatball,” Tracy retorted, taking one of her sandwiches out and giving Logan the wave off.

Storm explained what Tracy had remembered about the two missing girls she had been in class with the prior year. Logan listened with interest, glancing at Tracy as he began taking small bites of his sandwich. When Storm finished filling him in, he nodded in agreement.

“You need to tell the cops, Tracy. Have your Dad set up a meeting, where you can go in and explain what you know in detail. Storm’s right. It could be a real break, especially if the others were running with the black nail polish crowd.”

“I’ll talk to my Dad as soon as I get home,” Tracy promised, dipping a french-fry into the ketchup she had put on her sandwich wrapper. “Storm says we’re on for study group at her house on Saturday. Is noontime okay with you?”

“Sounds good. Who else will be coming?”

“Kevin MacGrath and Nancy Alverson from our Chem class said they were interested, so I’ll confirm them tomorrow,” Tracy answered. “Carol Wangden is a maybe. Knowing her, she’ll probably wait till she gets her first F.”

“Kevin, huh?” Logan reiterated knowingly.

“What?” Tracy immediately gave him a challenging look.

“You think no one’s noticed the looks you’ve been giving MacGraff when you think he ain’t watchin’?” Logan teased Tracy.

“I… okay, so what?”

“Just sayin’.” Logan shrugged innocently.

“Do you know Kevin?” Storm asked.

“Only a nodding acquaintance but he seems like a stand-up guy,” Logan answered.

Logan doesn’t play well with others – of either sex.”

“I’m better than I was. The Marines helped me with my loner issues. I only pulled off the age thing by aping other guys. Tracy’s brother, Jim, helped me a lot. At first, when I saw him with the company I was assigned to in Iraq, I thought I was screwed. Jim laughed at me for being an idiot and showed me the ropes to stay alive.”

“I think he’s glad he had you around in the…” Tracy began.

“Let’s not bore Storm with anymore of this,” Logan interrupted quickly.

“I told her about you, Jarhead. You saved my brother’s life. It’s about time someone outside my family knew about it. If you don’t like it, tough. I’ll have Jim fly back here and beat you like a red haired stepchild.”

The three laughed together over Tracy’s threat before Logan replied.

“Jim saved my butt just by teaching me being a Marine isn’t about surviving boot-camp, it’s about honoring all who went before us through our actions. Anyway, I like Kevin. I knew he was interested in you, so I told him he ought to speak up because you were in love with him.”

“You did not!” Tracy went for Logan’s throat, with both Logan and Storm laughing. Logan warded her off with practiced ease.

“Okay…okay, I didn’t mention anything about you loving him,” Logan admitted, gripping Tracy’s wrists.

“I think I liked you better when you weren’t so outgoing.” Tracy eased back into her seat as Logan released her. “We’d better finish up and get going, or they’ll be sending someone out from the back to drag you behind the counter.”

“We’ve only been eating for fifteen minutes,” Logan said, looking at his watch. “I still have fifteen minutes coming to me. Storm didn’t inhale her food like you did. You ought to write a book on how to devour a meal while talking your head off.”

“Fine, we’ll hang for a little while longer,” Tracy replied, ignoring Logan’s send up of her eating habits. “But no more talk of our dating wish lists.”

“Deal,” Logan assented. “I see Storm has her book bag which means you’re extorting her to be your tutor. If you two can wait around until eight, I’ll lock up and Storm can give us both a little tutoring.”

“I guess we can find enough to do for now,” Tracy agreed. “We can head over to my house. My Dad’s always happy to see you and it’ll give me a chance to intro Storm to them.”

“Good, now what’s the real deal with your interest in the Perkins Park monster, Storm? Don’t give me your CSI cover story either.”

“Do I question your wanting to remain a Marine?” Storm pointed out. “It’s a calling.”

Logan laughed appreciatively and nodded. “Okay, I had that coming.”

“You’ll be getting more than verbal smack-downs if you mention my table manners again,” Tracy mumbled ominously, incongruously putting a huge last bite of her whopper in her mouth.

* * * *

“This is nuts, Carol,” Nancy Alverson repeated for the fifth time in a hushed voice.

Nancy stood next to Carol Wangden, and a third girl named, Christine Vasquez. The three young women were dressed in jeans and black hooded sweatshirts, looking very much alike in the growing darkness. They huddled behind a bank of bushes on an upper slope overlooking the circular pathway around Perkins Park. Dry piles of leaves rustled in the cool Fall breeze, their crisp scraping sounds making the three companions glance around fearfully whenever the wind picked up. They had avoided the patrol car which made passes at regular intervals, the mounted spotlight casting the lighted sections it highlighted in eerie relief to the darkening background.

“Will you shut-up?!” Carol gripped Nancy’s arm threateningly. “I gave you a chance to back out and you came along with us anyway.”

Nancy’s right,” Christine said suddenly, standing up from where she had been crouching with the others. “I’m getting the hell out of here. This ain’t like playing Gremlins in our black hooded sweatshirts when we were in junior high school.”

“I’m staying,” Carol stated angrily, when Nancy straightened and walked over near Christine. “You two sissies go on before the Boogedy Man gets you.”

“Come on, Carol,” Nancy pleaded. “It was supposed to be like running up on the porch of a haunted house. I thought we’d go into the park and then run out. There’s something bad that took those girls and it’s real.”

“I’ve got my stun gun and pepper spray,” Carol said, waving the other two off. “I’m not afraid of this asshole.”

“You should be,” Christine said. “Let’s leave her to it, Nancy. We’ll walk home. We should never have let her drive us over here. Logan Stanfield works at the Burger King and I think he gets off at eight. He’d give us a ride. That way we don’t have to hear it from our folks when we’re late getting home.”

“Stanfield’s worse than this psycho terrorizing the park,” Carol retorted. “He’s probably murdered more people than this park jerk ever dreamed of.”

“You got shit for brains, Wangy,” Nancy retorted angrily. “Logan was a Marine in the war and you’re comparing him to this whacko out here taking teenage girls. I’ve had enough of this crap. C’mon, Chris.”

Carol watched her two friends walk hurriedly away, seething at the fact they had left her. She felt some relief her car was parked only a block away from the park to keep off the police radar. They were checking every license plate on all vehicles anywhere near the park. Fifteen minutes later, she was beginning to regret her decision.

The wind had picked up, swirling the crackling leaves around every few moments. Black and charcoal gray clouds rolled in, obscuring what little light there had been. In near darkness, every perceived movement sent chills shooting up Carol’s spine. She took some comfort in the lighting around the park pathway, but her night vision suffered when Carol looked away from the lighted area. Glancing continuously at her luminous watch dial, she rechecked her cell-phone for the hundredth time, making sure it was turned off. Fifteen more minutes, she thought, taking her stun gun out and turning it on.

Clutching the slim can of pepper spray in one hand and her stun gun in the other, Carol felt more reassured. The only reason she had engineered this ill conceived adventure was to impress Nancy and Chris. She swore under her breath remembering Nancy had given her an out. If Stanfield’s name had not come up, Carol knew she would have left with a little more prompting. Something about that self-righteous, scarred up goon rubbed her the wrong way.

Carol looked down toward the main park pathway, noticing a weird grainy aspect to her vision. The smell assaulted her olfactory senses, as the sulfurous odor of rotten eggs permeated the air around her. Carol gagged, stumbling as she turned too quickly. She fell backwards, landing on the hand holding her pepper spray. The can went sliding out from under her hand, and into the bushes. Carol triggered her stun-gun off and a thick blue arc crackled impressively as she extended it into the roiling film of darkness behind her. The entity gave ground momentarily, its pernicious trappings flowing in retreat with whatever hid inside. Carol, heart nearly pounding out of her chest, lurched upwards, continuing a steady bright blue sizzling snap from the electrodes of her stun-gun. Something gnarled and black snaked out from the darkness, raking across Carol’s wrist and sending the stun-gun flying out of her hand. Carol screamed in pain. She grabbed her injured wrist which bled profusely and ran for the road.

Tracy saw Nancy Alverson and Christine Vasquez hurry into the Burger King as if they were being chased. Both girls stopped abruptly inside the well lighted restaurant, visibly relieved to be there. Nancy looked around the nearly empty room, spotting Tracy and Storm with books spread out over the table they were at.

“Hey, Nanc,” Tracy greeted her with a wave. “C’mon over. What are you doing hanging around with Mistress Alverson, Chris? You slummin’?”

Storm turned in her seat, and waved at Nancy by way of greeting as the two girls walked toward their table. They laughed uneasily at Tracy’s greeting, glancing back outside through the large plate glass windows.

“Sit down, girls,” Tracy ordered. “Kind of late for fast food - what’s with the looks over the shoulder business? You two didn’t rob someone or something, did you?”

“We…we were messin’ around in the park with Carol,” Christine admitted.

“Carol’s a couple pancakes shy of a short stack,” Nancy added angrily, looking toward the counter. “Is Logan working tonight? We were hoping he could give us a lift home.”

“You two live across town, huh?” Tracy asked. “Oh yeah… Chris, this is Storm Crandall. She transferred in from Columbus, right?”

“Yes, Columbus,” Storm nodded. “Hi Chris.”

“Hey, you’re the one they’re making X-Men jokes about, huh?” Chris chuckled with a little wave of her hand. “Sophomore genius I’ve heard.”

“What in the world were you three doing in the park and where’s Carol?” Storm asked by way of reply.

“We used to have this stupid game we called Gremlins in junior high school,” Nancy answered. “Carol, Chris, and I would put on all black outfits, including black hooded sweatshirts. We’d climb up in this big tree out in front of Carol’s house when it got dark.”

“We’d scare the crap out of any kids straggling home,” Chris added. “Carol thought it’d be cool to hang out at Perkins, acting like Gremlins. I…I know how stupid this sounds, but…”

“Okay, but where’s Carol?” Storm repeated the question, a lump forming in her gut.

“She drove. We didn’t want to play anymore adolescent games, so she told us to take a hike,” Nancy retorted. “It’s freaky over there now with the damn wind blowing leaves around in the dark. I was creeped out just walking the short distance over here.”

“Me too,” Chris added. “Carol stayed and…”

“Anyhow,” Tracy said, looking at her watch, “it’s almost quitting time. Logan’s in the back. Hey, Tim, ask Logan to come out here, please.”

The young man at the counter smiled and nodded his assent, turning to walk into the back. Moments later, Logan walked around the counter, wiping his hands off on a clean towel.

“What’s up?” Logan asked, nodding familiarly at Nancy and Chris.

“Can you give Chris and I a ride home?” Nancy asked.

“Sure,” Logan agreed, looking puzzled. “What…”

“They were with Carol playing some kind of game in Perkins Park and Carol stayed there,” Storm blurted out, hoping Ted and Janet were listening.

Logan’s face darkened. Without saying another word, he tore off the apron he was wearing and gestured at Tim behind the counter.

“Something’s come up, Tim. We’re closing early tonight. Go ahead and take off.”

“Sure Logan,” Tim assented happily, hurrying around the counter and toward the door.

Tracy, it’s best if you take Storm home. I’ll lock Nancy and Chris up here and go talk some sense into that dingbat in the park.”

“I’m going with you,” Storm said suddenly as Nancy and Chris agreed to Logan’s direction immediately.

“Me too,” Tracy announced.

“Remember your Dad,” Logan reminded, jogging toward the door.

“He threatened me about my car being around Perkins.” Tracy hurried out after Logan and Storm. “Besides, it’ll only take us a second to corral Carol.”

* * * *

Ted threw down his head set and raced up the stairs of the home they were coordinating their undercover operation from. Janet jumped from the couch where she had been watching TV on her break.

“Grab your stuff, Jan, Storm’s going with Logan and the Tracy girl over to Perkins Park,” Ted reported succinctly, grabbing his jacket near the door and heading out with Janet close behind. “Some other girls were playing games in the park. One of them stayed behind. Logan immediately realized that wasn’t a good idea.”

“So, what does Wendy have to do with it?” Janet asked as she slipped into the passenger side of their Honda Accord.

“It sounded like she was trying to tip us off to this being serious,” Ted answered, starting the car and backing it out of the driveway. “Anyway, when Logan said he was going after this Carol girl, Storm said she was going too, followed by Tracy.”

“Thanks Wendy…” Janet leaned back with a sigh. “How do we handle this without blowing our covers?”

“We were worried. We went out hunting for her. Don’t pull your gun in front of the kids. Remember you’re her mommy and not her FBI handler.”

“If I was her mommy, I’d jump out of the car and kick the crap out of her.”

“You’re not giving me a warm and fuzzy feeling about any future plans you might have about motherhood, Jan,” Ted laughed. “This is probably nothing anyway.”

* * * *

“Oh my God!” Tracy screamed from the backseat. “What the hell is that?!!”

Logan and Storm, glanced in the direction Tracy was pointing as Logan drove the car along Mahoning Avenue fronting the park. They saw a clearly terrified Carol running out of the adjacent sparsely wooded area with some kind of billowing blackness slouching after her. Logan jammed on the brakes of his Pontiac, reaching under the seat and coming up with a tape handled two foot long lead pipe.

“Stay here!” Logan ordered, exiting the car at a dead run.

Storm ignored him and went out the passenger side at the same pace. Tracy called out after Storm to no avail. She immediately decided the back seat of Logan’s small, two door Pontiac Grand Am was not the place to be. By the time she scrambled over the front seat and out the passenger side door, Carol had fallen and was scrambling on all fours, making heart rending little screams in between gasps for air. Tracy ran after her friends as the opaque cloud drew near Carol. Tracy heard a car screech to a halt behind her, and glanced back to see Ted and Janet clamber out of their Honda.

“What the…” Janet managed to exclaim before simply shutting up and following Ted, who had not paused for even a second before running after the convergence before them.

A gnarled, slimy, blackish limb snaked out of the darkness, reaching for Carol, who let out an ear piercing scream of pure terror. Logan swung at a dead run, connecting full force with the thing extending from the cloud. A hideous cracking sound as if fifty powder dry branches had snapped at once blotted out all sound for a split second before howls of agony and rage echoed out from the cloud. The blackness rolled back suddenly as Logan halted to face it, between it and Carol. Appearing to grow upwards, snapping wisps of fragmented nightmare lunged out of the cloud as Logan swung the lead pipe in short concerted strokes. Storm, controlling her breathing with difficulty, ran up beside Logan, her arms raised over her head, palms outward.

EVOCATIO VALCYRIARUM, CONTUBERNALIA GLADIARIA,” Storm shouted out in commanding voice, repeating it over and over, as a torrent of wind driven debris hurtled into the darkness, driving it back.

With a final shriek of rage, the thing dissipated into the air as Tracy reached her friends. The silence following the disappearance of the black cloud hung in the air so thickly it felt almost as if it were a tangible substance. Logan gripped the lead pipe with both hands, his chest heaving, looking down at Storm in disbelief. Storm stood still in place, her arms upraised to the night sky. A stiff breeze blew her hair back in a panorama around her face. Eyes closed, and hands clenched in fists now instead of palms outward, Storm smiled a tight, thin lipped smile of satisfaction.

13 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I only had time for a quick scan. Looks like good stuff. I like the magical language at the end. Where did you come up with those terms?

BernardL said...

Thanks for taking another look, Charles. I researched the spells, symbols, and incantations in STORM using numerous demonology, religious and Wiccan websites. Storm explains the meaning in the next chapter. :)

Miladysa said...

*!*

It just got really interesting!


A thought crossed my mind... Tracy... Thunderbirds ;D

BernardL said...

Thanks Miladysa. No Thunderbirds. :)

Miladysa said...

No Thunderbirds? :(

LOL

raine said...

Oh I enjoyed it, lol.

BernardL said...

I'm glad, Raine. Thanks for the feedback. :)

Beth Partin said...

Yeah, this one was good. I like Carol--she's not as bad as the woman in the horror movie who opens the door, you know? She's a little dumb but tough too.

BernardL said...

Great, Beth, I'm glad this chapter entertained. Carol is a tough one. Once she's on Storm's side, Carol doesn't back away.

Virginia Lady said...

Nice piece. Well done, Bernard.

BernardL said...

I appreciate your input, VL. Thank you.

Vesper said...

Very interesting Carol’s encounter with the… unknown… I don’t think you should call it “entity” just yet, since it’s only odours and shadows… A gripping scene! The final scene of the chapter, too, is very intense.

BernardL said...

Thank you, Vesper, I'm very glad you enjoyed this segment. It gets much more intense.