Blackwoods Bend - Chap 14
It shouldn’t be any surprise to you that the police were getting suspicious of us. We’d had no choice but to call them, as we all agreed that trying to cover up the supernatural murder of yet another one of our friends would probably ensure bad karma, and our own bloody deaths. HPD arrived, and the coroner took Tiffany’s head while we were questioned; once together, twice individually, and then again altogether.
The officers had assured us that James was in stable condition, but they had seemed wary to let us go. We were all telling the truth about where we were when the incident occurred. Rochelle would have to go in for further questioning, since she’d been alone in the kitchen most of the time, but Inga promised her that everything would be all right. The tone that Inga had used sounded like she had an ace up her sleeve, and I was curious as to what that was.
We somehow found our appetites again by the time evening had fallen, and as the kitchen was out of service, we found a local restaurant to get dinner. Inga had asked that we bring something back for her, but her energy for the day was depleted, and she couldn’t go with us. We said our goodbyes, then piled into the car to drive the few minutes to the restaurant. It was a small building, and it was scarcely populated.
We all sat around a big table, silent and still after our meals, except for Amy, who flipped through the drink menu to look at their alcohol selection. “Wonder what a Howlin’ Angel Spritz is?” she asked almost under her breath.
“Does it not say?” Will asked, staring at his half-finished mashed potatoes.
“Oh, yeah. It’s a double shot of straight whiskey, and—oh. You drop a jalapeno into the whiskey, drink it all at once, and then spray yourself in the face with a squirt bottle. What the hell?” Amy asked, looking up at all of us with a bewildered expression on her face.
“Some people chase ghosts, Ames. Some people chase heartburn,” I said before resting my elbows on the table. Marianne slipped her hand into the crook of my arm, and I put a hand over hers.
“Both seem stupid,” Amy said, arching a brow.
“I hunted monsters for my ancestor. From the time I was sixteen until I was almost twenty-one,” I said keeping my tone even, needing to finish telling them what happened, and that seemed the best segue.
Will looked around us wildly. “What if somebody heard you?
I knew they hadn’t. The only other people in the place were back in the kitchen, or across the room talking a little too loudly. Too many Howling Angel Spritzers, if you asked me. “Even if somebody heard me, what would they do? What would they say? That bein’ said…” I tapped the fingertips of my right hand on the table for a moment, contemplating how to let them know that they had a murderer in their midst. “My parents’ deaths weren’t an accident.”
Amy sat up straighter in her chair, looking at me concerned. “What does that mean?”
I took a deep breath, trying to find the courage before continuing. “My dad was hellbent on burnin’ down Blackwoods Forest. To protect me, you know. Thought that he’d stop me from wanderin’ and seein’ Things if he just burned the damned thing down. He had gasoline, and he and my mother were gonna burn the woods to the ground, and salt the ashes.”
“Like that chant you dreamed about,” Will said, pointing a finger at me.
“Just like it. I kept repeatin’ it, and he finally decided to put a stop to it,” I explained. “Andrew mandated me to stop my dad, however necessary. I didn’t take into account the loose gravel on the road, or the ravine. I just reached forward, and I yanked the wheel.”
“Danny…Danny, are you sayin’—no. No, you wouldn’t hurt a fly,” Amy said, shaking her head. “Marianne, did you know all this? You knew all this time, and you didn’t say anything?”
“She couldn’t. I made her swear not to,” I said in Marianne’s defense. She was innocent in all of this, and Amy should be upset with me, not her. “I’ve had to do things I hated. Things that I wasn’t proud of. Marianne was right there by my side through the good and the bad. She only did what I asked her to do.”
Will seemed to put two and two together, finally. “I get it. Her knowledge of you, how close y’all are—you were together before you forgot everything.”
“We lived together for nearly four years. We moved into the rental house the weekend after graduation,” Marianne said, leaning her cheek against my shoulder. “These years without him have been…hard.”
“You, like, just waited for him for nearly six years? You never dated anybody else?” Amy asked with a frown.
“I’m a librarian, Amy. The last three people to come into the library, before all of this kicked up, were Danny, Marj, and Danny,” Marianne explained before looking up at me. “I love him, and he was goin’ through life without knowin’ who he really was. The least I could do was to be faithful to him.”
Call me sappy, but I had never felt anything like the pride and love I felt for Marianne as she beamed a smile at me. I smiled back at her before kissing her firmly on the forehead. “I love you,” I whispered to her. There was a beat of silence before Will and Amy stood to their feet. “Where are y’all goin’ in such a hurry?”
“We’re payin’ the bill, then we’re runnin’ to the liquor store—that’s where we’re goin’,” Will said over his shoulder as he walked away.
“We should go with them,” Marianne said, turning in her chair to stand to her feet. I reached my hand out to take hers, tugging her to a stop. I tried to gather up my thoughts to tell her just how I felt about her—words that might go beyond merely speaking them, until they became vivid. Marianne shook her head so softly I thought I might have imagined it, then she bent down, putting one hand to the side of my face as she kissed me. “I know, Danny. You don’t have to say anything, and I know.”
I stood up from the table, kissing her again quickly before she walked in the direction of the front of the restaurant. I fished my wallet out of my back pocket to take out cash for the tip, tossing the money down on the table. I walked in the direction the others had gone as I shoved my wallet back into my pocket, and Marianne came rushing towards me, a frantic look on her face. “What is it?” I asked, placing my hands on her waist.
Marianne bit down on her bottom lip, tears welling in her eyes. “Will and Amy aren’t in here anymore, and I was afraid to be alone.”
“He won’t hurt you, Mari,” I said, wrapping my arms around her tightly. I hated the reason that I knew Andrew wouldn’t harm her. He needed her, just like he needed me. “We’ll find Will and Amy, okay? We’ll find them.”
Marianne and I looked all around the restaurant for Will and Amy, finding no trace of them. Part of me knew exactly where they were, but still another part of me wanted to hold out hope. These people were my friends when I’d had no one else, and now they needed me. We took the SUV, racing back to Inga’s. If she had a solution to all of this, then I needed it quickly. I held Marianne’s hand tightly as we raced up the path to the main house, and Inga was already there waiting for us at the front door. She set two suitcases down in front of us, handing me a credit card. “What’s this?”
“That card is loaded with more money than the Devil himself can acquire, and your duds have been packed up for you. Take that car o’ yours, an’ drive as far an’ as fast as you can. Don’t you look back,” Inga said firmly.
Run away. Inga’s solution was to abandon my friends, abandon the town, and run from it all. “That’s not gonna happen, Inga. I’m goin’ back to that town, and I’m endin’ this!”
“There is no end to this, boy. They’re in a perpetual battle between the two o’ them, and they ain’t never gonna stop. The only way you’re gonna get ridda’ both of ’em is if you do what both of ’em want, and you can’t do that, now can you?” Inga asked, propping her hands on her hips.
I hung my head, setting my jaw. Inga was right—no matter what I chose these things would still keep happening. Maybe Marianne and I should just run away. Live our lives free of the burden of the Harsons and Blackwoods Bend. I turned to search her eyes. Whatever she wanted I would do. Whatever choice Marianne made for us now, she deserved her say.
She took a deep breath, bending down to pick up her suitcase. “We need to go back to Blackwoods Bend.”
Our decision was made. My heart went wherever she went, and she decided that we were going to fight. “If we’re goin’ to Blackwoods Bend, why do you need the suitcase? Don’t you have clothes at your apartment?”
“This was the plan,” Marianne said. “If you came back, and we had to make the choice, these bags and your inheritance from the Bludstans would be ready for us. My pictures of us are in here.”
“I understand.” I reached down to pick up my own suitcase. I had no idea what she would have packed for me, but it didn’t really matter. I held the credit card out for Inga to take back. “We won’t need this to disappear.”
“That’s Bludstan money, and we’re the last two. Take it,” Inga insisted. “I wish you both the best of luck.”
We were going to need it.
The old Harson homestead had burned to the ground, with not a beam of structure standing, and nothing salvageable from within its walls. After eleven years the lot was mostly grown up with weeds and tall, dry grass as the land tried to take it all back. It was nearly midnight when Marianne and I pulled up in the grown-up, gravel driveway. I put the car in park, before leaning my arms against the steering wheel as I scanned the landscape in front of me. Being back in this place was surreal, and I took it all in for a moment.
“Why are we here, Danny?” Marianne asked softly.
I looked up at the layer of space where the second story of the house should have been, where my room once was. “Hell…I reckon that the messages keep sayin’ ‘come home’, so I came home. I’m here, but I don’t know what to do now.”
There was a knocking at Marianne’s window, and she jumped, grabbing a hold of my arm and my shirt, before she realized who we were looking at, and she relaxed a little. “Marj,” she gasped in relief, pressing the button to roll down her window. “Marjorie! You scared the bejesus out of me!”
“You oughta be scared, Marianne Thomas!” Marj said grimly. “What on God’s green Earth’re you youngin’s out here for? You shouldn’t even be here together! I thought you knew better!”
“I’m just followin’ instructions,” I said, cutting the engine. Marianne and I climbed out of the car, each slam of the car doors setting my nerves on edge. “This was my home. That’s what all of the messages have been saying. I went to the Harson manor, and nothing changed—they surely don’t mean the house I live in now. Everything started here, so this is where it ends.”
“You seem plum sure o’ that, son. And if’n you’re wrong?” Marj asked, squinting one eye at me.
“Then I go back to the drawin’ board,” I said, propping my hands on my hips.
“Boy, the drawin’ board’s been blown up, burnt down, and scattered on the wind. You gotta do, now,” Marj insisted, taking his cap off to scratch his thin, white hair before plopping it back onto his head.
I sighed as I scanned the area all around us. There was nothing and no one but the SUV, the spot where the house should have been, Marianne, and Marj.
Wait, Danny. There’s only the SUV, the spot where the house should have been, Marianne, and Marj. It dawned on me then. “Marj, where’d you park, Eastaboga? How did you get out here?”
Marj raised his eyebrows, looking around as if he was a little confused. “Well, I…I don’t reckon I know.”
Marianne took a slight step away from Marj, closer to me. “Are you okay?” she asked, holding out a hand.
“I feel jus’ fine,” Marj said, patting his hands down his chest. A startled expression grew on his features, and he looked up to me and Marianne. “In fact, I ain’t ailin’ from nothin’ a’tall.”
Marianne looked up at me as she grabbed my forearm. “What’s that mean, Danny? You know what that means?”
I swallowed hard, biting the inside of my cheek as I thought of how to say what needed to be said. Finally, I went with the most to the point answer. There was no reason to sugar coat things now. The evil emanating from Blackwoods Bend Road was like an acid that ate away all of our defenses, leaving just the bare bones of the truth. “I’m sorry to inform you, Marj, that you’ve died. You’re a ghost.”
“He’s a ghost,” Marianne said, a hitch of emotion in her voice. “Oh, Marj.”
Marj appeared to take a deep breath, at least it sounded like he did. That was an impossibility, though, as ghosts have no lungs to fill. “Welp,” he said, raising his eyebrows for a moment. “I suppose I was gettin’ on in years. Hell, probably better to get outta Dodge before whatever’s about to happen. Must be a reason for me comin’ out here, though…Oh, I’m supposed to give you this.”
He held out his hand, and in a blink there was a rolled up sheet of old, yellowed paper. I reached out, taking it from him as I scrambled to unroll it to read what it said: Die beiden mussen enden. More German that I didn’t speak, nor read. “It would help if the supernatural forces would send me messages that I don’t need a translator for,” I said, holding the paper out as Marianne read it with a frown.
Marj took the paper back from me. “Says, ‘The two must end.’ ‘Die beiden mussen enden’.”
“You speak German?” I asked, tilting my head as I furrowed my brow. Marj spoke in a southern dialect, and we southerners are notorious for chopping up words. Marjorie Frame was no exception to that. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard you speak in plain English!”
“I was a mighty sight younger’n you when I ran off to fight in the War. Told ’em I was eighteen, but I was fifteen. Lucky I was tall and burly. I picked up on German pretty quick over there. Ya’see, son…You been through one kinda Hell, learnin’ from bein’ tossed into it. I been through another.”
“What do you think this message means?” I asked, though I knew in my heart already what it was trying to tell me to do. I didn’t know where the message had come from, but someone was pointing the way.
“My guess? Somebody wants the Harsons gone for good, an’ that’ll be up to you to decide,” Marj said, taking a few steps backward. “I gotta be headin’ on. Try to have some faith in yourself, Danny, and listen to your gut. Take care’a your sweetheart. Y’all be good, now.”
A breeze picked up, and in a breath he was gone, as if he’d never stood there, taking the message left for me along with him as Marianne cried softly, in mourning. “I have to destroy both of them. How am I supposed to do that?”
Marianne wrapped her arms around me tightly, resting her head on my shoulder. “I think you’ll know when it’s time for you to.” She raised herself up on her tip-toes, pressing a kiss to my jaw. “Danny, I want you to know tha—”
Instantly my arms were empty, and Marianne had vanished. I panicked, waving my hands through the air as if she was somehow there, but had turned invisible. “Mari? No, no, no, no!” I knotted my fingers in my hair, pacing a few steps in one direction, before turning to take a few steps the opposite way. I didn’t know where to go, or what to do next. “I’m here!” I shouted, holding my arms out like I was presenting myself. “I did what you wanted, and I’m here! You’ve got me! Give her back!”
“You haven’t done as I’ve instructed you to,” a raspy voice whispered on the wind.
“Victorvina,” I said, grinding my teeth together in a rage. “Marianne is not a part of this!”
“She is now. You brought her into our world. Andrew thinks that your line will continue, keeping me imprisoned here in these woods. I will never allow it,” Victorvina said, her voice growing stronger. “Burn it down, from the inside out…”
“Burn it down, spread salt throughout,” I finished for her, feeling bitter and trapped. For a moment I stood there grieving, seething with anger. Marianne didn’t deserve to vanish into nothing like the other victims of the Road, and I was tired of being manipulated. “If I set you free—if I burn Blackwoods Forest down—will you give Marianne back to me, whole and safe?” There was no answer for a moment, only the soft, cold breeze. Finally, like a backwards echo Victorvina spoke again.
“I will consider it,” Victorvina whispered.
She would consider it? I shook my head, knowing that answer was better than an out-and-out no. “One more thing. How do I destroy Andrew?” I asked, setting my jaw.
“Leave Andrew to me,” Victorvina said.
Though I couldn’t see her, I knew that her dry, rotted skin must be pulled back in a gruesome grin. I stalked towards the driver side door of the SUV, pausing as I pulled the door open. “I’m coming, Victorvina,” I said, glaring at the tree line that surrounded the property. “I’ll meet you on the Road.”