The Succubus (9)

I’m not lost. I know exactly where I’m headed. I waited down the road for Frank’s truck to crawl through the driveway, but two hours past sundown and he’s still a no show for Alice and the kids at home. I cry, scream, rattle my head back and forth and bang it on the steering wheel as my knuckles grip it and go white. Tears pour out my bloodshot eyes in buckets. My screams are shrill. I feel the veins in my neck pop and pulse. I can wait here no longer. It’s not so hard to figure out and to Northridge I go. There I find his truck. I park in the back of the lot under a broken street lamp waiting for him to emerge. I can’t go in there like this. I sense hysteria settling in, and I could snap his neck like a twig. I have nowhere else to direct my rage. Frank knows something about those murders, something about this succubus of mine, and if I must choke the life out of him to get that information, so be it. What about Alice? None of what’s going on with Maple happened to Alice — no mystery falls from ladders, black encrusted cocoons, two irises in each eye vibrating like a plucked guitar string. None of it. Why not her? And how did he know…I mean really know about Luna — his Oriah?

The old, lacquered wood door swings out wild on its hinges. I recognize his laugh before I get a glimpse of his face and I’m already out of the truck and pounding down the pavement, fists ready for a brawl. Frank turns and flicks off the bouncer before I’ve reached him coming up from along the side of the building, past the dumpsters.

“What are you so fucking touchy about sweethearts? A waitress, a dancer, what’s the difference?” Frank yells at the closing door in front of him, stumbling along. I walk up and grab him by the back of the neck, nearly holding him on his tip toes.

“Come with me, Frank. You’re too drunk to drive.” I grind the words out. He recognizes my voice as easily as I recognized his and the length of his body grows rigid.

“Get your god damn hands off me.” He yells, but it does him little good. I’ve already made it past the dumpster with him, stumbling and kicking along as we do. I drag him back to the truck and slam him against the cab.

“Why Maple, Frank? What’s happening to Maple?”

“How the fuck should I know. I don’t even know what you mean.”

“You do. Luna wants to possess Maple. How do I stop her?” I push Frank upright as he staggers.

“You told her no, huh? Not a smart move, Tyler. I warned you. She’ll just take it.”

“What about Alice? She’s fine.”

“Oh, no. You have no idea what you’re in for. Just wait until your Luna starts taking over Maple’s mind. Alice tried to kill me twice last year. It was all I could do not to committed her. That’s why the kids spent half the year with their grandparents. Nerves, they said. So, we sent them away. I told no one. Who was I going to tell, anyway?” Frank throws up his arms in defeat. I let loose of my hold on him.

“And, now?”

Franks laughs at me. “And now what? Now, I do what Oriah wants. She asks a lot, but I can’t argue. She knows I’ll never love her, but she won’t move on. She said she would, but those were lies. She lies. She’s never letting me go. Not until she’s drained me dry.” Frank moves around me slowly and pokes me in the shoulder. “And what about you? Did you think it was going to be easy? Did you think I made it all up?”

“What about the witches or is that all bullshit, too?”

“Witches? What witches? Find me a real witch and I’ll gladly do whatever voodou chicken-plucking dance they want. And how do you suppose we go about finding one of those?” Frank’s confession gives me a glimmer of hope.

“Somebody did that to those girls, to their bodies. Someone is responsible.”

Frank laughs in my face, again. “Witches? Really, Tyler?”

“What about the hunter that killed himself? You said he found the body. You said the police thought he did it but got there too late.”

“I found the body, Tyler, old boy.” Frank pats me on the shoulder. “I just had the sense not to tell anyone. The Mounties hunted him down all right, but obviously, they had the wrong man considering the state of — what’s her name — April?” I throw Frank back against to the truck.

“Come on, man. Don’t you want to find who’s responsible? Don’t you want to do it for yourself, for Alice?”

“Don’t try and make this about me. I was getting along just fine until your Luna showed up. This is about you, about Maple.” I slam my hand down next to Frank’s head.

“You’re damn right it is.” I don’t have any words left for Frank standing in the parking lot of a strip joint. “Get in the truck. I’m taking you home.” I do all I can not to rip his throat out like a crazed werewolf during a full moon. I force him into the truck with a heavy hand.

“Get off me, Tyler. What? Do you think we’re somehow in this together? I would have kept my mouth closed if I knew you would take it like a bitch.” I cut him off, my rage still brewing.

“How am I supposed to take it Frank? Maple’s in the hospital and I’m grasping at straws here. You said you were getting along just fine before. How? How have you lived like this for over a year? You just give in?”

“It ain’t all bad, man. When you keep her happy, you know how good it can be, how it feels. It can get even better if you just let go and let her take you.” Frank didn’t see what I saw. He didn’t feel the burn, the powerlessness. He continues to praise the beast. “She’s beyond resistance. She’ll enchant you, and if you let her have her way, she’ll start to leave Maple alone. Have you spoken to her?”

“God damn it, Frank. I’m already married to one woman. Hell, I don’t even believe in this kind of shit. What am I saying? There’s got to be a medical explanation for what’s happening to Maple. These are just hallucinations, paranoia, demented dreams, shock. I must still be in shock from finding that girl.” I don’t know who I’m trying to convince more, myself or Frank, but he just laughs.

“Lighten up, Tyler. Go with it. That’s my advice.” Frank passes out hard in the passenger seat. I make the drive back to his house and dump him at the door. Alice comes out to pick him up from his leaning position against the railing.

“Thanks, Ty. It’s been one of those weeks. How’s Maple? Is her leg healing fine?” Alice hides her suspicions well if she has any.

“She’s back at the hospital. They don’t know what’s going on yet. It’s her eyes this time.” Alice’s face drops into a stoic stare before Frank saves her with his groans. She scoops him up under one shoulder.

“Well, I hope she gets better, Ty. We all do.” She shuts the door and I stand under the soft glow of the porch light.

***

The lights in the empty room hover like heat lamps in the chilly station. Everyone has gone home for the day and the skeleton crew in the station keeps things in order. There are the occasional bookings, though aside from a drunk driver or domestic dispute, most action escapes the night. Gates reviews his files, the evidence, the strings on the wall map leading from one victim to the other. Their paths never crossed. One is a small-town girl and the other a burgeoning feminist at an exclusive college her parents are leveraged up to the hilt to afford. Something big is missing. Gates wrote it off due to the pristine condition of the bodies, but now with his forehead in his head squeezing at his temples he must give in to a hunch. He knows only one person that can convince him it’s a lead worth following. Gates draws the shades and snatches the evidence bag containing the black mesh scarf. He cuts off a piece small enough to have been damaged or missing from the retrieval around the tree. He places that piece inside a blue latex glove and pockets it. No one notices his exit. The night clerk toying with his phone doesn’t look up until the door swings closed behind Gates.

Inside his classic ’56 white and green mustang, Gates pulls out his phone. His impatience grows with each unanswered ring. He tosses the phone into the seat next to him and engages the clutch. It’s best this matter be discussed in person after all. He’s glad George didn’t answer. How has it come down to this? He asked for George’s help once before on an Amber Alert. He never doubted George’s instincts then, and he doesn’t now. He’s not looking forward to getting the answers that are now out of his reach, out of anyone’s reach, but the dead. As Gates pulls up George is standing in his doorway, the heavy oak door ajar. He knew Gates was coming. That doesn’t settle Gates’ nerves a bit as he parks next to the red and white classic pick-up truck George restored from scratch.

“Sorry, George. I tried to call.”

“No worries, Everest. What brings you out my way?”

“I think you know.”

“I hoped myself wrong.”

“Sorry, again, old pal. I brought you something, but we’ll burn it before we’re done. Understand?”

“Sadly, I do. Come in. Let’s begin.” George extends his arm to Gates and he enters the warm cabin with a fire raging in the hearth. Th pair take seats in worn red, leather recliners that rock and sway under their heavy bodies. Looking across to George, Gates pulls the latex glove from his pockets and hands it over.

“Careful of what’s inside this, George. It’s evidence.”

“From the most recent killing I take it.”

“Yes.”

“Did you bring a token from the first killing?” George asks under a raised eyebrow. Gates leans back surprised by the question.

“No. Why would I do that? I’m risking enough brining this much to you.”

“It could have made the connection more obvious.” George peeks inside the blue glove careful not to disturb the contents. “New cult members often show their devotion with a ritual killing. If I do this, Everest, there’s no going back for me. Once the connection is made I won’t be able to simply cut the cords. It doesn’t work that way. Not for the true seers. There’s just so few of us that it’s easier to let people believe the shams out there. No true seer wants that kind of attention anyway. This isn’t pleasant, this gift, if you want to call it that.”

“But you were fine after the Rusky case. We found the girl.”

“That’s my meaning exactly, Everest. You found the Rusky girl. If you hadn’t I would have still been there with her at the hands of that monster right up until the end.”

“This girl has already met her end, George.”

“And now I have to relive it if I’m going to offer you any clues to her demise. Please excuse the delayed parade on my part.”

“George…”

“Everest. There’s something you need to know first. This woman is now an entity and she’s attached herself to Tyler Kingsman. She’s a nasty, malevolent spirit. I saw her myself. Tyler could barely stand up on his own at work and I could see the pale thing hanging off his back, her arms wrapped around his chest. I knew you’d be here soon enough. She got a good glimpse of me.”

Gates’ mouth hangs dry as a desert day. “So, you already know the details?” Gates’ heart rises into his throat.

“Not by a longshot. I don’t know how comfortable I am getting involved in this one, Everest. This thing. It’s strong. To be visible, even to someone as sensitive as me, in the daytime, on his back like that, she wanted me to see, to see her. It’s like she’s waiting for me. Everest, man, I’m afraid of this one. I’m not gonna bullshit ya.”

“Georgi, c’mon. We’ve been doing this together since we were kids. What could be worse than the…”

“That’s what I’m telling you Everest. This is worse and I’m no exorcist. I’m a medium, which means if she wants a new way through to the outer world, I’m like an expressway.” Gates shakes his head at the news.

“Is there anything else you can help me with, Georgi?”

“Maybe. Frank Roy. He hasn’t been the same since the girl’s body was found. He’s been hyper aggressive and he’s drawing Tyler in. To what, I can’t say. That’s it, man. I think it’s time you get going.”

“George, hold onto the glove. If you change your mind let me know.” George picks up the blue latex from his knee and balls it up in his fist. Aiming for the fire, George’s body seizes as a swatch of cloth hangs from the glove and brushes against his palm before he can throw it away. George finds himself surrounded by darkness with voices clear as bells chiming in his head.

“It’s him!” A crowd shouts. The darkness begins to collapse into George’s orifices and his body trembles as Gates dare not touch his friend suspended somewhere between being frozen in time and a spasm standing in front of the flames. George’s body flies back into his recliner and his eyes lock to the ceiling in pinpoints. Gates no longer hesitates. He moves George to the floor and begins CPR. Gates hesitates to pull his phone from his pocket and dials 9–1–1. He continues compressions holding the phone between his chin and shoulder as he jolts his body weight onto George’s chest.

***

“Tyler?” Henry nudges me with his foot as my big body blocks the exit from his loft over the bakery. “How long have you been out here?” A long-legged beauty in a short skirt no doubt from the night before stands behind Henry in her heels looking down at me from over his shoulder. He makes being single look easy. Henry offers his hand and pulls me up like during our school days on the field.

“I didn’t know where else to go, Henry. It’s Maple. She’s in the hospital and they think it’s serious this time.”

“Have you gone home, Tyler? Jesus, when was the last time you slept?” All are reasonable questions from a concerned friend though the truth is I have no idea what led me to his doorstep last night. Maybe it was for an alibi in the case Frank wound up dead in a ditch somewhere.

“I’m sorry, Henry, Candy.” All three of us stare at one another. Henry turns to his girlfriend skeptical.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you two knew one another.”

She looks at me as skeptical as Henry. “We don’t. Excuse me, but have we met?” Her voice has a tone shellacked on top that I’m to answer no, even though the answer is in fact no. I’ve never met the woman.

“I’m sorry. You look like someone I know. I’m Tyler. And you are?” Henry glares at her before she replies.

“I’m Candice.”

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