Paranormal the Series – Episode 7
Title: “Something Wicked This Way Comes”
Author: Robert M. Gunn
Tuesday, 8 May 2012
· A copyright for the book/episode, “Something Wicked This Way Comes” by Robert M. Gunn is pending for application. The author does reserve all legal and intellectual copyrights to this original material. No copying, whether mechanical or electrical is allowed without permission of the writer.
It moved forward in the darkness, edging closer and closer to Natassia. Every time she turned to look, the hulking, shambling, dark mass gained on her. She ran faster. Branches, cold and wet with snow, smacked her in the face threatening to blind her. She ducked them, and sprinted as far as she could run. Natassia had no idea what followed her – what it was that chased her – she only knew she dare not let it catch her. Her mind raced to think, but her thoughts were scrambled, jumbled. Her thinking was incoherent. The only thing she was sure about was that she had to keep running. After several minutes, she stopped. She was winded and sore, her legs felt like jelly. She yearned to hide in the darkness, or behind a big snow-covered tree, and let the man, or thing, pass her by. However, as much as she wanted to rest, she heard the sound of large footfalls not too far away.
“How can it keep up with my walking like that? Why can’t I
outrun him!?” she screamed in her mind, not daring to make a sound in the real
world. She peered behind her, trying to determine just what it was that was stalking
her, and how close it was. She could not see much in the darkness, despite the
white glare of the moon on the fresh, crisp snow. Then she heard a low moan, or
perhaps a growl. It was closer than she expected! Natassia spun on her heels
and ran again, this time with even more urgency. She ran for what felt like an
hour but was probably minutes. Suddenly, a limb from a snow-covered pine tree
caught her in the right side of her face and she let out a small cry and fell
hard to the ground near the tree. Natassia tried to get up quickly, but her
hair was wrapped around her face and plastered there by cold, melting snow from
her tears and sweat. She was only aware of sounds, and the loudest was her own
breathing. Again, from behind her, she heard movement and footsteps. She tried
to get up, but she had no strength left in her legs, and she was having trouble
getting the hair and snow out of her face. Her pursuer made a sound – not quite
human, yet recognizable. It was an odd sort of laugh. It was just a one
syllable laugh, bone chilling and almost animalistic. Fear and panic washed
over her. She knew it was close. If only she could see!
Natassia managed to get to her feet with every bit of strength she had left, and quickly, and as quietly as possible, she began pulling the tangled hair with snow away from her eyes. When she could see again, she was facing a large pine tree and she knew this was the direction she had been running. Whatever was chasing her was behind her. Natassia whirled around in one swift movement, surprising herself with how much strength she still had inspired from fear alone. She did not see anything, not even footprints. She moved more hair from her pretty face, and blinked. She started to scan the periphery of her vision. Still she saw nothing. Maybe she had outrun it? Were those sounds her own, as she was moving through the snowy forest? She smiled briefly. She got away.
Just as she was relishing her moment of triumph, she smelled an unholy smell. It was a smell she had smelled once before in the attic of that old mansion, and the dead women there. It was the smell of death and decay. Frightened again, she looked around for the source of the foul odor, and then heard a soft, deep chuckle coming from behind her!
Natassia once again turned around but this time, a blur of the dark mass was standing right in front of her, and it smelled of death. She started to scream, but strong hands were quickly around her throat, cutting off her scream, and her breath. Natassia struggled with the man, or what might be a man, as she tried to scratch at his face. He lifted her off the ground by her neck and held at arms length, keeping her from laying a hand on him. She kicked and fought but she could feel the desire to quit, to sleep. It was an overpowering urge to fall into dark nothingness, and freedom. As Natassia succumbed to eternal sleep, she got one clear look at the man’s face. It looked like Nick! She felt her life drain from her. She stopped kicking and went limp in his grip, her feet swaying in the cold, winter night air.
“Nick, nooooo!” Natassia cried out from her slumber.
“Are you all right?” Nick asked concerned for his girlfriend.
“What? Why are you…” Natassia’s mind slowly adjusted to the real world, from the world of her nightmare. She did not finish her question.
“Why am I what?” Nick asked, concerned.
They were driving a rented Explorer on their way to a new assignment. It was an odd assignment and they had both been very curious and a little anxious about it. For one thing, it was far from their home in California. The assignment was in the northeast corner of Idaho near The Grand Teton Mountains, and it was some of the worst driving country Nick had ever seen, especially when it began to snow.
“It was just a really dumb dream,” she finally replied, as she caught her breath. “A really bad, scary, dumb dream that I could live a long time without ever having again,” she finished.
“Want to tell me about it?” Nick coaxed.
“No. Where are we?” Natassia changed the subject quickly, and took out their map of the area.
Nick worried about her. She had terrible dreams and even night terrors ever since her encounter in that house with the human, or part-human abomination in it, the year before. She had made very good progress in recent months, and the dreams and terrors had begun to subside. Nick was concerned they might start again, but if Natassia decided she did not want to talk about something, he knew there was little point in pressing her on the matter.
”We are just about to the border of Idaho and Colorado. We started into these mountains some time ago, while you were sleeping,” Nick explained.
“It’s beautiful,” Natassia remarked after lifting her head
out of the map long enough to look around. And it was beautiful, if a little
intimidating. The area was so mountainous, that the Explorer seemed to be
driving straight uphill, although they were clearly on an incline. Years ago,
men had blasted this area clear for highways, and the long drills they used to
plant the dynamite and to dig out the exploded rubble, left a system of
channels that looked to Natassia like arteries running down the steep canyon
walls. But it was not until she turned around and looked behind her to where
they had come from that she fully appreciated the natural beauty and awesome
nature of the place.
From her view behind them, it was like looking down into a child’s valley play pen, with small houses, even whole tiny villages, and more frighteningly, tiny cities.
“Nick, how far up have we climbed?” Natassia asked, a hint of both awe and fear in her voice.
“Seems like we should be close to the stratosphere soon,” Nick replied casually. Heights, mountains, physical things did not bother Nick. In fact, the height and the view invigorated him.
“You are enjoying this,” Natassia remarked smiling.
“Come on Natassia, you have to admit this is beautiful: nature at its best. Yes, it is awesome,” Nick declared then added, “I used that word appropriately this time.”
“Well, I have to admit this is impressive to see. I just won’t
be looking too hard to the left,” she remarked with a flick of her wrist in
Nick looked across the lane. The far side beyond the road had disappeared from view from the two-lane highway. If for some inexplicable reason, he inwardly admitted, they were to go off that side of the road; they would certainly be in for a very long ride down.
“Yes, what a view!” Nick said, ignoring Natassia’s apprehension. “We will be fine. I’m a good driver,” Nick reminded her.
Just as he said that the snow started to fall harder in large, white tufts, and began to stick to the highway.
“Snow. Wonderful. That literally adds icing to the scary cake,” Natassia sarcastically teased. She shook the image of her terrible nightmare away, and curled up next to Nick in the front seat. She wanted to go back to sleep, to get through this part of the strange journey, but in the back of her mind that nightmare kept clawing at her consciousness, keeping her wide awake.
“Tell me again why we have to come all the way out here for a job?” she asked rhetorically.
“Money, my love,” Nick teased her. The raison d’etre for all good and loyal Americans – the love and accumulation of money,” Nick teased back. “Or so politicians keep telling me.”
“Been watching the republican debates again?” Natassia queried. She did not care for politics, although through Nick, she had learned who she was not interested in electing, as much as whom she was. She still felt the whole topic of politics was just a headache waiting to happen, even if she had gained a new insight into it.
In truth, money was the main reason they took this job and they both knew it. After they discovered they had a very devoted enemy – they did not know it was, nor could they imagine who – they knew that taking small supernatural jobs in the California area was going to wear thin eventually. And it was beginning to slow down. That devoted enemy would have to wait. They still needed cash resources. They had been out on almost 30 ghost hunts, which the crew at Paranormal Investigations had come to term, “Casper Runs,” because not a single one of them were actually ghosts. They had many other jobs like it, which were due to fear and superstition rather than from anything paranormal. But there had been just enough assignments, like the dangerous Arctic virus and others, to keep them gainfully employed in their own business with their partners and friends, Buzz and Lorna. Even the jobs that did not pan out still paid off, whether they found anything paranormal or not.
However, this job was odd. They had received a call from an
anonymous law firm, (who said that they did not want publicity) about a rash of
missing young women in the Grand Teton Mountain range area. The client
suspected it was supernatural, and even hinted that it might be a werewolf or
some unnatural creature. Since they were low on assignments, and they knew
travel would be inevitable, they agreed to investigate the missing girls if the
client paid a generous portion up front. Surprisingly, the nameless law firm agreed
and wired them one-half of the agreed upon fee, which was quite considerable.
They were stuck now.
“This job makes me uneasy,” Natassia admitted aloud after a long period of quiet during which Nick assumed she fallen asleep against him as he drove. He did not mind. He never minded when Natassia wanted to be near him. He was in love for only the second time in his life, and this time, he knew it was real – not mere lust or infatuation. She returned his love and made his life whole. He reached out and stroked her long, black hair.
“I thought you drifted off to sleep.”
“I tried. I am in one of those thinking moods. You know how I get,” she explained without really explaining. It was not necessary. Nick was very familiar with her worries, and some of her fears. He shared her apprehension about this job.
“It is strange. I bet we find it is not paranormal or supernatural at all. Maybe these girls ran away,” he reasoned, with more hope than conviction.
“Seventeen of them? In eight months?” Natassia rebuked him in surprise. “You don’t really think that, do you?”
“I’d like to see some evidence of anything else first,” Nick explained, but only partly agreed with his statement.
“You are not seriously thinking it is a werewolf, like they suggested, are you?” Natassia intoned with her eyebrow raised.
“No, not really. If it is, we certainly are not prepared because I did not bring silver bullets, just regular ones,” he tried to joke the subject away.
Natassia gave one of her cute but quirky, sideways smiles. Her smile curled up more on her left side than her right, making the smile appear to be slanted, or crooked. No matter what face she made, Nick saw her great natural beauty, and he smiled back.
“Whatever it is, we can handle it,” Nick assured her – and himself. This job was making him crazy. “Why did we accept this” he wondered, but quickly shoved the negative thoughts to the side. Nick wanted to focus. He was going to need it. The snow started coming down in great white sheets so thick that at times, he could barely see the road.
“Start looking for a motel or a rest stop. This looks…” Nick left his sentence unfinished. Natassia finished it.
“Like we are going to be buried.”
The man sat in his office, in a three-piece Armani suit, and all the luxuries and accommodations that wealth and over privilege could afford. His desk was as wide and long as a small boat, and he used every inch of space on it. But the only thing he was interested in right now was his landline phone. He stared at it intensely.
His office might be luxurious to some, but not to Deaver Thompkins. He earned every penny even when he had to steal, coerce, trick and commit fraud to get some of it. He felt that was the price of business and business was combat for him. He rarely lost combat. So he bought everything and anything that would draw attention to the eyes of anyone who happened into the dark recesses of his inner sanctum. It was so lavish, it might be gaudy or overly ornate, but these descriptions meant little to Deaver. He had important things on his mind. And getting rid of ‘them’ was foremost among them.
Impatiently, Deaver looked at his Rolex watch, then picked up the phone and dialed. His contact was late. He could not abide people that were not punctual.
The phone rang and after a few rings a voice answered it.
“Yes?” said the voice.
“Is it done yet?” asked Deaver with irritably. “I grow weary of this pair.”
“Soon,” the voice replied coolly.
Deaver’s blood pressure rose. He wanted results, and he wanted them yesterday. He was accustomed to getting his way.
“I’m not paying you all this money for ‘Soon’!” he growled.
The voice hesitated and attempted to placate.
“We know where they are going, so –“the voice was cut off.
“You should know. I sent them up that way!” Deaver exclaimed. He did not want to hear excuses. He heard enough of those from his last man.
The voice on the other end cleared his throat and attempted to start over.
“Yes, well, they will be taken care of very soon. I promise –“
“Like you promised when you hired that cretin, Crayfish or Fisher, whatever his name was? You hired him to finish them and instead he stole a vial of germs!?” Deaver was reliving a past attempt that had failed miserably.
“Virus, actually,” the voice corrected. “That was a mistake.”
“Bugs, germs, virus, I don’t give a fuck. Are you going to get this done or not?” Deaver was nearly shouting now.
“Crayfish was an unreliable, a mistake. I’m handling this myself,” assured the voice at the other end of the phone.
“And if they survive this, too?” Deaver demanded. He wiped a drop of sweat from his forehead. These people were causing him more problems than he anticipated. He was not sure if they knew, for they had waited a long time to do anything, but he assumed they did and he was not about to take any chances. Failure was not an option.
The voice then explained in words that reassured Deaver, at least a little.
“If they do survive, which I doubt, they won’t live long with what is down there,” he answered.
“This is getting dangerous, Nick,” Natassia
commented, not for the first time, since the snow began to fall. It was nearly
a blizzard of white, wind, and ice, all in a whirl of precipitation.
Nick slowed his pace to a few miles per hour, but it was still dangerous driving. Natassia and he had spotted a road sign less than a mile back that indicated an exit was a few miles ahead. If they could just make it a little longer…
“I’ll take the first available exit, no matter where it
goes,” Nick answered, a little shaken. The snow was tricky, but not terrible –
yet. But the snow and the narrow road on the steep mountainous incline combined
to make the driving very frightening. One wrong move here and it would be a
long way down the canyon to the little valley below.
On his right side, Nick saw only the side of the mountain, on his left, across the opposite lane was a guardrail, and then a steep drop off that appeared to go down forever. A tiny valley floor could be seen only with effort – and it appeared very small from up on the road. He could see no sign of life down the slope to the valley floor. It was just a long drop into snowy wilderness.
“I think the snow is letting up a little,” Nick remarked with hope. Both he and Natassia could use a little good news at this point.
“Yes, it is. I can see the side of the mountain again,”
Natassia looked gratefully at the granite behemoth, for it made her feel close to the earth again. Being up so high, with all the snow blocking her vision, had made her wonder if they had not driven up into a cloud and were not on planet earth any longer. It was silly, she knew, but something about this whole assignment made her deeply uneasy. She stared at the mountain through the light snow, now, and thought she saw movement.
“Nick, did you see that?” she asked.
“See what?” Nick questioned. While he had been looking around, most of his attention had been on the opposite side, and that steep drop. He wanted to stay as far away as possible.
“I thought I saw…” Natassia left her sentence unfinished. Nick let it go.
The man with the voice on the other end of the telephone conversation with Deaver Thompkins, shivered in the cold mountain air. Just getting up here in time had been a Herculean effort. He could see the Explorer coming up the highway, very slowly. It allowed him time to assemble his rifle. He screwed the barrel into the receiver, and snapped the telescope onto the top. Then he had added a fake butt stock and crouched down near a boulder. It was difficult to get to this position, and the shot was going to be even more difficult. However, he was something of an expert shot, having had so much practice. He lifted the rifle to his shoulder, and the telescopic sight to his eye. He saw the Explorer, and could even vaguely make out the woman sitting in the passenger side. “It would much easier to take her out now,” he thought to himself. He could worry about getting the man afterward. But his employer was specific – he wanted it to look like an accident. The man aimed his sniper rifle at the right, front tire.
Natassia was certain she saw something move on the side of the mountain. Her view of it was not clear, partially obstructed, and what she thought she saw seemed to be impossible: a man, holding something in his hands amid the rocks, snow and boulders. She looked away, rubbed her eyes, and looked back again. She didn’t see anything. Then her eyes found the spot again, and, yes, there was a figure of a man, and he was pointing a gun!
Before Natassia had the chance to say anything about what she thought she saw, there was a loud “crack” and their Explorer took a sudden veer to the right. Nick tried to compensate, but the snow and ice made steering nearly useless.
“Shit!” Nick cried out as he wrestled with the steering wheel. “Hang on to something!”
Natassia wanted to tell him about what she saw, or at least what she thought she saw, but their predicament was so severe, all memories of the man in the boulders washed away. She struggled to try to put her seat belt back on as Nick tried to wrest control of the vehicle.
By now, a few seconds later, Nick knew he was dealing with a tire that had blown out. He did not know why. Like Natassia, he heard a loud bang or cracking sound, but when the car veered out of control he assumed it was just the tire exploding. Now, the car was responding more to the snow and ice than it was to his attempt to retake control. Initially, the SUV pulled to the right, but as he tried to compensate and make the adjustment, the snowy roads let the SUV spin all the way around before coming almost to a halt, a few feet from the guardrail, and the deep valley below.
The car stopped moving for a second and Nick had to time to find out if Natassia was all right.
“Are you okay, hon?” he asked her. His voice was higher than usual, and his face flushed red from all the excitement.
“I’m fine. How about you?” she replied, fear tingeing her voice.
“I’m good. I think,” Nick answered. He was about to follow up with a question about the tire, when the car started to slide again. A strong gust of wind was propelling the vehicle to the guardrail.
“Put your seat belt on, quickly!” Nick shouted.
Natassia fumbled with the seat belt latch of this SUV. It was not their car, it was a rental, and small operations were different. As she tried to get the belt to latch shut, the SUV began to slide, and wind made it slide faster. Nick tried to turn into the slide, but it did not respond to him at all. He tried the brake, something he avoided doing so far, but they were locked or the wheels were sliding. They headed slowing for the rail, and the edge of the gorge.
Nick looked at Natassia and saw her struggling with the seat belt. He undid his, and moved over to her and helped her get the belt loose, and finally latched. But it was too late for him to get back into his own seat belt. The SUV picked up a little speed sliding and crashed into the guardrail. For a moment, the rail held, and Nick was about to suggest they get out of the SUV and on the highway, although that choice was equally as dangerous for them. There was nowhere for them to go – they could not see far in the inclement weather. The only good thing was there was little to no traffic at this point in the storm. All sensible people remained at home, he thought. Then the rail creaked in protest of the heavy SUV leaning against it. The ground around the post, which held this section of the guardrail up, began to give way – wet from the melting snow.
“Nick!” Natassia shouted. “We are going over! Get down!”
Nick looked helplessly at the section of rail as the ground under the post gave way, and the rail itself bent over like a weak tin can. The SUV slid out over the gorge, its back wheels still on pavement, the front wheels hanging out in mid-air. The ground was only a few feet down, but the decline was so steep, they had no chance of steering the car down the slope. Regardless, Nick looked to Natassia quickly, told her to “hang on” a suggestion he immediately thought stupid for no one needs to be told to hang on at a time like this. Then he slipped back behind the steering wheel. The car tilted forward, groaned in protest as the body was sliding over the rail, and began to fall into the valley below.
The SUV hit front wheels first, rear wheels last, with great force. Nick, now without a seat belt, flew up in the air and banged his head against the ceiling, before coming back down into the driver’s seat. But he had no time to take notice of a gash in his scalp. The car was moving downhill. He wished he could wake up from this dream, this nightmare. No one ever heads down a valley headfirst. This must be bad dream! However, his survival instinct was strong, and it was made stronger when he heard Natassia let out a fearful scream. He grabbed the steering wheel and fought to save their lives. He had only one hope: avoid trees, rocks and other things they could crash into, and then turn the car near the bottom.
Nick did not see much of what happened next, partly because it happened so much faster than the slow slide off the road, and partly because he was in panic mode by now. He heard himself scream slightly, an odd sound he thought, never having remembered screaming in all his life before this. The car moved fast down the deep ravine. Its walls were so steep it was like looking down at your feet. Trees and boulders stuck into the landscape were the obstacles he was trying to avoid, and this he did well until he over-steered from one side to the other and the SUV scraped, loudly against a large tree. He and Natassia were thrown from one side to the other as they bounced off the tree. The difference was Natassia was restricted from being thrown too far because of her seat belt. Nick, however, was not. He found himself in Natassia’s lap at some point, them in-between the seats on his back. He did not remember how he got there. He literally crawled back to the driver’s seat and took the wheel again. Just in time! He turned slightly to the left to avoid a large crevasse in the valley wall, and then right to miss another tree. By now there were going so fast he could not control the turns well, so he tried the brakes. They were practically useless, so he pressed harder on the pedal. He veered to the right again, and then back to the left and smelled smoke. The brakes were burning up. Soon they would have no brakes at all.
Nick closed his eyes for a minute and froze. He could not bear to look any longer. The world was becoming a blur. He heard Natassia screaming something at him. He forced his eyes open, reluctantly. He looked at her. Natassia was pointing toward something in front of them – something approaching them. Finally he made out one word she was saying, “bottom!”
The SUV, dented, scratched and torn, was heading for the very bottom of the valley, and at the bottom was a thick forest. It was too thick to navigate at this speed. Nick had only one hope left, and that was to turn the car sideways, hoping it would catch on one of those trees before it crashed headlong into one. Perhaps it would slow them down. They had only hope and little time.
He turned the wheel hard to the right, but the car did not
respond right away, as he hoped. The car was airborne half of the time now, and
did not take directions when it was not on the ground. They landed hard on the
ground again, and Nick tried again. The wheels shook violently not wanting to
turn at this speed, but Nick kept the pressure on them. Finally, they turned
and he applied what was left of the brakes as soon as they did. The SUV nearly
flipped over, but remained upright. It was sliding out of control, however, and
Nick and Natassia were mere passengers.
Natassia had her head down, but she looked up when the car shifted position. She spotted a wide tree approaching. They were going to hit it.
”Nick! Get down on the seat! Now!” she screamed at the top of her lungs. She knew he was without a seat belt; getting down on the seat was his only hope. He saw the tree and lunged headfirst for the seat, and just in time.
Suddenly, and with a loud crash, the front right side of the SUV hit a large tree, clipped it really, and spun it around so that it was parallel to the side of the ravine again. Then the SUV flipped over once, slid more, and flipped again. Each time it flipped, the roof crushed in a little more, ending with a thunderous ‘THUD’ where the SUV’s tail end caught on another tree. The SUV stopped. It came to an uneasy resting position as Nick blacked out.
“Ah, at least a week on our own without Nick or Natassia to slow us down,” Buzz bellowed to the empty office that morning. Lorna looked at him in disbelief.
“I don’t think they slow us down,” she lamented.
”Just a joke,” Buzz responded. “A whatchamacallit, a hyperbole, or something,” Buzz answered.
Lorna was dubious.
“A hyperbole is an extravagant exaggeration. That was just a lie,” Lorna countered.
“What are you a walking dictionary? I said ‘or something,’” Buzz explained to his own satisfaction.
It was a typical Monday morning at Paranormal Investigations between the perfect odd couple, Buzz and Lorna. If they ever had a day without disagreement or dissension, neither of them could remember it. But Buzz liked the way they made up, so he didn’t really mind the little things.
“I wonder if we will get any exciting new jobs while they are away.” Lorna wondered aloud. As if on queue, the phone rang.
“Hello, Paranormal Investigations. The stranger your case, the better we like it,” Lorna said in her business voice.
Buzz shrugged. He had tried and tried to talk her out of that phone answering line, but she was in love with it. Plus, her previous one, “Paranormal Investigations. You really need us if your home is weird and creepy” was even worse.
”Oh, really? How so, when you say haunted?” Lorna quizzed the person on the phone.
Buzz looked at her and they both simultaneously rolled their eyes, nearly leading them both to fits of laughter. They had a bet going about what their first job without Nick and Natassia would be, and Lorna bet Buzz one week of cleaning that it would be a haunting.
“I should have taken haunting,” he berated himself. Instead, Buzz chose a sorority house full of fearful girls in skimpy clothing (because in Buzz’s imagination, that’s what girls wore at home) needing some manly assistance to scare off an unwanted boyfriend or stalker.
“I suppose that was a little far-fetched,” he mumbled to himself. “But it did happen once, except she was a stripper and not a college girl.” Buzz never really worried about the little things. He usually lost his bets, too.
Lorna gathered the details of the new job, and hung up the phone. “I win,” she said.
”Don’t gloat. The roomfuls of sorority girls are just waiting to call,” Buzz reproached his girlfriend. He lost most of his bets to her. She never really made him do anything other than things she liked, and that usually turned out well for Buzz. So this time he had to clean. ‘You never know what she might ask me to clean’, Buzz surmised. And Lorna, who was surprisingly adventurous ever since discovering the world of adult role-playing, had a great imagination.
“She said that a whole floor of their house is haunted, by, get this, at least three ghosts,” Lorna announced.
“Three on one floor, huh? We better bring the electronic equipment and make this one look good. Maybe we can bill for three cleanings!” Buzz laughed.
In all the time Paranormal Investigations had existed, a little over a year and a half now, they had never detected an actual ghost. It was usually the wind, the plumbing, the cat, or a very nervous person who thought a bad light bulb and a creaking chair were signs of spiritual possession. They had been on about thirty cases of so-called ‘hauntings’, but not one of them had yet yielded electronic information, such as EMF surges, or any hint of after life activity. In fact, in the end, all of them had pretty common explanations. So it was with this in mind that they joked about the new assignment.
“A freaking Casper Run,” Buzz chided. “Well, since there are three of them we better make this pretty good looking.” He took a tool belt and attached anything that looked like it might pass for the equipment they had seen on that television series that alleges to hunt ghosts.
“Ready?” Lorna asked, standing with her hands on her hips.
“Don’t I look ready?” Buzz asked, pointing to his overloaded tool belt.
“You look like a tool. But a very official looking one. I suppose we really should feel bad for charging people for these…cleanings,” Lorna suddenly moralized.
“What? No, I don’t think so,” Buzz disagreed. “We provide a service for them. We search around and act, and they feel better. We earned it.” Buzz had an uncanny logic when it came to ethics at times.
“I guess,” Lorna remained unconvinced.
“You’ll feel better when the check comes in,” he teased her.
When she did not respond to his logic, he resorted to mocking.
“Who ya gonna call?” He joked and led her to the car. Buzz just did not concern himself with the little things.
When Nick came to consciousness, he did not know where he was. At first, he thought maybe he was camping. The snow made him think skiing. It was the beautiful face of his exotic girlfriend that made reality come back to him. He was lying down in a car, and she was softly talking to him and wiping his face. It was then he noticed the blood.
“What? Where?” He tried to form sentences.
“Nick! Oh, thank God. I was so worried,” Natassia replied. Her face had tears on it, but she was not crying. Nick slowly realized she had been.
“Are you okay?” she asked with concern etched on her face. Nick had been out for about ten minutes, and that was a long time.
“Yeah. I’ve got a headache. How are you? Are you hurt?” Nick’s questions came out all at once, and he tried to sit up. It was then he felt the pain in his leg.
“I’m fine. Bruised, beat up a little, but I’m okay. But you were not in your seat belt. I saw you go rolling all around in the car when we flipped over,” she explained. As she did, a few tears came back.
“Your head is bleeding badly, Nick. Are you in pain or seeing double, or anything?” Natassia desperately asked. She was no doctor, but like Nick, she had a degree in the medical field, with one also in genetics. She was concerned about his head wound.
Nick asked for her aid to sit up. He reached down and flexed his right leg, which was very sore, perhaps a sprain. He looked into what was left of the Explorer’s rear view mirror to examine his head wound. It was a deep gash on the side of his head, over his ear. He could see the blood had been flowing freely, but it seemed to be slowing down.
“I’m going to need stitches here,” he said, gingerly fingering the area next to the wound. “I’ve got alcohol in my shaving gear,” he mentioned and laid his head back against the seat, but in a sitting position. He did not want to pass out again. He might not wake up.
“Where?” asked Natassia.
“In that little bag with my personal stuff. The green one,” he pointed to the back seat, where it had settled after the crash.
Natassia reached into the back and grabbed the small pack, and quickly unzipped it. In it were band-aids, razors, floss, a toothbrush and shaving lotion. She picked up the shaving lotion. It contained a high amount of alcohol. She splashed it over the wound, making Nick cringe. He did not complain. It was better that it hurt that if it did not. At least it was not infected yet.
“I don’t know how to close this wound, Nick,” Natassia informed him gently.
Nick looked at the laceration again in the mirror.
“I’m going to need you to do this for me,” Nick said.
“I’ll try. I’m not great with this type of thing,” she warned.
“If I remember, you put your own broken arm in a splint and fought off a demented creature once,” Nick reminded her of her strength.
“Yes, well that was desperate Natassia. I’m only regular Natassia right now.” She confided her fear of operating on Nick.
“It’s okay. You can do this, easy,” he encouraged.
“What do I do first?” she asked, trying not to let her hands shake.
“Take that straight razor in my bag, and trim away all the excess hair from near the cut. It should cut pretty easy. It’s all wet with my blood,” Nick explained.
“I’m okay with everything but the words ‘wet with my blood’ right now, so could you call it something else. I’m trying to pretend it is fake, like in the movies,” Natassia said to him, and then she smiled a weak, crooked smile at him. She wanted to scream for help, but she knew they were the only two around – perhaps for miles.
She set about the task of cutting and trimming Nick’s hair around the deep laceration. It took her several minutes. She was concentrating so hard she did not speak to him. It was only when she noticed he looked very tired that she suddenly got concerned. The silence between them was worse than anything, so she started speaking.
“You are a pretty good patient, you know?” she tried to talk about anything. “Are you taken?”
Nick smiled as best as he could.
“Happily so,” he answered. He could see she was anxious about what she had to do next. So he tried to make her feel calm about it. When the hair was gone, Nick handed her the dental floss.
“Take this,” he said, handing her the floss pack. “There is a needle in the zipper section.”
Natassia sighed heavily. She was not looking forward to this. She knew it had to be done, and only she could do it for him.
“All right. Hang on here, baby,” she voiced softly. “I don’t have to tell you this is probably going to hurt.”
“I know. Just do it as best you can. Maybe nature can do the rest,” he added. Prepared, he grabbed what was left of the steering wheel, now bent and dented, and hung on.
Natassia had sewn in her life, but she was no seamstress. Nor was she a medical nurse, although she had done her fair share of mending the friends of Paranormal Investigations after rough assignments. She had never attempted to sew a person’s wound shut, and the sweat beaded on her forehead, and dripped down her face. Natassia wiped her face with her own blouse, and leaned over Nick. She inserted the needle and pulled it through Nick’s skin. It came through well, but the floss was very thick for this job, and it pulled on his skin causing him pain.
“I’m sorry,” she said for the first of many times. Nick did not reply, but tapped her on her leg when he was ready for her to resume. She went back to work.
“I always wanted to make my own boyfriend,” she commented, drawing a small, but painful chuckle from Nick.
She continued working until the wound was sufficiently shut. Now, for the first time, the pair had the chance to look around at their surroundings – and it was starting to turn dark.
The pair looked out of the SUV windows. The sun was still out – somewhere – but it was setting rapidly, and the temperature was going down with it. The SUV had rolled and slid down from the top of the valley wall, some half a mile above, perhaps more. Nick and Natassia both looked up in silence. The sight took their breath away, and made them wonder how they ever survived. The highest part, near the guardrail, was so far up now it was outside of human vision. The uppermost top was more than a forty-five degree angle drop. As the SUV came barreling down, the land leveled off a little, but not much. Only near the bottom of the gorge did the land begin to go flat again, and that is where they ran into the trees that finally stopped them.
“If we had gone another one hundred feet – “Nick said, then left the rest unsaid. He pointed to a grove of thick pine trees below them, near the floor of the valley. Natassia looked and nodded. There was no need to voice her agreement. They would have died.
“Don’t think I’m ungrateful for your driving, that was incredible. But what do we do now?” Natassia voiced another very obvious point. They were stranded.
“I guess we find some place warm and dry for the night,” Nick suggested.
“You have noticed it was snowing everywhere,” Natassia commented dryly.
“There has to be somewhere down here we can build a makeshift shelter,” Nick added. “We better get whatever we can salvage from the SUV,” he added.
“Do you think it is safe to leave the Explorer?” Natassia looked around the wilderness with concern. I think this is wolf and bear country,” she reminded him.
“It might be. The SUV is not safe here,” Nick suggested.
“Why not?” Natassia asked, perplexed.
“Do you feel that tiny motion? It is us starting to slide
again as the snow under it freezes again,” Nick advised. “I don’t want to be
sitting in it when it slides into that copse of trees.”
Natassia was taken by surprise. So much had happened to them so fast, she felt safe in the SUV. She had not noticed it was creaking and beginning to move again.
“You are right. Let’s go!” she said. She took Nick’s hand, he was still unsteady on his feet, and led them away from the SUV.
“Where should we go?” she questioned.
“Did you get your bag?” Nick asked.
“One of them. Not the one in the back,” she paused, considering going back to get it. Some of her favorite outfits were in that second bag.
“No, let them go, Natassia,” Nick insisted.
“But they are right there. I’ll just reach in and get them. It won’t take a sec –“ she stopped speaking.
The SUV did not slide slowly at all, but quickly broke loose from its resting place against a tree, and scooted rapidly the rest of the way down, smashing into the small grove of tightly packed pine trees. It plowed under several of the smaller ones, rode over them, and then violently wedged itself in the middle of the copse, with one tree impaling the roof and shooting out the other side before it came to a halt.
“Oh, my God,” was all Natassia could think to say.
When the pair collected themselves, Nick searched for a tree limb to serve as a crutch. It was not hard to find one in this forest. The two walked into the foot-deep snow cautiously until the ground became flat, or flat enough. Then they started searching the area for anything that looked like a safe place to rest.
It took them longer then either of them expected. At one
point, Natassia was certain she saw a cave in the valley wall. As they got
closer, it turned out to be a shadow on a slightly different color rock wall.
They kept looking.
Nick was becoming aware of sounds in the snow, although he kept his suspicions to himself. The couple walked until their feet started to become numb from the cold. Nick knew they had to stop somewhere, and soon. He was getting very tired, and he suspected Natassia was just as exhausted. After everything they had been through, fear, excitement and disaster, they were emotionally and physically drained. Then he saw something off to their left, again, in the canyon wall. It looked like an indentation.
“Look,” Nick pointed.
“Is that a cave?” Natassia asked. Her voice was hopeful yet she sounded very tired.
“Not exactly, but close enough for now,” Nick decided. He knew they could not keep walking much further.
It turned out to be a small indentation in the valley wall. It only went in about three feet, certainly not a cave, but a shelter perhaps. The walls of the canyon jutted out over the indent, and it gave them shelter from rain and snow above. Nick had camped out many times when he was young. He knew a thing or two about surviving out of doors. However, that was with camping gear, tents and lighter fluid to make fire. Fire! That was what they needed.
“I’m going to find some small branches and pine needles,” he said to Natassia as she leaned back against the wall of their shelter.
“Oh, alright. I’ll help,” she started to get up.
“No, you rest. You look pale,” Nick hinted.
“Yes, tired. But I’m no worse off then you. Let me help,” she commented.
“Please rest. I think there is something watching us. I
won’t stray far from the shelter,” he added ominously.
”Nick, what is it?” Natassia was now alarmed.
“Probably just a coyote, I hope,” Nick remarked. He was not sure what might be in this country. It was part of a National Park, or on the outskirts of one. It might have deer, badgers, wolverines, wolves, moose, and worse he feared, bears.
“Be careful! Come back if something is out there. We can make it without a fire,” Natassia cautioned. She was truly getting frightened. They had no idea what this part of the country was like or how to get out. They were on foot, and had little in the way of supplies. Food, she remembered!
“Nick, come back soon please. I have some snacks in my case from the last filling station we stopped at. Crackers and cheese, I think,” she coaxed. She really did not want him to wander around in the dark with something out there.
“Good. I’ll be back soon,” he said, and disappeared out of
sight into the fresh night air. It began to snow again, this time lightly.
Natassia might have described her surroundings as beautiful if it were just a
photograph. Living in this was something else. It reminded her of something recent,
and she searched her memory. Then it dawned on her. That awful dream she had
before they had the accident. It looked just like the place from her nightmare!
She shuddered and pushed that memory to the back, only to have another one take
its place. “We didn’t have an accident,” she suddenly remembered. “Someone shot
Nick was aware of a presence as he gathered small, dry sticks and pine needles. He tried to ignore it, but it seemed to shadow him. As he gathered one more stick than he could carry, he decided to head back to the little indentation – the shelter. He turned around and froze in place. Not twenty feet away from him was a coyote, just as he suspected. But this coyote was bigger than any he had seen before. It was almost a small wolf. It stared at him with luminescent eyes.
“Get away!” he said in a harsh voice.
The coyote just looked at him. It did not feel threatened by this human carrying sticks, and limping through the snow. It was curious – and hungry.
“Get back, you…” Nick drew a blank.
“Terrorist,” he completed his threat. “Get back you little terrorist. I’m not afraid of you,” he added for good measure.
The coyote turned its head sideways at the word, ‘terrorist.’ It found Nick quite an odd creature to be in his woods, gathering sticks and making so much noise.
Nick pretended to throw one of the sticks at the coyote, but it did not budge. It had never seen a human up close before. It did not understand to fear ‘throwing.’
Nick picked out one of the shorter sticks, a thick and sturdy one, and threw it at the curious coyote. It hit it in the back leg as it turned to run. The coyote ran a few feet away. Stopped, and sniffed its leg. Finding no wound, it looked back to Nick.
“Yeah, now you know how dangerous I am!” Nick bluffed. He did not want the coyote to come back with friends. He felt he could handle a single curious one.
“Now git!” he yelled and threw another small stick. It missed but the little terrorist ran away anyway.
“Nick!” sounded Natassia’s voice from around the edge of the darkening forest.
“I’m coming,” he shouted back.
“Is someone out there? Are you talking to someone?” she yelled back.
“Nothing important. Just a little terrorist,” he called back. He picked up a sturdier stick – one that might serve for defense as well as a crutch, and walked back to the shelter.
“A terrorist?!” Natassia pondered. “He must be hungrier than I thought.” She went back to searching her purse and came up with some cough drops and candy.
After some work, Nick managed to ignite a little fire in front of their makeshift shelter using a lighter Natassia carried in her purse. It was amazing how much she could fit into a small purse, Nick often thought. The pine needles that were dry went up quickly, but the wet twigs and small branches took considerable re-ignition, and more kindling. Eventually, late into the night, the fire grew large enough to supply some heat, along with the light. Nick and Natassia huddled together against the back wall of the indentation and watched it snow. It did not seem to be accumulating too much, and surprisingly the snow offered the shelter some protection against the wind. After Natassia nodded off to sleep, he went back out, gathered a few more branches, and then built up a small wall of snow all around the entrance to their shelter, and the fire. It kept them both reasonably warm, considering it was near twenty degrees.
They only talked about immediate survival that first night. The subject of how they crashed did not come up. Natassia felt they had enough to contend with this first night to worry about who and why. She would tell him soon enough. That was the last thing she remembered before morning. Leaning against Nick, she drifted off to sleep faster that imagined she could. She did not even wake when he left to build the snow shelter.
“I told you to get away!” Nick scowled at the coyote, again. In the morning hours, it had come back again and skulked around their little shelter. Nick threw a rock, and the coyote dodged out of the way. “Damn. You are getting too good at that,” Nick spoke to himself – or so he thought.
“Nick, who are you throwing things at? And who are you talking to?” Natassia said as she yawned and rose to her feet. Her legs were tired and sore, but otherwise, she felt rested, and restored.
“The little terrorist came back,” Nick commented without emotion. Even though Nick was perhaps the most even-tempered man Natassia ever met, she knew him well enough to know when he sounded frustrated, even when others could not. He had neglected to tell her about the coyotes. Intentionally.
She held her hand to shield her eyes from the morning sun, and looked at the terrorist. At first, she thought it was a skinny dog.
“Is that a small wolf?” she asked, uncertain. The wildlife channel was Nick’s channel, not hers. There was too much killing on that channel for her tastes.
“Hardly,” Nick replied. “That’s a coyote. He’s persistent. He was watching me last night when I was gathering wood, and that is who you heard me talking to,” he explained.
“He is sort of cute. Maybe he is hungry?” Natassia suggested and began searching her bag again.
“Honey,” Nick took a demeaning tone, without realizing it. “You don’t feed the predators out here. We are not in a zoo.”
Natassia rarely, if ever, heard Nick be condescending, especially to her. So she was not so much angry as surprised at his tone now. She looked up and razed one eyebrow as if to say, “Really?”
“I’m sorry. Cranky me. I didn’t sleep too well. This little terrorist kept sneaking closer and closer to the camp last night and waking me up. It’s like a fucking game to him now. I throw sticks and stones, and he has learned to dodge them.”
“Sometimes the carrot is better than the sitck,” she replied, digging into her other pack. “Aha!” she said at last, pulling out a whole package of marshmallows.
“What? Where? Did you buy those at the thrifty mart after all? I thought we agreed they were all sugar and bad –“He did not get to finish.
“You are welcome,” she ended his rant. “Now we have
something for breakfast, and maybe we can get ‘Terrorist’ to leave us alone.”
Before Nick could object again, Natassia heaved two marshmallows at the small coyote. They did not fly far though, being so light in weight. ‘Terrorist’ did not know that however, and he dodged out of the spot where it would have landed if it had been a stone. When the marshmallows blew closer to the coyote in the wind, he sniffed the air hungrily. The small coyote moved closer than he previously dared, and followed his nose. Soon he ate one then both of the sweet treats and licked his chops many times. He looked up at Natassia hopefully.
“Now you’ve done it,” Nick said in disgust.
“Maybe he will go home now,” Natassia naively suggested. “He is cute!”
“Or he will wait until we are out of marshmallows, weak from starvation, and eat us for dinner,” Nick soured the moment with reality.
“Natassia pouted. “Surely we can hold off one small coyote,” Natassia said in hope.
Nick eyed ‘Terrorist’ closely.
“You know what? He is smaller than the one that was following me last night. I think we have another prowler,” he decided. “I don’t think that is Terrorist, after all.”
“’Prowler’,” Natassia thought over the name. “I like it.”
“Oh, great. Now we have pets,” Nick lamented, although he smiled slightly at the thought. Leave it to Natassia to try to name coyotes.
That morning, the pair decided to take a walk around the
area. The going was difficult in the snow, but some of it was melting in the
strong day sun, and areas could be traversed that were much too difficult last
night. It had warmed above freezing for a while.
Nick nursed a sore leg, and Natassia felt bruised everywhere, but not so bad as to stop her from walking. The biggest find was a stream that appeared to flow the length of the valley. It was not very deep; perhaps a foot or two at the deepest parts, but it also had some small rapids where fresh water could be collected. Natassia, pack-rat that she admitted she was, had kept two of their water bottles in her pack, and when these were emptied, they served as great water containers from the tiny stream.
”We are lucky to have this stream,” Nick remarked. “Without a supply of water, we might only last –" Natassia cut him off.
“Never tell me the odds, please. I like the idea that we don’t have a limit,” she reasoned.
Sometimes, Nick did not understand her logic. He felt discussing the food situation, water, fire – all of it – was important so they could plan things out. Natassia preferred to play things day by day so that they did not feel ‘the end’ was coming when things got tough. Between their two diverse philosophies, the two made for a very dynamic couple who could survive very well, even if very differently. They complemented each other without really trying. Nick knew how rare that was.
“I’m so sorry,” he said. His comment felt like it came from out of the ether.
“Sorry for what?” she asked.
“For getting us involved in this job. I pushed it. I wanted to take some time away from Paranormal Investigations, and be alone with you. Just you and I,” he added. “The office at times, is …” Nick searched for the right words.
“Neurotic?” Natassia supplied them. “Don’t blame yourself, Nick. I wanted to get away too. Don’t get me wrong either,” she amended. “I love both Buzz and Lorna. Sometimes their bickering makes me crazy.”
“Yes, I know. There are times I think we should have chosen our partners…” he did not complete his thought. It was too cruel to say. Buzz had been his best friend for years. And Lorna? She had come so very far in over a year’s time. She was very green, clinical, naive and incredibly literal at times. They could be a fun couple, Buzz and Lorna. Or they could drive the sane, insane.
“I don’t blame you for any of this,” Natassia assured him. “Or for what you are feeling. I often have the same thoughts,” she confided.
“You do? You handle it better than I have been lately,” Nick admitted. Recently, he had blown up at Buzz and even Lorna over what he felt were silly, stupid mistakes, and then felt terrible later.
“For all of Lorna’s quirkiness, and Buzz’s jokes and bravado, they are two of the best people I’ve even known. And I think they really love each other. Neither one of them really knows how to express it,” Natassia said. She had thought about this quite a bit, Nick realized.
Nick nodded in agreement. There was not much else to say
about the matter. Much as Buzz and Lorna’s behavior could drive him mad, they
were FAMILY. His own family was dysfunctional beyond repair. He could
not imagine life without this family. Nick quietly smiled, and actually missed
their quirky conversations. He looked down into the stream on the other side.
There were tire impressions in the dirt.
Lorna and Buzz arrived at the house of the client a few hours after receiving the initial call. Buzz was wearing all his technical accoutrements, and Lorna carried a video camera. They looked very official. They rang the bell of the three-story home, and waited.
A woman of about sixty-five years of age answered the door.
“Are you from the service? The ghost people?” she asked, anxiously.
“Yes. We are from Paranormal Investigations,” Lorna explained. “Aberrant and abnormal is our motto. If your home is too horrible to stay, we can ‘scare’ it away.”
“What?” the woman gasped with surprise.
“She means, yes, we are the Ghost people and we are here to clean your house of the spirits,” Buzz interjected for clarification. Try as he might to discourage Lorna from the stupid sayings, she thought they added professionalism. She read a book on advertising over the winter.
“They are on the second floor,” the woman, whose name was Mary Cantrell, informed them. “We can’t even get to the third floor anymore!” At that, Mrs. Cantrell sobbed a little. She appeared very upset.
“Now don’t you worry, Mrs. Cantrell,” Buzz said softly.
“Mary, please,” she suggested informally. “Come in.”
They stepped inside a very nice home. It was well kept, and nicely decorated. There was nothing to suggest anything odd about the house.
“Mary,” he changed to her informal name, “Do you have any pets? And are any of them missing?”
“Pets? No, none. I’m allergic to dander,” Mary answered.
Strike one, Buzz thought. He had once found a woman’s cat in her wall and all the crying made her think she had a ghost.
“Have you had any water problems, such as water leaks, or stopped up drains, or air in the water?” Lorna asked the next leading question of ghostly reports: noisy water pipes.
“No. Not at all,” Mary replied a bit confused. “We have a
Strike two thought Buzz. This must be something else.
“Have you noticed any strange or cold air in places in the house?” Buzz asked.
“Why, yes,” Mary answered earnestly. “Up on the second floor, where the ghosts are,” she replied.
Buzz had not thought enough about that question. Cold air was actually one of the signs of spirits. He meant to ask if the house was drafty. Drafts were another false alarm.
“Well then I think we should head up the stairs,” Buzz said confidently. He took out a small EMF (electromagnetic frequency) rig that Nick had shown him in an old copy of Popular Mechanics a year ago. Allegedly, if it registered an unusual amount of electromagnetic energy, aside from wires of electrical devices, it was supposed to be a sign of spiritual energy. Buzz waved the meter around in the air as he and Lorna were shown to the stairs. Nothing. They headed up the stairs.
“The door is locked,” Lorna said to Buzz, who was behind
her. He was still waving around his EMF meter. He had gotten a spike when they
started up the stairs, but it went away.
“Locked? You sure it isn’t just stuck? Let me give it a try,” he replied. Lorna moved out of the way, convinced she was right. But the door opened easily for Buzz the minute he turned the knob.
“I don’t understand,” Lorna said. “I’m telling you it was locked for me.”
“Not now,” Buzz commented, not believing her. He stepped into the dimly lit room. It was much different the first floor. This room was musty, and the furniture had dust on it. It looked like no one had been up here for a long time. Despite the dusty appearance and old smell, it was a spacious room. There was an old-fashioned arched window at the far end, which looked to be boarded up. He walked into the room. Suddenly, the air turned icy cold, and a chill seemed to move right past Buzz. He shivered involuntarily, and turned to ask Lorna if she felt the cold. The door slammed shut, leaving Lorna at the top of the stairs unable to open the door, and Buzz alone in the musty room.
“Ok. That was creepy,” he said to himself. “Lorna, come on up and quit playing games with the door.” He could barely hear her speak through the door now. She sounded a mile away.
“I did not close the door, Buzz. And it is locked again. What is in there?” he heard Lorna say – barely. But he did not have time to respond. He felt a frigid breeze again. It was less of a gust than a sudden chill, as if someone had opened a freezer door right next to him. He turned to his right and looked around. Suddenly his EMF meter went wild, scaring Buzz, causing him to drop it.
“Are you here for services, handsome man?” spoke a very sensuous voice from his left. Buzz turned to the sound.
Standing ten feet in front of him, near a bed that had not been there before, was a tall, slender woman with extraordinary curves, and long, wavy, red hair. Her green eyes flashed red every so often, making her appearance exotic, but clearly supernatural. She wore a tight fitting dress that was certainly complementary to her figure, and had the look of a woman from another era – a very attractive woman from another era.
“Services?” Buzz’s voiced cracked a little. “Actually, we are here to do the services for Mrs. Cantrell. Do you work for her?”
“No, I work for the dawn. So, you are here to see me then, isn’t that right, handsome?” the redheaded knockout asked.
Without waiting for his answer, she moved slowly toward him.
“The Don? You mean you work for the mafia, like the Godfather, right? I loved that movie,” Buzz yammered when he got nervous.
The mysterious woman was suddenly close enough to touch Buzz. But instead, she revealed her ample cleavage to him, and began to undo the top of her dress, which was fastened in the back. She made a very distinct purring sound that even Lorna could hear at the top of the stairs, though she could not hear much else of what was going on.
“Buzz, are you playing with pussy cats up there? There is no time for that. Stop it now and open this door!” Lorna insisted.
Suddenly the woman slipped out of her dress. Except for high heels, she was completely naked, and very well endowed. She smiled alluringly at Buzz and reached for him.
“Well, ma'am, as you probably heard. I should be going now,” Buzz said and started to back away.
“But you came to play with me, no?” she asked, purring
Buzz couldn’t help but laugh nervously at his predicament. He was curious what relations with a sexy ghost would be like, but not brave enough to attempt it. Not to mention Lorna…
“Oh, no. Sorry. No playing with pussy today! And I’m sure yours, from what I can see…” he could but help but see her touch herself invitingly, “…is great. But you aren’t my type.”
“Maybe I’m your type,” offered a sexy blonde from the other side of the room.
“Or me,” came a third voice from behind Buzz. He whirled to see a beautiful Oriental woman in old Geisha outfit coaxing him to come to her. All the women were dressed from a bygone era. The newcomers were also rapidly undressing.
“No, he is mine,” hissed the first ghost, the redhead. She
purred again to Buzz.
“You heard my orders. She’s very jealous. She can get catty. No pun intended. Listen, I love pussy – cats! that is – especially sexy ones, er…from the 1920s? Buzz guessed. “But –“
“My touch may change your mind,” the ghost woman spoke, and
she reached out a hand and grabbed Buzz by the crotch, trying to get his
privates out of the clothes.
”Yeoooow!” Buzz screamed at her touch. Her touch was as cold as ice, perhaps colder. It physically hurt him.
“Look, no offense lady. You are very tempting. But you’re a
cold, dead woman, and even I have limits!” Buzz said as he backed away, moving
as fast as his injured parts would allow. “Besides, I’ve had a frigid woman
once before and that didn’t end well,” he concluded before running for the door
at the stairs. He pulled hard on the knob, but it would not open. The woman
kept moving toward him. He could not tell if she were walking or floating, but
her movements were as odd as she.
“Buzz, what is going on? Is there a real pussy cat in there?” Lorna was shouting.
“Yes, a real horny one,” he replied. “I can’t open the door!”
Then he remembered Nick talking about using salt to
temporarily disrupt a spirits form. The salt was on his tool belt. He took it
off and waved it at the redheaded spirit who was closing in on him.
She let out an unearthly scream, that sounded like anger more than anything and then other two ghosts disappeared as well. That sound was replaced with quiet weeping and wailing. The door suddenly opened. Lorna was standing there in front of him now, but the room was empty. Buzz jumped to the stairs and slammed the door.
Once out of the room, Buzz flattened his back against the door and spread out his arms, as if to hold the doors shut. His eyes were wild.
“What happened in here Buzz? What’s going on?” she asked in concern.
“It’s ‘Ghosts Gone Wild’ in there. Let’s get out of
here,” he insisted and they ran down the stairs as fast as they could run.
Natassia walked near the tire tracks. She was elated. Someone had been down in this desolate valley, and they might come back. Nick was very quiet.
“Isn’t this good news?” she asked. “That means there is someone that does come down here. They might discover us,” she was hopeful.
“Maybe,” Nick replied. “It is just strange that anyone would be down here in a car, or maybe truck,” he decided. Looking at the tread and the width of the tire, it was probably a truck of some type.
“Why strange?” she asked. Natassia felt hope for the first time that day, and Nick’s apprehension almost made her angry.
“Don’t you find it odd that we find one small set of tire tracks in a wilderness valley in the middle of nowhere, where they are no roads?” he pointed out.
Natassia stood up and looked around. There was snow on the ground, but no tracks in it. Just these old tracks near the stream. She looked from valley side to side, and saw only nature and wilderness.
“I guess it is unusual. Maybe they are four-wheelers looking for some place to explore,” she hypothesized with hope.
“Maybe so,” Nick said. He dropped the subject for now. He would keep his suspicions to himself.
“It looks like they have not been here for a while, so we better look for some food,” Nick advised.
“What kind of food would we find here?” Natassia wondered. She knew a few plants, but did not know much about the flora in this part of the country. Still she remembered enough from her botany classes to recognize some that were edible.
Nick pointed to the water, “Here, in a place like this stream there are always things to eat,” explained.
“Like what?” Natassia asked skeptically.
Nick reached into the stream out overturned a rock. Under is skittered out a small crawfish and two worms. They swam away but Nick made his point.
“Yuck,” Natassia commented on his choice for dinner.
“And that,” he pointed. In a deeper part of the stream there were several small bluegills – a type of sunfish, swimming around.
“Kinda small, don’t you think?” Natassia asked.
“Yeah. But nutrition, if we eat all of it,” Nick answered.
Natassia scrunched up her face but did not comment. She could not yet imagine being so hungry that she wanted to eat worms and whole fish. Still, she was glad Nick was looking out for their welfare.
“How do we catch them?” she questioned.
“I’m working on that,” Nick admitted.
They spent the remainder of their first day exploring the valley, as far as they could walk in the melting snow. When it started to freeze again, it left a layer of crackling ice on top of the snow, making walking even more hazardous. They had made good progress into the valley, however. They learned a few things: the valley was apparently enclosed, all the way around. Unless there was some exit at the other end – a long walk away – they had not seen a way out. When their Explorer crashed into the valley, and rolled, skipped and crashed, almost to the bottom, they had the misfortune of falling into a mountain wall-locked valley. There did not appear to anyway out. Yet those tire tracks meant someone had been in here, and with a vehicle. There must be something, somewhere. It was going to take more exploration, and more days. The couple did not have any idea how long this ordeal was going to last them. They both feared that they might not live through it.
“Nick, did you ever find your phone?” Natassia asked for the hundredth time.
“No. Maybe back in the car. I don’t even think we could get reception down here,” Nick concluded.
Natassia’s had flown out of the car somewhere in the plunge down the mountain. She did know where, but she knew it was missing from the point were they settled. She figured Nick was right. They were too far down into this gorge to get any signal.
After a long walk, they collected some crawfish, worms,
insects and even a frog to take back for food. Natassia did her best to mix it
all up with a few marshmallows, to take the edge off the taste. It helped only
a little. Nick found that if he swallowed the food rapidly, and did not chew it
much, it was much easier to eat. He taught this to Natassia, but she still gagged
”If we can find some way to cook, it might help,” she suggested. “I saw wild onions near the stream, and a sunflower or two. I think if I can remember from my botany class,” she paused and remembered her days at school, it seemed so long ago and she was only twenty-six years of age.
“I saw some dandelion, creeping thistle, and wild lettuce there too. And I think some wild raspberries,” she added. “That would certainly help the taste.”
Nick nodded in agreement. He could think of using those wild onions right now to season the protein. He knew he had to work on catching some fish. And perhaps even hunt small game, like rabbits. Anything with meat would give them something more to live on.
Nick ate the rest of his food lost in thought. The end of their first full day in this valley was fast approaching, and he could not understand how this accident happened. His face was solemn.
“Penny for your thoughts?” Natassia queried.
“I just keep wondering why the tire blew out, and why here?” he stated. “Just bad luck? Those were new tires. I saw them put them on after I insisted,” Nick related.
“I have something I have to tell you. I was trying not to bring it up until our…” Natassia paused and looked around their tiny shelter, “…situation improved. I guess this is as good as it is going to get for a while.”
Natassia related to Nick what she saw moments before they slid off the mountain road into the valley. She told him about seeing a figure up on the side of the road, indeed up in the mountain edge. The man appeared to be holding a gun, a big one, like a rifle. Before she could say anything, she heard the loud noise and the tire was blown out. She thought the man shot out their tire.
Nick was upset. He went through several phases of emotion: outrage, anger, then resignation and finally, vengeance. He decided if he ever knew who did something like this, the identity of this person, he was going to kill them. He did not share that thought with Natassia, but she saw his rage once before when someone threatened her and their friends, ‘his family’. He killed the man. It was a much-deserved killing, she felt. Still, she did not like to think of Nick as being able to kill anyone.
“You know this has to be the work of the person who wants us dead,” he concluded.
“I thought of that. But how would they know where we were?” Natassia questioned. It all felt too complicated to believe.
“I’ve been wondering all day, ‘Why this place?’”, Nick expressed. “This place is literally devoid of human life – probably. What a better place to try to make us crash. If we survived somehow, and we have, the elements would kill us. Whoever set this up must have known that,” he deduced.
“Now, we don’t know that,” Natassia had trouble accepting his conspiracy theory. She knew most conspiracy theories were elaborate – that was usually their downfall. This one was almost as complex.
Both were silent for long minutes as they attempted to ‘wrap their minds’ around such a complex plot.
“I keep wondering, why here? Is there something about this place?” Nick was thinking aloud.
“Babe, we don’t even know who is trying to kill us. I’ve wracked my brains trying to figure out who would want us dead so badly to send that Crayfish guy to kill us. Now this?
“It’s a good thing for us that Crayfish was greedy,” Nick underscored how lucky they had been. They had no idea that creep was even after them.
“Good for us, bad for Bettina,” Natassia remembered.
The couple found solace in each other that night. They had the time, the solitude, and the desire to take comfort in each other’s embrace, and their bodies. They loved until they were too tired to go on, and fell asleep in each other’s arms, nestled in the little shelter.
From outside their shelter and the protection of their fire, two glittering sets of eyes watched them, drawn by the sounds of lovemaking and passion. Animals were strongly attuned to human emotions.
Most of the next week was taken up with the essentials of
staying alive outdoors. The couple was constantly working on the fire, the
shelter’s defenses, and improving their comfort. Primarily their constant
concern was food. Nick had removed a section of the dental floss from his head
wound – it had begun to heal nicely – and used it to make fishing line. He
would never leave home without dental floss again. He struggled to catch any
fish the first couple of days. They were kept at bay by the sounds he made on
the shore, even when he was sitting very still. Apparently, they could still
sense him. On the third day, he grew tired of waiting, tied the end of the line
to a stick, crammed it into the muddy shore, and moved off to help Natassia
pick wild berries. When he came back, he had a nice-sized sunfish. The next day
he came with two fishing lines and left them unattended. He caught more. The
number of lines grew to four before he simply ran out of floss. Catching the
fish was a boon. Their diet improved when they could fry the fish in an
aluminum foil skillet with wild onions, with wild raspberries and wild
strawberries for desert. They got into a routine, and for over a week they kept
doing the same thing – surviving. Eventually, the fish catch slowed down, and
they had to walk much farther into the unknown part of the valley to fish
again. The increase in walking required more nutrition, so they began to lose
weight, and hunger started to overtake them.
On the way back to the small shelter one day, they saw “Terrorist” sniffing around their camp. They did not fear the two coyotes any longer. They came and went at will, and Natassia often fed them any leftover scraps they did not eat – like fish heads and bones. Prowler and Terrorist had become familiar to them. As they walked closer to the shelter, Nick noticed something odd. Terrorist was bigger.
“That is Terrorist isn’t it?” Nick asked Natassia for her opinion.
“I could call him. Sometimes I swear he knows his name,” she said. Natassia started to call out his name when the animal came out from the shadows of their camp. He was longer, larger and silver-black in color. He was not Terrorist at all, and worse, he was a wolf.
“Back away slowly,” Nick said in a low tone.
“Is that a wolf?” Natassia questioned. They pair had spent nearly ten days surviving in this valley and the only animals they had seen beyond Terrorist and Prowler, were small ones, or harmless ones. They never saw a wolf before. And this wolf was big enough to hurt, maybe kill a human.
The wolf was black and silver, his hair in intermediate growth. He was licking his jaws, as if he had just eaten something of theirs. He looked up, spotted the two humans, and put his head down. He walked slowly and deliberately in their direction.
“Maybe we should split up,” Natassia suggested. “He would have two targets.”
“No, then he would pick us off one by one. Stay with me, and behind me,” Nick instructed. He still carried his large walking stick. Now he picked it up and aimed it forward. It now was his blunt spear or club. He tried the same thing he tried with Terrorist that first night. He yelled, screamed, and carried on with bravado. Though the wolf did not appear to be frightened of him, all of his strange noises made it hesitate from advancing. It just watched them. Slowly, they circled their way back to the shelter. The wolf made a howling sound, then turned and ran off into the woods. But Nick watched it turn and look back at them, before it disappeared out of sight.
“That was too close,” Natassia admitted. “I never expected to see a wolf down here.”
“Honestly, I am surprised we have not seen more or worse before now,” Nick remarked. He was very concerned the wolf might return with a pack. How were they going to hold off more than one?
After collecting the usual fare, every edible plant they could find, fish and a few crawfish, they came back to camp to cook it all up. That evening, Nick used a jagged rock to put a point on his stick. When the point got sharp enough, he heated the end in the fire and then pounded in on the ground to make it harder. It took a couple of hours, but the effort produced a good thrusting spear that Nick felt, even the Native Americans might have been proud of.
“Cool,” Natassia noted. She picked up the spear and tried it out for herself. No wallflower, despite her beauty, she wanted a weapon as well. But the spear was a little unwieldy for her.
“I also made this,” Nick said, as something of a surprise. She had not seen him working on it during the daylight when she was collecting plants. He handed her a well-made stone knife, with the blade being made from sharpened stone that was wrapped in a handle of plant fibers, allowing her to grab it without hurting her hand.
“That’s amazing work,” Natassia beamed at her present. She had never been so happy to get a knife before. “How long did this take you?” she asked.
“A few days. I found small piece of flint about a week ago. I’ve been flaking pieces off that rock blade for a while now.”
It was only then that she noticed cuts and scrapes over his left hand. She reached for it.
“I missed the rock a few times,” he explained.
The couple settled in for another night in the wilderness. It was becoming routine. Only inclement weather and answering nature’s call in the wild were still awkward and uncomfortable to them. If only they had more food, and more clothes, they might be able to survive a week more with ease. But the food from their area was disappearing. They had eaten almost all of the edible plants in a mile radius, and the fish were badly depleted. Nick decided he was going to walk to the other end of the valley, and maybe move their camp to a new place. That’s one reason he wanted to finish the spear and the knife. The other reason was that the wolves might soon return, and bring family.
With all this in mind, Nick had been building a small wall of sticks and branches, strung together with thick grass or other plant fibers. It was awkward, and hard to move, but when it was leaned against the shelter wall, it formed a crude fence that might keep them better hidden. Before tonight, he had not felt the need to use it. Now he put it across the opening. It was just far enough from the fire not to ignite, but if it fell, it would certainly burn.
It was deep into a cool, dark night in the valley. Nick and Natassia were leaning against each other on a pile of soft plants and extra clothing. It was their bed. Nick, the lightest sleeper of the two, woke with start. He opened his eyes and looked at the fire. It was low, but still burning, or at least smoldering. He could get it going again. But that was not what woke him. Something made him feel unsettled. He carefully moved Natassia’s head from his shoulder and got up.
“Urrrr,” came a deep sound.
“Nick froze. He looked around but could not see far in the darkness beyond the fire. He reached for his spear. As he picked it up, he heard a loud snort, and a deep throaty grunt.
“Natassia,” he whispered. “Get up now!”
“Wha, what? What’s wrong?” she whispered back.
Another loud noise, this time a growl and from something big.
“Is it the wolves? Are they back?” Natassia asked. She was now wide-awake. Natassia got up and grabbed her pack and her knife.
“Worse, I think. It sounds bigger than a wolf,” Nick spoke, his eyes wide with fear.
He reached out to pull the stick-gate closer to the indentation, and as he did, a large paw swatted the wooden façade down with ease. It was a large black bear.
Natassia let out a small shriek of surprise. It was not a natural scream, and perhaps because she had been trying to whisper, it came out muted. Still, it pierced the night air. Nick lunged out with his spear but hit nothing. Natassia put her small frame behind Nick, but had her knife up, and ready.
The bear let out another growl, which drowned out Natassia’s small shriek. It lunged into the camp and batted at Nick. Nick was thrown across the shelter with ease, and landed hard against the rock wall. He held onto his spear, but the brute strength of this bear was too much for him. Natassia stood in the deepest part of the indentation, holding her knife out in front of her, and tried to stab the bear. The bear paid little attention to her weapon. It opened its mouth wide and let out a deep grunt, and then tried to swipe at her with its claws. She hit the ground. The bear missed. It came in a little closer this time. Nick saw Natassia’s danger. She was almost trapped. He picked up his spear and ran at the bear, digging the spear point into the bear’s flank. The spear sank in. The bear let out an angry howl, and spun to face this impudent human. It was looking for an easy meal, and the meal was fighting harder than it anticipated. But the bear was also hungry, and their shelter smelled of fish and berries. The bear tried to bite Nick, to end his life in one snap, but it stepped into the embers of the fire as it came toward him, and howled again in pain. While it was recovering, Nick grabbed Natassia by her wrist, and literally pulled her entire body out of the shelter in one quick motion. She stood up, her knees knocking in terror, and tried to run with Nick. As fast as they ran in the darkness, the bear was faster. It closed on them in short order. Nick stopped and turned. He drew up his spear. If he was going to die, he was going to die fighting. He raised his spear to strike the bear as hard as he could. It might be his last attack.
Just as he did, he heard yelping. It sounded like the coyotes, Terrorist and Prowler, but very loud this time. The bear was taken by surprise. It did not regard coyotes as serious contenders or enemies, but they could be extremely annoying. The bear took its focus off of its prey for a minute and turned to swipe at Prowler, who, although dwarfed by the bear, was quick and agile. He ducked under the swipe and ran away. Then Terrorist, the larger of the two coyotes, tried to nip the bear in its hindquarters. The black bear reversed itself and tried to snap the head off of Terrorist, but the coyote was too fast. It leaped out of the way, and ran to the other side of the bear. Nick was transfixed by the animal’s contest. He held his spear up, hoping for an opportunity to impale the bear while it was busy with the coyotes.
Natassia saw a chance.
“Nick, come on and run. They are buying us time,” she pleaded.
Nick could not take his eyes off of the contest. As he watched, two other coyotes came in, two that he had never seen before. The started attacking the bear with little yelps and annoying bites. It was nothing that would really do damage to the bear, but would keep it busy. Nick thought, “They must have been part of the coyote’s family group.” He stared with amazement. He still wanted to run the bear through.
Natassia walked over to Nick. She stood all of five feet two inches tall, and about 105 pounds. She was about a foot shorter than Nick, and considerably smaller in body frame. Still, she was a tough little woman. She fought mutated mosquitoes, and a deformed creature in a hell-house, the latter all on her own. Not very much intimidated her anymore. She stood facing Nick, her resolve strong. She reached up, grabbed him by the chin, and none too gently yanked his jaw so his green eyes were looking right into her dark brown eyes.
“Mister, you are coming with me right now. Do you understand me or do I have to drag you by your balls?” she demanded. Her eyes were firm. She did not blink. Nick did. He blinked a couple times, before he really saw her. He was afraid. Yet he still believed he should combat the bear and kill it. He had not worked out how.
“Come. Now!” she demanded.
Nick looked at the battle between the coyotes and the bear, and he let go. He followed his woman with all haste. They ran until they could no longer hear the combat. They hid in the darkness in a small thick spot of trees.
“I could have killed it,” Nick lamented when they had caught their breath.
“Maybe you could. Maybe not. I doubt even your good spear would penetrate that bear’s hide deep enough to keep it from killing your first,” she argued.
“But maybe my death would save you,” he said. Nick had, at times, only one mindset. He wanted to save everyone. He wanted to save Natassia, of course. He often saved his friends. He was the unspoken leader at Paranormal Investigations. He was the only who could handle all of them and at the same time, keep them all working productively. He also had a tendency, as Natassia called it, to have ‘Hero Syndrome.’ He was too willing to throw himself on the proverbial grenade to save the others. Sometimes retreat was a better option. If his fatal courage was a weakness, it was a weakness she loved about him. He really did care enough for them all to die for them. She wished he thought of himself a little bit more.
“I can’t believe Prowler and Terrorist came to save us,” Nick said when he had calmed down. “I never believed what I just saw would be possible.”
“Aren’t you glad I fed them now?” Natassia questioned. “I hope they are all right.”
In fact, the coyotes were fine. Terrorist got caught slightly by a bear claw, but he would heal. They left the black bear alone as soon as Nick and Natassia made it away. The bear, however, was very irritated. He cleaned out anything from the shelter that might be edible. He opened the packs, chewed into Natassia’s sack of plants, and ate most of them. He ate half of Nick’s belt. The rest of the items he threw about the area in a tantrum and eventually, he left.
The couple spent the remainder of that night hiding in the
thicket of trees. The saplings and small trees in that spot were so dense no
animal could sneak up them. At least not something as large as a bear. They
half-slept until dawn came.
They couple only had minimal supplies with them now. They had to return to their old camp to pick up their gear. But it was clear to them both that this little indentation in the canyon wall that had served them so well for twelve days was now obsolete. They had to find a new place to make their camp.
“We have a lot of walking to do today,” Nick advised as they picked up all they could carry from the old camp, and left for unknown territory.
“I guess you are right,” Natassia admitted. “Where do we go? Do you have any ideas?”
“The last few days we were starting to run out of fish, and plants,” Nick recalled as they walked. “I’ve only been a hundred yards into the valley along the stream. We have to stay close to it,” Nick said.
“Then it is that way,” Natassia said, pointing. It was the
only direction along the stream they had not explored.
The pair walked for what felt like hours. They traversed melting snow, overflowing areas of the stream that began to look and feel like a small river, or a creek. Eventually, none of the landmarks looked familiar to them, with the exception of the tall canyon walls that completely enclosed them. The days had been warmer lately, allowing much of the snow to melt. The stream flowed with rapids in places. However, toward evening, as they searched for a place to rest, the snow started again, and the temperatures dropped. The duo finally settled on a little bank right on the stream itself. There was a little dirt strip that nearly crossed the stream thus forcing a torrent of water through the only small opening available. The area gave them room to build another small campfire, and be near the water. It offered no protection from the wind, or wild animals.
It was now about two weeks since Nick and Natassia went barreling over the mountain’s side and landed in their new home – or their new prison. The toll of eating only small plants, tiny fish and crawfish was noticeable. Nick’s clothes hung off of his lanky, frame, and Natassia struggled to keep her blouse and pants from sliding around her. She especially was losing weight, and she could ill-afford to lose too much. They huddled together near their small fire on the bank, and kept warm under a ripped, small blanket the bear left in tatters.
“Nick,” Natassia broached a subject. It was not a topic she wanted to bring up, or even consider, but it had to be done.
“If we begin starving, or freezing, or if the animals come back –“ she left the rest unfinished.
“I know,” Nick interrupted. “I’ve been thinking about that too. I don’t want us to get so weak we cannot defend ourselves only to get eaten by bears or wolves,” he acknowledged. It was a terrible thought and neither one of them had been willing to discuss it before. But they now had to face it: they were slowly getting weaker, and the forces of nature were strong. They would rather die on their own terms than be ravaged by the wild.
“If it comes to that, could you do it?” she asked, looking up at Nick.
“I could do it to me,” he confided. “Not to you,” he answered.
“But you might have to,” Natassia explained. “I’m not sure how to…I mean, I’ve never killed…” she did not complete her thought.
Both she and Nick were very aware of the one subject that they never talked about: Nick taking the life of the criminal known to them as “Crayfish.” It was something that happened in the flash of a moment – in the critical heat of battle. Crayfish had thrown a vial of deadly virus at Nick’s head in order to make an escape. Bettina Corrales, their old foe and friend from the CDC, had literally jumped in front of it, saved them both (and most of Greater South California in the process), and died of viral infection in minutes. Nick followed their attacker into the sewer, and when he caught up with the man that had tried to kill them both twice before, he hit him several times in the head with a pipe, and left his body down in that rotten place. Of course the police found out about it, but Nick was never charged with anything. Creighton Fisher had been a fugitive from justice for a long time, and had a long criminal history. With the help of their friend in the FBI, Agent Williams, the case was made that Nick acted in self-defense. It was accepted. And it was not a subject Natassia, Nick or their friends, Buzz and Lorna, really wanted to talk about. Now it had been mentioned by way of a reference of Nick as being someone who killed once. “A killer” Nick thought to himself. “That’s how she sees it.” Nick lowered his head.
“I don’t even remember that much about how I did it,” Nick revealed to her.
She instantly understood what he was talking about. She hesitated, but she had always been curious.
“You said you hit him?” Natassia probed. The two talked quietly with the blanket over them, acting as their tent. Neither of them was able to sleep here.
“I did. With a small pipe I found on my way down into that sewer.” Nick answered. As he did, the emotion of the moment hit him hard. He began to shake slightly.
“I followed him through several tunnels. He kept turning right. I could hear him sloshing through that sewage, too. I don’t know why he kept turning right. If he had turned left at the big junction, he might have lost me,” Nick anguished. He was reliving the moment, and he was furious. The anger was old, not from anything recent. It had been shoved to the back of his mind for so long.
“It’s OK, Nick,” Natassia tried to comfort. She felt terrible for bringing it up now and unleashing something he tried so hard to forget.
“I could have tackled the bastard,” Nick choked on the words. He hated reliving this, but it kept coming out. “I could have brought him back up with me,” Nick coughed and then put his hands to his face. He felt very ashamed that he had not been able to control his anger.
“You did the right thing,” she comforted. “He would have come back for us when we least expected it,” Natassia comforted him.
“He would have had twenty years in jail,” Nick admitted. “I shouldn’t have…”
Nick sank his face into Natassia’s shoulder and let some of his anguish out. She did not say anything more. He was punishing himself enough as it was.
“I’m glad he isn’t around to threaten any of us, Nick. I
just wanted to know. I’m sorry,” she said soothingly.
As Nick was recovering from his own guilt, Natassia noticed something odd, far off into the distance.
At first she thought she saw two glowing eyes in the darkness. The coyotes had followed them! Just as she was ready to announce it to Nick, (out here any news was interesting news), she saw the ‘eyes’ shift place. It was not a natural movement. She stared hard into the distance. Nick looked up at Natassia.
“What are you looking at?” he questioned when he realized she was no longer listening to him. He stared where he thought she was looking. He did not see anything.
“Did you see that?” she asked in a high-pitched voice.
“Where? I don’t see anything,” Nick grumbled. He was convinced Natassia was imagining things.
“Look down my arm,” she suggested. She pulled Nick’s head to her arm as she pointed at the two tiny eyes that were moving slowly in the distance.
“Don’t you see that?”
Nick looked at her and shook his head. He did not see anything – and then he saw it. It was next to impossible to see when it was not in motion, and for the most part, it appeared stationary. Then it moved slightly.
“What is that?” he asked. Nick felt a surge of joy at the same moment with a sense of dread. He came to the same conclusion as Natassia, but she voiced it first.
“What do you mean ‘sexy’?!” Lorna questioned for about the
“Babe, don’t get all bent outta shape. I’m just trying to explain to Madam Rochelle what I saw. They were ladies, well, maybe not ladies, but they were women from a long time ago,” Buzzed concluded. He looked to Rochelle for answers.
When Buzz and Lorna came running down the stairs of that haunted floor, they made a weak excuse to the owner to leave, and went straight to madam Rochelle, the local Medium and clairvoyant. They had worked with her on several occasions in the past when they needed advice on the supernatural.
“Can you tell me more about them?” Rochelle asked.
“Well, we got this job a few days ago,” Buzz started.
“Almost a week. Buzz is not telling the whole story –
again,” Lorna added, with the ‘again’ for good measure. She somehow felt this
whole thing had to be his fault. Why did their jobs always involve getting her
boyfriend – who might be ex-boyfriend before this job was over – in the path of
sexually alluring women?
Buzz tried his best to ignore Lorna’s criticism. He had an earful of the same treatment on the way over to Madam Rochelle’s place.
“They were working women,” he answered. When it was clear that Madam Rochelle was not on the same page, he added more.
“You know, professional types, from another era,” Buzz added. He was hoping he would not have to elaborate much more. However, Madam Rochelle was not familiar with Buzz’s tendency to find showgirls, strippers in peril and now, ghosts that wanted to seduce him.
“You mean like old factory work?” Rochelle asked, confused. She did not yet comprehend.
“No, he means whores!” Lorna spat and turned around. She was angry that Buzz found the ghosts to be sexy. She could not look at him.
“Whor – no, no, they aren’t whores,” Buzz stepped in it again. “Whores give it away. These were definitely pros,” Buzz concluded, from what he believed was a wisdom that Lorna lacked.
“Oh, I see. Prostitutes, you mean,” Rochelle understood. “From what era?”
“I don’t know exactly. You see they were kinda wearing these old clothes, until they started taking them off– “ Buzz said. As he did, his eyes glazed over a little. A smile crept over his face even as he tried to be very serious.
“They took their clothes off? How many were there?” Rochelle asked. She had been asked to contact spirits in various homes before. But she never heard of a multiple haunting.
“There were three. One was a Geisha,” Buzz stated with a little too much enthusiasm.
“You were probably very happy about that, weren’t you Buzz?” Lorna accused. Her face was contorted with a combination of rage and jealousy.
“I wasn’t unhappy about it until the first one – the redheaded one – tried to touch me,” Buzz said honestly.
“She touched you?!” Lorna pivoted back around to face the back of Buzz’s head. “Why you…Cheater,” she stammered.
“Rochelle, could you excuse us for a minute?” he asked as innocently as possible.
Rochelle saw their struggles, and left the room for a minute.
“Would you stop with the crazy for a minute? I have to tell her about what happened,” he pleaded.
“Well, you don’t have to be so damn happy about your little professional ‘Ghosts Gone Wild’, do you?” she answered. Lorna was livid. Why were Buzz and bad women so attracted to each other? And why did he have to get so excited about this kind of woman?
“I’m not happy,” Buzz said. “In fact, she hurt me if that helps. She maybe could have killed me. Does that make you feel better?” Buzz explained.
“Really?” Lorna smiled. “So you weren’t really attracted to these dead floozies?”
“Only for a minute…” he mistakenly admitted.
“When she wanted me to play with her pus…er, her cat, I got very nervous,” Buzz admitted honestly, with a cautious change of wording.
“Her what? Wait, you were turned on then?” Lorna was angry again.
“I was tricked!” Buzz insisted. “How was I supposed to know they were cold as ice cubes? She nearly froze my package off, does that make you happy?” Buzz asked, frustrated and confused.
“She tried to hurt your package?” Lorna asked. A little concern was being aroused from her rage.
“Is it all right now? I mean, your male parts aren’t damaged beyond repair or anything, right?” Lorna asked out of curiosity, as she looked down at his trousers.
“No, I think they are OK,” Buzz said. Involuntarily, he touched his crotch with concern.
“I’d really be upset if she damaged McBuzzy,” Lorna revealed her pet name for his manly concerns.
“Shh!” Buzz warned.
“What? I only said McB –“ she started. Buzz put his hand over her mouth.
“That’s a ‘private word’ we only say in our bedroom, and not
in someone else’s living room. Right?” he explained. As he did, Rochelle
rounded the corner with a slight smile on her face. She walked up to them.
Rochelle was carrying a book opened to some photographs.
“Were they dressed like this?” she asked. She placed the old book in Buzz’s hands and he looked at the old black and white photographs. The clothes were similar, but not exactly the same.
“It’s close. What are these photographs?” he asked.
“Greendale had a racy history at one time, back in the 1910s. There were a few very infamous brothels in the area. Most of them were closed down by the late 1920s. One of them was never found. It was rumored to have had some terrible thing happen there, but of course, the customers never talked about it.
Buzz thought for a minute. He wondered what Nick or Natassia
would do in this situation. Then he had it.
“We should go to the library and do some research on that home,” he decided. “So when we go back we know what we are dealing with.”
Lorna had been looking at the picture book and listening.
She had to admit Buzz’s plan would prepare them better, even if she was still
angry with him.
“Very good idea,” Rochelle agreed. “I’m coming with you.”
“You’re smarter than you look,” Lorna said to Buzz without emotion. “Of course, you look like challenged moron.” Lorna then walked out of the door of Rochelle’s home, with Buzz and Rochelle following her.
“I’m coming with you,” Rochelle said, trying not to smile. Buzz noticed her amusement. He was embarrassed.
“She…she thinks I’m ‘into’ these ghosts,” he sheepishly tried to explain.
“So I gathered,” Rochelle commented.
Neither of them slept much of the rest of that night. The sight of what looked like car headlights in the distance excited them. It might mean rescue. They came from the other end of the valley, where they were headed. Since they were getting an early start, both of them were hopeful of reaching that part of the valley before dark.
Nick caught a few small fish while Natassia gathered every edible plant she could find, even the ones that were not fun to eat – like thistles. They ate what they could without conversation, and left in a hurry.
It was one of the most uneventful days they had experienced in recent memory. No animals were near, either to follow them, like the coyotes, or to stalk them, like the wolves or bear. They both kept a wary eye on the woods. The main problem was the new layer of snow. It made walking difficult and exhausting. Both of them had cold, wet feet by noon forcing them to stop for a couple of hours to dry their shoes and socks and eat another pithy, wild meal. Then they moved off toward the direction of the headlights from the night before. It was almost dark before they called it quits. Natassia was complaining about her feet, and Nick could not feel his at all. They were cold, tired and hungry. What they would not give for a hot meal! Both of them had been dreaming about food recently. Cheeseburgers sounded like a delight from paradise, never mind the fat.
They found a little place that was secluded, up away from
the stream, near a pile of large rocks, and made another makeshift shelter. In
the middle of the boulders, was a little area of ground, which would protect
them from the wildlife, if not the wilderness. Nick tied together the last of
their unused clothing. Most of it was dirty and wet by now, but it made a crude
tarp, which he placed over the boulders. After the camp was made, Natassia set
about making it comfortable – as best as she could – while Nick went to collect
firewood for the night.
Nick worked until twilight picking up appropriate sized branches and sticks. He looked off into the distance, and could see the valley walls on the far end now – they were not too far away. He wondered about the source of the headlights. Could someone have driven down in here? If so, where did they go? How did they come in or exit? Or perhaps the lights were a mirage, or a reflection from the highway above, somehow thrown down to them by some trick of the light? He had doubts anyone was down here. But he also hoped they were. Natassia, on the other hand, was convinced there was someone ‘four-wheeling’ it down here. She felt they would find evidence soon.
Nick walked a few hundred feet from the camp. This end of the valley fascinated him. It had more water, and perhaps because it was new, he wanted to see even more. It was not long before he wandered out of Natassia’s sight. Off to his right, there was an odd embankment of dirt. It did not look natural, and natural formation of dirt was something to which Nick was becoming accustomed. This looked…staged, or perhaps manipulated by something. People? He walked over and looked closely at the ground. He began exploring the dirt mound. Something in the dirt caught his eye.
Back at their new camp, Natassia looked around for Nick. It took both of them a while to notice how far apart they had become. Natassia stood up.
“Nick? Nick, can you hear me?” she called out. Nothing. She tried not to panic. He must be nearby. She walked out of the shelter, and climbed up on one of the large rocks around their new camp. She called out again. No answer. She took a heavy breath. She knew not to over worry. Nick always got back just in time. Even so, if he were gone much longer, it would be dark. Finding him in the darkness would be frightening.
She walked slowly back to the shelter, and started to prepare what small bits of greens they had picked up. It was not going to be much of a meal, and she was so very hungry. In the distance, she heard what sounded like someone running. The noise got louder as it approached. It had to be Nick, she hoped, but why was he running? The bear! Natassia came out from the rock shelter with the knife Nick made for her, in her hand.
“Nick, is that you? Nick!” she called out. Desperation started to sound in her voice.
Just as she was moving further out from the camp, Nick came running around the corner, from out of sight, and into the camp. He was empty handed. He did not even have firewood.
“Get in the shelter, now!” Nick bellowed.
“Oh my God. It’s the bear isn’t it? He’s come back,” she said with a look of fear.
“No,” Nick shook. “Something else. Something worse.”
“What? What is it, Nick?” Natassia grabbed his arm as she insisted to know.
“About a mile, maybe two, up the stream, toward the end of the valley,” he said stopping to catch his breath. He breathed heavy several times.
“What Nick? What is at the end of the valley?” she demanded. Her fear was growing.
“Bodies – of dead women in shallow graves,” Nick explained.
Nick was curious about the strange embankment of earth. It was more of a mound of dirt, than a hill, so he walked over to it and looked around. Something appeared to have been moving bits of the earth around.
“Either there is very big mole in here, or something has
been digging around,” he commented to himself. He kneeled down on the ground to
get a better look. He could see a few places in the ground that appeared to
have been overturned. Like someone was digging. He shook his head. “Can’t be,”
he thought. But his curiosity had taken hold now, and he set down his firewood
and examined one of the unsettled areas. The dirt on this spot, as in several
other spots as he looked around in the rapidly fading light, was disturbed.
Either some animal had been digging in this mound, or – then he saw something
that shocked him. Sticking slightly out of the nearest unsettled earth, was a
shock of black hair!
Nick pulled back. Recovering from his surprise, he gingerly reached out and took the dark hair in his hand. It was dirty, and wet, but clearly human hair. He followed the hair to the origin: it came from under the dirt. Sweat beaded on his forehead, but not from activity – from fear. He wanted to cover it up and walk away, but he had to find out. He began digging in the moist earth with his hands. It took him a few seconds, but soon the hair lead to more hair, and then – a human face.
It was the face of a young attractive woman, or one that he assumed was once attractive. She was now pale, and white, her eyes open slightly with dirt in them. He started digging her out of the shallow ground. He was not sure why. Somehow it just felt wrong for her to be in this wet mound of soil. Soon, he had her head and torso unearthed. She was naked, and her neck clearly showed signs of strangulation. Her eyes were bloodshot, her neck bruised with marks of trauma, including a couple large finger imprints. Her skin was a blue-gray, the color of human death with initial signs of deterioration. She was still largely intact for a woman buried in the dirt. Apparently, the cold weather and the snow that had until recently, covered this area, preserved her. Nick stopped for moment. He felt nauseous. It was not because she stank, surprisingly she did not, but because she was so young. Maybe 20? She must have suffered terribly. Nick thought about removing her completely from her shallow grave, and taking her body – somewhere? He felt like he should do something. He was not sure what. His hands were shaking, as he placed the young woman’s corpse back into the earth. He covered her up better this time, with more dirt. When she was no longer visible, he whispered, “I’m sorry.” He could not help think how much the woman reminded him of Natassia. She was petite, like Natassia. Pretty – well, for a dead woman, he rationalized. And perhaps had an ethnic look about her, like Natassia, who was multiracial.
Nick glanced around at other areas that had disturbed ground
or any sign of fresh earth on top. He was several feet away from one. He knelt down
near it and began to dig. A little deeper than the last one, he found another
female body. She looked like she had been in the earth a little longer. He
could see that she also was a young woman with long, dark hair. Unlike the
other, she was still partially clothed. He moved to the next area.
After a few minutes of hard work, Nick had unearthed five bodies. All of them were young, perhaps eighteen to twenty-five years of age, attractive, with dark hair and eyes. They seemed to all have a similar look. The first one could have been Natassia’s sister, and that thought sent chills down his spine. Nick understood these were the missing girls and victims of a killer. He also realized the killer had a ‘type’ – a preference in victims.
Nick had the five graves open to compare them. They were at various stages of decomposition. There was also a strange smell about them, but not of death. It was something spicy, he could not identify it. One body was badly deteriorated, but the rest showed only very slight decomposition. He was surprised how preserved most of them were. However, that made it even harder for him to determine, or guess, how long they had been buried here. The cold weather and the snow had acted almost like a freezer. After looking at them as long as he could stand, he quickly covered them over with dirt again. It felt wrong to leave them exposed.
Shaken, Nick stood up and wiped some of the dirt on his
trousers. He looked around the mound and noticed at least nine other areas of
earth that looked overturned. His stomach tightened and he felt fear and
loathing overtake him. But even as dread began to paralyze him, he was speedily
snapped out of his dread when he noticed the same tire tracks, not more than
fifteen feet from the mound. He let out a gasp of surprise, looked around for
any signs of the vehicle, and then ran back to Natassia and the shelter, as
fast as he could move.
TO BE CONTINUED IN EPISODE 8 – see below or main menu.
Author: Robert M. Gunn
Tuesday, 25 May 2012
· A copyright for the book/episode, “Something Wicked This Way Comes” by Robert M. Gunn is pending for application. The author does reserve all legal and intellectual copyrights to this original material. No copying, whether mechanical or electrical is allowed without permission of the writer.
Next: The frightening and surprising conclusion in part 2, Episode 8 of “Something Wicked This Way Comes”
* - Pt. 2 'Something Wicked This Way Comes', Paranormal the Series
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