Monday, August 6, 2012

The Killer

Miss Emily's father was a pharmacist, a man of science, back when men of science were neither feared nor respected. His pay was small and he taught classes at the college for the younge men who had not had polio when they were children and had been healthy enough to go to war in far off places called Europe and Iwo Jima and had now returned heroes and victors and had come back to collect their just rewards, their new homes and cars and jobs and careers rung out of the education they were now being given by the men who did not leave, could not leave. Those self same men of science like Miss Emily 's father were the men of science and men of action and who had truly ended the war with two massive displays of science that were still sending shockwaves rippling through history's tides. They were the men of science who would eventually become the ones, the feared and respected. But Miss Emily's father was not one of them. He was small. Always had been a small man. And even when he stood tall he was still a small man on the inside.

Miss Emily's mother had come from a family of bakers. Growing up she never had the hardships her husband had. She had tasted sugar every day since she was two. How she kept her girlish frame through all the years was a secret her mother only shared with her and when the time came she also showed Miss Emily the way in which a woman could eat what she want and keep her form as long as she was subtle. No one was more subtle than her mother.

They must have met over a shared interest in mixing. She mixed hands full of flour and sugar and egg and butter. He mixed tubes of sulpheric oxide and ammonia phosphate. And so with their natural tendency, no, their love for mixing things it is no wonder that their lives mixed together and they were married soon after and had Miss Emily soon after that And so she grew and her mother baked apple pies with thick, rich buttery crumble on top and tried to pretend not to hear the rumors of how "miraculous" it was that a full grown child could be born four months prematurely and how didn't the little miss Emily have the greenest eyes they had ever seen, nothing like the eyes of her father but more the eyes of the good for nothing tramp Henry Phillips that had been her mothers sweetheart before he had abruptly left town, joined the navy, deserted, and soon after her mother and father had started their mixing. Just in time, they might add. She kept baking her buttery apple pies and pretended not to hear the looks.

But Miss Emily's mother was not the only one to hear the talk. Her father was a man of science and had to live under the mockery of the returned young men who neither knew nor cared that men of science were now beings to be feared, beings to be respected, beings who could level entire cityscapes and leave haunted skyscrapers with empty eye sockets. And he had to endure the taunting looks of their young wives as they looked at his wife and his daughter and talked more and more of the man named Henry Phillips with his green eyes. And he started to see his daughter, little Miss Emily in a new light. Her eyes were nothing like his own dark ones. They were indeed the most emerald green he had ever seen. And the devil slowly entered his heart though those dark eyes of his .

For he dared to think surely this is not flesh of my flesh or bone of my bone or eye of my eye. No, the abandoned refuse of another man, one of those who had come back from the war, bragging about how many babies they would bring upon the world now. Unaware of the apprehensive look their wives had when they said this. But he had seen the look. And it seemed that all at once his path was clear before him. Everyone of his problems aligned into the perfect solution. So he began to work late at night in his study. He studied new chemicals and made some of his own. He did research and found the old recipes from ancient times in old tomes. And he extracted the 13th volatile from the pomegranates in his backyard. And finally he had the first of the little brown vials. He was ready to begin his tests.

Years passed and it was the glorious summer of free love when vans of kids with guitars and hashish crawled across the countryside spreading the gospel of love and marajuana. But they were shocked to come to a town untouched by tiedye and the smell of weed. An untouched corner of America where the old men who had once been young men who came back from the war as victors now looked out on the empty swing sets they had built and the unused tricycles in their garages with old and empty eyes. Their wives eyes and bodies were still young and untouched by the marring of bearing child after child after child. And there was one man of science in the town who knew and kept the secret of their youth. One old man of science who had the most subtle of wives who slid the small dark vials into the corners of the basket that held her buttery apple pies. He was a man of science and finally respected.

The lack of children should have been a warning. Instead it was like a magnet. Bus after bus brought these new men who did not shave or have gleaming eyes for war in far off places. And the new women who wove their hair with flowers and knew the secret ways and had no need for the small brown vials that were snuck in with the buttery apple pies. And soon Miss Emily's father had no more need to extract the 13th volatile from the pomegranates in their backyard. And he put away his books.

And Miss Emily who was by now a sixteen year old felt herself drawn by curiosity to the strange new additions to the town who wore flowers in their hair and beards on their faces and who slept each night under the stars, wrapped in blankets of thick, hazy smoke rising from a hundred smoldering joints. She began to come to the bonfires. Then she began to spend the nights under the stars in her own hazy blanket. That was how she first met him.

He was tall and he was lanky and he carried his guitar with him wherever he went. He wrote songs about the bonfire nights and about the starry, hazy sleep and his dreams to always be free. And then he wrote a song about sweet Miss Emily. Soon he was writing songs only about her. She was seventeen when he first made love to her under the hazy, starry sky and she promised to run  away with him. She was so happy and she had no idea all her happiness was about to be taken from her.

The seizures were horrible. Worse than any the doctors had seen before. They ran their test and tried to keep her from biting her tongue off and took more and more of her blood. But years later the orderlies would sit around and tell each other and anyone who would listen that there really wasn't anything they could have done. That she was stronger than they thought. That she pushed her way out like a madwoman, they couldn't finish fastening the straps on the straight jacket and that she took off down the linolium hallway with the white arms flapping behind her. And they had shrugged their shoulders and shuffled off after her, shaking their heads. There was no where she could run to anyway. But as she reached the end of the long, sickly clean hallway she turned to them and stuck out her tongue. And as they took another step closer, a second of confusion washed over them as the row of white teeth clamped down on the red tongue, which fell to the floor with a sickening wet thud. The sound of her gurgling laughter as she lay on the floor bleeding would haunt them forever. And they would keep telling themselves that there really wasn't anything they could have done for Miss Emily's mother. Her mind seemed to have left this world.

Her father took all the news surprisingly in stride. He was a scientist, a man who was now respected and feared in his sterile white lab coat and he would be logical even if his wife was now locked in the guest bedroom. People began steering clear of the pharmacy, either out of respect for the man with the mad wife, or because he was the physcian who could not heal his own. He did not even looked worried when the blood samples from his wife were sent away or when they came back and the toxocologist came back not only with the results but with the policeman as well.

And so with her father awaiting trail and her mother trying to lick the yellow wallpaper in the guestroom with her phantom tongue, Miss Emily's hopes and dreams of running away with the boy with the guitar seemed lost forever. But fate was much crueler when it casted her frame. Because the boy with the guitar did not leave. He had sang that he loved her and he believed that he did and by God he hated liars and couldn't stand em and would never be able to live with himself if he thought he had lied about something important like love to someone as pretty as Miss Emily.

So the boy sold his guitar and found work at the office of the law clerk because hadn't he been in law school before he had found his guitar and his place in the van that had screeched across the country. He shaved his face, combed his hair, and moved into Miss Emily's bedroom, awaking many nights to the sound of the mad woman who shuffled about in the upstairs guest bedroom when she had her moments of sanity and stumbled confused in the darkness, wondering where her tongue was.

Miss Emily's father's trial took time. For one thing, there were many specialist who had to be called in because the extent of the damage of the small brown vials seemed never to end. And then, as Justice Strauss would point out, there had never been anything to happen like this in the entire history of Yoknapatawpha County and it was a highly irregular case that one wouldn't want to take too lightly on account of it setting a presedent. And these presedent settin cases can have all kinds of  unforseen consequences like that law that now made it illegal to hunt over on Red Sammy Butte even though everyone knew if you were going for a twenty pointer you had to go over to Red Sammy Butte and now no one could all on account of Justice Bailey upholding that damn ordinance to protect some creeping ivy or kudzu. Anyway Justice Strauss wasn't about to let people call into question his jurisprudence like they did with Justice Bailey. Oh no siree, he was gonna take his time and see how the crowd went.

In the meantime Miss Emily tried her hand running the bakery. But she did not have her mother's natural touch to make buttery apple pies. At first a few ladies kept coming back because they felt sorry for the poor darling. And they secretly hoped that her father had thought ahead and stored some more of the small brown vials that they could get their hands on. But the pies got worse and the vials were no more and the business began to dry up. Now the once friendly women with their beautiful figures and their clean childless houses no longer looked reverentially as the passed the bakery. They scowled and  some began to cry and many could not help but wrap their arms around their waists to chase away the haunting emptiness they now felt. Because Henry Phillips and his green eyes were forgotten and now there was only one thing they talked about. The dark brown vials and the lies they had believed.

Miss Emily however tried to remain happy. She made herself forget about the madwoman with the empty mouth that had been her mother. She tried to forget about the trial of her father that was quickly approaching and that she still did not understand at all. Just that somehow he was to blame for her mother's condition. Instead she focused on her boy who had sold his guitar and his dreams of freedom to stay with her and work in the law clerk's office. He had stayed with her when everyone else had abandoned her and would massage her temples when she had one of her migraines and would softly sing to her about those hazy, starry nights so long ago. And he would softy sing about his dreams, no more of freedom, but now of a future with her. Of a home and a family. She would do anything to make him happy. Give him the home and the family he sang so softly about.

And then came the day of the trial. Every woman in town was there. They held their purses clutched in their Jackie Kennedy white gloves with so much nervous strain that they looked like they were all carrying their own rocks for the stoning. Licking their lips as they waited for Justice Strauss to announce the verdict, as if they were waiting on the result of a lottory. As the scene unfolded the toxocologist brought forth the evidence of the massive amounts of the strange steriod, obviously plant derived, that was found in her blood, and the accumulation of which in her brain membranes had probably led to the insanity. At this pronouncement the livid faces of the angry women turned as pale as their white gloves. The courtroom had turned silent as they waited to find out how much was too much. How many of the vials had her husband given her.

And so he was brought forward, still wearing his white lab coat.

"Sir, you are aware of what you stand accused of today?" Justice Strauss paused with a look up towards the women in white, "That of poisoning your own wife?"

"Yes." His tone was strangely soft, and yet revirbrating against the soft sususruss of the courtroom.

"And do you deny doing this?" Justice Strauss paused to look down hautily at the accused... they would like that.

"No. I did do it." The courtroom was silent with shock and outrage at what everyone already knew.

"Was your wife aware you were administering this, er, mixture to her?"

He paused for a moment, "No, but I think after a while. She must have suspected."

Justice Strauss looked at his notes and licked his thick upper lip, "And how much of the er, mixture did you administer to your wife?"

The courtroom was on edge.

"Only about a half an ounce."

And then the courtroom exploded as women leapt to their high heals and handbag were thrown down on the seats or clutched much firmer as voices rose in a nonsynchronous chorus of a coming lynch mob. Justice Strauss was momentarily taken aback by the sudden rabble. It didn't make any sense but regardless of any sense he would still have order in his courtroom goddammit! He beat the gavel so hard that it sent the head flying off where it struck one of the closest seated women in the audience. She crumpled a white gloved hand held to a bleeding forehead as several around her flocked to her side. In the moment of stunned silence he managed one yell.

"Goddammit I said shut up!" The courtroom was silent, a catharsis of noise and breath. "Now, I don't care how much you care about the accused testimony I will have order. Otherwise once the bailiff has finished reviving Mrs. Harrison there I will have him arrest every single person in here who thinks they can talk after I told them to shut up!"

This was not going good at all. He had to save this somehow. And as he looked down at the clean shaven man in the white lab coat still standing there so serenely. The man who was the author of this whole predicament he knew all he needed was a common enemy. This man was that enemy.

"Right, let's get back to the questioning. So you say you only administered half an ounce?" He looked pointedly towards his right where a soft whimper had started again, "When was this?"

"Oh, it was a long time ago." said Miss Emily's father, "Probably almost sixteen years ago."

Ignoring the further whimpers around the courtroom the Judge tried to push on, "And you knew that this was potentially poisonous to your wife?"

"Yes." That was it. No tears or even remorse. Just another fact to the man of science.

"And yet you still continued with it? Why?" Justice Strauss could see the courtroom taking his side again. He let out a quiet sigh of relief for himself.

"Of course. I had to get the dosage right." A pause of confusion on the justice' face made it clear he should continue. This was obviously one of those boys from the war without a thread of brain between his ears, "You see. Before I could be sure I had the correct dosage I had to test it. But of course once I tested it once I couldn't test it again on the same subject."

"You mean you poisoned more people!" Justice Strauss couldn't secretly believe his luck. Not only one admission. This would surely get their support behind him. He wouldn't be blamed for setting a presedent. It would have been what the people wanted. And he was here by the people for the people.

"Well, yes, if you must phrase it like that." He disliked when people chose emotional phrasing over factual ones, "I did test the mixture twice before I luckily found the right measure."

"The right measure?" The Justice still wasn't following, "For what?"

"Why, for your wife of course." And he couldn't resist a smile then as he saw the look on the Justice's face.

"What!" He suddenly felt lead slide into his stomach. Like it had before he had rushed the beach at Omaha and saw his best friend Pete blow up. He found his wife in the crowd, looking away as he said, "June? What is he talking about?! What did you do to my wife, you bastard!"

"Nothing that she didn't practically beg me to do." And at that moment suddenly no eye would meet him, not even with a sliver of blame. "Each one of them. They all came and begged me. Begged me for more. So I merely accquiessed. It means I gave them what they wanted."

"I know what it means!" He barked as he wiped his forehead. "What did they beg you for?"

"To save them." He smirked, "From all of you."

"Talk sense man!" Justice Strauss was red faced and sweating and trying to regain control and composure while at the self same moment loosening the tight collar around his neck.

"I thought it was clear. Haven't you put two and two together." He started to smirk again and this time couldn't hide it. "How there hasn't been a baby born in this town. Not in a very long time. About sixteen years hasn't it been."

As the cool realization started to dawn on the judge he looked frantically around the courtroom. All of them. Each and everyone. That was why they were here today. That was why they had come to see him sentenced. That was why they couldn't meet his paranoid gaze. Because they had all been so utterly stupid to go to the pharmacist and take his stupid little brown vials and believe his stupid lies! This was why! This was why the swing sets were empty and the tricycles unused. This! All because of one man.

"You mean to tell me all of the women in town. All of them... have been poisoned?!" His eyes frantically ran to his own wife and he thought about the stories he had heard, trying hard not to picture his own June running madly down a linoleum hallway and biting her tongue off and cackling as the blood foamed from her mouth.

"Yes." He answered levelly.

"And so. They're all gonna. I mean. How long before they..." He couldn't finish his own sentence.

"What? Go insane?" He snorted as he laughed, "They won't. You obviously haven't been listening. I had found the right dosage. Your wives have all been taking a much diluted and much lower dosage than I gave my wife. Or the other test subject. They should be fine. In fact they should be better than fine. Just look at them. Radiant as the day you married them. Sure they have a few lines but not nearly as many as they would have had... otherwise."

"Why?" It was supposed to be a demand, but came out as a dry croak.

"Why? That is an interesting question, isn't it." And here his smirk almost turned down into a thoughtful frown, "We all have our reasons. Consider mine a pinch of justice in an unjust world."

"Justice?!" Strauss sputtered, "Oh, I'll give you justice. For poisoning an entire town, and for doing so fully with the knowledge of the danger you were placing them all in and for showing no remorse for the loss of human life. Of potential human life. I hereby sentence you to death."

"Yes, I rather thought you would." He sighed as he adjusted his watch. "Which is why I came prepared."

"Bailiff! Restrain that man!" But it was too late. The small silver capsule was crushed between his teeth and after a few moments of shuddering, he was gone.

The weeks following was one of the hardest the town had ever known. Husbands left, wives left. But most stayed. In the frosty silence of betrayed trust and anguished guilt. They stayed. And soon more and more of the long haired boys and girls from the woods moved into the town. Slowly, life began again. And the sound of children crying once more, after fifteen years of silence, filled the town with a sense of shame and hope. Hope that with the death of the mad man, maybe things would once more be alright.

But in one home the happy sound of life and sour smell of diapers did not invade. In one house things were still as they were before, hanging under the shadow of the man now dead. Miss Emily still woke to the sound of the shuffling above when her mother would come to her right mind and begin moaning for Miss Emily's father to help her, release her from her prison. But it seemed to happen less and less frequently. Meanwhile her boy, her wonderful boy who had cut his hair and shaved his face and worked in the law office started to sing less and less. He couldn't bare to sing songs of a future and of a family as more and more time passed. And still no baby.

Miss Emily felt her world begin to crumble. At first they thought her mother had died. No more walking. No more shuffling or crying. Nothing. When they looked in the room they found her seated in her chair looking out the open window, all the wallpaper finally torn off the walls. She didn't move. She didn't moan or try to talk anymore. She was like a vacant house, where lonely winds blew threw the sad broken window panes into lonely rooms. It was upsetting, but secretly also relieving not to have to constantly worried about forgetting to lock the room anymore. She wasn't going anywhere anymore.

At around this time the whispers began again. The old women, the childless women, meeting one of the new women, the young mothers, and doting on the small children while having whispered conversations with the mothers. Warning them about the picturesque bakery. Telling them the story of what once happened there. Of how they had been forced, really, against their own will and better judgement, because who argued with a pharmacist, and really you ought to trust people like that, and how now all of them had to suffer.

But the stories didn't stop there. Oh no, there were other stories, other whispers. They came not among the old women, but rather they came from the law offices. Clerks who had been at the trial. Who had heard the testimony. Who knew the story. And the speculation began. Who had been the other test subject. Who else was a ticking time bomb for the craziness of Miss Emily's mother that the town was still reeling from? There was only one person. One person who everyone suspected. And her husband just happened to work in those same offices. And started to hear the stories bit by bit.

It was a dark, moonless night when he staggered back home. He had started drinking with the fellows after work when he started. Just a drink or two at first. Then one more. Until finally there were nights when Ernie the cab driver would have to carry him up to their front porch. The next morning he would apologize and promise to stop. Three or four nights later it would start all over again. But she let him. Because he would pull her close and though he reeked of whiskey, he would start to sing the old songs to her. The ones about the hazy, starry nights and having a free life. She loved to lie next to him and dream along with him about the past that was and the future that would have been. But this night was different. He was still awake and cursing. He still had a bottle in hand with a small puddle of amber liquor at the bottom.

The accusation came out of nowhere. He accused her of taking the small dark brown vials. Of begging her father for it. Of robbing him of a family and children and the future he thought she had wanted too. She tried to stop him. Tried to tell him that he was wrong. Tried to tell him she never took any vial. That she didn't know why she couldn't have children. That it wasn't her fault. He had hit her then. Hard. Across her cheek. And he had been crying as he yelled hoarsely not to lie to him anymore. That he couldn't take it anymore. That he had given up all his dreams for her. That he had sold his guitar for her. And that she had given him nothing in return. She was crying as she told him he wasn't being fair. But neither one of them really believed in fairness anymore.

He said he had to go. He had to get away. He was losing his soul in the dark house. Soon he would be like the old crazy woman upstairs. She was crying as she begged him not to go. He said he'd write her. He said he'd send her some money. And as he paused at the door he said it wasn't like they had even really been married, not officially. So he didn't have to send her alimony. But he would see what he could do. Right now he just needed to be free. He needed the open road again. He needed to go.

The morning light was cold and blue as she sat at the table looking out towards the door that was still open. She didn't notice the creaking on the stairs until her mother's warm hand wrapped around her own. And for a second everything was right and how it should have been. She cried and her mother smoothed her hair and made soft crooning noises. And then the old woman, bent with time, shuffled towards the kitchen and led her daughter, still shaking as sobs ran through her like a wind through a forest. She took out the old ceramic mixing bowl, the flour and sugar, the thick slab of butter, the salt and the cinnamon. The cloves and the allspice. The chamomile blossom water and the aniseed. And then they walked to the backyard and picked the last of the ripe apples, gather a few fallen on the ground that were still salvageable. And she taught her daughter how to make delicious apple pies with golden butter crust that would melt in your mouth.

And then of course as all things go, her mother passed away soon after. Many people worried about Miss Emily. Worried about what she would do. By now the rumors had run their course and most everyone suspected, and said that they knew, that she had been poisoned as much as her mother. That she was a walking time bomb, ready to go off. The young mothers paid little attention to the old women, and instead they began buying the delicious apple pies that were once again there in the small bakery on the corner of the road. They bought them out of pity but also because they were really that good. Things were almost as they were before. But now those pies went home in small cardboard boxes instead of baskets, and there was never a single bottle or vial to be found.

Time passed and Miss Emily stayed there at the small bakery and the lonely house. As more and more mothers went to buy the new supermarket pies, she turned her bakery into a restaurant, serving warm apple pie with scoops of ice cream on top, along with other desserts. But it was always her apple pies that sold the best. And then as times kept changing and years rolled by soon people stopped eating apple pies altogether. She baked her last pie the day she got his letter. It was from her boy. Her boy who had sold his guitar and then left her alone at the table in the blue morning light.

The bakery turned restaurant now took on its final form. The grand opening was small but not much happened in the small town so it was big. As the canvas fell back it revealed in bright neon letters the words "Emily's Ice Cream Parlor and Frozen Yogurt". She had sold some of her father's research papers to interested universities and had used the money to fund the new store. And it thrived. Mothers came in the mornings after dropping children off at daycare. Children came after school before soccer or band practice. At night rebellious teenagers in black leather jackets and with pierced ears and neon hair came to the shop to escape their parents. Everyone in the town claimed a certain time of day as their own in the small ice cream parlor, like gangs claiming territory. There was a constant bustle of people. A constant whirl of activity for her special apple pie flavored ice cream with real buttery crust pieces in it.

That was the way we had found the store when we came in that day. It was the after school crowd's time territory and they were not pleased to see three grown ups marching into the ice cream parlor. But that's how life is sometimes, isn't it. Just when you think you've got the rules down, you get dealt a hand you weren't expecting. A hand that breaks the rules. Miss Emily should have known all this by now. It seemed almost strange to call her Miss Emily even though at this point she was well over fifty. And looked much older, with deep sunk eyes, liver spotted skin, and pale white hair that she kept long and in a bun behind her head. She should have known that we never figure life out. Not yet. She should have seen us coming a mile away. But she didn't. We rarely do. I mean hell, look at me, over a hundred years old, still looking like I'm twenty four. Still looking like the day that the bastard thought he killed me. And even I didn't see all this coming.

"You sure this is the place Henry?" her whisper was a susuruss in my ear.

"Yip. Can't you feel it. One of them is here." My eyes scanned the rows of seated children frowning down at our intrusion like something out of children of the corn.

"Shall I check the perimeter then, shall I?" her brother, her twin, was always nervous when he didn't see a clear exit. It made sense. From what he had come from. If I were him I'd never stray far from an exit sign. I nodded and he was out the door and slowly walking around the building, the collar of his black jacket standing up like some cheap vampire costume.

"Can I help you folks?" She smiled somewhat but not entirely, it was a half sort of smile with an edge on it.

"Yes, I think you may be able to." I stepped forward and peering into her eyes I let a bit of that age that I carried inside seep out, just so she was sure I was serious when I said it, "We're actually looking for three people. Well one of them anyway. You haven't, by any chance, seen an Innocent, a Maid, or a Killer, have you."

"I'm sorry but if you're not gonna buy some ice cream I'm gonna have to ask you to leave." She said in a flat tone that gave nothing away.

"What if I told you I have been dreaming about you, Miss Emily?" I said with a winning smile.

"Well then I'd say you'd better get your head checked. No one dreams about old ladies like me." She gave a hard smile. "Unless you're one of those types. And I won't be having none of that here. Not with the children and all."

"Of course not. I actually meant that I've been dreaming about your past." And as her eyebrow raised I added in a whispered tone, "Your father. The brown vials. Your mother. The pies."

"Oh, so you've been hanging around the town and heard the gossip have you!" And she crossed her arms over her small, bony chest. "Come to see the freak show have ye! Well I won't stand for it. Get out of my shop!"

"Henry?" I could feel her step closer, protective almost, sweet.

"It's alright Cassandra. Stand down. We're not here to accuse or threaten. If we were I'd ask you for your recipe." My eyes twinkled faintly as I said it, watching for the response.

"I have no idea what you're talking about." She looked down at me, her arms still crossed,her brow still dark.

"That morning when your mother came down and taught you how to bake apple pies. That wasn't the only thing she told you, isn't that right." She registered shock, and maybe a twinge of horror. "After the pies were in the oven, she put her finger in the flour that was still covering the table. The flour where you had just been rolling out pie crusts...."

"How do you know this! Stop it!" She was getting visibly upset, "Stop talking! Stop... knowing!"

"Cassandra, I think we'll need some privacy for this conversation." I winked as I spoke.

"Got it." She leapt cat-like onto the counter and shouted, "Alright, kiddies. Here's how this is gonna go. You have till the count of ten to get out of this place before I stitch your lips shut so you can never have ice cream again."

A few looked on in horror, others looked up from cell phones with mild interest. She rolled her eyes and muttered something about bloody, jaded kids these days, before she turned around, grabbed the registered and hefted it up and then over her shoulder. It smashed into the glass, which shattered and rained down. A dozen faces were suddenly turned giving her their full attention. Most were probably also in shock. She jumped down, her boots crunching in the glass as she walked over and pulled the fire alarm on the side of the wall. The water broke out and brought them all back to their senses. Their survival sense. The sense that told them to leave the ice cream, the frozen yogurt, the cellphone, and run. Run if they wanted to get away from the psycho in the ice cream shop.

"You better be willing to pay for all this." Miss Emily was livid, but still pale.

"I think we're making it up to you in bounds." I turned and smiled as I swept my wet hair back against my head. "Because we're not going to tell anyone."

"Tell anyone, what?" She spat at me, "What doesn't this goddamn town already know! What more could they take!"

"I won't tell them what your mother wrote in the flour." I said coolly and that did shut her up.

"Hey, what's going on? I was circling around the back when I saw those kids run out." He said as he dashed in, but saw me raise my hand and stopped, going to stand by his sister instead.

"She told you where your father had kept his journal. The one with the recipe inside, didn't she." I didn't wait for her to confirm but the pause was needed, for emphasis. "She told you every bad thing that had ever happened to you was their fault. They had driven your dad, your real dad, Henry Phillips, out of town. They had mocked your stepfather to the point of desperation. Which was why he cracked under the strain and ended up testing his invention on his wife and daughter."

"Stop it." She was barely whispering, but I could not stop because this next part was important. Important to say out loud since no one had said it for so long and it needed to be said.

"He loved you. He couldn't bare hearing them talking about you two like that. He wanted them to eat their words. And he tried his best. But in the end it was their endless talking, not your father's mixture, that drove your mother insane. It was them. Always them. They led your husband to drinking and then whispered lies about you to him. They had taken everything. Everything from you."

"It wasn't their fault." She whimpered. "They were just being people."

"Cruel people. People who were monsters. People who deserved to die." I looked down on her face and spoke before she could start crying, "People who didn't deserve to have grandchildren if you didn't get to have children."

She bit her lip and hung her head and her white hair fell piecemail from her bun like torn gossamer. "No one suspected the ice cream parlor. Everyone thought it would be nice to let their children come and have a treat from the old lady who couldn't have her own. That way mothers could have some time to themselves and I could be a surrogate mother. And there were days I even believed that that was all that was going on. But those were usually the days I wasn't up half the night preparing the mixture."

"And how many would you say, have you affected." I whispered as the wind came through the gaping hole in the window, moving the venetian blinds and rustling the pages of a nearby receipt holder.

"All of them." She looked like she was about to start crying, "I'm a monster. I'm. I'm..."

"I need you to say it." I was leaning forward now.

"What?" She looked up confused. "Who are you? How did you know about my mother?! Are you with the FBI?"

"Hahaha, oh dear me, no." I bowed slightly, "Though I'm sure they would be tickled pink to have one of us. Could you imagine?"

"Well," Cassandra smiled catishly, "If they thought they had one of us at least."

"Yes." I turned to her, "No, we are not the FBI. We are.... a group. An organization, though I'm not sure if you can call three people and organization. We're currently looking for members. Very specific people."

"And what, you're here because I poisoned one of your members?" She glared at us defensively."And now you want me to admit it so you can take revenge?"

I shook my head sadly, "No, my dear lady. Ah, if only you knew. You blame yourself, don't you. For all the things. I mean, you say it's their fault, the people in the town, but secretly in your heart of hearts you blame yourself. For all of it. Everything."

She didn't answer. The light outside was fading and the fire sprinklers were slowly dripping down in the puddles below. Melted ice cream ran down the sides of the table and the rainbow hued foam was moving over the surface of the doused floor.

"It's not your fault." I paused again, "And yet it is."

She looked up suddenly.

"You've known for some time that it was your fault but didn't know why you felt this way. Simple survivor's guilt? No. This was something deeper. You see." And here I took her old, bony hand, "You my dear, sweet Miss Emily, are one of the Archtypes."

"What nonesense are you--" She began.

"I can only explain more once you admit it. You must know by now which one you are. It takes some time. Especially when the concept is only a few seconds fresh in your mind. But it's not, is it. There's something that's been brooding. Brooding for a while. A name. A name you haven't dared to speak out loud though you dream of it and go by it in your inner most thoughts." I looked deep into those cavernous eyes and found the spark of recognition. Now to blow and add tinder. "Speak it now."

"My name is Miss Emily." She spoke in a shaking whisper, "And I am the Killer."

"Wonderful!" I lept up from the barstool I had taken to sit on and leapt over the threshold covered in glass, "Now we must be off! The police will be here soon and we should be gone sooner."

"But, I still don't understand." She seemed shell shocked though a bit more color in her face was showing.

"We can explain on the way." I said as Cassandra took her hand and guided her through the field of broken glass. "Next stop, San Francisco!"

"But that's over four hundred miles away. How will we get there?" She had never left this town before. Of course not. It had become a caccoon. It all made perfect sense now.

"We have a car." Cassandra said as she held the door open for me and her brother.

"I'm the Beast." He said as he adjusted his glasses.

"Oh, well, a pleasure I'm sure." She seemed to try to keep as much distance between herself and the Beast.

"And I'm the Old Man." I smiled as I held open the car door. "Though you can call me Henry if you prefer."

She looked troubled as she got into the car. "What about my things? My home, my shop, everything."

"They won't sustain you anymore,  now that we've come, you're like a moth that can't go back to its caccoon." Cassandra started the car, "Plus once the police find out whats been in your ice cream you'll want as little of your possessions for them to trace you with."

"So, we go West from here." The Beast looked troubled.

"Yes, we actually cross over the fault." I saw the look in his eyes, "I know. I don't like it either. But we have to go get the next one. I'm sure the Guide will let us pass."

"You mean the San Andreas Fault? The one that makes all those earthquakes?" She was catching on fast.

"Yes. It's our eventual destination. But not yet. We still need to find two other archtypes first before we can go there." I looked at the passing sign that said "Welcome to Boonestown" that was missing the letter o. "And we still have to figure out what happened the last time."

"What do you mean?" She asked as Beast looked at me as if I'd said too much.

"She'd have found out eventually anyway." I dismissed his look. "This journey we're taking. It happens every hundred years or so. Sometimes a bit more sometimes a bit less. Anyway. Last time something happened. Something bad. You've heard of the great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire? Yeah, that was because something didn't go right. And we have to make sure it goes right this time because this time it will be much, much worse."

"And we're going to San Francisco now because we need to find one of the others?" She looked at me as I turned on the radio. A politician was delivering a speech.

"Nope. Already found her." I motioned to the speaker, "We just have to go collect her."

"The politician is the maiden?" She raised an eyebrow.

I laughed, "Oh, no. You'll like this. She's actually the Innocent!"


Thanks for reading! To watch me vlog about writing this check out this link!

1 comment:

  1. This. This right here is awesome. I couldn't stop reading. How you come up with these plots? :) I hope this ties into some of your earlier story excerpts.