The Train: Episode 83

Through the manhole cover, Michael and the others climbed down a long ladder until they reached the bottom. As his eyes adjusted to the dim light, Michael saw that they were in a musty sewer of putrid waste. Searching through his bag, he pulled out a heavy flashlight and swept the beam along the walls and floor. On the surface of the foot deep water, he spotted traces of blood.

“This way,” he directed.

Bugs crawled along the slimy brick walls as an occasional rat scurried off into the darkness.

“Why would Saint Suriel bring Father Salvatore down here?” Serena asked.

“No idea,” Nicole answered, the barrel of her pistol aimed just over Michael’s shoulder.

A few yards down, the sewer opened up into an empty room with a flight of iron stairs.

Michael slowly swept the flashlight’s beam across the water’s surface, and when he found no signs of blood, he pointed to the stairs.

“He must have gone this way. It’s the only way up.”

A faint light poured down the steps.

Keeping a wary eye out, Michael slowly ascended the stairs, pausing to listen for voices. At the top of the steps was a heavy wooden door. Slowly he turned the knob and pushed the door open with his shotgun.

When he stepped through the door into a long filthy hallway, its tile floor cracked and stained, he was certain he heard a faint cry. At the end of the hall, a pale green light cast a glow onto the floor beneath a closed door, and up and down the hallway, the weak light of open rooms cast shadows on the walls.

“Where are we?” Michael asked Serena.

“I do not know,” Serena said.

Stay close,” Nicole advised, her gun raised.

Leading with his shotgun, Michael crept down the hall toward the first room.

When he reached the doorway, he took a step back and froze.

“Why did you stop?” Nicole asked.

When Michael failed to answer, Nicole took her eyes off the hallway and looked inside the room.

Hanging from the ceiling were twelve cloth bags, each six feet long. The cloth had been tightly wound to form a sort of cocoon.

“What are those things?” Serena asked.

Michael cautiously stepped closer and slowly reached out to touch one of the bags.

When the tips of his fingers brushed against the damp cloth, something inside the bag began to move and make a soft noise.

“What is that sound?” Michael asked, struggling to identify it.

“Sounds like moaning to me,” Nicole said. “Somebody’s inside that thing.”

With her free hand, Nicole removed her knife from its sheath and took a step toward the bag.

When Michael heard a low rustling sound, he looked around the room and saw that each of the bags had begun to move.

Suddenly Michael spotted a man standing at the other side of the room. He wore a gas mask and was dressed in a long white lab coat splattered with mud and dark patches of blood.

As he turned around and looked at Michael through the mask, his black rubber boots squeaked. Then with a black rubber gloved hand, he reached out and stopped one of the bags from moving.

His eyes focused on the tall man, Michael put his arm out to keep Nicole from cutting into the bag.

“What?” she asked.

When Michael pointed to the man standing motionless as he watched them, Nicole slipped her knife back in its sheath and aimed her pistol.

Michael’s instincts told him to shoot, but the unarmed man didn’t seem aggressive as he kept staring at them.

“He’s not in here. Please. Let’s keep moving,” Serena pleaded, pulling on Michael’s sleeve.

Michael hesitated but then said,

“We’ll be back for them.”

He stepped out of the room and slowly continued down the hallway, uneasy at turning his back on the man in the gas mask and dirty coat.

Nicole took a quick glance backward but the man didn’t seem to be following them. A few feet farther down the hall, she glanced back again and saw that now the man was standing still in the hall watching them.

“That room must be for those guests who need extra help relaxing,” Michael joked, trying to calm his nerves.

“I do not know what purpose this place serves,” Serena insisted.

When Nicole looked back and saw that the man was standing even closer, she insisted,

“Michael, we need to find a way out of here!”

Turning away for just a moment, she looked back and saw that he was closer still.

As they approached another room, Michael could feel cold air wafting from inside. A pale white light poured out from the room as he turned slowly into the doorway, afraid of what he might see.

For a moment, Michael felt as though his heart would stop. The room was filled with gurneys, each gurney holding a sheet-draped body. Crates marked with different numbers had been stacked at the back of the room, and blood dripped from some of the crates. Fluorescent lights flickered overhead as a man entered the room wearing black rubber gloves and boots, welding goggles and a breath mask. Carrying a saw caked in blood, he stopped and wiped it across his blood soaked apron then looked at Michael in silence.

“Michael, we need to get out of here now! Every time I take my eyes off that man back there, he moves closer,” Nicole informed.

“Not much better in here,” Michael said, staring at the man with the saw.

“Either we get out of here or I start shooting,” Nicole warned.

“Please don’t,” Serena begged. “If Saint Suriel knows we are here, he might kill Father Salvatore.”

Michael saw another door less than 15 feet away. Glancing back into the room with the bodies, he saw that the goggled man had exchanged his saw for a large hammer and was coming closer.

“Okay. Run for that door up ahead,” Michael motioned. “I’ll keep an eye on these two.”

Nicole took Serena’s sleeve and hurried her toward the door while Michael shifted his gaze from one man to the other. Each man came closer every time Michael looked at the other.

“Come on!” Nicole snapped.

Michael turned and bolted for the door. When he reached the door, he spun around to watch the hallway. Reaching behind him, he pulled the door open and slipped through, leaving the two men standing in the hall watching.

As he quickly pulled the door closed, he looked for a bolt to lock it. There was none.

Turning around to Nicole and Serena, he saw that they were in a hallway twice as long as the one they had just left. The hall was dark except for the faint light that streamed from each of the open rooms. Michael quickly flipped on his flashlight and was searching the hallway when suddenly he heard the door behind him begin to open.

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The Train: Episode 82

With Michael and Nicole at her heels, Serena slipped through the crowd that had gathered to watch the blazing cabin. Stopping at Scott Morgan’s office, she tried the door and found it locked.

“Sister Serena,” a spa employee called as he walked up the hall. Nicole noticed that his name badge said George.

“What are you doing?”

“I was looking for Saint Suriel. I need advice in this dark time. Do you know where he might be?” Serena asked.

“I have not seen him since he and Father Salvatore left to meditate,” George answered.

“Where did they go?” Serena asked. “It is important that I speak with him. Some of the guests are missing, and one of the cabins is on fire.”

“You know I cannot give you that information, Sister Serena,” George answered.

“It’s an emergency,” Nicole explained, giving him a stern look.

Surprised by Nicole’s remark, George’s eyes jumped from Nicole to Serena.

“Sister Serena, you have brought outsiders to see Saint Suriel and Father Salvatore without their blessing? This is against our rules. You must be brought up on charges at once!”

Out of patience, Michael dropped his bag and pulled out his shotgun. Stepping up to George, Michael jammed the gun in his face and growled,

“I’m really sick of this, you know? Now, you’re going to tell me where they are or I’m going to shoot you in the face. Capisce?”

Startled and frightened, George could only stammer. But when Michael pressed the barrel against his cheek, George squeaked,

“I don’t know. Honest! No one knows where they went. Everyone is afraid, and we have no one to guide us.”

Rolling his eyes in disgust, Michael snarled,

“Fine. Then tell us what you know about Abraham.”

Suddenly, George grew faint and reached out to the wall for support.

“I cannot say anything. Father Salvatore made us swear never to speak of him or mention his name.”

Michael withdrew the barrel from George’s cheek and said,

“Look. I’m not in the best of moods right now, so my negotiating skills are a little off. But because I’m a nice guy, I’m going to try my best to make you see things my way.”

As he stared into George’s eyes, he said,

“I have enough ammo in this bag to shoot off each and every appendage of your body. One. . .at. . .a time. See here’s my plan. I’m going to see how many I can shoot off before you pass out. Want to guess where I’m going to start?”

Trembling with fear George said,

“Father Salvatore has a file on him in his office. That’s all I know. Please!”

After a moment, Michael said,

“Good boy. Now show me.”

 

*          *          *

 

When they reached Father Salvatore’s office, George withdrew a ring of keys and fumbled to get the key in the lock. He kept looking back at Michael’s shotgun.

“Please don’t kill me,” George pleaded when he finally opened the door and let them in.

“Stay there and I might not,” Michael said.

George waited in the doorway while Michael and Nicole searched the office.

“Sister Serena, this is highly unorthodox. Why are you helping these people?”

“Because I believe Father Salvatore is in trouble,” Serena explained.

“That is not possible. He and Saint Suriel are blessed,” George said. “Divine.”

Michael was about to make a wisecrack when Nicole stopped him.

“Found something.”

She pulled an old manila envelope out of the file drawer and broke the seal, spilling the contents onto the top of the desk.

Michael and Nicole worked their way through the photographs and newspaper articles until he said,

“Looks like at one time this land belonged to Summerhill Medical Center. About four years ago, a patient woke from his coma and attacked the staff, killing fifteen people before he set the building on fire. The fire didn’t consume the place, but it was closed down and condemned because of the structural damage. The groundskeeper Abraham Carver stayed behind to guard the place. Eventually the woods grew up around the gutted building, blocking it out of sight and mind.”

Michael put the paper down and said,

“So Abraham is the groundskeeper of a hospital where fifteen people were brutally murdered. And for four years he’s been wandering around the grounds guarding a hospital that’s said to be haunted.”

Michael rolled his eyes and sighed,

“Great. Never had to deal with a haunting before.”

“You know there’s a rational explanation for this, Michael,” Nicole said.

“See why we must find Father Salvatore?” Serena said. “Saint Suriel has taken control of Abraham, and now he uses him to kill anyone who crosses his path.”

George looked shocked.

“Sister Serena, how can you say such a thing about Saint Suriel? Has he not been loyal and faithful to you and all his children?”

“Where is he?” Michael snapped, once again raising the shotgun.

“No! Shoot me if you must, but I will not betray—”

George was cut off when a long blade exploded from his stomach. Standing behind him in the doorway was Abraham, a black cloth covering his face. Quickly, Nicole grabbed Serena and pulled her back as Michael stepped forward with the shotgun.

George gasped for breath as Abraham lifted him into the air and walked backwards towards a door.

Michael looked for a clear shot, but Abraham kept his large frame hidden behind George’s dying body. When he reached the door, he opened it and stepped backwards through it. Closing the door on his knife, Abraham left George on the other side. As he pulled the blade free and slammed the door shut, George’s bleeding body dropped to the floor.

“I’m going after him!” Michael said.

“Why?” Serena asked.

“Because he can lead us to our friends, if not Salvatore,” Nicole answered.

Michael stepped over George’s body and slowly opened the door to a long flight of stairs. Following the trail of blood from the knife, they slowly descended the stairs into what looked like the basement. There were no signs of Abraham, but when Nicole spotted an open manhole cover, she pointed it out to Michael.

“Great,” Michael grumbled. “This is just getting better and better.”

Afraid to go into the opening, Serena hesitated as tears came to her eyes, but when Nicole assured her she would be right behind her, she finally followed Michael into the sewer.

Published in: on March 19, 2018 at 2:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Train: Episode 81

After three solid kicks, the door finally came open. Michael recoiled at the heat pouring from the burning cabin.

“You can’t go in there!” Marvin Clark warned.

“I have no choice! My friend is in there!” Michael yelled back.

Shielding his eyes from the heat, Michael took a step into the burning cabin but was pulled back when a strong hand grabbed his collar. As he struggled to keep his balance, he looked up and saw a figure, silhouetted by the light from the fire, close the door and turn to face him.

“What kind of idiot goes running into a burning building?” Elliot barked.

“Ricer’s in there!” Michael snapped.

“And Lucy is missing,” Nicole added.

“First off, the doc ain’t in there. I’d have gotten him out if he were. And secondly, Lucy tends to go missing a lot. You just never noticed it before. It’s what she’s good at,” Elliot pointed out.

“Well somebody grabbed Ricer. I saw it,” Michael insisted.

“I know. That’s why I’m here,” Elliot said.

When Michael saw Serena running toward them, he reached out and grabbed her by the shoulders.

“Who was that? Who took Ricer?” he demanded.

Serena’s eyes were wide with fear as Michael refused to release her.

“Tell me!” Michael growled, losing patience.

“I can’t say his name out loud,” Serena said. “Legend has it he’ll come for you if you misbehave or call his name.”

“I don’t give a squat about legend! Tell me or you’ll have bigger things to worry about than that!” Michael snapped.

Elliot placed his hand on Michael’s shoulder and moved him away.

“Easy, son,” Elliot said. “You’re scaring her.”

Elliot turned to face Serena and asked,

“Who was the man that grabbed the doc?”

“It was Abraham,” Marvin Clark’s youngest boy yelled.

“Quiet, Gordon!” Susan Clark warned.

“Who is Abraham?” Michael asked.

“He used to be the groundskeeper for Summerhill Medical Center,” Serena said.

“Where is that?” Michael asked.

Serena clamped her mouth shut, her eyes full of fear as a bead of sweat ran down her forehead.

Michael remembered Serena being dragged away when they had first arrived.

“Wait a minute,” Michael whispered. “Was that where they were taking you when we showed up?”

Serena nodded.

“I know where to go,” Michael said.

“Good,” Elliot replied. “Stay here and figure out what’s going on. I’ll find Ricer and Lucy.”

“I’m going with you!” Michael insisted.

“No, you’re not. Stay here where you’re safe and let me do my job,” Elliot ordered.

Michael was reluctant but saw that Elliot meant business.

“Last thing I need is more missing people to worry about,” Elliot grumbled as he walked away.

When Elliot was out of earshot, Michael turned to Serena and glared,

“Take us to Suriel now! I’m not asking anymore.”

* * *

Elliot made his way through the woods to Summerhill Medical Center. Across the grounds, the brown grass lay in patches and the dying trees dropped their limbs in great number. With revolver in hand, Elliot walked toward the rotting front door, sagging on its rusty hinges. As he stepped inside the building, he was assaulted by the sour stench of mold and decay. Gingerly stepping across the creaking wooden floor, he peered into every dark corner.

“Why don’t people just tear these places down instead of letting them fall into ruin?” Elliot asked aloud.

Suddenly the wind picked up, its blast slamming the splintered door.

Elliot whirled around then shook his head.

“All right, Doc, where are you?”

He headed for what had been the main hallway and looked inside the first room. It was empty except for a pile of mildewed rags in one corner. He covered his nose against the smell. As he moved to the next room, he heard movement behind him, footsteps across the floor and a door closing.

When he turned toward the noise, he saw no one but decided to follow the sound. At the door, he reached out and kicked it open, his weapon raised to fire.

“I’m not much for playing games. Never have been,” he called out. “Why don’t you step out here and let’s get this over with?”

Silence hung in the air.

“Come on, Abraham,” Elliot said. “Show yourself.”

When he heard the sound of heavy boots on the creaky old wood, Elliot slowly turned.

Opposite him stood a tall man in a long woolen coat, his face obscured by an old brown hat, its brittle straw frayed at the edges. His left hand gripped the handle of a long eaves knife.

“Now that’s something I haven’t seen in a while,” Elliot said, pointing to the knife.

“Abraham?” Elliot asked.

The eaves knife had a straightened scythe blade attached to a three-foot long wooden handle.

“You planning on killing me with that thing?” Elliot asked, aiming his pistol at Abraham’s heart. “You’d better be faster than me.”

From behind him, Elliot heard a weak voice whimper,

“Elliot?”

In a momentary lapse of judgment, Elliot turned toward the voice, taking his eyes off the man. When he turned back, he saw the eaves knife coming straight at him.

Published in: on February 19, 2018 at 12:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Train: Episode 79

“I’m sorry, a demon in the form of a man?” Nicole asked, looking highly skeptical.

“Let me start at the beginning,” Serena said.

“Father Salvatore came to us three years ago and turned this place around. Please walk with me,” Serena asked.

While she explained, she led them to the main building and the pool. All the guests seemed to be getting along well, laughing and playing in the water, visiting by the pool.

“What was this place before?” Michael asked.

“Before Father Salvatore, it was pretty much empty except for a few bikers and drug addicts. But Father Salvatore changed everything, made this into a resort and spa, a place of peace and relaxation.”

“What about Morgan?” Nicole asked.

With an intense glare, Serena turned to face Nicole.

“Do not let anyone hear you call him by that name. No one here except those loyal to Father Salvatore calls him by his given name. They must call him Saint Suriel.”

“So he’s Saint Suriel unless you say otherwise,” Michael said. “Got it.”

Serena’s glare melted into a sweet smile, and she beckoned them to follow her.

“Come. Let us go meet the guests.”

She whipped her hair around in the breeze for a moment then headed for the pool.

“Did we have to get one of the inmates to show us around this asylum?” Michael laughed.

“I’m afraid for now, she’s all we have,” Nicole said.

“Just once I’d like to get help from someone who’s actually helpful,” Michael sighed.

As they approached the pool, an older man, his black hair thinning on top, slipped out of the water and walked over to them. He wore a rosy smile as he shifted a little girl from his right arm to his left.

Extending his right hand, he greeted,

“Hello. I’m Marvin Clark and this little angel is my daughter Judy. That’s my wife Susan with our boys Gordon and Paul.”

Marvin pointed to a redheaded woman in the pool, the length of her bright hair floating in the water as she played with two small boys.

“So what’s your name, or do I get to make up one for you?” Marvin asked.

“Pete Shepherd,” Michael said smiling.

“This is my sister Erika,” Michael said, pointing to Nicole.

As Marvin shook Nicole’s hand, Michael pointed to Dr. Ricer and added,

“And that’s my dad David and my niece Marie.”

“A pleasure to meet you all,” Marvin said. “Please, let me introduce you to everyone here.”

As they followed Marvin around the pool greeting people and shaking hands, Nicole watched the windows and scanned the open areas of Tearmann River Spa & Resort. Everything seemed normal, nothing out of the ordinary.

“My name’s Brad. Let me show you to your rooms,” a young man said as he approached them.

“We don’t have rooms,” Nicole answered.

Cursing herself for speaking without thinking, she realized she had become so wrapped up in the calm of the resort that for a moment she’d forgotten why they were there.

“Yes you do,” the attendant said.

“Serena told me your rooms were assigned late due to a mix-up on our part, but she’s sorted out everything. You’ll be staying in Maple. We’ve put you in adjoining rooms with a beautiful view of the gardens.”

Brad pointed to one of the larger buildings close to the main building.

“We apologize for the loss of your bags. Serena said they arrived but were misplaced. Entirely our fault. We’ll bring them to your rooms as soon as we find them. In the meantime, we will provide clothes for you and anything else you need. If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you to your rooms,” Brad cheerfully said.

“Thank you,” Nicole smiled.

“Oh Pete,” she called to Michael who was talking to a young couple. “We’re going to see our rooms.”

* * *

The Maple building was decorated with polished wood paneling and soft grey carpet. Soothing music played over invisible speakers as a fountain’s streams of water cascaded over polished rocks creating a restful, tranquil atmosphere.

“Here we are,” Brad said, stopping just down the hall from the fountain.

“The dining room serves breakfast from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., and of course you may have meals delivered to your room if you’d prefer,” he said while opening the door. “Each of the rooms has an itinerary of events. Everything is included in your admission fee. No hidden charges. Our goal here at Tearmann River Spa & Resort is to make certain your stay is happy and peaceful.”

When Brad finished with the information, he handed Michael three room keys.

“We can arrange for a wakeup call over the phone or in person. Might I suggest you start your stay here with a relaxing massage? I find its the best way to unwind and fully enjoy your day.”

“Sounds great,” Michael responded.

“One last thing, the gates will close after midnight, but the grounds are always open to any of our guests who wish to enjoy the stars, the fireflies, or maybe a romantic tryst in the moonlight,” Brad informed.

With a slight bow, he said,

“I shall leave you to relax and settle in. Thank you for choosing Tearmann River Spa & Resort.”

Then he clasped his palms together, and pressing them against his chest, he sighed,

“Have a blessed day.”

Michael waited until Brad was gone and said,

“Well that was creepy.”

“He seemed nice,” Ricer said.

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not used to the whole smile and wave happy family thing. Always puts me off,” Michael replied.

“Most likely the knowledge of the impending mass murder has you off about this place,” Ricer suggested.

“No, Doc, it’s this place,” Nicole said. “I’ve been to plenty of places like this, but this one is different. Something about it makes me feel like I’m being hunted.”

“I didn’t get that impression, but I do agree with you that this place is an 11 on the creepy scale,” Michael said.

“What about the people you talked to?” Ricer asked Michael.

“Okay. I met five couples and several singles. Most of the singles were just doing what single people do. I had two girls hit on me, which is odd because girls never hit on me. Let’s see. What else? Oh yeah. Marvin and his wife Susan aren’t the only ones with kids. Another couple Thomas and Charlotte are expecting their first child. Charlotte’s two months pregnant, so they came here to enjoy one last romp before their child is born.”

“Any word on Scott Morgan?” Nicole asked.

“Now, now. Remember it’s Saint Suriel,” Michael corrected.

Nicole rolled her eyes and began to check the room.

“Nothing yet, but I did notice one thing. The staff is always close by, always within earshot and always watching the guests. It’s almost like we’re being guarded, not tended to,” Michael pointed out.

Suddenly the doorknob of the adjoining room, Michael’s room, began to turn. Michael moved Ricer and Lucy out of the way as Nicole reached for her pistol.

Published in: on December 16, 2017 at 8:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Train: Episode 77

In the wake of Kenneth Cooper’s death in 1970, Dr. Ricer quietly listened as everyone tried to figure out what had happened.

“So because we saved Cynthia Cooper, she turned her little boy into that?” Nicole asked.

“Kenneth said we should have let his mom die. According to him, she ruined his life and things only got worse after that,” Michael explained.

By now, Lucy was sleeping peacefully, her head resting on Ricer’s lap as he stroked his granddaughter’s long blonde hair. Had he know what taking the train that night would do to their lives, he never would have climbed aboard. He would have taken her straight home or at least put her in a cab. Anything but have her see what she’d seen. Ricer hoped in time her young mind would gloss over the memories and she wouldn’t need therapy.

“According to recorded history,” Ricer explained, “Cynthia Cooper was a drug addict who had men pay her bills in exchange for favors. Some of those men were also interested in Cynthia’s little boy. Although we don’t have any information about what specifically happened to Kenneth, we know that he suffered at the hands of his mother. At worst, she abused him. At best, she left him outside on the fire escape while she entertained her visitors. After her death from a drug overdose, Kenneth was too old to enter foster care, so he ended up on the street. He’s lost to history after that. I don’t know what drove him to become who he was.”

“A need for vengeance and a desire to fix his life,” Elliot said, patting the head of his gray and white husky.

“Obviously his anger towards his mother and the abuse he suffered at her hands led him to hate her. He knew the train existed—”

“How is that even possible?” Nicole interrupted. “I thought the train existed outside time and space, where there are no witnesses.”

Elliot continued, “The people you encounter out there in the real world start to forget about you soon after you leave. After a while, even the people you saved have only faint memories of you, and before too long, their imaginations have filled in the details. However, some of the more obsessive minds can latch onto the details and run over them again and again. This leads to stories being told that eventually grow from legends into myths. Kenneth Cooper knew the train existed because he saw it back in 1943.”

“And when he saw us the same age we were when we saved his mother, he knew,” Michael reasoned.

Elliot nodded, “Yep.”

“That was the moment he knew what he saw was real and how he could finally fix his life,” Michael added.

“That’s why he wanted on the train,” Nicole replied. “He wanted to stop us from saving his mother.”

“I’m sorry we couldn’t save him,” Ricer said.

The face of little Kenneth Cooper floated through Nicole’s mind. She remembered him staring at her, devoid of any expression.

Suddenly the whistle sounded and the train began to slow.

“Next stop,” Roscoe called out, walking through the cabin.

“May Lucy stay here?” Ricer asked.

“Sorry, Dr. Ricer, but she’s part of the team. She has to go with you,” Roscoe apologized.

“But she hasn’t done anything, really,” Ricer pleaded. “I know she’ll be safe here.”

As Michael stood up and grabbed his bag, he tried to sound reassuring.

“We’ll keep an eye on her, Doc. Don’t worry about Kenneth Cooper. He’s dead. It’s over now.”

Reluctantly, Ricer scooped up the sleeping Lucy and carried her off the train.

* * *

“Ripples: The Saint”

Alaska

October 2008

Michael and Nicole pushed against the rotting cabin door and stepped out into a forest of trees heavy with moss. The thick clouds overhead draped the woods in twilight. Dr. Ricer maneuvered his way through the narrow opening as he carried his sleeping grandchild. When he came alongside Nicole, the door closed behind them.

Straight ahead was a narrow path covered with autumn leaves in shades of brilliant golds, oranges, and reds. As Michael started down the path, the dying leaves crunched underfoot and the woods grew thicker until they could no longer see the sky.

“Where are we?” Michael asked. “It’s getting dark up ahead.”

Ricer looked around and said,

“Hard to tell. This place isn’t on any maps. I can tell you, though, that its late October 2008, and we’re in Alaska.”

A slight chill in the air heralded the coming winter. Nicole shivered and pulled her coat tightly around her. Farther down the path, they came upon a sign.

“Tearmann River Spa and Resort,” Michael read, struggling to see in the fading light. “Well, I guess this must be where they need us.”

“Something about this place feels wrong,” Nicole said uneasily. “Weird.”

“Probably just the weather and the lack of a day or night cycle. That’s Alaska. You’ll get used to it,” Michael assured her.

“Why doesn’t it bother you?” Nicole asked.

“The way I was raised. My father always kept the lights on in the house with the windows blacked out. He didn’t want me to develop sleep patterns dependent upon the cycle of night and day,” Michael explained.

“Are you aware that what your father did could be considered child abuse?” Ricer pointed out.

“I know,” Michael admitted. “But my father used to say that the hottest fires make the strongest swords.”

“Of course he did,” Nicole said, rolling her eyes.

The path turned up ahead and as the trees opened, light poured into an idyllic scene. Ten buildings encircled one large one whose gardens ran along a peaceful river bubbling over rocks. Near the main building, a pool was filled with laughing children and couples splashing and swimming as a small band played cheerful music in the background. Warmth radiated from the captivating scene of welcome.

“So where are we again, Doc?” Michael asked, feeling himself relax a little.

“Tearmann River Spa and Resort,” Ricer answered.

“Why are we here?” Nicole asked.

“A week from now, a truck carrying supplies will make its usual delivery here. But when the driver gets out of his truck, he will discover twenty members of staff and sixty guests dead,” Ricer said.

“How do they die?” Nicole asked.

“Most of them are poisoned. Others are killed in more brutal ways, and some are hanged. Those are just the ones the authorities find,” Ricer explained.

“What do you mean, find?” Michael asked.

“The resort currently has over ninety-seven guests and twenty-seven on staff,” Ricer said.

“One hundred twenty-four people total,” Nicole said, “and only eighty-seven were found. That means. . .”

Nicole trailed off, wrapping her coat more tightly.

“Eighty-seven people will be killed, and thirty-seven will never be found,” Nicole finished. “I told you there was something off here.”

“What is this place?” Michael asked with growing uneasiness.

Published in: on October 14, 2017 at 12:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Cadillac Diaries: Episode 74

The hum of voices filled the theater as the audience entered and found their seats. While the musicians in the pit began tuning their instruments, backstage behind closed curtains the cast went over lines and warmed up their voices for the performance.

The theater had two auditoriums, the larger for performances and the smaller for rehearsals and set building. Ross left Christopher Callahan’s dressing room and slowly ascended the stairs to the balcony section. As he drew near his private box, he saw that the door was closed but the two guards Franklin and Boon were not at their post.

“Those idiots better be behind that door or I’m getting a whole new security staff,” Ross grumbled.

As he reached for the doorknob, his foot hit against something on the floor. He looked down and saw a small white rook from a chessboard lying on its side in the doorway.

Just as he bent over to pick it up, the door of the box next to his opened and a beautiful young woman with flowing red hair stepped out. When she looked at him and smiled, he saw that her eyes were different colors.

“You!” Ross gasped.

As she disappeared around the corner, Ross followed after her asking,

“What are you doing here?”

He quickly descended the stairs in pursuit just in time to see her slip through a door leading to the smaller auditorium section of the theater. Stopping in the doorway, he checked his watch.

“Thirty minutes before the curtain goes up. Plenty of time,” he told himself.

From the doorway, a narrow hall led to a second door and the smaller auditorium. The woman was standing at the end looking back at Ross. She giggled, pulled open the door then disappeared into the auditorium.

Enjoying the game, Ross smiled and said,

“All right, baby. Get ready cause here I come.”

He let the door close behind him, and as he strode down the hall, he unbuttoned his shirt then pulled it loose from his pants.

Inches away from the auditorium door, he stopped for a moment and remembered.

“You’re in trouble, and I need your help to stop this Captain Bonkers,” Crandall had pleaded.

“I have reason to believe that you’re his next target,” Raymond Slats warned.

Ross shook his head clear,

“You’re being silly. King doesn’t have the spine to turn on you,” he told himself.

Ross seized the knob and pulled the door open. When he stepped into the cold auditorium, he stood for a moment in the darkness waiting for his eyes to adjust.

After a few moments, he still could not distinguish shapes. He dared not move forward into the blackness.

“Hello?” he called out.

Slowly, faint calliope music began to play with a deep thumping sound like an old Victrola. When the sound grew increasingly loud, Ross turned back to the door behind him and found it locked.

He jerked his head toward the darkness demanding,

“What’s going on here?”

Suddenly a spotlight kicked on, casting a beam of pale yellow light. Ross froze in horror when he saw Franklin, one of his security guards, strung up like a marionette, his shirt soaked with blood pouring from a gaping wound that stretched across his neck.

Franklin’s mouth began to move like a puppet manipulated by string as Ross heard his own voice over the speakers.

“Ruben Ross. How can I make you a star?”

A wave of fear washed over him, and Ross grew short of breath.

A second spotlight switched on, this one sending out a pale green light. When Ross saw Boon, his other security guard, hanging like a marionette with a large knife plunged into his forehead, he leaned over and vomited.

Franklin’s mouth closed and Boon’s worked open and shut as the speakers crackled to life.

“You can start by not being an idiot!”

The voice was Bradford King’s.

Ross listened as a recording of an earlier conversation between him and King played over the loudspeakers while the mouths of Franklin and Boon moved like puppets in a play.

“I’m not an idiot. That’s why I’m always prepared,” Ross heard himself say.

“You’re going to a play and then some bash as though no one were trying to kill you!” King’s voice yelled.

“No one is trying to kill me,” Ross’s voice barked in return.

Suddenly the yellow and green lights turned off, plunging the auditorium into darkness, and a video began to play on the wall to his left. Ross watched as the faces of Scott Baker, Douglas Burroughs, Suzanne Taylor, Oscar Blake, Rebecca Conrad, Jackson Kane, and Evelyn Hyde appeared one after the other. Beside each face was a chess piece. Baker, the white knight. Burroughs, the black. Taylor, the white bishop. Blake, the black. And then Ross’ face appeared on the screen with the white rook alongside.

He remembered the white rook he had knocked over just outside his theater box and panicked when he realized that the faces with chess pieces had been found murdered.

“Wait. That means that I. . .” he thought.

Suddenly another picture appeared on the screen. Bradford King. And beneath his name were the words ‘The Chessboard King’.

The video shut off and the room was once again bathed in darkness.

Across the room, a red spotlight turned on, and in its center stood someone wearing a clown mask with a long coat and a top hat.

Ross backed up until he hit the door behind him. The spotlight’s beam went out then came back on with the clown standing closer in the light. With every shut down, the beam of light brought the clown closer until he was within a few feet of the terrified Ross. He reached behind him, and with trembling hands tried to open the door.

“Captain Bonkers?” he asked, his voice quivering.

Without a sound, Captain Bonkers slowly nodded his head.

“Y-y-you don’t work for King, do you?” Ross asked.

Captain Bonkers slowly shook his head no.

“Mercy?” Ross squeaked.

Suddenly the red light went out, plunging the auditorium into darkness.

* * *

Ray worked his way over the legs of other theatergoers until he came to the seat number on his ticket. He settled down, trying to get comfortable, and hoped that he would get another chance to offer help to Ross, if the foolish man lasted that long.

Just then the director walked up on stage and stood proudly, patiently waiting for the voices of the audience to die down. When a hush fell over the crowd, the director smiled and extended a greeting.

“Ladies and gentleman, thank you for attending at this late hour. We have a wonderful performance in store for you this evening that I am certain you will thoroughly enjoy. There will be a fifteen-minute intermission during which time an assortment of light wines will be served in the lobby. We must ask that you refrain from any flash photography. Our performers are timid and easily scared by the flash,” he chuckled.

The director waited for the laughter to die down then continued,

“We hope you enjoy the show.”

After the director stepped off stage, the lights died down across the auditorium.

As the curtain slowly opened, the stage lights came up to show the body of Ruben Ross hanging upside down from his feet. Blood drained from his slit throat and at the end of a string around his neck hung a white rook.

Some members of the audience screamed and trampled each other as they ran for the exits. Others stared in shock as a voice came over the theater speakers,

“I’m Ruben Ross and I want to make you a star.”

The disjointed audio sounded as though it had been pieced together from different snippets. Suddenly the stage lights went out and a spotlight kicked on, its beam focused on Ross’ body, while circus calliope music began to play.