Varney the Voyeur – By Jessica B. Bell

Dear new readers: you’ve stumbled into the middle of a serial story, and I could apologize, but instead, I’ll direct you back to THE BEGINNING

If you’ve never read Jessica B. Bell’s writing (and don’t be confused, darlings — it’s just me wearing dark and bloody garb and letting my demons out) then you’re in for a treat. These Bayou Bonhomme stories mix southern gothic with mystery and murder, with a bit of good old fashioned Lovecraft-ian swamp monster thrown in for good measure.

For those of you who are caught up, I give you the next chapter, which takes place on the same evening:

—————–

Victor Morse was particularly lonely the evening that Marla had come into the bar at closing time. Due a rare medical condition that gave him the pale skin and horrid teeth of a vampire, Victor didn’t have much of a social life. The only woman in his life was his sweet, kind, and always well-meaning mother, who refused to hear a critical word about her beautiful boy.

What Victor’s mother didn’t understand was that he was still a man, and a man had needs. Victor had found a cowardly outlet for his sexual frustration — not one he was proud of, of course — but a man with his particular condition (and Victor’s was a particularly severe case) had to take what he could get, when he could get it.

Officer Marla had grown up with Victor, and while she’d never been particularly friendly with him, she was one of the good ones in Victor’s book. She’d never teased him or been cruel to him. She’d caught him peeping on two occasions, and the first time, she’d taken Victor for coffee and gave him a talking to that was more just a friendly warning. That time, she hadn’t been called or anything, she’d just happened upon Victor’s dilapidated Buick parked outside the Gilette house at one o’clock in the morning, while Amie Gilette and her boyfriend were going at it like rabbits, too intoxicated with each other’s young, firm, flawless bodies to bother to turn out the lights.

Marla had driven by, glaced over, and, catching an eye-full herself, had slowed down to sneak a guilty look, when she’d noticed Victor sitting in his car, looking up at the lit window.

Over cups of coffee in Marla’s own kitchen (’cause nothing is open at one o’clock in the morning for miles around Bayou Bonhomme) Victor promised that he’d behave himself, but both of them knew it was a promise he’d have a hard time keeping. Marla just hoped that he wouldn’t get himself in any real trouble. When Marla and Mel had been sneaking around together, Victor had once walked in on them making out in the back of the bar, and Marla had been worried that he would say something to the wrong person. She wasn’t quite ready for the world to know about her predilections just yet — and she was terrified that her mother wouldn’t approve, and wondered what might happen to Mel if that were the case. Mel told her that she needn’t worry — that Varney wasn’t going to say anything. She said that Varney practically worshiped the ground Mel walked on, and wasn’t going to do anything to get her in any trouble. She was right — Victor never said a thing about them, and Marla had always felt a little in his debt.

The second time that Victor had been caught peeping — and it certainly wasn’t the first time after that warning that he’d done it, only the first time he’d been caught — there’d been a complaint. Someone had called the police, and Marla had answered the call — Victor didn’t know this, but Oscar had wanted her to bring him in and throw him in a cell; give him a proper scare — but Marla had talked him out of it.

This time, Officer Marla had put him in handcuffs and thrown him in the back of her patrol car, and taken him for a ride. Victor sat in the back not saying anything, hanging his head in shame.

“Mrs. Dubois is mighty pissed, Varney,” Marla told him, using the town’s cruel nickname for him. She’d always called him Victor before.

“I’m sorry, I…” he tried, but she cut him off.

“Do you want people to think you’re a monster? Do you want them to be afraid of you? Jesus, Vic, I’ve tried to be nice to you about this, but you’ve got to cut this shit out. People already give you a hard enough time about stuff you can’t control — do you really think what you need is a reputation as a creepy peeper on top of that?”

“You don’t understand,” Victor grumbled from behind her. “You’re so… so… normal.”

Marla thought about some of her own appetites and threw her head back and laughed.

“In a town this small, Victor,” she said, “ain’t nobody that could rightly be called normal.”

Victor laughed at that.

“Yeah, I suppose you got that right. But at least you’re pretty, Marla. Look at me. Who’s going to lay a hand on me, huh? Do you have any idea how lonely I am?”

Marla didn’t say anything for a bit, and then grabbed her radio.

“Hey Suzanne, it’s Marla, come in.”

“Copy, Marla. Did you take care of our vampire?”

Victor winced in the back seat, and Marla held up an sympathetic hand to shush him.

“Yeah, I took him home and gave him a spanking and then sent him to bed without supper.”

“A spanking, huh?” Suzanne remarked. “You sure you’re not making things worse? That boy’ll be followin’ you around town making goo-goo eyes and saying how he vants to zuck your blooood.

“You about done, Suz?” Marla asked, unimpressed.

“Sure,” she replied. “Chief’s gonna be pissed, though. He wanted you to bring him in and book him.”

“Well, I’m sure you can do something to calm Oscar down,” Marla said into the radio, and then turned it off and murmured cruelly, “Flash your tits at him and see how long it takes him to head to the restroom, you numb cunt.”

“I don’t know,” Suzanne said. “He’s in a mood.”

“Whatever,” Marla replied. “I was just calling in to say I’m knocking out for the night. See you tomorrow. I’ll have my radio if there’s an emergency.”

But there weren’t any emergencies back then. This was back during the quiet times in Bayou Bonhomme. People had moved on, kids had grown up, and most folks had almost managed to put the ugliness of the summer of ’98 behind them, No one had any idea that the horror that had plagued the town for a thousand years was coming back around again for a visit. That was an easier time, when the worst Marla had to deal with was the odd domestic call, or a poor fuck with an unfortunate birth defect taking a peek in a pretty woman’s window.

“All right, well, you have a good’un,” Suzanne said.

“And you, too,” Marla replied over the radio, and then flipped her middle finger at it for Victor’s benefit.

Victor laughed, and then asked Marla what she was up to.

“You got your wallet with you, Victor?”

Victor nodded and said that he did.

“See, ’cause I know this place over in Slidell where what you look like don’t matter much, so long as they like the portrait on your money.”

Victor shifted uncomfortably and said that he didn’t have any money.

“That’s okay, Vic,” Marla said, holding up some bills and waving them at him. “I got a couple of Ben Franklins for each of us.”

Victor had always considered Marla one of the good ones; after that day, when she’d given him — not directly, of course — something he’d never had before, she practically walked on water, as far as he was concerned.

But then there was the night that Jimmy Singleton’s body had been found. Victor had been hiding in his car, hoping desperately that Marla didn’t catch him peeping again, after he’d promised; practically sworn on his mother’s life that he was done — that if he really got that hard up, he’d take a drive out to Slidell and take care of what needed taking care of. But it was just easier and cheaper to peep, and sometimes Victor couldn’t help himself. So that night, he’d made a quick pit-stop on his way to work to peek in on Ellie Duchesne, and those bodacious ta-tas of hers. He’d been surprised by voices, and hid himself, praying that whoever it was didn’t notice his car. When he heard Officer Marla’s voice, he thought for sure he was busted, but she must have had her mind on more pressing matters, because she didn’t seem to notice his car at all.

Later that night, Victor would recount to Mel everything he’d heard, and the two of them got stinking drunk together, shivering at the few horrible details they’d heard about the boy’s body, and laughing to keep the spooks at bay. For some reason he didn’t understand — maybe to spare Mel the knowledge, or because he just couldn’t make sense of it himself, he’d left Marla out of it. He wanted to figure out for himself exactly what Marla had been doing there, and why she was consorting with that man, who, even though Victor never got a good look at him, gave him a serious case of the chills. He thought Marla was one of the good guys. So what was she doing with a creep like that?

Victor intended to find out. He’d been keeping an eye on her as best he could. When she came in to the bar at closing, and ended up leaving with Mel — the two of them pawing at each other like they hadn’t done in years — Victor decided that he’d better follow them. He loved Mel — he wasn’t shy about that, but he had not illusions about it, either — and he wasn’t about to let anything happen to her if he had any say about it.

So after he’d finished his cleaning duties, he’d driven down along Old Hereford Road, which ran along their little strip of Lake Pontchartrain, and made his way towards Mel’s house. He didn’t want her to see him following her, so he parked his car in a little pull off by the bayou, and walked a ways further down, to a tree he’d found handy for peeping. He’d even cut himself a couple of notches for footholds, making it easier to shimmy his way up to a fork in the branches that made for the perfect resting spot.

That had been a horrible day. Mr. Angell had shown up at the bar around dinnertime, just as Victor was getting in, and he looked like he’d seen a ghost. His hair had gone all white, and his eyes had a vacant, far-away look. He said something about not being able to get a hold of the Chief, and how he was looking for that writer lady, Miss LeBeau. Mel had seemed really shaken up about that, but Victor couldn’t figure out why. Bad things were happening in Bonhomme, that’s all he knew for sure.

He climbed the tree and positioned himself in his makeshift chair, high enough to avoid detection, but no so high so he was at risk of losing his balance and breaking his fool neck. He had hung a pair of ancient binoculars around his neck, and once he got settled, he picked them up and directed them toward his goal — Melissa Cayce’s bedroom window.

What he saw made him flush with both excitement and shame. He knew he shouldn’t be spying on the two women like that — especially not those two women in particular, but curiosity got the better of him, and he found he couldn’t tear his gaze away. After the two women were finished, and after they’d smoked their cigarettes, Victor kept watching, worried that if Mel let her guard down, something bad might happen. He didn’t want to believe that Marla could be… well, Victor didn’t know exactly what he thought she was, or really what to make of what he’d heard that night — but he had some guesses. He might not be good looking, but he wasn’t dumb. Whoever he’d heard Marla talking to that night was, in some way Victor didn’t understand, responsible for that little boy’s death. And if Marla was involved in that in any way, well, much as Victor wanted to dismiss the very idea, enough doubt had been planted so that he didn’t completely trust her.

Suddenly, Victor gasped. Marla had come to the window, her face illuminated in the moonlight, taking on a pale blue hue. Though it was impossible, she seemed to be staring right at him. Victor stumbled, almost falling out of the tree, and had to catch himself. When he regained his balance in the tree, he was facing the other direction, and caught a glimpse of firelight further down the bayou road, moving toward him.

He froze.

Voices spoke lowly; hushed whispers that floated on the night air, but by the time they reached Victor’s ears, were completely unintelligible. Victor bit down on the strap of his binoculars to stop his teeth from chattering, both from nerves and the cold. It had been unseasonably cold, and he wished he’d thought about bringing a sweatshirt or something. He tried as best he could to get into a position that he could settle into, so that he wouldn’t have to shift, and in doing so, make noise and draw attention to himself. His legs were cramping, but he ignored them, knowing that he couldn’t allow himself to be discovered.

“Hello?” He heard a man’s voice ask from behind him down the road. Followed up by the sound of knuckles rapping on a car window. Victor hoped that whoever was knocking on his window didn’t recognize it as belonging to him. He held his breath as he heard the man approach the tree he was perched in. He couldn’t turn around to see who it was, lest he betray his position. Instead, he kept his eyes forward, and watched as a row of figures dressed in white sheets and hoods walked along the edge of the bayou, the one in front carrying a torch, the tall one in the very back carrying something in his arms. They were still too far away for Victor to make out what it was, but if they kept on the path, he knew they’d pass right beneath him. Whatever this was, it frightened him. If they found him…

As they passed beneath Victor, he held his breath and bit down hard on the leather of the binoculars strap. His eyes widened in alarm as he watched the binoculars dangling, cursing himself silently for not drawing them into his body. If they happened to knock against a tree branch, he was quite likely a dead man. Whatever he was witnessing — whoever these people were — they were up to the kind of things so secret you killed to protect them. After all, hadn’t people been dying around the bayou? First that little boy, and then kind old Jean-Baptiste, who used to bounce Victor on his knee and call him his sweet little ghost.

As Victor watched the figures gather at the edge of the water, a strange sensation came over him. He felt like there was a tugging at the back of his head, and a strange, tingling feeling in the pit of his stomach. He thought he heard strange voices, and then he was sure that he heard something. The people standing on the shore started murmuring and chanting in some strange language he couldn’t understand. He risked the slightest movement and re-positioned himself so he could watch them better. When he settled again, he had a clear view of what the tallest figure was holding in his arms — it was a body. Whose, he couldn’t be sure. It was dark, and the body was pretty mangled from what he could see. He was pretty sure it was a woman — her hair was dangling over the man’s robe.

The water started bubbling, and Victor trembled. What was that? Was there something coming out of the bayou? He watched the hooded figures — he counted seven of them — walking out into the water, and part of him wanted to scream at them. What were they doing? In the dark, he couldn’t quite see what was going on in the water, but something was clearly in there with the seven people — eight if you counted the body, which Victor surely hoped was already dead. Something — or things — broke the surface of the water like a school of catfish during spawning season. Victor had seen a movie once where this giant squid attacked Captain Nemo and his crew in their submarine, and it had scared him so badly that he’d wet the bed that night. He’d just been a little boy, of course, and when he later watched it as an adult he’d laughed at how phony it looked. But still, that’s the kind of fear that he was feeling, as he watch what he could only describe as tentacles rise out of the bayou — and not just one or two, or even eight, but dozens of them. He gripped the tree branch until his knuckles turned white, and closed his eyes tightly, not wanting to see anymore.

Just as suddenly as it had begun, it was over. The voices left Victor’s mind, and when he opened his eyes, the bayou was still. Seven hooded figures, minus the dead body, stood on the shore, still murmuring ecstatically in the unknown language. Victor watched them, unable to move, unable to breathe, as one by one, they removed their hoods, and began to disperse back into the night. As they walked beneath him, he held his hand over his mouth to silence his breathing, and made mental note of all of their faces.

He knew each and every one of them.

———

MORE PLEASE. NOW PLEASE!!!!!!

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18 responses to “Varney the Voyeur – By Jessica B. Bell

    • Well I’m trying to get back onto and every Thursday schedule with the odd bonus story here and there Now that I have the rest of the plot flushed out it’s almost like I can’t write it fast enough so I hope to do some more writing this weekend. Thanks for reading. If you missed any chapters just go under the Jessica Bell tab they’re all listed in order there

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  3. Ah, dear sweet Victor. I tremble to think that anything bad might happened to him. This was very nicely done, Helena. It starts off with some poignant humor over Victor’s affliction and Marla’s help, but by the end of the installment, I found that I had stopped breathing 😉 Fear does that to me.

  4. I have read all up to the end of this one and I am loving every word. This is mighty writing. Will most assuredly continue… in a bit, but I need to get back to my efforts in the crazy biz of story-telling.
    You have a winner here Friend.
    Great story!
    I’ll be back sooner than later (I must!)
    And I do concur with 1WriteWay: Really liking Victor.

      • Yes, once I began at the beginning, I did not want to stop.
        But life got in the way, and I had my own series to finish. Just now did.
        I would be honored if you would find the time to check it out some time. It is ‘The Shonnie The Bikers Wife’ Series.
        Hey! Writers love feedback from other writers.
        Cheers,
        Lance

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