Are you not entertained? Jessica wants to know. She loves leaving you hanging, darlings — she’s a bit of a sadist, that one. Her favourite re-located Texan often screams that Jessica’s killing her with the tension, and Jessica grins and chuckles at these comments. “I only wish I could hear her scream for real,” she purrs creepily, “it would be like sweet music. Oh Helena, I miss music. Make them scream for me… make them all scream.”
Yeah, she’s pretty fucked in the head, that Jessica — not to put too fine a point on it, darlings. And this chapter is pretty tense. Not scary per se, but tense. Scary’s coming though. Don’t worry.
If you are completely new to this, or if you need to browse to see if you missed one, the chapter list is HERE
Leroy knew exactly what he was looking at when he opened the door to Amie LeBeau’s house. He’d seen the same scene twice before. Once in the summer of 1998 when he had helped Oscar drag poor Elmer Cayce’s body down off the wall, and the second time not that long ago, when it had been the old man, Jean-Baptiste Levesque. He’d hoped to never see it again, and in a way, he was spared the grizzly parts — but he knew all the same. The place had been cleaned up, but still had the stink of death.
Mel had told him over breakfast of biscuits and gravy that Amie was still unaccounted for; that no one had said for sure it was murder.
“It’s one of those corpus delectable things,” Mel suggested. “Or is it habeas corpus? I don’t know — something to do with how if there isn’t any body they can’t declare it a murder.”
Leroy snorted into his coffee, thinking of a certain body from his past that never turned up anywhere but in the digestive system of the thing that lived in the bayou.
“Sure,” Leroy said, skeptically. “Sure, maybe she done took off. Got spooked by someone, and split town. Sure.”
He hoped he was convincing Mel, ’cause he sure as hell wasn’t convincing himself. Still, there might be a chance she was still alive.
Mel sat down across from the skinny Cajun and looked him in his bloodshot eyes. Nearly three days later and he still looked like something out of a monster movie.
“Except,” Mel said in a low voice, and then bit her lip as if considering whether she should continue. “Except that Marla warned me. She told me that Amie was in trouble, and that I should warn Oscar. She… she gave me…”
“Gave you what?”
Mel looked up at Leroy and realized that she didn’t know whether or not she could really trust him. With everything that Marla had told her the night she’d taken her home, it was hard to know who might be involved in what. She’d never liked Leroy — she was sure her father hadn’t trusted the man — had even suspected the very worst of him. All she had was Marla’s word that she could trust both Oscar and Leroy. And now Oscar was nowhere to be found, and all she had was Leroy.
“Leroy, I need you to to find out what happened to Amie,” she said finally, not answering his question.
“Of course, cher,” he said, not knowing exactly what he could do that the police hadn’t. Only he knew enough not to trust the police completely.
So he headed up to the reporter’s house, and now he stood in her living room, trying not to notice that the walls had obviously been cleaned of blood, and that the house itself looked like it had been tidied up but not spotless. In Amie’s bedroom, dresser drawers were open and rummaged through, and there was a half-filled suitcase open on the bed. To a casual observer, it might look like she just left in a hurry.
He tried to recreate a timeline, and everything seemed to lead back three days or so to the night the Chief had pulled him out of the bayou — his memories of that night were sketchy at best, and were co-mingled with the visions that Chuck had forced upon him. He got a bad taste in his mouth just thinking about it.
He wished that the Chief were there — together they might be able to make sense of this. It seemed to Leroy, though, that perhaps the Chief was having his own problems. He hadn’t seen or heard from the man since that night.
Too many people were disappearing. First Amie — if she wasn’t already dead, then where was she? While Leroy was sleeping, the Chief packed up and took his family god knows where. Then this morning, Mel told him that Varney hadn’t shown up for work two nights in a row — which was strange, even for him.
Leroy decided that he had to trust someone, so he drove to the police station. He had a bad feeling about Marla. Where did she stand in all of this. He couldn’t shake what he’d seen in Chuck’s visions, yet he still held some healthy skepticism about that. Above all, Chuck was a shit disturber. How much he could trust what the creature showed him remained to be seen. Still, he felt somewhat responsible for what happened to Mel’s daddy — he couldn’t afford to be so blind this time around. He might not have been able to save Elmer Cayce, but he’d be damned if he’d let the same thing happen to the man’s daughter. Besides, he liked Mel. He knew she didn’t give a shit about him, but that was part about what he liked about her — she was tough and feisty.
“Can I help you Mr. Angell?” The young woman at the front desk asked.
“I surely hope so, Suzanne,” Leroy said. “I’m looking for the Chief.”
“Hmm,” she said, annoyed. “You’n everyone else. He took off a couple of days ago unannounced. Ain’t nobody heard from him.”
“That’s odd,” he mused, and Suzanne gave a snort of laughter.
“So’s your hair, Leroy. And what the hell happened to your eyes?”
He ignored her. “Any way of getting in touch with him?”
She shrugged. “If you know something we don’t…”
“Nah,” he said. “It’s just…”
“Something someone else can help you with?” An officer Leroy didn’t recognize stepped in.
“Nah, not really,” Leroy said, annoyed. “It’s more of a personal matter, Officer… uh.. DuBois. Would Marla – er — Officer Bergeron be around?”
Officer DuBois crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow.
“Would that be a personal matter as well?”
Leroy smiled, and realized he wasn’t going to get any information out of these two.
“Well, if you do hear from the Chief, you make sure to tell him I’m looking for him, y’hear?”
“This a police matter, Leroy?” Suzanne asked.
“No, like I said, it’s…”
“Personal, yeah, I got it,” she said. “What about Marla? Can I take a message for you for Marla? Maybe put some little hearts and stars on it, pass it to her at recess by the monkey bars?”
“Careful, cher,” Leroy said. “Keep dat up and you goan be off my Christmas list.”
Leroy tossed her a sour look and walked out the door.
Officer DuBois grunted. “Maybe you better call Marla.”
Suzanne nodded but said nothing, and picked up the phone.
Olivia Hereford sat in her grandfather’s chair and stared at Marla like a gator eyeing a raccoon that wandered too close to the swamp. At first she was hurt that it was Marla that her god demanded, but as realization of her vision sunk in, she began to grow angry. Betrayal was the most horrible thing she could imagine, and it made her furious. She wanted to twist the younger woman’s pretty neck right there in her reading room, and let the blood spray hot and wild under her blade. She felt violated and sick, and her first reaction was a sick urge for desecration.
But no — she would not befoul her ancestral home with this traitor’s blood. Besides, even with the sacred blood of C’thuN’Chuk coursing through her veins, she might not have the strength to overpower Marla. Though the very thought made her grind her old teeth and swallow the bile that rose in her throat, she would have to wait. She would let her Right Hand take care of this task. He would feel the betrayal as much as she, but would hold his temper enough that the sacrifice would not be blemished.
She couldn’t understand betrayers. How could anyone lose faith when they knew? Marla had seen the glory of C’thuN’Chuk; had felt his touch. Olivia had thought that she might even be the next Matriarch.
Marla sat smiling a forced smile, and after a couple of false starts, finally said what she’d come to say.
“It’s done now, isn’t it, Aunt Olivia? Now that Amie — Miss LeBeau… is it over?”
Olivia smiled at her, and nodded gently; re-assuring her.
“Yes, dear, it’s done. You’ve done very well. I promise you, it’s all over. C’thuN’Chuk is appeased for another cycle.”
Marla sighed and tears rose to her eyes. She fought them back.
“You know how important this is, don’t you?” Olivia asked. “If we lose faith, have you any idea the destruction that will rain down on us? Hurricane Katrina was a mild breeze compared to the wrath of our god. We dare not risk his anger, dear. We dare not.”
Marla nodded, and marveled at how easily it was to believe the old woman. Even now she felt the pull of C’thuN’Chuk, strong as the tide. She wanted to tear off her clothes and wade into the bayou and worship the ancient monster.
It seemed like the old woman recognized this mad religious lust in Marla’s face, and fed on it.
“If you ever feel your faith slipping, dear, you can tell me. We can go down to the water together and beg forgiveness. Together we could take communion from our god, and renew our faith.”
Marla swooned. “I… I would…”
The door opened and Jerome entered carrying a tray of tea and sandwiches. The tray also held a portable phone.
“Excuse me, Missus,” he said, and Olivia glared at him fiercely enough that he recoiled. “Oh, I’m awfully sorry for interruptin’ Missus, it’s just, there’s a telephone call for you — it’s from the police.”
He held the telephone out to her, set the tray down, and discreetly fled the room before she could say anything in return.
“Hello?” She said, all of the annoyance she felt completely concealed. She was a lady, after all.
“Yes, Suzanne, thank you.
“Yes, she’s here right now, I’ll be sure to let her know.
“Yes, you did the right thing, dear. And to you. Say hello to your mother for me.
“Of course. Good-bye.”
She pushed the END button and smiled thinly at Marla, her lips pressed together so tightly that they turned white and bloodless.
“What is it?” Marla asked, her pulse suddenly hammering in her ears.
“Someone’s looking for you,” she said, almost a whisper.
“Who?” Marla asked, though she had a couple of guesses.
“I think perhaps you’d better go find him before he finds you. And while you are at it, Marla, dear — track down that fat swine you call your boss.”
“Leroy,” Marla sighed.
“Yes,” Olivia agreed. “In this case, I believe you might be able to kill two birds with one stone — though don’t, my dear. At least, not yet.”
“Don’t what?” Marla asked.
“Why, kill them, of course,” the old woman grinned.
After Marla left, Olivia stared at the phone in her hand and hesitated. She loved the girl. Perhaps the visions were wrong. Perhaps she could still be redeemed.
Still, she needed to be prepared.
She dialed a number only she knew, and a voice like distant thunder answered the phone. In the background, Olivia could hear the sound of screams, and what she could only imagine was a pornographic film. At least, she hoped that what she was hearing was pre-recorded.
“Hello Gilles,” she said. She didn’t like the man. His brother had been crazy, and had almost ruined everything for them back in ’98, but Gilles was something worse than crazy. He was… fanatical in his madness. Olivia found the man vile and loathsome, but in such circumstances, he was the only one she trusted to do what she might need done. That he would take great enjoyment in the task was something she would have to live with. What mattered was that he would do what needed to be done; and he would not improvise with Marla. When it came to matters of The Faithful, she could at least trust that he would stick to the script.
“Olivia,” the huge man replied.
“I need you to keep an eye on Colette Bergeron.”
“Okay.” The man didn’t ask why. He wasn’t known for his thinking. He just did what he was told.
“I may need to… take her daughter, and I can’t have her interfering.”
“Do you want me to send her a warning?” He asked, with a slight degree of excitement at the prospect.
“No,” she said sternly. “I’m afraid quite the opposite. I need her soothed. I need her completely unaware. I need her in the dark.”
“And Gilles,” Olivia said, and she found that she was trembling, either with fear or anger she couldn’t say. “When the time comes, I may need you there. I’m… I’m not as young as I once was, and I may need your strength.”
“Of course. Olivia, if you need me to take care of this, I…”
“No,” she interrupted the man. She loved Marla, and if sacrifices needed to be made, than so be it. But she wasn’t about to hand her over to this sadist. She’d learned her lesson when it came to the Duchesne brothers.
“No,” she repeated. “When the time is right, I’ll do it myself.”