Leroy turned the car around and started heading back to Bayou Bonhomme, if only to make sure he hadn’t done anything else that he couldn’t remember. He thought about calling Marla, but then, he’d already laid enough of a trail there. If anything should happen to her, even the dumbest cop with enough sense to subpoena his phone records and voice mail would have enough to pin it on him. And what would his excuse be?
Oh, it weren’t exactly me, your honor. See, this ancient squiddy thing that lives in the bayou, he’s got psychic powers, which are ‘specially potent if you’ve eaten its flesh, and he compelled me to slit Miss Bergeron’s throat.
“At least I’d be a shoo-in for the insanity plea,” he laughed, and then stopped abruptly, deciding it really wasn’t all that funny.
Driving along the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, he kept looking out on to the water, and wondering just how big Chuk was, and how far his reach was. The closer he got to Bayou Bonhomme, the more nervous he was that the evil bastard was going to take control of him again. He also kept thinking about that wad of bills in his wallet, and how it’d be just as easy to turn left instead of right and spend the night in some dancer’s bed rather than head back into the belly of the beast. Besides, wasn’t there something he’d forgotten — some itch that needed scratching that he couldn’t quite reach? He thought for sure that he’d seen someone in Slidell that shouldn’t have been there. He tried to focus on it, hoping to recall the person’s face, but his mind kept wandering, and his eyes stared off on to the horizon, wide open, but not seeing anything, and when he blinked to try to refocus, he opened his eyes, and found that he was not moving anymore, and that it was dark outside.
“No,” he whispered, harsh and afraid. “No, goddammit!”
He looked at his clock, and it was almost nine o’clock at night. He looked out his window to take in his surroundings and recognized where he was at once.
“Home again, home again,” he mumbled with a sick chuckle.
He was parked right outside Marla’s house, which didn’t really surprise him, and in the passenger seat sat a rather large hunting knife and a shotgun he didn’t realize he owned — not the Mossberg. This one was brand new. That did surprise him. He got out of the car in a panic, looking up at Marla’s house for any sign of movement.
“Maybe she’s with Mel,” he hoped under his breath. He locked his fingers together and held them beneath his chin as if in prayer.
“Oh, Jesus, what am I gonna do?”
Opening the passenger side door, he quickly and cautiously grabbed the shotgun and the knife and took them to the trunk of the car, fumbling with his keys with shaking hands. After several tries at putting the key in the trunk’s lock, he finally managed to complete the usually simple task, and turned the key. The trunk popped open and Leroy felt all the strength rush out of him like in a torrent.
“Oh, fuck me,” he swore, and dropped the knife and gun at his feet.
Marla grunted and growled at him through silver duct tape, and shot hatred at him with red, tear-stained eyes. She lay perfectly still, rather than squirm and kick. Leroy didn’t understand why at first, but then noticed that she was laying on a bed of what looked like light gray modelling clay, but of course, was actually about twenty pounds of C-4 explosives. He didn’t see any detonators, but he could guess that they were probably in there somewhere.
“Be still, cher,” he said, trying to regain his composure, “I’ll get you outta there.”
He reached out and, as gently as he could, pulled the tape off of her sweating face.
“Sonofabitch!” she coughed hoarsely.
“Hold still,” Leroy repeated, picking up the knife from the ground to cut the tape on her wrists and ankles. When he moved it toward her, she flinched and tried to back away.
“Doan worry, cher. I’m myself now. When did I do this to you?”
“What do you mean?”
“I doan remember. I was driving toward Slidell along north of the lake, and then the next ting I know, I’m sitting here outside your house. I got no idea how I got here or what I been doing.”
“About an hour, I think. You put me in here and then you just sat there, talking to yourself. What the hell were you doing?”
“I have no idea.”
Marla rolled over gently to let him cut her bonds, and then carefully climbed down out of the trunk and grabbed the shotgun off the ground and pointed it at Leroy, who immediately raised his hands in the air.
“This thing loaded?” she asked, grasping it firmly so her hands wouldn’t shake.
“I expect so,” he said, not moving.
“Get on your knees,” she said, motioning with the barrel of the gun. Leroy did as he was told.
“Lock me up, Marla,” he pleaded. “Please.”
“Oh, I intend to,” she said furiously.
Leroy kept his hands raised, but leaned back on his car in relief, and actually smiled.
“Thank you,” he sighed. “Oh, thank you.”
“Don’t you move, Leroy,” she ordered. “I’m going back to the house to get my pistol and some handcuffs to put you in, and if I come back and you’ve moved one muscle, I’m just going to have to assume that you’re not under your own control, and I will put a fucking bullet between your eyes on principle. Do you understand?”
Leroy nodded, and watched her leave, careful not to even blink.
The clock on the wall read 1:25 a.m. when Leroy heard the door latch on his cell click, and the squeak of the metal the hinge moved. He sat up on his bunk to see if anyone was there, but the corridor was empty.
“Hello?” he called softly, but no one answered. He stood up and opened the door, and it groaned obnoxiously, and Leroy stood in the open door, waiting for someone to come running, drawn by the noise, but no one came.
This is a dream, he thought.
Stepping through the door, he walked down the hall and up the stairs, to the office area of the small police station, expecting to be stopped by one of the officers, or maybe that loudmouth dispatcher Suzanne, but the office was dark and empty. There was nobody there, and it was so quiet it was almost like all the sound had been sucked out of the room. It was like his ears were stuffed with cotton.
He heard another metal door swing open behind him, and he jumped, feeling his heart pounding in his chest. Turning around, he saw a light flicker to life, and a metal cage door opened wide, creaking on its hinges. He followed the light, a flickering florescent that needed to be replaced, to a weapons lock up. His hands seemed to work on their own, grabbing a tranquilizer gun and a box of darts, along with the knife that Marla had taken from him. It didn’t make sense that it was there, but then
this is a dream, it’s just a dream, just go with it
nothing made sense about this.
Leroy turned to walk out of the weapons lockup, and found himself standing in a dark room, at the foot of a bed. The moon shined in through an open window, lighting up a shiny scar on the face of the woman nearest the window. It was unmistakably Mel Cayce, Leroy thought, which meant that the red-headed woman that lay sleeping beside her was…
“Marla,” he said, and the woman turned uneasily, but stayed asleep.
“Marla,” he repeated, louder this time, and she jerked up in bed, startled. Before she could say anything, or wake Mel, Leroy raised the pistol and shot her in the chest, and then put a dart into Mel for good measure.
Marla collapsed in the bed, and Leroy tucked the pistol back into the back of his jeans.
God, she’s a beautiful woman, he thought, pulling back the sheet and staring at her naked body. I could just…
He pulled back, and the room started to sway. He had the strangest feeling of unreality, as if he were there and not there at the same time. He closed his eyes and tried to steady himself, and when he opened his eyes again, he was standing over Marla’s unconscious body lying in the trunk of his car. The explosives had been removed, and he had wrapped her in a blanket. Her eyes fluttered, and for a moment he thought she might open them, and if she did, if she stared at him with those big doe eyes, he might lose his nerve, and he couldn’t lose his nerve or he would
be punished, Chuk would punish you, he can make you do anything, he can get inside your head and…
“No,” Leroy said, quietly at first, and then repeated it louder, with defiance. “No, this isn’t for you! I’m not doing this for you, I’m…”
Why am I doing this? he thought, confused. Before he could answer himself, he closed the trunk of the car, and as it slammed down, the world went shaky again, and he found himself in his boat, heading out into the bayou, holding a knife in one hand and his other on the tiller. Steering by moonlight and by memory, he made his way to a familiar grove of cypress trees, and turned off the motor.
“Chuk?” he whispered, expecting his mind to assaulted by the creature’s hideous facsimile of laughter. But there was nothing. More cotton-eared silence, as if every frog, every bird, every cricket was dead, and even the wind was still.
Leroy looked down at his captive, her hair, her lovely red hair flowing out behind her on the bottom of the boat. With the blanket wrapped around her waist, she looked to Leroy like a beached mermaid. He reached down and stroked her hair lovingly, running his fingers through it. Without warning, his fingers seemed to act of their own will, grabbing a fist full of her hair and pulling her head up to his own face. He could have bitten her nose off, she was so close now. Her eyes flickered and her lips parted as if to speak.
Leroy grabbed the knife and held it up to her neck
stop this what are you doing stop this
running the tip lightly along her throat, gripping her hair tighter, bending her hair back.
shhh, shhh, it’s okay, be calm, be still
Leroy could feel Marla’s body tense under him as she began to slowly regain consciousness. He wanted to look into her eyes when he
what are you doing stop this stop this
slit her throat and gave her to the swamp god.
he’s no god he’s not your god he’s a monster please please you’ve got to wake up
Marla’s eyes flicked open wide, and she gasped in horror as she looked up into Leroy’s eyes, which were completely black. She pursed her lips as if to say something, and bucked and kicked, but Leroy held her tightly by her hair.
“C’thu rhys loban hai,” Leroy spoke, pressing the knife to her throat. “C’thu rhys eobhain C’thuN’chuk.”
He pressed the blade against Marla’s trembling white flesh, and made a quick, firm slash, spraying her blood all over him.
this is a dream, just a dream, shhh it’s okay, just a dream, just wake up, wake up and you’ll be safe in your cell where she put you, where Marla put you, just wake up wake up wakeupwakeupwakeupwakeup WAKE UP
Leroy woke up screaming, and looked around him to make sure he was still in the lock up, and when he discovered that he wasn’t, he went on screaming some more, his mad howl echoing across the bayou.
He stared in disbelief at his hands, covered in blood and handfuls of red hair. He dropped the knife he’d been holding into the water, and looked around him on either side of the boat for a body.
“Marla!” he cried out, tears beginning to stream down his face, mingling with the blood. “Marla!”