Willie awoke the next morning in unfamiliar surroundings beneath an avalanche of blonde hair and removed a few strands from his mouth. He lay awake, piecing together the events of the previous evening as Carolyn slept snuggled in his arms.
Holy Grail, it was his dream come true: that which he had made a top priority upon his first arrival in Collinsport—scoring with Princess Carolyn. Then again, the last time he got a girl drunk and horny, it ended in a shotgun wedding, which seemed like a grand idea at the time, but hadn't worked out so well in the end. It was pretty much a sure bet this little exploit wouldn't either.
Willie envisioned what would come next. The young woman would awake and slowly realize where she was and with whom. Disbelief and revulsion would creep over her face, followed by a scream of horror. The commotion would attract management and Willie would be tossed out the front door into the hands of the arresting sheriff.
Afterwards, Kitten would report the incident to mommy and uncle, they would complain to Cousin Barnabas and the three would take turns using him for a punching bag. Who was he kidding? For an error of this magnitude—banging a Collins family member—the vampire would kill him without thinking twice, after which what remained of his body would be tossed out back to feed the bears.
Maybe Willie could sneak away before she woke up.
The young man was attempting to gently slide his arm from her embrace when the telephone rang with startling volume. He grappled for the receiver.
"Good morning, Willie," Julia returned with no enthusiasm. "I hope at least you got some sleep last night."
"Yeah, uh, some. What's going on?" the young man mumbled.
Carolyn awoke and reached up to brush the hair from his eyes. "Who are you talking to?" she asked.
"Nobody." But Carolyn didn't care to have her partner's attention diverted. She proceeded to rectify the situation with a mischievous smile and disappeared beneath the covers as her tongue navigated his naked body on a downward path. "Don't—stop! Not right now!"
"Who are you talking to?" Dr. Hoffman demanded as well.
"No one! It's Mr. Welles, the desk clerk, I think."
"Really?" she replied sarcastically. "Yes, that certainly would have been my first guess."
"Oh, no—you mean that. Somebody in the hall delivering room service."
Carolyn giggled from down under. "Room service coming up, sir! Time for breakfast."
Willie covered the mouthpiece and whispered fiercely. "Please! This is important. Gimme a minute, will you?"
"Fine, Mr. Important." Carolyn's head popped up abruptly. "Time's up. I'll be in the shower if you want me," she announced, wrapping herself in the top sheet, and disappeared into the bathroom.
"Okay," Willie returned to his phone conversation. "Tell me what happened."
"Well, there's still no sign of Adam, but surely he must have expired by now. Barnabas has retired until sunset and I was hoping to get some rest now myself. Meanwhile, I'd like you to take over: continue the search today and recover the body."
Of course Julia and Barnabas were less concerned about the well-being of Adam and more worried about getting caught.
"What am I supposed to do with it?"
"Bring it back to the house, of course, and I'll see if I can get it pumping again. Then we will put this unfortunate episode behind us."
What's it going to take for you to realize this whole scheme is bat shit crazy? You pull these stupid stunts, then expect me to clean up your mess. Well, I'm tired of you using people and I won't do it. Not this time.
"Yes, ma'am." He hung up the phone.
Willie joined his date in the shower, relieved that she did not seem disconcerted by the previous night's escapades, and at the same time, wondering what that might imply. Carolyn was uncharacteristically quiet, noticing for the first time, the ugly, purple bruise Barnabas had left on his shoulder. She gently caressed the sore spot and kissed it better.
"Don't worry, I won't tell anyone," the man said with trepidation.
"Tell them what?"
"I figured you wouldn't want to be seen with me or anything."
"Why would you say that?"
"Most people around here don't."
"What do you think, I sit in bars looking for one-night stands like a drunken whore?" she started to cry angrily.
"Carolyn, no!" Talk fast, Loomis. "I just can't imagine your family would consider me suitable for someone like you. I bet someday you'll marry a doctor or professor, or maybe a famous actor."
"Well, so far that hasn't worked out very well, and I don't care what my family thinks. If I want to date a handyman from Skid Row, that's exactly what I'm going to do."
"I got to tell you up front, it ain't just that. I come with a lot of baggage."
She looked into his eyes through her tears. "So do I."
"Where to now? The diner?" Carolyn, once again cheerful, chirped as they emerged into the sunlit street.
"I-I'm sorry, I have to go to work."
"Oh no, mister, not before you buy me breakfast. Where are your manners?" Willie began to protest. "Cousin Barnabas will understand; I'll just explain you were doing an errand for me." She smiled with effervescence. "He adores me."
Maggie Evans glared at the couple as they seated themselves at a table for two, making obvious her disapproval that her ex-husband would show up at her place of work looking hung over, unshaven and had probably been in a recent barroom brawl. She audibly cleared her throat.
Willie hadn't seen his former wife since that Christmas night more than four years ago. She looked tired and thin, and the new hairdo aged the woman beyond her years.
"So, am I allowed in here?" Willie quietly asked the waitress. "There won't be any trouble, I promise."
"Of course you are!" Carolyn answered. "No hard feelings, right, Maggie? Just like when I was dating Joe and you stole him from me. We're all friends in this happy little community."
"Certainly," Maggie replied in a deliberate tone. "Two coffees?"
"Yes, please," the blonde woman giggled. "And a big stack of pancakes. I burned a lot of calories last night."
Willie suppressed a smirk. "Same," he muttered.
After the meal, the couple strolled to the Evans' cottage where, hidden from view, Carolyn and Willie watched his daughter play alone in the backyard. She held court over her collection of toys: a stuffed Tigger, Teddy Ruxpin and Cabbage Patch dolls, instructing them on the fine art of making mud pies. But it turned out they were not intended to be culinary creations but ammunition when the child loaded the dirtballs into a toy steam shovel and catapulted them into another toy who had apparently fallen from favor. Flaxen hair hung in her big brown eyes as she concentrated on carving designs in each patty with a twig.
Carolyn watched her companion staring at his little girl, unable to turn away.
"Talk to a lawyer; you may have to sue for visitation rights. I can recommend someone."
"Does he look like Humphrey Bogart?"
"Why, yes, he does."
"He already works for Maggie."
"Not any more. You forget I'm a Collins."
By late afternoon, Willie managed to get Carolyn safely deposited back at Collinwood so he could continue the search for Adam, but she had not been easy to dump. Upon hearing there was a possible prowler on the premises, the young lady was eager to procure her pistol and join the hunt. Carolyn was a live wire, in bed and out.
Willie's thoughts were scattered as he walked back to the Old House, torn between the wretched soul who had been his only friend and companion for the past two years, a naked blonde woman, and a hot tempered, headstrong little girl. No wonder Julia wanted to keep him in the house. One night away and shit and drama poured from the heavens.
Part of him wanted Adam to still be alive. Maybe he would listen to reason and Dr. Hoffman could put him back together. He could instruct the creature to control his temper, teach him new words and good manners. That way Barnabas and Julia would let Adam stay awake and keep the caregiver company. The other part wondered if it would be more humane if the monster were dead. Let's face it, he should never have happened to begin with. Dead should stay dead. And God, or no God, some things just ain't right, and one of them is to use another living being without their permission for your own abominable purposes. That included rhinos and reanimated body parts and vampire slaves.
Willie left the shotgun at home and instead took the shovel. When he found Adam's body, the servant planned to bury it deep in the woods, then tell Julia it must have disappeared.
But maybe he wouldn't have to lie, for indeed the body was nowhere to be found. Willie hoped that he hadn't ventured beyond the estate. It would not be a good thing to have a pissed off monster boy stomp into the village. He searched everywhere for a clue: a trail of blood, or shit, or—oh, Christ, there it was: G.I. Joe's stained and decapitated head.
"Adam! Where are you? You need some help, buddy. Can we just talk, please?"
He finally located the creature at the crest of Widows’ Hill. Adam had followed the sound of the ocean in search of the dead people. People like him.
"Hey, pal." Willie cautiously approached the miserable giant. "You don't look so good. I come to take you back home where Dr. Julia can fix you up."
But Adam was beyond being fixed up. His shirt and chin sported evidence that he had tried to ingest forest foliage which had subsequently been regurgitated. He pallor was a deathly gray, internal organs had all but shut down, and yet he continued—on God knows what.
"Adam hurt," the monster managed. "Adam…bad."
"No, it's okay," Willie reached toward the monster. "You're not bad, but you're real sick, and I want to help you, 'cause I'm your friend. You know that, right?"
Adam cried out in despair and threw his arms around Willie, squeezing with a last surge of strength.
"Hurt! Adam hurt bad!"
"Now Willie hurt. Big guy—you're crushing—" The young man felt one of his ribs crack and suddenly it became difficult to breathe. He struggled in the giant's grasp to no avail as his vision faded to gray and he passed out.
The sound of a gunshot rang out and the giant released his grip. He stumbled forward and dropped Willie who regained consciousness on the ground, gasping for breath.
Behind them Carolyn Stoddard stood staring down the barrel of her handgun, her hands shaking slightly, but prepared to fire at the perpetrator a second time.
"Stop," Willie gasped hoarsely. "Don't kill him."
"Move away, I have this covered," the woman replied with forced calm.
Adam crumpled to the ground with a thud and crawled to the precipice. He looked back to his caregiver in agony.
"Baby bird did not find his mother," he stated with resignation.
"Adam, it'll be okay…"
"No. The ending will always be the same." The monster allowed himself to fall over the cliff.
"NO!" Willie scrambled on his hands and knees to the edge in time to witness Adam's body ravaged by one boulder after another on a collision course to the ground floor. "Don't leave me…"
The young man collapsed onto his back and allowed the crook of his arm obscure the tears. Familiar with the discomfort of a broken rib, he breathed shallowly and moved with caution. When Willie peeked out from beneath his arm, Carolyn was standing in the same spot, holding the pistol, in a wide-eyed state of shock.
"Did you know that man?" she asked fretfully. "I didn't know what else to do; he was about to kill you."
"He didn't mean to—it's just that—never mind." Willie struggled to his feet. "It was for the best."
The gun fell from her hands.
"I didn't know what to do. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
"Shh." Willie took into his arms the trembling woman who had saved his life.
"What will happen now?" She rested her head on his shoulder. "I guess we have to call the police…and my lawyer."
Willie took the girl's face in his hands and gazed into her the lower depths of her cobalt eyes.
"If anyone deserves to go to jail, it ain't you. Nobody will ever know about this." He picked up the gun and the shovel, "I'll take care of it."
"It's going to be alright, don't worry." Willie kissed the young woman. "Go home, say nothing, and pour yourself a stiff one. I have to go dig a hole."
She started down the path toward Collinwood, then turned back.
He smiled with a sigh.
"Yes. I will call you. If that's want you really want, I will definitely call you." He clicked on the safety catch and tucked the pistol in her pocket. "Leave the gun at home next time."
Willie drove his truck down to the beach to search for the body but could find no clue as to its whereabouts. Clutching his throbbing ribcage, the exhausted man fell to his knees and collapsed onto the sun-warmed sand. He lay there for a long time, staring at the sky, listening to the surf, and contemplating his life. Eventually, Willie drifted off to sleep.
He awoke after twilight to the crackling roar of the bonfire and the cheerful chattering of ghosts in the distance. Willie approached the group to seek out his buddy, Jason, and little Sarah, but stopped frozen in his tracks, horrified. Flung into the flames were the roasted remains of a seven-foot body. Willie turned angrily to the crowd.
"Hey, what's the big idea, why would you—?
"I did it." The voice came from the other side of the bonfire. "Come, my friend, and sit by me."
The spectral visage of Adam smiled up at him, beckoning him over. Still sporting a gray pallor, it seemed to compliment the blue hue of lovely Jane Ackerman, nestled under his scarred arm. Willie joined the couple.
"I'm sorry about…the way things worked out," Willie ventured.
Adam patted the man's arm sincerely. "At last I am where I belong, with my many friends, and one special friend." Jane smiled shyly at him. "My body was burned so it could never be abused again by those ghouls you work for."
His companion shrugged. "They'll probably just build another one."
"It won't be easy. I destroyed the laboratory," the ghost chuckled. "You must leave that place or they will destroy you as well, bit by bit. If you stay there, you will die inside."
The Irishman nearby organized a sing-along with a haunting rendition of I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen.
"I know. A couple of times I tried to cash in my chips, but now I got someone important to care about."
"She is a lovely woman, although somewhat dangerous."
"Not her," Willie laughed. "Carolyn don't fool me. She'll dump me one of these days, like she dumped all her other boyfriends."
"Maybe you underestimate her, and yourself." The apparition shook his head. "You suffer from poor self-esteem, my friend."
"You're talking real good these days, aren't you?"
"Thanks to your influence."
"Me?" Willie looked askance. "I never talked like no dictionary, let alone teach it to somebody else."
"But you read the dictionary, I've seen you. And you read Shakespeare, so the knowledge is in locked up in there." He tapped Willie on the temple. "Remember what you used to say to me? Use your words."
They listened to the melodic strains from the phantom choir and the pops from crackling timber in the fire.
"May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest." Willie stood and shook the spirit's hand. "There's stuff I need to do. Got to talk to Jason and the little girl. I did a lot of thinking today, and made some big decisions." He swallowed uncertainly. "I'm going to need their help."
Adam waved him away. "Then, go, follow your dreams—and don't be a chicken shit."