The more the merrier
It was a relatively short drive from the Sleepy Hollow State park to the small town of Harrison Michigan, given all the other places that Jackson had found himself driving to over the past week, or so. The down town area had several historic looking buildings, giving the center of the village a very quaint feel. Jackson pulled over and park in front of an old-school mom and pop hardware store.
“We need to come up with a plan,” he said, putting the car in park. It was late afternoon, on a Thursday, and there were only a few people out walking around.
“The plan is, we go inside and meet up with Tracy,” Lilly answered. “She’s the one who said we needed to all come together, so I’m sure she’ll know what to do.”
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re all just ghosts,” Jackson replied, wincing at the thought of the arguments he knew was coming. “Flickering the lights, and cracking a mirror, is not going to save Norma Jean, or stop a guy like Mark Karle, which means that I’m going to have to get involved.”
“You mean with that gun?” Lilly asked.
Jackson didn’t answer, as he thought about the old revolver he had stashed under the front seat of the car. “If it comes to that, I guess.”
“Only as a last resort,” Lilly reminded him.
“How do you plan on even getting into the house?” Jessica asked. “I remember that he kept that house locked up pretty tight.”
“She’s right,” Allison added. “We can just walk right through the door, but how are you going to get in without alerting him?”
“Maybe one of you girls can try to unlock a window or something,” said Jackson. “Or else I’ll have to try to break in. This hardware store should have something I could use. Stay here this time, and talk this plan out a little bit more. I’ll be right back.”
The small bell above the door of the hardware store, rang, when Jackson entered the store. An elderly woman greeted him, from behind the counter, as the smell of fresh popped popcorn filled the air. The old planked hardwood floor of the store, creaked and popped, as Jackson made his way up and down the aisles. He picked up a hammer, and a flat head screw driver, not having any idea what else he might actually need to break into a house. He also remembered Lilly saying that Norma Jean had a chain of some kind tied around her ankle.
“Help you find anything?” asked a man wearing a red colored vest, under a long sleeve flannel shirt.
“You got anything that’ll cut through a chain?”
The man gave Jackson a funny look, before shrugging his shoulders. “Hack saw, or bolt cutters. Take your pick.”
Jackson walked out of the store with a pair of bolt cutters under one arm, a hammer, and a flat head screwdriver in each of his hands. He popped open the trunk and placed the tools inside, and was closing the lid when some yelling from across the street caught his attention. A heavy-set man, wearing a baseball hat, was yelling at a middle aged blonde woman, holding a handful of homemade fliers.
“I thought I told you not to be hanging these things up anymore!” the man yelled, ripping down the flier that the woman had just taped to a light pole.
The woman shrank back a few steps, before trying to side step the man, who moved to blocked her path.
“Hey! Leave her alone!” Jackson exclaimed, rushing to the woman’s defense. “What’s going on here?” Jackson asked, grabbing the flier out of the man’s hand. It was a missing poster of a young blonde girl.
“Not like it’s any of your business, but this crazy lady has been hanging these damn things all over town for the last twenty years, and we’re all sick of looking at’em. Everybody knows that she ain’t missing. She ran off with some satanic cult,” the man said.
“That’s Tracy,” Lilly said from behind Jackson, making him jump just a bit, at the sound of her voice.
“Wish you’d stop doing that,” he said.
“That’s what I’m saying,” said the man.
“I wasn’t talking to you,” Jackson replied. “And how do you know she ran off with a satanic cult? Got a lot of those around Harrison?”
“No,” answered the man. “But John Rivers told me that he found her one day out in the woods on the back end of his farm, and that she had his cat in one hand, while sitting in the middle of a ring of candles, with a butcher’s knife in her other hand. Now if that ain’t satanic, I don’t know what is.”
Jackson looked at the flier and then at Lilly, who could only shrug her shoulders. “You still should just leave the woman be,” Jackson said, taping the flier back up to the light pole. “Or maybe I could call the police and tell them how you’re harassing this poor woman.”
“Whatever,” the man said, with a dismissing wave, as he turned around and walked away.
“Thank you,” the woman said. “She’s been missing for a long time, but I’ve never given up hope. I know my Tracy had some issues, but…”
Jackson placed a sympathetic hand upon the woman’s shoulder. “I know how you feel,” he said. “Never lose hope,” he told her, not having the heart to tell her that her daughter was really dead, and not that far from her.
The woman made her way down the side walk, stopping at each lamp post. Jackson watched her for several minutes, as he appeared to lost in thought, before making his way back to his car. “This ends tonight,” he said, putting the car in drive.
* * *
Jackson waited until dark, before parking his car about a quarter mile down the road from Mark Karle’s house. He had turned off his headlights, about a mile out, and drove slowly down the dirt road, using only the light of the moon to steer by. “We’ll approach on foot from here,” he said, reaching under the seat and retrieving the pistol. He knew nothing about guns, so he checked it one more time for a safety, and after not finding one, and believing that all he had to do was just aim and pull the trigger, he slipped it into the inside pocket of his leather jacket.
They slipped into the woods on the opposite side of the road. The trees gave way to a cornfield a short distance later. Tall, brown, stalks, still waiting to be pulled from the ground and turned into feed, gave Jackson plenty of cover, as he peered toward Mark’s house through the first few rows.
“Let’s go over this one more time,” he said quietly, kneeling down.
“We’ll go first,” Lilly said. “And find Tracy.”
“I’ll try to unlock a side window,” Jessica said.
“Once we figure out how to distract him, will give you the signal,” said Allison.
“Flickering lights,” replied Jessica.
“When I see your signal, I’ll make my move,” Jackson added. “Once inside, I’ll make my way to the basement and free Norma Jean…if she’s still alive.”
“She will be,” Allison remarked.
“Good luck everyone,” Jackson offered.
Jessica, Allison, and Laura started out across the dirt road, while Lilly hung back for a moment. “I just want you to know how much this means to us,” she said. “To me.”
“Glad I could be a part of it,” Jackson told her. “This is the most meaningful thing I’ve done in my entire life. I believe now, because of you, I was given a second chance at life, and I’m going to make the most of it.”
She leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek. She knew that her lips would pass through his flesh, but she felt that the overall act would not be wasted. She, and Jackson, were both surprised, when her lips became solid, as they pressed against his skin.
All four of the girls stood in a line, shoulder to shoulder, at the edge of the front yard, and stared at the bright ray of golden light shining down and engulfing the house. “This is it,” Lilly told them. “Tonight, we cross over. Tonight, we can finally rest.”
Jackson watched from the safety of the corn, as the spirits of the four girls, walked up to the house and disappeared through the front door. The entire front side of the house was dark, except for a single illuminated window on the second floor, whose view was blocked by a set of curtains. He took a few steps back, and concealed himself with a few more rows of corn, while he pulled out his pack of cigarettes.
Using his hand to block the flame from his lighter, he took a long drag of smoke and held it in his lungs for a few seconds, before blowing it out. Taking out his cell phone he checked the time. It had already felt like an eternity since the girls had entered the house, but he knew it had only been a few minutes.
Jackson shoved the phone back into his pocket. That was when he felt something that he had all but forgotten about. Carol’s business card. He took out his cell phone and stared at the card in the light of the phone’s screen. Against his better judgement, he made a call, and felt a sigh of relief when the call went to voice mail. “Hey Carol it’s me Jackson, I was just wondering if…you know what…forgot it, I probably shouldn’t have called you.” He ended call abruptly and put the phone back into his pocket. “Nobody here on her list.”
* * *
The inside of the house was just as all of the girls had remembered. Rays of bright golden light poured in through the windows of the house, their closed curtains doing little to curb the brilliance of the their unfinished business.
“I’ll try to unlock a window,” Jessica said, moving into the living room. She found a side window, and tried to push apart the curtains, but her hands passed right through them. She tried several times more, but each attempt saw the same result.
Lilly could tell that she was starting to get flustered. “Take a minute,” she told her. “If you get angry and the lights start to flicker, Jackson will think that we’re giving him the signal.”
“If I can’t push some cloth curtains out of the way, how can I unlock the window? Just go and find Tracy,” Jessica told them. “I’ll figure something out,” she said, blowing out a frustrated breath.
“It’s about fucking time.”
The girls all turned toward the sound of the voice and found Tracy Lafond, standing on the first step of the stairs, glaring at them.
“I found them!” Lilly exclaimed, moving toward her.
“Follow me upstairs,” Tracy told them. “He’s taking a shower right now. We can catch him off guard.”
“Wait,” Lilly said. “Jackson is waiting outside. We need to try to unlock a window, so that he can get in and rescue Norma Jean.”
“Seriously?” Tracy asked, with a hint of annoyance in her voice.
“What’s your plan anyway?” Lilly asked.
“Follow me upstairs and I’ll show you,” Tracy answered, walking up several steps, and turning to see if Lilly and the others were following her.
“I don’t think we can do this on our own,” Allison stated.
“You won’t have to,” Tracy promised. “Once we join forces we will be able to stop Mark Karle from ever hurting another girl again.”
“I’m in,” stated Laura, walking over to the stairs. “Let’s make that bastard pay.”
“Me too,” declared Jessica, forgetting about the curtains.
“We’re still going to need Jackson’s help,” pleaded Lilly. “Only the living can stop the living.”
“I’m with her,” Allison agreed. “We need to stick together on this. First, we deal with the window, and then Mark Karle.”
Tracy’s lips curled in a snarl, as her dark eyes filled with hate. “This is my house bitch, and you’ll do what I say.” She extended her hand toward Laura, who reached out and took it. Tracy pulled the girl into her, and Laura’s spirit disappeared, as she joined with Tracy. “Together we are strong,” she said, extending her hand toward Jessica.
“Let’s do this,” Jessica said, accepting Tracy’s hand, and merging her essence.
Tracy closed her eyes, and took in a deep breath. Her black and white appearance became saturated with color once again, as she began to take on the form she held when she was alive. The red drops of blood that dotted her face, neck, and bare legs glowed with the color of life against her pale white skin. She opened her eyes, which were as blue as the image of Tron on her shirt. She let out a scream, as the lights in the living room turned on momentarily, before all of the bulbs exploded.
“We need to get out of here!” Allison screamed. She tried to make a mad dash for the front door, but Tracy moved with supernatural speed and blocked the ghost’s path. She reached out and grabbed Allison by the wrist. The young girl tried to pull away, but with one quick yank, Tracy pulled Allison off of her feet, as her form disappeared within Tracy’s.
“What are you doing?” Lilly asked, moving behind Mark’s recliner, so that she had some kind of obstacle between her and Tracy.
“What needs to be done in order for me to survive,” Tracy told her. The ghost lunged through the recliner at Lilly, who was caught off guard. Lilly drew her fist back, but before she could throw a punch, Tracy hit her with a strong backhand. Lily flew through the air and hit the ground hard, as the world around her grew dark.