I peered over the hill and down at the small valley below as I hid behind a large oak tree. The tree was bare of any leaves, lost among the November winds. We were on the edge of the sheriff’s property line looking down on the house. We hadn’t seen anyone come or go for almost an hour.
I parked the truck further down the road so no one would see us approach. We needed to have the element of surprise. I even made Matt and my grandfather hide behind the tree with me. I didn’t want Billy seeing one of them. There was no telling what he could do.
“Billy’s car isn’t here,” Matt said as he pointed to the bare gravel by the garbage cans. His face was covered in thinly scarred fractures. Soon they would fade away to mere shadows under his pale blue hue.
The sheriff’s SUV was parked in the driveway, sitting silently in front of the open garage. I could see the light of a tv on in the den. Matt said its where the sheriff would be probably passed out already.
“We can go in through the garage,” I said looking at the most obvious choice to enter.
“I wouldn’t recommend that,” Matt explained. “Easier to go in through a bed room window. If you go in through the garage door, it’s going to set off an alarm. The windows aren’t connected to the system. Go though them and save yourself a headache.”
Matt would know the layout of the house better than anyone but the Brice’s. He considered himself best friends with Billy before his best friend decided to kill him. Matt thought he knew Billy, but would learn he was missing vital pieces of information. First off Billy was a necromancer and second, most likely insane.
“Matt, you stay out here. I don’t want Billy finding you if he comes home while we’re in there.” He didn’t argue. I turned to Martin. “You ready?”
Sheriff William Brice, lived with his son William ‘Billy’ Brice, Jr. in a small two bedroom ranch style house on the outskirts of town. The house had seen better days, but when those days were was anybody’s guess.
All three of the front windows were caked with layers of grime, making it hard, but not impossible to see inside. The white vinyl siding had aged, but compared to the metal awning above a tiny cement pad, it was in great shape. The awning was rusted through and several holes had formed around the edges. The front yard was in just as bad shape. It was covered in leafless bushes and over growth. It was hard to tell where the front yard ended and the wooden forest began.
I crept up to the window on the side of the house and took my sleeve to wipe some of the dirt away. I peered through and was surprised at the state of disarray in the Brice household. Surprised, but not completely. Looking at the exterior of the house I had to assume the inside would be more of the same.
Yet, the exterior of the house was in fact the house’s best attribute. It was filthy inside. Trash was scattered everywhere. The thirty or so empty beer cans lining the coffee table amazed me. I thought the sheriff might be making a fort out of them. On the edge of the coffee table an ashtray sat, filled with hundreds of used cigarette butts. It reminded me of a stubby white porcupine.
Sheriff Brice was passed out on a recliner camped out in front of the harsh light of the television. The floor was cluttered with old newspapers, mail, and more junk than we had in the Sunnyledge attic.
The sheriff was fond of cheap beer in a great abundance. I could even hear the snoring from where I was outside. It was bordering on unhealthy with short breaks in his breathing, causing the occasional gasp for breath. I knew what sleep apnea was and the sheriff could benefit from a breathing machine.
I walked the perimeter of the house looking for Billy’s bedroom window. Martin followed me around when we saw a window without a screen. I looked in and was convinced I found what could only be Billy’s room. I slowly pulled the window open and the smell of body odor and mildew filled my nostrils. I cringed at the foul smell wishing I didn’t have to dive head first into it.
His room was covered in a handful of posters with heavy metal bands I never heard of and horror movies I wouldn’t even watch during the day. Movie monsters never bothered me. I would rather watch Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers use a machete at a adolescent camp site than what prided itself on unnecssersy torture porn.
As I climbed through the window I caught my foot on the radiator and lost my balance. I tumbled into the house and landed with a thump onto a garbage covered carpet. I silently waited to be caught, but after a couple of moments no one inquired about the noise.
“Charlie, are you all right?” Martin said as he tried to come in. I watched as he bounced against an invisible barrier at the window. Blue energy sparked out of the barrier every time Martin tried to go through it.
“Why can’t you get in,” I whispered.
“He’s sealed the house,” Martin said as he glanced up at the side of the house. “I won’t be able to follow you inside. You’ll have to go along without me.”
Martin’s voice had an echo quality. It sounded like he was under water. The spell around the house created some sort of insulation from spirits and even their noises. I could barely make out what he was saying.
“I’ll meet you back here when I’m done,” I whispered hoping he could hear me as I switched on the flash light from my phone.
On the night stand was a picture of Billy as a young child being held by the sheriff and a woman I could only imagine was his mother. It was the only picture in his entire room. If Billy’s mother was still around, I doubted the house would be in this bad of shape.
I opened Billy’s door, peaking out into the hallway. Seeing no one, I slipped out of the bedroom and tip toed into the rest of the house. I walked through the dining room and into the den where the sheriff was passed out, drunk, in his armchair. On the tv screen there was only static. I had the feeling that there wasn’t a noise on earth that could have woken him.
I still tiptoed around a corner and found myself in the kitchen. I was surprised to see a blue spirit standing in front of the sink. The woman looked familiar. It took me a moment to figure out where I had seen the spirit before. Then it occurred to me. I had seen her alive only moments ago in the picture in Billy’s bed room.
It was Billy’s mother. She was dead, but still fully ingrained into Billy’s life. She was looking out the kitchen window and into the back yard. I peaked out to see what she was looking at. There was a rotting wooden swing set by a six foot privacy fence. Littered around the yard were used tires and pieces of scrap metal. The metal was rusted and pools of ice filled the tires.
“You’re Billy’s mother.” I said stating the obvious.
The woman turned towards me nodding her head. “I’m Stephanie Brice,” she answered as she looked at me for the first time. I waited as she studied me. “You look so much like Logan Kane.”
“I’m Charlie Kane,” I said, “Logan was my father.”
“You and Billy share the gift.”
Stephanie Brice, Billy’s mother, the sheriff’s deceased wife. Was this her punishment? Another of Billy’s demented acts of love. He was so young when she died. How would he have kept her spirit here for so long?
“Did Billy do this to you?” I asked, “Did he trap you here?”
“Not my Billy,” Stephanie responded. “He’s a good boy. He would never have done this to me.”
“Then who trapped you here?” I wondered. “Who protected this house from any spirits getting in?”
“It’s not to stop spirits from getting in, Charlie. It’s up to stop spirits from getting out. Your father did this,” she snapped.
“My dad did this to you,” I echoed back to the spirit. “Why would he do that?”
“He did it for love,” Stephanie replied. “A selfish love only Logan’s short sighted understanding of life could create.”
My dad was having an affair with Stephanie Brice all those years ago. She was the woman who’s husband had killed her in a jealous rage? Why would my father have pulled her back from the beyond? There was something I was missing. Something that connected everything. And then I realized what that was. Her baby, Billy. The sherif wasn’t the father. Logan was.
“The Sheriff killed you after he found out about Billy,” I said.
“He felt betrayed by my indiscretion.”
“That makes Billy, my brother,” I said finally piecing everything together.
“Why are you looking for my son, Charlie?”
Stephanie Brice’s spirit had become part of the house. She couldn’t leave if she wanted too. She was trapped here. My father had done it, but why? What we thought was a protection on the house was really her prison. No spirits were allowed in or out.
I had to tell Billy’s mother what her son had done. Maybe she could help me talk some reason into Billy.
“He’s killed, Mrs. Brice. Billy killed Matt Long last year. He killed Laura McDermott close to a month ago. Billy made Matt’s death look like a suicide. And do you want to know why he killed them? Because he was jealous. He killed two of his closest friends out of jealousy. If that wasn’t enough, Billy is pinning Laura’s murder on Howard Perry. How many more people need to die because of your son?”
When Stephanie Brice turned towards me there was a smile on her face. Her reaction wasn’t of revulsion or shame, but of pride. She was proud of her son. He had killed his friends, tortured them in death, and now was setting up an innocent man to take the punishment. Her smile widened revealing ghostly stained teeth. Her eyes burned with intensity, “Tell me more of my son’s triumphs,” she proudly said.
“You think Billy can use this on a resume? He’s a sadistic murderer for heaven’s sake.” Billy’s mother laughed at me and turned away.
Was Billy trying to drive Laura insane the same way his mother had gone crazy? Would this happen to her if Billy continued to abuse these spirits?
I thought back at what my father did to this woman. It was really his fault she was like this. His fault for Billy. His fault for everything. My father had messed everything up before he was finally put down.
I wondered why did she keep looking at the swing set. She wasn’t ever alive to see Billy use it. What meaning did it have for her? As a spirit she watched over her son. He could always see her and she was always there for him. If Billy hadn’t driven her mad than it had happened gradually over the years of her confinement.
“Why are you in my house?” Sheriff Brice said from the doorway. “You know I could shoot you on the spot for trespassing, Charlie.”
“I’m looking for your son, sheriff. Can you tell me where he is?”
“He’s not coming back,” Sheriff Brice said as if it was a fact.
“He killed Matt Long,” I replied. “I have reason to believe he killed Laura McDermott, too.”
“Where’s your evidence?”
“Matt Long showed me. I saw it with my own eyes.”
“Matt Long is dead,” he replied.
“I think you know that wouldn’t stop me from knowing.”
“I heard you talking to my wife before.”
“You know she’s there?” I asked.
“Billy makes me see her sometimes. Makes her visible when he wants me to feel guilty about what I did. You know it was your daddy who trapped her here. He didn’t intend for her to be stuck in this house, but I guess he didn’t really know what he was doing at the time.”
“I’m not taking responsibility for my father’s mess anymore, sheriff. Will you tell me where Billy is? He’s hurt people I care about. I won’t let him to it again.”
“What did Stephanie say when you told her what our son did?”
“She was proud of him,” I said.
“She wasn’t always that way. Over the years Billy has warped her into who she’s become. I wonder if I did the right thing all those years ago. Would Billy have turned out different?”
“Killing your wife?” I asked, uncertain of his point.
“Letting Billy live,” sheriff Brice replied. “I love my son, Charlie, but what he’s doing is an abomination. I know I can’t stop him. What will you do when you find him?”
“I don’t know yet,” I truthfully said. “He’s done bad things, sheriff. Why haven’t you done anything to stop him?”
“How would I stop him from doing anything? He’s too powerful. I can’t help him. It’s not like anyone can prove that Billy killed those kids. No court would ever convict him.”
“I have to at least try to stop him,” I said. “Maybe he can be saved after all of this. Please tell me where he is.”
“I wish I knew, but as you can see I’ve been preoccupied with drinking. I know you can see yourself out.” The sheriff stumbled out of the kitchen, leaving me alone and without hope.
I was left watching Stephanie Brice. What was it about the backyard that fascinated her so much? I followed Stephanie’s gaze, and was surprised when I realized she wasn’t looking at the swing set. There was a building in the distance. Through the leafless trees I could see the high school.
Was that it? Was she looking at the high school? Was Billy there? Was she looking after her son even from the house she was trapped in?
“Is Billy at the school?” I asked Stephanie, but knew she wouldn’t respond. I stood beside her and waited until something clicked. I needed to figure out why Laura was found in the woods. Why the woods?
It occurred to me that a necromancer didn’t have to worry about where someone died. He could kill someone in one location, and make them walk to another location. No one would find any evidence because they would never find the scene of the crime.
What about Laura? Why was she found in the forest? Did Billy leave her there for someone to find? Or maybe she wasn’t supposed to be there. I thought about the cat I reanimated. When I lost my focus I would loose the connection. What if he was taking her through the forest when he lost his connection with her?
Laura was found in the clearing. It’s possible he lost track of her over the long walk. Maybe he couldn’t find her once the connection broke. Then a day later a hunter finds her body thinking someone dumped it in the woods. He needs to do something with her spirit so he leaves her near her body.
It was making sense. Billy killed Matt the same way. He strangles his friend in a car, then makes him walk anywhere he wants. Matt is taken back to his family’s barn. Billy makes the an already dead Matt break his own neck so he can hide the strangulation marks around his neck.
Billy used his powers to hide the real crime scene. Matt was killed in the car, but walked to the barn. Laura was killed in one location and made to walk through the forest. But the forest wasn’t her final destination.
If I could find out where he killed Laura there was a chance there was still evidence there. Only with evidence, a jury would convict Billy of the murders.
I looked back over at the school in the distance. Could that have been it? Did he kill Laura in the high school? Walked her through the forest, but lost her at the clearing. Where was she supposed to go? Her house to make it look like a suicide as well? It worked so well the first time after all. Only Billy couldn’t have foreseen the miscalculation. Before he recovered her body she was already found. I doubted he had a back up plan, but used Perry when the opportunity presented itself.
I pulled out my phone and mapped Dumont. I put the high school at one point and the clearing as the second. I searched for the third point and found a couple of possibilities. The clearing where they had found Laura was half way between Laura’s house and the high school. Nothing else around the area seemed to fit better. That meant the high school would be the next place to look into.
The school must have had a lot of places to hide. In the basement there would be places no one would ever look. It was still winter break so no one would be there to find him. He would have it all to himself.
Most schools that were built in the middle twentieth century had fallout shelters in their basements. If no one had taken them apart there would be a stock pile of supplies. It would be the perfect place to hide out.
I doubted the school had done any big renovations since its construction. The plans for the building would be on file at the town hall. I would pick them up before I stepped a foot inside the school. I wouldn’t go in without knowing how to get out.
I left through the front door and found Martin on the hill behind the tree. Martin was waiting for me, but Matt wasn’t there. I looked around, but didn’t see him.
“Where’s Matt?” I asked my grandfather.
“No idea,” he replied. “I went to look for him while you were in there, but I couldn’t find him. It’s like he just vanished.”
My phone flashed with Madison on the caller ID, but when I answered no one was on the line. It was silent for several seconds and then I heard a weird noise, like something was dragging on gravel.
“Madison are you there?” I asked into the phone.
We rode back to the Sunnyledge in silence at loosing Matt. When I parked the truck in the garage I dialed Madison’s number. While the phone rang I decided to get the mail. I told my grandfather I would meet him inside and made my way down the driveway. As I walked towards the mailbox I thought I heard a ringing phone close by.
I followed the noise until I found Madison’s phone lying on the side of the road. I grabbed the phone and unlocked it with Madison’s birthday. Sure enough her last call was to me.
“Madison, I’ve got your phone,” I shouted as I walked into the house. “Madison, did you hear what I said?”
When I walked into the living room I found Diana and my grandmother sitting alone on the couch. Diana had a cup of coffee in her hands.
“Charlie, you’re home,” Diana said happily surprised. “I’m so embarrassed about earlier. I can’t really remember what I did, but I think I owe you an apology.”
“It’s okay,” I replied. “You’ve been through a lot recently.”
“Don’t be embarrassed, dear. Sometimes making a scene is the only way to get their attention,” my grandmother said as she stood up. “Although, hopefully this will teach you not to drink so much next time.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Kane,” Diana said as my grandmother started to leave.
“Nunny, have you seen Madison?” I asked. “She dropped her phone outside by the mailbox.”
“I haven’t seen her,” my grandmother said. “Maybe she’s outside.”
“She’s not out there,” I said confused. “I’ve never seen her with out her phone,” I added. It was glued to her hand most of the time. Then, something nagged at me. It felt wrong. Something very bad was happening. Her phone call. The noise on the other end. It sounded like someone was being dragged through the gravel. The phone was found in the gravel. She was taken. I was sure of it. No other reason she would drop her phone unless she was forcibly taken against her will.
Billy knew we were at his house. The timing couldn’t be a coincidence. Billy waited for us to go there. I did the only thing I could think of doing. I called Billy to see if I was right.
“Hello, go for Billy,” he said answering the phone.
“Where’s my sister?” I said drawing the attention of my grandmother and Diana. My grandmother knew instantly that something was wrong, but Diana was still in the dark about everything.
“I knew you would notice she was gone. Madison always says her brother never pays attention to her, but I knew she would be wrong about this. She won’t shut up about it. She’s a little annoying, really. Not sure what Stan really saw in her in the first place. How about I do something nice for you? How about I take her off your hands. She will no longer be your responsibility. I’ll take her and you won’t have to worry about her anymore.”
“I’ll decline your offer, Billy,” I snapped. “Give her back before this gets out of hand.”
“Or what?” Billy asked. “What will you do to me if I don’t give her back? So you can reanimate a cat. I don’t think that’s going to come in handy any time soon.”
“What do you want?” I asked, realizing he had seen me practice reanimating the cat and probably the mouse as well. It was possible he was watching me the entire time I’ve been in Dumont.
“What do I want?” he repeated. “That’s a good question. If you can find me I’ll let you know. You should hurry though. I’m already getting kind of bored with this one. Does she ever shut up?”
Before I could respond he ended the call and the line went dead. I was speechless that he would take Madison. Was he doing it to make a point? Now, he was making this personal.
“Charlie, what’s wrong,” my grandfather asked as he floated down from the ceiling. Matt followed right behind.
“Billy took Madison,” I informed my grandfather. “He’s going to kill her if we don’t find them first.” I turned to Matt, “Where did you disappear too?”
“I’m not exactly sure,” Matt said in confusion.
“Did you just say Billy is going to kill Madison?” Diana asked confused. “Why would he hurt Madison?”
“Martin, we have to get her back,” I said to my grandfather.
“Charlie, who are you talking too?” Diana asked looking around the room for someone else.
I was seeing a familiar facial expression from my past. The look of worry that a close friend was going crazy. The look that could encourage a padded room to be found in a short period of time. Thankfully, it didn’t matter anymore if someone looked at me like that. I was finally protected by my family. My grandparents would protect me like my mother never could. I was finally able to be myself. Only now, it was time to let someone in on my secret. It just couldn’t be at the worst possible time.
“There is a lot we need to talk about,” I sincerely explained. “We just don’t have the time to do this right now.”
“Do you know where he took her?” my grandfather asked.
“I think I do,” I said to my invisible grandfather. “When I was at Billy’s, his mother was there. She wouldn’t stop looking in the distance when she spoke about her son.”
“Billy’s mother is dead, Charlie.” Diana said with a raised voice. “Who are you talking to?” She was going to bubble over. “This is really freaking me out.”
“I promise I’m not crazy, but we don’t have time for the long and sensitive explanation,” I said with the warmest voice I could. “Ghosts are real, Diana. I’m talking to my dead grandfather right now. Billy took Madison and unless we get her back he’s going to kill her.”
“Charlie, you know how much ghost stories creep me out,” she said with a hint of fear. “This is going too far. Why would you try to scare me like this?”
“I’m telling you the truth,” I pleaded. “I’m trying to be honest with you. My grandfather is right here,” I pointed, but remembered she couldn’t see him. “Ghosts are real and we need to get Madison back.”
“Just stop it,” Diana shouted.
“Martin, can you help me out?”
“This isn’t funny anymore, Charlie,” Diana called out as she went to get her keys. “I’m going to go. When you want to have a mature conversation I will be there...”
My grandfather’s form began to thicken as he used necromantic energy to create ectoplasm around him. He slowly materialized out of thin air and into the physical world. His glow turned grayish, the blue fading into the physical world. “Diana, this is my grandfather, Martin Kane.”
“Charlie, what the hell is going on?” Diana said questioning her sanity.
“You might want to start from the beginning dear,” my grandmother kindly suggested.
“Okay, let’s back up,” I said taking a deep breath. “I’m a necromancer. That means I can see and talk to spirits roaming the world of the living. Martin, is my dead grandfather and he can appear to mortals like yourself because he is also a necromancer.”
I told her all about Billy, how he killed her friends, his abilities as a dark necromancer, and his decent into madness. Then I reminded her about Madison. The rest would have to wait.
“I wish we had more time so you could get used to this, but we have to find Madison right now. Time is running out and he’s going to hurt her if I don’t go to him.”
“Why would he take her?” Diana asked accepting the truth with some skepticism.
“Billy’s angry at me for spoiling his fun. I freed Matt and he’s pissed that I tried to help Laura. But I think he really hates me because of what my father did to his family.”
“Where do you think he is?” Matt asked while I looked his way.
“I think Billy and Madison are at the high school. I think he’s been there the whole time. If I’m right maybe I can find evidence he killed Laura there.”
“Are you talking to Matt right now?” Diana asked.
I nodded in her direction, but turned back to Matt. “Where did you go when I went into Billy’s house? You just disappeared.”
“The last thing I remembered was watching you climb through Billy’s window and then the next thing I know I’m up in the Sunnyledge attic. I found Martin when the two of you returned.”
“Can I talk to Matt?” Diana interrupted catching me off guard.
I stepped forward towards Matt. “He’s right here.”
“How are you so okay with this?” he questioned as I reached over to touch him on the shoulder. I sent my power into the spirit and watched as the blue mist started to turn grey. The grey mist crept through Matt’s entire form until it replaced all of the blue. A moment later Matt began to grow an ectoplasmic body. Diana watched as her ex boyfriend appeared before her. The entire mortal world would be able to see him now.
“Diana, I believe you know your ex-boyfriend,” I said feeling a tiny bit of jealousy. Not enough to be a problem, but it was still under the surface without wanting it to. Without my help they wouldn’t be able to communicate. I was happier when Diana grabbed my hand for emotional support before she began speaking.
“You okay with this?” I whispered.
“Charlie, I lived in a mortuary for the first eighteen years of my life. This explains so much more than you know.”
“Okay, well I’m going to let you guys talk a bit,” I said as I slipped out of Diana’s hand. “Martin and I are going to the high school to get Madison back. I checked my phone for the time. “Matt, you probably have an hour or two before you run out of energy and revert back to normal.”
“Thank you, Charlie,” Matt said.
I nodded in acknowledgment, but Diana grabbed my hand once again. She leaned over and kissed my lips. If her need was to reassure me of her feelings she succeeded.
“Thank you so much, Charlie.” She moved away letting my hand drop, but called out, “It’s okay if you want to stay.”
“I appreciate that, but I really need to find Madison,” I said and left the room meeting my grandparents in the kitchen.
“Thank you for taking care of Diana,” I said to my grandmother.
“No problem at all dear. What will you do now?”
“We have to get Madison back before my half brother kills her because I was running late.”
“Don’t you think we should call the police at this point?” my grandmother asked her husband. “They’re going to get hurt even in the best circumstances. Let the police deal with the kidnapping. It’s their job for crying out loud.” My grandmother’s face was contorted with anger. I could tell my grandfather could use some help.
“We can’t call the police, Nunny,” I jumped in to help explain. “We won’t get the help we need. The sheriff has covered for Billy for a very long time. No police are going to help us.” I gave my grandmother a hug, then added, “There’s no one else who can stop him, Nunny. I can’t let him hurt anyone else.”
“We are just going to talk to him, Sylvia,” Martin said trying to calm his wife. “He’s our grandson, too. There is still a chance for Charlie and I to convince him in giving back Madison without a fight. We can find a peaceful alternative and get Billy help.”
“What if he hurts Charlie?” My grandmother asked rhetorically. “What if he hurts you,” she said to my grandfather.
“He’s our family, dear,” my grandfather replied. “We have to at least try. For Logan.” My grandfather felt more guilt for the death of my father.
We left Diana and Matt with my grandmother at the Sunnyledge and took the truck to the high school. Matt would be safer at the inn than anywhere Billy was. There was no telling what he would do if he found Matt again.
I packed the sword in the back of the truck. Billy could easily put nefari in our way and I had to be prepared. Before we went full steam into the high school we needed to make a quick stop to get the blue prints from city hall.
The recorders office wasn’t open yet, but we were in a hurry so I waited outside as Martin passed through the closed door. I waited for five minutes, until Martin slipped the poster sized paper under the door. When I had them in my hand Martin followed out of the building.
The temperature outside was in the single digits and the wind was fiercely making things worse. I kept the heat on high, but it was still freezing inside the cab.
The truck kept drifting off the road and onto the shoulder, making my job that much harder. The truck was old and didn’t handle in harsh conditions very well. I shouldn’t drive on ice covered roads in the first place, but I had no other choice.
We safely pulled into the school’s parking lot and slid to a drifting stop. I welcomed the sting of cold air when I slid out of the cab and onto the cement. I was mostly glad to be alive after the ride over. I put the blue prints out on the hood and took a deep breath to clear my mind. I needed to be sharp and focused, because it was time to finally stand up to the class bully.