Chapter 26: GUESS WHO?
Stevie screamed as The Fear Master ripped off the rubber mask, revealing a horribly burnt visage – face lipless, head misshapen and hairless, forehead and scalp a mass of scar tissue, his nose a mangled snout. He was the stuff of nightmares, a reject from Hell, as deformed as he was insane.
“What was the line from Jekyll and Hyde? ‘There is something wrong with his appearance, something displeasing, something downright detestable.’ Come on, Betty, pucker up – beauty’s only skin-deep, right. Oh well. I tried. In any case, I’ll soon be wearing your skin. I love young skin – it slips right off the muscle! And after I’ve made a nice set of seat-covers out of the rest of you, you’ll make a lovely casserole---”
“Stop it – now – this has gone far enough!” screamed Stevie. “It was a sick joke – you’ve had your fun – now let us go! Please!”
“Sick – yes. Joke – no.” The Fear Master’s milky-white right eye gleamed as he approached. “I am the real Butcher of Benton – former locksmith and school teacher – and you are my victims. Let us be very clear about that.”
Debbie was standing with her back against the fireplace. Overcoming her sense of dread, scared that he would see her – more frightened than she’d ever been in her life – she slowly reached up.
“I may be sick – but no more than any of you – no more than society. And you won’t be going back there. No, no, no – the only place you’re all going is into a pot! I’ll cook you in that fireplace there where Debbie’s standing. My accomplice and I will eat well tonight!”
The Fear Master advanced, cleaver flashing. “Chop chop – who’s first?”
The Fear Master stopped. His lipless mouth twisted into a rictus. He eyeballed Debbie with his blue eye and stuck out his sharp red tongue. “Make me.”
“I’ll do it.” Debbie’s voice was shaking as badly as the hand that held the gun (the .22 from the glove box that night in Frankenstein’s Forest, the gun that had reappeared here on top of the mantelpiece); even now, with this hideous creature approaching, she wasn’t sure she could pull the trigger.
“Go ahead,” said The Fear Master. “It isn’t loaded. Do you think I’d leave it lying about if it was? Go on. Be my guest.”
Debbie hesitated, slightly lowering her arm. “But …”
“That’s the beauty of a cleaver – it’s always ready!” Cackling, he elbowed Vic in the ribs, pushing him down as he grabbed Stevie, knocking her legs out from under and lowering her with strange gentleness to the floor. “Take you best shot!” he sneered at Debbie, lifting the cleaver above his head as he smiled down at Stevie who lay on her back. He gestured threateningly at Keith and Betty and brought the cleaver down toward Stevie as Debbie fired.
And fired. Emptying the gun.
The Fear Master fell onto his stomach then rolled onto his back, his apron turning red. He spasmed like a dying fish, shuddered, and flopped over onto his side.
Gasping, Debbie dropped the gun. “I … he … I had ...” Pale and shaking, she started to cry.
“Shhh,” said Betty, putting her arm around Debbie. “Good shot.”
Debbie whimpered. “You saw … I had to.”
“We all go off our rockers sometimes,” said Keith, who was busy getting Stevie and Vic back on their feet when they heard the footfalls.
Someone was outside. Walking round the cabin.
The Fear Leaders looked at each other. Then at The Fear Master.
The footfalls stopped at the door. Somebody knocked.
What has he said? “My accomplice and I will eat well tonight.”
His accomplice – the guy who’d swung in on a rope in the auditorium, blasting away with a phony machine-gun; the guy he was planning to see Wait Until Dark with; by all accounts, his partner in murder and cannibalism.
Again, someone knocked, this time more urgently.
In the hot, stinking silence, they looked at The Fear Master, the empty gun, the boarded-up windows and each other.
The door creaked open. The outsider came in. footsteps moved toward them. He paused at the Butcher of Benton shrine. Lit a candle.
“Guess who’s going to be dinner?” he chuckled.
Then they felt the fear master them.
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