The Grey Girl

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Chapter 40: The return

“Oh good heavens, Edgar, you still have no idea how to treat a woman.” Richard laughed as he approached Chloe. Crouching, he lifted her face. He looked into her tear-filled eyes. “It just never ends for you, does it?” he said sympathetically as he stroked her hair lightly. Waving his hands slowly over her, Richard looked back over his shoulder with a wink at his brother. Chloe felt the bones mend, the torn tissue heal, and the pain cease. Weakly, she was able to regain her feet. “Ah, that’s better, isn’t it?” Richard smiled. “My dear brother here was never a gentleman.”

Edgar’s face crumpled. In a matter of seconds, wave after wave of emotion crossed its surface, running from stunned to anger to hideous hate and landing on rage. “Why are you here?” He exploded. “Why do you look the same?” He was pacing now, shaking his head, arms flailing. “Why aren’t you old or dead!” he demanded, advancing on his brother.

“Oh, poor, poor, Edgar. You never were very bright.” Richard laughed. Chloe was slowly edging toward the door. A yelp left her lips as her feet left the ground. She was whipped through the air. The yelp became a scream until she smashed into Edgar. She was pressed against his side. She struggled to distance herself. It felt as if steel bands held her in place; she couldn’t move. “Oh, you don’t want to leave.” Richard turned to them smiling. “You’ll miss the touching family reunion.” Richard’s smile was not pleasant. It distorted his handsome features, turning them cruel. Behind Richard a cold wind whipped through the foyer. The front door banged hard into the wall.

“Who the hell are you?” Alex demanded.

“Ah, guests to the party.” Richard’s cold smile was turned on Alex. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Richard Davis, the master of this house,” Richard explained with a small bow. “I have returned because someone has been meddling in affairs that are not his to meddle in,” he explained. His attention had returned to Edgar and Chloe.

“I do believe you are mistaken. This house belongs to us,” Arthur shouted, pushing his way past his son.

Richard turned, glaring at the three men. “It is with great displeasure that I return to this house.” His voice, barely above a whisper, carried throughout the halls.

“So sorry you had to be summoned back,” Alex replied in mock courtesy. “But you see your brother has been a very bad boy and needs—” Alex was cut short by Richard’s laugh.

“Oh, my dear boy, you have no idea what Edgar has or hasn’t done.” Richard’s attention was now completely on Alex and his family. Chloe felt the bond attaching her to Edgar ease. Richard was distracted. “As for the owners of this house, your family was expelled once. I don’t think it will be hard to do it again.” As he spoke he did not notice Chloe edging away from Edgar. Nor did he see the swirling cloud starting to form around his brother. Chloe first tried to disappear through the wall but found it to be a solid barrier. With one eye on Edgar and the other on Richard, she had almost reached the doorway. “I think not!” Richard shouted. Chloe flew into the air, hanging immobile. Edgar took two steps toward them. In an instant he was through to the floor in the front room. The French doors that separated the front room from the foyer slammed shut. Edgar’s swirling blackness boiled against the glass. “Right, now that we have these two, um, restrained, maybe I can explain what is going on here.” Richard’s ugly smile returned.

“I think we have a pretty good idea of what is going on,” Alex cut in. “Edgar made a deal with a demon. He killed Chloe, Brenda, and Patricia, and who knows how many other people.”

“Yes, yes, interesting theory.” Richard nodded in agreement. “A few problems with it, though, aren’t there?” He approached the small table along the wall. His fingers brushed the twisted burned remnants of the service medals. “Such as these, and of course, if he made such a deal, what were the benefits and conditions?”

“I…conditions…benefits…I, well, he had to kill innocent girls in order to…” Alex faltered. A look of confusion began to spread across his face. Even as he said it, he could remember the problems and holes in what he said. Richard’s eyebrow rose expectantly. His eyes taunted Alex to explain. “To save the mill and…and he somehow…gave you the benefits like long life by the looks of you,” Alex finished lamely.

“It’s true, dear Chloe was the first. She died for many reasons, not the least of which was to seal the pact with the demon.”

“What other possible reason would he have to kill her?” Alex demanded.

“She was young, pretty.” Richard shrugged. “And disrespected my brother.”

Alex scoffed at this. “I doubt that was the first time that happened. So he killed her because she embarrassed him?”

“Oh, my dear boy, you misunderstand. My brother was a fool. Yes, he was always disregarded by the local girls.” Richard laughed. “I mean, he had tried to impugn the reputation of one of those silly schoolgirls the week before.” The memory brought a leering smile to the cruel face. “You see, young Chloe was bright and pure. She was the very last word in kindness and hope.” Richard turned to Chloe, who still hung immobile in the air. “I knew she would be missed by family and friends. She was well liked, but then my brother tried to pick her up.” His evil smile returned to Alex. “It was just too easy. Get Edgar something to drink. Wait until he no longer knew his name and run the poor girl down.”

“Wait, were you with him? You could have saved her!” Alex shouted.

Richard’s laughing was loud and long. “Oh my God, you still don’t understand, do you?” He tried to get control of his breathing. “Edgar didn’t kill Chloe; I did.” There was no hiding the glee in his tone.

“You didn’t care about your brother! You used him,” Alex stammered.

“All this time that fool believed he killed those three girls.” Richard walked up to Chloe. He looked into her frightened eyes. He could see the fear turning to anger. He reached out to her. She tried to recoil. His hand found her arm. With a cruel flick of his wrist, she spun in the air. “Oh, this is so delicious.” His lips curled, revealing pointy teeth. “Chloe bounced off the truck all broken and battered. There I was in Edgar’s ear telling him what to do.” He pranced over the glass-contained spirit. “When he woke up in the woods after we went hunting and that diner girl was dead, it was me who told him to hide the body. I stood on that foolish girl’s back, drowning her. Edgar woke up soaking wet, seeing the body floating in the shallows. I convinced him what was best.” Richard twirled, arms outstretched. “Then I helped Edgar sink her into the mud.” He was back at the French doors tapping on the glass. “That guilt, anger, and remorse ate him up as it was feeding that pathetic little demon they sent to watch over me.” He waved a hand, forcing Arthur and Aaron onto the small ottoman. “Sit. I saw you trying to grab weapons. The boy and I will continue this without your useless interruptions.”

Struggling against the invisible force holding him down, Arthur roared, “This is my home and my family! I demand you leave this—”

“Silence, old fool!” Richard thundered. “I took this house from your family. It was my magic that caused your misfortunes. I took that power from that old witch in the forest.” A red glow rose from Richard’s shoulders as he continued to scream, the smile no longer on his face, replaced with pure malice. “I took your home! I destroyed your family once. You will witness as I do it again.” Richard’s breathing was fast and heavy. He closed his eyes, inhaling deeply. The glow faded. “Now, young man, let us sit.” Alex knew he could move but had no idea what he could possibly do against this adversary. Richard waved him over to the table. “Come here. I got these for service in wars. I was in Europe, the Pacific, and all over Southeast Asia. It is so easy in war.” He turned, face full of delight. “And you thought what? Edgar’s ghost joined up?” Alex felt his face burn. “Dear Chloe is special. It all came down to her. So pure, so innocent. I’ve kept her all these years.”

Behind the glass, Edgar’s world was imploding. Disbelief fought with rage. “All this time!” he tried to shout, coming out in an incoherent roar. “I never killed anyone.” Within his cloud, Edgar sank to the floor. “All this time.” Pounding his fists against his head, he tried to remember each death. The heavy crunch of metal like a boom in his head woke him. He was in the passenger seat. He could still hear her crying and the clinking of the bottles. Hugging himself, he could feel the cold of the ground. It was the blast of a rifle that woke him. Then the horror at the sight of that girl lying in the leaves. His sweat ran in rivulets like he had just surfaced from the lake. There she was, facedown in the water, Richard at his side asking what he had done and helping hide the body. Richard was always there to help hide the body. Richard was always sober and always there. Edgar flew at the door, fists slamming into the glass. His world spun. He flew through a vortex of memories and pain.

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