Trouble in Paradise: December 2018

Friday, December 28, 2018

WEST END MANSION - PART 3

Chapter 3 (week 52 of 2018): Terror begins


The terror was a slow roast and it would start in the old part of town; in the shacks that were build on the cheap over old brick floors. For Jep, Phyllis, Frankie, Tony and Jim it all hadn’t begun yet though.That first day of Christmas they wouldall spend with their families. 

1

Jep went to his mother, sister and his step-dad. They still live in the same house on the ten feet long poles that he grew up in. He had dropped a hint a few weeks ago that he might come by and as he entered the house, he realized that his mother had taken that hint as a certainty. His favorite food was already on the stove and there were gifts for him under the Christmas tree.
It was his mother, Elaine, who greeted him first when he came through the back door. She gave him a big welcome hug. 

I knew you’d come, you know,” Elaine says, “How are you, son?”
I am good, mom,” he says, “And it’s good to be back. How about you?”
As good as ever, as they say here,” she says, “You didn’t just fly in? Unless the airlines changed their schedules I don’t believe there’s any big plane coming in today….”
I didn’t,” he says, “We booked a place with the whole gang for a reunion over the holidays.”

And so you went there first, before visiting your family?” Elaine says, teasing, but underneath there is a subtle disappointment, “I thought that I raised you better than that….”
The family is in there somewhere in the whole plan,” he says, “We kind of planned this reunion when we all went our different ways after high school. We made a pact to meet when all of us graduated from college.”
I see,” Elaine says, about to throw a tantrum, “And where is this place?”
You’re not going to believe it,” he says, “I’m still not used to the fact that we’re really staying there….”
“….?”
West End Mansion.”

Elaine needs a minute to process this information, because West End Mansion is upscale, very upscale. And then there’s the history. She’s thinking: what’s up with my boy?
I heard they turned that place in some sort of vacation rental a few years ago,” she says, but she also wants to hear more of the truth, “So tell me: how can you afford a place like that?”
It’s not what it seems,” he says, “No debts and no bank was robbed.”

I still don’t like the sound of this.”
We made a deal,” he says.
O, Father.”
Or to be precise: Phyllis and her friend made a deal,” Jep says, “They will be the caretaker for two months. As compensation they could invite us over for the holidays.”

Elaine thinks it over for a moment.
And you forgot that place is haunted?” Elaine asks, “But I guess you know the stories as well as the next person…. So I don’t need to tell you about all that….”
I know some and Tony studied the whole history before we came here,” he says, “You remember Tony, right?”
How could I forget,” she says, leaning into a deep sigh.

How about you?” Jep asks, “Any big changes around here?”
Not really,” she says, “Some new furniture, some new books. Rokset Island is usually nice and quiet.”
The island life.”
Life in the slow lane to be precise,” Elaine says, “Take a look around. Emma is in her room, but she might be sleeping still. Bob is doing something in the yard.”
How is my little sister doing?”
She’s getting there,” Elaine says, “But I feel that she needs to get away from the island for a while. You should talk to her about that.”
Experience is good,” he says, “And Bob?”
Bob is Bob.”

It seemed that there wasn’t that much that had changed indeed: it was the same warm and quiet family that they had always been. That first day of Christmas they chatted as a family during lunch about this and that. Afterwards Emma went back to her room, Bob went back to the yard, Elaine sat down with a book and Jep stretched out in front of the tv, binging on a post-apocalyptic series. 
That night they had their family Christmas dinner that was prepared by Elaine, and assisted by Emma. Elaine doesn’t trust her cooking skills too much, since she had almost burned down the kitchen when she had tried to bake an egg about a year ago. Elaine hadn’t bumped her up from assistant yet, for now, the most that she was allowed to do was cutting vegetables and setting the table. Elaine was a sweetheart, but she also has this side to her that makes her kind of impossible to be with. 
According to Marty, Jep’s dad, that was most of the reason why she had picked her bags when Jep and Emma were still very young, and she shipped herself and her two kids back to Rokset Island. Back then they lived in Moac, the big capital and the only metropolitan city within a few hundred miles. Elaine had blocked all attempts of Marty to stay in touch with his children and it had caused a lot of friction within their family when Jep reached out to Marty when he was 16. All that time his mother had told him that it was Marty who had deserted them, but at that time he learned that there were always two sides to a coin. He tended to root for Marty on this one.
Subconsciously it might have been some of the reason why Jep didn’t go straight to his family when he landed on Rokset Island, but the fact of the matter was that he was still finding out how to be his own man, and part of that was that he needed a little distance from his past. Elaine felt different though: she felt that he still had not forgiven her for blocking all contact between Marty and his children. 
Around that time when Jep was 16, his relationship with Bob deteriorated further, but more so between him and Jep than with Emma. Jep’s character was more like Marty and when he finally met Marty he understood why he had never had more than a superficial bond with Bob: there was no blood between them. 
Emma still sided with her mother, even though Elaine no longer blocked the attempts of Marty to reach out to her. In her heart of hearts she still believed her mother, even though the testimony of Jep and Marty proved something very different. 

*

The next day Jep and Emma went for a walk in the woods that began at the far end of their property. They took their dog Dash along with them.
You took good care of Dash while I was overseas?” Jep asks.
I did,” Emma says, “But he was always your dog. You don’t see how crazy he gets when you are around?”

I loved that dog so much when I was young,” Jep says, while petting it, “Grandpa bought it for me when we had just come back. I was ten, now I’m twenty-four.”
Fourteen years ago,” Emma says, “That’s like a hundred in human years.”
98,” Jep says, “How is it to be living here without me?”

Quiet,” she says, “That’s for sure.”
As in boring?”
Just quiet,” Emma says and she starts laughing, “You want to go checkout that deserted beach I assume.”
Definitely,” Jep says, “It was like my zone, you know, me and the gang. I spend so much time there: fishing, hunting, setting traps, hanging out in the clubhouse.”
It must be a boys thing, or something.”
Yeah,” Jep says, “I forgot: you’re more like the girly type.”

So what?”
So nothing,” he says, “Just different crowds.”
Now you want to know what I used to do with my friends?” she asks and without waiting for him to reply, “We used to hang out at one of my friends houses. Listening to music. Watching scary movies.”
Talk about boys….”
I get it,” she says, “I’m not boyish like that girl in your gang…. What’s her name again?”
Phyllis.”

You paused,” Emma says, “He paused and that means that there’s still something going on between the two of you….”
Maybe,” he says, smirking, “Maybe there is.”
Good.”

When they reach the beach after half an hour it’s still as deserted as ever. The large sea grape tree at the end of the path from the forest is still there as well. 

They take a few minutes to sit in its shade and to drink some water.
So this is it?” Emma asks.
And not a soul in a million miles,” Jep says, “Just as I remember it from back in the days.”
You thought there would be other kids now?”
Kind of,” Jep says, “I kind of hoped to see a new gang doing all kinds of cool stuff all over again.”
Rokset Island has also become global.”
Computer games and tv,” Jep says, “We did exactly the same, but only at night when it was dark. Or when it was raining.”

You have plans for New Years Eve?” Jep asks.
Not yet.”
What if I told you that you can celebrate it in a grand mansion,” Jep says and he adds in a spooky voice, “West End Mansion.”
I’d say…. Count me in….


2

Phyllis also went back home for the first day of Christmas, but she didn’t go home to the kind of warm and loving family unit that was waiting for Jep and Frankie. Going back home always left Phyllis feeling empty and depressed. On the first day of Christmas it wasn’t that much different from the other days that she decided to give it another try. If anything, it made her feel worse. 
What had torn up her family many years ago was when her mother had passed away when she was young. It wasn’t that her father Lyle was such a bad head of the family, in a way they definitely were a family unit, but somehow they weren’t complete without a mother at center of all of it. 
Her mother Dana had passed away when Phyllis was just two years old and her brothers were only 6 and 10. Dana had been diagnosed with leukemia less than a year before and it had already spread throughout her body at that time. The sickness had progressively deteriorated until there was nothing left of her. 
The first few years after Dana’s death had been the hardest, but somehow Phyllis had been spared the worst, because she was still young. When she turned 12 and entered high school she became more aware than ever that her family wasn’t normal. It was at that time that she also became friends with Jep, Tony, Frankie and Jim. They accepted her as she was and looking back she figured that their geekiness and social inadequacies had something to do with it.
When Phyllis got older she more and more realized how much nonsense it was when people told her and her family that she would get over things at some point, referring to the death of her mother. It was obviously a myth people tended to say, because of the very simple reason that they most likely didn’t know what else to say. It sucks, might have been one, but this is something people generally don’t say, because it’s too close to the truth and there’s too little hope in that statement. The sting had become less though as time moved by, but the memory of her mother never faded away. It always flared up around this time of the year, especially now that her friends were here and she had just learned about the tragedy of AJ and his wife.

The impact had been different though for her father. Phyllis and her brothers still had this flexibility that in a way allowed them to recover from the kind of traumatic events that would cripple adults. Their bones were still flexible, but those of her father Lyle were more brittle. The kids were just starting their lives, despite what had happened to their family, but Lyle had felt that his life was over. He started drinking, heavily. Every one around him saw that it was a bad idea, but sometimes a man needs to hit the rock bottom in order to climb back up. The climbing back up hadn’t happened yet though.

There were stretches when Lyle’s sister took his kids in and that had spared them from the worst. After about five years the worst had been over and their family started to attain a degree of normalcy, although it lacked much of the structure daily routines that included religion and healthy food. There were nights when Lyle had his buddies over for poker and during those nights they were left with tv-dinners and unsupervised. It had happened quite a few times that Phyllis literally fell asleep at school and at some point it even looked like she and her brothers would be placed in an orphanage, but for some reason it never actually happened. 
Her two brothers always looked out for her though and they provided her with the structure and stability that they had when they lived with Lyle’s sister for a few months at a time. In some ways it hadn’t always been easy as a girl among men, but she had learned from an early age on that men tended to look out for her. In other ways it was easier, because usually they treated her more like a boy than a girl, which also had its perks. When she was young it meant that she had managed to hang out with the gang of Jep, Frankie, Tony and Jim: for some reason they must have believed the boys that she hung out with to be some sort of non-threat. As long as she stuck to the curfew of her father and her brothers there was no real problem there. 
By the time when she got to know the gang there was only one very big problem that had too big of an impact on her family life. When her dad opened up a bottle of gin it always meant that the kids better look for cover. He basically drank until he passed out, but until he reached that point, he tended to rant and scream, and on occasion he turned violent. It was always about the same thing: how his wife had deserted him with three kids and that he didn’t understand why the Big Man had taken her away from him. 
When Phyllis was young she always avoided the topic of her family situation and for the same reason she never brought any kids over to their house. One day, when they were about twelve years old, she had told the whole gang the whole story. It was the first time that she told anyone outside of her family what really went on. One by one they had given her a big hug and told her that it was alright and that they loved her anyway. They hadn’t spoken about it after, except for one time about a month later when she said, “You’re like the family I never had, bff,” she said, “Best friends forever.”
They had stacked hands and repeated the phrase, “Best friends forever.”

*

It had been about two weeks since Phyllis’ last visit at her dad’s and somehow she still hoped that there would be a day when her family would turn normal again. Instead of normal, it had turned more bizarre. Her oldest brother had started dating a girl named Darlene a few years ago and from time to time she took up the female role in the house. 
It wasn’t so much the role that she took, since she literally took over, but it was more the way that she did this and there was something about her that made that Phyllis just didn’t get along with her. Phyllis kept telling herself that she needed to keep on trying to get along with Darlene, for her brother’s sake, but also for her father’s sake. 
That first day of Christmas Darlene had already made preparations for the Christmas dinner and she reluctantly accepted the help of Phyllis. She was in full Darlene-mode, as Phyllis liked to call it.
You know how to cook?” Darlene asks, “No offense, but a woman like you?”
Count to tenPhyllis told herself and instead of flinging out what’s that supposed to mean?, she says: “Here and there.”
Me, I love to cook,” Darlene says, not registering that Phyllis had said anything, “I think that’s just what a woman should do for her man. Or maybe it’s just me.”
O it’s all youPhyllis thought, “Loves goes through the stomach.”
Tomorrow night we will go to my parents,” Darlene said, “There I don’t need to cook. I don’t suppose you are with anyone serious like that.”
Not that it’s any of your business, “Unfortunately.”

That night Darlene kept working on Phyllis’ nerves, her older brother saw what was going on, but he had no idea how to smoothen things out between those two. Her dad was liquoring up on gin and in a way it was like old times. Her other brother showed up when they had already started dinner and he was also by himself. 

Late that night Phyllis drove back to her house and spend the night there.


3

The next day Jep and Phyllis were the first to return to West End Mansion. 
He,” Phyllis says.
He yourself,” Jep says, “We both came back.”

I thought I could handle it….” Phyllis sighs.
Yeah,” he says, “Tensions can run up high this time of the year.”
I’m not much in the mood for anything,” she says, “I’m just going to read my book and that’s it for me.”
You just do your do, babe,” he says, painfully aware that there’s little that he can do change her family relations, and that in that area not much has changed since they were little kids. 

Tony came in shortly after Jep. Jim came in at two. Frankie came in at five.


*

That night the guys prepared a decent dinner for Phyllis. They were the family that she didn’t have for Christmas Day One. 

After nine they went out for a night on the town: they ended up in the rough part by the bay. In this part of town there were no brick and mortar structures, but instead it looks like a congregation of shacks that were pulled up on the cheap. 
These were the kind of establishments that served cheap liquor and weren’t too much bent on rules and regulations. From time to time there would be a bar fight or a drug bust by the police. Either one of these might cause the authorities to close some of these bars for a while. These closings never lasted, since in this part of town people tended to pull together: they would block the roads to keep cop cars from rolling in and they would cut the steel chains that blocked the entrances to these bars. 

*

Rokset Island had always had this rough and rugged side to its history: the island had been mined for minerals and metals, stripped for natural blocks that could be used in construction, forests had been cut down for lumber, to name just a few. Besides stripping the land for resources, there had also been an industry around this and it had started at the turn of the twentieth century. There had been shipyards, a refinery, a paint factory, a large meat processing plant. 
All those activities had fell into decline when the oil had dried up in the 1950s. Close to a thousand workers left the island almost over night, leaving ghost towns behind. Other businesses collapsed. The price for energy rocketed almost right away, which made harvesting lumber much more expensive, which in turn had effects on the shipyards. In a period of fifteen years all the prosperity had dried up and by the end of that time most people either worked for the government, or they worked the land. 

The stories of those times were still around and there were enough landmarks to testify of better times. Not all of those stories had been good though, because back then there were also strange things going on, just like they always had and probably always would on a small isolated island on the tropical side of the Atlantic. It might have had something to do with that unfortunate history where they had eradicated the original inhabitants and brought in new folks. 

*

It was close to midnight when the gang entered one of these bars and Tony starts talking:
My dad told me more about this rugged part of the history of Rokset Island,” Tony starts, “I always knew that West End Mansion played a bigger part than most people talked about, but it was mostly at the turn of the twentieth century that the extent of the stories about that ancient burial ground on which the mansion had been build had started to become more extreme. In those days the population of Rokset Island grew rapidly, because there was a lot of work and a good deal of those workers came from neighboring Spanish islands. On those islands people are more superstitious than those from The West that initially came here.
Voodoo and all that,” Phyllis says.
That’s only a small part of it,” Tony says, “The first story doesn’t start at the Mansion, but it starts here, literally: allegedly when the first ships came from The West in the 1800s, people came out to greet the strangers and welcome them with open arms. The first wave of settlers had been nothing but kind, but the second wave was large and brutal. Those poor people had come out with their whole families and brought gifts and food to those that had come from a far away land, because from what they had experienced before they expected to be greeted kindly.”
I guess that’s where it turns grim,” Jep says. 
That would be an understatement,” Tony says, “Those sailors that came in at that second batch stormed off those boats with cutlasses and all: it took the natives by surprise and the men were slaughtered and the women held captive. The women were raped over and over, those who refused were killed on the spot. Those killings and the site of the first brothel of Rokset Island had been exactly where we are sitting now and you can still see traces of that history: these stones that you see here were brought from overseas, not so much to trade, but to give their boats more weight in heavy weather and to have building materials in case they had found new land.”
Wow,” Frankie says, and they all inspect the floor for a while, during which Tony continues talking.
The first buildings that were constructed here were a warehouse, barracks and a brothel. The captain of the ship named the island Rokset Island, basically because from the distance it had looked like a big rock that came out of the ocean. He made himself into the first governor of the island, and well, the rest of the story you know.”
He cleared the burial site and wanted to build a house there,” Phyllis says, “But he was killed prematurely.”
Then I suppose that’s most of the bad mojo of this place here,” Frankie says, “This is like a painful reminder of those first days.”
Times were cruel,” Tony says, “Not to mention slavery and all that.”
And all the suffering that must have happened here,” Jep says, “Literally here.”

That’s also what those workers didn’t much like when they arrived a hundred years later,” Tony says, “A hundred years is long enough for something to be the past, but not long enough for bad things to have been completely forgotten. The story that they came up with is the one of the native killer bats: according to the stories, the night after the first settlers had come in, most of the harbor was turned into a large pool of blood and when the night came it attracted all kinds of animals out of the wild (there were even reports of sharks that got such a blood craze that they jumped out of the water and died on the beach, coked out of their skull because of that strong scent). The story was that during that night a flock of bats came from the mountains and they chased every other animal from the blood pool and they consumed all of it. By consuming the blood of those natives that had been murdered, they had somehow incorporated their anger and lust for revenge. The story was that those bats could kill a man by spitting on him, not immediately, but for sure within ten days.”
They’re flying rats,” Phyllis says, “Maybe they picked up some kind of disease that the natives carried and that the oppressors weren’t immune to.”
Who knows,” Tony says, “Some of those people from those other islands also believed in voodoo and that those bats could be summoned to exact a revenge: there was one case of a man that had cheated on his wife had been attacked by a hundred bats and died on the spot.”

Another story was that the docks and most notably the site of these first structures brought out the bad in people,” Tony says, “It’s said that if you have a fight here, it will turn sour, because this place makes people more paranoid and it somehow amplifies our inert aggressions….”
Oh my,” Phyllis says.

*

A man wearing a cowboy hat turns around and faces all of them.
I don’t mean to intrude you guys or anything,” the man says, “But that’s some nice anecdotes you got there, son.”
Thanks,” Tony says, “I personally like those kind of stories.”

You know by any chance how that son of a bitch captain came to his end?”
He was killed,” Tony says, “But that’s about all that I know about it.”
He was killed, alright,” the guy says, “But it wasn’t any ordinary killing like it was back in the Wild West, where a man had his honor and dignity even when faced with his own mortality. This guy was lynched.”
By the natives?” Jep asks, “I can imagine they were pretty pissed off….”
That’s what you would expect,” the guy says, “They were behind it though.”
Maybe he was lynched by his own men….” Jim says.
Kind of,” the guy says, “Those natives, they weren’t all kumbaja and such after what had happened. They were out for revenge and until the last of them was wiped out they hunted those soldiers down. They didn’t have guns, but they had bows and arrows, and, man, were they good.”

Then what happened,” Frankie asks. 
This is kind of where those two timelines mix,” the guy says, “The 1800s and the 1900s. Like those Spanish’ who came from the other islands, the natives were very superstitious and like the Spanish they also practiced voodoo.”
I have a feeling I know where this one is going….” Tony says.
The army of the dead,” the guy says.
Aha,” Phyllis says, half-believing where this is going.
The story was that they turned those dead soldiers into zombies,” the guys says, “And supposedly it had happened during Christmas and New Year. So imagine that: there’s this one night when you have all these undead soldiers crawling from their graves, picking up rocks, sticks, machetes and what-not and going after that son of a bitch captain.”

They might have had a bone to pick with him themselves,” Jim says, “In those days you wouldn’t be captain, unless you had law and order.”
It were cut-throat times,” the guy says, “If a subordinate saw weakness in their leader, he was expected to kill him at the first opportunity.”
Much like in the Wild West.”
Very much so,” the guy says, “I don’t know whether that part about the zombies was true though, probably not, but I do know that that captain suffered a horrible death.”
Probably lynched by those natives after all,” Tony says, “Maybe they drugged him and hypnotized him or something to get him to believe that he was slaughtered by his own men.”

It’s all in the past though,” the guy says, “But it always made me think though: could we repeat that given the right circumstances?”
You mean: are we still capable of cruelty?” Phyllis asks. 
When you’re born here, you must have inherited those same genes,” the guy says, turning grim, “Would you be able to tell which man could turn completely schizo on another?”

The atmosphere turns uncomfortable and for a moment all of them have this feeling that they just walked into the wrong kind of bar. This is a place where the police don’t come and where men tend to turn their back, out of fear, or out of a bribe. The barkeeper looks in their direction and by his looks it seems that he doesn’t think too much of them. 
The guy snaps out of it and starts laughing.
Just messing with you all,” he says, although he doesn’t show much of any emotion, “All I’m saying is this: watch your back.”

The guy picks up his cowboy hat from the counter and leaves a couple of dollars in his empty glass.
I have had my whiskey for the night,” he says, “I wish you all a pleasant night.”

*

They all watch him walk out the door. Besides the hat and the jeans, he also has those tackles on his shoes that cowboys use to get their horse back in line when it’s misbehaving. 
What was that all about?” Phyllis asks, the minute the guy is out of the door, “I think he was serious about that turning schizo part.”
If there’s any truth to that part about this place bringing out the worst in people,” Jep says, “This is it.”

You mean that guy?” Frankie asks. 
I don’t know,” Tony says, “I can’t place it.”
You guys don’t think it’s the whiskey talking?” Phyllis asks.
Either that, or he needed to spill his beans to a couple of strangers,” Jim says. 

You guys think that he knows where we’re staying?” Phyllis asks.
He was sitting there the minute we came in,” Frankie says, “So, probably.”
I will pick up my dog at my parents,” Jep says. 
That shitty little thing?” Tony asks. 
Better get my pit bull,” Frankie says, laughing.

*

They picked up the dog.
It barked the whole night. And the night after. And the night after. 

Then they returned it. The thing was though that it refused to go to certain areas in the yard. It was afraid of the swimming pool, the greenhouse and the shed. Not to mention the Mansion itself: it started biting the minute Jep tried to bring it in.
Dogs know things,” Jim says, “I’m telling you.”
Maybe it can feel the history of this whole place or maybe there’s something here still.”
I think it’s something current,” she says, “I think it responds to something that it can feel here and now.”

*

On Saturday and Sunday they prepared the Mansion for the New Years party. December 31stwas that Monday.



4

That Monday they had well over a hundred guests to entertain. 
At 11.30 Phyllis declared the party a success:
You see:” Phyllis yells, “Nothing bad has happened.”
Not yet,” Jep yells back, “You got me thinking on my dog.”

Jep walks Phyllis to a more quiet place.
Where is everyone of the gang?” he asks.
It’s all under control,” she says, “Frankie is on the stage, either playing or assisting others to perform. I believe he’s also going to be the DJ for the big count down. Tony resides by the pool, telling more stories. Jim, well, he’s with Shane, and I guess they have spend most of the night in his room. And there’s you and me.”

Maybe you are right,” Jep says, thinking it over, “I know that you usually are….”
Don’t say….”
Can I ask you for one last dance during the old year?” he asks. 
Please….”

*

After a few songs it’s 11.45. Frankie announces for everyone to come to the dance floor. Jep and Phyllis take a walk around the house to ask everyone to join them. 

On the big projector screen they have a stream live from New York City, where it’s the same time, and the last thirty seconds everyone starts counting down until the New Year.

*

All of a sudden it’s there: The New Year…. A clean slate and all that.

The second the New Year starts, Frankie plays an upbeat track that gets everyone to the dance floor. They keep at it for a good thirty minutes.

*

Jep is about to tell Phyllis that he needs a break when two girls come running in: STOP! HELP! SUSIE IS DEAD!They can’t hear the girls over the music, so Phyllis takes them to the hallway where she figures out what’s what. She sends Jep outside to confirm what has happened and that it just wasn’t a girl that had gotten stone drunk. 

Jep comes back with a pale look on his face and Phyllis immediately understand what that means: the girl is really dead. Phyllis gets Frankie to cut the music.

*

A girl had been caught in a bear trap. She’s a white girl that has been living on Rokset Island for a few years. Her skin is pale and there’s a small incision in the neck.
A girl who studies medicine runs over and has no difficulty making a preliminary diagnosis: a major artery was cut, causing the girl to bleed dry.
Then where’s the blood?” her friend asks. 
Good question,” the girl says.

We need to do something,” Phyllis says, in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear. 
Maybe the guy is still on the premises,” Frankie says, stepping up to the plate next to Phyllis, “We need to scan every square foot, every tree, every room, everything.”

The guests flock around and the fear is getting tangible. More people flock around and it seems that no one really knows what to do. Then there’s one guy among them that yells: “We have to get the fuck out of here!”
As soon as the guy had opened his mouth people had already started storming off the premises. 
It’s only the gang and the two friends of the dead girl who stayed behind. The sound of the screaming posse slowly dies in the distance, until the only thing they can hear are crickets, tree frogs and the rustling of the palm trees.
Even your sister bolted,” Frankie says.
Yeah,” Jep says, “But she’s with her friends.”

*

Phyllis tries calling the police, but after the third failed attempt they realize that they’re on their own. 
In a way it might be a good thing that it’s less of us,” Frankie says, “Less people to walk in our way and to destroy evidence.”
You guys ever expected there to be a bear trap like this?” Jep asks, “I mean what sense does it make to have traps like this on a tropical island.”
It makes no sense,” Jim says, “I once went hunting for a weekend in Colorado and I know that people might place them around their house for protection, but here there’s no such thing.”
Absolutely,” Phyllis says, “You might get the occasional spider or centipede in your house, but that’s about it.”
What about those girls?” Frankie asks, while looking in their direction.

They’re in shock,” Jep says, “They’re in no condition to help us. The best we can do for them is to just give them some time to process what has just happened.”
Let’s carry them inside though,” Phyllis says, “If the person who did this is still around, it might be the safest place to be for them.”
Agreed,” Frankie says. 

*

They all walk them inside and they show the girls how to barricade the door of the spare bedroom. It smells like it recently saw some action.
We’ll be back,” Frankie says, “I promise.”

*

Once outside they split up in two teams: Frankie, Jim and Shane take the left side of the premises and cover the area with the sheds that has all the tools. Jep, Phyllis and Tony cover the other side around the large greenhouse. As means of defense they carry the same weaponry that they had used the other night when they believed that Shane was an intruder: a baseball bat, two iron rods to poke the fire and besides they took four swords that they had found the other day when they had explored the premises. 
With the moon out it isn’t too hard to navigate the grounds, but it makes no difference in being able to see what was underneath the leaves, since most of the trees had shed their leaves. They stay in touch via two walkie-talkies.

Wait, I think I see something,” they hear Jim whisper, “Wait here.”
The next thing they hear is a loud whip and they see Jim being flung up in a net and next thing they know is that he’s bungling at ten feet above the ground. 
I’m going to die!” Jim yells, “I’m dead meat.”
What are you talking about Jim-jim?” Frankie asks in a brisk voice that instantly shuts him up, “You will not die, not tonight.”
Run ro iedJim thinks, but he doesn’t hear the wicked voice. 

What happened?” Jep asks via the walkie-talkie.
Should we run over to check it out?” Phyllis asks. 
My guess is that there was another trap, or something like that.”

You’re right on the money, Big Bones,” they hear Frankie say, “Jim-jim here got caught in a net, so at the moment it’s just me and Shane…. Wait! I see something!”

What do you see, over,” Jep says, but there’s no response.
We need to take a chance,” Jep says, “They saw someone or something.”

They run over where they guess Frankie, Jim and Shane are. They find them looking all over.
Man, I saw someone….” Frankie says, frustrated.
I think you did,” Tony says, lighting the ground with his phone, “Now what does this look like to you?”
A square heel, some small thing behind it sticking in the dirt and little profile,” Phyllis says, “What did the guy look like?”
Don’t tell me that he wore a hat….” Tony says.
It was too dark to see,” Frankie says, “But come to think of it: a horse would be the perfect get away….”

They all look at each other: “What if it’s that guy that we met in that crummy bar by the bay….” they all say together.
But how’s that possible?” Phyllis asks. 
You mean: why would he take such a risk?” Jep says.

I can only think of one thing:” Jim says, walking up to them, “Yeah, cut myself loose,” he adds, continuing, “He’s showing off.”

They all look at Jim, like: what?
Westerns are kind of a big thing where I’ve lived for the last six years,” Jim says, “That guy is some kind of outlaw who has become very good at what he does. This is his way of showing off.”
Some kind of honor by looking us straight in the eyes….” Jep says.
In some twisted way I must say: it makes sense,” Frankie says, “And it was one scary mother-fucker, come to think of it.”
At least he’s gone,” Phyllis says, “It also looks like it will be one more hour until sunrise.”


5

They checked up on the girls and they were unharmed. After that they went over to the crummy bar and asked the bar keeper if he knew the guy.
Never seen him before.”
You know if he’s from here?” Jep asks.
No can say if I ain’t know the guy.”
Come, let’s go,” Frankie says, “This guy really was a pro, besides even if they know something, they will not talk.”

The fate of the Outsiders,” Phyllis says, “We’re like the special members.”
We don’t fit in where we grew up and we don’t fit in, out in the outside world,” Jep says, “Unless it’s just perception.”
Which may just make us easy game,” Jim says and he thinks: I need to get away from here.

*

On the far end of the island there was a man though, unpacking a backpack in the shed in the back yard of a large mansion. We can’t see his face though, but we can see what’s in the bags: blood. That strangely irony smell is in the air. 
The man, he whistles, and it looks like he has a straw of dried grass sticking out of his mouth. What he needs the blood for remains a mystery though. “Run ro ied, fuckers,” the man mumbles, “R-R-I.”

---------

IN THE NEW YEAR THE NARRATIVE CONTINUES IN A WHOLE OTHER PLACE AND AT A SLOWER PACE: THEN WE WILL READ THE MR. ED CHRONICLES: MR. ED TRAVELS DOWN TO MARTOSSA TO RIGHT SOME WRONGS. SOME OF THE SAME CAST OF CHARACTERS WILL RETURN..... 

HAVE A GOOD NEW YEAR AND I HOPE TO SEE YOU BACK BY JANUARY 4 FOR THE MR. ED CHRONICLES.

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JdH.