Authors: Carnival of Death (v5.0) (mobi)
The Dead Man:
The Dead Man
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Text copyright © 2012 Adventures In Television, Inc.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by 47North
P.O. Box 400818
Las Vegas, NV 89140
Sue Jean Eckerd moped down the midway of Cap’n Bob’s Stardust Carnival. The flashing red, green, and blue lights didn’t cheer her up, nor did the smells of cotton candy, corn dogs, caramel apples, and deep-fried Snickers bars delight her. The music of the carousel and the other rides might as well have been white noise as far as Sue Jean was concerned. She was too pissed off at Madison Carroll to care about any of those things.
She’d come to the carnival with her BFF, but Madison had dumped her within ten minutes for the dubious charms of that pimple-faced dickwad Freddie Pierce, who had nothing going for him at all other than the fact that his father was a zillionaire. But then, Madison had always been shallow. Horse faced too, though Sue Jean would never tell her that.
Besides Madison’s deeply hurtful betrayal, there was that goofy fortune-teller. Sue Jean knew better than to have some old hag read her palm, but when Madison dumped her, it seemed somehow like the thing to do.
The inside of the tent smelled funny, and the old biddy at the table with the crystal ball did too. Or maybe the smell came from the incense that glowed in a bowl on a little stand nearby. Sue Jean didn’t like incense. There wasn’t much light in the tent either, and the whole thing was totally creepy. Sue Jean started to leave, but she’d already handed over her five dollars, so she thought she’d make the best of it.
The woman, Madame Zora it said on the sign outside the tent, looked into Sue Jean’s eyes, and Sue Jean saw that she wasn’t entirely ancient, but she must have been over thirty for sure. The robes and the shawl she wore over her head hid a lot of her features, but Sue Jean knew an old person when she saw one.
Madame Zora took Sue Jean’s hand and studied her palm. She hadn’t looked for more than two seconds before she jerked her head back as if somebody had hit her on her pointy chin. She dropped Sue Jean’s hand and let her arms fall away from the table.
Sue Jean thought Madame Zora might have had a stroke or a heart attack, since that was the kind of thing that happened to old people, but there wasn’t anything Sue Jean could do about it. She’d heard about what to do on some TV show, or maybe it was in some class at school, but it didn’t matter. She hadn’t listened. She remembered that if somebody was having a seizure, you were supposed to keep them from swallowing their tongue, but there was no way she was going to touch that old woman’s mouth.
Luckily, however, Madame Zora wasn’t having a stroke or a seizure. The fortune-teller’s head snapped back up and she stared at Sue Jean like she had two heads or a gigantic zit.
“Go home!” was what Madame Zora had said. “You should leave the carnival grounds right now! Don’t stay here any longer. It’s too dangerous for you tonight.”
She looked as scary as Sue Jean’s Algebra II teacher on test day, and Sue Jean didn’t stick around to hear any more. Even if it meant losing her five dollars, she was getting out of that tent.
She left in a big hurry and thought she’d better have a snow cone, one of the red ones, to calm herself down. Then she might leave the carnival, but she didn’t think there was any real rush. The old woman was just some kind of crazy crank who liked to scare kids—that was all. She was probably jealous of anybody who wasn’t some old crone like she was.
So Sue Jean ignored the warning and bought her snow cone and thought about Madison and Freddie the Puke Pierce and hoped somebody was barfing corny dogs on them from on top of the Ferris wheel. Maybe she’d walk down that way and see.
The Ferris wheel was at the end of the midway, down near the carousel, and Sue Jean didn’t quite get there. Earl Compton stepped out from between a couple of the tents and said, “Hey, Sue Jean.”
If there was anybody creepier than Freddie the Zit Pierce, it was Earl Compton, and his old man wasn’t even rich. Earl had bulging eyes, big ears, a big nose, and big hands. Sue Jean knew what they said about guys with big noses and long fingers, but she didn’t want to find out the truth of it from some goober like Earl Compton.
So she ignored him.
As she walked past, she heard laughter, which meant that Harry Thomas and George Simpson were with Earl. No surprise. Those two were always around where Earl was, and if Sue Jean didn’t know better, she’d have thought they were all gaywads out for a circle jerk except there wasn’t any way they could make a circle with just the three of them. Maybe they’d have a triangle jerk.
“I guess you didn’t hear me,” Earl said. He came out after her and grabbed her arm.
Sue Jean dropped her snow cone, and it made a red splash on the hard-packed ground at her feet. A little of it even got on her shoe. She jerked her arm away. “Look what you made me do, you asshole. What’s the matter with you?”
“Nothing you can’t fix,” Earl said, and he grabbed her arm again.
Sue Jean tried to get away, but this time he held on. His long fingers crushed her upper arm, and he dragged her backward. He got a hand over her mouth before she could cry out and dragged her away from the tents and the lights.
Harry and George followed along and giggled like maniacs. When Earl dropped her on the ground, they fell on her. Harry slapped a grubby hand over her lips, and he and George started tearing at her clothes.
Sue Jean kicked and clawed and scratched, but it didn’t bother them. They ripped off her shirt and shucked her out of her jeans.
“Thong!” George yelled, sticking his grubby fingers under the stretchy band and trying to pull it off.
Earl, who had stood by watching, said, “That’s enough.”
George and Harry turned to look at him. A little drool from the corner of Harry’s mouth dripped on Sue Jean’s stomach as she twisted away and made a grab for her shirt. Earl kicked her hand away before she could reach it.
“My turn now,” Earl said, and he unzipped his pants and pulled out his dick.
Sue Jean saw that what people had said was sure enough true, at least in Earl’s case.
“Get out of the way,” Earl told Harry and George, and they did.
As soon as Harry’s hand came away from her mouth, Sue Jean screamed.
Earl laughed. “Yell all you want to. It won’t help a bit.”
“Not a damn bit!” George said, just before Earl hit her.
Matthew Cahill walked down the midway. It was a little after ten o’clock, and the carnival was still going strong, though black clouds were gathering and lightning threaded the sky to the occasional rumble of thunder off to the north.
If it began to rain, the crowds would be gone soon enough, but for now, everyone seemed happy to stick around. The carnies hawked their wares and their games in hoarse voices. The lights flashed red, green, and blue. The music played clunky melodies over old speakers that had all the fidelity of a tin can. The rides at the end of the midway turned and clanked and whined.
Matt walked by the ringtoss booth, where Jerry Talley tried to lure two marks with promises of an easy win; past the high striker, where a high school jock was about to try one more time to prove to his girlfriend how strong he was; past the milk-bottle toss, where a teenager was arguing that there was no way he hadn’t knocked that last bottle down.
Matt grinned. He knew the mark couldn’t win that argument. Tony Allen wasn’t about to part with one of his big teddy bears or even one of the smaller ones this late in the evening. He might let the kid have a cricket clicker or some other five-cent prize, but the big prizes went early in the evening to a shill who’d carry them around so they could be seen by a lot of marks who couldn’t win one if they threw the softballs at the bottles a million times.
Walking on toward the rides at the end of the midway, Matt passed Madame Zora’s tent. It was dark and the flap was closed. Matt wondered what had happened. Madame Zora never closed early. As long as there was a dollar to make, she’d be there, waiting for someone to cross her palm with the long green.
Matt had heard some disturbing rumors from a couple of the other carnies about Madame Zora lately, and he’d been planning to have a talk with her. He wondered if what he’d heard about her visions had any part in making her close before all the suckers had been cleaned out.
Well, it wasn’t Matt’s problem. He was part of the security force for Cap’n Bob’s Stardust Carnival, and his job was to prevent trouble. He’d been working for a while now, and so far, the biggest problem he’d had was breaking up a fight between two of the carnies who’d been slugging it out over who had the right to the charms of Madame Zora. Maybe one of them had gotten lucky and was with her right now in one of the trailers behind the rides at the end of the midway.
If that was the worst he had to deal with, Matt thought, life would be good. He remembered all the other things he’d seen and done in the time since he’d come back to something resembling life after being buried for months under an avalanche of snow and ice. Blood and death and suffering enough for a lifetime. For several lifetimes.
While working with the carnival, he didn’t stay in one place for more than three or four days and got to travel around the country in the company of people he liked, people who enjoyed their privacy and respected his. It was a way for Matt to look for Mr. Dark without always being the only stranger in town.
He wasn’t sure who or what Mr. Dark was…only that he had shown up shortly after Matt’s death and that he took great delight in spreading evil with his touch. Matt knew that he had to stop him.
Matt hadn’t seen Mr. Dark for a while, but he had a feeling that trouble was already on the way. It was nothing definite, nothing more than a tingling between his shoulder blades, as if someone might be watching him, or the way some people knew that there was a storm coming by the smell of rain in the air.
Matt thought about his duffel bag and the ax it held, his grandfather’s ax, the only thing that remained to him of his other life, the one in the clean, cold forests of the Pacific Northwest. He remembered the things he’d done with the ax since leaving that part of the world. He tried to put those thoughts out of his head. He hoped he’d never have to use the ax again except for its intended purpose.
As a member of the carnival’s security team, Matt couldn’t carry an ax or any other weapon. He had to blend in with the crowd. So like the others, he wore a sap cap. It looked like an ordinary baseball cap, but it had a weight sewn in the back. Grab it by the bill, and it made an effective sap, or so Matt had been told. He hadn’t had to use it yet.
He reached up to touch the bill of the cap, and that was when he heard the scream.
Sue Jean knew it was all her own fault that she was in this mess. Madame Zora had told her plain as day to go home, and that’s what she should’ve done. But she’d had to have that snow cone, and now these three goobers were going to rape her.