Don't Read After Dark: Keep the lights on while reading these! (A McCray Horror Collection) (52 page)

BOOK: Don't Read After Dark: Keep the lights on while reading these! (A McCray Horror Collection)

The audience went berserk for no apparent reason, thought Cecilia.

“Our K-Money crew will be coming around with unbelievable ‘trick-or-treat’ prizes, so be on the lookout!” Slowly, music began to swell. “And whatever you do, don’t go roaming the haunted hallways. We can’t vouch for your safety, if you know what I mean!” As the music intensified, Cecilia cringed. The crowd felt ready to bring down the house. “I know you are just dying to see Diana Dahmer. But first, let’s welcome Face Down to the stage!”

As the music thumped and the singer screamed his lyrics, Michael finally guided them to a large buffet. Only Cecilia took one look and almost hurled. Instead of “food,” the tables were loaded with what looked like torn limbs, a torso with the ribs torn out, and a head with a knife sticking out of it.

“It’s okay. It’s really just chicken salad.” Michael tried to reassure her, but Cecilia had seen enough, and stumbled back. “Let’s find somewhere for you to sit down.”

Cecilia didn’t fuss when Michael led her away from the table and deeper into the huge ballroom.

Could this night get any worse?

* * *

“Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh!” Evan kept whispering under his breath.

Jeremy elbowed him a good one. “Shh!”

Cecilia had barely moved from the buffet. Ducking under the table had been their only option. What in the heck was his sister doing here? She hated, no, loathed, Diana Dahmer. He had planned for a lot of contingencies tonight, but that wasn’t one of them.

He peeked out from under the black lace tablecloth. Cecilia was out of sight.

“Okay. I think it is clear.”

But Evan shook his head, clutching his backpack to his chest. “That’s it. I’m out. I am done.”

Jeremy jostled his friend’s arm. “You can’t chicken out. I’ve got big plans.”

“Not with me. I can’t. I mean, I
get busted.”

“Fine, then stay here all night. But don’t get all bummed after you see what I pull off.”

Not waiting for his friend, Jeremy scrambled out from under the table and made for the back hallways. He did not need an escort. Not where he was going.

* * *

Ruth entered “Marcus,” “Saint,” and “Death,” into the search bar. Sure enough, a picture of Saint Marcus came up… upside down crucifixion and everything.

“Marcus, too,” Ruth stated.

Paxton nodded across the desk. “Rogellus had his feet cut off.”

Actually, Ruth was pretty certain that he had all of his limbs severed, but close enough. She looked up into her partner’s eyes.

“So not only is the killer choosing his victims and their dates of death on a saint’s feast day…”

“He is replicating the manner of their deaths,” Paxton finished for her.

The level of disassociation this would take ... To practice such premeditation to commit such acts of horror? How could anyone do such a thing? And then go on with their lives?

“But where does that get us?” Paxton asked. “Plus, why start six weeks ago? And how does Diana Dahmer fit into this?”

O’Malley looked at them both. “You are kidding, right?”

“No,” Ruth answered for both of them.

“Diana Dahmer’s new album is called
Make Me A Martyr
, and it dropped a day before the first killing.”

“What is she like, the new Lady Goo-Goo?” Paxton asked as Ruth typed.

The younger detective rolled his eyes. “It’s Gaga. Diana Dahmer is a guy.” From Paxton’s more confused look, O’Malley explained. “He took Princess Di’s first name and Jeffrey Dahmer’s last name. Diana Dahmer.”

“Oh, obviously,” Paxton said, hoping some of the sarcasm dripped onto O’Malley.

Ruth’s fingers flew across her keyboard. “So we need to get the lyrics to all the songs, and—”

O’Malley snorted, drawing Ruth’s attention.

“You have something to add, detective?” his partner asked.

“I mean, I am just saying that if your killer is really this hard-core a Dahmer fan, he isn’t going to act on anything available to the public.”

Paxton leaned forward. “Then what would they go off of?”

“Easter eggs.”

“What?” Ruth asked. They seemed to be going farther and farther afield. She could feel how close the killer was to striking again. Perhaps in a few hours. They really did not need to be discussing some stupid pop culture phenom.

“Easter eggs,” O’Malley repeated, “You know. Secret codes that lead to secret Web pages with secret content. Easter eggs.”

Ruth looked at Paxton, who looked equally confused.

“Or maybe a disguised QR code?” O’Malley added.

“A what?” Paxton asked.

“Quick Response Code.” O’Malley looked them both up and down. “You two
get out and interact with the world, besides just interrogating people, right?”

All right. She did not need to necessarily understand a trend to investigate it. “So I just need to search for QR codes and Diana Dahmer ‘Easter eggs.’ ”

“Tell me you’re playing this whole stuck-in-the-’80s thing up?” O’Malley laughed. “These extras are like
to fans. If anyone is caught posting these things in public, they are, like, banned for life. The
way to get one of these codes is to purchase the CD.”

Ruth sighed. The last thing she wanted to do was support Diana Dahmer, but sometimes you had to suck it up. “Sounds like a trip to Mega-Music.”

Paxton shook his head and pulled on his jacket. “No need.”

“But I thought we needed the actual CD?” With O’Malley looking ready to correct her, Ruth hurried on, “Or MP3, QR thing.”

“Unfortunately,” Paxton went on, “I know exactly where we can find what we need.”

“I don’t understand,” Ruth said, as she hurried after her partner.

“You will when we get there.”



The killer watched the boy catch the girl as she stumbled toward the bathroom. She held her midriff and made a god-awful retching sound. They were both oblivious to his stealth approach. It really was easier than taking candy from a baby. Some of those toddlers were pretty darn tenacious.

He lowered the hawk mask, ready to make his move. He stayed in the shadows, keeping his back against the wall. The boy tried to comfort the girl, but she kept trying to stand on her own, very unsuccessfully.

They were both blissfully unaware of their fate.

When their attention was turned toward the door, the killer made his blitz attack. The boy was knocked out with a single blow. The girl tried to scream, but Face Down went into a screeching chorus, drowning out her pathetic attempt. But he could take no chances, so the killer grabbed her by throat, choking her until she passed out. Her dark hair spilled out around her. Blood dribbled down the side of her face.

Like he said. Candy from a baby.

* * *

Cecilia sat on the step watching Face Down go well, face down. The singer was on his belly undulating across the stage. It seemed quite odd to her, but the crowd was eating it up.

“Um, isn’t he doing the Caterpillar?”

“I believe they like to call it the death roll, but yeah, now that you mention it, it does look a lot like the Caterpillar. ”

They both chuckled. Now that she wasn’t quite so nauseated, and they had given up the hunt for the hidden bathroom, Cecilia was actually starting to enjoy herself the tiniest bit. They had found a nice vantage point on the grand staircase overlooking the party. From up here, where no one could see the decapitations and blood splatter, it looked like any other concert.

With a final wailing scream, the song ended and the singer jumped to his feet, pumping his fist into the air. Celebrating what, Cecilia could only imagine. But then the band struck up a decidedly slower beat. A ballad.

Michael held out his hand. “Dance with me?”

“No,” Cecilia murmured, scooting over on the stair. But before she could fully decline, she saw John across the ballroom. And more important, John saw her. She should have known that tickets to the biggest event of the year would find their way into the jock’s possession.

She took Michael’s hand. “Sure. Why not?”

They walked down the steps to the dance floor, and Cecilia made sure they were turned away from John as Michael put his arm around her waist.

“Not that I am complaining, but I’m a little surprised that you said yes.” Then Michael noticed John. “Ah, mystery solved.”

They danced for another few moments. Michael was surprisingly light on his feet for a goth boy.

“So, are you trying to make John jealous?” he asked.

“No!” Cecilia blurted, then softened her tone. “Definitely not.”

Michael tried to pull her closer, but Cecilia resisted. She didn’t want to be impolite, but she also did not want to give Michael the wrong impression.

“Okay, then. I’m your cover date, shielding you from unwanted advances.”

Cecilia wanted to argue, but wasn’t Michael at least a little bit right? Then, during this beautiful ballad, the lead singer began to rap about how once you had a demon you never went back to humans. She cringed, and crinkled her nose.

“How can you listen to this stuff?”

“What’s wrong with it?” Michael asked, turning her hand inward, putting it against his chest.

“Um, besides worshipping the devil? Preaching self-loathing? A beat a three-year-old could produce on a drum set? Need I go on?”

“Hey, these guys are talented.” Michael said as he swung them around. “You try rhyming ‘Lucifer’ in three straight verses. It’s not as easy as you think.”

This time, when Michael pulled her closer, Cecilia didn’t resist quite as much.

“Still, not exactly the lyrics that law schools are looking for you to post on your Facebook page. You know that they are taking that kind of stuff into consideration now for your application?”

Michael chuckled a bit. “Don’t you ever get pissed off? Don’t you ever want to shout how much the world sucks?”

Cecilia felt herself blush. Clearly, he had not heard her last night at midnight yelling at Jeremy.

But when she didn’t answer, Michael continued, “Guess your family is too well-adjusted for you to appreciate the angst-filled world of goth.”

Little did Michael know she had angst—and plenty of it.

Before she could tell him that, an usher tapped Michael on the shoulder. The guy was dressed in what Cecilia could only assume was a Spanish Inquisition costume. Her AP history teacher had been fascinated by the dark part of the Dark Ages. The historically accurate usher handed Michael a card, which he read from.

“ ‘What are your names?’ ” Michael answered, “Michael and Cecilia.” Michael read the next line. “ ‘Trick or Treat.’ You’re kidding, right?”

The usher shook his head, and urged Michael to be ready.

“‘On this night before the rising of the saints’ souls, you’ve been chosen to travel into the devil’s lair.”

Slightly worried, Cecilia read the rest of the note. “ ‘Follow your guide into the labyrinth, and if you survive, meet Diana Dahmer, Satan’s personal minstrel.’ ”

“Awesome,” Michael announced, but Cecilia backed away.

“I am not feeling it. But Michael, you should go.”

“Come on, Cecilia! This is the chance of a lifetime—to blast Diana Dahmer to his face!”

“As appealing as that sounds,” Cecilia replied, “I am going to have to pass.”

She went to exit the dance floor, but Michael grabbed her hand. “Wait up.” He then turned to the usher. “Sorry. Guess I am staying here.”

“What?” a voice proclaimed from behind them. It was Quentin, who had has arm draped over Helen’s shoulder. Those two looked like they had grown far closer over the course of the dance. “What do you mean, you aren’t going to take a chance to meet Diana Dahmer himself?”

Michael shrugged. “Guess the stars aren’t aligned.”

“Then you don’t mind if we take it?” Quentin asked.

“All yours, buddy.”

Quentin squeezed Helen even closer. “Looks like it is just the two of us.”

Helen looked delighted, but did stop to ask, “As long as Cecilia doesn’t mind.”

Oh, Cecilia minded a lot. Helen lying about Paula’s party. Helen lying about Michael’s extortion attempt. And Helen lying about Jeremy being here. But having Helen take her place in some backstage farce? That she did not mind a bit.

“Knock yourselves out.”

Helen beamed as she and Quentin followed the usher. That girl was going to get herself into trouble someday. Then as Quentin’s hand went from Helen’s shoulder, to her back, to the hip, Cecilia worried that maybe trouble was going to find her tonight.

“Don’t worry,” Michael said, as he came up beside her, pulling her back into the dance.

“About what?”

“That Quentin will … How does Diana Dahmer say it? … Grease his pig?”

Cecilia frowned. “Eww.”

“You don’t need to worry. He hasn’t done anything with his pig before, and I doubt he will start tonight.”

“Really? Because Quentin definitely gives off the vibe that he has… Um… frequently been greased.”

Michael swung her around one last time as the song came to an end and another guitar-driven frenzy began. “At Our Lady of Sorrows, you better have some swagger, or guys like John will make your life hell.”

Cecilia had never thought that guys would have the same kind of peer pressure as girls. Was that why Jeremy was acting out so badly? Did she know as much about her younger brother’s life as she should?

As they were being nearly crushed by the other dancers, Michael guided her off the dance floor.

“Let’s find our perch again. You’ve got to see what Face Down does to this song.” Seeing Cecilia’s quizzical expression, Michael continued, “Do you remember the Funky Chicken?”

“Sure …” Cecilia answered. “But … no, they don’t …”

Michael gave her hand a squeeze. “Oh, yes.”

Maybe tonight wouldn’t turn out as bad as Cecilia thought.

* * *

Helen leaned in closer to Quentin as the usher led them down a darkened hallway. The light fixtures were smothered in cobwebs. Strange, rodent-like noises came from the doors they passed.

“Man, this better be good. Frannie said they had hot wings at the buffet table.”

Quentin raised his eyebrows up and down. “I’ll show you something hot.”

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