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Authors: John Gideon

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Greely's Cove

BOOK: Greely's Cove
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Table of Contents
INTRODUCTION

Lorna Trosper needed darkness.

She stumbled through the small house, scrabbling at switches, shutting off lights. The filth and squalor of her world—the injured furniture and broken walls, the tattered monstrosities that she had called her paintings—all were more than she could bear. Darkness was a refuge from an ugliness that her artist’s eyes could no longer endure.

More terrifying than the tangled disorder and the carnage of her house was the sight of her son, Jeremy, whose own hazel eyes radiated an insane sense of satisfaction that things had come to this. He followed her from room to squalid room, giggling his silken giggle, turning the lights on again.

Darkness, then light.

Darkness, then light.

Lorna knew that she could not defeat him, because even though he was only thirteen, he was so very strong, and this was a “game” he could play for hours, if not days. He seemed to thrive on the ordeal, to suck strength from it, even as Lorna felt herself growing weaker by the moment. How much
longer?
she wondered, fearing that her hours, perhaps even her minutes, were numbered.

A new terror seized her when she caught sight of her own image in the full-length hall mirror, which through some miracle had survived the debacle of the previous week: Her once-pretty face belonged not to a vibrant young artist—which is how she had dared to think of herself—but to an emaciated harridan with horrid, overly bright eyes, blond hair ragged and wild, mouth contorted in a rictus of unthinkable pain.

How long had the transmogrification taken? Weeks, maybe, or months.

Or millennia.

Time had become meaningless, just as she herself had become meaningless. Her body had become a vessel of fear, a demon’s plaything. Staring into that alien face in the mirror, she knew that she could endure no more.

She gathered her final store of physical strength and staggered crazily into the kitchen, where a stark ceiling lamp cast a pall over the garbage that had collected since she last cared about cleanliness and order. Piled on countertops and chairs, heaped on the table and linoleum floor, dumped mindlessly into the sink, were mountains of broken and encrusted dishes, mounds of reeking refuse and food wrappers.

Her eyes fell on a butcher knife that lay on the floor amid the clutter, and for a fleeting, maniacal moment she saw herself seizing it and whirling to confront Jeremy—falling on him, screaming from the depths of her tortured soul, stabbing, slashing, escaping. But deep within her a remnant of the original Lorna Trosper fluttered to life, a surviving artifact of love and motherliness that had somehow withstood the ordeal of her son’s “awakening.” That remnant throbbed feebly, yet with force enough to intervene, to prevent her from murdering her own child. Letting the knife lay, she steered herself to a drawer that had been her catchall place—her repository of trading stamps, coupons, pens, and pencils.

Clawed through the clutter until she found a pen and pad.

Scribbled something, tore the slip from the pad, crammed it into the pocket of her paint-spattered smock.

From behind her, and fearfully close, came a sound that knotted her stomach: Jeremy’s soft giggling. Keeping her eyes low and away from his face, she lurched through the rear door into the tiny garage and slammed it behind her.

Mercifully, the garage was as black as dreamless sleep. Lorna Trosper leaned against the door and listened to her racing heart, to the winter rain on the roof, to her son’s breathing on the other side. Finally she found the strength to move and, needing no light, made her way to the jointed door that ran on tracks overhead. She made sure that its lower edge lay flush against the cement floor, then felt her way to the old Subaru station wagon that she had gotten in accordance with her divorce settlement. (How many centuries ago?) She slipped in behind the wheel and pressed down the lock buttons. The key was in the ignition lock, where she routinely left it, cold to her quivering fingertips. She turned it and the starter wound, and the trusty four-cylinder engine grumbled to life and filled her mind with its comforting sound. Her head fell against the seat back.

Lorna Trosper needed darkness.
Soon she would have all the darkness a person could ever need: one richly black and luxuriantly vacant; one devoid of the terror that had driven her to this; a darkness from which there would be no tormented awakening.

One final obscenity, however, lay in store: As the Subaru filled with acrid fumes, Jeremy pushed open the door between the garage and the kitchen. A crack of dreaded light fell across the windshield and assaulted Lorna’s eyes. The boy stood a moment with his small hand on the doorknob, framed in the hellish yellowness, grinning a lunatic’s grin.

Lorna tried to force her eyes shut, but she couldn’t. The image of her son’s face, with its dazzling white teeth and wild, glowing eyes, imprinted itself on her mind, and she knew that to live would be to carry the horror of it always. Her stomach heaved, but only acid came up, for she had not eaten in days. The pain was like a fire in her chest and throat. Still she gazed at him through a blur of hopeless tears, yearning to see something in his face besides unspeakable pleasure, something a mother could love in her final moments.

What she saw, however, made her pray that the dead don’t dream.

PART
I

There are things far worse than death, my son. Far worse, indeed.


C. L. Calliossa

1

Carl Trosper had not cried real tears since the age of fifteen, not since the moment his father’s casket started its slow descent into the grave, riding some sort of mechanized sling that spared the backs of the pallbearers. Young Car! had borne up well before that moment, just as his mother had. Together they had endured the heartrending eulogy delivered by his dad’s best friend and law partner, the tearful
I’m so sorrys
from scores of family acquaintances, and bleak thoughts about a future with a gaping hole in it. Carl had suffered all this without working up much more than a mist in his eyes.
I’m a man now
, he’d told himself throughout the ordeal. More than that, he was Jeremy Trosper’s only child, a combination not suited to blubbering.

But blubber he did when Matt Kronmiller, the town’s only mortician (and one of its richest citizens) hit the switch that started the casket’s downward plunge into that god-awful, muddy hole in the ground. Carl watched the contraption sink slowly out of sight, feeling his chest tighten and his throat grow hot, hurting under a dreadful weight of finality. Later he tried to forgive himself for the unmanly flood of weeping but failed.

Now, more than twenty-three years later, his eyes were again smart with real tears.

Lorna, his former wife was gone.

The coroner had called from Greely’s Cove, Washington, his old hometown on the west shore of the Puget Sound, to tell him that Lorna had killed herself. Carbon-monoxide poisoning. She had locked herself in the Subaru, which itself was locked in the garage, and had started the engine. She probably had not suffered, opined the coroner, struggling to say something helpful.

Fortunately Carl had been alone when the call came, which was unusual on a Saturday morning. Melanie Kraft, his latest regular squeeze, was in Chicago on business—something about a midwinter meeting of the National Association of Manufacturers’ executive board, for whom she served as assistant counsel. On any other Saturday morning, he and Melanie would be recovering from a Friday night out, having dined at The Palm, or Le Pavilion, or Joe and Mo’s, or any of a hundred top-drawer Washington, D.C., restaurants. They would have taken in a movie or a play and downed three-too-many nightcaps at The Hawk ’n’ Dove, their favorite Capitol Hill watering hole. On any other Saturday morning they would have been lounging around his fashionable Wisconsin Avenue condo, wearing plush terrycloth bathrobes, sipping Bloody Marys and listening to old Steely Dan records, decadently satisfied after an energetic session of the “root dance.”

But Melanie was in Chicago, and Carl was alone. And, being alone, he could cry without degrading himself in anyone’s eyes but his own. So cry he did, even as he had stopped himself from doing just that a year earlier, when his mother had passed away after a long illness, leaving him without the living roots of family.

It was nearly eleven o’clock by the time he finally pulled himself together. He ducked into the shower and tried unsuccessfully to wash away the hurt, then dragged himself out again to pull on a pair of faded Levi’s and a boatneck sweater. Standing before his bathroom mirror, he contemplated trimming his short, reddish-blond beard with its silvery tinge of the approaching forties, wondering whether the distraction of a small, everyday chore might be therapeutic. He decided instead to have a Bloody Mary and call Melanie at her hotel in Chicago.

She answered after the sixth ring, sounding sleepy and red-eyed.

“Mel?” Carl didn’t like the sound of his own voice.

“Carl, is that you? What a pleasant surprise to wake up to. How’s my favorite big-time political consultant?”

“Melanie, I’ve had some—bad news. I—”

“Carl, what is it? You don’t sound good, lover.”

“Mel, it’s about Lorna.”

“Lorna? Your ex? Carl, what’s wrong?”

“She’s—she’s dead. Killed herself. I got a call this morning from the coroner in Greely’s Cove.”

“Oh, God.” A long silence ensued, during which each groped for something more to say—Melanie for something to comfort, Carl for anything at all. Melanie recovered first. “Honey, I’m coming home. Stay right where you are. I’ll grab a cab out to O’Hare and be on the next plane.”

“Melanie, don’t do that. You’ve got your meetings—”

“To hell with the meetings. You need me.”

“Look, I’m holding up okay. I appreciate your good thoughts, but I only called to tell you that I’m going out to Greely’s Cove and that we might not see each other for a while. I assume that I’ll have to make the arrangements for the funeral and—”

“Plus you’ll have to do something about Jeremy.”

“Yeah—Jeremy.” His voice caught. Jeremy Carl Trosper was his only child, named for Carl’s own dead father, the sole product of his union with Lorna.
Doing something
about Jeremy would not be easy.

“Sweetie, I’ll give you a call as soon as I get a chance,” he said. “Don’t worry about me, okay? I’ll be home as soon as I’ve taken care of things out there.”

“Okay, I understand, kiddo. But I’ll miss you. I already do. And remember, I love you.”

Carl winced slightly, as he always did whenever Melanie told him that she loved him, for he always felt as though good manners demanded that he say it back. After Lorna, he wondered whether he would ever be able to say those words to another woman.

“Thanks, I needed that,” he answered, lying just a little.

2

The smashup had not been fatal, thank God. A foggy, rain-streaked window had denied the driver of the Le Baron a clear view of the approaching Bronco on Highway 305, and he had turned left off Frontage Street directly into the truck’s path. Blammo. Easily a grand worth of damage to the Le Baron, the police chief figured, and the Bronco was probably totaled. But both drivers, fortunately, had used their seat belts, and neither had gotten more than minor bruises.

Stu Bromton, chief of the Greely’s Cove Police Department, supervised the men who came in wreckers to drag the junk away and then wrote out a summons to the Le Baron’s driver, who complained hotly. The guy in the Bronco had been going too damn fast, and the intersection should have had a traffic light rather than a fucking stop sign.

Stu, who was not in a mood to field complaints on this particular afternoon, handed him the summons and said, “Listen, Mr. Taylor, you’re a very lucky man. In the first place, you’re lucky you got hit in the front quarter panel and not in the driver’s door, or I’d be sending you off in an oversized garbage bag instead of giving you a ticket. In the second place, I’m too busy to bother with the paperwork of charging you with reckless driving instead of failure to yield, which saves you about five hundred dollars in this jurisdiction. And in the third place, you’re lucky I haven’t imprinted my knuckles on your nose for being a general asshole. Now stop your cussing and be nice, okay?”

BOOK: Greely's Cove
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