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Authors: Richard Laymon

Midnight's Lair

BOOK: Midnight's Lair
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Richard Laymon
Midnight's Lair
    Mordock's Cave is one of the wonders of the world: a place where thousands of sightseers every year take an awe-inspiring boat trip on a lake deep beneath the earth's surface and marvel at Nature's handiwork. But the darkness is also the home of things Nature never intended - things violent, bestial and obscenely evil. And when a sudden power failure traps a group of tourists underground, the unnatural creatures who dwell there emerge from the depths…
From Publishers Weekly
    Fast-paced and tightly constructed, this novel by the author of
The Stake
combines the best elements of psycho-slasher thrillers, disaster epics and classic supernatural horror tales. When a power failure traps a tourist group deep in Mordock's Cavern, tour guide Darcy Raines leads a small team that attempts to break through Ely's Wall, a man-made barrier sealing off one end of the cave. Creepy Kyle Mordock, teenage descendant of Ely, the wall's builder, and son of the attraction's current owner, is along on the tour because of his morbid erotic fascination with the beautiful Darcy. Flashbacks reveal that he has recently inherited a longstanding Mordock family trait, namely, the propensity to rape and murder female guests of the Mordock Cave Hotel and dump the bodies in the sealed-off part of the cave. Laymon adds fiendishly clever topspin to this gruesome revelation, placing on the other side of the wall a danger grislier and more bizarre than any natural disaster or psychotic killer. Horror fans will relish this highly entertaining tale.
    Scaning & primary formating:
    Secondary formating & proofing:
One day, feeling oh so brave,
I went walking in a cave.
Now, I fear, I can't get out.
I'll die in here, I have no doubt.
I'll mold and turn to slimy bone
Here where the sun has never shown,
Where I'll lie in darkness all alone,
Here in my tomb of ancient stone.
Remember me, before you dare
To journey into midnight
's lair.
Remember me, and what I write:
'Here lies one who loved the light
But he was curious and brave -
He went walking in a cave.'
'The Explorer'
Allan Edward DePrey
    Darcy Raines, standing at the bow with her back to the group, grabbed a spike jutting from the cavern wall and stopped the boat. Keeping her grip on the spike, she turned sideways.
    Kyle Mordock stared up at her. The first of the boat's bench seats was vacant. He sat on the second, next to a young couple holding hands. His seat.
    Every day since Darcy began working as a guide through the cavern two weeks ago, the kid had shown up for at least one of her tours. There were other guides but he never went on their tours, just Darcy's. He always stayed close to her, usually managing to get the same scat for the boat ride, the one directly behind her, the one with the best view - not of the cavern, but of Darcy. He rarely spoke. He simply watched her with his tiny, feral eyes.
    Now, he was staring at her rump. The way Darcy stood, sideways with one foot propped on the bow, her trousers were drawn taut against her buttocks. She could feel Kyle's eyes.
    A fifteen-year-old lech.
Boss's son or not,
she thought,
I'll have to do something about this nonsense before he drives me nuts.
    Tom stopped the second boat behind Darcy's, and nodded for her to start.
    'End of the line, folks,' she said. 'Everybody out.'
    There were murmurs and quiet laughter from many of the people on the boats. Several glanced from side to side as if prepared to follow her orders, then caught the joke and laughed more loudly than the others.
    'You go first,' called a man in the second boat.
    'Actually, the water is only about waist-deep in the Lake of Charon at this time of the year, though the level rises considerably higher in the spring with the seepage from melting snow and rain. But I wouldn't recommend taking a dip. The water is about fifty degrees.'
    She glanced at Kyle. He was staring at her face. She turned her head away, and nodded towards the rock wall in front of the boat.
    'This barrier,' she said, 'marks the end of the portion of the cavern that's accessible to the public. The wall was constructed in 1923 by Ely Mordock. Originally, it was possible to explore the entire length of the cavern - just over a mile. For a number of years, Ely led parties into the cave through its natural opening on the steep slope of the hillside near the eastern border of his property. The trip was an all-day, difficult hike, and not for the timid. In those days, they didn't have the walkway or lighting. Ely supplied waders, picnic lunches and torches.
    'But his dream was to make the wonders of the cavern accessible to the general public, not just a hardy few, so in 1921 he began construction of the elevators. The shafts were sunk 150 feet to provide an entrance at what had previously been the far end of the cavern. When those were completed, work was begun to install the lighting and walkway.
    'It was then that tragedy struck. On June 12, 1923, Ely and his wife, Elizabeth, were roaming an area somewhere between here and the natural opening when she slipped and fell into a deep chasm.'
    An elderly woman muttered, 'Oh dear.'
    'Ely lowered himself into the chasm on a rope, but the gap into which his wife had fallen seemed bottomless and he was forced to abandon any hopes of saving her… or of retrieving her body.
    'He was grief-stricken, and determined that the chasm would never claim another life. So he sealed the cavern's natural opening, and built this rock wall as a permanent barrier to prevent anyone from entering the hazardous eastern half of the cave. In effect, that entire part of the cave became the tomb of Elizabeth Mordock.'
    'That was over sixty years ago,' a man called from the second boat. 'Aren't there any plans to re-open that end?'
    Darcy shook her head. 'Ely's will stipulated that the barriers should never be breached. His descendants have chosen to abide by his wishes.'
    'Seems like a waste,' the man said.
    A husky teenaged boy in Darcy's boat raised his hand as if he were in school. She called on him. 'What does that wall there do to the stream?'
    'Good question. The wall restricts the natural flow of the River Styx. Before it was built, there was no Lake of Charon.'
    'So, it's like a dam,' the boy said.
    'Exactly. The river in this part of the cavern was only a few inches deep before the wall was built, and people could stroll through here instead of having to go by boat. In fact, portions of the original walkway are still intact below the surface.'
    'How come the whole cave doesn't flood?'
    'Ely was smart enough not to block the opening completely. He left a space near the bottom of the wall to allow water to run out. Any other questions before we head back?'
    'I have one,' said a young woman two rows behind the boy. 'With the cave closed up like this, where does the air come from?'
    'Originally, there were three elevators down from the surface. After Ely blocked off the natural opening, one of the elevators was converted to a ventilation shaft. Fresh air is circulated from the surface, and that has the additional benefit of raising the cavern temperature during the summer months. It still may feel a little chilly to some of you, but the natural temperature of the cavern would be about fifty degrees Fahrenheit, like the water, if it weren't for the warm air from the shaft. That brings it up to about sixty.
    'If there aren't any more questions, we'll head back now. Before you know it, you'll be up top again and sweltering.'
    Her comment was greeted by the usual chuckles and moans.
    Someone said, 'No rush.' But there weren't any more questions.
    'You may have noticed,' Darcy went on, 'that the first row of seats in each boat was left vacant. That was no oversight. We've got this whole thing planned. It's a lot easier to turn you around than the boats. So, I'd like those of you in the first occupied row to stand up carefully, do an about-face, and plant your bottoms on the seats we so conveniently left vacant for you.'
    Following her instructions, the three people at the front of each boat stood, turned around, and sat down.
    That included Kyle Mordock. Darcy was glad to be freed from his constant stare. Soon, she would be at the opposite end of the boat from him.
    One row at a time, as she gave the word, the rest of the tourists reversed their positions by moving to the scats in front of them. There were seven benches in all. It didn't take long.
    'Okay, now comes the fun part for me and Tom. If those of you on the left will scoot towards the centre, we'll perform our daring feat.'
    'Drum roll, please,' said Tom.
    Near the middle of Darcy's boat, a girl of about seven had her elbow on the gunnel. Darcy smiled at her and waved her in. Her mother pulled her out of the way.
    Darcy let go of the spike. 'If Tom and I are very lucky,' she said, 'we may reach the other end of the boat without getting wet.'
    The only guide to fall recently during this manoeuvre was Dick Hayden. He'd done it last week, on purpose as a treat for the tourists, and vowed he would never try that stunt again. When Darcy saw him step out of the elevator forty-five minutes later, his clothes were sodden, he was shivering and his face was blue. He came down with a cold, and missed three days of work.
    Darcy knew of nobody falling into the cold water by accident. The walk to the other end of the boat might look tricky, but she considered it a cinch.
    Arms out for balance, she stepped onto the gunnel. Though it was wider than her foot, she walked it as if it were a tight-rope. She saw Tom performing a similar act along the side of the other boat.
    He disappeared.
    Darcy felt as if her vision had been switched off.
    She saw black.
    Great time to lose the lights.
    People gasped.
    She wobbled, trying to keep her balance.
    'SHIT!' From Tom.
    Then a thud, a heavy splash.
    Worried voices. 'Did he fall?… He fell!… Oh, my God!'
    'Quiet!' Darcy yelled. 'Everyone stay seated!' She clawed at her side, snatched the flashlight from her belt, switched it on and swept its beam to the second boat. Tom wasn't there. Fear squeezed her chest.
    'Tom!' she called. No answer.
    Her pale beam darted over the water along the port side of the boat.
    It's only waist-deep! Where is he?
    She saw the blunt top of the stalagmite known as Satan's Buoy jutting from the surface less than a yard from Tom's boat.
    He'd been next to it when the cave went dark.
    That thud.
Oh Jesus!
    Darcy pointed her flashlight at the gunnel in front of her feet and rushed along it. The passengers in both boats were silent, an audience captivated by a strange show. At the stern, Darcy raised her flashlight overhead and kicked out. The leap carried her out past the squared corner of Tom's boat. Frigid water sprayed her face, wrapped her legs, seized her groin like a hand of ice. Her feet hit the bottom. They started to slide. She hooked her left arm over the edge of the boat and caught herself.
    Her flashlight probed the water. She could see the bottom under its bent beam.
    Tom was not beside the boat.
    Turning, she swept the light over the surface on both sides of Satan's Buoy.
    'Maybe he's under the boat,' someone said. 'I think I heard a bumping…'
    'Take this.' Darcy thrust the flashlight at the nearest passenger. It was pulled from her hand.
    She took a deep breath. Her lungs felt shrunken. Ducking, she slipped an arm under the metal hull. She tin list herself down. The chill water seemed to squeeze her head. It soaked through her jacket and blouse and… It gripped her skin.
    Her eyes were open, but she saw nothing.
    She waddled through the shallow water under the boat, the back of her head and shoulders rubbing along its hull, her arms waving, searching.
BOOK: Midnight's Lair
9.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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