Authors: Mark Wheaton
Tags: #General Fiction
Father Billy was seated beside Becca on the edge of the administrator’s cabin porch as she buried her head in his chest, her whole body quaking with sobs. His arms tight around her, Father Billy spoke quietly to her, eliciting a couple of nods though she was obviously still being tormented by whatever she had seen.
While Father Billy consoled Becca, Cindy sought out Becca’s cabin mates to see if they could shed light on any of this, but that’s when it came to light that until she just showed up in the center of camp, she’d been as missing as Evan and Bobby.
“Why didn’t you
something?” Cindy chastened the girls, some of which called themselves Becca’s “friends,” including Leilani.
The most she got in response was a shrug, which Cindy regarded with incredulity.
Suddenly, Becca’s shaky voice forced its way up through her sobs, her first words chilling everyone to the bone.
“They’re all dead.”
Silence. No one moved.
“Who’s all dead?” asked Whit, perhaps the only one who didn’t already have a good idea.
“Bobby Rusch and Evan,” Becca began, sucking in a couple of quick breaths. “Humberto and Pamela. I saw their bodies. They were naked, in a pile. Torn apart...”
Becca’s eyes went wide with the memory and she started crying all over again. Father Billy looked aghast and stared off into the woods, as if hoping to see something that would prove these statements untrue.
“Where?” asked Cindy, stepping out of the semi-circle of campers. “Where did you see this?”
“In the woods,” Becca said, her tone full of dread. “Out there in the woods...”
Everyone shifted uncomfortably, even those who had initially believed Becca to be full of shit. For Cindy, the very fact that Becca knew it hadn’t been only Evan and Bobby missing, but also the counselors was all the confirmation she needed.
“What else did you see?” asked Father Billy, leaning down close. “Did you see who did it? Was it somebody from the camp? A hunter?”
“I know who did it,” Becca said, nodding, as if suddenly remembering something important. “He’s the one who showed me where they were and told me how he did it. He showed me the weapons – these big spikes. Then, he drew on me in blood.”
She indicated her bloody clothes. A chill ran up Cindy’s spine.
be anybody from the camp, she thought. This was obviously some kind of maniac, particularly if he had let Becca live to tell the tale in order to scare the others.
“Right, but who was it?” asked Whit.
“The Devil,” Becca finally whispered. “It was the Devil.”
Mark and Phil stood back in the group a little bit watching this with disbelief. Like the others, they hadn’t noticed the missing Humberto or Pamela. But it was when Becca named “the Devil” as the one who had killed the two counselors and two campers that Mark scoffed.
Phil looked over to him, surprised.
“There’s no such thing as the Devil,” Mark whispered solemnly. “I believe her that they’re dead. All that blood came from somewhere. I believe her that there’s some maniac out there, but whoever showed her those bodies is as human as you or me.”
“You don’t know that,” Phil hissed back.
“Yeah. Yeah, I do, actually,” Mark said. “There’s no more such a thing as the Devil just like there’s no such thing as God. She’s just so full of this church-crap that when she’s finally confronted with something real, well,
– she believes whatever some crackpot tells her. Now that, my friend, is fucked.”
Phil thought about this as he looked back at Becca, who was obviously disturbed by whatever she’d seen. He realized that he had never believed in the physical reality of the Devil any more than he had God. God was a feeling, as was the Devil, not some being who walked around murdering people in the woods fifty some-odd miles outside of Dallas.
“Actually, what would be really fucked is if anybody else believes her,” Mark added. “One hysteric is enough.”
Phil turned back towards Becca, who was now crying too hard to continue her story. He glanced over to where he’d seen Faith a moment before and saw her standing next to Maia, watching intently. He suddenly felt a great need to be by her side, just to hold her hand. He made a move to walk over, but then noticed that she was already holding someone’s hand – Maia’s; their interlocking fingers going white so tightly were they gripped together.
Becca spent over an hour trying to lead George, Cindy and three of the older teen boys through the woods to where the bodies were, but couldn’t retrace her steps. There’d been some debate about putting campers in harm’s way as opposed to simply counselors, but it was quickly muted due to practicality. The
had been that, in the dark, she may have mistaken “dead” for “injured” and that there was still some belief that the missing campers and counselors would be found alive, but they found nothing, not a single drop of blood. Cindy kept her arms around Becca as they walked, but could tell that it wasn’t doing much good. Becca had snapped, been functionally driven crazy by the events of the previous night, and Cindy thought it would take professional help to pull her back from whatever abyss she was currently hanging over.
They kept going, however, marching through the woods buoyed by false confidence that their friends might still be out there.
Back at Camp Easley, the campers had all been confined to their cabins, though this was soon revised to mean Cabins 2-3 for the boys, 5-6 for the girls to make it easier on the remaining counselors to keep track of them. While trips to the latrines were allowed providing there was an escort, the mess hall and classroom were locked up tight.
It was after the counselors who had stayed at the camp with Father Billy – Whit, Constance and Judy — checked back in at the administrator’s cabin, that they became the first to hear more bad news.
“The phone’s dead,” Father Billy reported, his voice gone hollow. “At least, the one in my cabin is. Have you checked the ones in yours?”
Having believed that Father Billy was the one attempting communication with the outside world, they had not. Quickly, the group moved to the counselor’s cabin only to find that, indeed, the phone were down there as well. They couldn’t even get a dial tone there, either.
,” exclaimed Whit as he thudded the phone received back down into its cradle. “What now?”
“Maybe it’s just the phones,” Judy suggested, but no one bought it.
The counselors followed Father Billy went outside and followed the telephone lines that ran from the cabins out to a pole at the front of the parking lot by the church’s Jeep, which had brought Father Billy, Humberto and Judy out a week earlier. But the line looked just fine as it disappeared up the road, making them realize that if it was cut, it must have happened further down than they could see.
“How far is it to the highway?” Whit asked, staring down the road.
“Twenty miles?” Father Billy said, not really sure. “Twenty-five? It’s a ways.”
“And there aren’t any other houses out there? Nobody lives off this road?”
“Not that I know of,” said Father Billy, searching his memory. “It’s always been described to me like those big ranch tracts down by the Texas-Mexico border. It’s all private property. No one’s out here but us.”
“Christ,” Whit cursed, but then, seeing the reproachful look on Father Billy’s face, added. “Sorry.”
“Ah, it’s okay,” Father Billy sighed, rethinking his reaction. “Today’s not the day to stand on ceremony. When they find them, we’ll just put them in the Jeep and send them down the road.”
When, though Constance. She hoped Father Billy knew something she didn’t.
When Becca and the others eventually returned empty-handed, the decision was quickly made to send at least two or three people out in the Jeep to alert the police. Though it was believed they might have to drive all the way in to the nearest city, Patterson, a few miles down the highway towards Dallas, most believed that by the time they reached the highway, someone would be able to get a signal on their cell phone and could call ahead, then maybe wait at the highway turn-off for instructions from law enforcement.
That was when it was discovered that the counselors’ cell phones were all missing. It started with George, who had gone to where he plugged his in, but came up empty. Judy soon found the same to be true in her room, swiftly followed by Whit who reported that his charger was there, but no phone.
“Wait, that’s impossible,” said Whit when one counselor after another came back to him, shaking their heads. “
A hasty search was made of the area around Pamela and Humberto’s beds, but no cell phones were discovered there, either.
Cindy looked all over for hers; under the bed, on the night stand, in her pockets, in the bathroom, but couldn’t find it anywhere. She remembered having missed it that morning, but had just thought it had gotten knocked under the bed or something. As, again, no one really got signals at the camp, it wasn’t the first thing in their pockets in the morning like it was back home.
When a thorough search revealed that all seven were missing (Father Billy didn’t carry one), the true horror of the situation dawned on them.
“He was in our cabins,” George said. “Maybe even while we were here.”
“We don’t know that for sure,” replied Judy, though she sounded desperate.
“It adds credence to the idea that it’s someone at the camp,” Whit said. “An outsider would’ve been noticed.”
“I don’t think we know that for sure,” said Father Billy.
“I know you don’t want to think it’s one of the kids, but we’ve got to get serious here,” Whit countered sharply. “
killed them, right? These were our friends. Who’s to say he’s not planning on killing us next?”
“Didn’t you hear what she said?” asked Judy, indignantly. “She said it was the Devil. He came to her, told her what he did, and showed her the bodies. I mean, what if she’s right? What if it literally was the Devil?”
Everyone went silent, having no idea what the response should be, but also worried about being the lone heretical hold-out who would ridicule the very suggestion in front of a priest. It was too much to fathom, but none of the counselors wanted to be the first to say it.
Finally, Father Billy did it for them.
“Becca was really shaken up, that much is obvious,” he began, speaking carefully. “She probably doesn’t even know what she saw, which might be better for her mental health in the long run. If the Devil was actually walking amongst us on Earth, I sincerely doubt this is how he would announce himself, so let’s just rule that out for the moment. I mean, if we’re going to entertain all possibilities, we have to think that maybe even one of the four who is missing is behind this and had the forethought to remove the phones.”
Cindy interrupted with a cross sound, ready to defend Humberto and Pamela, but Father Billy raised his hand.
“I am not
anyone,” Father Billy added quickly. “Let me be clear. What I’m saying is that we have a situation and unless we stay on top of it, there’s a chance we could let it overtake us. To prevent that, we have to be open to as many scenarios as possible. Okay?”
Cindy went silent, but nodded.
“Now, our first move should be to check the Jeep,” Father Billy said. “Sitting here thinking about it, if someone had the foresight to disable our ability to call out in hopes of trapping us, well, I don’t even what to think what might they might have done to the Jeep. Whit, will you accompany me?”
Constance gasped. No one had considered this. The Jeep meant escape. Without it...
Whit looked over, having been frozen in his tracks, but then nodded and followed Father Billy out of the counselor’s cabin. It took them no time at all to reach the parking lot and they were just approaching the Jeep when both noticed that the hood seemed to be raised a crack.
“Oh, crap,” said Whit, who hurried over and raised it all the way up. Immediately, he saw that the fan belts had been slashed and the battery removed. “Oh,
Whit looked over at Father Billy, who followed him over and regarded the mess in silence, but then nodded.
“Close it back,” he said. “Let’s try not to let the campers know yet.”
Whit nodded and lowered the hood, but it wouldn’t close all the way as something had been wedged into it when it was forced open and now it was badly bent.
“Good enough,” said Father Billy, patting the terrified Whit on the shoulder.
They returned to the cabin, but as the other counselors had been watching from the windows, they knew what had happened even before seeing the downcast looks on their comrades’ faces.
When he entered the cabin, Father Billy looked around at them with real worry on his face. “If there’s a chance any of our campers sneaked a cell phone into the camp, this is the time to be thankful for those who break the rules.”
It turned out that almost a third of the campers had brought cell phones, many stating that they brought them to use on the drive in and out, knowing full-well that they wouldn’t get reception out at the camp. As the counselors moved through the cabins collecting them, word went around not only about the phone lines being cut, but also the theft of the counselor’s phones. If the campers had been frightened before, this news spread an even deeper sense of foreboding.
“I’m hungry,” Mark said, sitting on Phil’s bunk in Cabin 2, as most of the other boys in the cabin buzzed around the windows, eyes peeled.
Phil, who’d been flipping through a couple of comic books Mark had brought, dug into his back pack and pulled out an energy bar.
“You want half?”
“Surely, Shirley,” Mark replied. “Thanks.”
Phil opened it, broke it in half and tossed a piece to Mark, who ate the thing in two bites.
“You got anymore of those?”
“Don’t you think we should hold onto them?” Phil scowled.
“Oh, in case the ‘Devil’ keeps us from going to the mess hall?” Mark said. “Glad to know you’re drinking the Kool-Aid, pal. Keep it up.”
Over in Cabin 6, Faith was curled up on her bed reading her book, trying hard to force the morning’s events from her thoughts. She was only a few pages from the end now and was curious what would happen, though was also slightly disappointed that she could tell, from the remaining page count, that the book probably wasn’t going to be satisfyingly tying up
the plot lines as if purposefully forcing the reader into buying the second in the series to find out what happened.
And if that worked once, Faith imagined that the author would have little reason to not pull that trick again at the end of books two, three and maybe even four, which diminished her desire to even finish the first one. Still, it was something to do.
“When does the food truck get here?” Maia asked, looking over from her book, the Pelé biography.
“Um, Thursdays,” Faith said, trying to remember. “Good point, though. Somebody should call them and make sure they don’t deliver.”
Maia stared at Faith as if this was the first time that had occurred to her, but then she looked down, dejected.
“This sucks,” Maia said. “I’d been looking so much forward to coming to camp that it’s crazy that we’ll only end up being here so short a time. Still, it’ll probably be a little while before we go.”
“You think?” Faith said. “They got everybody’s cell phones, so they’ll just drive out until they get a signal, call the police, call the busses and we’re gone.”
Maia shook her head.
“I’m not so sure. If whoever did this knew to cut the phone lines
take the counselor’s phones, that doesn’t sound like someone who is going to be satisfied with killing four people and letting everyone else go,” Maia suggested. “You heard what Becca said. This guy’s crazy. He’s probably watching the camp right now.”
Maia lowered her voice on this last part, not wanting to alarm the already skittish girls packed into Cabin 6.
“Well, there’s the Jeep,” Faith offered.
Maia gave her an odd look. “Is there?”
Maia nodded out the window and Faith peered out towards the parking lot, seeing that, indeed, the hood seemed to have been forced open.
“Oh, my God. Do you think he did something to the Jeep?” Faith asked, alarmed. This really was starting to sound like real planning.
From the dark look on Maia’s face, she realized that this was exactly what her friend thought.
“We’re cut off!”
“Unless somebody can get a signal from one of the cell phones, maybe,” Maia said.
“They’re going to have to go pretty far down the road,” Faith said. “There were a couple of girls on the bus talking on their phones from the church parking lot all the way to the highway exit. Everybody’s phone pretty much cuts out once we’re on the camp road.”
“How long’s that?”
“About an hour, but if you’re in a car,” Faith said, her voice starting to shake. “Without one, we’re just way out here. It’s why no one ever runs away from camp or tries to go to town. There are no towns for miles...”
Maia took all this in, and then moved over onto Faith’s bunk, putting her arm around her friend.
“If this was some guy who was already out here, he may have killed those people and moved on,” Maia said, voice cautious and deliberate. “But if this was some guy who knew when we were coming and is planning to try and kill the rest of us, people are going to panic. When that happens, it’s going to be every man for himself pretty quick. I’m just telling you now, if we – you and I — keep an eye on each other and stay close, keep our heads and all that, we’ll get through this together. Whoever this is, he’s really smart. We’ve got to be smarter and sometimes smarter means letting your enemy have its pick of secondary targets. That’s what my dad used to say, despite what the Go Team, Rah-Rah Army might think.”
Faith stared at Maia, but then looked at the other girls in the cabin, all chatting, all going through their things, as if they were already starting to forget the events of that morning.
“Okay,” said Faith, leaning in close to Maia. “I’ve got your back if you’ve got mine.”
Maia nodded, but Faith could see that for all her bravado, she was still fighting back real tears, the first sign of fear Faith had seen on her face. For the second time that day, Faith reached out and took Maia’s hand, squeezing it tightly in her own.
Seven or eight of the campers’ cell phones were already charged down to nothing, leaving exactly twenty in working order. Of those, not a one could get a signal in the camp, though the counselors were optimistic now that they had at least some form of communication with the outside world, theoretically, even if it meant moving out onto the road.