~ the raven chronicles ~ 45

9 Oct

(Chapters are stored chronologically in ARCHIVES)

Fr. Michael Leavell, OP.
Sacred Heart Church
Raven, Ohio

November 22, 1932

Wallace did not stir when I entered. He sat at the plank kitchen board, back to me, elbows on the table, head in both hands. A whisky bottle stood to his right; his shotgun lay just beyond. I closed the door and immediately noticed how cold the room was; the frigid morning air must have been pouring in for some time.

I walked around the big table to the hearth, where a low-burning fire begged to be stoked. I wallace hearthglanced around at Wallace and saw that he remained in his pensive pose, as if he were deaf and dumb to my presence. I stirred the fading embers back to glowing, then placed a few sticks of wood upon them and watched the tiny flames lick up the splintered facets. A quarter-split laid on the kindling immediately began to crackle. Satisfied with my efforts, I turned round and faced my friend.

Wallace, I said; What has happened here.

At the sound of my voice, he raised his head, but did not regard me; he stared beyond, into the mounting flames.  After some moments in which I was not sure that he wouldn’t reach for his gun, he finally replied.

The devil paid me a visit last night.

In a day already fraught with blood, tragedy, and intrigue, his pronouncement magnified it all tenfold. I pulled out a chair, sat down, drew his empty glass and the bottle to me, then poured a dram, which I hastened to its destination. The sudden wash of liquor burned my throat, warmed my gut, and acted as a much needed restorative to my nerves. I sat and gathered my composure; Wallace finally looked at me, and spoke again.

He also moves in mysterious ways, Michael; And I’ve witnessed the horror of that handiwork.

My first thought was to tell him off my morning experiences, and I nearly blurted out the news of Sadie’s murder; but in the same instant, I realized two things: that Sadie’s death would never have the some import to Wallace as it did to me — he knew her as nothing but the whore who had greeted us at the desk of the Grand Hotel — and that my impulse was probably the seeking of emotional solace through commiseration — an indulgence ill-afforded by the circumstances. Wallace had a tale to tell that required my full attention, so I put Sadie, and Mrs. Pomeroy, and the missing McCutcheon girl aside, and pressed Wallace to relate it.

Come with me to the barn, he said, I have to show you.

We rose from the table; Wallace picked up his gun, chambered 2 fresh shells, clicked the barrel shut and headed toward the door.

*****

When we stepped outside, I commented on seeking medical attention for the dogs. Wallace trudged toward the barn without even a pause, and talked while we walked.

There’s no to be done for Ajax, he said, and Sampson’ll have to hold till I can tend to him; I lost a heifer and a calf last night, another is missing, and I aim to search for her and find out if she’s even alive before I call the vet. He’ll not make a trip out here then turn around and come right back. Besides, he said, there’s another thing that’s got to be dealt with before any soul ‘sides you and me steps foot on this farm. The somber tone of his statement quelled any further urge I had for questioning; we walked in silence the rest of the way to the barn.

When we reached the big double doors, he pointed off across the still mist-heavy field towards the woods and said; That’s the way they came, and that’s the way they went after.

He pulled one barn door open onto the darkness inside, broken by stabs of morning light knifing through the sidings.  Wallace took a lantern off a hook and lit the wick. Then he led me up the center aisle to a rough, tarp covered wooden table standing off to one side. The shape of the shroud gave me an idea what lay beneath, but did nothing to allay the shock I received as Wallace held the lamp high, and I pulled back the canvas.

kitty simpson's bodyOn an old quilt, lay the corpse of a young girl, 16 or 17 years-old at the outside, slender of build, with a head of long dark hair. Her skin was of a strange hue, a sickly grey, streaked with splotches of blue and ivory. An oblong cluster of shotgun pellet tracks encompassed an area from just above the left breast up to just below the right eye. There was something strangely amiss about the geography of the wound, and it took me a moment to deduce just what it was: for all the damage that the discharge had rendered, no trace of blood was visible; no pink beneath the torn flesh, nor evidence of blood anywhere, just more of the same grey coloring as the outer skin; ’twas if the gun had been fired into a block of clay.

I stood back totally befuddled, surveyed the entire body, and studied two more unusual characteristics; a T-shaped suture, about 8 inches in length with a 3 inch horizontal leg, ran from the center of her throat, down and across the collar bone. Another suture about 12 or so inches long, ran from just below the center of the ribcage, and terminated just above the mons veneris. Both of the closures appeared rudimentary and crudely done, as if the attending physician was unconcerned with proper healing of the wounds or unnecessary scarring.

I looked at Wallace and said, Tell me what happened. He set the lantern on the edge of the table, and with a grim expression, told his tale:

“I was up in the house, about 4AM, sitting in the kitchen, when I heard one of the cows bellow something awful. By the time I got my gun and out the door, the dogs were already halfway down the hill raising ten kinds of hell. They jumped the fence and tore across the meadow. I followed, saw shapes moving around in the mist near the tree line, and headed that direction.

I made out my heifer down on the ground, them things crawling all over her, bawling like she was being torn apart. I heard more bellowing to my right and saw a calf stumbling with one of them smaller things astride; torn-off ears in one hand, gouging out the poor thing’s eyes with the other. Another little one ran alongside, clawin’ like a lion at the calf’s ribs . The dogs tore into that one right away, and had all they could handle even before the other one jumped off the calf and onto Ajax.

Luckily, I’d thrown my shell bag over my shoulder so I had plenty of fire to dish out. I set to on the three bigger ones that was working the heifer over. They’d yelp and squeal when the shot hit ‘em, but I couldn’t get one of them down. Until that one laying there reared up and decided to make a go straight for me.

About ten yards out, I opened up with both barrels head high and that did the trick. She let out a howl like I never heard in my life and don’t want to hear ever again and then went down and stayed down. Well, that set the rest of them high tails back into the trees, screaming like a horde of bansiths. The dogs limped over to me and it was plain they’d had the worst of it; there’s no telling’ what would have happened to me if they’d not been there.

I checked on the cows and found the two of them dead, a mess of guts and naught else, and no sign of t’other. I come back over to this one laying there all still and carried her into the barn here. After I fetched the lantern and saw her in the light, I couldn’t believe my eyes.”

What did the rest of them look like, I asked, dreading what I suspected would be the answer.

There was 5 of them as far as I could tell in the darkness; one that looked like a giant of a man, well over 6 and half feet; another that was shorter and kind of spindly; the two others the size of children; and this one.

What did the children look like; Could you make them out at all.

I’d say that the one riding the calf was a boy, and the one tagging alongside clawing at that poor calf, from her dress, was a little girl.

I believe I’ve seen the boy, I said; sure in the knowledge that he was the feral child I’d encountered at Sterns-Carson; And I fear that I know who the little girl will turn out to be.

The anguished face of  Ethel McCutcheon loomed in my memory as I spoke those words; and her pain became my pain, along with the knowing that she must never discover what happened to her beloved child.

There was more evil abroad last night, I said; Sadie Faire was butchered and left down the hill from the tracks near Page Street Station.

The whore we encountered at the Grand Hotel, Wallace said.

Yes, I answered, without arguing the point; I’d come here to fetch you to go with me and Sheriff Blackwell out to Echo Lake, but you’ve got a handful here.

To kill the serpent, Wallace said, you’ve got to breach the lair and take off the head. I’ve no real illusions about saving Ajax or any of the cows; Sampson will survive; Mary is at Sterns-Carson, so I know she’s safe from all of this; I’ll go with you.

I didn’t mention that I suspected Sterns-Carson may very well be the eye of this storm; I hoped that I would not regret that decision as events unfolded, but I needed Wallace with me, needed him by my side to face our common enemy; Blackwell seemed to be a man with mettle, but I did not know how he would react when faced with the embodiment of pure evil.

Let’s put this one in the ground and be off, Wallace said.

We’ve got to burn the body, I replied; I suspect that this poor girl was already dead when you shot her; A reanimated handmaiden, doing the bidding of one who chooses not to be known until the time is ripe; To leave her like this, I don’t know that she won’t rise again.

Do you know what you are saying, Michael, Wallace asked in a flat tone.

Time is of the essence, my friend, I replied; We must act quickly, or face consequences that no men in countless generations have faced.

I’ll build a bier out back, he said, pile the dead calf and the girl and burn them both.

I merely nodded at his outrageous suggestion, as if Wallace and I were agreeing on the weather.burning evil ’Tis odd how gruesome doings can become mundane and cold-blooded when circumstances warrant, but we face an enemy who has, I fear, only begun to show us the ways of malice and beastliness.

I pray to Our Lord that He guide my hand and my mind and grant us the power to shunt the evil ones back to the darkness from whence they came.

©2013 j.edwardfitzgerald all rights reserved

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One Response to “~ the raven chronicles ~ 45”

  1. Teresa Blackburn October 11, 2013 at 7:15 am #

    Oh I am so glad to have returned to Echo Lake! Eerie and macabre and perfect for October. By the way, these people give me the creeps! But, I do think that is the idea and it works. Looking forward to the next chapter EF.

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