When Darcy saw Lana Creed step out of the back of the church and slip among her friends with an incredibly smug look on her face, she knew there was going to be trouble. She seemed so utterly satisfied with whatever she had done that Darcy felt certain that whatever it was, it was not only mean but possibly even violent.
It was that moment that Darcy decided it was time to beat the hell out of that girl. Consequences be damned, if her parents weren’t going to their job, then she would.
Darcy had always felt some measure of personal responsibility for what happened to her cousin Becky Masterson even though guilt never played a part in it. Lana had been incredibly jealous of Becky when they were ten simply because Becky’s ability to dance ballet had been significantly higher. Darcy recalled her mother once referring to her as a child protégé.
Lana had mercilessly abused Becky verbally before the incident and Darcy had always felt that had she just broken Lana’s arm like she wanted and not listened to all those whiners yapping about being “ladylike” and “letting it go,” Lan wouldn’t have dared push Becky down the stone stairs that ended with a severe spinal injury at the neck. It would have been well worth a couple of years in juvenile hall to save her cousin from a lifetime in a wheelchair.
The bitch lawyer be damned! It was time for Lana Creed to pay.
As Darcy approached Lana, Lana’s friends began to look nervously at her. They had all learned a long time ago that Darcy was more than just talk and she knew each and every one of them in turn.
Denise Dannel, Lucy Sanderson, Trisha Warrington, who was probably the saddest girl Darcy had ever met, and dirty Jamie Roberts who had the same first name as Darcy’s only close female friend. Jamie was poor and went to Bay City High School, which Lana had to go to since she was kicked out of her fancy New York private school, and, for God only knew what reason, had latched onto Lana. Why she was still in Bartlett Bay when her family’s trailer park was almost certainly underwater was anyone’s guess.
None of them had the nerve to say a word as Darcy walked among them. “It’s time we talked, bitch,” she told Lana.
Lana’s eyes went wide in mockery and she gave that familiar egotistical smile. “Oh really?”
“It’s just code for ‘I’m going to kick the living shit out of you,’” Darcy replied and all the girls, except for Jamie, moved further away. Jamie was the only one who knew how to fight and, unlike the others, she needed Lana’s wealth more than her friendship.
Lana’s eyes focused on Darcy’s, saw she wasn’t joking and became worried because, of all the things Lana was, brave wasn’t one of them. She looked at her friends and none of them, not even her slave Jamie, had the nerve to speak out for her.
Lana opened her mouth to say something predictable and Darcy added, “I’m going to hurt you a whole lot worse if you threaten to bring your mother into this.”
Jamie took a step forward and finally said, “What’s your—”
“Bitch,” said Darcy, “I will break your fucking nose if you get between me and your master.” Jamie swallowed and took a step back nervously.
“Ethan said something to you,” said Lana bitterly, her eyes oozing with suspicion. “He’s made you brave somehow.”
Darcy burst into genuine laughter. “Oh my God!” she said amidst her laughing. “You just can’t handle any kind of responsibility, can you?” She then took a deep breath and said, “Okay,” before her face turned dark and she gestured for Lana to approach with her left index and middle finger. “Now Lana,” she said coldly, “I need you to step down off your imaginary throne, walk the thousand steps down to the ground and take your motherfucking medicine.”
Lana did not walk toward her, which Darcy was not in the least bit surprised, but she didn’t approach Lana herself because she wanted all of Lana’s friends to see what a coward and weakling their leader was. “You’re just jealous,” said Lana. “You’re just jealous and angry that Dustin liked me more than you.”
“I’m much better looking than you and I’m not particularly impressed by your ability to steal away a boy through the giving away free sex.” She pointed a finger at her. “Or did he pay you out of professional courtesy?” Lana smiled, out of a mentally perceived victory, a complete lack of feminine honor or both, and Darcy put her hands on her hips and sighed. “Well Lana, if you’re so fucking amazing why don’t you just come over here and show me.”
Lana’s smile only grew wider. “Oh just because I can’t defeat an ape in physical combat doesn’t mean I’m—” her eyes filled with fear at something behind her “—shit.”
Darcy tilted her head over her shoulder and frowned at what she saw.
Stepping out of the woods about thirty feet behind her from the woods to the west of the church was a young man so beautiful he was nearly angelic. He had a slender, muscular kind of look to him similar to an underwear model with gold hair made up in some kind of slick Elvis Presley pompadour with very light blue eyes set in a sculpted supermodel type face. He was wearing a 1950s style Bay City High School letterman jacket, dark purple vest and cuffs with dark green sleeves, a white t-shirt tucked into jeans that were too long and ended up rolled up from the bottom to reveal brown Converse shoes.
Something about the snow-white color of his skin and the way his glazed eyes focused on Lana told Darcy something was very wrong with him but she couldn’t pinpoint the exact reason at just a glance. It could easily be makeup of course but for some unknown reason, a nagging doubt lingered at the back of her mind.
Lana swallowed, genuinely scared, and said, “Vinnie, w-why are you—”
“Don’t insult my intelligence, Lana,” he said in a cold, hollow voice that sent shivers up and down Darcy’s spine.
“Just exactly what the hell are you supposed to be?” asked Darcy.
Vinnie looked at her, blinked once, and then looked back at Lana. “We’re going to go to someplace quiet, Lana, and there we’re going to bash some ears for a while.” Lana looked at him blankly and he sighed and added, “A chat—” his eyes darkly narrowed “—right now. You five, fuck off.”
Denise, Lucy and Trisha instantly started to leave quietly but when Jamie tried to follow Lana’s hand shot out, caught her by the shoulder and yanked her back. “Where the fuck are you all going?” hissed Lana in sudden panic.
They all sense what’s wrong with them, thought Darcy.
“Look,” said Lucy, “We don’t want to get involved with—” Suddenly two other boys stepped out of the woods. One was a remarkably average-looking boy with a baseball bat resting on his shoulder and very dark hair combed back and to the side in a proper 1950s-esque manner. The other was a short, attractive, if a bit weaselly looking, boy with slick black hair combed forward to look like lawnmower spikes.
Like the blond, they both white skin and a kind of glazed-over look in their eyes and wore those 1950s letterman jackets.
“—w-with whatever this is,” Lucy concluded nervously.
“Smart,” said Vinnie in that cold voice of his as the girls awkwardly moved past him, his eyes coldly locked on them. The other two watched them go in what seemed a far livelier than he, their eyes not quite as glazed and their personalities not quite as cold.
“We’ll get Ethan!” cried Denise Dannel when they were at the edge of the church and then they began sprinting toward the parking area for their car.
The name “Ethan” flipped a switch in Lana’s mind and she shrieked, “He’s inside!” but they didn’t seem to hear or pretended not to. Darcy was reasonably certain they couldn’t have missed Ethan entering the church.
“Okay,” said Darcy, “What the hell is going on here?”
“You like her, don’t you,” said Lana quickly. “You should take her instead. She’s Darcy Hamilton, a daughter of one of the richest assholes in this city and you all hate rich assholes.”
“I’m going to seriously hurt you for that, Lana,” said Darcy.
Vinnie shook his head slowly. “You’ve gone and fucked us royally and now you think we’ll just grab some random cooze and leave you alone in exchange? It’s personal, you dumb fuck skirt.”
“Just what the hell are you losers talking about?” asked Darcy.
The average-looking one with the bat smiled in an oddly gentle, perhaps even kind, sort of way and said, “As if you even have the ability to give this wildcat away, Lana.”
“I could take her,” said the weaselly-looking one.
“I don’t think so,” replied the one with the bat.
Vinnie looked Darcy straight in the face and, to her surprise, answered her question. “She stole something from us and we think she put what she stole that church—” Lana suddenly sprinted back away up a path leading up the hill into the graveyard and Jamie turned and rushed after.
“Is it dangerous?” asked Darcy.
“Why don’t you go wait in the church and find out?”
Darcy rolled her eyes, turned and walked after the two girls into the graveyard. “I like your ass,” said the weaselly looking and when she looked back she saw that he held out a switchblade in his right hand. “You want to tussle, baby doll?” he asked and pressed the button on the side and the blade shot out. “I’m real good.”
“Not with you, Pee-Wee.” His eyes went wide in shock and the other two burst out laughing.
“I like her,” said the one with the bat.
Darcy followed the path up a small slope and there saw the graveyard under the nearly full moon. It was a creepy, old place filled with metal and stone crosses and typical stone markers all around dotting the unmaintained landscape everywhere except to the east where there were a half dozen or so crypts.
Surrounding the graveyard were tall metal fences reaching up to the tree branches ending in spear-like spikes that could easily kill a clumsy climber. It had been started in the 17th century and had been in use until the first incident in the church shut it and the church down simultaneously. She did not exactly know what the incident was, no one ever seemed to know much about it except that involved a priest named Edwards, but she did know it scared any who did rather deeply and they never talked about it.
One of those crypts to her east the first Hamilton family crypt and in there were the remains of at least five generations of Hamiltons, which included Muire Lindsay and the sister that married who married into the family and was Darcy’s direct ancestor.
At the other entrance across the hilltop, Darcy saw Lana stumbling back into the graveyard away from three other ghost-white boys who, just like some kind gang insignia, also wore those same lettermen jackets.
The one on the right was a kind of boyishly handsome young man with dark brown hair combed in such a way that it parted on the left side of his head and hung down on the right just over his right eye. His hands held another baseball bat in readied fashion and he wore a white t-shirt tucked into blue jeans with their bottoms rolled up just like Vinnie’s was.
The one on the right was a larger boy, well over six-foot tall and as thickly built like a linebacker, wearing a buttoned-up gray dress shirt tucked into brown slacks. He had caught Jamie in his arms, covering her mouth with his left arm while holding her body against his with his right, her legs flailing out wildly.
But it was only the one in the center that made Darcy genuinely nervous. He stepped out of the shadows like a killer hiding in a closet, his straight, reddish-brown hair split in the center with attractive, slanted eyes that locked on Lana’s like a wolf hunting its prey, his handsome face lit up with a disturbing grinning tooth leer. Under his letterman jacket, he wore a dark red polo shirt over a white shirt tucked into black slacks, and bright red Converse shoes on.
He carried a fireman’s axe.
“Lana, Lana, Lana,” the axe man said cheerfully as he approached her, his axe resting on his shoulder casually. “Why ever do you run from us? Are we not pals?”
“No names in front of strangers, queen,” he said and then he caught sight of Darcy. He hesitated for a second, his eyes moving over her admiringly, and then added, “You didn’t tell her too much, did you? I’d have to hack that perfect body of hers to pieces if you did.”
He wasn’t bluffing. Darcy could see it in his eyes.
Darcy rushed over to a nearby metal cross with sharp pointed ends on the top and sides, kicked it as hard as she could, and when it jerked over diagonally, she grabbed it with both hands, ripped it off its stone, and held it out in front of her as a two-foot long improvised weapon.
“Do you think that scares me?” asked Buzz.
“Do you honestly think I’m arming myself because I give a shit whether you’re scared or not,” she replied.
Buzz’s eyes took on a less pleasant lust-filled look and said, “What a woman.”
“Hey, why isn’t anyone breathing?” asked a high-pitched voice and everyone looked up to see Mickey sitting on the diagonal edge of a dark angular crypt overlooking the graveyard, so black he was barely visible. It was that crypt, specifically the Edwards Crypt, that Darcy was supposed to get a picture of herself standing in front of that night. It was a tall, even darker and more unpleasant crypt that’s underground’s burial chamber, rumor persistently stated, had a secret door that led to a series of catacombs under the church.
“A talking bird?” cried Buzz happily. “That’s like crazy! Didn’t old man McCoy sell those?”
Darcy quickly saw Mickey was right. It was the very thing she had sensed wrong from the beginning but had eluded her. “You’re dead,” she whispered and she looked back to see the three from below had walked up the path behind her. “You’re all dead!”
“Correct,” said Buzz. “We are definitely dead and now so are you.”
Darcy spun around the instant she sensed someone rushing up behind her and slashed the weaselly boy across the throat as lunged at her with his knife. He stumbled back clutching his throat with his left hand but no blood came out. For a quick instant, she had seen bone, pipes and flesh spread open before her like some kind of Hollywood special effect before he grabbed his throat in shock-horror.
His face filled up with incredible loathing and then said something that could not quite be understood because of how much of his throat was missing. However, Darcy read the words “kill you” on his lips well enough and with that, she then stepped forward and sliced him across the face violently enough to take out his left eye. He screamed silently and stumbled away.
“Told you,” said the average-looking man with the bat.
“Just kill her Creed,” said Vinnie.
“Do I have—”
“Yes! You do!”
The average-looking one with a bat sighed, looked conflicted for a moment and then rushed forward. He swung his bat too wide, clearly on purpose, and she ducked his swing, moved up behind him and stabbed him in the side where she instinctively knew it would not be fatal. It caught on something inside of him and when he jerked away from her, he took the metal cross with him. She looked up less than an instant later and saw Buzz was charging across the graveyard toward her with an ecstatic expression on his face.
She stepped aside as he swung his axe down in a chop and she then punched him hard enough in the face to break something. He swung the axe across her and she jumped back, narrowly missing it by an inch and grateful he wasn’t higher or he might have hit her breasts. When that swing took him over a bit she stepped forward and kicked him in the chest hard enough to send him stumbling backward.
“You tore your dress, little girl,” Buzz replied with a laugh and then Vinnie came up behind Darcy and tried to wrap his arms around her. She elbowed him in the ribs hard enough to possibly break them and then threw her head back into his face hard enough to definitely break his nose. He made no noise or any apparent pain-related reaction but he did step back clutching his nose calmly.
“What a woman,” said Buzz in awe and he swung his axe around.
Jamie let out a scream as she got loose and she charged across the graveyard with the big boy chasing after. The handsome one beside her started toward Lana who had tried to climb the metal fence. “Slick, wait!” she cried as he got her lower body and then she shrieked when grabbed at her hair. She ducked his hand, got free and rushed started toward her exit to the north. She saw something Darcy couldn’t that frightened her and then sprinted instead across the graveyard toward the exit that had come in.
“The bitch took out my eye!” hacked out the weaselly one.
“Shut up, Willie.”
“You know who I am?” Buzz asked Darcy with a wide smile.
“Yeah,” said Darcy. “You were here twenty-six years ago.” He made a move for her but she didn’t react because she sensed it was false.
“And yet you are not afraid.” Buzz smiled wider and swung the axe around in his right hand in a casual way a normal person might have cracked their knuckles, each swing making a loud whoosh sound. “It’s true I did a couple of things Mama would not be too proud of.” He looked her over a moment, his eyes locking on her low bodice for longer than necessary. “How about you? You do things Mama would not be proud of?”
“My mama loves me because I don’t spread my legs for every man I see.” She was not lying. Darcy’s mother had a very lady-like personality both by her upbringing and by her nature and Darcy’s older sister was a notorious slut that horrified her to no end while her younger sister was steadily turning into her clone. Darcy was in between in personality as well as birth.
“Your grandmother was June Rogers, wasn’t she?” Darcy frowned, wondering how he knew who her grandmother was. “She was like you in that she acted the big wheel—” he made a move at her again but again she didn’t react to a feint and he looked frustrated “—except she was the school punch. We all had her but I guess a Hamilton kept her. You come from sluts, little girl—”
He suddenly swung viciously at her throat and she stepped back, the axe missing by inches, and then moved herself forward and punched him three times in the ribs as hard as she could, and then jumped back as he spun around and swung again. After dodging that, she punched him in the mouth hard enough to shatter several teeth.
“You fucking bitch!” he cried as he stumbled away.
Vinnie came back at her, and she turned and kicked him in the groin. “You fucking bitch!” he echoed Buzz and then he threw his fist toward her face. She knocked his hand aside, punched him in the damaged ribs, breaking them that time, and then shoved him over onto the ground.
“Should I do something?” asked Mickey.
“No, I got it.” Darcy smiled at them. “They’re just a bunch of pussies.” She did not believe that in the slightest. It was simply a method of getting them to lose their tempers and give her openings that she could exploit.
Buzz screamed, charged forward, and swung recklessly wild. She caught it, used his momentum to yank from the axe from his hands, then spun around to get her own and then buried it right into his left shoulder. He grunted, eyes filled with shock, and then he stared into her face with some odd sense of amusement. “Why you evil little cooze,” he said and then he smiled with a mouth full of broken teeth and added, “What a woman.”
Darcy looked in him straight in the eyes and twisted the axe. He grunted again, smiled wider, and continued to look at her in that amused way.
“You can’t kill us, you little tease, you. We’re already dead.”
She ripped the axe from his body and then swung it right at his center. He tried to move back, was too slow, and Darcy buried the axe into his ribs on his left side. He fell to his knees but as she was about to pull the axe out, he grabbed it.
Lana rushed past Darcy as she tried to get the axe free and then shoved over Willie as he tried to grab at her.
Darcy could not pull the axe out and then the one Lana called Slick moved past Darcy as if he was going to follow Lana but then jerked toward Darcy and swung the bat as hard as she could. Darcy dropped the axe, rolled, and the bat hit a stone grave so hard the wood shattered.
“Son of a bitch!” Slick cried.
Vinnie jumped at Lana but she sidestepped him, actually quite a good athlete, and then charged down the path back to the church. He looked at her for a moment then looked up at Darcy.
Darcy yanked the cross out of Creed’s side, who made no noise or move in response, and then charged after Lana down the path.
“We’ll meet again, Darcy Hamilton,” cried Vinnie as she sprinted by.
“What a woman!” cried Buzz cheerfully.
Darcy stopped halfway back to the front of the church, saw no one anywhere, and then Mickey landed down on her left shoulder.
“Two more caught Lana and dragged her that way,” Mickey told her and he pointed in the direction of the darkest section of trees with one of those weird little arms of his. “The others are running after them down another path to the north.”
“Shit!” Darcy hissed.
She threw herself into the darkness under the trees and crept carefully afterward while Mickey flew up into the air above the trees. She did not see anyone or anything until she had made it all the way to Wicker St where she saw a few of them, Vinnie, Willie and Creed, pile into a familiar, and very unwelcome, black car and then vanish with it down the street.
It was a completely black 1970 Plymouth Barracuda, exactly like the one strongly rumored to roam driverless among the streets north of Interstate 95 around Cooper St. It had been spotted around all the farms, the Gurneys and the Fullers mostly, the abandoned Kurtwood Mental Hospital, and the crazy old Merrick who ran the Merrick’s private airstrip claimed he saw that, and aliens, all the time.
There were unsolved vehicular homicides on those streets going as far back as the 1970s that were blamed by that car although there was no proof.
She walked out of the woods up to where the car had been parked and found Lana’s witch pendant lying on the ground. Mickey casually landed on her shoulder and asked, “Who and what are they?”
“I have no idea,” Darcy replied as she picked up the pendant. “I really, really don’t.”
She then felt a twinge of pity for Lana and thought perhaps it wasn’t entirely her fault for the way she was. It was her mother’s fault, she decided. You can’t spoil a girl as much as Lana without her becoming so arrogant that in the end, it makes her genuinely stupid.
If it weren’t for those undead boys, it would have been something else. A street gang she thought she could push around, a violent husband she thought she could control, a car driven recklessly fast in the rain due to her unshakable confidence nothing bad could ever befall her: some inevitably error of judgment that Darcy, and later Ethan, had seen coming a long time ago.
“That kind of pride always ends badly,” she said to herself.
“What do you mean?” asked Mickey.
“Nothing,” she replied and she turned to him. “Can you follow them for me?”
“Sure. Will they go far you think?”
“I doubt it,” she replied and she looked at him. “I think they’ll be going into the Engelstad. Everything bad in this town always seems to begin or end there.”
“Where will you be?” he asked.
“It doesn’t matter,” she replied. “I just want to know where they came from in case I run into them again. I’ll ask you about it when I see you and Ethan again later. Mickey, do not let them see you.”
“I won’t,” he replied and he spread his wings as he readied to fly.
“Mickey.” He looked at her. “Don’t go into those woods under any circumstances. Don’t even fly over them. You understand?”
“I do,” he replied and then flew off.
Darcy sighed, went back to her dark blue 2009 Prius and, after making sure no one was hiding in the back, drove off. She was done with Halloween and decided to call it a night as she was volunteering the following morning to help with the flood. She felt after that nightmare of an evening, she deserved a treat and decided she was going to open up a small Snickers flavored Baskin Robbins she had hidden in the back of her freezer for when she was feeling down.
She tossed the cross out of the window as she left the church grounds and started back up along Charlotte St toward Gagne St. As she did, from out of the darkness, a figure appeared on her right amidst the trees between Charlotte St and Edwards Grove.
It was Buzz. He stepped out of the shadows at the last second to reveal himself and then with two left fingers he pointed to his eyes and with one at her before giving a salute with his axe. Then as he was disappearing around a corner, she saw him cry out something and, although she could not hear what it was, she knew exactly what he was saying.
“What a woman!” he had cried.
And then he was gone from sight and back into the darkness where she imagined he had been hiding for the last sixty years or so.