Chapter Five: Bar Brawl
As the day slowly faded away and dusk fell over the land, I and Paul found ourselves standing in front of Red's Bar, a small establishment in the center of Sanctuary Hill. It had been a hotel once, and it was rather run down, now the ancient building served as a watering hole and gathering spot for the local alcoholics as well as the old timers who nightly gathered at Red's.
Paul looked at me and asked, "are you sure you want to go in there?"
"OK," he said, "just don't expect a warm welcome from the guys inside."
We stood silently for a moment then we entered, I was eager to learn a little more about town history, though I knew it there was only a slim chance that I would be able to learn anything useful. But logic was not was dictating my actions, no, I was not sure what was driving me. Maybe it was the hope that I could somehow vindicate my mother as well as myself.
The bar was thick with cigarette smoke and the noise of idle conversation between the many patrons of Red's. Some men where sitting at the bar as they slowly drank their beers, at the back part of the bar sat four old men, the old timers, the people who knew everything about Sanctuary Hill. Red himself, an elderly man of generous girth and large muscular arms, stood behind the bar wiping down a glass. No one seemed to take any notice of Paul and I.
Paul whispered to me, "let me buy you a drink."
"Sorry, I gave up drinking a year ago," I said.
Paul shook his head. "just nurse a beer slowly man, we don't want to stick out like a sore thumb."
I and Paul sat down on two stools beside the bar and Red approached us then asked, "and what will you two have tonight gentlemen?"
Paul replied, "two beers, for me and my friend here."
Red looked at me then asked Paul, "and who is your friend?"
I extended my hand to Red. "Name is Luther."
Red frowned at me, then he asked, "you wouldn't be Luther Redstone."
I told him, "Yeah, so what?"
Red turned to Paul and said to him, "your friend has a lot of nerve coming here, hell, he has a lot of nerve coming back to this town."
Paul shrugged. "Jesus Red, I thought you weren't an asshole. Luther is an OK guy, I assure you."
Red retrieved two mugs and filled them with beer from the tap then placed them in front of us. Paul started to drink while I looked nervously at my beer. Ending my drinking problem had been a hard battle to win, and the temptation to resume drinking again had always been there. I did as Paul suggested, I slowly downed my beer.
Red looked at me, his eyes where full of suspicion. He commented, "funny that someone should kill old Ma the exact same week you returned."
I told him firmly, "Ma was a friend of mine; she was one of the few people around here that didn't treat my family like we where guilty of something. I want to find her killer just as much as anyone else does."
Red asked, "are you going to make trouble?"
"No," I told him.
"OK," Red said, "if you aren't going to make any trouble for me, then I got no problem with you."
Paul turned to Red and asked, "do you think the old timers would mind talking to Luther and myself?"
Red shook his head. "They don't talk to anyone, at least, not for free. If you give them some money, I suppose it might loosen their lips."
Paul and I got up and walked over to the gloomy end of the room where the four old men sat in a booth, drinking heavily and talking. Then they noticed Paul and I approach, and the four of them turned to us.
The eldest of the men, a guy who could have easily been in his nineties, was the first to speak. He asked, "what in the hell do the two of you want?"
Paul said, "hello Edward, how is it going?"
The eldest man, Edward, looked at me for a moment then turned away. He told me, "I will not speak with the bastard son of Tiffany Redstone. We all know what your mother did, and you are her blood."
Paul looked at me then said, "Luther, got any money on you?"
I reached into my coat pocket and pulled out my wallet. I produced hundred dollars and asked, "will this be enough to get you to talk to us?"
The three other elderly men didn't seem to be especially interested, but Edward looked greedily at the money and said, "OK, I might talk with you. For a little while at least. Let us sit at another booth."
Me and Paul sat down at the next booth and Edward, who moved with much strained effort, joined us. He seemed to walk with a severe limp, and I could tell by his expression that the act of moving caused him much pain.
I asked him, "are you OK?"
Edward snapped, "I will talk to you, but I don't want your God damn sympathy."
"OK, I got it," I replied.
Edward said, "so, what do you want to know?"
"Some town history actually," I responded.
Edward nodded. "You came to the right person then, though Sanctuary Hill's history is a very long subject, is their anything in particular you would like to know."
I asked, "people seem to think there is a unusual number of disappearances in these parts. What do you know about that?"
Edward seemed to mull over the question for a second then said, "yes, that is true. In the past fifteen years, we have had over two dozen people simply vanish without a trace. Though several decades ago, disappearances where practically unheard of. Sure, we have had some tragic events in these town. You see, this town has always been unlucky, going all the way back to when the town was founded. It seems that there has always been a unusually high amount of tragedies around here."
Paul added, "yeah, the fabled curse."
Edward frowned. "The curse is real, it seems that some black cloud hangs over this town. You see, the story of how this town was founded is also somewhat tragic in itself."
"I would like to hear it," I said.
Edward began his tale.
"Two hundred and something years ago, Scottish settlers came to this area and established several towns in this area. Sanctuary Hill was the first town to be founded in these parts, and at that time, this area was still wild and untamed. The town's founder, Garry McCloud, built his town on the top of a tall him from which you could see the surrounding land for miles away. From the very start though, this town was unlucky. After the city hall was built, Garry McCloud was stricken with a terrible madness, and those who had founded this town with him surmised that he was possessed by a demon. In his madness, McCloud ranted and raved about some evil that haunted within these lands and he claimed that a day would come when all who lived in this town would be claimed by this unnamed evil of which he spoke. Sadly, McCloud was hanged by the towns people, he hung from the large oak tree in the cemetery. But before he was hanged, McCloud still tried to warn his former friends, now his murderers, that they, their children and their children's children where in great danger."
I said, "I've never heard of any of this."
"No," Edward told me, "many around here don't know about it, most people around here are completely ignorant of the dark history of this town. They don't know because they prefer not to know."
Paul asked, "but the high rate of disappearances, that only started happening relatively recently."
Edward nodded. "yes, actually, it started a year after that whole incident with your mother transpired. I would say she was responsible, but people vanished after she was put away."
I asked, "do you have any idea why so many people simply disappear in these parts?"
"No, but I know this sounds foolish, but I believe it has to do with the curse. Something evil is at work in this town, though what I'm completely ignorant of what it is exactly."
Paul turned to me, "Luther, I don't see how this is going to help you clear your mother's name. Sounds like a complete load of shit."
Edward seemed taken aback by this. "What, do you actually believe Tiffany Redstone is innocent of the death of those two poor boys?"
I nodded. "I know she didn't do it, I've always known though I've just realized it lately."
Edward seemed skeptical. "So, you are here to see if I can help prove your mother's innocence. Well, sorry, but she was guilty, she confessed."
I said adamantly, "you said that people began to vanish right around the same time it happened, is it hard to believe that all the disappearances are not connected. That there is someone responsible for all of it, for what happened to those boys, for what happened to Ma. That there might be a killer lurking in this community."
Edward shook his head in denial. "No, I can't believe anyone here could be responsible for such things. And what about you, the Redstone son returns right around the same time as Ma is murdered. Maybe it is you."
Paul said, "fuck you Edward, I've known this guy since we where kids, and all the bad shit people say about him is wrong."
Edward turned to Paul. "I've always known you to be a OK guy Paul, but I can't for the life of me figure out why you became friends with a Redstone."
I asked, "listen, my mother is innocent, is there anything you can tell me, any idea about who in this community could have it in them to do something like murder?"
Edward shook his head again. "No, I don't know of anyone who has it in them to do such things, honestly, you are the only I can see doing it."
Paul pounded his fist down on the table. "Edward, I'm vouching for this guy, it has to be someone else."
Edward started to get up and he said, "OK, your time is up, I don't think I want to speak with the two of you anymore."
Now I was alone with Paul in the booth. He turned to me and stated, "Well, that was a waste of both time and money. Luther, I think you might want to let this one go."
I said, "Paul, I have to find the answer to this, I have to know if my mother was truly guilty. All these years I carried this weight on my shoulder, like I had done something wrong, my mother's memory makes me feel guilty. I would like to remember her as the good woman who raised me, not as some monster who did something so horrible."
Paul told me, "so, you want to play detective and start snooping around. Man, maybe you should go back to the city, this town might be the last place in the world where you should live."
I asked, "why do you stay in this one horse town Paul? What keeps you here?"
Paul pondered my question then replied, "I guess because of the farm, my roots are here as well as everything I've ever known. For better or for worse, this place is my home."
"Exactly," I said, "my roots are here to, this place is my home and I realized that recently. I tried to escape this place, but I can't, and if I'm ever to be at peace with myself, I have to find out the answer to why my mother was taken away from me, why I felt like I had done something wrong for so long."
Paul shrugged. "Luther, what happens if the answer your looking for is not the one you want."
Then I noticed a group of men enter the bar. Standing at the front the group was a tall, well built guy with copper hair and a very prominent jaw. It took me a moment to realize that it was Carl Smith, the Carl Smith who had made my life such hell in my youth, who had spread much hatred towards my family. With him where the same two guys he used to hang around with in school; a short guy with sleek brunette hair and wearing the a leather jacket and whose name was Fred; the other guy was a tall, very muscular guy with a shaven head whose name was Gerald. This was the same gang who beat me to a pulp more then once.
Paul muttered, "Oh shit."
Carl approached Red who was still behind the bar, and Red pointed towards us then Carl and his lackeys approached. Carl still had the same smug expression I had remembered from so long ago.
Paul raised his mug of beer towards them and asked, "would you like to have a drink with us?"
Carl scowled at me then said, "well, well, well. It seems little Luther Redstone has come back, and someone dies. Seems I was right about you."
"Carl," I said, "it has been over ten years and you still got being a colossal prick down to a fine art."
I hated the fact that Lizbeth, who I still loved after all those years, was married to the guy who had made my life so hard. He didn't deserve such a good woman, and I found myself hating him, not for what he had said or done to me in the past, but for the fact that he had the love of the best woman I had ever known.
Paul looked at me. "Easy Luther, we don't want any trouble."
Carl said, "You've got trouble, more trouble then you want."
I asked, "what do you want Carl?"
Carl grabbed my beer which was on the table then poured it on me, drenching my clothes. Carl asked, "are you going to leave town or am I going to have to make you?"
Then it all happened in quick succession. Paul threw the beer in his mug at Carl, and then he was as drenched as I. Carl, obviously infuriated by this, grabbed Paul by his collar and pulled him up onto his feet. Paul, who had always been a scrapper and the type of guy you want on your side in a fight, drove his knee into Carl's stomach and managed to knock the wind out of him. Carl fell to his knees as he gasped desperately for breath.
Fred shouted, "come on you fuck."
Gerald tried to grab Paul, but I jumped out of my seat and charged into Gerald and knocked him to the ground. This was a bad idea since Gerald was far more stronger then I. We both fell to the ground, and I was on top of him. I started to rain down blows on Gerald, though he was able to use his leg to knock me off from on top of him.
Fred, who I remembered as being a coward, stepped away and left the four of us to fight. Paul stood over Carl, Paul being an honorable guy, he waited for Carl to catch his breath before they resumed fighting. Carl rose to his feet, the rage evident in his eyes, and looked right at Paul.
Carl sneered, "Jackson, you should know better then to stand up for this piece of shit."
Paul replied, "I'm looking at the only piece of shit in this room."
Gerald and I stood before each other, I had no chance to beat him in a straight on fight, but I head butted him in the face and a small trickle of blood began to pour from his nose.
Gerald yelled, "you bastard!"
Paul and Carl started to trade blows, and it was obvious that Paul would be the victor in this fight, I had always known him to be a tough customer, and like many times in my youth, I was grateful that I could call him friend.
Then Red shouted, "stop it right now or I'm going to phone the cops!"
The fight ended abruptly and Carl and his cronies began to back away from us and towards the Bar's exit.
Carl said to me, "this isn't over Redstone, I won't stop until you leave town."
I told him, "I'm not going anywhere."
Carl and his two friends left the bar.
Red turned to Paul and I and said, "you two, get out and don't come back."
So Paul and I left.
It was night when my truck pulled into the driveway of Paul's farm. It was a clear night, the stars blazed in the night sky and a fat harvest moon hung above us. A strong wind was blowing in from the north.
Paul and I sat in the cab of my truck for awhile, silent and still hurting from the fight. Then the silence was broken when Paul said, "God, doesn't it feel just like old times. It is like we are teenagers again, we used to get into a lot of fights back then to. Luther, I'm glad your back. Feel young again."
I asked him, "Jesus Paul, why have you been my friend through of all of this?"
Paul replied, "because, we where friends before all that stuff with your family, and I don't turn my back on friends. Besides, nothing gets the heart going like a good fight."
I smiled. "I'm glad to see that you still can throw down better then any other guy I've ever known."
Paul asked, "so, how do you honestly feel about Lizbeth and Carl being man and wife?"
"She is to good for him, hell, she is to good for anyone in this entire town. She deserves better then this."
"I remember," Paul said, "when you left, Lizbeth was really broken up."
I looked down. "Anyways, Paul, I'm damn glad that I can call you friend."
"Yeah, well, I better be off. Sorry we didn't learn anything useful tonight. Let me ask you, are you still going to look into this subject?"
I nodded. "Yeah, I think I'll poke around town and see if I can find anything out."
Paul opened the passenger door then got out. He said, "just be careful, some people around here have already picked you as the guy who killed Ma. I'll be off then, have a good one Luther."
"You too, take it easy."
Paul closed the door and started down his long driveway and I drove off.
I realized something was amiss from the moment my trucked pulled into the driveway of the house I had moved into . My front door swinging in the wind, and the glass window in the door and been smashed. Even from inside my truck, I could smell something which smelt like decomposing meat. I grabbed the tire iron from behind my seat and stepped out of the truck. My first assumption was that some locals had trashed my front door, though I had never encountered such a situation before all the years I lived in Sanctuary Hill before.
I approached the steps the went up onto my porch and that is when I saw it. There was a trail of some substance, a purplish slime, leading up the porch steps and into the house. There where several deceased worms lying in the muck. The substance reeked of decay and it made my stomach feel violently sick, I held my hand to my mouth and was trying my hardest not to vomit. I mind couldn't grasp what was happening.
I raised the tire iron and shouted, "if there is anyone in there, better show yourself now!"
I slowly entered my house and found that someone had trashed it severely. My furniture was all overturned, the pictures on the walls had been ripped down and the glass in them smashed, and much of the floor was covered with the horrible purple substance.
I followed the trail of slime into my kitchen and found it in shambles. All my drawers had been pulled out, my utensils and pots and pans where scattered all over the place. The windows had been smashed, and there was broken glass all over the place.
I muttered, "what the fuck."
Then I saw it. Someone, though who could be sick enough to do this was beyond me, had written on my kitchen's white wall a single sentence and reading it sent a spontaneous chill down my spine.
"Welcome home Luther. Ready to have some fun?"
I dropped the tire iron on the ground and fell to my knees.
Chapter Six: The Nightmare
It was just after nine in the evening.
The police showed up around twenty minutes after I had phone 911, and now they where busy collecting evidence and taking photographs of my home. They had asked me some questions but I had little to tell them so they left me alone outside and a leaned against my truck in the driveway, alone with the thoughts of who could have possibly done this. I didn't have any idea who hated me enough to do this. I watched as the police used cotton swabs to collect samples of the strange, vile substance that covered my porch and the floor in my house.
Then an unmarked police car parked in front of my home and detective Moss stepped out of it and approached me. I was relieved to see him, though I didn't know the man very well, he seemed to be a honest, decent cop.
Moss pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his raincoat and held them before and asked, "would you like a smoke Mr. Redstone?"
"No thanks," I replied.
Moss put the cigarettes away and gave me a very serious look. He said, "I was informed about the situation here. It seems like someone has vandalized your home."
"Yeah," I said, "not only did they vandalize my house, they spread something that smells like rancid meat."
Moss nodded. "If I tell you something, do you give me your word that you'll keep it under your hat until we find who did this?"
"OK," he said, "we found a similar substance inside Ma's store. So I say it is a safe wager to say that who ever murdered old Ma is also responsible for wrecking your house. I think that there is an extremely sick individual living in this very community, someone who might have an ax to grind with you in particular Mr. Redstone. Someone in this town might want to hurt you."
I was dumbfounded and asked, "are you sure?"
Moss nodded. "It seems likely, so it might be safe to assume that you are in danger. Is there anyone you can think of who would be capable of doing this?"
I shook my head. "No, I have no idea who could do something like this. Truth is, people in this town might not like me, but I can't see any of them doing something like this."
Moss grimaced. "Truth is, I've been on the job in these parts for awhile, and this town seems to have a disproportionate number of disappearances which I'm sure you are aware of, most everyone in these parts is aware of this fact. Someone, I bet money on this, is responsible for all of it. I would also say they have some connection to you, I believe your moving back is what triggered this individual."
I asked, "do you think it might be the same person who was responsible for what happened to my mother?"
"Yes," he replied, "I would say that is very likely, and I would say you might now who ever is doing this."
"And what is that crap you found in my home," I asked detective Moss.
Moss lifted his fedora on his head then started to scratch his scalp. He said, "we have been trying to identify what this substance is, but aside from knowing it is some kind of organic matter, we have no idea what the hell it is."
"Damn," I said, "so you are saying that who ever murdered Ma, he might also want to kill me as well."
"Yes, I would say that is a safe assumption Mr. Redstone, so you might want to consider leaving town until we apprehend whoever did this."
I said, "no, I'm not going to go run and hide."
Moss folded his arms across his chest. "OK, well, you might want to think about your personal safety. I don't advocate a private citizen to get a pistol, but you might want to."
"No," I said, "I hate guns."
Moss shrugged. "OK, then I'm going to give you some pepper spray, keep it with you at all times."
"I'm going to give you my personal number, if anything happens I want you to phone me immediately. Do you have somewhere to stay for now?"
"Yeah, I got a friend who might let me crash at his place."
Moss turned away from then said, "OK, if anything happens or you get any idea who did this, then give me a call."
Moss then joined the other officers in my house and I got in my truck and drove to Paul's.
It was a little after eleven.
Paul and myself where sitting in his kitchen, talking and having a beer. I didn't want to drink yet I needed something to calm my jangled nerves.
Paul asked, "sure you don't want to leave town?"
Paul downed his beer then said, "still stubborn as a fucking mule I see."
I slowly drank my beer then said, "sorry, I've been here only a few days and I've already imposing on your hospitality. I know you don't need this."
"Luther, someone in this town might want to kill you, Jesus, you don't even look afraid. If I where you, I would be pissing my pants but you seem perfectly fine with this."
I said, "yeah, well, I guess I'm to stupid to be afraid."
Paul told me, "if you leave town, I might as well go with you."
I asked, "what are you talking about Paul?"
Paul looked solemnly at his beer. "The town council, they are trying to force me to sell my farm, and it seems that soon they will get what they want."
I remembered the town council. It had been composed of several members, mostly prominent figures in the local Church, and they involved themselves with almost everything that happened in the town.
"Why the hell would you sell the farm?"
Paul seemed depressed suddenly. "I owe a lot in back taxes and the town council is trying to strong arm me into selling."
"Shit, sorry to here that."
"Yeah," Paul said, "I don't have the money to pay the taxes, this farm has never been a very lucrative enterprise. I suppose I'll have to sell it by next summer. I'm glad my parents aren't still around to see me lose it."
I finished my beer then muttered, "fucking town council."
"Maybe it is a blessing in disguise, this town is fucked, I'll move to the next county."
I offered, "Paul, you've always been a top rate friend, maybe I can help you out financially once I get my garage up and running, you know, get some business."
"Yeah, do you have an extra hundred thousand dollars in your back pocket, because that is the kind of money I need to get my farm back into the clear."
"Well," I said, "I have around forty thousand right now, will that help?"
"Keep your money. But I appreciate the offer."
Marry, Paul's childhood love who was now his wife, entered the kitchen. She was of average height, had blond hair, and a very pale complexion. She was wearing a bathrobe. She didn't hide her obvious disdain for my presence.
She asked, "Paul, when your done talking it up with your friend can you come to bed tonight."
"Hi Marry," I said.
She looked at me then asked, "are you the one I have to thank for the bruises on my husband tonight?"
Paul shook his head. "He wasn't responsible, the fight came to us; we didn't go looking for it."
Marry frowned. "Paul, you are a father now, you are to old to get into fights."
Paul smiled at her. "Honey, I'm not an old man yet."
Marry asked him, "listen, can you go tuck your son in for the night."
Paul got up and said, "sure."
He got up and left the room leaving me alone with Marry, I could tell from her expression that she still disapproved of my friendship with her husband.
Marry flatly told me, "Luther, could you not share whatever troubles you have with my husband, he has enough of his own right now."
I nodded. "Yeah, sure."
Marry sat down at the table and looked at me. She said, "you must now that you are trouble Luther, you coming back to town is going to open a whole can of worms. You haven't even been here a week and look at what has happened."
"I'm not responsible for this," I told her.
Marry seemed upset with me. She said, "maybe if you leave town everything will return to normal."
"I've already invested all my savings into the garage, and I have to stay for better or for worse. Besides, who ever is responsible for what happened to Ma, who ever trashed my house, they will still be here even if I leave."
Marry said, "OK, but if you are going down, don't drag Paul down with you."
She got up and went to the door which led into the den. She looked back at me and said, "you are welcome in our home for ever how long you have to stay here, just don't abuse our hospitality."
"OK, thanks," I said.
She left, leaving me alone in the kitchen and I silently finished my beer. I guess I should have been scared, maybe I should have left town then, but the conviction that who ever was responsible for what happened to Ma was also responsible for what happened to my mother compelled me to remain. And if these seemingly disconnected events where linked by the actions of a single individual, then I would find him and make him pay. Pay for robbing me of my mother, pay for all the years I lived with the accursed name of Redstone.
I wanted an answer to a question which had plagued me for so long, why did fate have to be so unkind to me?
If I had known the answer then, I might have left town and never looked back.
I went into the guest room that Marry had prepared for me and fell into a deep sleep on a small cot. I was asleep a few moments after my head touched the pillow.
A horrible, vivid nightmare came to me as I slept that night. It is always hard to describe a dream since they come in a succession of vague images, but I will try to convey what I witnessed during this terrible nightmare.
It started as I was looking down into a massive, deep pit which went down for several hundred feet. At the bottom of this pit where large stone figures, though I could not see them clearly, I could tell they where made in the likeness of things to hideous to imagine. Then I noticed that dead bodies where being thrown down the pit and soon the entire bottom of this gigantic pit was littered with human bodies. Then dirt and rockets began to fall down until the entire hole was filled.
Then I could see the image of a field of stars twinkling in the void of outer space, yet I could hear something. Terrifying, inhuman hisses and growling came from the darkness before me and they seemed to get closer with every passing moment. Then the stars slowly began to seemingly burn out until there was only darkness before me.
Then I was standing at the end of the driveway of the dilapidated farm house in which I had grown in and where I had lived with my once happy family. But the house was not as I remembered, it was now in ruin from lack of maintenance. There where many holes in the roof and walls.
I slowly approached the house when I could suddenly feel that someone was watching me from one of the windows of the house. Then a sound came from the house, and sound which I could only liken to nails on a chalkboard.
Then a distorted, odd voice spoke, "come on in and have some fun. Come down and see what is to come."
The voice was coming from the open cellar doors to the side of my onetime home. A gravel incline led down to the green cellar doors which where now agape. Beyond the door was blackness, and even though I was terrified, I still walked towards the darkened cellar. Suddenly a shaft of moonlight revealed it to me.
I entered the cellar. It consisted of a single, large room which was occupied by the machinery tools my father had kept down there. In the corner was a darkened space in which a shadowy, deformed human shape lurked in the shadows, its eyes though glowed red and pierced the darkness.
The voice spoke again. "Glad you have decided to come back, so you will get to see the dark ones emerge from their earthly prison and show their wrath upon the mortal world."
Then I was looking down upon Sanctuary Hill from high up in the air. I could see most of the buildings in town ablaze and the towns people running around in a panic. Things, though exactly what I was not sure, things where chasing the terrified towns people. There was a crescendo of screams coming from everywhere.
Then I was looking at a primitive looking spear driven into the ground, standing vertically. A severed human head was impaled by the spear. It took me a second to realize I was looking at my own face.
Then the dream ended thankfully.
I awoke in my cot, drenched in sweat and felt a cold chill all over by body. I was unable to sleep again after that, so I sat in bed and tried to forget the dream.