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Jeff The Killer: Scars of Corruption

Jeff The Killer: Scars of CorruptionReading Time: 87 minutes 

**This is a sequel to the Jeff The Killer reboot. To read that part first, click HERE. To read the original Jeff The Killer story (unrelated to this series), click HERE**

 

(artwork in image credited to DeviantArt users SuchAnArtist13 and BladeRazors)

 

From the prologue to Jeffery Woods: Brother-Friend-Killer: By Liu Woods

Before we begin this journey, I want it to be known that when I remember my brother Jeff, I remember a friend. I remember a big brother who taught me how to climb a tree, throw a baseball, play video games and about a million other things. He never beat me up, never took my share of the spending money our parents would send us off to the mall with or made me feel like the tag-along when he’d hang out with his friends.

He was my best friend, someone that, should I live to be 100 years old, can never be replaced.

Lane Dermott turned the key in the door of his mother’s modest home in Mandeville, LA. Walking into the foyer of his home, he threw his backpack to the floor, creating a loud thud as the heavy books contained within strike the hardwood floor.

“Lane, what have I told you about throwing your books down like that, we just had the floors done!” his mother, Nancy Dermott scolds, unseen but most certainly heard, from the nearby kitchen.

“I’m pissed mom!” Lane replies, voice laced with the sort of angst that only a teenager who feels slighted by society can produce.

His mother lets out a patient sigh. “What happened now Lane, are those kids still giving you a hard time at lunch?”

“No, I told you already I don’t care about them!”

Lane’s book of poetry, which also doubles as his journal, had recently been fished out of his backpack by some mean-spirited peer or another and shared with the rest of the school. He’d had some problems with bullying since then, but Nancy had sincerely believed it was starting to slow down. Kids can only stay focused on one thing for so long in her opinion, and the expiration date on her son’s latest abuse should, in her mind anyway, be nearing.

She’d been raising Lane alone for some time now. Paul Dermott, her former husband and Lane’s missing-in-action father, had been out of the picture for the last four years or so. Since then she’d been doing her best to raise and support him, but Lane was not always an easy son to support. His obsession with what his mother thought of as “dark things” drove a divide between them. He was at an age where he felt she couldn’t possibly understand him or his interests, and had quickly established that she was an outsider looking in.

His room, adorned with strange books on the occult, disturbing art and posters for strange foreign horror films caused her to avoid going in there unless absolutely necessary. She’d tried a time or two to explain to him that perhaps his interests in these disturbing pieces of culture are what caused him to become a target at his school. This, of course, only served to drive a deeper wedge between them, as he would insist that she didn’t know or understand him.

Now, on this otherwise lovely day in Mandeville, it would seem that Lane Dermott had found something new to be furious about. Nancy reached into her purse and fetched her favorite coping mechanism, her bottle of Xanax.

“This sounds like a two pill problem,” she thought to herself as she washed the medicine down her throat with a glass of tap water. Forcing a smile and resigning herself to play therapist, she proceeded.

“Come in here and tell me what happened?” she called to him.

“This happened!” her son replied, stomping into the kitchen and throwing two articles of literature on the breakfast table. “Mr. Kimble rejected my book report, he said that the subject matter was inappropriate!”

Nancy looked down at the table and saw the book report, neatly typed and placed into a document binder, and then observed the book that the report had been based upon. She quickly realized that she should have allowed the Xanax a bit more time to start working its euphoric magic before engaging her son.

“Lane… that book is banned in schools, you know that. The school sent out letters informing everyone. Why would you do your report on that?”

“It’s freedom of expression mom, why can’t any of you understand that?”

“You knew he was going to kick that report back son, why would you provoke the teacher?”

Lane had two other book reports rejected by his English teacher over the last few months. The first had been based on the long time banned The Anarchist Cookbook, while the other had been on a recently exiled piece of literature called Voodoo and Hoodoo, removed from schools because it allegedly gave step-by-step instructions on how to prepare and cast hexes.

Now that the school had blacklisted yet another book, Nancy couldn’t even feign shock that Lane had immediately picked it up. She didn’t mind that he read the book; she didn’t mind that he was interested in its content, but she knew that he intentionally wrote the report just for a reaction from the teacher. That couldn’t be denied.

Nancy picked up the small paperback, gazing at its dark cover. In stark white was the title. This book, an autobiography, hit the bookstores about two months ago. The residents of Mandeville, especially those in positions of power, were not pleased at the content found within the book’s pages. Corruption, cover-ups, privileged families, money, abuse and murder were the main themes. Mandeville was made to look like a haven for the wealthy and a pit of inequity for those without it. Her former husband’s name appeared a few times throughout. He’d been the Assistant Director of Internal Affairs for the Mandeville Police at the time, and the author of this book had not been kind to the authorities in his telling of the events from four summers ago, back in 2015.

“It’s part of this town’s history mom! Why is it okay for us to learn about all the other horrible events of our past but I can’t write about this?”

“This story just hits too close to home for too many of us Lane…” Nancy stated. She was feeling her temper start to rise a bit; not just because her defiant son once again found a way to irritate his teacher, but because the events listed in the book in her hands had partially led to her husband leaving her and Lane behind.

Lane would have likely been shocked to learn that his mother had purchased a copy of the same book his rejected report had been based upon. Nancy, like so many other residents of Mandeville, had been deeply impacted by the actions of Jeffery Woods.

Following the brutal slaughter of his parents, Jeff Woods had gone on to kill four more people before he finally vanished for good. Nancy hadn’t personally known any of the victims, but in a town as small as Mandeville, she’d at least walked past them once or twice at the grocery store or the park.

After killing his parents, Jeff the Killer targeted Officer Donald Williamson of the Mandeville Police Department. He’d been the officer who first investigated Jeff Woods for fighting with three other kids in the parking lot of the Village Shopping Center. He’d also been involved in the investigation of the now infamous flare gun incident in Randy Hayden’s garage. Liu Woods had the following to say about Williamson in his book:

From Chapter 4: Corruption in Uniform

Never in my life would I have believed the ‘corrupt small town cop’ archetype could exist in such a larger than life capacity. Donald Williamson, my brother’s third victim, embodied so much corruption that one would almost think him a work of poorly written fiction. The woman at the video store called the police about the fight and it was none other than Williamson who was assigned to investigate.

He blamed my brother and I for the entire incident. He insisted that our failure to chain up our bikes somehow justified Randy, Keith and Troy taking them for a joyride. He said that the witnesses saw Jeff take the first swing at Troy.

Upon reviewing the police report that was made public long after the incident took place, it was revealed that only the video store clerk witnessed the event. Her statement indicated that she saw a group of boys fighting in the parking lot. At no time does it specify that my brother instigated the altercation.

Williamson would later be called to investigate the fight at Randy’s home, the injury with the flare gun and the ultimate blinding and disfigurement inflicted upon my brother. It was reported that Jeff shot himself in the face with the flare gun. Williamson once again worked his skills at corruption. Rather than investigating the incident, he merely took Randy’s statement. Paramedics on the scene later stepped forward and admitted that Williamson could be seen coaching Randy, Keith and Troy as they wrote their statements; practically feeding them their lines like a stage director in a play.

The next victim my brother would take was likely the only truly innocent one to fall. Bennie Rosenberg; Chief Editor of the NOLA Watch had been contacted by Jeff about two weeks after the murder of Williamson. By this time, the photograph taken of Jeff by Williamson’s son had made the national headlines. The picture, accompanied by USA Today labeling Jeff: Jeff the Killer, had by now turned my brother into a national sensation. Questions were being asked now, and I have no doubt in my mind that Randy Hayden’s father, along with officials in the Mandeville Police Department were scrambling to keep many of the facts of the case hidden. The Mandeville Police were only giving cookie-cutter answers; usually falling back on the excuse that all the facts would be revealed once the case was closed. No one close to the investigation would speak in any detail, and tough questions were often directed to the M.P.D.’s Public Affairs Department, which somehow never seemed to have their telephones staffed. Phone messages were left unanswered, reporters were ignored and everyone seemed to be in too much of a rush to stop and talk.

The encounter between my brother and Rosenberg is one that is well documented now. The tape recording that Rosenberg had been using to conduct the interview returned to the NOLA Watch about a week or so after Rosenberg’s death.

Monica Davenport, who’d been the Assistant Editor, released the tapes in her own news-documentary, ‘Jeff Woods: The Killer Speaks.’ The recordings, the only known testimonial by Jeff himself, tell of the real encounters with Randy and his friends. The tapes reveal how Williamson worked to whitewash the investigation and serve to cast further doubt on Randy’s explanation of events with the flare gun.

The tapes were released after the investigations in the M.P.D. and Maxwell Hayden had already begun to be looked into, however, they helped to shed light on other corrupt actions committed by Mandeville officials.

Rosenberg’s death, for example, was not made public for almost 24 hours. The police on scene claimed that they couldn’t identify Rosenberg and had to conduct lab testing to uncover his identity. However, Monica Davenport, who’d actually contacted the police, testified that she’d given the 911 Dispatcher Rosenberg’s full name and had even explained why he was out in Mandeville that night. It is believed that due to Rosenberg’s connection with my brother, the M.P.D. were instructed to keep the matter quiet for as long as possible to protect the slowly recovering image of the town. The police did not want to have to admit that Jeff Woods was still on the loose two weeks after his last murder.

There is also a darker conspiracy that I can only call such because no further evidence was ever discovered. However, considering the tainted reputation and obvious corruption within Mandeville, it stands to mention anyway. According to one of the EMT’s on scene, Rosenberg was still alive when the police first arrived. She believes that had the M.P.D. acted immediately, Rosenberg could have survived his attack by Jeff.

The official police report states that when officers arrived, they did not initially see Rosenberg’s body due to the lack of streetlights in the area. They claim to have searched the exterior of the small building where Rosenberg and Jeff conducted their interview. Then the police officer on scene claimed to hesitate to enter the building until he was able to confirm with his Watch Commander whether or not a warrant would be needed to enter.

Davenport lambasts the police on this, as the regulations clearly stated that entering a building without a warrant is lawful so long as the officers have suspicion that a crime has taken place inside said building. Furthermore, the door of the building was ajar at the time of the officer’s arrival, and shining a flashlight into the door would have immediately revealed Rosenberg’s body.

Once the larger conspiracy began to become public knowledge, the rumors continued to evolve that the police didn’t want Rosenberg to survive the injury due to the knowledge he’d gained from speaking to Jeff. They were not aware of the tape recording, and perhaps assumed that with Rosenberg dead, no further information about the Jeff murders could surface.

Liu Woods’ book catalogued the next victims in a similar fashion:

Keith Jacobson and Troy Lockett were Jeff’s next victims. This took place two weeks after the death of Williamson, and a night after the death of the journalist from New Orleans. Had the Mandeville Police not worked so hard to keep the death of Bennie Rosenberg quiet, perhaps Keith and Troy’s parents could have done something to protect them. They would have at least known that Jeff was still in the area. However, with Rosenberg’s death still not officially reported, the town was starting to relax again. Perhaps they all believed it was over with murder of Williamson.

The double homicide took place at Keith Jacobson’s home. Investigators believe that Jeff was able to gain entry into the house through an unlocked patio door. Keith was found brutally stabbed to death in the kitchen of his home. It is believed that Troy overheard the commotion and from the 2nd floor of the home and was in the process of descending the stairs to investigate. His body was found at the base of the stairs, his death also caused by multiple stab wounds.

Randy Hayden, who instigated violence in the encounter with Jeff and I at the video store, and who is also believed to have set up the attack on Jeff at his home on the day of the flare gun injury, was the only one to escape Mandeville alive. His parents, Bridgette and Maxwell Hayden, discovered that their wealth and influence could not protect their son from the ramifications of his actions. Randy Hayden and his family moved at once. A moving company was contracted to collect their belongings. It is believed that Randy Hayden and his parents went into Witness Protection. A moving company was hired to pack their home for them, as they were likely advised to avoid Mandeville until Jeff was captured.

It was in fact the movers who would end up uncovering the massive cover-up and outright lies committed by Maxwell Hayden along with the Mandeville Police Department.”

Nancy felt her anger boil at this point. Before Jeff Woods and his family moved to Mandeville, she’d had a great life. Her husband being a high-ranking member of the Mandeville Police meant that she enjoyed a certain degree of comfort within the city limits. Speeding tickets did not exist in Nancy’s vocabulary, nor did parking fines or the need to always ensure that she was sober when driving. Most of the officers knew who her husband was, and if they didn’t, they would learn soon enough should they decide to issue her any form of citation. She’d become accustomed to this, and therefore was not prepared for the public shaming that was soon to follow.

The book went on:

“I will never understand why those that commit crimes record them. Perhaps there is a foolish undertone within all criminal actions that compels the guilty to leave those little breadcrumbs. Perhaps it is simply hubris. Maxwell Hayden had in fact instructed his company’s Director of Loss Prevention to supervise the movers personally on each of the three days they were packing up the home. However, no one can be everywhere at once, and even under the watchful eye of Hayden’s guard dog, the movers were able to strike gold. My personal belief is that the loss prevention associate was busy watching over the jewelry and other valuables. He likely never thought that the real buried treasure would be found in a simple leather-bound day planner left in plain sight on Hayden’s nightstand.

According to the mover, he’d picked up the planner and stuffed it into his pocket so that he could pick up the nightstand and carry it out of the room. By his own admission he had no interest in the book. However, upon returning to his home that night after a long day of moving furniture, the mover discovered he’d forgotten to remove the planner from his pocket. He stated that he tossed the small book on his coffee table and had forgotten about it for a few days. By the time he realized that he still was in possession of the planner, the move was completed and the truck carrying all of the Hayden family’s possessions was on its way to wherever they’d gone to hide.

The mover reported taking the planner to Hayden’s office building and leaving it at the receptionist’s desk. From there the chain of custody is unknown, that is, until it appeared again in the hands of the local media. By the time the small day planner made its rounds, it had visited the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Louisiana State Justice Department, the Attorney General’s Office and about half a dozen other organizations.

The little day planner contained meetings and lunches scheduled between Maxwell Hayden and Paul Dermott, who at that time was the Assistant Director of Internal Affairs for the Mandeville Police Department. The meetings all took place after the initial fight between Randy and Jeff in the shopping center parking lot. Other members of the Mandeville Police were penciled in for lunch or dinner, including Donald Williamson himself.

This sparked enough red flags for the powers-that-be that existed above or beyond Hayden’s influence to dig deeper. By then questions were already being whispered about anyway. The physician at the hospital, Dr. Renaldo Diaz, had already demanded a complete ballistics report from the day of the flare gun incident. He did not believe, based on the angle of the wound across Jeff’s face, that the injury could be self-inflicted. He’d informed authorities that he’d initially waited on filing the formal request for the report because he’d assumed the police would have further investigated Randy’s questionable explanation on their own. It wasn’t until he realized that wasn’t going to happen that he’d taken it a step further.

To accompany this allegation, Hayden’s planner showed a lunch scheduled with the Mandeville Police Department’s Director of Crime Scene Investigations, Lara Dubois. The M.P.D. went on to deny Diaz’s request for further information, instead assuring him that the matter was being fully investigated by their own personnel.

Once the planner was thoroughly analyzed, the deluge of Federal Investigators fell on Mandeville like a plague of locusts. The M.P.D. was gutted, with all of the top brass either resigning or being forced out. Many officials admitted to being bribed by Maxwell Hayden, while others attempted to claim they were blackmailed or pressured. Those that claimed pressure from above decided that a sacrificial lamb was in order, and Paul Dermott became said lamb.

A picture was painted of Dermott and Hayden working side by side. Hayden’s money combined with Dermott’s position allowed them to play the City of Mandeville like a game of chess. However, the Dermott’s lawyer did an impressive job of throwing just enough doubt at the Grand Jury that they were unable to decide if he was truly a mastermind or simply a patsy. No indictments were made, and Dermott quickly resigned his post and left Mandeville. His wife received divorce papers in the mail sometime shortly after he left the town. His excuse was the he needed to start over from scratch, and could not drag his family through the mud with him.

“This destroyed us, you know that!” Nancy suddenly shouted, causing her son to startle a bit in surprise. “Jeff Woods caused more problems for this city than I can count. That’s why this book is banned at your school, because we want this forgotten, we don’t want Jeff the Killer to be part of our history!”

Lane began to argue back, perhaps to point out some hypocritical notion that his mother or his teacher was falling victim to, but Nancy continued to rant, giving Lane no time to speak.

“Your father had to leave because of this, left us here to fend for ourselves! Max Hayden, that bastard cut some sort of deal, testified against the city that he’d called home for so long. Now he’s living a new life with a new name, his son is probably getting ready to start college with his secret identity, and he’ll never have to face the consequences that you and I did Lane!

And now four years later, when the dust has finally settled just a bit, when people no longer look at me and see Paul Dermott’s wife, when people no longer whisper about me when I turn down an aisle at the store, now this fucking book comes out! Everything that I’ve worked so hard to leave behind, now brought back to life for the world to gawk at once again!”

Nancy was crying now.

Lane, trapped in that realm between the sympathy he felt for his mother and the anger that he still harbored for his book report being denied, simply exited the kitchen with no further commentary on the matter.

He’d returned to his bedroom and took to the Internet to voice his rage instead. He logged on to his Facebook profile and began a long rant about censorship, freedom of speech, corruption and the hypocritical world that he was forced to exist within. He went into vivid detail about Liu Woods’ book, about how Jeff the Killer was the only thing that put Mandeville, LA on the map, about how his teacher was simply afraid of the truth and so and on and so on it went.

After Lane Dermott felt that his work in the field of exposing social injustice was done for the day, he collapsed on his bed and dozed off, still brooding over the unfair nature of life.

__________

Several hours later, he was awoken by a commotion from outside of his bedroom. The faded light coming in through the window told Lane that it was late in the evening. There was suddenly a loud crash followed by what he thought just might be soft cries. The whimpering tone sounded as though it belonged to his mother. Lane stood from his bed and placed his ear to the door. He was now certain that the voice belonged to his mother. At first he didn’t react. Over the years since her husband left, she’d fallen into bouts of depression and it was not too uncommon for her to suddenly begin to cry with no apparent provocation. The crashing sound though, that was something new. It had been too loud to just be a simple plate falling and shattering or a picture dropping from the wall.

Slowly Lane cracked the bedroom door open and could now hear his mother better. She wasn’t just softly crying but rather sounded as though she were begging.

“Please…. Please don’t hurt us… please just leave…”

Lane looked around his room for something, anything, that could used to defend himself. However, it had gotten dark outside, and he didn’t want to risk turning on his bedroom light and alerting whoever was terrifying his mother that he was back there. He didn’t have a cellular phone or a landline in his bedroom, and with nothing immediately visible to use for self-defense, his only options were to stay hidden or to go out and see what was happening. He could have likely stood in his doorway and debated this all night, but suddenly his mother screamed, raising her voice from the sheepish tone she’d been uttering her pleas, to a full on sound of terror and panic.

“No!! Please no!!” the voice of Nancy carried back to Lane.

Lane exited his bedroom and stepped into the darkening hallway of his home. What little light still came through the windows was that dull orange that only late twilight could produce. The house was small and within a few steps he knew that he’d be able to see into the living room. Still looking around for any means of self-defense, Lane’s eyes fell the small wooden stand that sat in the hallway of their home. Their phone stand that was never used for a phone since the only jack was located in the living room contained a small shelf underneath its base. Sometimes his mother would keep her few sewing instruments in there. He knew there was needles and thread, but what he now prayed for was her sharp sewing shears. They sprung to mind because Lane was told from the time he was a small child that they were dangerous, sharp as knives. Every time he touched them, as far back as he could recall, Nancy felt it was her duty to remind him to be careful.

As silently as possible Lane opened the drawer, feeling a degree of gratitude at how silently the shelf glided out. Look down he saw that the long scissors were in fact in the drawer. Being careful not to make a sound, he drew them out and, with a shaky sigh of nerves, once more began to move towards the sound of his mother’s begging.

Lane slowly peeked into the room, his eyes growing enormous and his heart freezing in place at the sight before him. His mother, cowering on the sofa, pushed back as far into the backrest as anyone could, was holding her hands up in a pleading gesture. She was crying loudly. This sight alone though is not what pulled Lane from his former state of cautious fear and into a new state of crippling panic, he’d seen his mother break down and cry many times, especially during the first year that his father left. No, it was the source of her current horror that froze Lane in his tracks.

It stood close to 6’ tall, dressed in ragged clothing with long, filthy black hair partially hiding one side of its face and a long kitchen knife gripped in its hand. It was tilting its head back and forth, almost as though it were some curious animal trying to figure out the best place to strike its prey first. It would change position before the sofa every few seconds, as though attempting to further torment Nancy, keep her unsure of when and from where it would strike. Lane risked taking another step closer, and suddenly the ghoulish intruder looked up at him.

It was at the moment that Lane found him self trapped deeply between disbelief and amazement. The face staring at him from across his living room was far too iconic to mistake. From one side an almost sane eye locked in. A smile formed as it realized it had trapped Lane in fear. The other side of its face though, that was something drawn perhaps on the tapestries of hell. The eye was nothing more than a milky-white bulb. Lane felt that this is what the eyes of some monstrous creature might develop should it spend its life swimming about in the pits of The Mariana Trench. From the mouth to the eye was a long healed yet still quite pronounced scar. The scar stopped briefly at the blank eye, but began again above the eyebrow, traveling up the forehead and onto the scalp.

Lane slowly raised the scissors to chest level, now gripping them with both hands. Understandably, Lane could not overcome the pure shock of finding one of the decade’s most infamous serial killers standing in his living room.

From Chapter 7: Denial and Truth-The Fate of my Brother

What used to keep me up at night most often, what caused me the most regret and pain was the fact that I slept through Jeff’s farewell. I only vaguely remember it now, my brother waking me up, telling me that I was free now. I remember feeling annoyed, because, well, who enjoys being woken up in the middle of the night? I remember he told me that he loved me and that I was his best friend. I remember saying something like, “Love you too, let me go to back to sleep…” or something to that effect. When I woke up the next morning, I just got up and started my normal routine. It wasn’t until I was walking down the stairs towards the kitchen that I realized that house was too quiet. Our mother always had the television on in the living room during the day. It was almost 10:00 AM and the house was silent. It would still be another hour before I decided to open my parents’ bedroom door.

The rest of that week is still a blur in my mind. I remember the police arriving, my parents being taken out, wrapped in white sheets. I was sure that Jeff had been kidnapped by whoever murdered our parents. Of course I’d remembered him waking me up with his cryptic goodbyes, but when it’s your brother, a trusted face you’ve known you’re entire life, it’s not exactly easy to apply that person to murder.

However, once the murder of Williamson took place, once the tabloids labeled him Jeff the Killer, well, by then it was pretty much impossible to deny. Once Monica Davenport released the Jeff Tapes, well, denial was all I had left. After the murders of Keith and Troy though, well, that was it. Months rolled on into years, and pretty soon Jeff was becoming a forgotten entity. By then I’d been moved from Louisiana. I had family in Texas, an Aunt and Uncle. They were very compassionate, they understood what I’d gone through and let me pretty much spend the next year healing. I can still remember sitting up in bed out there in Texas, feeling tears pooling in the corners of my eyes. My greatest fear was that perhaps Jeff was trying to find me; that he needed help. I pictured him waiting around our very short lived home in Mandeville, perhaps wondering where I was. Those sorts of thoughts kept me up for most of that year.

Sometimes a letter would come addressed to me out there in Houston. It would be forwarded from the old address. No return address usually. I would get so excited as I tore it open, convinced that Jeff had found a way to write me, to let me know that he was alive. When it would turn out to be a piece of junk mail, just some advertisement designed to look like a real piece of mail, my heart would sink and I’d feel that regret creeping back in. Regret for not waking up and talking to Jeff on the night that he left. At the very least, I could have told him goodbye….

“Jeff the Killer…” Lane whispered, still holding up the scissors.

Jeff looked down at Nancy; his face locked into a twisted mask of insanity, and drove the knife down towards her chest.

“Go to slee…. SHIT… FUCK!” Jeff screamed, suddenly releasing the knife and letting it fall to the sofa.

Lane looked over and saw that his mother had brought the point of her knee directly into the groin of her attacker. Jeff staggered back against the wall, gripping his crotch while trying to still threaten both Nancy and Lane. What the intruder didn’t account for was that Nancy Dermott spent the majority of her adult life married to a police officer. He’d dragged her to every self-defense course that he could. For years the training was drilled into her, always go for the soft parts; the eyes, the testicles, the throat.

Jeff suddenly lunged, attempting to dodge around Nancy and grab the knife that he’d dropped during the initial kick. Lane was still frozen in place. For all the dark poetry and journal entries that he’d created, many detailing the ways he’d like to exact revenge on those that didn’t appreciate him, (mostly girls and teachers) now that he actually had the chance to stab someone, he found that he simply couldn’t manage the act.

Jeff grabbed for the knife, got one hand around the hilt, but never had a chance to brandish it. At the very moment that he awkwardly attempted to rotate the blade, Nancy brought her living room lamp down over her attacker’s head. There was a grunt of pain as Jeff fell forward onto the sofa. The lamp shattered, but before Lane could blink, his mother grabbed the next closest weapon, the large crystal ashtray that sat upon their coffee table. She raised the object over her head and with a scream of rage smashed it over the young man’s head whom moments before had her under what he believed to be complete control.

“Oh God… Lane, are you alright?” Nancy shouted at her son.

“Yeah mom, are you?”

Before she could answer, Lane began to move closer to the unmoving body on his living room sofa.

“Stay back Lane, he might get back up!”

“Mom… I uhhh, I don’t think he’s getting back up… look.” Lane pointed at the blood pooling beneath the still body on the couch.

From the 2016 documentary; Jeff Woods: The Killer Speaks by Monica Davenport / Interview conducted with local Mandeville youths addressing the cultural movement known as Jeff’s Killers.

Monica Davenport addresses the camera while standing outside of a small home that appears to be in rural St. Tammany Parish:

Monica: I am here on the outskirts of Mandeville LA, where a group of high school aged kids gather on a regular basis. What might be their purpose of gathering? Well, they call themselves Jeff’s Killers, and they view him as a sort of anti-hero, and many say that they are anxiously awaiting the opportunity to meet him in person.

The film cuts to a montage of various teenaged participants, many with scars artificially decorated into the side of their faces, some with contact lenses giving one eye a cosmetically enhanced whiteness. All of the teens give short answers, some just one word, others a short phrase, all the same message though:

“Jeff.”

“Jeff Woods.”

“We’re here to celebrate Jeff the Killer!”

“The Killer!”

“Always Jeffery Woods, always.”

Monica: Why do you come out here to celebrate Jeffery Woods? He’s a serial killer, he murdered his parents; how do you find a hero in that?

Girl 1: Jeff is like; he showed the world that you can do something about abuse. So many of us, we’ve grown up dealing with that stuff, and we can’t do shit. Jeff though, he did it.

Guy 1: Yeah, Jeff Woods, you know, he was a nice guy. He tried so hard to turn the other cheek and all that crap they teach us in school. He did everything the way we’re taught to do it. All the crap society tells us are the stepping-stones to being a normal and happy person. For most of us…

Girl 2: (Cutting off Guy 1) For most of us, if it works out, great! You get to be a cheerleader or some crap, you get to march in the Labor Day parade. Woooh! Jeff though, all the lies they try to tell us to be happy, well, he just snapped and did it his own way.

Guy 2: No, forget all that shit. Jeff the Killer is fucking rage turned all the way up! People out there, they see us, they see us walking around and they think we’re freaks or they think we’re weak, but Jeff the Killer showed the fucking world that you can only push someone say damned far! So keep pushing us motherfuckers! Go ahead!

Monica: (Addressing the group as a whole) Do you all believe that Jeffery Woods could still be alive? And if so, what would you say to him if you had the chance?

Various responses are shouted towards the camera:

“Hang Randy Hayden by his fucking balls!”

“Burn this town down!”

Monica: (Speaking directly to a young man) And you, what would you say to Jeff Woods?

Young Man: I’d say come hang out with us, come show us how you managed to let go of all the shit holding you down all those years. We just want to be free, just like you.

________________________

“Fucking freaks…” the haggard looking man mutters before dipping a glazed donut into his mug of cheap coffee. Although only in his early 40’s, Detective Dalton Bradshaw of the Mandeville Police Department looked much older. His hairline has begun to retreat from his forehead a bit more each year. The two packs of Pall Mall Reds that he smokes between waking up at dawn and returning home often times well after dark have done nothing to assist in preserving his once chiseled appearance. His teeth were now stained from the tobacco, his face bore wrinkles and his eyes always looked exhausted, regardless of how much sleep he might enjoy the night before.

He’d been watching various clips from Davenport’s documentary while waiting at the tiny and disgusting little coffee and donut joint for the better part of 2 hours. He’d actually been back at the police station packing his things to go home for the night when his Watch Commander had summoned him into his office.

Apparently a young man had broken into a residential and attempted to hold one of the occupants at knifepoint. The woman had fought back and the asshole died by his own blade. The woman and her kid were safe, and as far as Dalton was concerned, this shit could wait until the morning. Let the uniforms and the fucking coroner’s people come out and clean up the body. This was Mandeville after all; only one exciting thing ever happened out here, and that was 4 years ago. This guy was probably some meth-head from out in the backwoods that was trying to score some cash to buy some dope.

Then more information came in. That one exciting thing that happened 4 years ago in Mandeville, the only thing that could possibly keep Dalton on the clock and not at home, taking off his suit and climbing into a hot shower just happened to be the one fucking thing that was lying in a pool of its own blood on Nancy Dermott’s sofa.

“This crazy bitch thinks she killed Jeffery Woods?” Dalton asked his Watch Commander as he grabbed his notebook and slung on his sport coat.

“That crazy bitch just happens to be Nancy Dermott, as in ex-wife of Paul Dermott. The same guy that was running favors for Maxwell Hayden.”

“Relax Cap’n, I’m just going over there, going to do a nice little interview, make sure the body gets moved and we can pick this up tomorrow.”

“The hell we can!” the Captain replied in anger. “I’m arranging for a specialist from Baton Rouge to work with you on this. That is an order that came right down from the Mayor’s Office. The guy is on his way right now. Just go and stuff donuts down your face at that little shit dive you like. The specialist will meet you there. Uniforms already have the scene under control. If we can move the body to the morgue without causing a scene, we will. I cannot stress this enough to you Bradshaw, this shit stays on whisper!”

“Wait, how the hell does the Mayor’s Office know about this call already?”

“How? The woman’s jackass kid, that’s how. Lane Dermott has been a pain in the ass for a while. He likes to post his little opinions about his school and the town all over the freaking official website of the City of Mandeville! The site admins block him for writing about all this Jeff Woods crap, they tell him it’s a blacklisted subject, but then the little shit just goes and makes a new account and does it all over again. Anyway, while his mother was busy calling the cops, her 16 year old idiot was busy photographing the body and posting a picture of it right there on the town’s message board. The admins deleted the post, and we can only pray to God that they did so before anyone else saw it and copied it. The mayor sure as hell saw it though, and believe me, he’s just looking for an ass to kick right now!”

“And he thinks we need some sort of… what; expert on loonies and window lickers to come down here and tell us what a dead freak looks like?” Dalton asked.

“I don’t care what the Mayor thinks Bradshaw, but our Chief of Police does, so for right now, please, just go down there, drink your coffee and wait for this guy to show up and meet you there, then kindly go over to the scene of the crime and let this guy help you investigate it…”

“And I can expect to go home when?”

The Captain screamed some harsh words of motivation towards Dalton Bradshaw in response to his question, and finally the over-worked detective plodded out to his car and climbed in. Once on the road, Dalton reached into his glove compartment and removed a small zip-lock bag containing about 8 small pills.

“Damn, I’m running a bit low,” he stated with a frown, staring at the baggie. The pills were Adderall, although Dalton could not guess at the dosage or age of the pills. One of his on-again-off-again lovers, a woman who would often ask Dalton to go over and scare her ex-boyfriend into paying her overdue child support, had given them to him recently. They were her kid’s, but apparently the kid didn’t like them. Said kid’s mom and occasional evening companion of Dalton believed that the detective could use a boost of energy, as, according to her, he looked like reheated shit.

He swallowed two of the pills, even though he knew he should try and stretch the few he had left out for another week or so, but for the time he was more concerned about just staying awake tonight. If some suit from Baton Rouge were in fact coming to assist, this would not be a short evening to say the least.

Dalton was pleasantly elevated as he sat at the coffee shop feeling the artificial energy and euphoria from the pills start to gather in his brain and pulse behind his eyes.

“I don’t know what the hell is wrong with Gina-Marie’s kid if he doesn’t like this shit…” he mumbled to himself as he clicked play on the next video from Monica Davenport’s documentary.

From 4th Grade School Project: Who is your Hero?

By Jeremy Lymon, Crestwood Elementary School, Baton Rogue, LA

My hero is my Uncle Simon. Uncle Simon works as a special kind of police officer who tries to arrest criminals who have already gotten away. His job is to study the clues and try to find the bad people even when no one else can find them. He keeps us safe.

“I’m going to go ahead and assume by the beard stubble and bloodshot eyes that you’re Dalton Bradshaw,” a voice suddenly spoke behind the detective as he was focusing on Davenport’s film.

Dalton looked up at the man addressing him. It would seem logical that this would be the specialist from Baton Rouge, but based on his appearance, Dalton almost had to second-guess himself.

The man standing before him was a lot younger than he was expecting for starters. He estimated this guy’s age couldn’t be any older than 30; perhaps even younger. He was skinny, had a small goatee and was dressed more for a day at the mall than a night investigating a murder.

“Do all the special state investigators walk around in jeans and t-shirts these days?” Dalton asked without smiling.

“Sorry dude, my boss had to learn to accept it, I don’t do suits unless it’s a funeral or a wedding. My name is Simon by the way. Or, if you want the official introduction, I am Agent Simon Lymon of the Unsolved Crimes Department of the Louisiana State Police.”

Dalton blinked and had to take a moment to compose himself, or else he feared he might laugh in this kid’s face.

“Hold up, your name is Simon Lymon? Why would your folks do that to you?”

“Oh, you misunderstand, my parents didn’t name me Simon; they actually named me Solomon Lymon. I legally changed my first name to Simon when I turned 18.”

“Why in the hell would you do that?”

“Duh! So it would rhyme.”

Dalton found himself chuckling just a bit in spite of how annoyed he was at the ever-increasing lateness of his workday. He realized that now, even if they wrapped this up in record time, he still wouldn’t see the inside of his apartment until it was far too late to do anything other than go straight to bed.

“Well, we can get to know each other on the ride over there Rhymin’ Simon. I want to get home before sunrise though, so if it’s all the same with you…”

“Rhymin’ Simon, hell yeah! See, that why I changed my name, for shit like that!”

Dalton dropped a few dollars on the table to cover his food and coffee, and the two men left out for Nancy Dermott’s house.

The drive from the small coffee joint to the crime scene was less than 10 minutes, however Dalton quickly learned the Simon was not the type of person who let time pass without conversation.

“Okay, so I’m assuming you’ll be playing the bad cop in this little investigation, right?” he asked Dalton, a sarcastic tone lacing his words.

“Nope, I’ll be playing the ‘tired as hell’ cop who wants to go home. I tend to play that role every time my shift goes into overtime. And you’re playing the what… wise-ass C.S.I. guy?”

“C.S.I.? No thank you. Too much blood and semen; I mean, who wants to spend all day studying blood samples? No, I’m Unsolved Cases, remember?”

“Yeah, well, I hate to tell you kid, but this one is probably already solved. The damned intruder is dead. The woman already confessed to doing it and her stupid kid posted a picture of the corpse to the fucking Mayor’s office. You might have wasted a trip down here.”

“You really think that the dead body we’re going over to see is Jeff Woods himself? You think after four years of no activity he’s just going to show back up and get killed by some bored housewife?”

Dalton glanced at Simon and smirked, “Personally, I don’t care one way or the other. Jeff Woods, Tiger Woods, James Woods, I don’t give a rat’s ass so long as I am home within the next couple of hours.”

“Really? You’re not even a bit curious? I mean, Jeff the Killer right? Exciting stuff!”

“Maybe to you and the rest of the world, I don’t know. I was still with the N.O.P.D. when the whole thing happened here in 2015. I didn’t transfer out to Mandeville until almost the end of 2016. Sure, I read all about the incident when it took place, but these yuppie fucks out here will freak out over anything. In New Orleans we investigated several homicides a week just in my District alone. Some kid having a nervous breakdown and stabbing a few people doesn’t exactly have the same impact when you work in a city where murders don’t even make the front page anymore.”

“Why’d you leave New Orleans then?”

“Look Simon, I’m sure you’re a nice guy and I bet all your co-workers love you, but let’s just stay on track here. If this case turns into a longer ordeal, I’m sure we’ll find all the time in the world to tell war stories, but for now let’s just focus on the task at hand.”

With that said, they rode the last few blocks in relative silence. Dalton only spoke again when they arrived at the scene.

“We’re here. Now listen, I’m not sure if you know this or not, but Nancy Dermott’s husband was somewhat tied into this whole Jeff Woods fiasco, so try and avoid making any stupid jokes.”

“Trust me Dalton, I know all about Paul Dermott and his ties to Maxwell Hayden. I’ve read Liu Wood’s book and all the other seedy little secrets that have been published… and a few that haven’t.”

The two men walked up to the Dermott’s front door where a uniformed officer who looked to be all of maybe 21 years of age was standing. The officer began addressing Dalton as he approached.

“Paramedics moved the body to a stretcher and I think the C.S.I. people are just about done. There was apparently a brief struggle but the intended victim really did a number on the guy.”

“Outstanding police work junior,” Dalton responded, stepping around the cop and walking into the home.

“Bradshaw! You finally here to take over this scene or what?” an older officer asked.

“Holy shit Frank, yeah, I’m here to take over the scene. Give me a briefing so you can get the hell home before you die from breathing.”

Frank, who’s age and weight suggested that he might in fact have difficulties should he ever try to jog more than a few feet waddled over to Dalton and began reading from a report form.

“Okay, the dead fuck is on his way to the morgue as we speak. C.S.I. determined he got in through the back door. What can I say, folks out here never heard of locks or something? Intended victim was Nancy Dermott. Her son Lane Dermott witnessed the struggle and the death of the intruder. Blah, blah, blah boilerplate bullshit… apparently 16 year old Lane believes that this intruder is none other than Jeff Woods. The victims are in the back of the house right now. Nancy said she was sick of looking at the blood on her sofa.”

“The morgue? I thought they were going to leave the scene intact until I got here,” Dalton stated.

“Yeah Dalt, orders were to keep this thing quiet. When they saw the chance to move the body without a lot of gawkers, they took it. Neighbors have been popping by every so often, knocking on the door, being nosy, typical shit.”

“You got pictures of the intruder?” Simon asked Frank in a casual tone.

“Who’re you?” the pudgy man asked in slight annoyance.

“I’m the president of the Dead Body Fan Club, now let me see these pictures so we can kindly sign your report and you can kindly head back to Sea World and get back in your tank.”

“This fucking kid got a problem here Dalt?” Frank asked, turning his flushed face towards the detective.

“Relax Frank, I’m the one that has to work with him. He’s from the State Police, investigates unsolved cases or something. Just give me the pictures.”

Frank handed the pictures to Dalton, at which point Simon immediately snatched them away. He looked through them slowly at first, as Dalton joined in on the viewing, but as he progressed through them, he began to flip them over faster and faster. The collection of photographs ranged from close-ups of the intruder’s face to shots of his corpse collapsed on the sofa. What information could be gathered on site by the C.S.I. crew were all catalogued, such as height, estimated weight, etc.

“Well, this isn’t Jeff Woods, that’s for sure,” Simon stated with no doubt, handing the pictures to Dalton.

“How can you be so sure?”

“Well, the height is wrong first of all. This guy is taller. Jeff Woods stood 5’10” tall. Also, take a look at his clothing, if Jeff Woods really has been stalking the countryside out here for the last four years, I doubt he’d be wearing new clothes.”

Frank decided to chime in, “New clothes? Kid, are you blind? I saw those rags before they zipped him up and hauled him down to the cold storage. His shirt and pants were practically falling apart.”

“While I’m sure your C.S.I. crew will agree, allow me to save them some time and break this down for you guys. The cuts on his clothing are clearly made with scissors. Clothes that rip on tree branches for example tend to be torn in ragged fashion. These tears were done on purpose. Plus, the pattern of rips is far too intentional to be something caused by snagging branches. This guy was clearly attempting to create a costume of sorts. Plus, the shoes always give it away. He wants us to believe that he’s been wearing the same stuff for so long that it’s just falling apart, but his shoes are in pretty good shape from what I can tell from the photos. Plus he’s wearing hiking boots. If he was really living off the land all these years, he’d take whatever kind of shoes he could get, or maybe even still be wearing the ones he left home in. Instead, he’s wearing a fairly new looking pair of shoes that just happen to be perfect for escaping into the woods after he murdered a couple of people.”

“Kid, you know he could have gotten new clothes along the way or something, it’s not that hard to break into a store and…”

Simon interrupted Frank before he could finish, “Sure, maybe. However, if you look at these pictures of the perp’s face, you’ll clearly see that his ‘scar’ is smearing a bit. Now, I’m no dermatologist, but in my experience, scars don’t start to streak when you sweat. Also, that’s clearly a contact lens in his eye.”

Dalton couldn’t help but chuckle at this exchange. Frank Landry had developed the reputation of being a bit of a bully over the years, especially to the new recruits. Watching this skinny kid talk to him like he’s an idiot was good for a laugh or two.

An hour later, Simon and Dalton were driving to the morgue to see the corpse that was causing such a stir. They’d interviewed both Nancy and Lane Dermott and were not surprised to find there wasn’t much to be gained besides a rehashing of what they already knew.

“You were a little harsh on that kid, don’t you think?” Simon asked as they drove.

“That fucking kid is an idiot. Posting that damned picture for the world to see.”

“Agreed, but did you really have to threaten to ‘skull drag’ him, as you put it?”

“Lane Dermott needs to have a little understanding that he isn’t above shit. Since he father split town, he’s used that as an excuse to do whatever he wants. His mother clearly is too worn out to fix his ass. Plus, if that picture gets leaked around…”

“You Mandeville types really are afraid of the exposure, aren’t you?”

“Personally I don’t give a damn,” Dalton corrected, “but the old heads here, yeah, they hate it. Before Jeff Woods decided to go on a killing spree, Mandeville was advertised as the kind of place where you could sleep with your doors unlocked at night. But really, I think it was all the corruption that was uncovered that freaked them out. A murder can be explained away as just a crazy bastard being crazy, but all the cover-ups, that was bad.”

“Well, Maxwell Hayden didn’t exactly do himself any favors with the bribes. He certainly didn’t do his son any favors either. Randy Hayden may have escaped Mandeville alive, but from what I’ve heard, even Wit-Pro couldn’t protect his reputation.”

From the American news program Lies Exposed: Hosted by Leslie Mathews- Interview with activist Alexis Perry on her campaign against Randy Hayden

Leslie: Tonight we’re joined by Alexis Perry, who is speaking publicly for the first time since being formally charged by authorities for ‘doxxing’ the personal online accounts of Randy Hayden while he was in Federal Witness Protection. Alexis is currently out of jail on bond, but will face charges in court for her actions. Alexis tells us that she is not dissuaded by her upcoming court date, stating that she would do it all over again.

For our viewers that have not been following these developments, here is a brief recap of the events that have led to the 23 year-old college sophomore facing these serious charges.

Operating on the popular website Reddit, Alexis, who’s online identity was ‘justinesroyalguard,’ a nod to a former controversial social justice group from Louisiana who’s founder was charged with several brutal murders back in 2015, Alexis spent most of her Internet hours targeting public figures that she believed used their wealth, professions or influence to avoid facing accountability for criminal activity. Alexis credits her exposing of Randy Hayden publically to the disgust and anger she tells us formed in her after reading the best selling autobiography Jeffery Woods: Brother-Friend-Killer, written by Liu Woods, brother of the infamous serial killer Jeffery Woods. Alexis has stated that she was furious that Randy Hayden, who she describes as a pompous child of privilege, was able to escape all accountability for his actions because of his corrupt father’s political connections within the small New Orleans suburb of Mandeville, LA.

-Select portions of the interview below, for the full interview please visit our website-

Alexis: It’s disgusting really. If Randy Hayden were poor he would have been hung out to dry in the media. He tormented Jeffery Woods but was protected by the local police. He arranged an ambush on Jeff and threatened to shoot him with a flare gun, which he then did! Then he, along with the crooked Mandeville Police, produced a lie that Woods shot himself in the face. Even when the doctor who treated Jeff in the hospital attempted to throw that story into question, Randy’s father started bribing more officials to make that disappear too. This kid was living in a world where he couldn’t be touched.

Leslie: So you read the book and then became motivated to look further into the whereabouts of Randy Hayden?

Alexis: Yes. It was common knowledge that he’d gone into Witness Protection along with his mother and father. It didn’t help that there were a lot of users who liked to troll message boards by pretending to be the real Randy Hayden. Most of them were easily dismissed as fake, but then someone doxxed some information from Maxwell Hayden’s old bank in Mandeville, and a pretty big clue came out.

Leslie: What clue would that be?

Alexis: Once again, it’s pretty well known that Maxwell Hayden, even after going into Witness Protection, lost his financial empire. His shares in his company were all sold off to a private investor, and what he had left went into the massive fines and penalties imposed on him by the Federal Trade Commission. I imagine that wherever Maxwell and Bridgette Hayden are now, that whatever names they were given, they’re probably living off of frozen food and tap water.

However, they apparently had set up a Trust Fund for Randy when he was born. The conditions of the Trust Fund stated that he could claim the money, a sizable amount, when he turned 20 years old. We’re talking a little over a million dollars, all just sitting in an account that his parents, by their own agreed upon conditions, couldn’t touch. It could only go to Randy when he turned 20. So, about six months before what would be his 20th birthday, this user shows up on Reddit, and as I learned once I started digging into it, a bunch of other opinion based Internet forums, asking the same sort of questions.

Leslie: What was he asking that caught your attention?

Alexis: He was asking about Randy Hayden, questions about whether or not he should come out of hiding. This user created polls asking people if they’d forgive his reputation; stuff like that. Now, that alone wasn’t such a red flag just in itself. Lots of people talked about this, especially after Liu Woods’ book came out. There were a lot of people that supported Randy, painting him as just another victim in the entire Jeff the Killer debacle. Others, like myself, wanted to see him held publically accountable for lying to the police about the flare gun incident. What stood out though, was the tone of these posts and the user name for that matter.

Leslie: Right, the user name was ‘rah70048’ correct?

Alexis: Yes. I found this interesting because in everything I’ve read about this case, Randy’s middle name, which is Andrew, was never really stated. Sure, it could be found if someone dug enough, but it just struck me as odd. The numbers 70048 are the zip code for Mandeville, LA. Also, as I said before, the tone of the posts seemed, I don’t know how to really say it… personalized maybe?

Leslie: And it was at this point that you started to think that this could be the real Randy Hayden?

Alexis: Not exactly, but it was enough to make me want to dig more into this user. So myself and some friends essentially hacked the account for rah70048 for more information.

Leslie: And Alexis, you are aware that this is illegal, that you are essentially detailing a crime on national television.

Alexis: As I’ve said many times before, I don’t care. Justice is more important. My lawyer is going to kill me for this interview, but I’d rather sit in jail than sit idly by and allow a corrupted product of privilege like Randy Hayden line his pockets.

Leslie: (Looking briefly at the camera) Very well Alexis, please continue.

Alexis: We found out that ‘rah70048’ was someone named Sean Beckett, who was living in Park City, Utah. We dug some more and found that his online identity only went back four years, to 2015. It was as though Sean Beckett appeared out of thin air that year. We discovered more posts, mostly blogs and forum questions all centered around the reputation of Randy Hayden. We also couldn’t find a single picture of Sean Beckett anywhere on the Internet. All of his online profiles were for sites like Reddit, sites where you don’t make a real personal profile, like on Facebook or Twitter.

Leslie: So you continued to dig into this person’s information?

Alexis: We went further than that, we hacked his personal computer.

Leslie: And that’s when you hit the gold mine?

Alexis: Essentially, yes. We got into his pictures and found what we needed. The pictures of himself in his personal gallery were compared to the most recent pictures of Randy Hayden, which were his yearbook photos from Mandeville High School. Since I released all of this, well, everyone has seen them anyway, so I doubt there can be any question that the pictures we dug off of ‘Sean’s’ computer are clearly Randy Hayden. Four years of aging doesn’t change someone very much, and besides a different haircut, it’s obviously him.

We also found a few documents of his. The pay dirt was the email we found saved in his documents. He essentially was writing to his lawyer, asking what his options were in collecting the Trust Fund.

Email from Sean Beckett to Attorney [Redacted] Subject: Trust Fund

Dear [Redacted]

As you are aware, I will turn 20 this year. At that time I will be eligible to claim a Trust Fund set up by my father. As I am currently unable to use the name associated with the contract, I am wondering what are my options. I would like to have access to the Trust Fund as soon as possible, but do not wish to bring unnecessary attention to myself.

Sincerely,

Sean

Leslie: So at that point you believed that you had all the proof you needed?

Alexis: Clearly.

Leslie: So, you released all of this information to the public via Twitter, Reddit and a variety of other online sources. Did you think about the legal retaliation? Did you know that you were breaking the law not just by hacking someone’s information, but also by breaching the identity of a federally protected individual? Did any of this concern you?

Alexis: Not even for a second.

_________________________________

“Yep, he’s following us alright, I made a few turns and circles just to test him out,” Dalton informed Simon while looking into this rearview mirror.

“I thought you were just lost there for a minute.”

“Be serious for once. I’m pretty sure that truck was parked on Dermott’s street. I wasn’t really paying that much attention, but after 10 minutes of the thing riding our ass I can’t exactly ignore it.”

“Well, we’re the damned police, let’s just pull over and see what it does.”

The road out to the city morgue ran through a few rather underdeveloped areas, and as luck would have it, both men were in a part of Mandeville rarely traveled at night.

Dalton slowed and activated his blinker, pulling his old Buick Regal to the shoulder of the road. The vehicle, a massive pickup truck that looked old but as solid as a tank slowed to a stop as well.

“They’re just sitting in the street,” Simon whispered.

Dalton lowered his window and reached his arm out, gesturing for the truck to go around them. The truck continued to sit idle.

“Fuck this, I don’t have time to play these little games with some bored hicks, reach into my glove box there Simon, get me that flashlight.”

Simon retrieved the flashlight and handed it to Dalton. The detective removed his pistol from its holster and opened the door. Simon followed suit, removing a small pistol that he wore on an ankle holster. Once both men exited the vehicle, Dalton aimed the flashlight at the truck’s windshield.

“Can you see anything?” Simon asked.

“Can’t see for shit, they got some dark tint on there or something. Just keep your gun down, don’t need to startle them.”

Drawing in a breath, he called out the occupants of the truck. “Do you need assistance?!”

Both officers waited for any sort of reaction. The truck continued to remain in place, its engine rumbling.

“If you don’t need assistance, keep it moving! You’re obstructing a roadway!”

“Okay, Dalton do you have a radio in your car? We should probably get some backup out here.”

“No radio, this is my personal vehicle. Use your cellphone, call the precinct and let the dispatcher know to send a couple units out here. We’re on HWY 21 about a mile north of HWY 190.”

Simon removed his phone and as he did, the truck suddenly sprung to life. There was no revving of the engine, no squealing of the tires, just a truck that was now tearing towards them.

Dalton dove back into the car and shut the door behind his just as the truck sped by.

“Fucking shit, what the hell is he doing?” Dalton screamed.

Simon ducked back into the passenger side, his cell phone forgotten in his hand.

“Look, it’s stopping again!”

The truck stopped yet again about 20 feet in front of their car.

“Do they have a plate? Can you see their plate numbers?” Dalton shouted in frustration.

“No plate that I can see, hold on, let me get a picture.”

Simon raised his cellphone and snapped several pictures of the vehicle. “Okay, got it, I’m calling for backup now.”

“Wait… what the fuck are they doing now?” Dalton interrupted.

Both men watched as the passenger side window rolled down and what appeared to be a small brown box was thrown onto the street. No sooner did the box hit the pavement than the truck began to speed away.

Dalton dropped his transmission into drive and began to follow as Simon spoke with M.P.D. dispatch.

“Yeah, it’s a… brown pickup, looks like an older model Jimmy 4×4. No license plates. It just attempted to run us down out here on HWY 21. The vehicle just abandoned what appears to be a brown package on the highway. It is speeding north-bound, please send all additional units to intercept.

No, I we don’t know how many occupants… no we don’t know if their armed. No, it tried to run us off…”

“Give me that shit!” Dalton snapped and grabbed the phone from his partner. “June, goddamn it this is fucking Dalton. Look, get some fucking units out here to reign this fucking truck in. I got pictures of it that I’m going to text to your damned cell phone, so make sure you send those out with the APB. Now stop asking stupid questions and do your damned job or God help me I will tell everyone your sleeping with Gus with the lazy eye!”

Dalton hung up and quickly dialed a new number into the phone. He tossed the phone into Simon’s lap as he slowed the car down next to the discarded little box in the street. “Hang on, we gotta grab that.”

“Are you sure… what if it’s an explosive… or some sort of chemical or powder or…”

“Look, they want us to pick it up. They could have smashed my car into a cube with that monster truck of theirs, but instead they went to a lot of effort to make sure they had our attention. Now, text those pictures you took of that truck to June, I already typed her number in for you!”

Dalton grabbed the brown box and threw it into the back seat before stomping the accelerator to the floor and pushing his old Buick to its limits.

“Where the fuck did you go?” Dalton mumbled to himself.

“I’ve seen lots of little dirt roads back here, they could have pulled off while we were calling for backup or grabbing that box. Hell, that truck is built for off-roading, it could have just found a spot and pulled into the woods.”

Pretty soon the lights of HWY 190 became visible, and the rural blacktop that was HWY 21 gave way to what passed as Mandeville’s main drag of businesses. As the men pulled onto 190 and back into civilization, a tangible relief began to settle on both officers.

“Okay, the APB is out. Every cop in town will be patrolling for the truck tonight. I’ll make sure the focus of the search is on those dirt roads back there. I say we stay on course here and head to the morgue. We’ll inspect that box while we’re there. Two birds with one fucking stone.”

“Dalton, I have to admit, the way you handled everything back there, that was badass! Like, I thought you were this old, lethargic dinosaur, but when the pressure kicks in, you turn into an old, modestly less lethargic dinosaur.”

“You had a strained relationship with your father, didn’t you Simon?”

“Me and weekend dad were pretty good, weekday dad was an asshole though.”

From the American Television Broadcast of ‘Not my Father’s Son’

Interview conducted by journalist Leslie Mathews with Randy Hayden

Leslie: Ladies and gentlemen, several months ago I sat down with Alexis Perry, a social issues activist who illegally exposed the identity of Randy Hayden. For those of you who did not follow the events of the Jeff Woods murders from 2015, Randy was a centerpiece in the chain of tragic occurrences that would leave six residents of Mandeville, LA dead; including two high school students, a police officer, a respected journalist and of course, Jeff Woods’ parents. (A correction would later be published stating that Bennie Rosenberg was a resident of New Orleans, not Mandeville.)

Randy Hayden was the son of a wealthy hedge fund guru and majority partner in one of Louisiana’s largest investment firms. Before the infamous Jeff the Killer murders, Randy was known around Mandeville as a promising legacy. Seemingly well liked by his peers, respected by his teachers and admired for the volunteer work he participated in throughout the small town, no one expected this young man with his entire life ahead of him to become associated with bullying, corruption and perjury.

However, in 2015 Jeff Woods and his family moved from New Orleans East to Mandeville. Jeff’s father, Matthew Woods, had been promoted at work, and with that promotion came the opportunity to move to a better neighborhood and start a new life. Matt Woods would also find that he now worked for Maxwell Hayden.

In the late summer of 2015, Jeff and his brother Liu would encounter Randy Hayden, along with his friends Troy Lockett and Keith Jacobson in the parking lot of a local shopping center. A fight would break out, apparently over bicycles, and the police would intervene.

Officer Donald Williamson of the Mandeville Police Department responded. At the time, no one was aware that Williamson would take a bribe from Maxwell Hayden in order to protect Randy. Williamson would manipulate the police report, reshaping the incident to place all the blame on Jeff and Liu Woods.

A week later Randy saw a chance at revenge. Bridgette Hayden and Shelia Woods decided that if perhaps Jeff and Randy were to get to know each other, they’d become friends and this issue could be resolved. According to the testimonial in Monica Davenport’s release of Jeff Woods’ interview with her former editor, Randy led Jeff into his garage and threatened him with a flare gun after the boys’ mothers left them home alone.

Another fight took place, and in a moment of tragic misfortune, the flare discharged, disfiguring Jeff Woods’ face and blinding him in one eye.

Once again, Donald Williamson arrived on scene to investigate. The official police report as well as the explanation given to Matt and Shelia Woods claimed that Jeff was carelessly playing with the flare gun when he accidentally shot himself in the face.

After the murders began to accelerate, Maxwell Hayden entered his family into Federal Witness Protection. What would follow would be a flurry of accusations against Maxwell and his associates within the Mandeville city government. Lies were exposed, including the truth behind Jeff’s injury. Randy had been responsible for the flare gun.

Interview responses with the parents of Troy Lockett and Keith Jacobson changed drastically after the cover-ups were exposed. After the deaths of Jeff’s parents, but before the murder of Donald Williamson, the parents of Troy and Keith described Randy Hayden as a friendly, helpful and promising young man who was always there for his friends. After Maxwell Hayden and his family left Mandeville though, their opinions changed. As more facts came to light, the same parents described Randy Hayden as a manipulative bully who used his father’s money and influence to lord over his friends.

Four years have passed since Jeff the Killer stalked the streets of the sleepy little town. For most, life has returned to normal. However, for Randy Hayden, life recently has become based on a difficult decision. To remain hidden from society living under a government issued identity, or to step forward into the light and face the harsh criticisms of those like Alexis Perry.

The citizens of Mandeville once praised him for being an intelligent heir to his father’s kingdom. Liu Woods described him as a spoiled bully who couldn’t accept losing a simple fight. Alexis Perry believes him to be a symbol of privilege and wealth, able to circumvent the law.

But who is the real Randy Hayden? Who has the 16 year old ring leader of his friends grown into over the last four years? Tonight we sit down with Randy himself. He has voluntarily removed himself from Witness Protection and wants to tell his story.

Leslie: Thank you for joining me tonight. I realize that this must have been a difficult decision for you.

Randy: It certainly went against my lawyer’s advice, that’s for sure. But I figured the secret is out, so why keep trying to hide?

Leslie: So, who was the real Randy Hayden back in 2015? Were you a manipulative bully as so many have painted you to be? Were you the young blue-chipper with the boundless future? Or were you the young, community active role model?

Randy: I never saw myself as any of those things honestly. On paper I had the perfect life. I feel ridiculous even trying to complain about it. There were problems or course, but compared to what other people have to deal with I had it all.

Leslie: So what complicated that? How did you fall into this conspiracy of lies and corruption?

Randy: There was always a constant pressure on me, especially as I got older. My father was obsessed with molding me into this… I don’t know, mascot? I had to be the best at everything I did. Grades, athletics… anything, I had to be the best.

Leslie: And if you failed?

Randy: My parents would shun me for a while. If I came in 2nd place in a school contest or a sporting event, I’d be ignored for a few days.

Leslie: How so?

Randy: They wouldn’t speak to me. If I tried to ask a question during a meal, my father would actually look around and ask something like, ‘Bridgette, do you hear something?’ I think my mother felt bad, she’d make this face, you know, like regret. She went along with it though. So, anytime I tried anything, I had to force myself to succeed. I was more afraid of being ignored than I was afraid of being hit or grounded or whatever.

Leslie: It sounds to me like you could almost draw a parallel to the way your parents treated you to the way Jeff Woods described his own family life.

Randy: I’ve come to realize that more and more over the years. I wish I hadn’t been so damned stupid back then.

Leslie: You’ve mentioned in the pre-interview that your father would force many questionable actions upon you. Would you care to expand on that?

Randy: It’s going to sound stupid, and most of my friends back then were actually jealous. When I was 14, my father hired a prostitute for me.

Leslie: Now, just to clarify the obvious, what was the purpose of him hiring her?

Randy: He told me that I needed to get sex out of the way so that I could focus on my grades and activities. He called some escort service, spent a ton of money. Apparently he paid to have a full battery of tests done to ensure that she was clean. Then, about a day after my 14th birthday, he called her over.

Leslie: Would you describe the event? If there’s something you don’t wish to include, or if you start to feel uncomfortable, feel free to stop answering the question.

Randy: No, I’ve made peace with it. I remember that day, my mom and dad and I were in the living room together. My mother kept looking at her watch, and then, for no reason I was aware of, she suddenly announced that she had to go out for a bit. I remember her looking at my dad and asking something like, ‘So an hour?’ My dad nodded, then said ‘Better make it two, just in case he gets nervous.’ She gave that same sad little frown, like when they’d ignore me. She asked him, ‘Are you sure about this Max?’ My dad gave her this annoyed wave, like, shooing her out of the house. I guess he was sure.

Leslie: What happened next?

Randy: The woman arrived. She was attractive; I remember that. I remember feeling really shy, like I wanted to excuse myself from the room. I didn’t know who she was but I figured that she was there to see my father. I didn’t want to risk saying anything stupid, so I was preparing to go upstairs to my bedroom. She was discussing something quietly with my father anyway, so I didn’t feel like I needed to be down there. When I stood up to leave though, my dad told me to wait up.

Leslie: What did he say to you?

Randy: He told me that her name was Cherry and that she was going to give me the rest of my birthday presents. He said that he knew what was on my mind, you know, thinking about girls and all. He said that if I just got it over with, I’d be able to focus on the things that mattered.

I asked him what he meant, and he just said flatly; sex.

Leslie: Did you want to have sex with Cherry?

Randy: Not really, no. It was like watching my dad smoke a cigarette. I was always curious as to what it was like, but whenever I had the chance to grab one and light up, I always hesitated. Sure, I found Cherry attractive, but I wasn’t prepared for sex.

Leslie: Did you tell him that?

Randy: Not directly, no. At first I thought it had to be one big joke. Then my dad started giving me specific instructions. It was so surreal. I mean, how the hell do you react to something like that?

Leslie: What happened?

Randy: My father broke it down, as he liked to say, ‘Barney Style.’ You know, like the purple dinosaur. He told me that I was going to take Cherry up to my bedroom and that she would guide me through everything. He told me that she had protection in her purse. I was freaking out a little. I mean, me and my friends would always talk big, you know, bragging or even lying about our experience with women. But now that I was actually face-to-face with it, I really just wanted her to go away.

Leslie: (Nodding for him to continue)

Randy: I must have given my dad a look, something that set him off. Maybe it was the hesitation, or maybe he was expecting me to be happier about the whole thing, but he got angry really fast. He pulled me into the den. I remember he was gripping my arm like a clamp, I’d find bruises there later. He got right in my face and told me that I should be grateful for this, that while other kids were sneaking Playboy magazines into their bathrooms, that I’d be a man. He said ‘You want to be a fucking man, don’t you Randy? Don’t you want to be a man, or are you a little faggot or something? Do you even like girls Randy?’ I told him yes, I liked girls, and then he let go of my arm and told me to go and prove it then. He told me that he spent a lot of money to arrange this visit, and that I’d better not waste his money.

Leslie: Was the woman, Cherry, aware that you were a minor?

Randy: I’m sure she was, but my father was probably throwing a lot of money at her; plus, he would have been in a lot of trouble too, so I’m pretty sure he took care of any potential issues. So, we walk upstairs to my bedroom. My dad waited downstairs. Once we got up there, I guess Cherry could tell I didn’t want to go along with this. It was embarrassing, you know, like I said before, this should’ve been a dream come true. She turned some music on and told me that we could just hang out; that she wouldn’t do anything that I didn’t want to. She said that she would lie to my dad, tell him that the job was done.

Leslie: What did you decide to do?

Randy: We sat on my bed and talked for almost an hour. She told me that she never felt right about the job, but for what my dad was offering to pay, she was willing to do it. She told me that she was ashamed. I told her that I was too. I told her that I was probably passing up the chance of a lifetime. I felt pathetic.

She actually hugged me and told me not to worry about it, that someone’s first time shouldn’t be with a paid call girl. She said it’d never mean as much.

Then we just sort of talked about other stuff. Life in general, you know? I guess in her line of work she hears a lot of guy’s problems. I told her about my dad always demanding I win at everything. I told her about how most of the people that were my friends were just pretending because of my family’s money. I told her that I was lonely a lot of the time, that I was jealous of other families that just loved each other because that’s what you’re supposed to do.

Leslie: Sounds like what you needed was just a good listener back then.

Randy: Yeah, I think so. But then… I don’t know if I said something that upset her or whatever, but she suddenly got angry. Maybe I complained one too many times about the plight of being wealthy. I just remember that she grabbed my shoulders and really locked eyes with me. She told me that there were millions of people in America that would kill to have my life. She told me I was complaining about things that didn’t matter in the long run. She told me about her childhood, growing up sleeping at homeless shelters, watching her mother get beat up by different drunk boyfriends and having to watch her mother practically beg for whatever little handouts she could get.

She told me that in a few years I’d leave my father’s house and never have to deal with him again, so I should just enjoy the comforts that I have and then leave as soon as I could. She told me to just fake it, fake being happy, fake that I wanted to do that things my father wanted. The sports, the debate team the student body government… all of it. She said just fake it until you make it Randy. She told me to just play the role for what it was worth; be a snob, spend my dad’s money… whatever it took to make it through to the day I could move out of his house.

Leslie: Was that advice valuable?

Randy: Well, I took it. Just like that, I stopped trying to care. Cherry and I walked downstairs and I gave my dad this big, stupid thumbs-up. I put on this stupid, cocky little smile and was amazed that, for one of the first times in my life, my father seemed really happy about something I did.

From that day, until the incident with Jeff Woods, I just kept wearing that stupid smile. Whenever I’d feel guilty about something, I just ignored it and faked pride or arrogance or whatever emotion fit the moment. Things got a lot better at home that year. I played on the company softball team, brought home trophies that I didn’t care about. My friends became nothing more than commodities. I was the leader and they followed. When I walked past an old lady I’d say good morning. I held the door open for people at the grocery store; I manipulated people, bought friendships and dropped the ones I didn’t want anymore.

Crazy to think, but that woman, Cherry, was probably the first honest person I’d met in my entire life.

Leslie: Tell me about the first time you and your friends encountered Jeff and Liu Woods. Why did you choose to antagonize them by tampering with the bikes?

Randy: By the time Jeff moved to Mandeville, I was embracing Cherry’s ‘fake it’ style of life to the fullest. I hated myself, don’t get me wrong, but I also found that I could fake that. I just pretended like I didn’t despise what I was becoming. I was 16 now and had been living the ‘fake’ life for two years.’

Either way, we knew that someone had moved into that house, Jeff’s, on Fairmont. It was a nice neighborhood and me and Keith and Troy would usually ride our own bikes or walk down that street to get to Village Shopping Center. There wasn’t much to do in Mandeville if you didn’t have access to a car, so Village was sort of the place to hang out.

So, we saw Jeff and Liu coming out of that house that morning and jump on their bikes. By the time we got to Village, we saw their bikes leaning on the wall next to the video store that was there. It shut down shortly after the incident from what I’ve heard.

So, it started with one of us, maybe Troy, maybe me, just looking at their bikes. Someone in my group commented that the bikes looked old or cheap, I don’t know. Then one of us kicked one of the bikes. We thought it was funny, so we kicked it again. This time it fell over, causing the other bike to fall with it.

We laughed so hard at that. I don’t know why, but this… meanness just came over me. I had no reason to mess with a stranger’s bike, I knew it was wrong, I knew I’d be mad if someone did it to me… all the moral platitudes, but still, I was enjoying it. Keith and Troy were too. So, I decided to up the ante. I picked up one of the bikes and started to ride it. Keith followed suit. We were trying to damage them I guess. We’d peddle really fast and then jump off the bikes, letting them crash.

I knew it was wrong, but I just kept going anyway.

Eventually Jeff and Liu Woods come out of the store and confronted us. There was a fight. I didn’t really want to fight Jeff. I mean, when you’re the leader you can’t risk losing a fight in front of your friends. So I provoked Keith and Troy into fighting them.

Leslie: So, when Donald Williamson wrote in his official report that witnesses saw Jeff and Liu take the first swing at you, was that false?

Randy: Williamson was in my dad’s pocket for a long time. I’m not sure if my father was just bribing him outright with cash, or if he had some information on Williamson, but Jeff and Liu never had a chance at a fair deal that day.

The only witness was the video store clerk, and he didn’t even talk to her. When he arrived Jeff and Liu were gone, but I’d stuck around with Keith and Troy. When Williamson got out of his cruiser, the clerk came out to talk to him, but he just waved her off.

We told him what happened; not all of it obviously, we did try to make it sound like Jeff started it. We admitted to messing with their bikes, and Troy, maybe trying to sound tough, said he took a swing at Liu. Williamson eventually just put his hand up and told us to listen. He said something like, ‘Ok, so you boys were just trying to find out who owned those bikes, right? Because they were just left out on the street, right? And when you tried to return them to their rightful owners, these kids accused you of trying to steal them and attacked you, is that right?’

We were a little confused, so he just repeated it again, this time stomping his foot at what he considered the important parts. We figured out that a foot stomp meant that was the part to make sure we remembered.

We told him the kids that attacked us lived in that recently sold house on Fairmont, and he knew exactly where to go. I guess he called my dad after we all left and told him it was all taken care of, because when I got home that day, my father already knew the story, or at least, the false version that Williamson cooked up.

Leslie: Were you and your friends upset over this? Is that what led to the incident at your house with the flare gun?

Randy: Honestly I didn’t care. I mean, Jeff beat up Keith and Troy, never really touched me on that first encounter. But my dad wanted me to be mad I think. He told me that I let some new kids from the ghetto make me look weak. He asked me what was the point of taking martial arts and having a gym membership if I was just going to get run over by some kid from the gutter. So, I faked being mad, I faked caring about some stupid macho image.

Leslie: Did you set up the attack in your garage? Did you convince your mother that you wanted to make friends with Jeff Woods so he’d come over?

Randy: No, that was just dumb luck. His mother was trying to fit in and I’m sure the fact that my dad was her husband’s boss had created a lot of problems in their home. I think Jeff’s mom just wanted to try and smooth things out. So she called my mom and they talked and eventually set up a day for all of us to get together.

So, Jeff comes over and we hang out, play video games and make conversation. Turns out that we had very similar dads. I let the ‘fake’ advice go for a while and actually started to remember what it felt like to just hang out with someone and not have to pretend to be someone I’m not.

Leslie: So what went wrong? What changed in such a short period of time?

Randy: I actually found out ahead of time that our mothers were planning to go out. My mom told me that she was going to show Jeff’s mom around town a little. I suppose you could say it was at that moment that ‘Real’ and ‘Rich’ started to argue with each other.

Leslie: Who are ‘Real’ and ‘Rich?’

Randy: ‘Randy-Real’ and ‘Randy-Rich.’ Those were the nicknames I created for when I was ‘faking’ life and when I was just being myself. ‘Real’ would have been happy to hang out with Jeff that day, playing video games and whatever. ‘Rich’ however started to think about how my father reacted on the day of the fight in the parking lot. How he’d told me to ‘handle my business’ and not be a weak leader.

Leslie: So you’re saying that you arranged the attack with the flare gun to appease your father?

Randy: Yes. I started thinking only in shades of victory, if that makes sense. I figured if we put a little fear into Jeff, made him regret the incident at the video store; that I’d be able to report to my dad that I’d taken care of things. I wanted him to be proud of me again, the way he was the day Cherry came over. Not just proud of me for making good grades or something, but proud of me for being a ‘man.’ I realize now how stupid all that is, but when you’re 16 and trying to decide if you should be ‘real’ or ‘rich’ every day, I guess stupid choices are bound to happen.

Leslie: Was it at that point that you called Keith Jacobson and Troy Lockett and told them the plan?

Randy: Yeah. I told them that our parents were leaving soon, and that they should come over if they wanted to get back at Jeff Woods for the fight. They were all for it of course.

Leslie: So, you had him outnumbered; why even introduce the flare gun? Seems as though it was overkill.

Randy: That was the idea. My father always told me that getting even wasn’t as good as getting ahead. While on the surface he might give the traditional ‘revenge is wrong’ type speech, depending on who was around; my dad always found a way to pull me aside later and correct himself. He was a firm believer in putting things back to balance, and to my father, being one point ahead of everyone else was his idea of balance.’

I figured that the flare gun would be that perfect one point lead. It was so stupid, I know, but that was “Rich” Randy for you, full of bad ideas.

Leslie: Did you have any intent whatsoever to shoot him with it?

Randy: Jesus no! The idea of a bunch of suburban kids shooting at someone over a fight…. that’s a work of fiction if ever there was one.

No, I just wanted to let Keith and Troy get their hits in. Knock him around a little, that’s all.

Leslie: That didn’t happen though; did it?

Randy: No. I’ve listened to Monica Davenport’s Jeff tapes, if I’d have known how much that kid was dangling on the edge… we’d have left him alone.

Leslie: Now, one of the big pieces of controversy was your story. You reported that Jeff Woods shot himself in the face while playing around with the flare gun. However, the audio recordings released by Davenport told a different story. All of the corruption that was exposed about your family and their ties to the powers that be in Mandeville also told a different story. What really happened that day?

Randy: (Taking a deep breath and staring into the distance for a moment) I shot Jeffery Woods in the face. It was an accident. I dropped the flare gun and it discharged.

Leslie: So why did you lie?

Randy: Williamson cooked up the entire story. From the moment he arrived on scene. He pulled me and Keith and Troy into our living room. By then both my mom and Jeff’s were back, they were hysterical. The EMT’s were doing their thing and no one was paying a lot of attention to us. Williamson took us into the other room and handled it just like the fight in the parking lot.

Leslie: How so?

Randy: Fed us our lines, just like in a play. He asked us how much we’d already told the EMT’s or the parents, which honestly hadn’t been much. He asked me what happened, and I told him the truth, that I’d dropped the gun and it shot Jeff. Williamson explained to me that I could be charged with Aggravated Battery, that it was a felony and I could spend the rest of my youth in a juvenile detention center. He told Keith and Troy that they would be tried as accessories and essentially face the same punishment. He said that my father could be held responsible as well, since it was his flare gun and it wasn’t properly locked away.

By then me and my friends were in tears. All that tough-guy garbage and yet we were crying like babies. I could practically feel my father’s shame.

Williamson wasn’t done there either. He went on to tell us about how my family could be sued in civil court for this as well. How we could all be on the street before my first criminal court date even showed up.

I realized years later exactly what he had done. He’d set a trap to ensure that we’d go along with the alibi that he’d prepared.

Leslie: So Williamson told you to lie, to say that Jeff Woods shot himself with the flare gun?

Randy: Told us? He wrote the whole thing and just showed us where to sign. We had to go to court only once. Just an inquest hearing to determine if the incident was accidental or not; everyone from the judge to the Distract Attorney were likely bribed. We showed up in our little suits and ties at 9AM and were home in time for lunch. No further investigation would be conducted as to the cause of Jeff’s injury.

_______________________________

“Like I told you before, that is not Jeffery Woods,” Simon repeated as he and Dalton stood over the corpse. They’d arrived at the morgue less than 10 minutes prior, and were waiting for the medical examiner to come give her report.

“Fucking make-up and a contact lens? Why?” Dalton mumbled to himself.

“Clearly this individual wanted the murder to be credited to Jeff Woods.”

“No shit Sherlock, I’m just wondering why now, why after four years try and do this?”

The Medical Examiner entered the room. “Well, I might be able to answer some of that for you,” Marla Darrow, Mandeville’s forensic expert informed them.

“Well shit Marla, don’t keep us in the dark,” Dalton replied.

“The young man on the table in front of you is Brian Antoines, 21 years old and just recently released from the Southeast Louisiana Psychiatric Hospital. According to his records, he got out of there just five months ago.”

“What was he in there for?” Simon asked.

“Standard onset of schizophrenia from the records I can pull. It’s a sad story for many kids, as the symptoms of schizophrenia usually start accelerating in their teenage years. Seems as though he was treated for depression and delusional behavior through the hospital’s outpatient wing, but eventually those treatments weren’t enough. Looks like they officially started inpatient treatment three years ago when his issues at school could no longer be managed by his foster parents.”

“Foster parents; so this kid was an orphan?” Dalton asked.

“His biological parents are unknown. State records indicate that he was dropped off at the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office as an infant. The names of the parents weren’t recorded… likely were never given. He bounced around from foster home to foster home until his mental illness became too much for his guardians to handle.”

Simon rubbed his chin thoughtfully, “It’s like the great wordsmith William Smith once said; ‘Parents just don’t understand.’”

Dalton chuckled at this, causing Marla to give them a sharp look.

“Is this funny to you two? A kid is dead!”

“I’m sorry… Marla is it?” Simon began. “We’ve had a rough night.”

Dalton snickered again, “Shit Marla, I ain’t sorry. That’s the funniest thing this little weirdo has said since I met him. Plus, yeah, we were almost run off the damned street tonight and…. Oh yeah!”

Dalton walked quickly towards the exit, leaving Simon and the less than humorous Marla to entertain each other in the meantime.

“So Marla, I’m only in town for a day or so, but…” Simon Lyman began.

“I’ll save you the trouble; I’m married, I have a boyfriend, I’m a lesbian,” she replied.

“Wait… that’s all pretty contradictory, which is it?”

“Pick one Agent Lyman, I don’t care,” she answered, filling the room with an awkward sense that pressed down on Simon’s shoulders like a boulder on his back.

“So Jeff the Killer… exciting stuff huh?” he stated, trying regain his composure after the painful rejection.

“I can’t believe this is coming back, after the 2015 disaster, I think most people were hoping they’d seen the last reboot of Jeff Woods and his misadventures.”

“It’s almost like people can’t learn from their past mistakes. Why would anyone want to rehash all of this now?”

“Liu Woods’ book may have something to do with it,” Marla mused. “It’s banned from a lot of places down here. None of our locally owned bookstores will carry it. It was the corruption though, if you ask me, that everyone in this city wants to forget, more so than the murders themselves.”

Dalton returned to the room carrying the package they’d picked up off the road. “Okay Simon, let’s see just what these fuckers packed up for us.”

“Are you sure that’s safe to open?” Marla asked.

“Christ, you two should date each other, you’re both afraid of the same crap,” Dalton responded, causing Simon and Marla to smirk a bit at the observation.

Dalton removed a pocketknife from his back pocket and carefully cut along the packing tape. Marla adjusted an overhead examination light to illuminate the metal table where Bradshaw had set the package. Simon took two steps back.

Slowly the tape was removed.

“Here,” Marla grunted quickly, thrusting latex gloves into Dalton’s hands.

The package was opened and Dalton breathed a sigh of annoyance and relief.

“It’s just a fucking CD and… wait, there’s some pictures too, let’s see here.”

Contained in the small package were two photos and a DVD with no label. Dalton removed the photos and placed them on the table side by side.

The first photo was Liu Woods. A recent one from the looks of it, perhaps even the photo from the sleeve of his now infamous book. The second picture looked a bit familiar to Dalton Bradshaw, though he wasn’t quite sure until Simon spoke up.

“That’s Randy Hayden. It’s recent too. Looks like a screen shot from his appearance on the Leslie Mathews show.”

Dalton glanced over at the old clock on the wall and sighed. “Almost midnight, we’ve been at this too long. I’m tempted to pop that CD into the nearest computer and take a look, but we better play this one by the book. We’ll have our tech people look at it in the morning. Who knows what’s on that disc?”

“Why not have the tech look at it tonight? I know you’re tired, but this is just getting good and I really want to know what’s on that disc,” Simon asked.

“This is Mandeville, our techies go home at dinner time,” Dalton told the agent; he then turned his attention to Marla. “We’re going to need the name of the dead kid’s psychiatrist who was treating him at Southeast Psych. If there are more answers, I think we’ll find some there. The hospital will also have his most recent foster parents, and we’re going to want to pay them a visit as well. I think tomorrow is going to be a busy day for us Lymon, hence why we need to go and get some sleep.”

“I’ll get the information for you. What about the pictures of Liu Woods and Randy Hayden, any ideas on how that connects?” Marla inquired.

“Besides the obvious? I mean, one is the Jeff Woods’ brother, the other is the kid that shot him in the face with a flare gun.” Simon informed her.

“Yeah, but…” Marla began, gazing down at the pictures, before suddenly finding a new point of interest. “Both of you come look at this! I think there is another clue in here!”

Dalton Bradshaw and Simon Lymon joined her and peered down into the box. There was something written on the bottom interior of the box, however, it was hardly visible.

“Fuck it all, I can’t tell what it says. It’s too damned faint,” Dalton complained.

“Wait, I have an idea,” Marla stated, and reached up and fiddled with the lamp mounted above their heads. She toggled a switch, engaging the lamp’s black light function. Suddenly the three investigators were thrown into a warped world of strange color. Standing over a fresh corpse with the room glowing in odd hues of blue and black caused a small shiver to run down Simon’s back. However, the mystery writing on the bottom of the box suddenly became clear to them all.

114 Shortcut Road

The dead prophet speaks, but when his source of power fades, his words of wisdom will be forever lost.

“What’s it mean?” Simon was asking, but Dalton was already on his phone, calling for backup to meet them at the address hidden in the box.

“Shortcut Road, it’s a small gravel stretch out in the middle of no where. It’s got a reputation of being a place where bad things happen. When I was a kid there were urban legends about devil worshippers out there. There are a few abandoned houses back there, but that’s about it.”

“Not just any abandoned houses!” Dalton snapped as he hung up his phone. “Remember that video I was watching today, the one with the kids calling themselves ‘Jeff’s Killers?’ Back when that group was still active, they’d hold a lot of their meetings back there in those abandoned homes. Fuck and shit Simon, how the hell didn’t we realize this sooner? I bet this is all the work of those fucking sick bastards!”

“Detective Bradshaw, those kids haven’t been active in years! Not since they spent all that money to clear out Shortcut Road and…” Marla was attempting to explain, but Dalton was already on the move.

“Okay Simon, backup is on their way out there. Fucking Mandeville runs on a skeleton crew of cops at night, so they’re reaching out to the St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office for additional units. Let’s get moving!”

Dalton grabbed the small box, throwing the photos and the DVD back inside before briskly making his way towards the exit.

“Wait, the information you wanted!” Marla shouted, holding up a small notebook.

“Here, I’ll take it!” Simon grabbed the piece of paper with the name of Brian Antoines’ shrink written on it before turning to follow Dalton out to the parking lot.

Dalton was already in his car with the engine running when Simon climbed into the passenger seat. He looked over at his partner with impatience in his eyes.

“Took you long enough, what were you doing in there, trying to score a date or something?”

“I was actually.”

“How it go?”

“Apparently she’s a married lesbian with a boyfriend. Talk about covering the bases.”

Dalton snickered, “I know for a fact that she’s single and likes men, guess you just fell outside of her scope of interest.”

“Figures. So, give me the rundown on this area, Marla said that it’s a bad spot.”

Dalton reached into his glove compartment and grabbed another Adderall from the plastic baggie. Simon gave him a strange look but asked no questions.

“Mind if I smoke?” Dalton asked, already lighting a cigarette without waiting for an answer. He took a long drag and began to answer Simon’s question. “Shortcut Road used to be what one might consider Mandeville’s ‘bad’ part of town. There used to be a small neighborhood back there, if you could even call it that. The utilities were rough back there, always going out due to poor maintenance. Now, by the time I transferred out here they’d actually gone out there and cleaned a lot of it up. I don’t think anyone really lives out there anymore. Of course, that idiotic Jeff Woods cult turned some of the abandoned houses out there into their freaking clubhouses. My first couple months working out here I had to go back there just once for a call.”

“What was it?”

“Well, Jeff’s Killers were just about gone and forgotten by then. People were growing up and the legend of Jeff the Killer was losing its appeal to kids out here. There were still a few that would go out there to smoke dope or whatever from time to time, but they weren’t dressing up as Jeff Woods anymore. I think they just kept it going to piss off Drake Arkansaw.”

“Wait, Drake Arkansaw, he’s the guy that bought Maxwell Hayden’s shares of his company, how was he involved with Jeff’s Killers?”

“Oh, something the expert here doesn’t know? Well, Drake’s first act of business was securing majority ownership of Hayden’s firm. Hayden sold him 35% of the company, and Drake just threw his money around until he secured the other 16%. Don’t ask me for the details because I’m just a dumb fucking cop, but I know that once he owned 51% of the company, he basically owned Mandeville.”

Simon was looking down at his phone, pulling additional information to add to the conversation. “Falstaff Enterprises, that’s what it’s called now.”

“Yeah, Drake was a big public figure guy though. He knew that Maxwell Hayden had fucked himself royally with underhanded deals and backroom bribes, so he decided to go the opposite route. Drake was Mr. Limelight. He was making money hand-over-fist and started trying the ‘hearts and minds’ approach. He wanted to bring Mandeville back to its once glorious status as a suburban paradise, which of course meant getting rid of all the Jeff the Killer freaking residue.”

Simon looked up from his phone, “It says here that he hired a bunch of cops to work off duty for him, sort of like his own personal task force. Seems like cleaning out Shortcut Road and getting rid of the Jeff fan club back there was his first big act.”

“Technically second. Did you know he moved himself and his daughter into Jeff Woods’ old house? Yep, right there on Fairmont. Place burned down not too long ago, good riddance I suppose.”

“So, Drake Arkansaw pissed these kids off that were using the old houses back there to have their little Jeff parties, and you think the few that remained did so just to mess with the guy?”

“More than likely yes. I mean, it was like history repeating itself. They saw him as just another rich asshole trying to write the laws in this town. I guess the jokes on them though, Drake Arkansaw died last year; his daughter is still around here though, she pops up from time to time.”

The two men had become lost in conversation as Dalton turned down dark road after dark road, taking them further into the backwoods of St. Tammany Parish. It was the massive glow of red and blue lights up ahead that broke their chatter and brought them back to the present.

“That’s our backup, or in this case, I suppose we’re the backup now.” Dalton commented.

“Must be a dozen cars up there, they got here quick.”

“This is a boring town to be a cop in Simon. If this were New Orleans, that backup would arrive sometime next week. Out here though, the cops are chomping at the bit for something to do. I bet half of those guys up there are already preparing their bullshit stories to tell over cheap beers and…”

Simon suddenly cut him off, shouting, “Look out!”

From behind them an ambulance came speeding past.

“Okay shit, what the fuck is happening!” Dalton grunted as he stepped on the accelerator and sped to their destination.

Dalton’s eyes immediately fell on the news van parked across the street and felt his stomach flip over. “The media… how?”

___________________________________

From WDSU New Orleans: Grizzly Murder on the North Shore

Reported by Helena Morrison

Helena: Tonight the residents of Mandeville are once again taken back to the chilling serial killings of 2015 involving teenage murderer Jeffery Woods, known in the media as Jeff the Killer. Last night police responded to an abandoned home located in a long forgotten part of Mandeville known as Shortcut Road. Local teens calling themselves Jeff’s Killers were once known to frequent these homes, however, in a statement by Mandeville Police Chief Mitchell Hardy, their activities had ceased over time. Now it appears that someone has taken an interest in the area once again, and this time they are stepping up their morbid fascinations to a terrifying new plateau.

(The scene now cuts from the newsroom to footage from the prior night on Shortcut Road. Helena Morrison can be seen standing in front of a small blighted home as dozens of police, EMT’s and other officials mill about the front yard, some entering into the dark home as others take photographs and examine the area.

The screen then splits, showing Morrison in the newsroom as the footage from the crime scene continues to play on the other half of the screen.)

Helena: WDSU received an anonymous tip around 11:20 last night, informing us that if we wanted to be the first on scene for what the caller described as his ‘masterpiece’ that we should hurry to 114 Shortcut Road. We arrived around the same time as the first police cruisers began to show up, and we were not allowed to bring out cameras into the house. However, it soon became apparent from the reactions of the officers reporting on scene, that something horrific had taken place in the small town that once prided itself on its practically non-existent crime rate. I’m going to play for you the call that we received last night from the unknown tipster, however I must warn viewers at home that this audio recording is disturbing.

(The screen shifts to a grey screen with a stock photo of a telephone in one corner and the WDSU logo on the other. The call is played with the audio captioned across the screen.)

Male Voice (Modified slightly to raise the pitch): My masterpiece awaits those with curious eyes. He has much prophecy to share. Will it be heard before the soul within his voice dies forever? So many lies are told, so many false Messiahs speak and so many fools listen. I have the truth, if you will come and bear witness. 114 Shortcut Road. The dead speak there. Jeff’s Killers worship a false god. Only the truth can open the door to freedom. Come find the truth.

(Screen returns to Helena Morrison)

As I said before, we were not allowed into the crime scene. However, a source working on the investigation did share with us a first hand account of what he saw in the house. The witness describes the scene as something from a horror movie. The body of a man was nailed to the wall of the home. Rescuers believed the victim to still be living at the time of the discovery, as a faint voice was heard whispering from his mouth. However, upon further investigation it was discovered that a small MP3 device was forced into the victim’s mouth and was playing a recorded message on a constant loop.

(Screen cuts back to the scene of the crime the night before, where EMT’s can be seen wheeling the victim out of the house on a stretcher. The victim is covered in a white sheet.)

The identity of the victim has yet to be released, as the investigation is still ongoing. The contents of the recording are also being kept within police custody until further information becomes available.

In other news….

Four days passed and things were bad for Dalton Bradshaw and Simon Lymon. The news had spread like wildfire. The Internet was burning up with stories about Mandeville’s infamous Jeff the Killer. Rumors were flying about; had Jeff returned? Was there a copycat serial killer on the loose? Did the cult-like youths that once called them selves Jeff’s Killers finally organize and become violent? People were demanding answers and the Mayor’s Office along with the Chief of Police were struck with a deluge of furious citizens wanting the truth. Sadly, for all of their efforts, no truths could be solidified yet.

What the news had failed to report on the night of the murder on Shortcut Road was being pieced together by everyone from YouTube commentators to established news sources; however, the Mandeville Police who had the answers were ordered to remain silent. Any officer found responsible providing information to the press would be terminated on the spot. The Chief of Police, Mitchell Hardy, had raised the bar even higher by threatening his staff with criminal charges of Malfeasance in Office should any journalist become privy to information before he and the mayor were ready to have a press release.

What had been found was something far too terrible to actually broadcast on the nightly news anyway. Upon arrival to 114 Shortcut Road, police discovered the body of Trent Vickers, a resident of Mandeville and known troublemaker. Vickers was in his mid-20s, played in a heavy metal band and was a thorn in the side of law enforcement for years. Usually his crimes didn’t extend past drunken outbursts after a night at the Green Room, a local club in the neighboring town of Covington that hosted different musical acts. The Green Room was the closest thing that residents of the North Shore could get to a New Orleans rock bar without having to drive across the lake.

More than that though, Vickers was the self-proclaimed founding member of Jeff’s Killers. He’d been generous online with his master plan to create a sovereign community in the abandoned homes on Shortcut Road. This of course meant that he’d been in direct conflict with the Mandeville Police, but more so than them, Drake Arkansaw and his company. When Arkansaw began his task of clearing out the old houses on Shortcut Road, he’d been met with an abundance of resistance from Vickers. Lots of confrontations filmed on cell phone cameras that found their way to Vickers’ YouTube channel. Lots of blogging, calling Arkansaw a fascist, comparing him to early 20th Century mobsters, complete with accusations that the entire Mandeville Police Department was in his back pocket. There was a lot of mud slinging in the form of comparing Drake Arkansaw to Maxwell Hayden. Vickers claimed that Arkansaw’s desire to clean up Shortcut Road was just another attempt at hiding the truth of what Mandeville really was, and how the lies and corruption discovered after Jeff Woods’ rampage were simply repeating themselves under a different dictator. He created a few issues, such as blocking construction vehicles sent out by Arksansaw, but eventually, like so many others, fed himself enough rope to let himself hang.

In late 2016, when Arkansaw really started ramping up his efforts to clear out Shortcut Road, Vickers decided to up the ante and start targeting actual members of Arkansaw’s staff. He’d show up at the company headquarters with his cell phone camera rolling and conduct ambush interviews intending to humiliate anyone connected to Drake Arkansaw.

From YouTube Channel ‘Free Mandeville’ Posted by Trent Vickers

(Camera footage shot from first-person perspective shows cameraman-Vickers-approaching front office entryway of Falstaff Enterprises. Unidentified man in suit exits door and is accosted by Vickers)

Vickers: Sir, would you care to explain how you sleep at night knowing that your paycheck is coming from a fascist tyrant?

Businessman: Go away.

Vickers: I will not go away! Your company is attempting to destroy a community of sovereign, peaceful people who oppose corruption. We will not simply go away!

Businessman: Get a life!

Vickers: You’re a fucking pig bastard! Go suck on the dick of your boss!

(Uniformed Security Guard exits building and approaches Vickers)

Guard: Sir, you’re going to have to leave!

Vickers: I’m on a public sidewalk; piss off!

Guard: Sir, you cannot harass the employees!

Vickers: What’s your name and badge number!

Guard: Sir, you’re going to have to stop filming me without…

Vickers: Name and badge number you fucking pig!

Vickers would often be given citations and was occasionally arrested for such demonstrations. It wasn’t until he decided to target Arkansaw’s teenage daughter as she was leaving her high school that he finally found himself facing serious criminal charges.

From YouTube Video ‘Stupid People of the Suburbs’ Posted by Hippy Hater

(Video begins with Vickers filming as he approaches Mandeville High School’s student parking lot. A young woman, later identified as the daughter of Drake Arkansaw, is confronted as she walks towards her car)

Vickers: How does it feel to know you’re father is a fucking monster?

Girl: Who are you?

Vickers: You know who the fuck I am! I’m the guy that’s going to fuck your dad up the ass harder than he fucks you!

Girl: What did you say to me?

Vickers: You heard me! What’s the matter, ashamed of your father? You should be!

(Vickers then lowers his camera to demonstrate that he is grabbing his crotch and making sexual gestures towards the girl)

Vickers: Yeah, I’m gonna fuck your dad just like this! You like that you spoiled little cunt!

(Other students begin to gather and several teachers start to approach Vickers)

Teacher: Sir, you need to leave school grounds this second!

Vickers: This is a public school, my tax dollars pay for it and I have a right to be here!

(A uniformed police officer assigned to the school as security begins to approach)

Officer: Sir, I was informed that you made sexually suggestive comments to one of our students! I’m going to need to see identification right now.

Vickers: Fuck you, I know my rights, this is freedom of speech and freedom of the press!

Officer: Sir, turn around and place your hand behind your back!

Vickers, who’d found clever ways to skirt the law on several occasions, was finally caught. He was charged with Sexual Misconduct Towards a Minor for his comments directed at Arkansaw’s daughter. In a plea agreement with the Distract Attorney, Vickers was able to avoid jail time but was given 5 years probation with the condition that he cease targeting any associates of Drake Arkansaw. He was also banned from going within 200 feet of Mandeville High School. Afterwards he mostly vanished from the public eye. He played his gigs at the Green Room from time to time and would occasionally post one of his video rants about conspiracies and such, but his mission to bring down Arkansaw and his task force seemed to have vanished all together.

Then, four nights ago, he was found by police nailed to the wall of one of the last remaining abandoned homes on Shortcut Road that he’d once fought so hard to protect. Lodged in his mouth was a small voice recorder playing the same bizarre and ominous message on a constant loop. The message wasn’t saved though, and had the recorder’s batteries drained completely, the strange message of looming disaster may have never been heard at all.

From the recording found on the corpse of Trent Vickers

Currently only accessible to members of the Mandeville Police and other Law Enforcement Agencies

Lies are locks, they keep us out… Lies are locks, they trap us in… Lies are locks indeed. Truth… truth is the key! The key to open the door of truth! What will we find there? The dead beg for nothing, the living beg for relief. Relief from the hell that I have brought to Mandeville!!

No one is safe! Your lies protected you for so long, but now… now the truth shall shine bright! Liars fill their pockets with ill-gotten gold! Liars shall be held accountable! Liars shall be forced to stand before the door of truth and confess their sins! Only then shall peace return!

Dalton Bradshaw and Simon Lymon… you are but bit players in the grand scheme before you. The true stars have yet to rise, though they shall soon enough! In the meantime, I promise that we will keep you both entertained. Be warned though, your lives are of no real importance, and may be snuffed out at any time. Perhaps you should make haste and bring my stars to Mandeville! The victim and the liar must face vindication! The longer you stall, the more death we shall bring to you! Remember, only the truth can open the door to peace! Lies will only bring more death!

Bradshaw and Lymon listened to this recording for probably the 100th time as they stood before the desk of Police Chief Mitchell Hardy. The chief was pissed, had been pissed since the incidents began happening again. Now he was moving beyond pissed into a new zone of rage that made Bradshaw cringe a bit. To make matters worse, Lymon had now taken a seat and was apparently scrolling through something on his cell phone as the chief was just getting started. Bradshaw felt his stomach tighten in anticipation for the ass chewing to come.

“You two… how! How did this get so fucked up?” the chief demanded.

“Sir, we did everything in our power to contain this, however…” Dalton began, but was interrupted as the chief continued his rant.

“You had some pretty simple orders Bradshaw, keep this shit quiet! All you had to do was write up the incident at the Dermott house as a B&E that ended with the perp being killed in self-defense. Was that too fucking hard? And you, Lymon, I’m not sure if your superiors in Baton Rouge told you or not, but your whole purpose as our ‘expert’ here was to conclude 100% that this had nothing to do with the Jeff Woods incident from 2015. Jeff the Killer is something that everyone just wants to fucking forget! The 2015 incident was a disaster for everyone involved here! So why in the hell is it that you managed to not only fail in your first goal, but then manage to somehow start a fucking sequel! No one wants a sequel to 2015! No one!”

Lymon looked up from his phone for just a moment to respond, “I don’t know about all that sir, some people thought that 2015 was handled well. I mean, sure, it wasn’t perfection, but let’s be honest, it didn’t help that half the brass in this town went out of their way to cover the whole damned thing up. Maybe if you’d all just done your jobs in the first place instead of worrying about protecting one rich old man, we wouldn’t be sitting here right now!”

Hardy looked stunned. He was not a man used to be spoken back to, especially in his own office where he made the policy and enforced the laws. It did the situation no favors that the man currently talking down to him was half his age, wearing a t-shirt with something called a ‘Homestar Runner’ printed on the front.

“Just who in the hell do you think you are?” Hardy asked, his voice more stunned now than angry.

“I don’t think I’m anything. However, I know that I am a State Agent. I know that my boss has the governor on speed dial; can you say the same thing? I know that my boss told me to disregard your request that I come down here just to whitewash the incident. I also know that you, as chief of police, must be aware that instructing a government agent to falsify a report is a pretty hefty charge. Maybe that’s the way you’re used to doing things here, but it’s not the way I do business chief. I was told to come down here and conduct a real investigation.

You have a serious problem on your hands here chief. The fact that you haven’t held a press conference yet is making you look like shit as well. So, maybe I’ll just call one today. I have every legal right to seize the recordings found at the crime scene, and if you keep acting like a fucking asshole, I might just do that. Maybe I’ll go ahead and deputize Detective Bradshaw here as an official attachment to the State for the duration of this case, that way we don’t need to deal with you at all anymore. Do you think perhaps that would be a good idea? Or who knows, maybe I’ll call the governor myself today, let him know that you suburban snobs are obstructing justice down here… again! Yeah, how’d you like that?”

Chief Hardy was speechless. He wasn’t sure if Lymon could do half of the things that he’d just threatened to do, but the idea of this young punk calling a press conference was enough to scare him into compliance, at least for the time being. He took a deep breath and plastered on a fake smile.

“Gentlemen, perhaps I was a bit too harsh just now. This has been stressful for us all. I’ve had the mayor barking at me since this began, demanding that we close this case quickly. I shouldn’t have taken this out on you. Agent Lymon, I apologize.”

“No worries chief. Now, me and Dalton have some police work to do. I think I may have just found our next big break.”

Dalton, who’d been shocked into silence by his young partner’s sudden outburst, found his voice again. “What, did the CSI find something from the house?”

“Better, I found something on YouTube!”

“Check it out Dalton, this is the clue, you’re not going to believe who uploaded a video response to this.”

From YouTube Channel ‘Jane of Ark’ Uploaded by Jane Arkansaw

Jane: (Speaking directly into camera) So you think this is funny? You think this is a joke now? People are dying. Something much larger is behind this. If you’re crazy enough to think that some disfigured kid is running around in the shadows creating all of this, than you deserve it! I know things! My father received threats from lots of sources before his death. He was too close to all of it. He tried to erase Mandeville’s past with his money, but what lies beneath the surface is something so broken and rotting on the inside that money cannot clean.

There are people out there with very close connections to the situation from 2015 that still have agendas and goals. None of those goals are good. I’ve spent a lot of time looking into this, trust me; this didn’t just start with the attack at the Dermott’s. This has been going for four years. Expelling Maxwell Hayden and replacing him with my father did not fix anything. Removing corrupt officials from office and allowing them to run and hide in the shadows did not fix anything. Lives were ruined, lives were lost and I’m pretty sure minds were lost as well.

My father was on to something before he was murdered. He figured something out, something that runs much deeper than Jeffery Woods, Maxwell Hayden or any one person. If you want the truth, go back to the beginning. I will continue to release information as I put it together.

To the law enforcement officers that are investigating this matter, know one thing right now, there is a massive smoke screen being put in front of you! That smoke screen is Jeff the Killer! Don’t let the sensationalism around his case distract you. Look deeper!

_________________________________________

“Well I’ll be, the prodigal daughter returns,” Simon mumbled.

“How did she know about the incident with the Dermott family?”

“I would venture to guess that by now Lane Dermott has spilled the beans to at least a couple of people. That kid didn’t strike me as the type who could keep a secret for long.”

“Okay, we’re going to go and talk to Jane Arkansaw and find out what she knows. If her father really was receiving threats I want to know what those threats were and who they came from,” Dalton stated.

“It would make sense that he might be a target. He did step in for Maxwell Hayden and he didn’t exactly have a low profile while doing so. Between pissing off the crazies that hung out on Shortcut Road to probably pissing off a ton of Mandeville’s older and wealthier elite, his list of enemies could be a mile long.”

Simon’s cell phone chimes, indicating a text message.

“Oh hey, more good news I guess! Looks like the tech guys finally cracked that CD we found. Today is turning out to be interesting!”

“So where to first? Jane Arkansaw or the CD?”

Simon considered for a moment and then answered, “The CD for sure. We’ll have plenty of time to talk with Jane. Whatever is on that CD though is directly from these assholes and I just gotta know what’s going to shart out of there.”

“Okay, I was sort of hoping that the chief would be gone by the time we had go back into the station, but whatever, fuck that guy. Let’s get this done.”

Simon and Dalton returned to the Mandeville Police Station and prepared to view the contents of the DVD left for them the night they were almost run off the road.

“Hurry the fuck up Dalt!” a uniformed officer called as the two investigators walked into the control booth of the Mandeville Police Station.

The techie looked as though he’d just discovered the Holy Grail or the Fountain of Youth. Without being asked, the tech immediately went into an explanation that neither Dalton nor Simon really understood.

“It took several days but I finally cracked the encryptions on that DVD. Seems that whoever burned the information onto this disk used several variations of encryption software. Most likely the guy got a hold of EncryptDisc and just tampered with the codes a bit. He knew that we’d be throwing government grade decryption at it, so I guess he wanted to make sure we got the point.”

“Exactly what point would that be?” Dalton asked sharply.

“My guess, he wanted us to know that he knew what he was doing. He clearly wanted us to crack the code; I mean, why else leave us the disc? No, I think this was more or less a bit of computer saber rattling. Just a way of making sure we know he isn’t an amateur.”

“Well then, how about we stop torturing ourselves with delayed gratification and get down to business!” Simon stated jovially.

“Isn’t the chief going to come out and watch?” Dalton asked.

“He said he’ll watch it later. I think he’s preparing that press conference that everyone wants. I saw him going over paperwork,” another uniformed cop replied.

The techie pushed play and the video began.

From DVD Left Behind By Jimmy 4×4 During Investigation into the Attack on Dermott

Property of Mandeville Police, Evidence# 2461022

(Gravelly Male Voice—Possibly Electronically Enhanced—Menacing Tone)

Why does one choose to lie? If you’re hearing this and believe somewhere that this is a meant to be a profound question, you can stop. People choose to lie because they are human. They are weak and pathetic. They hide. They cheat. They destroy. All of this is done so they can reside in the shadows for a short while longer before eventually being forced to face the truth.

One of my most central of players has recently come forward, cast into the light, yet still hiding behind a mask of lies. Did he do it for money? Did he do it for forgiveness? That is one mystery that I intend to solve.

(DVD begins to display video footage—voice continues to speak as footage plays.

What appears to be video shot on a camcorder or low quality video recording device appears. Footage shows two police cars parked outside of the former home of Jeffery Woods. Two youths, clearly Jeff and Liu Woods from 2015 are then seen walking up to the front door of their home. The time stamp on the video confirms that this was filmed on the day Jeff and Liu fought Randy and his friends at the video store.)

To the officers who are attempting to make sense of this, know that the events of today were set into motion many years ago. Nothing here is random, nothing here is chaotic. Everything, from the profound to the mundane has been analyzed and predicted.

(Video of Sheila and Jeffery Woods arriving at the home of Bridgette Hayden appears.)

Truth is actually far more delicate than lies. Lies are man made after all, products of intelligent craft. A lie can be built upon, improved upon and strengthened, much like a simple fort that eventually grows into a castle, which eventually becomes a village and finally a city.

The truth however is fragile, as it can only exist as it is. It cannot be improved or fortified. It cannot be developed into a superior product by group collaboration. The truth is only the truth. Nothing can be added or taken away.

(Video of the ambulance parked outside of Hayden’s home appears on the screen. A stretcher is shown taking Jeffery Woods from the garage to the ambulance.)

The truth existed that day for only a brief period. Randy, Keith, Troy and Jeff all knew the truth. That delicate fact existed until the moment Officer Williamson arrived. At that point it was polluted into a lie.

(Video appears of Randy Hayden in court at his inquest hearing. The judge is smiling contently as he writes notes. Randy steps down from the stand and joins his father.)

Who can be trusted now? Now that blood has spilled upon the floor; who can we turn to?

(A still image of Liu Woods signing copies of his book at a New York City bookstore is shown.)

And even when the truth is told, some move quickly to pollute that truth.

(Video shows the outside of the fireworks booth where the interview between Bennie Rosenberg and Jeffery Woods took place. The footage, shot at night, shows Jeff Woods exit the fireworks stand and quickly look around before walking briskly into the dark woods behind the booth.)

There is much more truth to be found! If you’ve made it this far, let us continue our journey. Observe!

(The video continues to show the fireworks booth, and from the corner of the screen, a figure can be seen approaching the entrance to the tiny building)

The truth has become so twisted that by now I can safely assure you that you know nothing. You may learn more as you go, should you survive. Be warned though, I am not a friend, I am not some wise mentor hear to lead you to enlightenment. I am a bearer of truth, but never forget that honesty and peace do not always travel together.

I shall guide you, but not with the gentle hand of a shepherd; but rather the firm hand of a taskmaster. This will not be a pleasant journey. You cannot escape this now; you cannot opt out.

Should you still question the severity of the infection caused by the lies and corruption within Mandeville, allow me to demonstrate just how critical this situation has become.

(The screen flashes to solid red)

KILL ONE NOW!

Dalton Bradshaw raised an eyebrow, his mind swirling with questions. He glanced towards Simon to voice his quandaries and suddenly felt all the color drain from his face.

He drew in a breath to call out a warning; he felt his muscles tense as he prepared to lunge forward. However, everything happened far too quickly for any reaction to lend aid.

One of the uniformed officers, a guy who’s name Dalton wasn’t even sure he knew, drew his pistol from its holster. The officer aimed the gun directly behind Simon’s head. Simon, whose attention had been locked completely onto the video playing on the screen before them, never even realized what was happening directly behind him.

In the next second, the officer fired his pistol at point blank range into the back of Simon’s head. The report was deafening in the small room, and every cop was momentarily stunned. Dalton, who’d watched the event unfold, reached for his pistol. His first instinct was to shoot this apparent rogue cop. Then he realized that if the rogue died, so too did the truth of what the hell just happened here.

As Simon’s corpse fell to floor in a graphic display of spraying blood and falling brain matter, the rogue cop placed his pistol to his own head.

“What the fuck are you doing!” Dalton screamed.

Smiling, the officer replied in a manic, rising voice, “Serving my purpose. The truth opens the door Detective Bradshaw!”

In the next moment the officer fired his gun into his own head, joining Simon on the floor, brothers in death.

________________________________

From Press Conference Held by Mandeville Police Chief Mitchell Hardy

Today is a horrific day that will go down in infamy within our beloved City of Mandeville. Today we mourn the loss of Louisiana State Police Investigator Lymon. Agent Lymon was tasked to assist us in the investigation of the recent attack on a local family by an assailant who wore a disguise that we believed was intended to mimic Jeffery Woods.

Over the course of the investigation, evidence was discovered that led investigators to believe that at least one other individual was involved. Police were led to an abandoned home on Shortcut Road in unincorporated St. Tammany Parish, technically located outside of the Mandeville city limits, where the body of young man who has a long history of mental illness was found.

The victim is believed to have committed suicide and left a recording, mostly containing cryptic messages that we now believe were nothing more than byproducts of his mental health issues. We are saddened that he was not able to get the help that he needed.

Then today, while reviewing further evidence, Agent Lymon was murdered by a rogue police officer who we believe was suffering from work related stress. The officer, Brandon Crane, would then turn his service pistol on himself, ending his own life as well.

At this time, we are confident that the threat is contained. The current evidence that we have available suggests that the initial attack was carried out by yet another individual with a history of mental illness. It is unfortunate that neither Brian Antoines, the young man who donned face paint to try and mimic the appearance of Jeffery Woods, and Trent Vickers, a youth who had a long documented fascination with morbid topics were unable to receive the proper medical assistance they clearly needed.

And now we must face the most painful of truths, that Officer Brandon Crane, a young man who’d served our community for almost two years, was apparently also involved in this tragic set of circumstances. There will be a memorial service for Agent Lymon in Baton Rogue, LA. The time, date and location will be announced once preparations are completed. We, as brothers and sisters of the Badge are all deeply hurt at the loss of this great man of justice.

At this time I am not taking questions. If anyone wants to further information, I encourage you to reach out to our Public Relations Office.

Thank you, and God Bless!

“Load of shit right there…” a slightly drunk man grunted at the television mounted in The Abbey, a dive bar in downtown New Orleans, as the press conference faded out, replaced by sports and then weather.

“What you say there Detective?” the young bartender asked. She had a sleeve of tattoos on her arms featuring various sea-life. On this night, Dalton Bradshaw would have happily drowned among them.

“It’s not Detective shit anymore. I’m off the force Sherri. I guess it’s just Mr. Bradshaw from here on out.”

Sherri Willis, who’d served Bradshaw cheap drinks most weekends since she’d started working at The Abbey, showed genuine concern. She liked the man, although he was likely twice her age. Perhaps she just admired his pragmatic nature, or maybe she had some father issues, but either way, she always liked it when he came in.

“What happened? I thought you were one of those cop-for-life type guys.”

“Sherri, that’s a story I’d gladly tell you over breakfast. Which likely means you’ll never hear it.” He tried to laugh at his own situation, but in reality, Dalton was miserable, and very concerned for the future of the people he was once charged with protecting.

Sherri looked over the man before her. Sure he was old and his teeth were stained and a bit crooked. He smoked like a chimney and would probably run out of steam before her, still though, she fancied him for some strange reason that only a psychiatrist would understand. After all, she was 26, had a body full of tattoos and piercings and would likely be kicked out of her circle of punk-goth friends for sleeping with a middle-aged cop. She could tell though that he was hurting badly, and likely wasn’t even serious about his offer for breakfast story telling, but she decided to throw him a bone just the same; or perhaps allow him to throw her one.

“I close up this dump in about an hour. Stick around; you can be my security guard. Walk me home, I think I need someone to check my bedroom anyway, make sure there aren’t any monsters under the bed.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, anything that could get one of my regular drunks as down and out as this is something that I’d like to hear.”

Dalton managed to smile after all. In all honesty, he still wasn’t happy. He and Simon hadn’t exactly become friends, but they’d worked well together, and a friendship would have formed eventually. He respected the kid’s gumption. What was worse was how he was let go today. Just another fucking cover-up in Mandeville; history repeating itself once more just because lying and hiding seemed to be the nature of that particular beast.

Hardy wanted Dalton out of the way, that much was clear. He wanted to steer this investigation back on his own tracks. The press conference alone proved that much. Hardy was clearly trying to tell the people of Mandeville that the case was all wrapped up, but Dalton knew much better. He and Simon had done a bit more investigating during the four days following the discovery of Vickers’ body. They’d learned much more.

They’d both decided to keep that additional information to them selves until the case could be wrapped up without fear of yet another snow job. However, it would appear that for the time being at least, the forecast was quite snowy for Mandeville.

Dalton threw back another shot of whiskey and waited patiently for Sherri Willis to take him away from his problems for at least a little while.

Meanwhile in Mandeville, a young woman sat alone in a large home surrounded by a massive gate. Jane Arksansaw examined the names and faces before her, photographs all tacked to her wall. Jeffery Woods, Liu Woods, Randy Hayden, Maxwell Hayden, Paul Dermott and many more stared back at her. She knew there was much more to this story. She knew that the chief’s press conference was a lie to hide a lie. She knew she had work to do.

“It’s starting again,” she whispered, as she tacked photos of Simon Lymon and Dalton Bradshaw to her wall. She’d inherited much of her father’s fortune when she turned 18. Now she was just entering her 20s, saddled with a fortune that she cared little about. She was aware that most women her age with her current level of wealth would be jet setting off to Europe, taking inane selfies and consuming cheap liquor in expensive bottles. However, Jane K. Arkansaw cared for none of those things. Her father had been murdered; her home had set ablaze. She’d escaped with her life, but in the process she’d inherited a dire mission, one which she would happily spend all of her newly acquired money to be rid of. But she knew better. She knew that this was not something she would allow herself to abandon. It compelled her forward, even though she was fully capable of hopping into the nearest jet and never looking back.

Jane reached up and touched the photos of Liu Woods and Randy Hayden. As she did, she whispered to herself, “there is a lot to do now, much to get in order. You boys are coming home very soon after all…

 

CREDIT: K. Banning Kellum

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In-cide

In-cideReading Time: 25 minutes“Holy shit…Gary?  Is that you, Gary?”

Gary quickly spun around to face the voice he’d immediately recognized, although he was far from convinced that it was actually coming from the form of his brother and best friend: Mikey.  It seemed fairly obvious that since he was most likely losing his mind, the possibility that Mikey was really nothing more than an elaborate construct his waning sanity had produced for its own amusement had to be given serious consideration.

“Mikey?”  Weak and uncertain, his tone was almost pleading.

“Well yea, Little Brother,” Mikey assured him before Gary quickly closed the space between them and fell into his brother’s embrace, his entire body buzzing involuntarily.  The hell he’d found himself in was one in which time seemed to come to a complete stop; it was nearly impossible for him to determine just how long he’d been wondering around that same, unending madhouse.

“It’s okay Gary.”  Mikey’s voice was smooth and calming.  “You’re okay, buddy.  I’m here now.”  The words were so well rehearsed for the older brother, they almost came out on their own.  It was far from an uncommon occurrence for Gary to fall into a state of histrionics over one anxiety laden fear or another.  Gary was, in the words of their dearly departed mother, “a delicate soul”.  With a heart bigger than most, his capacity for love and kindness was beyond that of anyone else Mikey’s had ever met…but that type of emotional depth sometimes came at a hefty cost.  Gary felt his emotions on a cellular level and, unfortunately, that included fear.  It took very little, actually, to provoke the adolescent into hyperventilation…or even occasional states of catatonia.

“What the hell are you even doing here?” Mikey finally asked once he felt confident that the other boy wouldn’t be slipping into one of those moments.  Gary could only shake his head.  After so many circles through the hellish dome, it seemed he’d honestly forgotten why or how he had ended up there in the first place.

“Why…”  Gary’s voice was still shaky, barely maintaining its integrity.  “Why are you here Mikey?  Did you come to save me?”

Mikey chuckled and gave his brother’s shoulder a light squeeze.  “Just a happy accident, Little Bro.”  Gary smiled despite himself.  “What I really came looking for was that smell.”  The moment the word escaped his mouth Gary remembered.  Of course…the smell…the food!  As unbelievable as it might have seemed when he first arrived, the younger brother’s nose had become so accustomed to the odor that it no longer began to register…but that’s exactly why he had entered the dome as well.

While it was impossible to pinpoint the exact source of the aroma, it, most certainly, must have been emanating from one hell of a barbeque.  There were hints of beans, mashed potatoes, Cajun spices and something that had obviously been slow-roasted to perfection.  Gary had caught the scent from half-way across town and it had led him straight to the dome’s entrance.  While there was little fanfare announcing what was apparently the newest restaurant in Porch, Gary had still fully expected to walk into a bustling epicenter of smiling faces and bulging tummies.  That hadn’t been the case, however.

The large, domed building’s walls were some type of thick polyurethane that provided only a hazy view of the exterior and turned the sunlight into a dim, green glow that bathed everything within its interior.  The atmosphere it created was undoubtedly ominous and for a split-second, as he crossed the entrance’s threshold, Gary had almost listened to the little voice in his head that had suddenly begun screaming THIS IS WRONG!   The fact that there were no obvious patrons or employees did nothing to alleviate the sensation and there was that one moment when he could’ve just walked away.

The exit was right there; he could still see the bright pink blossoms beckoning him to turn around.  There was practically no part of him that felt the urge to continue and had the delicious aroma not been so overpowering at the point…he probably would have left then.  Once he’d found himself part-way into the dome’s interior, however, his stomach seemed to single-handedly take control of the reigns.  It was utterly intoxicating, to the point where it seemed to block every rational thought from his young mind.  It may have looked like some deserted fun-house at first blush, but somewhere within its circular walls existed a meal greater than anything he could imagine.   Come hell or high water…he was going to have it!

It had only taken a few steps within for Gary to realize the magnitude of his mistake.  As if influenced by some dark magic, the open doorway he’d entered seemed to disappear.  All thoughts of the most delicious food ever were immediately washed away by his heightened sense of fear.  Slowly…methodically…he had begun working his way around the outer walls.  Surely, he had thought, if he took his time he would have to find a door.  It defied logic for him to think otherwise, not to mention that doing so would’ve forced him into a sniveling ball on the floor.

One hour turned into two, two into four, and then after that…it was impossible to say.  The horrible green glow messed with more than his eyes and left him feeling lost in a state of reality where there was no time…or space…or anything at all.  It was just him.  Gary had found himself lost in this circular, green hell.  He had, in fact, very nearly reached his breaking point when Mikey had found him.

“So where’s this food at Gary?”  Mikey raised his nose to the air and filled his lungs with the savory fragrance his little brother had seemingly become immune to.  The question hadn’t been meant to prompt an adverse reaction and Mikey was definitely not ready for the response it did illicit as his little brother fell into hysterical tears.  Mikey couldn’t help but to sigh; it was premature to have thought that they were going to be able to avoid one of Gary’s breakdowns…but damned if he hadn’t.

It took a full ten minutes of soothing words and rubbing the back of the kid’s head gently for the sobbing to finally subside.  Once there was some degree of calm again, Gary looked up at Mikey with swollen eyes and said, “No food.  There is no food!”

“I don’t understand Gary.”  Mikey craned his head around dramatically.  “Where’s the smell coming from?  I’ve been around longer than you…and you know that I know some stuff.  I’m telling you right now…that smell only comes from good food.”  Gary protested even harder.

I’m telling you!  There is no food!”  The sobs began to gather at the ends of his words again so Mikey didn’t push.  “I can’t…even…find the door out!  There’s nothing in this whole place…except…”

“Except what?” Mikey was genuinely curious and, not given to the same ‘worst-case scenario’ fears that plagued his brother, he was eager to explore this mystery a little further.  While it was true that he hadn’t seen the exit since he’d come in, he hadn’t exactly been looking for it either.  In the back of his mind, and far from his lips, Mikey was pretty certain of two things: there was a way out and, somewhere within those walls, there was a damn good meal to be had.  It wasn’t terribly shocking that Gary hadn’t been able to locate either, as well.  He loved the kid intensely but Gary could get lost in his own bedroom.

Mikey had been tableside for some amazing meals in the town of Porch and nothing…absolutely nothing…had ever smelled as good as this.  As Gary led him to a point further down the wide circular hall Mikey was pretty sure he’d end up being the hero to his little brother once again.  They’d be going home in an hour with full bellies and Gary would, once again, expel the wondrous traits of his big brother to everyone they’d pass on the way.  That was okay though.  Mikey liked the way he looked through his brother’s eyes.  In a way, it pushed him to be a better individual.  He was always trying to live up the considerable mental image Gary had of him.

Before too long they came to a stop and Gary pointed up to the three words superimposed on the green, exterior wall.  The massive letters were backwards, making it obvious that they were on the outside or at least meant to be read from that angle.

“What does it say?” Gary asked earning him a scowl and a smack in the back of the head.

“How the hell should I know what it says, Smart Guy?  Why don’t you tell me?”

“I don’t know,” Gary barely muttered aloud.  He couldn’t tell if his brother was teasing him or truly upset.

Living in Porch had plenty of benefits.  The area was beautiful, brought in plenty of tourism and provided some significant amenities to new residents…but the educational system was not one of them.  Things were done the old ways and that included teaching and passing on history through oral traditions.  This didn’t mean that the citizens of Porch were any less intelligent than others, but it did create an epidemic of illiteracy.  One would’ve been hard pressed to find anyone locally who could’ve read those words.  That alone, only added to the strangeness of why they were there in the first place.

The “except that” that Gary had wanted to point out wasn’t, unfortunately, what Mikey had been hoping to see.  At very least, he’d been anticipating a clue of some type and there were no insights to be had from this.

“Okay listen…”  Mikey sat his brother on the ground, his back against the wall with the giant mystery words looming above him.  “I want you to stay here for now.”

“No!” Gary screamed, instantly in protest mode. “You can’t leave me alone again.”

“It’s okay, Big Guy,” Mikey cooed; “I’m just going to check the place out and I don’t want to have to worry about you keeping up.  You stay here and I’ll know right where to come back to.  I need for you to be a grown-up right now.”

“But I’m not,” Gary interjected.

“Yea…I know Gary…but right now…I think you can be.  Besides…you’re not a maggot are you?”

Gary shook his head ‘no’.   Had anyone else asked him that question, he might’ve broken into tears again, but coming from Mikey…it didn’t bother him.  No one in his life actually shot him straight; everyone else always treated him with kid gloves as not to disturb his delicate sensibilities.  It wasn’t like his big brother was mean to him really…he was just the only one who wouldn’t mince his words around Gary, especially when it was about matters of importance.  Gary always took it as a sign of respect on the rare occasions that Mikey did give him a hard time and this was no exception.

“No…” he mumbled, more to himself than aloud; “I’m not a maggot.”

“Damn right you’re not!  You’re my bad-ass, little brother.”  Gary smiled and bobbed his head slightly in agreement.  He could be motivated relatively easily anyway, but Mikey was a pro at knowing which buttons to push.

“Just give me ten minutes and I’ll know everything I need to know.  This place isn’t that big.  I won’t leave you.  I promise.”  Gary whimpered slightly but nodded in acquiescence nonetheless.

It was a little harder to leave him there against the glowing green wall than he’d anticipated, but it was necessary and Mikey spent the next ten minutes scouring the exterior walls, much as his brother had done earlier in the day, except at a much more expedient pace.  The domed building was basically one immense hallway that circled back upon itself and it didn’t take too long to discover that his brother’s claims weren’t entirely without merit: the exit had seemingly disappeared.  Mikey wasn’t quite ready to dive into the panic pool with his brother just yet however, but it was sufficiently unnerving.  He still retained a vivid memory of the substantially solid opening in the wall by which he’d entered…but the memory seemed to be all that was left of it.  Furthermore, the amazing food odor that hung in the air like a narcotic haze seemed to be emanating from, as crazy as it sounded, the walls themselves.  Of course it all denied logic and made no rational sense whatsoever…but that didn’t change the fact that it was what it seemed to be.

By the time he’d circled back around to Gary and the massive, mystery words, again that little voice that had been screaming warnings in Gary’s ear earlier in the day was just beginning its second round in his.  This wasn’t good.  He had fully expected that when he saw his brother again he’d come bearing solutions.  He was supposed to be handing him some delicious food at that point before heroically leading him back to his bedroom.  Now Mikey was wondering if he would ever see his own room again, let alone return Gary to his.  What felt like the beginning of an exciting, or at very least interesting, adventure only thirty minutes ago was quickly spiraling into a waking nightmare.  That was, in Mikey’s estimation, the worst type as a new day would bring no reprieve.

As Mikey closed the last few steps between them, he tried to appear calm…calmer, at least, than he actually was; and he hoped it would be sufficient enough to keep Gary from truly reading him.  He had no idea what he was going to say to his little brother, but he knew that it wouldn’t go well if Gary had any intimation as to what he was really thinking.  The younger of the two, most likely, wouldn’t be reacting well regardless how the next few minutes went down…but if he were to reveal that his best supposition up to that point was that they’d somehow landed themselves in the twelfth-circle of hell…well…it probably wasn’t wise.

Mikey had half expected to find his brother in a different location.  Gary was always flittering about and rarely stayed in one spot for more than a few seconds.  The fact that he hadn’t budged an inch spoke volumes about the little guy’s mental condition.  Somewhat despondent and rocking back and forth, it seemed that Gary had “stepped outside of himself” or at least that’s what he called it.  His body’s go-to reflex for extreme situations, it happened from time to time when stress and anxiety got the better of him.  It wouldn’t take too much for Mikey to break through the self-hypnotic paralysis his brother’s body had put itself in, but…for the first time ever…he wondered if he even should.  Wherever the hell the kid’s mind had gone to must surely be better than this.  Plus…every second that he stayed like that was another second that Mikey could avoid revealing his failures.  Hell…maybe he could join Gary wherever he’d gone to.

Once he’d finally reached his little brother’s side, Mikey struggled to assemble the right words before releasing them into the world, as the only ones he could think of seemed to carry an apocalyptic weight with them that would’ve, in no way, been right to dump on Gary.  The last thing on earth that Mikey wanted at that point was to exasperate his steadily deteriorating mental state…but he couldn’t let the kid remain completely oblivious to the direness of their current situation either.  It was something of a ‘Catch-22’ and for the first time in perhaps his entire life…Mikey was without words.

In truth, Gary had to already know how bad their predicament was; he had, after all, been trapped in this place a lot longer than Mikey had been and he was displaying all the symptoms of having been carrying that knowledge for some time now.  Mikey had seen his little brother come close to a complete and utter breakdown on more than one occasion, but that had to be worst by far.  The kid had, obviously, pinned all his hopes to being rescued by the guy that was always there to rescue him…and, ostensibly, it was the only thing keeping him on this side of the sanity fence.

Mikey opened his mouth to say, “Gary” with no idea which words would follow.  Every thought seemed painfully inadequate or overtly portentous with no middle ground offering itself up to him.  Fortunately, he wasn’t forced to decide.  Before the first word could escape, they were both surprised by a third voice that seemed to pipe in from nowhere and everywhere at the same time.  Gary was immediately pulled back to a fully conscious state while Mikey craned his head to locate the source of the voice that they both knew very well: it was ‘Uncle Frank’.

Truthfully, neither of the brothers could say for sure that Frank was actually their uncle as everyone in Porch called him “Uncle Frank” as if he had been christened as such since the very beginning.  That wasn’t to say that he wasn’t either.  Porch was an old community and it obtained very few residents from other locations which, by and large, had created a town where very nearly everyone was a blood-relative with one another.  The odds were probably pretty good that at least a third of the town could call him “Uncle Frank” and be accurate in doing so.  In Porch, the idea of the ‘extended family’ took on a whole new meaning and even those who held no relation treated each other as though they did.  There was no shortage of “Aunts”, “Uncles”, “Grams” and “Gramps” and, frankly, no one would have it any other way.

“Boys!?”  Uncle Frank’s voice filtered through to them again; “What are you guys doing in there?”

“Uncle Frank?” Gary called out as he got to his feet and began frittering around in an effort to pinpoint the source.

“Over here,” he called back although, given the wonky acoustics, it did nothing to help the brothers’ locate him.  For several excruciating minutes they played verbal tag trying to bring themselves together; it was Mikey that finally spotted him on the other side of the dim, green wall.  He was outside.  It was actually rather amazing that Uncle Frank had been able to see them on the inside at all and if it weren’t for a renegade stream of sunlight and a stroke of luck…he probably wouldn’t have.

The three finally met in the same spot with only the circular green wall keeping them from making any physical contact.  Oddly enough, now that they were right in front of each other they could barely hear each other and had to yell at the top of their lungs to communicate at all and, even then, it was a broken conversation at best.  Uncle Frank had begun and, although he spoke for some time the only words the brothers could discern were “How the hell…”, “Where is the…”, “…tell everyone…” and “…yummy, damn smell…”.  It was fairly obvious what he was trying to express, however: he wanted in.  The only thing in the whole world that they wanted right now was to get the hell out of there and…that damn fool wanted in.

The brothers found themselves screaming back at him in unison and repeating nearly identical phrases like “it’s a trap”, “get us out” and “get help” and for a moment they thought they’d gotten through to him.  It appeared for a moment that he was calling others over in an effort to help them.  Unfortunately, the view through the dim green wall didn’t provide enough detail for them to see the skeptical expression on Uncle Frank’s face…and then the faces of those that joined him.  It was the smell.  It was just too powerful.

Mikey should’ve known from his own interactions with Gary when he first encountered him in the dome.  He hadn’t believed his brother when he was told there was no food…just as those on the other side of the dome’s wall did not believe them.  They knew with the same certainty that he had that either A: they were just too stupid to locate the food; or B: they were trying to keep it all for themselves.  The scent, unfortunately, proved to be as strong as any drug in Porch and the small crowd gathering on the outside of the dome seemed to be leaning towards the latter.  Before too long they weren’t trying to communicate with the brothers any longer and began to split up into small ‘front-door’ search parties.

Gary and Mikey watched with morbid fascination as the crowd grew larger and larger, all searching for a way in.  They covered every inch on the dome’s walls and even onto its roof and the brothers’ desperately tried to keep as many of them in their viewpoints as possible.  While these stupid fools may have been trying to get in, instead of getting them out, it could still work out in their favor.  If someone were to manage their way in and one of them could see them do it…then they’d know how to get out…theoretically.  The key element to their continued existence was finding that damned door and every neuron they had were singularly focused on that task.  The steadily growing assembly outside could only be a good thing as far as they were concerned.  They’d already exhausted their hopes of their finding the door themselves from the inside.  This could very well be their last, best chance at escape.

Occasionally they would catch a snippet as one group would call out to another “not here” or “keep looking” but for the most part they were nothing more than obscured shapes scaling about the dome creating strange green shadows that danced eerily across the floor and inner walls.  If the brothers hadn’t been so intensely fixated on keeping up with their progress, the effect would’ve been nothing short of creepy.  Every second was a minute and every minute an hour to the extent that time almost had no meaning.  Days could’ve passed when a random voice rang out with a pitch-perfect clarity that could’ve come from right next to them.

“It’s here!”  They had no idea whose voice it was, although it did seem somewhat familiar, surely someone they’d both met before.  “I found the door everyone!” she screamed again; “I found the door!”  They didn’t see anyone’s bright eyes looking back at them from any direction and they immediately separated, desperately searching from the source.  Normally, Gary wouldn’t have let Mikey set off in the opposite direction, such as he did, but they both knew in their cores that this was a crucial moment…one they couldn’t let pass them by.  Somewhere close, someone had found their way out!

“Where are you?” Gary called out to the voice, no longer able to see his brother or the new occupant.  “Help us!”

“I’m right here dear!”  Gary spun on his heels and there she was, standing right in front of him.  It was Mary Something-or-another; Gary had met her on a couple occasions.  At his age, politics wasn’t really something he kept up with but he kind-of thought that she was the Mayor or maybe a preacher.  He was pretty sure he’d seen her speaking before crowds of some type…but it was hard to say in his current traumatized state.  Whatever the case, seeing her standing here in front of him was the last thing he wanted to see.

“NO!” he screamed involuntarily.  “No…no…no!  Where’s the door?  How did you get in here?”  He could tell from Mary’s mildly bemused facial expression that she was giving no credence to his panic.  For starters, he did have something of a reputation in Porch for his emotional escapades…so most adults generally gazed at him with that same look.  Beyond that, however, was the fact that she was fully enraptured by the aroma still wafting off the walls.  He could see it in her eyes; she held no concern for his safety.

“It’s right there behind me, silly.” She said as she flitted past him in search of the elusive food.  Gary could feel the tears pooling again as he desperately searched the area from which she’d came…the direction from which he had just come.  Much as he expected: there was nothing there.  It was as maddening as it was frightening.  After a couple frantic minutes searching walls he’d already searched a dozen times before, Gary decided to backtrack and grill Mayor Mary a little harder about the way she’d gotten in.  It was a moot decision, however, as the moment he spun around he was met by Uncle Frank and several of his drinking buddies who filled the hall before him, appearing as if from nowhere.

“Uncle Frank!” Gary screamed; the joy he suddenly felt piercing his tone.  Uncle Frank’s manic friends immediately dispersed in both directions, making no effort to conceal their drooling, zombified expressions.  Much like Mary before them, they were fully caught up in the hypnotic aroma’s spell.

“How…” was all Gary managed to get out before his uncle was cutting him off while physically covering the youth’s mouth to hush him.

“Not now, Little Buzzy.”  ‘Little Buzzy’ was his go-to pet-name for any local child whose real name didn’t instantly spring to mind.  Gary knew that Uncle Frank knew his name but…much like the others…he wasn’t engaging in the type of rational thought he normally would be; it was more than evident from his wide, wild eyes.  It surely didn’t help that he’d probably spend the better part of the morning getting drunk on the locally produced fermented, apple concoction that served as the biggest tourism draw in the summers.

“Just point me in the direction of the food, Kiddo!”  It was a reaction beyond anything that Gary could easily digest and something inside him just, kind-of snapped.  Without even knowing that he was going to do so, Gary watched in slow-motion as his arm autonomously raised itself and swung through the air, smacking Uncle Frank right across his face.  For a full three seconds there was nothing but shocked silence as neither of them could actually believe it had just happened.

“What the fu…”  The older of the two began, but Gary cut him off.

“The door Frank!  Where’s the damn door?”  The simple fact that Gary hadn’t addressed him with the normal ‘Uncle’ attached to his moniker seemed to convey his seriousness more than anything and Uncle Frank’s jaw dropped open.  He blinked several time, as if waking up from a dream before finally sputtering; “It’s…uh…it’s…right there.”  He pointed to a spot in the wall where he thought he just entered but, much to his chagrin, there was nothing there save the sheen solidity of impenetrable green.  Uncle Frank blinked again and shook his head as he struggled to process just exactly what was happening.

For a moment, Gary thought he’d won his uncle over to the side of genuine concern.  That was up to the point that Uncle Frank’s belly gurgled its insistence, easily re-directing his attention.

“Doesn’t matter, Kid.”  He waved it off.  “We’ll find it later.  If you’re not going to help me find the food…well…don’t expect me to share.”  On the last couple words, Uncle Frank had spun around and begun to make his way in the opposite direction.  Gary wanted to scream in frustration but, as it turned out, it was a good thing he didn’t.  As Uncle Frank had rounded the bend, just out of sight, Gary could hear him repeat “excuse me…excuse me” as other voices returned with several “pardon me”, “coming through” and “where’s the food, Buddy?”  There were more coming in!

Gary sprinted up the bend and was met with a small crowd, maybe twenty or thirty more; and the group was continuing to grow.  He desperately tried to fight his way forward through the growing mass of bodies but his progress was becoming slower.  No matter how hard he tried to jockey for any type of vantage point, he was unable to see where they were coming from.  They were just…coming.  It was only a matter of minutes for the thirty to become a hundred or more and he found himself being pressed backwards by the overwhelming size of the group.

Once he’d been pushed to a point where the bodies were coming in from both sides of the large, circular hall Gary began screaming out for his brother.  It felt like screaming into the wind, however.  Hundreds of voices all asking each other some variation of the question, ‘where’s the food?’ created cacophonous jumble of noise.  He was actually shocked when Mikey came fighting his way through the crowd to his side where the two of them embraced tightly.

“I told you I’d come back, Little Bro.”  Gary’s moist eyes looked up at his brother and he nodded as though he’d never had a doubt; in truth…he hadn’t.  Mikey had never let him down before.

“I couldn’t see where they’re coming in at,” Gary called out to his brother; the growing din about them making it necessary to raise their voices even though they were right next to one another.

“I know…” Mikey replied; “I couldn’t either.  They just started flooding in.”  Looking around, the brothers could see that very nearly the everyone in Porch seemed to be cramming themselves into the dome that had once given the impression of being very large around them.  It was progressively seeming smaller and smaller as they began to be squished together from all sides.  Logic looked to dictate that once the place filled up, whomever was the last one in would be standing next to the door and would therefore be able to lead everyone out.  Regrettably, that didn’t appear to be the case.

Instead of reaching an apex of fullness and then receding like the wading shore, the count just continued to grow and, before they were even aware of their legs leaving the ground, they were being lifted up by a sea of Porchians.  Fear now gripped both brothers equally as they struggled to keep their arms linked together and somewhere in both their minds there was this idea that if they could just hold out long enough, this entire nightmare would come to an end somehow.  Unless they had all just died and gone to hell, this was an unthinkable scenario that must surely give way to probability and logic at some point and mercifully ease itself into something that could be overcome.

This must’ve been the prevailing mindset for the group as a whole as, once they’d become crammed together, no one concerned themselves with the food any longer; they hadn’t, however, given way to complete pandemonium either.  There was plenty of tension and anxiety, undoubtedly, but it didn’t go much further than that…at first.  That was, as they would all soon discover, the calm before the storm.  Fifteen minutes and fifty bodies later and it was an entirely different picture.  The calm that kept the tightness of their bodies from becoming a hazard dissipated, slowly at first, and regressed the normally peaceful population into a state of primal chaos.

The shifting and twisting was subtle at first, nothing more than tiny efforts for the smallest bits of comfort but quickly, and without warning, it turned into an aggressive battle for survival.  Friends, neighbors and loved ones began to flail and struggle against one another amid the growing roar of cries and moans.  Showing no concern for whom they might be climbing over, it seemed most everyone had become fixated on a singular goal: not being on the bottom.

Squished tightly against Mikey and struggling for breath, Gary was terrified beyond the point of making any of his own sounds and, upon seeing his countenance mirrored in his brother’s face, slipped into a self-defensive state of mental separation.  Looking around with wide, glassy eyes, and now detached from the reality of their predicament, his field of vision was completely filled with massive array of wailing faces.  Some of them he knew…some he didn’t…but all of them shared the same panicked expressions.  Somewhere deep inside, Gary was grateful for the fact that this nightmare glimpse into hell wasn’t actually happening to him.

Somehow, and inexplicably, the dome continued to fill and, as the crest began to rise, the degrees of primitive savagery grew with it.  Churning like a slowly boiling cauldron, the roiling sea of bodies created unusual riptides and Mikey could feel himself and Gary being pulled beneath the surface.  One look into his little brother’s eyes told him that the kid was no longer with him…not in any useful capacity at least; and although he knew it would make keeping them alive that much harder…he was glad to see it.   Hell…he might’ve even been a little jealous.  Either way…he wasn’t going to let them get pulled into the abyss without a fight.

With one arm wrapped tightly around Gary’s neck, Mikey used his other appendages to try to fight his way back to the top.  Mikey was a strong guy…and a good swimmer to boot, but this wasn’t anything like treading water.  Perhaps if the water punched him in the face and grabbed at his legs with each stroke there might’ve been some ground for comparison.  Gary’s body felt like dead weight and for several indeterminably long seconds there was nothing but the painful and exhausting struggle to maintain their ground and ‘stay afloat’ along with the horrifying knowledge that the amount of time his body allowed him to continue to fight was quickly coming to an end.

Gary’s eyes slowly circled back to his own as only their heads were left protruding above the fray and Mikey thought he saw something in them that he knew would definitely not be in his own: acceptance.  There was an unfathomable peace deep within them and Mikey couldn’t help but to be amazed by the little guy at least one more time in their lives.  Gary always told anyone that would listen that his big brother was his hero and that he would always save the day…but the truth of the matter was actually the opposite.  Gary was really the hero; he always had been.  The way the kid looked at the world and everyone in it was to truly be admired.  Somehow he always managed to see the beauty in everyone and everything and even this was no exception.

Mikey opened his mouth to scream, “I love you Gary” at least one more time…even though he already knew, but the words didn’t get a chance to produce themselves.  As quickly as the frenetic swirling had begun…it came suddenly to a stop, followed very closely by a wave of four repeated words.  Like an echo that grew louder as it progressed, Mikey found himself repeating the phrase as well, involuntarily sending the message forward.

“He…can…read…it.”

It wasn’t a lot to go on but each set of ears that the words reached seemed to instantly comprehend their meaning and, more importantly, became still as a result.  The mysterious and surreal circumstances that the citizens of Porch had found themselves in was unimaginable by any stretch of the imagination and came with no shortage of prevailing questions.  Initially, what seemed to be the most important, ‘where is the food?’, was nothing more than an afterthought having quickly been replaced by more pressing ones like, ‘where’s the door?’ and ‘Oh Dear Lord what have I done?’.

There was one mystery, however, that taunted all of them in their various states of dismay, one that, quite literally, hung over them: those damned words on the wall.  While it didn’t appear to bear any relevance to their current predicament it still felt important.  There were no avenues of logic that led anyone to believe that knowing what those huge letters spelled out would, in any way, improve their situation and yet…there was something about them that seemed to extend some small sliver of hope to every one of them that saw them.  Somehow…in some way…those words were the key to their freedom!  The effect was, in all probability, an unintended one but that didn’t stop the irrational thought from spreading quickly.  So much so that the mere idea that there was someone in there who could actually read them was enough to bring about a temporarily stoic silence.

From somewhere further down the bend, Mikey could see a body that had been lifted up out of the tightly wound mass and was slowly being moved forward by hundreds of hands which, at least momentarily, were working together.  From his awkward, half-buried angle it was difficult to tell who it was, only that they were old.  For the most part however, the brothers were directly beneath the three words on the wall and, in another moment or two, that individual would be upon them anyway…assuming the undulating thing that they had all become together continued to maintain a cooperative calm rather than reverting back to the previously chaotic state.  The beast that was ‘the thing in the dome’ contained the cumulative qualities that could make it a powerful asset if they could only keep their wits; one that could even, perhaps, find its way across the river Styx and out of this green, Hades.  Unfortunately, the thing held just as much potential for autosarcophagy.

Once Mikey was finally able to see who it was that had been surfed their way, his initial response was one of genuine shock; and then a second wave of shock at the fact that, given where they were and what was happening, he could even be shocked in the first place.  No one, even their long dead mother herself, should’ve really been a surprise in that moment.  They were, after all, in some sort of altered reality where the normal rules no longer applied.  And yet…seeing the Colonel was not at all what he’d been expecting.

For starters, it was common knowledge that Old Colonel Foster never left his home…never.  He was, by far and away, the oldest citizen of Porch and, given that he lived right on the outskirts, could barely be called that.  Something of a modern-day legend, there were so many stories told about him in town, it was all but impossible to discern truth from fiction anymore.  The few things that did seem etched in stone were that Old Colonel Foster was a former soldier who fought in the Great Wasp War and who now lived as a hermit.  From there one was free to believe any number of options that had been floated over time, everything from his being the Godfather of an underground criminal syndicate to an undead vampire to a witness protection program candidate who’d gone into hiding after helping to bring down an underground criminal syndicate.  There was no shortage of backgrounds and abilities to choose from but as the old guy was being gently settled right next to them, Mikey remembered one in particular that came up from time to time.  Old Colonel Foster could actually read!

A wave of intense shushing rapidly made its way around the dome…and then all eyes were on the aged veteran who had focused his attention solely on the three words before him.  The first word, written above the other two, was longer than both of others combined and the old guy took over a minute trying to sound it out aloud, pausing a couple of times to apologize and say, “it’s been a long time since I’ve read”.

“Dee…da…diss…po…pose…a…disposa…bb…buu…bull…” before finally; “disposable”.  Confused looks were exchanged all around and several could be heard muttering “disposable?” to themselves or others before the Colonel was pressed to continue.  The next two words came easily and were quickly spread around the dome like lightening which fried the sanity of each that heard and then repeated them.  There was a long moment of silent stillness as each individual took the time they needed to process just exactly where it was that they were before giving in fully to the panic and fear.

Mikey could only watch as his little brother was torn away from him, taking his arm with him.  The gaping wound felt vaguely like ice, but given that the action sent him into shock, it wasn’t nearly as intense as he though it probably should’ve been.  Reaching out with his remaining arm he took one last swipe as his brother…and missed.  Just before Gary disappeared into the frantically swirling sea of wailing fear their eyes made contact for the last time and Gary…smiled at him.  It was exactly what Mikey needed to see and, amazingly enough, completely washed away his distress and…he felt the peace as well.  Even in the end the kid was his friggin’ hero.  Then he was gone, swept away by the gory tide.

Mikey looked up at the words on the wall above him as he felt himself being pulled under as well and couldn’t help but to think to himself, what type of creature would even conceive such a place as this?  What demon from the abyss came forward to construct this green hell, otherwise known as the “DISPOSABLE FLY TRAP”?

There was very little time to ponder the idea, however, as Mikey could feel the same freezing sensation on his back as both his wings were ripped away.  Awash in arms, legs, wings and heads, death was all about him and he could feel its cold embrace all over.  It wouldn’t be much longer now and, thanks to Gary, he was okay with that.  His only real regret, here at the end of his short life, was that there was nothing he could do to keep his brethren away from this place.  There was no telling how many lives this place could claim before the monsters deemed it…disposable.

 

CREDIT: Shannon Higdon

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Late Night Pizza

Late Night PizzaReading Time: 4 minutes

It was ten minutes till close when I heard the door swing open.

Jingle-jingle.

Ugh. A customer this late? It was my first day at Tony’s Pizzeria, and I was eager to get home. My manager, Mason, had to leave early – his infant son had a fever – and I was left all alone to close up. Sighing, I put down the broom, and made my way to the front.

“Hi, may I help –”

I stopped.

The store was empty. Everything was as I left it – the chairs lifted onto the tables, the lights dim, the silverware and parmesan shakers sitting on the shelf above the garbage.

“Hello?” I called.

But only silence met my ears.

I shrugged and went back to sweeping.

The store was eerily quiet; the only sound was my broom scratching rhythmically against the floor, as I swept shreds of mozzarella across the floor. Only five minutes till close, I thought, glancing up at the clock. Then I can finish cleaning, lock up, and get out of here.

But I had scarcely swept another few feet when I heard it again –

Jingle, jingle.

I dropped the broom and ran to the front of the store.

“Hello?”

Nobody was there.

But this time –

The front door was open.

“Hello?” I called again, louder this time, hoping my voice would reach the outside.

Beyond the light spilling out into the patio, there was total darkness. I couldn’t even make out the parking lot or the trees. What if there’s someone out there? Watching? If there was, I wouldn’t even know.

I rushed over, shut the door, and turned the lock. Click. “No pizza left for ‘em anyway,” I muttered to myself.

I picked up the broom and began sweeping around the tables. But I couldn’t silence the voice echoing in my head – what if someone’s out there? I stared out the glass; the shadows across the patio shifted and swayed with the wind.

What if someone’s trying to rob us? I’m all alone… no weapons, no security system, just an old lock on a glass door.

I shook the thoughts from my head and continued sweeping. I was nearly done, when –

Slam!

A loud noise, from the back of the pizzeria.

I jumped. “H-hello?” I called, starting to shake. I gripped the broom tight, as if it were a weapon, and stepped forward.

“Hello?”

Thump, thump.

“Hello –”

I rounded the corner.

The back door was wide open. The stench of the dumpster in the alley filled the room, along with gusts of cold night air.

But no one was there.

I ran over and shut the door. Then I dragged a chair in front of it, and a stack of empty pizza boxes for good measure.

It’s a windy night. You’re just scaring yourself. I took a deep breath, the mozzarella twirling and sticking under the broom. Just finish cleaning, lock up, and get out of here.

I finished sweeping the back, then walked towards the front of the store –

Slam!

I jumped and ran to the back door.

It was wide open.

The chair was kicked over. The pizza boxes were wildly strewn about.

But the room was, still, empty.

“That’s it.” I closed the door again and grabbed my coat. Then I ran out of the store, through the shadows, until I reached the familiar cold metal of the car. If he fires me for a dirty floor, so be it. Better than getting murdered over here. I yanked the door open, dove in, and pulled out of the parking space.

As I turned on to the main road, I heard it.

Tap, tap, tap.

A soft clicking sound, above the rush of the car.

Tap, tap, tap.

I tried to ignore it as I drove. But it got louder.

Tap, tap, tap.

It sounded like it was coming from behind me.

Heart pounding, I slowly lifted my eyes to the rearview mirror.

And there, breaking the darkness of the back seats –

Was a man’s face.

I screamed. The car swerved wildly, narrowly missing the gutter. I jolted to a stop, leapt out of the car.

Then I pulled out my phone and called 911.

“911, what’s your emergency?”

“There’s someone in my car! They were trying to get in the pizza shop as I cleaned up, and then – and then –”

I stopped.

I could see, through the window, that the backseat was completely empty.

***

The next day, I came into work shaken. But Mason only added to that.

“You didn’t finish sweeping the floor before closing up,” he yelled. “This entire half has bits of food, even a dirty toothpick!” He sat down and sighed. “I’ll let it slide this time, but if you do it again, I’m going to fire you.”

“Mason, I’m so sorry – I would’ve cleaned it, but – but –”

He eyed me suspiciously. “I’m not one for excuses. You know that.”

“I know, but I swear, this happened. The front door started opening. I thought someone was there, but nope, no one there. Then, after I locked it, the back door opened! I even put a chair against it, and it opened again!” I looked at him with pleading eyes. “I thought someone was trying to rob the place! And then when I drove home – I swear, Mason, there was someone in the back seat!”

Mason stared at me.

And then he broke into jolly guffaws.

“That’s just old Paulie,” he said.

“Uh – what?”

“The guy who used to run the shop, before he died in ’02. He likes to keep an eye on the place.” Mason shot me a smile. “Especially the new employees.”

 

CREDIT: Blair Daniels

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Infected

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He Comes Closer When I Blink

He Comes Closer When I BlinkReading Time: 3 minutesFather O’Brian-

You’ve asked me to keep a journal, and here it is.

It seems that relocating to Maryland was a waste.

Moving from one house to another doesn’t seem to stop anything, and the police are at a loss. If you are unable to help us, the easiest path forward is just to give up hope.

Hope hurts too much if there is no faith to lift its wings.

*

Day 1 – Our first night on Hill Street did not offer any peace. The constant ticking of the clock was audible from every room in the house.

We don’t own a clock.

*

Day 2 – Georgia, five years old and our youngest, smiled and handed me a piece of paper. “I drew a picture, Daddy,” she offered with an impish grin. I took it from her to inspect it.

The page was blank.

“Georgia, my little sweet tea, this page is blank,” I explained softly.

Her face grew red. She stamped her feet. “It’s not blank, Daddy, it’s a picture of our family! Put it on the fridge!”

Georgia almost never yells, so this concerned me greatly.

But that paled in comparison to what I felt when I looked down at her and saw that she had no eyes.

I should say, rather, that the whites of her eyes were in place – but nothing more. Her pupils and irises were gone. Only livid, veiny tendrils of red crisscrossed the alabaster surface.

Georgia did not seem to notice they were gone. She grew louder and continued to yell.

I slammed the paper onto the surface of the refrigerator and shakily affixed a magnet to it.

When I looked back at my daughter, her eyes had returned. She was smiling. “Thank you, Daddy!” she chirped, before skipping down the hall.

*

Day 3 – I had gotten out of bed in the middle of the night for a glass of water. I can’t explain it perfectly, but humans do have a certain amount of echolocation at their disposal. Something about the way our house sounded was off.

I stepped into the darkened living room with the hopes of alleviating my fear. But the discomfort only grew.

I fumbled for the light switch and flicked it on.

The entire room was upside down. All of the furniture was affixed to the ceiling as though it were the most natural state in the world. Lights illuminated the scene before me by shining upward from the ground.

After staring for several seconds, I decided that the best approach was to turn the lights back off. This way, at least, I wouldn’t have to see it.

The rest of the house was (or at least felt) right-side up.

The living room appears normal in the daylight.

*

Day 4 – The locusts are bad this year. Every garden on the block has wilted except for ours.

We planted tulips, but only snowdrops are growing.

I have to mow the lawn twice a day to keep it from getting overrun.

*

Day 5 – A box arrived in the mail today. It had my name on it, written in a child’s handwriting. There was no return address.

Inside the box were 1,913 human teeth.

*

Day 6 – The refrigerator is now completely covered with “drawings” that Georgia has given me.

Every single one of them is blank.

*

Day 7 – I get up before the rest of the family every day to inspect the house. The interior was fine this morning, though I did avoid the living room light. I no longer look in that room before dawn.

There were footprints outside the door.

The prints formed a long, muddy trail from the street. They appear to come from a man’s shoe.

At least the first ones did.

As the prints got closer to the house, they became gradually elongated. First twelve inches, then thirteen, fourteen, a foot and a half, and finally two feet long.

The last two prints in front of the door were the width of my torso, and as long as I am tall.

*

Day 7 – I’m typing this on my laptop in bed. My wife has been calling me, softly and patiently, from the living room.

Her voice is coming from the ceiling.

I’m too afraid to go out there.

Tell me father, what happens after the seventh day?

 

CREDIT: P.F. McGrail

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I Discovered The Meaning of Life

I Discovered The Meaning of LifeReading Time: 4 minutesSo, I discovered the meaning of life. Or at least, that’s what my eager customers are led to believe. You see, two or three times a month, I post a listing titled “The Meaning of Life” to various auction sites. I couple it with a sappy picture of a sunset or rainbow and a description that reads “All views are subjective. Results may vary.” Most people wouldn’t bat an eye at such a ridiculous listing, but there are some gullible folks out there that take the bait. When the bidding ends, I usually take home anywhere from $5 to $12.

After I’ve received my money via Paypal, I ship out the item. What is the item, you might ask? Well, I scribble down an inspirational quote or life lesson onto a piece of paper and mail it out in your standard, letter-sized envelope. The quotes are usually from famous writers, historical figures, or the Bible. Some of them include:

 

“If light is in your heart, you will find your way home.” (quoted from Rumi)

“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But People will never forget how you made them feel.” (quoted from Maya Angelou)

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” (quoted from George Eliot)

And that’s it. One stamp, a drop in the mailbox and my work is done. It’s as simple as that.

 

You might call me a scammer or a con-artist, or perhaps even a plagiarist – and in truth, you are correct. I’m taking advantage of the naive people out there who are probably just looking for a sense of purpose in life – all so I can make a quick buck. But I’d like to think most people know it’s bullshit and purchase my listing just to see what I’ll send them. Besides, I’m a bachelor right out of college. So long as I can make a small dent in my phone bill and eat a packet of ramen each night, I’ll sleep just fine.

As you might imagine, I receive quite a bit of hate-mail. I’ve learned to ignore angry emails and private messages on the auction sites. As soon as I see that it’s from one of my customers, it gets deleted. I do, however, receive the occasional snail mail. It’s unavoidable, as my PO Box is listed on all of the envelopes I send out. It would be pretty easy for me to toss these letters in the trash with the rest of my junk mail, but I never can. Something about receiving a physical letter from someone, good or bad, compels me to read it. I feel that anyone who takes the time to write one deserves to have their voice heard, even if I don’t really care for what they have to say.

The more physical letters I receive, the more amused I am by them. To paint a better picture, here are a few of my favorite quotes from the “fan mail” I’ve received over the years:

 

“You’re nothing but a glorified fortune cookie service.”

“You’ll rot in hell for the sins you’ve committed. Mark my words.”

“You’re a real f***ing piece of shit, you know that?”

 

It’s reached a point where reading these letters has become the highlight of my week. I’ve even tacked up some of the better ones on a cork board in my bedroom. You might think that’s sick and a little messed up, but I think it’s hilarious.

Not all of the letters I receive are bad. There’s one guy by the name of “Red” (no last name -that’s all he ever writes above his return address) who mails me constantly. He sends me inspirational quotes in exchange for mine. I assume he’s a repeat buyer who enjoys paying for and receiving cheerful messages in his mailbox every now and again. A man of class and dignity; my kind of customer.

The first quote Red ever sent me was “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” from Mark Twain. This was a great first impression, as Mark Twain is one of my favorite authors. The return quote was much appreciated. As such, I hung it up next to the hate-mail on my cork board.

Some of the things Red sends me, however, are not cork board material. Some of the quotes he sends are morbid and depressing, and other times he’ll mail me small packages containing little trinkets that I have no use for. It’s a little weird, but I figure the guy is depressed and just needs a friend. Maybe the quotes he buys from me are the only thing he has to look forward to each morning. Perhaps the things he sends me are his way of saying thanks. To me, it’s validation that what I’m doing isn’t completely sleazy.

But here’s where things get weird. Today, I received another envelope from Red. I smiled when I pulled it out of my PO Box. His letters and gifts, no matter how odd, were just as much, if not more of a highlight to my week than the endlessly entertaining hate-mail. Upon opening the envelope, however, my smile vanished.

Inside was a photograph of me, taken up close through my bedroom window. On the back of the photograph was another one of Red’s quotes:

“You look so alone. Where’s the meaning in your life?”

 

CREDIT: Christopher Maxim

(Click HERE to check out Christopher Maxim’s latest book, How To Exit Your Body and Other Strange Tales)

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A Peculiar Kind of Madness

A Peculiar Kind of MadnessReading Time: 12 minutes

I’d always known that my great-grandma was an orphan, but in late October of last year, she decided to tell me the truth about what happened to her family.

We were visiting her for her birthday. It was a tradition in our household; a road trip we knew in the back of our minds we’d take only a few more times. She was turning ninety-eight, so that was just the cold hard truth of the matter. In my childhood, the journey to central Iowa had been a fun and light-hearted affair, but now my brother and parents could only maintain strained politeness as we met up and hit the road together. Each of us knew that this trip might be our last.

For several hours, we drove through vast open farm fields that stretched from horizon to horizon.

My great-grandma’s house was down a narrow dirt road off a wide dirt road off a gravel tractor lane. As a city boy, it was, more or less, the most remote possible dwelling I could imagine. She was born there, had lived her entire life there, and would soon—well.

As we parked in an open muddy rectangle and stepped out to stretch our legs, the constancy of the place surrounded me. Every single year of my life, this house and its land had been exactly the same. The sky was open blue, the earth was a sea of waving gold, and the wind was a smooth river of cool warmth. There was never anything to mar those three pillars of sensory experience except the house, the barn, a defunct old tractor, and the bell.

The bell was a simple thing raised high on an old metal crook. It sat out in the fields about a quarter mile from the house, serving as a measure of the wind. If a storm was coming, the bell was supposed to ring, a necessary precaution in tornado country. The only problem was, the bell and its crook had rusted over long ago. Every time I got out of the family van from age five to age twenty-six, I glanced that direction and felt a sense of unease as my gaze fell upon that decayed artifact. This time, at age twenty-seven, I looked over and saw that the bell had been scraped and polished clean of rust. It glinted in the sunlight, practically daring me to look at it.

I followed my family inside while struggling with a feeling of dread that I couldn’t articulate.

Who had cleaned the bell?

And why?

I tried to stop thinking about it as we gathered in the kitchen and said our hellos. My great-grandma was making tea, and shooed off our attempts to help. She was a frail woman for whom movement was difficult, but she’d never let that stop her. “The Wi-Fi password is on a note in the living room,” she told us with unquestionable authority. “Go stare at your phones and the tea will be ready in a moment.”

My brother and I did as we were told, but my parents turned on the television instead of looking at their phones. For a few minutes, we stayed in our separate worlds, only returning to the present when my great-grandma brought in the tea.

And we had a nice time.

That night, when everyone else was long asleep, I happened to open my eyes and see a glow under the door of the guest room I shared with my brother. My parents were in a different room and would not see the same light, so it was up to me to investigate. Quietly, so as not to wake him, I crept out and down, finding my great-grandma still awake. She sat in her big jade-leather chair, her gaze on the television. She asked me without looking my way, “You don’t fall for this stuff, do you?”

“What, like ads?”

She pointed her thin little arm at the nearby couch. “Sit.”

I sat.

“I’m going to tell you a family secret,” she said softly, finally looking my direction. “It’s for you, and possibly for your brother, but not your parents. Do you understand?”

I didn’t, not fully, but I nodded.

“You know I was an orphan for a time. Born in this house, lived with my family, but then raised by an uncle after it happened?” She didn’t wait for my nod. “I was ten years old that night. It was my birthday.”


My mother had gotten me a small cake about the size of your fist. I looked forward to that cake every year, since we didn’t exactly have sweets bounding about back then. It was eleven cents, so rather expensive, but my mother got one for every one of us on our birthdays no matter what she had to scrimp or save. All year long, I saw Mary get her cake in January, Arthur get his cake in March, Eleanor in June, Clarence in July, then Ruth a week after Clarence. Then it was months and months until me, the odd one out, on October 29th. I was so excited for that cake. As the days rolled closer, as the morning dawned, as the hours inched by, I hopped around the house like a bunny rabbit.

But I wasn’t allowed to eat it until well after supper.

I stared at the clock, so I know. Yes, that one on the mantle there, the brass and chrome one. Same one. But I stared at the clock, so I know: night fell at six forty-one. That was the moment bright orange stopped glinting off that clock and my mother rose to light a lamp.

I looked up at her. “Now?”

She smiled and shook her head. My brothers and sisters complained in a chorus in support of me, but she just shook her head at them. “Too soon, and she’ll ruin her supper.”

Father came in from the fields not long after that, dirty and tired as all get out. He ate in silence while we chattered endlessly about what type of cake it would be. Under the frosting, who knew? It might be raspberry, vanilla, or even chocolate.

We grew silent as father neared the cleaning of his plate, an event which would mark the end of supper. Four pieces of meat and bread remained, then three, then two… any moment now…!

He stopped at the last piece, holding it unmoving above the remaining dollop of gravy.

We turned our heads.

It was the bell. The bell was ringing out in the fields.

Father grunted, then put the last piece of his food back on his plate before rising. He opened the front door; we braced ourselves for the wind, but none came. He spat on and held up a finger to the night air, then shook his head. He moved back into our lamplight and sat.

Arthur asked, “Is it gonna storm?”

Mary asked, “Is there gonna be a tornado?”

My mother shook her head, smiled at us, and told us not to worry. No wind meant no storm.

But that bell kept ringing.

My father dipped his last piece of food in the gravy and prepared to eat it despite the constantly ringing bell—but then sighed and put it back down. He motioned to Clarence.

Clarence was the oldest, so he understood. He was nearly a man himself, and tying the bell would be no problem. He grabbed a candle, protected the flame with his hand, and headed out the open front door.

My brothers and sisters and I piled up to the window; opening it, we found nothing but absolutely still chilly air. We watched his little spot of light move out around the house and into the fields in the direction of the bell. The clanging metallic sound stopped, finally, and the candle’s little flame hovered next to it for a solid minute.

“Why’s he taking so long to tie it?” Ruth asked.

Eleanor suggested, “Maybe he’s having trouble making a knot. Knots are tough.”

We watched for another minute or two before—and I know how this sounds—the little flame in the distance began to rise. Slowly, smoothly, straight up. We followed it with our eyes, exclaiming the entire time, as it moved out of sight beyond the roof overhang.

The bell began ringing again.

“His knot must have come loose,” Arthur said.

Our parents came to look at our insistence, but there was nothing to see by then. Father motioned to Arthur. Happy to help out, Arthur grabbed a full lamp rather than a candle. He hurried out the front door, around the house, and into the fields while we watched from the window. The lamp was easier to see, and we were absolutely certain he reached the crook.

As the lamplight hovered there, the bell stopped ringing.

At that point, we had no reason to think anything was amiss. Maybe the wind had just blown a wisp of burning candle string up into the sky and Clarence had gotten lost in the dark. He would see the lamplight, find Arthur, and they would both come back. The rising little flame we’d seen had just been a fluke.

Only problem was, staring out into the autumn night, we still felt no wind at all.

We stared at that unmoving light for a strangely long period of time. What was he doing out there? Was he calling for his brother? Why couldn’t we hear him, if so? Our parents looked away for a moment, and in that instant, the lamp went out. We children bleated, but by the time they glanced back, there was nothing to see. There was only darkness.

The bell began ringing again.

My father began grumbling, but there were no more sons to send outside. He narrowed his eyes with thought, then handed Ruth, the oldest girl among us, our main lamp.

Our mother laughed. “Ruth, be a dear and go find your silly brothers.”

Ruth was a little hesitant, but she accepted the lamp. Leaving us in darkness without it, she headed out around the house and into the fields. This lamp was brighter, and we could actually see her carrying hand and her white pajamas in a small lit halo. On the way there, she regularly called out, “Clarence… Arthur… you two lost?”

About halfway to where the other two lights had stopped, her calls went instantly silent midsentence. “Clarence… Arth—”

It wasn’t that she’d given up yelling. The sound reaching us had simply stopped completely. We could still see her carrying the lamp, still see her hand and pajamas, still see her turning this way and that. She even raised the house lamp near her face and we saw her shouting into the darkness. We just didn’t hear anything—nothing except that constantly clanging bell, growing faster in pace and louder in urgency.

Mary, Eleanor, and I looked up at our parents with fearful gazes.

My father shook his head, speaking for the first time that night. “So there’s wind out there after all. The air is like a river inside an ocean. It’s movin’ fast out there, carrying her voice away. But we can’t feel it here.”

My mother seemed worried, but she nodded and accepted that. We saw her accepting it, so we gulped and believed it, too. We all glued our eyes to that open window.

Ruth reached the bell, and, in that stronger light, it entered our view unmoving at the exact same time we heard it stop ringing. Ruth looked this way and that, clearly concerned. She seemed to silently yell a time or two before moving closer to the motionless bell. A half-tied rope hung from the crook, an indication that someone had attempted to tie it, but we couldn’t see Clarence or Arthur anywhere near her. She put the lamp down on the ground to free her hands for tying the rope the rest of the way, but that mostly hid the light among the low-lying recently harvested stalks.

We waited, breaths held.

The air held in my lungs started to burn.

At long last, we were forced to breathe again.

Ruth’s light continued to sit there, barely visible between the broken plants.

“What’s taking so long?” Mary asked.

Eleanor said, “I hope she’s alright.”

Father told us, “She’s fine. Damn kids are just playing a game with us.”

Our mother nodded in agreement. “Eleanor, go fetch your sister, will you?”

Eleanor shook her head. “No way! It’s scary out there!”

“It’s just a game. You’re not playing a game with us, too, are you?”

“No.” Eleanor gulped.

“Then go get your sister and brothers. Tell them to come back in.”

It was pitch black out there, and almost the same inside with us, save for one lone candle. Trembling, Eleanor took our last candle and crept out into the night, scooting along the side of the house to stay as close to us as possible. Shakily, she called, “Ruth? Arthur? Clarence? This isn’t funny anymore.”

Now it was we who sat in the dark. As Eleanor began to move further away with the last of our light, we tensed. Father eyed the open front door, and mother softly moved to close and latch it. I wondered what they meant by that move, because how were the others supposed to get back in? But I supposed they’d unlatch it if anyone came back and knocked. Mother moved away from us in search of more candles. Through it all, the bell kept ringing out in the dark.

Increasingly scared, I held Mary’s hand tightly and yelled out the window, “Be careful, Elly!”

She must have happened to cross that invisible silent threshold at that moment, because she turned around in surprise and stepped closer. “I heard your voice go quiet, but there’s no wind! Papa’s wrong!” She stepped away again. “See, when I pass this point, my—”

She held up the candle to show us that her mouth was still moving, but we heard nothing. Come to think of it, her hair wasn’t moving, and we hadn’t seen Ruth’s pajamas billowing in any wind. I asked father, “What’s doing that? What’s making it quiet out there?”

“It’s just a game,” father insisted. “They’re all lying. She’s just pretending to make noise so it looks like she’s being silenced.”

Eleanor reached the bell; father’s grip on my shoulder squeezed to nearly painful.

She reached down for the lamp Ruth had left; lifting it with one hand and holding the candle with the other, she approached the clanging bell.

“See?” Mary whispered to father. “The candle’s not going out even though she’s not protecting the flame. There’s no wind out there.”

“But the bell is ringing,” he said gruffly. “So there is wind.”

Eleanor kept looking left and right as if she’d heard something; slowly, she reached the bell, which was hanging unmoving from the crook.

But we could still hear it ringing.

Next to me, Mary began to cry.

“It’s a game,” father said angrily. “It’s just a game they’re playing.”

Eleanor threw the lamp at something in the darkness. We saw the lamp crash, shatter, and go dark, but heard nothing. She raced toward us, candle in hand, but the flame went out because of her haste. We waited to hear her approaching or screaming, but nothing followed.

The bell continued to clang.

We waited in terrified silence.

Mother returned with a candle for each of us, and we sat vigil at the window. Nothing and no one moved. For hours, the bell clanged without wind. The night remained pitch black. The bell clanged, and clanged, and clanged, driving deeper into our ears with each passing minute.

Near midnight, we broke.

Father was beyond agitated. “Mary, go find your brothers and sisters.”

“No!” she cried. “I’m not going out there!”

Mother glared at her. “You have to. This game has to stop.”

Urged on by both of them, Mary burst into tears and climbed out the window. Holding her small candle, she inched out into the fields. Her sobs went quiet as she passed that same point out in the darkness; her flame reached the bell, and the ringing stopped.

Her flame snuffed out.

We held our breaths.

The bell began ringing again.

Father clenched his fists. “Go.”

I turned and saw he was looking at me. I suddenly realized I was the only child left in the house, and I felt horribly alone. Everything in me shrieked against the thought of going out into that cursed night. “No.”

My mother wavered in place. No longer adamantly in line with my father, she began to cry, too.

“What are you doing?” he demanded. “It’s just a game. There’s nothing to be scared of!”

She screamed and demanded, “Why do you keep saying that? Why have I been helping you do this?!”

He grabbed her and shouted in her face, “Because we haven’t been sending our children to their deaths! That’s not what’s happening!

She pushed his hands away and ran for the window. Pushing past me, she tumbled out and ran screaming toward the still-clanging bell; not out of fear of father, but out of terror for her children. “Arthur! Clarence! Ruth! Eleanor! Mary! For God’s sake, where are you?!”

He growled and leapt out after her, yelling, “We didn’t kill them! Everything is fine!

They both continued shouting until they passed that point in the dark—and all went silent.

Except for the bell.

Twice more, it stopped ringing, and twice more, it began again.

In panic and terror beyond reason, I closed and latched the window and pushed all of the furniture against every entry to the house. I curled in a cupboard holding the last candle up to my face as it slowly melted its way down toward my fingers. I was alone. Somehow, I was alone. We’d all seen the danger and stared right at it as it happened, but one by one they’d all gone out there anyway. I’d been surrounded by a full band of siblings my entire life, and now I was completely and utterly alone in a house in the middle of nowhere.

By the length of my candle, it was three in the morning when the knock came at the door.

I trembled, but did not make a sound.

The knock sounded again forty heartbeats later. It was louder this time.

I shook, holding my candle tight.

The third knock was more like a tremendous crash or kick, and I heard the door explode inward.

Sixty heartbeats of silence passed… and then the floorboards creaked.

Something in me told me to put out my candle for fear of it being seen through the cracks in the cupboard, but I didn’t dare. Not darkness. I couldn’t handle darkness. I would scream if I did, so I kept it lit.

Slow quiet steps moved through the house. Whoever it was seemed to be pausing and listening at times; at others, they would rush forward to a random spot in a sudden frenzy and then stop abruptly.

Four hundred heartbeats after that, the bell began ringing again.

But this time, it rang from inside the house.

It rang from the kitchen.

It rang from near the bed.

It rang outside my cupboard. Clang, ten feet away, clang, five feet away, clang, right up against the cupboard door—

And then it opened.


I sat expectantly, mouth open and eyes wide, as I waited for my great-grandmother to continue. After a bit, I realized that was it. “But what’d you see?”

She shook her head. “That’s not the point. I’m here, so obviously I survived, and a young man like you doesn’t need to know what horrors walk this world outside the paved cities of man.”

Gulping, I asked, “You’re not just pulling my leg? This really happened?”

“Yes.” Her gaze went distant by television light. “But here’s what I want to tell you, and what you should tell your brother. The thing that opened that cupboard door and stared at me from the dark—the thing that hoped to wait out my candle before the coming of dawn—had a bell tied to one of its teeth with a blood-soaked rag, such that it would clang when its mouth was opened for hunting. Somehow, some way, some heroic poor soul managed to tie a warning bell to that thing before they died. We heard that warning bell all night long, and yet my entire family walked out there one by one. We didn’t listen because we didn’t want to listen. My father knew what he was doing halfway through, but he didn’t want to accept what he’d already done, so he did even worse to continue living the lie.”

I narrowed my eyes. “What are you saying?”

She grabbed my hand briefly. “Fear will tell you to put your candle out, but your head will tell you to keep it lit. Don’t give in to fear. You keep it lit, you’ll get through this.”

Turning my head, I became aware of a sound in the distance. “Is that… is that the bell? I was so caught up I didn’t notice. How long has that been ringing?”

She just clenched her fist and turned back to the television.

 

CREDIT: Matt Dymerski

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The Tall Man of Briarbell, Missouri

The Tall Man of Briarbell, MissouriReading Time: 5 minutes

We had all liked Mr. Winscot. He didn’t mind when we used the sledding hill on his property and he always gave out the best Halloween candy in the neighborhood. So when we heard he’d been taken by the Tall Man, everyone was really bummed out.

You wouldn’t have heard of Tall Man, so let me explain. Tall Man has been a legend in my town for decades. Those who claim to have seen him say that he is over 9 feet tall, slight, and pale, with an exceedingly polite smile. My dad told me that Tall Man is a collector; he likes things. Dad says his favorite things to take are sad people, empty buildings, and dreams. I have to admit, he’s stolen away my dreams more than a few times.

When Mr. Winscot didn’t show up for church on Sunday, nobody thought it was weird. Then when Monday rolled around and he wasn’t at work with my dad, people started to whisper. My parents thought it was odd, but not particularly concerning. But then the rumors started that Tall Man had gotten him. A kid in my class even said that he had seen Tall Man in Mr. Winscot’s house through a window. I told my parents what Jake had seen, but they only laughed.

Tyler and I biked by Mr. Winscot’s place every day after school to get to our friend Rory’s house. We never stopped in front of Mr. Winscot’s to try and see Tall Man through the windows like Jake had. We never even slowed down.

But one day we played too late at Rory’s. Since we didn’t want to bike home in the dark, we called our parents and asked to sleep over. Tyler was allowed to. I wasn’t.

I tried really hard not to look as I biked by Mr. Winscot’s cul-de-sac. I almost made it, but my curiosity forced a backwards glance at the house. The lights were all on and my eyes were drawn to the face in the window immediately. I saw Tall Man looking back at me. I choked in a panicked breath and my foot missed the pedal as I tried to speed away on my bike. I stumbled for only a second – my eyes never leaving the face in the window – before pedaling home as fast as I could.

The next morning at school, I told Rory and Tyler about Tall Man. They didn’t believe me, of course; they hadn’t believed Jake either. I knew I had to show them, otherwise they would think I was a liar.

We waited until dark and then biked to Mr. Winscot’s cul-de-sac. Tall Man was there – as I told them he’d be – watching us from the window above the front door. It was such a tall front door that I thought Tall Man must have been 10 feet high to see out of the window above it. He was almost smiling but his expression betrayed a certain displeasure. Tyler fell off of his bike.

“Holy shit! Run!” We did.

As soon as we cleared the cul-de-sac, we all began talking over each other in a flustered panic.

“I can’t believe we saw Tall Man!”

“Did you see the look on his face?!”

“We have to tell the cops!”

We went back the next morning with more friends but Tall Man was gone. We went back the next day, but again could see no one behind the window. We began to wonder if Tall Man only came out at night. A few nights later, as we sat in Rory’s basement waiting for a pizza to arrive, we decided to sneak out and see if our theory was true.

We quietly rolled our bikes down the driveway and into the street. We took off for Mr. Winscot’s house, torn between hoping Tall Man was there, and praying that he wasn’t.

We saw him as soon as we biked into the cul-de-sac. He was still standing there after all, and this time, he was outright frowning.

“He’s mad,” Rory said. “He wants us to stay away.”

“I don’t get why he only comes out at night.” Tyler said while he snapped a picture.

“Don’t!” I hissed. “Stop taking pictures, you’ll make him madder.”

“Maybe he watches us in the daytime, too.” Rory shrugged. “Maybe we can only see him at night because that’s when the porch lights come on and shines right in the window.”

It was a chilling thought. We decided to test Rory’s theory the following Saturday, emboldened by the assumption that Tall Man could only watch us but never come out.

As soon as the sun came up that morning, we biked to Mr. Wilscot’s. We had to get close, almost all the way to the beginning of his driveway, but Tyler swore he saw Tall Man still standing in the window.

I made hand binoculars and squinted at the window for a few more minutes before Tyler suddenly said “Let’s go,” hopped back on his bike, and pedaled off. We caught up to him a few blocks later.

“What the hell was that!” I said.

“It was… Tall Man was there, but he looked different this time.”

“Like how?” Rory asked.

“I don’t know, he looked angry or just… wrong somehow.”

It was days before we could convince Tyler to go back to Tall Man’s house, and even then he insisted on taking his teenage brother Matt with us. Matt wasn’t impressed with our stories at all. He didn’t believe us, but he came anyway, for Tyler’s sake.

As soon as we got close enough to see Tall Man in the window above the door, Matt got off his bike. He stared and squinted, and stared some more. He got closer, closer than we had ever dared to go at night. We followed nervously behind him.

Matt walked up the driveway and then down the stone path to the front porch. We dared not follow that far. Then Matt went up the porch stairs, right up to the door.

“Holy… fuck.” He said. Then a few more four letter words. And suddenly Matt was running down the front porch, down the path, down the driveway and out into the street where we waited.

“What is it?” Tyler asked him.

“There is no Tall Man.” He said, out of breath. “Call the cops. Now.”

And he was right, it wasn’t Tall Man after all. We stayed long enough to watch the police break down the door and cut the rotting corpse of Mr. Winscot from the ceiling where he had hung himself from a lamp fixture in his foyer. The body had decayed as if it were melting in the days we had watched it from the road. Mr. Winscot had written no note and made no goodbyes, leaving behind only the sad imprint of a divorced, middle-aged man suffering a sad, well-hidden depression.

It was weeks before the town lost interest in the tragic suicide and months before kids stopped asking us to describe the body in all of its gory detail. Eventually, even Tyler and Rory and stopped talking about it. Everyone had moved on. Everyone except me.

See, there was one detail that always bothered me, one thing I never told Rory or Tyler. It was about the first time I’d seen Tall Man, the time I’d been alone. The thing was, I’d seen Mr. Winscot that night: he’d been sitting alone in his kitchen eating dinner. But I’d seen something else, too. In the upstairs bedroom window, there had been an impossibly tall, impossibly pale man staring back at me. And he’d been politely smiling.

 

CFREDIT: C.K. Walker

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Hide and Seek

Hide and SeekReading Time: 9 minutes“Fifty-eight, fifty-nine, sixty!”

Hide-and-go-seek was the order of the evening. Two days of rain with no signs of stopping meant mud, mud, and more mud. Jenn already knew where the kids were. They always hid together and in the same spot. Twins like to stick together, it seemed.

“Where could they be?” she said convincingly as they giggled somewhere in the house. She tiptoed down the hall and peeked into their room. “Goodness, I will never find them! Maybe… here!” she shouted as she dropped to the floor and pulled the covers back.

“Err, guess not…” she murmured, searching the empty space under the bed. “How about… here!” she shouted again, this time at an empty closet. They’re really making me work for it this time, she thought. Nothing in the bath, no one in the laundry… she knew they were too scared to venture in the basement but decided to check after she’d exhausted all other options.

Jenn noisily stamped down the stairs to announce her presence, hoping to elicit some giggles and shuffling. “I’m going to find you!” she sang. She stopped, noting the uncanny silence. With a five-year-old boy and a five-year-old girl, the only silence she ever experienced happened while they were sleeping—and even that was often interrupted by nightmares.

“Jordan! Casey! Come on kids, you win! I give up!” she shouted merrily. “Olly olly oxen free! You win!” she shouted with slightly more urgency. “Mommy’s not playing anymore. Come on now, it’s time for dinner!” Still nothing. “All right, how about this? If you come out now, we’ll get a big cheesy pizza, two buckets of whatever flavor ice cream you want, and we’ll rent a movie! But, you have to come out now!”

A minute passed, and the panic set in. “All right, kids, come out now. If you don’t come out, you’re going to be in trouble, okay?” she shouted in her serious voice. “Jordan Oliver Jones, you and your sister come out this instant!”

Jenn suddenly heard movement above her and sprinted up the stairs.

“What on earth took you so long?” she fussed as she reached the ground level. “I was starting to get wor—” Jenn froze. The front door was wide open. She knew she’d locked it. She was obsessive about locking the door and checked it at least twice a day. She ran out onto the porch, dizzy and nearly hyperventilating. “Jordan! Casey!”

She ran inside and called the police. Jenn wasn’t thinking clearly.

“Yes, I need help. My children are missing! Cherry Street, 43 Cherry Street, I was playing hide-and-go-seek with them and I couldn’t find them and I searched everywhere and then I found the door open and they’re not here! They’re gone!” she shrieked, the panic building.

“Is there anyone who might want to take them? Could they be with their father? A relative? The neighbors?” asked a calm voice on the other end of the phone.

“My family doesn’t live near here and the neighbors are out and…” Jenn’s stomach knotted up. “Oh god, their father. I… I have a restraining order against him. He shouldn’t even— He’s not supposed to be in town or anywhere near or—”

“Ma’am, I want you to go inside and lock the doors, just to be safe. Make sure all windows are latched as well. I’m sending a dispatch unit to patrol the area. Can you do that for me?” the operator asked in a soothing voice.

“Yes, yes I— Okay, I’m inside,” Jenn panted.

“Good. Thank you. Can you tell me about their father?” the officer asked.

Jenn shuddered as the memories flooded back. “He… he murdered his ex-wife in our home. It was all over the news. Jeremy Picking, he—”

“Oh, yes. Yes, I remember,” the officer interrupted. “Shouldn’t he be—”

Jenn waited for her to finish and heard silence. “Hello? Hello? Are you there?” Jenn tried another number, and there was no dial tone. She jumped hard at the sound of a loud knock at the door. She saw what looked like an officer’s uniform through the frosted glass and rushed to unlock it.

“Are you okay, Jenn?” It was officer John Daley, an old peer of Jenn’s from high school and police officer in town for over a decade. “Gosh, you got here fast,” Jenn sighed, relieved to not be alone anymore. “The kids, John, they’re gone. I—”

“Don’t worry, Jenn,” John interjected, holding her shoulders as she started to weep again. “They’re probably just running around the neighborhood, messin’ around. I’ve got two cars out patrolling right now. Just stay inside and try to keep a cool head. We’ll find ‘em.”

Jenn locked the door behind her again and paced the floor, wringing her hands, peering out the window, and re-checking every potential hiding spot. As she crawled out from under the dining room table, she suddenly noticed motion on the second floor of the house next door. Her breathing stopped. They were supposed to be away for the weekend. A light in the attic flicked on, and the curtains swayed. Jenn walked right up to her window, close enough for her nose to touch the glass, when the light suddenly flicked off again. Jenn yanked the curtains closed, feeling exposed. She ran through the house, checking the locks again, roughly pulling all the curtains closed.

She reached the glass door in the kitchen and came face-to-face with her neighbor Todd, screaming loudly enough to make him jump. Todd frowned, breathing heavily, and shook his head, “Jesus, Jenn, what is it? What happened?”

Jenn cracked the door open, the chain lock still in place. “Sorry Todd, I—” She suddenly remembered he was supposed to be out of town. “Wait, why are you here? And why are you in town?”

Todd looked slightly offended, “Well, Crissy and I got into a big argument over how her dad always treats me and, while it was pretty rough, I am being spared a trip to see the in-laws. But, yeah, I got home like ten minutes ago and saw Officer Daley leaving, so I figured I’d come check in on you and see if everything was okay.”

“Oh, yeah, it’s just…well, the kids, we were playing hide-and-go-seek and I couldn’t find them and then—” Something shiny glinting by Todd’s side caught her eye. He gripped a pair of shears in his left hand. Todd followed her eyes down to see what had stopped her so abruptly. “Wh— Oh! Sorry, yeah when I was crossing the back yard to get to yours, a lot of brush was getting in my way so I thought, ugh, I thought I’d just get on it and, uh, you know, get it out of the way, and, uh…you know, you don’t have to talk to me through the door,” Todd smiled taking a step forward.

Jenn didn’t flinch. Her mind was racing. The phone line was down, Todd had appeared out of nowhere, the shears, the phone, the kids, the shears. Jenn slammed the door in Todd’s face and locked the other two bolts. “Hey!” Todd shouted and banged the door with the fist holding the shears. “I just want to talk!” he shouted, still banging the door. Jenn ran upstairs and tore through her father’s old chest, desperately clawing around for the old 9-millimeter. Why would Todd want her children? Was he trying to get her alone? His wife was out of town, and he was always flirting just a bit too much.

She found the gun just as she heard glass shattering downstairs. She silently loaded and cocked it. As much as instinct told her to hide, she couldn’t, not with Jordan and Casey’s lives at stake. She crouched down, surveying the first floor from the top step. The kitchen door was completely obliterated, and Todd lay sprawled out on his chest. It had to be Jeremy. He took the kids and now he was back to take her. This can’t be happening, she repeated in her head over and over. She cracked. She couldn’t take the tension any longer. “What do you want from us?” she screeched down the stairs.

“Jenn?” she heard John shout back. “Oh god,” she cried out as she raced down the stairs. John stood in the living room facing the kitchen with his pistol drawn. She threw her left arm around him, keeping the gun out of sight. She wasn’t entirely sure if it was legal for her to have the weapon. “Todd was here, he’s not supposed to be and he had these big shears and I freaked out,” she wailed into his shoulder, “I think Jeremy was here, there’s blood everywhere-”

“Don’t worry, I showed up just as Todd broke the glass to get in through your kitchen door. I shot him; it wasn’t Jeremy,” he said stroking her hair.

“But… but I didn’t hear any gunshots,” Jenn said confused, thinking surely Todd had been stabbed. “Silencer,” said John, “I didn’t want to shake up the whole neighborhood if I didn’t have to.”

“Oh… right,” Jenn exhaled, “Are my children at his house? Did you find them? Was Todd even involved in that or does he just have amazing timing? Is he… is he going to be okay?”

“Sh, sh, sh,” John said, holding her tighter. You don’t have to worry about John or Jeremy or any other man ever again. I’ll make sure of it. Now, how about some dinner?”

Jenn pulled away, frowning, “John, I can’t exactly eat right now. My children are missing,” she began tearing up. John continued smiling. “How about I go with you and we look for them together? You know, help the other guys you said are looking?” Jenn offered.

“Let them do their job, sweetie. They don’t need any help. These are professional police officers. We‘re going to find little Jordan and Casey.” Jenn stopped moving, trying to remember when she’d told him the names of her children. They went to the same high school together, but that was all. He didn’t know anything about her children. In fact, he hadn’t even asked for their descriptions to tell the dispatchers who to look for.

“We’ll get a big cheesy pizza,” he continued, “two flavors of ice cream and, hey, maybe we’ll even rent a movie to get your mind off of things.” Her heart dropped, her stomach flew into her throat, and her breathing grew short and shallow.

“John, how do the dispatchers know who to look for?” Jenn asked slowly.

“I told them what they look like, Jenny. You really need to calm down,” John said with a new note of seriousness to his voice.

“John, how… how do you know what my children look like?” Jenn asked, gripping the gun still hidden behind her back.

John’s smile faded and he took a step closer, his fists clenched. “That’s really not important, Jenny. Don’t you want your children to be found? Don’t you want them safe? Don’t you want your children back, Jenny?”

“Why do you keep calling me Jenny?”

“You ask a lot of questions,” John shouted, making Jenn jump. “That is what you liked to be called in high school, wasn’t it? When we still hung out? Before you met that freak, Jeremy, and cut me out of your life completely!”

“John, where are my kids?” Jenn shouted back.

“Jeremy’s children are none of your concern anymore!” John roared.

Jenn pulled the gun from behind her back and pointed it at John, shaking, praying she loaded it correctly.

“Todd didn’t break the glass door, did he?” Jenn asked softly. “Did he?” she shouted.

“He was just another man that wanted to get to you,” John slurred lazily, unfazed by the gun, as he plopped down on the couch. “You know, if you shoot me, you’ll never find them.”

Jenn felt her will slipping as she sobbed. “What do you want?” she whimpered.

“Sit,” John ordered, “and give me the gun.” Jenn did as she was told and collapsed into the armchair. “Did you even notice how much I cared about you in high school? I never stopped caring. I’ve been watching you and keeping you safe for years, Jenn,” John spat.

John continued his diatribe, relaying stories from high school that Jenn barely remembered. As he ranted, she noticed a light out of the corner of her eye. It was Crissy. She was home from her parents’ place. Please come here looking for Todd, Jenn thought to herself. Please, please, please. Jenn kept her eyes focused on Todd as she noticed Crissy crossing her backyard in her peripheral.

“I can keep you safe. No one will ever touch you ever again. Think of Casey. Think of little Jordan. I’ll keep them s—” John and Jenn jumped as Crissy’s screams interrupted them. She’d found Todd. Jenn seized the moment to snatch back the gun. John lunged for it, setting it off.

His face froze, his eyelids drooping. He’d taken a bullet straight to the gut. John staggered backward, crashing to the floor. Jenn ran to Crissy, who held Todd in her arms. He drifted in and out of consciousness. “There’s no time to explain! Please, I need to use your phone!” Jenn begged. She helped Crissy drag Todd to the front yard just as two officers screeched to a halt in their patrol cars. Four officers with guns drawn rushed toward the house yelling for Jenn and Crissy to lay down. Apparently, neighbors contacted police at the sound of the gunshot.

The officers didn’t immediately comprehend why one of their own was lying on Jenn’s floor after her children went missing; however, after hearing knocking coming from John’s patrol vehicle, they found Jordan and Casey unharmed in the trunk. John survived but was fired and sent to a psychiatric ward for counseling.

 

CREDIT: Haley Houston

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Concerning The Masquerade

Concerning The MasqueradeReading Time: 2 minutesConcerning the Masquerade

Sara Stonewood
Global News
09/05/18
[Sensitive Content]

Halifax, NS

So with the Halloween season close at hand, many police departments are bracing for an upswing in crime, particularly reports of pranks and practical jokes taken too far.

As many of my readers may know, in previous years I have made it my duty to investigate the uncommon extremes of these seasonal jokes, such as the clown craze of Halloween 2016. However, this year’s seasonal fear is decidedly more deadly than carnival performers.

Reports of a string of cross-country murders have officially been concluded to be the work of a serial killer. Five deaths have been reported so far, respectively in Ontario, Quebec and, most recently, Nova Scotia. The latest killing, and first in Nova Scotia, was officially closed as of yesterday, the body being found three days prior.

Abigail Baxter, a twenty year-old woman from Wolfville, Nova Scotia, was found hung by the neck in a local park. She appeared to have been knocked unconscious by blunt force trauma to the back of the head before being transported to her final resting place. The body has been recovered and police are consoling her close family and friends.

Incidentally, the string that ties this killing to others across Canada is the constant continuation of Abigail’s social media accounts. The victim’s Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook feeds remain active despite their disappearance, maintaining their demeanor for a few days before gradually progressing to cryptic messages. The messenger even responds to the victim’s friends and family in character, mimicking everything about them.

Some experts in digital forensics claim that this unparalleled mimicry, this social media masquerade, is what makes the victims too difficult to find. Location is usually revealed online only a few days after their disappearance, leading police to theorize that the killer gains access to social media platforms only hours after the crime takes place.

Development in this story is limited due to the lack of leads altogether. Despite the best efforts of police departments country-wide, the locations of each of the victims can only be known when the killer wishes them to be found.

Each social media platform used in the masquerade has pledged openness to the investigation, yet none have offered any use in discovering the killer’s true nature, motives, or identity. No social media platforms show evidence of any suspicious conversations or activity.

An assortment of police departments country-wide have initiated a coordinated online manhunt and anonymous tip-line for any information on who may be next in this string of murders.

Despite this, it is unknown if the killer will ever be found. Perhaps they do not want to be found.

Editor’s note:
09/21/18

If anyone has information on the last known location of reporter Sara Stonewood, please inform us or your local police department immediately. She has been missing as of the fifteenth of September. I would ask you for any clues as to her whereabouts, but I suppose we will all know soon enough.

 

CREDIT:  Brennan Smith

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The Laughing Prophet

The Laughing ProphetReading Time: 5 minutesThe following article was sent by journalist Roberto Costa Campos, expert in criminal investigation, for the writing of “Na Hora”, a tabloid newspaper in São Paulo. Roberto was known for his daring and his lack of fear in investigating anything, often going into extremely dangerous situations simply to gather information.

Three days after sending this article to the newsroom, Roberto disappeared. A body was found floating in the Tietê River – soon after, it was identified as being that of the journalist, but the identification could only be made by DNA testing, as the corpse suffered advanced levels of mutilation.

The following article is Roberto’s last professional record to the world. Police are still investigating whether the content of such an investigation was merely an illusion of the reporter, or whether it truly is factual. If it is confirmed that the article is based on actual information, it is possible to link it to the death of the reporter.

The article was kept confidential in the records of the Public Security Secretariat of the state of São Paulo, but shortly thereafter it was leaked in an i2P paranormal investigation forum. Here’s a copy of the article:

THE PROPHETS

They are called “The Prophets” a sect of people who have received minor notoriety in recent months. Responsible for at least fifteen murders in the last month, this group of people claim to be worshipers of a paranormal entity called “Zalgo,” something resembling a very powerful demon. They call themselves “Prophets,” for they claim that they know the day that this entity will rise, and that they know exactly who should and should not witness its return. According to them, only the pure people deserve to see Zalgo recover, and the impure must be killed, so that their souls serve as food for the same in the ethereal world where he is enclosed.

The members of this sect possess macabre murder rituals, always offering a dead person to their ethereal leader, and each uses a nickname; a false identity relating to their chosen style of murder.

The sect received more prominence a few months ago when its alleged leader (known by the nickname of “Prophet Laughter”) released a story of his murders. From then on, the sect has become more brutal and notorious.

I spent several weeks traveling around the country looking for signs of them, and finally, in Belo Horizonte, I met a young man who seems to have some connection with the Prophets. I found him crying in an abandoned building. After a little interrogation, I realized that he knew a lot about the sect. His name was Benjamin. He was cowering, frightened. He was wearing a black wool T-shirt with a hood resting on his head. He was slightly overweight. On the floor beside him was a hockey mask with a broken edge. Here’s my interview.

BETO: You are one of the Prophets?

BENJAMIN: Not yet.

BETO: Why not?

BENJAMIN: I, Rosa, and Anna have not yet finished our training.

BETO: There’s training to be a Prophet?

BENJAMIN: Not all Prophets are born with all of the skills they should possess. Some need to be taught.

BETO: And who is your leader?

BENJAMIN: The Laughter … the Laughter, yes … the Laughter.

BETO: What’s his real name?

BENJAMIN (shouting): I do not know!

BETO: Calm down. Tell me, how did you get into the Prophets?

BENJAMIN: I slept … they killed … they killed everyone … I was … I did not …

(For the rest of the interview, Benjamin continues to speak in loose sentences)

From what I understand, Benjamin, sixteen, suffered from strong discrimination in his family for his homosexuality. One day, the boy woke up in the middle of the night, surrounded by the Prophets. After talking to them for long hours, and letting himself be influenced, the boy tried to kill his own family while they slept, but failed. His older brother hit him in the face with a stick of baseball, breaking the corner of his hockey mask. He then ran away. The next night, the other Prophets invaded the house of the boy’s family and quartered them all.

It seems that the Prophets have developed a peculiar way of communicating; using videos encoded on the internet. The channel bears the name of the cult leader (Risonho Prophet), and some bizarre and macabre videos have already been posted. They all seem to be loose images of strange situations, but some have phrases that appear for a fraction of a second, seemingly pointless. I suspect they are codes. Recently a video was posted, in which the text “purify Belo Horizonte” appeared. Maybe that explains why I found Benjamin there but not the other Prophets.

LIST OF PROPHETS

As I spent most of the night talking to Benjamin, I was able to trace a profile of all the members of the sect, which I will now list. Curiously, I recently came to the idea that each of the prophets represents one of the capital sins, but this may be just a coincidence.

RISON PROPHET

Leader of the sect, old, unknown name. He seems to be a very cultured and intelligent person. He is responsible, according to Benjamin, for at least twenty-two murders. He wears a white mask with a macabre smile painted on it. He is described in his narrations as the greatest of the assassins, always speaking heroically of his feats, so it is believed that this represents Pride.

ANNA KARENINA

Supposed to be a lover of the Prophet, unknown age, described by Benjamin as being a beautiful girl with emerald-green eyes, long black hair. She always wears a nurse mask, according to Benjamin, because she has a hole in the moonlight of her lower lip, leaving her gums exposed. She normally attacks in hospitals, with an enormous brutality, which counterpoises her docile face, so perhaps this represents Wrath.

VOTE PROPHET

Benjamin shuddered when he quoted this one; it seems that the two have some quarrel. He is described by the boy as being a big, strong man who pounds his victims in the head to death and devours their corpses. According to him, he wears a plaster mask that depicts a demonic face with a wide gaping mouth full of teeth. His age, says Benjamin, is approaching thirty. By devouring his victims, he probably represents Gluttony.

BLACK ROSE

It is not known if this is her real name or if it is just a moniker. According to Benjamin, she is a girl in her late twenties, a redhead, and a descendant of Hispanics, for she always speaks with a heavy Spanish accent. She is always seen with gold laces, among other luxury articles, as well as some Mexican skull face make-up. Usually attacks alone, using an ax.

GOOD PROPHET

His real name is Matias and is described as being a very rich man. He is little seen by the other prophets, for unlike all, he does not go to his victims, but causes them to come to him. Sadistic, he usually uses brutal methods of torture on his victims before killing them. He is always seen with a fox mask on his face. This one most likely represents Greed. Given her appearance and demeanor, it is possible that she represents Lust.

BIZARRO PROPHET

Brother of the Miser, described by Benjamin as being a very fat guy, always wearing a red overcoat, usually opens the skull of his victims with a cleaver. He is responsible for kidnapping his victims on behalf of his brother. It is not known who he represents, but is likely to represent Envy.

PROPHET OF THE SHADOWS

This seems to be only a delusion of Benjamin. Described by him as being a girl of about seven, pale, with completely black eyes and empty expression. She appears in the victims’ homes only during the night, absorbing energy from electronic devices. She never attacks unless shrouded in darkness. Benjamin says that before killing her victims, she walks by their house, singing a melody in another language. When the victim decides to investigate the source of the sound, that is when she strikes. I can not identify any sin that resembles the girl, so it is likely that she does not exist.

All that remains is Benjamin, who seems to represent Sloth, since he is probably not responsible for any death.

That’s all I got from Benjamin. As he was leaving, he looked at me smiling and shouted “You’re screwed!”

I fear for my safety, but will try to investigate the sect some more, as soon as I can.

END OF DOCUMENT

 

CREDIT: Logan Raul

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