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The Dim Lights of Palmetto Road

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Through the living room window Lucille could see a few shapes outlined by the moonlight but it was hardly enough to make out any sort of detail. Her mind began to wander blindly to terrible places, places it always went when confronted with uncertainty. The power went out soundlessly in a thoughtless blink just a few minutes ago. No thunderstorm, no rain, and no slamming, screeching car crash; only darkness. The shadows loomed around the tall grass, watching her, stalking her like hungry lions or wolves or some awfully humanlike creature standing upright in her blindside with a smile on its face.

“Mom, when are the lights gonna come back on?” Anne asked, impatiently.

“I don’t know, baby.” She smiled. “Don’t worry. They’ll come back on after a little while.”

Anne, even though she was just five-years-old, knew a ‘little while’ meant an undisclosed amount of time, and usually a long, long time. She smirked and began scrolling through mommy’s Facebook with her face shrouded by her long blonde hair and her cheek flat against the arm of the couch. Lucille kept her watch through the window, shuddering at her own imagination every now and then. There was something out there. She just couldn’t quite fathom what that something was. But it was there.

Down the road from Lucille’s home a powerline had been severed. Jumping and springing about at the base of its tall wooden pole, the sparks emitted from the tip could easily cause a fire if the grass surrounding it were dry, but it had rained hard and endless nights ago so the line worker that accepted the call was very careful to avoid the muddy puddles that might shock the whites out of his eyes. ‘Call’ wasn’t quite the word he’d use to describe the conversation he took part in before driving to the scene, though.

A VERY drunken, Cajun-spiced voice filled his ear after answering the phone and saying, “Hello, you've reached Florida power and light, this is Theodore,” as benignly as he could.

“Yeah, hiii bwud. Our power’zzz all outta wack over here on Palmetto street.”

“Palmetto, you said?”

“Palmettooo, can you com’n fixshit?” the man slurred and hung up.

And that was that.

He’d driven through Palmetto many a time--it was a small stretch of road giving way to quiet homes next to some boggy unclaimed fields of cattails and tall grass and probably a good alligator or two. He never had issue with the lines near that road before, but then again, maybe the linemen on the day shift did, and being much more of a night owl prevented him from working on those specific incidents. What did it matter anyway? He’d come out here with his partner, Martin, who was very much the polar opposite of a night owl, and had fallen asleep in the truck’s passenger seat.

He hammered on the door with the soft side of his fist. “Get up, chickpea. C’mon, we’ve got work to do.” Martin groaned and yawned widely like a bored lion. “Let’s go. You can sleep at base. We have to get this fixed first, and I’m sure as hell not fixing it by myself with all this water around.” Both men stepped off the road onto the grass a pole over from the one with the severed line. “Seems a little close, doesn’t it?” Martin asked. Theodor observed too with his flashlight that the wire came off very close to the adjacent pole, almost as if somebody somehow climbed up there and cut it. But who could do that without getting electrocuted so bad their skin turned into finely ground charcoal? Out of nowhere, his partner spoke again, casually, “My guess is corrosion overtime--usually happens after the summer heat battles the cool rain, right?”

It was just a coincidence, he told himself. Yeah, these damn things always get old and weathered; it didn’t matter how close they were to their poles, or how suspiciously hand-cut they seemed because they were that close. “Yeah, that’s probably it,” he remarked.

The dark didn’t scare Anne, not one bit. Mommy was always around and made her feel safe wherever they were. The lights had been out for around twenty minutes now, which didn’t seem like such a long time, but the few games mommy had on her phone were getting boring and repetitive.

“Mom?”

“Yes, baby?” Lucille left the window and sat beside her on the couch.

“Can we go for a walk outside or something? It’s too hot in here.”

Lucille sighed. “You’re right. It is getting muggy. I don’t know about going out at this time of night, though.”

“Pleeease?” she begged and wrapped her stubby arms around her waist. Lucile lifted her up, grunting and giggling along with her, and whisked her up by her underarms until they were face to face. “You are getting heavy, little girl.”

“Am not!”

She set her down, and with uncertainty in her voice: “I suppose we could step out for a few minutes and say hello to Mr. Dow on our way back.”

“Does that mean I’ll get to see Missy?” Anne wondered aloud, her face widening with excitement. “Well, I guess we’ll just have to see, won’t we?”

To their relief, it was much cooler outside than it was in. A constant breeze brushed through the overgrown cattails flanking Palmetto on both sides, making them wave to and fro unnaturally like hands--or at least, that’s what Lucille thought they looked like.

(STOP! STOP, for the love of GOD! STOP! )

Her whole body trembled and she gripped both of her shoulders. The voice had come out of nowhere, Paul’s voice screaming in the pain and immense fear he felt in those final moments as the steamroller did not stop. Suddenly, she watched the sleek face of Palmetto road became pooled with fresh blood, painted in splotches and tire tracks. She remembered Paul, the man she married and granted life to a brand new person with, violently convulsing as the bones in his left foot were crushed first, and then swallowing the rest of his body with it to be flattened against the pavement. All Lucile could do was scream right along with him and wish she were dead. The other construction workers dropped walkie-talkies and little packed lunches of chocolate pudding or homemade fried chicken in plastic containers and saw with paralyzing fear that no one was behind the wheel of the steamroller that ran over Paul Grey as he turned to see his wife bringing him a glass of sweetened lemonade during the fresh paving of Palmetto road.

It all came back to her in flashes of sound and sight like thunder and lighting, the same way it always did.

It was impossible for it not to when she lived a few measly yards from the exact spot it had all happened.

She immediately wanted to grab Anne and run back inside. But this time, for whatever reason, Lucille Grey, a single mother married to awful tragedy, did not run away from old fears. She shut her eyes hard and kept walking forth. Just a little stroll outside in the night air, then maybe Anne could take a nap after seeing Missy. When she wakes up the power might be back on and everything can be just fine again, hopefully. She took in a deep breath before opening her eyes. The blood pool was gone and along with it, the screams of that day when Anne had only been a tiny two were absent from the night, as they should have been.

Anne started to skip and prance ahead, humming an imaginary song to the tempo of her low-top Converses padding over the concrete, until Lucile jogged up and tightly held onto her hand again. “Don’t run, Anne. You don’t know what might be in front of you in this dark.”

“Okay. Sorry. What’s that truck doing over there?” she asked, pointing to the white FPL pickup parked off to the side of the road.

Martin spotted the two first, in the distance pierced thinly by the flashing yellow lights atop the truck. They marched side-by-side awkwardly in the dark like huddled-up penguins on ice. Theodore was saying something about extra precautionary measures they’d have to take, lest they waste their time, waste other people’s time that didn’t have power, and put themselves at risk. However, not a single breath of Theodore’s words was taken in by the very tired, very longingly homesick Martin Dwyer. He was no night owl. Sleeping during the day had only proved to make him roll in migraine after pulsing, blurry migraine on the living room couch--it was simply impossible for him. And, while staying up all night and working under the careful white-feathered wingspan of Theodor wasn’t so bad, he knew he pissing off the old man more and more with his lack of a steady sleep cycle.

“--and that’s another thing too--we’ve got all this water around he--" he paused and turned to see Martin staring blankly down the road with his mouth dopily ajar.

“Marty, are you shitting me right now?” Martin blinked and shook his head.

“What? Oh, er…”

“What?! What?! Is that all you have to contribute?! What?! If you would just—“

The old man of a shy but peeking 54 years let the rest of his anger out in a long nasally exhale. Martin looked down at his shoes sheepishly. “Look,” he set both veiny, black hands on his shoulders, “I realize that you haven’t exactly adjusted to the graveyard shift, but I’ve been working you for three months, man. I’m gonna need you to adjust now or at least sometime in the near future. This is an important job, a dangerous one at that. You know that, don’t you?” Martin nodded and felt a smirk curl up the corner of his mouth. “Alright then. Good. I need you focused, alright? No time to waste.”

“Alright.”

“Who are they?” Martin asked. Anne was beginning to skip and prance ahead again sprightly until Lucile caught up and grabbed her by the hand.

Theodore chuckled a little: “I believe that’s a mother and daughter going out for a nice little stroll in the moonlight.” He waved at the two who were now visible in much more personal detail under the flashing sirens. Martin mimicked the wave while quickly observing and admiring Lucile’s figure. Jean shorts which crawled a decent 3-4 inches down her thigh coupled with a dark blue tank top hanging loosely off of one shoulder.

“Hello, hello, ladies,” Theodore cooed. “Would you just so happen to be someone whose power is affected by this little issue right here?” Lucile couldn’t see what he was pointing at, but she could hear the violent cracking electrical sounds that reminded her of the harmless little Pop-its she got for Anne last New Year’s Eve. There was a big difference however, in that when Anne threw down the little balls of powder and resin wrapped in paper, yelling “Bam! Bam!” in honor of her favorite character from The Flintstones, they were just that—harmless. The sound she heard now as she approached the source was almost livid and spiteful. She looked at the faces of the two men and thought about how dangerous it must be to be a line worker, then remembered one of them had asked her a question.

“Oh, uh, yes, our power’s out. I don’t think I saw any other lights on down the whole street either. Must mean everyone else around here is in the same boat, huh?”

“I wouldn’t doubt it, Mrs. We’ve only just got here so it’ll be a few minutes before things start lighting up again, but my partner and I will be sure to get it done smooth as we can. Right, Martin?”

“Right.”

“Well,” Lucile said while stroking Anne’s long blonde hair, “you two be careful while you fix everything.” “We will, ma’am. You have a nice night.”

Mr. Franklin Dow lived in the wooden-fenced house on Palmetto road. He was a simple old man that sort of hiccupped rather than spoke when he opened his mouth. Not that his thick, runny manner of speech was a fork in the road of how warm he was toward his neighbors. Mr. Franklin Dow used to be chef for an old folks’ home in Baton Rouge Louisiana, where he was born and raised. No matter the dish, whether it be gumbo, soup, barbeque, or just plain American hotdog, hamburger, and french-fries, the man cooked and seasoned the food to savory perfection. And sharing his handiwork with others was the delight of his day. Door-to-door down Palmetto road he would bring plastic containers full of whatever people liked every Friday afternoon.

"Mr. Dow," they said softly while shaking his callused hand with both of their own, "thank you so much for being the best damn neighbor any one of us could ever ask for. The food you cook is fantastic and the company you bring is appreciated."

When his power went out, he had been sitting in his lawn chair outside with a cracked open can of Yuengling in one hand while the other scratched Missy’s pointed brown ears. It didn’t bother him at all. He hardly used anything run by electricity, save for a bathroom light bulb or two after he’d had more than a few Yuenglings, and really needed that extra assistance with his aim. Other than that, he was completely content with cracking open a few more and listening to the sounds the night made—crickets singing, owls hoot-hoot-hooting, and a few hyperactive squirrels that had too much on their mind to sleep…but there was something else under the usual quilt of ambient night noises.

Rustling—he hardly ever had the knack or the energy to mow the lawn anymore until it was tall and riddled with sticky green hitchhikers that stuck to the ankles of his jeans. Through that unfortunate tally in the dirt that marked more and more downsides of old age, he could hear very clearly, as could Missy who began to let out a low cautionary growl while coiling back into her haunches at the fence’s latched entrance, that someone was walking—no, stalking—onto his front lawn.

The footfalls began to slow near the gate. He set his beer down on the outside glass table reserved for the neighbors on those warm Saturday nights, and froze in place with his hands choking the arms of his chair. A white, gloved hand slipped in through the little bit of space between the latch and the gate itself.

“Hey, Franky, have your lights gone a little dim?”

It was the voice that sent his gray-haired heart into frenzy. His left breast began rising and sinking syncopated through his A-shirt, making him wince in pain. His grip tightened around the chair arms so strongly that his fingernails dug into the palms of his hands, drawing out red ink-like blood which dripped down to the ground in thin drops. Missy growled no more, only whined pitifully and looked to her master for help. Help he could no longer give. And like the crack of that severed power line, the latch suddenly snapped off its hinges, the metal cylinder falling to the dirt soundlessly. The last thing Franklin Dow saw before his body jolted at the epicenter of a massive heart attack was a clown.

*

To Anne’s disapproval, her mother kept her arm snaked around her neck so she couldn’t run ahead anymore. “They were some nice men, weren’t they, Anne?”

“I guess,” her eyes rolled. “Well, if you’re mad at me for not letting you get hurt by running around in the dark, I wouldn’t try to stay that way for long,” Lucile laughed. “At this time of night I’m sure Mr. Dow is sitting out on his porch petting Missy without a care in the world about his power being out.”

“You really think he’s out there with Missy?” Lucile loosened her arm a little.

“Yes, I think so…I hope so.” Anne titled her head in confusion at her mother, who had such a sudden shift in her tone; from nonchalance to hook-like dread yanking down on her hard like a cruel, drunken fisherman.

“What do you mean, mom?”

“We’ll see, Anne,” she said dryly.

A sudden anxiety reared its ugly head. It was normal for her after what happened to Paul—after watching what happened to Paul—but this was something different, something much more concrete than post-traumatic stress planting eerie ideas in her head. They reached the sidewalk in front of their own home, and could see Mr. Dow’s tall wooden fence. Lucile stopped abruptly and pulled Anne closer to her.

That same German Shepherd that Lucile could remember Mr. Dow telling a story about him finding her malnourished and mistreated with a tightly wound rope choking her neck in someone’s backyard was now limping toward them; her fur doused and spiked in something wet and reddish in contrast to her black-brown fur. Blood spilled from Missy’s panting mouth in unending, spiraled ribbons. Her tongue was much shorter than Lucile remembered it being. It was unevenly cut off near the middle. The dog stumbled on all four paws, running lopsided through confusion and pain and blood loss.

“Why’s she bleeding, mom?” Anne asked with uncomfortably real distress in her voice. Lucille didn’t hear her. She screamed as her knees found the sidewalk hard, and her hands clasped around the dogs jaw, trying to hold it closed in some futile effort to stop the bleeding. A mixture of blood and spittle seeped through Missy’s lips and all over Lucile’s fingers.

It reminded her of that smooth, newly paved road; of Paul and the empty steamroller.

(‘Where’s Daddy?’ ‘He’s in a better place now, sweetheart.’)

The funeral, the pensive stares, the blood—the blood was what always brought everything back so fast and vivid—ingrained in her mind forever. Every sense became blisteringly apparent in an instant; the freshly thick wetness like red house paint, the metallic smell like a sweaty handful of copper pennies, the sounds of screaming, crushing bone, and viscera so terribly loud in the air. And then, she did something she hadn’t done since that horrible, horrible time when Anne had only been two, stumbling around on brittle knees in diapers. The spaghetti she cooked earlier for dinner was now soaked and mixed with sour stomach acids as it all spewed out of her mouth onto the sidewalk. She somehow managed to maintain the solidarity of her grip around Missy’s snout, which was dripping a considerably less amount of blood than before when she left it gaping open hobbling toward them.

“Mommy!” Anne cried.

Lucille hacked and spit up what was left of noodles and meatballs that were far less appetizing after being half-digested.

“Go back up the road right now, and get those nice men we talked to,” she managed through shallow breaths.

“You want me to go alone?”

“Yes, Annie! Go!” Anne whipped around and started back up the sidewalk as quickly as her legs could take her. Then Lucile did something she did every now and then when she awoke in the middle of a night terror about the day of Paul’s accident. She sobbed. She wailed and cradled the dying dog in her lap for what she already knew would feel like forever.

*

Theodore doubted (not too heavily) the stability of the latter at the hands of Martin as he stepped up to the adjacent line. The idea was to halt the constant surge minutely with a conductor wand, that would pass the electricity around them in a nondescript sort of circle so that Martin could then hands free pull the cutoff wire to its other end and bandage it. It wasn’t his partner’s unsteady hands that nearly sent him sprawling off the Goddamn latter, though.

“HELP! PLEASE HELP!” Anne cried hysterically toward them.

“Jesus, what the hell!” Theodore wailed his arms around in circles before pulling his body against the latter.

“HELP, HELP, WE NEED HELP! PLEASE!” The voice now had a face, one of the most terrified and panicked Theodore had ever seen in all of his years. He slid down the latter, nearly booting Martin in the face once he hit the bottom. “Please, my mom needs help!”

“What is it? What’s wrong?” He asked, not sharing the worried look his partner gave him.

“Mom! Missy! Missy’s bleeding!” Instinct rushed over his body in the form of adrenaline-fueled goosebumps that made the hairs on his arms stand up straight like thumbtacks. Theodore vaulted over the truck bed, waving both of his hands and saying, “Alright, alright. Don’t worry, I got something to help.”

He reached into the open passenger side window and fashioned a shiny red first-aid-kit, holding it up to Anne so she would see, and maybe calm down a little. He shoved it into Marty’s chest like an afterthought, then knelt down so he was face-to-face with Anne.

“Alright, what’s your name?”

“Anne.”

“Anne? Okay, can I call you Annie?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Okay, Annie, I need you to tell me who Missy is and why she’s bleeding.”

She stammered: “M-Missy’ss a German Shepherd…I don’t know wha-why she’s bleeding, but it’s coming out of her mouth and… and it’s all over her fur in front,” she said with tears swelling glossily under her eyelids. If Theodore had been bewildered by the fact that he just pulled out a first aid kit for a dog, he didn’t show an ounce of it on his face; only nodded and, standing up straight, swung open the passenger side door of his truck.

“What the hell is that!?” Martin’s voice seemed so full of hectic confusion you might’ve guessed he was in the middle of a warzone and had just noticed an incoming mortar whistling straight for his legs. Unbeknownst to him, Theodore kept a nickel-plated 32.caliber pistol in a small black case by Martin’s feet the whole three months he’d been riding around with him.

“This is called iron, Marty. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Full-hearty men and women carry iron around when they know someone’s bleeding and would rather not be next in line to bleed,” he said absently as he opened a brand new box of bullets and popped the empty cylinder to the side effortlessly with one hand.

“A dog is bleeding, and you suddenly wanna bring a fucking gun? For what?!” Theodore stopped so suddenly and glared coldly at Martin that he thought he was going to point the gun at his head and pull the trigger purely out of spite for him opening his mouth.

“You listen to me, son, and you listen hard. I need every word that comes out of my mouth within the next few minutes to crack into your ears so loud that you never forget ANYTHING I say. No bullshit, no ignoring me and you do exactly as I say. But more importantly, right now I need you to take that first-aid and follow close behind this little girl. Do you get me?”

Martin nodded sheepishly, looking down to the left by his shoes the way he always did when overpowered by the sturdiness Theodore put into every spoken word. He put one last round in the cylinder before snapping it back into position and closing the little black suitcase on the hood of the truck. “Take us there, Annie.”

*

There was a horrifically gruesome thought that planted itself into Anne’s head as she led the two nice men to where mommy was on the sidewalk. It was so awful and bad and awful, but she couldn’t understand where it came from. She had never thought of anything like it before. It made her want to cry even more, but she held it back like mom always told her to. But the thought, the picture playing out over and over in her mind was mommy. She kept imagining them finding her and Missy both lying dead on the sidewalk in a LOT of blood; mommy’s dry, unmoving eyes staring blankly off into the dark with a black and white birthday hat on her head.

But Lucille wasn’t dead and neither was Missy. There was less and less blood seeping through her lips, which worried Lucile, but she felt calm wash over her when she saw Anne coming back with the two men.

“Oh thank GOD,” she wailed, dried tears clung to her cheeks in shiny, curving streams down to her jawline. “Good job, baby,” she told Anne and considered running her hand through her long blonde hair, but quickly remembered her hands were still doused in bloody spittle.

“Christ, what happened to him?” Martin asked, popping open the kit and pawing at its contents with his fingertips.

“I think her tongue’s been cut. I don’t know by who. We were coming up here to talk to Mr. Dow and see how he was doing right after we talked to you, but then she came running at us from his yard...” She paused and turned her head to see the gate that was always left closed this late at night no matter what wide open flat against the house’s outer wall.

“His fence shouldn’t be open, at all.” She looked up to Theodore with worry written all over her face; Theodore could read that look like a blind man with braille.

He nodded, and hastily told Marvin: “Pour the rubbing alcohol in that clear bottle on whatever’s bleeding. Then use whatever else you think you need to. I’m gonna check on the owner.”

Theodore Toole was anything but a fool. Lineman was certainly not the first trade he tricked. The job that stuck with him—the one that gave him certain hardwired instincts and a good, firm grip on authority—was detective. As soon as the little blonde girl told him a dog was bleeding from its mouth something didn’t feel so smooth about the night he was called to Palmetto road. The need to draw his gun didn’t just come from nowhere, and he sure as high hell didn’t regret drawing it either. He didn’t know this “Mr. Dow” but he felt immediate sentiment for the old man when he saw the way someone had left his dead body after killing him.

No sooner had he briskly entered the gate when he stopped dead in his tracks at the first sight of Mr. Dow’s eyes. They were completely missing, leaving behind abyssal windows into the pit of his skull. Sprawled out in his chair with his hands still tightly choking the arms, rivers of blood ran down his face as if he’d cried it all out directly from his brain. Without a millimeter of hesitation, Theodore yanked the 32 from the front of his waistband and thumbed the hammer back to full cock. With wide eyes and his sidearm pointed downward in both hands, he cautiously started toward Mr. Dow’s corpse, nearly yelling Jesus when he noticed the coned black and white spiraled party hat strung around his jaw atop his head. His jaw was a gaping tunnel, but apart from his own tongue which was flat against the floor of his mouth, there was something else in it that was letting out even more blood onto his chin and once white A-shirt. It was that dog’s tongue, thick and bright pink it had been shoved in the man’s mouth so far Theodore was almost positive that half of it was down his throat. Whoever did this either had a personal stake or is one of the sickest motherfuckers I’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing oxygen with, he thought.

Once he felt that particular motherfucker was far enough away, he thumbed the hammer forward and shooed the bullet from its chamber. Taking last sad, miserly looks at this poor old man who deserved so much better, he turned his back and closed the gate behind him.

“Is he alright?” Lucille called over to him, still cradling a very tired but no longer dying dog in her lap. “He’s dead,” Theodore said with flaring nostrils and a grimace that made him look twenty years older.

“What?! What do you mean he—“

A muffled but shrill scream made chills crawl all over their skin and halted anything Lucile was about to say. Theodore was sure glad he’d put his pistol back to the neutral position, because he immediately pulled the trigger on it when they heard the scream. “All of you stay right here,” he said as he sprinted down the sidewalk.

He hadn’t needed to use his flashlight outside to see the old man’s corpse in awfully upsetting detail. The moon that night was full as a brand new wheel of cheese, and had looked a lot like one too. But through the windows of the house he was more than sure the scream came from there was nothing but blackness. He fished into his inner left jacket pocket and pulled out the measly, dim flashlight. There was no need to knock on the door, as there was also no need to kick it in, so Theodore Tool turned the knob with a click and entered the ocean-like blackness with the pistol raised up in front of him.

The flashlight shone back off of black and white linoleum flooring, which looked to be recently mopped to shimmery perfection. He then saw that the floor would need an indefinite amount of more mopping, as blood pooled out from the open doorway of another room he guessed was the dining room due to the vague shapes of chairs seated at a table he could make out. But there was something seated in them—in each one, as a matter of fact; which probably meant they were more bodies placed by whoever did the same to Mr. Dow. But, hey, that’s only a pessimistic guess, right? He thought sarcastically. He walked in very slow, quiet, long strides toward the doorway, minding the copper-scented blood pool. Definitely don’t miss that smell, he remarked silently again.

“Oh fuck!” he screamed.

That pessimistic guess had been right. An entire goddamned family was posthumously propped up at their own dining room table. Every face was frozen in an eternal moment of terror, and with no eyes to see anymore. A father with hay-colored hair swept to the side sat at the very end with his mouth fully ajar; a son on the left who looked to be a chip-off-the-old-block from dad; a daughter at the front end with dirty brown in her blonde hair, which was kept up in a ponytail. All were eyeless. All were bloodied. All were very much dead and murdered.

Theodore Tool was a detective for the Miami PD for an entire fifth of his life. He was preceded by no wife, since he divorced the last one himself (she was the third failed marriage, and certainly was not the charm in spite of her being number three). Perhaps he’d been too old and slow to the draw, or perhaps seeing that entire family murdered in cold had kept him distracted long enough for someone to jab his eyes out with their fingers just like the rest of the victims. Detectives and police alike at the Oaks Ridge PD could not be sure. But in the end, Theodore Tool noticed too late that there was a missing member of the family at the dining table.

A sudden thud forced him turn and face the clown sitting on a turned over fishing bucket in the doorway he had just walked through by the pool of blood. The mother of the family was sprawled out across his lap, one eye missing, the other staring blankly at Theodore, until the clown jammed one gloved thumb into it and pulled it out relentlessly. He had black and white face paint, a black and white pinstriped jumpsuit, and wore the same black and white party hat that was carefully placed on the heads of the family members and Mr. Dow.

“Freeze, you motherfucker!” Theodore barked, and aimed his pistol. The clown didn’t look up at him, and continued to stare into the eyeball with its long pinkish tendon strewn over the mother’s corpse. Then with a sloshing, squishing sound, popped it into his mouth and crushed it with his teeth.

“Jesus Christ in a bottle of wine.” Theodore gnashed his teeth. “Get up against that wall, you fuck! Go there now with your hands up where I can see them!” He yelled, and waved the 32 toward the other side of the dining room. The clown grinned at him, blood and pieces of pasty pupil were caught in between his teeth.

“Everybody’s lights have gone a little dim tonight on Palmetto road, Teddy bear. Have yours gone dim yet?” The clown stood up from the bucket and suddenly, like the flip of a light switch, the front door of the house slammed shut and Theodore’s flashlight died.

*

Testimony from Martin Dwyer and Anne and Lucile Grey all stated the same thing. They heard three loud gunshots coming from the house Tool had entered followed by a long terrible scream. And what they saw next each of them explained shakily and slowly. “A man in a black and white clown costume walked out of the house, carrying a balloon in each hand…and then he just…floated off into the night sky…while laughing,” Martin managed, holding his head in his hand at the interrogation room’s table.

“Okay, Mr. Dwyer. Did the clown look something like this?” The detective set down a thick yellow file in front of Martin. It was filled with pictures of the clown grinning at the camera in different settings, coupled with crime scene photos of dead people, entire families with their eyes missing and birthday party hats decorating their heads. For a long painful moment he said nothing with his eyes shut tightly. Behind the darkness of the lids he could see the clown, rising slowly through the air with his two balloons, cackling like a child on Christmas morning. Detective McDermott sighed deeply.

“Yep, that’s what I was afraid of. He’s back."

“You’ll be let out to go home in just a few minutes, Mr. Dwyer.” McDermott shook Martin’s hand.

“I’m sorry about what happened tonight,” he said as he opened the door, letting in loud panic from outside the interrogation room. Once the door closed and silence rushed back in, he let out a long shaky sigh. All he wanted was to go home. He didn’t care about anything else; there was time for mourning and reflection later. He was just about to put his head down when he noticed that detective guy left the thick yellow file on the table. There was a biting sense of curiosity that rushed its way into his head. Slowly, he opened it with his thumb and middle finger. He took the first thing from the pile for a closer look and couldn’t believe what he saw.

An old newspaper clipping circa 1934, headlined: “Beloved traveling circus clown turns out to be killer!” with a grainy black and white photo underneath of the same clown that he saw float away from the house where all the bodies were found.




Written by Karen O'neal
Content is available under CC BY-SA

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