The Evil of Hammond House Ch. 1byPatrick-Donovan©
© 1996 - Black Angora Press
Mark Petri swore loudly as he tried to regain control of the minivan. The road was supposed to be a 'state' highway, but the state certainly wasn't taking very good care of it. The pothole he just hit could have qualified for 'vat' status. Even with the brights on Mark wasn't able to see it until too late because they were rounding a sharp curve on the climbing mountain road. Some of the passengers screamed as the vehicle began to spin, others flailed for something to grab a hold of. Carl was thrown against Lisa, who was thrown against Angela, who hit her head on the window frame. Brenda hung onto Robert for dear life. Robert, however, didn't seem fazed. Typical.
At the last second, Mark managed to throw the wheel hard to the left, sending the van into a half-spin so that it ended up on the other shoulder, facing the way they had come. For almost a minute there was silence in the cabin of the van, then Mark struggled to speak up.
"Is everyone all right? Angela, are you okay?" There was definite emphasis on the last sentence, though only Carl and Brenda immediately understood the significance of it.
"I-I hit my head, but I think I'm okay," she responded.
"No thanks to your driving, Petri," joked Robert. He and Mark were really good friends, but he had this tendency to ride Mark about the slightest mistake. Mark had always assumed it was some kind of self-defense mechanism Robert used and so he tried not to take the jibes personally.
"I'm surprised you even noticed, Rob, since you're such a daredevil yourself with that Trans Am of yours. I suppose you could have jumped that hole with your eyes closed."
Before Robert could retort, Brenda broke in. "Let's just get out and shake ourselves loose a bit. Then you can assess the damage, okay Mark?"
"Yeah, yeah. You're right, Bren."
The six of them began to climb out of the dark-blue van. Angela, Brenda and Carl exited from the rear door and Mark jumped out from the driver's side. Lisa and Robert came out the right side sliding door and stumbled away from the vehicle. Robert's movement halted abruptly when his legs hit the guardrail and Lisa nearly knocked him over when she ran into him. She was about to rebuke him for stopping so suddenly when she realized he wasn't paying attention to her, but was instead staring out ahead with his mouth wide open. As she followed his gaze and her eyes adjusted, she understood what he was staring at. Her exclamation of "Holy Fuck!" got everyone's attention. The rest of them cast their gaze to the railing and what lay beyond: a one thousand foot plus drop into the valley below. Brenda and Angela gasped, Carl crossed himself and muttered something in French. Mark just shook his head in disbelief and lay it against the driver's side window.
"Petri, I apologize if I ever criticized your driving," said Robert, "that was some damn good braking back there."
After they had a chance to shake off the shock of their near-fatal experience, everyone moved to the safe side of the van and took an opportunity to stretch in the nippy air. Then Brenda sat Angela down in the opening of the side-door and look at her injury with the aid of the light inside the van. There wasn't a cut, but a small bump was already forming.
"Lisa, would you get me some ice from the chest?"
"I'll get it!" Mark interjected quickly and dashed for the back of the van. He rustled around for his handkerchief and grabbed a handful of ice in it, then tied it in a neat bundle and brought it to Brenda. She thanked him and applied it lightly to Angela's swelling forehead.
"Ouch!" she squawked, but tried to keep her head still.
Brenda took her best friend's hand and switched it with her own to hold the ice. "Keep it there for awhile, okay?"
"Thanks, Bren," responded Angela, grasping the young Asian woman's hand and squeezing it tightly.
Angela Smith had met Brenda Xu in a Latin class during their first year at Eastern Colorado State,. Angela was from Seattle and Brenda was from San Francisco, though her family had originally come from Taipei. They liked each other so much they moved out of the dorms and rented an apartment together after the first semester. They had a lot in common, from figure skating (they went to Nationals in San Jose in '96 and watched Rudy Galindo win the men's title) to supporting Gay Rights (they were members of the ECSU chapter of the movement to rescind Colorado's anti-gay legislation). Now, in their senior year, they were studying Nursing together and had jobs lined up at University Hospital after graduation.
Brenda let go of Angela's hand and walked away to check on Robert, who had nervously moved back to look over the guardrail into the valley below. She took his hand and led him away to a nearby boulder, which he leaned back against, and put her arms around him. He returned the embrace, seeing how cold she was. She lay her head against his chest and they each thought about how close they had come to losing the other.
After Brenda left, Mark began hovering over Angela. "Are you sure you're all right?" he asked. "Is there anything I can get for you?" His eyes seemed to plead with hers for attention.
Angela smiled, sighed and, with a hint of exasperation, said "No, Mark. It's okay. Brenda did a good job. Why don't you check out the van?"
Mark's expression fell, but before he could stammer an embarrassed apology, he heard Carl's voice snidely remark, "Yeah, Petri, why don't you check out the van and let me keep Angie company?"
Mark tore himself away from Angela's eyes to glare at Carl Suvega, the expected-to-be class Valedictorian. His reputation was certainly earned -- well, reputations, for he had several -- but he had a bad habit of making sure everyone knew it. He was being courted by MIT for masters and doctoral work, as well as for a high-paying position with NASA as an aerospace engineer, and he was more than happy to share this information with anyone who would listen. He also had a wide-spread reputation on campus as a lover with incredible endurance and talent. Whether this legend was spread by him or his many partners was debatable. In any event, Mark was exceedingly jealous of Carl. Not so much because of his success -- Mark was doing quite well and had a promising career as a musician and composer -- but because Carl seemed to be getting most of Angela's attention on this trip and Angela was the whole reason Mark agreed to take them in his van in the first place.
Without responding Mark stormed away to look at the front of the van. Angela smirked at Carl.
"You didn't have to be so mean," she admonished him.
The mulatto smirked back at her defensively. "Hey, you're the one who said he was a pest."
"I didn't say he was a pest. I said I wish he wouldn't try so hard to get my attention. There's a difference."
"Listen, baby, it's not like you're ever gonna screw him, is it?"
Angela looked down for a moment. Carl took it as a 'no.'
"Then what are you fussin' about?" He sat next to her and put his arm around her, pulling her shoulder against his. "Once we get to the hotel, you an' me can get down to the business we started last night, all right?"
Angela remembered how her heart had raced when Carl took her hand walking back to the room. She had been hoping all week that he would make a move, but was worried that maybe he was still pining for Lisa, with whom he had an on-again/off-again relationship. Lisa had assured her that their 'spoken for' status was off now, but nothing quelled Angela's concerns until Carl slipped his hand into hers on the way back from swimming in the pool. She had been watching his movements carefully as he took dive after dive into the crystal blue water. Of course his tight Speedos made it all the more difficult for her attention to wander and left little for her to imagine. Then, as they had reached the door of his motel room, he brought her roughly to him, her haltered breasts pressing firmly against the solid muscles of his chest, and kissed her deeply. Their eyes met and the word 'yes' was silently spoken between them. Unfortunately, it was very late and they had needed to be up early in the morning, so they were forced to postpone their consummation until tonight, when they could better arrange to be together.
"All right..." Angela tilted her head up to receive Carl's kiss, but their moment of pleasure was interrupted by a curse from the front of the van.
Robert, his hands roughly massaging Brenda's tight bottom, broke away from his kiss with her to see Mark thumping the hood of the minivan.
"What's up, Mark?" he called.
"Come here and have a look. We're stranded."
The others walked around to the far side of the van to see what was going on. Mark pointed the flashlight he had recovered from the glove box at the passenger side tire. It was flat and the wheel-rim was bent.
"You've got the spare, that shouldn't take too long to put on, should it?" said Lisa.
"Yeah, Petri, what're you all flustered about? Rob and I can have that fixed in ten minutes flat," added Carl.
Mark sighed and glared at Suvega. He did that a lot when Carl was around. Actually, a lot of people did that when Carl was around.
"I thought that too, until I checked the driver's side wheel again, Carl." The Jamaican walked out in front of the van a little ways, taking Mark's comment as a challenge.
Mark passed the light back and forth over both wheels. "You're engineer, you figure it out," snapped Mark, for good measure.
Carl's face fell. "He's right, guys. We aren't goin' anywhere."
The others walked out to Carl's vantage point and their faces fell. The wheels weren't even closely aligned anymore. The impact must have yanked right wheel out of alignment and burst the left tire. It was a complete mess.
"Well, now what do we do?" moaned Lisa. "Walk?"
The prospect of walking along the highway in the mountains through the long, cold night was not a pleasing one. The road wasn't used much, as the interstate ran through the valley and was much quicker, but they had wanted to take the scenic route. They'd hardly seen any cars on it since they turned off at 2:00. It might be hours before they could flag anyone down.
"Wait a minute!" cheered Brenda. "I've got my cell phone!"
A murmur of relief ran through the group as Brenda reached inside the van and rummaged through her bag. She pulled out a flip-phone and checked to make sure the battery was charged up. It was. She popped it open, not unlike Captain Kirk would have done when faced with a hundred man-eating tribbles, and activated the search function.
Nothing. She tried again.
"It's got to be the mountain. Stand by the rail, Bren," said Angela. Mark just sat in the driver's seat and hugged the steering wheel. He knew she wouldn't be successful, that would be too easy. This had to be hard because that was his life story. All these people were relying on him to get them back to school before vacation was over, so something *had* to go wrong.
Brenda walked to the very edge of the precipice and stood at the rail. She tried again, several times, but the phone simply couldn't make a connection to a transponder. After ten minutes, she gave up.
"Well, I guess we're walking after all," moaned Lisa.
After a quick discussion, the group decided to send Robert and Carl up the road a ways to see if they could spot any houses. The others would remain at the van getting things organized either for a move to a nearby house or for a night in the van. The women were apprehensive about letting their loves go out into the night like that, but they definitely agreed that Mark shouldn't go on his own, even though he offered too. It was just too dangerous for anyone to go alone.
Mark and the women hadn't been working more than a half-hour when the guys returned with news of a large house about a mile up the road. They quickly grabbed their packs and Mark locked up the van, leaving behind a note for anyone, especially a State Trooper, who might happen upon the scene of the accident. Then they took off. It was about 9:15.
Though it only took them twenty minutes to reach the place on the road spotted by Robert and Carl, it became quite evident they had further to go. There was a little-used gravel drive, closed off by a large wooden swing-gate, leading up toward some lights, but it seemed to Mark to be quite a ways up the slope of the mountain. Still, it was the only sign of life anywhere nearby, so they climbed over the gate and started up the slope.
An hour later, as the nearly-full moon was beginning to rise, they collapsed, exhausted, at the base of a huge iron gate guarded by two stone lions. Through the bars of the gate they could just make out what lay beyond: a huge house, a mansion. Several windows were illuminated -- what they must have seen from the road below -- though no outside lights were visible. It looked decidedly UN-inviting.
Mark played the beam of his flashlight over the columns that supported the gate and the lions. The one on the right bore a large bronze plaque, nearly overgrown with ivy. He struggled to his feet and walked over to the column, brushing back the leaves and vines to reveal the words:
There was a mottled and battered box on the column beneath the plaque, also covered in vines. After struggling to pull the clingy strands away from it, Mark discovered what it was: an intercom. Without bothering to bring it to the others' attention, he pressed the button and waited for a response.
There was none.
He tried the button again.
"Mark, what are you doing?" asked Lisa.
He pressed the button once more. "I found an intercom, but it doesn't seem to be working. No one's answering."
Lisa stood up and walked over to him. "Great, first we nearly plow over a cliff, then we find out the van's ready for the scrap yard, then we walk for God knows how long up this God-damned mountain in this tit-freezing air and, when we finally find a sign of civilization, there's no one at home!"
At that moment there began a strained, mechanical whirr. The rusting gate suddenly split apart and then slowly creaked open. Mark raised an eyebrow at Lisa.
"And just how long have you had this power, Miss Bonham?" he said in a mock-German accent.
She flashed him a knowing smile and grabbed her pack, following Carl through the gate. Mark brought up the rear, tucking his flashlight into his pack, and made it through just as the gate began to close.
It took them another five minutes to reach the front porch of the mansion. On the way up they looked the place over, taking in the breadth of its beauty. The architecture put the two-story structure as probably having been built in the 1920's. Carl guessed it had about fifty rooms, plus there was a four-car garage in a separate building at the near end of the house. At the far end there was a fenced-in area that looked to Angela, from what she could make out in the light of the moon, like it might have been a private graveyard, but no one was willing to go over and check.
They approached the columned porch. When Robert stepped onto the stone surface, several lights clicked on. Several members of the group jumped.
"Motion sensor," noted Carl, calmly.
When they reached the door it was already beginning to open. By this time some people were getting very jumpy. Something about this place just didn't feel right...
They entered the foyer. It was an extravagant room, with marble tile on the floor and walls; Mexican onyx lined the ceiling rim. There were several columns made of gray marble and trimmed with gold leaf. Two large, elegant hallways, one on each side, exited from the foyer and there were two smaller doors on each side of the back wall, probably leading to some kind of dining or living room. There was a gorgeous three-tiered crystal chandelier suspended from the ceiling. The far wall was adorned with a grand staircase that rose halfway up the back wall, then split into two staircases, going right and left up the rest of the way to the second floor. There was a mezzanine coming off of each staircase, flanking the foyer, with hallways going off in each direction.
"Wow! This reminds me of my uncle's home back East," admired Robert.
Robert Koss's parents died just after he was born and his Uncle Louis and Aunt Sandy raised him as their own in a grand house on Long Island. Louis had built a lucrative auto parts empire starting back in the late 50's and was still riding high on the profits. Robert was at ECSU studying business management so that he could take over for Uncle Louis when he retired. Robert had met Mark during their freshman year and they established a friendly rivalry, eventually becoming best friends, though it was sometimes hard to tell.
Suddenly there was a startled cry from Brenda. Standing in the small doorway at the left side of the back wall was a gray-haired, middle-aged man, dressed in a white dinner jacket and suit, holding a large brandy snifter. It was nearly empty.
Brenda, always being the diplomat, tried to smooth things out. "We're sorry to intrude, sir, but --"
"Get to the point, young lady. I don't have time for pleasantries," he snapped, cowing Brenda.
Robert tried to take over for his unnerved lover. "We were looking for a phone. Our van broke down and --"
"I don't have a phone, young man. You'll have to go elsewhere."
Mark heard a quiet sniffle and looked behind him. Angela was holding her hand on her face and he could see her mouth contorted in a sob. Tears were beginning to stream down her face. He walked over to her and put his hand on her shoulder.
"Angela, are you all right?"
"What's the matter with her?" the man asked, a hint of compassion suddenly appearing in his voice, and he began to walk over towards her.
Mark looked up at him. "She hurt her head when our van hit a hole in the road. We almost went over the cliff. Everyone's pretty shaken up..."
But the man wasn't paying much attention to what Mark was saying. Instead he reached out and touched Angela's chin, tilting her head up.
"Let me see that, miss, I..." he started to say, but his words after that trailed off. It was obvious, to Mark anyway, that he was caught off guard when he saw Angela's face. He recovered quickly, though, and began looking at the bump on her head in earnest.
"Hmmm. It doesn't look to serious. Still, I probably ought to have a proper look at it." He turned to address all of them. "I'm a doctor, Dr. Olias Hammond. I'm sorry about being so abrupt earlier. I'm not used to having guests, especially so late at night. Please forgive me."
Brenda spoke up again. "It's all right, Dr. Hammond. We understand. We did sort of drop in your lap."
He waved off her apology. "No need to worry."
"Can you help us, Dr. Hammond?" asked Robert. The doctor turned to face him.
"I'm afraid I still don't have a phone, young man. I used to, but now I live alone and don't like to bother much with the outside world. I try to avoid it as much as possible."
Robert nodded as if he understood, but Carl seemed suddenly to be very curious.
"How do you get food and supplies?"
"I usually send for them, have them delivered. I have quite a stockpile of goods as well. I also have help that comes in weekly to clean the place and keep up the grounds, but other than that I take care of myself."
Lisa was looking impatient. "Isn't there any way you can help us, Dr. Hammond?"
The doctor thought for a moment. "Yes, my dear, I can. I have a car in the garage that I use from time to time when I want to get out and about. One of you may take it into the valley for assistance."
"It's gonna be pretty late by the time one of us gets there and gets back. I doubt there'll be any repair shops open," noted Carl.