tagNon-EroticShallow Rock Ch. 22-24

Shallow Rock Ch. 22-24


Chapter 22

The power was out at the Ratsmueller place. It looked like it was out all over the lake. "I couldn't have done that," Mitch said.

Mrs. Ratsmueller was not very happy about leaving her place; she thought everyone was making a big fuss over nothing. But she had come, and she had brought her shotgun with her. When Mrs. Ratsmueller came in, Mrs. Anderson was still pacing around smoking and drinking. "Where's Bobby?" she asked.

Mitch had expected Bobby to come through the door behind him and Mrs. Ratsmueller.

"He's gone back to the other side of the Lake," Mrs. Ratsmueller said.

"Mrs. Cross?" Mitch asked.

"And Parker and McCall. They'll be the death of him. I'm afraid they will be the death of him tonight," Mrs. Ratsmueller predicted.

"But, especially Mrs. Cross," Mitch countered.

"Ya, naturally. You know about this?"

"I know quite a bit. We should talk. I want to help Bobby," Mitch said.

"Get me some white wine. We'll go in the living room and talk a little about Bobby Margin," Mrs. Ratsmueller said.

"Somebody could die tonight," Mitch said. "Somebody is going to die tonight if we don't stop it. I think that only me and Kelly can stop it, but I need your help Mrs. Ratsmueller."

"And, so?"

They sat in the dark. Mitch said the dark was better, and Mrs. Ratsmueller agreed. Complete dark inside was better because no one could see in, and all the better for them to see out when the lightening flashed. It was time to talk.

Bobby Margin hadn't exactly spilled his guts to Mrs. Ratsmueller, but over the years, he had talked and she had listened carefully. Some of it, she had already told Mitch in confidence. She never judged Bobby, and she did her best to steer him away from trouble, but there was little hope in that.

Everyone knew Bobby was left alone by his father and his big brother to shift for himself as best he could. It made him a kind of beggar on the lake. His father also took him to Shallow Rock sometimes. While he joined in the reckless adult partying in that degenerate shanty town, Bobby was left to fend for himself among the other kids there. During those years, Bobby learned to dodge Kyle Weechum, and to stay away from his sordid games. Sometimes, Bobby helped Weechum's cousin, Mary Anne, get away, too. That was hard to do, because Kyle had a special affection for her.

Mrs. Ratsmueller couldn't shield Bobby from Shallow Rock, but when he was at Wendigo, she tried to keep him away from the other side of the lake with about as much success. Bobby was drawn to the women there.

Mrs. Dee gave him something that Mrs. Ratsmueller would not, but he soon tired of her, and became obsessed with Mrs. Cross. Mrs. Cross played a dangerous game of leading him on, and she might even have consummated his adoration at some point, except for Mr. Cross's suspicions.

Cross had angrily thrown Bobby off his property and threatened to kill him if he ever returned. When Bobby continued sneaking around, the men got together and decided they would teach him a lesson. They intended to put a beating on him he would never forget. Only, they couldn't catch him. Bobby was too slippery for them. All last year, they hunted him, but they couldn't grab him.

"I always thought there was something more to it, something Bobby wasn't telling me. Maybe some knowledge that might be dangerous and that he was protecting me from. He thought they were really going to kill him. Their anger seemed too intense for Bobby's offenses. So, he stayed a step ahead of them for the whole summer," Mrs. Ratsmueller explained.

"I know mostly what's been going on. I know what Bobby's been up to for the last couple of years, and those other people on the lake. What I don't know is what the hell happened this year," Mitch said.

She didn't say anything. They sat close together on the couch. Mrs. Anderson stood by the patio door. She was seen by her red glowing cigarette tip as it moved between her lips and the ashtray on a stand beside her. She gave up pacing because she kept bumping into things in the dark.

"Bobby didn't come here this year. He had enough sense to stay away. But, he suddenly quit his job and came back, even though he knew he would be hunted. Why?" Mitch asked.

"He heard Kyle Weechum was out of jail on bail. Everyone thought they would put Kyle away for at least a few years. Then, all of the sudden, he was coming back."

"So, Bobby came back to protect who? Mrs. Cross? Mrs. Parker?" Mitch asked.

"Some others too, maybe."

"So, Kyle had him beat up in Shallow Rock. Why not do it himself? What was he afraid of, parole violation or something? That doesn't sound like him."

Mrs. Ratsmueller had a deep chuckle. "That beating wasn't about Kyle Weechum alone. That beating was a preparation. You see, they wanted an explanation for all the bruises he would have after the men got a hold of him. They knew they were going to leave lots of marks, so they needed witnesses that Bobby had already been beaten up."

She sighed deeply. "But, in the end, it wasn't good enough. At least one of them wanted him dead and they threw him off Steep Rock. Good excuse, Ya. The crazy boy gets chased off the cliff by the Wendigo. Everyone knew he was terrified of her, obsessed with her. Crazy kid."

"Why would they want to kill him? That was going a bit far," Mitch said.

"Maybe he saw something really bad, not just their usual fun and games. Maybe he saw something with the hitchhikers. Maybe he was a witness to murder. We know, Cross and Deputy Miles were up to no good for god knows how long."

They were all silent for a moment. Mitch's mind was racing. "The complaints. Mrs. Cross and the other women tried to warn him off by complaining he was a peeper, but it didn't work. Bobby went back."

"Mrs. Cross changed her tune. She must have bowed to pressure from her husband, because she invited Bobby to come over that night. She told him her husband was away. Ya, of course. That's how they caught him. They could never catch him. He was too clever. He knows the bush around the lake like the back of his hand, and he knows all of the cottages. They had to trap him," she explained.

"Who's 'they'?" he asked.

"Everybody, ya. All of the men."

"They all wanted to murder him?" Mitch asked in disbelief.

"Maybe not. Who knows how much the others were involved? But, at least they all wanted to beat him for paying too much attention to their wives."

There was a huge sudden thunderclap and a burst of lightening right on top of them. Mrs. Anderson screamed.

"Did you see something?" Mitch demanded.

Mrs. Anderson had her pistol in both hands and she was backing away from the patio door. "Yes! No. I don't know. How can you tell when the light flashes like that?" She continued backing away until she was against the couch.

They were all standing now. Mrs. Ratsmueller picked up her shotgun from the coffee table, but she didn't rack it. She was muttering something in German. The thunder rumbled steadily and the window was lit by a series of more distant flashes reflecting off the glass like strobes.

"Don't shoot me," Mitch said. He crossed the room to stand beside the window looking out.

They all stood for a long time. Nothing. Mitch realized he had no idea what time it was. He didn't know how long Kelly had been gone. He was pretty sure she should have been back by now.


Kelly was the Wendigo. She floated above the swamp, looking down. Her body was flapping shreds, her eyes were black empty holes, and her soul was twisted and filled with hate. The swamp stink was a part of her; grave rot was a part of her. The wind blew through her, and tormented her imprisoned soul.

Kelly was herself, standing waist deep in the swamp muck, watching with horror as the Wendigo floated relentlessly towards her, just above the reeds. It called her name in a voice that seemed to push out from her brain into her ears, a pressure that would pop out her eyes and blow out her brain. The bodies rose up, the headless men, the girl's body wrapped in plastic, its mouth working without a sound, struggling to get free. Kelly thrashed, but the muck held her tight. It was pulling her down. She screamed, but her mouth could make no sound.

Kelly was the Wendigo flying high, so high she was dizzy and sick and terrified. Fear. Fear of what? Terror all through her empty body. Terror - what if this is true? What if this is what it is like? She looked down on the lake, spotted the lumber camp, and with a piercing screech, she swooped down on it.

Kelly was in bed. She knew the Wendigo was here. She knew that she had come to take her away, to make her join the madness. Compelled, she rose from her bed and went towards her. She stood before her, looking into eyes that were no longer black, but fiery red pits. She screamed. Lightening flashed; she woke.

She was standing. What the hell? She stumbled, and almost fell over. Disorientation, the wobble of her brain snapping back into place, re-entering her skull.

Movement all around her, the rush of her nightmare fleeing past her ears and eyes, going back into the peopled darkness from which it came. Breathing. Did she hear breathing, or was it her own? Her scream was still bouncing around in her head. It felt like it was still echoing off the walls. And, the eyes, the eyes were still there. Really. The burning red eyes were still there. She almost screamed again, but it choked in her throat.

She was standing in the middle of her bedroom, looking through the open door into Mitch's room. The wood stove was burning, red light flickering through the black cast iron grillwork. The fire hadn't been on when she had come in.

"Mitch?" she called out.

She felt a presence, and she knew someone was there, somewhere in the dark, in the shadows. She realized she was in her underwear. She must have dozed off while changing. Shit. She made a dash for where she thought her bed was, and banged her knee against the metal frame. Groping, she stubbed her toe on something metal. Her gun. She bent down on hands and knees, and yanked it from its holster. She whirled around. Sitting on the floor, jammed against the wall and the bed, with her service revolver out in front of her, she waited for the attack. All the time, the thunder and lightening never let up.

"Come on! come on!" she shouted. What good was a gun against a ghost? What good was it against a lost spirit? What good against the terror of cruelty and innocent death? What good was a gun against the whole fucking shit load of mankind? She didn't know. She just wanted to shoot something.

The screen door at the front of the bunkhouse banged lightly and she started. Someone coming in, or going out, or was it just the wind? She prayed it was Mitch. It would have to be Mitch. Mitch lit the fire to keep her warm. That would be like him. Instead of waking her up like he should do, he would make her a fire. But, she waited because maybe it wasn't Mitch, and she didn't want to give her position away,

It wasn't Mitch. The rain rattled off the windows. The shadows cast by the fire slowly writhed along the floor. Someone leaving then, or it was just the wind.

She took control of her breathing, and she stood up. She headed towards the wood stove. She was aware of the rich smell of the burning wood. It calmed her, and she felt a sudden need for it's warmth. As she approached the stove, she noticed the firebox door was ajar, and when she bent to close it, she noticed the red light reflected off a shiny surface. Poloroids, their centers already melted, and the edges starting to catch fire.

Had Mitch come in to burn the pictures he had shown her? Then, why didn't he say something to wake her up. She checked her pocket and found the picture of the girl was gone. "Mitch, you little bastard," she said out loud.

The storm seemed to be letting up a little. The lightening was less frequent, and the thunder was receding. Maybe it was passing, or just gathering it's breath for another blow. But, there was something else, nearer, a grumble or a roar. And voices? The wind still swayed the trees, swishing their wet leaves. It was hard to tell.

And, there was light. A light was coming through the crack between the curtains in the back room. White light. Steady, not lightening, but it was weak; shadow troubled, making very faint movement on the wall. She felt a shiver take her body all over again. She felt it grab her by the back of the neck, and shake her down. She put the notebook down and went carefully back to her bed and began to dress.

"This night is freaked out," Mitch shouted over the gunning engine, and he threw his weight against the bumper again. You couldn't leave these people alone for even a few minutes without some new shit happening.

He had gone to check on Kelly and he found her passed out on her bed. He figured he would let her sleep for a little while. He stood above her in the dark, wondering what to do. She needed to sleep; she was in such a state of exhaustion that she was going to end up hurting herself, or someone else. When you're that beat, you start seeing things. You make some really bad decisions. Why not let her sleep? What was there to be afraid of? Kyle Weechum might be out there, but he wasn't looking for her. The shit that was playing out now didn't involve her, and she would be safe if she just stayed out of it. Sleep was probably best. All they really needed to do was keep themselves, and Mrs. Ratsmueller and Mrs. Anderson, from becoming collateral damage.

He would like to take her into the cookhouse and let her sleep in a chair while he made her coffee and something to eat, but he knew if he woke her up, she wouldn't go back to sleep.

He didn't like hanging back. She needed to sleep at least long enough to get her head on straight. At least, until his dad showed up. Then it would be a whole new ballgame, and he would have to deal with that.

He checked to see the place was locked up, and then he went to the cookhouse to make coffee. He started the pot and he heard the metallic bang coming from the direction of the Anderson place. He rushed back out into the blowing rain.

Mrs. Anderson had slid her big New Yorker Brougham off the road trying to get up the hill. She smacked into a small tree and the car bogged down. She screamed when he approached her window. She reached to the passenger seat for her pistol, and he had to wave and shout to keep her from shooting him. All this fear; so many guns. Kyle Weechum was probably forty miles away at Round Lake, and they were going to end up shooting each other. Well, at least the others would. He was the only one who didn't have a gun.

Mitch heaved again, but Mrs. Anderson was gunning the car like crazy, burying herself in deeper. It was no use. They weren't going to get it out without a tow truck. It wasn't going anywhere tonight. He stumbled to her window, holding on tight to the slippery metal to keep his footing. He banged on her window. "I can't get you out! You're stuck! Come on, let's get back to your house."

She gunned it a few more times, throwing clods of mud down the hill. The rear end slewed and he had to move with it to keep from going under. Suddenly, she gave up, banged the steering wheel a couple of times, and then calmly gathered her purse and pistol. She stepped back out into the rain, holding up a hand for Mitch to take.

He guided her carefully around the front of the car. She was taking small, precise steps to keep from losing her high-heels in the mud.

"Such a nasty night," she said shouting above the winds and lashing rain. "We should all get out of here."

"Where's Mrs. Ratsmueller?"

"I don't know. She heard something and went to see what it was. She didn't come back. That's when I decided it was time to get the hell out of here."


"There's something in the woods. There's something moving out there. It got her."

"Better get inside then. Come on."

He hustled her down the lane as quickly as possible with her taking small steps. "Did you lock the place?"



Against the back door, she fumbled for her keys while Mitch watched their backs. The storm beat against him without lifting the oppressive heat and humidity. Just as she was unlocking the door, something came out of the night towards them.

Kelly. Before anyone could say anything, they heard shots out towards Wendigo Road. Five, six, seven, eight, like a god damned firefight. Kelly was running towards her car.

"I'm coming with you!" Mitch shouted as he practically pushed Mrs. Anderson into the cottage. "Lock up! Get your guns and sit in the corner. Don't let anyone in," he said. He took off after Kelly.

Chapter 24

The rain was coming down harder than ever. The windshield wipers going full speed, but it only gave them little blurry snatches of the night with the headlights illuminating not much more than the rain in front of them. The humidity caused the windshield to steam up as well, so they drove with the windows open. It brought the storm beating in on them.

Mitch stuck his head out the side window like a dog along for a ride, and he shouted warnings to her. Branches were down, big ones that needed to be avoided, and when they came to the regular dips in the road, she slowed to a crawl to avoid being swamped by the high water. She pushed it as much as she could, but she had to drive painfully slow. Her mind raced ahead of her as she tried to figure out what was going on. She tried to figure out what the hell she actually knew.

They were certain of where the shots were coming from when they first set out, until they rounded the bend at Adler Creek.

"Look out!" Mitch shouted.

Kelly hit the brakes and fought the steering wheel as she tried to stay on the slick pavement. They slid and came to a rest with two tires off the road. They stopped inches behind the car sitting with it's front end in the ditch, and it's back end on the road. Kelly grabbed her revolver, and they jumped into the rain, crouching low beside her car.

She listened. There were no more shots. The wind and the thunder increased, and it made it difficult and frustrating to hear anything else. But, shots you would hear, even over this racket. She managed to get her breathing under control again, but something grabbed her shoulder. Her heart jumped into her throat.

"Did you hear that?" Mitch asked shouting close to her ear. His warm breath washed down her neck.

"Hear what?"

"Shouting," he replied.

Damn. Kelly strained to listen, and she imagined she could hear voices. The sound of shouts and screams, both in the thunder and the trees, even in the rain and the wind.

"No!" she shouted as she stood up. The rain was bouncing knee high off the pavement. The driver's door to the car was open. The dim interior light looked strange and homey in the middle of the wild night.

Kelly duck-walked along side the car, and Mitch followed her doing the same. She flicked her gun around. Mitch crowded her shoulder as he poked the big, flashlight into the interior. There was nothing. The car was empty. There was nothing alive or dead inside, and no signs of blood either.

She rose and walked forward, her pistol straight-armed at her side. Mitch followed closely.

"That's Dan Dee's car. It was at his place last night when I stopped by. It looks like he tried to get away from the lake."

"Son of a bitch," Kelly cursed. "But, where the hell is he now?"

"Did you hear that?" he asked again.

"Damn it, Mitch!"

He swung his flashlight beam up the road; it did nothing more than illuminate the curtains of rain. The rain was loud. Everything now was a roar, the roar of water, wind, and trees. But, if it was possible, the noise seemed even louder up the road. They set out walking in that direction, and Kelly found she had to keep pushing herself off so she didn't crowd him.

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