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What Rough Beast ... Session Two Part 1 - In Search of Vampires

Posted by Max_Writer , in Call of Cthulhu, Campaign Log 01 February 2018 · 385 views

CoC 7e Jazz Age

Monday, January 29, 2018

 

(After playing the Call of Cthulhu original scenario “What Rough Beast …” Sunday from 1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. with Ben Abbott, Austin Davie, John Leppard, Ambralyn Tucker, and Yorie Latimer.)

 

The youngsters of Sanguis all got together a little before dinnertime on Wednesday, June 19, 1929. They shared the information they had learned from Doc Underwood and Jill Spearman about the ghosts of the plantation and the lost coffin handle.

 

Jebidiah suggested anyone who had a good view of the plantation from their house might keep a lookout to see if a light came one. Unfortunately, no one did. Richard suggested there might be a good view from the tree house but Michael didn’t think they’d be able to see from there. Jebidiah also questioned the comfort of staying out in the tree house at night.

 

“I would catch another cold,” he said.

 

“Well, we don’t want that,” Teddy said.

 

“No, I don’t.”

 

“The last one was so bad!”

 

“Okay, if we’re all going to meet at Tommy’s grave later tonight, may I suggest we all go to the store and buy some garlic?” Michael said.

 

“That sounds … sounds fine to me,” Jebidiah said.

 

“Sounds good,” Ella-Marie said.

 

“We’re all going to meet out there?” Teddy said.

 

“Well, we don’t all have to, but …” Michael said.

 

“Is it going to rain again?” Teddy asked.

 

“I’m - I’m not sure,” Michael said.

 

They all looked up. It was a beautiful and sunny day.

 

“Shall I get my helmet?” Richard asked.

 

“That is … up to you, Richard,” Michael said.

 

“Would you be taking head injuries?” Jebidiah said.

 

“I dunno what’s gonna come out of that grave!” Richard said.

 

“A helmet would be very good for head injuries,” Teddy said.

 

“It has a spike on it,” Richard said.

 

“Okay fine!” Ella-Marie said. “If you wanna wear that thing!”

 

Richard ran off to his house.

 

“When are we meeting?” Teddy said. “We’re meeting where?”

 

“Let’s meet back up at the graveyard after dinner,” Michael said.

 

“I thought sundown would be a good time,” Jebidiah said.

 

“So, around eight?” Ella-Marie said.

 

“Yeah,” Michael said.

 

“So, eight at the tree house,” she said. “Have your garlic. Have your stakes.”

 

They all split up and went to supper.

 

* * *

 

Michael went to the Sanguis Grocery but they didn’t carry garlic. At that time, there wasn’t much call for it in cooking. He looked in the kitchen after dinner and found a dried-up clove in the back of a cupboard. Both he and Ella-Marie set to work making some makeshift crosses. Ella-Marie got some straight branches behind the house and used string to make a couple of crude, makeshift crosses. She sharpened the ends of them. Michael pulled a couple of frames from under his bed, taking them to the shed behind the house, and found a saw to cut it in half. He made two rough crosses from them and sharpened one of them.

 

* * *

 

Billy searched his house after dinner for some time, looking for a cross. He didn’t find one but he did find a small Bible with a cross on it. He put it in his room.

 

Then he decided to look for crosses elsewhere in town. He remembered seeing a cross or a crucifix in Mrs. Pines’ living room, across the road from his grandfather’s soda shop and pharmacy. He went over to her house.

 

Gertrude Pines was a little old lady who had lived in Sanguis forever. As far as Billy knew, she had never been married. She was probably in her 90s and was tiny but feisty. She was very nice to the children of the village and Billy’s grandfather was friends with her. She brought pies or cookies or even casseroles to his grandfather’s house quite often. She had started doing that right after Billy’s parents disappeared and just kept it up.

 

He looked in the windows and spotted Mrs. Pines in the living room. She was knitting and listening to a radio drama. It sounded like some kind of scary mystery show. Billy knocked on the front door.

 

“Oh!” she said, delighted to see him. “Why hello, Billy. C’mon in! How’s your grandpa?”

 

“He’s doin’ pretty good,” Billy squeaked.

 

“Is he sleeping?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“He sleeps a lot.”

 

“Uh-huh.”

 

“Why don’t you come in? I got some cookies in the kitchen.”

 

“Oh, thank you, ma’am.”

 

“You want some lemonade?”

 

“Sure.”

 

She scurried to the kitchen.

 

“How’s that friend, Teddy, of yours?” she called. “Is he any better?”

 

“Yeah,” Billy squeaked.

 

“I hope he gets out of that wheelchair someday.”

 

“Same.”

 

“I bet Jesus, the power of Jesus, could heal him.”

 

“Uh-huh.”

 

She returned with a little plate of cookies and some iced tea. She chatted with Billy about how he was doing in school and how he was enjoying his summer. Billy eventually steered the conversation to how he’d been feeling troubled due to Tommy Hill’s death. He said he was reading through the bible and seeking salvation. He showed her the Bible he’d found.

 

“I was wondering if I could borrow your crucifix so that Jesus can watch me through my journey,” he said.

 

She put her hand to her chest.

 

“You’ll find him,” she said. “You’ll find your way.”

 

She got up and, taking very tiny steps, went to the crucifix and took some time getting it down off the wall. She handed it over to the boy.

 

“You just take that and you hang onto that for as long as you want,” she said.

 

“Okay,” he said. “I thank you.”

 

“You’re a good boy!” she said.

 

He ate a couple more cookies and finished his iced tea before he left.

 

He put everything in a book bag and put in the Colt .45 revolver that had been his dad’s and probably his dad’s before that in as well. He had an additional six bullets that he pocketed.

 

* * *

 

After supper, Richard approached his father who was smoking his after-supper cigarette and reading last week’s newspaper.

 

“Pop?” Richard said.

 

“Yep?” his dad said.

 

“Let me … uh … now don’t say no, initially, but … I was wondering if I could take the gun and go hunting tonight alone.”

 

“What? No! What?”

 

“I’m almost an adult, dad. I should be learning to shoot on my own.”

 

“I don’t think you should be taking the gun out at night, especially on a weekday. We’ll go out this Saturday night? How about that? We’ll go out shooting this Saturday.”

 

“I saw a deer in the woods.”

 

“Well, you’re supposed to have a license to hunt deer, you know.”

 

“Do you … do you have a license?”

 

“That doesn’t make no mind!”

 

The two looked at each other.

 

“And … right now, we don’t need no deer,” he said. “No venison. And where did you see a deer?”

 

“In the woods, across the trail,” Richard said.

 

“Across the track?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Where, exactly? By the tree house?”

 

“By the … by the river near the tree house.”

 

“Down by the river, huh? You saw … when was that?”

 

“That was … this morning.”

 

“Aw, he’s not going to be there anymore. Not if it was this morning.”

 

“But it was a big buck!”

 

“Yeah, that’s fine. But he’s not going to be where you saw him this morning.”

 

“Think about the antlers!”

 

“You’re never going to find him.”

 

“The mantle.”

 

“I don’t - what? You’re never going to find him. Next time you see a deer, you come right to me, if I’m here. And you tell me, and we’ll see what we can do.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“You’re a good boy.”

 

Richard went to the kitchen and got the big carving knife, tucking it into his pants and slipping to his room, hiding it there.

 

* * *

 

Jebidiah also looked around his house in search of a crucifix. He didn’t find one but he did find a fancy cross made of varnished wood adorned with a golden-colored metal. He thought it was his grandmother’s. He put it into his room.

 

* * *

 

Before Michael and Ella-Marie left their house, Michael crept back to his parents’ room and got the .22 rifle his father kept there. They headed for the tree house.

 

* * *

 

Jebidiah went to Teddy’s house.

 

“We can’t let my dad know I’m going,” Teddy said. “What-what’re we gonna do. Are we just going to leave and say we’re out playing? What do we do? And do we bring our turtles?”

 

A thought went through Jebidiah’s head that he could wear a big coat and Jebidiah could just carry him out. He instantly realized the problem with that. Instead, he manhandled the wheelchair out the window. Then he helped get Teddy out of the window as well. He went back through the house and out the front door after closing Teddy’s door. Teddy’s mother waved him goodbye. Teddy’s dad didn’t pay him any attention. He was drinking something clear out of a mason jar and just grunted. He thought he heard him say something to Mrs. Sanderson after he left but couldn’t make out what the man said. He was glad of that.

 

He found Teddy around the side of the house and they headed south in the twilight. They saw Richard.

 

“Oh, it’s Richard,” Teddy said. “Hey Richard.”

 

“Hey,” Richard said. “So … I have a crazy idea. How about we try and steal Teddy’s father’s gun.”

 

“That sounds more like a suicidal idea to me,” Teddy said.

 

“Have you met Teddy’s father?” Jebidiah said. “Every time I see him, I have heart palpitations.”

 

“I don’t know if you know my father. He’s not a friendly person.”

 

“Sometimes I fear the breath from his mouth will sicken me.”

 

Teddy nodded at him.

 

“Well, do you know when he goes to bed?” Richard said.

 

“Teddy, do guns … do guns kill vampires?” Jebidiah said.

 

“Well, they’re not wooden stakes,” Teddy said. “And they’re not … no.”

 

“No,” Richard said. “Wouldn’t it be useful to have it anyway. I mean, what if we run into a wolf or something?”

 

“Well, in Dracula, there was this little … crazy fellow named Renfield who wasn’t a vampire, but worked for ‘em,” Teddy said.

 

“See, we need a gun,” Richard said.

 

“Well, I’m-I’m not going to Teddy’s father,” Jebidiah said. “If you want to go, that’s on you, but if you come out in a coffin as well …”

 

“Is there anything that your dad’s going to leave the living room for?” Richard asked.

 

“When he passes out,” Teddy said.

 

“When does he pass out?”

 

“Well, that could be any time. It could be late. It could be early. It depends on his mood.”

 

“I think we’re barking up the wrong tree with Teddy’s dad,” Jebidiah said.

 

“Well, I can’t get it from my own father,” Richard said.

 

“So, you want my daddy to come and kill you?” Teddy said.

 

“No,” Richard said. “You go on ahead. I’ll catch up to in a minute.”

 

“All right,” Jebidiah said.

 

“All right,” Teddy said. “What’re you gonna do?”

 

“I’m gonna see what he does,” Richard said.

 

“Don’t let him see you peeking in the windows,” Teddy said.

 

“Oh, I won’t,” Richard said.

 

“Dear God, don’t,” Jebidiah said.

 

The two boys continued on and Richard went back to Teddy’s house. They soon met with the others, Billy on his bike with a book bag on his shoulder. Michael was carrying his father’s hunting rifle.

 

“I’m slowing you down again, Jebidiah,” Teddy said as they walked to the tree house.

 

“I don’t want to go fast,” Jebidiah said.

 

Teddy thought on that a moment.

 

“I can take it,” he finally said, bracing himself in the chair.

 

* * *

 

Richard peeked into the windows of Teddy’s house and saw his father sitting in a chair in the living room, drinking from a mason jar. He watched a few minutes and could hear Teddy’s mother puttering around in the kitchen. He headed off to the tree house.

 

* * *

 

They finally all met at the tree house together, Richard arriving last. He was wearing the pickelhelm and had a kitchen knife in his hand. Everyone else was also apparently prepared. Jebidiah held his fancy cross but it shook in his hand.

 

“Well, I found this,” Teddy said.

 

He pulled out a compact from his pocket with a little mirror in it.

 

“We can use this to tell if they’re vampires,” he said, looking at them in the mirror. “Because, you see how I can see you in the mirror and you can see me?”

 

“Yes, of course!” Ella-Marie said. “It’s a mirror!”

 

“Yeah,” he said. “But if I couldn’t see you … wait.”

 

He looked at each of their reflections in the mirror.

 

“If I couldn’t see you, then you were a vampire,” Teddy said.

 

“We should’ve brought a mirror to the funeral,” Richard said.

 

Teddy just hung his head.

 

“Well, we didn’t think of that, now, did we?” Ella-Marie said to Richard.

 

“Well … no,” Richard said. “But it would’ve been nice.”

 

“We got some sharp crosses!” Ella-Marie said.

 

“Don’t worry Teddy,” Michael said.

 

“All I brought was stupid water,” Teddy said.

 

“Don’t worry about it.”

 

“It didn’t even do anything.”

 

Michael took out the unsharpened cross and offered it, eventually giving it to Teddy. Ella-Marie fussed at Jebidiah for his shaking hands.

 

“We got crosses, we got guns, we got garlic─” Ella-Marie said.

 

“Stakes,” Teddy said. “Who brought the stakes?”

 

“I have the one stake,” Michael said.

 

“Okay, hopefully there’s only one vampire,” Teddy said.

 

“Why do we need meat for this?” Jebidiah asked.

 

“No, stakes like you stick in things,” Teddy said. “You know how you put a stake in the ground?”

 

“Oh,” Jebidiah said.

 

Ella-Marie smacked the boy in the side of the head.

 

“You gotta have a wooden stake made outta … wood,” Teddy said.

 

Michael held up the cross that was sharpened at one end.

 

“Anyone bring a hammer to hammer it in?” Teddy asked.

 

Richard picked up a large rock.

 

“We can use this, I guess,” he said.

 

Billy climbed up into the tree house and pulled off a piece of one by four that was not structurally necessary. He used his knife to sharpen the end of it. It took him about 15 minutes.

 

They headed to the cemetery.

 

The sounds of the crickets, frogs from the nearby river, and the occasional night bird seemed very loud.

 

The Tallapoosa Cemetery was a small graveyard with a few markers and stones. A picket fence about three feet high ran around the place. It was falling over in some places as it wasn’t kept up very well. They knew Tommy’s grave was towards the back of the place on the river side.

 

Overhead, clouds started to roll in. Flashes of lightning came from the distance. It looked like another thunderstorm was approaching. They figured they might have as long as an hour before the rain started.

 

“Should I wear this helmet?” Richard asked.

 

“It’s entirely made of metal,” Teddy pointed out. “It might attract lightning. But the trees are higher.”

 

“You can take your chances,” Ella-Marie said sweetly.

 

Richard left it on. Billy was looking up at the trees, wanting to climb up into one but worried about the lightning in the distance.

 

They made their way back to Tommy’s grave, easy to distinguish from the pile of dirt still upon it. Billy spotted a large gravestone off to the left and so crept over and hid in its shadow. The other five walked to the grave as the moon rose in the east.

 

Richard asked Teddy how they would know if the vampire had left the grave but the boy admitted he wasn’t sure. He noted the stories he read about were mostly of people thinking there was a vampire and so exhuming the dead body. When they opened the coffin, they would find the body bloated with blood on its lips and long fingernails and hair. Richard kicked the mound of dirt.

 

“I don’t know how they get out,” Teddy said.

 

“Well, we can’t just sit here all night,” Richard said. “With a storm coming.”

 

“If y’all are going to be pansy’s about it, I’ll go check,” Ella-Marie said.

 

“We just don’t have a shovel,” Richard said.

 

“Are … are we gonna dig up his grave?” Teddy asked.

 

“Well, if we can’t tell if he’s there or not …” Richard said.

 

“What do you think we’re here for!?!” Ella-Marie said.

 

“I thought we were gonna see if he came out,” Teddy said.

 

“Well, the storm’s accelerating our time,” Richard said. “We can’t stay out here all night.”

 

“What do you think, Jebidiah?” Teddy asked.

 

“We gotta get going!” Ella-Marie said.

 

“I don’t … I don’t really want to see either way, to be quite honest,” Jebidiah said.

 

“It’ll take hours to dig up a grave with our bare hands,” Teddy said. “I’ll help as much as I can.”

 

“The rain’ll make it harder,” Billy squeaked from his hiding place nearby.

 

“Oh my God, I forgot he was over there,” Teddy said, startled.

 

Jebidiah looked in the direction he thought the plantation stood but couldn’t see any lights.

 

“I-I don’t - I don’t - I reckon we should’ve brought shovels if we were gonna dig him up,” Teddy said.

 

“I didn’t think we were gonna dig him up,” Jebidiah said.

 

“I wasn’t planning on digging him up but …” Richard said.

 

“I’m no grave robber,” Billy called from his tombstone.

 

Teddy pointed at Ella-Marie.

 

“You wanna dig him up?” he said.

 

“Well, how else?” she said. “How else are we supposed to find out.”

 

He looked at her.

 

“Exactly!” she said.

 

“She has a good point,” Teddy said.

 

“Yeah,” Michael said.

 

Richard volunteered to go back home and get his shovel. He asked to borrow Billy’s bike.

 

“That’d be fine,” Billy squeaked from the darkness.

 

“God, how could we not bring a shovel!?!” Ella-Marie said.

 

“Where is he?” Teddy said, squinting as he looked at that part of the cemetery. “I cannot see him at all.”

 

“Billy is the night,” Billy squeaked.

 

Teddy was startled every time he said something.

 

Richard took Billy’s bicycle and rode hard for town. Not long after he left, the noises of the insects stopped nearby. The boys soon noticed what looked like a dog or a coyote sitting near a tree just outside the graveyard. It was little more than a shadow.

 

Michael tucked his garlic and stake away and took the hunting rifle off his shoulder. He worked the action.

 

“What are you doing?” Ella-Marie said to him. “What’re you doing.”

 

He shushed her.

 

“Is that a dog over there?” Teddy asked Jebidiah. “There’s a dog over there.”

 

Jebidiah made some strange noises.

 

“God, how can you see that far?” Ella-Marie said.

 

“Wait!” Billy called.

 

Michael fired. There was a flash from the rifle and he was pretty much blinded. The other children saw the animal didn’t move at all. They heard the bullet crash through the underbrush.

 

“What’re you doing!?!” Ella-Marie said.

 

“Saw a dog,” Michael said. “Coyote. Wolf. I dunno.”

 

His vision slowly came back.

 

Teddy was wide eyed and Ella-Marie looked into the woods. When Teddy pointed, she thought she could see an animal of some kind sitting next to a tree.

 

“He’s awfully still,” she whispered.

 

Billy, hiding in the shadows of the gravestone, drew his revolver from his pants.

 

“That was very loud,” Teddy said.

 

“It didn’t move,” Michael said. “I was hoping that would at least scare it away, but …”

 

“Did anybody bring a flashlight?” Ella-Marie asked. “Get a better look?”

 

“I didn’t bring a flashlight,” Teddy said. “I didn’t think about it.”

 

“Of course you didn’t.”

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

She had also not brought a flashlight as she had not thought about it.

 

“Billy!” Michael said. “Did you bring a light source?”

 

“Billy’s gone,” Teddy said. “Billy, are you still over there?”

 

There was no reply. Teddy gasped.

 

“Billy!” Michael said.

 

“Uh-oh,” Teddy said.

 

“He took Billy!” Jebidiah said.

 

“Oh no!” Teddy said.

 

Jebidiah looked back at the dog or animal. It looked like a really big dog. It made him think of a German shepherd or a coyote.

 

“Hey, Teddy,” Michael said. “Do you know if vampires have anything to do with dogs of some sort?”

 

“Well, um … in Dracula, he could turn into a bat and he could turn into mist and he could climb up a wall like a spider and … um … I think he could turn into a wolf and he could control wolves,” Teddy said. “Is that a wolf?”

 

“It doesn’t look like a wolf,” Ella-Marie said.

 

“I’m not going over there,” Teddy muttered.

 

Michael groaned. Jebidiah held up his crucifix but the animal didn’t move.

 

Michael walked to the spot where Billy had disappeared. He spotted the boy hiding by one of the large tombstones.

 

“Billy, why weren’t you answering us?” Michael said.

 

In the darkness of the shadows, Billy just put his fingers to his lips. Michael could not see it.

 

Michael sighed.

 

“Billy, what’s going on?” Michael said.

 

He heard Billy moving and then his hand came out of the shadows holding a flashlight.

 

Michael took the flashlight. Billy changed his position quietly by another tombstone, slinking over and finding another shadow to hide in. A bush grew up the side of that one, making it an even better hiding place.

 

“Did he give you a flashlight?” Ella-Marie said.

 

“Yes,” Michael said.

 

Jebidiah turned to Teddy.

 

“Can you see that wolf in your mirror?” he said.

 

“Oh, that’s a good idea!” Teddy said.

 

He struggled to get the mirror out.

 

“I’m gonna get the mirror,” he said. “I’m gonna get the mirror.”

 

When Jebidiah looked back where the animal had been, it was gone. Michael turned on the flashlight but there was nothing there. Jebidiah let out a high-pitched shriek and Teddy, startled, dropped the mirror. Both he and Jebidiah reached down to the ground.

 

“Shine it down here!” Teddy said. “I got it.”

 

He picked the mirror back up as Jebidiah looked all around for the animal.

 

“That thing was there!” Ella-Marie said.

 

“Where is it?” Teddy said. “Where’d it go?”

 

“Maybe we should get outta here,” Michael said.

 

“It just disappeared like those bite marks,” Ella-Marie said.

 

Teddy looked scared.

 

“So, I don’t need the mirror anymore?” he asked. “Are we leaving?”

 

“Keep it out!” Ella-Marie said.

 

“All right,” he said. “Yes ma’am.”

 

“Gimme the flashlight! Gimme the flashlight!”

 

She shined the flashlight around but they couldn’t see anything in the woods.

 

“Listen!” Ella-Marie said, noticing it for the first time. “There’s nothing. No crickets. No rustling. No nothing.”

 

“No frogs,” Michael said.

 

Jebidiah stood there, holding the crucifix, his hands shaking like he had palsy.

 

“You need to calm down!” she said to him.

 

“It-it’ll be okay, Jebidiah,” Teddy said. “They’ll protect us. They’re our friends.”

 

“I say we go back to our houses tonight and then go back to the plantation tomorrow,” Michael said.

 

“Why?” Ella-Marie said. “We’re here now.”

 

“There ain’t much we can do right now,” Michael said.

 

“Richard will be back in a minute,” Ella-Marie said.

 

“Maybe,” Michael said.

 

The night noises started to sound around them again.

 

* * *

 

Richard had retrieved the shovel and was getting back on the bike when he heard a gunshot coming from the direction of the cemetery. He went back to his own house and peeked into his parent’s room. It was dark so he crept into their room, opened up the wardrobe, and found the Springfield rifle his father had brought back from the War. He rooted around as quietly as he could until he found a loaded magazine for the rifle. He pocketed the magazine and slung the rifle over his shoulder, closing the wardrobe and the door again.

 

He biked back, the shovel along the handlebars, trying to ride as quickly as possible. He made it down the road without trouble, but when he turned onto the lesser-used dirt road that led to the cemetery, he took it too fast. The tires slid out from under him and he crashed to the ground, the shovel sliding away. He felt a hot, red pain running down his left leg and realized he’d skinned it from ankle to hip. He slammed his hand down on the ground and started to get to his feet when he saw a man standing in the shadows.

 

“Are you all right, boy?” the man said in a strange accent.

 

Richard scrambled to bring the rifle to bear.

 

“Who are you!” he cried out.

 

He pointed the rifle at the man.

 

“You have bloodied yourself,” the man said. “If you wish, I can help you with your wounds.”

 

“I’m quite fine,” Richard said, backing up towards the road.

 

The man walked slowly forward and then Richard’s foot came down on a rock that rolled out from under him. He stumbled back, pulling the trigger on the rifle and being rewarded with only a click. He crashed to his back and realized he had never put the magazine in the rifle. He pulled the knife out of his belt.

 

When he looked around, the man was gone. He leapt to the feet and ran towards town.

 

It felt like someone was following him, running directly behind him without making a noise, almost like they were flying. He glanced back but didn’t see anyone, though the feeling that someone was there was still very strong and disturbing. He sprinted back to his own house, climbing into his window.

 

He had enough presence of mind to return the rifle and magazine. He quietly returned to his room and climbed into the bed, watching out the window.

 

At one point, he blinked. The silhouette of a man was right outside his window. He flung a book from his desk at the shape. It struck the dark form but it didn’t react. He grabbed the helmet and pointed the spiked top at him. When he blinked again, the man was gone. He leapt up, ran over and slammed the window shut, latching it, and leapt back into his bed, laying in the fetal position and watching and listening to the sounds in the night.

 

* * *

 

The other youngsters waited for what felt like too long for Richard before Michael finally spoke.

 

“He’s not back,” he said.

 

“I believe that Richard’s probably dead,” Teddy said.

 

“Don’t say that!” Ella-Marie said.

 

“I’m scared,” Teddy said.

 

“At the very least, he’s not coming back,” Michael said.

 

“He shouldn’t have taken that long,” Ella-Marie said.

 

“We shouldn’t have let him go by himself,” Teddy said.

 

“Well, he just left, didn’t he?” Ella-Marie said.

 

“Did he have anything to protect himself, like …?” Teddy asked.

 

“He had a knife,” Michael said. “I think he had a cross.”

 

“I don’t think that kraut helmet was going to help him,” Teddy said.

 

“Shall we make our way back and check at his house?” Jebidiah said.

 

“Probably,” Michael said.

 

“Well, I guess we gotta go find him now,” Ella-Marie said.

 

“What about … Billy, I know you’re out there somewhere,” Teddy said. “Are you coming with us? Just … cough once if you are.”

 

There was silence.

 

“I think Billy’s gonna stay here,” Teddy said.

 

“Is Billy dead too?” Jebidiah said.

 

“Billy, if you’re dead … if you’re dead cough twice.”

 

It remained quiet.

 

“I don’t think he’s dead,” Teddy said.

 

“Go show me where you found him,” Ella-Marie said to Michael.

 

“Found who?” Michael said.

 

“Billy!” she said.

 

“All right,” he said.

 

He walked over to the gravestone but Billy wasn’t there. He looked around and saw a shape behind another nearby gravestone with a bush growing up against it. A sliver of moonlight revealed part of the boy’s shoulder. Ella-Marie saw him as well. Michael walked over.

 

In the darkness, unseen by them, Billy put his finger to his lips once again.

 

“Why’d you move?” Michael hissed.

 

Billy didn’t answer.

 

“All right Billy, Richard’s not back yet, so we’re going to go back to town,” Michael said. “See if we can find him.”

 

“We gotta get outta these woods,” Ella-Marie said.

 

Billy put his hand up into the moonlight and gave them a thumbs up.

 

“You okay?” Ella-Marie said.

 

The thumb stayed up.

 

“Are you coming with us or …” Michael said.

 

The thumb turned down.

 

“All right,” Michael said.

 

“What do you mean?” Ella-Marie said. “You can’t just stay here! He can’t just stay here! Michael, talk some sense into him!”

 

Michael sighed.

 

“Billy …” he said.

 

“We can’t leave him!” she said. “Out here all alone! This is just idiocy!”

 

Michael leaned forward and slapped Billy in the face.

 

“Mike!” Ella-Marie said.

 

“Billy!” Michael said. “Billy! You are not staying out here by your God-damned self!”

 

* * *

 

Jebidiah gasped when he heard the slap.

 

“That sounds way too familiar,” Teddy said. “I believe there’s a fight going on.”

 

* * *