What Rough Beast ... Session Three Part 4 - The Attic Massacre
CoC 7e Jazz Age
* * *
Mrs. Slayton took Ella-Marie and Michael home where she fed them, got them out of their dirty, and in Michael’s case bloody, clothing and had each of them take a bath.
“Oh!” Mrs. Slayton said to Michael after she had them fed. “Oh! That man came by yesterday. He came by to talk to you. You need to not go out that plantation anymore. He said you vandalized that place. Mr. … uh … uh …”
She snapped her fingers.
“What’s his name?” she said. “Saint somebody. He came by the house. He was very pleasant. We had tea. He said that you can’t go─”
Ella-Marie gasped and looked at her mother in horror.
“You invited him in!?!” she said.
“Well yes,” her mother said. “He was very pleasant. They’re going to set up a mortuary here. They’re going to try to help Sanguis.”
That mortuary’s gonna have a lot of business, Ella-Marie thought.
She turned to Michael.
“Don’t go out there anymore, Michael,” their mother said.
“All right, mom,” he said.
“For goodness sakes, your father’s already mad enough. When he heard you were vandalizing out there. Oh my goodness. He took his belt off right there and headed back for you room. And then you weren’t there. You were both gone. He was so angry. I’m hoping he’ll be better tonight when he gets home.”
When their father got home, he was angry but their mother intervened. They were still supposed to ask permission before leaving the house for the next week and weren’t allowed to use their bikes.
* * *
Jebidiah found Teddy and approached him with a plan. He suggested he take the shotgun and bring Teddy home. Then he would leave the shotgun on the porch. He suggested not telling Teddy’s parents. They would assume somebody had stolen it, and they would never know who it was so it wouldn’t be his fault.
Teddy said he would go home and say he didn’t know anything about the shotgun. Jebidiah said he would tell his mother, as Jebidiah would, that they were out looking for Ella-Marie and Michael last night.
* * *
Jebidiah’s mother openly wept when he came home.
“You’re all I’ve got left!” she cried. “You’re all I’ve got left!”
* * *
Richard hid the shotgun he’d washed off in the tree house before heading back to town.
He got a talking to when he got home and he explained he was out trying to be heroic to find Ella-Marie and Michael to help Mrs. Slayton feel better. He lied blatantly to his parents.
* * *
Teddy found his mother worried about him. He told the same lie that he had been out looking for Ella-Marie. She seemed quite pleased at that. She told him he was a brave boy for looking for the girl and his father would be so proud.
“Will he?” he asked.
She also asked him about the shotgun, telling him his father’s shotgun had gone missing.
“Dad’s shotgun’s missing?” he said.
“Yes,” she said. “It was gone yesterday. He came home and … and he was very upset.”
“Well, I can’t use it.”
“If I shot it, it’d flip my wheelchair over.”
She believed him and got a bath for him.
* * *
Billy had cleaned the axe and left it in the Slayton shed before going home and taking a nap.
Later that afternoon, Billy told his grandfather he was going to spend the night at Jebidiah’s again. He talked to some of the other children, telling them he wanted to watch Jill’s house. He stopped by to talk to Ella-Marie and Michael and got a look at the letter. Then he changed his mind and went to watch Mrs. Pines’ house.
It was well after dark when he saw a tall man appear out of nowhere at her front door and let himself in.
Billy the Vampire Hunter, he thought.
He left his hiding place and went in through the front door. It was dark within and there was no one in the living room. He turned on the light and looked around, crucifix in hand. He crept back down the hallway to the bedrooms.
As he approached Mrs. Pines’ room, the door to it closed. He turned the handle and pushed on the door but it didn’t move.
“Is that you, Billy?” he heard a familiar voice whisper.
“I rescind your invitation Mr. St. Jordan!” Billy squeaked.
St. Jordan chuckled on the other side of the door.
“Yeah, I figured that wouldn’t work,” Billy squeaked.
“This isn’t your house, Billy,” St. Jordan said.
“I know!” Billy said.
A grinding noise came from the knob and then the doorknob suddenly spun in his hand as the latch connected again. He tried to turn the knob again and it just spun.
“Billy, you can live forever, you know,” St. Jordan said through the door.
“Billy’s already gonna live forever!” Billy said.
“Not if he pursues this.”
“Billy has the power.”
“But … can you save Mrs. Pines?”
“Billy can try!”
Billy kicked the door and heard the already damaged latch snap. The door flew open and he could just make out Mrs. Pines on her bed, St. Jordan over her, his mouth latched onto her neck. She was making some kind of mewing noises.
Billy pushed the button on the wall but the light didn’t come on. He held out the cross.
“The power of Billy compels you!” he squealed.
St. Jordan leapt away from Mrs. Pines, averting his eyes.
“It’s only a matter of time!” he hissed.
He seemed to melt away and mist poured out the window.
When he checked on Mrs. Pines, he found her bloody but alive. She was still asleep.
* * *
“Ella-Marie,” a voice whispered. “Ella-Marie.”
Ella-Marie opened her eyes.
“Ella-Marie,” Tommy whispered again. “I know you’re awake.”
“I saw your letter,” she whispered back.
“I left it for you,” he whispered. “You’re supposed to see it.”
She sat up in her bed. Tommy was standing right outside of her window again.
“You have information for me,” she said.
“St. Jordan’s pretty safe,” Tommy said. “You’ll probably not ever figure it out. I’m even safer.”
“C’mon!” she said. “Quit playin’ around. This is a lot more serious than you realize.”
“I’m a 10-year-old boy.”
“This is a lot more serious than you realize.”
“It’s very serious. I’m very hungry.”
She felt around on the bed, finding one of the crosses she’d made, and picked it up. She also picked up a kitchen knife and cut her arm. There was a breath and she heard the boy lick his lips.
“Ella-Marie, that’s not fair!” he said. “That is not fair!”
“If you give me information, I’ll give you all you want,” she said.
“No, you have to give first,” Tommy said. “Because I don’t believe you.”
“That is not how it’s gonna work, Tommy,” she said.
“Ella-Marie, I don’t believe you,” he said.
“That is not how it’s going to work.”
“It is how it’s gonna work ‘cause I don’t think you’ll give me anything if … I don’t want much but I don’t think you’ll give me any if you get what you need.”
“I don’t trust you.”
“Why don’t you trust me? I’ll only take what I need. I won’t take no more, I promise. I haven’t used my eyes on you, have I?”
“No you haven’t. You’ve been a good boy.”
“I have been a good boy. I could tell you two things.”
“What would you tell me? I know you like me Tommy.”
He looked down and rubbed one bare foot in the dirt shyly.
“You’re just tricking me,” he said. “I could tell you where St. Jordan is. I can’t tell you exactly. But I can tell you something that you’d figure it out ‘cause you’re smart, Ella-Marie. And I could tell you where I am. And if you’re smart, you’ll figure that out too.”
“Why don’t you tell me,” she said coyly.
“Because you’re gonna kill me if I tell you where I am.”
“Why would I do that?”
“Because Michael hates me. Because Michael’s a bully. St. Jordan knows you killed his man. He knows who did it.”
“We were friends, Tommy.”
“We were friends. But you gotta give to get.”
“Michael is your friend.”
“Michael never liked me. He never liked me.”
Ella-Marie put the cross on the dresser.
“Ella-Marie,” Tommy said. “I could tell you a secret. Here. I’ll show you my trust in you. You have to be bit three times before you can change. But it feels really good.”
“Well, I figured that,” she said.
“Well, you ain’t been bit. Which means you’re safe.”
“I wouldn’t be offering this if I thought I’d turn.”
“Okay, well c’mon outside …”
“You give me … one.”
“I just did. I just told you, you gotta be bit three times.”
“I need more than that.”
“And I ain’t used my eyes.”
“You know I need more information than that. You gotta give to get some.”
“You promise? You swear? You swear on Michael’s life?”
She pointed to the cross on the dresser. Tommy thought on this.
“I’m not doing this for you, Tommy,” she said.
“Yeah, but you’re gonna come kill me,” he said. “You’re gonna try. ‘Cause you think this is wrong. It’s not.”
“I wouldn’t kill you because you have information I need. And I’ve got something you need.”
She held out her bloody arm and he licked his lips again. He thought on it again.
“All right,” he finally said. “I’ll give you a clue to where St. Jordan is, but then you have to come outside. And you have to let me have something. And then … I will tell you … I’ll give you a hint where I am after that. Deal? I won’t even try to come in your house. I can come in you know, if I want.”
“No you couldn’t!” she said.
“I can,” he said. “It just ain’t good. It hurts. It breaks. It breaks you. It breaks a man.”
“Okay, fine. Fine.”
“If you renege, I’ll tell St. Jordan you know where he is and he’ll just hide somewhere else. And you’ll never find him. He could just dig a hole and put some dirt in it and lie in it in the middle of the woods somewhere. Would you ever find him?”
“Tell me where he is, tell me where you are, and we have a deal.”
“You have to accept what I tell you. I can’t tell you exactly. He’ll know. And he’ll destroy me.”
“How would he know?”
“He knows everything! He’s everywhere. You don’t understand! He’s over 300 years old. Do you know how he lives so long? Because he makes traps like the plantation and stupid people, no offense, go out there, and then they spend all their time worrying about a bunch of coffins!”
“You knew the plantation was a trap.”
“I might’ve told you last night but you weren’t home. Yer momma was worried sick.”
“You had no right to come around here.”
“Yer momma and daddy, they argued so loud.”
“I felt bad.”
“Fine. I agree.”
He looked at her.
“You know he’s in town so I can’t tell you that,” he said. “Don’t ya? See, he knows. He found the coffin y’all busted open already at the train station.”
“Duh,” she said.
“He checks everything. He is really smart. But he is in town. But he’s hiding in a place nobody goes.”
“That’s very vague, Tommy.”
“I know! You know town. You know places people go and people don’t. And it’s in a building. How about that? That’s a lot of information. That’s more than I shoulda told you. Now you come outside and you let me … and you give me a little … you give me a little … a little food. I’m so hungry. It’s so good! It’s like chocolate, but 10 times better than chocolate. It’s so good!”
“Fine. Fine. Fine.”
She got out of bed and climbed out the window. He put his hands on her shoulders.
“From my arm,” she said.
“There’s gonna be a prick,” he said.
“You’re gonna take it from my arm.”
“No no. That’ll take a half an hour. It’s gotta be from─”
“This is what I agreed to.”
“It’s got to be from a major─”
“Because if not it’ll take too long and then Michael, I know he’s over there, listening. He can’t hear but he’s listening. I’m only taking a little bit, okay? All right?”
She finally nodded.
He stood up on his tiptoes and leaned in, putting his mouth against her throat. She felt a prick that was very painful and then there was a warm pleasure that seemed to wash over her. It was almost orgasmic and seemed to fill her whole being. It was accompanied by a slurping or sucking noise. Then he pulled away from her. He held out a handkerchief. She snatched it out of his hand and held it to the left side of her neck.
“Okay,” he said. “Now. I’ll tell you where I am. If your gonna kill me, that’s fine. I’m going there tonight anyway. Thank you. That was really nice.”
“Where are you?” she said.
“I’m still in the cemetery,” he said. “I don’t think you’ll find me. But I won’t tell St. Jordan I told you anything.”
“Okay,” she growled at him.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “You’ll understand.”
She climbed back into her window and when she looked back again, he was gone.
* * *
The next morning, Wednesday, June 26, 1929, Ella-Marie had a handkerchief wrapped around her neck. Michael tried to question her about it but she put him off and they made arrangements for everyone to meet in the tree house.
“What’d you do to your neck?” her mother asked when they were heading out. “Is that blood on it?”
“No, it just hurts,” Ella-Marie said. “It just hurts real bad.”
“All right. If you have a sore throat, we have to take you to the doctor.”
They went to the tree house.
* * *
Billy noticed Mrs. Pines’ door was still open the next morning. Fearing the worst, he went in and found the old lady in her bed. She told him she was sick and he got her some breakfast before he headed for the tree house.
“So I see that the bargain has been made,” Jebidiah said when he saw Ella-Marie.
“You let Tommy drink, didn’t you?” Billy squeaked.
“This is what─” Ella-Marie said.
“What did you do?” Michael said.
“This is what I know,” Ella-Marie said. “St. Jordan is in a building that no one goes into. He’s in a building in town that no one goes to. Tommy is still in the graveyard.”
“I knew it,” Billy said.
“Well, we didn’t look there,” Jebidiah said.
“That would probably be the best place for him to hide, actually,” Michael said.
They realized there was an abandoned house with an old bait shop in the front of it on the south side of town near the railroad tracks. It stood next to the train station but had been abandoned for about 10 years. All of their parents always told them to stay away from it as it was still owned by someone. But no one had lived there for years. It was such a common sight for all of them they never really paid any attention to it.
Billy told them of his encounter with St. Jordan and how he had fought the vampire off. He noted the thing was trying to convert Mrs. Pines but ran away.
Jebidiah noted he was thinking of asking Jill if Tommy had any hiding places but, if the boy was back at the graveyard and was honest about it, that might be where they went. Michael wanted to go to the bait shop first and Jebidiah agreed they needed to get St. Jordan and end it, figuring out Tommy later.
They all headed out of the tree house, going the bait shop. Michael and Billy slipped by the Slayton house where Michael got the axe and Billy got a hammer. Then they all met near the bait shop. Jebidiah volunteered to keep watch once again and Billy reminded everyone to look for traps, reminding them of the traps at the plantation. While Jebidiah went to the front corner of the building, closest to town, the rest of them crept to the back door.
Billy tried the back door but found it locked. He quickly checked the windows in the back but found they were all latched. They discussed getting the door open and finally decided to just break in. Ella-Marie put her shoulder to the back door. They heard the latch snap and they were in.
They found dark, dusty, dirty rooms inside. There were two rooms in the back and the bait shop in the front. No furniture was left in the house but Ella-Marie soon noticed a trapdoor or pull down stairway in the ceiling. It might have once had a rope on it but it gone. There was a storage space up above.
Michael had to leap up to grab the edge of the drop-down stairs and pulled it down. As he did so, something tipped over up above and fell. Michael leapt to one side as a large washtub filled with metal junk fell where he had been standing, crashing to the ground.
“Watch out for traps,” Billy said again.
* * *
Outside, Jebidiah heard the loud crash. He looked around nervously and saw that Tim Bowman, the mailman was walking nearby and also heard the noise. He headed towards the house and Jebidiah went to intercept him.
“Hi Mr. Bowman,” Jebidiah said.
“Did you hear that noise?” Bowman said.
“Well, I don’t know, Mr. Bowman,” Jebidiah said. “It sounded like it came from the station.”
He pointed at the train station.
“I saw that when I was just hanging out,” he said, pointing at the broken window. “I thought the noise came from there.”
Bowman seemed surprised at that and swaggered over towards the train station to investigate the new damage. Jebidiah watched him nervously.
* * *
The children had heard the conversation but, when they realized Bowman was leaving, they headed up the steps. Teddy watched from his wheelchair, trapped on the ground floor.
The terribly hot attic was empty except for a coffin. It was locked shut like all of the others they’d found. While Billy looked around, Michael smashed off the three staples and hasps with the axe. He flung open the casket and saw a man Billy recognized as St. Jordan. The vampire’s eyes were open and he looked directly into Michael’s eyes.
Michael wanted to protect St. Jordan. He would do anything he could to protect him.
Ella-Marie leapt forward and stabbed a stake into St. Jordan’s chest. Richard followed suit, stabbing a second stake into the vampire’s chest. Billy took out his hammer and headed for the head of the coffin. Then Michael brought the axe down on Ella-Marie, the blade making a glancing blow against her shoulder.
“Don’t touch him!” he roared.
“Mike!” Ella-Marie turned around and said. “Whatever he’s doing to you, it’s not real! Get it out of your head! Please!”
Billy ignored Michael and brought the hammer down on Ella-Marie’s stake in St. Jordan’s chest. Blood welled up around the wound and St. Jordan looked around wildly. Billy had pulled out the crucifix and held it between himself and the man. St. Jordan looked at Richard and, for a moment, the boy felt like he was losing himself in the man’s eyes. Then he shook his head.
Teddy had flopped from his wheelchair below and was pulling himself up the steps to the attic space.
“Wait for me, guys!” he called.
Ella-Marie pushed against Michael but he brought the axe down, and cut down the side of her leg and into her left foot. She screamed in pain and fell to the floor, blood pouring from the terrible wound. Richard, enraged at that, rushed Michael as well, pushing him back and away from Ella-Marie.
Billy put the crucifix directly on St. Jordan’s face as he pounded the stake deeper into the vampire’s chest. There was a hissing, crackling noise, like freshly cooked bacon. The stink of rotten, burnt flesh started to fill the room. More blood welled from the wound.
Michael hadn’t noticed and swung away, missing Richard, who defended himself and punched the other boy in the face. Teddy finally reached the top of the steps and saw Richard and Michael fighting while Ella-Marie bled from a terrible wound on her foot. Confused, Teddy crawled to Ella-Marie, pulling off his shirt to try to bandage her wound. She ripped her shirt and tried to bind the wound herself. There was so much blood.
Richard attacked Michael again but the other boy swung the axe and struck him in the head. He stumbled to one side and Michael followed it up with another swing from the other direction, cutting into the boy’s left arm, striking it in the upper arm and cutting through flesh and bone. There was a crack as the bone broke and Richard fell to the floor, bleeding horribly.
“I told you I’d live forever!” Billy shouted.
He struck the stake again with the hammer and St. Jordan’s mouth opened in a silent scream. Black blood welled up from the wound as his arms and legs shook spasmodically. Then the flesh came off the bones, turning to dust and falling to the bottom of the coffin. The bones themselves only lasted a moment longer before they, too, sloughed away, leaving only the pile of dust with the stake sticking out of it and the crucifix lying atop it.
Michael shook his head.
Teddy struggled to stop Ella-Marie’s bleeding as the girl groaned in pain.
“Jebidiah!” Billy shouted. “Get in here!”
Then he said the same prayer he’d said over Vanzant. Michael dropped the axe and tried to help Richard. There was so much blood.
“I don’t know what to do!” he cried out.
* * *
Outside, Jebidiah heard them call for him. He ran around to the back of the house. As he flung the back door open, he heard Tim Bowman.
“What’s going on in there!?!” the mailman called.
Jebidiah ran in and saw the lowered stairway.
* * *
Teddy crawled towards Richard and tore off some of the other boy’s shirt, trying to bind the horrible wound on his arm. He could see the boy’s bone sticking out of the arm. Then Richard breathed his last and died. Michael tried to help Ella-Marie, using his shirt to tie off the wound.
“Mike!” she cried out. “Mike!”
“I’m so sorry!” he said. “I didn’t know what I was doing!”
“Is he dead?” she said. “Is he dead?”
“I think so,” Michael said.
Jebidiah came up the stairs
“What’s going on?” he cried out. “Oh! Jesus!”
He was followed by Tim Bowman. The postman looked around in horror.
* * *
It took the police a long time to sort out what happened and the investigation by Cleburne County Sheriff’s Department was long and intense. The children were all separated and questioned. Billy told them the truth, claiming to be a vampire hunter and vampire slayer. He told them Michael had been controlled by the vampire and forced to do what he did. Michael claimed Billy had drawn a gun on him and forced him to do it. That story fell apart under questioning pretty quickly as none of the other children even mentioned a gun. Ella-Marie tried to claim Michael was trying to protect her, saying Richard tried to attack her. Teddy told police they were all innocent and when asked who swung the axe who killed Richard, Teddy claimed it was a man who got away before Tim Bowman got there. He was not believed either as he was the only child who mentioned a man. Police allowed Teddy’s father to help with the interrogation and the man beat the boy nearly to death trying to get the truth out of him.
Michael’s fingerprints were found in the blood covering the wood axe.
* * *
Michael was held in the County Jail pending his trial, but Ella-Marie was allowed to go home after a short stay in the hospital. She found a note by the window in her room the first night she was back. It read:
Good-bye Ella-Marie. I can’t stay here any longer because eventully y’all will find me in my
hiding place. I’ll go on the road. But I’ll be back again someday because I know you’ll be
waiting for me.
She never told the others. She didn’t want to think about it ever again.
* * *
The murder trial was long and received nationwide attention, the papers calling it the “Attic Massacre.” Michael Slayton was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was in prison for 19 years before he was released in 1949 on good behavior. He was a broken man but reconnected with his sister.
* * *
Teddy Sanderson went back to his own life but eventually he became an author, moving to New York City and writing a book about what happened. Claiming it was the truth, the book was very well received, though it got a great deal of criticism for being obvious fiction claiming to be the truth. It sold very well though, and launched his career as an author.
* * *
Billy Hicks was committed to Bryce Hospital, a sanitarium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, as he refused to stop claiming he was a vampire hunter and would not change his statements about what happened in the Attic Massacre. He was there for six years. His grandfather died while he was in the sanitarium but Blitzer was still alive and lived a couple more years after his release.
Billy joined the church but then moved to New York City and started a semi-criminal organization to raise power and money to hunt vampires. He read Teddy’s book and knew he lived in the city as well.
* * *
Jebidiah Pleasant, the only one of them not directly connected with the Attic Massacre, grew up with a strong interest in the occult thanks to the terrible events that happened in Sanguis. He moved to a bigger city and eventually opened an antique shop wherein he specialized in strange, esoteric, or occult items. When he found particularly powerful or terrible items he hid them away.
* * *
Ella-Marie Slayton went through extensive physical therapy due to the terrible injury to her left ankle and foot. She gave up her hopes of being a professional athlete, but instead went into coaching. She ended up moving to Birmingham, got married, and had fraternal twins, living to a ripe old age and receiving her brother with open arms when he got out of prison.
In 1986, when she was 72 years old, she got very sick. The doctors didn’t know exactly what the blood disease was, just that there was something strange in her blood. It was very odd and they didn’t understand why she was dying.
One night, she awoke to find Tommy Hill in her hospital room, looking down at her. He was still 10 years old and, aside from his clothing, looked almost exactly like he did when last saw him over 50 years before.
“You can live forever, Ella-Marie,” he said to her. “Do you want to live forever?”
She took his face in her hands.
“No,” she said.
“All right, Ella-Marie,” he said softly. “All right.”
He kissed her on the cheek and she closed her eyes. When she opened them again, he was gone.
She passed away peacefully in her sleep shortly after.