What Rough Beast ... Session Three Part 3 - Bennett Farm Murder
CoC 7e Jazz Age
* * *
The rosy light of dawn arrived long after, heralding Tuesday, June 25, 1929. Around that time, they saw Wilbur Mayo exit his lean-to, still looking under the weather. He hitched the horse up to the wagon and then loaded ice into the vehicle. It took him until well after sunup before he headed down the road.
“Just like I say every time I disasterfully fail at something, ‘At least you can’t say we didn’t try,’” Jebidiah said.
“I mean, he’s not dead,” Billy squeaked.
“These two are,” Teddy said. “At least you didn’t steal your dad’s gun.”
“Yes, we’d better get you home,” Jebidiah said. “You two had better … do something. I don’t know. You’re on your own. I’m very scared.”
“Flee the town,” Ella-Marie said.
“Let’s play a game where I go to your house and try to talk down your father, and you go to my house and try to talk down mine,” Teddy said.
“You don’t wanna play that game!” Jebidiah said. “You’ll lose. Nobody wins that game.”
“Does anybody want to check on Vanzant again, now that it’s been a night?” Billy squeaked.
“I’ll go,” Richard said.
“Why do you keep wanting to look at that dead body!?!” Jebidiah said.
“Investigation!” Billy squeaked. “Science! We need to know!”
“We need to find the other ones!”
“We need to know if it worked!”
“I know where they are!” Richard said.
“We need to treat that one as taken care of until it’s proven it has not been,” Jebidiah said.
“We gotta prove whether it has or hasn’t!” Billy squeaked.
“If you’ve already cut off the head and staked him, I think we’re probably good,” Jebidiah said.
“And if that doesn’t kill him then what are we going to do?” Teddy said.
“Yeah, we’re screwed anyways if that doesn’t work,” Jebidiah said.
“Leave town?” Billy squeaked. “We run away!”
“If we see Vanzant again …” Jebidiah said.
“Those two are up **** creek,” Billy squeaked, pointing at Ella-Marie and Michael.
“Uh-huh,” Ella-Marie said.
“Do you have enough money for train tickets for all of us?” Teddy said.
Billy did math in his head.
“Either way, before your father wakes up, we need to get that gun back where it belongs,” Jebidiah said.
“He’s already awake,” Teddy said. “He checks on that gun throughout the night.”
“Lord, if we go home now, we’re gonna get our asses kicked,” Ella-Marie said.
“We could go to the plantation,” Richard said.
“But I need sleep,” Michael said.
“Oh, the plantation is the best place to be!” Jebidiah said sarcastically. “We found Vanzant. We still need to find where Tommy and Christopher are during the day.”
“I think I know where they are,” Richard said.
“Because Match is digging holes in the thing and I know where they are and he was putting coffins in. They probably have bodies in them.”
“Do you know … remember … where they were buried?”
“Yeah. It wouldn’t be hard.”
“Maybe that’s where we should check next. My own concern about that plan is we don’t know if that’s for concurrent vampires or for future, to-be.”
“Well, there was four. Assuming that Mayo is next, that’d be the fourth one.”
“That is assuming that that assumption is correct.”
“Unless there’s another fourth one we don’t know about.”
“There were three vampires currently,” Billy squeaked. “Vanzant does not have a grave yet because I found him in his house. Three vampires currently could get three more vampires made. Thus, four graves plus Vanzant. Math. Billy.”
“Billy, Vanzant couldn’t have moved during the day and he was digging during the day,” Richard said. “So, we killed them.”
“No, you’re talking about Match, sir.”
“Anyway, Vanzant couldn’t have moved to that grave until last night.”
“I’m saying they were digging it for him.”
“Yes, but he’s not in there.”
“I know! We’re saying these could be graves for new vampires that are not the current breed. Not Tommy or Christopher. With three vampires, you can make three vampires more. They don’t have to make one new vampires every night.”
“But how many vampires can six vampires make?” Teddy asked.
“Twelve,” Billy said. “Keep going. I’ve checked.”
“Do we want to reconvene and make a plan once we are all back to the tree house?” Jebidiah said.
“Assuming we all get to the tree house,” Teddy said.
“Do you want to bring the gun back?” Jebidiah said. “Do you want to encounter your father? Or just leave it?”
“I think it’s time I faced him,” Teddy said.
“I think that’s a bad idea, actually, sir,” Jebidiah said. “I’ll take care of Isaac Newton if you don’t make it out.”
“For all we know, Vanzant was the one visiting the ice man, and that’s why no one showed up,” Billy squeaked. “Is because that was Vanzant’s target.”
“That makes sense,” Richard said. “We should go check out Vanzant.”
“And that would mean Christopher would have a target, and Jill would be Tommy’s target,” Billy said. “I’m just assuming.”
“Assuming she let him in,” Richard said.
“Which I highly doubt that she would,” Ella-Marie said.
“But still a target,” Billy squeaked. “Because they’re trying to make more. That’s what the graves are for.”
Richard was up for checking on Vanzant’s body. Jebidiah, Billy, and Teddy went with him. Michael and Ella-Marie headed back towards town.
* * *
Richard and Billy crept to the window of the abandoned house. The decapitated body still lay in the dirt, the somewhat burnt head nearby. The smell of burnt meat and hair was still strong in the room. Nothing looked different.
They headed back to town.
* * *
Michael had walked through the woods, avoiding town, and went to the tree house where he flopped down on the floor and soon fell asleep.
* * *
Ella-Marie had crept into town, trying to stay hidden as best she could, and went to Spearman’s house. She saw Jill on the front porch on a blanket, laying on her belly and drawing on a piece of paper with colored wax crayons. She was wearing another nice shirt and skirt. She didn’t even notice Ella-Marie.
Billy biked by Spearman’s and spotted Jill on the front porch, coloring.
“Hey Jill, whatcha doing?” he squeaked at her, stopping in front of the house.
“Billy?” she said.
She stood up very quickly and brushed herself off
“I’m drawin’,” she said. “Whatchu doin’?”
“I’m kicking around,” Billy squeaked.
“Hm. Well. Gossip has it that people are in trouble.”
“Oh yeah, you know it.”
“I heard somebody tried to burn down the train station.”
Billy made small talk, trying to see if Jill was pale or seemed under the weather, but she seemed like Jill: a little snobbish and standoffish. When Billy brought up Richard, Jill perked up a little bit and he guessed she liked the boy despite the fact that she acted like she didn’t.
* * *
Teddy didn’t want to go home so he, Jebidiah, and Richard met at the train station.
“We need to figure out where Tommy’s and … this other person’s bodies are,” Jebidiah said. “It’s possible they’re at the Bennett Farm and we can go there but it’s big trouble if we go there, especially if we get caught, because of that shotgun, and because─”
“Well … we have a shotgun …” Richard said.
“Two shotguns doesn’t make the danger of getting shot any less!” Jebidiah said.
“I’m probably a better shot,” Richard said.
“Increases it, I would think,” Teddy said.
“I could go get the Springfield,” Richard said. “My dad’s Springfield.”
“Could you?” Jebidiah said.
“I got it once!” Richard said.
“Let’s just take all of the guns out of our parents’ houses,” Teddy mused.
“Do we want to check at Bennett Farm first or do we want to check on other places we think Tommy might be?” Jebidiah said. “He could be where his treasure was, I think, or he could have tried to go to the swimming hole. We haven’t checked Creek Creek.”
He mentioned looking at the train station and Richard went over to the window and peeked in. He saw the ticket booth and the waiting room. There was a door in one wall that led to a room without windows, as far as he could make out, possibly a place to store freight.
“I know there’s coffins on Bennett Farm,” Richard said.
“And if they’re recently buried, that’s a good lead,” Jebidiah said. “We just need to be careful about being spotted.”
“Or sure that Match isn’t around or can’t stop us.”
“Other than when he was in town, I don’t think I’ve seen him leave, ever.”
“We could ask the grocer if he knows anything. He’s seen them around.”
“I don’t think he’ll have said anything very meaningful. And we’ll just have only a window of time. It takes a while to dig up a grave too. How long did it take them to bury them?”
“Exactly. If that is where our vampires are then … it’s going to be a very difficult time to get up in there. We’re going to have to get Match out of the way somehow and even then have a lot of time to dig up a grave. I don’t know how useful that’s going to be. That’s going to be dangerous.”
“We can check around some other places.”
“I’ve checked everything! There’s nothing that─”
“We haven’t checked the swimming hole or Creek Creek. He could be buried where he found the treasures.”
“Why would he be buried by the swimming hole?”
“I don’t know. He said it was someplace that was very hard to find.”
“Or it could be under somewhere he’s already been.”
“I mean the problem is, if he’s already buried somewhere, it’s going to be nigh-impossible to find him unless we know the general area he’s buried in.”
They talked about going to Creek Creek and the swimming hole though Richard didn’t think someone would be buried there. Teddy didn’t think they should go to the plantation until they were all together.
They were all very hungry and tired. Jebidiah suggested gathering everyone together.
* * *
Billy had gone by his house and found his grandfather there, sorting pills and such. The old man wore a scarf and Billy remembered he often got chills and put on heavier clothing, even in the summer. He got some breakfast and headed out again, going to Mrs. Pines’ house.
Mrs. Pines was looked sickly and pale.
“I’m not feeling well, Billy,” Mrs. Pines said. “But thank you so much for stopping by.”
She gave him a pat on the shoulder.
“Let me get you some cookies,” she said.
When she returned with a handful of chocolate chip cookies, he saw the marks on her neck. She was very pale and her hands shook. He made some small talk.
“I need to go back to bed, Billy,” she said. “I’m not feeling well.”
“Have you had any company over lately?” he squeaked.
“No,” she said. “Nope.”
She went in and he noticed the other boys heading into the soda shop.
* * *
Ella-Marie went to the soda shop. Mr. Hicks wasn’t there and Randall Spearman stood behind the soda fountain. He nodded at the girl when she came in, asking if she wanted anything. She said “no” and sat down at a table. He went back to his motorcar magazine and talking to himself.
She had not been there long when Jebidiah, Teddy, and Richard entered. She seemed deep in thought.
“This is - this is a bold move, I’d say,” Jebidiah said to her.
She just glared at him.
“Well, I don’t wanna go home yet,” Ella-Marie said. “‘Cause I know what’s waiting for me there.”
“So, you decided on a public place where someone could verify that you were here?” Jebidiah said.
She frowned at him.
“You boys want anything?” Randall Spearman said.
“Yes,” Teddy said.
He asked for ice cream and candy and the other boys were very hungry as well, each of them getting some candy or ice cream. Ella-Marie had some as well. The food was quite sweet and delicious.
Jebidiah told her the only lead they had on where the other two vampires might be was the Bennett Farm. He noted they had only seen sick people but feared to let more time pass. Teddy chimed in that soon there would be too many for them to handle. Jebidiah noted they should all be together when they went to the Bennett Farm though. Ella-Marie said she’d have to get Michael.
“Where is Mike?” Jebidiah asked.
“Tree house,” Ella-Marie said.
“Ah,” Jebidiah said.
“Why don’t you go get Mike and meet us at the plantation,” Teddy said. “See where this goes.”
Jebidiah suggested they take shovels. Teddy thought there would be some at the plantation. Ella-Marie left to go get Michael, avoiding her mother, who was calling her from around town, apparently looking for her.
* * *
Billy headed over to the Red Bridge to look around. He was curious to see if there was any chance of someone being there. He looked for patches where someone might be buried, but didn’t find anything. He looked in the Red Bridge too, without seeing anything out of the ordinary. He followed the road back to town, looking for places where a body might have been buried.
He ran into Mrs. Slayton as he came back into town. She told him she was looking for Michael and Ella-Marie. She had a couple of pieces of paper in her hand. It looked like she’d been crying.
“Have you seen Michael and Ella-Marie?” she asked again.
“No ma’am,” he squeaked.
“I think they ran away,” she said. “I think they ran away.”
She grabbed him by the shoulder.
“Are you sure, Billy?” she said.
“I’m positive,” Billy squeaked.
“If you see ‘em, just tell ‘em to come home. Tell ‘em to come home, please. Just please tell ‘em to come home.”
“I think the best place probably would be to wait at home in case they come they’ll find you.”
“No, but I gotta look. I been waiting all morning. I gotta look. I gotta look for ‘em.”
“I’ll look for you.”
“She left me this note. And she left me this other note and I don’t what this even means. This is confusing me.”
“Can I see it?”
She handed Billy the note and he read it.
“She left that note,” Mrs. Slayton said. “She left this note. Billy, if you see them, please tell them to come home. Please tell them to come home. Please tell them I’m looking for them. Just …”
She took back the note and walked away, calling for the two.
He went on to the train station and found the board nailed over the broken window. He looked around carefully but no one was around, so he used the knife to pry the board, being careful to keep his eyes open. He got the board open enough to get his arm in but the handle only rattled. It was one of those kinds of locks that needed a key to open from both sides.
He took his shirt off and used it to muffle his breaking of the next pane of glass in the door. He thought it might be enough room for him to squeeze in.
* * *
Ella-Marie found Michael asleep in the tree house.
“Wakey wakey,” she said.
He moaned but didn’t awaken so she slapped him in the face several times.
“Mike, wake up,” she said. “I know you’re tired but we need to meet the rest of them at the plantation.”
As they climbed down out of the tree house, Ella-Marie noticed Billy near the train station in town. She pointed it out to Michael. The two of them headed into the woods.
* * *
The other children all met in the woods not far from the plantation. Richard led them around the building to his hiding place where he could see the graves. Match was there, digging another. It looked like he was working on the fifth grave and was about three feet in. They didn’t see any sign of the shotgun.
Richard suggested sneaking into the house and getting the shotgun. Jebidiah suggested they could see if the coffin he brought out was empty but Richard pointed out he would be digging graves all day, most likely. He said once it was dark, Christopher would come by to say hello and bite all of them. Richard was adamant about trying to get the shotgun. Jebidiah asked if he even knew where it was, suggesting it might be in his room.
Eventually, Richard left them to sneak in.
* * *
Richard crept into the front door, seeing no one, and quietly crept up the stairs, avoiding the trapped step. He got up to the second floor and crept to Match’s room, where he found no shotgun. He crept back into the hallway and thought he heard a creaking noise in the room where they’d seen the horrible dead man a few days before. He went to one of the other bedrooms to hide and found there was no coffin there anymore. All was quiet.
He crept to the bedroom with the hanging man and pushed open the door. The body hung there once again, tongue black, face purple. The dead man’s eyes opened once again and it reached for Richard, its arms seeming to stretch across the room at him. Then it was gone. Somehow Richard managed to keep from screaming.
He went in the room and found it completely empty. He closed the door and headed up the steps to the third floor.
* * *
Billy broke the other pane and put his shirt back on. He crawled through the hole but the broken glass on the bottom shredded his shirt and cut his belly pretty badly. He looked around and found the door to the storage room locked. He fiddled with the lock but couldn’t figure out a way to get it open.
* * *
Michael suggested confronting Match. Jebidiah pointed out if they confronted him, he would just tell them they were trespassing.
“He still has to explain,” Ella-Marie said.
“No, he doesn’t,” Jebidiah said. “Because this is his place.”
“Maybe if we can intimidate him.”
“He did seem very intimidate-able, but I don’t know what we’re going to get out of him.”
“I don’t want to do anything if we’re not in agreement,” Ella-Marie said.
Jebidiah suggested he try to get to Match and talk to him, trying to distract him. Ella-Marie said they had to do something and Jebidiah was at a loss as to where to look besides the farm and the station. Teddy thought they needed to know if there was anything in the buried caskets. Jebidiah said he’d go up and try to distract the man, letting the others have some time to dig.
“That’s not gonna work,” Ella-Marie said.
“Let me - let me do it,” Teddy said. “He wouldn’t hurt a crippled kid.”
“You go down there?” Ella-Marie said.
“Yeah,” Teddy said. “Let me go talk to him.”
“All right,” Jebidiah said. “If you’re okay with this. We’ll have your back if he tries to do anything to you.”
“I also have a topic that can probably stall him for a while.”
Jebidiah asked if he was going to try to get him into the house or just talk to him. Teddy said he’d talk to him in the house.
* * *
Teddy rolled quietly towards Match who didn’t notice his approach. As Teddy got close to the edge of the hole Match was digging, he saw that Match was covered in sweat and dirt. He dug with his back to Teddy.
“One of them for me?” Teddy said.
Match screamed. He flung the shovel straight ahead and it slammed into the side of the hole and fell at his feet. He followed it, rushing forward and crashing into the dirt before turning and putting his back to the far side of the hole. He looked up at Teddy.
“You need to get outta here!” he said.
He scrambled up out of the hole.
“And why is that?” Teddy said.
Match looked around, terrified.
“Just go away!” he said. “Go away! Mr. … Mr. St. Jordan … he doesn’t like anybody around here, and … and … and he doesn’t like me when I let people around here.”
“You didn’t let me around here,” Teddy said. “I just rolled on up.”
“No. You need to get out of here. You need to get out of here before you end up in the ground like the rest of ‘em.”
“What if that’s what I want?”
“No, you don’t! You don’t want that. You don’t want it. It’s awful. It’s terrible. You-you-you don’t want that. You don’t want. It seems right. It seems good. But it’s not. It’s wrong.”
Teddy noticed the man had the bite marks on his neck but they were long scabbed over.
“You-you-you-you need to go,” Match said. “Where’s that other boy? Where’s that boy?”
“I’m alone,” Teddy said.
“That boy! That one! That mad boy? Where is he?”
Match looked around desperately and described Michael.
“I came out here because I saw what y’all did for Tommy and … I could be into that,” Teddy said.
“No!” Match said.
He came around the grave towards Teddy. He grabbed the boy by the shoulders.
“No!” he said again. “You don’t wanna be like him. Don’t be like - you don’t want - just go - just hide - don’t go in the house.”
“Look at my legs,” Teddy said.
“It doesn’t matter! No! No! No! No!”
“Don’t tell me my legs don’t matter!”
“No! They’re undead! They’re not even alive. They’re awful! It’s just terrible! It’s just terrible!”
“I could be a person.”
“You are a person!”
“Without sunlight? Without warmth?”
“I would count legs over sunlight.”
“Oh my God! Oh my God! He’s gonna hear you. He knows everything! He knows everything that’s happening! He knows who you all are and where you live!”
“Let me talk to him then!”
“No no no no no no!”
“What’d you say his name was? St. Jordan!”
“No no no no no! Don’t call him! Don’t call him!”
“Is he in the house?”
Teddy started rolling over the uneven soil towards the house, heading for the north courtyard. Match grabbed the wheelchair, stopping him.
“No no no no no!” he said. “You don’t … you don’t know what it’s like!”
Teddy flopped forward out of the wheelchair and continued crawling into the courtyard. Match seemed to want to grab the youth but didn’t want to touch him either.
“He’s not in there!” Match said. “He’s not in there. He’s not in there.”
He shushed the boy.
“No no!” he said as Teddy kept crawling towards the house. “Stop! Please! Please! Please!”
They were soon inside.
* * *
“Let’s go!” Jebidiah said.
He, Ella-Marie, and Michael ran across to the graves. Jebidiah suggested they go to the first one and, as Michael started digging. Jebidiah went to the new grave and found Match’s shovel there, bringing it back to the others and handing it off to Ella-Marie. She gave him Teddy’s shotgun. He held it carefully.
The other two dug as quickly as they could.
* * *
Inside, Match begged Teddy to leave, telling the boy he’d send St. Jordan to his house if he did so.
“I don’t want him coming to my house,” Teddy said. “I wanna be where he’s at.”
He refused to leave and Match seemed afraid to touch him. It was an impasse.
When Teddy thought he heard some kind of banging coming from outside, he raised his voice.
“St. Jordan!” he called. “St. Jordan!”
Match tried to quiet him.
* * *
They dug as quickly as they could and it wasn’t too terribly long, in the loose dirt, before they got down to the coffin. There were three hasps and staples upon it held closed with three padlocks. Michael climbed out and got the axe, which was on the ground next to the grave. He climbed back down and set to work chopping open the top of the coffin. It only took a few minutes, but the coffin, like the rest, proved empty.
“I say we go confront him now!” Ella-Marie said.
“Yep!” Michael said.
The two of them headed for the house, going right up onto the back porch and into the back door. Jebidiah headed for the courtyard where he thought Teddy had gone.
* * *
There was a crash as the back door of the house burst open.
“Oh finally,” Teddy said. “He’s shown up.”
Match wailed in terror.
Michael and Ella-Marie came into the foyer from the back while Jebidiah came from the north wing. When Match saw Michael, he screamed and ran away from them all, heading towards the south wing. All three of the children followed him, leaving Teddy behind.
Match ran through a corridor and out into the southern courtyard with Michael and Ella-Marie on his heels. Jebidiah had to stop after he passed through the courtyard at the edge of the house as he felt his lungs and his throat close up. He was having an asthma attack.
Match ran towards the graves, fleeing towards the newest one, and stooping in the tall grass there. He picked up the shotgun and pointed it at Michael. Michael flung the axe and Match fired. The blast went high, over Michael’s head. The axe struck Match in the right shoulder, cutting him and spinning up and over. The man shrieked in pain and terror.
* * *
Billy had fiddled with the lock for the room in the train station for a very long time, trying to get it open. Then he heard what sounded like a shotgun blast from out in the woods. Without a thought, he drew his daddy’s pistol and blasted the door jamb where the latch met it.
* * *
Match aimed the shotgun at Michael’s head, screaming at him to go away.
Near the house, Jebidiah, unable to breathe, fired Teddy’s shotgun. The blast struck Match in the right hand, blasting his hand away and striking him in the chest. He was flung backwards and crashed to the ground.
Jebidiah dropped the shotgun.
Ella-Marie ran to Match, who was gasping for breath on the ground. There was so much blood. She tried to stop the bleeding.
“Look, just help us!” she said. “Help us, please!”
Michael went to the dying man as well, grabbing him by the lapels of his jacket and screaming in his face.
“Where are they!?!”
Match didn’t even seem to see him.
Michael tried to help the man without luck. Ella-Marie was still trying to talk to him.
“Please!” she said. “Please. God! God, Mike! We just need to know what to do! Please, please just tell us what to do!”
Jebidiah stumbled over to the group and pushed Michael aside. Ella-Marie still begged the man to talk to them.
Gasping horribly, Jebidiah told the dying man he knew he didn’t want to be working for St. Jordan and now he had a chance to help. He said they knew how to destroy the vampires with stakes and crosses. Match’s eyes seemed to focus upon the boys own and he grabbed Jebidiah with his good arm and pulled himself up to whisper in the boy’s ear.
“Plantation a decoy,” he said. “St. Christopher in town. Ask … Tommy …”
The man breathed his last and loosened his grip, falling back to the ground in death. Jebidiah fell backwards and got his aerosol delivery device. He put the end in his mouth, dripped the medicine in, and pumped and pumped. He looked completely and utterly defeated. Ella-Marie put her arm on the boy’s shoulder.
“The plantation’s a damned decoy!” he finally said. “St. Jordan’s in town somewhere. He said to ask Tommy. I don’t know what the hell that means because he’s a vampire now. But, if we see him again …”
He realized he had murdered a man.
* * *
Billy put his shoulder to the door and shoved it open, the latch snapping to pieces. He found a trail leading through the dust and a few crates. Then he found a large object covered with a tarp. When he pulled the tarp off, he found a coffin with hasps and staples upon it held closed with three padlocks.
He was certain Tommy was there.
He left the train station, heading for the plantation where he thought the gunfire had come from.
* * *
Richard and Teddy came out of the back of the plantation. Jebidiah told them Match had gone crazy, probably because Michael came at him with an axe. Luckily he was about to get something out of him: the plantation was all a farce. There was nothing there. St. Jordan was in town somewhere. He said Match had told him to ask Tommy. He said they needed to look every place they hadn’t been town. He guessed they should search the train station.
“Who killed Match?” Teddy muttered when he saw the body. “Who killed him?”
“It’s sort of between me and Jebidiah,” Michael said. “Primarily Jebidiah.”
“You shot him, Jebidiah?” Teddy said, appalled.
“He did a good job!” Michael said smugly. “You did a good job.”
Jebidiah had put more medicine to his machine and pumped it into his lungs.
“He saved my life,” Michael added.
He found the wood axe, which was covered in blood. Richard got Match’s shotgun, also covered in blood. They also recovered Teddy’s shotgun. Jebidiah wanted to get to the train station and, if they couldn’t get in, find Tim Bowman and convince him to let them in because somebody got in there. They all headed back to town. Richard headed off towards the Tallapoosa River to clean off the shotgun. The rest of them ran into Billy on the way to town. His shirt was bloody.
“Billy, what happened?” Jebidiah said.
“I found Tommy!” Billy squealed. “I’m a vampire hunter!”
“Where?” Teddy said.
“He’s at the train station,” Billy said.
“That might be …” Jebidiah said. “Did you open the coffin?”
“The train station,” Ella-Marie said.
“No,” Billy said.
“That’s where we need to go,” Ella-Marie said.
“We think that might be St. Jordan!” Jebidiah said.
“I thought it was Tommy,” Billy said. “That’s the last place I’d … well, that’s not the last place I’d look for him ‘cause I went there.”
“But it’s someplace it’d be really hard for us to get!”
“Either way. The plantation is a decoy. There’s no reason to go back there. It’s just to fool us.”
“We got the axe? I came back to get the axe.”
“All right, let’s go,” Jebidiah said.
They all headed back to the train station.
“What’s all the blood?” Billy said to them.
“Match,” Michael said.
“You killed Match?” Billy squeaked.
“Jebidiah killed him,” Michael said.
“I’m a vampire hunter,” Billy squeaked to Michael. “You’re a murderer.”
“No, Jebidiah’s a murderer,” Michael said.
They reached the train station. The hole Billy had made was very, very small. Only Billy and Teddy could get through. Teddy put the blanket over the broken glass on the bottom of the window. Michael slid the axe in.
“Make sure you have stakes and crosses if you’re going in,” Jebidiah suggested.
Billy went in first and then helped Teddy into the building as well. Ella-Marie and Michael said they’d stand guard but Jebidiah pointed out they were wanted in town by their mother. They could hear Mrs. Slayton calling to the children somewhere. Jebidiah said he’d watch and try to stop anybody from coming around. He went around to the side of the station that faced the town and saw Mrs. Slayton. As she walked up, he realized he stunk of gunpowder. She didn’t seem to notice.
“Jebidiah!” she said. “Jebidiah!”
She wiped her eyes.
“Have you seen Michael and Ella-Marie,” she said. “I’m-I’m thinking I’ll have to call the sheriff. They’re gone. I think they ran away.”
* * *
On the other side of the building, Michael and Ella-Marie could hear every word between their mother and Jebidiah.
* * *
“Ella-Marie left me two notes,” Mrs. Slayton went on. “I don’t understand one of them at all. Have you seen either of them? You’re a good boy, Jebidiah.”
“Well, I might’ve seen them around town recently,” Jebidiah said. “Last night.”
“Where?” Mrs. Slayton said. “Where?”
She grabbed Jebidiah by the shoulders and looked into his eyes.
“Where were they?” she said. “Please. Just tell me where they were. When was this?”
“This was around last night,” Jebidiah said. “I think it was … I think …”
“Oh my goodness.”
“I think they went out near the ice house. I only saw it─”
Ella-Marie came around the side of the building.
“Oh!” Mrs. Slayton said. “Ella-Marie!”
“Oh God!” Jebidiah said, startled.
Mrs. Slayton went to the girl and grabbed her in a hug as she started crying.
“Mom, mom, I know─” Ella-Marie said.
“Don’t run away, Ella-Marie!” her mother cried out. “We were hard on you but we were just trying to teach you to be good!”
“I know, I know, I know!” Ella-Marie said. “I’m so sorry, ma! I left you a note. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
She took the two notes from her mother, who just held her and cried and cried and cried.
“Come home,” she said. “Come home. Please just come home. Where’s Michael? Where’s Michael? Please just tell me where Michael is, Ella-Marie.”
Michael walked around the corner and their mother called his name and pulled Ella-Marie towards the boy, embracing him as well.
Ella-Marie was engrossed in the second note. She had not written it. Jebidiah had also gotten close enough to surreptitiously read it as well. It read:
I came by to see you. You’re parents are relly mad at you. I could give you a hint about
hide and seek if you giv me food.
P.S. I kno whar Mr. SJ is too!
P.S.S. I got suck a gud hiding plac.
“It’s a miracle!” Jebidiah cried out.
* * *
Billy and Teddy could hear the whole scene taking place outside.
“What a bunch of crybabies,” Teddy whispered.
Billy carried Teddy to the freight room and showed him the coffin.
“Open it,” Teddy said.
Billy raised the axe up. Then he heard a train whistle in the distance and realized if he waited just a minute or so, he could use the sound of the train to muffle their breaking into the coffin.
* * *
“Where did you get this letter?” Ella-Marie asked her mother.
“It was in your room,” Mrs. Slayton said. “It was on the floor near the window.”
Mrs. Slayton cried and apologized and justified the punishment all at once as a train passed by the station.
“If you can talk with Tommy, he might be the only one who knows,” Jebidiah whispered to Ella-Marie.
“I know that!” she whispered back.
“Do you have anything to bargain with him?”
“I wouldn’t recommend that. That seems like a poor idea. If you have a farm animal … or something you don’t mind losing …”
* * *
Billy brought the axe down on the hasps and staples, tearing each free with a single blow.
“Billy’s the best!” he squeaked. “Billy’s the best!”
He flung the lid open to reveal another empty coffin.
Both boys looked down and the train went by. There was only a little dirt in the coffin.
* * *