What Rough Beast ... Session Three Part 2 - Billy's the Best
CoC 7e Jazz Age
* * *
By noon, Richard saw Match had dug a hole in the ground at least six or so feet deep. The man went into the house and dragged a coffin out. He manhandled it into the hole as carefully as he could, filled the hole in with newly turned soil. Then he got to work on a second hole.
* * *
Ella-Marie remembered Tommy telling her the night before that the others would never find him and he had the perfect hiding place. She told Michael about it.
“Where would Tommy be hiding?” Michael asked.
“If it was the most obvious place, it would be somewhere around our tree house,” Ella-Marie said.
“He also might be hiding at the train station?”
“Train station? But we’ve been all around there.”
“But not inside.”
“I guess it’s worth a shot.”
They went to the train station and Michael broke a window on one of the doors facing the tracks.
“Hey!” someone yelled. “What are you kids doing!?!”
Tim Bowman, the village mailman and postmaster was walking down the road and turned to stomp over to the two children.
“What are you two children doing!?!” he said again. “What the hell!?!”
He cuffed Michael in the head.
“This is against the law!” Bowman said. “This is not public property! Get outta here!”
“We were just … we were just doing an investigation, okay?” Ella-Marie said.
“Look, I don’t care what games you’re playing! You can’t just break into buildings just because you want to. What is wrong with you children!?!”
“Well, no one was here! It’s not like anyone lives here. We were just─”
“All right. Come with me. You come with me too.”
He grabbed Michael by the arm and took led Ella-Marie back to their house. There was no answer at the knock and nobody was home. Ella-Marie remembered her mother saying she was going to walk to Fruithurst that day to do something at the school where she taught.
“All right,” Bowman said. “You’re with me today. Until your parents get home.”
He led them to the post office where his horse and mail buggy were waiting. He put the children in the back of the buggy and told them not to touch any of the mail. He took the children on his route delivering mail.
Michael whispered to Ella-Marie, trying to convince her to make a run for it. However, Tim Bowman knew both them and their parents and she realized that would land them in even more trouble. Ella-Marie told him they were not going to do that: Michael’s first idea had been terrible too. She glared at him and punched him hard in the shoulder.
* * *
Billy returned to Old Sanguis and used the pick and mallet in the room where Vanzant had been living. He pried up several of the boards and found Vanzant lying on the dirt under the floor. He let out a shriek, leaping back. When he moved over to peer at the man again, the body was unmoving.
He took out his crucifix and shoved it into his belt. Then he took out an ash stake and picked up the mallet, putting the stake onto Vanzant’s chest. The first blow of the mallet sent the stake deep into the man’s chest. Vanzant’s eyes flew open and the corpse opened its mouth in a silent scream. Vanzant flinched and twitched, his arms and legs flailing. Billy could hear the man’s feet kicking up against the floor directly underneath him. Bright red blood welled up from the wound. He struck two more blows on the stake with the mallet. A terrible smelling black liquid oozed out of the terrible wound and the corpse finally lay still.
Billy wondered if he should put more stakes into it. He pulled out the old, rusty knife he’d found at Bennett Farm and looked at it. He didn’t relish using the knife to try to decapitate the corpse. He finally put the boards back and the blankets back over them. He searched the house for nails but found none. There were plenty of shards of wood, though, so he collected them. He wedged them into the door, using the mallet, to seal it. Then he crept out of the house through one of the back windows.
* * *
Richard watched Match dig another hole and put another coffin into it with some trouble. Then the man started on a third. He thought, at the rate the man was doing the work, he might get as far as a fourth coffin before nightfall. Or not. He wasn’t sure.
* * *
Early that afternoon, Billy returned with the mallet and ice pick he’d borrowed before. He explained to the Jebidiah and Teddy he had found and staked the vampire Vanzant.
“How?” Teddy said. “How did you …?”
“I took the stake,” Billy squeaked. “He was under the floorboards. I guessed right. Billy’s the best! I staked him. I killed him. There was blood everywhere. He’s not moving any more though. Black blood came out afterwards. After the red blood.”
“Are you okay mentally?”
“Billy’s the best!”
“After having done what you’ve done?”
“Can I stay at one of y’all’s house tonight? Preferably Jebidiah’s.”
“I’m sure we have a guest room,” Jebidiah said.
He left them there, returning to town. The garlic he’d ordered in the mail had not yet come and his grandfather had some chores for him, keeping him busy for the rest of the afternoon. He slipped away long enough to look for Michael in hopes of retrieving the axe but no one was home at Slayton’s.
* * *
Teddy and Jebidiah heard the clip clop of Wilbur Mayo’s horse around dinnertime. They saw the ice wagon coming up the path towards the ice house. Wilbur Mayo sat in the front, head down, hat pulled low over his eyes.
“Check him with your mirror while he’s on the road,” Jebidiah said.
“I … um …” Teddy said.
Wilbur wore white coveralls and a white, floppy hat, the brim of which had several cigarettes stuck into it. He usually had a cigarette in his mouth but not today. That seemed odd.
“Why don’t you hide just in case this goes wrong,” Teddy said. “So he doesn’t know there’s two of us here.”
“And you just alone in a wheelchair?”
“Why don’t I hide you?”
“Because if you’re caught, I can’t save you. But if I’m caught, you might can save me.”
“You’re just alone in the middle of the road in a wheelchair that you’ve wheeled up here?”
“To get ice!”
“To get ice. Perfect plan, Teddy.”
Jebidiah found a hiding place in the nearby trees. Mayo drove his ice wagon up the path, passing Teddy without even seeming to notice the boy. He drove his wagon to the stables and then stumbled out. He went to the horse and started to slowly unhook it from its straps. Teddy rolled over to Mayo and then rolled by him like he didn’t notice Mayo. Mayo didn’t even look at him.
“Oh, hi Wilbur,” Teddy finally said.
Mayo finally noticed the boy.
“Hello, Teddy,” he muttered. “How you doing?”
“Better than you, it seems,” Teddy said. “And I’m in a wheelchair.”
Mayo was pale and Teddy noticed his hands shook as he took the harness off the horse.
“I’m under the weather,” Mayo muttered.
“We’re all under the weather this day,” Teddy said. “What’s wrong with you, sir?”
“I just got a cold.”
“Cold? Working in an ice house?”
“Of course it does.”
Teddy noticed two marks on the man’s neck.
“Do you get a lot of bugs in the ice house, sir?” he said.
“Not usually,” Mayo said.
He led his horse over to the stables.
“Well, it looks to me like some might have gotten to you on the neck, there,” Teddy said.
“Yeah,” Mayo said, rubbing his neck.
“Have they bitten you … multiple times?”
“What? There’s a couple. I got a couple on my neck.”
Mayo poured grain into a bin for his horse and checked the animal’s water.
“Have you invited anyone into your home?” Teddy said. “Sold anyone ice recently that is … new to the area?”
“No,” Mayo said. “I’ve just been making my deliveries.”
“Where have you been making deliveries? Anywhere new?”
“No. Same old places Teddy. What are you doing way out here?”
“I came to get ice, of course. Why else would I be here?”
“Well, I’m delivering on Tuesday. Y’all can’t wait?”
“I cannot wait for this ice, sir.”
“Wait. Are you taking it yourself?”
“Yes sir. Ice don’t freeze my legs. I can’t feel ‘em.”
“Did your daddy tell you that?”
“He is a harsh, harsh man.”
Mayo shook his head and headed over to the ice house door. Teddy followed him, giving Jebidiah a thumbs up as he entered the cold building. Mayo wiped the sawdust from some of the ice nearest the door. He took a blanket and put it in Teddy’s lap, put a cake of ice on top of it, and put another blanket on top of that.
“Just bring them blankets back or I can pick ‘em up Tuesday,” Mayo muttered. “If y’want, you can just leave ‘em on your front porch. C’mon. It’s cold in here.”
“Sir, before I leave, can I caution you while we’re in this ice house?” Teddy said.
“What? I’m always careful. These are stacked the way they’re supposed to be stacked. They won’t fall.”
“What if I was to tell you that the bites on your neck are not from bugs, but something far more dangerous?”
“Like … a raccoon?”
“Like bigger than a raccoon.”
Mayo looked confused.
“These are bug bites, Teddy,” he finally said.
“Do you lock your doors at night?” Teddy asked.
“Does anybody lock their doors at night?”
“I would if I was bit by ‘bugs’ twice.”
“What is locking your door gonna do against bugs?”
“They’re not bugs, sir. But they are something that cannot come in your house unless you let them. And you do not want to get bit again. So please, do not get bit again.”
“All right, Teddy. All right. C’mon. Let’s go.”
“Lock your doors.”
Mayo closed the ice house door and then stumbled over to the lean-to and went in. Teddy rolled over to where Jebidiah hid.
“I must say, Teddy, the ice house was cold but … not as cold as the cold shoulders I saw just now,” Jebidiah said.
“Jebidiah, I think he’s a goner,” Teddy said.
“He didn’t seem very composed.”
“I warned him in the ice house but I don’t think he’s gonna lock his doors. He’s gonna get bit again tonight.”
“Or he’s already bit three times and he’s … good as dead as a doorknob.”
“At least I got this ice.”
“Yeah, what do you want to do with that ice?”
“I dunno. Take it home, I guess.”
“Let’s get it home.”
* * *
Richard saw Match starting to dig a fourth hole before he headed home for supper. He didn’t think Match could finish digging the fourth hole until after dark.
* * *
Michael and Ella-Marie were presented to their mother by Tim Bowman that evening.
“They were trying to break into the train station for some reason, even though they know they’re not supposed to be in there,” Bowman said. “I’ll let you handle it.”
Mrs. Slayton was shocked and ordered both children to their rooms, telling them their father would deal with them when he got home.
Billy had been looking for Michael and overheard the conversation. He snuck to Ella-Marie’s window, which stood wide open. Ella-Marie sat at her desk, writing furiously in her journal.
“Cock-a-Doo!” Billy squeaked.
“Billy, I know it’s you,” she said. “You don’t have to do that stupid bird noise.”
“I staked Vanzant.”
“Billy’s the best.”
Billy left her window, walking over to Michael’s. Ella-Marie ran to the window and leaned out.
“Billy!” she said.
Billy found Michael in his room, doing sit ups.
“Cock-a-Doo!” Billy squeaked.
“What the hell?” Michael said.
He went to the window.
“I staked Vanzant,” Billy squeaked.
“Good job,” was all Michael said.
“I couldn’t decapitate him, though,” Billy squeaked. “All I had was the knife. I didn’t really want to do that.”
One of his eyes twitched.
“Axe is in the shed,” Michael said.
“We could do it tomorrow,” Billy squeaked.
“Good point,” Michael said.
“What’re y’all plannin’ without me!?!” Ella-Marie said to them. “I’m right here!”
She leaned out her window. Billy walked back over to the girl.
“We’re gonna decapitate Vanzant tomorrow,” Billy squeaked. “If he’s still there.”
“Okay, but don’t not include me!” Ella-Marie said.
“No, I know. I just wanted to tell you both. Now I’m gonna go to Jebidiah’s.”
Ella-Marie stomped back over to her desk and wrote furiously in her journal about men.
* * *
Billy stopped at his house and told his grandfather he was going to spend the night at Jebidiah’s. The old man was fine with that and told Billy he was glad the boy was making friends. He patted him on the shoulder.
“Are you having dinner over there too?” his grandfather asked.
“Yeah,” Billy squeaked.
“All right,” the old man said. “You have a good dinner.”
He went to the kitchen and got out the peanut butter and bread for himself.
* * *
When Mr. Slayton got home, Ella-Marie and Michael got a talking-to. They were told they would equally pay for the damage done to the train station.
“Equal,” Ella-Marie said.
“Were you there?” her father asked.
“Yes!” she said angrily.
“Or was it just Michael that did it?” their father asked.
“I was the one that broke the window,” Michael said.
“But your sister was there with you?”
“She-she tagged along but it wasn’t her idea.”
“I don’t care whose idea it was. She shoulda said something to you. She got much more sense than you do.”
“Uh-huh. Don’t be lying to me, Michael. I’ll give you the back of my hand.”
“She tried to tell me not to. I’m being honest.”
“Is that true, Ella-Marie?”
Ella-Marie didn’t say anything.
“Is that true, Ella-Marie?” her father said again. “Answer me.”
“I went along with it,” she said.
“We’ll take it outta both of y’all’s money,” her father said. “Once we find out how much it costs. I am so disappointed in you children. Go to your rooms. You can spend the next week not playing with your friends.”
The two walked back to your rooms.
“Well, that’s not gonna work, is it?” Ella-Marie said to Michael.
“No,” Michael said. “No, it ain’t.”
“Do I hear talking back there?” their father called. “Go to your rooms!”
“That’s not gonna work, is it?” Ella-Marie whispered to Michael across the hall once they go to their rooms. “There’s more important things at stake here than their disappointment.”
“I know,” Michael whispered back. “It’s the entire town.”
“We need to finish this. We’re the only ones who know about this.”
“Except for Doc and he’s out of town.”
“I’m worried about Doc. Jesus. We need to make a plan.”
She put several pillows and clothing under the blankets to make mounds to look like her. She left the window open and the lights off. She also left a note under the sheets but on top of the pillows. It read:
Dear Mom and Dad,
There is something awful about to happen in this town. I’m sorry to leave, but we need to stop
an unholy terror. You can’t possibly understand. I just hope you know I am trying to do the
right thing to save the town and my family.
Michael had also put things under his sheets to mock his being there as well. The two of them snuck out.
* * *
Billy, Jebidiah, Teddy, and Richard gathered together at the crossroads on the south side of town. Teddy carried something wrapped in a blanket that was long and thin. They noticed Tim Bowman nailing a board over the broken window at the train station.
“So, I spent all day watching old Match,” Richard said.
“He was digging holes, right?” Billy squeaked.
“He dug holes.”
“Put the coffins in there, right?”
“Yeah. He was working on a fourth when I left.”
“Billy knows. Billy knows. I staked a vampire.”
“Billy, it seems, has done away with Mr. Vanzant,” Jebidiah said.
“What?” Richard said.
“As far as we know,” Billy said.
“He has staked him,” Jebidiah said.
“How?” Richard said.
“Well, he said he found him in the house that he lived in before and just did it,” Jebidiah said.
“Ripped up the floorboard and there he was!” Billy said. “I didn’t wanna wait, so I just staked him.”
“Honestly, Billy’s willingness to murder a dead man scares me a little bit,” Jebidiah said.
“I would tend to agree,” Richard said.
“At the same time, it emboldens me.”
“I will admit, that is a good thing.”
“Also, Teddy and I have reason to believe that Mr. Mayo, the one who works at the ice house is either about to be, or is on his way to becoming …”
“Well, that would make sense because we know of three and he was digging a fourth hole. But, it didn’t look like he was going to get finished today. So, if Mayo dies tonight, they can put him in the hole tomorrow.”
“We could do a stake-out!” Billy squeaked,.
“Does that mean we need to watch out for Mayo?” Jebidiah said. “It might not be safe with the vampires there, but if we have crosses, we might be able to save him.”
“There’s only two vampires now, too,” Billy squeaked. “So, we need to save him.”
“We should group up with Mike and Ella-Marie and see what they’ve found,” Jebidiah said. “See if Jill’s okay.”
“I think we should keep an eye on Mayo tonight,” Richard said. “And be ready to act if we need to.”
“That’s a good plan but, before we finalize it, make sure we have all the information,” Jebidiah said.
They headed for Slayton’s house and found the other two sneaking out of their windows and creeping away from their house.
“Have you entered a life of crime?” Jebidiah whispered.
Ella-Marie shushed him.
They all headed for the tree house, Michael going to the shed to grab the axe on the way. He saw that their bicycles were locked up with a chain in there.
They went to the tree house and they all shared everything they had learned.
“We need to check on Mayo,” Michael said.
“On the way, two of us could go decapitate Vanzant,” Billy suggested.
“I mean, if nothing much else is happening tonight, you two might want to stay home to make sure you don’t get into even more trouble,” Jebidiah said to Michael and Ella-Marie.
“I’m not backing out of this now,” Ella-Marie said.
They discussed what had to be done to destroy the body and remembered they had read a vampire could be staked, decapitated, its mouth filled with garlic, and then the corpse burned. Jebidiah pointed out it was not clear if all of them needed to be done or just some of them.
“Do we wanna stop at stake, or do we wanna go all out?” Billy squeaked.
“Just do it anyway,” Ella-Marie said. “Just make sure.”
“This’ll be our only piece of garlic though,” Billy squeaked.
“If we only have one piece of garlic, it’s not going to be an efficient solution to all of these problems,” Jebidiah said.
“We just want to leave garlic out and do chop off head and burn?” Billy squeaked.
“If you want to just to be safe,” Jebidiah said. “Because it’s going to be night.”
“I know,” Billy said.
“If you want to, that’s okay with me, but … I don’t … I don’t really think I’m going to be helpful there. I, personally, think that watching Mayo is more important than … double-tapping.”
“Right, so three of us watch Mayo and three of us do that.”
“So who’s going to be where?” Ella-Marie said.
“I volunteer to go with Billy,” Richard said.
“Same here,” Michael said.
“You’re going with Billy,” Ella-Marie said. “You’re going with Billy.”
“I’m going to Mayo,” Jebidiah said. “And Ella-Marie, does that mean you’re with us, with Mayo? That would split it evenly.”
She looked over all of them.
“We’re good company,” Jebidiah said. “I promise. We’re good at conversation.”
“I feel like I finally have the adrenalin,” Teddy said.
He looked down at his bundle.
“This may be my last night,” he said.
He knew if his father caught him with the shotgun, he might very well beat him to death.
“Jesus, Teddy, what do you mean?” Jebidiah said. “Think about Isaac Newton.”
Teddy flipped the blanket up just enough for Jebidiah to see the shotgun. The other boy let out a cry.
“Teddy, do you have a death wish?” Jebidiah said. “Teddy!”
“All right, I’m a bit concerned about y’all two, so …” Ella-Marie said.
“I’ve never held it before,” Teddy said.
“I’m staying with y’all,” Ella-Marie said to the two.
She had seen the shotgun too.
* * *
Billy, Michael, and Richard rode up to Old Sanguis as the sun stood low in the western sky. Billy checked the door of the house and found it still jammed shut. He led the other two around the back and through the window. He pulled up the floorboards to reveal the corpse of Morris Vanzant. Billy told them he was going to remove some more floorboards and Michael went to the body to pull it up but Billy stopped him.
“No!” he squeaked. “Staked! Leave it! We’ll get the boards around him.”
They took a half hour to remove enough boards for someone to stand on the ground under the house and use the axe.
“I’ll do the deed,” Billy squeaked.
Michael handed over the axe. Richard turned away, looking out of the window and keeping watch. Michael turned away as well.
Billy brought the axe down, hacking at Vanzant’s neck but not cutting it cleanly. He thought, just for a moment, that Morris Vanzant’s eyes opened to stare at him for a second after the blow. It took two more blows, blood spewing all over as he hacked away at the dead man, before Vanzant’s head came off. Black and red blood oozed out of the neck.
Billy retrieved the clay jug and emptied the corn whiskey inside onto the dirt. Then he wiped the top of the jug on the blood that oozed out of the corpse’s neck. He corked the jug again.
He picked up the head and put it where he’d dumped the moonshine. He lit the remains of the moonshine on fire. What little was left caught on fire and the stench of burnt meat and hair assailed all of them. Black smoke filled the room as Billy pulled out the crucifix and said some prayer he’d read in the Bible. They all fled.
Michael got his axe back. The head was covered with blood, as was Billy. Billy stripped down to his underwear and threw his clothing into the river. Michael cleaned off the head of the axe.
The three went back to the ice house on two bicycles.
“Billy, would you mind getting a change of clothes?” Jebidiah said.
“Billy!” Ella-Marie said. “What on earth happened?”
“Is there time?” Billy squeaked.
“There better be!” Jebidiah said.
Billy biked back to town and got a change of clothing. The sun was near the horizon by then.
A flickering lantern light came from the lean-to. Billy crept towards the door.
“Billy! No!” Teddy hissed at him.
“I wanna see if it’s locked!” Billy whispered back.
“It’s probably not locked,” Teddy hissed. “I don’t think he locks it.”
“I wanna know.”
“What if you give us away? What’s your cover?”
“I’m Billy! I’m the best!”
“I’m here to get ice. My gramps heard that you gave Teddy ice. He wants his ice too.”
He crept to the lean-to and tried the handle, finding the door not locked, as far as he could tell. Then he returned to the others. Ella-Marie got a blanket from Teddy and put it on Michael. He didn’t seem to want it.
Teddy pulled the blanket off the shotgun.
“Theo,” Richard said. “Can I take the gun?”
“What?” Teddy said.
“I know how to use it.”
“It’s my daddy’s gun.”
“Do you know how to use it?”
About an hour after dark, they heard a man’s voice call from far far away: “Michael! Ella-Marie! Get your butt’s home!” The calling went on for five or ten minutes.
“Perhaps you shouldn’t be here with us,” Richard said.
“It’s a little too late for that, Richard!” Jebidiah said.
“You’re in trouble either way,” Teddy said. “Just pretend you didn’t hear it. You’re in trouble when you go home, regardless.”
“That’s true,” Ella-Marie said.
“Gaslight them!” Jebidiah said. “Make them think they’re crazy. Tell them you were there the whole night.”
They ended up not going home.
Teddy was the only one who fell asleep, napping in his wheelchair. While he slept, Richard took the shotgun.
* * *