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The Harlotville Horror - Part 5 - Escape



He looked around and saw Miss Rice approaching.


“How about you make yourself useful and go get a lantern?†Dr. Silverberg said to the woman.


“You could also make us dinner,†Dr. Chambers quipped. “We are going to be working really late.â€


“If you would be so kind,†Dr. Silverberg said.


“And make us dinner,†Chambers repeated.


“No, she’s got to go with us,†Dr. Silverberg said. “Somebody’s got to hold the lantern while we’re shooting at whatever.â€


“I sure as Hell am not going!†Dr. Fry muttered.


“Enough talk!†Gutierrez said. “I’m going in!â€


He walked up onto the porch. Dr. Silverberg called to him to wait until they got a lantern. Dr. Fry turned and walked back to the camp.


“Well, I never!†Miss Rice said.


She turned and walked back to camp as well. Gutierrez and Dr. Chambers smoked cigarettes. Stanford still stood in the middle of the crossroad. Just then they heard that same strange whistling coming from somewhere inside the house. Dr. Silverberg tensed up.


“That’s what I heard before!†he said.


Gutierrez swayed on his feet. It felt like some terrible pressure was coming down on his head and he felt like he was going to fall asleep right there on the porch. It passed after a few moments and the whistling stopped.


“You okay, José?†Dr. Chambers asked.


“No!†Gutierrez replied. “Something’s wrong!â€


He touched his head.


“I don’t like that!†he said. “Somebody get a lantern!â€


He looked down the street and saw Miss Rice returning with a lantern.


“Would you hurry up with that lantern, woman!†Gutierrez said.


Miss Rice shoved it into Dr. Silverberg’s hands. They quickly lit the lantern.


“Why did you even bring this woman along?†Dr. Chambers asked.


“So she can grab stuff for us,†Stanford said.


Gutierrez led them into the building, followed by Dr. Chambers and Dr. Silverberg. Miss Rice came after them. Stanford hesitated on the porch and didn’t enter the building. He just looked in from outside.


As the four walked deeper into the house, the light from the lantern seemed to get dimmer and dimmer. Though the flame was not lower, the light that it gave off seemed muted and quenched. Almost as if the light itself were being eaten by something. They stopped and looked at it but it continued to get darker.


Dr. Silverberg ran back to the parlor and started opening the shutters there.


The others stood in the gathering gloom and, in moments, couldn’t even see any light. Dr. Chambers took out a match and lit it. He heard the match flare and smelled the sulfur, but there was absolutely no light where the three stood in the hallway. They could hear Dr. Silverberg shoving open shutters, but there was still no light.


Something suddenly struck Gutierrez in the gut. It felt like a blade cut directly into him.


“Madre de Dios!†he cried.


The others heard Gutierrez cry out and then heard something that sounded like a body strike the floor.


“José?†Dr. Chambers said.


The whistling and piping noises suddenly came from directly in front of him, perhaps only a few feet away. He flung his matchbox in the direction of the deranged sound in the dark. Then he found what felt like a pressure in his head and redness appeared around the edges of his vision. It completely filled his sight and then he knew no more.


“I told you there was no gas!†Stanford called from the doorway.


Miss Rice heard Dr. Chambers walking away from her. She started to back up and, as she did so, the light from the lantern appeared again. It was very dim at first, but the further back she walked, the brighter the light became.


“José?†she said. “José?â€


“What happened to José?†Dr. Silverberg asked, having finished opening up the shutters in the parlor.


Miss Rice had backed out of an area of terrible darkness, her eyes wide.


“Where’s José?†he asked again.


“I don’t know,†Miss Rice said. “I just heard him say ‘Madre de Dios’ and he fell.â€


“What does that mean?â€


“I don’t know.â€


They heard what sounded like a blade striking meat from the darkness. Dr. Silverberg rushed forward, feeling around on the floor in the unnatural blackness. He heard another noise like someone tenderizing meat. Then his hand landed on a foot. He grabbed it with both hands and pulled Gutierrez back to the foyer. The unconscious foreman left a trail of blood behind him. They heard another fleshy noise, as if someone was hacking at meat.


Dr. Silverberg rolled Gutierrez over and saw that he had a terrible wound in his belly. It was about five inches long and looked very deep, blood welling up from it as the man rolled onto his back. He could smell a whiff of bowel as well. He picked the man up in his arms and then turned to Miss Rice. The door was inexplicably closed.


“Get the door!†he said. “Let’s go.â€


“Wait!†Miss Rice said. “Where’s−â€


“I don’t know! I know we can save José. I don’t know what happened to him!â€


“You go in and save José, but you won’t go in and save him?â€


Just then Dr. Chambers walked out of the darkness of the hallway. He had a bloody hatchet in his right hand and his skull had been split open right at the top and blood oozed out. His left hand hung limp and they could see that it had terrible cuts on the wrist, near the elbow, and a terrible gash on his neck.


“There he is!†Dr. Silverberg screamed. “Let’s go!â€


Miss Rice started to laugh hysterically. Dr. Silverberg stared at her, eyes agog.


“What is wrong with you!?!†he said.


He turned to the door and tried to get the handle to turn while not dropping Gutierrez. He looked desperately over his shoulder, gibbering.


“Woman, get us out of here!†he screamed.


Miss Rice, still laughing hysterically, picked up the pipe that Dr. Silverberg had been carrying around as a makeshift weapon. She swung the pipe at Chambers, hitting the man on the left hip. There was an audible snap and Dr. Chambers shuffled forward, limping slightly, and swung the hatchet at Miss Rice but missed completely.


Dr. Silverberg finally got a hold of the doorknob with his right hand, but the blood all over his hand made it too slick to open.


Miss Rice, laughing like a madwoman, took a better grip on the pipe and this time brought it down on the man’s right hip. There was another terrible snap and Chambers stumbled and fell to the ground. He looked up, hatchet still in hand, and started crawling towards the woman. He hacked at her legs but she deftly stepped aside.


Dr. Silverberg finally got the knob to turn and ran out of the door, banging Gutierrez’s head against the doorjamb as he fled. He saw no sign of Stanford in the street.


“Rice! Let’s go!†he screamed.


Miss Rice brought the bar down on the man again, still laughing madly. The hatchet completely missed her once again and she laughed in triumph. She brought the bar down on the impossibly moving man again and again and then the thing connected with her leg with the hatchet. The blade slid down her leg, cutting into it just below the knee and removing all of the flesh down to the ankle and one side.


Her laughter turned to a scream and everything went black for her.


* * *


Silverberg started shouting as he ran from that terrible house.


“Guys!†he cried. “It’s me! Silverberg! José got really hurt!â€


Then he heard Rice’s maniacal laughter rise to a terrible scream mixed with laughter before it rose in a scream again and faded away.


He redoubled his efforts to get back to camp.


* * *


Stanford had turned and left the terrible house as soon as he made the snide remark about there being no gasoline. He had seen the terrible gloom that had filled the hallway and had had enough of it. He ran back to camp and told Dr. Fry that they needed to leave.


“Okay,†Dr. Fry said. “Let’s just run.â€


“We need to pack backpacks of food and water,†Stanford said.


Dr. Fry nodded and they got to work.


They heard screaming in the distance, approaching. They saw Dr. Silverberg running down the street with a bloody Gutierrez in his arms.


“José’s hurt bad!†he screamed.


Then Stanford heard Miss Rice’s terrible scream coming from the town.


Dr. Fry ran, grabbing a gallon jug of water and heading west into the desert. Stanford continued to quickly pack up his bag. Dr. Silverberg put Gutierrez down by the fire and Stanford told him that Angel could watch the man. Dr. Silverberg got the medical kit and bandaged Gutierrez’s wounds as well as he could. Stanford looked back towards the town, watching for anyone else approaching.


Gutierrez came around when Dr. Silverberg used some smelling salts. The historian told them that they had to go and the man got to his feet.


“Hey, José, carry this!†Stanford said, shoving one of the backpacks into the injured man’s hands.


Dr. Silverberg took it from the man and put it on his own back. Then he helped Gazolas to his feet.


“Angel, we’re trying to get out of Dodge,†Dr. Silverberg said to the confused man.


He put the man’s arm around his shoulder.


Stanford packed another backpack with food and water and they headed into the desert. At first, they followed Dr. Fry in the distance, but the two injured men soon caused them to lag behind and, within an hour, they had lost sight of him. They soon realized that they were lost in the desert as well.


* * *


Stanford, Dr. Silverberg, Gazolas, and Gutierrez wandered through the terribly hot desert until nightfall.


“Father?†Gutierrez said at one point.


“Stay with me, José!†Dr. Silverberg said. “Stay with me!â€


Gutierrez was not doing well and could not walk any further. Dr. Silverberg changed his bloody dressing several times during the day but the wound was terribly deep. He was afraid that the man’s bowels or stomach has been cut.


“Look, I know you’re the boss man, but if you want him to survive, you’ve got to help me,†Dr. Silverberg said to Stanford.


The vice president thought about that, looking at the semi-conscious Gutierrez.


“Somebody give me a cigarette,†Gutierrez murmured. “Please.â€


“You’ve got to help me start helping these guys,†Dr. Silverberg said. “Please.â€


“I can’t help him and carry the food,†Stanford said.


“You can’t put the backpack on and sling his arm over your shoulder?â€


Stanford just shook his head. He was a weak man and he knew it. Dr. Silverberg cursed.


They discussed spending the night in the desert or trying to keep going.


“I’m so tired,†Gutierrez said.


“We should probably … keep going,†Stanford said carefully.


Stanford handed off his backpack to Gazolas and then helped Gutierrez as best he could.


By daybreak, they spotted the mountains, the sun rising over the desert behind them. Gutierrez fell to the ground and lay there. They found he was not dead, but had passed out, probably from shock and blood loss. They realized that he had to get to a hospital as soon as possible.


* * *


Dr. Fry wandered through the desert in the night. He was confused when he saw the sun rising behind him and then spotted the buildings in the distance. He recognized Harlotville. He had walked in a great circle and come back to the accursed place. He fell to his knees.


“Noooo!†he cried to the empty sky, shaking his fists in frustration.


In the distance, the buzzards flew up and circled.


* * *


Dr. Silverberg dropped the backpack he’d been carrying full of food and water.


“You can carry them!†he said to Stanford.


Dr. Silverberg carefully picked up Gutierrez and told Stanford to dump the extra backpack. Gazolas followed them as they climbed into the mountains, Stanford trying to help the worker as much as he could. It was another couple of hours before they reached Datil, N.M. They used the telephone at the general store there to call the State Police and get help.


A hearse showed up to take Gutierrez to the nearest hospital, which was in Socorro, some 50 miles away.


Stanford told the State Police that there were several people lost in the desert on the Plains of San Augustine, including Dr. Thomas Fry. He also noted that there was a crazy man in a ghost town out there as well.


“There’s a bunch of Mexicans lost in the desert too,†he said.


* * *


Dr. Fry had given up. He wandered back to the camp, drank his fill of water, ate some food, and then went into one of the tents and waited to die. He was surprised, sometime before dark, when he heard the roar of an engine. He left the tent and spotted an aircraft flying overhead. He tore some of the canvas off Stanford’s ruined tent and waved it until the biplane circled several times. It fired off a flare and then headed to the north. Within an hour, a ruggedly build police car drove up to the camp.


“Dr. Fry?†one of the police officers within said.


“Yes! That’s me!†the man said.


“Mr. Stanford said you were out here,†the policeman said. He noticed the body. “Oh my God!â€


“Oh my God, they made it!?!†Dr. Fry said.


“We’re still looking for some of your other workers,†the other policeman said.


They covered up Fernandez’s body a little better, using rocks on the canvas, and then drove Dr. Fry back to civilization.


Two of the workers were also located by the manhunt: Andrew Lefkovits and Diego Rios. Michael Juarez and Joséph Aceves were never found.


* * *


They told the police that their camp was attacked by a crazy man who had killed one of their workers and terrorized them.


“We think he’s black,†Stanford told them.


Police investigated the town and the ruined camp. They recovered the body of José Fernandez and the Dr. Silverberg’s photographic equipment. The bodies of Dr. Chambers and Miss Rice were not found.


* * *


Gutierrez actually survived his ordeal and made a full recovery after surgery.


Stanford lost his job the next year when Standard Oil took over the Midwest Refining Company.