Chapter 2.19 The Hungry Rat
Book Two — Gifts Both Light and Dark
NOTE: This chapter is available in audiobook format on the TLHOC Podcast.
Access previous chapters of the book on the Table of Contents page.
June 12, 3:06 pm
Justin followed, but at a distance—equally consumed by fury and fascination.
After leaving the cemetery, Richard and the strange ghost boy with bare feet walked east, out of the Avenues, and through the neighborhood with the million-dollar homes in Federal Heights. Several times Richard Pratt glanced back over his shoulder, and Justin had to dart behind a tree, or a parked car.
He knows now that I’m the one who killed him, Justin thought, his mind a dark whirlwind. I hope it’s eating at his guts like a hungry rat.
He had to fight against a desire to fling himself at Richard, in a futile attempt to finish the job he had begun. Only the knowledge that doing so would have no effect kept the impulse from gaining control. He wanted Richard to suffer, and more than anything, he wanted to see his mind snap and leave him mad and raving. But God wanted something from this horrible man, and he had tasked Justin with following him—and watching, and learning. So for now, that was what he would do.
The ghost boy looked familiar to Justin, but he couldn’t place where he had seen him before. Something about him seemed more than just a face he had seen around, haunting the Salt Lake Valley. And interestingly, although they walked side by side, Richard showed a definite deference to the boy, who would often gesture to indicate where he and Richard should turn, or keep going straight. And as they walked the boy talked, his hands moving to punctuate whatever story he was telling, or perhaps whatever lesson he was trying to impart. Richard watched the boy as they walked, or nodded, or just kept his head down, listening intently. Justin tried to get close enough to hear more, but the boy’s voice never got above a low buzz in his ears.
Eventually the pair emerged from Federal Heights and entered the University of Utah at the President’s circle. When they had walked halfway through the University campus, Richard suddenly slowed and stared at a blocky red building. Justin recognized it as the Languages and Communication building. It was here that he had spent most of that fateful summer with Richard, both in his classroom, and then later, as the class dwindled, in his private office. It was in that office that Richard first looked at him with eyes that desired more than a professor should want from his student. It was here that he first fell under Richard’s spell.
His hatred for the man flared anew, and he had to stop himself from walking right up to him and screaming.
It’s tempting, he thought, his fists clenched in fury. I might not be able to do anything to hurt him. But I could certainly give him a good scare. And the look of terror on his face would be satisfying.
He smiled at the prospect of seeing the bastard go white and stumble as Justin rushed at him, screaming like a banshee. The very idea of it made him dizzy, and he was about to give in to the temptation when, without warning, he saw the boy reach out a hand… and grasp Richard’s elbow!
He has the touch?! Justin screamed inside his mind, as envy and rage exploded within him. Richard has the Third Gift? No! That’s impossible!
In that moment, he hated the boy that walked with Richard Pratt, almost as much as he hated Richard himself. They were standing so close now, looking into each other’s eyes. He could imagine Richard reaching out and touching the boy’s face, drawing him even closer. A vision of the two of them together suddenly assaulted Justin’s mind, the details so clear that he had to turn away and claw at his temples, sinking down behind the corner of the red brick building. He imagined the boy’s face, turned up to Richard, as they drew together. He saw Richard’s hand, reaching down to a forbidden place, as his lips parted and he bent down over the shorter boy. And then the entire vision crashed into him in horrifying detail, as he imagined Richard using the boy the way he had used him.
He hated Richard. And he had no pity for the boy.
Fuck you, and fuck everybody that loves you. Ever again.
The words felt familiar, like an old wound reopened, seeping bile and corruption.
When he glanced back around the edge of the building, the two ghosts were already walking away. Something about the contours of the building, and the quiet moment on campus, allowed their voices to drift to him, and he caught several phrases before they were too far away for him to hear.
“Mattie danced in front of me, with her dress in her hands…” the ghost boy was saying.
Yet more rage flared in Justin.
How would this ghost boy know of my mistress?
The Last Handful of Clover is a supernatural thriller by Wess Mongo Jolley. Thanks for reading! If you are enjoying this story, please consider supporting the author on Patreon.
For more information (including maps of the story’s world and a contact form) visit the author’s website.
To read previous chapters of this book, go to the Table of Contents page.
If you’re interested in listening to the book, rather than reading it, the audiobook is available at the Patreon link above, and also as a podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Anchor, and all other podcast platforms. Visit the podcast page for more details.
Copyright 2021, Wess Mongo Jolley. All rights reserved.