The Last Handful of Clover

Chapter 2.26: Gray Steel

Book Two — Gifts Both Light and Dark

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June 13, 10:46 am

What Richard and Billy did not see, as they hurried away from the “This is the Place” Monument, was that they were being watched.

Justin had nearly lost them the previous afternoon when they went into the Medical Center, but his patience was rewarded when he saw them emerge from the west side of the building. He had followed them through the night, always being sure to stay far enough away to keep from being noticed. For a time they lingered in a theater that was showing Gone With the Wind, and he had drawn near enough, across the auditorium, to get the impression that the boy was explaining to Richard about the ghosts that were there to watch the movie. When they left, Justin followed again, as they walked up 7th East, and then wandered through parts of Sugarhouse. Just before dawn they had ended up near Hogle Zoo, on a hillside overlooking the valley below.

Justin lurked behind a car in the Zoo’s parking lot, not only for fear of being seen, but because the low hum of the Hereafter’s border made it feel as if his teeth were vibrating in his skull. He didn’t understand how the pair could stand to be so close.

When the ghost boy intentionally reset himself, Justin almost cried aloud.

Why in hell would he do that? he wondered.

It all seemed very mysterious and confusing to Justin, and it left him with a deep sense of disquiet and foreboding.

He was relieved when, shortly after sunrise, the pair walked down the hill and sat on the railing of the monument. He watched for some time, wondering if they would only pause there, and continue walking. But when it was clear they were deep in conversation, and unlikely to be leaving anytime soon, Justin decided it was his chance to get closer.

Using the cover of the monument itself, he worked his way up the foothills, nearly to the edge of the Hereafter. He avoided it carefully, and eventually cut lower on the hillside, approaching the Monument from the back, where he was completely hidden from view to the two ghosts who were so deep in conversation on the other side.

As he crept closer, he heard Richard shout, and it froze him in his tracks.

“Why won’t you tell me how it’s done?” the man growled. And then, just a couple seconds later, there was the unmistakable sound of a blow being landed, and then an exclamation as a body hit the ground.

Did Richard hit the boy? Justin wondered. It’s possible! They both have the Third Gift…

But then he heard the boy’s voice, and he was the one that was angry now. He was speaking quickly, but Justin caught most of what he said, as he crept toward the Monument.

“Richard, stop! For Keith’s sake… just fucking stop! Do you think I’m joking… Mediumship and Possession are dark, and evil… Do you think I’m lying to you… this is nothing you want to be fucking with!”

He heard the words “Mediumship” and “Possession” clearly.

That boy is telling him about the Dark Gifts, Justin realized. He hurried forward as the voices became clear once again.

“Says who?” Richard’s voice cried out.

“Says Tuilla!” the boy snapped.

 That name meant nothing to him. But it must have had an effect on Richard, since their voices returned to a quieter level, and Justin could no longer hear more than a murmur.

He strained his ears for several minutes, creeping as close around the edge of the monument as he dared, but the voices remained so low now that no words were coming through over the brisk morning wind. Finally, his frustration got the better of him, and he glanced around, desperate for a way to get closer to the ghosts but still not allow himself to be seen. Finally, he looked up.

Like a spider, Justin crawled up the south pedestal of the monument, and then crept around the dramatic gray steel statues depicting the Dominguez-Escalante expedition. He was twenty feet above the ground now, and as he peered over the far edge of the granite edifice, he could see the two ghosts directly below him. And their voices were clear.

“You’re fucking nuts,” Richard said, and then the boy laughed.

“But remember, as powerful as the Wanderer is, he’s just a ghost, like us,” the boy said. “He is powerful, but he isn’t omnipresent. I don’t believe he can be in more than one place at one time, any more than you or I can. He is somewhere, and we just need to find him. Once we do, then perhaps we can figure out a way to fight him.”

The “Wanderer?” Are they talking about God? Why would they want to find God? Don’t they know they’re his enemies? Why would they seek him out, rather than running as far away as the Hereafter will let them?

“So how do we find him?”

“I think we have to start with the ones who know him. I’m not sure any of them know where he is, or how to find him. But if anybody does, it will be one of them.”

“You’re talking about Mattie.”

My mistress! The boy is talking about my mistress now!

“No, actually not. Mattie is too powerful, and too insane, and because she loathes me, she would never respond to anything we could ask. And that’s assuming she would even let us get close to her again, which she probably wouldn’t.”

“So who?”

Justin leaned further out into space, clinging to the statues. “I’m talking about Justin.” the boy said.

When he heard his name, Justin almost lost his grip on the wrist of the statue he was holding. He had to clench his jaw to keep from crying out.

When he stilled his breathing enough to listen, Richard was laughing again. “What makes you think Justin will help me? Help us? In case you missed it, we don’t have a great history. I drove him to kill himself, and then he killed me. The last thing in the world he will want to do is anything that he thinks will help me track down and destroy his god.”

They want me to help them destroy God, he thought in awe and wonder.

The idea was so absurd that for a moment Justin again lost track of what the pair were saying. He shrank back against the gray metal of the sculptures and considered what he should do. Should he run away now? Call God and tell him everything he had learned? Or should he just hide out, and hope that the end of the world would pass him by unnoticed?

When he could finally listen to the pair’s conversations again, he was even more astounded by what they were saying. Richard was speaking so low it was hard for him to make out the words.

“…what Justin is feeling toward me is definitely not indifference… There was a moment in Justin’s eyes, there in the courtroom, where I saw the same vulnerable, needy, hungry boy I knew all those years ago.”

You fucking arrogant, self-righteous bastard! he thought, and barely contained the words within his mind. This is why I hate you. This is why I want to kill you! This is why I’m going to cut up your fat little boy like he’s a suckling pig!

“So,” Richard was saying, “…Howard Gunderson is the key… If we go to Howard, maybe Justin will be there.”

Justin groaned and was sure that it was so loud that the two men would be able to hear him.

You keep away from Howard, you son of a bitch, he thought. Howard Gunderson is mine! He’s fucking mine! Don’t you get your filthy, disgusting, perverted hands on him, the way you got your hands on me. I’ll rip your ghost to shreds before I’ll let you do that!

Justin stood up, no longer afraid of being seen. He was going to leap down upon Richard, and even if it meant he would fall through the man’s ghost without being able to affect him, at least he would release his anger on the man who had ruined his life.

But then he froze.

“Agreed,” Richard said.

The boy named Billy smiled and put a hand on Richard’s shoulder. Justin had almost forgotten.  They both had the Third Gift.

Fuck them both! Fuck them, fuck them, fuck them! His mind raged, but he just stood there, trembling.

“So, where do we find Howard Gunderson?” the boy asked. And his hand remained on Richard’s shoulder. Justin couldn’t stop staring at that hand. At that touch. At how Richard Pratt looked at the boy. Richard’s back was to him, but he imagined he could see hunger in that look—the same hunger that Richard once had for him. The hunger that had chewed him up and spit him into a ravine at the base of Parley’s Canyon.

“…they’ve likely already moved him back to a cell in the Matheson Courthouse,” the boy said.

“Then let’s go,” Richard said, and used his dirty, disgusting, perverted hand to help the boy to his feet.

And then the pair simply walked away. Neither of them looked up, or looked back. If they had, they would have seen Justin Kimball, standing atop the monument, no longer caring to stay hidden. They would have felt the burning hatred in his eyes. Perhaps they would have even cowered under that assault.

But neither ghost turned. Oblivious, they walked away, and did not look back.

Ten minutes later, Billy and Richard were gone. But Justin still stood on the granite monument, as still as if he was just another of the statues. Slowly, his anger descended from the crescendo that had been pounding in his ears, and he took stock of what he had learned. It had all been so fast, and it had all been so astounding that he hadn’t been able to rationally assess it. But now that the hatred had cooled, and the two ghosts no longer polluted his field of vision, he could think more clearly.

The boy named Billy was wise and cunning. He was clearly teaching Richard, and he knew much more than he should. Only the angels of God were supposed to know about the Dark Gifts, but it was clear that Billy knew about both Possession and Mediumship. And the boy ghost believed Richard was already capable of the Fourth Gift.

If that is true… Justin thought, but would not allow himself to speculate further. This was clearly something that only God could understand. Only God could know what to do with two such vicious apostates.

The sun had crested the Wasatch now and was warm upon his back. He let himself sink down onto the marble, looking for his shadow on the broad lawn to the west. No matter how long he was a ghost, he knew he’d always look for his shadow when he stood in the sunlight. And he knew he would never see it.

Not until God takes me to Heaven, he thought.

It was time.

He reached out to God with his mind, and God was immediately there.

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.

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Copyright 2021, Wess Mongo Jolley. All rights reserved.

Wess Mongo Jolley

Wess Mongo Jolley is Utah native, who is now an expatriate American novelist, editor, poet and poetry promoter, living in Montreal. He is Founder and Director of the Performance Poetry Preservation Project, and is most well known for hosting the IndieFeed Performance Poetry Channel podcast for more than ten years. As a poet, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as Off The Coast, PANK, The New Verse News, and Danse Macabre; and in collections such as the Write Bloody Press book The Good Things About America. He enjoys hearing from readers, and can be contacted through his website, at https://wessmongojolley.com. If you are enjoying this story, please drop me a line, and consider supporting my work as a novelist at http://patreon.com/wessmongojolley. More than half of the the trilogy's over 200 chapters are already available there for subscribers.

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