June 13, 3:10 pm
Howard Gunderson should have been surprised, but he wasn’t.
After his mother kissed him on the head, he turned to watch her go, and through the window he had seen the back of Carla Grayson’s head and shoulders, as she sat outside the glass wall of the interview room. He had known she was out there waiting, because she had accompanied him down the hall when he had been escorted from his cell. So that wasn’t what surprised him.
What should have surprised him was seeing the man he killed, standing outside of the interview room.
He knew it was Richard Pratt instantly. Although he had never seen the man in life, he had seen so many photos of him during the endless interviews this past week, that he would have been able to spot the man in any crowd. He had seen pictures of him as a professor, pictures of him with his lover, and pictures of him with his head half missing, lying sprawled at the bottom of a wall dripping with blood and the man’s brains.
He would recognize him anywhere. Even if it wasn’t for the blood-stained sweatshirt—the same one he was wearing in the crime scene photos.
Howard half expected Richard Pratt to come screaming into the room, eyes ablaze, and ready to take his vengeance upon his murderer. But instead, the man was just looking at his mother and Carla Grayson, as they walked away down the long corridor. Even stranger was the boy that stood at his side, holding a ridiculous straw hat in his hands. He couldn’t have been more than fourteen or fifteen, and a casual observer would have easily passed off the pair as a father and son. Somehow he knew that the boy too was a ghost, although there was no visible sign of blood on him the way there was on Richard Pratt.
Howard turned quickly back to the table, looking down, and struggling to get his emotions under control. A moment later, he could feel their gaze back on him, and he squeezed his eyes tightly shut. He started to tremble as he heard the guard walk up to the interview room door.
“This way, Gunderson. Back home now,” Officer Delgado said.
Maybe they won’t hurt me. Howard thought. Not as long as I’m with the guard.
Delgado unshackled him from the table, and he rose to his feet, his chains clattering along the floor with each short step. In the hallway, he desperately kept his eyes on his feet, fearing that if he turned and looked at the two ghosts to his left, they would be staring at him with eyes of fire and their mouths open to reveal huge, gaping jaws full of razor-sharp teeth that would rip him to shreds instantly.
To his surprise, he walked down the hallway with the guard without incident. And although he couldn’t look at the two ghosts who were trailing behind him, he didn’t sense that they were about to pounce. They just followed quietly as he made the short journey down the corridor, took a left turn, and was put back in his cell.
Ever since the presence had assaulted him, he had believed in ghosts. Ever since it had returned to take him over in the courtroom, he feared he might never escape from the one that called himself Justin. What little hope he had was already fading, and now there were more ghosts in the world than just the one.
Why am I being punished? he wondered. What have I done? Or is none of this real? Maybe I’m as crazy as my mother and Mr. Offret think I am.
As Officer Delgado went through the ritual of removing his chains, he sensed the ghosts in his peripheral vision. They had followed him into the cell, and they were watching him intently. He even watched as Richard Pratt walked up to his side and tried to stare directly into his face. He kept his gaze down, but no longer felt like the ghost was about to reach in and stop his heart, or rip his face off and leave only a grinning skull behind. In fact, to his surprise, he didn’t sense any malice coming off of the ghost at all. Something about him was very different from Justin.
Howard was still afraid, but he was slowly becoming convinced that these two new ghosts were not here to harm him.
When his chains were gone he crossed immediately to the bunk without looking back. He climbed into the low cot and pulled his knees up to his chest. He closed his eyes tightly and tried to calm his panicked breathing. Slowly, his heart quieted. But he sensed the ghosts behind him now. He felt the ghost of Richard Pratt leaning down, close enough to reach out and touch him. He stilled his mind, waiting for the first blow to fall, or some deadly curse to be whispered in his ear.
What happened next was the last thing he expected. He heard the thing speak.
“Okay. Now what the fuck do we do?” the ghost said.
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.