June 13, 3:25 pm
“Okay. Now what the fuck do we do?” Richard asked, and then began pacing in the small cell.
“Well, I suppose… Now we wait.”
“Wait for what?”
Billy just shrugged his shoulders. “We wait for what happens next, I guess.”
“And what is that going to be,” Richard asked, glaring at the boy.
“I wish I knew.”
Richard just grunted. “Great. So much for the old and wise Billy Travers.”
“Sorry, Richard. But we’re all in the dark at this point.”
Richard paced for a few more minutes, before turning to Billy again. “Okay. Then what do we do if Justin shows up?”
Billy sighed, as he sank to the floor next to Howard’s cot, and folded his legs into a lotus posture. “Well, Richard, I’m afraid that I can’t tell you that either. I guess I’d suggest you try to talk to him. Win his trust.”
Richard just laughed. “Win his trust? Yeah, that sounds like a great idea. ‘Gee, Justin, I’m sorry I fucked you over so bad. And I’m sorry you thought it was necessary to shoot me in the fucking head. But hey, all is forgiven, right? Now how about you help me kill your God…’”
“I didn’t say it would be easy. But it’s our only option.”
“Well, then our only option seems like shit to me.”
“Do you have a better idea?” Billy asked. When Richard caught the boy’s eyes, he got the unmistakable message that Billy just wished he’d sit down and shut up. So he did, sitting with his back against the bars of the cell.
Twenty minutes later, after enduring the uncomfortable silence for as long as he could, Richard rose and walked over to Howard Gunderson. He bent down until his face was just an inch from the boy’s left ear. He appeared to be sleeping soundly, but his breathing was still shallower than it should be.
“This is where your famous Fourth Gift would come in handy,” Richard said, tapping his finger against the boy’s temple. “If Justin’s been playing around in there, maybe just two or three minutes in this boy’s head might tell us a lot of what we need to know.”
Even though he wasn’t serious (at least he didn’t think he was) Richard could see Billy bristle at the suggestion.
“You shouldn’t even joke about the Fourth Gift, Richard. I don’t know how you can, after everything I’ve told you.”
“I heard you. But so far, I only have your word for any of it.” He paused and ground his teeth. “What is this possession like, anyway? Does a ghost just take over the body and use it like a suit of clothes? Or is it more like a… like sharing? Does the living person hear the thoughts of the ghost? Or is it like they go to sleep? If Howard heard Justin’s thoughts, maybe he knows where your bogeyman is.”
“I’m not going to discuss it with you,” Billy said, his voice strained through his clenched teeth. “It’s forbidden. I’ve told you that.”
“Yeah, you told me. Relax. I’m not trying to piss you off.”
Richard went back to pacing the cell, and the tiny room fell into silence. All they could hear was another of the prisoners humming some nameless tune, and the buzz of the guards talking down the hall.
“So. How long do we wait?” Richard asked.
“I guess as long as it takes.”
“Yeah, well, you’re a hundred and fifty fucking years old. It’s easy for you to just sit and wait for hours and days on end. But I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to spend my life…” He realized instantly what he said and corrected himself. “I’m not going to spend my time squatting in a prison cell with the son-of-a-bitch that blew my brains all over my living room wall.”
“Howard didn’t kill you, Richard. You know that.”
“Uh huh. Whatever.”
“We just have to be patient. Howard isn’t the reason we’re here. With any luck, Justin will be back. He’s done it before, and he very well could do it again. We just need to wait.”
“For how long? Hours? Days? Weeks? How patient do we need to be?”
“I really don’t know,” Billy said, clearly tiring of arguing.
“And I still don’t know what I’d do, even if he walked through that wall right now.”
“Well, maybe you should be quiet and spend the time we’re waiting thinking about that.” There was an edge to Billy’s voice that Richard hadn’t heard.
“Why me? Why do I have to be the one that talks to him? What will you do if he shows up?”
“If he shows up, I’m going to get out of your way. I’ll just disappear through that wall. There is nothing I can do that would help you. If you’re going to convince Justin, it has to be a conversation between just you two.”
Richard grunted. “Yeah, thanks a lot. For nothing.”
Billy grinned. “It’s not nothing. Call it ‘moral support.’”
“Yeah, like I said. Thanks for nothing.”
Billy just shrugged. He closed his eyes and straightened his spine as if he was going to meditate, and Richard turned away from him in disgust.
“Remember that he’s still in love with you,” Billy said, unexpectedly. “Maybe it will be easier than you expect to get him to open up to you. Just show him genuine concern and affection. Make him know that you’re not going to hurt him.”
Richard couldn’t think of anything to say that wouldn’t sound confrontational, so for the next half hour, he just sat silently—waiting, hoping against hope that Justin would slide into the cell through one of the walls or the bars, or hell, even the ceiling. And while he waited, he tried to take Billy’s advice and come up with something he might say to his old lover…
Hey Justin, nice to see you again. It’s been a long time. So, what’s new…
His thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a crash into his psychic wall that would have driven him to the floor, if he hadn’t already been seated. He recognized it instantly as the irresistible force of the Wanderer—the same force he had felt in the clothing store. But this time, he was more prepared, and this time, he kept the door shut. But the assault continued, feeling like a deafening phone, demanding to be answered. He was just about to yell to Billy, to let him know what was happening, but then something Billy said echoed in his mind.
There is nothing I can do that would help you, the boy had said.
As much as he hated it, Richard knew Billy had spoken the truth. So instead of alerting the boy, he just took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and prepared himself.
Yes, operator, he thought as he opened his mind. I’ll take this call.
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.