June 14, 5:45 am
With that roar, Howard was in control of his own body again.
One moment he was just a tiny seed, somewhere deep in his own chest. And then he felt Justin’s attention falter, and he sprouted and grew like a green vine, filling every nook and corner of his body. He flowed into his arms and legs and head with explosive ferocity, until there was no part of him that he didn’t occupy. He watched it unfold in amazement, but he also knew it all happened in an instant. The sense of power that flowed through him was so intoxicating and intense that he felt like his body might lift right off the ground and go nova.
He didn’t realize that he had the tire iron in his hand, until he also registered that Justin was on the ground in front of him, squirming like a salamander in the grass. The evil ghost was silently writhing in pain, and when their eyes met, Howard saw Justin freeze in terror.
You’re mine now, you son of a bitch.
By the time the roar he was making had reached a crescendo, Howard was already rushing toward the ghost on the ground. His fury was so overwhelming that it terrified him, as if it was a remnant of the evil that had so recently occupied his body.
His first blow came down hard, and somehow, Justin saw it coming and avoided it. He wriggled to the left, and the blow landed in the dew soaked grass. But the terror in Justin’s eyes was now like a drug. It fueled the rage Howard felt at the creature who had been feeding upon his pain and humiliation just moments before.
The second blow of the tire iron made contact.
Justin put his shoulder into the swing and brought it down on the ghost’s right shin. To his surprise, he saw the tire iron pass through the boy’s leg as if it wasn’t even there, and for a split second he feared that perhaps he could not hurt the ghost, no matter how he tried.
But then Justin howled in pain, and reached for his leg, as if it had been shattered. Howard knew that only he could hear that howl, but it was no less satisfying for that.
His next blow shattered the ghost’s shoulder, and then he brought down a foot onto the boy’s right hand, grinding it into the grass. Now that he was down and trapped, Howard went to work on Justin’s left arm, which the ghost was using instinctively to try and ward off the swinging tire iron. With each blow, Justin reacted with a delicious combination of terror and agony, and Howard thought he could now see the creature’s body becoming misshapen from the blows. He already looked as if he had been hit by a train, although there was no blood staining his clothes. Only his wretched, mangled limbs.
“I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you!” the ghost was screaming. “You’re mine, goddamn it! Get out of my body!”
“It will never be your body again, you fucking psychopath!” Howard hissed, knowing it was time to end it. He stepped off the ghost’s crushed hand, which Justin raised to his eyes in horror and agony. But Howard had already stepped forward to straddle the ghost’s writhing body, and he brought the tire iron down, one last time, with both hands. The weapon passed through both of the boy’s raised arms, and then he felt it split the boy’s head, all the way to the grass. Howard heard the boy scream one last time, a scream that shattered into a thousand pieces.
“Oh, fuck!!!” Justin cried.
The boy’s body looked, in that last moment, like it was made of glass. It reminded Howard of a ceramic figurine, dropped from a great height, shattering against a tile floor. Except that the pieces evaporated into the morning mist almost as quickly as they came apart.
And then Howard Gunderson was standing alone in the middle of Richard Pratt’s lawn, panting as if he had just run a marathon.
Did I just kill him? he wondered, trying to calm his breathing. But even as he asked himself that question, he was sure it wasn’t true. Justin wasn’t gone. Instinctively, Howard knew he would be back. And yet he also promised that there was no way that the ghost would ever get into him again. Something had changed in their balance of power. And now that he knew there was a way to defend himself, he no longer felt helpless.
If the ghost ever got close to him again, the tire iron would be his best friend.
He looked at the tool in his hand, and with a low laugh, he actually raised it to his lips, and kissed it. “I think I love you,” he said.
If Justin comes back, I’ll tear him to pieces.
In the heat of the moment, Howard had managed to forget how dire his situation was. He was wanted for murder. Two murders now, or maybe three. And the police must already be looking for him. If they caught him, nothing he could say about malevolent ghosts would save him. He was going to have to save himself.
Suddenly, he felt very vulnerable, standing there on the lawn. He wondered if it might occur to the police that the murderer of Richard Pratt would return to the scene of the crime. He looked around and was grateful to see that nobody was out on the street. At least, not at the moment.
He felt a drop of rain on his face, and he looked up into the sky. In a sudden rush of inspiration, he took off the cop’s jacket and turned it inside out. That hid the shoulder patches, and made it look a little less like a uniform, but it did nothing for the orange pants that he was wearing, or the prison issue blue booties.
I have to get off the streets.
Not knowing for sure where he was going, he turned to the north and began to run, away from downtown, and deeper into the Avenues. As he ran, the rain broke free, and drizzled down upon the city.
Howard tucked the tire iron under his arm as he ran.
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.