The Last Handful of Clover

Chapter 2.50: The Edge of the Volcano

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 14, 11:00 am

At that very moment, Michelle was closing the door behind Detective Grayson. The woman had said that she was going to send in one of the officers to get a full statement, and Michelle felt the panic rising in her chest. She thought she had three minutes, at best.

The clothes! she thought in a panic. They had left the clothes basket outside on the back porch, and the clothes themselves were still in a heap next to it. If the cop asked to be shown where they had last seen Howard, that upturned basket of clothes would look awfully suspicious. As soon as she closed the door, and without a word to either of her guys, she sprinted out to the back porch, gathered up the clothes, and then stuffed the basket in the downstairs closet.

When she got back to the living room, Keith and Pil were already trying to get their story straight.

“Listen,” she said. “We don’t have time to work out anything complicated. Let’s just leave it at what we told Grayson. Howard was here. He surprised us when he approached us on the back porch. He said that he was sorry, and then he ran off toward downtown, before we could even respond.”

“That sounds good,” Keith said. “The simpler the story, the easier it will be to keep straight.”

Pil looked skeptical, and Michelle was sure he was going to put up a fuss. But finally he sighed, and he let his shoulders drop. “Okay. Pretty much everything else he said was nuts, anyway. But what if they catch him in Richard’s clothes?”

“They won’t know they’re Richard’s,” Michelle said.

“He might tell them.”

“He won’t,” Keith said. And he sounded so certain that it shut down the conversation. Michelle could see that it didn’t convince Pil, and she wasn’t sure if they could get away with it, either. The last thing she wanted to think about was all three of them going to jail for aiding an escaped murderer. But unfortunately, there was no more time to discuss it. The cop was knocking at the door, and as she opened it, Michelle could see Carla pulling away in her car.

She took the bait, she thought. She’s heading toward South Temple. As she let the officer in, another squad car zoomed by in the opposite direction, and she groaned. But not all of them are.

The statement the officer took went much more easily and quickly than Michelle expected. He accepted what they told him without question and wrote it all down. He did ask to see the back porch, and they walked him out there. He looked for tracks in the wet grass, but nothing was still visible. And then he thanked them, told them to lock their doors, and left. Pil and Keith stayed on the back porch while Michelle showed him out.

When she got back, she closed the sliding glass door and leaned heavily against it. “So, that’s it. I guess we’re not to leave the house. Until we hear from Detective Grayson, anyway.

“That’s okay,” Keith said. He had his blanket again, and was sitting in one of the porch chairs. Some of the clarity of purpose he had displayed earlier had left him. His emotions are like a roller coaster, she thought. I can sense another dip coming.

“What do you mean?” Pil asked. “None of this is okay.”

“I only mean that I don’t want to go anywhere. Not after what Howard said.”

Michelle crossed the porch and sat across from Keith. “But didn’t Howard say we needed to get out of here?”

“He did. But he also said he’s been talking to Richard. And that just proved that everything I’ve been feeling is real. So I’m not going anywhere. This is where Richard is. I’m staying.”

“But honey…” Michelle began.

“I mean it, Michelle. I’m staying here. Howard proved it. Richard’s not gone. His spirit is still here, somehow, He’s watching over me. I can’t leave him.”

Michelle was aware of Pil’s eyes on them both, but he didn’t jump in to help her. “Pea, you have to know how that sounds.”

“I do. And I don’t care.”

She reached across for Keith’s hand, but he didn’t take it. That alone was a gesture so unlike him that it took her a moment to register it. Instead, he just leaned back in his chair and pulled the blanket closer around him.

“Howard also said that Richard wanted us to leave,” Michelle said, softly.

“I know.” Keith’s voice was flat and unresponsive.

“And that’s the part of what he said that I believe,” Michelle said.

“What?” Pil asked, coming around Keith’s chair. He sat down next to Keith, and she looked at the two of them, like fun house reflections of each other. “Michelle, you can’t be serious.”

“I’m totally serious,” she replied. “That part of what he said rang completely true to me. Can’t you sense it?” she looked back and forth between the two men. “It feels like we’re on the edge of a volcano that is about to erupt. I’m terrified, and I don’t know why. And I’ve been terrified for several days. Something horrible is going to happen in this city. Is already happening. We need to get out, while we still can.”

“I’m not leaving Richard,” Keith said. But he didn’t sound like the confident man he had been before the detective arrived. He sounded defiant, but with little strength to stand behind that defiance.

Michelle wanted to reach out to him. To touch him. Take his hand. Anything to create some physical contact between them. But something in Keith’s face kept her away. “Keith—it’s like Howard said. Getting out of here is what Richard would want us to do.”

“But Detective Grayson specifically told us to stay put,” Pil said. “And there is a cop outside now, watching the house. So it doesn’t really matter. We’re not going to get out of this house now. There is no way we could pack the car and high-tail it out of town. Not with them watching.”

“We’re not under arrest.” Michelle said, sounding more certain than she felt. “They can’t stop us.”

“Are you sure?” Pil asked. “They probably think of us as accessories to Gunderson’s escape. At the very least. Maybe even to murder…”

“It doesn’t matter!” Keith barked. “I said I’m not leaving. I don’t care if we’ll be safer somewhere else. This is my home. My home with Richard. If he’s anywhere, it’s here. Leaving would mean leaving him behind. He is here, and as long as he is, I’m not going anywhere.”

He’s definitely breaking down, Michelle thought. Come on, Pea, hold it together.

“And I know what Howard said,” Keith continued. “But I’m not afraid of Justin Kimball. I think that’s why I’ve been sensing Richard. He’s come back to protect me. If I’m in danger, he’ll be here. He’ll stop it.”

To Michelle’s surprise, Pil lifted one huge arm and put it around Keith’s shoulders. The gesture was incredibly tender, and it made her think of the way a child would pick up a butterfly, or a hummingbird. Keith immediately sank into Pil’s side and reached around his barrel chest with one arm. While Pil held him, Keith wept. It was a silent weeping, but his body trembled. Pil pulled him in closer, and with one hand, he stroked Keith’s hair.

“It’s all right, K. We’re here too. You’re safe… If you want to stay, we stay.”

He continued to murmur reassurances to Keith, while Michelle looked at the pair, her eyes wide and moist. The affection between the two men suddenly seemed so natural, so easy. She had never seen Pil respond this way to Keith, but she had always known how much he cared for their friend. It made her warm to see it expressed, even though it left her with the ache of being the one on the outside, looking in.

I’ve always known that Keith was in love with Pil. But now I wonder if maybe Pil’s feelings for Keith are more complex than he has told me. Maybe more complex than even he realizes…

Pil looked up from Keith and caught Michelle’s gaze. She couldn’t quite categorize the look her husband was giving her. On the one hand, it was full of confusion, but it also seemed as if he was pleading for help.

I don’t have any idea where this is leading us, Michelle thought. And I’m afraid to find out.

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.

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. His poems and short stories have appeared or journals such as Off The Coast, PANK, The New Verse News, and Danse Macabre, Apparition Literary Journal, Grain, and in collections such as the Write Bloody Press book The Good Things About America. He loves hearing from readers, and can be contacted through his website, at If you are enjoying this story, please drop him a line, and consider supporting his work as a novelist at All of the trilogy's over 207 chapters are available there for subscribers, and new poems, short stories, and other content is posted there every Friday.

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