June 15, 8:00 pm
Justin waited until the sun was almost touching the Oquirrh Mountains in the west before leaving the Capitol building. One thing he had learned from God was that the more terrified a living mind was, the more vulnerable it was to the Fourth Gift. He had watched with delight as the city at his feet had gone from scattered violence to full on apocalyptic terror. The waves of it that rose from the city were like sweet perfume.
The big man will be like ripe fruit on a tree, he thought.
It was still an hour before sunset, but the smoke in the air made it seem much later. He descended Capitol Hill and made his way quickly back through the Avenues, marveling at the bodies in the street, the smashed cars, and the fires that were burning. But to his disgust, Richard’s street in the Avenues seemed relatively untouched by the violence.
Standing in the shadows of a cottonwood tree two houses down, Justin surveyed the street. The pavement was strewn with trash, and he could see where a car had smashed through the waste bins and mailboxes. Tire tracks went across several lawns, and there was a smoldering pile of rags next to a car which had failed to catch fire. But otherwise, the street seemed very much like it would look on a normal day. The sky by now was streaked with red from the smoke and evening light, and the shadows were creeping into what he knew would be the longest night in the history of this city.
What is left in the morning will be unrecognizable, he thought with a grin.
All the blinds were drawn tightly in Richard’s windows, and there was no car in front. For a moment Justin wondered if he would find the house empty, but somehow he knew that was unlikely. Fate and grace was guiding him now, and his destiny was to finish the work he had started the moment he fired that gun through that now boarded-up window. He felt certain that Richard was inside, along with his boyfriend. Likely, the big man would be there too, unless he and his woman had fled.
Much bolder than any thief, Justin crossed the lawn and tried to look into one of the unbroken living room windows. The gauzy curtains obscured everything, and only a low light burned in the room. He listened, but could hear no sounds—although he thought he could see the flickering glow of a television. He knew he could enter the house easily through any wall or door, but he didn’t want to lose the element of surprise.
I want to see Richard before he sees me, Justin thought. Otherwise, he’ll try to stop me from possessing the big man. It will be so much easier if I can just slip into him unnoticed…
He climbed onto the porch roof, as agile as a spider, and looked in the upstairs window. This was the bedroom, and there was a small gap in the curtain that gave him a glimpse into the room. He had spent many nights with Richard here, allowing the older man to do whatever he wanted. Just looking into that room made him shudder and made his anger grow.
He immediately spotted Keith Woo.
The chubby little man was sitting up in bed, and he was writing in a notebook on his lap. At first glance, he seemed to be alone. But as Justin scanned the room more carefully, he saw another figure sitting on a bench at the foot of the bed. His back was to Justin, and he knew instantly that this second figure was a ghost. But he was surprised to realize that it wasn’t Richard Pratt. The figure was too small, and he could see one foot folded under him. The ghost’s bare toes stuck out, and a straw hat was in his lap.
At first, he was disappointed to see the boy. But then he realized that if Billy was here, it was likely that Richard wasn’t far away. The two of them had been thick as thieves the past few days.
But why would Billy be the one watching Keith? Why isn’t Richard here in the bedroom?
As he watched, the slight figure of the boy stood up, and it was instantly clear to Justin how nervous he was. He began pacing back and forth in the room, as if he was waiting for someone. But he never took his gaze from the man on the bed.
He’s a guard dog, Justin thought. Then the realization swept over him.
Richard’s not here! The coward sent this hick kid to watch over his little piggy! Probably because he knew I might come for him.
Sinking down on the shingles, Justin tried desperately to think clearly, despite the combined rage and disappointment that was coursing through him. He considered waiting until Richard arrived, but who knew how long that would be? He couldn’t wait here too long, and in the meantime, his resolve might fail. The need to go looking for Howard was getting stronger every minute. The lust he felt for the boy was almost as strong now as his need for revenge. He knew if he didn’t act soon, that balance would tip.
Fine, he finally thought. Richard might not get to see me murder the piggy. That would be unfortunate. But Billy will tell him all about it. And that will be enough to destroy what little sanity he may have left. That will have to be enough.
Full of resolve now, and no longer fearing discovery, Justin climbed back down, and boldly entered the house through the front door, stopping at the foot of the stairs. He knew this house well. To the left was the living room. He remembered the last time he was here, standing over Richard’s bloody body, while Keith screamed.
How delightful that had been.
Justin found the big man in the living room, watching a news report that was detailing the worsening situation. The sound of the TV was so low that he was sure the man couldn’t hear it, and the light in the room came from just the TV and a small lamp on the end table. The giant leaned forward on the couch, staring hard at the television. In his thick paws was a brown beer bottle, that he was twisting and working with such strength that Justin wondered if it might shatter.
This man is truly a monster, Justin thought, staring at his back. He was six and a half feet tall, and probably close to four hundred pounds. And hardly any of it was fat. The thick arc of his shoulders and bulging arms took Justin’s breath away. He was about to cross the room, just to feel those muscles under his hands, when he heard a voice.
He turned to his right, and saw the woman, sitting at the dining room table, visible through the archway at the far end of the hall. She was staring at a cell phone in her hand, dialing and redialing it, and cursing under her breath.
“Damn,” he heard her say, loud enough for the man in the living room to hear. “Still no calls going through.”
The big man just grunted to let the woman know he had heard, but had nothing more to say.
Justin walked into the dining room and crossed to the far side of the table. There was a card there with the logo of the Salt Lake Police Department. The woman’s eyes were fixed upon it, as she dialed and redialed the phone.
Justin was about to return to the big man in the living room when he heard the woman say, “What the hell?”
Something in her tone was intriguing, so Justin turned back to the dining room. Strangely, the woman had gotten up from the table and crossed through the broad, open archway into the kitchen. He followed her and found her standing in front of the sink. She was leaning over it and looking out the tiny kitchen window, as if she could see something on the back porch, which ran the entire length of the back of the house. The drapes of the dining room were closed over the big glass doors that led onto the porch, so whatever the woman could see was hidden from him. But he could see that she was looking very pale and very confused. She put her hand up to her mouth, and Justin was sure that she was about to say something. He absolutely expected that she would call to the big man in the living room—ask him to come in to look at whatever she could see outside. She even took in a breath, as if she was preparing to call out. But instead of speaking, she just held that breath and looked back out the window. She held her gaze there for several heartbeats.
And then, as if she had reached some important decision, she silently crossed back into the dining room, almost knocking Justin out of her way as she passed him. She pushed aside the curtain and opened the sliding glass door. She slipped outside silently, and the curtains fell back into place.
Where in the hell is she going? Justin thought. But he didn’t pursue that thought, because something more important had dawned on him.
I’ll have the big man to myself, he thought, with a rush of excitement. This shouldn’t take long at all…
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.