June 16, 4:12 pm
At first, she had panicked. Then she had tried to fight. But now Carla Grayson had settled into a cold, hard silence.
Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me,
Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee;
Sounds of the rude world, heard in the day,
Lulled by the moonlight have all passed away…
The song echoed through the darkness in the little girl’s high, off-key voice, sometimes sounding like she was behind Carla, and sometimes like she was very far away. The voice would stop singing from time to time, and she would even go silent for long periods. But it always came back to that damn song. Carla wondered if she’d be listening to it for eternity, and how long it would take to drive her completely mad.
What Michelle said… It’s true! It’s all true!
The ghost had taken her only a block away from Keith Woo’s house. After hours of fighting her way through the city, she had finally made it into the Avenues, so deprived of sleep and so on-edge that she thought her nerves might fail her. And perhaps it was her fatigue that had allowed the thing that held her now an opportunity to get inside. But the last thing Carla had seen, before she felt herself scratching at her hand and then falling into a pit of darkness, was a burning body in the middle of 3rd Avenue. And the last thing she thought, before her vision swam out of focus, was whether she should drive over it or try to find a way around.
If I had just been able to get past that body, she thought, I would have been there.
Not that getting to Keith Woo’s house would have saved her, of course, but it would have been… a satisfaction.
Everything had been black since. Carla couldn’t hear anything in this place other than the little girl’s voice, high and bright and moving around her constantly, as if she was spinning in the depths of space. It hadn’t taken Carla long at all to realize that fighting the girl, or even trying to talk to her, was only making her sink deeper into the darkness, the way struggling against quicksand only hastens your demise. And as soon as she had stopped fighting and stopped trying to talk to the childish voice, it was as if the girl had forgotten all about her.
It puts the lotion on its skin, Carla thought, or else it gets the hose again…
For what felt like hours now she had been trying to still her mind, calm her sense of drowning, and just disappear into the background of the little girl’s consciousness. And by doing that, she hoped to learn something that might get her out of this mess.
She couldn’t hear through the little girl’s ears, see through her eyes, or feel, or even smell anything using the body she had left behind. But she could hear the girl’s thoughts, and she could hear when she spoke. She knew the difference between the girl’s thoughts and her words, because they sounded so different. The thoughts sounded like those of a little girl. But the words she spoke sounded strangely like Carla’s own voice.
That is how Carla discovered, an unknown time later, that the thing driving her body (and her squad car too, it appeared) had found Keith Woo and Pil Kilani.
She’d heard the girl cry out their names, and she’d listened with fascination to the ghost’s side of their banter. The child was clearly posing as Carla, in order to… what? Carla didn’t know. But whatever was happening out there, it was clear that the two men were in danger. Unfortunately, that conversation was brief, and soon the girl was back to singing her mindless tune.
So it was a shock when suddenly the high-pitched voice spoke, and not in Carla’s voice. These were the ghost’s own thoughts, and she seemed to be in a conversation with someone.
“I have them, my Lord, the voice said. I have a police car, and I have them! Both of them!”
There was a pause, in which the darkness felt like it thickened around Carla like motor oil. Who could she be talking to? Then she spoke again.
“I know, Lord. I know you said you only wanted the chubby one. But the big one was with him, and I couldn’t think of a way to get them apart. But it’s okay. I have both of those naughty boys locked in the back of the car. Should I shoot the big one?”
The big one? That had to be Pil Kilani. And the chubby man had to be Keith Woo. What did she mean, that she had them? Carla thought about the squad car she had been driving, with its metal grating separating the front and back seats. If the girl had the two men locked in there, not even Pil Kilani would be able to break them out. And if the little girl decided to shoot Pil, it would be like shooting a bear in a cage. The man wouldn’t have a chance. The thought of the little girl using her hand and her gun to shoot Pil—while Keith Woo could do nothing but sit next to him in the back of the car and watch—made Carla think she might pass out.
After a long pause, in which the little girl appeared to be listening intently, she spoke again
“I’m sure he’ll come, she said. But I think that nasty Billy Travers will be with him.”
Who will come? Carla wondered. And who the hell is Billy Travers? The detective’s frustration was growing into a fever pitch. She felt like she was getting random pieces from a gigantic jigsaw puzzle, and not enough to see the picture.
“Yes, I can stay ahead of them. They’ll be on foot, and I have this big ol’ police car. I’m outside the city now. Once I get past the roadblock you told me about, I should be able to scoot and skedaddle, and be there in a jiffy!
The one-sided conversation ended as abruptly as it began, and Carla waited in the silence and darkness for any other hint that might come her way. But there was none. She tried to take an inventory of what she had learned in those brief phrases, but it was pathetically little. The ghost had her, not to mention Keith and Pil, and she was taking them all somewhere, to meet… who? Carla didn’t know. But it had to be out of the city. She’d spoken of passing through one of the roadblocks.
I just have to stay quiet, Carla thought. Maybe if the girl forgets I’m here, I can find a way out of this… place.
From over her left shoulder, the sing-song voice began again…
Out of this rude world, we will be borne,
Given new life at the bright coming morn.
Gone are the cares of life’s busy throng,
Afloat in his waters he sings us this song…
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.