June 16, 8:15 pm
The desert was infused with the rich, amber light of the setting sun.
Those who have hiked in the desert know how still it can become, especially during the hours approaching sunset. The birds have all roosted for the evening and the insects have paused their buzzing, as if they are waiting for dusk to begin their endless mating dances. The sky has deepened into a richer shade of blue, impatient for the sun to finally sink over the horizon and for the stars to pierce the firmament. The stillness of an early evening in the desert can be filled with peace and harmony—a sense that the planet is pleased to have completed another cycle in its endless journey through space and time.
When Richard and Billy arrived on the outskirts of Dugway, the first thing they saw was Carla’s police cruiser, its lights rotating silently in the center of the road. Next to it was a large vehicle that looked like some kind of tank or heavy transport. Further down the road a green Ford Escort reflected the light from the squad car in its windshield, as if it was catching the bloom of fireworks in the sky.
Richard skidded to a halt next to the police car, and only then did he see the bodies. Billy gasped, a tiny “oh” of surprise, breaking the surrounding silence.
“Keith!” Richard gasped, diving toward the open rear doors of the police cruiser. Before he had even glanced inside, he knew he wouldn’t find his husband there. But he hadn’t been able to suppress a sliver of hope, or prevent the stab of desperation that cut through him when he saw the car was empty.
The passenger window was cracked and bloody—bowed out slightly, as if it had been battered from the inside.
Pil, Richard thought.
“Richard, look,” Billy said, pointing in the driver’s side door. Richard rushed around to look over the boy’s shoulder. There, on the floor of the passenger side, was the tire iron that Howard had given Pil when they had left the house earlier that afternoon. It was bloody, but its very presence confirmed that Keith and Pil had, indeed, been in this car.
Whirling around, Richard scanned the scene. There were bodies ahead, near the still smoldering guard house. They all appeared to be soldiers dressed in combat fatigues. Most of them were a hundred feet down the road, near the burning guard shack, but there was one body much closer. It was less than a dozen feet away, and he rushed to it. Looking down, he saw that beads of blood were still oozing from a wound in the man’s head, and that although the pools on the ground were no longer expanding, the blood was still rich and red. It looked like smooth enamel paint on the roadway.
“They were here!” Richard cried. “And not that long ago. We’ve almost caught up to them. Where did they go?”
He asked, but he saw instantly that Billy already knew. He looked at the boy, who was staring almost directly south, past the empty parking lot of the Mormon ward house they had passed just before the scene of this massacre.
“Do you sense her?” Richard asked, grabbing the boy by both shoulders. “Billy, do you sense Mattie? Where is she?”
Growing more pale, the boy didn’t answer. But he lifted his finger and pointed out into the endless desert.
“Lead me!” Richard said. But Billy turned toward him and there was such dread in his eyes that he was afraid the boy wasn’t even hearing his voice.
Richard squeezed Billy’s shoulders and then shook him, hard. “Billy! Snap out of it! You’ve got to take me to Keith! We’ve got to follow them!”
To his relief, Billy shook off the state of shock he was falling into. “This way,” the boy said. “But be careful. She’s not alone. I can tell. She’s… she’s with God now. She’s practically vibrating with the thrill of it. I’ve never sensed her like this before. She’s… like a bomb waiting to go off. Richard, Mattie has never scared me before. But she scares me now.”
“Billy, I know. But we have to go, and we have to go now!”
He breathed an enormous sigh of relief as Billy began slowly moving toward the Mormon ward house. At first, it appeared Billy was heading for the front doors. But then he quickly cut to the right through the parking lot, first at a fast walk, and then in a jog. He rounded the back of the lonely building, and set out directly south, into the endless desert.
Richard followed wordlessly.
Even before they reached the Stone in the Stream, Richard recognized the place from his vision. Here were the hills he had seen the last time he had confronted Drouillard. The sand and the sagebrush looked the same. And as he cleared the lip of the wash itself, he looked down on a scene that had been burned into his memory.
This is the place. It was here that I stood before the Wanderer. It was here that I almost fooled him. But I don’t think he’ll be so easily fooled again.
The tableau below broke his heart.
The first person he saw was Drouillard himself, who was sitting on a large stone that was nearly waist high. The old soldier had a gun in his hand, but his arms were crossed on his chest, as if he was bored and had become impatient, waiting for Richard to arrive.
Pil was six feet in front of Drouillard. He was kneeling, rubbing his wrists, and glaring up at the man in front of him. Richard could see the silver glint of the handcuffs that had been removed from Pil, laying in the gravel.
Why isn’t Pil attacking the son of a bitch? Richard had time to think. But his question was answered instantly as he scanned the rest of the wash.
A dozen yards behind Pil, on the far side of the wash, stood a soldier with a military grade assault rifle. It was already lifted to the man’s shoulder and trained directly at Pil. There was a tiny red dot of a laser sight that quivered on the back of Pil’s shaggy head.
“Richard, look,” Billy whispered, pointing down the wash. There was a clump of brush there, hugging the slope of the wash on their side. Seated there, on a low, flat stone, was Keith. Richard’s heart leapt, and he almost jumped into the ravine to run toward his lover, but then he saw that, standing directly behind him, was Carla Grayson. Her gun was directly against the back of Keith’s head.
“That’s Mattie,” Billy whispered, grabbing Richard’s arm. “She’s still in the cop.”
Richard was aware of the woman, but at that moment, he couldn’t look at anything except Keith. The man he loved was dirty and bloody, and his arms and shoulders were quivering from being wrenched backward and cuffed. He was clearly in excruciating pain and a cold sweat had broken out on his face. His eyes were squeezed tightly closed against the agony, and the terror that he must be feeling. Worst of all, the bastards had ripped off his shirt, and used it to gag him. While Mattie held the gun against his temple, she kept his head steady with a tight grip on the back of the gag.
“Oh, Baby Bear,” Richard groaned and fell to his knees in the dirt at the top of the wash. He wanted to run to Keith, to find some way to cover up his naked chest. Keith had once told him of how he had grown up swimming with a t-shirt on because the other boys had made fun of his chest and his belly. At that moment, Keith looked once again like a chubby little boy, ashamed of his body. A badly battered and horribly misused little boy, who wanted nothing more than for his pain and humiliation to end.
Richard wanted to rip that gun from Carla’s hand and beat her to death with it, but he knew that was impossible. He could claw at it all he wanted and it would have no affect. He could try to enter Carla’s mind and wrestle the gun from her hand, but he didn’t think he could do it quickly enough to prevent Mattie from pulling the trigger. He glanced back at Drouillard and considered trying to leap into him instead. But again, all it would take was a nod or a word from this creature, and both Pil and Keith would be dead.
Richard felt totally helpless, and the frustration of it felt as if it would make his ghostly body burst into flames.
He was only vaguely aware that both Pil and Drouillard had now turned and were looking directly at him.
Of course, he thought. Only Pil and Drouillard are mediums. They are the only ones that can see me and Billy. Mattie is blind to us, and that other soldier must be too. They’re taking their cues completely from the Wanderer.
Pil said, loudly enough that everyone could hear, “Keith, Richard is here. And Billy too.”
Mattie hissed like a snake, her eyes darting around, clearly frustrated that she couldn’t see the two men. Richard could almost feel her tightening the detective’s finger on the handgun’s trigger.
Slowly, Richard rose to his feet and led Billy down from the embankment and into the wash. His eyes were locked on Drouillard, but he was aware that Billy had moved to his left and was walking toward Keith and Mattie.
“Hello, Princess,” Billy whispered. Richard turned and watched as his friend walked right up in front of the woman cop, but she didn’t respond. She looked nervous, and the gun was wavering around Keith’s temple. She clearly couldn’t see him. But she could sense him, and it was making her jumpy. Billy must have sensed it too, because he immediately stepped back.
“Hello, Richard.” Drouillard said, pleasantly. Both Billy and Richard turned to look at him. “And hello Billy, too. It’s nice to see you both. In fact, how nice it is that two unsaved souls have decided to join us! And by us I mean, of course, the living…”
Richard didn’t speak, but he stared hard at Drouillard, his mind working, trying to think of some way to destroy this creature before he gave some silent signal for Mattie to kill the man he loved.
Drouillard just smiled broadly and leaned back further on his rock. The gun in his hand hung loosely against his side. “You two must feel under dressed for this party,” he said. “Not having flesh and all.”
Richard remained silent for the better part of a minute, and finally, Drouillard breathed a heavy sigh and levered himself up to a standing position in front of the rock. He turned and took a step toward Richard.
“Come, now, Richard. I know you’re thinking all sorts of horrible things. In fact, I know you’re trying to think of ways to destroy me, as useless as that is. But please, my friend. At least I’m actually talking to you. I can’t hear you unless you speak. Or you could let me into your mind, if you’d prefer. A one-sided conversation really isn’t any fun for anybody.”
Richard spoke, but his voice was low. Drouillard had to lean forward to hear.
“You’ll never be in my mind again, you psychopath.”
“Excellent!” Drouillard said, clapping his bony hands. “He speaks!” The old man leaned back against the rock.
“We’re here. Isn’t that what you wanted,” Richard said, evenly.
“It is indeed what I wanted! But how about you, Richard Pratt? What did you want? Why did you come here? You didn’t have to…”
“I came for Keith.”
“Oh, really! Just Keith? Not the whole city? I must say, that’s very gallant of you, but also very selfish. Don’t you want to save everyone?”
“No,” Richard said, flatly. “Not everyone. I don’t give a fuck about everyone. Just Keith.”
“Ah! So you’re willing to let me finish off the city, as long as you can have your little piggy fuck-boy back. Is that what you’re telling me?”
“Richard…” Billy said, but Richard ignored him.
“Is that an offer?” he asked.
Drouillard actually looked for a moment as if he was thinking it over. “No. I don’t think it is. I don’t need to offer you anything, Richard. I’m the one with the guns and the angels, after all. I’m the one that already has what you want. And in any case, Salt Lake is already doomed. Their dance of death will be over by dawn. So no, that wasn’t an offer. ”
“So, why are you bothering to talk to me? Why even bring me here? Why not just kill everyone and be done with it?”
Pil glanced at Richard sharply.
“Because, my dear friend, you amuse me. You have ever since you appeared in the Hereafter. I found your pathetic quest to defy me to be so very much fun. But I’m sure you know that I’ve always been one move ahead of you. You knew we were playing chess, right? Chess is all about anticipation, my friend. In fact, let me tell you what you thought you’d do when you got here.”
Richard didn’t speak. He just stared at the old man, hoping for a sign of some weakness that the creature possessed. But he was right. This was a chess game, and his opponent had all the pieces in all the right places. What little hope he had was already fading.
“You came here with one intention,” Drouillard continued. “You planned to possess someone, anyone, and then you would use that innocent’s body to kill me, hoping that would end what is happening, and keep Keith safe.” He laughed mockingly. “It’s not a bad plan. And I have to admit, I never thought you could learn to possess without my help. That alone makes you extraordinary. But you have no idea how futile your plan was, right from the beginning. And to prove it to you, I’m going to do nothing to prevent you from putting it into action, right now.”
Drouillard pointed at Pil.
“There is your innocent. His hands are free, and he’s ready for you. Use him. Possess him. And then you can take your best shot at me, and see what happens.”
Richard glanced at Pil, then back at the old man. Despite himself, he also looked back at Keith and Carla Grayson. His mind was chewing over every possible choice he could make, hoping to find the one chess move that might give Keith even a slim chance of survival.
Drouillard laughed and said, “So, right now, you’re trying to decide if you should try to possess either the cop or even me instead. Or maybe even our friend, the soldier with the rifle. But since you haven’t tried, I think you’ve figured out that attempting any of those would result in Keith and his big friend being killed instantly. I can see you, you know. So if you try to move toward anybody but Pil, I’ll give the word and Keith will be dead.” He twirled the gun on his finger now, like an old west gunslinger. “And besides, what fun would that be? Certainly none for me.”
Richard looked at Pil, who was now staring directly into his eyes. His hands were free. And if Richard were to take him over, how quickly could he act? Pil wouldn’t resist him. He was sure of that. He could be in control of the big man in seconds. But could he be fast enough? His chances didn’t seem to be very good, but if he did nothing, Drouillard was going to eventually tire of this game.
“I’m waiting Richard. Do you accept my offer? Go ahead. Take the big man. Use your Fourth Gift. You worked hard for it. I’m giving you a free pass. It’s the only one you’re likely to get.”
Richard took two steps toward Pil, but Billy was suddenly at his shoulder.
“Richard, don’t,” Billy hissed into his ear. “The second that you’re in Pil, that soldier will shoot. If he kills Pil instantly, it might take you with him. That’s exactly what he wants. It’s an easy way to be rid of you.”
Richard looked at the soldier, who still seemed oblivious to his very presence, waiting for some unknown signal from his God. But Billy was right. It was a simple plan: Get Richard in a body and then send him into the beyond. A bullet to Pil’s head might carry him and Pil together into the Void. He shuddered, thinking about the terror of that place. Going back there was the worst fate that he could imagine. And once he was gone Deary would simply have Mattie execute Keith too. Nothing he did would have had any meaning at all. His last hope was that at the end of this nightmare Keith might survive and go on without him. Even if he himself was lost, there was nothing that mattered more than giving Keith the rest of his life.
“So is that your plan?” Richard asked, turning back to Drouillard, hoping to play for time. “You want to get me in Pil so you can dispatch us both?”
Drouillard laughed, and said, “Yes, I could do that, Richard. But I’m old and I’m perverse. So perhaps I have something else in mind.” He walked up to within a single foot of Richard and looked him directly in the eyes. “What if I told you I’m willing to give you everything you could dream of? That I’m willing to not only give you life, but I’m willing to give you Keith?”
It was the last thing Richard had expected to hear.
“How could you do that?” he said, trying to fan the tiny spark of hope that Drouillard’s words stirred in his heart.
“You’ve learned much about the rules of our world, Richard. But here is one thing that you may not know. Are you aware that if the soul of the person you’re possessing is lost, then you simply cannot leave that body, short of its death? A body needs a soul, Richard. And if there is none there to take it over, you cannot leave it.” The old man laughed, and there was a hint of pain and regret in the sound. “It’s simple. If you are the last one home, so to speak, the door out is locked.”
Richard spoke slowly, wanting to make sure he didn’t say the wrong thing. “I don’t understand. Is that what happened to you?”
The old man looked confused for a minute, then smiled. “Perhaps. It was so long ago. Was Jesus a man before God made him his son? Was that baby just a normal baby at first, and then the holy ghost went into him, and ejected the innocent’s soul? Is that how he became God? How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? It’s all philosophical claptrap, if you ask me, and not particularly interesting. But what about you, Richard? Would you like to become a God, like me? I have it in my power to make you one.”
“Don’t believe him,” Billy whispered. “He lies.”
“Do you think I’m lying, Richard?” Drouillard asked.
Richard paused for a moment, and without looking at Billy, he said, “No. I don’t. I think you’re telling me the truth. A long time ago, I think you murdered someone to get the body you have now. Who was it? A young man? A boy? A baby, even?”
Drouillard just smiled, but the twinkle had left his eyes.
“Whoever it was, you ejected his soul and stole his body. But that also trapped you inside there. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be so afraid of me now.”
“Oh, am I afraid?” Drouillard asked, a huge grin on his face.
“Of course you’re afraid. Because you know you’re vulnerable. If you could have escaped that skin, you would have, long ago. What is the point of suffering in an old and frail body if you could have a new one? No, I think you’re stuck in that rotting husk, and now you’re dying. So really, you can’t win. It might not be today, but you’re doomed, and I think you know it.”
Drouillard laughed so hard that he almost fell back against the rock. When he had recovered himself, he looked at Richard in astonishment. “Richard Pratt, I underestimated you! Yes, you are truly a wonder! Thank you for making this so much fun! You really do think this is about me, don’t you? You’re so arrogant, and so blind. But I can’t help but be charmed by you, anyway.”
Suddenly, Deary looked up, above the embankment of the wash. The shadows had grown long, and the sun was now touching the rim of the horizon. He looked suddenly impatient.
“If the time wasn’t so short, I could spar with you all day. But alas, we all have work to do.” A malevolent smirk crossed Drouillard’s face, and his eyes suddenly looked very hard and very cold.
More like a snake’s eyes, Richard thought.
“So, do you accept my offer? You possess this big man, and then I suck his soul out of him and send it into the beyond. Think of it Richard! You will be an old soul in a new body. A new body that can touch and love and live a full and complete life with Keith. A body that can right all the mistakes you’ve made. A body that will never again leave someone you love behind. The two of you can grow old. You can die peacefully, many years from now, together.”
Richard tried not to picture it, but the images flooded his mind, anyway. He could see Keith coming to Pil. He could imagine the big man’s arms, holding Keith’s naked body. He could see those enormous hands, now his hands, as they touched and stroked and probed and made Keith whimper with desire. He could imagine the two of them walking together, hand in hand, throughout the years. Endless sunrises together. Endless shared thoughts, shared words, shared caresses. Endless nights of passion. Their shared souls unburdened by the guilt and the shame and the loss that had defined him throughout his entire life. It was both so beautiful and so painful that Richard feared he would cry out. But instead, he just gritted his teeth and held George Drouillard’s gaze. And he was barely aware that Billy had spoken.
“And what about the city?” Billy asked. “Will the killing stop if Richard does this?”
Drouillard laughed, “Oh no, Billy, the killing won’t stop! It’s not going to stop until every son of Brigham is dead and gone from this valley. It won’t stop until the wild horses run free down the shattered streets of Salt Lake City. It’s not going to be over until their despicable buildings collapse into ruin.”
“You can’t believe that’s possible,” Richard said.
“Oh, but I do. When I’m done with this valley, no invader will ever want to set foot in it again. It will be beautiful and clean and pure, the way it was.”
Richard laughed unexpectedly, and he saw it shatter the old man’s smug grin. “It would actually mean something if you really believed that. But you don’t. I can see it in your eyes. This isn’t about any noble restoration of justice. This is about hate and revenge. This is about your own twisted and pathetic soul. This is about you being very, very… small. And in the scheme of things, rather irrelevant.”
Drouillard’s lips peeled back in a sneer, and his eyes grew tiny and hard. What Richard said had cut close to home, and for a moment Richard was afraid he’d gone too far.
“And what about your twisted and pathetic soul, Richard Pratt?” the old man spat. “You’ve betrayed and abandoned everyone you love. Have you forgotten what you did to Justin? Have you forgotten that you died and abandoned Keith, the one you say you love most of all? Is your twisted and pathetic soul ready to watch me kill him now? Are you ready to walk forever in this empty and devastated valley with only that memory to keep you company?”
Richard turned and looked at Keith, who was now quietly sobbing with his head down.
“But here is your salvation, kneeling before you,” Drouillard said, gesturing an open palm towards Pil. “A big, strong, healthy body. So young, and so beautiful. This is how you keep Keith safe. This is how you heal him from all of your horrors.”
Richard’s heart was torn, and his resolve was already weak. He looked at Keith, battered and bloody, with a gun to his head. He looked at Billy, whose eyes were begging him not to do this. And he looked at Pil, whose face was blank and unreadable, but whose hands twisted and flexed at the end of his massive arms, as if they longed to rip the old man’s head from his shoulders.
“Pil…” Richard began, but no more words came. There was terror in the big man’s eyes, but also resignation, and a deep weariness. The two passed a haunted, desperate look between them, until Pil turned away.
“Do what you need to do, Richard,” he said.
“Don’t, Richard,” Billy said. “He’ll kill you. And we’ll have lost everything.”
The last bit of Richard’s resolved snapped in that instant. Knowing that Billy was probably right, he nevertheless felt himself moving toward Pil. First a single step, and then another. Then he was running across the sand.
“No!” Billy screamed as Richard dove headfirst into the mind of Pil Kilani.
Richard expected to die.
He expected to feel the bullet enter his brain before he could open his eyes again. And a part of him actually hoped that he would. It would mean the end of this pain, and even if he was thrown back into the Void, at least he would be free of the Wanderer’s torture.
When he opened Pil’s eyes, he was instead looking into the barrel of Drouillard’s gun. The old man had lifted it instantly and was now holding it against his forehead. Against Pil’s forehead. Richard winced and waited for a bullet to once again crash through his brain. But one second passed, and he was still there. Then two.
He heard Drouillard laughing.
“Excellent! Good job, Richard Pratt! But let me remind you, that if you try to flee from this body, even for an instant, then Keith is dead. And so is Pil. I’ll kill them both, and I’ll feast on your tears. So it’s a good idea if you… just… stay… put! At least for now.”
Richard tried to use Pil’s voice and found it difficult. The muscles were huge and bulky and not his own. He tried to move his hands, but they too were stiff. He was only slowly gaining mastery of the big man’s body. He now found it easy to master a mind, but having Pil’s body instead of his own was like trading in a Volkswagen for a tank. It would take him a moment to get his wits about him. He needed to play for time.
“It feels, nice, doesn’t it,” Drouillard said, leaning forward. “I can imagine that it’s a relief to have a real face again. A real pair of arms and a real pair of legs…” he leaned forward, whispering. “And a real cock. I imagine this beast has a pretty impressive slab of meat down there. And probably a nice, heavy set of balls. Balls like a bull! What do you think, Richard? Can you feel it? Why don’t you put a hand down there and check out what you’ve got. Maybe give that big monster a squeeze…”
Richard felt himself slowly gaining mastery of Pil’s muscles and did his best to filter out Drouillard’s words.
“I bet Keith is going to love that sweet, brown cock. But I guess I don’t really know. Tell me, is your little piggy boy a catcher? I bet he is. He looks like the type.”
“Fuck you,” Richard managed to say. His voice was strange—deeper and richer. The voice felt good, as if his ears had longed for the resonance of his own voice since he had died.
Slowly, Drouillard leaned forward until his face was almost in Pil’s. But he kept the barrel of his pistol pressed against the man’s forehead.
“No, fuck you, Richard Pratt. You’ve made a mistake. Billy was right. I’m going to kill you, and then kill Keith as well.”
Richard looked up suddenly and met the old man’s icy gaze.
“Now, now! No cheating! If you even try to come out of Pil, Keith dies. And I know that’s not what you want.” He twisted the barrel hard against Pil’s forehead, and Richard felt a tiny drop of blood trickle between his eyebrows as the skin broke.
“And after all, I may still spare him. There is always a chance. Perhaps I will kill you, and then spare Keith, just because it amuses me. Do you think I’ll do that? Or should I send him to the Ocean of God, too?” He was whispering in Pil’s ear now, so close that only the two of them could hear. “No, I don’t think so. You and I both know there is no Ocean of God. And we both know that there isn’t even a God, Richard. There is only the Void. There is only terror and loss and fear and suffering that goes on forever and ever. You dared to challenge me, so I’m going to send you back into that nothingness. The only question now is this…”
The old man actually licked Pil’s cheek, as if he longed for the sweat, or the blood that lingered there.
“Do I send you back there to contemplate for eternity how you were not able to save Keith, any more than you were able to save Justin? Should I kill Keith first and let you watch? Or do I send you back for an eternity of never knowing?”
He stood up straight and laughed. “It amuses me to be unsure which I am going to do! Maybe I should toss a coin.” To Richard’s amazement, the old man actually took a coin from his pocket and flipped it into the air. They both watched it fall at Pil’s knees, and they both looked down at it, lying in the dust.
“Heads, Richard. I guess you’ll never know,” Drouillard said. He put the gun to Pil’s forehead, and Richard watched as the man’s finger tightened on the trigger.
Richard expected the gunshot, but he refused to close his eyes. He stared up, unblinking, into the old man’s grinning face.
If I’m going to be sent back to the Void, I want him to remember the purity of my hate, he thought. Let that be the last memory of me he has.
But in that instant, movement on the edge of the wash drew his attention. Perhaps it was just the glancing of the last rays of the setting sun, but Richard was sure he saw a shape standing there, silhouetted in the glare. And then, without warning, an actual shadow cast itself down into the wash, and over the figures of Drouillard and Richard. Both of them turned their heads to see, and Richard squinted, trying to make sense of the glowing shape that was eclipsing the setting sun…
The glow caught something dark, something spinning, that was flying through the air.
For a moment, Richard thought it looked like a black and silver bird, taking flight from a tree that was hiding the sun. But the fluttering object flew faster than any bird, and it was heading directly toward them.
No, that isn’t a bird, Richard thought, in the instant before it struck. But why does it look so familiar?
The whirling black thing struck Drouillard’s arm below the elbow, and it struck hard. The old man had already begun pulling the trigger, but the impact knocked his hand to the side. His muscles spasmed, and the gun fired. The explosion, inches from Richard’s face, blinded and deafened him for a moment, and he felt the bullet graze his hairline as it flew off and to his left.
Drouillard screamed out in pain, grasping his forearm where the object had struck. Richard looked down and saw the thing on the ground.
It’s Howard’s tire iron!
In that instant, more shots rang out. Automatic rifle fire tore into the embankment to Richard’s right. Punctuating that burst was the sound of a single pistol shot, followed by the voice of Carla Grayson screaming out in what sounded like pain or anguish or terror.
Richard feared what that shot meant. Had Mattie done what she promised Drouillard she would do? Had she had killed Keith?
Mattie was still screaming, but the thought that his lover may be dead caused every ounce of rage Richard had ever felt to explode through Pil’s body. Both men were consumed with a single purpose now, and even Keith’s fate was pushed out by their fury.
Drouillard was on his knees, cradling his bleeding right arm, and screaming, “Shoot him! Shoot him!” But no bullets cut them down as Richard and Pil began to move.
They stood up—a huge, terrifying figure. Drouillard went pale with shock. Richard and Pil grabbed the old man’s wrist, still holding the gun, and they squeezed. The old man’s wrist cracked so loudly it sounded like another pistol shot, and the gun fell from his grip. Their eyes didn’t stray from man’s twisted face. Drouillard tried to pull away, but stumbled and fell to the sand. He was a small, gray, frail old man, and the four hundred pounds of Pil Kilani’s body rose above him, relentlessly, and without a word. Their eyes remained locked as Pil’s huge hands closed around Drouillard’s skull. And began to squeeze…
The Wanderer screamed…
And then Richard Pratt was inside of Sutton Deary.
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.