A Car In The Woods: Chapter Sixteen
New? This is a serialized work. Please start on A: A Car In The Woods
The search wound down and finally was called off. Snow came in hard, not just blanketing the county but throwing three quilts on top of it. Schatzi had not come back, nor did they find any trace before the storm hit them. Afterward, it seemed fruitless. Patricia was convinced their precious girl must have gone chasing something. Did she just get lost? Was she trying to find her way back, still, through all this snow and ice? She shook her head. The thought of her getting hurt, dying in the far woods alone, was one she never voiced.
During the day, she kept busy with work, the kids, fixing things around the house, cooking and cleaning. The night was the enemy. Doing nothing, the heaviness in her chest grew, her skin feeling pulled and taut. She was awake more than she slept. Eyes open, she’d stare at the ceiling, motionless. She felt the emptiness of the bedroom. Patricia concentrated on sounds. More than anything, she was hoping for the long series of barking from Schatzi returning. Even one bark. One.
Patricia eventually tired. That was when things got worse for her. Her heart became a heavier lead weight, beating against her ribs. Her thoughts began revolving around and around, which started a headache. Schatzi, gone. The effects of this causing the pain inside Timmy to breach onto those around him. Debra took the opposite reaction. She went silent, monosyllabic when she did say something, hanging her head down as she shuffled around. She didn’t make a fuss when Patricia called her daughter “Debra.” Everything was off kilter.
Then Eddie. Each night the absence of her husband, her best friend, tore through her, replacing any other thought. All of their life together, patches of the good and the not so good, rushed through. As every night, Patricia let loose a flood of tears. She’d drift away on a damp pillow, an uneasy sleep waiting for her.
This night, almost exactly a full month to the night since Schatzi vanished, something cut through her ragged weeping. Loud, outside her window, she heard this incessant clicking noise. This was exactly what Timmy and Debra told her they heard, amongst the story about the car in the woods. She hadn’t believed them. But now, Patricia froze, the crying stopping as her heart began to race. It ended as fast as it came. She waited for more of the clicking, but none came. Her body began to unclench, mobility returning in dribs and drabs. Patricia worked on sitting up, moved the covers off, and swung her legs over the side of the bed.
Taking the few steps to the window was hard, but she managed. Patricia put her hand on the cold glass to steady herself. She looked around, but the moonlight was playing hide and seek with the night clouds. Nothing. Her head dropped, a perfect imitation of Debra. She was turning to go back to bed when she heard something.
She spun back to the window in a forceful, jerky motion. Her foot caught on the nightstand, sending her crashing to the floor. Just before she landed, her head connected with the bed frame. Patricia didn’t move again through the last hours of the night.
In the morning, Debra went looking for her Mother. She was always up before them. Not getting any response from her knocking, Debra opened her parents’ bedroom door. She saw her stretched out by the bed, dried blood soaked into the throw rug. She raced over and knelt beside her. Debra knew enough to check her pulse. She saw that her mom’s chest was moving. She tried but couldn’t wake her.
“TIM!” she wailed, again and again until he showed up at the bedroom doorway.
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Tim stared into his father’s eyes. They locked onto each other. Tim really wanted to run into the woods, but his mom just got married. She’d suffered enough. He didn’t want to hurt her. He wasn’t 100% sure it was his dad. But the face: it was the same, no aging. His shoulders were broader than he remembered, and what he could see of his arms were muscular. The bush was just high enough to hide most of his body. Something else moved beside him; an animal of some sort. It wasn’t any normal shape that Tim knew of. But the color of its coat was etched into his memory.
“Schatzi,” he said, a strangled whisper.
Eddie was moving back step by step. He looked at his son, wanting to go to him. Eddie knew things had moved on without him. He’d kept enough tabs on the three of them over the years to feel the pain that pulsated off of his family. Pat had finally moved on, and while Eddie understood he felt like he wanted to cry. He hadn’t cried in a very long time.
Tim started to walk towards his father and what he was sure was his dog. He was preparing to run as he saw them both backing away, making ground as they vanished behind the thick grouping of the trees. He was just passing the last row of chairs when he heard his name called out. Not wanting to stop, it was the second “TIM” that had him halt and turn around.
Debra stood outside the back door. Her arms were crossed, her head was tilted, and her face did the Critical Frown. Tim knew she wouldn’t come to him. He grudgingly went back to the house, facing her.
“What in blue blazes were you doing?”
Tim shrugged, putting his hands in his pants pockets.
“Tim, you know what today means. I know you don’t want Mom to get frazzled. We’ve experienced too much of that over the years. From her and from the two of us. So, spill it.”
He looked over his shoulder, searching, but there wasn’t anyone amidst the trees and green growth.
Debra punched him in the shoulder. “Well?”
Tim took a deep breath in; as he let it out, he said: “I’m pretty sure I just saw Dad. And Schatzi. They were over there,” he nodded to where the duo had been. “Sis, I’m not crazy. Not any crazier, anyways.”
That brought a smile to her lips while her frown lines became crevices.
Debra lowered her voice. “Timmy. They are gone. Gone. I know that. I know you know that. I can’t…I just can’t anymore.”
Tim brought his sister into a hug, which was reciprocated two-fold. With his mouth near her ear, he whispered: “Debs, it was the two of them. I’m pretty damn sure. I’m going to go look for them.”
Debra held him by the shoulders, taking in the set tone of his voice and his body language. She knew he would go.
“Please, just wait. Wait until all the guests have gone, and Mom and Will take off. Please. She deserves this.”
He nodded his head and started toward the house. He’d lost his appetite for the food inside, but he cared deeply for his Mother. His sister, too.
“Tim.” He stopped, hand on the doorknob. “I’ll go with you. Let’s try, even though it will be the last time.”
They both went inside the house. Music was playing on the HiFi, people were loaded down with food and drink, and Patricia and Will were sharing a kiss. Everyone inside applauded.
Outside, there was stone cold silence.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
Gary/Maynard went ass over teakettle across the room. He landed against the rack of barbells. As he got up, he put both hands around his nose and twisted, setting it straight. Gary wiped the blood that had streamed over the lower part of his face, smearing it into lines across his cheeks. Smiling, he met Eddie as he fully entered the room. Fists met faces; knees attempted to find the squishy dangling parts. They tossed each other around.
Gary got in a powerhouse into Eddie’s gut, sending him flying backward. He landed near the barbell rack. As he got to his feet, Eddie took a 20# barbell and was into his backswing when the Insert went off shorted them both out.
When he woke, he found himself back on the slap, very tightly strapped down. An IV was already in place as one of the Lab goons approached him holding a very large needle syringe. The white-garbed man stopped at the edge of the slab. He had placed the syringe somewhere out of Eddie’s sight.
Leaning over Eddie, eyeball to goggle lens, Eddie barely saw the slap across his face coming. Eddie didn’t feel it. He didn’t feel anything in any part of his body. No sensations. He wanted to shout at the man, but his mouth didn’t work.
Eddie saw, once again, the very large needle. It was raised over his face. A bit of liquid squirted out the end, dribbling down onto him.
He couldn’t help but watch as the needle made a beeline to his left eye.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
The black night brings hints of the unknown.
The unknown can be frightening.
What is known can be downright disturbing.
There was a car in the woods.