W. R. Haley
For disclaimers see Part 1
Feedback: Is welcomed and appreciated. Any constructive criticism will be embraced. I can be contacted at Ghstwrtr8@aol.com Please enjoy!
Colin’s cut required stitches and Stephanie felt that the burn on Autumn’s hand needed to be looked at so she drove the two to the hospital. Cookie, Megan and Michael, who had just come over to check on the progress, stayed behind to clean up the mess that had been left. The three drove silently into town, their thoughts on the events of the morning. Autumn’s mind was whirling, unable to process what had happened. She didn’t believe in ghosts she firmly told herself. But how could she explain what had been happening. She couldn’t. The only way she could is if she accepted the unacceptable and believed that Jane was haunting her house, Allison was haunting her lake and another evil presence came and went as it pleased. With a sigh Autumn slumped back into the seat her hand cradled protectively in her other one.
* * *
“Is there anything on tape?” Colin asked as soon as they got back to the house.
The cut beneath her eye required two stitches and looked a lot worse than it was. The doctor had told her she would have a small scar. Autumn’s burn was a little more serious. The doctor had cleaned it and after putting some ointment on it had wrapped it carefully. He told her he didn’t think there would be any permanent damage. After they had filled her prescriptions they headed back to the house. Cookie, munching on a cookie looked up.
“You betcha boss, some great sound too!” he answered. He handed her some headphones and rewound the tape. Colin settled the headphones over her ears and listened intently.
The tape hissed as it played. Background noises could be heard, the soft tones of the three women talking in the kitchen. Suddenly underneath it all an angry murmur could be heard. The whispered mutterings were hard to decipher, only one word came through clear, die. The angry voice said it over and over again, getting louder as more and more things happened. Colin frowned as she listened.
“Die, bitch, die,” the voice ground out, hatred clearly audible. Colin felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up. She listened until the end when all went quiet. Colin took the headphones off and handed them back to Cookie.
“Great stuff huh boss,” Cookie grinned before stuffing another cookie into his mouth.
“Yeah,” she replied absently. She moved over to the video camera that had been pointed in the direction of the kitchen. “Did you check the video cameras?” Cookie got up and followed her.
“Yeah, nothing really shows up, except on this one. It’s strange though, well, here I’ll show you,” he flipped open the view screen and rewound the tape his eyes intently searching.
Megan came up behind them looking over his shoulder. He found what he wanted and stopped the tape; he backed it up before stepping back. Colin moved to take his place and looked at the view screen.
The image showed the dining room and the kitchen door. She could see her back as she stood in the doorway. The flying kitchen utensils were visible. Colin heard the window break and saw herself grab her face. Her eyes narrowed though as behind her a dark mist formed. It pulsated and moved. It moved closer to her before moving back again. It swirled angrily. She could make out a form in the mist. Colin could almost feel hatred pouring forth. Behind the dark mist another formed this one less dark, a smoky gray color, almost the color of Autumn’s eyes. It swirled around moving into the dark cloud. The two fought for dominance each striving to overcome the other. The dark mist seemed to consume the lighter one and the violence around it intensified. Suddenly the lighter mist expanded covering the dark one. The dark mist started to grow smaller before it disappeared. The gray mist floated there for a moment. Colin saw a woman’s face in the mist before it too disappeared. Things stopped flying around and she saw herself move deeper into the room, going toward the back door. Colin stopped the tape and stared down at it for a moment, lost in thought.
“Pretty intense huh?” Cookie asked.
“I think we may be in for more than we bargained for,” Colin told the two of them her voice serious. Megan and Cookie shared a look. Colin had never looked worried before and now her eyes were filled with it. “I need to call Jonathan,” she left the two standing there as she went in search of a phone.
“Are you sure you are all right?” Stephanie asked Autumn.
The two were sitting on the couch in the den. They had wanted some time alone, but neither really wanted to go to Autumn’s bedroom. Stephanie looked at the bandaged hand in Autumn’s lap.
“Yes I’m fine. The doctor said it would be okay,” Autumn answered her with a resigned sigh.
“Don’t be sorry Steph,” Autumn said softly raising the blonde’s head by placing a finger under her chin. “I appreciate you being worried about me. It’ll be better in no time, unfortunately though it may be a while until I can use my hands,” she grinned roguishly, raising her eyebrows suggestively. Stephanie giggled.
“That’s okay, your tongue still works,” her eyes twinkled mischievously. Autumn laughed and reached over and kissed her. The two women parted looking around expecting something to happen. All remained quiet. They sighed and Stephanie snuggled down, putting her head on Autumn’s shoulder. They remained like that, enjoying the closeness.
* * *
Autumn woke up with a start. Stephanie was curled up next to her on the couch. She looked around disoriented before realizing they had fallen asleep on the couch in her den. The clock on the wall showed the time as 1:12. The only light in the room was from the desk lamp. Her hand ached and her neck was stiff. Autumn carefully got up and gently laid Stephanie down on the couch. The blonde woman muttered something sleepily. Autumn gently brushed a lock of hair out of her eyes. She took the afghan blanket from the back of the couch and covered Stephanie with it. A noise outside the door caught her attention. It was a footstep. Autumn moved to the door and carefully opened it. The hallway was empty but the sound of footsteps could be clearly heard. Her bedroom door opened then closed. She stepped out into the hallway and moved toward her room.
Autumn opened the door and was greeted by the apparition of Jane pacing in front of the bed. Autumn stood in the doorway, out of sight of the video camera and watched the now familiar scene. Jane’s form seemed more solid tonight, less ethereal. The raven-haired woman could almost hear the words coming from Jane’s mouth as she talked to herself. As Autumn watched the window opened and Jane rushed over to help the outline in. Jane’s face contorted in anger and she spoke sharply to the outline. Tears sprang to Autumn’s eyes as she watched the two argue. Even though she knew what happened she still jumped when the first wound appeared. She reached out to Jane hoping to help her as more and more wounds appeared.
“Jane,” she whispered hoarsely, tears falling in earnest now as the thin red line appeared across Jane’s throat. She stepped closer aching to stop the violence. As she reached Jane, the woman’s body began to disappear and the outline headed back to the window, disappearing into the night. Autumn’s tears continued down her cheeks. The dark haired woman left the room. She nodded to Cookie who sat in a chair in the living room watching the equipment. Colin was stretched out asleep on the couch. Megan was asleep in the guest room. She went into the kitchen and out the backdoor. Without thought she headed toward the lake. Halfway there she saw the pale figure moving toward the lake. Her heart sank as she recognized Allison.
She watched as Allison walked slowly to the end of the dock. Allison looked over her shoulder; her eyes filled with such sadness that Autumn’s heart broke. As she watched Allison stepped off the dock and slipped into the water. Autumn moved onto the dock her eyes on the dark water. She was almost surprised that the water was calm. So intent on the water and her thoughts Autumn didn’t hear the soft footfalls behind her. She didn’t feel the presence behind her. A sudden blinding pain raced through her and she fell bonelessly to the dock. A sharp pain exploded at the base of her skull and darkness surrounded her.
A shrill scream tore through the house rousing Stephanie from a deep sleep. Doors began slamming and the windows rattled. Stephanie heard someone calling her name. She stood and looked around for Autumn, surprised to find that she was alone in the room. Frowning she made her way toward the door. The books on the shelves began flying off, landing with thuds on the ground. Stephanie managed to get through the door. The sudden chill in the hallway made the hair on her arms stand up. She could see her breath in the frigid air. A wind rushed through the hallway. Stephanie ran to the living room.
The windows there were also rattling and more doors were slamming open and shut banging against the walls. The stereo was on full blast as it switched channels. The rocking chair was rocking furiously and papers and books were flying everywhere. Colin and Cookie were standing in the middle of the room, Cookie with another video camera and Colin holding an audio recorder. Stephanie felt Megan come up behind her. The scream ripped through the house again. A scream of primal anger and rage, it chilled Stephanie to her core. The wind raged in this room as well.
“Colin! What’s going on?” she shouted, the wind pushing the words back down her throat. Colin didn’t turn to her.
“Stephanie, are you guys all right?” she asked over her shoulder. Her eyes were on the instrument in her hands.
“Colin! Come here!” Megan shouted looking back down the hallway. Colin’s head jerked toward Megan. With a frown she made her way over to her, dodging an ottoman as it slid through the room.
From the bathroom at the end of the hall there was a loud roaring noise. Colin led the way down the hall, the others following behind. The noise came from the sink and the tub. Hot water was pouring from the faucets, the steam rapidly filling the room. A squeaking noise drew their attention to the mirror. Letters began to painstakingly form in the steamed mirror.
“Help who?” Stephanie demanded as the writing stopped. “Help Allison? Or Autumn?” at the mention of her lovers name she looked around, realizing that she had not seen the other woman.
“They are one and the same to her,” Megan said her eyes containing a far off look, she cocked her head to the side as if she was listening to a conversation, one only she could hear.
“What?” asked Stephanie, her eyes a little wild. “What do you mean?” All the noise suddenly stopped and the silence was deafening.
“Autumn and Allison are one and the same for Jane. She can’t distinguish between the two. Time has not passed for her spirit; she doesn’t know that Allison is dead. To her they are the same,” Megan said she turned to look at Stephanie. “She has some very mixed feelings about you Stephanie.”
“Me why?” Stephanie frowned.
“She feels you have stolen Allison from her. Jane feels you are a good person and she feels the love you have for Autumn and it confuses her.”
“Where’s Autumn?” Colin demanded suddenly looking around.
“I saw her earlier, she was going to the kitchen,” Cookie supplied.
Colin and Stephanie shared a look and took off toward the kitchen. It was empty, but the back door was slightly ajar. Colin opened it and they stepped outside. She and Stephanie looked around hoping for some sign of the dark haired attorney.
“Let’s try down by the lake,” Stephanie said walking away from the house.
Without hesitation Colin followed her. The dock was empty when they got there and they stood on it turning around trying to peer through the darkness that surrounded them. The bobbing light from flashlights rushed toward them. Colin gratefully took one from Cookie.
“Where could she be?” Stephanie asked her voice tight in her throat.
“I don’t know, maybe she just went for a walk,” supplied Cookie helpfully.
“I don’t think so,” Megan said softly, her eyes on the ground.
“What?” Stephanie stepped closer to her. “What?”
“I think she is in danger,” Megan told her looking up at her. Her eyes were blazing even in the dark. “We have to find her.” Stephanie stood in stunned silence hearing the words but not comprehending them.
* * *
The man stood in the tree line watching the group of people on the dock. He chuckled to himself as he watched their futile efforts. He knew they would never find him; never find her. He had been told that this was the one. He continued to watch his eyes soaking up the details. Behind him a dark mist formed, it pulsated and moved as it too watched.
* * *
Autumn felt the pain first, an ache in her lower back and a dull thud at the base of her skull. She groaned as she shifted, the pain lancing through her. Autumn opened her eyes and was greeted with complete darkness. At first she thought her eyes were still closed but a quick inspection proved to her that her eyes were open. S he could not make out anything in the dark it was so complete. Autumn struggled to sit up and fought back a wave of nausea. She leaned back against the wall. After a moment she was able to fight back the bile that threatened.
Her fingers tentatively reached out in front of her, encountering nothing but air. Autumn stretched her arms to the side. She encountered an earthen wall. Her fingers brushed against the ground, she realized she sat on a dirt floor. She slid forward reaching out with her feet, hitting the wall opposite. The ground was also wet. Autumn slid back to the wall she had been leaning against. She struggled to stand, wincing when her head hit the ceiling. She could not stand up. Her fingers tentatively moved over the ceiling, realizing it was wood. Autumn searched the wall with her hands looking for the door. She couldn’t find anything. She then searched the wooden ceiling. Her fingers found a small gap between boards. It continued on in a square. A trap door she realized. Autumn moved to stand under it and pushed upward. It didn’t move. She tried again almost sobbing in frustration when it did not budge. Her head pounding she sat back down, leaning against the wall, breathing heavily. S he pulled her knees up and wrapped her arms around them, laying her forehead down. Autumn was alone, in the dark, in this small chamber and she had no idea how she had gotten there or if anyone knew where she was. Near tears she began to rock slowly.
* * *
“Should we call the police?” Stephanie asked fearfully. They had searched the grounds but had found no sign of Autumn. They had decided against searching the woods behind the house until daylight. They were gathered in the living room. Stephanie had called Michael and he had rushed over.
“Until she has been gone 24 hours they won’t do anything,” Michael said bitterly. “She’s an adult.”
“Michael is right,” Colin sighed, running a hand through her hair. It had come loose from the ponytail she normally wore. The bandage over the stitches under her eye needed to be changed as blood had seeped through it. “We will keep searching and if we don’t find her or if we find anything that indicates that,” she paused throwing a look at the pale Stephanie, “that she may have been hurt, we will call them.”
“But we can’t just sit here!” cried Stephanie standing up. “She could be hurt! You saw what Jane wrote on the mirror! We have to do something!”
“We will Stephanie. We will find her,” Colin reassured her. “It will be light soon and we will be able to search the woods.”
“What if she fell into the lake?” Stephanie’s eyes grew wide at the thought. “What if she is hurt and fell into the lake and is drowning!” she stood up moving toward the door. Colin caught her arm and stopped her.
“Stephanie, if she fell into the lake, we are too late,” she said softly, her eyes sad, her voice gentle. Her heart wrenched at the stricken look on Stephanie’s face. “But I don’t think she is in the lake, Steph, we’ll find her,” Colin’s voice was firm. Stephanie burst into tears and turned away from Colin, falling into Michael’s arms.
* * *
Autumn woke with a start. She had no idea how long she had been asleep or if she had really been asleep. The darkness was still stark and impenetrable. A soft noise above her caught her attention. Footsteps. Someone was walking around upstairs. She stood up as much as she was able and pounded on the ceiling of her pit.
“I’m in here!” she shouted, not caring if it was her abductor. “Help me please! I’m down here!”
She heard a loud scraping noise then the angry squeal of rusted metal hinges. The trapdoor in the ceiling opened filtering in a pale light. A shadow loomed over the opening, blocking the feeble light. The figure dropped down into the small chamber and Autumn pushed herself against the wall. The figure moved closer. In the dimness Autumn saw a hand reach out toward her. A searing pain went through her, she lost all feeling in her limbs and fell to the ground, and darkness embraced her as she lost consciousness.
* * *
Autumn struggled to sit up. Her body ached and darkness still surrounded her. She shifted, groaning as her body protested. She stiffened as she felt another presence. She could not see anything but she could hear a soft rasping breathing. Tension thickened in the air, as she remained perfectly still, afraid to move, to breathe. She felt panic start to grip her as a scream built up.
“I know you are awake,” a voice said suddenly, coming out of the darkness.
Autumn sat up and squeezed herself deeper into the corner, trying to put as much space between her and the voice as possible.
“Who are you and what do you want?” she managed to ask around the tight lump in her throat, her voice trembled.
“I am the one,” the voice replied.
“The one what?” she asked confused, her eyes strained to see. She could make an area that was vaguely darker than the rest across from her.
“The one,” was all he would say, his voice almost breathless, as if it was a benediction. They both lapsed into silence. Autumn sat her body rigid, tense as she waited.
“When I saw you I knew that the time had come,” his words startled her. “It’s my turn, just as he has said.”
“He told me that the day would come when it would be my turn and now it is,” the voice was toneless, no emotion.
Autumn could feel her body trembling as the fear coursed through her. It was almost visible in the dark; she could taste it in the air.
“Now is the time, I thought it was before but she lied to me, she led me to believe that she was the one,” he spat viciously moving forward. Autumn whimpered and pulled her knees up to her chest. “But I took care of her. She won’t be spreading anymore lies,” the voice gloated; Autumn could hear the smile in his voice.
He fell silent then and Autumn began rocking back and forth her arms wrapped around her knees trying to find some comfort in the dark, where she sat with a man she couldn’t see.
“It’s almost time,” his voice startled her.
He had been silent for quite some time, just sitting there in the dark with her. Her heart pounded painfully in her chest. Autumn heard a soft animal whimpering sound, a cry caught in her throat when she realized it came from her. Her eyes strained to see.
“Soon it will be done and I can take my rightful place,” his voice was soft, the evil intent in it filled the small room.
“Please, don’t hurt me,” she pleaded softly, too afraid to be angry with herself.
“He told me you would come,” he said again, awe in his voice.
“Who told you?” Autumn asked, hoping to get him talking, anything to find out who he was and what he wanted from her.
“Him,” the man breathed reverently. “He told me it was my turn, now it is. I will be able to hold my head high and say my name with pride,” the man fell silent again. “He came to me after I had made the wrong choice. He told me the right one would come and I would know her when she came. When I saw you, I knew you were the right one. But I waited. I had to be sure, so I followed you, watched you, and then I knew. He came to me and told me I had made the right choice that you were the one.
“My forefathers will all be watching and I can take my place with them,” his voice held awe as he spoke and a fierce desire swelled in his chest.
“What will they be watching?” Autumn asked her voice soft afraid of the answer but more afraid of not knowing.
“My father before me and his father before him and his father before took the flesh of their flesh, blood of their blood, took them to the heights to which they were made. Their virgin blood was used to sustain them, exalt them, and bring them closer to their god. The sweet ripping of their maidenhood gave them knowledge, made them men, men to be reckoned with,” his voice rose with passion, the intensity tightening his voice. “They were taught who their master was, their leader. They were taught what their purpose for being was. Their sole purpose in life was for the pleasure of the men,” Autumn listened in terror a dreadful suspicion was forming in her mind.
“All Richter men before me have taken their twin flesh in the ultimate embrace,” he finished the familiar litany. The name sent chills through Autumn.
“Richter,” she repeated softly, her fears confirmed. “Oh God no,” she moaned aloud.
“Yes, I am the last male Richter and it’s my turn! It is my turn to take my pleasure! To become a man!” he spat out. “My mother bore no female child. I was laughed at and made fun of! I could not become a man. But no more! Now it’s my turn!” he practically screamed. He took a deep calming breath.
“I have heard the stories of the others. Now my story will be added to our annuals. I will be able to now marry and bring forth my own son and a female child to give to him,” his voice throbbed with his belief. The knowledge of his belief sang through his soul. “It is my turn!” He finished almost savagely.
“I am not your sister,” Autumn ventured. She heard his sharp intake of breath. Autumn felt the violence emerging from his clenched form.
“None are our sisters,” he spat. “They are the body to be taken, they are our right!” his voice was choked with outrage. “We take their virginity and it gives us power over other men, it exalts us before others. It’s our right and our duty, as it’s their right and duty to submit.”
“But I am not a virgin,” she tried again.
Autumn felt him lurch in her direction, the force of the blow on her cheek sent her head into the solid wall. A sickening crack filled her ears. A ringing noise buzzed in her ear, she felt herself losing consciousness once more. She struggled to remain conscious, she was afraid of slipping into that deeper dark.
“You are vile to say these things,” he spat, his face close to hers; she could smell his sweat and the foulness of his breath. “I will save your soul from damnation don’t you know that?” he demanded, grabbing her shirtfront and pulling her closer. They were breathing the same air. “You must not utter such lies before you prove unworthy,” he said shaking her. The anger in his voice was tight. Richter shook her again before throwing her away from him. Autumn lost the battle and slipped into the enveloping darkness.
Bobby Richter angrily pulled himself out through the trap door. He slammed the door shut and began to pace around the small cabin. It was a one-room shack in the woods behind his family’s home. His great grandfather had built it. It had been rundown when he had found it and he had spent his time repairing it in anticipation. His father had told him about it. Told him that the shack was where his grandfather had first taken his sister Allison and his father before him and his before him. His father had sat him on the bed and told him of the family secret, the family legacy. It was a wonderful legacy that was his.
Bobby’s father had told him all the old stories and had promised him that he would have his turn. But his mother never gave birth to a female child, much to his bitter disappointment. But he had come to him in the night, in his dreams and had told him that she would come to him, that he could still become a man worthy of the Richter name. He had thought it was his turn two years ago but the girl was not right. Oh she looked like the one, but she was not. He had been so happy, thinking that he would finally have his turn. Until he came afterwards and told him that she was not the one. That he had chosen the wrong one. He was told that the proper one would come to him. Then he would be able to do the deed that had been done by all his forefathers and he could take his rightful place in the family. He had told Bobby this, he would never lie to Bobby of that he was certain.
Bobby continued to pace, his anger at a boiling point. His blood was roaring in his ears, he could taste the anticipation. His body was taut with expectation. Bobby a deep breath and stopped in the center of the room. He looked around at the sparsely furnished room. There was a rickety ladder back chair against the far wall, in the corner of the room stood a small wooden table with two chairs that matched the one against the wall. A cot on a metal frame ran along the far wall. The mattress was lumpy and had dried reddish brown stains on it. Against the back wall stood an old wood-burning stove. His hot gaze fell on the trap door; his breath came in hot gasps. Now, his body urged him. Take her now, it whispered to him seductively. With a hoarse cry he flung himself on the bed. He wanted to! God how he wanted to, but he was afraid. What if she really wasn’t the one? What if this was another trick?
He lay on the mattress, stained with the blood of the previous one. The one he was so sure was the right one. Bobby didn’t want to make another mistake. His mind drifted to the girl from two years previous. He had watched her and followed her. She had flaunted herself in front of him, taunting him. Bobby had convinced himself that she was the one. She had the same color hair, but the eyes were different, but he still convinced himself that she would make him a man. But she hadn’t. After he had finished he looked down, there was no blood between her thighs! She had been tainted. She still taunted him. He had taken a knife and stabbed her, shouting at her all the while, the knife driving deep into her. Finally, his anger satiated, he sat covered in her blood and sobbed. Not for her, but for himself, in despair of ever becoming a man. That was when he had come again and told him not to despair that his turn would indeed come. Now here it was and he was too afraid to take it.
A black shimmering mist formed at the foot of the bed. Bobby watched as it took shape, as it formed an outline of a man. Bobby sat up, his face glowing with reverence for his grandfather.
“I knew you would come,” he whispered. “I have done good, right?” he asked hopefully. Bobby felt the power of the presence and it exited him.
“You have done well,” a voice whispered, seemingly in his head. “She will give you the gift as you will her.”
“She lied to me,” Bobby petulantly said. He felt the anger rising again.
“That will make the punishment all the more sweet,” was the sage reply.
“Yes, yes it will,” Bobby breathed his eyes alight with an inner fire. “She will be punished,” he fell silent again before frowning. “I am afraid,” he finally said his head bowed. The shimmering mist seemed to swell up in anger before reverting to its earlier form.
“That she may not really be the one,” he told the mist.
“She is. Do you doubt me?” the mist asked cold anger dripping from it.
“No!” Bobby protested his eyes wide with fright.
“It is your turn as I have said.”
“My turn,” Bobby breathed, his eyes glazing over as his thoughts turned to his birthright. “My turn,” he repeated those words and lay back on the mattress. The mist slowly dispersed as Bobby lay muttering to himself.
* * *
Autumn lay shivering in the dark. She was chilled to her soul. She doubted she would ever see her loved ones again. Autumn knew who had abducted her and she knew what he meant to do. In his sick and demented mind he believed she was his sister and it was his right to rape her. Incest, passed down through the generations produced this tormented man. To release the demons, he had to perform as his fathers did before him. Autumn felt sick. The room smelled thickly of her vomit. Her cheek ached from where he had hit her. She knew she was going to die. Autumn knew that next time he came it would be to kill her.
No, she thought, first he was going to rape her, and then he was going to kill her. Autumn knew this deep in her heart. The terror was in the pit of her stomach and rising. She forced herself to remain calm. The only hope for her was to think clearly. She was not going to die like a whimpering animal. Autumn dug down deep for the resolve to fight. An image of Stephanie floated before her sightless eyes. The love on her face suffused Autumn with calm, her mind cleared, her thoughts became less fragmented. Stephanie was her anchor. If only to see Stephanie once more before she died gave Autumn the strength to think clearly. If she let her fear have control she would be dead before she got out of this pit.
Once more, she rose and tried to push the trap door up. It would not move. Sobbing in frustration she sat back down. Autumn ached all over. She had no idea what he had done to her but she felt as if she had no strength, that her muscles were nothing but water. Her arm throbbed with a deep pain. She leaned against the wall and stretched her legs out in front of her in hopes of relieving some of the pain. The dampness seeped into her jeans chilling her further.
Autumn took a deep breath and held it before slowly exhaling. She repeated the process several times. She was preparing herself for her next meeting with the last Richter.
Dawn peeked over the horizon hesitantly. The day brightened silently, even the birds seemed almost afraid to come out. The morning had brightened to a blue gray haze as Stephanie stepped out on the porch of Autumn’s home. There were dark circles under her eyes and her short blonde hair was tousled. Jane had been particularly restless last night, so even if she had wanted to sleep she would not have been able. Colin stepped out behind her.
“We will find her Steph,” her friend said softly from behind her. Stephanie didn’t answer. She didn’t have one. Stephanie fought tears as she watched as the day brightened.
As soon as it was light enough to see the six of them made their way into the woods behind Autumn’s house. They had spread out but stayed with in sight of each other. The woods were dense and the light barely seeped through the trees. At intervals they would shout Autumn’s name in hopes that the woman would answer. A vague hope clung to them, that perhaps she had become injured and was waiting in the trees for them to find her.
* * *
Bobby woke with a start. He didn’t remember falling asleep. Rubbing his eyes he stood up. Anticipation seized him as he realized where he was. A grin spread slowly over his long face. He ran a hand through his dark hair. With a crow of laughter he moved to the trap door. Taking a deep breath he bent down and opened it. His blood was singing in his veins as looked down into the dark pit.
Autumn looked up when she heard the door open. A soft glow penetrated the darkness, barely reaching her. She watched as Richter dropped down into the pit, bypassing the short ladder. She was ready for him.
Bobby turned to her, his face in shadow but his eyes glittered in the dark. Autumn took a deep breath. He moved slowly to her, hunched over, his hands in front of him. Bobby reached her and roughly pulled her to her feet. He pushed her in front of him and forced her to the ladder. Her numb feet fumbled for the rungs. Autumn felt his rough hands behind her, thrusting her through the opening. She stumbled as she stepped into the room above. Before she could get to her feet he was there, Autumn’s eyes widened in surprise as she recognized him, his lank, greasy hair, and his intense eyes. It was the same man in the truck that sat across from her driveway, the same man that had bumped into her outside of Michael’s shop. Autumn raised a hand to shield her eyes. The soft light peering in hurt her eyes after so long in the dark. Autumn squinted painfully. Bobby pulled her to her feet and stood before her.
“It is time,” he whispered.
His eyes were bright. The reek of his sweat made Autumn gag, she felt the panic rising. Swallowing she forced it down. She knew she had to remain calm. Autumn saw him pull a gun from the waistband of his dirty faded jeans. He didn’t point it at her; he set it down on the table, next to a black object she recognized as a stun gun. That must have been what he had used on her, her mind pointed out calmly.
“It is time,” he whispered again facing her.
“You don’t have to do this,” Autumn said taking a step away from him. His eyes turned hard, flat.
“Yes I do, it’s my turn,” he replied calmly.
Bobby watched her back up another step; something close to amusement flashed briefly though his eyes. Autumn stopped when she bumped into the ladder-backed chair in the corner. Her eyes skimmed the room. The bed was opposite her and Richter was between her and the door. She stepped to the side of the chair, keeping one hand on it.
“Really you don’t have to do this. I am not the one,” she tried again. Richter laughed harshly and stepped toward her. His eyes gleamed insanely and Autumn knew that there was no reasoning with him.
With a speed that surprised them both, Autumn picked up the chair and hit Richter squarely over the head with it. The chair shattered. He went down stunned. Autumn wasted no time, still gripping a chair leg she ran to the door and burst through it.
Her legs were wooden and she was already panting with the effort. Autumn heard a roar of rage from the shack. She looked back and saw Richter in the doorway. He raised his hand and she saw the glint of steel from the gun. With a cry of desperation Autumn turned and forced herself to run for the trees.
She had just reached a thick cropping of trees when she heard the gunshot. A piece of bark flew up and cut deep into her cheek. Sobbing she ran on. Another gunshot rang out and a shearing pain lanced through her arm. Autumn stumbled and grabbed her upper arm. With a quick glance back she shakily regained her feet and ran. She heard Richter behind her. Her breath came in great sobbing gasps as she ran toward what she hoped was her house. Autumn could feel Richter getting closer, she could feel his hand reaching her, and she felt his fingers pulling on her tee shirt. Strong arms pulled her back. The breath was knocked out of her as she fell heavily on the ground. Richter’s body pressed into hers. Crying out her fingers fought for purchase on the soft ground as she twisted beneath him and tried to crawl away. The chair leg was just out of her reach, her uninjured arm strained to grab it.
“Bitch,” Richter spat, turning her over straddling her.
His fist slammed into her face. Again and again his fist came down. Darkness crept in on Autumn as pain exploded through her. Autumn managed to get her hands free and she flailed at him hoping to hurt him, to get him away. Autumn managed to turn over again and lunge for the chair leg. Her fingers curled around it just as he wrenched her shoulder and pushed her on her back again. With all her strength she swung the chair leg and bashed him on the side of his head. With a grunt he slumped over. Scrambling she pushed him off and got to her feet. Without a backward glance she took off.
* * *
The sound of gunshots echoed through the woods. Stephanie stopped her eyes searching through the trees. She turned and looked at Colin. The chestnut haired woman was listening intently. Inexplicable dread coursed through Stephanie.
“Autumn!” she screamed.
“I think it came from over there,” Colin said running toward her. She pointed off to Stephanie’s left. The blonde had been at the end of their small line. Stephanie nodded and followed the taller woman deeper into the woods. She could hear the others following.
A few moments later they came to the rundown shack. The door was opened. Colin moved carefully to the door. It was empty. Inside a broken chair lay on the floor and the trap door stood open.
“There is nobody in here,” she tossed over her shoulder. Stephanie opened her mouth to say something when another shot rang out behind and to the right of them.
* * *
Bobby got slowly to his feet. Groggily he looked around and picked up the gun he had dropped. Shaking his head he fired a shot in the direction he thought she had gone in. He stumbled after her. His only thought was to get her. He had to have her.
Autumn heard the shot and veered to her left. The bullet struck a tree off to her right, well away from her. She risked a look behind her. She saw Richter stumbling after her. Autumn heard his voice calling out to her. Looking back ahead she saw a break in the trees. Sunlight glittered off the lake. She knew she was close. Autumn pushed herself harder. Behind her she thought she heard Stephanie shout her name. Her feet dug into the earth as she ran. She heard Richter crashing through the trees toward her.
Autumn almost cried out in relief as she broke through the tree line. Ducking her head she ran, her legs pumping harder carrying her closer to the water. She dared another look behind her; he was gaining on her. Her feet hit the dock, the hollow sound throwing her off balance. Autumn stopped suddenly as she reached the edge. She whirled around to face Richter, his face a murderous mask as he too reached the dock. With a heavy heart she knew she would die here. In the distance she thought she heard Stephanie call her name again.
* * *
Stephanie and the others ran as fast as they could through the trees. They heard a man’s voice yelling and ahead of them they saw him. In front of him in the distance was Autumn. Stephanie’s heart soared and she stumbled. Colin grabbed her arm and kept her from falling. She shouted Autumn’s name but the woman didn’t slow down. Stephanie ran raster, not caring about the branches that cut into her. She ignored the sting of the leaves hitting her face. Her only thought was to get to Autumn. They broke through the tree line just as the man reached Autumn on the dock. Stephanie cried out Autumn’s name again. As she ran her eyes never left the figures on the dock. As the blonde watched the man raised his arm, and pointed the gun at her beloved.
In slow motion Autumn watched as Richter in a rage, raised the gun. She felt the wind coming off the lake begin to blow fiercely. Richter was having trouble staying on his feet as he moved closer to her. Autumn could feel the wind tugging at her legs. The muffled sound of the gunshot drifted to her. The bite of the bullet threw her off balance and she began to fall into the water. She heard another gunshot as she hit the water.
Bobby fought the wind and moved to the edge of the dock. He watched as the water turned red and Autumn slowly began to sink to the bottom. A smile stretched across his lips. Suddenly he frowned as the water began to churn and roll. It angrily bubbled and frothed, sending sprays of water into the air. The wind slapped into him, bitingly. A loud rumbling began from the pits of the lake, from the very bowels of the earth. The wind howled and whipped around him. He could feel the dock beneath his feet start to shake. Bobby was having trouble keeping his balance.
Something was moving under the surface, steadily rising toward him. The water churned violently. Suddenly from the depths burst a figure. A woman dressed in white her arms raised to the heavens in supplication. She looked at him and his blood ran cold. Her face was gray, bloated; weeds clung to her hair, her shoulders. Her eyes burned with a fire that burned him. Their gazes locked as she moved toward him. He struggled to back away, but the wind held him in place. The woman beckoned to him. Her lips whispered to him, asking him to enter. Bobby shook his head and tried to back away. The wind pushed him forward. He fought it, crying out. The wind surged and pushed him forward again. He lost his footing and fell into the water.
Struggling he raised his head above the water. The woman looked at him, her eyes burning with triumph. Her swollen and peeling lips moved into a smile as she glided to him. He began to thrash about, trying to swim away to get away from this apparition. She wrapped her arms around him and slowly began to submerse herself.
Bobby fought against the cold arms that held him, fighting vainly to stay afloat. He saw the blonde woman and the others come to a halt at the edge of the dock. He reached out to them, his eyes pleading.
“Help me!” he shouted. “Help me!” his mouth filled with water as he sank. Panic set in as he struggled to get free of the arms only he could see. But they held fast as they slowly sank to the bottom. The wind stopped and the surface of the lake grew calm as Allison slowly slipped further down holding onto the last male Richter.
“There she is!” called out Cookie pointing to the still form of Autumn floating face down in the water.
Colin and Michael jumped into the water and pulled her to shore. The others helped pull the unconscious woman to the banks of the lake. Confusion reigned as Colin and Cookie quickly began CPR on Autumn. Michael held Stephanie as the blonde bit back tears, her worst fears lodged in her throat.
“Breathe,” Stephanie urged silently.
Tears of relief streamed down her face as Autumn coughed weakly, water pouring from her mouth. Stephanie slumped into Michael’s embrace for a moment before falling to her knees next to her lover.
* * *
“What do you think happened to Richter?” Michael asked.
It was much later. The police had already left with Bobby Richter’s body. Autumn lay on the couch. The two bullets that had hit her had just grazed her right arm. It was bandaged and in a sling. Her face was battered and she had a black eye and a swollen lip. Stephanie’s eyes clouded over whenever she looked at the bruised face and the fresh bandages on her arm and hand. The blonde sat on the couch, scant inches separating them, holding onto Autumn’s undamaged hand tightly as if afraid of letting go.
“I think Allison took care of him,” Autumn said softly. She told them of the strange wind that had sprung up while they were on the dock. Autumn also told them of seeing a strange figure in white rushing to the surface as she struggled to remain afloat.
“He was the last male Richter,” she explained. “He was very much like Robert, not only in looks but his mind was just as twisted. I think Allison rose up and took him with her back to the bottom of the lake.”
“Season, you know this sounds like a bad Jane Seymour miniseries,” teased Michael. His eyes though were still haunted by the vision of her floating in the water.
“I think Autumn is right,” Megan spoke up. “I sense that the two spirits that occupied this space are at peace now. Their tormenter is dead and the thing that tore them apart is now resolved.”
“How do you mean?” Stephanie asked puzzled.
“I think I know,” Colin replied. “Robert, in a sense kept them apart. He murdered Jane, who haunted this house. Allison her heart broken by her lover’s tragic death at her brother’s hand, committed suicide. Her spirit haunted the lake. They were both earth bound, they were kept apart in the hereafter. So when Bobby, the last Richter, threatened Autumn and came within striking distance of Allison, she was able to avenge her lover’s death, in effect resolving the situation. Jane is now free to move on and there is nothing to keep Allison from joining her,” she finished, looking around at the group. They fell silent as they processed what Colin had told them.
“Well all I can say Season, is that you sure do have an effect on women, both dead and alive,” Michael said breaking the silence. They all laughed, the tension of the last day melting away.
“Can you get any more readings Megan?” Stephanie asked, her thumb moving gently along Autumn’s hand.
“The only thing I feel is an incredible amount of joy and an abounding feeling of peace. There is a lot of love here,” she told them. “The confusion that Jane felt is now gone. I don’t think you will have any more trouble with her.”
“Will her spirit always be here?” Autumn asked, struggling to sit up. She grimaced as pain shot through her arm. Megan cocked her head and listened to her inner voices.
“I don’t know,” she answered truthfully. “She seems content here,”
Megan frowned slightly, her eyes puzzled; she shrugged and turned her attention once more to the people around her. She could feel Jane’s presence hovering around the room. Another presence slipped in as well. A loving presence. Her senses tingled as the two moved freely toward each other, embracing one another. She could practically hear Jane’s triumphant laughter and a softer laugh filled with joy. Megan sat, listening not only to the earthly voices of those around her, but also to the delighted mutterings of two spirits finally at peace.
* * *
Later Autumn and Stephanie lay in bed holding each other. Words were unnecessary at this time. Anything that needed to be said had already been done said. All their thoughts and emotions were in their eyes as they held each other. Stephanie had just drifted off when a flicker of movement caught Autumn’s eye. Turning over she sat up and once more saw Jane pacing in front of the bed. Autumn gently nudged Stephanie awake. Stephanie gave a startled exclamation at the sight.
The women watched as Jane paced anxiously. She looked at the clock on the wall. Jane nervously wrung her hands as she paced. Suddenly, in response to the knock at the window, she flew to it and opened it. Autumn was surprised to see a figure come through the window. A smile formed as the figure straightened up. Allison stood facing her lover. The two apparitions embraced and shared a tender kiss. They pulled back. Jane reverently touched Allison’s face, a look of disbelief on her own. Tears glistened on their cheeks. They kissed again.
Autumn and Stephanie watched as the other two embraced tightly. The two reunited lovers began to fade from view. Autumn could hear the faint sound of delighted laughter as the vision faded.
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