Welcome to the part 8 of my Witch's Bile series which is building towards the last two instalments, so if you haven't read any yet I'd advise you to head here and go back to the beginning! Previously, Eliza and Jo met the monster with the penchant for cutting men's faces off their heads and made the sensible choice of running away as he began work right in front of them.
I don’t have a lot of dealings with the police, as you can imagine. Actually, you might be surprised to hear that I get away with what I do, but I think they’re scared of me. They would never admit it but I’ve packed up and left countless towns leaving a bloody mess behind me and I’ve not been pulled over once. But this was different. The teenagers killed last night hadn’t died by my hand, and there was a witness who had hopefully told the police that. Because they knew I hadn’t been in a bloodthirsty rage, I had a feeling that the police would be round sooner or later. I went to bed knowing that I might be woken up by cautious knocking on the front door.
Instead I woke up of my own accord around ten. Jo was still in her room so I made coffee and went down to the basement to get my old books and notes out. I disturbed a few spiders that were starting to build a home on the box marked “witch shit”, dragged the box up to the living room, and had a look through my records and the old books to see if anything matched the description of what I saw last night. It would probably surprise you, Émilie, to learn that I’ve still got all my things, all my notes, everything a proper witch should have. But you never know when you might need them. Especially when you can’t consult with anyone. The only witch I know in the whole country is Jo and she’s essentially still a student, so useless. I’ve kept away from American ones. I’m sure they’re fine but I’ve got no interest in being sociable.
Anyway, I didn’t find anything. Not a sausage. There were plenty of monsters that had some similar attributes. Obviously we’re familiar with many difficult-to-kill ones, as this fucker had proved to be by being run over twice, including once with a bus if Jo is to be believed. So that was too vague to help much. I thought the ritualistic removal of the victim’s face might prove to be a goer but it turns out that there are three species of monsters that regularly do that in America alone, not including Canada, and all those freaks have a full set of internal organs. Which was what stumped me.
This psychotic Romeo who’s got his eye on Jo had no heart. I told you I tried to make it explode, which is normally not that difficult as long as there is a heart to make explode, and in this case there wasn’t. I don’t think there was anything. The thing was just an empty shell. He was, or had been, a man, that was obvious. The basic energy he was giving off was human. There was none of the frazzled, haywire brainwaves of Patchworks. He clearly wasn’t a zombie as he was forming coherent sentences and didn’t smell like he was rotting. He was simply hollow.
While I wasn’t too surprised that I had never come across this, I was shocked to find that there was nothing in my books about it. Obviously we witches like to know as much as possible about the monsters of the world so we can either defend ourselves against them or, preferably, use them to our advantage. Something like this clearly had value, as anything that’s tough to kill does. Monsters like that are usually working for somebody. Too useful not to be. But it’s difficult to imagine who he would have been working for, going specifically after Jo like that. Or rather, going after people he thinks are after her, in a romantic way.
But as I was working it through I heard the doorbell ring. There was the sound of Jo stirring upstairs as I got up to answer it. I walked past the clock on the wall and saw it was nearly two in the afternoon. It had taken the police all night and more than half the day to get round to seeing me.
Two men in uniform stood on my front porch. They both had their cold weather police coats on, the ones with the slightly fluffy collars, and the standard issue cold weather police hats. I’ve always found this get-up quite adorable, despite feeling somewhat differently about the people inside it. One was younger and was anxiously alternating his stare between two inches over my shoulder and the floor in front of him. The other was older and had greying brown hair tufting out from under his hat to match the greying brown beard. He was the one with the Sheriff’s badge.
“Afternoon, Miss,” he said after a short pause. “I’m Sheriff Larch, this is Deputy Brigley. Would it be alright if we came in?”
“By all means, Sheriff,” I told him, and ushered them inside. I didn’t want to waste any time. Apparently neither did he. I’d barely sat them down in the kitchen before he put his hands on the table and looked me in the eye.
“So, we know you were there last night, Miss Belmont. And everyone in town knows what you are. You asked us to leave you alone and I decided that it was the best course of action. But the problem is that people in town aren’t just scared of you now. They’re scared of whoever did this. And we can’t very well leave him alone.”
I nodded. I appreciated that he had to make his position clear. He was doing well, all things considered.
“Do you know who did this?” he asked hopefully.
“No,” I told him. “But I can assure you I’m doing my best to find out.”
“This guy…I’ve never seen anything like him. When I tried to talk to him…”
“Wait.” I was surprised. “Sorry, you tried to talk to him? So you…did you have him in custody?”
Larch ran his finger around the brim of his hat and looked at the table. “We found him in the parking lot. He looked like he’d been beat to hell.”
“I ran him over,” I interrupted, but he didn’t seem to hear me.
“He was…he was taking the face of the second boy when we got there. The first one, he’d already finished him. We told him to stop what he was doing, put his hands up. He didn’t seem to hear us at first but then he yanked his left hand up and just tore the skin straight off that boy’s head. Then he turned to look at us and…Miss, I’m scared of you but there was an emptiness behind that man’s eyes that just terrified me.”
He paused. I took this opportunity to look at his deputy, who was apparently examining the floral pattern of my tablecloth like it might yield some clue.
“He did what we asked,” Larch continued. “He got in the car. I told my boys to drive him to the station, take his prints, get him in a cell while we cleaned up the victims. Now, the rest is only what I’ve been told, I wasn’t there. But they got him to the station and someone thought they should have him checked out, apparently they saw one of his ribs was starting to stick out of his shirt. Anyway, the doc got there and…she couldn’t find a pulse. He was dead. But…he wasn’t, I don’t know if I’m explaining this well…”
With this final sentence he looked up at me, like he was begging for an explanation, or at least some kind of reaction. I nodded. I mean, of course he didn’t have a pulse. He had no fucking heart. But this was clearly a big shock to the Sheriff so I let him have his little meltdown.
“Miss, we’ve got a man sitting in our cell who is clinically dead. I was hoping…you could tell me just what he is.”
I took a deep breath. Jo coughed from the doorway and I turned to look at her. She’d clearly just woken up and was still in her pyjamas. I don’t know how long she’d been standing there but she looked as anxious for my answer as the Sheriff did. To me, the course of action was clear.
“Well, Sheriff, the first thing you should do is let him go.”
Larch looked as though I’d reached under the table and grabbed his privates. “Let him go?” he repeated. Before he had the chance to reel off all the reasons why it was a bad idea I butted in.
“I’m not exactly sure why he agreed to come quietly. But I do think that at some point he’s going to get bored and he’ll wonder what Jo’s doing and then he will want to leave. And I say this with all due respect but I don’t think that you’ll be able to stop him. So, in my opinion, what you should do is save yourself a lot of bloodshed. Let him go, point him in the direction of this house, and let Jo and myself deal with him.”
He had let me talk, to his credit. It was more than I thought he might do. “And you think you’ll be able to deal with him?” he asked.
“Again, with all due respect, we’ll be able to deal with him a lot better than you could.”
Larch took a moment or two to think about it then gave me a little nod and stood up, followed by his deputy. We agreed that he would discuss a handsome young man looking after Jo at the house in front of the monster in the cells, then turn him loose. Obviously, he would call ahead to let us know exactly when he was being set free.
Once they had left Jo grabbed my arm.
“How exactly are we going to deal with him?” she hissed.
“Don’t worry,” I told her, “I have a plan.
And that’s what I’m saying to you, Émilie. I have a plan. If you hear from me again, you’ll know it worked. Here’s hoping, eh?
Hello there, I hope you enjoyed this. It's a bit longer than usual but I'm trying to get things set up for the final two parts. I know I said that the blog would be updated more frequently but I'm currently quite busy with London Film Festival press screenings, which I'm covering for Cinetalk. However, the final two parts should be up soon so keep an eye out for them. Will update soon! Thanks for reading,