Lanterns: Day Twenty-Four

First thing to do was find transportation. Dr. Godfrey lived in the northernmost part of town, where the nicest houses sat. Reaching there from where Abby’s group currently stood would make a nice afternoon hike, but when a force of twenty thousand-some-odd invaders were on the verge of setting up a permanent beachhead, one wanted speed above all else.

Luckily, being in a small town worked out yet again.

“Check the trucks,” Abby said as they moved up and down the street, lying low, testing door handles gently in the hopes of not triggering any alarms. “Especially the ones with gun racks in the back window. Those’ll have owners hoping the intimidation factor means they won’t have to bother locking the doors.” She pulled up the handle on her third Dualie so far, but no luck.

“Got one!” Fleur called, and Abby and Claude hustled from their side of the street to where Fleur and Gerard were working to check out her success.

Not a big intimidator pickup, like Abby had hoped for. In fact, it was as far from intimidating as one could wish: a tiny hybrid hatchback.

“Oh well,” Abby said. “At least it’ll run quiet.”

They piled in, Claude behind the wheel, Abby on shotgun. The keys were ‘hidden’ above the visor. Claude fired it up and they got moving.

“Any idea on what to expect?” Gerard asked.

“Nothing,” Abby said. “Either this whole ‘condition’ the pumpkins have to meet means they’re staying away from Godfrey, or they’re guarding him above and beyond what they put around us.”

“You’ll just talk them to death again, right?” Fleur chimed in.

Abby shivered at the thought. “I wasn’t even sure that would work the first time,” she said. “I guess the spirit just moved me, or something. But I don’t know if I can pull it off again. And if anyone’s there who really can’t stand me, well, they won’t listen to me at all…”

The buildings and stores and homes all being lit up lent a weird, otherworldly vibe to the night as they cruised up the street to Dr. Godfrey’s neighborhood. Twice they passed cars driven by the possessed, but Claude touched the gas pedal just as they could have gotten a good look at each other. So far, no one had done a U-turn in pursuit.

“…I’m gonna close my eyes, okay?” Gerard said. “Guess that Coke didn’t wake me up as much as I hoped.”

They were maybe five minutes away. “Okay,” Abby said. “Happy catnap.”

She thought about how he was finally, maybe, possibly getting on the wagon for good after so many relapses. She hoped he would.

And if nothing else, she’d be damned if he showed her up. As long as he stuck with sobriety, so would she.

“I’m hoping,” Abby said, “that Godfrey will still be full of remorse when we get there. If he’s changed his mind, or if he’s thrown his lot in with the pumpkins, then I don’t know what we’ll do.”

“We’ve got a car now,” Claude said. “There’s always the fallback of getting out of town. Who knows, maybe at sunrise they’ll be too busy celebrating to notice us escaping.”

“Time to find out,” Abby said. “Here we are.”

They pulled into the semicircle drive in front of the house with the brass plaque reading GODFREY by the door. Abby and Claude got out, and Abby heard Fleur talking in the back seat.

“Hey,” Fleur said. “Wake up. We’re here. Hey, Gerard…Gerard? Wake up. C’mon, wake up!”

Abby could see her shaking him. From the way his head lolled from side to side, Abby felt a chunk of glacier shear off and splash down in her guts.

“Claude!” Abby cried, and the two of them got the door open and Gerard out on the cobblestones of the driveway even as Fleur screamed and tore at him.

“Wake up! Make him wake up!”

Claude got him on his back and, with much economy of motion, checked his breathing and felt for a pulse at neck and wrist. Then, without further prelude, Claude shucked his coat and cardigan and started CPR.

Abby could only stare. Lying. Messing with me. Lying. Messing with me. Ly–

Claude grunted the numbers as he thrust away at Gerard’s sternum with his stacked palm-and-fist. Fleur had backed up against one of the hybrid’s tires, knees drawn and hands clasped over her mouth. She wasn’t crying, not yet.

We save him, but it takes so much time the pumpkins win.

We don’t save him, and it takes so much time they win.

We leave him, and we find out later we could’ve saved him if we’d just worked a couple more minutes.

Claude looked up at her and, as if channeling Gerard, seemed to read her mind.

“One-two-go-four-five. One-two-get-in-side. I’ve-got-this-four-five.”

Abby broke away and sprinted to the front door, almost tripping over the doormat. She tried the door latch, but it was locked.

She looked around wildly, spotted a large potted fern, and wondered if there might be a key hidden in it.

And then realized she didn’t have time to look.

Abby hoisted the heavy pot, feeling her back start protesting again after a few hours of blissful quiet. She stumbled to the front of the house and heaved the pot through the big front window, shattering it. She lost her balance, tumbling to the ground, but righted herself and ran to the bared windowsill.

She picked out loose shards as quickly and efficiently as she could to give herself barely enough room, then climbed through a broken window for the second time that night. Her shoes crunched on glass as she entered Dr. Godfrey’s home, and she wondered how much time she’d have to waste looking for him.

She didn’t need to worry. Godfrey stood there in the living room, staring at her. He wore a nice suit, as though getting ready for a fancy dinner.

He also had a pistol in his mouth, and his finger on the trigger.

*****

Today’s Words: 1009
Total Words: 28276

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Notes: Finally caught up! Now it’s time to slack off, not write tomorrow, and start the whole problem over again…

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I’m attempting to write a Halloween-themed horror novel in October! Visit Day Zero for more information, and check out Countdown to Halloween for more blogging that’s altogether ooky!

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