Lanterns: Day Twenty-Five

Abby launched herself at Dr. Godfrey, intending to nail him with a flying tackle, but her shoes lost purchase on the mix of carpet and broken glass, and she wound up taking him down at the knees instead.

Result, either way.

She managed to grab the wrist of his gun hand as they fell in a tangle, and she rapped it against the edge of the coffee table as he struggled beneath her.

“No,” she said, filled with a weird calm despite everything going on. Abby continued to strike his wrist against the dull cherry-wood edge of the table. “No,” she said again, as though addressing a dog who had just done a wee on the carpet. At last, he let go of the gun, which thudded to the floor. Shoving Abby from himself, Godfrey butt-scooted a few feet away, holding up his hands.

“Abby,” he said, “it’s me. It’s Dr. Godfrey. Don’t hurt me.”

“I know who you are,” Abby said, and pointed at the pistol. “How about you don’t hurt yourself, first?”

Dr. Godfrey looked at the gun, then at her…then burst into tears.

“…Oh, God,” he sobbed. “I’ve ruined everything. Destroyed everything.”

Abby let him cry for a little bit, looking out the ruins of the window to check the color of the sky. When the worst of the heaving, shuddering jag was over, she stood, took the couple of steps to where he sat, and slapped him twice, front- and backhand.

With a gasp, Godfrey took his hands from his face. Snot had run down into his graying beard and moustache, and his eyes were red and veiny.

“We know what you did,” Abby said. “But it’s not too late to stop it, I hope.”

“Stop it? There are twenty thousand peop–”

She reached down, grabbed his shoulders, and gave him a deeply satisfying shake. “I can read the City Limits sign, Doctor,” she said. “You don’t know what we’ve been through tonight, and you obviously don’t know how little we’re still willing to put up with. Gerard,” she said, and paused to swallow a sudden lump. “…Gerard is dead. Do you understand me?”

Godfrey shook his head. “Gerard…his heart. All those relapses, all those binges. We thought he might live a few more years if he de-stressed and stayed clean…”

“Was part of his therapy making him run for his damn life all night long?” Abby snapped, crossing her arms. Hitting Godfrey was useful, but she didn’t want to overindulge.

He started to blubber again, and she figured one more slap wouldn’t be too excessive.

Godfrey touched the pink palm-print fading from his cheek, and stared up at her. “What do you want?”

She reached down, grabbed his tie, and slowly pulled until he stood upright. “We’ve been told that there’s one condition in your deal with the Devil that they can’t break, or the deal’s off. You need to tell me what that is, and then we need to make sure it gets broken. And fast — we’ve only got until sunrise.”

“I’m not sure,” he said. “I can’t think…”

“Dr. Godfrey,” she said, and brushed his lapels in a way she was pleased to see made him cringe, “you know all that therapy I’ve been going through to help me deal with my anger?”

He nodded with a hard swallow.

“The good news is, I think it worked. The bad news is, when all that anger went away, I think something worse showed up to take its place.” She gave his tie a sharp tug. “Now talk.”

Godfrey fretted. “I…let’s see. They promised me patients, as many as I needed, as many as I’d need to keep the center in business forever. But I –” he met her gaze, “–I thought I was being clever. You always hear about how, if you make a deal like that, they’ll always find some way to trick you. So I came up with the one condition: that I wouldn’t become a patient, too. But of course, they found other ways to betray me, didn’t they? Those evil, evil…”

“Yeah, yeah,” said Abby. “I know. Believe me, I know.” She rubbed her temples. “So…you don’t get taken over by a pumpkin, then. That’s what makes people into patients. So all we have to do is catch a pumpkin and…oh!”

“What?” he asked, the look on his face showing he hoped it wouldn’t be another slap.

Abby grinned so hard it hurt her cheeks. “We don’t need to catch a pumpkin. We’ve already taken care of that.” She grabbed his arm. “Come on, time’s wasting.”

“Wh-where are we going?”

“To fight City Hall.”

Outside, Gerard still lay where they had left him. Claude’s arms had given out, and Fleur hadn’t known CPR, so they had to abandon him. The two sat at the hybrid’s front bumper, holding each other, faces desolate.

Abby and Godfrey lifted Gerard between them and took him to a quiet back bedroom, laying him out on the mattress. Godfrey did the hand-pass to close Gerard’s eyes, and Abby folded Gerard’s hands over his chest.

Back at the car, the three survivors hugged each other. “We have to get the van,” Abby said, when the cold night air had cleared their heads. “We need that pumpkin-hostage thing.” She filled in the rest as they got in the car.

Claude started it up, but paused before putting it in gear. “Look,” he said, pointing through the windshield.

Abby turned her attention to across the street.

“No,” Claude said, “higher.”

Then she saw them: two loose jack-o-lanterns up in the branches of a big oak in the neighbor’s yard. And as she watched, they jumped down to the lawn below and scuttled off into the darkness.

“Punch it,” Abby said. “The spies are reporting in. Do side streets as much as you can, but man, haul ass.”

“Copy that,” Claude said, and gave the gas all he had. The small car jerked forward with more thrust than anyone expected, banging them back in their seats.

They were blocks away, well towards the center of town, when Abby shouted, “Dammit, I forgot the gun!”


Today’s Words: 1029
Total Words: 29305


Notes: Less than a week to go!


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!