The Hook, ch 15

Confronting The Fear

Rose DeCourtney and Mike Clelland were in Morey’s Bookstore as the customers started to filter out at closing time. When Rose turned the door sign around to read ‘closed’, he nodded at her. I’m ready, he thought.

Rose nodded back. Me too. Then she asked, “Do you think this’ll work?”

Mike shrugged. “Hard to say. Depends on the detective, I guess. But Joe’s dead. I’ve got to at least try.”

They were in the middle of getting things ready when they felt the nightmare-storm beginning. Pain and fear were flowing around them, and had been for some time. Inside the bookstore, it was just twinges and dread with no specifics, but things like this didn’t penetrate the place much at all unless they were really damn bad outside.

They’d felt it before, but they knew what it was now and they knew what it meant. Oh no, they thought together. Then they were both walking, back between the shelves, to the best-protected places in the store, to wait out the storm.

They raged, separately at first and then together. Both of them hated having to take shelter like this. Mike’s face showed the bitterness and anger as well as dread as he trudged resentfully back into the bookshelves. He felt helpless, caged like a cat.

Rose followed him at first, but then her jaw set in an angry line and she stopped. Mike felt her stopping, and looked around, confused. The store was dead silent as she stared at him. We can’t just run from this forever, she thought. That bastard is killing people and when we take shelter we never know enough to stop him. And if we don’t stop him he’s going to do this to us forever.

And then she marched toward the door. As she approached the door, she was terribly afraid. She was afraid with the desperate, sick fear that was coming through the wall, but she was afraid too for good reasons, for her sanity and for her life. Still, she wasn’t as afraid as she was angry. Before she went out, she turned. Mike had gone on back into the stacks, so she spoke aloud. There was a catch in her voice. “Mike? If I should forget, please … remind me who I am.”

Her heart was pounding again, and her throat felt swollen shut. This was what everybody with her problem had been running and hiding from for two years. It wasn’t fair that this thing was driving them all down holes like gophers. Whoever it was was killing people, so somebody had to face this thing. She felt panicky, and her palms were sweating cold clammy sweat, but this absolutely had to be done. She pulled open the door and stepped outside into the full force of it. It was even worse than she had feared.

I am Rose, she was repeating inside her head. But I am also / Driving a truck/ In incredible pain/ turned on sexually/ have a mission to kill two cops/ about to die, oh dear God my skin is gone/ Rose. I am Rose/ I am not-Rose. I am driving this truck/ I am Rose. / I must do this/ I am Rose/ I must die/ This is what the Hook made me for/ I am Rose/ This is all I am/ I am Rose/ This is all I’m good for/ I have worth/ The Hook will let me die if I just do this/ I am Rose/ I must obey, he has my ring/ I want to live/ I pray for death/ the pain is all I have left/ I am Rose/ There is no hope for me/ the pain is someone else’s/…

She fought to keep her arms at her sides as not-Rose cranked the wheel over. She saw/didn’t see the car with the cops in it, a Ford Crown Victoria, coming at her. Two cops, one black, one white. Her eyes stung with the blood that was/wasn’t dripping into them. And then there was / a brief flash of befuddlement/ a big black hand on the wheel/ oh no, too late/ and the crash, one second of experience and confusion protracted in her consciousness for what seemed like minutes. Then suddenly it was all over.

Rose leaned, trembling, against the building. At least she was still Rose, she realized. Few people were in bed at this hour, but still she felt the anguish of the dreamers who’d come through the storm, and the nerves of all the ordinary people who suddenly knew something was desperately wrong even if the extent of it wasn’t driven into their heads the way it was hers. The birds had fallen silent.

Her muscles knotted and unknotted. Her jaw clenched. Rose drew breath in huge, shaky gasps. She stood up, but her stomach instantly told her that was a mistake. She just managed to stagger over to the gutter before she puked. But it was mostly just painful dry heaves, because she hadn’t had supper. A groan escaped her lips, and then finally a prayer. “Oh Goddess, mercy on her soul,” she whispered.

Then she straightened up and marched back inside the bookstore. Mike was staring at her in shock. You went … out there…. Rose, are you still you? he wondered.

Rose nodded grimly. And we were right, she thought for them both. It’s someone like us.

Then, as Mike watched her dumbfounded, she walked to the register, picked up the phone, and dialed 911. “Hello. I’d like to report a….” her voice trailed off for a second. She didn’t even know what to call it. “Two police officers were just involved in a car crash.” A slight pause, then, “No, I don’t know their names. One of them was the investigator on the Lorena Davis and Joe Clelland cases, I don’t know who the other one is. One was black and one was white. They were in a white Ford Crown Victoria, and they crashed head-on with some kind of truck…. I don’t know what kind of truck, I didn’t get a good look at it, but the driver was up higher than in a van or a pickup, and there wasn’t a hood in front of her.” Another pause, then, “No, not here. They’re about two miles east of here, on California Street. They were coming here.” Mike could see from Rose’s reaction that The 911 operator was having trouble believing that she was calling in a crash from two miles away. But Rose plowed straight on. “You’ll need an ambulance and paramedics for the officers. I don’t know how badly they’re injured, or even whether they’re injured. But you’re going to need a hearse for the truck driver, she’s definitely dead. She’s at least unconscious after the crash, but even if she’s not dead yet you won’t be able to save her. Her skin is missing.” Mike’s face went gray as he took that one in.

The 911 operator was having trouble with it too, evidently. Then Rose shook her head. “No, this was not a ‘traffic accident’. This was definitely deliberate. Somebody is trying to kill those two officers, and whoever it was did kill the driver of that truck, and you better get someone there fast because whoever it is, he’s probably closer to the crash than I am.” Another pause, then, “Of course I’ll swear out a statement. My name is Rose DeCourtney, and I’m at Morey’s Bookstore.”

She looked up and her eyes locked with Mike’s. I guess this is plan B for convincing them this is real, they thought together.

Mike just shook his head. It was a stupid thing to do. But if it worked… Suddenly the little mind-reading demo they had planned to try to convince the cops seemed childish and trite.

Rose said goodbye and hung up the phone.

“Rose,” Mike said. “Nobody’s that strong. Nobody can possibly make a nightmare storm like that all by themselves! And how could any of us put more shit on anyone than we take for ourselves? I mean, the whole thing is like empathy, right? You share somebody’s mind, you hear their thoughts, maybe they hear yours a little… But how… why … would anyone do that to somebody, why would someone want to live a chunk of that?”

Rose stared at him. “Mike. I stepped out there into the thick of it, and I’m telling you somebody is that strong. This wasn’t a million people responding to something on a TV show, this was one freak, getting his sick sexual kicks by whipping some poor mutilated woman into suicide and murder. I could prove it to you….” Mike went pale. Neither of us wants that, came the thought, but there was no way to tell which of them had thought it. Rose continued. “…but whether he’s sharing it or projecting it he’s putting unbelievable pain on people and he’s doing it on purpose.”

Mike stared back at her. “You stepped out in that storm. On purpose. You took a chunk of that for yourself. And you didn’t get Lost in it. Rose, I thought I was strong, but I could never have done that! I’d have gotten blown away!”

Rose cocked her head to one side. “Somebody had to do it, Mike. And even if I’d gotten Lost in the storm somebody would still have to do it, again and again until we know enough about this lunatic to stop him.” She was blinking back tears but her voice didn’t break. “The only alternative is running to shelter forever, while it gets worse and innocent people die. I know what this is now, Mike. I can’t hide from it any more. I won’t be the one who lets those people die. I won’t be the one who hides and suffers. No more.”

This is one chapter of The Hook, a novel which is being published serially on this site. This page links to all chapters so far serialized.

The complete novel is available from Amazon.

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