a mob surrounding a flame they're coming for you

They’re Coming For You – A Novelette (Part 5)

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I remember it was particularly dark that night. The new moon hid its face and the stars dimmed under the streetlights. Some of the streetlights were dead and others flickered and those shining brightly cast a soft reflection on the wet, glistening black road. I wore all black. I even thought of wearing a black ski mask but changed my mind at the last minute. A pastor sneaking off into the night felt silly for some reason but I understood the overabundance of caution.

Parking a few blocks away under the shade of large oak trees, I walked the rest of the way. It was easy to feel paranoid, to feel like every decision you make is either too much or not enough. Either way, I got a refreshing walk out of the deal in that crisp fall night. I didn’t look over my shoulder as I walked down the road, reminding myself that I was under the protection of the Lord. I swiftly headed to the Gergis’ house on 184 Festive Way. I glanced at my watch before reaching their house. It was almost midnight.

Even at that late of night, I dared not go to their front door and knock. I told Pat I’d be discreet and stuck to my word. I hopped over their chain link fence and walked up to their backdoor. I was glad the Gergis’ didn’t have a dog.

Tapping lightly on the door, I waited for a minute or so and knocked an octave lower. I waited another minute and questioned if I should knock a third time. When I raised my fist and almost rapped my knuckles against the door, it cracked open with the chain taut and secure. One big eye appeared in the dark crevice.

“Pastor Jonathan,” Bartholomew Gergis said.

“Bartholomew,” I said.

“I’d invite you in, but it wouldn’t do much good. You’re too late. They’ve already left.”

“What, why? Where did they go?” I asked.

“On second thought, I suppose we should talk. I’ll make some tea,” he replied. Without another word, he closed the door, slipped the chain off the hook, and let me inside.

The backdoor led directly into his kitchen. It was sizeable enough with plenty of counter space, a window to see into the backyard, and a small, round breakfast table.

“Please sit,” he said. He wore a long blue robe and a nightcap on. His five o’clock shadow was prominent and his eyes looked bloodshot.

I sat and interlinked my fingers together, leaning forward with my elbows on my thighs.

“Coffee? Tea?” he asked. “We have herbal teas, green tea, or, my especial favorite, Earl Grey.”

“Green tea, thanks.”

He put a teapot on the stove and turned the dial to boil the water. “I’ll likely be whispering this whole time. You just never know what they can hear these days. Do you remember Sherry?”

The name kind of rang a bell but I couldn’t place it. “Sherry? Was that before my time?” I asked.

“No,” he said, shaking his head and leaning against the fridge. “I think you met her briefly a year or two ago at a church potluck. She was a reclusive type, but a good friend ours. When she agreed to come to the potluck, we thought maybe she’d come to the Lord and all, but she didn’t. It was strange. She came out, acted very cordial to everyone, and then swiftly went back to her old ways, yelling at the neighbor’s kids for running in her yard and keeping to herself. She rarely ever came out of the house for anything unless we invited her over for dinner. She got most of her food through Meals on Wheels. Sometimes her distant relative might come and bring her something. But, as we quickly learned, good food tended to bring out the best in her. Once she had a good meal, things changed in that woman, something good and wholesome. The bitterness washed away for a time. That’s how we got to know her when we invited her over for dinner. She loved Holly’s pot roast. Between you and me, that always perplexed me. Holly’s pot roast is fine, but…” and his voice grew real quiet. “It’s not that good.”

I smiled, suppressing a laugh.

“Anyway, Sherry was a nice woman once you got to know her, but like all of us, she needed Jesus.”

“You keep saying was like something happened to her, Bartholomew.”

A grim expression overshadowed his face. “Yes, to the point. She came over one afternoon, looking like Beelzebub himself came for a visit. I’m telling you, I’ve never seen anything like it. Her hair was frizzy, her eyes wide, and her lip quivering faster than a horse race at the Kentucky Derby. When I let her in, she came and sat directly in the chair you’re sitting now. She rambled and raved and said all kinds of bizarre things but what caught my attention the most was when she said, ‘They have mighty big ears.’”

“Like Red Riding Hood?” I asked.

Suddenly, the teapot whistled and Bartholomew raced over to pick it up and keep it from growing louder. He poured the water into two mugs and handed one over to me before sitting down across from me. He dipped his tea bag into the hot water but kept his eyes on me.

“I guess so. Yes. That seems apt anyway.”

“What else did she say?” I asked.

“Not much,” he said. “She left soon after and I didn’t know what to make of it at the time. And then she disappeared. Inexplicably. I figured she’d just went back to her reclusive ways but when her family came over and asked if we had seen her, I knew something was wrong.”

I sipped my tea and then held the cup in my hand, absorbing the warmth. “I’m not sure what that has to do with Tom,” I said.

“Well, I’m getting to that,” he said, taking another sip and setting his mug down. “It wasn’t six months later that the Sheriff and his deputies found a body down on the bank of Rabbit’s Paw creek. The body was decomposed and had been eaten by the crows and buzzards and wolves. At first, they figured it was a freak accident of some kind. You know a drifter that fell or something. No offense to Sheriff Reynolds but he and his boys aren’t the greatest detectives. When the coroner did an autopsy, he labeled it a homicide.”

“Why?” I asked.

“The teeth and tongue were removed and the skull was stabbed six times in six distinct places. Without those teeth and with such a mutilated corpse, they couldn’t identify the body.”

“You think it was Sherry.”

He nodded. “But that’s just a hunch. Could have been anyone. All I know the case was buried and forgotten and so was Sherry. Since then, more strange things kept happening here. They were so small, you know? Strange. I thought they were just coincidences or whatnot. But, then everything kept building and building and now…Tom. So, anyway, all that to say, I can’t help but think of Sherry and what she said to me that afternoon.” He pointed to his ears.

“Right,” I said in a hushed whisper. “So, where are they? Are they okay? Pat told me about their condition.”

Bartholomew winced and scratched his forehead, like he was debating saying anything at all. “They’re fine. They’re safe. Sadly, they’re condition has grown worse. Before they left they said they still want to see you, but at this point, I think it might be best not to tell you where they went.”

“Why not?”

“Protection,” he said after a gulp of his tea. “Yours and theirs. All I can say is they’re being treated and they’re safe.”

“I think it might be best to get them out of town; somewhere they can’t be found.”

“You might be right about that but it’s out of my hands. We’ll see this through, though, and you’ll meet them eventually.”

Realizing there was nothing else to said or done, I drank the rest of my tea, set the mug on the table, and said my farewells. When I left, he whispered behind me, “Remember, they have mighty big ears.”

At that, he shut the door and I never saw Bartholomew Gergis again.

End of Part 5

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