Anderson tilted his left hand just so as he dragged the thick charcoal pencil across the page, making a few last-second adjustments to the sketch. His model, Dorothea Henry, didn’t object to being drawn — she wouldn’t, as she lay unconscious in the hospital bed. Once he finished this sketch he would let it rest, let it cool in his mind a bit, and then he would paint a masterpiece of the fallen woman. After carefully rolling the page up and sticking it into the custom-made leather tube he carried that he capped tightly, Anderson stood and felt Dorothea’s pulse. Stronger than when he arrived.
Art truly healed all wounds.
Anderson stepped out into the hall and walked quietly past the busy, self-important medical staff and got into his car. He pulled onto the main street and drove back to his loft, where he deposited the drawing on the top of the stack awaiting on his desk. Once it was time he would turn the stack upside down and work from the bottom up, the oldest first, those he was the least attached to.
Then he sat and waited, contemplating what he learned through the past few days. The sun set in the distance and Anderson stood up, grabbing the 1911 from his drawer and draping the holster over his shoulder. He glanced at his watch as he locked the door with his free hand and then got back into his car and drove toward Schaefferville.
The boys watching the road recognized him and waved. Anderson ignored them and took the fork that lead away from Donna Leigh’s house. He knew the way far too well for an outsider, carefully avoiding the more populated and traveled roads in the shit-hole forest community. They’d let him pass but he didn’t want to draw attention unecessarily.
After a few minutes he turned the lights off on his car and continued down the road in the dark until the storm above broke and it began to rain and further reduced his visibility. Anderson made an unpleasant suggestion to the weather and then parked under a large oak. He locked the car and continued on foot, choosing to cut through the woods rater than risk being killed by an inattentive or drunk Schaeffer driver.
Even in the dark and the rain he found his way, reaching the wrought-iron fence of the Schaeffer graveyard after only a few minutes of jogging through the forest. He stopped and caught his breath before hopping it, a bold situation given the slippery state of the old fence. Sure enough, he saw light ahead. Several covered lanterns and candles protected from the rain illuminated the scene before him.
He counted five Schaeffer men, mostly between the ages of nineteen and twenty-seven if he remembered them correctly. They stood as the points of a drawn star on the clear ground. The star, incorrect for the sort of devil-worship being attempted anyway, had been carefully painted with water-proof paint mixed with blood. The ring-leader asked Anderson for it specifically, and that helped him nail down what they would try tonight after a few innocent questions.
In the middle of the star, the naked, dead bodies of the two young women framed the naked, alive, tied down body of Jake Creel. He was trying to scream but his mouth had actually been sewn shut. The naked, fat Cheryl Ruth Schaeffer stood above him, holding a stupid looking knife and saying made-up words to a made-up entity. Rivulets of blood poured down her body where she’d cut herself. If nobody treated her wounds she’d pass out soon — even if the ritual were going to work, the idiot cut too deep to finish.
Anderson knelt behind a large gravestone and peered over it at them. All the men were staring up at the damn sky, but Cheryl was focused on Jake Creel. Nobody heard or saw him approach, and he intended to stay there unless the cavalry didn’t put it all together and arrive in time to save the young man. He hoped his hints had pushed everyone in the right direction as he didn’t want to start taking shots at these people if he could avoid it.
Cheryl suddenly plunged the knife into the chest of Ellen Henry. Anderson nearly leapt out of his skin as he pulled the 1911 and checked the safety, intent on shooting her in the back of the head if he had to. Cheryl then began to speak in a different made-up tongue. The idiot then stabbed the second girl, already dead for some time, and her speaking changed again. Anderson rolled his eyes.
But then she lunged for Jake. Anderson fired at her, missing by only a few inches. The slug shattered on a nearby gravestone and sprayed shrapnel harmlessly. Cheryl Ruth froze and turned to face him. As one the five men ran at him, pulling guns of their own. Cheryl Ruth also started to slowly stalk toward him.
Well, he’d bought some time. Anderson took off into the darkness and used it as an ally, hiding behind a tree before cautiously climbing it and watching the slow search as the six morons fanned out to look for him in the dim light. One of them had the bright idea to run back and get a lantern.
Movement caught his eye. Blue and red lights approaching in the distance. But the road they were on wound around a hill and would delay them by a few minutes. More, if they were idiots about it. But they were on their way. Anderson scrambled back down the tree and cut across the search, ducking behind another large stone before assessing his situation. He took careful aim at one of the men and pulled the trigger.
The bullet missed, but the spray of granite and bullet shards from the headstone it hit caused the man to scream obscenities about Anderson’s dearly departed mother. Anderson decided then he would need to practice his marksmanship a bit more.
The blue and reds stopped on the road just outside the graveyard, and Anderson heard voices. The Schaeffer’s froze, and Cheryl Ruth ordered them back to Jake to protect “her bounty.”
Anderson watched her fat ass run back into the light and said a silent prayer of thanks to his own genius.