A Thing Greatly Feared, Chapter 34

Explosive paintings

Darrell's encounter with Vernon ends in explosive fashion ... but does Darrell survive it? ... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“It was a clever idea of you, Mr. Daley, coming up here. Too bad for you I thought of it, too.”

Jesus, please! “So what now?” said Darrell.

“Now – you’re going to throw your gun down onto the ground, as far as you can; then you’re going to climb down right where you are, and back away; then I’m going to climb down.”

“And then?”

“Then? Well, as they say, that’s all she wrote. Now throw the gun.”

Darrell started his windup.

Asfar – as you can … or else I’ll put a bullet through you right now.”

Why wait? thought Darrell, but as he reared back to throw his gun, he again took notice of the flames, which were spreading in their direction.

He hurled the gun.

“Good arm, Mr. Daley. Now climb down.”

Darrell did.

“Now move back. … Back. … More. … That’s good.”

Darrell was forty feet from the house – and so close to his truck yet so far away. Desperation coursed through his mind, panic swelling in his chest.

Lord, please help me.

Silence.

Lord. Please.

* * *

James looked up and saw Hank running towards him around the fire.

“James! It’s comin’!”

Hank swooped around by James, and then James’s attention was drawn above – two orange eyes came sailing into view over the top of the fire.

Scooching on one knee with a thick, flaming branch in his hands, James had but one simple move to make … and only one shot at it.

“Yaaahh!”

“Grrowrrrow!”

His quick upward thrust buried the torch in the creature’s chest.

* * *

“Alright. I’m coming down now; you just stay there.”

Pillsbury started to walk down from the roof’s ridge against a backdrop of billowing flames.

And a sudden, single thought was planted in Darrell’s mind.

Oil tank.

Darrell turned and dove to the ground in one motion.

FFWA-BOOOOM!

Sara’s house went sky high and in every direction. Bits of wood and glass shot everywhere, some raining down in broad arcs, others torpedoing across the yard. Darrell lay on the ground with his head covered, hoping desperately that no flaming shards landed on the gas cans in his nearby truck. A few seconds later, when there seemed to be a moment’s break in the hailstorm of debris, Darrell scrambled on hands and knees to a tree that was close by, its thick trunk providing a safety screen against the showering house … and his truck, if it should go.

* * *

James kept the shadowy creature balanced in midair on the end of the branch for a moment, then let it fall, shifting his grip on the stick as it went, and staked the creature to the ground with a hard stab. The creature writhed with desperation. James, though desperate enough himself, had all he could do to keep it pinned to the ground, and he knew he couldn’t hold it much longer. Amid the scrambling and growling, and his own grunts of exertion, James searched for an answer, disappointed and confused that the fiery stick hadn’t finished it off.

MORE FIRE.

He looked at theirs.

He shifted himself into position, leveraging the stick, and with a last mighty strain that took everything he had, James lifted the creature and lobbed it into the fire. It landed with a crash that brought half the pile down on top of it, and the screams it made were the most pain-filled and horrible that James and Hank had ever heard. Half a minute later, however, it was done. It was gone. It was finished.

* * *

The air had cleared of all shrapnel. Darrell rose from behind the tree and took in the sight as he walked across the driveway.

His truck was fine. What had been the house, though, was now nothing but a pile of splinters and ashes in the basement.

And if there was anything left of Vernon Pillsbury, it was going to take a microscope to find it.

* * *

Two flashlights shone through the trees; Hank and James were going home.

“James, I– ”

“I know.” They stopped. “Forget about it.”

* * *

Darrell let himself slide out of his truck, the warm yellow light of his livingroom making him eager to get inside, and Wade and Sara spilled out the front door, eager to bring him in.

“Dad!”

“Wade!”

He fell onto his son’s shoulder, arms wrapped around him.

“You guys alright?” said Darrell.

“Yeah. The sheriff came here but we got him.”

“You got him?”

“Yeah, I, uh … knocked him out with a shovel.”

Darrell’s eyebrows went as high as they could go.

“He kept his composure quite well,” said Sara.

“Where is he?” said Darrell.

“Tied up in the basement,” said Wade.

“Well … I guess I’ll say ‘good job’ and leave it at that.”

“How … how did it go with you?” said Sara.

Darrell tensed up and sighed.

“Your uncle was there when I got there, waiting for me. Or waiting for whoever showed up, which was me.” Darrell’s eyes met Sara’s. “He’s dead, Sara.”

She lowered her head and took a deep breath. Water glistened in their eyes.

“Come on,” said Darrell. “Let’s go inside.”

* * *

Sara, Darrell and Wade – all sleeping in the livingroom, where they had plunked themselves down hours earlier after locking the sheriff up in the jail – came to at the sound of thumping on the front steps. Darrell bounded to the kitchen in the dark and grabbed his gun, then stood to one side of the door and flung it open while flicking on the front light.

“Hank! James!”

“Hey, Darrell,” said Hank as James helped him up the steps.

“You guys alright?”

“Yeah,” said James. “Hank’s just got a sprained ankle, coupla bumps and bruises.” Hank gave him an inconspicuous glance. “Nothin’ more.”

James winked at Hank, who smiled in reply.

“Did you– did you get it?”

“Yeah. We got it.”

* * *

A week later …

“Congratulations, Wade.” Sara plunked his report down on the kitchen table. “You got an A.”

“Thanks, Sar– uh, Miss Kremshaw.”

“So how’d it go in town, Sara?” said Darrell.

“Oh – great. Mr. Schaeffer has agreed to rent me the space above his office.” She turned to Wade. “Only I’d better not see you climbing on my roof.”

They laughed.

“Well I hope you like it,” said Darrell. “Just remember: it’s only temporary. We’ll have your new house done before snow flies.”

The front door opened. It was Hank and James.

“Hey, good news, everybody,” said James. “We just got done talkin’ with the lawyer in town: Sara’s aunt doesn’t want any of it – none of the land, none of the business, just enough money to live on. Congratulations, Sara – you now own a loggin’ company, a pile of land, and a whole mountain right here in Foster’s Glen.”

Cheers erupted, and Sara’s mouth hung open, her hands on her face in disbelief. A wellspring of emotions bubbled out of her, manifesting itself in both tears and laughter.

While everyone else celebrated, Darrell merely smiled, remembering a conversation he had with Sara several days ago:

“My Aunt Hilda says she never knew about any of it, never even suspected anything.

“You believe her?”

“Yes. … She’s devastated. Moving back to England. But she might be leaving me the land.

“What land?”

“The land she and my uncle own – all of it.

“Wow.

“But I don’t … dare to hope too much, you know? There’s other people she could give it to. … And I’m happy with what I already have.”

“So how are we gonna celebrate?” said James.

“Ohh, let’s see” said Sara. “How about … dinner at the Friday Nite and then a movie at the Colonial?”

They laughed.

“That works for me,” said James. “So Hank – you don’t mind us sharin’ your date with you?”

“I don’t if she don’t,” said Hank as he looked at Sara.

“Not at all,” she said.

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  1. Trackback: You May Be Wrong, You May Be Right « Jason Drexler Writes

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