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Chapter no 7

My Heart Is a Chainsaw

On the way out of the darkened library—custodians have keys and keys and keys—when Jade’s using every last bit of her effort and attention to get the glass front door lifted enough on its saggy hinges for the deadbolt to slide home, a man’s voice knifes out of the darkness, straightening her back, flooding her veins with adrenaline, her head with static, and priming her throat with a scream she barely manages to swallow.

“Thought Connie and her husband were having a dust-up again,” the creaky voice says from the book return alcove right by the door. “That she was maybe sleeping up here for the night, y’know?”

Jade shuts her eyes in instant regret. She should have gone out the back way. She should have just slept in the breakroom. She should have shrouded the computer monitor she was writing on with one of the big cardboard boxes. She should have remembered that Hardy always finishes his day out with one last cigarette on the bench by the lake, the one dedicated to his daughter. The one just a hop, skip, and gulp from the library—emphasis on the gulp.

“Sheriff,” Jade says.

“But then I swung by Connie’s place,” Hardy goes on in his good-old-boy way, “and both cars are there, you know? Living room window’s blue like from a television show.”

“She watches CSI,” Jade says, finally getting the deadbolt to click over, hold the tired door up for the few hours the night has left.

“Yeah?” Hardy says, just super conversationally. “Hope you didn’t leave any trace evidence in there, then…”

Jade doesn’t have to be directed to follow him when he shoulders off the wall, spins his toothpick into the mulch under the bushes, and starts ambling over to his Bronco, so bright white in the darkness.

“What you got there?” he asks about the sheaf of papers still warm enough from the copier that they’re trying to curl up against the night air.

When Jade doesn’t answer, Hardy looks back to evaluate, then holds his hand out for them, not even having to snap. Jade surrenders them, sure her life is over now, that this is the end. It was fun, y’all, but I’ve got to go to hell now, see ya. My secret diary’s getting logged as evidence, is probably going to indict me six ways from Sunday on multiple charges, not the least of which will be wishful thinking.

Hardy stops on the bulging sidewalk, pulls his bifocals up to his face to read the first line of the top page: “And then there was one. Of me, I mean, Mr.… Holmes?”

The question mark and the exaggerated drama are all Hardy.

He considers Jade over his specs, flips to the next paper— Jade stapled them all one by one, so Letha wouldn’t get lost: “Don’t feel bad, Mr. Holmes. Not everybody knows about the Final Girl? What’s that, the ‘final girl’?”

“It’s just a thing for history class,” Jade says, shoulders seriously sagging.

“Actually the slasher isn’t impossible or just in the movies, sir,” Hardy reads next, hitting “sir” especially hard and dropping his glasses back, his neck strap taking their slight weight, the glasses hardly bouncing. Jade knows because that’s where she’s looking. Not up into his face.

That doesn’t mean she can’t feel him watching her. “Slasher?” he finally says.

Mentally backpedaling, Jade stumbles into the hole she’d always meant to bury her high school diploma in, and, because that’s all she’s got to save her life here, she uses it.

“Summer work for Sherlock,” she mumbles, looking out across the black-black waters of Indian Lake.

It’s a Hail Mary pie-in-the-sky flying fuck at a rolling donut, but it’s all Jade has in the world right now. Her first last and only prayer.

“Last I heard, Bea—Mr. Holmes doesn’t let students call him that,” Hardy says, holding her door open because cops are always directing traffic. “Former students either.”

“I’m not exactly former,” Jade says, her voice dwindling down into the sincere, embarrassed octaves. “Still need a history credit to graduate.”

“But you were there for the ceremony,” Hardy explains— objects.

Jade steps up into the truck.

Hardy, still not sold, still standing there, flips deeper into Jade’s stack of print-outs, spiraling Jade deep into pre-wince mode, since shuffled in there somewhere, she’s not sure where—stapling got complicated—is “Hello, Letha Mondragon,” and that letter’s so damning that Hardy’ll probably just read the whole thing out loud like entering it into evidence.

“How—how about we just consider this the very end of my…” he reads, having to breathe in for the next part: “Extra credit career, if that works for you, Mr. Holmes.” He looks up to recite the last part: “The end?” he says incredulously, flopping the pages closed and then riffling their edges as if counting, or weighing. “How long has this career been?”

“He keeps a basket on his desk,” Jade says. “He calls it the extra credit kitty.”

Hardy’s shoulders shake with some internal amusement and he closes her door, rounds the Bronco, climbs up himself.

“So you figured to play to your strengths,” he says, firing the truck up. “Blood and guts, werewolves and zombies.”

“Just slashers,” Jade says, probably not even loud enough to make it across to him.

Hardy backs the Bronco out, swings them around, only turning the headlights on when they’re on blacktop, and Jade doesn’t know if she’s being hand-delivered back to the hospital in Idaho Falls or down to the holding cell behind his office or what, at least not until he turns onto her street. He pulls up in front of her house, doesn’t take his truck out of gear, so everything in Jade’s mirror is washed red.

“I won’t tell Connie about the janitorial staff using her ink and copy paper up, I don’t guess,” he says, handing Jade her stolen paper and ink. “But I probably will mention it to Bear next time I see him down at Dot’s, make sure this is schoolwork, not personal.”

Grady “Bear” Holmes, aka “Sherlock,” the flying history teacher and secret cigarette fiend.

Fucking Idaho.

The radio under Hardy’s dash squawks, straightening Jade’s back again, and she of all people is supposed to know jumpscares more or less. But maybe that just makes her more vulnerable to them, not less.

Meg Koenig’s voice comes through fuzzy and urgent. Hardy dials it down and leans over the wheel with both arms, hugging it to him so he can study the front of Jade’s house without having to stare at the side of her face as well. “He working across the lake these days?” he asks, about

Tab.

Jade nods once.

“All righty then, I guess I’ll see you…” Hardy leads off, pausing to narrow his eyes, do some mental calculations, “Friday to start your community service. How’s that sound?” “Can’t wait,” Jade says. “Guessing I should wear clothes I

don’t care about?”

Hardy chuckles like he’d been expecting that, pulls the mic down from its hook by the rearview mirror, says before he thumbs the line open, “Filing for Meg, cleaning the coffee

pot, I don’t know. She’ll find something for you to do. Let’s say… hour a day, next couple weeks, get it over with?”

Meg Koenig, Tiffany Koenig’s mom. “Yippee,” Jade monotones.

“Hardy here,” Hardy says into the mic, either just like a movie cop or… or maybe the movies aren’t that made-up.

Jade steps down, shuts the door, and Hardy waits until she’s on the porch and really for sure going home to roll away. Jade’s still standing there staring down into her dad’s muddy boots—fresh muddy?—when the door she’s facing flashes red and blue: a few houses down, Hardy’s turned his lights on, is accelerating hard, screeching around the corner to some emergency.

In Proofrock, at two in the morning?

Jade steps back down to track him, can’t, so keeps walking to the end of the street, where she can look across the lake, see Terra Nova.

It’s just the same glittering lights as it’s been for the last few weeks: giant yacht, night construction.

“Hunh,” she says, and studies her dark neighborhood, the darker town.

It has to be Blondie, she finally decides. The Dutch girl.

She finally floated in.

Jade looks down to the pages fluttering in her hand. She flips to her own random line somewhere in the middle of the sheaf, sees an eight-year-old girl named Stacey Graves living like a cat in some pioneer version of Proofrock, always looking across the rising lake for the mother who abandoned her.

Who’s to say, though, right?

Life isn’t like the nature shows. In the documentaries the coaches play in biology, the mother rabbit will stand up to the snake or the coyote or the hawk when it’s after her baby rabbit, will stand up to them when she doesn’t have even one chance in all of hell at fighting off this perfect predator, but she throws her little body into those claws and fangs all

the same and kicks for all she’s worth, for all her baby’s worth to her, which is… everything?

“Not likely,” Jade mumbles, and is glad she doesn’t have a stupid diploma, because that would mean she took some test where she answered yes to “this is how a mother rabbit protects her young,” which would have been a lie.

But fuck it.

Not every mom is a Pamela Voorhees, going after all camp counselors because one or two of them let her baby drown.

And Jade is far from a baby anymore, either.

She steps forward again, again, drilling her eyes across the lake, trying to picture what Holmes painted for them one seventh period: the fire of 1965, coming right up to the shore over there, Proofrock holding its breath, all of Idaho ready to burn.

But it didn’t.

It never does.

Jade shrugs like just wait, spins on a combat heel, and slouches back up her street almost grinning. All in all, this night’s been almost a win, hasn’t it? Hardy could have confiscated her papers, meaning she’d have had to have broken into one of the schools to reprint them from her email, and, who knows, she might have walked in on Rexall cleaning the lenses of all his hidden cameras.

No thank you.

Jade kicks dramatically across her lawn—no, she Holden Caulfields it across her lawn. As far as Jade knows, nobody at Henderson High ever turned that into a way of walking, an attitude of walking, so it can be all hers.

She Holden Caulfields it up onto her ramshackle porch again, endures the gauntlet of the living room, her dad making a show of pausing The Night of the Hunter to let her pass, and then she clamps her headphones on, pulls her little television close, and pushes the The Hitcher tape in, tells herself it’s Prom Night II after that, hating the whole time that she kind of wants to sneak back into the living

room, see if she can catch any of The Night of the Hunter— see if that old-time preacher in it is maybe some figuration of Ezekiel. Maybe him being on-screen in her own house is a sign, even, that she shouldn’t dismiss Drown Town so fast for this slasher cycle. Jade pauses Rutger Hauer on her thirteen-inch, tries to eavesdrop on Robert Mitchum in there on the twenty-seven inch, and it takes enough effort that part of her sort of drifts off, is partially awake on the couch in the living room, her dad quietly spreading a blanket over her.

Jade jerks awake blinking hard, trying to shake that image, flush it, and scans her videotapes for that orange pumpkin sticker she put on the spine of Halloween years ago, so it can be the last thing she sees before conking, so she can take it with her into sleep, and the next time she opens her eyes it’s nearly noon, meaning she’s sleeping through today’s litter-stabbing expedition. But fuck it. Let the trash stab itself for one day. Like Rexall’s watching her time card that close? No, his cameras are more zoomed in on her chestal area.

Jade shudders, trying to shake the grime of his eyes off.

Carrying a box of Honeycombs and not exactly moving at top speed—the house is empty like the tomb—she folds some of her old pants around her prize A Bay of Blood tape, and then she ties a white ribbon around it both ways, to be sure the boxy VHS won’t clatter out at Tiara Mondragon’s feet, get kicked away like a roach.

Next she folds all the papers shut, and instead of hiding them at the center with A Bay of Blood, she slips the thick little bundle under the ribbon’s bow like some long, heartfelt, meandering girl-to-girl note about boys and makeup and… and whatever normal girls talk about. Then it’s just suiting up and trucking through the muck around the lake, tightwriting it across the spine of the dam, and clomping up the dock at Terra Nova forty-five minutes later, knocking on whatever passes for a door.

Except the yacht… isn’t there?

Jade cases the lake slow. Where can something that size

be?

Camp Blood, it turns out, which she’d saluted down to on the way over, from the top of the bluff.

“Excuse me?” Jade says out loud, truly affronted about this transgression—about them being at Camp Blood. She comes right up to the lip of the dock as if ten feet more might explain all this to her, and finally cues in that there’s no construction going on in Terra Nova behind her. Like the second Thursday before July 4th is some kind of Idaho holiday? Not any one she knows about, and even if it were, the Founders would be paying holiday rates.

Where is everybody?

Jade shields her eyes and squints her vision better, can see now that the yacht’s pulled right up to the jetty in front of Camp Blood, the one that used to be for kids to earn their diving badges off of.

This makes zero point zero sense. Jade looks around absently, finds the mailbox she’s seen Dan Dan the mailman puttering across the lake for, and stuffs the pants and tape and pages into it like a bomb, just to complete her mission. Because now there’s another mission, this one more recon oriented.

Twenty breathless minutes later she’s on the chalky bluff back behind Camp Blood, peering down. Hardy’s there, his airboat skidded up onto shore like he always does, and his two deputies are milling around with trash bags. But so are the state police, and some leathery rail of a guy in park ranger colors, and Letha is sitting on the jetty, wrapped in a blanket, Tiara hugging her from the side.

Jade leans forward, out over open space. She really did bury a heavy-ass double bit axe over here in junior high, “for future use.” And also because it was stolen. But… no. Hardy wouldn’t scramble all available units and rope in civilians

just because Proofrock’s high school drop-out of a janitor told him to look under the floorboards of cabin 6.

Would he?

Jade leans out over the open space even more, that soft chalky bluff crumbling down and down under the toe of her right boot, and… Letha, in that blanket. Her hated stepmom, consoling her.

Consoling her. From what?

“The next kill,” Jade says in wonder, and then in the same instant, she feels it: eyes on her.

She looks down, around, finally finds those eyes: Theo Mondragon in khaki shorts and an unbuttoned shirt, like he didn’t have time to attire himself properly for whatever this is. Like he just ran out to whoever was screaming. Jade can almost see him powering the monstrous yacht across the lake, never mind checking depth or battening pitchers and glasses down in the state rooms.

He’s out at the edge of Camp Blood now, cell pushed up against the side of his head, and he’s looking up at Jade, her off-color half-bleached hair—all the purple’s gone—probably an ash-blond beacon for him to fix on.

Jade steps back, tightropes it across the rail-less spine of the dam again, and runs all the way home, her chest heaving, spends the next hour coloring her hair black-black with shoe polish, which is all she can find. It’s the hugest mess. The sink looks like a demon exploded in it, like this is a problem only Ben Affleck can solve.

Except Ben Affleck, as usual, isn’t here.

Jade hauls out the cleaning shit, does janitor duty for the next hour, wiping up her own mess for once. By the end of it her hair should be dry, but it’s all gummy and oily instead. She goes out to the yard, uses the hose this time, and vinegar, then rubbing alcohol, but some situations are just basically unsalvageable. Evidently deep black and the non-color her burned-out rat’s nest of hair’s been strained down

to come together in a weird shade of orangey-brown, like… carrot with undertones of vomit? Leftover tendrils of black are shot through as well, and her scalp looks like the top of a scabby dress shoe, one cheap enough to have bubbled up in the sun.

Who cares.

The better to stare you down with, Jade hisses inside, her daily affirmation, and stalks into her room, ransacking it for whatever other papers she can slip to Letha, and then, and then—she has to decide what movie’s going to be next in this Final Girl extension course, doesn’t she?

She clamps her headphones on again, works her way through The Slumber Party Massacre and April Fool’s Day and Happy Birthday to Me for the rest of the day, and somewhere in there she blisses out, only comes to when the screen fizzes its blue soul up. It’s the same exact shade Casey Becker’s television screen is early on in Scream. Meaning… does that mean that her movie’s starting now, that Jade’s Proofrock slasher is officially cueing up, the preliminary stages all checked off at last? And… and if she had the same stovetop brand of popcorn as Casey Becker, would it pop at the same rate? Does Casey’s stalking and death move in real time or movie time?

It’s worth investigating, even with just a normal bag of microwave popcorn. In the kitchen, though, her dad is cooking eggs, his whole face bleary.

He rubs his hand up and down over it, still trying to wake up all the way.

“Doesn’t work like it used to,” he says for Jade about his get-sober trick, and then smiles with the left side of his mouth, which is an invitation for her to smile with him about how much mornings suck. She almost does, just manages to look away instead, to the front door, cocked open to let the air in, which is something her mom used to do when she was up first, doing chores. For half an instant, Jade’s ten again.

As if reading the moment right for once in his life, her dad, guiding his eggs from pan to plate, falls into a story Jade already knows, that he used to tell when she was a kid and the time before she was born was mythic, and the only reason her dad could walk across it was that he was a titan, ten stories tall.

“We used to hide under the pier on days like these, each of us with a sixer floating besides us,” he says, miming the beer at chest-level.

“ ‘We?’ ” Jade prompts, though she knows: Rexall, Clate, anybody else stupid enough to get roped in.

Her dad keeps going, says, “This was before Deputy Hardy had that swamp boat, see?”

“Deputy Hardy” is what Sheriff Hardy was back then, but it’s also the only rank Tab Daniels allows him.

“Listen, I’m sure this story’s going to be better this time, but I—” Jade starts.

“The department had that long bass boat with the twin Evinrudes,” her dad says, scrounging in the cabinet for the pepper even though it’s right there on the counter. “Could have pulled a house off its pylons if you tied the knot right.”

“And you would—”

“And we would float there all day, our ski ropes tied to that boat, waiting for your mom or somebody to call in the emergency on the other side of the lake.”

“Like on a schedule?” Jade asks. She’s never thought to ask this question before.

“More like whenever she got around to it,” her dad says, leaning back to fork his first runny bite of egg in. “Kimbat knew we were down there, would torture us by not calling in.”

“Kimbat” is Kimmy plus Batman, because her purse was her utility belt, something like that, it’s all dim and distant for Jade.

“And then the sheriff—” she says, trying to get this over with already.

“Deputy,” her dad corrects, holding his fork up like to cross that T.

Jade makes her voice as bored and flat as possible, finishes his story: “He would blast off for the other side of the lake for this emergency call, and you and Rexall and Clate and whoever would come up from under the pier on those ski ropes, barefoot skiing until he looked back to see what the drag was.”

“We’d have had cameras in our phones back then, there’d be proof,” her dad says, bringing his plate up to his face because the yolks are just gelid enough to string. “Or if we’d have had phones at all,” he adds with a smile-and-eyebrow thing that Jade would bet everything she owns is the exact same smile that lured her mom over to Camp Blood for a party one night, at the right-wrong time in her uterine cycle. But it always starts like that, doesn’t it? Some randy dude making eyes when he should be making tracks? Even when she dials up old Indian stories online, there’s always some goofy old dude smiling exactly like Tab Daniels while he scraps the world together from goopy mud, making deals with muskrats and beavers, ducks and crows, anybody

stupid enough to listen to him.

“You’re saying a bass boat can pull three skiers?” Jade says to her dad.

“We were skinnier back then.”

Jade shakes her head, narrows her eyes, and looks out the front door again, telling herself she’s not doing this, she’s not interacting with him, not even on accident. Because he can flip it all around on her in an instant.

“Why you telling me this story again?” she asks. “It was bullshit then, it’s bullshit now.”

Her dad forks another bite in, makes a show of savoring it, swallowing it down.

“You’ve got a mouth on you, you know?” he says. “And a knee,” Jade says. “A machete in my room.”

Her dad smiles to show how little threat she is and rattles his plate down into the sink to either sit there for days or for Jade to wash it. And if she doesn’t do it? Eggs are superglue after about half an hour. She hates when he’s still in the house, can hear her doing his dirty dishes. But they don’t have enough plates to let them sit, either.

“The ski rope’s what I want you to pay attention to, there,” he says at last, all the silence before it serving as emphasis.

“The rope?”

“How long they go, you think?” “Why’s it matter?”

“Seventy feet,” her dad very clearly enunciates, reaching into his pants to scratch his hip bone but never breaking eye contact with Jade. “But let’s say seventy-five, just to be safe.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Jade says. “And I don’t care, either.”

“You should,” he says. “Seventy-five feet is as close as I need to be to the law, get it? It went for high school and it goes for now too.”

“Thanks for the update?”

“And the street in front of the house here is a sight closer than that. Want me to measure it out?”

Jade dials back, translates. “This is about Sheriff Hardy dropping me off last night?”

“This is about you bringing the law to my front door. And how that’s gonna be the end of that.”

“It was just—”

“Any more interactions with Deputy Hardy, I’m gonna have to think my own daughter’s a snitch.”

“What am I going to rat you out about? Drinking on the job? Do you think that’s some big secret?”

“Safer this way.” “What way?”

“Any more interactions with the law, you’re out of here.”

“You can’t kick me out,” Jade says, her eyes heating up. “I’m not eighteen yet.”

“You’re out of school. Might need to find your own place, like your mom there.”

“Because I take up so much room here?”

“Because you’re bringing the law to my front door,” her dad says again, taking a step closer, putting himself in knee range as a dare, Jade knows.

“You shouldn’t even be here right now,” she tells him. “My own house.”

“Why aren’t you at work, I mean? They giving Breathalyzer tests to cross the lake now?”

“Everybody go home, one of us Richie Riches bought it,” her dad says like repeating an announcement, and then, so he can be the one to end this conversation, turns to the fridge, reaches in for milk, or a beer, or who cares, Jade’s already stalking out, her heart thumping from anger, from fear, but mostly from what he just said: one of the Founders bought it?

In her bedroom she scrolls through her phone for whatever news blips she can glom onto, finally finds it out of Idaho Falls, which tracks since Proofrock doesn’t exactly have its own broadcast: one of the Terra Novans has died in a “tragic accident,” “stick with us,” “more details as they surface.”

No news on which Founding Father it is, but Jade knows it’s not Theo Mondragon, anyway. She just saw him. Meaning it was one of the other four? Are there only five of them? Aren’t there ten houses over there, meaning more moguls and tycoons coming in? But aren’t they all waiting for their, you know, homes to be complete? This must be one of those ones who sniped in to breeze through, check on progress, be hands-on.

Still? Letha knows who it is. Because she’s at the swirling center of it all. Because she’s the focus, the star, the hero. As for Jade… this is what it’s like to be at the periphery, she

decides. She’s safe, or safe-ish, sure, but it’s like watching the story through a telescope.

Which is some bullshit for Proofrock’s number one slasher fan.

Jade clamps a cap on over the greasy mess her hair is now, shrugs into her coveralls so Meg Koenig will know she’s a county employee, and once it’s dark enough, she shuffles down to the sheriff’s office a full fourteen hours before she’s due. Because she’s such an eager beaver, yes.

For news.

SLASHER 101

 

Before I get started with this MAKE UP work for 40 PERCENT of my history grade, Mr. Holmes, let me just say once again and in writing that a certain Christine Gillette exclusive was NOT made up even one little bit. Okay so there’s no

recording, but that’s just because I didn’t have space on my phone, but that

doesn’t mean she’s making it up. A broke clock is still right sometimes. But don’t worry, sir. I found another Stacey Graves witness, surprise. I went to the most trustable historical personage in town, if badges mean anything.

I present now the honorable Sheriff Hardy, who I’m transcribing FROM THE ATTACHED RECORDING, and if the sheriff goes over the page limit then feel free to give me extra points, I don’t mind.

This is him now. You’ll know me from my ALL CAPS.

“Oh, yeah, Camp Winnemucca? Camp Winn-e-MUCC-a. You’ve got to say it like that, kind of ramping up at the end. It’s an old Indian word, that’s how they talk. That’s gamey stuff for a school paper though, don’t you think? Oh, wait. The 50 year anniversary, right? You’ll be, what, a senior then? 50 years, [expletive]. I was hardly even in long pants. Don Chambers was still wearing the star. That’s Alison Chambers’s dad? Didn’t she teach you all gymnastics?”

YOU CAN TELL I’M MUTING HIS CUSSING, SIR?

“Anyway, it only ran for that one summer. Nobody had the heart to try it

again after, well, [bleep], after what happened. It was supposed to be haunted, all that malarkey. ‘We shouldn’t have broke ground over there,’ blah blah blah, you know how people are. But the name is from the Indians. Same as the lake. My dad says when it was filling, all these bow and arrow Indians stepped out of the trees on the other side of the valley on their painted ponies, feathers

braided into their manes. The horses AND the half naked bucks. They’d come to see the creek they’d always known turn into something bigger. That’s when

everybody started calling it INDIAN Lake, not Glen Lake like it was supposed to have been. And before you ask, no, there WEREN’T supposed to be any

Shoshone still going free range. But Idaho’s a big [bleeping] place, little miss, pardon my French. There’s like to be folks out there haven’t heard about the

auto-mo-bile yet. Any the hell way — strike that, sorry — I was going to say about “Winnemucca,” the word. It looks good on a sign, don’t you think? Like you’re

going somewhere farther away than just across the lake. Back into history, like. To when this was ALL Indian land — ”

I MAY HAVE LAID SOME SLASHER LORE ON HIM HERE. SUE ME.

“Sleepaway Camp, that’s it. But yeah, that article you found’s on the money. 4 teenagers. Let me see if I can get their names without looking… Stoakes,

Howarth, Walker, and… TRIGO! And that’s 50 years ago, little miss. Winnemucca was a Shoshone though, bet that’s not in the article. Maybe your great great

great grandpappy could have told you that. The SNAKE Indians, they were called back then. I don’t know that’s exactly what they called themselves. ‘Winnemucca’ in English comes out to Bad Face. Figure they named people

different back then, don’t you?”

MY ANSWER TO THIS NOW AND ALSO IN MY HEAD THEN WAS “YES,” SIR. WAY DIFFERENT. STACEY GRAVES’S DAD WAS “LETCH GRAVES,” WHICH PRETTY MUCH SOUNDS LIKE A BORIS KARLOFF CHARACTER ALREADY. BUT NOW WE’RE

SKIPPING AHEAD LIKE YOU SAID, FOR SALIENT DETAILS, AND ALSO BECAUSE THIS IS SO MUCH REWINDING AND TYPING.

“I mean, I was ONE of the camp counselors. And I guess now I’m camp

counselor for the whole [bleepity beep] county, right? Funny how that works. But the way they did it, each grade had their own counselor. It was supposed to

keep the big kids from bossing the little ones around. So none of those 4 were my watch, nosiree Bob. They were 12, 12, 14, and 16, if I’m not mistaken. Well, Jefferson came to camp 14, but he turned 15 the second day of camp. That was the day we took the canoes out. But he didn’t die during that training, just got wet. Like all of us. That was the real fun of it. If you were wet at the end of that day, you got your badge.”

JUST SAYING, MR. HOLMES. YOU FIND ME ONE OF THOSE BADGES AND THERE’S NEVER ANY HORROR PRANK EVER AGAIN AT HENDERSON HIGH.

“But Jefferson Stoakes. None of us knew what to make of… what can you even think, when a kid you know turns up dead with a wasp nest not just crammed into his mouth, but kind of in PLACE of his mouth? And one detail Alison

Chambers might still know from her dad was that Jefferson was floating on his BACK. In the WATER. And yellow jackets, they’ll avoid water. It gums their wings up or something. Or maybe it’s like those baggies of water Dorothy puts up in

the patio? You know Dorothy? Dot’s? You too young for coffee yet? Give it a year. But we were all just stupid [bleeping] kids back then too — no insult. Now, after

Jefferson, it was… let’s see. Howarth, yeah. Crane Howarth. He had the prettiest

goddamn jump shot I’ve ever seen in real life. He just would have sold insurance or drove a truck after high school, I know. But watching him play, it was — I

guess that’s what people mean when they talk about grace. He could rise up and have that ball launched and perfect before you’d even realized he’d stopped.”

DOES THAT COUNT AS “LOCAL COLOR,” SIR? SPORTSBALL STUFF? IF NOT, THEN HOW ABOUT SOME ARCHERY.

“No, no, not arrows. It say that in that article? No, Crane turned up at the bottom of the bluff, must have been trying to climb it. It was a… maybe don’t

print this next part? Used to you’d climb the bluff, and one of your friends would point out to everybody else that the moon’s just cresting, look how big it is, and when everybody looked up you’d already have your pants pulled down to show them the REAL moon — I never did that, though. And, after Crane, the bluff was strictly off limits. Still should be, you ask me. The whole place, I mean.

Somebody’s gonna get hurt over there.”

OR, YOU KNOW, CONCEIVED OVER THERE, MR. HOLMES. BUT THE

INTERVIEWER’S PERSONAL DETAILS AREN’T SUPPOSED TO MATTER. I DON’T KNOW WHICH CABIN IT WAS ANYWAY, SO CAN’T SAY THAT DETAIL. BUT I DID KNOW THE NEXT NAME TO ASK THE SHERIFF ABOUT.

“No, it’s Brockmeir, like ‘brock’ plus ‘mayor,’ just you don’t say the y-part as hard. But she was… as far as we knew back then she was just Remar Lundy’s weird little niece. But I guess, living back in the trees at their place, one of her older cousins had maybe told her about the Lake Witch, I don’t know. And she took it to heart, maybe. She wasn’t right in the head, I’m saying. It probably

didn’t help that all us junior detectives around the campfire — to us it was even money that it was Stacey Graves who’d got Jefferson and Crane. This was right after the big fire of 65, Bear teach you about that? Good, good. Know your history, don’t [bleeping] play with matches. What I’m saying though is that we were all kind of spooky already. And it was kind of a thrill too, you know how it is at camp. But yeah, before you ask, it was me who ID’d her for Don Chambers when it was all said and done. But that was after. I mean, that was 2 tragedies later, that’s how I should say it. The 1st of those would be Anthea, Anthea

Walker. She was the 16 year old. But she was short, that’s the thing. Guess she had to be to fall into the big cook pot. Except she didn’t fall, we all knew that. How do you fall into something you hardly even fit in? We heard it was a dare —

that won’t be in your article there either. The story Midge and Gun Saddleback —

they were the ones trying to make a go of Winnemucca that summer — the story they were trying to get us to all buy into was that Anthea pulled the short straw in cabin 2, so had to be the 1 to make the run down to the canteen, investigate just what mystery meat was for lunch the next day. But, Anthea — we all called her Thea, kind of like your old man’s Tab — she was friendly with the Brockmeir girl, see? That’s probably how Amy Brockmeir was able to get behind her so

close, push her in.”

BECAUSE WE HAVE TO PROVIDE CONTEXT FOR NON-LOCALS, WHEN THE SHERIFF ABOVE SAYS THEY WERE ALL SCARED OF THE “LAKE WITCH,” THE STORY HE’S REFERRING TO THAT YOU AND ME KNOW BUT NOBODY NOT IN PROOFROCK KNOWS IS THAT A 100 YEARS AGO SOME BOYS AND STACEY

GRAVES THE 8 YEAR OLD WERE PLAYING “WITCH” IN THE SHALLOWS OF THE

RISING LAKE AND THEY SWUNG HER AND THEN THREW HER OUT AS FAR AS SHE COULD TO PROVE SHE WASN’T A WITCH, BECAUSE WITCHES FLOAT, EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT, BUT SURPRISE, THE WATER WOULDN’T LET HER IN, SO SHE

FLOPPED OVER ON IT, HUNCHED UP LIKE A CAT, HISSED AT THE BOYS THROUGH HER CRAZY HAIR AND RAN AWAY ON ALL FOURS TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE LAKE TO FIND HER MOM THAT HER DAD HAD PROBABLY KILLED AND HIDDEN OVER THERE ALREADY, AND THIS IS HOW LEGENDS ARE BORN, SIR.

“Well, yeah, that was Friday night. Saturday night was — [4 letter bleep] –that was when I saw what I saw, yeah. Which I don’t know I should be repeating, even for history. But… well [same bleep]. I mean, Bear, your teacher, that’s his real name, he knows all this already. He was in cabin 4, the 6th graders. So I

guess it’s okay. He won’t put this paper on the wall, I’m pretty sure.” AND HERE’S WHERE I WENT FULL GERALDO.

“You gonna believe an article by a reporter who wasn’t there or you going to buy the story of the guy who WAS there? Nobody saw what I saw. It was Amy Brockmeir, none of that mistaken identity bull [bleep]. That’s easy to say from

the armchair, I mean. But I was there, little miss, feet on the ground, lump in my throat the size of a cantaloupe. This was Saturday night, our last night there. I

don’t know why we hadn’t all gone home already, with kids dying left and right. I’d got up to pee, but the privvies, they were all the [bleeping] way to the other side of camp. On the way over, I rounded this 1 corner — at first I thought it was a badger, I guess. I can still see it, I mean. You know how a badger, when it’s

eating, it kind of bunches up in the middle, like it’s humping whatever it’s

eating? Strike that, don’t write that down, shouldn’t have said it. But I think they

eat that way because of something to do with how their throats are. Rolling at the spine, it forces the food back faster than just an esophagus can.”

IF YOU THINK I SAID ANYTHING ABOUT HUMAN CENTIPEDE HERE, SIR, THEN THINK AGAIN. I DIDN’T WANT TO STOP HIM.

“Trigo, that was her, yep. Number 4. She’d just moved to Proofrock 2 weeks before school let out. Her dad was the new dam keeper. This is 2 or 3 dam

keepers before Jensen, who’s there now. Being the dam keeper, that’s like working a lighthouse. Don’t know what her dad thought he was signing on for. They were just over from Montana. She was either Italian or Indian, olives or arrows, I never knew. But you could tell she could scrap if she had to. She had

this way of looking at you, too. I’ve only ever seen that look again once, across all my years. The day my daughter was born. But anyway, yeah — with Stoakes it was wasps. Howarth, a fall. Walker, a cooking pot. But now it’s — Amy

Brockmeir, she was EATING, I piss you not. And then she looked up to me over the Trigo girl. What was left of her, I mean. Amy’s hair was matted up, her nightgown all in rags. The lower part of her face was all black with — well, with what she’d [serious bleep] been doing to the dam keeper’s daughter. I used to always imagine what if I’d ran over, right? What if I’d tackled Amy Brockmeir off her. She didn’t die right away, either, the — the dam keeper’s daughter. But she couldn’t say anything. Her throat was… it’s why I was the one who had to tell that it had been Amy Brockmeir. That I’d seen her, that she was the only one at camp with hair like that. The next night Mr. Trigo locked himself in the control

booth of the dam. He was crazy with being sad, blamed himself for bringing his daughter to this godforsaken place, you know how it would have to be. That night the lake came all the way up to the bank building before Don Chambers shot out each corner of the only window in that control booth. Lake came all the way to that 2nd brick on the sidewalk. It was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen, the water sloshing up like that, to swallow us all. And when I heard about Don Chambers shooting that glass out, I think that was when I felt these 5 points on my chest for the 1st time. He was Marshall Dillon, I mean. He was Chuck

Connors.

JADE WATCHES MOSTLY HORROR, THANKS.

“Before your time, before your time. And yeah, that article’s right about Amy Brockmeir. She ate her blanket in the state hospital. I hear they pulled 2 feet of it up her throat. Ask me, that proves it. But, like I was saying, all we’d been saying around the fire all week was ‘Lake Witch,’ ‘Lake Witch,’ so that was where

my head went at 1st. Which is why I didn’t run tackle her off that Trigo girl. But [bleep], I was 11, and had, well, had HAD a full bladder, right? [Bleep] straight I

got up on my getaway sticks, made for the water. That was the 1 place we knew Stacey Graves couldn’t go, because of Ezekiel’s holy singing being already under there, and his tolerance for witches being so famously low, so that was where I hid, and I never looked around, kept my face down as long as I could hold my

breath, and maybe a little longer than that even, but all that meant was that in my head I had to see her scratching and clawing at the surface of the water right over my back, not able to reach into it. But like I say, I was 11. Stacey Graves was just a story to get us home before dark. What’s worse in the real world are messed up kids like Amy Brockmeir. Sorry to burst your bubble about the Lake Witch, there, little miss. [bleep]. This badge means I have to traffic with evidence, though, not urban legend. And remember, eyewitness testimony is

only as good as the head behind those eyes, and I was just a kid then, only 11. But Don Chambers explained what I’d seen to me, and it made sense the way he said it back, going slow through it so I could hear it was important. When I heard him telling my story back to me, I mean, even I could hear it for the campfire story it was. There were some facts in it he could use, though, like the crazy hair, the nightgown, and he used them to keep us all safe, and that was it for

Camp Winnemucca. It’s for the best, too. Bad memories over there.” “BAD” IS A RELATIVE TERM, SIR.

“You look like him, you sick of hearing that? Something around the eyes, there.”

AND YOU WONDER WHY I WEAR SO MUCH EYELINER.

“Yeah, yeah, I caught that. Guess the newspaper didn’t nail down just every detail, did they? Her dad’s name was Trigo, and of course hers was too, and that’s what everybody called her, I guess because that’s how Miss Spellman

read her name from the roll that first day. But her front name, her first name… it was Melanie. Her name was Melanie.”

WHICH IS A PRETTY NAME, SIR. A VERY PRETTY NAME.

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