While I rewrite the stories that appeared in my 2014 book, The Green Crystal Stories, I’m offering the original stories here in chapter-by-chapter installments. In this chapter of “Trespassing” (the second short story in the book), the green crystal uses its mysterious magical powers to aid teenager Vree Erickson to save her mother from a kidnapper rapist and strengthen its control of her.
This is a possession story, though the reader doesn’t know that … not yet. The crystal does a good thing by giving Vree the magic power to travel through time and space to save her mom. It also does bad by (spoiler alert!) using its power to kill the rapist. This puts Vree on the spot and sets up the ancient (and probably overused) dilemma theme of good/right versus bad/wrong. It also poses to Vree the question: “How do I get rid of it?” It’s magic, after all, so it isn’t going to be easy.
But I’m getting too far ahead. Right now, Vree is an innocent—a babe in the wilds of a strange, magic world. This won’t be the case, however, when I publish the revised version of The Green Crystal Stories. After all, she has battled and defeated a witch’s ghost in the novel Night of the Hellhounds. And she has a book of magic spells from that story. But again, I’m getting too far ahead. To see how she has changed, you’ll have to wait for me to publish the book. For now, find a comfortable place to sit and … you know the routine.
Would it be that a destination could be otherworldly?
November 4, 2012
At a near-empty Walmart parking lot in Ridgewood, a heavy man leered across the passenger seat of a white Impala and out a partially open window. A middle-aged woman bundled in black imitation fur slid from a van’s driver’s seat and dropped onto the black pavement. She wore her blonde hair shoulder length and was dressed in blue jeans and black pumps. She opened a yellow umbrella, looked up at the dark, galling sky, and held up a hand as though trying to catch raindrops. Then she reached far inside the van for a black purse before she hurried across the sparsely lighted lot and entered the store.
The man heard no blip from the automatic door lock on her keychain. He waited a moment, then wiped away fingerprints with a rag from under the seat before he squeezed his large body from behind the steering wheel and wiped away prints from the door. Then he looked at the van in contempt as he crossed behind it.
“Honor this,” he said as he raised a middle finger at the MY CHILD IS AN HONOR STUDENT bumper sticker.
He opened the van’s hydraulic sliding door, which pulled from his grasp and opened itself, and climbed inside on all fours.
The roomy rear interior contained two rows of bench seats. A magazine titled Elle Decor, some paperback books, and a box of glitter crayons littered the first seat. A day planner had fallen behind the passenger seat. He opened the notebook.
“Karrie Erickson,” he said; “I can’t wait to see you naked.”
He flipped away the planner, closed the door (which actually closed itself when he pulled at the handle), and hunkered on the floor of the back row seat. He snatched a crumpled bag from McDonalds beneath the seat in front of him and ate some old fries.
Drippings of sweat pooled across his forehead and mixed with the rain there. He undid the top three buttons of his flannel jacket before he wiped his fat face with his sleeves. He was a short, floppy man with graying hair that seemed to explode from his head. He had a mocking thick-lipped face that appeared angry from behind pudgy grease-stained fingers always lurking there. And his bulbous brown eyes — not so much looking as unable to relax — were forever in motion.
After many minutes, Karrie Erickson returned to her van, got in, tossed two plastic bags on the passenger seat and started the ignition. A pleasant tone from the dashboard reminded her to buckle up. She jabbed at the radio and a lamenting song about lost love encircled her and the mostly concealed intruder behind her.
Large wipers slapped across a panoramic windshield in tune to the music as she put the van in gear and drove away from the stolen Impala that had lost its shine somewhere in Ohio and was now showing rust around the wheel wells. Even the chrome that its dead owner had once been proud of had turned dull.
Karrie drove to the nearly deserted main street and headed south away from downtown Ridgewood, back toward Alice Lake. Along the way, she increased the volume of a favorite song.
After they had gone about a half mile, the man crawled to behind Karrie’s seat, took a black Smith & Wesson M&P from the belt holster of his sagging blue jeans, and pressed the pistol against the back of her neck. She jumped and the man grinned at the sudden intake of air as she gasped.
“Pull over, Karrie,” he said. “Pull over or I’m gonna blow your brains out.”
“Who…” She trembled and no longer looked at the road. She had turned in her seat, looking over her shoulder at the man.
“Who are you?
“Turn around and pull over,” the man hissed.
She turned around and stared instead in the rearview mirror, trying to see the man’s face behind her. The van was on the wrong side of the two-lane highway.
“Pull over!” The man shoved the barrel of the pistol against the base of her skull. She cut the wheel sharply to the right and drove the van hard onto the berm. He ordered her to park the van at the roadside and to leave the engine running. When she did, he grabbed her purse and bags from the passenger seat and ordered her to the vacant seat.
“Buckle up good and tight,” he grumbled at her when she crossed over to the passenger seat. Then, keeping the gun aimed at her head with his right hand and holding her purse and bags with his left, he climbed to the driver’s seat. It was a difficult maneuver because of his size.
Karrie remained buckled to her seat, trembling.
“Thanks for not trying to get away,” the man said and settled behind the steering wheel. “Nothing I hate more than shooting someone before I’ve had the chance to know them better.”
As he adjusted the seat to his liking, Karrie rattled out several questions in a raspy voice: “Why are you doing this? What do you want? How do you know my name?” She began to bawl.
He took her cell phone from her purse and tossed it out the window. It clattered on pavement and landed in a large puddle. He kissed the wet air before he rolled up the window.
“I have money,” Karrie said. “Please … just take my money and leave me alone.”
The man threw the purse and bag at her. They landed in her lap.
“Get comfy,” he said and pulled the van back onto the road. They hadn’t gone far when Karrie began to hiccup.
“Please … pull over,” she said. “I’m … going to throw up.”
“Forget about it. If you’re gonna hurl, Karrie, you’ll have to hurl in your lap. I ain’t stopping.”
She pressed the button to roll down her window.
“Roll that window back up or I’m gonna shoot you where you sit. Now! And turn off that damn music! Stuff makes a person insane.” The pistol cracked to life, thunderous and disquieting as he fired a .40 caliber slug that tore through the van’s roof.
Karrie leaped to obey his orders. While she did so, he attacked the automatic door lock on the door panel and locked the two of them inside. Then he smiled big yellow dentures that appeared sinister and green from the dashboard’s electronic lights. “I bet those hiccups are gone now.”
Her question came on a whisper, “Where are you taking me?”
“You just get comfy and enjoy the ride, honey,” he said. He picked his fat nose and drove past Alice Lake, heading deep into the woods south of Ridgewood. The rain stopped and that made him grin again. After the rape, he planned to drive all night and be in Virginia by morning, long before those roly-poly Ridgewood donut eaters or the PA patrol boys started their searches for Karrie’s missing body and van. By then, she would be long dead like the others, her body deep in some mountain woods in northern Maryland.
That was the plan and it made him giddy. He almost giggled until shimmering green light appeared ahead and Vree Erickson stood in the middle of the road.
The man pulled Karrie’s van to the left lane to pass, but Vree stepped in that lane. Karrie screamed as the van plowed through her daughter. Green light exploded around the van. The man ignored her pleas for him to stop while he speeded past the scattered, twinkling lights disappearing along the road.
“Son’bitch,” he shouted. He shouted it again seconds later when Vree reappeared in front of the van.
The man punched the gas pedal and again, green light exploded around the van.
“What’s going on?” Karrie cried out. She searched the road in her door’s rearview mirror, looking for Vree.
The man also searched the road in the rearview mirrors, his eyes darting back and forth from mirrors to windshield.
The van crested a hill and began a steep descent, picking up speed. Vree reappeared in front of the van.
“Impossible,” the man muttered. “How is that possible?”
Karrie screamed. “My baby, my baby.”
She put her hands over her eyes when the man whooped and speeded the van into Vree. Green light exploded once more. This time the engine stalled. The man threw the gearshift into neutral and tried to restart the engine, but it squawked in protest.
He coasted the van to a turnaround at the bottom of the hill and pressed the pistol against Karrie’s skull as Vree approached her mother’s door.
“I’ll blow her brains out,” he shouted when Karrie’s locked door opened.
“You’ll do no such thing,” Vree said.
The pistol jammed and Karrie struggled from her seatbelt. She fell freely into Vree’s waiting arms.
“There’s a house a quarter-mile up the road,” Vree said. “Call the police.”
“Oh, my baby, my baby, you’re safe. I’m not leaving you. I’m—”
Vree touched her mother’s forehead and told her again to go and call the police. Karrie’s expression calmed. She looked hypnotized as she left the van and walked casually up the berm of the road.
Vree hurried to Karrie’s seat. A halo of green light shimmered around her as she turned to face the trembling man. A more trembling hand pointed the Smith & Wesson at her.
“Are you going on another joyride to Virginia?” Vree asked. “Or are you going to Florida like last year? Biscayne Bay wasn’t it?”
“How … how?” The man shielded his eyes from Vree’s brightness with his left hand. Then, trying to sound tough, he said, “Who are you? You’re just a girl. What d’you want from me?”
“Where did you get the gun?” Vree asked. “And don’t lie to me.”
“That’s a police officer’s weapon. It was stolen five years ago from the Ridgewood Police Department.”
The man choked out a denial.
“It belongs to a missing police officer named Rita Malloy,” Vree said. “Remember her?”
The man shook his head. He pressed his back against the door. His left hand searched for the door handle behind him.
Vree scowled at him. “Were you going to shoot me with Rita’s gun?”
The man shook his head again and managed to utter a whispery uh-uh.
“You were going to shoot Karrie. After you raped her.”
“I-I … no.”
“Are you sure?”
The man stretched his right arm at Vree, aimed the pistol at Vree’s face, and squeezed the trigger. Again, the pistol jammed.
He slumped in his seat.
Vree reached out and effortlessly took the gun from him.
“Isn’t that why you kidnapped Karrie tonight?” she asked. “Weren’t you planning to rape and kill her like the other women?”
The man’s voice sounded weak as he denied it.
“But you were. I know you were. Let me show you how you were going to do it.”
The windshield lit up like a TV screen and showed fractured moonlight streaming past bare tree branches inside a clearing surrounded by dark woods. There, Karrie’ van was parked in the clearing and facing them. The driver’s door opened and the man stumbled out. He hurried to the passenger door and pulled a semi-conscious Karrie out.
As they watched, Vree said, “You know those pictures of sad clowns and homeless puppies and starving children? That’s how Karrie looks there. It’s in her eyes, just like the others. Just like Rita’s when she begged you for her life.”
“No,” the man next to her said. “Stop.”
“Are you going to vomit? If so, hurl in your lap. I ain’t stopping.”
When the man in the windshield finished raping Karrie, he collapsed on her and rested for a minute, then rolled away from her body that now looked lifeless next to his. His great stomach heaved as he caught his breath. Then he sat up, wheezed, pushed himself to his knees, wheezed some more, and stood and staggered toward the van while zipping his pants.
“Watch this,” Vree said as Karrie’s left arm moved. The woman’s fingers wrapped around a dark object. Then she rolled on her left side and fired the fallen Smith & Wesson until the man dropped to his knees, wheezed deep and hard, and fell backwards and stopped breathing. The windshield went dark.
“She would have killed you in those woods. But I’m not going to let that happen,” Vree said.
The man turned and cast a bewildered gaze at her. “You’re not?”
“No.” Vree opened the door. “Someone wants to see you.”
She stepped out and another green glow entered the van. A young woman wearing a black sweatshirt with Ridgewood Police lettered across the front took Vree’s seat. Sadness edged the woman’s pale blue eyes framed by ragged and dirty hair that had once been short and strawberry blonde.
“I’m Rita Malloy,” the ghost’s papery voice hissed, although her pallid face remained calm while she addressed the man. “You kidnapped me one night in my driveway five years ago when I was leaving to go to work. I never made it to the station that night because you raped me at knifepoint and then stabbed me in the stomach when you were through. But I was slow to die, so you shot me with my weapon and left my corpse for the wild dogs and coyotes. My remains have never been found.”
The man looked at Rita’s pistol pointed at him. He pulled at his door handle and pushed his left shoulder against the door. It didn’t open. He closed his eyes.
“You took my money,” Rita said, “went to Atlantic City and won nine hundred and seventy-five dollars with it. Then you bought some hookers and killed them too.”
The man covered his ears. “No, no, no,” he said.
“You’ll never hurt anyone again.” Rita shoved her pistol’s barrel against his temple. The gun did not jam.
~ ~ ~
A half-hour later, Pennsylvania State Police officers found the man’s body in the driver’s seat of Karrie Erickson’s van. Rita Malloy’s government-issued pistol was in his right hand, his index finger on the trigger. On the dashboard, they found a crudely sketched map in glitter crayon on a McDonalds’ greasy paper napkin spattered with blood and showing them the locations of Rita’s body and the other women he had killed.
At the bottom of the map, they read these words:
For my crimes, I don’t deserve to live.
~ ~ ~
When the police drove Karrie Erickson home, she did not recall how she had escaped from her kidnapper, and did not remember seeing the green glowing figure of her daughter. Later that day, when she and her husband and the creature that looked like her daughter stood at the sinkhole in their backyard, she knew it was time to move her family somewhere safe.
The creature leaving Karrie’s side and going indoors, however, had different plans. She vanished the moment she entered the house.
At the banks of Myers Creek, the creature inside Vree rested. The green crystal stopped glowing.
Vree stumbled to where the crystal lay and stared at it for a moment. Something strange had happened to her. She almost reasoned that she had imagined herself appearing and disappearing along the lake road, saving her mother from the hands of a rapist and killer.
But that would be denying the truth … albeit, the weird truth.