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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 53: Brown 18
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"It's that devil game you play," Michael asserted. "You've been possessed, and you don't even know it."
"You're the one with blood on your hand," Ralph answered.
"They sent you to find Pete; you shot him, and came back to tell us he was dead," Michael argued.
"On the other hand," Derek began putting pieces together, "you were gone at that time, too; David sent you to tell the camp director, but you didn't–you came back with the nurse, because you had already killed Bill and knew that he would never reach the nurse. In fact, you were often missing when someone died."
"We were all scattered. When Bob died, I was looking for the clue around the chapel."
"Maybe, but no one could be certain of that. We were all looking for the clue, not looking at each other, and we wandered around the outside of the building, by the signpost, in the bushes. You could easily have walked away and come back, and no one would have noticed. You hit Bob with the oar that was on the dock, and knocked him unconscious into the lake."
"It was a paddle," Michael said.
"The thing lying on the dock. It was a paddle." Derek wasn't sure why that made a difference, or even why Michael would have mentioned it. "Look, he's the killer," Michael continued. "He plays that devil game, and the devil is claiming his own before they have the chance to repent and escape their doom. We have to stop him, before he kills us to cover his tracks." And without another word, Michael lunged at Ralph.
Ralph nearly screamed for help—but Michael was shouting for Derek to help him at the same time, and it looked a fairly even fight. Ralph and Michael were the least athletic kids in the cabin. Still, Derek was no athlete himself, and they each had about three years, six inches, and thirty pounds on him. He could probably turn the tide, help one of them stop the other, but if he chose wrong his best chance for help would be dead and he would be alone facing the killer. The two wrestled, punched, kicked, bit, scratched–Derek thought it a bit funny that all the rules of fighting fair went out the window when it was life and death. Still he had no idea who to trust, who to help.
Michael broke away, and rolled to his bunk. Reaching under it, he pulled out a length of chain about four or five feet long. He swung it at Ralph. "You and that devil game!" he shouted. "You've been shackling your friends with its evil!"
"You're crazy," Ralph said, but the chain stung his arm, and he moved back.
"Now you've killed them all. You have to be stopped." Michael swung the chain wildly, but effectively.
The chain suddenly caught Derek's attention. Why was there a chain under Michael's bunk? You might find something like that in the maintenance barn, or the boathouse, or even the guard shack in the parking lot, but it could only be under the bunk if someone put it there, and there really wasn't a reason to put it there–unless perhaps that reason was to use it as a weapon. Until a couple hours ago, there was no reason to imagine that you needed an improvised weapon, unless you knew that people were going to start dying. Besides, Michael talked about the shackles of evil which he accused Ralph of placing on his players. In a warped way, the chain fit the pattern.
Well, maybe the logic wasn't airtight, but he had to make a choice, and he had to make it fast, and this was the nearest thing to a clue he had.
All of this passed through his mind in seconds. The chain was sweeping back for another strike against the defenseless Ralph. Derek sprang forward and raised the frying pan in his right hand to block the blow. There was a dull chink of metal on metal, and he swung the knife threateningly in Michael's direction. He had killed a man with this knife once, not so long ago—but he wasn't very good at it, for all that. Still, Michael didn't know that.
Michael apparently took the threat very seriously; he swung the chain and caught Derek's left arm. As the chain tightened and jerked back, he involuntarily dropped the knife to the floor. He rushed forward, in part to release the strain on the chain, but also to strike a blow with the fry pan. The blow connected, and suddenly having an idea he grabbed hold of the chain and fell backwards. Either he would take Michael down with him, or he would disarm him. There was resistance for a moment, and then he plunged to the boards as the chain slipped from Michael's grip.
At that moment, Ralph came out of nowhere and slammed into Michael, knocking him sideways. Two against one, Derek thought; it might not be fair, but it was a lot better odds. Now he had the chain. He stood and shifted around, looking for a chance to strike again.
Michael shook with rage, and threw Ralph through the window. That had to hurt, Derek thought, and it was now back to one on one. He was standing behind Michael now, and didn't wait for him to turn around. He swung the chain; it was an awkward weapon which didn't do much damage despite hitting the target. It did get Michael's attention; Derek wasn't certain that was a good thing.
He had another idea. A chain might not be a good striking weapon, but it was probably a decent tactical one. He rolled some of it off his arm so it would be a bit longer, and moved closer to his opponent. Then he swept the chain low and long; it passed around the back of Michael's knees and then continued around the front. Again he fell backwards. This time, his weight was enough to pull Michael's feet out from under him, and both of them crashed to the floor. Hopefully, Derek thought, he would recover more quickly than Michael, since he chose to fall. As it turned out, Michael was on his feet first—and he had Derek's knife in his hand.
Ralph came running back in through the door just as Derek found his feet. He froze as he saw Michael holding the knife. There were voices of others outside, shouting, coming nearer. It was almost over, but right now there was Ralph, Michael, and Derek's knife, and Michael held the knife.
Michael abruptly rushed toward Ralph. Derek didn't even think. He lunged forward into the gap. The knife hit him, and the impact of their crash drove it deep into his gut and knocked both of them onto the floor.
Several others rushed into the room as Derek stumbled to his feet. The chain was still partly wrapped around his left arm; he grabbed his knife and pulled it out, then dropped it feebly to the floor. It was time to say goodbye; all he said was, "Michael killed them all," and he stepped out the door, tripped over John's body, and tumbled in the darkness. He never felt the ground.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #91: Novel Mysteries. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: