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Risen
by Jan Strnad

 

Twenty-Six

It was hard to say which swarmed thicker around the corpses, the flies or the reporters.

True to Carl Tompkins' prediction, it was the biggest thing to ever hit Anderson. The networks showed up in force. Police were called in from all corners of Cooves County to barricade the area and seal off the town from curiosity-seekers. The pounding roar of helicopters seemed never to cease.

Because all the bodies were discovered at the church, the comparisons to Jonestown came easily. Phrases like "Satanic cult" and "religious fanatics" were tossed out over the airwaves. As closer examination of the corpses revealed bullet holes with no slugs and murders with no evidence of murderers or weapons, the case took on more mysterious overtones.

Peg screamed and fought and bit and had to be restrained physically and chemically when they took Annie away from her. She was hospitalized in Junction City until arrangements could be made to transfer her to the Greenhaven Convalescent Center.

Tom peacefully accompanied the officers who took him into custody but refused to answer questions until a lawyer could be found to represent him. He was flooded with offers of pro bono representation from attorneys in need of a high-profile case to clinch their book deal, but he accepted the attorney appointed by the court, who advised him to say nothing.

He was placed under twenty-four hour guard at the Junction City Hospital where he was confined for observation, and from which he escaped at eleven o'clock on Tuesday night.

He rode his Honda out to the Cooves County Reservoir and looked out over the still water to the center of the lake. The boat he'd borrowed the night before was still tied to the dock. The chain that had once blocked the access road and the concrete chunk fastened to it were hidden from view. They were wrapped and padlocked around the body of Jed Grimm, which now floated near the bottom of the reservoir.

Tom recalled all too clearly dragging Grimm's body out of the church and loading it into the car. He remembering staring at the nearly bald head as he dragged the body across the grass, weaving around the corpses, and thinking how ironic it was that Seth, who could raise the dead, couldn't resurrect the follicles of his own scalp.

He'd brought the padlocks from home. He'd wrapped Grimm securely with the chains and fastened them tight in two places. If the water rusted them shut, so much the better. Then he'd paddled the body out to the center of the reservoir and dumped it over the side and watched it sink.

He looked at his watch.

Five to midnight.

Five minutes to think about Anderson and all the people he'd grown up with, now dead, sealed in zippered bags awaiting the inquisitive scalpel of the coroner.

To remember Brant, too late and too briefly his mentor.

To remember Merle Tippert's movie house and Carl Tompkins' hardware store, and school, and Galen and Darren and Buzzy and Kent.

To remember Annie as she was in life.

To remember his mom before Seth and her own obsession led her into lunacy.

To remember Cindy Robertson and to imagine everything that might have been.

To remember his past life, which was as distinct from his future and as separate as if a surgeon had parted them with a knife.

His past was everything before midnight. Come twelve, it all would change. He knew that he should return to the hospital. He should face the police and tell his story and let the chips fall where they may. But the call to vanish was strong. He could ride off and never return, hole up in some other no-account town, or disappear in the streets of New York or Los Angeles.

Wherever he ended up, he would never view the world in the same way again. He had discovered the existence behind existence, and he would never be able to put it out of his mind. It would wait in every shadow and lurk in every mystery. It would drive him crazy if he let it.

Twelve o'clock.

Tom watched the crescent moon reflected in the lake. The image shivered and broke as bubbles erupted to the surface. Ripples spread across the water as it boiled. Long, turbulent moments passed.

Eventually the water grew still. The shattered moon reassembled itself. The ripples died before reaching any shore.

Satisfied, Tom kick-started the Honda and headed for the highway. When he reached it, he would decide which way to turn.

 

The End

 

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