The story so far:
The acrid smell of apples began to fill my nostrils as I made my way onto the orchard grounds. There were dozens of people everywhere. I took notice of everything that Gwen described as I drove along. I knew I needed to find Malena. Fast...and alive.
I moved along down a bumpy dirt road on Cross Orchards looking frantically for her. Hoping the preacher had not gotten to her.
He would lie to her about me. He might also kill her...
You always wanted to do her anyway. I noticed how you looked at her sometimes.
"Shut up Angel, please. Not now!" I screamed out loud inside the car.
My attention and focus drifted from my driving and I came about three inches from running over some old man walking with a cane.
"Watch were you going, your gonna get somebody killed," the old man yelled at me. With his other arm he raised it in the air with a closed fist. I quickly roll down my window and asked him did he know Malena Santos. This instantly changed his mood to a more welcoming state. He spoke of her with admiration and kindness.
He must have misunderstood who I asked for. He could not have been talikng about the bitch I know. Irregardless, I needed to find her, so I listened.
"Malena, yes everyone knows Malena. Wonderful woman. The townfolk here love her. Last time I saw her she was helping out in the packing house. Just keep going. Its straight ahead to your left, and pay attention to what your doing when your driving! You could have killed me!"
I thanked the old man and kept moving forward.
As I was passing by the bunkhouse to my left I noticed that is was empty, except for a petite looking woman with dark hair who was beginning to walk inside of it. No one else stood around her. My first thought was that it was Malena. I immediately slammed on breaks and honked the horn at her.
She turned, and for a split second the woman did look exactly like her.
"Malena, I yelled.
The doors to the bunkhouse were sliding doors. The one to the left of her was open. The one to the right had been pulled out to the center of the bunkhouse. She was standing about a foot away from the door.
The woman shook her head, from side to side. Letting me know I was mistaken. "Sir, Malena is at the packing house--
That's when I seen a hand reach out from behind the door and grab the back her of head and violently pull it back. With the other hand her throat was swiftly cut. Then the hands disappeared again behind the door. Blood began to spurt out of her neck like a sprinkler system on a lawn during a hot summer day.
The woman began to convulse and shake as if she was having an epileptic seizure. I watched mortified as she dropped to the ground. Long arms, covered by crisp looking black sleeves began to drag the woman's body behind the door. Seemed like I was the only one paying any attention to what had just happened.
NOOO!!! I yelled out the window.
I put the car in park and turned off the ignition, leaving it right there in the road. Grabbing the bag on the passenger seat I began to run towards the bunkhouse. People started to look my way and take notice of my behavior. Not to mention the fact of the way I parked the car.
That cowardness I had battled with all my life began to resurface again. I began to have second thoughts about walking to the bunkhouse and felt myself making my way back to the car.
The voice of Angel spoke up inside of me again.
"Put the hat on, James. You know you want to. Need to..."
I stood there for what felt like an eternity. I needed to go and find out if what I just saw was real or my imagination. James Randall Malcolm by himself did not have the heart to do it. Not without the hat...
It felt snug on my head. Like it belonged there. I turned around with a renewed confidence and began to approach the bunkhouse sliding door.
There was blood. Fresh blood.
As I made my way around the door there he stood. The Preacher. He held the dead woman in his arms. Droplets of blood ran down her severed neck onto the dusty ground.
"Fooled you, didn't I? You thought it was Malena, didn't you? Well unlucky for this one, and it's gonna be very unlucky for Malena when her time comes."
My hands reached up and touched the hat. His hat. Without it on, his hair was jet black. A glistering mass of what looked like painted black seaweed. As dark as night. It was long and flowing with wavy patterns. As I looked at it I noticed strange looking worms crawl out of it. Unlike any I had ever seen before. They would move around on the surface of his hair then disappear back into it again. He seemed not to notice it or feel them at all.
I wondered if they were in my head too. Maybe responsible for my actions. Some kind of tapeworms feeding on my brain making me crazy. I didn't feel them or see any on me. Not that I would have known anyway. Maybe they were still in their incubation stage.
"The hat changes, you don't it James? Makes you feel powerful. Unstoppable. Gives you a part of me.....makes you become like me. I shall want that back on my own head relatively soon James. I am quite fond of it. That hat has been with me for years."
I remembered that when I took the hat from the bag and put it on, I had slipped the knife in my back pocket. I reached for it. It wasn't there.
"Looking for this," the preacher laughs, pointing it towards me. Blood still dripped from it. The blood of this woman he continued to hold close to his bosom like a new bride he was about to walk over the threshold.
"You can have it back if you want it. Your fingerprints are all over it. Do you think mine are too?" He drops the knife to the floor. He opens up his hand for me to take a look at his palm.
I see no lines, nothing. His palm was amazingly smooth without any lifelines at all. No prints at all. He laughs again at my realization of it.
"How many people have you killed on your way to find me? How many innocent people James? I found it very amusing as to how you put the girl and the old man together in the car. You sick perverted soul. Why, your hardly no different from me."
Angel speaks up inside of me as if on que.
Kill that bastard. Get rid of him once and for all. This is your chance. Take it.
As the voice of my dead wife builds my confidence, I hear another voice creeping up behind me. A very familiar voice.
"Mr. Baker, are you sure you saw him come in here--"
The woman and the old man came inside the door and stopped cold.
There she stood. Malena. I wondered if she knew her mother had been murdered.
"Oh my God! James! What have you done to Katyyyyyyyy.....
I raise both my arms in protest to stop her from accusing me of what she was seeing. My sudden jerks make the hat fall off my head onto the ground on its side.
I could have swore I saw the tail end of one of those worms scurry back inside of it.
"No. Malena, not me. Him---
I quickly turn around to face the Preacher again. When I look to my horror the woman is laying on the floor....the knife is back in my hand.....
......and the preacher is gone.
I turn suddenly back to Malena. The look on her face tells me she is about to scream.
I walk towards her, trying to explain the situation. I needed to reason with her before that scream escapes her.
Malena, look, I DID NOT DO THIS!!! YOU GOTTA BELIEVE ME!!!
My efforts are useless. The scream finds its way out.
Loud, chilling, and blood curdling.....