The story so far:
"What's new with me? Not much. How are you? Good! The hat? A little something I picked up driving through this side of sanity. The blood? Oh, well, this girl hit on me and your sister said I should..."What's new with me? You wouldn't believe me if I told you. Listen, I need you to pack your **** and come with me."
I had been playing questions and answers since placing the two bodies in the front of the old man's car. Just for giggles I pulled his pants down to his ankles and unbuttoned her blouse to her belly-button. That should confuse the hell out of the police - for a while anyway.
I could have played the question and answer game all night, but Malena's house was coming up fast around the corner. How do I explain the preacher? Will she believe me? Will she come with me? Will she even let me in the door? Be cool and calm. She knows how torn up I am over losing Angel and the kids. Sure she knows.
As I rounded the corner, I almost braked. The van was in Malena's driveway. He beat me here! What vendetta does this guy have against Angel's family? Why does he seem to know my every move? I parked on the street and walked to the porch.
"Nice car," the Preacher grinned. He passed his hand over the open top of Malena's carved pumpkin. The candlelight danced through the carving of a witch with a big hat and long warty nose. Her toothless grin matching the preachers'. He moved his other hand over the flame and wiggled his ten fingers like playing a piano. I tried not to look, to say, "Leave my sister-in-law alone! Go on, get out of here! Stop this, you've done enough!" But my mouth didn't move and I couldn't stop staring at the flickering light.
For a second I thought the witch moved. I blinked my eyes and I heard her cackle. The sound of her grew as her face contorted and the candle flickered wildly. I blinked again and when I looked the carving had changed to that of the girl in the car - her eyes frozen open in horror. I tried to look away, but in an instant the pumpkin was the old man. "Gee-SUS man! You walked right out in front of me!"
"Stop it!" I screamed. The witch's cackle faded into the trees. "What the hell do you want?"
"The question is," the preacher answered. "What the hell do you want?"
I looked at the pumpkin and Malena's face stared back. Her eyes were as accusing as her mothers. Brutally stabbed nine times. ****. She was the brutal one. The preacher brought that message home not once, not twice, not five times nor eight, but...
I suddenly realized the preacher was not on the stoop and that the van had vanished. The pumpkin candle was snuffed. I watched the last remnant of smoke curl up towards the door, and that's when I noticed the note.
Gwen: No piano tonight. Going to Apple Jubilee. See you next week. -- Mal
Great. Drive all this way to see my favorite ex-sister-in-law and this is the thanks I get. I have a mind to...
"Excuse me?" a voice interrupted my thoughts.
I turned to see a woman on the sidewalk with an eight-year-old girl.
"Is Mal home?" the woman asked.
"No, she went to the Apple Jubilee. Are you Gwen?"
"Yes," squeaked the girl.
"She left you a note." The girl ran to the door and I turned to the mother.
"I just drove from Denver to surprise Mal and I guess the surprise is on me. Where's the Apple Jubilee?"
"Cross Orchards." the girl giggled. "We went last night and it's a lot of fun. You go up here to the main road and..."
I listened long enough to get an idea of where to go and then I went as fast as I could. The preacher was going to get there ahead of me, but hopefully I could stop him before he had all the fun.
Luckily, the girl had a brochure for the orchard in her backpack. Unfortunately, the orchard was quite a deal. Mal might be hard to find quickly.
Turn of the century, blah blah, over 22,000 apple trees covering 243 acres, blah blah, now 24 acres, original barn, bunkhouse, packing house, kitchen, blah blah, woodworker, glass blowers, craftsmen, smell the ginger cookies, blah blah, owner's gazebo.
****. Don't you touch her you bastard. Not one hair. I'm on my way and she's family, and family takes care of family.