I came back up the basement stairs and went to the package. I pulled the knife out of the leather sheath. It sounded like a medieval knight pulling out his sword. I felt an electricity surge through my entire body. It made me feel quite strange. I quickly cut through the tape on the box, put the knife back in the sheath, and then stood at the door of the basement and threw it down the stairs.
I didn't know what had just happened but there's one thing I knew:
I sure as hell didn't want it to happen again.
I wanted to open the box, get the camera and drive around the desert and take some raw footage. Becky taped the box up like it belonged to Pandora and she wanted to make sure no one opened it by mistake. I didn't have any cutlery in the house so I couldn't slice it open. And then I remembered. I did have a knife in the house.
I went down to the basement and retrieved Mark Finch's knife. Some people might have thought it was in bad taste considering it was a murder weapon.
But it didn't really bother me.
My phone started ringing as I left Mo's. It was my assistant Becky.
"Hey, Boss. You'll be getting the camera today. I overnighted it to you."
"Thanks, Becky. Have I given you a raise recently?"
"Not for six years, Boss."
"Well, when I get back...," I started stuttering my words to make it sound like I was losing the signal, "...be sure....ive....a substanti.....as soo...I get ba..."
"Nice try, Boss," she said as she ended the call.
I went back to the house as the delivery man was bringing my camera. I signed for it and took it inside.
She walked over and put her hand over mine. I smiled at her.
"So, are we good?" I asked sheepishly.
"Yeah, as long as you don't threaten me again. Then you might see a side of me you won't like," she said, winking at me.
"Cool. Well, I'll be in for some of my meals but I've got to buckle down and finish this script and scout some locations. We have to start filming next summer. Do you think the town of Weeping Springs would let us film here?"
"I don't see why not. Might be exciting for the townspeople."
"I don't really know you, Teddy. And the little bit I did know is probably going to be sucked out by some malevolent force that will turn you into a bloodthirsty killer!"
I laughed, which only made Mo madder.
"Are you laughing at me, movie boy?!"
I tried to stifle the laugh, which was now coming out as a giggle.
"No, Mo," I said, still giggling. "You're something else! If I was a few years older I'd sweep you outta here and take you to the courthouse and marry you!"
"If I was a few years younger I'd let you!"
She came back a few minutes later and pushed a plate at me that had a half-ass cheeseburger and some limp looking fries on it. She slid a cup of tepid coffee at me. I guessed I deserved it, though.
I ate my less-than-stellar meal very slowly, waiting for the lunch crowd to thin out. I must have sat there for almost two hours nibbling on my food before the last person left.
"Okay," I said as the door closed, "I'm sorry, Mo. You know I would never hurt you."
"I know no such thing!" she screamed.
The bell on the door rang as I opened it, which made everyone in the place turn and look at me, including Mo. She didn't seem happy to see me.
I sidled up to the counter and grabbed an empty seat. She was chatting with someone further down the counter but stopped long enough to come down to me and said, "What'll it be?"
"It's good to see you too, Mo. How about a cheeseburger and some fries?"
"And to drink?" she asked like she didn't even know me.
"How about you surprise me, Mo?"
She went to the kitchen.
At some point before the break of day I dozed off. But Betty Finch didn't show up. I woke up around 11 am with my stomach growling like a wild animal. I cracked open a soda and ate some chips while I worked on the script for a bit, then I thought I would go see Mo. I felt bad about threatening her and I wanted to apologize. And I could get something to eat there.
I drove to Mo's and pulled up outside. I was actually nervous about seeing her. The place was packed.
I pushed the door open.
I worked for a few hours on the script, then went to bed. I wondered if Betty Finch was going to make another appearance. I lay there for quite a while and couldn't seem to get to sleep. I got up and took a shower and then went back to bed. I grabbed my phone and sent an email to my assistant Becky to airmail my HD camera to me. I wanted to grab some footage of the area. I was considering actually filming some if not all of the movie here.
But not the house. I couldn't do that.
I couldn't get into the house fast enough. I started writing down the info first while it was all fresh in my mind, then work it in to the story.
I'd have to come up with an ending to the movie, though, as just going to a cave and finding a bunch of bones would be rather anticlimactic. But I still had revisions to do and had some time so I wasn't in a great hurry. I needed to get my assistant to send me my HD camera, as I wanted to get some footage out here for possible locations.
I picked up the spotlight and shined it toward the ground and told Mo to watch her step. We made our way toward the growing light at the mouth of the cave. We got back out into the desert as the sun was beginning to set. We got in the jeep and headed back to Weeping Springs in total silence.
We turned the jeep in and picked up my car and I took Mo back to the diner. I wanted to get home and start working on my script. I had a lot more material to add to it now.
The spotlight fell upright on its end, and the shaft of light came up between us like a laser beam. It gave Mo's face an eerie glow, as I'm sure it did mine. She looked back and realized she was standing at the edge of the drop off. She turned back to face me.
"You are not going to tell anyone about this, Mo. Do you understand me?"
Her face was shining with terror. She just nodded slowly.
I put my hand on her shoulder and she whimpered.
"Don't make me regret trusting you, Mo."
She was shaking with fear.
"It won't matter if I am or not. I know what I'm doing, Mo."
"Well, are you going to the police with this?"
"Not right now. I can't afford to have a bunch of cops tromping through the house and questioning me. I have to finish my script. When I'm done I'll turn all the info over to them."
"No, those skeletons down there have families that wondered what happened to them. Some of them have been waiting over 50 years for answers to their loved one's disappearance. I'll tell them."
"No you won't, Mo," I said, dropping the spotlight.
"Because, Mo, I know what's going on. The others didn't. They wrote in a journal that Mark started and none of them were aware of what was happening to them. I am."
"And are you writing in the journal, Teddy?"
"Of course I'm not, Mo! I told you I know what's going on. That will keep me from falling into the same trap they did. But I had to see this through. It's what I'm writing my script about. Now I can finish it."
"Well, it's September now. Please tell me you'll be out of the house before November 7th."
"Teddy?" Mo asked in a shaky voice, "Teddy, what the hell is going on?"
"Mo, Mark Finch was a killer. He killed Abigail Lewis and then kept killing every year on the anniversary of Mother's death."
She looked at me strangely and I realized what I said.
"I mean his mother. Then every person that moved into the house took up the mantle, avenging the death of a mother they never had nor ever even knew. Every year on the anniversary. Right up to last year."
"And you're falling into the same trap, Teddy. What makes you think you're immune?"
I turned the spotlight toward the ground and started looking for the drop off. I found it a few yards from where the names were scrawled. Mo stepped up beside me and I turned the spotlight and shined it over the lip of the precipice.
A sea of skeletons were resting at the bottom of the drop off, dozens upon dozens. So this was where the victims had their final resting place, eventually along with their murderers.
Mo staggered back and gasped loudly. I put my arm around her to steady her. She looked like she was going to faint.
Then I realized it wasn't brown ink; it was dried blood.
The name Mark Finch was scrawled across the cave wall in blood. Under that was Jim Foster, under that Max Keller, and Samuel Ladd under that, all scrawled with differing writing styles. The last name was Lance Moore, which wasn't as weathered as the others as it had probably only been there about eight months if it was written right after his last journal entry. I guess this is where they all came to die, which meant there should be bones around here somewhere.
That was a lovely thought.
We stepped into the cave. I shined the spotlight in front of us. I told Mo to be careful, remembering what Mark Finch had written about the 30-foot drop off. As we descended further into the cave the air turned considerably colder. The natural light at the mouth of the cave was getting more and more dim. I told Mo to stop walking and moved the spotlight around, searching the cave floor and walls. I saw something on one of the walls. We moved toward it. It was a series of names scrawled in what looked like brown ink.
"Teddy, didja really think I'd ride all the way out here in the heat and the dust and then sit in the jeep and watch as you got right up the Devil's Nose? Huh?"
I couldn't help but laugh. "Mo, you are something else. Okay, come on."
I got the sawed-off shotgun, loaded it with shells, and then took it and the spotlight and started up the incline of the Devil's Nose with Mo trailing behind me.
It took us a few minutes of slipping and sliding down the Devil's Nose before we reached the mouth of the cave.
I saw the Devil's Nose off in the distance, jutting up out of the desert. It really did resemble a giant nose, though what the Devil had to do with it I don't know. The map said the cave was on the west side of the mountain, so I drove around until I found a smaller mound that was noted on the map. I guessed that was the Devil's Bunion.
We pulled up to the base of the mountain. I saw the cave right away. It looked like a bit of climb. I asked Mo to wait in the jeep.