I had a feeling it would've been more incredible had I never talked with Mo, but I was looking forward to hearing anything Becky could tell me that Mo couldn't.
"You've got yourself a weird retreat there, boss. That house has changed hands every ten years since 1979. And from what I've found out, the people that own it just disappear and it reverts to the bank and they sell it to some other schmuck. And now you're the schmuck."
"Thanks a lot, Becky."
"Sorry, boss. I got a little carried away. Anyway, it's quite a weird piece of property."
I drove to the motel, which was just down the street from Mo's place, and parked in front of the office. The room I rented was right next to it. The man at the desk looked out at me and smiled, then went back to watching his little TV on the counter.
As I walked to my room my phone rang, which scared the shit out of me. This whole thing was making me jumpy. I pulled my phone from my pocket. It was my assistant Becky.
"Hi, boss. I got some news for you. It's pretty incredible."
I got up from the counter and put some money next to Mo.
"Thanks, Mo, for the food and the talk. I'm staying in town tonight at the motel. Tomorrow I'll go back to the house and make a decision then. Don't worry. I'm a big boy."
She got up from the barstool, straightening her dress out. She leaned over and kissed me on the forehead.
"You be careful. Like I said, that house changes people."
I thanked her again and walked out into the early night. The wind was rustling through twisted trees and the crickets played their symphony.
But I knew I just couldn't let this go. Girls were murdered for more than half a century, apparently by at least 5 different people, if Mo was right about the house changing hands every ten years after Mark Finch. What would make as many as four men go mad and follow in Finch's footsteps? I could kind of understand Finch, not that I condoned his actions, but he had lost his mother and it obviously drove him mad. But why would the other men carry on the tradition of murdering young blonde girls if they hadn't suffered that loss?
"It's always ten years. After Mark vanished and Mr. Foster moved in, he stayed ten years and then disappeared. And every subsequent owner too. After ten years. That's weird. I never put that together 'fore. Oh, mister, I beg you. Don't go back to that house. It changes people. It'll change you. And then in ten years you'll disappear too."
I was no longer thinking that what Mo was telling me was hogwash. I don't believe in the supernatural, but I also know there are a helluva lot of things in this world that can't be explained away by science.
Could Mr. Foster have found the archive of snuff films and somehow carried on the tradition after his wife and daughter left? What would've compelled him to do that? What force could've been so strong that it turned a family man into a serial killer?
"How long did he stay there?" I asked.
"About ten years. And then he disappeared too, like Mark."
"Say what?" I asked, taken aback.
"That's what I mean, mister. Every owner since Mrs. Finch has disappeared, including her son. Come to think of it..."
The wheels in her mind were turning.
"What is it, Mo?"
"So, who bought the house after Mark disappeared?" I asked as I finished the last of my burger and fries.
"Oh," Mo said, thinking back, "a nice couple called the Fosters bought it back in 1979. They had a little girl, sweet little thing. They seemed very much in love when they moved here but after a couple of months the wife left and took the little girl. Mr. Foster stayed, but he had a different look in his eye. He looked beaten and angry all the time."
Maybe Mo was right. Maybe there was a malevolence in that house.
"No...No, Mark disappeared himself in 1979. Just up and vanished off the face of the Earth. No trace was ever found. The town went through some legal wranglings and got the deed to the house and sold it."
What?? That didn't make any sense. How could the killings go on if Mark Finch was no longer the owner of the house? The killings were done inside the house, for God's sake! I doubted that the new owner would turn a blind eye to the previous owner using the house to commit brutal murders every year for the next 40 years.
But if Mark Finch was the killer, and he killed the girl that killed his mother, then who were all the other girls killed? I guess his mind got warped and every year on the anniversary he found a girl who looked similar to the original one and killed her all over again. He had to keep killing the one who took his mother away from him.
"I hate to keep bothering you with questions, Mo, but I need to know a few more things. Did Mark Finch die recently? Is that why I was able to buy the house?"
"Mo, do you remember the date of the accident that killed his mother?"
She nodded, "Sure do. November 7th, 1966. I remember it well."
That was exactly one year before the first snuff film. I began wondering if the girl that was high as a Californy redwood that killed Mark's mother was the stoned hippie chick in the first film.
"Whatever happened to the girl that killed Mrs. Finch? Is she still in town?"
Mo chuckled, "No, that was a case of poetic justice. She disappeared about a year later, right around the time of the anniversary of the accident."
"Why don't you think he should've stayed in the house?"
She turned on the barstool and looked out the front window. There were a few cars coming by every now and then to prove that there were other people in the world besides Mo and me. She leaned her elbows back on the dirty counter.
"Too many memories. All he had was his mother and now she was gone. He rarely left the house at all. They still had money from the settlement with the factory so he didn't have to work. He had his groceries delivered to his door."
"When was this?" I asked her.
"'Bout 1960. Anyways, Mark's mom bought that house, which had just been built. Paid cash for it. They lived there quietly until 1966, when Mark's mom died in a car accident. Hit by some girl in a Mustang that was as high as a Californy redwood. She was the daughter of one of the prominent families here in Weeping Springs. Didn't even get so much as a traffic ticket, that girl. Mark went off his rocker. He was already 18 so he stayed in the house alone. But I don't think he should have."
Mo came around the counter, sitting down on the barstool beside me.
"I remember the woman that bought that house when I was just a kid. I went to school with her son."
"What were their names?" I asked, wanting to research their backgrounds.
"The boy I went to school with was Mark Finch. I think his mother's name was Betty. Anyway, Mark's dad worked at a factory over in the next town. Ain't there no more, the factory nor the town. Anyhows, Mark's father had an accident at the factory and died. So they gave Mark's mom some money."
"Yeah, they don' make 'em like they used to. I guess that's your fault!" she said as she winked at me.
I smiled, "Well, the first rule in show biz is 'give 'em what they want.'"
"I reckon," she said as she wiped a filthy towel across the counter.
"So, Mo, what do you know about the house just outside of town," I asked her as I munched on my burger.
"Why d'ya wanna know?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Because I just bought the place," I said, popping a fry in my mouth.
Her face became an ashen canvas.
Mo fixed me a greasy cheeseburger and some French fries. I sat there eating while she watched me. It was a little unsettling.
"By the way, my name's Teddy Martin. You may have heard of me. I make horror movies."
She scoffed, "I haven't heard of ya an' I don't watch no horror movies neither. I used to a long time 'go, but then the world got so dadblamed horrid that suddenly they weren't so entertaining anymore."
I nodded, "I know what you mean. And people want too much gore these days. I liked the classic era of horror movies."
I didn't stay in the house that first night, as I got so caught up in watching the snuff films I forgot to get a bed and stock the kitchen. I went back to town, which was about ten minutes from the house, a quaint little town in the California desert called Weeping Springs. I got a motel room for that night and ate at a diner called Mo's. The owner, Maureen, was a surly looking woman but was actually quite friendly. Her gray hair was shoved into a bun on her head. Her apron was dirtier than the floor.
The vibes were weird in the house now. I didn't feel them when I first came to this place but now that I knew that at least 51 murders had taken place here it definitely felt different.
I stopped at the bedroom door, where the first of many murders had occurred. A thought hit me. The first murder was in 1967, and judging by how high the camera angle was he was already an adult. Even if he was in his upper teens that would have put him in his late 60's when he committed the final murder in 2018.
My head was spinning as I tried to figure out what I needed to do. I wasn't going to contact the authorities just yet. I wanted to dig into this a little deeper. I called my assistant at the studio and asked her to get me every scrap of information she could dig up about the previous owner of the house and its history. She seemed annoyed, which was par for the course, but she said she would and call me back.
The next thing I did was go around the house, inspecting every place that he had killed someone.
I spent the rest of the afternoon going through this morbid archive of murder. They all played out with little variation. Different parts of the house were used, but always with what looked like the same knife and always a young blonde girl as the victim. And he always cried afterwards and said "Mother."
What was interesting, though, was the last DVD, November 7, 2018. The girl got hold of her smartphone as he stabbed her, and the flash went off. I think she snapped a picture of her killer.
Maybe she had her phone backup photos to the cloud.
The killer continued bawling like an unconsolable baby. I just sat, thinking. What if every one of these home movies is a snuff film? From 1967 to 2018 is 51 years. Did that mean this lunatic killed 51 people? I would have to check the rest of these, no matter how difficult they may be to sift through, then find out who the previous owner was.
The last of the film went through the projector, and I sat there as the projector kept spinning, the end of the film clicking wildly against the reel as it spun into nothingness.