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Toy Cemetery

Toy Cemetery

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Toy Cemetery

Longueur:
361 pages
3 heures
Éditeur:
Sortie:
May 24, 2016
ISBN:
9781601835321
Format:
Livre

Description

Toy Land

There they were, just as he remembered. Rooms and rooms of them. Dolls. Toy soldiers. Clowns. When he was a kid, his Aunt Cary's toy collection should have been a child's paradise. But instead he had been terrified by their staring eyes . . .

Toy Hell

Twenty years had passed since Jay Clute set foot in Victory, Missouri. Twenty years of trying to forget that night--that hellish night of unimaginable horror. Now his Aunt Cary was dead, and it's all been left to him--the house, the furniture, every last piece of her toy collection. And nothing has changed. Not the painted-on dolly smiles or the garish clown colors--or the tiny hands dripping with bright red blood . . .
Éditeur:
Sortie:
May 24, 2016
ISBN:
9781601835321
Format:
Livre

À propos de l'auteur

William W. Johnstone is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over 300 books, including the series THE MOUNTAIN MAN; PREACHER, THE FIRST MOUNTAIN MAN; MACCALLISTER; LUKE JENSEN, BOUNTY HUNTER; FLINTLOCK; THOSE JENSEN BOYS; THE FRONTIERSMAN; THE LEGEND OF PERLEY GATES, THE CHUCKWAGON TRAIL, FIRESTICK, SAWBONES, and WILL TANNER: DEPUTY U.S. MARSHAL. His thrillers include BLACK FRIDAY, TYRANNY, STAND YOUR GROUND, THE DOOMSDAY BUNKER, and TRIGGER WARNING. Visit his website at www.williamjohnstone.net or email him at dogcia2006@aol.com.  

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Toy Cemetery - William W. Johnstone

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1

What’s wrong, Daddy?

Jay had thought she was sound asleep. He smiled at her and shook his head. Nothing, Kelly.

Then why did you frown so?

He laughed at her seriousness. Because for a moment, baby, I thought I was on the wrong road.

Are we?

No. It’s just been a long time since I was here, that’s all.

But still he wasn’t sure he was on the right road.

Things seemed – well, different. But no, he was on the right road. As many times as he had driven this county road in his youth – hundreds, maybe thousands of times, riding and driving – how could he have taken the wrong road?

He cut his eyes to Kelly. She was wide awake now, and her eyes sparkled with excitement. She was having a good time, traveling way out in the boondocks, as she had put it upon leaving New York City.

She was a smart kid, Jay thought. And knew he wasn’t just thinking that because she was his. She was very intelligent.

Like her mother.

And very pretty and cool and blonde.

Like her mother.

And pretty damned hip for a nine-year-old.

And he smiled at his use of that ’60s expression.

Well, he thought, why not use it? I’m heading back into the ’60s. Back to Victory, Missouri. Back to probably see all the old gang.

Those that were still around, that is. And he wondered how many that might be.

His eyes found something on the blacktop road up ahead. He stared through the windshield. What the hell was that?

What is that thing, Daddy? Kelly asked.

Jay slammed on the brakes; luckily they were both wearing seat belts or Kelly might have been thrown against the dash.

Impossible, Jay said, blinking his eyes a couple of times.

Daddy? That looked like a ... a little tiny man running across the road.

It was some little animal, baby. It was not a tiny little man.

Funniest-looking little animal I ever saw, Kelly said.

Oh, yeah? Jay grinned at her. So now you’re an expert on animals?

She avoided that and said instead, Then why did you just say ’impossible’? What were you thinking?

Like I just was thinking: Smart. Okay, Kelly. It did kinda look like a little person.

The child folded her arms across her chest. That’s what I just said.

Jay laughed at her and took his foot off the brake pedal.

She giggled and said, Aren’t you going to say that I’m just like my mother?

No. But I will say that you’re just like a woman!

She rolled her eyes. How chauvinistic, Father.

That’s me, baby. A one hundred percent domineering man.

Right.

You don’t have to agree with everything I say, you know.

But when he cut his eyes to the rearview mirror and glanced back, that – little thing was standing on the edge of the highway, looking at the automobile fading from view.

Jay did not say anything to Kelly about it. She would have wanted to go back, and that would have delayed things. Jay wanted this visit over and done with as soon as possible.

There was a logical explanation for it. Jay felt sure of that.

Probably some kids hiding in the ditch running one of those little remote control toys. Sure. That was it.

* * *

A few miles further and he topped the hill, and there was Victory. He pulled over onto the gravel shoulder and stopped, looking down on the town where he’d been born and reared.

He expected some nearly overwhelming sensation to envelop him. But oddly, he felt nothing. Yet.

He slipped his car into gear and checked the mirror before pulling out on the county road. The town looked as peaceful as ever.

Looks kinda hicky. Kelly broke into his thoughts.

Jay grinned. Compared to New York, baby, it is.

But compared to New York City, he thought, what isn’t?

Then he remembered something. Back a few miles, there used to be a big billboard advertising Farmington’s Department Store. But he hadn’t seen it.

He wondered if the store was still in operation.

Then he felt a very mild thrill at once more seeing his hometown.

That thrill passed quickly. There were just too many bad memories associated with Victory. He pushed them away from his mind.

I’m getting some bad vibes from you, Daddy.

I’m sorry for that, baby. But that’s something I can’t help.

Maybe you’ll tell me about it sometime?

Sometime, Jay muttered.

One of the first things Jay noticed as he drove into the main business area – other than the fact the town had not grown much, if any, in twenty years – was the large store that now dominated the block where Farmington’s Department Store used to be.

We Buy & Sell Used Toys.

Jay figured it had to be the biggest damn toy store in the state of Missouri. And a used toy store at that.

Oohh, Kelly said, spotting the store. I want to go in there!

We will. I promise. To himself: Business must be very good. They probably ship them all over the nation.

Why not just spend the summer?

Did you say something, Kelly?

She looked at him. No. Why? What’d you hear?

Well . . . I guess nothing.

The child would enjoy it!

Jay pulled over to the curb.

Daddy, you’re all pale! Are you sick or something?

No, he muttered. No, I feel fine. Except for the . . . He started to say the voices in my head.

But he couldn’t remember hearing any voices.

He glanced at his daughter. I was just thinking, Kelly. It might be fun to spend a few days here in Victory. How about it?

Oh, that’d be great, Daddy!

You don’t think it’s too hicky?

No. Who said I did?

Then Jay couldn’t recall her saying that.

Jay suddenly, violently, shivered. And he knew why. The memories of that awful night returned to him.

He looked at Kelly; she was gazing out her window and did not see him shudder.

She looked back at him. There was a rather odd glint in her blue eyes. That strange glint vanished. I’m cold, Daddy.

The air conditioner’s on pretty high. He cut it off, checked the mirror and pulled out into the street.

On the last block before the business district ended, in the center of the block, Jay found a parking place and eased his car into the slot. He looked at the small lawn in front of the office.

Fletcher Real Estate.

Same neat little building. Jay wondered if Anne Fletcher, after she married Aaron Brownell, still worked for her dad in the office.

Anne had been one of those in the group that night.

He wondered if she, or any of them, ever thought about it.

Jesus! how could they not think of it?

Want to come inside with me, or wait out here, baby?

She screwed up her pretty face. I think I’ll just sit outside on the steps. If you’re too long, I’ll come in.

And then well have a milk shake.

You got a deal! She pointed a finger at him.

With a sigh, Jay cut the engine, got out of the car and stood for a moment, getting the kinks out of his leg muscles. They had driven all the way, but certainly not nonstop, from New York City. Jay stretched a bit. Kelly was still in the car, inspecting her face in the mirror behind the sun visor. Soon be a young woman, Jay thought. How the years roll so relentlessly by.

He felt like doing a couple of deep knee bends. But he thought that might look a bit strange to any passersby.

Jay smiled. Hell, the people in Victory always had thought him a bit strange.

Kelly got out of the car and walked ahead of him, plopping down on the steps of the small real estate office.

Don’t sell the farm out from under us, Pop, she kidded.

I’ll like to see you on a farm, sometime. He ruffled her hair. She slapped his hand away playfully. With the chickens and the pigs and the cows and the goats.

Gross-out! she told him.

She got up and wandered up the street.

Stay on this side and on this block, Jay called after her.

She waved at him; but Jay knew she would obey him.

Jay ran his fingers through his close-cropped brown hair. He’d worn his hair short ever since getting out of the army. He’d done his time in ’Nam; In-Country, some vets called it. He’d pulled two tours as a grunt and won his share of medals; but Jay did not think of himself as any kind of hero. He’d flirted briefly with the idea of joining Special Forces. That flirtation had lasted about as long as the affections of a Saigon whore.

After stepping out of, or wading through the shithole called Vietnam, Jay had, quite literally, walked into a good position with a major accounting firm in New York City, accounting being his major in college before he busted out and got drafted. His head was so screwed up back then that being drafted probably saved his life.

He had saved his money, got married, fathered a child, Kelly, and after a few stormy years, got divorced. He and his ex-wife, Piper, still kept in touch; probably friendlier now than when they’d lived together. But there had been few other women in Jay’s life since Piper.

Jay still had deep feelings for Piper, and she for him. But they had separate careers, separate friends. And that’s the way it looked like they would always be: Separate.

He lifted his eyes as he spotted Kelly waving to him.

Can I go look in the window of the toy store, Daddy? she called.

Jay hesitated. But this was small-town America, and other kids were walking and talking up and down the street.

All right, he called. You’ve got a watch. Ten minutes, Kelly. Back here in ten minutes.

Thanks, Daddy. She looked both ways, checking for traffic, then skipped across the street.

Jay watched the girl safely to the other side. Piper had not wanted the child – not ever. She had her modeling career and felt the girl would be a drag. She had not objected to Jay’s custody. But time had tempered her feelings, and now she saw Kelly at least once a week. And sometimes, when she would miss Kelly, she and Jay would renew old times between the sheets, even though both of them knew they shouldn’t.

Jay was certainly not rich, but he was quite comfortable. He had invested well, played the stock market, and now owned his own accounting firm in New York.

He touched his shirt pocket, feeling the paper in the pocket, the wire he’d received. Your Aunt Cary Died. Left Everything To You. Come Home.

The kinks out of his five foot, ten inches, Jay stepped up on the sidewalk. Turning sideways a bit, to check on Kelly – she was talking with some other kids in front of the store – Jay looked at his reflection in the glass of the door before pushing it open. Still in pretty good shape for a man thirty-eight years old.

* * *

You really don’t ever go in the store? Kelly asked the girl.

The girl shook her head. No. Not ever. You see, they don’t sell ... what’s the word I’m looking for? They don’t sell retail. This is kind of a showroom for out-of-state people to come look at.

Kind of like a warehouse, you mean? Kelly asked.

Yeah! I’m Jenny.

Kelly.

With blond hair and deep black eyes, Jenny was striking looking. She introduced the others, all about the same age, nine or ten. Carla, with freckles and red hair. Ange and Andy and Ken.

A lot of neat-looking stuff in there, Kelly said, peering into the depths of the huge store. Sure is dark, though.

Kelly tried the front door of the toy store. Locked. Sure is a funny way to run a business, she said. This place intrigues me.

That’s a good word. Jenny smiled.

You gonna be in town long? Ange asked.

I guess. Maybe the whole summer.

Where are you staying?

Kelly shrugged her shoulders. I guess at my dad’s aunt’s house. Cary Clute.

The others exchanged glances. Oh, shit! Jenny said.

* * *

The fat man who had stood in the darkness of the store watched the kids walk away. He licked his lips as he watched the new kid. He liked little girls. That was part of the deal he’d made. All the little girls he wanted.

He shook his head, clearing his thoughts, and walked back to his workshop, sitting down on a stool, picking up a doll. He worked slowly and carefully, occasionally humming an almost tuneless melody as he worked. He painstakingly repaired and restored the broken dolls, the toy soldiers, the stuffed animals, the clowns, and broken, dented trucks, trains, and tractors; all the toys that had been discarded after their owners felt they were no longer of any use.

But the man knew better.

He glanced at the clock on the wall of the huge workshop in the rear of the large building. A habit; time meant nothing to him.

The man did not think of himself as evil. He was merely doing what he had been trained to do; what his father, his grandfather, his great-grandfather, back hundreds of years, had done. But he knew if the outside world, the world outside of Victory, ever truly witnessed his work, they would think him evil. But he supposed that was all right; those people just did not understand certain gifts a chosen few possessed.

The man shook away those thoughts and concentrated on his work.

At first, when the news of the old woman’s dying reached him, he had experienced some fear. She had been his friend and protector. But after reviewing his situation, the man began to relax, to feel better. His work would continue. The new owner, the old woman’s grandnephew, would see the P and L statements, smile at the profits, and leave him alone; probably go on back to New York City.

The man sighed. So much work to do.

He finished dressing the doll he’d been working on. He particularly enjoyed putting the little bra and panties on them. He held it up for inspection. Aren’t you the pretty one? Oh, my, but you are so lovely.

The doll blinked her eyes and stared at the man.

Angry eyes. Real eyes. Alive. In a way.

Yes, the man said soothingly. I know, my pretty But just think . . . now your life is forever. You can view the endless roll of ages.

The doll began to struggle in his pudgy hands. The man grew impatient, his face flushing and his eyes flashing with rage. He had had trouble with this one. She had always resisted.

Now stop this! he hissed at her. You will stop this foolishness immediately.

The doll opened her mouth and rolled her eyes. The jaws opened and closed soundlessly. Her little legs began kicking. The long pretty evening gown she was wearing became ripped and torn with the angry and frantic movements.

Stop it! the man yelled. I command you to stop this immediately!

The doll continued its silent, frantic strugglings.

In a fit of rage, the man grabbed the doll’s head in his big hand and squeezed. The head was crushed within the powerful fingers. Blood and brains and fluid oozed out of the mashed head. The doll trembled once and then was still in the man’s hand.

Foolish, foolish girl, he said.

Still holding the bloody doll, he rose from the workbench and found a sack, dropping the doll into it. He thought for a few moments. He had several failures over the past weeks. It was time to take them all out to the old place. Out in the country.

* * *

Jay pushed open the office door and stepped into the air-conditioned coolness. He did not know the young lady behind the receptionist’s desk, but she looked faintly familiar.

Family resemblance, he concluded.

She asked if she could help him, appraising him with her eyes. Not unfriendly eyes, but not flirty ones.

Jay Clute. To see Mr. Fletcher.

She smiled brightly. Oh, sure. You gonna sell that big ol’ haunted house, Mr. Clute?

Jay returned the smile. So the rumor still persisted. Rumor? No, more than that. After that night, Jay just wasn’t sure.

Then he realized that she was not talking about the old Clute house in the country, but about his Aunt Cary’s house here in Victory. Well, Jay wasn’t too sure of that place, either. Not after his experiences in the attic.

No, he said. As a matter of fact, I’m thinking about staying for awhile; probably staying in the house.

The young woman made a face. Yukk!

Amy. A man’s voice, containing a clear note of warning, came from the left side of the small office.

Jay turned and came face to face with the voice from out of his past. His smile became more genuine and he extended his hand.

Ellis Fletcher. It’s been a long time, Ellis.

Ellis took the hand. Twenty years, Jay. Good to see you. He glanced at Amy. The Clute house is not haunted, Amy.

The young woman, probably home from college, and quite lovely, was not about to be intimidated by her boss. You sure couldn’t prove that by me.

Jay looked at her, then at the expression on Ellis’s face, and laughed out loud. He got the connection then. Amy was Ellis’s daughter. Sure. The family resemblance was strong.

Ellis shook his head and had to grin. Girl certainly has a mind of her own, Jay. You two meet?

No. Not formally.

They were introduced. Ellis said, Jay, you do remember that I married Julie Hampton?

Yes. I recall, now. But I’ve got a lot of catching up to do this summer.

Then you’re planning on spending some time with us?

Well, yes, I think so. I brought my daughter with me. Kelly. I haven’t had a real vacation in years.

And your wife? Amy asked.

Divorced.

Oh. This time her eyes were more than a bit flirty.

Staying at the Clute house, Jay? Ellis asked.

Sure.

I ... see. Something shifted in the man’s eyes. What, Jay didn’t know. But whatever it was, it came and went in a flash. What do you do for a living, Jay?

I own a business in New York City.

Wow! Amy perked up. What a fun place to live, huh?

That’s . . . certainly one way of putting it, yes. Jay looked more closely at the young woman. Lovely. This time their eyes met and held for a moment. Hers containing some heat and hidden promises.

Victory is certainly looking more and more promising, Jay thought.

Ellis cleared his throat. Come on in the office, Jay. We’ll get my part of the paperwork done on the transfer of ownership. Parnell did all the legal work and then left it with me. You remember Parnell, don’t you?

Oh, sure. I graduated with him. I didn’t know he became an attorney. Last I heard he wanted to be a test pilot, or a cowboy. He wasn’t quite sure.

Laughing, Ellis waved Jay into his office. Before the door closed, Jay said, Amy? If a little blond girl shows up, she’s with me.

She winked at him.

Yep, Jay thought. Victory is going to be interesting.

The door closed, Ellis said, Sit down, Jay. Parnell’s daddy got those ideas out of his head pretty damn quick. Parnell took over the firm a couple of years ago.

Oh? What happened to Mr. Harper?

Uh, he . . . died. Ellis shuffled some papers on his desk and did not elaborate on the matter of death.

Jay did not push it.

Ellis laid some papers in front of Jay. You sign here, here, and here, Jay. And then you give me a check for this amount. He pointed with the tip of his pen. And the old house is all yours.

He looked up and smiled broadly.

Jay nodded and took the pen. What kind of shape is the old place in, Ellis?

Fine shape. Place is worth a lot of money. Paintings, vases, antiques, the toy soldier and old doll collection. Well, you remember all that stuff, Jay.

Jay sure did remember. And a lot of it he wished he could forget.

Jay, are you interested in selling the old place?

I might be, later on.

No! the silent voice thrust deep into Jay’s brain.

Jay blinked, then could not recall it.

Well, keep me in mind. Anyway, your Aunt Cary was worth a lot of money, boy. A hell of a lot of money.

I thought she might be. But I don’t understand why she left it all to me. The old woman didn’t even like me. She never did like me.

Ellis shrugged. But she still left it all to you.

Jay wondered how Ellis knew all that. He damn sure hadn’t known it. Jay never thought his aunt gave two hoots in hell for him.

Jay was conscious of Ellis looking strangely at him. He wondered if Ellis’s sister, Anne, had ever told her brother about that night out at the old Clute place. Jay doubted it. They had all made a very solemn pact to never speak of it. Except among themselves.

... seem far away, Jay. Ellis was speaking.

Jay pulled his wandering mind back to the present. Lots of memories in this town, Ellis. Everything just sort of hit me at once, I guess.

Yeah, the real estate man said softly. I just bet that’s true. For you.

Jay glanced at him. What an odd thing for him to say. Amy came in, placed some papers on the desk, and stuck her ass in Jay’s face. Jay resisted an impulse to pat it.

The men chatted for a few moments, then Jay finished the signing of the papers and wrote Ellis a check. Ellis said he’d see Jay around, and that was that.

Jay closed the door to Ellis’s office on his way out.

I might stop by and see you, Amy said. Maybe help you get settled in.

That would be nice. Any sign of my kid?

Right out front. She’s made some friends.

That’s her.

Amy smiled at him, her tongue snaking out, licking her lips.

Jay was somewhat relieved to exit the office. He was introduced to Kelly’s new friends. Good-looking, wholesome bunch of kids.

Ready to see the house, baby? Jay asked.

Good luck, Jenny whispered.

2

Victory, Missouri, in the rolling hill country of Central Missouri. A little south and east of Jefferson City. Standing joke was that nobody just passed through Victory. You had to go somewhere else and turn to get there.

Kelly got into the car, and Jay stood for a moment, looking up and down the main business drag of the town. Ellis had told him the population was still right around ten thousand. Some die, some are born; some leave, others stay.

Victory.

What was all that ’good luck’ business, Kelly?

I really don’t know, Daddy. Can I have a bike?

Jay smiled at the sudden shift of conversational gears. I don’t see why not. Well get one tomorrow; that all right?

Fine. She grinned at him. Thank you.

What do you mean, ’you don’t really know’?

Jenny told me the town has turned weird the last year or so. But she wouldn’t explain exactly what she meant.

If she ever does get around to it, you let me know, okay?

Okay. Here’s Clute Street! she said excitedly.

I know the way, baby.

She ignored that. And there’s number six! She pointed. God, what a house!

It’s pretty old, all right.

A hundred years old?

Older than that. It was built either just before or just after the War Between the States.

She giggled at the southern interpretation of the term, Civil War.

Look, Yankee kid – you’re in the South, now. Pass the grits and thank y’all.

Missouri was a border state, Daddy.

Not this part of it, kiddo. And you can tattoo that on your arm.

Anita Cohen just got one.

Just got a what?

A tattoo on her arm.

What!

Kelly laughed at him. But it washed right off.

Shaking his head at how easily she’d conned him, Jay pulled into the drive of the huge old home and cut the engine. He was suddenly tired. They’d spent the night in St. Louis, and it was only about eighty miles on to Victory, so it wasn’t the drive that had tired him. He didn’t know what it was.

Anita probably got her butt whacked from Burt, too.

Burt and Esther are very progressive parents. They don’t believe in spanking their children. You should take a lesson from them.

Oh, I’ll do that, Kelly. Right after you graduate from high school.

How utterly primitive.

They got out of the car, stepping onto a

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