Sarah woke and, momentarily, wondered where she was. Then it hit her. She was laying in the backseat of Wayne’s Firehawk. She squirmed around until she got a better view. She surveyed the scene. Old gas pumps sat, quietly rusting, on the left while fluorescent lights flickered above and lit the area like daylight. Several varieties of moths flitted around the lights. Beyond was a dark forest showing no signs of nocturnal life. She looked to the right. Paint was peeling off the concrete walls of the rural convenience store. There were no signs giving this place a name. An occasional "sizzle" could be heard from the glowing bug zapper near the corner of the building. An ancient soda machine covered in a layer of dust and grime sat to the right of the screen door. The door was practically hanging off its hinges. Its spring was so worn it did not shut completely. Through the screen, Sarah could see silhouetted figures moving about. To the left of the door, she saw him.
Her eyes fell on the ancient man seated on the rocking chair to the left of the door. He was in faded overalls and a frayed denim shirt. His mouth hung open, one jagged front tooth hanging from a swollen gum, as he stared vacantly past her into the dark. For a moment, he seemed eerily familiar. Suddenly she was flooded with a sickening fear as recognition hit her. She quickly slid into the front seat.
For now, the old man sat still as a stone. She knew the boys wouldn’t be long. Perhaps they would be able to make it back to the interstate without any trouble. She reached under the seat and triggered the secret compartment. Out slid a small, rectangular box. She opened it, pulled out the spare key, and placed it in the ignition. She wanted to be ready, in case . . .
She heard a nauseatingly familiar sound - a 1954 Chevy truck that was in sore need of having its carburetor cleaned. She shut her eyes momentarily. Involuntarily she was being pulled back into memories, nightmares. She forced herself to look into the rearview mirror. There was its ghostly image - a rusted out grill with only one working headlight. She slid down in the seat as she watched the three occupants get out. They passed by her without a second glance, but she knew they felt her. They stopped to speak with the old man for a moment then walked inside. She sat up and laid on the horn.
Wayne and Harlan walked around the rural store. The lights were dim and the peeling yellowish wallpaper evoked memories of shag carpet and polyester. The aisles were packed with the normal assortment of junk food and sugary drinks. There was also an overabundance of homemade crafts, nic-nacs, and locally produced consumable goods. While he would gladly pass on the varied assortment of pickled items, Harlan was feeling an overwhelming desire to purchase some down-home fudge. He thought it would go well with the forty-four ounce collectible Jeff Gordon mug that he’d filled with fresh coffee and lots of sugar. He looked over to Wayne who was paying for the gas and held up a hand-wrapped brick of pecan fudge. Wayne shrugged and pointed to the canister of beef jerky. Harlan pulled out three nice-sized sticks and walked over to the counter.
The door to the store opened and three large, rather homely young men wandered in. At least Harlan thought they were young. They’d certainly had hard lives. None of them had any front teeth. They looked rough in the face and hands, and were very pale. The three walked up and stood behind them, right behind them. Harlan could feel the largest man’s breath on his neck. He turned to face them.
"Hello," Harlan pushed the man back a few steps, "Back in civilization we have what they call a three foot rule. Y’know, everyone needs three feet of personal space."
The three smiled simultaneous toothless grins. They seemed to be sizing up both Harlan and Wayne. Harlan was ready to respond when he heard the horn of the Firehawk sounding over and over again. He lifted his index finer up in a "Hold that thought" gesture as he walked to the door. Looking out, he saw Sarah sat in the driver’s seat, honking the horn and waving frantically. Harlan watched her for a moment then held up the fudge and beef jerky in opposite hands, alternately raising and lowering each, waiting for his friend to make a choice. She kept waving. He tilted his head slightly to the left, obviously confused, and asked, "Ding Dong? Twinkie? Moon Pie?"
At that, Sarah started the car, backed up and pulled up right to the door. Dust and gravel swirled in a torrent from the powerful tires fighting for traction. Before the car had completely stopped, she flung open the passenger side door and screamed, "Get in you idiots! For God’s sake get in!"
Harlan turned to Wayne, who had come up beside him. Wayne motioned to the three standing behind him. They came closer. Harlan was sure he could hear banjoes playing in the background somewhere. The large one spoke. His voice had such a hillbilly lilt it was hard to discern the words. "Y’all stay a while."
With that the two burst out the door. Sarah flipped forward the passenger seat and Harlan dived head first into the back seat. Wayne was on his heels. Sarah let the seat fall back and he slid in beside her. She didn’t even wait for him to close his door. She hit the accelerator and sped out of the parking lot. None of them noticed that the old man was gone.
As she sped along the back roads, she flung a map at Wayne and turned on the interior light. She growled in an irritated voice, "Find us the most direct way back to the interstate."
Wayne caught a road sign that stated Gravesville was two miles in the direction they were coming from. Wayne looked confused. There was no Gravesville on the map. He couldn’t locate the road they were on either. He studied it intensely as they bumped along the pot-holed blacktop. He shook his head as he answered, "Sorry, Sarah. I can’t find it."
"Do you remember how you got here?" Sarah searched his confused face and answered her own question. "No, you don’t."
"Damn, Wayne. I know Sarah was asleep but were both of us too?" Harlan asked from the backseat.
"In a way," Sarah responded. She looked ahead. It seemed to her that the countryside was beginning to look familiar. "I know where we are. There’s a viaduct about ten miles in this direction. This road runs right into the Interstate we need to be on."
Harlan looked out the back window. He saw a headlight floating steadily in the darkness behind them. He squinted his eyes and made out the rusted grill of an old pickup. He also made out three figures seated in the cab. Their friends from the store were following them and gaining.
"Sarah," Harlan spoke softly, "You might want to speed up."
"I see them," Sarah answered and nudged the accelerator down a little. She did not want risk an accident so close to escape.
There was a thump above them. Wayne looked up and couldn’t believe his eyes. It was the old man from the store. He was clawing at the T-tops, trying to get in. Wayne reached over and hit a button on the dashboard. The glass tops flew off, taking the surprised old man with them.
The truck behind came to a screeching halt and the three men leapt out. They picked up the old man’s body and placed it gently into the bed of the pickup. They got back in and pursued their prey with renewed passion.
When they came to the viaduct, Sarah cut it sharp to make the ramp. As they went down it, Harlan saw the ghostly light of the pick up come up on the over pass. He watched them slow down and stop, not venturing onto the ramp.
"Sarah," Wayne pointed to the sign, "Hudson City’s the other way."
Sarah drove through the median and turned around. As they passed under the over pass, the three men walked to the side. They were staring intently at the Firehawk.
"Shut your eyes," Sarah said in a harsh, frightened whisper. "Don’t look at them."
Without question, her companions did as she asked. As they passed under the overpass, Harlan felt overwhelmingly sick, as though he could not control the dizzying feeling in his body and head. Once they had passed, the feeling subsided a little but was replaced with horrible, unworldly cries, cries that sounded of sorrow, anger, and ghastly foreboding.
"What were they, Sarah?" Wayne asked several miles down the road, when the uneasy feeling had finally passed. She had pulled into a rest stop she deemed safe, but she warned them they must not linger.
"They are the McCoys," Sarah stated flatly without a hint of humor. "The real McCoys."
"What does that mean exactly?" Harlan asked. "I got the feeling that there was something more to them than we could sense. Are they some sort of supernatural hunters, werewolves, or...."
"They were once vampires," Sarah interjected.
"Toothless, inbred, hillbilly vampires?" Harlan asked incredulously. "How can they feed?"
She took out her prized Bowie knife and slammed into the dashboard up the to hilt. She silently stared ahead. For the first time, Harlan noticed her skin was ashen. She looked like she was wrapped up in a terrible memory, just seconds from bursting into tears.
She swallowed hard and said, choking back tears, "We must get back to Hudson City. Wayne, you drive."
Harlan opened his mouth to ask another question. He thought better of it and decided it would wait. He was curious about any incident that could upset his friend so. He was equally curious that this mere encounter would have such a riveting effect on Wayne.
They pulled into Hudson City just as the gray pre-dawn was starting to light the sky. Wayne easily maneuvered the quiet, familiar streets. Harlan snored away in the backseat, but Sarah hadn’t closed her eyes since the rest stop. She only stared, straight ahead, not speaking. She didn’t even change Wayne’s radio station to something more her taste.
He glanced at her, concerned, though his expression didn’t change from the apathetic look he gave the world. He sped along the street and turned onto what Sarah lovingly referred to as Pill Hill, due to the number of doctors that lived in the posh area. They had orders to report directly to Seana’s upon their return. She wanted the response from her New York lawyers as soon as possible.
As he turned up the long drive that led to her house, Sarah finally spoke. "You will have to tell Seana what happened. I am going to my room."
He parked in his normal spot in the large, underground garage. "Okay. But will you tell us exactly what happened back there?"
"No." Sarah shook her head.
He shut the engine off and stared at her. She bit her lip nervously. She turned and looked at him. For the first time since he met her, he saw real fear in her eyes. Suddenly she jumped out of the car and ran inside.
The slamming car door woke Harlan from his sleep. He sat up and looked at the empty passenger seat. He cleared his throat thoughtfully.
"She still upset?" He asked.
"Uh-huh," Wayne answered as he put a smoke between his lips and lit it.
"You realize we’re going to have hunt these fuckers down for whatever they did to her," Harlan said matter-of-factly.
"Absolutely," Wayne answered. Both men exited the car. They only thing they had to do was figure out what they would be up against.
As they entered the kitchen, they ran into Damian, in his robe, preparing to have his nightcap and go to bed. He gave them a strange look and asked, "Was that Sarah who sped by here without a sound?"
"Yeah," answered Harlan. "What do you know about the real McCoys?"
"Nothing," Damian said flatly and walked past them without another word. Both men decided not to pursue the matter, especially when he was just getting to bed.
They walked out to the main hall and noticed Seana walking down the stairs. She had a grave look on her face. She motioned towards the study. Both men entered and took a seat. Seana followed and shut the door.
When she had finally made herself comfortable, she spoke. Her voice was clear and steady, "I do not care what foolish idea you may have, you are ordered not to return to that area. For revenge or justice. As long as you reside in my region, you will obey these orders without question. Do you understand?"
Both men had had too many dealings with Seana not to notice this tone. This was the concerned mother laying down the law. The orders were not up for debate. Both men answered, "Yes, ma’am."
She exhaled a sigh of satisfaction. She held out her hand, "You have a response for me."
Wayne reached into his inside pocket and produced a document, signed in blood. Harlan piped in, "Nice touch, Seana."
"He said if he lost the bet, he would sign over the building in blood," she smiled at the signature. "Of course it is worthless. Legal documents signed in red are null and void. That’s why I wanted the copy signed normally."
Harlan pulled this copy out of his pocket and set it on the desk. She picked it up and said, "One for the file and one for the frame."
She placed both in her top drawer and locked it. She then reached into her candy jar and threw them each a butterscotch disc. "Have a treat," she said with a slight smile.
Harlan popped his into his mouth and pulled out the wrapper. Wayne shook his head in disgust then ate placed his in his shirt pocket. He sighed and asked, "Is Sarah going to be all right?"
"I suppose," Seana answered.
"She told us to ask you about what happened to her," Harlan added.
"She did?" Her expression changed to confusion. "I don’t see why. You were with here. I thought you’d tell me."
The men exchanged a puzzled look. Harlan explained the incident then added, "I think she meant what happened to her when she was there before."
"Don’t you remember?" Seana asked. "Oh, that’s right, you weren’t here yet. Well the incident then was similar to yours, except Andre was with her and driving. Come to think of it, she fell asleep then, too. Apparently she reacted the same way. If I recall, she wouldn’t come out for days. She’s very sensitive to strange things and I think she picked up on that. Perhaps tomorrow night you should visit the morgue and talk to Andre."
"What about these McCoys?" Harlan ventured the question because Seana was trying to hurry to bed.
She sighed, slightly irritated, and said, "They are vampires of some sort, but they fall outside of our society. They kill any supernatural being that enters their territory. They hunt in packs and are very well coordinated since they know the land. No vampire, werewolf, or anything besides a human will enter that area, unless they don’t know any better. They’ve been around since the pilgrims. That is all I know. You see, there are no first hand experiences because no one survives to tell a tale. You must not hold it against them. It is their way to keep a hold on their territory. Now, I am going to bed. The sun has risen. Help yourself to a room. Good Morning."
Without another word, Seana left the men to ponder her explanation. She hoped, for once, these two would take her at her word and leave things alone. Of course, they could not.
(Copyright 2002 Gina M. Wood - Random Quote Productions)
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