If you have not read chapters 16 or 17 with Evelyn’s and Corbin’s respective POVs in Westview Park, please click whichever link you need to catch up. ch 16 (Evelyn) and ch 17 (Corbin) and read them first as this is a continuation of those chapters! :) I know when a bunch of chapters get posted in a short time, it can be hard to remember if you’ve read up to that point. Or an earlier posted chapter gets lost in the shuffle. Since these are all directly connected, I wanted to give a heads up in case you’re like me and forget to check if there were other posts you haven’t read yet before diving into the first recent one you see! Lol! Enjoy :D
Friday 2:15pm, Westview Park (across the street from Zigby Theater)
After giving Corbin, a sort-of good piece of her mind, Evelyn stormed off onto the hiking trail.
“Evelyn!” She could hear Corbin shouting behind her, begging her to wait a few minutes while he talked to the other woman first before he explained himself to Evelyn.
She felt so stupid, and angry, and full of loathing for him, she could hardly walk straight. She should have kneed him in the balls when she had the chance back there. She might never get another opportunity.
She was still fuming at herself when a shadow stepped across her path. She looked up and stopped. Dressed in black from head to toe, it was the man she’d seen watching Corbin earlier. She had completely forgotten about him. She walked right passed him when she confronted Corbin.
The shadow man stood in front of her, not moving, only watching her from behind his mask. Behind her, she heard the not-too-distant sounds of laughter, conversation, dog barks, and playground equipment squeaking. Beyond him, the thin woods cleared and she could see the theater she was performing in that night on the other side of a city street where vehicles–large, small, dirty, and shiny–zoomed passed. Between the two, she stood alone with a person who had ensured that he couldn’t be identified.
Her heart pounded. The options that she had raced through her mind: she could run back in the direction she’d come. She could scream and hope someone heard. She could try calling Corbin. He had to still be near enough to get to her quickly (if he cared to). She could try to fight him, but the shadow man hadn’t tried anything. For all she knew, he was casually passing through the park.
As nonchalant as she could muster, she slipped her hand inside her purse. She was aiming to grab her phone, but her fingers brushed against a small capped cylinder. Pepper spray! She curled her fingers around the tube.
Inhaling deeply, she flashed a smile at the man. “Excuse me,” she said. “I’m in your way.”
She prayed that he wouldn’t see her as a threat. She hoped her expression reflected what she wanted. He was just another weirdo in a city full of them. Nothing out of the ordinary. No one to be remember.
Instinctively, she didn’t think it would work, but to her surprise, the black clad man stepped aside, off the path. He held out his arm in gesture that he was politely allowing her to pass.
“Thank you,” she said with a smile that was a little genuine. “Don’t you love these beautiful spring days? The light fresh air fills you with life. It makes me feel like I could live forever.” She laughed and looked up at him.
She was almost passed him and immediately wished she had kept going. She could make out the shape of eyes beyond the dark goggles. That was all. What they looked like, she couldn’t see, but she felt his gaze locked onto hers. Cold terror frosted across her skin making her hairs stand on end. She didn’t have a rational reason why, but she was certain that this was a person well acquainted with evils she couldn’t even imagine.
Somehow, she gained a miniscule bit of strength and pulled her eyes away, breaking the connection between them. She ducked her head down and began walking away. For a moment, she was sure he would grab her from behind. When nothing happened and she’d cleared the trees, she looked back.
He stood in the same spot she’d left him in. Relief washed over her with the realization that he wasn’t after her. He still watched her, and she guessed she must appear odd staring at him.
“H-ha-have a good day!” She said with a stiff wave of her hand.
She turned and made her way to the street. She barely checked traffic before crossing. A delivery truck slammed on its brakes and honked at her, but it hardly registered with her. She was too busy concentrating on breathing to notice other things going on around her.
Her foot hit the curb on the other side of the street and she made her way across the grassy lawn to the Zigby theater building. It occurred to her that the man had been watching Corbin, or maybe the woman he was with. What was the name Corbin had called her? Started with an “L”. It didn’t matter. Evelyn wondered if she should call him. Warn him that a creepy guy had been semi-stalking them.
Them. Remembering how he treated her made her angry all over again. She couldn’t call him. That would be weakness. He’d think he could manipulate her again. No. Not even if his life was in danger. She walked up the steps to the side door she normally entered. Well, maybe not that far. She didn’t want Corbin dead unless she was the one doing the killing. She decided to call Matteo, tell him what happened, and let him warn his asshole friend.
She walked to a side door on the theater building. She pulled on the door, but it didn’t budge. Locked. This was the closest door to the dressing rooms. She guessed it was too early to unlock for the cast. Actors usually came in about two hours before curtain. It was barely 2:00pm. She sighed.
Evelyn turned around to go back down. She took one step down and stopped. Maybe fifteen yards away, watching from the lawn, stood the black clad shadow man.
Her heart dropped. What was he doing here? Why had he followed her? She blinked back tears that had suddenly sprung up. There were only two horrifying reasons why he stood there.
She wished she were still in the small wood by the park. At least there was a good chance that someone would see or hear her. This place was isolated. Just the building, parking lot and lawn. The streets were too far for anyone to notice anything from their car unless someone was staring out, paying attention. She couldn’t rely on a such a slight possibility.
She had to make it back to the street. The alley behind the theater was no good to her. But where the man stood, she had to pass him to get to the street. Maybe she could fake him out. Confidence could be just as intimidating to a predator as a gun could be. Evelyn took the few steps down until she stood on the last one. She waved at the man to ensure that he knew she saw him.
“Call box doesn’t open for another three hours!” She shouted at him. “You can get your tickets then!”
Evelyn was well aware the man wasn’t an overtly excited fan of the play. She hoped that there was someone around. Maybe someone would get curious without her having to scream. She feared that making a move that showed her terror would bring out the evil she’d sensed just belong the surface.
“You may as well go home, now! No use in loitering around here until show time.” She flashed him another smile, but this time she barely held it up.
She felt her lips trembling, faltering, both with words and fake good cheer as the man made no reaction. Acting was all about eliciting a response based on actions and words then feeding off that reaction to produce your own. That’s how they created an experience. This guy gave her nothing to go off of. It was more frightening than if he had charged at her, screaming violent murder and vicious profanities.
Evelyn came off the last step. As soon as her foot touched the ground, he moved toward her. She lost all composure. Going back up the stairs was a death trap. She raced along the building until she came to a rusty door. She pushed and pulled the knob. It was locked.
“Help me!” Evelyn banged her fists on the door. Dried rust flakes showered down on her head.
She looked back. He wasn’t sprinting or even running, but he was closing the gap, fast. There was another door near the end of building. After that was an empty parking lot and alley. Between the distance and her wedge shoes, she’d never out run him. She thought about kicking the shoes off, but first she had to try the door. If it was locked, her best bet was to try to loop around the building, make a run for the street.
She grabbed the latch on the last door this side of the building. Pulling hard, the heavy door released in her hands and swung open. She ducked inside a dim hall. This was not a part of the theater that she recognized. But she’d only paid attention to how to get to the dressing room and the stage, not much else.
The building was decades old and had many hallways as it was used for more than just a theater back in its heyday. This one was painted a peachy pink and decorated with paintings and framed posters featuring female performers who’d entertained in Zigby at some point. Any other day, and she’d have loved discovering this piece of the theater. Even with a quick glance to take in her location, she recognized a couple of well-known actresses from a by-gone era.
At the moment, Evelyn wished she’d found herself in a familiar section. Any place where she knew where to go to be safe would have been preferable. Now, she had to hope she figure this out before the shadow man entered the building. She tried a two doors to her left. Both rattled in her hand, locked. The entrance door slammed shut. She gasped and turned around. She was still alone. Had he not made it yet? Or, was he waiting for her to come back out?
There was no way in hell Evelyn was stepping foot outside. There were stairs going up at the end of the hall. She might have better luck upstairs, but she didn’t think she could make it all the way before he entered. Worse, if there were no hiding places or escapes upstairs, she’d be trapped. She wanted to be out of sight. She tried a door on the right side of the hall. It opened. She quickly went inside, shutting the door behind her as quietly as she could. From what she’d seen before she closed the door, it was a janitor’s closet with brooms, mops, buckets; the astringent chemical smell of various cleansers in the room confirmed it. She felt the knob. There wasn’t a lock.
A rush of wind blew through the hall, creating a whipping suction sound. Evelyn crouched down, tightening her grip on the knob. If the man tried this door, she wouldn’t be able to keep him out, but holding the knob gave her a small drop of control.
The heavy entrance door, slammed shut with a clang that was just as loud and final as the toll of a bell. Once the echo dissipated, an eerie quiet descended. She covered her mouth and nose with her free hand to muffle the noise of her breathing that suddenly sounded like a train whistle in the deathly silence. She strained her ears, but heard nothing.
She didn’t move a muscle. Her legs ached from staying in the same position for a long period of time, but she held herself together. When her bent legs began to tremble against her own weight, she wondered if he had even come inside. Maybe he opened the door, peeked inside, and let it shut. She was considering taking her phone out and sending a mass text for help when she heard something.
A rubber squeak like weight coming down on the heel of a boot.
He was inside.
He must be moving slow, trying to stay quiet just as much as she was. His boot tapped in front of her door. Her whole body went rigid. After a long minute, he took another step. She stayed there for what felt like eternity but was maybe ten minutes before his footfall sounded well down the hall.
Evelyn stood. She looked back at the room. Her eyes were well adjusted to the dark. Expecting a tiny broom closet, she saw tell that it was deeper than she’d thought. There was a bunch of old junk. It looked like a combination of a janitor’s closet, prop room, and antique storeroom. She crept back further into the room, checking the door every few steps (as if she wouldn’t hear him enter).
She needed a weapon. Her pepper spray wouldn’t work with his mask on. If she were lucky, he’d head upstairs and she could sneak out the way she came. As she tried to maneuver in the dark, her elbow hit something causing it fall over with a crash.
“No,” she whispered.
Heavy footsteps raced from the end of the hall to her door. The knob rattled then turned. Evelyn positioned herself dead center of the door. There wasn’t much space between it and her, but all she needed was the element of surprise.
As the door swung open, Evelyn charged straight at at it, barreling her body through towards it. She slammed her shoulder against the edge and heard an “omph!” on the other side. Hopefully, the corner of the door knocked him the face. She didn’t have time to speculate because in the next second, she was knocking against the hard body of her hunter. The force knocked him clean off his feet. She couldn’t stop her momentum and toppled over with him.
All she could see was black clothes. Under her, she brushed against alternating warm body and cold pink and white floor tiles as she scrambled to regain her footing. A second after she stood, she ran. To her dismay, she found herself heading for the stairs and not the exit door. She had raced in whatever direction she’d been facing instead of looking first.
She dared to glance back over her shoulder. He was picking himself off the floor. She grabbed the stair banister. Her heels clicked against each step. Not far behind her she heard the pounding of his racing boots. He wasn’t taking his time anymore. She must have worn out his patience.
Evelyn had no idea where the stairs led. Or if there was anything at the end of them at all. With each step, she feared she was heading for her grave.
Then, from the floor above, she heard a ding and the sound of doors sliding open. An elevator! Someone was here.
“Help!” She cried out as she careened up the last steps to the second floor.
She turned into the hall almost crashing into her saving angel–Finch, the stage manager. Out of breath, she grabbed the front of his shirt.
“I thought I was the only one here,” she panted.
He pulled her hands off his clothes. “I have to be here hours before you do.”
She tugged his arm. “We have to go. We have to move.”
“Wait a minute. Evelyn, what are you doing here so early?” Finch asked.
“We can take the elevator down to the main floor and get out of the building.” She hit the down button, but nothing happened. The button pad had a key lock on it. She remembered. There was an elevator that was kept locked to keep visitors from wandering about. Certain staff and crew had keys. Finch must have locked it after stepping off.
“Evelyn you’re sweating, short of breath, and you’re eyes… Are you feeling well?”
“There is a psycho– He chased me here–He’s coming up the stairs! We have to hurry.”
Finch frowned and shook his head. “Not you, too. The crew’s prank last night was enough. This is overkill.”
“Finch, the key!”
He sighed. “If someone were coming up the stairs, wouldn’t they be here by now?” He moved toward the stairs
“No! Don’t!” She reached an arm out in his direction as if she could will him to her side.
Finch looked around the corner. “Oh, what a surprise. There’s no one here. Hardy-har-har, you’re so funny.”
Relief burst from her chest like her first gulp of air after holding her breath underwater for too long. Like her, the masked man heard another person in the building. Finch’s presence had scared him off. She leaned her forehead against the door inhaling deep breaths to calm herself down.
“Wait.” Finch said.
Evelyn tensed. Finch stood on the landing still staring down the stairs.
Finch snickered. “Ok, you guys have got to at least try to be creative. This could almost be slightly scary if it wasn’t so cliche. A masked predator in all black– never seen that before. Unless you count every movie ever!”
“Finch… ” She tried to keep her voice even afraid that too much volume or emotion would freak out the masked man. “This is not a joke.”
“No, it’s not. A joke is supposed to be funny. This is just sad.”
“He’s for real and he’s dangerous.”
Finch held his arms up in mock terror. “Oh no! Not a prop knife.”
“Please, get over here and open the elevator.”
“Seriously, who is under the mask? Tim? Gilliam? You really shouldn’t cover your eyes. It keeps you from emoting the fear you want your audience to feel. Jaime? This is Jaime, isn’t it?”
The shadow man stepped up onto the landing. Finch’s good natured smirk turned into a deep troubled frown. He glanced over at Evelyn before his gaze darted back to the man in front of him.
The shadow man’s knife plunged into Finch’s side. The stage manager cried out. His wide shocked eyes taking in his assailant with a new terrified understanding.
Evelyn held up her hands and backed away, her breath caught in her throat, as the man pulled the blade out and turned to her. She watched Finch crumble to the floor, holding his bleeding side. She ran to the floor length window at the end of the hall. Outside, the world was bright, sunny, full of joy; the complete opposite of the deep cold darkness that surrounded her. Evelyn turned away to face the man who was determined to make that blackness permanent.
“Please.” She said. “You don’t have to do this.”
“I have a quota,” he said. It was the first time he’d spoke. His voice was deep and slightly strained, like there was more he wanted to say, but held back, forcing himself to speak only those words.
“If you let me live, I won’t tell anybody anything I saw. I swear.”
He flung the bloody blade out angled away from his body. Droplets of blood splattered on the pinkish peach wall.
“I won’t breathe a word!”
“Your blood will speak for you.”
Evelyn closed her eyes for a moment. Maybe it would be quick. Finch’s pained moans filled her ears. What was going to happen to him if she just gave up? She couldn’t quit; especially not after running around in these dumb shoes. Her throbbing feet told her she’d earned the right to live.
“What does that mean?” She asked, stalling, trying to figure a way out. “My blood will speak. I don’t understand.”
He paused. He tilted his head as if deciding whether or not to answer her question. “Send a message to Pern.”
“Pern? Corbin?” This was about Corbin. Dammit. She really didn’t know him at all. “How do you know Corbin? Who are you?”
He cocked his head to the side again. “They call me death and panic and mayhem. The Trifold.”
She didn’t know what that meant. She didn’t care, either. What the hell, Corbin? He told her a little about his assorted criminal past. She hadn’t imagined it might involve this sinister cartel/mob/murder ring… whatever the hell this was! This guy was trying to get to Corbin through her. Hadn’t he been paying attention while he was spying? They weren’t together anymore. Whatever trouble Corbin had gotten himself into she wasn’t going to die over it.
She had one thing in her back pocket she didn’t think he knew about. If she could surprise him with the closet door, she could get him one more time. Evelyn opened her eyes. She placed her feet shoulder width apart. Then shifted her left foot back. Balling her hands into fists, she raised them level with her chin. She’d never used any kickboxing or self defense moves outside of her workout class. This wasn’t practice or a match. She had to fight. And win.
He took note that she was trying something and moved faster. She anchored herself on her left, lifted her right leg, and flung it out in a swift sidekick. Her foot caught him square in the belly. As he bent forward, she grabbed his jacket and lifted her knee straight up into his face. The sharp sound of plastic cracking filled her ears as her bone smashed into his goggles.
The knife flew from his hand as he gave a satisfying “Omphf!” He crumbled to the floor. Evelyn saw where the knife slid by the window. She didn’t want to touch it, but couldn’t leave it out there for the man to grab. Gingerly, she picked it up holding the top of the warm handle with her fingers and thumb.
Her knee throbbed, but she couldn’t think about it. Evelyn ran to Finch. Crouching next to him, she touched his clammy face. He looked like he was about to puke.
“Can you walk?” She asked him.
Gritting his teeth, he nodded. She grabbed him under his left armpit as he slowly lifted himself off the floor.
“Come on. We’ve got to move.” She hated to force someone who was in so much obvious pain to go faster, but they didn’t have much time.
Finch stood bent over and it would have to do. Evelyn gripped his left bicep and wrapped her right arm around his back. She flinched when her fingers buried themselves in his wet clothes. Blood had soaked the right side of his black shirt and slacks.
“Hurry,” she ordered as they took one small step forward.
She glanced back. The shadow man was getting to his knees. They weren’t going to make it. Fear gripped her heart. The desire to let go of Finch and run was so strong, she loosened her hold on him and he slammed into the wall.
“Sorry,” she said in a hushed tone as she tightened her hold on him.
Finch leaned against the stair rail and took the first step down. She pulled him forward to make him take the second one. He grunted, but went down the third with her. They were getting a rhythm.
Another step. Then they heard a pounding racing across the hall behind them. Finch’s breathing grew loud and heavy in her ear.
“Keep it together,” she told him.
Seconds later, sharp pain sliced through the arm she’d wrapped around Finch. She let go of him in surprise. A black form shoved into them both sending Finch and her sliding down the last three steps onto the mid level landing.
She rolled and hit the opposite wall. After a moment to catch her breath, she sat up just as Finch was scooting backward toward her.
Finch’s body smashed hers against the wall across from the stairs they’d fallen from. Her left side on the wall and her right on Finch’s back. He screamed and pushed up on her in an attempt to get away from their assailant who charged at them with knife raised. Evelyn realized that the knife she’d held was gone. It must have fell from her grasp. The weapon the shadow man now had gleamed silver and clean. He’d carried more than one the whole time.
They had to get downstairs, even if they had to fall. But Finch crushed her tighter and tighter against the wall, trapping her there. She tried to kick herself free with her feet on the floor to wedge her body out to no avail. Fear had imbued him with strength and power. Using her arms, she pushed at his back.
She pulled her right leg up and added her knee to the shove. His body flung forward enough for her to scoot back.
“Ugh!” Finch gurgled.
The knife in the shadow man’s hand plunged into Finch’s shoulder. Evelyn gasped and stared. The angle was all wrong. The blade stuck in his shoulder bone. It must have hit him when she’d pushed him forward.
“Very helpful, Nantz.” Shadow man looked down at her.
Her shock that he knew her name was quickly overshadowed when she realized what she was looking at. The hood was still pulled up, but the goggles were removed. She found herself staring up not at the face and eyes of a man, but of a monster. It might have been makeup; it might have been his true features. It didn’t matter. She was peering into the eyes of the devil.
Only a small portion of the face was revealed between the hood that hung over his forehead and the mask that covered everything from the nose down. His skin was a sickly pale yellow-white with crimson red stroke marks on the side of the nose and across the forehead’s center. Black circled around the unnatural eyes–gold brown irises with a reptilian slit. Eyes that glinted with dark pleasure, enjoying the the pain she’d caused Finch, soaking in their fear.
Disgust churned in her stomach. The shadow man wiggled the handle back and forth. Finch screamed in pain. Evelyn scrambled back to get further away from them. Behind her, her hands slipped off into the air and her bottom followed. She tumbled down the flight of stairs she’d forgotten were there until she landed on her back at the bottom.
After a wave of dizziness and nausea passed, she propped herself up on her elbows. Above her, Finch tried to crawl to the stairs. The knife still protruded from his left shoulder. He reached his other arm down toward her. His eyes pleading with her to help him.
Evelyn didn’t move. She could see what he couldn’t. Whether he had found the knife she’d dropped or had a third one on him, she was unable to tell. He held one in his hand now. Finch’s face contorted into one of terror and betrayal as he looked at Evelyn, screamed at her to help him. She wanted to, but she couldn’t. They would both die.
The shadow man sat on Finch’s back and grabbed a handful of his braids. He snapped Finch’s neck up toward him. Evelyn sensed what was coming, but she couldn’t get her body to move.
The knife blade pressed against the skin of his neck near his left ear. The shadow man’s hand moved quickly. The blade sliced Finch open. His blood spilled onto the stairs below, the liquid gathering and pouring down like a hellish waterfall.
Evelyn’s muscle finally sprang into action. She scrambled to her feet and took off. She couldn’t hear anyone behind her, but she imagined him right on her heels reaching out to grab her. She pushed herself as hard and fast as she could.
Flinging the exit door open, she raced out into the bright outdoors. She was blinded by the sun and her own tears, but that didn’t slow her down. She’d run straight to the star if that were the only safe place.
Ahead of her a figure in all black moved toward her. No! How the hell did he do that? She slid on the hard surface beneath her and fell. She could hear herself screaming as she realized there was nowhere to hide from a demon.
“Evelyn! Are you ok?” A familiar voice asked as a hand clamped down on her shoulder.
“Hey, she’s hurt. What happened?” Another asked.
She blinked and looked up as their faces came into focus.
“It’s me, Jaime,” one of them said. “It’s ok. It’s just Tim and Jaime.”
“Hey, kid, what’s wrong?” Tim asked.
Tim and Jaime, two of the crewmen that Finch mistaken the shadow man for. They wore black to remain invisible while they took care of backstage work during the show. They weren’t the shadow man.
Every bit of strength inside her disintegrated. She broke down in sobs.
Finch… Can the dead forgive?…
And what of the living dead? The nightmare? The demon?
“Send a message to Pern.” He’d said, and, “very helpful, Nantz.”
He knew them. Both. He knew them.
My God, Corbin. What have you done?