By R.W. Van Sant
Chapter 34 and 35
As promised, Ted had the grill ready when they returned. Ellie set the bags down on the table as Jerry slumped into a large plastic lounge chair. Ted took out the food, cutting up and wrapping potatoes in tin foil for the grill. Next to them went three perfect T-bone steaks and ears of corn.
“You just missed the police.” Ted announced.” I gave them a report. I was a little vague about the box. They want you to come in and give a deposition tomorrow.”
“Sure.” Jerry moaned from the lounge chair.
“How’s Jerry doing?” Ted whispered to Ellie.
“Delirious, he still likes me. I think blood loss is involved.” She said.
“Well?” Ted inquired.
“I don’t know we’ll play it by ear.” Ellie smiled at Jerry, then walked over and held out her hand. “Walk with me? I want to look at the beach before the sun goes down.”
“Those stairs are rickety; they’re not safe.” Jerry shivered as he thought of going near the water.
“I want to walk the top, the edge up here; we’d get a better view.”
“Oh. Sure.” Jerry forced himself out of the comfortable chair. Ellie grabbed his arm and helped him up. Together, they walked to the edge of the cliff. Jerry scanned the rocky shoreline below for the first time. He had spent most of his vacation trying not to look at it. Now, it filled him with dread. The cove could never become be a resort. It would be like building on a graveyard.
“What’s that?” Elli pointed to something black stuck between a couple of large boulders at the water’s edge.
“I can’t tell. It looks like cloth.” Jerry felt sick. It could be a piece of Paul’s wetsuit.
“I’m going down.” She moved to the edge and scanned the side.
“No, are you nuts?”
“I think I can climb down over there, it isn’t so steep,” Ellie said.
“My hands—I can’t.”
“Didn’t ask you.” she kissed him on the cheek. “Don’t worry, I’ve been climbing these rocks since I was a kid.”
“But the shark.” Jerry protested.
“I’m not going in the water.” Ellie lowered herself over the side. All Jerry could do was crouch at the edge and watch as she made her way slowly toward the water.
“Careful.” He called out.
“Don’t distract me.” Ellie climbed quickly and was soon on the bottom. She clambered toward the black object. Jerry breathlessly watched as she leaned near the water to retrieve it. He could feel the shark’s presence. It lurked somewhere beneath the surface. He scanned the water all around her. It was gently lapping against the rocks at her feet.
“Well, what is it, is it Paul’s?” Jerry called down.
“Not unless he was hiding something from me,” Ellie called back. “It’s a dress. Here catch.” She balled up the cloth and tossed it up to a ledge near the top.
“Please get back up here!” Jerry yelled. He grabbed for the cloth, but it was out of his reach.
“I’m coming up, don’t fall. I’ll get it on the way up.” Ellie started her climb back. Jerry was not sure, it could have been a trick of the light, but he thought he saw a large dark patch moving through the cove. A wet rag landed next to him. “Heads up.” Her voice rang out, hands and head soon following. Jerry reached out to help her. That only drew a mildly amused laugh as she climbed over the edge and brushed herself off.
“Well, was it worth it?” Jerry could not keep the anger out of his voice.
“Were you scared for me? That’s sweet, but I wasn’t in danger.” She grabbed the cloth and unrolled the shredded garment. “I’ve never seen it before.”
“I have.” The shredded black dress with rose prints was the same he had seen Ted’s ex-wearing when she left the house. “It’s Rebecca’s.”
“Ted’s ex-girlfriend. She showed up here the other night when Ted and Paul got drunk.” Jerry stared at the material as it flapped in the breeze.
“You don’t think she’s dead?” Ellie’s face grew pale as she turned to face the cove.
“Ted said he dropped her off at the bus station.”
“You don’t think Ted did anything.” She gulped. “Do you?”
“No!” Jerry said. “She must have come back. I don’t know.”
“I’ll bring it to show Ted.” Ellie frowned, and she kept looking over her shoulder to the cove.
“Let’s get back.” Jerry eyed the setting sun. He did not want to be walking a cliff edge over rough terrain in the dark.
“Can you answer a question first?” Ellie looked at him with alarmed curiosity.
“Where did you find Paul’s tanks?” She asked.
“Right next to where you found us. Right over there.” Jerry pointed.
“It is strange, lots of divers have been down there, no one ever found anything but wrecked boats.”
“We had some inside knowledge — Teller’s logbook. We knew where to look and what we were looking for. “He looked at the water again and could not even tell where the black mark was. “So. Crazy Teller, do you want to throw me back now?”
“Not when it’s just getting interesting. “Ellie said. “Maybe getting the box broke the curse.”
“You believe in curses now?”
“I’d better tell Ted about the dress. He sent her away, but I think he still loved her. We’ll have to break it to him gently.”
“Not exactly your strong point.” There was a hint of reproach in her voice.
“Come on, let’s get back.”
By the time they returned, Ted had the box mostly cleaned up. Without the dirt of a hundred years, intricate carvings and gold work were visible. Ornate Oriental dragons and creatures covered its exterior, interspersed with strange glyphs that must have come from that long lost island. Ted was attempting to clean up the lock. He had done a good job. It would need a museum-quality restoration team to bring it back to its original, disturbing beauty.
“It would be real easy just to pry this open,” Ted said. “This gold is soft, and I could get a screwdriver under there and just snap it up.”
“We’d lose a lot of its value as an art piece,” Jerry said.
“Why must you damage something that beautiful?” Ellie set the dress next to the box.
“There might be something important inside,” Jerry said.
“What?” she asked.
“You’ll see when we get it opened.”
“Okay, okay, I’ll keep trying.” Ted poked at the lock with a little stickpin trying to remove a century and a half of dirt and corrosion. “I think it may be jammed tight. We might need to get a jeweler or locksmith.”
Ellie brought over a plate of grilled corn. Ted’s impatience was contagious, and Jerry longed to see inside. A diamond so large that it caused superstitious sailors to attribute it to supernatural power would be something to see, if it were there. His attention diverted itself to the aroma wafting from the grill as Elli removed the steaming steaks. In the end, his hunger won out.
“Careful with your hands.” She gave Jerry a plate containing a couple of pieces of freshly grilled meat.
Ted pushed the box aside, sat down across the table, and opened a bottle of wine. “I was saving this just in case.” He poured three glasses and passed them around.
“Would madam like a seat?” Jerry fumbled a plastic lawn chair away from the table for her with over exaggerated flair. She curtsied and sat down.
“Why do you encourage him?” Ted turned to Ellie.
“I like your brother.” She smiled at him.
“In spite of my clever come-ons and graceful actions.” Jerry quipped.
“No, because of them. I live in a tourist town. I get hit on all the time. Good-looking guys come in throwing around money and names, acting as if they own the world. They talk at you with witty lines and overconfident demeanors and then leave.” She explained.
“Like I did.” He smiled and bit into the steak.
“Not really,” Her mouth widened to an amused smile. “You were so bad at it. I could tell that you didn’t do that sort of thing much. It made me feel special that you would go through all the trouble of making a fool out of yourself for me. When I learned that you were staying with Ted, I thought you might be worth getting to know. I’m not anyone’s vacation fling or a one-night stand.”
“Ahem,” Ted said. “Food’s getting cold.”
Although hungry, Jerry could do little with his bandaged hands but pick at his food.
A coast guard patrol boat came into view, moving slowly up the coastline. Ted waved, but they probably did not notice. The last light from the sun was cresting over the horizon. A fleeting thought struck Jerry, and he wondered how big a boat could the shark sink. He turned back, almost expecting to see the ship floundering. The cutter, to his relief, chugged along and went around the bend.
After they had finished eating, Jerry helped Ellie clear the dishes into the kitchen. She objected briefly but gave in to save his pride and because they both knew he would not be able to do dishes. She loaded his arms with plastic plates and went before him to open the door. Teamwork. They dropped the dishes in the sink.
“Are you going to tell him?” she asked. “He has to know before the police arrive to question him again.”
“I will; I’m just waiting for the right time.”
“Okay, but the sooner, the better?” she kissed him, and they started toward the back door. As they returned to the yard, however, they heard a loud metallic snap. Ted had sprung the lock.
“Well?” Jerry asked. It was too late for reprimands. “Is it a diamond?”
“Diamond?” Ellie asked.
“Big one,” Jerry said.
Ted held it up the crystalline object. It was bright white and the size of a grapefruit. The moonlight reflected through it, sending a thousand prismatic lights across the yard. Jerry watched in fascination as they danced across Ellie’s face.
The wine was going to his head, and he felt giddy. She looked just as enthralled. Ted handed her the gem, and she held it above her head and looked at the moon through it, a prismatic aura exploding all around her.
“I think I may ask for a new boat.” She handed the gem back to Ted.
“We’ll get you a yacht.” Forgetting his bandaged hands, Jerry grabbed and kissed her. “We’re rich!”
“Can we talk about this inside? The winds are starting to pick up.” Ted grabbed gem and box and headed for the door.
“Care to get out of the weather?” Jerry offered Ellie an elbow, and together they skipped into the house.
“Those clouds look nasty,” Ellie observed. Lightning played across the leading edge of the storm, lighting up the dark clouds. “It’s going to be a beauty of a storm.”
“I should probably get a ride to my truck before it gets bad,” Ted said.
“We can call a cab tomorrow.” Jerry was too intoxicated to drive, and he was sure that they had consumed more of the alcohol. “I don’t think it’s in danger of being stolen.”
The shark could feel the power and adjusted its course for shore. The storm was gathering in the sky above. The vibrations permeated everything. The veil was lifting; soon they would be there, and it would have the prize waiting for them. It reached the shore and stared up at the cliff face and the rickety contraption. After a long moment, the creature lumbered out of the water and began climbing the cliff face.
They joined Ted on the couch. Ellie sipped her wine while she reopened the box to look at the gem. Even in the artificial light of the living room, it continued to shed its radiance.
“What’s it worth?” she asked.
“Haven’t got a clue,” Jerry admitted. “It may be the largest diamond on the planet.”
“No king ever had such a treasure, and they’ll pay millions, no billions, to get it,” Ted said.
A gust of wind blew the shutters wide open, filling the living room with cold air. The storm had arrived. One shutter was slapping the house, back and forth. Jerry jumped up and ran to the window to stop it before it shattered, or broke the house. “We need to shut these.”
“Sorry.” Ted broke out of his reverie and got up to close the windows on the other side of the room.
“Crap, give me a hand with these shutters will you.” The shutters flapped back and forth, and the bandages made it difficult to a good handhold. The wood was wet and slippery, and the wind kept pulling it out of his hand. “Toss me something to dry this wood.”
Ted grabbed the rag next to the box. “This is damp, but it might….” Ted opened the cloth. “Where did you find this?”
“On the shore, by the water,” Jerry said.
“I climbed down for it,” Ellie said.
“It’s…” Ted looked at the shredded cloth.
“I know.” Jerry fought the wind for control of the shutter.
“How did it get there?” Ted kept staring down at it.
“Jerry thinks she must have come back.” Ellie offered. “Maybe she went for a swim.”
“She couldn’t swim,” Ted said.
“Help here!” Jerry called. The porch wood started to creak loudly.
“Someone’s here.” Ellie started for the door. The creaking turned to cracking and snapping.
The power abruptly went out and plunged the room into darkness.
“Ellie, stop!” The creaking turned to a loud crash as the porch collapsed. Jerry jerked his arm back from the window, but something held it. Jerry yelped as a gray, claw-like limb dug into the flesh of his arm. A flash of lightning lit up the yard outside the window. It illuminated a large, lumbering silhouette—a hideous shape from some impossible nightmare. Jerry tugged with all his force against the thing that was pulling him out the window. The rough skin of its claw cut through his flesh as he tumbled back from the window, holding his arm and screeching in pain. The shadow moved outside the window and caved in the porch and awning barricading the window.
“Shit!” Pain shot down his arm. Kicking with his legs, he pushed across the room until his back connected with the far wall and he could go no further. Ted ran over to the window.
“Are you okay?” Ellie asked, her voice shaky. The wound ran most of the length of Jerry’s arm. Blood was flowing steadily down his arm, drenching his bandaged hands and pooling in the carpet.
“There’s a lamp in the kitchen.” Ted stumbled in the dark for the doorway.
“Something is out there, Ted. It collapsed the desk.” Jerry held his arm tight to stop the bleeding.
Ellie appeared at his side with the first aid kit, again.
“There’s a demon out there. Its claw did this.” Jerry whimpered in pain.
“It’s okay,” Ellie’s voice was calm. “My but you are accident-prone. Try not to make this a habit.”
“Ellie,” Jerry said.” We have to go now. We can’t stay.”
“It’ll be alright.” She tried to sooth Jerry.
“Please. Let’s get out of here. The back door, Ted, Ellie please?” He begged.
“It’ll be alright. I’ll hire a contractor to rebuild the entire place.” Ted came in with an oil-burning lamp.
“Bring it over here. The cuts not deep,” Ellie inspected the wound. “But it’s jagged. I can bandage it, but we’ll have to get him to the doctor.”
“Do you think you can drive the…?” Ted was interrupted by another loud crash.
“Ted, I saw something move.” Jerry tried to stand, but Ellie’s gentle hand kept him down. A shadow moved beyond the shutters. Jerry pointed with his good arm. “It’s out there.”
“Men are such babies,” She pulled out the gauze and tape and started taping his arm. “It’s a storm.”
“And it’s tearing the deck apart,” Ted said.
“Yeah, get me to the hospital.” He wasn’t drunk, and he wasn’t crazy. Why didn’t they believe him? “Ted the demon. It’s here. If we don’t go now, we’re dead.”
A loud scratching sound resounded through the house.
“A tree probably just fell in the wind.” She reasoned. “It hit the house.”
“There are no trees near the house.” Ted’s eyes grew wide with realization. “Rebecca would never have gone near the water; she was afraid of the water.”
“Ted, I swear to God,” Jerry said, pushing Ellie aside to get to his feet. The nasty sound of breaking glass echoed through the upstairs hallway. The entire house creaked as it adjusted to the addition of some great weight. A pounding sound resounded from the upper hall. “Ted, believe me.”
“It had to have come out of the water to get her.” The pounding grew louder. “My door, my bedroom,” Ted said.
“It can’t be.” Ellie stared at the ceiling, her mouth open.
A loud crash announced the demise of the heavy door. They could hear footsteps and scraping sounds coming from the hallway. The ceiling creaked as something large moved down the corridor toward the stairway.
“Rebecca wasn’t involved in this.” Ted grabbed the shark stick, knocking the gem from the table, sending it rolling across the floor. Moving in a low crouch, he went to the stairs and looked upward.
“Ted, no! Don’t go!” Jerry cried.
“I don’t think…” Ellie started.
Holding the shark stick in front of him, Ted climbed the stairs.
“Ted, don’t.” Jerry tugged at Ellie. If he could get her to the front door, they could escape. Instead, she pulled him toward the stairs Ted was halfway up. “Stop him. Eleanor, please!”
Jerry broke free and ran to open the front door. The porch and its awning were nothing but splintered wood. It was impassable. The kitchen door was their only hope. He grabbed Ellie’s and tugged at her. Ignoring the pain in his hands, he tried to get her to follow him into the kitchen. She was immovable, staring as Ted climbed the stairs. He could not get her to see that the kitchen door was their only hope of survival.
A shriek echoed through the house, primal and unpleasant, cut off in mid-breath by a crunching sound. Ted? Jerry turned to the stairway. Ted’s upper body bounced down the steps with sickly, fleshy thumps stopping before his feet. Lifeless eyes fixed in horror on the ceiling, one twitching hand still clutching the shark stick. Ellie gasped, her mouth caught in a silent scream. A stream of blood followed him down the stairs, forming a gruesome red waterfall.
The house loudly creaked as it protested against the weight of the demon as it came down the stairs.
Ellie pried the blood-drenched shark stick from Ted’s fingers. Assuming a crouching stance, she waited at the bottom of the stairs. Jerry ran to the kitchen door and struggled with the locks. The bandages were coming apart, making it impossible to turn the lock. Like a trapped animal, he tore at the bloody gauze with his teeth. He heard splintering wood. The house shook as the stairs gave under the things immense form.
Then Ellie screamed, a piteous thing, born of horror and devoid of hope. The stick crackled with electricity, casting a fleeting shadow on the wall. It illuminated an obscene deformity of a creature that should never have been able to move on land. Jerry stopped, unable to leave Ellie to die alone. He turned to see the tail of the creature smashing through the debris that blocked the front door, escaping into the storm. Jerry ran to the doorway. He stared into the storm watching as the monstrous thing ran on legs that nature never intended it to have. It sprinted across the yard to the edge, dorsal fin cutting through the rain as quickly as it cut through the surf.
In the microsecond of a lightning flash, he saw the creature with hideous clarity. Blood gushed from the wound on its snout. Ellie had stood her ground, struck the monstrosity in its sensory organs, and saved him again. What Jerry saw was the thing that the Chinese immigrant had seen and carved over a hundred years ago, what the poor artist had attempted to record on the rolled up sheets in the library. He mutely watched as it leaped from the cliff, returning to the dark waters of the cove.
The rain poured down his clothing as Jerry tried to convince himself it was just another nightmare, like so many he’d had since he arrived. He grabbed a wet curtain down from a window and pulled it over to what remained of Ted, covering eyes that would haunt him until the day he died. Then Jerry slumped on the floor next to Ellie. Slowly, her screams found their voice. Jerry stared at the box on the floor and the large diamond near it. The light from the oil lamp sent rainbow dots across the room.
He wanted to crawl into a hole and hide but was roused by the smelled of rotten eggs. A gas line had been broken. They could not stay any longer.
“Ellie!” She was still clutching the shark stick and screaming in vacant terror. He had to get her out of the house.
“You saved us,” Jerry murmured, pulling the weapon from her frozen fingers. “You saved us again. We have to go.”
Her screams subsided into muffled sobs. What Jerry had seen for a second in the lightning, she had confronted face on, in full light.
“Come on.” He lifted her from the floor and looked into her eyes. His heart sank. The sparkle in her eyes had faded; there was nothing behind them. What she had seen had crushed her spirit and sanity. Ellie was gone as surely as Ted.
Pulling her up was painful, but this time she did not fight him and went where he led, through the storm and to her car. He sat her on the rain-slicked hood, and she slumped into the mud. Jerry ran his fingertips around the inside of her wheel well until he found the key box. The storm was growing more violent. A cloud rose as he watched, changing direction and headed toward the cove, toward them. He unlocked the car and put Ellie in the passenger’s seat.
They were waking, the sleepers and the shapers. Jerry could feel it as he looked upon the face of the incoming storm. There was a primal joy, freedom in it, a hideous, hungry jubilance. In the currents of the maelstrom, he could see their intent, the madness of Teller, and his obsessions. All of it was there. He was a fool. Worse than that, he had been a tool. He and his brother had done their bidding all along, just as the creature in the cove had protected the stone all this time, waiting, waiting. No longer!
Jerry ran back into the house, careful to hold his breath lest the gas fumes overcome him. The box was next to the overturned sofa. The gem was just beyond it. He grabbed both items and ran. His head grew light-headed, and his sight became splotchy from lack of oxygen as he left the house. He collapsed on the car and took several deep breaths until his head cleared a bit
“No, no more.” Jerry could feel its tingling strongly now. It was waking them up. They were coming into the world through the storm, and only the box could stop it. He climbed into the driver’s seat, put the gem back in the box, and tried to close it. Ted had broken the latch, however, and it would not stay closed. Jerry used the last of the bloody bandages still hanging from his wrists to tie it shut before carefully placing it on the back seat floorboard. The storm grew angry. From within the writhing mass, Jerry thought he could see the motion of wings growing in the darkness. Lightning lashed out from the clouds striking the tree beside the road. It fell and blocked the path to the highway.
They would not risk destroying the gem. Jerry knew that now. The shark could have gotten to them at any time. It could have climbed on the reef to kill them. It wanted the box open. It did not come to destroy them until after the box opened.
The tree brightly burned while Jerry drove across the rocky field to the highway. Lighting flashed behind them in impotent fury.
As Jerry accelerated the car, bouncing it across the rough ground and onto the highway, the light of his exploding house lit up the hills. Tears slid down his face as he left his only family and his past burning in the rear-view mirror. His only thought was to get Ellie to the hospital.