Night show, p.1
Night Show, p.1Richard Laymon
About the Author
Also by Richard Laymon
Copyright © 1984 Richard Laymon
The right of Richard Laymon to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Apart from any use permitted under UK copyright law, this publication may only be reproduced, stored, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, with prior permission in writing of the publishers or, in the case of reprographic production, in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency.
First published as an Ebook by Headline Publishing Group in 2012
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Cover photograph © Konstanttin/Shutterstock
Cataloguing in Publication Data is available from the British Library
eISBN : 978 0 7553 9158 5
HEADLINE PUBLISHING GROUP
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Richard Laymon wrote over thirty novels and seventy short stories. In May 2001, The Travelling Vampire Show won the Bram Stoker Award for Best Horror Novel, a prize for which Laymon had previously been shortlisted with Flesh, Funland, A Good, Secret Place (Best Anthology) and A Writer’s Tale (Best Non-fiction). Laymon’s works include the books of the Beast House Chronicles: The Celler, The Beast House and The Midnight Tour. Some of his recent novels have been Night in the Lonesome October, No Sanctuary and Amara.
A native of Chicago, Laymon attended Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, and too an MA in English Literature from Loyola University, Los Angeles. In 2000, he was elected President of the Horror Writers’ Association. He died in February 2001.
Laymon’s fiction is published in the United Kingdom by Headline, and in the United States by Leisure Books and Cemetery Dance Publications.
Praise for Richard Laymon:
‘This author knows how to sock it to the reader’ The Times
‘A brilliant writer’ Sunday Express
‘No one writes like Laymon and you’re going to have a good time with anything he writes’ Dean Koontz
‘In Laymon’s books, blood doesn’t so much as drip as explode, splatter and coagulate’ Independent
‘Stephen King without a conscience’ Dan Marlowe
‘Incapable of writing a disappointing book’ New York Review of Science Fiction
‘A gut-crunching writer’ Time Out
‘This is an author that does not pull his punches . . . A gripping, and at times genuinely shocking, read’ SFX Magazine
Also by Richard Laymon and published by Headline
The Beast House Trilogy:
The Beast House
The Midnight Tour
The Woods are Dark
Out are the Lights
In The Dark
Among the Missing
Come Out Tonight
The Travelling Vampire Show
Night in the Lonesome October
The Glory Bus
*previously published under the pseudonym of Richard Kelly
A CAR slowed down, keeping pace with Linda. She didn’t look. She walked faster, hugging the books more tightly against her chest.
She wished, now, that she had accepted her father’s offer to pick her up. But she’d hoped to run into Hal Walker at the library. She had waited at a table near the entrance, trying to study, her heart racing each time the door opened. Betty came in. Janice and Bill came in. The nerd, Tony, came in and made a pest out of himself until she told him to get lost. But Hal never showed up.
‘Hey Linda, want a ride?’
Her head snapped toward the car. A dumpy old station wagon. Tony’s car. She might’ve known. She counted three vague figures in the front seat.
‘How about it?’ a boy called through the open window.
‘Aw, come on.’
She picked up her pace, but the car stayed beside her.
‘Think you’re hot shit.’
She ignored the remark, and tried to place the voice. Not Tony. This had to be one of his jerk-off friends. Maybe Joel Howard, or Duncan Brady, or Arnold Watson. A bunch of scuzzy misfits.
‘Get out of here!’ she yelled.
‘Don’t think so,’ said the boy at the window.
‘Look guys, you’re gonna be in big trouble if you don’t cut it out.’
‘Cut what out?’
‘Her tongue?’ asked a different voice.
She reached the corner and stepped off the curb. The station wagon swung in front of her.
‘I’m warning you . . .’
Her voice stopped as the door flew open.
Two boys leaped out. In the streetlight, she glimpsed their twisted, flattened faces. She whirled around to run, but even as she sprang for the curb an arm hooked her waist. Her books tumbled. She was yanked backwards. She tried to yell. A hand clutched her mouth, mashing her lips into her teeth. She squirmed and kicked. A boy lunged against her legs, grabbed them and lifted.
She was carried to the car. The third boy swung open the tail door. The other two wrestled her inside, and the door thunked shut.
She was in darkness, one boy under her back, one on top of her legs. She tried to pry the arm loose from her belly. The hand on her mouth pinched her nostrils shut. She couldn’t breathe. The car lurched forward. She tugged at the smothering hand. The other arm eased its clench, and a fist hammered her belly. She felt as if a bomb had exploded, bursting her lungs and heart.
She grabbed her chest, struggling to breathe. The boy’s hands, she realised, had moved down to her hips. He was holding her firmly, but no longer crushing her.
‘You okay?’ asked the boy on her legs.
She couldn’t answer.
‘You weren’t supposed to hurt her, asshole.’
‘She was fighting me,’ said the one beneath her. She recognised his whiny voice – Arnold Watso
Arnold held her steady as the car took a corner fast.
She found that she could breathe again, though her lungs still ached. ‘Let me go,’ she said. ‘Please.’
Arnold laughed, his belly shaking under her back.
‘What do you want?’
‘You,’ he said. ‘And we’ve got you, haven’t we? The one and only Linda Allison.’
‘Please, just let me go. I promise I’ll never speak a word. Honest.’
‘You had your chance.’
‘Should’ve been nice when you had the chance. Think you’re hot shit, always dumping on us.’
‘I don’t either. I never . . .’
‘We’ve got feelings, you know. The question is, do you?’
‘Of course I do. For godsake . . .!’
‘You’re gonna get it, now.’
‘What are you . . .?’ She couldn’t bring herself to finish, this time; she didn’t want to hear the answer.
‘We’ve got plans for you.’
‘No. Please. Just let me go. Please!’
‘Real interesting plans.’
‘Tell her,’ said the boy on her legs.
‘Hell no. Let her worry about it. Right?’
‘Right,’ said the driver. ‘She’ll think of all kinds of neat stuff.’ Though the voice was low and husky, apparently to disguise it, she knew it came from Tony. ‘What do you think we’ll do to you, huh, bitch?’
‘Please. Just let me go. I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings.’
‘Too late for sorry.’
‘Who knows?’ Tony said. ‘Maybe you’ll get yourself raped, or tortured. Maybe your pretty face is gonna get all fucked up with battery acid or a knife. How would you like that?’
Linda started to cry.
‘Maybe you’ll get cut up into little tiny pieces: first your toes and fingers, then maybe those nice big tits . . .’
‘Come on, stop it,’ said the boy on her legs.
Tony laughed. ‘Bet you can feel that knife, right now, slicing into your . . .’
‘Don’t listen to him. We’re not going to hurt you.’
‘Don’t count on it.’
‘Hey, you said we’d just . . .’
‘I know, I know.’
‘Go ahead and tell her,’ Arnold said.
‘Okay okay. Here’s what’s really gonna happen. You know the old Freeman house?’
‘Yes,’ she sobbed, and wiped the tears from her face.
‘It’s still deserted. Nobody’ll touch the place. It’s supposed to be haunted. They say the ghosts of all those bodies moan inside the walls where crazy Jasper plastered them up, and that Jasper himself walks the house at night looking for fresh young girls to chop. Girls just like you.’
‘He’s dead,’ Linda muttered.
‘It’s his ghost,’ Arnold whispered. ‘And he wants you.’
‘Fun, huh?’ asked Tony. ‘Nice place to spend the night.’
‘You’re not . . .!’
‘Oh yes we are.’
Her dread was mixed with relief. Tony had talked of rape and torture just to scare her. All they really intended was to leave her alone in the Freeman house.
But Jasper’d hanged himself in jail. No reason to fear him.
No such thing as ghosts.
But to be alone in the very house . . .
‘You’re crazy,’ Linda muttered.
‘Yeah,’ Tony said. ‘Real crazy. But not half as crazy as old Jasper.’ She felt the car slow down and turned. ‘Here we are. Your home away from home.’
It stopped. Tony climbed out. He opened the tailgate, and Linda was dragged feet first from the car. The boys stood her up and held her steady. Their faces, in the darkness, were weirdly stretched and distorted, their hair flat as if painted on. She realised, now, that the effect was caused by nylon stocking masks. Knowing the cause, however, didn’t help. She felt as if the boys were grotesque strangers only pretending to be Tony and Arnold and – who was the other, Joel?
‘Let’s go,’ said the one with Tony’s voice. He started toward the gate of the low, picket fence. The other boys, one on each arm, forced Linda ahead.
The Freeman house looked similar to many of the older homes in Claymore, a two-story frame structure with a front porch, and a picture window looking out from the living room. Someone had kept it up. The lawn was trim. Only the shuttered upstairs windows and the FOR SALE, LELAND REALTORS sign hinted that it stood vacant.
The hinges groaned as Tony pushed open the gate. ‘Wonder if Jasper heard that,’ he whispered.
Arnold laughed softly, but his fingers dug into Linda’s upper arm. He’s frightened, she thought. He doesn’t want to go in there any more than I do.
She looked to the right. In that direction was only the golf course, deserted now, a sprinkler hissing on the nearest green. To the left was the abandoned Benson house.
No help from the rear, either. Across the street, she knew, was only the bait and tackle shop – closed for the night.
The boys forced her along the walkway, up the wooden stairs, onto the porch. She expected the front door to be locked, but Tony turned the knob and pushed it wide open.
They must’ve been here before, forced their way . . . They’d planned all this. No spur of the moment decision. They’d plotted, made preparations.
‘Anybody home?’ Tony called, leaning into the darkness.
‘Just us ghosts,’ Arnold said, and gave a nervous laugh.
Tony entered. He waved the boys forward, and they guided Linda into the house. The air was cold, as if some of the winter’s frost had been trapped inside, the heat of the warm June days kept out. The cold moved up Linda’s bare legs, seeped through her thin blouse, brought goosebumps.
Arnold nudged the door. It banged shut, its crash resounding through the house.
‘Loud enough to wake the dead,’ Tony whispered.
Arnold laughed again.
‘Let’s hurry up,’ said the other boy.
‘Nervous?’ Tony asked.
They walked Linda through the dark foyer. She let each foot down softly, heel first, rolling toward the toe, straining for silence. All three boys, she realised, were also treading softly. Arnold, holding her right arm, cringed when a floorboard squeaked under his weight.
At the foot of the stairway, Tony stopped. His head tilted back as if he were studying the darkness at the top of the stairs. ‘Jasper’s bedroom was up there,’ he whispered. ‘They found one of the bodies on his bed. He’d been . . . snacking on it. They say the head was never found.’
‘Come on,’ said the boy on Linda’s left. Joel. She was sure of that, now. ‘Let’s get out of here.’
‘’Fore we freeze our nuts off,’ Arnold said.
Tony turned around. He slung the coil of rope off his shoulder. ‘Bring her here.’
They tugged Linda’s arms. She stamped on Arnold’s foot. He grunted and his grip loosened. She jerked her arm free, spinning toward Joel, and drove her elbow into his face. He staggered backwards, letting go. She lunged through the darkness. Her hands clawed the door as footfalls raced toward her. She found the knob. Turned it. Then her back was hit. She slammed forward, her head exploding with pain as it crashed against the door.
A dull ache pulsed behind her eyes. She grimaced, her forehead burning as its skin pulled taut.
She blinked her eyes open, and saw her hands on her lap. They were bound together. The pale rope angled upward to the banister.
She was seated on the third stair, leaning awkwardly against the bars of the railing, her legs sloping down, her feet resting on the floor. Her ankles were tied together.
So, they’d done it. They’d tied her up, and left her here all alone.
Or had they left?
No sign of the boys. They’d either left the house or hidden themselves.
‘Guys?’ she asked, her voice no more than a whisper. ‘Hey, look, I know you’re here. You’re just hiding on me.’
She waited. The house was silent.
She started to shiver. She raised her arms and pressed them tightly against herself for warmth.
They’re probably just out of sight, she thought, huddled together in the living room, nudging each other, trying not to giggle. Sooner or later, they would jump out at her.
‘Okay,’ she muttered. ‘Have it your way.’
The rope, she saw, was looped around the banister and knotted at her wrists. She twisted her arms. Straining her head forward, she found that her teeth could just barely reach the bundle of knots. She bit into it, and tugged. The rope didn’t give. Her tongue explored the mass of swirls, felt knot piled upon knot.
Her throat tightened. Her chin started to tremble and she blinked tears from her eyes. She lowered her arms in frustration.
‘Come on, guys,’ she pleaded. ‘You’ve had your fun. You’ve taught me my lesson. Now let me go, please.’
Somewhere above Linda, a board creaked. With a gasp, she snapped her head around and looked up the stairway. She stared for a long time, afraid to move.
There was only darkness.
It’s just them, she told herself. They didn’t hide in the living room, they hid upstairs.
Fuck off! she wanted to yell.
But she kept her mouth clamped shut so hard her teeth ached.
She heard another quiet moan of wood. Above, but off to the left. As if someone were sneaking very slowly through the upstairs hallway.
The thought of it raised a whimper in her throat.
She flung herself away from the railing. The tether pulled taut. Ignoring the pain in her wrists, she tugged furiously. The banister squeaked and wobbled a bit. But it held. The rope held.
She drew her legs up, planted her tied feet on the next stair down, dropped to a crouch and sprang at the railing. Her shoulder smashed against the banister. Pain blasted through her body. She recoiled, and fell until the rope yanked at her wrists. It swung her sideways. Her other shoulder slammed into the newel post.
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