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General Excerpt from Obsession

Adult Fiction by Lisa Beth Darling


The waiting is always the hardest part.

She stands in the doorway with the cool night breeze blowing back her graying auburn hair and staring off into the dark for any sign of him. Perhaps a rustle of leaves or a quiet footfall will alert her to his nearing presence. There is nothing but the wind and the clouds dancing past the waxing moon. In three weeks the Blood Moon will rise, it will be huge and crimson hanging high in the sky on Halloween night. Halloween is her favorite holiday and she's spent the entire day decorating her little cabin and the front yard with ghosts, witches, vampires, cobwebs, spiders, pumpkins-some carved into Jack-O-Lanters and others not-and fake tombstones.

This year, as in years prior, there won't be any Trick-Or-Treaters at her door. She lives three miles away from what passes as the center of Tarrytown, Maine, and two miles from the nearest house. There aren't many young families left in town and what there are won't venture out this far in the cold and the dark, down a long lonely rutted road, for free candy. The road is one that she's walked many times over the last five years, sturdy rod of driftwood in her hand, camera slung around her neck, a straw hat to keep her freckles from popping out. Although now she makes those treks only in the warm weather, the arthritis in her knees is getting too painful for long distance strolls past early October.

She knows that this year, as in years past, she will miss the children in their costumes, all excited and dressed up for the night clamoring for candy at her door. So many of them used to come to the house when she lived on Long Island. Nonetheless all will not be lost, the Town Meeting Hall will be having its annual Halloween Party and the twenty or so young children still living in this dying town will gather to bob for apples while the adults nip at spiked punch and then try to join the child in apple bobbing. It will be a fun evening that will end early. She will come back here and the moon will be beautiful, full, ripe and red. She has a perfect view out on her deck, she will cuddle up under a blanket, hopefully with her lover next to her, and snap away for an hour or two in the chilly autumn night, snuggling and sipping Southern Comfort for warmth before taking him inside to heat up the blankets on her bed.

Off in the distance the ancient bells of St. Joseph's Church begin tolling to signify the midnight hour has fallen. The Witching Hour, time for all good boys and girls to be in their beds and safely snuggled down for the night behind locked doors. Strange things have been going on lately here in East Bumfuck, a/k/a Tarrytown, Maine, a miniscule New England village largely forgotten by the outside world. In the last two months, two women were strangled to death and a third is missing. Her name is Mary Sue Coombs and, unlike the first two, she is a local girl from right in Tarrytown. The first woman no one could identify, she had no clothes, no driver's license, and although her picture was widely circulated no one came forward to claim her. The second was a girl from Hotchkins Corners, just one tiny hick town over. Their two naked bodies discarded like empty husks, simply strewn along the sides of Shaw Street, their hands bound and their eyes frozen in horror, the clear imprinted dark purple/black bruising of a large man's hands ringing their necks. It was big news here in a backwoods area of the world where the last murder on record was in 1982, when some man got drunk, shot his wife and then hung himself all with their young son in the house. That case wrapped up in a matter of hours, after all there wasn't much to investigate and it was all cut-and-dry. Here and now, the police didn't have a clue as to the killer's identity. Shortly after the second body was discovered what passed for a local paper, The Aroostock Hour, dubbed the murderer The Shaw Street Strangler.

Out here in a small town in the middle of the sticks where it took State Troopers two hours or more to answer a call, even for one as serious as a killing, everyone knew they were on their own with the lunatic. If there was one good, strong thing about Life in a Blip of a New England Town it was that here everyone knew everyone else and while they couldn't say they liked everyone they couldn't say they hated them either. They looked out for each other, watched each other's backs, and above all else knew how to band together and keep a secret when need be. The outside world never cared about places like Tarrytown and places like Tarrytown never cared for the outside world.

In an effort to curtail the killings and keep an eye on each other, early last week Sheriff Natick declared the town's long dead curfew resurrected and In Effect Until Further Notice; all residents were to be inside and off the streets by the final strike of midnight. If at all possible no one-especially no woman-should be out walking the streets past 9pm unaccompanied. No one could recall the last time the curfew had been enforced.

Wanting to tie the sash of her robe to keep out the cold but believing it was eaten by the washing machine, she wraps her arms around her chilly body. Feeling the hem of her brushed-satin nightgown wisp around her ankles, she calls out his name. "Harry? Harry?" The pangs of doubt begin to settle in as the arms around her stroke her sides lovingly.

Listening to the ringing echoes of the tolling bell rolling off into the darkness, on catlike bare feet she makes the journey from the back door out onto the wooden deck and into the chilly night air. She stands at the edge to peer further into the lonely dark night throwing shadows around her yard like confetti. "Are you out there, Harry?" Now she listens and stares harder in the darkness.

Is someone standing between the shed and woodpile?

Maybe it's a sapling or an errant branch standing up straight. Still, from the deck in the dark it looks a little bigger than that.

If it's there at all-Helen has a very 'active imagination' and it often plays little tricks on her, and she is mindful of that fact at all times. Yet tonight, as with many nights past, hanging in the crisp autumn air along with the scents of burning wood, drying leaves, and apple pies the sweet scent of cherry is wafting over to her on the late night air and she can almost swear someone was watching her. "Hello? Is someone there? Hello?"

There is no answer.

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