Moon Island (Chapter Twenty-three)

I soon got lost.

I backtracked down a hallway or two, rounded a corner, passed an actual conservatory with its domed, glass ceiling, and found myself in the library.

No, I didn't see Professor Plum or Colonel Mustard. Definitely, I didn't see a candlestick, whatever that was. I did see, however, an older gentleman reading a book and drinking from a highball glass.

The amber liquid in the glass wasn't, I suspected, lemonade.

Cal Thurman, George Thurman's brother, looked up from the latest James Patterson novel, this one called Death, Sweet Death, and smiled broadly when he saw me.

"Allison, right?"

"Close," I said. "Allison's my friend.

I'm Samantha."

He chuckled. "Hey, at my age, anything close is a good sign. The other day I called my wife Rick."

"Who's Rick?"

"No clue. Have a seat."

I grinned and sat in the chair next to him. He asked if I wanted a drink, indicating a bar nearby. I mentioned that this was the first library I'd seen with a full service bar. He laughed and said he would drink to that, and did. Then he poured himself another and sat back down next to me. I noted the time: 11:45. Not even noon.

"So, what can I do you for?" he asked, and, with one gulp, nearly finished his fresh glass of the hard stuff.

"You suggested that I see you about some, ah, strange occurrences that have been happening on the island. I'm interested in hearing more about the curse."

"Did I?"

"Yes."

"Was I drunk?"

"You were drinking, yes."

He laughed. "That might explain it.

Sure, yes. There's rumors this island is cursed. Dates all the way back to when, hell, I don't know, probably back to the Native Americans. Even before the white man came, the Native Americans were at war over this island. From what we gather, there was a lot of bloodshed here.

Not to mention a shipwreck or two."

I'd read about the island having some history, and that it had been the location of a few tribal skirmishes, but I wasn't aware of a lot of bloodshed. I asked him to explain further.

"We've found two burial sites on the north side of the island. We're on the south side. And not just burial sites, but battle sites, too. Skulls cleaved nearly in half, severed arms and legs, and gashes to necks and ribs. Dozens and dozens of such bodies."

"Found where?" I asked.

"Mostly in the ground, but some were in a tunnel system that appears to run underneath the island. Edwin has taken an interest in the tunnels, and so has Tara, for that matter."

He eyed me earnestly. Granted, his eyes were bloodshot, but he was imploring me, I think, to read deeper into his words.

He continued, "Back in the day, my father was going to build on the north end, along the peninsula, where he would have panoramic views of the Sound and the city of Victoria. Instead, he built here, in the woods, which was really the only other viable spot."

"What made him change course?"

"The hauntings. The workers getting spooked. And, of course, the deaths.

Which, of course, leads us back to the curse."

He explained further. "Two workers had been killed at the old site, both having fallen from ladders. Both deaths had been unexplained, as they had been alone.

Another worker had heard one of the men scream. Sounded like he'd seen a ghost…and then plummeted to his death."

"Perhaps, he screamed on the way down," I suggested.

Cal shook his blocky head. "No. It was described as the most blood-curdling scream anyone had ever heard, followed by another scream. Which, I assume, was the poor bastard falling. Anyway, that's when the talk of curses began."

"So, what happened next?"

"My father decided to change course.

And build the home on the south side, where we're at now."

"And no more instances of curses?"

"Samantha, there are always instances of curses."

"What do you mean?"

He opened his mouth, and suddenly shut it again. Tight. The smallest grin curled his lips. The same creepy grin I had seen on the faces of Edwin and Tara.

"I…I'm afraid I can't talk about the curse anymore, Samantha."

Cal seemed to be struggling with something, fighting something. My inner alarm began chiming softly. What the hell was going on?

I decided to change course. "Was your brother's death associated with the curse?"

"I…" he began and closed his mouth again. He was shaking now. And sweating. A reaction to being drunk? I didn't know.

I waited, silent, listening to my inner alarm growing steadily louder. Now I could see the same black ribbons circulating through his aura. The same ribbons I had seen in others. Ribbons I had rarely, if ever, seen before.

"What happened to your brother?" I pushed.

"I…can't…speak about it."

He voice sounded strangled, as if his throat had suddenly been restricted.

"Mr. Thurman, are you okay?"

He looked at me with pleading eyes.

Then he gasped once, twice, and seemed to find his breath. "I'm…never okay, my dear."

"I don't understand – "

"The curse," he gasped, and his voice seemed to restrict again.

The ribbons of ethereal darkness swelled a little more, looking more like black snakes now, weaving through his aura, in and out, in and out.

"What about the curse, Mr. Thurman?"

He began shaking. He reminded me of my son when he was fighting off his sickness. Cal Thurman was fighting something. What it was, I didn't know.

He suddenly opened his eyes wide, gasping. "It has us all, Samantha. It controls us all. We are not free. We are never free. Please help, please – "

The black snake that had been circulating through his aura, rose up suddenly. I saw its dark, diamond-shaped head moving rapidly through the man. It rose higher and higher – and plunged into his throat.

Cal gasped and grabbed his neck.

Now the snake coiled around and around his throat like a boa constrictor, squeezing tighter and tighter. Cal gasped and lurched to the side, screaming. In a blink of an eye, his aura went from pale blue, to deep black, and as I screamed for help, Cal Thurman looked at me with pleading eyes, and then quit breathing.

Forever.