Crispin Falls

Harvey Moss is a P.I that works within the realms of the Supernatural. But times are hard for Harvey as the work has dried up and he's addicted to demon blood.
To escape his demons (literally) Harvey accepts a job to investigate the mysterious deaths of Magician's assistants in the rural town of Crispin Falls, the very place where Harvey was born and raised. The very place that Harvey has been trying to escape from his whole life...

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2. The Road

I swore I’d never go back. But the past has a way of never being too far behind. It lingers all around. Like a scratch you cant reach. A well that never dries. It sits in the background. Undisturbed for years. But it’s always there. Ready to give you a nudge in the ribs if you hadn’t thought about it for a while. Like Hey I’m still here, remember that time. It’s your partner in your job. It’s your fancy piece that shares your bed. It makes you who you are. It stains you. It sticks to your skin. You wear it like a badge. It lingers like the smell of a men’s bathroom in a whorehouse.

I’ve always tried to escape mine. Hide from it. Drown it with liquor and whatever other vices that might do the trick. And for a while there, I thought I had gotten away with it. Thought I had killed it. But then that letter bought it back to life. Gave it strength. Gave it legs. And now it had a free bar in my brain and everything that I had forgotten was ordering in doubles at a time.

The Buick was doing a steady sixty and I’m wasn’t asking her for anymore. I had got out the apartment easy enough. Al Dragon hadn’t got me yet. I had been lucky with the lights and had gotten out the city in record time as well. Hadn’t had time for that soak. Now the car hummed with the swamp smell and my eyelids had weights on them. I needed some shuteye. But I couldn’t think about that right now. I needed to get far way first.

The two way that I had acquired from some old cop friends was switched off. Wasn’t scouting for work anymore. The radio was whispering but I didn’t turn it up. It wasn’t jazz so I weren’t interested. Plus I had more troubles on my mind than what racket was playing.

Twenty-one years. That’s how long it had been. But it felt like only yesterday. Everything did when you remembered it so clearly. It was like your first whiskey or your first blowjob. Natalie Thompson. That was a fair while back. Boy she had had a body like an hourglass and a mouth like a sweet shop. I’d forgotten all about her. She had been my piece when I was a young recruit. Hadn’t lasted long. Broads and me never did.

I had never told her about my past. Never told her about where I had come from. Where I was born and raised. The town of Crispin Falls. Heck I’d never told anyone about any of that and with good reason. Crispin Falls wasn’t on the best places to live in America list. And who would want to know the things I did? The things I had seen. The shit I had run away from. The stuff I had never wanted to go back to. I kept people out of it for their own good. Broads had called me cold. Shut off. Maximum security. Yeah well with good reason honey.

I checked the watch. Just past three. I thought about the recently made widow that I had created. She’d still be up waiting for her husband. Kids long in bed. Only the radio to keep her company. Her worries increasing by the minute like a boiling pot. I am sorry. Truly. I didn’t mean to.

The letter sat on the passenger seat with my trilby on top. It flapped in the breeze from the open window. Black ink. Scribbled writing. Looked like it had been done in a hurry. I picked it back up again and pushed it against the wheel. It was only me on the road.

The letter was from an old school buddy of mine. A kid named Hank Reno. He had been a pudgy thing with a knack of getting picked on by the older kids. But we had each other’s backs. You had to have someone watching your back growing up in Crispin Falls. I hadn’t thought about him in years. It had been so long ago. But now I saw his freckled, tubby face staring back at me. I wondered if he had filled out now. Lost the weight. I wondered why the fuck a smart kid like him had stayed in Crispin Falls.

Now Hank was a cop. Beats me to know why. In that town nothing was going to be solved by the dozen or so dead beats why had posing as the official police department. The town had run itself. The town’s people just let someone be sheriff so it seemed like someone was in charge.

Hank didn’t mention that he was the sheriff. So it was a sure bet that he weren’t. Usually that’s the first thing bozos tell you. And if he was writing to me asking for my help, he didn’t have any problem with going over the sheriff’s head. No cop would want a private eye snooping around. Especially one that knew all about Crispin falls and its dirty little secrets. I was going to ruffle up some feathers that was for sure. But there was no change there. I had a face, which guys liked to pick a fight with. Suppose my mouth didn’t really diffuse any situation either though.

I could almost taste Hank’s desperation in the ink. He had found himself on a case, which was proving to be too much for the little police of Crispin Falls to handle. A case that was pulled right from the book of weird itself. A case that was even strange for Crispin Falls. Now that was a case that intrigued me. I told you before that I was a magnet to this kind of freaky stuff. But the freaky stuff was also a magnet for me. Like we were born together and separated but had never really been apart.

Hank had remembered that I had gone down to prove myself a big fancy cop in the city and made some calls. He had run into a few dead ends and people that threatened to break his nose if he ever mentioned me again. Usual husbands that didn’t want to admit that they had once had a paranormal problem. That involved sweeping the paranormal under the rug as well as me. He eventually found out that I was a private eye who played around with the weird and wacky for a handsome paycheck. Hank had managed to find me even when I didn’t want to be found. Maybe he was a better detective than I was.

He ended the letter saying he hoped I could help but he knew it was a long shot. And it would have been a longer shot had he wrote to me on any other day. I would have not even opened the letter any other day. Probably would have burned it in my fireplace and watched it fizzle away with a scotch in my hand. But seeing as this was the night where everything was going bad to shit, he was in luck. I was coming to help out. Or hide away. But maybe I could do both at the same time. And all I would do is charge for my gas money and the bill for the motel.

It was another hour when I finally reached the state border. Knowing that it would be another half day of driving before I had my homecoming, I parked the car off the beaten track and decided to settle down for a few hours. At least to the sun woke me up. At least I hoped it would be the sun that woke me up. To make sure, I surrounded the car in the rock salt that I kept in the emergency suitcase. Then sprinkled parsley leaves across the circle as well. This time I was extra careful where I was treading. When I was satisfied that no demon or anything else would be able to get the jump on me. I got back in the Buick and screwed up in a ball with my trilby pulled over my face. I slept on seventy percent. With the other thirty awake incase of emergency. I’d been doing it for years and had now gotten used to it. I had a little name for it that I had made up. A Limbo nap.

It was seven when the sun came up and the journey started back up again. Over the next day I saw countryside’s, small towns, big towns, gas stations, roadside dinners. Waitresses that were all smiles and tits. All wishing me a merry Christmas and all wondering why a handsome man like me was doing all this driving on Christmas Day. I made up some bullshit story about a travelling salesman getting back to his family as soon as possible. That shut most of the broads up. I tipped big and that shut them up even more.

But as I sat in those dinners, eating and drinking my way through the emergency fund of money. I always had one eye on the doors. Checking to see if a clan of demons didn’t burst in at any moment and drag me out. Take me out the back or push me into a car and take me back to their big bad boss. It didn’t make the burgers taste good and the coffee was a shit substitute for liquor or even better, blood.

It was getting dark that Christmas night when I stopped in a gas station for some fuel and a leak. The toilet was a narrow box that stood away from the court. As the black guy filled the Buick to the brim, I got the key from him and went for my leak. I was spraying into the scummy hole when the door handle behind me started jittering. Like someone was trying to get in. They were persistent. Must have really needed to go.

“I’m in here. I’ll be out in a sec”

 

But the door handle still carried on being pulled down. I zipped up my pecker and looked at the door for the moment. Could it have been them already? Were they already on my tail? I hadn’t stopped driving for nearly a day now. Didn’t Al Dragon have better things to do than chase one guy for a bit of demon blood? Its not like his veins weren’t swimming with the stuff.

 

“I said I’ll be out in a minute buddy”

 

The door continued to shake. It was getting more wild. Soon the greasy door would be off if this carried on. I leaned on the door and held the door with one hand and the lock with the other. There was someone on the other side for sure. I could hear heavy breathing. Footsteps on the gravel. On the count of three, I twisted the lock and burst out of the door.

No one there. No one but my Buick parked up and the attendant putting the nozzle back in its place. He wiped his hands on his overalls as I approached. Expecting a little Christmas tip.

 

“You try and get in that toilet when I was in there?”

 

This young kid looked offended. But he also looked at me as if I was from the nut house. He may have had a point.

 

“No sir, we only got one hole. I knew you were in there cause I gave you the key”

 

I didn’t answer back. I chewed my lip and had another quick look around. We were now surrounded by darkness. The sun had finished his shift and the night, which hosted much of my work, was on duty. Great.

I gave the kid what I owed him plus something for his trouble and moved on. Eager to get away from the gas station and back on the road where I could see whatever was coming at me.

The next few hours’ drive seemed to take forever. It does when you are constantly checking the mirror. Half expecting something to come up from behind you. I should know. That has happened to me a fair few times. First there had been the banging from the trunk and now the phantom peeping tom trying to get in the john. Maybe it was the blood? It had to be right? I had been going steady on it for months now. That kind of thing cant just be nipped in the bud without some sort of bite back. I put it down to that and carried on driving. I hoped it was that.

Eventually I crossed another state line. The car knew where it was heading even though I hadn’t been this way in twenty-one years. I guess there were certainly things you never forgot. No matter how hard you tried.

The roads got thinner and the lanes more narrow as I approached my hometown. I’d see some sign soon that was for sure and through the tall pine tress, which loomed large, I did. The tall bridge that bonded Crispin Falls with the rest of the world poked through like a giant eyesore. Dread hit the belly and pain stroked the temples as I saw it. Was I really do this? Is this what it had come to? Hiding out in the worst place imaginable? The place I had said goodbye to all those years ago.

Over the years I hadn’t missed it. Not one bit. But I had learned from it. I had taken it with me. Built my career around it. And now I was back. With all my lessons from the big city in hand. But also all my troubles. But they didn’t match anything that this place had. This place could dish out far worse than anything that I had seen already.

I slammed the brakes on at the start of the bridge. The headlights shone up the wooden planks that lined it. Darkness everywhere else. The water below remained a surprise for those who didn’t know about out kooky little town. The bridge swerved a little. The wind had picked up in Crispin Falls. I eyed the sign that stood next to the bridge. Welcome to Crispin Falls. Population twelve thousand. Yeah twelve thousand and dropping.

Should I carry on driving? Forget about Hank Reno and his begging letter and find somewhere else to hide away. It crossed my mind. More than once. I had not been back here for so long. Seemed wrong now to stroll back in. But the case intrigued me. It drew me. A case always did. I was my own worst enemy when it came to that. I had to know what was going on. Crispin Falls or not. I slammed my foot on the gas and sped across the bridge. Still didn’t like it from all those times I had rode my bike across it as a kid. You can do this Harv, I told myself. You’re a big boy now. Grow a pair and get on with it.

Brady’s Roadside Inn was a pretty a site as a summer breeze on a sticky morning. It sat where it had sat all those years ago. Just off the road a little, in a patch of gravel and brown grass that hadn’t had any water for a few seasons. Its red sign caught my eye. And the hanging vacancies sign that swung underneath made me thank someone under my breath. Although I’m not sure it was god. I had a few things to bring up with the lord old mighty if I ever met him.

It was made up of a line of little rooms with a reception at the end. I counted the rooms as I parked up against the first door. Only six. Crispin Falls had never been a tourist trap that was for sure. The Buick was the only car in the lot. The only light was the one that was stuttering from the porch. Leaving my junk in the car, I headed to the door marked reception. The vacancies sign squawked in the slight wind. I wondered if it would still be the same old woman that owned it all those years back. Her name, Brady, was still scrawled on the sign.

It sure was. Mrs Brady sat behind the desk. A service bell near one and a cup of something near the other. She looked up at me as the door triggered the bell that rang through the little reception. It was stuffy inside. I hoped the rooms weren’t as clammy. A fan hung from the ceiling but had no life. Cobwebs sprang from it and ran in each direction. The walls had turned to a yellow but had once been painted white. It was late at night on Christmas Day but this old lady was still up. Watching over her old, dead motel.

 

“Good Evening Mam. I was hoping you’d have a room for me for a few nights”

 

I didn’t say any longer. Never know if I would have to make a quick escape. Either from Al Dragon or something in Crispin Falls. I had chosen Brady’s Roadside Inn because it was on the outskirts of town as well. Nice and quiet.

 

“We always got rooms here sweetie. Don’t get a lot of visitors in out fair town. Heck not this time of year anyway. Bit late to be travelling on Christmas day isn’t it?” she said, not looking up at me. Her head still in some knitting she was doing on her lap.

 

Did this old bint want my business and money? I was cranky. Worn. I needed a soak and my eyes needed to look at something other than empty road. I gave her the usual story about travelling salesman and dug into my wallet and last of my emergency fund. Would have to ask Hank Reno for an advance tomorrow.

 

“Sign in the box if you would”, she said spinning the guestbook so it was facing me.

 

I put the pen to the guestbook and thought about wherever to put my real name down. I didn’t want every gossip in town to know I was back. Talk spread like wildfire in this town as it was. And the mention that Harvey Moss was back in good old Crispin Falls would alert certain people. People I wasn’t keen on running into. A certain someone in particular. But I needn’t have come up with the fake name of Alfred Whistleworth because before I wrote a stroke Mrs Brady placed a withered hand across the book.

 

“Well I’ll be dammed. It’s you isn’t it. It’s Harvey Moss”

 

I looked up at the old bat with her beehive of white hair and black round-rimmed glasses. She had a smile, which looked like all her numbers had come in. Few teeth remained in her mouth.  The ones that did were black and yellow.

 

“It is you. I thought I recognized those peepers. You got the same lovely green eyes as you did since you were a babe in arms. And you still walk the same. That little funny walk that looked like you always had a surprise in your diaper. Stand up straight Harvey Moss, let me have a look at you”

 

Mrs Brady lifted up the hatch and shuffled over to my side. I didn’t know about any funny walk but for some unknown reason I found myself obeying the old crow and standing up straight and looking at her.

 

“You remember me Mrs Brady?”

 

“Well heck, of course I do Harvey. It was like it was yesterday when you used to hide out the back in the lot and smoke those cigarettes. I never told your mother. Boys will be boys I say”

 

That must have been thirty years ago. But Mrs Brady hadn’t aged a day. She was exactly how I remembered her. She was old then. And she was old now. She even wore the same clothes. A knitted cream white jumper and a skirt that touched her pink slippers. Barmy Brady the kids had called her. I wondered if they still did. Barmy Brady who ran the spooky motel. Never any guests because she would eat them all. You know the usual kid stuff.

She looked me up and down. Pulled off her glasses and then put them back on again. She noticed how I had filled out. Got tall. How handsome I was now. She patted dust and dirt from my lapel and pinched my cheek. Her hands smelled of stale cigarettes.

 

“Hank told me you might be coming. But I’d thought you stay with your mother. I see her from time to time. Well as much as I see anyone on the edge of town like I am here. She’ll be pleased that you’re back”

 

“No” I cut Mrs Brady off sharply, “I won’t be staying with my mother. Here is fine. It’s important that I stay out of town. So no one can disrupt my investigation you see”

 

She nodded. Her small frame shuffling. She went back to her side.

 

“It's been hard on her since you’ve been gone Harvey”

 

“I’m sure”, I said under my breath and wrote my name, my real name since Hank had ruined that game, on the free square in the guestbook.

 

I noticed that I was the only guest on the whole page. Being a snoop, I waited until Mrs Brady was pre-occupied with cleaning her specs and then flicked through the last few pages. All empty boxes. Not one single name. Business had sure been slow. Dead even. Barmy Brady indeed. I slammed the book shut and slid it back towards her.

 

“So Hank told you I was coming?”

 

I sure didn’t like the fact that he had been running his mouth of around town already. He had always been a blabber when we were kids. Shit scared of everything. Running to teachers and parents on every turn. You couldn’t be like that if you were going to grow up here. Surprised me that he was a cop. Thought of him as a librarian or something. Head had always been wedged in a book.

 

“He’s in a right mess over these horrible murders Harvey. I am sure glad you have come all this way to help him out”

 

Mrs Brady knowing more about the case than I did really got up my nose. Who exactly was the investigator here? Crispin Falls. Gossip capital of the world. That’s what I liked about living in a big city. I was the outsider there. I courted with the weird and no one took a second glance. No wanted to take a second glance. Here it would be on the front page by morning so everyone could read it with their eggs. In Crispin Falls, the residents would happily spread murder over their slice of toast. They lap it up like hungry dogs.

 

“Such pretty young things as well. Sure was terrible to watch”

 

“You were there?”

 

“Everyone was there for the first one. It was the biggest show in town. You know how everyone in this town loves magic, Harvey. That hasn’t changed. And no one is better than Travis Daytona”

 

“Sorry who?”

 

Mrs Brady got lost in her own thoughts and checked her watch.

 

“My goodness”, she said, “would you look at the time. You must be famished. And you look like you need a good night’s rest Harvey Moss”

 

She went back round the hatch again and started to usher me to the door.

 

“Now I wont be charging you whilst you are staying with me. Not with you helping out Hank like you are. And what would your mother think of me if I did. No you can stay here as long as you want and I’ll leave some breakfast by your door tomorrow. Say eight. I expect you will be up nice and early to start sorting out this terrible situation we have found ourselves in”

 

“Its really not necessary Mrs Brady. I can pay my way”

 

I really couldn’t. But it was something you said right? Before I knew it I was outside with the key for number one in hand.

 

“Goodnight Harvey”, Mrs Brady said from her closing door, “Thank god you’re here”

 

She leaned back out one more time.

 

“Oh and if you hear some strange noises coming through the walls. It’s just the radio. I have to have it loud as I’m a little bit deaf”

 

Room One was the usual motel room. Double bed. Looked uncomfortable. Cheap sheets. Heater on the wall that wouldn’t be needed as it was as hot as the desert in the room. And by the looks of it, the thing was busted anyway. I flicked on the lamp that sat near the bed. It flickered once and then died. Great.

The room had a small window above the sink at the end of the room. Hoping for some air, I forced the thing open and poked my face out. The wind still carried heat. What was with this place? I stood there for a minute. Hoping for some freak snow or something. But I had never seen snow or even rain in Crispin Falls. Not once.

It was then that I saw it. I saw it and still couldn’t believe it. It was the wolf. It sat on its back legs. On the grass verge at the back of the hotel. It stared at me. The same yellow eyes. The same streak of black across the back. The same fucking wolf. Minus the body parts that he stole from me. He stared at me and I stared back. He shot his big head back and howled a long cry towards the sky. I stepped back and shut the window. He followed me across three states. A wolf. I’d never seen anything like that before. Had he not changed during the day and lost my scent? Or had he managed to somehow keep up with me? Was this a new breed I hadn’t come across before?

Another howl made me jolt. So much for a good night’s sleep. I pulled off my clothes and laid on the bed. Eventually the howls went away but the wolf still prowled in my head. I felt myself dozing off. I hoped that it wasn’t going to be another Limbo nap. I wanted to sleep. Wanted to dream about booze and broads and maybe a little bit of blood.

I was just about falling asleep when I heard the screams coming from the next room. Mrs Brady’s reception. Screams from her radio. Must have been some kind of play that she was listening to. Wild man’s screams. Sounded painful. Maybe it really was the radio. Maybe. Barmy Brady indeed.  Merry Christmas Harvey Moss. 

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