Tuesday, October 11, 2016

W. POTOCKI: Lucy Knows


Copyright © 2016 W. Potocki
“Sweet!” Angie Taft exclaimed.
The three-hour drive to Bedford, Vermont had been worth it. The ski lodge her boyfriend selected for the weekend getaway was perfect.
“You did good, Stevie,” she praised before dropping her bags and delivering a kiss.
 “Hey, you two—get a room,” Riley joked as he swaggered into the rental. He dispensed with his luggage and ski equipment and glanced around. “Not bad, but we need a fire.”
“Good idea,” his girlfriend Pam said, closing the door behind her and shutting out the cold. As she unzipped her parka, she gazed out the window at the picturesque view. “Don’t know how you came up with this place, Steve, but it sure is purdy.”
“It’s got everything the well-known resorts have at half the price,” he replied.
“Good thinking, my man,” Riley responded. “What’s the plan for tonight?”
“Well, it’s about 5:30, so what say we have some supper before heading into town and throwing back a few? Tomorrow, we hit the slopes early.”
Steve returned Riley’s approving high-five, but Angie’s voice interrupted the bromance from developing any further.
“Need to talk to you.”
Irritation was apparent in her tone. She got that way when pissed, but then she’d been bitchy all during the ride up—not that her boyfriend had noticed—much.
“Shoot,” Steve responded.
“I mean privately. Where’s our room?”
“That-a-way,” he indicated. Riley snickered as Angie hauled Steve out of the parlor and into the bedroom.
“Hey, what gives?” her boyfriend asked.
“The couple in the living room, that’s what!” she snapped.
“Riley and Pam?”
“Yes! It’s not that I don’t appreciate you bringing me up here, but why the hell did you invite them along? When you mentioned the trip, I thought it was going to be just us—as in you and me.”
“It helps with expenses. Besides, I thought you and Pam were friends.”
“We are, but haven’t you heard two’s company and four dampens sex? You know, that thing we haven’t done in a while?”
“We can hear you!”
Riley’s voice came through loud and clear. Angie was embarrassed but not enough to stop venting her frustration. Steve was the man she wanted to marry, but she barely saw him these days.  
“Guess you should have done this,” Steve whispered as he closed the door.
Her lips eased back in a sheepish grin. Snatching him by the front of his sweater, she indulged in a long, sticky kiss that sent a tingle up the inside of both her thighs. She leaned her head back and gazed up into those blue eyes that drove her crazy. “And that itinerary you provided? You left something out, you doo-doo head.”
“Really? What did I miss?” he asked as he rubbed his hands over her hips.
“It’s sex before dinner,” she purred as she pushed her lover boy on the bed and pretended the couple in the other room didn’t exist.
* * *
Steve’s black SUV made its way through the center of town. Everything pointed to this ski resort attracting loads of tourists, and yet the streets were practically empty, but it was their loss, and Angie and her friends’ gain.
“Anything looking good to you?” Steve asked the trio scouting for a bar to make their own.
“How about that one?” Riley suggested.
“Looks like a dump,” Pam dismissed. “But the place next to it looks kinda nice.”
“Yeah, it does,” Angie said, mulling the selection over. “Wait! What’s that one over there?”
“The one with the red neon sign?” Pam queried.
“Yup,” Angie replied.
“Lucy’s,” Riley read aloud. “What’s that thing under the name supposed to be?”
Steve chanced a few glances to his left.
“Looks like a bleeding heart,” he remarked.
“That’s what it is. A goddamned giant bleeding heart! I say we go there!” Angie insisted.
“Yeah, you’re into that horror shit,” Riley grumbled. “Lucky the Bates Motel isn’t an option.”
“On that note, and if there are no objections,” Steve replied as he popped on the blinker, “Lucy’s it is!”
* * *
 “Boston Lager all around,” Steve ordered as the four took seats at the bar. The fortyish man behind the counter fulfilled the request.
“So what do we think?” Steve asked as he gave the place the onceover.
“Think it looks better inside than out,” Riley answered. “With the name Lucy’s, I thought it’d be a frou-frou pick-up joint, but it’s hardcore classic.”
“Yup, and that includes the customers,” Pam agreed. “I’ll bet that guy slumped over the counter has been nursing the same whiskey for about ten years.”
“Yeah, and I’ll bet he tells the bartender the same bullshit sob story about how he never could keep a job, and how it was all the job’s fault and not his,” Steve joked.
The four laughed, but Angie’s attention was pulled away by something much more intriguing.
“What’s that?” she asked.
“A table and two chairs,” Steve answered as he palmed a handful of pretzels.
“Yeah, but one of those chairs is a rocker.”
“So?” Shrugging, he munched away.
“And you don’t find it odd?” she continued, not letting up.
“Nope,” he replied.
“I do,” Pam interjected. “Angie’s right. Having a rocking chair in a bar is weird. And why the rope sectioning the whole thing off?”
“Maybe it’s for people that don’t want to be bothered,” Riley surmised. Both women rolled their eyes.
“That makes no sense at all,” Angie retorted.
“Maybe the rocker is broken.”
It was Steve this time. Angie shoved his arm, letting him know what she thought of his analysis.
“It ain’t broke.” 
The deep voice got their attention; the bartender’s timing was excellent.
“No? Then why the rope?” Steve probed.
 “Because one of those is Lucy’s chair.”
“Lucy?” Angie queried.
“Slopers, huh?” the man asked accusingly.
The four shrugged. More of an explanation was needed for the remark.
Slopers is our word for skiers. We only get two kinds of tourists in Bedford: those that ski and those that come to see Lucy. Course, it’s Lucy that keeps most slopers away.”
The cryptic message rattled around in Angie’s head; she had no idea what the hell he was talking about.
“Allow me to introduce myself,” he said, brushing away the puzzled looks. “I’m Frank Holmstrom, the owner of this establishment. And you are?” he asked as he extended his hand.
“Steve Kent. This is my girlfriend Angie Taft, and that’s Riley Griffith and Pam Davis. And I’m guessing Lucy is your wife?”
“Nope, but she is close to my heart. I bought this place because I feel a special allegiance in keepin’ the Legend of Lucy Knows alive. You see, this used to be her home.”
Lucy Knows?” Steve repeated. “That was her name?”
“Yup. Lucy Carmindy Knows. Born in Bedford on December 5, 1879. She was a sweet, quiet child who never gave her parents a lick of  trouble, but all that changed at the age of fourteen when Tobias and Katherine’s only offspring showed signs of possessing a sixth sense. But it wasn’t your average intuition, and it caused her folks a heap of embarrassment. “
“Why?” Angie asked.
“Because her talent was sensing whether couples were cheating on one another. You can imagine the kind of fuss kicked up when the family was out at a social function, and their daughter would tell a spouse that her husband was having an affair with the maid—and be right.
“The name Lucy Knows took on a meaning all its own. ‘Lucy Knows,’ people would whisper to those doubting a partner’s fidelity, and before Lucy reached her sixteenth birthday, people were lining up at her door to find out whether their suspicions were true.
“Lucy helped as many as she could and always charged the same: one shiny copper penny that the customers would drop in the jar she kept on her table. That jar and that table right over there,” Frank said, indicating the roped off area.
“You mean, those things were hers?” Pam asked.
“Not were—are. After she died, no one wanted anything to do them. They believed them to be cursed.”
 “Cursed? Because she told people what they wanted to hear?” Steve interjected.
“No, because of the murders,” came the unexpected reply.
Snow and frigid air blew in the open door. A regular came in at an inopportune time but quickly read the signs of what was going on. The bar had gone unnaturally still, and it could only mean one thing. With a nod to Frank, he took off his hat and seated himself at an empty table.
“Tell us about the murders … please,” Angie pressed. She shifted her weight and started playing with her shoulder-length brown hair.
“The murders, huh? Well, as you can imagine, her fame spread beyond the town’s borders. Lucy had just turned eighteen when a well-to-do woman traveled all the way from New York City to speak with her. Veronica Larchmont was engaged to Prescott Ames, the most eligible bachelor in the country, but his good looks and money weren’t enough. She wanted a man she could trust and she wasn’t sure she could trust Scotto. So she came to Bedford and consulted with Lucy, who confirmed her worst fears.
“The minute Veronica returned to New York, she canceled the wedding and returned the ten-carat engagement ring. Prescott was furious when he learned the reason why. He swore that what Lucy said was a lie, but Veronica wouldn’t listen. ‘Lucy Knows,’ she kept repeating. Out of his mind with grief, he promised that Miss Lucy Knows would regret what she’d done.
“A scurrilous whispering campaign to impugn Lucy Know’s integrity was begun, one that accused her of consorting with demons and The Devil himself. It was meant to ruin her, but Lucy vowed that she would never let anyone or anything stop her from speaking the truth. Luckily, the people of Bedford refused to fall for the scheme. Lucy Knows had helped too many for them to turn their backs on her in her time of need.
“When the plot failed, a more sinister tactic was tried. To everyone’s horror, Miss Lucy Knows was found savagely beaten and stabbed to death in her own bed. An intruder had come in through an open window. Everyone suspected Prescott Ames, but with no clues, there were no arrests. Scotto got off scot-free.
“The girl that caused Prescott Ames problems was dead and he was exuberant, but not for long. Within the month, he was also found dead—in his townhouse, with his chest ripped open and his heart removed. Rumor had it that it was still beating when the police arrived.
“The strange thing is that the night Prescott died, Lucy’s parents swore they saw their daughter’s rocking chair move. It was enough to revive the rumor that Prescott started. Soon gossip was passed that Lucy had consorted with demons, and it was through those devils that she was brought back to life to seek revenge on the unfaithful. The story took hold when other men and women were found murdered in an identical fashion to Preston Ames. The curious thing was that they were all cheaters—ones that Lucy had warned her clients about.”
Frank leaned back as he and the patrons of the bar waited for a reaction. After exchanging glances with his friends, Steve gave them one. He started to laugh.
“You’ve gotta be kiddin’ me! I mean, it’s a great story, but do you actually think any of us is going to believe that nonsense?”
“Nonsense?” a soused redhead sitting at an adjacent table yelled out. “If you doubt the truth, you can try it yourselves,” she dared.
“Wait a minute! That’s why you have those things in the bar? To find out if partners are cheating?” Steve asked.
“Now you’re catching on,” Frank replied.
“I don’t want any part of this,” Pam said as she latched hold of Riley’s arm.
“Too chicken?” the redhead taunted. “I did it last month to see if this asshole was cheating on me,” she said, pointing at the bearded man sitting next to her. “I walked over and said, ‘Lucy, please tell me if my boyfriend Hank has been messing around with his skanky ex.’ It wasn’t but a second later the rocker started moving. Lucky for him, he wasn’t drilling for oil in somebody else’s well.”
“But how do you know?” Riley queried.
“He’s alive, ain’t he?”
Raucous laughter and several hoots erupted. It broke the tension and instilled a confidence in Angie.
“I’ll try it,” she announced. She had her doubts and was in the mood to put her boyfriend’s fidelity to the test. “If it’s all right with you, baby,” she remarked to Steve.
“Go for it,” he replied, giving her a slap on the butt to get her going.
“You coming?” she asked Pam. “You’ve got a boyfriend too, you know.”
Even with the crowd egging her on, Pam shook her head.
“Aw come on!” Angie begged.
“Fine,” her friend relented.
“Awesome! I’ll go first,” Angie said as she unhooked the rope and sat down. Digging out a penny from her pocket, she placed it in the jar. “Miss Lucy Knows,” she said, staring straight ahead at the empty rocker. “Please tell me if my boyfriend Steve’s been faithful. He’s been clocking a lot of hours lately, and I’d hate to think he wasn’t at work.”
A loud “uh oh!” came from somewhere in the crowd. Riley swung his arm over his buddy’s shoulders and waited. With a loud creak, the chair lurched forward and started to move.
“No way,” Angie whispered.
“Somebody’s pulling a string,” Steve accused.
“Nope, no string, son,” Frank replied. “It’s Lucy.”
The rocking only lasted a few seconds, but it was all it took.
“God, that was creepy!” Angie yelled as she sprang up. “Your turn.”
Pam’s head dropped as she made his way to the vacated chair. It didn’t take a genius to figure out she was as nervous as hell.
“Lucy Knows,” she started. “Is Riley cheating on me?”
With a loud creak, the chair began rocking.
Pamela brushed her wheat-colored hair away from her face as her eyes blinked in rapid succession. The tanned skin paled as her body began to violently shake. With a chilling scream, she began puking all over the floor.
* * *
 “You really believe something she ate this morning was responsible for her vomiting?”
Angie started in on Steve and Riley the minute they made it back to the lodge. Pam stayed out of the discussion by retiring to bed to recuperate.
“Yeah, sure. Why not?” Steve responded.
“Because it makes no sense,” she insisted.
“I think it does. What about you, Riley? Yeah or nay?”
“I agree with Steve. I told her not to eat those tacos, but there she went—scarfing ‘em down like there was no tomorrow.”
Angie’s abject disgust at the two yutzes standing before her was showing.
“You’re making that cat noise, Angie,” Steve reprimanded.
“What cat noise?”
“You know, the one you make when you tighten your lips and hiss air between your teeth.” He demonstrated until she held up her hand.
“Whatever, dude. I’m taking a shower and hitting the sheets.”
“Sounds good to me. I’ll be right up, and when I get there, maybe you can explain why you think this was Lucy’s fault.”
“I never said that!” she argued as Riley chuckled at his cohort’s assertion.
“You didn’t have to,” Steve continued, addressing his comments to his audience of one. “First, she doesn’t believe the urban legend. But now, because Pam paid the price for eating bad tacos, she’s ready to believe a ghost that stalks cheaters and removes their hearts is making someone sick. I mean, that wasn’t even part of the goddamned story!”
The laughter increased; Angie had had enough. If these two clowns didn’t understand that there was something weird about Pam getting violently ill, no amount of explaining would help. She hurried away as Riley sidled up to his friend and whispered, “She’ll get over it.”
“She has to,” Steve replied in a tone loud enough for her to hear. “It’s my car that’s bringing her home.”
* * *
The mattress was comfortable, but Angie had already tested it out with the session of impromptu lovemaking. She would have liked a part deux, but was too upset with her partner to consider it. Not one to hold back, she let him know how much she resented him making fun of her, but her words had no effect. He was soon asleep, but it wasn’t that easy for her. The heated argument was still swirling in her head—as was the story of Lucy.
Steve could joke all he wanted; there was something not right about the Legend of Miss Lucy Knows.
Muffled sounds from down the hall trickled under the door of the room. She put it down to imagining things, but the rustling didn’t stop. With Steve sound asleep, she slipped out of bed and into a robe, pulling on a pair of socks to ward off the chilliness of the floors. She padded down the dark corridor. A light was on in the kitchen. It was Pam.
“I thought I heard something.”
“Sorry. Thought some tea would settle my stomach,” Pam responded. “Water’s still hot.”
“Sounds good,” Angie replied. She covered the tea bag with water and let it steep while she settled next to Pam. “You feeling any better?”
“A little. Still weak, though.”
Angie patted Pam’s arm.
“Do you believe it was something you ate?”
“Don’t know what you mean,” the willowy blonde answered. She took another sip of tea.
“Don’t you?” Angie pressured. “You saw that rocking chair move. Do you think it was a trick?”
“Of course,” she exhaled. “What else would it be?”
“I don’t know,” Angie replied. “Thought maybe you could tell me.”
“Tell you what?” Pam’s blue eyes looked everywhere except at Angie.
“Nothing. Nothing at all,” she quipped, letting the subject drop. Picking up her mug, Angie saluted as she returned to bed leaving Pam alone.
* * *
Pam breathed a sigh of relief.
Even though she was sure she and Steve had been careful, she was uneasy being around her old friend. She could swear Angie had found out about the affair, but it was only a guilty conscience making her think that way. Besides, Stevie was worth the risk.
“Lucy Knows.”
“What?” Pam responded to the raspy whisper that seemed to come from everywhere.
The sound of footsteps in the parlor coupled with the door opening and closing pried her loose from her seat.
“Angie?” she called out as she walked into the living room and checked the front hall. Rubbing her arms only partially staved off the cold air that had gotten in. She ran to the window and pulled back a curtain, only catching a glimpse of the girl that could only be Angie rounding the corner and heading to the back. She pulled on a pair of boots and zipped up her parka over her nightgown. Wrapping a scarf around her neck, she dashed through the house and went out through the kitchen.
Once outside, a light popped on in the old shed behind the main house.
“What the hell is she doing?” she murmured as she set off across the snow-covered lawn.
* * *
The sunlight on Angie’s eyelids turned black to red. The tea had done the trick. She’d fallen asleep right after drinking it. She awoke slowly, the anger she felt at Steve gone with the new day.
They were even.
She left it at that as she rolled over and fit against him.
An uncomfortable sensation of wetness soaked her nightgown and crept its way onto her skin. Her eyes snapped open.
“Noooooooooooo!” she screamed as red jazz hands flailed in the air.
Steve was dead. Cut down the middle to his waist, his heart lay on the dresser, beating and warm. The knife used to slice him open was next to it. She screamed again; panic removing all thoughts except the compulsion to get away.
She raced into the hallway, almost colliding with Riley. She tried rushing into his arms for comfort, but he staggered back at the sight of her covered in blood.
“What the hell, Angie? What’s going on?”
 “Steve … he’s dead!” she cried hysterically. She ran her hand through her hair, matting it with red.
Riley checked to see if what she said were true. A second later, he emerged from the site of the slaughter, gasping for breath and fighting back vomit. “You killed him, Angie? Because you thought he was screwing Pam? That’s what you told me, Angie. That you thought they were hooking up.”
“Yes … I mean no! Yes, I said that, but, no, I didn’t kill him! Are you crazy thinking I’d do something like that?”
“Me crazy?” he retorted. “I’m not the one covered in blood and holding a knife.”
The knife.
She forgot it was in her hand. It was stupid picking it up. Releasing her grip, it clattered to the floor.
“I’m calling the police,” he threatened as he pivoted.
“You can’t!” she yelled as she tried to snatch hold of his arm. He pulled away just in time to avoid her touch.
“You keep the hell away from me. You took it too far,” he said, backing up. He needed that phone.
“I didn’t do anything. It was Lucy. She knew Steve was cheating.”
“Really? And Lucy killed Pam, too?”
“Pam?” she repeated.
“Yeah, she wasn’t in bed this morning, so I took a look around and found her by the shed.”  
“She’s dead?”
“Can’t live without a heart, Angie, but then you know that.”
“No!” she gasped.
“Yes! And if it wasn’t me responsible, then that leaves you.”
She collapsed on the scatter rug, breaking down into tears. Riley seized the opportunity and sprinted to his bedroom, locking the door behind him, but it didn’t matter where he went. The reality was that Lucy would track him down and wouldn’t stop there. It’s why Angie was so nervous.
The knife was missing from the spot it landed and it didn’t take long for a series of gut-wrenching screams to pollute the air before everything went dead.
The vague outline of a woman seeped through the locked door and drifted down the hall, the bloody knife that butchered Angie’s friends gripped in a transparent hand.
“Lucy, please!” she begged. “I’m sorry! Can’t you see I’m sorry?”
Yes, she’d slept with Riley, but she only meant to pay Steve back for screwing her best friend. Just silly payback to even the score.
A gleam of silver blurred as it swept in front of her eyes and landed in her chest. A burst of red sprayed into the air as she shrieked out in pain. The awful sound of ripping flesh and bone rang out as vacant eyes stared up into a demon’s face, and Angie’s cowered spirit repented of sin for the very last time.
“Lucy Knows,” the demon mumbled as she dug in her hands and ripped open Angie’s chest, taking out the beating heart.  

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Kyle Evans is a teenager who wants to be somebody. To achieve his goal, he joins a gang called Hell's Bells. While Kyle thinks he's arrived, he only finds danger.
The club is obsessed with finding thrills and taking chances, but Kyle's unaware that there's a price to pay. Up for a dare, he accepts a challenge that lands him on the wrong side of the supernatural.

I was raised by wolves in the deepest part of Siberia. My brethren taught me the mother tongue, so “AAAARRRRRROOOOOO” probably means something much different to me than it does to you.
Trivia: I’m part amphibian and part wolverine; the secret to my marinara sauce is adding a drop of menstrual blood to the stewing tomatoes, and I'm in the Guinness Book of Records for holding my breath the longest during Tobe Hooper films. When not writing, I am training a squirrel army to wage war against my neighbors. As to how I remain so spry, I’m one of the undead. If you know anything about horror, that explanation should suffice.
In truth, I live and write in NYC, and am the author of eight books. I won the honor of being named One of the Top Ten Best “New” Horror Authors by Horror Novel Reviews, and last year, I was an award-winner in the Male v Female Writing Competition hosted by J. Ellington Ashton Press. In terms of writing style, I was heavily influenced by Ira Levin. I loved the way his work developed around one central horrifyingly creepy idea and that blood and gore weren’t used to mask the enormity of it.
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