I almost lost the trail. Here it is, a bit of pink thread, the right shade for the child’s skirt on a tangle of rusted junk. The sun threatens to set, warm light giving a soft glow to the glitters of glass along the sides of the alley. Which way?
The old man returns, stepping out from the shadows. I suddenly smell old paper and hear something rustling. The stern lines on his face are softer, looking oddly gentle. Tired, maybe.
“I’m close, I can feel it.” I say.
He looks down the alley, glancing over his shoulder at the decrepit house with the creaking swing set, then back ahead of himself, his eyes resting on a bus stop’s advertisement, some hotline number for those in crisis. “You need to know where to go.”
“We’ll find her. She went one way or the other, she wouldn’t have had a lot of time before dawn to get to her mama.”
Pa smiled softly, “Well, when you find it, it will feel like you’ve been there before.” He’s gone again. He seems to be fading. Doesn’t seem to make as much sense as he used to. Unless he means that’s part of their magic he told me about. That charming thing they do.
I look at the old swing set. I bet the little leech used to play on that. I step carefully through the cut fence. I can feel them. This place hums with suck, a sickly aura that saps you right down.
I look through the little broken window on the door, down a hall stained dark and trashed by squatters. For a second, I hear a woman screaming, and have a flash, a weird impression of a beautiful woman standing in the middle of the hallway, a child hiding in the corner behind her, the woman holding a baseball bat, her face distorted with rage and hatred. Must be haunted.
I enter the hall, start looking around for places you might be able to hide from the sun. Basement seems too obvious a choice to really be safe, but I’m not so sure these things run on a fully working brain. They seem kind of like animals, might be working on instinct alone, brain trashed when they stop being human. Steps are probably in the kitchen.
Kitchen seems familiar. Did I dream of this tile? That’s right. The old man told me. The right place will feel like deja-vous. I pull out my Maglite and start down the stairs. There they are. Two piles of freshly turned earth. Just like I knew there would be. I grab my stake, and head toward the shallow grave of the bitch monster who killed my wife and daughter, the one I will kill or die trying.