One Winter's Night

Richard Adams owned the bar on Stokie road where truck drivers looking for a quick bite and a little something to keep them warm, in the cold of Maine's winters would reside. The town's people had come here for years and many of them knew Richard and his wife personally. On a snowy Christmas eve, a young man had walked into the bar, having driven most of the night, and sat down. His dark hair and glasses, long trench coat and black leather gloves told anyone paying close attention that he had a few pennies to spend. Most of the town's people were hard working middle class citizens, who pride themselves on farming and making New England's most award winning chowders. The people of this area, were well known for being friendly and welcoming those looking to settle down and joining them in this rather slow but rewarding lifestyle. So as a gust of wind carrying clumps of snow, pounded against the windows of Adam's Inn, the door opened. Jets of cold air swirled around just outside and for an instant, only the few heads inside turned to greet the stranger.

He stomped his feet and after removing his gloves and shaking off the flakes of snow, smiled at those noticing and walked in, sitting down at the bar. Colored lights flickered inside and out. The Christmas spirit seemed more pronounced in the North, for some reason. It was like the people there held on longer and stronger, to the traditions now fading elsewhere. Richard's wife Claire had made mince meat pie and was already serving eggnog to anyone willing to help her pour it. Claire had married Richard 26 years ago, after he came to the office where her father, who owned "Mason's Meat Market", had her working since high school. She had long since decided to remain in Maine and help her father who had lost his wife, her mother, 6 years earlier to cancer. Richard was the kind of man with a soft heart and kind eyes, short but tall in spirit if you know what I mean. The two had raised two children, Eric who was 9 and Wanda named after her great grandmother was just turning 7 in five weeks.

The smell of pine cones and the natural scent of winter air, blew past Richard. As he looked over and after seeing the stranger look back and smile, he walked over. "Evening," the stranger said. There was a warm glow that seem to dance around the sides of his face. Eddie Rollins who had been a regular here at Adam's Inn, was first to jump up and head to the door to close it. The stranger seeing this, smiled and reached behind him, beating Eddie to the punch. "Damn door Richard!" Eddie said. "When yer going to get that thing fixed Richie, been over two years now?" he said. Eddie smiled a toothless grin over to where Richard, who had made his way over to where the strange sat. "I'll get it fixed the day you pay off your tab Eddie, and not a day before." The two men laughed out loud and it seemed to set off a chain reaction that spread quickly through the bar section of the inn.

The stranger however, didn't laugh. He didn't smile either. His expression if someone had noticed, was stripped of emotion. Not so much as a grin or anything. It was as if he hadn't been aware of the conversation at all, like a plug had been pulled from his alert mechanism and left on the floor. Richard stopped laughing and after taking a sip from a glass of his special holiday mixture, asked the stranger what he'd like. "A beer please, anything import," the man replied. He was now looking in the mirror behind the bar at his own reflection. "Sure thing, coming right up," Richard said. He walked over to where a six foot refrigerator with two wide glass doors, stored several styles of beer. He selected one, and after popping the top and pouring most of it into a glass gently slid it over to stranger. The man who walked into Adam's Inn, extended his hand to Richard and introduced himself. "It's Joey Nelson, if you care to know." he said. Richard paused for an instant, and shook the stranger's hand. "Well, it's Richard Adams, if you, my new friend, care to know." Joey who's slick city appeal had caught Richard's eye did smile this time.

The wind had picked up and despite the fire place burning and the cozy feel of Adam's Inn, there was a chill that seem to find its way through small cracks in the structure. "It's really pickin' up out there" Eddie said. He was sipping on another bottle of beer. "Bet you another beer it keeps going," he continued. Eddie had already had too much, but since he lived just down the road, Richard never worried too much. On a few occasions, Eddie littered with beer, would sometimes sleep in the small back room. Claire had made her way over to where Richard had just finished pouring himself a drink of his special cocktail and after licking his lips, smiled at her. "Been in that sauce of yours have you?" she said. His face instantly plastered with guilt. "Oh well you know hun, just keeping with the spirit is all." He looked over to where Eddie had over heard him and had lifted his beer in support. "Come on Mrs. A, let a man enjoy himself its Christmas Eve for Christ sake!" Eddie belched as he tried to add more to his protest, but Claire swift as she was, wasn't having it. "Well, Eddie since you choose to take sides, how about that tab of yours, feel up to paying it?" Eddie looked around, he saw Ralph Newton and Frank Glinns, both men looking back at him for his answer."Well, ah well Richard you really should watch how much you drink, sure its the eve and all, but listen to Mrs. A, she knows best and all." The bar laughed out loud and even Mrs. A joined in knowing that in the end, she'll always be right. Richard poured what little of his special drink into the sink, he turned and gave his wife a grin, then blew her a kiss.

Richard walked over to where Joey, who was still nursing the first import beer, sat. He was looking down at the glass and almost daydreaming. "You know, I tried that once." Richard said. He was standing and looking between the Inn's lobby and Eddie who had settled down and was talking to Mary Haywood who had come in for a night cap before heading home. "What's that?" Joey replied. "Oh you know, gazing into a beer hoping to see the future." He smiled amused by his own words. "No need for that," Joey said, "I've seen my future, its what it is. Nothing I can do about it now." he added. Joey never looked up, but he motioned to Richard for another beer. "Same one please," he said. "I rather like these."

Claire Adams had walked over to where Mary Haywood and Eddie were talking up a storm about Glenn Bumner. Glenn and his wife Taylor had moved into a new house on Oyster Street and apparently locked themselves out on the first night. Glenn tried to break the glass door and triggered the alarm. The police had come and caught Glenn's fat ass halfway out the etched glass window leading into the living room. What a sight to see, they say. It would have all been a rather dull story unless you had a few drinks in you, then things got really funny.

It was close to 8:30 pm before Joey Nelson decided to talk. Richard was still tending bar although Claire was sitting in for him as he made his rounds to the tables. It was something he enjoyed doing every year. Richard sat at the tables of his regulars and handed out envelopes with numbers on them. The numbers ranged between 1 and 50 and represented the number of free drinks you could redeem from the bar, only catch was you could only use one every other day. Richard Adams may have been a nice man, but he wasn't stupid. He handed out the gift coupons, shaking the hands of the men as he did so while kissing the few women there, on the cheek. They all clapped their hands and rejoiced continuing their secret party.

As Richard made his way back to the bar, he kissed Claire on the cheek and swatted her on the ass. She smiled at him and for a minute, forgot where she was. She started to reach for his groin area, then caught herself. Eggnog can make you do that. "You two love birds need to get a room!" Mary shouted. She was wrapping up a bottle of wine to take home and was at the same time, pushing Eddie away who was hoping to join her. Mary waved to everyone wishing all a Merry Christmas. She headed out the door, slamming it shut tight behind her. Took Mary another 15 minutes to realize, that the only family who mattered, were at the Inn. She turned around and walked back in to where Claire was standing and waiting with open arms. "Get over here you, stay awhile." Claire said. Mary walked over feeling a little ashamed, and hugged Claire closely. "I love you Claire" she said. "I know Mary, we love you too." Claire replied. "Now, sit down and celebrate with us. I won't take no for an answer." she added.

Joey had taken this opportunity to motion Richard over to where he was now standing. He had lit a cigarette and after blowing smoke away from himself out of the corner of his mouth, picked his teeth with his finger nail and tried to smile. Richard didn't care for that grin of his. There was something about it he didn't like. "I'm guessing that you and your friends are quite a group here, real family I bet," he said. Richard looked around the bar and noticed his friends off doing what they do. He smiled at the years past and the fun they all shared. He looked back at the stranger, not so much a stranger anymore and replied. "Yeah, you can say that, we are a family and quite close." Joey leaned back in the bar stool, and after tilting his head to the ceiling, blew out a ring of smoke signals. "I must say, you've got one very special life going for you here Everything's nice and cozy, a real peach of a wife and I must say, a group of real true to life friends." Richard returned the remark with a gentle smile of pride. Deep inside his mind however were the workings of suspicion, that while he had heard what the stranger Joey had said, understood it all, but it just had an odd feeling to it.

Howling winds had picked up and the forecasters on both local and national news, talked of more snow. Another two feet said one, eighteen inches another. Most of the major roads leading out of the cities in New England, were packing with travelers trying to leave the city, and locals trying to get home. Route 12 and highway 233 was backed up for miles, some drivers had pulled over to small motels, cashing in for the night. Other choose to ride out the storm in their cars with little or no food or communication. Phone lines had frozen and even some of the main power lines leading to and from the smaller towns, were down. Police with SUVs were scouting many of the smaller roads looking for those in need. It was officer Pete Edwards who was first to come upon a small red BMW. It was a snazzy two seater with a V8 engine. It had happened upon a snow drift and had it not been for the color, he may never had seen it until morning. As he approached the vehicle, he noticed the driver's head was back in a resting position. Pete quickly notice the dead sound from the engine, not running, no heat. He walked to the side and looked over to see the driver was no longer going to need any heat.


His name was Keith Tellion, 48 years of age, a wife and two small girls. He was more then likely on his way home to them when he decided to pull over to the side of the road on Christmas eve, and after removing the 9 mm pistol from the brown coat he wore, inserted it into his mouth and pulled the trigger, Merry Christmas.


Jingle Bells by some old singer in the 1940's was playing for the fifth time in Adam's Inn. Claire had made Richard promise to close early this year, this time they wanted to be home for the Merry Hour. Before the kids came, he and Claire would spend Christmas making love in one of the rooms here, in the Inn. One year they even dressed as Mr. and Mrs. Claus, just for effect. But those crazy days had passed and with children, and boxes of gifts to wrap, there wasn't much time for private fantasies. And then there's the Inn and bar to run. Heaven knows that took most of their time alone. So as the hours closed in on the eve, many of their friends who weren't too drunk to drive, started making their way towards the door.


Niki Stevens, a mother of three and godmother to her sister Amy's young son Thomas, was found with a single gunshot wound in her back. She apparently was heading out to the garage where her husband had stock piled fire wood for aging. He had phoned her earlier and was still complaining about the traffic when she hung up. Her body was found face down in the snow. Inside, three children slept quietly. Visions of dreams and sugar plums, danced in their heads.


The snow had come in from all sides now. It was as if nature had decided to play games this Christmas eve. Outside Adam's Inn, a few truckers had begged Richard to put down a few cots so as to afford them a place to sleep. The most hardend drivers knew better then to tempt weather like this. Claire had looked over at Richard awaiting his answer to Delvin Rills' request. What was he going to say? Sorry pal, no room? Would love to but it's Christmas eve and me and the wifey would love to go home to the kids and wrap gifts, drink more egg nog and fuck until morning? How could he? Richard wasn't the type. He just couldn't bring himself to say no to anyone and it was this very trait that helped Claire fall in love with him so many years ago. "Okay Delvin, have the boys come in and I'll set you guys up a spot, no sense trying to move in this, it looks really crazy out there and my bones tell me its going to get worse." Richard said. He was looking over at Claire who after hearing his reply, stormed off. She was pissed, but she of all people understood. She walked over to the telephone behind the bar and after pausing for a minute, picked it up and called her sister's house. Paula was, among other things, her best friend. She was the only person outside their father, she trusted with her children. Having her as a sister , made things even better.


Tracy Witfield a native of Maine and Ms. Lonely for the last eight years running, walked upstairs of her two-story home over looking the "Green Valley" so the towns people called it. A slow ascension, highlighted with unopened gifts tucked neatly under the tree decorated by her for her. Her slender legs and long dark hair reflected a witching image made in shadows, against the wall. She'd cut out most of the lights, except for those lighting the tree and several candles. Upstairs in her bathroom, more candles lit the large room. A circular tub filled with hot water and bubble bath, awaited. She slowly removed her bath towel allowing it to collect at her feet. A glass of wine from her grandfather's vineyard accompanied her. She had pulled her hair up into a bun, fastening it neatly. So as she laid motionless in her sea of bubbles, she once again thought back. It was him again she envisioned. He was Ronald Tremms, born on the wrong side of the tracks, or so some might think. She was 18, he was 22. In the Summer of 75 all was forever, dreams and worries were set free for the sake of emotions and love. For several weeks, Tracy had held the world at bay. Her life would have been completed had it not been for that awful morning, the damn Sunday morning when the news of Ronald's car being found off the very cliff of Green Valley. It didn't help that he died not with Tracy, she of all would have even welcomed that, but it was Ronda Williams who got the chance to spend all of eternity with Ronald, by sharing their deaths. So a few short years later, Tracy had this house built just to keep watch over the spot were her lover left her.

The water was warm and comforting. A pair of legs, skin like milk broke through the white foam and stretched apart. She leaned back and placed her neck against the white marble. A warm glow from the candles, danced on the ceiling. Outside, the wind howled against double paned windows. She looked over to see the snow fall, a fresh batch collecting on the window seals. Inside, all the warmth you could ask for, painted a Summer of 75. A few more sips of wine and Tracy slid her hands between her legs and played with herself. She touched herself with images of Ronald holding her, kissing her and wanting her. She touched herself with the dreams and plans she had for the two of them in the years before them. She played with notion that her first born would be a little girl, with her lips and Ronald's eyes. She believed that they were meant to be and that time had cheated her. She bought herself to a climax as the final thought was that of Ronald kissing her, telling her he was sorry. She had finished the glass of wine and opened her eyes in time to form two streams of tears rolling down her face. How long had it been? How many years would it take? How much longer shall she continue to back herself into a corner of lost love. She looked over to the empty glass, a drop or two of the Merlot left. She picked it up by the stem, and cracked it along the side of the tub. A jagged piece had broken off, sharp and shiny. She took it and screamed out as she ripped one of he veins, tossing the glass against the wall. Minutes ticked away as she laid there, waiting for her outcome. "Not much longer" she whispered. "I'm coming my darling, not much longer."

It would be another 40 minutes before Tracy would find out if Ronald, was indeed waiting for her. It would be a shame to see him again in the arms of Ronda Williams, locked forever together for dying together. As the final minutes of Christmas Eve ticked away, and Tracy had crossed over into the world of the dead, a phone call came to her house. It was Sam Franklin. He had a crush on her since high school and after one failed marriage, and two little girls he was hoping to get back on the horse. A shy and respectable man, he was. He had just come back into town this afternoon and with the traffic backed up, was looking for some company. Tracy's friend Susan had bumped into him earlier and took it upon herself to give him her number. He smiled with excitement hoping to see Tracy again. After 23 years, he still had a crush on her.


Eddie had managed one more drink from Claire, he promised her he would leave afterwards seeing that he lived less then a mile away. The small house just right of Freemont Rd. had once belonged to his father. Eddie moved in shortly after his father's death in '89 and made the place his own. With no wife in sight, Eddie settled on going it alone with close friends and plenty of beer drinking times, on days off. His life had become one big mess, but despite it all Eddie was well liked and the Adam's had made him one of the family. If Eddie had one gift, it was engines and his knack for them. Eddie could tell you the size of an engine block, by the sound of the oncoming vehicle. One afternoon, he and Richard, along with Glenn Bumner, sat out for 3 hours testing Eddie's knowledge. Richard had promised Eddie three beers for every car he got right. After the fifth car driven by Sally Milton, the boys gave up. Richard wasn't about to give away the Inn's bar and Glenn who always thought of food, was getting hungry.

Joey, having sat for a few hours observing the ongoing at Adam's Inn had decided to go. He had seen enough of this bunch of odd ball group of people. They were close all right, too close he thought. He looked around at Claire and Richard, helping Delvin and some other drivers, set up for the night. Four cots all lined up in a row, it looked liked boot camp he thought. Richard had walked over and asked if he needed a place to stay. The look in his eyes was of concern. He was checking in and looking out for everyone, a true Adam's trademark. "No thanks friend, I have some place to be and I must get there, but thank you so much for the offer," he replied. "Well, there's plenty of room friend, you are always welcome should the storm change your mind." Joey smiled a little and finished his last drink, placing the bottle on the bar and giving a slow silent wave. He stood up and reached for his black trench coat. Claire had walked over to Richard and placed her arm around him, hugging tightly. She smiled at Joey as he finished putting on his gloves and bidding everyone a very Merry Christmas, outside the storm continued.


Route 36 zigzagged into highway 236 East. The highway had all but come to a dead stop as those traveling it had pulled over to rest stops while others canceled travel all together. Exit 21 off highway 236 would take you into Farmsdale County. Once there, a left turn at the second light would lead you to Helmer Ave., four houses up and to the left, the home of Gary Fisher. Gary had been a native of Farmsdale for 53 years. His mother worked as a school teacher. His father had answered Uncle Sam's calling and paid for it with a bullet to the head while on guard duty. Gary's mother would later retire and while watching her favorite television program, quietly and peacefully joined her husband. Gary had once decided to sell the house and move out West to where his cousin Alfred lived with his two boys and a dog named Willy. Gary later changed his mind and decided to fix the place up. He kept his parents room just as mom had left it. He extended the garage and turned it into a den. His old bedroom became a reading room and office. As for sleeping, well old Gary hadn't done much of that in the last ten years. A nasty back injury, had put an end to all those former restful nights. Nowadays, he spent them sleeping in the very chair his mother had closed her eyes for the last time in.

The smell of pine and tree sap had perfumed the basement where, Gary had walked down to. In the corner, a bicycle built for two had rusted from years of neglect. The workbench in the opposite corner had collected more dust then saw dust in the several years it sat unused. A wooden box used for holding machine parts marked "property of U.S Army" had splintered and aged. Gary looked at it and thought once more of his father. He walked over to a toolbox and opened it. Inside were old rusty tools. A hammer made of iron and some old nails. He also noticed some wrenches and a pair of pliers, locked tight from rust. Just above an old light switch, was a photo of his father. The image was that of a lanky man leaning against the side of a red brick building. He wore a Fedora hat and looked as if he was dressed for church. There was a crooked smile matted on his face and his eyes seem to be watering. Gary had forgot all about this photo, hadn't seen it in years. Now that he thought about it, he hadn't come down here in the years after his mother's passing.

The heavy snowfall had blocked off the basement's windows, sealing out light and reflection. The years had come and gone for Gary. A house of love, then pain had become of it. Had this been a life worth saving? he thought. This time of the year was for giving and sharing, for celebrating the gift from God to mankind. All the world had waited for the moment, for the sounds of laughter and the hugs and kisses that came from little hands, ever so happy for the gifts left behind.

The rope was old, but strong enough. He flung it over a wooden beam just above the light hanging in the middle of the basement. Removing the tools and parts, he pushed the wooden box to where one end of the rope, was now tied in a noose. Gary Fisher, slipped his head into the opened end and pulled tight. He steadied himself upon the box and hummed the First Noel, as he kicked it away. The only flash thought that came to mind was his mother's sweet smile.


Joey Nelson, having brushed away the still mounting snow on his windshield, started the BMW sedan and backed out of Adam's Inn and on to a slippery route 46. The radio said that many of the state roads remained unplowed, and that trucks with snow plows from several surrounding counties, were pulling together. Salt trucks from as far away as Freeport, had come down to aid many of the smaller towns. Airports remained grounded forcing many to sleep on the gateway floors. A pile up on highway 344 cost the lives of four children, two adults and a German shepherd. Over on Hillside Drive, Taylor Livingston a working class single mother was rear ended by a UPS truck. Her Vehicle caught fire, burning her to death inside. Joey came to Peterson Blvd. He turned right and headed a mile and a half to Oaks Drive. The Small street had been plowed maybe hours earlier. From outside, he could see a house at the end of the street. The top window to the right, was still on. Down below next to the front door, a bright colorful Christmas tree flickered. He pulled over as close to the curb as possible and cut off the lights, waiting. A shadow of a woman passed the top window. It past once more, stopped looking around and moved again. Joey sat looking, his black leather gloves gripping the steering wheel.


"Okay all, party's over. Let's lock this puppy up and head home," Richard said. Everyone burst out laughing and they all tilted their glasses to Richard and Claire who had walked over, giving him a hug and kiss. "I don't get it with you two." Mary said. She was drunk off her rocker but still managed to keep from slurring her worlds. "You two have been married for as long as I've known ya, and after two fine kids, you still can't keep your hands off each other, what gives?" she asked. They looked at each other, and back at her. They both had shit eating grins on their faces now, but choose not to share their secret. "I'll tell you what it is." said Delvin, must be the money, yea it'll make you do crazy shit together, screw yourselves blind if you like, but it's the money, must be," he added. Mary Haywood had said goodnight and wished everyone a Merry Christmas two hours ago, but remained drinking. She looked over at Delvin and frowned her face. "What the hell do you know about life sonny boy? I was living the life of love when you were shitting in your poop pants. I'll tell you this, what those two have is real love buster, real love." She glanced around turning her head side to side. Mary never could hold her liquor, so why would tonight be any different? "I'll tell you something else," she said. She was now standing and had that crazed look in her eyes. She had always been a good friend to Richard and Claire. Mary Haywood was 54 years old. She spent most of her life here in Maine. She'd lived a hard life as a young girl. Her father had beaten her mother real bad one night many years ago. He had been drinking and came home wanting sex. Her mother, had pushed him away, begging him to stop. "You smell awful Frank, just awful!" she shouted. He held up his hand and smacked her, knocking her into the kitchen table. Mary's mother had split her head, requiring more then twelve stitches, blood was everywhere. Mary, about 10 years old at the time was told to go to her room. "Run baby,run!" her mother shouted. Her father had turned to see her standing still, too freighted to move.

"So what are you going to do little girlie?" her father asked. "You want me to take my belt to you?....huh?...want me to?" Little Mary stood motionless, tears building in her eyes. "No daddy." she finally begged. "Please don't hurt mommy or me, please daddy." Her father seemed ten feet tall to her at the time. He had a gray clouded face and eyes filled with rage and self pity. "Don't you sass me girl, hold your tongue girlie and learn something." "When you grow up and find yourself a man, make sure to give 'em what he needs girl, make sure to tend his needs, you hear me?" He was now walking towards her, growing in size. All little Mary could do was to wet herself with fear. She tried to run, wanted to turn around and beat it the hell out of there taking her mother with her, but what could she do? She closed her eyes, and with more streams of tears, kicked as hard as she could. She heard a thud sound as she opened her eyes to find dear ol' daddy flat out on the floor. His tall body curled up like a newborn. Her mother staggered to her feet and ran over to her, taking her away from a loveless father and a cold hearted home. About a year later, her father while coming home from a night of drinking, was struck and killed by a pick up truck on route 42, near Halston. Police said the driver never seen him until it was too late. He was dragged about 60 feet and what remained of him, was not worth looking at. In his wallet, was a small picture of Mary. On the back the words "For my daddy, love always Mary".


The front door of the house at the end of the Oaks Drive was locked. He turned, looking slowly behind to a street silent with snowfall. He walked around the back, again looking behind for anyone noticing him. All the other houses were dark and quiet, Christmas lights flickering. He came up to a back door placing his hand on it, and turning slowly. It moved and he smiled to himself. Behind him and several houses away, a dog barked.


Mary had stood in the middle of the floor, a dance area if you will. She was staggering heavy now. Richard was putting away some beer glasses and closing up the bar. Claire who also heard Mary, was placing extra blankets for those staying the night. She had also set more candles on the tables, just in case they lost power. "I love you guys!" Mary shouted pointing to both Claire and Richard at the same time. She was sobbing now, reflecting maybe. Claire walked over to her long time friend, and hugged her. "We love you too Mary, you have to know that, don't you?" she said. Mary had tears rolling down her face and Delvin and the rest of his trucking buddies sat and watched as Claire, wife of Richard Adams and co-owner of Adam's Inn took her friend into the back room away from onlookers, to talk to her. Mary was now walking with her arm around Claire. The two walked away looking more like mother and daughter, then friends.

The phone rang, waking up Claire's sister Paula. Paula had saw to it that the children Eric and Wanda, had taken their baths. The kids were placed in their pajamas and after much debate and some protest, went to bed. 30 minutes later, they were fast asleep. Downstairs and to the right sat a huge nine foot tall Christmas tree, underneath it, gifts packaged with their names. So as Paula picked up the phone, she cleared her throat, "Hello?" The voice on the other end was Claire. There was music, Christmas music playing in the background and she could hear voices. "Hi honey, it's me. Kids okay?" Claire asked. Paula had sat up and was looking over at the clock on the night stand, it read 1:15am. She adjusted the pillows behind her and asked. "Yes, I mean of course, they're okay....sleeping away now. Is everything okay?" She listened as her sister Claire yelled out to Delvin "No Delvin, no more left. You should have been here earlier, sorry." She turned her attention back to Paula, who was brushing back her hair that had fallen in her face. "Well, the storm doesn't seem to be letting up any and Richard agreed to let some of the boys stay here, for the night." she added. "Oh, well that's your Richard, always doing the right thing." Paula replied. Claire fell silent for a second, Paula could hear laughter in the background and Jingle Bells by Elvis. "Are you okay Claire?" she asked. Another second of silence. "Paula honey, do me a favor and go check on my kids, just peek in on them and tell me everything is all right." She finally said. Paula had pulled back the covers before hand. The blanket now fell to the floor. "Sure baby, hold on a sec, I'll be right back" she said. Claire could hear the phone place down, she turned to see Mary putting on her coat. "Wait Mary!" she shouted. "Give me one minute, don't leave yet."

Paula put on her slippers and reached for her night robe. She pulled back her long brown hair and after clicking on the bedroom light, made her way down the hall to where the two children slept. She was about to turn to open the door when a hand gripped her from behind. Another hand closed in around her mouth, preventing her from screaming. She tried to kick back, pushing at the force now holding her. Muffling sounds and scuffling shoes stomped at the wooded floor, as she tried to get away. Paula continued to fight back pushing herself against the shadow of a figure. Her eyes were wide and heart beating wildly, as she continued her struggle. In her mind flashed the children, their safety, and lastly her life. It was then that she felt it. A slight sting at first, followed by enormous pain. It came from behind, midway up her back and when she looked down, she saw it's tip. The blade slowly made it's way through her as she felt the heat of his breathe, on her neck. Her world painfully slowed, went blurry and faded to black. Her final thought was that of a sister, for whom she let down.

Claire had been waiting too long for Paula to return. It should not have taken so long and Claire began to worry. Something wasn't right, something had gone wrong and she could feel this somehow. It was as if a light shining brightly had been replaced, replaced by something twisted and wrong. Mary had come over to Claire and despite the booze, noticed the look on Claire's face. Richard, who was standing at the counter of the bar, looked over at Claire. He didn't like what he saw and showed it by dropping the bottle of beer he had just opened for Delvin. He quickly grabbed his coat and charged over to Claire, who said nothing, and then just fainted. Mary screamed out for Claire and Delvin along with several others still hanging around, raced to her aid. Richard ran right past his wife and love of many years and ran towards the front door of the family owned business. Kicking open the front door, and running out into the heavy falling snow storm. Out back, a 4x4 vehicle equipped with everything one needs to weather a snow storm. He started the engine and before the pistons had a chance to warm the block, he threw it into gear speeding out past the parking lot and onto route 46. Richard's heart had decided to force its way upwards through his chest. He was glaring wildly and somewhat out of control. The windshield wipers fought a losing battle trying to push away the falling snow. Richard had tried again to wipe the inside, hoping for a better view. He changed gears and shifted into low as he plowed through Frank Greene's backyard. He had crashed through the once lain garden of Janice Wills and over and through Mr. Peterson's dog lucky's doghouse. Lucky was always bought in for the night, lucky for him too. Bright white headlights bounced up and down the sides of neighborhood houses, as Richard raced as quickly as he could to Paula's house.


Joey Nelson had dragged the body of Paula Mason into her bedroom. Her limp form now bloody with hair matted to her face. He picked her up and put her on the bed, at first thinking to cover her as if sleeping. He decided there was too much blood for that and in the end, what would it matter? He pulled back his black leather glove and after removing the long blade knife, made his way back into the hallway. At first he only looked down at the blood trail. He followed it as if admiring his work. There was a snicker, that broke through his otherwise closed lips, and he fought back the urge to just break into laughter. His boot prints had tracked into Paula Mason's blood and was now making new impressions, leading down the hall towards the room where the two children slept.


The roaring sound of a V8 Ford being pushed close to it's limit woke up Mrs. Hillman. She had finished gift wrapping for some friends at work, and had went to sleep early. She was surprised to find blinding lights cutting through her recently purchased Macy's curtains, and waking her from a sound sleep. She put on her glasses and after slipping into her slippers, headed towards the window only to find that the light and source were gone. Deep tracks were all that remained. She shook her head and walked over to the phone. She wasn't sure if anything had happened, but she picked it up and called the police away.


Claire had awaken from the fainting spell only to find several well known faces, looking down on her. Mary was one of them and had managed a smile, seeing her awake. She stood up only to feel hands and voices gently telling her to relax. She wasn't sure what had happen, but then, it all came rushing back, like waves crashing against an open shore. "Let me up damnit!" she shouted. "I have to get to my children, my children!" she screamed. Delvin had tried to hold her back, but couldn't. It was as if she had grown ten times in strength, pushing him and anyone else aside with ease. Mary, had found herself sobering up now and was beginning to see things a bit more clearer. She didn't try stopping Claire, only allowed her eyes to follow her as she ran out the front door and into her car. The snow had all but buried it and the wind had picked up more. The snowflakes were heavier now, and traveling anywhere in anything was all of about impossible. Claire fell to the ground covered in snow, her tears almost freezing on her face. Mary said nothing, as she walked past Claire touching her. She put one hand on Claire's shoulder and looked down on her. Inside, Mary said nothing to her long time friend, and continued walking in the deep snow. Claire tried to follow, but fell again. She couldn't move, gripped with fear of the unknown, she couldn't move. Freezing in the snow, she watched Mary move onward and disappear, a white shadow. From behind her, voices of friends, coming to her.

Richard had stopped and shifted, the huge 4x4 dug in deep and wheels locked. He rocked back and forth, trying to move forward. The large 22 in rims slammed against the winter's ice and snow. He cursed out loud and down shifted again. The vehicle moved forward and rocked back, settling into a ditch. He slammed his hands against the steering wheel and jumped out. He grabbed a flashlight and headed down a pathway leading to Paula's house. The smell of uncertainty and fear dripped from his face.


Joey Nelson, stood at the doorway of the large bedroom. His six foot frame, eclipsed the light coming from down the hall. In the room, the two children slept. Tucked under most of the covers was Eric. He had managed to sleep solid, having had two cups of Paula's famous hot coca. Wanda however, was not as lucky. She had been tossing and turning most of the night. A restless sleep, tailor made more so for an adult. Her brown hair that came midway down her back, had been thrown to one side. She had tried several times to flip over, left to right and back again. The bed was warm and soft, but on this night very uncomfortable. She moaned out, and reached up to touch her nose before slowly sliding her hand down to her chest. Her eyes danced wildly beneath her eyelids, and dreams beyond her age, came folding inward.

He was looking back and forth now, as if uncertain where to start. There was so much to do and so much excitement in him, he could hardly stand it. He gripped the large knife in his hand and began slowly walking to the bed where Eric soundly slept. Joey's mind began a crazed whirl of emotions as he seen times long past flowing back again. What year was this he asked? Never mind, was his reply. I have so much to do, was added. Eric had arrived at that point in time where the body says "Okay, turn over." he did this without knowing and produced a grin of sorts. Joey having seen this, backed away stopping for only a second before advancing. The small gentle face of a young boy awaiting Christmas and the joys it brings, meant nothing to him. His heart had long grown cold. Stripped from everything real and important. Cold empty and hollow was all that remained of a man, born from hatred and rage.

He stood directly over the young Eric and whispered a phrase of words, similar to that of a prayer. He reached up with one hand to cover the young boy's mouth, and held the knife in the other. He promised himself, he would strike only once, and deep. He continued whispering when he readied him. As Joey Nelson prepared to end the life of a young Eric Adams, little could have been made of the flesh from him to the floor that quickly came. A popping sound fired from behind, sent a hollow point bullet, screaming across the room. It caught Joey dead center and blew most of his midsection out and across the room. He turned to see the shadow of the man who had served him beer, not more the hours ago. Another blast came, as the handgun fired again, catching him in the shoulder and blowing most of it away. The knife rocketed from his hand and touched down on the oak floor that Paula and her later husband Donald, had spent a Summer stripping and restraining. The echo of gunfire sprung Wanda from her partial sleep. Her first response was to scream. Joey turned towards Richard and charged, his mouth opened and yelling out in pain. Another shot, left the barrel and muzzle flash revealed a face fixed in rage. Richard fired again, this time catching Joey in the face. Bone fragments ripped from his skull, splattering blood against the window and walls.

Richard had fired the gun empty, only to find that the man invading Paula's home had continued coming forward. His hands were shaking, but despite the gunshot wounds managed to place a hand around Richard's neck. Wanda has screamed out again and again, she could sense her father's presence. "DADDY!!!!........Da...ddy!......DADDY!! she cried. Eric had run over to his sister and grabbed her. He pulled her back and tried to get around the two shadowy forms rolling on the floor. Richard's fear grew quickly as he tried to fight off, the intruder. Joey, slammed Richard's head against the floor several times, trying to break his grip. Richard wouldn't let go. He knew to free this man or beast from his grasp, was to kill his children. He held on and continued fighting, yelling for his children to run. The blood followed by a rancid smell of puke and decay, poured out from what was left of Joey's face and onto Richard. He pushed pack the urge to vomit, and continued holding on and now, trying to swing. His punches did little or nothing to the blackened form struggling with him. There was pain, pain like he'd never felt before working upward from his groin. Richard yelled out but refused to let go, refused to release the man beast to his children. He forced himself to kick up, to swing his leg around the man holding him down. He tried, but failed and yet he held on. In his heart, he continued to plead for the safety of his children. He was going to die here, he knew this, but oh God, please get my children free, make them safe.

More blood and bile dripped out of Joey Nelson and onto the floor and body of Richard Adams. His arms had weaken but his will remained strong. Joey punched him several times in the face, tearing away at his eye and nose. Warm salty blood worked it's way into his mouth. Richard struck back, missing at first and then hitting the right side, of what was left of the intruder's face. A laugh, haunting and cold came from its mouth. More shock, more pain came rapidly as the darkened form pushed its hand into the side of Richard, grabbing at a kidney. He screamed now, fire burning his throat. He continued to hold on as Joey lifted him and slammed him back on the floor, trying to free himself. A bright white light flashed above the ceiling and for the first time, Richard could make the hideous figure.. Most of Joey Nelson's face was gone, blown away leaving bone and blood. Richard could smell the awful stench, and now his own smell of fear and fright. The terrifying truth, was near. He was going to die, he had become too weak now, he could feel himself slipping away. It was beyond him now. More pain, from more punches to the face as Richard slipped into that quiet place where time and destiny, cross paths. A place where the real and unreal pull up a chair and begin negotiating the outcome of the situation at hand.

Joey Nelson, half faced and half body, while still spurting blood and bile matter, slammed Richard Adams loose onto the floor. The jolt had knocked him unconscious and he slipped into his own self made nightmare. There, time and space froze solid. Joey looked down at the man for whom faith had disappointed. He started to snap his neck, breaking him in half, but decided not to. Should he live, his horror of burying his children would be enough. Joey spat blood and bile onto the man beneath him as he stood up. He stumbled to his feet and with his one eye remaining, looked for the two who had escaped him.

He ran down the stairs after having first scanned the top floor. He went from room to room, dripping blood on both floor and carpet. Time was now chasing him as well. He needed to be done with this matter, it had taken far too long. Having checked everywhere, he ran towards the front door. The use of his right hand was weakening, it had bled too much and with most of the muscle tissue gone, had become little more then a limp knob of decayed flesh. He spat bile mixed with blood and tongue as he ran out the front door yelling for the children. It was then that he saw it. He stood in the cold night of falling snow and saw it. Something stood waiting, still as it was. Joey tried to focus his eye to make out what it was. A woman? A man?.....something. It stood motionless and from behind it, a soft white glow. He spat again, and bloody tissue and bone fell to the white snow. He looked once more at the figure standing. Puffs of steam came from it as it, just stood and stared. Anger gripped what remained of Joey Nelson as he charged towards the silent being. More steam, puffs of warm air released into the night sky, as the form took shape. It was Mary Haywood. Joey Nelson didn't try to figure out how a drunk off her ass, lonely middle aged woman made it out here to him. He didn't even try to guess how she knew or how she planned to stop him. He had pushed what was left of him into full forward motion, he wanted to rip her body in half, he wanted to claw through her with his good hand and smash the only organ pumping her blood. He would eat her flesh, as she screamed for death in the end. He was too busy thinking beyond her, to see the ax she had brought along. Mary Haywood age 54 waited until the perfect time and stepped to one side. She had watched the entire episode in slow motion as a twisted form of flesh and bloody bile, lunged towards her. It was then that she lifted a red handled axe and struck the evil creature dead center. It screamed out in pain as blood spurted from its midsection. She pulled the axe out, kicking away at him with her boots. She lifted it and planted it again in its chest. A thud came as it split through bone and muscle. The beast screamed again, almost pleading as it tried to reach for her. She had fallen back and quickly jumped to her feet, despite the two feet of snow. Joey's bloody mass continued moving slowly towards her, blood soaked the snow and steam now came from his insides. More howling cries quickly followed as she once more planted another full stoke of metal and wood. A head who's one side had been shot away, dislodged from it's body. Blood, amounts never seen before, squirted from him. The head, what was left of it, turned into the snow and green mist bellowed out from it. Mary looked down at a mound of flesh smelling of garbage, bile and vomit. She held the axe high waiting to bring it down again, should she need to. The mass moved slowly at first, then stopped.

She stood panting in the night, snow falling around her and this creature of hell. She kept the axe in her hand and walked over to where she had placed a 5 gallon plastic container of gasoline. She had taken it from Bob Rolline's door step. She guessed Bob had put it there for tomorrow when he and his boys would gas up the snow blowers, but tonight, she needed it more. She never took her eyes off the mass laying in the bloody snow. She emptied the can, and struck the lighter Claire had given her for her birthday, 3 years ago. Mary stood back, watching the flames engulf the remains of this evil bloody enigma. The yellow flames crackled and popped, heating the ground and melting the surrounding snow. Mary began to feel faint, and collapsed as the sounds of sirens and bright red lights flashed across her field of vision.

Richard Adams, father of two and husband of Claire Adams, partner and owner of Adam's Inn was released six days later from the Freemount Hospital. His children and wife had remained by his side the whole time. Richard would later walk with a cane, having suffered damage to his left leg. He would later return to the Inn he and his wife owned for many years. His family had survived, but most of his memory of that night, would not. He would never remember the events that night or the fear that would have drove him insane. Someone or something had removed that from him, spared him the pain of knowing, that he came close to losing his greatest gifts, one winter's night. Mary Haywood suffered minor cuts and some bruising. She too had forgotten most of that night. The police had arrived to find her in the snow, making snow angels and gleamning at the stars above. What remainded of that called Joey Nelson, was sent to a lab in New York, there it sat in a box with the label "Unknown Substance". The world continues to hold many secrets for those unknowing. We make our way along a life of joy and pain, sorrow and pity. We thank those who bring to us a moment of surprise and laughter, and can only hope their stay will be long. To those who believe, life has many turns. A love of giving, and sharing can sometimes find itself being threatened, on a cold winter's night.


Author's note:

A Story often comes to me while doing the strangest of things. I could be sitting watching television or eating lunch, when an idea strikes. I have to be honest, I came up with this idea last year and I'm sorry to say I wanted to drop it on you then. I had started the outline and thanks to Neocron, never got around to putting it down. I had thought of two separate endings. I'm not going to tell you what the first one was. Somethings are best kept to myself. But I like this version and I'm quite proud of the story. Some of you may have noticed that for a Ken Burch Story, this one went on a lot longer then the others. It's true. This story grew legs for me and at times started writing itself. I as always, try to stay real to what I call my own and avoid mixing my ideas with other writers. I'm heading into story number 73 for those of you counting (Sharon). And I'm still trying to learn my way around this passion that comes to me, a few times a year. I don't think I'm getting better mind you, just feeling better about what I have to say. My grammar still sucks, and for those of you new to a Ken Burch, don't worry, I already know. I have never apologized for it, and don't ever think I will, but I do enjoy a good story and can only hope that one day, I'll write one. Until then, you my fine friends will have to take them as they come, raw and straight from my heart.

Ken Burch