Silence everywhere! Soul wrenching silence! The white blood fallen from the sky had settled at the dusty lane, reducing the visibility, chilling the aura of the ‘Pacific’ town. Only the silhouette of possibly who are locals was the proof of human presence in this damned place. The cart came to a sudden stop at the front of a pub and the rider knocked on the small window from where I was seeing him throughout the journey.
“Officer! we are here.” he shouted.
The door opened from outside as the owner welcomed me with a wide smile along with hot cup of coffee.
“Thanks”. I said and paid the bills to the man on the horse with half covered face, he extended his hand and take the money without even looking at us. He whipped the horse as soon as he got the money and rushed away.
“Hard working chap, isn’t he?” The guy whispered.
“Yeah.” We went inside where people were chattering at different corners of the hall, with cups in hands and vapors coming out of their mouths. The guy went across the counter and poured some hot stuff in a mug. I pulled a chair and leaned forward at the counter. As I looked across the hall I could sense eyes on me from time to time.
“Here you go gentlemen. May I ask the reason of your visit?” he said without shedding his evergreen smile.
“The Masons’s kid, we receive an update upstate that she’s the third disappearance in the past quarter year. What do you know about these?”
“It’s sad, these kids, and the pain their folks must be going through.” His expressions faded into dull.
“Could you point me out to their houses?”
He looked outside the window and gave a sigh.
“When the weather improves.” I clarified.
“Sure meanwhile why don’t you stay here at the night. We have a few empty rooms which you can use.”
He went on to get the key when I observed that no one was speaking a word. All of them were either staring at the menu or rotating their empty cups as if they there lips were sewn. I spotted an old man sitting near the entrance looking outside at the emptiness. I walked over to his seat but he saw me coming and started leaving.
The owner shouted from behind “Sir! Here you go!” I grabbed the keys and climbed the squeaky stairs as the spiders climbed by my side escorting me to my room. The hallway hadn’t been cleaned in years which made sense considering the size of the town and its isolation from other places. The spider parted their ways after I opened the door and without wasting a second hit the sack. I woke up straight at the dawn when visibility had improved; I changed my clothes and went downstairs where the clown was waiting for me in the same appearance he was yesterday night.
“How did you sleep? Officer uh…”
“Jake. Officer Jake Lahey. Yes I did. And your good name?” he offered a handshake which I accepted.
“The people of this town has a habit of waking up early or is it just you?”
“We do possess the habit as the sun don’t stay up for long. Are you ready to begin your work?”
“Very well, let me take you to the Masons house.”
He grabbed his jacket from the hanger by the door and paved his way through the white clouds on the surface to finally reach a compact wooden house at the edge of town. He knocked on the door and an elderly woman open the door who responded only after cleaning her specs and putting them on. Delighted to see Toby she hugged him when she saw me standing behind him in cowboy hat and coat.
“Who’s this?” she whispered in his ear.
“Mom who’s there?” a voice came from behind her and a young lady appeared in a black gown.
“This Mrs Mason is officer Jake Loiuse and he is here investigate the disappearance of your grandchild." I tipped my hat as they gave a blank look to me.
“She is Roy’s mother and this gorgeous lady here is his grandmother.” He smooched her on the forehead. She smiled for a second and went back to the empty expression.
“Come in please.” the lady in black invited us in.
“I will leave you uninterrupted as I have to clean the pub.”
“Alright” Toby went back humming a tune which only he knew. I entered the residence and was offered to sit at the chair near the hearth.
“I will get you something hot to drink.” The young woman went to the kitchen and grandma sat near me on her chair.
“How are you holding up mam?” I asked. She took a deep sigh and said while taking pauses “It has been… tough but… we are trying to get by.” Her teeth were gone so it was understandable.
“Grandma why don’t you take some rest. She gets tired easily these days.”
“Understandable.” I agreed as she walked to her room, slowly.
“How can I help you officer?”
“Mam…” she interrupted.
“Linda, call me Linda.” She bit her lower lip and took a sip of the coffee. Nowhere near like a mother whose child had been missing for days. She folded her legs and sat still expecting me to continue the conversation. The tricked worked just fine although I took the enquiry forward.
“Linda. How many days it has been since Peter went missing?”
“Seven if we count today.”
“Who have you asked yet in family and friends?”
“Every single one of them.” she sighed.
“And none of them have seen him nor they care.”
“Why is that?”
“”They say once someone is disappeared from this town no one ever see them again then.”
“Interesting!” I took a sip and cleared my throat. The whistling outside amplified with time passing by and the roof shivered in fear as if it will collapse.
“You believe that?”
“I don’t want to but history tells me otherwise.”
“Hmm… Describe Peter for me. As in how was he at home? With friends? Any changes in his behaviour in the past couple of days before his disappearance? Anything that clicks your mind.”
“Nope. Everything was quite the same. He liked running around the house, troubling his grandma, playing with his friends outside making snowman. And one day he was gone while doing that.”
“I see. Where is his father?”
“He is no more.” she took another sip and put the cup aside, tilted her head towards left scanning me from top to bottom and asked “Where are you from?”
There was an exchange of silence between us. “Upstate. Um… the previous two families had also lost a son. They had a daughter of the same age too. Do you find it strange? Only male child had been taken.”
“No. Absolutely not.” she said without a flinch.
“The women of this town have suffered a lot, read our history and you will know. You know, this used to be a tourist favourite spot at one point of time. People from different parts of the country would come, some popular faces: politicians, businessman, and officers of law, some completely stranger to this land. They’d sing and dance, drink and share a laugh. But good things don’t stick past long, do they? Greed, anger, lust; eventually they take over and make us do things, petrifying things.”
“We have been abducted, cut, beaten down and killed. The soil of this town is soaked in our sweat and blood. So it’s time to pay the dues.” She paused.
“How do you mean?”
“Balance the scale.” she stood up from her chair.
“How are you going to do that?”
“I won’t.” she started unzipping her dress.
“What are you doing, Linda?” I panicked by her strange behaviour.
“Men, you pretend to be so powerful but when it comes to self-control you don’t know shit.” she paced towards me and shoved me down back to the chair. Sat on my lap with her bare body and whispered in my ear “How would you like to die?”
A heavy thing collided on the rear part of my skull and I got flattened on the floor. I wasn’t bleeding but was hit hard enough to lose my consciousness. When I woke up few minutes later I could partially hear three distinct voices and see three blurred faces.
“You hit too hard, he could have died.” the clown said whom I don’t know have returned.
“But he didn’t, we know we have to save him for the sacrifice. You should have seen the look on his face, it was hilarious.” Linda who was not bared body now said.
And the old lady was just mumbling in their conversation with the vase in her hand.
I moved my hands around my jacket only to find my weapon case empty.
“Oh look who’s awake. Rise and shine stranger.” He put his hands on my collar and pulled me up.
“Your death will give an immense boost to the strength of this town’s women.” He happily declared. I saw my gun in his jacket’s inner pocket just hanging on at the edge ready to fall. I gathered all my strength and reached out for it. The old lady and Linda ran towards me with the vase. I removed the clowns hand from myself and put a bullet in his left knee. He fell down screaming in pain as I dodged the vase thrown by the old woman at me with all the strength she had in her. I put one in her head and then pointed the muzzle towards her. She stopped right there as the clown laughed with his bleeding knee which I eventually stopped by blowing his brains off.
I relocated the muzzle towards Linda’s head and said. “Strip!”