The Evil Inside
He hadn’t really heard the door open; he just became aware that someone was with him.
He’d been puzzled at first; in fact, he had laughed.
“If you’re looking to do something creepy at the old Lexington House, it’s down the street at the end of the block,” he said, not unwarmly.
The costumed intruder just stared at him.
“Private residence!” Earnest said, growing aggravated. He’d seen similar costumes before. It was like something out of the old days when the Puritan ministers tried to scare their flocks with pictures of an evil, horned and tailed devil. Of course, this person didn’t really have a tail. He was wearing a cloak, with a hood, the horns stuck out from the hood. The mask was red and black—of course, the devil was red, like a fierce, burning fire—or black, in the way that a heart could be black, and the costume was damned creepy and scary.
“Hey!” he said. “My house—I don’t remember inviting you in!”
The person stood very still for a moment—almost as if he was confused, or uncertain.
Then, the figure drew its hands from beneath the folds of the cape.
Earnest was briefly aware of a shining blade.
He barely had time to throw his hands up to protect his face….
And all to no avail.
He was aware of a crunch as the ax hit his skull; he was even aware of the warm spray of blood that sailed around him, oddly beautiful. Red like the devil himself….
He hit the floor.
And knew he was dying.
She gave herself a shake, mentally and physically, and refocused. Sam was standing in front of her; his hands were on her shoulders. His eyes, gray and sharp, were hard upon hers.
She knew that John Alden was standing right behind him.
She wasn’t going to say anything in front of the man who already thought she was a squeamish crackpot, especially not in front of John, who had yet to judge her as such.
“Yes, I’ve pictured it as you said, Sam,” she said simply, “and I believe that you’re right. I think that Earnest Covington came in and left his door open. I think he might have been anticipating the pleasure of looking at the pictures again. The killer just walked right in and killed him.”
Sam nodded. He turned to John Alden. “Thanks, John. I’m not trying to let killers loose on the streets, I swear. I appreciate your helping see to it that the defense has all the facts.”
“Well, I don’t want the prosecution losing on a technicality—as in the defense not having everything it’s legally due,” John said. He looked at Sam. “Hey, come on, I’m not a mean or horrible man! I feel sorry for the kid. But I feel even sorrier for Peter Andres and Earnest Covington…. And the Smith family, of course.”
The last was definitely added as an afterthought, Jenna was certain.
“All right then, we’ll get out of your way, John,” Sam said.
“I drove you here,” John reminded him.
“I have a car,” Jenna said quickly.
“All right. Keep me posted if you need anything else,” John said.
“Will do,” Sam told him.
He opened the door for Jenna, nudging it with his elbow. They walked outside.
“The car is down the street, at the grass by the cliff-side park,” Jenna said.
He nodded, walking alongside her. They passed Lexington House and both of them paused. Crime-scene tape still roped off the entire property. Fierce signs warned the curious off: arrests would be made for trespassing and interference.
“Covington’s house is seriously just a block away,” Jenna murmured.
“Well, you won’t have a problem in court as far as the Covington killing is concerned—if Malachi is charged.”
“Oh?” he asked her.
“I went to see the grocer. He’s convincing. Sedge swears up and down that he saw Malachi several times during the hours when the M.E. says that Covington was killed.”
“Well, that’s great. You, uh, just decided to interview him?”
She looked at him. He wasn’t angry; he was slightly amused.
“I have a feeling that my people skills may be better than yours, at times,” she said.
He nodded and took her elbow. Even by the light of day, Lexington House had a depressing facade, and it seemed that the windows were horrible eyes with evil intent—watching out for the unwary.
Sam had drawn his eyes from the house. “So?” he asked.
“So?” she repeated.
“What did you really see?” he asked her.
She groaned. “I’m not talking to you about anything—just the facts, man.”
“Actually, please. I’m sorry. Tell me what you really saw, felt…or imagined in your mind.”
Imagined in your mind. Was that his way of saying that he was interested in her visions revealed?
She stopped walking again and stared at him. “I saw that the killer wore a costume again. I’m not sure that either of these two men knew, even as they died, who did it. The costume could just be some kind of a logical choice because it is Salem, where people are known to have a deep and profound belief in both God and the devil, or the person really believes that they need to dress up as something to get away with murder. Right now, though, in either case, with Haunted Happenings going on, who in the world is going to really notice anyone in costume?”
She expected him to groan and say that, of course, even if she might have some kind of special ESP—it wasn’t telling them a thing.
He didn’t. He looked at her, as if perplexed. “Now Haunted Happenings is going on. Now you might not notice someone in a costume. Peter Andres was killed six months ago.”
“True,” Jenna admitted.
They reached her car and the park at the cliff. He didn’t get in but walked past it and started up the path that led to the cliff. It wasn’t a high cliff, but rather a rise created from the jagged granite that was the solid base of so much of the area.
There were scattered trees, creating a copse here and there, to the northern portion of the little park. Where the ground leveled at the top of the rise, there was a walkway to the edge, which overlooked the water. Sam followed the path, and Jenna followed Sam.
White waves crashed with a fury in the autumn wind that rushed around them, stronger here, or so it seemed, than when they’d been down on the sidewalk by the neighborhood of old houses.
Sam stood staring out over the water.
“I used to come here myself,” he said, looking out. “It was always a great place to come and work out whatever adolescent problems I was having.” He turned to look at her. “Malachi said he was here when his family was murdered. I can imagine him coming here often. Somehow, being here makes you realize that your problems aren’t so great, there’s a vast world out there and we’re only a small part of it. I always loved the way the ocean seems angry here. I don’t remember ever coming when the waves weren’t white capped, and the crash of the sea against stone wasn’t loud and passionate.”
“It’s a beautiful little area,” Jenna agreed.
He pointed to the trees. “Kids come here to neck. And smoke pot.”
She laughed. “Did you come here to smoke and neck?”
He grinned. “Sure. I was a kid once. Believe it or not.”
“Actually, I even vaguely remember.”
He studied her. “You would have been accused of witchcraft, back in the day, you know.”
“Possibly,” she said. “I like to think I would have kept the concept of seeing or feeling the past to myself. But thank God I don’t have to as much in this century.”
He sat down on the grass by the cliff. Puzzled, she joined him. “Of course, if you’d been one of the magistrates, Sam Hall, you would have laughed the whole thing out of existence, since you don’t believe in anything.”
“I never said that I don’t believe in anything,” he said, plucking a blade of grass from the ground and running it through his fingers. He looked at her. “The law was quite different then, you know. We’ve come a long way. The colony was English. And the entire Christian world believed in witchcraft. It was a way to cast and apportion blame. To explain the unexplainable. I don’t know why, but I keep thinking that there is some kind of answer in this that has to do with the past. The thing is, witchcraft was illegal and punishable by death back then. If you commit murder in death penalty states nowadays, you may be executed for the crime. It’s the law. A judge is legally and morally responsible to hand out sentences that conform to the law. Now, we have the concepts of legal and illegal searches, individual rights and so on. The people of 1692 weren’t protected that way—they seldom had any kind of representation. When I decided to go into the law, I would pretend that I had been Rebecca Nurse’s defense attorney. If I’d been there, of course, she wouldn’t have hanged.”
“I’m sure she’d appreciate that,” Jenna said, smiling.
He grinned in turn.
“Salem and Salem Village were in turmoil. The Puritans might have adhered to strict teaching, but they weren’t above wanting to make money. At the time, the Porters and the Putnams and others—even though some of the families were actually intermarried—were having all kinds of land disputes. They’d been around for many years, so I’d say a good part of the population was related in one way or another. But, hey, it’s hard to imagine, but true, that in royal and noble families brothers and nephews killed one another over a crown. So, it’s not so hard to believe that they let bitterness carry them away here. Whether or not they really knew it, the people were probably letting their anger with each other prejudice their belief in what was happening. Hey, if you’re really mad at someone, it’s easier to think ill of them. And I think about kids—maybe they weren’t malicious, maybe they even believed part of what they were saying—you tell a lie often enough and it becomes real in your own mind.”