FIG STREET

Fig Street is Copyright © W. G. Sweet 2020

All rights foreign and domestic reserved in their entirety.

Cover Art © Copyright 2020 Wendell G. Sweet

Some text copyright 1984, 2010, 2014, 2015 W. G. Sweet

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This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual living person’s places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

This novel is Copyright © 2020 Wendell G. Sweet. Dell Sweet, W. G. Sweet and Geo Dell are publishing constructs owned by Wendell G. Sweet. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author's permission.

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ONE: GLENNVILLE


ONE

Glennville 1969

In the shadowy darkness of the old Langford house, it was next to impossible to see anything. Millie moved carefully through the living room, skirting the old furnishings; mother had picked them out herself better than... What was it? She asked herself, twenty? Thirty years gone by now?

Thirty, she decided, or close to thirty, maybe in between. Jake would know for sure. It was a real pain in the ass having to walk around in your own damn house in the dark, but at least no one could spy on her, she reasoned. Not that it was any of their frigging business what she did, she told herself, of course they seemed to think it was. And not that the dark mattered anyhow. She hadn't changed a single thing since mother had placed it where she wanted it. It was familiar. She could, she reasoned, find her way around blindfolded if she had to. And there was some light, only a little, but some.

But if there's some, Millie, they can see you. It has to be dark... Really dark, her little voice whispered.

That little voice, Jake, had been with her forever. Had protected her forever. It was just the way Jake was. It was, well, it was Jake's job, sort of, she decided.

"Okay, okay, doin' it, okay, Jake," she whispered into the darkness.

She had learned a long time ago to listen when Jake spoke. Jake was really smart. Somehow Jake knew things before she herself knew them. Like magic of some sort, she decided. Just like that, like magic. But you had to be really, really careful with that little voice too.

She had to talk to a special doctor, more than one, she didn’t remember the reasons why, but they had made her leave her home, go for a long ride in the back of the town police car; she had come to a building where she had met the doctors, and talked to them for hours.

They had asked her about the voices, they didn’t say how they had known, they just had, and so she had told them the truth about Jake. How Jake watched out for her. How Jake seemed to know when she was in danger, or might be.

But she had learned a new lesson, because after she had told them they had locked her up, for her own good, although she had seen no good in it at all. The state hospital they called it, but everyone she met there had called it The Burg. A strange name for a very bad place where bad things happened everyday… But those were things she could never talk about… Jake had told her that.

So she had learned not to tell those nosy frigging doctors anything, and most importantly, you couldn't let them know you heard voices in your head. Christ, no, they'd never let you go if they knew that. But after Jake had told her how it was, and she had told the nosy doctors that there were no voices. That she knew that there never really had been, that she knew she had been maybe just a little sick for a while there, they had let her go. Just exactly like Jake had said they would.

The Burg, was actually a state mental hospital in Ogdensburg New York. After she had healed, they had put her there. In a tiny little room, all alone, except for Jake. It was where they kept all the nut cases, Millie knew. And they had kept her for almost...

Ten years, six months, seventeen days, and forty seven minutes, Millie, the little voice informed her. And if they think you're going over the edge again, they'll send you right back there. Right back, Millie, so be careful...

"But I ain't crazy, Jake. You said so, I ain't," Millie whispered into the darkened room.

I know you're not crazy. But that don't change it. They think you are, and they make the rules. And, Millie? Hadn't you better close those drapes now? Hadn't you? Before someone peeks in and sees you just standing here in the dark, and gets the idea that maybe you have lost it? Hadn't you better do it, Millie, huh?

"Okay, I'm going, I'm doin' it, Jake. Right now I'm doin' it. Right now," she moved off muttering under her breath as she went. She knew Jake was right, the people of Glennville watched her every move and talked about her all the time; said she was crazy. She wasn't crazy, she knew, despite what they said, she was just careful. And Jake was probably right, there probably was someone out there, and if they did peek in...

She moved through the house, pulling all the heavy drapes shut as she did. She knew they were there all right, no doubt about it at all. She could feel them, and she wasn't about to let any of them peep in at her.

But, Jake whispered, they could just waltz right up, open the front door, and walk right in like they owned the place, couldn't they?

She thought for a second, then locked up all the doors before she headed for the kitchen to fix her dinner. Better safe than sorry, she told herself. And when Jake took the time out of... Well, out of whatever he normally did with his time to tell her something, then she should listen. She should, and really... Well, he had been right, with everything locked up tight and the drapes all drawn, she felt much better. Safe even, protected.

She felt carefully in the darkness for the overhead cabinets, found the one she wanted, drew a small candle stub from within, and lit it. It shed just enough light in the kitchen for her to see by, not enough light for anyone outside to see in by. She knew that to be a fact. She had tested it herself. She had lit the candle the first time, left it in the kitchen, and went outside. She hadn't been able to see it inside at all, except through the very bottom of the kitchen window, and that had only been a small amount. She had fixed that the next day though. It had begun to bother her, just a little, a small amount, and so she had asked Jake to fix that for her. He had. The next day the window had been painted on the inside, and she hadn't been able to see into it at all when she had tried that night. She dripped a small amount of wax onto the counter top, and stuck the candle fast.

~

Millie Langford, was a tall, willowy woman, and she would have been very attractive if not for the mass of scars that covered her face. The scars had come from one of mother’s lessons. Mother’s last lesson actually. She had messed up, made a mistake. Just a little mistake, but mother had been furious about it.

The garbage went out every Tuesday night, so that it could be picked up early Wednesday morning, and Millie had forgotten all about it. She had awakened Wednesday morning to find mother standing over her, screaming, flicking the wheel of her lighter. She had just caught the heavy smell of lighter fluid, before everything before her eyes had suddenly gone dark. She had awakened only briefly in the hospital emergency room. Jake had been there, and Jake had told her not to worry. He had taken care of mother, he had assured her, and there would be no more lessons, not ever.

So she dressed in clothes that hung on her to hide her shape. The long snarled white wig she usually wore whenever she went out, combined with the scars that twisted across her face, made her appear twenty years older than she actually was. Most of the children in Glennville called her a witch. It made Jake angry, but it didn't bother her at all.

The over-sized shapeless clothes had been mother’s idea, and they had come from one of her first lessons. 'Millie,' Mother had said, 'boys can see them sex parts you have, and if they can see them, they'll want them. They'll have to have them, boys are like that, Millie, and when they become men it's much worse, Millie, then they'll want to do thing's with them, with you!' Mother had been right too. Absolutely right, just as she always was.

It was the fifth grade, when she found out about that, and how right mother was about it too. She'd seen it, just as mother had told her she would. It was Johnny Creed, and they had been out back of the school like any day, cutting through the woods on their way home. And everything had been fine, really fine, just exactly as it should have been, and then Johnny had shown her just how boys really were.

It hadn't been Johnny's fault though, mother had explained that, it had been Millie's own fault. Millie's own fault, because she had sat down there, on one of the little side trails, with Johnny, and when Johnny had touched her, when he had touched one of her small breasts, she hadn't stopped him. She hadn't even known he was going to, he had just done it. One minute they had been talking about school, and the next he had kissed her, and then he had put his hand there. How could you stop something, you didn't know was about to happen? She had asked herself back then. She hadn't gotten any answer at all, and she hadn't dared voice the question to mother.

It had felt good sort of, kind of scary, but kind of good, and it hadn't felt bad, not at first it hadn't. It hadn't begun to feel bad, until she had thought of mother, and what mother would say if she knew. Then it had felt bad. Very bad, and she had run away as quick as she could, crying as she went, and she hadn't stopped until she had been safely inside her own house.

Mother had known, somehow; however it was that mothers just knew that sort of thing, she had. She had just looked once and known. She had marched Millie down to basement, stripped her down, and looked to make sure Little Johnny hadn't done anything else. Hadn't touched anything else. That had been bad, but the beating that had come next had been even worse. But she had deserved it, and mother had explained that too.

She had held her, after the beating, and told her just exactly why it had been her fault, and just exactly how it was that it would never happen again, and Millie had agreed. It had been her fault, not Johnny's, boys couldn't help that part of it, just like mother had said. It was her fault because she had wanted to grow breasts in the first place. She had wanted to grow them to attract boys. She had acted just exactly like a little tramp. And the beating had been absolutely necessary, mother had explained in order to force that truth out of her. After mother had told her what it was, what had caused it, and she had admitted to it, it had been better. Mother had held her and rocked her, until she had finally fallen asleep. The next day came the over-sized clothes, and the Ace bandage.

The Ace bandage hid those sinful things, as mother called them, the baggy clothes took care of the rest. And then the hair came off. Short was the way it ended up, like a boys hair, and short was the way it still was-what little could grow past the scars was cut short twenty five years later.

School had been hard after that, or at least until she had gotten used to it, it had been.

The other children called her names constantly and made fun of her hair, and the way she dressed. But mother had been right, in fact; Johnny had never even spoken to her after that. And after a while none of the other children spoke to her either. They even stopped calling her names.

It made mother happy, and because it made mother happy, it made Millie happy.

And of course she had Jake. Jake never tried to touch her as Johnny had done, and he was there whenever she needed someone to talk to. And he was forever keeping an eye on her, and better than that, keeping a close eye on anyone who might want to hurt her.

There was also Emma now, but Emma was a bad girl, and Jake usually kept a closer eye on Emma. Millie herself thought that Emma was a nice girl, pretty, and not the slightest bit afraid of anything, as she herself was. But if Jake said she was a bad girl, then she was. Jake would know that sort of thing, after all.

She fixed herself a sandwich and grabbed an apple from one of the overhead cabinets. Since mother had died, she found she could eat anything she wanted and not get in trouble. That meant no peas, no carrots, and absolutely no fish.

She had missed mother at first, but only at first. After that she had been glad that mother had died. With mother there had been no freedom, no friends-except for Jake, and she hadn't believed he existed anyway, and most of the time she was being punished for some infraction of the rules mother had set down for her to follow. Now there were no rules, none at all, and she could eat whatever she chose to, whenever she chose to. She blew out the candle, and carefully replaced it in the cupboard before she left the kitchen.

Millie found her way into the living room through the darkness, debated briefly, and decided it would probably be okay to turn on the television set. The shades were down, after all. She waited... Apparently Jake must agree, she decided, he hadn't said she couldn't.

She settled down in front of the TV to watch the evening game shows, and eat her dinner. Much later, after the last show, she took her dish into the kitchen to wash it. She lit her small candle once more.

No dishwasher in Millie Langford's kitchen, absolutely not. It was just as mother had left it. Changing it would mean letting someone into the house to do the work, and that could not be allowed. Millie wasn't exactly sure why it couldn't be allowed, it just couldn't. Jake had said so, so it was not something she would even think to question.

She drew the water, hot, just as mother had shown her. Cold would not do, warm would not do, hot it had to be. 'If your hands are not red, Millie, how on earth do you expect to get the dishes clean?' mother had asked her. She was right of course, mother was always right, and it stung, it stung really bad, but hot was what it had to be, and so hot was what it was.

Just as she was putting the dish back in the cupboard, she heard a loud crash from the basement. The dish slipped from her hand and shattered on the floor. She ran from the kitchen and sat in the living room, shaking.

The basement was the one place in the house that she could not bring herself to go. The basement had always been a bad place, for bad little girls who broke the rules. It still was, she suspected, and there was no way she was going to go and see what was down there, she told herself. In fact, first thing tomorrow morning, she would go to the hardware store and get the strongest lock she could find to put on the door. That should keep whatever was in the basement, in the basement, she thought.

She listened carefully... Time slipped by, but the crashing noise did not come again. After she had calmed down, she tiptoed back into the kitchen and pushed a chair up under the doorknob to make sure nothing could get out.

Quietly, she didn't want whatever was in the basement to hear her, she picked up the broken pieces of plate. She set each piece carefully into the waste basket that still sat beside the stove where it always had. She didn't know what was down there, but she was taking no chances that whatever it was would hear the small fragments of glass falling into the trash.

She tested the chair, it seemed secure, she hesitated briefly, blew out the candle, replaced it in the cupboard once more, and then went upstairs and got ready for bed. As an added precaution, she pushed a chair under that door-knob too. Just in case, she told herself, just in case. She climbed into bed and pulled the covers up over her head. In a few minutes, she was fast asleep.

~

Around midnight, Millie rose from her sleep. She dressed quickly and quietly in the darkness: Jeans, sweatshirt, and a man’s bomber jacket. The snarled white wig that Millie usually wore sat close by, but she did not retrieve it. She carefully slipped the chair from under the door knob, and headed downstairs.

The entrance way was dark, but Jake was unafraid. Making sure the house was securely locked against intruders, she headed for the school on Old Creek road. To anyone passing by, she looked like a tall man.

~

In the darkness of the Langford basement on Old Mill road, Christine Hayley cried quietly. She'd awakened with a pounding headache in this strange place and she was scared. She knew she was in a basement because of the dirt floor and the cement walls. It was damp, but not cold. Moonlight flooded in from two windows set high on the wall, up by the beams that held up the first floor.

It was a large cellar filled with boxes and old furniture. None of which told her a single thing. As she sat there on the dirt floor, she recalled the events leading up to finding herself here. Had that been tonight? She wondered. Or had she been out for a while? Lying in this basement for ... days? There just wasn't any way to know that. But it had started at night, some night, whenever it had been.

Her dad had come home drunk and mean. The first thing he had done when he walked in the front door was belt her mother across the face because his dinner was cold. It made no difference to him that she'd had no idea what time he'd come in. Christine had tried to sneak up the stairs before he saw her but she hadn't managed to get halfway up before he had ordered her back down.

She knew she was going to get it too. She always got it whenever he was drinking, and lately that seemed to be all of the time. There was no way to avoid it. She had come back down and tried to run for the back door off the kitchen but he had been too fast, he had caught her by her hair halfway into the kitchen. From there he had dragged her back into the living room, shouting that she was going to get what was coming to her, and then some for trying to run. Her mother had stepped into it, but only briefly. He had punched her in the face and slammed her head against the kitchen door. She had passed out right there in the doorway to the kitchen, without saying another word.

Turk Hayley, her own father, whom she could vaguely recall that she had once loved, had turned on her next. He had started to pull off his belt, and she had passed out.

Thirty minutes later she had awakened. Still laying where he had left her. Her body filled with pain. Her mother passed by her wordlessly on her way to the kitchen, blood running in a near flood from her nose. As soon as she had been able, she had crawled up the stairs to the bathroom and ran a tub of cold water. It was all that would help, and she'd learned to do it years ago when her father had first started whipping her with a belt. The cold water numbed some of the pain and stopped the bleeding. It also stopped the swelling to a degree.

She had sat in the tub for about an hour. The house had been absolutely silent around her, except the far off drone of the TV from downstairs.

Later when she had crawled from the cold water, she had looked to see what the damage was this time. What she had seen had scared her. Most of her upper body had been covered with welts from the belt. There were bite marks again too, and she was sore down there. Down there where a father should never be. Her face had been one big mass of scraped skin and swollen black and purple bruises. She had made an instant decision. It was time to get the hell out. No matter how much pain she was in, she had to go now, tonight.

She had gone to her room and filled her backpack with jeans and shirts, some socks and underwear. She had also grabbed her warmest coat even though it was summer. And then she had gone very quietly down to the family room where her father was passed out on the couch. The TV was still on, much louder down here than it had been upstairs. Her mother had been gone. Either upstairs, or out of the house. Most probably out of the house.

She had taken his wallet from the table next to the couch and at that moment her father had rolled over in his sleep and mumbled to himself. Startled, she had stood, breathing as quietly as was possible, until she was sure he was still fast asleep. She quietly slipped the lock on the back door, and fled into the night.

She could remember stopping to rest by the old grade school and nothing else. She had awakened here in this basement without a clue as to how she had arrived here.

She'd heard stories about kids that disappeared and were never heard from again. Cindy Jessup had disappeared just that way, a few months before. It had been on the news even, Cindy Jessup had run away from home. Christine hadn't known her all that well but she had seen her in school from time to time. She wondered now if this had been what had happened to Cindy Jessup. If Cindy Jessup had awakened to find herself in a strange basement one night, and if so where was she now? What had happened after she had awakened, and then what had happened after that...?

Stop it, Christine, she had told herself, she just ran away!

And so did you...

She had pushed the worry away, or as far away as it would go.

Moving slowly, so as not to hurt herself any more than she had to, she had limped quietly over to the stacks of boxes to see if she could find anything to tell her where she might be.

The boxes had been stacked three high and had been very heavy. She had tried to lift the top box on one of the stacks but it was too heavy and it slipped out of her hands and crashed to the floor. She had stood there with her heart beating a mile a minute, a quick pounding of footsteps had come from somewhere in the house above her, and she had been convinced that those footfalls had been her fathers. She had been convinced that he would come pounding down the rickety old cellar steps she could see in the sparse moonlight, and...

She had waited for what seemed a long time, and then the low drone of a television had come to her from somewhere in the house; she had almost screamed then. She had almost allowed her imagination to convince her that it was her father. She had fought it though, and waited it out. When no one had come pounding down those old stairs, she had allowed herself to breath normally again.

She had started peeling the tape off the top of the box. It took some time because her hands had still been aching and the tape was heavy strapping tape. Finally, she had managed to open it, and discovered the box was full of all kinds of books.

It had been much too dark to read any of the words written on them. She had no idea what time it was, but decided to wait until it got light enough for her to see. She had sat down next to the stacks of boxes leaned her head back and closed her eyes, and the tears had come.

It seemed as though she cried for hours, and the tears seemed to drain what little strength she had left. As she sat wondering what she could do, she fell into a light slumber.

W G Sweet on Apple: https://books.apple.com/us/author/w-g-sweet/id1156638419?see-all=books

Glennville series on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/byseries/52298