The Jack-in-the-Box

by Walter Kwiatkowski

Part 1 appears
in this issue.

conclusion


“Two girls?”

I nodded. “Amanda and Carrie.”

He glanced at his notes. “Two of the murdered teens?”

“Yes.”

He motioned me to go on.

“I asked the tall girl, the brunette...”

“Amanda?”

I nodded. “I asked her about the others in her group. And she told me their names: Tim and Shawna.”

He looked at his notes again. “The other murdered teens?”

“Yes. She said that they went off together, but that was normal for them. Usually, they came back after an hour or two. They’d been gone for four hours. And they were quite worried about wolves and bears. Then I asked the blonde...”

“Carrie.”

I shrugged. “I guess that was her name. “

“What did you ask her?”

“I asked about the other campers in the park, and she looked at me like it was a stupid question. ‘Other campers? Cool! Maybe they have some beer’.”

“Tell me about Carrie.”

I stared at him. “What can I tell you about her? I didn’t know her?”

“You knew her name.”

Small beads of sweat appeared on my skin. I wiped my forehead with the back of my hand. “She told me.”

“Was she pretty?”

“I don’t know.” He was beginning to annoy me.

“You looked at her, I presume?”

“Yes, but it was dark.”

He lifted a clipboard and flipped over a couple of pages.

“In your report to the police, you said she had blonde hair and wore white jeans with a red and white shirt that was too small for her. And she had a pierced belly button. You saw all that in the dark?”

I looked away from him. “I noticed her, yes. And so did Cliff.”

“Continue.”

“Well, I asked the girls for a description of Tim and Shawna. Then we hiked north to the lake, probably the most logical route they would have taken. The beach circles the lake, half of which is private property. There were others campers there but they hadn’t seen anyone.

“Here we split up. Cliff went west into the woods and I went east. We have a number of rental cabins in that direction. All but one were unused. That one was being used illegally. There were signs someone had left in a hurry: There were crumbs of food on the floor.”

“Did you find that odd?”

“No. Our cabins are constantly broken into when they are not being used.”

He nodded.

“Then I continued north to the trailer park. There was only one trailer. The door to the trailer was open. There was a foldaway bed, a DVD player and television. I also noticed a tube of lipstick on the floor and a blue tee-shirt.”

“And both items belonged to the girl Shawna; is that correct?”

“That’s what the police say.”

“You started back, is that right?”

I nodded. “That’s when I ran into Cliff.”

“Indeed. And did he have any luck?”

I’m sure the doctor noticed the lump that appeared in my throat. “At first I couldn’t understand him. He was hysterical. His breath smelt like puke. I had to calm him down. But, yes, he found a tent in the woods. He searched the area and then inside the tent.”

“Did he find anything?”

I nodded. “He found some blood on one of the sleeping bags.”

“Anything else?”

“You know the answer to that.”

He looked at me and said nothing.

I saved him the trouble and offered the information he wanted. “He found a basket.”

“Yes? What was in the basket, Mr. Loggins?”

I turned my head away.

“Mr. Loggins?”

I wish he would stop asking these questions. My brain was hurting from answering so many questions. “A head.”

“Whose head?”

“It had golden blonde hair and fit the description of the girl we were looking for: Shawna.” I looked at the doctor. “There was something else though. Something I didn’t mention to the police.”

He stopped taking notes and looked up. “Yes? What was that?”

“A jack-in-the box.”

The doctor stared at me for a moment then wrote something down. “You didn’t see the jack-in-the-box, did you?”

I shook my head. “Cliff told me.”

“But he can’t tell anyone else though, can he?”the doctor asked with interest. “How did he die?”

“Bubbles killed him.”

The doctor said nothing. He continued to take notes, his face expressionless. Finally he looked up and asked, “Did you see this?”

I nodded. “In the woods. Cliff was crazy, running back to the tent, wanting to show me. I couldn’t keep up with him. Especially in the dark. We got there and I saw him. He was standing next to the tent, hands behind his back.”

“Bubbles?”

I nodded. “Thick red hair on his head and he wore a green and yellow hat...”

“And what, Mr Loggins?”

“He had teeth like the jack-in-the-box.”

“What happened next?”

“Cliff ran smack right into him.”

“Yes, and...?”

I avoided his eyes and said in a quiet voice, “Bubbles smiled and said, ‘It’s a nice time to die, kiddies.’ Then he took an axe from behind his back and chopped Cliff into firewood.”

I fell forward in my seat and covered my face with my hands. I sat like that for the longest time and listened to the good doctor scribble hastily in his book.

Finally, he set down his pen and cleared his throat. “One last question. Isn’t it true, Mr. Loggins, that Tim, Shawna, Amanda and Carrie were related to the first group that died soon after the fire?”

My eyes darted in his direction, concerned. “Ah... yes. Cliff, too.”

The good doctor ran a quick hand over his chin, stood up and, after laying his hands, palms first, on a small table said, ”This session is finished, Mr. Loggins.”

I ran a worried hand through my hair and stood up.”Well?”

He smiled. nervously “I need to consult with the police, Mr. Loggins.”

“You believe me, don’t you?”

He looked at me.

I grabbed his shirt sleeve. “You have to believe me, doctor.”

He glanced down at my hand. I released his sleeve. He beamed a long smile. The kind of smile that pats you on the back and says, “Good boy, go home and have a nice rest and tomorrow, after the men in the white jackets come, we’ll talk again in your private room.”

“Please have a seat in the waiting room.”

I nodded, and trudged back and sat in the empty waiting room. There was a sign on the receptionist’s desk that said BACK IN FIVE MINUTES.

I picked up a magazine and began to thumb through it when I heard a scream. From the doctor’s office. I flew off the chair and bolted into the room.

Blood. I saw blood. Lots of it. And I saw what remained of the good doctor on the floor, and I saw the axe and some broken glass. Familiar carnival music filled my ears.

I turned sharply. On the desk was an open file folder. A tag with my name, Raymond Loggins, was stuck to the top corner. A half a dozen sheets of paper lay loosely beneath my name. The top sheet had a bunch of words and phrases written under the heading EVALUATION: “Sociopathic tendencies; a fixation on a childhood toy, a jack in a box, and a man named Charlie, whom the police cannot find and the park officials refuse to acknowledge.”

And then an asterisk next to a sentence “*Charlie, however, was the name of the patient’s father.” Underneath the evaluation, a picture of Bubbles the clown stared up at me.

Music was coming from the bottom drawer of the doctor’s desk. I opened it. The crank handle on the red box was rotating grotesquely and an ugly clown face with red hair and a green and yellow hat was bounced merrily on an uncoiled spring, its blue lips parted like a viper showing its sharp teeth. Its eyes rolled in my direction, and it gave out a coarse, hideous laugh.

I looked down, then I screamed.

There was blood on my hands.


Copyright © 2017 by Walter Kwiatkowski

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