Ten Terrifying Tales
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by Marie Prato
Description: Ten chilling tales of what could be your worst nightmare. Can things like this really happen? If you are brave enough, read on and decide for yourself. Marie Prato, a master of suspense, can really raise those goose-bumps.
eBook Publisher: ebooksonthe.net/ebooksonth.net, 2006 ebook
eBookwise Release Date: October 2007
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [200 KB]
Reading time: 134-188 min.
THE KILLER WITHIN
The front door opened. I swung around, dropping the knife that was in my hand.
"Sorry we scared you, Mom," said my son, smiling engagingly as he picked up the knife and put it back in the sink.
"A dropped knife means company," I recited, wiping my hands on my stained apron.
"Hi, Mrs. Galimo," said the shy teenager who had recently become Brian's steady date.
With her light eyes and blonde hair she looked like Brian's sister instead of his girlfriend, I thought, trying to control the pain that clutched at my heart.
"How are you feeling today, Mom?" asked Brian, reaching out to touch my arm.
"An apple a day keeps the doctor away," I said, moving casually aside so that only the tips of Brian's fingers actually made contact with my shoulder.
I walked over to the stove. After turning on the gas, I quickly faced sideways. "A watched pot never boils," I said, looking at the girl. "Would you like a nice hot cup of tea?"
"No, thank you," stammered the girl, glancing sideways at my son.
A penny for your thoughts, I said to myself. There was pity in the girl's hazel eyes. Soon, like all the others, the pity she felt for me would turn to anger and disgust. I could hear their thoughts, "How sad that outgoing, bright Brian was tied down to his neurotic mother," I silently mimicked. Crazy as a loon was what two of his friends had whispered about me when Brian had gone in to change and the boys thought I wasn't listening. Better to be a live coward than a dead hero was what I believed.
"Would you like some cookies?" I said to Brian. The eyes are the mirror of the soul, I reminded myself, hurriedly lowering my gaze. It would be safer to keep that saying in mind at all times. "I made your favorite ones, Brian."
"You're so good to me, Mom," answered my son, reaching to take a chocolate chip cookie from the plate. "Isn't my mom great, Sarah?"
"Yes," quickly answered his girlfriend, nodding her head a little too vigorously. "And you're a great son, Brian. Isn't he, Mrs. Galimo?"
"A daughter is a daughter for the rest of her life but a son is a son until he takes a wife," I answered, neatly evading her question.
Sarah stared at me as if I had suddenly sprung another head.
"We just stopped by to tell you that Sarah and I are going to a movie tonight," injected Brian, giving his girlfriend a stern look as if daring her to think ill of his crazy mother. Brian always acted very protective of me when people were around.
"Enjoy yourselves," I said, trying not to sound relieved that Brian would soon be leaving.
"Why don't you come to the movies with us, Mom? Being alone so much isn't good for you."
"No, no," I stammered, taking a step back. As much as I hated being in this house, going out would be even more dangerous.
"After the show," continued my son, ignoring my protests, "we're stopping at Joe's for a mushroom pizza with extra cheese. You know how much you like their pies."
"No, you two go and enjoy yourselves."
"You would feel so much better if you got out more often," continued my son, looking at me with concern and compassion. "I worry about you, Mom."
"A woman's place is in the home," I answered, shaking my head from side to side.
Stepping next to me, Brian planted a kiss on my cheek. A kiss of death, I thought, clutching the rim of the sink. I tried to control the shudder that raced from my spine to my temple. Body language, I chided myself, it was very important if not vital that I control my body language. A prudent man sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on, and suffer for it.
"Have a good time," I said, trying to sound cheery. I busied myself at the sink until the kitchen door slammed shut behind them.
"Cleanliness is next to Godliness," I whispered, leaving the unwashed pot in the sink. I clutched onto the cabinet to steady myself. Images of the girl seared across my mind. Denise would have been about this girl's age if she had lived. Maybe, if Sarah was lucky, my son would tire of her quickly.
The year, month, week, day, hour, minute and second when I knew or rather accepted the fact that my son was a murderer I would never forget. But when had I started suspecting him? For so many years I had lived with the truth that I barely remembered a time of peace--the calm before the storm.
I remembered searching through the woods for my five-year-old's pet ducks. Brian had scrambled under bushes and called until he was hoarse for the drake and two females. When I had insisted that we stop searching, the boy had cried so hard I had to carry him in the house. What a good-hearted child, I had thought at the time, especially considering how the drake had attacked the boy on several occasions and how none of the ducks had seemed to like Brian. Yet, here he was sobbing his heart out over them.
Even after the neighbor found the ducks in the grave, I wasn't suspicious of my son. Didn't some animals bury their kill under a thin layer of dirt to hide the meat from other predators? Weren't there also a few strange teenagers in the neighborhood that I was pretty sure wouldn't mind committing a sadistic act if they thought they could get away with it?
Stretching over the sink, I pushed aside the lace curtains. The grass is always greener on the other side. But that didn't apply to the view from my window. Across the street was a patch of stubby trees. A house had once been there. Empty and neglected, the shack had been an eye sore for years. Then, in the summer of 1990, George had moved in. I had been both frightened and annoyed when I first spotted the stooped vagabond scurrying around the back of the abandoned shack.
I had asked my husband to go over and convince the trespasser to leave peaceably before we were forced to call the police. An hour later Don had come home with a sheepish look on his face. "He's harmless, Kristy," my husband had pleaded. "Besides, the guy has nowhere to go."
Instead of calling the police, I made up a plate of food and gave it to Don to take to our new neighbor. Three days later George was wearing Don's old clothes and sitting at our table. Almost overnight we became a family of four instead of three.
It felt natural when Brian started calling the old man grandpa. After all, both our dads had died before Brian was even born. He had never had the opportunity to know a grandfather's love.
While Don was at work, George led Brian and me on excursions through the woods. He pointed out what was edible and what weeds were to be stayed away from. I could still taste the dandelion salad with fresh mushrooms and the breaded cardoons we had cooked.
Don had been the one to suggest it but the idea had started floating around my mind as soon as the leaves started to turn. Why not convert the basement playroom into a small apartment for George? Don and I hardly ever used it. Brian spent a lot of time in the basement but our son could easily move his toys into his bedroom. With an apartment downstairs, George wouldn't have to spend the winter in the cold shack across the street.
At first Brian had seemed annoyed about losing his playroom. But, early the next morning, he had come into our room with tears glistening in his hazel eyes. My heart had nearly burst with pride when our son apologized for being selfish. That very day Brian and his dad started to take apart the large set of train tracks in the playroom. Next weekend the two of them were going to start partitioning the room into two small areas--one for a bedroom and the other for a living room. Then we would update the downstairs bathroom and add a stove and sink to what was now the laundry room.
But, before construction on George's future home could be started, a fire swept away the shack and the old man's life. Don and I were very upset but Brian had been inconsolable. Then there was Denise. Silent tears streamed down my cheeks as I remembered the feisty one-year-old. "My baby," I mouthed, careful not to say anything out loud. "The walls have ears," I mumbled. That was a literal fact not just an expression in this house.
Thirteen-year-old Brian had been the perfect big brother. He had seemed happy to share his parents and home with the infant and she in turn had responded to his love. The first step the baby took hadn't been toward her father or me it had been toward Brian. With a laugh, he had caught his baby sister in his arms and swung her high in the air.
Like putting your tongue into a sore tooth, I started toward my bedroom. Pulling out the top drawer of the oak dresser, I carefully took out the worn envelope. Inside were several pictures of my daughter. I held my favorite photograph next to my heart for several seconds before looking at it. Wisps of blonde hair framed her crooked grin as she nestled in my arms.
This was the way I liked to remember us--Denise smiling and alive and me pretty and sane.
My husband wanted to keep the baby in our room longer, I thought for the thousandth time, raking the accusation over and over again across my mind. But, no, I had insisted that Denise was old enough to sleep in her own room. Would I ever be able to forget the sight of the stiff, blue body lying facedown on the printed sheets?
My husband had not cried about the daughter he had loved or yelled at me for moving her out of our room. But every time I looked into his eyes I saw the unspoken resentment and accusations. Why hadn't I listened to him? I had tortured myself with that thought for years. It wasn't until Don died that I realized Denise had been doomed from the second of her conception. If my daughter hadn't been moved at one-years-old into her own room she would have fallen down the stairs or choked on a marble. Either way, the baby would have died. "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away," I said, speaking out loud. I clamped my hand over my mouth and peered around. But the Lord hadn't taken Denise away, my son had.
A faint knock brought me back to the present. "I'm coming," I yelled, shoving the pictures back into the envelope. I nearly dropped the drawer as I hastily slid it into the bureau.
My legs felt like they were moving in slow motion as I made my way to the door. Brian had forgotten his key yesterday. It might have happened again. "A man's home is his castle," I chanted, rushing into the kitchen.
"You're not Brian," I said accusingly, staring open-mouthed at the stranger who was standing on the porch.
"Mrs. Galimo?" asked a somber-looking man in a black suit and high collar.
"A stitch in time saves nine," I said, running my hand through my premature white hair.
"Excuse me?" replied the man, looking bewildered.
I pointed to the loose button on his jacket.
"Yes, yes," stammered the man, looking down to where I was pointing. He cleared his throat. "I will be sure to have the button taken care of as soon as I return to the rectory."
"I don't want any," I said, starting to shut the door. I shouldn't have opened the door without peeking out first. If I had been more careful I could have hidden and pretended no one was home like I usually did.
"I am a priest at St. Anne's Church," stated the man, moving closer to the door. "Your son thought it might be a good idea if I came to speak to you."
"Doctor, heal thyself," I said, nodding smugly at the priest.
"Very good advice," agreed the priest, condescendingly. "But sometimes we need to talk to someone in order to know that we are in need of healing."
"You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free," I answered, closing the door in the priest's face. That saying was a lie. The only thing truth could possibly do for me was get someone else and maybe me killed!
I huddled behind the locked door waiting until the sound of the priest's footsteps had faded away. Why had Brian asked a priest to see me? I worried. "To everything there is a season," I whispered, realizing the truth. My season had come. I was the next one to be murdered.
Why hadn't I been more careful when I confided my suspicions to my husband? If I had, Don might still be alive now and I wouldn't be alone. Of course, I hadn't known that Brian had the house and our room bugged. I could feel the heat moving up my neck as I thought of the other sounds and sighs my son must have been listening to for how long I didn't even want to guess.
Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand does, should have been my motto. Not only had my rambling killed my husband but his death had been meaningless. My husband hadn't believed a word I said about our only child.
Why had Brian killed Don and not me? I had figured the answer to that question out long ago. Brian had reasoned that a suspicious mother would be less of a threat than a suspicious father. And he had been right.
That's when Brian made sure I knew that sharing my suspicions had caused my husband's death. My son hadn't left any incriminating evidence where I was sure to find it and he never came right out and admitted it, but he made sure I knew.
I should have gone to the police then, I thought. People respected me then; I had friends. Someone might have believed me. Instead, I hesitated just long enough for Brian to subtly convince people that my daughter and husband dying had pushed me over the edge. Realizing what had happened, I decided I could either be a good actress or a dead mother. "A few sandwiches short of a picnic," I said, nodding my head. That was what people thought of me and that was what kept me from being murdered by my son. But, somehow, over the years the acting had gotten away from me.
I had stopped going out of the house years ago. But it wasn't until my son's best friend disappeared for good on New Year's Eve that I stopped reading the newspapers. A lot of people including the police believed the boy had run away. But I knew better. "See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil," I said. If I didn't read about death and accidents I wouldn't have to wonder if my son was responsible for them or not.
"Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction," I mouthed, careful this time not to make any sound.
But a priest had come to the door today. Brian had sent someone over to talk to me. Why? Was he just putting on his concerned-son-act or was he setting me up for an apparent suicide? I could visualize the worried teenager going as a last resort to the priest and asking him to visit his depressed mother.
Had Brian first spoken to some of the friendly cops at the local police station and tearfully followed the advice he had led them to give? Maybe Brian had even gone to my old doctor or hinted around to some of the neighbors that his dear mother wasn't acting quite right. Later, none of them would be surprised or suspicious if the strange Mrs. Galimo hung herself. But what had I done to trigger the killer in Brian? I thought, wringing my chapped hands. I only spoke to Brian's girlfriends and friends when he was present. I hadn't even gone to a doctor since Don had died. "But I did go to the dentist," I mumbled.
I had insisted that my son be allowed to stay in the room with us. I was careful to only make grunting responses to Dr. Makonwitz's questions about why I had waited so long to have my teeth checked. My devoted son had told Dr. Makonwitz that he would personally call after the swelling went down to ensure that I went back to have the tooth pulled.
Up to now I had assumed I was relatively safe until my son reached twenty-one. I was sure Brian felt it was better and safer to have a terrified mother that everyone thought was crazy rather than have a court-appointed guardian to deal with. And, even though I had nothing left to live for, Brian knew from my years of silence that I clung to whatever life there was. But somehow, within the last few days, without knowing it I had signed my own death warrant.
"The dentist," I said, coming back to my latest though brief bit of human contact. I went over every word Dr. Makonwitz had said. Brian had seemed relaxed. He had even laughed when the dentist joked about the gas he would give me to extract the tooth. Dr. Makonwitz said it was like truth serum to some people. That was it! I realized with a shock. Brian was worried that I would talk while under the gas. And, this time, since it was like truth serum, someone might listen.
"What can I do?" I whispered, moving closer to the window. Dark shadows were already creeping across the woods--the same woods George had taught me to know and love.
"Tomorrow is another day," I said. And if I didn't do something quick it could be my last day. Pulling open the door, I hurried outside. Padding quickly across the lawn, I scurried into the woods. About a hundred feet in I stopped and looked around. Sighing in relief, I saw the patch of poisonous mushrooms that George had pointed out to me years ago. From the size of the patch, the mushrooms had not only managed to survive but had thrived. Cutting off a dozen of the mushrooms, I shoved them into my pocket. Going deeper into the woods, I picked an equal amount of good mushrooms.
"The early bird catches the worm," I said, smiling as I walked back to the house. Tonight my son was having a mushroom pizza. Tomorrow morning I would get up bright and early and make us a mushroom omelet. Only Brian's omelet would be much more special and potent than my own.
"Throw them a red herring," I whispered, shuffling across the lawn. "My son had a priest come to the house, didn't he?" I chuckled. People that are depressed and suicidal can't be expected to know a good mushroom from a bad one.
I couldn't wait for tomorrow morning to come. Then I would be able to see the expression on my son's face when he finally realized that he should have paid more attention to old expressions. "The apple never falls far from the tree, Sonny," I whispered, patting the poison mushrooms in my pocket.