Busted

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic


Dawn Webster is the host of a reality television show called, You're Busted. The show documents Dawn and camera-man husband Charlie's travels as they visit and debunk the haunted sites of America.
Reality television gets real when they stop to see the sights in tiny Tussler, Oklahoma.

Submitted: November 16, 2017

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Submitted: November 16, 2017

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BUSTED
 
 
 
There’s no road to Otter Creek Cemetery?; ?there hasn’t been for years.? ?The folks in nearby Trussler like it that way.? ?The cemetery attracts more than enough curiosity as it is.? ?God forbid there was a road out there.
??Trussler is a wide spot on Highway? ?183? ?with a small grocery store,? ?gas station, and a post office.? ?It’s difficult to find a map of Oklahoma that acknowledges the town’s existence.? ?But once every month or two someone will turn up in Trussler looking for the overgrown,? ?abandoned cemetery west of town.? ?The situation grew worse when that Gore fellow in Washington invented the internet.? ?Nowadays all someone had to do was type? “?haunted places?” ?in their computer and--bang--there's Trussler and the old cemetery.? ?Which was exactly how Charlie and Dawn Webster found it.
?The Webster’s pulled into Trussler a few days after the Easter freeze two years ago.? ?The spring sunshine bounced off the enormous windshield of their forty foot Fleetwood Bounder and blinded the three men sitting on a bench outside Elrod’s Store.
?“?Might as well put out a damn neon sign,?” ?Speck Elrod grumbled.
?“?Oh,? ?what are you complaining about?? ?You plan on takin?’ ?their money don’t you??”
 “No Jim,?” ?Pete Walker answered.? “?Speck’s going to leave that chore to the missus.? ?He’s got to keep this bench from flyin?’ ?away.?”
 “Ain’t that the truth,?” ?Jim said and spit tobacco into a stained Styrofoam cup.
??Speck ignored his companions and focused on the couple climbing down from the house on wheels parked alongside his store.? ?The driver was a short man with a hint of black left in his hair.? ?His narrow eyes avoided contact.? ?The lines in his face said he seldom smiled and,? ?judging by his build,? ?he ate to cope.? ?The source of the man’s misery exited a couple of steps behind him.? ?She was thin a sheet of tin and her edges just as sharp.? ?Her washed out blonde hair was pulled back from her face into a tight bun that gave full expression to her long pointed nose.? ?A large pair of dark sunglasses hid most of her features.? ?No matter,? ?but the men outside Elrod’s Store recognized her.? ?Dawn Webster,? ?hostess of? ?You’re Busted,? ?breezed past the trio without a glance.? 
"Mornin?’?,?” ?Speck greeted the newcomer.
?“?Good morning,?” ?Charlie replied relieved by the interruption.
?“?Y’all just passin?’ ?through??” ?Speck elbowed Jim and smiled.
?“?No,? ?we’re on our way to Black Elk Park.? ?We plan to spend a few days? 
having a look around?; ?relax.? ?You know??”
“Yeah,? ?nice to get away now and then.? ?Y’all are on the right track.? ?The park’s about five miles west of here.? ?There’s a sign on the highway.? ?Make a left.? ?The park’s a couple miles to the south.?”
“Thanks.? ?Is the park very crowded this time of year??”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if you two were the only people out there,?” ?Jim said.? “?Folks around here don’t go out there much,?” ?Speck explained.
?“?Why’s that??”
Speck gave his companions a knowing grin and plunged ahead.
?“?The place is haunted,?” ?he said.? “?Well,? ?not the park exactly.? ?There’s an old abandoned cemetery out by the creek.? ?There’s a couple witches buried in that cemetery.? ?Word is that they don’t always rest easy.?”
“Witches?? ?Surely you men don’t believe in witches??”
“I believe in staying far away from that cemetery,? ?Jim said.? “?Y’all should do the same.? ?That place ain‘t right.? ?It could be dangerous out there alone.?”
“We’ve been to some creepy places before,?” ?Charlie explained.
?“?Yep,? ?seen your show.? ?This ain’t a hoax mister,?” ?Speck assured him.
?“?Y’all may be big on the TV,?” ?Jim said.? “?But,? ?I suspect that whatever is out in that cemetery ain’t never watched TV.?”
“Thanks for the warning,?” ?Charlie said and went inside.
 
??The pair returned a few minutes later.? ?Each carried a paper sack loaded with groceries and a steaming cup of Jenny Elrod’s coffee.? ?They smiled and nodded to the men on the bench as they passed.
?“?Good luck,?” ?Jim said.
?“?Hope y’all find what you’re lookin?’ ?for,?” ?Speck added.
??Dawn glared at him over the tops of her glasses.? ?Whatever she thought to say went unspoken.? ?She kept moving.? ?Charlie seemed not to have heard at all.? ?They climbed aboard the coach without looking back.? ?A moment later the big diesel rattled to life.? ?The Websters make a wide swing through Elrod’s lot and left Trussler headed west.
?“?I heard what you said Herman Elrod,?” ?a woman’s voice said through the screen door.? “?Y’all better pray to God you don’t come to regret those words.?”
"They’re a couple of know-it-all Yankees?; ?TV people at that.? ?What do I care what happens to them??” ?Speck answered.
?“?Y’all will care if those two turn up dead.?”
“Yeah,? ?says who??”
 
The Bounder rolled smoothly down the two lane highway.? ?The short grass prairie of western Oklahoma,? ?broken only occasionally by a lone oak,? ?stretched out for miles on either side of them.? 
“You should have pressed them for more on the cemetery,?” ?Dawn said.
?“?What for??”
“How about for a better idea of where the witch graves are?? ?Or the name of the third witch buried out there??”
“I have a plot map.? ?I don’t need the three stooges to give me directions.?”
Dawn folded her arms tightly across her chest and stared out the passenger window.? ?They had been down this conversational road before.? ?Poor Charlie was never going to realize how badly he needed direction.? ?She tried—what more could a woman?  ?do??
The flat open spaces were a far cry from her native Minnesota.? ?They seemed even further from LA.? ?Dawn had to admit Oklahoma was greener than she expected.? ?The thought brought an unexpected smile to her lips.? ?In truth,? ?this whole trip had exceeded her expectations.? ?She first thought Charlie was crazy to suggest they drive to the location.? ?As it turned out,? ?traveling without a crew in the luxury of their own rolling apartment was as relaxing as he promised.? ?She still had no idea where on earth Charlie learned to drive a RV.? 
Charlie turned off the highway onto a strip of asphalt only slightly wider than the Bounder.? ?Two miles down the road a bullet riddled sign announced the entrance to Black Elk Park.? ?The entrance,? ?a minuscule kiosk between two lanes flanked by a few feet of cedar fence,? ?was unmanned.? ?Charlie eased the big rig close to a box mounted on the kiosk.? ?He withdrew a pale blue brochure from the box?; ?handed it to Dawn without a look?; ?and steered through the overhanging oak trees to a camping spot at the far side of the park.? ?Charlie unhooked the toad before backing the Bounder into the spot.
?“?How do you do that??” ?Dawn asked.
?“?Do what??”
“Back up this big beast,?” ?Dawn said.? 
“Piece of cake compared to the traffic in LA.? ?Look at this place.? ?I could get used to this real easy.?”
“That’s because doing nothing is what you do best,? ?my dear.?”
“I wouldn’t know about that.? ?I’ve never had a chance to try it.? ?So,? ?if you’ll excuse me,? ?I have to set up the rig.?”
Black Elk Park was free of litter.? ?The grass was trimmed and well maintained.? ?Twenty camping spots radiated from a central hub like spokes from a wheel.? ?A brick building marked with the outline of a man at one end and a woman at the other stood at the center of the wheel.
??Charlie plugged the shoreline into the green electrical box.? ?He heard the Bounder’s slides come to life as he made the water and sewer connections sure.? ?He busied himself with lights,? ?cameras,? ?camping chairs and the awnings rather than to brave the rig’s icy interior.? ?He knew the reprieve wouldn’t last long.? ?He was right.? ?Dawn appeared to rearrange the exterior as soon as he finished setting it up.? 
“That’s the cemetery,?” ?Charlie said pointing to the south.
?“?And what makes you so sure??” ?Dawn replied.
?“?Look around.? ?I don’t know elm from cedar,? ?but other than where we’re standing,? ?that’s the only stand of trees between the park and the creek.?”
“Got the cameras ready??”
“What?? ?Now?? ?It’ll be dark in a few hours.?”
“Scared Charlie??”
“I’m cautious.?”
“Whatever.? ?We came here to see ghosts.? ?Let’s go see them.?”
The footpath led across a treeless expanse of short grass interrupted only by the tracks of visitors past.? ?Fifty yards from the cemetery the ground rolled in a gentle wave.? ?Pedestrians in the trough were lost from sight until they reached the grove of oaks surrounding the cemetery. ??As Charlie and Dawn walked into the depression,? ?Charlie shivered.
?“?Is it just me,? ?or did it get cold all of a sudden??” ?he asked.
?“?It’s cooler,?” ?she admitted.? “?Cooler air collects in low spots.?”
Dawn always had an answer.? ?Nevertheless,? ?Charlie noticed gooseflesh on her arms.? ?He grabbed the video camera.
?“?Get a good still of the sign,?” ?Dawn ordered.
  “?What’s that sound??” ?Charlie wondered aloud.
  ?The ground around them was suddenly alive with hopping,? ?squirming frogs.? ?They pushed through the grass and squatted on the path forcing Charlie and Dawn to tiptoe around them? 
“Oh my God,?” ?Dawn said.? “?Get a picture Charlie.?”
“I’m trying,? ?but the camera won’t work.? ?The batteries are dead.?”
“What?? ?You mean you walked us all the way out here without checking them first?? ?How about video?? ?You? ?do have video,? ?don’t you??”
“Rolling.?”
Dawn turned toward the camera and motioned for Charlie to follow her lead.
  “?We’ve reached the entrance to Otter Creek Cemetery.? ?It’s also known as the Witches Graveyard.? ?Local legend has it that the cemetery and the surrounding grounds are haunted by the spirits of three young women buried here over a century ago after being executed for witchcraft.?” 
“As you can see behind me the ground is teeming with frogs.? ?It’s difficult to make our way into the cemetery without stepping on them.? ?Let’s move forward cautiously and see if we can locate the graves of the supposed witches.?”
“The last recorded burial here took place in? ?1926.? ?Shortly thereafter the cemetery,? ?church and community that stood just south of here was abandoned following an outbreak of chicken pox.? ?Most of the original headstones are gone now?; ?no doubt,? ?lost to vandals.? ?I count eighteen still standing.? ?The few remaining descendants of the lost community of Littleton still come looking for the graves of their forefathers.? ?The only others who come here are ghost hunters.?”
“We are especially interested in locating the graves of the suspected witches.? ?One of the witches,? ?a Mary Jo Trussler,? ?was beheaded by the citizens of the nearby town that bears the same name.? ?Her grave is supposed to be near the rear of the cemetery amid a large circle of bushes.? ?That vague description and all the overgrowth may make locating the grave very difficult.? ?It is said,? ?those walk across Mary Jo’s grave are doomed to die an unnatural death.?”
“Okay,? ?Charlie that’s enough for now.? ?Get set up and let’s see if we can find the graves.?”
Charlie propped his video camera on a downed tree limb to capture their preparations.? ?Then he set to work placing sound and motion activated cameras around the cemetery.? ?He positioned audio recorders near each of the stones.? ?It was familiar work and quickly accomplished.? 
Afterwards, Charlie joined Dawn pushing away the grass and weeds away from the markers.? ?Most of the names were legible.? ?This allowed Charlie to orient himself with the plot map supplied to him by the boys in research.
  “?I’ve got it,?” ?he announced.
  “?It’s Trussler all right,?” ?Dawn agreed.? “?But,? ?look at the dates.? ?They’re wrong.? ?Maybe it’s her mother.?”
“Are you sure Mary Jo’s is marked?? ?I thought the stone was moved to the county courthouse.?”
“The original was moved,? ?but I’m betting the locals found a way to mark the site.? ?There’s just too many rumors circulating about those who walked over it.?”
“Since when did you start listening to rumors??”
“I always? ?listen.? ?I didn’t say I believed them.? ?I have a hunch the locals put enough stock in the stories to take a few precautions.?”
Charlie caught movement from the corner of his eye.? ?He turned in time to see the camera he left on the limb teeter and fall.? ?Something moved unseen in the grass near the spot.? ?Dawn was already on the move.? ?Charlie reached her and together they crept towards the fallen camera.
?“?There’s something behind that limb,?” ?Charlie whispered.
?“?C’mon.?”
“Dawn wait.?”
Dawn leaned over the limb and reached for the camera.? ?The creature leaped from hiding.? ?Dawn screamed and toppled backward.? ?The little gray animal landed awkwardly beside her and quickly waddled away into the grass without a second look.
?“?What is that??” ?Dawn cried.
?“?It’s an armadillo,?” ?Charlie said.? “?God,? ?my heart is hammering.?”
“Your heart?? ?I almost touched it.?”
“I’m getting out of here.?”
“Oh Charlie,? ?you’re such a…say,? ?what happened to all the frogs??”
“That does it.? ?I’m outta here.?”
“Okay,? ?okay,? ?let’s go.? ?I’m ready for dinner anyway.?”
Charlie retraced his steps to retrieve the rest of his equipment.? ?As he stood to go,? ?a gust snatched the plot map from his hand.? ?Charlie gave chase dodging branches and the downed stones hidden in the grass.? ?The errant scrap of paper lodged in a picker bush and Charlie grabbed it before the wind could work it free.
?“?Charlie look,?” ?Dawn squealed with delight.
?“?Oh no.? ?No,? ?no,? ?no,? ?no,? ?it’s not fair,?” ?he moaned.
??There was no mistaking the design marked in pebbles near Charlie’s right foot.? ?It was a pentagram.
?“?Quit whining,?” ?Dawn commanded.? “?Here,? ?see,? ?I walked across too.? ?We’re both still alive and well.?”
“Really??  ?I don’t feel so well.?”
“Oh, Charlie.? ?Don’t be such a coward?; ?show some guts for once.?”
Charlie wordlessly gathered his equipment and started back to camp.? ?Dawn waved good-bye to the camera covering the cemetery entrance and joined Charlie up the path.
 
??For once in her life Dawn was happy with the video.? ?Charlie wasn’t so sure he liked it.? ?He ran the final sequence again and again.
?“?What’s the matter??” ?Dawn asked.? “?I said I liked it.?”
Charlie ran the video frame by frame.
?“?That,?” ?he said.? "?That’s what’s the matter.? ?What is that??”
“That’s the armadillo.?”
“No,? ?it’s not.? ?Look,?” ?Charlie ran forward a few frames.? 
“That’s the armadillo,?” ?he pointed out.? “?It was behind the camera when it fell.?”
He ran the film back again focusing on the gray-white blur on the screen.
?“?That ?is in front of the camera.? ?Whatever that is,? ?it knocked the camera over,? ?not the armadillo.?”
Dawn leaned closer and squinted from various angles.? ?It was her turn to run the film forward and back.
?“?That’s a weird shape…almost like…I don’t know…like a…a?…”
“Like a hand,?” ?Charlie finished for her.
?“?Like a hand,?” ?she muttered agreement.
 
??The creepers began to sing at moon rise.? ?Dawn stirred in her sleep ?but didn‘t wake.? ?Beside her,? ?Charlie wished for daylight.? ?The blurred image of a hand knocking his camera from its perch played over and over in his head.? ?Opening his eyes didn’t help.? ?The soundtrack for the show playing inside his head was a remnant from Charlie‘s childhood.? “?I do believe in spooks,? ?I do believe in spooks.?” ?It wasn’t very entertaining.
??Charlie had always been a believer.? ?When Dawn got the call to do? ?You’re Busted he went along.? ?More than anything else he hoped to find real evidence.? ?He was forever disappointed.? ?Dawn blew apart psychics,? ?sham hauntings, and ghost stories in short order.? ?On those few instances when she didn’t find deception,? ?there was nothing to be found.? ?The show was about to start its fifth season of paranormal debunking.? ?The ratings said it was good for several more years.? 
He'd shot a lot of film and seen some very weird shit,? ?but this was the first time that Charlie was truly scared.? ?Dawn's uncertainty only made matters worse.? ?She hadn't argued with his assessment of the image.? ?She didn’t blow it off as swamp gas,? ?cheap film,? ?bad lighting,? ?or his runaway imagination.? ?She hadn’t said much of anything.? ?That,? ?really worried him.? ?Whatever she was thinking,? ?it wasn’t keeping her awake.
??Charlie slipped out of bed and padded through the coach.? ?He settled on the sofa near the window.? ?He could just make out the outline of the trees surrounding the cemetery.? ?Charlie heaved a huge sigh and for the first time in his adult life,? ?he began to pray.?
 
Dense fog gathered in the cool night air muffling the song of frogs and crickets.? ?Distance and direction were distorted.? ?Charlie shivered as the temperature inside the big motorhome dropped.? ?Charlie pushed the thermostat up to eighty and wrapped himself in a chenille throw Dawn left in one of the chairs.? ?The heater caught with a whoosh,? ?but he continued to shiver.
??Charlie’s peripheral vision picked up movement outside the window.? ?His head snapped to the right.? ?Nothing…yet he was sure he saw movement.? ?Heart pounding,? ?Charlie leaned closer to the widow and willed his eyes to pierce the fog.? ?After a few minutes of vain searching for non-existence phantoms,? ?he sat back and began to relax.
??In Oklahoma,? “?it’s just the wind?” ?provides is an adequate explanation to an infinite number of questions.
?“?What’s rocking the coach??”
“It’s just the wind.?”
“What’s that howling sound??”
“It’s just the wind.?”
“What’s that hitting the roof??”
“It’s just the...oh shit, it’s hail.?”
Charlie jolted awake.? ?Spring wind and hail were a dangerous mix in Oklahoma.? ?Charlie wasn’t ready for this.? ?Huge balls of ice pounded the coach shredding the awnings he left up.? ?Wind ripped limbs from the nearby trees.? ?Dawn flew into the living room.
?“?My God,? ?Charlie,? ?what do we do?? ?It‘s going to break every window in the place,?” ?she screamed.
?“?All we can do is sit tight and hope it stops soon.?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,?” ?she screeched.? “?Do something.?”
Charlie punched a few buttons on the remote.? ?Static from the TV and radio drowned out all but the worst of the hail.
?“?I’ll try the scanner,?” ?he said.
?“?What are you doing now??” ?Dawn shouted.
?“?I’m checking the weather.?”
“It’s hailing boulders,? ?for God’s sake.? ?What more do you need to know??”
“If there’s a tornado coming,?” ?he snapped.
??The in-dash scanner came to life.? ?Its green eye cycled through the bands without and pause…or a sound.
?“?No news is probably good news,?” ?Charlie said at last.
??Dawn took refuge under the flimsy throw.? ?She stood in the center of the room trembling and sobbing.? ?She no longer seemed to care what Charlie was doing.? ?Gradually,? ?the pounding on the roof eased.? ?It was replaced by sheets of rain that slapped in time with the wind.? ?Gusts still shook the trees and rocked the coach,? ?but the edge of the wind’s fury was gone.
?“?Sit down,? ?dear,?” ?He assured her.? “?I think the worst is over.?”
“I’m shaking all over.? ?I need a drink,?” ?she said.
??Charlie helped her into a chair and opened an overhead cabinet in the kitchen.
?“?What’ll it be??”
 
Dawn tossed down a double shot of Jack.? ?Then motioned for Charlie to refill her glass.? ?The fiery liquid banished the shakes allowing her to sip this one.? ?Charlie pulled a long neck from the fridge and resumed his position on the couch.
?“?Well,? ?that was exciting,?” ?he said.? “?I wonder what comes nex?…”
Charlie jammed his face against the window?; ?wiped away the condensate,? ?and tried again.
?“?What is it??” ?dawn asked.
??When Charlie didn’t answer she came to sit beside him and followed his wide-eyed stare.? ?A muted whimper escaped her throat.? ?Green light danced between the distant trees.? ?Otter Creek Cemetery seemed to be on fire.
?“?Where are you going??” ?Charlie asked.
?“?I want a better look.?”
“Dawn don’t.?”
Charlie’s warning came too late.? ?Dawn squeezed the latch and the door popped open.? ?It only opened a fraction of an inch,? ?but it was a fraction too much.? ?The wind caught the door and slammed it against the side of the coach.? ?The force carried Dawn across the threshold before it ripped the handle from her hand.? ?Dawn grasped wildly for a hold?; ?found none and tumbled to the ground.? ?It parking area was covered with coarse gravel.? ?Dawn hit face first.? ?The sharp stones bit into her palms and ripped open her knees.? ?Her cheeks ran red.? ?A cut over her eye left her partially blind and groping in the dark.
??Charlie jumped through the door landing by her side.? ?Dawn groaned as he helped her to stand.
?“?My leg hurts…bad,?” ?she said.
??Charlie could see the knee was already blue and swollen above the river of blood flowing down her.? ?He lifted her onto his shoulder and sat her in the doorway.? ?Dawn dragged herself inside while he supported her damaged leg.
??The Bounder came equipped with a first aid kit.? ?Charlie was working the kit from its holder when he heard the tree snap.? ?Branches ripped through top the living room slide out and the coach canted to the right under the weight of the tree.? ?Rain flooded in through the hole in the ceiling.? ?A limb at least six inches across was wedged against the wall pinning the slide open.? ?The wind swept through the open door and out the torn slide pelting the two of them with rain and leaves.? ?Charlie decided there was nothing else he could do.? ?They retreated to the bedroom where he set about trying to control her bleeding and bandaging her wounds.? ?It was going to be a while before she would be willing to get in front a camera.
??As suddenly as it started,? ?the wind stopped.? ?The downpour ended.? ?Stillness rushed into the void.? ?Charlie and Dawn exchanged surprised looks.? ?The distant horizon above the cemetery was dark.? ?Charlie stepped outside and pulled the door closed.
?“?Where are you going??” ?he asked.
?“?I’m going out there.?”
“Are you completely insane?? ?You’ll never make it on that knee.?”
“I’m going if I have to crawl.?”
Charlie’s frustration boiled over.
?“?How about I get the broom and you can fly,?” ?he snarled.
?“?How about I…say,? ?that’s a great idea.? ?Hand me the broom.? ?C’mon,? ?Charlie--? 
the broom.?”
Charlie handed her the broom.? ?Dawn promptly placed the short bristles under her
arm and hobbled around the tiny room on her new crutch.
?“?It’ll do,?” ?she decided.? “?You coming??”
“Do I have a choice??”
“Of course,? ?dear.? ?You can come along or find a new job when we get home.?”
“That one’s not going to work this time,?” ?Charlie answered.? “?When we get back
to LA,? ?I’m through--? ?we’re through.?”
“Fine.? ?Until then,? ?this is my show.? ?Get the cameras and let’s go.?”
 
The late rising moon was still high enough to provide a little light.? ?Black Elk Park looked like a war zone.? ?Broken branches and downed limbs were everywhere.? ?Trees were stripped bare of leaves by the balls of ice that still littered the ground.? ?The contents of overturned trash barrels were plastered to fences or impaled in trees.? ?All the jetsam made footing difficult.? ?Dawn labored to keep her flashlight focused and work the makeshift crutch.? ?Charlie was content to watch her struggle.? ?The going was easier as they dropped into the little depression.? ?The ground was firmer and free of debris.? ?By the time they climbed the other side,? ?it was as though the storm never happened.? 
They made it to the cemetery as the sky turned gray.? ?Charlie’s equipment was still intact and functioning.? ?Dawn crossed through one of the motion detectors and was bathed in a flash of light.
?“?You didn’t smile,?” ?Charlie told her.
??Dawn pretended not to hear the barb hidden in his voice.
?“?How many shots left on that one??” ?she asked.
?“?Two.?”
“I hope Elrod remembered to smile.?”
“You think those geezers are behind the mystery lights??”
“They’re my favorite suspects,? ?but we’ll know soon enough.? ?How long will it take to break all this stuff down??”
“Give me twenty minutes.?” 
“Good.? ?That gives me a few minutes to find the grave.?”
 
Dawn positioned herself in front of a tripod mounted video camera.
?“?Mother Nature provided us with quite a show last night.? ?High winds,? ?rain and hail caused a lot of damage to our RV and the nearby campground.? ?Here at Otter Creek Cemetery,? ?things have weathered the storm much better.?”
“There is every hope we will have photographic and video evidence of the source of last night’s appearance of a green glow in the sky above the cemetery.? ?Our crew is working to collect that evidence before we return to Trussler.? ?It should make for interesting conversation with some of the residents.?” 
“Meanwhile,? ?the grave of Mary Jo Trussler remains?…”
Dawn’s eyes grew wide.? ?She glanced down and fear rocketed from panic to mindless hysteria.? ?Her mouth opened and closed wordlessly Her voice caught and her screams ripped the air.? ?Dawn’s arms and legs worked at a furious pace.
?“?Dawn what’s the?…”
“Bugs,?” ?she screamed.? “?They're crawling all over me.? ?Get? ‘?em off.? ?Oh God,? ?get? ‘?em off me.?”
Dawn’s shoes and jeans were alive.? ?She began to beat herself with the broom.? ?Her wounded knee refused to support her and she collapsed into a sea of tiny black creatures.? ?The instinct for flight took over.? ?Adrenaline packed terror flooded Dawn’s system.? ?She was up and running heedless of her injuries.
??Charlie caught up and began brushing away the invaders.? ?He first believed they were ants.? ?Touch revealed the truth.? ?They were ticks--? ?millions,? ?upon millions of ticks.
?“?We’ve got to get out of here,?” ?he commanded and steered her toward the gate.? 
Dawn bounced after him?; ?swatting at ticks as she ran.? ?At the gate Dawn dropped to the ground.? ?She kicked off her shoes and peeled off her jeans and shirt.? ?Her fear vanished with the loss of the insect laden clothes.? ?Dawn started plucking off the remaining vermin from her skin.
??Charlie couldn’t resist the humor in calm,? ?collected Dawn Webster,? “?dispassionate Dawn?” ?as she like to call herself,? ?destroyer of fakes,? ?shams,? ?cons and myth,? ?frantically plucking little blood suckers from her naked body.? ?He also couldn’t resist the temptation to buy himself a little leverage.? ?Pictures of Dawn Webster frolicking outside in the buff would be…well,? ?priceless.? ?The sun was up behind him.? ?It would be a spectacular shot.
??Dawn heard the whir of the camera under his laughter.? ?Her fear disappeared completely.
?“?Turn that off this instant,?” ?she raged at him.? “?Do you hear me?? ?I said turn it? ?off.?”
Her rage built beyond anything Charlie ever.? ?Dawn’s hair stood on end as though she touched a live wire.? ?Her eyes blazed and bulged from their sockets.? ?The tendons in Dawn’s neck knotted pulling her head to a steep angle.? ?Her face went bright red.? ?Sound spewed from her lips in discordant syllables played upon broken strings.? ?The voice grated on Charlie’s ears.? ?It wasn’t altogether human.? 
“Come closer,? ?honey,?” ?she croaked.? “?We have something for you.?”
Dawn’s broomstick crutch flew passed Charlie’s head and into her outstretched hand.? ?The trick seemed amazingly funny to Dawn.? 
“Dawn??” ?Charlie half whispered.
?“?She’s here…somewhere,?" the voice said. Dawn cocked her head, smiled, and nodded at someone behind him.? 
“Hold him sisters,?” ?Dawn said.
??Partially decomposed hands clamped themselves to Charlie's shoulders.? ?Paralyzing fear did the rest.? ?Something hot ran down his legs.? ?Then,? ?the pain hit.? ?A sledgehammer pounded his chest.? ?Charlie’s eyes rolled up in his head?; ?he gasped for breath and clutch at his left side.
?“?Nnnnnnooooo?!” ?Dawn screamed.? “?You cheating son-of-a-pig.? ?I said,? ?NO.?”
Dawn snapped the head from the broom and hurled the jagged spear at Charlie.? ?The point pierced his hand?; ?shattered two ribs and skewered his dying heart.? ?Blood pumped from his chest in three long,? ?liquid,? ?spurts before he hit the ground.
 
??Dawn opened her eyes.
?“?Charlie??” ?she said.
?“?She’s awake,?” ?a voice announced.
Dawn looked up at a round faced EMT in a white shirt. He was trying to hold an oxygen mask over her face. Dawn tried to sit up. Straps across her chest and legs held her securely. A she lifted her  head to look down at the restraints. ?
”Where’s Charlie?? ?Where are my clothes?? ?What’s going on??” ?Dawn fired off questions.
?“?Just take it easy,?” ?the EMT said.
??A tall,? ?dark skinned deputy sheriff in a tan uniform sauntered over to peer through the ambulance door at her.? 
“You want to talk to her now??” ?the EMT asked.
?“?Nah,?” ?the deputy said.? “?Looks like we have the whole thing on film.? ?Oh,? ?there is one thing.? ?Dawn Webster you’re under arrest for the murder of Charles Webster.? ?Or as you are so fond of saying on television:? ‘?You’re busted?’?. You have the right to...?” 
 
 


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