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I was amazed how quickly my dad found a new house for us after he was told where his job was headed. I never really try to understand what anyone want...

PREVIEW: Jack in the Box

September 13, 2018

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Mask, Chapter One

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Setting down the last of the boxes, Delia stood up and stretched her back. She purred as a series of pops radiated from her spine, her hands running over her sweat-drenched tank-top, resting on the small of her back. Rubbing at a particular spot that was sore, the lithe blonde reached up and pulled the knot from her hair, allowing the curtain of messy locks to fall around her face.

 

Looking back up the ladder leading to the attic, Delia watched as her girlfriend came down the stairs, a smaller wooden locker held over her shoulders. Kat was the kind of girl that made men feel ashamed; she knew how to fix everything, she was a great lover, and she held down a job as a foreman to a construction crew. From plumbing to wiring and everything in-between, she could work on it with confidence. Her tanned skin was flawless, highlighted by the brilliant Chinese dragon traveling from her meaty bicep down to her forearm, blazing reds and golds matched with bottomless black.

 

Swinging the chest around, Kat smiled at Delia and set the trunk on it’s smallest side, leaning on it with a grunt. “I think the renovations of this place are goin’ great! Ain’t too much that needs to be fixed and the past owners left behind a good deal of shit that could be somethin’ worth selling!”

 

Delia chuckled. “I don’t know about that, but I’m glad to hear the place passes your inspection. The realtor called this place a fixer-upper, which I took to mean it was total dump.”

 

“Nah,” Kat said, casting her eyes over the old wallpaper running down the second floor hallway.

“Me an’ the boys will come on through this weekend and fix what needs fixin’, don’t you worry.”

 

“Never do with you around!” Delia said, leaning up on her toes to quickly peck Kat on the lips.

 

She hopped back and stretched her arms above her head before nodding at the box. “What’s in that old thing?”

 

“No clue, has a pretty sturdy lock on it,” Kat replied, spinning the locker around to show off the thick brass lock built into the wooden chest. “Nothin’ I can’t deal with, but still pretty awesome when you think about it.”

 

“Good, crack it open. I know of at least ten pieces of artwork that I can call Phillip about tomorrow morning,” Delia said.

 

“Yer the boss!” Kat said, pulling a hammer from her tool belt. Before Delia could say anything,

her stout girlfriend brought the ball pine hammer down on the lock with a resounding crack.

 

“Woah…” Delia said, looking at the broken shaft of the hammer, the head now on the ground with a bit of splintered edge sticking out of the heavy iron piece.

 

“Godammit! That was my father’s hammer!” Kat shouted, kicking the trunk over with her thick-soled work boots.

 

Both women jumped when the box landed with a resounding thud on the floor, and Delia shrieked when the chest shook a moment later. Jumping behind Kat, Delia examined the chest with a gimlet eye.

 

Standard army issue, it was stained metal framing with wooden paneling, a thick layer of dust covering the container. The lock looked brand new, assuming you ignored the nick on the edge that the hammer had left. Laying on it’s side, hinges up, the locker rattled once more. It was as if something was alive in there…

 

“What the fuck…?” Kat said, pulling a wrench from her belt. “This time, fuck the lock; going for the side paneling, looks creaky as shit!”

 

Delia wanted to stop Kat as she was terrified of what could come spilling from the confines of the old military case, but a part of her wanted to know what treasures lay within. Kat knelt down and hammered the wrench along the long paneling that made up the top of the trunk. The wood splintered, leaving a cloud of dust and a dark hole partially filled by Kat’s wrench. Pulling it out, she wiped it on her jeans before sheathing it in her belt. Grabbing the broken wood with her gloved hands, Kat tore the upper portion of the locker free from the casing, exposing the contents to light for what must have been the first time in fifty years.

 

Between a smaller wooden box half open, spilling jewelry about the interior, and a selection of old records, there wasn’t much to be seen. Delia was a little disappointed, but as she reached in for one of the earrings, she brushed her hand against something beneath one of the toppled records.

 

Something soft.

 

Reaching under, she pulled a wooden mask out from under the wreckage. It looked older than her grandfather, with narrow slats for eyes and a mouth and a worn leather thong used to hold it to your face. The front of the mask was white with two blue circles over the cheekbones, a raised nose that had a green line trailing the bridge, and three red triangles. Two were over the eyes, with one under the lower lip of the mouth, which was carved to resemble a broad grin.

Turning it over in her hands, a slip of yellowed paper fell from the left eye slat, fluttering to the floor like a dying moth.

 

“Huh,” Delia said, handing the mask up to Kat. “Looks like a newspaper clipping.”

 

Picking it up, she unfolded it and read the headline aloud.

 

“Murder at Gould Home!” Delia read, squinting her eyes to read the story. She was far sighted and had removed her contacts due to all the dust in the air, so the tiny print was hard to make out.

 

“Hey Kat, can you read this?” Delia said, passing the clipping to her girlfriend, who was staring at the mask with unbridled curiosity.

 

“Hm? Oh yeah, lemme see… looks like this place had a murder happen in it,” Kat said with a snort. “You did say this was owned by the Gould estate, right?”

 

“Yeah,” Delia replied.

 

“Oh yeah, this is the place then. Looks like some guy drugged his family with something before tying them all up in a pentagram,” Kat said, eyes scanning the words. “This says that he then slit their wrists hand to elbow before gutting himself. They found him dead as a doornail, naked save for a mask.”

 

Delia shuddered, looking at the mask in Kat’s other hand. “Ew, totally gross! We are so getting rid of that!”

 

“Nah, real life murder item like this can go for big cash on the internet. I say we hold onto it for now and try and unload it later.” Kat said.

 

Delia stared at the mask as if it were covered in blood now. “I don’t know… what if it’s bad luck, or haunted or something?”

 

“Psh! Like either of us believes in ghosts!” Kat snorted, standing up from her position over the chest. “C’mon, let’s hit the showers. I’ll clean this up later.”

 

They retreated to the bedroom, setting the mask on the nightstand as they enjoyed the hot water of the shower. Stepping out, Delia said she’d go and get the food ordered if Kat cleaned up the hall.

 

“Sure, ham and pineapple for me.” She said, already knowing that Delia was thinking of pizza.

 

“K’, I’ll call and have them bring three pies. You know I love the triple-meat pizza they have,” Delia said.

 

Kat slapped her on the ass as Delia walked past her. “Well go on then woman, get some dinner on the table!”

 

Delia giggled and waved her hand dismissively. “Shut it. I’m serious about the hall, I want it clean so I can walk around tomorrow. The second bedroom is full of paintings.”

 

Kat pulled a new pair of jeans up her legs. “Sure, sure… get right on it.”

 

Delia walked down the creaky stairs, taking a left through the old living room and into the kitchen where her cell was. Picking it up, she hit the pizza delivery guys speed dial. She knew the driver by name, so she could have him stop and grab some beers if she promised a good tip.

A flicker of movement in the living room made her pause while the phone was ringing.

 

Could have sworn that was a leg I saw going around the corner… but Kat is wearing jeans, and she’s not that pale! Delia thought to herself before the phone was answered. “Oh, yeah. Hey Mike, it’s Delia Martinez. Yeah, I want the usual, and some beer from the corner store by you. I don’t know, whatever’s cheap. Yeah, not that cheap. I’m at 423 Walnut Drive, the house that looks like it’s about to fall down.”

 

Turning to walk towards the humming fridge, Delia wrote down the total in her notebook and thanked Mike. Flipping her phone closed, she shrieked as a fist lanced past her, punching the refrigerator door hard enough to leave a dent.

 

Spinning in place all she saw was a darkened living room beyond the bar, her kitchen lit well enough for her to see if anyone was around. Breathing heavy, she heard creaking coming from upstairs followed by Kat’s voice.

 

“You okay babe?” She called from upstairs.

 

“Um, yeah. Saw a rat!” She called back, running a hand over the dent on the metal fridge’s door. It was warped, bending in at jagged angles. Whatever had hit it, hit it hard. “I’m fine honey, just clean up and hurry on down!”

 

“Got it!” Kat called down before stomping into the hallway above.   

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