The Company He Keeps
ALLISON'S DATE WENT SOMETHING LIKE THIS...
PART I : SEDUCED BY THE LIBRARIAN
Allison guided her delicate needy fingers along the rigid bounds of the romance novels, carefully leaving her prints on all of them. She savored the smell of hard back books and felt shivers down her spine every time she turned the page of one of the epic erotic adventures. After selecting several suitors, she settled on Shelby's Surrender written by Blue G. Keysworth. She read the summary on the back of the novel and knew it was meant for her.
This sultry tale is told by a shy farmers daughter named Shelby who meets a charming yet mysterious stranger during the autumn harvest in a small rural town. Rumors about his dark past and his insatiable lust for Halloween spread like wild fire. Soon Shelby is caught in a dangerous web of passion and secrets. Will she run away with her complicated lover? or Will she listen to her family's plea to stay?
“Halloween and romance….now that is something I can sink my teeth into”, Allison thought.
Allison slouched in a comfortable leather chair and curled up with the tempting novel. Allison was reading along with great anticipation until she was interrupted by a stranger.
“My... my... I haven’t seen reading glasses like those since the 1960’s”, the stranger remarked.
“They were my grandmother’s”, Allison quickly satisfied without glancing up; she was deep into page twenty three to find out how Shelby meets her torrid lover.
“That’s a good book. You know that author will be doing a book signing in town next month”, the stranger commented.
“Look, I don’t want to sound rude, but I want to be left alone so I can read”, Allison whispered still not even giving him the satisfaction of her feverish eyes meeting his.
“Oh….but of course”, the stranger politely whispered back.
Allison lost track of time by reading her day away.
“I can't believe I have been reading this long, Shelby's Surrender is coming home with me for at least a week…”, Allison concluded.
Allison approached the check out desk and presented her library card.
“Are you enjoying it?”, a stranger’s voice asked.
“Enjoying what?”, Allison asked in confusion while rummaging through her purse to find her car keys.
“You know it's rather rude not making eye contact with someone who is trying to talk to you”, the stranger noted while accepting her library card.
“I’m sorry…”, Allison faintly apologized while finally glancing up at the man with a deep breath of frustration.
Allison was mesmerized by the stranger’s face. He shared an old fashion sense of style like her own. His eyes burned right through her over coat and down her thighs. He was not the most handsome specimen she had ever seen, but wholesomely charming in the way he presented himself.
“No apologies needed”, the stranger said with a wide smile of pearly whites accented by adorable dimples.
“So what do you do here besides checking out books and women?”, Allison flirted.
“I’m your trusty neighborhood Librarian named Chester”, he prided.
“I’m Allison”, Allison introduced.
“Its a pleasure", Chester blushed.
“Well… I guess I’ll see you around…”, Allison awkwardly mumbled while walking away with the book cradled in her arms.
“Wait….would you like to have dinner with me tonight?”, Chester boldly asked.
“Tonight?”, Allison gulped.
“Yeah…I mean why not?”, Chester asked nonchalantly.
“Uh….tonight I have plans”, Allison fibbed.
“What plans?”, Chester asked.
“Well…. I promised a friend that I would drop by”, Allison lied again.
“Are you sure you don’t want to have dinner with me…I make the best casual English tea”, Chester insisted.
Allison felt a little intimidated. She knew that he knew she did not have plans that night. She always played it too safe, but she played so hard to get that she dodged a relationship for over two years.
“You know what….you talked me into it”, Allison said.
“Be sure to call your friend and let her that something important came up”, Chester winked.
Allison nodded and left the library with Chester’s address written on a post it.
PART II: THE FARMHOUSE TELLS TALES
Six o’clock was setting as Allison made her way up the winding dirt driveway. She viewed an old farmhouse that appeared to be abandoned. She stopped the car and glanced down at the address once more.
From the Library….
1. Make a left on Red Valley Road towards the Town's Center.
2. Make a Right on Route 17 (St. Christopher Road). Take the road down seven miles until you see Harvey’s Pit Stop then make a Right(there are no signs for Tweed Road).
3. Take the dirt road down until you see Sun Crop Farms then make a left. Go down that Road until you run into my driveway. I live in an old farmhouse with red shutters and a black front door.
4. My address is 1313 Route 18, Red Valley 11781.
The house number matches.
Allison left her car and cautiously approached the house. There was a messy sight of overgrown crab grass and tall, pesky weeds. The shrubs were not pruned and neglected ivy towered up the chimney on the side of the house.
Allison was hesitant to knock on the door, in fact she had second thoughts. He was a stranger and it was a least two brutal miles from the closest house. If anything would happen hurling screams would be pointless.
Allison stepped onto the lop-sided porch with dry rotted white painted wood and nearly lost her balance. The porch swayed off to the left hugging the dead roses still armed with unforgiving thorns; she had to be careful. She painfully knocked on the door with the rusted black horse knocker.
The front door steadily opened and Allison reluctantly entered.
“Allison is that you?”, a humble voice asked from the country kitchen.
“Yeah”, Allison said with a nervous chuckle.
“Dinner is almost ready….”, Chester informed.
Allison could see Chester wiping his hands on a dish cloth dangling from the oven handle in the kitchen.
“Where is your bathroom?”, Allison asked. Allison needed to buy time.
“Up the stairs, second door on your right”, Chester said without reservation.
“I won’t be a moment”, Allison commented while taking her time up the steep, creaking steps with a loose wobbling banister.
Allison entered the old bathroom and locked the door with a deep breath.
“What did I get myself into? Okay…pull yourself together… it has only been a hot second since you were on a date”, Allison whispered trying to fool herself.
Allison turned to the hand carved mahogany mirror and stared at herself. She parted her hair, puckered her lips and lightly splashed a bit of cool water on her face.
“Ahh…now I feel a little better”, Allison sighed.
Suddenly she felt like she was not alone in the room. The floor boards felt heavy behind her as she slowly turned around to see what was going on. She heard a slight clicking sound and saw an old fashion scale sitting on the floor right next to the claw footed tub. The scale started to calculate weight on its own.
Allison was dumbfounded…she didn’t know how it was moving by itself. She wanted to ignore it, but what happened next sucked the life out of her. She heard a fate gasp call out to her and then she saw a dead woman's face pressed against the vinyl shower curtain. Allison high tailed it out of there. She clenched her limp arm against her chest and bit on her raw white knuckles to prevent her from screaming.
“Is everything okay up there?”, Chester shouted from the end of the stairs.
“Yes…be right down”, Allison peeped.
Allison felt like the house was trying to tell her something, but she was too afraid to try to make sense of it. Allison slowly made her way down the steps and was greeted by Chester.
Chester led her to the parlor where he had the old brick fireplace lit and a flannel blanket on the floor. He also had a tiered rack with food and urn of hot tea
“I made us a traditional English Tea spread. I have tea sandwiches, scones, fresh fruit and of course the best tea you'll ever have”, Chester prided.
“Everything smells so good”, Allison smiled.
“Are you okay…you seem a bit edgy”, Chester commented.
“I’m fine, I’m just a bit nervous that’s all”, Allison said while looking down at the sandwiches.
“If you feel uncomfortable in any way tell me what I can do to make you feel better”, Chester urged while softly running his hand down the back of her head.
“Okay…here it goes…it’s not you, but this house gives me the creeps”, Allison cringed.
“I know right…it could be like a haunted house or something”, Chester laughed.
“Maybe it is”, Allison shrugged.
“What makes you think my house is haunted?”, Chester asked while pouring some tea into her cup.
“You are going to think I’m crazy but your bathroom scale moved by itself”, Allison confessed.
“So my bathroom scale just happened to fly across the room is that it?’, Chester patronized.
“I would feel more comfortable if you hear me out”, Allison grunted.
Allison knew this date was a mistake and she had the urge just to walk straight out the door.
“Okay….what happened?”, Chester asked while trying to give her the benefit of the doubt.
“When I said the bathroom scale moved…I did not mean the scale itself, but the numbers. It was calculating a weight without anyone on it”, Allison explained.
“That’s crazy….so how much did my ghost weigh?”, Chester asked while desperately trying to hold back a burst of giggles.
“I have no idea because I was distracted by a dead woman staring at me through that vinyl shower curtain”, Allison mentioned while sipping some hot tea.
Chester immediately stopped his joking and gave her a long stare.
"I don't know what to say, I mean I have never had anything unusual happen....except....", Chester spoke.
"Except what?", Allison asked.
"Hero...my seven year old Collie disappeared a few months ago, she never left my side", Chester choked up.
"I'm sorry", Allison spoke without understanding the full story.
"It's alright...I've lost hope in ever finding her", Chester cried.
In that moment they both heard a fate yelping coming from outside.
"It can't be...", Chester sighed.
Suddenly they heard a faint yelp again coming from Allison’s car.
They both dropped their sandwiches and rushed outside.
There lying almost lifeless by the muffler was Hero.
“We have to take her to the vet…she is in bad shape”, Allison ordered.
“No vets…I can take care of her…she is going to be fine”, Chester said while lightly pulling her from underneath the car.
“Chester she needs medical attention, I'll drive”, Allison urged once more.
“ I know what is best for my girl”, Chester snapped.
Just as he tried to walk away with Hero in his arms she loudly whimpered and painted rapidly.
“This is not the kind of guy I want to date…I’m never going out with him again”, Allison thought.
“ Okay, lets go to the vet, I don't want her to die”, Chester said while Allison started the engine and slowly steered the car towards the pot hole pitted road.
PART III: HERO'S LITTLE SECRET
As Allison drove with the sick collie gasping in her lap, she couldn’t understand how Chester’s personality changed from sweetly refined to bitterly abrasive. There was only one vet hospital but it was a forty five minute drive on the outskirts of Cliff County. When she reached the parking lot she felt Hero die in her arms, but she did'nt say anything to Chester.
The emergency staff whisked Hero away on a gurney while Allison and Chester waited helplessly in the lobby.
About an hour later Dr. Hatfield approached Allison with a pitiful exhausted face.
“Is Hero your dog?”, Dr. Hatfield asked.
“No, she is Chester’s dog…a librarian I just met today, he stepped outside for a moment for a smoke, Allison explained.
“I shouldn’t be telling you this, but there is something important you should know”, Dr. Hatfield whispered while pulling her off to the side in a private corner of the office.
“What is it?”, Allison asked with concern.
“Hero did'nt make it, she was poisoned”, Dr. Hatfield determined.
“Poisioned, but how?”, Allison asked.
“Look…you didn’t hear this from me, but rumors have been spreading around like wildfire about a man…a librarian named Chester Ripple who lures people only to badly poison them. He’s a very dangerous and clever man who uses dogs to help reel them in”, Dr. Hatfield peeped.
“Are you suggesting he is a serial killer?”, Allison asked.
“This is hear say my dear, but if I were you I’d stay far away from Chester as possible just to be on the safe side”, Dr. Hatfield advised.
“Thank you for your concern”, Allison said.
“Come…lets see the puppies”, Dr. Hatfield smiled.
“Puppies?”, Allison asked.
“Ah…yes Hero was pregnant. It is very unusual for a dog of her age to have puppies, but we got them out in just the nick of time. She had only two…a strong male and a runt female”, Dr. Hatfield gleamed.
“Did the poison affect them?”, Allison asked.
“It’s too early to tell, but they are strong little ones and we will take good care of them. Also I‘m speculating they are half wolve”, Dr. Hatfield smiled
PART IV: ALLS NOT WELL
“Allison….I’m so glad your here!”, Chester said while walking back into the vet hospital.
Dr. Hatfield quickly retreated while Allison tried to maintain her composer like she did not know anything.
“It is not good Chester, Allison comforted.
“What do you mean ? ”, Chester asked while looking over her shoulder to try to found someone to give an update on Hero' s condition.
“I’m sorry Chester, but she did'nt make it”, Allison revealed.
“What do you mean, she did not make it”, Chester cried.
“I'm truely sorry”, Allison repeated.
“I want to see her!”, Chester demanded.
Dr. Hatfield came out of the back, hesistant to confront Chester about his findings.
“Are you Chester, owner of the female collie Hero?”, Dr. Hatfield asked.
“Yes Sir”, Chester blubbered.
“I can take you back to see her now, but she did not make it”, Dr. Hatfield said.
“Please just take me to her”, Chester demanded.
Chester followed the vet back to the clinical area while Allison waited in the lobby.
“He seemed so sincere how he felt about Hero. They were real tears…how could he be responsible for her poisoning her?”, Allison said to herself….it was a heavy debate in her mind.
A few moments later Chester returned to Allison crying like a little girl and sought solitude in her arms.
Allison held onto him feeling his deep sorrow and loneliness. Allison tried not to give in, but she was caught up with Chester in an unexplainable attraction. After thinking everything through, she decided not to listen to the rumors of him poisoning people and dogs. Hero could of died during labor or been poisoned by berries in the woods. If he was guilty there would have been enough evidence to arrest him.
Allison told Chester about the puppies and Chester wanted her to have them, but she did not tell him about the poisioning.
Allison was thrilled that she gave Chester another chance for redemption because he showed her what she had been missing.
They had been dating for six months and everything was going well until Chester fell very ill.
The doctors could not figure out why he was so sick until he passed away in his sleep and an autopsy revealed he had been slowly poisoned over the past few years.
As time came to pass…it was found that the water that came from Chester’s well had been contaminated with chemicals and was causing the several poisonings that resulted in the deaths of Chester, five women, four dogs and two cats.
Allison survived after being seriously sick herself and the two puppies Bandit and Robin remained healthy.
Allison believed that Hero and the dead woman tried to warn them about the well, but the towns people only wanted to believe that Chester was a killer.
Three months later....
The town's police are searching for the disappearance of a young lady who never made it to her pottery class in a remote part of the woods near a corn field.
"Captian I think Barker found something", the detective said.
There in the woods they found ten shallow, unmarked graves with ten decayed bodies.
"Who's owns this land?", the Captian asked.
"Chester Ripple did".