Free Fiction: An Excerpt from Jeri Unselt’s Inner Demons
by Jeri Unselt
When morning arrived in the sleepy town of Becker, Colorado, police responded to an incident at its main attraction, Hawley Manor. Something had happened that could potentially rock the foundation of the once peaceful small town to its very core. Inside what was once a place where the rich and the socially acceptable would party the night away, the bodies of four people were found in various areas of the house, their lives ended in the most painful means imaginable. It was enough for a veteran police detective to witness a uniformed officer rush out of the bathroom upstairs to vomit.
“What a way to start a morning,” the detective stepped in just as the naked torn up body of a woman that looked to be in her early twenties was being placed in a bag. “Ah Jeez,” the sight and the scent of death was more than enough for the detective to step out before he too would vomit.
“I take it, you saw it too huh, Lake?” a woman detective stood beside him. “Kind of reminds you of Tate LaBianca, don’t you think?”
“Why would you say that?” Lake groaned trying to keep nausea from hitting his insides.
“Haven’t you noticed who some of the bodies are?”
“No, Detective Perez, I can’t say I haven’t.”
“Well they already took away Stacey DuPreis, the daughter of fashion icon Francois DuPreis.”
“What?” Lake stepped over to the top of the stairs with Perez behind him. “I guess another of her all night parties must have gone horribly wrong.”
“I’m not so sure about that Sir; Colin Henderson was also taken away.”
“You mean Pastor Roland Henderson’s son?”
“Holy Smoke,” Lake held on to the wall to keep his balance and sighed. “Is there anyone else?”
“Yes Sir, there is,” Perez took him downstairs to the living room. “I’m sure you’ve heard of Evelyn Manning Roberts right?”
“The richest bitch in Colorado?” Perez nodded, “What about her?” She led Lake to the couch where the body of what was once a finely dressed woman in her early fifties was being placed in a bag. “Mother of God!” he screamed at the hugely grotesque cut all around her throat. “It’s from ear to ear. Why would a rich dame like her be in the same place with all these kids having a good time?”
“Don’t know Sir.”
Lake shook his head, “Maybe that Henderson kid had something to do with it. He may have been a preacher’s kid, but he’s got a domestic violence rap sheet the size of my left arm.”
“Ah Sir,” Perez timidly spoke up. “Haven’t you heard the history of this place?”
“History, what place are you talking about?”
“Here?” she raised her voice. “Hawley Manor. This isn’t the first time people have lost their lives here. Thirty years ago there was the head of a warehouse in Denver that brought his employees here for a birthday party and by the Sunday morning, all but one lady was killed. “
“Yeah, from what I heard the lady said her boss went crazy and killed everyone and then killed himself. She was just lucky that she went to bed early and he never found her.”
“But that’s not the first time either,” Perez insisted. “There’s a legend that those who stay at Hawley Manor are usually found dead within a few days.”
“Come on Perez, like you said, it’s only a legend.”
She grabbed his arm, “If that’s the case, then how come this is usually the setting of a bloodbath?”
“There has to be a logical explanation for everything Perez.”
“Hey Lake!” someone yelled out from outside. “We got two more outside and it’s bad, very, very bad.”
Lake and Perez rushed outside to the far end to discover the remains of a young male with long stringy blonde hair. “God,” Lake gasped.
“It’s almost like his insides were squeezed out of him,” Perez turned away in utter disgust.
“Easy Perez,” Lake noticed her vomiting on the sidewalk.
“Do you really think this is all just a legend, some logical explanation?” her chest heaved. “Huh?”
Lake patted her on the back, “You’ll be fine. It comes with the job.” He headed over towards the direction of another body of a man lying flat on his back with his entire chest covered with stab wounds. However the carnage in front of him wasn’t the focus of Lake’s attention. “Who’s this?”
Miles away, Lake noticed what looked to be a small Ford pickup truck and what looked to be a man standing next to it. “Who are you?” he muttered under his breath. “Do you know anything about this case?”
Barney Leland watched as Hawley Manor was packed like a can of sardines with police and whoever was needed for an event like the bloodiest massacre that Becker, Colorado has ever seen in years. “I’m so sorry Alex,” he said softly. “I should’ve gotten there sooner. I would’ve if it wasn’t for all those god damn delays.”
He leaned against the hood of the truck and gritted his teeth, “Damn them!” Barney turned to face Hawley Manor, “Damn you! He should’ve known better than to let her go to that place. Yes, Alex would’ve been angry with him, but she would’ve still been alive. “Oh god, Alex,” Barney took a deep breath closing his tear stained eyes. “They’ll never hurt you again. As long as I’m alive, no one will ever know that you were there.”
Two days earlier, Barney’s eyes opened the moment the phone rang, “Oh no you don’t.” He quickly got out of bed and headed towards the living room before the noise awoke his infant son Markus. He and his wife Alex had just got him to sleep through the night. Nothing, he vowed was going to ruin that.
“Hello?” Barney grabbed the receiver just as the rest of the phone fell to the floor. “Shit!” He picked it up, “Hello?”
“Morning Barney, sorry to wake you up.” The voice on the other line was that of an older sounding man.
“No problem Mick, what can I do for you?”
“I’ve got a problem Barney,” he sighed. “And I really could use your help.”
“You know I’ll be happy to help as soon as my family and I get back from vacation.”
“That’s just it, I have an emergency load that needs to be in Nebraska by this time Sunday and I don’t have a driver available.”
Barney sat down on the couch, “But Mick, we’ve been looking forward to this vacation for weeks. Isn’t Mike or Randy available? What about that new guy Jake McCoy?”
“Mike’s out with a broken back and Randy’s already heading towards the east coast. I would’ve sent Jake, but he hasn’t finished training yet,” Mick paused. “If you do this run for me Barney, I promise to make it up to you.”
“All right,” Barney groaned. “I’ll do it.”
“Great,” Mick sighed with relief. “Come over today to fill out the paperwork, you’ll have to leave by 6pm tomorrow night.”
“I’ll be in today. See you then,” Barney hung up the phone. “Damn,”
“What are you doing Barney?” Alex stood in front of him with her hands on her hips.
“Mick’s short on drivers, Babe. It’s only a two to three day run. We’ll take our trip as soon as I,”
“No we can’t, I’m going back to school Monday remember?”
“Right,” Barney stepped back in embarrassment. “I’m so sorry Alex.”
“You know how much I was looking forward to this Barney,” she continued angrily. “How could you have forgotten?” The sudden screaming of their son interrupted everything. Alex sighed under her breath, “I’m coming Markus.” She left Barney alone to ponder his judgment error.
“Stupid,” he muttered under his breath. “Alex!” Barney followed her to Markus’s bedroom. “I’m a jackass, Sweetie, I did forget. I’m truly sorry.” He silently gasped when she looked at him with tears in her eyes, “Babe?”
“I’m not crying because you forgot.”
“I called over to my grandmother’s house,” Alex explained as she took Markus out of his crib. “And I found out she passed away.” She sat down in the nearby rocking chair holding him close.
“What?” Barney knelt down in front of his family. “I’m so sorry, when did this happen?”
“Two months ago. I never knew she was sick Barney. Her maid Consuelo was the one who finally told me.”
Barney shook his head in disgust, “Why am I not surprised that Evelyn didn’t leave you any word. I mean that’s why we got the P.O. Box.”
“I’ll never understand why my own mother hates me so much; she knew just how close Granny and I were.”
“She meant a lot to you didn’t she,”
“She did,” Alex smiled grateful for his unconditional love. “Would you be so kind as hold your son while I get up?”
Barney gladly returned the smile, “I can do that.” He got up to take Markus from her while she stood on her feet. “Does she know about him yet?”
“No,” Alex took Markus from his arms. “I’m not ready to yet.”
“Maybe its better that she never knows, don’t you think?”
“Maybe,” Alex took a brief moment to stare into his hazel eyes, the ones that she fell in love with two years earlier. “When do you have to leave?”
“Tomorrow night, just going in to do paperwork today.”
“Then I guess I’ll call Mrs. Chavez to see if she can take Markus for the day,” Alex placed Markus on a table to change his diaper.
“Where are you going?”
“I have to go to her grave Barney,” Alex placed Markus back in his crib. “Gotta pay my respects,”
“Why don’t you wait until we can do it together as a family?”
“I need to do this by myself Barney,” Alex pleaded. “Please?”
He groaned, “Be careful Alex, you just don’t know how she’s gonna react to seeing you again.”
If anyone ever had a mother from hell, it would’ve been Alex. The moment Barney first met Evelyn Manning Roberts, he immediately felt nauseous as if wanting to throw up. The woman would never win the mother of the year award as far as he was concerned. She had scolded her daughter in front of him for breaking off her engagement with Colin Henderson. The mere fact that Alex had caught him in bed with the lead soprano of the church choir wouldn’t change Evelyn’s mind one bit. Wealth was more important than love, Evelyn had said, and in her mind Barney Leland was no good for her daughter. Nothing could convince her otherwise.
“You’re right Barney,” Alex suddenly said. “Getting away from my mother was the best decision we ever made.” She turned to face him. “I promise I’ll be careful.”
Jeri Unselt is a native of Colorado who has been writing stories ever since childhood. She started podcasting her first novel, Inner Demons, in 2008. The print book will be released in 2012 alongside a podcast prequel, Inner Demons: Turmoil. She is a member of the Wicked Women Writers, has been featured on several HorrorAddicts.net episodes, and will be in the up-and-coming Wicked Women Writers anthology. To find out more about Jeri, go to: www.jeriunselt.org