A day's worth of tracking, and now it was 3 a.m. The boy had followed path after path through the land of the dead like a bloodhound. He was surprised to find that, even without a body, he could still feel exhaustion. Looking for the released madman was consuming all of his energy.
Violent crimes had a feeling-- a scent given off that could be perceived here. William had seen a dozen horror shows as he followed the twisted path of human's violence toward one another. As he continued on, the scent became more acute, and he knew he was in the wake of the madman.
That had lead him here: 1369, a house on Cunningham Street. The boy watched from the center of the driveway. He had no reason to hide. People came and went, mostly young adults. It seemed they were having a party. They were most likely college kids celebrating a Thursday night.
Then he saw him-- the madman was watching the house as well. He was standing perfectly still in the shade of a tree, staring straight ahead, perfectly immobile. He was tall, at least 6 feet, and well muscled. The boy had no idea what he could do to stop him as a human, let alone as an immaterial ghost.
He was distracted by the sound of the garage door trundling upward. He had time to see two large boys lead a girl bundled in a blanket into a van.
The madman also was watching this activity, and as soon as the van started and left the driveway, he began to follow on foot. William took this as a sign of his intent. Taking a couple steps, the boy managed to enter the van as it passed by.
The girl in the blanket was laying across the back seat. The driver and front passenger were talking to her.
“It's not that we don't believe you, Bren. We know he's after you. You know the police can protect you better than anyone!”
“You don't understand,” the girl said. She sounded resigned. “Nobody understands.” Her eyes blinked, but she had a 1,000-yard stare. She looked like she was gazing into the abyss. “He's going to kill you now. If you take me to the police, he'll kill the police. They can't stop him. You can't stop him. No one can--”
“STOP!” the passenger screamed.
The van suddenly went sliding sideways, skidding across the road. The passenger wheels struck the raised sidewalk, and like a wounded best, the vehicle fell to its side in the grass.
Somehow, the madman had gotten ahead of them. He had been standing in the center of the street, awaiting the approach of their vehicle. The distracted driver never had time to properly react to his sudden presence.
The girl fell on her back against the wall and was left staring out the driver's-side window. The masked face of the madman appeared in that window now. He had a hatchet in his right hand. He began to hammer at the glass with it.
“Just let him get me this time,” the girl was saying. “Let him get me, and maybe it'll stop. Let him get me.”
The passenger was crawling out of the shattered front window. The driver, not wearing a seat belt, had fallen and broke his neck when the vehicle tipped.
William exited the van and watched from outside. He had no idea what to do. He had come all this way to find this scene, but now he saw no course of action but to stand by and watch this girl die, horribly.
The passenger crawled around the van. He gave the back latch a couple kicks, then managed to yank it open just as the madman shattered the glass of the window. The passenger grabbed the unresisting girl by the shoulders and yanked her from the van. As he stood up, the madman turned and raised his hatchet, prepared to split his head.
“Stop!” William yelled. The madman looked at him.
So, he was one of these special humans after all. Like the witch, he could see the dead. William wondered for a minute if he watched the spirits of his victims depart. Despite his own lifelessness, William couldn't help but quail from the madman's emotionless stare.
Fortunately, the distraction had been enough, and the passenger now had the girl safely away from the van. Sirens were already in the distance. The boy had thrown a wrench in the murder's proceedings, and help was now on the way.
The murderer leaped from atop the van and began to approach the fleeing pair of young people. He approached them slowly, his blank mask hiding any sense of intent, but his hatchet making his purpose plain.
The man was hiding behind a mask. William considered the concept. “Hey!” he said to the man.
Deliberately, the white face turned to look at him. “I'm scarier than you,” he told the madman. Surely, he was afraid of something. He wouldn't hide behind a mask if he wasn't. But what did being behind a mask protect him from?
William hurried to the center of the street and positioned himself between the murderer and his victims. “I said I'm scarier than you!” he repeated.
“Why'd he stop?” the young man asked.
William summoned his memory of the man from their brief meeting at the asylum. He remembered his eyes, his chin, the way his hair draped across his forehead. The boy began to transmogrify. His shape stretched, warped, taking on a milky appearance as it grew taller. Then, he re-solidified, and the John Doe from the asylum was staring into a duplicate of his own countenance.
The madman took a swipe with the hatchet, which passed easily through the apparition. He swiped again, then again.
“I knew it,” William said as the madman tried fruitlessly to cut him to pieces. “It's you you're afraid of. Who are you? Who were you?”
His hands shaking in fury, the madman reached up and tore the white mask from his own face. After crushing it, he threw it to the ground, then reached out to strangle his copy-- but his doppelganger would only stare at him as sirens approached from the rear.
“Dad?' the girl asked. “Dad?”
At last, the madman lost interest in William and began to stride forward again. He towered over the girl. The young man with her could only cower in his shadow. Tires screeched on pavement as emergency vehicles pulled up behind the scene.
“Dad, oh my god, why? You killed them all.”
A car door slammed.
Matthew Navarro advanced on his only daughter, raising the hatchet. He had been replaced-- his wife found a new husband and a new father for his daughter, and he had come to take them all back.
“Drop it!” A female officer was in a shooting stance and had her gun drawn.
Matthew grabbed the young man by the hair and pulled his head to the side. It would only take one swing with the hatchet to split his neck.
It was a difficult shot for Dawn Kirkley. The escaped lunatic had the young man held in front of him at an awkward angle. The girl was spread out on the ground. Even if she managed to miss when she fired, a ricochet could injure or kill either of them. She hadn't tracked this man all over town just to let him keep killing, though.
The hatchet was in the air, and her finger instinctively squeezed the trigger.
William sighed with relief as the considerable bulk of the madman struck the pavement.