HOME
WHAT'S NEW

THE GAMES
CHARACTERS
TRIVIA

MUSIC

ARTWORK

FAN FICTION

MISCELLANEOUS
EMULATION
FAQ's

CREDITS

LINKS

FORUM

HELP WANTED

ABOUT WM

Fan Fiction


Splatterhouse - Dark Horizons
=============================

Chapter 2: Hitting Bottom
-------------------------

Rick exhaled slowly, trying not to let the anger build up, as he dialed Manthey's number again, only to get the engaged tone. After several minutes of fruitless trying, he gave up.

What an asshole! Why did he have to act like such a child? For Christ's sakes, it was five years ago when he'd last seen him! Even through these superficial thoughts of anger, Rick knew that Manthey's reaction had been nothing less than what he expected. He knew that deep down Manthey had always stuck by his initial conviction that Rick was criminally insane, and moreover that Manthey blamed Rick for the death of his partner, Lieutenant Loker. The fact that Rick had landed Manthey in hospital for about two and a half years, and had nearly crippled him for life, whilst under the "control" of the Terror Mask probably didn't help matters much.

Rick sat down in front of the TV, with the phone on the coffee table next to him, and found himself dwelling on the investigation. The Feds had insisted on drawing a veil over the entire incident, mainly because the only agent who had witnessed the events at West Mansion five years ago without going insane had lifted all the blame from Richard Taylor's shoulders and agreed with Rick's statement. Had it not been for Lieutenant Loker's testament, Rick would undoubtedly be serving a lifetime sentence for mass murder, if not sitting on Death Row, waiting for his last day to come.

So, the FBI had quietly issued orders for West Mansion to be torn down and converted to a landfill site, and in the official records the only explanation for the deaths of twenty odd men and the loss of sanity of another eleven was "an unknown hallucinogenic agent, presumed to be toxic in sufficiently large doses". No explanation was given for the absence of corpses of the missing agents, for the number of reports that claimed West Mansion had burned down in May 1988 only to appear entirely unscathed in August 1988. Nobody even batted an eyelid at the fact that Rick alone had managed to survive the ordeal in West Mansion on that fateful summer's day, nor did anyone ask where Jennifer had been for the three months she had listed as missing.

Rick had been very angry about the whole enquiry for some time, mainly because he knew he was utterly powerless to change the outcome. He and Jennifer had been forced to quit their studies of Parapsychology and Paranormal Phenomena and were relocated to Connecticut, where they enrolled without difficulty on new university courses. The FBI had presumably "helped" them with their applications, Rick mused. There was certainly no other explanation for how they got into a decent university after applying at the last minute with nothing much to show for two years of studies at another institute.

After a few months, however, Rick refused to let himself think about it too much, knowing that obsessing about it wouldn't help him. He still studied paranormal phenomena, but as a hobby now, rather than an academic subject. He had proposed to Jennifer in February of 1989, and they had been married in March. A year later, Jennifer had given birth to their son David.

The ringing of the telephone startled Rick from his thoughts, and he had switched the TV off and pulled the receiver to his ear before he'd worked out what to say if it was Lieutenant Manthey, as he hoped.

"Hello, Rick Taylor speaking," he said, trying to sound as if he hadn't been waiting for the call.

"Mr. Taylor, this is, uh, Edgar Dempsey. I'm Lieutenant Manthey's partner at the FBI. I noticed you've been trying to phone him earlier this evening, and I was wondering if there's anything I could help with?" came the reply. Rick's mental balance was momentarily thrown, as he hadn't expected Manthey to have a new partner, but in retrospect it was obvious.

"Uh, well, maybe. It's to do with a case that Lieutenant Manthey was assigned to a few years ago," asked Rick, wondering whether Dempsey was being sincere, or if this phone call was just a hoax. Generally he hated speaking on the phone to people he hadn't met in person - it made it that much harder to judge their reactions.

Dempsey went quiet for few seconds, then asked tentatively " It's about West Mansion, isn't it?" Rick gasped in surprise, and went silent for a while, until Dempsey spoke. "Hello? Mr. Taylor? Are you there?"

"Yes, I...I'm here. How do you know about that? I thought all the files were highly confidential," Rick asked.

"Cases pertinent to my new partner, you see. Helps build trust between us if we know what's happened to the other in past cases. Is there anything I can do to help with...with whatever it is that's bothering you?" asked Dempsey, and Rick noted the quiver of nervousness in his voice. He's trying to prove his worth to ole Manthey, Rick thought to himself.

"Um, well, it's not something I'd feel happy discussing on the telephone. Perhaps we could meet for lunch sometime soon?" asked Rick, as an idea dawned on him.

"How would the day after tomorrow do? I can catch the train up to meet you, and we can put lunch on my expense account. After all, this is an FBI matter," replied Edgar eagerly. Rick agreed, and Dempsey arranged to phone the next day with his train details. Rick hung up, and turned the TV back on.

Now, if only that arrogant prick Manthey could have been that helpful, or that eager to see me. Course, to him I'm just another nutjob, so it's hardly surprising, but I still can't believe he held on to his job, even after admitting that he shot me while I was unarmed. Damn it! He deserved that ass-kicking....

No.

He couldn't let himself think like that - he'd decided when David was born to stop thinking about the power of the Terror Mask and just move on with his life. It had gotten easier with time, but it was still difficult. He'd been brought up as a Christian, with the associated strong sense of right and wrong, and then the events of 1988 had left his moral compass spinning. He knew that what he had done to Manthey was wrong, but somehow that had made it more....appealing, at the time. Manthey hadn't been an innocent victim, by any measure, but Rick still felt uncomfortable thinking about it, especially when he had found out that it had taken Manthey two years to learn how to walk again.

Stop it.

He shook his head, stood up, and walked into the kitchen, where Jennifer was making dinner, while David played on the floor with his toy cars. Rick watched his son playing, trying to empty his mind of thoughts about the Terror Mask. Just then, David looked up at his father, a smile on his face, and stretched out his hand toward him, offering a Matchbox car to him. Rick smiled back, took the car, and sat on the floor to play cars with his son. From the doorway, they were the textbook picture of a happy family. The thoughts going through Rick & Jennifer's heads, however, weren't those of happy parents.

* * *

Rick waited on the platform for Dempsey's train to arrive, uncomfortably wondering how to greet him. They hadn't met, and yet Dempsey would probably know an uncomfortable amount of information about Rick. It was an awkward situation. He needed Dempsey's help, that much he knew. How much could Dempsey realistically do to help him, that was the question.

Stop being so goddamn cynical and pessimistic...at least it's not that asshole Manthey.

After a few minutes, a notice sounded over the tannoy, informing Rick that Dempsey's train was going to be half an hour late. Muttering under his breath, Rick went inside the station to get a cup of coffee. There was a Starbucks trolley run by a red-headed teenager with a bored expression, whose nametag proclaimed him to be one James Green, and moreover exhorted Rick to have a nice day. Fat chance, mused Rick as James handed him his latte and change wordlessly, with a scowl on his face, but Rick was again lost in thought.

It's weird how a person can become your link to sanity ...and even weirder who that person can end up being. If I'd thought of it at all before setting foot in West Mansion, I would have assumed that of all people it would be Jennifer. Instead, it ended up being David. It might seem stupid, or sentimental. But he's.......he's my little boy, so innocent, the only thing about my life untouched by what happened at that house. Jen can't help me there, because she has exactly the same problem, I guess. She doesn't even remember most of it, but she saw the monster we had to escape, that huge.....thing that killed Lieutenant Loker after we escaped.

I wonder if she has nightmares about it, like I do.

Abruptly, Rick shook his head angrily, willing himself to stop thinking until Dempsey arrived. He slurped at his coffee, scalding his tongue with it, but the pain took his mind off thoughts of West Mansion. He wandered back out onto the platform after picking up a newspaper. He sat down to wait, and idly flicked through the paper until an article caught his eye.

"Massachusetts sanitation authorities face disposal crisis"

Rick stared at it, and read the article with a feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach. He winced involuntarily when he saw the picture, showing West Mansion standing, unscathed. He assumed it was an old picture, but his jaw dropped when he read the caption and realised the picture was barely a week old.

"For the last six months the Massachusetts Sanitation Department has been having severe trouble with refuse disposal, and the problem now approaches crisis levels. Workers claim that excessive paperwork and bureaucracy has prevented the management from realising that at least one landfill site has not been correctly operated. West Mansion, pictured left last week during the sanitation worker's protest, was reportedly burned down after a lightning strike in 1988. No-one has been able to verify the occurrence of fire, but an anonymous source from the department had this to say: 'There's something odd about it. The site's been marked as a potential landfill site for five years, and yet nothing's happened. I reckon someone high up in the department wants to claim the land as their own - I mean, it's a pretty nice property, and fairly expensive too,'. Other workers are adamant that the site had indeed been used as a landfill site, but that West Mansion had then been rebuilt. The State Head of Department had no comment on the various claims, but said the department is working hard on finding a long-term solution to the problem."

Rick's skin felt cold. He was frozen to his seat, he couldn't take his eyes from the picture of West Mansion. Icy chills ran down his spine as he started having flashbacks. The thing with the chainsaws for hands amd no skin on its flesh, a fifteen foot tall monstrosity apparently on sentry duty outside the mansion, the stench of rotted meat rising in Rick's mind as he saw the gunnysack tied round the thing's head again, held in place by a noose that looked impossibly tight round its neck. The mysterious warehouse where he'd found those babies, all hanging from miniature nooses, yet not quite dead, screaming and retching, their eyes burning with the fire of insanity. The dead - no, not dead, anything but dead, his mind added - things hanging from the trees in the forest, dangling from nooses, waiting for a chance to feed. His stomach churned at that recollection, and he tried desperately not to throw up as he had done before, the mask hissing its delight at the acrid taste of vomit.

He remembered chasing Dr. Mueller's possessed and rotted body through the library while all around him disembodied hands, furniture, books attacked him. All around him those potassium bombs exploded, igniting the library and starting a fire that for the second time should have burned down the house.

Worst of all, however, was the lab. Enormous, seemingly far too big to be part of the house, it was filled with things Rick could scarcely imagine. Huge crystal chambers in which those screaming things were ....grown? Hordes of zombies, their flesh rotting and yet life or some perverted form of it still residing in the body. Creatures made seemingly by stitching random body parts together and seeing what happened. There had been creatures that were all legs, things with no heads, their eyes implanted into other body parts, wherever they would fit. There was no question as to how these monsters had come to be - a multitude of them were stumbling around the lab, operating sloppily on countless more of them, who lay on worktops, internal organs strewn loosely around, stitches applied badly to rotting flesh, barely sufficient to hold the gaping wounds shut....

With a start, Rick realised that someone had their hand on his shoulder. Instinctively he dashed it away, then looked up. Two men were staring at him. One of them looked fascinated - Rick assumed this would be Dempsey. The other one was familiar, but Rick remained silent.

"Richard Taylor? I'm Lieutenant Edgar Dempsey, and this is, uh, Lieutenant Carl Manthey," spoke the younger one, awkwardly.

"Oh....uh, hi," said Rick, weakly. He extended his hand first to Dempsey, who took it without hesitation and shook it vigorously, then to Manthey, who hesitated for a second and then shook hands limply. "I, uh, sorry about that. I guess I just kinda...zoned out or something, and I've always been a bit nervous ever since...." Rick trailed off, in the face of Manthey's stony glare.

"Anyway, shall we go get lunch? I know a great italian place about fifteen minutes from here, and my car's right outside," Rick continued. Dempsey nodded energetically, but Manthey said he'd prefer to walk.

The three men walked to the restaurant, Dempsey placing himself between the two in a failed attempt to deflect Manthey's evident dislike for Rick. Rick managed to hide most of his contempt for Manthey, who was too absorbed in his own thoughts to notice in any case. Rick made generic small talk with Edgar, but Manthey refused point blank to become involved in the conversation.

When they finally arrived at the restaurant, Rick ordered his usual tagliatelle, while Manthey stuck to a light salad ("Doctors advised me to go vegetarian....part of my diet," he muttered) and Dempsey went for lasagne on account of "not really knowing anything about Italian food". Once they had their drinks and the waiters had left them, Manthey spoke.

"Well, we all know what the reason for this luncheon is. I myself think it's a waste of time, but Edgar here," Manthey nodded toward Dempsey, whose face showed the faintest traces of annoyance, "reckons that you're the victim, Rick, and that the FBI should help you. So. What was it that made you interrupt my otherwise peaceful day and phone me, thereby returning into my life like an unwanted case of hemorrhoids?" Manthey enquired, smiling mirthlessly.

Rick didn't see the point in hiding his reaction, but he didn't rise to Manthey's goading. "Well, first I'd like to ask you why you came, since you obviously haven't changed your conviction that I was guilty of murder, despite the fact that the investigation subsequently cleared me of all blame and questioned your judgement," he replied.

Manthey was visibly angered by Rick's jab, and didn't try and hide it. "That investigation was led by a bunch of paper-pushing idiots whose field skills wouldn't save a rubber duck from drowning," he growled. "As for why I'm here, there is only one reason. A man I respected would have been here. It's that simple," he spat.

An uncomfortable silence descended upon the table, Dempsey in particular not knowing where to look. Rick knew that Manthey blamed him unconditionally for Lieutenant Loker's death, and that the bond between the men had been strong enough for Manthey to continue blaming Rick until he could exact revenge somehow. Nonetheless, however much Rick disliked him, he needed to try and stay on his good side for now.

"I, uh, I was sorry to hear that he," Rick began, awkwardly, but Manthey cut across him.

"Not sorry enough to go to the funeral, even after he'd saved your sorry ass from a life in jail," Manthey snapped.

"You really think they'd have appreciated my presence there? His family?" Rick retorted angrily. He could feel his rage rising, but couldn't do anything to control it. His fists were bunching up, and he could remember that feeling of absolute power, when he had broken Manthey utterly....

"How about we calm down," interrupted Dempsey, and there was a hard edge to his voice. Rick and Manthey grudgingly did as he suggested, muttering to themselves, staring stonily across the table at each other. Rick wondered what had prompted Dempsey to intercede when he was clearly over-awed by his partner, and saw that the waiter was waiting politely with their food.

"The dreams are back again," he said shortly, once the waiter had left. Manthey stared at Rick, an underwhelmed expression on his face. Dempsey looked politely confused, awaiting an explanation.

"And?" Manthey replied, his tone a little too impertinent for Rick's liking.

"And I noticed this in the paper today. I think something is going to start happening - happening again, and soon, so I wanted to warn you. Maybe you could stop it before anyone gets hurt this time," Rick said, handing over his newspaper. Manthey snorted in disbelief, an expression of slight confusion crossing his face as he read the article.

"I, uh, I don't understand what you mean about dreams," mumbled Dempsey as Manthey read the article in Rick's paper.

"After the first incident, I was arrested and taken to the Belmont Institute, as you know. Three months later....the second incident took place, in which Lieutenant Loker was killed. Now, it's not on record, because no-one believed me, but for a month before I broke out of Belmont, I had vivid nightmares about the Terror Mask and the things I encountered in West Mansion. I'm having those same dreams again, and it worries me," Rick explained in a low voice. Meanwhile, Manthey had finished the article, and had scrutinised the photo. He handed the paper back to Rick and looked at him with scorn in his eyes.

"What do you want me to do, go back to my boss and say 'Hey chief, Rick Taylor had a coupla dreams and then read the newspaper, I think we better send out a coupla SWAT teams so he can butcher 'em again'?" Manthey asked, nastily.

Rick's temper snapped. He dropped his fork, and when he next spoke there was iron in his voice. "Yes, actually, because protecting innocent people is your job. I know you still think it was me who killed those people but get over it. I asked you for help because I think people's lives could be in danger, including my family's. You do know what it's like to care about your family, don't you?"

Manthey's face shut down. Through gritted teeth, he said in a low voice "Ever since you hospitalised me I've been infertile. That's the reason my wife left me last year,"

Normally Rick would have backed down at this point, but something in Manthey's demeanour made him carry on. "No, I'd guess she left you because you're an arrogant self-centred prick who refuses to admit he's wrong!"

Manthey didn't reply to that. He put down his knife and fork very calmly, slid his chair backwards slowly, and walked out of the restaurant, looking for all the world like a satisfied customer.

Rick and Dempsey watched him leave, in silence. After about thirty seconds, they both spoke at once.

"I should, um, go and find him," blurted out Dempsey, clearly uncomfortable about his partner's behaviour.

"Yeah, I was about to suggest it," Rick replied wearily. The day had not gone according to plan at all. He covered his face with his hands, then looked up in surprise as Dempsey was still standing at the table, waiting for him.

"I've sorted out the bill - I could hardly leave you to pay it. And, uh," he paused, and fumbled in his wallet, eventually handing Rick a card, "if anything more happens that worries you, you can reach me on this number. I'll file a report when we get back, but maybe it's best if we don't keep Carl informed of every little detail right now. Bye," he finished, and hurried out of the restaurant. Rick pocketed the card, an odd grin on his face.

You sly old dog...still, maybe I can use your ambition. With that thought in mind, he finished his meal, and left.

* * *

That night, when he was lying in bed with Jen, she asked him why he looked so nervous, so wound up.

"Is it the new job? I mean, we moved here because the stress from that Wall street job was having a bad effect on your health, but you always seem tired....don't you like it here? Aren't you happy?" she asked, and Rick could hear the concern in her voice.

He hugged her tightly, trying to reassure her without words, knowing that if he had to comfort her with words he wouldnt be able to, and then explained his tiredness with "Just been having a few nightmares, that's all. Nothing to worry about," in a casual tone. Jennifer didn't take it casually, however. She sat up and stared at him, the fear visible on her face.

"Nightmares? About....what? Not about the mask? Please Rick, tell me its over, that our lives have moved on..." she asked, in a small voice.

Rick realised his folly in telling her. He'd been scarred by what had happened in West Mansion, but Jen had been affected in a totally different way. She couldn't remember anything about it. For her, it was three months of her life gone, three months that marked a huge transition in her life, and she preferred not to think about it, couldn't actually handle thinking about it in fact.

"Of course its over," he said, holding her close, stroking her hair as he did so. "It's over, finished. The house burned down and whatever evil lived their has gone to hell," he said, with as much conviction as possible. She seemed satisfied, for she hugged him back, then kissed him delicately on the forehead.

They lay back, Jen lying in Rick's arms, and presently she fell asleep. Rick couldn't sleep. He kept having visions of the things he had seen then, and he couldn't shake that fear that it would all start again soon. Eventually he fell into a troubled sleep, his last thoughts praying that hsi wife and child would be safe if the horrors of their past came back again...

* * *

A wordless scream, a raw guttural noise, split the silence of the night, causing panic and some minor heart damage to the only person who heard it - Jennifer Taylor.

"Rick! Rick! What's wrong, honey? Are you okay? Rick, wake up!" she babbled. In desperation, she punched him in the ribs, hard.

"Ow! What?..Oh...Jen, I....it was a nightmare. I'm sorry I woke you...it was just so....real," Rick blurted, clearly relieved to be awake, yet still not fully conscious. He sat up, and pulled Jennifer to him tightly, unwilling to let go of her.

"What were you dreaming about?" Jennifer murmured, her face pressed against Rick's chest.

"Oh.....it was a nightmare.....I dreamt that you and David were.....taken from me," Rick said.

"It's to do with that house, isn't it?" Jennifer said, the undertone of resignation in her voice changing it from a question to a statement. Rick winced, and hugged her more tightly.

"I'm sorry, hun. I want to move on as much as you do, and most of the time it feels like I have....but just sometimes...my dreams....I don't know why, but occasionally they come back," Rick explained, feeling certain she wouldn't believe him.

"But why? We already relocated once to try and get away from ...from that...you quit your Wall Street job and we moved here, to try and relax, to be able to enjoy our lives without the shadow of West Mansion hanging over us. Why can't we do that? What did we do to ask for this?" Jennifer said, and by the end of it she was crying, silent tears welling in her eyes and trickling down her cheeks.

Of course, he couldn't answer her. He was as baffled as she was when it came to figuring out why West Mansion had assumed control of their lives twice before, but he balked at the idea of explaining to his wife that evil could be motiveless, that perhaps they had been victims of convenience, chosen because they were to hand.

"I don't know, baby. I don't know. Maybe it's one of those...post-traumatic stress disorders, like the Vietnam veterans had....maybe I just need a holiday," he finished, planting kisses on Jennifer's head, trying to comfort her. She seemed to relax slightly at the mention of a holiday, and he knew this was the way to calm her down.

"In fact, yes, a holiday...I've got a few weeks of holiday time I can claim, and we could go away, go to Europe, the Mediterranean, just soak up the sun, as far away as can be from all our cares," he whispered in her ear, kissing her neck in between words. She shuddered, and sighed in pleasure. She pulled him back down to lie next to her, and Rick fell asleep in her arms. This time, Rick's was a dreamless sleep.

When she was sure he was properly asleep, Jennifer pulled free from his arms, and reached toward her drawer. She pulled a small plastic bottle from it, and shook a couple of heavy duty sleeping tablets from it and swallowed them dry. Never gonna move on from the problem if you don't face it, muttered a voice in her head, but she ignored it.

She hated the dreams she had been having lately, all vague, yet focused on the idea of her not being there anymore. David and Rick seemed to get on quite happily with their lives, but there she was, trapped in some alternate reality, a parallel dimension or something like that, able to watch them but never communicate, and she knew that must have been something like what her three month ordeal was.

She couldn't remember any of it. She remembered the trip up to West Mansion and that was it. She supposed it was some sort of mental defence mechanism. Which was all very well, but she had still ended up on Valium, which she was ashamed of, and had hence not told Rick. Well, how could she? Particularly not when she was, well, inches away from actually having a physical affair with the therapist that she was still seeing, also without Rick's knowledge. He seemed to think that she had had a totally passive role in the affair, as if she'd let herself be taken for three months because it seemed like a bit of a laugh or something. He didn't understand how it had affected her except in the most rudimentary way, although at least he wasn't hiding his weakness to it, so he would understand when, or more likely if, she ever decided to tell him about it.

However, it had meant that he had been somewhat blunt about her stopping her visits to Dr. Malcolm, her therapist, and that was where the problem had started. She'd found it easier to lie to Rick and keep seeing Dr. Malcolm in secret than to actually face her problem without his help, and once that wedge was in place, her closeness to Rick had started to dissipate, and comfort had been readily available from Dr. Malcolm, who seemed all too eager to listen to her talk about how her husband didn't understand her.

But you won't tell him, will you? said that little voice in her head. You dropped out of your university course and let Rick become the money-earner, and you have to depend on him, and for someone who had to stand up to Senator Willis and convince him to pay for her university education when he wanted her to be a secretary, that's not a comfortable position. Hiding the pills....its not about the pills. It's getting used to keeping secrets from him, because deep down you want to drive him away from you, so that you're forced to find your independence again.

No! I love him. I do! I love him and I love David, and I'd do anything for them, but sometimes I feel like......they have some bond that excludes me. As if I intrude in the all-male club.

She shook her head as if to rid herself of her doubts, and rolled back into Rick's arms, trying to forget the nagging voice that kept reminding her of the bottles of pills in her drawer.

* * *

Rick awoke early, waking from a dreamless sleep, yet feeling oddly uncomfortable, as if he had forgotten some ghastly event of the previous evening. His nightmare came back to him, and though it lacked its previous intensity, he felt a pang of foreboding when he glanced outside. The sky was grey with clouds. The storm would probably break that night, as the weather forecaster had been predicting for a few days, and David was still afraid of lightning. Rick himself was still afraid of storms, if they were big enough. Enough epic thundering rain and sky-splitting lightning, and he would be plunged back into memories of West Mansion.

To hell with that.

He decided, there and then, he was going to exert his will on the day. He was going to make good his promise to Jennifer, and by the night they would be flying to somewhere in the Mediterranean, on their way to a holiday away from storms and nightmares, to spend the days lazing in the sun on the beach. He glanced at his alarm clock, and saw it was now coming up to seven. He decided to make Jennifer breakfast in bed as an unspoken apology for waking her. He got up quietly and showered, making a mental list of his tasks for the day, trying to work out all the arrangements that would need to be made.

After he had made Jennifer and then David breakfast, Rick wolfed down his own breakfast down and headed off to work, to discuss his holiday leave with his boss. There was no real argument he could make against Rick taking his holidays - everyone in the office had noticed his recent increase in stress and generally haggard appearance when the nightmares had struck. At the end of the day, Rick would be a more productive worker once he'd recharged his batteries, which suited the company just fine. Four weeks of holiday leave were duly booked, effective immediately.

Rick felt an enormous relief when this was done. He spent the day making arrangements with co-workers and clients, making sure that no accounts would be ignored, trying to ensure that his absence, while it would be noted, wouldn't drive any clients away.

He left work half an hour early, to head to the travel agents. They were only too keen to help him decide where he was going, given that he was evidently affluent, had offered to pay in cash straight away, and was willing to pay the extortionate prices that inevitably went with last-minute holiday bookings. He eventually decided on a quiet spot on the Greek coast, with temperate weather but an absence of the obese ignorant tourists who seemed to roam the world these days.

So it was that Rick drove home with something like happiness beating in his chest, looking forward to just getting away. While on his flights of fancy, he began to imagine a life where they moved to Europe, and finally left behind the legacy of West Mansion, but deep down he knew that if he did that, he would be running away from his problem rather than overcoming it, and the concept of running away was not one close to Rick's heart.

He was so absorbed in his musings that he didn't realise, as he parked in his driveway, that all the lights in his house were switched off, and that the house was quiet. He didn't pick up on this until he reached the front door. As he opened it, a cold wave of panic struck him. Perhaps the power had gone off? A glance at other houses up and down the street discarded that idea - all their lights were on. Maybe a fuse had blown, he thought half-heartedly, knowing that Jennifer was perfectly able to change a fuse.

Maybe they've just ....fallen asleep, thought Rick, trying not to panic, realising as he did so that he already knew what he thought was going on.

Stepping inside, he hung his coat on the coat-rack, and shivered. The heating wasn't on, either. Definitely something going on. His mind had gone icy numb, and he was wandering through the house, as if his brain were running on autopilot. He checked each room in turn, switching on the lights, to try and get rid of the empty feeling that permeated the house.

As he returned to the living room, having switched on all the lights, it occured to him to check the answerphone, in case there were a message there which might laughably explain the entire situation. He switched on the television, to get rid of the eerie silence, and checked the messages.

Nothing.

A crack of lighting split the sky in two outside, and a loud rumble of thunder shook the windows. Then the lights died. Rick cursed, and wondered what to do. He turned to go into the kitchen, intending to pick up a torch and change the fuses in the basement. As he turned, a flickering light in the corner caught his eye, and for a second Rick wondered if the television was still working. Then he turned and looked at it.

He screamed.

The Terror Mask was on the screen, seeming to stare straight through Rick. Its eyes flared with a glowing , pulsating darkness, and thick blood oozed slowly from its mouth. Then it spoke to him.

Come out, come out, wherever you are.

Come on, Rick, you know you want to come and play with me. One more round for old time's sakes?

"You! I knew it was you! You took them, didn't you?! Why? What do you want?" screamed Rick, unsure whether fear or anger was the stronger emotion. Had he been capable of rational thought, he would have opted for anger, but at the time, rational thought was beyond him, and emotions were all he knew.

I didn't take your wife and child, Rick. That much I assure you - what use could I possibly have for them?

"You tell me!" spat Rick, angrily. He stepped towards the television, forgetting his fear for a moment.

Once again, you need my help, Rick, and I need yours.

"What do you want from me?" asked Rick, immediately suspicious. The Mask had never gone into detail why it needed Rick's help, why it suited the Mask to help Rick save Jennifer from whatever it was that haunted West Mansion. Rick had never asked, because previously he hadn't had time, but now, he decided it might be important.

The one you defeated before has returned from the void where we imprisoned it. He is more powerful than before, for reasons too complicated to explain right now. Your enemy is not simply the soul of Herbert West, nor was it ever. A much darker evil has been summoned, and most worrying is the fact that whoever summoned him provided him with the Dark Stone.

"The Dark Stone? What's that?" asked Rick, wondering if this was some sort of hallucination.

You have heard of the Rosetta stone, famed to be a belonging of the Devil? The Dark Stone is....similar. Its proper name is the Heart of Cihuacaotyl, but those who know of it call it the Dark Stone or the Bloodstone. It holds quite extraordinary powers of unique origin. It is believed to be a relic of one of the Aztec War Gods. Jennifer has been taken again, but more importantly so has David.

Rick's stomach lurched. "What?! David - why?"

Were you not aware that your child has quite pronounced psychic powers? David's abilities will help to unlock the secrets of Cihuacaotyl, Jennifer will create a new body for this ancient evil. Once he has a new body, it will be too late. You cannot let him succeed, Rick. We both have too much to lose from such an outcome.

"I know what I stand to lose. What about you?" asked Rick, still suspicious.

My reasons are my own. There is ...bad blood between myself and the ancient one, shall we say.

"Sounds more like a petty rivalry, " muttered Rick, then continued "but I don't have any choice, really. Where have they been taken?"

He is still weak, and cannot move from West Mansion. He has followers who do his bidding, and they have taken Jennifer and David to West Mansion. I am also waiting for you here. Hurry, Rick!

With those words, the Terror Mask disappeared from the television, which promptly switched back on, along with the lights. The sudden burst of sound confused Rick for a few seconds, and he sat down. As he stared at the television with glassy unseeing eyes, the Mask's words sank in.

He leapt up and ran to the cupboard under the stairs, throwing the door open and rummaging inside for a few seconds, emerging with a baseball bat clutched in one hand, a strange lopsided grin on his face. He donned his jacket, all set to go out, then a thought struck him. He went back to the living room, picked up the phone, and dialled Dempsey's number.

Engaged. He tried again, and then again, then gave up.

He rang directory enquiries, and obtained the number for the FBI missing persons helpline. Within thirty seconds he had gotten through and reported his wife and son missing. The condescending operator at the end informed him that because they had not been missing a full twenty four hours, a proper manhunt could not be initiated. The condescending tone stopped when Rick told her in no uncertain terms to inform Lieutenants Manthey and Dempsey of the turn in events.

He hung up, and dashed outside to his car. Almost as soon as he started the engine, thunder rolled and rain started to pour, not light drizzle but serious rain, sheets of it. Rick flicked his lights and windscreen wipers to full, and pulled away, leaving an impressive tire-mark.

* * *

Damnit! Damnit! Why me? What the hell is so special about me, about us? Why can't they just leave us alone? mused Rick as he drove recklessly fast through the rain. The storm seemed to be following him. Rick didn't trust it. He'd seen storms like this before. Twice before. He was sure that West could control the weather somehow, though he would never admit this to anyone.

And that asshole from the FBI. "We must wait 24 hours" my ass. If it hadn't been under the Official Secrets act, it'd be ok. But of course, only Manthey knows what really happened, and he doesn't believe me anyway.....

Deep down, Rick was ashamed to feel an old emotion stir. A pang of guilt flashed through him as he realised he was looking forward to this, to wearing the Terror Mask again. To forgetting his life for a while, forget everything except the thirst for blood. He would save Jennifer and David.

David......

David.... My little boy. Psychic, according to the mask, but my little boy nonetheless. And Jen....I'll save you both from that monster West. Tonight my questions will be answered, and that madman can go back to hell or wherever it is the Mask sent him last time.

I will succeed.

He spotted a sign on the road side, West Lake 5 miles, and then accelerated. He knew the mask would be somewhere nearby.....

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Manthey was driving as fast as he dared towards West Mansion, wishing he could remember more of his Dangerous Driving Training Course, and cursing the operator at the Department for Missing Persons, who had finally gotten in touch with him on his portable phone.

"Didn't you think to ask him his goddamn name?! Oh, you did, huh? Well then why the hell didn't you think of running it through the computer? Oh, you did. I forgot. That's why it's two damn hours since he phoned and I'm still the only person who KNOWS WHERE HE'S GOING!! YOU PEOPLE MAKE ME WANT TO PUKE!!" he bellowed into the phone. He fell silent, breathing hard, trying to see through the driving rain.

"Sir? Are you still there, sir?" enquired the voice of the evidently cowed operator.

Manthey took a deep breath, then spoke. "Get as many agents, SWAT teams, ATF teams, anything, as many of them as you can to head down to West Mansion, in Belmont, Massachusetts. Tell them to read the Splatterhouse case files on the way. Don't let Senator Willis know his daughter's missing again, for Christ's sake. Oh, and get hold of a Dr. James Turner from the Belmont Home for the Emotionally Troubled, and get him up to West Mansion as well. Anything comes up, you can get me on this number. Oh, and phone Edgar Dempsey and tell him to get his ass in gear," he finished, and hung up.

So, Rick, what's it gonna be? he thought to himself. Why in the hell did you contact me? What's this game you're playing, Rick? Whatever it is, I'm going to beat you. You're insane, and I will beat you. You picked the wrong man to toy with, I know that much.

Manthey glanced at the passenger seat, where he had a bulletproof vest, along with an assault shotgun, a rucksack's worth of ammo and a spare handgun. A Desert Eagle, to be precise. His trusty Glock was still in his underarm holster, but he wasn't taking any chances this time. He was going in armed to the teeth.

Yeah, Rick. I'm going to take you down. This time, I'll be the one who walks out alive and well....and you'll be the one consigned to hospital. You'll be broken, exposed for the monster you are, and you'll pay for taking Loker from me.

His phone rang again, distracting him from his reverie.

"Manthey here - what is it?" he asked, gruffly.

"Carl, you dick, it's me, Edgar. Why in the hell didn't you tell me what's up? We're partners - that's supposed to mean that I don't have to wait for the Missing Persons Department to phone me and tell me that something's going down," came a petulant voice from the phone.

"I didn't have time. I'm on my way to West Mansion, which is where you should be headed too," said Manthey, probably not realising how patronising he sounded.

"You, me, and about fifty SWAT teams. There's two teams on the way, who'll be there within five minutes of you and I, and then there's another seven or so who'll probably get there within another fifteen minutes. I'm about ten miles out from the place, but the rain's pouring down like a motherfucker and I don't know the road, so I'll be about five minutes. How far away are you from West Mansion?" asked Dempsey.

Manthey went quiet. Dempsey cursed, silently, and then spoke.

"God-damnit Carl, would you stop acting like such a fucking child! You have made it excruciatingly obvious that I'm not up to the standard of your old partner, and I put up with that, but I'm your partner now, and I refuse to let you get yourself killed on some heroic suicide mission. We lost more than thirty men with Richard Taylor last time. So don't be such a fucking idiot, and wait for me. And if you call me Dempsey instead of Edgar when I get there, I will be forced to black one of your eyes for you, if not both of them," shouted Dempsey, and then hung up. He glared through his windscreen, as if daring the rain to challenge him, and floored the accelerator, relishing the surge of the engine.

Manthey had done likewise. He wasn't sure why, but since Loker's death, he had been adamantly against the idea of working with a partner. Even when he'd been assigned Edgar Dempsey, an up-and-coming hotshot with a bright future, he'd been less than keen. He'd claimed he didn't want to lose another friend, but he wasn't sure that was the reason.

But it's not that, and you know it....came a quiet voice from the back of his mind. He tried to silence it, but was unable to. Angered, he stamped on the accelerator, realised he was approaching the corner to West Mansion Road far too fast, and tugged recklessly on the handbrake, executing a near-perfect handbrake turn onto the road. After a few hundred yards, he stopped, not far from the spot where Rick had battered him into a coma several years ago.

Memories started to flood him, images of the last time he had been here, Loker next to him.....

Stop thinking about it.

He remembered shooting Rick.

He remembered Rick, wearing the glistening mask, somehow still standing, even though Manthey's spine was alive with the hot guilty knowledge that he'd just shot him in the head.

He remembered Rick coming towards him, impervious to bullets.......and then, nothing.

A siren's wail banished the silence, and Manthey checked his rearview mirror. It was Dempsey. Manthey got out of his car, and wandered to where Dempsey had pulled up.

"Evening, Edgar. Nice of you to show up," spat Manthey, but there was a grin on his face. He opened Dempsey's door, and when Dempsey got out, Manthey offered him his hand. They shook on it.

"What's the current ETA for backup?" asked Manthey.

"About six minutes for the initial crew, which'll be two SWAT squads, but within twenty minutes we'll have an additional two squads, along with three ATF teams," replied Dempsey. "What you packin'? I don't believe you came up here with that old Glock of yours and nothing else."

"Naaah, Old Faithful's with me, but I fetched an assault shotgun and a coupla Eagles as well as a vest," replied Manthey, loftily.

They donned their equipment, Manthey noting that Dempsey had armed himself heavily, with two MP5's as well as his Beretta. Evidently he had done his reading on the splatterhouse case...

The SWAT teams arrived on time, and they prepared to head once more into West Mansion. May God protect us, prayed Manthey fervently. He suddenly had an image of Loker leading his men into the house, not knowing what lay ahead of them, and he crossed himself, before leading the way.

* * *

Rick awoke, lying facedown on the road. He sat up and his hands flew to his face, feeling the smooth contours of the mask. He looked around him, and realised he was able to see in the dark. It was monochrome, but it was night-vision. He dimly recalled this from his previous experiences with the mask. He stood up, tentatively, trying to get used to the new sensations the mask made available. Extra sensory perception had nothing on what the mask could do for you.

"What happened?" he murmured, looking around him. He saw his car a few yards away, on the side of the road. The driver's door hung open, and the baseball bat lay next to it on the road. Some half mile away lay the front door to West Mansion, buried in the forest.

You arrived here, I summoned you and...possessed you. It is perfectly normal not to remember the possession process.... it's not pleasant.

Rick nodded slightly in acknowledgement. The mask spoke again, a noiseless voice in his head.

We havent got much time. You will face an army of followers in this house, and Jennifer has once again been attacked by the Boreworm, while He tries to use David to unlock the powers of the Heart of Cihuacaotyl.

Rick's heart skipped a beat at that thought. He clenched his fists, arched his back, and roared. He ran to his car and slammed the door shut, then picked up his baseball bat. He turned, slowly, to face the house. Then he charged into the forest, where Sleepers dangled from the trees. He felt a surge of adrenalin as the first one of them snapped at him, trying to get a grip on him, and he turned, bat swinging freely, thirsting for blood.....

* * *

The government agents were about two miles from West Mansion's rear entrance when they heard an ungodly howl split the night. They stopped, unsure of what to do, until Manthey shouted.

"Come on, damn it! There's over thirty of us! We can take 'em!" he cried, trying to stop his voice from shaking. With that, he started moving againtoward the house. Dempsey was the first to follow, but the rest soon followed suit. After half an hour of stumbling, running, and occasional screams and gunfire as they met the horrors that had returned to the forest, they had reached the rear entrance, but couldn't hear anything from inside due to the noise of the storm. Manthey signalled that Dempsey should kick it in.

Before he could do anything, it burst open of its own accord, and several monstruous creatures flew out, landing in untidy heaps outside. They had long necks, four legs, and long spiked tails, along with dog-like heads, but there was no skin on them, the muscles exposed and glistening. The agents bristled, and the night was again alive with the sound of gunfire, as round after round was pumped into the recumbent creatures from thirty-odd different guns.

It was Dempsey who first noticed more movement at the door, but Manthey's trigger finger was almost as fast. All he could see was the gleaming, bone-white of Rick's mask, and a mixture of terror and rage pulled the trigger back. The shots missed, since Dempsey had thrown himself into Manthey, knocking the two of them to the floor. They picked themselves up, Manthey grumbling under his voice, and then noticed that Rick was carrying David in his arms.

"Ah, Carl. Still as trigger-happy as ever, I presume?" asked Rick, and his voice was deep, resonant and confident. Manthey's face flushed, but he kept his silence. Rick wordlessly summoned Dempsey, who stepped forward, nervously.

"You seem to be more sensible that Carl here, so I'll leave David with you. Take him somewhere safe, you understand?" said Rick, and Dempsey nodded. He turned to David, and took his hand, and the two of them set off to go back to Dempsey's car.

Rick glared at the assembled agents. "You no idea what you will confront in this house. If you stay, you're on your own," he said, in a stony cold voice. He walked inside, and they heard his footsteps running into the house, looking for more victims.

* * *

I realised much later that memories were....different, when I wore the mask. Things seemed more intense, more vivid. Perceptions were greatly heightened, and when I was able to think my thoughts raced along much faster than usual. Sometimes I would perceive things without knowing how. Like in that awful outhouse, with those dead babies hanging from the roof....I somehow knew what had happened there as soon as I set foot in that room, without there being any way for me to know. And yet.... any actions undertaken while wearing the mask would be remembered at best vaguely. It was as if I was looking at the world though stained glass, trying to remember what happened when I had the mask on. Most of the memory is a sense of loss for what you can't remember.

I haven't a clue how long I was fighting those things in the house, but I would guess hours....I know I went through every floor, and eventually ended up in the attic, where minions had built a new laboratory. I found them, and .....

It was horrible.

They had Jen there, tied to a table, but she was... different. Her skin was pale, her eyes had rolled back up into her head, she was twitching....and her stomach was massively bloated. As I watched, she gave birth, screaming in agony as she did so, and with all due reason, for the thing she gave birth to was huge, the size of a full-grown man. The mask told me this was the product of Boreworm infection. It was too late to save Jennifer, and the ancient one had his new body.

I....screamed, but no sound came out. The thing stood up, opened its eyes, and looked at me. It spoke, and its voice was the voice I had last heard coming from Dr. Mueller's mouth, the first night I set foot in West Mansion in 1988. It laughed at me, and then it attacked me.

We fought for I don't know how long, but it could have been seconds or hours.....I was angry, raging, tears streaming from my eyes, the mask lapping them up, and using any part of my body to fight this thing. I ceased to care what happened to me, so long as that monster died with me. Fists, elbows, knees, ankles...whatever it took, so long as it didn't stand up again after I was done with it.

Eventually I found myself on top of it, sitting on its chest, banging its head into the floor. I noticed something vacant about the eyes....and realised it was dead. That was when the numbness set in. I suddenly remembered David, outside with Dempsey, waiting for Daddy to bring Mummy back, and I almost broke down.

Then the mask spoke to me.

Excellent work, Rick! Now I can take His power, and together you and I will become more powerful than any other creature on the planet!

I stared, numb, in shock. I didn't understand, at first, then it dawned on me. It had made me lose Jennifer deliberately, because it needed to know if it was possible to create a new body for itself. Cold realisation trickled into my mind like icy water. Any alliance with the mask would be futile - I would eventually be cast aside, like a snake shedding its skin. Jennifer was lost, and it was beyond my ability and the mask's interest to save her again.

Or maybe I don't need you any more, Rick.....maybe you have outlived your usefulness.....

As it spoke to me, I felt the mask loosen, tethers of glowing darkness stretching from it toward the defunct corpse of the Boreworm child that He had inhabited. I heard a grunt of surprise, and realised that, while the mask had reanimated the thing, it couldn't let go of me completely. I didn't question why, I just lunged again into the attack, destroying the monster again.

It wasn't easy, the second time. The mask had abandoned me, or tried to, and what remained of its power was a fraction of what I had been using all along. Moreover, my body was tiring, and the mask's incarnate form had powers it had never bestowed on me. It was using psychic attacks, as well as physical assaults, and for a few seconds I feared I wouldn't leave the house alive. I swung one last punch, knowing I hadn't the strength to go on any longer, and miraculously, it was enough. The beast collapsed, as did I.

I don't know how long I lay there. All I know is that it was dawn when I awoke, and the mask was gone from me. I picked up Jennifer's sleeping body, and carried her downstairs, where an ambulance was waiting. This time the SWAT teams had been more careful, and had waited for back-up before going in, but there were still many injured, and several unfortunate souls had died. However, I couldn't feel much pity for him. I was too busy trying to work out how my life had fallen apart so suddenly.

| on to Chapter 3 |