Howard Baker had never been an excitable man. Fact was, not much scared him. He was slow to anger, but when brought to that state he would lose all reason. It had led him to do murder, and in his self righteous mind he was a hero for its doing. Guilt was an emotion somewhat foreign to him. When he slept, it was the sleep of peace.
On that night in late fall, he had retired early after an exhausting day of haying and mucking out stables. The forecast promised a nasty storm, but that was no bother to Howard. By 9:30, after a couple of beers, he was snoring.
A short time later, the rain came on with a vengeance, and distant lightning woke a muttering of thunder. A black pickup truck stopped at the entrance to Howard’s long driveway. A tall thin figure got out and, not minding the streaming rain, walked slowly towards the darkened house.
In his dream of accolades, Howard’s heart swelled now that he was finally getting his due. He smiled and waved at the adoring crowd, and the happy ending brought him peace and the quietude of expiated sin. But soon a black hand, palm outward in token of rejection, disturbed and troubled his art.
He awoke suddenly to explosive lightning and immediate thunder. In the afterglow, a face in his window. Raven-like eyes, sharp hooked nose, and a small tight mouth contorted with hate. Howard was paralyzed, and thought with hope that the face was but a nightmare. Indeed, when the next flash came, the face was not there. He thought to get out of bed to collect his wits, but found that his body would not obey.
Hoping that sleep would take him, he tried to calm his jumping nerves by using a mantra that he had once heard a hypnotist employ. Something about intentionally relaxing your muscles, one by one, starting at your toes. Howard was just getting to his knees when, in the next strong flash of lightning, a tall figure could be seen standing in his open bedroom door. It was the owner of the face, and as they locked eyes, it was upon him.
With its thin strong hands and sharp nails, it grabbed onto his ears and drew its grim countenance to his. All the while looking straight into his soul, it whispered these words: “Howard Baker, ye are the one. You gave to one of mine their own private Hell, and then their death. I am inside ye now. Your soul is mine. You will walk my walk for the time left of your life, and it will be long. I have sold my own soul for this, for I have rejected my God, who said that vengeance was given to him only.” And then, dry crusted lips laid a cold kiss upon his trembling forehead. Howard had soiled himself.
If one had awoken early enough, they might have seen, at the site of Herman’s law office, a smart looking and very erect old woman dressed in red. With a confident mien, she brought forth an iron key from her bag, and made entrance to her new world. In gold leaf, the letters in the window spelled out VERNA MARTIN- FASHIONS FOR THE TIMES.
If one had stayed up late enough, they might have seen (if they didn’t mind the rain) a tall thin figure in black who also produced an iron key from her bag, and unhurriedly gained entrance to the Bligh house. There was a booming slam as the door closed, and the sound of tinkling chains.
One of the Bakers’ neighbours had noticed that there had not been much activity on that farm for a few days, and decided to pay Howard a visit. Along his dusty driveway, they saw some sick cattle, and became more alarmed. At last, they pulled up to the house. There was Howard, sitting on his front stoop, naked except for his socks. He was eating a cob of raw corn. He did not look up.
The Police, who had been “keeping an eye” on Howard while “gathering evidence”, arrived at the homestead, together with a paddywagon.
Howard did indeed have a long life. He was pronounced incurably insane. Herman’s murder was never solved.