THE MONSTER IN THE SECOND REEL
By Richard Paolinelli
© 2020 RICHARD PAOLINELLI . ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO COPYING OR ANY OTHER REPRODUCTION OF THIS STORY IS PERMITTED WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION.
The priest burst into the projection room through its only door and found it empty. The projector was still on. He knew his quarry had just been here and fled, perhaps only seconds before. The amount of effort and energy the man was expending had to be taking a great toll. Martin had to be close by, exhausted and not able to move again for a minute or two at best. But figuring out where he’d gone in time was the trick. The priest had been this close several times before and just missed putting an end to this madness.
“The doors are still locked from the inside,” the priest heard the manager call out to the sheriff as he made his way down from the projection room. “I don’t understand where everyone has gone. There’s nowhere for one person to hide, much less seven.”
“Did any of you see where he came from?” the priest inquired of the group gathered in front of the screen.
“By the time I noticed him he was already at the window,” the ticket taker reported.
“Jimmy and I didn’t see him until he was already in the lobby,” Baxter added.
“Are there any cars out front that you’ve never seen before tonight?”
Everyone shook their heads.
“Wait a minute,” Kraft exclaimed. “Coming over here I passed a brand new black Packard with no plates. Looked like there was a temporary tag in the windshield though. I was going to go back and double-check it after I got done here.”
“Where was it parked?” the priest demanded. “Tell me before he gets away again.”
“About two blocks away. Out the front door and turn left.”
The priest bolted back into the lobby and out the doors, the sheriff trying to keep pace. Running out into the street, the priest peered in the direction of the main highway.
No car drove in that direction. Turning his head to the south, he spotted a pair of red taillights at the end of the main street where it stopped in front of the school.
The brake lights flared, and the car made a swift U-turn. Caught for a brief moment under a street lamp, the priest saw it was a new black Packard. Positioning himself in the middle of the street, he held the golden cross/ax out in front of him, said a quick prayer, drew a long breath and waited.
* * *
Exhausted, scared, and in a strange town, Martin made a wrong turn. When his headlights caught the school building through the falling snow, marking the end of the street, he cursed his luck. Turning around, he started back in the right direction but made it only three blocks before coming to a stop in the intersection near the theater.
Less than half a block away, right in the middle of the street, his hunter stood. Martin had been fleeing the priest for several long months. The priest’s black hair and robes flowed in the wind, not a single snowflake settling anywhere upon him. His axe blazed with a holy light. He looked every bit like an avenging angel.
Which was precisely what he was, Martin allowed. A man with a badge, his gun drawn and aimed directly at Martin, was making his way down the sidewalk to get a better bead on his target. The sheriff was yelling at Martin, likely an order to get out of the car. But the only words that Martin heard came from the man directly ahead.
“Martin Edward Meadows,” the priest’s voice boomed as if it were God Himself speaking. “In the name of God! I command you to surrender yourself to His judgment!”
Martin looked down at the old book. There was a spell inside that he could use to help him escape. Did he have enough strength to use it? Which man should he use it on? Would the other then be upon him before he could flee? Frozen in indecision, Martin sat in the Packard, right in the middle of the intersection and did nothing.
Then another power – or just sheer bad luck – took a hand.
* * * * *
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