Tales from the Haunted Mansion Vol. 1: The Fearsome Foursome (4 page)

Willa was mortified. Sure, bargaining was all part of the game. It was what you did at flea markets and yard sales. But this was different;
Tim
was different. And what concerned Willa most—more than the intense voice—was the look in his eyes. She’d never seen it before.

Tim’s eyes had looked…
cruel
.

She dug into her bag, taking out all the money she had, which was about twenty dollars shy. “I’ll come back tomorrow with the rest,” she told the vendor.

The old man gently pushed her hand away. “Don’t concern yourself, young miss,” he said in a tone that suggested she should. “The boy got what he bargained for.” The vendor looked relieved, like a thousand-pound tombstone had just been lifted from his chest.

By that point, Tim was almost through the exit. Willa caught him by his sleeve. “Wait up!” He turned halfway and she punched his shoulder. Hard. “What was that all about?” She was hoping the real Tim would respond.

“A total rip-off,” he said with a snarky laugh.

“I agree, fifty bucks was way too much, but you didn’t have to—”

“Fifty? Little girl, you are as dumb as a rock. This glove’s worth ten times that amount.”

“‘Little girl’?” Willa cocked her fist. “Before you die, explain!”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

Willa placed the un-fisted hand on her hip. “Don’t even.”

“It’s Lonegan’s glove.” He showed her the mitt—the thirteen, the snake tattoo. Willa was loath to admit it, but Tim was right. She didn’t understand. “The dude was practically a legend,” he added.

“I practically couldn’t care less. What you did back there was wrong.”

Tim continued, unabated. “Check it out! A six-fingered mitt wasn’t patented until the nineteen sixties.”

“So?”

“So!” He had to catch his breath. “This glove was specially designed for Lefty in the fifties because”—he could barely contain himself—“Lefty Lonegan had six fingers!”

That did it. Willa was officially weirded out. Not by Lefty’s unusual anatomy; her uncle Josh had three nostrils. It was Tim’s delivery. The authority in his voice. As if he’d actually been there back in the day.

“Take it off!” Willa tugged at the mitt and Tim’s entire body came along with it.

“Stop!” he pleaded. “You’re pulling my arm out of the socket!” The glove wouldn’t budge, like it was surgically grafted to Tim’s wrist. Willa didn’t let up. She couldn’t let up! It had to come off, though she couldn’t have told you why. It was that feeling in her gut. Somehow Willa knew…the glove
wasn’t right
. She planted her feet, tugging with every ounce of strength she had, and for a brief moment, Willa wasn’t feeling leather. She felt blood flowing through the icy veins of an enlarged hand, like it was actual skin she was touching, cold and clammy. The flesh of a dead man!

Tim saw the look on her face and then he was scared, too. “Get it off! Please, Willa, please!”

“I’m trying!”

As they pulled in opposite directions, a thought went swirling through Tim’s mind: he shouldn’t have ripped off the old man. It was a despicable thing to do. And with regret came release, as if the glove no longer had any use for him.

It slid into Willa’s hands and she fell backward, landing on her butt. Tim hurried to her side. “You okay, Will?” She thought about responding with a punch until she realized…the voice, it belonged to Tim.
Her
Tim. He was back.

“Get rid of it, Tim-bo.”

As he helped her to her feet, Tim knew she was right. “It’s going back right now.”
With an apology,
he might have added, because that’s exactly what he intended. But when Tim and Willa returned to where the vendor had been, the old man and the table were gone. Tim spun around in circles, hoping to find him. It was no use. It was as if the old man and the table had never been there. “Now what do I do?”

Willa softened. She assumed that they were in the wrong spot, and she didn’t want to spend the rest of her afternoon wandering around the flea market. “Enjoy your new hunk of junk,” she deadpanned. Then she quickly added, “And with the money you just saved, you can buy me an Italian ice. You can even tell me all about this Lefty what’s-his-face.”

And that’s pretty much what happened. Over perfect Italian ices, Tim told Willa everything he knew about Lefty Lonegan. Not just his batting average, which was a hefty .425 the year he, um,
moved on
, but also facts about his exceptional fielding skills. Lefty was being scouted by—cue the heavenly choir—the New York Yankees. That is, until that fateful night when a car crash cost him his hand. “On the day of the All-Star game, July seventeenth, nineteen fifty-five, Lefty hung himself from the center field wall.” Tim bowed his head. “Baseball was his life. Without his hand, he couldn’t play. And without the game, he couldn’t go on.”

“That’s the worst story ever,” said Willa. But there were worse things about Lefty, things even Tim didn’t know about. The stuff of true nightmares.
Steady yourself, dear reader, for what is about to happen to young Timothy
is
the stuff of true nightmares. Perhaps even yours…

That night, when Tim took the glove home, he didn’t say a word to his parents, which was unlike him. He went to bed early, hoping he could sleep off the bizarre events of the day.

But he couldn’t.

At first he blamed his sleeplessness on the heat. It was a muggy night and the ceiling fan just wasn’t cutting it. Tim flipped over his pillow to find a cold spot. And from his side, he caught sight of Lonegan’s glove. It was on the dresser next to his aquarium. In the dark, it looked like an overgrown human heart. Of course, it wasn’t long before Tim’s imagination went into extra innings and the giant heart started to beat.

Thump…thump. Thump…thump.

Tim did what most brave souls do when confronted with such dilemmas. He pulled the covers over his head and hoped it would stop. But the thumping continued, growing stronger.
Thump…THUMP. Thump…THUMP!

Tim lowered the sheet, just a smidge.
Thump…THUMP. Thump…THUMP!
The sound was still with him. Increasing.
THUMP…THUMP!
It was maddening.
THUMP…THUMP!
But it wasn’t the glove. Tim’s eyes darted across the room and focused on a small white circle rising and falling in quick succession against the nighttime sky.
THUMP…THUMP!
The sound was coming from Tim’s window. And then he saw it:

A baseball was being thrown against the glass—faster than any other baseball has ever been thrown. Supernaturally fast.
THUMP…THUMP!
It was only a matter of seconds before—

THUMP-
CRACK
!
The ball cracked the windowpane, splintering the glass in the shape of a spiderweb.

In one of those dopey moves somebody makes in every horror movie ever made, Tim climbed out of bed to investigate. You know, to check it out.
A most excellent choice, Master Timothy. What could possibly go wrong?

“Yee–ouch!”
Almost instantly, a stinging pain shot through his foot. Tim looked down. Horror of horrors! He had stepped on…his social studies binder. Then he heard it again:
THUMP-CRACK!
Hopping on one foot, he made it to the window. Hunkering below the sill, he looked out into the yard. And that’s when it happened:
THUMP-CRASH-SMASH!
The ball blasted through the splintered pane. Tim ducked out of the way, and the ball silently rolled to a stop by his foot. He instinctively reached down to grab it. The ball was caked in mud and patches of what appeared to be green mold and moss. Still, he had to pick it up. Wouldn’t you?

He rubbed the muck onto his pajama sleeve so he could make out a signature—not that he needed to. He had already guessed to whom it had belonged. And as much as he hoped otherwise, the ball was indeed signed…
Lefty
.

No surprise, right? But what Tim saw next certainly was.

Gazing through the splintered glass, he spotted a figure swaying, dangling from the highest branch of an old oak tree. At first it looked like a mannequin wearing an outdated baseball uniform. Its clothes were dripping with fresh mud, like it had just slid into home—or crawled out of a grave. There was a noose around its neck, and if that wasn’t enough, there was a stump where the left hand should have been.

Tim froze in place. That’s rule number one: when something scares you witless, you freeze. That was unfortunate, because had he been able to move, he would have noticed his fish flittering around the aquarium. Because they were scared, too. And when fish get scared, they don’t freeze. They flitter.

The thumping returned. Now it was Tim doing the work, for that was the sound of his own heart pounding from his chest. He had a sneaking suspicion that he wasn’t alone—like something
else
was there in the room.

He was right.

There was, in fact, something hideous on the floor. A human hand, lopped off at the wrist, hiding in plain sight. It was perfectly still, like a clay sculpture, with stalks of decaying bone protruding from its fleshy core. How had it gotten there? Had it come through the window with the ball? Had it been hiding inside the glove the whole time? Tim’s most rational thought was that it wasn’t
really
there at all. He must be dreaming. It was simply a nocturnal manifestation of the day’s events. He would wake himself up and everything would be fine. So Tim closed his eyes and silently counted to three. And when he opened his eyes…

the hand was gone. Just like that.

Tim sighed. He almost laughed, except his heart was still racing, that creeped-out feeling still with him, and with good reason. There
was
something else in the bedroom with him. He could hear it, even over the thumping of his own heart. It sounded like fingernails.

Scratching.

Tim looked around until he spotted it—
there!
A shape skittered across the floor. In the dark, you’d have sworn it was a giant spider, as big as a man’s hand. Only, this spider had six legs. Get the picture? It was a severed six-fingered hand, digging its razor-sharp nails into the floorboards to drag itself forward. But where was its body? At the moment, it was out in the yard, inconveniently hanging from a tree.

The disembodied hand picked up speed, all six digits working in horrible harmony. Moving with purpose. The wretched thing had a destination in mind: it was heading toward a dresser where its terrible prize—Lonegan’s glove—was waiting to reunite with the appendage that had once given it life. Its bony fingertips reached for the knobs so it could climb.

If the hand was real, Tim reasoned, he would need to get a closer look at that thing hanging out in the yard. He reached for a pair of “vintage” binoculars on his shelf. He panned across a section of gnarled branches until…

a corpse’s face appeared in close-up. Tim could practically smell its rancid stench through the lenses. It was Lefty Lonegan’s mug, or what remained of it, now more bone than flesh. A thin layer of bleached-white skin had been crudely stitched in semicircles around the temples, rendering him a human baseball. The lower jaw was rattling up and down. At first Tim thought it was a reflex, for the thing hanging in the yard was clearly dead. But then he could see that its movement was deliberate. Lefty was trying to form words. Tim couldn’t hear what they were, and honestly, he wasn’t so sure he wanted to. The corpse struggled to raise its left arm. (More difficult than it sounds, after rigor mortis and decades spent buried underground.) The stump hovered in midair, pointing at Tim, as if it deemed
him
responsible for this night of horrors.

But that wasn’t even the worst of Tim’s problems, because by then, the disembodied hand had ascended to the top of the dresser and was sliding all six of its bony digits into the glove. A perfect fit, one might add. After all, it was custom-made for Lonegan’s hand.

Tim dropped the binoculars, because that’s rule number two: when you get scared, you drop things. Unaware of what was going on behind him, he backed up to the dresser, the last place he wanted to be. His hands clasped the ledge for support. And that’s when he felt it: the glove was behind him. And it was moving.

Tim didn’t need to look, though he did soon enough. He snatched the glove, holding it at bay like you would a disgustingly dirty diaper and hustling to the window, with plans of returning it to Lonegan’s corpse.

As Tim cocked his arm to make the throw, the glove flew out of his hand, as if of its own accord. The oversize webbing attached itself to his face. He couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe! The glove was on the attack, smothering him like a leathery starfish. Tim tried everything: pulling, punching, pinching! The hand had an iron grip; they didn’t call Lefty “the six-fingered phenom” for nothing. Tim freed up his mouth long enough to manage a muffled cry for help, though it didn’t carry very far. Maybe the fish heard it. But honestly, what could they do?

He had to figure out a way to alert his parents before he lost consciousness. As he felt around, his fingers found his iPhone. Tim blasted the first song on his favorites list. It wasn’t enough to scare off the glove, but it did bring Mom and Dad charging into the bedroom.

One of them flipped on the light. It
had
to be Tim’s mom; his dad’s major goal in life was turning
off
every light he ever came across.

They found Tim rolling on the floor, wrestling an empty glove. His dad pried it from his face. Tim looked up to see his parents standing over him, speechless. The mitt was once again a lifeless glob of brown leather. Yes, this required some explaining. Tim told them about the thing inside the glove, so they checked it out, and guess what they found? Go on, you can do this.

That’s right. Nothing! Zero, zilch, nada. No evidence that a disembodied six-fingered hand had ever been there. Right away, Tim’s mom felt his head for fever. “I’m not imagining things!” Tim pointed to the window. “If I was, how do you explain that?”

His parents turned. “Explain what?” Tim’s mother asked. The pane was in one piece. The window wasn’t broken and there were no signs of a moldy baseball or a severed hand (though Tim’s foot really had done a number on his social studies binder).

Other books

Jack In A Box by Diane Capri
Tube Riders, The by Ward, Chris
Perfectly Kissed by Lacey Silks
Women in the Wall by O'Faolain, Julia
Death of a Nightingale by Lene Kaaberbøl
in0 by Unknown


readsbookonline.com Copyright 2016 - 2020