The Hunting of James Forbes
The party went well, James Forbes MP, had been appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs. The title held a macabre irony for Forbes. He had become the golden boy of Parliament, this year’s wonder child. With all glories there is a past, and James’s had returned to haunt him.
Outwardly Forbes rose through the ranks with ease. He progressed from Secondary Modern School to University and onto a junior post in the cabinet. Now years later, here he sat in Parliament, with all before him.
After a meeting with the Prime Minister he left Number 10 Downing Street. On his way to his car he caught sight of a face from his youth. On second thoughts, he thought better, as he thought the face could not have been her. “No.” He told himself. “She’s dead. My friends tell me she died, when I ask them about the accident.”
He tried to recall what happened. He tried to peel the years back to the night of the accident. The memories were like opening up a septic scab, and seeing a raw wound. One, you thought had healed.
The event which caused the trauma occurred during the summer of 1979. He was at a friends’ house for a college leaving party, when the door to the lobby opened. To the pleasure of the young men at the party, Margaritta Perlmann, the dark haired German girl entered. The beer flowed during the night and young men are apt to do stupid things when drunk. James Forbes proved to be no exception to the rule.
The young men had been chatting on the stairs when the beautiful young lady entered the lobby. Their eyes followed her progress across the floor. James had spent the last semester trying to impress Margaritta, and failed. He realized this maybe his last chance. The group would soon separate. And probably never meet again – how wrong. The night would return to haunt the group, years later.
James glanced across the hall and spotted a chandelier. Bravado and alcohol mixed as leapt for the chandelier, hanging fifty feet above the floor.
Angus Farris yelled out “Don’t jump!” as he watched his friend leap. “The chandelier won’t support you.”
Blinded by the beer, and the urge to impress the girl, he jumped and got a handhold. The friends looked on in horror as the chandelier ripped from the ceiling, as Margaritta walked below. She heard the commotion and looked up. To see the chandelier, rip from the joist, and crash down on her.
James was lucky, the beer made him roll, as a drunk will. He got away with a few cuts and bruises. Margaritta’s fate he never knew and nobody told him. The horror of what happened remained a secret. Friends told him, she died from a massive head wound. The injury caused by the glass shards from the fallen chandelier.
The years went on and he forgot about the night. His career became the focus of his life in politics. Yet, at the back of his mind, there remained a niggling thought. “What did happen after I left the party?”
He asked the friends who had been at the party about the incident. They told the same story in the same words, and this is what concerned him most. “How can so many people tell exactly the same story? There are no variations in the words. Why won’t anyone tell me truth?”
The rising son of the media needed to be blameless the friends agreed. So, the incident was forgotten.
Now 15 years on. Margaritta had returned, for what reason?
James walked to his car but stopped dead in his tracks, when she said. “Hello James. You don’t remember me but I never forgot you!”
Chills ran down his spine. It was not who spoke but the way she said spoke the words. Never before had he felt so scared of anyone. There was so much venom in those words. He had no doubt; her intention was to make him pay for every thing she suffered.
“M, M, M, Margaritta” he stammered.
She kept her face away from the light as she snarled, ‘Or what is left of her. After your friends shut me in an institution for twelve years, and let me rot. What happened in that place drained my soul, yet one thought drove me on. Revenge for my years of suffering and the mess you made of my life. I have read all about your rise to power, and how the media love you.”
James stuttered, ‘I didn’t know what happened that night, after I left.”
Margaritta continued taunting him with her malice, “You made no effort to find out. To hear of the incident, not to mention the horrible treatment you allowed for me. The news would kill your image of the rising star and golden boy.”
A terrified James stuttered, “Y, y, you have to believe me, I did try. The others covered up the accident. I am sorry for what happened to you.”
Years of mental torture and the desperate urge for revenge flowed through her words as she spat out. “You are sorry, if your whimpering wasn’t so pitiful. I would laugh at you.” She stood before him, her face covered and always in the shadows. She decided the time for him to face the truth of his past had arrived. She pulled her hair away from her face. She revealed a face torn to shreds by glass and massive scarring from surgery. Her once gorgeous features were now mangled beyond recognition. “Your friends clubbed together to send me to a clinic in Denmark. A place where they could keep me locked away, out of sight and memory.”
“I, I, I did ask about the unusual payments being made. They said the payments were for a memorial fund in your name, for car crash victims.”
She gave a sickening laugh and said, “How quaint. I get cut to shreds by flying glass and they tell you the money is for car crash victims. Irony hasn’t died after all. Well the truth is out now, and I have come for payback.”
He fumbled for his cheque book and said “I will give you any money you want Margaritta.”
She snarled a vicious retort at his comment, “MONEY. You rich kids, think you can buy anyone off. Do you think money can get my looks and the life I was going to lead back? The family I never had. Money cannot replace the hurt I feel, when people look at my face!” She pulled her hair back to reveal a once beautiful face hidden beneath a mass of scarred tissue.
She paused and took a breath, then continued. “In the sanitarium where I was sent, I spent my days working out my revenge. I waited for years for the right moment to escape, guards become lax over time and routines get boring. One dark night when lights went out, I started to have a fit – or so they thought. In reality I lured the guards to the cell. I let my anger loose on the first guard before clawing the eyes out of the second guard. Before the cameras found my cell open and the guards dead, I was on the fence.” Again she paused for a short breath and continued, “After escaping I lived rough. I scavenged for food in bins and on dumping grounds. You don’t realize once you tamper with the brain’s circuits as they did. People lose any sense of humanity and sink to the lowest levels of living. All the time I was sinking. I kept one thought ‘James Forbes and his friends will pay for this crime against me.”
The rough life had taken its toll and Margaritta needed to pause often to catch her breath. “I stowed away in railcars and on trucks as I crossed borders. Always moving, never stopping in case the law caught me, and took me back to that place. However, living like an animal teaches you to survive. I am here to collect on the debt you and your friends owe me.”
James glanced at her scarred face and said, “What are you going to do?”
She laughed, and licked her lips. The same way a snake does when it scents its prey. “That is for me to know, and you to worry about. Get in the car and tell the driver to go to St. James’ church, and you’ll find out soon enough.”
The horror of the moment hit James, “Do you mean St. James’on Clare Avenue?”
Again she laughed the sickening laugh as she replied with venom, “The same. And to answer your question, yes I do know the church is due for demolition tomorrow. I thought it so ironic your last hours, should be in a church which bears your name. This will be a final resting place where you and your friends can pray for your souls.”
The driver drove to the church in silence. After a short trip the car pulled up to the derelict church. James glanced through the broken doors and windows, the party from years ago gathered in the church.
Margaritta got out of the car and pushed James up the steps to the doors. He fell on the floor as gave him a final push into the aisle. She walked into the church, and walked to the pulpit. She studied the gathered and scared friend tied up on the balcony. “This gathering from the friends at the part has taken over three years for me to get together. You’ve done well, since we shoved me away. So, you could live a life, a life I never got the chance to make for myself. I cannot take the years back, nor can I have what I should have had. All I can do is, to stop you from enjoying your lives.”
James saw them all, gathered for the first time since that night. On the balcony his friends trussed like turkeys for Passover, helpless.
Jack Holder, head of the local engineering firm Holder, Parker & Thomas was first to speak “When did they let you out?”
Margaritta did not answer at first. All she did was laugh in their faces as she said, “They didn’t Jack. I killed men with my hands, and escaped. I spent a year on the run, living on berries and hiding in the daytime. None of you checked on me after the second year at the clinic. I got transferred to an Institute for the criminally insane. All I talked about was this moment. I had thoughts of today fixated in my mind, from then until now. The irony is I set the chandelier to fall. I paid the cleaners to make sure a few bolts were loose. The chandelier was supposed to fall on you,” Margaritta snarled as she turned to face Carol Palmer.
Shocked, Carol stammered “W, w, w, why me?”
Margaritta brushed the hair from her scarred face and snarled. “In college, all the young men chased after you. None even cast me a glance. You had it all, looks, brains and charm, and you flaunted it. For my revenge, I brought you to a church set to be demolished. You have until 7:30 to free yourselves and get out if you can.”
Through her tears, Carol cried out, “Why did you say if?”
Margaritta smiled and replied. “You’ll find out, Carol.” She glanced at her watch and said, “When I leave, and lock the door, you only have four hours before the demolition starts.”
She dragged James up the stairwell and tied him to a chair overhanging a drop. Once she was sure he and his friends had been tied securely, she walked down the stairs to the aisle.
Margarita called out, “Don’t think you’ll be missed. I called in a few favours from my contacts. We hacked your computer files. For all intents and purposes you’re on a college re-union for two weeks. By the time you are missed, I’ll be long gone.”
She turned to take a last glance at the group, crossed herself and closed the door on her way out.
The old wooden door closed slowly on its hinges, as she stepped down to James’ car, she said to the driver. “Take me back to the hotel, please, and pick me up at 6:30, James won’t need your services again.”
The first signs of dawn showed through the stained glass and daylight beckoned the group. Angus viewed their predicament, perched high on the upper balcony of the Wesleyan church.
The church had been in disrepair for so long, very few timbers remained. Angus knew if anyone tried to move. The group would crash through the balcony, and fall into the Charnel house below. The Charnel house had been filled with skeletal remains which dated from the early days of the church and contained bacterial infections.
Frances called out, “We had better get going, if she’s right we don’t have a lot of time, if one of us can get out, we can try to stop the bulldozers!”
Jack glanced at the hole below them and with a sigh replied. “You could not be more wrong Fran. This is our payback, and the first person to step on the wrong board, and we all end up down there. Another thing, she made sure escape was impossible.”
The desperation showed in her Fran’s voice as she asked. “What do you mean, Jack?’
Jack said with total resignation to their doom. “While she was talking, I was fingering my ties. They are done similar to a Chinese finger puzzle.”
Not sure of the importance, Carol asked, “Meaning what?”
Angus filled in the blanks for Carol, “The more we try to get free, the tighter they get.”
The group sat around watching as the rays of light played on the glass. What should have been a beautiful moment was ruined as Carol said. “I can hear the ‘dozers approaching.”
Margaritta rose early for her breakfast, and went to the restaurant as if nothing had happened. After coffee and toast, she was picked up by the driver and drove to the church. The car sat at a halt as she viewed the scene.
In the church Carol was about to shout out. Her actions cut short by a huge ball of concrete smashing through the window and covering the group.
Hardly audible above the rumbling of the trucks was the lone voice of James Forbes praying for his lost soul.
James and his friends, died as Margeritta had lived all those years. Cut to ribbons by broken glass.
She got her revenge, standing across the road, she laughed maniacally as she told James’ driver “To the airport, please.”
OTHER HORROR STORIES
Chronicles of Mark Johnson