A group of four former college friends hold a reunion at an abandoned summer camp, only to find they're sharing the camp with a maniac.
- Dorchester Publishing Company, Inc.
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 4.28(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.33(d)
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By Richard Laymon
Copyright © 2003
All right reserved.
"Where are we going?" Finley asked. "To Grandmother's house?"
Helen, behind the steering wheel of the rented Wagoneer,
grinned over her shoulder and sang, "Over the river and
through the woods ..."
"Hoping we'll run into the Big Bad Wolf?" Abilene said.
"Finley'd like that," Cora said from the front seat.
"Gimme a break. I've sworn off guys."
"Since when?" Abilene asked.
"Since last summer and surfin' Sam, or whatever his name was."
"You don't even remember his name?" Helen asked.
"He was just another hunk to the Fin-man," Abilene said.
Finley jammed an elbow into her side. "Rick. His name was
Rick. But I've reformed. I promise to be a good girl."
"I'll believe it when I see it," Cora said.
"Where we're going," Helen explained, "I don't imagine we'll
be running into any fella."
"I sure hope this isn't a camping trip," Vivian said.
"What've you got against fresh air?" Cora asked.
"Fresh air's fine. But I can get it without flying three
"You sure don't get it living in L.A."
"Viv's just afraid she'll get her clothes dirty," Abilene
Vivian leaned forward to see past Finley, who was sitting
between them in the backseat, and told Abilene, "If I wanted
to rough it in the great outdoors, I would've joined the Girl
Scouts." Wrinkling her nose, shesettled back and muttered,
"This sure has all the earmarks of a camping trip."
"You just never know," said Helen, sounding pleased with
"It should've tipped you off," Abilene said, "when she told us
to bring sleeping bags and grubbies."
"That could mean anything."
"It meant we weren't going to a Marriott." In spite of that,
Abilene doubted that they were being taken on a camping trip.
A week in the wilds might've been Cora's idea of fun, but this
trip was Helen's choice and Helen was neither athletic nor a
fan of Mother Nature. She was more inclined to sedentary, dark
pursuits: reading scary novels and true crime books; watching
movies that usually featured mad killers using knives, axes
and chainsaws to slaughter teenagers. If her choice of
adventures involved camping, it was likely to be done in a
"I know where we're going," Abilene said. "To the Pet
Helen laughed. "Close, but no prize."
"Close?" Vivian muttered. "Oh terrific."
"Wherever I'm taking you, we'll be coming up on it pretty
"How soon?" Finley asked.
"According to my odometer, it should be about three more
"Pull over and let me out, okay? I'll get our arrival for
"Oh, great," Abilene said. "The epic. Thank God we didn't have
to suffer through that last night."
"Gimme a break. You love it."
"I hate some of it."
"I'd like to see it again," Helen said. "Maybe the night
before we fly out."
"My friend." Finley leaned forward and patted her on the
shoulder. "Now, let me out."
Helen stopped the car without pulling over. There was no need
to leave the road, since it had been devoid of traffic for the
entire half hour they'd been on it. While Vivian opened her
door and climbed out, Finley twisted around and reached over
the seatback. She grabbed her video camcorder, scooted across
the seat and got out. Vivian climbed in.
Finley went to the front of the car, stepped from its bumper
onto the hood and walked toward the windshield. The thin metal
sank under each footstep and popped up when her weight was
gone, making quiet bongy sounds.
"Christ," Cora muttered.
"Boys will be boys," Helen said.
Abilene realized that Finley, today more than usual, looked a
lot more like a kid than like a twenty-five-year-old woman.
She was small and slender. Her brown hair was cut very short.
Her outfit masked what she had of a figure and would've been
just the thing for a young fellow embarking on a safari; the
baggy tan shirt hung loose nearly to the cuffs of her baggy
tan shorts, and sported not only shoulder epaulettes but a
multitude of deep pockets, flaps and brass buttons.
Of course, most boys probably wouldn't be caught dead wearing
hot pink kneesocks.
The kneesocks and white Reeboks were all that Abilene could
see of Finley now that the girl was perched on the roof of the
car, calves pressed against the windshield.
"Let's roll, gang!" she called from above.
"You oughta really step on it," Cora whispered.
"She might fall and break her neck," Helen said.
"Even worse," Vivian said, "she might break her camera. Then
there'd really be hell to pay."
Helen started the car forward. Slowly.
"Turn the wipers on and give her a squirt," Abilene suggested.
"That'd be cruel," Vivian said.
Cora, looking over her shoulder, said, "Abby, you're a
Helen leaned forward slightly. The windshield wipers began to
sweep back and forth. Twin streams of water shot up. The
blades bumped against Finley's calves. The water soaked her
socks. Her legs flew out of the way. "You bastards!" she cried
Helen shut off the blades and fountains, then called out the
window. "Sorry. My mistake."
"Mistake my butt. I'll get all of you for this. You mess with
the Fin-man, you pay."
"We're trembling!" Abilene called.
"It was your idea, wasn't it?
"You! I know it was you, Hickok. You'll die."
"Oh, quit ranting and film your epic."
Finley's legs returned to their previous positions against the
windshield. Then her head appeared between her knees. Her face
was upside down, her short hair blowing in the breeze. Though
she said nothing, her lips twitched and writhed ferociously as
if she were spitting out obscenities.
"Give her another dose."
She must've heard that. Her head went away fast.
"Let's just calm down, folks," she called.
Helen left the wipers alone.
She stayed in the northbound lane, not even crossing the faded
paint of the center line to avoid fissures and pits in the
pavement. It made for a bumpy ride. Abilene couldn't fault her
for being cautious, though. As desolate as the poor ruin of a
road seemed to be, an excursion into the downhill lane would
probably provoke a vehicle to materialize, speed around a
blind curve and smash them. One of life's little magic tricks.
Just when you least expect, wham.
A car could just as easily come racing around a curve on our
side, she thought.
She began to wish that Finley wasn't riding on the roof.
Helen stopped the car. "This must be it," she said, nodding
toward a narrow road that slanted up the hillside to the
"You don't know?" Vivian asked.
"Do you think I've been here before? It's just a place I read
about. But this is where it ought to be, and it's called the
Totem Pole Lodge."
"Must be in, all right," Cora said.
At each side of the road's entrance stood a totem pole. The
old wooden columns depicted forest creatures, demons and
beasts, and both had giant birds with outspread wings near
their tops. One of the poles, tilted at a sharp angle, looked
ready to fall onto any car daring to trespass.
Abilene supposed that the totems had probably once been
decorated with bright paint. Now, however, they looked as if
they'd been made of driftwood. Or dirty gray bone.
Vandals had carved names, initials, dates, hearts, and even a
few swastikas into them. Some of the vandals must've shinnied
up them to maim the higher areas. Near the top of the tilted
pole, someone had left a hunting knife embedded in the
blanched wood of a wing.
A metal sign, bent and rusted, was nailed at eye level to the
upright pole. It read, KEEP OUT.
"Why would a lodge have a sign telling people to keep out?"
"It isn't open to the public," Helen explained, and turned
onto the entry road. The leaning pole didn't fall. But as the
car nosed upward, Finley's legs kicked away from the
windshield. Abilene heard some thumps through the ceiling and
figured she must've tumbled backward. Seconds later, the legs
"I hope Finley kept her camera going," she said. "We'll have
some interesting views."
"Spinning treetops," Cora said.
"Some of these branches are awfully low." Helen sounded
"If we have a casualty, can we go home?" Vivian asked.
"You should be tickled," Cora told her. "This isn't a
"Right. Instead, we're going to some damn lodge that isn't
open to the public. Who, exactly, is it open to?"
"Just us," Helen said. "I hope. As far as I know, it's been
abandoned for about twelve years."
"Oh, great. Charming. I can see this is gonna be a thrill and
"That's the whole idea," Helen said.
"Knowing you, it's probably haunted."
"I guess we'll find out."
Just then, the road leveled out. The hood of the car lowered,
revealing the area ahead. Abilene leaned a little to the
right. Off in the distance, framed on both sides by Finley's
pink socks, was the Totem Pole Lodge.
Vivian leaned toward her. Their shoulders touched as they
shared the view.
"Utterly delightful," Vivian muttered.
"Great, huh?" Helen sounded as if the lodge fulfilled her best
"What was this place?" Cora asked.
"Kind of a resort," Helen said.
"A last resort," Vivian said.
"It was famous for its hot springs. And its cuisine. People
came here for cross-country skiing in the winter. It was a
hunting lodge in hunting season. The rest of the time, people
came for hiking and fishing, that kind of thing. The place was
quite popular during its heyday."
"Looks like shit now," Cora said.
A fist reached down between Finley's legs and rapped on the
windshield. "Stop the car, okay?"
When it came to a halt, Abilene said, "This is far enough for
me," and swung open her door. She climbed out. If felt good to
be standing up after the long drive. She stretched. She peeled
her moist blouse away from her back. She took a deep breath,
enjoying the woodsy aromas.
If the lodge could simply pull a quick disappearing act, she
though, this might be a wonderful place.
A bit too hot, but ...
Finley leaped down off the roof and landed beside her.
"Awesome joint," she said, aiming her camera at the lodge.
"'With the first glimpse of the building, a sense of
insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit.'"
The others climbed out of the car. They all stood motionless,
staring at the lodge.
It was a broad, two-story structure with walls of gray stone
that looked solid enough to last for a few thousand years and
a steep shake roof that sagged near the middle and might not
last through the next winter.
Some of the porch roof had already caved in, thanks to a tree
branch. The branch, over near the north corner, looked like an
arm torn from a giant and rammed down through the top of the
porch, hand first. Its jagged stub protruded from the roof.
Its lower limbs formed a leafless tangle blocking that end of
A few of the lodge's upstairs widows were hidden behind closed
shutters. Most of the shutters, however, hung open or dangled
crooked or were simply gone. At least half of the windows that
Abilene could see were broken.
At the center of the porch, straight ahead, the lodge's front
door stood open.
"The doorman must've been expecting us," Abilene said.
"Come on, Hickok, let's you and me go on ahead. The rest of
you guys wait till we're there, then come on in and I'll get
the big arrival." Finley started toward the lodge.
Abilene joined her. Twigs and leaves crackled under their
Though the road was littered with debris from the surrounding
forest, enough areas had been swept clear by the wind for
Abilene to see patches of gray, cracked pavement. Weeds, wild
grass, and even a few saplings grew in the fissures.
She came upon a broken sapling.
"Look at this."
She crouched over it. "Somebody's been here. Recently, too.
The leaves are still green." She folded a small leaf between
her thumb and forefinger. It felt a little springy, but it
split. "I bet it hasn't been dead more than a week."
"Maybe Bambi stepped on it."
"Maybe this place isn't as deserted as it looks."
Finley wrinkled her nose. She nodded. "Come on."
They continued toward the lodge. In front of the porch, the
road flared out like a T. The lane on the right led past the
lodge to a long, ramshackle structure that appeared to be some
kid of parking barn with empty stalls for at least a dozen
vehicles. The other lane had a turn at the far corner of the
porch and seemed to lead around toward the rear.
"I guess this is close enough," Finley said. Halting at the
foot of the porch stairs, she faced the road, raised her
camera and shouted, "Action!"
For a moment, Abilene watched the Wagoneer rush forward. Btu
the back of her neck felt crawly. She turned her head and
stared at the open door.
All she could see beyond it was shadowy gloom.
We must be out of our minds, she thought, coming to a place
like this. Just for the fun of it. Just for adventure.
We must be crazy.
Hell, weren't we always?
Excerpted from Blood Games
by Richard Laymon
Copyright © 2003 by Richard Laymon .
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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