but what he didn’t know was that despite all his meticulous planning Jack would never see Charlie Derwent again….
As Jack watched the taxi disappear down the hill he settled on a bench next to the entrance of the lighthouse. Jack smiled to himself, as he was early, his planning had been detailed and everything had gone perfectly so far. He had enjoyed his bagels at Mo’s restaurant and he had even had the courage to ask the waitress what she was doing later. She had been polite and told him she had a boyfriend but Jack didn’t care, he hadn’t had the courage for a long time to speak to a stranger, let alone a woman. Usually he could barely bring himself to look in the same direction as someone else, such was his shattered confidence. It was not a particularly bright day and the wind was whipping up a fair old fuss, he zipped up his jacket and opened up his satchel. He withdrew from it a small book, it was well-thumbed and he turned to the front page, on it was an inscription “Dear Jack, happy birthday my friend, remember when we were like Huck and Tom?, Charlie xx” He ran his finger tenderly over the writing and then closed the book and placed it to his side on the bench.
He sat for a while with his eyes closed just listening to the sea, gaining strength from the knowledge that something much greater and powerful than any one person existed. He was becoming restless, there was still 15 minutes to wait before Charlie was due to arrive, he thought back to everything he had been through and what an effort it had taken to be back here. It was the right thing to do and he knew once he and Charlie had looked around, and sought comfort from the fact that this was just a building, he would be able to construct some form of life again. It wasn’t the lighthouse that haunted him just his memories. The impetus to come back here had come from the man from the state authorities, when he had called to inform of the Joker’s death he had suggested that victims of traumatic incidents sometimes found closure from re-visiting the scene. Not surprisingly he had become obsessed with the notion and meticulously researched the scientific data behind the idea of re-visiting the scene of the crime, he had been convinced by the sociological and psychological studies and had quickly written a letter to Charlie begging him to accompany him. He had readily latched onto the idea that this could be a massive boost to his psyche, and alongside the death of the Joker it would be the final thing he needed that would allow him to start to forget.
The lighthouse seemed deserted, he had passed a couple of people heading away from the lighthouse when he first arrived and no one else had come since. It hadn’t been a particularly humid summer and whatever last wisps of warmth that remained had certainly not shown up today, it had driven away the potential tourists and even the hikers seemed put off by the wind. That suited Jack because it meant he and Charlie would have more privacy for the final tour of their 20-year-old terror. He glanced at his watch, in 5 minutes Charlie would be here. Suddenly Jack felt a rare impulse to be spontaneous and brave, he had done so well, his very arrival in Lincoln was bordering on the miraculous after all the issues he had had. He determined it would be a good idea to scout out the old lighthouse on his own before Charlie arrived, he could have a quick look round to really prove to himself that he could banish his demons. It was still an important part of his recovery that Charlie would shortly be with him but this was also a very personal thing so he wanted it to be right, he got up and went to the old wooden door. It was unchanged and looked like it hadn’t even been re-painted in 20 years, he pushed it and entered his own past.
He stepped inside and it was pretty dark, he peered to the foot of the spiral staircase and he could feel his pulse quicken, he felt a little breathless as he remembered that night so many years ago. They had tracked the Joker here but things had gone horribly wrong, the Joker had known all about their clumsy attempts to keep him under surveillance and had in fact lured them to the lighthouse. He had been using the lighthouse as a venue for some of his terrible activities, the area was so secluded and most of the screams were lost in the din of the crashing waves and howling winds. The Joker hadn’t been infallible though and his downfall was his arrogance, he had underestimated Jack and Charlie and thought they would make easy prey, but they had come prepared and had fought back. They crucially had also informed Agent Patrick, an FBI agent who had befriended them and was sympathetic to their cause, of their intentions that night, he had arrived just in time to save their lives.
Forcing himself back in to the present, he tentatively approached the bottom of the stairs and shakily he started up the steps for the top of the lighthouse. 20 years ago they had been greeted by such an abomination, the suffering he had inflicted upon those poor people was beyond his understanding. The images he had seen that night would remain with him forever. He recalled how Charlie had been so incandescent with rage that the Joker was momentarily taken by surprise, Charlie had lunged at the deranged killer and looked for all the world like he had finally lost his mind. He wailed and screeched as he attempted to beat the Joker to death with his bare hands, his inconsolable and indecipherable screams giving a window into his turmoil. Charlie’s loss of himself to the hate that burned within him had been as frightening to Jack as the sickening images wrought by the Joker’s sadistic desires. Jack realised he was now standing on the threshold of the lamp room, he entered and headed to the railing opposite. At about the half way point the door slammed shut, Jack turned suddenly and emerging from the darkness was The Oregon Joker in all his despicable evilness.
Literally numb with horror and disbelief Jack stumbled backwards, he made a muffled noise, words unable to form in his mind.
“But the authorities confirmed that you…. you.. di…died”
The Joker smiled, it was a horrific sight. He intoned in a perfect match for the voice Jack had heard on the phone weeks ago “Hello is that Mr King? This is the state authorities just calling as a courtesy, to confirm that Raymond Stokes is now deceased” The Joker cackled, throwing his whole hideous face into the gesture, he coughed and returned to his proper voice.
“Ah why are you looking so sad Jack my boy, can’t you take a joke” he laughed again but this time took a step closer to Jack. It was a menacing and purposeful stride.
“You you, can’t be here” Jack stammered as his legs gave out beneath him, his mind unable to give the necessary instructions to his limbs any longer. Through the fog of frozen panic he thought about making a dash for the door but it was no use, the Joker was on him before he could even complete the thought.
“I have a really good joke for you Jacky boy, did you hear the one about the escaped deranged serial killer who held a grudge for 20 years?” The joker lunged towards Jack and grabbed him by the neck, it was at this point that Jack noticed he had a knife, the same knife. Jack’s dying thoughts were of regret and despair, regret that all his nightmares were true, regret that he would never get his re-union with Charlie and un-restrained despair that the Joker lived and would be going for Charlie next….
Don’t miss the final part of The Oregon Joker coming soon to a lighthouse near you…..
©John de Gruyther 2013