Saturday, March 21, 2015

Short Story: Return of the Peeps, Part 2

 Read part one HERE and the story that started it all HERE.

Monday afternoon
The soft rustle of paintbrushes on canvas was the only sound in the studio. Margaret walked around the room, observing her students and occasionally making suggestions or answering questions. Her Monday afternoon class was a quiet group, none of the friendly chatter of her Friday groups. Normally the quiet was soothing and gave her time to truly observe and teach but today it just made it easier for her mind to wander back to her kitchen and the evil waiting for her at home.

She supposed she should have called the police but what exactly would she tell them? Every explanation sounded ridiculous. It had been too early to call Sam when it happened; she'd talk with him when she got home. He would want to her to call the police. He was rational that way. She had been going over and over opening the box in her head since leaving her apartment. Who would have sent something like that to her? Why would they do that? Who else knew about the diorama she made? She hadn't told anyone and had sworn Sam to secrecy. No one else had known. That was what troubled her the most.

Margaret didn't suspect Sam of anything. If she were to follow horror movie formula, Sam would be the first suspect for the Peeps Murders and for the package. She knew in her heart that he was not involved in either. There had to be someone else.

The end of class pulled Margaret out of her thoughts. She wrapped up the lesson with her students and made end of class small talk with several as they gathered their things to leave. Margaret had one tour left to give and then she could call it day and figure out what to do next. She closed the studio and made her way to the 4th floor galleries to meet her group. She did a few deep cleansing breaths to prepare for her talk on contemporary photography. Thankfully, none of the artists used Peeps in their photos.

Later that evening
The conversation with Sam was not going as she had planned. He couldn't believe that she hadn't called the police. "You're being threatened, Margaret. That's a serious thing. You have to hang up right now and call them. You need their help." Sam's tone was one part stern parent and one part concerned boyfriend. Margaret knew this would be his reaction but that didn't stop her from being annoyed with him.

"You didn't tell anyone about the diorama did you? You kept it a secret like you promised right?" Margaret had to ask.

"Of course I did. Who would I have told anyway? And don't change the subject. You're hanging up and calling the police. Now." The phone clicked. He hung up on her. Margaret moved from annoyed to angry.

"He hung up on me!?" Arthur circled her as he had done earlier in the day. He settle down and stared at her with those all knowing dog eyes. "You're right, Arthur. I need to calm down. I shouldn't be mad at your dad and I should call the police." She picked up her phone to do just that when she noticed something outside. Her apartment building was made up of two towers; she was in the east tower and her view was across the courtyard was of the west tower. She never paid much attention to the apartments across the way but today she noticed one apartment in particular. It was directly across from her apartment and there were two posters in the window: a Peeps promotional poster and the original Halloween poster. She couldn't recall if they had been there this morning. It was all too coincidental.

"You have got to be kidding me." Margaret said to herself. She was clutching her phone and remembered what she was supposed to be doing. She called the police and explained what had occurred as she watched the apartment across the way. There was no movement but Margaret couldn't help but feel as if she was being watched.

The police arrived promptly and spent over an hour going through the events of the morning. Since the Peeps Murders had never been solved, they were taking this call very seriously. The boxes, paper, and note had been collected and taken away. She eventually told them about the Peeps diorama from two years ago. The detectives, Arnold and Roberts, had given her an odd look but both agreed that diorama was a coincidence. Weird but coincidental. She hadn't taken any photos of the diorama but had found one sketch. The detectives took it as evidence as well. 

"Was there anyone else that knew about the diorama? Friends? Co-workers? An enemy?" Detective Arnold asked.

"No. Sam was the only person who knew about it. He helped me with the more mechanical parts of the diorama. We never really got to those parts of it because I burned everything." Margaret wasn't sure if they thought she was crazy or guilty or just had an incredibly morbid sense of humor.

She thought about it for a second, "I mean, I guess someone could have heard us in the elevator here. We talked about it on the way up to apartment a few times. You never know if someone is listening to you in an elevator." 

"Okay Margaret. I think we have all the information we need for now. Do you have anyone who can stay with you this evening?" Detective Arnold knew the young woman was scared and definitely not a killer. He also knew that now he and his partner would be interviewing all the tenants of this building.

"I called my friend to come over; she should be here soon. Sam is Denver right now and trying to come home. I'll be fine."

"Margaret, if anything else happens call us immediately. Patrols have been increased in the neighborhood for now. We'll be in touch soon." Detective Roberts gave her his card. She thanked them and showed them out. She hadn't mentioned the posters across the courtyard. She figured that was just another coincidence.

A week later
No more packages had been delivered. The detectives talked to Sam once he made it back home. Arthur kept following Margaret around the apartment but nothing else out of the ordinary happened. Margaret insisted that she was fine but Sam knew she was frightened. They were having dinner earlier in the week when she pointed out the posters in the window. Since she first noticed them more had been added: another Peep ad, Freddy Krueger, and Leatherface were now staring at them. He hadn't noticed them until Margaret pointed them out. Sam made her call Detective Arnold. The detective promised to check out the apartment. He was sure the person was already on their interview list but didn't share that with Margaret. The Peeps Murders case had always been weird and these recent developments made it even more so.

They were watching The Daily Show when they heard a loud thud against the front door. Arthur immediately began growling and standing in front of Margaret. Sam approached the door cautiously and looked out through the peephole. No one was in the hall and he couldn't see down. He chained the door and slowly opened it. A bigger box, wrapped like the first one, and addressed to Margaret lay at his feet. He unchained the door and kicked it into the apartment. No one was in the hall.

Margaret was already on the phone with Detective Arnold. He gave her strict instructions not to touch the package and to stay put until he and Roberts arrived. The tenant interviews had been going on all week and they had a few  people of interest from the building. One happened to live in the west tower across from Margaret. They were trying to get a search warrant for the apartment. The tenant, Edwin White, was unable to recall his whereabouts when the Peeps Murders occurred, he had a record (harassment, animal cruelty, and a bar fight or two) , and a fascination with horror movies. It was flimsy but the detectives needed something.

The new box revealed a more intricate Peeps display: Jason at Crystal Lake with the phrase Fridays will never be the same again along the bottom. It was one of the taglines from the original Friday the 13th.

After the detectives left without providing any additional information just reassurances that they were safe, it was decided that Margaret and Arthur would stay at Sam's place for the rest of the week. Margaret argued at first but gave in after it was agreed that they could leave in the morning. She was too tired to pack for herself and the dog tonight. They got ready for bed and both feel asleep almost immediately. Arthur had taken to sleeping by the door in protector mode. He was a pretty solid dog so an intruder/crazed Peep killer would probably trip over him and maybe break something before any real harm could be done.

Around 2 am Margaret woke up. She had been dreaming but couldn't remember what her dream was about. She laid in bed a moment trying to will herself back to sleep but it didn't work. She carefully got out of bed and went into the living, stepping over a sleeping Arthur. She had forgotten to close the curtains so she could see the other apartment tower. This time instead of thinking someone was watching her she saw someone in the window. He was dressed in all black and a white mask. It took her a moment to focus on the mask. It looked like a mash up of Jason's hockey mask and Michael Myers blank face with something else. Margaret's heart was beating fast and she couldn't move or call out to Sam.

What else was on the mask? Peeps - it was Peeps. The mask was made up to look like a Peep villain. The man (she assumed it was a man) held up a sign, Everyone is entitled to one good scare. Another tagline.

She was finally able to move from the living room. She ran back into the bedroom, waking up Sam and Arthur in the process.

"We have to leave now." She shook Sam awake. "Put on your shoes, grab your keys. We have to leave now."

Sam struggled to wake up and make sense of what Margaret was saying. "What's going on?"

"It's him. He's watching from across the tower. I saw him in an awful mask. We have to go." Margaret already had her shoes on and her phone and purse. "Please Sam, move!"

Her tone got him moving. They got the dog leashed and made their way out of the building and to Sam's car. The figure had still been in the window; Sam had seen him too. When they got to his car, there were Peeps smashed on the windows. Surprisingly that was the only damage done to the car. Margaret could see the apartment window from the car; the figure had vanished. She called both detectives as Sam sped away. Detective Roberts answered and told her to head to the police station.  Margaret looked back and saw the mask. He was following them. Sam saw too and tried to lose the guy. The second car vanished.

Every horror movie she had ever seen flashed through her mind at once. Margaret knew the Peep Murderer was going to hit them and try to take Sam out of commission. That's how these things worked. Just as she was thinking this, it happened. Sam thought he had lost the guy but he came out of a side street and hit them. Sam hit his head as he tried to regain control of the car. He was out; not dead just out.

Margaret was dazed by the crash but not hurt. She tried to help Sam but he wouldn't wake up. She grabbed for her phone and dialed 911. "There's been an accident and there's a killer outside my car. Help me!" The dispatcher tried to get her to calm down and give more details but Margaret was too distracted by the other car. It was idling across the street, poised to strike again. She dropped the phone. She braced herself and Sam for another hit.

Nothing happened.

She opened her eyes and stared at the masked figure in the car. And then she got angry. She forced her way out of the car and faced him. "Too chicken to hit us again? Is this too close for you? Or not your weapon of choice?"

The masked figure didn't move. Margaret stepped closer to his car.

"You've been terrorizing me for two years and you're just going to sit there? You can't even get out of the car and chase me or come at me with a machete? What kind of crazed killer are you?" Margaret was suddenly a sassier version of Laurie Strode minus the 70s wardrobe and awesome hair. The sound of sirens was getting closer. Margaret stood her ground, waiting for a reaction from the masked figure. His inaction only made her more angry.

Before Margaret could taunt him again, police cars surrounded the crash. Margaret saw Detective Roberts approaching her. "He's not going to put up a fight," she told him. "The guy won't even come out of the car."

The detective led her back to Sam. He had come to just as the police cars arrived. Paramedics were helping him out of the car. One of them had Arthur too. Margaret rushed over to them.

"You don't get to be the Final Girl after all." Sam said as they embraced.

"It's not really my style. Too much running and screaming involved."

They sat in the back on an ambulance watching as Detectives Arnold and Roberts handcuffed the man from the car. The mask had been removed and she saw a man from her building. His name was Ed or Edwin or something like that.. She remembered seeing him when she first moved in; he had given her the creeps. He looked at her right before the detectives put him into the car. His face was blank but Margaret sensed he was testing her, seeing if she'd look away first. Margaret did not blink. She stared him down and let him know that he had no power here. She was done with this story. 


Margaret rearranged the flowers again. She had been rearranging the table setting all morning long. Sam took the vase from her and held it out of her reach.

"I wasn't done with that. Put it back."

"No, you're done. The table is perfect. The flowers are perfect. You have to stop." He placed the flowers back on the table.

"Fine." She smiled at him and walked away from the table. They were hosting their first dinner party in their new house and she wanted everything to be perfect. In the year since the car crash and capture of Edwin White, they had moved into a new house and had decided to get married. The party was a combination wedding party (they had eloped) and Easter party. Their parents and close friends would begin arriving soon.

Edwin White had confessed to the Peeps Murders. There had been plenty of evidence in his apartment to convict him even if he hadn't. He had included the Peeps after watching Margaret work on her diorama. He thought he had found a kindred spirit and was trying to get her attention. He realized his plan backfired when he saw her burning the diorama. The bloody Freddy she had found two years ago had been his first "gift" to her. He was sentenced to life in prison and had no prospect of ever being released.

Margaret and Sam made their way back into the house. The backyard setting was beautiful. They had done a lot of work on the house since moving in and it was home. She took a final look at the decorated table. Her flower arrangements were a mix of spring flowers and Easter decorations. Two of the vases were full of Gerber daisies and Peeps in coordinating colors. Peeps weren't so evil after all.

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