Serial Saturday: The Sweet Shoppe Part 4
The Sweet Shoppe by Jameson Grey
IV – Wolfe on the Fold
Centuries? Is that what he said? He can’t have been around for centuries – that’s not possible!
The shopkeeper smiled that rancid, toothless smile of his and began to sniff Pearl, first her face, then down the front of her body. She gagged, writhing in disgust as he pawed at the sides of her breasts and her hips, before pressing his nose against her abdomen.
Pearl was still trying to free her wrists when the shopkeeper stood up, clasping his hands together and smiling. “Oh my, you’re almost a two-for-one deal all by yourself.”
“What do you mean?”
“You don’t know? You’re pregnant.”
“Oh, you most definitely are, my dear. I can smell it on you. Or should I say in you?” He breathed in deeply again. “Perhaps only a few weeks – not long enough for one of my Sugary Babies unfortunately, but – ”
“NO!” Pearl screamed. “You’re lying!”
“I think you know I’m not. Been a little queasy in the mornings lately?”
Pearl had – that morning in fact – felt a little nauseated. She’d put it down the rich meal she’d eaten the night before, but she and John hadn’t exactly been taking precautions in the bedroom since their wedding day. “No,” she said again, but with less vehemence. In any other circumstances, discovering she was pregnant would be a wonderful surprise, but now, here, and with John dead …
Laughing, the storekeeper turned away from her, and, at that moment, Pearl managed to free her wrists. She called his name. “Mr Wolfe.”
As the storekeeper pivoted back towards her, Pearl kicked him between the legs. The storekeeper crumpled to a heap in pain. Pearl instantly set off to run, but he grabbed her ankle and pulled her down to the ground. As she fell, Pearl reached out for the bench ahead and managed to knock the hammer with the tips of her fingers. She went down hard on her right side. She heard a snap but didn’t register what it was at first. Looking up, Pearl saw too late the hammer had teetered over the edge over the workbench. It fell off and smacked her hard in the mouth, sending a shriek of pain through her. She felt teeth break with the impact.
“You bitch!” The storekeeper was pulling himself up. In his fury, he hadn’t seen the hammer fall; instinctively Pearl made a grab for it. It was then she realized what the snap had been. She’d broken her fall with her right wrist and her right wrist with the fall! Now she was aware of it, the pain was immense, but she couldn’t stop to worry about that now. She picked up the hammer with her good left hand. The storekeeper lunged towards her and with all the might she could muster from such a low angle, and with her wrong hand, Pearl swung it at his face.
With the first blow she managed to take out a few of the storekeeper’s remaining teeth; on her second she caught him a glance on the forehead. Now it was his turn to scream, but to Pearl it didn’t sound like the cry of any normal creature.
Somehow pulling herself to her feet, using the workbench as leverage, Pearl looked down at the storekeeper, who was also trying to stand up. She still held the hammer. It was a clawhammer, and Pearl realized how he had managed to do so much damage to John so quickly. She flipped the hammer around in her hand, so the claw was facing out and made to bring it down on the storekeeper’s head.
Sensing what she had planned, he lunged at Pearl, grabbing the hand in which she held the hammer, at the same time driving the small of her back into the workbench. (That’ll bruise!)
Using his free hand, the storekeeper started to drag himself up Pearl. He may be a little man, but he’s so strong, she thought.
Unable to bring the hammer down, Pearl began to panic, not knowing what to do. She hooked her other arm – with the now limp and useless wrist – under his armpit and dropped the hammer behind her, dimly aware of a soft thump and a clang as it once more hit the floor.
The storekeeper, momentarily surprised, let go of her hand and Pearl quickly shoved it under his other armpit. Summoning up strength she didn’t know she possessed, she hoisted the storekeeper up and ran forwards. She ran with such force she managed to impale the back of his neck on the hook she had been tied to moments before. There came an unnatural guttural screech as he tried to wriggle free.
“That won’t hold you, you little shit.” Pearl scrambled around behind her for the hammer, not wanting to take her eyes off the storekeeper. She risked a look over her shoulder and couldn’t see it, then recalled the thump it had made. Pearl ran around to the other side of the workbench. The hammer was on the floor. She picked it up, reminded of her initial intention.
The storekeeper had stopped wriggling and was staring at her. “Have pity,” he pleaded.
“No way, mister,” Pearl spat, and ran at him, embedding the claw hammer between his eyes. He twitched for a moment and then was still.
Pearl turned around to John. “Oh, my love …” was all she could manage. The tears came as she buried her head on his chest, her broken right hand unconsciously resting on the belly the storekeeper had told her held life within it.
Pearl stayed like that for a while, longer than she would have thought possible given what had just happened. She covered John using his jacket and decided it was time to get help.
There was a sink on the other side of the room. She washed herself as best she could, given the state of her wrist, and surveyed the room. There were tools and machinery and jars and test-tubes like it was some mad chemist’s laboratory. Who knew how many victims the deranged storekeeper had brought back here?
On one side of the room was the beaded curtain leading back to the main shop. On the other Pearl saw a door.
It was the back door, leading outside.
She stepped out and saw the ruins of old cars, a rubbish heap of walkers’ paraphernalia, old toys – all presumably the remnants of the storekeeper’s previous victims.
“Pearl,” a gargled voice said behind her. Mr Wolfe was standing at the back door, blood curdling from his mouth, the hook still protruding from the back of his neck. “You’re admiring my spoils,” he said, spitting out a couple of teeth. (Not so Kaa-like now, Pearl thought.)
“How come no-one else has ever come this way? Larches Lane was on the map, you said. The municipality maintained the road, you said.”
“I lied, of course. I lied.” The storekeeper sounded almost sorry when he said it. “You see, the lane is only clear when I need it to be. Most of the time people don’t notice it’s there at all.” He was swaying. Pearl didn’t think he had much left in him.
“What do you mean?”
“When I need more sweets, I make the road clear, and people come. I do love sweets, you know.”
“Well, not anymore, you sick bastard. You’ve made your last sweet.”
“Maybe, maybe, I must be getting too old for this – I would never have made a mistake like not tying you up properly in my pomp.” The storekeeper sagged to his knees. “Still, at least Peter will have one last meal. He deserves it. He’s become very good at causing these little accidents over the years. And it won’t just be scraps this time.”
“Wh–”, Pearl began, but it was too late. She had missed the patter of animal feet approaching. As the wild beast she and John had mistaken for a small dog leapt at her throat, the storekeeper slumped face down into the ground in front of her. As the carotids in her neck burst, she could swear Mr Wolfe was grinning at her.
At the bottom of Larches Lane, the overgrown tracks of a narrow and ancient trail are all that remain. There is a wooden sign, but you’d have to be looking for it to spot it, obscured as it is by tall grass and so faded as to be almost non-existent – as if in a fairy tale of old.
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Jameson Grey is originally from England but now lives with his family in western Canada.
His work has been published in Dark Recesses Press magazine, Dark Dispatch, Medusa Tales, and in various anthologies including Chlorophobia: An Eco-Horror Anthology from Ghost Orchid Press and Let the Weirdness In: A Tribute to Kate Bush from Heads Dance Press.
He can be found online at jameson-grey.com and occasionally on Twitter @thejamesongrey.