Rubicon Ranch: Secrets ~ Chapter 5: Clark Bailey by T. C. Harrelson

Sunday, December 22, 11:05pm

TICK . . . TICK . . . TICK . . .

The incessant beating . . .

The throbbing in his brain . . .

The pulsating, spasms of pain . . .

His anguish was worsening with each moment, with each tick of its infernal mechanisms. Twice now he had tried to stop its torture, but twice he had succumbed to its devilish devices. It had begun again—the relentless bombardment of his senses, the merciless assailment of his sanity.

TICK . . .TICK . . .TICK . . .

Yet, pain cleared the cobwebs from his mind. It helped him to think clearly. It helped him see . . . the truth.

It was clear to him now. He was a prisoner. He had always been a prisoner. The victim of some twisted mastermind who, for reasons unknown, had littered his life with the barbs and pitfalls of his malevolent will. An evil genius who had inundated his mind with psychotic delusions drudged from the very pits of hell.

His murderous father… the horrors of the orphanages… his constant loneliness… all were caused by his faceless nemesis. The man of the shadows…

TICK . . . TICK . . . TICK . . .

He’d always been there, lurking in the darkness. He can see that now. At each important point in his life, he was there—sabotaging his plans, dashing his dreams, bringing pain and disappointment instead of contentment. Yes, he had been doomed from the start; born to be a foil for some otherworldly demon. Destined for some dark and whispered purpose.

THUNK . . . THUNK . . . THUNK . . .

Clark Bailey snapped back to reality, jarred by this new pain, this loud and demanding rapping.

The door! Someone was knocking on his door!

He arose from his chair, his legs weak and uneasy. His gaze fell on the overturned trashcan protruding from the kitchen, its contents strewn over the dining room floor. A broken plate lay nearby.

THUNK . . . THUNK . . . THUNK . . .

“I’m coming, mind you!” He rushed to the litter, shoving it out of sight behind the kitchen wall. Satisfied, he stood at the front door, preparing to meet his unknown caller.

He must remember . . . concentrate . . . BECOME!

He opened the door.

“Mr. Bailey?”

A hulking figure stood in his doorway, silhouetted from behind by flashing police lights.

“Y-Yes, I’m Clark Bailey.” He was momentarily taken aback, despite years of mental discipline.

“I’m Deputy Kelvin Midget. May I come in?”

“Yes, of course.”

Deputy Midget stepped through the door, ducking his head to avoid a bump. Clark was struck by the sheer size of the man. Now illuminated by the pale glow of the kitchen light, he presented a formidable figure indeed. A muscular build highlighted by broad shoulders. His head was large, with a square jaw and eyes that peered from beneath a strong brow.

“I apologize for the lateness of my visit. But there’s been an . . . incident . . . in Rubicon Ranch.” He paused. “I saw your light and I was just wondering if I could ask you a few questions.”

Clark twisted his face with concern. “Yes, I heard the sirens . . . saw the lights . . . the police cars, and . . . the coroner’s wagon.”

He stepped back from the door. “But I’m forgetting my manners, aren’t I? You must be weary from your work. Come in . . . sit down here at the table. May I get you something to drink?”

“No, thanks.” Deputy Midget settled his frame into a seat, his bulk causing the small, wooden chair to groan under the stress.

Clark joined him at the table, clearing its surface of the day’s mail—circulars, solicitations, and bills. Lots of bills.

“I hope I haven’t awakened the missus . . . ,” said the deputy.

“Marion? No, no. I doubt that, officer.”

“Good, good. Perhaps she would like to join us then.” Deputy Midget smiled slightly, his eyes watching his reaction with rapt attention.

Clark returned his smile, never allowing his eyes to falter. “My wife . . . Marion . . . is under the weather.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Mr. Bailey. Nothing serious I hope.”

“That remains to be seen. Marion suffers greatly and, with the help of some of the best physicians in the country, we’re exploring the cause of her illness. But until then, I’m afraid she spends most of her time in bed.”

“I see. Well, I hope they can help her. Now, to the business of the evening. Just a few questions for you. Did you and your wife purchase your home through a local realtor?”

An odd question to begin the interrogation but Clark would be happy to play along. “No, we didn’t. Well, actually, ‘I don’t know’ would be a better answer. You see, I married Marion about a year ago. And she already owned this beautiful Spanish colonial. She was happy here in Rubicon Ranch. No need to go anywhere else.”

“I see. No need, indeed. Do you happen to know any local realtors, Mr. Bailey? Or had any dealings with some of the real estate offices in Rojo Duro?”

“No, I don’t. On both questions.” He paused. “I’m picking up on a theme here. Did something happen to one of our local realtors?”

Deputy Midget smiled. “I’m not obliged to say at this point, Mr. Bailey. But tell me, did you see anything out of the ordinary tonight? Anyone here in Rubicon Ranch that seemed out of place? A stranger? Or maybe some suspicious person or activity?”

Clark thought. “Nothing. I’ve actually been here all evening. Inside the house. Marion was . . . a little more demanding than usual. She needed my constant attention.”

“I see. You didn’t mention your wife’s symptoms . . .”

“No, I didn’t.”

The big man continued to stare at him, waiting for him to elaborate.

“Deputy, I’m afraid I’m not obliged to discuss my wife’s medical condition with you at this time. She prefers to keep her business private.” He stood up. “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

Deputy Midget stood. “No, Mr. Bailey. You’ve been most helpful.” He walked over to the door. “Again, my apologies for stopping in so late.”

He opened the door to a group of people gathered on the small porch. “Deputy Midget! What can you tell us about the latest murder?” A young reporter, her cheeks pink from the cool evening air, shoved a microphone in his direction.

“No comment.”

“Why is Rubicon Ranch such a magnet for murderers, deputy? Is it the Morris Sinclair connection?”

“I said no comment!”

He shoved his hand toward the television camera filming his departure. He slammed the door of his patrol car and drove down Delano Drive, leaving the television crew empty-handed.

Clark delayed too long. The young reporter was on him before he could retreat inside his house, before he could slam the door in her idealistic face.

“How about you, sir? What did Deputy Midget discuss with you? Is there anything you’d like to share with our viewers?” Her foot was firmly planted on the threshold, preventing the door from closing.

Clark stood dumbfounded for a moment as the cameraman focused the lens on his face. Panicking, he shoved the reporter backwards and slammed the door, shouting an abrupt ‘NO COMMENT’ as an afterthought.

He stood inside the house, leaning on the door. He listened as the reporter threw a barrage of questions at the closed door. Eventually the crew gave up, the clump of their footsteps fading onto his walk.

He finally exhaled.

So this is how it will end for him here in Rubicon Ranch. With a death, no doubt, from what he had gathered from the deputy’s face. A real estate agent murdered in his own neighborhood.

He sighed. His nemesis had returned, raining down his darkness upon him. Swallowing him in a sea of doubt and confusion. And pain.

TICK . . . TICK . . . TICK . . .

He cursed the clock. He cursed the darkness. He cursed the pain.

Clark Bailey cursed the day he had wandered onto Rubicon Ranch.

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