Tsukumojuku was missing, presumed dead, and it seemed my days of adventure had ended. I went to school, barely spoke to anyone but Mum, and had my nose in a book all day long, at school or at home. Even though I’d had no friends as a child, and rarely went outside, I’d not been much of a reader. But being friends with Tsukumojuku and seeing how he used the information he’d learned to help him solve cases and increase the flexibility of his thought processes made me incapable of remaining ignorant. But I still hated studying and never really took school seriously, so I couldn’t really keep up with the other students. So I decided to start small, with novels. Mother had quite a collection of English novels overflowing our bookshelves. Since there was a detective, I started with Sherlock Holmes, but after visting the scene of real crimes with Tsukumojuku it just seemed so tame and stiff, so I gave up. I then tried Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, and Emily Brontë, but it was H. G. Wells I fell in love with. The Time Machine, The Island of Dr. Moreau, War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man – all science fantasy, all terrific. They even made me like science. When Mum saw me reading a book on science she suggested we hire a tutor. She’d never really been one for forced study or early bedtimes, but she had a keen eye to when I might be open to such a suggestion, so I didn’t feel moved turn her down. I had an idea who might be a good tutor; a girl Tsukumojuku and I had met on our last case, the one who’d helped us finally catch Javier Cortez. Her name was Penelope de la Roza. She had a pathological fear of clowns, so when Javier had haunted her dreams disguised as a clown and tried to convince her to commit a locked room murder, the blow to her system had been so extreme she’d quit school and never left the house. She was quite the beauty, and I thought maybe sharing some stories of good times with Tsukumojuku might help cheer her up a bit. But when I went to see her things didn’t go so well. She barely gave me the time of day.
“Sorry, but seeing you makes me remember the clown in my
dreams, and I get scared.” Whoops. Clearly, I’d been tactless. Now that she mentioned it while Javier had been after her Penelope had been in a state of panic, and was perpetually shivering, even in broad daylight.
“Oh. Sorry to just drop in like this, then. I didn’t mean to upset you,” I said, and turned to leave.
“I’m sorry too, Jorge,” she said, from the other side of the door she refused to open.
“You came all this way. I can’t stop myself thinking about the clown, but…I was glad to see you, and honestly, it’s something of a relief to talk to someone like this.” I was very glad to hear it. Also, even though nearly everyone I’d met solving cases was Spanish, they all pronounced Jorge ‘George’ – Tsukumojuku’s parting gift. That thought made me sad, but there was a warmth to that sadness. I went home. But the next evening, Penelope came to see me, looking very upset.
“Jorge!” she yelled from outside. Surprised, I got out of bed. I glanced at the clock; it was 1:30 AM. For a moment I wondered if I’d dreamt it, but then she yelled again.
“Jorge Joestar!” I cracked the curtains, and Penelope was standing outside the front door.
“What is it, Penelope?”
“You’ve got to help! You’ve got to do something!”
“Do something about what? Calm down!”
“How can I? He’s back! Javier Cortez is back! It’s all your fault! Nothing happened until yesterday!” Javier? This made no sense. The islanders killed him and dumped his body in the sea.
“Okay, wait a second, I’ll be right out.” I left the window, went downstairs, and burst out the front door. Penelope was shivering in a sleeveless dress and a pair of sandals. She did not appear to be harmed. Just terrified; she collapsed into my arms as I approached. Her body was horrifyingly cold to the touch.
“Aughhhh!” she wailed, clinging to me.
“I’m so scared! Javier Cortez is still after me!”
“He isn’t,” I said.
“He’s dead. You saw the body.” They’d beaten him with stones and farm implements until his skull split open. There’s no way he could have survived.
“It was just a dream. Don’t worry. He no longer exists.” Penelope pulled away, and glared at me.
“No, it wasn’t a dream! It really happened! He came to my house!”
“He couldn’t have,” I said, growing melancholy. Perhaps Penelope had genuinely gone crazy. Frustrated, Penelope yelled through her tears, “It’s true! And he ran ahead of me on the way here, jumping out at me!” Jumping out at her? “What do you mean? I’ll hear you out, just calm down and start from the beginning.”
“Look…after you came to visit yesterday, I went back to my room. The door was locked from the inside, and so were the windows. I couldn’t get in.”
“It was a locked room! I thought there had to be someone in there at first…I was scared, so I went to the kitchen, where my mother was. But the kitchen door slammed shut right in front of me. It was locked from the inside! I got scared, and called out, and she started screaming! ‘Ahhh! There’s somebody in here!’ Now both of us are in a panic, and trying to open the door, but it won’t open. Cortez wanted me to kill my mother, remember? She knew that, so she thought it was me again, and yelled, ‘Don’t do it, Penny! Stop! Don’t kill me!’ I would never do that! Cortez is dead, and I’m back to normal! I was so worried about her I tried to kick the door down, but it wouldn’t open. That’s how you and Tsukumojuku used to get in the locked rooms, right?” In an emergency, yes. If events were still in progress, we’d attempt to intervene, but normally we’d try to preserve the scene, and look for a key or another way in. Or make another way in. People making locked rooms often took a broken down door into account, and would often try and use that to hide evidence. We
didn’t want to give them the satisfaction.
“But my kick didn’t do a damn thing to that door, so I started throwing myself into it, over and over. At last it broke, and I came rushing in, just in time to see a clown in the corner before it disappeared. I froze to spot. I couldn’t move. Mother was hiding behind the sofa, hysterical. At last she came out and came over to me, but she blames me for everything. She thought I was trying to kill her again. She’s sure I hate her now.” Penelope’s parents had divorced four years ago, and Penelope’s mother had full custody. Penelope had blamed her for taking away her father. Their relationship had been strained to begin with, and when Penelope started dating a man named Edvard, a thug who beat her and sold anything she owned of value, Isabella – her mother – tried to convince her to break up with him. Edvard played the two of them off against each other, leaving Penelope alone in the world. He threatened to ruin Penelope permanently if Isabella interfered. In the end, Isabella gave up on her daughter. Then the clown started showing up in Penelope’s dreams. Face covered in white, with bright circles round his eyes and mouth, a huge grin, a cheery manner, lots of big gestures and calls to the crowd. Penelope found his ridiculous nature deeply frightening. She couldn’t move; her body covered in a cold sweat, her heart beating so fast it seemed like it was beating right into her brain. She couldn’t even look away, and her breathing grew so shallow she was barely conscious enough to think. Occasionally her eyes even rolled back in her head and she fainted – while still asleep and dreaming. The only person she could talk to about this fear had been Isabella.
“She’s the only one I can trust. I finally realized that, but no matter how many times I tell her, she…” Penelope started crying again. I have no idea what to do when girls cry. I just stood there awkwardly, and waited for her to stop.
“So, um,” she continued, still crying.
“I went over to the window where the clown was – very slowly, ready to run. And I found this.” She held out a doll, about
the size of her palm. It had no clothes, and a shapeless face with eyes and a wide open mouth stitched on. The eyes were white circles with no pupils, and there was blood streaming out of the mouth down its chin. There was a hangman’s noose tied around its neck.
“Dead. It’s supposed to be me, I’m sure. It’s a warning. I’m going to die. Someone’s going to murder me. Soon.”
“That won’t happen,” I said, but I had no basis for this. And Penelope knew that. Still, I thought, this was all happening because I thoughtlessly went to see her. Nothing like this had happened before today.
“Why don’t you come in?” I said. I led her up on the porch, and tried to open the door. It was locked from the inside. Mum? Why would she shut us out…? “Jorge?” Her voice came from inside.
“? What? Open the door, Mum.” Suddenly terrified, I began rattling the knob, but the door wouldn’t budge.
“Listen to me, Jorge. You have to run.”
“Mum! Open this door! What’s going on!?”
“There’s a clown in here.” A clown? “Eeek!” Penelope squeaked. She backed away, almost falling down the two steps up to the porch.
“Oh…Jorge…sorry…I think I brought it with me…” This made no sense. Javier Cortez was dead. I didn’t believe in ghosts. Someone living must be doing this. I’d learned that much after four years as Tsukumojuku’s friend. There were no ghosts. There was no magic. Curses only worked on the emotions of those that believed in them. The Chinese were not wizards, and there were no drugs or poisons with special properties that favored the criminals. Everything had
meaning. Everything could be explained logically. The clown on the other side of this door could be explained, too. Mysterious clowns only existed in dreams! I put my back into it and kicked the door down. Crassssh! I’d kicked a lot of doors down, working with Tsukumojuku, but this was definitely my best ever attempt. The door broke free of the lock, flew inwards, and did a full 180, slamming against the inside wall.
“Mum!” I yelled, bursting in. Then I saw it; a clown floating in the air, and my Mum facing it down. The clown…did exist.
“Aiieeee!” Penelope screeched, behind me. Okay, so the clown was real. Penelope could see it too. A fat little white clown. White hair, white make up, puffy white clothes.
“Penelope! Wait outside!” I yelled, and grabbed a nearby chair with one hand. Strike before you think! I swung the chair through the air, and hit the clown with it.
“Rraaaagh!” Schuuun! The chair zipped through the air. The clown vanished…no, it broke into the pieces. What the!? The chair hit the floor. This wasn’t a ghost. I’d never seen a ghost, but this clown didn’t vanish like mist or smoke, it shattered into tiny pieces – they were hard to make out, but they were still in the air in front of me.
“Mum, you get out of here,” I said.
“Calm down, Jorge,” Mum said, behind me.
“I don’t think the clown means us any harm.”
“? …..what makes you say that?”
“I was quite surprised when it appeared and all the doors and windows slammed shut. But when that girl outside – Penelope? – appeared, I understood. I don’t know how, but I believe Penelope is making that clown. She’s making it to protect herself.”
“Jorge? Are you okay?” Penelope asked. I turned around, and Penelope had come back up the steps
onto the porch, and was looking in the door.
“Penelope, don’t –” come in, I meant to say, but suddenly the door slammed shut, and the floating clown manifested in the shadows behind it. Penelope’s shriek and my yelp of surprise overlapped. The clown ignored us both, dragged a heavy side table over to the door, and wedged it under the doorknob. Locking us in. We were in a locked room.
“Jorge! Run!” Penelope screamed.
“I’m so sorry! I brought him here!” But the clown never looked at me. It just stared at the door, at Penelope on the other side of it. Chair in hand, I moved slowly closer. The clown didn’t turn around. I studied it closely. There were cracks on the surface of it here and there, and I could see inside; there was nothing in there. It was all surface. A hollow clown. I moved even closer. The cracks in the clown had frayed edges. I put my face right next to it, and could see the threads. This clown was woven out of thread. What thread? I found a single thread dangling down from the clown’s hip. I followed it with my eyes. It ran along the floor, and through the gap under the front door.
“Penelope, step back.”
“Sniff, okay. I’m sorry.” She was crying again. I listened for her footsteps on the stairs, then moved the side table aside and opened the door.
“Eeeeek, look out, Jorge! Behind you!” Penelope screamed. She must have seen the clown behind me, so I stepped out on the porch and closed the door.
“Oh! Good, are you okay, Jorge? Come over here. There was a clown right behind you!” The white thread ran across the porch, down the steps, and over to Penelope. Hmm.
“Wait, Jorge! Your mother!? She’s still in there with the clown! We have to save her!” Penelope bravely started up the stairs again, so I put my arms around her. She was the one who needed saving.
“Wh-what are you doing, Jorge?” she said, struggling.
clown!” My hands were resting on her shoulders, and I could tell her sleeveless dress was now held on by a single string over each shoulder. In the night air, her shoulders were very cold.
“My Mum’s fine,” I said. Penelope stopped struggling. She was still scared and confused, but she was standing still now. My arms were around her, pulling her to me. Fighting the force of her fear. It had happened again, I thought. Just like Javier Cortez’s power over dreams, and Antonio Torres’ skin shedding, constant fear and suffering had given her strange powers. I remembered how the trick Javier Cortez had wanted Penelope to use had involved a thread running under the door to turn the key. A very simple trick. It would have bored Tsukumojuku to tears, but the fear it had given Penelope was so great it had led to this mysterious power. I cursed the fear itself silently, holding her close.
Eventually the thread from Penelope’s dress snapped, a doll in a noose dropped behind the door, and Mum brought it out. I took it, showed it to Penelope, and unraveled it before her eyes. There was a loose thread coming out of the doll’s hip, and one tug on that was all it took. The doll came apart that easily.
“I know this is hard to believe, but you made all of this, Penelope. The clown, the locked room, and this doll. You are much too scared of that clown that wanted you to commit a locked room murder. You couldn’t take the constant fear, and it gave you a strange power, the ability to make locked rooms. But since you don’t want to do that, you make the clown do it, and because you don’t want to kill anyone, you kill this doll. And it all gets shut inside a locked room.” Penelope didn’t believe me, of course. She couldn’t see inside the physical locked room, or into the depths of her own
heart. I just had to hope she’d get used to it in time.
But wherever Penelope went, no matter what door she drew near, her fear slammed it shut, made a locked room, a clown appeared inside, and a doll was hung. And that just fueled her fear. I got used to it quickly enough. I had never been afraid of clowns, or locked rooms. I explained it to Isabella, and had her observe the power in action, but she remained terrified and convinced Penelope had been possessed by the devil, so I talked it over with Mum, and we decided to have Penelope come live with us. Our house was probably the largest on La Palma, with plenty of rooms. Mum was a majority stockholder in a successful English company called the Speedwagon Company, so we didn’t lack for money, and she ran a trading company of her own with ships and warehouses in every port in the Canary Islands. She hired Penelope to work in the La Palma office. And to be my tutor. Just standing in front of a door caused it to slam shut and form a locked room, leaving Penelope quaking in the shadow of the clown, but I went with her to work, and walked with her around the house, and in time locked rooms stopped showing up at the office and our house. Frankly, I was somewhat disappointed. I mean, just standing in front of a door made Penelope’s clothes unravel? La Palma was hot all year and nobody wore that many clothes to begin with. Penelope wore sun dresses, and maaaaybe a light shawl over her shoulders, and that’s it. Having that unravel, the surface area rapidly shrinking…oh my. Naturally I said nothing, pretending to be focused on the problem and not to have noticed anything, but Boys, girls see right through this. She picked up on my furtive glances, and rapidly covered herself with pillows or nearby bed sheets.
“I still can’t believe it, but that grin on your face makes me think it has to be true.” Eh? I was grinning? Craaap, I mean, sorry, Penelope, you’re
really scaring me here! I was all flustered every time but Penelope was never really all that mad at me, thankfully. Would I ever be a proper gentleman?
Apparently not. One day in February, six months after Penelope moved into the Joestar residence, and a while after she’d been able to go to work on her own, she asked me to go with her again.
“Sorry, Jorge. Just for today, I promise. Yesterday I just got this idea in my head that someone was following me. I’m scared to go on my own.” Usually my job was to go, “You made this locked room, Penelope.” Or, “The clown’s made of thread, and it’ll turn into a doll in a few minutes, so there’s no need to be frightened.” But this sounded more like actual bodyguard work. I was getting nervous already. I mean, when I was working with Tsukumojuku we used to burst in on murder scenes, and chase killers around, and catch them, but most of the work was done by Tsukumojuku and the police, while I hovered nearby shrieking. I didn’t ever really fight at all, and I still had no real confidence in my left hook. The only thing I’d really gained from those experiences was courage? Or so I thought but apparently I hadn’t even managed that, because when I tried to stand up from the breakfast table and say I’d go to work with her my legs were shaking so much I couldn’t walk straight, and stumbled into the table. All the dishes rattled. Crap, that was a little too frightened. I even surprised myself.
“Oh, Jorge…sorry. Are you okay? You don’t have to come.” Penelope smiled bravely.
“I’ll be fine.” Augh, she totally knew I was scared. But even though I was embarrassed part of me was super relieved she said that, and looking forward to getting back to sipping my coffee. Pathetic. I hadn’t improved one iota since grade school. But before I could say anything, Mum stepped in.
“No, Jorge, you have to go with Penelope.” At least I maintained my
dignity. Maybe. But in the sense that both of them knew exactly what I was thinking probably not at all. I suddenly had a very bad feeling about the day. But I left the house with Penelope. She thoughtfully chose to be super chatty to keep my mind off things, but my head was full of all the times Antonio’s gang had come after me, and it felt like a dark cloud was hovering over my head, that I was sure it would bring bad luck. Of course, Antonio Torres was dead, and his primary cohort Julio had long since lost interest, so neither of them showed up. But on the way to the office, there was a road that cut through the middle of an open field, and waiting for us was Penelope’s ex, the bad bad Edvard Noriega. I froze to the spot, my mind blank. Penelope glared at him.
“Hey, Penny! Long time no see.”
“…what? What do you want?”
“I just wanted to see how you were getting on.”
“I don’t want to see your face ever again.”
“Don’t say that! I’m dying here.”
“You heard I was working for the Joestars, right? I’m not lending you money, and no matter what trouble you’re in, you’ll get no help from me.”
“That’s not it…I got no money, true, but I don’t need that. I…I saw something strange…” Mm? Strange? That word finally snapped me out of it. Edvard was nothing like he’d been when Tsukumojuku and I last spoke to him. Where once he’d been an alpha male, and treated Penelope like his property, now Edvard was genuinely terrified, his voice shaking, his face pale. He was downright begging for Penelope’s help.
“Come on, Jorge. Leave him be. He’s a great actor, always was good at making people pity him,” Penelope snapped. Really? Acting? This was a performance? “No…I’m serious! Listen, please! I saw this creepy guy, with wings…”
“Shut up and go away!”
“I was so scared…it was too dark to see his face, but he’s
“I don’t care! Take care of it yourself!”
“I just know he’s gonna kill me, Penny. Have a heart…you gotta listen. He’s like a like a moth in the night, tapping softly on the wall…”
“Shut up shut up shut up! You never once listened to a word I said about the clown! Serves you right!”
“I couldn’t be sorrier about that, honest. It was all my fault, so please, just stop a second. Don’t go digging up the past. Listen, two nights ago I went out to see this girl I’ve been seeing, Prunella…”
“I don’t want to hear about it!”
“You gotta listen! I don’t love her anything like as much as I loved you, I swear!”
“I don’t care! You’d better stop, or…!” Penelope was so angry now she stopped walking. How could she not be? When the case with Javier Cortez broke, Edvard had split, without even saying good-bye. Even after Penelope had shut herself in Isabella said she’d spent a while waiting for him to come back. And now he shows up, talking about his new girlfriend, even though he’d never bothered breaking up with his old one. The worst thing a man could do, let alone an ex.
“So I was lying in bed with Prunella, when I suddenly woke up.”
“Did you not hear me say stop? I don’t! Want! To hear it!” Penelope roared. I knew how she felt, but her anger was so explosive it scared me.
“Come on now, just ignore him, let’s go,” I said, trying to calm her down and pull her away. Then I saw her face. There were veins bulging on her foreheads. Her lips were curled back, bearing her teeth. She looked downright…mad. This wasn’t going to work. Penelope was beyond the help of words. But Edvard was too wrapped up in his own affairs to notice.
“He was standing at the base of the bed. Black as the devil,
but so quiet he hardly seemed real…” Something red trickled down from Penelope’s nose. Blood. She was so furious there was blood running down her chin.
“If you don’t stop talking I’ll kill you,” she said. I was too scared to try and stop her. While I dithered, there was burst of wind around me. Had the wind changed? No, there was a rumbling below me, and the sound was moving, coming closer. What the!? I looked around, half expecting to see all the dogs and cats on the island rushing towards me, but nope. What was actually happening was far more terrifying. The ground itself was moving. Scrrrrrrrrrrnch! It swirled, gathering itself around us. A mound of earth raced by, like a carnivore hell-bent on devouring the crops. It passed behind me, heading for Edvard.
“I knew he wasn’t a thief, or nothing. Thieves don’t watch people when they sleep. They don’t wear clothes that make them look like they got wings…”
“I’m gonna kill you, Edvard! Stop it now, or you will die?” Both of them kept talking, oblivious to the other. Penelope’s nose bleed had dyed her chest red, and Edvard’s eyes were focused on nothing – the very fact that he hadn’t noticed what was going on was possibly the most frightening part of all this. Look! I opened my mouth to yell, but the dirt and grass around him heaved, and four walls shot up around him. But Edvard didn’t stop mumbling.
“I was too scared to get up. Then he spoke. ‘Close your eyes, lie down, and think about tomorrow,’ he said.” He was about to be swallowed in a five meter wide square of dirt.
“I said stop,” Penelope hissed, another squirt of blood shooting out of her nose. I took one look at her and knew this was all her doing.
“I don’t know what he meant, but I knew one thing…this black winged man was going to do something awful to me…”
Just before the earth walls swallowed Edvard completely, I saw a black figure standing behind him. It had a round nose, and a hat, and big hair. A clown. The walls closed together on top, closing Edvard in with the dirt clown. The locked room was complete.
“If you’d stopped, you’d have lived!” Penelope raged. Penelope had finally learned to make a locked room without using her clothes. And the evil clown inside. Part of me was actually impressed. Penelope’s wound had given her concrete power, and she’d turned it into a weapon. Given the source of her powers, I immediately decided to call it a Wound. Injury was too coarse, and Trauma sounded too medical, and the implication that it was mental suffering was too strong. This wound was both physical and emotional, and grew over time. But this was no time to go naming things! Was I an idiot? I had time to be weirdly impressed later! “No, Penelope! Stop!” I said, forcing myself to speak.
“Don’t kill him!” Penelope didn’t even look at me.
“It’s not me.” Of course not. It was the clown.
“Edvard! Run!” I yelled, dashing towards the locked room. There was no door, or window. Just the walls. Grass woven tightly together, dirt plugging up the cracks. I tried yanking on the grass but the holes filled quickly with more grass and dirt. The walls were alive.
“Aaaaaaaugh!” Edvard screamed inside. Had the clown got its noose on him? Fundamentally, the point of a locked room murder was to make a murder look like a suicide. But if Edvard died like this, and someone found him, would the police think he built a room of dirt and grass and hung himself inside? I didn’t know. But without evidence showing how the locked
room was built, without proof it was murder, would the police have any other choice but to rule it a suicide? If so, Penelope’s locked room murder would be a success. But I wouldn’t let that happen. I wouldn’t let Penelope murder anyone! I ripped into the grass and dirt walls, forcing a hole open. I had to work faster than the automatic recovery. I got the hole large enough to check on Edvard. I couldn’t see most of him, but his feet were dangling in the air, kicking. He was hanging.
“Stop, Penelope! Don’t make a locked room! Break this locked room down!” I shouted, making the hole even wider. Before the grass and dirt could fill it in I dove in.
“No! Don’t, Jorge! Come out of there!” Before Penelope’s cry finished, the wall closed behind me, muffling her voice. I turned around just in time to see the hole close completely. Edvard was dangling from the ceiling, a rope of grass around his neck. Behind him, an earthen clown dangled upside down from the ceiling. Why had I jumped in here? “Aaaaaaugh!” I yelled. There was a snap as the grass rope dropped down from the ceiling and pulled tight around my neck. It yanked me into the air, hard. The grass dug into my throat, breaking the skin, but I barely noticed. The weight of my body nearly made me black out instantly. Luckily, my neck didn’t break, but the noose was choking off my windpipe and jugulars, cutting off the flow of air to my brain. With my blood not moving, my entire body gasped for oxygen. The pain was so great I tried desperately to loosen or break the noose, but it wouldn’t budge. Instead, more tendrils slithered down, weaving themselves into the noose, making it stronger. I was starting to panic. The dirt clown moved its face next to mine, watching me die. Now I was really panicking, but I couldn’t! Not now! My legs couldn’t reach the ground and this clown was going to make sure I died! I wasn’t getting out of this by brute forcing my way free! Think! I had to think!
How could I break the locked room? Penelope! Could Penelope save me? No. She’d made the locked room. Penelope had no idea what was happening inside it. Anything that happened would be the clown’s fault, in her mind. Penelope was even less aware that she was doing all this than the clown staring emotionlessly into my eyes. After Edvard and I were dead, she’d cry a while, tell everyone a clown killed us in some mysterious locked room, and then forget all about it the moment the funerals were over. I couldn’t rely on her at all! I had to think of a way to break the locked room myself! Without brute force!? But that just might be possible! If I could break the idea of a locked room, somehow! The point of a locked room was to make murder look like suicide. If I could make provide evidence that this was murder…if I could leave that behind somehow, so that the police would have to investigate further! Then that would destroy the locked room’s function! “Grrrrraagh!” I yelled, not because of this idea but because the pancakes and tea I’d had for breakfast had come up my throat and were dripping back down into my wind pipe. Shit. My breakfast was going to kill me before this noose did. I had to hurry. But carefully. I couldn’t screw this up! I pulled my knife out of my back pocket. It was a pocket knife, mostly designed for opening wine; the blade was three centimeters long. I kept it around for selfdefense because I was pathetic, but today I was very grateful to have it. I pulled my shirt up, and stabbed the knife into my bare belly.
“Glrararraaagh!” I yelled, gargling the vomit in my windpipe. My vision was getting blurry. I could barely see. I knew the clown was still there, though. There was a shrill ringing in my eyes, and I was about to pass out entirely, but I couldn’t panic! I had to write! Feeling my way across my belly with the knife, I wrote.
A message. That the clown would have to read.
Nice and simple. I barely made it. While I was writing the final R I lost consciousness, and the world went black before my eyes. I saw a tiny light in the darkness, and wondered if that was the entrance to the afterlife. It seemed so warm. Should I jump on in? No, no, I wasn’t done with this world yet, but…? Just as I was starting to feel rather rapturous, my ass hit the ground, the ceiling opened, sunlight streamed in, and I threw up more than I’ve ever thrown up before. Blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarggh. Blrrrrrraaaaaaaaaaaaaarrggghh. Brrrraaaaarrararrraaagggghhagggghgghgggghargh. Once my stomach and lungs and pipes were totally clear I felt so happy I wondered if I could split this joy with Penelope, who was clutching me and crying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” Edvard was unconscious but alive. I was relieved to see it. My belly throbbed, but it would heal in time.
Or so I thought, but apparently I’d dug a little too deep, and the word murder would remain upside-down on my belly forever. When the doctor told me this I gaped at him, and Penelope started crying again, and a familiar voice from the hospital room door yelled, “Jorge! Who did that to you!?” and I turned to look and saw Lisa Lisa standing there, a little taller, her hair much longer, and even more beautiful. I hid my bare belly, and Penelope wiped her eyes and stopped crying.
“They’re still bullying you!? ‘Murder’? Is that a threat? Jorge, what have you got yourself mixed up in!?” Lisa Lisa was jumping to conclusions. Four years had done wonders for her but
the gulf between her insides and out was already getting on my nerves.
“No, no, I did this myself.”
“Don’t lie to me! Nobody would ever do that!”
“I had a good reason.”
“Then explain it to me this instant!”
“Shut up! I don’t have to explain everything I do to you!” I said, dismissively. Lisa Lisa clamped her mouth shit, her lip quivering, tears in her eyes. Aw, crap.
“Um, sorry,” Penelope said, standing up.
“It’s all my fault.”
“Forget it, Penelope. It doesn’t matter now.”
“This is the Penelope Mama Erina mentioned?” Lisa Lisa said, glaring at us.
“I suppose I should introduce myself. I’m…”
“Lisa Lisa, right? Jorge and Erina told me about you.”
“Don’t you call me Lisa Lisa. My name is Elizabeth Straits, Señorita.” I cringed. Fireworks were flying between them. Penelope looked ready to make a locked room around Lisa Lisa, and summon that clown. I had do something, so I forced myself to speak.
“What brings you here, Lisa Lisa? You coming home with us? Mum will be glad to see you. Or did you already talk to her? Did you go see her first? I suppose you wouldn’t know to come here otherwise. We kept your room the way you left it so…”
“Finding you here was a coincidence, Jorge,” Lisa Lisa interrupted.
“I had a question for the doctor here, and saw you’d been hurt…I was a little surprised, that’s all.” Her tone had softened, to my relief.
“A question for me?” The doctor said.
“Have you had patients coming here claiming to have seen a man with wings? Or a man like a moth?” So much for my relief.
I had just heard that exact story.
Listen, please! I saw this creepy guy, with wings… Edvard’s words. Penelope looked as stunned as I was.
“Yeah,” the doctor said.
“We’ve had a lot of patients wondering if they were having a nervous breakdown.” Lisa Lisa nodded, as if she’d expected that answer.
“I checked with the police as well. They have quite a collection of reports of this man, and the citizens have formed a watch to search for him.” Eh? Really? I had no idea. I barely ever left the house, so I was out of touch with the goings on around town.
“At first I thought it was a trick of the light, or an illusion,” the doctor said, “But more and more people came, so I was forced to conclude it’s some sort of mass hysteria. A delusion everyone believed.” He paused, and sighed deeply.
“But truth is, he came to me last night. This man with black wings. He really exists. That was no delusion. I…don’t know if he’s of this world or not, but he is real.”
“……!” The delusion even reached the doctor? Should he still be examining people? I looked at Lisa Lisa, concerned.
“Do you remember what happened five years ago, Jorge? When Straits and the others came, and told everyone not to leave their houses?” Of course I remembered. A chill ran down my spine.
“Is that happening again?”
“Yes. This time we will be thorough.” I was scared now.
“He spoke to me,” the doctor said, his eyes as glazed over as Edvard’s had been.
“’Close your eyes, lie down, and think about tomorrow,’ he said.” The exact same line, word for word. Even scarier.
“Don’t do as he says, Doctor,” Lisa Lisa said.
“Lock yourself in your house tonight, and if anything frightens you, retreat even
farther inside.” The way she put it was the scariest.
“What happened five years ago?” Penelope asked me.
“I remember locking myself in, but…” I couldn’t begin to answer.
The three of us walked home in silence to find Straits and Mum sipping tea in the parlor. The mood was hardly pleasant. In fact, it was so tense I wanted to cry. There was no escape anywhere. Everything on the island was terrifying. After greeting them, Lisa Lisa said, “Mama Erina, I think it’s time Jorge knew the truth about what happened to his father.” Mum put her teacup on the table.
“Yes, I suppose you’re ready to hear the story, even if it is a frightening one.” Nononononononono I definitely wasn’t but I couldn’t say that or even shake my head I was already too scared to move.
“Should I wait in my room?” Penelope asked. Mum shook her head.
“You should stay, too. This story concerns not just the Joestar family, but all mankind.” And then she told the story. I had known the name Dio – god in both Italian (Dio) and Spanish (Dios) – as the name of an uncle of no blood relation. My father had uncovered a plot of Dio’s to slowly poison my grandfather, George, and when the police came to arrest him, he’d resisted, and the Joestar mansion had burned to the ground. That much was as I’d heard it, but the ending was different. Dio did not die. Mum’s story began with that correction.
Dio Brando – he’d kept the name, even after being adopted by the Joestars – had stabbed my grandfather right in front of Jonathan and the police, then put on a stone mask that had been found in an Aztec ruin in Mexico. He’d wiped blood across the surface of it and long needles had shot out and stabbed him in the
head. What should have killed him instead turned him into a vampire. He destroyed the police with ferocious strength, and fought with my father. In the end, both survived the fire with substantial injuries. My father met a man named Will A Zeppeli who taught him a secret method of breathing based on ripples, called Hamon breathing. Armed with this technique, my father fought Dio again in a small English town called Wind Knight’s Lot. Dio could rob a body of all heat in an instant, and my father seemed close to losing, but managed to turn the tables and emerge victorious. But he failed to confirm the kill (according to Lisa Lisa’s evaluation) and let the vampire fall into the valley. While Dio’s body had been destroyed by my father’s Hamon, he managed to cut off his own head before the Hamon reached it, and survived. He lay low for two months, without a body, surviving with the help of his zombies. Then he snuck aboard the ship my parents were taking their honeymoon on, and fought my father a third time. As my mother reached the engine room they were fighting in, some sort of bodily fluid light beam shot out of Dio’s eyes, and pierced my father’s hands and throat. On the brink of death, my father used his last breath to send Hamon rippling through a zombie that attacked, manipulating the zombie into destroying the ship and the zombies on it. My mother wanted to die with him, but he convinced her to take baby Lisa Lisa, found crying near her mother’s corpse, and climb into the special box Dio had constructed. Two days later she was found floating in the box by some fisherman from the Canary Islands…
When this long, insane story ended, Straits said, “Ever since Dio opened the long lost door to the land of the dead, complex echoes of fate and causality have led to dark powers rearing their heads in many lands, and we have been unable to stop the fallout from these completely. On this islands it seems another zombie or vampire has appeared. Even though we thought we killed them all five years ago.” I remembered the sunlight turning Mr. Hernandez to dust, and the…the Hamon? Lisa Lisa had used to destroy Alejandro Torres, and couldn’t stop shaking.
“This is an island,” Lisa Lisa said.
“Vampires and zombies can’t come here by land. There are larger islands, more populated islands, but this is the second incident on La Palma. We’re starting to wonder if there’s a stone mask on this land.” Lisa Lisa looked right at Mum.
“Mama Erina, we have a question for you. We’ve spoken to the fisherman that rescued the two of us. They said they found us 100 km south east of La Palma, floating in a big black box that looked like a coffin.”
Ehhhh? A coffin? Antonio Torres had called me the white raft, but it was actually a black coffin? Lisa Lisa glanced at me quickly, then continued.
“It was big enough to fit a full grown man. There were cushions on the inside, and it was designed to shield the occupant from external blows. It sounds a little excessive for a coffin, but that’s what the fisherman all called it. Was it a coffin, Mama Erina?” I looked at Mum, and she seemed to be gritting her teeth against some pain. She stared grimly back at Lisa Lisa, but didn’t answer.
“The fisherman also said that when you stepped out of your coffin raft, you had a baby, me, and something else, in a bundle made from fabric torn off the hem of your dress. They said you clutched it closely to you…and that it was about the size of a human head.” …the size of a head? Then Lisa Lisa thought it was a head? “You didn’t bring Dio Brando’s head to the Canary Islands, did you, Mama Erina?” Lisa Lisa asked.
“You wouldn’t have left Jorge’s father’s body on the sinking ship, and brought a vampire’s head with you, shielding it from the sunlight? Right?”
There was a harsh gleam in her eye. This was what she’d meant by thorough. They were not even planning on showing mercy to family. But that question crossed the line.
“Mum would never leave Dad behind! Lisa Lisa, you’re being ridiculous!” I said. But Lisa Lisa never took her eyes off Mum. Why wasn’t Mum saying anything? She could silence Lisa Lisa with a word! My desire to defend her was slowly giving way to anxiety. At last she broke her silence.
“That…was not Dio Brando’s head.” Thank goodness! Of course it wouldn’t be, stupid Lisa Lisa. I was about to yell at her when Mum spoke again.
“That was the head of my husband, Jonathan Joestar.”
For the first time in my life I was scared of my Mum.
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