The Black Rose of Newberg (Chapter 8)

This eight-chapter novella is the second of two stories set in between the periods of Stranger Things: The College Years and Stranger Things: The New Generation. I advise reading those stories, as well as the third in that trilogy, Stranger Things: World’s End, before reading The Witch of Yamhill County and then this one, which are supplementary and do not involve the Upside Down. Like the Upside Down trilogy, they are works of fan fiction based on the Stranger Things TV series. I do not profit from these stories and they are not canon. There is plenty of Stranger Things fiction to be found online (see here), but if I learn that the Duffer Brothers do not appreciate fan fiction of their work, or if they order a cease-and-desist, I will gladly pull the stories down.

                                 The Black Rose of Newberg — Chapter Eight

                            To Have and to Hold

Much later, at the end of the third worst day of her life (the worst two being the days Mike Wheeler died), Jane Hopper sat with her father and Paul Holland in the police chief’s office. Walter Plante had been released with apologies, which he accepted with astonishing magnanimity. Gavin Ridge had been rushed to the hospital under heavy police guard. There was no question he would be incarcerated for life. He accepted his turnaround with considerably less grace than Walter Plante. He had been thwarted from a holy purpose. Nurses and doctors listened to screams about Satan’s daughter, walking the earth as a woman named Jane Hopper.

Holland was out of sorts. The mystery of Black Rose was solved, no thanks to him, but rather to the same Jane Hopper being decried in a Newberg hospital room. There were certain curiosities about this Jane Hopper. She was 5′ 4″ and 110 pounds, and yet had somehow managed to overpower, disarm, and snap the leg of a well built man who was 5′ 9″ and 180. Holland treated her martial arts explanation with the same contempt he returned Ridge’s tirades about demonic powers.

“You broke his leg using karate?” said Holland. His tone called her a bald-faced liar.

Jane didn’t answer.

He nodded. “I hope I never see you again, Miss Hopper. You and your father have given me more indigestion than my wife’s chicken cacciatore. And she’s the shittiest cook in town. They’re all yours, Shane.” He prepared to leave.

“Wait,” said Jane, ignoring the insults. “Did you find out how Ridge got into the Hoover House without tripping the alarms?”

Holland shot her a look of acid. “I can’t tell you how glad I am that I don’t have daughters. Sons are bad enough. My eldest gives me ulcers. Go home, Miss Hopper.” He walked out of his boss’s office and slammed the door in disgust.

“What a fucking asshole,” said Hopper.

“That was actually his way of thanking you both,” said McCormick.

“Are you serious?” asked Jane.

“Oh yes,” said McCormick. “If Holland really hated you, he’d still be in here. But to answer your question, he did learn how Ridge deactivated the museum’s alarm system. The alarm code is in the director’s desk drawer, and also — believe it or not — on a post-it note stuck to the bulletin board behind the reception desk. If a detective like Ridge toured the museum twice, he would have found what he was looking for. The reception desk goes unstaffed a lot of the time, according to Director Caswell. Oh, and then we found a ring of skeleton keys at Ridge’s house. That’s how he got through the front door.”

“So that leaves only one dangling thread,” said Hopper.

McCormick nodded. “The tour guide.”

“Which I don’t get,” said Hopper. “He identified Plante from the SIU photo. He was clear: Walter was at the museum, not just once but twice. Showing hostility each time.” Walter had denied ever setting foot in the Hoover House, and they knew he was telling the truth.

McCormick had his own copy of the photo framed on his desk. He picked it up. “Pointed right at him, huh?”

“Yes,” said Hopper.

“No,” said Jane, without thinking.

Her father turned to her. “What do you mean, no?”

She wasn’t sure what she meant. “He didn’t point right at him… I mean, his arm didn’t reach the photo.” What had happened? She remembered: the tour guide had pointed and said it was the guy in blue. Which was Plante. No, that wasn’t quite right either.

“He identified Plante, clear as day,” said her father. “He didn’t hesitate, and he said that he didn’t recognize anyone else.”

She held out her hand to McCormick. “Can I see it?” The detective gave her the photo, and she handed it to her father. “Hold it up to me as you did for the tour guide.” Her father did so. It was framed but the same size as his own copy out in the car. “Am I standing at the distance he was?” she asked. He nodded. “What did you say to him?”

“I asked if he recognized anyone in the photo.”

“Yeah,” said Jane, reenacting Brett’s response as she remembered it. “Him. Blue suit.” But she pointed deliberately at Gavin Ridge.

“Exactly,” said her father. “Plante.”

“I’m not pointing at Plante,” said Jane.

“What do you mean? Yes you are.”

“I’m pointing at Ridge.” Ridge was next to Plante. Both Ridge and Plante were on the right side of the photo, to the left of McCormick. Plante was at the end, on the far right, but Ridge was shoulder-to-shoulder with him.”

Her father was exasperated. “He wasn’t pointing at Ridge! He was pointing at Plante. He said the guy in the blue suit. That’s Plante.”

“Plante’s not in a suit,” said McCormick. Jane stared at Gavin’s purple attire. He was the only one in the photo wearing a suit.

Hopper was getting angrier. “Walter is decked out in blue dress clothes. He’s the only one in blue.”

McCormick laughed. “I think we just solved the mystery.”

“I’m lost,” said Hopper.

“So am I,” said Jane.

McCormick walked over and took the photo. “I guarantee you that our tour guide is red-green color blind. It’s common enough in men, and they often confuse blues and purples. They can’t see the ‘red’ element of purple. You and I see one person in blue: Plante. The tour guide saw two people in blue: Ridge and Plante. He said ‘blue suit’ to distinguish Ridge from the other guy in the blue who isn’t in a suit. And as Jane’s demonstration just showed, pointing to the right side of the photo looks like you’re pointing at either Ridge or Plante.”

“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” said Hopper.

McCormick clapped his shoulder. “You’re a great sheriff, Hopp, don’t get me wrong. But any detective under my wing would skewer you. Always place the photo down on a surface, and be sure the witness touches whom he identifies.”

“I know all about that!” yelled Hopper. Her father was clearly disgusted with himself.

“Well, it’s done,” said McCormick. “You guys did great work.”

“My daughter did great work. I did nothing to find Black Rose. Except get an innocent cop arrested. My friend.”

“I didn’t do great work,” said Jane. “I got Black Rose by accident. I kept provoking him and then I said something that made him think we were on to him. So he attacked me in this building. I said it by mistake. I made other mistakes — and got my friend killed for it. My best friend.”

“If not for both of you,” said McCormick, “Black Rose would still be at large, right under my nose. No one would know he’s a cop. Stop beating yourselves up.”

He was right, but it was easy for him to say. Jane would be bruising herself for a long time.

“So why the Hoover House?” asked her father. “There are safer and more isolated places for a killer to commit rape.”

“I think I can explain this part,” said McCormick. “Gavin reveres Herbert Hoover. If you had come to me with the information that Black Rose was one of my detectives using the Hoover House, I would have had Gavin at the interrogation table right away.”

“Shane, I told you,” said Hopper. “We thought you could be Black Rose.”

“I wasn’t criticizing,” said McCormick.

“You were Dad’s favorite suspect,” said Jane.

“Was I now?” McCormick looked amused. “That hurts me, Hopp.”

“Oh, shut up,” said Hopper.

“I can’t imagine what I ever did to you –”

“You broke women’s hearts by staying single all your life,” said Jane, unable to resist.

“Do you mind?” snapped her father.

McCormick laughed, then looked at Jane. “When someone like you comes along, I’ll consider a lasting relationship.”

Jane had no interest in lasting relationships after Mike Wheeler, though a few days ago she would have welcomed a rough tumble with Shane McCormick. Nicki’s death had destroyed her sexual impulses. Today McCormick may as well have been Paul Holland proposing a heartless marriage. She smiled to be polite.

“You were saying about the Hoover House?” asked Hopper.

“Gavin thinks Hoover was America’s last good president. You know how booze offends Gavin. Hoover enforced prohibition.”

Jane suddenly remembered Ridge in the Void, reading a book on Jesus and wine at the eucharist.

McCormick continued: “Liberals hate Hoover for his hands off policy during the Great Depression; he hardly lifted a finger to help all those starving people crowded in shantytowns. It was only after Hoover, with FDR, that our government began providing economic aid to its citizens. Gavin thinks that ruined the country.”

“He must hate Clinton,” said Hopper.

McCormick looked surprised. “Actually, Gavin thinks Clinton is the best Democrat president since Grover Cleveland a hundred years ago. President Bill has been more of a budget hawk than anyone since Eisenhower. The Republicans have been so shamed it’s actually embarrassing. The economy has been great, and we have Clinton’s tight-ass fiscal policies to thank. Not to mention that he’s curbed welfare and made people work while getting their assistance — another point of shame on the Republicans. Unemployment is the lowest it’s been in thirty years. We’re living in good times. Thanks to Clinton.”

“Our president doesn’t walk on water,” said Hopper.

McCormick laughed. “You must have loved his tobacco speech last month.”

It was a sore subject for her father. “Clinton can kiss my ass for his tobacco crusade.”

Jane flared: “I think I like Clinton for that.”

“Actually,” said McCormick, “I’m with your father on this one. Our president’s speech was awful. He wants to give the tobacco industry immunity from lawsuits in exchange for more strict laws against smoking. That’s backwards. Smoking is an individual decision, and so the government should bloody well keep their nose out of regulating it. Tobacco companies, on the other hand, are businesses. They should face unlimited liability for the damage their product can do to people.”

“Spoken like a true smoker,” said her father.

“Never smoked in my life,” said McCormick, “and you’re stupid for doing so, Hopp.” Jane wanted to kiss the police chief. “I’m a true believer in individual freedom and business accountability. Clinton is taking a hacksaw to both. But Gavin likes him for it. There are less smokers today in the country than ever before.”

“Your point?” asked Hopper.

McCormick got back on track. “I was saying that liberals hate Hoover for his fiscal austerity. But conservatives hate him too, for his pacifism. He refused to drag the country into wars or international conflicts. Hoover was one of the most isolationist presidents in history, which I agree with Gavin is a big plus. Clinton has been surprisingly hawkish for a Democrat — I think that’s the bad side of his presidency — and in that sense not like Hoover at all.”

“Well, no one liked Gavin much either,” said Hopper. “Like Hoover, he upset everyone.”

“The bottom line is that everything about Herbert Hoover — his hatred for booze, hatred for government hand outs, hatred for war and military intervention — squares with Gavin’s Quaker heritage. The Hoover House must be sacred to Gavin.”

“He’s a practicing Quaker?” asked Hopper.

“I believe so,” said McCormick. “He’s a private person and not into public displays of faith, but I think he takes Quakerism seriously — though obviously twisted to accommodate his Black Rose purpose, which he sees as service to God. Quakers aren’t necessarily chauvinists today, but Gavin has serious problems with unmarried women who make their own way.”

“Don’t Quakers have a bug up their ass about taking oaths?” asked Hopper. “Gavin had to swear the police oath like any other cop.”

“They do object to oaths,” said McCormick, “but we’re talking about the mind of a psychopath. When he took the police oath, he might have been ‘crossing his fingers behind his back’, so to speak. A psychopath wouldn’t see himself bound by any oaths he swore. Either that, or he may have rationalized taking a bogus oath in the same way Jehovah’s Witnesses justify lying under oath in court. Most Christians believe that lying and deception is bad in principle, but some of them think it’s okay to lie and deceive people who aren’t entitled to the truth. In Gavin’s mind, the only ones entitled to hear the truth are probably like-minded Quakers who bow at the altar of Herbert Hoover.”

Jane spoke up. “If Hoover was his hero, why did he only recently take tours of the museum? He’s been living in Newberg as a detective, for what –?”

“Four years,” said McCormick. “Since September of ’93. He must have toured the house as soon as he moved here. But when he decided to start killing people, he revisited the place, probably to familiarize himself with his soon-to-be rape playground. It was his way of warming up. Building his nest.”

“What about prior nests?” asked Hopper. “He transferred from Iowa somewhere.”

“Iowa City,” said McCormick. “He was property crimes there too.”

“You think he’s killed before?” asked Jane.

“Serial killers have patterns,” said her father. “They start, stop for a while, then start again.”

“Uh-oh,” said McCormick.

“What?” said Hopper.

“I think President Hoover was born in Iowa.”

“Iowa City?” asked Hopper.

“No idea,” said McCormick. “As soon as we’re done here, I’m going to call the Iowa City Police. See if there are any unsolved murders of young women occurring in 1993 or before. I would have done that anyway, but now I’m having a bad feeling about it.”

 

McCormick’s feelings were justified. He called Jane the next day.

“I’m surprised you called,” she said into the phone. She motioned to “the boys” to dial the noise back. Mike was on the floor banging his cars together, and Lucas was chasing circles around him with an ambulance. He hushed Mike, who laughed and ignored him.

“Mondays are pretty busy at the sheriff’s office,” said McCormick. “So I’m calling you. You can pass this on to your father. I like talking to you more anyway.”

He was blatantly hitting on her again. “Well, thanks.”

“I was right,” he said. “Ridge killed six women in Iowa. They were unsolved rape-murders until my phone call yesterday to Iowa City.”

“In their twenties?” asked Jane.

“But without black roses.” McCormick ran it down for her: In the spring of 1993, the women were raped and butchered in West Branch, Iowa. The town was located fifteen minutes east of Iowa City, where Gavin Ridge served in the police. West Branch was the birthplace of Herbert Hoover, and it featured a monument to his legacy: The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. It was a sure bet that Gavin Ridge had abducted the women from Iowa City, driven them to West Branch, raped (“cleansed”) them in the Hoover Library, and then butchered them elsewhere in town.

“How will they prove that?” asked Jane.

“They won’t have to,” said McCormick. “Ridge confessed it all.”

That surprised Jane. “Who squeezed his other leg?”

McCormick chuckled. “You’d be surprised what Paul Holland is capable of getting out of people without violence.”

He didn’t get anything out of me. But if her father had arrived at Nicki’s any later, she would have broken down. McCormick was right. Holland got his teeth into people and didn’t let go.

“Gavin isn’t hiding anything anyway,” said McCormick. “He’s in constant sermon mode now. The doctors can’t wait to send him off to jail.”

“Did he ever work as a cop somewhere else?” asked Jane. Mike screamed as Lucas blocked one of his cars, and Jane snapped her fingers at both of them. Lucas looked apologetic and began picking up the toys. Mike shouted no.

“No, just Iowa City,” said McCormick. “And now that the West Branch Killer has been identified with the Black Rose of Newberg, the families of victims will get the closure they deserve.”

“Thanks for telling me, Shane. I’ll let Dad know.”

“Can I ask you something?”

She knew this was coming. I’m sorry. If you had asked earlier last week, I might have said yes.

But he didn’t ask her out. “What really happened at the hospital? With Lindsey Wyatt?”

She knew her father had asked McCormick to leave the matter alone. Jane had found a way to reach Wyatt and that was all that mattered. “I’d rather not say,” she said.

“And what you did to Ridge? Gavin’s account is impossible to believe, but I can’t imagine why he would lie. Holland went over it with him many times. Your ‘demonic’ powers.”

“I prefer not to talk about it, Shane. I’m sorry.”

“I see.”

She felt bad and wanted to give him something. “I’ll say this. I know you like classical music, and meditate on the floor with a walkman.” And Walter Plante cries over his daughter, who treats him like shit. Her father had confirmed that. When interrogated as to his whereabouts Saturday night, Plante said he was home, crying after a bitter phone conversation with Shawna.

There was a long silence. “Well,” he said finally. “That’s something you can’t possibly know.”

“Which is why I shouldn’t talk about it.”

“Okay.”

They said good-bye, and McCormick invited her to stop by his office whenever she was in town. She wished him well on the new police station next year.

As she hung up, Mike was demanding his cars back. Lucas had put them in the closet.

“The cars need a rest,” said Lucas, lifting Mike off the floor. It was Monday, and he should have been at the wildlife station, but he had taken the day off to be with Jane. To support her after Nicki’s tragedy. “Everything okay?” he asked her.

“Yes,” she said. “Or no. Not really. Black Rose had killed before. Six women in Iowa.”

“El, that’s horrible.”

She nodded, starting to cry again. When Lucas had arrived hours ago, she stopped pretending to be strong. He had held her on the floor while Mike stood watching, uncertain at first, and then starting to cry himself. Lucas had done double comfort duty. Jane didn’t want the dam loosed again, but she kept seeing Nicki’s face. She grabbed a kleenex.

“It’s close to lunch,” said Lucas. “Why don’t I pick up some Thai, and also get enough for your dinner tonight. You need a break, El.”

She nodded, feeling her emotions reignite. The last time she had eaten Thai food with Lucas was at the remembrance ceremony for Mike Wheeler, four years ago. Hopper had allowed them — Lucas, Dustin, Will, and herself — to own his house for the day. She wanted to do something like that for Nicki here, but who would she invite? Jane had been her only close friend. Nicki was loved like a porcupine. There would be the family funeral, but Jane hated funerals. The dead should be celebrated. Grief was too sacred for gatherings.

Lucas called to place the order. Mike circled the room, pretending he was an airplane. “Pizza for me, Uncle Luc!” he yelled.

“Michael, be quiet,” said Jane. “He’s on the phone.”

Mike stopped flying and cupped his hands around his mouth. “Pizza for me, Mommy,” he whispered across the room, loudly enough to be heard in Timbuktu.

“No pizza today. We’re having Thai.”

“Tie?” He was indignant. “I don’t want tie.” He took wing again, swooping down the hall into his bedroom, where he lost himself in a drama of crashes and parachute bailouts.

Lucas hung up the phone and sat in the Lazy-Boy. “You know with all this mess going on, I forgot to mention Will.”

“What about him?” She hoped Will was okay. He had returned from the Peace Corps in December of ’95, but he was still readjusting to American culture. His last threat was dire: he was leaving the U.S. to become a full-fledged Botswanan citizen.

“He’s enrolled in an MLS program.”

She was shocked. Didn’t MLS have something to do with menstruation? “He wants to be a doctor for women?”

“El, where do you get this stuff? It’s a masters of library science. He going to be a librarian.”

“Oh,” she said, feeling stupid. “Well, that sounds great.”

“Yeah,” said Lucas. “He’s finally doing something. He’s out of Hawkins — which is already mountains off his back — and studying in Bloomington.”

“His mom wasn’t helping,” agreed Jane. “I can see Will running a library.”

“Easily,” said Lucas, “and he’s — whoa, little man!”

Mike had returned from his bedroom, and the aviation fantasies were over. He had one of his stuffed toys — his basset hound Ralph — and was aiming to throw it at Lucas.

“Oh, you think?” asked Lucas. “I wouldn’t try it if I were you!”

Mike pegged the toy at him. Ralph hit Lucas square in the face and bounced to the floor. Mike ran in circles whooping. Then he spotted his plastic wiffle ball next to the couch. He picked it up, and faced Lucas with the same intentions.

“Hey, hey!” said Lucas, no longer amused. He pointed at the floor. “Put it down.”

Mike dropped the ball, crestfallen.

Then Lucas caught himself. “Oh, sorry El. These days I’m so used to being the little man’s boss.”

“No, it’s okay,” she said. “I want you to feel comfortable disciplining Mike, even when I’m around. It’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you.”

She could see that he was moved. “Wow,” he said, looking at Mike. “Did you hear that? Your mom wants me to discipline you. You’re in BIG trouble.” He scooped Mike off the floor and began tickling him ferociously. Mike shrieked laughter.

Jane felt relieved. It was no small thing she was asking. Lucas would be the equivalent of a stepfather to Mike, when he and Raquel were planning for children of their own. But she knew Raquel would be on board. Lucas had been Mike Wheeler’s best friend. He was the perfect father figure for Mike’s son.

“Thanks, El,” said Lucas, when the gaiety subsided. Mike’s face was red from being tickled. Lucas set him down.

“No,” she said. “Thank you. He really likes you. Sometimes I think more than me.”

“Hah! No way.”

She was serious though. Mike was devoted to her, but he was on speed around Lucas.

Lucas looked at the clock and stood up. “Okay, I’m getting the chow.”

“Take me, Uncle Luc!” said Mike, running for the door.

He was intercepted and lifted onto her lap. “You’re waiting here,” she said. “And don’t worry, your chow won’t be as spicy as ours.” When it came to Asian cuisine, Mike stuck to spring rolls and fried rice. Lucas promised a swift return.

Jane was suddenly grateful for all she had in life: her son, her father (for all his difficulties), and her remaining friends; the luxury of not having to work. Black Rose had driven it home. Anything of value could be snatched in a heartbeat, leaving an abyss that gaped, as it had gaped for the past few days, to snuff out the best in her.

She had thought she was taking her life back in the Green Room, but she had behaved irresponsibly there, and at the Hoover House too. Her risk addictions had done little more than enable dangerous men. One of them was still roaming free — probably at The Raped Wench right now, seeking another “Jill Harris” to punish. Jane wasn’t sure what happened to her. Lucas’s summer arrival had triggered something unprecedented, a feeling of inner poverty, that she was behind the curve of her existence. She had gone into exile to fill that emptiness, with late night excursions and libertine fantasies. That was over now — the seedy joints, the shady police work; looking for Mike Wheeler in the wrong places. Mike was right here in her lap.

He played with her face as she stared into his. His eyes were hers, but everything else replicated his father. He was saying something. He wanted to sleep over Uncle Luc’s tonight. Again.

“Oh no,” she said, “I’m going to be around a lot more now.” She tickled him. She wasn’t as good as Lucas, but good enough. Mike protested, laughing. She pulled him up and kissed him. “We have wild times ahead of us. Together.”

Mike giggled. Wild times sounded exciting.

And Jane had no idea how right she was.

 

(Previous Chapter: Black Rose)

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The Black Rose of Newberg (Chapter 7)

This eight-chapter novella is the second of two stories set in between the periods of Stranger Things: The College Years and Stranger Things: The New Generation. I advise reading those stories, as well as the third in that trilogy, Stranger Things: World’s End, before reading The Witch of Yamhill County and then this one, which are supplementary and do not involve the Upside Down. Like the Upside Down trilogy, they are works of fan fiction based on the Stranger Things TV series. I do not profit from these stories and they are not canon. There is plenty of Stranger Things fiction to be found online (see here), but if I learn that the Duffer Brothers do not appreciate fan fiction of their work, or if they order a cease-and-desist, I will gladly pull the stories down.

                                 The Black Rose of Newberg — Chapter Seven

                                     Black Rose

The men were yelling in McCormick’s office. Holland and her father mostly, but McCormick too. About legalities, damage control, and unethical hospital visits. The reputation of SIU was at stake, thanks to Jim and Jane Hopper. Jane couldn’t be a part of it. She would end up assaulting them all.

She sat in the conference room feeling desolate. Her father had triggered a fury born of latent resentment. She didn’t resent him for yelling or manhandling her, despite what she had said in the street. It was his habitual arrogance; the way he refused to grant her autonomy. When he assumed her blame, it was an act of control that gave him the moral high ground. She hadn’t the stomach for it anymore, and certainly not today.

The yells escalated. Jane closed her eyes. If she couldn’t trust herself around her father right now, she had to avoid Paul Holland like an ebola virus. Someday his derisive sarcasm would land him in the hospital if not the grave. Today would be that day if Jane stood close to him. Nicki’s corpse hung in front of her; Jane couldn’t will the image away. She needed time alone, to grieve. Until then, she was a matchstick away from cylinders of gasoline.

Grief would come later. Right now she had to see Plante’s interrogation. Had to know what drove him: to hate women and destroy them so terribly; to do that to Nicki. The Illithid she understood, not comprehending the creature at all. The Upside Down’s minions spread terror for no rational purpose, but because they just did. You accepted that the way you accepted cats preying on birds. Mike Wheeler had been gutted, reassembled, and made to eat filth for three and a half years, in accordance with a natural state of things. People like Walter Plante weren’t in accordance with anything proper — far less themselves. They were broken inside. Jane had to know what had broken Plante.

She heard the men argue more, and saw patrol officers come and go. Plante would be in handcuffs and on the way to the corrections building less than a block away. She saw her father come out into the hall with McCormick and Holland. They had left the chief’s office and were headed to the stairwell. Her father paused outside the conference room, seeing her, and then said something to the other two who left. Jane gritted her teeth, knowing what was coming.

“Hey,” he said, inside the doorway.

She looked away from him.

“They just brought Walter in. I’m going down to watch.”

“So am I,” she said, getting up.

“I’m afraid not,” he said.

“You’re ‘afraid not’,” she repeated.

“I tried. Shane wouldn’t budge. Only cops.”

Jane sat down and looked away again. “Then go,” she said.

He sighed. “Don’t leave the building. Shane wants to talk to you afterwards.”

“You’d better hurry.”

She could see that he knew better than to try mollifying her with platitudes. He left.

She sat seething. She had given the police Black Rose and her reward was the bench. Nicki Racine would have had plenty to say about that. After a while, Jane got up and went out into the hall. She was confined to the building. So be it. She didn’t have to be nice about it.

McCormick had left his office door open. She passed it by and the door across it to the stairwell. The office next to McCormick’s was Holland’s, also now open and empty. Holland would probably conduct the interrogation. Across from Holland’s office was the room of Ed Barnes, the youth crimes detective. Jane looked inside just as he was coming out.

“Whoa,” said Barnes, stopping himself in time. “Can I help you?”

“You’re Detective Barnes?” said Jane.

“I am,” he said. “Who are you?”

“I’m Jane Hopper. Sheriff Hopper is my father. Everyone’s down in the interrogation building, with Plante.”

“Oh,” said Barnes. “You’re the daughter who’s been around lately. I guess I missed you earlier this week.”

“My dad and I walked by your office on Wednesday, but you were on the phone.”

“And I understand you had something to do with Walter’s arrest? And he killed your friend. I’m so sorry.”

“So am I,” said Jane.

“Well, I don’t mean to be rude, and I really don’t want to do this, but I’m going down to watch the interrogation.”

“I do want to see the interrogation,” said Jane.

He smiled sympathetically. “I’m sure your father will fill you in.”

My father won’t speak to me for at least a month. “How well did you know Plante?” she asked.

“Not very well,” he said. “And I’m glad.” He walked off.

Jane continued up the hallway to the next pair of offices across from each other. Plante’s was closed. He had been taken straight to the corrections building. Ridge’s door was open. There was light spilling out, and Jane could hear movement inside. She walked up and looked inside.

Ridge was sitting at his desk, filing papers into folders. He saw Jane and stopped. He looked none too friendly.

Jane wondered what made him so joyless. “You’re practically the only one left,” she said.

“Excuse me?” His tone was hostile.

He resents me. For Plante. For making SIU look bad. She was fed up with men who made everything about themselves. Who couldn’t cope with shit and so dumped theirs on her. Nicki’s hatred of the male race had reduced her character; made her pathetic even. But on this day Jane Hopper sympathized entirely with what Mike Wheeler had called Nicki’s “feminazism”. Because of what happened to Nicki — and because of men whose responses to it were insufferable: Holland; her father; Ridge.

She made a decision. Entering his office uninvited, she planted herself in the seat before his desk, and returned his hostility without saying a word. Two can play this game.

Ridge looked ready to strangle her. “Miss Hopper, you are presumptuous.”

“Maybe so,” she said. “Today I don’t care. Are you going down to see Plante?”

“I have no interest in listening to the protests or confessions of Walter Plante. He is scum.”

“Why do you think he did it?” Jane was genuinely curious. Ridge was impossible, but he was by all indications a brilliant detective who fancied himself learned above others. She wanted his take on Plante.

He wanted her gone from his office. “My field is property crime, not persons crime. I don’t speculate about things better left to others.”

“I thought that’s exactly what you did,” she said recklessly. “Don’t you understand everything — better than everyone else?”

Ridge sat back in his chair, smiling mirthlessly. “If that’s how you want it. You explain Walter Plante. From what I hear, you’re the one who exposed him and got him arrested. You and your father.”

“We hardly did anything,” she said. “It was the tour guide at the Hoover Museum. That’s where Plante raped his victims before killing them in other parts of the town. The tour guide recognized him in an SIU photo of all you guys. We knew Black Rose was an SIU detective. We just didn’t know which one.” She was probably telling Ridge information that hadn’t been disseminated from McCormick yet.

The impact of that information was gratifying. Ridge looked taken aback and uncertain. “Is that so?” he asked, stroking his chin.

“We were just at the museum,” said Jane.

“How did you know the killer was from SIU?” demanded Ridge.

“Because I’m good,” said Jane. She was being flippant because she obviously couldn’t explain her vision from Lindsey Wyatt. But she also wanted to piss Ridge off.

“What about the museum?” asked Ridge. “How did you connect it to Plante?”

“I connected the museum to the killer. The tour guide identified Plante.”

“And how did you make that initial connection?”

“Oh, I’m not at liberty to say, Detective Ridge.” She was getting under his skin and enjoyed it. “But maybe I’ll tell you, if you start sharing. You worked with Plante. Why would he kill nice-looking women in their twenties?”

“Why else?” he said contemptuously. “He was a frustrated vulgar slob, a hedonist, and divorced by a wife for someone better looking.”

“What’s a hedonist?” she asked.

“A pleasure seeker. He ate and drank far more than he should, and there were rumors than he paid women for sex. Even when he was still married.”

“Prostitutes?” she said. “In Newberg?”

“From Portland, more likely,” said Ridge.

Her father hadn’t said anything about Plante and prostitutes. Had he heard the rumors, or was it a closely guarded secret among the Newberg police? Plante was the narcotics detective — the one in charge of busting drug-dealers and whores. That would have made the matter extra sensitive. “So he killed twenty-year olds, because…” Connect the dots. “They reminded him of his whores?”

“Plante internalized his guilt and then, in essence, killed the filthy law-breakers he slept with.”

“And the victims were single, because…?”

Ridge waited.

“Because they should have been married,” she said finally. “To lonely and needy men, like Walter.”

“You see?” said Ridge curtly. “It’s rather obvious.”

She didn’t see; she wasn’t buying it. There had to be more to Plante’s savagery than unfilled appetites and a divorce. None of his victims had ever divorced a man. What was his grievance against them? Guilt and prostitutes only explained so much.

“Thanks for your time,” she said. She felt bad suddenly for her obnoxious behavior. “How did your stakeout go last night?”

“I’m sorry?”

She cursed herself for the slip. She had no business knowing what the Void had showed her. “I… heard that you were on a stakeout in your car last night.”

Ridge hadn’t moved. His eyes were ice. He didn’t answer her.

Touchy bastard. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to pry into anything confidential.”

“I was at home last night with my wife. There was no stakeout. You’ll have to excuse me. I have work to do.”

Fine, keep your secrets. “I’ll leave you alone then.”

She walked to the doorway, and then turned back. He was still watching her. “Does anyone actually like you?” she asked.

“Go away,” he said, returning to his files. “You shouldn’t be let outside.”

Her father would have agreed.

She left Ridge and continued down the hall to an area she hadn’t seen yet. You shouldn’t be let outside. If he only knew. Her sideshow on the street would be tomorrow’s headline: “Crazy Woman Assaults Sheriff, Harangues Him in Front of Crowds”.

She stopped in front of a room that looked like a break area, with no one inside. A bit further the hallway turned left. She followed it down, resenting her confinement. She had done the most to catch Black Rose, and his reasons mattered to her. She wanted to look Plante in the eye and understand. Nicki’s ghost would haunt her without that closure.

The hallway went on for about fifty feet, and she passed some doors that were closed. At the end, on the right side, was a door wide open. She looked in and saw a classroom. There were single-person seats and desktops, an instructor’s podium in the front corner, and a huge chalkboard on the wall. The room may have been used as the briefing area, where duties were assigned to patrol officers at the beginning of their shifts. A classroom, of all things. Newberg’s police deserved the real station they were getting next year.

She heard a soft footstep behind her. Before she could turn around, an arm wrapped itself around her neck. Shock and terror locked her heart, and the arm tightened around her throat, turning her reflexive scream into a croak. She was being attacked, attacked, in a police station — and now dragged into the room. She reached for her power to throw off the assailant but was too off-balance; she couldn’t concentrate. Then she was thrown violently into the array of chair-desks. She crashed into them and sprawled face down on the floor; heard the door close and the lock click. She scrambled to her feet and faced the attacker.

It was Ridge.

“What are you doing?” she coughed, bewildered.

“Cleansing you,” he said.

Jane saw a knife in his hand; a big one. This made no sense. “Cleansing me?”

“Cleansing and rebirth. Don’t even think of screaming. Only two officers are on the floor right now, and if either one tries coming in, he will die.”

She eyed the knife, feeling sick. “You’re Black Rose.”

“Of course,” said Ridge. “As you well know.”

“You can’t be Black Rose.”

“I’ll convince you.” He stepped towards her.

She backed up behind a group of chair-desks. “But you weren’t in the Hoover House last night.”

“Don’t be coy,” he snapped. “You and your whore friend saw me at the house, just as I saw you.”

He’s lying. He has to be. “I didn’t see you there,” she insisted.

“You just flaunted the truth in my office. My stakeout. You saw me there.”

She didn’t follow. Was he saying that he had been inside the house, and also staking it out in his car?

“Your game is over,” he said. “Come over to me. Now.”

Then she saw it — and realized her grievous error.

She had seen his car in the Void. She remembered: She walked up to it, and saw Ridge behind the wheel as she got closer. The car wasn’t moving. It was parked somewhere, and Ridge was staring intently out the windshield. He looked fierce and dangerously ready — to snap into action at any moment.

The revelation almost stopped her heart. She had been spying on him in the Void as he was right down the road spying on her and Nicki. Plante had been at home, just like McCormick. Ridge must have seen her and Nicki out the window, which Nicki spotted in the movement of the curtains. He then must have bolted out of the house right away, by way of the back door. His car must have been parked on River Street (where she and Nicki were parked), but further down, by the Hoover Park. He then sat in the car and watched to see what she and Nicki would do next. His car would have been the one that drove up and turned on to 2nd Street, and then drove away, right before Jane left Nicki’s car to search the streets for Black Rose’s car. The car that had just left.

If Ridge had been the first detective she had visited in the Void, she probably would have seen him running out of the house. But she had visited him third, after McCormick and Holland. By that time, he had made it to his car. She had assumed he was on a police stakeout, somewhere in town. By telling Ridge in his office that she knew he was on a “stakeout” last night, he could only have concluded one thing: that she was deliberately baiting him — parading her knowledge that he was at the museum last night. That she knew he was Black Rose. That the arrest of Walter Plante was some kind of decoy, perhaps to smoke him out. Which wasn’t true at all. She hadn’t had a clue where he was parked last night. But Ridge knew nothing about the Void or its limitations. If Jane had seen him on a “stakeout” in his car, then she must have seen where he was — and then known who he was. He thought she was rubbing his nose in it. And he was here now to kill her for that.

Her big stupid mouth in his office had just given her Black Rose on a silver plate. By complete accident. She had been sure the killer was Plante. Because the tour guide identified him.

“I said come over here.” Ridge was holding the knife, confident and calm.

“What are you going to do?” Jane asked.

“First I will hold intercourse with you. Then I will disassemble your flesh. In this room. Then I will walk out of City Hall, and leave Newberg forever.”

“That’s stupid. This is a police department.” She allowed some fear to show in her voice. For appearance sake. She was reminded of her charade in the Green Room. Gavin Ridge was cruel and violent like her athletic version of Mike Wheeler, though far more professionally dangerous. He had finally chosen the wrong victim.

“The police will be no obstacle. I prepared long ago for the eventuality of my leaving town suddenly. As I said, only two officers are on the floor now. Everyone else is on patrol or down watching Plante’s interrogation.”

Which should be a very interesting spectacle by now. Plante would be denying everything; the soul of innocence. Because he was innocent.

Which didn’t make sense. “So the tour guide at the Hoover House works for you?” she asked.

“Cut the tour guide line,” said Ridge. “And quit stalling. You were lying about the tour guide, as part of your game. You knew I was at the house.”

“No… I’m not stalling.” She had to grasp this. “The tour guide positively identified Plante. He said that Plante took a tour of the museum twice, and that each time he had a very hostile attitude.”

Ridge laughed. “Then that tour guide is even more incompetent than I gave him credit for.” He stopped smiling and tightened his grip on the knife. “I won’t say it again. Come over here now.”

“No,” said Jane. “I won’t come to you.”

Ridge nodded, as if he’d expected no less. “Very well. You will suffer worse than your friend did.” With frightening swiftness he leaped over a row of desks.

And stopped mid-air, suspended over them.

Jane was holding out her hand out casually, contemplating Ridge as if a curious specimen. Then she sent him hurling across the room. His back slammed against the chalkboard, his feet high above the floor. The last time she had pinned a living creature against a blackboard was fourteen years ago. The demogorgon. She had saved Mike, Lucas, and Dustin. Now she was saving future victims. Women like herself, who were nothing like herself. You’re not a woman, Nicki had said. You’re a superwoman. You see things with different eyes. Those eyes filled with tears as she remembered Nicki, whom she had so often scorned for her zealotry. But Nicki had also grounded Jane, in a world she was still coming to grips with since running away from the Hawkins Lab. The rest of us coordinate our lives around threats of sexual violence. That’s something you’ll never have to worry about. And because she hadn’t worried, Nicki had been devoured — by a pest in Jane’s eyes, but every bit the demogrogon to Nicki Racine; Stacey Carrier; Fiona Ray; Evelyn Brody; and Lindsey Wyatt. Different eyes. Worlds apart.

Jane came up close to Ridge. He was hissing air between his teeth and straining against his paralysis. “How are you doing this?” he asked.

“Why did you kill women?” countered Jane.

Ridge heaved with everything he had. He may as well have been encased in cement. He looked down at her. “You are a demon child,” he rasped.

She tilted her head, and Ridge screamed. She was applying brutal pressure on his left femur. “Why did you kill women?” she repeated.

He hacked saliva. “They were not women,” he rasped. “Your friend was not a woman.”

That’s funny. Nicki said I was the one who wasn’t a woman. “Help me understand that. How were they not women?”

“They were unmarried men pretenders, refusing their ordained roles. Their kind is a plague.”

“That’s all?” said Jane.

His look was pure venom. “That’s all,” he said.

“Why the black roses?” she asked.

“I loved the ladies I killed,” he said. “After I cleansed and remade them.”

“But you didn’t kill me,” she said. “Why did you leave a rose on my door last night?” He would have gotten a rude surprise had he broken in and assaulted her.

“Why else?” he said. “I wanted you to see your friend remade. I wanted you to live with that. And you will. For a long time.”

“And the Hoover House?” she asked.

His jaw tightened. “You have no right to speak his name.”

She inclined her head, and he screamed again. “The house of Herbert Hoover,” she said again. “Why did you rape women there? Why did you spend time there alone?”

“He was a saint,” whispered Ridge. “I cleansed those men-pretenders on hallowed soil. I was comforted there. You are going to hell.”

Jane gave up. He offered nothing she could use to reconcile herself with a savage humanity. She tilted again, and broke his femur; the largest bone in the body. His agony filled the room. She turned her hand, and opened his coat. His gun was strapped in and she pried it loose. The weapon flew into her hand. She picked his knife up off the floor, and looked at him a final time. He held his leg screaming.

“I don’t know about hell,” said Jane, “but I know where you’re going.” Prison would be worse than hell for a person like Gavin Ridge. “You’ll wish I had killed you.”

Ridge went on screaming. She left him to it.

 

She returned to the main hallway area and started down the stairs, just as her father was racing up. He stopped short when he saw her. “Listen, we’ve got a problem!”

“Yeah,” she said wearily. “I know.”

“The police went through Walter’s home, and found jack shit for evidence. No plastic roses, no knives matching the ones used on the victims.”

“What a surprise.”

“Worst of all, Walter has an air-tight alibi for the night Evelyn Brody was killed. He was bowling that night with two other cops.”

“Dad, he’s not Black Rose.”

He registered her words. Then he saw the gun and knife in her hands. “What are you saying?”

“It’s Ridge.”

“What?! That’s impossible.”

“I made a mistake.” A big one. And it got Nicki killed. “I’ll explain later. But it’s him, trust me. Here’s his gun and knife.”

Her father took them from her. He looked up the stairs then back at her. “Where’s Gavin now?” he asked.

“In a room that looks like a school classroom. I think it’s a briefing room. It’s at the end of the long hall after the detectives’ offices. I left him with his leg broken. He came at me with that knife. I’m sure it’s the knife used on the victims.” And Nicki.

Her father handed her back Ridge’s weapons, and drew his gun. She hadn’t seen him do that since their escape from Baba Yaga’s Hut. “Stay here,” he said.

“Dad.”

“What?”

“You were right. It could never have been Walter.”

He looked at her and smiled. “So were you. You hated Gavin from the start.”

She hugged him then on the stairs, overwhelmed by love for him. He kissed her, and then raced up to arrest Gavin Ridge.

 

Next Chapter: To Have and to Hold

(Previous Chapter: The Tour Guide)

The Black Rose of Newberg (Chapter 6)

This eight-chapter novella is the second of two stories set in between the periods of Stranger Things: The College Years and Stranger Things: The New Generation. I advise reading those stories, as well as the third in that trilogy, Stranger Things: World’s End, before reading The Witch of Yamhill County and then this one, which are supplementary and do not involve the Upside Down. Like the Upside Down trilogy, they are works of fan fiction based on the Stranger Things TV series. I do not profit from these stories and they are not canon. There is plenty of Stranger Things fiction to be found online (see here), but if I learn that the Duffer Brothers do not appreciate fan fiction of their work, or if they order a cease-and-desist, I will gladly pull the stories down.

                                 The Black Rose of Newberg — Chapter Six

                               The Tour Guide

Jim Hopper stared at the lacerated body of Nicki Racine. It was lying on top of her dining room table, and positioned as if for an outrageous centerfold shot in a black market magazine. The plastic flower wedged between her teeth did little to shake Hopper out of his denial.

Black Rose had come to Portland. The sun had risen, and the world turned.

The Portland police swarmed over the house, dissecting the crime scene. They were apparently taking orders from Paul Holland, who was down the hall with Jane in the living room. For the time being at least, jurisdiction had been conceded. Portland was the City of Roses, but black was a whole other league. He was Newberg’s demon.

Thank God he’s not Holland. If Hopper hadn’t been sure of this, he would have been faced with an insurmountable problem. As it was, he stood a good chance of being arrested by Holland before he left the house.

Jane had called him last night and described her escapade at the Hoover House. He had filled her ear with profanity, angered by her reckless behavior, but also by the fact that he didn’t get to the house first. She told him to relax; all was well. The news of her progress had mollified him: Holland and Ridge were no longer suspects. It was either McCormick or Plante. He had congratulated her. She said he worried too much.

Then came her call this morning. It came as he drove to McMinnville. She had tried him at home and then the office before the sheriff’s car. As soon as he put the receiver to his ear, he pulled off the highway and slammed on his brakes. Jane hadn’t lost her mind like this since the day Mike Wheeler left home to kill himself. Nicki had been sliced open by Black Rose, and Jane needed her father to fix the world and make everything sunshine.

He had pieced together what happened as she cried into the phone. She had gone outside for her morning walk, and seen the impossible nailed to her front door: a plastic black rose. A note was attached, scrawled in red marker: Enjoy yourselves last night? I tasted your friend and pieced her. Black Rose had spotted them in Nicki’s car after all. Jane had raced back inside to call Nicki, who of course didn’t answer. Then she had called the Sinclairs. She got Raquel, and told her not, do not, bring Mike back to her this morning; she and Lucas had to keep him for another day at least; no, she couldn’t say what was going on, and please stop hounding her with questions and do as she said. Raquel had yelled for Lucas, terrified by Jane’s hysteria. By the time Lucas took the phone, Jane had hung up and was calling a taxi. The cab came in ten minutes and got her to Nicki’s in five. She had pounded on Nicki’s door, and it had flown open; someone left it unlocked and ajar. In the dining room she had seen what Hopper was seeing now.

Is it you, Shane? Did the police chief’s affable persona conceal a raging demon within? Or you, Walter? Had his friend’s world grown so despairing that he gave himself unto blackness? It was hard to reconcile the sight of Nicki’s corpse with either option.

Hopper had told Jane to stay put at Nicki’s. He had to say it three times to be heard. He said he had no choice but to call McCormick. He was nauseated that he might be reporting a Black Rose killing to Black Rose himself, but there was no way around it. He would also call the Portland police. He was on his way too, but he wouldn’t get there before the city police — or before Paul Holland, whom McCormick would surely send. Hopper had a longer drive: he had almost reached McMinnville when he got Jane’s call. Above all Jane must reveal nothing about Black Rose to anyone; nothing about the Hoover House, or why a Portland woman like Nicki was killed by a Newberg serial killer. Hopper would handle this his own way, when he got there.

“I was careful, Dad,” she had sobbed before hanging up. “McCormick and Plante weren’t acting like either one had seen us.”

“I know,” he had replied gently as possible. “But you stayed longer. You walked around the house. And you were parked close to the house, after visiting hours.” Absurdly close, he didn’t add. Black Rose was a police detective. Either Shane or Walter would have eventually spotted it. He would have had his binoculars, when hiding out somewhere he had no business being. From that point, using Nicki’s license plate to obtain her address was elementary. His daughter didn’t think like a cop. She thought like a hero.

“I tried to keep her home. I tried! At first I said –”

“Stop,” said Hopper. “This is my fault, not yours. Just hang up the phone and wait. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

But first he had finished his drive to McMinnville. It was only five minutes away, and he needed something. It was the reason for his Sunday trip to the sheriff’s office: a photo he wanted to bring to the museum. At first he couldn’t find the photo. He had torn open every desk drawer, swearing at the top of his lungs. Finally he found it behind a book leaning face out on its shelf. He had snatched it, hurried out to the car, and raced up to Portland.

Now he was looking at Nicki — what was left of her — and preparing himself for what he was about to tell Holland. Nicki’s body had been a paragon of sensuous beauty. Black Rose had made a mockery of that perfection with twenty-seven cuts of a blade. Hopper felt intensely unready to confront Holland. He dreaded seeing Jane.

Clenching his teeth, he moved past the forensics team and left the dining room. He went down the hall and looked into the living room. Paul Holland was there, disheveled, and lashing out at anyone who came within his comfort zone. He was pacing the floor in front of Jane, who was sitting in one of Nicki’s chairs. She looked pale and wasted; she hadn’t stopped crying since she called. Holland observed her with not a trace of sympathy.

Hopper stormed into the room. “What the hell’s going on here?” he demanded.

Holland turned to him and smiled. Newberg’s officers had learned to fear that smile. “Mysteries, Jim. Mysteries upon filthy mysteries. And your daughter has been most unhelpful in raking away the muck.”

“That body in the other room was her best friend. You better go easy or I’ll make another corpse in here right now.”

“Now, now.” Holland wasn’t a big man, but he wasn’t afraid of Hopper. Holland wasn’t afraid of anyone.

Hopper walked over to Jane and took her in his arms. She was a different person from yesterday. Jane Hopper had fought evil in its ugliest manifestations. But it was evil from the shadow world that she knew; from cannibal witch huts. Not from police precincts. She could fight the Upside Down in her sleep. She couldn’t take on humanity at its worst. She was sobbing and unable to speak. She had thought she could protect Nicki.

Hopper knew, and felt her pain. He had made the same mistake five years ago. In the Dancing Hut. His dreams still punished him for those kids: Travis Mitchell; Leigh Davis; Dash Nyberg. Like Nicki, they had died seeking danger, believing themselves shielded from it. We never learn.

He broke off and faced her. She was a mess; she needed to be away from here. “Just sit here for a few minutes while I talk with Holland.” He looked up at the detective, who appeared ready to spit nails. Hopper stood and jerked his thumb to the doorway. “You and me. Outside.” He walked past Holland without waiting for a reply.

 

They were on the front porch. Blue lights flashed in the parking lot. Neighbors milled about in their yards. The innocence of a Portland neighborhood had been smashed.

“I thought you once told me you adopted her,” said Holland.

“I’m sorry?” asked Hopper.

“Your daughter,” said Holland. “I thought you adopted her.”

“I did adopt her.”

“Then how did she inherit your smart-ass mouth?”

“You’re lucky your mouth isn’t broken, you asshole. Her best friend was just killed — by the one you haven’t been able to catch!”

“Perhaps I’ll settle for you instead,” said Holland, unfazed. “Why would Black Rose kill in Portland? I’m presuming it’s no coincidence that the victim was a friend of your daughter. Who just happened to be in Newberg a few days ago. Job shadowing you,” he added trenchantly.

“It’s no coincidence,” Hopper admitted.

“Ah. I thought not.” Holland flashed his barracuda smile. “Your daughter has been most uncooperative, Jim. She has refused to answer any of my questions, and offered me nothing but uncouth vanity. One wonders. One doubts. One would think she would be most eager to help those who are trying to capture her friend’s killer.”

“Listen to me, Paul. Jane and I know who Black Rose is. He’s one of two men. And you have my daughter to thank for what I’m about to tell you.”

Holland’s eyes were those of a predator. “Well. How did your illustrious smart-ass daughter come by this bit of knowledge?”

“She got it from the fourth victim. Lindsey Wyatt. In the hospital before she died. Her attacker –”

“Stop. Right there. Lindsey Wyatt was in a coma. Which she never came out of. Do you take me for an idiot?”

“So the nurses told you,” said Hopper. “I asked them to keep quiet.” An outrageous lie.

“You what?”

“I visited Lindsey Wyatt on Wednesday morning. Jane was with me, shadowing. I let her hold Wyatt’s hand, and the victim came awake. Long enough to tell us about her attacker. He was wearing a mask, so she didn’t see his face. But she saw that he had a police badge. It was a Newberg badge, and it was gold. The victim only got a brief look but she was sure: it was a gold Newberg shield, no question.”

Holland made a face as if the sheriff had just told a tasteless April Fool’s joke. He’s going to arrest me. Holland didn’t arrest him. He sat down in a porch chair and slowly lifted his head to the sky, as if in supplication to some unseen deity. ” ‘A gold Newberg shield, no question.’ From a comatose victim no longer comatose. Hmm. I do believe that Sheriff Jim is swimming in B.S.”

“Paul, cut the shit! Work with me here. I’m giving you more about Black Rose that you’ve scraped together for a month. Which, correct me if I’m wrong, is pretty much nothing.”

Holland ceased his lampoon. “You want me to believe this? That one of my colleagues is a murdering psychopath? And do really want me to believe that you instructed medical staff as you claim you did?”

“You know I wouldn’t accuse SIU unless I was absolutely sure,” said Hopper.

“What I know is that you’re dancing on waves of deceit,” said Holland. “I can only guess at what game you’re playing. Why are you only telling me this now, as I’m questioning your daughter? Better yet, why are you telling me at all? According to your story, it sounds like I could be the killer.”

“Jane and I know that you and Gavin aren’t Black Rose. But only since last night. And we knew it wasn’t Ed. It’s either Shane or Walter. That’s proof of my objectivity. I never could believe Walter was Black Rose. But it turns out he might be.”

“Whoa-ho. That’s another unimpressive shit you just took. How, please, are you and your big-britches daughter so sure that neither I nor Gavin nor Ed are garnishing corpses with black roses? How, again, do you conclude that the guilty party is either our unassailable fearless leader, or the ever depressed Walter Plante?”

“You were at the movies last night.” Holland’s movie had probably ended long before Black Rose drove up to Portland and killed Nicki, but for now this should work. And it did.

Holland stood up, suddenly furious. “You’ve been tailing me?”

“We’ve been tailing everyone!” Hopper would never explain to him how Jane “tailed” people in the Void. “You were at the movies. Gavin was working late. I’m telling you –”

“Gavin wasn’t working late, you liar.” Holland had lost his sarcasm. That happened a few times a year. Even at the worst inappropriate times he couldn’t hold back his blistering wit. Now he was boiling with rage. “I worked past five, and Gavin was gone when I left. Don’t fuck with me, Jim.”

“I’m not saying Gavin was at the office. He was out in the field, hiding in his car, trying to catch vandals or something.”

“It keeps getting richer,” said Holland. “You were tailing me while your daughter was tailing Gavin?”

“Does it matter which of us was tailing whom?” asked Hopper, deflecting.

“Everything matters to me, you shit,” said Holland. “Who was tailing Ed? The Ghost of Christmas Past?”

“We had ruled out Ed from the start. He was in Florida with his family during the week Fiona Ray was killed.”

“Aren’t you both the Dynamic Duo. I’m afraid none of this explains what happened here, to Nicki Racine.”

“It explains it completely.” Hopper would have to start lying now. He was not about to tell Holland anything about the Hoover museum. Not yet, anyway. “On Wednesday I brought my daughter to the police department. I introduced her to all of you, under the pretense of job shadowing.” Which was true enough.

“You were baiting the killer with your own daughter?”

Of course not, you asshole. Hopper had been making a connection between the killer and his daughter, so that Jane could spy on him safely from the distance of her home in Portland. But there was no room in this reality for psychic powers and Voids. Hopper had to confirm Holland’s accusation and make himself look bad. “Jane agreed to be used as bait. We thought it was the best strategy at the time. We had just learned from Wyatt that Black Rose was a Newberg detective. We couldn’t tell you or Shane — and we still can’t tell Shane. Baiting the killer was the only way. Or if not baiting, at least seeing if Jane could trigger some kind of reaction in one of the detectives. She’s 26 and attractive.”

“You’re disgraceful, Jim. And you’re passing gas. Your daughter is still breathing. Why did Black Rose go after her friend instead?”

“I don’t know why he went after Nicki. Because Shane or Walter didn’t want to kill my daughter? The daughter of a cop they know?” In truth, the killer must have targeted Nicki after spotting her car at the museum. As a cop, Black Rose would have used the make and license to find out Nicki’s address in no time at all. Hopper had no idea why he had abstained from trying to kill Jane, but it was a lucky choice. Had the killer broken into Jane’s house, he would be dead now or in jail.

But Hopper kept silent about the Hoover House, last night’s spy adventure, and the calling card left on Jane’s door. He didn’t want Holland taking control of the museum yet. Hopper was going there himself, as soon as he was done here. His daughter’s best friend had just been killed, and as usual, it was his own fault. He should never have involved Jane in the case. But he wasn’t about to slink to the sidelines while Holland cleaned up his mess. He owed it to Jane to fix this himself, and see it through.

“Was Nicki Racine in Newberg with Jane?” asked Holland. “On that Wednesday?”

“Yes,” said Hopper, seizing the convenient lie. “She came down with Jane. I didn’t bring her inside the police station, but she waited outside for us. Anyone could have seen her.” As long as Holland didn’t cross-examine Jane on that point, it was a safe lie.

“There’s a stink all over you, Jim. You’re concealing more than revealing.”

“This is what I ask, Paul. Find out where Shane and Walter were on the nights of the killings. You have the resources to do that. I don’t.” And while you’re doing that, I’m going to play my last card at the museum.

“I don’t know,” said Holland. “I might have more fun throwing you in the slam, instead of Black Rose. For obstructing justice.”

“Just do what I say,” said Hopper. “If it goes nowhere, you have my promise: I’ll resign with a public apology to the Newberg police for my malfeasance. And you can lock me up as long as you want.”

Hopper watched as Holland weighed what he had been told. He couldn’t just ignore what Hopper was saying. Paul Holland was an asshole, but he was a damn good homicide detective. His callous wit masked a relentless obsession to get at the truth. Hopper was glad that he wasn’t Black Rose.

“Okay,” he finally said. “I’ll look into this. What you’ve said. Everything you’ve said. You and your daughter stay out of it. I mean it. If you’re lying about anything, I’ll feed you your liver.”

“Fair enough,” said Hopper. Holland could do his worst. Hopper had too many failures under his belt to worry about vindictive consequences.

He went back in and got Jane.

 

The museum-house didn’t open to visitors until 1:00 PM, but Hopper left his home at eleven. Staff might already be there. Jane was with him, despite his initial protests. They had arrived at his home around ten, and Jane had taken a shower, and then tried to eat a small brunch he made for her. On zero appetite she got down a bit of fruit and slice of toast. He had asked her to rest, knowing how stupid he sounded. Jane rarely slept. Five years ago she had eaten an orange apple from a magic tree, and her waking hours had stretched from six in the morning to two at night. She never tired unless she used her powers. The dining room display of Nicki had all but turned Jane’s blood into caffeine. She insisted on coming to the Hoover House. Black Rose was personal now.

He was there in five minutes and parked on River Street. Jane said it was close to where she and Nicki had parked last night. Hopper made a face but kept his thoughts to himself. She and Nicki may as well have been waving a flag in the middle of the road.

They got out, and Hopper grabbed the manila envelope that contained the photo from his office. He and Jane went through the picket fence and passed the flag. Hopper realized he had lived for ten years in Newberg but never been inside this tourist attraction. He neither knew nor cared much about President Hoover.

He knocked twice on the front door before a young man appeared. He must have been a late teenager, maybe eighteen or nineteen.

“Good morning,” he said. “Can I help you both?”

“I hope so,” said Hopper. “We’d like a tour of the museum. I know you’re not open yet, but this can’t wait. I’m Sheriff Jim Hopper, Yamhill County.”

“Oh!” The young man looked flustered. “Well, um, I guess that’s okay. I’m the tour guide. My name is Brett Fowler. Come on in, sheriff.” He stepped aside and held open the door.

Hopper and Jane entered a reception area, with larger rooms hanging to each side, and a staircase immediately ascending. Fliers and brochures hung on a wall display. The nearby rooms looked colonial; Hopper and Jane could see antique furniture and paintings.

Brett clasped his hands, looking unsure how to begin. “So I guess this is police business?”

“Yeah,” said Hopper. “This is Jane. She’s assisting my investigation.”

“Hello Jane,” said Brett.

“Hi,” she said. “Are you the only one here now?”

“Yes, ma’am,” said Brett. “The director will be in sometime after we open, but for now it’s just me.”

“Who’s the director?” asked Hopper.

“Mary Caswell. She should be here by two at the latest.”

“Before you show us around, I have a few questions,” said Hopper.

“Sure.”

“Have you had any problems with break-ins?”

The tour guide frowned. “People breaking into the museum? Not that I know of.”

“I don’t mean anything necessarily stolen or vandalized. We think there’s someone who manages to get in at nighttime, after the staff leaves, and stays here for a while — maybe a half hour or an hour, maybe longer. Sometimes with another person.”

Brett looked shocked. “That’s very surprising. We always lock up. And we have a security alarm.”

Door locks on a house like this wouldn’t stop a detective. Especially Black Rose. But how did he obtain the code to deactivate the alarm? “So the rooms never seem messy or out of place?”

“I don’t think so. Or at least not to my knowledge. I’ve never seen them look messy. But I’m just the tour guide. You should ask Director Caswell when she gets in.”

“I will,” said Hopper.

“Do you want me to start the tour?” asked Brett.

“We’ll take the tour,” said Hopper. “But I want you to look at something first.” He opened the manila envelope he was carrying and took out the photo from his office. “Do you by any chance recognize anyone in this photo?”

It was a large 8″ x 11″ group shot of five people: the Newberg Special Investigations Unit. Taken two years ago during an awards ceremony hosted by the mayor. The SIU team had been singled out for their dedication. Each detective was in the finest dress, including Holland. McCormick was the center attraction, wearing a red shirt, red tie, and black pants. As in real life, you could lose yourself staring at him. On the left side of the photo, Holland stood to the police chief’s right, sporting a yellow shirt, green tie, and green pants. His hair was the usual mess. On the far left, next to Holland, Barnes wore a brown suitcoat and pants, with a white shirt and black tie. On the right side of the photo, and to McCormick’s immediate left, Gavin Ridge blazed a uniform purple: his shirt, pants, coat, tie, and even shoes were violet. Plante stood to his left, on the far right of the picture, looking relaxed in a sky blue shirt, darker blue tie, and an even deeper shade of blue pants. Together, the SIU team radiated a sworn pact to keep Newberg safe. One of these men had violated that covenant.

The tour guide looked at the photo and suddenly went rigid. “Oh,” he said.

“What?” asked Hopper, fully alert.

“Yeah, that guy.” Brett pointed at the right side of the photo. “The blue suit.”

“Plante?” asked Hopper and Jane at the same time. Hopper felt instantly sick. Damn you, Walter. Christ, this is so wrong.

“He was here,” said the guide. “Twice. I didn’t like him.”

“Why didn’t you like him?” asked Jane.

“What was the second time for?” asked Hopper, before Brett could answer Jane’s question.

“Same as the first,” said the guide. “He took the tour all over again, like a month later.”

“He took two tours of the museum?” asked Hopper.

“Yeah.”

“When?”

The guide thought for a moment. “At the start of August, I think, and then he was back the day after Labor Day.”

“Why didn’t you like him?” repeated Jane.

“I don’t know, he had this attitude. Like I wasn’t doing my job well enough, or didn’t know enough about the house’s history. I think he just didn’t like teenagers.”

“And you can swear to this?” asked Hopper.

“Oh, I can swear to it. That guy had it out for me.”

“Do you recognize anyone else in the photo?” asked Jane.

The guide shook his head. “I’ve never seen any of the others.”

Hopper put the photo away. “That settles it,” he said to Jane. “We have to go.”

“Don’t you want the tour?” asked the guide.

“We’ll be back with more police to go over the house thoroughly. You and Director Caswell can show us around then. Right now we have to leave.”

Brett said he would be working until five, and wished Hopper and Jane luck. They thanked him for his time and left.

“Fucking Walter,” said Hopper, banging through the gate of the picket fence. He had prepared himself for this revelation — or tried to.

“I’m sorry, Dad,” said Jane. “This must hurt you.”

“It sucks. Big time.”

“And it means there should be a winged chair with blue upholstery in one of the upstairs rooms. It’s what I saw Plante sitting in. He was sobbing like a baby. Why do think he’s obsessed with this house?”

“How the hell should I know?” he snapped.

“So what are we doing now?” she asked.

“I’m calling Shane,” he said. He got in the sheriff’s car and picked up the phone. He dialed the police chief as Jane got in the passenger side.

McCormick picked up: “Yep?”

“Shane, it’s Hopper.”

“Hey, what’s good, Hopp?”

“Nothing’s good. You need to arrest Walter Plante right away.”

“I need to what?”

“Walter is Black Rose.” Hopper closed his eyes. It hurt, saying it for the first time.

There was a stretch of silence. “That can’t be right, Hopp.”

“I know. But it is. You need to get patrol cars to his house right away and bring him in for questioning. You need to search his house — for knives, plastic black roses, any evidence –”

“Whoa, whoa, slow down. I need a warrant for that, and you need to explain yourself. What the hell is going on? And where are you?”

“Shane, just listen and trust me please. I’m at the Hoover Museum with my daughter. We’re on our way to City Hall right now. I’ll explain everything to you there. A few days ago my daughter learned that Black Rose is a Newberg police detective. We’ve been trying to find out who it is, and we just did. I couldn’t come to you, because you’re a gold shield.”

McCormick hollered protests and demands. Hopper ran over him. “Shane, listen. If I’m wrong about this, you can hang me out to dry. Just get Plante to the corrections building now, and search his house. I’ll see you in a few minutes.” He hung up the phone.

 

Another five minute drive, and they had parked near City Hall. They got out of the car and started walking.

“It’s deja vu,” said Hopper.

“Deja vu?” asked Jane.

“We’re going to solve a horrible mystery by the end of today. Like we did five years ago. But only because I use people. Those three kids. And now you. And Nicki’s dead because of it. Just like Travis and Leigh and Dash.”

“Nicki’s my fault, not yours,” said Jane. “I took her to this house behind your back.”

“No it’s not your fault,” he barked. “It’s mine. You’re innocent in all this mess.”

Suddenly she was in front of him and he had to stop walking. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Shut up,” said Jane. She looked ready to tear his head off.

“Excuse me?”

“I said shut up. I’m tired of hearing you go on like that.”

“What are you even talking about?” said Hopper.

“I’m tired of you trying to keep me innocent and pure while you assume ownership for what I do. It’s disgusting.”

Disgusting? “I’m a cop! It’s my job to be responsible.”

“Don’t give me that!” she said. People on the street had stopped to watch the shouting match. “What you do isn’t about ‘accepting responsibility’. It’s about burying yourself in other people’s guilt. It’s gross. You’re not the center of the world, and you’re not that important.”

He gaped at her, pulverized.

“I’ll say it again,” she said. “You had nothing to do with Nicki’s death. I’m the one who used her — not you — on a stakeout I had no business trying to pull off. Stop trying to erase me.”

“Erase you?” yelled Hopper. His daughter was the mayor of crazy town. “Do you even listen to yourself?”

She spun away from him, and Hopper grabbed her, furious. His hand was thrown violently off her arm; she had used her power, enraged. Then, astoundingly, she turned on him, pulled her arm back, and smacked his face so hard that he almost went down.

Hopper thought he was dreaming. Jane had never struck him, let alone in public. The spectators gasped at what looked like an assault on a police officer. Which it was.

Jane ignored them and got up in her father’s face. “Two nights ago, someone grabbed me like you just did. He yelled at me like you just did. He did plenty of other things too. I liked it. I hate it coming from you.”

Hopper couldn’t speak. He was in a foreign land.

“You want to talk about your ‘job’ to be responsible for everything?” yelled Jane. “You want to play that game? I’ve got more power than all the fathers and cops and sheriffs in the world to cancel you out. I’ve bailed your ass out more times than I can count, not to mention saved your life — you would have died in that witch’s hut if not for me. But somehow you need to be the only one who’s accountable for anything. For being human and making mistakes. Maybe that’s how you make yourself feel better. But it’s conceited and I’m sick of it. Nicki was my friend, not yours.”

He still had no response. As far as he could tell, his daughter was possessed.

“Excuse me, ma’am?” A man in his thirties had stepped out of the crowd and approached Jane. “I think you need to calm down, and treat the officer –”

“Who is this?” said Jane to her father, jerking her thumb at the man but not looking at him. “And why am I listening to him?”

“Ma’am,” said the man condescendingly. “This is unladylike –”

“Why is he standing here?” screamed Jane. She hadn’t deigned to look at the presumptuous ass.

“Sir,” said Hopper, “you need to move on and mind your business.”

“Certainly, sheriff,” said the man unctuously. “I was only trying to –”

“I just told you. Buzz off.”

The man backed off. The spectators watched, their faces wide O’s.

“Are you done?” Hopper asked Jane. “Can we go inside now?”

She turned from him and went up to the police station without waiting.

 

Next Chapter: Black Rose

(Previous Chapter: The Hoover House)

The Black Rose of Newberg (Chapter 5)

This eight-chapter novella is the second of two stories set in between the periods of Stranger Things: The College Years and Stranger Things: The New Generation. I advise reading those stories, as well as the third in that trilogy, Stranger Things: World’s End, before reading The Witch of Yamhill County and then this one, which are supplementary and do not involve the Upside Down. Like the Upside Down trilogy, they are works of fan fiction based on the Stranger Things TV series. I do not profit from these stories and they are not canon. There is plenty of Stranger Things fiction to be found online (see here), but if I learn that the Duffer Brothers do not appreciate fan fiction of their work, or if they order a cease-and-desist, I will gladly pull the stories down.

                                 The Black Rose of Newberg — Chapter Five

                              The Hoover House

“You did WHAT?” yelled Nicki.

Jane wasn’t expecting this. Nicki was an ultra-left feminist who crusaded hourly against mankind. She should have been fully on board. “I planned it carefully, Nicki, and I’m fine. I’m great. It was great.”

Her best friend stared as if a xenomorph had hatched from Jane’s head. “You tricked a guy into raping you?”

“It wasn’t rape,” Jane repeated. “He ended up doing pretty much exactly what I wanted him to do. I had four orgasms.” The first by her own hand, the other three by his unsparing violation at the end. She had seen stars and touched the gods.

“Explain,” said Nicki, her eyes boring into Jane.

Jane filled in the details, from The Raped Wench where she stalked the guy, to the Green Room where he turned her inside out.

Nicki couldn’t believe a word of what she was hearing. “Are you a bloody retard? How did you protect yourself? Did you give this asshole a condom and politely ask him to use it, while he was promising to smash your face and rip your ass apart?”

“I can’t get pregnant, Nicki. You know that.” Unless she used her powers during intercourse. That was how she finally conceived with Mike Wheeler (who actually had smashed her face, Jane thought ironically).

“You can get disease, bitch!” Nicki called her “bitch” only when she was furious and concerned at the same time.

“What do you mean?”

“Safe sex, you dumbass! This is the ’90s. What’s wrong with you?”

“I know all about that.” Jane was frustrated by her minimal education, but she wasn’t that stupid. “I’m not at risk. Mike was the only one I was ever with. I haven’t slept with anyone since. This guy was my first since Mike. That’s over four years of abstinence.”

“What about him, you moron? I suppose this low-life misogynist piece of shit was chaste as a virgin?”

Jane was getting irritated now. She had expected to celebrate her sexual triumph with her best friend, and she was getting shot down. Was Nicki envious? “If he was at risk for disease he wouldn’t have entered me. I mean… he’s not going to risk dying just to take out his anger on me.” It sounded stupid as soon as she said it.

“Oh my Jesus God.”

“Nicki, I think you’re overreacting.”

“In a pig’s ass.”

“Fine, let’s not talk about it then.”

“Oh, we’re not done yet. That’s not even the worst thing about your filthy charade. Did it ever occur to you –”

“Drop dead if you don’t like it!” Jane yelled. “I don’t need your approval!”

“– did it ever occur to that pea-sized, hormonal-raging, fucked-up brain of yours that you’re encouraging potential rapists?”

“It wasn’t rape, you bitch!” Jane was furious now and stood up. She wasn’t listening to this anymore.

Nicki rose from the couch too. “Technically it wasn’t. But he thought he was raping you. Say it was his first assault. Thanks to you, he has it in his head now that women really do like to be raped. You’re his exhibit A. He’ll rape someone again for sure.”

“You can’t put that on me!” said Jane. “People are responsible for their actions.” She knew that much. Hell, Nicki herself had taught her that.

“I don’t know, chickie, I think you need to be better than that. We women have a collective responsibility to ourselves. Not that you’re a woman, by any means.”

“Excuse me?”

“You’re not. You’re a superwoman. You see things with different eyes.”

“Friends don’t treat each other like this, Nicki.”

“Jane, I’m just saying. No woman in her right mind would do anything like what you’ve done here. The rest of us coordinate our lives around threats of sexual violence. That’s something you’ll never have to worry about. How did you get home with no clothes and no car?”

“The same way I came,” Jane retorted. She had emerged from the abandoned building wearing only her sneakers and carrying her purse retrieved from the vent shaft. Walking back to her car wasn’t the biggest deal; the apartment lot was close by, and she had encountered no one along the way. Except her car wasn’t there: it had been stolen after all. In the lot she saw a guy beating the shit out of his girlfriend. They had both stared at her, stunned at the sight of a naked beauty, and Jane had tilted her head, shattering all twenty-seven bones in the boyfriend’s hand. She relieved him of his shirt and pants (which were a bit large for her) and asked the woman if she knew anyone who could drive her to Southeast Portland for the price of a hundred bucks. The grateful woman (who thought Jane was an avenging night spirit who protected abused women) knocked on the door of a neighbor friend, and Jane was driven home by a mother in desperate need of money to feed her two-year old. Jane gave her a hundred seventy-two bucks, which was all she had in her purse. She had felt proud of her conquest and couldn’t wait to tell Nicki the next day. Now Nicki was shitting all over her.

“Those pants were expensive,” said Nicki. “I hope it was worth it.”

“It was worth it,” said Jane. Having her clothes savagely torn off had given her a cum rush.

“And the car?”

“You know I’ve needed a new one. I had a year more on it at best, and I was getting it fixed every other month.”

“Unbelievable.”

“Can you at least pretend to be happy for me? I haven’t had anyone in over four years.”

Nicki shrugged. “Glad you had a nice fuck, I guess.”

“Thanks. And fuck you.”

“Okay look, if you value my advice at all, if you have any respect for me, if you believe I actually care about you, can you please at least go to the clinic and get blood work done? So we know you’re not crawling with AIDS?”

Jane looked away from her. She would go to the clinic. She was too angry to show Nicki any gratitude for the wake-up call, but she had to admit she was a little concerned.

“And one more thing,” said Nicki. “If your hormones ever again tell you to dive off a cliff into the Bay of Insanity, please, girlfriend, please, lock yourself in your bedroom and fuck your own brains out. Until you’ve come to your senses.”

 

She stayed with Nicki all day. Lucas and Raquel were babysitting Mike until Sunday morning anyway. They were practically becoming his alternate parents. Mike loved them, especially Uncle Luc.

After a dinner of second and third helpings — it was Nicki’s homemade cauliflower pie, one of Jane’s favorites — Jane called her father with the news of her car. She would say it was stolen from the supermarket parking lot, and that she forgot to lock it.

He answered on the second ring. “Jesus, kid, I’ve been calling you at home. Where the hell have you been?”

“Nicki’s. She and I are bonding today. Mike’s staying with Lucas and Raquel until tomorrow. And I told you I’d call Sunday, not today.”

“Forget Sunday, I have something better. The house you saw.”

“What house?”

“The white house with the flag and picket fence. From Lindsey Wyatt’s memory. Where Black Rose takes his victims to rape.”

Jane promptly forgot about stolen cars. “You’ve seen it?” she asked.

“I practically drive by it every day, on the way home from work. It’s the Hoover-Minthorn House Museum. Everyone calls it the Hoover House. As in the 31st president of America.”

“I’m not good with the presidents, Dad.”

“Herbert Hoover. He lived in the house as a teenager with his Quaker relatives. The building has been preserved to show what town homes were like in the 1880s, especially Quaker homes. It’s right off the highway, about six blocks down from City Hall. Next to that park I once showed you. That’s the Hoover Park. When I saw the park off the highway today, I thought of the house, and it all connected. The house is exactly as you described it at the hospital.”

“But it’s a museum, you said? So it’s open to the public?”

“Visitors hours are 1:00-4:00 on Wednesdays through Sundays.” It was almost 7:00 now, long after closing. “I’m going to pay a little visit to the place tomorrow morning, assuming there are any staff there that early.”

“So the killer breaks into this house-museum when it’s closed?” asked Jane.

“For a police detective, breaking and entering a building like the Hoover House wouldn’t be the biggest challenge. But if he rapes his victims there, then it’s a crime scene. I’m not getting my hopes up. A detective knows how to remove the mess of his evidence. And I doubt he leaves any fingerprints. But there’s always something. I’m going to find it.”

“And you’re sure it’s the house I saw?”

“If there’s another house like that in Newberg, just as you described it, I’d be surprised. It has to be the Hoover House.”

“But why?” asked Jane. “Is it a convenient place to commit rape?”

“It’s close enough to the main part of town, and all the abduction sites, but it’s also enough off the beaten highway to be away from so many eyes. But I think there’s more to it than convenience. Serial killers are driven by obsessive fantasies. The Hoover House is probably special to Black Rose for some reason. He may even go there on nights when he doesn’t have a victim.”

“Dad, this is an amazing breakthrough.”

“How tight are your plans with Nicki? You want to come down tomorrow, so we can go to the house together?”

She was about to say yes, then remembered she had no car. “I’d say yes, but I have a problem.”

“Yeah, I understand.”

“No, it’s not Nicki. It’s my car. It was stolen last night.”

“Are you kidding?” he shouted.

“That’s what I was calling to tell you. I’ll be needing another one.” She felt like a leech.

“Was it stolen up in Cully?” he asked.

“No,” she lied. “When I got back. I saw Nicki and then went shopping. When I came out of the supermarket, the car was gone.”

“Well, you’ve been needing a new one anyway. But that’s still a raw deal.”

“Nicki’s been taking care of me. It was a long night, after we got back from the police station.” She was getting too good at lying.

“Okay. Just do your usual thing tonight and tomorrow: check up on the detectives, see what they’re doing. I’ll check out the museum. I’ll call tomorrow night and we’ll trade stories.”

“Sure.”

“Are you going to be at Nicki’s tomorrow too?”

“No, she’s taking me home in a couple hours. Lucas is bringing Mike back tomorrow morning.”

“Okay. Good luck with your visits,” he said.

They hung up. Jane wasn’t going to waste any more visits in the Void. Her reward for those trips had been nosebleeds and no useful evidence. She wanted to see this house-museum. Serial killers are driven by obsessive fantasies. The Hoover House is probably special to Black Rose for some reason. He may even go there on nights when he doesn’t have a victim.

Jane was going to beat her father to it. She was going tonight.

Nicki came in from the kitchen and folded her arms. “So now you involve me in your lies.” She had heard Jane’s “supermarket” story involving her and Jane at the police station.

“Can I ask you a big favor?” said Jane.

“You can always ask, girlfriend.”

“Can I borrow your car?”

Nicki gaped at her. “Can you borrow my car? I’m surprised you can walk, girl. Aside from getting fucked every which way by King Rape, you’ve got balls bigger than your head.”

“I know,” said Jane. “But I really need a car tonight.”

“Why? So you can go off and get raped by another one of your disease-ridden man toys? If you want to borrow my car, you’ll need a reason that doesn’t involve hormones and herpes.”

“It’s the case I’m helping my father with.” She had told Nicki about Black Rose, and her trips in the Void. “He turned up a lead, and I have to check it out tonight.” Another bald-faced lie on her part. Her father would be incensed that she was trying to get to the museum before him.

Nicki’s interest was peaked. “This is the Black Rose case?” she asked.

“Yes,” said Jane. She explained how her father had discovered the house that Jane had seen in Lindsey Wyatt’s mind. When she finished, Nicki was chewing her lip. Jane was in full entreaty mode. “Black Rose is the worst misogynist there is. I’m trying to save women.”

“Say no more, girlfriend,” said Nicki.

“I can borrow your car?”

“No. You can ride shotgun in my car. We’re going to this house-museum together.”

“What?!”

“I’m tired of research and writing, and the four walls of my house. I want to play detective too.”

“This isn’t play!” said Jane.

“And it will please me greatly to participate in anything that might help bring down this piece of shit you call Black Rose.”

“I don’t think so, Nicki.”

“Then think again. The only way you’re going to borrow my car is with me driving it.”

“Fine,” snapped Jane. “But you do exactly as I say. And I mean everything I say.”

“You’re the boss,” Nicki smiled sweetly. “Are we ready?”

 

It was little more than a half hour drive from Portland to Newberg, and shortly after eight o’clock when Nicki Racine parked her Subaru across from the Hoover House. Jane’s heart had begun to race when she saw it. It had been easy to find from her father’s directions, and he was right: it was the house from her hospital vision. Lindsey Wyatt had been taken into the house around this time of night; Jane was seeing it almost exactly as the victim had.

They were on the River Street side of the building, which faced the main entry. Jane wanted to see inside, but she worried about security alarms. Why was Black Rose obsessed with this place?

“Which room do you think he rapes them in?” asked Nicki.

“No idea,” said Jane. She had brought a flashlight from Nicki’s house. “Maybe I’ll get out and shine the light into the first floor windows.”

“What if he’s inside?” asked Nicki. Her enthusiasm for this venture had cooled upon arrival. Back at home the idea of a night investigation seemed fun. Here on a dark street, the house made her feel uneasy.

“I didn’t come here to do nothing,” said Jane.

“You said he’s not supposed to kill for at least another week, right?”

“Right,” said Jane. Black Rose was scheduled to kill in another eight days. But that was assuming the police had correctly understood his timetable, and that the killer wouldn’t change it. Jane knew it was stupid to rely on either of those assumptions, but she didn’t add this caveat. She didn’t want Nicki getting cold feet on her now. “We’ll wait a few minutes before I get out.”

“I don’t see any lights on,” said Nicki.

“Of course not,” said Jane. “The building is closed.” And Jane knew the killer didn’t turn on the lights when he used the house. Or at least not when he raped Lindsey Wyatt.

“Oh my God!” said Nicki.

“What is it?” asked Jane, sitting up straight.

Nicki clutched her arm. “Did you see that? Did you see that?”

“Did I see what?” asked Jane.

“The window on the second floor, right in front. The curtains moved. Who the Sam-Hill-Fuck-Jesus is up there?”

Jane squinted. “No. I didn’t notice.”

“The curtains moved, I said!”

“Okay, Nicki, okay.”

“It’s not okay!” said Nicki. “It’s completely dark in that house!”

It was true. There were no lights on in the house, and so it couldn’t be a staff member. It was long after visiting hours and probably staff hours too. Jane felt uneasy. If Nicki wasn’t seeing things, then someone was in the museum doing something strange. Was it Black Rose? Did he have a victim?

She considered breaking into the museum and overpowering whoever was there. She could do that, but she knew it would be foolish. Black Rose was a police detective and could make up any reason for being inside the museum — that he heard a scream, that he saw vandals, whatever. Unless Jane caught him red-handed assaulting a victim, she would be charged with assaulting and accusing a police officer for no valid reason, not to mention breaking and entering. There was certainly no evidence tying the museum to the Black Rose killings; only her vision from Lindsey Wyatt. And if it turned out it wasn’t the killer, she’d look like a complete fool.

Yet she knew that Black Rose was up there. In her gut she knew it. There was someone prowling the house in darkness, and that person was either Shane McCormick, Paul Holland, Gavin Ridge, or Walter Plante. Probably without a victim. Did he come here often at nights to obsess his purpose? If he took the trouble to drive his victims here in order to rape them, then he was — as her father had suggested — consumed with the Hoover House in a more general way. This was Jane’s chance to nail the killer cop, and she was going to do it. But how? Then she knew.

“What do we do, girlfriend?” asked Nicki. She was scared; an unusual state of being for Nicki Racine.

“We stay right here,” said Jane. She was glad she had brought Nicki after all. “You keep watch on the house. If anyone comes out, or if you see anything going on inside the house, then wake me up.”

“Wake you up?”

“I’m going into the Void. To see where the detectives are. If one of them is inside the museum house, then I know who Black Rose is.”

“Girl, you’re the fucking bomb.”

“Don’t wet yourself too much. I’ve never been inside this house. I don’t know what the rooms look like.” It was the slight problem with her plan. Not only that, the Void usually didn’t show much of anything around the person she was spying on; often just a single piece of furniture, though sometimes with more surrounding detail. With Plante she had seen the outline of the university’s buildings. Years ago, with William Byers, she had seen his entire tree fort in the Upside Down. Those cases were exceptional. The Void was mostly blackness and water. But it was worth a try.

“Hurry up and don’t take long,” said Nicki.

“I’ll go as fast as I can,” said Jane. Entering the Void required her to be calm and patient. She took out her bandana, tied it around her eyes, and told Nicki to turn on the car radio to a frequency that gave off white noise. That could drain the car battery, but Jane wouldn’t be gone that long. She shifted in the car seat for a comfortable position, willed her mind to go blank, and thought of Shane McCormick. She inhaled deep… and faded into black.

She found him right away, at the usual preliminary distance of about forty or fifty feet. McCormick was lying on his back. She walked up to him, gliding over the plane of water. There was an oval-shaped beige rug underneath him. His eyes were closed and he was listening to headphones from a CD walkman. She could hear the music; it sounded like classical. He appeared to be meditating on a floor. But was he doing this at home or inside the museum? If the latter, was this some kind of nocturnal ritual that he engaged in between his killings? Was the Hoover House a fetish that energized him?

She let herself drift, and McCormick dissolved. Then she thought of Holland. A vision materialized, and she gasped. It was a movie theater. Holland was the only visible audience member, but there was presumably a large crowd. The film was blaring and she recognized it on the screen: L.A. Confidential. She had seen the movie with Nicki two or three weeks ago. Holland was seated towards the back, sharing a bucket of popcorn with someone — probably his wife, who had dragged him to the theater since he never rested. Jane and her father’s suspect list had just shrunk: Paul Holland was not inside the museum right now. He wasn’t Black Rose.

She left him, and the theater screen turned into water drops. She heard Nicki asking her if she was okay. Jane mumbled an affirmative, and then concentrated on Gavin Ridge. A car appeared in the Void. It was maroon; maybe a Ford Taurus. She walked up to it, and saw Ridge behind the wheel as she got closer. The car wasn’t moving. It was parked somewhere, and Ridge was staring intently out the windshield. He looked fierce and dangerously ready — to snap into action at any moment. Was he on a stakeout? Her father had said that the detectives had their weekends off, but the price for that was being constantly on call. In any case, Gavin Ridge wasn’t inside the Hoover House.

Last was Plante. She found him in the blackness, hunkered over in a chair. As she got closer, she realized he was crying. His face was in his hands; he was sobbing like a baby. The chair was winged with blue upholstering. Was he Black Rose? Was the museum an emotional focal point for Plante? Did it remind him of an awful tragedy or past event that he sought to “correct” by killing women in their twenties, and which perhaps even re-enacted the tragedy? Jane didn’t know the minds of serial killers, outside of what she saw in the movies. All she knew was that Plante was seated in a room somewhere, in a deep state of distress.

The sobs faded and Jane became aware of her real surroundings. She tore off the bandana. Nicki demanded a report.

“I think the killer is one of two people,” said Jane. McCormick or Plante. Her father would crow. McCormick was his favorite suspect. Jane wasn’t so sure.

“But he’s not raping anyone?”

“No.” If she had caught any hint of a victim, she would have broken into the museum and made a citizen’s arrest on the spot. But she couldn’t be sure. Jane thought about Plante. What if he were crying out of killer’s guilt? Maybe a raped woman lay unconscious at his feet right now, and Plante was getting ready for the next part of his pattern — to take her somewhere else in town and stab her to death. That was perfectly possible: the Void didn’t show people aside from the one she was spying on. Ditto with McCormick: a battered woman might be resting right next to him, as he “chilled out” from his assault by meditating with music.

“So what now?” asked Nicki.

Damned if I know. Jane hadn’t thought any of this through in advance. She wished her father were here. “Let’s wait a few minutes. See if anything else happens.”

“Fuck that!” yelled Nicki. “There’s a goddamn serial killer in that house! He kills people like you and me!”

“Calm down, Nicki. No one’s going to kill us.” Frankly I’d like to see him try. Then her father’s voice came back to her: You’re not invincible. If a dirty cop thinks you’re on to him, all it takes is a sniping bullet to kill you before you can react. Even a knife in the back, if he surprises you from behind. Jane took the point, but she had dealt with trigger-happy goons before. Not least when she escaped the Hawkins Lab as a child.

A car came down River Street from the highway, and drove slowly past them. Nicki stared after it, thinking. “Jane,” she said. “If there’s a detective in that house, where’s his car?”

That was a good question, and Jane didn’t know the detectives’ cars. She looked down River Street. Nicki’s car was the only one parked on it as far as she could see. She wondered about the side of the museum on 2nd Street. She made a decision to go check. She told Nicki she was taking a walk-around, and if there were any cars parked on 2nd Street, or anywhere close by the museum, she would get the makes and license plates for her father.

Nicki vehemently objected to this idea. “Don’t you dare leave the car. Don’t leave me alone.”

“You’ll be fine,” said Jane. “You just keep watching the front, and if anyone comes out before I get back –”

“Absolutely not!” Nicki was having a meltdown. “I’m driving us out of here right now!”

“Nicki, shut up and listen to me.”

“No!”

Jane held Nicki’s face and looked her in the eyes. “Listen to me, I said. I’m not going to let anything happen to you. If anyone comes out of the house before I get back, you drive off at once. You understand? Don’t wait for me if that happens. If you’re gone when I get back, I’ll go down to the highway and wait for you to circle back and pick me up there.”

“No! I’ll drive you around the house and check with you.”

“I need you watching the front,” said Jane. “The door and the front windows. You’ll be –”

A car started up River Street from the direction of the park, and Nicki jumped in her seat. The car turned onto 2nd Street. Where Jane was going now. “We’ll be fine, Nicki, both of us.”

“Easy for you to say,” said Nicki, her voice shaking. “Do you think he saw us? Out the window? He could be peeking right now.”

Jane had thought of that. But neither McCormick nor Plante had shown any signs of being worried about surveillance. McCormick was blissfully meditating and Plante was wallowing in anguish. If either of them thought they were being spied on, they would surely be getting the hell out of Dodge. “No. Whatever he was doing at the window, I think we’re okay. And we’re parked legally.” Although they were pretty close to the house long after it was closed, which might look suspicious. She could see her father now: he would have torn her a new asshole for this absurdly amateur stakeout. “If you see another curtain move, drive off immediately. Don’t take any chances.”

Nicki nodded but didn’t like it. “I don’t mind telling you I’m shitting my pants right now, girlfriend.”

Jane hugged her, and then got out of the car. She walked casually down River Street and looked around the yard of the house. Everything was hush and still. She glanced at all the windows. Not a trace of movement or any light. I know you’re in there, bastard. And you’re going down. But who? McCormick or Plante?

The Void had exonerated the two detectives she had found unpleasant, or at least off-putting: Holland and Ridge. She liked McCormick and Plante. But her father was right; serial killers didn’t always fit the stereotypes. She had “surfed” the internet the other day (which was still new to her) and found that out. Ted Bundy was a charming man — a college graduate and volunteer at a suicide hotline; that charming man had slain forty women. H.H. Holmes was a respected doctor; that life-saver had designed an elaborate torture dungeon in his basement which claimed as many as two hundred victims. Jeffrey Dahmer was known as a thoughtful activist who supported gay rights; yet he was killing men under everyone’s nose. Shane McCormick or Walter Plante would soon join that rogues gallery.

At the junction of River and 2nd, she turned and looked down. There were no cars parked on 2nd Street as far as she could make out. She supposed that a smart detective wouldn’t park close to a building that he was breaking into. Especially if that building happened to be his raping ground.

She walked all the way down 2nd Street until she came to the end of the block. Still no cars in the near vicinity. She looked up at the house, surveying the windows on this side of the building. No lights. No movement. Had Nicki been seeing things? No, she had seen just fine. Black Rose was in there.

She stood for another minute, listening and watching. There was no time to search the streets further down. Nicki was probably at wits end. Jane began retracing her steps back to the front of the building on River Street. When she turned the corner, she saw the Subaru and Nicki sitting at the wheel. When she got back and opened the passenger door, Nicki turned the keys at once.

“My heart’s still in my throat, bitch,” she said as Jane climbed in. “I can’t believe I insisted on coming with you.”

Jane hugged Nicki. “I’m glad you did. You did great.”

They drove back to Portland, and Nicki brought her home and said good-bye. Jane went inside to call her father. She couldn’t wait to tell him that their suspect list was two people shorter.

 

Next Chapter: The Tour Guide

(Previous Chapter: The Green Room)

The Black Rose of Newberg (Chapter 4)

This eight-chapter novella is the second of two stories set in between the periods of Stranger Things: The College Years and Stranger Things: The New Generation. I advise reading those stories, as well as the third in that trilogy, Stranger Things: World’s End, before reading The Witch of Yamhill County and then this one, which are supplementary and do not involve the Upside Down. Like the Upside Down trilogy, they are works of fan fiction based on the Stranger Things TV series. I do not profit from these stories and they are not canon. There is plenty of Stranger Things fiction to be found online (see here), but if I learn that the Duffer Brothers do not appreciate fan fiction of their work, or if they order a cease-and-desist, I will gladly pull the stories down.

                                The Black Rose of Newberg — Chapter Four

                              The Green Room

Jane waited behind the wheel. At last the pieces were moving.

The four guys jabbered in the restaurant parking lot: a mean bunch pissed at the world. And they were taking their sweeter time than usual. Her guy couldn’t stop waving his arms as he made (what must have been) promises of vengeance on the bitch who had wronged him. She reached into her pants and gave herself a stir. Her breath came sharply. Jesus. She wanted to be crushed and degraded by this bastard.

She took off her sweater and threw it in the back seat. It was a cool night in the high fifties, but for her purposes tonight, a sweater would just be in the way.

Finally the pack divided. Two got in a pickup truck and drove off as they always did. Her guy and the other began walking. They would split at Belfast, and the friend would keep heading north while he went up Kaley. That street ran through the worst neighborhood in Northeast Portland. Tonight Jane would be there waiting for him.

She started the car, and went around a side street so he wouldn’t spot her. Then she drove eight blocks ahead and turned onto Kaley. If Jane hadn’t been the person she was, she would never have set tire or foot in this district. It was impossible that people could survive in such places. Kaley was a cesspool of crime, poverty, bad water, and beaten souls. She drove up three more blocks and then took a left down a narrow road. There was a seedy apartment shack at the end, and she parked in the lot which always had extra space. Most of the residents couldn’t afford cars.

She grabbed her purse and got out. Her car was at more at risk tonight than she was. It was a ’90 Honda Civic, and had seen better days, but compared to the trash in this lot it was a pristine Cadillac. At least it was off the street and cloaked by the night. Her mission wouldn’t take that long; she expected to be back in under two hours. The odds of it being stolen or vandalized were fair, but she wasn’t going to worry about it.

On foot she backtracked down the road to Kaley. She walked fast, though she knew she had enough time. He would be on the street shortly. About halfway there she stopped at an abandoned building. This was the place she had staked out, and it had taken on a mythic status in her dreams. She had no idea what used to be inside. It was surrounded by cheap shops and a barbers. She supposed it could have been a bar before it closed down, or some kind of games hall. The front door, of course, was locked.

Locks were no obstacle to Jane Hopper.

Tapping her power, she threw back the double bolt and went inside. The hallway was as she remembered it from last week, leading down to sets of doors which opened into vacant storerooms. Immediately on her right was a green door: her ultimate destination tonight, if all went according to plan. She caressed the doorknob, imagining what would soon happen to her on the other side. Get back outside and get him, you fool, or this plan is gone to hell.

But first things first. There was a huge vent in the hallway ceiling, and she used her mind to open it. Then she levitated her purse up into the shaft and closed the vent. There was no place for that purse on the path she had chosen this evening.

She went back outside, leaving the front door slightly ajar, and then went all the way down to Kaley. She looked carefully around the corner to her left before stepping out. Her heart lurched. There he was. Less than three blocks away, and right on time. His itinerary never changed.

She stepped into view on the sidewalk so that he couldn’t miss her. A car came slowly down the road, and its sleazy-looking driver leaned out the window catcalling her. She ignored him and he gave her the finger as he sped off. She looked around as if unsure of her surroundings, and then heard a profusion of sputtering; her guy had seen her. She turned, as if still uncertain, and started walking back up the road. As soon as she was out of his sight, she sprinted to stay well ahead of him, and then resumed walking casually as she got closer to the abandoned building.

Seconds later she heard him running up the road behind her. She couldn’t believe how well this had gone. Her heart was pounding but she moved calmly as she reached the door. She went inside again. Ready.

He crashed in after her. When he saw her standing in the hall looking confused, he grinned and slammed the door behind him. “Lost your way home, cunt?”

Jane acted scared at the sight of him. “What do you want?” she asked, her voice shaking.

“What do I want?” he yelled. “I want to rip your shithole wide open, is what I want!” He moved at her, and suddenly she was clamped in a brutal bear hug.

“Get off me!” she screamed. She kicked and struggled, but she was physically powerless against him. She was getting wet, and struggled some more, yelling at him to let her go. He smacked her face and hauled her to the nearest door; the green door. He kicked it open and dragged her through. She swore at him and he slapped her face again — so hard this time it made her cry. Jesus, asshole, don’t beat me, just fuck me. She didn’t mind a few hits, but she wasn’t seeking bruises and welts. It was violation she craved.

He kicked the door shut and looked around the room. It was huge and had dark green walls and olive green carpeting. Jane had come to think of it as the Green Room in her depraved dreams — dreams that were about to be fulfilled.

“Nice,” he rasped. “Plenty of space and no one will bother us. You picked the wrong building, bitch. You like to squeeze balls?”

Her voice trembled with manufactured fear: “Look, I’m sorry for that, I was –”

She felt the front of her pants rip, and his hand was immediately up inside her. She gasped; she was sopping wet and prayed he wouldn’t see through the facade. He wouldn’t; she had orchestrated this too well. Her wetness could be a biological reaction — her body betraying her.

“Jesus!” he yelled. His finger moved roughly inside her. “You’re a goddamn swamp.” Already she was going over the edge, feeling a climax build. She needed to look terrified. She yelled for help at the top of her lungs.

He withdrew his hand and clamped it over her mouth. Get back inside me. He forced her to the floor on her stomach and lay on top of her. “Listen, you whore.” She whimpered through his palm, dripping with her own juices. “Call for help again, and I’ll smash your face. I’ll break your jaw, you understand? No one can hear you anyway.” He yanked her head up. “I said, do you fucking understand!”

She started crying. He was alarming her a bit now. She had nothing to worry about with her psychic powers on standby, but this was a very violent man. And she was using him like a toy. Without the security of her powers, she would have felt the terror of Lindsey Wyatt. Jane had absorbed that terror in the vision at the hospital. Black Rose was a kindred spirit to the asshole on top of her right now.

He made a fist and held it in front of her face, as he had back in the restaurant. “Answer me, or I swear this is going through your jaw. And I mean it this time.”

“Yes,” she sobbed.

“What?” he demanded.

“I said yes! I understand!”

“You’re not talking so tough anymore. You couldn’t feel my balls? You’re gonna feel them now.” With a savage pull he tore her shirt down the middle of her back. It was off in seconds. She heard the click of a switchblade, and felt the straps of her bra fall off. She told him to stop, that she was sorry, and he said no, she was only about to be sorry for messing with him. He started working on her pants; they wouldn’t cooperate. Furious, he used his blade on them too, tearing away the shreds he had cut. He did the same with her underwear. What will I wear when I leave? At the moment she didn’t care. She was hot as a furnace from being savaged like this.

He dragged her against the wall, sat himself against it, and bear-hugged her again. “Take your shoes and socks off.” They were all that was left on her.

“Just let me go, please,” she cried.

“Do what I say. I’m fucking the shit out of you, and you’ll never try squeezing anyone’s balls again.”

“No, I said I was sorry! I said I was sorry!”

“Take off your shoes and socks!”

She reached over her knees to obey, and he shifted his posture behind her, proceeding to remove his own footwear. Halfway through her second shoe, he was already done, and taking off his pants and underwear. He left his t-shirt on. She was entirely naked.

He pulled her back into his lap, sitting her up against him, and she felt him rock hard pressing into her lower back. He reached around and plunged two of his fingers back up inside her. She was still a bog. He worked his fingers deeply. She couldn’t help it anymore: she moaned pleasure around her tears.

“What the fuck.” He smeared his tongue over the side of her face. “Trash like you is born to be raped.” Her cunt was a smelting pot now, and as he plied faster, her legs reacted, moving back and forth over the carpet.

“Jesus. Take a good look at yourself, slut. You actually want this. Jesus fucking Christ!”

“Well, I can’t help it!” she screamed, pumping her legs. Which was the God’s-honest truth.

“No shit you can’t.” He was clueless: convinced that he was raping her, and that on some level she enjoyed that. He took away his fingers. She groaned in frustration. He grabbed her hand and put it where his had been. “Go ahead,” he said in her ear. “Fuck yourself, you slut.”

“No!” she yanked her hand away.

He caught it and brought it back. “You fuck yourself good. Do it now, you shitty cunt.”

Some rapist you are. She would oblige him, but not without more resistance. She thrashed against him and tried pulling her hand away again, in vain. He held her fast and renewed his threats to smash her jaw. She cried a fresh wave of tears. He steered her hand back to her mound. She began finger-fucking herself, reluctantly at first, then using two fingers, then moaning with three. She cried all the way. She looked traumatized, but truthfully she hadn’t been this aroused in her whole life.

He watched her dig at herself until she came. Then he lifted her and threw her on her stomach, resting on top of her. She was still crying. “We’ll see if you cum now,” he said. She had worried slightly about this possibility, and braced herself as he kneaded her buttocks, pried them open — and then thrust himself deep into her anus.

She screamed for real then; for the first time since he began his assault. An iron bar was splitting her ass in half and up her backside. He must have been twice the size of Mike Wheeler. If she didn’t get broken in quickly, she would have to abort this little charade. Whenever Mike had taken her this way, he had lubricated himself, and the initial pain had segued into a knifing ecstasy that was so delicious it made her see stars. Also, Mike had been long but not as thick as this bastard. She made herself relax; experience had taught her that was the key to anal gratification.

The pleasure was slow in coming, and he was savoring her trauma as he reamed her. But then, just as she was ready to pull the plug, it started feeling better; it was like red hot iron going through butter now instead of meat. The pain was still on, but it was filtered through a piercing sweetness that made her body sing. It felt like heaven. She screamed and cried and begged him to stop and screamed.

“Oh yeah,” he panted in her ear, “I’ll bet that hurts.” He kept thrusting inside her, relishing her helplessness. “God Jesus, you’re the tightest ass on the planet. I’m gonna blast your shithole wide open, you stupid bitch. You’ll feel it for weeks.” She rewarded him with a new wave of tears and traumatic pleas to let her go. “Oh no,” he moaned, caught up in his own ecstasy, “You’re not going anywhere… I’m gonna break you… blow your shithole right apart… oh God, that’s so fucking sweet… you’ve got to be in hell right now.” She cried as if she were in hell, and pounded her hands on the floor in seemingly helpless rage. He had no idea how grand this felt. She was straddling that awesome divide between pain and pleasure. Both filled her; she wished it could last forever.

He sodomized and degraded her a lot more, and then suddenly withdrew. Don’t stop, you jerk. She had been on the verge of climax when he pulled out, and chafed at being robbed of that. Mike had taken her up the ass many times, but only once had he brought her to orgasm by ass-fucking her. The orgasm she had been building to now would have buried that one. You stupid rapist, can’t you do your job? As if in answer, she was turned over violently and slammed on her back, facing up at him. He glowered with triumphant sadism and his cock was still hard; impossibly huge. She couldn’t believe that thing had just been up her ass. Now it was about to go where she could get the most mileage from it. He wasn’t done with her by a long shot, thank God; his climax also was yet to come.

She fought and flailed her arms against him, but he batted them away easily. Then he spread her legs roughly and initiated the final act of his rape, as he saw it. He settled deeply into her, and began working slowly. Tears poured down her cheeks, and he ran his tongue over the wetness, enjoying her anguish. “You’re bleeding, you cow,” he said. “You’ll need a hundred stitches for your shithole. Now you’re gonna cum as you cry.” He began quickening his thrusts and she couldn’t hold back. She wrapped her legs tightly around him, hugged his torso, and met his thrusts with equal fervor. He was right about this anyway: she was going to cum like never before.

But he was wrong about her anal passage. He had given her a lesion or two, but she felt no major interior damage. She wasn’t surprised there was some blood; that had happened sometimes with Mike. There were lots of myths about anal sex, the most common one being that it was usually painful and damaging to women. With Mike she had learned that mental preparation was 80-90% of the way to pleasure; lube helped too, and she certainly could have used it in this case to assuage the initial break-in. This guy was huge.

That hugeness was now her undiluted joy. She fucked him back as good as he gave. That he believed he had so thoroughly dominated and terrorized her lent a whole new dimension to this proceeding; she was going insane with orgasmic tremors. Don’t cum too soon… don’t you dare cum too soon… She had to say it out loud; she wouldn’t be robbed again. “Oh God,” she pleaded through tears. “You’re making me… You asshole, you’re making me! Oh… don’t… don’t stop.” Stroking his ego. “I can’t … I can’t even help this, you asshole!”

“Jesus,” he breathed against her neck. He paused for a moment and re-positioned himself, looking into her eyes. He saw fear and hurt — and the undeniable need. It drove him wild. Jane had become every man’s fantasy, and every rapist’s wet dream. She was defiance and submission; terror and pain personified; a biological slave pleasured against her will. The illusion was immaculate and he swallowed it whole. He tore into her with newfound fury, as if by filling her with his every inch he could somehow absorb her soul. Jane came and wailed as he hammered her drenched mound; she came a second time; he didn’t let up; and finally a third time — this one so cataclysmic it felt like her legs were streaming. He spent himself, finally, right then.

He rested on top of her for a while as she lay sobbing beneath. Then he got up, walked over to his clothes and began dressing. She tried to talk but was crying uncontrollably, as if in shock. Finally she sobbed it out: “You’re… you’re going to jail for this.”

He disdained her. “How do you figure?” he asked, pulling up his jeans.

“I’m getting the police.” She of course had no intention of telling the police anything, least of all her father. It was just part of the act; the fantasy of having been raped. But also, she wanted to scare him a bit. She had obtained the pleasure she wanted from him, in just the way she wanted. But he was a vicious asshole. He deserved a sleepless night or two, at the very least, to worry about being arrested.

The threat riled him. He buttoned his pants and came over to kneel beside her. “I don’t think so,” he said, and smacked the side of her head so hard her vision swam. The floor spun as she knelt on her hands and knees. When her head cleared, she saw him a few feet away going through her shredded pants: obviously looking for a wallet or some ID. He wanted to know who she was and where she lived. Nice try, shithead. Her purse was where no one could find it.

When he came up empty, he took out his switchblade and came back to her. He yanked her hair and put the blade to her throat. “What’s your name?”

“Go to hell!”

“Listen to me carefully. I’m going to cut your throat right now. What’s your slut-fuck name?”

She didn’t want it to end this way, having to use her powers. It would have torpedoed the fantasy. So she gave him something: “Jill.”

“Jill who?”

“Jill Harris.”

“Listen good, Jill Harris. I know your name, but you don’t know mine. But if I somehow get any visits from the police, I’ll tell them how you begged me to fuck you. And I’ll be telling the sweet truth. Then I’ll hunt you down and rape you again, only this time I’ll leave you in pieces. You got it?”

She whimpered and he dragged the blade over her cheek, repeating the question until she agreed to keep quiet.

“You better,” he said. He stood up and walked toward the door, and then stopped to look back. “Have fun getting home with no clothes.”

And then he left.

 

Next Chapter: The Hoover House

(Previous Chapter: The Raped Wench)

The Black Rose of Newberg (Chapter 3)

This eight-chapter novella is the second of two stories set in between the periods of Stranger Things: The College Years and Stranger Things: The New Generation. I advise reading those stories, as well as the third in that trilogy, Stranger Things: World’s End, before reading The Witch of Yamhill County and then this one, which are supplementary and do not involve the Upside Down. Like the Upside Down trilogy, they are works of fan fiction based on the Stranger Things TV series. I do not profit from these stories and they are not canon. There is plenty of Stranger Things fiction to be found online (see here), but if I learn that the Duffer Brothers do not appreciate fan fiction of their work, or if they order a cease-and-desist, I will gladly pull the stories down.

                                 The Black Rose of Newberg — Chapter Three

                             The Raped Wench

Jane saw him as soon as she sat down. He was at the usual table with the usual friends. Making the waitress hate her job. Jane could hardly sympathize. If you were employed at The Raped Wench, you got what you asked for.

“Menu?”

Jane looked up as a glass of water was set in front of her. Her own waitress looked twenty years old and tired of life. She wore the mandatory attire: a halter top and shorts that may as well have been a bathing suit. The dress code of The Raped Wench made Hooters look parochial. When Jane was in Cully, she was grateful for her lab upbringing. Papa, for all his unconscionable sins, had invested her with a sense of worth. The men of Cully valued themselves, stepped on those who got in their way, and swilled the pleasures of women before spitting them out.

“Two, please,” she told the waitress. “My father will be joining me.”

“Will he now.” It wasn’t a question.

“He’ll be here shortly. If hasn’t shown up in a few minutes, you can give the booth to someone else.”

The waitress scowled and walked off.

No one in their right mind visited this section of northeast Portland. But Jane Hopper had an unusual mind. She needed something few would ask for, and it could be readily obtained in a place like Cully. The guy on the main floor below would supply that. She had been stalking him on Friday nights since August, and tonight’s payoff was overdue. Except that her father was coming. He had called this morning and insisted on dinner when he got off work. He wanted to debrief her. She said he could do that tomorrow. He overrode her; he had to work a full Saturday this week, and he couldn’t wait. Black Rose was eating at him. She said fine, but he would have to drive an extra twenty-five minutes up to northeast Portland. Then she told him the name of the restaurant.

The Raped Wench?” he had asked, appalled. “What the bloody Jesus are you doing up in Cully?”

“Research,” she lied. “I’m interviewing the manager on the restaurant’s history.”

“For what?”

“It’s for Nicki. She’s on one of her crusades. She wants to go to court and force the establishment to change its name. But she won’t set foot in Cully.”

“I don’t blame her,” said her father. “But she’s whistling dixie. Oregonians have been complaining about that establishment for years. There was a lawsuit in the seventies, and another one six years ago. The courts were unanimous: a business owner can call his business what he wants.”

“Really? Anything at all?”

“As long as the words ‘bank’ and ‘trust’ aren’t used. It’s called the First Amendment. Something your friend Nicki doesn’t have much use for.”

“I know she’s nuts about stuff like this. I’m not saying I agree with her. I’m helping her with the research anyway. And my interview with the manager is set for this evening. So meet me at 6:00. I’ll be done by then, and we can eat here.”

“It won’t be six,” he had said. “If I’m lucky enough to leave the office at 5:00, and if traffic isn’t bad, it will be more like five or ten past.”

“I’ll have a booth for us on the top level.”

Now it was 6:12. Bad traffic, probably. Her father would be in a grim mood after the long drive from McMinnville. He would be shell-shocked if he knew why his daughter was really here.

She wasn’t in The Raped Wench to see its manager, nor was she doing any research on Nicki’s behalf. Nicki didn’t know Jane was here. She would by tomorrow. What Jane intended on this Friday evening would result in a triumph that trivialized everything Nicki believed about feminine sexual empowerment. It involved the bastard who was sitting down in the main room with his friends. Jane was going to bend him to her purpose as he believed the opposite was happening.

Finding the right guy wasn’t easy. It had to be someone nasty; a vicious bully. For one, her fantasies required it. But also because her success required some initial bullying on her part. She had to provoke this man to cross an ugly line. She wouldn’t manipulate anyone that way, save the worst members of the species.

Cully was full of such men, and The Raped Wench hosted them at their worst — when they were boozed up and itching to show bitches who was boss. At least once a week someone was banging a woman on top of his dinner table, to the roaring applause of onlookers. Often it was rape that went unpunished. Sometimes it even involved a waitress. She could suck it up, or be in for tons of more misery. It was the den of scumbags Jane required, but she didn’t want just any scumbag; he had to look right. Toward the end of July she had found him. She looked down at him now. The resemblance to Mike Wheeler was vague, but it was there and it was enough. If Mike had been a weight-lifting athlete, thirty pounds heavier, and his face a lot meaner, then her target would have been a close approximation.

He was exactly what Jane Hopper needed at this point in her life.

Mike’s suicide four years ago had devastated her. If not for the miracle of his child, she might have followed him off the Ross Island Bridge. He had suffered everything on her account — heartache, death, an obscene resurrection, torture, slavery, blindness, and paranoid terror. Suicide was inevitable after that strip of hell. She was still coping, and hadn’t been with anyone since. Not out of misguided loyalty to Mike’s memory; she simply had no place in her heart for another man. Yet she needed something. Four years of abstinence had taken its toll. Her solution — found in The Raped Wench — was hardly the avenue prescribed by shrinks and grief specialists. Jane had no time for their pitiful counsels. She needed more than band-aids. Tonight she was taking back her life.

A shadow fell over her, and her father slid into the seat across.

“Dad. Hi.” She hoped her voice didn’t sound nervous. She had to focus on two things at once now, and be sure that her father learned nothing of why she was really here.

“Hi nothing,” he said sourly. “It took me forever to get to this shit hole. Maybe your friend is right. Places like this should be banned.”

Jane handed him a menu. “They have good food here, at least.”

“You’ve eaten here before?” he asked, taking the menu.

She cursed under her breath; she was horrible at concealing things. “Once,” she lied. It was more like a dozen times. Every Friday night since the middle of summer. August 1st. The day after Mike’s suicide anniversary. “It was a long time ago. Mike and I came here with one of his band members who lived in northeast Portland.”

“He didn’t live in Cully though, did he?” Her father hardly glanced at the menu before putting it down. He already knew what he wanted.

Jane looked down at the main floor. Things were getting rowdy. Her guy was devouring onion rings and regaling his friends with the usual tall tales. On her previous stalks she had sat close to his table and listened to him boast without surcease. He had kicked the shit out of this guy, smashed the face of that one; fucked this woman bloody, that girl until she cried. A flash of hotness went through Jane remembering the stories. His friends were laughing approvingly now, and high-fiving him across the table. Jesus, they were pathetic. And what does that make you? You’re more under his spell than they are.

“All right,” her father said. “How did you do?”

“What?” she asked.

He flagged their waitress, and looked at her. “Our gold shields. See anything helpful?”

“I don’t think so, but I’ll let you judge.”

The waitress came over, glaring at Hopper’s uniform. “What do you guys want?” she asked rudely.

Hopper stared at her. “More clothes on you, for one,” he said.

The waitress rounded on him, her face a battle-axe. “You’ll eat shit when I serve it to you, pig. Watch your mouth or I’ll get someone to tear off your clothes. And shove your badge up your hole while he’s at it.”

Hopper’s jaw was on the floor. Jane intervened before he could fire back. “He didn’t mean it. It’s his first time here. We’re ready to order.” She looked at her father: “Dad.” Be nice.

He swallowed his outrage. “Just give me a plain burger, medium rare, with fries and a salad. And a Heineken Dark.” He threw the menu down without looking at the waitress.

Jane was going all out. This was her night. “I’ll have a Rape Special. Extra wet.”

Her father made a face at her. Rape Special? his eyes asked.

“Good for you,” said the waitress, smiling sweetly at Jane, and then vindictively at Hopper. “What about your drink?” she asked Jane.

“I’m fine with my water.”

“Are you sure? We have the Bastard’s Cum Shake. Or for booze, I recommend the No-Means-Yes. It’s a Manhattan, with a secret ingredient added for extra fire.”

“I’m fine, thanks.”

The waitress swiped their menus, shot Hopper another nasty look, and walked off.

“What the hell is a Rape Special?” he asked. “Or do I want to know?”

“You’ll see when it comes.”

“All right, tell me about your visits.”

Since leaving Newberg on Wednesday morning, she had entered the Void to spy on each of their suspects. She had done it at different times of the day: Wednesday night at 8:30 PM, Thursday morning at 8:30 AM, Thursday afternoon at 3:00 PM, Thursday night at 11:00 PM, and Friday (today) at 12:30 PM. She told her father about the Wednesday night visits when he called that night, and they had agreed to discuss the rest toward the weekend.

Those first visits hadn’t shown much. Shane McCormick was working late at his office desk; Jane had seen that desk walking by his office Wednesday morning. Paul Holland was on the phone yelling at someone. From the conversation Jane thought it was his son at college, and that Holland was making the call from home. Gavin Ridge was reading in a Lazy-Boy chair, also presumably at home. She had gotten up close to him and could see the book’s title: Did Jesus Drink Alcohol at the Eucharist? Walter Plante was in bed watching an animated video on his VCR. She had recognized the new show, South Park. Her friends Lucas and Dustin were hooked on it. Jane thought it was too mean-spirited. Plante had recorded the episode about Sparky the gay dog. When she found him in the Void, he was stroking his balls and laughing as Cartman made crude jokes about Stan’s “little homo dog”, and as Stan tried to stop Sparky from wearing pink bandanas. Then Plante had started masturbating in the middle of the show. Jane had felt like an intruder.

Thursday morning was the SIU meeting of all the detectives (including Ed Barnes, whom they had ruled out). For this Void trip, Jane had thought of all four detectives at once, and they appeared in the same vision. McCormick led the meeting; Holland appeared impatient, and kept shifting in his chair; Ridge looked contemptuous, as if he doubted half the things McCormick was saying; Plante looked bored out of his skull.

“True to form,” said her father.

“I don’t like Ridge,” she said. “He was the one who gave me the creeps on Wednesday.”

“Really?” asked Hopper. “He’s your favorite for Black Rose?”

“I thought so, but now I’m not as sure. Does he always act superior to everyone?”

“No one really likes Gavin,” said Hopper. “He doesn’t suffer fools gladly. That’s what makes him a good cop.”

“Don’t serial killers have superiority complexes, or something like that?”

“Some of them do. Others have anti-social disorders. But there are plenty of psychopaths who seem as normal as you and I. The idea that serial killers are always loners, or reclusive misfits, is only true in the movies. In real life it’s a myth. A lot of psychos survive by hiding in plain sight. They’re socially adaptable. Don’t underestimate that.”

“Ridge also got a bug up his ass when I said I lived on my own in Portland.”

“Yeah, I noticed that,” said Hopper.

“Black Rose hates independent women, right?”

“Gavin’s a city hater. There are plenty of those in Newberg. It’s a conservative Christian town. I didn’t sense he was reacting to you being on your own. Just Portland. And Black Rose isn’t killing people in Portland. He’s killing them in Newberg. He has people issues, not city issues.”

“In that case, maybe Plante is my favorite suspect. Talk about people issues.” She was saying that mostly to shatter his complacency about Plante.

“I can’t believe it’s him,” he said. “What about Barnes, in the SIU meeting, even though we don’t care about him?”

“I didn’t see him, but he was there. McCormick spoke to him at one point. The Void only shows people I’m trying to connect to.”

“No matter. What about –”

Their food came. Hopper’s burger looked rare, not medium rare (the waitress had obviously sabotaged his order out of spite), and Jane’s Rape Special was large enough to feed two. The steak burger was cut and folded into a pocket bun shaped like a vagina. It had cheese melted to resemble semen, and onions and red peppers, and was every bit extra wet as she had requested: flooded with marination, salsas, and oils. A huge blood sausage was molded like an erect penis, and jammed into the hole of the pocket. The waitress ignored Hopper and asked Jane if she needed anything else. Jane said she was all set, and thanked her as she walked off.

“That’s the most offensive burger I’ve ever seen,” said her father. He picked up his own and bit into it. “What about yesterday afternoon?”

Jane looked down at the main floor before addressing the question or her food. Her guy was enjoying his own Rape Special. So was one of his friends. The other two were splitting a pizza.

“Something going on?” her father asked, following her gaze below.

“No,” she said, turning back to him. “Sorry.” She bit into her special. The seasonings made her mouth water; the steak was a bit greasy, but otherwise fantastic. She described the visits from yesterday afternoon. McCormick and Holland had been together in Holland’s office, working on the Black Rose case. They were examining photos of the victims, going over their itineraries, trying to find things they had missed. Ridge was in someone’s home asking questions. It had sounded like he was talking to a man who suspected credit card fraud at a gas station. Ridge treated the man professionally, but he was cold as usual. Plante was a bit interesting. He was also out in the field. The Void had showed her a building of George Fox University. Plante was standing in front of it and lecturing a student about drugs. He had promised to arrest her the next time he caught her with heroin.

“Her?” asked Hopper.

“I could tell it was a female student when he made a comment like, ‘How do you think your parents would feel about their daughter doing this?'”

“Well, that doesn’t mean anything. Walter’s the narcotics detective. It’s his job.”

His friendship with Plante was a problem. “But Lindsey Wyatt was a university student. Maybe it’s worth finding out if she had any drug issues. And any of the other victims. If Plante is the killer, maybe he hates drug users.”

“But only female drug users in their twenties?”

“Just saying.” She turned to last night at 11:00: McCormick had been asleep in bed; Holland on his home computer, looking at a street map of Newberg, with files piled in front of him; Ridge asleep in bed, his wife probably next to him; Plante also asleep, but with his bedroom TV still on.

“Holland never gets any sleep,” said her father.

“And finally today, at 12:30.” The detective’s lunch hours seemed pretty routine. McCormick was having lunch with what sounded like an important city official.

“The mayor,” said her father. “Shane told me they were getting together today. Was he talking about Black Rose?”

“Yes. It sounded like this guy — the mayor — was breathing down his neck. McCormick was saying his SIU team was doing all it could. He mentioned your help too.”

“That’s a relief. I always wondered if Shane put in good words for my office.”

As for Holland, he had been doing what he always did. Even during lunch, he was at his desk studying the Black Rose files, hardly pausing to feed his face. Ridge had been taking an honest break from work, at his desk reading a book on prohibition.

“Gavin’s hobby horse,” said her father. “He doesn’t drink and thinks booze should be illegal.”

“Seriously?” asked Jane.

“He hates me for smoking too.”

“So do I,” she snapped, biting her tongue too late. She and her father had fought terribly last year on the subject of his chain smoking. “Sorry.”

He waved it away. “Well, thanks anyway –”

“I haven’t told you about Plante.” He had been in his car driving somewhere. He ate lunch as he drove, and was drinking something out of a large cup through a straw.

“And that’s all,” she concluded. “I don’t think it tells you anything. I’m sorry.”

Her father was finishing his meal. “No sign of the white house with the flag and picket fence?”

“No, but I can’t be sure about that. The Void doesn’t show many surroundings when I spy on people. I don’t know for a fact where these guys were when I saw them. Sometimes it was obvious they were at work, and other times it seemed obvious they were home. But I really don’t know.”

Hopper nodded. “I guess I wasn’t expecting much. Serial killers live normal lives most of the time. And they obviously don’t talk about what they do with anyone.”

“I can keep trying over the weekend if you want.”

“Could you, please? The detectives have weekends off, so you might catch them in more private moments. Maybe the killer will show his true colors in some way.”

Jane didn’t hear him. Her guy down below was moving towards the hallway that led to the restrooms. Okay, she thought. Now. She stood up. “I’ll be right back. Restroom.”

“Do you mind if I try a bite of that?” he asked, reaching for her Rape Special.

“Hypocrite,” she said.

 

She watched and waited. The restroom was far down the corridor. If anyone got raped down there, rescue was a fantasy. It wasn’t long before her guy came out, and headed up the hallway. She started walking down toward him. His face was a thundercloud, as if he had eaten something foul and purged himself with an enema. As he was about to pass her, she plowed into him and pretended to stumble and almost fall. “Watch it, asshole!” she yelled.

He bounded up in fury, and was in her face at once, sweating violence. “Watch it yourself, you cunt! You want that face broken?” Good. He was cruel and easy to provoke. She took the next step, and slapped his face. For a moment he was too stunned to do anything. She slapped him again; harder this time. His cheek went red as a cooked lobster. He exploded into action and grabbed her arm, twisting it, and yanking her up close. He twisted her arm more. She hissed through her teeth. He was hurting her badly. She swore at him and told him to let her go. He twisted her arm again, and made a fist with his other hand, holding it in front of her nose. “You want to fight me, cunt? You want to fight? I’ll put this through your bitch-ass face!”

“Let go of me!” she screamed. She was glad the music was playing loud in the dining room. It would smother their noise.

He unmade his fist and belted her across the face as she had done to him — but with much more masculine force. Jane cried out and her eyes watered. She was getting wet somewhere else too. She wanted this guy to throw her on the floor and take her there and then. That couldn’t happen. It was far too public here; someone would come along any second. This phase of her plan had to end now. With her free hand, she reached for his sac, grabbed it through his jeans, and squeezed firmly. He gasped, inhaling gallons of air. She held him in her tiny fist for a good five seconds.

The fight fell out of him. He collapsed and moaned around ragged breaths. This bastard was in the worst pain to be endured by the male species. Jane leaned down and said softly in his ear: “Did that really hurt? It felt to me like you have no balls. No balls at all.” And she whacked his face a third time before walking off, leaving him on the floor holding himself. He was moaning and promising murder: dead, you cunt, you’re dead, you cunt. When his jewels recovered, he would come after her. She congratulated herself. The board was set.

She retraced her steps quickly, returning down the corridor into the dining room. Motley Crew was blistering “Home Sweet Home”, and Jane saw a couple locked in intercourse on the top of their table, grinding to the song. She was glad the angle of that particular table was obscured from hers on the top level. If her father could see it by looking down, he’d throw a conniption. Then a roar came from the restroom corridor:

“I’m gonna KILL YOU, bitch!”

The shout carried all the way from the bathroom area, The music and dinner racket barely muffled it, and customers looked up from their meals. Jane didn’t look back. The guy still had to be where she left him, but she had no doubt he had every intention of seeking her out once he could stand again. Did that really hurt? It felt to me like you have no balls. It had actually felt like the opposite: he was well endowed. She felt another rush of wetness as she imagined herself pinned beneath him, while he put that sac to violent use.

She crossed the main floor and climbed the stairs to the upper room, rejoining her father. He was nursing a second beer.

“Okay,” she said, sliding back into her seat. She grabbed her green sweater and put it on. It would help disguise her at a distance, if her guy looked up from below.

“That burger is actually good,” he said. “So listen. This weekend, increase the frequency of your spying. Say three times each day.”

“I’ll keep doing this, Dad. But remember, it costs me. I can’t do it all the time, or I’ll be as comatose as Lindsey Wyatt. I’ll stick to twice a day.”

“Oh shit,” said her father.

“What?”

“I didn’t tell you. She died yesterday.”

“Who?”

“Lindsey Wyatt. In the hospital.”

“Naturally, I hope,” said Jane.

“It wasn’t Black Rose finishing his work. Her body just gave up. The doctors were expecting it. She was practically a corpse anyway. It was good that you got to her when you did.”

Jane saw a movement down below: her guy was back. He had returned to his table but wasn’t sitting down. His friends stared up at him, and he was talking fast and gesticulating wildly. Their eyes got wider and they suddenly looked around the dining room, and then back to him, shaking their heads. He turned from them and swept a menacing glare over the room, examining every booth and table. Jane’s heart began racing.

“Anyway, check in on them this weekend, as often as you can without making yourself miserable.”

“Yeah,” she said, hardly hearing him. The asshole she had baited was now in the center of the room, and he looked up at the second level. She was virtually invisible to him; she could see him through the large plant standing next to it, but not vice-versa. If he came up the stairs, he’d spot her right away.

Her father finished his second Heineken dark, and put the glass down, swearing.

She looked at him, startled. “What’s wrong?”

“I haven’t even mentioned my favorite suspect for Black Rose,” he said.

“Who?” she asked.

“McCormick,” he said.

She looked down again. Her guy wasn’t on the floor anymore. She looked over at his table. Not there either; his friends were looking across the room in her direction, at the staircase. Shit. He was coming up. Why the hell had she agreed to meet her father here?

“Don’t you want to know why?” he asked.

“Yeah. Why?” She was hardly hearing him. Her guy would appear any moment. And then he did. Over her father’s head. He was at the stair top. He looked the other way, into the open table area on the top level, and then in her direction at the row of booths. He proceeded down the aisle for a closer look at the booth’s customers.

Jane leaned over, pretending to fix something in her shoe. She heard the guy coming down the aisle. He was looking for a girl in a brown t-shirt, not a green sweater; she prayed that if he saw only her back, he would pass over her without thinking. Her father’s sheriff uniform should also help dissuade him from examining this booth too closely.

“Hey, are you okay?” Her father.

“Uh, yeah,” she said. “Just a pebble in my shoe. It hurts.”

Her father waited, and her heart lurched as a pair of feet thundered by. Please. Don’t let him look at me closely. Seconds later, the same feet went by again. He was returning to the stairs.

She exhaled and sat up, looking below. When he reached the bottom of the stairs, he walked across the main floor back to his friends. He was frustrated and enraged.

“Are you still here?” her father asked.

No, I’m not. You’re messing up my evening. “Sorry. What were you saying?”

“Something I hate saying. That McCormick is at the top of my list.”

“Do you feel that way because he flirted with me?”

“Of course not,” he said. “Though it was pretty weird, the way he held your hand that long. He practically raped you with his eyes.”

McCormick had actually turned her on. Few men could do that to Jane Hopper. The guy downstairs being a monumental exception. “He didn’t rape me with his eyes. This restaurant is getting to you. Give me a good reason why McCormick is your favorite suspect.”

“Oh, I don’t know. He’s heterosexual, and he’s had every woman swooning over him for years. But he stays single.”

“You just told me that serial killers aren’t necessarily loners or reclusive.”

“I know,” he admitted. “They’re not. Necessarily.”

“We haven’t even discussed Holland,” said Jane.

Her father made an obscene noise. “Nor do we need to.”

“Why?” she asked.

“Because if he’s Black Rose, the whole town is screwed. He’s the homicide detective. Black Rose will never get caught.”

“Maybe that’s why he hasn’t been caught. After four murders. Maybe it is Holland.”

“It can’t be Paul,” he muttered. “Christ, it can’t be any of them.”

Her head snapped to the main floor. The guy and his friends were getting ready to leave. They stood from their table, and one guy reached into his pocket, leaving a tip.

“Dad,” she said abruptly. “I have to go now.”

“What? What do you mean?”

“I’m sorry.” She slid out of her seat. “I just remembered I told Nicky I’d drive back as soon as I finished the interview. I completely forgot. She’ll be wondering where I am now and really pissed.”

“Jesus, kid, what about your old man?”

She leaned over and kissed him. “I’m really sorry — I’m so stupid. I’ll make it up to you, I promise. There’s some of my burger left. You can have it, or take it home.”

“You didn’t eat your blood sausage,” he said.

“You can have it.”

“I’d eat it, but I don’t want to be called a cock-sucker in this joint.”

“Bye, Dad. I’ll call you on Sunday.” She felt awful leaving him like this, but she was hell-bent on the course she had set in motion.

She hurried to the stairs and reached the bottom, just as her guy went out the exit with his friends. She followed them out. He was hers. Or, more accurately, she was his.

 

Next Chapter: The Green Room

(Previous Chapter: Dirty Gold)

The Black Rose of Newberg (Chapter 2)

This eight-chapter novella is the second of two stories set in between the periods of Stranger Things: The College Years and Stranger Things: The New Generation. I advise reading those stories, as well as the third in that trilogy, Stranger Things: World’s End, before reading The Witch of Yamhill County and then this one, which are supplementary and do not involve the Upside Down. Like the Upside Down trilogy, they are works of fan fiction based on the Stranger Things TV series. I do not profit from these stories and they are not canon. There is plenty of Stranger Things fiction to be found online (see here), but if I learn that the Duffer Brothers do not appreciate fan fiction of their work, or if they order a cease-and-desist, I will gladly pull the stories down.

                                  The Black Rose of Newberg — Chapter Two

                                   Dirty Gold

“Let’s get out of here,” said Hopper. Jane nodded, wiping her nose. She looked battered, as if she had absorbed Lyndsey Wyatt’s assault.

They left the room, and Hopper nodded to the outside guard. As they headed down the hall, Hopper considered what he was up against. Twenty-nine officers comprised the Newberg police force. Five of them had gold shields. His daughter had just narrowed the pool of Black Rose suspects from virtually every man in the city to a meager handful, and yet Hopper’s task had become next to impossible. The faces clicked through his mind like projector slides. He felt sick. None of these could be the face of Black Rose. Yet one of them was.

The top dog was Shane McCormick, chief of police. He had an immaculate record, and all the experience, charisma, and sense of justice that made citizens adore him. McCormick supervised the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) which consisted of himself plus the four detectives. Their reputations were just as impeccable. Paul Holland was the persons crime detective, in charge of homicides, rapes, and assaults. Naturally he was lead on the Black Rose case. Gavin Ridge handled property crimes: robbery, arson, vandalism, extortion, fraud. Walter Plante chased narcotics: drug users, drug sellers, illegal firearms, gangs. Ed Barnes covered youth crimes: child abuse, child exploitation, and runaways.

Hopper knew them all. They were good men and first-rate detectives. Most had been on the Newberg police force since Hopper took over as county sheriff in 1987. Ten years now. Gavin Ridge was the newest, having transferred from Iowa four years ago, and Walter Plante had come from Southern California seven years ago. Hopper liked Walter especially and had invited him over for dinner twice. He couldn’t fathom any of these officers as a serial killer. Paul Holland could be a supreme asshole, but that was no crime.

They reached the elevator, and Jane stopped him. Hopper noticed she wasn’t walking straight. “What is it?” he demanded. “Do you need to sit down?”

She nodded. Her nose was running again.

He grabbed her arm and pointed to the second-floor lounge. “Over there,” he said, walking her slowly. The vision must have hit hard. He had seen Jane take avalanches of abuse and still go on fighting. But this had been an internal battle. After fourteen years, he still didn’t know how to gauge the cost of her psychic powers.

They sat in the lounge. It was half full of people reading, snacking, and talking in hushed tones. Hopper asked her if she wanted some water, and she shook her head. “I just need a few minutes.”

He needed hours. His mind refused to process the mess Jane had dumped on him. There was one suspect he could exclude: Ed Barnes, the youth crimes detective, had recently been on vacation with his wife in Fort Lauderdale; during the third week of September. There was no way Barnes could have killed the librarian Fiona Ray, and so he wasn’t Black Rose. Hopper would call the airlines and Florida hotels to verify Barnes’ itinerary, but he knew the alibi was solid. That still left four gold shields which he, Jim Hopper, had to personally investigate behind everyone’s back.

He was about to engage in career suicide.

If the sheriff’s office suspected a dirty cop in the Newberg police, then protocol dictated that Hopper should bring the matter to Shane McCormick. But for all Hopper knew, McCormick was Black Rose. He found that impossible to believe, but he felt the same way about Holland, Ridge, and Plante. That meant there was an even 25% chance that any of these four men was the killer. With odds that high, Hopper couldn’t risk confiding in McCormick. He would keep going rogue. And he would keep using his secret weapon: Jane.

Assuming she was up to this. She was still reeling from the vision.

“This bombshell could be the end of me,” he said, more to himself than her. “Unless I just ignore it.”

“You can’t ignore it,” said Jane.

“Psychic visions don’t mean anything in the police world. If I act on this, I’m going to need more of your help to nail the bad cop.”

Jane didn’t hesitate. “Of course.”

“You’re sure?”

“I want this person dead or behind bars. I felt a big part of what Lindsey Wyatt felt. She was in terror and being cut apart, and she should have died from it. I hope she does die. I wouldn’t want to live after an attack like that.”

Hopper nodded. “Okay. There are five cops with gold badges in Newberg. Any one of four of them could be the Black Rose killer.” He ran down the roster and explained why they could exclude Ed Barnes. “We’re going to need to spy on these guys. And by that I mean you’re going to have to spy on them. In the Void. It’s the only way I can think of catching them. You do your thing, and see what each of them do at random times during the day. See if they ever make trips to this white house with the flag and picket fence.”

“I don’t know what they look like,” said Jane. “I need to meet them. Or have photos of them.”

“I know. I’d like you to meet them up close and shake their hands. We can go over to the police department right now.” Hopefully the detectives were all there. It was early enough to catch them before they left their offices for field work.

“What, you’re going to introduce me to them?”

“Are you okay with that?” he asked.

“I’m not scared of Black Rose, if that’s what you mean, ” she said.

“You should be. He may not be a shadow monster or Baba Yaga, but you’re not invincible. If a dirty cop thinks you’re on to him, all it takes is a sniping bullet to kill you before you can react. Even a knife in the back, if he surprises you from behind.”

“I know this, Dad.”

“I don’t like using you like this, but I’ve got no other way.”

“Have you been hearing me? I can do this.”

“We’ll say that you’re job shadowing me.”

“Job shadowing?”

“It means following someone and watching him do his job. People job shadow when they want to learn more about a career. Just say that you’re interested in police work, and you’re shadowing me for a day.”

She snorted. “No one will take me seriously.”

“You’d be surprised. Newberg had its first woman cop three years ago. Now there are two. In big cities like Portland it’s not as big a deal.”

“I don’t mean that,” she said. “I just mean me. I’m way too small to be a cop.”

“Anyway. There’s another reason I want you to see the detectives up close. I want them to see you. All the victims were attractive women in their twenties.” He looked at her pointedly. “You’re an attractive woman in your twenties.”

“I don’t think I fit the profile. I’m not popular or successful. People don’t know me in Portland.”

“It doesn’t matter. That detail isn’t irrelevant on first sight. When Black Rose sees you, you’ll remind him of his victims. You may trigger a subtle reaction. Maybe not — detectives have good poker faces — but we’ll watch them closely.”

She stood and wiped more blood from her nose. “What are we waiting for?”

 

As he drove her to City Hall, he described the four suspects. Shane McCormick was 38 and lived alone. He had never married, which still surprised Hopper. The guy was a drop-dead knock out, and he wasn’t gay. Paul Holland was 45 and married. He had two sons who were both in college. Gavin Ridge was 42 and married, no kids. Walter Plante was 41 and divorced. He had a high-school daughter he saw every other weekend. His ex had run roughshod over him, and he had gone through a bad period. That was when Hopper had a few lunches with him, and invited him over for dinner twice.

“If you had to guess, who would be your prime suspect?” she asked.

“Are you kidding? I can’t imagine any one of them as Black Rose,” he said. “I’m going to rely heavily on your psychic sixth sense.”

“Have you heard from Sara recently?” she asked.

Where did that come from? “I got a letter from her at the end of August. She’s in middle school now, seventh grade. Why?”

“It’s too bad it never worked out between you two. She’s got ESP. If you brought her to the station, she could read the detective’s minds without them even knowing it.”

It was precisely because of Sara Schwartz’s ESP ability that Hopper had reneged on adopting her. After the horror of Baba Yaga’s Hut, he had done his best with her for almost two months. She was in second grade, and he had sent her to the best school in Newberg, the C.S. Lewis Academy. It had been a nightmare out of the gate. Sara could read everyone’s mind, and she wasn’t good at discretion, despite Hopper’s coaching. She was young and without filters. She had scared her classmates and teachers, and Hopper had pulled her from the academy before the end of September. She cried every night; she wanted friends, but was trying too hard to make them. She used her ESP to learn what kids wanted and what made them happy. All she made them was terrified. Some even thought she was demonic. A Christian academy was not the place for Sara Schwartz.

The situation solved itself (for Hopper at least) when Sara’s aunt and uncle from Idaho offered to adopt her. Hopper had graciously let her go, though the parting was brutal. The short time he had spent raising Sara had put him through the ringer. He loved her, but she wasn’t the girl he had found in Baba Yaga’s Hut. She had eaten a magic apple that saved her from insanity, but at the cost of her seven-year old innocence. She was filled with every thought and desire of whomever she came close to, including Hopper, no matter how unpleasant or vulgar. She knew people — and they knew that she knew.

When he read her August letter, he had broken down. It had brought back everything from that terrible night. The kids Baba Yaga had eaten; the older kids he had become friends with, and had failed to protect. Sara, whom he had rescued, but couldn’t keep. Jane, who had saved them both…

“Dad!” yelled Jane. She had been talking and he hadn’t heard a word.

He suspended his self-pity and all thoughts of Sara Schwartz. She was gone, like his other Sara. “I don’t need Sara,” he said. “I need you.”

“You’ll have to add me to the county payroll.”

“Kid, I’ll be lucky if I’m still on the county payroll when this is said and done.”

“What about the fifth detective?” she asked.

“Barnes? He’s 36 and married, with a son in high school, a daughter in grade school. But we don’t care about him. He can’t be Black Rose.”

“I know. So why don’t we ask him to work with us? We could use some inside help, right?”

“No way. I thought of that. Barnes is the youngest detective and too insecure. He would never keep quiet. He’d consider it his holy duty to inform McCormick about anything we tell him. We’ve got to do this dirty work on our own.”

They rode in silence for a few minutes. City Hall drew closer on their left, and Hopper pulled off the highway. Then Jane thought of something. “Can you find out where the detectives were during the murders? Don’t the police work different shifts?”

“The patrol officers do,” said Hopper. “They work one of three shifts: 6:00 AM – 2:00 PM, 2:00 PM – 10:00 PM, and 10:00 PM – 6:00 AM, and on alternating weekends. But detectives have the nice hours: eight to five on weekdays, with evenings and weekends off. The killings happened at night, between eight and nine. None of the detectives would have been on duty, so that doesn’t help us.”

“How come you don’t have those nice hours? You’re a sheriff.”

Because I supervise a bunch of lazy jackasses. He actually did have most evenings off, but he put in a shit-ton of Saturdays. “I’m not saying the detectives never work evenings and weekends. The trade-off for their nice hours is that they’re always on emergency call. Even at two in the morning, they could get called in. They also put in longer days if the the case loads demand it.” Paul Holland worked late hours almost every night on the Black Rose case. If Holland was the killer, then he must have been laughing his ass off at being tasked with finding himself. He would be sabotaging the investigation any way he could.

“Well,” said Jane, “I guess you should find out if any of them were working long evenings or got called in on the dates in question.”

“I can’t without tipping off McCormick.” Hopper had no access to employee time cards or work schedules of the Newberg police. He could check the dispatch logs, of course, but those listed mostly patrol officers, who made arrests as the first respondents on a scene. Hopper cursed his restricted role in Newberg.

“Then we need to clear McCormick from our suspect list,” said Jane.

“We’re making all four of them our equal priority,” said Hopper. “We’re going to eliminate suspects through you, not through schedules or logs that probably wouldn’t tell us anything.” He pulled into a parking space and killed the ignition.

She saw where they were. “Newberg still doesn’t have a police station?” The third floor of City Hall had been Newberg’s police department since the Depression.

Hopper smiled. “We’re not in Portland anymore, Dorothy.”

“Dorothy?” she asked.

“It might change next year. Rumors.” He looked at Jane closely. She seemed mostly recovered. “You ready?”

“Yeah,” she exhaled. “Ready.”

“Let’s do it.” They got out of the car, and headed to the side entrance of City Hall. Hopper glanced up at the third floor, his jaw set. We’re coming for you, bastard. My daughter is going to nail you and pin a black rose on you at your arraignment.

 

“Hopp!” Shane McCormick was alone in the conference room, and he put his papers down as Hopper and Jane walked in. As always, the police chief radiated strength and an electric charisma. Women wanted him, and men idolized him. He had gifted genes, a shrewd mind, and could multitask in his sleep.

“Hi Shane,” said Hopper. Already he was hating this. “What’s new?”

“Nothing good these days,” said McCormick. He had just finished with his team. He met with the detectives every morning and covered progress on their cases, while assigning new ones. The four detectives would be back in their offices now, but maybe not for long. They had plenty of field work.

McCormick saw Jane and looked back at Hopper. “What brings you by?”

“This is my daughter, Jane. She’s job shadowing me today. I wanted to show her my home town’s finest before heading off to the sheriff’s office. Jane, this is Police Chief Shane McCormick.”

“Hi,” said Jane, holding out her hand.

“Hi yourself,” said McCormick, shaking her hand, and holding it. “I’ve heard about you, but your father never told me you were eye candy.”

Hopper was surprised to see Jane blush. He had never seen his daughter show feelings like that for anyone besides Mike Wheeler, and that hadn’t changed after Mike’s death. Hopper had certainly never seen her blush from any man’s compliments — not even if they came from a knock-out like McCormick. Was she faking it? Was it some ploy? Could she flush her skin tone at will?

Jane looked bashful. “I need my hand back,” she said to the chief.

“Yes, you do,” McCormick said. He released her. “You’re interested in law enforcement?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “If the police chief keeps everyone in tight quarters like you do, maybe not. Why doesn’t Newberg have a police station?”

He laughed. “Don’t look at me! The damn mayor has been the problem. But not any more. We’re moving next year. Out of City Hall, into the new public safety building down on Third Street.”

“So that’s really happening?” asked Hopper. He could hardly believe it. This floor of City Hall had been the town’s police department since 1927.

“Another budget committee has to approve it, but it’s only a formality. No one doubts it will pass.”

“Congratulations,” said Hopper.

“Newberg keeps growing,” said McCormick. “Our police force is growing. Jane is right, we need a real station.”

“Especially to catch someone like Black Rose,” said Jane.

“Black Who?” asked McCormick.

“Black Rose,” said Jane.

“I don’t know anyone by that name.”

“Really?” asked Jane. “He’s all I’ve heard about today, and it’s my first day in town.”

“Exactly. That’s why I’ve never heard of him. Except during the ten hours a day I have to hear about him. Makes me sick.” He looked at his watch. “Shit.”

“No leads on the case then?” asked Hopper.

“Not really,” said McCormick. “Detective Holland has followed all leads into a massive sewer that drains back to square one.”

“We’re going to see him next,” said Hopper. “Thanks Shane.”

“Take it easy, Hopp. And Jane: stop by any time.”

Jane smiled. “I will.”

 

Past the conference room was McCormick’s office, and next door to his was Paul Holland’s. City Hall might be the close quarters Jane complained about, but at least the detectives had their own offices. There were city detectives everywhere in the country who didn’t have that luxury. Hopper and Jane looked inside to see a thin man with a loud voice firing orders at a pair of beat cops. The officers stood before him taking their medicine. Hopper pitied them. Working under Holland was a daily trial. The detective dismissed the officers, and promised them desolation if they came up short. They left his office, rushing past Hopper and Jane without glancing at them.

Hopper knocked on his door. “Hey Paul. Do you have a minute?”

Holland’s head shot up at the intrusion. “Jim?” He stood up and came around the desk. The detective had a weathered face, unkept hair, and an unpressed suit. He might have slept in his clothes, if he slept at all. The bags under his eyes suggested otherwise. He looked at Jane and then back at Hopper. “What are you doing here?”

“This is my daughter, Jane,” said Hopper. “She’s job shadowing me today. Jane, this is –”

Holland cut him off. “Job shadowing? How quaint. How foolish. How bored this young lady must already be.”

Jane offered her hand. “Nice to meet you,” she said. Holland eyed the hand as if fearing germs, then reluctantly shook. Hopper was impressed at the way she took Holland in stride. “I’ve been curious about my dad’s career, and I wanted to see what the inside of law enforcement is.”

“Dismal work for dirt pay is what it is,” said Holland. “And a waste of your time.”

Hopper sighed. This man had a wife. How did Barbara Holland get through her days? “How’s the Black Rose case going?”

“It’s not,” said Holland bluntly.

“No suspects?”

“Everyone is Black Rose, Jim. Don’t you keep up? I have to go.”

“Well, good luck,” said Hopper.

“It’s all there is,” said Holland, moving past him and Jane.

“Nice to meet you,” said Jane, stepping aside for him.

Holland grumbled a good-bye and walked fast down the hallway. He opened the door to the stairs and left the police office.

“Nice,” said Jane.

“That’s a good day for him,” said Hopper. “He’s usually worse.”

 

Across from Holland’s office was Detective Barnes. He was talking on the phone, and they didn’t need to meet him, so they went further down the hall to an office next to Holland’s. They looked inside. A serious looking man sat at his desk, leafing through files. He had short hair, wore round thin-rimmed glasses, and was dressed in a grey suit with a purple dress shirt and tie. Purple was Gavin Ridge’s color.

“Hey Gavin,” said Hopper, knocking on the door frame.

The detective looked up and put his file down. “Jim,” he said sternly. “What brings you to your own town?” He always said this when he saw Hopper. Newberg was Hopper’s town because he lived here. But it wasn’t a town he had full jurisdiction over, nor even where the sheriff’s office was located, which was McMinnville. Ridge never got tired of his own joke. He never laughed at his joke either, or anyone’s jokes for that matter.

“Showing my daughter around. This is Jane. She’s job shadowing me today. Jane, this is Detective Ridge.”

Ridge didn’t rise from his seat. His eyes appraised Jane through professorial glasses that sparkled.

“It’s nice to meet you,” said Jane. She moved closer to shake Ridge’s hand.

Ridge leaned forward in his chair, taking her hand. “Pleasure,” he said. “What do you do, Jane?”

“I don’t work,” said Jane. “I have a three-year old son, so most of my time is spent home with him.”

The detective smiled for the first time. “I’m sure you do more work than I. Full time mothers are underappreciated.”

“I’ve always been curious about dad’s police work,” said Jane. “The Black Rose case must have you all on edge. I thought mass murders happened in big cities. Like Miami and New York. Or Portland, where I live.” Hopper kept his face straight but smiled inside. Jane was good at this.

Ridge frowned at the mention of Portland. “You don’t live in Newberg?”

“I did for a few years, with dad. Then I moved to Portland.” That actually happened twice; Jane was condensing for simplification. When Hopper had transferred to Oregon in 1987, he and Jane moved into his house on Hawthorne. She had stayed there until 1990, when Mike Wheeler returned from the dead in Hawkins. Mike moved to Portland with Jane, and Hopper had set them up in in a downtown apartment. After Mike’s suicide in 1993, Jane had moved back to Newberg, to live with her father again. Then, in the spring of 1996, she returned to Portland to be on her own with Mike Junior, who was then in his terrible twos. Hopper had bought a modest home for them in the southeast district.

“Metropolises aren’t good for kids,” said Ridge, shooting Hopper a disapproving look. Gavin was as old-fashioned as he was humorless.

“I don’t know, Gavin,” said Hopper. “I wouldn’t want my child growing up in a town where Black Rose ran loose.”

“Perhaps I’m misinformed, Jim. Is Black Rose now killing children?”

“No,” said Jane. “Just women my age. I guess it is a good thing I moved back to the city.”

“Well,” said Ridge, standing up finally. “I hope you enjoy your visit.” He looked at Hopper. “Is there anything else? I have an angry couple I need to go see. Someone threw rocks through their windows.”

“We’ll move on. Thanks, Gavin.”

 

They left Ridge’s office and went across the hall to Walter Plante’s. He wasn’t in.

“Maybe he left,” said Jane.

“Maybe,” said Hopper, entering the office. “Come on in, and take a good look at his photo.” A desk portrait showed a man with dark hair and a goatee, with his arms around a girl who was perhaps fifteen. Walter and his daughter Shawna.

“His daughter?” asked Jane.

“Yeah. She’s all Walter has had to live for since the divorce. But they’ve been fighting a lot for the past few months. She only sees him every other weekend, but she thinks that’s too often. And she always takes her mother’s side against Walter.”

Jane looked at him. “Is Plante angry at women?”

“He and Rebecca were in their thirties when they divorced, not their twenties. And it was a while ago; almost four years.”

“People don’t snap and go crazy overnight. And you said he’s been fighting with his daughter only recently.”

“There’s no way Black Rose is Walter,” said Hopper. “Can’t be.”

“So you say,” she said. “I want a photo to take –”

A voice boomed behind them: “Hey! You taking me over?”

He and Jane turned around. Plante was in the doorway, feigning outrage. Hopper smiled. “How are you, Walter?”

Plante came in and gave him a hug. “Always super to see you, man. This office drives me crazy.” He looked at Jane. “Holy cow. Is this the famous daughter?”

“That’s her,” said Hopper. “She’s job shadowing me today. Jane, this is Detective Plante.”

“Why am I famous?” asked Jane, shaking his hand.

“Oh, the stories he tells,” said Plante. “Your rough childhood in Indiana. Until adopted by this slob. Made him happy again. I’ve been dying to meet you.”

Hopper was glad to see Jane smiling. Walter was easy to like. If he’s Black Rose, then I give up on the world. “How’s your own famous daughter doing?” he asked the detective.

Plante became sour. “Shawna’s not famous. She’s got a lot to learn in life.” He changed the subject. “Hey listen, I got a lot of work to catch up on, but what are you guys doing for lunch? Maybe we can get together at Subterra, or Abby’s if you want a pizza.”

“No, sorry,” said Hopper. “I have get back to the sheriff’s office. Show Jane where I really work.” In truth Jane was returning to Portland after they were done here.

“Oh. Too bad.” The detective looked at Jane. “Have you seen McMinnville before?”

“Just briefly a few times,” she said. “Dad and I have been living in Oregon for ten years, and I know so little about where he spends most of his day.”

“Well, if you like beer, the county seat is the place to go.” Plante loved beer, as did Hopper. McMinnville was known for its craft breweries, especially the Golden Valley Brewery and Pub, founded four years ago. Not only was the beer to die for, the pub owners raised Angus beef on their family ranch. In all of America, only a dozen restaurants served beef produced exclusively for their own restaurant; the Golden Valley Brewery was one of them.

“Beer isn’t my favorite,” said Jane.

“Oh well,” said Plante.

“We’ll let you get back to work,” said Hopper. “But let’s you and I do that lunch sometime. Maybe next week?” Assuming you’re not in jail by then for being a raging psychopath.

“You bet, Hopp.”

“Maybe Black Rose will be caught by then,” said Hopper, watching him carefully.

Plante frowned. “You know something I don’t?”

“Just hoping.”

“That fucker will never get caught,” said Plante. “Holland and McCormick are chasing their tails.”

“You think he’ll get away with it?” asked Jane.

“It’s been a month now,” said Plante. “In a town like Newberg, of all places. The guy knows what he’s doing and where to hide.”

In plain sight? Under a shield of gold? “Thanks Walter. I’ll be in touch.” He left the office, and Jane started to follow.

“Lovely to meet you, Jane,” said Plante.

“Same,” she said, smiling.

 

“You have a favorite?” he asked as they got in the car.

Jane didn’t answer right away. She buckled in and sat back. “Yes,” she said.

“Really?” His key was in the ignition, but he waited.

She nodded, staring out the windshield.

“Don’t keep me in suspense,” he said, impatient. “Who?”

“Not saying,” she said.

“Oh, come on!” said Hopper.

“Dad, it’s too early, and it might just be a first impressions thing.” Hopper wasn’t impressed by this deflection. His daughter’s first impressions of people were often pretty accurate. She had a gifted sixth sense, enhanced by her psychic abilities.

“Listen, we’re a team here, and I’m the cop. You need to communicate with me.”

“Yeah,” she said.

“Yeah!” he mimicked. “And what was that shit, by the way, with McCormick? I thought you were having an orgasm on the spot.”

“Maybe I was.”

“Bullshit. And I’m not kidding with you. You need to talk to me.”

“Of course,” she said. “But I’m not kidding either. It’s too early to talk about my suspicions. I just met them and shook their hands. I get bad feelings about people for lots of reasons, not just because they’re killers. Let’s do it this way: later today — or tonight — I’ll visit them in the Void. Black Rose isn’t supposed to kill for another — what?”

“Eleven days,” said Hopper. “The 19th. But that’s assuming we can depend on him sticking to a pattern. It’s probably a stupid assumption.”

“Okay. I’ll visit them this evening — see what they do and how they act when they’re not on police duty. And I’ll keep doing that for the next couple days. In the morning too; more than once a day, at different times. When I have something concrete, come up to Portland and we can talk.”

“I’m calling you tonight for your first report,” he said. His tone was final.

“Fine. Call after nine. I’ll visit them each at eight-thirty.”

“Good,” he said. Black Rose always killed between eight and nine. If by some wild chance he stepped up his timetable, Jane would catch him red-handed.

“Now drive, and let me sleep,” she said. She pushed back her seat for a nap.

“Yeah, you earned it kid.” He had to get to the sheriff’s office in McMinnville, where he was long overdue. First he would drive Jane back to his place, where she could rest before returning to Portland. She was still a bit pale. Lindsey Wyatt’s vision had drained her.

 

Next Chapter: The Raped Wench

(Previous Chapter: The Torn Patient)