In HIDDEN SPRINGS, the story which precedes THE MESMERIZER, Tyler and Hector, two environmentally-conscious college students, have returned to the creepy hick town of Arbora hoping to find their missing friend. Instead they meet Jimmy Furze, the Weatherman, who controls not only the local TV station, but the actual weather, as well.
The afternoon was growing dim. Dark clouds gathered. Down the street, Jimmy Furze and hangers-on piled out of the station. Trooper Tony was pulling away. Everybody down the street was looking at Tyler and Hector.
“Take a right,” Tyler said. “There’s a station up there.”
Hector made the turn and cruised down. As the Subaru’s tires dinged the bell they heard through the open windows a phone ringing somewhere in the service station.
No attendant came out. The digital display on the pumps went dead.
“Have we got enough gas to get out?” Tyler said.
“No. I don’t think so.”
It started to rain. Down the street, everyone was still looking at them. Jimmy stepped out. “Boys,” Jimmy Furze called out, “if you come back to see that tree-spikin’ buddy of yours, you come back to the right place.”
Tyler and Hector looked at each other.
Jimmy said something to one of his goons.
With shrugged shoulders and hands quizzically upraised, Tyler got out of the car and stepped forward calling out, “All we want to do is buy some gas and go. Peace, man. That’s all we want.”
A door slammed somewhere. Hooting and hollering sounds grew.
From behind a corner the mob emerged, hick underlings in advance, peering back at something approaching, almost hysterical with glee. When it appeared, it was more or less surrounded by gleeful goobers keeping at a wary distance.
What appeared was nine feet tall, no one knew how heavy. He had incredibly broad, square shoulders and almost no neck at all. His arms were quite long, even for his size. He had a huge square jaw and huge square teeth, almost shovel-like. His eyes were large and football-shaped. Narrow in the hips, but muscular in the extreme, his heavy, square brow quickly receded to a sloping, conical-shaped head. The dirty skin was pinkish and entirely devoid of hair.
“This here’s Junyer,” Jimmy said. “Junyer’s what you might call an interesting case. Some years back his mother, well, she met herself a Bigfoot. Right in these woods, actually. Never was the same after. Us locals, we see a lot of things out here you city-folk can’t understand. Like Junyer here. He beats up on Bigfeet. Cornered a younger one once in a gully and beat that one something awful. That one didn’t want no part, no sir. They never do. But we showed old Junyer here some of that bareknuckle martial arts they got on satellite. All I can say is, it’s too bad you won’t be around to place any bets on Junyer his first night out.” He turned to Junyer, speaking slowly. “Junyer, you want to show these boys what you did to their friend who hammered them stakes in my trees?”
Everybody stepped back and kept stepping back. Junyer looked increasingly upset. He tore off his thinly-stretched shirt. His body and his limbs quivered in the light rain, then began to violently shake. Spittle flew from the corners of Junyer’s mouth. His eyes took on a wild glow. He began beating his wet chest with both fists. Thunderously he began to scream.
Junyer riveted his vision on Tyler and Hector. Then he started heading their way. And he was coming down fast.
Hector yelled to Tyler, “Get in! Get in!”
Tyler hustled around the back of the car even as it was already moving yelling, “Wait! Wait!”
“Get in!” Junyer was almost on them.
“Go! Go!” Tyler slammed the door and Hector punched it just as Junyer, making a sudden left lateral lunge to catch them, slipped on the oily wet concrete and collided head-on with a lamp post.
Hector fish-tailed, skittering nightmarishly toward Jimmy and his clan down the street for moments that seemed an eternity as he crossed the empty street to take the right turn back out of town, then barreled off with a squeal of tires echoing in the advancing rain.
Lights came on as rigs were fired up. In the blare of high gears came thunderous roars.
Tyler turned around to look back. “Holy shit! They’re all after us!”
“They’re trying to kill us!”
“What do we do?”
“What do you mean what do we do?”
“Shut up! I mean we’ve got to think of some way to defend ourselves!”
“No fucking shit! Except there’s a dozen of those stupid ass—”
Something loud hit the rig.
“Holy shit! They’re shooting!”
“Swerve! You’re going right down a straight line!”
From a distance through the drumming rain came a sound like a firecracker going off. Then a series of pops, closer. Hector swerved around a bend and lost the lights behind him.
“Look for a pullout,” Tyler said. “They’ll go right past us.”
“What if they see us?”
“We haven’t got an hour’s worth of gas. We’ll never make it to town!”
“I have to get farther ahead before I stop or they’ll see us!”
Lights from an oncoming car blinked in the trees ahead.
“We should flag whoever this is down,” Tyler said. “We need lots of people, lots of witnesses. Maybe they’ve got a gun.”
“They’re hauling ass.”
A truck came over the rise, hit the brakes on sight of the Subaru, and burned around in a loud U.
“Shit! It’s one of them!” Hector bore down on the switchbacks through the redwoods, squealing on the turns.
“It’s that Jimmy Furze fucker! He must have called up somebody on ahead who lives down some side road or something.”
“We’re on empty!”
“There’s a road off to the left right there! There!”
“I’m taking it!”
The one-lane road twisted under overhanging boughs. Hector rounded a quick couple of corners, came to a stop and switched off the lights. They rolled down their windows. Sounds of pursuit faded in the winding switchbacks through the grove.
“They’ll figure out they passed us,” Hector said. “They’re probably telling the rest of them right now. They killed him. They actually killed him. I can’t believe they killed Rob. You were right. We never should have come back here.”
“Listen,” Tyler said.
The sound of brakes tapped on the switchbacks. Some lights were flickering in the trees nearby. They were coming back.
Hector’s idling engine coughed and died. Out of gas, they had to hoof it. Neither was in much shape for running–especially not in the dark, in the woods, and the rain. Soon they had to take a breather. Panting in a crouch and dripping, Tyler had the crazy thought of maybe making a confession. What Hector didn’t know was, Tyler’s dad was the fascist who owned The Informer.
He really was a fascist, too. Nothing pleased Tyler’s dad so much as a man in uniform. Just the sound of the words “multinational corporation” gave him a stir. He hated the ecology. He demanded his kid go to college, but he hated education. As far as he was concerned, a freckle on a forearm was as good a sign of being an illegal immigrant as any. The longer his son stayed in school, the further to the right his newspaper got. He hated Nepal, and hated that hat even more than he hated the environment. Nobody ever had such a cross to bear.
Hector put up a finger. “Shhh.” He froze, ears straining. There came the distant crack of a branch, as of someone walking over the unavoidable carpet of debris.
Tyler crouched back down. He whispered into Hector’s ear, “They must have found the car.”
More snaps and cracks from twigs and branches. The wind was dying down. Momentarily, the rain had stopped.
From the dark a voice called. “We know you’re out there. You might as well come out.”
A moment’s pause. The sound of limbs being stepped on seemed to come from all over.
“It’ll go harder on you if you don’t.”
Then the gleeful noise of cackles and hoots. “Here comes Junyer!” someone cried....