The Night Floater wraps itself around its victim's face to asphyxiate them.
|Geraldine Kwan, a still beautiful forty-something bookkeeper, stood on the small balcony of her Daley apartment in Davidson's Road. It had been a hot summer, so she delighted in the cool breeze blowing across the town that night. Enjoying the sweet smell of pine and eucalyptus that wafted in from the neighbouring forest.
"Maybe it wasn't such a bad idea to get employment in the Victorian countryside after all," thought Gerry. A born city-slicker who would never have considered moving to the country had she been able to find employment in Melbourne or an inner suburb. But McGaffy's had desperately needed a certified bookkeeper, and she had desperately needed employment. So ever the twain did meet.
Until now, having started at the beginning of a record summer, Gerry had hated her time in Daley township. But now as the cool, sweet-smelling breeze enveloped her like a lover, she decided to give Daley a second chance.
Sadly, though Daley decided not to give her a second chance. While she was revelling in the cool night air, she saw something looking a little like a metre-long, half-metre-wide piece of Glad Wrap floating toward her.
She tried swatting the wrap away with her hands but it only adhered to her flesh. First, on her hands, then on her neck, as she held her hands up to see what had stuck to them. Then finally across her face, asphyxiating her.
Realising that she could no longer breathe, Gerry started thrashing around wildly, trying without success to tear the Night Floater away from her mouth and nose. Knocking over a small table and chair on the balcony. Finally, as her air started to run out, she staggered backwards and fell over the balcony, crashing onto the concrete street below, to break her neck.
As she died she exhaled a blast of carbon dioxide, which finally unglued her, allowing the Night Floater to sail away, having drawn strength from her terror and death.
"What the...?" asked Tanya Ramsbottom, the landlady of the Floaters Inn in Daley, in the Glen Hartwell to Willamby area of the Victorian countryside. A busty redhead in her early fifties, Tanya was still regarded as the number one attraction in the Daley area by the local farmers. Even if most of them would never dare admit it in front of their wives.
Elbowing her husband, a huge barrel-chested bull of a man, awake, she said: "Tobey, I think I just heard something fall outside."
Still half asleep he muttered, "Well, if it's outside, it's none of our bother."
"'Cause it is," insisted the redhead. She got out of bed and put on a very revealing nightgown to go investigate, then whacked her husband in the back with her palm, "Come on sleepy head."
Staggering to a sitting position he said: "Women ... you can't live with 'em ... and you can't fuck without 'em."
"Enough of that smutty talk, Mr. Sheepsbum, now get up and come with me."
"It's Ramsbottom," he insisted switching on the bedside lamp to look at his busty wife, still quite an eyeful in her early fifties, and said: "Although I'll happily cum with you."
"I said enough of that smutty talk," said Tanya, walking around to pull the huge man to his feet, then pull on his dressing gown, trying to avoid his roaming hands, which couldn't decide whether they wanted to grope her large breasts or her perfect heart-shaped backside.
"And enough of those Russian hands and Roman fingers," she said leading him across the bedroom, out the door, to almost throw him down the steps to the ground floor.
"Hey, take care woman. You could break my neck."
"I'll break your head if you don't start leading the way," she said, adding: "This is not a ladies' first situation."
"So much for equality of the sexes," he muttered, slowly leading the way down the steps. "When they're handing out free chocolates or cream cakes, it's 'Ladies First'. But when there's a burglar downstairs or the aliens are invading it's, 'You're the man it's your duty to get killed to protect me.'"
"Shut up whinging and just get outside and see what happened," said Tanya.
Outside they saw a dozen or so people, half of them from the Floater Inn standing around something on the pavement.
"Clear the way," said Tobey Ramsbottom, "hen-pecked husband coming through."
The crowd parted to reveal the bloody form of Geraldine Kwan shattered upon the footpath.
"Holy shit," said Tobey as his wife screamed then ran back inside the hotel. He muttered, "I told you when it's bad it's, 'You men see what's happening'." Then to the crowd, "Has anyone rang for the cops or an ambulance."
The crowd looked around at each other guiltily, so Tobey forced himself to check Geraldine to establish that she was dead.
"Make that the coroner or the police," he said standing again, groaning at the effort as his arthritic knees struggled to hold his weight.
As Tanya Ramsbottom returned from the Inn, her husband said: "Ring for an ambulance and the police, babe."
"Already done it," she said, "why did you think I ran into the Inn?"
"So that poor Muggins here would have to see the bloody body, and not you," said Tobey.
She walked across to give him a gentle slap on the back, smiling as she did so.
"Watch out woman, you know I've got arthritis."
"Arthritis be damned," she said, "It's just that you're so fat that your poor bones can't carry your weight anymore."
"How dare you, I'll have you know that I'm a fine figure of a man."
"Of a caveman maybe; they were big and fat too."
"I tell you, I'm just big-boned."
"So were the dinosaurs ... and look what happened to them."
"A comet hit them ... I don't see what that has to do with being big-boned?"
They might have continued good-naturedly arguing except for the sound of sirens which got gradually louder until an ambulance pulled up. Followed by a blue police Land Rover, containing local police chief Donald Esk, plus local coroner Jerry "Elvis" Green. So named due to his long black sideburns, and his obsession with Elvis Presley.
"So what happened?" asked Elvis kneeling to start examining Geraldine Kwan.
"As far as we can tell, she fell off her balcony," said one of the gawkers, pointing up to where the first-floor balcony was broken.
As Donald Esk started to shoo them away, to let Elvis do his work, Tanya said: "The funny thing is she didn't scream. We heard the crash as she landed, but no scream before that."
Elvis looked up from examining Geraldine and said to Esk: "Take her report and those of everyone else here."
"Sure thing, Elvis," said Donald Esk, a medium-height, raven-haired man with a long burn scar running down his left cheek.
It took a couple of hours to get everybody's statements, by which time Elvis Green had finished examining Geraldine Kwan, and her body had been taken away to his morgue in Dien Street Glen Hartwell.
"Well, Elvis, what's the verdict."
"I'd say that she just got careless, or the balcony fence was defective if it wasn't for this stuff," he said holding up a sealed tube of browny-yellowish stuff."
"What is it?" asked Donald.
"If I were pushed for an answer, I'd say it was yucky, sticky, gluggy stuff," said Elvis.
"Is that the technical name for it?" teased Don Esk.
"Well, I was gonna call it goop," said the coroner: "But I think Gwyneth Paltrow has that name copyrighted."
Inside as they finally started up the stairs, Tobey gasping a bit from the exertion, Tanya said, you know you really should start exercising, or dance aerobics or something."
"How about the hokey pokey?" asked Tobey.
Puzzled, the busty redhead asked, "How do you do that?"
"Basically, you lie naked on your back, with your legs spread wide ... Then I put my middle leg in and shake it all about."
"Oh, I see," said Tanya, laughing as she gave him a gentle pat on the back. "Frankly in the shape that you're in at the moment, I'd probably kill you."
"But that's the way I always wanted to go," insisted Tobey, "fucking a beautiful lusty busty redhead."
"Thank you," she said, laughing, "but this beautiful lusty busty redhead, doesn't want you dying on top of her. You'd crush me for one thing."
Back at his lab in Dien Street Glen Hartwell, Elvis Green had run numerous tests upon the sticky material that he had found adhering to Geraldine Kwan's hands, neck, and face. Finally, he looked across to where a bored-looking Donald Esk was sitting, waiting, and said: "I can definitely confirm now that it is yucky, sticky, gluggy stuff."
"Don't kill me with all your fancy terminology, Elvis," said Don, "for God's sake dumb it down a little for me."
Ignoring the police chief's sarcasm, Elvis said: "It does have one peculiar quality I've determined. For some reason I can't explain yet, it dissolves in carbon dioxide."
"Isn't that what we breathe out?" asked Don.
"So breathing on it dissolves it? What does that mean?"
"I'm damned if I know," said the coroner.
Back at the Floater Inn, buxom redhead, Tanya Ramsbottom had allowed her husband to feel her soft round bits but had refused to allow him sex.
"Why not, Tanya honey," he pleaded, "you've always been a loving wife down the years."
"I still am, you fat ox. That's why I don't want you dying on top of me. But lose ten kilos and I'll let you have as much of the good stuff as little Tobey can handle."
"Hey, enough of the little stuff, he's very sensitive. Especially when I'm in bed with a beautiful lusty busty redhead."
"Well, lose ten kilos and he can come out and play with this beautiful lusty busty redhead."
"Okay, then the bet is on."
Looking puzzled, Tanya said, "It wasn't really a bet. I just want you to lose ten kilos."
"Then I can dance the hokey pokey, with you underneath me?"
"As much as you like," she promised giggling.
Half an hour later Tobey was sound asleep, snoring like a draught horse. Beside him lay his beautiful lusty busty redheaded wife, sweltering in the heat, and unable to get to sleep due to his snoring.
Outside the window, which had been left open a couple of centimetres, the Night Floater wafted, watching the couple. A metre long, half a metre wide, and a hundredth of a millimetre thick, it had no trouble floating into the bedroom, with the intention of settling upon Tanya Ramsbotton's beautiful face.
But as it glided into the bedroom, she suddenly sat up, saying, "Oh, God, I can't stand this bloody heat."
Standing, she walked across to the en suite and undressing, stepped into the frigid water. "Oh, Heaven," she said.
Changing direction, the Night Floater settled upon the fat face of balding Tobey Ramsbottom, who was already long dead by the time that Tanya reluctantly returned from the gloriously cold water stream.
Well, at least he's stopped snoring, she thought, not noticing the Night Floater drifting outside through the small gap under the bedroom window. Also not noticing the yucky, sticky, gluggy stuff all over her dead husband's face.
"Good night, honey," she said and was soon sound asleep.
The next morning Tanya gave Tobey a shake, then went down to make his breakfast, bacon, eggs, toast and marmalade, all favourites of his.
As she poured his coffee, she thought, What the Hell is keeping him? He's usually a better riser than I am.
After a minute, she went back upstairs to check on her husband and was soon shrieking like a generously busted banshee.
An hour later, Tanya was taken away to the Glen Hartwell and Daley Community Hospital to be treated by their chief consultant Jesus Costello (pronounced 'hee-Zeus'). And Don Esk was watching on again as Elvis Green was examining the corpse of Tobey Ramsbottom.
"Again the face and neck are covered by the yucky, sticky, gluggy stuff," said Elvis. "But none on the hands."
"Which maybe means that Geraldine Kwan was holding her hands up to protect herself," suggested Don Esk. "But Tobey in bed, possibly even asleep, was caught off guard and never got a chance to raise his hands."
"Possibly," said Elvis. "But we won't know for certain until I've done the second autopsy."
An hour later he finished and said: "Like Geraldine Kwan, Tobey died of oxygen starvation."
"So he was asphyxiated to death?" asked Don.
"Seems like it."
"Then how the Hell does the yucky, sticky, gluggy stuff come into the equation."
"Fucked if I know," said Elvis.
"Poor Tanya," said Meryl Langley. A tiny emaciated orange-rinsed old lady, a boarder at the Floater Inn, after Tanya Ramsbottom had been taken away to the hospital.
"Poor Tobey," corrected her closest friend Wanda Makepeace, a blue-rinsed old woman, with a healthier body shape than the emaciated Meryl. "She's only in shock. Poor Tobey is dead."
"No, no, it's worse for the ones left behind," insisted Meryl. "They're the real victims. Not those that have been killed."
"Well, I don't know about that," persisted Wanda.
"Well, it's quite simple," insisted Meryl. "He's dead and can't feel any more pain or distress. She's alive and could be stressed out for the rest of her life. After all, she's only a slip of a girl ... barely fifty. After all, they would have celebrated their thirtieth wedding anniversary just before Christmas."
"Well yes, there is that," agreed Wanda, starting to side with Meryl on the issue. As she had done on most issues for over fifty years now. Their friendship had always been based upon Meryl being the strong one who decided things. And Wanda was the submissive one who rarely dared to disagree with her friend.
"Yes, I suppose you're right, you usually are," said Wanda. The two old ladies went upstairs to have a little nap after the shock of what had happened.
Elvis Green and Don Esk had driven around to the Glen Hartwell and Daley Community Hospital which cut across the boarder of the two towns, extending from Baltimore Drive Glen Hartwell to Biblical Road Daley.
They sought out the hospital administrator and chief surgeon Jesus Costello and handed him a stoppered test tube of the gunk found on the faces, necks, and hands of Geraldine Kwan and Tobey Ramsbottom.
"Let's see what you make of that, Lord," teased Don Esk.
"Firstly my name is pronounced Hee-Zeus, not Jesus. Secondly, why can't Elvis diagnose it?"
"I just want a second opinion," said Elvis, not mentioning that the stuff had him stumped.
Jesus examined the gunk for nearly an hour, running various tests, before stating: "It's definitely some kind of sticky goop."
"Firstly, you can't use that name. Gwyneth Paltrow has it copyrighted," said Don. Secondly, Elvis came up with yucky, sticky, gluggy stuff."
"Well, that describes it as well as anything that I could come up with," agreed Jesus.
Back at the Floater Inn, Meryl and Wanda were sound asleep when the Night Floater sailed in through the window of Meryl's bedroom. Not as impressed with the emaciated, orange-rinsed pensioner, as it had been with Geraldine or Tobey. Nonetheless, a sleeping pensioner was easy pickings, so it wrapped itself across her face and stuck fast as she awakened and started struggling for her life.
Soon, however, the elderly woman stopped struggling and asphyxiated, her carbon dioxide unsticking the Night Floater so that it could sail outside the bedroom window again.
Moments later Wanda Makepeace knocked upon her best friend and mentor's door.
"Meryl was that you that I heard?" she called. When Meryl didn't answer, Wanda took the spare key that she had to her only real friend's room, and let herself in.
Walking across to the bed, she thought: Sleeping like a little lamb. Until she noticed the yucky, sticky, gluggy stuff that coated her friend's face and neck.
"Meryl?" she asked trying to shake her awake.
After a few tries, she realised that her friend was dead, and shrieked, then fainted to the age-worn floral rug, near the right side of the king-single bed.
Hearing Wanda's scream a tall, balding, pipe-smoking man named Steven Hunter said, "Not another one?"
"Don't even say it," said his wife, Steffi, as they hurried upstairs to check on the scream.
Finding Meryl Langley's bedroom door open, they raced inside and found the two women. Wanda, was unconscious on the floral carpet. Meryl lying dead on the bed, with the yucky, sticky, gluggy stuff all over her face and hands.
Trying her best not to faint, Steffi cried, "Get me out of here."
Steven grabbed her gently and led her to their bedroom, where he used his mobile phone to ring through to Don Esk.
"It's happened again," said Steven. "An old biddy at the hotel, named Meryl Langley. Yeah Langley, like the spooky place in Virginia."
Hanging up, Don said to Elvis, "It's happened again."
"At the Floater Inn again. An old biddy named Meryl Langley. Like the spooky place in Virginia."
Half an hour later they were both in Meryl Langley's bedroom examining the corpse. Wanda Makepeace had been transported to the Glen Hartwell and Daley Community Hospital for observation.
Hearing a ruckus outside the door Don Esk went out into the corridor and saw five people carrying suitcases while heading toward the stairs.
"What the Hell's going on?" asked Don.
"We're leaving. We have no intention of being the next ones killed."
"We could be investigating three murders here. Haven't you heard the saying, 'Don't leave town'?" asked the police chief.
"Yes," insisted Steven Hunter. "And we've also heard that all three deaths occurred in this hotel. So screw your 'Don't leave town' crap, we ain't spending another moment in this death house. We're all heading across to the Whistler's Arms in Perry. So if you want us for anything, you'll have to contact us there."
Refusing to be stopped, he pushed past Don, followed by the others.
"What's all the fuss?" asked Elvis as Don returned to Meryl's bedroom.
"The rats are abandoning the sinking ship."
"Well, you can't blame them," said Elvis. "Three deaths in less than twenty-four hours." He placed a stoppered test tube into his white lab coat pocket.
"Is that the yucky, sticky, gluggy stuff?" asked Don.
"Yes, I'd love to know what part, if any, the damn stuff plays in the deaths."
The next day, he would find out.
"Gee, what a dump," said Steffi Hunter as she and her husband Steve stood in their musty room on the second storey of the Whistler's Arms in Perry. A small town in the Glen Hartwell to Willamby district.
"Yeah," agreed Steve. "But better a safe dump, than a deadly palace. Not that the Floater Inn was ever a palace."
"Except compared to this dump."
"Sorry, honey," said Steve. "But tomorrow night we'll be at my cousin Arnold's place in Sale. It'll be better than this place and two hundred kilometres away, so whoever's doing these damned murders isn't likely to find us."
"Unless he gets on the train with us," said Steffi, always a bit of a gloomy Augustina. "I mean how could we tell? We don't know what he looks like."
"And he doesn't know what we look like. So why would he bother to follow us, when there are plenty more people in Perry township for him to ... do whatever the Hell he does with them."
"Please don't tell me," insisted Steffi, "I don't wanna know."
"How the Hell could I tell you, I don't know?"
When they went to bed, despite her fears Steffi Hunter fell asleep almost immediately. However, now afraid that the killer, as he was certain it was, had followed them to the Whistler's Arms in Perry township, Steven Hunter failed to get to sleep at all.
The next morning Steve looked as red-eyed as he had after his fortieth birthday awhile back. But at least that time I had the pleasure of getting plastered, he thought, It ain't as much fun being red-eyed from lack of sleep.
They had a quick breakfast and then went to check out.
"Jesus, Mr. Hunter," said the guy at the checkout counter. "You don't have bags under your eyes, you have suitcases. Trunks even."
Ignoring his sarcasm, Steve paid for their one night's stay and then carried their cases outside.
"I just wanted you to know that this is the lousiest dump we ever stayed at," said Steffi, quickly walking out the door, before the desk clerk could reply.
The clerk thought for a moment then shrugged. "So the Ritz we ain't."
The Hunters managed to get to Perry railway station in plenty of time for the Melbourne train which they intended to leave at Sale.
"I've brought myself something to read during the long train ride," said Steffi, holding up Dean Koontz's latest Jane Hawk novel. "I love Dean Koontz's Jane Hawk novels."
"So do I normally," agreed Steve, "but today, I'm so tired that I'll just sleep till we get to Sale. Thank God we managed to get a sleeper compartment."
"It was the only one left," reminded Steffi.
"I know, that's why I thanked God."
Half an hour later the train arrived and the Hunters were soon on board. Steffi reading her Jane Hawk novel sitting on the lower bunk. Steve sleeping with his clothes on, on the top bunk.
The train had only been rolling along for a short time before they stopped again at Daley.
Gliding as inconspicuously as it could on the non-platform side of the train, the floater searched the carriages, until it found a window that was down. It checked that no one was in the carriage, then swooped in seconds before the steam train took off again.
Sneaking through a slit under the door to the corridor, the Floater swept along the floor, swooping under doors whenever necessary to avoid being seen, or worse trodden upon.
Finally it reached the sleeper compartment which housed the Hunters. By now they were both sleeping, Steffi on the bottom bunk, holding her beloved Jane Hawk novel, Steven snoring like a bull mastiff on the top bunk.
Just avoiding being seen, the Floater swept under the door into the sleeper compartment. It checked out the sleeping figure of Steffi first. Then hearing Steven Hunt's machine-like snoring, it decided to silence him the only way that it knew how.
Ignoring the woman sleeping in the bottom bunk, the Floater swept up to land on Steven's face and neck, quickly silencing his snoring. But also waking the man, who had always been a light sleeper.
What the...? thought Steven grabbing the Floater and trying without luck to rip it away from his face. It's some kind of fucking mask, it seems to be glued onto my face!
It was Steven's struggles and eventually falling off the top bunk, that awakened Steffi Hunter.
"Steve, are you all right...?" she said, stopping as she saw the transparent plastic-wrap-like creature wrapped around his face, stopping him from breathing.
Not knowing what it was, nonetheless, she recognised that it was asphyxiating him. Shrieking, she grabbed the Floater and tried to rip it off her husband's face. If Steven had still been conscious, the two of them might have succeeded, although in its centuries of existence, the creature had rarely failed to make a kill once it had attached itself across its chosen victim's air holes.
By herself, however, Steffi was nowhere near strong enough to separate the creature from her husband, before he had died. Then as she began to cry, the carbon dioxide from Steven's final exhalation, dissolved enough of the creature's yucky, sticky, gluggy adhesive for it to escape.
As Steffi fainted to the floor of the carriage, the Floater, sated, headed out of the sleeper compartment, then zoomed along the floor until finding a compartment with an open window.
This time the carriage was occupied. But not caring, the Floater raced through the compartment, startling the family of five in there, then floated outside to head back toward Perry township.
"What was that, Daddy?" asked a terrified five-year-old girl, crawling up onto his lap for protection.
"Some kind of giant moth, honey," said her Father, not really having a clue.
"That's what I call one Hell of a giant moth!" said their eldest, sixteen-year-old daughter.
"Sophie watch your language," said her Mother.
"What language," demanded Sophie. "Hell isn't swearing. It's where politicians and lawyers go when they die. According to Daddy."
"She's got you there," said her father with a cheeky grin. "Good girl Sophie. Remember that and you can't go far wrong in life."
They were approaching Glen Hartwell, when the ticket inspector found Steffi Hunter unconscious on the floor of the carriage, next to the body of her husband Steven.
Don Esk stopped at the morgue in Dien Street Glen Hartwell, to tell Elvis Green: "There's been another one. This time on the train to Melbourne. But the body of..." he read from his notes... "Steven Hunter was found just short of G.H., so they stopped the train long enough to remove the body, and his hysterical wife to take them to the Glen Hartwell and Daley Hospital."
"Steven Hunter?" said Elvis standing to head outside with Don Esk. "That name sounds familiar."
"His wife has a similar name, Steffi."
"Steven and Steffi Hunter?" he thought aloud as Don started the Land Rover. "Oh I know, they were amongst the people who fled the Floater Inn yesterday."
"That's right," remembered Don. "The sarcastic man, and his sheepish wife. Didn't do much good fleeing, did it."
"No," agreed Elvis as they pulled up outside the Outpatient's entrance to the hospital. "What the hell is that smell of burning?"
"Either bushfires or they're burning a fire break just in case," said Don as they entered the hospital. "In a summer like this, both are inevitable."
Inside Jesus Costello led them to the two-bed ward which housed Steffi Hunter, plus an ancient woman named Doris, who wasn't expected to leave the hospital alive.
"We've sent her husband round to Dien Street already, Elvis," said Jesus.
"Jesus, I don't mean you," said Elvis, "I'd better get going then." He reversed direction to take a long walk from Wentworth Street to Dien Street (formerly Dien Avenue) Glen Hartwell.
"Has she told you anything?" asked Don Esk looking down at the woman, whose frowning brow suggested that she was reliving something terrible.
"Not yet," said Jesus, "she hasn't awakened since being found lying beside her husband on the floor of their compartment.
"There's no chance she did it, somehow?" asked Don.
"No, no, his face was coated with the yucky, sticky, gluggy stuff, just like the others."
As they spoke Steffi Hunter started to moan and twitch, her eyes rapidly blinking open and closed in succession.
"She's dreaming," said Jesus, "that's REM sleep."
"Nighmaring, more like it," said Don, correctly guessing that she had seen whatever had happened to her husband. "About who or what killed her poor husband."
"Or what?" asked Jesus. "Have we reached the stage of considering a what as the culprit?"
"On the wacky goofy Glen Hartwell to Willamby line, when deaths start happening, it's never too soon to start considering a what as the likely killer," said Don Esk from experience.
Remembering his own recent experiences with murders committed by whats rather than whoms, Jesus agree: "That's for sure."
A couple of hours later Elvis Green returned to tell Don that the autopsy result on Steven Hunter had been the same as for Geraldine Kwan, Tobey Ramsbottom, and Meryl Langley.
"So are we now assuming we're looking for a monster, not a man?" asked Elvis, who over the last forty years as local coroner, had dealt with hundreds of deaths. A remarkably large percentage of them by monsters. Many of them local, or indigenous legends come to life.
"I'm not ruling anything out yet," said Don as Steffi started moaning and twitching again as she went back into deep rapid-eye-movement sleep.
"If only we could somehow see what she is seeing."
"You think that she saw what happened to her husband?" asked Elvis.
"I'm certain of it."
They had both fallen asleep in padded chairs beside the hospital bed, when Steffi Hunter finally awakened and started screaming.
"It's smothering him! Steve, no! It's killing him!"
Jumping out of bed before Don or Elvis had awakened enough to stop her, Steffi raced out into the corridor, shouting: "It's smothering him! Steve, no! It's killing him!" Over and over again as she ran down toward the elevators, with Elvis and Don running after her.
She pressed the down button, and the elevator came almost immediately. But as the doors chinged open, Don and Elvis grabbed her by one arm each, and gently guided her back to the bed.
"It's smothering him! Steve, no! It's killing him!"
"Yes, we know," said Elvis sympathetically as three nurses ran to see what was going on.
"She's all right now," said Elvis, helping her back into her bed.
"I can get her a sedative," said one of the nurses, running off to find the nearest medication trolley.
"No, we need her awake, so that she can tell us what happened," said Donald Esk.
"I don't think Jesus would like that," said a teenage nurse pronouncing his name Gee-Zus.
"It's pronounced Hee-Zeus," corrected the third nurse, wearing a badge, identifying her as the Nurse In Charge.
"Sorry, sister," said the teenager.
"But she's right, he wouldn't like you keeping her awake when she needs sleep."
"We're trying to solve a group of four murders, the latest her husband!" insisted Elvis, clearly not impressing the Nurse In Charge.
The matter was solved, however, when Steffi Hunter, falteringly told them exactly what she had seen in the sleeper compartment.
"A creature like Glad Wrap that asphyxiated her husband?" said the Nurse In Charge. "She's clearly delirious!"
"I wonder," said Elvis. Then to Don: "It would certainly explain everything. How it smothered them. The yucky, sticky, gluggy stuff is a glue-like substance it secretes to stop its intended victim from pulling it loose in time. And Carbon Dioxide, which people exhale, loosens the glue enough for the creature to escape again after killing its intended prey."
"That would explain everything," agreed the police chief.
"You two aren't seriously considering such a wacky idea?" asked the Nurse in Charge as the first nurse returned and gave Steffi Hunter two strong sleeping pills with a sip of lemon cordial.
"Now the question is," said Elvis, "how do we track this Floater thing down."
"And how the Hell do we stop it," finished Don Esk.
Over at the Floater Inn, Tanya's cousin, Margie, had taken over as stand-in barmaid and landlady. With a bust that shamed even her redheaded cousin, and being beautiful, with long golden locks, she soon had, single men at least, returning to the seemingly cursed inn.
One of them was a tall, lean salesman, Eddie Clift, who was just checking in. Seeing him struggling with two large cases, and a much smaller one, Margie offered:
"Would you like me to carry the small case for you?"
"No, no," assured Eddie: "I never let anyone else carry that one. That's my CPAP machine. Without it I'd be lucky to get one hour's sleep a night."
"Oh, all right," said Margie.
After dinner that night, Eddie went straight up to his bedroom. He had a quick shower, then went across to his bed, where he had already set up his CPAP breathing machine. The night had suddenly cooled, so unlike the last few nights, Eddie needed two blankets on his bed.
Getting into bed, not noticing the Night Floated hovering outside his bedroom window, Eddie put on the CPAP mask. He had his machine set to aeroplane mode so that he didn't have to bother with filling the humidifier with water each day, after cleaning it out. Also as a salesman, he was constantly on the road (or in Eddie's case the rail), so aeroplane mode was the logical setting for him.
Turning off the bedside lamp, Eddie lay down, and, unobserved by the Floater, pulled the blankets up right over his head. Something which he always did in colder weather, since he got his air through the CPAP mask, and since getting a CPAP machine the number of colds and flues he got had dropped virtually to zero since he no longer had to leave his nose out in the cold air to breath. That's important during the COVID endemic, thought Eddie, grateful that he had managed to avoid getting the novel coronavirus.
The Floater waited ten minutes for him to fall asleep, then skimmed into his room and landed where it expected his face to be.
Eddie had almost fallen asleep when he heard a strange flapping noise just over his head. Sitting up in bed, he turned on the bedside lamp, looked down and jumped out of bed in shock at the sight of the Night Floater flapping and twisting against the dark blue quilt, trying to unstick itself. Without success, due to the quilt not giving off the carbon dioxide that it needed to get unstuck.
"What the hell?" said Eddie. He quickly got dressed, careful to watch the Floater the whole time, then ran outside and slammed his bedroom door.
What should I...? he thought. Then, summoning the courage to sneak back into the bedroom, still watching the Floater flapping up and down like a bird with a broken wing, he sneaked across to his bedside table and hunted around for his mobile phone with his right hand.
When at last he found the mobile, he snatched it up and ran back outside into the floral carpeted corridor and dialled triple-oh, only to be put through to Donald Esk's home phone number.
"What?" said Don Esk, sitting up in bed, wiping the sleepy stuff out of his eyes, as he yawned, and staggered to his feet.
"I know it sounds absurd," said Eddie Clift over the phone.
"Not at all, Mr. Clift," said Don. "I'll be there in twenty minutes."
After dressing, he rang Elvis Green to fill him in on this latest development, then went round to collect the coroner, before heading round to the Floater Inn.
"Thank God," said Margie as Elvis Green and Don Esk arrived.
"The thing's in there," said Eddie pointing at the door to his room.
Don opened the door a sliver and reached in with one hand to turn on the overhead light first. Then he pushed the door open wide, so that he and Elvis could rush in and race across to the bed.
Where, upon their appearance the Night Floater started to thrash about even more wildly than before.
"Got you, you murderous arsehole," said Don. Then to Margie, "I'm afraid we're going to have to burn this quilt. I might be able to get Russell Street to refund you, but don't count on it."
"That's all right," said Margie, "after the killing that that bastard's done, I'm sure that Tanya won't mind losing a quilt to see that bugger dead."
Wrapping the quilt up into a small rectangle, with the Night Floater inside, Don carefully carried it outside and then walked well away from the inn.
Margie came out carrying a large can of paraffin wax, and said, "Will this do?"
"Perfectly," said Don, taking the can from her, to pour it liberally across the quilt. Before realising that he didn't have any matches.
Margie raced back into the hotel to get a match folder from the bar, then ran outside and handed it to him.
"Stand back everyone," warned Don, before flicking the match against the box. Only to have the head break off the match without it igniting. "Damn cheap crap!"
"Sorry," said Margie, "but we get them made cheap in Korea."
The second match, however, lit and Don threw it on the Floater, wrapped in the paraffin-soaked quilt.
With a whoosh the paraffin ignited, making the Floater flap even more wildly. Shrieking Hellishly, until finally, it had burnt away, to something vaguely resembling burnt movie film.
"Well, that's the end of that bugger," said Elvis Green.
"Let's hope so," said Margie.
In time Tanya Ramsbottom would return to run the inn, renamed the Come On Inn, with her cousin, Margie. In two years' time, Tanya would meet a handsome farmer, and they would get married.
Steffi Hunter would go to stay with her husband's cousin Arnold in Sale for a few months, before moving on to Melbourne.
Wanda Makepeace returned to stay at the Come On Inn, now that the Night Floater was dead. And would live there another twelve years. During which time she never stopped missing her long-time friend and mentor, Meryl Langley.
Elvis Green, Jesus Costello, and Donald Esk would go back to work, wondering when their next goofy case would turn up.
© Copyright 2023 Philip Roberts
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia