Crooked Man

A promotion can be a defining moment in the career of any young professional. For Ally Jansen her dream job has become a reality and is a time to celebrate with friends, reflect on the hard work that has got her there, and look forward to the possibilities her new position will bring. Here for your consideration is a tale of friendship and danger, and of the benefits that come from keeping in touch with Grandma.

TUESDAY

Denny 3.26pm
Just heard the good news. Well done Ally!

Ally
Thanks Denny. It's taken a while.

Denny
You told Vic?

Ally
Not yet.

Denny
You should. Working for City Hall is a big deal. Which job did they give you?

Ally
I was up for two. Got the demographics post.

Denny
Its a good fit for you. Celebrating?

Ally
Hell yeah. My place tonight. Bring nothing.

Denny
Well you can afford it now. When do you start?

Ally
Week from Wednesday.

Denny
See if you can get a hold of Vic. He'll want to know.

Ally
I will. He's not answering his phone. I'll send him a text.

Denny
See you tonight.

Ally
One other thing Denny. Can you see if Samantha is free tonight?

Denny
Sure she will be. I'll bring her along.

Ally
Thanks.

Ally 3.44pm
Vic. Free to talk?

Vic
Sorry I couldn't pick up. Was in a meeting. Free now.

Ally
I got the job.

Vic
Which one?

Ally
Demographics.

Vic
That's great. Celebrating?

Ally
Sure are. Tonight at my place. Can you make it?

Vic
Wouldn't miss it. What time?

Ally
Around 7 OK?

Vic
No problem.

Vic
One thing. About the job. Any other applicants?

Ally
Three I think. I know one dropped out.

Vic
Had no doubt you were going to get it. See you at 7.

Samantha 5.17pm
Hey Ally. Congratulations!

Ally
Thanks Sam. Denny let you know?

Samantha
Yeah. Came home and gave me the news. Party?

Ally
You able to come?

Samantha
Try and stop me. See you tonight.


WEDNESDAY
Ally 8.34am
Vic. You able to talk?

Vic
Yeah. Free for a few.

Ally
Party was great.

Vic
Sure was. Denny and Samantha seem to be getting along.

Ally
Taking that apartment together was a good move.

Vic
I agree. Heard anything more about the job?

Ally
Haven't been in yet. Think I'll take the next week easy.

Vic
OK for some. What will you do?

Ally
Don't know about the rest of the week but today I'm off for some retail therapy.

Vic
?

Ally
Clothes shopping. Definitely need a higher grade of attire for City Hall.

Vic
Guess so. Don't destroy your credit cards.

Ally
I will try and be measured in my purchasing.

Vic
:) Good luck with that. Up for lunch?

Ally
Where?

Vic
Usual. I fancy a bit of Italian.

Ally
See you around 1 oclock?

Vic
Perfect.

Ally 2.47pm
Vic.

Vic
What's up?

Ally
Something weird.

Vic
Spill.

Ally
I'm can't say for sure but I feel like I'm being followed.

Vic
See anything?

Ally
That's the thing. Its just a feeling. Like you know eyes are on you but you can't say from where.

Vic
Where were you?

Ally
Hard to say. After we'd had lunch I went down to Eric's and put the car in for a service. Started as I walked home.

Vic
Do you think it could be nerves about the job?

Ally
I don't know. It's hard to define really. Like something is far away but definitely getting closer.

Vic
Getting a job with the City is a big deal. I bet you'll feel better once you're sitting in the seat.

Ally
Hope so.

Ally
See you tomorrow?

Vic
got a client in the morning. How about 2. I'll come around your way.

Ally
See you then.


THURSDAY

Ally 10.41am
Denny.

Denny
What's up gorgeous?

Ally
I think I have a problem.

Denny
Yeah I heard. Somebody appealed the job?

Ally
No. Its not that. Whatever happens the job will work itself out. Its something else.

Denny
What's wrong?

Ally
I think I'm being followed.

Denny
What?

Ally
Last day or two I've had this feeling that someone's following me.

Denny
Did you see anyone?

Ally
No. But the feeling is just getting stronger. Thought I saw something at the corner of my eye.

Denny
What was it?

Ally
Only an impression. Like an old man putting out his hand to grab me.

Denny
Geez. And you didn't see anything else?

Ally
No. Freaked me out though.

Denny
Tell Vic yet?

Ally
Yeah yesterday. He said not to worry. Might be the stress of starting a new job.

Denny
Maybe. Just be careful.

Ally
I will.

Denny
Off anywhere today?

Ally
Was going to see about a new tablet.

Denny
Android or IOS?

Ally
Not sure yet.

Denny
Going to see George?

Ally
Does he still have that shop in Newtown?

Denny
Yeah. I'm sure you'll get a good deal. If you do go out, be careful. OK?

Ally
OK.

Vic 11.58am
Ally. You still in town?

Ally
Yeah. Looking at tablets. Think I might go for a larger screen this time.

Vic
You heard about the appeal?

Ally
Yeah. Not too worried though. Got a call from HR about it.

Vic
Who appealed?

Ally
No idea. Confidential apparently.

Vic
Do you have anything you need to do anything?

Ally
I don't think so. All conducted in-house. Just have to wait.

Vic
When will you know?

Ally
Monday afternoon.

Vic
OK. Look, something's come up. Can't come over this afternoon. I'm going to a Tremors marathon at the Roxy tonight. Interested?

Ally
Tremors?

Vic
What? Have you no appreciation of fine cinematic art?

Ally
Don't want to be accused of that. When does it start.

Vic
10.

Ally
I'll be ready.

Vic
Oh. One other thing.  I hope you're not at George's.

Ally
Why?

Vic
He talks a good game but he has no idea what he's doing.

Ally
Denny says he's OK.

Vic
He would. But then Denny doesn't know what he's doing either.

Ally
I'll tell him that. :)

Vic
I only said it so you would.

Ally
See you around 9.30?

Vic
I'll pick you up from your place.

Ally
That'd be great.


SATURDAY

Denny 8.33am
Hey Ally. How was the marathon?

Ally
Vic told you?

Denny
Yeah. Love those films. Do you think they'll make any more?

Ally
Don't know. Can be sure Vic will be there if they do.

Denny
Me and Sam are going into town. Anything you need?

Ally
No thanks. Just going to veg. Maybe take a walk into Briar Park.

Denny
Later.

Ally 11.01am
Denny.

Denny
Yeah?

Ally
I was followed again.

Denny
Where?

Ally
Briar Park.

Denny
What happened?

Ally
Not sure really.

Ally
I was walking the trail near the ponds when I saw a shadow in the trees.

Ally
Only an impression again but stronger.

Denny
Did you see anything?

Ally
Almost. Just a shape. Like a man but hunched. Disappeared before I could fully turn my head.

Denny
Any chance it was just an optical illusion?

Ally
Could have been but the feeling was overwhelming.

Denny
What feeling?

Ally
Anger mostly. Felt it like it was in my stomach, churning me up. Almost made me puke.

Denny
Do you want me to come over?

Ally
No. I rang Vic and he's going to stay for a while.

Denny
Good. Me and Sam will see you tomorrow.

Vic 11.36am
Sorry Ally. Running a few minutes late.

Ally
What happened?

Vic
Got covered in mud on Jackson Street.

Vic
Car hit a pool of water on the corner and sprayed it all over me.

Ally
Will you be long?

Vic
No. Just need a shower and a quick change. Maybe twenty minutes?

Ally
No problem.

Ally 1.14pm
Denny. You heard from Vic?

Denny
No. Isn't he there?

Ally
No. Should have been here an hour ago. He's not picking up and hasn't answered any of my texts.

Denny
That's not like Vic.

Ally
Yeah. He said he was just getting changed and he'd be over. With what's been going on I'm getting worried.

Denny
Do you have your car?

Ally
No. Still in the shop until Tuesday.

Denny
Better that you stay put. I'll go over to Vic's and see if he's OK.

Ally
Thanks Denny.

Denny 2.28pm
Ally.

Ally
Yes.

Denny
I'm standing in front of his door and he's not answering.

Ally
Can you hear anything from inside?

Denny
Not a thing. But there's a smear of blood on the door frame.

Ally
What?

Denny
Yeah. Not much though. Could be any number of reasons why it would be there.

Ally
What will you do?

Denny
I'm going to call the police.

Ally
Will you stay there until they turn up?

Denny
Sure will.

Denny 3.54pm
Ally.

Ally
Found anything?

Denny
Cops came. Super opened the door.

Ally
Is Vic there?

Denny
No. But the bathroom was seriously messed up.

Ally
Is Sam there?

Denny
Yeah. She came with me.

Ally
What will the police do?

Denny
They're going to look for him. There was some blood in the shower recess. Can't say how it got there.

Ally
Shit. I'm coming over.

Denny
I wouldn't do that. We're going to be caught up here. Cops want statements.

Denny
I'm going to stay here for a while. Sam will get a cab over to your place.

Ally
OK. Thanks for this Denny.

Denny
No problem. I'm sure everything will sort itself out.

Ally
I hope so.

Denny 7.33pm
Ally. Is Sam still there with you?

Ally
Yes. Any news?

Denny
The cops are saying the scene is suspicious. Going to start a search.

Ally
I'm coming over.

Denny
Might be best. Tell Sam what's happened.

Ally
Will do.

SUNDAY

Ally 8.33am
Denny. Any news?

Denny
Can't find out much. Cops are only talking with Vic's parents.

Ally
You found out something though?

Denny
Yeah. They've been door-knocking and checking the hospitals. No joy yet.

Samantha
Do you want me to come over?

Ally
If you could. Seems unimportant now but I got an email from HR.

Denny
What do they want?

Ally
Seems I've got to go in for a follow-up interview. Something's come up regarding the appeal.

Denny
That sucks. Are you going to go?

Ally
I'll have to. If I don't get the job I'm screwed.

Denny
What time is it?

Ally
Interview's at 9.45.

Denny
Me and Sam'll drive you in.

Ally
Thanks.

Ally
God. What's happened to Vic?


MONDAY

Denny 9.20am
Ready to go?

Ally
Yeah.

Denny
We'll be out front in 5.

Ally
Thanks.

Denny
Will you be needing a ride back?

Ally
No. I'll make my own way. Got a few things to think about.

Denny
We all do. See you in 3.

Ally 11.28am
Denny.

Denny
At your disposal.

Ally
I've seen something again.

Denny
Where?

Ally
Outside of City Hall. Got no further than the bottom of the steps and saw it.

Denny
What was it?

Ally
A thing. A man. I don't really know.

Denny
Tell me everything.

Ally
Finished the interview. Seemed to go Ok.

Ally
Got to the base of the steps and got that feeling again. Almost doubled over.

Denny
Did you see it?

Ally
Not right then. Crossed the street and stood in front of the large windows outside of Hallings.

Denny
The department store?

Ally
That's it. Looked around and couldn't see anything. Looked back at the windows and saw it.

Ally
I swear there was nothing there but in the reflection of the street the thing was there.

Denny
Where was it?

Ally
Standing no more than ten feet from the roadway.

Denny
What did it look like?

Ally
It was tall, dressed like an old man in ragged clothing. Had a dark green overcoat, oversized shoes and a tall stovepipe hat.

Ally
Its face was the worst. Looked just like one of those Punch dolls.

Denny
That sounds crazy.

Ally
I know, but I saw it, clear as daylight. Looked straight at me and then limped off.

Denny
Limped?

Ally
Yeah. Looked like its back was twisted, its shoulders hunched.

Ally
I don't know what it was but when I turned back towards the street it was gone.

Denny
That must have freaked you out?

Ally
Hell yeah.  Worse still it was holding a huge knife.

Denny
You're going to have to call the police.

Ally
Do you think they would believe me?

Denny
That's a good point. Are you at home?

Ally
Just got in.

Denny
OK. I've got an idea. Stay put and wait.

Denny
And lock your door.

Ally
OK.

Denny 12.40pm
Ally.

Ally
Yeah?

Denny
Something you said jogged a memory.

Ally
What?

Denny
It was the limp. You know my Grandparents are from Hungary right?

Ally
I think you told me once. Why?

Denny
Well, they actually migrated to Hungary from somewhere in Central Asia, and when I was little the old Nagymama would tell me stories about her village.

Denny
One in particular used to freak me out. It was the story of the Crooked Man.

Ally
What?

Denny
I know it sounds crazy but bear with me.

Denny
Seems that if you had a problem in the old days you would ask for the help of the Crooked Man.

Denny
If somebody did you wrong, you'd write their crime on a piece of paper and call for him.

Ally
Is it a real person?

Denny
No. That's it you see. Its a vengeful spirit that does your dirty work for you.

Ally
Kind of like a Golem?

Denny
That's it.

Ally
But their not real. Why are you telling me this?

Denny
Because at the moment I'm open to anything. Your description fits and its keeping to its MO.

Ally
But what have I done?

Denny
I don't know. Somebody has called it and now that you've seen it you are in danger.

Ally
How?

Denny
Does the big knife give you any clues?

Ally
Shit. What do we do?

Denny
That's where it gets interesting.

Denny
A quick call to Nagymama told me all we need to know.

Ally
What did your Grandmother say?

Denny
Grandma says that you have to find the person who called the Crooked Man and make restitution. That will stop it.

Ally
But I haven't done anything wrong.

Denny
I know. But that just makes it a harder problem. If the caller has lied to the Crooked Man then you will have to confront the spirit instead.

Ally
What?

Denny
Its the only way to stop it. If you can convince the Crooked Man he has been deceived he will go after the caller instead.

Ally
Jesus. How do I do that?

Denny
Nagymama was adamant that you have to do it alone.

Ally
This gets worse as it goes along.

Denny
I know. Hold up. Sam's home. Give me a few more minutes and we'll work out a plan together.

Ally
OK. Any word on Vic?

Denny
None yet. I'll ring his parents late in the PM.

Ally 3.33pm
Denny. Are you there?

Ally
That thing is in the carpark. Its looking straight at my front window.

Denny
OK. Sorry I didn't get back quickly.

Ally
What's happened?

Denny
I was looking through my bedroom for Vic's parents number and found something else.

Ally
What?

Denny
I can't believe I'm saying this. It was a piece of paper with a list of your supposed crimes written on it.

Ally
What?

Denny
God, I'm sorry Ally. The caller is Samantha. She called the Crooked Man.

Ally
Shit. Why would she do that?

Denny
I didn't know but I confronted her and she spilled. She's the one whose appealing your job.

Ally
She sent that thing to kill me over a job?

Denny
I don't understand it either. But we can fix what she's done.

Ally
Oh God. How?

Denny
I've burnt the paper. That will make the Crooked Man listen to you. I've also sent you an email.

Ally
An email?

Denny
Yeah. Print the attachment. Its Samantha's application for the job.

Ally
What do I do with it?

Denny
Hold it in front of you when the Crooked Man appears.

Ally
He coming?

Denny
Right now.  Do what I say OK?

Ally
What else?

Denny
Address him as the Crooked Man and tell him he has been deceived.

Ally
Then.

Denny
Explain that the caller has used him to obtain riches for herself.

Denny
Trust me. Say it that way and the Crooked Man will look at the paper.

Ally
Then what?

Denny
It will go away. Hopefully.

Denny
Its all we can do.

Denny
Its very important that the application be on paper. The Crooked Man won't recognise anything else.

Ally
Printing it up now.

Ally 4.02pm
Oh God, Oh God. I don't believe it!

Denny
What happened?

Ally
It was here. In my goddamn apartment.

Denny
Did it listen?

Ally
It did. Stood there right in front of me. On the other side of my coffee table. I held up the paper and it stopped.

Denny
Did you tell it what I said?

Ally
Word for word. God. It smelled like roadkill but it listened.

Denny
What did it do?

Ally
It took the paper, looked at me for a moment then disappeared. Just vanished into thin air.

Denny
Are you Ok?

Ally
Yeah. I peed myself but I'll live.

Denny
Thank the old Nagymama for that.

Ally
Where's Sam?

Denny
I don't know. When I confronted her she just bolted. I don't think I'll be seeing her again.

Ally
What will the Crooked Man do to her?

Denny
I don't know, but there's nothing we can do about it. She started that ball rolling.

Ally
I'm sorry for all of it. What a mess.

Denny
Don't worry. I would imagine she'll be running until the Crooked Man catches her.

Ally
How did she know about it all?

Denny
That was my bad. I remember telling her months ago when she asked about my family.

Ally
You must be disappointed.

Denny
More than you can know.  I don't know why she did it but its showed up a nasty side that she had kept hidden from me.

Denny
On a far more positive note however, I just got a call from Vic's parents.

Ally
Have they found him?

Denny
They have. In a hospital downtown. Apparently he fell in the shower and hit his head.

Denny
Believe it or not nobody in the building saw the EMT's taking him away. Police found him in a recovery ward a few hours ago.

Ally
Is he OK?

Denny
Sore head mostly. Asked if you could go in.

Ally
I'll go straight away.

Ally
Hold on. Another email from City Hall.

Denny
What is it?

Ally
Notification from HR. I have the job. Appeal's been dismissed.

Denny
Brilliant. Let's go see Vic.

THE END

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