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In the Dark

In The Dark is a mystery novel written by Richard Laymon. It was first published in 1994 and partnered with Savage: From Whitechapel to the Wild West on the Track of Jack the Ripper in volume 10 of the Richard Laymon collection.

Summary

Nothing much happens in Donnerville, at least not in the public library. Then the new librarian, Jane Kerry, receives a strange envelope. Inside is a fifty-dollar bill and a note instructing her to "Look homeward, angel." Mystified, Jane pulls Thomas Wolfe's novel of that title off the shelf and finds a second envelope. This one contains a one-hundred-dollar bill and a clue to another pay-off. Like the first note it is signed "MOG (Master of Games)" Suddenly Jane is hooked, this is one game she must play to the end.

The Game requires more and more of Jane's strength and ingenuity. It destroys her relationship with Brace Paxton, a professor at the local university. It forces her, more than once, to defend her life. And it pushes her into actions that she knows are crazy, immoral, criminal.

Then a scene of horrible violence makes her realise that things have gone too far. Jane wants to quit. But the Master of Games has other ideas...


Plot

Jane is a 26-year-old librarian who receives a mysterious envelope containing $50 and a message saying:

Dear Jane,

Come and play with me. For further instructions, look homeward, angel. You'll be glad you did.

Warmest Regards,

MOG (Master of Games)

Jane recognizes the look homeward, angel quote as the title of a Thomas Wolfe novel. She looks for the novel and finds a second message, this time with $100 and a message saying:
My dear Jane,

Congratulations! You've taken your first, minor step on the road to fun and riches. More is waiting. Do you have the will to proceed? I hope so. At midnight, horse around. You'll be glad you did.

Yours,

MOG

As she's abut to close the library, Jane encounters a college lecturer named Brace who makes a last-minute borrow. Jane tells Brace about the messages and he helps her discern the clue to the second message. The line horse around refers to the horse sculpture kept in the backlot of the college campus. Brace and Jane sneak in after hours and Jane finds the next message at the top of the horse sculpture. The message rewards Jane with $200 and reads:
My Dearest Jane,

The game goes on. Troll for your next treasure tomorrow, midnight, under Park. You'll be glad you did.

Yours,

MOG (Master of Games)

Fearing for her safety, Brace escorts Jane to her house and gives her his business card. Their mutual attraction gets the better of them and they kiss, but decide to leave it at that. As Jane showers, someone sneaks into her house. She hears an intruder and panics before finding another message in her bathrobe. Unlike the others, this contains no money, but a warning about keeping Brace out of their game. Jane tells Brace and he reluctantly agrees to let her go alone from now on.

As Jane arrives at the local park, she searches under the bridge (using the troll term as a clue). To her shock, two homeless men had already found the message and taken the money. Jane tries to hide, but they find her anyway and one of them tries to force himself on her. Jane knocks him unconscious with her flashlight and sends the other one running until into the lake. Jane rushes after him as he has half the money and the clues for the next reward.

The next day, Jane and Brace discuss her latest exploits and the contents of the new message. The message says:

Dear Jane,

Glad this wasn't a bridge too far. How far will you go? To the moon? To the stars? To the pits of Hell? Or all the way to Paradise? Tomorrow, when churchyards yawn, see the Babe.

Love and kisses,

The Master

The next night, Jane travels to a bar called the Paradise Lounge. She asks around and finds a member of staff called Babe, but it turns out that Babe has no clue about Jane's game and that this was all a coincidence. Jane then goes to a cemetery called the Paradise Gardens Memorial Park. Jane sneaks into the graveyard and inspects the headstones, hoping to find the next message. She hears a car horn and sees a Toyota truck in the cemetery parking lot. Jane notices the license plate says BABE and realizes that MOG has pushed her in the right direction, even giving her keys to the truck. She sees the envelope wedged on the dashboard of the truck, but inside the truck is a vicious Rottweiler. Jane tries to get the dog out, but it comes after her. To her shock, Jane is forced to kill the dog. She finds the envelope, along with a loaded gun in the glove compartment, indicating that the worst is yet to come.

When she gets home, Jane counts her latest earning-$800-and reads the message:

Dearest Jane,

I do hope that you prevailed over the canine with little or no injury to yourself. I should hate to see your ability to continue the Game impaired, or your loveliness diminished. Did you find your gift in the glove compartment? Be sure to bring it with you. Our usual time. At the house at the edge of Paradise.

Your Master,

MOG

The next night, Jane ventures into the abandoned house near the Paradise Gardens. She finds her message in a fridge with $1,600:
Dearest,

The Game remains afoot, so carry on. Hotfoot it upstairs to the Master bedroom. You won't be sorry.

Love and kisses,

MOG

Jane looks upstairs and finds a room that's bare except for a coffin. She looks inside and finds a gift box containing $3,200, an egg-timer and a skimpy red negligee. The accompanying note reads:
Darling,

You've labored long and hard, this night. You deserve a rest. Slip into this dainty number, set the timer for half an hour, and ease yourself down onto the satin comfort. At the sound of the ding, you may rise, collect your prize, and be off.

Your Master,

MOG

Well and truly consumed by greed; Jane strips naked, slips into the negligee and settles into the coffin, aware of her lack of shame but no longer caring. She's startled by the appearance of Brace, who had followed her. Upset that Brace might compromise the Game, Jane yells at him. Brace tells her that she's taking a turn for the worse and she should quit now, so Jane grudgingly complies. When Brace sees Jane go home, he drives off and Jane sneaks back into the abandoned house.

The next morning, Jane awakens to find an envelope from MOG with $6,400. The note applauds Jane's rejection of Brace, along with a post-script note that says:

I kissed you as you slept, my sweet. In the casket of my lair.

I kissed you here, I kissed you there-

I kissed you almost everywhere.

MOG leaves Jane alone for the next few days. Jane spends that time pining over Brace. She decides to visit him at his place. To her horror, she sees a couple having sex at the address Brace gave her and assumes the worst.

The next morning, Jane awakens to find that MOG has broken into her home and written on her body:

My Dear,

On the tablet of your body and soul we script the book of

Jane

Jane decides to use this as a method of communication and writes on herself every night, to which MOG replies. and she reads in the morning. Soon MOG resumes the Game by placing an envelope on the windshield of her car. The envelope contains $12,800, an invitation to a party that night and a message for the "host" that says they can do whatever they want with her.

Jane arrives at the address. To her relief, the homeowner has no idea what's going on and instead of taking advantage of Jane, just lets her stay at his place for a few hours to keep himself company. Jane is rewarded with $25,600. Clearly MOG didn't see what happened. The next note reads:

My beauty,

Tomorrow night, 901 Mayr Heights for a gala time. In the meantime, don't feel lonely. You have me. I shall come to you tonight. No need to wake up.

Love to my lovely hot wet wench,

MOG

The next night, Jane arrives at a house that has covered-up windows Jane breaks in, assuming that the house is abandoned. As she searches upstairs, she is greeted by the most ghastly sight; one room contains a woman who has lost an arm and a leg is eating herself, apparently she'd gone mad with isolation and starvation. Another room has a woman who is completely limbless and held up by a harness. Jane looks on and sees a naked pregnant woman strapped to a bed, along with another woman who has been tied to a torture-device with barb-wire. She releases the two woman, retrieves her next envelope from the room with the barb-wire and escorts the two out. Ensuring that they are safe, Jane decides to kill the homeowners with the gun MOG gave her. The men who held the women captive are three youths who are too distracted by a movie to notice Jane sneak in and shoot them.

When Jane returned home, she found Brace waiting for her. Jane brought up Brace's supposed infidelity, to which Brace laughs and tells Jane that the address on his business card hadn't been changed when he met her. The couple Jane saw were Brace's neighbours and they'd swapped addresses for convenience. Jane lets Brace know that she's still playing the Game. The new note reads:

My dear Jane,

No pain, no gain, as the bodybuilders say. Your body, I must say, is coming along splendidly. I can think of some sweeties who would give an arm and a leg to be in your condition. Ho ho ho ho ho. Please don't think too unkindly of their keepers. Boys will be boys, you know. Hope you get out of here in one piece. Tomorrow night, take a refreshing dip in John's pool. You'll feel like a new woman.

Love and kisses and licks,

MOG

Jane decides that she's had enough of the Game. As she sleeps, MOG sneaks into her bedroom, pins her down and carves the word OBEY into her skin. Brace sees the damage and resolves to stand by her from now on. The two make love, though Brace tries to restrain himself to avoid agitating Jane's wounds.

Jane and Brace leave town, stopping at a motel along the way. When Jane's back is turned, Brace is kidnapped and his severed ear left with a note for Jane. The note orders Jane to appear at the scheduled time and place or else Brace would suffer further.

Jane then plans her revenge. She uses the prize money MOG gave her to buy several different firearms and placed them about the church that MOG cryptically mentioned in his last note. She then swims around in the baptism pool in the middle of the church until midnight. At that time, a large, leather-clad man came in with Brace in tow. He tortures Brace until Jane leaps out and shoots him. The leather-man is incapacitated long enough for Jane to make sure Brace is still alive. The man then brandishes a crossbow and tells Jane to either kill Brace or he'll do it before raping Jane. Jane tricks him by pretending to cut off Brace's head with a cleaver but using it as a shield as the man fired at Brace. Jane then takes Brace and gets him under cover before facing the leather-man. Jane demands to see the face of the leather-man if he wants her to follow any more instructions. The man complies, revealing himself to be a young man by the name of Bradford Langford Crawford - or "Ford" for short. Jane tries to shoot him with one of the guns she'd stashed nearby, but the guns' cartridge is empty. Ford attacks Jane with a whip, strips her naked and proceeds to rape her. Luckily for Jane, she'd landed on one of her guns and used it to shoot Ford in the head.

Jane and Brace make their way out of the church. Jane decided she should retrieve all her weapons to avoid getting in trouble with the law. As she went back in, she noticed an envelope addressed to Ford. The note stated that Jane would be his willing sex-slave as long as he kept Brace alive. Stunned that Ford wasn't MOG, Jane is surprised when a bullet lands on her head. She looks up and sees the real MOG looking down at her. He's a pale, hairless man and he held the bullets that Jane lost before. Before Jane could shoot him, MOG disappeared. She ran outside to Brace, who was nearly killed when MOG threw a meat cleaver at his head, but Jane fired several rounds into him before chopping into his neck with his own cleaver, ending MOG's threat once and for all.

Trivia

It's revealed in chapter 19 that Jane has read Janice Crogan's story about The Beast House.

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