Tuesday, February 28, 2017

GRAMMA

Genre: Horror




GRAMMA
By Daniel Skye




            Tim Dawber had a sudden craving for guacamole, or “guatramole” as his gramma used to call it. She was a remarkable cook. Her homemade guacamole was to die for. Being back in that house after so many years was triggering a lot of old memories. And that’s what he attributed his craving for “guatramole” to.

He’d have to bite his lower lip to stifle his laughter when it came to her mispronunciations. He got so used to it, he was instantly able to identify the word she was referring to. “Scenerials” meant “scenarios”, and “inclemation” meant “inclination.” She also thought irregardless was a word.

But Tim never judged his gramma for her flaws. He judged her based on her strengths and the strength she gave him to carry on and succeed in life. And Tim hadn’t let her down. He started out in marketing, pitching ideas for billboards and late-night infomercials. Now he was an executive vice president for one of the biggest ad agencies in the country. Tim knew his gramma would be proud of him.

            He ran his hand over the warped plaster to find the light switch. There was damage and destruction everywhere he looked. Tim’s family had always been considered part of the lower class. His parents were always having money issues. And his grandparents weren’t much better off.

In a house with money problems, there’s rarely any room in the budget to repair the damage. Every little screw-up, every little accident gets recorded on those walls forever, like a modern cave painting. Scars in the paint and plaster, stains on the carpet. Serving as a daily reminder that accidents do happen. That nobody’s perfect. And no home is perfect, either.

During his parent’s initial separation, Tim came to live with his grandparents for a while. And he had certainly been responsible for more than a few of those dents and marks on the walls. But his gramma didn’t brain him for it like his father would have. She chalked it up to accidents happening and boys being boys.

            Tim had been trying to communicate with his gramma for weeks. The Ouija board was not his preferred choice, but it was the only viable option.

            He sat down and glared skeptically at the board. Although Tim was a firm believer in the afterlife, he found it hard to believe he was going to contact his gramma’s spirit with something he bought for fifteen bucks at Wal-Mart.

            Tim laughed when he first read the instructions and the side of the box. The recommended age for children was eight and older. You have to be twenty-one or older to purchase alcohol, but only eight years old to summon the devil, Tim thought.

            But anything was worth a shot. Tim’s gramma was the one who left him the house in her will. Tim’s gramma was the only one who believed in him. She pushed him to work hard and succeed, and he had exceeded her and even his own expectations. He’d try anything for just one last conversation with her.

The anniversary–or “Anna-versity” as she preferred–of her death was near. And if there was ever a chance of making contact with her spirit, now was the time.

The board had no symbols. Only numbers and letters. The word “YES” was printed in the top left hand corner of the board. The word “NO” was printed on the right. And there was a clear message at the bottom of the board that simply said “GOOD BYE.”

He placed his hands atop the triangular planchette and asked, “Are you here, gramma?”

No reply. The planchette didn’t budge.

He kept his hands steady on the planchette and asked another question. “Are there any spirits present?”

Tim waited impatiently. He was about to give up when the planchette slid to the top left hand corner of the board.

YES.

Tim took a deep, anxious breath.

“Is that you, gramma?”

No response.

“It’s me, Tim. I’ve missed you so much.”

The planchette remained stationary.

“Have you reunited with grandpa?”

            No answer.

           I can’t believe it, he thought. My gramma’s ghost is giving me the silent treatment.

           “Are you happy where you are?” he asked, refusing to give up so easily.

            The planchette finally scraped across the board again, reaching the top right hand corner of the board.

            NO.

            “Why? Is it lonely where you are?”

            YES.

            “So talk to me. I’m here.”

            The planchette slid to the right.

            NO.

            Tim was disheartened. “What have I done to offend you? Is it the house? You left it to me. I thought you wanted me to move in. Should I stay or should I go?”

            The planchette nearly ripped from his fingers as it scratched furiously all over the board.

            YOU CAN’T LEAVE. NOT YET.

            Tim wasn’t entirely sure who he was speaking to anymore. He was tempted to ask the spirit to spell guacamole just to make sure it was indeed his gramma. But instead, he asked another question.

            “What is your name? Tell me who I’m speaking with.” Then he added, “Please,” so as not to anger the spirit.

            I HAVE NO NAME.

            “No name?” Tim repeated, not necessarily asking the spirit, but merely pondering its response.

Tim knew his gramma better than he knew his own parents. And this wasn’t his gramma. Whoever he had summoned, whatever he had summoned, it wasn’t Sarah Dawber.

            “Can you tell me how old you are?” Tim asked. But nothing could have prepared him from the answer.

            I HAVE EXISTED SINCE THE DAWN OF TIME.

            Tim wanted nothing more than to lie to himself. To tell himself that this wasn’t real. But he wasn’t seeing things. This was no fantasy. The planchette was moving on its own, no batteries, no assistance.           

Tim was so wrapped up in the conversation, he initially failed to notice the precipitous change in room temperature. The room was slowly turning into an igloo.

            Tim felt the cold air circulating around him, stinging at the nape of his neck. His teeth were chattering. But he refused to relinquish his grip on the planchette.

            “Why have you contacted me?”

            I DID NOT ASK TO BE DISTURBED. YOU SUMMONED ME.

Tim was feeling brazen and asked–no, he practically demanded it tell him his name.

            The heart shaped piece of wood jumped across the board, grazing so many letters that Tim could barely keep up. This was not a simple “yes” or “no”. The spirit gave Tim a riddle to ponder.

            THE QUESTION IS NOT WHO AM I. BUT WHAT AM I.

            Tim had heard enough. He flipped the board over, the planchette sliding over the edge of the table. He made a run for the stairs. His plan was to pack an overnight bag and rent a motel until he could speak with a realtor and figure out what to do with the house. But he came to an abrupt stop on the landing of the stairs.

            Something had grabbed hold of his ankle. He couldn’t see it. But he could feel its cold, scaly skin grinding against his flesh. He tugged at this unseen force, trying to free his ankle from its invisible snare.

            With inhuman strength, this invisible entity lifted Tim from his feet, dragging him down the stairs on his belly. It dragged his body across the floor, toward the fallen planchette.

            The spirit was right. It hadn’t asked to be disturbed. Tim was the one who had unintentionally provoked it. He had roused the demon from its slumber. And now he had to finish what he started.

            Tim set the board back up and asked one final question.

            “What are you?” he whispered.

            Its response was both straightforward and downright terrifying.

EVIL.

            The room fell cold again, and the looming darkness flowed in, leaving Tim with the malevolent spirit he had evoked.

            The planchette moved one last time, traveling to the bottom of the board, leaving Tim with its final words. The last words he’d ever read or hear.

            GOOD BYE.

Monday, February 13, 2017

PERDITION: PART FIVE

Genre: Horror/Mystery




PERDITION
PART FIVE
By Daniel Skye




1.
IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT…




            Thursday, December 20, 2012.

            Becky Lake was 5’4, approximately 105 pounds, with green eyes, and shoulder-length red hair. She was last seen wearing a green pinafore dress and black Doc Martens.

            That’s how her mother hysterically described her to the police. She was tired, strained, on the verge of tears. The desk sergeant calmly and politely explained to Mrs. Lake that her daughter had to be missing for at least twenty-four hours before they could file an official report.

            But as a favor to the family, the desk sergeant offered to take Becky’s information and pass it on to his fellow officers via the radio.

            “Trust me,” the desk sergeant said. “If any of our boys see your daughter, they’ll bring her in safe and sound. But relax, Mrs. Lake. This is Redfield. Nothing bad ever happens in Redfield. And she’s only been missing since this morning. She probably just skipped school and ran off with her boyfriend.”

            “Becky doesn’t have a boyfriend. She’s sixteen years old. I mean, I know she’s dated in the past. But she’s not seeing anybody now.”

            “Is it possible your daughter is seeing someone behind your back, somebody you don’t know about?”

            “No, Becky is very open and honest with me. I’m her mother. I would know if she was seeing someone.”

            “What about a girlfriend of hers? Maybe she and a friend just decided to skip school today, play hooky. We all did it when we were younger.”

“Oh, for Christ’s sake! Would you just get off your ass and find my daughter! She’s not with some boy, she didn’t skip school, and she’s not with a friend! She’s missing!” Mrs. Lake was cross, ready to blow a gasket.

            “Okay, okay, I believe you. Just calm down, please. I will put a call out to the boys and we will find your daughter. I promise you that.”

            Mrs. Lake took a deep breath and composed herself. “Thank you,” she said. “And I know I said she has red hair, but it’s really more of an auburn color. Please be sure to mention that.”

            “Green eyes, auburn hair. Got it. We’re going to find her, Mrs. Lake. Don’t you worry. Just go home and let us take care of it. We’ll call you as soon as she’s found.”



* * *



            Friday, December 21, 2012.

            This was the day. The day that so many people had been dreading. Everyone was waiting for it. Just waiting for some cataclysmic event to bring the entire world to a screeching halt. Just waiting for our planet to get sucked into a black hole or collide with the planet Nibiru or whatever bogus crap they read online. The 2012 phenomenon was nothing more than Internet hyperbole to Richie Carter.

            Richie was sitting shotgun in Zack Garton’s black 1970 Dodge Challenger. Garton had swapped the plates on the vehicle, but they still couldn’t hang out in plain sight.

            Garton had paid off an auto mechanic named Bill to rent one of his garages out for a few hours. It got his car off the road and gave them a place to lie low to figure out their next move. Bill recognized Garton from his picture on the news, but given his own recreational activities, the mechanic was in no position to turn to the police. Garton was aware of this, and he knew that a few hundred dollars would buy the mechanic’s silence.

            The radio was turned down, but Richie could hear Michael Stipe from R.E.M. rambling about how, “It’s the end of the world as we know it.” How apropos, Richie thought.

            “This thing is ancient,” Richie remarked. “How do you keep it running?”

            “Lots of time, money, and patience.”

            It was early morning, and without his coffee, Richie was running on fumes. But he was able to make it through the night without touching a drop of liquor. He needed to be sober and clearheaded for this. He needed all of his senses.

            “Jimmy Rare’s place is on the other side of town,” Garton informed him. “14 Industrial Road. Not much else down there besides a soap factory and a warehouse that’s mainly used for storage.”

            “How far is the property from the warehouse and the factory? It’ll probably be safer if we wait until dark, after all the workers have punched out. We can’t afford any witnesses.”

            “Why don’t you just say what you really mean? You mean you can’t afford to be spotted with me because your brother’s a cop.”

            “That may have something to do with it. But you’re a wanted man and you can’t afford to have anybody recognize you, either.”

            “Fair enough,” Garton shrugged. Richie lit an unfiltered Lucky Strike and Garton bummed one off of him.

            The police scanner in Garton’s car went off, notifying them of an APB on a missing girl named Becky Lake. She was sixteen years old and she had been missing for more than twenty-four hours. 5’4, approximately 105 pounds, with green eyes and auburn hair. She was last seen walking to the bus stop, two blocks from her house in Redfield, wearing a green pinafore and black Doc Martens.

            “Redfield is close,” Richie pointed out. “You don’t think–”

            “I know what you’re assuming, but we can’t jump the gun here. The girl is missing. But she could’ve run off with her boyfriend or something. We don’t know her. We don’t know that she was abducted.”

            “You said that Jimmy Rare went out of town to find his victims. Redfield is out of town.”

            “But we can’t assume anything.”

            “As long as there’s a possibility that girl is with Rare and she’s alive, I have to assume it. We need to make our move, before it’s too late.”

            “What happened to waiting until dark? What about all those witnesses you were concerned about?”

            “Fuck it. This is more important. I’ll take the risk.”

            “As much as I’d like to fight you on this, you’re right. And hey, this just means I get to do what I do best.”

            “Killing people?”

            “You make it sound so inhumane.”



* * *



            Jimmy Rare’s place was an old, neglected, two-story Victorian style house at the end of Industrial Road. The road was a dead end, nowhere to go. If the cop showed up, they’d be backed into a corner. If they were going to do this, they had to do it fast.

At the end of the road, Garton made a three-point turn, turned around, and parked across the street from the house. He turned the engine off and took Fran out of her holster.

            “If I don’t make it, tell my gun I love her.”

            “You’ll make it,” Richie said. “I just hope it’s not too late for Becky Lake.”

            “We don’t even know if she’s in there.”

            “Well, we have to assume she is and proceed with caution.”

            “Caution? Never heard of him before. Now let’s do this.”

            They exited the vehicle and looked in both directions as they crossed the street, making sure the coast was clear. They snuck around the right side of the house, and found a back entrance.

            “You want to do the honors and kick the door in?” Garton asked.

            “We’re not kicking anything in,” Richie said. “There can’t be any signs of forced entry. I won’t be able to explain that to my brother.”

            “So how are we getting in?”

            “A lock has never stopped me.”

            Being a private detective also made Richie an expert lock picker. He always carried a paperclip in his back pocket. He took out the paperclip, unfolded it, and inserted one end into the keyhole.

Richie learned a few things about picking locks over the years. One thing he learned is that when picking a lock, you can’t see it from the inside. But you can’t feel it. When the paperclip snags the locking mechanism and you feel the lock slide out of place, you know the job is done.

            It took him under thirty seconds to get the door open.

            Richie removed his .44 Magnum from its holster. “We go in on three.”

            “One…” they counted.

“Two…”

“Three.”

 Richie entered first, his back to the wall. His index finger was hovering around the trigger of his gun.

            “Kitchen looks clean,” Richie whispered as Garton entered.

            “You take this floor, I’ll check upstairs,” Garton whispered back.

            They went their separate ways. Richie kept his back to the walls at all times as he swept through the first floor. The living room was clear. The downstairs bedroom was clear. Richie even checked the tub in the bathroom. The house appeared to be empty.

            But there was another door adjacent to the bathroom. Richie assumed it was a linen closet, until he checked it out. Nobody bothers to lock their linen closet.

            Richie took out his trusty paperclip and had the door unlocked in a matter of seconds. “I should be getting paid to do this,” he whispered to himself.

The door creaked as he pulled it open. He surveyed the countless scratch marks on the other side of the door. Clear signs of a struggle.

A hand fell upon his shoulder and Richie jumped, bit his lip to stifle an oncoming scream.

“Nobody upstairs,” Garton whispered.

Richie didn’t say anything. Just motioned at the scratches on the door. Garton glanced at the door, then down at the stairs.

“After you,” Garton said.

Richie descended the staircase, his index finger tightened around the trigger of his .44 Magnum. He crept down the stairs, Garton trailing behind him. Richie’s feet touched the bottom step and he came to a sudden stop when he saw a young girl with auburn hair in a green pinafore dress. Becky was bound to a dissection table with leather straps. And she wasn’t moving.

            “Well, there’s your evidence,” Garton said.

            She was alone in Rare’s soundproof basement. Richie rushed to her aid, undid the straps, checked her pulse.

            “She’s alive,” Richie said, relieved. “Just unconscious. He must’ve drugged her.”

            Garton took a look around the basement. There was a workbench with a sewing machine. Gallons of lime solution. Crude surgical equipment, most of which was rusty or outdated. And most of them had not been cleaned in some time. There was still blood on the tips of the scalpels, bits of flesh tangled up in the rusty teeth of a bone-saw.

“So where is he?” Garton asked.

            “He must be out. Which means he doesn’t know we’re here. So all we have to do is wait.”



* * *



            It didn’t take long for Jimmy Rare to return. He was back within the hour, letting himself in through the front door. He’d noticed Garton’s car parked across the road, but thought nothing of it. The factory had limited parking and the workers would often park in the road. He set his groceries aside in the kitchen, took out his keys, and went to unlock the basement door.

            “Hmmm…That’s funny,” Rare mumbled to himself. “I could’ve sworn I locked it. I’ve got to be more careful.”

            He opened the door and observed the scratch marks on the other side with great amusement. All those poor souls who tried to escape over the years. All those na├»ve people who thought they had a chance at life. This fact brought Jimmy Rare nothing but satisfaction. The fact that Jimmy derived pleasure from their suffering was profoundly disturbing. It disturbed even him sometimes.

            There was a time where Jimmy tried to think of it as business, the same way the mafia goes about a hit. He tried to convince himself it wasn’t about killing people. That it was about the money and his growing business. That he was an entrepreneur, not a serial killer.

            But Jimmy didn’t try to deny it anymore. He was doing it to quench his lust for blood. His business–turning people into leather and fashion accessories–was just a cover at this point.

            “Sorry to keep you waiting, my dear,” Jimmy said, descending the stairs. “You’ve been so patient with me. I think it’s time to–” Jimmy stopped as he reached the bottom of the stairs.

            “You were saying?” Garton asked. “Please continue.”

            “Who are you people?” Rare stammered. “How the hell did you get into my house?”

            “These aren’t the questions you want to be asking yourself right now,” Garton said. “You see, normally I make these affairs quick and painless. But my friend here, he has a temper. And he hasn’t had a drink in over four years. And he also doesn’t like you very much. So I’m going to let him take his time.”

            “Whatever you think this is, you’re mistaken. I would never harm that girl or any other girl. This is just a big mis–”

            Richie cut Jimmy off in midsentence, dislocating his jaw with the hardest punch Garton had ever seen. And he’d seen his share of brawls over the years. And participated in the most of them.

Richie didn’t stop there. He could no longer contain his rage. He struck him repeatedly in the stomach and chest, nearly breaking his knuckles in the process. But it was worth it just to hear the disturbingly satisfying crunch of Rare’s ribs.

            Rare lied on the grimy floor of his own basement, clutching at his chest, struggling to breathe. “Alright, that’s enough,” Garton said. “Let Fran take care of the rest.”

            “It has to be my gun,” Richie said. “They’ll check the bullets. They’ll know what kind of gun it came from.”

            “Shit, you’re right. Sorry, Fran. Looks like you’ll have to sit this dance out.” Garton tucked the SIG Sauer back into its holster and accepted Richie’s gun.

            “Look out!” Garton shouted.

            Rare was back up and brandishing a scalpel. He lunged at Richie, whose reflexes forced him to put his arm up to block. The scalpel sliced through the skin of his forearm, drawing a tremendous amount of blood. He swung the scalpel again, but Richie dodged it and met him with a fist to his already cracked ribs.

            Rare winced in pain, but still managed to keep his grip on the scalpel. Garton could not get a clear shot with Richie in the way. Rare lunged at him again and Richie caught both of his arms, trying to wrestle the scalpel out of his hands.

            Jimmy got one of his knees up, hitting Richie below the belt. He dropped to his knees, giving Garton a clear vantage point. As Jimmy raised the scalpel, Garton fired one shot, directly to the heart.

            Richie, still feeling the effects of the low blow, slowly got back up to his feet. He looked over the body of Jimmy Rare with relief. Dorchester would be a better place without him. The world would be a better place without him.

“Thanks,” Richie said, applying pressure to his wound. The gash in his forearm was bleeding profusely.

            “Don’t mention it. Seriously.” Garton wiped his prints off Richie’s gun and passed it back to him.

            “So what’s next for Zack Garton?”

            “I’m getting the hell out of dodge. Too much heat in this city. I just have one last loose end to tie up with my client.”

            “So who was this mystery client, by the way? It’ll be our little secret. It’s not like I can tell Anthony I saw you again.”

            “Lucille Ferr. But she prefers Lucy. You should see this dame. She’s a knockout. Well, I guess this is goodbye, Richie.”

            “I fucking hope so.”

            “Take care of yourself. Watch your back. It’s a dangerous world.”

            He gave Garton a head start before he called it in. The Dorchester PD arrived in minutes. The paramedics tended to Becky Lake and to Richie’s wound. They bandaged him up, but told him it would require a trip to the hospital for stitches.

            “Congratulations,” Anthony said. “You’re a hero. Look at that girl. You saved her life.”

            Richie looked over to Becky, who had regained consciousness, and she stared right back him with overwhelming gratitude. She was alive. And she was grateful for it.

            “But that doesn’t explain how you ended up here,” Anthony added. “I mean, how did you even find this guy? The basement looks like a slaughterhouse. There’s no telling how many people this sicko has killed over the years.”

            “I was following up a lead on the Painter case. A source of mine gave me his name and address. He said he could be a likely suspect. I’m glad I checked out.”

            “Uh huh,” Anthony said, choosing to believe his story. “So do you think Rare killed Allen Painter, too? Did you get him to talk?”

            “No, I didn’t have a chance. I knocked on the door, he let me in, I asked him a few questions but his answers were vague. And that’s when I noticed a strange smell coming from the basement. I asked him what was down there and he became nervous, agitated. I asked him if I could go down and he said no. That’s when he asked me to leave. But I heard screams coming from the basement and I ran for the door. It wasn’t locked. I ran downstairs and found the girl all tied up to that table. And that’s when Rare came after me with that scalpel. I managed to fight him off and shoot him once. And that’s all there was to it.”

“I believe you. And all that matters is that girl is safe. You did good, Richie. I’ll put a good word in with the captain for you. Who knows, you might even make the force for this.”

            Richie’s life had been one wasted opportunity after the other. But he wasn’t going to throw this chance away. “It’s all I want,” Richie said.

            “I’m proud of you, broski. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a lot of questions to go answer. You go to the hospital and take care of that cut. It’s going to leave a gnarly scar.”

            Richie spent a few hours in the hospital, which gave him plenty of time to think. Zack Garton was long gone by the time it dawned on Richie.

            Lucille Ferr. Lucy Ferr. Lucifer…




2.
CLOSURE




            Saturday, December 22, 2012.

            The world didn’t end on December 21. But the world as Richie Carter knew it, did.

            He’d solved the murder of Allen Painter. But he could never tell his brother the truth. Anthony would believe him about the dragonfly. He witnessed it himself the first time around. He knew what the dragonfly really was, what it was capable of. But nobody else would accept their story. It wasn’t plausible. People fear the unknown. They don’t want to accept that there are things in this world you just can’t explain.

            And he had uncovered the true identity of Garton’s client. But he had no way of warning him. Not like Garton deserved the heads up. To Richie, he was still a coldblooded killer. Their brief association did nothing to change that fact.

            “Four years, one month, and eight days,” Richie said aloud. Though nobody was there to congratulate him. His office was empty. He sat around all day, waiting for a call from his brother. Becky Lake’s mom had been tying up the line all day, calling Richie to sing his praises.

            When it rang again, he was certain it was her. But when he picked it up, he was actually relieved and excited to hear his pain-in-the-butt brother’s voice for once. That was until Anthony hit him with the news.

            “It’s a no-go,” Anthony informed him over the telephone.

            “But you said it yourself, I’m a hero. I saved that girl. Her family is ecstatic. Her mother won’t stop calling me. I thought this was my way in.”

            “The captain respects you and appreciates everything you’ve done for the department, but he just can’t overlook your prior history.”

            “Dammit,” Richie shouted. “That sanctimonious prick. Like his record is squeaky clean. Well, at least I did the right thing. And at least that girl is safe. That’ll make me sleep better at night.”

          “You did good, Richie. You did real good. Don’t let this get you down.”

            “Ah it’s not the worst news I’ve ever been given.”

            “Oh, I should let you know that they’ve decided to close the Painter case. You tried your best, but I guess we’ll never know for sure who killed him.”

            “Yeah,” Richie chuckled nervously. “I guess we’ll never know.”




* * *



            Garton swapped the plates again on the black ’70 Challenger. Richie had seen the plates and Garton couldn’t risk him reporting it to his brother. He could still give Anthony the make and model, but Garton wanted to trust Richie. Even though his instincts told him not to.

            He thought about ditching the car, wiping his prints clean, maybe even torching the thing. But he’d spent too much time and money on it to abandon it. He cared about that car as much as he cared about his gun, Fran.

            Garton cruised the backroads of Dorchester, driving slowly, obeying all the speed limits, making sure not to draw any unwanted attention.

He was going to Lucille Ferr’s house. But he found himself circling the same block over and over, unable to find the place. He knew he had the right street. But when he pulled up to where the house should’ve been, he was staring at a vacant lot.

            “Impossible,” Garton said. “It was right here.”

            Garton’s phone rang, one of those prepaid jobs that are difficult to trace. The number came up as Lucille. He answered it, but did not speak.

            “Hello, Zack. I told you I had one last name on my list. And that name is Zack Garton. See you soon, Zack. See you real soon. And hey, Kirk Warwick was right. Satan does appear in many unassuming forms.”

            The line went dead. Garton snapped the phone in half, tossed it out the window, and drove over it with his tires. “Not if I see you first,” Garton said as he drove away.



* * *



            Richie stopped at the liquor mart to pick up a bottle of Wild Turkey. His lips were smacking with anticipation as he walked to the counter and paid for the bottle.

            Outside, he twisted the cap off and held the neck of the bottle up to his nose. “Four years, one month, and eight days…so much for that.”

            He was about to take a swig, but capped the bottle instead. “I’ll save it for later.” He tucked the bourbon into his deep coat pocket and walked back to his office.

            Richie wasn’t expecting business at this hour of the night. But he could not ignore a beauty as rare as the woman who was waiting to speak with him. Jet-black hair, flawless skin, silky smooth legs, and a body that makes you want to take out a second mortgage on your house.

            “How can I help you?” Richie asked.

            “Allow me to introduce myself, Mr. Carter. I’m Lucille Ferr.”

            And that’s when Richie’s heart sank.

            “You…you were the one behind all of this. Weren’t you? You had Allen Painter killed. You hired Garton to do your dirty work. What’s your endgame?”

            “There’s been a war brewing for centuries. Armageddon. The final battle between the forces of good and evil. And when that day comes, Hell needs an army. Allen Painter, Reggie Muldoon and his kill-crazy dope dealers, Kip Stern–all valuable soldiers in my army.”

            “If you think I’m joining you, you can go right back to Hell.”

            “Oh, don’t worry, Mr. Carter. I have no interest in you. You’re one of the good guys. Yes, you’ve killed people before. But you’ve always been able to justify your actions. And God has his own plans for you. Heaven needs an army too, you know?”

            “What do you want from me then?”

            “Zack Garton. He’s still in Dorchester. He thinks he’s going to find me. But you can’t find someone who is everywhere and nowhere at the same time.”

            “Again, where do I fit into all this?”

            “I need Zack for my army. He’s an ideal candidate. And Zack’s philosophy is that in real life, the bad guys can win. I know that philosophy doesn’t sit well with you. And I know the dragonfly is still in your possession. I think you know what has to be done.”

            “Do I have any other choice?”

            “Just look who you’re talking to,” Lucille chuckled. “Besides, look in your heart. You know it’s the right thing to do. You thought about killing him four years ago, just like you thought about killing him when you crossed paths with him again. Just take some time to think about it. I know you’ll make the right decision.”

            Richie turned his back for a second and Lucille was gone. He never heard the door open or close. He didn’t hear her stiletto heels clicking across the floor. She just vanished, evaporated through the walls.

            He sat behind his desk, took the bottle out of his pocket, and stared at it. He stared for the longest time, contemplating both decisions he was faced with.

            It was almost midnight when he left the office, bottle in hand. He walked out into the street, unscrewed the cap, tipped the bottle, and dumped the bourbon down a storm drain. He still had work to do.



* * *



            Garton wasn’t leaving town. Not until he dealt with “Lucille.” Garton knew he was crazy. But he never knew he’d be crazy enough to try and take on the devil himself. But he was not going to let Satan claim his soul. If he was going to Hell, he wanted it to be on his own terms.

He’d returned to the garage and paid Bill a few grand to store his Challenger for the time being. His plan was to rent a room under a fake name and lie low until he formulated a strategy. But he accidently left Fran in the passenger seat and had to go back for her.

He opened the passenger door. Fran was gone and had been replaced by a small glass jar with a perforated lid. Its transparent wings fluttered effortlessly as it floated in the center of the jar, the glass seemingly magnifying its iridescent colors. To anyone else, it was just a harmless dragonfly. But not to Zack Garton. To Garton, this signified his demise.

He watched in awe as the jar moved and the lid slowly loosened, as if some invisible force was unscrewing it. The dragonfly, freed from its captivity, landed at Garton’s feet. And the transformation ended just as rapidly as it began.

Garton stared up the bipedal monster that had manifested from this innocent creature. Its skin was black and rough as shoe leather. Its long, narrow wings flapped at its sides. A forked tongue slithered from its mouth, as coarse as sandpaper. Its huge, red, compound eyes reflected the terror in Garton’s own eyes.

Richie didn’t have to stick around. But he had to know it was over. He hid out behind the garage and waited, knowing Garton would return for his gun.

            He wanted to cover his ears to stifle the screams. But Richie had to see this through to the bitter end.

Garton lasted longer than most. He fought back, bravely but foolishly and in vain. But he was only prolonging the inevitable. Hell was waiting for him to come knocking at the door.

            This is real life. And in real life, the bad guys can win. But not always. Not as long as people like Richie Carter still exist.




THE END?