Thursday, November 29 will be the debut of Act II of Masquerade with my new short story Swallow.
From here on out you can expect to see new short stories (~1,500-2,500 words) posted regularly on Thursdays unless stated otherwise, with perhaps some super-short flash fics/poems (>400 words) sprinkled around randomly. (I do looooooove flash fiction.)
I’m overjoyed to return to writing to say the least. I’ve written a good part of Swallow and it just feels like I’m back where I’m supposed to be, like I’ve been on vacation for a year and I’m finally back at home sleeping in my own bed.
That said, having this creative energy flow through me once again is just as terrifying as it is exciting; some poor fictional soul is going to die. Who’s is going to be? My bet’s on the butler.
The shop is closed, has been for three decades, but he knocks anyway. Four heavy thumps nearly tear the flimsy screen door off its hinges. The taps disturb the awkward stillness in the old building, rattling the dust mites off cracked neon wall trim and warped tables. Fried Frieda and her ceramic pal Burger Bob haven’t seen this much traffic in the thirty-two years since the restaurant’s closing.
“Knock, knock,” the man huffs, “anybody here?” He taps again.
A glass hula-hooping figurine falls off its wooden pedestal, shattering in pieces on the checkerboard tile. Another would topple the whole six-foot shelf. “Who are ya?” I ask, my fingers tracing a heart with a smiley face on a dirty mirror.
“I was told to meet somebody here. Uhh… A Mr. Hayes?” That name I haven’t heard in forever. I need to update my profile.
Clearing my throat, I say, “Yeah, hold on a sec.” Through chapped, barred windows I can only make out the man’s silhouette. I walk the trail of broken plates and lightbulbs over to the door. “You know, from the stats you gave me on Facebook, I pictured you to be a smidge larger.”
“You won’t be disappointed.”
I unlock the door to face a husky, the total package. His legs were the size of tree trunks, and he could put an entire buffet bar across those broad shoulders. Sure, his acne scars and lazy eye would keep him from winning an award for most attractive assailant, and his being on the short side – 5’9” probably – but that didn’t matter much in the long run.
Our handshake seems to last hours. At this point, I would not be surprised if I didn’t have an unbroken bone left in my limp hand. His eyes were cold silver, and his black hair shined in the cloudy sunset. “You must be Dawson.”
“I got your payment safe and sound.” We take a seat inside on a couple barstools, and I’m surprised he doesn’t fall through the shitty thing.
“I’d give you a drink, but I’m afraid all I have to offer is some warm piss.” Small talk is not my strong suit. I release an ugly giggle before locking my lips.
He gives me a concerned look and shakes it off. “You know,” he scratches his head, “I don’t usually engage in this sort of thing with my clients. I find it easier to come in, get the job done, clean up, and get out.”
“So you do this often? I figured I was the first.”
Dawson chuckles. “You’d be surprised what people ask for.”
My mouth runs like a river. I can’t stop. “How long have you been doing it?”
“Not for long. About a year.”
“So it pays well, I reckon? I mean, you’re getting $5,000 from me, and that’s just for an evening of fantasy.” Fuck me. These lips need sewn shut.
He evades my question and places his hand on my thigh. Dawson’s warm hands feel like freshly grilled beef patties against my jeans. “Look, let me grab my bag from my truck, and we’ll get started.” He hands me a black tube. “Usually I add this in secret to my clients’ drinks, but seeing as the only other option you have is a glass of piss, you’ll have to take it straight.” He claps my back. “Drink up.”
It would have tasted better with the piss. The concoction chewed against the back of my throat, lingering there as I gasp and choke. I feel it ooze down my gullet, scorching everything it passes, until dropping into the pit of my stomach. My stomach quickly bloats, and I want to vomit. But that’ll cost extra.
Dense rain drops fall against the tin roof of the rickety restaurant, and if it were different circumstances, I would call it almost romantic. Dawson returns with a plump red bag, his drenched clothes clinging to his sinewy frame.
“So? How was it?” He unzips the bag and places a roll of duct tape and plastic ties on the bar.
I imagine myself sporting that sexy half-grin, all alluring and unfazed, but all I can muster is a sheepish, beaming smile and a runny nose. The only place I can find for my clammy hands is pressed firmly against my crotch. To Dawson, I must look like some hormonal, strung-out youngster; he would not be too far off with that description. “It was fucking awful, but I downed the thing,” I admit.
Dawson has all his tools lined up on the table. The golden sheen of a machete and glossy surgical tools glisten with every flash of lightning through dusty windows. His duct tape is covered with pink unicorns. At least he has a nice sense of humor.
“You… you drank the whole tube?” Dawson rips a strip of unicorn tape with his teeth and wraps my hands with it.
His words are slurring, my vision fuzzy. “You didn’t tell me not to…?”
He buries his head in his hands. “Shit, man. I’m –” He begins to pace. “Fuck! It hap –”
“Dude, dude, dude, duuuuude, slow the hell down. I can’t make sense of a thing you’re saying.” But from the look on his face, he can’t understand me either.
Suddenly a little clown with donuts for eyes and a wig of bright pink curly fries hops into view. The small guy has been hiding in a pile of ripped magazines all this time. Who would have known? I try to dodge a blue ball he hurls towards me and fall off the bar stool. My tongue turns to cotton as the clown pecks my cheek.
A team of bopping toy soldiers dressed in drag vigorously shakes my head until I see Dawson again. “Mr. Hayes.”
I can’t help but stare at his pink lips. Reminds me of a guy I fucked last Hanukah. We were just about to kiss when he toppled his chardonnay on my lap. I never got that stain out. The memory brings tears to my eyes; I can’t stop laughing.
“Listen to me, Mr. Hayes.”
“It’s Ryan,” I lick his nose. “Baby, why are you still dressed? It’s only fair after I had to take mine off.” I cross my arms around his thick neck and go in for a kiss, but he pulls away. Rude.
Every blink grows heavier and heavier, until at last I drift off to sleep, joining my new friends Elbur the Clown and the toy drag soldiers in the cotton candy bushes.
“Shit,” Dawson mutters. His words faintly echo in my head as I drift in and out of consciousness. “He wasn’t supposed to take all that GHB. What an idiot. Or didn’t I tell him?” I feel my wrists and legs tighten together in the duct tape. “Well, a deal’s a deal. The money’s still green.” Then: “Surely it’s not enough to overdose. Surely not. Fuck, I should have asked Ben about the dosage.” A crack of thunder steals the rest of his speech.
Right as I fall to sleep again, he rips my clothes off. My hard dick springs out of its cage like a drooling jack in the box. My paralyzed body and frenzied mind aches for him. I’ve never felt so horny and horrified in my life. It’s a shame I can’t be conscious to experience the evening of brutal pleasure a cold $5,000 bought me.
The next thing I feel is splitting pain in my gut and his calloused hands and tongue raping in my ass. Then he sinks his fangs into my thigh and releases a throaty gurgle. He promised there would be no nasty transformation, but then again he said he was a sexy brunette over six feet tall.
Read the previous chapters here, and here. New chapters posted every Thursday!
“Don’t touch anything.”
“I know the drill.”
Despite being on the third week of dismissal from the station, ex-detective Robert Greer was not one for neglecting protocol. The last thing he wanted was for his superiors back in Dallas to find he was still investigating the case.
Robert waved his flashlight across the room, illuminating the gruesome scene: a shattered flat-screen T.V. was in shards on the floor, strange red depictions featuring strange symbols and images stretched along the walls, and then there was the blood and the body. “Shit, fucking bitch,” officer Stephenie Moran exclaimed, surprised at her colorful choice of words. “Is that the one?”
“Nope. He’s too young. All the others have been over eighteen; that kid looks to be fourteen or so.”
Suddenly, Moran felt something brush against her leg. “Mrrp.” A little tabby rubbed its little cheeks on her boot. The etched name on its collar read Mumu. The small cat seemed totally careless of the scene that had just played in front of its chestnut eyes.
“Get it away.” Greer growled. “I don’t have time to run back and get my inhaler, so keep the kitty away please.” She shooed the cat away, who ran into the kitchen, obviously on the hunt for some chow.
Moran trained under Greer at the academy; he taught her all she knew. So when she discovered his plan to continue the case without formal support, she felt obligated to follow along. Greer was the only one to ever stick up for her – standing at a plump 5’4” with a face for radio, she was always the victim of her peers’ jokes. So her support in the case he was so passionately involved in was the very least she could offer.
“You coming along, Moran?” Greer had that look on his face, the one he got right when shit was about to go down, as if he somehow knew what he was going to find upstairs.
Stephenie nodded, her nose in her palm. “Yeah, boss.” Adding: “How much longer do you think we have before the squad shows?” She dusted the cat fur from her boot.
“Ten minutes.” He traced his light along the winding staircase, noting a singular set of bloody footprints ascending the steps. “Be careful there,” he advised, gesturing at the blood. “We can’t leave any footprints.”
Moran shook her head and sighed. When was he ever going to stop looking at her as a rookie and consider her his partner? “You got it,” she chirped.
The bloody caricatures and footprints stopped at the farthest door in the hall. It was the master suite. A few days ago, the room would have looked expertly designed and beautifully kept. Eggshell drapes covered the room’s two large windows, wonderfully complementing cashew walls and glossy mahogany trim. What elegance the room displayed had been completely washed away under a layer of blood and brains.
“That’s the one.” Greer pointed, his lips parted in a painful sneer.
“Does he have the…?”
Robert nodded. “Yes. Right there. See?”
Sure enough, there was the mark. Moran could not believe her eyes. Seven murders scattered across the nation alone – possibly more once they get the files back from Interpol – all connected by a miniscule detail often disregarded in investigations. At first glance, any expert would deem the scene a murder-suicide, and leave it at that; however, each of their perps have a small four-spiked star printed just behind their left earlobe. The star is only visible for a few hours after the act is committed, eventually vanishing completely.
While Robert was a renowned detective, he could analyze copious amounts of information at record speed as well as recognize complicated patterns in bundles of random information. He attributed his many past successes to his attention to detail. Granted, his obsession with patterns got him kicked off the squad, he was in too deep with his case to simply turn in his gun and badge and leave it at that.
“Well I’ll be damned. Rob, we’ve got to say something to the commissioner. Looks like we’ve got a serial killer.”
Robert missed the suggestion, as he was too occupied with what he was observing out the window. Three officers were speaking with the neighbors, the ones who reported the attack. Moran and Greer had seconds to get out of the house before they would be booked. “We’ve got to go now! Check one of the other rooms for a window with access to the roof. If we can get out the back, we still have time.” His breathing was heavy and thick. He wished he wasted the few minutes to retrieve his inhaler – he was going to need it.
The two found an open window in the young boy’s room at the back of the house, forgetting about paying careful attention of smudging the floors. “We didn’t get pictures of the symbols, Rob!” Greer helped Stephenie onto the roof.
“We’ll get some at the next one,” he muttered, dropping off the roof, with an empty flowerbed breaking his fall and roll. “Now you. Hurry. We’re on foot now.”
Moran leapt from the house, and they ran, jumping hedges and scaling the rustic privacy fence. As they were sprinting for the woods, Stephenie peered back at the scene – she counted four cars and an ambulance, all arriving within seconds of each other. Two officers were turning Greer’s black Mercedes inside-out.
“How are we going to find the next one?” Moran inquired between exhausted huffs.
The two had reached the woods and kept going. Robert almost missed a short string of bare barbed wire, nearly getting a face of snow and leaves. “It’ll find us. It always does.” Images from Greer’s past flooded his mind, bringing him back to that frightful night in Chicago where he first encountered the thing. His difficulty in describing the sight to his superiors was what consequently led him to his dismissal and round with alcoholism.
But Robert Greer finally had a name for what he had encountered in Illinois. Moran was correct in her speculation that they were dealing with several crimes committed by one entity, but calling it a killer was assuming it was human; the thing that murdered his girls was anything but.