It’s Halloween and the techno-beat shocks him with electric excitement. Tonight, the club above him would fill to capacity with revelers in all their garishly-garbed glory. For him, costumes were but unnecessary garnish on his dance floor buffet.
Category Archives: Flash FIction
THE HOUSE ON COTTONWOOD LANE
Cottonwood Lane was a ritzy neighborhood to be sure. Sarah felt out of place as soon as she turned the corner where Cottonwood met Elm.
She had to remember she was a professional; just because these people’s cars cost more than her entire apartment building didn’t mean she was unworthy. Still she felt she was sullying the area just driving her tiny, Toyota pickup down the mighty Cottonwood. She was sure the only pickups that came this way were loaded with yard equipment.
Sarah worked for Englund Real Estate Agency, but this wasn’t her case. Jackson Whitlock was the original agent assigned to the Weston house. Unfortunately, Jackson had caught a severe case of the husband-came-home-early-itis; a disease that left him in traction.
Jackson was a good agent but also a complete dumbass. His personal motto was “I’ll sell your house and fuck your wife, not necessarily in that order,” Badum-ching.
Sarah looked at the numbers on the houses. She thought calling them houses was like calling the Titanic, just a boat with a tiny leak. The Weston house was 603 Cottonwood Lane. She looked at the clock on the dashboard.
“Shit.” Continue reading
The Neon Straightjacket
Everyday I walk to the tracks where we met when we were fourteen. We were literally two kids from the opposite sides of the tracks. We were anything but opposites though.
Neither of us felt welcome in our own homes, so we figured neither of us would be welcome in each others. So we’d meet at the tracks and we’d talk. Later, when we were a little older, we’d share pilfered cigarettes and beer. We had to take what we could get. I’d bring Bud Lights and he’d bring Pabst Blue Ribbon.
I think we tried twenty different cigarette brands from Camels to the delicate Virginia Slims. Neither of us actually liked smoking but that thrill you got from doing something you weren’t supposed was very real. Our entire relationship had that feel to it.
It was a little better when we got our licenses, so long as we could get a car for the night. We’d head to the mall and hang out, or catch a movie. We’d always talk about taking whatever car we were lucky to have gotten and just keep going. Never look back.
It always ended the same, one dropping the other off in a place they didn’t want to go. We both wanted to fix each other, we wanted to be the one that swept the other out of Hell.
It never happened though. We’d end up back on opposite sides of the tracks counting the days until we turned eighteen, when we could finally say ‘fuck you’ to our families and just leave. There would be nothing holding us back except are own fears.
I had already started saving cash up for a car or an apartment, which ever we decided we needed first. I’d sleep in a car if I had to. I’d do whatever I had to.
Then it all went to hell. One night we parked by the tracks after a movie. I sat up against him, he wrapped a strong arm around my waist. The radio provided a soft white noise in the background. It was the most relaxed either of us had ever been. We fell asleep.
He woke first and started to panic. It was late, he should’ve been home hours ago. The night was my night to drive so I was in for it too.
I drove as fast as possible to get him home. I felt responsible for him and already started playing the blame game. I dropped him off and hated myself for not waiting at least a couple minutes just in case.
I got the verbal beating of a lifetime for being so late and so irresponsible. I cried myself to sleep like I had on numerous occasions, My head was swimming in a stew of guilt, anger, pain and panic. I decided right then and there that this was the last time. Car or no car I had to get us out of there.
The next day we met at the tracks as usual and I knew immediately he got it a lot worse than I did. His face was swollen and purple. He was physically beating, not just verbally like me.
I could sense a change in him. He talked about being beaten like it happened to someone else. He was there with me talking yet a thousand miles away. The way he stared off into space scared me..
We parted that night with the same promises of escape. I could tell his heart wasn’t in it. He was losing hope in our happily ever after. I couldn’t blame him.
I never blamed him, even when I found out he had hung himself. I took the blame for that too. If I could have gotten my act together and gotten us out it wouldn’t have happened. Being verbally abused for years was one thing and terrible all to itself but being physically assaulted by people who should have loved him no matter what was too much.
I ached when I thought about him dying like that, knowing I was partially to blame. Then I’d ask myself, why did he pick death over me. No matter what, he knew I would never give up on him and yet he gave up on himself.
I tried to convince myself that it was irrational thought. It wasn’t a choice of death over me. I also knew when you plunged into the dark parts of your mind nothing outside that pain and darkness made any sense. Sometimes you just wanted it to stop. He made it stop and I couldn’t fault him for that.
But now I was alone. I was also barred from his funeral by both his and my parents. It was clear his parents blamed me and took no responsibility for their hand in his downfall. My parents didn’t want people talking if I showed up and was seen. God forbid.
It was okay though. The day of the funeral I did what I always did. I walked to our tracks, sat down and cried. I felt closer to him there than I would’ve in a place filled with people who tortured and tormented him.
Earlier that day his sister brought me a card and told me to open it in private. She had been the only ally we had and she hugged me and apologized for her parents.
When I got to the tracks I opened the envelope. The simple slip of white paper said “I love you and I’m sorry.” Then I pulled out a small stack of mix matched bills. It looked to be about 150 dollars.
I had a fit of sobbing, laughter. He still wanted to help me get away. He never got the point that without him it didn‘t matter anymore. If he got that he still might’ve been alive. My question now was should I stay or should I go? Was life worth it without him in it? Only time would tell.
Bethany didn’t want to retire and they all knew it. It was a good thing her years in the field made her into one hell of an actor. Faking smiles was second nature to her. She had been faking and perfecting her current mask for nearly a month. That was when she was told they believed she was too old for her job.
Of course they’d never say it quite like that, instead they tried to dazzle her with a generous severance. It was generous, she had no issue with any of that. She had an issue of being told when she would have to accept their generosity.
She knew, at sixty-eight years old, she was as sharp as ever. She also knew there was no way of changing their minds. The government couldn’t have a sexagenarian out on important missions. To them she was a feeble granny, that could die at any minute while holding important, sometimes downright damning information. She had been a thief, a spy and a killer for her country and this was the thanks she got. She couldn’t help but feel like an old mare being lead to the glue factory.
Now she had to sit and fake smile while her replacement, Constance Weatherly, prattled on about how Bethany Frost was her inspiration for going into this line of work. Connie had no idea what her job was and what she’d be asked to do. Frankly, Bethany didn’t think Connie was going last very long before she either resigned or got herself killed. Connie seamed like an okay girl, but she was just a girl, rather prim and prissy. She’d never make it through her first gunshot wound, at least mentally.
Connie introduced Senator Burton, who Bethany had never met, but far be it from her to tell a senator he wasn’t invited to her party. There were cameras and it was an election year after all. Voters loved when someone pinned a medal on a hero.
Of course, Bethany was no hero. Her duties were not heroic in nature but it’s how they chose to frame it now that she was being thrown out on her ass. There were no real records on the things she was asked to do. That of course was why the packages were so good. The government didn’t want their trained assassins going freelance for extra cash. Granted she was an anomaly, she was the first to actually reach retirement age. All the more reason she thought to keep her on.
Senator Burton took the podium and Connie sat back down. Ever the perfectionist she popped back up to fix the microphone and then her head exploded. Bethany saw the bullet enter from one of the floor to ceiling windows. She knew Connie wasn’t the target, the Senator was, her obsessive need to touch everything was her downfall.
Bethany was on her feet faster than any of the other agents in attendance. She shoved the senator to the floor by the back of his head. As another bullet popped through the window. This time glass rained down as the window shattered. The good news was the shooter was a lousy shot. Bethany thought if it had been her, she would’ve got him on the first try regardless of Connie’s head.
Bethany helped Burton roll under the table to further shield him from the would-be-assassin.
Bethany’s heart was pumping and she felt more alive than she had in a month. She rolled over to Connie and realized the naïve girl was not carrying her weapon. Bethany cursed herself for listening to her director, who said she needn’t carry her weapon tonight.
She stood and watched two agents helping Burton roll of the stage on the other side of the banquet table.
“Anderson,” Bethany said. The taller of the two agents looked at her. “Gun, now.”
There was no argument from Anderson, she knew there wouldn’t be. She hopped the table and landed like a cat on the floor beside him. Anderson handed her his gun and she was off.
She knew exactly where that bullet had come from and she was going to get the son of bitch who ruined her party. It was the best gift she could have gotten.
Outside the building she surveyed the street in front of the Speedman Convention Center. She found what she was looking for almost immediately. Bethany ran to the curb where the driver of the car was waiting for the light to turn green. She knocked on the window, the bass from within rattled glass while the dull thud of a techno beat spewed from the car’s speakers.
The driver was a male in his mid to late 40’s. He was the type that she knew she’d find being that the Convention Center was surrounded by the clubs and restaurants guys like this went to hit on younger men and women. He’d flash his fancy watch and gaudy jewelry and promise them a ride in his fast, cherry red car.
Not tonight asshole.
“Get out of the car.”
“Screw you, you old bitch.”
Bethany took a deep breath. She didn’t want to shoot him, she didn’t have the time.
“This is official government business, I am commandeering this vehicle.”
“Like hell…ah ah.” Bethany had reached in a grabbed a handful of his greasy chest hair. She was prepared to pull the bastard straight out the window but he gave in and opened the door.
Bethany pulled him away from the car and hopped in. He was saying something but she had already taken off. She needed to get a few blocks over to the Nixon Building. It was the only building where that shot could have come from.
She made it over quickly and without incident. Now the fun began. A man was being herded toward a black SUV. This was her guy. She counted four suspects in all, one in the driver’s seat and the three getting in. It took off.
The chase was on and that suited her just fine. The quartet in the SUV were fast but Bethany’s commandeered car was faster. The car handled like a dream and slid through the street like a puck on ice. The SUV was bulky and didn’t make turns well. These guys were amateur hour. That was a disappointment.
They began to pick up speed and she assumed they spotted her. It was confirmed when one of the suspects leaned out the passenger side window and shot out one of her head lights.
With one hand on the wheel she pulled Anderson’s gun from her belt leaned out and punched a hole in the SUV’s back window. It was heavy glass but not entirely bullet proof. She thought about another shot but decided against it. She had no ammo for a reload.
The SUV hopped the curb, newspapers and coins flew in the air as they drove through a blue newspaper box. She followed them up onto the sidewalk. It was a busy sidewalk and if she were a typical law enforcement agent she might have given a damn. But she wasn’t and she didn’t.
People began screaming as people are apt to do when avoiding being mowed down by two vehicles in a high speed chase.
The SUV made it to the end of the sidewalk and hung a sharp right. Bethany almost thought it was over as the SUV looked to be teetering. It wasn’t enough to flip it though, back on all fours it continued on.
The corner was no trouble for her. Now came police, sirens and lights were coming up from behind her. She was hoping the agents back at the Convention Center had gotten their heads out of each other’s asses and let the police know she was in pursuit. They hadn’t because a police officer in the lead car took a shot at Bethany. Crooks in front Cops in back, this was turning out better than she ever expected.
Bethany suddenly jerked the wheel to the right, turning into a side alley. She laughed as the police cars flew by the mouth of the alley. She didn’t stop. She heard the rattle and clank as she took out a row of aluminum garbage cans, dragging some of their contents along with her.
When she made it to the end of the alley she was just in time to see the SUV.
She couldn’t believe her luck , now being pursued by the police, the SUV tried her trick and turned down another side alley. Here Bethany waited for them and just as the nose of their vehicle came into view she jammed on the gas and rammed the car into the SUV’s side.
The SUV slammed into the concrete wall across from the alley where Bethany awaited her victims. Sparks flew as its metal dug into brick and mortar. The driver was attempting to just drive on but Bethany wouldn’t allow it. She kept the gas down on the floor and the rubber from the tires began grinding into the pavement. The smell was foul but exhilarating.
Bethany leaned out her window, took aim and shot the man in the passenger seat who was aiming his gun at the front of her car. It was a kill shot because Bethany really didn’t know any other way to shoot.
The back seat window slid down and the barrel of a shot-gun poked out. Sparks flew from the barrel as her windshield was pelted by buckshot. Her visibility was limited by the broken glass. The SUV had now stopped trying to move forward so Bethany took her foot of the gas. She leaned out her window again but was hoisted out by the collar of her dress.
She found herself in the meaty hands of one of the suspects who must have climbed out the back hatch without her noticing. She wasted no time in burying the toe of her shoe in the man’s crotch. She pulled her foot away as he let go but instead of stepping back she did it again, using the momentum built up with the first kick. Now she allowed him to grab at his no-doubt ruptured balls and slide to his knees on the pavement.
She couldn’t kill this one because he could be the shooter and they would need him alive. Instead she kicked him with the flat of her shoe slamming his head into her stolen car. His head bounced back and took him all the way to the ground. Two down two to go.
The other two scrambled to get out of the SUV. The driver took off down the alley, but the one in the back came after Bethany. She ready herself for another fight but was stopped by the booming voice of a police officer.
“Freeze, both of you, hands where I can see them.”
“Officer I am a federal agent and these people attempted to assassinate Senator Warren Burton this evening.”
“She’s lying,” said the man next to Bethany. “I’m a Federal Agent and I thank you for your assistance.”
The police officer looked as confused as Bethany felt as the man slowly pulled his wallet from his pants pocket. He flipped it open, and sure enough he had a badge and ID similar to Bethany’s own. Another thing she was told she didn’t need anymore. The bastards had set her up. Her generous severance was supposed to be an assassin’s bullet.
Bethany kept her voice low, “If you four are what the agency’s bringing in after I’m retired,” She put extra emphasis on that word, letting the man know she knew what this was all about. “this country is fucked.”
“Did you really think they were going to let you live?” The man was smug, but also kept his voice low.
“Darling, do you really think I’m going to let you?”
His eyes were the worst part. Unnatural. Unnerving. Never blinking, never closing. He just stared. Even in the dim lighting they glowed like a bicycle reflector in the high beams of a passing car.
He sat as still as a corpse. That was to be expected, given his nature. The palms of his hands rested on his thighs, covered with what our tech guys called “mittens”. To a casual observer they looked like oven mitts. They were designed to render his razor sharp claws useless. While his strength was unparalleled, he couldn’t damage his cell with fists or feet alone. Those nasty claws amplified by his strength, on the other hand, would have sliced through it like diamond through a sheet of paper. Many an agent had lost a limb to a singular swipe from those hellish daggers. They were the lucky ones, the ones that didn’t get sliced from throat to crotch but lived long enough to see their insides on the outside.
He sat on his bed, the only thing in the cell besides himself. He had no use for a toilet, he wasn’t afforded the luxury of books or photographs. It was just him, his bed and the glass box that surrounded him. The glass box had no visible openings. His kind needn’t eat, drink or breath so why take the chance.
He was unlike any other prisoner and his rights were nonexistent. He was an animal that would’ve rightfully and justly been put down, had that been possible. It wasn’t. It wasn’t like a movie, the only way to make sure he stayed “dead” was to lock him in a inescapable tomb.
I had suggested digging a hole, placing the cell in it and filling it with concrete. The powers-that-be said it was overkill and he may prove to be an important asset someday. I told them they were assholes for thinking he could ever be useful.
Now I was the asshole, sitting in a folding chair, watching those eyes and his smug yet humorless grin. He hated me, because I put him in this place. I hated him because he murdered eleven of my colleagues and wounded a dozen more.
“Professor Price?” He gave no indication he even heard me. I hated how he could look right into your soul yet not be bothered to actually see you. “Look I don’t want to be here anymore than you do but…”
He silenced me with a slight tittering of laughter.
“Mr. Duncan, when ever did you find the time to become a comedian.” He laughed again. I imagined that’s how the hinges on the gates to hell sounded. “No one is forcing you to be here. So run along boy, I have no use for you.”
“Listen, you arrogant asshole, despite my protests, the League of Slayers is offering you updated accommodations for your cooperation.”
“I ask for nothing.” He waved one covered hand as if to shoo away a fly.
“Don’t you miss your books, Alistair? Wouldn’t a drink be nice.” I had to force myself to say it. The thought of the League actually feeding this thing was insane.
“Yes, a drink would be amazing. However, unless your league has authorized you to bring a hot, fresh, and preferably young treat for me to sample, I have no use for you, them or the coagulated shit they would pass off as my reward.” His grin was now gone. “Professor Alistair Price is no one’s pet. I am neither your bitch nor your pigeon.”
“In other words you’re not going to roll over and what… shit on my car?”
“You make me sick. How dare the League send childish boys to do men’s work? Come back Duncan when you have hair on your balls.”
“This childish boy locked your old balls in that glass box.”
“Okay enough of this. I knew this was a bad idea.” A figure emerged from the shadows behind me.
“A new player,” Price said. “And who might you be, my dear lady.”
“Agent Helen Hershey, FBI.”
“Slayers and FBI agents working together? What is all the fuss about?” He raised a thin, black eyebrow creasing the alabaster skin on his forehead. Then he lowered it and frowned. “Oh, that’s right, I don’t give a rat’s rotten ass about the fuss.” He shooed us again with increased urgency.
Agent Hershey studied Alistair Price. I had known this woman for all of four hours but there was something about her. I was interested to see how she dealt with the good professor.
“Professor Price, it’s no secret Duncan here hates your ancient guts.” Hershey patted me on the shoulder. “I don’t though.”
“Oh, no? You want to be friends Agent Hershey? Well I need no friends and I’ve seen this movie before. Hopkins was amazing.
“You see Hannibal Lecter felt the need to help because he was curious and he liked to toy with Clarice and pull strings. Me, I am no puppeteer and I don’t play with my food.”
Hershey’s eyes narrowed. It had just become a high noon stare-down and I think I saw a glimpse of uncertainty behind the professor’s eyes.
“Okay, Price, here’s the thing I don’t hate you but I don’t want to be your friend either. You misunderstand, I’ll forgive you, you’re old. I just don’t care about you one way or the other.” Price scoffed at Hershey.
“No, really, it’s true. You don’t help us on what’s in my little folder here,” Hershey shook a tan file folder at the cell, “I go on with my life. I do what needs to be done. Never wanted a vampires help, never needed it.
“You on the other hand you will have to live in this box and think about all of this.” She got to her feet and pulled something out of her pants pocket. It was a roll of scotch tape. “Help me here Duncan. Let’s show the professor what all the fuss is about.”
Together we began taping the 8 by 10 photos from Hershey’s file to the glass walls of the cell. All we saw were the white backsides of the photos but Alistair Price was getting the full view.
I had looked these photos over a million times. They were nasty. All women, all tore to shreds, Jack-the-Ripper-style. No blood found anywhere near or inside the bodies, just strips and strips of torn flesh. All their heads were on backwards. The corkscrew affect of the neck indicated that the heads were rotated more than once. And last but not least they all appeared to be sexually assaulted with something very hot. Burns lined both thighs on each victim and the genital area was melted like candle wax.
“Friend of yours?” I asked tapping on the glass.
At first he refused to look, but there was a thing about vampires we learned early on when we were picked to be slayers. They were curious creatures with insatiable appetites for puzzles and riddles. It didn’t take long before his obsessive need to know what was in the photos took a hold of him.
Needless to say I was shocked by the look on Price’s face. His curiosity quickly turned to dread as he studied the photos. It was surreal to see his bottom lip tremble and his brow furrow. I heard him let out an almost inaudible tsk-sound. I probably wouldn’t have heard it if not for the microphones embedded in the glass that allowed us to hear him.
“Oh my dear, Duncan, this is no one’s friend.” Price’s voice was like gravel in a cement mixer.
“Is it a vampire?” Hershey asked. Price’s eyes never left the photo dead center. I knew it happened to be one of the pictures displaying one of the victim‘s melted and mutilated vaginal area. Even this creature, known for his ferociousness, who left people to waddle about as they literally tried to hold themselves together, was disturbed and disgusted.
“Certainly not.” He was trying to sound indignant but his voice had lost its bluster. “This is not the work of one of my kind. This is something entirely different.”
“So you are familiar with this attacker or at least it’s origins.” Hershey put a hand on her hip waiting for Price to confirm or deny.
Price looked up at us and nodded. His gleaming eyes had taken on a dull film, sullen and dark. Vampires’ eyes transformed with the changing of their moods. I had seen this creatures eyes go from brilliant white when content to deepest crimson when enraged. This mood and these eyes were not something I had seen from him before. Until that point I never knew a vampire, especially one as ruthless and powerful as Professor Alistair Price, could feel fear and dejection.
“So you’re going to help us find this thing right?” Hershey asked like it was a foregone conclusion. I was surprised Price didn’t protest or argue. He remained silent for a long time. He went back to studying the photos.
With eyes still on them he spoke. “The depraved beast that committed these atrocities must be dealt with. I need to speak with my people at the Guild.”
“Your people? Fuck you.” There was no way I was letting Price contact the Night Guild. It was the vampires answer to our League of Slayers.
“Listen to me and heed my words, Duncan, this,” he pointed at the photo in front of him, “is not something the League of Slayers or the FBI or the CIA or the KGB or any other of your alphabet soup organizations can handle.
“I assure you, you will need all the help you can get and the Night Guild will help with this particular case. I do believe a truce is in order.”
“Back up Price. Before you go talking guilds and truces why don’t you explain why this has you so spooked. Why is this different from any other of your creepy supernatural buddies?” If I was to be completely honest about it, I’d say I was on my way to shitting my pants over Price’s reaction. I didn’t know if I had it in me to slay a creature that made my greatest nemesis cower.
“The evidence you so rudely slapped on my clean cell glass is of a creature far more ancient than my people. The Guild will want to help on this simply because if they don’t there will be no world for them to dominate. This thing is a herald of the end times.”
“Like biblical end times?” Hershey looked at me and pursed her lips.
“Indeed. What you see in these photographs is what happens when a true antichrist hits puberty. You will be looking for a teenage male whose mix of hormones and demon blood is driving him insane. How did this go unnoticed?” The question was to himself and in a whisper.
“What do you mean by that?” I asked.
“Duncan, this is not the first antichrist. The Guilds of Darkness have been taking care of these things in their infancy for countless ages.”
“Don’t be so naïve Mr. Duncan. These aren’t babies these are spawns of Satan, whose only goal is to grow up and burn our world to the grown. Every last one of us, whether you be human or vampire, witch or wolf. Like it or not we’re in this together.”
“I’m going to make some calls, let our people know what’s going down,” Hershey turned and disappeared down a shadowed corridor.
“Won’t it be nice to be colleagues for a change?” Price spoke up when Hershey was gone. “Of course I hear your colleagues have terrible time keeping themselves together around you.”
“Go to Hell.”
“Poor choice of words Duncan. Let’s do all we can so we don’t all go to Hell.”