Tag Archives: Tension

The Glorious Sunset of Taffeta Spaulding – Epilogue

“Will there be anything else ladies?”

Taffeta stirred awake from a light nap, as the waiter, whose name tag identified him as Damerae, placed their drinks on the small table next to their lounge chairs.

“Oh, no thank you,” Taffeta said. “This is fine.”

“Not right now Damerae,” Myrna said. “But don’t go too far. I never know when I might just feel like dancing.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Damerae said with a wink.

“Myrna?” Taffeta said, as the waiter moved on. “You are a shameless flirt.”

“I am,” Myrna said, settling deeper into her chair and her sense of self-satisfaction. “I don’t see any reason to change at this point.”

“I’ll drink to that,” Taffeta said, lifting her glass.

She let the cool, fruity concoction work it’s magic and closed her eyes again behind her large sunglasses.

In the dark, the shadows of the past rose up as they always do now. The imprinted residue of resilient memories that can’t be erased, but instead, must be endured until they fade away of their own volition.

A shadowy room materializes, strewn with the bodies of those unfortunates who lurked in alleyways and around corners waiting for a crack at an easier life, but always at the expense of another.

Bright spatters and dark puddles of blood broke up the monotonous, dusty grays and dingy browns. The smells of dirt, mold, decay and gunpowder mixed in a choking, nauseating haze.

Once again Myrna stands with her outstretched arm holding a smoking, hot Cora covered by a patent leather purse now with a sizable hole in the side. The long and broken couch. The money.

Yes. Even in the midst of chaos and fear and death, the siren call of money is strong and clear and seductive.

Once Taffeta and Myrna calmed themselves, Myrna was ready to go, to cut bait and run and just clear out and start the work of forgetting. But how does that happen? For all that went on in that room. The screaming, the fighting, the gunfire, they were still alone. They were in a place that nobody on the outside must have cared much about. When it was over, it was quiet. More than quiet. Silent. No sirens. No men with megaphones shouting “Come out with your hands up.”

Nothing.

It was just the two of them, the bodies and the money.

“Myrna, wait,” Taffeta remembered.

“Wait? Wait for what?” Myrna asked.

“Let’s…just see how much.”

“How much what? How much more mayhem we can get into? No thank you!” Myrna turned again to leave, but Taffeta held strong.

“The boxes. All those boxes must be filled with money. I mean, look at how much it is on the floor.”

“You’re kidding right? It’s bad money, Taffy. Blood money. Money from drugs and crimes and…”

Taffeta looked back at her friend. “And what if we call they police? What if they come and see what went on here. What do you think happens?”

“I’m sure I don’t know.”

“You do,” Taffeta said. “You know they will come and clean up the mess and lock everything up and that’s the end of it.”

“You want to take the money?” Myrna asked. “Really?!”

“Let’s see how much.”

“No. It’s blood money.”

“It’s lost money Myrna. It’s not like this is from a bank or something. I mean sure, some of it’s stolen, but you heard them, a lot of this money people gave willingly – stupidly, sure, but willingly. Just to get high or whatever.”

“It belongs to somebody,” Myrna said. “It always does.”

“Why not us?”

“What?”

“Sure, why not us?” Taffeta said. “We were kidnapped, victimized, harassed, tied up, probably traumatized for the rest of our lives and they were going to kill us. Can we just walk away from that? Can you just, forget all that? Forget it all and just move on?”

Myrna took another step toward the door and stopped. “I killed a man, Taffy.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t get me wrong. I’m not sad about it. He was certainly going to kill you and if it happened all over, I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

“But…”

“I don’t know. It feels wrong. The killing feels wrong even though it was the only thing I knew to do. Taking the money, just feels wrong.”

“I know. You’re right,” Taffeta said. “And we can leave right now and go home and call the police and let them deal with it all. And we will get on with the rest of our lives, however long that is, and try to forget it all and hope that we are stronger than our nightmares, because I don’t think this is going away any time soon. I mean, just look! I’m just not sure that’s how I want my ending to be.”

“How?”

“Alone in an empty house, making sure I’m up by a certain time so that I can take my medicine before my nap and be awake for my afternoon doses of whatever so I can do it all again tomorrow and the next day!”

“Taffy…”

“Myrna, we almost died here today. Right here in this horrible, disgusting, vermin-infested wreck of a place. Right here where we would be forgotten as soon as the next news story came along to replace the one that tells the tale of two stupid old women who got themselves killed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time!”

Taffeta spun away from Myrna and stared into the shadows, at the bodies and the ocean of bills that poured from the boxes Petey tipped over.

It was some time before she felt Myrna’s hand on her shoulder. “Let’s just see how much.”

It took them a while, but they loaded quite a few boxes into the car that waited for them outside. There was too much to count right there. It was all sort of thrown together. And there was the matter of the three dead bodies. Once they decided to move on their idea, the ladies moved effectively.

For as troubled as he was, Danny Mackenoy, the New Capone, did a fair job of gathering up quite a lot of money. Who knows? If he stayed away from the drugs himself, it might have dawned on him that he was close to getting exactly what he wanted.

They took what felt right. Nothing more. It came as a silent decision between them after loading one of the boxes into the car. At one point or another, it just seemed like enough.

Once they were loaded, they made certain they had all their belongings, and they crawled into the car and headed home – at last.

About halfway home, they found a payphone and called the police. They didn’t know that address specifically, but they gave the general area and expressed concern over what they were certain was gunfire before hanging up.

Once at Taffeta’s house, they ate and had a good sleep before they started rooting through the boxes of money in the front room. With few expectations, it just became clear that it was a lot. Anytime they came across a random pill or other chemical, they promptly flushed it down the toilet.

They split the money into two piles then sat down looking at them for the longest time wondering what next.

They watched television news for any information on their story from the other perspective and it was as it was expected, “Three unknown victims were found dead in quarantined building, two from blunt force trauma and one from multiple gunshot wounds. Along with the bodies, police found a variety of prescription drugs and a large amount of money, possibly related to a recent string of thefts from several local pharmacies. Police suspect gang and, or drug related violence as the cause, but continue to investigate.”

Two days later, the story all but evaporated from the headlines, due to a warehouse explosion on the other side of town with the potential of releasing toxic smoke that posed a danger to the local population.

Then things got quiet.

Taffeta called Angela Deffert of Deffert, Smith and Deffert, blah, blah as her brother did some time ago. Proper and professional, Miss Deffert acknowledged the memory of working with Taffeta’s brother and the firm’s handling of his affairs, including the distribution of the various crates that he left in his will.

Miss Deffert confirmed that Taffeta’s brother had indeed secured their services, not only because they were a top ranking firm, but for their reputation for being discreet.

In short order, Taffeta and Myrna had set up the money in a living trust with conditions suitable to their liking. They arranged for the pick up, delivery and possible long-term storage of a certain crate, which now contained a well cleaned, well oiled and well packed Cora along with the remaining ammunition.

They each sold their houses and pretty much everything else they had short of their most prized possessions and made the plan to head some place, “South. Tropical. Caribbean.”

“Well, I do declare,” Myrna said, in what was the very passable, if not stereotypical accent of a Southern belle. “Why, with all this heat I fear that I am fixin’ to perspire!” She leaned over and tapped Taffeta on the shoulder stirring her again, from her visit to the past.

“I’m heading inside to take a shower before we go to dinner,” she said. “Don’t stay out here too long now, ya hear? Why, you’ll just bake!”

“Go!” said Taffeta, laughing lightly. “Get out of here, you loon!”

“Seriously, you don’t want to burn.”

“I’ll be along,” Taffeta said, downing the very last of her cocktail. “I don’t want to miss the sunset.”

Taffeta shifted in her chair and draped a towel across her legs. Her gaze moved along the beach and out across the water. She squinted and pushed herself to see as far as she could, far beyond the horizon and up into the sky until the very essence of her soul seemed to melt into the churning warm hues of the evening sun, set to drop away to mark the end of another day.

THE END

The Glorious Sunset of Taffeta Spaulding – XI

“The other one was going to let us go,” Taffeta said softly.

Myrna’s hands squeezed hard into her arm as the words left her mouth. She could hardly believe she spoke out loud. She wasn’t thinking about talking, but there were her words, cutting through the silence like a hot knife.

While she tried to look away when the one continued to drive the head of the man with the hammer over and over again into the floor, there was no way to shut out the horrible noise that came with it.

Then, out of the blue, she spoke, as if in a dream.

Danny looked up from his seat on Hover’s body.

“Excuse me?” he said.

Taffeta gave Myrna a quick reassuring look, took another deep breath and turned back. “The man who got hit with the hammer, Petey? He was going to let us go.”

“Yessss,” Danny hissed softly. “And you can clearly see where that got him.”

“The point is,” Taffeta said, pressing on. “He realized we’re not a threat… to him, or to you or to whatever you have going on here.”

“Well, lady,” Danny said shaking his head. “All that seems to have turned into tough shit for you now, considering that your benefactor seems to have had his brains scrambled. And whatever it was you didn’t see before. Since then it seems to me that you’ve both seen quite a bit more. I mean, look around you. We’ve got bodies now. This is what they call, a bona fide shit storm.”

Whatever it was that had bolstered Taffeta’s confidence, faded quickly as a smile crawled across Danny’s face and he began to climb off Hover’s body.

“Now, you look like a couple of smart ladies to me,” Danny said, trying again to wipe the blood from his hands as he gained his balance. “Although, how smart can you be really? I mean look at where you are.”

Taffeta leaned back into the couch.

“Just a bit ago, whatever Petey there was feeding you, was still pretty fresh and I guess, not far from the truth. But now, he’s dead. Hover there is dead. They spilled my money all over the place while doing the dance of the idiots. And, now I’m left with you two. And, you think I should let you go?”

Taffeta cleared her throat. “Yes,” she said. “You should let us go.”

Danny began to pace, laughing to himself before turning to face the old woman. “You…,” he said, pointing with a dramatic flair. “Make a very compelling case. However, I can’t let you go. You know that, right?”

“You’re a horrible human being,” Myrna said, lurching up and throwing herself into the mix.

“Yes,” Danny said, feigning reproach. “I’m sure you see it that way. But you see, none of this was supposed to happen!” He went back to pacing and sliding his bloody hands across his shirt. “I mean really, look at this mess!”

“This isn’t our mess,” Myrna shouted back. “We’ve had just about…”

“SHUT UP!” Danny shouted, spinning around and ducking down to get into Myrna’s face. And while it may have been the rest she got after Danny knocked her out, or she may have just reached her limit, Myrna didn’t flinch and she didn’t waiver. She set her one good eye sternly on his gaze and they stared at each other, each one not daring to flinch.

“Let us go,” Taffeta said softly into the heart of the stand-off. “Let us go and we won’t say a word. I promise.”

The silence flowed between the three of them with little resistance, like a barely there summer breeze.

Danny blinked first. Breaking the stare down with Myrna, the turned his glance to Taffeta. “You’ve got guts lady,” he said, before reaching up to pat her cheek with a smile. “Both of you! You’ve got a lot of guts.”

He kneeled down before them to finish the work Petey started, untying their legs and tossing the ropes aside. He stood uneasily before them. “Hell, if my mother or grandmother had half the guts you two have, who knows where I’d be today.”

“Thank you,” Taffeta said, reaching down to rub at the spot where the ropes nibbled into her ankles.

“The sad thing is,” Danny said as his smile melted away. “Guts can make you stupid. They can give you a false sense of right and wrong, and of power. They make you careless. If I let you walk out of here, we both know where you’re gonna go. And I can’t have the police showing up here. Not before, at the very least, I get a chance to spruce the joint up a bit.”

He looked around his domain almost sensing the possibilities that could come with a good cleaning.

“No,” he said. “You’re going to leave all right, but you’re not going home.”

Again, with an unsuspected speed and seemingly peculiar strength, Danny lunged forward grabbing the front of Taffeta’s coat, and jerked her up and out of the couch to stand before him.

She let a small whimper slip as her legs wobbled and tingled a bit from sitting so long.

Danny looked into her eyes with a dark determination and he spun her around to drag her from the room.

“Wait!” she cried. “Please! Wait! Just let me say goodbye.”

Danny paused, letting the words sink in. The day was getting long and his patience thin, but a quick goodbye seemed reasonable. He spun Taffeta around like a giant doll and without letting go, leaned her out toward her friend.

Myrna reached out. Taffeta reached out. Their hands met and clasped around each other.

“I’m sorry,” Myrna said as tears trickled down her face. “I’m so sorry.”

“Shhh,” Taffeta said, closing her eyes softly and shaking her head ‘no.’ “I love you. You know that right?”

Myrna shook her head, squeezing Taffeta’s hand.

Taffeta squeezed back as hard as she could. “Myrna,” she said, searching for her friend’s eyes. “Don’t worry about me. Do you hear me?” She started to cry. “You can get out of this thing. You get out of this thing and you get out of here and you go far away where it’s safe. Do you hear me?”

Myrna gave her an obligatory nod, holding back a sob.

“Ok,” Danny said, pulling at Taffeta. “That seems good enough.”

“You get out of here,” Taffeta urged. As Danny pulled their arms stretched between them, but their hands held tight.

“You do what you need to do!” Taffeta shouted, fighting to stay with her friend. Danny pulled again, finally breaking the link between them and trying to spin the old woman away and into the shadows.

“You get free!” Taffeta yelled. “You let Cora protect you!”

Taffeta pushed back as hard as she could, but Danny held tight. She bounced around as he fought to control her. She tried to point at Myrna. “You get Cora!”

“SHUT UP!”

Danny pulled Taffeta up in front of him with a hearty shake and a head-jarring jerk that stilled the fight in her. He stared directly into her eyes, again silently communicating all the seriousness he was about to bring down upon her.

“The show’s over lady!” he spat.

Taffeta stared back for a moment before squeezing her eyes shut as tight as she could make them.

Two seconds later, the room exploded.

Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop!

Holding her eyes shut, her ears began to ring as the sound of Cora’s report filled the small room like thunder. Wood, glass and molding drywall shattered around her making the air thick with dust and debris. She felt her captor wriggle and shake. She heard him grunt and howl, but his grip held tight through the storm.

Thirty shots later, with a soft click, it was over.

An aggressive silence sought to recapture the space, save for a few bits and pieces that had yet to find their way to the ground.

Taffeta, with a measure of hesitation, slowly opened her eyes.

Danny face filled her vision. His eyes darted across her face showing anger and hate and fear and finally, emptiness. Like she has seen in Petey’s eyes, Danny’s life slipped away from him. One single, small smile crossed his lips before he loosed his grip and crumbled to the floor in front of him.

Taffeta took in a huge breath, and tried to blink away her tears. As he eyes adjusted, she say Myrna standing before her. Myrna’s arm stretched out. And at the end, where one would have expected to see her hand, Taffeta saw her purse. Coming from a dark black, powder-burned hole in the side of the purse, a thin, delicate stream of smoke rose up into the sky.

Myrna sobbed.

“I heard you!” she said. The words poured out of her like water from a rusty bucket. “I heard you and I didn’t think I knew what you were telling me, but then I realized. Then I couldn’t get it out. The gun got stuck in the bag. I tried to get the safety off and I really wasn’t sure if it would work because I couldn’t see.”

Taffeta walked to Myrna as she spoke, smiling and wiping away the tears that streamed from her eyes.

“Then I pulled the trigger and just hoped,” Myrna said. “And it did, but then I couldn’t aim, and you were right there and…”

Taffeta reached up slowly, felt into the bag and softly urged Myrna’s hand to let go. She hefted the bag with the gun off her hand and set it on the floor. She moved Myrna’s outstretched arm down to rest at her side.

“…and you were right there. And my God, what if I had killed you? But he was horrible and he said horrible things. And the way he kept slamming that other man’s head over and over. He was never going to let us go he…”

“Sh, sh, shhhh,” Taffeta said, moving in to hug her friend in earnest. “It’s over now. It’s ok. It’s over.”

Myrna kept talking, kept saying every word that came to her head until there were no more, and the trailed off into the dark silence. They stood together, hugging each other, rocking back and forth ever so slightly and assured themselves that they were both alive and that everything was ok.

A long while passed before they moved. Eventually, Traffeta broke from the embrace, pulled a pair of tissues from her pocket and offered one to Myrna.

Together, the wiped their eyes, gathered their wits and calmed their souls.

“Such a mess,” Taffeta said first. “Such a waste.”

“They were horrible, right?” asked Myrna. “I mean, I killed…”

“Sh…,” Taffeta cut her off gently. “Don’t.”

Myrna drew another breath and nodded. “I want to go home.”

“Me too,” Taffeta said.

“Can we just…go?” Myrna asked. “Are we allowed to just…leave?”

“I guess.”

“What about…”

“I don’t know.”

Myrna reached down and took Taffeta’s hand. “Then let’s go. Let’s get out of here before something bad happens.”

Myrna stopped. Her brain caught up to what he mouth just said and she couldn’t help but giggle. “Before something bad happens. Did you hear that?”

Taffeta nodded.

“Let’s go!” Myrna said. “Medication be damned, I need a drink!”

She held on the Taffeta’s hand as she gathered up her own purse and moved to maneuver around the bodies and to the door, but Taffeta pulled at her.

“Myrna, wait.”

The Glorious Sunset of Taffeta Spaulding – VIII

Despite whatever went on inside his drug addled mind, and despite the self-inflicted tattoo that boldly, yet sloppily declared himself the “New Capone,” Danny Mackenoy was small time.

On the surface, his story read like the pages of so many others; very few friends, bad in school, truant, fighting, petty thefts, stints in juvie and everything else that would lead one to believe his destiny was either prison or an early death caused by any one of his random acts of stupidity.

On a deeper level, Danny was his own worst enemy. He wanted to be bad. He boldly slapped away every hand that ever reached out to him in earnest with an offer of honest help or reform, opting instead to dive deeper into forming the skin of a big time, hard-core crime boss. The way he saw it, he had the brains, he had the guts and there was nothing but opportunity all around him.

If Danny had anything going for him at all, it was his recent string of pure luck.

His latest scheme involved a line of robberies aimed at amassing cash, for cash meant power and power meant Danny Mackenoy could do whatever he wanted.

The plan was simple enough, steal as much cash as possible or steal whatever he could easily convert into cash. After cracking into a few houses and a gas station out in Millersburg, Danny stumbled upon the notion that drug stores, especially older ones, could render even faster results. They had cash. They had drugs. The drugs could be sold for cash and whatever was left over could help him soothe away the worries of another hectic day. Win, win, win.

Smart enough to know he couldn’t take on such an enterprise without some help, he enlisted the skills of a low-level hacker and petty thief, Hover Johnston. He also brought Petey Chambers in as his primary sales associate to move the various pills and notions into the town’s dark crevices where the lesser knowns hungered for his brand of relief, at a cost, of course.

Once Hover disarmed the security systems, which he often accomplished with a sizable sledgehammer, if there was one at all, they could walk right in and take charge. Hover stood watch at the door, while Danny went to the back to “fill his prescriptions” and otherwise relieve the registers of the burden of their legal tender.

Danny kept an eye on a number of area drug stores, to see if he could tell when their primary shipments came in so they would be ripe for the picking. But it was less an effort to conduct concerted stake out and more an exercise in smoking and aimless loitering. His decision to strike rarely grew from his research, but more from boredom and a lack of patience.

When Cowell’s Pharmacy grew ripe and in his mind, was ready for the picking, Danny was going in shit be damned.

And though he would rather have had the store to himself, Hover was already in the back doing his thing when the two old ladies stepped through the doors. Flies in his ointment to be sure, but small, frail flies at that. Nothing he couldn’t handle.

A soft step or two and he was right behind them without so much as a sideways glance. Dropping his sizable mitts on the far side shoulder of each woman, he pressed them together and brought his face to meet theirs in the middle.

“Good morning ladies. Welcome to Cowell’s. Let’s go shopping!”

He held them there for a moment as his hands curled into a grip on the shoulders of each of their coats, then pushed them forward to walk an arm’s length ahead of him.

“Young man!” Myrna said in a huff, as she tried to keep up with the pace of the man pushing them. She linked her arm through Taffeta’s and they squeezed into each other for strength and balance.

“Shut up lady,” Danny growled at the back of her head. “Just shut up. Not a word from either of you, got it?”

He pushed them through the entryway and turned down the third aisle. Taffeta tried to keep her breath calm as she squeezed Myrna’s arm and caught the blur of the various items that seemed to whiz by them from their places on the claustrophobic shelves. Candy turned into socks turned into lotions before the aisle ended and they emerged on the far end in front of the pharmacist’s counter.

Danny pushed them forward hard into the edge. Myrna whimpered as she took the brunt of the blow. Her breath came heavy.

Danny loosened his grip on Taffeta long enough to reach beyond her and slam his hand down on the small bell that sat innocently next to the sign that read, “Ring for service.”

Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring.

“Hey!” he yelled.

Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring.

“Hey!”

His hand covered the bell. He lifted it up and threw it hard beyond the counter and back into the shelves with a crash.

“Hey, are you deaf back there or what? How ’bout some service?”

He gripped Taffeta’s shoulder again and shifted the ladies together along the edge of the counter so that he could see into the back better.

“Hey!” even louder. “My Nana here needs her medicine!”

The sound of some boxes falling rose up from the back, just before the disheveled pharmacist came stumbling out and into sight. Then he tripped and fell out of sight again behind the counter. Behind him, with sledge in hand, stood Hover Johnston.

“You’re not gonna believe this,” Hover shouted down to his partner. “But Doctor Drugs here was trying to sneak out the back door.”

He dropped the sledge, stepped forward and reached down to grab the pharmacist and heft him up, pushing him too, hard against the counter. A small line of blood slid down over the man’s forehead from a cut somewhere in the mass of his tousled hair.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” the older man spat out through heavy breath, his face held tight against the countertop by Hover’s arm. “How, how,” he huffed. “Can I help you?”

“Like I said,” Danny said, disgruntled at the lack of service. “My Nana here needs her medicine.”

“Which…,” huff. “Medicine.”

Danny stood tall, releasing his grip of the ladies and spread his arms wide before him. “All of them!”

In a swift movement, he stepped back then lunged forward up onto and over the counter landing right next to Hover.

“Keep an eye on ’em. All of them,” he said, before scooping up several shopping bags located behind the counter and stepping back into the promised land.

Hover released the pharmacist long enough to reach back to the floor and grab his sledge. Jumping back, he caught the man just before he slipped off  to prevent him from heading to the floor.

“Where you goin’ Pops?” he said, pushing the man’s head and face back into the counter. “That’s right. Nowhere. Nobody’s going nowhere.

The man on the counter moved his eyes up enough to see the faces of the two ladies. The three stared at each other, wordlessly, with faces aptly contorted to suit their circumstance .

It took three minutes, before Danny emerged with full bags of merchandise – hydromorphone, hydrocodone, oxymorphine and some others just because he liked the colors. All his favorites. His mouth chewed ferociously on some tablets that he tossed in for fun and one small white pill stuck to the side of his cheek for a moment before it fell free and tumbled to the floor.

“That’s it,” he yelled, spitting. “Easy as pie.”

His eyes grew wide as he jumped on to the counter and crowed into the empty store like a victorious warrior.

Then he stopped suddenly, shook his head to shift the greasy long strands of his hair from his face, turned back behind him and said, “Mr. Johnston, our work here is done. While the service here was shit,” he said screaming the last word down to the pharmacist. “We ultimately got what we came for. So, I will let it go…this time, but I doubt we will ever return, and I will be telling all my friends to take their business elsewhere.”

He kicked out at the pharmacist causing him to wince before jumping to the floor, back next to the ladies.

“What should we do with him?” Hover asked, “And the old ladies?”

Danny turned and looked at the three, his mouth gnawing at the last bits of the chalky medications.

“Damn,” he said. “Well, I’m in no condition to drive right now, so ladies – you’re with me. And as for that guy…I don’t care. I suppose the moment we leave he’ll try to call the cops so…whatever might fix that would be…”

“Now you listen to me,” Myrna said through gritting teeth as she stepped forward. “We aren’t going anywhere with you. You have what you want. Just go and leave us all alo…”

Myrna didn’t get to finish before a fist filled with the handles of a shopping bag filled with drugs caught her in the cheek. She fell back slowly into Taffeta, who caught her as best she could, but she couldn’t support the weight and they both fell backward hard into the wall of the pharmacy counter.

“Myrna?” Taffeta said, trying to calm the quiver in her voice. “Myrna, honey. You’re ok. You’re ok now. Myrna?”

Myrna mustered a grown that while soft and weak, was enough to quell the burning fear in Taffeta’s chest. They sat together on the floor  as Danny stepped closer to them and crouched down.

“Wham!”

The sound burst up from behind them, behind the counter followed by a retching scream as Hover’s sledge made sure the last thing the pharmacist’s fingers would do is dial a phone…or do pretty much anything else for a good long while.

“You hear that ladies?” Danny spoke softly. “That there is the sound of anguish caused by an utter lack of cooperation pure and simple.”

“Now, my associate is not very smart. He would be all too happy to make your day miserable with a little wave of his sledge hammer. And the only thing between him and you is me. So, while I like this store enough to fill my prescriptions, this is not where I planned the spend the rest of the afternoon. So if you would be-so-kind, would you get off your fat asses and TAKE ME TO YOUR CAR!”

Danny’s words were well metered until the end when spit filled with the crusty remnants of a handful of tablets splashed into their faces.

Danny stared at Taffeta. Taffeta stared at Danny. Myrna moaned softly as a harsh redness spread across her cheek where the skin began to swell.

Heavy seconds ticked by like minutes.

Then Taffeta blinked. She looked away and hefted Myrna in her arms.

“Come on sweetie,” she said. “We’ve got to go now.”

She moved and struggled until both ladies were standing, Myrna leaning heavily against her friend.

“Now that’s what I’m taking about,” Danny said standing. “Cooperation! After you, ladies.” He swung his arm low as he half bowed inviting the two women to go before him.

Taffeta hefted Myrna one last time to make sure she had a good grip. She settled the strap of her purse on the other shoulder and slowly stepped before their captor heading toward the pharmacy door.

Kilt – Part III

“Mister Kilt,” Dr. Kernz said with a certain level of matter of factness, “Paul, if I may. This is our third meeting. I can’t prove it of course, at least not yet, but it’s clear that you are not being one hundred percent forthcoming regarding the reality of your injury.”

Kilt looked down at it right hand and stared at the way he ran his thumb back and forth over his finger tips in a soft circular motion. If he had his other hand, he was sure he would have clasped all of his fingers together to accommodate his thumbs tapping each other gently in assured defiance, but his thumb tapping days were over for sure. And with that, some level of his confidence.

“As I explained in our first meeting, we need to figure out what exactly led to your injury. Your insistence that it was a dog, sounds, as we agreed, unlikely to impossible. I surely find it implausible. So if you expect to head back to your home upon your release, instead of a cozy room in the Starkton facility, I suggest we try to explore some new ground. It’s for your own good and the good of the community.” The doctor paused, “I’m here to help.”

Kilt jerked his head away from the oddly calming and near hypnotic thumb movement as if the doctor made a loud noise. His breath quickened as he caught the other man’s gaze.

“Help,” he said, nearly spitting out the p. “How will you help?”

“I…”

“You don’t believe my story. And if I tell you what I think really happened, at least how I remember it, I’m pretty sure you won’t believe that one either. So, it seems a stint in Starkton is probably inevitable. But since you’re so keen on ‘helping,’ I’ll give it to you, warts and all.”

The doctor silently leaned back in his chair, implying in part that he was happy enough to have reached this point. He waived his hand before him as a gesture to Kilt that he was welcome top proceed, please…go ahead.

Kilt swallowed hard, turning his gaze back to his thumb and fingers.

“It was a weird day to start with. I wasn’t feeling well and I’m never sick, but I was off enough to call off work for the day. The reports of a possible storm that evening started early as I recall, but I don’t think they had any idea what type of storm was heading our way.”

“What do you mean?,” Kernz broke in, “Type of storm.”

Paul nodded his head at the doctor as if to look, but kept his eyes trained on his thumb moving back and forth, back and forth. “Aren’t you from around here doctor? Couldn’t you feel it? This storm was going to be different. Different before it even got here. Most storms are stirred up by weather patterns controlled by Mother Nature to help her take care of her business. But this was no Mother Nature storm brewing. You could feel it in the air the closer it got. It wasn’t like electricity or anticipation. It was more like…dread.”

“Dread?”

“Yeah,” Paul said, not realizing how much harder his thumb was pressing against his fingertips. “Dread. Like Mother Nature stepped away for a moment and something else jumped in to steer the storm machine that day.”

“What kind of something?”

“Something…dark.”

“Go on.”

“The clouds…the storm system didn’t just roll in like most storms do. It crept in. It changed the air. It, it, didn’t cover the sun, it was more like it…absorbed the light causing the darkness to increase. And when it got here, it seemed to lock this town down as if it meant to stay a while. Even when the street lights went on, they seemed to have to fight to share enough light to hold back the darkness, at least until the power went out. Even my headlights had a hard time cutting into that blackness.”

“You weren’t home then?”

“No,” Paul said, watching his thumb move. “I was coming off some double shifts, so the cupboards were bare as they say. Even though I felt bad, I would have felt worse with no food in the house and I tend to think storms are better when accompanied by the welcomed comfort of a twelve pack. My plan was to skip to the grocery and get back before things got bad. I left my house just as the winds were picking up and damned if I couldn’t tell something was off the moment I stepped out of that house.”

“The dread?”

“Yeah…,” Kilt’s voice trailed off for a moment. “But not right away. Like I said the air felt…different. The moment I closed my front door, I don’t know if it was a smell or how thick the air seemed, but that first deep breath was nearly like a brick to the head. I had to steady myself for a moment before I moved to my truck.”

“What happened next?”

“Nothing, really. I brushed off the feeling because I didn’t really have anything to connect it to. I just wrote it all down as maybe being sicker than I thought. I got to Barner’s. I got what I needed. I paid and started to leave. In the short time that passed between entering the store to when I stepped on that pad to open the exit door, the light was gone. The darkness had taken over and it was just starting to rain.”

Boys – Part XII

The energy exchange of the transformation raged through his entire being and into the small human body. It was delicious. Already he could feel the a new sense of life as he forced his essence into the vessel.

Then, like a fast speeding car being tossed into reverse, he hitched. The energy flow crackled and popped in his head. His breath caught he gasped for more air.

The little body before him, began to seize. The legs shook and quivered up into the midsection causing a tremor up into his hands where he held the head firmly down to the altar. The connection allowed him to search, something he should have done before he started the transference, but he right sense fell victim to his eagerness, his growing weariness and the prospect of rejuvenation so close.

Through the connection, he saw concussion, broken bones, bleeding…injuries substantial enough that the transformation would only exacerbate the problems and make the new vessel a very short -term option, if now viable at all.

“AAAARGH!” He screamed, pulling his hands from the boy’s head and stumbling backwards. “He’s broken!”

Dizzy and gasping at breath, his eyes landed on the Calligar. “HE’S BROKEN!”

He reached out toward the beast from the depths, the one who secured the vessel to begin with and who stood by to protect them both and ensure the transformation was completed. His arm shook as it flexed with power that rippled down to his clenching fist and he released it at the creature who exploded into flame and ash, once mighty and powerful, now pushed back down into the earth by pounding droplets of rain.

He stumbled again with a rage so thick and complete that he saw little else but more fire. He swung an arm backward knocking the altar askew and sending the once to be great host to the ground and back into the mud.

Broken. Human. Filth!

He reached down for the boy with the intent of tearing him into oh, so many parts and pieces. The boy struggled to move, propping himself up onto his elbows in a lackluster effort to crawl away to safety.

He reached down to exact the punishment for being broken when a scream came from the darkness.

In a full-out sprint, Taddy screamed from the moment he pushed away from the side of the house to the moment he leapt at the creature. It was all his brain would allow. It was everything he needed to express.

With the kitchen knife held tight in both hands held high above his head, he jumped and swung the knife down in one fluid motion, catching the red flesh of the beast and sinking the blade deep and to the hilt.

The beast raised his arm and howled as much from shock and surprise as from pain. What is this? And, how dare he?

Breathing hard Taddy, held on to the knife handle for dear life. There was no plan. At least nothing beyond getting Gunther and getting him to safety…whatever that meant.

He felt himself being lifted from the ground and brought to dangle in front of the beast’s eyes.

“What is this?”

“Let him go,” Taddy yelled, strong even though he realized he has started to cry. “Let him go! Leave him alone!”

The beast shook his arm once, then twice before the boy fell free and scurried across the ground to where his friend lay in the mud. He reached over with his hand and plucked the knife from his forearm. He turned it before him to assess the weapon this new boy had come to fight with and found it woefully underwhelming.

“This boy,” the beast said, his voice dark and filled with gravel. “He is your…’friend?'”

Taddy nodded aggressively, while backing closer to Gunther who was still trying to crawl away.

“And you wish to…’save’ him?”

Taddy nodded again, stirring his courage and wiping at his nose with his arm.

“With…this?” The beast flicked the knife at the boy, who scuttled away to avoid being hit as it landed in the dirt at his feet.

The boy looked down at knife. The blade glowed with reflection of the orange light still beaming up from the hole in the earth. It looked so very small. So much smaller than he ever imagined. Slowly he traced his vision up from the knife and into the eyes of the new beast. His heart beat filled his chest as if it too were trying to escape. Slowly the air slipped out of his lungs. His shoulders dropped as his hands clenched into the grass.

Shit.

 

Boys – Part XI

The nauseating sound of tearing sod, breaking rock and dripping mud rose up from the center of the backyard.
Beams of bright ogange-yellow light shot from the crack in the earth.

The rumble in the ground made it difficult for Taddy to stand. Using the house for balance, he forced himself up, but held close to the side as if standing on a cliff. As the crack expanded, more light reached into the darkness. It was a little easier to see,a s if his bad movie form before had been colorized. It was also, he gathered, easier to be seen. The minotaur thing stood at near attention behind the make-shift table where Gunther lay barely moving.

With his hands and back pressed against the siding, Taddy could feel the shaking in the ground slow, then fade, then stop. The falling rain, accented by a burst of wind were the only sounds now and that settled in for the moment as the new standard in calm.

He rose slowly, up from the crack in the earth and into the sweet air of the surface leaving the earthen stench of sweat and decay behind him. He breathed in slowly and deliberately, savoring not only this moment, but relishing the promise of what was to come.

The elements of the moment proved to be a minor distraction and with a wave of his hand, the wind and the rain no longer dare enter his arena of destiny. It still came down of course, all around him and with great determination, but where he stood and where he willed, nary a drop would fall. Not ideal, of course. Even moving the rain took extra energy, but with the next transformation so close, it seemed trivial not make the scene as pleasing as possible.

He looked around slowly to find most was to his liking. The Calligar stood at the ready having prepared the altar, haphazardly it seemed, yet functional to its purpose. He stepped closer. His breath caught for a moment at the sight of the new vessel, young, fresh, some would say innocent to the hard ways of the world, and most certainly, the underworld.

He leaned over the boy, raised a large eager hand and clumsily mopped away the residue of rain from the small face, careful enough not to cut the tender flesh with his razor edged nails. Placing his hands on either side of the boy’s head, he moved them in slowly, nearly engulfing the smaller human skull. And from that first touch, he felt the connection, a direct line created.

He threw his head back, taking in another full, fresh breath and released the push, the flow of his energy and his essence into his new mortal body.

The new pressure on Gunther’s head was like a hammer to the skull, igniting once more the splitting pain and fire, but there was something more. He had no words, but he grew hot, burning from the inside out as if he were being filled with lava. Boiling energy surged into him making it harder to breath or to move and yet when his eyes shot open, Gunther began to scream.

With the new light, Taddy watched the new beast rise up from the hole in the ground as if on a small elevator. He stretched hard, reaching full into the sky much like Taddy had seen his dad do after “watching the game” on a lazy Saturday afternoon. He watched it all unfurl before him, while he stood, pressed against the house, just a casual observer waiting for the next commercial.

In his head, a new mantra rose up to consume what was left of his processing power, “OHMYGOD, OHMYGOD, OHMYGOD…” He never really heard the words. The words weren’t meant to form a message. It was just habit tied to panic tied to disbelief that set off the whirring engine of noise.

Then he heard the scream.

Gunther’s voice, ripped and ragged with terror and pain cut through all the noise, leaving his mind vacant and white for one hot second. The next message came in clear as a bell, “Go!” Without another thought, he pulled the kitchen knife from his belt and tore off for the altar.

Boys – Part V

“Taddy?” Gunther said, in a whisper just loud enough to be heard over the rain attacking the attic roof.

“Yeah?”

“How long are you going to hold my hand?”

“Shut up,” Taddy said quickly letting go. “Just shut up and give me your flashlight.”

Gunther felt around him. “Wait,” he said. “”I thought you had a flashlight.”

“Mine’s dead, remember?”

“Well, I don’t have one,” Gunther said, trying to force any sign of a whimper from his voice.

“Then we’ve got to go get the one my mom has in the kitchen,” said Taddy, still whispering as if the darkness demanded it. “And we’re going together.”

“Right,” Gunther said. “I mean you’re not leaving me up here by myself.”

“Let’s go then.”

Taddy started to inch his way toward the hole in the floor and stuck a foot down through to find the ladder. Gunther inched with him, keeping a hand near Taddy’s shoulder so he wouldn’t lose touch as much for the connection to comfort, as it was a way to accidentally fall down the hole.

“Don’t push,” Taddy said.

“I’m not,” Gunther insisted.

Once on the ladder, Taddy’s instincts took over. He made the climb and descent in the dark thousands of times and was able to slip down into his bedroom in seconds. Gunther followed with a little more caution, but made it to the floor safe and sound.

“I can’t see a thing,” said Gunther. “This is crazy! I mean, look how dark it is. Where are you?”

“I’m over here.” Taddy clapped his hands and reached out for his friend. Gunther found him and the two began to slip their feet along the floor, inching their way to the door.

“Gah!”

A large flash of lightning filled the house, trailing off into the flicker of tiny strobes of light. Any progress the boys made toward adjusting their sight to the darkness was dashed in those seconds of brilliance.

“Boom!”

The thunder followed as they were still rubbing the brightness of the flash from their eyes.

“This sucks!” Gunther shouted. “I can’t see. Now I can’t hear. Really … this sucks!”

“Come on,” Taddy said. “There’s a flashlight in the kitchen. We’ll be there in a hot second.”

They continued their careful movements across the floor, to the stairs and down to the foyer. They inched their way to the kitchen, running their fingers lightly across the wall as a way to stay clear on their path.

Taddy reached the cold tile first. He stepped forward and reached out for the chopping block top of the island in the middle of the room. Finding it, he walked himself around to the second drawer where his mom kept the flashlight and any other number of assorted and likely useless odds and ends. He pulled the drawer and pawed around inside until he found it.

Click.

“That’s it?” Gunther asked, still standing on the edge of kitchen.

A pathetic, whimper of a glow lazily forced itself from the small light. Bringing recognition to Taddy’s face. He smirked and shook the light. It went dark. He hit it a couple of times and the light came back a little stronger, but not much.

“This is all we have unless I can find some more batteries,” Taddy said. “Or, until the power comes back.

“What about candles?” Gunther asked. “Do you have any candles?”

“Yeah,” Taddy said. My mom has a bunch in the…”

Any word Taddy might have said was murdered by another glaring flash of light. The boys had just enough time to look at each other before the thunder followed.

BOOM!

“Ahhhh!” The boys screamed.

“I wish it would stop doing that!” Gunther pounded on the wall next to him.

CRASH!

“What was that?” Taddy yelled. “What did you do?”

“Nothing,” said Gunther, running into the kitchen. “I … nothing. It sounded like window in the front room. You saw me. I was right there. I swear I didn’t…”

“Shhhh! Shush! Hush! Shut up!” Taddy said, trying to cover Gunther’s mouth.

The boys stood in the faded yellow glow of the sad flashlight, listening hard for whatever it was Taddy thought he heard. After a moment, they turned slowly to face each other.

“Footsteps.”

“Breathing.”

While they spoke at exactly the same time, it was clear, they each heard something different.