INTERVIEW ON DEADMAN'S TOME
Monday, October 29, 2012
Shadows danced across the framed painting of a crucifix on an orange background. Below the painting, a caption in bold italic black read: THE WAY OF THE CROSS LEADS HOME.
Roman's eyes were transfixed on those shadows that were courtesy of the evening's dying sun. He read those words over and over, remembering the same eight and a half by eleven print that hung on the wall of his mother's house. It was the only art that appeared in the house. No one seemed to care about art. It was hard enough to find the money for their next meal when the boyfriend was drinking up the weekly checks. His mother threw Roman out when he was fifteen. It was all because that jerk off boyfriend Darren, didn't get along with Roman. The other reason was Roman robbed the neighbors next door. They had very little cash hidden, but they did have jewelry, just like their junkie son told Roman at a bar a few nights before the deed.
That was years ago, though. And a few trips to the state pen, the longest stay being for three years.
Now Roman stood in the living room of his new sponsor.
Colleen Hurst owned the small three bedroom house sandwiched between a lawnmower warehouse and a jewelry store. She'd lived in that green and white house since she and her late husband, Norman, moved in thirty two years ago. After Norman died three years ago, Colleen decided to become a sponsor to ex-cons who were young enough to turn their lives around. And Roman was suggested by a friend of her late husband.
Dan Heller called her up a few days ago and said, “Colleen, I have met an extraordinary young man. He came into my office looking for a job. He has a wonderful mind and I hired him in my store as a backroom associate. He's looking for a place to stay and I remembered you told Lana you were doing that charity thing.”
“What is the name of his parole officer?” Colleen whispered into the telephone.
“Horace Begby, I believe”
“I will call him and let you know by sunset.” Colleen sighed, feeling overwhelmed by taking in another young man so soon after the last one.
“You're a hell of woman, Colleen,” Heller placed the receiver on the phone carefully. He swallowed hard, wiped his forehead with a handkerchief he had tightly wrapped around his right hand.
He looked up at Roman and faked a smile. “You tell Horace I did this because we're old friends.”
Roman stood, pushed his sunglasses down the bridge of his nose. “You did it because you're afraid of Horace and you don't want to end up in a can of cat food.”
Roman left the untidy, overweight man sputtering in his chair. “I'm not afraid anyone, you little punk! You tell Horace that fucker owes me big for this! You tell him!”
“Well,” Colleen placed a silver tray on the coffee table in front of the sofa Roman sat. “Here is the coffee. How do you take it, Mr. Planner?”
“Oh, just call me Roman. I don't like my last name. It reminds me of my father. He was somewhat of a sad case.”
Colleen poured coffee in a rose colored china cup without taking her eyes off of Roman. “What happened to him?” He has such remarkable hazel eyes, Colleen thought.
“A bus accident. He drove for a private company, taking passengers to Dallas from Atlanta. He was among the thirty that died in a horrible fire on the side of the interstate.”
Colleen touched the gold cross she wore around her neck. “I am sorry,” She said, breathless.
“I was eight when it happened. It was tough for my mother and I for a number of years. But, she never lived alone. Many boyfriends. None of which were good at being a father.”
Colleen nodded. “I understand.” She thought of the two stepfathers she had. The last stepfather liked Colleen quite a bit. She smiled, shook the thought off as quick as possible.
Colleen drank from her cup, batted her long eyelashes. Earlier in the mirror, she wondered if her fifty year old face could attract another young man like before. Most of the men out of jail were not picky. So she had made sure she used the bright red lipstick and blue eye shadow. Never too much makeup to hide the wrinkles. Colleen found her new blue dress in the closet and put her newly dyed brown hair in a bun.
She scooted closer to Roman, put a hand on his knee. “I'm here for you, Roman. Whatever you need.”
Wow, Roman thought. That was fast. What angle is she looking to use?
Horace stared at Roman through his dark sunglasses. He didn't say a word. The sunglasses were an advantage now. They don't know about the cataracts, so they just squirm in their chairs, wondering if they had said something wrong.
Finally, Horace smiled. Roman only squirmed a little. He didn't give himself away too much. The deal was legit. “Okay.” Horace laughed. “You got it, Roman. Known you since you were a stick bitch, seventeen. Known your old man long before he turned into a stool pigeon and lost his life to a fag with a shiv in the state farm. Yeah....it might work out. You heard of this...woman supporting ex-con's while you were away?”
“Yeah, it sounded like a kooky thing....and this...cowboy...he shot up a bank during a robbery... was just out and he lived with her a few months. He said her house was at one point a duplex. Weird....just odd a part of that house would end up a jewelry store.”
“Sounds like a big lie to me....”
Roman drew in air, slowly let it out through parted lips. “I checked out.” He coughed, laughed. “I swear to you, I'm not yanking your chain,Horace. I know I can get diamonds easy. No alarms. No fuss.”
Horace chewed his lower lip, raised an eyebrow. “I can move the stuff, but it has to be choice, understand?”
Roman nodded his, then ran a hand through his hair.
Horace continued. “I can help you out. Get you set up with that dippy old dame. I know a guy who could give you some credibility.”
“I have credibility” Roman said sharply.
“You ain't been in the pen in a few years, dummy. I'll give this mealy mouth a shout. Go draw up your plans. Get everything to a T. If you don't look at the small print, tiny-teeny pinpoint details, you're fucked .”
Roman kissed the small of Colleen's back, traced her spine with his tongue, stopping just shy of her buttocks. She giggled and whispered, “I love you.” Roman forced her on her knees, mounted her. Colleen put her face in her pillows and moaned loudly. In the heat of it all, she yelled obscenities to the headboard of the bed and demanded Roman commit atrocities to her body. At that moment of the last dirty word that rolled off of Colleen's tongue, Roman came to a conclusion.
Roman caught his breath and pulled out of her, fell beside Colleen. She turned over on her back, her small breasts heaving, the bedroom light illuminating perspiration as it rolled down her body.
They laid there in staunch silence. Colleen's eyes were on the ceiling, looking at the water stain on the heavy rains have made.
Roman spoke first after awhile.
“What are you thinking of?” He asked.
She smiled, touched Roman's cheek with a red fingernail. “Thinking of old times. I'm sorry. I am a sucker for the past.”
“Thinking of Norman? Aren't you?” There was a tone of jelousy in Roman's voice.
Roman sat up, took a cigarette from the shelf above the bed. He lit it, inhaled the smoke angrily, exhaled a little calmly.
“You never said what business Norman was in,” Roman said.
“No...I didn't.” She giggled. “If you must know, Norman helped the Lord's cause.”
He looked at Colleen, took in some more nicotine. 'He was a preacher?”
“No. My Norman sold Bibles. He also wrote and drew Tracts.”
“Like a pamphlet. Only more like a comic book. He said it was to further the Lord's message to children and those less educated. Those tracts sold very well in bus terminals, airports. After he died, this young man came here looking for Norman. Said he was an admirer of Norman's art. Oh, Norman would have loved it that young man called it that. Sometimes Norman spent almost all of his check from the National Baptist Foundation just for those things. I gave that young man a trunk full of Norman's drawings. He sure was happy....said he was going to dedicate a website to Norman. That....young....man....he sure was nice.”
They fell into silence again. Roman stood, stamped out his cigarette in an ashtray. Colleen bounced out of bed, threw on her robe. She grabbed Roman by his arm and pulled him out of the bedroom.
“Let me show you something in the basement, Roman.”
“Not Norman's paintings of Jesus, please.” Roman reluctantly followed Colleen down a small flight of stairs into a dimly lit concrete room.
“No silly! I want to show you Norman's commitment to the Lord.” Colleen switched on the overhead light that seemed burn a thousand watt bulb. The light was so blinding, roman covered his eyes with his right hand until they could get use to it.
On the concrete floor lay a seven foot wooden crucifix. Roman stood with his hands on his hips, trying hard not laugh. Colleen was in awe of the object.
“My Norman made this,” Colleen said. She reached out for Roman's hand, fumbling for it, she found it, keeping her eyes steady on the cross.
Roman shook his head. “Why?” Colleen shot a look at him—daggers.
“Roman....to show his faith....a strong bond between Norman and the Lord.”
Roman laughed. Then apologized. “Oh...I don't mean to laugh. I'm just overwhelmed.”
“Oh, Roman. It's all right. I felt the same way when Norman first showed it to me.”
Something caught Roman's eyes. A center block was missing in the concrete wall across from where he and Colleen stood. He went over to it, got on his hands and knees, peeked through. Colleen followed Roman, stood over him. He saw two men in dark blue suits talking. They were next to a heavy black safe secured in the wall, it's door wide open.
“You are a peeping tom now?” Colleen giggled, covered her mouth.
“How long has this center block been missing?”
“Well....since another boarder of mine had left....last year I think. Silly boy had removed it...the Lord only knows why. Are you afraid rats will come in my house? You're so thoughtful, Roman.” Colleen rubbed the back of Roman's neck.
“Yeah,” He said. “I am....very thoughtful.”
At one time Sinead Powers had powerful feelings for Roman. They had worked together on many small time robberies. The last time they worked together Roman ended up in jail. Luckily for Roman, she had taken any computer merchandise and dropped it at the exit of the electronics warehouse. Sinead got away, Roman was worked over by a two security guards before the cops were called.
Roman hadn't spoken to Sinead since then. But there she was, her green eyes and fire red hair sitting across from him in a cafe a few blocks from Colleen's house.
“I want in,” Sinead said, lighting a cigarette she retrieved from her purse.
“How did you hear about this?” Roman snarled.
“Horace,” She said.
“The fucker...what did he tell you?”
“Don't get mad at Horace. He thought you and I could tag team this. We used to be a good team.”
She exhaled smoke, smiled seductively.
“We were until you left me to be crucified by the cops.”
“Please Roman. One mistake---”
“Your partner is suppose to share the glory,” Roman stood, slammed his fist on the table. The chatter in the cafe faded to silence. All eyes were on Roman and Sinead. “They are suppose to share the blame too. All I have to say to you,” Roman walked away, headed to the door of the cafe. “ Is fuck off, Sinead.”
“ You'll be sorry,Roman!” She called after him.
It was a Sunday night when Colleen went to visit her friend Vera in the country. She was coming back Monday evening. Roman bought everything to patch the missing center block in the basement and Colleen paid for it with him at the DIY Super center. What she didn't realize was he bought enough mortar and center blocks to build a wall.
And that's exactly what Roman intended to do if he had to.
He busted a hole just big enough for him to crawl through. He learned how to tumble a safe from a skin head with the first amendment tattooed on his chest. Roman followed every step he was taught, even to the tiny-teeny detail. Roman's heart skipped a beat when the safe was open and four million in jewels and a diamond necklace sat on black silk.
Carefully, but quickly, Roman placed his plunder into a green duffel bag.
Twenty minutes later, roman was out of the Jewelry store and back in Colleen's basement. He immediately began to patch the hole in the wall he'd made with a sledgehammer.
Roman went out while Colleen was still asleep. He left a note saying he was getting Donuts and Bagels. He really went to see Horace to give him the merchandise. That took longer than Roman expected. Horace was very pleased. He demanded to celebrate.
The job was done, but Roman had no intention of leaving Colleen. He had fallen in love. Even creating a planned out life that put him in the position of leaving Horace and his outfit.
When his share of the money would come in, he was going to whisk Colleen off on a trip to the Islands, a cruise possibly. He knew she would be very happy with this plan. Later in the trip, he was going to pop the question.
When he got back, there was a surprise waiting for him.
Sinead was sitting in the living room on the couch across from Colleen, drinking coffee. Roman was stunned. He slammed the front door shut. Colleen looked lost in a transient state.
“What are doing here?” Roman screamed at Sinead.
Sinead put the coffee cup back on the silver tray. She stood, gathered her coat and purse. “I'm sorry,” She said to Colleen. “I shouldn't have come here.”
“No...please,” Colleen took her by the hand. “Please stay.”
“I'm afraid roman and you have a lot to discuss.” Sinead brushed past Roman to the front door.
“I don't know what your game is,” Roman said, snarling. “If you come back here, I'll kill you.”
Colleen gasped. “Roman!”
Sinead hung her head, went out the door.
“Roman, I don't know how you could be so ugly to your wife----”
“I don't have a wife. Is that what she said?”
“Roman, keep your voice down. Please. I'll go make some more coffee and we will discuss this calmly.” Colleen took the tray, headed to the kitchen. Roman blocked her. “Roman...let me pass.”
He looked at her, fuming. “You have to believe me.” He said.
Colleen swallowed. “We'll discuss this. Over coffee.”
Roman stepped away and Colleen went into the kitchen.
She came back with the silver tray and more coffee. They sat on the couch and Roman immediately kissed her. She gently pushed him away. He took hold of himself, tried to let the anger pass. Colleen poured Roman a cup of coffee. He drank it down quickly.
“I'm sorry about earlier,” Roman said, placed the rose colored china cup back on the tray.
“It's all right,” Colleen said in a cold tone. “You were upset.”
“She's lying, Colleen. I have never been married....” Roman stopped. He felt woozy. He tried to finish his sentence several times, but his tongue would not follow his brain's instructions.
Everything went black.
The pain was immense.
Roman awoke. He noticed he was in the basement, completely naked, laying on his back , on a piece of wood of some kind. The pain in his wrists and ankles was horrible.
Then he realized he was attached to the crucifix Colleen's dear Norman had made years ago. The nails were in his left wrist and left ankle. Colleen was on his right side holding a nail to his right wrist, the hammer raised high above, ready strike it's target.
THE WAY OF THE CROSS
“Sweet Jesus help me!” Roman screamed.
Saturday, October 27, 2012
Colored pebbles dream because they were apart of the genetic makeup.Softcover Mother at the touch of keywords, sitting in a synthetic chair, had to steal the body of water indefinitely.
In quick steps inside the end of night, people babbling to themselves, playing a game of heart attack.
Friday, October 26, 2012
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Friday, October 19, 2012
I was in city lockup again and I have to admit I was hoping for a fight. There were no takers. As a matter of fact, that night, there was only one other poor sod in the cell. He was extremely happy about being there. The tall, lanky fella looked like a Chess champion and wore the thickest rimmed glasses I had ever seen. He went by Artie, and if no one told him before, I sure as hell told him, that his gray- pale skin was sagging.
Artie touched his face with his hands and moved the skin back in place. “It does that sometimes,” He said cheerfully. “I guess it happened when that officer slammed by head into his car.”
I kept looking at him. Was this guy for real? What was he so fucking chipper about? “Your in jail.” I told him. “Your skin is falling off. Now tell me, why are you the happiest asshole I have ever met?”
“I don't know,” He grinned. “It's in my nature I guess. I'm Artie, by the way,” He shook my hand again.
“I know. You introduced yourself twice already.”
“Who are you?” He gave me a pained confused look.
“Pete Chambers,” I gave out a long sigh.
“You have bruises all over your face,” Artie stated.
“Well, I sort of had a run in with the other guy's fist. If its any consolation, my face beat the shit out of his fist.”
Artie laughed, wagged a finger. “Your a cut-up. I can see that.”
“What are you in for?” I asked, pretending to be a hardened criminal or a master mind in a bank heist. You gotta do something to pass the time in stir.
“I don't know why I'm here,” Artie laughed, sounding a lot like a cartoon jackass. “Oh, wait! Yeah I do know. I went into someone's house without they're permission.”
“You just broke in, huh? Were you going to steal something?”
“Oh no,” He gave me that pained expression again. “I'm not a magpie. I don't steal.”
I laughed, shook my head. “No kiddin'? You don't steal? Why'd you go in a house uninvited then?”
“Because it was easy,” He was grinning again. He was starting to get on my nerves. If I had a lit cigarette, I would have put it out in his eye.
“It is good manners, Artie, you understand, not to unlock---”
“The door just opened for me,” He corrected me. “Its a gift I have.”
“Yeah.” I couldn't take it anymore. My head was starting to hurt. “I'm going to go over to the next cot and get some rest.”
“Right-o,” He smiled hugely and gave me thumbs up. I noticed a tattoo of circle with a dot inside on his left wrist. I had seen that tattoo somewhere before, but I couldn't remember where.
Later, I was dreaming of Maggie, with her tall, creamy white body lying next to me. Her long chestnut hair was dripping wet from perspiration had clung to me as she rest her head on my naked chest. I had the feeling we had just made love and we were both at ease. I felt no pressure from life. Maggie was silent, serene.
Very silent. Her body went from poker hot to iceberg cold. Our bodies were not just wet from sweat, but sticky from blood.....the warm red sensation from that horrible gash on Maggie's jugular.
I awoke screaming as if someone had just yanked my heart from my ribcage. If that wasn't the truest feeling I had ever felt in my whole stinking life, then I sure as hell hoped God struck me down.
Maggie was dead. Her throat had been slit by a fever-dream image of her husband. Maggie had cast a spell, her way of keeping us together forever. She sold her soul to an unnamed demon, and by doing some grunt work, I was given her soul. Every time I open that gold locket, Maggie appears before me.
Yet, for months, I have not opened that locket. I have been punishing myself in various ways. Reckless behavior. Trying so hard to end up in jail. Bar fights, scamming old ladies, out right holdups of gas stations. And yesterday, I pick pocket a guy in the train station. His wallet only had pictures of his kids and sixty bucks. I purposely allowed him to notice I had lifted it from his back pocket.
I was hauled in, booked again.
When I awoke, the cell was empty save for me. Artie was gone. I guessed they either let him go, or he posted bale. He was an odd one.
The cell door opened. A guard escorted Police Chief Ragdale inside the cell. Ragdale had just been appointed the position after the mysterious murder of Hemlock, the former Police Chief.
He stood in front of me, rubbed his bald head with a hand. “What's wrong with you?” Ragdale said. “Shouldn't you be out trying to shoot werewolves with silver bullets or somethin'?”
I shrugged. “I'm all out of silver bullets.” I told him.
Ragdale tried to smile. What a frightening sight that was. A mixture of painful gas and a nervous twitch. “Look, chambers. I don't care about that mumbo-jumbo shit you did for Hemlock. If I need you...and I know I will one day...I'll let you know. Getting' yourself arrested for attention-----”
“You think that huh, Dr. dimwit?”
“Still zingin' 'em, I see. Get this asshole outta here!” Ragdale ordered the guard to grab me. “If I see you back in lock up again, Chambers, the charges stick! No matter how serious.”
And can you believe it? I was thrown out of county jail.
I was standing out in front of the county jailhouse when I noticed Artie entering a strip joint. Or trying to enter, I should say. Two bouncers pushed him back out the door. They pointed fingers at him and cursed at him. Artie, happy as hell, tried to explain himself. But those gorillas were not having it. The larger one with the square head took hold of Artie by his shirt lapel. He had Artie up in the air, way up, his feet dangling at the gorilla's oblong chest.
What could I do? I couldn't let them kick a hole in this guy's head. Not that I am any kind of fighter. Just maybe, I could prevent a horrible murder.
“Hey!” I screamed, running over to Artie and his new playmates. “Excuse me! Is that you, Mr. Conrad?”
The other gorilla stepped forward, ready to beat me senseless. I stopped short of him, threw my hands up. He growled and showed me his two over sized fists. Good grief! I thought. They were like two center blocks.
“Do you know this asshole?” One of the gorillas asked.
“And you don't?” I gave out a laugh and shook my head.
“All I know is this jerk touched one of my girls and burned her during a lap dance. The skin fell off of her arm, I could see the bone.” He snorted.
“So who the fuck is he?” The gorilla that was holding Artie in the air asked.
“Oh. He's a reporter for channel six. Eye in the sky. He's doing a report on strip clubs....how the patrons are abused by the staff. I'm his producer.” I looked around and saw a man in a baseball cap with a digital video camera. “He's our cameraman.” I pointed across the street.
The gorilla put Artie down gently.
“Hey...uh...Mr. Conrad...we are sorry,” One of the gorilla's said.
Artie smiled at him. “No. I'm not Mr. Conrad.”
“What?” The gorilla spit in Artie's face.
The other bouncer reached for me, I backed away, giggling. “Artie show him how you touched that dancer. Was she sexy, Artie?”
“Oh yes,” Artie said. “I just wanted to touch her cheek but her arm got in the way---”
When Artie touched the bouncer's face, his skin sizzled under Artie's hand. The skin fell fell from the man's cheek like a soapy sponge in a sink. The man fell to his knees, screaming, calling out God, Jesus, and Mother Mary.
“Run Artie!” I yelled, took off down the street corner. I looked back, saw Artie wasn't behind me.
The idiot got caught, I thought. I stopped running outside a grocery store parking lot. I was doubled over, trying to catch my breath, when I heard a voice behind me.
“You're fast,” It was Artie. Leaning against a newspaper box.
“I guess you snapped your fingers and you arrived here?” I said in between huffing and puffing.
Artie smiled and nodded. His smile disappeared. “How did you know?”
“Artie...why didn't you tell me you were a demon?”
“I didn't think it was important.” He said cheerfully.
“Come on,” I sneered at him, started to walk away. “And stop fucking smiling!”
We had only gotten four feet when we saw this tall man dressed in black smiling at us. His misshapen head was completely bald, no hair on his face at all. Not even eyebrows. He had a long , malevolent smile on his face. The lips were thin, drawn up around those horrible black teeth to show purple gums. His body was thin, and the black dress shirt looked like a it was sewn on, just as the black jeans with the cuffs tucked into his black rattlesnake boots.
We stopped at the grocery store entrance. I took my eyes off the man in black just long enough to see the fear in Artie's eyes. Artie's lips were trembling, but his fists were clenched tight by his sides.
“You know him?” I asked.
Artie fumbled his words in a low whisper. “Deguello,” He said, swallowing hard. “Deguello.”
“We should run? Right? Right?!” I turned back to the man in black. He was no longer a man at all, but a large black rottweiler with flaming red eyes. A long growl came from it's slack jawed mouth, where it's large fangs protruded.
We ran inside the grocery store. I threw a couple of shopping carts ta the hell hound. It only used them as leverage to gain more ground, in one leap, up and over. Several shoppers saw this large black dog growling and barking. They ran the other way. A woman grabbed her little girl and ran out the other exit on the other side of the store. Artie and I were headed that direction. The dog stopped us dead in our tracks. That damned thing was fast. We ran toward the checkouts. Again, the dog was at every turn, even hopping up on the bagging facility. The teenage cashier had the guts to pull out the microphone hanging from her register and pound the dog on the right side of it's head. It fell from the register and rolled, whimpering.
Just for a stunned moment, lying on the tiled floor of the grocery store, the dog had changed back into the man in black. When it recovered it's senses, the over-sized rottweiler had returned.
Artie was way ahead of me. He was fast too, only he was cheating, and maybe not on purpose. His body kept appearing and reappearing in thirty second intervals. We were down a few aisles when the dog had cut us off at the back aisle near the meat department. Artie seemed to not care, he kept running. I saw where he was going. An emergency exit door to the left. I was prepared to bite, kick, use my fists, if possible. I didn't think for a minute I would live through the fight.
Just as we were at the end of the health aisle, the rottweiler was set to attack, a large butcher knife came straight down, piercing the top of the dog's skull, the tip of the blade showing through the it's open mouth. Long stream of yellow gook sprayed everywhere, covering packets of chicken parts, and a display of stuffing mix. I looked up and saw this big, heavy set man in a white coat and cap standing over the flailing rottweiler. The dog was screaming, yelping, flopping around until it had changed back to the man in black.
He stood, facing the butcher. The butcher made like a track and field runner in his twenties and was in his meat cooler in ten seconds flat.
The man in black, Deguello, had pulled that butcher knife slowly, painfully, out of the top of his head. His tiny red eyes were searching for us. Artie and I were long gone, having pushed open that emergency exit, the alarms sounding off.
Artie was down the street, not even looking back. I called out for him a dozen times before he stopped. I had to catch my breath, so I walked to him. He was standing out in front of the bank, leaning against the brick wall.
I caught up to him, sat on a curb. “Spill it, Artie.” I demanded.
“I don't know what you---”
“You escaped the pits of hell, didn't you?”
“No....no I didn't,” Artie shook his head. “I don't know how I ended up here. That house I was in? Well, two days ago I was standing in a room looking at a child in it's crib. Of course, I looked slightly different. I hadn't yet taken this shape completely.
“I took some clothing from the closet, found these,” Artie smiled again, pointing at the tick rimmed glasses that sat on end of his nose. “After I had my run in with those men at the bar, which one of them lured me in, I was ready to go back where I came from. I needed to go back. Before anyone noticed. So I went back to the house, the doors opened for me. There was the child with it's mother. She screamed and called the police. That's when I met you next.”
“Yeah,” I said,thinking. “Lucky me. What's a Deguello, Artie?”
“A hunter. Tracker of those that escape hell without permission. He takes the heads of the escapees for proof the task is completed. Honestly, I don't know how arrived here.”
“Come on, maybe I know someone who could help.”
I was back on my street, listening to little Jimmy calling out to people hitting the pavement to buy the local paper. He had strong lungs for a twelve year old black kid. Then again, Jimmy is not who he appears to be.
Jimmy saw me, plucked a lit cigar butt from between his lips and tossed it on the sidewalk. He smiled sideways, watched me walk up to him with Artie at my side.
“What's the goon smiling at,” Jimmy said, pointed at Artie.
Artie kept smiling, stuck his hand out for Jimmy to take it. I smacked it away, told him to find a spot to cool his heels.
“I need to talk to G'nal,” I said.
“You always have to talk to G'nal. Can't you solve any problems without him?”
“It doesn't work that way. You know that. Bring him to me.”
“You're wish is my command,” Jimmy said and a cloud of black smoke enveloped me.
I heard a thunderous voice and saw this horned creature towering above me.
“I suppose you would like me to vanquish that demon standing on the street corner,” G'nal said.
“Not him, he's harmless.” I told G'nal. “I want to know how to rid myself a Deguello.”
“You can't. Only another called upon by it's master can.”
“Why would I waste my time on such a low-level bottom feeder?”
“I don't follow?”
“He hunts demon's that escape hell. I am a keeper of souls. A Deguello has only one purpose...to destroy.”
“You wouldn't, so to speak, vanquish a deguello if it attacked me? All of those souls I recently turned in to you---”
“There are other ways to protect you. Those souls belonged to another...and as you would say, that bill is payed up for a number of years.”
“Looks like I'm stuck. Artie didn't escape, he was brought to this world without his permission,” I said.
“Let the Deguello take him. That is the answer to your problem.” G'nal vanished in that black cloud of smoke and little Jimmy appeared.
“You going to pay for that paper, you cheap bastard?” He had his left hand out, urging me to flip him some coin.
I noticed I had the local paper under my arms. “You sly little jerk,” I grinned like a jack ass. I threw a couple of quarters at him. They scattered on the sidewalk under his tennis shoes.
“I got bills to pay, Chambers. Unlike you, I can't scam my way through life.”
“Jimmy, Jimmy. Don't be a hater. Come on!” I barked at Artie. He happily ran to catch up to me as my strides became to quick for him.
It was obvious we had to go to the house where Artie found himself materialize.
I rang the doorbell and a blond woman in her early thirties was placing a shoe on her foot opened, the door. “I'm glad you're here, Mindy is driving me----” The woman straightened herself, stared blankly at Artie and I.
I smiled at her and said, “Hello...” I started to give her a line, maybe say we were geek patrol here to fix your laptop. But she gave me a stern look. I was at a loss for words.
“What's he doing here?!” The woman screamed.
“Parson. And he,” She pointed at Artie. “Is suppose to be in jail! The creep would have stolen my little girl---”
“Wait...Mrs.. Parson....I don't think Artie would do such a thing---”
“Who the hell are you? His lawyer?”
“Uh...no. I'm Artie's brother, Pete. Can we come inside and talk?”
“No. I'm not letting two strange men---”
“Please, Mrs. Parson. Artie....my brother...he's not all...Artie is...special,” I told her, giving a pained look, hoping to break that icy shell.
Mrs. Parson gave Artie a long look over. Artie was doing his job by just smiling for no reason. He looked clueless, and it was no act.
She relented, offered us to step foot across her threshold. “I'm sorry,” She whispered to me. “I didn't know anything was different about him.”
“It's okay,” I whispered back. “It's not noticeable at first.”
“Please,” She flashed a smile at us. “Have a seat.”
Artie sat beside me on the couch, Mrs. Parson sat in a green lounge chair across from us. The house looked the typical middle class, all the furniture was new. I asked what she did for a living and Mrs. Parson said she was a lawyer. That could come in handy someday, with my luck. I told her I was fraud investigator. I thought that would be somewhat humorous, but only to me. I saw a picture in a frame of Mrs. parson and a dark haired man in a turtle neck. I took a shot and asked what her husband did for a living.
“I'm separated,” She said, made a face. I guess I hit a raw nerve. Her demeanor changed. “He is a lawyer as well. Look, I'm late for an appointment, could we get on with this? I'm just waiting for my babysitter. What do you want?”
“I wanted to discuss....the uh....charges.....”
I was scanning the room when she caught me off guard. A little girl entered the living room carrying a large, tattered book, the yellowing pages falling to the floor. The little girl was just six or seven. She brought the book to Mrs. Parson, climbed in her lap.
“Mommy, will you read this book to me?” The little girl said.
“Marnie, where did you get this?” Mrs. Parson held up the book, looked at the plain soft cover.
“Mindy had it.”
I recognized the book. It was a Spellcaster.
“Did you read from that book?” I asked Marnie. She nodded to me. “You can read good?”
“Marnie has been able to read since she was four. What's this have to do---”
“Can you show me those pages, Marnie? Where you last read?”
She took the Spellcaster from her mother's hands and brought it to me. I noticed Artie wasn't sitting beside me anymore. He was at the window, looking out at the front yard. Marnie flipped the crumbling pages haphazzardly until she came to an image of a naked man with claw-like fingers and red eyes. Horns protruded from both sides of his forehead. The cation on top of the printed words read HOW TO CALL FORTH A DEMON.
That was it. I looked over my shoulders at Artie. “I think I know how you got here, Artie.” I said.
Artie was still staring out the window, only his eyes grew bigger. His hands were twitching. I saw fear cross his face. Artie backed up slowly from the window.
“He's here,” Artie said.
“What's he going on about?” Mrs. Parson snapped.
“Who, Artie?” I stood, helped Marnie on the couch.
“Deguello.....” Artie whispered.
The doorbell rang. Mrs. parson was already standing, with her hands on her hips, went to the door.
“Don't answer the door!” I screamed. I remembered if you don't invite a demon inside, it can't enter your home. Of course a demon is not going to ring a doorbell.
“It's my babysitter,” Mrs. Parson stamped her feet and screamed in frustration. She opened the door to a young woman in a flowery dress and beads backpack over her shoulder. “Mindy!I'm glad you are here. I might have to call the police---”
“I'm sorry I'm late, Mrs. Parson. Traffic from the campus was dreadful.”
There was a low growl from behind Mindy. She set one foot inside the house and a large black dog leaped into the air, grabbed Mindy by the nape of her neck, pulled her to the floor of the living room.
Mindy screamed, tried to roll away from the dog, who pounced on her. The dog' powerful jaws bit down hard on Mindy's face and tore a huge chunk of flesh from her cheek to her mouth. Mrs. Parson screamed, kicked off a shoe. She picked up the high heel, buried sharp curved heel into the back of the dog's neck, causing it to rear back, screaming a blood-curdling yelp. As it fell on it's back, rolled toward Artie, it was no longer the red-eyed hound. It had become Deguello once more.
Deguello stood slowly, pulled the tip of the high heel from the back of his neck. A large fleshy gap was open, the skin raised up and collided into each other. His wound was healed. A curved twelve inch blade blade with pointed teeth on one side, encircled handle, appeared in his right hand.
Deguello smiled. It looked like a razor had went across both sides of his face to create that bloody, horrible smile. He stepped toward Artie.
I rushed him. It was no good. He caught me by the throat with his left hand, squeezed slightly, lifted me in the air, high above everyone. I struggled for breath, kicked my legs. In mere moments, I felt light-headed. My vision became blurry. I saw Mindy whispering, her torn mouth bleeding badly.
Deguello carried me with him as he raised the blade up and came down in angle towards Artie's chest. Artie screamed, threw his hands up instinctively. I heard a rumble grow to growl from Deguello's clenched spiraling teeth.
Everything went black.
A few minutes later I came to. I was on the floor, beside a puddle of burning flesh. I looked at everyone, stunned. “What happened?” I asked.
Artie was hiding behind the couch, peaking from a corner. A mound of salt surrounded the hunk of blackened skin, which was still sizzling.
Mrs. Parson was kneeling,holding Marnie close to her and sobbing loudly. A canister of salt lay at their feet. “Marnie....of all things...threw salt on ….that....that...thing.....I'm so confused.....I don't understand anything anymore. I don't even know how Marnie knew what to do---”
“I,” Mindy said slowly, her face showing agonizing pain. “I told her to.....” I ran to Mindy, having already called an ambulance from Mrs. Parson's cell phone, and wrapped a kitchen towel gently around her face to stop the bleeding. “I ….cast a ….spell....on Marnie.... It's not dead,” Mindy barely managed. “It's only banished.....it will be....back.....”
“Shhh,” I told her, stroking Mindy's hair. “Try not to talk. Everything will be all right.”
I was at home, in the bungalow Maggie had left me in her will. I was in my bedroom, Artie was in the guest room, hopefully resting. I laid in the bed Maggie and I once shared together, holding that locket in my hands.
“It's been awhile,” I heard Maggie say. Then I felt her body against mine, her arms caressing me. She softly kissed me on the lips. “I've missed you.”
“I'm sorry,” I said. “I've been grieving for you.”
“No need to,” Maggie said. “I'm here. I'll be with you forever.”
I closed my eyes, and believed that, because I hadn't believed it before. I will never doubt her again. Never.