Stew Miller Musings and Rants
I Complain (Oh, and Doodle), You Read and/or Comment, Everyone is Happy… IT’S SO SIMPLE!

FIERCE (Parts 1 and 2)

I’ve been writing a serial chapbook for a bit now, in fact for about three months all told. So, I figured I might as well post the writings thus far for those of you interested. It is by no means complete, but I think the story is rolling along quite nicely! Enjoy!

FIERCE

Part I

     Not surprisingly there was blood everywhere. The walls were coated with such rich red it looked as if they’d been painted, and then painted again. The bed linen would never be its original color again, either, much like the curtains, or the drapes, or the pictures on the wall, or the floor… or any visible surface of the hotel room, for that matter. Adam Marten’s head sat askew on the nightstand slowly oozing the remaining skull fluid all over several stacks of hundred dollar bills. The blood pooled at the stand’s legs just shy of two eyeballs formerly of the face just feet above it. A leg, still wearing its size-13 Van’s shoe, stood against the bed severed just above the knee, and its knee was yet relatively well attached to the gored torso a yard or so away near the bathroom door. Both arms, stylish in the remaining sleeves from a very well worn blazer hung, like Italian sausages cuffed to the bedposts. The blood collected in wet puddles and plopping clots from one corner to the other, scarcely missing neither vertical nor horizontal surface alike. The temperature of the room had risen several degrees as the strewn bits of the corpse slowly released life’s last bits of warmth. The fug in the room was nearly unbearable, and the reek, not unlike a combination of sun-stroked road kill and heated metal, permeated the atmosphere. Will Barker took note of the whole scenario.

     “Hey, Will,” Officer Lawrence began from near the television cabinet, “I found this poor guy’s other leg!”

     Will stepped slowly through the room doing his absolute best to not trudge through any of the blood. Unfortunately, since the carpet in the room had become a veritable sponge, it was nearly impossible and the sickening squish of his Police-issue boots made that point abundantly clear.

     “Holy shit,” Will said as he removed another yellow triangle marker from his little case, “How the hell did his leg get wedged back here?”

     “Will,” Lawrence said standing up, yanking his dirty latex gloves from his hands and producing another sloppy slurp from the drenched floor, “You have to be kidding me to think I have any damn idea how that happened.”

     “It was a rhetorical question, dipstick.” Will placed the marker on the floor, noted the location of the limb, and sighed deeply wincing at the cloying odor.

     “I guess that accounts for all of this guy’s parts, yeah?” ..:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Lawrence sloshed past Will and over to the door into the hallway where a sheet of plastic had been set up and ran a length into the outer hall.

     “It does,” Will said, collecting his gear and following Lawrence out of the room, “And thank God for it, I was just about to use the last of this nasty Vaseline on my lip… the fucking stink in here is just potent!”

     “Look, Will,” Lawrence said, “It’s… I just have never seen anything like this before. I just can’t get past the idea that someone could actually do this! And in a hotel room, no less! This mother-fucking place looks like a meat shack! I had no goddamn idea that one human body could contain this much blood!”

     “I know, I know. And, as silly as it sounds, it just keeps banging around in my head that maybe someone didn’t do this… I mean, maybe more like…”

     “Something.” Lawrence finished, glancing almost sheepishly at the floor.

*****

     Blood was everywhere. It looked at its hands and they, too, were slathered with red from fingertips to almost its elbows. It had a raw, stale beef flavor in its mouth; salty, meaty, and tacky like rot. It licked its lips and felt more of the pasty filth around its mouth and slickly clinging to its teeth. It spread its arms and looked at its body; clothed in an Ocean Pacific t-shirt and denim shorts, they were artistically blanketed in blood as well. Though it had lost its shoes days ago, somewhere on the street or something, the ripped white socks it had been wearing to protect its feet were now crimson and nearly stiffened dry. It was going to have to change and quickly or else it was going to be found. Despite the fact that it was deep within the forest on the outskirts of town, the red still played against the green and stood out like a limp. A quick look around gave notice to a house in the distance whose back yard conveniently butted up to the woods. Clothing would be in there. 

*****

     Will got back to the station and immediately dropped off his paperwork so he could shower off for several hours. He was pretty sure he had the victim’s blood everywhere, though in reality he only had a small spot on his ankle, of all places. He scrubbed regardless, toweled off, and dressed in a fresh uniform.

     “Captain James,” Will said has he extended his hand and nodded, “I just cleaned up a bit after a day at the Marten crime scene, the East Ridge Motel. Messy stuff.”

     “So I understand. I saw your paperwork, concise as always. Fine job.”

     “Sir.” Will nodded again and walked down the precinct hallway past his captain.

     His shift complete, Will returned to his civilian clothes, disengaged his firearm, locked it up, and made for the front doors. He was nearly stopped in his tracks by Officer Marla Baines; known far and wide as the Cop Who Doesn’t Stop, the only one of two women in the station and the only one who would regularly sleep with anyone if she were winked at right. But Will was not in the mood, he turned his head quickly to the right as though he heard something, and walked right past her without a second glance. He dramatically shoved open the set of large, glass French doors that adorned the front of the building, just like he always did when his shift was done, and breathed deep the fresh night air.

*****

     Blood was tossed across the walls like exploded ink. Patterns of uncharacteristic kill styles differed from one side of the room to the other. Directional spatter and arterial spray meant nothing in this room since not one particular stripe or slash matched anything else that had gone on in there. It lingered for a minute at its masterful handy work and then made its way to the closets. It was vaguely aware that there was at least one more resident in this home; it could see playthings here and there, and it had only methodically done away with two adults. It stopped, tilted its head to one side in a thoughtful gesture, almost as though he were a dog locating a high pitch. The sound drifted over the loud ringing in his ears left over from the ghastly screaming made by his victims. The remaining person was hiding, foolishly, in a closet or maybe a cupboard. It could take no chances assuming this other being, now more easily identified as the child, would just leave forgetting the whole incident. No, it would need to hunt the babe down and destroy it.

*****

     Will flopped on his bed. He kicked off his shoes, unbuttoned his shirt and yanked it free of his belted trousers revealing his much more comfortable tank top underneath, and ran his hands through his hair in utter exhaustion. He let his thoughts drift for a minute and decided, after an alarming shudder arced through his body, that he really needed a drink.

     Out in the kitchen, Will kept his little cabinet above the fridge relatively well stocked with liquors of one sort or another. He wanted booze, something burning and woody, and he chose his nearly empty bottle of bourbon.

     Collapsing on the couch, Will filled his highball glass with a double and flicked on the T.V.. The local news was already all over the very case he’d been on that afternoon and Will had to smile and shake his head in disdain and irritation. He hung on that channel for another minute, primarily curious that those dipshits over at the news station got the facts (what little there were) correct. They had and it became painfully obvious that his captain had not only read Will’s file on the incident, but he’d also dictated Will’s notes verbatim to the press. Will sighed and knew that this same typical scene played itself over and over every time a high-profile case came to light; just the nature of the beast. Will sloshed down another mouthful, gagged a little past the searing gush, and turned the station to something a little less close to home.

*****

     The blood clung, now drying and already gathering flies from the open back door, in drooping sheets redder at the bottoms than the tops. Every so often a heavy wad would detach from the mass and spill to the saturated floor with a muted splat. It had begun to accumulate a rather nauseating reek, and even it could smell it rather clearly as it searched, coyly, from one location to another, it had to exhale often from its flared nostrils just to attempt to bring in some fresh air. But the tangy air of soured body raised the gorge in its throat. Even though it could kill with no thought what so ever, it still had fully functional olfactory senses and it knew when things began to go off. It opened what seemed like the twentieth little cabinet, reached into the darkness, and began flailing its hand around trying to snatch out the remaining body.

     “SON OF A BITCH!” It bellowed, jerking fully upright with eyes clenched taught in utter agony, “YOU LITTLE FUCKER!”

     Jutting from the back of its hand, with the tip glinting just a little from the palm, stood a screwdriver. It stared at the yellow handle as it seethed with rage and held back tears of striking pain. It moaned, whimpered just a bit as it realized just how bad the wound was, and wiped its eyes in anger and fury. It only caught the flash of movement out of the corner of its eye, and it ignored it for the moment as it dealt with the problem at hand.

*

     A little boy, possibly eight, burst from the cubbyhole at the very moment he’d lashed out with the sharp tool. The boy didn’t stop to look back even for a second, he’d seen enough earlier to seer an image into his psyche for the rest of his life. As of right now, all he wanted to do was run toward the open back door and into the woods. The boy tripped once, caught himself before sprawling completely to the floor, and kept his stride to freedom.

*

     It couldn’t quite wrap its mind around the idea of having to face two issues at once; it needed to remove the screwdriver from its hand, no doubt, but it also had to get the escaping kid and rip his throat out. Without thinking clearly to visualize if its hastily formulated plan was even going to work, it yanked the tool free from its knuckles, ran a few feet forward, and chucked it with full force at the sprinting boy. Its aim was well off and the only the opaque grip managed to get entangled in its prey’s feet. The boy only stuttered for a second, and then he was once again in a full run to the back door. It took off after him, panting and slobbering with newly ignited passion.

*****

     The sudden bleat of the phone jolted Will so powerfully from his sleep that he actually cried out a little. He caught his breath, coughed, and snatched the handset from its cradle.

     “Yeah, hello?” Will said, probably a little too loudly and more than a bit to shakily.

     “Will? It’s Officer Lawrence,” announced the irritated voice at the other end. “You gotta come down to the station, it looks like our killer hit another… well, people.”

     “Man, no kidding, it’s like… what, four a.m.?” Will said, squinting at the clock on the VCR.

     “I know, Will, but this one is really bad, and you know I wouldn’t have called you if it wasn’t a real emergency, but it’s a family this time and… Will, the blood… it’s all over the place. Again.”

     “Okay. I’m on my way.” Will pressed the END button and tossed the phone to the other side of the couch. He yawned, belched up some remnants of the alcohol drunk hours ago, and stood to force his way to the bathroom.

     Will splashed a few cupped hands of cold water on his face and that seemed to do the trick. He quickly changed out of his rather ripe clothes from the day before and dressed a bit fresher. He looked good, smelled okay, but it was the best he was going to do for now. He snatched his keys from the little peg on the wall and made his way to his car.

*****

     The blood oozed from the drenched carpet as each of its hurried footsteps pounded into the floor. Not ten feet in front of it now was that bastard little boy who stabbed him in its hand with the damn Phillips-head. Its guttural, squealing inhales were coming in hurried thrusts as it plodded across the sopped rug. It was close to the child now; close enough to extend its arms in grasping claws. Now closer still and it knew that it would catch up, but the door was almost as near.

*

     The boy, fleet footed and agile as an eight-year old can be, sprinted past the furniture and bounded around the end tables as it angled toward freedom. The doors never felt so distant for as long as he remembered seeing them in his life; they honestly felt as though they were moving just as far from him no matter how much closer he got. But he pushed forth past the stitch rapidly knitting itself into his side, forced himself through the flow of tears that blurred his vision, and just tried with screaming desperation to get to those wide open doors.

*

     It could actually smell the boy’s hair now. It brushed anxious fingers across the kid’s shoulders and attempted to drag him down, but his grip wasn’t sure and the fleeing child broke free unscathed. It only lost its footing for a second when it was back on the remaining soul ahead of the chase. It caught up once again and this time it knew, with a waning grin, that the boy was never going to make it to the exit in one, breathing, piece.

     The boy, now almost guaranteeing his subconscious that he could get to the backyard without being touched by the beast’s hand again, felt a blast of pure fear whip up his spine. A huge, massively-fingered claw wrapped itself around the back of his head and steered it, using his already dynamic momentum, right at the jamb of the open doors. He saw nothing but a blinding flash of white, felt his face shatter, and immediately tasted the acrid saline flavor of his own blood.

*****

     After visiting the station to pick up his piece and badge from his locker and collect Lawrence, Will steered his cruiser into the barrage of people clogging up the victim’s driveway. It looked like neighbors, onlookers, and possibly relatives, had gathered around the cordoned perimeter. Will and Lawrence ducked under the crime scene tape, already hung by officers first called to the scene not an hour ago, and made their way to the backdoor. Will recognized a few guys from the station, saw quite a few EMT’s milling around with stretchers, and walked into the house. Right away, to his left, was an eruption of body fluid spread in a burst pattern all over the entry way. It was definitely blood, but it also looked, and smelled, like vomit.

     “Sweet Lord, what made this disaster?” Lawrence asked out loud to anyone who had been there a while.

     “A kid… a boy,” replied a voice from inside the house. “Believe it or not, he was alive.”

     “You can not be serious,” Will said, covering his nose from the stench and swiping away a few gathered gnats, “This amount of… mess, came from a little boy… who lived through it?”

     “Yup,” the officer answered as he made his way to Will and Lawrence, “I think he’s the one that called to police. I didn’t actually hear the call but I guess the voice sounded choked and almost incoherent.”

     “No shit it did. If it was the child who called, that is one lucky and exceptionally brave youngster.”

     The officer nodded in agreement and slid a stick of gum into his mouth. “Yeah. I think he is like in elementary school or something, judging by the drawings on the fridge. I guess he’s pretty messed up, too. He caught the frame right in the center of his face… I didn’t see it, but I guess he’ll be needing some pretty wicked surgeries.”

     “Damn. Poor kid…” Will shook his head and made his way further into the crime scene.

     It was evident by the plastic coverings placed about on the tacky carpeting that a massacre had indeed taken place. Without even taking another step into the room the thick, mealy scent of souring blood wafted straight to Will’s nostrils. He gagged a little, scooped the little jar of menthol gel from his pocket, and smeared a dollop under his nose.

     The initial corpse was directly in front of Will and just adjacent to the brick fireplace. This was unfortunate for the deceased since most of his face had been scraped off onto the stone façade. It honestly looked to Will like the force necessary to do this was almost comparable to what it would take to strip finish from an old table. This made Will’s stomach roll over a bit, and he had to turn away and look at something else. Again, somewhat unfortunately, the twisted body that instantly caught his vision looked like something out of a devastating auto wreck. Both arms were twisted akimbo and obviously extruded clear of their sockets with such brute power as to peel open the surrounding flesh. One leg was flattened under the man and the other was bent at a forty-five degree angle. His crotch had either been ripped open or, possibly, bitten and fluid and miscellaneous parts clung to his torn pants. Will helped Lawrence cover him with a sheet, and swallowed several times past the elevating lump in his throat.

     “Will, this guy looks like he’s been through a blender,” Lawrence said as he, too, moved away choking past an impending vomit, “I’m almost unsure I even want to see the other body.”

     “Right,” Will said, taking in a few heavy breaths, “Is it over there by the stairs?”

     “Yeah, just follow the trail that used to be innards… sweet Lord,” Lawrence exclaimed, nearly breathless.

     “Oh… oh God in Heaven,” Will gasped, not yet fully ready for what he was looking at. 

     The woman, what was left of her, had been impaled on the banister post. The force of the staking was so extreme that complete organs had burst up through her mouth. The scene was so incredibly diabolical that other officers wouldn’t even come as close. The grisly scene looked so unreal that it could pass for a piece of devilish artwork. The body, as it was, was relatively untouched, if just flush of all of its color. Her clothes were still on, but it wasn’t immediately apparent whether or not she’d been raped, and now, impossible to test. But to Will, it still looked like a perfectly innocent woman, just one who’d been gored on a newel post. Will shook his head, wiped beading sweat from his forehead, and discovered that he’d actually been crying.

*****

     It stood knee-deep in the cold stream that ran through the woods a half-mile outback of the house. Blood, dried and pasty, rinsed from its clothes and swirled around its chilled wet shorts. It took off its shirt, dunked it in the icy water, and used it to scrub the staining scarlet from its arms and hands. It winced a little as it cleaned the rapidly infecting wound just past its fingers and watched in passive amazement as runnels of liquid ran through the tool-sized hole, and wrapped it in the drenched cloth. It drank from the cool brook, splashed water on its face clearing the dreariness from its eyes, and splashed back to the bank. Now what? It was shirtless, wet, and feeling rather stupid as it had forgotten to even take some clothing from the house, all because of that damnable kid. It swore into the air cursing its victims, especially the boy, and hoping it’d killed him.

*****

     Will left the house, notebook tucked under one arm, and sat with a tired thud on the concrete steps outside the front door. He closed his eyes for a minute, doing anything he could to wish away those last few images, and sighed with deep regret and sorrow over what he’d seen. There was no erasing the grisly visuals etched for eternity on his mind, as the training at the force had taught him to do. Normally he had no problem; sure the killed were always people, people with families and loved ones who would suffer the injustice of a random attack, but he knew better than to look at it that way. Always, Will would just see the brutality for what it was: brutality. He would never arrange the victims into categories forcing him to think of who’s wife would act this way or who’s child would act that way, he just couldn’t do it. But, for some reason, this particular murderer had completely shaken his view of everything he knew and tossed every rule and learned practice out the door. Will was beginning to feel for the dead; he was beginning to take an active roll in a concern he’d never cared about. With this newly found empathy, Will was also finding it more and more a priority to locate this dastardly beast and destroy it at all costs.

     “Hmm?” Will said looking up from his moment of clarity.

     “I said, are you all set here, this fucking place is making me physically ill,” Lawrence asked as he offered Will a hand.

     “Yeah. I think so… we covered everything, right?”

     “Yep. Two bodies… here and there, um, one boy taken to the ER, and nothing looking as though it had been taken, as far as we know,” Lawrence said, running over the morning in his mind.

     “Did you, you know, feel something back there… like, I don’t know, maybe like more sympathy for these guys than typical?” Will asked standing up.

     “I don’t know, not really, just more repulsed than normal I guess, why?”

     “I don’t know what it is, exactly, but after two of these gory, messy crime scenes, I think I might be starting to feel more involved somehow.” Will said as they walked to the cruiser.

     “Really, like you’re caring about these dead people more than usual, or that you want to wrangle this asshole with reckless abandon.”

     Will stared into space for a second, mulling over what he’d just concluded moments before, “Yes, choice 3: all of the above.”

     “Ok, Dirty Harry, let’s get out of here before you haul off on a rampage or something,” Lawrence said as he shut Will into the car.

     “Yeah,” Will said with a deep sigh, “Let’s go get breakfast.”

     Lawrence stopped, looked at Will with shock splayed out all over his face, and they both began to laugh just enough to wash away some of the horrors.

*****

     Its still bloody foot collapsed the brittle wooden door with one kick. It looked in the back storage room of the Salvation Army store, closed still (or else it would likely have just walked in the front like a semi-normal human, after all, it did have a few hundreds left over from the hotel room), and spotted a few loose garments hanging over boxes and crates. It located some old, baggy work pants obviously past employed on someone at a factory, a oil-stained work shirt that once belonged to someone named Jesse, and a pair of hiking boots at least a size too big, but better than blistered bare feet. It walked further into the store and opened the little back door that led to the public shopping area. It found nothing of particular interest except a battered trucker cap that proudly announced: BEST GRANDDAD. It also located a beat up old canteen from some long forgotten boy scout, a sad looking beaded-purse (it might come in handy), and an old sheet it intended to rip up for bandages. There was nothing else, so, without incident, it turned back to the room and left.

     As it peered from the kicked-in door it came face-to-face with what could only be a bum. The guy extended his hand (the one not gripping his container of some foul smelling booze) and asked for any loose change, and without a moment’s hesitation, it yanked the wretch into the side of the building completely cracking his skull. Not a sound; no yelling or running, just clean and painless. It reached down near the lifeless urchin and removed the metal flask from his dead grip. It saw that blood now ran in rivulets from the bum’s ears and pooled around his down-turned face. It was satisfied, and it congratulated itself with a nip from the tin. It burned like mad, but it energized it just a bit. It moved on, but as yet, unsure why.

TO CONTINUE…

 

 

 

FIERCE – 2

 

 

     Mother would be home soon, and that was bad. When mother came home in the morning from her over-night at the processing plant –an over night that nearly always included some drinking with friends after her shift- it was always bad. Trying to make sure things were clean and neat for her (dishes, the floors, clothes…) made little difference. If mother was drunk –and mother was nearly always drunk- nothing at all mattered. Mother did, though, feel bad about what she’d done the next morning after waking up around ten. It was summer vacation, after all, and she didn’t have to get up to get school things ready, or patch up clotted noses and bruised arms and legs, though the latter were still quite prevalent. Mother was on her way home and no matter what way the house looked, there was sure to be a beating.

     Who really cared that the carpet was spotless and vacuumed, the kitchen vinyl was swept and mopped, the dirty dishes from supper had been washed, dried, and put away without a single break, and clean clothes had been neatly folded and put away in the dresser. Things looked great, sure, but the overwhelming chill that permeated the house was as thick and nearly pliable as always as the anticipation of mother’s arrival loomed. Dad, the one who truly appreciated good work around the house, had been gone for a year now… gone wherever it was he’d gone… out, away, something. There was always the double checking, the looking anyway, the making sure… there was always that, but no matter how clean and absolutely immaculate everything was, fear bubbled and churned slowly to the surface as the minutes ticked quickly away.

     The bed was cool and comforting (the sheets were, after all, fresh) and the little clock on the nightstand almost mocked time itself with its seemingly unpredictable ticking.            And then the latch to the front door echoed its audible clack as mother, panting from the mere walk from the driveway (that paired with copious amounts of alcohol) tripped through into the house. Her shoes made their familiar plop to the carpeted entryway, keys sang their tinny chime as they rattled to the hall table, and the all-too common click of fake fingernails on the banister put the final seal on the impending doom. Mother was home.

     The hanging, thick sensation of the hitting-to-come filled the bedroom and became its own living thing with each footfall on the wooded stairs. Deep sighs of liquored breath sang out in low hoots as mother made her way to the little room at the top of the steps. Though the sheets were cinched up tight, and quivering false snores coughed from the pretending form beneath them, mother knew –however pickled she’d allowed herself to become- what she was going to do; just because her day was rough didn’t mean her child’s would conclude any less. The door creaked open and mother stood reeking of stale tobacco and wretched pine; her fists were already balled and poised for action. The little form inside the covers visibly shuddered as mother approached, knuckles audibly popping as they clenched even tighter. The first strike felt like a soup pot caroming home. The second brought the welcoming dark.

 

     Two black eyes, a bruised cheek and a split on both lips each rang out in its own agony as the birds sang in the new day.  Bones throbbed, dried blood clung in sticky clumps to matted hair, and spread red stains turned dusky and pasty on the sheets and the pillowcase. This mess was going to have to be taken care of soon. Mother was still asleep; her whelping snores could be heard from down the hall. The day was already off to a lousy start.

 

****

 

     Some days were really quite pleasant, though. The best were those when mother would plan trips to the park to play on the jungle gym or walk through the trailed woods. These days remained in memories to be released at times when mother had another of her outbursts. But, those days did exist; they had just become much fewer and further between. Somehow, though, some kind of amazing thing happened just as the lid slammed shut to the washing machine in the basement.

     “Baby,” Mother called from the top of the stairs, “come on up, Mommy wants to make it all better.”

     Make it all better. The last notch of the dial clicked and the washer started its first rinse cycle, and the soothing (somehow sinister) voice of mother echoed another plea. What could possibly be worse? The stairs creaked on the way up.

 

****

 

     As it turned out, plenty could be worse. Though the trip to the park was uneventful, and even the first little while was almost as fun as a day could be, it ended up being only a matter of time before problems started building upon one another barreling toward a disastrous conclusion. The simplest of issues, one as ultimately pointless as a scuffed new shoe, brought forth the wrath of Mother. Her snarling half-smile coupled with her seething rage was merely the tiniest of tips of a much larger, much more sinister glacier.

     She was shown the damage: A small dirt stain on an other wise flawless pair of new sneakers, and percolated into a torrent of fury and boiling hatred that ultimately led to perhaps the most horrific of public beatings ever to be witnessed by gawking passersby. She cocked her arm back looking only momentarily over her shoulder, and let loose a backhand that sent the surprised and suddenly air born child careening into the monkey bars. Returned to quivering legs, another swat –this time lower and more akin to a rabbit punch- sucked the wind clear of the collapsing, sobbing form. Mother was relentless, and even when another woman from across the play area called out in dismay; she still brutally smashed two more solid punches into the limp child’s cheek and forehead. She barked a curse at the bothersome lady, even calling the attention of a few more people who had gathered to witness the scene, and dragged the bawling, weakened child to the car and drove home.

     Mother said nothing for several minutes. It looked as though she was puffing free breaths all but filled to the brim with hatred and sin, as she sat there, glaring ahead at the road, monotonously huffing away. Then she turned to the passenger seat, a wide grin danced across her shuddering lips, and her once monstrous face, just minutes ago twisted into a mask of gnashing teeth and evil, bitter eyes, was calm, subdued, and even motherly.

     Back at the house, in fact just free of the very car itself, mother had become some else entirely yet again. She was kind, happy, carefree… and absolutely frightening. Yes, most certainly mother was far better when she was not angry or violent, but the fact still remained that the churning scourge of the beast within was only just below the surface. The beast was always poised on the brink of release, and all that it took was the smallest of triggers, just the most insignificant of occurrences to allow it to explode free of its tenuous containment. One moment she could be sitting at the table gleefully coloring along, or even whistling a chipper tune as she knitted at the same time as toy trucks or a ball trundled across the floor. But the next moment –maybe as a noise emanated from a squeaky floorboard or a crayon inadvertently dropped with a clack to the floor- she’d be off in a rampage breaking everything from lamps to limbs and splitting it all from a rail to a lip. Yes, mother was uncontrollably unpredictable and that was the real issue.

 

     “Now get on upstairs and wash up for dinner… put a bag of beans on that eye,” mother said with an almost lilt of humor to her voice.

     “Okay, I will. Can I change my clothes, too?”

     “I suppose you’ll have to. We kind of messed those up, too, didn’t we?” Mother said as she reached for a jar of spaghetti sauce just so out of her reach in the cupboard.

     “Yeah… I suppose we did,” No use blaming mother by correcting her, that would only prove to cause serious repercussions.

     And then the sauce jar tumbled from her loose grip and dropped earthward.

     Time stood amazingly still. Although this was no one’s actual fault, it would rapidly become a swift and relentless punishment nonetheless. The reddened glass toppled to the ground even more slowly as, unbelievably, mother’s outstretched arm jutted toward its ceaseless fall. Hope was allowed to boil to the surface as the instant knowledge of a possible future without fresh bruises and blood seemed almost probable.  Agonizingly, the wait seemed to stretch on for eternities. Mother’s hand nicked the jar and then it was too late, the target foodstuff ricocheted from her middle finger and looped end-over-end to its final destination. The muffled splat coupled with the juicy explosion of shards of glass mixed with tomato blotted the linoleum like blood from an open wound.

     Mother stopped. An audible click echoed from her throat as she swallowed hard. She sighed deeply, turned slowly from the floor and a sinister grin played across her face.

     “Tsk tsk… naughty spill from a naughty child. I’d like to say I had something to do with that mess, but I think we both know that I was nowhere near it. Right?”

     It was unnecessary to argue or even put up a defense because the punishment would be equal regardless of which road was chosen. In the end, just accepting the inevitable outcome was sometimes the most painless option.

     There was another beating, remorseless and violent. It lasted nearly thirty minutes and by the time it was over the trip to the hospital to set the broken arm only exacerbated the entire ordeal as a whole. Once the doctor left the room to accumulate the appropriate casting material, mother whacked the shattered limb with her purse placing the blame squarely off her own shoulders. Suddenly the cast had to be a bit bigger.

 

PART 2

 

      Dear Dad,

     Hi. It sure has been a while, hasn’t it? I know you have a family of your own now, without me, that is, and I have grown to accept that. Heck, had it been me in your shoes, I’d have done the same thing, I think. Anyway, I’m fifteen now and I’m a sophomore in high school. I have lots of friends and we like to hang out and do really fun things. No. No I don’t… that was a lie. I have no real friends at all. In fact, dad, everyone is pretty much afraid of me because I keep having growth spurts and I think I’m at least six inches taller than anyone else in my classes. No one wants to be friends with a battered and bruised monster of a person, and I guess it’s pretty easy to see why. Anyway, dad, I really miss you. I think it was mother’s intention to never let me take Driver’s Ed this year, or, I guess, any year at all from what I’ve heard her say. This really made me mad to hear this. I mean on top of the ritualistic beatings and nightly whippings and punishments (I’ve had two broken legs, a broken arm, and three concussions in the past year alone) she’s making me avoid any forms of after-school activities including sports, clubs, and, like I said, Driver’s Ed. Dad, you have to understand that what I’m about to confide in you is meant for you and I only, OK?

     I’m standing over mother’s body right now. I had just gotten fed up to the point where I was physically unable to handle her any longer. She beat me daily. She punched and hit me in public in front of so many different people that I’m surprised no cops have been to the house. She would pick me up from school early just to make me come home and scrub the floors and things for hours while she sat around and drank. She drank so much, dad, it was like watching a magician emptying bottle after bottle for his act… I just could not imagine where it all went. So here I am as I write this, hovering over mother’s lifeless form at the bottom of the stairs.  She had just gotten home from work, well, home from the bar anyway and I was determined not to get another hammering from her hand ever again. Dad it took so much strength for me not to give up and just slip off to that place I would go while she had her way with me. It was a nice place, at least, and I guess in my own mind I liked the idea of leaving everything behind during the violence and just being outside of myself for as long as I wanted. It really was nice. Dad, I just got so fed up that I lugged a brick, or I guess it’s one of those cinder block things from around the porch, upstairs with me after I got home from school and I readied myself. I sat on my bed for hours telling myself I could do this, pumping up my nerves for what had to be done, you know, prepping for the big show, as it were. Dad, I know that the two of you had always wanted a boy; that was never a secret. But apparently being a tomboy was just not close enough for either of you, really. You were the smart one, you got out, you cut and ran while it was still sort of a normal family. I guess I have to commend you for that, I suppose I know where I get my bravery now.  No, I don’t blame you at all; you made the wisest decision of either of us.

      Anyway, mother came home and started making her way up the stairs, as per normal, but his time I was waiting. I was panting like a sick dog, I’m still surprised mother didn’t hear me. But I guess when you’re that drunk it’s pretty hard to focus on anything really… except beating, she was always really good at that. So, she got to the top, and I bashed her skull in with the corner of the block right between the eyes. I saw her nose cave in and I actually heard a little whimper as though she’d instantly sobered up right at the wrong time, too. Then she fell. All the way down the stairs she fell, right to the landing. I know I heard her neck break, not that it would have mattered, really, I think I killed her before she even left her feet. And now she’s just dead. A small bit of blood has pooled up in the crater I pounded into her face and some of it has trickled to the floor. All in all, it looks like a pretty bad accident. I guess I ought to get all teary eyed and call the police. Anyway, I’m just going to tell them I’m coming to live with you so the state doesn’t get me or anything. OK, I have to go now; the bitch is starting to collect a fly or two. I love you.

     Your daughter.

 

PART 3

 

     She moved on with her life after that. The police came, the ambulances came, the emergency vehicles came, and, eventually it was deemed an odd accident. Her father had gotten the letter and, unwillingly to say the least, took her in under such duress. But, as these things can and will end, she left not two weeks after moving in. Just gathered up a few essentials in a battered suitcase and snuck out the window in the middle of the night. Of course nothing is ever that simple and every chosen path has its own set of traps and snares. She was picked up by the law a few miles from her dad’s house and before she could be returned, her father turned his back in either anger or fear; it made no discernable difference in the outcome. She was placed in custody of the state a week later then stuck with little love or warmth in a halfway house until a suitable family could be tracked down. This, however, infuriated her.

     On the second evening of her stay at the home, she decided it best in the long run to just leave. But, as wonderful as that might have been, she couldn’t just leave. Her anger was raw and not to be ignored, so she kicked loose a metal support from the underside of her bed and, with wadded up clothing in hand, plodded with purpose down the hall.

     The first unlucky recipient of the woman scorned was a night guard asleep against the south wall just past the rec. room. With blind motivation and years of tightly wrapped emotional monsters scratching to be free (not to mention her rapidly increasing size, especially for a sixteen year-old girl), she brought the pipe down end-first on top of the resting guard’s head. The hollow thunk that followed was deafening in its muffled silence. The end burst through the bottom of the man’s chin followed by a raw plug and a moist splatter of hot blood. Not even a peep betrayed the throat of the victim as his keys were deftly removed from his belt. Ignoring the revolver, the snarling lady opted for the nightstick instead. Unfortunately for the next fellow in line, there was no other way out except past him and he was in charge of monitoring bedrooms and activities throughout the complex from his comfy post at the south exit.

     With baton at the ready, she was never even considering an attack from anybody, but the watchman had seen every second and had already phoned the police.

     “OK, little miss, I think you might want to drop the stick right now,” the watchman scolded as he held his service piece at arm’s length from his position blocking the door.

     She didn’t even speak. She didn’t have to. One quick spit in the eye of the guard was enough to throw his attention off for the mere moment she needed to crack open his skull. With one batting motion she brought the center of the baton straight across his temple. The cracking reply was not unlike a big stick breaking underfoot. He cried, though. He let out a yelp as blood began to drizzle from his ears and nose. He fired off one shot that went wild and ricocheted off the brick wall. He collapsed to the floor like a bag of meat and, just for good measure; the rapidly exiting lady used her boot to remove nearly half of his teeth.

     One swift slide of the key card and she was free. The police were only minutes away, but her giant strides carried her quite a distance. She slept that night behind a dumpster in the alley of an abandoned store.

 

*****

 

    

     Always on the run now and just steps away from capture, she kept to the darker parts of the city; occasionally traveling through the night, always out of plain sight, and almost as often wearing many concealing layers of clothing. She was nearly twenty-two now, and she’d taken to small time thievery; robbing little stores here and there, scoring a few wads of fast cash ripping off the unknowing at the crowded bus station, or just knocking out the weaker person straying from the safety of the group. Her violence escalated and her brutal outbursts were becoming more and more uncontrollable. When she did need to do away with a person, more frequently than not she would rip their limbs free, sever the head, and scatter remains as far and wide as she was able. Doing so she had begun to develop a more muscular, yet still quite massive, figure. She had become somewhat imposing whenever she strolled past on-lookers; her size was enough to receive stares and gawks, sometimes even nervous laughter. She’d stolen a set of hair clippers and kept her locks cut to the quick. Never having worn make-up in the past, she found no need for it now, and besides, her hygiene had gotten rather mishandled anyway. In fact, at this point, it was nearly impossible to distinguish her from a large teen-aged boy, possibly even a football player. This suited her just fine for it certainly allowed for easier transit from place to place. It never mattered to her that she had no where to actually live, though, on the infrequent instances she did pay for a hotel room from money shed stolen and this at the very least allowed her to sleep well and clean up some. And it was one of these times at a hotel where she overheard something of interest to her, something that might just afford her some real money and a ticket elsewhere.

 

     “So, Alex Marten is going to be right here in one week, gentlemen,” The gruff voice from the corner table shadows announced a little too loudly. “And as we all know, Mr. Marten owes some of us quite a bit of dough, am I right?”

     Low grumbles from around the group emanated into the smoky air. “Yeah, that fucker owes me ten large from the heist I got put up for three years ago. You know damn well I have very intention of getting my share or Mr. Marten will be…”

     “Ok, ok, let’s not get too over excited here. Look, there is a smart way and a seriously dumb ass way to approach this situation,” Gruff said as he calmed down his rowdy crew.

     Alex don’t have any reason to hate me, and this is a good thing. All I need to do is look him up when he arrives, make a little small talk, get him to meet me somewhere, and you guys can bust into the room and take what’s ours. Or, the other way is this: we all get the jump on him, bash his brains in for him, and spend some time up in the joint. I, for one, prefer the more subtle option. Yeah?”

     More grumbles and half-words from the others fell on one set of listening ears. And she sat attentively against the back wall trying hard not to make eye contact but otherwise reading the free flier from the front register for the fifteenth time.

     “Ok, so week from tonight, right here, Alex Marten will be checking in. I suppose it makes sense to have one of you bastards staying in one of the rooms just to kind of keep an eye on things so we can pick the best day to do this,” Gruff announced seeming a bit more in business mode now.

     “Do we know how long he’s in town for, Mikey?” One of the grumblers said.

     “No, but my guess is at least a few days, I here tell he’s going to drop a few big ones on a pony. I guess that’s why he’s coming; trying to make even more money we can take from his lousy ass, right boys?”

     Laughter erupted from the table and glasses were clinked in mock toasts and more rounds were ordered. Then, soon enough, the silence returned and the plan had begun to take shape.

 

     She listened with much interest and even went so far as to jot a few things down on a napkin. She ordered another soda and some nachos, always getting that tilt-eyed ‘where’s your parents’, or ‘damn, you are a big one’ look she loathed so much. All of that aside, she was more excited to participate in this little job than she’d been about anything since back when her mother would be kind enough for long enough to take her out. This was genuinely going to be fun. Yes, she supposed she missed that a little. Back in the days when life was simpler… in as much as she had a place to live, a nightly meal, a bed… and sometimes a mother who’s only intent in life wasn’t, at that particular moment, to beat the shit out of her. Sometimes she honestly longed for those days gone by. But she’d had to end that; she’d had to put the final nail in the proverbial coffin or else she may have been the one who ended up six feet down. No, she supposed in all reality, where she was now was for the best. Maybe.

 

*****

 

     The week leading up to the penultimate heist had begun like any other: a blast of sunlight piercing through a split in the refrigerator box she’d been sleeping in directly into her wincing eyes. She crawled free and immediately noticed another of the city’s sloughed off urchins picking his way through a couple of trashcans. She was normally quite non-confrontational this early in the morning, but something about this guy quite quickly rubbed her the wrong way. First off, he had a pair of clothes on that looked relatively new… newer than hers, anyway, and she also longed for a strong pair of boots just like the ones he currently had on. Yes, amazingly enough, this man was seconds away from dying quite painfully.

     Just as her hand but touched the bum’s shoulder, he whirled around and instinctively jammed a stiletto into her side all the way to the hilt. Blood spurted out in a tiny fountain and splashed across the man’s hand. His eyes were insane with something deeper and more sinister than just anger; they looked feral and wild. He snarled, spat, and yanked the blade free. With her shirt soaked on one side, she could do no more than just stare, mouth agape, as she felt pain like she’d not felt since mother was kicking her around. The bum, quite unfinished in his attack, reeled back for another strike.

     She didn’t think, just reacted. She snatched his hand in mid motion and wrenched it down at full force. The sound of his arm exploding at the elbow echoed like a firework throughout the alleyway. The knife clattered to the concrete and she kicked it away toward the mass of overturned trashcans. With another movement she used her other arm to grab the hobo by the belt buckle and hoist him just high enough to toss him to the ground. He bleated and hissed with rage combined with fits of agony. She strode up to him, fought off a feeble attempt to trip her up, and yanked the guy back to standing by his shirt collar. He begged between babyish fits of sobbing for her to take what she wanted, but just to leave him alone. She shook her head. Then, with one piston-like thrust of her right hand, punched so completely into his bawling mouth as to actually get stuck on a few of his now shattered teeth. She jerked her fist free and struck again, this time turning his face into a bloodied horror show. Teeth fell from his face and clicked to the ground, blood poured like water from the gaping hole in his face, and he ceased even to flinch. She let him fall to the dirty alley and proceeded to take his shoes. Her hand still had two bits of tooth stuck in it and looked like it had been caught in some wire. She’d need some wrapping.

     There was an old mom and pop joint just on the other side of the alley. It was secluded, out of the way, and, surprisingly still open for business. Behind the counter sat and old Mexican man flipping sleepily through a newspaper. The little bell, long since missing its clacker, made a tinny clink as the front door slid open. The man glanced, just out of the corner of his eye, and instantly sat bolt upright in his chair.

     “Goddamn you look like hell, kid” he managed as he dropped the paper to the counter, “You make quite a picture, did you just step out of fighting match?”

     She let a weak ‘no’ escape her clenched jaws and stared the man down. He must have taken the hint as he backed up a few steps and immediately looked quite nervous and shaken.

     “Look, I don’t want any trouble here, got it? I just hang back here and serve my customers, so just get what you need and scoot along, right”

     She approached the counter with gurgling, festering malice still whirling around inside her from the encounter moments earlier. She was still angry, still viscous, and still ready to explode at the drop of a hat. She knew that little chunks from her past kept bursting to the surface and only served to feed the white-hot fire within. Damn her mother for tapping that nerve so fully and completely and damn her father for only dousing the once sputtering spark into a raging flame.

     “I-I guess you might want some ointment for th-those wounds, then?” The man asked again while he cowered a little more behind the counter. It looked to her as though the clerk might actually be reaching for something as he feigned his cowardice. “Th-the’re over there b-by the cough drops and Aspirin. Better take some of that, too… o-on the house, just please… please get lost!”

      Her looming figure must have made quite a series of horrendous nightmares flash forth from the store owner’s mind, for her could no longer remain continent and a fresh wet stain spread out in front of his Dickies like spilled ink. She seized this moment to regain full control of the situation and lunged across the counter snatching the man by his starched collar.

     “No! No, please! I am no one to you! Plea… ERK!” The clerk suddenly found it very difficult to remain breathing as his neck slowly constricted within his gripped collar.

     She tugged with a grunt and yanked the surprised old man over the glass-topped counter. He slid to a stop in the center near the register and, almost as though he knew exactly what was coming next, he began to cry great hawking sobs and begged, through choked gasps, for his life. She was on autopilot and heard nothing as she bent his chest up from the counter top and smashed his face through the glass.

     The initial thrust and explosion didn’t kill him right away, but the mess it made slicing his cheeks to ghastly ribbons put him into shock enough to cause him to go into convulsions and seizures. She let him go and stood back as his wild, erratic jerking caused him to go into cardiac arrest. He slid back down the counter and stood, like a limp puppet, and as his eyes popped from his skull, one last artery shattering internal burst did him in. He tipped to the right and yawed to the stained tile.

     She now had bloodier hands and quite the mouthful of foam bubbling at her lips. She marched methodically to the aisle with the medicines in it and pocketed what she required. She found a few boxes of gauze and just stood there, drowsily, wrapping her wounds.

 

     She left the store and about an hour later could here the first signs of sirens approaching. She was just an alley over and ducking between a stack of crates and soda containers but was struck with surprise and laughed a bit as she wondered what took the cops so long. Poor guy. The might have been able to save him, but she really doubted it.

 

*****

 

     Friday had come with little else happening, and of this, she was glad. She managed to scrounge together just enough money from bottles, a quick purse snatch from an unwatched baby stroller, and a wet five stuck to a sewer grate to get another hotel room. She waited once again in the bar and hoped that someone would come in either resembling what she pictured Alex Marten looking like, or else a goon or two from the week before. She had no idea where this guy was staying, but she assumed that if she hung around long enough she’d likely find out.

     Money was never an object to her before, but since living as street waste for a few years really made her desire it again if for just the ability to get out of town for good. She never knew the value of a dollar and never understood what saving meant or how to do it, but it was clear to her that it took plenty to get what she needed in life from now on. Besides, if you had money at least you didn’t get looked down on as much, regardless of how you appeared physically. That was the sad truth.

 

     Her luck was about to change forever. Standing at the bar, a sizable man looked around skittishly and leaned in to the now available bartender.

     “Hey, buddy,” he said trying but failing to keep his voice down, “I’m looking for someone.”

     “Yeah, well you found someone. Now what?” the bartender replied as he coolly cleaned a beer mug.

     “Funny. Real comedian I got here. Look, I can make it totally worth your while. Like, monetarily worth your while.”

     The barkeep kept cleaning his mug never once flinching or giving up his excitement, if there was any. “I’m hip. Go on.”

     “A man came in today,” the big fellow began again as he continued to dart his glances this way and that, “he’s got a sick amount of cash on him in, maybe, a big Haliburton suitcase.”

     The barman inspected his mug, scratched off a stain, and set it bottom up on the rack. He picked up another, dunked it into the wash water, and began wiping away the foam. “Yup, I see cases like that quite a bit. Not helping me out with that description.”

     The bruiser’s face quickly changed from mild amusement to rigid irritation. “You are really making this difficult, you know? Difficult to find the fellow I’m looking for and difficult for me not to beat the shit out of you. Now, let’s try this again…”

     The bartender still looked nonplussed almost as if he’d heard this before from any number of big bastards just like this joker. “Okay. Starting over.”

     “The guy, Mr. Marten actually, is a skinny little bitch with, maybe skate shoes, possibly jeans with a goofy looking blazer… the same shit this cat always rocks, get it? Just a typical jackass.”

     “Ok, now that’s better. Yes, I saw him this afternoon sitting his nerdy ass right over there. I remember –fortunately for you- because he ordered nothing but fancy-ass girl drinks: cranberry Schnapps, a Blue Maui… shit like that.” The barkeep polished his last mug and dropped it next to the last.

     “That’d be the guy. Any idea where his room might be,” The big man inquired now with a more piqued interest, “Since, you know, there’s the money…”

     “I believe so. He charged the whole lot to his room. I’d say this has become a particularly lucky day for you, don’t you think?” The barman rifled through a few receipts that were skewered on a small metal wire on the other side of the bar, “78. Good luck… and don’t forget about me, hear?”

     The big guy stood up, shook the bartender’s hand, and slowly glided toward the door. She, too, climbed free of the shadows and followed, not even considering she might actually look like she was following. The man behind the bar shot her a quizzical look, and she returned with a beastly sneer and the man looked away, almost as though he were suddenly aware of something really important on the floor.

 

     Room 78 was on the third floor at the end of the hallway. The way the hotel was set up it looked like a giant ‘L’ from the inside and the highest room, 80, was at the very end. Her room was 44, so it was on the second floor. She decided to follow the man for a moment before returning to her room just to be absolute sure where he was headed. She wanted to be alone in this and didn’t really want to run into a bunch of big men whom she was certain would probably kill her given the chance. The man went to the first floor and turned to go into room 12 not even looking back for a moment. She was unsure if he was alone in his room and was really unwilling to find out. She’d hang back on the hallway chair for a few minutes just to see how the situation turned out.

     It didn’t take long. The door opened, the man was chatting on his cell phone, and he passed her, miles away in his own head, to retrieve a bucket of ice. He went back to the open door, left it ajar, and came back out. He made his way to the elevator still jawing on the phone and she followed behind, quietly.

     The man left the hotel and walked across the darkened parking lot to his truck. She trailed him slowly and stood behind him as he opened the driver’s side door. He never even felt the chunk of asphalt hit his temple. The force was enough to break the bludgeon in two and slice open the man’s head like a pumpkin. Blood gushed free like a broken hydrant and spilled out all over his suit and the side of his truck. She hit him again just to make sure this time succeeding in cracking his skull so precisely that a large bit snapped free and clopped to the parking lot like a coconut shell. The man’s brain slid to one side and came to rest on the still whole half of his head. The look on his face was still frozen in mock speech and finally the cell fell from his stiffened hand and clattered to her feet. She wrenched open the door all the way and shoved the corpse inside. With effort she managed to get the door shut and, for good measure, she bashed in the window and dropped the chunk on the truck floor. Now she wanted money more than ever; she knew somewhere in her mind that the police had to be on her by now.

 

*****

 

          Back outside of room 78, she prepared to go inside. One knock would be all it would take, but it would have to end quickly. From the man’s truck back in the lot she stumbled across a doctor’s bag, while adjusting the body, that stood opened at her feet filled with hand cuffs, files, wire, rope, a small saw, and various other sundries. These would come in handy for sure. She closed the satchel, drew in a deep breath –knew rightly that the man she killed would have brought his buddies just by allowing the call to drop- and quickly knocked on the door.

 

 

 

 

 

To Continue…

 

 

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