Category: SHORT STORY, HORROR


SCREWHEAD WAS HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The statue of the 17th century pirate DARIOUS ARNUS loomed tall above the town of LIVIA, a small island off the coast of Eastern shore. Packard was sent there by his editor to do a story for the Lifestyles section of the newspaper he had worked for ten years. In that ten years, Packard had never had a bad experience covering the crime beat in the Tr i-Cities area. Just four months ago, Packard had a small nervous breakdown.

 

It could have happened to anyone. He was doing a story on a serial killing in the Asian section of Liberty city, and he got too close to the suspect. The suspect was Lenard Bosely, a white male, aged sixty-one and had had a intense hatred of Asian women. He’d sent a message to Packard, requesting he visit his home. When Packard arrived, the man attacked Packard, dragged him to the basement. Leonard made Packard watch him dissect a young college student.

 

 

Anyone could have had a breakdown after that.

 

 

So, partly he was there in Livia to write the article on the town’s history, but mostly for a vacation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take it easy. Take it light for six months. No crime, no alcohol, no bad vibes, or negative thoughts. Relax. Take it light.

 

First thing Packard noticed when he drove into the town from the ferry, was how much graffiti was written on everything. Especially on the statue of Dario Arius. Six scribes, all spray painted in different colors all over the weather-beaten statue.

 

All of it saying SCREWHEAD WAS HERE.

 

 

 

 

Very strange. Must be an art thing, Packard thought. Just like SAMEO in New York in the late seventies and early eighties. Packard even asked Mrs. Helms, the woman that rented the room to Packard.

 

She just shrugged, laughed. “I have no idea, Mr. Packard. I don’t know anything about art.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Packard became obsessed over the graffiti. He went out every night, different parts of the city to see if he could find the person writing SCREWHEAD WAS HERE. In spite of watching from his car all night, for two weeks, Packard saw little or no action save for a few homeless people and Johns with hookers.

 

 

On a Wednesday, the third week of his investigation, at three in the morning, Packard saw a six foot tall rabbit in a gray suit carrying black medical bag walking down an alley on sixth and Hyper ave. Packard quietly left his car and followed the rabbit. He saw the rabbit walk to a an apartment building, ring a doorbell. A woman in a robe opened the door and the rabbit forced himself inside, slammed the front door shut.

 

 

 

Packard watched through an open window.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rabbit had dragged the screaming woman to the dining room table, held her with a hand, with a hypodermic needle in the other hand, introduced the woman to unconsciousness.

 

In less than ten minutes, the rabbit had the woman’s chest open and removed her heart. It carefully placed her heart in a glass jar. For a minutes more, the rabbit gazed at the woman’s heart in the glass jar, shaking the jar to watch the heart jump around. Then the rabbit pulled a new, shiny quarter from it’s pocket and put it where the heart had been. He took a needle and surgical thread, sowed the deceased woman’s chest in one nice long stitch.

 

 

All the while, this rabbit had a permanent smile on it’s face.

 

 

The rabbit put the tools of it’s trade back into the small black medical bag, washed it’s hands in the kitchen sink, and left by the back door.. Before the rabbit left the woman’s backyard, it spray painted it’s message on her backdoor in hot pink. Then examined it’s artwork and clapped it’s hand. Packard was too petrified to follow this monster anymore that night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

He walked in a daze back to his car. As soon as he opened the door to his Ford Taurus, a police siren made it’s presence and two cops had their weapons drawn on him, screaming for him to place his hands on the top of the car.

 

 

Packard sat at a plastic table too small for him or the police detective who sat across from him. The table looked like they had stolen it from a child’s playhouse, right down to the colors of purple and green on the legs. The detective said nothing, just as the beat cop that stood by the door, both of them grinning at Packard from ear to ear. Whenever Packard tried to speak, the Detective would shush him.

 

 

At that moment, another Detective walked in carrying a plastic bag with two aerosol cans of spray paint. He sat the bag on the table. Leaned in, smiling. He was a large black man with no neck, and lots of chins.

 

“Would you like some coffee, Mr. Packard?” He said.

 

Packard nodded yes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The officer by the door left, giggling. Packard was already scared, traumatized by what happened earlier, but this, with the weird smiling, giggling, really threw him for a loop. Packard folded his hands in one another to keep them from shaking.

 

 

“My name is Jennings,” The large black man said. He pointed at the other Detective. “That’s Miles, my partner.”

 

 

“I witnessed a murder—” Packard tried to say, Jennings held up his hands to quiet him.

 

“We know,” Jennings said. “We read your report.”

 

Packard nodded. “So why am I still here, three hours later?”

 

Jennings eyes became slits, anger rising up in him. “Your not screwing with me are you?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand—-”

 

“You know what I’m talking about!” Jennings voice boomed inside the small room. Packard felt his ears pop slightly. “You were at the scene of a viscous crime, boy. And we found these spray cans in your car. Got witnesses say that you were at the house of Mrs. Collen Furgh. That’s the woman that was killed.”

 

 

“I didn’t do it. I’m a journalist working on a story—-”

 

 

“We know who you are. We know a lot of things. Nothing…and I mean nothing….get’s by without us—the police dept. here in lovely Livia, city on the north beach—-without us knowing about it.”

 

 

“I saw who did it!” Packard screamed, bawled up his fists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jennings shrugged. “Okay,” He said condescending. “Who was it? Who did you see?”

 

Packard looked away, sighed. It took him a minute to gather his thoughts. He was afraid to say it. So he said it in a burst of sputter, hoping they wouldn’t understand him.

 

 

“A rabbit.”

 

Jennings and miles looked at each other. The smiles were no longer on their faces.

Calm, almost blank faced, the two of them. Packard couldn’t read their expressions. Jennings nodded.

 

“So,” He said slowly, his lips formed the words as if he were blowing a bubble. “You know the pattern. Why and who he kills?”

 

 

“Yes. I ‘ve been reading the local paper. Tourists. Never a resident over a year. It’s been reported a coin—a quarter— is sewn inside the victim, where the heart used to be. The why is is the key to who he is, the killer.”

 

 

 

 

 

Jennings smiled. “The why is that he’s crazy. Who he is, you say is a man in a rabbit suit.”

 

“No,” Packard’s brow narrowed. “I didn’t say he was wearing a rabbit suit. It is a six foot rabbit. A real one. With a furry tail…..Large feet….”

 

 

“You were in a mental institution six months ago in Hampton roads, am I correct?” Jennings thumbed through a file.

 

“And?” Packard said with venom.

 

“That’s why you saw a six foot rabbit cut out that woman’s heart. A real furry rabbit, not a man in a rabbit suit.”

 

 

Packard was silent. His eyes met Jennings. The officer reentered carrying a pot of scalding hot coffee and no cups. Smiles returned to the faces of the policemen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The officer walked over to Packard and Miles took Packard by his arms and Jennings held Placard’s nose. Packard’s mouth immediately opened wide. Thew officer began pouring the hot coffee down Packard’s throat.

 

 

“Here’s your coffee, sir,” The officer laughed as Packard screamed tried to spit the steaming liquid out. Packard pulled from Miles, the rest of the coffee was dumped in his lap.

Miles kicked Packard so hard, his front tooth flew from his mouth, blood flowed from his mouth like a river. Jennings placed his size fourteen hush puppy on Packard’s throat, bore down half of his weight, making Packard gurgle loudly.

 

 

 

“Get out of my town,” Jennings grit his teeth. “And if I see any of this or your six foot rabbit murderer in the papers, I’m coming for you. We have an understanding.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Packard wasn’t given a choice to answer, because it wasn’t a question, it was a statement.

 

 

Packard was dumped in his car after being cleaned up by the city jail guards. He wasn’t kept there, just cleaned up enough to so the outside world wouldn’t dream that their wonderful boys in blue would beat a suspect.

 

 

At this point, Packard had clearly lost his mind. He was sitting in his car, watching the street, the business district of Livia, proudly show her citizens as they truly were. Very large humanoid rabbits. He was not afraid anymore. Two nights in his car filled with nightmares of these large humanoid rabbits feasting on members of his family, dead or still living, was enough to make anyone’s brain implode.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was settled. He was going to rid the streets of Livia of these horrible creatures. He wanted revenge as well on the cops. He decided to confuse them. It was the best way. A copycat killing, or a few even. He was going to be the new SCREWHEAD.

 

 

He watched the bus station. Picking out his victims was not the easiest thing. But he saw a drifter who was perfect. Yes, a drifter, not a mother with two children, a business man, or a young woman hoping to make a new life. A drifter that obviously had no luggage and no intention of staying in this city by the Atlantic ocean

 

 

The drifter was a lean young man with short golden hair, not very well groomed. Possibly because he had been on the road for awhile. He was wearing the only thing of worth on his back, a vintage WWII bomber jacket. It was weather-beaten, several rips in the leather sleeves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Packard followed the drifter all day, and well into the night. The drifter would often work an alley and street corner, accepting money for sexual favors. That’s where Packard got the idea to lure the drifter to an abandoned alley by an old warehouse. The drifter was given three hundred dollars and more than willing to do the things he and Packard discussed. The drifter was actually happy. As he followed Packard, he told him he only made thirty dollars all day. He told Packard he was trying to raise enough money to get to Texas to live with his aunt. She owned a bar and was promised a manager’s job.

 

 

They reached the end of the alley behind a trash container. He turned and smiled at Packard. “What do you want to do first?”

 

 

At that moment Packard had lift the tire iron high above his head. It came down on top of the drifter’s head with such force, the top of hi head sank in. The drifter’s face was instant pain and shock. Blood oozed down his face. The drifter fell on his back, his lips parted, as if he were going to say something.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Packard’s surprise he actually enjoyed it. He bent down and touched the drifter’s neck for a pulse. There was none. Packard took from his jacket a scalpel and immediately sliced the man’s chest open. Before he could go further, he heard shuffling of feet on the pavement. Packard dropped his scalpel and ran. He hid behind the warehouse. What he thought was little beads of sweat rolling from his forehead, was blood from the drifter. He tried to wipe it with the sleeve of his jacket, but made it worse. A long red streak across his cheek appeared.

 

 

The rabbit was there, kneeling over the drifter’s body. There was no reaction on it’s face, a frozen, toothy grin on it’s face. But somehow, by it’s robotic movements, Packard could tell it was confused. The rabbit finished the job that Packard began. He opened the the drifter’s chest more, reached inside and removed the heart with it’s scalpel. It opened it’s little black medical bag and extracted a jar. It opened the lid of the jar and dropped the heart inside. The rabbit gazed at the heart a moment. Before stitching up the drifter’s chest, the rabbit pulled out a coin from it’s jacket. It wasn’t a quarter like Packard had read, but a gold coin, 17th century, with the queen of Spain representing her nation. Packard knew now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A theory more or less, but just maybe, just maybe it was a spirit, a murderous spirit…the spirit of a pirate…the spirit of Darius Arnus… paying for the privilege to kill visitors to his port…just like he’d read a few months back about the pirate. The Spanish authorities looked the other way. Just like the cops in modern day Livia.

 

 

The rabbit got up, began waddling out of the alley. After a few steps, it turned to look around. Confident there wasn’t anyone, it picked up it’s pace to a speed walk.

 

 

Packard followed. He saw the rabbit turn on King’s way, then left on Corinth street. Finally, the two of them ended up at a bungalow behind the preschool. Packard looked at the address on the mailbox. 332 Corinth and Main.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He watched the rabbit go through the front door of the bungalow. Packard stayed well hidden in the bushes. He was afraid to go further. But something was pushing him forward. Adrenaline, excitement…..pure mental inadequacy.

 

 

Packard quietly went through the unlocked front door of the bungalow. It was a neat and very tidy place. Lived in normalcy. With the exception no modern machines, no TV.’s or radios or computers. Everything was strangely decorated in the color white. Just like the pirate Darious Arnus fashioned all of his outfits in white.

 

 

Packard moved from tiny room to tiny room, den to bathroom to kitchen to bedroom. The rabbit was standing next to a bed, it’s back to Packard. A head, a human head was laying on the bed beside the rabbit head. He was without a head attached to a metal round cylinder where it’s neck should be.

 

Packard drew in air, held it a moment, then exhaled. He was stunned. Now he knew he really was crazy. How….how could this thing be alive, and walking without a head attached……? It was a fairy tale his brain made up…..his brain was definitely fucked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rabbit turned swiftly to face Packard. Packard’s breathing alerted it. It took hold of Packard by his throat and squeezed. Then everything went black.

 

 

Miles and Jennings stood over top of the two bodies that lay disjointed at the end of the alley in front of the trash container. Miles shrugged, wrote something in his little notebook. Jennings turned over the first body with his left foot. It was the drifter. He turned and looked at Miles. Miles raised an eyebrow and shook his head, touching the cold lifeless body that belonged to Packard. On the trash container was spraypainted SCREWHEAD WAS HERRE.

 

“I bet we find a gold coin inside both of their chests.” Miles said.

 

“He’s changed his M.O.,” Jennings said. “Two for one. Don’t remember this happening. Ever.”

 

“Me either,” Miles scribbled something else. “ Now he’s leaving wounds on the bodies?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“No,” Jennings thought for a few seconds. “Nope, Detective. The male in the leather bomber is a copycat killing.”

 

Miles nodded. “You think so?”

 

 

Jennings smiled. “I know so.”

 

 

“Hey, you going to Farley’s birthday party tonight?” Miles said, his face beaming.

 

 

“Sure,” Jennings headed to the unmarked vehicle. “Can you pick me up?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Yeah….what’s the address again?”

 

 

Jennings turned swiftly to Miles. “332 Corinth and Main.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(SACCI—Pronounced “SACK-SEE”)

It was two-thirty in the morning and Barry was still on GARAGE SALE.COM. Lily awoke, saw the quick flash of light on their darkened bedroom wall from the computer’s monitor. She sat up, eyes barely in focus. Her blonde hair was matted to the left side of her face. Lily rubbed her eyes, yawned.

Barry was shirtless. Lily saw mounds and mounds of hair on his back, each strand waving at her because the central air working overtime on such a hot summer night. She watched him nod his head and began typing fast. Lily rose from the bed and stood, the strap from her nightgown slid from a shoulder and momentarily revealed her right breast. She coughed to get his attention, but Barry was caught up in something. She rolled her eyes and placed her breast back into her nightgown.

“What are you doing?” Lily said, annoyed by the small amount of attention from Barry.

Barry jumped at the sound of her voice. “Nothing,” He squeaked. He retrieved his man’s voice and said again, “Nothing, honey.”

Lily walked over and peered over Barry’s shoulders. “Oh,” She said disappointed. “I thought I would catch you looking at porno or having an online affair like normal people.” She walked to the bathroom. He could hear running water in the toilet. “Instead,” She appeared again in the bedroom after a loud flush. “I find you still on GARAGESALE.COM bidding on crap we don’t need.”

“Its not crap,” Barry stretched his arms, bones cracking like incidental music from a scene in a movie. “I’m a collector, Lily. Everything I buy is classy pop culture.”

“Yeah…….like Ernst Borgnine’s underpants he wore in the movie ICE STATION ZEBRA.”

“Don’t mock me. I did find a buyer for that item.”

“Old Mr. Coleman down the street gave you five bucks for that

item.”

“So. He’s a collector too.”

“Barry, he’s a seventy-five year old gay man who talks to a photograph of Truman Capote.”

“That’s not normal?”

Lily stared at Barry for a moment. “There’s no getting through to you is there?” She wearily climbed back in bed. “We have a garage full of stuff we can’t use, will not use, no interest in them other than you bought them from GARAGESALE.COM. You will be alone, divorced, weirdo trying to sell a comb once used by Danny Devito for pennies to buy your next meal. I’m just warning you.” She removed her nightgown and threw it to the floor. “Now get in bed and screw me silly and I wont divorce you.”

Barry’s face fell. He sighed, turned the computer off. “Okay,” He said with the enthusiasm of a man about to be hung from the neck at the gallows.

In the morning, Lily was awaken by Barry’s cries of joy. She bolted upright in bed. Looking around, expecting something other than her husband glued to the computer monitor laughing and high-fiving the cat. “I did it!” Barry screamed and the cat ran off with it’s tail in a question mark.

Lily crawled out of bed and put her nightgown on. She heard herself say it, but didn’t want to ask him, “What did you do?” Knowing that was a mistake.

“I won a SACCI!”

Lily shrugged. “What the devil is a SACCI?”

Barry tapped his forehead with his index finger and thought a moment. “Well,” He started.” Thought some more. “It’s a……”

“God, Barry. Don’t strain yourself.”

“Ha-ha-fucking-ha, Lily.”

“You don’t even know what you bought, you idiot,” Lily angrily sashed into the bathroom.

“I do too know what I bought!” He called out to her.

Barry looked at the computer screen. It read:

GARAGESALE.COM

CONGRATUALATIONS! YOU HAVE WON THIS ITEM:

SACCI—-A SUBHUMAN THAT GRANTS ANY NUMBER OF WISHES— IT REQUIRES VERY LITTLE DEMAND OF YOU AND WITH IT’S POWER OF WISH FULLFILMANT, COULD CHANGE YOUR LIFE FOREVER!

Lily looked at Barry, stone faced. “You are an idiot, Barry Hughes.”

She clicked off the screen for GARAGESALE.COM and signed in to her e-mail.

“Why would you say that?” Barry was puzzled. “We could use this.”

“Barry, this kind of thing doesn’t exist. Just like Ewoks, Leprechauns, and unicorns—”

“Unicorns did exist,” Barry exerted. “They died out with the dinosaurs. I saw their definition in the dictionary.”

“Why did I Mary you?” Lily checked her e-mail. Several from her Mother she didn’t wish to read and far too many Facebook comments on a picture she uploaded of the cat.

Barry thought a moment, then he spurted out, “Because you love me,

that’s why you married me.”

Lily scoffed. “I wouldn’t go that far.”

“Lily……I need some gas money,” Barry said softly.

She sighed. “Get my card, honey.” She went back to answering the

e-mail to her Mother. “Try to have a nice day at work, okay.”

Barry placed his clip on tie, made a sour face. “Today is ten percent off for senior citizens at the store. Those blue-haired old ladies creep me out when they get too fresh.”

Lily laughed. “That’s what you get when your cute and assistant manager at a grocery store.”

“Yeah…….they sense my power.”

Barry leaned over Lily’s shoulder and kissed her goodbye.

“I’ll have dinner ready for you when you get home,” She called out to him as he went out the front door of the apartment. Barry waved to her and closed the door.

Barry came home at about six that day. He managed to pass through front door of his apartment and plopped down on his chair. Tired hands reached for the remote, but dropped it a few times. Retrieving the remote control the last time was when Barry noticed the old naked man lying on the couch. The old man was blind, his body no longer obeyed his brain’s commands to move. His hands and feet were drawn in from horrible arthritis. Breathing was very difficult for his inflamed lungs.

Barry stared at the old man, which was lying on his back, breathing heavily. The old man sounded like a vacuum cleaner with a golf ball stuck in the hose. It didn’t register in him who it was. He remembered that Lily said her Father was dead, so that’s not who it was. Ditto for his Father. Was it the homeless guy from down the street that kept badgering Lily for cheese? Who was this old geezer and why did he smell like a goat?

“Lily?” Barry called to her. There was a rumbling from their bedroom and she appeared in the doorway of the living room.

“Yes, dear?” Lily said with a smile on her face.

Barry hit a button the remote and the television turned on. Immediately he began to channel surf. Watching the screen as visage of changing faces and body parts along with different locations and products appeared and disappeared, Barry never once took his eyes from the glowing box.

“Who is the old naked man on our couch?” He said calmly.

“What old naked man, Barry my love,” Lily folded her arms across one another.

“The one right there,” Barry pointed the remote to the old man who was now coughing and spitting something up, then swallowing it back in, repeating the process several times. “That old naked man, Lily.”

Lily clucked her tongue. “Ohhhh……yeah. Him.”

Barry moved his eyes to meet Lily’s cold gaze. “Are you going to tell me who he is?”

“It’s your package, dumb shit.” She walked back to the bedroom and slammed the door.

Barry dropped the remote and jumped out of his chair with childish enthusiasm. He rushed to the old man and looked him over.

“Your kidding me,” Barry cried out, laughing wildly. “This is awesome! Fantastic! Have you tried him out yet?”

Barry noticed she wasn’t in the living room anymore. He searched for the box the old man was shipped in. He found it behind the couch. Barry shrugged. “Hmmm…..not as big as I would’ve thought for a man shipped in.” He found a note hand written.

NO REFUNDS.

“Of course,” Barry shook his head.

Lily appeared again. “Why did you do this?”

“Because I always wanted someone to grant me wishes.” Barry said matter of fact.

“You used my credit card,” Lily said.

“How else would I get this wish master?” Barry grinned at her.

Lily stepped forward and raised fer fist to hit Barry. “I wish I had a thousand dollars every time you did something stupid—–”

As she her fist popped Barry in the nose, several bills from treasury dept. appeared in her balled up hand. Barry fell on his backside, hard, realized his wife had just punched him out.

“Barry!” Lily screamed, her voice cracking at the last syllable. “Did you see what just happened?”

Barry was shocked. He felt the pain his bloodied pulsating nose attacking every one of his senses. “I saw my wife hit me,” He said in that hurt little boy voice he uses when he’s upset. “My fucking wife hit me with her fists.”

“No! Money appeared out of thin air in my hand.” Lily helped Barry to his feet. He ran for the bathroom. “Oh my God, “ Lily was writhing in joy. “I can’t believe this is happening.”

Barry darted back in the living room, holding a towel to his nostril.

“You didn’t have to hit me!” He exclaimed.

“Sit down, honey.” Lily took Barry by the arm and placed him in his chair. She cocked his head back and held the towel to his nose herself as she sat on the arm of the chair.

“I’m sorry, baby. I got carried away. You know how angry I get at simplest things. I don’t mean to hurt you. You know I never intentionally mean to hurt you.”

Barry thought a moment. He sighed. “It’s okay, I guess.”

Lily rubbed her hand on his shoulder. “Your a real sport, Barry.”

He nodded. “Yeah…..too much of a one. So, you think the old man granted the wish?”

Lily shrugged. “You said he was a —–”

“SACCI,” Barry said.

“Right,” Lily stood, touched her lips with towel, then threw it at Barry, hitting him in the chest. “A SACCI. There’s no restrictions on how many wishes you can have?”

“Yeah,” Barry said with affirmation. “That’s what GARAGESALE.COM said.” He said, began following Lily as she paced the room.

“No,” She said. “There’s no way you could get all that without a catch.

No way, gotta be a catch somewhere.”

Lily stopped, turned to Barry. He lifted an eyebrow.

“Why can’t we just enjoy the wishes and not worry about consequences that may not exist.”

Lily looked at Barry incredulously. He drew in air and held it, waiting for Lily to down size him for the statement. Then she smiled. Shrugged her shoulders and laughed.

“ Yeah,” She said. “Why not enjoy it.”

“Yeah,” Barry repeated her. “Why not enjoy it.”

“I wish I had the most expensive bottle of wine on the dining room table,” Lily stated. They walked to the dining room. There, the bottle sat, already uncorked.

Lily and Barry burst into laughter at the same time. They hugged each other. Barry took her by the hand and placed her at the table. He kissed Lily softly. She turned red in the face and turned away from him as she always did after he kissed her like that.

“I wish a steak dinner and shrimp was on the table.” Barry said.

And they were not surprised when it appeared on the table.

As they cut into their steak dinner, Lily looked into Barry’s eyes and told him she loved him.

Barry awoke in the morning in a frenzy. He stumbled out bed, his vision severely diminished. He felt his way from the bedroom to the living room, shouting for Lily. In his trek was a lot of things they wished for and a lot money laying around, TV.’s , stereos, different foods, a Cadillac outside parked where his van was. Clothes from the best designers in the world. Jewelry for him and Lily. Twenty miles away a three story mansion belonged to them as well.

Barry crawled on his hands and knees, calling for Lily. He was stopped cold when he felt a man’s leg. It was the old man, dressing in one of Barry’s suits. He heard Lily moaning. She was laying on the couch, completely naked because clothing hurt every part of her body. It was difficult for her to breathe, the air was difficult to catch, her lungs inflamed. Her tongue was ravaged with cancerous sores. Her hands and feet were drawn up from intense arthritis.

The old man helped Barry up, hugged him as he spoke in broken English. “Greed,” He paused, laughed. “It destroys the body, eh?”

The old man left Barry standing there in almost complete darkness.

“Where did you go?” Barry screamed over and over, weeping. Lily still moaned, tried very hard to put sentences together. Her broken body would not obey her brain’s commands.

GARAGESALE.COM

TWO SACCI FOR SALE. BID ENDS TOMORROW ELEVEN P.M.

 

 

 

 

 

 

He placed the bottle of water on his podium. Stuart Webb laughed. “Just an ordinary bottle of water,right?” He told his audience. Webb was dressed immaculate. Grey three piece suit,white tie, three rings on each finger of his right hand, gold bracelets with scripture engraved. Stuart Webb spoke to his television audience just as he spoke to the pulpit in his church, soft at first, loud to get their attention or make a point. It was a trait he learned from his father and other tent preachers he watched as a child.

 

 

“Noooooo….. not ordinary if it comes from a well blessed by the Lord. You see, several years ago, ten to be exact. I was alone, a drifter in the desert, until God led me into a wooded area. I was hungry….destitute. I was in real bad shape, brothers and sisters. I heard a voice, voice of God telling me to keep walking. ‘Son,’ he said to me. ‘You will find your purpose on earth. And I will reward you in heaven.’ I stumbled upon a well on a lonely farm. I nearly passed out from no water or food for three days. And a young woman, came from her house and rescued me. She gave me food. And yes, this water,” Webb picked up the twenty ounce bottle and showed it to his congregation and the cameras. “This water healed my body…..it healed my soul. That young woman……became my wife and partner in God’s war.”

 

 

 

 

The worshipers in the Church of Light were not all poor and unfortunate, or sick in need of cures. Webb had made friends with many rich and powerful. A senator, a newspaper tycoon, a couple of movers and shakers in the media.

 

 

 

They all sat in the Pew of his church. They all donated to his church, in return he helped with different problems. For the Senator he helped get him reelected. For the land baron, he convinced an elderly woman move into a rest home so an office building can be built where her house once stood for fifty years. The movers and shakers got all of his money for advertising, in return Webb got good PR.

 

 

His congregation hung on to every word he spoke. In the front row, there were three of the sick for this sermon. One woman in a wheelchair, one man on crutches, another man with burns on his face.

 

 

He motioned for one of his body guards to help the man on crutches to the podium. “Brother…..you are from wheeling, Idaho?”

 

“That…that is correct, Rev. Webb.”

 

“You came all the way to California…..for what purpose?”

 

The man fought back tears. “The Lord has led me here to be cured.”

 

 

 

 

 

“And what ails you, brother?”

 

“I have……m.s.”

 

“You have been to the Godless Doctors, right? They did nothing for you,brother?” Webb sighed. He bowed his head, whispered.

 

“That is correct, sir.”

 

Webb finished whispering. He touched the man on his arm. He opened his eyes, took the bottle of water from his podium. “God led you here, did he not?!”

The man shook his head yes. “Drink this, brother.” The man removed the top from the bottle. He placed his lips to the bottle. The man drank rapidly. “By the Lord’s good grace, I cure thee!” Webb screamed at the top of his lungs. His congregation held their breath. “Drink the Spirit water! Blessed by the Lord himself!”

 

 

The man dropped his crutches. He held the bottle in his hand and staggered forward. His eyes bugged out of his head. “I ……..am………cured!” He proclaimed.

 

Webb’s congregation was in awe of his powers.

 

 

 

 

 

There was a new face in the crowd of onlookers. A tall man in a shabby sports coat, wearing thick glasses. Webb watched this man as he took a seat in the back row. The congregation was on their feet giving Stuart Webb a standing ovation. The man in the shabby sports coat took out a small notebook and wrote in it. Webb nodded to one of his bodyguards. He came running over. Webb whispered in his ear and pointed to the stranger. The bodyguard put on his best tough-guy face and ambled through the crowd to where this stranger sat.

 

 

After the sermon was over, the television crew gone, his congregation left for their homes, Webb kept his staff at work. Which included his wife Tansis, and her brother Jonas. The bodyguards brought the stranger to Webb’s office and tossed him into a chair that cost more than most Americans cars. Webb sat behind his desk, pretending to read from the Bible. Behind him on a bookshelf were several books, most of them written by him.

 

“How dare you keep me here against my will!” The stranger screamed at Webb. “Do you know who I am?”

 

Webb stopped pretending to read. He looked up from the book. “Why don’t you tell us who you are, then?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Look,” the man said nervously. “I merely wandered in the wrong building. I was going to leave as soon as you were done.”

 

“I bet you were,” Webb smiled an ugly smile. He reminded the man of a boar, pug nose and wide mouth with very red gums showing as he opened his mouth.

 

“His name is Lawrence Fisher,” one of Webb’s bodyguards said. “I checked with a friend at the police station, Rev. Webb. He’s a reporter for the Seattle free press.”

 

Webb stopped smiling. His top lip curled up. He had the look of disgust on his face. Webb rose from his desk. “Another fucking reporter,” Webb spat on the floor. “What’s wrong with you people, eh?”

 

Fisher swallowed hard. He was genuinely frighted. Here were three very big men standing in front of him. He had memories invade him of times in school where he was bullied. Fisher looked at the two bodyguards and computed in his mind how tall(six-three,six-two) and how much they weighed (three-o-one, three-twenty,) with Webb (six-two, three-eighty). Oh, yes, Fisher thought. He was dripping with sweat. I am definitely afraid of these men.

 

“I—-I’m just doing a Lifestyles report. That—that’s all.” Fisher removed his glasses and cleaned them with a handkerchief.

 

 

 

 

Webb breathed heavy through his nose. He took the glasses from Fisher and handed them to a bodyguard. “Why would you want to do that, Mr. Fisher? I think people have the right to worship as they wish.” A bodyguard bent the rims out of place, handed it back to Fisher. Fisher placed them on his face. The glasses were out of line slightly.

 

 

 

“Rev. Webb,” Fisher temporarily forgot his fear. There was hostility in his voice.”I wholeheartedly believe. I believe also in the first amendment. People have a right to know if someone is taking advantage of them.”

 

“You calling me a huckster, a cheat, Mr. Fisher?” Ebb’s two bodyguards stepped toward Fisher.

 

Fisher remembered his fear. He jumped in his chair. “I’m just investigating, Reverend. Nothing…..nothing to hide I’m sure of …..that is…you don’t”

 

 

Webb thought a moment. He sat on the edge of his desk. “ I don’t. Nothing to hide. I’d like to know why you are doing the devil’s work. I think if you come over to God’s side, I can smooth things over with him.”

 

 

 

“All I want is to speak with a few of you church members and maybe a staff member. That’s all.” Fisher and Webb exchanged looks for a couple of minutes. “It’s just a harmless Lifestyles report for a small newspaper.” Fisher tried to smile. The fear rose up in him again, memories of being bullied in school, even in college.

 

 

Webb went back behind his desk. He went back to his Bible. “Throw this Godless asshole out.”

 

Four huge hands grabbed Fisher by his sports coat simultaneously, dragging him through the door Webb’s office. Fisher cried bloody murder, and it echoed throughout the church, all the way to it’s doors. He was literally thrown out the church’s open doors. Fisher landed on his face.

 

 

“Stay out, friend!” One of the bodyguards bellowed in their gruffest voice that broke like a twelve year old going through puberty.

 

Fisher got to his knees, felt blood dripping from his nose. He touched it with a hand. The church doors slammed shut. Right on cue, the skies opened up. Rain fell on Fisher as if a bucket had been dumped on him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Webb stormed into his wife’s office. He saw a slim blonde haired woman who wore way to much eyeshadow and too much jewelry on her person. “Stuart, dear. That was a great act of God you performed today.”

 

Webb scoffed. He saw Tansis brother. Anger filled his fat cheeks. “Jonas, what the fuck was that?”

 

Jonas looked at his sister, back at Webb. Jonas raised an eyebrow. “What was what, Stuart?”

 

“You know very fucking well what I’m talking about, you crumb!” Webb was breathing hard. His shouting could be heard all through the church. The rest of the staff heard something, but the lady cleaning a bloody spot in front of Tansis office.

 

“Stuart,” Tansis spoke calmly. “Dear, watch your language. The staff is listening.”

 

Webb grumbled to himself. Closed his eyes, counted till ten. He reopened his blood-shot eyes. “I am talking about those performers.” Webb’s voice was less agitated, at a lower decimal. “Did you, my brother-in-law, get those people from the local theater?”

 

 

 

 

 

Jonas smiled. “Yes, Stuart. You said to, remember?”

 

“I was joking, you nimrod!”

 

“Stuart.” Tansis scolded Webb.

 

Webb contained himself. He smiled that ugly smile, but only slightly.

 

“Next week, Jonas. I would like a few more less stiff performances. Just try to get some unfortunates….street people, so they aren’t recognized if they perform any Shakespeare in the park.”

 

Jonas nodded. He had that retarded grin on his face that Webb so hated. Too bad, Webb thought. Marisa was not in the church anymore to handle things like this. Tansis caught Webb and Marisa one too many times in the pulpit in wee hours of the morning moaning and groaning.

 

“Doing a good job, Jonas.” It pained Webb to say that. Tansis demanded he say it every time he saw Jonas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tansis touched Webb on his hand. “Stuart, honey. We got a call from Sparkling House. Looks like they had a problem with their water distribution.”

 

“Don’t tell me that.” Webb rubbed his forehead with a hand. I’ve got a hundred bottles of Spirit water to send out by Friday.”

 

“So send out sorry notes for the delay.” Jonas said.

 

Webb gave him a dirty look. Tansis spoke up. “Stuart.” She was scolding again.

 

“Or you could send Miguel and his cousin to Blackford rivers to fill some bottles.”

 

“Oh, Jonas. You are trying your best to get yelled at,” Tansis said, exasperated.

 

Webb thought a minute. He looked at Jonas. “That’s not a bad idea.”

 

Jonas smiled. He was beside himself. “Yeah…..it was a good idea. You want me to go with them?”

 

 

 

 

 

Webb became agitated again. “What are you stupid or something? I’ll go with them. Tansis, call the bottling company and cancel the contract.”

 

“What?” Tansis and Jonas said together.

 

“Just do as I say,” Webb walked out of the office, slamming the door. He almost stepped on the cleaning woman. The old woman looked up at Webb. He looked down on her. The blood spot infuriated Webb. “If that spot is still there when I get back, you’ll be looking for a new job.”

 

The old woman snarled, began rubbing the same spot again. She waited for Webb to leave and said, “That suits me fine Rev. Fatso.”

 

 

It was hot out by Blackford river. You could see the steam rise from the ground from all the humidity. It looked more like a swamp than a river. The water was so murky. Trees surrounding the river had moss grown over the limbs and their trunks. A swarm of mosquitoes hung around the trees but not anywhere near the riverbed. They had traveled twenty miles to this river in Miguel’s old pickup that had almost no suspension left. Webb cursed Jonas ever bumpy mile on the way.

 

 

 

 

 

Webb was the last one out of the truck. He stepped out and leaned against a tree. Webb took his embroidered handkerchief and wiped sweat from his face and neck. Miguel’s cousin spoke in a nervous voice in Spanish. Miguel looked around. He saw that the sun was going down. Webb shifted his eyes rapidly from Miguel, then to Miguel’s cousin.

 

 

“What was he saying?” Webb demanded.

 

“My cousin does not like this, Rev.” Miguel said. He turned quickly to see the river gurgle.

 

Webb was dismayed. “He’s getting payed, is he not?” The sarcasm was thrown hard like a slap in the face.

 

“I don’t think you understand,” Miguel pointed to the river. “He said a lot of people died here——”

 

“I didn’t come all the way out here in the blazing sun to not get what I want, you fucking beaner! Now get to work, filling those bottles up with water!” Webb reached in a box and pulled three bottles out. He began throwing them at Miguel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miguel apprehensively picked a bottle. He unscrewed the top off slowly. Webb stared him down. Miguel dunked the bottle in the river. He then lifted the bottle up. Inside the water was pure, crystal clear. Miguel was puzzled. He screwed the top back on, sat it on the ground, took another bottle and dunked it into the river.

 

 

Miguel’s cousin murmured in Spanish again. He gestured with his hand the sign of the cross. Webb rushed toward the small man. He tried to speed past Webb, but Webb was quick with his hands,caught the man by his ripped tee-shirt that prominently featured Hulk Hogan.

 

 

“You get in there and help him!” Webb pick ed the man up and threw him in the river, knocking Miguel face-first into the murky black water as well.

 

 

Webb stood over them, tossing the bottles into the river. Miguel’s cousin pleaded with Webb in Spanish. Miguel rifled off in their language, cursing the scared little man. Webb’s nostrils flared as he grunted at them. “We’re not leaving until every bottle, all fifty of them, are filled. You understand?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

The small man wept. He murmured in Spanish again. Webb threw a bottle at the man. “Tell him to shut-up!”

 

Miguel spoke to the man softly. They both filled the bottles as fast as they could. Suddenly, Webb felt cold. At first he thought it was odd. Then he thought a cold sweat. I’m getting sick, he told himself. Getting a summer cold because of these two bozos.

 

“Rev.?” Miguel said. “May I tell you something?”

 

“Make it fast. The longer you diddle with this crap, the longer we’ll be here.”

 

Miguel saw the sun was changing into twilight. Miguel rushed to fill more bottles. “I just wanted to say….there were lots of murders in this area in the late seventies.”

 

“So what?” Webb shot back.

 

“It was a dumping ground for angry, restless——”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Enough already!” Webb’s voice echoed through out the stillness of the river. Nightfall fell upon them quickly. He noticed Miguel’s cousin had stopped working. Miguel rose from the river, placed bottles in a box in the back of the truck. “Hey!” Webb screamed at the man. “You have to work to get payed, El taco.” Miguel’s cousin just stood there. His face had changed. It had become a greyish-white.

Dark circles crept under his eyes, which now rolled in the back of his head. His blue lips were cracked, and seemed to be set in a permanent curl to reveal clenched yellow teeth.

 

This small man rushed to Webb, splashing blackened water from the murky river everywhere. Webb sensed something was wrong. His eyes widened as he ran to the truck. He heard a growl coming from the small man like no other animal he had heard before. In a second Webb grabbed a tire iron from the back of the truck,. He swung blindly, splitting the man’s head in the middle. The tire iron sank in, blood gushed down the sides of the man’s face, which now had now become a face of shock. His face immediately changed back to normal. He fell to his knees, bleeding, dying in front of Webb. Webb kicked the man over on his back. The tire iron was driven firth down the man’s skull from the fall. Webb witnessed the small man’s last breath.

 

 

Webb heard Miguel’s boots on the dusty ground behind him. He jumped. His breathing became shorter, louder gasping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miguel looked weaker than his cousin. But his face looked the same. Miguel was just as fast. He sprinted to where Webb stood , hands stretched out in front of him. That same growl came from Miguel as he grasped Webb’s throat with both hands. Webb struggled at first with Miguel. Miguel’s hands tightened with each floundering of Webb’s body. Webb finally withdrew Miguel’s grip. He picked the stout man in the air and slammed him hard on the ground. Miguel’s back made a cracking sound. Webb backed away, breathing harder and harder. He leaned against the truck, watched life slowly recede from Miguel’s broken body.

 

 

Night had definitely replaced twilight.

 

 

Webb jumped into the truck and sped away. It’s tires spat dirt clogs, dust and gravel. In no time, Webb was far from Blacford river. All the way on the interstate, he tried to make sense of things. Of all the bad luck, he thought. Now I’ve got two Mexicans dead……..dead by my hands. But they came at me……why???

 

 

Webb nearly ran off the road as he thought this out. It was no use. It was all one big mess.

 

 

 

 

 

Webb came through the basement. He saw that his staff was still at the church. It was late, nearly eleven-thirty. He wanted them gone. He didn’t want to have explain what happened, cause he couldn’t coherently tell the story. Not even in the order of events without babbling. He felt that God had abandoned him. He had to sneak upstairs to his office. He noticed, of all things considered, he did bring in the bottle water with him. I must be thinking right again, he smile to himself. He sat the box down on a table. He went to the steps, then turned, went back to the box of bottle water. He took a handful, counted six or seven, in his arms. He would have Jonas send them out to his followers, as he’d already cashed their checks or money orders.

 

 

Fisher appeared from behind the furnace. He had been hiding in the basement for several hours, waiting to witness something for the article he was writing. His hand had swell up from when he wrapped his sports coat around it and broken a window out. He was sure he had broken it. The pain was immense. If he stays put just awhile longer, wait for everyone to leave, he could dig for incriminating evidence on Rev. Stuart Webb.

 

 

Webb met up with the cleaning woman coming up those stairs. He smiled half-heartily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

He handed her a bottle. “You’ve been working hard,” He said as nice as his nature would allow. “You must be thirsty.” It was an awkward moment. One of those moments that Webb always tried to avoid. The cleaning woman was confused. She watched this large man amble toward his wife’s office. She shook her head, opened the bottle. The water looked so nice and inviting. She took a swig. It actually tasted good.

 

 

Webb peaked into Tansis office. He saw that she and Jonas were asleep at their desks. He crept in. Webb took a pencil from her desk and wrote a note : FOR JONAS TO SEND OUT IMMEDIATELY. He placed the note underneath the bottles on Tansis desk. He crept out of the office, heading for his.

 

 

It was sometime later Webb was awakened by a ruckus. Webb looked at his watch. It read two-twenty. He heard the noise again.

 

“What the hell is going on?” He rose from his couch, straightened his tie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Webb came out of his office, peaking out first. He walked down the narrow hallway that displayed photos of several prominent Evangelical ministers of the day posing with Webb. He heard the noise again. It was coming from the pew. He came around the pulpit and saw the cleaning woman. It looked like she was cleaning the back row of seats. Don’t that woman ever get tired? Webb thought. He turned to leave when he saw one of his bodyguards sitting upright in the middle row. The shadows from from dim lights covered his face. Webb saw something sticking out of his mouth. He drew closer. Then realized it was the end of a broomstick hanging from the dead man’s gaping mouth.

 

 

Webb backed away slowly. The cleaning woman noticed him, rose from the seat to reveal the other dead bodyguard. His face was beat in, wounds and lacerations showing he had been beaten repeatedly in the area of mouth,nose and eyes. He was a bloody mess.

 

 

The cleaning woman rushed to Webb holding a mallet, blood dripping from the tool. He backed away, listening to her growling. He bumped into someone. Tansis and Jonas. The three of them had the same greyish-white skin, dark under their eyes. They chimed in with the cleaning woman’s growl. Tansis reached for Webb’s arms, Jonas went for the throat. Webb barreled through them, knocking them to the floor. The next available place he ran to. The basement. The three of them were right on Ebb’s heels. He slung open the basement door. He moved as fast his fat legs could move down the stairs. He met Fisher on the middle steps. Fisher was growling, showing clenched teeth.

 

 

 

 

 

They were face to face. Webb screamed, felt four more hands cling to his shoulders. Fisher drew back and drove his pen into Ebb’s forehead. Webb screamed, the pain was intense. He fell to knees. He closed his eyes, felt several hands on him.

 

 

 

This is not happening. He told himself over and over. This is not happening——-