LEGION’S LEGACY – COMING SOON
Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.
“Full moon, tonight,” he whispered through the small hole in the door.
Beth was shaking. Beads of sweat poured down her brow. The salt stung her eyes. Her teeth chattered uncontrollably.
Noooo! You won’t win.
The pounding of her heart sounded like short bursts of machine-gun fire in her ears. Her breath came in choppy gasps.
Don’t pass out.
She lunged at the door, clawing at the knob that refused to turn. Her fingers were bleeding. She knew he was standing just outside in the hallway.
He hardened as he listened to her stumble blindly in panic, trying desperately to escape. He smiled. Her efforts were fruitless. He’d spent weeks fortifying that room.
There was no escape.
He’d stake his life on it.
He felt the wetness run down his leg. The odor of laundry rooms lingered in the hall.
This one’s the best.
The very best.
He rested his head against the wall and closed his eyes. His breath escaped in a long, slow whoosh.
How good she made him feel.
How goddamn good.
Such a pity.
But she had to go.
That’s how it goes.
Good things never last.
And maybe, the next one would be even better.
He groaned with pleasure.
Still, if it wasn’t for the fact that he simply had to . . .
Man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta.
It was the echo of his father’s voice ringing in his ears.
Man’s just gotta.
His father was a heavy hitter – the bottle, his kids, and mama. Still, when the old goat was sober, he was wise.
He smiled, again.
Bittersweet memories flooded over him. The blows were tough to take, but they made him a man. How fucking surprised his old Pop had been.
He loved to replay those early memories over and over again in his mind.
That morning, his father had called out – again. The drinking that had began the day before never really stopped through the night and into the next morning.
You had to give the old man credit. He could really hold his liquor.
But everyone has their limit. Even old Pop.
The man laid sprawled eagle in his worn recliner. His once white tee shirt was stained and gray with sweat and age. The neck was stretched. Holes dotted the material on the sleeves and the front like Swiss cheese.
The front of his greasy jeans was stained with urine. He hadn’t even bothered to get up and go outside to relieve himself.
Disgusting, the boy thought.
He’d been crying.
He blew his nose right where he stood and let the snot fly onto the floor. He pinched his nostrils and slung the slimy residue toward his father.
A gooey glob landed on the man’s face. He snorted once and resumed his lumbered sleep. The gun felt heavy in his hand. Cold. The tears wanted to begin again, but he straightened his shoulders.
In a distant part of his growing brain the words faintly echoed.
‘A man’s just gotta.’
A hazy yellow mist filtered under the door. Tendrils wrapped around the boy’s head, tickling his nostrils and sliding into his opened mouth.
He felt a wetness in the back of his throat.
A man’s just gotta. A man’s just gotta.
It was like an incessant drumbeat inside his skull.
His complexion paled. His face turned gray, his eyes black. A liver-colored ring appeared around his mouth.
His heart stopped. His lungs stopped. Yet, he stood by the recliner, looking down at the limp form that was his drunken father.
A bluish-gray hand raised the pistol.
It was easy enough to pull off. Child’s play, really. His dad was so drunk, his limp fingers had easily accepted the gun. Raise it to old Pappy’s head, and pull the trigger.
But not before he’d roused his father from the drunken stupor that engulfed him.
No. He wanted the old man to know who was responsible for sending him straight to hell.
Angle the muzzle upward – a tinny voice inside his head instructed.
He robotically turned the gun up a little more. With his finger on his father’s, he squeezed the trigger.
The blast splattered blood and brain matter all over him. But he did not flinch or show emotion in any way.
He looked at the corpse in the recliner for a few minutes. He felt nothing. He turned and walked outside into the yellow rain.
When he awoke hours later, coughing and sputtering and gasping for breath, his mother was standing over him. He was curled in a ball inside one of the old junkers that littered their yard.
Her face was ashened. She was screaming at him, but he could not understand. He was groggy and hungover, but his heart was pumping normally and his skin was pink.
She threw her thin sweater over his nakedness and waited for the sheriff to arrive.
They marked it down as a suicide.
Toot-sweet. That was it. Everyone who knew his father knew his life was a cesspool. Nobody blamed the old man for taking the easy way out. Nobody.
A man’s just gotta.
Pull yourself together. Now! I won’t let you win, you bastard.
Her thoughts were starting to come more slowly. Make more sense. She willed her breathing to slow. She couldn’t afford to hyperventilate and pass out.
How could she have fallen for such a lame trick? Stupid. So stupid.
She thought he needed help. She was only trying to be a good Samaritan. Look where that had gotten her.
He’d grabbed her and thrown her in his van.
He’d punched her ticket to hell.
I’ll rise out. I will. Or I’ll die trying.
The box was stifling. It was hard to breathe. Oh, dear God, she thought, don’t let me be buried under the ground!
Just then, the light filtered through the boarded window. It was just enough to illuminate the dirty hovel. She spied it in the corner.
A metal beret.
The Bogeyman’s Watching
It seemed like a good idea, at the time.
It came to him like a bolt from heaven. He’d been sitting in his truck drinking and fuming over the fact that white young guys like him got pissed on, nowadays.
Was it his fault that he lived in an area where you couldn’t buy a decent job?
The county was the poorest in the state. A desert of development. A cesspool of drug addicts and welfare leeches and habitually unemployable.
Maybe, he should try for disability.
He raised the brown bag and the bottle that peeked outside it to his lips.
It might be cheap, but he relished the burn he felt all the way down to his stomach.
The moon was full. Its silvery light caressed the surroundings in a sheen of soft white. The junk cars around him reflected its glimmer. There was an unearthly look about the place. It almost seemed beautiful.
He cracked his window and loosened his collar. Man, it was hot in the cab. He fiddled with the radio, chuckling out loud at the thought of draining the battery dead.
Who gave a flip? It wouldn’t be the first time.
He drank some more.
The liquor sloshed from his mouth and dribbled down his shirtfront.
“This place is killin’ me,” he mumbled. “Gotta get outta here. Wake up one day an old man. Yup. Gotta get away.”
It was an old mantra, a sentiment he’d voice a thousand times. Like an old record, he droned on, but he never put shoe leather to these thoughts.
A purple bank of clouds slid over the moon. Indigo shadows blanketed the truck that sat in the middle of the junkyard.
He did not notice. He was half-asleep with the music blasting in the cab unheard. Tentacles of yellow haze slipped in through the open window of the truck.
Lightning flashed inside the cab. The young man’s body jerked spastically as the mist slid down his nose and throat.
And then, it was over.
The yellow dampness retreated as quickly as it came. It slithered from the cab and seeped back inside the old wrecks, disappearing into the inky darkness.
He was groggy, but filled with new plans. His mind whizzed with ideas.
Why had he never thought of any of this before?
An evil grin broke his revelry.
He rolled down the window and tossed the bottle into the blackness. He heard it shatter into a million pieces.
He wouldn’t need that crutch anymore. He cranked the truck and flipped off the radio. The red taillights jiggled and bobbed as he drove off into the night.
He signed up the next morning, volunteering at the local thrift store. He’d show up one day a week, helping the needy and ministering to the poor, and automatically gaining brownie points with the ladies. They commented how nice it was going to be to have a strong, young man in the store.
His presence made them feel safe.
That made him smile.
Such easy marks.
They weren’t the common sluts or bitches who thought they were too good to walk the same earth as him, but the honest-to-god ladies.
The big-hearted ones were always easy prey.
Too nice for their own good.
Anyway, if a guy puts on his best hound-dog-eye pity-me look, those ladies were like putty in his hands. It worked every time, especially in a setting like that.
Among the old shoes, worn clothes, and musty castoffs and discarded items ready for the county dump, he milled about, as comfortable in the setting as a favorite, old sweater.
It was a calculated thing, working at the thrift store, and he’d frittered away many hours thinking about just the right place for what he wanted to achieve.
He needed somewhere where the women would not be leery of him. Some place where he could observe unnoticed – like a fly on the wall.
Not a bar.
Those women were too needy, too drunk, or too brash to hold his interest.
Certainly, not church.
Those women were too much for any red-blooded man to stomach.
But the ladies that frequented the thrift shop were a breed all their own. Watching pennies. Trying to make every dollar count. Stretching a nickel until it squealed like a pig caught under the gate.
Maybe their old man punched the shit of them once or twice a week. Like his old man did his mama. Maybe the louse drank up his paycheck, leaving little pocket change for life’s necessities.
Why else would those women buy stuff that, more often than not, had seen their days of good use a long, long time ago?
And it was disgustingly easy to get them to open up. Those ladies of the bargain aisles. Not like the hookers that paraded up and down the strip.
Those floozies were so unreliable. They’d tell you that you were the best thing since breath mints, if they thought compliments would get you to throw in an extra twenty.
They were just a bunch of venereal-diseased liars whose parts had worn out long ago. All of them. Carrying around shit in their bloodstreams that even the health department couldn’t get rid of. Worthless. Those boils on the butt of the earth were not his type at all.
He preferred his roast beef rare, thank you very much, not forked through so much that it was a gnarl of gristle and as tough as the sole of a shoe.
And it didn’t matter if they were homely or not, like most of the ladies who frequented the store in this part of town. Not the Ritz, this neighborhood. No, sir. Definitely blue collar.
The kind of folks that kept their noses to the grindstone and out of everybody else’s business. Stay-at-home loners so eaten up with loneliness that they spilled their whole life story to him in less than five minutes after entering the store.
And to him, a total stranger.
Act attentive, and they were putty in his fingers.
It was a good plan. He had no doubts. And even though the police had more tools in their tool box than ever before, he thought his chances were good.
Even if they caught him, no matter what torture tactics they used on him, he’d never give away any of his secrets.
He wouldn’t lose sleep over DNA and Locard’s exchange principle.
No, he was not a college graduate, but he was no dummy, either. He’d watched enough crime dramas to realize that he might leave something of himself behind at a scene.
But, so what?
The bumbling idiots trying to solve the case would be so twisted up in knots from all of the ‘evidence’ he’d leave that it would take them several lifetimes to discern their heads from a hole in the ground.
Either way, the world was gray. If he got away with it, it was okay. If he didn’t, it didn’t matter. He was the Tidy Bowl Man.
Life was a crapper full of shit.
His life, anyway.
He tried to derail those thoughts. Wouldn’t do to keep feeling sorry for himself. Just go with the flow.
Look at this place. It was perfect.
He had his pick of the old cast-off clothes and shoes. He only took the worst looking stuff, unwashed, and ready for the trash heap. They threw that stuff in the dumpster, anyway.
He volunteered to take the ‘items too used to use’ to the dump. Keep the dumpster from running over. The old lady that ran the store gladly took him up on the offer. Beat calling the trash service for an extra dump. Too stressful on the bottom line, she’d said.
He’d nodded his head in sympathy.
“I’m glad to help any way I can, Miss Mina,” he’d said.
Miss Mina had looked at him like he was the Archangel Gabriel.
Only that stuff never made it to the dump. He carted it home by the boxes, filled a storage shed, and, whenever the urge got too hot, he dressed up in the stinky, dirty throw-aways to go hunting.
He had a never ending supply. And all fully loaded with the scents and grime and DNA of a hundred unnamed donors – cheapskates donating their garbage to the thrift store and taking the donation off of their taxes.
That was the criminal part, he believed.
And he felt that even he chanced to leave some thread or fiber evidence at the scene, it would likely be so contaminated with the skin cells, semen, and other microscopic detritus of the original owner, that the police would be chasing their tails in circles trying to make sense of it all.
At least, that was his theory. And so far, it had served him quite well. And the fact that his DNA might be found along with multiple others only added mud to the waters.
“Excuse me, sir, but could you give me a hand?”
“Certainly,” he said, smiling.
“I just can’t seem to reach that little angel on the top shelf.”
“Oh, here you go.”
“Thank you, so much.”
“Oh, what is the price? I don’t have my glasses. I do so hate to trouble you.”
“Let’s see,” he said, purposely letting his fingers rub her hand. “I think it says seventy-five cents.”
“Seventy-five cents,” she said, and he could see she was weighing whether or not to purchase the useless trinket.
“Tell you what,” he said brightly, “I’ll ring it up for you. Today, we’re having an angel for an angel sale. I think it won’t break the bank to sell it to you for a quarter.”
She blushed, and he knew he’d won.
“Really. What kind of sale did you say,” she said, hungrily staring into his eyes.
So hungry. So many of them were.
“I said an angel for an angel sale. You are the first angel I’ve seen walk through that door, today.”
She giggled, obviously pleased.
“Oh, no. I’m not kidding.”
“You’re making fun of me. I look a wreck.”
“Not to me. Come over here. Is there anything else you need,” he said, directing her to the shelves stocked with the tackiest used items in the store.
“Well. I dunno. Maybe I should ask my daughter, Beth. Beth! Beth! Over here!”
Lomax stood on the side walk and stared down the street.
This used to be the hopping part of town. The one place where you could grab a milkshake, visit the record store for the latest vinyl, stash a couple of dollars in your savings account for a rainy day, and see a matinee.
All while strolling along one avenue.
Boarded storefronts and broken glass.
Dead as a ten-penny nail these days.
There was the theater, The Majestic, slowly being devoured by the elements.
What a shame. He’d gotten to first base with Mary Christian Hodges, center row, third aisle from the front. But that was a lifetime ago, now.
Lomax squinted and pulled hard on his cigarette. The burn in his lungs felt good. So did the kick of nicotine.
He idly watched a rat scamper across the street and disappear inside a hole in the wall of the old grocery store, The Pork Chop Palace. He vaguely wondered if the vault door was open inside the First True National Bank. The place must have been closed for over forty years.
On the last day of business, did the manager tell the tellers to pull the blinds at their stations as if it was any other day at closing time?
Not that it mattered, but Lomax still tried to peek inside the dirty windows to see if he could make out anything inside the old bank. Was it a time capsule where time stopped on closing day? He spit on the window and moved some dirt around with his index finger.
Not a straw’s chance of surviving a prairie grass fire. He only succeeded in making a miniature mud smudge.
You needed a squeegee and maybe a pressure washer to blast off some of the crud that coated those windows.
Why even come here anymore?
Those were the questions any sane person would ask him. But Lomax knew why.
He still felt the burn in his gut like an old mule kicking out for all he’s worth. God, it hurt. Even after all these years.
Mary. Mary. Mary.
How does your garden grow?
Why did that little nursery rhyme cross his thoughts just now?
The only flowers Mary Hodges had anymore were the occasional wild seeds dropped on her grave that happened to sprout.
How long had it been?
Too long, he decided.
He threw the butt of his cigarette onto the sidewalk and stomped it out with his boot sole.
“What the . . .”
Flat tire. How did that happened?
The wind was getting up. Lomax listened. The old dime store sign was creeking on rusty hinges.
A sad song.
Not very catchy, either.
He changed the tire, replacing the flat with a spare that was just as worn.
He hopped into the cab of his old Ford truck. He turned the key. Nothing.
“Shoulda’ replaced that solenoid by now,” he muttered.
Flipping back the seat, he retrieved a long screwdriver. Under the hood, he completed the circuit between the power and the starter, and sparks flew.
Lomax dropped the hood and jumped into the driver’s seat. There was only one place to go.
He headed toward the junkyard. He needed a rebuilt solenoid and a new-used spare, too.
“Hell,” he muttered. “S’ always something.”
Horror evil gritty suspense small town