Bought the Farm

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The Old Man bought the farm, both literally and figuratively. There were rumors and whisperings that the deal was struck with something other than money and that the possession of these ill-gotten gains was his downfall.

Riley remembered going out to the barn to find his favorite toy—some long-forgotten trinket that went to his race set. Always the early riser, a light fog rested on the wet grass which parted and stirred as he made his way from the house to that old drafty barn. He recalled not wearing shoes and that the most dangerous thing he could probably step on was a pile of poop left behind by King, his grandfather’s senile old mutt. But King had been merciful that morning and the path was clear, the dew from the grass cooling his feet as he made his way.

Something was wrong.

The door to the barn was ajar and from the inside, he heard an almost inaudible whimper. King was a hound from an ancient time, the last of Granddaddy’s hunting dogs. That mongrel was old before Riley was born and in the boy’s five years, he’d never heard King make a sound, outside the release of an occasional fart. That morning, though, he heard the dog pacing and whining inside.

Like a protestor, the wrinkled canine walked and turned back and forth, below something that swung almost like wind chimes, hanging from a rope connected to the overhead rafter. The creaking of wood was the instrumental accompaniment to King’s wounded vocals.

Beneath Granddaddy’s naked body was a pile of steaming crap, stinking up the place. Though it is said a person can’t smell in dreams, Riley swore he couldn’t escape that fetid stench in each consecutive nocturnal vision.

The grotesque sight of the undressed body and stretched neck used to jar him the first few times and he would will himself from the barn, away from King’s whining protests.

No matter his means of escape, be it by aerial or terrestrial flight, the barn sat in the clearing of his mind night after night. He was drawn to it, the soft fog around it muffling sound, but allowing details of faded red paint to be seen. The building would beckon him, the low-hanging clouds forming fingers that drew him in. It promised a toy he would never find.

Black men didn’t commit suicide, he’d been told. Whoever said that had lied.

One night, when he was twelve, the boy refused to run. He figured there was a reason the barn seeped its way into his haunted nocturnes. He had stopped being afraid and just regarded the corpse. The wood above creaked and the rope turned so that Granddaddy faced him, his visage contorted in a mask of surprise and pain. His eyes bulged, hemorrhaged and angry. Riley overlooked the distended belly and milky droplets that had run down the elder’s thigh.

That was the day his grandfather spoke.

The Old Man’s tongue, was a pale pink slug that hung lazily from bloodless lips, lolled and shifted a bit. The corpse, which had been a man he once loved, croaked a single whisper of a word: “Bewarrrrrrrre!

Curiosity (Excerpt from Dead Assets)

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eBookCover_DeadAssets 

Curiosity left the cat drawn and quartered.  That wasn’t what Chet was thinking through his drunken haze as he wheeled his candy-painted muscle car into the lot on the other side of Ocean View Avenue.  He typically revved the engine before shutting it down, just so he could get the narcissistic satisfaction of eyes on him, green with envy.  It was a veiled threat and look down the nose, letting everyone else in his world know their proper place.  There was a pecking order to be maintained, damn it.

But this was not his world…yet. Norfolk may as well have been an entirely different planet, tucked away on the other side of the asteroid belt behind Mars.  Though not where the snobs of Virginia Beach lived, the city sat cozily next to that struggling, former tourist trap.  Nobody cared to venture the Oceanfront when the undead lumbered down the boardwalk in a loose parade… Norfolk was the center of the dung heap and, though he was from the other side of the tunnel, Chet sat atop the pile like King Shit.

He rocked a bit on his heel, his head feeling as if it was floating in a pressurized jar, levitating above his body, yet strangely still attached.  Everything his dark eyes surveyed was as if he was watching through a camera and couldn’t be touched.  Vodka had the weird effect of granting him temporary invincibility.  Though he’d promised Margeaux he’d stop drinking altogether, he’d only made the switch from gin, which seeped through his pores and could be smelled on his breath.  Shit, had she been putting out, he wouldn’t be imbibing or seeking out this hellish version of the No-Tell Motel. 

The night was cool, the dampness of winter not quite letting spring take hold yet, the chill in the breeze sobering him a bit.  He leaned against the door of his chariot, which he’d christened Babe Blue, on account of its color and the fact that, like Paul Bunyan, he was the biggest man in the forest of his mind.  The street was all but deserted, so he didn’t hesitate to unzip his fly and take to watering the gravel beneath his feet.  The hot piss steamed and came out completely clear, hitting the ground like funky raindrops.

His cell phone buzzed suddenly and his wife’s picture glowed on the screen.  It was nearing midnight and he hadn’t called after his shift.  She was used to his occasional late evening at JB’s but he was pretty good about calling to let her know.

No, to ask permission was more like it.  She didn’t want the courtesy of just knowing, Margeaux wanted him to ask if it was okay for him to stop by the watering hole for a couple of beers after work.  Then she would get the satisfaction of bitching and moaning about the meetings he used to attend that were supposed to curb his desire to drink altogether.

“My ass,” he said, spitting on the ground defiantly.

Chet was a grown man who didn’t need permission to hang out a bit late like some wayward teen.  He didn’t want to be nagged about missing dinner or hear her go on and on about what a good husband should be. 

Blah-blah-bla- fuckin’-blah—she could be such a killjoy at times! 

He’d call his bride on the way home, after he went to see a female doctor to relieve the chronic swelling in his nut sack.  Then he could think clearly and tell her what a good wife should be doing for her hardworking husband.  Of course, Margeaux wouldn’t want to hear that and there would be a difference of opinion.  The argument being inevitable, he pressed “Decline” on the screen, which sent her straight to voice mail.  That would get her spun up for sure.  He grinned coldly, tossed the phone on the passenger’s seat and put his dangling third leg back in its holster.

JB’s tavern was one that catered to blue collar types.  Being that it was just down the street from the shipyard, it was a particular favorite of the pipefitters, machinists, welders and grease monkeys—his kind of people.  Besides having a seemingly unending supply of beer and spirits, the bar was better than picking up the newspaper for the latest scoop.  That was where Chet first heard whisperings and rumors about a different type of bedroom sport being played.  It was what brought him through the tunnel: satisfaction of his curiosity.

Though the urban landscape took on the teetering pitch and roll of the sea, the inn loomed in Chet’s view with the stability of a far horizon.  Word was, inside the walls of that abandoned motel, he could buy a type of naughty thrill enjoyed by the rich, sick and twisted—and that was right up his alley.  The idea had been presented to him through a haze by that tall, skinny black dude who’d worked for him a while back…  He popped his fingers, thinking aloud, “What was his name again?”

***

Steed’s lanky frame sat bolt upright with recognition.  “Aww, SHIT!” he shouted suddenly, breaking the silence and stirring me from my review of the night’s figures.

“What,” I asked, irritated.  I knew it couldn’t have been the city’s finest—we’d already paid them for the month.  Funny how that never would’ve happened before the world went to hell in a hand basket…

“You’re not gonna believe this, mang,” he said, pointing.

Quiet as kept, there wasn’t much that surprised me anymore.  Depravity was a standard feature with our clients and, as long as they didn’t damage the merchandise, I didn’t judge.  They shelled out cash and business boomed.

“What,” I repeated, determined not to pause my counting of wrinkled bank notes.

Steed unglued himself from the chair and towered over the bank of monitors, giggling like a little kid.  Each screen displayed a different view from half a block up in all directions as well as inside the individual suites.  Though my partner had approached me about filming the antics and distributing them through a black market porn outfit, I’d vetoed the idea.  Chuck agreed with me too and, with us having two-thirds of the vote, the more degenerate citizens of Hampton Roads maintained a modicum of privacy.

“Didn’t think he’d come,” Steed exclaimed, rubbing his goateed chin with delight.

I exhaled, closing the distance to see what had gotten my partner so wound up.  The stack of bills fell from my hand when I realized who had made a guest appearance.  I was vehement in my decision to never to keep any of the camera footage but we should’ve recorded that moment.  It was when the fly’s inquisitiveness got the better of him and he went to inspect the sticky droplets glimmering from the spider’s web.

Steed was all but jumping up and down with excitement, pointing and pumping his fist.  His voice sounded muffled through my own static exuberance.  I heard him say something about running into Chet at JB’s a couple weeks before and that, over a drink, had casually extended an invitation to our former supervisor.  Assured him that the first go-round would be on the house.

I radioed Chuck and told him to report to the office.  Occasionally, the so-called “unbreakable” condoms we’d bought were defective.  I’d had Doc inspect them via X-ray to ensure quality control and had put the duds off to the side.  When our blond, boyish-faced junior partner came into the room, I handed him three condoms from that stash, told him Chet had a free hour and sent him on his way.

Steed’s burst of adrenaline waned and he fell back into the chair, still high off something that resembled post-orgasmic bliss.  He’d petered out just as my exhilaration was growing, the anticipation running through my veins and quickening my breathing.  I stared at the black-and-white image of our old boss being led past the crowd through the figurative velvet rope to meet his fate.  There were some people who wanted more bang for their buck in a masculine sense.  Without Chet being told what he was in for, he was going to be a trailblazer in that arena. 

And to that, I couldn’t help but smile.

 

The Burden of Contractual Fulfillment

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Making a living as a death dealer—an oxymoronic, yet concrete notion if ever there was one—definitely lacked the glamorous appeal of some tuxedo-wearing secret agent a la Hollywood. If prostitution was the world’s oldest profession, then assassination was its snickering kid brother.

He felt a mix of queasiness and excitement, staring through bluish-gray wisps of smoke at the thing he held in his hands. It mirrored a sexual encounter, the foreplay being his gentle caress of the envelope, delicately undressing and opening it to reveal the contents inside. Like a potential lover, the blank manila held gravitational pull in his corner of the universe: details concerning the dispatch of some unlucky soul.

The deal, which as put in motion by the neat stack of bills that slid across the table—a 25% down payment for services rendered—called for something messy. The contractor was always right and, once he broke the seal, the job was as good as done. The benefactor wanted to make a statement against a business rival. The villain-for-hire could care less what the reason was, as long as the price was right.

There were two basic methods of carrying out the deed. The first would be to make the hit from a distance, which was like walking into a candy store, seeing all those colorful, flavorful confections and trying to find one to purchase. There were cyanide-coated sniper rounds that could rip through the best so-called bullet proofing, laying waste to the flesh and bone beneath; there were strategically-placed explosives that could level an apartment building or rip an armored vehicle to shreds. Hell, he could even go Old School contra style and resort to lobbing grenades. However, that wasn’t quite the message the contractor wanted to send. That meant the second basic method: up close and personal. A handgun was simple to silence, conceal and dispose of quickly, but that wasn’t enough. Using bare hands was an option he would give more thought, but even the ghastly sight of a broken neck might fail to deliver the horrific gravity of the contractor’s threat. Maybe a garrote would do…

No, the job called for special work to be done with his favorite tool of the trade: the knife. Like one of those old TV commercials, he could slice and dice a man to death, then make julienne fries. It was settled and his bloody symphony would be conducted with a masterful stroke.

The killer grinned while sharpening the blade, allowing beads of mercury to run down the steel and create a poisonous silver puddle on the table’s surface. There would be no coming back for his target; no chance of a second act or encore performance. He prided himself on his attention to detail and kill count.

The last unopened parcel from the larger envelope contained photos of the object of his financed affections. Careful not to nick himself with the blade, he inserted the point carefully between the fold and slit it open with a smirk. However, what his eyes rested upon was a near-mirror image…

Father?” he coughed, hesitating for the first time in his illustrious career. He’d dispatched people of all ages, nationalities, affiliations and sexes without as much as batting an eye. However, this was a target he couldn’t have imagined in a thousand years.

But the contract had been accepted. No matter how sick it made him feel or how foreign the stinging of tears was to his smoke-filled eyes, he had a job to do. Between soft, nearly inaudible sobs, reluctance and a running nose, he realized just how difficult it was going to be to carry out this assignment.