Blood Spatter -- A Short Story, p.1Guy James
Copyright 2011 by Guy James
All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.
The characters and events portrayed in this work are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Also by Guy James:
Sven the Zombie Slayer
Rats on Strings
Please visit https://guyjamesfiction.blogspot.com/ to learn about other existing and upcoming titles from Guy James.
Table of Contents
The light filtered in through the gaps in the blinds, accentuating the fresh spatter of blood speckling the wall. The bulk of the body and its scattered components were arranged...artistically.
The police hadn’t yet arrived, but they soon would.
He strode briskly across the deceased’s lawn, his red horns flopping about his head. He made a sharp right turn, dimly remembering that the car was parked on West 17th Street and not on West 18th Street, dropped his eyes to the pavement, and broke into a run.
He heard the first wail of sirens as he climbed into his rust-riddled sedan. He sat in the driver’s seat and waited. He couldn’t leave yet. He could never leave this early—it wasn’t allowed.
After less than a minute, the first police cruiser sped past him, sirens blaring. He watched it skid to a stop and two police officers burst from it, hands on their guns.
He reached up, tweaked one of his horns, and stared directly in front of him.
The grey place.
He took off his mask and set it down in the passenger seat footwell.
He touched a finger to one of the mask’s red horns—but not the one he had tweaked. The horn wasn’t sharp, ending in a somewhat pointed, rectangular projection.
Logan Jennings started his car, drove past an unfamiliar building into which police were running, and drove home. His camera strap was slung around his neck, the camera resting atop his right thigh.
The camera always stayed close to his body, where it belonged.
“Good morning, honey,” Kara said, sending a sleepy smile Logan’s way.
“Good morning babe, how you feeling?”
“Good, great now that I see you’re cooking up breakfast. What’re you making?”
Logan smiled, taking in his beautiful wife in her drowsy splendor. “The Logan Jennings special—crispy eggs, crispier bacon, and even crispier hash browns.”
“Is Eva up yet?”
Kara nodded. “Brushing her teeth.”
“Cool.” Logan adjusted the flame under the crispy deliciousness he was preparing.
Eva walked into the kitchen, yawning. “Good morning.”
“Good morning, sweetie,” Logan said. He stepped toward her with his spatula and tousled her hair—not with the spatula.
“How’d you sleep?” Kara asked.
“Good. Do I have to go to school today?”
Kara put the coffee on. “School’s important, honey.”
Eva frowned. “I guess…” She looked up. “Daddy, did you go running this morning?”
“Sure did,” Logan said, prodding well-crisped eggs with the spatula. He got out some plates and set breakfast on the table for his wife, his eight-year-old daughter, and himself.
They all dug in enthusiastically—he really did make a great breakfast.
Kara looked up from her plate, slurping down a strip of bacon. “Why aren’t you eating?”
“Just admiring you two, wondering how I got so lucky.”
“So how was that run this morning?” Kara asked.
Logan looked at her as he began to work on a flat, crispy mass of egg white. “It was good. I’m getting better I think.”
“But Daddy, you’ve been running so long how are you still getting better?”
Logan smiled. “It’s only been five weeks now, sweetie, and there’s always room for improvement. In fact, I’ve got another run planned for later today.”
“Two in one day?” Kara looked doubtful.
“Yeah,” Logan said, getting up from the table, “I need to get rid of this.” He gave his belly three pats, though there was hardly anything there to pat. He began to wash the frying pan while his wife and daughter still ate.
After they had eaten, Kara helped ready Eva for school and readied herself for work. Logan read the morning paper, glancing up at his wonderful family every now and then.
Then they all stood at the door, at the end of their morning ritual.
“Have a nice day, Daddy.”
“You too honey.”
“I love you,” Kara said.
“I love you.”
“Don’t forget to feed and water Koki.”
Logan smiled and waved as they left, watching them make their way up the small house’s walk and cross the street, heading toward Kara’s car.
He glanced about the quiet neighborhood, and was filled with joy.
“Sorry,” Logan said. He had frozen still, standing over Koki’s bowl, holding her bag of dog kibble. “I’m a little distracted.”
He gave Koki her ration, gave her fresh water, and went up to his home office. His eyes fell immediately upon the camera, searching for reassurance that it was still there. It was, and it was charging. There were two photos on it that he’d forgotten to upload. He’d taken them at the studio, then he’d forgotten about them.
Logan copied the two photos to his local drive, then saved them to each of four separate, external drives—his backups. Then he opened each photo, saved them as new versions on his system, and imprinted each with his copyright. Once the copyright imprint was affixed in its proper place and Logan had cropped the images to his liking, he uploaded the images to his website, from which he sold prints and licenses to reproduce his work.
He’d been making a killing recently, licensing his photos to aspiring horror writers who sought book covers. Logan’s photos were incredibly realistic, implausibly so. His fans and customers called him talented, but he knew that his eye for detail, his skill, came from years of practice and dedication to the art. As far as he was concerned, anyone could be as good as he was, and probably better. Talent wasn’t a factor.
Once the work was done, Logan went back downstairs, carrying his fully-charged camera. He played short-range Frisbee with Koki in the back yard until she was bored, then went back inside and got dressed for his next run.
The running was having a remarkable effect on his body. Not only was he leaning up into the shape he’d had in college, but his appetite was suppressed too. He’d only been at it for a short while but the benefits were already piling up—he felt better, looked better, slept better, even worked better. Except there were the spacey feelings now too—not that those could be on account of the running. He just needed a bit more sleep.
He always ran somewhere different. Kara thought it illogical to drive to a park to run, but he couldn’t run to the park and still have energy left over to run, and he didn’t want to run around his neighborhood. Logan wasn’t sure why, but the thought of running around his block depressed him.
Shrugging the thought away, he grabbed his car keys, gave Koki a pat on the head, and went out the door.
The mask stared up at him from the passenger seat footwell. It couldn’t do that though, not really. The eyes were absent—empty viewing slots cut into the dark red around them.
The mask had no name. Logan wasn’t crazy like that; he knew it was just a mask. He liked it—a memento from his college days that he’d never cleaned out of his car.
Smiling to himself, he reached a finger out to tap on one of the mask’s red horns, intending to remind himself of his carefree college life.
Logan touched it, and disappeared.
The grey place.
He donned the mask.
He sat there for a few seconds, feeling the air inside the mask become moist and stifling.
He reached up, tweaked one of the horns—the other one—in keeping with the mask’s exacting procedures.
Then he stared directly in front of him, at nothing.
He waited a little longer.
He opened the door and emerged from his sedan in a series of calm, measured movements, then walked to the payphone across the street.
He’d never done two productions in the same day before.
He’d never parked so close before.
The phone was in his hands, then the earpiece was at his red demon’s ear. He dialed, completed his phone call, and hung up.
Then he turned around and ran, setting his horns to flailing out of control.
Detective Labrusca spat the mouthful of coffee back into its paper cup. The black liquid sloshed around and splashed over the rim.
He sprang to his feet, back creaking in protest. He was getting too old for this crap and he knew it. Everyone else knew it too, and they weren’t shy about telling him so.
“Yo, Labrusca!” an officer leaning backward in his chair yelled up at him. “You sure you don’t wanna sit this one out? You’re looking kinda pale in the face. We never make it in time anyway.”
Damn kids, Detective Labrusca thought as he kicked the chair’s back legs out from under it, no respect whatsoever.
He made for the door, his aged body rusty, but still fast. He didn’t glance back once to see the damage he’d done. The kid deserved worse, needed to learn some humility.
They had the location.
They always had the location, and yet they never got there in time. The perp was improbably fast considering what he did with the bodies. He was lucky...too lucky.
Detective Labrusca hated strings of luck. They always made him uneasy, and this killer’s particular series of narrow escapes was beyond unsettling, suggesting an unalterable futility in the police’s efforts.
The detective reprimanded himself. It was idiotic paranoia to think like that. Everyone’s luck ran out sooner or later. Sooner was no longer an option in this case. If the perp killed again, now, and Detective Labrusca was sure he would, it would be his eleventh murder. There was no way number eleven could be characterized as sooner.
So it would have to be later. Later was better than never.
Detective Labrusca got in his car, turned on the siren and sped away. He wasn’t hoping to prevent the murder, or even to catch the perp in the act. He was sure it was already too late for that. All he wanted, all he hoped for, was that the killer would get held up in his escape, would stumble...anything.
Detective Labrusca only wanted one thing—to get the perp in his sights. This wasn’t a murderer he would bring in.
Had he been wrong?
He had never been wrong before.
The air inside the mask had become more than oppressive, and that was how he worked best...but his subject wasn’t cooperating.
He always picked the appropriate subject.
He always had picked the appropriate subject, until now.
It was going wrong...it was going all wrong!
He stabbed downward with the garden shears again, putting all of his weight into the motion, sinking the shears deep into the subject’s neck.
Blood should have been spurting everywhere, but it wasn’t. It had...for a little while, but then it had stopped too soon.
Had it been too soon?
The air in the mask was so hot, airless air, it was hard to remember.
It wasn’t done yet, nowhere near done yet.
He couldn’t leave in the middle, leaving the subject unarranged, nothing worthy on display.
Had he been too ambitious? Two in the same day was a reach, what if he had exhausted his creative energy...the rules!
He couldn’t leave until it was done, and it wasn’t doing.
Why? It usually set itself up, happened, was.
The muse was overextended, that was the only explanation.
But the rules! They didn’t allow stopping in the middle, stopping before—
There was a noise. He froze, and his ears went to points.
It came again, unmistakable—the door.
A muffled voice reached him. “Everything alright in there?”
Not the police.
He turned back to his work with the shears. The artistic mind was reaching, attempting to find purchase in the quicksand of the failed tapestry before it.
So little to work with, so little—
Another knock, more insistent this time—kindling.
Come on damn it!
His inspiration exploded into an uncontainable blaze, consuming him, the subject, the room, everything, every—
“Move!” Detective Labrusca yelled at the woman banging on the door. She looked at him. Her eyes snapped to the gun he held and she brushed past him without a word, down the narrow hallway.
He gritted his teeth and kicked hard, positioning his foot as his body had learned to do over a lifetime of police work. The door burst open, slamming against a wall and bouncing back as Detective Labrusca shouldered it and burst into the apartment, gun drawn.
There he was—the killer.
Finally, Detective Labrusca had made it in time, and sooner than he’d expected.
The killer wore a red, horned demon’s mask. The mask was old and worn, its paint faded, edges frayed.
Detective Labrusca hesitated, taking in the body over which the killer knelt, showing no reaction to the intrusion.
Blood was everywhere. The detective was no stranger to it, and it wasn’t the blood that made him hesitate. It was the combination of images before him—the killer in his mask, the slashed body, the garden shears...the wall.
There was a click, then a flash, and the killer whirled.
Detective Labrusca recoiled instinctively, simultaneously squeezing the trigger of his pistol.
The killer moved toward the fire escape, revealing the wall on which he’d been—
Detective Labrusca fired again, but he didn’t see where his shot went. From the corner of his eye, he caught the wild flopping of red horns, and then his peripheral vision shut down, his full attention drawn to—
While the final gunshot still rang in his ears, and the image on the wall burned itself indelibly into his mind, Detective Labrusca collapsed.
Koki sat before the couch, watching Logan adjust the bandage around his upper arm. Logan remembered grazing his arm against an L-bracket in the garage. He’d been preoccupied with a shot in his head, trying to work through the angles and figure the best way to take it when he hurt himself. He could be absent-minded sometimes when his thoughts were on photography.
He’d found another forgotten image in his camera cartridge. Another blood spatter—the most chilling one he’d ever shot, unutterably gripping, as if it could reach out and—
The odd thing was that he couldn’t remember shooting it, and even more unnerving than the absence of that memory was the background…and the time stamp. He was sure he hadn’t taken any photos against the particular backdrop in the image…he was sure he had never even seen the backdrop.
Was he sure? Everything was so hazy. Maybe he was overdoing it with all the running.
Then there was the time stamp on the photo. It was from today, but he hadn’t been to the studio yet. The time stamping system had never been wrong before, but it had clearly malfunctioned. He tried, but couldn’t remember noticing anything strange about the time stamps on the morning’s photos.
He tried to recall the length of the camera’s warranty, but couldn’t locate the fact amid the dimness in his mind. The only thing he was certain about was that he’d become uncannily capable with the paints he photographed.
“I feel weird, Koki.”
Koki barked and wagged her tail.
“You’re a good dog. How about a treat?”
As Koki led him to her favorite dog biscuits, Logan realized that he felt different, as if something substantial in his life had changed. He couldn’t work out what it was, but the funereal feeling was unmistakable—something was gone.
Detective Labrusca regained consciousness. The shapes around him resolved, slowly. He was in a hospital bed by the looks of it. A nurse stood in his peripheral vision, fiddling with something. He would’ve turned to give her a once-over, but his neck was too stiff.
Officer Benton stood over him, ashen and shamefaced.
The far corners of Detective Labrusca’s body felt numb. He worked some saliva around his mouth and looked at Benton coolly. “I see you’ve recovered from your chair accident.”
“I...I was just joking around…earlier. I didn’t mean anything by it.”
“Did I get him?”
Benton looked away.
Detective Labrusca ground his teeth together, and though he heard the sound his teeth made, he felt almost nothing, as if his mouth were anesthetized.
“I was sure I had him…wait…I shot him. I fired at him. I remember.”
Benton nodded. “One of your slugs was recovered with blood on it, the other…”
“The other…the other had plastic on it—red plastic.”
The memory flashed back into Detective Labrusca’s mind. “The horn,” he choked, “I got him in the horn.”
“Yeah. Seems you did. It matches up with the sightings. We have the piece you shot off, not much to work with unfortunately.”
Blood Spatter -- A Short Story by Guy James / Mystery & Detective have rating 3 out of 5 / Based on18 votes