Fiends ssc, p.12
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       Fiends SSC, p.12
 

           Richard Laymon
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  45

  Willy, standing naked only a few feet away, grinned at her. He was bloody from head to toe. His arms were high as if he might be hoping to surrender.

  Before he had a chance to say anything - before he had a chance to dive for cover - Marty fired.

  With a harsh roar, the shotgun spat flame and jumped in her hands and slammed back against her shoulder.

  The blast caught Willy in the middle of the chest. It hit him like a hard wind, lifting him off his feet, hurling him backward.

  But he didn’t go down.

  In the light of a battery lantern on the nearby table, Marty saw him, still grinning, start to glide back toward her.

  A deathless thing, still up and coming.

  She glimpsed shiny, broken rib bones in the pulpy clutter of his chest.

  She let out a scream that scorched her throat.

  And she thought, Go for the head!

  She aimed for Willy’s face as he came gliding toward her.

  It was only then that she noticed the shiny blades of glass jutting out of his eyes. And the wide wedge of glass jammed into his mouth, giving him such a big, strange grin. And the slash across his throat.

  She held fire.

  A ceiling beam creaked, and Willy began to glide backward again.

  Marty suddenly realized that he was suspended by his wrists.

  He swung back and forth below the rope like a mutilated Tarzan.

  Lowering her gaze, Marty saw that his genitals were gone.

  So was his left foot.

  When she was done throwing up, Marty entered the shack and looked around. She tried not to look at Willy.

  Nobody else seemed to be there.

  She found lots of blood, especially on the floor near Willy’s dangling body. And on the wall and floor near the broken front window. And on the mattress.

  There was a lot of semen on the mattress, too.

  He must’ve brought someone here. Grabbed some other poor girl after I got away…

  Someone tougher than he counted on.

  Tough enough to take him out.

  ‘Hello?’ she called.

  No answer came.

  ‘Anybody here?’

  Still, no answer.

  ‘Whoever you are… if you can hear me, thanks. I came here to kill the bastard, but you beat me to it.’ Marty suddenly found herself smiling. ‘You did a good job on him! You did a great job!’

  After a few moments, she called, ‘Do you need a ride out of here? Or help? Are you hurt? Do you need medical attention? Hello? I’ll do anything I can for you!’

  Nothing.

  She spent a while longer looking around - hoping Willy’s tough victim - his killer - might return.

  She searched the entire shack.

  As she walked out with the shotgun slung over her shoulder, she wondered what had become of the person.

  She also wondered what had become of Willy’s left foot and his genitals.

  She climbed into the car, turned it around, and headed back for Jack’s place.

  46

  The next morning, Tina walked out of the woods and onto the road.

  She was barefoot.

  She was clean from soaking in the lake last night. The lake water had sure felt good on her sunburn and on a lot of places where Willy had hurt her. She supposed she might’ve stayed in it all night, but her hands and arms kept on bleeding.

  So then she’d waded out and hunted around until she found the remains of her paisley dress under the tree where Willy had torn it off her. Willy had ruined it, shredding it with his teeth like that.

  But the shreds had turned out to make very fine bandages. She’d bound the cuts on her arms and hands with bright, shiny rags.

  She’d tied a piece around her left ankle, like a broad bandage, to conceal the handcuffs there.

  And she’d made herself a bikini top by knotting a few pieces together.

  ***

  After sunrise, she’d returned to the shack. Willy was antsy, and he stank. She’d gotten out as fast as she could.

  Outside, she’d used Willy’s pocket knife to take the legs off his jeans and make herself a pair of cut-offs to wear. She’d put on the shorts, then dropped the knife into her pocket.

  The knife had come in mighty handy in the shack last night. Without it, she’d still be cuffed to Willy.

  She planned to keep the knife forever.

  And keep it always ready, just in case.

  Now, walking alongside the road, she heard the sound of an engine. Turning around, she watched a bright blue pickup truck come around a bend.

  She put out her arm to hitch a ride.

  It was no surprise when the pickup stopped for her. No surprise at all. Not the way she was dressed.

  She bent toward the passenger window.

  The driver, a nice-looking young man, smiled at her. He wore a T-shirt and tan shorts. His smile looked friendly. ‘Can I give you a lift?’ he asked, and glanced at her flimsy, makeshift bikini top.

  ‘You aren’t some kind of pervert or fiend, are you?’

  He suddenly blushed. ‘Me? Nope.’

  ‘Better not be,' Tina said. ‘I’d hate to have to kill you.’

  ‘You and me both,’ he said, and laughed a little.

  Smiling, she climbed in.

  ‘Where to?’ he asked.

  ‘Home,’ she said.

  KITTY LITTER

  ‘She’s here for a kitty!’

  My flinch came to an end before the second word was out of her mouth, but my heart still thudded fast and hard. I’d thought I was alone, you see. I was stretched out on my lounger beside my backyard pool, surrounded by redwood fence, enjoying a new 87th Precinct paperback, savoring the feel of the sunlight and the warm breeze.

  The invasion took me by complete surprise.

  After the jolt by the imperious voice, I jerked my head sideways and saw the girl.

  Already, she was inside the gate and marching boldly toward me.

  I knew right away who she was.

  Monica from down the block.

  Though we’d never actually met, I’d seen Monica around. And heard her. She had a loud, nasal voice which she operated primarily to snap back at her poor mother and berate her little friends.

  I knew her name because she was often the subject of shouted warnings and threats. I also knew it because she used it herself. She belonged to the odd tribe that refers to itself in the third person.

  She was about ten years old, I suppose.

  If I had not been so unfortunate as to observe her behavior on previous occasions, I certainly would’ve been struck by the beauty of the girl striding toward me. She had rich brown hair, gleaming eyes, excellent facial features, a flawless complexion, and a slender body. She didn’t look beautiful to me, however.

  Nor did she look cute, though she wore a delightful outfit comprised of a pink cap with a jauntily upturned bill, a denim pinafore dress, a white blouse, white knee socks and athletic shoes of pink to match her cap.

  She was neither beautiful nor cute because she was Monica.

  To my way of thinking, there is no such thing as a beautiful or cute snot.

  She halted beyond the foot of my lounger and scowled at me. Her eyes flicked up and down my body.

  My swimsuit had never been meant for public inspection. I quickly sheltered myself with the open book. It lay like a pitched roof atop my lap.

  ‘You are Mr. Bishop?’ she demanded.

  ‘That’s right.’

  ‘The man with the kitties?’

  I nodded.

  She nodded back at me. She bobbed on her toes. ‘And you’re giving them away for free?’

  ‘I’m hoping to find good homes for them, yes.’

  ‘Monica will have one then.’

  ‘And who is Monica?’ I asked, though obviously I knew the answer.

  She pumped a small thumb against her chest, dead center between the denim straps of her dress.

  ‘You’re
Monica?’ I asked.

  ‘Of course.’

  ‘You want one of my kittens?’

  ‘Where are they?’

  In spite of my dislike for this particular child, I was eager to find homes for the kittens. My ad in the newspaper, and the fliers I’d tacked to several neighborhood trees, had not been greatly successful. Of the four kittens born to the litter, I still had three.

  They were not getting any younger. Or any smaller.

  Soon, they would pass out of the cute, romping, frisky kitten stage altogether. Who would want to adopt any of them, then?

  In other words, I had no wish to be choosy. If Monica wanted a kitten, a kitten she would have.

  ‘They’re in my house,’ I said. ‘I’ll bring them out for you to… inspect.’

  As I leaned forward on the lounge and wondered what to do about my immodest swimsuit, Monica scowled across the pool at the sliding glass door of my house.

  ‘It isn’t locked, is it?’ she asked.

  ‘No, but you stay…’

  Ignoring me, she skipped off along the edge of the pool.

  I took the opportunity to stand, set down my paperback, and snatch my beach towel off the lounge pad. Quickly, I wrapped the towel around my waist.

  Corner tucked under to hold the towel, I hurried after Monica. She was already striding briskly past the far end of the pool.

  ‘I’ll get the kittens,’ I called to her. ‘You wait outside.’

  I did not want her in my house.

  I did not want her to ogle my possessions. I did not want her to touch them or break them or steal them. I did not want her to leave the taint of her pushy, pestilent self inside the sanctuary of my home.

  She reached for the handle of the sliding door. Clutched it. ‘Monica! No!’

  ‘Don’t have a cow, man,’ she said. And then she rumbled open the door and entered.

  ‘Come out of there!’ I yelled.

  She hadn’t gone far. Stepping over the runner, I spotted her standing near the center of my den. Her fists were planted on her hips as she swiveled her head from side to side.

  ‘I asked you to stay outside.’

  ‘Where are they?’

  I shrugged and sighed. She was in. There was no way to undo it. ‘This way,’ I said.

  She followed me toward the kitchen.

  ‘Why are you wearing that towel?’ she asked.

  ‘Because it suits me.’

  ‘Where’d your suit go?’

  ‘It didn’t go anywhere.’

  ‘Did you take it off?’

  ‘No!’

  ‘You’d better not’ve.’

  ‘I didn’t. I assure you. I also assure you, young lady, that I’m on the very verge of asking you to leave.’

  A small wooden gate was stretched across the kitchen doorway to keep the kittens corralled. I hiked up my towel as if it were a skirt, and stepped over the gate.

  I turned around to watch Monica. ‘Careful,’ I warned.

  It would serve her right to fall and mash her impish little nose flat, I thought. But she swung one leg, then the other, over the top of the gate and made it to the other side without misadventure.

  She sniffed. Her upper lip reached for the bottom of her nose. ‘What’s that stink?’

  ‘I don’t detect a stink.’

  ‘Monica may barf.’

  ‘You might be smelling the litter box.’

  ‘Yug.’

  ‘There it is, now.’ I pointed at the plastic tub. Its desert landscape appeared a trifle bumpy. ‘You’ll have to get used to some rather unpleasant aromas if you wish to keep a cat in…’

  ‘Oh! Kitty!’

  She rushed past me, dodged the table, and pranced to the far corner of the kitchen where the cats were at play on their blanket.

  By the time I caught up to her, she had already made her pick. She was on her knees, clutching Lazzy to her chest, stroking the little tabby’s striped head.

  Lazzy had a rather frantic look in her eyes, but she wasn’t struggling much.

  The kittens rubbed against Monica’s knees, purring and meowing.

  ‘She’ll take this one,’ the girl said.

  ‘I’m afraid she won’t.’

  Monica slowly twisted herself around. Her eyes said, How dare you! Her mouth said, ‘Oh, yes she will.’

  ‘No. I offered you one of the kittens. That isn’t one of the kittens.’

  ‘Oh course she is! She’s the tiniest, cutest little kitty of the bunch, and she’ll go home with Monica.’

  ‘You may have one of the others.’

  ‘Who wants them? They’re big! They aren’t cute little kitties. This is the cute little kitty.’

  She nuzzled her cheek against Lazzy’s face.

  ‘You don’t want that one,’ I said.

  She started to get up. I grabbed her shoulder and pushed her down until she was on her knees again.

  ‘Now you’re in trouble,’ she said.

  ‘No doubt.’

  ‘You touched Monica.’

  ‘You’re a trespasser in my house. You came in uninvited even after I told you to stay out. You were preparing to leave with property that belongs to me. So I had every right to touch you.’

  ‘Oh, yeah?’

  ‘Yeah.’

  ‘You’d better just let Monica take this cat home, right now, or else.’

  In spite of what I’d said about trespassing, etc., her threats could not be ignored. Here I was, a thirty-eight-year-old bachelor wearing next to nothing, alone in my house with a ten-year-old girl.

  It wouldn’t look good.

  The notion of facing accusations sickened me.

  ‘All right. If you want that cat, she’s yours. Go on, take her and get out of here.’

  With a victorious grin, Monica rose to her feet. ‘Thank you,’ she said.

  ‘If you want to know the truth, Lazzy always did give me the creeps.’

  ‘The creeps?’

  ‘Never mind.’

  Monica narrowed her eyes. ‘What’s wrong with her?’

  ‘Nothing.’

  ‘Tell. You’d better tell, or else.’

  ‘Well…’ I dragged a chair away from the kitchen table, swung it around, and sat down on it.

  ‘Is this going to take long?’

  Ignoring her question, I said, ‘It all started with Lazzy falling in the toilet.’

  She gasped as if the cat had suddenly turned white-hot, and tossed her aside.

  Lazzy let out a reeeeooow! as she twisted and rolled through the air. But she did a quiet, four-point landing. Heading for the blanket, she glanced over her shoulder and gave Monica a look that was clearly miffed.

  ‘You didn’t have to throw her like that,’ I said.

  ‘She fell in a toilet!'

  ‘The toilet had nothing in it except for clean water. Besides, this was some time ago.’

  ‘You mean she isn’t dirty any more?’

  ‘She’s perfectly clean.’

  ‘Then what’s the big deal?’

  ‘She drowned.’

  Monica tucked her chin down and gazed at me as if peering over the top of invisible eyeglasses. She folded her arms across her chest. I wondered if she had picked up the stance from an elderly relative. ‘Drowned?’ she said. ‘Puh-leese.’

  ‘I’m serious,’ I said.

  Monica tilted her head to one side. ‘If she drowned, she would be dead.’

  I chose not to argue. Instead, I proceeded with the story. ‘It began when Mrs. Brown gave birth. She was a tabby who belonged to my friend, James, in Long Beach. When he told me about the litter, I expressed an interest in taking one of the kittens off his hands. Of course, I couldn’t take one immediately. I needed to wait until they’d been weaned.’

  Monica narrowed an eye. ‘What does that mean?’

  ‘A kitty can’t be taken away from its mother right away. It needs the mother’s milk.’

  ‘Oh, that.’

  ‘Yes. At any rate, we set a da
te for me to visit James and select a kitten. Do you know where Long Beach is?’

  She rolled her eyes toward the ceiling. ‘Monica has been to the Spruce Goose and the Queen Mary… oh, so many times that she is totally bored by them both.’

  ‘Then she knows that the drive takes about an hour from here.’ She nodded. She sighed. She looked over her shoulder, apparently checking up on Lazzy.

  I went on with my story.

  ‘I drank quite a lot of coffee before setting out in the morning for Long Beach. By the time I reached James’s house, I was very uncomfortable.’

  This won her attention away from the cat. ‘What?’

  ‘I had to pee. Badly.’

  ‘Oh, for heaven’s sake.’

  ‘I hurried to the front door and rang the doorbell. I rang it again and again, but James didn’t answer. As it turns out, he had forgotten about our date, and gone shopping. I didn’t know that at the time, however. I knew only that the door was not being opened, and that my teeth were afloat.’

  ‘You should not be talking to a child about such things.’

  ‘I’m afraid the condition of my bladder is integral to the story. Anyway, I was becoming frantic. I pounded on the door and called out James’s name, but to no avail. I considered rushing over to a neighbor’s house, but the idea appalled me. How could I ask a stranger for the use of a toilet? Besides, who would allow me inside for such a purpose? There were no gas stations, restaurants, or shopping malls near enough…’ Monica interrupted me with a sigh. ‘Anyway, I had no choice but to let myself into James’s house. It was either that or…’

  ‘You are a very crude person.’

  ‘Not so crude that I wanted to pee outside. And fortunately, matters didn’t reach that stage. At the back of the house, I found an open window. The screen was in my way, of course. But I was too desperate to care about niceties. I fairly tore the screen from its moorings, boosted myself through the window, tumbled onto the floor of James’s bedroom, and raced for the bathroom.

  ‘As it turned out, the bathroom was where James had been keeping the new litter - with the door shut, you know, so they wouldn’t scamper all over the house. And to confine the aroma of the litter box, I’m sure.’

  ‘This is a very long story,’ Monica complained. ‘Long and gross.’

 
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