Fiends ssc, p.5
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       Fiends SSC, p.5
 

           Richard Laymon

  ‘Didn’t mean nothing by it.’ He frowned at her. Tears streaked her face. She sucked in a deep breath and held it, biting her bottom lip. Her arms were crossed in front of her body, hiding her breasts. She was tilted awkwardly to keep her legs out of easy reach. ‘Say, you don’t think I’m a fiend, do you? I’m not a fiend. Heck no.’

  ‘Then let me go.’

  ‘Can’t. Wouldn’t be safe. Do you know what they do to pretty girls like you? The fiends?’

  So confusing. That awful tightness, his heart thumping, his breath coming so loudly. ‘They start with your clothes. Rip them right off you.’

  She jerked at the door handle.

  Homer jammed his foot down on the brake pedal. The tires screamed as the door flew open and Tina dropped backward through it.

  In the rearview mirror, Homer saw her tumbling along the pavement. By the time he had stopped the car to watch, she was no longer rolling. She lay motionless in the grass alongside the road. Her dress of many colors was twisted high. Leaf shadows, stirred by the evening breeze, trembled on the white skin of her buttocks.

  Homer pulled her door shut. He pushed the gear shift into reverse.

  His hands clenched the steering wheel and he pressed his forehead against it, shaking.

  All so confusing.

  Never should’ve stopped.

  Never should’ve picked her up.

  Never!

  He looked at the rearview mirror.

  The girl was on her hands and knees, slowly crawling toward the edge of the forest.

  ‘I’m not a fiend!’ he cried out. ‘I’m not!'

  He shoved the shift forward, jammed the gas pedal to the floor, and sped away.

  16

  ‘Anything?’ Willy asked from the top of the stairs.

  ‘Anything!’ Marty cried. ‘Anything! Just please don’t do it! God! Don’t! Whatever you want! Anything! Just please, please God, don’t hang me!’

  ‘Okay. Here’s what. Phone that prick boyfriend of yours and tell him to haul ass over here.’

  ‘What?’ She sniffed and wiped her runny nose. ‘What do you want with him?’

  ‘A little payback.’

  ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll do it. I’ll call’ - she dropped backward - ‘him.’ Dropped backward grabbing the rope with both her hands.

  Willy let go of his end to keep from being tugged off the top of the stairs, and Marty sat down hard. An odd, tickling pain jolted through her.

  Before Willy could bring in the slack, she jerked the noose off her head. She got to her feet and ran for the door. Her hand found the knob. She twisted and pulled. The door swung open. Looking over her shoulder, she saw Willy leaping down the stairs three at a time.

  She slammed the door and sprinted across the lawn.

  At the street, she turned around. The front door opened. Willy stepped halfway out, then took a backward step and shut the door.

  He’s staying inside!

  Afraid to come out and chase her?

  She supposed he would probably sneak out the rear of the house.

  Unless…

  He knows I’ll have to come back, sooner or later. What if he decides to wait?

  No, he’d be crazy to stay inside. He would have to figure she would call the police.

  Marty started running toward Hedda’s place. She could phone the cops from there.

  As she started to cross the street, Dan’s car suddenly rounded the corner and pulled to a stop. ‘Where you going?’ he asked, reaching across the front seat to open the door.

  ‘No place special.’

  ‘Can I give you a lift?’

  ‘Yeah. Okay.’ She climbed into his car and pulled the door shut. ‘Did you get my message?’

  ‘Message?’

  ‘Guess not. I called you about… ten minutes ago?’

  ‘Really? No, I didn’t get any message. I thought I’d drop by and… you’ve been crying.’

  ‘Yeah.’

  ‘What’s wrong? It’s not because of our…?’

  ‘Yeah. Of course it is.’

  He shook his head. ‘I was just coming over to see if we couldn’t manage to straighten things out.’

  ‘Nice idea. I had the same thing in mind. That’s what I phoned about.’

  ‘You must’ve just missed me.’ He smiled at her. ‘Well, where to? Your place?’

  ‘That wouldn’t be a good idea. Mom and Dad are there. I want to be alone with you.’

  He put his hand against the side of her face.

  ‘How about your place?’ she suggested.

  ‘My place it is.’

  ***

  An hour later, Marty was stretched out face down on the bed, naked and sweaty. She felt languid and wonderful. Willy seemed like a problem from long ago and far away.

  Dan, sitting on her rump, had been gently rubbing her back for the past few minutes. Now, he swept her hair sideways so it fell over her shoulder.

  She was glad to have the hair away from the hot nape of her neck. She supposed Dan was about to kiss her there.

  But he asked, ‘What’s this?’

  ‘What’s what?’

  ‘This mark.’

  She suddenly felt sick.

  ‘I don’t know,’ she said.

  ‘Marty?’

  ‘It’s nothing.’

  ‘It looks like a rope burn.’ His hands clamped the tops of her shoulders. ‘How did it get there?’

  ‘I don’t know.’

  ‘Tell me!’

  ‘I don’t know!’

  ‘It is a rope burn, isn’t it?’

  Marty didn’t answer. Dan’s fingers tightened on her shoulders. ‘That hurts,’ she said.

  He squeezed harder. ‘Who did it to you?’

  ‘Stop that!’

  ‘Who?’

  ‘Who do you think?’

  ‘He put a rope around your neck?’

  ‘It doesn’t matter. I got away.’

  ‘When? Tonight?'

  ‘Yes, tonight. Forget about it, okay? It doesn’t matter.’

  ‘When tonight?’

  ‘Damn it…’

  The hands clenching her shoulders suddenly jerked up and down, shaking her.

  ‘Damn it!’ she cried out.

  ‘Just before I showed up, wasn’t it?’

  ‘Let go of me.’

  ‘The motherfucking bastard. Where was he?’

  ‘I’m not telling you anything. He wants to kill you, you know.’

  ‘He was in your house, wasn’t he?’

  ‘No.’

  ‘That’s why you were out in the street. That’s why you wanted to come over here. Your parents weren’t in the house, he was.’

  ‘Go to hell,’ she said.

  Dan climbed off her. ‘You stay here,’ he said.

  Rolling over, she watched him scurry off the bed. He rushed about, snatching his clothes off the floor and putting them on. When he was dressed, he pulled open a drawer of a nightstand beside the bed. He took out a holstered revolver.

  ‘No, don’t,’ Marty said. ‘Put it away. Don’t go over there. We can call the cops and have them…’

  ‘I’ll handle this bum. What the fuck was he going to do, hang you?’

  ‘He’s probably gone by now.’

  Dan took a box of ammunition out of the drawer, opened it, and grabbed a handful of cartridges. He dumped them into a front pocket of his jeans. Then he met her eyes. ‘What else did he do?’

  ‘Nothing.’

  ‘Did he rape you?’

  ‘He didn’t do anything. I got away. Don’t go over there, Dan. He wanted me to call you. He wants you to come over. I think he wants to kill you.’

  ‘Good. Hope he tries. You stay here till I get back.’ Leaning over the bed, he hooked a hand behind her neck and drew her toward him.

  She resisted for a moment, then leaned forward and kissed him. ‘Be careful. Don’t let him hurt you.’

  ‘I’ll be fine,’ he said, and then he was gone.

  Sitti
ng cross-legged on the bed, Marty listened to his footsteps.

  The front door shut quietly. For a few moments, only the chirping of crickets came to her through the open bedroom window. Then she heard Dan’s footsteps by the road. The car door thumped shut. The engine whinnied and started. Gravel crunched under the wheels and the sounds of the car began to fade away.

  17

  Willy sat in the darkness of Hedda’s kitchen, watching. He’d been sitting there for a long time. He didn’t mind the wait.

  Marty would have to come back. Wherever she’d gone after running off, she couldn’t stay away forever. Sooner or later, she’d come home.

  Then he would have her.

  Nice of her not to call the cops. Stupid, though. Maybe she went off to find that prick boyfriend of hers, get him to handle it.

  Willy hoped so.

  He got up from the table, stepped over Hedda, and went to the refrigerator. Not much inside. He grabbed a package of cheese, swung the door shut, and returned to the table. There, he unwrapped a thin slice of cheese and began to eat it.

  He was working on his fifth slice when a car stopped in front of Marty’s house. A Ford. The same Ford that he’d followed to the lake last night.

  Willy pulled the plastic wrapping off another slice of cheese as the headlights died and a man climbed out of the car.

  The prick.

  And he had something in his right hand. A gun?

  Figures. Cocksucker likes to play hardball.

  Willy folded the slice of cheese in half, then folded it again, making a small, thick square. He stuck it into his mouth.

  Across the street, the prick was rushing across Marty’s front yard. He disappeared around a corner of the house.

  ‘Gonna sneak up on me?’ Willy asked with his mouthful of cheese. ‘Real tricky, you dumb-ass shit.’

  He got up from the table. His fingers were slippery from the cheese. He wiped them on his jeans and headed for the door. ‘So long, sweet stuff,’ he said to Hedda.

  Outside, the hot night air smelled like moist grass. A welcome change from the bad air of the kitchen.

  The prick was nowhere to be seen.

  Walking with a casual pace, Willy crossed the street.

  He opened the back door of the Ford, climbed in, and shut it quietly.

  Kneeling on the floor, he peered out the window at Marty’s house.

  A light came on in an upstairs window.

  Marty’s window?

  Willy couldn’t remember what her bedroom had looked like, that morning ten years ago. He only remembered that it had been very sunny. Very bright and sunny, making Marty’s hair shine. Her face had gotten sweaty. There were tiny specks of sweat above her lip. They glistened in the sunlight. She had tears on her cheeks. Her eyelashes stuck together, making little, curly points.

  The light in the upstairs window went off.

  Willy took the knife from his pocket and opened its blade.

  18

  ‘What the hell?’ Roger Sanderson knew it was no mirage. It was a real live girl walking slowly through the darkness, her head down. She wore a paisley dress that was torn behind the right shoulder. Roger slowed down and pressed a switch to lower the passenger window.

  The girl turned her face toward him and smiled.

  ‘You lost?’ he called.

  ‘Me?’

  He laughed. ‘Climb aboard, mate, and I’ll see you to a safe port.’

  He watched her get in. Her knees were scraped and filthy. Her dress was very short.

  ‘Nice car,’ she said.

  ‘Nice dress.’

  She pulled the door shut, and the overhead light went off. ‘You like it?’ she asked.

  Roger switched the light back on. ‘Sure looks good on you.’

  ‘Thanks.’ She smiled and blushed. Her face was dirty. Tears, dry now, had drawn streaks down her cheeks. ‘I’m afraid it got ripped,’ she said. ‘Back here. See?’ She leaned forward and turned her back to Roger. Her skin, where it showed through the rip, was scraped raw.

  ‘How’d that happen?’

  ‘I fell out of a car. Well, actually, I jumped.’ Her smile vanished. ‘Crazy old guy went weird on me.’

  ‘Had to hit the silk, huh?’

  ‘Oh, it’s not silk,’ she said, looking down at her dress. ‘It’s like polyester or something. But it feels like silk, I guess.’ She rubbed the glossy fabric and frowned at Roger.

  ‘Hit the silk is a figure of speech,’ he said. ‘It means to bail out with a parachute.’

  ‘I bailed out, all right. No parachute, though.’

  ‘Did the crazy guy hurt you?’

  ‘Nope. It was the road that banged me up. He just made a few grabs, but you should’ve heard him talk. Gave me the willies.’ Roger turned off the overhead light, and started driving.

  ‘So, are you a teacher or something?’ the girl asked.

  ‘A teacher? What makes you think so?’

  ‘Your lesson about hitting silk. Plus, nobody but teachers talk about stuff like figures of speech.’

  ‘Sorry, Holmes, but I’m a sales rep.’

  ‘I’m not Holmes, I’m Tina.’

  ‘Pleased to meet you, Tina. I’m Roger.’

  ‘I think I like you, Roger.’

  ‘Thank you. I do believe I like you, too.’

  19

  After Dan left, Marty lay down on his bed and stared at the ceiling. She should’ve stopped him from going. Somehow, she should’ve stopped him. It was insane, going after Willy with a gun.

  She spent a long time lying there, thinking about it all and worrying.

  Finally, she got up, went into the kitchen, opened the refrigerator and took out a can of beer. She carried it into the living room and sank onto the sofa.

  And gulped the beer.

  Damn him anyway.

  Has to prove what a tough guy he is.

  It’d serve him right if…

  No!

  God, Dan, you idiot. Who the hell do you think you are, Rambo?

  When the can was empty, she flung it across the room. It bounced off the wall and dropped to the carpet.

  Then she went into the kitchen and found herself another can of beer. Sipping it, she wandered into the bathroom. She placed the can on the edge of the sink, then sat down on the toilet and urinated. When she stood up and saw herself in the mirror, she shook her head.

  Her hair was dark and stringy. Her face was speckled with sweat. She looked down at herself. She was sweaty all over. Her pubic curls were matted down.

  She felt pretty sticky down there, too.

  So she decided that a shower would be a good way to pass the time while she waited for Dan’s return.

  If he does return, she thought.

  Stupid macho jerk.

  She picked up her can and took it with her to the bathtub. Squatting beside the tub, she had a couple of swallows, then reached out with one hand and turned on the faucets. While the water rushed out of the spout, she tested its heat with one hand and drank beer with the other.

  The can was still pretty full by the time she was ready to step in, so she took it with her.

  Holding it above the spray, she raised her other hand to close the shower curtain.

  She watched the way her arm angled up to the curtain. It was slender and lightly tanned, and it glistened with wetness. She felt a drop of water slide along its underside, tickling.

  The curtain’s metal rings clamored along the shower rod as she pulled it shut.

  Then she faced the heavy, warm spray.

  The water pelted her, flooded her open mouth, spilled down her chin. It drummed her closed eyelids until her eyes ached. Then she bowed her head. It pounded down, matting her hair, streaming down the sides of her face, into her eyes and along her lips and chin. It ran down her shoulders and breasts and belly.

  It felt great.

  But she wanted to use soap and get herself clean.

  Hard to do that with a can of beer in one hand.

/>   So she turned away from the shower. With the spray splattering her back and sliding down her buttocks and legs, she tilted the can to her mouth and drank.

  Gulped it down.

  All of it.

  Then belched.

  From the other side of the shower curtain, Willy said, ‘Excuse you.’

  Marty jumped and her feet slipped out from under her.

  20

  As she started to fall, she dropped the beer can and made a grab for the curtain rod. It broke loose and she followed it sideways over the edge of the tub. She landed on her back, both legs propped up by the tub.

  ‘Nice fall,’ Willy said. ‘Nice view.’

  She swung her legs down to the floor, clamped a hand between them and crossed her other arm over her breasts. Raising her head, she looked at Willy.

  He stared down at her, grinning. ‘Pretty as a picture,’ he said. ‘Wish I had me a camera.’

  ‘Where’s Dan?’

  ‘Who?’

  ‘Dan.’

  ‘Oh, the prick?’ Willy spread his arms. The front of hits T-shirt was soaked with blood. ‘I stabbed him with my little knife. Took his billfold. He didn’t have much cash to speak of. A shitty thirty bucks and change. You really oughta go out with a better class of guy. Like me.’

  ‘You… killed him?’

  ‘Maybe yes, maybe no.’

  ‘God.’

  ‘You really shouldn’t have sent him after me, honey.’

  ‘I didn’t.’

  ‘Bitch.’Willy took a wallet out of his back pocket and threw it at Marty. It slapped her bare shoulder and bounced off. ‘Time to go.’ He slipped a faded blue towel off its bar and flung it. It dropped across Marty’s knees, but she didn’t make a move to take it. ‘Now,’ he said.

  Sitting up quickly, she grabbed the towel.

  ‘Don’t just sit there, dry yourself.’

  Holding the towel against her body, she carefully got to her knees.

  ‘Now!’

  ‘Turn around,’ she said.

  ‘My ass. I’ll give you five. One.’

  Clasping the towel to her breasts, she reached out sideways with her free arm. She groped blindly, keeping her eyes on Willy.

  ‘Two.’

  Her hand found the side of the bathtub. She braced her palm against it and pushed herself up.

 
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