Fiends ssc, p.6
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       Fiends SSC, p.6

           Richard Laymon


  She stood up straight.


  She glanced from side to side, looking for a weapon. Anything heavy or sharp. Nothing.


  She backed away as he came forward.

  ‘You know what happens now?’ he asked. ‘I’m gonna dry you myself.’


  ‘Yep. You had your chance. I counted five. Lucky me.’


  Her jerked the towel away from her. ‘Nice. Real nice. Last time I saw you stripped, you didn’t have hardly any tits at all. Look at ’em now.’

  She tried to push past him. He shoved her backward against the wall. With the towel in both hands, he started rubbing her.

  ‘Stop it! Don’t!’

  ‘Real nice.’

  ‘You damn bastard!’

  ‘I’m not hurting you.’

  ‘Stop it!’

  ‘How does that feel?’


  ‘Honk honk!’


  He laughed.

  Marty drove her knee up, changing his laugh to a squeal of pain.

  As he started to fold, she shoved him. He fell backward. She leaped over him and ran for the bathroom door.

  She rushed through the door and threw it shut. A moment later, a blast slammed the air. A bullet knocked through the door, throwing splinters into her forearm.

  As she ran across the front room, she snatched her blouse up off the floor. She thrust her wounded arm through a sleeve. Some splinters caught the cloth. Others flattened down. She hardly noticed the pain as she made for the front door.

  She flung it open. As she raced outside, she got her other arm into its sleeve.

  A car was parked along the roadside. Willy’s Chevy.

  The street was deserted. The nearest building, half a block to the south, had no lights in its windows. A couple of hundred yards up the road, the woods began.

  The woods and Wilson Lake.

  If he catches me there…

  But it seemed like the only place to go.

  The rough asphalt was hot under Marty’s feet as she sprinted up the road. She pumped her arms, throwing out her legs as far as they would stretch, her bare feet reaching out but never far enough. Never fast enough.

  She kept running, taking gulps of air in quick gasps, her open blouse flapping behind her.

  Soon, she felt an unusual warmth inside her legs. In the muscles of her thighs and calves. Though she tried to work them as fast as before, they began to feel tired and heavy. She swung her arms harder to make up for it. The weariness started inside them, too.

  But she kept running.

  As she took the turn into the woods, she glanced back.

  Car headlights came on.

  She tried to run faster. With every stride, her arms and legs struggled against the heaviness. Her lungs burned.

  But still she kept running.

  Finally, she came to the parking lot by the lake.

  Last night, it had been crowded with teenaged lovers in cars. Tonight, it was empty.

  Nobody to help her.

  Marty dashed for the far side of the lot. She heard the racing engine of the car. Blocking her way was a fallen, long-dead tree. She planted a hand on it, kicked her leg into the air, and vaulted it just as the headlights started sweeping the lot.

  She squatted with her back against the trunk and shut her eyes. Her hands were slippery against her knees. Sweat streamed down the burning sides of her face. She took deep, painful breaths, hoping to recover quickly enough to do some good.

  Then she turned around and looked over the top of the tree trunk.

  Willy was out of his car, walking along the other side of the parking lot, peering into the darkness, pausing to listen.

  It wouldn’t take him long to find her. A few minutes, maybe. Gotta do something!

  Then she saw the silver path of the full moon shining on the lake.


  Ahead of him on the dark road, Roger saw a neon sign flashing, WAYSIDE MOTOR INN. The pale blue lights below it read ‘Vacancy.’

  ‘Hey hey!’ he said. ‘A port in the storm.’

  ‘Hope they’ve got food,' Tina said. ‘I’m starving to death.’

  ‘Mah dear, ports in the storm are renowned for their cuisine.’ He pulled to a stop in front of the motel office. ‘You can wait here,’ he said. ‘I’ll be back in a flash.’

  Inside the office, he asked for a room with twin beds. The manager, a stooped and bony old crone losing the last of her white hair, squinted out the office window.

  ‘My daughter,’ Roger explained. ‘The spitting image of her mother, God rest her soul.’

  The old woman’s watery eyes narrowed at him.

  Roger solemnly shook his head. ‘Life is so fleeting,’ he said. ‘Feeble candle flames are we, snuffed, perchance, by a vagrant breeze.’

  The old woman seemed to shrink. ‘Forty bucks,’ she said, and pushed a registration card at him. ‘Fill this out.’

  As he wrote the requested information on the card, he asked. ‘How late does your cafe stay open?’

  ‘Never closes.’

  He paid, and she gave him a room key.

  Back at the car, he climbed in and said, ‘All set. Room sixteen.’ He looked through the cafe windows as he drove by. A lone man sat at the counter. Two couples and a family of six sat at the booths along the wall. ‘It doesn’t appear crowded. The food’s probably greasy enough to lubricate a fleet of Lincolns.’

  ‘I hope it isn’t closing.’

  ‘The manager informs me that it stays open continuously.’

  ‘Thank goodness.’

  ‘That she blows!’ Roger spun the steering wheel. The headbeams lit the side panel of a station wagon, glanced with a blinding flare off the picture window of Room 16, and came to a stop on the brick wall and door. ‘We have arrived,’ he announced.

  ‘I hope they’ve got chicken in a basket.’

  ‘Bet they do. I’ll just set the luggage in our room, and we’ll be off. Unless you want to wash up first.’

  ‘Let’s eat now.’

  ‘Do you want to see the room first?’

  ‘I’d sure like to eat.’

  ‘Then eat we shall, without further ado. Or further a-don’t.’

  ‘Huh?’ Tina asked. Then she grinned and said, ‘A joke.’

  Roger laughed as he hopped from the car. He hurried around the front and opened the door for Tina. She reached out a hand. Roger helped her out. He held her hand all the way to the cafe, where he let go and said, ‘We’ve got to act properly, now. I’m passing you off as my daughter.’

  ‘Sure thing, Pops.’

  He laughed.

  Inside, Tina walked briskly to a booth and scooted across it. She patted the cushion beside her and said, ‘Sit here, Father.’

  ‘I’ll sit over here,’ he said. He went to the other side of the table. ‘And please take it easy on the father routine.’

  ‘Why don’t you sit by me? Do I smell bad?’

  ‘You smell fine.’

  ‘Then why?’

  ‘View’s better over here.’

  She smiled and nodded. ‘Do you think I’m pretty?’

  ‘You’re a thing of beauty.’

  ‘A thing!’ She wrinkled her nose.

  ‘That’s poetry. John Keats. “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever.” ’

  ‘Yeah? That’s kind of nice.’

  She was a joy, all right. Roger watched her pick up the menu and study it, her brow furrowed with concentration. Serious blue eyes, a sweet clear face still lined where tears had washed channels through the dirt, hair the color of gold.

  And her body. The way the paisley dress was clinging, he could see that she had a very fine body indeed.

  ‘Look!’ She beamed at him. ‘Southern fried chicken.’

  ‘This is your lucky day.’

  ‘Sure is.’ Her eyes suddenly went s
ad, and Roger realized that today, perhaps, had not been especially lucky for her.

  ‘Mine, too,’ he said.


  ‘My lucky day. Meeting you. I’m not in the habit of picking up strangers, you know.’

  ‘I didn’t know that.’

  ‘Too dangerous.’

  ‘Why’d you pick me up?’

  ‘You don’t look dangerous,’ he said. ‘Not dangerous at all, just very lonely and helpless.’

  ‘I’m not all that helpless.’

  ‘Glad to hear it.’

  ‘You might be right about the lonely, though. You’re lonely too, aren’t you?’


  The waitress arrived. He ordered the fried chicken for Tina and a patty melt for himself. Tina asked for a coke, and Roger ordered coffee.

  When the waitress was gone, Tina said, ‘Do you really think I’m pretty?’


  Leaning across the table, she whispered, ‘What about my figure?’

  ‘From all appearances, it’s in fine shape.’

  She nodded in agreement, sat back, and grinned mysteriously. ‘Know something?’ she whispered.

  ‘What?’ His mouth was dry.

  ‘Make a guess.’

  ‘Beauty is truth, truth..

  ‘No. Guess again, silly. Guess what I’m wearing under this flimsy little dress.’

  He smiled. ‘I don’t know. What?’

  ‘Skin. Nothing but skin.’

  ‘Fancy that,’ Roger said, and took a drink of water.


  ‘Stop!' Willy shouted.

  Marty’s feet slapped into the water, splashing its coolness high against her body. She waded out until it reached her thighs, then gulped in a deep breath and dived. She stayed below, swimming furiously, until her lungs couldn’t hold the air any longer. Then she blew it out in a gush of bubbles and skimmed to the surface. Air! It was fragrant with the night smells of the woods along the shore.

  When her breathing became more regular, she trod water and listened. It was difficult to hear much beyond her small area of swirling water and thudding heartbeat and breathing, but she heard enough to know that Willy wasn’t swimming after her.

  Not on the water’s surface.

  She squinted at the shore, hoping to see him, but only spotted the top of his car. A chill scurried up her back. Suddenly, she half expected a cold hand to clutch her ankle and drag her down. She thrashed out, flattening into a crawl as her legs rose to the surface. She kept her face down for speed. Her legs kicked, tight and fast. Her arms darted forward, reaching her cupped hands far out and sweeping them down through the water.

  She swam hard until she heard Willy’s voice from far away.

  ‘Hey out there!’ he called.

  She said nothing.

  ‘I’d come out and join you, but I haven’t got time.’

  He doesn’t know how to swim?

  Either that, or he’s just chicken.

  ‘You better come back. Right now.’ He said nothing for a while. Then he called, ‘Did you hear me? Come outa there!’

  She continued to tread water and say nothing.

  ‘Look, you better come out.’

  Marty could hardly see him. He probably couldn’t see her at all.

  If he can’t see me, he can’t shoot me.

  Probably wouldn’t be able to hit me, anyway. Not with that pistol.

  Marty didn’t know a lot about handguns, but she knew they were meant for nearby targets. If you wanted to shoot someone this far away, you should be using a rifle.

  And maybe he’s scared to fire because of the noise.

  ‘I don’t see you coming in,’ Willy yelled.

  And he wouldn’t, either.

  I’ll just wait him out.

  ‘By the way,’ he called, ‘I guess I forgot to tell you something about your prick boyfriend. I didn’t kill him. All I did was bonk him on the head.’

  Marty’s mind seemed to freeze.

  ‘He’s in the trunk of my car.’

  She couldn’t think.

  ‘So you better come in now, or I’m gonna open up the trunk and shoot him in the eye.’

  Marty buttoned her blouse as she waded out of the lake. When she reached shore, Willy clutched her upper arm and pulled her to his car.

  ‘I want to see Dan,’ she said.

  ‘Fuck you.’

  He opened the passenger door and shoved her in. The seat felt scratchy against her naked buttocks. Willy shut the door.

  She sat up straight and arranged the front of her sopping blouse so it covered her lap.

  Willy climbed in and shut the door. ‘I like your outfit,’ he said.


  ‘You wouldn’t call me that if you knew the great little place I’m taking you to. Nice little cabin off in the middle of the woods. Stocked up with the best canned food you ever tasted. I fixed the place up real nice for you. It’s got real class. Great spot for a honeymoon.’


  ‘Honeymoon,’ he repeated. ‘You know. No, I reckon you don’t- you still living with your mommy and daddy like a little kid. How come you aren’t married, huh? Never found the right man? Guess I set too high of a standard and none of these pricks can live up to me. That right?’

  ‘Go to hell.’

  ‘Anyway, I don’t aim to marry you. Thought we’d have us a honeymoon without. We’re gonna have a great old time.’

  ‘Eat shit and die.’

  ‘That’s no way to talk after all my kindnesses to you and Danny. I could’ve killed him if I’d wanted. And I could’ve blown your head off.’

  ‘You tried.’ She wiped a drop of water off her chin.

  ‘Not hardly. I tried to miss you, that’s what I tried to do.’


  ‘I’m a dead-on shot. You might find that out, sometime, if you give me much more grief.’

  A car swung into the parking lot. Marty watched it creep along. It stopped beside them, only a few yards away from her door.

  The driver glanced at her, then took off his glasses and turned his back. He scooted toward the girl in the passenger seat.

  ‘Aren’t we lucky?’ Willy said. ‘Hope the girl ain’t a pig.’ He reached under his seat and picked up Dan’s revolver.

  ‘What are you going to do?’

  ‘Just gotta get you something to wear.’ He climbed out, shut his door quietly, and walked around the front of his car, the revolver swinging at the end of his lanky arm.

  Inside the other car, the couple were embracing, unaware of Willy’s approach.

  ‘Watch out!’ Marty yelled. ‘Get out of here!’

  The girl with her back to the passenger door saw Willy approach the driver’s window. She stopped moving. For a moment, the boy continued to squirm against her. Then he looked over his shoulder.

  ‘Oh, hello,’ he said. He sounded embarrassed and very young.

  ‘Out of the car.’

  ‘Yes, sir.' The boy fumbled along the top of the dashboard and found his glasses, then looked down at his open shirt.

  ‘Get out,’ Willy commanded.

  ‘Just a…’

  The girl said something to him.

  The boy reached for the ignition.

  Willy stuck the gun muzzle against the boy’s ear. ‘Out. Now.’

  ‘What do you want?' The kid no longer sounded embarrassed; he sounded terrified.

  ‘You’ll see.’ Willy opened the door for them, and the interior light came on.

  Marty saw how young they were. Sixteen, maybe. The girl might’ve been even younger - fourteen, fifteen?

  The boy climbed out of the car. His fingers moved quickly to button his shirt as if it were very important.

  ‘You, too.’

  The girl pressed her back against the passenger door.

  ‘Willy!’ Marty said. ‘Let her alone.’

  ‘Shut up.’

  ‘Do you want money?’ the boy asked.
br />   ‘Yeah. Good idea.’

  The boy reached into his rear pocket. He slid out a wallet. Marty could see his hand shaking.

  Willy jerked the wallet away.


  ‘Shut up, kid.’ Willy leafed through some bills, then shut the wallet and stuffed it into his pocket. ‘You’re filthy rich, you little shit.’

  ‘I’d like to have it back,’ the boy said. ‘Please? Keep the money, but I’d like to have my billfold back. It was a present.’

  ‘Tough titty,’ Willy said.

  The boy’s eyes narrowed behind his glasses. ‘Give it over.’

  Willy laughed.

  Suddenly, the boy went for him, face turned away, windmilling with aimless fists, crying out, ‘Give it you lousy son-of-a-bitch motherfucking bas…!’

  The gun barrel crashed against his skull.

  Marty cringed at the sound of it.

  The boy staggered on wobbly legs.

  Willy hit him again on the head. Marty turned away.

  When she looked back, the boy was lying on the ground and Willy was leaning into the car. ‘Your turn, hot stuff,’ he said to the girl. ‘Come on.’ He grabbed one of her hands and dragged her across the front seat.

  Her free hand caught hold of the steering wheel. Willy tugged until she let go. Gasping with alarm, she tumbled backward out of the car. She landed on her back, legs in the air.

  Making a show of gallantry, Willy helped her stand up. He turned her around and brushed the dust off the back of her knit shorts and jersey.

  ‘Real cute,’ he told Marty, looking over his shoulder and beaming her a smile. ‘Real class.’ He patted the girl’s rump. ‘You’ll look great in this outfit, honey. Think it’ll fit? She hasn’t got much in the tit department. What do you think?’


  ‘Just leave her alone, Willy.’

  ‘That’s twice you’ve said my name, you dumb fuck.’ He faced the girl. ‘Take your clothes off.’

  The girl stood rigid.

  ‘Come on, hot stuff, strip.’

  ‘The boy’s clothes will fit me better,’ Marty said.

  ‘Shut up.’

  ‘They will!’

  ‘Strip,’ he told the girl.

  Marty threw open the door and started to climb out.

  Turning, Willy pressed the muzzle between her eyes. It made a subtle ache, way back behind her eyes, like something she felt once while trying on the glasses of a friend. She sat back down in the car, but left the door open and kept her feet on the ground.

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