Sink in your claws, p.1
Sink In Your Claws, p.1
Sink In Your Claws
S. E. Chase
Copyright 2015 S. E. Chase
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Table of Contents
Excerpt from Bring Up the Bones
About S. E. Chase
2013 Christmas Eve
He didn't talk much. His voice bothered him, raspy and damaged. Eyes shielded by dark matted hair, he avoided human contact. He’d been violent only once, jumping a pedestrian on the sidewalk when arguing escalated to punches—after that, he’d steered clear of crowds.
Stay away from people, stay away from problems.
Homeless shelters were squalid traps. Fuck that delousing shit. He chanced it in the elements, preferring dank alleys to escape jeering eyes. Prowled the rotting west end, an industrial ghost land bordered by crumbling overpasses, sentinels over brick and steel minions.
On this night he grew restless. “Quit goddamn snowing. I hate snow,” he yelled at the streetlights, his breath visible in the frigid air. He’d stolen a bottle of cheap vodka from a bum sleeping off a crack high, drank it, and tossed the empty. Shattering glass echoed in his head.
Where was the dealer? He needed a hit to brace the booze’s diminishing effect. He shivered and watched for the shadow.
There—movement. Balancing against the wall, he rose and lurched to the alley. His beard didn’t hide the scar tracing a path from left temple to his throat. He clenched his hands, searching for warmth in a tattered military jacket. The dealer approached, dragging feet through the dirty snow.
The man spoke, a hoarse growl. “Need a fix.”
“Don’t look good tonight, Troll.” The dealer squinted, rubbed his hands together. Crude knuckle tattoos from an unskilled prison foray into self-decoration morphed into “K-I-N-G R-A-T-S” when he balled them into fists.
“Crazy Troll,” he said. “Creepin’ from the trash pile.”
“One . . . dose.”
“No way, man. Ya know the rules,” the dealer shrugged. “Don’ got nothing if you can’t pay. Shit. Ain’t running charity. It’s business. Want it, hand me cash . . .” He stepped toward the underpass, shaking his head.
“Something, man . . .”
“Nothin' for free . . .”
“Anything . . .” His voice trembled.
“Crawl away. Die in a hole somewhere.”
Rat snorted. “Area’s no good for profits, you all looking for handouts. Time to move to new territory. Grab new business.” Then he halted. A smile leeched across his face. “It is Christmas Eve. Christian spirit and that shit. Rat’s proud of his holiday generosity. Besides, need to test new merchandise.”
Troll sagged. “Whatever. Anything . . .”
Rat held out a small glass vial with screw thread top. He backtracked and motioned in mock generosity. “Here, Troll. Newest and finest. Be first to take a ride.”
Troll grabbed it, unscrewed the lid and downed the contents. Almost threw up but held it down. It was stomach churning.
“Happy Holidays,” Rat said. “Enjoy the fucking ride. A never-ending dream where you fall and fall, never hitting bottom though you know it’s coming.”
“Junkie. That’s what they call it and that’s what you are . . .” Rat ambled away, his shadow blending into night.
Troll shuffled to his doorframe and slid to the ground. The chill stung his throat and froze his eyelashes. Layers of tattered clothing couldn’t ward off bitter upstate cold. Hollow eyes scanned the alley. He froze at sounds—sirens, trains rumbling in the yards, car horns. Noises echoed in his head, creating continual terror.
He rocked, wrapping himself in his jacket.
“Lights out,” he muttered. “Go away. Lights out lights out . . .”
Oblivion. Head swimming and mind fracturing. Pulsing lights flickered on his eyelids, a demented cadence pounded staccato rhythm around him, in him. Dizziness hit in waves, then nausea and pain. He doubled over, clutching his gut. Rat’d given him bad shit.
Fuck. What was in that vial?
He collapsed. Maybe this time he’d die. He moaned, dropped his head and sank into a stupor.
Screams woke him.
He stared, confused. Did he imagine it? His mind’s void taunted with shattered glimpses of a forgotten life.
Turn it off, man. Go away. Get more shit.
He hunched close to the ground, quivering.
Another scream. Howls.
He lurched to his feet. More dizziness. He slammed into the wall, fingers clutching the doorframe. Closed his eyes, gritted his teeth, waited for it to pass. Then he staggered to the building corner and crouched behind a row of abandoned packing crates.
A heavy woman, coat dragging, struggled against an inhuman assailant. It mauled her, slicing gashes down her back. A man lay lifeless and bloody nearby. Another creature, shorter, with teeth bared, leered over him. She fought the tall one, digging fingernails into his neck and twisting away, pivoting in frantic gestures. He howled and shoved her into a snow bank.
The short assailant flashed sharp teeth and angry yellow eyes. He sniffed the air, raised a hand. Five long claws dripped blood.
Monsters. Don’t eat me.
He’d seen them before.
The tall one roared. “Quit squirming! You’re dead. Get used to it!” He grabbed her hair, tangled it in his claws and twisted her head back. She screamed. With outstretched claw, he slashed her throat, arching spatter of blood coursing red into the snow. He bent, lip quivering, and lapped the liquid. It poured down his throat and coated his face. When sated, he tossed her to his partner.
Troll cowered, terrified by the feeding frenzy.
Avoid the tall one. He’s in charge.
The short creature dropped the body into the snow. They fled.
Troll's heart pounded. He blinked, shook his head. Monsters again. Was he hallucinating? Swallowed hard. She hadn’t deserved that brutal end. He ran a thin finger along his scar and scratched his bearded face. Why wasn’t he a corpse in the snow?
He’d have traded places with her.
Calmness returned, only indication of violence two bloody prone figures in the snow. Silence lent a sacred feeling to the carnage. Troll quivered. But remnant motivations took over—they needed help. Suspects should be apprehended. He left his hiding place and crept to them. The man was dead. Hadn’t anyone heard the screams? Was she alive? He felt for a pulse.
Sirens shattered the calm, punctuated by flashing lights. His head jerked up. Shit. Fear jolted down his neck and commanded his legs—RUN. He bolted, careening into the concealing dark. Angry voices followed.
“Police. Stay where you are!”
He ran, chest heaving. Scrambled through a narrow cut in a crumbling brick wall and skidded across thick ice between two broken copper gutters. He almost lost them, but then his path intersected with a high rusted chain-link fence dividing two abandoned industrial sites.
He leapt, fingers twisting, snagging the mesh and lurching upward. But in his drugged fog, he misjudged the distance to the top, slamming his face into a razor wire barrier, tearing flesh. Nerve endings exploded. He fell bleeding.
Cops caught him. Two faces glared. Gloved hands hauled him to his feet with no pretense of humanity.
“Where the hell you going?” The anger was palpable.
He struggled and fell against one who yanked his head, grasping a clump of bloody hair.
“Don’t try anything stupid,” stubby cop barked. “Don’t lean on me. Not your mother.”
The taller cop shoved him against the building.
I hear vertebrae crunching. Fuck. Crippled by cop.
“Asshole. Can’t run through razor wire. Don’t move. Had your hands on her.”
Stubby cop joined his partner. They wheeled him around. One held him. The other pulled on latex gloves. Patted him down, dug through his coat, rooted through his pants and found the vial. “I’ll be damned. Who’d a thought you’d be on drugs?” He twisted arms behind his back. “Handcuffs, Arch.”
Arch handed chain-link cuffs to his partner.
“Makes ya wonder, Marlen. How can they live this way? Fuckin’ dumb animals.”
“Don’t know. Don’t worry about it. Piece a shit junkie.”
“Euthanasia would be useful.”
“You’re a philosopher. Maybe he likes it. Too wasted to know better.” Marlen laughed. “Look at him—no one home. Whatever he’s on, it’s eating brain cells. Shit should be flushed. Course, tonight he might freeze to death. That'd get him off our streets. Thank God for my wife and my Ford Explorer, that’s all I have to say.”
Arch snorted in agreement.
Troll found the nerve to speak. “Didn’t do it.”
“Huh?” Arch eyed him. “You say something? Speak up.”
“Saw it. Didn’t do—”
“Bullshit. How’d you slash her throat? Why’d you gut him?”
He shivered and stared into the snow. He’d touched her. His fingerprints were on her.
“Don’t mess with us.”
“A monster did it with claws.”
Marlen slapped him. “A monster? What d’you take us for? We’re not sucking drugs like your sorry ass.”
“Shut up.” Arch said. “No bullshit. You were leaning over her. Why run? You’re a liar.”
“Fuck you, cop.”
Marlen smacked him again. “Shut up. We’ll arrest you for assaulting an officer.”
He glared. A red trickle ran down his lip. He’d screwed himself because he tried to help. Why? Bewildered, he shook his head. Was it a nightmare or bad trip? He was dizzy, nauseous. Tasted blood from the cop’s blow. His face ached. He jerked his head up and stared, eyes wide.
“Jesus, Marlen,” Arch said. “Face is a mess. Grizzly Adams in a slasher film. Can we cover it up? It’s sickening.”
“I look like a doctor? It’ll have to wait. Call it in, possible suspect, EDP. He's emotional and disturbed. Not sure he qualifies as a person.” Marlen smirked. “Deliver our trash to the white shirts. Iceland can deal with it, fill out the paperwork and haul him to detox. We go home for Christmas.” Troll protested, but Marlen grabbed his right arm, Arch his left. They dragged him to the gathering official vehicles and personnel.
Cops secured the scene, cordoning it with yellow tape. Uniforms held back press and onlookers. Medical Examiner Marta Lantanna pushed her way through the crowd. She signed the crime scene log and motioned to a tall detective behind her. He followed the same protocol. They crouched under barriers and walked to the first corpse, conversing as they approached the woman’s body. Both knelt in the snow. Marta pulled away the tarp.
“Christ,” the detective said.
“Clean cut.” She pointed to the gash across the victim’s neck.
“Considerable blood loss. She was alive when they did it.” He scanned the spatter.
Marta slipped on latex gloves, unfolded small paper bags and encased the victim’s hands, preserving evidence under her nails.
“Other victim gutted sternum to pelvis.” She motioned for a forensic tech. “Going to be shoveling spaghetti to get that soul and his guts into the body bag.”
“Nearly decapitated. One slash. Bruising on her neck.” The detective shifted in his long wool coat, ran a hand over his graying beard and mustache, nauseous at more mutilated corpses. Cops had been called to three similar murders in the last six months. “One gutted and one head lopped off. Not a good night, Marta.”
Marta turned to him. “Gets worse.” She hesitated.
“Claw marks. Down her back.”
He gave no reaction.
The detective was motionless.
“Do what you can tonight . . . I’ll be at the autopsy in the morning.” He laid a hand on her shoulder. “það lítur illa út,” he said, voice low. “This looks bad.”
He stood and turned around. A commotion. Marta glanced up. Uniforms led a small staggering handcuffed figure toward him. The man locked his knees and dug his heels into the snow, resisting with every ounce of his thin frame—his face was crazed, feral . . . and a bloody mess. Arch and Marlen tightened their grip.
“Another casualty,” Marta said. “But still alive.”
“The pointless slaughter has to stop.” She got to her feet with effort, matching the weariness in her voice. “Not to mention all the collateral damage of these drugged out souls.”
What can we do, Marta? They always win.
He pulled off wire-rimmed glasses, rubbed his eyes. Pinched the bridge of his nose, wanting to be anywhere but the alley. Another fucking murder scene. Violence roused so many people from sleep on Christmas Eve. He swore in Icelandic as they approached.
“Detective Hannesson, we got the suspect.” Marlen yanked Troll to the detective.
“What a mess.” Detective First Class Einar Hannesson examined the captive with steel blue eyes. “What happened?”
“He was leaning over the bodies, sir. Then bolted. He’s the suspect. Called it in. EDP.” Marlen shook the cuffs. “Ran into razor wire. Says he didn’t do it.”
“Dumb son of a bitch,” Arch said.
“Lit on something, sir.” Marlen handed Einar the vial. “Found it in his pocket. Never seen the drug before.”
Einar turned it over in his gloved hand, opened and smelled it. He jolted at the rank unfamiliar aroma. Damn, worse than hákarl, Icelandic rotted shark. Jesus. A new drug? Whatever it was, it stank of decay.
“SOB claims a monster did it. A Christmas Monster.” Arch said. “He’s deluded.”
The captive tugged at the cuffs. Marlen shoved him. Einar stepped back as the man stumbled.
“Enough." Einar scowled. "Don’t manhandle the witness.”
“Suspect,” Arch said.
“Actions were suspicious, sir.” Marlen shook the captive.
“He was staring . . .” Arch said.
“He’s drugged, sir,” Marlen said. “Look at those crazy sunken eyes.”
“He resisted arrest . . .” Arch and Marlen rambled, voices competing for attention.
Einar stopped listening. He stood between the uniforms and their captive, inspecting the vial. The man’s green eyes met his and retreated downward. A sudden rush of familiarity. Einar prided himself on stubborn stoicism, told himself it was a reflection of his Nordic soul. Liar. The wretch threw him off.
How can a vagrant unnerve me?
Something wasn’t right. He forced his focus back to the uniforms.
“Find a weapon?” He peered at them, eyes narrowed.
“No. Probably tossed it,” Arch said.
“You look? Find a knife? Blade?”
“No,” Arch said. “We haven’t uncovered it—”
“Could’ve thrown it in the garbage, sir,” Marlen said. “We’ll find it, sir.”
Einar shook his head. Marlen’s repeated use of ‘sir’ wasn’t out of respect.
Most of the cops in the Investigative Division hated Einar Hannesson. No secret. Iceland, as they called him, had the division’s highest clearance rate but attempted no diplomacy with colleagues. Despite having arrived in Seward City more than twenty-five years earlier, he was an outsider. Always would be. Besides, he believed in weird shit, huldufólk.
Who the hell came from Iceland, anyway?
He was odd, opinionated and had become a closed-off shell in the last two years, alienating his current partner and department brass. They swore it was his last partner who’d died in the line of duty—walked into a trap and vaporized in a fire—that’d affected him. Finally found another partner that clicked and he got erased from the earth. Iceland couldn’t process it, they whispered, didn’t want to get close to anyone again. So he got meaner and weirder. Einar didn’t give a damn what they thought. Even if it was true.
“We’ll go back and look, sir,” Marlen said.
“Witnesses? Other than the junkie?”
Arch shook his head. “Not that we—”
“Who heard the screams?”
“Don’t know,” Marlen said.
“Does your suspect have blood on his hands—other than his own?” Einar's face reddened. “Blood on clothing, anywhere other than wounds for which you two were a contributing factor?”
Marlen glared, kicking a lump of snow.
“No,” Arch said. “We—”
“Get your asses out there, do a thorough canvas,” Einar extended his arm the way they’d come. “Now.”
“We will, we will . . . yes sir,” Arch said.
Marlen glanced at the witness.
Troll craned his neck and mouthed, “do your fucking job, cop.” Marlen pushed him. He stumbled back, jerking his head to the flashing lights. Einar turned, steadied him with one hand and pushed Marlen off with the other.
“Bite me,” Troll muttered, shaking.
“Quiet.” Einar tightened his grip. “Don’t make it worse.”
Sink In Your Claws by S. E. Chase / Actions & Adventure / Science Fiction / Thrillers & Crime have rating 3 out of 5 / Based on18 votes