Year of the Worm: Detective’s Notebook #2 – Rosie

01/31/2017

Gotta break in the case this morning, turned out a woman reported being assaulted not too far from the warehouse where the cats’ were killed. According to the report it happened a few nights before.

The woman’s name was Rosie and she had a few priors, mainly prostitution and possession. A minor leaguer by criminal standards, but pretty common for that part of the city.

Unfortunately, Rosie had no permanent address and the flat-foot that took the report did a half-assed job of questioning her. Based on the account he took Rosie’s assailant could’ve been anyone. One thing that stuck out to me was that her cat had gone missing earlier that day and Rosie claimed that her assailant had her cat when she encountered him on the street. She tried to get it back, and an argument ensued which escalated to violence.
Jones and me hit the streets to find her. Lucky for us she’d been arrested for hooking last year, so her mug shot was fresh. Rosie was barely twenty. She should’ve had the cherubic face of a girl, but the hard life of the streets had etched lines into her face and despite the makeup she had the pallor brought on by a fast food diet and drug addiction. Her lost innocence was a pallid ghost dressed in a thrift store sundress and worn out sneakers. The saddest thing were her eyes, they were like an empty well.
We went to the usual hang outs. Neighborhoods that were full of porn shops and pawn stores. Chinese food and liquor stores. We spotted her outside a food truck selling burritos. She tried to rabbit on us, but Jones was hot on her heels so she didn’t get far.
“Let go of me,” she screeched while trying to pull her arm free from Jones’ iron grip. “Ya’ll should be out there looking for that sicko, not harassing me.”
I gestured to Jones to let her go. “That’s why we wanta talk to you.”
“I already told your boys everything downtown, and they didn’t give two shits.”
I glanced at the greasy slop the food truck was dolling out for five dollars a pop. Just the sight of it made my heartburn flare up. “I tell you what, you come with us and talk and I’ll buy you some real food.”
Rosie stared at me with her abysmal eyes ringed with smudge eyeliner. “Just talk and then you let me go?”
“That’s right. Now c’mon, let’s get outta here before I lose my appetite.”

***
Rosie took a sip of her strawberry milk shake and leaned back in her seat like it was an orgasmic experience. I couldn’t help but wonder when she had eaten last. The stack of empty plates piled in front of her and the cluster of empty glasses answered that question for me. Looking at her across the table, past the smudged make-up and hair dye, I could see the sweet girl underneath. How’d a girl like that end up here? Drugs, sexual abuse, teen-age pregnancy, or something else? Street rats like Rosie were a dime a dozen in the city, but they were still people. Flesh and blood. Hopes and dreams. Fears and failures. It was easy to lose track that they were people and not just a nuisance or a suspect.
The slurping of Rosie’s straw shook me from my thoughts. I caught her giving me the stink-eye and shifted my attention to my half-eaten steak and eggs. “So, tell me about the other day, I read the report but I want to hear it straight from you.”
Rosie shrugged. “Like I said, my cat was missing so I went out looking for her. Stupid fucking cat, I should’ve just stayed in bed. But I was down by the river, you know the old warehouse district, calling its stupid name. I was about to give up, when I heard this hissing and growling coming from an alley. I figured that might be her, and when I got into the alley I saw my cat, and this big fucker trying to catch her.”
Jones shifted anxiously next to me and pulled out a pad of paper and a pen. “Do you remember what he looked like?”
“Oh yeah, he was big and ugly. Maybe six foot or more, and walked funny like he had a bad leg or something. He dressed funny too, like in a bathrobe or something.”
I pushed my plate over to Rosie.“Bathrobe?”
“Maybe an over-sized hoodie, I don’t know for sure, but he wasn’t dressed like the homies in the hood.”
I gulped down the last of my black coffee and gestured to the waitress for more. “What about his face, did you get a good look?”
Rosie grimaced. “Yeah, I did. He was a white dude, which was weird. White folk don’t come down there, not even the homeless, ya know?”
Jones peered over her horn-rimmed glasses. “We need specifics. Something I could use to create a sketch of the suspect.”
Rosie glanced at the clock on the wall. “How long’s this going to take, I got work to do.”
I tossed a couple fifties on the table. “Take the night off.”
Rosie’s hollow eyes darted between me and the money before she snatched it. “Why’re you guys so interested in this dude, he just stole me cat is all.”
Jones cleared her throat. “What did he look like?”
“Okay, whatever,” Rosie said, rolling her eyes. “Like I said he was a white dude. Big head on him like a block. A busted up nose like he’d been busted in the face too many times. He had heavy eyelids and long greasy hair that was a mess. Scruffy beard, and his face was too thin like he was a junkie or sick or something.”
“Anything else, anything that stood out like tattoos, scars, birthmarks?”
“Yeah, he had ink, a lot of it too. I saw some on his neck and his hands. It looked like high quality stuff, not the shitty prison ink most of these wannabe gangsters got.”
Jones peered up from her pad. “What type of tattoos?”
Rosie fiddled with her fork. “I don’t remember all of them, but I remember he had a big one on his throat. It freaked me out when I saw it, it looked like a big eye and had these squiggly lines around it. The rest of them, I don’t remember exactly, maybe more squiggly lines? I … I don’t know.”
I pulled out my note book and showed her the drawing I did at the warehouse. “Like this?”
Rosie’s eyes bulged. “Yeah, that’s it!”
“Have you ever seen it before, not just as a tattoo?”
Rosie shrugged.
Jones held up her pad. “Does this look like him?”
“Yeah, that’s him.”

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With a face like that, he’s gotta stand out among the  gangs, hookers, and pimps. Has he attacked anyone else?

I waited until the waitress refilled my coffee. “What exactly happened in that alley?”

“I started yelling at the fucker to leave my cat alone,” Rosie said, while chewing on some ice from one of her empty glasses. “But he snatched her up by the scruff of her neck and shoved her into a canvas bag. By the looks of it he had other cats in there, too. Then he came after me. I ran, but he managed to catch me from behind. I thought he was going to rape me or maybe even kill me. He tried strangling me, and I nearly blacked out but I managed to get my mace out of my coat pocket and sprayed him. That got him off me, and he took off with my cat. I got out there and called the cops from a pay-phone down the street.”
“Anything else?”
“Well, he was screaming at me while he was chokingl me. Some weird shit I didn’t really understand. Maybe cause I couldn’t even breath. Something about ‘He’s coming or he’s waiting’ and how ‘I must be cleansed’ or some shit.”
I grunted and exchanged a knowing glance with Jones. Rosie’s account confirmed what we’d already suspected. This nut job wasn’t going to be satisfied with killing cats. He was working his way up to people, and that made him far more dangerous. Underneath all the bullshit of ‘He Awaits’ and the eyeball graffiti there lurked a potential serial killer. Me and Jones had to get to him before he killed anyone, if he hadn’t already.
“What way did he go, after you maced him?” I asked.
“Down the alley, toward the warehouses.”
“Where is this alley, exactly?” Jones asked, while slipping her notebook back into her pocket.
“I can show you if you want,” Rosie said. “It’s not far from where I’ve been squatting lately.”
I got up from the table, grimacing at the twinge of pain in my knees as I did so. “Good, let me pay the bill and then we’ll head over there.”

Scarlet Screams The Phoenix; A Flash Fiction Story

This is a short piece that I wrote about ten years ago. I did a little bit of editing to it and tweaked the ending just a bit, but overall it’s as it was when originally written. The original genesis of the idea came about by trying to put a spin on the same old same old vampire story. Also at the time there was an arsonist in the city I lived in setting fires to abandoned houses/industrial buildings. The outcome was this bit of flash fiction.

I post it here for your amusement, I still like the story although its a little rough around the edges from a ‘writerly’ point of view.

Be forewarned there are certain elements that some may find offensive …

 

SCARLET SCREAMS THE PHOENIX

BY KEVIN HURTACK

2006/2016

With the subtle flick of her wrist the match head came to life with a delectable hiss and a heady aroma.

Celia placed the flickering flame between her bone thin thumb and forefinger letting it burn until it caressed her flesh.

Celia felt nothing.

She let the charred corpse of the match stick descend like Lucifer. It smoldered on a floor covered with crumpled fetish magazines and empty cans of lighter fluid. Celia pulled another match out and lit it while she walked over to a thread bare couch Old VHS tapes and dog-eared paperbacks laid haphazardly on a milk crate that served as her coffee table.

Celia studied the back cover of the movie, The Hunger for a moment before tossing it over shoulder. The movie was useless, it held none of the advice she sought for her condition. Although Celia found David Bowie insanely hot, his character in the movie seemed just as confused and misdirected as her. But then again she shouldn’t have expected to find salvation from a rock star.

What had happened to her was nothing like the Stephen King, Anne Rice, or Richard Mathewson novels, either. No seduction followed by a blood letting. Not a charming man, or affable woman. There was no primal beast like Max Ernst in Nosferatu.

All Celia could remember, when she tried hard, is the fire. All about her. Suffocating, and embracing. Smoke thicker than the night. The anguished screams. The gut-wrenching stench of burnt hair and broiling flesh. The charred bodies surrounding her. Men crying like little boys. Old women begging for a miracle escape. Hysterical mothers clutching the unnervingly still bundles of their babies.

Then she saw It. It came through the wall of flames cloaked in ash and fire. All Celia remembered was the embrace of an unearthly flame.

Since that fateful night her skin has been one immense burn scar. Cracked and wrinkled like old leather instead of the fair complexion of her former teen age self. Celia found out soon that the sunlight burned horrendously, forcing her to dwell in the night.

She knew she wasn’t dead, she still breathed and pissed. Although she could eat food, something in the bowls of her soul yearned for something more. It sang in her ear, lingered inher memories like echoes in a deep canyon. Celia spent endless nights writhing in agony as It sang to her. Her feverish head filled with heinous images of charred flesh and hot blood. Flesh ripped from a man’s femur. The visceral onslaught made her wretch, but something deep down inside her grew agitated like a chained dog outside a butcher’s shop.

One night when Celia woke she found a box of matches and a can of lighter fluid beside her. A note was scrawled on a pack of cigarettes ‘Scarlet Screams the Phoenix’. She didn’t know why, but it seemed familiar to her.

Celia took the stuff outside, intending toss it in the dumpster. She didn’t know where to go, or who would help her but she couldn’t live like this any more. Before she got a few yards from her door, the deep down writhing sensation hit her like a sledge hammer. She doubled over and fell to her knees.

She sucked air through her clenched teeth as sweat dripped from her furrowed brow. She wondered if this was what death felt like. Perhaps her injuries from the fire had finally caught up to her. Yet something urged her to her stumbling feet. Each foot fall felt forced, as she were a marionette controlled by some ambiguous puppeteer.

Celia staggered across the street to the local seminary school. She watched as her charred hands curled into fists and busted out a back window. She watched in stupefied horror as her body doused the room with lighter fluid. Even more disturbing was the way the stench of the fluid aroused her. A warmth grew between her legs and rushed up her withered body. Her head spun and a soft moan escaped her broiled lips.

Her hips writhed as she flicked her wrist and lit the match. A wave of ecstasy rushed over her, consuming every inch of her scorched body. A primal groan rattled out of her ruined throat as she staggered backward. She leaned against the wall and gasped for breath as the flames danced across the floor and lapped at the walls as teasingly as a lover’s tongue. The fire washed over her, she was no longer dead flesh and bone. She was purified by its pain. Cleansed by its carnage.

As the flames consumed the building, she consumed the dieing. Mortal blood flowing down her parched throat was immaculate.

When she woke up the following afternoon, guilt caught up with Celia. She forced herself to puke up the blood and flesh of the dead until her stomach felt like it had been turned inside out. Yet she knew her resistance wouldn’t stay this strong for much longer. She would be a slave to a diabolical master.

The dark hunger came back that night and it was worse than before. The taste of the dead the other night seemed to intensify its power. Celia attempted to fight it, and tried to keep herself from committing more heinous acts. In the end it grew too strong, and Celia gave into it completely. So much easier to give in. All the pain went away. There was only sheer pleasure, no need for troublesome thoughts or feelings. It put her in such a daze that she barely remembered sneaking into the orphanage where she was raised. The squealing of the children before the smoke snuffed out the air in their lungs was a sadist’s symphony.

The years, decades, and centuries swirled by quickly in a haze of fire, blood and ecstasy. She burned down crack houses and fed on the numb blood of the dead junkies. Brothels were the scenes of firery orgies.

But her frail body could no longer contain the dark hunger that fueled it. It began to crumble into ash and charred chunks. The slightest of touch blew her flesh away like soot. Then she found him, young and strong, laying under the covers of his bed. Safe and secure. Something rose up inside her, spilling out of every crack and hole in her decrepit body. Tendrils of flames surrounded the boy like serpents. Blankets erupted into turbulent waves of fire. His body convulsed and his screams pierced like arrows until the smoke filled his lungs.

As his flesh boiled, the dark hunger slipped away from Celia, lingering for a moment like a departing lover, before she crumbled into a pile of ash.

The End.

The Last Exit (A flash fiction story)

The Last Exit

by

Kevin Hurtack

Copyright 2016

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I never expected to meet a beauty like her while scrounging around town for supplies. I found her in what used to be a rich folks’ neighborhood. She was slate blue and had curves that would’ve put Marilyn Monroe to shame. Finding a car was rare, but a 1966 Ford Mustang in cherry condition was manna from Heaven.

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Maybe the car was God’s way of apologizing for making my life shit. All those countless days I’d spent barricaded in that dank mountain cabin with only canned cat food for my meals.

After I hot-wired her she roared like a grizzly bear waking up from hibernation. I lit a cigarette and buckled up. As I threw her into gear I caught a glimpse of my gaunt face in the rear view mirror. My toothy grin seemed out of place, I couldn’t recall the last time I’d felt happiness.

With a full tank of gas and a V8 under the hood, I could get outta here. Head up to Denver, things had to be better there. At least that’s what my girl had said on the phone before the cell phones and land lines went dead months ago.

I stomped on the gas pedal and flew past the vacant houses wrapped with yellow caution tape. I raced by the boarded-up buildings plastered with quarantine signs. The Mustang wove through the abandoned barricades and checkpoints with ease. Her engine rumbled as I drove around the National Guards’ trucks that lay scattered and tipped over like discarded toys.

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I headed for the highway, confident that I’d finally caught a break, until a scurrying sound came from the backseat.

My mind reeled in terror when I saw it in the rear view mirror. The fiend’s kidney bean shaped body wasn’t any bigger than a Chihuahua and it crept on spider-like legs. It stared at me with its bulbous black eyes that gleamed with a malicious intelligence that was beyond my understanding. Worst of all was the fiend’s cavernous mouth that was filled with a double row of serrated teeth.

I death-gripped the steering wheel and screamed. After countless days of trying to avoid them, I’d ended up with one as a stow away. I guess God had a sick sense of humor.

The fiend crouched like a cat ready to pounce. I tried to remember what the government had said to do in case of an attack. My muddled memory didn’t offer any answers. My heart pounded in my ears and sweat trickled down my face.

An ear-piercing screech erupted from the fiend as it leapt. I ducked. It landed on the back of my head with the force of a baseball bat. Splotches floated in my vision and my head swam. I struggled to keep the car under control.

The fiend wrapped its legs around my head, and the tiny barbs that covered them burrowed into me like ticks on a hound. Then the fiend wretched, like a cat hacking up a fur ball, and spewed lime-green vomit all over my head.

It reeked like rotted fish guts and I almost upchucked myself. My eyes watered and my nose burned. I wiped my face off and yanked on its legs, but it was like trying to uproot a tree. The fiend hissed like a feral cat and tightened its grip.

My heart pounded like a bass drum and my entire body trembled. My vomit covered head felt numb as did the hand I’d used to wipe my face. Was I poisoned? I remembered a website said the vomit paralyzed people. But there were a lot of rumors online during the early days of the infestation. Maybe that’s why the government shut the internet down.

Whether it was dumb luck or instinct, I jerked the wheel and crashed into a light pole. The crunching metal and shattering glass accompanied the bone-jarring collision. Oblivion flooded my vision.

I woke up with my head on the steering wheel and jabbing pain in my ribs. I was alive, and the fiend was gone. The Chihuahua sized hole in the windshield suggested that it had been ejected violently during the crash.

Laughter sputtered from my lips as I realized I’d avoided getting my brain sucked out by the fiend. A lot of folks hadn’t been as lucky as me thanks to the government messing with that meteor. I didn’t know why I was still alive, but I wasn’t gonna waste my second chance.

Steam billowed from the Mustang’s crumbled hood. A pity to wreck her, but she had saved me. I fumbled with the seat-belt and flung the door open. Nothing was on the tree-lined highway. The car’s flickering headlights revealed the fiend’s splattered carcass a few feet away.

I got out and spit at it. “Goddamn brain-sucking cockroach.”

My triumph was cut short by their screeching. The headlights illuminated more fiends in the trees. The noise of the crash must have caught their attention.

A half dozen of them circled the Mustang and hissed like alley cats. I tore off a shirt sleeve and ran to the end of the car. A fiend jumped onto the hood. I removed the gas cap and shoved the sleeve inside. I pulled out my lighter. They drew closer. I lit the sleeve.

Adrenaline fueled my frantic flight. The screeching of the pursuing fiends filled my ears. The bone rattling explosion threw me to the ground. Scorching heat swept overhead. Debris rained down.

I looked up. The car was a twisted hunk of scorched metal. The trees were torches. Sizzling carcasses littered the asphalt. I howled with laughter. My tears washed my soot-covered face. 

I staggered passed a sign that marked the last exit out of town. I ignored the numbness seeping into my limbs. Maybe it was just shock or perhaps the fiend was venomous after all. Either way, I’d made it out of town and that was more than most had managed.

                                                                  The End.

Free Ebook – A Lurker Among The Dead

You can now get a copy of my short story A Lurker Among The Dead for free in ebook format from Barnes and Noble, iTunes, and a few other places online. I have posted the links below. If you enjoy the story, I really appreciate it if you review it where you bought it. Thanks and enjoy.

Missing Corpses.  A stranger lurking outside the morgue.  Bizarre symbols scrawled in blood.

The remote mining town of Silvervalle has seen its share of trouble, but no one ever imagined a body snatcher would come to the Colorado territory. It’s up to the hard-nosed Civil War veteran Sheriff Sean Callahan and the steadfast Deputy Washington to sort through the macabre clues.

Who is the body snatcher? What is his motive for these ghastly crimes? Through the dusty streets and frigid Rocky mountains, Sheriff Callahan and Deputy Washington will stop at nothing to find their man.  But will the trail of clues lead them to the body snatcher or will he slip away like a fleeting shadow?

A Lurker Among The Dead is the first story in a planned series of tales featuring Sean Callahan, the sheriff of  Raven County, Colorado.

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1084263542

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/a-lurker-among-the-dead

Scibd: https://www.scribd.com/book/299287714/A-Lurker-Among-The-Dead-The-Callahan-Files-1

 

Free Ebook: A Lurker Among The Dead

My short story A Lurker Among The Dead is available for free at Amazon in ebook format right now and will remain so until December 1st. So, if you’re looking for some short horror reading this weekend go on and give it a shot. http://www.amazon.com/Lurker-Among-Dead-Callahan-Files-ebook/dp/B015AR3RZ2

Missing Corpses. A stranger lurking outside the morgue. Bizarre symbols scrawled in blood.

The remote mining town of Silvervalle has seen its share of trouble, but no one ever imagined a body snatcher would come to the Colorado territory. It’s up to the hard-nosed Civil War veteran Sheriff Sean Callahan and the steadfast Deputy Washington to sort through the macabre clues.
Who is the body snatcher? What is his motive for these ghastly crimes? Through the dusty streets and frigid Rocky mountains, Sheriff Callahan and Deputy Washington will stop at nothing to find their man. But will the trail of clues lead them to the body snatcher or will he slip away like a fleeting shadow?
A Lurker Among The Dead is the first story in a planned series of tales featuring Sheriff Sean Callahan the sheriff of Raven County, Colorado.

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Now available on Amazon!

 

Free Fiction: No Exit

photo credit: Cristal roto // Broken Glass via photopin (license)
photo credit: Cristal roto // Broken Glass via photopin (license)

The window mocked him. It could’ve provided an exit from the room but it was too small to squeeze through. Only meager light could pass through it. It oozed through the shattered glass and illuminated the gore that had splattered the wall like a Jackson Pollack painting.  Thankfully, the feeble light didn’t pierce the darkness that filled the rest of the room.

Even if he could get through it where would he go? They lurked outside, waiting for some fool to wander out. He had no desire to encounter them, again. Too much running had nearly broke him. He couldn’t do it any more, especially now that he was alone. 

Her ghost drifted through his memory. The warmth of her body, the tenderness of her touch. He found it hard to remember how she felt in his arms, the taste of her kiss. She had faded like an echo.

The stench shoved him back to reality. Coppery and rancid, like a charnel house in Hell, the putridness permeated the room. Despite the darkness he knew the source of the foulness. Her corpse’s pallid flesh laced with blue-gray veins. Eyes as murky as stagnate water. Coagulated blood on her thin lips. A bullet hole just above her left eyebrow.

It amazed him that such a simple circle had ended her life. Standing back and squeezing the trigger proved simple and quick. Like flipping a switch. At least from the physical aspect, but the twitch of his trigger finger had gouged a hole in his soul the size of the Grand Canyon.

But what choice had he had?

None. Choices didn’t exist, not in this world, only instinct and fear.

But her death was his fault, not the act of shooting her, she was long dead before that. He’d failed to protect her from them, despite his promises.

“Until death do we part,” her voice said from somewhere within his tattered mind.

But no one had told them that death wasn’t a permenate thing. Witnessing her death was bad enough, but when her corpse rose up and tried to devour him it drove him to the brink of madness.

The gun in his trembling hand was an anchor dragging him down into the fathoms of despair. He pressed the barrel of the revolver against his head, just below his ear. A simple squeeze of the trigger and it would be over. The bullet would tear through sinew and shatter his skull. Pulverize his brain stem to pulp. Unlike her, he wouldn’t slip through the ice-cold hands of death. He wouldn’t come back as one of those things out there.

The rattle of the door sent a bolt of adrenaline through him. A prickling sensation like needles down his spine washed over him. 

 They had found him, somehow. It came as no surprise.

He tightened his grip on the gun. How many bullets remained? 

Thunderous thuds filled the room. The wood door creaked and groaned under their assault.  

He lowered the antiquated revolver from his head and fiddled with it. One bullet left. He rummaged through his pockets.

The door burst open, a flash flood of light filled into the room.

He squinted, the intrusion of light felt like shards of glass digging into his eyes.

Six silhouettes lurked in the doorway.

His fingertips brushed against the cool metal of five more bullets. His heart leapt in his chest like a startled rabbit. His trembling hand scooped the bullets up.

Six silhouttes shuffeled into the room.

He backpedaled toward the far wall, into a pool of pallid light below the window.

The silhouettes stood in a semi-circle before him, blocking off the door.

The gun rattled in his shakey hand as he struggled to load it. The revovler’s cylinder spun like a roulette wheel.

They rushed toward him like a pack of wolves.

A jolt of fear seared his spine. He gasped through his clenched teeth as the bullets fell from his hand.

The pallid light illuminated the silhouettes. Gaunt men in tattered clothes with ashen faces laced with blue-gray veins. Their murky eyes narrowed. Their mouths bloody scowls.

He jammed the gun barrel under his ear and squeezed the trigger.

The metallic click of the revolver’s hammer striking an empty chamber was as loud as thunder.

The gaunt men pounced on him like ravenous beasts. 

His warbling screams were drowned out by the sickening snapping of his bones and the tearing of his flesh.