Friday, June 27, 2014


Genre: Horror (Zombies)


Carson Ryder: Former Marine/Has retrograde amnesia/Searching for clues to his past
Damien Albright: Found and saved Carson/Has no family/Doesn’t seem to care about anything
Kenny Sudrow: Former spa porter/Happy to be doing something else
Trevor Virden: Former comic book store owner/His knowledge of useless facts is limitless
Janice Whitfield: Four months pregnant/Wife of Regis Whitfield
Chuckie Razzano: His only concern is his Rolex and his hair gel
Chase Crawford: Religious zealot/Loner/Keeps to himself
Willard Pickman: Scientist/Worked for the C.D.C./Knows of a cure
Brent Blaze: Mall survivor/Former police officer
Ally Burton: Mall survivor/Sister of Eli Burton
Eli Burton: Mall survivor/Brother of Ally Burton
Vern Sheldon: New ally/Drives a box truck/Carries a badass flamethrower


Arnold Vesti: Biters got him
Regis Whitfield: Biters got him
Devin Morris: Strangled in his sleep
Darren Mays: Shot by Damien Albright/Claimed that Carson arrested him at one point

Daniel Skye

Day Thirty.
Normally, Dorchester is about a two hour drive from Cherrywood. It took five days to get past the roads that were jammed up with abandoned automobiles, not to mention all the encounters with the Biters that surely slowed them down. Some of the sectors were virtually impassable, forcing the coalition of survivors to seek alternate routes.
They were running on fumes by the time they finally touched base in Dorchester. And by fumes, I don’t mean gasoline. They had expended so much energy just traveling a hundred and ten miles. The concept of escaping New York itself seemed impossible at this rate. They’d all be dead before they reached Jersey.
Carson Ryder scanned his ID, the only remaining clue to his past, and took the wheel of the van from Trevor Virden. He didn’t know where Newtown Lane was, but he was hoping his instincts would kick in and guide him to the property, much like his instincts seemed to take over when he operated a firearm.
Ryder couldn’t help but think of Darren Mays’ final words. “You arrested me.” What had he meant by that? Did I used to be a cop? Did I work for the FBI or the DEA, the ATF? Was I a military police officer? Who the fuck am I?
When he reached the end of Dorchester Avenue, he had two options. If he went left, he’d be going down Fulton Street. If he made a right, he’d be driving through Canon Street. Something awoke in his brain, his mind lighting up like a Christmas tree and ordering him to go right, so he listened and turned the van onto Canon Street. Four blocks down, they had found Newtown Lane.
            Ryder tapped the brakes gently and as the van came to a halt, Vern Sheldon pulled up behind him in his box truck. 816 Newtown Lane. That’s where they stopped.
            A two-story snout house with a protruding garage that nearly grazed the sidewalk. Ryder studied the diamond windows. All the ones on the first floor had been smashed.
            He studied the green color of the house, and the tall elm tree beside it. The tree, the garage, the diamond windows; none of it jogged his memory.
            “Are you…are you going in?” Kenny Sudrow asked.
            “I guess I have to,” Ryder said. “It’s the only way to know if this is my place for sure.”
            “You’re not going alone,” Damien Albright told him, checking the magazine of his pistol. It still held eight rounds and they had plenty of ammunition to spare. Still, they tried to remain conservative. So when Damien tucked the pistol into the waistband of his jeans, he made sure he was carrying his Bowie knife, too.
            Carson took a pistol and a fire axe they had acquired at the mall. They both exited the van and Carson instructed them to keep the doors locked until they got back.
            “Need some backup?” Brent Blaze had asked. “I can cover you. I used to be a police officer. And I’ve still got my gun.”
            “We’ll be fine,” Damien dismissed him as they walked from the van.
            The wooden steps leading up to the porch were dilapidated and the first step caved as soon as Carson placed his boot over it. They climbed over the decaying steps and reached solid ground atop the porch.
            They didn’t need to knock. The door had been kicked to splinters some time ago.
* * *
            In the van, Chase Crawford had removed the crucifix from his neck and was grasping it loosely between two fingers, letting it dangle back and forth as if he was trying to hypnotize a pregnant Janice Whitfield.
            Janice stared at the crucifix intently, not because she was actually being hypnotized or put into a trance. She stared because it was a symbol of hope. If there was a God, He had guided Janice and her unborn child this far. She was hopeful He would guide her through to the end.
            But Chase didn’t see it that way. Chase saw this plague as the wrath of the Almighty himself. He believed he was being condemned for the sins of others.
            “Doomed,” Chase muttered. “We’re all doomed.”
            “Please don’t start in again,” Kenny said from the front of the van.
            “What do you care?” Chase asked. “What do any of you care? You’re the ones that brought the wrath of God down upon us. We’ve all been struck by the vengeful hand of the Lord. And let me tell you something, when the Lord strikes you, the sting doesn’t go away.”
            “So, what you’re saying is we’re all marked for death?” Blaze asked.
            “Please don’t engage him,” Trevor shouted from the front. “He’ll drone on and on forever. He’s a fucking broken record.”
            “I’m more interested in hearing the story about you and that black dude in the box truck,” Kenny said to Blaze, leaning over his seat, eyes toward the back of the van. He was really showing his mental age by using the word dude.
            “There’s not much to tell,” Blaze said, clearing his throat. He was parched, but he knew they couldn’t be careless with the water supply. “He was a truck driver and a smalltime dealer. Marijuana. I busted him years ago. DUI. A week later, the tires of my Mustang were slashed. I never could prove it was him, but I know it was.”
            “We’re in the midst of a zombie apocalypse and you’re harboring a grudge over your car tires?” Trevor asked, but it wasn’t really a question. More of a rhetorical statement. “Let it go. He saved our asses. And that flamethrower makes him an even better ally.”
            “Just be careful he doesn’t use that flamethrower on you,” Brent said. Trevor didn’t follow up and that statement hung in the air, making Kenny really wonder. He wondered in a world like this, with no laws, no rules, was there anyone you could really trust?
* * *
            In the house, Carson and Damien did a full sweep of the first floor. The place looked as if it had been looted. There was a television unit, but no TV. A wide groove in the carpet where a couch or sofa used to sit. Spots on the wall where picture frames might’ve hung.
            A lone Biter had wandered through the open backdoor and Carson saw that it didn’t make it past the kitchen as he buried the axe so deep on its skull, it stuck. He wiggled the axe free and they ascended the stairs to the second floor.
            More signs of destruction, as the rooms had been ransacked and vandalized. Damien found a picture frame lying face down on the floor of what he assumed was the master bedroom. It was the biggest room in the house.
            He picked the frame up and flipped it over. The glass was cracked and the picture had a slight tear in the upper right-hand corner, but Damien could clearly make out one of the three people in the photo. It was Carson standing next to a red haired woman with fair skin. Beside the woman was a little girl with pigtails, no older than nine or ten.
            “Carson,” Damien summoned him from the hallway. “You better take a look at this.”
            Carson stepped in from the hall and took the frame from Damien’s hands. In the photo, he was wearing a blue uniform and a blue cloth police hat. An NYPD badge was pinned to the front of his uniform. “Is that your old lady and your daughter?”
            “I…I can’t remember,” Carson said. He undid the back and slid the picture from the frame, folding it and placing it in his back pocket. He surveyed the rest of the bedroom. There was a metal bedframe with no mattress.
The only thing that remained besides the bedframe was an oak dresser. Ryder checked, but every drawer was barren. “I guess this answers one question,” Carson said as they exited the room. “I did used to be a cop, just like Blaze.”
“A cop and a marine. Man, you’re full of surprises.”
“But this doesn’t explain everything. If I had a wife and daughter, where are they now?”
“I don’t know, buddy. But if they’re out there, and they’re alive, there’s a good chance we’ll find him.” When Ryder heard that, he thought of what Janice had told him when he promised the group would protect her. She said, “You can’t make promises like that. Not in this world.”
“Hey,” Damien said as they descended the staircase. “I saw a door beside the kitchen. It was locked, but I’m willing to bet it leads to a basement or a cellar. Maybe there’s something down there. It couldn’t hurt to check it out. We came all this way.”
Damien led the way and motioned with Carson to take care of the door. With one swing of the axe, the brass knob snapped off, and Damien nudged the door forward. It was dark, but Carson saw the glow of a flashlight as it beamed across a brick wall.
“I think we’ve got company,” he alerted Damien.
“Squatters,” Damien muttered, yanking his pistol from his waistband. He cocked back the hammer with his thumb and told Ryder to do the same.
“We don’t kill the living,” Ryder told him. “We should make that a rule. No more blood has to be shed.”
“We only have to kill the ones willing to kill us first. Now take out your gun and be ready for anything.”
* * *
            The box truck had a mesh partition that allowed Vern Sheldon to communicate with his passengers. Willard Pickman and Ally and Eli Burton were seated on crates of supplies Vern had attained in his travels.
            His trusty flamethrower he always kept in the cab, along with the .357 Magnum he had stored in the glove box.
“Is there really a miracle waiting in some underground lab or are you just blowing smoke up our ass?” Vern felt compelled to ask Pickman.
“I assure you the antivirus is as tangible as the virus itself. The C.D.C. always had a backup plan. I just can’t understand why that plan hasn’t been put into effect. The only assumption I could make is that everyone else who knows about it must be dead already.”
“So the president, the vice president, they’re all dead?”

           "It's very likely."

           "And the president, he was behind all this?"
“I never said this virus was commissioned by the president. The secretary of defense was the one who approached us, and if I had to guess, he approached on his own volition. As far as I know, the president and vice president were in the dark on this one. I think the S.O.D. planned to use this in a time of warfare. Maybe it was intended as a weapon, maybe to use against our enemies. But I don’t think he anticipated an outbreak of this magnitude.”
“If we make it to Texas and this cure does exist, I owe you a beer.”
“You’ll owe me more than that.”
“What’s your story?” Vern asked, directed towards Eli and Ally.
“Not much to tell,” Ally did the talking. “Our dad was a very wealthy man and when he died, he left us both a large sum of money. Not much good that does us now.”
* * *
            Ryder and Albright found the missing mattress in the basement, along with the sheets, duvet, and pillows. The couch, the kitchen utensils, even the television had been transported to the basement by two male squatters, both in their teens. They claimed to have moved in after the sixth day, when the house had already been abandoned. They made no mention of a red haired woman and a little girl with pigtails.
The squatters were armed. Albright spotted a large machete propped against the wall and several firearms that lay beside the mattress. And they both had guns tucked into their waistbands, visible underneath their stained shirts.
“So how’d you get here?” one of the squatters asked when they were done with their line of inquiry. “You got a car or a truck?”
“Yeah,” the other squatter said. “And supplies? We’ve been living on jars of preservatives and cans of beets. I swear if I eat another beet, I’ll puke.”
“We’ve got a van,” Damien said. “But I’m afraid there’s no room, guys.”
“Wait,” Carson said. “Vern could fit two more in the box truck.”
“No way,” Damien said.
“Hey, your friend said there’s room, so what’s the problem?”
“The problem is I don’t trust you,” Damien said frankly.
“Well, I can be very persuasive,” the first squatter said, reaching slowly under his shirt. Damien saw what he was going for and put a stop to that with his pistol. He didn’t kill him. He just blasted a gaping hole through his hand.
The first squatter fell to the floor, writhing, squealing in pain. The second squatter reached fast for his gun, but Carson was a shade faster and raised his pistol, firing one deafening shot through his temple.
“You said no killing the living,” Damien reminded him.
“And you said only if they don’t try to kill us first.” Carson looked at the squatter writhing on the floor. “Put him out of his misery. Don’t forget to aim for the head so he doesn’t come back as one of those Biters.”
* * *
Carson had traded the fire axe for the machete the squatters had left behind. It was incased in a green sheath and the blade was about eighteen inches long and razor-sharp. The handle was black and tied to the hilt was a lanyard, a thick strap that can be used to secure around the wrist.
Damien had his Bowie knife. Vern had his flamethrower. And now Carson had his machete.
As they drove on, Damien and Carson dared not speak a word of what happened in the basement.
By Day Thirty-Two, they had escaped Long Island and were heading for the big city. But again, the roads proved to be treacherous. Several sectors of the city were rendered virtually impassable by vehicle from the oceans of abandoned cars left by fleeing motorists.
As they navigated their way through the rough terrain, taking detour after detour, they came upon a mock Georgian style house that was unscathed by the chaos. As night was rapidly gaining on them, they decided this could be a good place to set up camp.
Damien pried the backdoor with a crowbar and they all piled in. There was more than enough room for the entire group to spread out and get some rest. Carson, Damien, and Brent did a full sweep of the house with their guns to make sure they were alone.
They found no Biters. No squatters. No threats.
What they did find was that the stove/oven combination ran on a propane tank that was still half full, and the mini chest freezer they discovered in the basement had been running since Day One. It was a wireless, battery operated model. And the batteries still had life in them.
There were steaks, pork chops, racks of ribs. It was like hitting the post-apocalyptic jackpot.
“Who in God’s name would’ve left this place behind?” Blaze wondered.
“Who cares?” Damien said. “Their loss is our gain.”
They took the meat and poultry out to thaw overnight. Then they all retired to their separate quarters to catch up on some much needed sleep.
* * *
            Day Thirty-Three.
            With the help of Janice Whitfield and Ally Burton, Vern Sheldon volunteered to prepare a sumptuous feast for the group. He spent the day frying, roasting, broiling everything the guys had removed from the chest freezer. The girls had raided the pantry and cabinets and had rounded up every sauce and seasoning at their disposal.
            By nightfall, the entire group was seated at the glass dining room table. There were eight white fiberglass dining chairs that lined the table.
            Damien took a seat at one end of the table and Carson was going to take the other end, but he graciously offered his seat up to Vern for all the effort he had put into this meal. Extra folding chairs were carried up from the basement so that everyone would have a place to sit.
            Janice had found candles and holders in the pantry and placed them at both ends of the table to illuminate the pan-fried chicken, marinated steak, and mouthwatering pork chops.
            At Janice’s request, they all joined hands and said a prayer of thanks before they dug in. The only one who didn’t join them at the table was Chase Crawford, who opted to subsist on jars of preservatives.
            As Brent Blaze finished the last plate of ribs, he let out a tremendous belch and covered his mouth a second too late. “Excuse me,” he muttered, embarrassed.
            “No need to excuse yourself,” Trevor Virden laughed. “Social etiquette isn’t exactly a requirement in this new world we’ve found ourselves in.”
            “So you’re saying the rules don’t apply anymore?”
            “With all due respect officer, have you taken a look outside? What rules are there left to follow?”
            “What do you guys miss about the old world?” Kenny Sudrow asked, changing the subject.
            “The internet,” Chuckie Razzano answered first.
            “I’d have to say the internet, too,” Ally Burton said. “And I’d just about kill for a French vanilla latte.”
            “I miss horror movies,” Eli Burton said. “It’s sad to think I’ll never get to see Phantasm Five.”
            “I miss comics, fantasy football, video games, Netflix,” Trevor Virden rambled on.
            “All the essential things in life,” Kenny chuckled. “Me, I miss my family the most.”
            “I miss my wife,” Willard Pickman confessed. “I feel terrible for what I did. And I feel worse for having a hand in all this. I miss the entire world. I just want things back the way that they were.”
            “I wish I had something to miss,” Carson Ryder said, trying to remember anything from his past life that brought a smile to his face.
            “Since we’ve got nothing to lose here, I’ll be the first to admit I miss marijuana. I’d do just about anything for a blunt right now.” Blaze rolled his eyes at Vern Sheldon’s statement.
            “I miss my old house,” Janice said. “And television. I never thought I’d miss it this much, but I’d be satisfied watching a soap opera marathon at this point. I’d even watch infomercials.”
            “What do you miss?” Kenny asked Damien.
            Damien thought about it for what seemed like an eternity, scanning the archives of his mind for anything that brought him joy over the years. He finally replied with, “Nothing…I don’t miss a single thing about the old world.”
            “Uh, guys,” Chase called from the spacious living room that caused an echo to carry through the house. “I hate to break up your party, but we’ve got company.”
Through the pane glass windows, Chase could see a mob of Biters slowly creeping towards the house. The group gathered in the living room, where they saw what the commotion was all about.
“Fuck me,” Trevor muttered.
“Vern, where’s the flamethrower?” Carson asked.
“Shit, I left it in the cab,” Vern slapped his palm across his head as if to say stupid me.
“They must’ve smelled the food,” Pickman surmised.
As the Biters crept past the lawn, their numbers became visible. It was dark and they couldn’t see all of them, but Trevor lost count after fifty.
“We need to find something to barricade the windows,” Brent suggested.
“No time,” Damien said as the Biters made their way to the front of the face, pressing their decaying bodies against the glass.
Their chests bloated and distended. The flesh rotting away from their arms, blackened skin peeling from their faces. Among this congregation of the dead, Janice spotted a little girl, the skin missing from the lower half of her face, fully exposing her jaw and bottom row of her red stained teeth. Janice’s heart sank and she turned away, clutching at her belly, thinking of the unborn child that was growing inside of her.
            “I don’t think the glass is going to hold them,” Kenny said, taking a few steps back to prepare himself for the inevitable.
As the men scrambled for their weapons and extra rounds of ammunition, the glass couldn’t hold anymore and as it shattered, the mob of Biters began to spill in one-by-one...

To Be Continued With Part Seven: Death Comes Knocking

Monday, June 16, 2014


Genre: Horror

Daniel Skye

So you want to hear a ghost story? Well, every true ghost story begins with an irreversible tragedy, a senseless death or deaths that could’ve been prevented if the necessary precautions had been taken.
            This particular story takes place in the early nineties, against the backdrop of the fleeting Gulf War. Operation Desert Storm had commenced on January 17th, 1991.
On January 18th, 1991, three bodies were discovered in the quiet Long Island suburbs of New York. Danny Miller was found floating face down in his in-ground pool. Drowning was the official cause of death as ruled by the coroner. But Miller’s chest and back were riddled with various puncture wounds and lacerations caused by a serrated hunting knife.
His wife, Kristin, was found in the upstairs bedroom. Official cause of death was blood loss. The coroner counted 39 stab wounds along her neck, back, arms, and chest.
Their only child, Davey Miller, was still in bed when the killer found him…and stabbed him to death in his sleep.
            The Fairview Police Department never apprehended the person who committed this heinous crime. As the bank possessed the house because of the Millers’ mortgage, they seized the property and sold it at auction to the highest bidder.
            The highest bidder was a defense attorney named Calvin Kinnear.
            He moved in with his wife, Helen, the next month.
* * *
            By February 28th, 1991, the Gulf War had reached its anticlimactic conclusion. A peace conference was held and a treaty had been signed by both sides. And just as that document was being inked and dated, Calvin and Helen Kinnear were settling into their new home on 743 Hemlock Drive.
            “Did you see the in-ground pool?” Helen asked, sounding like a giddy little child getting ready to start bouncing up and down like a jumping bean. “I can’t wait for summer.”
            “We had a pool at the old house,” Calvin reminded her. “And you barely used it then. What’s so different about this one?”
            “That was an aboveground pool,” Helen said, rolling her eyes as if to say her husband was the one who needed reminding. “This is an in-ground pool. I can’t tell with the tarp covering it, but I bet it’s at least eight or nine feet deep. And I bet we can get a diving board installed, too.”
            “Great, I can practice my belly flops,” Calvin joked. “And let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This is starting to sound like a lot of money. It costs big bucks to keep up with a big pool like that in the summertime.”
            “So what?” Helen shrugged. “It’s not like we don’t have the money for it.”
            Calvin considered it for a moment. And it was true. They did indeed had the money to keep up with the pool and install a diving board. They had enough money to build a second pool if the town granted them the permits. Shit, Calvin had enough greenbacks sitting in his bank account that he could’ve converted his whole backyard nightclub without blinking an eye.
            But in addition to being one of the wealthiest defense attorneys in New York, Calvin was always a frugal man, pinching pennies wherever pennies could be pinched. And at that precise moment, the last things on his mind were summer or the pool.
            He was haunted by two things: The name Vito Corelli, and the history of his new home.
            Calvin was well aware of the macabre events that had transpired. Helen was the only one not clued in, and keeping this a secret from her was his top priority. But he had been off his game for days from lack of sleep, partially due to the nightmares that had assaulted him every time he drifted off to sleep. Every time he closed his eyes, he’d see flashes of crime scene photos. Photos of victims with white sheets draped over their bodies; the crimson red blood soaking right through the sheets.
            The victims had been placed on their knees and shot execution style, with a silenced 9MM Luger pressed to the back of their heads. Vito Corelli’s tumultuous relationship with the victims made him fall under suspicion instantly.
            But Calvin knew the evidence was all circumstantial. They were missing the three big factors that can make or break any case.
            Witnesses, they had none.
            Fingerprints, hair samples, blood samples, fiber, DNA; they had none.
            The silenced 9MM Luger; never recovered.
            They didn’t have the murder weapon. In fact, they didn’t have any solid evidence to link Corelli to the scene of the crime. All they had against him was hearsay and conjecture. But that didn’t change the fact that Corelli was guilty as sin.
            He sat in that courtroom every day with a smug grin smeared across his otherwise cold, emotionless face. His trial lasted five days and the deliberation process took less than an hour. The judge and the jury both found Corelli not guilty due to lack of evidence and he wriggled free from the hook yet again.
            He’ll never forget the day Corelli came up to him in the lobby after the trial like Marlon Brando in The Godfather, and threw his huge arm around Calvin, giving him a big sweaty bear hug. “I owe you big time,” Corelli had told him. “Anything you ever need, anything at all, you come to me. No questions asked. I’ll take care of it for you.”
            Calvin never forgot that day, and he certainly never forgot Corelli’s final remarks.
* * *
            Helen was curled up in the fetal position on her side of the bed, snoring peacefully with a sleep mask pulled over her eyes while Calvin lay restless beside her.
            Every time he tried to close his eyes, he’d get those flashes again. Flashes of crimson red blood and two bodies splayed under white sheets.
            The clock was a newer, digital model that clicked every time the numbers changed.
            2:03 AM. Click.
            2:04 AM. Click.
            2:05 AM. Click.
            It was enough to drive an insomniac insane. Not as if an insomniac needs any help in that department. Calvin knew the lack of sleep would inevitably turn his brain into mush and his body into jelly.
            At 2:06, when the clock clicked again, Calvin sat up and rolled off the bed gently so as not to disturb Helen. He walked to the door when he caught something out of the corner of his eye. He was being watched.
            A shadowy figure loomed in the corner of the bedroom. He couldn’t make out a face. All he could see were two green eyes that seemed to glow like cats eyes in the moonlight. They weren’t the eyes of a happy camper. They were the eyes of a man or woman who had suffered undeniable torture. The eyes of pain, the eyes of affliction.
            Calvin leapt back onto the bed, nearly waking Helen as he crawled underneath the covers and drew them over his head.
            He closed his eyes and didn’t see flashes of red. Instead, he saw flashes of a mysterious figure that was standing a few feet from the bed. Calvin’s mind was too fried from sleep deprivation to register the difference between apparition and hallucination.
            Though, writing it off as a hallucination would’ve made things a hell of a lot easier.
            When he pulled the sheet down from his head and opened his eyes, the apparition had faded into the night. It was just him, Helen, and the warm bathing glow of moonlight that shined through their bedroom window.
            And that’s when the voices started…
            Cries for help. Agonizing screams. Harsh whispers of the deceased. All the voices were begging for Calvin’s aid in alleviating their suffering.
            He tucked a pillow behind his head and folded the ends over his ears, holding them in place with both hands. But even that wasn’t enough to dull the voices.
            Because the voices weren’t in the room. The voices were in his head.
            At least that’s what Calvin chose to believe at first.
* * *
            Calvin had called out of work sick so he could visit the doctor at two o’clock. He lied to Helen, telling her he stayed home because he felt a slight touch of the flu.
            “I hope you’re not feeling too sick to greet the neighbors with me,” Helen had said.
            “No I think I can manage,” he said, forcing a smile. He wasn’t her husband at this moment. He was an actor struggling to constantly retain his character. He couldn’t let her catch on and know that something was amiss.
            Most of the neighbors proved to be pleasant, the one exception being Walter Greco, the cranky man who lived next-door. They presented him with a bunt cake and he squeezed out a thanks in such way that made Calvin realize he was speaking with a man who was not accustomed to saying thank you.
            They saw his wife, Emma, wheeling through the living room, but she never came to the door and Walter failed to give the proper introductions. He just accepted the cake, said thanks, welcome to the neighborhood, and then he shut the door in their face.
            “Remind me not to invite them over for pasta night,” Helen quipped, nudging Calvin in the ribs with her elbow in a teasing fashion.
* * *
The doctor’s office was newly renovated. The smell of fresh paint and newly installed pinewood was overpowering, almost nauseating. Ribbed pinewood wall panels lined the bottom half of the waiting room. The panels had been stained to give the wood a slick, glossy appearance.
He sat in the waiting room patiently, flipping through outdated celebrity gossip magazines until they called his name.
The nurse weighed him, took his blood pressure, and checked his heart rate. She assured him his blood pressure and heart rate was copasetic. And she remarked he was the perfect weight for his average height.
Then the nurse excused herself and left Calvin to wait for the doctor.
Five minutes later, Doctor Crenshaw walked through the door and introduced himself to Calvin. Crenshaw was on a first name basis with all his patients, but seeing as how Calvin was new in Fairview, he remained formal for this appointment.
“So, Mr. Kinnear, what brings you here today?”
“I don’t really know how to explain it without sounding, I’ll just say that I saw and heard things last night that I couldn’t have possibly seen or heard.”
“Psychosomatic auditory hallucinations,” Crenshaw said and chortled. “You should consider yourself lucky. Most people have to pay for such a thing. But in all seriousness, I must ask a few questions before I can give a diagnosis. Remember what I ask you and what you tell me is strictly confidential. I’m not obligated to share your information with anyone.”
“I understand,” Calvin nodded.
“Mr. Kinnear, do you use any drugs, including alcohol or tobacco?”
“I drink on occasion and I smoke one cigar for every victory in the courtroom as sort of a reward, but that’s it. I don’t use drugs.”
“You’re a defense attorney, right?”
“Would you say you’re under a lot of stress?”
“You could say that,” Calvin said, thinking of Corelli and those crime scene photos that had been submitted into evidence.
“And the voices, the visions, has this ever happened to you before?”
“No, never,” Calvin said emphatically.
            “What about sleeping? Are you getting enough rest?”
            “I toss and turn most nights, drift in and out of sleep.”
            “And what about food? Are you eating on a regular basis?”
            “I usually have breakfast and dinner, I skip lunch unless I’m meeting with a client or having lunch with a co-worker.”
            “Mr. Kinnear, it’s my personal diagnosis that you’re simply under a lot of stress. When we’re stressed out or distracted, when we’re not eating right or getting enough sleep, the mind doesn’t function properly. It can play tricks on you. And in reality, that’s probably what you experienced last night. Nothing more than mind hocus-pocus. But on the off chance I’m wrong, I’d like to schedule a series of tests, starting with a CT scan, just to make sure it’s nothing serious.”
            “Whatever you think is best,” Calvin said.
“And if this happens again, I want you to contact my office immediately. In the meantime, I’m going to write you a prescription for thirty doses of Ambien. It’s a sleep aid. It should help you get a good night’s rest.”
* * *
            But the Ambien failed to give Calvin a good night’s rest. He tossed and turned and kept cranking his neck to the side to peek at the corner of the room, expecting the shadowy figure to suddenly return the minute he let his guard down.
            Helen’s sleep mask was draped over her eyes and she was snoring away on her back as Calvin listened to the digital clock click every minute.
            SAVE ME, a voice cried out somewhere in the darkness of the room.
            “You’re not real,” Calvin said, not even aware he was speaking out loud. “You’re just in my head. Now leave me alone.”
            Help me, he’s got a knife, a second voice cried out from the dark.
            “LEAVE ME ALONE!” Calvin shouted and Helen snapped awake. She peeled the sleeping mask from her face and stared angrily at Calvin.
            “What the heck is your problem?” she asked, shaking her head.
            “Nothing, I just had a bad dream,” he lied. He was becoming an expert at lying straight to his wife’s face. “I’m sorry I woke you. Go back to sleep. I’m gonna go downstairs for some fresh air.”
            A set of clear glass sliding doors led out to the backyard, where Calvin sat by the tarp covered pool and tried to catch his breath.
            He looked up, and beyond the pool, beside a barren oak tree that had shed all its leaves, the shadowy figure loomed.
            Those dead green eyes gleamed in the pale moonlight. “What do you want?” Calvin shouted. “Name it and I’ll give it to you. You want us to move out?”
            The figure shook its head no.
            “You want me to demolish this place?”
            The figure shook its head no.
            “You just want me to help you?”
            The figure shook its head yes.
            “Help you with what?”
            The figure pointed one bony finger, devoid of all its flesh, towards the house next-door.
            Kill him, a voice commanded. Make him suffer the same fate I suffered.
            “Are you…Danny Miller?”
            The figure shook its head yes once more.
* * *
            Before he went through with it, he had to be sure. He had to know more about Walter Greco and the Miller family. He needed to understand the connection between the two, establish a motive for Greco’s heinous actions.
            When Helen had pulled Calvin’s arm to get him to go around greeting all their new neighbors with bunt cake, he had been introduced to Ms. Cobb.
            Myra Cobb had been divorced for twelve years, but she still preferred her husband’s name. Myra was thirty years his senior. Nevertheless, she was full of energy and spunk. A loquacious woman, Myra could drone on for hours if you got her started on the right topic. And like most neighbors, she did her fair share of gossiping.
            And that’s exactly what Calvin was hoping for when he paid Ms. Cobb a second visit, sans Helen on this occasion. She had offered cookies and coffee, but he declined both.
            “Water would be fine,” Calvin said.
            She fetched him a clean glass from the cupboard and poured him a glass from the tap. She had an ice bowl in the freezer that included a pair of ice tongs she used to drop three cubes into his glass.
            He sipped his water and she drank her coffee while they said in the living room. The sofa Calvin was seated on was plaid, and though it had been sealed in plastic, he could tell it had been scotch guarded from the texture. Ms. Cobb sat in old padded rocking chair. The chair had been there so long the floor was riddled with scuff marks from the wooden legs.
            She asked how they liked Fairview, and Calvin lied and said it was a pleasant place to live. Truth be told, he couldn’t wait to move back to the city.
            “What’s the deal with Walter Greco?” Calvin asked, trying to steer the conversation in Greco’s direction.
            “Whatever do you mean?” Myra asked, and right away Calvin could tell she was holding something back.
            “He seems like a bit of a grump. I hope I’m not out of line by saying that.”
            “Not at all,” Myra said, knowing she had called Greco worse in the past. “Walter is…well, he tends to keep to himself after the incident that occurred at your place. I’m sure by now you must be aware of what happened in your home.”
            “I’m aware,” Calvin said and then thought silently, more aware than you know. “But what does that have to do with Mr. Greco?”
            “Well if you met Walter, I suppose you meet Emma, too.”
            “The lady in the wheelchair? We weren’t properly introduced. He slammed the door in our faces before we had a chance to say hello to her.”
            “Well, there’s quite a story behind Emma and that wheelchair. I wouldn’t know where to start."
            “The beginning is always the best place.”
            “Danny Miller and Walter Greco never got along. But no one in the neighborhood knew why. The truth is that Greco found out Danny was sticking it to his wife while he was away on business trips. Emma confessed after he found a prophylactic wrapper under their bed. Supposedly, Walter was so overwhelmed with rage he pushed Emma down the staircase. That’s how she ended up in the chair.”
            “Do you think Walter Greco could’ve killed the Miller family?”
            “If a man could push his own wife down a flight of stairs, I suppose he’s capable of anything else he puts his sick mind to. The police certainly questioned him after the murder, but he had an alibi, and there was no evidence to link him to their house, your house, the night of the murder. Ever since then, he’s kept to himself.”
            “I really should be going,” Calvin got up to suddenly excuse himself. “Helen has a touch of the flu.” He lied again. He was becoming a real pro at this.
* * *
            March 5th was right around the corner. Every year, Helen flew from New York to San Francisco to spend her cousin’s birthday with her. All Calvin had to do was wait a few days. In the meantime, he had cashed in on Corelli’s promise and acquired his services. He needed Vito to obtain something a guy like Calvin could never get his hands on. And Vito was more than happy to oblige so long as Calvin didn’t tell him what he intended to use it for.
* * *
            March 5th, 1991. As Helen was in the air, Calvin set his plan into motion. He waited for nightfall and watched out a second floor window behind the maroon drapes Helen had him install. When the Greco’s bedroom light went out, that was his cue.
            He jimmied the backdoor open with a crowbar, which led him to the kitchen. There, he borrowed a chair from the kitchen table, careful not to drag it. He positioned the chair under the smoke detector and climbed on top, sparking a lighter and waving it back and forth in front of the detector until it started emitting a horrendously loud beep.
            He knew Emma would pose no threat with her chair. She wouldn’t be the one coming down the stairs to see what the problem was. He dropped from the chair and listened to the descending footsteps from the staircase.
            When Walter Greco entered the kitchen, the chair was back in place at the Formica table and the alarm was still beeping. His eyes darted around the kitchen, trying to find the cause of this disturbance, and the last thing he saw was the backdoor ajar.
            The needle pierced his neck as Calvin snuck up behind and jammed down on the plunger of the syringe. Hit with about fifty milligrams of liquid horse tranquillizer, Walter Greco’s world went black and he spilled to the floor, drifting off into a world of darkness.
* * *
            When Walter Greco came to, he tried to sit up, but his movements were restricted. That was when he realized he had been bound hand and foot with plastic zip-ties. He glanced over his shoulder and saw the in-ground pool.
            Calvin had removed the tarp the moment Helen had left for the airport. The pool was only half full, but Calvin figured it would do.
            The horse tranquillizer was only part one of a part two request. Calvin had also requested an unregistered firearm, preferably a 9MM Luger with a silencer.
            “What is this?” Greco asked as Calvin approached with the Luger in hand.
            “This is justice,” Calvin said. “I want you to feel exactly what Danny Miller felt. I want to see you submerged in that icy water.”
            “You’re crazy!” Walter screamed.
            “We’ll let the courts decide that. I am a defense attorney, after all. I’m a wiz when it comes to having people found mentally unfit to stand trial.”
            “You expect me to go in there willingly?”
            “Not at all,” Calvin said, giving him a hard kick and letting his body roll over the edge of the pool. His body splashed in the water, but even with his wrists and ankles bound, he was still able to keep his head above water due to the level.
            “Now let’s see how long you can hold your breath under there.”
            “Are you fucking kidding me?”
            “Do I look like I’m kidding?” he said, brandished the silenced 9MM Luger.
            Walter gasped, not at the sight of the gun, but at the sight of the shadowy figure that stood beside Calvin. It’s cold, dead green eyes were fixed on Greco.
            “God forgive me,” Walter said and took his final breath, lowering his head into the water.
            Calvin waited until the water stopping bubbling at the surface. When Greco was no longer breathing, he fished his body from the water and glanced over his shoulder. To his astonishment, the shadowy figure had vanished without a trace.
            He had given the Miller family peace. And now, like Greco, like Corelli, he was going to have to live with this on his conscious for the rest of his life.
            But Calvin didn’t think he’d have any trouble sleeping tonight. In fact, he was going to sleep like a baby.