Monday, February 6, 2017


Genre: Horror/Mystery

By Daniel Skye


            Richie Carter was standing over the fresh corpse of Kip Stern when the police burst in.

“Freeze!” a voice commanded, loud and authoritative. “Stay right where you are and put your hands in the air!” That’s how Richie knew it was the police with his back turned. If it had been anyone else, they wouldn’t have told him to freeze or put his hands in the air. If they had been anyone else, he would’ve been dead.

Richie sighed, exasperated. “I really need a drink,” he muttered.

He didn’t turn around to face the officers. They told him to put his hands in the air and freeze, and Richie complied. He wasn’t going to make any sudden movements and get himself shot before he had a chance to explain himself.

            “I know how this looks, officers. But I didn’t kill this man. Call the Dorchester PD. Ask for Anthony Carter. He’s my brother. He’ll tell you who I am and what I’m doing here.”

            “For your sake, I hope you’re telling the truth.” The officer whispered something to his partner and he stepped out into the hall. He called it in and requested Anthony. He was on the scene in a matter of minutes.

            “You’re off the hook, obviously,” Anthony told his brother. “We know you didn’t kill Stern. But I had to fill them in on the details. And I had to put out an APB on Garton. I had no other choice given this situation.”

            “Knowing Garton, he’ll find a way to evade capture. By the way, who called it in?”

            “Neighbor saw muzzle flashes and called 911. You got here right before our boys did. And as a cop, I have to ask this: Any clue on Garton’s next move?”

            “I know as much as you do. No idea who this mystery client is. And all the hits seem random. Reggie Muldoon and his crew. Now Kip Stern, who had zero connection to Muldoon. And no connection to Allen Painter, either.”

            “Speaking of Stern, there’s something you need to see. One of the boys found this envelope on the kitchen counter.”

            Richie didn’t quite see what all the fuss was about. Until he noticed who the envelope was explicitly addressed to. To Richie Carter was all it said.

Richie clutched the envelope in his hand, debating whether or not to open it. What could a man like Kip Stern have to say to Richie? How did he even know Richie’s name?

“Are you gonna open it?” Anthony asked.

“I don’t think I have any other choice.” Richie opened the envelope with the same caution one would use in disarming a bomb. He slowly removed the one-page letter and read it silently.

Dear Richie,

I hope I got the name right. My gift, if you can call it a gift, has its limitations. I’m not a mind reader or a fortune teller. I’m not the reincarnation of Nostradamus. I’m a terrible person who has done terrible things in this life. But I can sense things others cannot sense. And I sensed a man named Richie Carter would come seeking answers. However, I’ve been plagued by a vague premonition of my own demise. Should this note find you, it means my premonition was accurate and I am no longer among the living. But I know you are searching for answers. And while I can’t give you the exact answers you are looking for, I have a message for you. You have to go back to where it all started. The answer was right in front of you. You just missed it. Goodbye and good luck, Richie.

            Richie could not stop himself from shaking as a sudden chill enveloped the room. Though he seemed to be the only one affected by the precipitous change in room temperature. The cold air circulated around him, stinging the nape of his neck.

            “The dragonfly poster…” he whispered.

* * *

Thursday, December 20, 2012.

            Lucille sat undisturbed in her parlor. One of her bodyguards informed her that Garton was waiting for her in the hall. She welcomed him in, offered him a drink which he declined.

            “I assume your work is completed.”

            “I wouldn’t be standing here if it wasn’t,” Garton assured her.

            “And you were satisfied with your compensation?”

            “It was more than ample.”

            “Then how do you feel about another job? I purposely withheld this name from the list. And for good reason.”

            “Before I accept, I have to break one of my sacred rules. I have to ask you a few questions, Ms. Ferr.”

            “Ask away, Mr. Garton. I have nothing to hide from you. And as I said before, please call me Lucy.”

            “Lucy, you said your husband had enemies that were still trying to cut in on his business. I can only assume your husband was involved in the drug trade, and that’s why you wanted Reggie Muldoon and his crew out of the picture. But where does Kip Stern fit into all of this?”

            “He doesn’t. Kip Stern was a rotten man who needed to pay for his sins. The last time you were here, you said that in real life, the bad guys can win. I don’t necessarily share that philosophy. Kip was unrelated to my husband. His murder wasn’t business, it was personal.”

            “And where do you draw the line between business and personal?”

            “I draw the line with someone who violates women and gets away with it. Any other questions?”

            “Just two. Did you know a man named Allen Painter?”

            “Can’t say that I did.” Garton looked her up and down, perusing her, studying her body language for some telltale sign that would betray her. But Lucille was solid as a rock. She didn’t blink. She didn’t even flinch.

            “What about Kirk Warwick?”

            “I don’t know him. My husband never did business with either man as far as I’m aware. Now shall we discuss our business, or would you like to continue with the inquisition?”

            “I’m sorry,” he said. “Paranoia, I guess. Sometimes this job just gets the better of you. Yes, please continue.”

            “This guy is a real sicko, so I’m willing to double your usual rate. I’m shocked the cops or the FBI haven’t picked up on him yet. His name is Jimmy Rare. He’s a serial killer. Flays his victims and uses the skin to make purses, wallets, and other knickknacks. He lives right here in Dorchester, but he never kills the locals. He goes out of town to find his victims. Then he brings them back to his house and…I’m sorry, I can’t go on.”

            “Sounds like my kind of guy.”

            “So do we have an arrangement?”

            “We do.”

            “And in case you’re wondering, this is personal again. Not business.”

            “As long as it doesn’t affect my rate, I don’t care what the motives are. Although I am curious how you know about this guy and the police don’t have a clue.”

            “I have the money, the connections, and the resources to track down these scumbags. My men do a better job than the police ever could. But none of this is relevant. What is relevant is that Jimmy Rare is a sick man and he needs to be put out of his misery. And that sounds like your specialty.”

            “Works for me.”

            “Good,” Lucille said. “And if you survive, do come back. I have one more name on my list.”

            “If?” he scoffed. “When I finish this next job, I will be back. Mark my words, darling.”

* * *

            Richie returned to where it all started, to the scene of the crime. Allen Painter’s house.

            The property was still taped off with yellow police tape and the front door was locked, but being a private detective also made Richie an expert lock picker. It took him thirty seconds to get the door open.

            He closed it behind him and glared at the 3D art poster in the foyer. He didn’t stare for too long. He’d already glimpsed the symbol of death that lurked within that 3D pattern. He just made the mistake of ignoring it the first time around.

            In the living room, the walls were still stained with blood that had dried to a thick red crust. The words of Kirk Warwick were still present. Satan appears in many unassuming forms. He couldn’t have been more right.

            The police had already gone over the living room with a fine-tooth comb. They found no prints, no DNA other than Painter’s, no evidence, no murder weapon. They had thoroughly searched the entire house. But Richie knew there was something they had overlooked.

            He walked from the living room, down the hall to the kitchen. And there it was, sitting on the Formica table, as if it had been waiting for him the whole time, anticipating his return. The dragonfly was sealed in a glass jar with a perforated lid. Its transparent wings fluttered effortlessly as it floated from one side of the jar to the other, seeking escape.

            “Impossible,” Richie croaked, shaking his head defiantly. The cops would have seen the jar if it had been there that night. Someone, or something had placed it there for him to find.

           The backdoor in the kitchen creaked. Richie glanced over his shoulder. It was two men, all decked out like secret service agents. They had the suits and glasses. They even had the earpieces. And they had the size advantage. They were thick, meaty, burly bastards. And he could also see that they were armed.

            Richie immediately went for his gun, pulled the .44 Magnum from its holster, and fired several shots. He caught one of them in the shoulder, causing him to drop his gun. His associate wasn’t as lucky. He took two hot slugs to the chest and stomach.

            Splayed out on the floor, bleeding profusely, the wounded man crawled on his belly, leaving a trail of blood like a slug. He grabbed his gun, jammed the barrel in his own mouth, and squeezed the trigger.

            The other man eyed his gun on the floor.

            “Don’t even think about it,” Richie told him.

            “You can’t stop what’s coming,” the man said. “Satan is building an army. He won’t rest until his mission is complete. Armageddon draws closer.”

            “Who sent you?”

            “I won’t talk. Why do you think my partner just ate a bullet? He’d rather die than give up our employer. And so would I.”

            “Your employer must be quite intimidating. But I’ve come too far. And neither of us are going anywhere until I get some answers. Was it you two who killed Allen Painter?”

            “Painter is now soldier in Satan’s ever-growing army. Don’t you get it? This has nothing to do with Allen Painter. He wasn’t special. He was just another soul of the damned. You can’t stop this, you know? You can’t possibly stop what’s coming. Step aside. And maybe you’ll be spared.”

           Richie lost his focus momentarily as the Formica table began to shake. The jar vibrated and the lid rattled as it began to unscrew itself. The perforated lid popped off the top of the jar and sailed across the room.

            The man went for his gun on the floor, but Richie turned back and fired another shot, tearing off three of his fingers. The man squealed in pain as the dragonfly, now free from the jar, hovered overhead before it settled at his feet.

            Richie had seen this before. And he’d spent four years trying to forget it.

            He stood aghast as the dragonfly transformed before his spellbound eyes. The sight was both fascinating and utterly terrifying. The transformation was nearly instantaneous.

            Standing, literally standing before them, was no longer a harmless dragonfly. The man was engulfed by the shadow of a bipedal creature that towered over him. Its skin was black and rough as shoe leather. A forked tongue slithered out between its jagged teeth, tasting the air around it.

            Its tongue was coarse like sandpaper. It could lick your flesh down to the bone if it pleased. But that would take too much time. And this unholy creature didn’t seem like the patient type.

            “Dear, God,” the man cried.

            Richie shook his head. God can’t help you now.

            He couldn’t watch what was about to come next. He’d seen it all before. He closed his eyes, but it didn’t prevent him from hearing the bloodcurdling screams.

            He opened his eyes long after the screams had stopped. Their bodies were gone. Nothing but their guns and the blood remained. Richie turned back to the table and saw that the perforated lid was sealed, that the dragonfly was back in its jar like nothing had transpired. And now Richie had his answer. He knew who, or what killed Allen Painter.

            After the initial shock subsided, Richie got busy. He wiped his prints clean, left no trace behind. Then he tucked the jar under one arm and slipped out through the backdoor.

* * *

Richie drove his car back to his office in silence. The whole time he was fighting that voice in the back of his head that was screaming for him to imbibe. But he wasn’t going to let his personal demons win this round.

He left the jar in the Oldsmobile and went in. He turned on the lights, saw Garton sitting behind his desk, and reached for his gun.

“Nice,” Garton said. “.44 Magnum. Dirty Harry’s gun. You’ve got good taste. Have you met Fran?” He removed the SIG Sauer P226 from his holster and softly placed it on Richie’s desk.

“You can hold onto it for now if it make you feel safer. Just be gentle with her.”

“Why the fuck are you here? Do you know somebody called Kip Stern’s murder in? I followed you there and the cops found me standing over his body. I couldn’t cover for you. Not this time. My brother had to put out an APB on you.”

“I know,” Garton said. “I have a police scanner. And that’s why I’m here. I figure you owe me a favor.”

“How do you figure that?”

“You ratted on me. The least you could do is help me out. And besides, haven’t I helped you before in the past?”

“No way,” Richie said. “I’ve had enough for one night. And if the police catch me with you, I’m finished. I won’t be talking my way out of that one.”

“Hear me out. It’s in your best interest. Ever heard of Jimmy Rare?”

“Should I have?”

“I’ve done a little research on this guy. He’s one sick fuck. He makes me look like a model citizen by comparison. I don’t know how your brother and his boys missed this guy. But if they missed him, I doubt they’ll catch me.”

“So who the hell is he?”

“Serial killer; He skins his victims, turns them into wallets, purses, and sells them to department stores. Most of his victims are women. And he lives right here in Dorchester. But if that’s not enough reason to tag along, how about this? You get to take all the credit. Imagine going to your brother and telling him you nabbed a serial killer who was under his nose for years?”

Richie couldn’t believe he was actually considering Garton’s proposal. “But I can’t bring him in alive. Not if your client wants him dead.”

Garton shrugged his broad shoulders. “Dead or alive, it won’t matter as long as you have proof. And your brother doesn’t have to know who really pulled the trigger. Like you said, you can’t get caught with me. Nobody can know I was there with you. So you get all the recognition.”

“I’ve been trying to get on the force,” Richie said, still contemplating. “It’s hard for them to overlook my record. But this could do the trick. And if what you’re saying is true, the world won’t miss Jimmy Rare. But I need to see proof.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll get you proof.”

“And why do you even need me for this?”

“Backup. I’m gutsy, but I’m not crazy. My contacts have heard of him. He used to do small jobs for different crews before he went all psycho and started turning people into fashion accessories. If I walk in alone, I might not walk out. So what do you say, partner? Are you in?”

“You know the kind of man I am. My conscience won’t allow me to forgive myself if this man goes free.”

“Now you’re talking,” Garton snickered. “So does that mean you’re in?”

“Fine, but we’re taking your car.”

“Ah, just like old times. I had a feeling we’d be working together again someday.”

“Yeah, well, let’s try not to make a tradition out of this.”


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