Thursday, December 21, 2017

#008: MY KINGDOM FOR SOME COFFEE




I CROSSED THE STREET with a smile on my face and a spring in my step. I even whistled. I hadn’t felt this good since, well, since the last time I shot an ornery biter.

I don’t like vampires.

Ain’t a one of them has anything inside them but evil intent. They hate the human race, think of us as cattle. So I hate them right on back. There are ways a biter can survive without murdering and feeding off of human beings, but I’ve yet to meet one that’s tried. The world would be better off with each and every one of them in the ground.

I moved up the half a block to the office, my mind on coffee and bullet-ridden vampires when I turned the corner onto 7th and nearly tripped over a shaggy and unkempt figure sleeping it off on the side walk.

I stumbled, but didn’t fall. The man on the sidewalk just curled in on himself and continued to snore. Flies buzzed around him, zipping here and there, landing for moments on the undulating form before lighting off once again. There was a stench coming from the huddled mass that was wholly unique to the man. It was like a dead animal that had been soaked in cheap beer, rolled around in a landfill for a few days, and the left out in the sun for a week. That was Hal.

Normally, when I run across Hal, I leave him be. I couldn’t do that today, not while he was blocking my entry into the building. He’d either have to move, or I’d need to drive across town and buy my coffee at the Kwik Stop.

“Hal?” I gave him a prod with the toe of my shoe.

Hal stirred, burped, said something about a penguin, and broke wind. It was almost enough to ruin my good mood.

“Hal!” I said again, jabbing him with a bit more force.

Before I could so much as take another breath, I found myself lifted off of my feet and thrown back into the wall of my building. It took a moment before I realized that it was Hal that had done it. And he held me fast, too.

He didn’t say anything, just stared at me wild-eyed as he held me by the front of my coat, pressing me into the wall. He towered over me and I felt like a rag doll in his hands. His breath bore into me like a urinal in a restroom at a Royals game by the seventh inning stretch.

“Whoa, Hal,” I said, trying to force myself free, which wasn’t happening. I wasn’t going anywhere until Hal was ready to let me go.

“It lay in wait,” Hal said. “Using the form of a woman, a guise to draw me near, but I could not be fooled.”

His eyes had gone distant. I could see bits of bread and bone hanging in his full, dark beard. Knowing Hal the way I did, I assumed the bones were chicken, maybe turkey, but I’d never seen Eudora’s most famous homeless person act like this before and it caused me to reevaluate my feelings toward the man.

“Hal!” I shouted. “Let me go! You’re acting half a bubble off plumb, buddy! Don't make me shoot you!”

“The floor was more bones than stone,” Hal said. “The bones. The bodies!”

“Hal! Dang it! Someone’s bound to notice us here dancing like this and call the local constabulary! You don’t want to spend another night in a cell do you?”

For a man who sleeps on sidewalks and is often seen under the influence of whatever alcohol he can manage to scrounge up, Hal had spent very little time in the town jail.

“I never asked to be their hero!” Hal’s breath began to dissolve the inner lining of my nostrils. “I never asked to be anyone’s hero!”

Well, I’d had enough. I couldn’t shoot Hal, but I could dang sure get his attention the old fashioned way. After all, it had worked with the Walrus.

“Hal!” I shouted once more. One last chance.

He didn’t respond, so I kicked him between the legs.

He didn’t curl in on himself in pain, didn’t let me go, didn’t even so much as grunt. He just shook his head like he was clearing the cobwebs from his mind. He looked at me, looked down at his hands that were still clutching the front of my coat, and then he let me go.

“Norman?” he said as eyes once clouded became bright. “Good gravy, Norman, I’m sorry.” Though he was mostly hair, I could see that his face had turned as red as a tomato. “I don’t know what came over me. I sure hope you can forgive me.”

“Water under the bridge,” I said, straightening out my coat. “But you scared the bejeebers out of me, Hal. What was that?”

“Golly, Norman,” the big man said, looking down at his feet. “I’m not sure.”

No one knows where Hal had come from before he’d appeared one day sleeping it off in the park across from the old high school. He’d drifted into town a decade or two back and took up residence in Eudora’s back alleys, parks, and countryside. I’ve often attempted to beguile the man into telling me about himself from before, but Hal could be a wily customer when he wanted to be.

“Well, I’ll tell you what,” I said. “I’ll forget it if you forget it. Deal?” I held out my hand.

Hal brightened immediately. He looked up and his face was nothing but one big smile. He took my hand and shook it, nearly pulling my arm from its socket. “Deal! Thanks, Norman. Thanks a bunch.” He let go of my hand.

“Don’t mention it,” I said, thanking God that my healing ability would take the pain away soon.

“Oh no, I won’t mention it. No sir. Not one more word.” He made as if he was running a zipper across his lips.

“I’m glad,” I said. “Hey, I’m sure Bob has some coffee brewing upstairs. You want a cup?”

“Oh, no thanks, Norman,” Hal said, looking up 7th Street, away from Main. “But I gotta be going. Lots to do, lots to do, yes sir.” And with that he loped away. “See you in the funny pages,” he called over his shoulder, giggling like a little boy.

I shook my head as I watched him walk away. Once he was out of sight I sighed and climbed the stairs to my office.

Bob was my receptionist and as usual, he had arrived first and sat reading a book at his desk in the waiting room.

“You’re late,” he said without looking up. “You can get all the beauty sleep you want Norman, it won’t make you any less ugly.”

Bob had been with me for the better part of five decades now. He’s the only person left alive that I’ve known longer than Pat. He’s also the only person left alive, other than Pat, that I’d trust with my life, unconditionally.

“And a good morning to you too, Bob,” I said, shutting the door behind me. “Any messages?”

He set the book down and gave me a look that told me just how stupid he found my question to be.

“So, no then?” I said and then smiled.

“Was that Hal I heard you talking to outside?” He asked.

“It was.”

“Poor man. Someone should do something.”

“Like what?” I said. “He won’t take handouts and won’t stay at a shelter. Shy of asking the fella to move in what else can you do?”

“He turned me down,” he said, going back to his book.

“Turned what down?”

“I offered him my spare room. Told him he could stay there. He turned me down.”

“We’ll I’ll be, Bob. Who’da thought there was an honest too goodness heart beating there in your chest.”

He ignored me. He’s never found me funny. I’m used to it.

“Anyway,” I said. “Is there coffee?”

“No.”

“No?”

“I’m off caffeine,” he said from behind the book. “Doctor says it isn’t good for me.”

“Well I ain’t,” I said. “I was looking forward to a cup of coffee.”

“Then make some,” he said. “You’re capable.”

“That ain’t the point,” I said. “You’re my receptionist.”

“So?”

“So,” I said, the heat rising in my face. “Among your job duties is making coffee.”

“Since when?”

“Since you started making coffee every morning fifty years ago.”

He put the book down.

“I made coffee each morning because I wanted coffee,” he said, then he disappeared behind the book once more.

I stood looking at him, thinking of something to say. If there was one thing Bob excelled at, it was getting my dander up. However, I knew this was a fight I wasn’t gonna win.

“Fine, I’ll make the coffee,” I said.

Just inside the front door to my office was a small table where the coffee maker sat. Or at least used to. It was gone.

“Where’s the coffee maker?”

“I threw it out.”

“What?” I said. “Threw it out? Why?” I realized that I was shouting.

“I’m off caffeine,” said Bob. “I said that already.”

“I heard you, and like I said, I am not!”

“It was my coffee maker,” he said.

“I wanted coffee!”

“You got a coffee maker at home,” he said. “What’s wrong with it?”

“I broke the pot on a walrus,” I shouted. Then, to force the point home, I crossed the room, entered my office, and slammed the door closed behind me.

I threw my coat onto the coat tree in the corner before I snatched up the mug on my desk. I frowned at the layer of dried creamer and sugar at its bottom and spent a few moments washing it out in the sink of the private bathroom attached to the office.

Then, because there was no coffee, I set it back on the desk with such force that I was surprised it didn’t go through.

I sighed and went to the large picture window that looked out onto Main. The window was taller than I was and I put a foot up on the sill, thinking about coffee. Maybe I could take a ride out to the Kwik Stop, they made a decent cup.

I could see the entrance to the Pub from the window and smiled. Lemonzeo stood out on the sidewalk with the two biters. I smiled because they were arguing. I couldn’t hear what they said, of course, but it was obvious that the biters weren’t happy. I could only assume that I was the cause of their ire, and that made me smile even more.

Lemonzeo however, did not get where he was by not knowing how to get things done. It only took a few moments, but he soon had the biters pacified and then saw them off in a stretch limo. I watched Abner as he stood at the entrance to the Pub, watching the limo speed off down Main at well over the legal limit. Then, as he was about to turn and go back into the Pub, he looked up the street at me standing at my window. I gave him a quick, two-fingered salute. He scowled and disappeared inside the small bar.

The phone on my desk gave an annoying buzz. I sat and looked at the display. I was Bob in the other room. I pressed the speaker button.

“Did you change your mind about the coffee?” I said, a smile in my voice.

“Clem Sims is here to see you,” he said.

Clem Sims? What did he want?

“Send him in,” I said.

Clem lived alone in a ramshackle, one level house out on Church street between Ninth and Tenth. The man himself was like his house: Gray, full of cracks, and long in the tooth. He’d been living in the old home for close to sixty years and had worn the same thing every day of it. Overalls over red flannel, boots, and a straw hat. All of which were perpetually stained with oil, mud, or both. The hat he only removed when indoors.

“Thank you for seeing me, Mr. Oklahoma,” Clem said as he entered, hat in hand.

“Please,” I said. “It’s Norman.” I gestured to the two chairs in front of my desk. “Have a seat.”

“Thank you,” he said, sitting.

Clem held on to his hat with both hands. In fact, were the hat a living being, like the one in them books about those wizard kids, I’d have expected to hear strangling sounds.

“What can I help you with, Clem?” I asked.

“Well,” Clem said, his voice cracking. He cleared his throat and then continued. “I ain’t sure how to put this, so I’m just gonna come on out and say it. Aliens are stealing my cats.”




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Monday, December 18, 2017

#007: MAKE FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE VAMPIRES




EVENTUALLY PAT’S PEOPLE SHOWED, loaded the Walrus into an armored paddy wagon, and hauled the big fella away. The Walrus had stayed down the entire time. Pat really nailed him a good one. She always did pack a punch.

I waved to Pat and her officers as they drove away, feeling a real sense of accomplishment for it still being morning. Once the police vehicles disappeared over the hill in the distance, I went back into the house and slid into my trench coat. It was time to pay Abner Lemonzeo a visit. Then coffee, I needed my coffee.

I grabbed up a set of keys I had hanging on a peg by the door to the garage. The keys went to the rust-colored 1967 Scout parked on the other side of the door. Like me, it was old.

My place is about five minutes north of Eudora out past the Kansas River. This time of the year the ride from my home to the office is bordered by empty fields ready for winter. When the crops are up, you’d ride with a wall of corn to either side. Now, it’s just dirt all the way to the hills. I’ve long since learned to tune it all out.

Eudora, as I’ve said, is not what one would call a big town.

But it ain’t small neither.

I like to think of it as the little town that could.

Located between Kansas City and Lawrence on Kansas Highway 10, Eudora has always had the potential to be more than it was, and slowly but surely, the town has struggled to crawl its way out of the small town moniker. Eudora continues to grow, despite the bypass that has allowed those driving between Lawrence and Kansas City to do so without coming into town.

It ain’t nowhere near where I’m sure the city leaders want it to be, but it’s doing just fine in the grand scheme of things.

Main Street, between 10th and 7th, is Eudora’s downtown business district. Which, to be honest, ain’t much.

My office is there, of course. Plus we got a bank, a comic book store that used to be a bank, a coffee shop, a hardware store, two eateries—Mexican and Chinese—and then there’s the Pub.

The Pub is just that. It’s a dirty little hole in the wall located on the west side of the eight hundred block of Main. Right in the middle. And is owned by one Abner Lemonzeo.

Before I’d had him sent to prison, most of his illegal dealings had been conducted in the dark and smoke-filled confines of the tiny bar. Back then more money had passed through the Pub in a single day than had gone through both of Eudora’s banks in a week. The dank pit was once the cornerstone of all illegal activity in Eastern Kansas and Western Missouri. Big fish from Kansas City spent much of their time sitting in a booth in the back of the Pub—Abner’s booth—conducting business.

It was there that I expected to find him.

My office is across the street, and though it’s about three storefronts to the north, I can see the Pub’s front door from the window.

I parked the Scout there at the curb in front of my office and crossed over to the other side of Main on foot. The traffic was light and so I took my time.

I found Lemonzeo where I thought I would, in his booth in the back. With him sat two men in suits across the table, their backs to me. Abner hadn’t changed a bit. If anything, he looked harder. Prison will do that to a person, it pounds on you until you break, or you become the hammer.

He was dressed all in black: Suit jacket, tie, and shirt. I wanted to punch him in his face for that fact alone. But I kept my cool.

He still shaved his head, and he still sported that greasy little black mustache. I’d often imagine him twisting that mustache as he thought up his evil little schemes—like tying a woman to a set of railroad tracks.

Lemonzeo looked up as I approached the booth and surprise flashed across his face. It didn’t last long however, he covered himself quick enough. I wouldn’t have even noticed it had I not been looking for it. He smiled as if he’d been expecting me.

“Norman Oklahoma,” he said. “What brings you into my establishment?”

“Abner,” I said, giving him a small nod. I turned to the two men sitting across from him. “You’re in my seat.”

“Excuse me?” the first man said, his face was stone, a blank slate.

“You heard me, pal. Take a hike.”

Stone Face looked over to his partner who nodded. The two men were identical but for the hair. Stone Face had yellow hair that jutted up from his head in thick spikes. His partner, or more obviously his brother, had hair that was blacker than the dead of night. He looked more like a politician.

With permission requested and then granted, Stone Face slid languidly from the booth, stood, and looked down at me.

The guy was big, easily a full head taller than I was. Guys like him think they can intimidate others into getting their way, and with most people they might succeed.

I ain’t most people.

“Breath mint,” I said. “Look into it.”

The guy didn’t smile, didn’t grimace, didn’t even blink.

“Vampires, Abner?” I said, my eyes never moving from the fella in front of me. “You ain’t back a full week and you’re already leaping into bed with these monsters?”

Abner chose not to respond.

The moment Stone Face had stood I’d known what he was. Vampires have a way of moving that’s unlike us normal folk. It’s subtle, and most people don’t notice it, but it’s obvious to those of us who know what to look for. But it ain’t just the way he moved that clued me in; it was the smell that rolled off of him. The smell of blood. This vampire recently fed. Again, it’s subtle, but unmistakable.

Almost casually, as if he didn’t have a care in the world, Stone Face reached into his jacket. I had a Peacemaker in hand and pointed at his head before he could pull whatever it was he had been going for.

I thumbed back the hammer.

“Come now, Norman,” Lemonzeo said. “This isn’t necessary.”

“I think it is,” I said, and squeezed the trigger.

The gun crashed and Stone Face flew backwards, landing with a dull thud a few feet away. His body lay there on the floor in an unnatural way. But though he was down, he wasn’t out, despite the point blank .45 caliber slug to the head. He was up in an instant, crouched on all fours and hissing.

It wasn’t a pleasant sight. Part of his head was gone; in fact it painted most of the back wall and floor. But I could already see that the skull was mending itself, rounding off to cover the hole the bullet had made. The brain matter and other gooey things found inside a vampire’s head were mending as well. Soon he’d be fully healed.

“Okay, Biter,” I said, pulling the other Peacemaker, “let’s do this.”

He leaped, and I fired, hammering him back to the ground. I continued to fire, keeping the creature nailed to the floor. I could see his partner moving out of the corner of my eye and without even so much as a look in his direction, my arm slid his way and I shot him down too.

Contrary to what the movies and books tell us, vampires aren’t affected by sunlight and aren’t all that easy to kill, relatively speaking. A stake to the heart won’t do it. Drive a pointy wooden stick into their chest and the only thing you’re gonna accomplish is to piss the thing off. Hold up a clove of garlic in front of their face and they’ll probably eat it. And a crucifix, yeah . . . you might as well come at them with one of those orange sections of toy race car track from all the good it will do you.

The only way to put a biter down for good is to fill it full of silver.

Being who I am, I have a well-stocked munitions cabinet full of silver bullets. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to bring any with me. This meant I’d have to rely on what I had on hand. Regular bullets would break the skin, make them bleed, and hurt like hell, but in the end I was just buying time.

“Enough!” Lemonzeo yelled, still seated in the booth.

The two biters froze. Blood oozed from the various holes I’d put in them, but only for a moment or two before they closed up. Too bad they couldn’t say the same for the holes I’d put in their suits. That thought alone made me smile.

“I have business to conduct, Norman. Did you want anything in particular or did you just stop by to shoot at my customers?”

“I had a nice talk with your pet walrus, Abner,” I said, reloading, leaving the spent shells to roll about on the Pub floor. “So I thought I’d just swing by and welcome you back. Shooting up your guest’s expensive suits was just one of those happy accidents you hear about all the time.” I gave the biters a wink.

“Well, that was neighborly of you, Norman. Tell me, did you leave the Walrus alive?”

“Oh, he’s alive. He ain’t happy, but he’s breathing.”

“Are we done here?” Lemonzeo asked.

I looked from him to the two vampires, they weren’t happy neither. I was just pissing everyone off this morning. I’d pay for it later, but it would be worth it. My only regret was that I hadn’t been packing silver.

“As long as you’re free and doing business with the likes of these two, we ain’t done, Abner,” I said and turned to leave. But as I reached the door I turned back. “Oh, I almost forgot. Send someone to kill me again; you better hope they do the job right. Otherwise I’m gonna return the favor, and I don’t miss.”

With that, I left.




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Thursday, December 14, 2017

#006: THE CASUAL TALK OF MURDER




ABNER LEMONZEO PACED THE floor of the Pub, one hand in the pocket of his custom tailored blue suit, the other holding an unlit cigarette. The urge to smoke was a distant memory, despite where he’d spent the last five years, but he couldn’t think without a cigarette in hand, so he’d always kept a pack around.

He turned to look at the clock over the bar. They were late, the men he was waiting for, if men could be the right word. He wasn’t sure anymore. So much had changed while he was away. Men or not, he couldn’t abide lateness. Were they anyone else, he might have had them killed. But not these two. These men—this deal—meant money. And money was the one thing he desperately needed.

He glanced at the floor and shook his head. Had no one bothered to run a mop or vacuum over this place while he’d been gone? The bar, called the Pub, wasn’t a big place. A few booths on each wall and four stools in front of an adequately stocked bar. The financial intake had never been enough to do more than break even each year, but he’d always wanted to own his own bar. Yet now, as he kicked at a clump of mud that some hillbilly had tracked in, he wondered if it had been worth it.

It was going to take weeks to get this place back into shape, and he didn’t know if he had the energy anymore. Kicking once more at the mud, he swore under his breath and returned to his pacing.

His circuit took him to the front of the Pub and he paused to look out onto the street through a window stained with five years of cigarette smoke. He sighed, itching to go back behind the bar for glass cleaner and paper towels. Running a finger over the layers of grime, he sighed once again when nothing, no dirt or grit, came off onto this finger. The stains were there to stay. He’d have to replace the glass, cleaning just wouldn’t do it.

The windows were more like walls now, blocking his ability to see much beyond the darkened glass, so he abandoned the window and opened the door. The early morning sun shone in at him and he squinted, shielding his eyes with the hand that still held the cigarette. Five years ago he’d never be caught dead showing his face at such an early hour. But now, well he’d become accustom to rising with the sun.

He walked back behind the bar and poured himself a drink. Things had really gone to hell while he’d been away. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected to walk back into now that he was out, but broke and powerless hadn’t been high on the list.

The door opened and two men walked into the bar. For a moment Lemonzeo thought he was seeing double.

Both men wore matching suits, dark and expensive. But the similarities didn’t end there; these men were brothers, twins, identical in almost every way. Except for the hair.

“You’re late,” Lemonzeo said.

“Yes, we hope you will forgive us this transgression,” the one on the right said, removing his sunglasses. His hair was black. So black that your eyes wanted to avoid it. It was also a conservative cut, but expensive.

He approached the bar and offered his hand. Lemonzeo took it.

“I am Alexander,” the man said. “And you are Lemonzeo?”

“I am,” Lemonzeo said. A chill had settled into his hand and crept up his arm. He let go of Alexander’s hand and the cold fled. Lemonzeo shivered. He’d never shaken the hand of a vampire before.

“My brother,” Alexander said, gesturing to the other man who had remained by the door, “is Thomas.”

Thomas’ hair was blond, nearly brighter than the sun. He wore it in direct contrast to his brother, spiked like that of an old punk rocker.

“Would either of you like a drink?” Lemonzeo said, not sure what vampires drank, and shivered once again at the thought of it.

“No, thank you,” Alexander said. “My brother and I are fine. Shall we get down to business?”

“Good idea,” Lemonzeo said. “We can sit over here.”

He gestured to a booth near the bar and the two sat. Thomas remained by the door, looking out onto the sidewalk.

“Would your brother like to join us?” Lemonzeo said.

“No, he would not. He will ensure we are not interrupted.”

“That shouldn’t be an issue; we don’t open for another six hours.”

“Regardless,” Alexander said and spread his hands out as if to say that’s how it was.

“Whatever floats your boat,” Lemonzeo said, leaning back in his seat. “Now, you called this meeting, why don’t you tell me what it is you need from me.”

“It is not what we need from you, Mr. Lemonzeo; it is what we need from each other.”

“Oh yeah? And what do I need from you?” He knew full well what he needed from the two brothers. Money.

“Come now, Mr. Lemonzeo. Let us not play these little games with each other. You have spent the last five years in prison and have returned at last to find your little empire crumbled. Klein and his dogs have taken most of what you once owned.” He looked around the bar in disgust. “And what little you have left is withering on the vine.”

“And you’re going to just fix all this for me? Just like that?” Lemonzeo said snapping his fingers with the word ‘that’.

“Not us, Mr. Lemonzeo. Our employer.”

“Your employer. The mysterious Mr. Brone. Why does he want to help me?”

“Simple, Mr. Lemonzeo. Mr. Brone does not like the idea of Klein and his dogs gaining too much power, and while he cannot go up against Klein directly, he would like to see the dog knocked down a peg or two.”

“So you want me to take on Klein?” Lemonzeo said. “Start a war?”

“Yes, and we will fund it.” Alexander smiled, though his eyes showed none of it. They reminded Lemonzeo of shark’s eyes: cold, calculating, unsympathetic. The eyes of a machine.

“Why me? I’m lead to understand that your boss holds quite a bit of power himself?”

“There are rules, Mr. Lemonzeo. One must follow the rules if we wish to remain civilized.”

“Well, I’m not opposed to taking back what’s mine from Klein, I have nothing to lose. But what do you gain? What’s in it for Brone?”

“It is just as I said. Mr. Brone does not like Klein. He is uncomfortable allowing the dog to possess such power in the area. You used to run things; he would like to see you return.”

“And that’s it?”

“Actually, no,” Alexander said, leaning forward. “Mr. Brone has certain interests in this area.”

“You mean whatever it is he’s doing up there in my old nightclub,” Lemonzeo said. “I’m not stupid; I know there’s more than dancing going on out there.”

“The Vampire’s Nest was purchased from you legally, Mr. Lemonzeo. What Brone does with his property is his business, not yours. Just as our plans are our plans. However, we also do not want to attract the attention of a certain individual in town.”

“Yeah, vampires tend to pique his interest.” Lemonzeo knew the individual in question. In fact, he was having him killed this morning. “I’m actually quite surprised he hasn’t come after you by now.”

“So far we have managed to stay off of his radar, but it has been proving difficult. It is only a matter of time before his eyes turn our way. That is where you come in.”

“How’s that?”

“We want you to kill him.”

“Just like that, huh?”

“Just like that.”

“Well,” Lemonzeo leaned forward. “It won’t be easy. Or cheap.”

“We never assumed it would be.”

Alexander reached into his suit jacket and produced an envelope, thick and near to bursting. He tossed it onto the table where it landed with a heavy thud.

Lemonzeo picked it up and looked inside at the hundred dollar bills that strained against the envelope’s seams. He ran a thumb along the bills. He could do a lot with the money. It was certainly a nice big step toward getting his empire back.

“Consider that an advance,” Alexander said. “There is plenty more. Once the job is done—once the man is dead—you can practically write your own check, Mr. Lemonzeo. Do we have a deal?”

Lemonzeo wanted to shout out that yes, hell yes they had a deal. Money, after all, can carry a conversation like nobody’s business. Yet, vampires . . . It’s not like he’d never had dealings with them before, but he was reluctant to put his future into the hands of someone who was not human.

He ran a thumb along the bills once again, flipping through them, seeing the number 100 as it ran along the corner of the bills like an old motion picture show. He sighed and reached out a hand, offering it to Alexander.

“We have a deal,” Lemonzeo said.

Alexander took his hand and smiled, his shark eyes looking through him.

“Good,” Alexander said. “You will soon be back to your former glory, Mr. Lemonzeo. My brother and I will return tomorrow with your first payment so that you can begin your operation against Klein.”

“I look forward to it,” Lemonzeo said.

“And the man we spoke of? He will be dead before we speak again, yes?”

“Most assuredly,” Lemonzeo said.

“Good, then let us talk of your next step. If you are to wage war with Klein, we have certain targets in mind.”

The other vampire, Thomas, joined them at the booth. He let them talk, though he wasn’t listening. He was already spending the money in his head.

He’d definitely have to get those windows replaced. Then he’d have to hire some muscle and acquire weapons. That shouldn’t be too hard providing all his old contacts were still in business. After all, no one ran product through this one horse town like Abner Lemonzeo.

And all he had to do was kill Norman Oklahoma.

He tried not to laugh. If all was going according to plan, Oklahoma should already be dead.



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Monday, December 11, 2017

#005: HOW TO TAKE OUT A WALRUS




I’VE ONLY EVER HAD to fire a gun in my house twice.

The first time was back in 1967. There was a Bigfoot involved. It was this whole thing. I ain't prepared to get into it just now.

The second was in 1982. I shot and killed a werewolf in my bathroom. I don’t recommend it. They bleed a lot. I went through a lot of towels that day. In the end I wound up redoing the entire bathroom: floors, paint, the whole nine yards.

I didn’t really feel like shooting anyone today. I don’t like killing. I won’t hesitate to do it if it needs to be done, and with some of these monsters it’s your only real option. But I take no joy in it.

Well, that ain’t entirely true. Taking out a rascally vampire can often make me smile, and the thought of putting a bullet into Abner Lemonzeo warmed my heart a bit.

But the Walrus? Well, he was just doing what he’d been paid to do. I’d rather see him in chains. Besides, I couldn’t afford to redo the kitchen like I’d done with the bathroom.

“You keep working that tape and I’ll have to put you down, son,” I said, my pistols steady, unmoving, rock solid.

He ignored me.

I took a quick glance behind me at the front door where Pat had fled just moments before. It wasn’t like her to run from a fight, and that had me concerned. Turning back to the Walrus I struggled to try and explain to myself just what Pat had done. Surely she hadn’t run. She must have gone for back up. That was the only logical explanation.

Meanwhile, the thick layer of tape that surrounded the Walrus’s wrists looked to be reaching their breaking point.

“I’m warning you,” I said, then reversed the pistol in my right hand so that I held it by the barrel. I leaned in close to the smelly beast and rapped him a smart one across the top of his head with the butt of the revolver.

If I’d hurt him, he was good at hiding the pain. Instead of groaning or shouting he just swiped at me with his hands. Lashed together as they were, they made one big fist, which took me fully in the shoulder. My arm went numb. I didn’t notice this right away, my attention had instead been drawn to the fact that I was flying through the air.

I landed on my back in the middle of the upturned table that lay in my living room, but I still held on to my guns, and that’s what really matters. It took me a moment to get up, and as I stood, a sharp pain lancing into my spine, the front door flew open and Pat walked in.

In one hand she held a pump-action shot gun. In the other she steadied a small battering ram that had been slung over her shoulder. They’re employed by police forces the world over to knock in doors.

“Catch,” she said, and tossed the shot gun my way.

I holstered my pistols and caught the shot gun. Pat, in the meantime, had taken the ram by the two flexible handles that looped out of its side.

The ram was a little over three feet long and must’ve weighed forty to fifty pounds. Pat swung it like a pro. As the tape around the Walrus’s wrists began to tear, the ram connected with the side of his head. The sound of the impact was thick and meaty, like hitting a side of beef with a sledgehammer.

The Walrus dropped. His eyes rolled into the back of his head, he let out a little sigh of pain, and then fell back like a sack of bricks.

“I thought you’d run out on me,” I said.

She just laughed. “Cover him with that scatter gun while I call this in,” she said, pulling a phone from her pocket. “He should be out for a while, but I’d like to get a couple deputies out here as soon as possible.”

I pumped a round into the chamber, keeping both eyes fixed on the Walrus. I noticed that blood trickled from a small cut on his temple where the ram had hit it. The blood was a dark gray, almost black. The fridge impacting with the top of his head had only left a lump. I wanted to find that curious, but frankly I just couldn’t make myself care that much. I just wanted him out of my house so I could get dressed and have my morning coffee.

“Everyone but Tim and Lyle are on their way,” Pat said as she pocketed her phone.

“So two guys then?” I said.

“No, three.”

“You hired a new officer?”

“I did,” Pat said. “She just started today.”

“She’s going to have quite the initiation then,” I said and smiled.

“Here,” she held out her hand. “I’ll take the shot gun. You go put some pants on.”

In the bedroom I pulled on a dark gray suit, adjusting the tie carefully in the mirror. I figured I’d need to pay a visit to Lemonzeo. I can’t have people just sending folks out to kill me without some form of retribution. He needs to know that doing such just ain’t in his best interest. But that could wait until I’ve had my coffee.

I looked myself over in the mirror. I buttoned up my vest and adjusted the tie a few more times. I left the suit jacket on the hanger. I don’t wear suit jackets. They get in my way when I’m going for my guns. The long coat is fine, but a suit jacket falls just at that spot where it bothers me. Maybe others can do it, but not me. I can’t explain it, so I ain’t gonna.

The last thing I did was to strap on my guns. I checked each of the Peacemakers, rotating the cylinder as I slid each shell out, and then back in. Some may consider it obsessive, but I always like to check, double check, triple check, and then check once more before I check the last time. You can never be too careful when preparing for a gun battle.

Was I going into a gun battle?

Not likely, but I didn’t think I’d wake up to find a killer walrus in my kitchen neither, so I felt it prudent to prepare.

I stood, snatched the trench coat and hat—a fedora—from a hook on the wall near the door. I threw the coat over one arm and placed the hat on my head as I left the room.

I’ve been told, all too often, that I look like one of them FBI fellas from the 1930’s. And I suppose I do. Once I find something I like, I tend not to let it go.

I found Pat still standing over the Walrus and I tipped my hat to her.

She smiled in return.

We remained in silence for a few minutes, both of us watching the unconscious form of the killer mutant. The blood that had oozed from the wound on the thing’s head had stopped flowing and had congealed on the skin. The wound itself looked less shallow and not as long. It appeared to be closing, meaning that the Walrus, like me, healed with a quickness.

“You going to tell me why this thing was after you?” Pat asked, breaking the silence and interrupting my thoughts.

“Abner sent him,” I said.

“Lemonzeo?” she said. “I knew he’d gotten out, but what’s he got against you?”

“He’s still a little sore that I got him arrested in the first place, I guess.”

“Talk about holding a grudge.”

“I know, right?”

“You planning on doing something about it?” she asked.

“I haven’t decided,” I lied.

“Come on, Norman. We don’t lie to each other.”

“I might go have a talk with the man,” I said.

“Talking’s fine, Norman,” she said. “It’s the shooting that’s going to get me involved.”

“I ain’t never shot no one that didn’t deserve shooting,” I said.

“Regardless, we still have laws, Norman. You go downtown and do something stupid like shoot Abner Lemonzeo, well, I’m going to have to deal with that.”

“I have no plans to shoot the man, Pat,” I said.

“Good, keep to those plans.”

But, as I looked down at the Walrus and thought about what Lemonzeo had done, as I wrapped my mind around the fact that were it not for the lyrics to a Beatles song I might be dead, another Beatles song began to slide through my thoughts.

Happiness is a Warm Gun.

I couldn’t help but smile.



Thursday, December 7, 2017

#004: THE TREE RAT COMETH




WAITING FOR THE POLICE with a walrus passed out on your kitchen floor is an exercise in patience. I could only stare at the thing for so long before my eyes grew heavy.

I tugged on the tape that bound his arms and legs and felt fairly confident that it would hold, but I wasn’t prepared to take too many chances. So I jogged back into the bedroom at the other end of the hall. As I said earlier, on the bed were my clothes for the day along with a pair of Colt Peacemakers, revolvers of a bygone era when the West was wild and untamed.

The Peacemakers were custom built and given to me by Colt Firearms. I’d grown quite accustom to them. Sure, nowadays there’s a passel of shooters to choose from. But I like to stick with what I know. Besides, I like old things.

I strapped them on over the robe. I like to wear them low on each hip, ready for a quick draw. When I’m out in public, I have to keep them concealed—I have a permit to carry, but it makes people nervous to see a man without a badge go heeled—so I wear a long coat. It doesn’t keep them completely hidden, but it works most days of the week. I could use shoulder holsters, but I might lose an eighth of a second clearing leather, and any time I can save could mean someone’s life. Besides, I liked the long coat, even in the summer. The heat’s never bothered me.

I’m sure I looked every inch the dashing hero in my robe, but the authorities could arrive at any minute and I didn’t want to be caught with my pants down, so I ignored the clothes for now.

Once back in the kitchen I realized that the Walrus had begun to smell, or maybe there had been a stench to him the entire time and it just took me leaving the room for a moment to notice. Either way, I decided to wait for the police on the front porch with a glass of water and a comic book.

I’d have preferred coffee over water, but considering that the pot lay shattered all over my kitchen, I’d have to make due with whatever else I had on hand. Which was water.

I felt the loss of the coffee deep within my soul; you might even say I went through the five stages of grief as I stood there at the kitchen sink filling a glass from the tap. The logical side of my brain fought back, telling me that coffee wasn’t out of my life for good, I could always make a run into the Kwik Stop and purchase a cup. Heck, I had a coffee maker in the office in town. That shone a little brightness into my soul. Once the Walrus was carted off, I’d head on in to the office and partake. Until then, tap water would have to do. The comic would help.

Feeling a little better about the whole affair—going about heeled sure helped—I took my water and comic book and headed out to the porch. I sat in an old rocker and took in the morning: the smell of the dew on the grass, and the sound of the birds in the trees.

I’m out in the country where life was a mite more tranquil then being in town, but still, once in a while a car would wind lazily down the gravel road past the house. I sipped my water, frowning at the lack of heat and bitterness, and read my comic book.

A squirrel hopped up onto the porch from the grass below and stood on its hind legs looking at me with its head cocked slightly to the side in the way that animals do, like they’d just asked you a question.

“You the backup?” I said, giving the rodent one of my most dazzling smiles. “You here to finish me off since your pard weren’t up to the task?”

It just cocked its head to the other side and continued to stare at me, its nose twitching.

"Well?" I said. “You got something to say, then say it. Otherwise, git.”

The squirrel remained. Its little nose flicked up and down. It didn’t talk, and it didn’t move. It just stared at me. I don’t know that I actually expected it to start speaking, but after arguing with a walrus, nothing would have surprised me.

"If you ain’t got nothing to say then git!" I snarled.

I tried to ignore the squirrel, but it wouldn’t stop staring. I raised the comic book, blocking the squirrel from my sight, but after about five minutes, I found myself skimming through the comic instead of actually reading it. I kept looking over the top at the squirrel. The squirrel met my eye every time.

“You best git if you know what’s good for you,” I said.

The squirrel didn’t move.

I sighed and went back to the comic.

I’d actually read three full pages before glancing over the top of the book again. The squirrel was still there, only he’d moved six or so inches closer.

“Git!” I yelled and then I tossed the glass of water at it.

The squirrel stood its ground as the glass sailed uselessly over the thing’s head. It continued to stare.

"Dang it!" I stood. "Quick staring at me you dern tree rat!" I tried to kick the fluffy little rodent, but it hopped nimbly to one side, so I missed and fell off the porch.

I rolled about a bit in the grass, the dew soaking my bathrobe.

That’s when the rage took over. I’m not an easy man to anger, but once I am, watch out. It’s not a quality I’m proud of, but it’s there all the same.

I jumped back up to the porch and did my best to stomp the squirrel into the woodgrain. It just danced back and forth, dodging each stomp as I cursed and fumed.

“Stupid tree rat!”

STOMP

“Get off my dern porch!”

STOMP

“Don’t make me kill you!”

STOMP

The squirrel remained. I had but one choice left.

I drew both pistols, thumbing back the hammers as I cleared leather.

The squirrel blinked.

I smiled.

"Norman?" a voice said from behind me.

I turned in surprise. A woman in a Stetson hat and the khaki uniform of a Eudora Police Officer stood at the bottom of the three steps leading up to the porch. She was looking up at me, her face painted with worry and concern.

“Hey, Pat,” I said, trying to catch my breath. I released the hammers slowly and holstered the guns. “Dang squirrel went and got my dander up. Won’t get off the dern porch. Just keeps staring at me.”

Patricia McCrea had been Chief of Police for Eudora throughout the last three decades. We go back a ways, Pat and I. I don’t have many friends, I used to, but they grew old and died. Pat was someone who was there for me when I needed her, and for that alone she will always have my trust and respect, while I will always have her back.

I glanced over at the squirrel in time to see it bound off the porch and run up a tree, disappearing within its foliage. It was all I could do not to put a few rounds into the tree.

I turned back to Pat, a sheepish smile on my face.

“You okay, Norman?” Pat said, stepping up onto the porch.

I must have been quite the sight standing there in my undies, gun belt strapped around my bathrobe.

“Why wouldn’t I be okay, Pat?” I said.

“Well, good Lord, Norman,” she said. “Look at you. I mean, I get a call that a walrus broke into your house and tried to kill you, and now I find you throwing down with a squirrel. I’ve already gone gray, Norman, I don’t need you adding to my stress.”

“Heck,” I said, smiling. “You’re still the prettiest thing within fifty miles.”

“Only fifty?” she said, redness rising in her cheeks.

“A hundred,” I said. “Two hundred. Heck, it if weren’t for that husband of yours, I’da swooped you up long ago.”

“You’d have done nothing of the sort, Norman Oklahoma. You had your chance but chose not to take it.”

“There were extenuating circumstances, Pat,” I said. “That pixie infestation kept me a mite busy for a couple years.”

“Pixies,” she said. “It’s always something with you, Norman.”

“Ain’t no pixies around now,” I said, smiling and putting an arm around her. “Nor husbands, neither.”

“Knock it off,” she elbowed me in the ribs.

I jerked my arm back and yelped.

“One of these days Jim may take issue with your incessant flirting,” she said.

“Aw, Jim don’t mind,” I said, pretending to comfort what should have been sore ribs. “He won, I lost. He and I both know it.”

“Well, I mind,” she said. But then she smiled to show that she didn’t really mean it.

She knew I didn’t mean anything by it. Sure, there was a time that I would’ve pursued her. But she and I both know that such a relationship would never work. Eventually she would grow old and die while I would just keep going on. She was happy with Jim, and I was happy for her. Beyond that was a friendship like no other.

“Did you come out here all by yourself?” I asked, looking beyond her and seeing no other vehicle in the drive but her old Bronco. “You’re gonna need at least two other guys when the Walrus wakes up.”

“Ah yes, this walrus you called about.”

Pat knows what I do for a living, in theory. She’s never come face to face with a monster.

“Come inside and see for yourself,” I said.

As Pat entered the house, I took one last look around the porch, and just as I thought, the squirrel was back.

“You and me ain’t done,” I said, pointing a finger at the bushy tailed monster.

The squirrel continued to look up at me, and for a moment, I could have sworn that it smiled. I sighed and followed Pat into the house.

I found her standing in the kitchen, frozen in place, staring down at the walrus. She tried to look like she wasn’t about to question everything she’d known in life, but I could see the shock peeking out from within her hard shell.

“You know—” she cleared her throat and began again. “You know, I’d heard rumors about a hit man that went by the name ‘Walrus,’ but I’d always assumed it was just some stupid nickname.”

“It is a stupid nickname,” I said. “It just happens to be apt in this instance.”

“Well,” Pat scratched at her head a moment. “I guess I need to call in a couple of the boys to haul this thing away.”

“That’s what I was saying,” I said. “I’d offer you something to drink, but my fridge and coffee maker are both on the fritz.”

“That’s okay,” she said, still staring down at the Walrus, a finger on her chin. “You think that tape is going to hold him?”

“No idea. He threw my table about like it was nothing.”

“I’d been wondering about that,” she said, looking over at the table that now sat upside down over the couch in the adjoining living room.

“I’d hoped some of your troopers would show up before he came to and slap some leg irons on him or something.”

“I’ll make a call; see to it that they bring in something sturdy to hold him.”

“Nothing can hold me,” the Walrus spoke, sitting up and smiling.

I drew both pistols and thumbed back the hammers, the barrels pointing at the Walrus, one for each eye.

“Nothing, huh?” I said. “How about a bullet or two?”

The Walrus didn’t reply, instead he struggled against the tape at his wrists.

“Stop that,” I said.

He didn’t.

“I’ll shoot you,” I said. “Don’t know if it’ll put you down, but I bet it’ll hurt something awful.”

The veins in his neck stood out as he pulled against the tape. The tape itself began to stretch. It would only be a matter of minutes, possibly seconds, before he was free.

And that’s when Pat turned around and ran out the front door, leaving me alone with the Walrus.




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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

#003: VAMPIRE PLUMBER




IN A SLEEPY CORNER of Eudora, off to the south, the residents of a recently built housing development were rising along with the sun, unaware that a monster was in their midst.

Thomas, a vampire not by birth but most certainly by choice, slunk along the rooftops of the newly built homes, leaping from one house to another in relative silence and ease. The suit he wore, a formfitting body suit that covered every inch of him, allowed him to go about undetected. It was made from a special fiber that had been hand woven by mystics to trick not the eye, but the mind. Anyone walking along the sidewalk of this lazy suburb would be able to clearly see Thomas as he moved about on his shady business, but thanks to the spells layered into the fabric, the image the eye recorded is processed by the brain and then treated with the very same ‘nothing to see here’ attitude that your average beat cop throws around on the outskirts of a grizzly traffic accident.

The girl Thomas followed plodded along a sidewalk so clean that it was almost white. She paid no attention to her surroundings, lost as she was in the screen of her smart phone. She meandered more than walked, moving toward her goal lazily as the crisp morning air ruffled the curly brown hair around her shoulders.

She was too old. Thomas had seen that right away. She was thirteen if she was a day, but this was the girl Brone had chosen, so this was the girl Thomas would take. Brone would only have himself to blame if she wasn’t the right age.

The thought made Thomas smile beneath the woven mask. He and his brother were alike in many ways, but unlike Alexander, Thomas did not believe that Brone was the savior of their people. In fact, he did not harbor much respect for Bertram Brone at all. Yet, because of Alexander, he would do Brone’s bidding. For now.

Thomas jumped from the roof of a two-level home built to look identical to every other house on the block. He landed silently in a crouch on the front lawn, ten yards from the girl who had yet to lift her head long enough to see where she was going. He moved with the speed and grace of a cheetah on the hunt and was soon walking directly behind the girl, matching her stride step for step.

She was so close he could reach out and touch her.

He continued to follow her for two blocks as she made her way to school. He’d been doing the very same for five days now. Her routine hadn’t changed once over the entire week.

Though classes didn’t start for another hour or so, Thomas had learned that the girl—he’d not bothered to learn her name—met with a group of friends before school to smoke out behind the wood shop. The friends would miss her when she did not arrive, but by then it would be too late for them to do anything about it. Once he had her, she’d never be seen again.

Thomas produced a thin sheet of cloth made from the same material as his suit and unfolded it as he walked. The entire sheet was enough to cover an average sized person from head to toe, hiding them from public eye.

With the sheet in one hand he reached back into his suit and found the hypodermic needle he’d had sewn into the inner lining next to his heart. He pulled the cap off of the needle with his teeth and moved in closer to the girl.

Thomas took one last quick look around to ensure there was no one else about and then threw the sheet of spell-woven fabric over himself and the girl. She began to scream almost immediately. He grabbed hold of her, keeping her still, and plunged the needle into her neck. She’d wilted before he’d had he plunger completely depressed.

Thomas crouched and wrapped the girl in the blanket, making sure nothing of her remained exposed. Then, throwing her over one shoulder, he set off to the north and the van that waited.

The van had been made up to look like a typical plumber’s van. A logo to an actual plumber in Kansas City—Paul the Plumber Man—had been painted on the side. Thomas had parked the van in the drive of a home he knew to be vacant. He opened the side door to the sound of his cell phone vibrating in the built in cup holder in the dash. He sighed impatiently, dumped the girl to the floor, climbed up into the van and closed the door behind him. Anyone watching would have seen the door open and close by itself, but Thomas wasn’t worried. Any such report would be dismissed as foolishness.

The phone continued to vibrate against the sides of the cup holder, a sound he felt to be considerably annoying. He pulled himself into the driver’s seat just as the phone went silent. He sighed again and looked at the display. It had been his brother, Alexander. Thomas pulled the mask from his head and used his thumb to touch the redial option.

That’s when someone tapped on the driver’s side window.

A man in coveralls stood just outside, a confused look on his face. Thomas touched another option on the phone, disconnecting the call, and glanced in the rear view mirror, finding another van parked behind his.

“Can I help you?” he said once he’d rolled down the window.

“I was about to ask you the same question,” the man in the coveralls said. A patch on his breast proclaimed him as Al with Al’s Plumbing and Heating. “I wasn’t told that the contractor was using Paul, you trying to snake a job out of me?”

“I just stopped to use the phone,” Thomas said. “I do not like to text and drive.”

“Well you stopped at my site, buddy boy,” Al said.

“Yes, I am aware. If you would like to move your van, I would be happy to leave you to it.”

“I don’t know you,” Al said. “I thought I knew all of Paul’s guys.”

“I just started today.”

“Oh yeah,” Al laughed. “Paul’s starting his guys out alone these days, huh? Me, I ride with a new guy for a day or two before I let him loose on one of my jobs.”

“Yes, well... I will be on my way.”

“Paul pick up some new uniforms?” Al said, stepping closer to the van. “I mean, that’s a pretty odd getup you’re wearing there, I almost can’t see it there against the seat.”

Thomas reached out, took the plumber’s neck in one hand, and before Al could even register what was happening, wrenched the man’s head to the side in one quick motion. The plumber’s neck snapped with an audible pop and he went limp, the only thing stopping him from dropping to the cement was Thomas, who still held tight to the man’s neck.

His phone, still resting in the cup holder on the dashboard, began to vibrate again. Thomas ignored it and let the plumber drop to the driveway. Opening the door, he slid out of the van and lifted the body of the plumber, throwing him over one shoulder the same as he had done with the girl just minutes earlier.

He stowed Al in the back of the man’s own van, and finding the keys still in the ignition, moved the van into the street, parking it along the curb a few houses down.

The phone still vibrated, banging away at the sides of the cup holder, when Thomas pulled himself back in behind the wheel. He grunted and snatched up the phone, seeing that it was, once again, his brother.

He tapped the screen with his thumb.

“Yes,” Thomas said. He held the phone out before him, using the speaker phone option.

“You are late,” his brother said.

“There were complications.”

“Brone grows impatient.”

“Brone can rot,” Thomas said.

“You should not speak so of Bertram Brone,” Alexander said. “He has done much for you and I.”

“He has done nothing we could not have done for ourselves, brother. You hold him in too high a regard.”

“Where is the girl?” Alexander said.

“I have her, but as I said, there were complications. She is too old, for one.”

“She is the girl Brone bid you to fetch, no?”

“It is her.”

“Then her age matters not. Bring her in.”

“I had to kill a local,” Thomas said. “A plumber, he was becoming curious.”

“Where is the body?”

“In his van, parked at the curb a few houses down.”

“From your extraction point?”

“Yes.”

Alexander did not reply, instead Thomas could hear him talking to someone who must have been in the room with him, but he could not make out what they said. Thomas waited.

“Leave it there,” Alexander said after a minute. “We will send someone to collect both the van and the body.”

“He will surely be missed,” Thomas said.

“That is no longer your concern. Bring the girl in. We have to meet with Lemonzeo soon.”

“Since when do we make deals with humans,” Thomas said. He clutched the phone so tightly that the screen cracked. “I do not like getting into bed with humans, much less a man like him. He has no honor.”

“We need Lemonzeo,” Alexander said. “We have to be free to move forward without any outside interference if this enterprise is to succeed. I do not like it much either, but Lemonzeo can help remove those impediments to our progress without anything coming back on us.”

“I understand the logic,” Thomas said. “This human better prove to be worth the money Brone is throwing at him.”

“He will,” Alexander said. “Brone has every confidence in the man.”

“That does not provide me with any comfort.”

“Look,” Alexander said. “If Lemonzeo does not work out, you can be the one who kills him.”

Thomas smiled.

“I would like that,” Thomas said. “I would like that a lot.”

“Bring in the girl,” Alexander said.

“On my way.”

Thomas clicked off, disconnecting the call, and tossed the phone back into the cup holder. He fantasized about what he’d do to Lemonzeo if given the chance, unaware as he did so that he laughed aloud as he drove through the quiet Eudora neighborhood.




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Friday, December 1, 2017

#002: LINER NOTES?




THE GLASS POT struck the Walrus in the face and exploded, showering both the Walrus and the surrounding area with glass and coffee. Any normal person would’a been screaming by that point, but not the Walrus.

No sir. The Walrus didn’t scream, he fumed. He looked so dern mad that I wasn’t sure if the steam coming off him was from coffee or rage.

Regardless, my plan hadn’t quite worked. It looked like I was in for a scrape after all. I just hoped I could get to my guns before the big fella broke me in half.

That meant turning around and sprinting down the hall to the bedroom. I’d already set out my clothes for the day along with the tools of my trade: One Winchester Model 1866 Lever-Action Repeating Rifle and a pair of antique custom-built Colt Peacemakers.

The Walrus was big, bulky. That usually meant slow. I should be armed and ready to roll before he rounded the table.

Of course, I was wrong.

As the thought of running was still formulating in my brain, the Walrus roared, picked up my oak dining table in one hand, and with the casual manner of throwing aside a sheet of unneeded paper, tossed it into the adjoining living room.

Now, believe it or not, there’s no standard procedure for a fella to follow when a murderous, rampaging, mutant walrus-man breaks into your home. They don’t air public service announcements that deal with such situations. No one has put the forethought into printing up a pamphlet detailing exactly how one should act or what one should say. They don’t drill for it in schools. And there certainly ain’t never been an after school special in which someone happened to find themselves in a similar predicament. So the average Joe, that would be me, when faced with such danger, would just have to trust his most basic of instincts.

It’s the whole fight or flight thing. There are some of us who would stand and fight while others would flee. Heck, most sane individuals would run screaming like a little girl. Standard operating procedure for me was to stand my ground and fight, and savage walrus or not, I wasn’t one to stray from protocol. Once I actually gave it some serious thought however, I landed on the conclusion that running and screaming might be my best option.

But before I could even shift my stance, the Walrus, moving with a speed and grace that defied his bulk, had my neck in a fist the size of a Christmas ham. He lifted me off the ground and slammed me back against the fridge.

“What did you say?” The Walrus hissed, his rank breath blowing into my face.

“What?” I gasped. “When?”

“Just then, when you threw the coffee?”

“‘Fatboy?’” The sausage-like fingers at my throat were seriously starting to restrict my breathing.

“No,” he said. “Before that.”

“‘Koo-koo-katchoo?’”

“Yes,” he said. “Yes, ‘Koo-koo-katchoo.’ Was that supposed to mean something?”

“I Am...” I choked “...The Walrus.”

“What?”

“The...” spots appeared before my eyes “...Beatles.”

“Yes, I know it was the Beatles, but I’m failing to understand the correlation between this ‘koo-koo-katchoo’ nonsense and I Am the Walrus.” Then he chuckled. “Unless of course, you think that ‘koo-koo-katchoo’ is what he’s singing during the chorus?” He was laughing now, the fingers tightening on my throat. “Is that it? Is that what you were trying to say?”

I tried to speak.

“Well, is it?” The Walrus was laughing louder. “Is it?”

“Can’t... breathe!” I had to spit out the words.

“Right.” The Walrus relaxed his grip enough to allow me to breathe and talk. “Sorry.”

I’ll admit. I played it for all it was worth; I coughed a lot, I took more than the necessary amount of gasping breaths, and generally just played for time while I tried to figure my next move. I mean, the Walrus had hurt me, but not as much as one might think.

The fact of the matter is, I ain’t an easy man to hurt, and I’m almost impossible to kill. I don’t get sick, and I heal faster than what most experts agree is “humanly possible.” That might be why I’m over a hundred years old but don’t look a day over forty. Granted, I’ve never let a hulking walrus-man choke the life out of me to see if I’d actually die, but I sure as heck bounce back mighty quick.

I recited the first line of the chorus to I Am the Walrus as soon as I’d got some of my breath back.

I paused to gauge the monster’s reaction.

The Walrus just stared at me.

I recited the second line and then paused once again.

Again, the Walrus did nothing.

I recited the third line, the title of the song in fact. Once again, I paused for reaction.

Once again, I got nothing.

“Koo-koo-katchoo?” I finished.

“Ah yes, I see your confusion, I really do, but that’s not what the lyric is. It’s ‘Goo goo g’joob.’”

“‘Goo goo g’joob?’”

“‘Goo goo g’joob,’” he returned.

“Are you drunk?”

“No,” he glowered at me and sighed. “‘Goo goo g’joob.’ That’s what John Lennon sang on I Am the Walrus.”

“No ain’t.”

“Yes it is.”

“No, it ain’t.” My nose began to itch.

“Look,” The Walrus said. “Don’t get me wrong. It happens all the time. I can see where you might think that the lyric is ‘koo-koo-katchoo.’ But it’s just not true. Most folks get that wrong. They think it comes from the Simon and Garfunkel song, Mrs. Robinson, which in turn came from the movie, The Graduate, and that this was John Lennon’s nod to the movie.”

“Well,” I said, feigning interest. “Yeah.”

“But it just isn’t possible. The movie wasn't released until December of 1967, almost a full month after the release of I Am the Walrus,” he smiled. “So, there it is.”

“Okay, so Paul Simon wrote the song, right?”

“Correct.”

“Okay then. He took it from the Beatles,” I said.

“One would think so, sure, but with the release dates being so close together, chronologically speaking, then Paul Simon would have had to have been in the studio with the Beatles when they recorded the song, and then he went around and put it in his song? It just doesn’t add up. The fact of the matter, my soon to be dead friend, is that the lyric is ‘goo goo g’joob’ and not ‘koo-koo-katchoo.’”

“Just kill me all ready. I’d rather be dead then to hear your lies.”

“Listen,” the Walrus said, the pitch of his voice rising, “I happen to have one of the most extensive collections of Beatles music, bootlegs, and memorabilia, right?”

“Okay.”

“Well, okay then,” he said, as if that settled it.

“That doesn’t make you right.”

“But I am right.”

“No you ain’t. It’s ‘koo-koo-katchoo.’”

“‘Goo goo g’joob’ is what the man says.” His voice grew louder. “It’s in the bloody liner notes!”

“Liner notes?”

“The liner notes... to the record!” he growled.

I waited a beat or two as I pretended to think this through. I made as if to speak, but paused again. My brow furrowed in mock concentration. Once more I made a gesture that gave the idea I was about to say something, but yet again, I paused.

I paused once again, and then, just before I paused for the last time, I paused.

Then, at last, I spoke:

“Liner notes?”

“Look, you bleeding monkey!” The Walrus roared. I thought I could actually see smoke coming from his ear holes. “The album, Magical Mystery Tour, the sodding record, has liner notes which contain the lyrics to I Am the Walrus.”

I was starting to enjoy this.

“Those lyrics,” he continued. “Printed out by the record company, with the band’s permission, is a true and solid fact, proving once and for all, and without a shadow of doubt, that John Lennon sings ‘goo goo g’joob,’ and not, as you so ignorantly put it, ‘koo-koo-katchoo!’”

I thought about that for a moment. I used all the skills in my possession to truly look as if I were weighing what he had told me with the respect he felt his argument was due. I scratched at my head, scratched at my chin, and even said “Hmmmm” for a moment or two as I gazed into the air above me. Finally, in the end, I had to give the brute an answer.

“Liner notes?” I said.

At this, the Walrus broke. He’d had enough. He bellowed in rage and flung me to the kitchen floor. He reached out and lifted my refrigerator up over his head. Thank God for high ceilings.

“Enough of this foolishness!” the Walrus roared. “Now you die!”

The Walrus stood over me, the fridge held high. From my vantage point, I had only a moment to strike, and one perfect target before me. I kicked out with all my strength. And, as my foot connected with that area where the two legs join, I said myself a little prayer that the scientists who had created the creature before me had made sure he was anatomically correct.

The Walrus made a little “irk” sound, and his eyes crossed in a comical fashion. I knew then that my prayer had been answered. I crab-walked back out of the way as a massive tear formed in one of his eyes. Then he collapsed, the fridge dropping atop his head and knocking him unconscious.

I rose, brushed myself off and grabbed a roll of duct tape from the junk drawer by the sink. I’d just bought the roll recently and had yet to even pull off the plastic wrap. I pushed the fridge off of him and then used the entire roll of tape on his arms and legs, hoping that it would be enough to keep him restrained if he woke up before the authorities arrived.

Next, I called the Eudora Police Department and asked that they send a couple of boys around.

After that, I went to my stereo and flipped through my records. I found my copy of Magical Mystery Tour and took a quick glance through the liner notes and read through the lyrics to I Am the Walrus.

“Well crap,” I said aloud, and turned to look at the Walrus. “I guess you were right.”




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