Chips

Prompt: Thanks

the finger bandaged

Leep sharpened the steak knife for quite some time, as he knew it could be more difficult slicing through raw meat than cooked, and his fingers were definitely raw.

He didn’t intend to saw through the bone; no that would be stupid, and very difficult, not to mention unnecessary. This might all be unnecessary if old Anthony Gizmodo hadn’t been scooped up off the street, from his usual spot on the bus stop bench in front of the liquor store, and taken to some kind of government rehab. He couldn’t find out where they took him and Hannah, the liquor store manager, who usually was pretty well-informed, didn’t know either.

So Leep would have to take himself off to emergency.

He’d been tracking Theresa, Anthony’s daughter, for a few nights now and knew her shifts and that she was working long hours in Emergency. It was risky just turning up. She could be on a break, or busy defibrillating someone, or stocking the shelves with thin rubber gloves and vomit trays, or injecting antidotes for illegal drugs. Really, he hoped she was well-paid for this work. Leep himself was ok with blood but not with anything of any texture coming out of eyes, ears or mouths. Those kinds of things made him queasy. He had a nice chilled bottle of Red Racer IPA to calm his nerves, and positioned the middle finger of his left hand on the bamboo cutting board.

Ok, who knew so many blood vessels and nerve endings were located on the ends of fingers?

He only cut a small piece, just the very tip, and debated whether to put it in a baggie and take it to Emergency with him, but it truly looked too flimsy to be successfully reattached so Leep disposed of it in the can under the sink. This injury should be just severe enough that he lingered in Emergency, but not so severe that they’d keep him there. He got a towel and a bag of frozen peas— holy hell, it hurt!— and made his way to the car.

Theresa, with great authority and purpose, pulled back the curtain that surrounded the bed where Leep sat perched, his hand still encased in the peas and towel. She hadn’t looked him in the eye yet. But how serendipitous that it was she who was assigned to bed number 4 in the emergency ward! Leep smiled inwardly— sometimes the chips (he imagined poker chips) fell his way. Not often, but sometimes.

“Leep,” she said, “is that you?”

Exactly what she’d said in the parking lot when Leep mugged her, that night two weeks ago. Then he’d responded “No” and stole all her cash.

This time he said, “Yes, I cut my finger.”

She examined it, dabbed at it with some liquid on a cotton ball that hurt but didn’t sting at all, then bandaged it up. All very deftly, efficiently, and while not completely ignoring Leep’s grunts and winces from the pain. Holy hell.

All the while they conversed in low tones.

“I was sure it was you in the parking lot,” Theresa said.

“What parking lot?” asked Leep.

“I needed that money to pay for my son’s school trip.”

“What happened to it?”

“You wore the same jacket and jeans the night we took my father home.”

“How is old Anthony?”

Theresa smelled equally of white gardenia and disinfectant. It was actually rather comforting. She didn’t wear a white uniform and white oxfords but instead a pink polyester short-sleeved pant suit and white Adidas running shoes.

“He’s not doing well in rehab,” said Theresa.

“No,” said Leep. “I’d like to go see him though.” He held his left hand up in the air, propped at the elbow as Theresa had instructed, with his wounded middle finger extended. It was not the message Leep intended. Perhaps Theresa had endured other symbolic though unintended insults before.

Theresa didn’t respond, and instead disappeared into the hubbub of Emergency, closing the curtains firmly behind her.

Was she calling the police? That would not be a good thing. Chips were falling his way tonight though. They were tumbling through the air and landing in giant mounds at his feet. So perhaps she would find him convincing, genuine, if a bit gormless; the details of the robbery might be fading. Leep was not the kind of man to rob the daughter of the closest thing to a friend that Leep had. Was he?

When Theresa returned she had a small prescription pill bottle. “For the pain,” she said. “Keep it iced and elevated, if you can.”

“Thanks,” said Leep, adding: “Maybe I could go see your dad with you, next time you go.”

“I don’t think so,” said Theresa.

“I’d help pay for gas,” said Leep. “My car is getting new brakes.”

“You don’t need to pay for gas,” Theresa sighed.

“Maybe you could tell me then about that thing in the parking lot,” said Leep.

“Maybe I will,” said Theresa.

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Dead Bolts [Repost]

Prompt: Ghoulish

scary-ghosts

Suddenly the amusing, cocktail/dinner party story about the house being haunted wasn’t so funny. I don’t know why exactly, but I’d been uneasy all day— testy and irritable when the kids’ father came to pick them up for the a weekend away camping. They even took my canine soulmate, Champ, whom the children said needed a vacation too. From me? I growled and grumbled as I closed the door on them.

Two people had been brutally murdered in this refurbished farmhouse, once isolated in the country and now on the edge of a sprawling community. Two people, husband and wife, tied up, beaten, and stabbed to death, and the killer never found and brought to justice. Which is why, according to local legend, this poor ghostly couple stayed behind. Matthew and Thomasina were sad, angry ghosts, and you could hear them creep slowly across the floorboards, sometimes smell fresh-baked bread which was on the counter when the bodies were discovered, and hear their wails when the wind blew, or so the story went.

I didn’t find it charming anymore, as I lay in bed, awakened suddenly by… what? It seemed unusually dark and cold. There was no light from the night light in the bathroom down the hall. Only a bright moon behind hazy clouds cast a dim light in this darkness, or I would have been totally blinded. There was a wind, and the old house creaked and settled, as it usually did, but somehow, something was different. I could feel it. A rush of cool air, an unfamiliar smell, a pattern of creaks on the hardwood, someone walking, someone coming nearer.

I lay in bed, the quilt pulled up to my nose, staring at the bedroom door, frozen in fear. I saw a shadow across the wall, and then, yes! A man, a large man, blurred by darkness, looming in the doorway. I stifled a gasp, I squeezed my eyes shut, and when I opened them again he was gone. I was shivering with the cold now, paralyzed, listening for movement.

My body ached with tension, but I got up out of bed, wrapped the quilt around me, and crept to the doorway. The house was silent. The wind had picked up, I could hear it rattling the eaves and send echoes down the chimney.

I stepped as softly as I could but the floor betrayed me. Where had Matthew gone? Why had he come to me in the first place?

Why was it so cold?

Then I heard the front door abruptly swing open and crash against the wall in the foyer. The wind, I thought, Matthew and Thomasina making themselves known, demanding justice!

I was wrong. Three police constables with flashlights sending laser-like beams over the walls and floors, and finally into my face, strode right into the front hallway.

“Are you ok?” said a voice.

Did I not look ok? Had my hair turned white? “I, I…”

“You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” said a different voice, without irony. “Your power was out, lines were cut, and we got a mobile 911 call from this house.”

I just stared at him. A 911 call? At that moment the night light clicked on, and I could hear the furnace starting up as the power was restored, and there was a bright light from the kitchen. We found the refrigerator door wide open, contents on the table and floor— milk, eggs, cheese and oranges. The constable flicked on the kitchen light. “You make this mess?” he asked.

“No,” I said.

The back door was open. A car’s taillights could be seen disappearing into the distance. “He must have heard us arrive. Barb, see if you can track that vehicle down,” said an officer. Constable Barb disappeared.

Then the officer turned to me. “You don’t live in the 1950s, Mz Waters,” he said. “You need to lock your doors properly, with dead bolts. Both doors were easily compromised.”

It was hard to speak. I couldn’t seem to take a breath. I couldn’t move.

“Want us to call anyone for you?” said the officer as they prepared to leave. “Doesn’t feel right leaving you alone in this state.”

“No, it’s fine,” I said, finally finding my voice. “It’s ok. It’s fine.”

And I put the kettle on for tea.


Original Prompt: Eerie, October 31, 2016

Dead Bolts

Prompt: Eerie

scary-ghosts

Suddenly the amusing, cocktail/dinner party story about the house being haunted wasn’t so funny. I don’t know why exactly, but I’d been uneasy all day— testy and irritable when the kids’ father came to pick them up for the a weekend away camping. They even took my canine soulmate, Champ, whom the children said needed a vacation too. From me? I growled and grumbled as I closed the door on them.

Two people had been brutally murdered in this refurbished farmhouse, once isolated in the country and now on the edge of a sprawling community. Two people, husband and wife, tied up, beaten, and stabbed to death, and the killer never found and brought to justice. Which is why, according to local legend, this poor ghostly couple stayed behind. Matthew and Thomasina were sad, angry ghosts, and you could hear them creep slowly across the floorboards, sometimes smell fresh-baked bread which was on the counter when the bodies were discovered, and hear their wails when the wind blew, or so the story went.

I didn’t find it charming anymore, as I lay in bed, awakened suddenly by… what? It seemed unusually dark and cold. There was no light from the night light in the bathroom down the hall. Only a bright moon behind hazy clouds cast a dim light in this darkness, or I would have been totally blinded. There was a wind, and the old house creaked and settled, as it usually did, but somehow, something was different. I could feel it. A rush of cool air, an unfamiliar smell, a pattern of creaks on the hardwood, someone walking, someone coming nearer.

I lay in bed, the quilt pulled up to my nose, staring at the bedroom door, frozen in fear. I saw a shadow across the wall, and then, yes! A man, a large man, blurred by darkness, looming in the doorway. I stifled a gasp, I squeezed my eyes shut, and when I opened them again he was gone. I was shivering with the cold now, paralyzed, listening for movement.

My body ached with tension, but I got up out of bed, wrapped the quilt around me, and crept to the doorway. The house was silent. The wind had picked up, I could hear it rattling the eaves and send echoes down the chimney.

I stepped as softly as I could but the floor betrayed me. Where had Matthew gone? Why had he come to me in the first place?

Why was it so cold?

Then I heard the front door abruptly swing open and crash against the wall in the foyer. The wind, I thought, Matthew and Thomasina making themselves known, demanding justice!

I was wrong. Three police constables with flashlights sending laser-like beams over the walls and floors, and finally into my face, strode right into the front hallway.

“Are you ok?” said a voice.

Did I not look ok? Had my hair turned white? “I, I…”

“You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” said a different voice, without irony. “Your power was out, lines were cut, and we got a mobile 911 call from this house.”

I just stared at him. A 911 call? At that moment the night light clicked on, and I could hear the furnace starting up as the power was restored, and there was a bright light from the kitchen. We found the refrigerator door wide open, contents on the table and floor— milk, eggs, cheese and oranges. The constable flicked on the kitchen light. “You make this mess?” he asked.

“No,” I said.

The back door was open. A car’s taillights could be seen disappearing into the distance. “He must have heard us arrive. Barb, see if you can track that vehicle down,” said an officer. Constable Barb disappeared.

Then the officer turned to me. “You don’t live in the 1950s, Mz Waters,” he said. “You need to lock your doors properly, with dead bolts. Both doors were easily compromised.”

It was hard to speak. I couldn’t seem to take a breath. I couldn’t move.

“Want us to call anyone for you?” said the officer as they prepared to leave. “Doesn’t feel right leaving you alone in this state.”

“No, it’s fine,” I said, finally finding my voice. “It’s ok. It’s fine.”

And I put the kettle on for tea.

Liquefy

Prompt: Clumsy

chef-in-restaurant

Susan Spencer felt like her body, tied up in tight knots, was on fire on the outside and filled with ice on the inside. She sweated and simultaneously had chills, ached so intensely that she actually took pain medication (she avoided all meds, as a personal rule), and the thought of food made her stomach spasm in revulsion.

So when her husband Hugo brought in a doggie bag full of mushroom fettuccine, she gagged audibly and reached for the basin by the side of the bed.

“Not really a good idea, mate,” said Lev, who was visiting Susan, as he nodded at the offending white paper bag.

“Right,” said Hugo, and disappeared from the bedroom.

“So,” said Lev, as Susan wiped her face and hands with a damp cloth, and laid back heavily on the pillows. “How ya feeling?”

Roger “Lev” Levinson was Susan’s partner, both of them with the police force. They’d been a team for almost four years and had pretty much seen the best and worst of one another, so Susan puking into a basin wasn’t exactly a shocker.

“I’m great,” said Susan. “Thanks for coming by, Lev. Fuck off.” The scent of cooked mushrooms dissipated as a ceiling fan rotated slowly overhead, but the room still felt warm and stuffy.

“You interviewed that Leep character, the strange one, the one they call Leep the creep, about the shooting,” said Lev.

“Yeah, he didn’t have much to say, Lev.”

“He is the only eye-witness we have.”

“He just said the guy was big and scary, that’s all,” Susan said. “I don’t even know if I believe him. He seemed to be lying, maybe to get attention. Go talk to him again if you want, you have my blessing.”

“I might,” said Lev. “Anyway how long does the doctor think you can skive off? Gonna squeeze out another few days? A week?”

“At the moment I think I’ll probably be dead by tomorrow,” Susan said. “No kidding, Lev. This fucking sucks.”

“Tell Hugo not to bring shit back from the restaurant.”

“Oh, I will.”

“I thought maybe you might get hungry eventually,” said Hugo, appearing at the bedroom door. “Just trying to help.” He went to the bed and kissed Susan on the forehead. “I’m between lunch and dinner prep. Have to get back in a minute. Do you need anything?”

“Thanks babe, I’m ok. Lev can get me some water. I missed you last night. How did the shift go?”

“Actually,” said Hugo, “someone died, right at the dining table. Everyone was pretty upset.”

“Died? Who?”

“A woman, don’t know much about it yet, I was in the back. The staff got her into the lobby; then the ambulance came.”

“Suspicious?” asked Lev.

“Don’t know, aren’t they all? Never happened in my restaurant before.”

“What’s the name of the restaurant again?” asked Lev.

“‘Liquefy’.” said Hugo. “I inherited the name. The food is not all processed to slime. It’s fine dining, man.”

“Please don’t talk about slime,” said Susan. “Get back to work, both of you. I am tired and miserable and want to curl up and die now.”

“Ok,” said Lev cheerfully. “I’ll just get the water, see you Hugo.”

“Ciao,” said Hugo. “Don’t think about slime or dead bodies in the restaurant, my love. You just concentrate on getting better.”

“I’ll kill you as soon as I’m strong enough,” said Susan.

“Love you.”

“Me too.”


Honesty

Prompt: Fearless

Leep

The police came to the factory, to interview everyone about the death by murder of Vincent Demarco. It was lunchtime, and almost everyone was in the social club, some playing pool, some talking on the phone, some sitting alone nursing egg sandwiches. Beer wasn’t served at lunch. But you could buy a Coke or a Snapple, or bring your own beverage and store it in the fridge, if you trusted people.

Leep usually brought a carton of chocolate milk. Sometimes it was still in the fridge at lunch, sometimes it wasn’t. People were dishonest, he felt. They proved it all the time, lying to you, stealing milk, and sometimes making fun of you for no reason, while pretending to be your friend. He’d learned that on his own, through experience. He believed you should learn things every day, just by living.

They were interviewing every single person, alone. They would be questioning Leep about Vince, and the night he was shot. In the face. Was that fact reported on the news? Leep thought it was, but wasn’t sure. He wouldn’t mention it unless they did. He would just lay low and try not to be nervous. Try not to show how nervous he was. What if they gave him a lie detector test? Were the results admissible in court? He was pretty sure they were.

Billy was the first to follow them into the manager’s office, vacated so the police could have some privacy. Billy had griped about them cutting into the lunch hour, instead of work time. When he came back from the manager’s office, he was all cocky and smug, because it was over and he knew what they would say, and no one else did.

The wait to be summoned was agonizing. Leep’s stomach was doing flip flops. Finally Brendan returned and said “Your turn, Leep,” rolling a fist into Leep’s upper arm. He pulled away. He wondered how they decided who they would see, in what order. The most suspicious first, or last, or random, to keep everyone off balance?

Mr Duggin’s office was stuffy. There were no windows, and nothing to circulate the air. There were two officers, a heavy-set man and a woman with red hair, neither in uniform. The room smelled of sawdust and fried food. They had Leep sit in a hard-backed chair, while the woman sat in Mr Duggin’s swivel chair and the man sat on the corner of the oak desk.

“Leep, is it?” asked the woman. Her hair was shiny. She hadn’t taken off her overcoat, which was still damp with rain.

He nodded. He decided he wouldn’t volunteer any information. Unless it would make him seem defensive. He would have to be careful about that.

“I’m Inspector Spencer, and this is Inspector Levinson,” she said, nodding to her partner. “How well did you know Vincent?”

“Well we work together,” said Leep.

“Yes, but were you friends, did you see him outside of work?” asked Levinson. He looked like he made a mess of his morning shave. His cheeks and chin looked a bit raw, but a bit stubbly too.

“We went to a hockey game once,” said Leep.

“Did you? When was that?”

“Most of the guys went,” said Leep. “It was the Monday of the long weekend.”

“The guys from the factory,” said Inspector Spencer.

Leep nodded. He felt his palms grow warm, and probably sweaty. He hoped the fact that his heart was pounding didn’t show on his face.

“Where were you on the night of the twenty-second, between eleven pm and midnight?” asked the man.

“Um,” said Leep. He didn’t want it to seem like he had an alibi all worked out ahead of time. “I was at home, I didn’t go out.”

“Home alone?” he asked.

Leep nodded again.

“Did you call anyone, did anyone come to the door, can anyone verify that you were at your home at…” The Inspector checked his notepad. “…411 Lord McAllister?”

“Um,” said Leep. “No, I was just watching TV and that.”

“Do you own a gun, Leep?”

“No, sir.”

“Did you get along with Vincent?”

“Sure.”

“Do you know his wife, Deborah Demarco?”

“I met her a couple of times,” said Leep.

“A very attractive woman,” said the Inspector.

Leep said nothing. Debbie was really pretty, even though she sometimes dressed a bit too sexy, he thought. Sometimes she picked Vince up at the club in just shorts and a cropped top. She had long legs; slim thighs. Leep wondered if Vince really had met her at the adventure camp. She was cheerful, and smiled a lot. Leep guessed she was not cheerful at the moment. He felt sorry about that. At least they didn’t have any children.

“Tell us what happened that night at Toby’s, about a year and a half ago,” said Inspector Spencer.

Leep flushed. It was a while ago, before he started saving up for the vacation. He’d got up the nerve to talk to a girl sitting at the bar. He didn’t know the girl was there with anyone. When he tried to talk to her, the words tumbled out of his mouth and made no sense, and she started to laugh. Then her boyfriend came over, and he laughed too. He was not threatened by Leep. As if Leep would be of interest to his girlfriend. Ha, it was a ridiculous thought. So they laughed, and Leep punched him in the face.

The police were called, and he got a warning, and had to leave. But they didn’t arrest him or anything, and so he wondered how these two knew about it. Someone must have said something.

So Leep told them a version of the story; that he had too much to drink and approached a girl, and a fight broke out with her boyfriend. That was normal enough, right?

“Do you often lose your temper?” asked Levinson.

Leep felt a bit sick. He wished they would at least open the door, let in some air.

“No I just had a few beers,” he said.

“Are you sure you didn’t leave the house that night?” asked the woman.

Leep hesitated. What if someone had seen him walking around? He felt like he might choke if he said something. He took a deep breath, though, and said he didn’t think so.

“You’re not sure?” she asked.

“Pretty sure,” said Leep.

Inspector Levinson stood up and extended his hand. “That’s all for now, Leep,” he said.

Leep stood up too and instinctively took the Inspector’s hand to shake it. Then he pulled his hand back.

Leep’s palm was ice cold, but wet with sweat. Levinson stared at him.

“Could you ask Wayne to come in?” said Levinson. His face betrayed nothing, not that he thought Leep was lying or telling the truth, or if his hand was unusually sweaty and that was a sign, or if he thought Leep was a violent type because of that boyfriend at Toby’s. Did he know that some people called him Leep the Creep? Would any of the guys tell him that? Would they search his house for a gun? Would he ask Debbie if Leep ever stared at her? He didn’t, he really didn’t. Vince liked to think that he envied him, but he really didn’t stare at her. She was not  his type.

Leep went back to the lunch area. There was no one there; lunch was over. So he found Wayne on the floor and passed along the message. Then he went to the men’s room, and vomited into the toilet.

__

Image: johnpence.com