Monday, September 1, 2014

Dusty Video Box Presents: Vendetta! Two

In the last chapter:
Loomis, Kansas, 1979. Alice Ripley, the only African-American high school student of the Midwestern town, experienced the bitter sting of racism and punishment for the sins of her mother daily from her all-white peers, with the exception of her best friend, Tea. Tea persuaded Alice to attend the annual Loomis Preparatory Halloween Ball, which was normally forbidden by Alice’s domineering religious aunt. However, for once, her aunt relented, allowing the young woman to attend the Halloween celebration for the first time. Somehow, someway, Alice ended up in a life-and-death struggle with a large inhuman man, which climaxed with his death at her hands. Now, along with conviction from Tea, Alice begins a new mission…a mission that could lead her down a path that few can return from.

created by Melvin L. Hadley
Bleeding Kansas: Chapter 2

*November 1, 1979*

It took twenty rings of the phone, shattering the serenity of the early Saturday dawn, to elicit the tiniest of frustrated groans from beneath the royal purple covers of the single bed. On the twenty-first ring, a black-finger nailed hand snaked from within the depths of the bedsheets, inching around the headboard for something to grab. By the twenty-third ring, the fingers discovered success with a pillow, and flung it at the phone, knocking it from its place on the bedside table a foot or two away with a thunderous chime. However, the phone managed to land on its base and continued to ring.

The first hand was joined by another, as the covers were pulled up to conceal the maximum length of the person within. After thirty-five rings, it stopped. A weary sigh of relief escaped from beneath the covers.

Then the ringing started again.

The two hands returned, and snatched back the covers, revealing a drowsy nun, clad in a wrinkled but form-fitting uniform that would have broken all the rules of a convent. “Alright, goddamn it!” she called out as she sat up, unsuccessfully rubbing the drowsiness out of her glassy green eyes while wincing as she felt the onslaught of an oncoming headache. “…waking me up this early in the morning…”

She swung her legs to the floor, nearly sliding out of the bed from a nearly empty wine bottle caught under her feet. As she languidly stood up and took a step towards the phone, she felt herself being suddenly jerked back down in the bed. Her conscious not yet awoken with her body, the nun mindlessly repeated her action, only to have the same result. Slowly, she glanced over to her left arm, and with a look of surprise, found the source of her problem.

She was handcuffed to one of the bedposts.

“GREG!!” she screamed, slapping frantically at the other large lump under her covers beside her. “GREG! Get up! Give me the key! Hurry up!”

“Izzat?” the lump muttered incoherently, stirring slightly before becoming still again.

“Gregory!” she screamed again, reaching for the wine bottle on the floor and empting the remains on the lump.

“Hey, hey!!” the bedsheets were thrown back to unveil a hairy, burly man whose head was covered by a black leather mask with fake silver spikes. “What the H-er…Mother Superior! How dare you awaken the Great Fau-”

The nun placed a silencing finger to her thin lips and nodded towards the ringing phone. “Not now, Greg. I need to know …what did you do with the key?” she asked calmly, stressing each syllable.

“Ummmm…” Greg scratched his head, his visible eyes narrowed in drowsy slits. “I dunno…think I left them in the kitchen…or the bathroom or somethin’…”

“Damn it!” the nun growled, fruitlessly trying to stretch her right leg to reach the phone with her feet. After a few unsuccessful tries, she gave Greg a hard glare. “Nice to see you applying some effort!” she said sarcastically.

Greg slowly glanced over to her and nonchalantly raised his arm. Handcuffs connected his right arm to the other bedpost.

“Hey, I just went with the flow as usual.” He shrugged at the nun’s bewildered look. “Your ideas, your rules. Role switch, remember?”

The nun paused, her mind flashing back through the alcohol-filled haze of the night before. “Goddamnit!” She swore, jumping to her feet, and bracing one of them against the wall as she pulled with all the might that her hangover-racked form could summon at that moment. After a minute, the old wood of the bedpost yielded and splintered, sending the nun tumbling into an oak dresser that was on her side of the bed. Clutching her back and recoiling in pain, she quickly jumped to her feet and danced across the assorted piles of discarded clothing, empty Chinese food boxes and beer bottles until she made it to her prize, which was on its one hundred and fortieth ring.

“Touchdown!!” Greg cheered halfheartedly from the bed.

“Hello, Sheriff Regina Kruger. What seems to be the problem?” the nun recited in an artificial cheerful tone as she answered the phone, simultaneously throwing Greg the middle finger.

“That was last night, dear.” Greg chuckled while lacing his fingers behind his leather-clad head, impressed with his own vulgar humor.

The Sheriff ignored him and continued to listen to the scratchy-like monotone of the female phone operator on the other end. As usual, there were the complaints about pranks, mainly from Ms. Eliza Winifred Crane, a wealthy former fashion designer and current member of the town’s governing body. She was also the town’s most devoted gossip and rumor spreader, and had even caused Regina some strife on her job by turning some of the townspeople against her. Ms. Crane reported three costumed kids egging her car, leaving packages of flaming excrement in her back porch, and throwing rocks against her windows all night, keeping her awake.

Regina grinned, making a mental note to take those boys out for ice-cream later for a job well done.

Of course she told the operator to send Ms. Crane reassurances that she would talk to the boys. Snickering to herself, she braced herself for more reports of adolescent misadventures. However, the operator’s tone became mournful as she delivered the next report, even sobbing slightly at some points. Creole was never good at containing her emotions. Regina’s lips tightened in a line as words she never thought she would hear crept into her ears.

“Uh-huh.” She nodded solemnly, picking up one of the Chinese boxes and tearing a piece from it. “Where is it?”

“Okay, I’m on my way.” She said after hurriedly scribbling down the address on the cardboard and slowly hanging up the phone. She turned slowly, glancing at the palms of her hands as realization of the severity of the situation sunk it. Only for a second did disbelief overtook her, before being defeated by her stronger law enforcement instincts. Exhaling noisily, she removed her headpiece and ran a hand through her shoulder-length red curls.

“Something’s wrong, isn’t it?” Greg asked, swinging his feet to the floor.

Regina nodded distantly, shaking her head slightly to clear her thoughts. “Need you to go check on Ms. Crane, butter her up a little.” She said to him as she knelt down, sorting through the debris for her pile of clothing. “Last thing we need is the Loomis Commission breathing down our necks about the delinquency rate here.”

Greg removed the mask, displaying his disheveled brown hair, quickly retreating hairline, face, and greasy beard, all slightly speckled with the gray of age. “What happened, Chief?” he asked again.

“187.” Regina called over her shoulder as she vanished into the bathroom next door.




“There was a murder. Deputy Myers is at the crime scene already.”

For a few moments, there was a heavy silence. “So…who…who was the vic?” George asked, breaking it.

Regina reemerged into the bedroom, clad in a loose and worn Kansas City Chiefs t-shirt and an equally worn pair of bellbottom jeans that was two-sizes too big for her. She stumbled over the junk-strewn floor to a chair, where her trademark brown fur lined jacket and gun-belt hung. Brandishing the handcuff key teasingly at Greg, the sheriff removed the handcuff on her wrist.

“Cleopatra King.” She told him, freeing the bedpost piece from the other handcuff and tossing it on the floor. She then took the handcuffs, and returned them to their place on her belt.

Greg arched an eyebrow. “Y’mean the lady from church? The one that’s over the choir and always hosting the prayer meetings? Gotta admit, gonna miss those cookies she always baked for Sunday School…made it worthwhile to actually go…”

Regina grabbed her gun belt and snapped it in place around her waist. “Damn…thought I’d never see the day that I’ll have to be packing a body-bag. I wonder…who would be unscrewed enough to kill such a sweet lady…”

Greg was silently for a few minutes, his forehead knitted in thought. “Look…all jokes aside…I think I know where…where we can start looking. Ever heard of the King Curse?”

Regina gave him a frown as she slid her arms into her jacket. “Yeah, I know about that bullshit legend. That’s what Ms. Crane was screaming about that day she had that accident-”

“We’re not talking about Washington chopping down a cherry tree, Chief. There’s some facts in that story that ARE true.” Greg interrupted. “Mrs. King did have a sister…and she did commit murder here all those years ago. She was locked away in a nuthouse somewhere upstate…and her kid was the one that stayed with King.”

“But…it’s just too convenient.” Regina replied, pulling her badge from out of her jacket’s pocket, and watching the early morning sunlight glisten on the cold gold metal. “’Escapee Psycho Sibling Murders Sister ‘sounds too much like something out of the horror movies. Too obvious, which means not real.”

“I’m just saying…” Greg shrugged. “That’d be the first place to look. I can’t remember exactly, but there was this psychiatrist that was prominent in that case...I can’t remember his name…but he probably could help you out. Then…there’s always the kid…”

“Hey, who’s solving this case?” Regina joked, pinning her badge to her jacket. “I’ll think about it, old man. Now get out there and plant those lips of yours firmly on Ms. Crane’s ass for me. At least one of us gets to have fun today.”

Greg lifted his right arm, still handcuffed to the bedpost. “It would help if you give me the key, Mother Superior.”

“Oh, this?” Regina said innocently, holding the tiny key between her index finger and thumb. Rubbing her chin thoughtfully with her other hand, she gave her subordinate and his immediate surroundings a critical eye. After a minute, she took the key and shoved it in her pocket. Greg’s mouth dropped in astonishment as the sheriff left the room and him behind.

“Regina? Regina!” his cries continued even after he had heard the door slam.


The tall corn stalks had seemingly swallowed her, allowing only small splashes of the golden sun in as it rose overhead. Everywhere Alice looked, she met a green pole with rotten ears of corn, brushing against her face and tangling her braids. She blinked rapidly, frightened that one of the green leaves or some other natural debris would poke her in the eye. Blindly, she reached forward as far as she could, held on to the cornstalks that brushed against her fingertips, and pulled them aside, clearing a path. Opening her eyes rewarded her with a glimpse of Tea’s back a few feet ahead of her. Like a human harvester, the athletic brunette easily swatted the tightly grown stalks aside, penetrated the tightly clustered barrier of nature.

Having left the junkyard behind, the duo picked one direction and stuck with it, searching the vacant landscape for some semblance of the familiar, while simultaneously searching for any sign of the cannibalistic killers. The only things that greeted them on their journey, however, were wide-open plains, rusted farm tractors and other crumbling equipment, and sporadically, the decaying ruins of a house or business of some kind. Neither was willing to admit to the other that they were wandering aimlessly. The cornfield they discovered after a few hours was the only indication of accomplishment for them.

The throbbing aching of Alice’s legs reminded her of her lack of rest in the last twenty-four hours. Her eyes watered slightly, causing the huddled landscape of green to dance before her. Her steps slowed, and before she knew it, Tea had disappeared from view again. The young woman exhaled deeply as she came to a complete stop, letting her arms fall limply to her sides. The cornstalks she had pushed aside returned to their upright positions, trapping her in their emerald clutches. Just a minute, she thought. Just a minute of rest, then she’ll catch up with her friend. She dared not to tell Tea how tired she was. No. Besides, Tea was not one to accept failure, and acted like a drill sergeant to overcome it.

She was not the one to accept discouragement either. No matter how many times Alice tried to resist, she was always drawn into one of Tea’s mischievous plots. Whether it involved playing a nasty trick on Ms. Crane, or stealing from her teacher’s desk as school, Alice’s psychological defenses were no match for Tea’s persuasive skills. For her failure in abetting in Tea’s crimes, she sought punishment for her transgressions, which her Aunt will carry with maximum efficiency. It was those particular beatings that she actually looked forward to, because she felt the burden of guilt for her sins being lifted afterward…and God had forgiven her.

She felt something ice-cold brush against her bare leg and looked down. She had almost forgotten about the machete in her hand, the wooden handle warm and the tip rusty red from the dried blood it spilled earlier. How could she forget this hated instrument? Why was she still carrying it? She was surprised at how she had quickly grown attached to carrying the blade, it feeling startlingly light and natural in her hand. With a startled gasp, she flung it to the ground and kicked it a few inches from her with a ruby foot for good measure. She glanced down at her hands, covered with a multitude of scraps and bruises, and turned them palms up.

They were red, stained and dripping with fresh blood. But it was not her blood. Frantically, she rubbed her palms against her dress and held them up again to see. No, the blood was still there. With an exasperated cry, she repeated her actions, but yielded the same results. The blood would not come off. Her lips trembling, her eyes overflowing with tears, Alice sat down on the ground, Indian-style, and rubbed her palms against the dirt, each time increasing in viciousness and frequency. Finally, after the twentieth time, she had an epiphany.

She was a killer. She had crossed a point of no return. This was not something that could be washed away…it was a crimson stain on her soul that had corroded it permanently. As the realization shrouded her, her Aunt’s voice echoed in her head, at the crescendo of a fiery sermon about the sin of murder. The punishment for killing was death. Was she being punished like her Aunt had told her?

“It was an accident!” she sobbed mournfully, staring up past the stalks that enclosed over her into the blue sky. “An accident! I…I was scared…I…did not mean for it to happen!”

But maybe she did deserve to be punished. She could still remember the strange sensation she felt when she stabbed her pursuer with the machete. It was not reactionary fear, but satisfaction. Satisfaction at seeing the life drain from his inhuman eyes. Satisfaction at seeing him cower before her in his death throes. Satisfaction of having total power over him for that single instant.

She stopped crying as a tsunami of guilt suddenly engulfed her. She did not have her Aunt to take the burden away. She would have to do it herself. She had to have God to forgive her.

She crawled to where the machete lay on the tilled ground, glinting in the morning sunlight. Her trembling right hand reached for it slowly. The handle was still warm as she picked it up and inspected it for a brief moment. Holding her left hand aloof, palm outstretched, she took the machete and hovered the tip over her palm. She forced her mind to think of something, anything to distract and numb her from what she had to do next.

Then the blade tip sunk into the flesh of her left palm.

Alice whimpered, tears brimming at her eyelids, as she continued to shove the blade tip in little by little into her hand. The pain was immense, and it took all of her willpower and more not to scream. Blood practically exploded from her incision, dripping into the dark earth below. This had to be done; she had no choice in the matter. Suddenly, the cornfield surrounding her took on a dreamlike quality as she meticulously sliced downward in her palm. The pain became a dull ache as memories of the fateful night before surged into her consciousness, mentally distancing her from the situation at hand.

*October 31, 1979*

Her mother always smelled like a sweet mixture of pine and poundcake when she came in late at night. Alice would sit up and wait for her, tiptoeing down the stairs in her bare feet(much to her Aunt’s chagrin) and to the large living room window that displayed a view of her Aunt’s spacious front lawn. She always took care not to make a sound, because her aunt was very strict, especially about bedtime. She would pull back the expensive curtains and sit in the old wooden windowsill, hugging her knees to her chest until her mother would stagger through the front door, her gray maid uniform smudged with unknown substances, dragging her large purse with a limp arm.

No matter how weary or weathered her face looked, it always managed to brighten when Alice would emerge from the curtains and practically tackled her with a barely muted squeal of delight.

“Child, your old momma’s tired!” her mother groaned. “My back…is killing me. Here baby, carry my bag for me, would ya? Can you lift it?”

Alice nodded, knowing the heavy bag hurt her arms, but was glad to help her mother anyway possible. As her mother delicately placed the large bag in her small arms, Alice would wrap her arms tightly around it, tensing her legs for balance, and biting her lower lip in a grimace. She would always try to race her mother to her room on the ground floor of her Aunt’s mansion, but she never could win. The bag was too heavy, and her mother’s legs were longer than hers.

The smell of incense would hit her every time her mother opened the door to her room. A flick of the light switch revealed a large poster of a black man posed in deep thought, wearing glasses. Mother told her that man was Malcolm X. Another poster, above the head of her mother’s bed screamed in pronounced black bold print the words “BLACK POWER!!” There was a bookcase on another wall, filled with books that had titles that she could not pronounce. She once asked her mother what the stories in them like.The was only answer her mother gave her was that she hoped Alice would never found out.

Her mother collapsed backwards onto her bed, causing the springs to protest loudly as she made a snow angel in her covers. “Thank you, sweetheart.” She said softly when Alice accidentally dropped her bag next to the bed. “Them people know how to work somebody, but can’t even cut me a decent check. To think, I use to make more money on my back in a day then working my fingers to the bone day in and day out.”

“What does that mean, Momma?” Alice gave her a curious look. Of course, she knew what people she was referring to…the “white” people that her mother always complained about. She was always curious to why they were known as “white”, when their skin tone was obviously pink. Just like her skin was brown, but her second grade teacher always told her that she was “black”. At least her best friend Jamie did not call her black.

“Hmmm..?” her mother moaned distantly, her head sinking into her pillow, her eyes half-closed as she freed her feet from her shoes.

“’M-Make money on your back?” Alice paraphrased, twisting a strand of her shoulder-length black hair. “What does that mean?”

“Nothing, baby.” her mother sat up slowly, smoothing her dirty apron with her slightly callous hands. “Just me talking to myself about grown folks stuff. You know how crazy your momma is.”

Grown folks stuff. It was the warning label that encompassed many of the arguments between her Aunt and her mother… arguments that sometimes sent her Aunt into her bedroom in tears. Some of the grown up things she had heard were words like “race traitor” and “house nigger”, which was mostly from her mother, referring to her Aunt. She was glad when her mother said “grown-up stuff” because those other words seemed hateful and even scary, coming from her.

“Momma, don’t talk like that…” Alice told her, climbing into bed beside her. “You’re not crazy.”

“I don’t know, baby…” her mother wrapped her arms around her and drew her close. “Sometimes I feel…I just…working for those Strodes…having to bow and scrape to them…it sometimes gets to me, honey. Having an honest-to-goodness job has always been hard for me. I know its wrong but…sometimes I miss…those days, you understand?”

“You mean…before we moved… here?”

Her mother nodded solemnly. “That’s why we’re here. That’s why I put you in that school, with all the white kids. I want you to be something…something better than me. Better than Aunt Cleo. I don’t ever want you to do what I had to do…experience what I experienced. I don’t want you cleaning floors for white folks…I want them cleaning floors for you. Understand?”

Alice nodded feebly, although she did not understand why she would want someone to clean a floor for her.

Her mother stared at her for a brief second, a faint smile on her face as she pinched her daughter’s cheeks. “So…what will it be tonight, honey? Sundiata again?”

Alice grinned a mouthful of silver braces, clapping her hands together. She was eagerly anticipating her favorite tradition with her mother, her bedtime stories. “What about Brer Rabbit? I heard about him at school today…”

“No.” her mother crossed her arms. “That’s the last story I would tell a child of mine! You are a descendant from a long line of African queens, honey. You want to be proud of your heritage, don’t you? Figures they’d teach that at that school of yours! Let me think…I know someone that has a story that’s actually worth telling. Anansi.”

“Anansi?” Alice repeated curiously, crossing her legs and propping up her chin with her fists.

Her mother smiled, suddenly reinvigorated by an unknown force. She pulled her legs onto the bed, facing her daughter. She cleared her throat and inhaled deeply. Alice was nearly at the edge of her seat, watching her mother’s arms raise, preparing to accompany her verbal story with dramatic arm gestures. It was as if her mother was teasing her by making her wait longer. Her mother’s lips parted as the first words spilled from them.

“Someone must have spiked the punch, man. Look at her. She’s out cold!”

“Momma?” Alice gave her mother a bewildered look. That sounded like a man’s voice!

“Maybe it’s like a black thing or something?” her mother lips were moving, but it was another woman’s voice.

“What is going on?!” Alice asked, glancing around the room wildly. Suddenly, one by one, the walls surrounding her began to melt similarly to a film that was held over the camera for too long.

“You doing a great job of stupidity, Mindy.” Her mother said in a light male voice. “That’s what wrong with the world today, ‘cause of nuts like you.”

Alice scrambled closer to her mother and looked her directly in the eyes, panicking. “Momma! What’s happening?!” she squealed, waving a hand rapidly in front of her mother’s face.

“Oh, blow me, Eric.” Her mother replied in the woman’s voice, staring back at her daughter with glassy lifeless eyes. “I didn’t mean anything by it, just saying…not like we know a lot of people of her kind…”

The walls had disappeared, leaving an unyielding blackness surrounding the bed. Alice clutched her mother in fear as the floor began to crumble away below the bed. “Momma!!!” she screamed, crying uncontrollably. “Help me! Don’t let me die!!”

“People of her kind?” her mother only replied in the man’s voice. “Really, Mindy. Your ignorance is showing.”

The bed now floated in space. Her mother suddenly clutched Alice’s shoulders with both hands, squeezing tightly. Alice’s face tightened as she winced in pain. “Momma…stop it…that hurts…stop…” she said, struggling weakly in her mother’s clutches. She tried to pry her mother’s fingers away from one of her shoulders, but the older woman held viselike grips on her daughter.

“Both of you shut the fuck up.” Her mother demanded in a new male voice, which was muffled. “Obviously, Dorothy here is sick. Anyone checked her pulse? See if she’s carrying a diabetic card or something? Does anyone know how to contact her aunt?”

“Momma, please!” Alice wailed desperately as her mother forcefully pushed her to the edge of the bed. Her eyes widened in fear as she glanced down into the yawning darkness that stretched below her.

“Er, genius? It’s not like she has pockets in that dress…” her mother quipped as she shoved her daughter over the edge. Alice’s mouth opened wide, but the scream never came. She could see her mother leaning over the side, quickly becoming a speck in the distance as the young woman plunged to an unknown fate. The voices that her mother projected earlier were now all around, echoing in her ears.

“…besides, we females have something called purses. Maybe you’ve heard of them.” The woman voice said sarcastically.

“Maybe she’s allergic to something here? Like the hay or something?” the muffled male voice suggested. “We need to find her purse.”

“I didn’t see her eat anything or sneeze or anything.” The other male voice said in a matter-of-fact tone.

“So you were watching her the entire time she was here…” the woman voice sneered accusingly.

“Guilty as charged, your honor.”


“Hiss!! The cat bears her fangs! Getting a little green, huh Min?”

“Of her? Ms. Wallflower here? I’m insulted by the very idea. She’s like…how that saying goes…’living under a rock for years’. She probably doesn’t even know who Gene Simmons is!”

“But wouldn’t she listen to Earth, Wind, and Fire or something I don’t know…with soul?”

“Eric…” the other two voices said in unison.

“I’m just saying…”

“And you call me ignorant…”

A white light began to appear in the distance, growing exponentially as Alice approached it. She closed her eyes, letting her body go limp as she was engulfed by it. Suddenly, the song “Hot Stuff” thundered in her ears, as if someone had turned the music full volume. Her eyes slowly opened, fluttering from the sudden explosion of light. Her world was a Technicolor kaleidoscope until her eyes gradually focused on three beings standing over her. One was a vampire, dressed in shades, black suit and cape, while another was a girl with pigtails, clad in a Raggedy Ann costume. The third was someone whose head was covered by a large Darth Vader helmet and clad in a simply dark blue jump suit.

“Ummmm…” Alice moaned, caressing her forehead. Her whole body felt slightly numb, and her memories of what had happened earlier were fuzzy. However, one thought did immediately come to mind.

“Tea…” she moaned softly. “Where…is…she…?”

“Ah, Sleeping Beauty. Finally awake.” The Darth Vader guy said in a muffled voice, reaching for Alice’s face. “Gave us quite a scare there. You alright?”

Alice flinched as his hand drew near, a look of terror on her face. An image flashed in her mind, accompanied by vivid sensations. A man in a leather mask reaching towards her. Her body, weak and defenseless, pressed against the cold, hard earth. Her eyes filled with tears.

“Hey, hey…take it easy!” Darth Vader quickly retracted his hand, as if stung by an invisible insect. “Just trying to make sure you don’t have a fever or anything!”

“Yeah, you just fell out…and Derek just picked you up and carried you over here-” Raggedy Ann reported, a slight smirk on her face.

“After I caught you.” The vampire interrupted, tossing his cape over his shoulder with dramatic flair.

“He was all about to cry and stuff.” Raggedy Ann gushed, ignoring the vampire. “It was so romantic!”

“After I caught you.” The vampire declared, pulling his shades down his nose coolly to give Raggedy Ann an annoyed glare.

Romantic? Somehow, that word struck a chord of fear inside her. Romance? No, she could not have romance…not unless she was married! Allowing a man who was not her husband to even touch her was a sin that would be horribly punished by God. At least, that was what her Aunt always told her.

Slightly panicking, Alice tried to rise to a sitting position. Darth Vader gently grasped her hand and tried to assist the girl, but she quickly snatched it away, her eyes wide with alarm. Realizing how she was acting, Alice lowered her head in shame. “Sorry.” She mumbled, still slightly dazed from the sudden onslaught of the flashing lights and thundering bass of the music.

“It’s cool…” Darth Vader waved it off. “So, what’s the deal? Do you have diabetes or something? We could not find your purse…”

“No.” Alice said meekly as she shook her head slowly. She glanced around at her surroundings. The Ball was still in full swing, the music booming and the dance floor crowded with costumed students. A few other students were standing around the group of four, talking to each other and sipping punch from white styrofoam cups. A table covered by a white cloth served as her temporarily bed and glancing at the plates tossed on the floor around her told her that it was hastily converted from one of the serving tables.

Alice swung her legs over the table, wincing at the stiffness she felt in her back.

She felt a hand on her shoulder. “Are you sure you’re okay?” Raggedy Ann yelled over the music.

Alice nodded delicately. “I…I think so…so sorry for the inconvenience …”

“Hey, no harm, right guys?” the vampire said. “You seem like a cool customer...”

“Yeah.” Darth Vader agreed, his helmet shifting from side to side as he nodded. “Glad to see you without that gloomy look on your face all the time.”

A slight smile struggled at the corners of Alice’s mouth. She could not help it. For so many years, she thought the whole world was against her. But to find fellow students that were actually nice to her…it was the equivalent of the needle in the haystack. Still, she would never forget the one, true friend that had stuck with her through thick and thin.

“Tea.” She looked at the trio surrounding her. “Have you seen Tea?”

“Tea?” the vampire repeated, giving her a puzzled look and exchanging it with the other two. “Er…I can’t recall…”

“Tea?” Raggedy Ann cocked her head, rolling her eyes sideways as she searched her recent memory. “I…well, I haven’t seen her…”

“Is she dressed up?” Darth Vader asked, scanning the crowd on the dance floor.

“Yeah.” Alice nodded rapidly. “She dressed up like Daisy Duke from the TV show…”

Darth Vader and the vampire exchanged mischievous glances. “Really?” Darth Vader chuckled, imitating his namesake while rubbing the bottom of his chin gleefully. “Pray tell me where this ‘Tea’ can be located…I have quite the sight to…ahem…show her…”

“Is she even supposed to be here?” Raggedy Ann frowned, hands on her patchwork hips. “This is supposed to be a private affair…rsvp and stuff…”

“Cut it out, Mindy.” Darth Vader snapped. “You know a lot of other people brought their friends! Don’t be so hard on the girl.”

Alice bit her bottom lip, staring down at her hands. “I knew it was wrong…but…but I felt so alone…I could not come without her…”

Suddenly, the vampire burst into laughter, startling the other three. They regarded him with strange look, as he slowly regained his composure. “Sorry, guys…just struck me as funny…no offense Ms. Alice…but we always thought…that you didn’t have any friends…with everyone giving you a hard time and all…for things you couldn’t control.”

“C’mon, Eric man!” Darth Vader snapped angrily. “Wasn’t cool, man.”

“Look, I’m not laughing at the fact that she has no friends, Den.” The vampire defended himself. “It’s us, man. We’re the ones that-”

“You don’t believe me?” Alice interrupted, surprised at the anger that had submerged her like a tidal wave. Her whole body tensed as if on instinct, her hands balling into small brown fists. Her brown eyes narrowed into slits as she stared hard at Eric, as if trying to bore a hole inside of his head. The sudden fury she felt inside herself confused her emotions. On one hand, she was frightened by it. On the other, on a deeper more secret level, she relished in it.

“I have a friend!” she growled through clenched teeth. “And her name is Tea! And she’s…and she’s dancing out there! Just look…!”

With a trembling hand, she pointed towards the midst of the sea of gyrating bodies. The other three, with visual expressions of fear scrawled on their faces, followed her finger and nodded in unison.

“I…I think I see her…” Mindy said nervously, frantically glancing from where Alice was pointing to her face and back again.

“Yeah…me too.” Eric nodded, chuckling uneasily as he shielded his eyes from an imaginary sun. “So…what school is she from?”

He glanced at Alice, expecting an answer, but did not receive one. The young black woman was trembling uncontrollably, still pointing towards the dance floor, her eyes widen in fear. On the dance floor, the crowd parted, and he appeared, ambling towards her in a white wrinkled disco suit and slightly disheveled red hair, balancing two styrofoam cups as he clumsily evaded the dancing couples. It was Derek.

Her heart rate quickened to an unnatural rate as the lights became overwhelming to her senses. The flashes of mental images assaulted her mind with a unrelenting ferociousness. The man in the leather mask was clawing at her, touching her where she did not want him to touch. Her hands scratched and clawed at the cold earth as she tried to get away. Her mouth opening, screaming for him to stop.

Derek drew nearer, an uncharacteristic smile on his face as he waved at Alice.

Her mouth was open, her lips forming words, but no sound came out. The images would not stop. The leather faced man was tearing her clothes, and she could do nothing. Every blow she struck seemed useless. Her hands reached for the dark gray clouds in the sky, reaching up to the Kingdom of Heaven. Where was God? Why would He let this happen? She did nothing wrong! She did everything her Aunt had told her!

“H-H-H-Hi every-everyone!” Derek managed the stutter a greeting, blushing in embarrassment when he was in earshot. “Gl-gl-glad she’s up and-and about. H-H-How are-are you, Alice?”

Alice’s breath was trapped in her throat. Her heart seemingly stopped. The leatherfaced man was back.

“I’m sorry…” she whispered, sobbing softly. Fear overtook her body, as she scrambled off the table, falling to the floor. “I’m sorry…I’m sorry…” she continued to say over and over.

The other four looked on in shock. Derek was the first to react, dropping the cups he was carrying and rushing to her side. “A-A-Alice! W-w-what’s w-w-wrong?!”

Alice screeched as the leatherfaced man quickly squatted down and reached towards her. On impulse, she kicked at him, knocking him on the floor. Jumping to her feet, Alice mumbled, “I’m sorry…I’m sorry…I’m sorry…” repeatedly as she slowly backed away towards the dance floor.

“A-A-Alice!” Derek shouted, helped to his feet by Eric and Den. He gave chase.

Alice gasped as she saw the leatherfaced man rise from the floor, unharmed, and continued his pursuit of her. She had to get away. Frantically, she darted through the dancing crowd, dodging bodies. She was now driven by pure blind instinct and raw panic. Emerging from the other side of the crowd, she tripped and fell, hitting her head on the saw dusted floor. Dazed, she rose to her knees, her hands instinctively touching her forehead. She felt a huge welt growing slowly from where her head had hit the floor.

“E-E-E-Excuse…Get out the way!!” Derek yelled, pushing his way through the dancers. At that moment, the music stopped with a record scratch. Everyone’s attention was suddenly focused on the direction he was facing. As Derek forced his way through, he could see Alice slowly rising to her feet.

“A-A-A-Alice!” he cried. “S-s-stop t-t-this!”

Alice turned towards the sound of his voice, her lips trembling, her face frozen in fear as she fearfully backed away from him, towards the large barn doors. The leatherfaced man had made his way through the crowd with ease. Was there anything that could stop him?! Her back pressed against the barn door. She had to hide. If she hid, he would go away. He always went away.

“I’m sorry!” she cried as she turned and flung the barn doors open. The cold October air brushed against her as she took off, running as fast, far, and hard as she could.


*November 1, 1979*

Not even the combination of the throaty roar of Sheriff Kruger’s fiery red 1973 AMC Javelin or the throbbing lyrics of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” could stir the sleepy town of Loomis after a holiday. Regina had free reign of the town’s streets, with not a single vehicle sharing them with her. With no one watching meant no leading by example. This meant no rules. She pressed the pedal to the floor, and watched the needle on the speedometer rise gradually as the lavish mansions lining the neighborhood on both sides slightly blurred together.

“Season ticket on a one-way ride!!” she sung along with the lead singer, swallowing a handful of Fruit Loops from the cereal box in the driver seat next to her. She always did this to expel nervous energy from her system. This was no time to be nervous. She was the sheriff of the town, and like Marshal Matt Dillon, she had a job to do. The hangover she had before hand was a distant memory, put down by the combination of aspirin and lots of sugar from coffee and dry cereal.

Her heart was racing. Admittedly, she was scared. A murder, in Loomis? Yes, she knew of the first murder that had taken place there. But it seemed like another lifetime…in fact, it practically was another lifetime. The sheriff before her was the arresting officer of the murderer, a black maid who worked for the Strodes, one of the most influential families in the town. She only knew about it from the local legend of “The Kings’ Curse”.

As Regina fishtailed left onto another street, she mentally scoffed. Like the myths of old, “the Kings’ Curse” was a pseudo-explanation of the coincidences of accidents that had befallen many of the townspeople that were linked to the murder case. She had not witnessed any of the accidents in her tenure, except one. Ms. Crane, while toiling in her elegant glass greenhouse one day, was nearly sliced to ribbons when the ceiling somehow shattered. It was a horrifying sight to behold when she and Deputy Greg were called to the scene. Blood was everywhere, and deep ghastly lacerations covered most of the woman’s body. It was a miracle that she did not bleed to death, even more amazing that she had not been driven mad from the pain. All she kept saying over and over was “The Curse is real!!” when she was placed in the ambulance and taken to the hospital in the next county over.

And now, Cleopatra King, the sister of the murderer, dead.

While her skepticism of the Curse waned slightly, her grounded instincts would not let it last long. She also found Deputy Greg’s suggestion to be a little hard to swallow as well. No matter how crazy someone was, they would never kill their own sister…would they?

She brought the Javelin down to 20 mph as she coasted onto Springwood Street. Her destination was drawing near. The houses on this street were especially elegant, practically 2-story architectural masterpieces. The crème de la crème of even the rich of Loomis lived in this area.

Maybe that’s why Mrs. King was killed? Race? All other motives could be ruled out. Every citizen of Loomis was wealthy. After all, the town was built as a retreat for them in the Midwestern isolation, as opposed to Connecticut, also known for their wealthy population. There were plenty of rich here, so singling out Mrs. King for a steal and kill was too much trouble for a robber. Then there was the sister thing, which she had high skepticism about. There was also the niece Ms. King had. Regina had met the young woman before at Sunday Services. She seemed very nice, a little too nice for the average teenager...almost suspicious even, as if she was hiding some dark secret. But she doubted the girl would kill her own aunt.

So who would gain from killing Mrs. King, race wise?

She frowned. The whole town? It was a horrible idea to consider, but she had heard snatches of conversations between the old fogeys of the Loomis Commission, the governing body of the town, when they thought no one was paying attention. They did not look on Mrs. King nicely, despite all the kindness and religious inspiration she was know to emanate. They wanted their Mayberry, their white picketed fences, and apple pie.

She gripped the steering wheel so tightly that her knuckles turned white. Disgusting. But maybe she was jumping the gun a bit. She had not reviewed the crime scene just yet, so there might was another factor that she did not consider.

She slowed to a crawl and turned into Ms. King’s white paved driveway, which stretched up to her lavish red brick mansion. No matter how many of the houses she had visited over the few years as sheriff, she found herself marveling at the beauty of the structure. She pulled up to the gold-trimmed covered porch and cut off the engine. Taking in a deep breath, she exhaled slowly, clearing her mind. She needed to have a fresh mind and a fresh perspective for review of the crime scene.

“Popi…give me strength.” She closed her eyes and whispered, knowing her father was looking down from heaven.

Just as she opened the door, her CB radio began to crackle. “White Rabbit…Tweedle Dee to White Rabbit…come in, please!” a male voice frantically shouted.

Regina quickly reached for her CB speaker. “This is White Rabbit, over!” she declared and waited.

“Oh God…” ‘Tweedle Dee’ cried over the CB radio. “White Rabbit…oh God…he’s bleeding everywhere…won’t wake up..! Over!”

“Tweedle Dee…you’re gonna have to take it easy…tell me everything…over!”

There was a long pause before the radio cackled again. “I got…another phone call after you left…some of the kids…did not come back yesterday…so I went up to the barn...and…Jesus Christ…!”

“Tweedle Dee…take it slow…it’s alright…finish telling me what happened…”

“White Rabbit…I can’t…I can’t do this…I can’t-”

“Yes you can, officer…now tell me what the hell happened….”

“Okay…okay…I’m sorry…just…so much blood…went up to the Barn…saw some kids still there…sent them along…then I found…I found the kid…he was lying…in a pool of his…his own…blood!”

Regina listened intensely. “Tweedle Dee…need an ID, over!”

“White Rabbit…he’s cut…in the side…Jesus…someone carved him up like a…Thanksgiving turkey or something…it’s just a mess…”

“Who is he, goddamnit!? Over.”

There was another long pause before he answered again. “Found his billfold…Derek Peter Simmons…Derek Simmons…”

“Oh no…” Regina slowly, with trembling hands, switched off the CB radio. The realization of the situation sunk in with the force of a sledgehammer.

“We have ourselves a serial killer…” she said quietly to herself. “Interesting…”

No comments:

Post a Comment