I AM HOME

When I first saw him I thought I was hallucinating. Was this a real person or a fear-induced illusion? I knew I had to remain perfectly still and quiet. My life depended on it.

I had no idea how long I’d been there – certainly long enough for my skin to have turned red, my mouth parched, my lips cracked. I remember being stung and bitten by insects and digging my nails into the palms of my hands to keep from crying out.

I recall now! We were picking flowers and berries in a sun-filled field; we had been following a stream and unknowingly wandered far from home. I caught sight of a bush hidden deep in a shady area. The plant was heavy with ripe blackberries and I couldn’t resist running to the bush, happily filling my bucket with the deep purple fruit.

I was busy plucking berries when I heard screams – not the usual giddy, playful squeals of young girls but awful shrieks of terror. I started to run back only to see my three sisters encircled by a group of Indians. The men were hulking and menacing, blocking the girl’s attempts to flee. They wore breechcloths across their midsection, moccasins and no shirts. Their faces were painted and their heads were shaved except for a center strip of upright long hair. They were the dreaded Mohawk.

They tugged the girl’s long blonde hair, poked them with sticks and tore at their starched white dresses. I wanted to shout out but was too afraid. How could I be such a coward? At 15, I was the eldest; I was supposed to protect them!

I crouched behind the berry bush and as quietly as possible covered myself with leaves and thorny stems. I peeked through my shelter and watched in horror as my sister’s dresses were crudely ripped from their innocent little bodies, torn pieces crammed into their mouths to silence their panicked shrieks. I wept silently as my sisters were held down and repeatedly raped. My heart shattered into a million splinters as they were ruthlessly slaughtered.

Long after the screams stopped, I remained motionless, eyes tightly shut. It doesn’t seem possible but I must have fallen asleep. When I awoke it was dusk, the Mohawk were gone and there was no sign of my sisters. The field was serene, as though nothing had happened. Where were my parents and the others we lived with? Why hadn’t anyone come looking for us? A terrifying thought came to me, chilling me to my very core: “Did the Mohawk attack our settlement? Did they kill my parents, too?” I wept bitterly until I drifted off to sleep.

A bright streak of early morning sunlight hit my face and my eyes flew open. That’s when I saw him.

He was tall, muscular and tan with long glossy black hair. He wore a fringed vest and long pants made of animal hide. His face was free of paint or tattoos and he looked to be about 20 years old. His features were handsome and peaceful; I knew he was not Mohawk.

A small fire burned nearby and in the time it would normally take me to plait my hair, he proficiently butchered and dressed a deer. He tossed the entrails into the fire, coated the deer in a thick layer of salt paste and wrapped it in canvas. Rising from his squatting position, he tied the carcass onto his horse, washed himself with water he had retrieved from the stream, then doused the fire.

A large bird flew into the bush where I was hiding. Startled, I accidentally kicked my pail of blackberries making a loud clanging sound. The brave quickly turned in my direction, drawing a knife tied to his leg. He crept closer, scanning the area intently. In only a few seconds he spotted me.

I freed myself from the thorny bush and ran into the dense forest but I was no match for the swift warrior. I screamed as he quickly scooped me up by my waist but instead of manhandling me, he made soft hushing sounds and my fears started to subside. He whispered soothingly and did not fight me. I felt a calmness come over me; I stopped resisting and slumped like a rag doll in his strong arms.

He sat me down in the open field and gave me food and water; I stared straight ahead, unblinking, eating and drinking as in a trance. As I ate, he cleaned the cuts and scratches on my face, arms and legs with a dampened cloth. He spoke a language I did not understand but found comforting.

He stood up, offering me his hand. I felt safe with him; if he was going to harm me he would have done so by now. I had unanswered questions about my parents and friends and I turned, heading in the direction of my home; he followed, walking beside his horse. As we drew near, faint wisps of smoke appeared in the sky and the smell of death hung in the still air. He motioned me to stop. Alone, he entered the settlement; when he returned, I knew. He knelt before me and sadly shook his head ‘no’. In his hand was my sister’s little doll. I fell to the ground, my mouth forming silent screams. I had no more tears left to cry.

I did not struggle when he picked me up and placed me on his horse. He smoothly jumped up and sat behind me. I buried my head in his chest, allowing sleep to overtake me.

We rode for three days and when we stopped to rest, we stayed close by each other’s side. I learned his name and he learned mine. My home and family were gone and he was all I had left in the world now. I know he realized and accepted that. He became my protector.

On day four we reached the massive waterfalls. I could barely see the longhouses on the other side of the river. He pointed and said the first word I understood: “Home”. He held me closely as we gingerly crossed the narrow bridge above the rapids.

When we reached the other side, his people ran to greet us; they were cheerful and welcoming and they chanted songs of thanksgiving. The women gently guided me inside; after bathing me, they wove my flaxen hair into intricate braids, soothed my sunburned skin with fragrant oils and dressed me in a beaded tunic of pale yellow. A feast was prepared in honor of their brother who had safely returned. There was much talking and laughing and I was embraced as one of their own.

That night when he came to our marriage bed my only thought was “I am home.”

NAR © 2022

THE BUTCHER BOY

Dangerous was too tame a word to describe Lyle Benson; no, he was treacherous, savage, vicious and murderous – but you’d never know by looking at him.

Lyle was one of those men blessed with movie star good looks and a silver tongue which the ladies found charming and irresistible. He also had a photographic memory and had acquired a broad knowledge covering many different topics. He was what women called ‘a keeper’; problem was any lady who hooked up with Lyle Benson was never seen again.

Just a flunkey, Lyle learned the tricks of the trade by working for crime lord George “Bugs” Moran, Al Capone’s primary rival. Moran was so sadistic he once kidnapped and mutilated a bodyguard of Capone’s, then mailed back what little was left.

Watching Moran in action always got Lyle’s engine revving. In a salacious frenzy, he’d hunt down some sweet innocent. He’d impress her with his wit and savoir faire. Lyle would tell her he was a doctor, his black bag always by his side. He’d wine and dine her, then drive to his secluded cabin where he’d unhurriedly butcher her until she pleaded for death. Only then as she gasped her last breath could the butcher boy get an erection. Only then could he have an orgasm.

But Lyle also had a compassionate side. He’d regularly send flowers to his catatonic mother and sister, residents in a Canadian asylum. He never could bring himself to kill them but a boy had to start somewhere.

NAR © 2021

SCREAMING OUT FOR HELP

It was 7:00 AM when Jason Peterson’s cell rang. Reaching for the phone he saw the call was from Dr. Philip Zane. Jason froze. How long had it been since he last heard from Dr. Zane – twelve, possibly thirteen years? He hoped never to hear from him again. With great reluctance he answered the call.

“Dr. Zane. It’s been a long time. I assume there’s been a development.” Jason said with a strange combination of indifference and dread.

“Yes, Jason. Your father is showing signs of coming out of his coma. Considering the circumstances, I thought you’d want to be here when he wakes up” was the doctor’s response.

The only news Jason wanted to hear was that his father was finally dead. But no! The bastard refused to give up without a fight, damn him! Calming himself, Jason said “Thank you for the update, doctor. Please let me know when my father is fully conscious.Considering the circumstances’ as you said, I want to be the first person to see my father when he‘s conscious. I’m sure you understand. Goodbye.”

Gregory Peterson had been in a coma ever since Jason bashed in his head that night of unspeakable horror in the Peterson house.

Jason was only fifteen when he called the police in a state of panic screaming out for help. His family was dead, butchered by his father, Gregory. When the police arrived at the house, they discovered four people savagely murdered, an unconscious man crumpled on the floor and Jason locked in the basement. The victims were taken to the morgue, the injured man transported to a high security hospital and Jason brought down to the police station.

The detectives sat in stunned silence as Jason described the events of that night:

“I was at Mike and Dan Kelly’s house smoking weed. Mike and Dan got really stoned and passed out around 1:00 so I left. When I got home I found everybody dead. My grandma and little brother Jake were tied to chairs. They’d both been shot in the head. My mom and sister Janice were on the sofa. They were naked and beaten so bad I could barely recognize them. They’d been raped, too. My dad just stood in the middle of the room, staring straight ahead like a crazed animal. He was clutching a huge bloody wrench.

Then he saw me and snapped to life. He came at me like a wild man swinging that wrench. All I could do was run, try to get out of his way. I stumbled and fell on top of Janice. Her blood was all over me and I scrambled away as fast as I could. I saw the gun on the floor and dove for it. I pointed it at my dad but it jammed. I threw the gun at him and he lunged at me but the wrench slipped out of his hands. I grabbed it and swung at him. He was gonna kill me, too, just like he killed all of them. I had to do something to protect myself so I bashed him over the head. I hit him pretty hard and he went down. I dropped the wrench and ran to the basement. I locked myself in and called 911. It was horrible, a nightmare. How could he do something so awful?”

And he broke down, sobbing.

After checking out Jason’s story with the Kellys, the police saw no reason to detain him. The dead were buried, Jason moved in with relatives and Gregory languished in a coma. The years went by.

Three days after the call from Dr. Zane, Jason heard from him again. Gregory was conscious and speaking but repeating only one word: “Jason”.

It was evening at the hospital, that twilight time when patients sleep and hospital staff chat quietly. A bored policeman sat outside Gregory’s room, dozing. He checked Jason’s visitor’s pass, did a cursory pat-down and told him he could go in. Gregory was asleep, neatly tucked in and handcuffed to the bed rails. In the dim light he looked old and frail. Jason flipped the switch flooding the room with light.

Abruptly awakened, Gregory mumbled his disapproval. Approaching the bed Jason could see the apprehension in his father’s eyes as he focused on his son’s sneering face.

Bending close so that their faces were just inches apart, Jason whispered menacingly “I wish you died that night, old man, just like everyone else. I should have finished you off. That was sloppy of me. Think how much easier if would have been without having this to deal with all these years. Well, we can’t have you spilling the beans now, can we?” Jason removed his cell phone from his pocket, the same one he used to call the police that grisly night. Smugly he thought how stupid the police were not asking to see his phone. It was laughable but then again his performance down at the station was magnificent. By the time he was finished every cop wanted to hug him and make all the terrifying images go away. Smugly he showed his father one selfie after the other; each one was of Jason standing over the bodies of his family, his victims. The final images were graphic videos of Jason raping his mother and sister. Too bad their mouths were taped shut; he would have love to have heard their screams.

With each photo Jason grinned as Gregory became more and more agitated, his breathing labored and his eyes bugging as his face turned crimson. He opened his mouth to cry out but only silence filled the room.

What a shame to remove such works of art” Jason said as he deliberately deleted each photo, unfazed by the fact that Gregory was in extreme distress. He smiled coldly as his father died before his eyes. If only he could have bashed in his head just one more time.

Slipping into character, Jason strolled to the door of his father’s room and flung it open, screaming out for help.

NAR © 2021

WHY?

There wasn’t anything particularly special about the guy; he was actually rather ordinary looking but something made me uneasy. He just stood near the entrance, silently watching.

It was the usual Wednesday morning story time in the children’s room of the Lansing Library. Parents running errands could drop off their kids knowing they’d be safe and well-cared-for. The children listened intently as I read “The Adventures of Frog and Toad“.

I couldn’t shake the uncomfortable vibe I was getting from that guy. I caught the eye of my assistant, Grace, and with a slight tilt of my head I motioned toward the man. She glanced over and casually made her way across the room.

With cautious confidence Grace walked up to him and in a quiet but stern tone said “You’ve got thirty seconds to explain to me what you’re doing here”.

The man seemed rattled by Grace’s demand and stumbled over an apology. “I’m terribly sorry! I didn’t mean to alarm anyone. I’m here to pick up my son.”

Oh, really? Who’s your son?” Grace asked.

The man replied “Nathan … Nathan Fletcher. I’m Jacob Fletcher. My wife Emily isn’t feeling well. She asked me to come fetch him. She’s pregnant, you know.”

Yes, Emily. Of course! Such a lovely woman” Grace said. “Sorry to hear she’s ill. She seemed fine when she dropped Nathan off.”

Yes, she was” Jacob agreed. “It’s the morning sickness; it really knocks her for a loop sometimes. Emily said she would notify library security that I’d be picking Nathan up.”

Before Grace had a chance to call the security desk to verify Mr. Fletcher’s story, Nathan spotted his father; the boy was overjoyed to see his dad and happily raced to greet him.

Daddy! Daddy! I’m so glad to see you. Is Mommy here?” Jacob gave Nathan a big hug and scooped him up in his arms.

Hi, buddy! Mommy’s resting. She asked me to come get you.”

Yay! Can we get some ice cream? We can bring some to Mommy, too” Nathan asked, bubbling with excitement.

Sure!” Jacob replied laughing. “C’mon! We better get going.”

Grace looked questioningly at me and I nodded in approval, smiling at the happy duo of father and son.

The two left, hand in hand, Nathan gleefully skipping along beside his dad. All was right in the library once again.

Later that night as I watched TV, the show was interrupted by a news bulletin:

A police alert has been issued for the whereabouts of five-year-old Nathan Fletcher and his father, Jacob. The two were last seen leaving Longford’s Ice Cream on Lansing Street around 12:30 this afternoon. The body of Emily Fletcher, Jacob’s wife and the mother of Nathan, was found in the family’s home this evening by her sister. She had been brutally stabbed to death. Mrs. Fletcher was six months pregnant. At this time police believe Jacob Fletcher is the only suspect in the murder of his wife, unborn child and the abduction of his son.”

I sat in abject horror staring at the TV screen; in the upper right corner was the face of the man from the library.

How could I have made such an unforgivable error in judgement? Oh my God! That poor woman! My heart froze when I thought of Nathan.

Why didn’t I follow my instincts?

NAR © 2021

ON THE WAY

David’s decision to flee the scene was fueled by fear, self-preservation and adrenaline. An electrical storm during the night wreaked havoc with the streetlights causing them to flash at indiscriminate intervals. Even though his was the only car on the dimly lit road, the strobe effect from the lights was haphazard and dangerously distracting. There were shadows looming everywhere; David never saw the cyclist cross his path.

The impact was powerful yet made only a quiet thud like the subtle reload of a gun’s magazine. The visual impression, however, was appalling. The tableau switched to slow motion; David watched in horror as a mangled body performed a ‘danse macabre’ across the hood of his car while musical phrases from “O Fortuna” screamed in his head. The cyclist soared through the air like an acrobat and landed in a twisted heap fifty feet or so from the car.

David sat motionless in his car; no other living creature was anywhere in sight. “What to do? What to do?” raced through his mind. He’d never had a car accident, not even a parking ticket. Now he had run someone down – an innocent cyclist. Was it a man or a woman? Surely this person would be missed by family and friends, perhaps his or her parents or – God forbid – their children. What a terrible fate, a horrible accident. Yes, David had a few drinks with friends after work, just a few; the alcohol had to be out of his system by now. But wait; the cyclist wore no reflective clothing, not even a warning light on the bike’s handlebars or wheels. Out cycling in the night, alone; wasn’t that tempting fate? Maybe they got what they deserved.

Slowly David opened the door and looked around; the deafening silence was pounding in his brain, the absence of people other-worldly. With measured steps he approached the crumpled body. A gentle push of his booted foot confirmed what he already suspected: the cyclist was dead. A battered helmet sat near the edge of the road; the bright orange and black ‘KTM’ emblem of the bicycle manufacturer in Austria stared at David accusingly. The longer he looked at the emblem the more he realized he had two choices: he could report the accident to the police and face the consequences or he could clean up this mess and get on with his life.

As he walked back to his car David knew what he had to do. A look at the front end showed very little damage, a small inconvenience he could deal with later. More pressing matters prevailed; first he had to extricate the bicycle from under his car. David sat in the driver’s seat, shifted the car into reverse and gently backed up. After a couple of seconds he could feel the car and the bicycle disengage.

The bike was a wreck but there wasn’t much debris on the road. Retrieving his jacket, David wrapped it around the top tube bar and carried the bike back to the dead cyclist. Taking a few steps away from the road he realized it would be easy to throw the bike over the edge, making it look like the cyclist had swerved off the road – if the body was ever found at all. He gave the bike a hefty toss and it disappeared onto the woods below. With his foot David then rolled the cyclist’s body and helmet down the hill.

David walked back to his car and broke off a low hanging branch from a tree which he used to sweep the road clear of any pieces of glass or metal. Getting back into the car, he turned on the radio and cranked up the volume; the song was Euclid’s “On the Way”, his favorite revolutionary political heavy metal band.

Ok” David murmured to himself. “It’s all gonna be ok. Just one last thing. Got to take care of that little dent in the hood of my car.” David kept driving until he reached a busy gas station. He drove up to a pump, intentionally smacking into a metal barrier; witnesses could attest to the mishap.

David drove home feeling much more relaxed and confident. He reached for his jacket but it wasn’t there. His face went pale and he broke out in a cold sweat. Closing his eyes he could clearly see his jacket wrapped around the bicycle, his phone still in the pocket, as it made its final descent into the woods.

NAR © 2021

For Part 2, “When The Fog Rolls In“, please click here: https://wp.me/pc3LSm-1az

JUST DESSERTS

Death comes suddenly to some; for others it takes a lifetime.

It was Good Friday of 1946; Kathleen O’Brien walked through a narrow cobblestone passage way to St. Brigid’s Church. She hated walking by Sully’s Bar with its overpowering stench of booze and abundance of seedy characters hanging around but she was late for services (a terrible habit) and this was a convenient shortcut. She was twenty-two years old – no longer a kid – yet she’d rather die than admit to her mother that she missed the Veneration of the Cross. It was bad enough she was late for everything.

Seeing an unfamiliar man drinking a beer and leaning against the wall outside Sully’s, Kathleen quickened her pace. She heard him chuckle and say “What’s ya hurry, toots?” She walked even faster, opening the side door of the church; it creaked loudly. The elderly priest paused in mid-sentence and made a grand gesture of looking in Kathleen’s direction; he stared at her over his glasses, giving her a withering scowl. Embarrassed, she quickly found a seat at the end of a pew next to Mrs. Callahan who huffed at having to make room for this rude latecomer.

As is the tradition on Good Friday, everyone remained after services for a period of silent prayer. It was a time to reflect and meditate, one of Kathleen’s favorite parts of Holy Week. When the ushers opened the church doors the sense of peacefulness and solemnity was instantly shattered by the loud music and drunken laughter emanating from Sully’s Bar. “Some people have no respect” thought Kathleen angrily. “An Irish pub shouldn’t even be open on Good Friday!

As she began her walk home Kathleen noticed the same man from the bar standing at the corner. Had he been waiting for her or was this just a coincidence? Warily Kathleen took a step when suddenly the man started walking right toward her. She was taken aback as he stood in her path and extended his hand. “Name’s Harry Selkin and you’re one fine lookin’ dame. Ya need somebody like me to walk ya home. It can be dangerous for a good Catholic girl like yourself to be alone in this neck of the woods.”

Where do you get off saying something like that to me?” Kathleen snapped. “And how do you know I’m a good Catholic girl anyway?”

Well, I ain’t no Einstein but I seen ya practically runnin’ to St. Brigid’s like ya pants was on fire and I’m guessinya ain’t no altar boy – not with them gorgeous legs.” Harry replied in a very ‘Bogey’ sort of way. He smiled and his tough guy persona became surprisingly charming. Kathleen found it hard not to laugh just a little at this roguish stranger and she shocked herself by allowing him to walk her home.

Harry and Kathleen were as different as a gorilla and a swan but there was an undeniable chemistry between them and they started falling in love. No one was more surprised than Kathleen; Harry was like no man she had ever met. Sure, he was rough around the edges but she loved how his face lit up like a kid whenever he ate dessert, especially his favorite – homemade apple pie. Kathleen was known for her baking skills and would make a pie for Harry every couple of days.

They had a whirlwind courtship and Harry popped the question, much to Kathleen’s delight – and her parent’s chagrin. At first they tolerated the relationship thinking it would blow over, but the more serious it got the more concerned they became. There was a major obstacle her parents couldn’t overlook – the fact that Harry was Jewish. Kathleen’s father was dead set against Harry, calling him names like ‘Christ killer’ and ‘kike’. He was enraged when Kathleen announced that she and Harry were going to get married with or without his blessing. Her mother was crushed. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Can’t you see he’s no good for you? I don’t trust him at all, Katy girl, not at all!” she warned, crying into her apron. Kathleen hated defying her parents but would not be dissuaded; she was in love! Her father said she was a blind fool and if she married “that good-for-nothing bum” she was dead to him. With a heavy heart Kathleen closed the door of her childhood home behind her and never looked back.

Harry and Kathleen got married in city hall, the judge and his clerk their only guests and witnesses. After a weekend honeymoon in Niagara Falls the couple settled into Harry’s tiny apartment – a walk-up on the fifth floor and almost within arm’s reach of the elevated train. Kathleen was startled by the scream of the locomotive but Harry said she’d get used to it.

The dilapidated condition of the apartment shocked Kathleen but she was determined to turn it into a lovely home for them. She sewed curtains and towels for the kitchen and bought bed coverings from the thrift store. She also bought sacks of apples from the fruit stand to make Harry’s beloved apple pies. She read in her cookbook that it was alright to freeze apples until you were ready to use them – a handy tip Kathleen didn’t know.

Harry worked the graveyard shift as a printer at the local newspaper, seven days a week from midnight till 8:00 AM. His fingers were permanently stained with black ink. The first morning he came home from work and saw the newly decorated apartment, he got angry at Kathleen for spending his hard-earned money on unnecessary things. Uncaring, he left ink stains on the bedspread when he sat down to remove his shoes. However his mood lightened considerably when he eyed the sacks of apples and Kathleen forgave his angry outburst when she saw that boyish grin.

While Harry slept during the day Kathleen cleaned, shopped and cooked. She wanted a vacuum cleaner but Harry said it was too expensive and the noise would keep him awake so she settled for a carpet sweeper. Their only chance to be together was at breakfast and dinner time – and of course for coffee and dessert. Kathleen suggested a few times that it would be nice if Harry worked during the day so they could be like a normal couple and spend more time together but her words fell on deaf ears.

She also longed for a baby. Each time she thought she was pregnant it turned out to be a false alarm. She saw a doctor who wasn’t very encouraging; he shrugged his shoulders, gave her ambiguous explanations and performed a couple of routine tests. He told her it was just one of those things; not all couples could get pregnant. When Kathleen finally got up the nerve to mention to Harry what the doctor said, he laughed and said it wasn’t his fault she couldn’t get pregnant; “Just ask that sweet little Frenchie I knocked up during the war” was his mean-spirited reply. Kathleen felt like she’d been kicked in the gut. When she cried that she needed something else to fill her lonely days Harry yelled to “go get a job and start earnin’ ya keep around here! Who needs another mouth to feed anyways?” Kathleen was reeling; how could he say such hurtful things? Heartbroken, she eventually gave up on having a baby and found a job as a presser in a shirt factory. The work was exhausting and she still had to maintain the apartment and cook for Harry.

What happened to the guy she married? Harry was constantly annoyed about something or other and drank more now than usual. He got mean when he drank and and Kathleen bore the brunt of his anger. When he demanded sex every night before going to work, she kept her mouth shut but she was silently screaming. This was no way to exist, like a piece of property and not a person. She’d lie awake at night remembering her mother’s warning words. The only thing in her God-forsaken life that she truly enjoyed was baking and she did it all for Harry. She would fantasize about how lovely it would be to have her own little bake shop; she’d make lots of delicious cakes and pies for her large following of loyal customers – not just for her selfish husband. She knew she could do it if she only had the chance.

A few weeks after Kathleen began working she started complaining about backaches and being very tired – probably from constantly lifting the heavy pressing machines at work. Harry, as usual, was unsympathetic and said she better toughen up because no way was she giving up that job.

One morning Kathleen asked Harry if he could bring down the mixing bowl she kept on top of the fridge so she could make an apple pie. He was tired from working all night and wanted to get to sleep but he obliged her at the prospect of dessert. Harry put down his bottle of beer and got the step-stool out of the closet. As he started to climb, Kathleen hoisted a five pound sack of frozen apples, wincing at the pain in her back, and bashed Harry as hard as she could on the back of his head. He fell backwards onto the kitchen floor, his lifeless eyes staring up at the ceiling.

Kathleen hurriedly tore open the sack of apples and dumped them into a pot on the stove. She shoved the empty apple sack into the garbage bag, bunched it all up and threw it down the incinerator chute outside their apartment door. Placing a new bag in the garbage can, she looked at Harry’s body and felt sick to her stomach, vomiting in the sink. She washed her hands and face, then placed a call to the police.

HELP!” Kathleen screamed into the phone. “My husband fell! I think he’s dead!” Then she calmly sat at the kitchen table and waited, crying over misspent years. The police and ambulance arrived quickly; after examining Harry, he was officially declared dead. Blunt force trauma, they said, obviously from smashing his head on the kitchen floor. Everyone was very conciliatory and sympathetic and they respectfully removed Harry’s body. “If there’s anything we can do, Mrs. Selkin, please let us know” the officers said as they left Kathleen alone in the quiet apartment.

Kathleen cleaned up the kitchen and called her boss at the shirt factory to say she wouldn’t be able to work that day. Her boss barked that if she didn’t come in to work she shouldn’t bother coming back at all. Kathleen simply said “Goodbye”. She put the pot of apples in the fridge and after changing her clothes she went to the funeral parlor to make arrangements for Harry.

When she got home she received a phone call from her doctor. “Mrs. Selkin, I’m calling because your test results came back; you and Mr. Selkin will be thrilled to know you’re pregnant. Congratulations, Mrs. Selkin!” Kathleen swayed in stunned disbelief and grabbed onto the edge of the table. She managed a weak “Thank you” and hung up the phone. “Pregnant” she whispered in awe and her slight smile slowly grew into a broad grin. She gently touched her belly, truly happy for the first time in years.

The next morning Kathleen baked a large apple pie with the same apples she used to bash in Harry’s head. When the pie was done and still warm, she placed it in a box and delivered it to the nice policemen. On the way home she stopped in the little bakery near her apartment and inquired about a job. It was a start, a new beginning for her and her baby.

NAR © 2020

A COLD CASE

Word on the street was Louie “No Nose” Lombardo was sprung from the slammer. His early release spelled big trouble; besides seeking revenge, Louie heard his sworn enemy Tony “The Cutter” Tedesco had been sniffing around his wife. 

Louie and Tony weren’t always enemies. In fact when they were kids they were inseparable. They would ride their bikes down to the empty lot where they’d scrounge around for discarded cigarette butts with just enough left for a couple of drags. They played stickball in the street with a broom handle and a Spaldeen. During the summer they’d hitchhike to Orchard Beach and sneak in through an opening in the fence. 

One day around Christmas Louie got caught in Woolworth’s trying to shoplift an angel ornament for his mother. When the store manager realized Louie’s father was held in high regard by the members of La Cosa Nostra, he looked the other way. And he let Louie keep the ornament saying “He didn’t want any trouble”. 

Tony’s father was a mortician for the Sisto Funeral Home and you better believe he knew where the bodies were buried. He wasn’t called “The Undertaker” for nothing. Sometimes the boys would sneak in after a wake to check the big sofa cushion for loose change. 

Louie’s father was the manager of Luca’s Ristorante, a well-known mob hangout. Luca Lombardo knew what side his bread was buttered on; syndicate bosses like Rocco “TNT” Randazzo and their soldiers were all welcome at Luca’s. 

For the first 19 years of their lives nothing or no one could come between Louie and Tony – that is until Rocco brought his  daughter Rosanna to the restaurant. Rosanna was a vixen – long chestnut hair, flawless bronze skin, smoky hazel eyes and a body that could melt the mozzarella right off your pizza. 

Rosanna was a real tease and Tony and Louie fell hard. She hooked up with both, enjoying the game of pitting them against each other, watching their animosity grow like rival nations. After stringing them along for over a year, Rosanna chose Louie. He hungrily kissed his future bride’s mouth as Tony glared at them. 

Rocco gave the couple his blessing along with an extravagant wedding, a lavish honeymoon in Italy and a beautiful house. It wasn’t long before Rocco brought Louie into the family “business”. A year later Rosanna had a baby and her jilted lover Tony was invited to the christening party. Louie paraded Rosanna around the room on his arm like a trophy while Rocco proudly displayed his first grandson. Tony lost it. He and Louie starting fighting. Pushing and shoving led to punches, then the switchblades came out. Suddenly Tony’s brother Angelo lunged at Rocco and Louie intervened, fatally stabbing Angelo. Tony whirled, slicing off most of Louie’s nose. 

At his trial Louie was charged with manslaughter and sent up the river to Dannemora. Rocco told Louie to sit tight; he’d take care of everything; he was indebted to Louie for saving his life. “Whatever you want I’ll make it happen” Rocco pledged. Louie whispered in his ear and Rocco replied “Consider it done.”

Rocco called in some favors, greased a few palms and made the Governor an offer he couldn’t refuse by reminding him of the sex scandal that Rocco made disappear. It all fell into place nicely; Louie was pardoned and released.

Two weeks later Louie was staring at a portrait of Tony next to his closed casket at Sisto Funeral Home. The photo of his one-time best friend had to suffice; after being blown to bits by a car bomb there was nothing left of Tony to look at.  

The police have no leads. 

NAR © 2020

Inspired by Fandango’s One-Word Challenge#FOWCoffer

ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS

Papers and leaves were snatched by the gusty autumn wind and scattered about the street like so many pieces of flotsam and jetsam.  It was getting dark and Frederick knew he had to find his wife Helene before something bad happened, before she hurt herself – or worse. Helene had been terribly distraught this morning – more so than usual – and judging by the quantity of bourbon missing from the bottle, she was also probably quite drunk. Another horrible fight with his mother, Frederick assumed. 

Shoving his hands into his coat pockets, Frederick hunched his shoulders against the cold harsh wind. As he searched the streets for Helene his mind began to wander back to a time years ago when things were better, back to when Helene was whole. How happy they had been, just the two of them so in love. They bought a cute brownstone soon after getting married, living there blissfully by themselves, making plans for the future. 

When Helene learned she was pregnant they were ecstatic; she even began knitting a baby blanket. Then the miscarriage happened, followed by three more. Four babies lost and a multitude of dreams crumbled and forgotten. Helene had to have a hysterectomy and fell into a depression. No babies ever for the young couple – only the two of them alone in a sad empty house. Frederick urged Helene to consider adoption, but she refused and her depression deepened. How could one woman bear a sorrow so heavy?  

A few months later Frederick’s father committed suicide, due in no small part to his mother’s constant badgering and belittling. Not wanting his mother to be alone and despite Helene’s protests, Frederick moved his mother in with them. He thought Helene and his mother might provide some companionship for each other but the two women soon began arguing. Helene could do nothing right in Frederick’s mother’s eyes. She even went so far as to flaunt Helene’s inability to have a baby, goading her on by calling her a dried up empty vessel, a disappointing failure. 

As Frederick walked rapidly through the streets, he tried to figure out what had happened earlier. He had arrived home from work to find the door wide open and the house in disarray. Dishes were shattered on the kitchen floor. The phonograph had been knocked over, his mother’s favorite record in smithereens. Frederick had called out but no one answered. He’d frantically raced through the house, stopping at the entrance to his mother’s room; her door was slightly open and he could see she was asleep, curled up in her bed. Helene’s coat and purse were hanging on a rack by the front door but she was nowhere in sight. 

Suddenly Frederick snapped back to the present as he spied Helene at the train station; she was standing perilously close to the edge of the platform. Cautiously he walked toward her and whispered her name. Helene whirled around and Frederick was shocked to see the crazed look in her eyes and the cuts on her face. Helene tried to run but Frederick caught her. He cradled her in his arms as they walked home. 

When they reached the house, Helene began giggling like a little girl and told Frederick she had a surprise for him. Bewildered, he followed her up the stairs to his mother’s room. Helene motioned for Frederick to be quiet as she tip-toed to the bed. She threw back the covers, revealing his mother’s bloody body, knitting needles deeply embedded in her neck. Frederick recoiled in horror. Helene grabbed her knitting needles and lunged at him, stabbing him repeatedly while screaming maniacally “This is your fault! You brought her here! This is all your fault! ALL YOUR FAULT!!” 

Frederick collapsed to the floor in a bloody heap. The last thing he saw was Helene plunging out the bedroom window.

NAR © 2019

A PIG IN A POKE

As soon as Briana Jeffries woke up she knew her AC had broken down. Her townhouse was like a sauna. She called the landlord to report the malfunction, then got ready for work. Stepping outside, she was enveloped in a cloud of oppressive heat. 

Briana’s townhouse didn’t have a garage – only street parking was available. Slipping off her suit jacket, she adjusted her shoulder bag and began walking to her car. With every step she took, a bead of sweat rippled down her neck and back until her blouse clung to her drenched body. She cursed her high heels and pantyhose but the real estate agency where she worked demanded appropriate attire at all times. 

I really should switch to McConnell Realty. They’re much more casual than Dalton & Banks” she thought as she got into her car and switched on the AC. Sure, the commission she earned was great but she wasn’t truly happy. And dealing with that smarmy, perpetually tanned Joe del Vecchio was nauseating.

First on the agenda was the Monday meeting, then Briana’s client at 10:30. With six houses to show, it was going to be a long day. As soon as she entered the office, Joe was all over her. “Looking hot, Briana. Nice lipstick. Looks all pouty. I’m gonna call you BJ. Know what that means?” She always hated her initials.

What a dick. The only reason Joe was tolerated at the agency was the older female clients adored him and he could charm the panties off them – and probably did if it meant making a sale. Ignoring him, Briana sat at the mahogany table between two colleagues. 

Attention!” Charlotte Dalton announced. “We have a large number of retired couples today who want to see penthouses. Briana and Joe, I want you working together.” Briana sighed in exasperation, already defeated knowing she’d be with Joe all day. Joe grinned and winked across the big conference table, chewing on his pen.

“What a Neanderthal” Briana thought. 

By day’s end Briana was sick of Joe and couldn’t wait to be rid of him but he insisted on walking her to her car. “Let’s get a drink, moisten that luscious BJ mouth”. Involuntarily Briana licked her lips;  Joe leaned in for a kiss as Briana slid into her car. 

“Stop it, Joe! I just want to go home, take a shower and go to bed.” She immediately regretted her choice of words. Joe bent down and whispered in Briana’s ear. “You read my mind, baby”, his fingers playing with the delicate chain that dangled between Briana’s breasts. She pushed his hand away and drove off, nearly knocking him off his feet. It was at that moment she decided that was her last day at Dalton & Banks. 

Arriving back at home, Briana was thrilled to find the AC working and the house delightfully cool. Locking the door, she kicked off her shoes, peeled off her damp clothes and headed for the bathroom. Closing the door, Briana stepped into the shower and stood under the cool water, relaxing, unthinking.  She was just so grateful to be home.

Funny how your mind plays tricks on you sometimes. Eyes closed, Briana thought she heard a noise outside the bathroom. She stood still, listening; nothing. Reaching for the shampoo, Brianna thought she heard a noise again. She listened intently; this time she was sure. SOMEONE WAS IN HER HOUSE!!

Instinct kicked in and Briana lunged from the shower to lock the bathroom door just as Joe del Vecchio burst in, knocking her backwards into the shower. Briana’s head slammed into the tiles; blood tricked down her face and into her eyes. As she began losing consciousness, she slid down the shower wall and barely made out the image of Joe running from her bathroom. She fell face down onto the shower floor, blood swirling down the drain. Clutched in her hand was Joe’s monogrammed pocket square.

Briana was right. That was her last day at Dalton & Banks. 

NAR © 2019

Reposted for Fandango’s Story Starter #79

THE REGISTER

“Saunders B&B, a beautiful old country Georgian house in Tipperary, set in lovely wooded grounds and gardens. A warm welcome combined with superb food makes this gracious house ideal” recited my bride Fiona breathlessly.

How do you do that??” I asked for the fiftieth time since we met. 

“I can’t help having a photographic memory. It’s a blessing and a curse but it sure came in handy when studying ‘The Principles of Macroeconomics!” she laughed. 

It had been raining lightly and getting accustomed to driving on the other side of the road was challenging. As we turned the bend, the B&B appeared before us looking exactly like something out of a Thomas Moore poem. Just then the sun broke through the clouds, a rainbow in its wake. 

Look, Dylan! A rainbow! declared Fiona excitedly. “Maybe there’s a pot of gold at the end.” 

I chuckled at her enthusiasm. We entered the old but immaculate building and a kindly lady was there to greet us at the front desk. “I’m guessing you’re the Colcannons. I’m Kathleen. Welcome! Would you be kind enough to sign the register?” 

Fiona giddily signed the guest book. “Ah, newlyweds! There’s no mistaking that glow about ya, lass” Kathleen said,  smiling broadly. “Our last guests departed yesterday so you’ll have the whole place to yourselves.” Handing us the key to our room, she said dinner would be served at 7pm. 

Our room was charming with a view of the back gardens. Just before dinner we checked out the library. It was small but offered a variety of books from ‘Time Travellers’ to the writings of Diogenes. Dinner was carrot soup and White Pudding, a popular Irish meat dish, followed by scones and chocolate mousse. Exhausted and full, we retired early, looking forward to sightseeing in the morning. 

The next day we were served a traditional Irish breakfast of eggs, bacon, hash, toast, marmalade and Lyons Tea. “I am stuffed! You up for a walk?” I asked Fiona, and off we went exploring. Typical of Ireland, the day was overcast and as we walked along the path we came upon a cemetery. Slowly we weaved our way among the headstones, reading aloud the names as we went along. 

This is one for the Guinness book of coincidences” said Fiona“Yesterday when I signed the register I remember seeing the name ‘White’ and dinner was White Pudding. Another name in the register was ‘Lyons’ and this morning at breakfast we had Lyons Tea. That’s incredible!” 

“Both those names are pretty common, Fiona. I don’t think that’s incredible.” 

 Walking along we discovered Kathleen in the garden gathering vegetables. “For tonight’s dinner”, she explained. “A combination of mashed potatoes, cabbage and bacon.” 

“That sounds delicious!” declared Fiona “What’s it called?” 

Suddenly Kathleen whipped out a machete, grinned maniacally and shrieked “Colcannon!” 

The last thing I remember was seeing Fiona’s head roll to the ground and an excruciating pain in my neck while Kathleen cackled hideously. Then the whole world went black. 

NAR © 2019