SHARKEY AND THE JABBERWOCK (Story) by Richard F. Yates

[This is a story I started several years ago, with my old writing group at Washington State University Vancouver, back when I was still working at the Writing Center. (I miss that group. We had a LOT of fun together.) I really loved this story, but in the shuffle and jive of daily life, I lost the inspiration and dropped the tale before I’d concluded it. I’ve decided it’s time to bring Sharkey and Alice and Adam back to life, revise them a bit, and FINISH their story. WARNING: This gets violent—and really weird. There are some bad words and freaky situations in the story that follows, and frankly a GREAT DEAL of nonsense, so if you find silliness and blood offensive, you’ll want to look elsewhere for your entertainment… otherwise, ENJOY! —RFY]

Chapter 1 – “Friday Night”

The overhead light had been torn from the ceiling during the incident, so the first team in the room had grabbed a pair of halogen flood lamps, which were too bright for the small space once they were turned on, while simultaneously creating huge swathes of deep shadow. It made the whole scene look as if it were the inside of some strange cave—or a chamber in Hell. Loveless was new to the force, just out of the academy, and he had to rush out of the room and throw up when he saw the mess on the bed. Jensen and Schitt were twenty-year veterans, and truth be told, they both felt their stomachs turn when the lights first fizzed into life.

And that’s sayin’ something because the Broken Ankle Point P.D. had seen more than its fair share of violent crime. Though there were fewer than a million people in the city, the criminal element that did reside there was particularly energetic. In fact, the International Crime Guild had conferred its coveted “Most Creative Murder of the Year” award to individuals working in Broken Ankle Point on no fewer than three occasions, most recently in 2010 to the notorious “Pussy Fiend,” Jack Dillman, who murdered over two dozen people by shoving live kittens down their throats. Jensen and Schitt had worked that case, had even been closing in on Dillman, when he’d panicked and committed suicide with a lawnmower. But even that hideous mess was tame compared to what they found in this bed, smoking just slightly in the heat of the halogens.

Jensen scratched his bald head while Schitt photographed the blood splashes on the walls and ceiling.

“Hey Jensen,” Loveless called from the hall. Poor kid hadn’t been able to even look through the doorway since the lights came on. “Sharkey’s here,” he said.

“Finally,” Jensen grumbled as a tall figure in a light gray trench coat stepped into the room. His muzzle twitched, lightly, as he sniffed the air. His pointy ears poked up through holes cut in the brim of his hat.

“Hey Shark,” Jensen said. “We got a real mess here. Can’t make much out of it.”

“Forensics get anything yet?” Sharkey asked.

“They think we’re looking at three victims in that soup. Maybe more,” Jensen said.

Sharkey took off his hat and scratched at an ear with his paw. His muzzle twitched again as he sniffed a little closer to the bed.

“What you got, Shark? I know that twitch,” Jensen said. Schitt filed in behind Jensen as they both watched Detective Sharkey work his jaw. He snarled and growled low in his throat.

“What did this,” Sharkey grumbled, “wasn’t human.” It wouldn’t be admissible as evidence unless they found something physical, after all Sharkey couldn’t prove what he’d smelled in court, but Jensen and Schitt knew that Sharkey was never wrong.

“What’a we lookin’ for? Werewolf?” Schitt asked.

“No. This is somethin’ that isn’t even remotely human,” Sharkey said. He shivered. He couldn’t I.D. the smell, but it somehow reminded him of his puppy-hood, of campfire stories and nightmares—but he couldn’t quite put his paws on it. “I’m not sure what it is, but it’s old. Really old. It smells like decay and nightmares,” he said and growled again.

“Nightmares got a smell?” Schitt asked.

“Mine do,” Sharkey said.

Chapter 2 – “Sharkey’s Schlocky Origins”

Detective Sharkey was a good dog. Everyone on the force knew it, but especially Jensen and Schitt, who had worked with Sharkey since he joined the Broken Ankle Point Police Department.

Jensen had actually been on the case, seven years before, when Sharkey was found and adopted by the force. The evil scientist, Dr. Anthony Randall, had just been murdered by Fester McBrooha, a local mob boss. The doctor had apparently sold a faulty doomsday device to McBrooha, and the mobster had taken it personally. Really, it was no civic loss when Randall’s car went boom, but before the Feds swooped in to confiscated all of Dr. Randall’s research and devices, Jensen had discovered Sharkey in the basement of the lab, apparently one of the few experiments that Dr. Randall had conducted that went, somewhat inexplicably, right. Once the Feds had examined all of Dr. Randall’s work (utilizing the expertise of reformed mad scientist, Henry Schloss, the famous Bat Wrangler, who had trained bats to kill television personalities in the 1960s) Dr. Randall was officially, though posthumously, reclassified as a Class Three Mad Scientist: more dangerous for the mistakes he might have made than for his deviousness of character or ability to intentionally cause mayhem. It’s the single most common designation for Mad Scientists registered with the Federal Work Board.

Anyway, despite this rather rough introduction to the force, it soon became apparent that Sharkey could not only speak, but also think (neither is necessary for the other to be true), and also that he didn’t share his former master’s desire for world domination. Jensen, along with Captain Howitzer, helped Sharkey sue for emancipation from Dr. Randall’s estate on the grounds of unique intelligence, and shortly thereafter, Sharkey became the first human/canine hybrid to enroll at the Broken Ankle Point Police Academy (and the third such hybrid to join a police force in the state of Oregon.)

Chapter 3 – “Alice”

Alice still had a few boxes that she wanted to unpack before giving up for the night, but she was just too exhausted. She dropped unceremoniously into a blue lawn chair, the only furniture in her new living room, and puffed from tired lungs.

It had been a tricky couple of weeks, but Alice felt pretty sure she’d made a clean break. And she felt pretty good—about herself, about this new town, everything. And that worried her. Alice had learned at a very early age that nothing good could come of “feeling good.” It was almost inevitably a sure sign that disaster was about to strike.

Her arms and fingers ached, and she stretched them, then forced herself out of the lawn chair. She pulled a sky-blue scrunchy out of her blond hair, and her hair fell, straight and shining, to the middle of her back. She ran her fingers through it, feeling for imaginary tangles, then scooped it all up with her fingers and pulled it into a tight ponytail. She hog-tied her locks into an unbalanced mass on the back of her head with the hair tie, then went back to work.

Alice looked like she was in her twenties, but she was much, MUCH older than that. Since the 1950s, in what had been a radical, nearly transvestite act, she had taken to wearing jeans and white t-shirts, and she’d stuck with it—although her footwear had changed through the decades. She was fair skinned, fair haired, with pale blue eyes and a trim figure. Dancing had helped keep her in shape, and she certainly loved to dance. Dancing, of course, was one of the most important elements of most of the rituals that she performed. Magic itself had always attracted her, and it’s certainly what kept her young, but she was convinced that the dancing was what kept her practicing the art. Without dance, it was all dusty books and tedious chanting.

In her current persona, Alice was a 28-year-old cultural anthropologist who specialized in pre-Christian, European mythological artifacts. Though there were very few artifacts of this nature in the Pacific Northwest—outside of “private collections,” of course—Alice was able to translate her curatorial experience at her “old” college museum (where she worked for several years, and felt it was time to leave before anyone noticed she wasn’t aging) into a position, starting Monday, at the Broken Ankle Point Historical Museum. Alice was particularly happy that she hadn’t even needed to use magic to get the job. Her publication history had been impressive enough.

She sorted through a few more boxes as the moon rose. She hid a number of items in an extra-dimensional cubbyhole that she created in the freezer. Thank the Gods the kitchen appliances had come with the apartment! Then she set a sealing spell that locked all the doors and windows in the apartment, and half-stumbled / half-sleepwalked to the bedroom and crawled into her sleeping bag. First stop tomorrow morning: a decent furniture store to rent a couch, table, chairs, and—most importantly—a big, comfortable bed.

Chapter 4 – “Motorbike Bill”

Motorbike Bill flew up Highway 101 on his Honda. His long, black hair trailed out from under his helmet and flailed behind him. Waves from the high tide crashed against the bluffs below the highway, and the scream from his bike filled the night with a banshee wail. He reached the top of a hill, slowed, and stopped. The lights of Broken Ankle Point glowed below, stretching from halfway down the hill to the Columbia River. The lip of the ocean met the river’s mouth several miles east and coughed as salt water mixed with fresh. To the west, the lights of the city were scattered, overcome by the fingers of the Erik Tulgey Nation Forest, one of the densest Old Growth forests remaining in the United States.

“That bitch is here, somewhere,” Motorbike Bill said, then started his bike again and screamed off down the hill towards Alice.

Chapter 5 – “Saturday Morning – The Knights of 58th Street”

Adam Douglas climbed to the top of the ladder, pushed open the trap door, and crawled into the tree house.

“Why is Ashley fucking Holmes sitting in a lawn chair in my backyard?” Adam asked the half dozen boys lounging about on the floor. Philip Basil turned red then said, sheepishly, “She’s got a case for us, but I told her she couldn’t come up. She had to wait.”

Adam’s jaw worked, but after a few seconds he nodded, then proceeded through the sea of legs and sneakers towards a wooden crate at the northern edge of the tree house that served as a podium. He sat on the floor behind the crate, pushed open a hinged panel in the crate, and drew out his most prized possession: a 1960’s outlaw biker helmet that someone had epoxied a pair of bull horns to. He’d spotted this treasure in a pawn shop a few months ago and begged his Mom to buy it for him. It had cost a great deal—three weeks of not getting into any trouble, two dozen dish washing sessions, a B+ on a math test, and even being polite to the stupid neighbors (whenever his Mom was around), but she had eventually agreed that he’d earned it. Within two days of actually getting the helmet, Adam dropped it in an alley and broke about half of one of the horns off, but he painted the broken part dark red and decided he liked the helmet even better after the accident. It looked like he’d seen a lot of action in that helmet—which was only partially true. He’s seen a lot of movies while wearing it, and in his mind that counted.

The helmet, of course, was way too big, but he put it on reverentially anyway, and clicked the strap under his chin that almost held it in place, then he picked up the wooden sword that always sat next to the podium and tapped the floor three times.

“I hereby call this meeting of the Knights of 58th Street to order!” Adam said and smiled.

“Roll call!” he yelled. “Charles?” A short, red haired kid with a crooked smile raised his hand. “Jason? Freddy? Mikey?” Three more hands went up. “Phil—you’re here. Where’s Luke?”

“Grounded again,” Charles said, chuckling and shaking his head.

“Stupid shit-head. What did he… No, never mind. Oliver? Yeah. Klaus?” Adam scanned the tree house. “No Klaus?”

“Haven’t seen him,” Charles shrugged.

“That’s two for Klaus. One more and he’s out,” Adam said, marking a note on his sheet. “And I’m here. Okay. Freddy, can you recap the minutes from last time?”

Freddy pulled a tiny notebook out of his coat pocket and flipped a few pages. “Um, Charlie and Jason were going to check out a haunted garage on 51st.”

“Pair of owls in the rafters,” Charles snorted.

“Bummer,” Adam said.

“Next,” Freddy continued, “Oliver was going to keep an eye on the new goblin market on the corner of Springer and 59th.”

“It seems legit to me,” Oliver said, standing up. He was fairly new to the group, and clearly nervous.

“Did you check the alley behind the store?” Adam asked.

“Well, I looked down it a couple times,” Oliver said, twisting his fingers and rocking on his heels, “but I didn’t…”

“Shit, man, if you’re too scared to scout an alley, you’re in the wrong group,” Charles said.

“No, no! It’s not that. I had my little brother with me both times, and he was scared.” Oliver’s brother, Zach, was only six, four years younger than him.

“Jesus Christ! You took a kid on official Knights business!?” Adam yelled. He squatted down behind the podium and fished around inside the hatch, then stood back up holding a wrinkled, stained, photocopied booklet, stapled along the left edge, that said, “The Knights of 58th Street – Bylaws.”

“That was a rookie mistake, Oliver,” Adam said, holding out the booklet. “Take this. Read it. Memorize it if you have to. It was my mistake for sending a new guy on a case without prepping him first. When you got this read, bring it back to me.”

“Yeah, yeah, sure!” Oliver said, shuffling up to the podium. He was happy to be getting a second chance.

“Meanwhile, Charlie, why don’t you and Jason dig around at the market,” Adam said.

“Got it,” Charles said. Jason nodded.

Freddy wrote a few notes in his book, flipped back a couple of pages, then said, “That’s about it for last week.”

“All right,” Adam said, smacking his wooden sword on the floor. “New business!”

Michael raised his hand. He was tall for a ten year old, and his long arm stuck up way over the other boys’ heads.

“Michael,” Adam called, pointing to his hand, and giving him the floor.

“I vote that we let Jamie Canning into the group,” he said.

“GOD DAMMIT, Mikey! We’ve talked about this! I don’t care how much you’re in love, there are no girls allowed in TKo58! Who ever heard of a female knight?”

“Mulan?” Phil said, sheepishly.

“A Disney film!? Are you shitting me!” Adam’s eyes burned with loathing. Charlie laughed.

“But listen,” Michael said, “she’s super smart, she’s not afraid of anything in the world, and her Dad was an exterminator back in L.A. before she and her Mom moved here. They still have most of his old equipment.”

“I don’t care if she’s got a sword that can make the Devil shoot sparks out of his ass! There are no girls allowed in the Knights!” Adam pointed his sword at Michael. His helmet started to slide sideways off the top of his head. He caught it and set it up right again, then cinched the strap a bit tighter.

“Adam, if she’s got access to REAL monster exterminator equipment, we could really use it,” Charles said. His tone was uncharacteristically reasonable.

“NO GIRLS IN THE GOD DAMNED KNIGHTS!! It’s in the fucking bylaws! End of story! If you want to be distracted by some chick while you work, go start your own monster hunting group, but THIS group is going to stay focused and alive! Got it?” Adam said this through clenched teeth, and he gave the entire group the Evil Eye, just to be certain he’d made his point clearly. He nodded to himself, order restored, and settled back behind the podium. “Next order of business?” Adam said.

“Umm,” Philip said, raising his hand.

“What now, Mulan?” Adam said, gritting his teeth.

“Ashley has a case,” Philip said. “Something’s been eating the stray cats in her neighborhood, and now whatever it is has killed her cat, Mitsy. She found her in the alley behind her garage.”

“Nice!” Adam said, standing up. “Let’s go talk to the bitch!” He banged his sword on the floor and officially ended the meeting.

Chapter 6 – “Sharkey and Howitzer”

“Captain Howitzer, you wanted to see me?” Sharkey said as he entered the darkened office. The captain, a balding man with bushy, gray eyebrows, was sitting behind a large, cluttered desk, his face painted a sickly white by the glow from the computer screen. The man nodded and pointed to a chair but continued reading his screen. Sharkey sat, removing his hat and placing it in his lap.

“I read Schitt’s report this morning from the Eastberry Apartment case,” Howitzer said, turning his attention to Sharkey, “and I just got a partial report from forensics. There were four vics, two male, two female. All late teens to early twenties. All of them swimming in some kind of ecstasy-like drug.” He rubbed a dry hand across his chin, which hadn’t been shaved in a few days.

“They were on ‘E?’ That surprises me,” Sharkey said. “I thought that went out with rave parties in the ‘90s.”

Howitzer shrugged. “It’s a super concentrated form, apparently, either that or they were on a Hunter Thompson binge.” Howitzer glanced back at his screen, “Anyway, the apartment belongs to a Mildred Zdilar. Single, 48, works at the cannery on the north-side. According to her shift leader, she’s on vacation in South America. Some kind of singles’ cruise. We think her niece, Jennifer Hardglove, 19, is probably one of the vics. She was supposed to be ‘apartment sitting.’ As soon as we get dental back, we’ll know for sure.” Sharkey nodded.

Howitzer continued, “The reason I wanted to talk to you, Schitt’s report mentions that you smelled something funny at the scene. Forensics found nothing that can help I.D. the thing that did this. I want to know what you’ve got.”

Sharkey shifted in his seat. “Not much,” he said. “Half formed memories—from when I was a pup. Before the operation. Before I got language.”

Howitzer mumbled a “Hnh.”

“I can barely remember it, but the smell was familiar. Definitely not human. That’s all I know right now—that and, well,” Sharkey picked his hat up and looked at it. “Frankly Captain, that smell scared the shit out of me.”

Howitzer sat back in his chair, his eyes wide. In all the years he’d known Sharkey, he’d never seen him scared. Of anything. Werewolves, ghosts, djinn, demons—nothin’ seemed to faze him, so if some THING out there could cause Sharkey to quake, it was seriously bad news.

“It ain’t much,” Sharkey said, shaking his head, apologetically.

“You be able to recognize that smell if you come across it again?” Howitzer asked.

Sharkey nodded, a slow snarl forming on his lips, and his teeth showing, “Yeah, without a doubt. I’d know it anywhere.”

“Then we got somethin,’” Howitzer said.

Chapter 7 – “Alice Goes Shopping”

The trip to the furniture store only took Alice about half-an-hour. She found a king size, oak framed bed that she loved, and although the manager had originally claimed they were too busy to deliver anything until the middle of the week, Alice was able to “persuade” him to make her furniture (which she got for cost) a priority. (She could have gotten everything for free, but she didn’t see any reason to rob the guy blind.) A truck was scheduled to drop her stuff off at five that evening, and a crew would move it all in and set the bed up for her. Alice would undoubtedly tip the delivery guys big—after all, they were doing the hard work.

Meanwhile, Alice had the day to kill and decided to check out the downtown “Saturday Market.” She’d been to hundreds of these in her life on several continents, and they really didn’t change much over a dozen decades. Food booths, bad art, crafts that no one really needed, and people trying to make a buck.

As Alice walked by booths selling horrid landscape paintings and dreary water colors, she shook her head. These themes were tired when she was a little girl in the 1800s, but everyone gets a turn at reinventing the wheel.

A girl with green, spiky hair and a blue and red flannel shirt strummed an acoustic guitar in front of a movie theater. Her open guitar case had a few dollar bills and some change in it. The girl, eyes closed, sang about being abused by a previous lover, and Alice again shook her head. “When will women learn that you won’t get respect from dressing like a scarecrow,” she thought. Alice knew the way to get respect was to grab your date’s hand as it’s sailing through the air in an attempt to bitch-slap you in a crowded bar, then to slug the fucker in the gut and drop him to the floor. Once he’s down, you fish his wallet out of his pocket, take the money, drop the wallet on his head, then say, “Thanks for the drink, asshole. It’s been fun.”

Of course, the respect you get in a situation like that is usually from the crowd of people standing around, gawking. The guy on the floor tends to fall more into the “embarrassed hatred” camp. And that’s when magic comes in handy. If the guy can’t let it go, some suggestion of unholy fear or a command that he piss himself whenever he thinks about you can be fun. Alice, in particular, didn’t like erasing memories, though this was often the easiest way to get out of a bad relationship. If the spell went wrong, bad things could happen. Very, very bad things.

Alice tossed a buck into the spiky girl’s guitar case, patted her on the head (infusing her with a little artificial “courage”) and decided to go look for a bar or diner to grab a bite to eat.

Chapter 8 – “Adam Goes to Work”

Adam, adjusting his helmet for the tenth time in as many minutes, led the way towards Ashley Holmes’s alley, even though he wasn’t one hundred percent certain of where he was going. Philip, Ashley, and Oliver followed. Adam told Oliver to come along so he could see how a REAL investigation was handled.

“Okay, Ashley, let’s see that stiff cat!” Adam said, as he steered the group into what he hoped was the right alley.

Ashley’s face went red and she glared at Adam, who looked surprised and shrugged.

“What?” he said.

“Ashley’s dad already buried the cat, Adam,” Philip said.

“You’ve got to be shitting me,” Adam said through clenched teeth. Philip shook his head, then lowered it slightly, reverentially, as he noticed a tear welling up in Ashley’s eye.

“Well, let’s grab a shovel and…” Adam started to say.

“No way! You’re sick!” Ashley yelled.

Adam took a deep breath. “How the fuck can I tell what killed little Mittens if I can’t look at the corpse?” Adam said this as calmly, and as menacingly, as he could. “That’s why girls aren’t allowed in the Knights,” he thought. “No understanding of method.”

“Her name was Mitsy,” Ashley said in a hoarse whisper, and she broke into quiet tears.

A disgusted look slid across Adam’s face. You try to help someone, and this is the kind of shit you have to put up with.

“Hey Adam! Come look at this!” Oliver called from about halfway down the alley. He’d scouted ahead to look for clues, hoping to get back on Adam’s good side.

As Philip hugged Ashley, ugh…, Adam adjusted his helmet again and paced in what he hoped looked like a professional manner toward Oliver, who was leaning over, examining something next to a garbage can. Adam smelled the rotting meat before he could see the carcass.

“What ya’ got?” he said, sliding up to Oliver.

“I think it was a ‘possum. Big one, too,” Oliver said.

“Yowzers,” Adam said. “Look at the bite out of its face! Crunched right through the skull! And the guts are torn completely out!”

Large chunks of the animal were missing. Clearly, something big, maybe the size of a dog, Adam thought, had torn the ‘possum apart.

“Good find,” Adam said, smacking Oliver on the back. Oliver blushed. “Hey Mulan, bring the sprinkler down here. I want to know if this is what her dumb cat looked like when she found it!” he yelled down the alley. “Looks like we got us a case, brother,” Adam said with a grin, and he smacked Oliver on the back again.

Chapter 9 – “Sharkey Meets Alice”

Sharkey parked his sedan and tossed his hat on the seat before closing his car door. It was already 4:30, so he was half an hour late meeting up with Jensen and Schitt, but he’d sent them a text saying he was running behind. He had Schitt order a rare burger for him that would undoubtedly be cold by the time he got to it.

Sharkey pushed open the door to Speak-E.Z.s and stepped into the dimly lit pub. A few regulars gave him half-hearted “hello” waves before curling back around their drinks. A girl with long blond hair, who Sharkey didn’t recognize, wearing jeans and a white t-shirt, got up from her bar-stool. She dropped a fifty on the counter and headed for the door. She glanced at Sharkey as she passed him and smiled. As soon as he caught her scent, his eyes went wide. He smelled magic.

He hadn’t smelled it in years, but it’s not something he was likely to forget. The last time he’d tussled with a witch, he’d lost a partner. A witch in town was bad news, if not for anything she was up to, then because of the things she might attract. The Hungry Things. Sharkey was certain that her scent hadn’t been at the apartment, but whatever had made that mess might have been lured to town by her.

The girl pushed through the door and out into the afternoon sun. He was tempted to follow her—ask her what she was up to, (witches were always up to something,) but he heard Schitt yelling from their regular booth.

“Hey Shark! Your burgers got icicles hangin’ off it. You can chase your tail later!” Sharkey swallowed, hard, then walked over to the booth.

“Poisitive I.D. on the dental for all four vics,” Jensen said.

“Any surprises?” Sharkey asked. He waved his paw at Janice behind the bar and held up two claws (with some difficulty—paws weren’t meant to work that way,) and Janice nodded.

“It was the tenant’s niece and her friends,” Jensen said.

Sharkey nodded, chewing on his frozen burger.

“What’s our theory for this one? Ritual murder?” Schitt asked. Janice set two beers in front of Sharkey and patted him on the shoulder.

“Forensics found missing organs—hearts, brains. We’re thinking demonic slaying,” Jensen said.

Sharkey glanced back at the door. The witch’s scent was still strong in the room. “I’ve got a different theory,” he said, then took another bite of his burger.

Chapter 10 – “The Knights of 58th Street Strategize”

Adam had Philip walk Ashley home—she wouldn’t stop crying—while he and Oliver searched several other alleys in the neighborhood. They found half a squirrel two blocks over, between 53rd and 54th, and a mutilated raccoon a block further on. Adam called an emergency meeting of the Knights of 58th Street at sunset to strategize on the best method for catching whatever was making a buffet out of the neighborhood animals. A stakeout was unanimously declared the best course of action.

Charles, Mikey, and Oliver all had cell phones, so the group was split into three units. It was decided that text messaging was quieter than walkie-talkies, and therefore more appropriate for surveillance, although Adam was a bit disappointed by this decision. He felt that walkie-talkies were more “professional” than plain, old texting, but he was out voted. Because of several recent decisions like this one, he had starting to think that democracy might not be the best organizational style for the Knights—but he was going to have to explore that thought more thoroughly at a later date. They had work to do.

“Okay,” Adam said to the group, “the sun’s about down. Let’s get this fuckin’ show on the road. Charlie, you and Jason hoof down to 53rd and set up about half way down the alley.”

Charlie and Jason nodded, and Adam once again hungrily eyed the machete that Jason had stolen from his Dad’s garage. Adam had tried to pull a power move and say that the leader should carry the strongest weapon, but Jason had threatened to take it back home if Adam kept badgering him about it. Adam had conceded. One good weapon was better than no good weapons, even if he wasn’t in charge of it.

“Mikey, you and Freddy take 57th,” Adam said, once he’d stopped coveting Jason’s blade. “We didn’t find nothin’ this far from Ashley’s street yet, but the thing’s been chewin’ through the animals down further, so it might need to come this way to find fresh meat.”

“Got it,” Freddy said. Mikey gave a thumbs-up.

“Oliver and Phil, you guys are with me. We’re heading back to Ashley’s alley to try walkin’ north and south a few blocks. See if we can’t spot our perp,” Adam said.

“Okay, but…” Oliver started to say. Everyone turned and looked at him. “But” wasn’t heard very often at Knights’ meetings.

“But what, rookie,” Adam said, coldly.

“But I’m supposed to be home before ten,” Oliver said, his voice trailing off and his cheeks turning into apples.

“You’re shitting me,” Adam said after a pause. His lip twitched, and his eyes narrowed to lasers.

“Why didn’t you tell your parents you were staying the night with somebody?” Charlie asked. “That’s standard stuff, man.”

Jason shook his head sadly.

“I couldn’t! We’re going…” Oliver caught himself before saying where. He swallowed. He loved his grandparents but going to visit them instead of fighting monsters didn’t sound very cool.

“I don’t care if you’re going to a fucking petting zoo. We’ve got a JOB to finish!” Adam shouted. “Seriously, Oliver, if you hadn’t found that possum carcass this morning, I’d toss your ass out that fucking window right now!”

Oliver’s head swung down until his chin was practically touching his chest.

“You’re going to be late. We’ve only got three cell phones between us, and since you fuckers voted against the walkies, that’s how we’re going to stay in touch.”

“But I’ll get grounded!” Oliver pleaded.

Adam glared at him for a second. “You make your decision. The rest of us got a monster to kill. You guys ready?” Everybody confirmed, mostly eager to get away from the shame radiating from the new guy.

“Okay! Check in every 30. Sooner if you spot somethin’. Let’s go!” Adam banged his wooden sword on the floor and everyone got up, except Oliver. The group crawled through the trap door and down, out of the tree house. Philip stopped as he was climbing down the ladder and gave Adam a quizzical look. Adam waved for Phil to keep going, and then he held up two fingers, silently saying, “Give me two minutes.”

Philip slipped out of the tree house. Adam walked over to Oliver, who wasn’t quite crying, and patted him on the shoulder.

“Look man,” Adam said, “I know you’ve got some detection skills. Saw that today. But this club ain’t for everyone. Sometimes we have to break rules. You know, for the good of shit. That’s who we are.”

“I know,” Oliver said. “I’ll be late. Let’s go.” He stood up.

“That’s right, my man. Maybe you’ll be grounded next week, but tonight we’re going to kick some monster ass!” Adam smacked Oliver on the shoulder again, then steered him toward the trap door. As Oliver climbed down, Adam pulled the chin strap on his helmet as tight as he could get it, walked over to the podium and grabbed his sword, then headed for the ladder, smiling like the cat who got the fuckin’ canary.

Chapter 11 – “Goodbye Motorbike Bill”

Motorbike Bill spent the majority of Saturday driving through Broken Ankle Point on his bike looking for Alice. He knew she was there. A psychic had told him so, and not just some two-bit psychic, either. A professional, upscale psychic registered with the Work Board and everything. She’d said that Alice was in Broken Ankle Point, and that Bill would find her. She also said that he would get the justice that he deserved, and being of a somewhat bent persuasion, Bill assumed that meant he’d get to knock her on her ass in front of a crowd of people, just like she’d done to him before stealing all his cash and ditching town.

Bill wasn’t very bright.

So Bill, knowing what little information he knew, headed for a city of nearly a million souls (not necessarily all human, mind you) and figured he’d spot Alice walking the streets. He hoped this would happen before lunch. After several hours of roaring up and down the main streets of town, scowling at anyone who looked his way, Bill gave up and headed for the filthiest looking bar he could find, and The Rat Hole met his expectations. (It was owned by Matty “Rat Face” Tillbrook, a former biker who’d hit a minor lottery jackpot, winning enough cash to buy an abandoned bar and, after two years, drive it back into the ground. It now stayed in business primarily thanks to the illegal drug trade that Matty ran out of the back room.) Bill proceeded to sit alone in a booth, angrily ordering some fried food and a pair of whiskey shots. Truth be told, however, he felt remarkably at home in that thoroughly unwholesome atmosphere. By the time Bill had finished sulking, the sun had set, and he’d downed enough hundred proof to floor the average citizen. He tossed a buck on the table (for which the ancient bartender secretly flipped him the bird) and headed for the door, listing only slightly.

He paced towards his bike. The street was partially lit by the beer signs in the window of The Rat Hole, and by a flickering amber bulb in the tall lamp on the corner across the street, but the area beyond the neon glow was mostly shadow. A movement in those shadows caught Bill’s attention, and he paused just after throwing his leg over the seat of his bike. He swayed slightly, trying to focus on an area of black that seemed to be moving a bit more than the buildings and sidewalks.

A tall figure, too thin, and too much covered in shadow, moved towards Bill, close enough that the neon from the beer signs imposed a vague, chalk-like definition on the figure, but the man (or whatever he was) seemed more out of focus than Bill thought he should.

“A lovely night, isn’t it friend?” said a soft hiss of a voice. A voice like ice cracking or bone being whittled away by dry, sandy winds.

“You a fag? I ain’t into that,” Bill said. He still couldn’t focus on the man. At least he thought it was a man.

Sharkey would have smelled that it wasn’t a man. Alice would have felt and seen that it wasn’t a man.

Bill wasn’t very bright, even when he hadn’t drunk half a bottle of rot gut.

The man that wasn’t a man laughed. A dry leaves against tree branches laugh.

“No, I’m not a fag, Motorbike Bill.” The voice was still soft, still a hiss. Bill crawled off his bike, without realizing he’d done it.

“How the fuck you know my name?”

Again the laugh that wasn’t a laugh slithered from the man that wasn’t a man. Bill started to move back a step but stopped himself. He wasn’t a fuckin’ coward, no matter how weird a motherfucker was.

“That’s right, Bill. You’re not afraid. You’re never afraid, are you?”

“What you want, man? I got shit to do,” Bill said. His whiskey soaked blood felt cold, but he wasn’t going to be talked shit at by a fucking shadow.

“Of course you have ‘shit’ to do,” the creature said, “and I can help you. You’re looking for a woman.”

Bill swayed but didn’t say anything. The thing laughed, like paper rotting in an attic.

“Not only can I help you find her,” said the creature as he moved several steps closer, too quickly for Bill to react, “but I can help you punish her.” It reached out an arm, flexing long, grotesquely thin fingers, like spider’s legs with too many joints. It grabbed Bill’s shoulder. The other hand reached around Bill’s skull, stabbing a long, thin fingertip into his brain.

Bill felt a rush of heat, of pleasure. His world began to glow, and the spidery creature in front of him flashed in front of his eyes, brighter than the neon. The pleasure increased as the creature continued to pump venom into Bill’s body. He could feel himself burning up, from the inside out. He wanted to scream but couldn’t move.

Slowly, but inevitably, Motorbike Bill dissolved, and Nightmare Bill took his place.

Chapter 12 – “Stakeout!”

Phil sat Indian style on the ground behind a garbage can a few houses down from Ashley’s under a burned-out street lamp. He opened a chewy granola bar, the wrapper crinkling loudly, which earned him a scowl from Adam. Phil shrugged and stuffed half the granola bar in his mouth. Adam growled to himself.

“We’re going north first, probably to Hashman Street. If you spot anything, wave this at us,” Adam said, handing an LED flashlight to Phil. Phil jammed the rest of the bar into his mouth and grabbed the flashlight. He pressed a red button on the light and swirled the beam around on his hand, then clicked it off, and gave Adam a thumbs-up.

Adam and Oliver, each taking a side of the alley, walked slowly and, Oliver hoped, silently. They moved north, peering into backyards and listening for any signs of movement. Adam was somewhat surprised by how still and quiet the neighborhood was. No dogs barked. No cats scurried across the pavement. The only noise was the occasional car passing on a cross street.

“This is kinda creepy,” Oliver said. The sun had been down for a while, and although the moon was out, it didn’t seem to have much strength, so the only light was from the windows of houses and the occasional garage lamp. Adam nodded. It was creepy.

They reached the intersection where the alley met Willow Street, and Adam looked back the way they’d come. Phil had turned the flashlight on and was wiggling the light on the fence across from where he was sitting.

“Fucking moron,” Adam hissed to himself.

“What?” Oliver asked.

“Nothin’. Just watching that idiot down the alley giving his position away to any fucking thing that’s stalking the night looking for a snack,” Adam said.

“Oh. Yeah, that’s probably not good. You want me to go tell him to knock it off,” Oliver offered.

“Sure. I’m heading up a bit further. You wait for me with the dumb-shit, then we’ll do the southern sector,” Adam said. Oliver nodded, smiling, and headed off, quickly but quietly…he hoped.

The alley between Willow and Hashman was gravel instead of pavement, so Adam had to step more carefully. Unfortunately, there were even fewer lights, so he was constantly scuffing his shoes and making what he thought of as an unholy racket. He blamed his lack of stealth, of course, on the dumb-shit down the alley who had ruined his concentration by his amateurish shenanigans.

“Goddam fucking moron. I’m gonna kick his ass tomorrow, just for good…” he was mumbling various punishment options to himself when he stepped on something squishy in a shadowy patch. As he bent down, the smell of rot wafted up to his nose, the molecules undoubtedly stirred into action by his careless step. It appeared to be part of another possum, but the head and most of the guts where gone.

Out of the corner of his eye, Adam caught a fleck of light. He turned toward his team and saw the flashlight waving frantically. His chest stiffened, and his fingers went cold. Wiping any gore that might be still on his shoe onto a tuft of grass, Adam stuffed his hands into his coat pockets and paced, quickly and meaningfully, towards the waving light. He paused at Willow, looked both ways, and jogged quickly across the street.

“Goddam it, you’ve got my attention. Now get back into cover you fucks!” he whispered as menacingly as he could manage. “We need a protocol meeting, fucking tomorrow.”

Adam paced quickly towards Phil and Oliver. Once they spotted him, Oliver tapped Phil’s arm and Phil shut the light off. Adam shook his head.

“Give me that goddam flashlight,” he hissed, and snatched the light from Phil’s hand, who looked a bit hurt. “Now what’s so fucking important? I was looking at a kill down there!”

“Down the other way, maybe halfway down the alley, a cat screamed,” Oliver whispered.

“Sounded serious,” Phil said.

“Okay—Oliver, send a note to Mikey and Charlie. Tell them to stay put, but that we heard something that we’re gonna check out. You follow us, once you’ve heard back from them. And you, dumb-ass, come with me,” he hissed, pushing Phil’s shoulder.

“What? Why am I a dumb-ass?” Phil asked.

“’Cuz you’re supposed to be on a stakeout—staying hidden—and your puttin’ on a fuckin’ light show for the whole goddam world to watch.” Adam said this through teeth that never parted. “Now shut up, and let’s go see what’s chomping on that kitty.”

They walked quickly to the cross street, slowing drastically after crossing the road. Adam motioned for Phil to take the right-hand side, and he took the left. They walked carefully, looking between fence planks and behind garbage cans. Suddenly, a bright flood light came on as Phil stepped behind a garage. Adam heard Phil breathe in deeply, then turn his face towards Adam, but the light was so bright behind him that Adam could see Phil’s shocked expression.

“Motion detector,” Adam said. He saw Phil’s silhouette nod. They walked on.

“Hey Adam, look on the ground,” Phil said just before the light on the garage went out.

Adam clicked his flashlight on and spotted a splatter of fresh blood. He followed the drops with his light up to an overgrown hedge. Adam turned toward Oliver and waved the flashlight around. He wasn’t certain if Oliver had seen his signal or not, but he turned the light off after just a few seconds, not wanting to alert whatever was on the other side of the hedge.

“I think that’s the Borstein’s backyard,” Phil whispered. The Borstein house had sat empty for nearly five years. Adam walked further down the hedge and until he came to the wooden gate near the center of the hedgerow.

“Locked,” he said. Climbing over the hedge in the dark was going to be tough—and noisy. “Let’s collect the newbie and walk around to the front. Easier than trying to climb this shit,” Adam said. Phil nodded.

They got back to the cross street as Oliver was just coming out of Ashley’s alley.

“We’re going ‘round the front of the Borstein place,” Phil said.

“Something left a trail of blood up to their hedge behind the yard. Makes sense that something would be hanging there. Place has been empty for a while,” Adam said. “Can you send a note to the guys letting them know we’re closing in on whatever it is!”

Oliver nodded and started typing. He tried to walk and text, taking some uneven steps between words, but he quickly fell behind Adam and Oliver. Adam pocketed his flashlight and pulled the strap on his helmet as tight as he could get it. It was action time!

Chapter 13 – “Hide and Seek”

The front of the house was dark. There were a few steps leading up to a porch that stretched, left and right, to the edges of the house. The paint on the once white railing was peeling badly. To the left of the house, hidden in the shadows of the high maple tree branches, was a driveway that stretched all the way to the back of the house before running into the garage.

Oliver caught up, and Adam put his fingers to his lips in a “shooshing” gesture, then he started to slink down the driveway towards the garage. His two teammates followed as quietly as they could.

From inside the garage, once they’d crept close enough, Adam and the other two could hear something clicking or scratching, like the sound of a dog’s nails on concrete. Adam reached for the doorknob and slowly, as quietly as possible, tried to turn it. The knob squeaked slightly, gave, and began to turn, but the scratching from inside stopped dead. Adam’s heart froze.

He turned to the boys behind him, his left hand still on the doorknob. He tried to mouth a few words to them, but realized it was too dark for them to see what he was saying. He pulled the flashlight out of his pocket and turned it on, pointing up towards his face.

Both Oliver and Phil took a step backward, and in the slight glow cast on them from his light he saw that they both looked terrified. He gave them a dirty look, shocked at such unprofessional behavior, then he mimed and mouthed the words, “One, two, three,” and pushed his hand out, simulating pushing the door open. He swung the flashlight onto the boys’s faces, both pale as ghosts, but they were also both slowly nodding their heads. Adam smiled.

He handed the flashlight to Phil then pulled his wooden sword from the stretched out belt loop behind his back. Holding up one finger, then two, then three, he pushed the door open. Phil pointed the flashlight through the doorway as something hissed then moaned in a voice like a small electric motor left on for too long. A set of deep red eyes glared at them in the light, and the boys saw a dark grey body, and long fingers with sharp, curved nails stabbed into the half eaten body of a gray tomcat. The creature hissed again and reared back on its haunches. The eyes, peering out of a giant rat face, were now almost even in height with their own, and then a second set of eyes appeared, as did a second set of teeth covered in blood and cat guts.

“Holy shit,” Adam said. “It’s got two heads.” Oliver started to scream, which caused Phil to scream. Adam pushed them back out of the doorway and pulled the door closed. From inside, Adam thought he heard a hissing laugh.

“Let’s go!” Phil pleaded, practically singing in fear. Oliver, who was panting and looked immobilized, just stared at the door.

Adam heard a scratching noise from the back of the garage and saw a claw come through a broken window, followed quickly by a rat head, covered in cat blood, poke through the window, followed by the second head, which turned towards him. Its eyes glowed red, even without the flashlight shining on them.

“Run guys,” Adam said, softly. He swallowed as the creature clambered through the window and landed heavily on the ground. “Run!” he yelled. Phil immediately bolted for the front of the house. Adam, looking at the rat over his shoulder, took several quick steps before he realized that Oliver was standing still, mesmerized by the nightmare rushing towards him. Adam reached for Oliver’s arm and pulled, snapping him out of his trance, and the two of them ran for the front of the house—but it was too late.

The rat pounced on Oliver, knocking him to the ground. He landed with a yelp on his stomach. One of the heads screeched fiercely at Adam, who stopped as Oliver fell. The other head dropped hard onto Oliver’s side. Its several inch-long teeth sliced through his skin, muscle, and ribs. Oliver shrieked in pain. The head that had screamed at Adam reared up, then sunk its teeth into the back of Oliver’s neck.

Adam raised his wooden sword and dove at the creature, bringing it down with a crack on the skull that was biting Oliver’s neck. The creature’s head lolled then it looked up at Adam and howled in a sick, whining scream. A wickedly fast claw lashed out, smacking the sword out of Adam’s hand and sending him stumbling backward. He landed on the ground, smacking his head on the cement foundation to the house. Without his helmet, he would have been knocked out completely. He saw lights dancing in front of his eyes and four bright red stars, getting bigger, coming nearer.

Adam heard a yell from somewhere outside his field of vision and then another terrifying scream from the heads of the rat.

“You got it Jason!” Charlie yelled, and the rat thing turned, hissing, and tore away, rushing for the backyard.

“It’s getting away!” Phil screamed, and Adam heard the rat dive through the hedgerow near the alley.

Adam sat up. Charlie helped pull him to his feet.

“What happened,” Adam said.

“Jason buried the machete in that thing’s back as it was getting ready to attack you,” Charlie said. “Then it took off.”

“Oh shit! Oh shit!” Phil said. He was holding Adam’s flashlight on Oliver.

“What!?” Adam said. “Is he okay?” He half staggered over to Oliver, who was lying on the ground, not moving, the puddle of blood under him slowly expanding.

Phil said, “I think he’s dead!”

Chapter 14 – “Sharkey Meets the Knights”

Sharkey was sitting in his unmarked car outside the apartment where the four young adults had been slaughtered (you remember, way back in chapter one) when he got the call. A couple of kids had been attacked by something “strange.” One of the kids was in critical condition at St. Fallacies with a punctured lung, damage to his spinal cord, and lots of missing meat.

Sharkey smelled it as soon as he parked—not as strong as it had been in the apartment, but definitely the same stink. Rot and candy and hatred and nightmares.

Jensen waved at Sharkey from the porch of the house where he was standing next to three tired looking boys huddled under wool blankets. Sharkey held up a paw but followed his nose down the driveway towards the forensics team and a carnival of lights, police tape, cameras, and blood. He hoped the crew’s activity hadn’t smothered every shred of evidence that he might have found, but as he drew nearer the garage, he actually had to control his breathing, pull in quick, careful puffs of air, to keep from being overwhelmed by the smell.

The bright shine of the halogens scorched the scene, but despite the lights, which kicked off a massive odor of their own, Sharkey easily found the trail of relatively fresh, blackish blood.

“Huh…” he grumbled. “One of the little bastards actually hurt it.” He nodded absently at a few techs who yelped quick greetings to him as they passed, but his attention was focused on the trail of rot-blood that sizzled in his nostrils. He followed the pungent splashes toward the backyard, but could tell within a few steps that the creature, whatever it might be, was healing quickly. By the time he reached the hedge that the thing had jumped through, its blood had stopped flowing.

He walked back to the garage door and waved a tech over so they could shine a light into the room for him. He found the remains of several animals, and spent a few minutes looking at the fresh carcass of a cat. He told the tech to bag it, and said to have the bite marks measured and, if possible, identified—but he already knew enough. This wasn’t the thing that had caused the mess in the apartment. It was OF it, a piece of the thing, but not THE thing. He thanked the tech and headed for the front of the house.

Sharkey walked up to the porch, his paws in his jacket pockets. He looked at Jensen, and Jensen’s return glance said, “They been grilled and they ain’t got much left.” Sharkey took one of his paws out of his coat and pushed the brim of his hat back.

“Hey boys, I’m Detective Sharkey. I understand you’ve had a rough night.”

Adam and Phil looked up and stared for a few seconds at Sharkey’s face, then Phil said, “You’re a dog.”

“Clever kid,” Sharkey said. “Most people miss that.” Adam slugged Phil in the arm. Jensen chuckled.

“Schitt?” Sharkey said to Jensen. Adam’s eyes widened.

“He’s carting a few of the other boys home. These two,” he pointed at Adam and Philip, “found the thing. It attacked their buddy, and this bruiser,” indicating Jason, “came to the rescue and took a whack at it with a machete.”

Sharkey looked at Jason, who was staring blankly at Sharkey’s car, and felt a slight tremor at the back of his neck. This boy was too calm. The other two were shaken and upset, but this kid was indifferent. The amount of black blood on the driveway said that this kid had seriously buried that blade in the creature, whatever it was, not to mention the fact that his friend had been attacked and was nearly killed, but here he sat—blank—almost uninterested…

“Nice job with the chopper, kid,” Sharkey said. No response.

“He don’t talk much,” Phil said.

“Hunh,” Sharkey grunted. He’d figured. When this kid popped—and it wouldn’t be long, five, maybe ten years, max—it was gonna be bad. Somewhere deep inside, Sharkey hoped he wouldn’t be around to have to clean it up.

“Well,” he said, breathing in Jason’s scent in one big breath—he’d remember it—“why don’t you boys tell me what happened. Short version’s fine.”

“Okay,” said Adam, breathing in a gulp of air himself—here’s the “alpha,” Sharkey noted—“we were out playin’ hide and seek…”

“With a machete,” Sharkey interrupted. Philip twitched, but Adam looked steely. That was his story, and by the gods, he was stickin’ too it, or so his look said. Sharkey started to think he might like this kid.

“We were playin’ and we thought we’d hide in the garage there,” Adam soldiered on. “The house has been empty for years, and we sometimes come here, only this time a huge, fuckin’ two headed rat was inside the garage eating a cat.”

“Hey! Watch yer mouth, kid!” Jensen scolded. “I’ve warned you.”

Sharkey stuck out a paw and tapped Jensen’s arm. Jensen threw his hands up—wasn’t his problem!—and he paced off into the yard.

“Two heads, huh? You get a good look?” Sharkey asked.

“Not too good. We opened the door and saw them red, glowin’ eyes, then slammed the fucker…oops, sorry. We slammed the door and tried to run, but it came after us.” The kid sounded angry. Yeah, Sharkey was definitely starting to like him.

Phil was nodding his head, slowly, and his face had acquired a sickly, gray look. Sharkey could smell the fear on his skin.

“How big?” Sharkey said.

“Tall as me, when it reared up,” Adam said.

“Hmmm… Big fucker,” Sharkey said. Phil’s eyes went wide. Adam smiled.

“Jeezus,” Sharkey heard Jensen mutter from across the lawn.

“Okay. Thanks, boys. I’m gonna go talk to the lab coats for a sec, but after that I can give you a ride home—if you can trust a dog to drive.” Sharkey chuckled as Adam slugged Phil in the arm again.

Chapter 15 – “Nightmare Bill Has a Bite”

Nightmare Bill was still standing outside The Rat Hole. He had no idea how long his death and resurrection had taken. His new father, after flashing and strobing in neon for several seconds, faded back into the shadows, which hissed and popped as they received him, as if they were boiling.

Bill flexed his fingers, which became knives then claws then snakes; his teeth grew and pierced his lips, then shrank again, and he shook his head, spraying glowing red drops of blood onto the ground and walls outside the tavern.

“Hey, bud—you okay,” came a gruff voice from behind Bill. His head swiveled 180 degrees, back towards the door to The Rat Hole, where he saw two women and a large, bearded biker staring at him. One of the women screamed.

“Jeezus, shit!” the biker said.

“Oh, I’m just peachy,” Nightmare Bill said, as his body twisting under his stationary head until his whole figure was facing the quickly growing crowd coming out of the bar. “Although, I’m suddenly feeling very hungry.”

The biker was on the ground, his throat torn to shreds and Bill’s face covered in blood, before most of the crowd realized that they should be screaming or trying to run away. One woman, Fanny Conrad, survived Bill’s attack by running up the street, although she fled into traffic and was splattered by a bus full of high school football players returning home from a “slaughter.” (They’d lost, 48-0.)

The other patrons and staff of The Rat Hole, 23 of them in total, were found—the bits of them that were left after Bill’s feast—by Matty Tillbrook, the owner of the establishment, when he arrived about 15 minutes after the incident to collect the night deposit. As he approached the bar and spotted the first few bodies on the ground, he assumed that the place had been the target of a gang hit. He wasn’t sure which of his “customers” he’d pissed off, but he’d been cheating almost everyone for years, so the sight wasn’t completely unexpected. His opinion of the scene changed as he entered the building—and realized how unhinged the hit squad must have been. Stephie, the bartender he’d had a short affair with, no longer had a face. He only recognized her from her long green and white (and red, now) hair—the clumps of it that were still attached to her faceless skull, anyway.

Matty surveyed the scene for a few seconds, then calmly (to anyone who might have been watching, although “numbly” might have been a better word) went to all the drug-stash spots in the joint, gathered everything he could find and flushed it, then poured himself a glass of the hardest whiskey he had in the bar, although with his hands shaking so badly only about a third of the liquid made it into the glass. After that, he called the police. He wondered, as he waited for the shit-storm of uniforms and unanswerable questions to start, which Caribbean island he would take his drug money and retire to when he left—after burning the place to the ground, of course. He had a day or two to decide before he threw the match—and he was suddenly glad that he had always been a lazy bastard. If he hadn’t gotten Tommy to come in and watch the place for the night, (Tommy was the biker whose throat-less corpse he’d had to step over to get through the front door into the building,) there wouldn’t be anyone to burn this shithole to the ground.

He heard the first sirens screaming down the street as he poured himself a second shot of whiskey.


[More to come from Sharkey and Alice! I made it through seventeen chapters on my last draft—and this time, we’re taking it ALL THE WAY! However many chapters that might be… —RFY]