Adrenaline Rush

Adrenaline Rush

A Story by Jim Parson
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When adrenaline becomes a NEED...

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            Six days in on a ten day stint with the kid, and man did he need a drink.  It wasn’t necessarily the kid who drove his thirst.  These past two years, just breathing was sufficient motivation.  He really hoped this trip would help kick-start some type of relationship with the kid, but somehow he was only managing to drive him further away.  Maybe he was trying too hard.

Trying too hard?  Who was he trying to fool?  He had absolutely no interest in this and could not believe he’d agreed to it.

            Paul closed the door to their room as quietly as possible to avoid waking Bobby.  He didn’t want to have to explain where he was going.  With any luck, he’d be back before the kid awoke.  He checked the knob to make sure the door locked behind him and then turned up the hall toward the elevator.

            Bobby was a good kid, or at least Paul thought he was.  He wasn’t really sure.  He was with Kathy in the delivery room when Bobby was born but saw little of him thereafter.  When Bobby took his first step, Paul was in Portland closing the Amcorp deal.  That one paid for a new Acura.  When Bobby spoke his first words (certainly not “dada”), Paul was in Sacramento wining and dining Hutchinson from Zentek.  His first soccer game, it was Reno.  That sale got them the down payment for their home.  First day of school, it was Chicago.  First broken bone, Dallas.  The list went on and on.  The road was the only life he knew.  He never learned how to be a father.  He always had Kathy to take care of things while he was gone, including raising the kid.  And she did a great job.  Without her, he was lost.  He loved his son, but had no clue how to talk to him.

            He reached the elevator and paused before pushing the call button.  Maybe he should leave a note in case the kid woke up.  But what would he write?  Sorry kid, but this whole thing is driving me to drink.  Again.  I’m in the bar.  Pushing the thought from his mind, he pressed the down arrow.

            The road was his job, but coming home was his life.  Without variation, the ritual was always the same.  Both Kathy and Bobby would greet him silently at the door with a big group hug.  He would spend several moments planting kisses all over their smiling faces.  Then Kathy would ask, “Okay, Black Flag.  Did you kill ‘em dead?” before another word was spoken.  Sometimes late at night, lying alone in his bed, he still hears those words.  Where once they were the prelude to dreams, they are now the portent of nightmares.

Never once in fifteen years had they failed to make love on the day of his return, even when she was nine months pregnant with Bobby.  Once, on a two-hour layover between flights, Kathy met him at the airport short-term parking lot and they spent a glorious forty-five minutes in the back seat of her Taurus.  He could smell her on him all the way to Phoenix.  From the looks he got from the fat woman next to him on the plane, he guessed she could smell her, too.  God, he loved that woman.

After Kathy died, Bobby stopped greeting him at the door.

            The bell sounded announcing the arrival of the elevator.  He glanced at his watch.  9:30 p.m.  The kid should sleep for another hour and a half, if he was lucky.  He’d make sure he was back by 10:30, in case the kid woke up earlier.  That would also give him plenty of time before they met up with the rest of the group at midnight.  The elevator doors slid open with a ding and he stepped inside.  He searched the panel for “L”, found it and pressed the button for the lobby.

Since Kathy’s death, he and Bobby grew so far apart they hardly spoke at all anymore.  For the first year, they grieved separately, Bobby closed up in his room and he, closed up in a bottle.  In the second year, he came out of the bottle (sometimes), but Bobby remained in his room.  He made a few fumbling attempts to reach Bobby, but too much time had passed and he was too out of practice.  Now, whenever he tried to approach, Bobby would disappear into his room.  It completely threw him for a loop when Bobby came to him with the idea for this bizarre adventure. 

            It shouldn’t have surprised him though.

Six months ago, while Bobby was out with a couple of friends, Paul took the opportunity to ransack his room.  The room was Bobby’s refuge for mourning the passing of his mother and Paul never felt comfortable violating that sanctity.  He hadn’t been inside it since Kathy's death.  His motivation was not to spy on his son, driven by any lack of trust.  He just wanted to sit on the bed and take in the surroundings, hoping it would make him feel closer to Bobby, who was now so distant.  At least that’s how he justified it to himself.  He opened the door (in spite of the “Trespassers will be shot” sign) and stepped across the threshold.

            The wall above Bobby’s bed had always been the place of honor for his latest idol or infatuation.  Over the years, such luminaries as Winnie the Pooh, Charizard, Michael Jordan and Britney Spears adorned that hallowed spot.  Even John Lennon held court there for one brief period, much to Paul’s delight.  His occasional trips to Bobby’s room before Kathy’s death sometimes yielded surprises, but he was nowhere near prepared for what he found there now.

A large poster of Pinhead from Clive Barker’s Hellraiser hung where Mark McGwire once ruled.  Freddy Krueger leered down from another wall shared by Michael Myers’ stone face and Jason Voorhees, who stood over a corpse with a bloody axe in his hand.  Leatherface wielded a chainsaw over his head, menacing several teenagers in various stages of undress.  From every wall and every angle came dripping fangs, open wounds and spurting blood.  The bookshelves that once held The Hardy Boys Mysteries and Bailey School Kids now housed stacks of gothic novels and splatter comics.  He found the model cars and airplanes Bobby once loved to assemble (with his rare assistance) thrown haphazardly in a box in the corner of his closet.  Now lining the shelves that once held this proud collection was every manner of gruesome, ghastly figurine from every sick, slasher movie ever made.  On top of Bobby’s dresser sat an extremely lifelike decapitated head with a horrendous, tortured grimace.  From its graphic level of decomposition, it appeared to have been separated from its owner’s body about six months ago.  Next to the head lay what looked to be a six-inch length of a dog’s severed paw, complete with an inch of protruding bone.  Not a model or a prop, but a real live (dead) severed paw.  But the most disturbing image was Whiskers.

 

The elevator reached the first floor and slowed to a stop.  The doors slid back and he stepped out into the hotel lobby.  He looked around briefly to get his bearings.  At this hour, the lobby was almost deserted.  There were two employees behind the counter, one on the phone and one checking in a late arrival.  There was a man in his fifties sitting in the middle of the lobby, his chair facing both the front entrance and the elevators.  Paul assumed this must be some type of security person.  Across the lobby, Paul could see the large double doors of the restaurant and the words etched in the glass.

 

McGinty’s Bar and Grill

Fine Dining

 

The Mahogany Lounge

 

            He started across the lobby, his thirst growing stronger.

 

            He was walking through Chicago’s O’Hare on his way to the gate that would eventually take him home when he passed a small gift shop.  It was the same gift shop found in every airport, with its racks of paperback books, magazines, candy bars, and tee shirts imprinted with the local flavors.  As he walked by, a small, mottled, stuffed kitten caught his eye in the window, in various shades of dappled brown with little black and white markings.  It was all by itself amongst a collection of Bulls, White Sox, Cubs and Blackhawks paraphernalia.  Kathy was due to give birth any minute and he had been meaning to pick up a little gift for the baby, but with all his traveling, hadn’t gotten around to it.  The kitten was perfect.

            On the day Kathy and their new baby came home from the hospital, he gave the kitten to Bobby.  Kathy loved it and named it Whiskers after a kitten she had as a child.  That cat spent the next thirteen years next to Bobby.  It sat in the corner of his crib until Bobby was old enough to clutch it, then, as a toddler, it was never out of his arms.  He carried it with him everywhere and it slept next to him every night.  He would fidget impatiently in front of the washing machine on those rare occasions when Kathy could get it out of his hands to wash it.  When he started kindergarten, Bobby cried every morning for two weeks at having to leave Whiskers behind.  As Bobby grew older, Whiskers spent less time in his arms during the day but never left him at night, even into the start of his teen years.

            Over the years, Whiskers lost most of its fur and what remained was matted and coarse, giving it a mangy look.  Both of its eyes were gone and there were scars from countless boo-boos, all skillfully repaired with much love and Kathy’s needle and thread.  In spite of the wear and tear of endless handling and many washings, Bobby loved that kitten.  From the time Kathy first disappeared until they found her body (or what was left of it) several days later, Bobby and Whiskers were inseparable.

            Whiskers now hung from the ceiling in Bobby’s room by a three-foot length of twine.  Its disemboweled torso leaked what looked like raw liver in sausage casings, giving the appearance of entrails spilling from its disjoined belly.  The olive fork planted firmly between its eyes, or at least where its eyes once were, seemed to be the reason for the putrefied red goo covering its head.

            Three hours later, Bobby came home with jet black hair and a pierced eyebrow.  Paul had concerns about Bobby’s new look and what was found in his room and asked Bobby if he’d like to talk about it.  Instead, Bobby stormed off to his room in a rage, slamming the door behind him.  The next morning, Paul had to leave for Milwaukee, returning later in the week to find a padlock installed on the door.  He never did figure out how to address it with Bobby.

 

            He approached the restaurant’s double doors, fearing they might be locked.  There was an easel standing to their right with a placard advertising live entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights, but it was only Wednesday.  This week’s performance featured The Five Easy Pieces.  Five balding, overweight men in cheap tuxedos and blue ruffled shirts - the typical lounge band.  He could almost hear the strains of “Tiny Bubbles” and Sinatra’s “My Way”.  Pressing against the doors, he found them unlocked and he entered the dimly lit interior of the restaurant.

Another set of glass doors separated the restaurant from the bar, THE MAHOGANY LOUNGE etched in the panes.  Passing through the double doors, he noted with some relief the bar was almost empty.  A young couple sat as close as humanly possible in a booth toward the back of the room.  A middle-aged couple was at a table near the front, sitting as far apart as they could while still being at the same table.  Two men sat at the long, mahogany bar, huddled together and heavily engrossed in their conversation.  He recognized one of the men as a member of his group.  A Mr. Luther, he believed.  The bartender, a distinguished, tuxedo-clad gentleman in his late fifties, early sixties, suitable for a fancy hotel lounge, stood behind the bar.  He was far enough away not to disturb the conversation of the patrons but close enough to be accessible should a libation be desired.

            He was looking for a drink, not conversation.  He cut a wide swath around the two men at the bar and headed to the far end where he pulled up a bar stool.  The couples at the tables gave him only a disinterested passing glance and went back to their private conversations.  The two men at the bar did not seem to notice him at all, which was fine with him.

The bartender greeted him, “Good evening, sir.  What can I get for you tonight?”

            “Vodka.”

“A little bit of tonic.”

And as an afterthought, “lime.”

The bartender nodded and turned away to mix the drink.  Paul knew this bartender’s type, the type that knew who wanted conversation and who wanted to be left alone.  He wanted to be left alone.

 

            After Kathy’s death, it was two months before Paul returned to work.  Two months spent entirely inside a bottle.  Bobby became a complete recluse, locked up in his room, coming out only to eat and most times, would grab his plate and disappear into the dark confines of his room again.  When Paul was out of town, Bobby would stay alone in the house, simply because Paul hadn’t thought to make any other arrangements.  Upon his return, Paul was lucky to get a passing “Hi”.  On occasion, he would attempt to talk to Bobby, attempt to console him, attempt to assure him that over time, life would be okay again.  But the attempts were few and far between and half-hearted to say the least.  It isn’t that Paul didn’t care, he just didn’t know how to talk to him.  Now, too much time had passed.

 

            The bartender set the drink in front of him and he took a long pull from it.  Setting his glass on the bar, he surveyed his surroundings more closely, taking care not to be too obvious, not looking to draw unwanted attention to himself.  At the back of the room, the young couple was pressed together in an overzealous lip-lock, showing no signs of coming up for air, causing him to mumble, “Get a room.”  He grinned wryly as it occurred to him, this is a hotel…they probably had a room.  He watched them over the lip of his glass as he took another drink, recalling a similar amorous clutch with Kathy in a back booth at Trader Vic’s once upon a time.  He did his best to push the memory from his mind and forced himself to look away.

            The middle-aged couple sat quietly, nursing their drinks, not speaking or even looking at each other.  They sat with the familiarity bred from many years spent together, many years of empty solitude.  It was evident both would rather be elsewhere, perhaps back in the comfort of their separate lives under one roof.  He’d seen it all too often in his travels.  Too many middle-aged couples in too many hotel bars with nothing left to say to each other.

The two men at the bar sat huddled close together, deep in conversation.  Mr. Luther (or maybe Luden?) was leaning in close to the second man, as if speaking to a confidant.  Luther’s face appeared calm, almost expressionless.  His listener appeared quite the opposite.  His eyes were wide and his face, pale.  There was an uncomfortable grimace on his face, the muscles in his jaw standing out, his teeth clenched tightly.  Even from across the bar, Paul could see the sweat on his face, in spite of the coolness of the dimly lit bar.  It occurred to him, a little too much drink sometimes had that same effect on him.  Having completed his survey of the room, Paul lost interest and turned his attention back to his drink.

 

Six nights of the tour were now complete.  One night in cabin 3 at the Chateau Marmont waiting for John Belushi to appear.  A night in Studio 5 on Paramount Studios’ movie lot listening for echoing footsteps with eyes peeled for ethereal apparitions.  A night camped out before crypt 1205 in Hollywood’s Memorial Park cemetery in hopes of spotting the Lady in Black, come to mourn Rudolf Valentino 80 years after his death.  And two nights (out of three total) at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, listening for Montgomery Clift’s ghost practicing the bugle on the 9th floor and seeking the “haunting quality” in suite 1207 that reportedly inspired that crackpot Linda Goodman to top the New York Times Bestseller List…twice.

            So far, this adventure was a total bust.  At the Chateau Marmont, no bloated apparition appeared, expectorating green bile through ashen lips or inflamed nostrils.  No ectoplasmic ooze dripped from the catwalks high above Studio 5 at Paramount.  The only creak heard was the flatulence of the fat guy bringing up the rear during a sudden burst of silence.  There was one interesting moment in Memorial Park when the sound of high-pitched shrieking came from the direction of the Cathedral Mausoleum, but alas, it was not the Lady in Black, but only a couple of teenagers hoping to frighten the bejesus out of the unsuspecting tourists.  The tourists suspected.  The Supernatural Travel Guide states quite clearly the ghost of Rudolf Valentino hangs out at his former mansion in Beverly Hills, not in Hollywood’s Memorial Park.  Perhaps the Lady in Black doesn’t subscribe to the STG.

            Now, one more night at the Roosevelt before moving up the coast to finish the tour among San Francisco’s dead.  On tonight’s agenda was camping out in the ballroom in hopes of dancing with Marilyn Monroe’s ghost, accompanied by a visit to suite 229 to see if she can be seen in the mirror where so many claim to have found her.  With two of the three Roosevelt nights behind him, he was not impressed.

            Not that he expected to be.  Paul Gardner was not a man easily impressed.  He knew from the start this trip would try his patience.  He did not now, nor had he ever believed in anything supernatural, unnatural or preternatural.  He did not believe for a second there were any such things as ghosts, ghouls, monsters, zombies, or aliens sent from other galaxies to feast on human livers.  He did not believe in clairvoyance, telekinesis or precognition.  What he did believe in was pain.  He believed in evil.  He believed in cruelty and human suffering and death and dismemberment.  He believed in all manners of unspeakable horror, but only those inflicted by living, breathing beings born of flesh and blood.

When Bobby originally came to him with the brochure for this ghost hunt, his initial reaction was one of contempt.  A tour set up by profiteering charlatans taking advantage of the gullible and weak-minded.  This opinion had not changed.  Bobby seemed fascinated though.  In fact, the only interest the kid showed in anything these past two years was this tour.  Paul’s contempt was discernible and he was not shy about expressing it to Bobby.  Seeing the hurt look on the kid’s face, he immediately backed off and after a day or two to “think about it,” he consented.  The sole factor in his decision was the opportunity it presented for him to maybe, finally get through to his son and connect on some level.

 

            As he sat staring into his drink, Paul’s thoughts returned to Kathy, as they almost always did.  She had been just perfect.  Well, maybe her eyes were set a little too far apart for some, but they were the most breathtaking blue he’d ever seen and when he looked into them, he was hers, without hope of escape.  Perhaps her hips were a touch wide for some men’s taste, but he found the curve of her hip to the inside of her pelvic bone to be one of her most erotic features.  Although short, only five feet, two inches, she had great legs and he’d always been a leg man.  He used to tell her he loved how they went up and made an a*s of themselves, which always made her giggle.  His favorite thing about Kathy though was watching her move.  She had such grace but just enough of an evil wiggle when she walked and she knew it and used it.  Everyone who knew her loved her, but none half as much as he did.  After seventeen years of marriage, she could still entice him with nothing more than a glance.

Not a moment passed when he didn’t wish he’d told her more often how much he loved her.  Not a moment passed when he didn’t wish he’d chosen a different career that kept him closer to home so he could have spent more time with her.  Not a moment passed when he didn’t wish he could hear her laugh just one more time.  So many things left undone, so many things left unsaid, so many dreams left unrealized.  You always believe you have plenty of time.  It could never happen to you.  Tragedies like this were reserved for faceless strangers in other towns, in other lifetimes.  It never should have happened…it could have been avoided.  That monster should never have even been on the streets.  What could possibly lie within a man’s heart that would give him cause to do what he’d done to Kathy?  The brutality of the crime underlined its injustice.

            He gave a start, his reverie broken by the sound of breaking glass and the thud of something heavy hitting the floor.  At the far side of the bar, the man sitting with Mr. Luther was lying spread-eagled on the floor.  The bartender hurried around the end of the bar and Mr. Luther jumped to his feet and stood over the unmoving body.  Just as the bartender reached him, the man stirred and pushed himself to his hands and knees, attempting to rise to his feet.  After several failed attempts to get his legs under him, Mr. Luther and the bartender each grabbed an arm and pulled him to his feet.  Mr. Luther remarked to no one in particular, “A bit too much to drink.”

            The bartender asked, “Are you hurt?”  The man did not respond, only stared ahead at nothing, eyes wide and glassy.  Even from across the bar, Paul could see the man’s pupils were widely dilated.

            “Are you staying in the hotel?”  This got the man’s attention enough for his head to turn and face the bartender, but his eyes remained unfocused and his expression, blank.

            “May I call you a cab?”  Again, no response.

            The man shook free from the hands holding him and lurched in the general direction of the door.  Even more obvious than the man’s apparent drunkenness was his extreme pallor.  Never had Paul seen a face so white.

And he'd wet his pants.

Well, Paul had been there a few times himself in those months following Kathy’s death.

 

            The excitement over, Paul returned to his drink and his thoughts.  He tried so hard to block Kathy from his mind.  Well-meaning friends told him regularly he would mourn her passing less and less over time.  The day would come when he would remember with joy all the wonderful memories they’d created together instead of reliving the pain of her loss.  That day had not come.  He didn’t think it ever would.  His pain was no less today than it was in the weeks immediately following her death.  He missed her so much.  His dreams were always of her, but more times than not, they turned into nightmares.  Vivid, graphic nightmares of what she endured those few days before blessed death finally ended her torment.  The sheer brutality of her torture was beyond comprehension.  He tried to forget, tried to push the thoughts from his mind, to drink them away, but his nightmares were always there to remind him.  Drinking didn’t make them go away, but it blurred them around the edges, at least until he passed out and the nightmares would take their turn.

            Two weeks ago, the monster who murdered her was sentenced to death.  The case was so clear-cut, the evidence so overwhelming, the process so clean, there will be no appeals.  The b*****d is going to die.  He thought the sentence would give him some level of satisfaction, some degree of closure, but it hadn’t.  Lethal injection was the method of execution in Missouri.  Somehow, letting this fiend simply fall asleep and not wake up did not feel like justice.  Over the past two years, Paul imagined all manners of grisly death for Kathy’s tormentor, all taking a very long time and all carried out by him personally.  Okay, Black Flag.  Did you kill ‘em dead?  Now, he just wanted to forget.

 

“May I join you?”

The motion picture playing in his mind came to an abrupt halt, reminiscent of the days of his youth spent at the Majestic Theatre when the first reel would end in a cacophony of flapping celluloid.  He looked up to find Mr. Luther standing next to him, one hand on the bar, the other holding an all but empty glass.  It was the last thing he wanted, but he found himself saying, “Sure, pull up a stool.”

            “Looks like we are all that’s left tonight.  Seems a shame for us to sit alone at opposite ends of the bar.  I’m Luther Vadim.”

            Okay, so Luther was his first name.  At least he’d gotten the right name, even if it was in the wrong location.  Begrudgingly, he accepted Luther’s extended right hand.

            “Paul Gardner,” he said, quickly surveying the room.  They were indeed alone.

            “Let me buy you a drink, Paul.  I’ve been hoping for a chance to talk with you.”

            “How’s that?” he asked, suspicion evident in his voice.

            “Bartender, two more please.”  Luther pulled the neighboring stool closer, a little too close for Paul’s liking, and sat.

            “No reason except we’re together on this macabre adventure.  We are a small group.  It seems appropriate we should get to know each other.  It makes the process more interesting.  As a matter of fact, I had the pleasure of spending a few minutes with your son last night.  How is he feeling, by the way?”

            Bobby disappeared from suite 1207 last night for about fifteen minutes in order to find a bathroom not already filled with ghost hunters.  When the kid returned, he was ashen and weak and created a minor stir when he collapsed against one of the woman, inadvertently grabbing her breast in the process.  Paul left the suite mid-haunting to take Bobby back to their room.

            “He was better after a couple of hours rest and some breakfast, thanks.”

            “Glad to hear it.  I would hate for him to miss out on the rest of the tour.  So are you enjoying our little adventure?”  Luther had a way of speaking that grated on Paul’s nerves.

            “Not particularly.  It’s not really my thing.  I’m just along for the ride.”  He picked up his glass and drained the rest of his remaining vodka.

“Yes, I suspect these types of things are most popular with those a bit more gullible, and you don’t seem to be the sort.  Your son seems to show quite a lot of interest though, but of course, he’s young and still impressionable.”

He wondered if Luther intended that as some kind of slur against Bobby, but a look into Luther’s face did not reveal any visible malice.  He studied Luther for a moment.  His face was thin, as was the rest of him, a bit hawkish with a moderately large nose and thin, dark lips.  His eyes were very dark and set back in his head just enough for his brow to keep them in shadow.  Luther’s face was one of those that defied the guessing of his age, so he didn’t guess, primarily from a lack of interest.  In a dimly lit bar, Luther could pass for a man in his early forties or could be a well preserved sixtyish.

            “So what about you?  You don’t appear to be particularly gullible.  Why are you here?” Paul asked.

            The bartender approached and set their drinks down before returning to his station at the other end of the bar.  Luther picked up his drink and took a sip before answering.

            “It’s really quite simple.  I need to feel the juices flowing at top speed, heart revving on all eight cylinders.  I need to taste the sweat spawned by fear.  I need that flood of sensory enhancement and deprivation sired by a good adrenal dump.  I guess you could call me an adrenaline junkie.”

            “And this tour does that for you?” Paul asked, doubtfully.

            “In a manner of speaking.  There really hasn’t been a lot of fear spawned here…nothing has really gotten the heart racing.  But I was interested in this particular tour because of that vile incident a few years ago.”

            For the first time since the man sat down, Luther got his attention.

“Incident?” Paul asked.

“You don’t know about it?”  Luther paused and took another sip from his drink.  Paul found it a bit theatrical and got the impression it was intentional.  This guy seemed to enjoy the dramatic.

“I’m surprised you haven’t heard about it.  It made national news.  A man much like you and his son took this very same tour a couple of years back.  The boy was different from your son, blonde and blue-eyed, quite preppy looking.  Those interviewed from the tour described him as very quiet and well mannered.  It appeared he got along quite well with his father.  Seems perhaps still water really does run deep though.”

Luther took another drink from his glass and Paul did the same, partly to cover his annoyance at the melodramatic delivery.

“In one of the overnight stays at this very hotel, following a night in one of the ‘haunted’ suites, the boy murdered his father in his sleep.  I understand it was quite gruesome.  The papers didn’t print the more nasty details, but I heard he removed his father’s eyes with a corkscrew.  The eyes were never found in the room.  Makes one wonder how the child might have disposed of them.  When the maid arrived to clean the room, she found the boy sitting on the floor next to the bed, covered head to toe in his father’s blood and entrails.  He tied his father to the bed using cord cut from the drapes, and then opened him up, disemboweled him and laid his organs out in precise sequence on the bed next to him.  In place of his eyes were his own testicles.  There was no forensic evidence to support the use of any sharp instrument in the area of his genitals, leading investigators to surmise the boy ripped his father’s balls off with his bare hand.”

Luther stared hard at him while Paul stared hard into his drink.  He glanced quickly at Luther.  Was that disappointment he saw on Luther’s face?

Luther continued, his eyes never leaving Paul’s face.  “No explanation was ever given as to the boy’s motivation.  Personally, I wonder if he wasn’t somehow manipulated by events that occurred on this tour.”

“Yeah, maybe Marilyn Monroe told him to do it,” the sarcasm intentional in his voice, his eyes burning a hole in the side of his glass.

  Luther didn’t seem to notice, or at least pretended not to.  “I was actually quite surprised the room isn’t included as part of this tour… room 716.”

Paul’s body wrenched involuntarily, almost causing him to drop his glass.  He recovered quickly but his widened eyes and arched eyebrows betrayed his disquiet.

“Are you alright?” Luther asked.  “Seems you’ve had a start.”

            He studied Luther’s face carefully, looking for any sign of deceit or corruption.  Luther stared back, expressionless and vacant.  After several moments, he said, “My son and I are in room 716.”

 

            “Well now, that does make things more interesting,” Luther said, “and quite unexpected.”  Paul thought he detected the slightest glimmer of amusement in Luther’s voice.  “I have to admit I’m quite shocked the hotel is still letting out that room.”

            Things suddenly got even weirder.  Luther leaned over close and inhaled sharply.  Paul recoiled, leaning as far away from the man as he could without falling from his stool.

“What the hell?” Paul growled.

            “My apologies,” Luther said, then moved back to his original perch, which was still too close.  “It wasn’t my intention to invade your personal space.  I was only curious about your cologne.  I think it might be something that would suit me.”

            He stared into Luther’s face for a long moment, a wary look in his eyes before responding, “I’m not wearing any.”  Having just about enough of the company of this man, he rose from his stool.

“Listen, I need to get back up to my son.  He’s alone in the room right now.  Thanks for the drink.”

            “But you haven’t finished it.  Sit and enjoy your drink.  Your son is sleeping comfortably and there’s still plenty of time before our congregation at midnight.”  Luther’s voice was suddenly very soothing, almost hypnotic.  Paul grinned wryly, remembering a line from Obi-Wan Kenobi…“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”

            Ah, yes, his drink.  Perhaps he should finish it first…

 

            He must have wandered off in his mind for a moment.  Paul started from his trance with the feeling you get when you doze off in the middle of the sermon and suddenly jerk awake.  It took him a second to get reoriented.  Luther was still talking, apparently not aware Paul had gone visiting his demons for a bit.

“…he would only go out after sundown, sleeping during the day, and he actually developed an allergic reaction to garlic.  It’s amazing to me how the power of the mind can manifest itself physically.  As his obsession grew, he took the next step and had himself fitted with a metal mouthpiece, complete with elongated incisors.”

            Okay, so he’s talking about some guy who thought he was a vampire.

            “It was only a matter of time before the inevitable happened.  A young girl was walking home late one night after visiting the home of a girlfriend.  As was her habit, she took a shortcut through a wooded area between her home and the home of her friend.  She never arrived at her house.  The next morning, a search of the surrounding area found her body in the woods.  Her throat was ripped out and her half-naked body all but drained of blood.  Her torso sustained numerous puncture wounds, originally believed to be the result of a savage animal attack.  DNA testing of the saliva residue surrounding the wounds revealed the attacker was not an animal, but human.  Apparently, a very disturbed human.

            “But that was only the beginning.  Before an off-duty police officer shot and killed him, charging with metal fangs bared, he took nine victims.  All had their throats torn out, their bodies covered in puncture wounds consistent with the metal fangs taken from his lifeless body.  In every case, the amount of blood found in and around the bodies was considerably less than it should have been, leaving investigators to conclude he did, in fact, drink their blood.”

            Luther paused long enough to take a drink from his glass before adding, “It is truly a sick world, but I have to confess the stories fascinate me.  Typically, they do get the blood pumping.”

            “Yeah, well, I think I got that beat.”  Paul took a long pull from his drink, staring straight ahead, eyes unfocused, his expression completely blank.  Luther took a sip from his as well and waited patiently, watching.  Paul could feel Luther’s eyes burning against the side of his face.

“A couple of years ago, this guy down in Kansas City grabs this 19 year old girl in a Wal-Mart parking lot, takes her to an abandoned warehouse out in Overland Park and chains her to a table.  He spends the next three days repeatedly raping and brutally beating her.  By random chance, some bum busts a window to get out of the weather and stumbles across her, practically dead.  She spends the next two months in the hospital and another two months in the psych ward before she speaks.”

Paul took another gulp from his drink, set it down and stared into it as he continued.  “The police find enough physical evidence at the scene to make an arrest and hold him, pending identification by the victim.  A skinny little, 140-pound shoe store clerk named Jeffrey Walgrove.  The guy can’t make bail, so he sits in jail for four months waiting for this girl to come around.  Every time the investigators try to get an identification from her, she goes off the deep end again, so her doctors won’t allow them to talk to her anymore.  She is finally released from the hospital, but is still scared shitless and refuses to come identify him.  Another month goes by trying to convince her and she finally agrees to pick him out of a line-up.  But when he’s put in front of her, she won’t point him out.  It’s obvious to everyone there she knows it’s him.  She never even looks at any of the other guys in the line-up, just stares straight at this shoe clerk, crying her eyes out.  Leaving the police station, the girl throws herself in front of a bus and dies three hours later.”

He paused again and reached for his glass.

“A tragedy,” remarked Luther, shaking his head.

Paul continued.

“As it turns out, DNA evidence from the warehouse is somehow tainted and deemed inadmissible in court.  Without the girl, they don’t have enough evidence to convict the guy, so they release him.  Two weeks later, a thirty-eight year-old woman is walking to her car after doing her grocery shopping at the Englewood Road Hy-Vee in Kansas City.  Witnesses see a man knock her out with a two-by-four to the head and throw her in the back of a van, her full shopping cart left standing in the middle of the parking lot.  One of the witnesses has the presence of mind to take down the van’s license plate number.  Another has the presence of mind to steal her groceries.  The van is registered to one Jeffrey Walgrove.  There’s a city-wide manhunt for the guy, but it’s four days before the van is found near another abandoned warehouse, this one in Roeland Park.  On entering the warehouse, Walgrove’s two Rottweilers attack and the police shoot and kill them.  Inside, they find Walgrove and what’s left of the woman.  He’s crouched next to a Coleman camp stove, cooking a hunk of flesh cut from her butt.

“She had been repeatedly and brutally raped and sodomized.  What was left of her body showed evidence of vicious and severe beating.  Her right arm and both of her legs had been cut off with a hacksaw found next to the table where she was strapped down.  Forensics indicated the limbs were probably removed about twenty-four hours apart and the stumps cauterized with a blowtorch to keep her from bleeding to death.  From the condition of the remains, they determined the limbs were fed to his dogs.  An autopsy of the dogs after the fact found her flesh in their stomachs.  They confirmed she was alive and probably conscious while all of this was happening.  The time of death was fixed at only a couple of hours before the police burst through the door to find him cooking her a*s.  Which means it took her four days to die.”

            Picking up his drink, Paul drank it down to the ice.  His face was blank, his eyes, glassy, his shoulders, sagging.  He set the tumbler gently down on the counter and stared into the bottom of the empty glass.

            “You seem to know that story well.”  Luther’s voice was now soft, coated with what seemed to be genuine concern.

            “The woman was my wife.”

After a long pause, Luther responded, “Ahhh, that would explain it,” almost under his breath.

            Paul didn’t look up from his empty glass, the defeat in his soul worn visibly on his back.  “Explain what?”

            Ignoring the question, Luther once again leaned in close, inhaling deeply.  “Are you sure you aren’t wearing anything?”

            “Yeah.”  Picking up his glass, Paul drained the last few drops from the melting ice.  “I gotta go.”

It was time to get away from this guy, although he was finding it difficult to gather the strength or the will to push away from the bar.

            Paying no attention to his attempt to leave, Luther continued.  “Did you know you can actually smell fear on a person?  It secretes from your pores.  When you are really frightened, the adrenaline you produce is, in fact, tangible.”

            Okay, that was pretty random, random enough to bring him out of his pain-induced daze.  Since Kathy’s death, he was no longer a man to pull punches or mince words and why should this moment be any different?

            “Yeah, maybe that’s what you smell instead of cologne, because you’re starting to scare the s**t out of me.”

            Luther laughed, a low, guttural snort, quite inappropriate given the current mood.  “No, I’m afraid I do not smell any fear on you.”

            Then, without laughter, “Boys viciously eviscerating their fathers and fanged maniacs rending flesh don’t seem to frighten you much.”

            Paul replied, “I stopped being scared of vampires when I was ten.”

            “Hmmm…let me tell you my theory on vampires.  I believe vampires exist today, right now.  Real, honest-to-goodness, undead vampires.”  Luther leaned closer to him and said in a whisper, “But it’s not blood they thirst for.”  He paused yet again for dramatic effect, as was his wont.

            Paul didn’t know how long this nutbag had been sitting at the bar, but was now convinced it may have been for one drink too many.  Regardless, he decided to play along.  “Okay, I’ll bite…pun intended.  What then?”

            “It’s fear vampires need.  Raw, unadulterated terror…perfect and absolute.  Horror that makes the heart pound, makes the blood rush away from your skin and brain and into your muscles and organs, leaving you ashen and everything running in slow motion.  Paralyzing fear that makes you lose control of your bodily functions, leaving you a mass of quivering suet sitting in your own excrement.”

            “That’s a lovely visual,” Paul said.  “I think I’m going to stick with the more widely accepted ‘drinking blood’ theory though.”

            “Just my opinion,” responded Luther.  “And what can generate more fear in a human than plunging sharpened fangs into his neck and ripping out his throat?  A bit messy, I must admit.  But fear is what’s needed to produce the adrenaline a vampire needs in his victim’s blood stream to survive.  Fear is simply a symptom of adrenal release.”

            “Alright, if vampires really exist, why aren’t we hearing about them on the news every night, in this day and age of sensationalism in reporting?” Paul argued.

            “Okay, humor me for a bit.  You’re a vampire and you’re out walking the streets every night, driven by your terrible blood lust.  You find a potential meal walking up some alley.  You pounce, rip out his throat and drink your fill.  You’re sated, but you’re out on the streets with blood and gore all over you.  How do you get home safely in this condition?  Turn into a bat?  Right.  You’re the undead, not a magician.  Plus, you have the added problem of this mangled body lying in the alley that could be discovered at any moment, bringing further complications.  And if you don’t kill them just right, they’ll turn into vampires and the problem increases exponentially.  Now, because you and the victims you’ve turned are leaving a mass of mutilated flesh in your wake every night, it’s not long before people start to take notice.  First, it’s a subtle suggestion by some kid that watches too much television and before you know it, everyone’s carrying crosses and garlic and trying to drive a wooden stake through your heart.”

            “Makes perfect sense to me,” Paul muttered.

            Luther ignored the sarcasm.  “I think it’s simply a matter of vampires had to get smart.  They know they don’t need to drink blood to get what they need, although it is by far the most satisfying way of feeding.  They need adrenaline, which their dead bodies can no longer produce, so they thirst for the adrenaline of others.  All they have to do is create fear in those around them, sit back and breathe it in.  Just like a wild animal can smell fear on you.  Spend a couple hundred years doing this and the existence of vampires becomes nothing more than shadow and myth.  In exchange for giving up their natural urge to rend flesh, they now walk openly among the living and can feed at will.  It’s not the most satisfying trade-off, but a necessary one to survive.”

The bartender approached from behind the bar.  “I’m about to close up, guys.  I need to do a little restocking.  Mind if I leave you alone here for a couple of minutes?”

            Luther answered for the both of them.  “Not at all.  We are just finishing up.”

            The two men watched as the bartender disappeared through the swinging doors into the back room.

            Luther broke the silence.  “You don’t frighten easily, do you?”

            “Huh?” was the only response Paul could think to make.

            “Every now and then, I meet a guy like you.  Someone who has seen too much of the dark side of life.  Someone who has experienced too much of their own suffering to be affected by the torment or anguish of others.  It takes something really dramatic to trip their trigger, get their adrenaline pumping.”

            Luther leaned in close, his lips only inches from his ear.  “Hey, would you like to see something really scary?”  Luther’s breath was hot against Paul’s cheek, its fetid smell reminding him of the rotting compost heap on his grandparent’s farm he visited as a child, forcing him to recoil.  Paul leaned back as far as he could without falling from his stool, attempting to put space between him and Luther, but Luther leaned in closer, their faces remaining only inches apart.

            He locked eyes with Luther, an uneasiness rapidly building in his chest.  For the first time, he noticed the whites of the man’s eyes were not very white at all, but rather yellowish with a slight glow reminding him of a full moon through a haze of fog.  Luther began to grin, actually more of a leer, with rubbery lips pulling back over yellow teeth.  He recognized lust in Luther’s face but was incapable of wrapping his mind around it enough to recognize it for what it truly was.

This thing that was, until a moment ago, Luther, leapt at him, knocking Paul from his stool.  He landed flat on his back on the floor, all breath driven from his lungs by the creature’s weight on his chest.  As the beast’s teeth sought purchase in his jugular, Paul attempted to scream, but had no breath left to manage it.  As the world began to fade around him, Paul’s last conscious thought was, Okay, Black Flag.  Did you kill ‘em dead?

The vampire drank deeply, taking large gulps and running his tongue over the human’s torn flesh.  The rich warm flow aroused him, but he was incapable of his own adrenal release.  The guttural sound of his feeding filled the empty bar.  The bartender could return or a patron walk in at any moment, catching him with his face buried in the bloodied neck of this convulsing human.  He felt a momentary concern over the potential exposure to him and his kind, but it passed quickly in the ecstasy of his blood lust.  He’d almost forgotten the sensory pleasure of the act.  He’d have to do something about the bartender, though.  And the boy, of course.

All the same, it was good to feed the old-fashioned way once again.

 

 

© 2010 Lyle James Parson II

 

© 2011 Jim Parson


Author's Note

Jim Parson
Thanks to those of you who gave so much of your time and talent to help me. You know who you are. I owe you so much!

My Review

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Featured Review

Well being I love Horror and all, I had to come and read this.. First let me say it was written with great imagery. Loved your wording, storyline, perfect! Setting was tight.. In all I would think this a winner, send it, heck you are a fab writer, I think they will gobble this up.. Everything you bring forth gives such pleasure..

Rock on dude, rock on!

Mags xx

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

This is so good I was left practically speechless. The dialogue definitely lured the reader in just as it did Paul and surprised me just as much as Paul was bitten. Great job!


Posted 6 Years Ago


I liked it. Similar style to 'Thy Neighbours Wife'. Would like to have found out what it was that made Bobby the way he was. Assuming it was the brutality of his mother's death. Loved the way it was written. Flows well and easy to read. :)

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Hi Jim!

So I was able to finish the rest of your story tonight and wanted to let you know what I think...

I want to be honest with you and let you know gore horror isn't my thing. So, the places I had issues -- such as the graphic mutilation scenes involving the father/son murder and the murder of his wife -- aren't going to disturb someone who enjoys having their freak freaked :) But for this little lady, who has a VERY weak stomach, I found myself utterly abhorred and disgusted -- which is the whole point and proof that you did your job expertly!

Overall, this is excellently written. The structure, pacing of information told and dialogue were all strong. Although I had a solid feeling for the kind of man Paul was, I would have loved to have been given some physical descriptions of him. I could be mistaken, but I don't remember you telling us what he looks like.

Ok, now I am probably missing something really obvious, but I didn't understand "Ok, Black Flag, did you kill 'em dead?" Is this a reference to Raid? I can be a little naive when it comes to understanding stuff like this, so if there is a way to spell out to those such as myself, it might be beneficial. :)

The sense I got of Luther right of the bat was he was sketchy...You do an excellent job of provoking the readers intuition without being blatant indicating so. You want the reader to discover for themselves who is and isn't to be trusted. You keep us guessing, as to whether we have misjudged Luther's sincerity or if our intuition will prove faithful in the end. I would loved to have been given his physical characteristics a little earlier on. Again, for me, I LOVE being able to visualize the characters. Having their features enables me to form strong images and ultimately experience things from a first person stand-point versus a by-stander stand-point.

You use the word "juggler" when you are speaking about Luther leaning in for the kill. I am pretty sure you mean jugular. :)

I absolutely think this would do well as a published short-story. People who enjoy horror are going to love this! I hope you will take the leap and put this out there for publication.



Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Jim this was very creative, and throughout you had me guessing. Characters are developed well, although I would have liked to see some more foreshadowing of Luther, like having him hunting so to speak, showing up more through the story in odd ways, so as to implant his character into the readers head. Just my thoughts; really a very well told story!

Great Write!
RLG,
Tommy


Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Hi Jim!

Well...you certainly have not disappointed me. I'm about half way through. I can feel the story is about take flight and I'm anticipating something gory...I will tune in in the next couple of days to continue with this. So far I am really enjoying it. You have laid sturdy groundwork, developed complex and interesting characters and crafted a juicy plot. Great job!!

Here are the notes I took as I read. Also, as a writer, there are often times specific things I want and appreciate having feedback on. If you have any questions, just shoot me an email. :)

"The list goes on and on" Is there a change in tense here? Should it be "The list went on and one"

"Without variation, the ritual was always the same. Both Kathy and Bobby would greet him silently at the door with a big group hug. He would spend several moments planting kisses all over their smiling faces."

This is only a suggestion. It works the way you have it, but I thought no harm in tweaking it a bit.

Without variation, the ritual was always the same: At the door, Kathy and Bobby would greet him silently with a big group hug, followed by several moments of planting kisses all over their smiling faces and lastly, Kathy would ask, "Okay, Black Flag. Did you kill ‘em dead?” before another word was spoken.

The word you have "sanctity" meaning holiness or something sacred, absolutely works. But -- and forgive me, I am such a word nut -- I thought the word sacrosanct might be a PERFECT fit. It means, not to be entered or trespassed upon. As I said, just a suggestion :)

You described Bobby's room phenomenally! I felt like I was standing there shuddering and saying "Ew."

I could almost here the "dun dun DUN!" after you the last sentence mentioning Whiskers. I am intrigued!

"He would fidget impatiently in front of the washing machine on those rare occasions when Kathy could get it out of his hands to wash it." Fabulous visual moment!! You "showed" me versus telling me.


Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

wow Jim! another excellent piece! your ideas are amazing! how could you think of those? you write perfectly! great story Jim :)

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Definitely a nail biter! Kept me on the edge of my seat the whole read. Excellent writing, like we would expect anything less. How you come up with the terrific ideas, I have no clue. You spoon feed tidbits of information at a time, just enough to get me hooked. Then there I stood, bowl in hand, begging, "please sir, can I have some more." Now my question is... when can we expect the next literary greatness?

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Read this again. Nothing much to add to previous, but I did notice that you do not give Paul's name until pretty far in to the piece. Standard advice is to name the main protagonist as early as possible, to allow the reader to settle down and 'see' the person who might, in their opinion, bear such a name.
You write well. This is magazine material.
ATB
Alex.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on January 4, 2011
Last Updated on March 24, 2011
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Jim Parson
Jim Parson

Los Angeles, CA



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I have been a banker for the past 28 years, but my dream has always been to write. I thought maybe it was time to give it a try. I don't think I'm the greatest writer, but I think I can tell a prett.. more..

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