A Story For Sunday: In the Devil’s Name

Isabelle told the man with the porkpie hat that she had only stopped off at the bar for a couple of drinks to drown her sorrows and that it really wasn’t the sort of establishment that she usually frequented.

‘My father’s funeral, you know?’ she croaked, eyes down, as if she were playing bingo.

Since Spencer was a stranger in town, he was unaware that James Gowdie’s apparent burial was, in fact, pretty much a monthly occurrence. A fabricated sob story – stained with wishful thinking – that regularly coincided with Isabelle having boozed away most of her salary, teetering on the precipice of sobriety and the horrors that entailed. So, he took off his hat, placed it against his chest and offered her his condolences and, most importantly, a drink.

A Martini or ten later, the night corroded and he awoke in the wan light of an unfamiliar hotel room listening to the rumble of trucks from outside the window and the ghost of a blues song leak in from the next room. He expected to find Isabelle and his wallet gone, his bank account cleared out but the toilet flushed loudly and she walked out of the bathroom looking more than somewhat frayed around the edges but – he was relieved to find- not that bad looking at all.

‘Ready for another round, Trigger?’ she said.

She picked up a bottle of wine from a bedside table and finished it as she unsteadily plonked herself on the edge of the bed.

‘A little early for me,’ said Spencer, his voice like broken glass. ‘And I have a meeting in …’

‘Fair enough,’ she said, waving a hand dismissively.

Isabelle pulled on her long, black dress and pushed her swollen feet into her red, high-heeled shoes.

‘See you around,’ she said. She picked up her handbag and tottered through the door, leaving it open and letting in a cold, autumn breeze.

***

Rivulets of rain ponderously trailed down the windscreen as James Gowdie watched his daughter stagger out of the taxi and tumble toward The Swampsnake’s blinking neon sign. James lit a Marlborough with his Zippo as Isabelle headed down the steps and opened the metal door, a blast of hard rock bursting free for a moment. He slowly smoked his cigarette, his heart pounding.

A truck pulled into the car park and a skinhead in a tartan shirt got out of the truck and rushed into the bar.

James felt frozen. Trapped like one of the wasps he used to catch in jam jars when he was a kid. He eventually got out of his car and opened up the boot. He pulled out a long black leather coat and draped it over his paint splattered overalls. Put on a denim cap and took out a sawn-off shotgun.

***

Vambo could feel last night’s Vindaloo slicing through his guts. He rushed into The Swampsnake , through the crowded bar and straight into the graffiti splattered toilets. An old, wire-haired man leaned unsteadily against the urinals, smoking a pin-size roll up.

‘It’s a good life if you don’t weaken,’ he said.

Vambo growled.

There were two cubicles and Vambo slammed hard against the first one. Locked.

‘Get a move on will you. I’m touching cloth here,’ he shouted.

Two male voices giggled and Vambo squirmed. He smashed a massive paw against the second door and it flew wide open. A woman was on her hands and knees, her face in the toilet bowl. Vambo dragged her by the hair and pulled her backwards, letting her slide on her back across the toilet’s sticky floor. Then he saw she wasn’t breathing.

As he leaned over and gave the woman CPR, his jeans filled with toxic smelling shit,

‘That is fucking foul,’ said the old man. He rushed out of the toilets, gagging.

The sound of Isabelle’s gasps melded with the sound of her father’s gunshot as he blasted Vambo’s brains like a Rorschach test across the toilet floor. She dragged herself into consciousness in time to see her father turn the gun on himself and then she closed her eyes and slept the sleep of the just.

A Story For Sunday: Dead Pimp In A Trunk

I WAS GOING to tell you about why I killed Lewis Quad and how he’d had it coming to him. How he’d asked for it and deserved everything he got. Tell you what an evil bastard he was and how many lives he’d destroyed over the years. All the shitty little things he’d done just because he could. Justify my actions, and the like. But then I realised that, well, if you knew Lewis Quad you’d know all of that anyway and if you didn’t know Lewis there was no way in heaven, hell or purgatory that I was ever  going to be able to explain the whole thing to you. So I thought I’d just tell you what happened next.

***

I wasn’t even close to Cyrus White’s farm when I realised I was running low on fuel. The last few hours had been a blur. I’d been so wrapped up in replaying the events of the last few days I’d been smothered by them, truth be told.

As I drove through the night, the streetlamps were yellow streaks across the pallet of darkness. I’d been listening to a phone-in talk show about ghosts, hauntings and such, and though I’d never been superstitious, I sure was glad when the dawn eventually broke on through.

I saw a sign for a gas station off of a side road and turned off the radio so that I could concentrate. I followed the directions until I reached a small disused general store with a dusty, rusted gas pump in front and a battered old station wagon parked beside it. I parked my Dodge, lay my head on the steering wheel and groaned.

After a moment or so, I switched on the radio to wake myself up but it was as dead as the corpse in my trunk. I lay back in the seat and pulled out a quarter bottle of Wild Turkey. Sipped. As I watched the sun rise like a gold doubloon, I started to relax.

Then I heard the bang.

***

She was old, in her eighties or something like that, carrying a sawn-off shotgun and wearing a ragged green-velvet ball gown. She staggered out of the store, tripping over her high heeled shoes and pulling a red beehive wig from her head as she raced toward the station wagon. I guessed she didn’t notice me at first because she threw the gun into the car and crawled in after it. She started up the station wagon with a struggle and reversed. Right into my car.

***

The sunny morning had hardened into a granite gray day and the non-stop drizzle failed to wash away the pain in my head. It wasn’t the impact of the cars so much or even the hangover that was kicking in. It was Mathilda and the way she talked. And how much she talked.

I pulled up outside White’s farmhouse just as Mathilda was telling some long and winding anecdote about unpaid alimony, jailbait whores and a pawn shop.

‘And, you know, what would you do, if you were unlucky enough to have found yourself in my situation?’ she said. She scratched her bald head. Glared at me.

‘I know what you mean,’ I said. ‘I know exactly what you mean.’

Although I most certainly did not.

Cyrus came out of the door cradling a crossbow that I knew he had made himself. He was tall and gaunt, with a long white beard and a bald head. He was wearing a frayed black suit. He swayed a little as he walked toward the car.

‘You took your time,’ he said. ‘My babies are getting hungry.’

I heard the pigs scream and a chill skewered my soul.

‘Don’t worry,’ I said, as I got out of the Dodge. ‘I have a little extra snack for them.’

‘Then come on in, ladies,’ said Cyrus. He opened up the passenger door and winked at Mathilda. ‘You’re just in time for tiffin.’

I picked up my purse and slammed the car door. Straightened my skirt.

Mathilda was already hobbling alongside Cyrus, arm in arm with him.

It was going to be a long day.

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