My face is an inch away from hers, but her attention, and her panic, is drawn to the combat knife I hold in front of her saucer like eyes.
“Understand me, I do not intend on using this on you.”
She doesn’t believe me of course, but I don’t need her to, the knife comes down and brushes lightly against her throat, drawing blood as it slowly misses her major arteries, leaving no more than a paper cut behind.
“I know I did this before, but I need a fresh sample you see.”
And I slide the blade over my tongue.
“Mandrake… wolf-bane…garlic….. basil? Basil? Seriously?”
I read the confusion in her eyes as she mumbles complaints through her gag.
“You were roofied by amateurs, all the pros know to use paprika.”
No one knows what that’s suppose to taste like I wanted to add, but I notice her following the swaying movement of my dagger and sigh.
I hold the blade in front of her, her panic fully taking in the jagged, almost predatorial, nature of the seven inch knife that stole her breath. Granted it’s a damn terrifying instrument; few weapons I’ve come across give the impression that a great white contributed to its design.
I put the knife away.
“See” I hold up my hands, “no knife.”
For her credit she hasn’t peed herself once. She blinks and exhales several minutes worth of carbon dioxide, nods her little head back and forth, sobbing a little but relatively calm. Taking my actions as slow and deliberate as possible, I cup her cheek in my hand and cradle her head as gentle as newborn.
“I need you to be calm.” I whisper.
I take her head in both hands and squeeze until her skull rigid in my grip. She doesn’t cry out in panic, by sheer force of will she stops herself from thrashing about vainly in her bindings. Not so much as a whimper escapes her gag. I try not to smile.
“I’m going to do something horrible to you. You will not enjoy this and I can not reiterate how unpleasant it will be. If you panic, if cry, if you fight me in any way, I will gut you like a fish.”
She doesn’t bother to nod but she knows I understand, though she is way off about my intentions, her relaxed body and emptying mind (“think of England” she mutters over and over again) will do. And besides I rather she not call my bluff; leaving a brain dead med student in the care of local authorities and worried sick parents leaves too much evidence behind for my taste. I may be a king, but I haven’t been to a country where hiding a body isn’t simpler, easier, and far less strenuousness on the diplomatic immunity. So with a shallow breath I open up the sardine can most people call a mind and start making sandwiches.
I wear my business casual smile with a hint of “aw-shucks, look how embarrassed I am” and awkwardly bring out my object of interest.
“Does this guy frequent your shop?”
The cashier/owner looks at my sketch of a slightly overweight Caucasian male, with heavy horned rimmed glasses, chubby perpetually rosy cheeks, a good old boy smile, and hair that hangs in wet mope like fashion over a comically flat forehead. Recognition comes easy.
“Is he in any kind of trouble.” The comic book stores owner’s face re-actively recoils at the thought.
“No, no nothing like that.” Disarming smile and awkward nebbishness turned on to max, “He wanted to sell comics on…craiglist, yes craiglist, but he is kinda hard to find and I came all this way, and well….”
“John Percy buys comics?”
“He’s a big collector.”
“Well he doesn’t buy any here.”
Looking at around at the mid sized collection, I can imagine my Percy boy reading but never buying the latest issues, huddled with 2-3 other disenfranchised man-child’s bemoaning the canonical nightmare which as become the Walking Dead. Or maybe he comes here alone, his friends teenage years of idle time spent behind Starbucks and bookstores long buried under the demands of sleep and menial jobs.
I shrug “Buys online?”
He shakes his head, “Probably.”
“Hey it was nice to meet you,” I hold out my hand for him to shake which he does vigorously despite the searing sensation, “And don’t tell him I was here looking for him.” A command not a request, but he doesn’t notice the difference, so he’ll nod and smile and forgot I was here all the same. He also doesn’t notice he has been marked, the price for the inscription a last courtesy from Jessica before the cops found her in a sleazy motel in the more rugged side of town due to an anonymous tip. The cops will eventually find a small time street dealer (whats left of him) in the bathtub… I don’t make any pretenses about killing an innocent, it could have been a mother of three, or a grampa coming back from vacation, marrow is marrow and after making a sandwich I get hungry. And besides I leave the vigilantism to the Bruce Waynes and Frank Castles of our universe, I tend to keep a good relationship with the criminal element– a few aspiring pimps and mobsters helped saved the world a few times.
“I don’t know who you’re talking about.”
“John Percy went to school here, you was his main literary teacher.”
“I’m sure he was but as you said before that was 18 years ago. I’ve had thousands of students since than, and quite frankly most of them aren’t worth remembering…. Why are you interested in him?”
Scratching the back of my neck and pretending to struggle to keep eye contact with Professor Milesaw, “I’m a reporter from the Missouri Bugle and it turns out your former student has made quite a name for himself. I wanted to get the first interview with the man who he admits inspired him so much.”
Milesaw puffs his chest in pride and leans forward, “Oh that John….” he really wants to talk out of his ass but some invisible force seems to be holding his tongue, I smile as he literally chokes on his bullshit, “…. no….”
Memories are like terminates, they’re not hidden and they don’t go away, there only waiting for a good reason to come up.
“John Percy he was nothing special, but his friend, Alex McCoy, he was a true talented. You should read the story he published through the school paper, he was like a Steven King.”
“So your saying Alex also inspired John? Funny I’ve interviewed Mr. Percy and he never mentioned Mr. McCoy.”
Milesaw yawns, “Well I don’t know what happened with those two after they graduated. In my opinion the class of 1992 as a whole wasn’t the same after that incident that happened 18 years ago.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well many dropped out, I think John was one of them. Every school in this county and a few of the neighboring ones across Missouri closed for two months. Even some of the colleges and of course this one.”
“How do you expect people to react when there is a crazy axe murder on the loose killing people’s children?”
I hold back a smile; you’d be surprised how quickly people get back to business as usually when their crazed axe murderer leaves evidence that looks less like that creepy guy next door and more like a giant honey badger.
“Is there anything else you can tell me about Alex.”
“He lives on the other side of town at 1421 Malbarry Rd.”
“How did you know that?”
“He uses me as a reference for his free-lance jobs and sends me thank you letters.”
And with that I tap his forward head and guide him as he feints.
“Thank you for your help but I need you unconscious.” I angle him into his seat, “But,” I lean in close to whisper in his ear, “your password per favore.”
…..Honestly better than the Japanese Defense Minister’s home office password being “123”.
John Percy being a college drop out explains the bartending gig, he doesn’t look the type to appreciate free drinks and boobs. But Alex, yeah he defiantly sounds like a player. A quick query for his name in the archives of old school papers using the good Professor’s desktop gives me a hit… well call me cthulu. May not be mountain of madness, but he didn’t get his master of horror degree from “i think too much about candles and pentagrams with my other weird friends who dress in all black.”. He was that kid and a cool one at that if Milesaw could appreciate him. Wearing your satanic worshiping tendencies on your sleeve was rather frown upon until some depressed teenagers made it cool sometime mid 90’s. His short story “the Witch behind the Wardrobe” reads less like a pious manifesto and more like a genuine leaning towards what man shouldn’t know.
“I’m jumping to conclusions.”
So was assuming the 6’3 bartender that marked Jessica and Kevin would be a big comic book nerd.
“Rule 1 of the multi-verse: If you seek it, you will find it or it will find you.”
I have two names, one address, and all I had to do was a make a little girl relive the night her boyfriend got eaten… several hundred times.
And yes this will be edited