Posts Tagged ‘Pulp’

A Dead Story.

Posted: March 9, 2012 in Fiction
Tags: , , , , , , ,

This story hung on in my mind for so long I had to get it out. The problem is, well… it has a lot of problems. The continuity of the Haitian accents, for one. The switch in tone from the first part of the story to the second, for another. The ending is ill-formed as well. Its biggest problem is that it is just plain schlock. Cheesy, campy, B grade, really not very good. You get the point. It also happens to need an edit or three. I’m posting it anyway, so I can have done with it.

On the Tombstone it reads… Devouring Books.

Detective MacDonald buried the break, jerking the car to a skidding stop. Feathers flew as noise-some chickens scattered. Beside him, Detective Haggis’ belly wobbled with his harsh laughter.

Outside the car, the Miami heat pressed down on them, wrapping around their necks and licking at their faces. They swung the gate latch on a wood-slatted fence that should have looked out of place in front of the brick tenement building. Haitian thugs, most shirtless, stared at them with motionless violence as they walked past. More chickens peppered the slum’s dirt yard. Little wire coups were piled around the cracked sidewalk. A three legged cat hissed at them on the building’s steps.

The air inside was close and stale. A few more roughs crowded the hall, glaring. Dark skinned women in brightly intricate dresses and head rags eyed them with the same unblinking stillness as the men. The Detectives climbed four flights of dark mote-filled stairs slowly. They reached the top basted in sweat. Three patrolmen huddled near a door at the far end of the corridor An aging Haitian woman stood with them.

“What’s the story?” Detective Haggis asked the oldest of the three officers.

“Missing person, signs of foul play. Elderly woman, lived alone. No evidence of forced entry. Neighbors knew her as…” the patrolman consulted his notes. “Old Lady Beignet. Neighbor here says she liked to take in strays.”

Detectives Haggis and MacDonald studied the woman a moment. Her clothes were bright even in the darkened hallway. Gold hoops hung in her ears. Her hair poked through the colorful wrap on her head. Her hands fumbled convulsively with a gold colored rosary.

“What do you know about – ” Detective MacDonald began.

“I known her all my life! I tell her to mind them! I tol’ her! I did! She stuck in her ways. Don’ want to listen to anybody.” The woman motioned wildly with her hands.

Detective Haggis opened the door to the apartment. He followed his partner in. The neighbor followed, still blustering.

“What was your name?” MacDonald interrupted her.

“My name is Madam Roux.” She announced with a rosary clutching hand to her chest.

“Mrs. Roux – ”

“Madam Roux.”

“Madam Roux. Did you hear or see anything out of the ordinary over the last few days?” MacDonald asked.

Madam Roux laughed. “In this building? Listen, Old Lady Beignet been gone since about supper time yesterday.”

MacDonald touched Haggis on the arm and motioned to the crime scene.

The small apartment mirrored the age of it’s occupant. A scratched rocking chair and foot stool were pushed close to the room’s only window. Sepia toned photographs of varied sizes and faces hung around the window. A television with fake wooden sides collected dust on a pair of upside down milk crates. Stacks of Readers Digest magazines lay ruffled next to the TV. A cheap dining tray table stood beside the chair. A wall of book shelves ran from the door to the opposite corner. The rest of the room was open space on top of creaking wood floors.

“I told her! I said you gotta mind them. You gotta give them what they want.” Madam Roux started again.

Haggis turned to her. “Who?”

“All of them,” Madam Roux fanned her hand in front of her, taking the entire room with he gesture. Her rosary rattled.

Nearly in the center of the floor lay a paperback novel. MacDonald approached it. The wood around it was caked with dried blood. Looking over the area, MacDonald found a thin spritz of blood dried on the side of the television and the wall behind it.

“Liked to take in strays. I don’t see any cats.” MacDonald commented.

“‘Course you don’t see no cats!” Madam Roux said.

MacDonald glanced at his partner. Haggis nodded and took the woman by the arm.

“Why don’t we go out in the hall. I have a few questions. Maybe you can help me. Haggis shut the door behind them.

Alone in the apartment, Detective MacDonald walked around taking mental notes. The windows were locked. No sign of a struggle. No narcotics. A wand lighter on the table by the rocking chair, but no ash tray or candles…

The book cases caught his eye. Stepping gingerly over the bloody floor, he examined the book bindings. There was no order to the books. Cookbooks stood next to automotive manuals. Romance novels crammed against Westerns. Dusty books crowded scuffed books into singed books. His eyes rested on a title he remembered from his semester in college. He took it down.

“A Movable Feast,” he said to himself. He hadn’t finished it and had failed the class.

He fanned the worn pages with his thumb. The book settled into his hand.

It flipped open.

MacDonald stared at it, doubting his eyes. The pages turned over rapidly, rustling a wild animal’s warning. The book stopped moving, resting open at its center pages. The sheets began to dog-ear themselves, top and bottom. A wave of folded corners spread page by page to the covers. The book fluffed itself, turned down corners pointing at MacDonald.

MacDonald turned his head to the apartment door.

The book hurled itself upward. Dog-eared pages caught MacDonald’s head and bit in. He let out a small yell. The binding bulged, constricting itself by slow degrees around MacDonald’s head and down his neck. There was a muffled snap.

At his shoulders the paperback cover unhinged itself from the binding and stretched over his chest and back. The rest of the book settled slowly into its natural shape where the Detective’s head had been.

Blood pooled around the man’s boots, rushing over the dried blood already on the floor. The book worked itself contentedly down midriff, thighs, calves, and on until its pages brushed the floor. It flipped itself over onto its spine and gnawed the soles of MacDonald’s boots inward until they disappeared. The pages folded flat in one smooth motion.

The book shut with a loud snap and lay on the floor.

Haggis walked into the room. He stopped moving with his hand still on the door knob. He spotted the fresh blood and the pair of books on the floor. Haggis called weakly to his partner. His eyes darted around the room. Slowly, he backed out of the room, pulling the door shut behind him.

~

It was after 3am when the police called off their search. Countless patrolmen, detectives, and forensics personnel had entered and exited the apartment without incident. Detective Haggis and Madam Roux had a plan in place long before the last officer drove away. Haggis entered the apartment with his weapon drawn. Madam Roux trotted in, rosary swinging in her hand, and grabbed the wand lighter from the tray table. Facing the books, she flicked it to life.

Haggis found his way into the small kitchen. He knelt beside the stove with a crescent wrench. Looking up from his work, he saw a small stack of magazines on the counter.

“Ah shit,” he muttered.

“Hurry up in there!” Madam Roux yelled from the front room.

“I’m hurrying!” He spat back.

Eyeing the magazines, he cranked away with the wrench.

“They’re moving!” Madam Roux shrieked.

The pipe fell free. Haggis stood. The magazine on the top of the stack fluttered as if blown by a slight breeze. Haggis tossed the wrench on top of the stack. The magazine rattled its pages in frustration. He holstered his weapon and ran from the room.

In the living room, he swept Madam Roux’ head scarf off and covered her face with it.

“Don’t breathe. Close your eyes,” he commanded.

He pulled a mace can from his pocket and sprayed the shelves as he moved, not really believing it would have any effect.

The pair of books on the floor nipped at their feet. He rushed Madam Roux out of the apartment and pulled the door shut hard. Madam Roux fell to the floor opposite him. He slipped down the door frame and sat on the floor. Something hit the other side of the door with a dull slap. A moment later a second object hit.

The Detective looked at the woman. “Remind me to tear up my library card.”

A three-legged cat pranced up the hall and rubbed against Detective Haggis’ hand, meowing. Behind it stood a crowd of Haitian men. Most carried machetes. A few had torches.

Haggis waved them off. “I broke the gas line. No torches.”

A young man in the front drew on a cigarette. “G’on out the building now.” He looked at Madam Roux. “And take the cat with you.”

Madam Roux scooped up the cat and ran down the hall. Haggis stood watching the men. The man who spoke tugged the filter off his cigarette. Another man handed him a bottle rocket. He fit the burning cigarette over the fuse gently and pushed past Haggis.

“Let’s hope it is not a dud, huh?” he grinned.

He knelt at the corner of the door. Another man moved to grasp the door knob. Two more men with machetes positioned themselves on either side of the man on the floor.

“Quickly now… NOW!” the Haitian yelled.

The door was opened a few inches. Rustling echoed inside the apartment. The man set the bottle rocket on the floor with it’s stick laying outside the apartment.

“Shut it!”

The door slammed. Haggis released breath he didn’t know he had been holding.

The man on the floor positioned the bottle rocket gently, making sure the cigarette could still get air from under the door. Satisfied, he stood.

“Three minutes, I think.” He put his arms out and ushered everyone to the stairs.

Outside, Haggis gasped for breath. The whole neighborhood crowded the street around him. Time passed slowly. Faces grew worried.

The man who had set the firework approached him, the three-legged cat crowding his ankles.

“Sorry about your friend,” he said. “We have wanted to be rid of this for a long time.”

Madam Roux stood apart from the crowd, crying.

The Haitian looked up.

The ground shook. Haggis heard a whoosh followed quickly by a bang that made his ears ring. Flame shot out a window on the back side of the building.

“Now what?” Haggis asked.

“Now go home. We ended it.” The Haitian man said, turning away.

“What was it?” Haggis said to the man’s back.

The man faced him, grinning. He shrugged and disappeared into the crowd.

Detective Haggis stood a moment longer before running to his car and driving off. Sirens resounded in the night behind him.

Copyright December 2010 held by Christopher Floyd

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