Crispin Falls

Harvey Moss is a P.I that works within the realms of the Supernatural. But times are hard for Harvey as the work has dried up and he's addicted to demon blood.
To escape his demons (literally) Harvey accepts a job to investigate the mysterious deaths of Magician's assistants in the rural town of Crispin Falls, the very place where Harvey was born and raised. The very place that Harvey has been trying to escape from his whole life...

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1. Merry Christmas Harvey

 

Christmas Eve and the only things that good old St Nick had wrapped for me was a heavy hangover and the stiff that was laying flat out in my tub. He was dead as a doornail. I had tried to save him but he’d already lost too much blood. Tends to happen when the bullet hits a juicy part of the neck like it had done here. Chocked on his own blood. Unlucky son of a bitch. What was he doing hiding in my bathroom anyway? A quick peek in the john and I got my answer. Got caught taking a dump. I sat on the edge of the tub, hands as hard as leather across my face and I thought hard about my next move.

I shot the stiff a quick glance and sized him up. Lifeless ice blue peepers stared back at me. My blood ran cold. Or that could have been the hangover kicking in? Did I even get hangovers anymore? Seemed to always feel like this these days. Always with a tapping against one side of my head. Didn’t wake up without it.

He was a big guy. Heavy set. Three tires of good eating round his gut.  He was going to be hard to move. Near impossible. It’s not like in the movies where you see a Cagney type move the body like a box of matches. Yeah that’s a crock. It’s a dead load. Try and move a car when it isn’t helping you out. Same thing with a stiff. Luckily I had some experience with moving corpses. Came in handy on nights like this one. Nights where over excited trigger fingers had caused two holes through my bathroom door and a fat guy with one of my bullets through his gullet.

Thought about his wife still up at this hour. Waiting for her man to come home for family time. His kids that would be still at that age where they weren’t in the know about the big yuletide secret. Turkey slowly cooking in the oven. Lights all around the perfect house. The plastic Santa in his sleigh parked up on the front lawn. Carollers. He’d never have that again. Those kids wouldn’t see their dad again. The wife now a widow. That seat at the head of the table that would be now be empty tomorrow. All because of me. Merry fucking Christmas indeed.

But like any addict that was a coward and a shit head to boot my guilt soon vanished and I found myself thinking about what implications this was going to have on me.

Shitty Christmas tunes rang out from the apartment below and old blue eyes may have just been enough to cover the two shots that my service revolver had made. So far no one had banged on my door asking what the noise had been. No red and blue flashing lights coming from the street below. None so far anyway. I didn’t believe in miracles and I as sure as shit didn’t believe in Christmas ones so I had to get to work. And fast.

The place was full of demon blood. Little capsules that I’d hidden around the place. One carved into the spine of the bible. A few in the pillowcases. Even one at the back of the john. In a city like this cops took to addicts harder than they did kiddie rapers. All that blood plus the stiff and I’d be visiting the chair before the year was out. I should know I used to be a cop. Now a private eye. One that specialised in the weird. It was the weird that had got me kicked off the force. But it was also the weird that kept me in supply of the demon blood and a roof over my good for nothing head. Rock and a hard place right?

The shooter was still sitting on my lap. Still warm. Still heavy. I got up and clipped it back into my holster. Might need it again tonight. If I were a gambling man as well as an addict I’d bet the crummy apartment on it. Before I left the bathroom, I turned back round and checked one last time that the corpse was still a corpse. You may laugh but I’ve seen them come back to life more than once. Yeah this story is full of crazy shit like that.

I made a hell of a mess. I trashed my already trashed apartment looking for every inch of blood. That lovely black blood. The way it trickled down my throat better than any liquor ever could. The way it nearly lifted me off my feet every time like when you see some hot dame crossing the street. Sure could do with a sip now. But I couldn’t think about that now. Had to clean up my mess. Satisfied that I had every capsule in my hands I made my way to the kitchen and poured them all into a brown paper bag. It had held the bottle of booze that I had got earlier that night. The bottle was now on its side and empty next to the bag. Liquor of any kind didn’t last long in this apartment.

I dived into the cupboard where I kept all the junk that wasn’t laying about on the floor. Pulled out all the towels that I had. There wasn’t many. Found a pair of rubber gloves as well. Don’t even know why I had them. Never did any cleaning.  Found the scotch tape I was looking for and finally the saw. Hidden in a box with a hammer and some nails and some pictures that I hadn’t bothered to hang. Must have got it when I was feeling domesticated. The saw was blunt but would have to do. Convenience stores would be closed. And I didn’t want this stiff walking out on me and telling people where he had got that nasty hole.

Back in the bathroom, I laid down all the towels to cover the blood. The fat guy had made a mess before I had managed to heave him in the tub. Blood was a bitch to move. Always had been. The old familiar stink of iron came rising up my hooter and made me wanna puke my guilty guts up.

Doubts crept in like a prowler. Call the cops. Confess. I didn’t deserve to walk away anyway. I deserved to fry until my carcass set the fire alarms off. But some cowardly motion made me continue to clear up my mess.

A guy this big was never going to be dragged down eight flights of stairs without someone noticing. Again that kind of thing only happens in the movies. So I leaned across the tub. Placed two fingers on each eyelid and closed them. Couldn’t have him stare at me all night. I put my gloves on and raised the saw to the blown apart neck. Three days worth of stubble around the face. With a deep breath and a pounding head and an apology that never managed to slip of the tongue, I began to saw through the skin.

 

My Buick could do some speed but I didn’t ask her for anymore. Didn’t want cops to pull me over and make me explain why I had six body parts and enough demon blood to sink the titanic in the trunk. Before I had set off I had checked the car as well for busted taillights and broken mirrors. Cops in this city would pull you over for anything. Even this time of year. Not much Christmas spirit. Well only what they were bagging as evidence and bringing it to the staff party anyway.

Traffic was what you’d expect for close to midnight on Christmas Eve. Found myself alone on every red light. Caught the odd glimpse of a wandering fox underneath the amber of the streetlights. I stuck to the big roads. Didn’t take any detours down residential boulevards. Cops would be down their answering domestic disturbance callouts or escorting drunks home. It seemed like I was the only one in the city. Everyone else was with their families. Ready to see in Christmas 52. Everyone but me, the diced up body in the trunk and the silver moon, which watched over everything. It acted as a witness to all the wrongdoing below.

I asked myself if anyone had seen me leave my apartment. Opposite me was some old bat that wouldn’t hear pearl harbour if it bit her on the ass. The party downstairs had still been going on as I ducked down with my bowling bag full of body parts and demon blood. To them I was just the moody bastard from top floor who never said a word to anyone. Just the way I liked it. Just the way it needed to be in my line of work. Trust me, they didn’t want me bringing my work home with me.

Getting in the car had not been a problem as I had parked down the side alley as always. The car had started on its first go. As always. Luck was on my side tonight. But luck was like a hooker. It can please you and pretend to be your buddy for a while but eventually it will leave you.

It took about twenty minutes to get out the city and head south on the interstate. The window was down because even thought it was this time of year, the sticky heat still wrapped round me like a blanket. A bug occasionally hit the windshield. The radio was turned down to a low hush. Couldn’t have any more Christmas music in my ears tonight. The only sound was the rubber roaring down the road. And that’s when I heard it.

Thud! Thud! Thud!

I froze. My eyes went to the rear mirror. Fireworks? Nothing in the sky. My hands still gripped the wheel but I kept my eyes toward the back. A flat? No the car wasn’t skidding off or anything like that. It couldn’t be…

Thud! Thud! Thud!

I bit my bottom lip. Half expecting my cut up corpse to push open the trunk and walk out. Totally assembled like Frankenstein’s monster. It didn’t. But what was that noise?

Thud! Thud! Thud!

This time they were longer. Heavier punches. The trunk. No other way. Ghost? Wouldn’t need to bang for me to let him out. Vengeful spirit? Quite possible. But usually they haunt the place they were killed. I thought back to my bathroom. Looked like bath time was going to be cosy.

Thud! Thud! Thud!

I swerved off the road and slammed on the brakes. The car grinded to a halt and I shot a little forward. I breathed heavy suddenly noticing that I hadn’t been breathing at all since the banging began. My hand naturally went to my weapon. Silver bullets will stop most things. Stop it for now. Not end it. Quick count and I came to the fact that I had four left in the chamber. Should be enough. Sure could do with some blood right about now. Just to calm the nerves. Been doing this for a long time but the nerves still kick in. Half nerves half excitement. There was still a buzz riding in my gut as well.

Thud! Thud! Thud!

I got out the car and pulled out the gun and raised it in front of me. The engine still hummed. It was total darkness apart from the headlights. My sight got dimmer as I approached the trunk. Didn’t bring the torch. Burying a body and not bringing a torch. Where were my brains these days? What you expect from an addict like me? I was one up from a bum.

I cut the self-loathing and aimed the gun at the trunk whilst the other hand fumbled with the lock. Another thud made me jump back a little. Getting twitchy in my old age. I moved back and flipped open the trunk. It popped open and I leaned in and set one off at the red bowling bag. The lead sunk into the bag but nothing moved. The usual smoke escaped from the end of the shooter. But the bag didn’t move. No vengeful spirit. No ghoul.

Maybe I was losing it. The liquor and blood was a cocktail that docs didn’t advise. Could I trust my own judgment anymore? Demon blood weren’t meant for humans but there I was drinking it like it was the Virgin Mary’s titty milk. I had lost my game. Had to be said. A deadbeat.

A siren woke me up from my thoughts. Not now. I knew exactly what it was. The same noise had ran through my hung-over head a million times. Remember what I was saying about luck? I turned round and saw it. The patrol car. All dark blue with spinning red and blue lights at the top. Its fierce headlights blinded me. I dropped the shooter in the trunk. The cop had probably seen it. If he was a decent cop he would have done anyway. Not that there was a lot of them about. But I couldn’t have him apprehending me with a weapon in my hand. The patrol car carried on approaching me and before I could bury my head in the sand it had parked up behind my Buick.

Shit. This wasn’t good. My thoughts ran back to options. Lean back in the trunk, take my shooter and put two in this cop. Make a woman a widow for the second time that night. No. The first kill had been an accident. This wouldn’t have been. This would have been cold-blooded murder. And I would have been a cop killer. Nowhere to hide. The only time the lazy cops in this city did anything was when one of their own was done over. This would have qualified. Maybe I was getting what was coming to me. After years of hunting and killing evil, the first night I kill something human and it looked like I was going down for it. Karma was a bitch.

I couldn’t see the cop. Only his silhouette. Looked like he was decked out in full uniform. Hat and all. He slowly got out the car and I stood still. The heat wasn’t so sticky anymore. Now I felt cold. Dead cold.

As he approached me, I got my first good look at him as he walked into the light of his beams. The cop was lean. About six foot five. All shiny boots and badge and spinning torch. Uniform neatly pressed. Not a stain on it. Face said about thirty no older. Clean-shaven. I couldn’t see his eyes over the rim of his hat.  His shooter looked all big and brand new at his waist. I think he saw me eyeballing it, which made him raise his free hand to it.

 

“You having some kind of car trouble, Sir?”

 

His accent was local. He tried to sound deep and tough but his rookiness slipped through. He kept approaching me. I said nothing. Didn’t move. What could I say? How was I going to hide away the fact that I had a diced stiff in a bowling bag in my trunk along with a spare wheel and a crowbar? I couldn’t get the drop on him either. By the time I leaned for my gun, he’s be poised and one would probably be in my skull. I had to think. And fast.

 

“No trouble officer, I thought I’d hit a deer but seems like I just missed it. Must be a Christmas miracle I guess”

 

The officer pulled off his hat and looked at me dead on in the eyes. He raised his torch and I staggered back a little, raising my own hand to shield the burning glare. He could probably see that I had been drinking. My eyes had been blood shot due to the liquor and the lack of shuteye that I’d had. He gave me one of those “that’s a load of bullshit” looks that I had given myself plenty of times. He chewed on his next words.

 

“Vehicle looks alright to me. Don’t get many deer round these parts. Now wolves maybe”

 

You telling me. This winter had been a hell of a season for wolves. And I weren’t talking about the kind that just stayed in their packs, stole your garbage and howled at the moon either.

 

“I guess so. But sure did look like a deer”, I laughed wondering how long it would be before he shone that big light of his into the trunk.

 

And then as if he had read my mind. He lowered his beam into the truck and found the bowling bag. My heart must have stopped. Only to start back up again. Probably thinking to itself, “You’re not going to get away with just dying here, you murdering son of a bitch”. I said nothing. Experience taught me that jabbering away like a little boy that had been caught playing with his dirty parts made you sound guilty.

 

“What’s in the bag?”

 

“What?” I asked back, almost chocking on the words.

 

“What’s in the bag?” the cop asked again. All that nervousness in his voice now gone, as he smelt a bust. A nice Christmas bust. Maybe a promotion.

“Just some gym stuff. Just gone for a workout”

 

“At this time of night. On Christmas Eve?”

 

It was a dumb answer to give and had I not been on the come down from another day of blood and liquor then I would have come up with something smarter. But at least I looked the part. I was sweating. Looked exhausted. Sure could have been at the gym all day. But I could tell by Junior’s stone expression that he wasn’t buying it.

 

“Yeah well I haven’t just been at the gym. I was there this afternoon. And haven’t got my stuff out of the trunk yet that’s all”

 

“What gym you at?”

 

“Cheetahs. On the corner of 5th. West Side”

 

Nice try kid. But I wasn’t totally brain dead yet. I could see him studying me. Like if he stared into my eyes long enough I’d break down and confess. I sized him up. Had I not been still a little drunk I could have probably taken him. Worked on a knee so he went down to my level and then started on the face. Planted a few on the kisser.

 

He held out a long hand that looked like it had never punched anything.

 

“License and registration please”

 

No point in giving him one of my fakes. The car was registered to me under my real name. I patted down my slacks and touched on the wedge of wallet. I pulled it out and tossed it toward the big open hand. He opened it up and glared down at my mug shot on the driving license. I hoped I had remembered to put the real one back in there. A good cop would be able to spot a fake.

 

“Look officer, don’t mean to be rude but what’s the problem here? It’s Christmas Eve; I’m driving upstate to be with my kid for the holidays. I’m running late. I thought I’d saw a deer. Swerved and okay I’d admit, I’m a little shaken up”

 

The eager cop didn’t say anything. He studied every word of my license. I got a sense he wasn’t on the bribe, which was a very rare thing. Had as much chance as seeing Santa as I did finding an honest cop. Although I could have done with a dodgy cop about now. One that would happily take the thirty or so dollars in the wallet and be on his merry way.

 

“Harvey Moss?”

 

“That’s me. Now can we please speed this up officer?”

 

He looked up and smiled. Don’t trust a smile. Had someone already branded the name Harvey Moss on the two way already? Maybe a neighbor had seen me? Even heard the sawing and the cursing from my apartment.

 

“Travelling light aren’t you?”

 

“Excuse me?” I asked

 

“You said you were travelling upstate to be with your kid. But you ain’t got any bags with you. Well apart from you’re gym one there”

 

There were no flies on this kid that was for sure. Maybe I should have gone for the gun. Taken my chances. I thought fast. Well as fast as my slow brain could think tonight.

 

“I have half of my stuff up there already. His mom and me. Well we’re kind of separated”

 

The cop nodded. Maybe he’d hand my wallet back to me. Warn me to drive careful. Wish me a Merry Christmas and then fuck off and leave me be. Maybe.

 

“Why don’t you just go ahead and open up that bag up for me?” the cop ordered.

 

Maybe not.

 

He switched his beam to me and then to the bag and then to me again. I hesitated and slowly turned my back on him and leaned into the trunk. The smell of chopped flesh stung the air. I could hear the cop throwing my wallet up in the air and then catching it again. Fingers hovered over the zip of the bag. My gun seemed so far away. I’d never be able to outgun him. John Wayne I weren’t.

I breathed a heavy one and started to unzip the bag. A big, chunky finger poked out. I prepared for the orders to get my hands in the air. To lie out flat on the road. I expected a dig in my ribs and my legs to be kicked out from underneath me. But it never came.

I continued to unzip when an ear-piercing laugh startled me.

 

“Harvey Moss!” spat the officer with a wide grin

 

“Yeah?” I answered with a little rust in my voice; as I wasn’t quiet sure what the hell was going on. What was this kid stupid? He had just read my name out a second ago.

 

He jumped up and down a little on the spot, waving my wallet around like a cowboy waved his hat after a shootout.

 

“I knew I recognized you. And then I remembered the name. You used to work in warrants right?”

 

Shit did this kid know me from back then? He wasn’t old enough. I had been gone seven eight years. He couldn’t have been out of high school back then.

 

“That’s me but how do you…”

 

He cut me short. “You worked with my old pa. Stanley. Stanley Cohen. Irish guy. Big. Fat. Stinks of…”

 

“Cat piss on a summer’s day”, we both said at the same time and I found myself laughing. But I think it was still nervous laughter escaping.

 

Stanley Cohen had been my boss back in those days. A well-known office joke was that he always smelt real bad. Even Stanley was in on it. He was one of the good ones. Honest cop back when the city employed honest cops. He had always talked about his three boys. Always had a gold-framed picture of them on his cluttered desk.  Right next to the one of him shaking hands with the president. I couldn’t remember the kid’s names now. I guess one of them had grown up to be this guy right in front of me.

 

“God that takes me back”, I laughed, running a hand through my wet hair.

 

“So he’s your dad eh. How is he?”

 

The cop turned sad in an instant. His feet shuffled as if he didn’t want to go on. He lowered the torch and I silently thanked him for it.

 

“Well Mr Moss. It saddens me to inform you that the cancer got my dad about a year ago now”

 

“Ah shit kid I am sorry. You’re dad was a great guy. A good cop as well. A dam honest one. Taught me all I know”

 

That wasn’t technically true. Stanley knew as much about the weird and wacky of this world as I did about honest police work. But the kid seemed pleased that I had talked up his dad. It was something you did right? I then realized that I hadn’t even got word of the funeral. It would have been a big one as well. All salutes and flying flags. But no one had thought to ask me. But what did I expect I dropped out of being a cop and never looked back.

 

“Well that’s good of you to say Mr Moss. He really talked about you a lot as well. He was always saying that he could never get why you quit all of a sudden. Why you become a private eye and stuck your nose in all the freaky stuff that goes on around here”

 

“You’ve noticed the weird round here as well?” I asked him curious as I rarely met people that openly talked about it.

 

“You kidding me right? I’m on the beat all day everyday. The shit I’ve seen”, he shook on the spot, “Gives me chills. I couldn’t do what you do Mr Moss. Wouldn’t want to either”

 

I nodded. That was the difference between me and everyone else. I could do it. I had hardened to it. I lived for it. Somehow the weird always found me. I was a magnet for it. That’s the way it was. I had to do it so people like this kid didn’t have to. I knew how to do it. They wouldn’t stand a chance in hell.

He threw back my wallet and I caught it in both hands and slid it back into the pocket. What was in the bag had seemed to vanished from the agenda.

 

“Well I’m going to be off now Mr Moss. Heck my shift finishes soon and I promised my lady that I’d be back sharpish. It’s our boy’s first Christmas this year. It was sure nice to meet you. If you’re ever around the police department come and see me. The name’s Tommy. Tommy Coh – Ah well I guess you know my last name already”, he laughed and started to walk back to his car.

 

The conversation about his dad had knocked him off his stride. He wasn’t a cop anymore. He was a scared boy that had lost his dad. And all those memories had all come flooding back because he had met me on the side of the road one Christmas night. I felt sorry for the kid. But he’d have to grow some balls if he was going to make it in this city. He looked back at me as he swung his car door open.

 

“Can I ask you a question Mr Moss?” he shouted back.

 

What was he going to ask me out on a date? Share some more stories? I wasn’t one for sharing. Sharing things got people killed. Just ask the guy riding in my trunk. But I nodded anyway.

 

“Sure thing kid”

 

“You ever get tired of being around all that evil. All that supernatural. I mean you ever just wish you were just you normal. I know that story about you having a kid was made up. I guess I’m saying, how do you do it? Live around all that shit and go home alone every night?”

 

The kid was putting me in a worse mood by the minute. Sure did have a sunny view of my little life. But I was just relived to be back on my way. It was turning into quiet a Christmas.

 

“That’s just where you’re wrong Tommy”, I smiled and slammed the trunk down, “I’m never alone”

 

The swamplands weren’t that long a drive. I decided to test the Buick a bit more as Tommy had delayed me a little. I was feeling better about myself. Nearly home and dry. I thought about those family dinners that Stanley Cohen had and all the times he must have bitched about me leaving the department. Well I’m sorry Stanley but I didn’t have a whole lot of choice. Few people knew as much as I did about the weird. Few people knew how to handle it. What was I supposed to do? Sit behind a desk while this kind of shit was going on? I had my reasons Stanley. And just like everyone else, you didn’t know shit about me.

The banging from the trunk had stopped. I put it down to lack of shuteye and the booze and the blood. In a dark crawl space of my mind though I knew it may well have not been that simple. But what could I do about it now? The noise was gone. All I wanted was an uneventful journey so I could get this night over with. An innocent man was riding in the trunk in six pieces. And though I was relieved that I had avoided a date with the gas chamber. There was no running away from the fact that I had put him there. And I’d have to live with that. Until something got to me anyway. Which in my line of work could be any day now.

I checked the watch as I put the motor in park. Nearly two. Cutting up the dead sure did eat time. I had parked on the outskirts. The swamp beat with bugs and god knows what else. I left the engine running and the headlights on. Sure as hell couldn’t see what I was doing without them. I got the bag out of the trunk and looked around. No one but the gators and me. The ground was boggy. Probably stepping in all kinds of shit.

It wasn’t my first time here. And it wasn’t the first time I had gotten rid of some body parts here. The bayou that ran through the swamp was home to deep, murky waters that held a thousand secrets. Some I had put there. But they belonged there. They were better of there. Out of the way of decent people. A misty water of bones and ash. Good riddance.

I felt the edge of the water with my feet and peered into the unknown. The car’s beams lit up the black water. Soon my eyes adjusted to the dim light. The bag hung heavy in my hand. The fat bastard was still fat even in six pieces. I was about to swing it in the bayou when I saw something watching me. Something yellow coming from through the thick, hanging branches. A firefly? No there were two of them and they were a piercing yellow. A pair of yellow eyes.

I peered to see more. Some kind of clue about what owned the pair of yellow peepers. A panting gave me a clue. And a long, high-pitched howl confirmed it. The wolf pushed its snout through the branches so he could get a better look at me. It bared its fangs at me. They glistened against the moonlight. I froze and stared back at him. Moved my hand towards the holster at my hip. Shit empty. Of course, my gun was still in the trunk. Unarmed against a wolf.

He was lean. Slightly scrawnier than the ones that I had captured and killed. He had four white long legs with a patch of black on his back. It ran to his huge head, which was pure black except for a two lines of white under its eyes. A long tongue that was drenched in drool poked out as it snarled at me.

I had always had silver on me. Either in bullet form or at least a chain that I kept in my pocket. But I had neither one on me. One of the only superstitions that actually worked against wolves was silver. I hadn’t even noticed it was a full moon tonight. I was off my game and it was landing me into tight spots. Tighter than usual. I wondered when my luck might run out. No time like the present I guessed.

The wolf snarled and I found myself stepping back. If I could get into the Buick and lock the door I could stay away from those jaws. Stay there until the sun popped up and this wolf turned back to a naked man. Then I could deal with him mano mano. I held my hands up in defense. The body bag dropped next to me. Like the wolf would accept that and trot off and rejoin his pack. Of course he didn’t but I kept my hands up anyway. No harm in trying. Instead it crept toward me. So light on it’s feet it didn’t even make any noise in the deep boggy grass. I got to the open door of my car and clung it. I looked around for something, anything to protect myself with. If I ran this wolf would pounce on me quicker than a hobo seeing a juicy steak.

But the wolf kept his slow pace up. He watched me. Panted. He got to my little bowling bag and took a big sniff at the contents. He snorted and then went for another sniff. Liking what he had smelled, he tugged at the bag. Then another tug. This kept up until he had one of the handles in-between his big jaws and was lifting up off the ground. With a satisfied whine, the wolf scurried off with my little secret in his mouth. Half doing my job for me. It would most probably feed his pack for the night.

I watched as the wolf disappeared into the night from which he came. And soon I was alone again. I laughed a short one. Then I remembered something else. I went back to the trunk and collected the brown bag full of demon blood. Going back to my spot at the edge of the bayou. I looked down at the bag in my hands. Should I do this? The blood stared back at me. It swished like a ship on rough waters in its little capsules. My throat went dry just wanting some. And then I thought about what it had made me. I had killed a man tonight. Sure it wasn’t the blood but it had been my accomplice doing it. I didn’t need the shit anymore. It made me weak. It made me like one of them. I wouldn’t have it anymore. And with one stuttering motion, I realized my grip on the bag and watched as it plunked into the water. I was free. I laughed. I allowed myself one. It felt good. But I knew. Somewhere in my mind I knew it wouldn’t be that easy.

 

The body had been disposed. No doubt eaten by now. I still smelled of swamp as I climbed the stairs to my apartment. Dam mosquito bites burned the back of my neck. The music had stopped. No one up now except for Santa and me. My feet were caked in mud but I couldn’t care less. I wanted a long soak in the tub with a towel round my face. I didn’t want to move until sunrise. It was then I remembered the pieces of flesh and bone that would be clogging up my plughole. Okay maybe I’d have to do a little spring-cleaning first. Would this night ever end? 

I got my answer as I approached my front door. The night wasn’t over yet. My door had been forced off its hinges and was now snapped in two in the hallway. In an instant I had a good idea who had ripped apart my door. I sniffed the air. I hadn’t noticed anything lingering before. Too busy thinking about my bath. Head wasn’t in the right place. But now I did. I smelt smoke. Brimstone as well. I gave the doorframe a quick tap. Nearly burnt my fingers. Piping hot. Demons. 

But how had they got in? I looked down. I had put a line of rock salt along the entrance as I did with every window seal in my place. Parsley leaves had to be mixed in as well. The line was still there. But a size ten-shoe print had broken in. My size ten shoe print. Must have stepped on the line when I was moving the body. It had broken the seal. After that the demons that had come for me had an open house. 

I stood at the doorway and checked out the mess. The apartment was trash at the best of times. Somehow it looked even worse now. My battered couch was on its back. Three new tears carved into it with its fluffy guts spilled out. The glass coffee table smashed in the middle of the room.  Same with the mirror that hung on the wall above the fireplace.  I noticed pi** sprayed up against the cream walls. Even the hefty fridge had been dragged out of the kitchen and forced on its side. An old carton of milk spilling its inside over the carpet. I noticed that every book had been ripped in parts and torn from the bookshelf. The bible was the only one that remained. The place always smelt of booze and cigarettes anyway but now it smelt like it was a condo in hell itself. More than one demon had been here. 

 

“Boy, someone had fun”, a familiar voice startled me from behind. 

 

Vera was standing behind me. She stood in the doorway wearing an evening dress that flaunted curves. She had a body that could halt traffic. I guessed she had been doing her usual routine. Hanging around the dime bars and scrounging drinks off of poor old suckers with a lot of green. They’d wine and dine her for a while. She’d please them in the usual ways and then drop them to the curb. Sure weren’t a way for a lady to behave. But then Vera was no lady.

I shot round and pulled her towards me. She smelt of fine perfume and expensive wine. Not like a normal demon at all. I dug my fingers into her soft arms and forced her against the wall. I wanted to hurt her. I wanted to rip her head off. I didn’t hit broads. I’ve gotten rough with a few but never hit them. Sure did want to strike Vera though. I wanted to wipe that wide cherry lip smile off that round face. The face that for some reason I still wanted to kiss.

 

“Playing it rough tonight are we Harv?” she said, “Keep digging into my arms and you’ll draw blood. But that wouldn’t be too bad a thing now would it”

 

“Shut your mouth. Who did this?”

 

“Beats me. Who knows what kind of company you keep these days since you stopped dancing with me”

 

Vera leaned toward me and sniffed. A smile that would frighten kids showed itself.

 

“You been drinking blood with someone else Harv? I can smell it on you. I’m hurt”

 

I let go of her stepped back. Gave her a good look to see if I could sniff out a lie. Came up blank.  Vera didn’t do this. What would be the point? What would be her cause? Vera was a sly fox. Like all demons. But she had no need to steal from me. I didn’t have anything first off. Apart from the blood. But that was in the bottom of the bayou by now. Making some gators night a lot more exciting.

 

“You miss me Harv? I’ve missed you. Felt so lonely without you. I can smell that blood you’re living off is being stored in bottles. You can’t do that Harv. That just isn’t the way it’s supposed to be”

 

 Vera pulled herself off the wall and lifted up her dress to just above the knee. Two fresh red train tracks of scars ran alongside her fleshy thigh. The scars bought back good times. Bad times. But good times. My throat went dry thinking of all that black blood running under that skin. Sure could do with a sip. If only to wet the lips.

 

“Why drink from the bottle when you have the river right here?”

 

I could have gone back to the old days. Back to the sweaty summer just passed where I spent most of my days in a tangle with Vera on this very floor. I couldn’t beat the fact that it was good. It had been great in fact. Sex and blood. I’d never found anything like that cocktail. But the ride had to stop sometime. I had put the brakes on.

 

“Cause I’m dry now Vera. I don’t need you or your dam blood anymore”

 

“You know how to hurt a girl Harv. How long have you gone without the sweet stuff?”

 

“Well tonight is my first night actually. But I’m awake. For the first time in months I’m thinking clear and straight. And I want you out of here and I never want to see you again. I swear if I do, I’ll be sending you straight back to the pit where you came from”

 

I turned my back on her. I heard her dress fall back to the floor and her high heels approach me. She placed small fingers on my stone shoulders. She smelt so good. My body rattled with temptation. I had a good mind to turn around and show her what I got. But I didn’t.

 

“Come on Harv”, she purred in my ear, “for old times’ sake. It’s Christmas after all. No one should be alone on Christmas”

 

I closed my eyes. Maybe she was right? Who was I kidding with trying to give up the juice? I was exhausted. Maybe a night in with Vera would help me to unwind a little.

 

“You should know by now Vera”, I brushed off her hands and backed away from her, “None of us are ever alone”

 

Sorry Vera. Not tonight. I shot her a smile and it felt good to be in control for once. That night where we first met seemed distant flicker of a memory right now. I had been reloading whiskey after whiskey at Jack’s bar in town. It had been another not so great day at the office. She had come in dressed to the nines with an old timer on her arm. This guy must have been bunk buddies with Jesus himself. I clocked her and she clocked me. I knew what she was straight away. I got all the little details that normal guys don’t notice. The way she avoided salt with her tequila. And she made her date put the crucifix necklace he wore under his shirt. Don’t get me wrong. A necklace of a cross has no impact on a demon. But you won’t find one who likes looking at it all night. And how in the dim bar light, her reflection in the mirror behind the bar wasn’t a reflection at all. It was a blurred mess of a scorched skeleton. I didn’t know if any other drinkers had noticed it. It certainly didn’t look like it. But I found myself thinking things I had never thought about a demon before. Demon or not she was a ten. A knockout. And I wanted her.

 

“Now unless you have any idea who trashed my place I want you to leave”, I said to her nudging my head at the broken door.

 

She smiled a slight one and walked towards the door. She turned and gave me a curious lingering look.

 

“I’m just curious here Harv. If you haven’t been drinking from me, where have you been getting your stuff from?”

 

“Some guys down in George Street. Caught a couple of demons pushing it to mothers to be. You demons sure are a piece of work. These kids were trying to get newborns addicted before they came into the world. Anyway, I gave them a beating and stole their supply. They won’t be dealing anymore”

 

“Don’t pretend like you did it for those women and their babies Harvey. You did it because you wanted the blood. No other reason than that. You walk around parading that detective license and waving that gun like it gives you a right to understand our world. You will never understand our world”

 

“I understand it well enough”

 

“You work in it. There’s a big difference and one day you’ll going to find out what that difference is”

 

“You threatening me Vera?” I called after her as she passed the door and stepped out into the hallway.

 

“Look around you Harv. Someone already has”, she said stopping as she reached the top of the stairs, “You don’t know who those demon pushers work for do you?”

 

I didn’t say anything. They were just punk kids. Barely out of diapers. They were small fry. Had been easy to scare off. Kids ran scared when a shooter was in their face.

 

“It’s Al Dragon. He’s behind every drop of blood that’s sold in this city”

 

I froze. I said nothing. She was lying. The demon whore must have been trying to scare me. But then I noticed something in her face I had never seen before. Fear. She was scared as well. Scared for herself. Scared for me maybe. But she was scared. No she wasn’t lying. Her lower lip quivered like it was in ice.

 

“If you have stolen off him Harvey, you’re in deeper trouble than I thought. Just return the blood to him. He may just tear you to pieces like you’re couch in their”

 

“And how about if I haven’t got the blood anymore”

 

I wanted her advice. She was a demon after all. Part of the family. She would know things. Things I didn’t.

 

“Then I’d get out of town. I’d hide away. That’s what I’m going to do. Cause if he finds out I have been bunking with you I’m finished”

 

“Vera...I’m”

 

But she was gone. Out of sight. Only her perfume lingered. Her heels tapped down the stairs. But she called one last thing back before she opened the front door of the apartment block.

 

“Merry Christmas Harvey Moss”

 

Al Dragon. Gangster. Pimp. Behind every real estate deal in this city. Hard ass. And general bad egg. Even private eyes that investigated his kind stayed clear of him. I stayed clear of him. But now I found myself in with him.  I’d stole from him. With his property at the bottom of the swamp. Vera hadn’t lied to me. She hadn’t been trying to spook me. She had been playing it straight this time. Maybe for the first time in her life. I stood on the spot in the middle of my apartment. The busted fridge made clicking noises and hummed along with my thoughts. Options weren’t showing up to lend their support.

I dug in to my pocket. Pulled out my wallet. Not a lot of green. Specializing in the weird didn’t pay very well. Getting some blue collar Joe to admit that they had a spirit haunting their home was hard enough. Charging him for it was even harder.

If Al Dragon was really up my ass I couldn’t just wait here and let him send more of his goons. I knew how to warm off demons but not ones that worked in numbers. Plus if all I had heard about Al Dragon was to be believed then he didn’t just have demons working for him. He was in with cops. Councilors. Anyone with authority to come here and pump me full of lead. I wouldn’t be surprised if a squad car was coming over here now. Ready to set me up for some bullshit homicide or a Christmas burglary. I had to move and fast. At least until I worked out something more long term.

I went into the bedroom. Yeah I was dead right about the nasty surprise that the demons had left nestled in my sheets. At the back of the closet, a suitcase that I kept for this kind of thing was untouched. I gave it a quick check over. Three days of clothes. Toothbrush. Some paste. A blade. And my homemade defense kits for the sort of trouble that I might run into. I didn’t know how far Al Dragon’s grasp reached. I’d have to go far. Definitely leave the state. Heck maybe the country.

I threw my suitcase under my arm and made my way out of the bedroom. Didn’t give it a second look. No need to get sentimental about this shit hole. Then something caught my eye. A letter. Unopened. I never got any post. No one knew my address. You didn’t want your work coming home with you. Well it was too late for that now. I must have forgotten about it or just assumed it was a bill. It laid on the floor near a shard of glass from the mirror. A thought crossed my mind. If the demons had seen the letter, they now knew my name. My real name, not even one of my aliases.

The letter was thin. Brown envelope. Handwritten. How had this person got my address? The hangover in my head had decided to give me a minute rest. It came back on shift when I saw the postmark on the top corner of the envelope. Found my hands shaking. Didn’t really know why. Lack of blood. Too much booze. Or this letter?

The mark made my skin crawl. I was tempted to search the place for some blood incase I had missed some. Sure could use some now. The letter had come from a place that I knew. A place I know all too well. The town of Crispin Falls. 

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