Friday, February 27, 2015

Be Home Before Midnight - Week 9 of 52round2


“Mommy and Daddy, it’s so wonderful.  Today is the day we are going on our field trip.  You remember, don’t you?  You signed the paper and said I could go.  I just can’t wait.  We are going to leave school on a special bus to go eat lunch at a restaurant and then we are going to go to the museum.  This is going to be so super because we will get to see all the mummies and stuff.  It’s going to be so fun.  Remember, you don’t have to pick me up at school either because the special bus will drop me off right in front of our house.”

“Remember what Mommy told you, honey.  You absolutely, positively must be home by midnight.  You must be home and in your room and in your bed with the lights out by midnight.  You will remember that, won’t you?  It’s the most important thing you will ever have to remember.”

“Mommy is right, dear.  Daddy knows what’s best for his little girl too.  You absolutely, positively must be home and in your bed with the lights out by midnight.  Listen to Daddy, sweetie.  You must always follow this rule.”

“Mommy and Daddy, you are both so silly.  You are always telling me to be home by midnight.  I’m only in the second grade and of course, I’ll be home by midnight.  I’ll be home today at the same time I always get home from school.  I’ve got such a silly Mommy and Daddy.”


“Mommy and Daddy, it’s so wonderful.  Today is the day Janey’s mommy is picking us up from school and taking us to the park.  You remember that you said it would be alright.  Janey is my bestest friend ever in the whole entire world and you said her mommy was sweet and you knew she would take good care of me.  The park is so nice.  They have such a big playground and there is a man who sells hot dogs and ice cream.  You said I could have some if I didn’t eat too much and spoil my dinner.  I’ll just have one hot dog and a small ice cream bar and then play on the swings.  Janey’s mommy is going to bring me right home after so you won’t have to pick me up at her house.  It’s going to be so fun.”

“Remember what Mommy told you, honey.  You absolutely, positively must be home by midnight.  You must be home and in your room and in your bed with the lights out by midnight.  You will remember that, won’t you?  It’s the most important thing you will ever have to remember.”

“Mommy is right, dear.  Daddy knows what’s best for his little girl too.  You absolutely, positively must be home and in your bed with the lights out by midnight.  Listen to Daddy, sweetie.  You must always follow this rule.”

“Mommy and Daddy, you are both so silly.  You are always telling me to be home by midnight.  I’m only in the fourth grade and of course, I’ll be home by midnight.  I’ll be home today at the same time I always get home from school.  I’ve got such a silly Mommy and Daddy.”


“Mom and Dad, it’s so wonderful.  Today is the day of my first Girl Scout meeting after school.  I’m so excited about it and it’s going to be so much fun.  You know that Suzanne joined with me and she’s my best friend on the whole planet.  I’m so glad they started a troop in our town.  We can do projects for our neighborhoods and sell cookies and we get to wear these vests and earn badges.  After our meetings, we get to have snacks too, but won’t worry, I won’t spoil my dinner.  They said we are just going to have a small juice and a muffin.  Suzanne’s dad is going to drive us there after school and bring us home, so you don’t have to pick me up anywhere.”

“Remember what Mommy told you, honey.  You absolutely, positively must be home by midnight.  You must be home and in your room and in your bed with the lights out by midnight.  You will remember that, won’t you?  It’s the most important thing you will ever have to remember.”

“Mommy is right, dear.  Daddy knows what’s best for his little girl too.  You absolutely, positively must be home and in your bed with the lights out by midnight.  Listen to Daddy, sweetie.  You must always follow this rule.”

“Mom and Dad, you are both so funny.  You are always telling me to be home by midnight.  I’m only in the sixth grade and of course, I’ll be home by midnight.  I’ll be home tonight in time for dinner.  You both can be so funny.”


“Ma, Pops, it’s so wonderful.  Today is my school’s first basketball game of the season and I’m so excited to be on the cheerleading squad.  We’ve been practicing in gym class to make sure we do the best cheers ever.  It’s going to be so great being on the court getting everyone all wild and crazy over the game.  I already told you there’s a boy on the basketball team that I kind of like and I think he kind of likes me too.  By the way, you don’t have to pick me up after the game.  I’m riding home with Sondra, you know, my best friend in the universe.  Her father’s bringing us all home.”

“Remember what Mommy told you, honey.  You absolutely, positively must be home by midnight.  You must be home and in your room and in your bed with the lights out by midnight.  You will remember that, won’t you?  It’s the most important thing you will ever have to remember.”

“Mommy is right, dear.  Daddy knows what’s best for his little girl too.  You absolutely, positively must be home and in your bed with the lights out by midnight.  Listen to Daddy, sweetie.  You must always follow this rule.”

“Ma, Pops, you are both such a riot.  You are always telling me to be home by midnight.  I’m only in the eighth grade and of course, I’ll be home by midnight.  You both can be so weird.”


“Mother, Father, it’s so wonderful.  Today is the day I am attending my first nighttime party.  Remember you said I could go because Tommy’s parents will be there the whole time.  We’re just going to listen to music and dance and eat tons of pizza.  The whole baseball team will be there and all the girls from my gymnastics class too.  This is going to be so fantastic because it’s like a grownup party.  I’m so glad you’re letting me go because this is so important to me.  There’s a boy on the baseball team that I like and I think he likes me too.  I hope he asks me to dance at the party.  You don’t have to pick me up after though because Marcie’s mother is going to pick a bunch of us girls up and take us home.”

“Remember what Mommy told you, honey.  You absolutely, positively must be home by midnight.  You must be home and in your room and in your bed with the lights out by midnight.  You will remember that, won’t you?  It’s the most important thing you will ever have to remember.”

“Mommy is right, dear.  Daddy knows what’s best for his little girl too.  You absolutely, positively must be home and in your bed with the lights out by midnight.  Listen to Daddy, sweetie.  You must always follow this rule.”

“Mother, Father, you need to stop treating me like a little kid.  You are always telling me to be home by midnight.  I’m in the eighth grade now and I know I need to be home by midnight.  You both need to realize that I’m can be responsible.”


“Mommy and Daddy, I know I’m coming home late, but it’s not my fault.  Bradley and I went out to a movie and then we went for a soda.  When we came out of the diner, we saw that one of Bradley’s tires was flat.  He had a spare in his trunk, but that was going flat too, so he called his dad.  His father was at work, so it took a bit of time before he could leave, but he went home and got the spare out of his trunk and brought it for Bradley’s car.  He helped him change the tire and we were able to get going and he was able to bring me home.  But, I guess we stayed too late at the restaurant because by the time we got the car fixed, it was already after midnight and that’s why I’m…

“What is going on?  What is happening to the two of you?  Where are those fangs and claws coming from?  My God, you are actually getting bigger.  Why are your eyes so red?  I don’t understand.  Is this why you always insisted I be home by midnight?  Is it because we are a family of some sort of demon and we all change at that hour?  When do I begin to change and why haven’t I ever remembered changing into such a hideous creature?  Why are you both looking at me that way?  What are you doing with knives and forks at this hour?”

“Mommy always told you to be home and in bed by midnight so you wouldn’t see the becoming.  You don’t remember changing because you are human.  Daddy and I become at the witching hour because we are Rakshasa, the cursed ones.  We adopted a human child so as to appear to be a normal family so none would suspect us when handy men and salesmen would disappear from the area.  We lock them in the shed out back until we become and then we consume them, as that is how we survive.  You are in your room, in bed, with the lights out and the door closed, and you never see.  At least, that’s where you are supposed to be.”

‘Mommy and I have always told you to follow one rule and now that you have violated it, you leave us with no choice.  No human can see us in our true form and live to tell.  My dear wife, the encyclopedia salesman is marinating in the shed, so dinner has already been arranged.  The good news is, now we won’t have to go out to get dessert.  Sit down, sweet child of ours, while I get the whipped cream and cherries.”

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Early Retirement - Week 8 of 52round2

Did you ever have one of those days where everything went straight to Hell, and years later, you laughed about the absurdity of it all?  Yeah.  Me neither.  Today is most likely my worst day ever, and I have serious doubts about the years-later thing coming to pass for this one too.

Yesterday morning had begun as had all the others in recent months.  I slept in until 10-ish, got up and showered and shaved, and went out to Bertha’s CafĂ© for brunch, and the best cup of coffee this side of the universe.  I haven’t had a job in almost six months, but I am a stickler for routine.  One never knows when the call to action might come.

I should explain something at this point.  I am what is known as a hitman – a hired gun.  I kill for money.  There’s nothing personal about any of my assignments; in fact, I’ve actually come to like some of my targets as I stalk them before I strike.  But, a job is a job and a commitment is a commitment.  In my profession, your word had better be rock solid or you’ll find yourself on the wrong end of a PSG1’s scope.  For your edification, that’s a top quality German-made rifle.  It’s sleek, accurate, and ammo is easy to acquire, and that’s generally my weapon of choice.  The gap between gigs isn’t an issue for me since financially, I’m in good shape.  I get a million a hit, and I have a profitable investment portfolio.  I live comfortably, but I’m not a big spender.  I plan to retire to some island when I hit 50, or at least, until today, that had been my plan.

I was finishing up my eighth cup of coffee when my cell rang.  It was a friend in the business.  I’m not listed in the Yellows under Man comma Hit, you see, so I depend on colleagues’ word of mouth.  If they’re booked up, they refer.  We all do it, and everybody wins.  He gave me the contact info of a woman who wanted her husband permanently removed from the family photos and money was no object.  As soon as he was six feet under, I would be paid in full.  There would be no delay waiting for an insurance payout; the funds were readily available to her.  Seems there was a fear factor involved though, and being told he had moved on to the nether wasn’t good enough for her.  She wanted a funeral, the cheapest possible, and to watch his coffin covered in dirt before she would feel safe enough to pay whoever erased him out of her life and then join her boy toy in Rio.  Worked for me.

I contacted my new client and got all the intel on her husband that I would need.  It had to be done that night, she insisted, since she found evidence he was planning to trade her in for a newer, and younger, model in the very near future.  Simple enough, this one would be.  No research or around-the-clock surveillance needed.  Their routine was she had supper every Thursday evening with her mother at some retirement joint at the other end of town.  Hubby made his own dinner, watched the early movie, and conked out on the couch by 10.  She’d leave a key and the alarm code under the mat.  Just walk out after, she told me, so it looks like he let his killer in.  Worked for me.

It was an easy-peasy deal.  Since this one would be up close and personal, I decided to use my SIG Sauer P238.  It’s light, easily concealed, and very accurate at close range, and my range this evening would be at its closest.  I parked several blocks away and stuck to the shadows all the way to the front door.  The house was dark and all the outside lights were off.  I unlocked the door and disarmed the security system.  I closed the door behind me without a sound.  I was a shooter for the military in my younger days, so stealth is my middle name.  The missus had provided me with a diagram of the house and her better half was supposedly sound asleep in the den, which was off to my left.  I made my way quickly, but quietly, to the doorway and saw him bundled in a comforter on the couch that was against the wall on the right side of the room.  I took out my .380 and a few steps later, I had it aimed at his head.  Imagine my surprise when I nudged the comforter back and found nothing but a pillow underneath.  Picture my jaw dropping even further when I felt two cold barrels of a shotgun pressed against the back of my neck and a deep voice say “drop it – NOW”.

Fast forward to this morning and here I sit, padlocked in an airtight trailer with the wife of a not-dead-at-all husband.  Apparently, the dizzy dame had gone over the deets of her spouse’s planned demise with me on their house telephone.  If you had guessed that he had set up recording devices on all their lines since he didn’t trust her as far as he could throw her, you would have hit the jackpot.  Before he locked us down tight, I ran the ‘years from now you’ll both probably have a good laugh about all this’ thing by him, but it seems he with without a sense of humor.  If all of that wasn’t bad enough, the lady keeps pacing back and forth while complaining about how this went wrong and blaming me for the situation we now find ourselves in.

The soon to be widower took my cell, but he did let me hang on to my fully loaded .380.  Hope springs eternal in this heart of mine, so I’m going to take as short and shallow breaths as I can.  Who’s to say someone won’t come driving by this field and notice the trailer sitting in the middle of it and get suddenly struck by a pang of curiosity?  Then again, maybe the esteemed man of the house put me in here with his whiny nag of an old lady with the hope that I would take her down for him.  If he comes back to check and I’ve permanently silenced her yapper, you think I perhaps could still come out of all this a winner?  It’s worth a shot – excuse the pun.

Friend, even if I’ve got all this wrong, I’m still going to tag her anyway.  With all her moaning, groaning and gasping, she’s using up half my air.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Growing Old Gratefully - Week 7 of 52round2

The last thing I remember is thinking to myself how much I regretted letting Todd drive us home.  We had all been drinking heavily, like there was no tomorrow, being dead set (excuse the tasteless pun) on one final blowout now that final exams were over.  Jason, Ricky, Todd, and I, friends, housemates, and classmates, had decided to party hearty at Hallorans on Buy-a-Pitcher-of-Beer-and-Get-One-Free night.  This last semester had been the toughest, and following graduation, all with lucrative job offers in hand, we would all be going our separate ways.  Of course, there were the usual ‘let’s keep in touch’, ‘we’ll have lunch once a week’, and ‘we’ll make sure to spend holidays together’, but we all knew we’d never speak to, or see, each other again.  It’s funny how life works that way.  It seemed somehow necessary to have one last night together.  Unfortunately, it turned out to be our last night for real.

I do remember Todd trying to sing along with some incoherent tune on the radio, laughing, and weaving all over the road.  When we first drove onto the bridge, the car started to slide and spin.  We hit the side railing hard, and as the car went through and carried us down to the shallow stream and rocks below, I could hear Jason and Ricky in the back crying, and Todd?  He was still laughing.  And me?  I prayed.  When we landed, I felt pain as I have never felt, then a warm blackness came over me.  Then, nothing.  Until now.

Light is all around me and I open my eyes.  Am I in Heaven, surrounded by angels who will enfold me soothingly in their massive wings?  Hardly.  I’m lying in a king size bed, propped up with three pillows under my head, covered by a multi-colored comforter, in a room that looks remarkably like my parents’ bedroom in the split level I grew up in.  There is an old guy sitting next to the bed reading a book.  I feel no pain, and there isn’t a scratch on me that I can see.  Was the night out and the accident all a dream, or is this some bizarre after-life illusion?

“Well, well, well, young man,” the man said and smiled.  Surely, those elongated incisors I’m seeing are the result of some type of psychological shock I’m experiencing.  “Good to see you coming around.  I was pretty sure I had gotten to you in time, but you never can tell with these things.”

I came to the conclusion that this must be Hell, or at least one of its entrances.  They make it look like you’re resting comfortably in a warm and cozy bedroom, and once you get up to check out the other rooms in the so-called house, that’s when the real heat hits you.

“I’m dead, aren’t I, and this is one of the gates to Hell, isn’t it.”  I wasn’t asking – I was stating facts.

The old man smiled broadly, his fangs now clearly visible.

“Hell?  How can you say a thing like that?  I’ve taken great care furnishing this place so it’s bright and cheerful and comfy, and you’re picking up such negativity?  My goodness, you young people these days, always looking for something dramatic and sinister.  No, son, this is not Hell and you most certainly are not dead - exactly.  I’m very sorry, but I can’t say the same about your three friends.  They had already passed on by the time I reached your vehicle, and you were barely there yourself.  I wasn’t sure if there would be time enough for me to pull you back, but apparently, there was and I’m so glad.  How are you feeling?  You’ve been out for almost two full days.  You really had me scared.”

My friends dead?  Me unconscious for two days?  What kind of nightmare have I found myself trapped in?

“Who are you and where am I?  My friends are…I mean, they didn’t…how did I…”

“Relax, boy.  I will explain everything to you, but you must promise me something.  I want you to remain calm and hear me out.  This is all going to sound very strange to you, but take it all in and reserve judgment.  Please remember that all I was trying to do was to help you.  Once you know the full story, I hope you’re not angry with me because I didn’t mean you any harm.  I just didn’t know what else I could do for you.”

Now, I really am frightened.  Why would I be angry with someone who obviously saved my life?  Oh no.  What if he’s some psychotic serial killer who trolls around accidents for survivors he can kidnap and bring back to his house and then torture?  I’m not tied to the bed, but I do feel weak.  I’ll bet there are bars on all the windows and steel doors front and back so I can’t escape.  If I come at him, he’ll probably use a stun gun on me or an electric rod or some contraption like that.  Or maybe I’m just delirious from the impact and images from all the bloody movies and TV shows I love to watch are flooding into my mind because I’ve got a closed head injury?  Isn’t that one of the symptoms – violent and paranoid thoughts?  Didn’t I see that on a documentary last week?  Take a deep breath, James, and let the old codger explain himself.  There’s plenty of time to have a full-blown panic attack later.

“I give you my word I won’t freak on you until you’re done.  No promises for afterward though.  Please do let me in on what is going on and what happened to my friends and I.”

The old guy looked as if he were taking a deep breath, but then again, he didn’t really seem to be breathing at all.  God, I hope years from now, I’m going to be able to look back on all this and laugh.

“First of all, my name is Norbert,” he began, closing the book he had been reading, laying it down on the nightstand next to the bed, and settling back in his chair.  “The town you are in is called Greenview, and is around 100 or so miles from where your accident occurred.”

“A hundred or so what?”  I was beginning to hit panic mode head on.

“Now, you promised to hear me out, James.  Oh, and by the way, the reason I know your name is from your license in your wallet.  In case you’re wondering, your wallet is on the dresser and everything is intact.  Your license is there, your credit cards, and cash.  I’m no thief, as you will soon understand.  It had fallen out of your pocket when you were thrown from the car, and when I looked inside, I knew it was yours from the picture on the license, of course, so I brought it along so you would have it for whenever you leave.  May I continue?”

I nodded.  I was confused, but less fearful; his ‘whenever you leave’ comment was responsible for that.

“There is no subtle way to tell you about me, or about what occurred, so I’m simply going to spit it out, so to speak.  I am a vampire.  While I never harm anyone, I do need blood now and again to survive, so I pilfer from blood banks.  I never take the rare stuff because I wouldn’t want anyone to die because I took what they needed, so I only take the types that are plentiful in supply.  You’re already looking at me as if I’m an old kook who escaped from the nursing home he was locked up in, but I assure you, you will see that I am telling the truth.  First, though, let me get to your accident and you and your friends.

“I don’t want to raise any suspicions here in town, or draw any attention to myself, since I’m very happy here.  It’s a small town and everybody knows everybody.  They believe I’m some old fella who retired from the corporate world and came here to have a quiet life and work part time to make ends meet.  I have a job, you see.  I take care of the grounds at the local cemetery, and don’t roll your eyes about that either.  While it’s true that I can move about in daylight, I am stronger in the night, and that was the only night job that was available.  I don’t desecrate graves or hide the bodies of my victims under coffins.  All I do is landscaping work.  The grave digging and burials are handled by the funeral home staff.  I couldn’t do that kind of work.  Graves creep me out.”

This is too much, even for me.

“Anyway, I earn enough to get by nicely and my house is all paid for.  When I was turned – became a vamp, I had retired from the corporate world and I had a nice nest egg.  Once I was on my own, I found this town, bought this little house and settled down.  How it happened to me is of no consequence, I remember very little of it, and the one who made me moved on.  None of this is like the movies, you see.  He didn’t stay with me or want me as a companion.  He was young and rebellious, bitter about the fact that someone had turned him, and he did it to me on a dare from the pack he was hanging with.  Some do that, I’ve found.  The ones who are made when they’re young group together like a gang and move from town to town and kill and terrify.  It’s awful, and it gives the rest of us a bad name.

“I’m way off here.  Forgive me.  You want to know about you and your friends.  As I said, I steal from blood banks.  I don’t need blood every day; usually a bit twice a week will keep me going, so I don’t need to take too much.  I never take from here though or towns close by.  I can travel long distances in a very short time, so I usually go to the cities because there’s always more than enough blood to go around.  I was on my way back home, taking my time through that area since it’s very peaceful there, when I noticed a car weaving this way and that and I was worried.  That bridge, with its curves, is tricky enough during the day, but at night?  You were an accident waiting to happen, and sure enough, when I saw the car go through the railing and fall to the rocks, I hurried to see if perhaps there was something I could do.

“I was concerned the car might catch on fire and wanted to make sure no one was inside in case that happened.  But the car just landed on its roof, and the tires kept spinning.  All the glass was broken, but I didn’t see any gas leaking, so I looked closer.  The two in the back seat were obviously already dead.  Shards of glass had gone though both of them, and the driver had gone through the windshield and his face was…”

I wanted to cry, but no tears would come.

“I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t be telling you all this.  I know this won’t be much comfort, but I believe they died on impact and didn’t suffer.  It all happened very quickly.  You had been thrown from the car and were about fifteen to twenty feet away, lying on your back.  Your seatbelt had been torn from the car and you still had part of the shoulder harness on.  You were barely breathing, but I found a pulse and knew I had to try to save you.  There was no way I was going to just walk away and leave you there to die.  I fed you some of my own blood, brought you back here, and hoped for the best.  It seems as though I was successful, I’m happy to say; although, you may not be when you hear the rest.”

“Why wouldn’t I be grateful to you for saving my life?  I can’t believe Jason and Ricky and Todd…all gone.  Where are they?  Did an ambulance take them to a hospital?  I want to be able to attend their funerals.  Were their families notified?  How can I…”

“It’s not quite that simple, son.  I did call the police and tell them I witnessed an accident and gave them the location.  I’m sure it has all been taken care of.  The thing is though, where you’re concerned, that’s going to be a bit tough to explain.  When I made you, it healed all your wounds because that’s how it works.  Now, you’ll stay just as you are for all time, as I will stay as I am for all time.  If your friends experienced such horrific injur…well, how can you not having so much as a scratch be explained?  Too, you were not at the scene when the police arrived.  I’m afraid I’ve made a terrible mess of this whole situation.  I hope you can forgive me for causing you so much trouble.  I just couldn’t turn my back on you and let you die.”

I can accept everything Norbert has been telling me, and oddly, I am beginning to believe this whole vampire thing.  I’ve looked myself over and I don’t have a scratch.  How could that be?  I am in no pain and have no broken bones.  I ran my tongue over my teeth and my incisors are long and sharp like Norbert’s.  Is it possible that I am now a vampire?  One of the living dead?  He did say it’s nothing like the movies.  I wondered what that meant.

“You said it wasn’t like the movies.  What did you mean?”

Norbert smiled.

“The movies always make everything look so colorful.  Forget stakes through the heart.  If someone should stake you, just pull it out.  It won’t do you any harm.  Holy water can make you weaker though and subject to capture.  Those packs of young hooligans like to splash it on and cage you up and then leave town.  That happened to me once when they came through here.  I went almost a week without a drop of blood and I could barely keep my eyes open.  I wouldn’t have withered away to dust or anything, but when some construction workers found me in the abandoned building outside of town, I begged them to take me home.  I said I had medicine there and was able to nourish myself back to health.

“None of them have come through here for quite some time, and hopefully, won’t ever again.  They killed some of my friends and damaged a lot of property.  We’re so far off from the highway, we don’t even get tourists that stop here.  That’s mainly why I chose this town.  The people are nice and there’s no crime and everyone pulls together to help one another.  It’s the perfect place to spend my days.  I’m not sure how long I can stay though since I never get any older.  That’s sure to raise some red flags at some point and I’ll have to move on and find another town.  But it’s only been a few years since I moved here, so I’ve still got plenty of time.  You probably would want to go though.  There’s not a lot of excitement here for a young fella like you.

“Let me give you some advice though, if I may.  Don’t get hooked up with any of those wild ones.  They do nothing but cause pain and destruction wherever they go and they are never welcome anywhere.  Even though they travel together, there’s no loyalty among them.  If one falls by the wayside or gets trapped somewhere, the rest leave him behind.  They don’t care at all about each other.  That’s no way to spend your days, and you’ve got plenty of days ahead of you.  To be honest with you, I don’t know how many I’ve got.  The sun doesn’t hurt me and I haven’t run into anything that really does me any harm.  I’m thinking possibly that one day, I will just cease to be, and that would be alright.  I’m content and have friends and my life is good.  The thought of going on forever kind of upsets me.”

Wow.  This has been a lot to take in.  I’m not sure where to go from here.  It would be difficult to go back to my life because I wouldn’t know how to explain how I came to survive the crash and walk away from it unscathed.  I had an offer to join a brokerage firm in New York City, but there’s no way I could step into that now.  Being around young people would suit me, but I have no desire to join a pack of roving killers.  Vampire or not, I don’t believe I could ever kill anyone, not even if it meant my own survival.  I wonder if I’ll be able to get by with a few sips a couple of times a week like Norbert does.  The blood bank thing sounds like something I could get used to.  Funny, but the thought of drinking blood doesn’t repulse me at all, and that’s a good thing.  What to do now…

“I see confusion in your eyes, son,” Norbert said.  “Take your time.  You’re welcome to stay here until you decide what you want to do.  There’s plenty of room, and we can just tell folks in town that you’re my nephew that recently graduated from college and you came to visit your old uncle.  You’ll like them all, and while there’s no wild clubs or nightlife to speak of, there’s a wonderful library and we get all the movie channels on the television.  There’s festivals here and different town events, and…  I’m getting way ahead of myself.  I’m sure you won’t want to be here that long, but like I said, you’re welcome to stay as long as you’d like.  It’s nice having you here, James.  Make yourself at home.

“Oh, I forgot to mention.  We can eat regular food too.  There’s a wonderful diner downtown and there’s always friends to sit and chat with.  We can eat anything and it all tastes wonderful, but you need to supplement with a few sips of fresh blood here and there.  I’ve got plenty.  I made a run not too long ago, and you’re welcome to share.  Do you feel up to heading to town for a bite?  I can’t believe I just said that.  Forgive me.”

Norbert laughed that warm laugh of his.  Warm?  Believe it or not, it was.

“Norbert, I don’t want you to think that I want to stay because I feel some sort of obligation.  I know you saved my life – you really gave me another, and I thank you for that.  I’m used to the fast pace of cities, forming no attachments so as not to end up tied down, and never wanting to know my neighbor’s name in case they’d end up wanting something from me.  All of a sudden, that kind of existence has lost its appeal for me.  Since it’s alright with you, I’d like to stay.  Maybe I could keep you company when you do your landscaping, or maybe I could even get a job here in town too and help you out with the bills.  You took me in and you gave me a second chance.  I’d very much like to do it right this time around.”

Norbert got up and went to his closet and got me some jeans and a shirt.

“Feel like a burger and fries, James?  We can walk into town and have lunch at Joline’s.  We’ll have a quick drink of some O-positive before we go and it will last you until Friday.  Welcome, son.  Welcome home.”

Friday, February 13, 2015

Sisters - Week 6 of 52round2

With each new day, Louise was becoming increasingly afraid of Sylvia.  Ever since that horrific accident that killed Sylvia’s fiancĂ©, Louise could see her withdrawing ever deeper within herself.  What frightened Louise though, was that the place Sylvia was drawn to inside her own mind seemed a dark, sinister, and dangerous haven.

Growing up had been a happy and secure time for the sisters.  Even though they were identical twins, their parents always treated them like the individuals they were.  There had never been phrases like ‘the girls are ready’, ‘those two are so cute’, or ‘they want ice cream’.  Mother and Father always made sure to refer to them by name.  It would be ‘Louise and Sylvia are playing together’, ‘Sylvia and Louise, dinner is ready’, or ‘Louise and Sylvia would love to attend the party’.  They also made the effort to interchange the names so one would not appear favored over the other.  When both their parents died in an automobile accident, the sisters’ lives were turned upside down.

They were only 7 years old when it happened. Their father had picked up the family car from the shop that morning where an oil change had been done, as well as all new brakes installed.  There had been a squeaking sound on stopping, and always believing it was better to be safe than sorry, their father had arranged for total replacement of the braking system.  No amount of money, he had said, was too much when it came to the safety of his family.

Louise and Sylvia had been left with their next-door neighbor’s daughter, high school sophomore, Jeannette, while their parents went out for dinner and dancing at the Country Club on that fateful Saturday night.  There had been a lot of smiling and waving as their parents drove away; such was the positive dynamic of the family.  Less than an hour later, Jeannette took the telephone call that their car had gone over Winston’s Bluff, and crashed and burned on the rocks below.  The investigation of the accident included an inspection by the State Police reconstructionist, and his conclusion was that the brake lines had been cut.  It was no accident, his report stated.  The couple had been targeted and murdered, and thus began the end of the free and unfettered life the sisters had known.

The family’s attorney assumed control of their father’s estate, which was quite considerable.  The girls had never wanted for anything, but since their parents hadn’t discussed matters of finance with them, they had been unaware of their father’s substantial wealth.  He had provided well for his children, ensuring all was divided equally between the two, to be managed on their behalf until they reached the age of 21.  Once they had attained legal age, all funds and property were to be turned over to Louise and Sylvia to use, and/or dispose of, at their discretion.

All those years between 7 and 21 however, found the young girls confined and monitored twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year by their court-appointed guardians.  Since a dark cloud hung over their parents’ death, no one wanted to risk any attempts on the lives of the twins, so a normal childhood was out of the question.  Louise and Sylvia were sent to boarding school until the age of 18, where they were granted no privileges whatsoever, to be followed by three years of finishing school, to insure they would emerge as well-rounded, sophisticated and cultured adults.  Since, during all those years, nothing in the way of risks to their safety had surfaced, they were permitted to return to their home, and both were awarded unrestricted access to their inheritance.  Their attorney had suggested the house be sold and the profits shared, but the sisters decided to make the house once again their home, and arranged to have it completely upgraded and remodeled in keeping with current trends.  Once drawing up and finalizing their own wills was complete, the attorneys who had maintained their trust heard nothing further from the sisters, nor did any of their professors or schoolmates.  It was as if the two of them had closed and locked their lives against the world.  That is, until Devon knocked on their door.

The sound startled them both since no one ever came to their home to visit.  Purchases were all made by telephone and carriers were instructed to deliver the orders to the back door and then immediately vacate the area.  Accounts were always paid by check on time and in full by mail, so all retailers complied.  Word spread however and rumors abounded, as rumors tend to do, that those old, spinster sisters who lived all alone in that great big house up on the hill were clinically insane, and would certainly capture, cook, and eat any passers-by who happened to intrude upon their solitude.  None of those stories were true, of course, and Louise and Sylvia had heard them when delivery men chatted as they dropped items at the back.  Neither of them sought to try to salvage their reputations however, since townsfolk were not to be trusted.  All knew the women were filthy rich, and intended to remain so; therefore, any attempts at friendship or companionship were viewed as attempts to defraud or swindle.  In the early years after their return, any and all invitations for fraternization were summarily rejected, and it didn’t take long for all in the area to cease and desist.

Devon Fontaine was a transient who survived on his looks and his charm.  In each new town, he would locate and woo the resident recent divorcee or widow, accept all the new clothes, jewelry and cash she would offer, then before she was able to see him for what he really was, he would hit the road.  The possibilities were endless, since Devon found that every small town had a local middle-aged rich woman who was lonely for the company of a young and handsome fellow, and he fit that role to a tee.  When he got off the bus in Fairvale, talk was rampant about the aging wealthy evil twins on the south side of town that were to be avoided like the Black Plague.  Devon filtered out the evil references and chose only to focus on aging, wealthy and twins.  Two for the price of one, he thought.  Brace yourselves, ladies.  Santa Claus had come to town for you both.

Entrancing them both however, was not to be.  He found Louise easily agitated and flighty, which caused him great annoyance.  Sylvia was calmer, on the intellectual side, and more worldly than he had imagined.  He quickly eased his way into her home, her life and her bedroom.  While the sisters remained noticeably vacant from town, the young man, who seemed to have wound his way into their lives, was a frequent visitor.  All the shops knew him on sight and accommodated his every request.  Sylvia had telephoned all the businesses personally and opened accounts for him without limit.  He was to be indulged, she instructed, at any time, and provided with anything he desired.  The locals wondered what spell this young man had cast upon their elusive neighbor, but accepted her money without question or judgment.  Business was, after all, business.  All wondered if perhaps a wedding was in the cards for one of the twins when the gruesome accident occurred.  It was never explained why the young man would venture out onto the roof after dark in a storm, but the result of his fall was quite obvious.  He had been impaled on the wrought iron fence that surrounded the property, several spikes piercing his chest and abdomen.  How he had fallen sideways from such a height defied logic, but the town’s sheriff chose to simply let the dead rest.  Why distress his lady love any further when nothing would be gained.  Accidents happen.  Case closed.

After Devon’s closed casket funeral, Louise noticed Sylvia out and about in the wee hours of the morning.  Sylvia would wander the large property, all the way back into the wooded area, then return shortly before dawn, tramping mud and dead leaves from the front entrance all the way upstairs into her bedroom.  Louis feared the purpose of these nightly journeys since the newspapers delivered to them often reported individuals passing through town as missing.  They would be seen one day and missing the next.  It was confirmed they had not just left the area, since their suitcases and belongings remained in their hotel rooms.  It was as if they had simply got up, walked away and disappeared, never to return.  Days would pass, then weeks, and they were never seen again.

It was happening with such regularity that Louise wondered if perhaps her sister might have something to do with these mysterious goings-on.  Sylvia would make, and receive, telephone calls at odd hours, and always spoke in hushed tones.  Louise ventured out to the garage and found shovels and hoes were covered with the same mud and debris as Sylvia’s footwear.  Louise began to fear for her own safety.  If her sister was responsible for somehow luring these people out to their property, then, for whatever reason, murdering them and disposing of their remains, if Sylvia knew Louise was curious and figured out what she had been doing, what would prevent her from dispatching Louise in the same way.  Louise decided it was time to stop looking the other way and being afraid of her own shadow.  The time had come insure her own survival, no matter the cost.  Today, she would confront her sister and Fate willing, would emerge the victor.

When Sylvia awoke from her nap, she found herself struggling to sit up.  When she lifted her head, she saw that her hands and feet were tied to the headboard and footboard respectively, of her bed.  Standing over her, holding a large knife and glaring coldly at her was her sister Louise--quiet, nervous, easily confused, sister Louise.

“What are you doing, Louise?”  Sylvia tried to keep her voice soft and calm.  Louise‘s hand that was holding the knife was shaking terribly.  “Are you having some problem that I can help you with?  Talk to me, my beloved sister.  Whatever it is, I can help you.”

‘I’ll bet you want to help me,” Sylvia responded.  “You want to help me into a hole six feet under the ground, right?”

“What are you going on about, dear?  You’re not making any sense.  Are you trying to say that I would somehow want to hurt you?  Now, you know that’s not true.  You know in your heart that all I’ve ever done is try to protect you.  You know that, don’t you?”

Louise was confused.

“Protect me?  From what?  From whom?  I know you wander the woods with shovels and hoes and you’re all muddy when you return.  You’re out there killing people and then burying them on our property, aren’t you?  It’s all over the news, Sylvia.  It’s you, isn’t it?  Tell me the truth.  I’m next, aren’t I?”

“Oh my God,” Sylvia said, tears filling her eyes.  “Louise, how can you think such a thing.  You know it isn’t me doing any of those terrible things.  Please.  Focus.  Try to remember, sweet one.  It is you, Louise.  It is you now, and it has always been you.  When it comes to burying them, yes, that is me.  But, I’m only doing that to protect you from the authorities.  You are the one doing the killing.  You must know.  You must remember.”

Louise lowered the knife.  What was Sylvia saying?  Why was she spewing such nonsense?

“Oh, no,” Louise said, fighting back tears of her own.  “You can’t seriously be trying to blame all this on me.  I’ve never…I mean, I wouldn’t…I couldn’t…”

“Louise, Louise, Louise, it all began when you were a child.  Think back.  You were always trying to charm Father to get your way and getting between he and Mother.  When Mother told you to stop behaving so seductively toward your own father, and Father began to pull away, you knew you had to get rid of them both.  We both wanted to watch the man work on the car, don’t you remember?  Father thought we were trying to become independent young ladies and learn how to fend for ourselves if our vehicle broke down, but that was the case only for me.  You wanted to know how to disable the car, make it uncontrollable.  You specifically asked the mechanic about the brakes when Father went for a cigarette.  I heard you.  He told you one had to be careful so as not to sever the brake cables.  If that happened, he told you,, the brakes would not work and the driver would not be able to stop in an emergency.  Surely, you remember.

“Our playmates at school having all those unexplained injuries when they were with you.  You must remember all those so-called accidents.  The headmistress took me aside and asked if you had ever been evaluated psychologically, and I told her never--that there was no reason for such a thing.  There was nothing wrong with you, I told her, but deep down I knew there was.  You were a danger to others even then.  Why do you think I made sure to keep everyone away from here when we returned?  I thought, if I can keep an eye on you, I would be able to prevent anyone else from being hurt.  But you found a way.  You would sneak out of the house and go into town and find various men to bring back here and you would promise them bliss and then kill them.  The only reason I was out in the woods was to bury them so they would never be linked back to you.

“Dear sister, I never wanted the authorities to come and take you away.  You would never survive in prison.  I thought, if I can just cover up whatever you do, perhaps some day, you would realize what you were doing and seek help or just stop.  But now, you are accusing me?  Think, Louise.  Try to remember.  It is you, beloved.  It has always been you.”

Louise’s head began to throb.  She dropped the knife and sank to the floor, sobbing.

“What about all those midnight telephone calls you were making, Sylvia?  All that whispering during the calls that you made and the calls that came in?  Did I imagine those too?”

“Of course, love.  The only telephone calls I ever made were for groceries or other things we needed in the house.  We have never received any telephone calls, Louise,  Who would call us anyway?

“It was me, wasn’t it,” Louise felt dizzy.  “I have been doing terrible things and I have no memory of any of them.  Did I kill Devon too?  Please tell me I didn’t murder the man you loved.”

Sylvia nodded, and motioned for Louise to untie her.

“Yes, you had to get rid of him.  You couldn’t allow anyone else to come into this house and discover your secret.  But, I forgive you, Louise.  It’s not your fault.  It is your illness.  You have no control at times of your actions and I understand.  But we have a decision to make.  Now that you know what you’ve done and the extent of your impairment, how can we move forward?  We cannot continue as we have--you continuing to destroy lives and me continuing to try to salvage ours.  If the courts understood how ill you are, you could avoid prison and they would send you to a hospital where you could be treated and helped and hopefully, someday even be released.  Should we go and see Sheriff Hanlon together, Louise?  I’ll explain everything to him and I’ll get in touch with Mr. Jerrod too.  You remember Mr. Jerrod, don’t you?  He was Father’s attorney, and he would know all about defending you the right way and making sure you were declared incompetent and committed to a hospital.  You want to get well, don’t you, Louise?  Don’t you?”

Louise untied her sister and agreed to accompany her to the police station.  It was best, she thought.  She couldn’t go on being the monster behind the mask.  She had almost killed Sylvia and would have, if Sylvia hadn’t opened her eyes to the truth.

There was no trial.  The attorney, Mr. Jerrod, was wonderful and so understanding.  During the hearing, the judge showed great compassion and told Louise he believed it would be best for all concerned if she was declared legally insane and ordered indefinite commitment to the state hospital.  There, he told her, she would receive the most up-to-date drugs and treatment with the hope of someday exorcising the demons that haunted her psyche.  Sylvia had agreed to show law enforcement where all the bodies were buried and she was not charged as an accomplice.  The judge commended her for never deserting her sister in her time of need and while he did state she should have notified the authorities when she first noticed how disturbed Louise was, he said he understood why she felt she couldn’t betray her.  Louise was taken away in an ambulance and Sylvia returned to the house, ready to start living the life she felt she was entitled to, and that was so long overdue.

She decided to wait a couple of months before requesting control of Louise’s portion of their inheritance.  If Louise died, or had  been murdered, all her money would have gone to those forest people Louise loved.  All of it would have been used to breed more squirrels or some other crap that Sylvia didn’t understand or care for.  Louise had always been such a pushover for nonsensical causes.  Besides, if Louise had died, Sylvia knew she would have been under an umbrella of suspicion for the rest of her life, and living that way was not an acceptable arrangement.  The only way to get everything and walk away free and clear was to have Louise either declared legally incompetent or get her convicted of a felony.  Without any real evidence, Sylvia knew there could be no conviction, but she knew it would be very easy to convince mentally frail Louise that her mind had eroded into something monstrous.

She had to get rid of Mother and Father since she had overheard them one night discussing Sylvia’s unusual behavior.  Children had reported seeing her injure their pets and their parents had informed Sylvia’s parents.  Devon was just collateral damage.  The little bit of cash she’d allowed him to spend was nothing compared to what awaited her now.  He was fun for awhile, but she needed another victim to blame on Louise.  The traveling salesmen she’d lured to the house were gravy--more bodies to pile on her sister.

Soon she would have control of it all and she knew exactly what she would do.  First, she would sell that mausoleum of a house and its contents.  Then, she would take the cash and travel the world.  Maybe she’d find someone like Devon again--young and handsome, and have some fun for awhile.  When she grew tired of him, it would be a simple task to toss him over the side of a cruise ship. She would also agree to review and sign those consents from the State Hospital so they could begin administering shock treatments to Louise.  They felt it best to clear her mind so she could begin her long-term care with a clean slate.  Sylvia agreed.  That definitely was the way to go.

Sisters.  They sure can turn out to be your best friend after all.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Game Day - Week 5 of 52round2


“Herbert, sit down at the table and eat your meal.  If you go wandering through the house with your plate, there will be a trail of crumbs all over the floor and the carpet in the living room.  I don’t have time to be sweeping and vacuuming ten times a day.  There’s a new family that is moving in next door, and I have to keep an eye on them to see what they’re up to.”

“Helen, I won’t leave a trail of crumbs anywhere.  There isn’t even anything on my plate to make crumbs with.  I mean, all I have is meatloaf and mashed pota…”

“Herbert, will you look at the size of that moving van?  How are they going to fit all that stuff into that tiny house?”

“Helen, I can’t see the television if I sit at the table and since it’s Monday, I would really like to watch the 6 o’clock…”

“Herbert, what are you going on about?  Sit down and eat your dinner.  Stop distracting me.  I’m trying to see how many mattresses they unload.”


“Herbert, hurry up and change your clothes.  You look like something the cat dragged in.  If we don’t leave soon, we will be late and I refuse to let you make me look like a fool since I reserved a seat for the both of us.”

“Helen, where are we going?  You know on Tuesdays after lunch I like to watch my favorite…”

“Herbert, I told you to hurry up.  We cannot be late for the film showing at the library today on treatment of athlete’s foot in the elderly.  I signed us up for the movie and for the lecture that comes after.  They will only hold our places until the lights go out, so get moving.”

“Helen, neither of us has ever had athlete’s foot and I’ve been waiting to see this episode.  It is the one where the judge plans to reveal who found…”

“Herbert, what are you going on about?  Just put a jacket on over that ugly shirt you always wear on Tuesdays.  Sometimes you can be so thoughtless.”


“Herbert, turn that television off and move the couch and recliner into the other room.  I’m steam cleaning the carpets this morning so they’ll be dry by this evening for when my knitting club arrives.  Hurry now so I can get started.  I don’t want to have to pay for extra time on this equipment that I rented from the grocery store.”

“Helen, there’s only ten minutes left to this show.  Right after this commercial, they’re going to be interviewing my favorite actor about his new movie.  You know, the one that’s called The Beast in the…”

“Herbert, you need to get your hearing checked.  Didn’t I tell you to turn that television off right this second?  I’ve already got the machine plugged in and ready to go.  I’ll start here where you’re sitting, so get your recliner out of my way.”

“Helen, that carpet cleaner is so loud.  If you could just turn it off for a few minutes, I would be able to hear the details about this great new movie while I’m moving the…”

“Herbert, what are you going on about?  I can’t have a conversation with you with this machine on because it’s too noisy.  I’ll turn the television off myself while you hurry and get this furniture out of the living room.”


“Herbert, help me carry these cupcakes out to the car.  It’s my turn to bring the snacks this week.  We’re going to have an enjoyable time.  I’m glad I signed us up when I did because there were only two spots left.  Come on, Herbert.  We don’t want to be late.”

“Helen, what did you sign us up for?  You know on Thursday evenings, I always watch that reality show about the windowless house on the…”

“Herbert, turn off that foolishness and put your shoes on.  I’m looking forward to our Thursday night card games, so stop being to selfish.  I signed myself up for Canasta and you’re going to be playing Pinochle.  There was one spot open and your partner is going to be Wilfred Haston.  You remember him, don’t you?  He’s the one who beats you every year at the church’s pie-eating contest.”

“Helen, you know I can’t stand Wilfred Haston.  He’s senile and spits when he talks.  I’ve been following the people on this show and tonight, they’re going to vote on who put a hole in the wall to let in some…”

“Herbert, what are you going on about?  I’ve turned that silly show of yours off so you have no excuse for any further dawdling.  Let’s go, because those cards won’t shuffle themselves.”


“Herbert, Turn off that nonsense you’re watching.  We can’t be late for our Friday class.  We’re going to be learning how to cook on an outdoor grill.  Once we’ve completed a few classes, we can purchase one, because by that time, we will know which is the best model on the market.”

“Helen, You know I always watch the cooking channel at this time on Fridays.  Besides, today, the show is all about outdoor grilling and I think we’d learn so much more if we sat and…”

“Herbert, help me carry these chickens out to the car.  Grilling whole chickens is going to be today’s lesson.  I’m very anxious to learn how to grill ribs too.  They are so expensive at the restaurant and we will save so much money if we are able to do it ourselves at home.”

“Helen, I learned how to grill ribs last Friday from watching this show.  I wrote it all down on a card and put it in the…”

“Herbert, what are you going on about?  Hurry and take this meat out to the car so we can go.  I don’t want to miss a minute of our lessons.”


“Herbert, Turn off that television and put on the suit I have laid out for you on the bed upstairs.  I’ve also put out your comfortable shoes because you’ll need them tonight.  I don’t want you to complain to everyone about how much your feet hurt.”

“Helen, I’m watching the weekly sports updates.  They give you all the scores for all of the…”

“Herbert, Make sure you put on a clean undershirt too.  Since we’ll be switching partners at the Saturday night dance class I’ve signed us up for.  I don’t want you to embarrass me with stains on your shirt.”

“Helen, I always like to watch this sports show.  It helps to keep me informed on all the games that I miss during the…”

“Herbert, what are you going on about?  Make sure you put a handkerchief in your jacket pocket too.  It helps to make you at least look dignified.”


“Herbert, turn that television off and come help me clean out the basement.  There is so much clutter down there.  Most of this is junk that you have saved and haven’t touched in years.  We need to get it all ready to take out to the curb for garbage pickup tomorrow morning.”

“Helen, there’s plenty of time.  I’ve been waiting to see this football game for weeks.  For the first time, there are two teams that I like playing each other.  I know all the players and I’m anxious to see how…”

“Herbert, you’ll need to put a new light bulb at the top of these basement stairs.  It’s very hard to see where you’re going without any light and it would be very easy for someone to slip and fall and hit their head on that concrete floor.”

“Helen, that is by far the best idea you’ve had in years.”

"Herbert, what are you..."

That’s when I pushed her down the basement stairs.  She made a little groan when her head hit bottom, but there’s been no sound since.  I’m going to watch my football game now and when it’s over in a few hours, I’ll call somebody and let them know about Helen’s unfortunate accident.  First though, I’m going to get a big bowl of chips and pretzels and bring them into the living room so I can have some snacks while I watch.  I sure hope this one goes into overtime!