by Patrick Loveland
A low rising hum and crackling of static electricity woke Richard Stuart in his hospital bed. Through bleary eyes he looked around, seeing he was flanked by beeping machines. Pierced with taped-down intravenous cannulas in a few places, tubes snaking between the equipment and those spots. Sealed dripping tubes. Multiple clear bags and glass bottles.
Hazy. Sweating. Confused.
His wife Camille and little daughters Veronica and Alejandra had nodded off in big padded seats at his bedside, the girls sharing one. They held hand-drawn Get Well cards, Alejandra also loosely gripping a stuffed animal.
Balloons. Flowers. More Cards.
Rain fell outside a thick picture window that ran along the right side of the room, intermittent lightning flashes illuminating what he could see of the otherwise silhouetted city for ephemeral instances. To the left, doctors and nurses could be seen scurrying by through a window in a closed door.
Richard rested his head back on a damp pillow and tried to remember how he’d ended up in the hospital. He’d been doing research for a new job, then nothing was clear after that.
The hum rose enough that his hair stood up all over and he heard muffled footsteps coming toward the door. He looked toward it but saw nothing through the window but a cleaner pushing a cart through the unit hall.
But the footsteps got louder anyway. Richard looked at his family, a flush of dread running through him—
The door opened and a tall, gaunt man stepped into the room.
He had a sickly look to him. Wispy gray mutton chop sideburns. Shoulder-length white hair, gauzy as torn cobwebs.
He wore dark shoes, trousers, gloves, and overcoat, as well as a simple black shirt that started just under his jawline but didn’t look like a turtleneck. Richard noticed swirling incandescent patterns in the shirt fabric that glinted from the ceiling lights as he moved. A large, wide hood attached to the strange shirt or thin sweater hung loosely across the man’s upper back.
The man’s dark outfit framed his pale face—which in turn contrasted with his large black eyes. His eyes had whites, but the darkness of his irises made them seem much closer to the hue of his face—as well as hiding his pupils within their depths.
This new visitor let the door close and took a seat across from the foot of the bed.
“Hello, Richard. Looks like you should eat healthier. Avoid stress. I saw this film once. Had the best line…. Something like bacon is not a food group. How true that is.”
The man had a hint of an accent but he couldn’t place it. Something generally “United Kingdom” sounding about it, but he’d never been good at telling close or close-ish accents apart. But more UK-sounding than continental European, he was pretty sure.
Richard just stared at the man and said nothing.
The man said, “I understand that I have you at a disadvantage—”
“I know who you are,” Richard interrupted.
The man smiled but it lacked any sense of warmth or mirth, a touch of mild amusement in his eyes the only thing that fit the expression.
“No, you’ve heard stories about me from scared peers and associates who know barely more than yourself.”
“I know more than most….”
The man’s smile stretched wider. “Do you, now? All right, who am I?”
“Bromley is the only name I’ve heard. But I know there’s something you want.”
The man’s smile vanished but his eyes kept the amused glaze.
“Accurate enough, but limited. More than most? Fair play, I suppose. And what is it that I want?”
Richard considered his options a moment—none, by his calculations—and clenched his jaw as he exhaled.
“It’s a small jade statue. Hard to describe, I guess, ‘cause I’ve heard it called a few different animals. All different ones too, like maybe…”
“They each saw something different?” Bromley said, smiling a bit again.
“Or there’s more than one.”
Bromley nodded. “Only one exists in this realm, I assure you, and that one statue is the very thing I desire.”
“So, why come to me?”
Bromley feigned disappointment. “Please, Richard. Don’t.”
“There’s only one way you’d know as much as you do. You were trying to acquire it yourself. I know all about it. Your team wore vintage Halloween masks. Used custom subsonic twenty-twos with suppressors and crossbows to take on the mansion’s army of security, extra quiet—and only those few they had to kill. Professional team. The closed-circuit footage is a master class in squad tactics and high level thievery. They even left the owner of the mansion alive, which I truly appreciate, as it made it possible for me to punish him myself later for taking the statue.”
“Why do you want it so bad?” Richard asked.
“If you have to ask, you know less than I expected. To oversimplify it…the statue is mine. Ours, I would’ve once said. It was taken so long ago. I need it to…continue my journey. Anyone who keeps it from me is going to suffer. Anyone who helps someone keep it from me will also suffer. Anyone who’s close to either….”
Richard looked at his sleeping loved ones, then back at Bromley—and caught him eyeing them now too. “Hey, this is about us. Not them, right? Business.”
Bromley’s smile faded, and this time his amusement left too.
“Business for you. Everything for me. You chose the wrong score, Mr. Stuart.”
Richard considered pressing the nurse button near his right hand on the bed, but didn’t look toward it.
Bromley said, “I wouldn’t advise that. Killing all these nurses and doctors might excite me and that would be very bad for you. Many others here too….” and his eyes danced over Camille and the girls.
Richard felt like his veins filled with night-blackened arctic waters and he shuddered.
“Hey, f-fuck you. You’re just a spooky story. A hitman at best. If you’re so badass, why do you have to come give me shit? Find it yourself, with your creepy special powers.”
Bromley blinked his black eyes. “The container the statue is in was built to block my connection to it. I only knew about the mansion because a member of your team did one unprofessional thing and opened the case. There—now you know more than most.”
The power in the building blinked out for a moment from the storm and the room was bathed in darkness. Without light, Richard could see that Bromley’s face and head had a subtle glow to them. Lightning struck out over the city—
Bromley’s face went translucent in the flash, and for just an instant Richard could see through his skin and face muscles. His skull was black. The flash also glinted off his eyes strangely, and Richard saw Bromley’s pupils contract before being swallowed by the darkening irises again as the lights came back on.
Arctic waters pulsed through Richard’s bloodstream again and he knew he truly had no good options.
“What do you want?”
Bromley said, “Give me a region, you all die. A state, you and your adorable daughters die in front of their mother. A city, you and one of your daughters die in front of sister and mother. A street? You and your wife die in front of your daughters.”
“What about a n-name?”
Bromley smiled again, the widest he had. “Just you.”
Richard’s wife and daughters woke up as he was dying, unable to see Bromley’s long-fingered hands phased down into their husband and father’s chest.
Bromley had pulled the black and iridescent hood over his head and face as he stood and walked to Richard’s bedside, opposite Camille and the girls. Instead of the hood draping down like it should have, it had sucked tight around his head, making it go translucent and his black skull and glinting eyes visible again. That made Bromley invisible somehow to Camille, Veronica, and Alejandra—who watched, oblivious, as Bromley squeezed Richard’s heart and arteries with his half-there gloved hands.
“To me, Richard, the small jade statue I seek is something like an octopus…and I believe that is its true form. Don’t worry, your loved ones can’t hear me.”
Richard used all the strength he had to fight off making eye contact with his wife and girls, his last hope that he could minimize their emotional trauma.
Richard Stuart struggled to stare up into Bromley’s glinting, beady eyes instead.
Bromley leaned down closer and smiled wide.
“And if you’re wondering, Richard, there’s nothing after this life. Just goes blackety-black. I almost wish there was something…so that this moment where your deepest loves watch you torn away could continue to torture you, like it will them.”
Tears streamed out of Richards eyes as they started to lose focus and he desperately searched for his wife and girls in the blurring room.
When Bromley had finished taking Richard’s life, he left the hospital room that was now filled with sobbing, begging, and prayers and focused all of his will and intentions on the name his efforts had provided.
About seventeen hours later and several states away, Clancy Peralta set a bag of paper-wrapped sandwiches on a folding card table across from a workbench on the back wall of a large warehouse. The long bench was cluttered with stacked ledger books, notepads, and a few laptops—all of which he probably should’ve disposed of long ago. His operation was nigh untouchable, though, the result of a few grisly and disturbing examples he’d had to make over the years.
Clancy Peralta’s warehouse and operation were off limits—a fact that was understood equally by the streets and badge-wearers who patrolled them.
Clancy took a sandwich out of the bag.
“Uh…I think it’s pastrami?”
Boyboy stretched a hand toward Clancy from his side of the table. Clancy gave him his food and grabbed the next one.
“It says Rachel…?”
Dukes reached out. “It’s like a Reuben, but with turkey and ‘slaw instead of beef and kraut.”
Clancy gave Dukes his sandwich and grabbed the last one that wasn’t his own.
“B-L-T with extra mayo? Really, Manoy?”
Manuel shook his head. “Fuck you, bro….”
Clancy handed Manuel his food with a scowl.
“You should just get like a plate of bacon and one of those mayo squirt bottles and just spurt it all over it. Eat it with a knife and fork.”
Clancy mock retched.
Manuel ignored Clancy as he unwrapped his sandwich and started eating.
Clancy pointed at Manuel’s mouth. “Oh shit, Manoy—some just skeeted down your chin, homie!”
“Clancy, shut the fuck up about my food, man.”
Clancy chuckled and took out his own sandwich then sat at the table and unwrapped it.
“I’m just saying…that shit’s bad for you, man. Like, unhealthy and shit.”
Manuel looked over. “What is that? A club?”
“And that doesn’t have any mayo on it?”
“Well, a little….”
“You gotta be kidding.”
Manuel shook his head and scoffed but just kept eating.
Dukes chuckled. “You’re an asshole, bosing,” he said around a saucy mouthful of turkey, coleslaw, and bread.
Clancy shrugged. “Not the first time I’ve heard that.”
Boyboy finished chewing a bite of his own and said, “Speaking of unhealthy—you guys here about Big Rich back east?”
Clancy and Manuel shared a look and nodded.
Dukes shook his head. “Nah, what’s up?”
“Had a couple heart attacks. He’s done, man. Gone.”
“Yeah, sad shit. So you heard about it?”
Clancy nodded again, then a thoughtful look came over his face.
“Heard he died. He crossed a lot of people, though, over the years. Something maybe caught up to him, I think.”
Dukes snorted. “Shit, if that’s how it works, we sure got it comin’….”
Clancy and Manuel locked eyes again and Manuel said, “I suppose so.”
They ate in silence for a couple minutes, then Boyboy said, “Anybody catch The Bachelorette last night?”
Manuel chuckled. “Sure did, man. That girl is messin’ those fools with those mind games and shit.”
“Right? I was like—”
A few metallic thuds sounded from the entry doors they could see down one of the parallel ceiling-high storage racks that filled the warehouse.
Clancy looked over at a surveillance monitor on the workbench with four feeds displayed in quarters.
Shady J, a local B-and-E guy was out front. He usually had a big duffle bag with him, or a wheeled cart when he’d really grabbed some big ‘finds.’ No bag. No cart.
Clancy took another bite as he got out of his chair, then set his sandwich down on its paper wrapper and chewed as he crossed to the monitors.
He pressed a button connected to a speaker installed on the camera.
“What’s up, Shady? You look a little light.”
The hood looked up at the camera but his body language was a little odd. His neck craned at an off angle. Clancy figured he twisted it going in and out of a busted window for a job or something.
Shady J’s croaky voice came over the cheap speaker, –I just need to t-talk about…something. No b-big deal.–
Clancy studied Shady’s face and eyes. Something was off but he couldn’t place it.
“You seem kinda twitchy, not gonna lie. Kinda nervous….”
–Well, yeah—I’m standing outside a warehouse talking to a camera….–
Manuel let out a short whistle to get Clancy’s attention. “What’s up?”
“Not sure. Watch him close, all right?”
Manuel nodded but kept working on his sandwich as he adjusted something inside his parka. Dukes and Boyboy checked their straps too.
Clancy keyed on the outside speaker again. “Okay, Shady…but I am going to search you for a wire if you come in here. If I find one, goodnight and good luck, yeah? That’s on you.”
–I ain’t g-got a fuckin’ wire on me, b-bro.–
“We don’t sell rock here, neither.”
–Oh come on, man….–
Clancy studied Shady’s odd posture a moment longer, then decided he was imagining it and buzzed him in.
Shady struggled a bit with the heavy metal door but made it in and shuffled as he came down the aisle between the racks toward them.
Clancy sat back down and continued eating, but all humor had drained from him. He didn’t like the way Shady was moving. It was like he had a concussion or a head injury. His legs moved funny and his back was curved to one side.
Manuel eyed Shady. “What the fuck you want, man? We’re eating.”
“I c-can see that. Won’t be long. S-so I ran into this guy. Real weird. But he had q-questions….”
Dukes finished the first half of his sandwich and wiped his mouth. “About what?”
“Lemme finish, shit. You remember that j-job at the mansion back east?”
Clancy’s blood ran cold. He kept eating but readied himself. He could see Manuel’s demeanor change subtly too, but Dukes and Boyboy didn’t know what Shady was talking about.
Clancy shook his head. “Nah, don’t know what you mean.”
“Big mansion. Good s-score. But there was a small chest in a big safe. That was the real target. The rest was just gravy, right?”
Shady had a real weird look in his eyes. Hollow. Blank. Almost like a puppet’s.
Clancy finished his sandwich and looked around for napkins, then made a show of spotting some paper towels on the workbench behind him like he was real frustrated.
“Fuckin’ chintzy deli. Shady, I think I know what you’re talkin’ about, now that you say it that way.”
He got up and walked to the workbench, then grabbed a paper towel and wiped off his mouth and hands. “But here’s the thing….”
“I don’t know who you are—but Shady here wouldn’t know shit about that job!”
Clancy threw a makeshift toggle switch near the monitors, bare wires exposed that ran to a control box he’d patched together—
All over the warehouse, strobing ultraviolet lights kicked on and the fire sprinklers in the high ceiling started spraying out a special fluid along with the water from a canister Clancy had patched into the system’s supply line.
The cascading fluid-water mixture and lights bathed the whole warehouse in a pulsing, eerie pale purplish blue—and revealed a tall, hunched figure behind Shady J in a haunting green haze that had been completely invisible before.
Manuel stood and backed away from the table and the strange figure with Shady, tipping his folding chair over with a hollow clank. His hand went into his parka and came out with a large short-barrel revolver that he pointed at Shady J and the stranger.
Dukes recoiled from the figure near the table too, tripping over his chair and falling on his ass and slapping down on his hands.
Boyboy just stared at the strange human-shaped form, still sitting at the table, half-full mouth agape.
Clancy couldn’t take his eyes off the phantom-like thing that seemed to be holding Shady tightly in front of itself. Even worse—one of its long-fingered hands seemed to disappear into the back of his neck and head, like a puppeteer’s would.
Clancy opened one of the lower workbench tool cabinets and pulled out a cut down pump-action “Witness Protection” style 12-gauge shotgun.
He racked the fore-end to chamber the first round and aimed at the thing’s blurry, glowing head, which was close behind Shady J’s.
The figure straightened some and looked up, some sort of glimmering sheer cloth covering and clinging to its head. Its ghostly pale face was translucent, revealing what looked like a black skull to match its big, black eyes. After it examined the sprinklers and lights, it looked back down—locking its eyes on Clancy’s, causing him to shudder.
Then it spoke, which was even worse.
“You were…expecting me?”
Clancy nodded behind his big raised gun. “I heard some things, yeah! Bromley, right?”
Bromley nodded. “Indeed.”
Dukes said, “Madre de Dios…,” and grabbed Boyboy as he was getting himself up, pulling his friend with him as he retreated.
“And all this?” Bromley said, raising his free hand and twirling one of his long fingers around toward the ceiling and lights.
Clancy gripped his gun, hoping Bromley couldn’t see his hands shaking. “I do my research—know some people!”
Bromley frowned. “Some people?”
“People that know about weird-ass shit like you!”
Bromley smiled. “Well, let’s see how much they really know, shall we?”
Clancy fired his shotgun and the top half of Shady’s head came apart—
But Bromley had already ducked behind his Shady J puppet and pulled his long-fingered hand out of the man’s brain—then Bromley heaved Shady’s convulsing body at Clancy, who dropped to the floor as the thief’s body sailed over the card table.
As the convulsing form slammed into the workbench, Clancy racked his next round into the shotgun’s chamber and blindly fired toward where Bromley had just been, mulching the card table and its legs on one side.
The remnants of their sandwiches were sprayed and thrown all over from the searing buckshot—
But Bromley wasn’t standing where he had been.
Shady’s near-lifeless body was twitching and spasming on the floor to Clancy’s left—but Bromley was laughing as he tore Dukes apart to his right.
Back on Clancy’s left, Manuel fired his big revolver at the wraithlike man until it emptied, then backpedaled as he swapped out a quick-load from a parka pocket and tucked himself behind the cover of one of the almost ceiling-high warehouse storage racks before firing again.
Manuel clicked empty and went for another quick-load. “Clancy, come on!”
Clancy hauled himself to his feet and crossed toward Manuel, disoriented by the lights and sprinklers he himself had installed. Wiped the water and special fluid out of his eyes with the back of one hand while still ready with the shotgun—then remembered to pump it, ejecting the spent shell and racking the next.
Clancy looked over toward where Dukes had been screaming—and was now in several messy parts all over that corner of the warehouse—then caught a glimpse of Bromley’s phantom-like glowing form pursuing Boyboy down the far aisle and fired—
But missed and Bromley was out of sight.
As Clancy reached the aisle Manuel was at the start of, Manuel started down it and Clancy followed.
Boyboy started screaming a couple aisles over but with sounds of bones snapping parts being thrown around and slapping down on the warehouse floor, they ceased.
Manuel stutter-stepped to a stop and Clancy did the same, spinning around and aiming his shotgun down the way they’d come as Manuel aimed ahead. All Clancy saw was glowing unnatural rain, and puddles of it collecting on the blue-tinged black of the dark aisle floor.
Clancy heard something and turned his head halfway back toward Manuel—
In time to see Bromley’s ghostly pale green form drop down between them and grab Manuel.
Clancy turned and raised his gun—but couldn’t fire without hitting Manuel, a childhood friend and lifelong confidant and partner.
He sidestepped around to the front of Bromley and Manuel like he was conducting a holdup, but Bromley was the one in control, and Clancy knew it.
“Let him go!”
Bromley smiled. “This one means more to you? You didn’t kill him without hesitation like the idiot thief.”
Clancy said nothing but the shotgun shook in his hands.
Manuel raised and tried to angle his pistol up to shoot his captor—but Bromley just grabbed the man’s forearm and snapped it effortlessly, the gun firing wide and the recoil causing the arm to buckle and flop down, the gun dropping from its grip and clattering to the floor.
Manuel cried out in agony and Bromley started wrapping his own body around him. It was like bear hug judo hold done by a leering chiropractor—
Bromley held Manuel tight as he wrapped one leg around both of his and took him off his feet, then used his longer body and powerful grip to wrench Manuel’s upper body away from his legs, the skin tearing as the bones broke and dislocated and internal organs and flesh inside ripped too.
Manuel’s eyes went wild as his innards spilled down to the warehouse floor and he screamed—until Bromley hooked the fingers of his free hand in from above across the roof of his mouth—and pulled the man’s head off his upper spine like he was a toy.
“No!” Clancy bellowed, and fired his shotgun—
But Bromley was too quick and ducked enough that it only peppered his shoulder, and he laughed as he held up Manuel’s mess of a body as a shield.
Clancy racked his shotgun and squeezed the trigger again—*click*
He dropped it and spun back toward the front of the warehouse and the entry door. He ran hard, slipping some but keeping his footing.
As he reached the entry door, something struck the warehouse inside wall to his left and slapped down, rolling a bit—
Clancy looked back and saw Bromley grinning at him from the end of the aisle he’d just escaped. Then he fumbled with the warehouse door and stumbled out into the rainy night.
The warehouse was in an industrial area of downtown and it was late enough that there was no one on the street that he could see. He’d left his car keys back on the workbench so he just ran past his beloved 1987 Buick GNX and across a rain-pelted four-way intersection.
He remembered a subcompact Glock .45 he kept in a concealed carry holster below the small of his back and slowed to a jog to take it out.
Clancy heard a squeal of metal and slamming and looked back over his shoulder—
Bromley’s tall, striding form was still a bit visible outside of the specially lit warehouse, but only because the special fluid in the sprinkler water was still streaming down him in eerie, now-dimmer green. But the rain was washing it off and Clancy realized with a chill that once that fluid was all off him, Bromley would be invisible again.
Clancy rushed around the nearest street corner and rushed down the sidewalk on one side of a slickened street between an old factory and another warehouse, both quiet and dark.
Down the street he could see the glow from the windows of a meat cold storage and distribution plant and knew there would be other people.
Through the downpour, Clancy heard the light slapping of footsteps and looked back—
Bromley was coming but he could barely see him now, most of the fluid rinsed off him and no special lights to even light that up.
But he could still faintly see that grin, almost ear-to-ear, and his shark-like black eyes ringed by their whites in his pale, black-skulled face.
Clancy redoubled his efforts, sprinting toward the light of the cold storage plant.
As he reached a metal door and pounded on it, he looked back and couldn’t see Bromley at all. He looked in a half frosted over square window on the door and saw cold split pigs running down conveyers they were hanging from into huge walk-in refrigerators—then a worker in a thick, insulated jumpsuit, hood, and mask approaching the door. Clancy pointed down, gesturing to open it.
The worker shook their head and waved their arms. He pounded on the door again, then flipped the worker off—which got the reaction he wanted, from the burning glare and frown he saw take over the worker’s brow.
The worker came to the door and unlocked it, yelling—
Clancy wrenched it open and stuck his Glock in their face.
He tried to close the door behind him but something he couldn’t see was holding it—then it swung all the way open, seemingly on its own.
Knowing it was Bromley, Clancy fired three shots at the open door—hitting nothing, somehow, except the wall across the street and street itself—and started running through the chill-box-cold of the facility.
The shots he’d fired had cleared most of the working areas out but he saw workers tucking themselves behind things and peaking for a look down corridors and around corners and rows of hanging pig corpses, some gently swinging from their conveyer hooks.
Clancy ran down an aisle between two rows of swaying butterflied cold pigs away from the way he’d come in. He could see a double door on the far side of big fridge area he was in and pumped his legs, gun ready and ears tuned for anything—
Bromley’s voice boomed right by his head and he spun in reflex—still seeing nothing, then tripping on his own twisting feet and collapsing to the cold floor and sliding a few feet across its smooth surface.
He swung his gun around the direction the voice had come from as he pulled himself along the floor.
“I don’t even know where that little fucking chest is now!”
Bromley chuckled in the ether back the way Clancy had come.
“I don’t believe that. You’re an ignorant, awful piece of shit, but from what I’ve come across, you’re a pretty capable criminal. Not the type to be sloppy…when it’s important.”
Bromley’s head became visible as he pulled the shimmering covering off his face and head, then the rest of him blurred into view.
Given an obvious target, Clancy fired his Glock at Bromley’s head and chest, shredding and pulping them all over—until it was empty.
“My word—how aggressive….”
Bromley caressed his own mulched face and chest, even digging around to get his fingers nice and covered in almost ink-black crimson blood.
“You all know some things about me…but never enough. Maybe if you communicated more clearly, you’d have better luck.”
Then he spread his arms wide, slathering the split pig carcasses on either side of him with his deep redness as he took a few steps forward.
“I wish I could help you to understand my point of view. How about this….”
Clancy could see the split dead pig bodies changing where Bromley’s filthy-looking blood had been slathered. Pulsing. Muscle tissue tightening.
“Have you ever loved someone or something so deeply…only to have it taken from you? Stolen from you? By disease, trauma, or…thieves?”
Clancy couldn’t speak, all his attention focused on the pigs Bromley had touched.
The halved pigs were convulsing now—the very dead pigs. And because they were already in halves, the muscle convulsions caused the ribs and other bones to go in and out of sight as they slid back into their natural sheathes.
“Now, imagine the longest you ever felt that…and stretch it out. That month or six months or year. Maybe even a few years. But imagine feeling that for hundreds of years.”
The half pigs spasmed and clenched so hard they slapped against others Bromley hadn’t touched—but those started changing too.
“And even worse—all that shit people say about time healing wounds and making things easier. No. It only makes it worse.”
All the afflicted pigs were oozing fluid that looked like Bromley’s sickening blood—then swollen bulges appeared in the pigs’ bodies that broke open, revealing rudimentary, misshapen eyes, mouths, and what looked to Clancy like swollen unnecessary organs that grew and drooped down, soon touching the floor and spreading like sacs filled with surgical waste and its fermenting juices.
“Deep aching. Longing. Worsened…almost by the second.”
Bromley took a couple long strides to reach Clancy sliding himself along the floor and crouched.
“I’m sure you’ve been told I’m a sadist. That I take pleasure in all this disgusting violence I….” Bromley seemed to choke up. “But the truth is I hate it. I am a tortured soul, pushed to the edge of sanity….”
Bromley covered his mangled face with a bloody hand and chuckled, trying to stifle a big laugh.
“I almost made it through that with a straight face. No, it’s too true. I will enjoy every moment of this, whether you tell me what I want to know or not.”
Clancy died badly. As tough as he was, his pain threshold was low. To his credit, when Bromley had started really digging in with his special abilities and tools, as some might call them, he was pretty sure all the names Clancy had blurted out—from between clenched teeth and blood seeping from around and between them—were complete fabrications, or at least not people who were involved in any way.
Bromley inserted Clancy’s car key into his black Buick GNX’s driver door, opened it, and got in. The man had been so saddened running past the car that he’d left a kind of psychic imprint of it—as well as the location of the keys back in the warehouse, since his turmoil was caused by not having them. With his special abilities and clothing, Bromley was able to walk right past police officers who had finally arrived there—as he also had the officers storming the meat cold storage facility with guns drawn, expecting who knows what due to the workers’ frantic calls to emergency—and retrieve the car keys before calmly waltzing back out.
He started the engine, a special turbocharged, intercooled V-6 all of the limited run of GNXs had, and felt it rumble, its turbo whining in-between gentle presses of the accelerator.
Bromley could now appreciate Clancy’s deep love for his automobile firsthand.
It filled him with added pleasure to be taking that insect of a man’s most prized possession, especially after killing him so painfully.
The only thing of use Clancy had given Bromley when he was “asked” about the small chest was a general impression of California, a few states west of where he sat now in the rumbling, whining Buick.
He eased into the gas pedal and drove off, a few police officers glancing his way in the swirling of blue and red lights on their parked cruisers, but none of them understanding the significance of the automobile and its new driver. Then he drove the speed limit until reaching a freeway onramp heading west.
Bromley could wait, as he had for so long. With any luck, someone in California would open the chest. He’d never seen the portable protective enclosure those old, dead bastards had created to keep him unaware of his prize’s location, but he assumed it must invite curiosity.
Eventually, someone always opened the small chest and laid their eyes on his precious jade octopus—or whatever it chose to look like to them.
When the next person indulged said curiosity, heading west would have brought him that much closer to it.
About the Author
PATRICK LOVELAND writes screenplays, novels, and short stories. By day, he works at a state college in Southern California, where he lives with his wife, young daughter, and a cat so black he seems to absorb light. Patrick’s stories have appeared in anthologies and periodicals published by April Moon Books, Shadow Work Publishing, EyeCue Productions, Bold Venture Press, Sirens Call Publications, Indie Authors Press, PHANTAXIS, and the award-winning Crime Factory zine. Patrick’s first novel, A Tear in the Veil, was published in June of 2017 by April Moon Books. His first short story collection (including its titular novella) TOO MANY EYES and Other Thrilling Strange Tales is forthcoming. https://patrickloveland.com/ https://patrickloveland.com/