Authors: Jennifer Martucci,Christopher Martucci
Arianna Rose: The Gates of Hell
By Jennifer and Christopher Martucci
ARIANNA ROSE: THE GATES OF HELL (PART5)
Published by Jennifer and Christopher Martucci
Copyright © 2014
All rights reserved.
First edition: January 2014
Cover design by Indie Designz
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are a product of the authors’ imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
“You will die before night’s end,” the woman who’d just sat down beside Suzette Fontaine announced.
Wearing a draping black cloak with the hood pulled over her head so that only long cords of wiry gray hair peeked out and framed one milky eye that drooped lower than the other brown one, the woman was truly frightening to behold. Little did she know, however, Suzette did not scare easily.
Suzette refused to
respond. She simply stared blankly at the old woman, allowing her eyes to roam the side of her face that sagged significantly.
“Hmm,” the old woman emitted an odd rumble from somewhere deep in her throat.
Still, Suzette remained unfazed, partly because she was too exhausted to react, and partly because the threat of death had shared her bed for more than a decade. She knew that monsters existed, but the human kind, not the supernatural kind. She didn’t believe the old woman before her possessed any special powers to predict her demise. So she turned away from her and leaned back, allowing her head to tip backward, the events of the day weighing on her with leaden heaviness.
An eight-hour shift during the busy
week leading up to a holiday had sapped every ounce of her strength. Her feet throbbed in time with her temples and her lower back complained. Physically, she was drained. Being on her feet all day long while manning her check stand at the local supermarket had taken its toll on her body. But that was the least of her complaints about her occupation. The work wasn’t backbreaking in and of itself. The people were another story entirely. They were taxing on her patience, on her morale. The stares, the heads cocked to one side when someone realized who she was then Googled all the details. The tight frowns, the whispers and the occasional inappropriate question truly tested her spirits. She thought she’d be accustomed to it by now, the typical chain of events that led to others realizing where they’d seen her, grasping who she was. But she wasn’t, and did not feel as if she ever would be.
Though years had passed
, and she’d begun and walked away from more jobs than she could count, the process never got any easier. Hearing the hushed tones with her name mentioned among them in the break room, being actively ignored or avoided altogether by coworkers, and eating lunch alone, always alone, grew unbearable no matter the city or the position.
She had not been at Jack’s Pick and Pack for long, and already she’d started experiencing that all-too-familiar feeling, the sensation that something inside her was stretched so thin it threatened to snap.
Of course, she knew she’d never snap in either the violent or dramatized sense of the word. She wouldn’t contact her local television studio affiliates and urge them to do a human interest piece on discrimination in the workplace, and she certainly wouldn’t plant bombs or buy a gun and shoot the place up. She would simply walk away, leave as she always did.
Leaving, though enticing, was not an option just yet. She still had three months left on the lease agreement for the
apartment she rented. It also didn’t solve much of anything as each place she moved to and each job she held invariably led to the same thing. Furthermore, she really liked her current apartment. She couldn’t wait to get there. She wished she could teleport to it and avoid the awful bus ride.
Most days, the constant jostling, the roar of the engine, and the incessant chatter of passengers on the bus went unnoticed.
Most days she did not sit beside a woman who just forecast her death before the night ended. Most days, she was unaware of the potpourri of body odor, stale cigarettes, exhaust fumes and fried food. Most days, she rode oblivious of it all. Then again, most days weren’t the anniversary of her husband’s execution. Perhaps that was what was making a bad day worse. Perhaps.
Movement in her periphery
ripped Suzette from thoughts of her husband’s life and death and caused her to turn her head, a flurry of black material accompanied by a puff of decay tinged with Chanel No. 5. The old woman had pulled the cord on the bus, indicating to the driver that she wanted off, and was on her feet. She spun and drilled Suzette with a haunting gaze before turning and making her way down the aisle.
For a moment, Suzette’s heart sped. For a moment, she swore she glimpsed what the woman
claimed to have seen. But the moment passed almost as quickly as it had begun. Harsh reality returned. More people climbed on board.
numerous stops and a rider sitting beside her with nauseatingly bad breath and a phlegmy cough to go with it, the bus sputtered to a stop just a block from her building. She practically sprang to her feet and bounded off, inhaling a lungful of air as soon as her feet hit asphalt.
The air was
warm and mild, and while not particularly fresh, it was still heads and shoulders better than what she’d been breathing in while on the bus.
that’s more like it,” she muttered to herself absently before pulling the hood of her raincoat over her head and making her way down the street.
Wind howled like an injured
animal as it whipped between buildings and sent beads of rain lashing at her face. Night had fallen and the only light around her came from small shops and the few streetlamps that actually worked. No one could see her face clearly. She moved in shadows, in complete anonymity at the moment, until she reached the front entrance of her building. She immediately twisted her key in the lock and pushed the door open. She was greeted by a stuffy, hard-to-pin-down scent of multiple ethnic foods cooking at once that mingled with aftershave and mildew—the distinctive scent of her building. Home. No one noticed her there. And if they did, they did not make it known. Fellow tenants went about the business of their lives as if she wasn’t there, a fact she was grateful for.
the staircase as quickly as her aching legs and feet allowed.
Once three flights
had been climbed and the ingress to her apartment was in sight, a small cry of relief nearly slipped past her lips.
She unlocked her
front door and stepped inside, leaving her keys, coat and purse on the small table in the hallway then made a beeline for the kitchen where a bottle of wine waited on the counter. She filled a tumbler to the brim and closed her eyes as she raised it to her lips and took a long drink. She emptied the glass then refilled it and made her way into the bathroom. She paused in the living room and debated watching a little television to try to unwind, but decided against it. Neither reality shows nor comedies would hold her interest on this night. And the news would only loop broadcasts of the anniversary of the execution of one of the country’s most notorious serial killers, her husband.
She took another swig of her wine and closed her eyes.
Fifteen years had passed since her life had gone to hell. Fifteen years had passed since she’d returned in the middle of the night from a weeklong visit with her mother and discovered what Beau was.
She’d left her mother’
s earlier than planned, and had just stepped inside her house after a long bus ride and an even longer walk. She’d gone directly to their bedroom and though she hadn’t seen her husband’s car in the driveway, she’d assumed it had been parked in the garage and had expected to find him asleep. She’d found their bed was empty, instead. She’d passed the living room and he hadn’t been there either. The kitchen light had been turned off, but sometimes, when he couldn’t sleep, he would sit at the kitchen table and smoke in the dark. She’d marched in, only to find that he hadn’t been there.
Nerves had begun to get the better of her. But n
ot long after she’d realized he wasn’t home, his car pulled into their driveway with the headlights off. Perplexed, she’d watched him as he, unaware of her presence, had headed to his shed carrying something in a large black bag.
Too large and slender to be a car part she recognized, she’d thought it weird for him to transport an object such as the one he’d held. She
’d wondered why he hadn’t had it delivered to his garage, why he’d been bringing it to the shed.
She’d never been out to the shed
. Beau had been adamant that she steer clear of it. He’d told her he had car parts and tools arranged just so, that his livelihood, their financial health, depended on her allowing him his private workspace. At the time, it’d seemed like a reasonable request. But on the night she’d seen him carrying the black bag, she’d known on a level that superseded reason that his shed housed more than just car parts and tools. In her bones, she’d known that something far more nefarious was afoot.
After Beau had deposited the bag in the shed, he’d traversed the lawn and made his way back to their house. Suzette had quickly scurried from the kitchen window.
She’d busied herself at the sink, washing a cup and plate he’d left behind, and had recoiled when she’d heard the doorknob rattle, though she’d been unsure why at the time.
The door had opened
. Beau had filled the entryway. A small gust of wind had blown and had carried his scent on the air. He’d always smelled of motor oil, as if it had been permanently embedded in his pores, and nicotine. But on the night she’d learned what he was, he’d smelled of something else. The wind had brought a strange, new odor, one that had been coppery and unmistakable. It had carried the scent of blood.
When he’d stepped through the door
and turned on the light, he’d seen her there. Surprise had flashed across his features briefly, but had been quickly replaced by his usual, impassive expression. He had thrust both hands in his pockets, his preferred way to stand, and had leaned against the counter, watching her with stark, enigmatic blue eyes.
“Hello, darlin’,” he’d drawled. “
You’re back early.”
His demeanor had been so calm, so offhand. It had almost disarmed the warning bells ringing within her; almost. In hindsight, she knew his calm offhanded demeanor was the calculated veneer of a sadistic child murderer. Back then, she’d just suspected something
had been off.
They’d chatted in the kitchen. He’d been his normal self, listening carefully as she’d spoken, nodding along as she’d described her mother’s poor health. He hadn’t been overly sympathetic or overly affectionate. He’d behaved as he’d always behaved, offering no explanation for his late-night excursion, or his trip to the shed, same as always. She’d have thought he’d had a mistress were it not for the fact that, like everything else, their intimacy
had been limited and predictable, as if it had been part of an ongoing narrative that had to be followed to the letter. He’d never possessed the hot-blooded drive of a man his age, the passion.
He’d gone upstairs to shower then
had retired to bed. She’d followed shortly after. But while he’d slept deeply, she’d tossed and turned. The shed had plagued her, beckoning her with urgency that had been inexplicable.
She’d waited until the next morning when he’d gone to work before she’d ventured out into the backyard and broke the lock to his shed.
Once inside, she’d sucked in a sharp breath at what had awaited her. Tools and car parts had been absent. The only things present had been filled, oversized bags. Bag after bag made of heavy plastic and in varying colors had been stacked against each wall.
Suzette had approached the one nearest
to her. With a trembling hand, she’d unzipped the full-length zipper. The fetid stink of rotting flesh and rusting metal had hit her as soon as the bag had been opened. Her hands had flown to her mouth and stifled the scream that had threatened to rip from her, as well as the urge to retch. She’d opened a half dozen. The contents of them similar: graying flesh, hollow, lifeless stares, and mouths contorted into eternal, silent screams.
Her entire body
had trembled uncontrollably. She hadn’t known the ages of any of the victims’ bodies in the bags. Those slain had been beyond recognition. Decomposition had claimed much of their features. But she’d been certain of one. The girl in the black bag Beau had carried to the shed the night before, the only one who’d retained the facial characteristics she’d had in life. Carla Delgado, the little girl with special needs who’d disappeared from the neighboring town in which they’d lived, her picture had been all over the news, placed on flyers and posted in every shop. Police and volunteers had scoured every square inch of the county looking for her, or so they’d thought. He’d held her hostage at an abandoned cabin in a wooded area nearby, torturing her before finally killing her. He’d returned with her body, a trophy he’d added to his collection.