Authors: Melissa Parkin
Copyright © 2013 by Melissa Parkin
book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real people, real locales, or
historical events are used fictitiously. Other characters, names, places, and
incidents are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual
locales, events, or people, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The author
holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.
of water cascaded into small puddles across the cement floor, affixing to the
potent odor of mold and mildew permeating the cellar. No matter how strong the
musty stench was though, nothing could conceal the unmistakable metallic tang
of blood, both new and old.
tell us what we want to know, and this can all end now,” spoke a calm voice, resonating
from a dark corner of the room. “If not, my friends here will happily continue
in their quest to persuade you.”
single light bulb hanged overhead in the center of the basement, its bright
intensity creating an island of isolation over the man in question as he sat
limply in an iron chair. Broken, beaten, and desperately coughing to find
relief, Donovan choked on the blood sliding down his throat. Looking through
the dampened tangles of hair plastered over his eyes, he watched figures loom
about in the shadowed open space, inching closer like great white sharks about
to make surface-charges.
to Hell,” he said, bracing himself for the impact.
my first choice for vacationing this season,” cracked the same voice in the
darkness. “Unseasonably hot this time of year.”
desperately fidgeting at the restraints digging into his wrists and ankles,
Donovan yelped in agony as a blow from a heavy fist registered to the back of
doesn’t suit you,” said the stranger, striking a lighter with a gleeful snap.
The subtle glow highlighted his mouth, which was tightened to a sadistic grin
as a cigarette sat between his lips. Taking a deep breath, the bud burned like
smoldering coal as he snapped the lighter shut. “And I’m not entirely certain
why you’re resisting here? We both know that there’s no cavalry coming to your
rescue. You’ve done an impeccable job at isolating yourself.”
what makes you think I would know anything then?” barked Donovan.
you asked,” replied the stranger, emerging from the shadows with an assertive
stride. “Not only do I have it on high authority that you do know, but the very
fact of your existence says everything. It was your job.”
been for some time.”
don’t tell me that transgression and age have robbed you of your memory,” the
stranger said, grabbing a folding chair resting against the wall. He opened it
up and placed it in front of Donovan, turning it backwards so that when he sat,
his arms slackened on the backrest. “You’ve been in this game almost as long as
we have, so spill.”
why would I tell you? My fate was decided the moment you dragged me down here.
Doesn’t matter what I say, we both know I’m not leaving.”
be so sure of that. I have the distinct feeling that living with the ensuing
destruction you’ll implement will be acceptable punishment enough. Wouldn’t
want you to get off easy now. Sometimes the conscience can be deadlier than any
the more reason to keep my mouth shut,” spat Donovan.
now, don’t go all altruistic on me,” teased the stranger, blowing a mouthful of
smoke into Donovan’s face. “It’s not exactly rocket science to put two and two
together. That’s the one thing that separates us from you. We don’t have
weaknesses. You, on the other hand, wouldn’t have turned from the high life
unless it was for something, or someone, truly worthwhile, giving you a
color in Donovan’s cheeks waned, leaving him as ghostly white as snow blossoms.
I hit a nerve there, didn’t I?” the stranger teased, pulling out a menacing 12
inch ka-bar knife from inside his jacket. Its carmine stained carbon steel
blade gleamed under the burning bulb as he admired the device. “If your years
in the business have taught you anything, you’re well-versed on our tactics. We
have the patience for execution, and not only do we have no mercy for those who
hinder our plans, we truly savor the sadism of inflicting pain on those
individuals. So don’t think that your loved ones will be spared from our
cruelty. And yes, we know all about them.”
the external pain, nothing was more agonizing than the knot that manifested in
Donovan’s stomach as morality and love dueled for victory. His eyes clouded
over, tears streaking down his battered face upon blinking.
said the stranger, running the clip point of the knife beneath his own bottom
lip satisfyingly. “Looks like we may have just come to a compromise.”
of orange and gold haloed the borders of my window shades, notifying me that it
was just after dawn. I pulled my arm out from under the covers and slapped the
alarm clock until its incessant, strident shrieking stopped. The cool morning
air bit at my bare skin, so I instinctively retracted my arm back into the
warmth of my comforter. I snuggled up again, but as much as I wanted to return
to the safety of a dream state, it was still Tuesday. It was time for school.
finally surrendered to the morning and threw off the blankets. As I opened my
bedroom door to head to the bathroom, I was greeted with the mouth-watering
aroma of coffee overwhelming the upstairs hallway. My dad was an early riser
and always had a fresh pot ready in the kitchen even before the sun would rise.
That was one of the ways that I differed from him. I’d never really been a
morning person. Granted, I wasn’t the type to sleep until noon if given the
chance, but I didn’t want to be the one waking up the roosters either.
through my same, monotonous morning routine with bleary eyes urging me to
return to my bed, I threw on a self-made, off-the-shoulder Aerosmith top and a
pair of vintage leather pants before hurrying downstairs to knock back a full
cup of Joe. Normally, I’d make some eggs, but I settled for the simplicity of a
bagel. No preparing time. Best friend of the lethargic. I didn’t even bother
with a plate out of sheer laziness, and ate the butterless bread over the sink
to avoid getting crumbs anywhere.
huh? You stay up studying last night?”
turned to see my dad standing in the entryway of the side door that went out to
shook my head, downing the last bit of my breakfast. “No, I just didn’t sleep
well. Restless mind, you know.”
make sure to eat something with some actual nutritional substance for lunch,”
do,” I replied. “How’s Lucille?”
all other women, she’s giving me a hard time,” my dad said, his long dark hair
falling into his eyes as he cleaned oil and grease out from under his
fingernails with an old rag. “I’ve been under her since five-thirty, but her
engine just won’t give me anything.”
pretty sure that’s the only time I’m ever gonna hear you say something like
that and not be creeped out,” I chuckled.
be a smartass,” he said, playfully nudging me away from the sink so that he
could wash off his hands.
was a black 1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass SS, and she was worth every bit of
frustration he put into fixing her. He inherited Lucille from my grandmother,
who somehow inherited it from her former neighbor. It had been sitting in her
garage for ages, and he had made it his new pet project to get the car up and
unbuckled my black satchel book bag that was sitting on the kitchen table and
sorted through it to make sure I had everything I needed for the day.
here,” said my dad, seeing a red 1994 Saturn Sport Coupe pull up in front of
take it easy on him,” I said. “There’s nothing wrong with being eccentric.”
young man who aspires to be a Steampunk David Copperfield, yeah, what’s not to
pulled on my leather coat and shoved the ends of my pants into knee-high
stiletto boots before collecting my things.
what, you’d be more accepting of him if he lived out of flannel shirts and
Lynyrd Skynyrd concert tees like you do?” I chimed back.
hurt,” he replied with a sarcastic smile.
you,” I said, kissing him on the cheek before heading for the foyer.
as the first knock registered at the front door, I unlocked and pulled it open
to see none other than my best friend, Ian Callaghan, standing at the front
steps dressed in his unusually-usual attire. Donned in a black brocade frock
coat with bucket cufflinks, a partially unbuttoned black dress shirt, dark
acid-washed blue jeans, and black pointy-toed boots, he looked as if he had
stepped out of the Victorian era and had not yet become fully accustomed to
modern fashion, which was quite refreshing. His peculiar choice in style
accentuated the slightness of his frame, which made him appear lankier than he
really was. Though the weeks of autumn had washed away the tan from his
complexion, his long, chest nut, razor cut locks were still kissed with
sun-induced highlights. Despite his deceptively matured, sharply angular
cheekbones and his thin, almond-shaped, pale green eyes, his infectiously wide
smile and cleft chin managed to give him a boyish charm.
morning, beautiful,” said Ian.
stranger,” I replied.
Foster,” Ian acknowledged, looking over my shoulder to see my dad eyeing him
back with a somewhat judgmental once-over.
my dad replied out of politeness. “You two have a safe drive.”
said Ian. “
Fast and the Furious
is behind the wheel today. She insists
that since it’s her car, she gets to drive.”
Gwen at least take off her shoes?” I asked.
she’s wearing five inch wedges, and is hell bent in believing that they don’t
impair her ability to work the foot pedals.”
I’ve clocked in sixteen years on this planet. Despite my hopes for an
extension, I guess I’ve had a good run. Just make sure not to bury me in the
Pet Cemetery,” I teased.
do,” said Ian.
be safe, Cassie,” cautioned my dad.
I replied, waving goodbye as Ian and I walked down from the porch.
take the back seat,” I said, approaching the car.
sure? I will happily relinquish my position at shotgun,” he said.
Gwen hits something, which will most likely be head-on, the back seat may help
lessen the impact,” I remarked.
that case, may I join you?”
parking their butt in the passenger seat!” called out Gwen, seeing Ian open the
backdoor and gesturing me through. “I’m not gonna look like I’m chauffeuring
you two around.”
for me to grab my ankles and kiss my ass goodbye,” said Ian, closing my door
and taking the seat up front.
smacked her lips as she coated them with a fresh layer of peach-colored gloss
and turned up the volume on the radio before putting the car back into gear.
are we listening to?” Ian asked, cringing at the sounds of a hyper pop song.
you have to hate everything popular?” Gwen snapped back.
the ten minutes they spent in the car together between Ian’s house and mine had
been nine minutes too long.
what’s popular is total crap, then, yeah, I do,” he replied.
it was total crap, then it wouldn’t be popular, would it? The general populace
overrules your verdict, so I declare victory.”
not even going to dignify that with a response,” said Ian.
you don’t have an actual argument. There’s music out there other than your
miserable, anger-infused hard rock garbage,” said Gwen.
at least the artists I listen to have enough talent to not have to make up
their own vocabulary just so their lyrics can rhyme, unlike what your generic
pop-princesses resort to,” he shot back as he shuffled a deck of cards in his
reached between them and changed the radio to a classic rock station, where The
Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” granted us equal satisfaction, so Ian and Gwen
surrendered to call the outcome of their debate a
three cards," said Ian, turning to me with the deck fanned out.
did as he said, pulling out each from a completely different location in the
me guess... Queen of hearts, nine of clubs, and the four of diamonds," he
declared, even without me returning the cards to the deck.
that's unsettling," I said laughingly, turning the cards around to reveal
their identities. "Cool, but unsettling."
know, they had a place for people like you around here back in the seventeenth
century," said Gwen, looking over at Ian as he showed her the results as