Authors: Bryan Smith
Will Hopkins, pizza delivery guy extraordinaire, was on his last run of the night. He’d hit two of the three houses on the run already, and the last came into view as he rounded a bend on a residential road.
, he thought,
almost quittin’ time
He was already considering the array of post-work activities that awaited him upon his return to Casa Hopkins. First, and this was absolutely non-negotiable, he’d pop open a cold Old Milwaukee. Then he’d turn on the tube and hunt down something good and sleazy. Jerry Springer, maybe. Or maybe some soft-core porn on Skin-e-max.
But first he had to take care of business.
Will drove past the house, made a wide, looping turn in the dark cul-de-sac just past the house, and pulled to a stop at the curb next to the mailbox.
His headlights briefly illumined the back of a van before he clicked them off.
The house was the only one on the street with lit windows. Not too many people were up late in a neighborhood like this. These were working-class people. Responsible people with mortgages and bills to pay. Will supposed he was doomed to one day inhabit a house just like this one. He would have a non-exciting job that required him to get up at an ungodly hour. He would have a reasonably attractive—but not beautiful—wife and a kid or two.
It was depressing.
He didn’t want to be an ‘average Joe’.
He lifted the pizza off the passenger seat, swung the driver’s side door open, and got out. The strap-on Pizza Zone sign glowed dimly atop the roof of his Toyota hatchback. The cool night air felt good. A gentle breeze ruffled his shaggy hair as he walked down the driveway toward the house.
He ascended some steps to the front porch, jabbed the doorbell, stepped back, and waited for the door to open.
He heard muffled movement beyond the door. A clomp of footsteps, something that sounded like a beanbag hitting a floor, and a metallic rattle that might have been keys rattling on a ring. Or a big pile of dishes shifting in a sink. Or cutlery clinking in a tray. Knives and forks and spoons.
He took an unconscious, shuffling step back to the edge of the porch. His stomach had that funny, fluttery feeling he got when something didn’t feel right. But he was in a nice neighborhood. Some boozed-up redneck wasn’t about to open the door and start giving him shit. This wasn’t a goddamn trailer park. Nor were there any predators prowling the well-lighted streets.
Well, probably not.
Shit, definitely not—there were too many other neighborhoods more conducive to the activities of petty criminals. Neighborhoods that Pizza Zone, thank God on his almighty fucking throne in heaven, didn’t service.
He heard more movement from inside the house.
The footsteps again, booted feet, getting louder for a moment, then receding, followed by a dimmer sound of something sliding across a floor.
Will breathed an exasperated sigh. “Jesus,” he muttered. “What are they doing in there, moving furniture? Come on, peeps, I wanna go home.”
The door stayed shut.
His mind turned again to the entertainment he had planned for the evening. He was pretty sure Skin-e-max was showing a double feature of Shannon Tweed psycho-slut-from-hell movies. Thinking about Shannon Tweed’s breasts fueled his impatience, and he stepped forward to jab the doorbell again.
Then, for good measure, he banged on the door with the base of a fist.
Tell me you didn’t hear that, fuckers.
The entreaty escalation produced immediate results.
Will heard the unmistakable sound of a deadbolt being thrown back. Then there was a slow grinding sound—metal sliding against metal—as the brass doorknob turned to the left. The doorknob stopped turning, there was a freeze-frame moment of stillness, then the door edged away from the doorjamb.
Will summoned forth his brightest customer-kiss-ass smile and said, “Pizza Zone!”
But the door only opened a crack. The minute opening revealed only darkness. Someone had turned the lights out. He experienced a recurrence of the fluttery feeling in his stomach. Something funny was going on here.
Hushed voices emanated from the other side.
A guy and a gal.
Because suddenly he knew what the deal was. What we have here, pimps ‘n’ bitches, is a classic case of coitus interruptus.
He grinned, suddenly feeling a need to make mischief.
I’m a naughty boy.
“Yo, what’s up in there? Didn’t you hear me? Your. Pizza. Is. Here.” Will said the last bit slowly, as if he were addressing an assembly of special-needs children. “Hell-low-oh?”
The door edged another inch away from the door. An eye appeared through the crack. The eye was blue and belonged to a girl. He didn’t need to see the rest of her to deduce that. The subtle smudge of eye shadow gave that away.
Then he heard the girl’s voice, a sibilant whisper: “Go away!”
The door creaked.
It was closing.
Will acted without thinking. He jammed a foot through the narrow opening before the door could finish closing. The girl continued to apply pressure to the door, compressing the white Reebok and making his foot hurt. Balancing the pizza on the upraised palm of his left hand, he halted the door’s progress with the splayed palm of his right hand.
The girl’s voice came again: “Go away!”
Louder now, exuding frustration and...what?...fear?
“Hey, chill, okay? I’m not a robber. I’m not a rapist. I’m not any kind of bad guy. I’m just a dude with a job to do.”
The girl breathed a sigh of surrender. “I gave you a chance, mister. It ain’t my fault, ya hear?”
Will’s brow furrowed.
Well, this is odd.
“What’s not your fault, baby doll?”
A man’s voice spoke next. “This, motherfucker.”
Then the door was standing open, and a behemoth of a man filled the doorframe. Two beefy hands seized handfuls of Will’s Pizza Zone golf shirt and pulled him inside. His assailant spun around, planted his feet, and launched him into the air.
The pizza box flew away from him, a colorful blip winking in the darkness.
Will glimpsed a blur of motion behind the hulking shape of the man.
The girl, a slender babe with dark hair and big boobs, was closing the front door.
It slammed shut at the exact moment Will’s back collided with an ornate grandfather’s clock. The collision hurt like a mofo. Clattering chimes filled his head with dissonant, anarchic music, little clusterbombs of sound that blotted out any capacity for coherent thought for several moments.
He tumbled away from the clock, then pitched forward with his hands outstretched. His hands met resistance, something solid—the glass door of a curio cabinet that stood opposite the still-reverberating grandfather’s clock. He experienced a moment of perfect clarity, a nanosecond during which his brain analyzed the situation, came to a conclusion about what was going to happen, and informed him there was nothing he could do about it.
His hands pushed through the glass.
He cried out as broken shards sliced up his forearms.
And he kept falling, still powerless to halt his body’s momentum. He plunged through the curio cabinet, his shoulder struck a shelf, and he dropped to his knees.
Blood rolled in rivulets down his arms.
Fragments of glass tumbled off his back and cracked on the floor.
Will wanted to cry.
The pain was immense.
He was reminded, however, of what his mother used to say in times of great stress (such as when the cocaine fund ran low and she was forced to replenish it with money diverted from his college fund): Be thankful for the little things, sonny.
Will heeded his mother’s words now.
He was thankful for the moment of stillness. He was certain it was to be short-lived, but he was thankful nonetheless. His breath was coming in ragged gasps. A drop of something that might have been sweat—but was probably blood—swelled at the tip of his nose. He watched it fall away and hit the hardwood floor with a wet plip.
, he thought,
He looked up to see his attacker looming over him.
The man was enormous, but that wasn’t the most disconcerting element of his appearance. He wore shiny leather pants, black combat boots, and nothing else. His thighs were as big around as oak trees. He was bald, bare-chested, and more muscular than anyone Will had seen outside of a wrestling arena. A big, distended belly drooped over his belt. A powerfully-built, beer-guzzling psycho motherfucker from hell.
Will felt his balls shrivel.
But the most surreal aspect of the man’s countenance was his well-tended Fu Manchu mustache—well, that or his lack of eyebrows.
Goddamn, Will thought, what kind of freak shaves his eyebrows?
But he didn’t have time to ponder the question any further. Chrome Dome again seized handfuls of his shirt and yanked him to his feet.
Will’s head flopped about on his shoulders.
He didn’t know what the dude had in mind, but he was pretty sure it wouldn’t be pleasant. He mentally braced himself to board another flight of Air Hopkins.
But that didn’t happen.
Instead, the man relinquished his hold on Will’s shirt. “Goddamn.” He looked Will up and down. “What kinda get-up is that?”
Will blinked moisture out of his eyes, and his head stopped spinning long enough to allow his brain to compose coherent sentences. “It’s a Pizza Zone get-up. I work for Pizza Zone. I deliver pizzas. That’s my job. I take pizzas to people who want pizzas. So, look, if you changed your mind about the pizza, you could’ve just said so.”
Chrome Dome was still scowling. “And what’s that on the end of your nose.” He squinted and leaned closer. Then he burst out laughing. “It’s a zit.”
Will frowned. “Is not.”
Chrome Dome cackled some more. “It’s a giant, malignant-looking blackhead.” Tears of hilarity leaked from the corners of his eyes. “Ha-ha! The pizza geek has a pizza face.”
Will couldn’t see his nose, of course, but he knew there was no zit there. “It’s not a zit. It’s blood. Are you blind?”
He heard the girl chuckle.
She sidled up next to the big guy.
Despite the direness of his predicament, Will was unable to resist the opportunity to ogle the girl. She was a curvy little thing. She wore tight blue jean cutoffs, a little half-shirt that just covered her jutting breasts, and nothing else. Will saw himself running a hand up a tawny thigh, up higher, moving outward with the sweet swell of her hip, then stopping to cup a handful of that delectable ass.
She was the most mouth-watering piece of girl-candy he’d laid his eyes on in some time.
Her full, pouting lips looked custom-made to provide oral pleasure.
The lips turned up a barely perceptible notch. “He’s sorta cute, Hank.”
Hank scowled. “Shut up, you horny slut.” He clubbed Will upside the head. “Stop checkin’ out my bitch, asshole.”
A fresh blast of agony squashed Will’s libido.
The world went away for a moment, then came back blurry.
“Oh...” He groaned, feeling a tickle of bile at the back of his throat. “Oh, man...I think I’m gonna be sick.”
Hank laughed. “That’s the least of your worries, pizza face. And it is too a zit. Looks ready to burst.” His face screwed up in disgust. “Dude, it’s pretty gross.”
Will opened his mouth to retort, but Hank was done arguing—he pushed Will through an archway into the home’s living room.
The lights were out here, too, but the flickering screen of a large television provided some illumination. Enough illumination to confirm Will’s darkest fears. The room was tastefully decorated. There were two plush sofas, a big recliner, and an oak coffee table with glass insets. Real Martha Stewart stuff. Two hairy guys who looked like bikers occupied one of the sofas. They wore leather chaps over blue jeans, big shitkicker boots, and denim vests over black t-shirts. Their bulging biceps and forearms were profusely tattooed.
Another girl was curled up in a recliner. A blond babe every bit as tasty as Hank’s girl—in that cheap slut sort of way.
Will was sure these people were not the legal residents of the house.
They fell into a category one might generously label “uninvited guests”.
The people who called this once-idyllic slice of suburbia home were present, though. To Will’s left was a kitchen with a long, white-tiled island and an L-shaped counter with a gas-powered stove. A man’s severed head sat in a pan atop a burner. A headless body lay sprawled next to the island. It wore a robe that hung open to reveal a torso punctured by numerous knife thrusts. The TV screen glowed brighter for a moment, and Will saw that there was a tremendous amount of blood.
Splashes of coagulating crimson on the island tiles.
Dark pools of deep red on the floor.