Read Seldom Seen in August Online

Authors: Kealan Patrick Burke

Tags: #Horror, #Short Stories, #+IPAD, #+UNCHECKED

Seldom Seen in August (3 page)

BOOK: Seldom Seen in August
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But that didn’t alter the inescapable
reality of the fact that it had to be done.





Gun held low, he kicked in the door so
hard the jamb splintered and sent daggers of wood flying. Bringing
his weapon up to draw a bead on the kid sitting on the lid of the
toilet, he expected screaming, crying, pleading. What he got was
silence. The kid, pale and hollow-eyed and stripped to the waist,
didn’t even look at him. He just sat with his head down, looking at
the straight razor he held in one hand, his chest rising and
falling rapidly, the breath hissing in and out of his

“Okay,” Wade said. “Nice and easy

In response, the kid made a strangled
noise, then thrust his head back until it was resting against the
wall and his green eyes were focused on the scabrous patches of
mildew on the bathroom ceiling. His Adam’s apple looked like a
small fist pushing through white plastic as the kid stamped one
bare foot against the floor and whined.

I know him
, Wade thought, and
felt his skin go cold.

It was a ridiculous notion and he shook
his head to deny it. If the kid looked even remotely familiar it
was because he lived in the same city. It was entirely likely Wade
had seen him making his way to school one day, or hanging around
outside one of the shadier clubs where grownups who had forsaken
the thankless monotony of blue-collar life engaged in riskier but
more lucrative pursuits. At such venues, Wade had once been a
regular, and he’d often seen the children of gangsters hanging
around outside, looking sullen that they’d been excluded from the
proceedings, their eyes shining with ambition. A million years ago
Wade himself had been one of them, had stood outside a warehouse
that had appeared abandoned to anyone not affiliated with the
people who owned it. But Wade knew what went on in there, and
dreamed of the day he’d been enlisted to help one of the men on a
job. That day had come, and it had helped to carve from shapeless
useless clay the man he had become.

The kid began to weep.

, Wade decided.
That’s how
I know him
. But he didn’t believe a word of it.

“Listen,” he said, “I want you to put
that blade away, ok?”

The boy kept his head back, his eyes
staring upward. Then he brought the ivory-handled razor up in front
of his chest, the blade facing Wade.

Wade aimed for the head. “Put it away,
kid. I’m not going to tell you again.”

The blade hovered, reflecting both the
harsh light and Wade’s likeness back at him. He trembled for a
moment in the boy’s slender fingers. Then the razor carried on and
up, stopping before his exposed throat.


,” the boy replied in the
smallest of whispers, tears trickling down his gaunt face. The
blade danced, and when the dance was over, there was a wide yawning
smile just above his Adam’s apple. Unlike Wade, the blood seemed
almost hesitant to run.

“What the fuck?”

The boy continued to stare at the
ceiling, at nothing. His hand fell away, the razor clattering off
the bathtub, spattering the white surface with red periods before
it hit the floor.

Wade let out a slow breath and lowered
the gun. In some distant part of his brain, it registered that this
development was a positive one—it had saved him an ugly job and
—but so unexpected and sudden had it been that he wasn’t entirely
sure how to react. Why had the kid killed himself? Because of him?
As obvious a solution as that was, he didn’t believe it. Over the
years he’d become something of an expert in the human response to
fear, to the threat he represented, and never before had he seen
anything like this. Then there was the question of the straight
razor. It hadn’t been in the bathroom when Wade had checked it. He
knew because it had been a nice one, and if it had been there, he’d
have taken it as a souvenir, and possibly as an unpleasant
for the first cop who tried to cuff him. Of
course, it could have been stashed in a drawer or

He ran a hand through his hair,
scratched his eyebrow with the still cocked hammer of the gun and
closed his eyes. A few moments of indecision later, he back stepped
out of the bathroom and closed the door behind him.

You need to get out of here
, he
told himself.

As if the thought had been a cue, his
cell phone buzzed. Glad of the distraction, he snatched it from his
pocket. Cartwright again. Another text message. Wade hit the
button. His partner’s response was a single word, damning in its




So they’d caught him.

And the motherfucker had sung like a

Wade felt such a surge of anger he
grimaced in actual pain that burrowed up from his balls and twisted
through him until it snagged in his throat and burst into flame.
Face crimson, he started to tremble. A roar trapped behind his
teeth, he aimed the gun at the floor, the walls, the closed doors
at the end of the landing, his finger itching to squeeze off a few
rounds to see if the clamor of the shots could compete with his own
expression of rage.

” he yelled, for the
moment uncaring about who did or didn’t hear him. His muscles felt
like ropes twisted to breaking, his blood like acid coursing
through his veins. “
Spittle flew
from his lips as he spun on a heel back to the bathroom. In here
was a piñata for all that violent anger, and hell, the kid wouldn’t
even mind, the little split-throat shit. He was beyond feeling
anything anymore. But right now, Wade felt too much and he needed
to hit something, needed to imagine the corpse in there had a
different face, namely the pinched face of his backstabbing
rat-bastard partner.

Cartwright, you’re a dead

He shouldered open the door, a sneer on
his lips.

The body was gone.




Phone in hand, Wade paced the landing.
The sooner he was gone from this place the better, but every now
and then he’d hear the distant squawk or the
sirens as cruisers pulled to a halt, and it would remind him why he
needed to be patient. Problem was, there was now a prankster
running around out there covered in fake blood just dying to tell
the cops about the guy he’d fooled.
Oh, and Officer, did I
mention he broke in and had a gun?

Wade cursed himself. What the hell was
wrong with him? Had eleven years in the pen made him rusty or what?
There was a time when he could have sniffed out a ruse without even
being in the same building as the guy pulling it. But not only had
he fallen for the kid’s prank, he hadn’t even realized the kid was
in the house to begin with. He was getting old, that’s what it was.
Old and rusty, kept going by his addiction to vices and the
consequential need to compensate for them with cash he didn’t have.
And that, he suspected, would never change.

“Hell with it,” he said, and scrolled
through the names in his cell phone’s memory until he found one
that read simply: “CUJ” which was an abbreviation for “Clean-Up
Job”, itself a code name for a man named Alex Eye, which no doubt
was an alias but it was better than a series of stupid letters.
Alex had proven useful, if ridiculously expensive, in the past when
things hadn’t exactly gone the way they’d been supposed to. Alex
was six-foot six, black, and didn’t speak a word. He just showed
up, did what he’d been hired to do, then charged you up the ass and
back down again for it. But he could untie the knot in almost any
situation, thinking up clever escape plans where there didn’t
appear to be any. As a matter of pride, Wade had never used Alex’s
services. But he needed them now.

He made the call. Listened to the dial
tone buzzing in his ear.


Stopped when a phone in one of the
rooms he was facing began to ring. He frowned, hung up on his call
and cocked his head slightly.

The house phone stopped

He waited, expecting to hear whoever
had answered muttering urgently inside the room.
Please help me
there’s somebody in my house!
But they were either being
painfully quiet, or the person calling had given up. Wade waited a
few more minutes. The doors to the rooms he had not yet
investigated faced each other across the narrow landing. He hit the
SEND button on Alex’s number, and walked slowly to the door on the

The call went through.

Inside the room on the right, the house
phone began to ring again.

“What the hell is going on?” he
mumbled, and took the phone from his ear to check the display.
Alex’s name showed above the miniature icon of a phone ringing so
violently the receiver was dancing. Frowning, Wade jabbed the END
button, canceling the call, and immediately raised his eyes to the
door from which the ringing sound had come.

It stopped.

He surprised himself by chuckling and
shaking his head, as if he’d just been told a hoary old joke but
owed it to the teller to laugh.

“I’ll be damned,” he said. “Now

Just to be absolutely sure, he tried
Alex’s number again.

The house phone rang.

Hung up.

The phone went quiet.

A single bark of laughter and he
pocketed the phone, raised the gun. “Jesus, I never…” he said,
wiping a tear from his eye. “But…

A number of possible explanations came
to him.

One: By some miracle or coincidence, he
had broken into Alex’s home, which would explain why the house
phone was ringing when he dialed the man’s number.

Wade groaned.

Two: Alex had some kind of weird but
ingenious redirect function attached to his number that, rather
than lead to an answering machine, led to the phone nearest the

Wade closed his eyes.

Three: Someone was fucking with

Wade opened his eyes.


In three short steps he was at the door
on the right and throwing it wide. It thumped against the far wall
and shuddered back toward him, giving him the deeply unpleasant
sensation that the room was shrinking while he watched.

The sunlight stretched languidly into
the room through net-curtained windows, spotlighting the fall of
dust motes to the bare wood floor. An old vanity squatted in shadow
in one corner. In another was a rocking chair. Atop it sat an old
black rotary phone. In the center of the room was a bed with a
single dirty white sheet, and beneath it lay a woman, her long
silver-gray hair spread out around the stained pillow.

Wade put a hand out to stop the door
from closing, and stepped into the room.

The old woman shifted, turned her head.

Her voice, like the room, was

Fraid not,” Wade said.
“And who might you be?”

The old woman rose out of the bed like
a specter. There was no series of movements, just one fluid one, as
if she were attached to ropes threaded through hooks in the
ceiling. One moment she was on her back, an ordinary old lady, the
next she was floating toward him like something out of a horror
movie, her feet tangling in the sheets, pulling them away,
revealing the bloodstains on the mattress beneath.

Gooseflesh rippling all over him, Wade
retreated from the room, his attempt to shut the door behind him so
frantic he missed the knob on the first try and had to lean in to
make a second one.

The lady, in no hurry at all, drifted
toward him and now he could see that she was blind, that her teeth
were gone, that her flimsy nightdress was spattered with blood both
old and new.

She was almost upon him, her withered
arms outstretched toward him in a gesture of pleading or longing,
her face twisted into an expression of such profound sadness it
almost drained the energy from him.

“Jesus,” he said and pulled the door
shut, but not before he heard her say, “You never come to see me
anymore, Billy…”

He stood there, perplexed and
unsettled. Just what in the blue hell was going on? Had he broken
into a lunatic asylum masquerading as a suburban home?

As he stood there, his brain telling
him that the best course of action, the
course of
action now was to get moving, get as far away from this madhouse as
possible, he heard a humming sound he at first assumed was his
, he thought with a by now familiar flare
of anger, but the cell’s display was dark, the phone quiet. The
humming was coming from the walls.

“Okay,” he muttered. “Okay, we’re

He turned, intending to head back
across the landing, down the stairs, and out, when the door to his
left, the only one he hadn’t yet opened, creaked and swung wide,
exposing the room beyond.

BOOK: Seldom Seen in August
8.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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