Shallow Veins (The Obscured Book 1) (13 page)

BOOK: Shallow Veins (The Obscured Book 1)
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They sit and talk a while, discussing all the ways to trick and murder strangers. They could order flowers, maybe pizza, but it wouldn’t take long for the delivery boys to be missed. Then there's placing an ad in the paper for a car for sale or a free bike, but they decide it would be too dangerous to risk multiple people showing up at the same time, having to juggle visitors without letting them hear what's happening to the others.

“We'll never get this done in time,” Kevin concludes. “I wish there was a way to get all nine here at once. Just throw them all in a cage and let The Self deal with the rest.”

Mary lets go of his hand, quickly sits up.

“I'm sure it's bad of me to think that.”

“No,” Mary says. “I think I know how we can pull it off.”






The black tarp sways up and down in the wind, held in place by the thick spikes hammered every six inches through its thick vinyl and into the dirt.

Butcher kicks one of the nails, testing its strength. It's an impressive job. The magnitude of the hole underneath, the silence it holds, is only hinted at by the sheer size of the tarp itself.

“It's good to see you, son.”

Butcher turns to find Father Curtis at the church's rear door. He's not sure how it's possible, but the old man seems to have aged a year since they last met.

“You definitely didn't get this from us, it looks like it cost twice the department's yearly budget.” Butcher motions to the industrial-strength tarp behind him.

“I admit, it helps to have a few friends in high places.”

“You're not talking about...” Butcher points to the sky.

Father Curtis smiles. “That one doesn't hurt, either, but in this case I'm referring to the Historical World Society. They were able to lend us this beauty from one of their archaeological programs.”

"Seems like you're a man with a few tricks up his sleeve. I'll be sure not to underestimate you in the future."

"The most unassuming are often the ones to watch for great things. And sometimes, for terrible ones. But you didn’t come out here just to check on a hole in the ground, did you?"

"Actually I wanted to talk to you about something a little more private." The breeze picks up again, rustling the tarp in violent waves. He looks at the old man, wearing only his priest’s uniform with no jacket. "Do you want to go inside?"

"That would be perfect, I was just about to start the confessional hour."

“I'm not here for that kind of talk.”

“I see. Police business then?”

Butcher rubs his scruff, the sound like sand-paper. “Yes and no. It's not exactly a case, more a feeling I have.”

"In that case there's no better place than the confessional booth to discuss such matters. Come." With that Father Curtis turns and enters the small church, once again leaving Butcher alone with the massive hole in the ground.

Butcher chews his lip and spits into the dirt. After a few seconds he follows.






The confession booth is too small for a man like Butcher. He's never suffered from claustrophobia or anything of the sort, but that doesn't mean he enjoys feeling like an animal in a cage, either. He looks around at the wooden box, noting that the air smells of old cedar, the seat worn out in the center from years of nervous weight and old sins.

Father Curtis slides the solid panel open, his pale face barely visible through the lattice. “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.”

“How much do you know about Drew Banks,” Butcher asks.

“Not yet,” the priest stops him. “First confess your sins, then you can ask your questions.”

Butcher can’t help but smile at the old man’s resolve. “Listen, father, this whole thing- it’s not for me.”

“Any why not? I know from our previous conversation you don’t consider yourself above the trappings of mortal sin.”

“I don’t consider myself a Christian, either.”

“Ahh, I see what this is about.” He leans back, settling into a position he’s been in thousands of times before. “In my experience, men know what they know until they don’t. You don’t have the belief, and that’s alright, that’s your choice and choices change. Whether or not you follow the faith, though, you still have a soul. Around these parts, that makes you my responsibility.”

"That's a nice sentiment and all, but I don't see the point in all this."

"Then I don't see the point in talking about a case that isn't a case with an officer of the law."

"Fair enough.” Butcher clears his throat. “The truth is I don't even know how to do this."

"It usually starts with something like, 'Forgive me father for I have sinned...'"

"It's been never since my last confession," Butcher finishes.

"Not bad, but try to take it seriously. You just might get something out of the experience."

“Taking things seriously isn't my strong suit.” Butcher sighs, rubbing his face again. "You could say I'm not the most involved father.”

"How is your son taking the divorce?"

"He ran away the other day, came to see me at the station. I know I should have been mad or worried, but to be honest it was just good to see him.”

“Is there anything else?”

“I cuss. I carry a gun.”

“You use your gun to protect others, that's not a sin. Though the cussing you should probably work on. There's nothing else you wish to confess, my son?”

“Other than an unhealthy love for beef jerky, nothing really comes to mind.”

Father Curtis takes a deep breath through his nose. Lets it out. “Believe it or not, I find confessional to be quite relaxing. The smell of the wood, the way the world disappears, opening people up to the possibility of healing. When I was young, before I knew what my path would be, I spent a great deal of time looking for trouble. I stole. I fought. I sought out anger and lust and greed, and at the time I thought it was because I wanted those demons in my life. Looking back now, I realize the true meaning behind my adolescence. Why I spent so many years wallowing in sin.”

“Why's that?”

“To recognize it in the fight to come. Officer Butcher, until our destiny is made clear, we often struggle with the feelings and instincts inside of us. Some find an outlet, a healthy way to expend the energy in good ways, noble ways. They paint, they sing, they dance, they give of themselves to those who need it. While others of us find ways to fill the hole inside us in ways which help no one, least of all ourselves.”

Butcher’s face hardens. All at once he sees what the priest is doing, and he’s never been a man to appreciate being manipulated- good intentions or otherwise.

“It’s getting late,” he says, “I didn’t expect this to take so long.”

“What better use of your time is there than seeking answers?”

Butcher stands. “Seeking a paycheck. Thanks for your time, Father.” He grabs his hat and exits the small booth, halfway across the small church before the priest manages to get to his feet and open his own door.

“Watch your step, Butcher,” he calls out. “There are dark days ahead.”

Butcher stops walking. He turns and advances on the priest until he’s right in the man’s startled face. “Look, maybe in your line of work you can get away with a bunch of bullshit hyperbole, but in mine we take things a little more literal. So I strongly recommend you don’t go threatening police officers.”

The old man holds his ground. “What’s wrong with Officer Banks?”

“Who said something's wrong with him?”

“Oh, certainly not you. You’ve been careful to say anything but, and yet you have the look of a man who’s trying to hide something.”

"Enlighten me, Father, what am I hiding?"

"That your gut is telling you there's something very wrong with this town. That there are forces at play here you don't understand, but you can feel them working in the shadows. Watching, planning, whispering."

Butcher shakes his head. "I was warned about you.”

“What did they say?”

“That you're a crazy, old man who lost touch with reality. The fool I am, I tried to give you the benefit of the doubt. I see now that it was a waste of time."

He walks away, leaving behind a hurt-looking priest in an empty church.






Kevin doesn't know what to do with himself when Mary is at work. He sits at his computer hoping to get lost in a world of ones and zeroes, even more than normal now that the physical world, the tangible plane has shown itself to be a place of uncertainty and horror. More than anything he pines for the cold, calculated state a keyboard and screen have to offer.

He checks his email, where he finds he's been fired off all but one project for either not delivering code or responding on time, and that job is one he never wanted in the first place. He types up a brief email to the young woman heading the project, in which he tells her it's been nice working with her but he has to focus on personal matters and won't be able to complete the work as required, but he hopes to work with her on future ventures and wishes her all the best. He deletes everything he's written, replaces it with the word "Quit" and sends that instead.

Life is too short for niceties, he realizes. All the tact in the world won't stop the train from crushing you, or the monster from tearing your arms from their wet sockets.

He codes on a project of his own until he drifts into that other place, where everything falls away and nothing matters. So he's unaware when the rib cage crawls through the door.

Its feelers of sunflower stems and fingertips rub the walls like young lovers, touching their way across the floor until they find Kevin's chair. Bubbles form at the top of the rib cage which grow and pop and form eyes, eyes that rise up on stilts of bone to look over Kevin's shoulders.

Kevin is oblivious to their presence on both sides of him, only inches from his face, and The Self is oblivious to the meaning of the strange language it sees on the screen. Wanting to know the actions of its hostage, wanting to know everything about humans in case the knowledge can be used against them, or against The Self, it snakes its feelers up Kevin's pant leg and attaches to him.

They connect.

Like before their minds become one, except now Kevin is in a different state, a different place, and the connection sneaks up on him, pulled from one cold place into another. The place of ones and zeroes is pulled with him, filling the black, vast space of The Self's interior; two worlds, both false, joining at the atoms, joining by their nothings.

“Joining,” Kevin whispers.




Chapter Five: As the Skeletons March  



At work, Mary feels like a caricature of a human being. A puppet, one of those stick figures made of cloth and sticks to dance across a cardboard stage and entertain children. She moves the way people are supposed to, eats when she should be hungry and talks when talked to. She mirrors facial expressions in order to not seem cold or suspicious. But behind the mask of smiling skin, she’s numb, feeling nothing except a distant, muted terror.

As she walks past the break-room, she hears two of her co-workers, Jose’ and Amy, talking over their lunches in hushed tones.

Amy says, “You heard about Officer Banks?”

Mary stops. She stays out of sight, her stomach clenched tight.

“What did he do now?”

“This time it might be what someone did to him. He’s been missing since Friday.”

“Where did you hear that?”

“Some new cop has been asking around about him. Real hush-hush, though, like the department’s trying to cover it up.”

Jose’ clucks his tongue. “That’s dumb. They wouldn’t cover up something like that.”

“They would if it kept the town from panicking.”

“About what?”

“A serial killer.” Amy’s voice drops. “Don’t tell anyone this, but Ronnie pulled a pickup out of the creek this morning, and when he got it towed up onto the grass, it was Peter Johnson’s.”

“He was just here yesterday!”

“Was he?”

“So how did his truck end up in the creek?”

“I don't know, it's like someone's going around murdering assholes.”

“Well he came to the right town.”

They both laugh, covering up the sound of Mary's retreat. Above their heads, on the cork-board where minimum wage postings and photos from work dinners are posted, a small, typewritten note colored in with orange and yellow markers has been hung.

It reads: Halloween Costume Party! Drinks and Scares! This Saturday, October 30th at the Robins House. RSVP with Mary.






Officer Monton waits tens full rings before he hangs up the phone and shakes his head at Sheriff Green.

BOOK: Shallow Veins (The Obscured Book 1)
3.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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