Shallow Veins (The Obscured Book 1) (17 page)

BOOK: Shallow Veins (The Obscured Book 1)
5.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Everything in this house has that effect on her now. Reminders of a murdered life.

The sight of Kevin stops Mary cold. His face is a skull, boney and black. Shoe polish creates the voids while his skin, paler than she's ever seen it, stands in as bone. His unwavering eyeballs sit at the center of dark cavities like cherries swimming in black ice cream.

The sun is setting through the windows. They look at each other without saying a word, and in this moment, only a few feet from Kevin, Mary has never felt further from home.

The doorbell rings.

Mary freezes. She wishes against all possibility that she could stand here silently until whoever rang it went away, just went on with their lives. Had children, got old, died on their own time, when it was right, surrounded by family.

“I'll get it,” Kevin says, his teeth extra bright inside his painted face. He opens the door to four excited guests, arrived at the same time and excited about each others' costumes. Amy the witch, Doctor Dion the pirate, April the black cat, and Jose' the blue-faced zombie.

“Come in,” Kevin says, and one-by-one they set foot inside the house, loudly handing over sugary desserts and cheap wine as offerings, which Kevin gathers up and dumps on the kitchen counter while Mary turns on the Halloween music.

Over the next hour, as the sky darkens and drinks are poured and emptied and poured again, more guests trickle in. April tries to start a conversation with Kevin, but Kevin simply walks away, leaving her to wonder if she said something wrong.

Eight people arrive, eight of nine. Just waiting for one more, Mary thinks. Ted the arrogant anesthesiologist. It can't start until all nine show up. Nine plus Peter Johnson makes ten. Ten humans, that was the deal.

Finally, a knock at the door. With flushed cheeks Mary answers it to find Ted on her doorstep.

With a date.

“Hope you don't mind.” He gestures with a smirk to the young girl in sexy vampire garb.

“I love a costume party,” she says through fangs. Her collar is high, her neckline low, all of it black leather.

“I don't think it's a good idea,” Mary says.

Ted holds up a six-pack of beer. “Oh, c'mon. The more the merrier.”

“Normally, but we have enough people already.”


“What I mean is, we don't have enough food for anyone extra.”

“Don't worry, she eats like a bird.”

“I'm a cheap date,” the girl giggles. “If it helps, I promise I'll behave.”

“What's the fun in that,” Jose' calls out, and everyone laughs.

Mary glances back, annoyed at their drunken state. “You shouldn't be here. This is a work party. You're not an employee.”

Ted moves in closer, his foot on the threshold. “Look, Mary, I don't want to make problems here but I'm her ride. If she can't stay, I can't, either.”

A rumble comes up through the floor, low enough that no one but Mary notices. The Self is listening, she understands. The Self is not happy.

Ted looks over Mary's shoulder. “What do you say, Kev?”

A hand appears on Mary's shoulder. “I think we can fit you in,” Kevin says. “Like you said- the more the merrier.” Mary looks up at him but he doesn't meet her eyes.

The anesthesiologist smiles at Mary. “See? No big deal.” He slips past her and into the house, pulling the young girl behind him for the other men to leer at.

The girl shrugs at Mary. “Lighten up, it's Halloween,” she says. In that moment, Mary is almost glad she didn't save the girl's life. Almost.

Kevin closes the door and locks it. Mary winces at the heavy click, knowing exactly what it means.






Down the street a bit, slunk low in his seat with the engine off, Butcher watches the house and sips from his flask.

If he had believed Mary's performance back at the dentist's office for one second, he wouldn't consider himself a cop. The woman was scared, clear as water. He only kept the conversation going to see what it was she was afraid of, Butcher himself or something more, and decided in the end that it was both.

He suddenly has the urge to call Elaine, talk to her about everything going on in the town and in his head. He picks up the phone and dials her number before he can change his mind.

Kevin appears at one of the windows. Butcher leans forward to get a look at the man. The first time they'd met, when the plumber went missing, the guy spoke the way people often do to cops, a combination of respect and paranoia, but this last time he'd been a different person entirely. He was confident to the point of aggression, and he'd spoken to Butcher the way a king might address a rat.

“Hello?” Elaine's disembodied voice drifts up from his phone.

After peering out a moment, Kevin reaches out and draws the curtains closed. Then he moves to another window and does the same, then to another and another until Butcher's view into the house is completely gone.


Butcher hangs up the phone and tosses it to the dashboard.






Kevin draws the last of the blinds in the kitchen. Before he can finish, he’s pulled back by Mary’s small hand. A brief flare-up of anger fills his skeleton eyes, though it fades as quickly as it comes, like a shark coming to the surface only to turn back at the last second.

“Why did you let that girl in,” Mary whisper-yells.

“It was the only way to make Ted stay.”

“I don't care, that's blood on our hands.”

“They're already bloody,” he says, “what's a little more?”

Mary is speechless. The words coming out of her husband's mouth hardly seem like they belong to him anymore. Instead of answering him, she walks to the kitchen door, opens it and turns.

“What are you doing,” he asks.

“Leaving, and I'm taking you with me.”

Kevin's brow wrinkles. “We can't leave yet.”

“Yes, we can. Right now, while it's distracted. We can walk out this door and never come back. It doesn't care about us anymore, see? I opened the door and it didn't react.”

He looks from her to the party, then to her again, mulling over her words. Finally he says, “No.”

“Kevin, please.”

“I'm not leaving.” He closes the door and locks it. “And neither are you.” He keeps his hand tightly around the handle.

“Let go of it,” she says. She tries to pull his hand off, but he pushes her off. She's shocked, but her shock quickly turns to anger. “I'm not kidding, Kevin. Let me go,” she says through teeth.

“Not until it's over.”

Mary can't stay in the house another second. She rushes for the handle, trying to wrest his hand from it, but he shoves her away one-handed. When she comes back again, he backhands her across the face. The loud slap is drowned out by Halloween music and loud voices.

Her hand to her face, she looks at Kevin with tears in her eyes, looking at a man who she once believed could never hurt her, could never be to her what her parents were. Kevin looks back at her with an apology in his eyes that dies and fades down to nothing.

“Are all the doors locked,” he asks calmly. She hesitates, not wanting to answer, but then she nods.

“I checked like you asked,” she says in a small voice.

“Then it's time.”

The walls shiver at his words. Without another sound, Mary walks out of the kitchen, past the noisy crowd too drunk to notice the fight in the kitchen and to the bathroom. She needs to hide until the massacre ends, but she finds the doorknob doesn’t turn- locked. Over the din of drunken conversation, she hears someone on the other side say they’ll be a minute.

“I don’t have a minute,” Mary says, looking back at all the doomed souls laughing at each other.






With the keys in his pocket and his flask back in the cruiser, Butcher heads toward the house. He walks slowly in the chilly night, fully dark now with only a sliver of moon to light up the wet grass. Dampness soaks into his boots and up the fabric of his pants, and he rests his hand on the butt of the gun holstered at his side as he moves toward the house at a steady diagonal, eyes trained on the windows and door.

Halfway to the house, he stops walking.

"I must be crazy," he says to himself.

Even with a bit of drink in him, he knows what he's doing could mean his job. If Sheriff Green were to find out about this, gun or no, he wouldn't hesitate to kick Butcher off the force. No one likes a disgraced cop, not even mall security. The one thing Jake looks up to him for, gone forever. His retirement plan, dead. The only distraction from his screwed up life, burned in flames.

This right here, what he's doing now, can easily ruin his life in ways he may never recover from, if he takes just one more step toward the Robins house.

He takes one more step. Then he takes another.






Kevin stands at the center of the living room, an unmoving nucleus in a cell of jockeying, joking and shit-talking. “Everyone gather in.” He projects his voice into the crowd and over the music. As the guests become aware of him they wrap up their conversations and form a lazy circle around him. “I have an announcement to make.” The make-up around his lips, already a skeletal smile, curled into a snarl.

“This is a key party,” Jose' shouts, and everyone laughs.

Mary tries the bedroom door but that’s locked, too. Kevin must have done it when she wasn’t looking. Desperate to get away from what’s coming, she rips open the door to the hallway closet, throws herself inside and shuts it behind her. Coats slip from their hooks and fall on her, and she lets them cover her up.

April witnesses the whole, bizarre scene over Amy’s shoulder, but she’s had a few too many Vodka Cranberry’s to ask anyone what on Earth she’s just seen.

Kevin looks into the faces crowded around him. “All of you are here because you’ve been chosen to be part of something very special.”

“I knew it, they're selling time shares,” Doctor Dion says, followed by more laughter.

Kevin lets the noise die down. “It's much better than that,” he says. and the floor explodes beneath their feet.






What April sees next happens as slow as the sap that bleeds from the birches, yet she can’t act quick enough to stop it.

The blast knocks the senses out of her. Her ears shut down from shock. Wood rains upward from floor to ceiling, millions of tiny shards tracing lines up her legs and arms, shredding costume and skin alike, as if a bomb goes off under the floorboards yet there’s no fire, no heat. The explosion doesn’t stop or die down but changes into something else halfway through, something alive with teeth and tentacles that grab, twist and pull.

April loses her balance and falls so hard she feels her knee dislocate.

Around her and above her, co-workers scream into their masks as they’re ripped to shreds. Ted’s date falls next to her, the young girl’s skinny legs wrapped in rotten meat coiled up from the dark. She reaches out for help with tears in her eyes, and April takes her hand to keep her from being pulled into the jagged hole, but the pull is strong and she can barely hold on.

“Don't let go,” the girl pleads. April can't answer because talking would take some strength, and she has none to spare. Warm blood splashes her neck from behind. She flinches, struggles to keep her grip, and watches as a cat-sized praying mantis rushes up to the young girl on feet made of her bosses hands- she would recognize those hands anywhere, she’s seen them in so many people’s gaping mouths- and casually lops off the girl’s head. The mantis hoists the head onto its back where, after a moment of fusing and melting, it blinks at April before it’s carried away to join some new horror.

April lets go of the dead girl’s hand and it slumps to the floor. The headless body is sucked down into the dark with the others.

Across the room the bathroom door opens and Ted steps out. “What the heck is all the noise out-” He’s cut short by Doctor Dion, a man he’s known and worked with for fourteen years, stabbing him through the chest-plate with his brand new stinger, then tossing him aside for the smaller creatures to work on.

She looks out on the scene, a slow-motion riot of gore set to the sound of her own, stuttering heart. If I stay here, April says to herself, I’m dead. And April doesn’t want to be dead.

Between the legs of people and things that aren’t people, April crawls on hands and knees for her life. The floor is wet with fluids she doesn’t want to look at, yet it’s better than looking up to see what’s happening to these people she’s spent so much time with, shared so many laughs with, better than watching their eyes be taken over from behind and then watching that person in turn attack another.

“Don’t look up,” she says, “don’t look up, don’t look up, don’t look up,” her knee screaming in pain, her palms slick and slipping, she crawls toward the door, toward freedom, toward grass and trees and air and running away forever and ever, away from this house and this town and whatever she has to leave behind to stay alive, pretend this was a bad dream, hope to ever sleep through the night again.

BOOK: Shallow Veins (The Obscured Book 1)
5.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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