Fish Farm - Revenge Will Be Sweet?

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic


Chapter 4 coming soon http://wsautter.com/

Chapter 3 (v.1) - “I Think He’s Dead!”

Submitted: June 05, 2019

Reads: 36

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Submitted: June 05, 2019

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Chapter 3

 

“I Think He’s Dead!”

 

 

Jack hangs up the phone and continues to sit, his eyes scanning the apartment’s faded, peeling walls and well-worn furniture.

He is unshaven, with uncombed hair and is still wearing his pajamas, covered by a tattered bathrobe.

“Go out and get some air,” he mutters to himself; “have a smoke and forget about it.”

After a moment or two, he stands up and heads for the bathroom, to groom himself.  He dresses and leaves the apartment.

As he steps through the doorway, he closes the door and rattles the handle.  Gotta make sure it’s locked, he thinks to himself; not that it would really make any difference – if they want to get in, that lock will only slow them down for a couple of minutes.  Besides, what’s there to steal?

He proceeds down the winding, darkened stairs to the front of the building and crosses over to a bench near the sidewalk, which is dirty and littered.

A group of small birds are gathered on the far side and he reaches into his pocket, pulls out a handful of stale popcorn and throws it to them, watching as they eagerly scurry for every morsel.  

Suddenly, a blue-jay swoops, chasing the small birds away and devours every speck of the abandoned feast.

Jack leans back on the bench and draws a short cigar from his pocket.  He unwraps it, snips the end and lights it and, as the first puff of smoke issues from his nose, he drifts back into his thoughts.

He is back at the club.  A snapshot of the first fairway, with its lush, green hue, flashes through his mind, as he exhales, with a long, slow sigh.  After a minute or two, the reminiscences fade, along with his faraway stare.

“Hey, man,” comes a voice, over the tap-tap-tap of a basketball, bouncing in the adjacent playground.

Hal is a tall, light-skinned black man, who stands with a bent-over slouch - like a man carrying a heavy load - and walks with a slight limp.  With his remaining hair, he sports a crew-cut, which surrounds a glistering bald spot, just above his forehead.

Continuing to speak, he takes a seat beside Jack: “How ya doin’ today, Jack?”

“Not bad, Hal.  How about you?”

“Okay for an old man, I guess.  The knee is acting up a little again - other than that, not bad.  I guess it’s that old wound from ‘Nam again - they never did get that piece of metal out completely.” 

He pauses, then says: “Did you hear about Matty?”  Without leaving an instant for Jack to answer, Hal immediately begins the story: “They walked him down to the bank and made him cash his social security check - then they took the money.”

“What do you mean ‘they took the money’?” asks Jack, excitedly.

“The ‘dues’!” Hal answers; “I thought I told you about it the other day.  I guess they haven’t gotten to your building yet.  They got a new thing goin’: they come to everybody’s door and say they’re collectin’ for the ‘Fire Prevention Fund’ - they call it the ‘FPF’; they get fifty dollars a month outta everybody.  Matty didn’t pay, so they marched him down to the bank and got the money out of him, right there and then.”

“What’s this ‘FPF’ stuff?” asks Jack.

“Here’s what they say; they’ll make sure that no fires start in your apartment, if you pay your dues.  If you don’t pay, they’ll make sure that a fire does start.

“You know Petey, the guy that lives in the building next to me?  He refused to give them anything.  He’s a pretty tough guy - an old Special Forces guy, from ‘Nam.  Well, a week or two ago, he leaves his house to go to the store and when he gets back, his door is knocked off the hinges and his bed is on fire.  Lucky he got home when he did and could put it out in time, or the whole place woulda went up!”

“What happened after that?” asks Jack, eagerly.

“Now Petey’s payin’ his dues, like everybody else,” answers Hal, in a resigned tone.

“Who are these guys, anyway?”

“A bunch of pricks from the neighborhood, here - young guys, you know.” Hal answers.  “They started their own gang - they call themselves ‘The Firemen’; they even wear a little tat on the arm: a flame with the letters ‘FM’ in it.  They’re just petty crooks and dealers, who decided this is an easy way to make money.  And, let’s face it, they’re right!  They’re dealing with a bunch of old people - how hard is it gonna be?”

“So, why doesn’t somebody just call the cops?”

“Are you kiddin’?  The cops don’t want any part of down here.  And second, who’s gonna call?  If they find out who it was, you can be goddamned sure that guy’s gonna have some serious problems if you know what I mean,” Hal explains.

They sit silently, Jack slowly puffing on the cigar and Hal thumbing through the newspaper he brought with him.

“Any good news in there?” Jack asks.

Yanks won three in a row,” Hal replies; “that’s about it.”

They continue to sit, Hal sporadically commenting on items he is reading in the paper and Jack courteously responding.  After an hour or so, with his cigar consumed to an inch beyond his lips, Jack arises.

“Well, that’s about it for today - gotta go up and get supper together.  See ya tomorrow.”

He turns and walks towards his building’s entrance.  As the front door closes behind him, with its familiar squeal of metal on metal, he proceeds up the narrow stairs towards his apartment.

 

*

 

Jack is lying on the sofa.  He has fallen asleep, the television droning before him.

Bang!  Bang!

The loud pounding on his apartment door awakens him and, with a start, he immediately springs upright.

The door vibrates again: Bang!  Bang!

He looks at the time-stamp on the TV screen - it is three-thirty in the morning.

“What the hell is going on?” he mumbles to himself, arising from the sofa and stumbling to the door.  Bracing his foot against the bottom of the panel, he cautiously opens it a crack.

He sees Mrs. Murray, his downstairs neighbor - a frail old woman, short in stature, who prominently bears the lines of her age.  She wears a short-sleeved, faded blue, smock-like house-dress, with several buttons missing; her grey hair is tied back in a bun, secured by a piece of red yarn.

Through sobbing, she speaks breathlessly.  “Let me in!  Please, let me in!” she stammers.

He opens the door wide and she hurries inside, slumping, exhausted, into his living-room chair.

“What’s the matter?” Jack exclaims.  “What happened?”

“I think he’s dead!” she answers, through her sobbing.  “I know he’s dead!”

“Who’s dead?”

“The man in my apartment.”

“In your apartment?”

“He came to rob me,” she answers, her voice quaking.  “Please, could you get me a glass of water?”

Jack quickly brings her the water and she takes a rapid gulp. 

Leaning back into the chair, she takes a deep, long breath; as she exhales, she begins to explain: “I was in the kitchen, opening a can of cat food for Suzy, when I heard a noise at my door - a ‘thud’.  I got up to see what was going on and suddenly there he was, in the doorway - he broke the door open!  He was big and he had tattoos and a crowbar in his hand.  He shouted: ‘I need some cash.  What you got?’  

“I was so scared, I could hardly speak; I walked backwards into the kitchen and fell on the floor in the corner.  I told him: ‘I don’t have any, except what’s in the drawer.’  I pointed to the drawer in the kitchen and he right away started rifling through it.  Then, he looked up at me, holding a couple of bills I had in there and he yelled: ‘You only got twenty bucks in here!’

“Suzy was hiding in the corner and she tried to run, but she’s too old and slow - he caught her and grabbed her by the scruff of the neck.  Then, he carried her over to the stove and turned it on and he held Suzy over the burner and yelled again: ‘If you don’t tell me where the rest of it is, this cat is gonna get lit up!’

“I was frantic!  I couldn’t let him do that to Suzy - I had to stop him.  I saw the cat-food can lid, lying on the floor next to me and I grabbed it; I got up and rushed him - I sliced it down his neck and blood gushed out, all over.  I don’t know how I did it, but I did!  He dropped Suzy and the crowbar and grabbed his neck, stumbling backward; that’s when he slipped on the blood and fell, hitting his head on the radiator.  Then, he just lay there, stone-still.  

“I probably should have just run out, but I was so scared, I guess I wasn’t thinking straight.  I went and got a knife from the kitchen drawer, pulled a chair up next to him and I sat there the whole night, frozen; he never moved once.  I checked to see if he was breathing a couple of times, but he wasn’t.  If he’d have woken up, I don’t know what I would have done?”

“So, he’s downstairs in your kitchen?”

“Yes!”

“I’ll be right back.  Give me the key and stay right here.”

“Here’s the key, but you don’t need it - he pried the door wide open.”

Jack slowly walks downstairs, to the floor below, in measured, stealthy steps.  

Cautiously, he peers into Mrs. Murray’s apartment.  He rounds the corner, into the kitchen.

There he is.

He looks to be in his twenties, at most.  His large, lifeless body is lying prone, next to the blood-stained radiator.  A large, red, coagulating pool has radiated outward across the floor behind him, encircling his head and a smaller stream of blood has trickled from the gash above his left ear, down his cheek and over his jaw, partially obscuring the “FM” tattoo on his neck.  His eyes are closed, his mouth is open wide, in a frozen scream.  Even in death, his face wears the sinister grimace Mrs. Murray described.

From the look of him, Jack immediately knows Mrs. Murray was right, but still he bends down and rests his hand on the man’s chest, to be sure.  There is no heartbeat - he is cold and motionless.  Jack feels the wrist – it, too, is cold and pulseless.

“Dead, alright,” he mutters, softly.

Suddenly, he hears the muted creak of a footstep in the hallway.  Then, silence, before another footstep.

Slowly, he picks up the knife which is lying on the floor, beside the dead man and moves away from the body, backing into the shadows of the pantry.

Another creak comes from the hallway.  Jack carefully peers around the corner of the pantry’s door.

Mrs. Murray is standing in the doorway, her hand over her mouth, staring at the lifeless corpse on her floor.

“I thought I told you to stay upstairs!” Jack scolds.

“I couldn’t stay up there alone - I was so afraid,” she answers, in a tearful, quaking voice.  “What am I going to do?  What am I going to do?”

Jack lowers the crowbar and hesitates, before starting to speak: “We can’t have this spread all over – he’s a gang member and they’ll want revenge.  We can’t call the cops, either - if they see the cops coming here, they’ll find out in no time.”

“Then, what should I do?” again she pleads.

“Well, we can’t just leave him laying here, on the kitchen floor.  

“Let me go upstairs; you stay here - I’ll be right back.  And, this time, do what I tell you: stay here!”

As Jack leaves, Mrs. Murray takes another knife from the kitchen.  Then, she sits back in the chair, next to the body; she holds the knife firmly, ready to strike, should the man awaken.

Jack returns shortly, holding several large plastic garbage bags, a telephone cord and a pair of scissors.

“Get your vacuum cleaner and the hose with it,” he tells her.

As she does, he cuts a short piece of the cord and proceeds to fold the man’s outstretched arms across his chest; placing the hands together, he binds them.  Cutting another piece of the cord, he loops it through the crook of the knees and draws them together, tying the other end behind the dead man’s neck.  Tucking the knees up to the chest, he pulls the body into a fetal position, tying it tightly.

Mrs. Murray returns with the vacuum; seeing the body folded into its tucked pose, she stops in the doorway and gasps.

Jack explains: “I have to tie him up, so we can put him in the bag - if we wait any longer he’ll stiffen up and we’ll never be able to get him in.  Give me one of those bags.”

She holds a bag out to him.

“No - open the end.  When I lift him up, you slide that bag over his head, as far as you can.”

She nods.

“Okay, here we go.”  He lifts the dead man’s head and she slides the bag over it, over the shoulders and down, until the upper portion of the body is completely covered.

“Now,” Jack continues, “I’ll lift the other end and you pull the bag all the way over.  Okay - one, two, three, pull!”

They persevere until the corpse is finally fully inside the strong bag.

Jack stands upright and speaks, with an air of satisfaction: “Lucky I remembered seeing those bags in the super’s closet - he only just fit.  Now, give me the hose and plug the vacuum in.”

Mrs. Murray hands him the hose and, firmly, with both hands, he clamps the bag’s opening around it.  “Okay, start it up.”

As the vacuum roars into life, sucking out the air, the bag quickly shrinks, revealing the outline of the body inside.  When it is taught around the body, Jack ties the bag’s opening with a piece of the telephone cord.

“Now, go clean out the bottom of your bedroom closet and bring me the biggest towel you have,” he tells her.

Rolling the bag onto a large towel, together they drag it to the closet.

“He’s not as light as he looks,” Jack comments; “let’s hope he fits in here.”

They roll the bag-encased body off the towel and into the closet; Jack pushes it deep inside, as far as he can.

Breathing heavily, he asks: “Do you have any moth-flakes?”

“Yes.”  She retrieves the moth-flakes and Jack scatters them around the floor of the closet.  He takes clothes off of their hangers and uses them to cover the body.

“We can’t just leave him here, can we?” she asks, anxiously.

“We’ve got a few days to figure this out - he’s going to keep just fine in that bag, with the air sucked out.  Let’s go clean up the kitchen.”

“I can’t stay here with him, in the closet, like that,” Mrs. Murray protests; “I’ll be scared to death.  What if he wakes up?”

“Wakes up!?  What are you, kidding me!?  Until I see Jesus Christ coming through that door, he’s not waking up,” Jack replies, sarcastically.

“I still can’t stay here – I’m so scared.”

Jack pauses and sighs; Okay, you can come up and stay with me for a while.  You can have the bed – I’ll stay on the sofa.”

“Oh, thank you!  Thank you!” she exclaims, exuberantly.  Then, she adds meekly: “What about Suzy?”

Again, Jack pauses and sighs; “Oh, shit!  Okay, the cat can come too - just be sure and bring the litter box.”

Jack has a hard time sleeping that night.  Maybe he should have called the cops, after all!  It’s too late now: he’s already cleaned up the crime scene and hidden the body.  As for what he should do next - he’ll have to worry about that in the morning.

When six a.m. arrives, Jack is lying on his sofa, wide awake and he’s hardly slept.  He’s been back downstairs a dozen times, in the middle of the night, checking the bag in the closet, as though if he looked enough times, it would disappear.

He arises and carefully checks on Mrs. Murray, asleep in his bedroom.  After he dresses, he once again goes down to her apartment to check the body.  

Cautiously, he opens the closet and peers inside.  He takes a deep breath, sniffing the air.

Two days later, the body is still in the closet and Mrs. Murray is still staying in his bed, while he sleeps on the sofa.  Sucking the air out of the bag seems to be working pretty well - the only odor seeping under the closet door is that of the moth-flakes.

So far, so good, he thinks to himself, checking the closet for the umpteenth time.


© Copyright 2019 Walt Sautter. All rights reserved.

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