InkI'm wearing your hand from my neck.I spent a week drying it out, preserving it, taking care that the tattoo was still visible. Once I was convinced that it didn't stink, I threaded the zip-tie through the wrist, hung it over my head and tucked it inside my jacket. Good thing, because I don't think this group I hooked up with would understand. Some of them still have their husbands, wives, kids, moms or dads out there. They still hope. They can still look at the moon and think to themselves, maybe you're looking at the same moon right now. They can stay warm with that thought as they drift off to sleep.All I know is, if you're looking at the moon, you aren't thinking a damn thing. Not even of me.I take it out now and then, when it's my turn on watch. Everyone else is asleep, or trying to be. I take out your hand and look at that tattoo. I did it for you, while I was learning the trade. It looks like shit, but you loved it.WANT. You had me tattoo that on your left hand, in tha
22. Lem's DealHe bent down to enter the room between two strands of police tape pulled across the doorway. On the floor were chalk drawings where five bodies had been. Those were the Sweeps, the hunters that Pryor had killed. One was a cop.The denim blanket that Lem and Pryor had slept under was gone, probably in the same evidence locker as the hunters' crossbows and raincoats.Something else was missing. There wasn't a sixth chalk outline, but Lem knew where it should be. He stood in the spot where Pryor left his victim, several dark stains where drops of blood had fallen on the dust-strewn floor. There were no evidence markers. Either the crime-scene people had missed the blood, or were told to ignore it. Lem had long suspected some kind of connection between the Sweeps and the cops, and this little episode had erased his doubt.Lem dropped to all fours, and touched his tongue to the dried blood. Even a week later, he could still pull the methamphetamine taste from it, the vigor of youth, the alc
Bagger LemSometimes Lem wondered how they saw him in the moments just before. An old girlfriend, an ex-husband maybe? Their mom or dad, or maybe a long-dead Army buddy. They saw what they wanted to. All Lem knew was the look on their faces when their gaze met his, when their minds told them he was something other than what he was. They always wore this beaming smile, an expression of damn-it's-good-to-see-you. They kept that look as Lem ripped their throats out with his teeth and slopped up the blood with his tongue.He could tell himself they died happy, that the last thing they saw was the person they most wanted to see. It was comforting. He was lucky in that respect. Some of the others left theirs with looks of stark terror, or sadness. Lem never wanted to think about it.He leaned back against the dumpster as blood steamed on his chin. His latest was in a heap at his feet. Some teenager, probably a runaway, selling himself on the street. He looked like hell even before Lem got hold of him.
LegendTurn off your headlights, they spook easy.Go up the road a bit.Go slow.Dirt's tricky.Go up the road, til you see the gate.Stop when you see the skullstied to the posts.Kill the engine, but keep the keys in.Shut off the radio.Roll down your windows.Listen.It'll be dark, but you don't need to see nothing.Just listen.Might be you hear crickets.Might be you hear coyotes.Might be you don't hear shit.But,Might be you hear squeals.Squeals are what you're listening for.From up there in the barn.The one without no lights or lanterns.Squeals like pigs.Except there ain't been pigs at that farmsince I was a boy.
Hunter's WifeIn the morning, she kissed him goodbye. John slung his bag over his shoulder. "Have a good day, doll." "You, too.""I love you.""Love you, too."He climbed aboard his truck, started up and smiled at her through the windshield. He shifted, backed out of the driveway, gave her one more smile and sped off in a roar of diesel.She sighed, waved hello at old Mrs. Carter across the street, then retrieved her newspaper. Sun was barely up, and it was already old news. Three more homeless found dead. College kid missing. Animal Control puzzled by bat activity.Back inside the house, John Jr. was up, already in front of the TV, console game glowing and volume up loud."Good for his reflexes," John always said, "Hand-eye coordination. Might do him good someday."Sara sighed again. She and John saw different futures for lil' Johnny, that much was plain. Hers involved soccer camp, college, maybe med school. His involved taking apart an AR-15 blindfolded.She made more coffee. She made Johnny
Morning EditionAt six-forty-three, coffee was ready. The machine was new; BLACK & DECKER embossed across the black facade. The machine beeped.In the next room, the bedside radio clicked to life as the clock struck quarter-to-seven. The dial was set to the local NPR affiliate, but only static erupted from the speakers, punctuated here and there with bits from a pre-recorded message.No cause for alarm...Overnight...Quarantine...Just a precaution...Curfew...Lock windows...doors...Shelter in place...State and local officials...Food and water...Vaccine...No cause for alarm...The only light in the room came from the radio dial, the clock on the coffee maker, the flourescent light in the fish tank, and a single window.The coffee remained undisturbed in the carafe, and started to burn.The fish were floating.Curtains blew inward with the morning breeze.
FishingThe lantern on the flatboat's bow didn't reveal what lay beneath the oily water. Dupree hawked and spat into it, but the phlegm just bobbed on the peat. He slapped at a mosquito, turned and grinned at his charges. His teeth were wooden."Close by, oui? Be havin' you at the devil's doorstep afore midnight." He was talking to the big man pulling the oars, but reserved his gaze and lecher's grin for the girl. She stayed silent and gripped her Henry rifle with white fingers. "As promised," the big man answered in a gravelly voice poured over a French accent. "Before midnight. A minute later, the bargain is forfeit." He worked the oars like a man accustomed to keeping silent. No splashes. The oars disturbed the fetid water not half as much as the guide's spittle.Dupree shuddered, then unscrewed a flask and took two pulls. "As promised, monsieur Dominic, mademoiselle Elene. Dupree does not play false."Dominic grunted and shared a look with Elene. It had been her idea to hire th
4. Lem's DebtsAfter the girl had put away a cup or two of warmed-over pig blood, and Lem felt comfortable that she wouldn't run off, he left Melody at the table and went in search of Sister Constance.She was in the day room, handing out clean blankets as they trickled in. Lem nodded at the ones he knew. There was Pryor, always first in line. He looked at Lem with his good eye on the non-burned half of his face. Next was Sketch. He traded a drawing to the Sister for the blanket. She held it up to the light. A perfect rendering of St. Mark's Cathedral lit up at night, right down to the rivets on the door and the security camera above it."It's beautiful, dear."Sketch shuffled off. Buttercup followed. She'd been another one of Old Hitchcock's ducklings, just like Lem had been. The old man had found her gnawing on an usher behind the Galaxy Bijou during a midnight showing of The Princess Bride. He took her in, calmed her down, and almost convinced her that all it took was blood. Sometimes she s
3. Lem's First LessonIt was a tiny room lit by a buzzing flourescent light, painted eggshell white and interrupted with posters delivering passages from Scripture, social services information, and the Mission's rules. There was a folding table in the middle of the room, folding chairs on either side. Against a wall sat a smaller table with a coffeemaker cradling a dented, stainless-steel carafe.Melody sat at the table, staring at her hands as they absently picked each other's fingernails. Lem poured a cup from the carafe, walked to the table and set the cup down in front of her. He dropped a legal pad and a mechanical pencil in front of an empty chair, and sat down.The cup steamed. Melody looked at it, then back at her hands.Lem clicked some lead into the pencil, scribbled on the pad and showed it to her.I know you're hungry. It's pig blood. Warm. Will do the trick for now.She read the message, looked at the posters, then looked at the cup again, for longer this time before looking away.Lem sc
InterventionHe let himself in through an unlocked window, following a cool breeze and far-away barking dogs. The window squeaked a bit as he eased it open, fractured moonlight scattering across a dark tableau of shadows.The floor creaked beneath his boots as he stood, surveying the scene. There she was: the girl he'd come to see. Seated at her desk, head down, backlit by the gentle blue cast of an open laptop. It was so peaceful, but he'd been summoned because of recent violence done here. He sniffed experimentally: blood, cordite, something else
ah, honeysuckle. He liked that smell. Despite himself he smiled a little as he eased closer for a look.Her name was April. He'd known that before he'd come. Some of her personal details were tickling his memory even now, but he preferred a more hands-on approach
like, the laptop. He eased it from its place on the desk, disconnecting
Working Outside the Law Sheriff Walgrove stared up at the cabin and grinned. He could see the shadow of the criminal he had been tracking as it moved back and forth in front of the windows. Must've thought he was safe, that he'd outsmarted the sheriff. Perfect. Soon it would be over. The chase had come to an end. He approached the cabin slowly so he wouldn't break any twigs or startle any animals. Everything depended on the element of surprise tonight. The door was old and broke easily under a swift kick on the sheriff's end. At last he was face to face with the son of a bitch who had murdered his niece. "What in the hell are you doing? This is a private residence!" Walgrove stepped in over the remains of the door and kicked off his boots. "Your running's done, Cade. It's time to settle up for your crime." "What crime? What are you talking about?" He tossed his hat aside and began to unbutton his shirt. "The murd
Memory TrainThey parked at a Circle-K and hiked up the canyon trail behind the store, making it to the top of the ridge by sundown. The day had been blazing, katydids buzzing past them in lethargic arcs the whole way. Tall grass bit at them and stuck to their sweat-soaked clothing but presented little challenge otherwise... but now the sun was down and warm desert winds gave way to cool breezes.The railroad tracks were as they remembered, twin gleaming beams carrying moonlight off to the horizon in both directions. Track so straight they appeared photoshopped, movie magic as done by lazy CGI animators who couldn't be bothered with realism.She bent down to touch one cool rail. It sang in her hand."Soon," she looked up at him, expression unreadable. "We haven't much time."He nodded, unslung his pack. Started removing items: tent, camping gear, food for breakfast. From the bottom he fished out a tiny digital camera and t