|Art by John and Flo Stanton
Do Something About It!
A Vic Powers story
When Ronda called me she was angry
and almost hysterical with rage.
“That son-of-a-bitch has been
up my ass too damn long now. This is the last time, Vic. I want you to do something. Straighten him out, once and for all!”
I didn’t say anything, I’d
heard this all before. Ronda was a pint-size young gal who had had it with some two-bit moron neighbor who was causing her
all kinds of grief. She told me daily stories about how he’d tailgate her small Honda with his big truck down Gerritsen
Avenue, terrorizing her when she came home from work, then parking in front of her house instead of his own. Annoying certainly,
but not deadly. Your generic Brooklyn bigmouth with shit-for-brains.
“You there, Vic?”
“Yeah,” I said. “What
do you want me to do about it, Ronda?”
“What do I want you to do about it! Are you a freakin’ retard? I want you to kill the bastard! I know you’ve killed people
before, and some of them a lot less deserving than this freak. I want him dead!”
I laughed. “I don’t think
I can do that.”
“I can,” she said and there
was no doubt at all in her voice. “I hate him.”
We were silent for one very long second.
Then the second was over.
“Will you come over?” she
“Yeah, I’ll be right over.”
It only took me fifteen minutes to
drive from my rented dive in Canarsie to Ronda’s small one-family cottage in Gerritsen Beach. She lived alone in the
co-called new section, cute tightly-packed homes and bungalows on narrow streets by the water. The whole place looked more
like a scene from a New England fishing village mistakenly dumped into the ass-end of Brooklyn.
I could see Ronda waiting in front
of her house as I drove down the block. I saw there was only one parking spot, smack dab in front of Ronda’s house like
it was Kismet or something, and I headed straight towards it.
Out of nowhere a huge shiny black pickup
made a screeching turn from the other corner, cut me off, and shot into the spot like I didn’t even exist.
“What the fuck!” I shouted.
Where the hell had he come from?
The guy, your generic young muscle-bound
moron-type parked in my spot and was about to get out of his truck when I pulled up beside him. Real close. My passenger side
door was blocking his driver’s side door from opening. He was trapped in his truck, just where I wanted him.
I lowered my passenger window. I looked
at the big mook, trying to keep calm, wanting to keep it gentlemanly. I didn’t want to start trouble with the guy. I
figured, with the deepest respect, I’d say, “Hey, fucking asshole, that’s
my damn spot!”
Well, that’s what I wanted to say, instead what I
said was, “Excuse me, I think you took my spot.”
The guy looked at me like I’d just arrived from Mars. His face twisted when he realized my SUV
was blocking him from opening his door to get out.
“Fuck you!” he shouted. “Move your piece of shit out of my way!”
Well, this didn’t seem to be the proper attitude to take at all and I was about to tell him so
when he jerked open his door, smashing it into my door.
Now I saw red.
He just laughed viciously, like the big jerk he was, not even caring about whatever damage he had done
to his own vehicle. Muscle-bound morons can be like that –all hyped up on ego and testosterone. I saw he had an old
guy in the cab with him, most likely his father, and it looked like the relic was already passed out drunk. It wasn’t
even noon yet.
“You took my parking spot, now you smashed my door!” I shouted in disbelief.
“Too fucking bad! Now move off, asshole!”
I heard loud booms behind me and was amazed to see Ronda banging with her fists on the back of the
I sighed, that Ronda, what a gal, she was always ready for
trouble. I knew it wouldn’t be easy to calm her down, now that she was all revved up.
Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I saw another woman bolt out of one of the houses nearby and take
Ronda down with a running tackle. Ronda was flung back and both women were on the ground, embroiled in a fierce fight on the
small lawn in front of Ronda’s house.
This was all turning to shit way too fast for me. I moved my SUV forward away from the guy’s
truck and double-parked up ahead. Then I got out and ran back to the two women to break up their fight.
I tried to find an opening where I could pull
Ronda off the thin peroxide blonde. Ronda, while smaller, was a spunky angry little bitch and was beginning to beat the crap
out of the other woman, I was kinda proud of her, but I couldn’t let her face a felony beef. I knew I had to stop this
before it got too serious.
“Come on now . . . ladies . . .” I finally got
a hold of Ronda and was about to pull her off the other woman when I felt a huge hand wrap itself around my arm.
“What the fuck!”
“Let them fight, asshole.”
It was Muscle-head.
I looked at him serious now, “Get your hand off my arm.”
I smiled, ripping into the steroid-hulk and hammering him with my fists. He never knew what hit him.
My knuckles smashed into his face and gut non-stop like a battering ram. His face was soon transformed into a bloody mess.
In sixty seconds I had him on the ground and was knocking him senseless. He tried to fight back, but I wasn’t no kid
or woman, which I presumed was his usual beat-down partner. He never expected the force and fury of my attack. I was so relentless,
so quick, he never had a chance to get his breath, much less go on the offensive. My motto: “Never give an asshole an
Once he was down and out, I went over and pulled Ronda off the anemic blonde.
“Vic, let me finish her off!”
“Ronda, the poor girl’s got no teeth left, enough is enough.”
Ronda smiled. “I’m glad you came over, Vic. It’s always good to see you.”
“Yeah, it’s nice to see you again, too,” I said with a shrug. “Now that this
shit is done with, why the hell did you want me to come here anyway?”
“You just did it.”
“What do you mean?”
“Little Abner. Least ways that’s what I call him. You gave him a beating he won’t
forget. Thanks, Vic.”
“My pleasure,” I said. “What about the wife?”
Ronda laughed, “Oh, Daisy Mae? She ain’t nothing. I can
take care of her, myself.”
“You sure as hell did. I never realized there could be so
many problems owning a home in this neighborhood.”
“You have no idea what I have to go through, Vic. No idea.
I won’t even tell you about the problems with all the spoiled out-of-control kids and the stray cats. But the worst
is Little Abner. I hate Little Abner.”
I smiled. Ronda could be like that sometimes. “I don’t
think you’ll be having any more trouble with Little Abner and if you do I’ll be glad to come over and give him
another attitude adjustment.”
“Thanks, Vic, you’re the best. I knew I could count
on you to do something about it.”
Copyright 2009 by Gary Lovisi.
All Rights Reserved.
|Art by Lonni Lees © 2010
Jack smacked me upside the head so
hard I swore I could feel my eyeballs rattle inside their sockets.
Jack liked to smack. He was very good at it.
“Wha-?” I stammered, confused.
I was just happy to be out of my cage and working again with Jack.
“Stoop-it!” He said it
just like that, using separate words, ‘stoop’ and ‘it’.
“Look, Jack, I know I’m
stupid for loosing the cash and all . . .”
I can be slow sometimes.
We’d been doing jobs all along
the East Coast, but it had gotten too hot so we decided – well, actually Jack decided – we’d take a trip
out West and check out the lay of the land, as he put it. Plenty of young gash and green cash, he said, out in La-La-Land.
So we took the plane ride – wow! – got a place, then Jack made calls to people he knew. The unsavory kind. Then
he began to line up jobs for us.
“Now listen to me, moron! Don’t
be getting stoop-it like you were back East. This here ain’t New York City and don’t let the fucking palm trees
fool you, the skells out here may have blonde hair and perfect tans but they’ll cut out your heart, eat it raw, and
then shit it back out at ya before you ever know what hit you. You got it?”
“I understand, Jack,”
I said, trying not to be scared. Sometimes I think Jack told me stuff just to make me scared and then he’d laugh at
me, but he wasn’t laughing now. I knew that he didn’t want me going soft in the head like I do sometimes. He told
me I had to focus, pay attention to business and above all, remember the rules. The rules were important. I broke the rules
when I lost all that cash the first time. Or was it the second time? I forget which. Jack gave me cash to take some place
and someone took it from me, but Jack was always right there to surprise them. Then they were made dead and I was safe. That
was our main rule. I always did just what Jack told me to do and he always came and made me safe. He rescued me. Jack was
happy because he got his cash back from the bad man he had to pay.
Thing is, Jack and me was partners
in crime and partners in blood. He told me we were identical twins, meaning we looked so much alike no one could tell us apart
– ‘cepting that I was the stoop-it one.
Jack always told me I was a shit-for-brains,
numb-nuts, brain-dead cretin. I used to laugh at them words because they sounded so funny when he said them. I didn’t
even know what cretin was. But I wasn’t all that stoop-it and I was glad
to have Jack to look after me. I called him my saving grace, like mama used to say before Jack made her go away. Jack did
a pretty decent job looking after me even if he would loose his patience at times. I mean, I guess I deserved a smack now
Thankfully I had Jack to look out
for me. He was real smart, so I knew I had it made.
Out here in L.A. no one knew us and
Jack said that was good. I shrugged, usually I agreed with Jack. After all, Jack was always right. A lot of times when he
would work what he called a set-up, he’d have me come out and show myself, then the goons would all come after me. See,
I was Jack as far as they were concerned and then Jack would slam the mark with a heavy hit. Down he’d go, deader than
dead, never knowing what hit him. It worked good.
Jack always kept me out of sight until
he needed me. I had a room in the basement and he gave me a bed, and I even got a TV. I watch it all the time. Mostly cartoons.
I love cartoons.
I always knew we got a new job coming
when Jack unlocked my room, then I’d hear him call out, “Hey, Stoop-it moron! Wake the fuck up! We got work to
do!” Then he’d shave me, wash me, fix my hair, and give me new clothes to wear, clean clothes that didn’t
smell bad and that I hadn’t made my business in, yet. When I was all cleaned up and dressed I looked exactly like Jack!
You could not tell us apart.
I liked that. I liked it when I looked
like Jack. But I don’t think Jack liked me looking like him at all. He said he only tolerated it because we had a job
to do and we got money for it. Jack got all the money, I never saw any but I didn’t care none. I didn’t need money
and Jack said he needed money real bad.
My part was always simple. Jack told
me two, maybe four times already, made me talk it all back to him so I’d be sure I got it right.
“The job,” I told Jack,
thinking hard to remember it all correctly so I wouldn’t get smacked, “is let some people think that I am you.
I pretend to be you and go where you tell me to, like some dumb-ass without a care in the world.”
Jack nodded, holding his temper.
I said, “I act . . . o-bliv-vi-ous?”
“Know what that means, stoop-it?”
“Ahhh . . .? I said. “Ahhh,
Jack . . . ?”
He smacked me upside the head. “Now
pay attention, moron! It means, like you don’t know shit. Which you sure as hell don’t! Understand? I don’t
know why I have to explain it to you every time we have a job. We always do the same plan. They’re gonna follow you,
think you are me, so they can get the drop on you. When they do, I surprise them. Got it?”
I said, “Yeah, Jack, sure, you
I didn’t let on to Jack that
I had no idea why we were doing these things, nor why we were out here in L.A. doing them. It didn’t seem right at all
but I knew Jack was my saving grace and that he’d be there to help me if there was any trouble just like he always did.
I walked to where Jack told me to,
at a corner by an alley. I never saw anyone following me, but Jack said they’d be there. I didn’t care, I was
acting o-bliv-vi-ous, just like Jack had told me to do. So I walked down Sunset and then cut into a dark alleyway. It was
dark and quiet, real scary, and then I heard the footsteps behind me.
There were two of them. Big guys and
they looked mean. They already had their guns out. They walked closer and I tried to walk back away from them, pretending
not to notice them as Jack had told me to do. I walked farther back but I was running out of alleyway. I was in a dead end.
One of the men said, “This is
great, almost too easy. Jack Rawlins, trapped like a rat, and now he’s going to die like a rat.”
“Pretty damn stupid, Jack,”
the other guy said, pointing his gun. “We figured you for better than allowing yourself to get caught in a fix like
this, but me and the boys appreciate you making it so easy for us.”
I got nervous. It looked like they
were going to shoot me. I wondered where Jack could be. I knew they thought I was Jack, but I wasn’t! – but of
course I couldn’t tell them that. Jack said that was against the rules.
Finally I saw Jack by a window, looking
down at me in the alley below. He was smiling, watching, but not doing anything. I saw him and knew that he saw me, but instead
of him giving me the signal that he’d be coming down to help me, he turned his face away and closed the curtains.
“Jack?” I whispered. “You’re
my saving grace, I don’t know what to do without you.”
The two men with the guns just laughed
and came closer. I knew now they were going to kill me and that Jack was not going to come to my aid. Jack knew what was happening
and he had turned his back on me. I could hardly believe it, and it hurt so much. I couldn’t figure why Jack had broken
the rules and left me to die. I was in a panic when it all suddenly came to me. I had figured it out. Instead of Jack setting
up these men for the fall, Jack had set me up for the fall, but why? “Why did you do it, Jack? That’s not right,
you broke the rules!”
“You have the wrong guy!”
I blurted to the two men.
They laughed, then aimed their guns
I had to think fast. I said, “You’ve
gotta listen to me, Jack and me are twins, I’m his brother. I’m . . . slow. Jack uses me to . . .”
They were on me now, shoving me to
the ground, holding me down with their guns to my head.
I shouted, “”We’re
twins and Jack is here watching us. He thinks if you kill me, he’ll get away scot free. Look up there, at that window,
you’ll see him watching us. Look, damnit! Look up!”
One of the men did look up. I saw
a strange expression come to his face, then he turned to his partner, “Joe, that rumor might just be true after all.
I think I saw him, or someone who looked just like him, and just like this guy here. I’m going on up there and find
out what the hell’s going on. I don’t wanna off some freakin’ retard and let Jack get away again.”
The man named Joe got up and left,
the other man stayed with me, keeping his gun to my head, telling me, “Now don’t be stupid, shut up and lay still.”
I said, “I’m not stupid.”
He smacked me in the head. “Shut
I said, “You smack just like
The man just looked at me then, said,
“Damn, I guess it is true, twins, and a freakin’ retard at that.”
I said, “I’m . . . slow.”
“Slow ain’t the word, buddy, now shut up.” Then he lowered his gun, “If what you say is true,
you won’t get hurt.”
I said, “Thank you, I don’t
want to get hurt or made dead. I just don‘t know why Jack didn’t save me.”
The man just shook his head. “See,
we were after Jack in New York. Now if we thought you was Jack and we killed you, we would go back home and tell the boss
that Jack was dead. Only Jack wouldn’t be dead, he’d be alive and safe from us being after him. You’d be
the one who would be dead.”
I stood frozen in panic as I realized
Jack‘s plan for me. I didn’t like it at all. Jack had broken the
rules. Now I knew I had no choice but to break the rules too.
I heard the shots from inside the
building behind us soon afterwards. Then I heard a crash of glass and saw something fall down at us.
It was Jack. He was screaming but when he hit the
ground he was quiet and still. He was bleeding.
He coughed blood, tried to talk, said,
“Damnit, I fucked up.”
The other man ran away now and I went
over to Jack. We were alone. I tried to help Jack. I held him in my arms and tried to wipe away the blood but it just kept
flowing and I couldn’t stop it.
Jack just kept mumbling but he couldn’t
I said, “I’m sorry, Jack.
It’s all my fault you’re going to die but what you did wasn’t very nice. You broke the rules. You were supposed
to help me. Those men were going to kill me and you were going to let them!”
Jack laughed, more blood gushed out
of his mouth. I wiped it away. He said, “It should be you laying here instead of me, stoop-it. I’m the one that
had a life and a future, not a shit-for-brains nothing retard like you.”
That hurt. Jack could say some hurtful
things sometimes. I just said, “Well, Jack, I may be the stoop-it one, but I ain’t the one that’s dying.
Goodbye Jack, I don’t think I want to partner with you anymore.”
Jack’s last words were, “Stoop-it!
But for the first time in my life
they didn’t bother me because I knew Jack was talking about himself and not me.
Copyright 2010 by Gary Lovisi. All Rights
|Art by Stephen Cooney © 2013
For Fear of Winning
I scooped up my winnings. They was mostly union government greenbacks and gold coin,
but someone had snuck in a useless Confederate Twenty which I certainly ignored. It didn’t
matter at that point. I’d won and I was happy. I’d done a right proper job
of cleaning these fellas out of all their money and was getting set to say my heartfelt good-byes.
“Hold on there!” The guy with the black beard growled, I never did get
“You ain’t going nowhere, son,” the one named Taggert added harshly.
I looked over at Taggert, then at the rest of the men in the room. They were as
hard and grim a bunch as I’ve ever seen. Oh, ten hours or so ago, they was all jovial
enough, laughing and drinking, drinking and backslapping as they told stupid jokes. Each
one drunk and figuring he’d win a bit, lose a bit, go home none the worse for wear and a good time. Well,
ten hours had passed and the alcohol had run out and left them a nasty bunch, but what drove them
to their worst was that the game had drastically changed all their fortunes. Instead of
them taking turns winning, losing and winning back, I’d won consistently through
the night and with that last big pot, now I’d won it all!
course I’d cheated.
I used two sets of hidden
dice. One loaded, one shaved.
gonna give us a chance to win our money back,” Scanlon, a low-down gunman said meaningfully. “Ain’t
I smiled. I thought it
impolite to point out to them that they had no money left to wager with so as to win their money back.
They awaited my response a bit too keenly.
guess I could stake you some,” I said lamely.
“Stake me!” Scanlon barked, hand on gun now. He looked highly insulted
but what did he expect me to do about it?
I shrugged, collecting
“I said you’re not going nowhere,” Taggert broke in leaving no
doubt about his intentions.
winner, the game’s over,” I replied sternly, trying not to show my nervousness. “Now I’m going
to get some sleep.”
heard the hammer of a pistol cocked back.
“Sleep is what
you’ll get for damn certain if you step away from this here table,” one of the other men said. I didn’t
see his gun but I would bet that it was drawn and pointed at me from under his coat.
That’s how it was. We was in Bonfiglio’s Barber Shop and Gambling Emporium.
Haircuts done cheap and fast in the two-chairs up front – high-stakes craps thrown
on the walled table in the back room. It wasn’t strictly casino and not exactly street
gaming but it was busy enough and there was always good action and plenty of cash.
determined months ago to take them all with my crooked dice. I switched them off on the
boys using hidden pockets in the lower sleeve of my heavy coat. That coat clinched it for
me, because Bonfigio’s was a clapboard storefront with a busted stove tailor made
for my shenanigans. Even when it worked that stove only heated the front of the store. The back room, in this
particularly freezing cold winter weather was as cold as being outside, but without the howling wind.
Smoke came out of all our mouths as we breathed or talked, mixed with cigarette and cigar
smoke, half a dozen beer and liquor smells and the odor of various unwashed bodies.
“You ain’t going nowhere…” Scanlon repeated, “…if
you want to continue living.”
“See, boy, we all
know you cheated!” Taggert blurted it out plain as day and as sure as a game cock rooster.
Well, that was it! It was said and out there now and I had to do something about
it. Let me tell you, it was a tough situation to be in. Of course I protested loudly, indignant
as all hell. Convincing enough so that a couple of the guys called for the dice off the
table to do a check.
Thank God I’d already palmed my loaded set and had them tucked safely away
in the secret pocket—replacing them with the good dice now on the table.
Bonafice Rogers checked the dice carefully and pronounced them good.
That got a few of them thinking they might have been wrong. The guns went down but
the ideas was flying high and fast, and ideas on this bunch could lead to trouble. That
might mean a search—a search I could not allow.
guys, suppose I stake you all,” I said fast. “We’re playing a friendly game and I want to
keep it friendly. Let’s do one last toss of the dice. If I win, you let me go with
my winnings. If I lose you let me go with what I got left after you take your winnings.”
A few of the fellows nodded assent. They liked that idea. They said it seemed fair.
Hell, it was more than fair, it was robbery!
looked at me cold and hard, “Boy, if you win this round – you’re dead!”
I swallowed hard, took the dice handed off to me by the stickman, who kept hold
of the dice when not in use. He was a lax fellow who hadn’t paid close attention
all night and that’s the reason I was able to palm the dice and make the switches
so clean. Now, however, like all the others there he was wide alert, his eyes glued to my hand and the dice in them.
I realized I’d gotten myself into one of those darn tricky and precarious
situations for a cheat. I’d been too successful. Now, no matter what, I had to lose.
I knew if I could make the change to the shaved or gaffed pair in my left sleeve
I could game the table and ensure my loss—but I could never make the switch
now. Not with them watching so closely. I’d have to use the good dice on the table—it
would be just my damn luck that I’d win.
winning could be the death of me!
As if to augment that
danger in my mind I saw Scanlon and Taggert point their revolvers at me. Even old Bonfiglio the barber,
placed a six-shooter on the ledge in front of him. I was afraid these boys was primed to go off and might
start spraying hot lead any moment.
was the first time as a shooter that my life could be decided by one roll of the dice and I was nervous as a virgin
in a whorehouse. I started to shake those dice hard, realizing that I might be playing
craps for the very last time.
I’d dumped about
half of my ill-gotten winnings on the Pass line. Since none of the fellows had any money left it was arranged
in advance that they would each take a 10% share of what was there if I lost.
And I had better make sure I lost.
swallowed tightly and let go of the dice. They flew across the dirty felt and hit against
the back table wall. My come-out roll was a Twelve, Boxcars, and thankfully I’d crapped
out. Which meant that I had lost. I sighed gratefully. Losing never felt so good. Now,
maybe I could get the hell out of here.
Huge greasy paws raked
in the winnings and it was doled out equally to the boys by Taggert and Scanlon. There was some confusion
and antagonism but they were a happy crew, after all they had gotten their money back. Some like Scanlon
and Taggert were getting more than they’d even come to the table with originally.
I picked up the remainder of my cash ready to bolt out the back door.
“Hey, where you going?” Scanlon blurted.
“He said, boy,
where the hell you going?” Taggert barked. “We ain’t done with you yet.”
“Come on, fellas,” I said appealing to their sportsmanship and trying
to keep it cordial, willing to put some backbone in my tone to let onto them that I’d
had just about enough of their little game.
Taggert pointed his Colt,
“I know you cheated us. I don’t know how you pulled it off, but I know you cheated.”
“That’s a damn black lie!” I shouted, as indignant and insulted
as I could muster.
“Then stand down for a search,” Bonfiglio said casually.
I gulped. I couldn’t do that.
I said, “Why, that’s a downright insult. I swear I played fair
and square, won my share rightly. I also note that I just lost a big pile of money, fairly too. You
all took back a cut of my winnings. Bonifice checked the dice before my throw. He said
they were clean. What more do you boys want?”
heard the meaningful sound of the hammer on another revolver pulled back. I felt a cold chill run through me.
“What you’re planning to do is robbery…and bloody murder!”
I barked, stammering as I got the words out, rage and fear fighting in my mind. That seemed
to hold them off a bit, they wasn’t tried and true killers – least not most
of them. Not yet. “You had your chance to win your money back and you won it. So leave me be. I’m going now.”
“You gotta lose the rest,” Scanlon said seriously.
I looked at him, then around at the other faces. They were all serious. “That’s
all I got left.”
that or your life,” Taggert said sharply. There was no bend in his manner or attitude, he meant business. They
all did. “Of course, if you can stand a search then maybe there’s no problem.”
I couldn’t stand a search and he knew it. I kept my mouth shut.
“I didn’t think so, boy,” Taggert replied with a wicked grin.
The stickman, Bonifice, handed me the dice again, growling, “Shoot ‘em!”
Taggert reached over and grabbed the rest of my cash from the table, all that was
left of my winnings for the night. “Your choice where it goes down, Pass or Don’t
I shrugged, did it matter? Maybe it did, because if I shot and made a point I’d
have to keep shooting and if I kept shooting I might just post an honest win. I figured
that winning now, with these legit dice, couldn’t put me in any worse of a fix than
I was in already. It might even set things on a new path. Leastways, that’s what I hoped.
“Alright, place it all on the Don’t Pass line.”
Taggert grinned wickedly and put the pile where I had requested.
I blew on the dice once for good luck, which was all they’d allow me. Some
pilgrims feel dice heated by a shooter’s breath can turn a trick or two when rolled.
My one breath was just for luck, and only for luck, which is what I needed most right then.
Then I let loose with the dice. They sprang across the felt tabletop, slamming into
the backboard and rolling all over the field in opposite directions. My come-out roll was
Snake-Eyes, a Two. I would have lost on a Pass line bet but with a Don’t Pass bet
I’d have to shoot again now to make point. I rolled a second time and it was a Six. Six was the point so it
came down to the fact that I needed a Seven to win.
took the dice in hand again for a third time.
was tension all around the table. I was sweating bullets and part of it was from the very
possible fact that I might be feeling some real bullets soon enough.
I needed a Seven, a Seven-out would end it for me and I’d be a winner. But
what would the reaction be from the fellows here? Even if I won legit, they still might
kill me. Some of them looked pretty mad. If I lost, they’d take all the rest of my
money, and then probably kill me anyway. So, if I was a dead man regardless, I’d go out my own way with my
own winnings. I decided to try and make the Seven-out.
shook the dice in my right hand. I was fearful of winning, I was fearful of losing. In the
end I might get a bullet either way so what did it matter?
“Come on Seven!” I shouted. Then I let loose with the dice.
Those dice rolled like Mexican jumping beans, which was not a good sign. They rolled
across the felt like rain off a beaver’s hide. Slick. Fast. When they stopped I saw
a Four, and then as slow as molasses in summer a Three came up.
I’d made my point.
I’d won the toss.
I looked over at the
hard faces of the ten men in front of me. I tried to ignore the shooting irons some of them still held
out and ready. The hell with them! I’d won legit and I was going to collect my winnings and get out
I reached over to the pile of cash lying on the Don’t Pass line and grabbed
“I should drill you right now,” Taggert growled, none too happy.
“He won, fair and square,” Scanlon admitted, lowering his piece. “That’s
the way it goes sometimes.”
Bonifice nodded, he checked
the dice again. “They’re clean. He won it with honest dice.”
course I did,” I said, grabbing my money and stuffing it into my pockets.
“Hold up!” Taggert shouted. I heard a revolver shot; I looked back in
fear. He’d let a round go into the ceiling -- some wood splinters fell down onto
the table. I gulped nervously, this wasn’t looking good.
done and I’m going!” I demanded.
you ain’t!” Taggert said and clicked back the hammer of his Colt. “The next one won’t be
in the ceiling, it’ll be inside you.”
stood frozen. I stammered, “What the hell you want?”
“You’re gonna stand for a search.”
I looked around at the faces of the other men in the room. Most were ambivalent
at this point but they were coming around at the prospect of some further entertainment
at my expense.
I was unarmed and had to think fast.
shouldn’t have won that last toss,” Taggert added. “I left you an out
and you didn’t take it.”
“You left me an
out!” I barked, “You call me a cheat, you force me to stake the table for two rounds, I lose the first
one and you take half my winnings, then you want everything else I won. I won’t go for that.”
“Put the money back on the table, roll the dice again, just against me, one
last time,” Taggert ordered. “If you lose this time you get to walk out of
here alive. If you win, you’re a dead man.”
this was just plain robbery now. It was also clear to me that I had to lose and lose fast. It was I versus Taggert.
He had a gun trained on me and I was unarmed.
stickman passed me the dice with a wicked grin.
was beginning to hate this damn game. I was beginning to feel it might be the death of me
The men around the table were grinning widely, some drinking, laughing, placing
side bets on whether Taggert would blow me to Kingdom Come or make me run out like a beaten
whelp with it’s tail between it’s legs.
on, roll ‘em!” Taggert shouted impatiently.
I rolled ‘em -- flinging both dice as hard as I could right into Taggert’s eyes. He winced, got off a shot
that went wide, then I was on him. In a flash I was pounding away at him for dear life
until the other men grabbed me up and held me fast.
me go!” I growled. “Who the hell does he think he is!”
“I don’t think so,” Scanlon said, looking around at the other
men. “What should we do with him?”
Taggert came close to
me then, “I think I’ll shoot him dead. But first, he’s gotta stand for a search.”
Then they held me fast and searched every inch of me and my clothing. Bonifice the
stickman finally announced with some surprise and perhaps even remorse, “He’s
clean. I mean really clean. No dice.”
“See! I told you
I was clean.”
There was silence for a moment. Taggert had been so sure of his accusation but now
there was doubt on his face also.
I gave them my best self-righteous,
told-you-so glare, showing disgust for each and every one of them, and damn if some of them
even withered under my gaze. They knew now they’d been wrong.
“Thanks for the game fellas,” I barked out. “Now I’m
leaving and I’m taking my winnings with me.”
were quiet so I got the hell out of there fast while the getting was good. I was on my
horse and on the way out of town when I heard a thunderous howl of rage.
I smiled, Taggert had found the two sets of dice I had planted on him.
It wasn’t long before I was on my way into the next county and I wouldn’t
stop running until I was into the next state. While I still have tremors about Taggert
tracking me down to this day, I don’t get no more nightmares about the fear of winning.
Copyright 2013 by Gary Lovisi.
|Art by Noelle Richardson © 2017
For decades I had
been obsessed with the little known, supernatural conundrum I’d dubbed “The
Borlsover Affair”. I’d heard and read snatches of it here and there of course,
but never beheld the truth of the matter until now.
The story particularly intrigued me as I was
a writer -- one who can only create his stories in original first draft by hand -- hence I became obsessed with the tale of an animated appendage told
to me by one of the survivors of the affair. The man was named Saunders -- an old and rather
unsavory broken fellow living out his last days as a mathematical master at a second-rate
suburban school. Upon the application of a far too liberal mixture of alcoholic
beverages one evening I forced him to tell me the entire tale -- a grotesque
nightmarish story he had often intimated to me, but never fully expounded upon,
for the fear was always upon him. The alcohol loosened his tongue as I knew it
would that dark late October night, before Halloween would come upon us, as he told
me the full tale of the Borlsover Family. He began recounting the sad life of old cantankerous
Adrian Borlsover, gone blind but gifted with some form of automatic writing in his animated
right hand, and of his young nephew, Eustace -- and then of the hand itself.
beast with five fingers it was, Mr. Jameson,” Saunders grimly whispered to me in
the dark corner of a secluded booth in an empty barroom that chilly evening. “Not
a proper hand at all was it. Long bony fingers, muscle to it certainly, but no warm flesh
nor blood. A demon thing, haunted by some disembodied spirit of Adrian Borlsover or some
other of the Borlsover clan -- a human hand that put pen to paper to write such
blasphemy as one could never imagine. I think the entire family was cursed.
Poor Eustace! The hand took him eventually.”
I nodded grimly, for I believed the man entirely.
I believed him because over the many years of research and through vast expense, I now
had the hand in my possession, locked away in a safe in my home.
told this all to Saunders. His eyes bugged wide in terror, froth flecking at his lips as
he appeared momentarily unable to utter any words.
“So will you help
me?” I asked him plainly, impatiently. My plan was to investigate the hand, understand
it, to control it, and Saunders was the one man alive who possessed that knowledge. He
was someone who had actual experience with the thing and could help me make it
do my bidding. Long ago, Eustace Borlsover and he had discovered it, on that
dark day a mysterious small box was delivered to Eustace with his uncle’s
severed right hand inside it.
Saunders shook, took a long drink. “You
have it, don’t you? You son of a bitch! Why? Why on Earth! How ever did you find
“It was not easy, Mr. Saunders, I can
assure you. The time and expense was excessive but… Well, who can place a value upon
such a thing? I am a writer, as I told you before, and I write all my work by hand with
pen on paper -- in the classic style. It is the only way I can write and I make a very
successful living from it. All first drafts are done in that manner, then after editing
I transpose the manuscript via typewriter for further rewriting and editing, but the idea
phase -- that most important part of the creative process -- I can only do by hand with
pen to paper first.”
“Automatic writing?” he asked with a
wild-eyed look of suspicion.
“Perhaps…?” I replied softly. “I
imagine one might call it that if one were to think in those terms. The mind
creates the ideas, but the hand holding the pen writes them all down carefully and with
great speed. Writing them faster than I could ever type them. Better than I could ever
speak them into any recording device or to any secretary via shorthand. While each writer
has their own system that works best for them, this is the only way I can create my work.”
sometimes, doesn’t it seem to you that your hand writes what it will, almost with
a mind of its own?” Saunders asked hoarsely.
“Yes, it does,”
I replied with a sly grin. “Sometimes in the heat of the creative process…the
hand does seem to do what it will.”
“So what is it
I laughed at him, then smiled indulgently, “Mr.
Saunders, I know not what you are thinking. My success enables me to indulge myself in
these little conundrums that I find interesting, fascinating, even exhilarating. The story
of the hand of Adrian Borlsover is one I have been obsessed with for a long time, and now
I own the thing.”
“You may think you own it, Mr.
Jameson,” Saunders husked dryly, trying to hold back the evident terror he felt lodged
within from long dark memories, “but I am afraid that it owns you now as well.”
I said briskly, impatient, refusing to accommodate the fearfulness and abject blue funk
that had overtaken the man. “I want to study the thing and more so -- what I really
want to do is set it to writing for me, then to read what mysterious words and sentences
it will put down on paper. Who knows what mysteries it will unlock and tell us?”
looked at me with utter disbelief. “It is a demon haunted thing and no good can ever
come of its use. I would fear its words, sir, I would fear the print from a pen written
by such a hand.”
“Not I! I should be delighted to read
what it has to write down for us, Mr. Saunders,” I told him firmly. “Come now,
join me in this endeavor and I can assure you, you never need want for money. I know
you are perpetually short on funds, but if you join me you need never fear that situation
“Aye, I am low on funds but I fear not
poverty -- I drink up most of my pay to keep the nightmare’s away -- for it is an
old fear that rattles around in my bones about that hand, Mr. Jameson. I still see it in
my mind’s eye, scurrying across the floor of Master Eustace’s library, climbing
up the drapes, cater pillaring its long bony fingers along the book shelves. It’s
a nightmare I’ll never forget, but I will join you and help you as best I am able,
just as I did young Eustace, God rest his soul. But not only for money will I do this work,
but upon your command I will be there to destroy the creature when you come to your senses
to allow it to be done.”
I laughed heartily at that, “I don’t
think that will ever happen, Mr. Saunders. But I accept your service and will pay
you well for your advice and experience. Now let us get home and get some sleep, for we
start our adventure bright and early tomorrow morning promptly at eight am.”
helped Saunders to a cab that took him to his run-down hovel of an apartment. Then I drove
to my townhouse, my mind swirling with thoughts of what marvelous words that amazing hand
would soon put to paper for me.
The next day promptly at eight am, Jenkins,
my assistant, let Mr. Saunders into my parlor for our initial meeting. I must say that
for the amount of drink, lack of sleep, and his advanced age, he seemed remarkably sharp
“I’m here, Mr. Jameson, I’m ready to
begin,” he stated firmly, though I thought my eyes could detect a slight tremor
of his left hand. Tension, fear, terror, or early onset of some debilitating
disease? I did not know, nor did I much care, for we had important work to do.
let us get started,” I said, leading him into my large wood-paneled book-lined study
and closing the door resoundingly behind me. “We are alone now.”
looked in awe around my large library, which was the pride of my home. High shelves along
all four walls full with books rose almost 20 feet in height, topped off by a large glass
skylight in the center of the room. “By God, the place reminds me of old Adrian
Brolsover’s library. That was a foul place of dark happenings and dire
I smiled ignoring his grim words. Instead I
said, “It is time we begin our work. I suppose you would like to examine the hand
Saunders blanched, “It’s here! In this
“Yes, in this very room, I have it locked
away in my safe.”
Saunders gulped nervously, “Young Master
Eustace once locked the hand away in a safe -- and it got out.”
not, Saunders, all is secure here,” I told him briskly. I would have offered the
poor sot a drink but I feared that at the moment he was unnerved quite enough. Better to
calm him and show him that the hand posed us no threat.
I undid the combination
of my safe and brought out a cigar-box sized wooden case and placed it on my desk in front
of us. There was a bolt lock that secured the lid and I instantly undid it.
Saunders gasped in terror, and I couldn’t
help but let out a slight laugh. “It is quite safe, Saunders, I assure you.”
I opened the lid and we beheld the hand. It was the severed, dried, blackened, long fingered
right hand of Adrian Borlsover. There was a deep indentation in it where Saunders had told
me it had been nailed to a board by Eustace years before. There was no board, nor
nail now, and the hand lay there entirely still and unmoving -- a horrible
severed human appendage!
“It really is quite harmless. In fact,
I must admit it rather disappoints me,” I told Saunders, who looked upon the thing
mouth agape. I continued, “With all I had heard and read about it, I expected some
movement, some form of life or animation of the fingers, something -- but in all the days
I have possessed it, it has not made one single movement.”
thankful of that, Mr. Jameson.”
I laughed, “Well, regardless, here it
is. It is not doing anything, and we can examine it to our heart’s content. Would
you like a drink?”
Saunders nodded absently, his eyes could not
leave the hand, “I could sure use one, sir.”
well,” I called in Jenkins and told my man to bring us two bourbons -- Saunders and
I had been imbibing the very same the previous evening so I assumed that would be acceptable
to him, and he agreed.
I covered the hand with my handkerchief once
Jenkins appeared to take our order, then uncovered it once he’d brought our drinks
and left the room. The hand was still there, of course, apparently having not moved at
Saunders was shivering by now. He lunged for his glass and downed
the dark fluid with relief or terror -- who could truly say.
I sipped my drink slowly
as I looked carefully at the motionless hand.
“And it has not
moved since you first obtained it?” Saunders asked curious, somewhat hopeful, to
“Not one iota.”
He nodded, looked down
at the hand laying there upon the top of my desk, “And how long has it been in your
“One week, and I have examined it carefully
each and every day. I must admit I am disappointed that the thing seems dead, unmoving.
How can it write anything if it can not even move?”
that so important to you? That it take up a pen and write?” Saunders asked me, calmer
now, but with serious concern in his voice.
“Of course! The
story about the thing tells us it wrote such diabolical messages as chilled old Borlsover
to his very bones. I am a writer. I am fascinated to see what words it will put to paper,
but there is something else…”
Saunders looked at me
now with dark suspicion in his eyes. I just laughed, “My dear fellow, it is not that
bad, I assure you. Look at my hands, especially my right hand which I use for my
“Yes, rather severe and growing worse,”
I told him with a sigh. “Soon my very means of earning a living -- a quite nice moneyed
living by the way -- will end. For if I can not write using my hand to hold pen to paper,
I am doomed.”
“But surely you can use a typewriter?
Or even hire a secretary…?”
“For editing certainly, but not for the
crucial creative process. No, none of that will work for me. I have tried everything. The
creative process is a complex and delicate one, one’s muse can be a fickle bitch
at times. I am only able to write by hand and now my livelihood will be ruined. I must
find a way to make the hand responsive to my commands. I know it can be done.”
you shall never do, Mr. Jameson. The thing has a mind -- if one can say such -- of its
own. It is not the mind of Adrian Borlsover, whom I knew, but something else, something
quite malevolent. If I were you I would douse it with gasoline and set it ablaze right
away. Destroy it before it destroys you. It is of no use to you as it is, so why not
dispose of it here and now? I will help you do it. Please.”
Look, Saunders, I hired you because you have experience with the thing, with trapping it
and controlling it. I want you to get it working for me. I want it moving and writing again!”
quite mad, you know that.”
“But I pay well, eh, Saunders?”
“You pay well,
and I’ll do it, but not only for the money.”
Saunders and I worked on various plans to reanimate
the hand. After we each examined it minutely, we were convinced that it was indeed dead.
This caused me considerable despair, until I decided there might be some way to shock it
into wakefulness. Saunders vehemently disagreed with this idea but I overruled him. I began
by using sharp probes, long pins and needles, to poke and prod the thing, but it was all
to no avail. Old Saunders was alarmed by my actions and warned of reprisals, but I heeded
him not. Then I came upon the idea of using a battery to give the thing an
“A good jolt of electricity may just do
the trick, eh, Saunders?” I asked, setting up the apparatus. I first tried a 9 volt
battery, but when there was no reaction, I grew more ambitious and set it up using a far
larger automobile battery. The connection instantly caused the hand fly off my desk and
fall to the floor. Still lifeless and motionless. It was hot and smoking as I picked it
up and replaced it upon my desk. Saunders was mumbling to himself by then, but I could
not make out his words.
I was severely disappointed, depressed even,
for nothing we tried seemed to reanimate the hand. I had spent so much money and many years
of my life to procure this now useless object that my frustration boiled over in sudden
rage. I attacked the hand with a knife, stabbing it repeatedly as I cursed it and all the
Borlsovers. I shouted vile words as I plunged the knife into it again and again.
Saunders ordered, finally restraining me. “What are you doing! You’ll make it -- mad!”
then if it has any feelings, any life left in it at all, it should get mad. By God, I’ll
give the damn thing something to get mad about!”
I pushed old Saunders aside and continued to
stab away viciously into the dried up blackened thing, my knife cutting deep gouges into
it -- and through it -- the knife going into the wood of my desktop. The hand gave off
no reaction. None at all. There was muscle tissue there, bone and sinew, but no warmth,
and no flesh or blood at all.
I grew despondent, my
writing career was over and the fortune I had spent to obtain the hand had been wasted.
I was in debt and broke. With a curse I hurled the useless thing across the room
where it smacked against a bookcase. It dropped to the floor with a dull thud. Then
the thing moved. The fingers twitched, and quickly in the manner of a
geometer caterpillar, the fingers humped up one moment, flattened the next, the
thumb appeared to give it a crablike motion, and the hand righted itself upon
it’s fingertips and quickly shot off behind the bookcase. It was gone in an instant.
was astounded and looked at Saunders. He was cringing in terror.
done it now!” he whispered in dire warning.
“Did you see that,
Saunders?” I barked elated now, seeking his verification. Verification that I had
not imagined what I had just seen, nor gone entirely mad. Insane.
and you’ve done it now, Master Jameson,” was all he said in an accusing tone, adding fearfully, “Now you’ve made
it mad. Master Eustace made it mad and no good can come of it now.”
swallowed hard, it was a lot to get used to. Not the fact that the hand might be mad at
me, that was pure poppycock, but that it had indeed moved! That it had actually come to
life! This was wonderful!
“Come on, Saunders,” I blurted full of
excitement. “We must trap it!”
“Aye, now we must, but we shall not.”
“Oh, come now,
it’s just a thing, only a hand, nothing more. We can trap it and then I can use it
for my own ends.”
Well, I uttered those
words to Saunders days ago with utmost confidence, but they had not proved true. The
thing possessed an uncanny energy and wiliness I never would have thought
possible. It hid from us and was difficult to find. Every time Saunders and I
would seem to trap it, it escaped our grasp.
I locked down my library, we nailed shut the
windows, boarded up all vents, bolted the door. I gave Jenkins strict orders never to enter
the room unless by a prearranged signal. I did not want the thing to get loose and escape.
I felt sure that while we had it locked within my library it was just a matter of time
before we would find it and capture it.
Saunders and I never
left the library now except to bring in items for use to trap the thing, which all eventually
failed. We slept in the library on cots, taking turns keeping watch. We tried
many ways to find the thing and trap it but nothing worked. It was as if it
were playing some game with us, hiding out just to spite us. Though none of our
plans had worked as of yet, I knew I would eventually capture that hand and I would
not let anything stop me.
It was on the night before Halloween when the
moon was full, beams of illumination coming in through the library skylight, when I saw
the hand. It was upright upon fingertips, slowly walking along the top rail of a high bookshelf.
I could plainly see its’ silhouette against the skylight. I dared not move for fear
of alerting it. Saunders was fast asleep in his cot -- as it was my watch just then. I
reasoned that to awaken him might alert the hand to hide itself, so I did my best to be
quiet and began to stalk the thing.
Silently I moved closer
and quietly climbed the mobile library stairway I used to reach the upper shelves. The
hand was motionless now, I could see it plainly against the skylight glass. It
seemed to be transfixed by the light from the full moon. I moved up the steps.
Quietly. Silently. I had just a few more steps to go and I would be even with
it -- close enough to quickly grasp it into my own hand. I knew I could do this,
I could surprise the thing and capture it in one feel swoop. I took the last step, the
wooden ladder beneath my foot gave the slightest creek. I shuddered in fear that the sound
had given me away, but the hand remained motionless. I was almost upon it. I reached over
and outstretched my fingers to grasp the thing, when it suddenly turned and flung itself
off the shelf upon me. It’s long cold bony fingers instantly grasped my throat and
closed tightly. I gasped, I could not breath. I was flung backwards by the sudden surprise
of the attack and had to do my damnedest using my left hand to hold onto the
ladder so as not to fall the 20 feet to the library floor below. My right hand
vainly tried to pry the thing’s fingers from my throat, as I desperately tried
By then the ruckus had woken Saunders. “Mr.
Jameson?” I heard him ask in alarm. Then he looked up and must have seen us struggling
there at the top of the ladder against the skylight and the full moon. He saw me and shouted,
“Mr. Jameson! I told you it would come to no good!”
barely heard his words for I was in a life and death struggle with a demon thing that possessed
supernatural strength I had never encountered before. I gasped for breath, my eyes bulging
as I struggled to keep my balance on the ladder with my left hand, while I tried to pry the creature’s fingers from my
throat with my right. It was to no avail. The thing’s fingers were like steel
rods. I was gurgling froth, then blood. Finally I could hold onto the ladder no
longer. I felt myself losing consciousness and tried to scream -- the scream
stifled in my throat by the tightening pressure of the demon hand.
I lost my grip and fell backwards, end over end, hitting the hard wood floor of my library
with a resounding whack. I lay upon the floor face up and conscious but unable to
move, my eyes locked upon the stub of the hand with it’s long bony fingers
still wrapped around my throat. I could not move. I must have been paralyzed
from the fall. I was alive, but I could not move, but the hand could move and
did. It was still seeking to choke the very life out of me.
Then I saw Saunders approach out of the corner
of my eye. Now I knew he would help me and pry this hellish thing
from my throat.
But would he be in time?
“Mr. Jameson, are you alive? Are you conscious?”
he looked down at me frantic with terror and fear, staring at the hand upon my throat with
dire dread. I feared he might run off. I know I would have
done so, had our situations been reversed. Instead he told me, “You
were trying to trap it, now it has trapped you. Your anger brought it to life and once
you began to hurt it -- I knew it would hurt you. I am sorry.”
me!” I pleaded, though no sound could escape my mouth as my lips formed the silent
Then I saw Saunders run off, and I suddenly felt deserted
and doomed, for I knew I could hold out for only a few moments before I took my last gasp
of air and expired.
However, Saunders quickly returned and he held
the wooden box from my desktop and placed it close to my head. He opened the lid. Then
he withdrew a large pair of snipers that he brought up to the demon hand at my throat.
He quickly snipped off the thumb of the hand, and as that appendage fell away to the floor
in twitching anger, he pulled the rest of the hand from my throat. I thankfully took my
first full breath of blessed air as I watched Saunders place the twitching hand and severed
thumb into the box. He quickly closed the lid and locked the clasp. Then he picked up the
box and left.
The doctors tell me the fall left me paralyzed and that I will
never get out of this wheelchair. My life and my writing career are effectively over. Saunders
takes care of me now, I am an invalid and quite helpless, thankful for his company. Saunders
assures me that he destroyed the thing but the manner of how he did it, he will not discuss
with me. When
I try to write it is quite impossible. Arthritis coupled with the damage done from the
fall make it difficult for me to even hold a pen in my hand. But I try. I try because once
that had been my profession, my livelihood. I had been a writer. Now I am a
former writer who can not even sign his own name.
I’ve not been
the same since my encounter with the hand. I know Saunders told me he destroyed it but
I still realize its presence. I can sometimes feel it’s bony fingers pressing upon
my throat, but there’s something more, something there that is deeper inside of
me. Dark thoughts haunt me; it is almost as if something has passed between us.
In the middle of the night, when Saunders is sleeping and I am alone praying
for dreams of sweet slumber that refuse to come, I know that strange things
happen. In the darkness of night my right hand silently picks up a pen and puts it
to paper. It writes such terrible things as send my blood to ice. They are demon haunted
messages -- black realms of malevolence that make me shudder, through I be paralyzed --
such is their power.
I have kept these messages hidden from Saunders,
but of course he found the written sheets this morning in my bed and read them in utter
terror, but not disbelief. At that moment he realized what I already knew, that the thing
had some kind of hold upon me still, and it is only then that we looked upon my offending
right hand, realizing what must be done.
Copyright by Gary Lovisi 2014 and
2017, All Rights Reserved.
“Five Fingers” originally
appeared in the anthology The Monkey’s
Other Paw, edited by Luis Ortiz, Nonstop Press,
|Art by Hillary Lyon © 2018
The Devil You
Herbert Thrall, being a bold and brash young man, wanted to move up the corporate
ladder by any means necessary so as to be a mover and shaker in the wild and woolly New
York financial world. However, that dream seemed better dreamt than done. After five
years he found himself trapped, working for a middling firm, in a middling
position, and his future prospects were middling, at best. That was
unacceptable! Herbert Thrall possessed a certain boldness within him that cried out for
recognition and success and upon his 26th birthday he decided that his life
plan to obtain great wealth and power on Wall Street was just not making it. Something
had to change. Thrall had a plan. He knew it was drastic and unusual, but he accepted the
risk if it got him results. He was all about results.
Thrall met with the woman at a cozy bar off Wall Street across from his office. It was
a watering hole for the losers who thrived on liquid lunches. They sat on
opposite sides of a fancy wooden table in a back booth to ensure privacy.
Privacy in these matters was probably important, he assumed, but he felt as if
he were hiding some secret affair, rather than what was the actual reason for this meeting.
He was meeting this woman, who proclaimed herself a witch, at a bar in the early afternoon
on a Wednesday and it just didn’t seem right to him. It seemed this kind of thing
should have been done in a graveyard at St. Paul’s Church; or perhaps the Sheep Meadow
of Central Park at midnight during a full moon. Even a lonely drug den tenement on the
Lower East Side would have been better suited; but alas it was happening here and now and
so he accepted it. However, being if nothing else but brash and bold, Thrall asked the
witch woman about it. She just laughed, not even weirdly, for her tone was actually rather
pleasant, even sexy and cute. And this witch was a rather stunning young woman,
not much older than he was. He looked at her closely. Wondering. Trying to
gauge his chances of getting her in bed later—after all this was over with, of
course. Well, maybe after they had a few more drinks. She appeared agreeable
enough. So far. He just wondered what kind of experience at witchcraft a woman like
her could have, being so young.
wondering, perhaps, if I have the requisite experience and powers to make your
dreams come true?” she stated with a wan smile. Was she reading his thoughts?
He looked at her closely. She had a lovely smile, surely inviting, as she took a sip
of her drink. Daniels and Coke.
nodded. “I guess. You’re not what I expected, that’s all.”
“Yes, of course. You expected some ancient crone with warts and bad breath.”
“Something like that, I guess.”
She laughed lightly. He laughed. He liked the sparkle in her eyes. Yes, a few more
drinks and he was sure she’d be coming back with him to his one-room apartment for
some horizontal bedroom antics. He could hardly wait. Then as if reading his
mind, she told him, “Best we get down to business now.”
“I guess,” Thrall said softly, wondering exactly what was involved in
this ‘business’—as she called it.
Herbert Thrall knew only too well. He was in the process of selling his soul for
great wealth and financial power in the Wall Street market. He felt strangely ambivalent
about it all. He was not a religious man. In fact, he did not care about his
soul—if he even had one—he just wanted results. To him, the price was worth the
cost if he got the results he wanted. What he wanted was to make a killing. He
had gone all the more standard routes in the business world without success,
then he had come upon this young lady’s name from a friend. Results were said
to be guaranteed. That got his attention.
just a conduit to your desires,” she explained simply. “Are you ready?”
“I guess. What do I have to do?”
“Nothing. You just have to read what was written on the card I handed to you
when we met.”
“Yeah, ah yes,
but it really didn’t say much, only one sentence was written there. That seems strange.
That’s all I have to say?”
“That is all that
is needed. It is simple. That sentence is the only requirement,” she replied
“Well, all right
then!” he said enthusiastically, as if that ended the subject.
“No, you must say it out in words,” she stated firmly.
Herbert Thrall suddenly realized that he was not going to get laid tonight—at
least not by this witch woman.
blood, no oath to Sa… you know? No…sacrifices?” he asked curiously.
She just giggled. “This
is 2016, Mr. Thrall, no need for all that mumbo jumbo these days. Anyway, that will all
come later, I assure you.”
“Many years in the future. No need to concern yourself with any of that now.
For now, just say the words and everything will be all set. The world will be yours.”
Herbert Thrall shook
his head in disbelief—was this really happening? More so, was it really possible?
Yet, this woman did come very highly recommended. It was said she got incredible results.
He looked at her again. Was she really a witch? It seemed inconceivable, but he knew these
days anything might be possible. However, she seemed more like some bimbolina wannabe hairdresser
from Queens. He began to regret ever getting involved with her, but then again, this wasn’t
costing him any money. She had asked for no payment—other than his soul—which
was nothing to him. He certainly didn’t care about that. What was his soul anyway?
“Okay, it doesn’t
make sense to me, but—”
about that. Magic doesn’t work on making sense. Just say the words.”
“Okay, Okay, I’ll
say it.” He picked up the small business card. Looked at it once again. On one
side was the simple word “Conduit”. That was all. It seemed odd, but he
shrugged it off. On the other side of the card were written the words she told him
he must speak out loud. Then the deal would be done. The contract would be complete, and
he would get all that he ever wanted.
He nodded, his
usual brash boldness now taking over his personality once more. What did he
have to lose? What did he care about something he wasn’t even sure he possessed
at all? It didn’t make any difference, really. He’d do it. Then all his dreams
would come true.
“Well? You want it all or not?’ she prompted, a bit impatient now, like
she had somewhere else to be, all of a sudden. Did she have other clients? What the hell
did she have to be impatient about? Where was she going that was so important? She was
a no one. He was the one selling his soul, after all.
“Okay, I’ll say the words,” he said softly. He looked at her squarely
in the eyes, pursed his lips and spoke out firmly, “I, Herbert Thrall, hereby accept
the terms of this agreement.”
“Well it’s about time! Very good,” the young lady said. She downed
her drink and made ready to leave the booth.
Thrall looked at her in shock, “That’s it?”
“That’s it. You accepted the agreement, and that is all that is needed.
That is all that is required. We’re done here.”
“But there’s no—no paperwork, no contract? You don’t even
know what I want out of this agreement with…”
“The other party to this agreement knows only too well, that’s all that
matters,” she replied as she picked up her purse and stepped out of the booth.
“Ah, hey, wait. Where are you going?”
“We are finished here, Mr. Thrall.”
“But, ah, why don’t you come back to my place for a drink, eh?”
he asked, almost pleading, sadly desperate he realized.
She just laughed at him lightly, “Oh, Mr. Thrall, you are much too important
and wealthy a man now to want to fool around with a part-time hairdresser from Queens.”
Herbert Thrall watched
her leave in growing confusion and some anger. Had he been taken? No, he hadn’t paid
her one thin dime. She’d even paid for their drinks. He quickly checked. His wallet
was intact. His cash and cards untouched. He shook his head trying to figure it all out.
“Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained, I guess.” he said softly,
shrugged. He was about to let the entire matter drop and put it all down to foolishness
when he saw Tom Saunders from the office enter the bar. His supervisor was a demanding
man, and they were not friends at all but now he watched as the man seeing him ran over
to his booth. He had a broad grin upon his face, and actually looked happy to
Herb! Man, I been looking for you all over!” Saunders eyes were bug-eyed, he
was frantic, but happy. He had never seen Tom Saunders happy, unless he was bullying
an employee—usually Herbert Thrall.
you found me! What did I do wrong now?” Thrall answered, fearing the worst.
“Wrong! You have
no idea! The Wilson case you were working on…”
I know, no sales—it’s an impossible account.”
“Impossible! No sales! Man, have you got it wrong! They bought it all, through
you. They would only buy through you. You did it! You cracked their account. They just
dropped a cool hundred million with us and your percentage of that will make you
fabulously wealthy. How the hell did you do it, Herb?”
Herbert Thrall looked up at his supervisor with a shocked gaze. “Is this some
kind of joke?”
“No joke, old buddy.
Simonson says he would like to see you in his office right away.”
“CEO Chairman Simonson?”
“One and the same, my friend. You are headed to the big time, my boy! You
have just become a mover and a shaker!”
passed in a whirlwind for Herbert Thrall. Everything he had wished for had come true.
He was winning at deal after deal, building incredible wealth. Everything was
just falling into place. By the third week he was made a partner in the firm.
By the fifth week he owned the firm!
money and the power piled up, and the accompanying women added to his success and
pleasure, Herbert Thrall wondered if he had indeed actually sold his soul—and
what it might mean. He now had everything he had always wanted—everything he
had so desperately wanted for his entire life. It was amazing and wonderful.
Mind boggling for sure. And yet, with all the money, all the power, all the
women, he realized that he suddenly felt somehow unfulfilled. Something surely seemed
to be missing. It was not something he could voice in words. It was a feeling that seemed
to grow inside him. He now had any woman he wanted—women he could never even dream
of having before—and yet he knew they were only with him because of his wealth and
power. It was strangely unsatisfying. Not gratifying at all—as it should have been.
Even as his wealth and power continued to grow -- the more it grew—the more unsatisfying
it became to him. He wondered what was going on. He knew he had to find out why he felt
Herbert Thrall sought
the advice of a dozen doctors of all types, the best experts in any field he chose—he
could afford the best now—but none of them gave him any real answers. Or at least
any satisfying answers. Some told him he was depressed, or that he needed pills, or medicine,
psychotropic drugs—nothing he had ever needed before in his life. He knew they were
all full of it. They were wrong. They did not know what they were talking about. They did
not know what was wrong with him. He knew it had to be
something else. Something they—and he—was missing.
He had to find out why
he felt this way. He had considerable resources now, he had his own “people”
as they say. So, he had them track down that witch and part-time hairdresser from Queens.
The Conduit. His people quickly found her. The two met in the same bar, in the same booth,
as they had a bare months ago.
She looked just as pretty as ever. She smiled, “How are things going?”
“I don’t know.”
She frowned, looking concerned for a moment, “Everything is going according
to the contract, is it not?”
“I guess so.”
“Good, for a
moment I thought we had a problem.”
have come a long way in just two months.”
“Yes, that is true.”
“So, what is the problem?” she asked impatiently, as if she had no time
for him now.
don’t know, exactly. I feel…”
“Unfulfilled?” she prompted.
“Yes, I guess I do,” he replied morosely, with a loss of his usual energy.
“Another word for it might be ‘empty’?”
“Yes, empty! I have everything I ever wanted, and still I feel empty.”
“Of course you do. That’s because you are empty.”
He looked at her
sternly. The dregs of his brashness and boldness resurging for a moment. He was
a big man now, no one to be trifled with. He was a mover and shaker and he did
not like this kind of disrespectful tone form some part-time hairdresser—and whatever
else she was—part-time witch—bitch!
you need a correction?” she asked him.
Herbert Thrall thought about that for a moment. He had never considered such an
action. “A correction? What do you mean? I mean, maybe I do, but what does it entail?”
“Oh, nothing much
really. It’s like a change of venue.”
don’t understand. Change of venue? I’m not in court or on trial or anything.”
She just giggled lightly, “Oh, Mr. Thrall, you can be so funny sometimes.”
“I’m not being
funny now, I’m serious.”
“I know, that’s
what I mean, you being so serious and all, that’s what’s so funny.”
“What the hell do you mean!” he barked angry now.
She laughed deeply, “Would you like a correction or not on your contract,
Mr. Thrall? As a customer in good standing who has made an agreement with us, you have
the right to ask for a correction.”
“A correction? You mean, like to the terms of our agreement?”
“Something like that,” she stated enigmatically, but did not explain
yes, I want a correction,” he stated.
“Very well, Mr. Thrall, it has been duly noted and accepted. We are finished
here. Now I shall take my leave.”
“But—wait, do you want to come back to my penthouse? Have a few drinks?
Then we can…”
no, Mr. Thrall, that is not allowed. Fraternization leads to problems. You should be
happy that your correction has been accepted and duly noted. Goodbye, Mr.
Thrall, and have a nice life.”
later everything in Herbert Thrall’s life began to change. The next morning his
financial empire was in free-fall. It was on TV in every Breaking News report.
His health was also apparently failing drastically, as was his love life which had
suddenly gone to ruins at warp speed. He was in shock and dismay and had no idea what was
happening to him. He thought things were supposed to get better. They were now worse. Far
worse! He still felt that unfulfilled feeling in the center of his chest. A great emptiness.
He thought he was having a heart attack, but it just felt like a large empty void. Horrified,
he took a cab to Queens and the Ne’er-Do-Well Hair & Nail Salon on Queens Boulevard.
He ran into the small run-down storefront frantic and desperate, gasping for breath.
He was near apoplexy and in panic. He looked around and finally saw the young
lady who went by the name of Conduit working in the last cubicle in the back—she
apparently really did work here—and she was with some old fat lady with orange
He quickly walked over
to her and said firmly, “I have to speak to you. Now!”
“What are you doing here?” she demanded, not happy at all to see him,
as she was apparently busy at work.
“I need to speak to you. Something terrible has happened!” he cried
desperate now. “I need help. Everything has gone to hell, all I wanted is gone. Gone!
I think I need another correction!”
“Sorry, only one to a customer,” she said firmly. She turned her back
on him and finished rinsing the old fat woman’s orange hair and then she told her,
“Let that set for fifteen minutes, Mrs. Bunker, and I’ll be right back.”
Then she took Thrall
out the back door of the store into the privacy of a back alley.
Once they were outside with the door closed, she asked angrily, “What is your
“What the hell is
going on here! I thought we had an agreement?”
do, and you got all you wanted out of it, you were even allowed a correction, as you
but… Correction? That was a disaster! It screwed up everything! What the hell kind
of correction was that?”
correction from Hell, Mr. Thrall, just as you requested,” she said with a charming
smile. “My Master works in mysterious ways. Sometimes it is better the devil you
know than the devil you do not.”
“No buts, Mr.
Thrall, an agreement is an agreement.”
I have nothing now! Nothing! Do you understand? I have no financial empire, no wealth
or power, no health now too, nothing! And I have no soul—I’m still empty
soul, poor man. You sold your soul, you made the agreement. You made that first agreement
with the devil you know—but you made a correction with the devil you do not
know. That can be a change for the worse. Goodbye, Mr. Thrall, enjoy what is
left of your life,” she said as she walked back to the shop.
“But I’m dying!”
She did not
“Help me!” he
She ignored him as she
walked to the back door of the shop.
“I need another
The young lady
looked back at Herbert Thrall with a little smile as she opened the back door
to enter the hair salon, “Mr. Thrall, I’m afraid you’re all out of options and
collection is now due.”
blanched white at her words and felt a sharp pang grip his chest. At first he
thought it might be a heart attack—he even hoped it might be something as banal
or commonplace as a heart attack—but he knew it was something much worse. Something
much more severe. He felt more empty now than any emptiness he had ever felt before—an
emptiness of such deep despair he had never thought it possible. Herbert Thrall screamed.
Collection had now been made in full. He collapsed in the alley—and though he did
not die—he wished that he had.
“So what I asked for will really come true?” the eager young man replied
with the eagerness of impatient youth.
They were sitting in the back booth of the bar where Herbert Thrall did his work
these days. It was a dive that catered to dead-enders and the desperate. He found it fertile
“All that and
more, my friend,” Thrall promised the eager young man. “I have a new employer
now since I left the firm. All you have to do is speak the words—that you agree
to the terms of the contract—and you can have anything you desire.”
“So all I have to
do is—sell my soul?” the young man said with a disdainful laugh, now voicing
the cost of the deal. He disbelieved the entire story of course, but at this point
in his life he was desperate. He would try anything to get the results he desired.
“Yes, that’s it,” Thrall said simply with a twisted smile.
“Soul, schmoul, who the hell cares. You got yourself a deal.”
2016 by Gary Lovisi. All Rights Reserved.
GARY LOVISI BIBLIOGRAPHY: (Recent and partial):
The Secret Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Series:
THE SECRET ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (Ramble House, 2007)
SECRET ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (Ramble House, book #2, 2011)
OF SHERLOCK HOLMES: BOOK THREE (Ramble House, 2016)
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MR.
HOLMES (Gryphon Books, 2016)
SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE BARON'S
REVENGE (Airship27, 2012)
THE GREAT DETECTIVE: HIS FURTHER ADVENTURES,
edited anthology (Wildside Press, 2012)
THE MYSTERY SURROUNDING WATSON'S LOST DISPATCH
BOX (MX Pub., UK edition, 2014)
SOUVENIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (Gryphon Books,
2002, non-fiction, new edition forthcoming)
SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE GREAT DETECTIVE IN PAPERBACK
& PASTICHE (Gryphon Books, 2008, large-size, spiral bound)
BATTLING BOXING STORIES, edited anthology, (Wildside Press, 2012)
IS THE ONLY SOLUTION (Wildside Press, 2012)
MURDER OF A BOOKMAN
(Wildside Press, 2011)
DRIVING HELL'S HIGHWAY (Wildside Press, 2011)
THE LAST GOODBYE (Bold Venture, 2015)
THE NEMESIS CHRONICLES
(Bold Venture, 2016)
ULTRA-BOILED: HARD HITTING
CRIME FICTION (Ramble House, 2010)
DIRTY DOGS (Gryphon Books)
MEASURES (Gryphon Books)
HELLBENT ON HOMICIDE (Do
Not Press, UK, 1997)
BLOOD IN BROOKLYN (Do Not Press, UK only, 1999)
Fiction / Fantasy & Horror:
GARGOYLE NIGHTS (Wildside Press, 2011)
MARS NEEDS BOOKS
(Wildside Press, 2011)
WHEN THE DEAD WALK (Ramble
SARASHA (Gryphon Books, 1997)
Jon Kirk of Ares Series: (Wildside Press)
WINGED MEN, 2014
#2 THE INVISIBLE MEN, 2015
SPACE MEN, 2015
#4 THE MIND MASTERS (forthcoming, 2017)
TIME MASTERS (forthcoming, 2017)
TEXAS WAR AND OTHER WESTERN STORIES (Ramble House, 2007)
THE SEXY DIGESTS (Gryphon Books, 2001, large-size)
PULP CRIME DIGESTS (Gryphon Books, 2004, large-size)
THE ANTIQUE TRADER
PAPERBACK PRICE GUIDE (Krauss Books, 2008)
DAMES, DOLLS &
DELINQUENTS (Krauss Books, large-size trade paperback)
BAD GIRLS NEED LOVE
TOO (Krauss Books, hardcover, 2010)
MODERN HISTORICAL ADVENTURE
NOVELS (Gryphon Books, 2006, large-size, spiral bound)
THE SWEDISH VINTAGE PAPERBACK
GUIDE (Gryphon Books, 2003, large-size).