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M. G. Allen
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hostagefinal.jpg
Art by Brian Beardsley

The Hostage

 

by M.G. Allen

 

 

        “We shouldn’t have put her in the trunk, man.”

 

         A few more bang-bangs from the back of the car. Leonard knew it wouldn’t help to lecture at this point. 

 

         It might not be a good idea to take her there while shes all fucked up. Shes tied good so she must be banging the inside with her forehead. She sounds completely unhinged, dude. Just sayin.

 

         Well, arent you Mr. Obvious? said Fat Donny, As soon as I find a safe place, Ill pull over and well get her out, put her in the back seat. Just because I havent mentioned it doesnt mean I aint thinking it. Soak the hell out of that rag with chloroform. Saturate that mug.

 

          Aye, aye, Captain Bligh.

 

          Well find a rest stop and do the deed.

 

         Fat Donny was finally calming down. With his window wide open, he seemed to be enjoying the country air as he drove. He was a bit heavy- handed for a kidnapper.  

 

She did try to run. Leonard thought, Id run too, if I saw this big gorilla-lookin motherfucker coming my way.

 

         They drove up another mile or so before they came to a rest stop, one of those squarish cinderblock monstrosities that always smelled of crap and mulch. A picnic table was outside.

 

Advantage: it was late fall, cool out so it cut down on the possibility of campers showing up. Disadvantage: it was broad daylight, sunny, and there were certain to be some nature freaks lurking around.

 

          Leonard braced himself, staring out of the dusty window, taking a few last nervous pulls of his cig. Donny pulled into the gravel clearing, then backed up so the noisy part wasnt facing the road.

 

Leonard opened the glove box for the chloroform.

 

                                                ****

 

          Just settle down and were gonna get you out, girly-girl.

 

          She had calmed a bit, no pounding. Some heavy breathing. Fat Donny took his sweet time taking a piss. Leonard swore under his breath. The fucking guy was pushing his nerves. He was acting too nonchalant for his own good, sauntering back to the car, whistling. Leonard wanted to cut loose on him but decided not to.

 

          Get ready, motherfucker, said Donny, sliding the key into the slot.

 

          Just pop it, Leonard said, gripping his .45.

 

She lunged out before he got the lid halfway up. Shed gotten the ropes off her hands, too. She shot out towards Donny, her teeth latching onto his opulent man boobs. 

 

He tumbled back, screaming, while Leonard, dumbstruck, wondered what to do. Shooting her was too harsh. Surely he could take this bitch.

 

          Donny fell straight to the ground. His face became tomato red, white spittle trickling from his gritted teeth.

 

          A heart attack?

         

          The girl kicked him a few times in the side but the big guy didn’t respond, just a huge immobile human slab. Leonard aimed the .45 at her.

 

          “Don’t move.”

 

He fired a shot over her head to send a message.

 

He lurched forward and reached out blindly, grabbing her delicate- looking face. He didn’t mean to grab her face. The other hand swept forward, slamming the gun against her fine cheekbones. This tamed her, sufficiently.

 

Before he could savor a shred of his victory, a thick chunk of wood connected with the back of his head.  

         

                                  ****

 

          “You okay, little girl?”

 

          Her good eye focused on the beefy country boy peering down at her, his huge cowboy hat eclipsing the sun.

 

She spat. Blood and dirt filled her mouth.

 

          “You had quite an experience. That one guy’s dead and the other guy might as well be. Hey, can you say something?”

 

          “Hi . . .”

 

          “That’s good,” he said smiling, “Can you get up?”

 

          “I think so.”

 

          Gradually, she was able to stand and the boy walked her over to his orange pickup truck.

 

She got inside. The old, cracked vinyl of the seat felt rough under her skirt. The young man fired the ignition and the beastly engine roared to life. She winced at the sound. Her head throbbed.

 

          “The police department is about five miles away so just crank down the window and get a little air. Man, talk about excitement! That’s the craziest thing I’ve seen in a long while.”

 

          Her head lolled up and down, side to side.

 

          “Are you sure you’re okay? You don’t look so hot.”

          Through her cloudy vision, she spotted a rusty bowie knife on the dashboard. Metal objects littered the floorboard under her feet.

 

Sharp things.

 

          “Don’t be afraid of that knife on the dash, ‘kay?  I see you lookin’ at it. It’s a hunting knife. I’m a sportsman, as if you can’t tell.”

 

          More of that big toothy grin.

 

          “I’m not like those guys. Hey . . .”

 

          Staring at her, his goofy smile suddenly dissipated.

 

          “I thought you looked familiar. You’re that girl, that rich girl from the news.”

 

          The Cheerleader Killer, as the papers had dubbed her. Months ago she had set off on a killing spree with her prep school boyfriend. There was a generous reward out for them.

 

          Correction: for her. Dale, her boyfriend, had been found in a hotel room a few weeks ago. He had been carved to shreds.

 

          No, she was quite handy with a knife.

 

She demonstrated some sportsman skills of her own.

         

 

 

  

3steves.jpg
Art by John Lunar Richey 2016

Three Steves, One Dead

By M.G. Allen

 

Steve Draven, a quiet man, didn’t start conversations with strangers even at his neighborhood bar. Not so with the new guy that had just saddled into the stool beside him. This guy was a talker.  Oozed small talk.  Luckily, Steve Draven could fake friendliness just enough as to not seem like a dick.

After a few minutes of unremarkable banter, the guy asked him his name. He told him: Steve Draven.

“Weeeell,” he said, bemused. “It’s always great to meet another Steve. I’m Steve Paulson!”

Two Steves at a bar. How cute, how sickeningly cute like the guy’s dickbrained chatter.

“What are the odds?”

“Strange odds.” said Steve Paulson, taking a slow thoughtful pull from his beer. “Is Steve that common of a name?  I could see maybe two guys named John meeting like this but…Steve?  This has to be a very unique coincidence.”

Steve Paulson went on to prattle about all the Steves he knew when laughter erupted from the end of the bar.

It was the guy on the laptop, a younger guy wearing a jogging getup. He smiled widely, raising his hand like a school kid.

“Add one more to the Steve Club.” He said. “I’m Steve Winslow.”

“You’re shittin’ me!” said Draven.

“’Fraid not. I’ve been a Steve all my life!”

Steve Paulson whooped with disbelief. Steve Draven snapped his fingers at him and asked for identification.

Steve Winslow felt around the waistband of his pants and quickly said, “My wallet is out in the car. I just popped in here to use the Wi-Fi. They all know me.”

“I trust him,” said Steve Paulson.

When the bartender returned from the back with fresh glasses, Draven explained the situation and asked her to verify the guy’s name.

“I don’t know his name.” she said and added, “My last boyfriend was named Steve. He died in a car accident last Thursday.”

“Sorry to hear that,” said Steve Paulson.

Draven felt a sink of fear.

“Damn, guys, what if this is a bad omen?” blurted Draven, after the bartender disappeared into the back. “Her boyfriend died, just last week. Doesn’t that seem like some kind of omen?”

“I try not to think about omens. But coincidences…those I can get a handle on. Just drink your beer, man.”

“There are three of us,” said Winslow. “That’s the funny thing. The number three has always had a kind of magical significance, especially in religion, like the Holy Trinity. Many other religions regard the number three as magical.”

“Everything happens in threes,” added Draven eerily. “Even death.”

“Hey. Whoa,” said Paulson. “Freaky things happen sometimes. This is merely a case of three guys at a bar named Steve.”

“And one dead Steve,” said Draven standing up, sliding his stool back. He tossed a few bills on the bar. “Too freaky for my tastes.”

He walked out.

                                                             ***

Draven couldn’t get the episode out of his mind. Growing up, his older brother always told him he was quick to jump to conclusions, sometimes calling him outright paranoid. Draven considered it an asset. Suspicion kept his senses alert. It helped him stay on task at work even though it cost him social points. He was used to being misunderstood.

Paranoia was in high gear now. He started carrying his gun again. Just in case.

He minded his speed when he drove. Died in a car wreck. He had always scoffed at those flaky Shirley MacLaine types. But this time he knew something ominous was at work.

Three Steves. That magical number.

Three plus death.

Thursday was just two days away. On his way home from work he cruised by the bar. No Steves. The next day, Wednesday, he peeked in and saw the jogger/laptop dude perched at the end of the bar.

Draven was pretty sure the guy had been lying. He couldn’t prove his name was Steve. There was a certain strange, aloof air about Winslow, like a brainy trickster messing with two simpletons for kicks.

Draven waited outside.

When Winslow exited with his laptop case around his shoulder, Draven trotted up to him.

“How about letting me see that ID now?”

“What? Hey, you’re that fat guy from the bar last week, right?” he laughed. “You’re still obsessing over that?”

“Yes. This is serious. One of us could die, man!”

“You’re insane! Leave me alone.”

Draven whipped out the gun, jabbed it into Winslow’s side and began pushing him towards the parking lot.

“Be a good boy. Get your wallet then you can go about your merry way, all right?”

“Hey, look…”

The hanging laptop case momentarily dislodged the gun from his side, long enough for him to whip around and grab the barrel. Draven’s compulsive nature struck again as he squeezed the trigger, sending a hot bullet into his own chest.

Winslow let the fat man fall to the ground. He was fazed for only a minute. He whipped out his wallet which was secured in the waist band of his jogging pants.

He held his driver’s license out over Draven’s face.

“Happy now?  See it?  Steve Winslow!”

But Draven’s dead eyes couldn’t register it.





“Three Steves, One Dead” originally appeared in Powder Burn Flash, circa 2011.






darkmorning.jpg
Art by Steve Cartwright 2018

Dark Morning

by M.G. Allen

 

I wait and wait and wait.

It’s been a running joke in my head. I keep asking myself: Is it morning yet?

There aren’t any working clocks here. I use my mental Timex to judge that time froze for me around five or six o’clock. The sky beyond the dusty window remains a turgid black seeping into gray. I remember looking at Melanie’s watch, the only thing she had been wearing at the time under the sheets of that huge worn-out bed.

I can’t think about Melanie now. Or what she had become. It just scares me cold. I’m already cold enough. The old house is fucking freezing. The former proprietor of this house, long since dead, left lots of firewood by the fireplace and stacks of yellowed newspapers to burn. Try as I might, no matter how thick I get the flames in that sooty old fireplace, I cannot get warm.

I sit in silence and freeze.

And wait. I wait for a morning that will never come.

I try to imagine that Melanie is just asleep in that huge musty smelling bedroom upstairs. But then I remember her face right after she was kissed by the sandpaper person: her gray complexion, her saucer eyes and wide angular smile, the kind of smile unnatural to a human face.

That’s what I call them: sandpaper people. You can’t see them if you try to look at them directly. Melanie and I had been seeing them all night, in the corner of our eyes. Mostly, we would hear them. They walk with dry, papery movements. Scritch, scritch, scritch. If you turn around in their direction, the sound goes away.

Sure, we should have left right then. But what would Steve, Adam, and Jessy say? They’d be pissed and say we ditched them. We all knew the house was supposedly haunted. That’s why we chose to meet up here. Jessy found out about this house on some internet website. Scary shit happened here at one time.

I’m so cold. Who the hell am I talking to anyway? Sitting alone in the endless night, I assume that my friends are dead; Steve, Adam and Jessy didn’t make it down that long snaky driveway to the house. They are now sandpaper people going scritch, scritch, scritch, through the woods outside.

Everything is dry. The air is dry, my bare feet feel dry, and my throat is so very dry. I sit immobile as if frozen into stone, kneeling on that hard wooden floor, trying to decode the message in the flames. Maybe they can tell me what I am supposed to be waiting for.

Then, Melanie’s parchment fingers slip over mine which is tightly clutching the fire poker. I wonder how I didn’t hear her. It doesn’t matter now anyway. It doesn’t looks like a hand. It looks like a bunch of sticks and feels rough like tree bark. When her lips pass over mine, new level of cold overtakes me.

I feel my heart stop.

Morning finally arrives, pallid sunlight spreads through the house like fog. The front door bangs open. Laughter pours in. Steve says, “Yoo hoo? Anybody home?” Jessy is giddy, laughing and babbling away.

They are coming in my direction. I glide towards the door. I feel like I’m floating. My body goes scritch, scritch, scritch.

I raise the fire poker over my head.

I wait.

 

 

M.G. Allen has been published in Yellow Mama twice. His work has also been published in Mysterical E, Dark Moon Digest, and the now-defunct Flashes in the Dark.

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