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Michael D. Davis
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flippingfrozenfinger.jpg
Art by Steve Cartwright 2019

Flipping the Frozen Finger Farewell

 

By Michael D. Davis

 

When Posey Peale walked into the grimy, dark bar all kinds of eyes from all sorts of skulls looked her over. She walked up to the counter, her beautiful body wading through the pool of degenerates.

“I’m looking for Count Whorton,” she said.

The bartender, a man with a face like a movie star and a body big enough to give anyone trouble said, “Why’s someone like you looking for him?”

“Because I need his help,” Posey Peale said, “And am I correct in saying I just found him?”

A smile spread across the bartender’s face like mildew in moist weather. “You think I’m Count Whorton?”

“Maybe.”

The bartender burst out laughing. He laughed so hard his side started to hurt and tears formed in his eyes. He only stopped to get a few other men in on the joke and they started laughing just as hard.

“Hey, what’s the joke here?” Said Posey severely.

“Sorry Miss,” the bartender wiped his eyes. “I’ll show you where Whorton is.”

He took her outside and showed her a door on the front of the building opposite of the bar entrance on the right. He opened the door where a lump of a man slept on stone stairs leading to a second-floor apartment.

“Is he in the apartment up there?”

The bartender smiled. “That's his place, but he seems to be taking a nap on his porch.” He turned and left Posey at the bottom of the steps.

“Um… Count, Count Whorton,” Posey Peale said standing in the door. “Count Whorton?” He didn’t wake or even move, just laid there like a dead man.

Posey went up a few steps and started shaking his shoulders while repeating his name until the Count awoke saying, in an accent like no other she’d heard of, “If you desire to preserve your futile life, leave me alone.”

Although his face was turned away from her, resting flat on the cold stone she heard him clearly. And she ignored him.

“Count Whorton, I must speak with you.”

“You may leave a note, but Count Whorton isn’t here.”

Posey leaned and held up the wall with her shoulder. “I am not leaving.”

Count Whorton released a long groan. “Fine,” He stood up and walked through the apartment door, leaving it open for her. By the time she shut the door, he was in the bathroom. Posey perched on the end of the couch as she waited.

Count Whorton finally burst back out of the bathroom. “I owe you my gratitude.”

“What for?”

“If I slept any longer there would have been no requirement to retreat to the John if you get me.”

Posey smiled stiffly and said, “I do.”

Posey Peale looked at the Count under the light and she was brought in on the bartender’s joke. Count Whorton was a short, pudgy, no-necked creature with skin the color of a wet napkin. He had a hunched back and deep, dark circles under his eyes. Hidden under his hat was short, dry hair like nothing else in nature and when he smiled his fat cheeks contorted in a look of pain to reveal only the top row of his yellowish-white, crooked, animal-like teeth. On the outside, Posey released a small smile for having mixed up the very different-looking men and on the inside, she shuddered at Count Whorton’s grim appearance.

“So,” the Count said, “Divulge what you came here to, then scoot at no slow pace.”

He walked into his shoebox-sized kitchen and took out a plastic fast food cup with a bent straw then slithered up and sat in a large chair opposite Posey.

“Well, I need your detective services.”

“Stop right there, I don’t do that anymore. I’m a part-time night stocker at a grocery store and a full-time drunk. So, if that's all you needed you can be getting along about now.”

“Hey,” Posey said, “I went to a friend. A friend that comes from a long line of cops. And I said I needed someone. I needed a private eye like you see in the movies, one that doesn't keep records, but always solves the case. One that can take care of himself and always has a bead on everyone but won’t be running to the papers or the cops. And he said you. I was told you’d be grumpy, odd, probably drunk, and overall unpleasant, but that you’d help me.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, granted I thought you’d look like the bartender downstairs but nonetheless.”

“Please, that pretty boy has less brains than a goldfish. So, who is this rare human being with the badge in his blood and a few kind words to say about me?”

“Nick Nash.”

“Christ, the Nash family.”

“Yes, and he sent me here.”

Count Whorton looked Posey over, his sleepy dark brown eyes darting over her from head to toe before finally sighing heavily. “What’s the problem?”

Posey reached into her purse and brought out a plastic baggy. “I found this in my mother’s mini fridge.” She tossed the baggy over to him. Count Whorton looked it over without opening it. Then he threw the baggy back at her saying, “so, it’s a finger.”

“Which was located in mother’s mini fridge,” Posey said her eyebrows lowering.

“Assuming your mother has all ten of hers, did you confront her and inquire where the lone digit originated?”

Posey shook her head. “No, what a conversation that would be. ‘Mother I was nabbing some of the good liquor you keep in your room when I found a finger, care to explain?’ Anyways, I know who’s finger it is, I think.”

Count Whorton leaned forward. “Who’s is it?”

“My sister, Violet’s.”

He reached into his jacket over his cardigan, pulled out a cigarette, lit it and leaned back. “So’s your sister dearly departed or just missing one of her nose pickers?”

“My sister’s alive and well.”

“So, she’s missing a middle finger, you find a middle finger. Where's the problem here?”

“Well,” Posey paused then said, “How do you know it’s a middle finger?”

“I’ve seen my share.”

The corners of Poseys lips perked up. “Well, the thing is a few years ago Violet, due to a kitchen accident, got an infection in her left hand and had to have it amputated.”

“So, you got a finger that you believe to have at one time or the other sat at the end of your sisters now, I’m guessing, hook hand. Why not go to your sister?”

“There is something else as well. My brother went missing around the same time of my sister’s hand.”

“Missing?”

“He was nineteen, my parents say he ran away. He left a note, but it just wasn’t like him.”

“When did this all happen?”

“Six years ago, I was thirteen and my sister was sixteen.”

Count Whorton put out his cigarette. “Alright, I’m slightly interested. My fee will be a thousand dollars.”

Posey gave him a shocked look. “That’s pretty steep.”

“Something tells me you can afford it.”

“Fine, I don’t have it on me.”

“That’s alright, we’re leaving anyway.” Count Whorton sucked on his bent plastic straw then put it down and went for the door.

Posey stood up. “Wait, where are we going?”

He opened the door and started down the stairs saying over his shoulder, “Your humble home to get my payment and to find the former owner of that finger.”

On the sidewalk, out front, Posey was leading the way to her car when a shrill voice that could split wood called, “Countey.” Across the alley, leaning out the ground floor window of a brick apartment house was a chubby, light brown skinned prostitute in her early fifties. She wore blood red lipstick and a low-cut top that was fighting a losing battle to contain her large breasts.

Count Whorton turned to her, showing his hound dog teeth in a smile. “Irma Side, how are you doing?”

“Same as always, Countey.”

“Is there anything I can do for you?” asked the Count walking from Posey to the prostitute.

“I just didn’t know if you wanted me to come over tonight.”

“Well, I’m not in the money as it were.”

“That’s okay, you’ve owed me before. Unless you want someone else, like her. Who is she?”

“That is my client, I’ve taken a case.”

“What’s her name then?”

Count Whorton’s brows furrowed. “I didn’t ask,” he turned, “Miss disembodied-finger what’s your name?”

Posey reddened and said her name.

Count Whorton turned back to Irma. “Posey Peale, I asked for a thousand for my fee.”

“She looks like she has money.”

“Yes,” he turned to Posey then back. “You think I should have asked for more?”

“Maybe she’ll give you a bonus.”

“Anyways, after I get paid, I’m right back here. Me, you, a bottle of booze, we’ll make a night of it.”

Posey's stomach turned a bit as Count Whorton and Irma kissed. The sight of the ugly man smooching the aged hooker in broad daylight wasn’t a sight for school children.

After they got in the car Posey said, “So, your girlfriend’s a hooker.”

“We are not in a formal relationship. She’s a friend and I’m her regular.”

“Well, you could tell she’s a prostitute a mile away. She might as well advertise.”

“She did for a while,” Count Whorton said, “Put up a sign in the window that said come in Side for 75$ Irma Side prostitute Apt. 3.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yes, but the police made her take it down. I thought it was proactive. There are more prostitutes here in Quartertown than there are trees in the park. You have to find a way around the competition.”

The Peale family had money. That showed in their house which stood taller than all the other domino-like houses on the west side of the city. Following Posey inside, Count Whorton saw a woman cleaning about and could tell she was the maid.

Posey led him into a sitting room and said, “Wait here, I’ll go get the money.”

“I kinda got dry mouth, anything to drink?”

She pointed to a cabinet then left the room.

Count Whorton went to the cabinet. He pulled out a bottle of bourbon and brought it to his lips. When he returned it, two-thirds were gone. He put some in a glass and walked around.

The pictures around the room contained Posey, her parents and some other mucky-mucks. Count Whorton couldn’t pick out the sister at first till he figured out she was wearing a high-end plastic prosthetic for a hand. (Money can buy anything.) As he was examining a silver framed picture, a tall older man came into the room.

“Who the hell are you?” said the old man.

Count Whorton faced him.

“Christ, the last time I saw something like you in this house I had to call the exterminator.”

“You must be Mr. Peale.”

“I am, and you?”

“Count Whorley Whorton, investigator hired by your daughter.”

“What for… don’t tell me. This is about Peter.”

“Could be.”

“Of course it is. She’s been obsessed with her brother since he… went away. Is there any way you can talk her out of this?”

“I get paid by her, not you.”

“Fine,” Mr. Peale went over to an old rolltop and took out an envelope. “Here's five hundred, in cash, tell her there's nothing to it.”

Count Whorton took the five bills and put them in his pocket. “I’ll see what I can do.”

Posey came back into the room. “Hi, dad.”

“Posey.”

“This is Count Whorton, a friend. I’m gonna show him the house.”

Mr. Peale nodded his head. “Good to meet you Count.”

Once out of the room, Posey gave Count Whorton a check. He slid it into his pocket with the five green misters.

“I’m taking you to Peter’s room, so, you can look it over.”

Count Whorton just nodded. He felt slightly drunk from the bourbon, but it was a good feeling. Posey led him to a room on the second floor. The contents of it had been swallowed up by boxes stacked against a wall.

“Why’s his stuff in boxes?”

“Mom says it’s if he wants us to ship it to him, like I believe that. I think she just didn’t want his room to be his room anymore.”

Count Whorton opened a box and rifled the contents. There was nothing special. He went through two more uninteresting boxes before the fourth which held an old cell phone and power cord. Sitting on the bare mattress of the bed, he plugged the phone into the wall. It lit up and turned on easily. Posey hovered over Count Whorton like a vulture over a retirement home before he told her to sit down. There were several un-deleted texts from May, 2012. All to and from someone listed as Nick in the contacts.

Peter: moms being a bitch again

Nick: like usual?

Peter: Been worse lately

Nick: Why?

Peter: Just has… and it's not just me she did something bad to Violet

Nick: What?

Peter: I can't tell you… I’d just like to tell her off for once. If not for me then for Violet and Posey

Nick: I’d like to see that.

“Who’s Nick?”

“Nick Nash, he and my brother were best friends. He doesn't think Peter ran away either. That’s half the reason he gave me your name.”

Count Whorton searched more on the phone until he found some pictures. There were several, all taken on a gravel pathway. Peter and Nick starred in most of the shots accompanied by a few others of similar age. In the last photo, a woman that looked like a human prune stood in the background like looming death.

“Who’s that?”

“My mother.”

“Where were these taken?”

Posey took the phone. “Just outside, the driveway used to be dirt and gravel. We put the cement down some years back.”

Count Whorton took the phone, slipping it in his pocket as he stood up with a hand on the wall to keep himself steady. Posey stood up next to him, her legs spring loaded. “You know what happened to my brother.”

“No.”

“You have a theory at least.”

“Yeah, I got a theory,” Count Whorton said, “but theories in this business are like toilet paper to a grizzly bear. You can have loads of the stuff, but if you don’t know how to use it, it’s just thin scratchy paper on a roll. I do have a hypothesis, but I can’t go telling it. It would just be a bunch of words said by a hard-to-look-at drunk. However, we have something putting bullets in those words and that's that frosty finger of yours. Hell, you give any shitbrained boy in blue bearing the badge a finger and he’ll want to know two things, ‘whose is it?’ and ‘how did the owner happen to lose it?’ you follow?”

“Yeah, I follow. Does this mean you’re going to the police?”

“Do you want to?”

“I don’t know.”

“Look here, you aren’t paying me to run to the police. You’re paying me to put two and two together. So, I can tell you what I think right now and leave you to do what you will.”

“What’s this?” said a voice from the door. It was Posey's mother. She looked just how she did in the picture on the phone. Her dark bug-like eyes crawled across the room, spreading disease as they went, finally landing on Count Whorton. “Who is this ugly man?”

Posey jumped like a scared cat at the woman who stood in the door cutting off the room’s air. “This is Count Whorton.”

“Why is he in this room?”

“Because,” said Count Whorton, “I believe I know what happened to Peter. Um… apologies what's your first name?”

“Julia.”

“Well, Julia, let us go downstairs. Find your husband, your other daughter, have a drink and solve a mystery.”

“My son ran away.”

“Well, let's talk about it.”

Mr. Peale and Violet were already in the sitting room when the three of them filed in. Julia took a chair and said, “Phillip, get this horrible looking man out of our house, now!”

Mr. Peale started to get up from the couch.

“Keep your seat, Phillip,” Count Whorton said making his way to the cabinet. “I’m gonna have my say and leave.” He pulled a bottle out, opened it and drank.

Violet looked at the faces in the room. “What is going on?”

“Violet, I assume,” Count Whorton said, “the daughter with the missing hand. You know I personally would have gotten a hook.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m the one saying your mother killed your brother.”

“That's absurd.”

“Then her and pops buried him in the driveway, then paved it over.” Count Whorton fell into the corner of the couch cradling the bottle of booze. “The way I got it figured is Julia, granted I just met her, is a supreme bitch and if we were in the wild, she would have ate her young. But we ain’t. So, when Petey stood up to her, told her off as it were, she killed him instead of eating him. And Pops helped bury him and cover it up because, well, the damage was already done and he’s a mucky-muck who wants to stay that way.” Towards the end, his words started to slur as he felt the weight of the liquor.

“That's insane, I loved Peter,” Julia said.

“Did anyone else catch that?”

“You said ‘loved’, not love,” Posey said.

“Well, that thing was talking about him in the past tense and I made the mistake of doing the same.”

“Sure.”

“Wait,” Count Whorton said, “I forgot the finger. I think what set Petey off was him seeing his mom whack off his sister’s finger.”

“That was a kitchen accident,” Julia said.

“Don’t think so. I think teenage daughter in a heated moment gave you the finger and as punishment, you took it from her. Hell, a bus passed me the other day and an eight-year-old gave me the bird. Anyways, I bet you didn’t plan on infection taking the rest of the hand or Petey boy seeing you do it.”

“It was an accident.”

“If it was an accident,” Posey said, “Why’d you keep the finger?” She held up for all to see the plastic baggy from her purse.

“You kept it?” Violet said, “why, why?”

“To show you,” Julia said sternly, “show you what you get when you do such things.”

“Julia, how could you?” Mr. Peale said.

“Shut up, you spineless shit. If you were a better father none of this would have happened.”

As Julia talked, Violet started to cry, Mr. Peale sat as stiff as a corpse and Posey made her way to the phone. Count Whorton stood up slowly, straightened himself, then his hat. He sidled up to Posey and gave her the cell phone.

“I’m gonna bug out before the bulls get here, darling. I’m also taking this bottle. Something tells me if you’re on that phone, moms and pops will be moving in behind cement walls and not be needing it.”

“Do you have to leave before the police come?”

“Yeah I do, told Irma after I was done here we’d make a night of it.” And with that one of the ugliest men Posey had ever seen walked out, he had fifteen hundred dollars in his pocket, a bottle of liquor in his hand, a drunken buzz on, and he was on his way to his old hooker.

The End


Michael D. Davis was born and raised in a small town in the heart of Iowa. Having written over thirty short stories, ranging in genre from comedy to horror, from flash fiction to novella, he continues in his accursed pursuit of a career in the written word.


It's well known that an artist becomes more popular by dying, so our pal Steve Cartwright is typing his bio with one hand while pummeling his head with a frozen mackerel with the other. Stop, Steve! Death by mackerel is no way to go! He (Steve, not the mackerel) has a collection of spooky toons, Suddenly Halloween!, available at Amazon.com.    He's done art for several magazines, newspapers, websites, commercial and governmental clients, books, and scribbling - but mostly drooling - on tavern napkins. He also creates art pro bono for several animal rescue groups. He was awarded the 2004 James Award for his cover art for Champagne Shivers. He recently illustrated the Cimarron Review, Stories for Children, and Still Crazy magazine covers. Take a gander ( or a goose ) at his online gallery: www.angelfire.com/sc2/cartoonsbycartwright . And please hurry with your response - that mackerel's killin' your pal, Steve Cartwright.

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