Yellow Mama Archives II

Ron Capshaw

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Out of Gas

by Ron Capshaw

 

 

It was my own fault.

It wasn’t just taking a dirt road shortcut to my sister’s house.  It wasn’t just not paying attention to the gas gauge.

It was expecting the cops to be different.

Look at him, I thought, as he got out of his police cruiser, and strutted over.  Macho with a badge.  Cowboy hat, sunglasses hanging on the outside of the front pocket of his highway patrol uniform.  Enormous gun that seemed to slap against his thigh.

It was my past walking toward me.  It could be the 1970s all over again, when the cops ran the town of Mullin, Texas; where they could search your car without a warrant (one of my friends was arrested on the spot for stating the cop was violating his civil rights); plant evidence, and arresting people for what we called DWB—- “Driving While Black.”

By now, the cop had arrived at the  driver’s side door of the car.  I couldn’t make him out because he was shining his flashlight into my eyes even though the sun had yet to go down.

I got the sense of enormous bulk.  Not fat.  Just dense.  Like a brick.

 He rapped a knuckle on the window.

“Roll the fucking window down.”

I was 17 again.

I complied.  I wasn’t about to get into an argument with a cop on a lonely dirt road at sundown.

The flashlight was still in my eyes.

From the nearness of his voice I could detect that he was leaning into the car, examining me.

He had seen my California plates.

“So, Mr. Hollywood.  What seems to be the problem?”

Like his bulk, his voice sounded solid.  Like you would hurt your hand if you tried to punch through it.

I tried for a self-deprecating smile.

“I ran out of gas.”

The cop grunted, sounding like a bull ape.

“That was stupid.”

I heard him reaching into his back pocket.

The fucker was writing me out a ticket.

“You should pay better attention.”

“You give tickets for running out of gas?”  I said incredulously.

“Yep.  Mr. California.”

A black-gloved hand came near my face holding the ticket.

I took it, and resisted the urge to crumple it into a ball and bounce it off his chest.

But this was Mullin, where men were men and cops were above the law.

“Have a good day.”

I should have kept silent, but I needed to show I still had some guts left.  That life away from Mullin had given me a spine.

“You’re not even going to help me?”

The flashlight was turned off.

With the last rays of sunlight, I saw that he was bigger than I thought.  His hat obscured his features like the Shadow’s, that 30’s era avenger of evil.

This guy didn’t avenge anything.  He didn’t have to.  Because everyone was so scared of him or had him in their pocket that no one dared to give him anything to be vengeful about.

He merely tipped his hat and went whistling back to his police cruiser.

He drove off, leaving me with my anger and self-loathing.

I should have at least talked back.

I should have flashed him my ACLU membership card and told him what a fascist he was, and how this incident would be gone over with a fine tooth comb by my lawyer.

I looked down at the ticket.  He had actually written on it,  “Driver negligently ran out of gas.”

Oddly, he didn’t write  his name or badge number on the ticket.

I leaned back.  The sun was down by now, and the crickets began chirping, and there was a gentle breeze I felt when I got out of my car.

“Fuck,” I screamed aloud.

My voice echoed.  A wolf howled.

I hit my hazard lights, hoping some kinder soul would help me.

Then I thought about the body my friends and I found in the woods so long ago, before I wrote my way out of Mullin; getting a scholarship to UCLA (“fag country” my father called it, but still made sure I could go); graduating; and then writing my way into the bestseller list.

The body had half his face shot off.  We learned, not through the three sheet local paper, who didn’t report it (we suspected they thought deep down the cops did it) but through the highly-developed rumor mill of Mullin that it was a drug deal gone wrong.

That was credible.  Because the only thing “big city” about Mullin (population, 2500 and rigorously segregated) was its drug culture.   It wasn’t just rednecks smoking pot.  We had heroin, even cocaine that anyone could get if they ventured into the black section of town.

Drug deal or not, trigger happy cops or not, I was not going to remain in my car and lose half of my face.

At least on foot, I could hide in the woods.

I went to the back of my rental car and opened the trunk.

Big surprise.

The rental company gave me a radio that could detect sound waves on Venus and plush car seats you could sink into.   But they didn’t give me a gas can.

I heard tires crunching gravel.

Him again.

He parked in front of me, and turned off his headlights.

He got out, the police cruiser buckling under his weight.

I left my hazard lights on, and as he approached they made him look like he was on the dance floor of a disco.

Hell had just frozen over.  He was carrying a gas can.

He stood in front of me.  Easily three inches taller than me and outweighing me by 50 lbs.  Built like a linebacker.

He put the gas can down in front of me and stepped away from it.

“Sorry, for my rudeness,” he said.  “I had to dump the body.  Now let’s take care of you.”


William

 

by Ron Capshaw

 

 

You had to like him.   Even when you knew what a huckster he was. There was something endearing about someone who was up front about being in it strictly for the money.

William provided the one amusing moment in the horror that was D-Day. While we were waiting to get off the landing boat at Omaha Beach to try our luck against Nazi machine gun nests, he was still selling rabbits’ feet and “good luck” coins.

His “customers” died clutching them.

I miraculously made it to the beach and through the frozen hell of the Battle of the Bulge and into Berlin without a scratch.

William was not so lucky. A Nazi sniper shot off his hand just as he hit Omaha Beach. He was looking for it in the surf when that buck sergeant grabbed him by his backpack and drug William to what passed for cover on the beach.

Just as the medic came over, the buck sergeant’s head exploded.

But the medic had seen it all and without missing a beat, bullets pinging off his helmet, was able to save William’s life, even with the blood jetting out of the stump where his hand used to be.

“Are you ready?” William said, zipping up the Bigfoot suit with the hand that stayed attached to his body. He then covered the brass zippers with fur so the camera wouldn’t pick it up.

 “Hurry up, will ya? This thing is hotter than hell,” I said.

 

 

“Just think about how rich we will be when we sell this to NBC,” he said, picking up the handheld camera he brought to lend the “sighting” some authenticity. The idea was that he would make the camera lens go all over the place because he was chasing the “creature” across the rough terrain of the California mountains.

“Remember to swing your arms like a gorilla. Then look over your shoulder at me, and then race into the woods.”

He grinned and said, “Action.”

I was good. We got it in one take.

By then, the sun was starting to go down.

 We made camp. 

Nighttime.

Of course, we swapped war stories. Of course, we got shit-faced.

We toasted the Bigfoot suit that lay neatly folded by the tent.

Williams was out of shape in the drinking department. He passed out first.

I polished off my glass of apricot brandy and did likewise.

As usual, I dreamed about the war.

When the landing craft door opened, I dove over the side of the boat just as my comrades in front of me exploded in cloth and blood and brain matter.

Unlike the others who floated underwater past me, I was able to get my 20-pound backpack off and not drown.

I swam/crawled to the beach, Nazi bullets miraculously not hitting me.

Right when I found some cover—courtesy of-two corpses I stacked up in front of me—-I smelled a rank, sweaty smell.

That’s not how corpses smell.

I came awake, looking into the lifeless eyes of William. He died with the same expression on his face as I saw on those who had their life shot out of them on that horrid day in 1944. Confusion more than horror.

The rest of his body was several feet away.

Pieces of the Bigfoot costume were flying into the air.

 It stopped, and turned to me.

We had invaded its feeding grounds and now we were its food.

Or maybe it was mad because we pretended to be it.



Reds Under Beds

 

by Ron Capshaw

 

Stalin was going to have me killed.

In my country.  On my soil.

I felt it. 

I had a full body shudder that I intuitively knew occurred the very moment he ordered my death an ocean away.

It must have been a novelty for him to sign an execution order for an American;  a break from his late hour routine of ferociously signing those for his countrymen; even his truest believers; pausing only to take a swig from a vodka bottle and making sure some enemy had not snuck in and emptied his pistol of bullets.

It could have resulted from a careless comment I made to another agent questioning the wisdom of Stalin executing his military high command.

In my subconscious I think I was being deliberate.  That I really wanted out.  Bad.  And that was the first of several fatal moves.

I’d like to say I came out of the shadow world of what we did in Stalin’s name because of patriotism; because I wanted to write the wrongs of how I betrayed my country for over a decade.

But in the wee hours of the night, when every creak of every board in that rented Long Island beach house had me sliding my hand under the pillow for my pistol, I couldn’t fool myself with such lofty reasons.

I simply wanted to save my skin.

The government boys who gave us top secret governments were the only ones untouchable.  But we who had them microfilmed and sent to the Soviet Union weren’t.

 

Within 8 months, three in my original cell had “disappeared.”  I know for a fact that two of them were en route to their midnight meeting with Karkov on that DC park bench when they went missing.

It wasn’t hard to piece together what happened.  We heard the rumors.  The absence of their corpses meant they were kidnapped onto a ship bound for Russia where they would soon be screaming and begging their captors to tell them what they wanted them to say to make the pain stop in basements where stood beefy men in undershirts holding truncheons.

The third, who I knew only as “Julian,” codenamed “The Poet,” was the victim of a nighttime hit-and-run.  No witnesses.

Conclusion:  Stalin’s paranoia was not satisfied by Russian blood.  He needed fresh foreign blood and he was reaching across the ocean to get it.

I defected quietly and intended to re-emerge publicly.  I stopped meeting Karkov and as “David Gregory,” codenamed “Writer,” forever left my Washington DC apartment with the radio transmitter and the code book underneath a loose floorboard.

I needed to be “known.”  I wanted to have a lot of light on me to discourage Stalin from having me suspiciously killed.  If he did, at least there would be questions asked.  Leads followed.

Through a journalist friend from Columbia University days who knew what I was but hopefully didn’t know the sickening things I did, I let  Congress know  I would appear in open session and expose communist moles in the State Department in exchange for immunity from prosecution and a new identity.

They agreed.

That was why I was now on the DC streets on foot and en route to testify on a cool Spring day.

That was when I saw him.

He was dressed as a hep-cat.   Shirt open at the neck, pointed collar.  Dingy double-breasted suit.  Unfashionably long hair in that year of our Lord 1938 that almost reached his collar.

The last person you would think of as a Communist assassin.

Which meant he was.

But he himself was followed.  I may have a friend.

The follower was FBI to the core.   Sedate dark-colored suit.  Shoes shined to another dimension; things all demanded by J. Edgar of his agents.  That was why we were able to get away with what we did.  Because the FBI was too busy shining their shoes to notice what we were funneling to Stalin.

I stopped at a store window, and briefly glanced at Hep Cat.  He stared at me and then nodded to someone ahead of me.

The “someone” was carrying an umbrella even though it was a clear spring day in DC.

Conclusion:

The umbrella had a poison tip on it and its owner would casually tap me on the leg with it as he passed by me…  And when I fell to the ground in a seizure,  he would bend down and yell for a “doctor.”  Even if a doctor was within shouting range, I would be dead in seconds.

Another conclusion:

I had misjudged Stalin.  He didn’t care how it looked that I had a heart attack—I’m sure the poison was untraceable—on the way to exposing him.

He’d kill me no matter where I was.  He would just as readily do it at high noon in Washington on a busy street as he would in a dark alley.

I hurriedly turned away from the Umbrella Man  and hailed a taxi to take me back to the hotel room paid for by Congress.

Then I would fade away, using the tricks Moscow taught me.

As we drove away, I looked out the back windshield of the taxi and didn’t see Umbrella Man or Hepcat or even the FBI guy.

I gave the cabbie a generous tip when we arrived at the hotel.

I didn’t see Hep Cat or Umbrella Man hiding behind a newspaper in the lobby.

Nevertheless, I took the stairs to my room.

I went in, scanned the room, looked in the bathroom shower stall, and got my suitcase out and began packing.

I took the pistol out of it, opened it and bullets spilled out onto the carpeted floor.

When I reached down to retrieve them I happened to look under my bed.

Hep Cat and the FBI guy were under it.

They both fired.


Quits


by Ron Capshaw

 

I was warned about the pitfalls of trying to write for a living.

The refrain from even the moderately successful writers was for me to seek more stable employment elsewhere. Two said teach; three said get a plumbing license.

At the time I thought that excessively cruel to an idealistic writer who thought talent would get me into print.

But the knee-high rejection slips I masochistically kept proved them right, and I wondered if it was so bad to unclog drains.

Still, I wouldn’t give up.

Being a writer isn’t something you do. It is something you are.

But talent wasn’t enough. I needed something, anything, to get me into print.

Hence, the leather-bound book.

The old man in that dusty bookstore tried to talk me out of buying it.

But he relented.

Then he had to run the majesty of the moment by saying, “Be careful what you wish for.”

Deep down, I didn’t think it would work. At best, it would give me a psychological boost; like the lucky charm pilots in World War II wouldn’t fly a plane without and were convinced they kept them from being blown apart.

But what if it really worked?

I had to take a chance.

As instructed by the book, I drew a symbol on my wooden apartment floor with chalk and put a lit black candle in the middle of it.

And then I chanted the verse from the book.

Nothing.

No figure rose from the floor. No contracts were signed in blood.

I threw the book across the room, blew out the candle and went to bed.

I dreamed about a writer, who, while underappreciated in his country, was lauded in Europe.

I am hovering above him as he lay in the hospital bed, as delirious as the police  found him.

He keeps repeating the name, “Reynolds.”

His last words are, “Lord, help my poor soul.”

The doctor reverently covers his dead face with a sheet.

Then he and the nurse leave the room.

Why can’t I fly away?

Seconds pass, and then he takes the sheet off his face and looks directly at me.

He points to a corner of the room.

“Reynolds,” he says.

In the corner, there appears a darkened alley occupied only by the writer and a shadowy figure.

“We’re quits, Reynolds.  You helped me get published years ago, but I want it back,” the writer says.

The shadowy figure cackles and says, “There are no loopholes. You knew that.”

Right before it shatters the writer’s mind, the shadowy figure and the writer turn  and look at me.

I scream myself awake.

I am in bed, the book I threw somehow on my chest.

The writer and the shadowy figure sit at the foot of my bed.

I closed my eyes tight and violently shook my head.

I open my eyes and they are still there.

They have moved closer. One is winged and I can’t look at his smoldering eyes.

The other is the writer, his skin baked red.

“You still have a choice,” the writer says.

The other figure says something to me in Latin, and even though I don’t know the language, I can understand it.

“You can be successful beyond your wildest dreams. Prizes, women, prestige.  You could copy the phone book and it would still be published.”

“Please,” the writer says.

I look at the rejection slips completely covering the floor and nod my agreement with the winged figure, even though the contract was not voiced or signed. 

The writer shakes his head sadly. Reynolds howls triumphantly.

“Lord, help your poor soul,” Edgar Allen Poe says, as scaly hands came out of my bed and yanked him out of sight.



Sooter

 

by Ron Capshaw

 

 

Chapter 1

 

June 12, 1938.  3pm.

 

The guard dogs who hatefully chased me through the Texas woods skidded to a stop before the mansion.  They strained so hard to get away that they broke their leashes and fled into the woods.  The soldiers threw their weapons down and followed.  Their officers didn’t order them back on pain of execution, but crossed themselves and ran.

          They must have heard the stories about the mansion all the way back to Berlin.

          Inside, I laughed that for all their Master Race posturing they were as superstitious as a common peasant.

Evil was man-made; created by capitalist greed.

I wouldn’t think that for long.

Because those things in the mansion didn’t want your money but something more fatal.

 

 

           Dallas Morning News, February 10, 1934

Billionaire Builds Mansion  in Texas

          Billionaire/Aviator/Film-Maker Cletus Sooter has built a three story mansion in his hometown of Mullin, Texas.

          Asked why he is leaving Hollywood after the success of his Great War film, Sky Raiders, which took 4 years and billions of dollars to complete, as well as the LA air races, he said,  “I’m tired of the phonies in Hollywood. And air races no longer interest me.  I need to reconnect with my roots.”

          But Sooter, known even in Hollywood for his reclusiveness, has not left his mansion as of yet, even though he brought several of his planes on the landing deck he installed on the roof of his mansion.

Still, some locals are not happy. 

          In reference to his private police guarding the Sooter mansion, rancher Amos Howard said, “Mr. Hollywood is not a law unto himself.  The rest of us ordinary folks have to abide by the laws of our town.”

          John Lance, the mayor of the town, had kinder words to say.  “I'm glad that Mr. Sooter wants no publicity and keeps to himself. It’s his property, and he has every right to protect it.”

          But rumors of wild parties and seances and witchcraft abound. This prompted Sheriff Tom Le Fernau to visit the mansion.

          Le Fernau said that Sooter’s aide, Hamilton Moore, and the technical advisor on his trench warfare film, assured the sheriff that the rumors were untrue.

          Le Farneu has told citizens to calm down.

          “Like it or not, Sooter spent a fortune on his mansion and is here to stay.  He merely wants his privacy and is not bothering anyone.  People need to mind their own business and get on with their day.”

 

 

Chapter 2

 

 

After the Nazis turned tail into the woods, I reconnoitered the mansion and tried to find Mom.

Fat chance.

Not only was the electricity out in the Sooter mansion but it was a literal maze.  The hallways on the first floor either led to a dead-end or went on forever, never bringing you back to the place you started from.

Luckily, Sooter had flashlights and weapons and bags of chocolate chip cookies everywhere.  As if he might need to shoot someone any moment while enjoying a light snack.

Did he know that the parachutes would drop from the sky before we “premature anti-fascists” did?

The mansion had a decayed smell, like nothing had lived there for a very long time. The rooms and hallways on the first floor were dusty and cob-webbed, which meant Sooter might have conquered his germaphobia and fired the spraying staff.

Or he was holed up somewhere more sanitary in the mansion.

Given the layout I may never know.

Which meant I may never find Mom.

But I had to know.  Because if she wasn’t here that meant she was intercepted and then stood up against the wall as a trouble maker.

Or, if the Nazis did their homework, executed her as the mother of one.

I would hope she was in one of the secret rooms I accidentally found when a foul odor in one of the hallways caused me to grow dizzy and I fell against one of the walls.

It opened into a room, where the smell was even stronger. 

I grew dizzy again and fell down again.

The room had an oxygen tent with no one in it, packages of chocolate chip cookies, and weapons.  Copies of horror pulps littered the floor.  Vines of some kind of herb were taped to every inch of the walls.

I grabbed one of the weapons.  It was a shotgun.  I filled my pockets with as many shells as I could carry.

I weaved to the wall opposite to the one I fell through and it opened.

With the shotgun propped against my right shoulder and my flashlight in my left hand I happily left.

 

          Another hallway.

          At the end of it was the Soldier.

          Before he darted into the darkness, I saw that he was dressed in a World War I uniform, right down to the Tommy helmet and Sam Browne belt.

 

          Without thinking I ran after the soldier, turning a corner into THEM.

          The soldier was the only one of them not crouched.  I saw now that he wore a gas mask.

          Those crouched in front of him wore the tattered uniforms of Sooter Security.

          They didn’t launch themselves at me until he grunted.

          There was no way to shoot at all of them.

          They galloped after me across the floor, the sides of the walls and the ceiling.

          As I ran, I now hoped that Mom hadn’t made it to the mansion.

          But something told me she did.

 

 

****

         

          I had to learn on the job about what worked, what didn’t.

          One that worked were the vines in the secret room.

          When some of them followed me into it before I could close the door they exploded.

          Wiping the blood and tissue out of my eyes, I sniffed the vines.

          Of course.

          I took as much as I could carry, preferring the dizziness to being those things’ lunch.

          I went into the hallway I entered the secret room from.

          I crushed pieces of the vines to serve as breadcrumbs so I could navigate the mansion and make my way back to the front door and the Nazis if things got too bad.

           I found another secret room.

          This one had no vines, no oxygen tent.  It wasn’t a room to hole up in.

          It was to send for help.

          It was hard to see how long he had been dead.

          Because, still seated in front of the short wave radio, his headphones still on, his hand still clutching the microphone, he had been drained dry after they ripped his throat out.

          Swallowing my bile, I peered closer

          He wasn’t dressed in the uniform of Sooter Security but an expensive double-breasted suit.

          He had Sooter’s pencil thin mustache, but Sooter had a full head of hair and this poor bastard had a toupee that still hung off his head.

          They hadn’t smashed the radio in uncontrolled fury.

          I looked at the back of it.

          The battery was gone.

          Those things that came at me didn’t have the rationality to do that. 

          I heard slithering sounds outside the secret door.

          I was pressing the opposite wall when I got my answer as to who took out the battery.

          There was a circular glass lens on the ground.

          The kind that were on gas masks.

 

*******

         

          Contrary to legend, they didn’t sleep during the day.  Or maybe they did and came at me in shifts to wear me down.

          It was working.

          Sleep was impossible even in a garlic-filled secret room because they howled and threw themselves at the door all day and night.

          We found each other in the dining room, with long tables and a fireplace.

          They kept a healthy distance away because of the garlic.

          I had left the windows covered in velvet curtains so a Nazi sniper couldn’t get me.

          But looking at that mass of fangs and claws and red veins and sickly green skin on the other side of the dining room I didn’t think a Nazi bullet would be such a bad fate.

          I began tearing down the curtains as I walked toward them.

          They saw shafts of sunlight coming closer, and fled, killing some of their own in the stampede.

          Bathed in sunlight, I grinned, the first genuine one since Dad and I were on the hilltop, giving, for one brief moment, the town its balls back.

 

          Chapter 3

 

          Forty-Eight Hours Before.

         

I suppose I should feel guilty.  Because I brought the war home with me.

After being chased by the SS out of England, a Nazi bullet through my lung and because of it, a determination to make amends with Dad, I went to the last place I thought the Nazis would invade.

Mullin, Texas.

Population 1300.

 

Dad didn’t care about my college-bred Marxism that sent Mom to her rosary beads, praying fervently I would renounce Stalin and embrace God.

Dad hadn’t believed in God since that first shelling in the trenches in a world war we were now calling the first one.

What enraged him was that I was going to fight alongside the British; the same people who treated us Irish like trash in the old country.

Like a lot of Americans, he thought the war in Europe was none of our business, and that we should keep our powder dry in case Hitler invaded America; and even then the Nazis had to be on Dad’s doorstep.

Which they practically were.

Even though I didn't think that Hitler was deluded enough to invade Texas. 

There no Jews here, no Jehovah’s Witnesses or Gypsies, or, with the exception of me, no communists.  Texas did have oil fields and was situated near the Gulf of Mexico, but I’m sure his generals warned him that my fellow Texans would take to the mountains and hills and forests and cause the Nazis to waste manpower policing the state rather than rolling North.

But as usual Hitler ignored them.

Dad and I were sitting on his front porch, drinking and not speaking to each other when we saw the parachutes dropping from the sky.   Then explosions, and three miles away from the town, we smelled it already burning.

 We looked at each other and nodded.  

 He tossed me a hunting rifle, a bag of ammo, grabbed his old carbine, and we went to see what was left of Mullin.

          Mom refused to stay behind.  Her Irish was up, and there was no talking her out of coming.

          And truth be told, I didn’t want to try.

          She needed to see what they were like.

 

*******

 

          I had no loyalty to this town that I left at the first opportunity.

          But seeing from the hilltop what the Nazis had done and were doing to it, I was angrier than I was when I saw the SS patrolling London after Churchill had been assassinated.

My town.  My fellow citizens.

Bloody cowboy hats smashed by their goose-stepping.

Bodies twitching on the ground, which the Nazis posed beside for the newsreel cameras.

When I saw the Nazis urinating on corpses I aimed my rifle at them.

Dad gently pushed my barrel down.

“Another time, boy.  We need to link up with the resistance that if I know my fellow residents they are already forming.”

After a couple of deep breaths I nodded.

We were in the act of leaving the hilltop when we saw the Barbed Wire Man.

We couldn’t tell who the corpse was entangled in the barbed wire in the center of town because the Nazis were recreationally using it for target practice.

I looked at Dad.

He nodded, jaw clenched.

He turned to Mom.

“Molly.  Don’t go home.  Go to the Sooter mansion.  If he is alive he’ll take you in.  There may even be some of his private police force left.”

She shook her head.

          “Go woman!  I’ll not have you raped and killed by this trash.”

          “You’ll soon follow behind?”

          Dad nodded, lying to her.

          There was no walking away from what we planned to do.

          Especially with the bombers flying overhead.

          After she left, Dad sighted the Germans.

          Then he did something that filled my heart with joy and is the way I always like to remember him.

He winked.

Fellow soldiers.

 

******

We were of one mind, picking the targets in the order of who angered us the most.  We shot the soldiers who pissed on the corpses.

Then those who fired into the Barb Wire Man

Then those who shot the citizens who cheered us.

Then we became more strategic, killing every officer we could find.

As expected, without leadership, the soldiers panicked.

They fired in all directions, killing not just the townies who hadn’t gotten to cover but a few of their own.

Then we shot the swastika flag hoisted in the town square off the pole.

More cheers.

Then the tank spotted us.

 

********

 

  I came to several feet away from the now disintegrated tree I had used as cover.  Other trees were on fire.   All I could hear was that familiar humming sound in my ears and everything was in slow motion.

I took an inventory of my body and found no injuries.

The same could not be said of Dad.

I found him several yards away.  No left arm and his legs were gone below the knees.

He died grinning fiercely, his middle finger extended on his remaining hand.

Tears welled up in my eyes.

Good old Dad.  Defiant to the end.

Dirt kicked up by my feet, and I turned and saw the soldiers coming up the hill fast, looking as enraged as their guard dogs.

 

 

Chapter 4

 

NOW.

There was no living with them.  I couldn’t find Mom until I got rid of them.

I expected to find the creatures slumbering somewhere dark and dank.  I canvassed the wine cellar and the basement.

But they weren’t there.

Which meant they were on the move.

It’s what Dad and or my former comrades in England would have done.

But those things running from the sunlight didn’t think much less think like a soldier.       

But there was one among them who could.  

The Gas Mask Man.

I hadn’t seen him since the hallway incident weeks—was it weeks?—ago.  But recalling that moment when the creatures would let me, I sensed something controlled about him.

Disciplined.

Strategic.

A trained soldier would seek higher ground.

And he had two floors above me to do it in.

I looked at the ceiling.

I swore I could hear laughter and then a scream.

That sounded like Mom.

 

******

         

        The second floor was even darker than the first floor.

        Like the first floor, there were weapons and flashlights all over the second floor.

        My flashlight was flickering and I could always use another gun so I picked the flashlight and gun up and then almost screamed

        The batteries had been taken out of the flashlight and the rifle barrel was clogged with dirt so that whoever fired it would blow their own face off.

        Luckily, I was able to find the generator with my flickering flashlight.

        Dear God, please don’t let them have chewed through its wires. 

        They hadn’t.

        It was simply a matter of flipping a switch.

        The lights came on, revealing that there were at least 10 in front of me, salivating and biting at the air.

They didn’t explode like they did when they touched the garlic or were exposed to sunlight, but they did throw their greenish arms over their eyes from the bright lights and scattered.

I fell to my knees.

Mom you need to signal me where you are because I can’t take much more of this.

Another day here and I would join the Nazis.

If the first floor with its stones and cobwebs and odor of decay was early Gothic, the second floor was more modern, but overkilled.  Sooter was so weird that he couldn’t just carpet the floor; he carpeted the walls and ceiling the chandeliers hung from.

I walked down the hallway, dropping garlic along the way.

I tried to open a door but it was barricaded shut.

I tried the door next to it and it opened.

It was a typical bedroom.  Carpeted, with dressers and a canopy bed.

There was a figure-shaped hole in the wall going into the barricaded room.

  I looked through it and saw that some of them did sleep during the day.

  I first saw the tuxedoed men, along with one dressed as a polo player hanging upside down by their taloned feet clutching into the rafters of the ceiling.  Their eyes were closed, fangs protruding from a contented smile on their faces.

I couldn’t see the women hanging from the ceiling because their flapper dresses covered their faces.

To my shame, I hoped that one of them was Mom so I could get the fuck out of here.

They weren’t.

I lifted their dresses up over their heads and saw green, but somehow beautiful faces.

Gin bottles and opium pipes littered the floor beneath them.

Conclusion:

One of those things had literally crashed their party from the next room.

    He-she-it could have just complained to the management about the noise.

I laughed in a creepy way I didn’t recognize, not caring if I woke up the Gatsby set or not.

None of them did.

I looked at the stairs going up to the third and final floor.

This is it Mom.  If you’re not here I’m done.

 

*****

 

It wasn’t hard to find the lab.  It took up two-thirds of the third floor. What was in the lab answered the question as to how those creatures fed themselves.  They couldn’t subsist on the four corpses who lay on the floor, their throats ripped out, their faces as white as their lab coats.

What slaked their thirst was a huge, still-bubbling vat of blood in the center of the lab with feeding tubes attached to it.

Their straws.

There seemed to be an endless supply.

Near the vat was a hospital bed and those fucking chocolate chip cookies.

There was a framed photo flung to the other side of the room.

It was a picture of Sooter, clad in a deep sea diver’s suit holding the helmet.  I peered closer and saw a feeding tube attached to it.  Next to him were the late four scientists.  Off to one side of them was a lab coat and clothes suspended in the air.

I knew why, thanks to my crash course in the lore.

Because vampires couldn’t be photographed.

 

********

I looked at the notes, the medical charts and learned that Mr. Millionaire was convinced fatal germs were in his blood, despite numerous tests showing his blood was normal except for a high sugar content.

To ease his mind, they prescribed a chicken diet, rich in Vitamin D.

One of the doctors wrote, “Patient will eat only one thing and it’s unhealthy.  And I wish he’d leave that fucking helmet off.”

I looked at the bubbling vat of blood.

Cooking no doubt to kill the “germs.”

Out with the impure, in with the pure.

I looked all over the lab.  I looked up and down the hallway and pressed the wall for secret rooms.

There weren’t any.

Mom wasn’t here.

Shamefully, I breathed a sigh of relief.   Because if the Gas Mask Man and his creatures hadn’t eaten her, they would have “turned” her into one of their own.  She may have even been one of those mutations crouched beside the Gas Mask Man my first day here.

I didn’t want to know.  I wanted to remember her as she was.  Before the parachutes.

Ok.  I am going to walk out of the mansion very carefully, clutching my garlic, grab all the guns I can carry and fight some humans.

Then I remembered there was one place I hadn’t looked.

The landing port on the roof.

 

******

He didn’t want them near his precious planes so he blew them up.  Bits of greenish skin and claws and airplane parts were all over the roof. 

I found Sooter on the other side of the roof, clad head to toe in that deep sea diver’s suit, his hand pressed down on the TNT plunger.

I walked over to him, angry at him for causing all this trouble, but admiring him for holding it together and blowing the would-be pilot vampires to Hell.

But he hadn’t gotten all of them.

Because his helmet was twisted around backwards.

 

******

I almost saluted the son of a bitch when I turned his body around and saw his face visible through the diver’s helmet.

He died smiling.

Defiant.  Just like Dad.

Explosions.

The mansion rocked.  Again and again.  Whatever was hitting it caused my roommates to shriek.

I went to the edge of the roof and looked down.

Just a matter of time.

The Nazis were back.

 

*********

The vampires were congregated by the first floor window facing the front court.

They left me alone when I joined them and even crouched at my feet.  Their focus was on the Nazis outside, who they hissed and growled at.  

Gas Mask Man appeared beside me.

“Got tired of cleaning up his messes, didn’t you?” I said, not looking away from the window.

The Gas Mask Man looked at me for a long time.

The Germans had brought lab-coated scientists and machine guns and tanks.  Attached to one of the tanks by a chain was enough left of Mom for me to recognize.

I shook with rage.

It was nighttime.  I could open the door and let the vampires slaughter the Nazis.

 But I wanted to get my hands dirty.

Bloody.

I turned to Gas Mask Man and said, “A favor.”

I exposed my throat.



Castle

 

by Ron Capshaw

 

They had left without any celebration. They felt strangely unsatisfied, even though their mission was fulfilled. The Nosferatu was no more; literally reduced to dust and his castle exploded. Harker had slashed the Count’s throat, but it was Quincy who dealt the killing blow, stabbing the Wampyr in the heart with his trusty Bowie knife.

But at the cost of Quincy’s life. With his corpse on the train now leaving the dark countries that science and rationality had never penetrated, they would arrive in London, and then take a ship to America, and finally to Texas to bury Quincy on his native soil.

The Professor was strangely quiet. For some reason, he began to reread the ancient texts he brought with him about the vampire.

Then, suddenly, he said, “We have to go back.”

After he left to consult the conductor, we looked at the books the Professor had been reading.

Underlined in one of them was how the vampire could only be fatally stabbed in the heart with a silver blade or a wooden stake.

Then in another book, the Professor had underlined a passage that told of how the vampire could transform himself into dust under a full moon.

Quincy’s knife was made of steel.

We hoped the authors of the texts had gotten it wrong, but that was dashed when we saw that the castle had reconstructed itself.



Head

 

by Ron Capshaw

 

Those who weren’t there cheered when he came back to camp with the head.

Those who had, kept their distance, as if he were somehow contagious.

The hunter didn’t spoil the moment with the truth.

As he watched the client robotically go into his tent, dropping the head on the way, the hunter thought, What did he expect?

His other clients had gotten over their shock that the movies had gotten it wrong and did what they came to do.

This time the hunter had to.

He found the client vomiting behind a tree and dropped—not handed—the head at the client’s feet.

At least he has the courage to pick it up, the hunter thought.

Back at camp, the client’s wife, whose bar bill would have fed a family of ten shivering in a Hooverville, must have learned some gypsy lingo, and practically raced into their tent.

The hunter knew what the poor bastard was in for.  She had been at him since arriving at camp, belittling his looks, his virility, and now it would be his courage.

What she said to him in the tent would later be shared.

Her mission, probably begun shortly after the sap slipped the ring on her finger and she had him tied in financial knots, was to keep him from ever getting his balls back.

Later, after the hunter turned her down, she tried the abuse act on him, and he smacked her.

Rather than launch herself at him, she took the hand he hit her with and kissed it.

American women, he thought and pushed her out of his tent.

Thank God the safari was almost over.

Night came quickly, and it was apparent from the circles under his eyes that the client hadn’t gotten any sleep during the day.

Meanwhile the wife looked well-rested, even radiant.

The husband looked into the fire for a long time.

“I suppose it has relocated.”

The hunter nodded.

“They do that when discovered.”

“They wouldn’t bother if it was just you, dearest,” the wife said.

Enough, the hunter thought.

“There’s another, near here.  We can go at daybreak.”

“No,” the husband said, looking at the pitch-black sky.  “Let’s go now.”

Before the hunter could protest, the husband said, “You know where they feed?”

“Yes, but—”

The husband looked at the hunter with tears in his eyes, “Please.”

The hunter nodded.

“Oh, I must go on this one,” the wife said.

“It would be better if you stayed behind,” the hunter said.

She moved her face almost nose to nose with her husband’s downcast face.

“Oh, no.  I missed his performance.  I need to see a repeat.”

 

******

Some galloped, some took to the air, all in search of a meal.

The hunting party had brought guns this time.

The hunter pointed at an area where a pack was feeding.

The wife clutched at her throat.

The husband very carefully sighted his rifle on them.

The hunter crouched beside him.

“Go for the head, not the heart.”

The husband reduced the pack’s heads to spray before they had time to even snarl.

The husband smiled at the hunter in a way the hunter knew he hadn’t in years.

The wife caught the look.

“Big deal,” she said.  “You shot them from a safe–”

Just then, one of them burst through the darkness, claws extended, jaw impossibly wide.

The hunter was caught off guard and wouldn’t have time to bring his gun up.

The wife screamed.

The husband, quite calmly, blew its brains out.

The husband looked at his wife.

“The sound you are hearing, dearest, are my balls being reattached.”



You Should Have Waited

 

by Ron Capshaw

 

 

“You should have waited.  I was done with evildoers.”

I wondered if the other survivors of that night had memories of what happened resurface in lightning-quick flashbacks.

It’s not like we kept in touch; had reunions where we exchanged notes about how we were doing after the hostage crisis.

The terrorists must have known we’d be at the after-hours retirement party for our CEO, Montgomery Ravens.

They announced themselves by firing into the 70th floor ceiling of the Lamont Towers.

Up till then, we thought of the Japanese as someone we brokered deals with.

We didn’t even know that Japan had a Communist Party, much less a Cuban-trained terrorist unit.

There were no Democrats among us, but we would have denounced Reagan if he didn’t accede to their demands of removing nuclear missiles from Western Europe.

Then, what happened next came in flashbacks at night when my defenses were down, and the meds hadn’t kicked in yet:

That creep Harrison, who loved his buffed-up body more than the yuppie women he chased, thinking he was Rambo and ended up having his brains decorating the streamlined walls.

The terrorist with the peach fuzz yanked into the darkness behind an office doorway.

The leader yelled at his men to stop shooting each other as HE cackled and blurred between them.

The automatic showers coming on and the lights flashing on and off like a disco ball.

Us running/skidding to the elevator and then changing our minds when the door opened, and we saw the heaps of terrorist bodies.

That’s all I remembered.

But on that night, when the airline lost my luggage with the meds in them and I had to drink myself to sleep, I remembered more:

On the way to the emergency stairs, I looked down the long hallway leading into the lobby and saw the terrorist leader thrown back and forth against the walls.

I couldn’t make out what was throwing him, so I went down the hallway instead of sensibly going down the stairs.

On the way, I saw a gray wig on the slick, bloody floor.

The terrorist lay crumpled against one of the walls, and a cloaked figure crouched in front of him.

In a sinister voice that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere, Ravens said to the terrorist, “You should have waited. I was about to leave your world—-a world I’ve grown tired of saving.”

Then Ravens closed his eyes tightly, and the terrorist picked up a gun and shot himself.

 

Ron Capshaw is a writer based in Florida.  His debut horror novel, The Stage Mother's Club, came out in June from Dark Edge Press.

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