A Bad Place to Be
get into trouble just by living. You haven’t done a damn thing wrong, you just
happened to turn down the wrong street at the wrong time and end up with your
head in a noose. That’s how it was for me last Wednesday when I went looking
for a place to empty my bladder and stumbled into one of our “family values” state
senators with his lips exploring the neck of a woman definitely not his wife.
The two of them were rubbing all over each other in an alcove off a dimly lit
part of the convention hall, usually used by caterers to haul trays from the
kitchen to the convention floor. It was their fault for getting sloppy, but I’d
stepped in it just the same.
It might not
have been a big deal if Maggie Taft, one of Cincinnati’s top reporters hadn’t
introduced me as her boyfriend to the Senator just an hour earlier. It also
wouldn’t have mattered all that much, at least not to me, if the woman with the
Senator hadn’t been a witch. Instead of him trying to buy me off, I ended up
finding a bag of bones nailed to my apartment door the next morning.
I’d dealt with
this particular witch before when one of the guys she’d been stringing along
hired me to check her out. I’d advised him to stay away from her, but the sap
couldn’t help himself. When I tried to track him down because the check he’d
written me had bounced, I found him in the city morgue with his head twisted
around backwards. I was more concerned with the money I was losing than how
he’d ended up that way, but I had my suspicions.
In the olden
days, just leaving a hex bag on someone’s doorstep would have done the trick,
scaring the recipient into submission, but these days nobody believed in
witches, making a lot more work for the witch, who actually had to follow
through. I knew I could expect bad things to start happening at any minute, and
they did. As soon as I stepped outside, I realized I was being followed by a
man named Wilson who had a grudge against me for putting a bullet in him two
years before. At least I assumed he held a grudge since that bullet had lodged
in his head, killing him.
There was no
mistaking him. He even had a bandage stuck on his forehead, covering the hole
I’d drilled into it. The guy had been a tough customer in life, and I had no
reason to believe being a zombie had softened his disposition. It would have
been easy to shake him under normal circumstances, but the witch had tethered
him to me with her magic. He’d follow me to the bottom of the ocean and never
lose my scent.
I thought about
going somewhere public where he couldn’t act, but I wasn’t dealing with a
normal killer. This guy wasn’t worried about being caught. There was a good
chance he’d shoot right through a crowd to get me, shuffling off to his grave
afterward without a care in the world. Then it hit me. I knew where I had to
go. I just had to keep enough distance between me and him on the way there.
Judging by the
smile that died on his face when I walked in, I suspected Senator Conway wasn’t
too pleased to see me. I’d remembered he owned and operated a restaurant just a
few blocks from my apartment, and I’d decided to invite my undead friend along
to check out the lunch special. I walked right up to Conway and laid it out for
“Right now, one
of your girlfriend’s hexes is following me,” I told him. “I’m pretty sure he
intends to start shooting as soon as I’m in range, and he isn’t going to be
worried about collateral damage. In about ten minutes, this is going to be a
very bad place to be.”
“What do you
expect me to do?” he said, looking around to make sure nobody else was
“You can call
your girl and have her call him off, for starters,” I said. “After that we’ll
sit down and figure out a way we can all live together.”
“I can’t,” he
stammered. “I told her I couldn’t see her anymore last night after you caught
us. I doubt she’ll even answer my call.”
That threw me.
I’d assumed I was going to be killed to protect Conway’s reputation. Now I knew
it was revenge. The zombie was coming for Conway, and the hex on me was just to
get me here so I could get killed along with him when the bullets started
flying. She just cursed me with the bad luck to be in the wrong place at the
wrong time. I got a laugh out of that.
“It looks like I
misunderstood,” I said. “You’re the one it’s after. You need to get as far away
from here as fast as you can.”
“Where should I
go?” he said, grabbing me by the shoulders. Normally I would have knocked
him down for getting
so familiar, but I needed him on his feet. It was clear he’d seen what the
witch could do and had no doubt he was in dire circumstances. It made me wonder
if there hadn’t been more than popular appeal behind his high poll numbers.
“Go down the street
about a block and cut down the alley between the hardware store and Don’s
Pharmacy. Head for the church.” I said. “He won’t be able to get you there.”
me and rushed off, not bothering to grab his coat. I stood in the parking lot,
watching him run off, and then waited. Two cigarettes later I heard the shots.
I’d played it just right, figuring Wilson would catch up to Conway in the alley
where there wouldn’t be any innocent bystanders to get in his way. Wilson had
emptied his gun into Conway and then dropped, his rotted body finally crumbling
under the strain the witch’s magic had put on it. I left it to the cops to
figure out how a state senator ended up getting murdered by a dead man.
A. Turner’s work has appeared in numerous online and
print venues, including The Half That You See, Horror For Hire, Death
and Butterflies, and Scary Snippets anthologies, as well as Crimeucopia,
Frontier Tales, Terror House, Lovecraftania, Abandoned
Towers, Jitter, Serial, The Realm Beyond, and Dark
W. Jack Savage is a retired
broadcaster and educator. He is the author of eight books including Imagination:
The Art of W. Jack Savage (wjacksavage.com). To date, more than fifty
of Jack’s short stories and over a thousand of his paintings and drawings have
been published worldwide. Jack and his wife Kathy live in Monrovia, California.