Ladies and gents, we present you with: LOVABLY DEAD by Alex Eldrich.
Kate rolled over to face her fiancé lying next to her on his back. “What, honey?”
“Oh you poor thing, you’re hungry aren’t you?”
She noticed a glob of drool on the corner of his mouth. Grabbing a tissue from the night table she turned back to wipe his lips. Quick as a flash he craned his head and snapped at her fingers, but missed as she quickly pulled her hand back.
“No biting! I’m your best friend, we’re lovers… remember? Focus, will you? Now, you just lay right there and I’ll get you breakfast.” Rolling to her side of the bed, she swung her legs from under the covers and left the room.
Kate returned in less than a minute and found Julian struggling to get out of the bed. She rushed to his side and pushed a pound of calf brain in his face, simultaneously knocking him back onto the bed.
He yanked the gooey lump from her hand and greedily began tearing off large chunks of the meat with his teeth and swallowing with barely a chew. Blood dripped from his fingers and ran in large rivulets down his cheeks and forearms.
“There. See. I told you I’d take care of you. Is that good, Baby? Is that what your tummy needs?”
“Mmmgrh,” Julian said, as he swallowed the last of the brain matter and began licking the remnants from his fingers and forearms.
“Okay. Now, let’s get you in the shower. You’re a mess!” Kate grabbed his hands and pulled him from the bed. He stood up with a satisfied grin on his face and followed, slowly and stiff legged, as she led him to the bathroom.
“You know, Hon, you’re not moving so well this morning. Rigor is setting in, isn’t it? Well, don’t you worry about it; I read that it passes after a couple of days, and you’ll be as limber and agile as you ever were.”
If I do that despicable, disgusting ceremony, that is. She wasn’t at all sure she could do it. Maluku, her Haitian friend that had restored Julian to life, told her that Julian would always be a zombie, but that she could keep him from decomposing with a special voodoo rite. When he explained what the ceremony entailed however, Kate was certain that she’d never be able to do it.
Looking at poor Julian now, she knew she’d have no choice. Maluku had explained that he couldn’t do it for her. It had to be done by someone who loved Julian. As far as she knew, no one but herself loved Julian.
She reached in and turned on the shower while Julian swayed slowly, side to side, next her. She pulled the T-shirt up over his shoulders but it stuck on his nipples. She gave the shirt a yank and ripped the left nipple off his chest. “Yuck!”
“Arghhhh…” Julian complained.
“Oh, I’m sorry, baby. I’ll be a more careful. Now raise your arms so I can pull this shirt over your head.” She stretched the neck of the T-shirt wide and managed to get it up and over his head without pulling his ears off. She noticed that the skin on his chest was mottled. There were several dark splotches that oozed some kind of liquid, a combination of puss and blood. Damn, at this rate, he’ll be nothing but rotten skin hanging off his bones by the time we get to the wedding. I’m gonna have to see Maluku again!
Naked, Julian stood passively next to the shower stall as Kate got out of her robe and stepped into the shower. She tested the water temperature before pulling him in with her. The running water washed some of the blood, dirt and dead skin from his body, but she’d have to scrub him to get it all off. She pulled a washcloth from the shower rack and soaped it up. “Turn around, Hon; I’ll do your back first.”
One swipe with the washcloth took off a four by three inch strip of skin. Fresh blood ran down Julian’s back. “Oh, shit!” Kate exclaimed and threw the washcloth, rotting skin attached, to the shower floor. “That’s it! Out! Get out of the shower Julian.”
Ten minutes later, Julian was snug in an old terrycloth robe and sitting on the floor of the bathroom. This was the only room with a lock on the door and Kate needed to lock him up for awhile. “Alright, Baby. I’ll be gone for just a little bit… not long. You stay right here; don’t leave the bathroom. Okay? Do you understand, Hon?”
“Riguth,” Julian smiled.
She patted him on the head, left the bathroom and locked the door behind her.
Maluku sat in the lotus position on a rug made of bamboo leaves. His naked body was painted in multicolored lines of varying length and width. Kate imagined that there was rhyme, and or reason to the line structure, but wasn’t interested enough to ask about them. She was also more than slightly embarrassed by the erection jutting up from his lap and preferred not to add any emphasis to his body. She sat in front of him with a variety of pots, ointments and dead animal parts between them, and concentrated on looking only at his face.
“As much as I deplore the idea, Maluku, I’m going to have to do something about Julian. He’s rotting away and…”
In a gruff voice, Maluku cut her off, “I tell you what do. You no do. Julian rot.”
Kate twisted the carry strap of her purse in her hands. “Isn’t there another way? I mean surely you understand how utterly disgusting that ritual is; there has to be some other way… please, any other way?”
Maluku grunted. “Ritual more disgust as rot?” He shook his head. “No other way and no one but you can do. No one love Julian. Must be lover for ritual to work.”
Kate sighed and took a pen and paper from her purse. “Okay, I’ll do it. I can’t just let him rot away, not after going to all the trouble of bringing him back to life, can I?” She answered her rhetorical question in her own mind. No, of course I can’t. Besides, he won’t make it until Thursday the way things are going.
Turning her purse sideways to use as a writing surface, she took a deep breath and said, “So, first give me all the ingredients and then, step by step how to conduct the ritual.”
Maluku began talking and Kate wrote it down, word for word.
When Kate returned home, Julian was nowhere to be found. She checked the entire apartment, the laundry room in the basement and garden house out back – nothing. “Shit, where the hell is he?” She muttered to herself.
As she walked slowly back towards the house, inspiration struck. She ran through the house, grabbed her car keys with hardly a pause and sprinted out the front to her ten years old Studebaker Light Six convertible. Pretending to be Barney Oldfield she sped through town, running red lights and stop signs until she reached her destination, the Holy Saint Christopher and Mother Mary Cemetery. There in the far back of two dozen rows of gravestones, crosses and little bronze plaques, each marking the final resting place of the once alive populace of her small home town, she found him.
“Damn it, Julian!”
“Ughh?” He looked up, his bloody face showing surprise at the interruption. He was sprawled across the grave of his mother and father, chewing on a bone.
Kate didn’t want to know where his snack came from, but it looked a lot like a human shin bone. Exasperated, she looked around and was relieved that she couldn’t see anyone. She plopped down on the ground next her fiancé, reached over to grab his free hand and pulled it into her lap. She leaned back against his dad’s marker and sighed. “Well, the good news is that I found a way to keep you looking like a real person, a living person.”
“Graumm.” Julian said.
“Yeah, I know, honey, but we’ve got take care of that. I mean, we can hardly have you looking like a zombie at the wedding on Thursday, even though you are technically a zombie. What will people think?”
She shook her head, numbed by the thought, especially if someone were to object to the marriage based upon the fact that Julian wasn’t really a living person. Worse than that was the possibility that Julian’s uncle’s goons would show up, and finish the job they’d started almost a week ago. That, of course, would ruin everything. Kate stood and pulled Julian to his feet. She noticed that he hadn’t relinquished the bone. “Get rid of that, would you? Where did you…no, never mind. Just get rid of it!”
Julian complained, “Noaaaaar!” and jerked the hand holding the bone, behind his back.
Kate stared at him and deciding he wasn’t going to leave without his snack, said, “Okay, but tuck it under your shirt or something until we can get out of sight. Who knows who might come along and see us?”
He gave her a lopsided grin and a great glob of drool, mixed with blood and what appeared to be pieces of meat, ran over his lips and dripped off his chin. He stuffed the bone into his pants while Kate choked back her breakfast and swallowed hard to keep it down. On the way to the car it struck Kate that she had left him locked in the bathroom wearing nothing but a robe.
“What happened to the robe, Hon? How did you get out of the bathroom and get dressed?”
Julian stopped and stood up straight, puffing out his chest. He smiled at Kate, pointed his finger at his own chest and said, “Golthe ugh mosef.”
She smiled and patted him on the shoulder. “Well, that’s certainly an improvement, getting yourself dressed like that. Congratulations, Baby.” He must have busted through the bathroom door. I’m going to have to start chaining him to something immovable!
She finally got him to the car without being seen – she hoped. She took him back to his house and noticed the bathroom door hanging by one hinge. She sighed, nothing I can do about this right now. Leaving the door sagging open, she went to living room and started preparing for the voodoo ceremony.
“I’m tellin’ ya, Antonio, I seen im wid my own two poppers!” Junior “Bones” Vinzano complained.
His partner didn’t believe he’d just seen Julian at the Holy Saint Christopher and Mother Mary Cemetery. “What a crock, Bones. We kilt that sucker. You was there, what the fuck… you been smoking that… whatcha call that shit… opium?”
“Nah. I swear. It was him. He was sittin’ on his folk’s grave chewin’ on sumpin’. Then his goil showed up and took him away.”
“So, where’d they go?”
Bones was stumped by that question. “Huh, how da hell do I know where dey went?”
Antonio threw his hands in the air and shook his head. There was no sense in asking Bones why he didn’t follow them. “Fergit it, awright? Since you’re so damned positive, lets us go over to his place and see.”
“Yeah, that’s a good idea, Antonio.” Bones nodded his head and grinned. Thinking made his head hurt, but he didn’t have to think too hard on Antonio’s plan. They started out the door when a sudden thought did occur to him; an unusual event for Bones, and he mulled it over until they were on the street. “Whatcha tink da Boss gonna say bout Julian being alive?”
Antonio threw him a disgusted look. “He ain’t gonna find out, you nit. If, and that’s a gigantic IF, he’s still alive… we’re just gonna kill him again before da Boss can find out.”
The candles, sixty-nine of them, formed a large circle in the middle of Julian’s living room. He lay naked on a sheet of plastic that covered the wooden floor, surrounded by a variety of herbs, spices, fruits and vegetables. The smell of the candles was strong enough to smother the rank smell of Julian’s decaying body, but there were things much more odorous to come and Kate had taken precautions.
She’d smeared Vaseline on her upper lip and tied a bandana around her nose and mouth. Not far away, a five gallon bucket awaited a possible vomiting attack. The ritual called for a prayer of sorts, followed by an animal sacrifice. Kate eyed the small pen next to the bucket. She succeeded in keeping her thoughts off the last part of the ritual that followed the sacrifice – it was simply to disgusting to contemplate until absolutely necessary.
She knelt next to Julian and drew a picture that covered his chest and abdomen. The design was similar to tic-tac-toe, except instead of x’s and o’s within the squared lines, the figures looked more like hieroglyphics. She had copied them in painstaking detail from a book that Maluku have given her because she damned sure didn’t want to have to do this ritual again, and if the graphics weren’t perfectly drawn, that’s what she’d have to do.
In a whisper she chanted, “Accipe foeda et faciunt totum corpus. Diabolus animam cape. Urina feces in ore asinae qui est integrum et vivum, evocat demon vitam usque in aeternum.”
Though she recognized the words as coming from the Latin, Kate hadn’t a clue what they meant. She could’ve gone to Google Translate where she’d have learned that the words meant – “Receive the foul and make the whole body. Take your soul to the devil. Feces, urine in the mouth of the ass, which is the whole and alive, calls forth the demon of his life, even to eternity”; but she either hadn’t thought of it, didn’t have the time or simply didn’t care.
She was equally clueless as to why Latin would be used in a Haitian voodoo ritual, but in this case, she really didn’t give a damn. All she cared about was that it would work. Now, though, came the hard part, but still not the hardest piece of the ceremony lurking at the edges of her mind.
She slipped on heavy duty gardener’s gloves, opened the cage and pulled the chicken out by its neck. It flapped and squawked so much that Kate was afraid she’d lose her grip on the bird as she reached for the butcher knife. The knife firmly in hand, she hesitated, but the bird’s gyrations gave her impetus and after three tries, she managed to slice through the chicken’s neck.
That’s when the bird really went bat shit. Kate lost her grip and the animal took off, running around in circles, scattering blood everywhere. She jumped up and chased it, finally diving across the floor and cornering the beast against the wall. Afraid that the chicken had lost so much blood that there wouldn’t be enough for the ritual, she wasted no time in trying to get to her feet, but ended up slipping and sliding in the chicken blood. She flung herself around on her belly and, like a wide receiver stretching for the goal line, extended her hands over Julian’s face. The bird wasn’t squawking anymore, but it’s taloned feet were still frantically trying to run and they tore a chunk of Julian’s cheek open.
Seemingly asleep to this point, the chicken blood on his lips woke Julian up and he snatched the bird from Kate’s fingers. “Arrgghhh,” he screamed. He began ripping it apart, stuffing chunks of meat and feathers into his mouth, and swallowing without chewing.
Kate sat back on her haunches and watched the massacre. She flung the gloves from her hands and wiped sweat from her forehead. Slowly, she got to her feet and staggered to Julian’s liqour cabinet. She pulled a bottle of Tulamore Dew from the shelf and chugged one, then two big swallows straight from the bottle. Choking, her throat burning all the way down to her stomach, she slid down with her back against the wall until her butt hit the floor and watched, splay legged with the bottle in her lap, as Julian finished off the sacrificial animal. Julian burped and Kate almost lost her lunch.
Holy shit, I hope that didn’t fuck up the ceremony. I can’t, I won’t do this again. I was only supposed to let the blood drain into his mouth, not feed him the whole damned chicken!
Taking a deep breath, she pulled the book to her side and read again, the next – and last, two steps of the ritual. She’d known that the sacrifice would be bad, but these next two trumped bad a thousand fold. Kate crawled on hands and knees and looked down on Julian’s contended face. “You okay, Hon?”
“Mmgrau,” Julian responded and closed his eyes.
“That’s right, Babe, you just rest a little bit while I get on with this.”
Actually, it’s probably a good thing that he’s fed – less chance of him taking a bite out of me when I do this next part.
Kate straddled his face. “Don’t you dare bite me, you hear?” She pushed down on his forehead, just to be sure and said, “Open wide, baby, I need to give you something to drink.”
Julian smiled and opened his mouth. Kate held her breath, pulled her panties to the side and pressed. Her urine shot straight into Julian’s mouth and down his throat in a torrent that left him no time to swallow. He heaved once, but Kate pushed him back and, in less than ten seconds, she was done. She jumped to her feet just in time to avoid the snapping of Julian’s teeth into her labia.
“Noamgre,” he complained.
“Dammit, Julian, I said no biting, remember? Geesh, I sure hope this ritual shit cures you of always trying to eat me, too. Now, quit your bitchin’.”
Determined to get it over with, Kate quickly grabbed the ten inch, black vibrator that she’d purchased at the local porn shop that afternoon, and dipped it into the god-awful smelling goo she’d earlier shat into a plastic bowl. Holding her breath and thinking about a hundred things other than what she was doing, she moved to Julian’s feet, pushed his legs up and, in one smooth motion – as if she’d done this kind of thing before – jammed the dildo into Julian’s rectum.
“Arrrrggghhgoo,” Julian screamed and raised his hips in a vain attempt to stop the intrusion.
“Oh, knock it off! Yeah, it hurts, but it ain’t the end of the world.” Kate thought back to an old, ex-boyfriend that had taken her in the ass a few years ago. Damn right it hurt… at first, but after it was done, she’d been ashamed to admit that she’d actually enjoyed it. That didn’t stop her from dumping the guy the next day; or, never allowing anyone to do it to her again.
“Quit fighting me, Julian. It’s the last thing and I don’t like it anymore than you do.”
“Gramophsss,” he wailed. “Gramophsss hurrtchh.”
“Almost done, Baby, almost done.” She rammed the dildo into his ass four more times and it looked like she’d gotten all of her feces into him.
“Okay. That’s it. It’s all over, Baby… all done. Relax, now, it’s all over.”
Julian quieted down, but tears ran down his cheeks and he gave her an accusatory, little boy look that struck her heart. She kneeled beside him and stroked his forehead. “I’m sorry, Baby, but it had to be done so that you’ll be all better. You still love me, Hon? Please, tell me you understand and that you still love me.”
Julian smiled and took her hand. He nodded and pulled her hand forward, to give her a kiss.
Kate jerked her hand back. “No you don’t, you sneak! You’re not nibbling on my fingers!”
Julian chuckled as he raised and lowered his eyebrows.
“You might think it funny, mister; but, I sure as hell don’t.” Kate got to her feet. She felt bad for Julian but it had to be done. She felt horrible herself… sick to her stomach and disgusted with the smell in the room. She went back to the booze bottle on the floor and took three more shots of the Irish whiskey. She was soaked in sweat, trembling from the exertion and, what… perverse excitement? No! I was not sexually aroused… nope, not going there.
She couldn’t see any noticeable changes in Julian. Maluku had told her that he would start “healing” almost immediately. She was worried that it hadn’t worked, but rather than dwell on that possibility, she set about cleaning up. She rolled up the sides of the thick sheet of plastic that Julian was laying on. He appeared to be asleep, so Kate decided it wouldn’t be much of a risk to leave him alone while she got a bucket, mop and vacuum cleaner. The biggest mess was chicken blood and feathers; the rest she’d just roll up with the plastic and trash it.
The first gun shot followed a crashing noise that Kate thought was probably the front door being kicked open. She took a step back towards the living room but stopped when she heard the fussilade of shots and the horrible screaming. She recognized the deep, “Arrrggghhhh!” that was Julian, but the other was so high pitched and full of terror that she couldn’t tell if they were coming from men, women or children. Whoever and whatever the hell is going on, I’m staying put until it’s over, she thought. She didn’t have long to wait.
Kate counted to ten after the last screaming stopped before she stuck her head around the corner of the door. The smell was the first thing that struck her senses and she had to swallow several times, pinch her nose and close her eyes until the urge to vomit passed. When she opened her eyes and saw the carnage, she mentally pictured a crazed butcher, armed with a chain saw, whirling among a herd of cattle in her living room; blood, guts and body parts were everywhere.
Here was a hairy forearm, definitely a man’s, she decided. Over there was… what, a liver? A heavy drop of something landed on her shoulder and she reflexively wiped at it, then wished she hadn’t. She looked up and saw the blood covered ceiling raining down red drops. She jumped back and from the safety of the kitchen doorway, she finally spotted Julian.
He sat, Indian style, holding a head in his lap. He eagerly scooped out brain matter and crammed it into his mouth. His face was covered in a bright red, war paint design. He looked up, saw Kate and held up his trophy with pride. “Goolllll,” he said. He gave her a big smile and went back to eating.
Is that Bones? Kate looked around until she spotted another head. It lay on the cushion of the easy chair that faced her. Antonio! Shit! Bones and Antonio here together – double shit! Mario DeCapo’s henchmen, in my living room, in pieces – holy fucking shit! This calls for a serious change of plans!
She gathered herself and in the sweetest, softest voice she could muster, said, “Julian? Hon?”
He looked up. “Murmph?”
“I need to leave you alone for a bit, okay? Just stay right there and eat, and I’ll be back in a few minutes, k?”
Julian nodded, plucked one of Bones’ eyeballs out and pushed it into his mouth. He grinned at Kate as he demonstrably popped the orb between his teeth. Kate forced a tight smile and ducked out of the room.
She raced to the bedroom and gathered up clothes, make-up and toiletries into a suitcase. Two minutes later, she dragged the suitcase out the back door and threw it into the trunk of her car. Back inside she rushed to the living room. Julian had started on Antonio’s brain.
“Okay, Hon, time to go.” She grabbed him by the arm and pulled, but Julian wasn’t going to budge.
“Nargghh,” he pushed her off with one hand while hiding Antonio’s head behind his back.
“I don’t want your head, silly.”
Julian scooted away and turned his back to her. Exasperated, aware of the urgency in getting away from the house, Kate lost her temper. “Listen you stupid piece of shit; if we don’t get out of here… really fast… we’re going to end up in jail. Comprende?”
She grabbed a nearby body part, realizing it was an arm only as she whopped Julian in the back of the head with it. “Get up! You can take the fucking head with you, for Christ sakes!”
Julian turned and spread his arms wide, indicating all the other meat in the room. “Whargghhh?”
Kate looked at the beefy arm in her hand. “The head and this; but that’s all we have time for.”
Julian’s eyes travelled from the arm to the head and then, he looked out across the room. He jumped up, head in hand. He ignored the arm in Kate’s hand. Instead, he pulled a leg from halfway beneath the sofa that was intact from ankle to hip. He slung it over his shoulder and with a stubborn glance at Kate walked out of the room.
“You’re getting to be a real pain in the ass, you know that?” She called as she dropped the arm and followed him out the back door.
With Julian in the back seat, happily munching away, Kate was backing out of the driveway when she realized she’d forgotten something important. She slammed the gearshift to ‘park’ and, left the engine running as she raced back into the house. Her prize, and the driving force behind everything that had happened the last few days, was inside a heavy duty envelope taped to the underside of the bedsprings. She pulled it free and ran towards the backdoor.
In the kitchen she thought of something else she might need and skidded to a halt before jerking open the cupboard over the sink. She yanked the flour and sugar out of the cabinet and tossed the packages into the sink. She reached deeper into the cabinet vacancy until her fingers felt the cold metal of her gun.
Sweating and breathing heavily, Kate dashed back to the car. Julian had fallen asleep hugging Bones’ leg (she thought it was his) to his chest. Kate hesitated for only a second as she saw that the ritual appeared to have worked. Except for dark circles under his closed eyes, his skin was clear of the pus pockets and bloody scratches that never seemed to want to heal up. She smiled. Her ever present optimism returned in a flash.
The blaring sirens, still in the distance but headed her way, caught her attention and she quickly backed out of the driveway. She drove serenely out of the neighborhood as the first cop car came speeding around the corner at the end of the long block.
The motel was a run-of-the-mill single story, U-shaped construction. Located just outside of town and the county line, the manager offered hourly rates making it a favorite among cheating husbands, wives and the occasional prostitute. Kate knew there would be no questions asked. Short of murder, the manager and his staff turned a blind eye to the activities of their customers. The room was clean, at least; and most importantly, it had a shower with good water pressure. Julian had bitched a little bit about leaving his meat in the car, but Kate was able to convince him and soon had him naked under the hot water.
“Mmmm, goooth,” he said.
Kate smiled. “You like that nice water washing all the dirt and blood off your body, don’t you, Baby?”
Julian nodded as she admired how his body had changed. All of the sores had disappeared. The decomposing skin and sagging muscles had smoothed out and toned up. His body looked as good as it had before Bones and Antonio murdered him. She scrutinized his face and decided that the dark circles under his eyes could be construed as tiredness and the crazed glow in his eyes… well, he could wear shades.
“So, Hon, here’s the plan. As soon as we finish getting cleaned up and dressed, we’re going to the Justice of the Peace and get ourselves married. How do you like that idea?”
Kate wished the ritual had given him back the ability to speak intelligible words, but she guessed that the spell only took care of the outer appearance. All of his organs are probably stones by now and his brain is only running in one gear. Well, no matter… it won’t be much longer and his condition will make it easier to…
“Hey!” She yelled and jumped back. Julian had tried to take advantage of her brief lapse of attention to take a bite out of her cheek. Shit! Stay alert, stupid! The only way to get through this is to show no fear, keep him fed and stay the hell awake. I’m so close, don’t screw it up!
She slapped him. “Damn it, Julian, if you try to bite me again, I’m gonna take away all of your food and drop you in a deep hole out there in the desert! You understand me?”
Julian dropped his head, kicked at the water around his feet and mumbled, “sewery”.
Startled that his speech had suddenly been almost understandable, she said, “Say you’re sorry, again.”
Head still down, Julian mumbled, “Sawery.”
Oh, god, I’ve got to hurry, I won’t be able to do it if he returns to normal. She changed the subject without praising or otherwise acknowledging his improved pronunciation. “Okay, let’s get moving.”
Dressed, hair combed and wearing a pair of Gucci sunshades, Julian looked completely normal and very much alive. She put him in the front seat, as dangerous as that might be, because the back seat was smeared with blood and body parts. “When we get to the JP, I don’t want you to say a word, not a single word; do you understand, Julian, don’t say anything – okay?”
She glanced his way and saw him nod his head. “Nothing, okay, Sugar? Let me handle everything and we’ll get this over with as quickly as possible and you can get back to that juicy hunk of thigh in the back seat.”
Julian looked behind him and a small drool pushed through his lips. Absentmindedly, Kate wiped his mouth with a tissue. Fortunately, the Justice of the Peace’s office was empty when they arrived. Hand in hand, Kate and Julian approached the secretary.
“Hi, we’re early,” she began. “We don’t actually have an appointment until tomorrow, but we’ve had a family emergency come up and we’re hoping that the judge can work us in…you know, as soon as possible.”
The secretary eyed the two with distaste. She was a bureaucrat, if ever there was one, and she wasn’t used to changing her schedule. “That won’t be possible, I’m afraid. The judge has a full plate today and…”
Kate leaned forward, “Please, it’s really very important. My fiancé’s mother is lying on her deathbed and we simply must get to Denver. It was her strongest wish to see us married before she passed.”
She noticed Julian’s movement, glanced his way and saw that he was about to say something, probably that his mother hated his guts and didn’t live in Denver. Kate quickly squeezed his hand as hard as she could and dug the heel of her right shoe into his foot. He made a choking noise, and she was relieved when it came out sounding like a gasp of sorrowful pain.
The secretary eyed Julian. “Well… it’s most unusual and if left to me, I wouldn’t… but, I’ll ask the judge if he can squeeze you in. I’m sure he won’t, but…” She got up from behind her desk and exited the front office through a door behind her desk.
Less than a minute passed before the judge came through that same door. He extended his hand to Kate. She took it, but as the judge reached toward Julian, she interrupted him. “I’m sorry, Judge, but Julian has a bit of a problem shaking hands. He suffers from aphephobia. I’m the only person he can touch.”
“I see, well…uh, I’m happy to tell you that I had a cancellation just a moment ago and, if you’ll follow me, we’ll get the two of you married.” He beamed at Kate and she returned his smile. Julian remained ramrod straight, shades straight ahead with no expression on his face.
The judge looked at him strangely and Kate spoke up again, “Julian also has a condition known as alexithymia, the inability to show emotion.”
The judge raised his eyebrows, “That, too, huh?”
“Well, it’s normally not so bad, but with his mother and all…”
“Yes, well… if you’ll follow me.”
Thirty minutes later, Kate and Julian left as man and wife. Julian had performed perfectly and she was proud of him, but his lack of emotion or other movement of any kind was disturbing as well. She was relieved when, as soon as they reached the car, he let out a huge sigh and smiled at her.
“What? You held your breath in there… the whole time? Wait a minute, you don’t even breathe anymore!”
Julian shrugged his shoulders and turned his nose up. “Yeahth,” he lisped.
Refusing to let a simple thing like breathing disturb her currently good vibe, she patted his shoulder. She realized that his stoical attitude during the ceremony had been his method for following her instructions earlier. “Good boy,” she said.
In the car, Julian cast hungry glances towards the backseat and drool formed around his lips, dripping off his chin. Kate grinned, gave him a head nod towards the back of the car and said, “Have at it, Hon.”
Julian didn’t need to be told twice. He vaulted over the seat and grabbed the hunk of Bones’ cold, half eaten thigh. He dug his teeth in and tore of a large bloody chunk of the meat. He looked up at Kate; his face smeared red and smiled. Kate sighed. Well, he’s back to normal…now, to get to Mario. She drove back towards town.
Twenty minutes later, Kate cruised by the mansion and spotted the black limo in the drive, confirming that Mario was home. She knew where his bodyguards would be and how to get into the house without being seen. She smiled to herself. I haven’t been here in years, but this is where I grew up, the perfect setting for the final act; and now’s the time to settle the score. I’ll just wait until it gets dark and get this settled once and for all.
A single lamp burned in Mario’s study as Kate and Julian appeared in the room. If Mario was startled by their sudden appearance from the secret passage behind the bookshelf, he didn’t show it. Before Kate could say anything, Mario spoke. “Took you long enough.” He reached for a button under his desk.
Kate stepped forward, raising her pistol as she walked. “I wouldn’t do that Mario. You’ll be dead before your goons can get in here and trust me, Julian won’t let them get to me.”
Mario moved his hand back on top of the desk and glanced over Kate’s shoulder. Julian returned his stare with a blank expression. He’d been clean and groomed for the wedding ceremony, but now, after finishing off Bones’ thigh in the car, he was covered from chin to belly in sticky, drying blood.
“I’d heard the rumor that he was still alive, but found out for sure after I got reports from the murder at your place. Someone did a number on Bones and Antonio.” He raised his chin towards Julian. “I suppose you’re going to tell me that my nephew did that?”
With her free hand, Kate rubbed Julian’s shoulder. “Yeah, they botched the job the first time and made the mistake of trying to cover it up before you found out. They discovered that Julian has changed.”
“I’ll explain in a second, Hon.”
Mario cut to the chase. “So what do you want from me? Revenge? Money? What?”
Kate moved a little away from Julian. “I just wanted Julian to remember who you were and to tell him a little story… that’s all.”
Mario looked worried, but wasn’t in any position to stop Kate from talking. Kate turned slightly towards Julian.
“Julian, this man is your uncle Mario. He is a mafia boss and he’s a very bad man. You and I are third cousins and I grew up here after my parents died. Your parents kept you away from your great uncle Mario because they were ashamed of what he does for a living. That’s why you never knew about him or me. Our uncle Mario is very rich. Do you want to know how he got so rich?”
Julian had been following her words, nodding when he understood and when he didn’t, he’d shrug his shoulders. Kate recognized his body language but didn’t stop to explain what third cousins were or how Mario was their great uncle.
“Besides his drug dealing and prostitution rackets, he got even richer off of insurance policies; every time one of his brothers or sisters died, he got a million dollars. Every time one of his nephews or nieces died – a million bucks and so on. Do you understand, Julian?”
“Nooue,” he shook his head.
Mario chuckled. “Well, well. You figured it out, didn’t you? I suppose you’ve got the missing policy on Julian?”
Kate glared at him and nodded. “His and mine.”
“And you’re going to do what with it?” He gave her a big grin.
“Julian and I were married this afternoon.”
Mario laughed openly. “Well, congratulations!” He leaned forward and sneered at her. “I’m still the beneficiary on those policies.”
It was Kate’s turn to laugh. “Do you remember your ex-accountant; the guy you fired about six months ago; the guy that also had a talent for forgery, Michael Kinsman?”
Mario’s grin faded. He glanced towards the door and noticed that Kate followed his eyes. He slid his hand towards the button on his desk.
Kate turned slightly to address Julian. “Uncle Mario is the man that tried to kill you and now, he wants to kill both of us. For the past forty years, he’s bought a million dollar insurance policy on all of his siblings, children, nephews and nieces. We’re the last two and he needs money to…”
“Whaaagth?” Julian roared.
The door burst open and Mario’s bodyguards rushed into the room. Julian spun around and attacked. He took three bullets in the gut before he was on the first thug. With one swipe of his hand, he ripped open the man’s throat all the way to the spinal cord. His head tilted and snapped the spine to fall on the floor. It was quickly followed by his torso. The hood’s brain was oozing out onto the carpet and Julian paused; seeing and smelling the brain matter made him hungry… terribly hungry.
“Julian! Stop the other one! Now!”
The second bodyguard pumped three more shots into Julian’s chest before he realized that he was being directly attacked. He stopped five feet away and took careful aim at Julian’s head. Kate recognized what was about to happen. She shrieked and turned her gun on the thug. Barely aiming, she scored a direct hit on the man’s head, but she had no time to celebrate.
Mario took advantage of her inattention and jumped over the desk. He knocked her to the ground, a millisecond after her shot went off, and wrestled her for the gun. Kate was underneath and knew that she didn’t have a chance. Mario’s grip on her wrist was crushing beyond belief. She knew she’d lose the gun in mere seconds. She strained to look towards Julian.
Sitting spread eagle on the floor, Julian had pulled the first bodyguard’s body up so that he appeared to be sitting in front of, and between, Julian’s legs. He wasn’t eating the body, though; he was slurping the brains from the upside down head resting on the shoulders of its previous owner.
“Julian, please… please, help me,” Kate cried.
“Whaaggh?” He looked at Kate and back at his meal. He looked at Kate, stuck another finger inside the head, pulled out a string of grayish mush and stuck it in his mouth. He looked at Kate, shrugged and pushed the body away.
The gun fell from Kate’s hand just as Julian yanked Mario by the neck. With one hand, he threw his great uncle across the room and through the fourth floor window. Kate and Julian heard the splat as he ended his fall on the concrete driveway below.
Kate got to her feet and walked to the broken, plate glass window. She looked down to confirm that Mario was dead. Satisfied that the ring of bright red around Mario’s head indicated that he was, indeed, dead; she turned back and saw that Julian had started on the brains of the second bodyguard. Kate looked around for her gun and found it close by. She picked it up and walked over to sit next to Julian.
He looked at her and smiled, a mixture of drool, blood and brains dripping from his lips. She stroked his head and leaned over to place a kiss next to his eyes; the only spot free of blood. “I’m sorry, Hon, but you’ll never be normal again and…well; I could sure use the money.”
Kate pressed the gun against his temple and pulled the trigger.
* * * * *
I hope you’ve enjoyed “Lovably Dead”, the story. The short story anthology by the same name includes five more stories that deal with succubus (2 stories), parallel universes, strange creatures that steal a person’s spirit and an alternative take on Stephen King’s “The Long Walk”.
You can find “Lovably Dead” the anthology worldwide on all Amazon websites, available as an E-book for only $ 0.99.
Thanks for reading, Alex