If you made it to ConCarolinas, you were there for The Book Launch That Wasn’t, also known as John Learns a Valuable Lesson About Scheduling Book Release Events Before Having Books In Hand. But that’s a story for another time. For today, here’s an excerpt from my story in The Big Bad: An Anthology of Evil published last week by Dark Oak Press and co-edited by myself and the lovely and talented Emily Lavin Leverett. You might know her better as Pea_Fairie. The anthology features several MW’ers, including Emily, myself, James Tuck, Sarah Adams, Sara Taylor Woods, and a bunch of other awesome folk. The e-book is available for Nook and Kindle for only $2.99, and I have paperbacks and hardbacks in hand for this weekend’s HeroesCon in downtown Charlotte.
Warning – here there be language. This is a horror anthology, and there are some things in there that aren’t for the faint of heart. My story, in fact, is the darkest thing I’ve ever written, and is guaranteed to make you think twice about riding in an elevator alone with me.
Fair Play (an excerpt)
by John G. Hartness
There she goes, Herman Walker Jones thought as he watched the girl’s ass sway under her plaid miniskirt. He could almost see the curve of her cheeks as she walked, the skirt was so short. She’s the one.
Maybe not. Herman thought, then shook his head violently.
No, look at her. She’s the one. She’s a whore. Just look at her.
She looked like a parody of a good girl, with her uniform skirt cut shorter than decency allowed, all flap-flapping and flouncy-bouncing, giving just enough of a peek to make you want to see what was under there, then turning to smile at you when she caught you looking, looking like you were still a little boy that shouldn’t be seeing these things instead of a man, yes a big, grown man that knew what to do with whores. She wasn’t a good girl, not with her white dress shirt tied at the belly like that and unbuttoned, flashing all that cleavage, showing the swells of her woman-pillows, and flashing the stone in her belly ring at him, winking like a little fairy. A little fairy to show him the way to her happiness. But Herman knew better than to touch the whores there. He knew what to do with whores.
He got up from his table outside the King’s Palace Café on Beale and stepped onto the sidewalk after the girl. He didn’t blend in, no more than the girl in her black patent leather knee-high boots and the skirt so short you could almost see her business. No, Herman cut a wide swath through the tourists checking out B. B. King’s bar and the other blues clubs. That’s right, he thought. Get out of the way, sheep. Let the lion pass. Baa-Baa, little sheep but don’t mess with the lion.
She flounced and bounced and bobbed along, earbuds blaring some Justin GaGa song or some other whore music. Herman heard no music. Herman heard nothing, not the blues coming from every doorway, not the slight gasp of the woman who caught a glimpse of his eyes, not the sniff of distaste of the businessman who caught a whiff of Herman’s scent, a roiling miasma of damp laundry, old sweat, and unwashed skin. Herman saw nothing. Not the disgust in the eyes of the teenage girl waiting at the bus stop, her nose wrinkled at his spotted tie, his muck-splattered raincoat, his unshaven face. Not the pity on the face of the old woman who offered him a dollar, only to pull her hand back quickly when he snarled his lion’s snarl at her. Herman saw only the whore and her little red plaid skirt, flouncing, bouncing, teasing, promising, and leading him along. Well, he would follow. He’d follow the whore, and he knew what to do with her.
He followed her for blocks, watching her bounce. He never got too close, for the lion could stalk its prey from afar. But he never hung back too much, either, for the lion feared no other predator. There was no other predator. But soon enough the hunt was over, and she stopped in front of a rundown apartment building. They were in a sparse neighborhood near the river, but not so close as to be trendy. She fished a key out of a tiny purse, still bouncing on her toes to the music blaring into her ears. Herman closed on her, never hurrying, never slowing, always moving, like a shark. A lion shark, that’s what he was. King of the seas and the jungle. The most feared predator in the world. She unlocked the door to her building and stepped into the foyer. Herman stepped up and grabbed the door before it closed, following her into the small entryway.
“Forget your key?” She asked, smiling up at him. It was a smile full of flirtatious promise, a smile that said Look down my shirt, Herman, don’t you want to touch me?
“No. I’m staying with a friend. She works nights and if I don’t have to wake her, that’s better. I have my apartment key, just not one to the front door. She didn’t have a spare.” Herman didn’t look at her, looked at his feet to keep from spooking the sheep. It wasn’t time yet. Almost. Almost time.
“Cool. Well, see you around.” She turned and walked to the elevator. Herman stepped between the sliding doors and watched as the girl pushed the “8” button.
“What a coincidence. I’m on eight as well.” Herman said, still not looking at the girl.
“Wow. Well, maybe you can come visit sometime while your friend is asleep. We could hang out. I’m at the end of the hall.” She was close to him now, and he could smell her whore perfume. It reminded Herman of the perfume the other whore had worn, the one who’d borne him. The one who taught him how you take care of whores.
“May-maybe.” Herman hated it when he stammered. Lions don’t stutter, you worthless piece of trash! He stopped himself before slapping his own face, but he didn’t look up at the whore again. He’d see plenty of her soon enough. Soon enough he’d see all her secrets.
The elevator dinged for the eighth floor, and the doors slid open. The girl looked at him and said “You sure you don’t want to come hang out while your friend sleeps? I need to grab a quick shower, but then we could watch TV. Or something.”
Herman pretended to think about it, and nodded shyly. “Th-that would be nice.” That’s good, idiot. Stuttering is g-g-good now, Makes you look harmless. She doesn’t need to know you’re a lion. Yet. They walked together down the dingy hallway with faded wallpaper and threadbare carpet. She stopped in front of the last door on the left and fished out a key. As the door opened, Herman made his lion move—he shoved her into the room, hard, knocking her to the floor and charging in after her. He turned and locked the double deadbolt, then his right calf exploded in a lightning strike of blue-white fire and pain coursed over his entire body like a waterfall of fire. He collapsed to the floor in a twitching heap and stared at the whore, who wasn’t on the floor anymore. She was standing over him holding a small black plastic device with two prongs sticking out of it. She pressed a button on the side, and sparks leapt from one metal post to the other.
“Feel good? This is my little friend. Why don’t you say hello?” Then she leaned over and pressed the stun gun to his neck, and everything vanished.
Want more? You know what to do.