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Where New Pulp Lives! And from Time to Time...Dies!


"...if one of you doesn't snag this thing and turn it into a mind-blowing low-budget film, you're all fucking insane." -John Skipp on a possible Bigfoot Crank Stomp film

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Walking Shadows - Chapter Thirty-One


Chapter Thirty-One

Patrick pointed out the man sitting on the hood of a burgundy Jeep on the outskirts of Baker, home of the world’s tallest thermometer.  Maynard had been driving on the shoulder of Interstate 15, heading toward Vegas, when the boy poked him and showed him his discovery.  As a result, he slowed to a stop behind and to the right of the Jeep which sat in the number one lane.
The lanes had been pretty clear between Barstow and Baker.  More tractor trailers than personal vehicles, spread out about every couple hundred feet or so.  After several days in the blistering sun of the Mojave Desert, most of the bodies they passed were pretty well desiccated.  All except this guy, sitting on the hood of the Jeep, staring down into the desert valley and Baker.  He didn’t move, even when the ATV rolled up, as if he were deaf to the world around him.  Hell, maybe he was.
Maynard eased off the ATV and help Patrick down.  He held his hand up and then pointed where they stood, indicating to stay put.  Patrick nodded.  Shifting his attention back to the man, Maynard eased the Beretta from the holster.  Then he moved toward him.
If the man heard him, he showed no sign of it.  Maynard approached, gun raised, slowly but not as quietly as he normally would stalk.
“Excuse me,” Maynard said.
The man twitched and turned his head.  Middle-aged, by Maynard’s calculation, with salt and pepper eyebrows and a bald head.  Sweat covered his face like a sheet.
“Oh,” the man said.  “Hello.  I didn’t hear you pull up.”  The man looked further over his shoulder at Patrick.  “That your boy?”
“Yes.”  Maynard was surprised the man showed no fear of his weapon.  “Why are you sitting on the hood in this sun?”
“I ran out of gas.”  The man turned back to his view of Baker.  “Thought I had enough to make it down there.”  He chuckled.  “Guess it doesn’t really matter.”
“Why’s that?”
“Because I have no idea where the hell I would go if I did make it down and fill up.  That’s what I’ve been pondering.  What’s the point?”
“I see.”  Maynard lowered the Beretta and moved to the left fender of the Jeep.  “So you’re giving up?”
“I suppose.  I ended up killing my wife the other day, when it all started.  Ran a few others over racing out of my neighborhood.  Thought I’d find help by now.  You know, police or something.  But there isn’t any.  You two are the first survivors I’ve seen besides my reflection in the rearview.  Even if I found others, we’d have to rebuild.  Form new communities.  Kick-start civilization all over again.  Fuck that.”
“I can help you.”
“No, no.”  The man waved his hands as if to shoo Maynard away.  “I’m not going anywhere.  You and your boy can venture on but I’m staying put.  I got beer in the back.  Figured I’ll have a few and die right here.”
“I meant I can help you die.”
The man turned his attention away from the view.  His eyes fastened on Maynard, probing.  “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I have helped others on the road.  Others who wanted no more of this farce of a world.  And I’ve done it with mercy and compassion.”
The man chewed on his bottom lip for a while.  Finally, he said, “Mercy and compassion?”
“Yes.”
More chewing.  “No pain?”
“No pain.”
A few seconds of silence passed.  Maynard looked away, off toward Baker.  The abandoned buildings appeared ancient in the sweltering sun.
“Ok,” the man said. 
Maynard turned back to him.  “I’m going to need you to get off the hood.”
“What?”
“The hood.  Please get off it.  It’s too high.”
“Oh.”  The man pushed off onto his feet.  He was short.  No more the five and a half feet.  “Good now?”
Maynard eyed his height and looked over to Patrick.  No, still to tall for the boy.
“Would you mind sitting down?  It’ll make it easier.  You know, so you don’t fall and such.”
“Sure.”
The man lowered onto his ass and folded his legs Indian-style.  “Better?”
“Perfect.”
“So, how will you do it?”
“It’s better if you don’t know.  That way, you’re not anticipating it.  If you are, it my not be painless.  Do you understand?”
“I think so.”
“Good.  Now close your eyes.  I’ll be right back.  Just need to step over to my ATV for a moment.”
“Are you going to do it in front of your boy?”
“He’s seen it before.”  Maynard walked over to Patrick and leaned into his ear and whispered, “Do you still want to hold the gun?”
Patrick nodded.  “Why’s that man sitting on the road?”
“He wants to die.”
“Why?”
“Because he doesn’t have a reason to live.  So, we’re going to help him.”
“What do you mean?”
“Remember when I said I could help you see your parents again?”
“Yeah.”
“Well, we’re going to help him see his wife again.”
“Oh.”  Patrick nodded.  Then he shook his head.  “How?”
Maynard extended the Beretta toward Patrick, grip first.  “Take this gun.  Walk over to him, point it at the back of his head, and pull the trigger.”
“But that’ll kill him.”
“Yes.  That’s what he wants.”
“But killing’s wrong.”
“Not if he’s ok with it.  Do you understand?”
“I think so.”  Patrick took the grip of the gun in both hands and slipped his right index finger between the guard and the trigger.  “Is that all?”
“That’s all.”
“What’s taking so long?” the man said, hidden behind the front of his Jeep.
“You can’t rush this, Sir.” Maynard said.  He leaned back into Patrick’s ear.  “Do you see?  He’s waiting for you.”
“Ok.”
Maynard patted his shoulder.  “Now go.”
Patrick moved away slowly toward the Jeep.  Maynard followed close behind, staying within a few feet.  As they approached, he noticed the gun remained steady in Patrick’s hands, even though he knew the weight of it was a bit much for the boy.  A small part of him bloomed with pride, even though he didn’t know why.
They passed the front fender of the Jeep.  When he was within a couple of feet, Patrick stopped and raised the gun and pointed it at the back of the man’s head.  Maynard held his breath, expecting at any moment for the Beretta to recoil and a spray of pink mist to pop out of the man’s forehead.
But it didn’t happen.
The gun now started to tremble in Patrick’s hands.  Maynard looked from the barrel up the boy’s arms to a face now staring at him with tear-riddled eyes.  He mouthed the words, “I can’t.”
“What’s going on?” the man said.
Before he could say anymore, Maynard stepped forward, snatched the Beretta from Patrick’s weak hands, aimed, and fired a round through the back of the man’s head.  As the pink mist sprayed and the body fell forward, Patrick screamed.
He screamed.
And everything changed for Maynard.  He shifted from the lifeless body to the boy, standing next to him, crying and shaking.  The boy he had thought he had been given as a pupil.
This isn’t Providence, he thought.  This is satire.
“I couldn’t do it,” Patrick said around loud wails.  “I couldn’t.”
Maynard gritted his teeth, feeling like a damn fool.  How had he been conned into this?  How had he let his reason fail him so?
“And you call yourself my son,” Maynard said.
Patrick’s wails ceased and he hiccupped and his wet eyes fell on Maynard.  “But I’m not your son.”
“That’s right.”
Maynard raised the Beretta and shot Patrick in the forehead.  The boy dropped to the ground, eyes still open and wet.  They appeared to still search for an answer to all the craziness in the world.  And at the same time, a giant weight lifted from Maynard’s chest.  He could breath normally again.
            “Goodbye,” he said and walked back to the ATV.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Now Available - The Collected Work of the Faceless God!!!



THE COLLECTED WORK OF THE FACELESS GOD
He had gone by many names. Asmodeus. The Faceless Nomad. The Ageless Wanderer. He has been called a fallen angel. A demon. And for many, a god. A god that is not only worshiped but offered sacrifice. Where he journeys, death follows. Yet eventually the wheel stops turning and the Faceless God finds himself stuck in a rural county in the panhandle of Florida, of all places.

BLOOD SPRING
Henry just wants his garage back. Well, he wants his wife back, too. He lost both six months ago when Claire helped an injured deer on the side of the road. In went the deer and out went the BMW. Their marriage went on hold to save what some would consider a damn good meal. But the day has come to return everything back to normal. The deer is healthy and Henry and Claire spend a quiet spring morning releasing it in the woods. Serenity soon turns to terror as they realize they are lost in the labyrinth of the forest with no food and hardly any water. Food and water are the least of their worries. In these woods a long forgotten god is worshiped. Its followers believe in sacrifice, and Henry and Claire have stumbled into their dark world.

THE FACELESS MAN AT JACKSON FARM
Sheriff Nate Lewis discovered true evil in Blackwater Forest when he found the pagan camp and severed heads and the statue of the Faceless God they sacrificed to. Little did he know that his family had encountered the same deity during the Great Depression when a mysterious carnival showed up in Cainswell. A carnival interested in providing different forms of amusements. And its leader just happened to not have a face…

FACELESS
Over a year has passed since the events in Blackwater Forest. Events that exposed the darkness hiding in Cainswell. Sheriff Nate Lewis hoped the tragedy was behind him. Chalk it up to a bunch of crazies killers living in the woods and move on. But things happen for a reason and soon, Nate finds himself dealing once again with the Faceless God. Only this time, it’s not a statue or lunatic worshipers. It might be the real deal itself, hiding in body of a college kid. A body it may be slowly taking over. But Nate has no proof. Only his gut instincts. How long can he wait to pull the trigger? And what can he fight a demon with if bullets won’t kill it?

This collection includes a full length novel, novella, novelette, and three short stories.  This edition will be limited to 66 signed hard cover limited editions.  THE FACELESS MAN AT JACKSON FARM will never appear anywhere else.  Ever.

Monday, March 31, 2014

True Detective Season 2 Predictions

Because I can't avoid predicting...

If it's set in L.A., it only makes sense:


And of course, you need the wannabe Jack:


And a strong female star because, that's what everyone bitched about after the first season:


See, we reunite the cast of Out of Sight and marry them to the historic masterpiece that is Chinatown.  You're welcome, HBO.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Great Movie Openings - The Way of the Gun

This under appreciated flick has some truly great moments in it, including a badass shoot-out at the end that reminded me of The Wild Bunch.  But for my money, the opening takes the cake and stands as possibly one of the best openings ever.  Equal parts violent, funny, and absurd, it sets the tone for the whole movie.

Monday, March 24, 2014

New Novella - Dying of the Light


I mentioned this a few posts ago but it was, admittedly, a poor pimping performance.  I didn't even include the cover.  What the hell?

Anyway, here goes a second shot.  Recently, I published my latest novella on Kindle.  It's 35,000 words and set in my Santa Muerte mythos.  As rough as my SM books are, this one hurts more than any of them.  Some very, very talented author out there relayed to me that the climax was one of the worst gut punches they've ever suffered from a literary source.  Not to sound arrogant, but I agree with them because it hurt that much to write it.  If you're a husband, dad, or both, you'll feel it, too.

Here's the synopsis:

Meet Walter, a photographer, whose quest to get the perfect photo leads him to witness life-altering depravity... 

Walter, a once great photojournalist turned errand boy. Once he hunted for the photo that could change the world. Now he snaps shots of interesting architecture and female beauties. 

After years of self-imposed exile and confinement, not to mention hack work, Walter is ready to get back in the game. Ready to find that picture that will haunt the world. Ready to tackle the sex trafficking occurring on the US-Mexico Border. 

Ready to confront his demons and embrace them. 

But what does one do when those demons are more than willing to embrace you back? Soon Walter finds himself in a deep and dark world veiled from the public. One full of people who consider death a gateway to immortality. And flesh peddling a necessary step in the process to immortality. 

For Walter, the question isn't if he wants to survive. It's if he wants to become a part of the wheel of death or a cog in its machine. 

Click to purchase.  And thanks in advance.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Walking Shadows - Chapter Thirty


Chapter Thirty

Sally leaned on the counter across from Payday, shotgun on the Formica between them.  She drank from a twenty ounce bottle of Dr. Pepper and snacked on Slim Jims.  After several days of granola and Clif bars and water, Payday helped himself to some beef jerky and lemon-lime Gatorade.
“So, why are you keeping this place so squared away?” Payday said.
“Didn’t have anything else to do.”  Sally swallowed a piece of Slim Jim.  “It passed the time.”
“You could have left.”
“Not by myself.  Besides, this is home.  I’ve got food and water.  Got a generator in the back.  Plenty of gas in the tanks.  Once all the munchers died, I didn’t see a real need to runaway.”
“Munchers?  That’s what you call them?”
“They munched on people.  Figured it fit.  What do you call them?”
“Zombies.”
Sally seemed to roll the word around in her head.  “Yeah, that fits, too.”
Payday wiped sweat from his face with his sleeve.  “Why don’t you crank up the a/c if you’ve got a generator?”
“It’s not that hot.  Besides, I don’t have an unlimited supply of gas.”
Payday smiled.  “Got me there.”

*  *  *  *  *

Ben stood at the front of the motel, scanning the street and businesses around him, SIG Sauer in his hand at his side.  The air was still and hot, like an over left on for too long.  No clouds in the sky.  Clear and blue with the exception of the flaming yellow ball above.
Sweat gushed from every pore on his body under the sun’s assault.  He needed water.  Bad.  But first he would find Payday.  Make sure the guy hadn’t gotten himself hurt trying to take care of his drugged-up companion.
Thinking about the Demerol and his willingness to succumb to the drug pissed Ben off.  Until he thought about Kyle and the bullets he pumped into his own son’s chest.  Then the anger ebbed and the guilt flooded in and Ben wanted more of the pain killer.  Wanted enough to make him sleep forever.
Find Payday, he thought and did his best to block the images of Kyle, dead on the floor of his cell, from the lens of his mind’s eye.
Ben keyed in on the Chevron station and food mart across the street.  Payday was smart.  Would he have gone for the food mart to resupply?  He shifted his gaze to the other buildings.   A La Quinta Inn.  A Burger King.  No doubt about it.  Payday went for the food mart.
He lifted the SIG and braced it with his left in a two-hand grip.  Then he started across the street toward the food mart, moving slowly, woozy, one foot over the other, aim set on the front door.

*  *  *  *  *

“Where are you and your buddy heading next?” Sally said.
Payday thought about that for a few moments.  He had no idea.  They’d reached Arizona and hadn’t found the promise of help the radio had hinted at.  Then again, the state was pretty big.  The transmission could have come from anywhere.  Should they continue to move inland, hoping they would finally come across some kind of organized group of survivors?  What other choice was there?
“I don’t know,” Payday finally said.  “We hoped there was help here.”
“You said you came looking for survivors earlier.”
Payday nodded.  “We heard a voice on the radio when we got outside of downtown L.A.  It said, ‘Help in Arizona’.  Figured we’d have to find someone once we got here.  Guess we did, in a way.”
“I’ve been listening to my radio ten minutes every hour since it started and I haven’t heard anything but white noise.  You sure you heard that?”
“Honestly, I don’t know anymore.”  Payday sipped some Gatorade.  “So much shit has happened since then.  Weird shit.  Besides the zombies.”
“Like what?”
“Not worth getting into.”  Payday thought about the bullet holes blossoming in Kyle’s chest and Ben with his gun in his mouth.  “Anyway, not sure what we’re going to do now.”
Sally wiped a drop of Dr. Pepper from the counter with a napkin.  “You could always hole up somewhere.”
“Too many bodies.  Even here.”
“Find a ranch somewhere.”
“Ranch?”
“Yeah, you know, like a house with some land.  Not here, unless you always wanted to live in the desert.  But someplace like Sedona or Flagstaff.  Lots of places out there have wells for water.  May even have a garden or small farm.  That’s what I’d do.”
Payday considered the idea and couldn’t disagree with it.  Find a place with good space around it.  Enough so no one could sneak up on them.  A place they could defend but also yielded essentials like water and food.
“So why don’t you?” Payday said.
Sally shrugged.  “Maybe I will.”
Payday started to say something else when he saw Sally’s eyes narrow and her lips tighten.  Before he could utter a sound, she had the shotgun up and leveled at the front door.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa.”  Payday looked over his shoulder out the front windows.  Ben was heading toward the food mart, gun ready and pointing their way.  He turned back to Sally and held his hands up.  “Go easy.  I’ll talk to him.  He was sleeping when I left.  Probably looking for me.”
“Go then.”
Payday backed away from the counter and went to the door and pushed it open a crack.  At the same time, he kept an eye on Ben through the tinted glass of the door.  As soon as the door moved, Ben froze, keeping the gun leveled, ready to shoot whoever walked out.
“It’s me, Ben.  Don’t shoot.”
“Everything ok?”
“Yeah.  Everything’s fine.”  Payday glanced at Sally.  She still had the shotgun ready.  He motioned to her to lower it but she answered by shaking her head.
“Open the door then.”
“Ok but I need to tell you there’s another person in her with me.  And she’s armed with a shotgun.”
“A woman.”
“Yes.”
“Are you a hostage?”
“No but she’s not exactly trusting people with guns right off the bat.  We’re cool but you got to stow that piece.”
“No fucking way.”
“Ben, damn it, I’m not joking.  She’s a good person.  I don’t have a gun to my head.  She’s cool, ok?”

*  *  *  *  *

He doesn’t sound like he’s in distress, Ben thought.  He squinted and tried to see through the windows but the glare was too much.  All he saw was his own reflection.
“Ben, are we cool?” Payday said.
Shit, he thought.  He didn’t have much of a choice.  Whoever was inside could shoot him now and he wouldn’t know it until it was all over.  And he couldn’t go in blazing.  He’d surrendered any tactical advantage he may have had.  If he ever had any.
“Yeah, we’re cool.  Before I holster, though, I want you to open the door all the way.  Let me see you’re not under duress.”
He heard Payday talking the woman but he couldn’t hear her.
“Ok, Ben.”  The door opened slowly and Payday stood there, waiving at him.  The MP-5 hung from his shoulder across his back.  “We good now?”
Ben exhaled a lungful of relief and nodded.  He lowered the SIG and holstered it.  Payday shifted in the doorway and waved one hand through in a sweeping fashion into the food mart.
“Come on in.”
Ben hesitated for a few seconds before taking his first step.  The rest came easier.  He moved past Payday into the mart.  The woman had the shotgun on the counter and drank a Dr. Pepper.
“Ben, this is Sally,” Payday said.  “Sally, this is Ben.”
“Hi,” Sally said.
“Sorry if I startled you,” Ben said.  “I woke up and Payday wasn’t around.  Didn’t know anyone else was in this town.”
Sally shrugged.  “No problem.  It’s been a day full of surprises.”
Ben, for the first time in a while, felt awkward, like an uninvited guest.  He looked to Payday for guidance, giving a slight stare with raise eyebrows.
Payday didn’t pick-up on the nonverbal cue at first so Ben stared a little harder.  This time, he caught on.
“Hey, Sally, is it ok if Ben gets something to eat and drink?”
“Sure.  Mi casa, mi casa.”
Payday laughed.  “Help yourself, Ben.”
“I appreciate it, ma’am.”
“None of that ma’am shit, please.  Just call me Sally.”
“Well, thank you, Sally.”
Ben bypassed the sodas and sports drinks and picked-up a half-pint of Jack Daniel’s from a shelf.  He also grabbed a Snickers bar.  He walked back to the counter where Payday and Sally were chatting about some movie both of them liked.  Neither one seemed to notice him until he unscrewed the cap on the Jack.
“You sure you want to hit that?” Payday said.
Ben could hear the concern in his companion’s voice but he paid it no mind.  He lifted the bottle to his lips and tilted it until the sour mash flooded his mouth.  He lowered it back to the counter and swallowed, closing his eyes as the burn ran down his chest into his stomach.
God that tastes good, he thought.
“Guess you do,” Payday said.
“It’s been a long, tough couple of days.”  Ben gulped another mouthful.  “I think I’ve earned a few drinks.”
“Sure, Ben.  I won’t argue with you there.  Just go easy.”
Ben tore open the Snickers and bit of a chunk.  The milk chocolate was soft and melted in parts.  The caramel, stringy.  But God it tasted good, too.  He chased it down with another gulp of Jack.
“So what’s your story, Sally?”  Ben set the bottle down.  His head felt light and faraway.  “Why hang out here when the world’s gone to shit?”
“Had nowhere to go,” she said.  “Figured this was as safe a place as any.”
“Good point.  Got food, water, and gas.  Tough to leave that behind.”
“I thought help would be here by now.  Didn’t know how bad it was everywhere until Payday filled me in on L.A.”
Ben glanced at Payday, who seemed lost in his own memories.  “Yeah, L.A.’s a nightmare.  Everywhere is.  From the coast to here, not one sign of living, breathing civilization left.”
“Come on, Ben, don’t upset her.  I already filled her in a most of this stuff.”
“Sorry.”  Ben took another sip.  He thought about L.A., the 10, and Ironwood.  Christ, Ironwood.  Then his nightmare.  And now the Jack wasn’t good enough.  He wanted to feel dead again.  He wanted to pop another Demerol and hit the lights.
“No problem,” Sally said.  “It is what it is, right?”
“Right.”  A gulp this time.  “Have you seen any animals?”
“What?”
“Christ,” Payday said.
“Animals.  You know, birds, dogs, cats.  We haven’t seen any since it happened.  Not even flies.  You’d think there’d be flies with all the dead bodies.”
Sally distracted herself by rubbing the tips of her fingers together.  “No, can’t say that I have.”
“Enough, Ben.”
“Just talking.”
“Well, how about I don’t want to hear it,” Payday said.  “Enough morbid shit has happened without reliving it over and over.”
We do have to keep you happy, Ben thought and took another swig.  “Sure.  Only happy talk from now on.  Did you tell her you’re an addict?”
He looked at Payday and noticed he was having a hard time swallowing the last comment.  His jawed flexed under his dark skin and his eyes focused on the bottle of Jack.
Sally cleared her throat.  “As a matter of fact, he did.  So what?”
Ben shrugged.  “Just hard to talk happy when the survivors are all fucked up.”
“I know it’s the booze and the pain talking,” Payday said.  “But you don’t have to take it out on us.  Why don’t you go back to the room and get some more sleep.”
“Don’t fucking tell me what to do, junkie.”
“Hey, there’s no call for that,” Sally said.  “You were concerned about him and now you’re picking a fight?  What the fuck is the matter with you?”
“Let it go, Sally.”  Payday voice was calm.  “He’s been through a lot.”
“Haven’t we all?  Still no excuse to be an asshole.”
Ben chuckled.  “She’s right.  I mean, I only killed my son yesterday.  No reason to be an asshole over that.”
“Jesus, Ben,” Payday said.
“Son?” Sally said.
“Yep.”  Ben’s hands shook and his vision blurred from the tears welling up.  “Put a couple of rounds through his chest yesterday.  Weird, huh?”
Sally looked at Payday with wide eyes and he met them with a raised hand of calm.  “He was in Ironwood Prison.  We went there to see...well, Ben didn’t expect him to still be alive.”
“But he was.  Funny how it worked out.  Everyone else in that prison dead except for him.  Like he was left alive just for me to kill.  Now what do you think about that, Sally?”
“I--”
“Kind of like this whole fucked up mess.  Not an accident and not planned by any crazy bastard.  No coincidences.  Judgment right, Payday?  It’s all part of the grand design.  And in some small corner of the Divine blueprints, He wrote the directions on how to fuck up my life even more.  Let’s see how far we can push good old Ben until he finally snaps and blows his fucking brains out.”
Ben reached into his pocket.  The sudden movement caused Payday to reach out for his arm.
“Relax, I’m not going to shoot myself.  Sally’s worked too hard to keep this place clean.”
He pulled out the bottle of Demerol and popped the top and shook a pill into his mouth.  He chased it with the last of the Jack and sighed.  Then he slipped the Demerol back in his pocket.
“You motherfucker,” Payday said.
Ben refused to make eye contact.  “Leave it alone, Payday.”
“I asked you to keep those somewhere safe or toss them.  Instead, you’re popping them.  Right in front of me.”
“You didn’t want me to eat a bullet.  This is the trade off.”
“Guys,” Sally said.  “I don’t know what’s going on between you two but maybe you should leave the guns and take it outside.”
“Don’t worry, Sally,” Ben said.  “I’m going to head back to the room, get some more sleep.”
He turned from the counter and walked to the door.  Half way through it, he stopped and leaned back in.  “Thank you for the hospitality”.

*  *  *  *  *

Payday watched him leave, gritting his teeth the whole time.  “That motherfucker.”
He felt Sally’s hand on his.  “Hey, let it go.  The guy’s fucked up.”
“Maybe but he went too far this time.”  Payday pulled the MP-5 over his head and set it on the counter.  “Just in case.”
“Payday, don’t.”
But Payday wasn’t listening.  The anger piercing his gut and racing up into his chest and down his arms was too potent.  Anything else, he would have let it go.  Not this, though.  Ben had done it right in front of him, like he didn’t exist.  After talking him down when he had a gun in his mouth and looking out for him, this was how he repaid him.
Payday pushed through the door and stepped into the blistering sun and said, “Fuck you, Ben.”
Ben froze in the middle of the two lane blacktop and twisted around.  “Ok.  Read you loud and clear.  Can I go back to sleep now?”
Payday’s hands balled as he stomped toward Ben.  The intensity of the sun forced him to squint.  Ben seemed to shimmer, hands at his sides.
“I know you’re hurting, Ben.  I know some fucked up shit has happened to you in the last twenty-four hours.  But what right do you have to take your pain out on me?”
Payday stopped in front of Ben, eyes locked on his.  He breathed in deep, long breaths.
“You should have let me kill myself,” Ben said.
“That’s your reason?”
“You need me, you said.  That’s the whole reason for me to live is to look out for you.  Why?  Because you don’t know how to ride a bike?  Because you can’t shoot a gun too well?  Or is it because you need someone more fucked up than yourself around to keep you off the smack?”
“Fuck you.”
Payday threw a right cross at Ben’s face.  Before it landed, though, Ben’s left hand slapped it away.  Payday tried to reestablish his footing to throw another but something hard and fast nailed his jaw.  He saw stars for a moment and felt the ground come up to him.
It took him a moment to realize he’d fallen onto hot asphalt.  Blinking, Payday rubbed his jaw and started to push back up with his free hand but all of Ben’s weight pounced on him.  Another punch connected under his right eye.
Payday tasted blood as it ran over his tongue into the back of his throat.  He heard Ben breathing hard and grunting.  Then another punch whipped across the left side of his face.
His vision blurred.  Everything sounded muffled now.  Ben didn’t feel as heavy.  The next punch, again to the jaw, didn’t hurt as much as the first.  Two more, one to each side of his face.  Payday coughed blood.

*  *  *  *  *

Ben hammered Payday’s face with his right then his left.  But it wasn’t Payday’s face.  It was Kyle, eighteen again, after having just raped Nicole.
Drool dribbled over Ben’s lower lip and dripped from his chin.  His whole body seemed to vibrate from the adrenaline coursing through him.  It didn’t even feel like he’d drunk a half-pint of Jack and popped a Demerol.  All he felt was frenzied energy raging in his veins.
Then he heard the shotgun pump and all his power drained.  Ben’s right fist froze, cocked next to his head.  Sally stood a few feet away, barrel leveled on him.  Her eyes reflected the same anger he’d just experienced.  Only hers was focused on him instead of Payday.
“Get off of him now,” she said, eyes unflinching.  Her hands were steady, one grasping the pump and the other firmly around the stock, finger on the trigger.
Ben held his hands up like a common perpetrator.  “He attacked her.”
“Who the fuck is her?”
Her?  Ben blinked and liked down and saw it was Payday and not Kyle.  Christ.
“I said get off him.”
“I didn’t mean to go so hard.”  Ben slid his feet under him and rose and stepped away from Payday.  “But he brought it on himself.”
“Yeah, I’m sure he was asking to be beaten to death.”
He glanced at Payday, rolled over on his side, spitting blood onto the road.  There was a tooth in the red mucous, too.  Guilt stabbed his insides with a hot poker.
“I’m sorry.”
“Get the fuck away from him.”
Tears now.  “I’m sorry.”
“I said get the fuck away from him or I’ll turn your head into a pink cloud.”  Sally stepped toward him.  “Go on.  Get.”
Ben backed away but refused to drop his gaze from Payday crumpled, unconscious body.  What had he done?
           Unable to look at him anymore, Ben turned from Payday, Sally now kneeling over him, and walked toward the motel room.  His hands reached into his pants pocket and pulled the Demerol free.  He popped another and crunched it between his molars and considered swallowing the rest of the bottle.

Drive-By Updates

1.  As you can tell, I did a facelift around here.  I wanted the site to be cleaner and easier to read.  Plus I deleted a bunch of garbage.  I tried Tumblr and a separate movie review site but this is the foundation.  If I'm going to build a big weird house, it'll stay here.

2.  Yes, I'm behind on Walking Shadows posts.  Not sure how many of you care but I acknowledge I'm behind.

3.  I just signed contracts for German language editions of Bigfoot Crank Stomp and Progeny.  They'll be released by Voodoo Press.  More to follow.

4.  I also just signed contracts for two books with a big NY publisher.  I can't say who yet but rest assured, as soon as I can, you'll know because I'll be SCREAMING it and what book is up first.

5.  Small press wise, you can expect THE COLLECT WORKS OF THE FACELESS GOD in another month or so.  This will be a limited edition hardcover collecting BLOOD SPRING, its prequel THE FACELESS MAN AT JACKSON FARM, and its sequel FACELESS.  The prequel will appear no where else.  The novel-length sequel may be spun into an independent ebook eventually but not anytime soon.  So, if you dig Sheriff Lewis and all the weird shit going down in Cainswell, this book is for you.




Sunday, March 9, 2014

True Detective Case File: The Cult


Last time, I discussed the importance of the spiral in two different posts (one funny, the other, not so much).  This time we'll examine the cult itself and the deity it worships, The Yellow King. Oh, and end of show speculation.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Everyone here?  Good.

Look, this cult is your run-of-the-mill Satanic cult by another name.  Whether they sacrifice women and kids to the sun or to a tree or to a lawnmower, it doesn't change the fact that they're:

1. Sacrificing human beings

2. Not normal

3. Doing it for their own selfish motivations.

Now in the past, people conducted human sacrifice to appease the gods.  In other words, to satisfy the gods so they would leave them the fuck alone.  That seems to be the case here, accept more monotheistic and polytheistic.

Look, the show clearly portrays the bayou of LA as a dystopian wasteland, one used by pirates to fisheries to the oil industry for hundreds of years for their own selfish gain.  Using the people living there.  The residents are ants in the afterbirth (name the reference!).  Clearly, they have been "cut-off" and a new semi-monotheistic religion has prospered for generations.  It's cultural.  It's created by a sense of disconnectedness.

In other words, these mother fuckers form a cult, have five ranking members from superior family trees, sacrifice people, and use it to gain favor with their pagan god: The Yellow King.  Then they pass it down generation by generation.

And if they're mocking Christianity (which I think they are overtly), then it makes sense that they'll also mock the rituals and tradition, whether it be Christmas (Saturnalia), Mardi Gras (whatever the fuck they call it), or what have you.  It's interesting that the Lake Charles victim is found sometime in the beginning of April.  Could it be a mockery of Easter or a darker version of the Feast of Fools?  The point is, these people follow a similar calendar and instead of turning bread into flesh, they're killing flesh.

How does that tie into the finale tonight?  Horrible answer: we'll see.  However, I can say that we won't get the whole scope of the cult.  The show is too drilled down into the individual to allow an invasion of the broader spectrum other than where it matters.  Bottom line, there will be plenty of questions unanswered.

That being said, we can deduce certain facts:  the cult sacrifices women and children; Dora Lang was a willing sacrifice (she offered herself up of her own free will, a nun in the service of the Yellow King); the cult has an out of control head priest that they cover up for rather than dispose of (lawmower man.  He has the taste for killing but due to his position, they cover for him rather than outright eliminate him, like the Reverend Tuttle).

That should tell you something about the structure of the Cult.  They consider this guy, the Lawnmower Man, sacred.  That's fucked up.

But at the same time, if he was "marked" as "special", well, wouldn't they protect him, even if he's batshit crazy?

Last point: we'll see Carcosa (what I consider the underworld), we'll see the Yellow King (a facsimile in comparison to Christ on the Cross, but probably more like Death on a totem), and the Yellow King incarnate (a priest who is the Yellow King on earth just as a Catholic priest is Jesus at the moment he consecrates the host and wine).  He'll be killed...

Which begs the questions: does the person killing the Yellow King Incarnate take his/her place?  This would satisfy some speculation that this is a Cult of Diana (google it and Rex sacrifices)?  Or does it merely end like many pagan religions/rituals?

We'll see.

That being said, my thoughts:

1. Marty is aware of the cult, even though he might not know the whole picture.  He's working with Cohle to learn the truth, not pay a debt.

2. Maggie and her family is involved. There are just too many clues pointing toward her not to involve her.  My guess: Papa Maggie wanted her to marry some specific and she chose Marty.

3.  And how the hell did Maggie know exactly to go to see Cohle?  I'm pretty sure Marty wouldn't tell her?

4.  Which means Audrey probably saw a video tape of a sacrifice or something similar at the Grandparent compound, hence her paint picture of spirals, black stars, and arranging dolls in odd ways. Oh, and banging two dudes at the same time when she a teenager.

5.  Which means Cohle and Marty will stop the Lawnmower Man but it'll be a repeat of '95 and Marty will blow LM's head off before any answers can be delivered.  Time is a flat circle, after all.

6.  Which means Cohle lives but knows there's more out there.  The most torturous option for him, other than some existence beyond our own (in noir, someone gets totally fucked up, and in this case, it'll be Cohle).

7.  Marty knows for sure the true depths of his family's involvement and accepts it.  He doesn't want to but he doesn't want one of his daughters ending up like Dora Lang.  Instead, he  remains silent, and lets his wife guide his daughters' future under "protection".

Maggie is involved.  No doubt about it.  She wore white stars last episode.  Hell, she's probably the leader by now.

As Cohle said to Marty, "You always liked them crazy."

Yeah, Maggie qualifies.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

TRUE DETECTIVE Analysis: The Spiral



Okay, I did a bit of this already, jokingly referring to the spiral as a take on the Time Warner Cable symbol.  Hardy-har.

Now, though, I want to do an actual analysis.  Want to follow-me down this widening gyre?  Let's go.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

All right, we know from the show the following:

1.  The spiral is the mark of a servant, a member of the cult of what Charlie Lang calls "devil worshipers".  Dora Lang had it.  Reanne Oliver had it.  Reggie Ledoux had it branded on him.  It's very likely Dewall also had a brand.  My guess, women get the paint, men get the brand.

2.  Errol Childress, the lawmower man, mows the cemetery grass in a spiral.  He also has facial scars.  So we can at least confirm he is the third (Ledoux, possibly Dewall, and Errol) of the trio that apparently kidnap women and children all over the coast for the cult leaders.  Remember, there were those who wore masks at the school and then...these three winners.  We should also assume these three were holding down the little girl in the snuff film.

3.  We hear things in several episodes like "time is a flat circle" and "everything we do we'll do it again".  This is a reference to eternal recurrence.  Basically what I'm doing now, I'll do again in another life.  There's no karma or salvation, just what you're programmed to do.  Your spiral is your own.  I will write this post again and again for the rest of time.  At the beginning, I wrote it in the form of cave paintings.  All the way to now.

4.  Speaking of programming, in the first episode, Cohle reveals his pessimistic philosophy, describing how human consciousness is a tragic accident and the best thing we can do as a species is quit reproducing, maybe even commit suicide.  But he also says he doesn't have the guts to off himself.  When challenged on why do anything, such as work, he declares its part of his programming.

5.  Thinking about spheres that look like flat circles in two dimensions, what would a two dimensional spiral look like in 3-D?  Maybe this:


Of course, if you put two in parallel, you get this:


Which happens to be what this is:


Hey, the building blocks of life!  Our literal programming.

But how would you explain such concepts to former prostitutes and meth addicts you're turning into servants?  I don't know, maybe with something like this:


Another interesting note, going back to the staircase above.  It could also easily represent a stairway to heaven, AKA, Jacob's Ladder.  Just saying.


Oh, wait, William Blake already painted it.  And look at that, heading up toward the Sun.  Now of course, this is suppose to represent the Divine Light.  But wouldn't you know it, the sun is yellow and Satan was known as the Morning Star.  Perhaps he has a Ladder, too, only spiraling down...


Down, down, down.  Down into the underworld.  Down into Carcosa.

"Strange is the night where black stars rise..."



Other random notes:

1.  The underworld of Greek myth has five rivers (five masked men?).  They are Styx (hatred), Acheron (pain), Lethe (oblivion), Phlegethon (fire), Cocytus (river of wailing).  Also, Styx circles the underwold nine times.  Spiral, anyone?

2. Cerberus the three headed dog guards the gates of the underworld.  With Dewall and Loudoux dead, only one head remains to protect Carcosa - Errol.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Dying of the Light

Perhaps you read the mosaic novel Tales from the Yellow Rose Diner and Fill Station.  Perhaps you also just happened to read the first story in that novel, my novelette "Dying of the Light".  Perhaps you liked it.  Perhaps, even, you wish it were longer.  More fleshed out.

Well, do I have good news for you.  Because it is now longer, better, darker.  Dying of the Light is now a novella at 35k words (25k longer than the original).  Oh, and it's available as an e-book for Kindle.  So, buy, buy, buy.

Wait a minute, while you're at it, check at Tales from the Yellow Rose Diner and Fill Station.  It's only $.99 for a couple of days!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Walking Shadows - Chapter Twenty-Nine


Chapter Twenty-Nine

Nicole sat on the front porch, cradling Kyle.  Ben shut the car door and waived.  She waived back.
“Is he sleeping?” Ben said.
Nicole smiled and nodded.  “Out like a light.”
Ben walked up and sat next to her.  He wore blue jeans and a flannel shirt, having changed at work.  Nicole hated it when he wore his utilities home.  He kissed her on the forehead.  Her hair, hanging to her right side, smelled of her apple-scented shampoo.
“How was work?”
“Same old, same old.”  Ben touched Kyle’s left cheek with his finger, gently, barely stroking the soft skin of the infant.
“Kind of late coming home for same old, same old.”
“Yeah, I know.  Sorry.”  Ben pulled his finger back when Kyle started to move, afraid he’d woken him.  But Kyle stayed asleep.  “It’s getting crazier and crazier down there.”
“South Central?”
“And East L.A.  The gangs.  The robberies.”
Nicole rubbed Ben’s arm.  “We can still move.  You can transfer.”
“I know.”  Ben shifted from Kyle to her and found her staring at him.  “I’m still thinking about it.”
“It’s just going to get worse, you know.  This city is heading into a deep pit.”
“Maybe.  It’s just-”
“You don’t like giving up on it.”
Ben sighed.  “Something like that.”
Nicole looked away.  “Do you want to hold him?”
“Yeah.”  She held him out and Ben scooped Kyle into his arms and cradled him to his chest.  “Hey there, big guy.”
Kyle lips smacked together a few times.  Ben smiled.
“I love you, Nicole.”
But Nicole wasn’t there anymore.  Ben looked around, confused.  Kyle was gone, too, his empty arms holding thin air.  The day had gone from evening sunset to dark in the blink of an eye.  He still sat on the front porch, though, in his SWAT utilities now instead of the blue jeans and flannel shirt.
Ben rose and turned and walked to the door.  He turned the knob and opened it and moved in.  The hallway was dark.  The light from the kitchen cast enough to see down into living room.  He saw feet.
“Nicole?”
No answer.
Ben shut the door behind him and twisted the deadbolt.  Reaching down to his holster, he pulled his .45 and moved into police stance.  He breathed deep and exhaled slow and started down the hallway, one foot over the other.
The air was warm and sticky.  It smelled musty with a bit of foulness.  He’d experienced the odor before.  Not in his house, but in crack house in Watts.  There a prostitute had been raped and murdered.
Don’t think about that, Ben thought.
He reached the kitchen.  Peeking around the corner, he checked to make sure no one sat in ambush, waiting for him to pass.  Empty.  A jar of Skippy left open on the counter.
Ben continued down the hallway, staring at the feet.  They weren’t together but spread apart, probably by about two feet or so, toes pointed up.  Small and fragile looking.  Definitely female.  He could only assume they were Nicole’s.  It bothered him that he couldn’t tell if it was her by the feet.
As he got closer, he slowed down.  He shifted his gaze from the feet to the living room.  More was visible within.  The couch to the left remained kept and untouched, as if no one had ever sat on it.  The recliner.  The coffee table.  All neat and tidy.  The only thing out of place, the feet.
From three feet away, Ben saw the shins.  Slender.  Well maintained.  Nicole’s.  He recognized her legs anywhere.
The hallway disappeared and Ben found himself sitting on the edge of Kyle’s bed.  In his hands, he held a copy of Hustler.  Ben lingered on the blonde floozy on the cover for a moment before shifting to his son, fourteen, sitting on the floor of his bedroom in front of him.  Those angry adolescent eyes bore into a spot somewhere on the wall between posters of swimsuit models and mixed martial arts fighters.
“It’s Sonny’s, not mine,” Kyle said.
Ben blinked, snapping out of his disoriented haze.  “But mom caught you with it.”
“I was just borrowing it.”
“Doesn’t matter.”
“I don’t see what the big deal is.”
Ben looked down at the Hustler again.  Nicole had been livid but refused to confront Kyle on the matter.  It’s between a father and son, she insisted.  But Ben didn’t have time for this bullshit with the long hours he was pulling.  And had he been any different when he was Kyle’s age.  Playboys.  Football and boxing.  Ben had had the same interests when he was his age.  What straight boy didn’t?
“I don’t know what the big deal is either.”  Ben rolled up the Hustler and extended toward his son.  “Keep it hidden and out of sight.  If your mother asks, I smacked your ass and told you to respect women.  Got it?”
An expression of utter disbelief etched itself into Kyle’s forehead and cheeks.  His eyes widened and his mouth hung open.
Ben couldn’t help but smile.  “Take it.  I know what it’s like to be your age.  Your mother doesn’t.”
Kyle snatched it away and tucked it under his dresser.  “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me.”  Ben rose.  “And that’s not a very good hiding place.  Find somewhere better.”
He left his son’s room and walked downstairs and found Nicole washing dishes in the kitchen.  She must have heard him because she turned off the water and turned to him, drying her hands with a dish towel.
“Did you take care of it?” she said.
“Yeah.”  Ben didn’t meet her eyes.  “It’s just one of those things boys do at this age.”
“What’d you do?”
“I talked to him.”
“That’s it?”
Ben met her eyes now.  “What’d you want me to do?  Smack him around a little?”
A few wrinkles formed on her forehead and her lips tightened.  “No.  Nothing like that.  I don’t know.  It just seemed more than talking was necessary.”
“It wasn’t like I played patty cake with him.”  Ben rested against the island and leaned on one hand.  I did the same type of thing when I was his age.  It’s what boys do.  Just have to educate them as you catch them.”
“This is different?”
“How so?”
“Those magazines aren’t the same as the ones you grew up with.  It’s not a Playboy with some actress past her prime showing her tits off.  Did you look in it?”
“No.”
“It’s horrible.  I mean worse than smut.  There was a sex scene in it.  The man was pushing a woman’s face into a toilet bowel and flushing it.”
He chuckled and Nicole slapped his shoulder.  “It’s not funny, Ben.”
“I know.  Sorry.”
“So, what did you do with it?”
“Do with what?”
“The magazine?”
Ben almost flinched but kept his composure.  “I stuck it in my bag.  Guys at work will appreciate free smut.”
“Should burn it.”
“Well, I got to think about my guys.”
A little curl formed in the corner of Nicole’s mouth.  “Degenerates, all of you.”
“We are what we are.”
“You better not tell them I gave it to you.”
Ben winked and pulled her to him.  “Of course not.”
But he held empty air.  Nicole was gone.
Ben stood in the hallway again, looking at the feet and shins in the living room.  Rubbing his face, he tried to turn around, knowing now what he’d find if he continued forward.  He couldn’t though.  His body wouldn’t let him.  Something pushed him, making his feet move toward the room.  The knees were now visible.  And the thighs.  Nicole’s thighs.  Smears of blood decorated the soft pale skin like lipstick on fine linen.
The feet and legs disappeared.  Ben blinked and found himself in the kitchen, leaning against the island, his arms crossed.  Nicole stood across from him, eyes glazed over.
“Fuck you for asking,” she said, waving a finger at him.  “No right.”
Ben had no idea what she was talking about for a moment.  Nor did he know what the hell was going on.  He started to say something but stopped when she lifted a glass of wine and downed it all in one gulp.
The night of the fight, he thought.  It all came back to him.
“No right at all you cheating piece of shit.”  Nicole slung the empty glass at him.  He ducked and it shattered against a cupboard behind him.  “You’re gone all day and night.  Work, work, work.  And when you’ve got free time you’re nailing that chink on the side.  I know all about her.”
“You’ve been following me.”
“Couldn’t afford a good P.I. on your salary but you weren’t exactly hiding it well.  A fucking blowjob in the car here.  Banging her at some cheap motel there.  I’ve got a bunch of great pics of you two.  Color and black and white.  Want to see?”
Ben looked away, unable to match her stare.  “I’m sorry.”
“How long?”
Ben didn’t say anything.
“I deserve to know, Ben.  How long?”
“Five years.”
Nicole gasped and covered her mouth.  “Five years?  And you confront me about my drinking.  How long have I been doing that?  Two, maybe less?”
“And the pills--”
“Are none of your concern anymore.  The drinking.  The pills.  It’s over.”
“Nicole, be reasonable.”
“I am being reasonable.  This marriage has been a sham since Kyle was born.  Might as well call it what it is and move on.  You sure as hell have.”
“He won’t understand.  He’s only fifteen.”
“He’ll understand what I tell him.  Not like you’ve been much of a father to him anyway.  Now get out of my house.”
“What?”
“I want you out.”
“Nicole-”
But Nicole disappeared again.  And he no longer stood in the kitchen.  Instead, he was on the front porch again, standing in front of a closed door.  His finger was an inch away from the doorbell.
Before he could blink and wonder when he was now, the front door opened and revealed Nicole, her eyes puffy and red.  Streaks of mascara lined her cheeks.  An uneven bruise, the color of a blueberry, marked her left jaw near the chin.
“Glad you could come over,” she said and stood aside so he could come in.  “He’s upstairs.”
Ben remembered now.  A little over a year after he’d moved out of the house.  Kyle, seventeen and getting in trouble at school, arguing with his teachers and fighting other students.  Trouble at home, too.  Tons of porno.  Not the normal stuff.  Sick shit.  Bestiality.  Rape simulations.  Underage girls.  And then Nicole found the meth in his sock drawer.
“Where’s the drugs?” Ben said.
“Gone.”
“Where?”  He fixed her with the best stare he could manage.  Nicole had sunk into the embrace of alcohol and pain killers.  He didn’t want her tempted to descend any further.
“Gone.”
Ben decided to deal with the location of the meth after he dealt with Kyle.  One shitstorm at a time.
“What do you want me to do with him?” Ben said, looking up the stairs.
“What would your father do?”
“He’d kick my ass.  And I’m not exaggerating.”
Nicole sighed.  “Fine by me.”
Ben watched her disappear into the kitchen before he headed up the stairs.  At the top, he paused, getting what he would say straight in his head.  Kyle’s bedroom door was down and to the left.  Some rap-rock hybrid crap blasted from his stereo.
When he reached the door, he started to knock.  Instead, though, he decided to grab the knob and just walk in, like he would with an informant who was ducking him.  As he entered, Kyle remained motionless, sitting on the bed with knees pulled toward his chest, his head bouncing up and down to the music.
Ben switched the power off to the stereo and silence invaded the space.  Kyle’s head shot up.  His intense and angry eyes tried to bore a hole into Ben.  He’d seen eyes like them before.  Punks on the street.  Convicts in jail.  All blaming someone other than themselves.  Ben didn’t shirk from the stare, matching it with one he’d perfected over the years.  Cold.  Lifeless.  The gaze of a professional.
Kyle couldn’t keep it and looked away after a few seconds.  “What do you want?”
“Do you really have to ask that?”
“It’s not what you think.”
“Tell me what I think.”
Kyle shook his head.  “She invaded my privacy.”
“You’re her son.  You don’t have any privacy while you live under her roof.”
“That’s not true.”
“Prove me wrong.”
Kyle was silent.
Ben moved to the bed and sat on the edge.  “How long?”
“What?”
“How long have you been using?”
“The meth?”
“Is there something else?”
Kyle shrugged.  “I smoke out.  Shroom.  Drop acid from time to time.  Did ecstasy but it was boring.”
“You sound pretty proud of your little habit.”
“Nah, just making sure I know what you’re asking about.”
“Don’t be a smart ass.  It’s not exactly good to hear you list those drugs but they’re a lot easier to accept than meth.  Do you know how crazy that shit can make you?”
“Just heard it was a good high.”
“How long have you been on it?”
“Never.  She found it before I could have a taste.”
Ben leaned toward him.  “You better be straight with me.”
“I am.”
Ben watched him for a long second, waiting for him to give one of the tell tale signs of a liar.  A small flinch.  A quick glance away.  Lick his lips.  But he didn’t.  If he wasn’t telling the truth, Kyle believed his own lie.
“So what are we going to do about this?” Ben said.
“I don’t know.”  Kyle rubbed the back of his neck and smirked.  “How about nothing?”
Ben didn’t smile.  “That’s not going to happen.”
The smirk faded and was replaced with the look of anger and intensity returned.  “I’m not going to rehab.”
“You’ll go where I tell you.”
“You?”  Kyle pushed off the bed and stood.  “Since when did you start making the decisions?  Last time I checked, you moved out and left us alone.”
“I’m still your father.”
“In name only.”
Ben jumped to his feet, only a few feet separating them.  “Watch your mouth, you little bastard.  You may get away with that shit with your mother but you won’t with me.”
“Tough talk coming from a deadbeat.”
Ben’s right hand balled into a fist and shot out in a straight cross, landing right under Kyle’s left eye.  His son never saw it coming, his hands staying at his sides.  He fell back and hit his dresser.  If it wasn’t for that, he would have hit the deck.  Instead, it kept him upright and allowed Ben another shot.
“You think you’re tough?”  Ben hit him with a left hook to the ribs.  All the air seemed to rush out of Kyle in one wave.  “Want to drop some acid?”  Ben landed a right hook to the other set of ribs.  “Maybe cook some meth?  Take another swing at your mother because she caught you?  Be a man and take one at me.”
A left jab to the mouth was quickly followed by another right cross to the nose.  The bone crunched and blood shot down into his son’s mouth.  The dresser couldn’t hold Kyle up anymore.  His legs went out from under him and he fell straight down onto his ass.  His eyes glazed over.  One of his front teeth hung by a thin piece of gum.
Ben towered over him, fists cocked and ready for more.  Blood coated his knuckles.  A few cuts criss-crossed the fingers on his right hand in little zigzags.  He sucked in air hard and quick.  Adrenaline pumped through his chest and arms, jacking up his heart rate.
It was the crying that broke Ben from his trance.  Kyle, slumped on the floor, back against the dresser, wept.  His hands covered his bleeding nose and lips.  Ben wanted to kneel next to him and pull him to his chest and apologize.  But this was the way it had to be.  His father had done it this way and now he had.  Show him any of the guilt flooding his body, and the lesson wouldn’t sink in.
Ben opened his hands and lowered them to his side.  “You’ll heal.  Next time you’re caught with drugs or hit your mother, you won’t.  Understand?”
Kyle answered with more sobs.  Ben turned his back on him and walked out and shut the bedroom door behind him.  He descended the stairs and found Nicole in the kitchen, drinking a glass of wine.  Her elbow leaned on the counter near the bottle, half empty.
“Sounded like you kicked the shit out of him,” she said, her words slurred.
Ben nodded, reflexively tucking his hands in his pockets.  “He’s going to need some dental work.  Maybe some stitches.”
Nicole shrugged.  “Guess you did like your dad taught you.”
“He won’t do drugs again.  That’s for sure.”
“What if he files a child abuse charge against you?”
“He won’t.”
“How do you know?”
Ben shrugged.  “I just know.  Call me if you need anything else.”
Before he could leave the kitchen, though, Nicole and the kitchen disappeared and he found himself standing in the living room over Nicole’s body.  She lay naked on the floor, legs spread a few feet apart.  Blood smeared her thighs.  Bite marks rounded both nipples.  Her upper lip was split and swollen.  Several bruises dotted her swollen cheek bones and eyes.
“Oh, God,” he said and knelt next to her and checked her pulse.  Still pumping.  Not hard but steady.  “Nicole.”
No response.
He shook her shoulders.  “Nicole.”
Her eyelids batted and she breathed deep and moaned.  “It hurts.”
“Who did this?”
“It hurts.”
“I know it does, Nicole.  I’m so sorry.  Can you tell me who did this?  Is he still here?”
“He did it.”
“Who?  Who did it?”
“I thought it was you.”
“What?”
“He put something in my drink.  He acted like you.  Even dressed like you.  I thought it was you.  It hurts, Ben.”
Ben’s mouth tightened.  He lowered Nicole to the floor and walked over to the couch and lifted the quilt off the back.  After he covered her, he headed up the stairs to Kyle’s room.  The door was cracked, as if he expected Ben.
He took a deep breath and pushed the door open and walked in.  Kyle sat on the bed, reading a UFC magazine.  He looked up from it, an annoyed expression on his face, almost hinting at the fact that Ben was interrupting his precious time.
“What do you want?” Kyle said.
“What did you do?”
Kyle shrugged. 
Ben noticed pair of his old uniform pants and shirt on the floor, crumpled in a pile.  Little splatter of blood here and there.  He stepped closer to the bed.
“What did you do?”
“She asked for it.”  Kyle went back to reading his magazine.
“You drugged her, didn’t you?  Pretended to be me.”
Kyle didn’t say anything.
“On your feet.”
“No.”
“I said on your feet.”
“Why, so you can beat the shit out of me again?”
The blackness burning on the fringes of Ben’s mind couldn’t be held at bay any longer.  He drew his gun and chambered a round and pointed it at his son.
“I said on your feet you little piece of shit.”
Kyle’s eyes were wide and his lips trembled.  He dropped the magazine and rose slowly to his feet, hands up and palms out.  The fear in his eyes swam concentric circles.  Whatever he’d expected, he had not expected this.  But Ben wasn’t satisfied with scaring him.  Not anymore.
“Don’t shoot me, please,” Kyle said, a few tears welling his eyes.
“Ok.”  Ben whipped the barrel across Kyle’s jaw, knocking him to the floor.  He knelt down on his son’s chest with his left knee and turned the gun over in his hand, holding it by the barrel.  He cocked it back and brought it down on Kyle’s head.

*  *  *  *  *

Ben shot up in bed, grasping at his chest.  It took a moment for reality to set in and the nightmare to fade.  He was in the hotel room.  Slivers of light slipped in through cracks in the curtains.
The room was hot.  Sweat had soaked through his shirt and pants.  The cloth stuck to him like duct tape.
“Payday,” he said.  “Payday?”
But Payday didn’t answer.  He grabbed his flashlight from the nightstand and flicked it on and scanned the room.  Empty.  The MP-5, gone.
“Shit.”
             Ben jumped out of bed.  He strapped on his SIG Sauer and holster and headed out the door into daylight.