I sprinted as fast as I could to the exit, shot into a back alley, turned the first dark corner I came to, and slowed to a walk. Then I took stock.
It wouldn’t be long before someone found Dave Carrion’s body. When they did, they’d call the police. The police would look at the video footage and I’d be a wanted woman.
There was no-one else around as it was 1.30 am. That made me conspicuous. I’d be picked up by the first copper to come by.
I had to find a place to hide, preferably somewhere I could doss down. A garden shed or something similar.
It was a shabby neighbourhood that’d once been affluent. The houses, most of which had been turned into flats, were big. I decided to scout around the backs of those houses and look for a shed. Surely at least one of them would have a shed I could break into.
There was a car at the end of the road. I caught a glimpse of the bonnet as it turned the corner. It was a cop car. My heart leapt, not in a good way.
I darted onto the nearest driveway and crouched with my back to a wall, watching the light from the headlights as the police car cruised by. When I’d got over my panic, I looked the place over. It was an old bungalow.
Scuttling down the drive at the side of it, I came to a large garden dotted with trees. Away from the streetlights it was crazy dark, but I could just about see a small building in the moonlight and headed for it. I had to walk across a lawn to get there. Beneath my feet the grass squelched, damp with dew.
There was a patch of overgrown laurels in my way, planted close together in a tight group. The branches tore at my clothes as I forced my way through. Above my head, they swayed in the wind. The sight of them clawing at the night sky was almost enough to make me turn and flee, but the prospect of a place to bed down kept me going.
At last I reached the building I’d spotted. It was a wooden summer house. The door was secured with a hasp and staple which was padlocked. I searched around in the darkness for something to break in with, and found a good-sized stone in a rockery. I used it to smash the hasp off the door. It was a noisy operation. I could only hope that it hadn’t disturbed anyone. Once it’d come loose I opened the door and went inside.
There was enough moonlight streaming in through the window for me to just about make out the shape of an old sun lounger amongst some gardening equipment. I got on top of it and shut my eyes. Somehow I nodded off.
I woke up a couple of times because I was cold.
I woke up a third time because I sensed I wasn’t alone.
The door of the summer house was open and there was a figure standing in the doorway. The moon was behind him and all I could see of him was his silhouette. My hair stood to attention. Instinctively, I pushed myself away from him, sliding backwards along the sun lounger until I fell with a clatter to the floor.
I couldn’t see his face, but guessed what it would look like. It would look like Dave’s face had looked after I’d got through with pushing him down the stairs. He was going to wreak some kind of awful vengeance on me. My heart pounded against my ribs.
“What-what-what do you want?” I asked. “Why are you following me?”
“I think it’s me who should be asking the questions, don’t you?”
It was a voice I didn’t recognise.
I was scared, but far less scared now that I knew that I wasn’t going to have to confront Dave Carrion. Not that I would’ve had to confront him anyway. It’d just been my paranoia getting the better of me.
“What do you think you’re doing?” He asked.
He sounded hostile. I had to think of a way to make him feel sympathy.
“Me? I’m not doing anything. I needed somewhere to sleep for the night, a place to crash. I’m homeless and I’ve got nowhere to go.”
My attempt to tug at his heart strings did little to appease him.
“So you think that justifies breaking and entering, do you?”
I put on my most endearing and polite demeanour.
“No, sir, I don’t think that at all. I was brought up better than to think a thing like that. I’m sorry I broke into your summer house, really sorry. But you’ve got to understand, I was cold, desperate, and hungry. I haven’t eaten for days.”
It didn’t feel good lying like that, but I had no choice.
He moved away from the door.
“Come out here where I can see you,” he said.
I got to my feet and went outside. The lighting wasn’t much better there than it’d been in the summer house. Still, I could tell he was about seventy years old, gaunt, and hollow cheeked.
“What happened to you?” He asked.
I wondered what he meant. Then it dawned on me. I was a Goth and I’d been on a night out before my altercation with Dave Carrion. The old guy hadn’t sussed that my face was white and my lips black because of my Goth makeup.
“I was ill,” I said, going full-on for the sympathy vote. “I’m in remission now.”
I wasn’t proud of myself for pretending to be a cancer victim, but needs must when the devil drives.
“And you say you have nowhere to go?”
I rounded my shoulders and bowed my head.
“That’s right. I’m all alone and I have no-one to turn to.”
He scratched his chin.
“You better come with me,” he said.
“The reclusive author Jack Strange is an unusual fellow. His exact age is unknown. Those who’ve dared to ask him have never survived long enough to divulge the answer.
His writing is dark and comedic. He has a biting wit, an acid tongue, and some say hoofed feet. With his leaning towards the undead, he’s a natural for the world of horror and gore.” – from About our Authors
Given that intro, we decided it was best to not ask any deep questions when the unadorned manilla envelpe dropped through our transom at precisely 12:01 am on a dark and stormy night. (Actually, we didn’t find it until 7 am as that dark and stormy night produced a power outage….)
Jack informs us that his latest effort comes to us via serialization and will be offered in several venues, including Amazing Stories, which is pleased to be included in this effort.
How is this all going to end? We’re not sure. We’re not sure Jack is sure, either. (We’re not sure if Jack might not be channeling Charles Dickens – the scary one.)
* * *
Raising Dave is © Copyright 2017 by Jack Strange. Permission to publish this story has been granted by the author.
Next – new chapters are published every Tuesday and Friday
Also coming soon from Mr. Strange – NOIRVELLAS: MANCHESTER VICE from Coffin Hop Press
Follow Jack Strange on Twitter @jackstrange11.