You can find more of my written work here: MEANWHILE....
And, check out the amazing Shelby Scott reading this story on the wondrous SCARE YOU TO SLEEP PODCAST. She did a fantastic job!
“Yes, it's only a canvas sky Hanging over a muslin tree But it wouldn't be make-believe If you believed in me
Without your love It's a honky-tonk parade Without your love It's a melody played in a penny arcade”
It's Only A Paper Moon by Malcolm Johnson
Rain beats against the window as music starts to fade away in the nightclubs hallway. The last of the dancers make their way down the hall – eager to change and leave for the night even if it means a walk in the rain. Their muffled voices drift away on the other side of the door.
The tiny room of Shelly Cole is dingy and smells of mold and something else. Something sour. The clubs main singer paces in her dressing gown, crumples the newspaper in her hands – the date reading August 16th, 1944 – and tosses it onto the dirty wood floorboards. She's done for the night. So done. Tears stream down her cheeks as her breasts dance under the sheer silk of her dressing gown. Her raven hair and dark eyes catch the light from the small lamp on her dressing table from time to time and seem to sparkle and glisten.
“Are you serious this time or it this another ploy? I mean, I'm not going to stay if you're just putting me on again. I can't take it no more.”
A tall man stands in the corner of the room and stares out of the darkness. He looks over to the weeping woman and wishes he could tell her what she wants to hear. He wishes he could tell her anything. His suit is filthy and wet with the night's rain. He stares out from the shadows in the corner of the small room and longs for her. So close. So far away.
“Ya big lug. Leading me around by the nose.” She wipes her tears away and her voice grows louder. He glares. If she keeps this up, they'll track ‘em down, break in, and find the two of them. Then what? Being in this closet of a room didn't leave a lot of options.
Her gown shimmers in the streetlight streaming through the filthy window an she looks radiant. Glowing. Her voice slips through the room like syrup and fills his ears with song even when she isn't singing. He can hear heavy footsteps on the stairs. Not the footsteps of small dancers, but the thumping of blunt men.
The club was packed earlier, but he's not sure it matters to the likes of the mob. Hell, they probably owned the joint. For all he knew, they owned her. He strains to hear any sign of them coming closer.
Somewhere down the hall dancers chatter and make their way outside in the glow of the club lights as it starts to close up for the night. Guy Lombardo proclaims that some dame is making him crazy. There's something funny about that, but he can't laugh about it now.
Her wailing takes him by surprise as she screams out, “Why'd ya go and leave me in tha’ first place!? You said you'd always take care of me! You promised, Tommy!”
He holds up his hands and waves his arms stiffly, then glances at the door. Shelly needs to be quiet. Quiet as a mouse. He presses back into the shadows as the door jam splinters inwards and the door of her dressing room springs open. Subtle these boys ain't. Two silhouettes of mountains fill the doorway.
“Well well well….” One of the mountains moves into the room and has a look around. They either don't see him or figure two to one is good odds in their favor. “You turned out to be quiet a little artist, Baby. Totally bent.” The man’s eyes roam over her and she pulls her gown shut.
“Says you!” She tries to hold her own and if she's scared she doesn't act it.
“Listen, Biscuit, I don't care what ya did or didn't do. Don't matter now any which way ya cut it.” He lets out a chuckle as the other mountain moves into the room and slowly closes the door behind him. He shoves a chair under the knob to keep the door closed then folds his arms over his massive chest.
“I don't care what you or your gun mob think. I don't have any desire to talk to you hoods. Scram!” Her voice cracks. A dead give away to the fear swelling in her, poor thing.
“Easy,” he whispers as he pulls the cannon from his pocket,” or you'll be taking the pistol route outta town.”
Shelly shrieks and the man in the shadows is filled with rage. This fat-head has gone too far. The man in the shadows lifts the alley apple from the table next to him and grips it in his dirty hand. He can feel the weight of the blunt item in his hands and likes it. The brick feels rough to the touch, but somehow his hands feel rougher. He stomps out of the shadows and the two men turn to face him. Bravado turns to horror as the light floods over the lurkers face and clothing.
Dirty and stinking, the lurker growls low through sewn and blackened lips. Bits of odd herbs and tatters of poultices drip and slither from the sides of his mouth like worms as another low, dull growling mumble rumbles into the space. His milky white eyes glare through the half-light as he stomps deeper into the room. His skin is a deep, withered gray like parchment and his dim eyes are ringed with dark circles. A zombie.
The hand cannon goes off, but it's an impulse trigger pull fired from the hip out of fear, not desire to kill. The shot goes wide and into the wall. The men stare on. Their eyes are filled with fear.
“Shelly? Hey Shelly!” Shouts and calls fill the hallway outside as fists pound at the door and shrill voices ask if the club singer is all right.
The second man struggles to free his weapon from his coat. He doesn't have a chance. The heavy brick crashes into the side of his head hard and he goes down for the count and hits the flooring like a sack of potatoes.
Shelly’s screams fill the room as Tommy turns to face the final, now lone mountain of a gunman. “Look out, Tommy!”
The gun goes off again, but this time the deadly extension of the man's hand is leveled right at Tommy's chest. There's no quick-witted comment. No gunman bravado. Just an explosion that opens a small hole in Tommy's chest and a larger one in his back. A black, brackish liquid splatters against the wall. Another shot rips into his shoulder, but it doesn't matter. He stumbles back and slumps against the wall and slides down to the floorboards.
The gunman shivers as sweat pours over his face and hands. “Jesus.” A lamp crashes into his back and he winces. He reels around and catches the woman across her face with the back of his hand. Shelly yelps out and stumbles back into her dressing table. Glass breaks and items burst into life and dance their way to the cheap carpet as she drops to the floor far less gracefully than she dances.
The gunman pants and looks from his would be assailant to the woman on the floor clutching at her cheek and sobbing. The hallway fills with chatter and calls as the growing crowd continues to try and get through the door. Between the chair and the man laying in front of it, they can’t budge it. It won't be long now before the bulls show up. He'll have to take care of this and get out fast.
“Ok, Doll.” He levels the gun at her. “Where's the dough!” His hand shakes.
The stirring behind him makes him gasp. He turns and sees Tommy rise up from the floor. Rising for the second time this eve to take care of his girl.
Shots ring out and bullets fly as Tommy closes the distance between himself and the gunman. His ear explodes and black blood flies. His arm rips open as another bullet rings true. His leg bursts at the thigh. All too late. All too weak to stop what's coursing through Tommy's body.
The gunman's scream is cut off as Tommy's dirty, rotting hands find his throat and squeeze. The gunman tries to hit Tommy with the gun, but it doesn't phase the living corpse at all. A grin pulls at the corners of his mouth and dark liquid snakes down his chin.
The gunman sees the horror that is Tommy up close now. Sees the crude thread that holds the terrible lips shut. He smells the muck that drips from the corners of the…mans…mouth. . Sees the leaves and oily brown that glistens on the dead things lips. And the eyes. The cruel, milky eyes that narrow as more pressure is applied. The gunman has seen the look of death before, just not...moving.
He remembers, as his vision starts to go dark and the pain in his airway starts to give way to the limp darkness, where he's seen this man....this thing....before. Days earlier...at the man’s funeral.
The questions she had to answer were moot. It was obvious to the goons when they saw the scene before them that this was more of the same. The mob cleaning house. She'd been roughed up and some tough guy had dispatched the two and made like a bird and flown out the window. The cops had her kick it apart for them, told her that they'd be watching her and that she should wise up before she ended up as dead, then they slipped away and out as the meat wagon took away the dead.
There was no question that she didn't do the deed herself. These two mountains were manhandled in a big way. A crushed skull on one and another with his neck looking like a few sausages crudely wrapped together and his head turned almost all the way around. No dame had that strength.
Not by herself anyway.
Shelly sits and thinks it all over as she stares out of the window of her little apartment. Thinks about the money – their money – and what she'd do with what's left over. She'd paid a pretty penny for that old lady to work her magic on Tommy. Money well spent. He did say that he'd always take care of her. He always said it. She was sure he didn't mind what she'd done to him. Water under the bridge now, anyway. None of that mattered anymore.
She takes a drag on her cigarette and turns up the radio. Something slow and easy drifts out into the dark room and tears fill her eyes as she tries to forget everything. She knows she'll never be able to, however. Those eyes. Tommy's milky white....sad eyes.
Something moves in the alley and her eyes narrow. Smoke swirls around her head as the cigarette falls from her fingers and on to the floor.
Tommy stomps up to her window and lightly raps on it as the rain washes over everything.
“No. No...you can go away now!” She shakes her head as he knocks again – harder now. His terrible eyes stare at her blankly. “Go away, Tommy!” She backs up and her breathing grows more rapid. “You did good and now you gotta go. I’m ok now. You need to go away.”
He gives her the once over, cocks his head to the side lowers his arm.
She stares at him and whispers, “Go on...beat it,” under her breath. She moves closer to the window. She screams, “Beat it! Get the hell away from me.”
She doesn't have time to avoid the glass that rains in on her as his arms crash through the windowpane. She falls back into the room and hits the floor hard. The wind leaves her body in a huff as Tommy crawls into the room. He drags himself up and in effortlessly.
Dazed, she scrambles to her knees and makes for the door. Glass punctures her knee and she screams as she rolls onto her side. She looks back towards Tommy and pushes herself backwards with her hands- slithering towards the door on her backside.
“Go away, Tommy! You're scaring me! Leave me alone! Get the hell away from me!”
Tommy's groan sounds mournful. His arms reach out as he stomps over the broken glass.
She winces when she notices the massive shard of glass lodged in his guts. Entrails work their way out of the wound with each step. She gags at the visual and the rotten smell and scrambles back and away from the horror before her. Her mind franticly grasps at the strange word the old voodoo lady had given her to release Tommy from the world again.
Tommy's face is sad and his brow is furrowed. He's filled with nothing but love for her. He'd do anything for her. Had done everything for her. He even had given his life for her. His love for her broke all boundaries.
Tommy looms over her and blood drips onto her bare feet. She knocks into the desk and sends the light crashing to the floor. The room goes dark.
Fear and disgust course through Shelly as her eyes dart around for anything that might help her, then the word the old woman croaked out to her hits her like a ton of bricks. She shrieks out, “SATHRATHNA!”
Tommy feels his legs go weak. Feels the life slip from him as his eyes go wide in the darkness. He drops like a stone and body collides with hers hard.
She gasps. Air fills her lungs for the last time as the huge shard of glass wedged into Tommy's body pierces her flesh and brings the curtain down on her life. She wants to cry out, but withers away before she has the chance. Shock and terror stop her heart before her fatal wound can. The light leaves her lovely brown eyes as tears fill them.
Tommy reaches up and touches her face, then he reaches for his lips and tears away the heavy thread. Gore, herbs and a small shell fall from his mouth.
He whispers, “I…love....”