by D.L. Glenn
A man out to murder his ex gets an unusual comeuppance.
| Russell Flournoy loaded the last few items of his checklist into the trunk of the Buick, cursing the latest of the horde of bigass Tiger mosquitoes that managed to find their fleeting nirvana on back of his sweaty neck. He smacked one sharply and accurately with a hand and routinely wiped the kill on his pants. Muttering a warning to its kin, he sat on the bumper and lit a cigarette to celebrate. The smoke seemed to help keep them at bay most nights. Looking at his freshly shaven forearms jutting tanned- especially so in the light of the Coleman lantern- from the latex gloves he wore, Russ smirked idly to himself. Tonight was no normal night. If played out correctly, he mused with another slow draw of the Winston, from that night henceforth, normal nights would be the norm rather than the distant memory of then.
A motorcycle came racing down the road, its form a shrieking shadow with a mere baleful headlight separating the rider from the darkness. Aware of his silhouette in the light attracting even the fleeting notice of the rider he pursed his lips slightly. The guy was a hellrider, he decided, all cock and balls to be dominating the road at such a ridiculous speed in the foggy night. Such a man in a mental high speed zone would be transfixed by the road and not subject to even a moment's wirth of head tilt in his direction. Russell's secret was still safe. Satisfied of this and eager to get things rolling, Russ killed the lantern and walked it behind his camper. The hot metal nearly melted the latex but he set it on the ground without complaint and with time to spare. Without so much as a smidge of reservation, Russell Flournoy fired off the old Buick and circled out of the lot. He actually beamed wide and gleeful as he gave the big car a little extra gas and rolled southward into the fog.
When the notion of killing his ex-wife first hit him as a plausible and, more importantly, doable act of destiny, he had beamed in much the same way. That was seven months prior.
"Welcome back to the other side, Earnest."
"Thank you, sir."
"You're a free man, Earnest. You ain't gotta call me sir, Earnest. I ain't a CO."
"It'll take some getting used to...sir."
"I'm sure you didn't call many folks 'sir' with sincerity before you went into the joint. But it's a good habit to be into now that you're out."
"I suppose so."
"You certainly get a lot more people to help you along with 'sir' or 'ma'am, Earnest. Certainly better to say that than, 'Hey you white bitch, give me your fucking money or I'll shoot your motherfucking baby in the motherfucking head."
Russell Flournoy leaned back in his office chair as he read off the verbatim testimony of the victim from case known simply as "The State of Mississippi, County of Madison, versus Earnest Tyrone Jenkins. He peered down his nose through his glasses at the response from his latest project. "Don't cha think?"
"I'm sorry about doing that, sir."
"Let's just call me Mr. Flournoy. Earnest...is it Earnest or you like something else?"
"My friends called me E&J before I went inside."
"You ever think maybe such a cheap liquor being your namesake may be part of your problems?" E&J's face winced a tiny bit. He was controlling a surefire half-cock temperament for sure, Russ could see.
"For nine years, Mister Flournoy." E&J called Mr. Flournoy a fucking cocksucker without the slightest inflection in his voice. The eyes remained passive but the docket of Jenkins told Russ all he needed to know. He knew this was a fact but handed it to E&J, he was, outwardly to strangers at least, a reasonable and rehabilitated felon.
"Nine years is a prime piece of time for a man with your predisposition, Earnest."
"I don't know that word."
"It means you are prone to robbing and stealing and probably will end up doing it again. I.E. you are predisposed to being a blight on society that that good persons on the parole board saw fit to hold back from release the first time you came up because it got out from a snitch that you were bragging about shanking a sissy for not swallowing your load one night. Couldn't pin it on you, of course. But it kept you inside a lil' longer to think real hard about why it's wrong to put a pistol in old grannies' faces when they are just going to the mall for a few exercise laps. That case that got you pinched was a real piece of work." Earnest looked at the floor. Russ saw through it.
"Pulling the baby out of the carseat? That takes a special kind of sumbitch in my book." He flipped the file jacket on the desk. "Just so you know where you stand with me."
"I done my time for doing bad, sir. I was wild back then. On the rock back then. I ain't doing that no more. I'm clean. I'm a Christian. I just wanna' do good from here on out, sir."
"Who you trying to convince? I ain't your jury, Earnest. I'm the tightwad ass bastard that is paid to make sure E&J isn't on a jury docket for the third time in his relatively young life. I play to win, Earnest. A parolee that ends up back inside within a year does not look well on my record. So you can rest assured, E&J is dead and gone. You disrespect me and the system to even say you live a life where such a goddamned nickname still holds some relevance to you. You wanna' stay on this side of the wall, I suggest you forget E&J ever took a breath on this planet."
"Yes, sir. I make sure of that. I don't ever wanna' go back. I had enough of that life. I promise!"
"The question which I deal with in my line of work every day, Mr. Earnest. Is whether that life has had enough of you."
A mere seven weeks later, E&J was caught associating with a homie with priors from his hood. "Tsk, tsk," his lips barely uttered.
Russell Flournoy noted this fact in his mind without comment to anyone else. He watched E&J discretely through binoculars as he caught up on old business and dead friends while idling along Gallatin Street in downtown Jackson. The old hand to hand symbols had not dulled with time, nor had E&J's youthful exuberance as he jumped in place to regale his compadre with tales from behind the lines. Russ just sat in his car and beamed. He just knew it the day E&J got his walking papers from the idiots at Parchman.
"I'm taking you to the shrink myself today, Earnest." Russell caught E&J asleep three days later. The man stirred from his deep sleep as Russ stood over him, idly flipping through his drawers and running his hands around and under the usual hiding places for baggies. Russ made sure before he gave the bed a tap that a gram of crack was safely tucked on top of the blinds that shielded the dirty window in the bathroom. As E&J slipped on some clothes after a pat-down, Russ felt his pockets and made sure what he needed was handy and accessible. He cuffed E&J casually and led him to the waiting car. It was early enough for the junkies and hookers that called Farish Street home sweet home to be done with their business for the night but not so early for the decent folks to be poking their heads out to make sure the streets were clear of thieves and panhandlers. E&J was quiet, still half asleep as he settled into the back seat. He flinched and screamed just for an instant as a syringe emptied its contents into his neck. He was paralyzed before he could jerk and dead by the time the corpse fell over on the seat. In an instant Russ had the syringe slipped back into his pocket and traded for a new one. He slipped it into E&J's calf and pulled it full of the dead man's blood. Casually, he slipped it into the coat pocket. Without a word, Russ Flournoy cranked up the car and drove to a quiet area of Pelahatchie Creek where the late E&J would soon enough be parts unknown. For the turtles lying lazily on a hundred logs in the creek, a feast approached.
Flournoy pulled off I-55 onto the Natchez Trace at exactly 22:35. Timing was important. Time lines not remembered and flushed out correctly to an investigator could lead to probable cause if probed by detectives. That could lead to forensics being brought in and God knew the crime lab could pull shit out of thin air. He knew a lot about such things. Court records and inter-office banter between him and his cronies had taught him a great many things about being nailed after committing a crime. Should it come to him sitting in a hot seat with his associates musing over whether Russ snapped and killed his ex in a fit, he felt pretty good about slipping the noose. If the appearance of favoritism showed its head, then the AG or worse the FBI would come in and he doubted he could hold them at bay to their satisfaction. The devil was in the details. The FBI Crime Lab picked their teeth with the details.
He kept the speed at the 50mph mark and set the cruise. Federal Park Rangers ruled the road there and were generally known to be heartless bastards to anyone who desecrated their scenic parkway. Between the Canton exit and the interstate, the traffic was steady with people heading south into town for the night. The Trace is a steady 3 hour run from Tupelo to Jackson and the rural areas fed their young down the artery into the lakefront clubs and restaurants each and every weekend. He rolled north, noting a few deer here and there at the different slices of his drive.
Nearer the Ross Barnett Reservoir the fog clouds really got into high gear and he reduced his speed to 40. Time was not really an issue; the ex was certainly visiting her new cock-in-boots and would be finishing up the festivities by one. He was chancing this. Per his earlier conversations with her through the week, he got the distinct impression that she would be doing her normal thing for a Friday. They would hang at his house, eat a little, play some rummy with the radio on, tuck himself in herself for a while and she would leave before his wife got home from her 4 to 12 at the Silver Star Casino over in Philadelphia. The ex had her own shift at the casino starting at eight most days so after a nice romp it would be nighty-night. Russ smiled. Such a rude awakening to be had tonight but at least she would have to bitch about the kitchen manager riding her ass all day anymore. He rode for twenty minutes, his eyes straining to find the deer he knew had to be awaiting his hood.
The fog became a solid, impenetrable soup near Ratliff Ferry. He reached his arm out of the open window and was amazed at how drenched the bare skin became instantaneously. Drawing his arm back in, he wiped it on his cotton t-shirt, taking his eyes off the road for an instant. Russ looked up, trying to feel his way in the milky haze the headlights created and to his shock, the image of a person suddenly materialized on the side of the road.
"Shiiiiit!" He cranked the wheel hard to port. The big Buick answered and he whipped around the form. "Who the fuck?" He peered quickly in the rear view mirror but the red tail lights fared far worse in the usefulness. The foggy night swallowed the person as he righted his path. A head-on in the soup would be most harmful. He reduced speed again to 35 and flipped on the caution lights. It's got to be better away from the lake... he hoped.
A sudden, feral thumping on teh top of the speeding Buick scared him straight. A flurry of slapping hands and chuckles, actual giddy chuckles erupted from the top of the Buick. He stomped the brake out of habit, hoping to toss whomever had stowed aboard the Buick but incredulously dismissing the inane thought. No man short of some far-out stunt performer could vault unseen over a car traveling 40 in thick fog and grab a slick metal chassis and laugh about it. His heart lurched down-shifted into haulass and his foot immediately followed. Russ saw neither a body come flying over the front of the car nor felt one tumble off the trunk. He, no it, he somehow realized succinctly, was still aboard. The slapping hands on the overhead continued and he began tearing like mad into the cloudy night. A headon was tantamount to salvation, he thought as he began shipping the car side to side. The chuckling subsided and he now saw two arms with fingers the length of drumsticks sidle their way eerily down the windshield. The wipers were on full fury, their blades passing through the appendages as easily as they did the rushing air. Then the arms evaporated.
"I feel your intentions, my friend. They are not honorable tonight." And then a giggle seemingly amplified by a maniac's megaphone shook the cab.
Russ felt the words in his mind. He could not hear a voice other than his own motormouth mind telling his thoughts, opening itself to interpretation and worse, suggestion. He swerved hard to the right as the turn to Ratliff Ferry loomed, for an instant visible. The Buick fishtailed into a 360, nearly losing itself in a drainage ditch. It was a powerful car despite its age and Russell Flournoy was no slouch behind the wheel. He played the brakes carefully and smoked the back tires as he worked the steering wheel furiously trying to shake the unseen tendrils whispering and listening to his mind.
"Fuck you! What do you want, you bastard? Who the fuck are you for Christ's sake!" His voice screamed out of reflex. It was the only part of his mind not touched by the presence.
"Strange you should implore the name of Christ considering what you have in your trunk." The voice chided him. He could feel the presence's joy. Russ, the man who could rubberband a scumbag back to Parchman with a mere shake of his shaved head never felt so powerless in his life.
"Go to hell! Leave me the hell alone then!" A small doe loped off to the left as the thundering motor pierced through the fog.
"In due time. Believe me, I shall place you there in due time." Russ could feel, if not on his skin the stirring pressure of two hands running themselves up his spine. He quivered as unseen hands ran their fingers up his skull, long rapier-thin claws flicking his ears. He could feel them rake the inside of his ear lobes, tearing tiny cuts open that seeped blood and stung as if the claws were tainted with turpentine. He convulsed in the seat, nearly loosing the road. There were no hands on him as he slapped crazily at his back and head. Dead center in the middle of his windshield, he saw two eyes.
Two green eyes peered at him through the glass but he refused to believe he was actually looking at them. They were not outside the car but instead, in him. Reading him like an open book.
"Jeanie's going to be so happy for herself." Suddenly his assailant was sitting in the passenger seat next to him. Flesh and bone, the aroma of a rotten soul permeating the car to the point Russ retched. He had no weapons except those he brought that were stowed in the trunk. Without hesitation, he rushed with an elbow to the demon's face. The blow was effortlessly deflected and answered with a subtle giggle. He jammed on the brakes and while he was thrown into the steering wheel, his passenger never flinched. The streetlights of Ratliff Ferry Landing suddenly loomed through the fog. He could not see through the fog to know where the parking lot ended and the water began. Thankfully, he knew there were trailers full of drunken fishermen and night partiers putting in and taking out for beer runs and delivery of those who had decided they had had enough camping on the river. People meant interloping by the police but he was one of the boys if they had to come help.
"Turn around, Russ."
He did it, forgetting all he had just realized. The tendrils were back now. Its hands flowing in his every muscle and nerve, his own body a flesh puppet suddenly.
"The late Mr. Jenkins was not of a particularly desirable vintage." The passenger somehow had the long-stored syringe holding E&J's blood in its hands. Russ was alternately allowed to think and be thought-controlled simultaneaously. How could he have gotten it? His watering eyes wondered. The passenger looked at him squarely in the face and, smiling through a thoroughly insipid pair of sharpened canines, squirted half of the syringe's contents down its throat.
It smacked its lips mockingly. Russ only stared ahead. The hands moved the wheel through his. The head moved side to side on command as the eyes scanned the road ahead. For an instant, the fog disappeared completely and the eyes were the vampire's. They stared at the world not from the tiny strip of road in Mississippi but from the clouds themselves. All around the world, Russ could see people in every facet of the milieu. And all they were in the eyes were forms encasing blood. Then the vision subsided and his own eyes were staring into his killer's as they embraced while floating into the cloud. He never felt the fangs rip his neck, for it was the bloodfeeder's neck then. He never recalled pulling the Buick over at the Old Trace parking area because his movements were not his own. He bled out slowly but in fact merely relinquished what was, in the vampire's mind, never really his. It was always just a meal on wheels.
Captain Milton Asbury sipped his obligatory cup of coffee at Jeannette Sutter's at four the next day. She sat quietly, absorbing the news of her ex-husband's disappearance. "It was a helluva thing," Asbury had just said.
"I thank you for telling me this in person, Captain. I'm sure it's been a long day."
"I've had better, Jeanie. I wish I had better news to tell you."
"What haven't you told me, Milt? You know you can shoot it straight to me."
"Looks like a con might have done him in, Jeanie. We found blood in the car that matches two people. We know that but the M.E. will determine for sure in a while."
"Russ wasn't kind to men who came in front of him, Milt. He had it in for the cons. He always figured one of the bangers' friends might get to him someday."
"We just don't know, Jeanie. I'll say this because we're family and I know where you were and who you were with last night, which has to stop by the way you idiot, but whoever got him had a lot of gear in the trunk of the car that lead us to believe that whoever did it had very bad intentions. Now we think somehow Russ might have fought and messed up the plan. Don't know it, wouldn't repeat it, hope I'm wrong. But despite the fact that this is a missing person case as of now, I wouldn't be expecting him to come up here needing a beer and a phone."
"He wouldn't get either from me, Milt. You know that."
"I expect not, Jeanie." Asbury drained the cup down and rose from the couch. He gave his stepsister a hug and walked out of the trailer. A text message came in on his phone just as he turned over the Ford's 454 motor. It was from one of the lead investigators flipping through files at Russell Flournoy's office.
All parolees on file accounted for except one who skipped out five months prior. Known gang member that is on apb and considered flight.