Winner of the contest Weird Tales first month and the Twisted Tales contest.
The Undead Hands of Revenge
1964 Bombay, India
A woman with a scarf over her head and Jacqueline sunglasses hiding her eyes raised the bottle, took a sip, grimaced, and said, “Crappy Indian beer.” Juliet would have ordered a martini, but she didn’t trust any dump in Bombay to have a clean glass. She ran her tongue across her teeth, yet couldn’t erase the taste. She spoke to the man across the table, “I’ll give you 10 Gs to kill my husband.”
Blue smoke spewed out of Dekon’s mouth. He rubbed the stubble on his pockmarked face. “What’s the plan?”
A Week Later
From the bottom of the stairs, Juliet could barely hear the TV above the thrashing of the rain. Her boring husband was so predictable. She leaned up and yelled, “I’m going to the concert, now.”
Singh yelled back, “Okay, have a good time.”
Juliet enjoyed the concert with her friends, had a drink, and a short chat, then left for her appointment with Dekon. Opening her umbrella, she leaned into the wind and hurried to the corner, rounded it, and stood under the overhead railroad bridge. A car pulled up. She got inside. “ Any problems, Dekon?”
“None. You were right about everything.”
“Find the jewelry?”
“Yeah, and I emptied all the drawers, and ripped open the sofa and chairs.”
“Good. You brought his hands, didn’t you?”
Dekon nodded. “Why do you want them?”
“Where are they?”
“In the glove compartment in the blue plastic bag. The cloth one contains the jewelry.”
Juliet took the blue bag. Looked inside. “I wanted to be sure.”
Dekon laughed. “Yeah. Who can you trust these days? Where’s the money?”
Juliet opened her bag and took out a thick wad of bills. “Here. Now, can you pull over to the curb? I’d like to dump these hands and the jewelry into the sewer.”
Into darkness they dropped. Alerted by the splash, something scruffy scurried over. As it sniffed at an open palm, the fingers closed and squeezed.
Inspector Atwal knocked on the door of 1206. He smiled at the peephole. After a moment the door opened. No credentials were shown nor did he introduce himself, for they had met at the crime scene.
Juliet stepped aside. “Come in, Inspector. Thank you for calling. Please have a seat. Would you like some tea?”
It was the first time for him to see a room at The Ritz. He was impressed. “Thank you for the offer, but this will be over in a few minutes.”
Juliet asked, “I understand you have some news. Have you arrested a suspect?”
“No, but I’d like you to look at a photo.” He pulled it out of a manila envelope. “Have you ever seen this man?”
Juliet took the photo. “I don’t believe so, Inspector. Who is he?”
“An expat named Samuel O’Connor. Went by the name Dekon. Quite unsavory.”
“Yes. You said went by. Is he dead?”
“Yes. He was found strangled this morning.”
Shocked, Juliet raised a hand to her mouth. “That’s terrible. Did he have anything to do with my husband’s murder?”
“Perhaps. We are presently looking for any connections.”
“Do you think it was done by the same people who killed my husband?”
“Again, we do not know, but something like this must be throughly investigated. I also would like to inform you that we have allowed your home to be cleaned, and you may return there if you wish. However, we’d like you to stay in the country a bit more. I hope this doesn’t inconvenience you.”
“It doesn’t Inspector. I intend to stay here until I find a buyer for the house.”
“I understand. This has been quite a travail for you. Well, that’s all. Thank you for your time.”
Juliet sat down on the sofa. She had to think. Had Dekon been bragging about the murder and killed for the money she had given him? Would anyone at the bar recognize her?
As the Inspector took the elevator down his suspicions grew that she was involved. He wondered how she would have reacted if he had told her that Dekon had been found with his head twisted till it leered between his shoulders. It would be difficult to gather evidence for her arrest, but he knew the spirit world often intervened to help those seeking revenge.
The day grew into one of those hot sultry overcast days typical of western India that time of year. Too uncomfortable to go outside, it made her nearly go mad to be trapped in her room. Finally, after sunset she couldn’t stand it any longer; she had to take at least a stroll. In black shorts and a white blouse she stepped outside into the din and dust of Bombay.
Juliet soon regretted her decision, for she felt as if malevolent eyes had found her. Despite her nervousness, she did some shopping at the farmer’s market before returning to her hotel room.
She placed her purchases on the table and went to take a shower. Stepping into the tub, she closed the curtains. As the warm spray washed away the stickiness of her sweat, she started to relax.
From the toilet bowl, two hands, pale and wrinkled, emerged from the water, dropped to the floor, and crept to the curtains. Slowly, they climbed until they reached the top.
Juliet closed her eyes and raised her face to the spray. Streams flowed down her neck and body, and began to dissolve her fears. Giving herself a slap on the wrist, she smiled.
A hand dropped over her mouth as another fell on her neck. There was a struggle and a slow end, for the grip on her neck eased each time they sensed her death. Finally, the hands crawled back to the toilet bowl to return to the sewers.
The next day, housekeeping had a rude surprise.
The triple murders were never solved.