THE NIGHT OF THE ACCORDION MURDERS
May 15th, 1979
So this is it, eh?
This is what you've got for me, huh, God? The short stick. Thanks a heap, mighty big of You.
After all we've been through.
I tried to do things Your way. I tried. You know I tried. It just didn't take.
I hate to point fingers, old man, but the way I see it, this is all Your fault.
This whole lousy life wasted.
Rotten childhood, miserable life as a grown man (a grown man, now there's a laugh), and now this…the corker! This! Dying like a chump here in this stinking fleabag apartment (what a dump) with no one, and nothing…
The blood's coming up more regular now every time I cough, but the hospital's out. I'd get pinched there for sure. Better just to wait this thing out and see what happens, me and this crummy bottle.
I'm not holding out much hope.
Who was that fruity poet? Rage, rage…against what? There's never been a fuckin' thing.
Mrs. Walters stood in Tawno's bedroom (well, the bedroom that WAS Tawno's before he shuffled off to Buffalo) reading his last words.
Something inside her, hammered in deep since childhood, knew damn well it was wrong to be reading someone else's diary, but hey - dead's dead and the live ones still need some entertainment. She smiled at that thought, and read on.
The air was dusty, heavy in the hot room. Mrs. Walters large belly rose and fell, shuddering with her breathing. She clamped down on the cigarette between her teeth, squinting in the smoke as she read. Ash dropped onto the pages of the book. She brushed it away.
"We're about done here, ma'am."
Mrs. Walters turned her head to the voice, keeping her eyes on the book.
"Huh?" said Mrs. Walters.
"I said we're about done here, Mrs. Walters…looks like we've got everything."
Mrs. Walters pulled her attention from the diary and regarded the voice.
"Yep, that's fine." she said.
"There wasn't too much to pick up, but we appreciate you calling us. Every little bit helps, ma'am."
Nelson, the Salvation Army volunteer, took off one work glove and extended his hand. Mrs. Walters took it.
"Ha! There wasn't much cuz there wasn't much of HIM!! He was a teeny little guy!" she said letting go of his hand, grinning.
"Oh. A little guy. A short man?" he said.
"No, not short…PLENTY short…a midget, or dwarf, or whatever. He was only about THAT big…no shit" she said.
"Well, I'll be." said Nelson.
"And a sonofabitch, t'boot! Real mean little bastard." she said dropping her cigarette, and grinding it out on the wood floor with her sneaker.
"You don't say? Well, it takes all kinds, don't it?" he said.
"No one could talk to him. You couldn't talk to him at all…little asshole." she said.
"Hmmm, that's too bad, ma'am. Too bad indeed." he said.
There was a silence in the room that was four seconds long, but felt much longer.
"Well, I'm going to go then. We sure appreciate your donation." he said.
"Well, he didn't have any family or any friends that I know of, so what was I gonna do, have a fire sale? I called you." she said.
"Fine, ma'am, fine." he said. He looked at the book in her hand.
"You want me to take that too?" he said.
Mrs. Walters shook her head.
"Nope…I think I'm gonna hang onto this. I could use a laugh. That little twerp was a nut job! Talking to God and all that hooey." she said, shaking the book.
"I'll be off then." he said.
"Thanks, Nelson. Oh, and if you know anybody who's looking for an apartment, we've got a vacancy!! Ha ha!!" she cackled.
"Will do." he said.
She stood in the empty room, and listened to Nelson walk down the three flights of wooden steps. She waited until she heard his van start up and drive away.
She sat down on a dead man's bed, lit another cigarette, and turned her attention back to the book.
Moving now. Floating. Slipping through the dark rooms and halls. I take back everything I said, God. This Death thing? Now THIS is livin'. Oh, don't get me wrong, I was pissed at You at first. Just pissed to be dead. Who wouldn't be? The idea's unpleasant. And though I'm still not sure what all you got in mind for me here, I'm sure enjoying the hell out of it. I'm loose as a goose. I ain't got no BODY, and no BODY'S got me! That short, decrepit, ugly, little body? Well, that's all over with, Charlie. For the first time in my short (ha ha) life, I'm free. I'm an ether man now. Lighter than air. Passing through walls and windows and ceiling beams. Hey, I think I'll go back and check out that stacked, red-headed broad in 507 again. You seen that lately, Big Man? Ouch! Nice work! Woah, Boss! Ain't this the life?
The telephone was ringing.
The Price Is Right was blaring.
Mrs. Walters was glaring.
She'd just eased her girth onto the sofa, and had settled in to watch the show. She held a cool glass of 7-Up in her left hand, a Pall Mall Gold in her right. She let out a frustrated "Ohhhh…"
Grunting, she pushed herself from the sofa and picked up the phone.
"Yeah? What is it?" she said.
"Oh, hello, Mrs. Walters. It's Nelson. From the Salvation Army? I hope I'm not disturbing you, ma'am." he said.
"Oh, it doesn't matter anymore, I'm missing my show. I'm missing my Price Is Right." she said.
"Oh, I'm terribly sorry, ma'am. I'll call back later." he said.
"No, no, it's ruined anyhoo. Whaddya want?" she said.
"Again, I am sorry. It's just something you said the other day…about a vacancy in your building? he said.
"Yeah, the painters just finished up in there this morning. It's like new. What, do you want it?" she said.
"Actually no, it wouldn't be for me. It would be for my mother, bless her heart." He said.
Two weeks later…
June 4th, 1979
“Unnh uh…hell no…” said Nelson’s mother.
She’d stopped cold at the threshold.
The keychain dangled in the lock. Room 500.
The apartment door was open, the smell of new paint wafting out into the hallway where the three of them stood.
Mrs. Walters and Nelson—just a step behind Nelson’s mother—exchanged a look.
Nelson’s mother didn’t move; she just stood there.
“Mama?” said Nelson to his mother’s back.
On a radio, behind a door down the hall, Bob Seger was trying to convince someone that they had tonight.
“Hey, Mama? What’s goin’ on?” Nelson said.
He reached out for his mother’s shoulder.
“My Jesus…” Nelson’s mother said.
She shifted her cane to her left hand and raised her right palm toward the ceiling. A truck rumbled by out on the street.
“Jesus, my Lord…” she said.
Nelson’s mother dropped her hand down to her side and spun around to face them. Her eyes were a serious business. She jerked her thumb at the apartment door.
“I ain’t livin’ in THERE. Oh, HELL no! Not in THAT room. Not in THAT mess,” Nelson’s mother said.
Hobbling on her cane and muttering, she elbowed past them toward the elevator.
“There’s a pesky little fellow’s still in there…” she said, pushing the button for the ground floor.
“Moving room to room, slipping through wood and floating through walls, seeing all there is to see. And believe you, me, there’s a world to see. I see you. Whenever I please. I watch you in your mirror. I see you. Everything. I see you when you’re sleeping and all that bit. In the shower. I’m there. I’m there when you get up to the Devil’s business too—front row center, watching all the action, pretty pretty. Fly on the wall. Invisible man. A gas, ladies and germs…it’s a gas…”
The recently deceased Tawno Biggs couldn’t have been happier with his current arrangement. He zipped merrily up and down the halls, through the rooms, all day, all night.
His most favorite place in the building though was room 507, that redhead’s room on the top floor near his old one.
He entered when he pleased and stayed as long as he liked. Watching.
He watched a lot.
He watched the redhead eat and watch tv. He watched her dress and undress. He liked that. He watched.
Watching was just fine…for now.
Sure, a bit later he’d begin to Desire. To Wish. And to Want. Want Her. More Her. Want More Her. And then, well, then the whole thing would go completely sideways.
But that was still down the road apiece.
The next morning he flitted to the ground floor and watched the redhead talk to the old hag landlady.
Mrs. Walters leaned up against the frame of her apartment doorway, listening…listening to Miss Big Tits who was standing in the hallway outside Mrs. Walter’s room going on and on about something. Again.
“It’s just…the strangest thing, Mrs. Walters. I know it sounds silly, I guess. But lately I don’t feel…completely comfortable in the apartment.”
Oh boy, thought Mrs. Walters. Everything had to be JUST SO with Miss Big Tits, didn’t it? What was it with these big-titted women? They always wanted their big-titty way. And they always seemed to get it.
“You don’t say…” Mrs. Walters said with a definite lack of enthusiasm. She thought of the world’s smallest violin.
“It’s like…it’s like, like something’s crawling on my skin when I’m in that room, I can’t explain it.” She visibly shuddered.
“Wait. Whaddya mean, crawling on you? Like bugs? I just had the whole damn place fumigated a few months ago. You don’t hear anyone else complaining, do ya, Mi..Jennifer?” said Mrs. Walters.
She almost slipped there and called her Miss Big Tits.
Jennifer…Jennifer. Jennifer Douglas. Whatever you do, don’t call her Miss Big Tits…don’t call her Miss Big Tits…
Although really, who was this little tramp kidding? She paid the rent wiggling her ass for tips at some joint. Someone in the building said she even used some fakey name when she danced…Brenda? Gina? No! Ginger…Ginger BLISS!
Ginger Bliss? Puh-lease.
Miss Big Tits…that’s who you are, Jennifer, honey.
“No, not bugs. Nothing like that. It’s like…no matter how many showers I take, I always feel…unclean in that apartment.”
Mrs Walters squinted up her face like she was tasting grapefruit.
“Unclean? Hey, this building’s spic and span, hon. I see to it! Unclean? Well, heh, that just might have to be on you,” Mrs. Walters snorted.
Jennifer sighed. She had been nice. Courteous, polite. But that last snide comment was the end of that.
“I want to change apartments…”
And here it was.
“Change apartments, whu…? Come on, darlin’, use your noodle! You’re making way too much outta this,” said Mrs. Walters.
“No. No, I’m not. I think…I want…to change apartments. Definitely.”
Mrs. Walters blew air from her nostrils.
Ginger Bliss…you are trying my goddamn patience.
“Fine,” Mrs. Walters said, rolling her eyes. “But I only have the two open now since the ol’ colored gal ended up taking that one…” Mrs Walters pointed down the hall.
Jennifer looked over her shoulder into the darkness then back at Mrs. Walters.
“So all’s I got is…top floor, dead midget’s room…” Mrs. Walters said.
“…or 203. Smaller than the one you’re in now, rent’s the same…” Mrs. Walters said.
Jennifer seemed to be doing a math problem in her head. Then she nodded.
“When can I move in?”
Nelson’s mother sat on her bed, listening to them talking down the hall.
She could hear everything through the thin walls. Every word.
And listening, her blood began to race. Because she knew exactly what that redheaded white girl was talking about. The bugs? The dirty feeling? That was part of the something else. Part of the something that wasn’t right around here.
That little fella.
She’d felt (seen) him that first day she’d been brought to the building when the horrible landlady had handed her the key (500). When she touched it she got a small shock, and then that key started to tingle in her hand. It made the bones in her finger and thumb vibrate. And when she put it into the lock, that key got hot. So hot she almost dropped it.
She saw him in her mind, even before the door creaked opened.
And then the door WAS open. And there he was.
He was standing (floating?) right there: a little man in an old tuxedo, bald-headed, huge bulging eyes, crazy smile a mile wide. He was clapping his hands with joy. Then he faded away like dust in the sunlight. She saw him for just a moment, but that was enough. Enough for her to know to get the devil out of Dodge.
A few minutes later she was down the elevator and outside into the safe light of day. She sat on the wall with Nelson and he tried to comfort her; he was such a good boy.
“It’s okay, mama, don’t you worry now. I’m sorry about this. We’ll just find another place somewhere else,” Nelson said.
His mother stared up at the top of a tree in the front yard.
Nelson wasn’t sure exactly what had happened to his mother when that apartment door opened. She hadn’t volunteered an explanation, and he knew enough not to ask for one. All he knew was that whatever happened, it wasn’t good.
That look on her face when she’d mentioned a ‘pesky little fellow’…
That same look had been giving him the gooseflesh since he was four years old.
“We’ll just have to keep our eyes open, that’s all, and find you something else. Or…you know what? We’ll move you in with us. How would that be?” Nelson said.
He held her hands in his. They were cold despite the summer.
His mother felt things. And saw things. Things nobody else could feel, things nobody else could see, like she was tuned into a strange channel. Not always. Sometimes there’d be a normal spell where nothing happened. But then, something would. And even though he was used to it by now, it still scared him. And he still felt afraid for her. Nelson always counted his blessings that HE never felt or saw those things. That was a weight he was sure he couldn’t carry.
Nelson’s mother sat under the warm sun and closed her eyes. She leaned forward on her cane.
“Naw, naw. I ain’t going to put you and your family out, and that’s the end of that talk. Thank you, son,” Nelson’s mother said.
“You’re not putting no one o…” Nelson started.
“Enough…” she said, opening her eyes.
She stabbed the air with her finger for emphasis.
“I just had me a moment up there. Thought I saw something. But, no…just my old eyes joking me again…”
Nelson started to say something, stopped, and scratched his collarbone instead.
“This place’ll do. It’ll be just fine, son. Fine…” she said.
Nelson drummed his fingers on the wall. His mother took in a deep breath.
“But…one thing. I don’t like that room too good. It’s too…high up for me. If that old elevator should break down, God forbid, I know I can’t walk all them stairs! But, you ask that lady if she’s got something on a low floor and I’ll…I’ll take another look,” she said.
“Mom…” Nelson said.
“And that’s that.” she said, tapping her cane once on the cement.
Nelson side-eyed her and raised his brows. He shook his head. “Alright, mama,” he said.
He was defeated. And very, very curious about his mother’s sudden change of heart.
And he had every reason to be.
Because after she’d come down the elevator scared to death, she caught her breath and waited until her heart had stopped beating so fast. Then she came up with…quite a plan.
May 15th, 1947.
Jack Biggs was too busy handing out cigars to hear the rest of the doctor’s sentence…
“A boy? Holy smokes! The doc says it’s a boy, fellas!!” said Jack, shaking hands with the other expectant fathers in the waiting room.
“Mr. Biggs?” said Doctor Kestenbaum.
“I’m a Pop, a POP! Well, howdya like them apples? Have a cigar!” said Jack.
“Mr. Bi…” said Kestenbaum.
“…Yippee!!” hollered Jack, his hand cupped to his mouth.
It echoed down the long hospital corridor.
“Shhhhh!” shushed a passing nurse.
“I feel like a million buc…”
“MR. BIGGS!!” shouted Doctor Kestenbaum.
That got Jack’s attention. He turned toward the doctor.
“Oh…yeah. Sorry, Doc…I got a little carried away there. Cigar?” said Jack.
Kestenbaum stared at him. Then he looked at the floor.
“Doc…what is it?” said Jack.
Complications was what is was. Despite all their best efforts, the doctors just couldn’t stop Mirela’s bleeding. She was still alive, but just barely.
Kestenbaum needed Jack to go to her side, comfort her, and say his goodbyes.
A ripcord tore open the center of Jack’s chest and everything, everything, spilled out onto the tile.
Jack and Mirela met in Rome. Not quite as romantic as it sounds. It was at the end of the Big War. It was hell on earth.
Jack’s platoon had bivouacked on the north side of town near the Villa Borghese. They were helping out where they could; cleaning up, maintaining a command presence, making sure that everybody had something to eat, and so forth.
Everything was broken and filthy, and it was going to take time, know-how, and elbow grease to square it.
One June afternoon Jack had been tinkering with a busted-down tank, trying without much luck to unbend a bent gun travel lock. He’d given up for the moment and was wiping sweat off his neck when saw an English squadron on foot coming toward him. They were slowly dragging themselves down the road. About a hundred of them. They looked beat.
In tow they had a small group; eight shabby, frightened people, each carrying with them what looked like all their worldly belongings.
“Well, well…look what the cat dragged in! Whattya got there, Redcoat?” Jack asked with a half grin.
“Load a’ Romanians…picked ‘em up on the coast near Termoli.” said the British soldier. Then he added “…ya jolly John Wayne wanker!”
Every soldier within earshot let out a loud laugh, including Jack. Jack stuffed his bandana into his back pocket and stuck out his hand.
“Glad to know ya, Frank.”
“Likewise, Jacky boy.”
“So Romanians, ya say? Well, don’t that just beat it?” said Jack.
“Yes, indeed. Refugees. Rowed in on an ‘omemade skiff…” said Francis.
Whew - Jack whistled, pushing his cap to the back of his head.
“Ain’t that something? Running from the Rooskees maybe?” said Jack.
“Dunno. Can’t understand a bloody word they say. ‘Romania’ is all I got. Christ only knows how they got as far as they did. Their boat blew to pieces when it hit land, and there they were on the beach…stuck.” said Francis.
“That’s a helluva thing.” said Jack.
“When we came across ‘em, you shoulda seen their faces, poor bastards. They thought we’d come to kill ‘em.” said Francis.
“Well…you did good, soldier…” said Jack nodding.
“All in a day’s work, mate.” Francis fired an invisible bullet from his finger, winked at Jack, and kept moving down the dusty street.
The Romanians moved slowly along with the soldiers in a tight huddle; blankets, duffels, covered faces.
“Hey, Frank!” yelled Jack. “Make yourself at home! There’s a chow line on the next block! Get yourself something to eat. And make sure these folks get fed too!”
“Much obliged to your Uncle Sam!” Francis waved without turning.
As they shuffled away, one of the refugees turned back to look at Jack. A little wisp of a thing that Jack had assumed was a small boy. But when he saw her eyes, it was no boy. No how.
It was Mirela.
One small look. From those devastating eyes. He couldn’t breathe.
And the kid with the arrow sunk a bullseye straight into Jack’s heart.
You know the rest.
Now here he was; two years and a couple of oceans away from that first look. He held Mirela’s hand. She was white as the hospital linen she lay upon.
“You’re gonna be fine, kid. Trust me.” said Jack.
“I don’t…think…is…telling a truth…” Mirela said, trying to smile.
“We’re gonna get you patched up, back on your feet, and then you and me and our son, we’re gonna go home. Just watch…you watch. We’re gonna live a long, long life together, doll.” Jack said.
“Okay, Jack…” she was breathing harder now.
“That’s the ticket.” Jack said.
“Jack…I…have name for…the boy…”
“Yeah, a name? That’s swell, Mirela…swell. What is it?”
“His name…Tawno…Tawno Biggs…”
Jack arched his brow.
“Tawno? What tree didja pluck that from?” he said.
“Is R…Ro…Romanian.” said Mirela.
She was going.
“Okay…whatever you want, kid. Tawno it is. Sold.” said Jack. “DOCTOR!”
“When I was…little girl…I did a bad…very bad thing…to a lady. She curse…me…and my family. We always…have black luck…ever since…we…we always will…” said Mirela.
Her eyes rolled up into her head.
“Mirela?” Jack said “MIRELA, stay with me!
“She…cursed…us all…” she whispered.
It was the last thing she ever said.
May 19th, 1947.
Let me set the scene:
It was several days later.
Back at the apartment, it was just the three of them; Jack, baby Tawno, and the bottle that Jack was pulling from every couple of minutes.
It was 11.40 on a Tuesday night. Outside was one of those pissing Southern California downpours that brings the flowers and all that happy horse shit.
Jack sat in the dark in the tiny living room of the already itsy-bitsy apartment (the apartment that Mirela had decorated with her own sweet hands). He was hammered-drunk, chain-smoking Chesterfields, and staring hard at the crib. Real hard. The pain inside of him was a cold sickening knot that pulsed stronger with every heartbeat.
There was only one word - WHY?
He’d been Jack Biggs…All-American kid.
He’d been Jack Biggs…the decorated Marine.
He’d been Jack Biggs…ol’ good time Jack. Ol’ happygolucky, Jack.
That’s what he’d been. But what was he now?
He was a broken man, a widower, a single father with his life broken into a million tiny pieces.
How was he going to do this on his own? Without her? How was he going to do anything without her?
And the baby…he couldn’t even look at it.
The baby…he had to face it…there was something wrong with…it. Something was very wrong.
When it needed food, he fed it.
When it needed changing, he changed it.
Other than that all he felt was (what was it exactly?)…it was powerful whatever it was. It had taken away the only thing that mattered in Jack’s world. His Mirela.
The wind picked up outside and the rain pounded against the windows.
He pulled himself up, out of the chair.
He picked up the bottle. Put it to his lips. Stopped. Put it down again. He staggered across the room toward the crib.
The baby...Tawno (what the hell kind of name is that for a kid in America, for Christ’s sake?)
Jack stopped a couple of feet in front of the crib. He didn’t look inside.
A sound came from the crib. A tiny coo then a revolting gurgle, like squeezing a handful of Jello.
The god damned baby.
Jack wanted his life back.
And something began to form (was placed?) in Jack’s mind as he stood there with the rain pounding the street outside.
It was an unpleasant thought. A small dark spot in his mind. Like a black pebble.
He pushed the thought away, and took a step back from the crib. He moved back over to the table, picked up the bottle, and took a long drink.
Rain, wind, gurgle.
The black unpleasant spot in his thoughts suddenly came racing back. Only this time it wasn’t just a pebble. It was a black rock. He could see it! He could see it in the hollow of his skull, turning over and over as if on a spit. And it was no longer small, it was a stone the size of a fist.
Plumber’s Wrench - a voice said. The voice sounded like it was right behind him. Jack spun around.
“Who the fuck?”
I said… Plumber’s Wrench.
He shut his eyes and there it was…the stone. The stone was speaking to him.
“Plumber’s wrench?” Jack said.
On the wall in front of Jack, a movie began to play.
There was the hospital. There was the bed. There was Mirela. His beautiful Mirela. She looked fine, in perfect health. She smiled at Jack. She lifted her arm and reached out a closed hand to Jack.
Jack stood there in the living room, his mouth open. He reached out to her.
Mirela opened her hand. Inside was a black stone.
“She…cursed…us all…” Mirela said.
Then Mirela began to scream.
“Mirela!!!” Jack said to the movie on the wall.
Mirela screamed and screamed, the hand with the stone outstretched to Jack.
The movie on the wall stopped.
Jack was still screaming.
And now Tawno was screaming from the crib.
Jack stopped screaming.
Tawno kept screaming - a thin reedy sound. Horrible, like a shrieking kazoo.
“Stop!” Jack yelled.
Tawno kept screaming.
“I said STOP!!!” Jack roared.
Tawno screamed louder.
And Jack suddenly understood everything, fully and completely.
Plumber’s wrench…you’re god damned right.
Tawno’s screams filled the building.
(not for long, little sailor)
Jack marched into the kitchen, filled with purpose. He opened the cupboard beneath the sink. There was his toolbox. He snapped open the latches and lifted the lid. There it was, right on top. Easy as pie. He picked up the plumber’s wrench and started toward the living room, toward Tawno, toward the problem.
Because after all, Tawno was the problem.
And Jack, had the solution.
Mirela had always told Jack to be mindful of the small throw rug on the kitchen floor. The one that sat right in front of the refrigerator.
“Jack…watch out on rug…it slip…don’t break neck.” Is what Mirela used to say.
But no one ever broke their neck of course. Not until now anyway.
Jack, wrench in hand, took one final step toward the living room. His right foot touched the throw rug and suddenly he was airborne, falling backwards. The wrench slipped from his fingers and up into the air as he tried to right himself. He hit the hard kitchen floor with his back, immediately followed by his head smacking the linoleum. There was the snap and TOKK of his neck breaking, a sound like someone hit a large ping-pong ball.
Looking up toward the ceiling, Jack noticed something coming at him fast. But he couldn’t move.
The upside of the thing was that he was only paralyzed from the neck down for a second or two.
“But…I was the All-American kid.” Jack thought.
The plumber’s wrench came down - SMACK - right between his eyes, crushing his skull, muddling his brain into a gray paste.
Tawno stopped screaming.
May 15th, 1953
Los Angeles Orphans Home Society
Tawno’s arms were outstretched.
He was standing on his tiptoes, reaching up toward her. She was looking down at him, smiling.
Tawno, only six years old, hadn’t seen much in the way of true beauty in his life, but at that moment he knew that he was looking into the most beautiful face in the world.
Into the eyes of an angel.
The children had all been assembled in the large front foyer and were told that they’d be receiving a special guest.
There were thirty-three children in all, standing in three perfect lines of eleven. They were scrubbed fresh, and dressed up pretty as an Easter Sunday.
They had no idea who was coming to see them. A surprise.
The matrons and administrators were quiet, but many of them seemed to nearly crackle with a nervous excitement.
The adults and children waited.
At 2.52 pm a black town car pulled slowly into the driveway and stopped at the curb outside the building’s double doors.
The children leaned forward in anticipation.
The driver’s door opened. A chauffeur with sad eyes and a walrus mustache emerged and walked primly around the car to the back passenger side. He leaned forward, opened the door, and doffed his cap.
For a moment, nothing happened.
The children in the foyer craned their necks to see better.
Then, a white high-heel attached to long elegant leg appeared. The heel tapped the pavement. The chauffeur offered a gloved hand to the passenger.
Suddenly, the children began to cheer. They knew who it was before she even got out of the car.
The children were hollering and waving frantic arms around as the orphanage’s most well-known former resident stepped from the car into the bright light of the Hollywood sun.
She wore a simple white dress and expensive black sunglasses, and she waved at the children as she stepped from daylight into the cool of the Society’s front lobby. The children waved back, yelling her name.
The head of the orphanage, Mr. Leslie Carlyle, stepped forward and took her hand.
“We are so very pleased and grateful to have you with us today, Miss Monroe!” he said.
He extended a pen to her.
“Thank you so much for revisiting with us. Won’t you sign our visitor’s book, please?”
“Certainly, Mr. Carlyle. ‘Course it would be my pleasure.” she said.
She smiled and took off her sunglasses. There was the face.
“Oh my…” said Carlyle, who’d broken out in a sweat and was now looking like he was going to melt right into the floorboards.
- Norma Jeane Mortenson
Then she turned away from Carlyle and the book, and toward the children.
“Hello, my darlings! I’m back!” she said, beaming.
The kids went ape. They moved forward to gather around her.
Then it happened.
“Make way!” The voice said. “Step aside!”
Of course, all the children wanted Marilyn’s attention, but it was Tawno Biggs, all two feet of him, who elbowed his way through (“Ow!) (“Hey, that was my eye!”) and stepped in front of everyone else to get to Marilyn first.
“Tawno! Good Lord, mind your manners, boy!” said Carlyle, shaking a red fist.
Tawno got right in front of Marilyn and saluted her with two fingers off his forehead.
“Oh goodness! Well, aren’t you just the most precious little thing?” she said.
She reached down and picked him up.
In mid-lift she seemed to have a realization. You could read it on her face. What she thought was a toddler was actually an older boy with something…something wrong.
“What is your n…name, sw…sweetie?” she grunted with surprise at his weight.
“Tawno!!! Tawno Biggs!!!” he said in his horrible phlegm-croak of a voice.
Her eyes got just slightly wider.
“Oh dear, you’re a big boy, aren’t you!” she said.
“Yeah, a big boy!! That’s me, sister!” he said.
Marilyn started to put him down.
“No, up, UP!!” I wanna stay up here with you!!” he shouted.
“Alright now, son, that’ll do!!” Carlyle said attempting to help Tawno down off the woman.
The other children began;
“Hey, give somebody else a chance!”
“Get off her, Tawno, ya drip!”
“Leave her alone, Biggs!”
Marilyn was trying to gently set the boy down, and Carlyle was trying to help when suddenly Tawno wrapped his legs around Marilyn’s thigh.
“NO!!!! Fuck you!!! She’s mine!! All mine!” Tawno screamed. He began humping her leg. He grabbed Marilyn by the hair.
“Oh goodness!! Oh my!! said Marilyn.
She pushed and beat at the midget boy with her palms, all while trying to remove his tiny fingers from her hair.
“Fuck YOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!” Tawno shrieked.
He gave Marilyn’s hair a yank, then he jumped down onto the floor and tumbled, rolling and wobbling like a dropped football. He stood up, put his fingers out like claws, and bared his teeth at everyone.
“You fuckers!!!” he shouted.
The adults tried to surround him, but he found an opening and ran screaming down the corridor.
He ran out the back door, out into the garden, slamming the hallway door with all his might. The echo sounded like a cannon went off in the building.
Carlyle turned away from the hallway and back to Marilyn.
“I’m so terribly sor…” he began.
But Marilyn wasn’t there.
A car door closed outside. An engine started.
“She’s leaving!” Carlyle said.
The children and adults began running toward the car.
“No, don’t go!”
“We’re sorry, Marilyn!!”
The car took off with a squeal, spitting pebbles onto the driveway.
The kids ran after the car.
“We love you!”
Marilyn turned and looked out the back window at the children running behind the car. Her mascara was running down her cheeks. She blew a kiss and waved.
She looked so sad.
The car turned right and was swallowed by the Vine St. traffic.
Carlyle, normally a very patient man, exploded.
“That’s the last straw!! That’s it!” He yelled. “Where is he?”
Nurse Peters pointed out the window toward the Society’s grounds.
Carlyle sighed and stomped down the long corridor toward the door to the garden. His face and neck were nearly purple.
The children began to follow behind him.
Carlyle halted. So did the children. Without turning he spoke.
“Stop!!!” He said. “Back to the foyer.”
The children made disappointment noises.
“Nurse Peters! Come with me.” said Carlyle.
The two of them opened the door at the end of the hallway and exited into the garden. It wasn’t a large garden, but it was dense with flowering trees and thick shrubs. It was hot out there too. The plant life seemed to collect all the heat and send it back out in broiling waves toward them.
Carlyle and Nurse Peters walked slowly and carefully. There was no telling what Tawno might do. This wasn’t his first offense at the orphanage. Not by a long shot. There was a laundry list…
Social Services has taken Tawno in for a spell after his father’s death. Nobody was really certain what exactly had happened back there at the apartment. A body. A baby. A tragedy. Not much to go on, and that’s about where the cops left it. Sleeping dogs.
After that, Tawno was shuffled and shuttled around from orphanage to orphanage.
At ten months old, Tawno was adopted from a county facility by Ron and Peg Clyde, a kind young couple from Monrovia, who weren’t able to have children of their own.
Three weeks later, Tawno turned up back at the facility. Left on the doorstep of reception in a picnic basket. There was a brief note:
“We can’t. We’re sorry. People say that this is taking the easy way out. Funny, there’s nothing easy about it…
Ron and Peg Clyde”
The facility tried to reach the Clyde’s by telephone, and when there was no response for several days, Director Cathcart drove out to the house personally to speak with the Clyde’s. The house was empty. The Clyde’s had vanished.
Tawno went right back into the system. More government care. More red tape. And more orphanages. Many more.
Then he was transferred to the Los Angeles Orphans Home Society, one of the finest children’s care centers on the entire West Coast.
The head nurse there, Lorraine Peters, had been examining case files on children who were wards of the State. She ran across Tawno’s folder and became interested.
She thought maybe they could help him.
He was transferred.
It didn’t take.
Right about the time Tawno was learning to walk and talk, two things became obvious to those around him:
One: Tawno was a midget.
Two: There was something very wrong upstairs with Tawno.
By age four, he was an emotional storm, a nightmare for the nurses and other children around him.
He had what his nurses referred to on several occasions as, “Vast emotional extremes, and severe disconnects with most given realities.”
When things didn’t go Tawno’s way, he had what they used to call “Conniption fits.” Screaming, yelling, hitting, crying, and terrorizing everyone around him until he had to be physically subdued.
On these occasions he was placed in the room at the end of the hall.
It was far away from the other children, and the inside walls were padded. Everyone called it The Quiet Room. In there, Tawno could holler at the top of his voice for as long as he liked. No one could hear a thing.
Tawno became such a consistent problem that finally The Quiet Room was made his permanent bedroom. The isolation seemed to suit him just fine.
The day Tawno turned five he was sitting on his bed, tearing paper, when his padded door opened and a nurse asked him to please accompany her to the reception area.
“Eat the fart.” he said.
She lowered her eyes and stared at him.
“Aw, frig.” he said.
He got up and started down the hall with her.
He grumbled and stomped toward reception making short, loud raspberries through his lips in time with his steps.
There, waiting for him at reception, was Mr. Carlyle and Nurse Peters.
“Happy Birthday, Tawno!!” They said in unison.
Nurse Peters held a small cake with five lit candles.
Tawno eyed them suspiciously.
“This is for you, young man.” said Nurse Peters.
“Yeah? What’s the catch?” said Tawno.
“No, catch, Tawno…it’s your birthday. Since you’ve never really had a proper one we thought we’d make a little party for you today.” said Carlyle.
Tawno looked at Carlyle. Then at Peters.
“Yeah?” said Tawno. “Now what?”
“You blow out your candles and eat your cake!” said the nurse.
“All for me?” said Tawno slowly approaching Carlyle and Peters.
“All for you…” said Carlyle.
“Holy smokes. Gee, thanks” he said.
He leaned up toward the cake, inhaled, cleared his throat, looked up at Carlyle and spit right in his eye.
“Ohhh!!” cried Carlyle.
Tawno then reached underneath the cake, and pushed it forward into Nurse Peters chest. She fell backwards, hard, her uniform covered and smeared.
“Ha ha!! Cake tits!! Cake tits!! Cake tits!!” screamed Tawno, clapping his tiny hands together madly.
He got three weeks in The Quiet Room for that stunt.
After that, whenever he was out of his room he was constantly monitored. Someone was always watching him, waiting for him to act out.
And he’d been on his best behavior ever since. Seventeen months and not one black mark on his chart.
Today, Marilyn Monroe had just left the orphanage in humiliation.
Today, Tawno was out there in the garden.
Today, Carlyle and Peters crept very quietly and very slowly along the outside path, those plants radiating heat at them like tiny green furnaces.
There was a squeal.
Carlyle and Peters stopped.
A louder pained squeal.
They looked at each other.
“Wait here, Lorraine.” said Carlyle.
Carlyle started walking again. As he rounded a large overgrowth of coyote brush there was Tawno.
Tawno was sitting in the dirt, criss-cross, applesauce. He was covered in blood. Drenched with it. His red hands were up to his mouth and he was gnawing on something.
A large, grey rat.
Tawno was tearing at it’s body with his teeth, ripping hunks of flesh out of it’s side and stomach, swallowing the meat as fast as he could. The rat’s back legs were still moving.
Carlyle couldn’t believe what he was seeing. He was frozen.
Then there was scream as Nurse Peters came up behind Carlyle. She screamed and then screamed again.
Tawno looked up at the two of them, his face and hands wet and glistening red.
“That’s my RATTY, DADDY!!!” Tawno yelled. He smiled. Fur coated his teeth.
“That’s it…I’m done.” said Carlyle, turning and walking back toward the building.
“Tomorrow, I’m shipping him to Camarillo. The Children’s Treatment Center Complex. Maybe they can do something with him.” said Carlyle.
He looked back over his shoulder. Tawno was still smiling.
“Cause I’m done…” Carlyle said.
May 15th, 1927
I ain’t no seer.
I can’t predict the future or tell what’ll be.
I can’t touch a person’s hand and know things about them, or hold an object that belonged to one who’s passed and get a sense of them.
I can’t do any of them things.
Them powers might sometimes be thought of as a gift.
But what I got ain’t no gift.
- From the private journal of Mildred Nelson.
June 16th, 1979
Marengo Arms Apartments (Room 301)
The room was quiet except for the sound of Stan, who was sitting cross-legged in the corner strumming his guitar. He was trying to figure out the changes to that song he heard on the radio, how did it go? Something about “once I had a love, and it was divine, soon found out I was losing my mind…”
There was more but Stan couldn’t remember it. So he kept idly strumming away, hoping the words might eventually come to him.
Alice was on the floor in the living room, writing.
She always wrote on the floor, legs tucked underneath of her, curled forward in a ball position. Stan thought it was strange and oddly adorable.
He strummed and stared off into space.
That was when the little man walked out of the dark of the kitchen.
Stan stopped playing. His mouth fell open.
The man was about three feet tall, bald-headed except for little wisps of hair slicked back above his ears. He wore an old tuxedo from years ago. He had a red bow tie. He looked absolutely furious. He walked from the kitchen, through the living room directly toward Alice. Stan set the guitar aside not knowing exactly what he was going to do next. The little man was now a foot of two from Alice. He walked angrily past her and faded into a wall.
“What the fuck?” Stan said to himself.
Alice jumped up from the floor like she’d been stung by a bee, and stood in the living room looking left and right.
“What the fuck was that?” She said.
“You saw him?” Stan said.
“I didn’t see anyone. Someone walked past me.” She said.
February 1st, 1927
The M School
Miss Heather stood at the blackboard, discussing adverbs and blah, blah, blah.
Mildred Nelson, normally a much more attentive student, was a million miles away staring out of the schoolhouse window, a goofy grin frozen on her face.
She was lost in love.
Poor ol’ Stuckey Webb had her heart. And he didn’t even know it.
Stuckey was new in class. 13 years old, just like Mildred.
He was tall and confident with a warm smile.
Mildred, who’d always set her concentrations on school-only, was not only surprised, but terribly annoyed by her sudden attraction to Stuckey. It made her feel foolish.
She took to writing in her book about it:
January 13th, 1927
Math test tomorrow.
Some dumb new boy joined our class today.
January 14th, 1927
I got an A- on the test!
Stuckey? That’s a dumb name.
January 17th, 1927
I had a dream about that new boy on Friday night. I hate him. I hated him all weekend.
January 18th, 1927
Stuckey asked to borrow my eraser today. I didn’t notice it before but he has very pretty eyelashes. Dumb!
January 19th, 1927
SW talked to me today as I was leaving class. He’s actually not quite as dumb as I thought. He talked to me and looked right in my eyes when he did. It made me shake.
January 20th, 1927
SW smiled at me twice today! I thought I was going to die!
Mildred’s book began filling up with entries about Stuckey, his name circled, surrounded by hearts.
Mildred had it bad.
But she didn’t know if Stuckey was just nice, or if there was a possibility that he really LIKE liked her.
She wished there was a way she could know what Stuckey felt.
She looked across the room. There was Stuckey. Elbows on the desk, chin resting in his palms.
She had no idea that in a just few moments, her life would never be the same again.
June 16th, 1979
Marengo Arms Apartments (Room 104)
They sat at the kitchen table;
Mildred, Jean-Claude, Lady Mia, and Big Mary.
Big Mary was running the show. A fool could see that.
Mildred, being a God-fearing woman, wasn’t completely convinced she was doing the right thing by calling on Mary, but they’d known each other since they were children and Mildred trusted that anything they were about to do, dark as the roots were, was strictly in the service of Almighty God, praise His name.
She closed her eyes and said a prayer.
On the kitchen table were five candles set inside a pentagram.
This made Mildred very uncomfortable. She began to cross herself.
Big Mary quickly reached her hand across the table and stopped Mildred.
“No, girl. You gotta stay open. Completely open. Unprotected.” Mary said.
Mildred cleared her throat and nodded.
Big Mary reached into her purse and pulled out a small jar full of what looked like herbs. She put that in the center of the pentagram.
Jean-Claude was Big Mary’s man. He was older, late seventies. He knew about the things most people didn’t want to know about. He’d traveled. It was etched on his face. He’d been involved in these kind of things before. Many times.
“Do you have a pan, girl?” Big Mary asked Mildred.
“Yeah, I got me a pan.” Mildred said.
She reached down and opened the cupboard next to her and pulled out a saucepan.
“This do?” Mildred asked.
“It will” Big Mary said taking it.
Big Mary put it on the kitchen floor.
Mildred frowned, and thought what a sad looking sight that was; an empty pan on a kitchen floor.
Lady Mia was Big Mary’s friend. When Mia was a little girl someone placed a hex on her - a whammy they called it where she came from back in Bayou Country. Story was that Mia had died. There was a funeral and she was buried. A week later she came walking through her parent’s front door like nothing had ever happened. She had no explanation for what had happened. Now Mia knew things. Lady Mia had done this before too.
February 1st, 1927
The M School
Sitting there in class, Mildred opened her book.
…I wish I could know what was going on in people’s heads…
She closed the book and looked up toward the blackboard and to Miss Heather.
But something looked strange. Wrong.
Miss Heather now had a clear head. Wait - not just clear…it was a glass head. It glinted, reflecting the afternoon sun streaming through the window. Mildred couldn’t understand it, but she could see right Miss Heather’s head clear through to the blackboard, like someone had taken a water pitcher and stuck it on her body. Mildred’s heart began to race.
Then there a was a sound - CLINK - CLINK.
That was when Mildred noticed that Miss Heather’s glass head had two small black stones bouncing around inside of it.
Each time Miss Heather’s moved her head the rocks tinked and dinked against the glass.
“What the devil?” Mildred said to herself.
She looked around to see if any of her fellow students were seeing what she was seeing.
They all had glass heads too.
All of the heads began clinking with black stones with every movement.
Some of the students had just a few stones rattling against the glass. Some had more. Stinky Perdue’s glass head was almost completely full of stones.
The sounds in the classroom were deafening.
PING. CLANG. BINK. SPANG.
Mildred leaned her head back and looked up, trying for a moment to escape what she was seeing, maybe wish it away.
She stared up at the blank ceiling trying to clear her head.
Then on the ceiling a movie started playing.
She’d only seen a few movies before, and those were on the tiny screen of the nickelodeon in town. This was something else.
The white screen was ten feet by ten feet, surrounded by a thin black border, like a picture frame.
A scratchy countdown started silently on the screen.
The screen turned black and big white letters appeared:
MILDRED PICTURES PRESENTS…
“They All Have Rocks In Their Heads!”
With just her eyes, Mildred ventured a quick look downward at her classmates.
Miss Heather’s Glass Head was still talking and panging.
The Glass Headed Kids were still sitting there, dinking away.
Glass Head Stuckey still had his chin in his palms. Clong!
Mildred looked back up.
The film played.
Ragtime piano music began.
The title card faded into what looked like a doctor’s office. A kind-faced doctor walked into the room, shut the door, and sat on the edge of his desk.
“Hello, Mildred.” The doctor on the ceiling said. “You’re probably wondering what’s happening to you right now.”
“That’s understandable.” The doctor said. “But it’s nothing to be frightened of. Quite the opposite actually. It turns out you’re a very special girl. Very special. And without getting into all the technical mumbo-jumbo, the long and short of it is this: The Universe has chosen you for something. Surprised?”
Mildred nodded again.
“The Universe chose you a long time ago. The Universe wants to give you something.” Said the doctor.
June 16th, 1979
Marengo Arms Apartments (Room 104)
Big Mary again reached into her bag. She pulled out a small jar filled with red.
“Mary…my Lord God.” Mildred said.
“Hush up now…” Said Big Mary. “You called ME. Remember?”
Mildred breathed out, nodded, fanned her face with her hands.
“Jean-Claude…” Said Big Mary. “Lights.”
Jean-Claude got up and flicked the kitchen light switch off. He sat back down. The room was now just candlelight and the four faces.
Mary reached into her bag again.
“The most important thing” Said Mary.
She took an empty green bottle out of her bag. She placed it on the table.
“Now we ready.” Said Mary. “Let’s be very quiet for a few moments.”
The room was still, silent.
Mary picked up the red jar and unscrewed the lid with a small popping sound. She picked up the green bottle and poured a few drops from the jar into the bottle.
“You got to build a base.” Mary whispered.
Jean-Claude and Lady Mia began to quietly whisper in unison.
“Build a base. Build a base. Build a base. Build a base…”
Mary leaned down and poured the rest of the red into the pan on the kitchen floor. The sound of the liquid hitting the pan went straight to Mildred’s bones. She gasped.
“Oh, Lord, Lord…” Mildred said to herself.
“It’s spilled now. No going back. Join hands.” Said Big Mary.
The four took each other’s hands.
“Eyes shut.” Said Big Mary.
The four shut their eyes. Everything was still.
There was an audible thump from the ceiling above them.
“Oh dear.” Said Mildred.
“Quiet. Keep your eyes shut.” Said Big Mary.
February 1st, 1927
The M School
The film had ended. It disappeared from the schoolhouse ceiling.
Mildred was leaned back in her chair. She was exhausted. She felt like she could sleep for a week.
Once again she looked around at her class.
All clinking glass heads. Rattling, clanking.
She took a breath and ever-so-slightly unfocused her eyes.
The heads slowly faded back to flesh and bone. Normal.
Her heart skipped a beat.
She now narrowed and refocused her eyes. The heads became glass again.
She could control it!
She went quickly back and forth, heads, glass, heads, glass. Like putting on and taking off a pair of prescription spectacles.
And she knew what the stones were now as well…
From the movie:
“Mildred, the world is divided into GoodSouls and BadSouls.
Unfortunately, the more stones in a person’s head, the crueler and meaner that person is.
Fewer stones are better.
But Mildred, no one’s perfect, everybody has at least a few stones in them.
That’s just how people are built: a little bad, and trying to keep it contained.
What the Universe has given you, dear, is the power to see who’s who. To see and know the GoodSouls and the BadSouls.
You can trust the GoodSouls.
And the BadSouls are always up to no good.
Fewer stones are better.
You have a responsibility. You now know what someone’s going to do before they do it. You’ll carry this now.”
That last part didn’t sound that great to Mildred. That didn’t sound like a power as much as a curse.
June 16th, 1979
Marengo Arms Apartments (Room 104)
And Big Mary began to speak…
“Aziel, Castiel, Lamisniel, Rabam, Erlei, and Belam. I call upon you.
By the means of the True God. By the means of the Living God
Who created the mountain, then crushed it to rubble…”
Jean-Claude and Lady Mia spoke together…
“To rubble. To rubble. To rubble. To rubble…”
June 16th, 1979
Marengo Arms Apartments (Inner Wall)
Tawno had been floating dormant in the dark. Not really here. Not really there. It’s something one eventually discovered when faced with eternity, unencumbered by the nuisance of the corporeal…
You got bored and shut it down into fucking neutral once in awhile.
But now Tawno was awakened by something pulling at him. Tearing at him.
It was as if he was suddenly covered with flesh again, and someone had a burrowed into it with a meat hook, and was yanking him by it.
“Argggh!!! What is this?!!” Tawno shrieked.
He was yanked out from behind the wall and dragged into the living room and across the floor of Room 502.
The chubby man who was sitting naked on the sofa there, with nudie magazines spread out in front of him while he furiously masturbated, didn’t notice Tawno bouncing across his floor, howling and wailing.
June 16th, 1979
Marengo Arms Apartments (Room 104)
Big Mary continued…
“You, who are every counterfeit fashioned against Him. You, who make the sea go dry. You, suspended in spirit’s oblique minister, will now establish Earth movement…”
Jean-Claude and Lady Mia were louder now…
“Earth movement. Earth movement. Earth movement. Earth movement…”
June 16th, 1979
Marengo Arms Apartments (Room 502)
A voice, the loudest Tawno had ever heard, boomed forth…
And Tawno was yanked from the floor up into a standing position. He stood there, stunned for a moment.
He noticed the masturbating man on the sofa.
The voice spoke again…
A whirlwind of whipping, green air rose from the floor and began circling Tawno.
“What the shit is this?” Tawno said.
The green air spun once around Tawno and dropped, retreating back into the floor.
Tawno was now dressed in a tuxedo with a bright, red bow tie. He looked down at himself.
“Hey!! What’s with the duds?!!” Tawno screamed at no one.
June 16th, 1979
Marengo Arms Apartments (Room 104)
Mary leaned back in her chair, eyes closed. The thumping sound began all around the kitchen
“What you feel is the force of the wind.”
“The force of water.”
“Forever will mold. And your forever is through.”
“You now wear garments to make you presentable to God the Almighty.
By His name and by His rightness. By His name and by His rightness.”
Jean-Claude and Lady Mia were now loud…
“By His name and by His rightness!! By His name and by His rightness!! By His name and by His rightness!! By His name and by His rightness!!”
June 16th, 1979
Marengo Arms Apartments (Room 502)
“NOW YOU FLY!”
Tawno was suddenly sailing through the air, and passing through the wall into Room 501, his old room. He hit the floor and rolled a couple of times. Then he got up and stood. It was the room he died in. It was bare. It had remained empty. No one wanted to rent a room like this.
Tawno stood in the room waiting for whatever would happen next.
“NOW YOU DROP!”
And Tawno suddenly dropped two floors into the dark of the kitchen of Room 301. He stood there for a moment.
Then the voice…
“NOW YOU WALK!”
Tawno had no control over it, his feet began to walk. He walked into a living room area where a young woman was bent over forward like a resting cat, scribbling something into a book. He strode forward, against his will, limbs guided and being moved by the big voice. He passed by the woman on the floor. Glancing back over his shoulder he saw a young man sitting on the floor holding a guitar. The man’s mouth was a big open O.
“What the fuck?” The man said.
The voice spoke again.
“NOW YOU DROP!”
And once again Tawno dropped two floors. Though the wood, pipes and wires, falling, falling.
He was standing in a kitchen on the first floor. The room was bathed in candlelight.
There were four people sitting at a table staring at him. One of them was the old Black woman from the first floor. He knew who she was. He didn’t know the others.
Then Tawno saw the pentagram.
“Uh oh.” Tawno said.
The big woman picked up a green bottle and pointed the open mouth at him.
“By His name and by His rightness.” Said Jean-Claude and Lady Mia.
“Oh, BULLSHIT!! Fuck you!!!” Tawno screamed.
“By His name and by His rightness.” Big Mary said softly, still pointing the bottle.
There was a momentary whir, a click, then a sound like an jet engine filled the room. Tawno felt suddenly light and floaty. He looked down at himself. There was no tuxedo, no bow tie anymore. He had no shape or form.
He was green, and made of nothing but moving air.
“By His name and by His rightness. By His name and by His rightness.” Chanted Big Mary, Jean-Claude and Lady Mia.
Mildred got up from the table and stood in front of what remained of Tawno. She balled her fists.
“My name…is Mildred Nelson. And I’m here to tell you…I did this to you. I did it because you are a BadSoul. Worst I’ve ever seen. Filled with stones even in Death. And maybe, well maybe I’m a BadSoul too. Because I just went and tricked my God, may he forgive me, so that you can’t ever be called to his side. You’ll never stand next to His throne. You’ll never see His holy face. You’ll never be near Him, hear me? You’ll never be anywhere, ever again.”
Mildred looked at Big Mary and nodded to her.
“By His name and by His rightness. You fuck.” Big Mary said.
Then the big voice spoke for the last time…
And Tawno screamed, sucked into the bottle like smoke.
Big Mary slipped something into the bottle then quickly corked it.
It was a note. It read:
DO NOT OPEN. EVER. PLEASE.
Big Mary tapped the cork down till it was flat against the lip of the bottle.
June 17th, 1979
Santa Monica, CA.
Mildred stood at the end of the pier staring out at the waves. She waited until the biggest one rolled back out, then pitched the bottle into the sea with all her might.
“Fewer stones are better.” She said.
She stood there a long time in the moonlight, watching the bottle being carried out to sea. She watched till it disappeared from the horizon, long gone.
Then she stood there, salt wind ruffling her white hair…and watched some more.
June 17th, 1979
Marengo Arms Apartments (Room 301)
The sound of a key in a lock.
The door opened, Stan entered the apartment.
“Alice? Where’s the fucking cat?” Stan said.