Devils in the Details – Short Story – Hope you Enjoy!
Below you will see a short little story perhaps meant to be go on in serial form or as a full length novel perhaps . This might be what you call an origin story somewhat. Let me know what you think. It has been rejected a few times by publishers. I will be submitting it to other publishers soon, until then I just wanted some opinions of what others think of it. I will give you my thoughts on it after a few people have read it so as not to interject my opinion of the story into your thinking of it. I think I know what a good story is so I try to be objective with my work but it’s hard to be after editing, and revisions and reading it over twenty times. Honest constructive criticism is ALWAYS wanted and valued. Thanks!
Devils in the Details
He saw the old woman enter the library, a silver haired little lady, the real grandmotherly type, the kind that spoils the grandchildren when they come to visit. She didn’t look to weigh much over a hundred pounds, string bean and lean at five foot-four inches tall or so. He could picture her sitting in her creaky rocking chair, doing her knitting or cross-stitching and humming a forgotten tune from years gone by while her cat laid next her. He had been following her for quite some time now, waiting for his chance. Time to pay the piper milady; you are going to break like a cheap piece of lumber, he thought with no pleasure behind it.
His name was Willie, a slim but well-built wiry young man with dusty blonde hair, a young man with a future; or so he had been told by much older, wiser men who said they knew the score in life.
The score to him was beaten into him at a much younger age by his father and a few of his father’s perpetually drunk friends he had hung around with on occasion. His father and his friends found it entertaining to see how far they could push a kid around before he snapped. It hadn’t taken Willie too long to snap but not in the way they had intended. Willie was a survivor to the core and he knew he couldn’t just go crazy on them one night as they started to wail on him because they would have just kicked his ass more than they already had. So he did the clever thing. He broke into a liquor store one night and made off with as much alcohol as he could stuff into his school backpack. The next day, on a Saturday night, with his dad and all his buddies sitting around playing poker out in their garage at the card table he presented them with his little gift bag of ‘time to get wasted’. They thanked him and sent him on his way and drank well into the night. Willie found it easy pickings when he finally ventured out into the garage, asleep like babies they had been, even after he had kicked a few in the ribs as hard as he could for payback for all the beatings he took from them. That night they all had contributed to the Willie get the hell out of town fund. His dad’s little bank under his mattress had made the biggest contribution to that fund. So at the not so tender age of fourteen, Willie had taken a cab to downtown Grand Rapids and jumped on a Greyhound straight out of Dodge and never looked back.
He wandered a couple of years through life not knowing what job or town he would wind up in next after the money had run out. A man by the name of Jacob Ward took all his worries away when he had caught Willie hitchhiking in the dead of night along a lonely stretch of road. Ward had asked him almost nonchalantly if he’d liked to make a few bucks by doing a little a job for him. Willie remembered Ward hanging out the side of his car with one hand holding a lit cigarette like he could care less if Willie helped him or not.
“Just thought you might need some extra money by the looks of you.” he had said to Willie.
He had looked harmless enough to Jake at the time. Willie’s radar for trouble had served him well the last couple of years on the road, probably saving his ass from a handful of pedophiles and thieves looking to take advantage. It wasn’t pinging inside his head as he looked at Ward. He had always been good at sizing up people just by looking at them. It was the eyes, it didn’t matter whatever else they said or did, it was always the eyes that told the story. Ignore all the rest of the bullshit.
So Willie had said rather enthusiastically, “Sure, what the hell,” and jumped into his car.
Had Willie known that the job would have entailed help in burying a dead body that just happened to have ended up in the trunk of Jake’s car, he probably would have ran quicker than a Jake rabbit and never looked back. They had driven for awhile when Jake had come to a dirt road overgrown with weeds to his right; he turned the wheel sharply and drove on until the road had ended abruptly at a field of sparsely populated grass and sand. He beckoned Willie out of the car towards the back where the trunk was.
“It’s in here,” was all Ward had said at first. What’s in there, was Willie’s first thought.
“Take a good look at death boy, and see how pretty it can be,” Jake said as he turned the key to open the latch on the trunk, revealing his gruesome cargo.
Willie reluctantly approached the vehicle and fearfully peered into the trunk to check out the contents. The body had been wrapped in a big clear plastic bag tied with a neat bow of rope much like a present would be under the Christmas tree. Willie couldn’t see the face or much of the body due to the fact that the blood from the person was smeared everywhere, only an opaque likeness of the person could be imaged through it all. He knew it was a young woman due to the long dark hair and shoeless feet covered with tan silk stockings. The body seemed to be cut up into many pieces. A detached leg lay over the woman’s head blocking her face from view. When the full horror of what he had seen finally reached his brain, he felt like he was going to vomit.
Willie had fallen to his knees. “Oh God,” he had exclaimed in a cracked voice that had not yet fully changed. “I think I’m gonna be sick!” waves of nausea ran through him as he fought to control the twisting his stomach was taking.
Suddenly Jake had slapped him hard across the face and sent him reeling across the ground. Jake had then picked up Willie like a sack of nothing in his hands, and dug deep into him with his fingernails as he gripped Willie’s upper arms like a vise with his own. Willie let out a loud yelp filled with pain and fear, not knowing if he’d also be another body wrapped in a plastic bag buried somewhere in a field of weeds. Never had he felt so afraid in his whole life; not even when his own father had beaten him had he felt such terror as Jacob Ward instilled in him.
“Don’t cry for the likes of her, she ain’t even human. You might think she is by the look of her but you’d be wrong. So boy, yur gonna dig this hole and bury this damn body and yur not gonna say one damn word while yur doing it, and when yur done, yur gonna git the hell out of here and forget this ever happened.
“Git it?” He said this all with an insane scowl spread across his face as he held Willie close to him with his foul dead breath washing over him making Willie’s nausea even worse.
Willie helped dig the hole, and Willie helped bury the body, but Willie never did forget what happened and he never did leave Jacob Ward
For some reason all this had been running through Willie’s head as he had followed the old lady into the library. He guessed it was one of his usual pangs of guilt that he got every time he did a job. What a nice way to put it, he thought, a job, like he put on a suit and tie and went off to the office every morning. He had often wondered what life would have been like if he had walked down a different road those many years ago. What’s done is done, can’t change the past, he was the stupid shit that got messed up in it all anyway. Willie shrugged it all off like he usually did and concentrated on what he was here for; to kill a person. No not a person, something else. He was told this several times by Jake and a few others in the business not much higher up than himself. It always left him confused and wondering what the hell they meant. He was always told he wasn’t ready to know just yet.
The old woman, whose name he knew was Madelyn from the contract he was given last week, had just pushed the button on the elevator. He approached her from behind and came to stand two feet to her right. She turned and gave him a quick soft smile and a glance through her spectacles which were perched on her face. She looked back towards the elevator and adjusted the blue shawl draped over her thin bony shoulders and continued to wait for the elevator’s arrival.
She looked harmless enough, but he had not caught her eyes when she looked at him. Every contract he had done always had that same look. She would be no different he was sure. Still, it was small consolation. Who would want to put a hit on a grandmother, he thought almost bitterly to himself. He didn’t know, he never knew, he was just directed to do a job and do it right. That was it. Put it out of your mind, Willie kept telling himself, she’s probably as wicked as the rest of the world is, probably more as Jake always said.
He heard the audible ding of the elevator, the doors of the elevator open and the old lady enter. This was his chance, just me and her. I’ll take her down hard and easy like I was taught.
“Wrong, wrong you idiot, you jab with the right but you deliver a cross with the left. They hardly ever see it coming. How many times am I gonna haf’ta tell ya til ya git it right? Jesus, sometimes I wonder why I ever took you on with me in the first place,” Jake said as he circled Willie to keep him off balance. Jake smiled at him and Willie eyed him warily. He always did when he smiled like that.
“I’m trying Jake, I’m trying,” Willie breathed in deeply from the exertion Jake was putting him. Willie’s eyes warily followed Jake as he circled him in the backyard.
“Well try harder, boy. You wanna be rich and famous someday don’t cha? Jake snorted and threw another punch at him.
Jake had been in Special Forces with the marines back in the eighties, real hush hush as Jake always told him. Things you couldn’t tell your momma else you’d have to kill her. Willie was never sure if that was just a figure of speech or if Jake really meant it. Willie never asked.
Willie had stayed on with Jake after the incident because in the end he discovered Jake wasn’t crazy, at least not certifiable and was hooked up with a big organization in some far off place that paid him well, very well to take on certain contracts. Why had they picked Jake, who seemed a buck shy of a dollar? Well to hear Jake tell it you would think he walked on water with the people who did the hiring.
“They love me man. They know what I see. They need me man. There’re so many of them out there man they can’t keep up. It was either kill me or hire me and so here I am doing the lord’s work.”
Willie always asked him what he meant when he would say those things but he never explained it much beyond that.
That’s the way it had been with him and Jake, and Willie guessed it would have probably remained that way forever if he hadn’t killed him just two weeks ago, just another job. Funny thing is Willie had liked Jake, even for all his gruffness and being rough around the edges, he had liked him more than he had his own father by a far margin. Willie might be a killer but he had an integrity that his father never did.
They had given him Jake’s name though and he had done his job. Besides, Jake had started to change as of late and not for the better, like something dark had dug into him deep and wouldn’t let go. Jake had never been a picnic to work with but in the past few months he had been a different person, colder, more distant, dark was the last word that came to mind, and his eyes had changed.
He noticed he had been lost in thought, because he had to practically leap into the elevator before the doors closed on him. Not very professional, he thought. He saw the old woman give him a flat stare.
“Same floor?” the old woman asked him looking over at him, as the doors to the elevator went to close again.
“Yeah sure,” he half mumbled to her, not wanting to talk anymore than he had to. Not wanting to hear her voice. Not wanting to hear the voices in his head when he went to bed tonight. The voices which always asked him why….why? He didn’t have an answer to give them. The voices knew why, but he was the one afraid to ask the question. Sometimes he saw shadows dance on his bedroom walls as he tried to sleep and it scared him. In his dreams they taunted him with the question. The answer to the question hid from him, wanting to be seen, but not wanting to be caught.
His mind returned from the dark place that it was in, back to the situation he had to take care of now. So why was he hesitating, why did he feel immobilized? He had to do it; she was nothing to him. He tensed his muscles in anticipation and breathed in deeply through his nose as he relaxed and prepared to do what he had come here to do.
The old lady did a strange thing just then, she flipped the stop button on the panel and the elevator came to an abrupt halt somewhere between the second and third floor.
“I wasn’t sure if you were the one until you had entered, your smell is ever so slight” The old woman said not looking over at him but still staring straight ahead. A small quiver of a smile crept into her mouth. The old woman adjusted her shawl again.
“Now in this enclosed space you reek of death. Do you enjoy killing?” This time the old lady did look over at him when she asked the question.
Willie turned to look at her and was taken aback as he looked her in the eyes. She was alien to him, just like Jacob had been, cold and distant.
“Aah, I see you recognize me. You must be getting the sight; not many do, especially as young as you. What color do you see? By your perplexed look no color as of yet. Well I assure you, mine are green but that means nothing to you, does it? It will become stronger in time and then we will be everywhere to your eyes. You will be very valuable to them in time. Maybe more than they even know. I asked you a question, answer quickly before my patience wears. I have no love for your kind and what you do.” She almost spat the last part as she said it.
Willie was numb, lost. He knew he should kill her, but he couldn’t. Not yet anyway, he had to know the truth. “No, it sickens me” was all he said to her.
“Hmmm….one with a conscience, that is a first.” The old woman’s eyes relaxed then and became less distant, less cold it seemed, but still alien.
“This body killed three hundred twenty four before we took hold of it. Some were honorable kills but most were off contract and some were children too young to know themselves in the light. She took pleasure in what she did. No matter if it was right or wrong there should never be pleasure in it. It disgusts me to inhabit it but I must. It is a duty which holds high honor for one so foul. It is lucky the red eyed ones did not find her first.”
“I don’t understand.” Willie muttered. He reached slowly into the pocket of his coat and gripped the knife within.
“Understanding only goes so far, but know my death serves no purpose today. Tell your betters
Tristol has taken command and they will understand.”
Willie moved like lighting in a bottle pinning the old woman into a corner of the elevator with the blade pressed deeply into her neck almost drawing blood.
“You don’t give me orders you simply die. I have a contract simple as that. No more bullshit. You’re like all the rest I’ve killed, cold, distant, ev….” Willie couldn’t finish the last.
“Evil you were about to say.” The old woman, who named herself Tristol, moved faster than a humming birds wings as she grabbed Willie’s hand holding the knife against her neck and turned it on him, shoving him back across the elevator floor towards the opposite wall until his back slammed hard against it sending stabs of pain into his shoulder blades. How can she be so strong, none of the others were like this, he thought.
“I see the turmoil in your heart. Do not worry you do a good thing young one. One day you will understand this, but some things must be even hidden from ourselves for a time. I will say this much, there are such things as demons in this world but the trick is knowing the right ones to let live and the wrong ones to kill. Choose wisely.” The old woman looked at him deeply as his pulse raced not six inches from his face with the blade held against his own neck. Willie thought his heart would explode in his chest. Was this how he was finally going to die? He looked into the old woman’s eyes deeply as she held him there tight against the wall. Suddenly the dark shade of brown of her eyes swirled around her black pupils and faded to be slowly replaced with bright flecks of green that swirled in the opposite direction around her pupils. When the swirling finally stopped her eyes were a bright neon green color.
“Now you see young one as many do not. Continue to see.” She disengaged from him and stepped back. She started up the elevator by flipping the switch to its previous position.
The elevator dinged and the doors opened. The old woman exited but Willie didn’t follow. He just stood there in the elevator. She turned around and looked at him over her glasses.
“Wrong floor Maam, I need the fourth, not the third. Have a good day.” Willie said.
“Thank you dear, you have a good day as well” she said almost motherly as he found himself nodding to her just as the elevator doors came to a close.
Willie walked through the double glass doors of the library to a sunlit street speckled with gold and orange fallen leaves. He gave himself a little smile and decided to go for a long walk to see what he could see.
The End…..or to be continued?