WICKED vs. WICKED
Published by Kormic, LLC
Copyright 2015 Robert Ocala
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Torrential rain, blinding lightning, crackling forks splitting roiling night sky. Flash of deep woods in every direction. Booming thunder resounding in his ears. Jesus! Another flash, trembling thunder. Man, oh man! Almost on top of me. Don’t stop. Ragged breaths huffing in his ears, chest heaving, lungs sucking, branches slapping, thorns tearing, he almost wished he was back, warm and comfy in his cell. But no, better to die of pneumonia than strapped in Old Sparky.
Another flash, ear-shattering thunder. If I ever get outta—
Horrendous flash quaking the ground. Was that an opening? Did I see an opening?
He tore into dense brambles. Damn, grabbing at me like they’re alive.
Stop it! No time to let the voices get ya. Remember what Dad said just before ya whacked him; “Ignore the voices, son. Play to your strengths, your choir boy looks, your manners. Throw ‘em off, then go for their jugulars.” He wrestled through the thicket, broke into the open to see a small river just ahead. Flowing fast but not too wide. Take a chance?
Another flash; ear–splitting roar. Tingle of electricity on skin.
That’s it; I’m outta here!
Into the surging torrent he leaped, thigh–deep water threatening to wash him down stream. With all his might he waded across, crawled up the far bank and pressed to his feet. Ahead through wind–whipped branches; glimpses of light. A house? Another Flash, Yes!
Chicken, chicken, chicken, thought Aurora. Oh for a steak, chops, a slab of ham to go with my eggs, anything but more chicken. Once again she slid from the couch to kneel on the rug, clasp her pentagram to her breast and chant, “I surrender my soul, now show me your might/ Grant me the wish I wish tonight.”
Flash of light through dark drapes, distant rumble, then three loud thuds on her thick oak door.
A-ha. She strode to the eyehole, peeked out. A youngster, soaked to the skin. Hair all matted, face scratched up, hugging hisself, shivering.
She cracked the door. “Yes?”
“Sorry to bother you, ma’am, I was camping. Storm blew my tent away. I’m freezing, lost, don’t know where to go, what to do.”
“You come right in, young’un.” She eyed the dripping youth up and down. About five eight, pale looking. Tad thin, but he’ll do. “Wait right here, sonny. Don’t wantcha trackin’ up ma house. I’ll fetch a towel.”
Off and running; what luck. Taken in by a little old, white–bunned granny. Sixty if she’s a day. Gonna be no trouble at all. He stood scanning the expansive living room spread wide before him in the glow of two lamps: Fringed shades, heavy drapes, hanging tapestries, worn couch, stuffed chairs, doilies, grandfather clock. But not a damn thing worth stealing that I can see—yet. At least the old bag’s got a TV, and a VCR, judging by the tapes on this shelf here.
He squinted to read their titles in the lamps dim light. Cat People. Oh, yeah, ’bout a broad who turns into a panther. Good luck there. Bell, Book and Candle. Seen that one. About a modern day witch. Ha, the crap people buy! He gave his head a sad shake. Witches Of Eastwick. Oh yeah! Jack Nicholson, good one. He read a few more titles; all icky stuff. Funny tastes for an old biddy.
“Her ya go, young’un.”
He shook the towel open and looked at it; Big enough but like everything else in the room, a bit thread-bare.
“Git yourself dried off then come in an’ set a spell. We’ll sort this out.”
Hands, face dried, hair brusquely rubbed, clothes blotted as best he could, he started for the chair opposite where the little old lady sat, almost swallowed by her couch.
“Not on it, young’un, you’re still a mite damp. On the floor so’s you can lean up agin’ it. Spread the towel. Set on that.”
Fussy old bitch. “Yes, ma’am.” He spread the towel before the chair, sat, tucked his knees up so he could keep his muddy shoes on it, all the time scoping out the room from his new angle for something to steal. Still nothin’: probably livin’ on Social Security, the old bat. But no ashtrays either so likely no man about. Damn though, I need something I can make a buck offa. Maybe that shield on the wall. What was it, a coat of arms?
He squinted to read its archaic scrawl. Something about an incubus, whatever the hell that is, and a banner under it. Squinting again he read, Succumb…to…the…power…of the…destroyer. Jesus, who buys crap like that? Best Just be grateful for her hospitality. I’ll have a whole house ta search soon enough.
“So, what’s your name, sonny?”
“Huh? Oh. Why not, aint gonna to make no matter. ‘William Bracken, ma’am. Willie, they call me. And you’d be…?”, curious, cherubic smile.
“Aurora Leek. Care for a cupa tea, Willie?”
Tea, shit! How ‘bout a water glass fulla Jack Daniels? “Thank you kindly, ma’am. Tea’d be real appreciated.” There she goes again, through that archway. So that’s where the kitchen is. At least I’ll get some food outta this.
He yawned. The clock bonged. He looked up. Eleven thirty. So I’ve been on the lam for five hours now. No wonder I feel so tired. Rest, that’s what I need, rest and dry clothes. Then food, and directions outta these spooky old woods. All in good—
“Here ya go, Willie.”
Could there be treachery behind that pie box face? He angled his foot out to feel the point of the shiv in his sock against his ankle. Assured, he reached up for the tea, cup rattling on its saucer in his chill, numb hands. He balanced the plate on his knee cap, and raised the cup for a sniff. Cinnamon.
He took a cautious sip. Not bad, not bad at all. He took another sip, almost immediately feeling its warmth flow through his body. He felt his shaking ease. He sighed and thought of Chooch and Bolo. Probably still out in the storm freezin’ their asses off, or maybe caught already and back in their cells. Yeah, I’m the lucky one all right. And from here on in my luck’s only gonna get better.
“So, where ya from, Willie?”
Again, why not? “Over Oswego way, ma’am; near the big water tower, if ya know the place.”
“Figured you wasn’t from around these parts, gettin’ lost in Washington Irving’s Woods an’ all. What I cain’t figure is your outfit.”
“Orange jump suit ain’t like no camping outfit I ever seen.”
Willie plucked the damp prison uniform from his chest and looked down at it, a factor he forgot to weave into the story he’d prepared in his rush to get out of all that lightning—and a dead giveaway. Unless, unless…. Could it be the old bat don’t know? Hell, ever’body ‘round these parts probably knows what prisoners all wear in Mattawan. She must know. Is she playin’ games with me, some kinda cat an’ mouse, with me the mouse? The fool! But, hell, why not come clean? Knowin’ the truth ain’t gonna do her no good no how. Just spin it so’s not to shock her too bad. Country folk keep shotguns about. Old woman livin’ alone, ya never know. Willie sighed. “Ya got me there, ma’am. Might’s well tell ya, I’m from that prison back yonder”
Frail hand fluttering up to wattled throat, but otherwise not too shocked. No move ’cept to lean forward, almost like she’s more interested than scared.
“What’d ya do, Willie?”
Hmm, how to spin that? “Uh…had an argument with a man over a bag a money.”
“Gracious—you robbed a bank?
Jesus, this old bag’s quick. But look at her now, leanin’ in still further; wide, brown–eyed interest. Tell me a story an’ then I’ll go to bed. Crazy old bat, like she’s getting’ a kick outta this. Expression, posture; ever’thing about her urging me ta go on. What the hell….
“Shamed to say so, ma’am, but yes I did. Trouble is the man died in the doin’.”
“Yeah, but it ain’t like you think, Ms. Leek. It weren’t my fault. It was the guard’s. He tried to stop me. In the tussle his gun went off. I never meant him no harm. The money was for my sick mom.”
Thoughtful white–bunned nod, “I see.”
Ha, buy that, ya old biddy, an’ I gotta bridge I’d like ta sell ya. “Yeah, but now they wanna strap me in the ‘lectric chair, ma’am. An’ it weren’t my fault the gun went off. He shouldn’t a tried ta stop me, right?”
“That old road to Hell paved with good intentions again, eh, Willie?”
“You could say that, Ma’am; you surely could.”
“Got any kin ta help ya?”
“Nope, mom had ta give me up. Brought up in foster homes. Ain’t got nobody.”
“Nary a soul, Ma’am.”
Leanin’ back on the couch, funny little smile on her face. “Gotta say you don’t look too shocked, ma’am.”
“Oh, we all got our dark sides, Willie.”
“‘Spect so, but I bet you ain’t never killed.”
“Pshaw”—casual wave of bony hand—“countless times.”
“No. Chickens an’ the like. This here’s a farm, you know.”
Willie shot her an exasperated look. “Chickens ain’t people, ma’am.”
“Gracious, I’d never kill a person. Butchered some pretty big hogs though.”
“No crime in butcherin’ hogs either. So what’d be your dark side, Ms. Leek?” Jeez, listename. Rappin’ here like I knowed her all my life. Willie looked down at his cup. Empty. He held it out, gave her his sad waif look. “Got any more, Ma’am?”
“You’ve had enough, young’un. You kin barely keep your eyes open. Git some sleep. We’ll talk later.”
No hint of treachery in her voice. No phone either to call the cops that I can see. An’ I am beat. An’ the old bags real understandin’, almost sympathetic even. So, what the Hell, take a chance? Catch some zzzzzzs, then out knife and to work.
Yeah. No way Chooch an’ Bolo are having it this good—warm, fed, dryin’—wherever the hell they are. Gutsy guys though. Give ‘em that; balls of brass. An’ nerves of steel when the warden braked to ask the gate guard how his family was. Excruciating minutes spent crushed together in his trunk, breathin’ in each other’s faces, still as church mice waiting out all the palaver. No hesitation holding the warden either while I slit his throat when the dumb bastard stopped for gas. Thank God for self service. Not a soul out in the storm. But brains, three convicts traveling together, stupid, stupid, stupid. An’ Bolo wantin’ to hitch a ride dumber yet, roads being the first place they’d look. Splitting up was the only way. Odds were bad enough as it was. Traveling alone one might make it.
Good lucks all around and into the woods he’d run. At first he felt grateful for the storm. Rain covered tracks, washed out scents, made dogs useless. But after a while, trudging through sucking mud, soaked to his socks, feet squishing in his shoes, getting slapped silly by wet whippy branches; brambles tearing at—
“Suiee, piggy, piggy, piggy.”
“Suiee, piggy, piggy, piggy.”
There it is again.
Willie opened his eyes to see he’d slumped over, fell asleep cheek to rug. And the room…something about it looks-- The lamps are out, Jesus, candles flickerin’ all over the place. What the hell…? And what’s this I’m hearin’, something about evil things in robes of doom?
He strained to catch the words:
“And round about my house the glory that once bloomed, is but a saddened story now of bygone times… entombed.
“I said up Willie.”
Same voice, more harsh maybe, but coming from…? “Where are you?” Dark shape raising a candle to face.
“Right here, Willie.”
Jeez, could this be? Long white hair fanned out over shoulders. Pink cheeks now green, craggy as a walnut. Nose so hooked it almost touches her lips. All the old bat needs to complete the picture is a wart and broom. Still, the eyes look the same. Am I dreamin’, maybe having one of those unexpected trips junkies get from dropping too much acid? I was warned this could happen, suddenly everything looking weird. But these trips always ended so….
What the hell, enjoy the—“Oww!”—a boot right in my ass. The bitch!
“I said, up!”
Oh, lady; when my turn comes…. But for some strange reason Willie felt compelled to obey. He rolled onto his feet, and that, too, felt strange. What the…? I’M standin’ an’ the rug’s just a foot under my eyes. He looked down at his legs, squat little animal legs, then at his feet. Jesus,hooves? Some crazy trip this is. Then he noticed his skin, all bristly, and realized he was naked as a jay bird. No more LSD for you, buddy boy—ever!
“Come along, Willie.”
Opening the back door; wavin’me out.
Down off the porch steps Willie waddled, grunting with the effort. Trotting along behind swishing black robe across muddy back yard.
At least the rain’s stopped; sliver of a moon out now.
“Keep going, Willie; into the barn.”
Willie waddled through the wide open door, watched the old hag touch her candle to an oil lamp; light slowly rising revealing stalls, hanging tack, dirt–packed floor.
“Set your hind feet in that there loop of chain on the ground, Willie.”
What, ya wanna play games now? Crazy old bat. Oh, man, when my turn comes…. Willie waddled his hind feet around into the loop.
Suddenly he felt his ankles clamped, his hind end being yanked up off the ground. Yieee, pain! Whirr of motor, clank of chain rattling through pullies, and Willie found himself swaying upside down two feet over hay–strewn dirt.
Fuck this game. “Oink!” he squealed. Huh? Did that come from me? Am I trippin’ I’m a pig? If this is the way the old bat treats her pigs she don’t deserve to have any. Oh, will you ever pay, lady. At least she’s stopped my swingin’. What now, kickin’ a washtub under me? Does she think I’m gonna york?
Then Willie caught the glint of a blade coming toward his throat, and roaring back out of memory came: “Gracious, I’d never kill a person; butchered some pretty big hogs though.”
“Oink,” he shrieked, “oink, oi—”
It was a sunny eight–thirty by the time Aurora had washed up and started breakfast. She’d just taken the eggs out of her refrigerator when the knock came.
Tarnation, now who can that be? She strode to the door and peeked through its hole. Gracious, a scruffy lookin’ policeman.
Curious, she tugged the door open and peered up; “Yes, officer?”
The officer smiled down at the pink–cheeked old lady. Face fit for a cake commercial if ever I saw one. “Excuse my appearance, ma’am,”—arms spreading wide to acknowledge his disheveled appearance—“been out in the woods all night tracking an escaped murderer from Mattawan.”
“That prison for the criminally insane?”
“Orange threads on thorns indicate he came this way;”—peeking over her bun into the living room—“see or hear anything suspicious last night?”
“Sorry, can’t help ya there, officer, but if you’re of a mind ta eat I’ll fix ya some ham an’ eggs.”
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