Dead Jack and the Amorous Ogre
By James Aquilone
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Published by Homunculus House
Staten Island, New York
“Dead Jack and the Amorous Ogre” copyright © 2016 by James Aquilone
“Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device” copyright © 2016 by James Aquilone
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the publisher.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Cover image: daver2002ua / Shutterstock.com
Dead Jack Logo: Ed Watson
Cover design: James Aquilone
Table of Contents
Dead Jack and the Amorous Ogre
If you enjoyed “Dead Jack and the Amorous Ogre,” don’t miss Jack’s first novel-sized adventure.
Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device
About the Author
She was thirty-two inches of nauseating cuteness in an itty-bitty emerald dress that made her seem, somehow, more naked than if she wore nothing at all. Her skin was snowflake white, her hair torchlight red, her eyes tiny blue moons. And if I wasn’t such a smart guy I’d have thought she was a child. But she was probably five centuries past her sweet sixteen. The little lady sat across from my desk, her thin, see-through wings twittering nervously.
She said her name was Gwendolyn. She was a pixie.
I poured myself a shot of Devil Boy. “Care for some?” I said. “Looks like you might need it.”
She pulled on one of her pointy ears. “I don’t drink formaldehyde.”
Lily, my secretary and the resident office ghost, told me the pixie was in trouble. Of course she was in trouble. Why else would she be in the same room as a zombie?
I threw back the formaldehyde, most of which poured out from the bottom of my skull. The pixie’s face scrunched up in disgust.
“Gwen, let me ask you something. Any of you pixies not so goddam adorable?” It wasn’t a compliment.
She tugged down on her flimsy get-up. She covered an extra inch of thigh, but also managed to expose a healthy chunk of pixie cleavage. If I wasn’t a zombie, I’d be sweating buckets now.
“Can we, please, get down to business?” she said. “I was told you’re the best detective in Pandemonium. Was that a lie?”
I don’t know who told her that, but I should hire him to do my PR. I wasn’t the best, just the cheapest. Which is why I got the dirtiest cases in the Five Cities.
“Gwen, everyone lies in this business, but you got the rare truth.” I threw back another shot of Devil Boy.
“Then you should have no problem rescuing my daughter.”
“I rescue daughters all the time. It’s one of my specialties.” Actually I never even rescued a gremlin from a tree. But, as I said, everyone lies in this business.
Finally the pixie got into it. “My daughter, Willa, she’s a very naïve girl. But that’s to be expected: she’s only two hundred and twelve years old. And if you know anything about pixies, especially young ones, they’re always getting into mischief. It’s usually harmless pranks: stealing horses, leading people astray, that sort of thing. But lately she’s been getting into real trouble. Running with a bad crowd, going places a pixie shouldn’t go. I forbid her not to go uptown. There are bad types there—”
“Yes, ogres. And one of those vile, disgusting beasts has taken a fancy to my Willa. I believe his name is Mad Dog.”
“Yes. You know him?”
“Heard of him. I told you I’m the best. In fact I already know why you’re here: Madgogg abducted your daughter, is holding her in his ogre lair, and demands that she marry him, right?”
“Yes, yes, it’s horrible.”
“It’s an old story, Gwen. Happens every day.”
“An ogre in the family! I’d never stand for it.”
“Ogres are stupid, predictable creatures. I’ve dealt with a few in my time. No worries.”
I didn’t mention that ogres also like to eat pixies, but she probably already knew that. I also didn’t mention that zombies like to eat pixies, too, and just about anything else with succulent, sweet, so juicy flesh. But I kicked that habit long ago. I said, “I just need one kilo of fairy dust a day plus expenses for me and my assistant, Oswald.” I didn’t tell her how badly I needed the dust. It had been a while since my last fix and I was getting hungry.
A SIMPLE PLAN
Black, tentacled clouds drifted across the blood red sky as I drove toward the Upper West Side of ShadowShade. The forecast called for more dry heat with a chance of firestones. Creepy shit. But par for the course in Pandemonium, the twilight realm of nightmare creatures, legends, the undead and everything in between. Home shitty home.
ShadowShade was actually the more cosmopolitan and sophisticated of Pandemonium’s Five Cities. It has streets and a subway (though you don’t want to go down there if you’re afraid of eyeless mole people), unlike those other Podunks.
I watched blood-drunk vampires stumbling out of the Hunger Moon Saloon, the most notorious watering hole in Hell’s Kitchen, and werewolves playing patty-cake with virginal waifs at the edge of the Wood of Shadows.
Madgogg had a brownstone on West 93rd that overlooked the Wood. It was a high-rent area for the well-to-do ogre and many ogres were well-to-do these days. Droves of the brutes were leaving their cramped huts in Ogreville, nestled in the eastern corner of The Broken Lands, and buying up ShadowShade’s most expensive real estate. Their success must have something to do with their big bodies and little brains.
My plan, like all my plans, was simple:
1. Disguise myself.
2. Infiltrate Madgogg’s brownstone.
3. Rescue the captive pixie.
In and out. Easy-peasy.
I parked around the corner from Madgogg’s place, on West 92nd, nearly running over a careless succubus who was walking her pet midget dragon. As I walked toward the brownstone, I was having second thoughts about the disguise. The hump was biting into my back and the wig was itching like mad. The itching made me wonder where Oswald was. I hadn’t seen him in a while. And that worried me.
I knocked at the servant’s entrance on the ground floor of Madgogg’s brownstone and a few minutes later an ancient-looking zombie opened the door. He must have spent a long century dead before being reanimated, which was good—because his brains would be mush and the dummy would be a pushover. My brain, on the other hand, was only a quarter mush. I took the big sleep for only nine months.
“Hey there, bones,” I said.
The dummy stared at me, his lifeless eyes wide and protruding from their sockets. He was a skeleton in a suit. Most likely imported from the Zombie Islands to be a domestic. These guys made me sick.
I said, “I’m the new hunchback handyman.” I pointed to the hump for emphasis. “The agency sent me over.”
The creature stood there silently, his exposed jaw hanging open. I wasn’t so sure if he was reanimated after all. Then he nodded and let me in.
The kitchen was huge. The cauldron in the middle of the room was huge. The three-headed dog inside the cauldron was pretty huge, too. The middle head looked particularly nasty, but none of them were gonna do me any harm. They were ogre lunch. It stunk worse than a zombie’s armpit in there.
I walked through the kitchen and entered a long hallway paneled with the heads of trolls, gremlins and at least one goblin. There weren’t any zombie heads, so I stupidly felt safe. But then I figured zombie heads probably aren’t worth much as trophies.
I heard a series of low moans coming from behind the door at the end of the hall. The door was unlocked. I opened it.
It was the door to the basement. Nothing good is ever in the basement, so naturally I went down.
At the bottom of the staircase, the moans were clearer. I heard some grunts, too.
Another door stood before me, iron and heavy and unlocked, too. This Madgogg must be a real dummy or real confident. The plan was working to perfection. I could already taste the fairy dust on my desiccated lips. I could also taste flesh and blood and brains—and without that fairy dust to kill the cravings, I was liable to eat half of ShadowShade. And most likely get a stake through the head, too.
I entered a long, brightly lit hall. On the right was a rough stone wall, and farther up on the left was a prison cell.
The moaning sounds were coming from inside the cell and now I could make out what they were. Someone was eating and they were enjoying it! I felt a pang of jealousy, but I curbed the zombie in me and rushed down the hall. I had to kick aside garbage that littered the floor—wrappers, empty containers, dirty plates. Ogres had mighty appetites, but this looked bad.
I stopped before the heavy iron bars of the cell. I couldn’t believe my blood-shot eyes. Fancy tapestries hung on the walls. A gigantic bed with a silk canopy took up almost half the room. And in the middle of the chamber, on a chaise lounge, sat a plump, short girl with wings. They fluttered like mad. Her mouth was fluttering like mad, too, as it tore through a turkey leg. The moaning was coming from her. Obviously she liked to eat.
She looked up, took another bite of the turkey leg, swallowed and then said: “Jeez, another hunchback handyman. Don’t you guys ever do anything else?”
“Are you Willa?”
She picked a piece of turkey not quite the size of my fist out of her teeth and said, “What’s it to ya?”
She resembled her mother, if Gwen had a serious food addiction. I finally had an answer to my question: Yes, there are pixies who are not so goddamn cute.
“I’m here to rescue you,” I said.
Her eyes widened and then she screamed: “What the hell is coming out of your nose?!”
I panicked for a split second. As a zombie, I often find myself in embarrassing social situations, such as when worms exit my body during interrogations or body parts fall off at dinner parties. Unsurprisingly I don’t find myself on many guest lists. But then I felt a tickle in my nose cavity and I relaxed. But just a bit.
“That’s just my assistant,” I said.
Oswald’s soft, gelatinous body oozed out of my right nostril. It wasn’t an unpleasant sensation; probably the only thing that wasn’t unpleasant about Oswald. He dropped onto the floor with a heavy plop and instantly began to transform, tightening and twisting into the shape of a tiny man.
“Oswald, where the blazes have you been?”
He didn’t answer right away. He was busy inching toward a potato chip near the chaise longue.
“I thought you were mad at me,” the homunculus said.
“I am mad at you. I’m always mad at you.”
“What the hell kind of hunchback are you?” Willa said.
I leaned closer to the bars and whispered: “I’m not really a hunchback. I’m a detective. A zombie private eye, in fact. And let’s keep it down. We don’t want to arouse the ogre while we’re trying to rescue you.”
“You don’t think Reginald will let you walk right out the door with me, do you?” Willa said.
“Listen, we need to get you out of here—Reginald, who the hell is Reginald?”
Willa pointed over my left shoulder.
“He’s the ogre standing behind you.”
“Wonderful,” I said, and then experienced the closest thing to sleep possible for a zombie.
Zombies don’t usually get headaches. So the throbbing in my skull must have been a delusion. I was praying that the straps across my chest and legs were a delusion, too, but I didn’t have much luck convincing myself.
Thick leather belts held me to a steel table, not unlike those slabs on which corpses sleep in the morgue. As if I’d know anything about that.
The room was cozy, if you happened to be a ghoul. To my right, surgical tools were neatly laid on a long, low table. A shelf above that held various bottles and jars containing glass eyes, ceramic horns and various other fake body parts. Stuffing lay in heaps in the far corners of the room. Another table, directly in front of me, held a padlocked wooden box and more stuffing. To my left, next to the window, hung a plaque from one of those correspondence courses, certifying one Madgogg Reginald Belial for taxidermy. So the big oaf has a middle name.
Something tickled my right ear.
Then I heard a little whiny voice. “That was your brilliant plan, huh? Just waltz in, grab the pixie, and waltz out?”
I couldn’t see Oswald’s face, but I was sure he had that condescending look he always gets: head cocked to the side, eyes rolled up, lips pressed together. The best way to describe Oswald? Imagine a marshmallow with a mouth and X’s for eyes. I had to scratch those eyes in. If you can speak, you should have eyes. Otherwise, it’s damn creepy.
“The best plans, Oswald, are the simplest ones,” I said.
“Well, my dead friend, do you have a Plan B?” Oswald said.
Oswald hopped onto my chest. He stared at me. Now, he was wearing his I-know-something-you-don’t expression. If Oswald had pants, he’d be wetting them.
“Well, don’t strain your worm-eaten brain thinking anymore. I learned something very interesting after that ogre clobbered you and you fell like a sack of dead kittens.”
“He surprised me! How was I supposed to know there was a hidden door behind me?”
“Anyway, I hid in the cell after transforming myself into a puddle of goo. And after stowing you away in here, Madgogg came back and, boy oh boy, what a smooth-talker this guy is. He’s sweet-talking our pixie, promising her everything under the moon: jewels, midget dragons, silks, those golden fish that grant you wishes. Then get this—he promises her his soul. But he means it, literally. He tells her his soul isn’t in his body. It’s hidden on some place called Black Rock, which is suspended over The Undead Sea.”
“Of course!” I said. “It’s an old ogre trick. They remove their souls from their bodies, because it somehow makes them invulnerable, and they hide the soul in some hard-to-reach place. Oswald, I get that soul, I hold all the cards. Either he gives me Willa or I crush his soul. It’s the perfect plan.”
Oswald was starting to get bent out of shape, literally. His gelatinous body bulged and warped, going in and out from little man shape to blob shape. That was a bad sign.
“There are a few problems, Jack.” It was even worse when he called me Jack.
“Problems are my business.”
“First of all, the soul is inside an egg…”
“…which is inside a box…”
“…which is inside a goose…”
“I can deal with a goose.”
“…which is inside a jackal.”
“Okay, so there are some livestock issues.”
“That’s the least of the issues. The jackal is protected by five demons.”
“So what? Oswald, scoot up to this Black Rock, retrieve the soul, and get back here pronto. I’ll handle the rest.”
“Me? You want me to get the soul? I can just untie you and we’ll go—”
“There’s no time! Go immediately!”
“You’re still afraid of the water, aren’t you?”
“Listen, you homunculus freak, I’m not afraid of anything. There’s simply no time.”
“I’ll just untie you—”
“If you don’t leave this instant, you are out of the agency!”
“How am I even supposed to find this stupid rock?”
“How many rocks can be suspended over The Undead Sea? Ask around, dummy.”
THE SOULMAN COMETH
Afraid of the water? I might not have minded that from anyone else. But from a homunculus? And a homunculus that feeds off an undead body!
Who wouldn’t be afraid of the water after having been trapped in it for five years? One of the many disadvantages to being a zombie is that you can’t die—and that was one time when I would have welcomed it. Zombies and sailing do not mix.
I was beginning to look fondly on that time. The damn wig was itching worse than the maggots on Corpse Hill, the hump was digging into my back like a drunken succubus, and my hunger was growing. I dreamed of thick waitress thighs and fat lawyer bellies and grad-student brains. I know it’s a nasty habit, but I’ve been able to control it, mostly. Of course, most zombies aren’t known for their control. So I guess I’m not your typical zombie.
Through the window at my left, I could see the firestones pouring from the crimson sky. The weatherghoul was right again! The demons would be out now. They always come out during inclement weather, blackening the skies over ShadowShade, swooping and dipping and snatching a lonely fairy or unicorn.
Then I saw Oswald’s head coming over the windowsill. He was smiling like a lunatic gnome. I didn’t know what was worse: Oswald failing or Oswald succeeding and rubbing it in my face.
He hopped into the room. He was dragging a large sack behind him.
“I got it,” he said. His translucent body glowed with an internal devil’s fire.
I shouted, “What the blazes took so long? It must have taken you at least four and a half hours!”
“For your information, there were three rocks suspended over the Dead Sea, which, I should remind you, isn’t just a hop, skip, and jump away. And did you forget the five demons?” He glowed brighter. “It was pretty rad, actually. Let me tell you how I vanquished them—”
“Put it in your report. Now hurry and untie me.”
“Couldn’t I have done that before?”
I glared back at my assistant. Homunculi don’t know the first thing about respect. That’s why they’re little men. “Okay, okay,” he said, and jumped onto the table and began to cut the straps with a scalpel from the table.
“So, anyway, I used an amulet to—”
“Amulet? If you used the petty cash to buy yourself an amulet, I’m taking it out of your salary. Now stop wasting time! File a report and maybe I’ll read it. But proofread the damn thing this time.”
The sack glided across the floor.
“Why is the soul gliding across the floor?”
“There was a bit of a problem.”
“There’s always a problem with you!”
The homunculus finally freed me. I sat up. I was so stiff I thought my rigor mortis was acting up again. I stood and stretched. I think I heard a vertebra snap. Then I ripped off the wig and hump. I felt better then, except for the gnawing at my rotted innards. The hunger was reaching critical mass. All I could think about was fairy dust. I reached for my Lucky Dragon cancer sticks, but they were gone. The ogre must have stolen them!
The sack was now banging against the wall.
“Let me show you the problem,” Oswald said and hopped down from the table. He ran over to the sack and untied the string that held it shut. Out tumbled a small, and terribly confused, white goose.
“I was able to make the jackal puke up the goose using a feather,” Oswald said. “But it won’t work on the goose. He won’t give up the box!”
I picked up the creature and knocked on its stomach. I heard a dull thud. Indeed, the box was there.
“Do you have any ideas?” Oswald said.
“Yes, of course I do!” I said and sunk my teeth into the goose. It squawked twice, perhaps three times and then went silent. I tore through the creature, swallowing feathers and flesh. It was electric, life coursing through me and warming me. I felt like a phoenix burning back into existence. If Oswald hadn’t stopped me I’d have eaten the box, too.
“What has gotten into you!” Oswald shouted. “I thought you were done with that! We don’t need another episode.”
I dropped the goose carcass, wiped the blood from my mouth. Already the rush was draining from my black veins. “I need that fairy dust, Oswald. I’m on the verge of eating all of ShadowShade and maybe even parts of The Red Garden.”
“Just hold it together. We’ll get the dust.”
I held up the box. It barely weighed a thing. But before I could ponder the insubstantial nature of souls, I heard a deep-throated grunt.
The ogre stood in the doorway.
Madgogg had to duck to get inside the room. He was green as a goblin, bald, and uglier than a vampire exposed to the sun. A gold earring dangled from one of his sharp, bat-like ears.
“Just the man I wanted to see,” I said.
The ugly sucker was trying to look mean—and doing a damn good job of it. Thank goodness I had this guy’s soul in my hand or I might have been petrified.
“Listen, you overgrown gnome,” I said, flipping open the box. Inside, nestled in velvet, sat a small white egg. “The dance is over. You’ve be outsmarted.” I held up the egg between my thumb and forefinger. “Madgogg, I hold here an egg—a very special egg—that I took great pains to retrieve.”
In my mind I felt Oswald’s eyes roll.
The ogre remained silent, but he huffed and his face burned a bruised red.
“It’s gonna go like this, Reg,” I said. “You’re gonna give up this obsession of marrying a pixie—which, quite frankly, is pathetic. You’re gonna give up the girl and we’re all gonna march out of here unharmed.”
The ogre lumbered toward me.
“Let Willa go and I’ll return your soul,” I said. “Fair trade.”
I backed up, but just a dozen steps.
The ogre kept lumbering.
“I happen to know that if I destroy this egg, you’re finished. Walk another step and I’ll make myself an ogre omelet.”
The ogre walked another step. In fact, he walked quite a few steps.
I gave the dummy ample warning. “Buddy,” I said, “you’d think being eight feet tall you’d have some room for brains.” Then I reared back and hurled the egg at him. It exploded on his forehead. There was a bright purple flash of light and a release of brimstone. Madgogg stopped dead, his face covered in a thick, black yolk. It oozed down his chin and fell in fat drops onto the floor.
Madgogg grabbed me by the throat with his big, meaty hands and lifted me into the air. Oswald made some snide comment about a zombie omelet, but I was too busy trying to breathe (zombies do breathe, by the way) to pay him any mind.
“But-I-just-destroyed-your-soul!” I shouted, though it sounded more like a whisper from a frog with laryngitis.
“Not my soul,” the ogre grumbled.
Oswald said, “But I went to Black Rock and got the goose from the jackal, like you said in the cell.”
“This jackal,” the ogre said, “did he have a bushy tail and a white-gray coat?”
“Your jackal was a coyote. I think his name is Sam.”
I sunk my teeth into the ogre’s arm—and nearly broke them. I never tried to eat an ogre before, and I didn’t think I would be trying that again. Their skin is tougher than petrified troll.
A zombie can go a lot longer without breathing than non-zombies, so I wasn’t afraid of being choked to death. But zombies do have problems with body parts staying intact. Soon my head was gonna come off. I already heard a sickly tear from the back of my neck. It was just a matter of time before I was beheaded.
Then a voice squealed: “Reginald Madgogg Belial, take your hands off that disgusting corpse!”
Instantly the ogre dropped me and I crashed to the floor. When I looked up, I saw Willa standing in the doorway. The ogre rushed over to her. She wagged a finger at him and he shuffled his feet.
I stood up.
“Willa, you’re free!” I said, too stupid to realize what was going on.
“Of course I’m free. Why shouldn’t I be?”
“Let’s get out of here.”
“Why would I do that? We’re getting married. Right, Reginald?”
The ogre nodded, stared at the floor.
I saw my fairy dust blowing into the four winds, an imminent zombie rampage in downtown ShadowShade. “But, Willa,” I said, “your mother hired me to—”
“Listen, you stupid carcass, getting married was my idea—no matter what my bigot mother might think. In fact it took a bit of chasing and prodding to get this dumb oaf to finally propose. You and my mother won’t stop that!”
“But he locked you in the dungeon.”
“It wasn’t locked, you brain-licking ghoul. We’re in the middle of converting the dungeon into my boudoir. It’s the only room in the house that doesn’t stink like hellhound soup.”
“Well something sure stinks around here.”
“And what’s this talk about destroying souls?”
I remained silent, and then Madgogg said, “Remember, honey, what I told you before about giving you my soul as a wedding gift? Well, I actually had it shipped here this morning. It was going to be a surprise. But considering what just happened…”
The ogre retrieved the small wooden box from the front table. It was nearly identical to the one I retrieved from the goose’s insides.
“My soul, my love,” he said and handed her the box.
This ogre really was a smooth-talker.
“Thanks for ruining the surprise, corpse!” Willa spat. “Madgogg wants to stick your head on his trophy wall, but the idea of looking at your rotted, dead face every day gives me the willies. So get out of here before I change my mind. And tell my mother the wedding is happening whether she likes it or not.”
“Well, it looks like our business here is done,” I said. “Good luck to the both of you. You’ll need it.” To Oswald, I said, “You’re completely useless, you know that? If I don’t get that fairy dust I’m eating you first.”
“It was a lovely wedding, wasn’t it, Jack?” Oswald said.
I took a deep drag of my cancer stick and then threw back a shot of Devil Boy.
“Would have been nice if they had one bottle of formaldehyde. No one considers zombies.”
Madgogg insisted we come to the ceremony as his guests. Probably to piss off his new mother-in-law. I didn’t need much prodding to piss off Gwendolyn. That was the last time I’d take a job from those double-crossing pixies.
“I did find the goose pâté in bad taste,” Oswald said.
“I got my fairy dust. That’s all I care about.”
“But there’s one thing that’s still bothering me.”
“Oswald, you’re such a woman.”
“Whose soul did you destroy?”
“Listen, souls are destroyed every day. Such is the cruel world of Pandemonium. Besides, what are the odds of it ever getting back to us?” I looked out my office window and watched a black-winged nightmare glide north toward Monster Island, a limp elf in its talons.
Oswald shrugged. I poured myself another hit of Devil Boy, but the intercom buzzed before I could throw it back.
“There’s a rather large and angry ogress here.”
I looked at Oswald. He started morphing into a blob. That was a bad sign.
“Yeah, Lilith, what does she want?”
“Something about her recently deceased husband and a coyote named Sam.”
I wondered if the fire escape would hold my weight. It had been a while since I last used it.
“Thanks, Lilith. Oswald will be right out.”
(Pick up “Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device” to find out just what Oswald was up to on Black Rock.)
Turn the page to read the first chapter and then go to the [+ Kickstarter campaign+] for more info.
Waiting for My Wee-Man
I reached into my jacket for a Lucky Dragon once the shakes began. The undead aren’t known for their dexterity, so I had a bit of fun getting that cancer stick. I was like a drunken mummy trying to do jazz hands. I burned off half the skin on my left index finger lighting the damn thing. That made four fingers now that were practically nothing but bone. If this kept up, I’d end up a skeleton inside a cheap suit and fedora. I doubt anyone would notice.
Being undead isn’t all bad, though. I was happy for my dulled sense of smell. The alleyway stunk like rotten cabbage and sour apples.
I took a deep drag on my cancer stick. Smoke poured out from the hole in my right cheek. I sucked that thing halfway down and it barely made a difference. My hand trembled like a virgin at a satyr convention. I needed dust. Bad.
I had tried everyone in downtown ShadowShade but no one was holding. Out of desperation I came here to Irish Town, in search of Flanagan, my old dealer.
Without dust, the hunger becomes overpowering, and when I’m hungry no one’s safe. I’d eat my own mother.
I had been waiting in the alley behind Finn McCool’s for at least an hour before the leprechaun finally appeared.
Flanagan isn’t your typical lep. First off, he’s not that short. Maybe five-foot-two. He’s broad shouldered, barrel chested, and someone you don’t want to mess with. He also has the saltiest mouth in all the Five Cities of Pandemonium.
He sang, rather jauntily:
“There once was a fellow McSweeney who spilled some gin on his weenie…”
A large sack was slung over his shoulder as he swaggered into the alley.
“Just to be couth he added vermouth. Then slipped his girlfriend a martini…”
“Sorry to interrupt that charming little ditty,” I said, and slipped out of the shadows. Real bad-ass like.
The lep stopped deader than my libido. Like I’d caught him bathing naked in his pot of gold. (Leprechauns don’t really have pots of gold, by the way, but they are known to carry fairy dust.)
The sack jerked and he gripped it tighter.
“What’s in the sack, Flanny? Someone didn’t pay their vig?”
“None of your fookin business. Now if you wouldn’t be minding.” The lep took a step forward, but I blocked his way.
“Look, meat bag, I don’t want any trouble.”
“No trouble. I’m just looking for dust.”
The lep exploded into laughter. He actually placed his hand over his belly. A real guffaw.
“You fookin dust head. I thought maybe you were on a case.”
“Just a gram. The hunger is starting to eat through my innards.”
“You have innards? Figured it’s all just sludge inside ya by now.”
“The last time I went cold turkey, it ended real bad for some fairies. I’m still not welcome in The Red Garden.”
“You ain’t threatening now, are ya, ya dead dick?”
My hands trembled real bad as I held them up. It looked like I was trying to conjure a pixie spirit. “I’m desperate.”
“Then you’re out of luck. I don’t deal anymore. I have new opportunities.”
There was a clink, like a glass bell, and the sack flew up. Flanagan nearly lost his grip on it but was able to pull it back down.
“What’s in the sack, Flanny?”
“None of your fookin business, ya filthy corpse.”
He shoved me into the wall and headed down the alley.
Maybe the hunger had reached its apex or maybe I didn’t like the way he called me a filthy corpse. Either way I was on him like a werewolf on a moonpie. I don’t even remember eating him. I was in such a frenzy. Though I do remember him tasting damn delicious, like smoked sausage and sweet beer. The next thing I remembered was Oswald, Pandemonium’s most obnoxious creature and my associate.
I was sitting on the floor gnawing on a leg bone when the alley filled with a blinding light. I continued eating. The light went out and I saw the Studebaker, my Studebaker. Then the driver’s side door opened and out slid Oswald.
The little bugger stared at me, not saying a word. This was supposed to shame me. But I’m a revenant (which is a fancy way of saying zombie). I’m beyond shame.
I took a bite out of Flanagan’s calf. It was stringy but pretty tasty.
“Let me remind you that you’re eating a leprechaun in the middle of Irish Town.” Oswald tried to sound tough, but when you’re all of eight inches and nothing but a marshmallow with a mouth, the effect is underwhelming. No one knows what Oswald is or was. The best description I’ve come up with is a homunculus, which is another way for me to say I have no idea.
Just then the sack began to roll down the alley.
“What’s that?” Oswald said, and I finally came to my senses.
“Let’s see.” I sprang up…as best a zombie can spring up, which meant I awkwardly repositioned my bones into a standing position…and halted the sack’s progress. I opened the sack and wasn’t prepared to find what I did.
Mr. Obvious said, “Is that a naked baby inside a glass jar?”
“I’m sorry for ever calling you a terrible detective, Oswald. You figured it out on the first try.”
The dope smiled.
I stood the glass jar up. The baby was looking at us curiously. The fact that he didn’t cry should have alerted me, but I was still on a high from my leprechaun buffet.
The baby started pointing at the top of the jar.
The observant marshmallow said, “I think he wants you to remove the glass stopper and let him out.”
The fact that the baby didn’t pop off the glass stopper himself should have made me think, but Oswald was distracting me with his prattling.
I removed the stopper.
The hole certainly didn’t seem big enough for a baby to fit through, but that didn’t stop him.
He slid out of the bottle like a piece of taffy, but instead of falling onto the ground, he floated into the air. The large black wings that had unfurled from his back helped a lot with that. The now-winged baby stopped just out of reach, shot me a dirty look, gave me the finger, and disappeared into the blood-red sky of Pandemonium.
I wasn’t able to conjure up one of my famous ripostes, though, because at that moment two irate leprechauns were barreling towards us.
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James Aquilone was raised on Saturday morning cartoons, comic books, sitcoms, and Cap’n Crunch. Amid the Cold War, he dreamed of being a jet fighter pilot but decided against the military life after realizing it would require him to wake up early. He had further illusions of being a stand-up comedian, until a traumatic experience on stage forced him to seek a college education. Brief stints as an alternative rock singer/guitarist and child model also proved unsuccessful. Today he battles a severe Tetris addiction while trying to write in the speculative fiction game. Demons, robots, dragons, superheroes…that sort of thing.
His short fiction has been published in such places as Nature’s Futures, The Best of Galaxy’s Edge 2013-2014, Unidentified Funny Objects 4, and Weird Tales Magazine. His first novel, Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device, will be out in October 2016. Suffice it to say, things are going much better than his modeling career.
James lives in Staten Island, New York, but don’t hold that against him.
Visit his website at .
The first Dead Jack short story! The dead dick is hired to rescue a pixie from a nasty ogre. Jack has a simple plan to get her back, but will it work? Also included is the first chapter of "Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device," the first novel in the zombie detective series.