I fumble with my mp3 player as I stand in the bitter darkness of the alleyway, trying to set the damned thing to my “Work” playlist. God, how I miss cassette players, they were just so much simpler to use. But far be it from me to be an “old man” as my son would often call me whenever he saw me messing with this stupid device. He’d gotten it for me for my birthday this past November, and even though I had a hundred dollars’ worth of music I could “buy” for it, I just chose the one song.
I smiled as the familiar tune began; the swaying guitar matched the rhythmic tapping of the drums. “Ahh… Dusty. Lord knows to my surprise…”
I stand with one earbud plugged into the side of my head, my dark cardigan slightly damp from the constant dripping of the alleyway I was standing in. One of the many joys of New York, there is never a shortage of alleyways to work with. My shoes, clean and buffed as of this morning, while also sanded down on the bottom, make almost no noise as I move to the side of the dumpster that was blocked from the view of the open street. My large leather satchel, still cold to the touch, and my instruments still laid out in a neat row atop a long rolling leather case.
I move back to my position at the alley's mouth, popping my back as I go, pulling the brim of my golfing hat lower over my eyes. My trench coat, a genuine Burberry if you can believe it, is undone, hanging loosely down to my ankles, blending in with my black slacks. Checking my watch (not my phone mind you, there is an actual difference!), I hear Dusty begin to sing again as my first client of the night begins walking down the sidewalk towards me, a hulking black man, and two of his friends.
I step from the shadows just as they are upon me, causing them all to flinch and swear. “Goddamnit man! You can’t be sneaking up on people like that!” One of his friends, a well-dressed younger man with a very rich scent… high dollar cologne.
The other friend is more “down to earth” I suppose you would say, and is merely in jeans a few sizes too large for him, held taut at his waist by a belt with hammered holes through it; perhaps he’d just lost a great deal of weight?
My target, however, the largest of the three, is built like one of the solid Redwoods of California; tall, dark and thick. He was dressed casually enough though he wore a pair of shiny black shoes and a pressed pair of pants beneath his colorful shirt. These three were obviously out for a night on the town.
“Terribly sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” Adopting a Scottish burr of an accent, a practiced and simple task for me.
Something everyone in my line of business needs.
“I was just wondering two things, gentlemen,” I say, moving closer to them slowly. None of them move back or even tighten up their muscles… they don’t see me as a threat.
“First of all is I was hoping I could get the time from you, as my pocket watch,” which I fish out subtly with my leather-clad hand, the flashing bit of gold remaining visible for but a moment before I drop it back into one of the lower pockets, “has unfortunately stopped working, and I’m supposed to begin my evening shift at 10:00 PM sharp.”
“Well damn man, you gonna be in trouble then,” Tight-belt said, checking a flashy looking device. “Its 10:07 man, you are late!”
“Oh, it won’t matter terribly and thank you for telling me, I need to keep my watch better wound… but I was also wondering if any of you might have a cigarette for an old man on this cold night?” I ask genially, having stopped in between all three of them, each merely a foot or two away from me.
“Nah man, we don’t’ smoke.” The largest one said, waving away at the idea. “That shit’ll kill you.”
I look at him for a few moments, a small quirk of a smile forming at the corner of my lips. The other two laugh and agree they can’t help me out, using euphemisms that men and women had fought so hard to ban from our butchered language that it almost distracted me as I picked the largest man’s wallet, deftly putting it into inner breast pocket of my coat, subtly pulling the slim identification card from its place atop a money clip.
“Ah well, fortune doesn’t look down upon me this evening, sadly.” I say, looking at the largest man, smiling slightly, before turning and walking back to the darkness of the alley (I’d broken all the light bulbs earlier this evening.) pulling my pocket watch and winding it to set it to 10:10, to keep it accurate. “Thank you, gentlemen, especially you Simon Masterson, of West Cherry Hill, apartment number five-zero-five.”
They had begun walking away, chuckling to themselves about the odd little man until I called that out. Simon, the man who was now lighter one wallet, whipped around to look at me, the half of my leaning out into the light of the street, my grinning face and leather hand holding his wallet catching his attention.
“Son of a bitch!” He shouts and turns to run after me, his two friends right by his side. I slither back into the darkness, back behind the dumpster and quietly scale a fire escape ladder about ten feet up.
I have no means of seeing them as the bumble through the alleyway, but my ears (the one not listening to a song about young, forbidden love) could hear every scrape of their shoes, every gasp of breath, every muttered curse as they fumbled down the darkened alley looking for me. I only begin to descend the fire escape as the trio pass under me, going deeper into the hungering darkness.
Pocketing the wallet, I retrieve my Benchmade Model 4X, spinning it skillfully between my fingers as I sling the butterfly knife into an open position, locking the five inches of razor-sharp black steel into position as I casually walk up behind one of the shorter ones, the cologne connoisseur, and quickly fold my opened hand over his mouth and run my blade through his neck, stabbing into the side and pulling out to cut off his vocal cords.
Dead a second later from the sudden blood loss, I yank a clean roll of gauze quickly bind the wound, taking the extra ten seconds to make sure he’s not bleeding too heavily onto the paved street of the alleyway. I wipe my knife three times on his coat before standing and moving after the other two, who are still shouting and looking for me in the darkness.
From their thunderous stomping, I can hear Simon is marching back towards the light of the street. No, this won’t do at all! As Dusty sings of the one boy who could have her reach God, I firmly plant my feet, and pull my hands up, allowing the butterfly knife to slide down into my sleeve. As Simon’s towering form closes unknowingly in upon me, I do my best to guess where he will be, and hold my hands out, both in the open palm position.
He slams into my hands and I spring into action, taking hold of his shirt and driving my knee into his solar plexus, smiling at the flexibility I still possess as I he doubles over in pain. Flipping my blade back into my hand, I drive it to the hilt into the base of his skull, using it as a handle to twist and break his neck to keep his death silent in the flurry of movements.
I pull the blade free, wiping it three times on his colorful shirt clean off his dark blood before wrapping a few rounds of gauze over the wound to stem the bleeding, pushing him off to the side.
“Simon, where you at? I can’t find the faggot who took your wallet man, shit!” Tight-Belt cries, a brief flash of light exploding like a beacon amongst my comfortable darkness. The man’s phone has a built in flashlight… this I hadn’t planned for. The light is weak, only giving him perhaps three feet of clear visibility, but that’s more than I prefer him having. The problem with my line of work is leaving stragglers, and judging by his voice, he plans on bolting as soon as he can.
“How well I remember… the look that was in his eyes… knowing that he was all mine…” I mutter to myself, as I hug the wall, slowly growing closer to him.
“Adrian! Simon! Guys, where you at?” He called his voice echoing down the empty labyrinth of alleys. None of the homeless ever came into these alleys. They were more in touch with the age old fight-or-flight mechanic, and could somehow sense that I hunted here on occasion. Nobody would here Tight-Belts cries.
Nobody except for me of course.
I clear my throat quietly, changing my accent to that of a Parisian. “Who might you be my scared little black bird?”
“Oh, shit, who’s there? Dude, just back off man, I’m warning ya, I know how to fight man!” Tight-Belt proclaimed his face and hands dripping with fear-tinted sweat.
That stopped me cold. “En réalité? And by what discipline do you command your combative skills from, dare I ask?”
I half expect him to take a karate stance, finding myself slightly amused by Tight-Belt. But no, he drops his phone to the ground, the light shining up to illuminate his immediate surroundings, taking a rather solid stance, hands held high, weight balanced evenly between feet as he squares his hips towards the sound of my voice. Someone knows an actual fighting style!
“I know enough mother fucker, not that you’d know what it is!” He barks out at the darkness like a terrified hound: showing a brave front, in hopes of scaring the opponent away.
“That looks an awful lot like a Krav Maga stance to me if I was forced to guess. How long have you been training?” I ask, smiling even wider as his eyes show his surprise, his fear, at my knowledge.
“Just cleared up to my brown belt, so you better not mess with me old man!” He snaps at me, looking around the general direction I was in a moment ago. Sorry to say for him, I’m now prowling around him, to his left side, seeing as he’s right handed. “I don’t know what you did to Simon and Adrian, but I’m gettin’ out of here!”
Flipping the butterfly knife closed and sliding it into my pocket, I watch him stay in his stance, solid as a rock of the mountain. Studying him, I can tell he’s lightly muscled, and that he must have been overweight for quite some time, if the stretch marks on his biceps are any indication. He must have gone to a Krav Maga center to try and lose weight, and learned to fight in the process.
Sadly, that’s not how that style works. Krav Maga is Israeli and not a very old style as well, having adopted from the various other street fight styles that existed around the world to create a fighting style for a killer. Half of the maneuvers are designed to lead into a killing strike while the other half is actual killing strikes. This isn’t a fighting style for someone like him, a pudgy boy trapped in a fat man’s body.
It’s for someone like me.
That’s why I know it as well.
I launch myself from the darkness just as he opens his mouth to call out to me again, leaving his attention elsewhere. I slam into his side, my right palm crashing into the left side of his jaw, shattering the fragile bones there before I duck beneath his raised hands and into his “box,” his own fighting stance and reach, slamming my left fist into his kidney’s as I grab him by the ear, yanking him downward, face first into my right knee. His gurgled cry goes even softer as I punch the back of his head with my left fist twice in rapid succession before shoving him away by my grip on his head and my left foot in a simple and slow forward kick.
I’d felt him adjust his guard, trying to trap my right hand for a possible armbar, but my kidney shot had caught him by surprise, surprise enough to yank him down into a knee strike. I’d even felt his own feeble attempts at grabbing my ankle, perhaps to flip me back and away from him.
The two punches to the back of his skull had halted that attempt. He now lays on his side, mere inches from the bright screen of his phone, coughing and sputtering, openly crying at my assault.
“The funny thing about claiming you know how to fight,” I say, dropping all pretenses and accents as I walk into the light, to allow him to see me as I speak, “is that you actually know how to fight outside your training center. Krav Maga isn’t for people trying to look cool, or trying to get in shape. Its sole purpose, the sole reason it exists, is to teach you how to survive.”
He chokes back a sob as I stomp on his phone once, killing the light and allowing the comfort of the night to swallow us once more. “You failed to learn that lesson tonight.”
I move forward and palm-strike his bloody face, corkscrewing my hips into the motion to throw my weight into the blow, slamming him hard against the asphalt, crushing his skull. I wipe my bloodied glove on his clothes, pulling a bottle of water from my coat to rinse off my gloves and coat, using a small flashlight to check myself over. Once clean, I get to work.
I drag all three of the men behind the dumpster, heads touching the buildings foundation while feet are stretched out. I remove their shoes and socks, pulling six dirtied, worn ones from my jacket and slipping them onto their feet, which are visible from the road; now they're just three sleeping bums, not three bodies.
I kneel next to Simon, removing all of his jewelry and money from his pockets and hands, dropping them into a Ziploc bag with his wallet that went into my trench coat. Taking the first of my finely crafted surgical tools from their unrolled leather kit, I begin cutting into Simon, flashlight held between my teeth as I create a wide slit, before fishing for what I seek… ah-ha!
Slowly, cutting the connected tubes, I gently remove the liver of the man, checking its overall color to make certain I haven’t gathered a sick man’s organ, before wrapping it in several layers of plastic wrap, writing Simons name and blood type (courtesy of his driver’s license and organ donor card) with a black sharpie, before sliding it into my ice-filled satchel.
I turn slowly on aching knee as I move to the cologne connoisseur, one Adrian Higgs, taking away his various valuables and his wallet, choosing to leave the expensive looking phone of his, seeing how I despise them. I feel over his abdomen, smiling when I feel the almost imperceptible bulge of his kidneys and begin my incisions there, repeating the process I had performed with Simons' liver mere minutes ago.
I finally turn to the brutalized corpse of Tight-Belt (Jacob Jordan, apparently). With him I grab my bone saw, and begin slowly sawing into the left side of his chest, whir of the electric blade humming along nicely to Dusty’s dulcet tones. After removing the severed ribs at the base with an eerie cracking noise as I tear them away from the sternum, I carefully extract the left lung, then the heart and then finally the right lung. Wrapped in plastic and snug in my satchel, I check through his wallet, frowning at the lack of an organ donor card.
“How rude…” I mutter to myself as I pull a spray bottle of lye and spray down wherever I touched, humming to myself idly. Pulling my pocket watch, I see that it’s nearly 10:25, giving me an easy twenty minutes to make it to my train.
I pack the bottle away nice and snug next to the organs and the packed ice, pushed some more ice atop the human tissue, to keep it fresh and shoulder the bag, which is now easily ten to fifteen pounds heavier than twenty minutes ago. I whistle along with Dusty as I exit the alley and begin making my way down the street, towards the subway station.
Just as I reach a corner crosswalk flashes the universal sign to stop and be patient, so I do. Looking to my left, a small newspaper kiosk catches my attention, the headlines of the New York Daily News catching my eye.
I stroll up to the kiosk, passing a dollar bill to the owner of the small storefront and grab the paper, opening it right there to read about the fifth discovery of the “Organ –Snatcher”, a serial killer that had been plaguing New York for the past seven months. Looking to my right at the sign of movement, I see a police officer stop and buy the same issue, looking at the headline before shaking his head.
“Any good leads on the rogue doing this?” I ask him, switching to my Scottish accent. The police officer seems surprised by the question but quickly covers it with a warm smile towards me. He’s a younger man, with slightly Asian features and short cropped black hair, with a swimmers build.
“We’re doing what we can,” He says in a mildly evasive way.
“Come now, he’s killed what, twenty people, now?” I ask, pressing the lad for information. “Do you have any witnesses to the crimes or anything? Any leads?”
“Well he’s actually only killed seventeen I think, but we have issued a statement claiming that he is probably a younger Caucasian male, with a boxers build.” The Officer replies, basically repeating the garbage I’ve been reading for the past few months. “We think he might be doing something ritualistic with them, maybe even eating them, as none of the missing organs are cropping up anywhere in the city.”
“Hmmm… so you think he’s a cannibal?” I ask, faintly amused at the notion. I’d tried a strip of human meat once before and found it unappealing though I mostly blame the cook for that review.
“Personally, yeah. I mean, he’s just targeting people at random, so he’s obviously just after the organs.” The Officer replies before motioning at the crosswalk. “Safe to go now.”
“Oh, thank you!” I say, rushing to cross the street before the timer on the small neon box ran out. “And good luck catching your man sir!” I call back to him.
I reach the train station at precisely 10:40 PM, five minutes early. It seems my partner in crime is just as early, so we move towards each other, arms spread wide for gentle side armed hugs, our satchels each weighing heavily on our aching backs. We take a seat along the long benches in front of the empty tracks, no train due for another twenty minutes.
“So what do you have for me tonight Sal?” My friend asks his Italian accent one I’ve never been able to mimic. That’s why he calls me Sal, short for Salamander. He claims it’s the lizard that can change color and regrow limbs, and even though I refuted his claims on that, the name has stuck these past few months.
“One beater, two inhalers, two filters and a flask, the inhalers and beater unidentified,” I reply, using the code we’d come up with once we’d started doing business. “You bring enough for all of that?”
“Jesus man, that story is gonna be a nasty one, isn’t it?” He asks me, referring to the inevitable story to be printed within the next few days. “And yeah, I’m pretty sure I got enough for ya. You said you prefer B positive right? HIV positive?”
“Yes,” I reply with a solemn nod. “I find it makes it easier for the collector if my desires aren’t too high. Did you label the races they came from this time?”
“Yeah, just like you asked Sal,” He said with a shake of his head, his older features far more haggard than mine, even though we’d both suffered through the same horrors of War. His skin old and patchy, flaking in certain spots due to his constant psoriasis. He was balding as well; something I’d been happy to learn would never happen to me. “Man, I gotta know what you want with all this tainted blood? You running a scam with it or something?”
He asks every time, and I merely tell him the same thing every time. “That’s not in the deal Joseph, you know that. Now let me check my payment.” I reply, holding out an arm for his satchel, a desert storm camouflaged bag that almost made me snarl at his idiocy. Holding the bag, I could tell it was easily sixty pounds, and upon unzipping the top most compartments, I see a sealed medical bag, filled with the vital red fluid I needed.
“Alright, it seems good enough,” I say after staring at the small baggies longingly, zipping the bag up. “Come back in say, two months and three weeks, same time and place of course. And bring enough for at least ten pieces this time. In something that actually matches what I wear.”
“You got it, Sal,” Joseph chuckles as he leans back on the bench. As I stand to leave, I hand him the paper I’d purchased, smiling at him as he thanked me, “you have a safe walk home, Sal.”
I merely wave over my shoulder as I put the second ear bud in, turning up the volume of the song, softly singing to myself as I walked home, a small flat that I keep just a mere two blocks from the train station. The night is a tad chilly, so I pull my coat tight around me as I smile at a lovely couple walking past me.
As I make it to the door of my flat, I unlock the door, putting the key back into my pocket before entering my cozy little home a three bedroom, two bathroom basement level flat that cost me a hefty two grand a month. I had furnished it like I had in the old country, with solid wooden flooring and furniture, a radio and record player next to a high backed chair and a towering bookshelf, with a hall leading to my office and workshop, and into my bedroom.
I move to the fridge and begin unloading the pint-sized bags of blood into the fridge; sliding them into slots I had inserted there myself. The forty-odd bags filled out the remainder I had left within the fridge, calming my worry. Ever since that night, I’d been easily worried, and prone to hoarding.
I reach beneath the blood and pull a readied bag of nutrient-rich fluid I’d just received this morning from a rather the drug store. The nutrient rich food that went along with it came in a tube, similar to the cookie dough I saw in a supermarket the one time I went.
Stopping off in my office I throw the three dead men’s wallets into a green recycle-bin full of them, their jewelry into a mason jar I placed onto a shelf lined with similar contents: sparkling silver and glimmering gold, with diamonds and rubies galore. I would spend my next few nights separating the gems from the metals, determining the qualities, and then melting them down into thin bars that I could then sell with ease. The gems I mostly kept for myself, or for when I heard of a local wedding at a Synagogue; then I would fashion the bride and groom a pair of brilliant necklaces, and show up if it was at night, claiming to be a distant cousin that merely wished to congratulate the couple with a gift.
It’s always nice to give back to the community.
“You out there Shylock?” Came the raspy voice of my roommate, who’d obviously been awoken by my movements about the house. I stood up straighter, removing my trench coat and hanging it next to my desk as I took a moment to flip through the next few days in my calendar book, noting the electric bill was due in two days. Making a mental note, I scoop up my supplies as I make my way to the bedroom.
Hanging from the rafters of the room by leather bracers, stretching him wide at the shoulders and connecting him to the ceiling and to the wall by the hefty length of chain, I stand in the doorway and merely smile at my friend, who doesn’t reciprocate sadly. Nude, the man is covered in tattoos, swastikas and Nazi propaganda littering his body. His feet were held down by cement blocks, but other than the strung up Neo-Nazi, the table holding his IV stands and his Gastric Feeding Tube device, which ran a clear plastic cord up to his ribs, piercing through and leading into his stomach. A catheter ran up the limp shaft of his penis, leading to a half full plastic sack I had sitting on the table. His fluids bag was empty, so I moved to replace it, smiling as he hoarsely spewed his hate speech at me while I did my best not to stare at his tattoos.
The only time a needle had pierced my skin was when I was taken, and it remains to this very day, some sixty years later, my second greatest fear, just below the beauty of the sun of course.
I tap his blood bag idly, watching as the blood seems to have stopped draining into him, meaning the best thing of the night.
I walk in front of him, grinning from ear to ear as I remove my hat, allowing my pointed ears to show, and I open my mouth allowing my fangs to flip down from the roof of my mouth. I place one hand over his mouth as I bite deep into his left pectoral, right over a tattoo in German that roughly translates to “Die, Jew, Die!”
My eyes, which I know have become red from my bloodlust, keep an eye on his half empty blood bag until the fluid begins to drain into him again. I keep draining, holding his face still as he bites into my gloved hand weakly, and his muffled screams of protest growing weaker by the moment at his blood pressures sudden change. I drain him for a solid minute, one hand over his face, the other on his wrist keeping track of his pulse until he begins to reach a critical level.
At that point I stop, licking the wound closed, and quickly switch out the now empty blood bag with a fresh one, the word “Black” written hastily over the side, identifying the race of the original carrier.
“There you go, my friend. All better, ja? I give you the Negroes blood this time; see if you can purify it with your Aryan root and proud heritage.” I say as I take some wet wipes, cleaning my own mouth and his chest.
“God…” He pants, hanging limply from his constraints. “How long have I been here now?”
“Two months and eight days,” I reply succinctly. “And as I told you when I first swooped in upon you, your beliefs earned a stay in prison equal to my stay, so you have another nine months to go.”
“Fucking Jew… we had it right when we said we needed to kill all of you!” He rasps, his throat to dry from not having any water pass through it for several months.
“On the contrary, it was your beloved doctors who made me what I am,” I reply, revealing to him my origins, as I did with all of my Neo-Nazi captives that I’ve held over the years. “I was but a man who wanted to live a simple life as a jeweler, until you and your war mongrel brethren ruined that for me.”
I spin back to him a wide grin on my highly vampiric features now; with blood red eyes and pointed ears, with skin so pale you could see the stolen blood pumping through my body in time with my heart beating. We all look this way after feeding, taking some time to calm down and begin to look “human” again.
“But now that we’re in America, I’ve been able to start anew! And thanks to the very principles of this society that allow me my religious freedom, they also grant you your right to your hate speech. My religion and culture led to an unjust punishment; I find it only ironic that your insipid beliefs lead to the exact same treatment I was given.”
“And if I live?” He asks, for the first time.
“Then out the door you go, your body crawling with HIV and Hepatitis from all of the poisoned blood I’ve been processing through you,” I reply with a sadistic grin. “I left the camps diseased, so why shouldn’t you?”
I move his ball-gag into place, tightening the collar in order to get some silence. I had a whole array of new jewel crafting materials to play with waiting in the other room, and only so much time to play with them before dawn broke, and I had to retreat into my hall closet.
Listening to his horrid moans and vitriolic howling through the gag, I merely shrug and move on. If he wants sympathy from J-6440 I think darkly as I subconsciously rub my inner right arm, then he will be waiting quite a while. Wonder which of us two monsters will last the longest.
Authors Note: Son of a Preacher Man has been a story I've always tinkered with and is the oldest story I have that is longer than 500 words. I'm redoing it to try and make it a little more appealing to publishers. Let me know what you think!