Authors: Elias Anderson
Edited, Produced, and Published by Writer’s Edge Publishing
All rights reserved.
© 2016 by Elias Anderson.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.
All characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
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SEASONS OF BLOOD SERIES
God of the Dead
I would like to thank the Usual Suspects for all their input, help, and support; Jeremy, Kendall, and Chad at WEP have been amazing. To my old friend and Beta Reader Extraordinaire Alisha Helton; without you this would not have come together. You supported me in making one of the biggest changes I've ever made to a book, and kept me from making some even bigger mistakes. Thank you, Stockman. Thank you, and thank you, and thank you.
This book is for my Mom, who got me started as a writer...and for my wife, who has never let me quit.
About an hour before sunset, the bucolic silence of the countryside was interrupted by the battering-ram roar of a Harley-Davidson. The bike was moving slow, as the road was covered in crumbling and pitted blacktop, the impatience of the driver evident in way he gunned the engine.
After another ten minutes down this busted and mostly forgotten road, it ended in a large copse of trees, leaving but two choices: turn right or go back.
Here was the bright blue mailbox on a thick, iron post the man on the Harley had been told to expect. There was no name on the mailbox but this was the place. He turned the bike, going across a cattle guard and up a road that, while unpaved, was well-packed and in better shape than the blacktop he’d taken to get to it.
The bushes and trees had grown in close to the little road. The branches would have ruined the paint job of his ride if it had been a car, but he passed among their silently reaching fingers, went around a curve, and the bushes gave way to a small but well-manicured lawn on the left.
In the center of the lawn was a small, white house in good repair with a neat, little porch out front.
The bike rolled to a stop in the driveway and the man riding it gunned the engine once more, the sound of it rolling across the empty land like thunder. He dropped the kickstand and turned the key, shutting down the bike. The silence seemed to him louder than the Harley. He dismounted the bike and walked up to the porch. Off to one side of the porch, to the left of the front door, were two wicker chairs with a small, glass-topped wicker table set between them. Before he could reach the steps, the door opened and out stepped the man he’d been sent to find: short and of Thai descent, standing only five-five or so. He was thin and neatly dressed, wearing a light blue shirt, buttoned all the way to the collar and tucked in to dark blue slacks. His hair was cropped short and thinning in the front and on top, black but heavily threaded with grey. He had a neatly trimmed mustache that had not yet greyed as much as the hair on his head.
“Mr. Perish, yes?” asked the Thai.
“That’s correct,” Mr. Perish said.
“I was told to expect you and to have this…parcel ready for you? This is why you’re here, yes? And the letter?” The Thai man held out the parcel, a small box wrapped in plain brown paper, and a sealed envelope of thick, expensive stationary..
“Let’s sit first,” Perish said. “Talk.”
The Thai man hesitated, eyes flicking back toward his house, but he did as he was bade, taking the wicker chair nearest the door. Perish sat in the other one. The Thai man placed the parcel and the envelope on the glass top of the table, setting them down slowly, carefully, then sliding them a bit closer to Perish.
Perish ignored the package and the envelope.
In the front window of the house there sat a red Abyssinian cat, perched on the ledge along the window inside the house, its yellow eyes staring like lamps. It flicked its giant ears and meowed at them through the screen.
Perish sat there, staring at the owner of the cat and the neat, little house, that man sitting and staring back at himself reflected in Perish’s sunglasses.
“So, ah,” the Thai man said, brushing non-existent wrinkles out of the front of his shirt, then scratching his neck. “This will…conclude our business?”
Perish shook his head.
“There’s something else coming, Detective—”
Perish took his glasses off, narrowing his gaze. The retired detective shifted in his seat. “We may still require your services, down the road,” Perish said.
The retired detective looked down at his hands, now folded together in his lap. Perish noted the shaking in those hands, even folded. Perish exhaled deeply and set his sunglasses on the table, next to the parcel, the frames clicking against the glass top.
“This thing coming up, this is huge. Things are moving faster now,” Perish said.
The retired detective swallowed hard. “I understand,” he said in a low voice, trying not to stare at the scar on Mr. Perish bore on his face, long and thick, running from his hairline to just above his upper lip, straight through his left eyebrow. Whatever had given him that scar had only narrowly missed taking his eye out, too.
Perish leaned back in his chair. “I’ve been asked to get your opinion on one of the men you worked with before. He’s going to get pulled into this and we need to know if you trust him.”
The retired detective looked up, eyes widening for a moment. “Your people know what I know, don’t they? They seem to know everything.”
“What they don’t know is how this will play out. You know the man I’m speaking of.”
“It seems that regardless of my opinion, you’re going to use him,” the retired detective said. “Why else have me write that letter?”
Perish stared across the table, saying nothing.
“He’s a good man,” the retired detective said. “He doesn’t deserve this.”
“But can we trust him?”
“I trusted him,” the retired detective said.
“Will this letter be enough?” Perish asked, taking the envelope off the table and weighing it in his hands.
“I believe it will be,” the retired detective said, running his hands through his hair. “But he doesn’t
! Can’t you, can’t
find someone else?”
no one else. Not unless
want to come out of
? No? Okay. Then there is no one else. Not for this. He’s who we have to work with, since you can’t—
“But she got away, didn’t she?” Perish asked.
The retired detective recoiled from this as though slapped, and hung his head.
“Don’t you worry, though,” Perish said, standing up and putting on his sunglasses, then placing the envelope in a pocket inside the long, black coat he wore. “Someone else will pick up after you.”
“They got the
involved! I took that case as far as humanly possible.”
“Did you?” Perish asked.
“It would have cost me my
“Well, as long as
life. Your nice little house, your cat. Sit and think about that, why don’t you? People are going to
while you sit here, petting your cat and telling yourself you’ve retired while you try not to think about that trunk in the back of your closet.”
The retired detective flinched again at the mention of his trunk. “How did you….”
“You said it yourself, right? Cain knows
.” Perish picked up the parcel from the table and waggled it at the retired detective. “Pray to whatever god you believe in I’m able to bring this back to you.”
Inside the cat meowed again. Crickets began to sing.
“You can’t sit on the sidelines forever,” Perish said. “Enjoy your retirement, for now. Sit out here and lick your wounds, put yourself back together. Let me suggest, though, if you have the opportunity to help, down the road? We’re watching. Cain is always watching.”
Perish turned and left the retired detective sitting in his comfortable wicker chair on the porch of his nice little house, his mind already turning to the trunk in his closet.
AJ looked up at the clock, not knowing that in one minute he’d fall in love and in three he’d see his first dead body. It was 2:42 A.M.
A car pulled into the lot. The driver killed the engine and stepped out. AJ expected a night person: the paranoid, the destitute, or the stoned. Instead it was a girl; not a crack-head or a whore, but a normal
, and not many came in alone this time of night. This rare girl was not beautiful, or anything so mundane, but drop dead gorgeous, with blonde hair just past her shoulders, eyes the color of clover, and a smile that stopped his pulse.
“Hi,” AJ said, feeling like a jack-ass.
“Hi.” She headed to the refrigerated drink section, which was glowing in the dingy gas station lighting as would the first star in a midnight sky, and with her she took his heart. He saw a cockroach scurrying across the dirty tile floor and hoped she wouldn’t notice.
She set a bottle of soda on the counter. “And can I get a pack of smokes, please?”
“What’s your poison?”
She smiled again. “Marlboro Lights.”
AJ rang up her purchases, thinking he would sell his soul for a girl like this. “Six thirty-seven.”
She swiped her card in the machine. “So what’s it like working here?” she asked. “Get a lot of weirdoes?”
“Oh yeah, you wouldn’t
the freaks that come in this time of night,” AJ said.
“Well, you know. Other than you, I mean.” AJ felt the red creep across his face.
“How do you know?” she asked.
“How do I know what?”
“What kind of person I am. I mean, I could be Lizzie Borden, Tipper Gore.
“I’ve developed an eye for it, working here. Now, if you’d come in twitching and talking to yourself, it’d be a different story.”
She laughed and opened her cigarettes. “Do you mind if I smoke in here?”
“Nope,” AJ said, flicking his Zippo open for her. “So, what’s your name?”
Like her eyes, AJ thought. He felt himself blush and occupied himself by getting out a cigarette of his own to smoke with her. “I’m--”
She pointed to his name tag. “AJ. I know. I saw it when I came in.”
“So. Clover. What brings you to Vito’s Gas-N-Go at this time of ni...” AJ trailed off when a man walked into the store. He was a younger guy but had the old, wizened face of a drug addict. He was wearing an old, dirty trench coat, faded jeans, and a black, knitted hat.
“Can I help you?” AJ asked. The man in the doorway shuffled inside, the sound of his movements somehow empty.
“You OK?” AJ asked. “You need an ambulance or something?”
The man shook his head and tried to speak. His mouth moved, making a gravelly whisper.
“What?” AJ’s nose wrinkled as the guy got closer; it smelled like the guy had shit his pants.
“A...A...” The man cleared his throat and took another step forward, the only thing between them now was the counter. His face was covered in acne, and even from where he stood, AJ could plainly see his teeth were for shit; the ones that he had left in his head were either rotten or on their way. Meth, maybe? Smack? AJ didn’t know what particular flavor the guy was killing himself with, only that it was one of them. Like he’d told Clover, he kinda had an eye for it.
“A…” the junky said again.
“A what?” AJ asked, knowing the guy was high as shit.
How in the…oh. The name tag. “Yeah, that’s me. Who are you?”
The man grinned and then his hands, cold from the night air he’d been walking through, were around AJ’s throat.
“Get off him!” Clover grabbed one of the junky’s arms, trying to pull him away. She got a backhand in the mouth that sent her to the floor.
AJ twisted free, ducking toward the counter and pulling out a wooden baseball bat. It
when he swung it, connecting solidly with the attacker’s temple. The psycho blinked twice and shook his head to clear it, eyes narrowing.
“Oh, shit,” AJ said, thinking,
The junky’s lips twisted into an ugly grin and he punched AJ in the face.
AJ staggered back, he could already feel his eye swelling.
Clover was on her feet again. She grabbed a bottle of wine off the rack near the counter and swung for the fences, the bottle exploding against the back of the junky’s head. Cheap merlot and black glass spilled to the floor.
It was as if the man hadn’t felt it. He turned, grabbed her by the face, and shoved her. She staggered back half a dozen steps and slammed into a display rack of pre-packaged, factory-produced pastries, knocking Hostess cakes and mini-donuts to the floor.
AJ adjusted his grip on the bat, flexing his hands right and taking the extra moment to square his feet like his dad had taught him.
He took another swing.
He’d only played baseball up until his freshman year of high school and had been on the JV squad even then. Still, one fine spring morning, he’d managed to hit his only home run, and he could still remember it. He would sometimes close his eyes and think of that moment because it had been a good one. A great one, really: the smell of the line chalk and freshly cut grass, the contrast on the deep, lush green of the outfield, and the clear, empty blue of the late April sky. He remembered the sound the ball had made when he connected with it and how he hadn’t felt it. There had been a split second where he thought he’d given it the big whiff and K’d, but then the bench and the small crowd in the hometown stands exploded, and he could see the perfect white sphere of the ball, shrinking as it went over the centerfield fence, still on its upward trajectory.
This was like that, but it wasn’t.
It was almost three in the morning and it was cold out. Instead of the perfect, crisp light of the spring sun, there was the flickering of old fluorescent bulbs, the bodies of dozens of dead and ancient flies collected in the fixtures. The smell of dirt was there, but this was not the freshly turned and raked dirt of a baseball diamond; rather, it was old and sour, with heavy undertones of feces.
The sound, that was different, too. Now was a sound somehow both hard and wet, of something with a thick outer shell and a hollow center, a sound that AJ would hear the rest of life in the bad times, the dark times, the times he didn’t want to be alone. The sound of the bat connecting with the guy’s skull made his stomach turn.
Clover flinched at the wet crack, the junky’s eyes rolling back as he dropped to the floor.
AJ helped Clover steady herself as she stood amongst the fallen packages of snack cakes. There was a small rivulet of blood ran from her perfect lower lip and a smear of black dirt along her cheekbone from the man’s hand on her face.
“You all right?” AJ asked, his voice shaking in time with his pulse, hammering in his temples and the insides of his wrists.
“I think so. How’s your eye?”
Eye, he thought. What eye?
The only eyes that mattered were hers. He held her chin and gently thumbed the blood away from her mouth. He saw himself reflected in those deep green pools and knew he could be happy forever if he could only see himself in them every day. For that glimmer in time, they were the only two people alive.
Then she spoke, quietly. “We better call somebody.”
AJ nodded and handed her the bat. “If he moves, hit him again.”
Clover adjusted her hands for a better grip as AJ went to the phone.
* * * * *
The patrol car slowed near the intersection of 86
“I don’t see a goddamn thing, do you?” Andrews asked, flipping on the spotlight and sweeping the sidewalk.
Fenster craned his head, looking at all four corners of the intersection.
“No, wait, I
see something,” Andrews said. “I see a bum taking a dump behind that light pole about a block from here, but that doesn’t seem like us, does it?”
“Call that one in for Animal Control,” Fenster said and the two of them chuckled. “I sure don’t see no OD’ing dope-fiend, though.”
Andrews grabbed the mic off the dash. “Dispatch come back, do you read, Dispatch? This Four-Oh-Niner, come back?”
There was a crackle of static. “Copy 409, Dispatch reads you, over.”
“We’re out on eight-six and Downing, responding to that anonymous call-in? Supposed to be a man lying in the street, possible overdose? Can I get another read on that intersection?”
“That’s correct, eight-six and Downing.”
“Nothing to report here, Dispatch. He must have walked off.”
“I’m sure he’ll turn up in the morgue sooner or later,” Fenster said, rolling his eyes. Goddamn needle-freaks always did, eventually.
“409, are you still in the vicinity? Come back?”
“Dispatch, 409 in the vicinity, over.”
“409, we have another call, near your twenty.”
“Go ahead,” Andrews said.
“We have an assault at a Vito’s Gas-N-Go, that’s Victor India Tango Oscar—”
“I’m familiar, Dispatch, off 75
. Called in by an employee, suspect still on the scene, likely unconscious. Two civilians, including the caller.”
“Now we’re talking,” Fenster said.
“Lighting ‘em up, Dispatch, E.T.A. under five. Over.”
“Roger that, 409, report back at the scene. Over.”
Andrews returned the mic and hit the switch.
“Make it scream,” Fenster said.
“That’s what she said,” Andrews said and they both laughed as he cranked the wheel and put on the gas.
* * * * *
AJ pulled the phone away from his mouth, holding it so the receiver was still tucked against his ear.
“Fit as a fucking fiddle,” Clover said, still holding the bat. She never took her eyes off the guy on the floor, her face a study in concentration. If that guy so much as farted she looked ready to break his spine. “You?”
“I’m on hold,” AJ said.
Clover rolled her eyes. “This city’s going to shit.”
“Who you telling?” AJ said.
“Okay, AJ, are you still on the line?” the 911 operator asked.
“Yes, ma’am, I’m here.”
“Okay, you’re doing great. We have two officers just a couple blocks away, they’ll be there in just a minute, okay?”
“I think I hear them coming,” AJ said.
“Okay, good. When they pull into the lot, tell me. Is the person you hit with the bat still on the floor?”
“Yeah, he’s not moving,” AJ said. Jesus Christ, he thought. He really
“They should almost be there, do you see them yet?” the operator asked.
“Not yet, I can definitely hear them, though. We need an ambulance too, this guy he needs an ambulance.”
“We have an ambulance en route as well, it’ll be there just a few minutes after the officers, okay? The most important thing right now is your safety and the safety of your friend.”
AJ opened his mouth to go on a rambling explanation that, while he certainly hoped he and this girl would be friends, it was still super early and he didn’t want to put a label on anything. He’d long resorted to humor under stress, but this time he snapped his mouth shut with a click of his teeth.
“Do you see them yet?” The operator asked.
“No, I…wait, yes, they’re turning in.”
“Okay, I need you and your friend to raise your hands and back up as far from the man on the floor as possible. You can hang up the phone now.”
“Thank you,” AJ said and put the receiver down as the cruiser ran through the last red light and turned into the parking lot.
“Put down the bat,” AJ said, raising his hands.
” Clover said and, while she didn’t drop the bat, she raised her hands over her head and backed with him toward the slushie machine, her eyes still locked on the man lying on the floor.
The two cops came in, their hands on the butts of their still-holstered guns.
“Clear!” one of them shouted, looking down at the man on the floor and back up to AJ. “Did you call this in?”
“Vacate,” the other cop said, dropping to the floor and cuffing the man lying there. AJ tried to see what they were doing but the first cop came forward, and Clover finally dropped the bat to the floor.
“Weapon here,” the first cop said over his shoulder, ushering AJ and Clover toward the side door.
“I’ll mark it,” the second cop said.
“Do I need to put you in my car or can you both wait out front for me?” The cop asked. AJ looked at his nameplate, which read FENSTER.