Copyright (c) 2019 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.
By R. Peterson
Lawrence Fisk had just been called to serve as Bishop of the thirteenth ward. He was dressed immaculately in a Stafford Executive suit accented by a bright red tie which subtly showed his affiliation with the Utah Republican Party. He carried in his right hand a copy of the Doctrine and Covenants with a highlight on section 111 verse 2 dealing with Salem Massachusetts. Accompanied by his wife Ruth, her sisters Kate and Emma and eight of his nine children he left early for Sacrament Meeting. Before leaving, he’d taken a few minutes to look down into the square concrete walls that had previously formed a coal chute, before the two hundred year old stone-house had been converted to natural gas, and prayed that his last offspring, an adolescent, would sleep away the day.
The courteous and helpful staff at the Neuropsychiatric Institute had assured Lawrence that there was nothing medically wrong with his daughter’s mind at least nothing that might require compulsive incarceration. However, the doctors who had conducted the extensive examinations confided privately to him that they and several of the staff were frightened by her dark and enigmatic aura.
A splintered eight-foot long, two by ten with nailed traction slats every foot along the length leaned against the mold-spotted walls and resembled more of an entrance board to a chicken coop than a stairway but Salt Lake City had very stringent laws concerning child detention. Lawrence hoped the ignominy of his righteous household would remain in the dark and secluded hollow he had created for her and not cause any further embarrassment.
Hamilton Fisk lay on the sweat dampened mattress and listened as the two Chevrolet Suburbans left the driveway. The black wax candle, she’d lit only moments before, illuminated a Siouxsie and the Banshees poster and a female Brown Recluse spider spinning a web in a dark corner of the unfinished ceiling.
She got up slowly and searched through a sewing box on a table near her bed and found a pin. The spider, which she’d fed flies to for weeks, tried to crawl into a crack in the cement wall. Ham used a burnt matchstick to lift the spider from the web and move it nearer the candle flame. She used a pair of thick bifocal glasses stolen from her “aunt” Emma to observe the spider’s tiny mouth-parts as she delicately prodded the chelicerae area with the pin. Ham smiled as the Brown Recluse left a tiny gob of venom on the end of the pin then replaced her on the web. She wiped the pin clean on a quarter-sized slice of thin roast-beef and then put the meat into a plastic bag.
The curtain-less shower was ice cold but she took her time and used plenty of goat milk soap to lather her long ebony hair. All rituals required a cleansing and before midnight she would do nine. She dressed carefully in a mid-thigh black-velvet Dark in Love dress with a low-cut lace up neck and pulled black boots over black leather leggings. A silver-plated Curses Chain belt with a dagger attached was hooked around her waist. The knife, when drawn from its sheath appeared to be merely a black lipstick holder. Unbeknown to any of the Salt Lake Police officers who had previously questioned and searched her, a hidden latch turned the lipstick holder into a real weapon with a wicked sharp blade.
She used no makeup. The all night McDonalds on second south did not allow it.
Ham stood in the bottom of the cement walls that used to form the coal chute, closed her eyes and listened. She kicked the chicken board with the horizontal slats with her boot. There was no way she was walking up that! She took a moment to make sure that no one was around. Why cause trouble? Slowly she levitated from her basement apartment. Two streets over, two Pit Bull dogs began to growl. The growls turned to shrieks as they were attacked by three black cats.
“Thank you my pets,” Ham muttered as she ambled down the snow covered sidewalk. “It’s nice to know you have my back.”
The first city bus could have taken her directly to work but she had the time and she chose the second. She was dropped off just one block from Joe’s Attic a dingy antique store with a vintage bicycle gathering dust in the front window. She shouldn’t have been anywhere near the store but she was drawn to the magic like a moth to a flame. And this was even more dangerous.
Ham stood at one corner of the dirty glass and peered through the spokes of the 1938 Adler Damenrad ladies’ bicycle on display inside. The store owner had moved the bike to his show window to entice her. Joseph Amati was anything but friendly unless you gave him what he wanted. The fifty year-old man had almost dragged her into the back room twice when she inquired about the bicycle’s price. “I won’t sell to just anyone and the price isn’t money,” he’d told her as he stared at the snake inked on the back of her hand. Ham knew plenty of guys like him. They considered any girl with a tattoo a whore and made crude advances.
She wanted to make sure he wasn’t where he could see her … so she could inquisition the bike. He was in the back room with a bucket of soapy water washing a dirty shade from a lamp.
Ham took two 1939 Lincoln wheat pennies from a pouch attached to her belt and pressed them face down against the glass … about two foot apart. She rotated each coin with her middle fingers. Ideally, she should be closer. It took several tries but then the bicycle wheels began to turn. Joe Amati looked up from the lamp shade he’d been cleaning. The bicycle’s kick-stand must have made a noise on the wooden platform when it moved. Ham ducted down and held her breath. After a couple of minutes she peered over the edge of the window. Amati was gone so was the bucket of water. She placed the pennies wheat side down against the glass and then slowly slid them upward. The bicycle trembled and then finally lifted into the air.
Ham smiled. The bicycle was the real thing. She just had to figure out how to get it.
She heard a noise and turned a split second before the hot, dirty water hit her head and shoulders. The bicycle in the display window dropped to the floor and tipped over.
Ammonia in the washing solution burned her eyes. “Vattene da qui!” Amati howled. He stood with the bucket in his hands and stared at the top of her wet dress where her sixteen year old cleavage shown. He looked up and down the street then licked his lips. “I have in mind to drag you inside! Darvi una frusta!”
He reached to clamp boney fingers on her shoulder. Ham twisted free then stood-up and shoved him. Amati stumbled three steps backward and fell.
Ham slipped the wheat pennies into her pouch as she ran. Amati cursed as he struggled to his feet. He hurtled the empty bucket. It hit the sidewalk behind her. “Ti prenderò la prossima volta che ti dividi,” he yelled. “La prossima volta ti prendo!”
Ham waited almost twenty minutes for the next bus one block down. A tree, with a few leaves left in late October, kept her partially hidden. She kept staring down the street expecting the Italian perverti to show up … but he didn’t. Her hair had frozen in long stringy tangles.
She got off at the north end of second south. There was a bridge there with friends under it.
Several shopping carts filled with empty bottles were jammed against the cement embankment Three unkempt individuals warmed their hands around a metal trashcan burning broken pallet boards. “Got food?” one of them asked as she passed. “I haven’t been to work yet,” she told him.
Liberty Johnson was half buried under three ragged blankets. “Are you sick Libby?”
“Just cold,” the old woman said pulling the blankets tighter.
“I’ve got it,” Ham showed Libby the piece of meat she’d wiped the spider venom on.
“About as big as a pin head,” Ham told her.
The old woman’s arthritic fingers produced a tiny paper square with an image of Disney’s Goofy printed on one side. Ham took it from her.
“Make sure they are both swallowed at the same time,” Libby said. “The effects should begin thirty minutes to an hour after ingestion.”
Ham carefully worked the LSD into the tiny square of roast beef.
“I wish I was coming with you,” Libby said. “But I’m getting too old to go creeping.”
“I’ll tell you all about it when I come back here with my bike,’ Ham told her.
“Make sure he gives you a receipt,” Libby said. “Terror will make him do anything but when he’s himself again he might have second thoughts.”
Ham arrived for work at the second south McDonalds fifteen minutes early. It was a good thing she did. The regular cook had called in sick and Ham would get an extra twenty-five cents an hour for taking his place. Luck seemed to be on her side but Ham wondered how long it would last.
Her shift ended at midnight and at first she didn’t think he was going to show. She’d followed him for months and knew his routine. Sunday nights at 11:32 on his way home from visiting his mother he always stopped for a McRoast-beef Sandwich, fries and a Coke. She’d gotten this job after formulating a plan to get the bicycle.
Her pulse quickened as she saw the white station wagon get in line for the drive through. They were extra busy tonight. She waited until both the other employees were busy with customers and then she spooned roast beef onto a bun with her tiny piece of beef on it. She wrapped the sandwich and placed it in the warmer.
Two Utah State Patrolmen were at the window. Clair, the girl working the registers, took two double cheeseburgers, two fries and then grabbed the roast beef sandwich from the warmer and dropped them into a bag. She handed the bag to the officer driving while she filled two paper cups with coke. Ham was dumbstruck; she just stood there staring.
“Miss,” One of the officers pushed the wrapped roast beef toward the window. “I ordered a McChicken sandwich!”
Clair tossed the roast beef back on the warming tray and retrieved the right sandwich. Ham didn’t know she’d been holding her breath until she started to breathe again.
“I was just trying to do him a favor,’ Clair said as the white station wagon pulled up to the window. “Do you know what the put in them chicken nuggets?”
“A McRoast beef, a small fry and a large coke,” Joseph Amati recited his order exactly the same way he had at least four times before.
When Clair handed Amati the bag he took the sandwich and fries out then knocked on the window. “These fries are cold,” he complained. “You want me to pay full price for cold fries?”
“We can take the fries back and not charge you,” Clair explained. “But nobody gets a discount!”
Ham watched Amati take a big bite out of his sandwich.
“Sporche puttane americane!” Amati growled just before he sped away.
Ham used her cell phone to dial the other members of Abra Cadaver. “He ate it,” she said.
The assistance manager wanted Ham to stay late and help clean up. “I quit,” Ham told her.
Ham was halfway to Amati’s antique store when Worms picked her up in his Father’s Ford F150. “Are you sure he lives alone above his store?” Walter Havens was gripping the steering-wheel so hard his knuckles were white.
“He has a brother who stays there sometimes but he’s always drunk. If he is there it will be like stepping over a sleeping dog.” Ham was putting on her make-up. A flashlight, on a string, pointed at her chin was around her neck.
“You got the key?”
Ham smiled as she held up the skeleton-key. “The locksmith didn’t even have to file it. It’s a standard key for nitwits!”
Worms parked a half block from the shop and they walked. Lights were on in the windows above the store. The downstairs was dark but Ham could still see the Adler Damenrad ladies’ bicycle lying on its side in the display window.
“Maybe we should just bag this,” Worms moaned.
“That bicycle belongs with me,” Ham told him. “If you got the shakes … wait for me in your dad’s truck.
“That’s a great idea,” Worms said. He was already running. “I’ll keep an eye out for cops!”
Ham inserted the key in the lock and turned it. At first nothing happened and she swore under her breath. She applied more pressure and the lock mechanism clicked. It sounded at least three times as loud as it should have. Ham inched the door open and then reached up with her right hand to silence the bell. The store smelled of dust, sweat and cigar smoke. The sound of a television came from above.
The stairs to the apartment were at the back behind the cash register. A car went past outside and dark shadows chased each other across the room.
As she ascended the stairs the sound of the television grew louder. It was a good thing because several of the stairs squeaked. She turned on the flashlight that made her face glow.
There was a long hallway and it was dark. Ham hadn’t counted on this. She was halfway down the hall when a door opened behind her. The cold metal of a gun barrel was thrust into her neck. “Scream and I’ll kill you,” the voice said.
TO BE CONTINUED …