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He suffers from disjunction of the function. A monstrous thing from his past nightmares materializes and smiles hello.
"I've got a secret," the thing oozes teasingly. Teases oozingly.
"What?" he tries to say, but only dead grotto air exhales and there is no discernible sound. The monster's face is barklike, the tree-trunk neck sprouting from a foliose torso that parts and a second head pops out of the leaves saying, "Hello, bitch."
It is the face of a woman he has known. The turmoil and dust of an ancient investigation paralyzes his heart momentarily. Supine, in more ways than one, he spasms erect, his body caught in a paroxysm like a sneeze. But instead of achoo. Jack Eichord goes, "Say what?"
"You fucking bitch," she says, and he recognizes the puffy bloat that is the monster's lower head.
"Huh," he says in a weak stall for time. She was named Myrtle or Mildred or Minnie, one of the old-time names, and her last name was a state. Myrtle California. Myrtle Iowa. Minnie Minnesota. Myrtle Beach Florida. Mildred, that was it--her name was Mildred Florida, pronounced Mildred Flo-REE-duh.
"Fucking cunt," the face in the leaves says with a puffy snarl. Reverse-angle shot. Mildred Florida pokes her fat face out of the foliage and sees that banana-skin twat who won't leave her live-in boyfriend alone, and she decides to get the thing right and do it right then and she steps out on hard, sunny pavement. Intercut sequence. Eichord is taking the story at the crime scene. A man is describing what he saw out in front of the Silver Dollar Saloon.
"Mildred Florida come out an' she was drunker'n a fuckin' bag of skunks and she seen Lola and says,'you fucking bitch fucking cunt i'll keep your eyes off him,'" and the hard, bright thing in her hand slashes and silver takes red and steel slices yellow, the high yellow flesh of Lola Somebody, and whatever Lola wants, but not this not a slash that takes the eye and leaves it hanging by an obscene thing, hanging out of the socket for all to see for the eye to see, keep an eye out and all those old lines, but signals zap out of the brain and a hand reaches into the purse for hardware.
The hot sunlight is real as summer noon, baking the cracked gray sidewalk. Mildred FlorEEEEEEda, heavy but still womanly, shapely gone to pork in a bright-red dress, banana-skin Lola dark Peach Blossom King Kink Straightener slick, smelling of creams and lotions, lipstick red down the front of the off-the-shoulder dress and coagulating in ugly streaks across the gray concrete.
"--an' she cuts Lola with a straight edge," that's straight razor to you, my man. Cheap, sharp blade in a little plastic handle, flip, slap, slash. Fast. The eye is out. Good moves, just right up to the bitch and a hard cut, aiming for her eyes and getting one in fact. Now cut the cunt's lying throat and shut her bitch mouth up once and for all. But before the puffy-faced woman in the red dress and breathe-easies can get her drunken ass together and swing that old, doughy fat-muscled arm out again for another cut Lola makes a noise sort of like, "Waaaaaaaaaugh!" and her purse hardware goes off, shooting her assailant right dead-center in her bulge of a gut, the brass kicking back against the window of the bar and rolling into the gutter as Lola steps up bleeding red onto red and shoves the little chrome SNS into the bloated face and fires a round right between the teeth--teach you to cut ME you ugly old mound of dogshit. BOOM. More brass and gunsmoke and blood all over the fucking place. Entrance hole inside Mildred Florida's mouth about the size of a big chigger bite. Exit wound a different story.
"Old douchebag CUT me I'm BLINDED," Banana Skin says.
Eichord, troubled, has that sensation of discomfort that comes from a nudging and nameless dread. A beckoning thing that hides behind a corner of his sleeping mind calls in a mean whisper.
"Say what?" he says. Speak up, goddammit.
"'Ole douchebag CUT me I'm BLINDED,' the girl Lola says and sits down in the pool of blood holding her bloody eye socket, an' she's cussin' and cryin' an' she's still got that little pistol inner hand when you guys get here." You guys are the constabulary. The beckoning whisper again.
"Your turn next time," the voice says.
Jack Eichord's soul fills with fear now. "'Zat right?" he says in a cracked growl. But he understands. The bad one is out there in the dark somewhere hiding in the shadows. In Tulsa, or Terre Haute, or Tampa. Urban ghetto blaster. Hardrock boonies ridge-runner. City sidewinder. Outlaw night-rider in a desolate line shack. Heart of the city player waiting for him in the glare of the nightlife. A crazy waiting to put an end to it with a twenty-five-dollar loan-shop pipe.
"Hello, bitch," she may say, quiet, seething anger coming to a boil. And Calvin Colorado or Ella Mae Maine will pull out some awful little pain-producer and put his lights out. Eichord hopes to spare himself the description of the sound of the gunshot, or the fearsome pain of the lead projectile, the terrorizing moments when you look down and go, "Oh, shit, I'm shot." The moments when the blood that belongs to you geysers out in a hot, stinking, frightening gush of coppery anguish and you pray to your God the hospital is close at hand and God let me live don't do this I'm not ready to say good-bye yet and somehow he wrenches his mind away from the Silver Dollar Saloon and the blood-flecked sign out in front selling Buffalo Lager--50 cents. And he's escaped her one more time.
He flails his way out of the hot covers and sits on the edge of the bed and looks over at Donna and coughs into a tissue and goes into the bathroom and runs cold water and washes his sweat-covered face and neck and hopes, as he always hopes for the first few seconds upon awakening, that none of it will have happened. That the Arkansas horror story was only a nightmare. That if it wasn't a bad dream, then Eichord hooked him in tune. That he, Jack Eichord, is everything his bosses claim he is, and that he strutted into Blytheville, wrapped it in eight seconds, and that--just like in the movies--the good guys always win.
But it wasn't a nightmare. It really happened and he remembers it all and he sees the eye. Watching him like the eye atop the pyramid on the back of the dollar bill. And that brings him back to the other case, the icepick murders--the latest unsolvable horror in a life that has become a veritable smorgasbord of awful terrors Eichord must confront; a buffet of foulness and nasty surprises, and the moment the image registers he jerks his mind fully awake before the silver tray of shit canapés and penis sausages intrudes to paralyze him yet again.
He hurries to little Jonathan's room to make sure the boy has not suffocated in his sleep. To make certain no other nameless terrors have befallen the child, sensing the chill of some envenoming presence even as he quietly turns the doorknob. And Eichord opens the door, taking his first deep, normal breath since waking as he stares into the darkness.