The Big Katt dropped George Owens at the entrance to the club, but didn’t go inside for drinks. She revved up the monster Eldorado and was on her way again.
Friends, she thought to herself. Who could she visit that she hadn’t seen in years? Was Lydia still in town, or Sally Bertrand? They were both wild gals who tried to pass themselves off, as did she, in the guise of Southern propriety. But they liked to get liquored up and raise hell same as most people.
“Sally moved away and married,” her mother said at the door of her house. “Three kids. But it sure is good to see you. Come on in.”
“Wish I could. My husband’s up at the Great House. I really should be getting
“What have you been up to all these years? Don’t tell me, it’s been wild, very wild.” She winked. She knew the Big Katt well.
“Got myself a husband -- or two.”
“From what ah heard, you were kicking up a storm out west somewhere.” “Word travels fast.”
“I also heard the sad news about Curtis Stephens. Have you seen the papers?” She produced a copy of this morning’s Baton Rouge Gazette. “Look here.” The headlines
fairly screamed: MYSTERY KILLER CLAIMS FIRST VICTIM -- ‘BIG KATT’ RETURN IMPLICATED.
“They certainly aren’t subtle,” Katt murmured. And she wondered how this had been allowed to get into the newspapers. The cops wouldn’t be happy. And whoever this maniac was who appeared to be stalking her would probably draw joy and glee from all the attention.
“I have to be going,” she said. “I suddenly have a stop or two to make.”
And the next thing you know, the Eldorado was roaring again, and she was on her way to visit one Horace Hazelton, a former flame of hers.
In the police chief’s office, the list of names that Katt Hall had provided was being scrutinized, and Horace Hazelton was at the top of that list, along with Arthur Smakes, Lyle Peterson, George “the wrestler” Lesslie, and the now defunct Curtis Stephens.
“I want you to run these people down,” the chief said. “Fast as possible. Verify their whereabouts. And yes, put them on notice they might be in danger. Let’s hope the Katt’s list is complete. Move it.”
“The Big Katt -- you know she’s not gonna sit still.” “I know.”
“That giant Eldorado is gonna raise hell.” “APB it. Get it off the streets.”
“Should we make the bars?”
“Just get her out of sight. Cats can be dangerous when they are loose on the prowl,” the chief said. “But not as dangerous, I would guess, as the maniac who is somewhere out there probably sizing up his next victim right now.”
And somewhere out there was Horace Hazelton, who was helping his aged mother into a recliner in the parlor of their modest home -- frail eyes and shaking bones -- “Thank you, Horace.”
Yes, Horace Hazelton, ever the dutiful son. Looking after mother dear, and about to prepare her a sandwich for lunch.
“Here, the newspapers.” He laid the morning paper in her lap.
“Oh dear,” she said. She was old, but with the help of her glasses and laser surgery, those squinty eyes could still read. And in a moment she realized the Big Katt was back. “That girl,” she said. “Didn’t you date her in high school?”
“Yes. Isn’t that awful?” He meant, of course, the murder. The taste of Katt Hall’s hot and delicious tongue in his mouth hadn’t been awful, or the softness his wandering hands had been able to encounter before the Katt had begun to hiss at him, lo those many years ago. You never forgot a woman like that, never. Saints and sinners, all of us, Horace thought to himself. Saints and sinners. Then he disappeared into the kitchen to make
When he returned, mother dear was murmuring “hussy” under her breath. “Now mother.” He set a tray on the coffee table. On it were a sandwich and a
glass of milk. Milk to soothe this old bird, he thought. This old bird who seemed to live on and on, who demanded his attention 24/7. It was a battle, a horrid battle, but he tried to remain loving and devoted.
The door buzzer sounded.
“Who in the world?” mother said.
Horace answered the door, and my God, he could hardly believe his eyes. He was staring one golden-maned, lustrous Katt Hall right in the eye. “Hiya, honey, Katt’s back in town.” And she pushed her way into the downstairs hall.
“Who is it, dear?”
Katt entered the living room. “It’s the Katt, honey, the Katt who is always on the prowl.”
“It’s all right, mother. You remember Katt Hall.”
Sure, she remembered. And the night they had come home from a date, and Horace’s shirt was torn as though it had almost been ripped from his back.
“Won’t you sit down,” Horace said.
“Ah do believe ah will,” Katt replied, and sat opposite mother, arranging her lithe limbs on the sofa. “My, my, how long has it been?”
“We were just reading about you,” Horace said, “in the papers.”
“When the Katt returns to town, that’s news. When someone’s willing to kill for her, well, that’s really news, although ah am hardly surprised. To bask in the aura of the Katt, baby, one must make sacrifices. You’re still a handsome rogue, Horace. Forgive me, Mrs. Hazelton. The Katt is sometimes forthright with her feelings and opinions.”
“It’s a crying shame, about Curtis Stephens. He was a good boy. I tried, but I could never seem to seduce him down the path of licentiousness, more’s the pity. But apparently, in some twisted logic of the universe, he walked down a rather treacherous path to his great reward anyway. Poor darling, those gazette photographs are quite gruesome.”
They were gruesome, all right.
“Why don’t you come sit beside me, Horace -- the Katt likes the closeness of warm company.”
“Horace Hazelton, don’t you dare.”
Christ, he was caught between a shaking, aged mother and the irresistible attraction of a wild cat. Indeed, the magnetism of Katt Hall was beyond any sane man’s capacity to resist. He sat beside her.
“Look here,” she said. “A magnolia blossom I stopped to prune from the tree. I shall put it in my hair.” And so she did. Not exactly on the order of Billie Holiday’s famous gardenia, but the Katt liked to adorn herself with sweet-smelling, pretty things. “Now,” she said, “you just put that arm of yours around me.”
“Horace!” his mother scolded.
“Oh now, Mrs. Hazelton, you know the Katt is a married woman. I just want Horace to feel comfortable, as though an old and beloved friend has come to visit who really cares about him.” Old and beloved, indeed. And Horace couldn’t resist. He was fearful, however, of what the Katt might do now or say in front of his mother. She was brazen enough to seize upon his weaknesses, which were manifest, and claim what she felt was rightfully hers, which probably included most everything in pants between here and kingdom come, and then some.
In the Great House, meantime, the stranger who had passed himself off as a plumber confronted one Josephus Hall, and he would need a miracle now to get him out of the house without incident. He quickly averted his gaze, for he knew his face would be familiar to Josephus.
“Ah didn’t call a plumber.” “It’s all fixed -- the float valve.”
“And neither, I do believe, did she -- she being my wife.”
“Your daughter, perhaps, the legendary Katt. Anyway, gotta be on my way. No charge, of course. Anything for the Katt.” The stranger tilted his gaze downwards and pushed past Josephus and was now headed down the great spiral staircase.
“Honey?” Josephus called, still skeptical of this uninvited handyman. The stranger passed Adelaide on the stairs.
“Honey, did you call a plumber?” “Why, no.”
“Neither did I. You think -- the Katt?”
“God only knows,” she said. “And she’s still out there somewhere and the police warned us and I spoke to you and pleaded with you not to let her slip away.”
“Mah little Katt. How can I say no?”
“Anyway, Katt or no Katt,” Adelaide said, “I believe I have seen that plumber before, he looked very familiar.”
“Yes,” Josephus muttered.
And that familiar fellow was already bumping down the road in his plumbing truck, which he promptly dropped off, along with the overalls. Before long, he was back on the road in his own vehicle, on the road with Spud’s jockey shorts well in hand.
Yes, the magnolias smelled sweet in the woods as he tooled along, and there was music in the afternoon beauty of this setting. He felt inspired. He’d see the mojo man tomorrow night and take care of Spud, take care of him good, but first he’d make a stop. His free hand rummaged in his pocket, and engaged a crumpled slip of paper. A list, as it were. One name had been scratched off that list, and now it was time to attend to
another. He had spent the night before in his motel room, thumbing through the telephone book, and he had looked up addresses to go with those names. And then he had made several “old school friend” telephone calls just to make sure they were still in town.
Some were, some weren’t. On a number of occasions, his targets themselves had answered, and he had quickly hung up. But sometimes he got a relative, and made pleasant conversation, using the “old friend” routine, as he chortled inwardly to himself.
In the parlor of the Hazelton residence, Katt Hall was edging ever closer to Horace. “Honey,” she said, “do you remember the time -- ” Mrs. Hazelton, gray hair, thin
glasses, frail knees, was shaking with rage. “Do you remember the time, honey, when we necked for four hours in the woods without once coming up for air. I swear, I truly do, you must have had gills or something, the way you wouldn’t relent in your passion. Dearie moi, honey, a girl has got to come up for air sometime.”
Outside on the road, a certain truck caught sight of the Eldorado and veered off, finding a hiding place in the woods.
“I declare,” Katt said, “I have met many men in my life, but you really did take the cake.”
Mother was on her feet. “How dare you?”
“Now, Mrs. Hazelton. I only meant that as a compliment. You should proud of your son’s prowess, as it were. Horace is a good boy.” She planted an innocent kiss on his cheek. “Although, if I may say, his adolescent acne, a scandal at the time, still gives oily evidence of being somewhat revolting.”
“By God -- ” and Mrs. Hazelton was shaking a fist, but she felt her knees weaken, and her heart palpitate, and she fell back into her chair.
“Mother!” Horace went to her immediately. “My God, are you all right.” Her eyes were closed. They opened again. “Mother, it’s all right. Katt didn’t mean anything, she was just being hospitable.”
“I think I had better be going. It was wonderful, simply wonderful to see you again Horace.”
“And Mrs. Hazelton, you take good care of yourself. Under different circumstances, Horace darling, ah declare, I would drag you into the back room and rip the very clothes off your back. Age has not diminished the bright twinkle in your eye. But for now, I shall say goodbye.”
And the lithe lioness known as Katt Hall arose and stretched her limbs, and shook those hips gently, and left the living room and the house. She hopped into the Eldorado, revved that baby up, and sped off down the road.
“I’m so sorry, mother, so sorry. Are you all right?” The old fart nodded her head.
“Let me get your heart pills.” He disappeared into the kitchen, where half a dozen bottles of medication were arraigned on the countertop. Take one of these before bed, two of these first thing in the morning, take this as needed if your blood pressure goes up, this to alleviate the arthritis -- pills, pills, an ever-rising tide of pills. The pharmaceutical companies were overjoyed with the likes of mother -- keep the old birds alive somehow, they no doubt reasoned in their research laboratories, keep those pills and patents coming -- for shaking leg syndrome, epilepsy, Parkinson’s, fainting and dizziness, loneliness. Pills for every conceivable ailment or perceived ailment, and for ailments that had not yet been classified or invented. Pills to keep the corn crops healthy, pills to save the environment, happy pills, sad pills, large pills, small pills, pills with funny little smiles on them and funky shapes, Flintstones-friendly pills -- pills, pills, endless pills, until the shelves of pharmacies were overflowing, were literally drowning in all this crap. One thing was for sure -- the pharmaceutical companies saw a gold mine in propping up these living corpses, and dig for new elixirs their research chemists must.
Take three of these before meals, four of these at bedtime, take these with food, these every Fourth of July, these twice on Sunday, two of these, six of these, red pills, blue pills. Take these and these and these and these and these and these and these and
these, and never mind the side effects -- possible blurred vision, speech impairment, sudden death, hair loss, flu-like symptoms, bizarre viral illnesses, blindness, dyslexia, terminal cancer, irreparable brain function, shingles, urinary and bladder infections, inability to clearly recite nursery rhymes. Yes, here was an endless stream of medications to keep
the blood flowing through collapsed veins, to keep the heart pumping, however feebly, the lungs expanding, to maintain a sort of ghost-like zombie level of consciousness that must pass for human life.
Yes, Mrs. Hazelton would be all right for the moment. On the other hand, dear son Horace might just be in for his share of trouble.
“I’ll put on the soaps for you,” he said, and he found the remote control and just the right channel. Two young actors were in a love clinch, makeup almost oozing from their pores in high definition. “Darling,” they said to each other. “Will Billy need the operation?” “They won’t operate. I’m afraid. But it doesn’t matter, I love you. No matter what happens, I’ll always love you.”
The old bird watched the flickering images on the TV box, the ersatz dialogue, the gorgeous young faces made up like models in glamour magazines, as they uttered platitudes on some phony looking set.
Horace, meantime, had slipped into his bedroom, his heart still pounding from his contact with Katt Hall. He wanted her, as all men must sooner or later must want her. But he must put those thoughts out of his mind. He probably hadn’t had, forgive me, a true erection in nearly twenty years, and now his pants were spreading.
He lay on the bed, but his body was still pulsing with the sort of stunning life that only Katt Hall can imbue. Pulsing and pulsing, and he unzipped his fly, hoping to relieve himself through self manipulation. Yes, his body pulsed and pulsed so much so that he hardly noticed the body slipping in through his bedroom window, the body with an extremely large knife. Razor sharp, and ready to do some carving.
The TV droned on: “The doctor only gives him a few more weeks. Then we can be together always.” “What about my husband?” “I’ve already worked that out.” And droned and droned, as Mrs. Hazelton’s eyes fell shut, and she was fast asleep.
Horace’s veins were still pulsing, pulsating, with his eyes fixed on the ceiling, and his hand touching himself, stroking away, as he became harder and harder, and he was breathing more rapidly, and the blood rushed fast to his head. Harder and harder he stroked, dear God he could only think of the Katt and how beautiful she was, and how badly he wanted her, and he could no longer hold himself back, he was so desperate for physical relief. He was ready to explode now, explode for her and her only, hard as a rock, stroking himself frantically, even as an exceedingly large carving knife had swung into view, and its gleaming blade stood poised above him, and then came swooping down with sudden ferocity directly into his throat. He shuddered and gasped and climaxed, exploding all over himself, at the very instant that knife came down, and its painfully sharp blade pierced his jugular with shooting pain, and blood sprayed in a wild stream. The blade sawed back and forth, back and forth as his body twitched wildly, and he cried out. Back and forth, back and forth the blade sawed, blood spurting, as he cried out, in a horrifying symphony of death. And then, as his body convulsed and shook for the last time, he flopped lifeless on the bed. Now the blade was raised again. This time it sawed with more evil intent, cutting and cutting across the bloody lines of Horace’s throat until his entire head had been severed from its moorings.
A shadow darted from the room and back through that window, a shadow carrying something large and round in a bag, with blood trailing behind it. All the while, the TV set droned on: “Looks like the Big C, Mrs. Parker. The Big Bad C. I’m so sorry for you.” “Oh God, doctor, I’m so confused.” “I know how you must feel,” he told her, sliding his hand under her blouse. There seemed no such thing as medical ethics in the world of soap operas.
Yes, the poor woman on the television might be shocked and dazed, but surely not as shocked and dazed as one Horace Hazelton, once the hottest pimple-faced necker on the Baton Rouge track and field squad, now reduced to a bloody lump upon a blood-stained bed. Shocked and dazed was not quite the word for it. Horace Hazelton was just plain dead, and not only dead, but like a certain horseman in Sleepy Hollow, his lifeless corpse was condemned to wander for eternity without benefit of a head.
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