naughty or nice
So there I was, standing in the hallway of 8471 Palmetto Way, Tampa, Florida. The house and the shotgun belonged to one Randall DeLeon, a fine upstanding citizen who loved his own kids a little too much. Randall’s wife was a former prom queen who’d obviously seen better days. Her name was Lorraine. Her hands didn’t shake as she aimed her .38 special at the space between my eyes. He wore the pants in the family most of the time but she was definitely the brains.
Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
Had a very shiny nose
The music coming out of the stereo in the living room was a bad cover of holiday songs by some no name band. Could have been worse, though. At least it wasn’t “Silent Night.” I get a slight headache when someone mentions the Big Guy Upstairs or his kid.
A large pine wreath was on the front door. A tall lighted tree stood in the living room by the window. They were keeping up appearances for the neighbors. There wasn’t any real joy in that house.
Not the first holiday I ever spent with people who wanted to kill me. Wouldn’t be the last time, either.
I could almost hear the wheels turning inside Lorraine’s head. She was trying to figure out what I was. A cop? Some Good Samaritan? “Where are my kids, Mister?”
“Oh, the kids?” I shrugged. “I dropped them off at police headquarters.”
Randall’s jaw dropped open. “You did what!”
“Yep. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that you’re both in deep shit right now. The cops know all about the times you raped your kids, Randall. And Mommy Dearest here told them it’s all good because Daddy loves them, right?” The smile I gave the bitch was ice cold and sharp enough to cut. “You covered for this sick fuck all these years. Party’s over, princess.”
Something dark flickered in her eyes. I read her like a book. She gave Randall a quick sideways glance and I knew then she’d already figured out her next move: a bullet in the head for me and then one for Randall.
After that she’d call 911.
By the time the cops showed up she’d play the hysterical widow: “Randall threatened to kill me and my kids if I told anyone. I had to go along with it. I had to! That man, he came to our house. Randall knew him. I didn’t. He shot Randall and I shot him when he tried to kill me. The kids are mistaken, officer, I didn’t say anything because I was protecting them.”
After all, Daisy DeLeon was nine and her brother Christopher was fourteen. Their word against hers and guess who the cops were going to believe?
I winked at her just to let her know that I knew. “And the Oscar for best actress goes to Lorraine the despicable bitch.”
Her eyes widened, then narrowed again. Wouldn’t be long now.
DeLeon blinked. He was still pretty damn clueless. And I was getting pretty damn bored. I wasn’t the only one. I swear the Mark of Cain yawned inside my head and underneath the skin of my right arm. At least that’s what it felt like.
Stupid people are boring. Is this going to go on much longer? she whispered.
Nope. It’s showtime.
“You a PI?” Randall barked. “I bet those fucking grandparents down in Florida hired you.”
As last words went, I’d heard better. I rolled my eyes. “I’m not. But you’re gonna wish I was.”
I blinked black.
Lorraine pulled the trigger.
I wouldn’t let it.
I thought about crushing the bones in her hand. Lorraine screamed. My teke clamped down hard around her hand and worked its way up her right arm to her shoulder. Her bones snapped like dry twigs. The .38 fell to the floor as she stumbled backwards moaning and landed on her ass.
Randall pulled the trigger of his shotgun twice. More clicks. I jammed that gun too. His eyes bulged out as he stared at my face.
“What are you?” he screamed. “What the hell are you-”
“Funny you should ask.” I pulled the First Blade from my back waistband and went to work.
Randall died first, crying and whimpering. Cowards always do that. I guess he couldn’t handle somebody bigger than his kids.
Lorraine had more balls than Randall did. She kicked at me with both legs at first. When that didn’t work she staggered to her feet and tried to run.
She didn’t get far.
I left the bodies underneath the tree in the living room. Seemed fitting somehow.
And if you ever saw it
You would even say it glows
That lousy singing finally got on my nerves. I blinked green and gave the stereo a dirty look. Grey smoke came out of the speakers as the music died. Silence never sounded so good.
A squad car pulled to the curb in front of the house. First one and then two more. It’s never a good thing when the cops jump out of the car with their hands on their guns. They ran up the sidewalk.
The knock on the front door was loud and pretty insistent. Back when I was a human hunter I was on the business end of that particular sound more times than I could count, in cheap motels all over the country. The name of the department changed but that damn knock was always the same.
“This is the Tampa Metropolitan Police Department! Open up!”
I laughed and shook my head as I stepped into the living room doorway I made my voice sound low, rough, and impossibly loud: ”Sorry, Officer, Randall and Lorraine can’t come to the door right now. They’re burning down in hell for what they did.”
The cops hit the door hard and fast then, just like I knew they would. I faded out as the door slammed back on its hinges. Glass broke and the wreath fell off.
I didn’t see what happened next. Someone called my name.
Third time was the charm. The voice belonged to a kid. A boy. He sounded nervous. Scared.
Another call, another job. I headed in that direction.