Wednesday, December 30, 2020

STUFFING FOR A SACRIFICE by Patrick Whitehurst

Jack Kerouac once said, “Life is holy and every moment is precious.” Sam wondered if the dickhead in the black turtleneck felt precious with his face smashed against the countertop. Sure, life is damn holy, but he didn’t give a shit about this guy. Another fake-ass devil worshipper with no clue.

Sam kept his meaty palm on the worshipper’s scrawny head, batting away his weak attempts to fight back, and held the guy’s face mashed against the marble surface. The man squealed like a little bitch. He hated touching his greasy long hair. It looked like spaghetti after sitting two weeks in the sun. A river of blood crept out of the dude's mouth.

Sam gave him a gut punch with his free hand and took a step back, releasing that nasty scalp. His hand felt slimy. The smell of copper mixed with the aroma of turkey and stuffing. Oddly enough, it wasn't an altogether bad smell.

Turtleneck staggered back, surprised by his sudden freedom. A necklace flopped down to the middle of his chest, a standard dope-shop pentagram. Easy enough for the wannabes to afford. What he couldn’t afford was the Cantona stone knife used a thousand years before the rise of the Aztecs. But that’s what he’d asked Sam to steal. For his usual $2,000, he wanted Sam to get it out of San Francisco’s Cal Academy of Sciences.  Being that he sold his services on Craigslist, Sam had no idea how he’d manage a heist like that. And being that Turtleneck thought he could told Sam all he needed to know.

“I… I got friends coming over soon!” he stammered. “We got a whole thing planned tonight with that knife.”

Sam rubbed the stubble on his chin, peered through the kitchen window, and saw only gray fog. He hoped the man’s yelling wouldn’t bring the cops. Behind him, on a small table, mewled something inside a shoe box. The box, wrapped in duct tape, had air holes cut into the sides.

Life is holy.

“Yeah. A holiday sacrifice. I get it. Where’s the money? Tell me or sniff the counter again.” He already knew the answer. Judging by the Evil Dead posters, a chipped coffee mug with an anarchy symbol on it, and crappy Tupperware full of mashed potatoes and gravy, the guy was lucky just to pay the rent. This shithole San Francisco apartment would go for six hundred anywhere outside of California. Here, it had to top a couple thousand. This guy didn’t look like he had any dependents either. Sam had just the one, and she was expecting Thanksgiving dinner.

Blood dripped from Turtleneck’s lip. “Listen, man. With that knife, we can make twenty times what I owe you!”

His spaghetti hair clumped over his forehead and hung over his dark eyes. Sam sighed heavily and reached into his back pocket. The Cantona knife felt warm to the touch.

“You mean this?” He tossed the knife to the man’s feet. The worshipper’s eyes bulged and he bent over to pick it up. When he did, Sam kicked him dead in the throat. His loafers made a crunching sound on his Adam's apple. The guy gargled a broken scream and crumpled on top of the relic. Maybe when the dude came to, after a trip to the ER, he’d figure out it was a fake relic. Or maybe he’d be stupid enough to try and sell it somewhere.

He shouldn’t have bothered with the guy, but something told Sam he might turn a quick buck. He’d picked up the prop that morning from the exhibit’s gift shop, thinking he’d fool the moron long enough to squeeze a bit of dough from him.

Turned out the box had a black kitten in it. Sam packed it and the guy’s Tupperware Thanksgiving meal into his old Volvo station wagon. The little cat jumped into the passenger seat next to him when he started the engine, its green eyes large and adorable as hell. Sam reached back and dipped his finger into a bowl of stuffing. He lumped some onto the seat for the cat and stuck the rest in his mouth.

“Damn,” he mumbled.

For a wannabe Satan worshipper his cooking wasn’t half bad.

 


Patrick Whitehurst is a fiction and nonfiction writer. He’s the author of the novellas Monterey Noir and Monterey Pulp. His third novella, Monterey Lies, is in the works. His most recent nonfiction book, “Haunted Monterey County,” reveals the many ghostly locations found in the Central Coast community. His newest nonfiction book, “Murder & Mayhem in Tucson” is scheduled for release in 2021. His short fiction has been featured on the Shotgun Honey website, in the anthology “Shotgun Honey Presents: Recoil,” in Switchblade Magazine, and in the Hoosier Noir 4:20 Special. His book reviews and author interviews can be found at Suspense Magazine. As a news reporter, he covered everything from the deaths of nineteen Granite Mountain Hotshots to President Barack Obama’s visit to the Grand Canyon.

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