Victor Bisolglio spent most of his time either making meth or playing World of Warcraft but his pursuit of one was always a detriment to the other. Sometimes he missed raids because he was too busy cooking, other times he was so fixated on his daily quests that he ended up making a useless batch of product.
He lived in a trailer on his parents property, they’d long ago given up on him but they didn’t have the heart to kick him out either. Victor was just an unpleasant obligation to them now, like jury duty or spring cleaning. Maybe if they had known what he was doing in that tool shed he’d quickly and shoddily constructed a few yards from his double wide they’d have reconsidered.
At ten o’clock in the evening the door to that shed hung open to reveal a mad scientist’s dream of tubing, containers and smoke. A stink like cat piss and nail polish remover wafted from the rickety structure. Victor sat at a picnic table nearby, crouched over the dim multicolored illumination of his laptop. He was lost to the game: he only had eyes for the imaginary world unspooling before him, he only had ears for the constant on and off topic chatter of fellow gamers.
Did Victor care that he was slowly turning his parents’ property into a small scale toxic waste dump? Did it worry him that the last three batches of meth he’d delivered to Murder Mekembe had been unsellable garbage? Did he care that his friends, just like his family, had given up on him?
No, not in the least, not when he had reached a place where respec mattered far more to him than respect.
I was nearby, hidden behind one of the trees that groundwater poisoning hadn’t left leafless and bent.
A few low level dealers and cooks had been murdered recently. Their throats ripped out, entrails clawed through, skulls split open and emptied. They say that the police had found a secondary source of DNA in the wounds, and teeth marks too. They say that witnesses had reported seeing a man near the murder scenes. They described him as shambling, dead eyed and covered with dirt. If anyone had the temerity to use the ‘Z word’ they were quickly silenced by the forces of order and decency.
At a quarter to midnight a shape lumbered out of the shadows, heading straight for the double wide and the smoking toolshed. I snapped a few pictures on my iPhone and watched. Victor was too intent on his screen to notice the figure bearing down on him.
My conscience got the better of my caution and I shouted a warning but Victor didn’t hear anything beyond the music, sound effects and online chatter blasting through his earbuds.
The dark figure flipped the picnic table over and reality came crashing down on Victor Bisolglio. The dark figure swiped at him but Victor managed to scramble out from under the table and get clear of grabbing range. He might have even lived if he hadn’t recognized his attacker.
I heard him shout “Earl?”
Victor sure as Hell hadn’t expected to see Earl Edmonds again, not since he’d buried him in the woods almost three weeks ago.
When the dark shape advanced again Victor pulled what I thought to be a revolver from his jacket. He issued some of the standard threats but his attacker kept coming.
I broke cover and ran towards them, waving my arms, begging them to stop before this got out of hand. The shambling figure didn’t react but Victor did.
He screamed and fired his weapon.
Not at me, but at the man he’d once called a friend.
A bright ball of Fourth of July fireworks leaped from the barrel.
That’s right, a flare gun. Victor’s sidearm of choice had been a flare gun.
There was just enough time for me to think What is this? I don’t even-
Then sputtering ball of burning red bounced off the shambling figure’s chest, bounced twice along the ground and rolled into the toolshed.
The report from the fire inspector would later reveal that there was also a propane grill being stored in the cheap little building. That was why the blast blew the walls out and the roof ten feet into the air.
Victor was lost to the explosion. Had it hurt to die like that or had it been too fast for him to even know what happened? I hope for the latter.
The other figure wasn’t so lucky, the fire engulfed it. The figure staggered and flailed. Then it screamed.
And perhaps, in his final agonizing moments, Earl Edmonds realized he wasn’t really one of the walking dead after all.
Let the record show that if you are going to be an investigator in all things preternatural and uncanny, then you are going to find yourself huddling in the bushes more often than a compulsive masturbator in a nudist colony.
It was almost dawn and I had been watching the comings and goings at the house on Lana Drive for half the day and most of the night. When the owner left on an errand I did a little breaking and entering. I gave the first floor of her place a quick once over, I couldn’t risk taking the time to check out the basement or the second floor.
And it was a good thing I chickened out because I got back to hiding spot in the woods just as Murder Mekembe pulled her escalade back into the driveway. A car full of her thugs showed up few minutes later. The rest of the night was cars coming and going, a constant ebb and flow of customers and cronies. It wasn’t until 4 a.m., when the last car full of cronies left that I made my move.
Raevyn ‘ Murder’ Mekembe , half Bokor, half crime boss, didn’t look at all surprised to find me knocking on her door. When she addressed me it was with a community theater level Jamaican accent, “Brian Foster. Come in. Come in.”
“Not surprised to see me?” I asked as she closed the door behind me.
“I been expecting you,” she said. Her skin was the color of coffee, her hair the color of bone, “They all said there was some guy in an ugly hat going around asking lots of questions.”
“Well, you can’t learn anything if you don’t ask questions,” I grinned.
We were both smiling but they were phony smiles, politicians’ smiles. She led me past her parlor with all its faux Voodoo knick-knacks and a pair of very real Lorcin .380s on the center table.
It was very telling that she hadn’t grabbed them, I guess she didn’t see me as much of a threat. Her and everybody else in Albany.
There was a long hallway through the center of the house leading to a trio of bedrooms. My earlier snooping had revealed that Rayven used the bedroom on the right for sleeping and the one on the left was where she kept her ziplock bags of dried pufferfish, marine toads and hyla tree frogs, as well as her Tupperware containers of Datura paste and lysergic acid diethylamide in crystal form. The third one was where she warehoused her product.
I followed my host to her bare kitchen. There was a bottle of rum on the counter, her last bottle of rum if I was correct. It was already half empty.
Raven ‘Murder’ Mekembe half Bokor, half crime boss, fully functioning alcoholic. She poured me a glass and offered it, “Have a drink.”
I lied, “Sorry, I don’t drink.”
“Your loss,” she emptied my glass then refilled her own. “What you be wantin’?”
“I know you had Victor Bisolglio killed, a lot of other people too.”
“You wearing a wire?”
“Why would I help the police?”
“Maybe you want to be a hero,” she said.
“I just want the real story, for my dozen or so readers,” I explained, “they love stories like yours. Do you know there are people out there that think you raise the dead to do your bidding?”
“You believe everything you hear Brian Foster?” Her accent slurred to an Irish brogue for a syllable or two then back again, “Everyone tells these crazy stories. I’m a drug dealer, I’m a witch, I’m an insatiable nymphomaniac…”
“Er… That last one is a bit of a surprise…” I didn’t know whether to cringe or blush so I did a little of both, “But back to the matter at hand. My sources tell me that Earl Edmonds O.D.ed at a party you held here almost a month ago. The same sources say that rather than get the authorities involved you had some of your employees wrap him in an old rug and bury him in a shallow grave.”
I paused for effect but she just smiled.
“Now someone dug up that grave a few days later and I’m pretty sure that someone was you. Why did you do it? Because Earl wasn’t dead. Oh, he looked dead but he had been drugged with a little psychotropic cocktail people sometimes called,” I made quotation marks in the air, “‘zombie powder’.”
She raised an eyebrow and emptied her glass of rum. Then she poured herself another, the bottle was two-thirds empty now.
“This zombie powder causes a paralysis so severe that a layman might think the victim is dead. It’s the stuff of Edgar Allan Poe’s nightmares.” I took a cautious step towards her, “And all the while the poor bastard is in a state of living death they’re having nightmarish hallucinations. Imagine all that happening and being buried alive to boot.”
She laughed at me, but I’m used to women doing that so it’s all good.
I continued, “I imagine the Earl you dug up was not the same man from just a few days before. I imagine it would have been easy to mess with his broken mind. How long did it take you to convince him he was a zombie?”
Murder emptied the glass again but this time she set it down on the counter beside her, “Why would anyone do something so… Theatrical?”
“Oh I agree it is a very theatrical way to go about things but then again I’m not the failed law student from Wisconsin pretending to be a witch woman from Jamaica so what do I know?”
That got her. She frowned and crossed her arms.
When in doubt keep talking so that’s what I did “Like they say on the Internet, Google is your friend. But don’t worry your secret is safe with me.”
“Why-” she paused as if she was collecting her thoughts, “why would I go to all that trouble?”
“Because criminals are a cowardly superstitious lot.”
I waited to see if she got the reference. She didn’t so I went on.
“You did it because you suspected there was a snitch in your organization. You used poor Earl to eliminate the usual suspects.” I counted off on my hand, “They found what was left of Craig Aden in a dumpster. Shortly after that a 911 call sent the police to Adrian Driscoll’s apartment but there wasn’t much they could do for him. There wasn’t much an undertaker could do for him either if you get my meaning. Then there was Sandro Elsdon, he was killed alongside his girlfriend and two young kids.”
“But why? Why not just put a bullet in their heads instead?”
“Because it taught your employees a very valuable lesson. Cross Murder Mekembe and you end up dead, or worse.” I took off my straw fedora and fiddled with it, “What are you going to do now that your pet zombie is really dead?”
“If what you’re saying is true I would just make another. Maybe I got more waiting down in the basement. What would you do then? What if all I had to do to wake them up was just snap my fingers?” She tried to snap her fingers for emphasis but her hand wouldn’t quite obey her.
Panic settled into her eyes. Her legs failed her. All the while she slid down to the floor she kept trying to snap her fingers.
There was a handkerchief in my left pocket, I used it to pick up the bottle of rum and pour it out. I suppose you readers out there figured out what I did when I was snooping around her house
Murder said “Fa- fa-”
I’m not sure if she was trying to say my name or curse me out. Truth is I didn’t much care. I had a packet of baby wipes in my coat pocket and I spent a little while cleaning off any of the places I might have touched. All the while Murder called after me “Fa- fa- fa-” while her fingers spasmed and her eyes shone with rage.
Finally I looked down at her, “Don’t worry, I didn’t give you a lot. At least I think I didn’t. Once I get a few blocks away I’m going to make an anonymous call to 911 and since you’ve got enough meth here for a tweekers convention I think that once I have the police get here they’ll have you,” I paused for effect, “dead to rights.”
Gloating and puns, two great tastes that go great together.
Yep I just confessed to another crime or two on the Internet but once again my story in no way matches the way the powers that be want to portray events. If they arrest me my testimony will raise too many questions.
I waited until I was halfway home before I made a 911 call on a burner cell phone but when the authorities got the house on Lana Drive they found Raevyn ‘ Murder’ Mekembe dead. Something, maybe several somethings, gnawed her flesh down to the bone.
The authorities blamed the attack on pit bulls which is an insult to all the well behaved pit bulls out there and an insult to reality because Murder was allergic to dogs.
So I guess maybe she did have some spares somewhere in the basement I never got around to checking. I wonder if they heard our entire conversation as they lay there on the cold basement floor in a state of living death and decided to get a little payback.
Or maybe in her weakened state she couldn’t control them or their appetites.
All I know for sure is that sometime between me leaving and the police showing up, Murder managed to snap her fingers.