“It's true, Candy!” Jane Lynch reassured. “I heard the whole thing!”
“Wow! What I wouldn't have given to see that,” Candace said through rapid breaths, jogging alongside her good friend of more that twelve years. They had been running every day except Friday before work since January. The last name in the office pool had them giving it up by June 1st. It was the $225 dollar pot which helped to keep the women motivated.
“I know. I couldn't believe how lucky I was.”
“Then what?” Candace asked excitedly as they swung left at the Citibank Building from Lincoln Street onto Draper, onto what the locals referred to as “Main Street” which was the very heart of town.
The decorative red brick beneath their running shoes were set at an angle now, seeming to turn with them, or in the very least as a marker to keep them on the course. The Citibank sign before them was also an LED display, giving both time and temperature. It flashed 5:01 a.m. and then 49 degrees Fahrenheit, but neither paid it any mind. This would be the coolest day of the week, and it was cold enough already without having to see actually how bad it was. They just kept up their pace and continued on their way. Shade trees and large blue celebratory banners which hung from blue poles lined the course now on the right; a Mexican Restaurant, pizza joint and other shops on the left.
“He told her everyone was complaining. She hadn't done a thing since they’d been sleeping together, marching about like a queen, treating everyone like she was the new CEO after a hostile takeover.”
“Ain't that the truth?”
Jane continued, “She said some B.S. about how she never realized she’d been doing that. She’d be better from now on...”
“But see, by this time, he's not even listening. It’s over. She doesn't know it yet.”
“Wow!” Candice exclaimed as they jogged from cement sidewalk back to brickwork.
On the right, a tree planter area bordered the next intersection. Most of the streets throughout Main Street were decorated in similar fashion. This particular one contained shrubs, flowers and other greenery kept very well groomed by the Model Drug Pharmacy which was located across from it.
“I haven't gotten to the good part.”
“What?” Candice asked as they crossed Smith Street and continued west. Their usual route took them westward through town where they would eventually cross Draper at California Street and then head back for home. The two friends lived one block from each other and both worked for a large payroll firm in town. They were more like sisters than friends. As their footfalls reached the sidewalk once again, bringing them across the entrance of the Bank of America. They paid little attention to the police cars that sat silent and unoccupied there on the street.
“Her jaw literally dropped when he told her she was fired!”
“Wow!” she exclaimed once again as they reached their normal rest stop between Gino’s Italian Eatery and Apple Dumplin’ Antique store.
It was here that they allowed themselves ten minutes to rest. The area extended its entrance on Draper to the alley that ran behind the restaurants and shops. A sign had been recently erected pointing the way through to the historic old jail that sat behind the newly refurbished Fire Station. A large orange Swedish Dala Horse statue stood before them as if guarding the site. In fact, it wasn't to dissuade, but to invite. Two stone tables and two wood benches sat there encouraging visitors to stop and sit for a while. There were small trees in stone planters, and one fully grown shade tree and four screens installed for holding back the squelching 100-plus degree summer days which arrive all too soon.
“Stupid vacation days! Always happens! Take a day and someone either quits, gets caught with someone in the copy room or gets fired.” Not that the copy room had ever been used for anything other than the occasional mild flirt session.
Jane continued her workout by jogging in place while Candice leaned over, feet spread apart, her hands on her knees to catch her breath beside the Dala Horse. "Then security came in and handed her stuff already boxed up."
“Shoo!” Candice winced with surprise, waving a hand across her face to do away with two flies that had suddenly materialized before her face. She stood upright and stretched her back, raising her hands behind her head. She took a step and a half into the area as something caught her eye. Her left hand went immediately to her mouth and her eyes ballooned as what she was seeing was being made clear. Jane didn’t see it, nor could she hear the faint whimpering over her own labored breathing.
“Then Jack points at the open door in his office and tells her,” Jane continued, still running in place, slipping into a bad imitation of their boss's voice. “'Call my wife! She’s had two lovers herself this millennium.'”
Candice reached out blindly with her right hand and squeezed Jane's left arm, her other hand still frozen against her mouth as if sealing a crack in a dam. It was all that she could do. Never in a million years could she have found the words to describe to her friend the horror that was displayed there in the former alleyway, now all ornate brickwork and tree planters, cement tables and mutilated policemen.
“Hold on,” Jane attempted to continue, glancing down the street, oblivious to the grizzly scene behind her. It was not until she felt her friend’s freshly manicured fingernails begin to dig through her sweatshirt that she started to understand that something might be wrong. She just had no idea how horribly wrong it was until Candace suddenly yanked her forward to share her find. “What’s gotten into you, Candy?” she demanded and then fell silent.
Before them, in the very heart of the space, stood that solitary tree; it poked its canopy between two screens and into the nautical twilight. Before it grew a shrub in a stone planter surrounded by rail ties. Nick Mancuso was in that planter as well. The woman froze. “Jesus!” she whispered, stepping back in shock. Candice Gutierrez never heard it.
Police Officer Nick Mancuso didn’t hear the woman either. He was long past the ability to hear or see or feel anything. His only salvation was that he had been long dead by the time that his head had been wrenched free from his neck and impaled atop a corroded metal spike. It stood there as some grotesque warning, but for just what no one could yet know. Above the head, shoved violently through the screen there hung the rest of him. His outstretched arms reached limply forward just as welcoming as that Dala Horse or the “Valkommen” banners that preceded it. The photo was framed by the famed Kingsburg water tower rising 122 feet high above. In 1985 it had been transformed into a giant coffee pot, decorated with floral motifs in red, blue, yellow and green.
Now this city was being forever transformed.
Jane looked away before the first wave of vomiting struck her. It splattered hard atop the sidewalk, but Candace couldn’t hear that either, thankfully. She stood transfixed by the eyes seemingly staring back at her; the frozen open maw, screaming in silence.
Now that my debut crossover horror/Christian novel is finally available in all formats, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to offer another short teaser. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope everyone can see that my work is graphic when it needs to be without being disgusting. For those not interested in being preached to, I hope you will trust that I incorporate religion without being right in your face there, either.
Thanks to everyone who gives the novel a chance.
We'll talk soon.