Saturday, July 31, 2010

#fridayflash: Remedy



Louise Dragon

Lottie’s flawless white hands smoothed silky folds of pink satin undergarments as she placed them into her squat old brown suitcase. A cool spring breeze drew her to the open window where moonbeams shimmered softly through sheer lace curtains. A brisk knock on the door and Lottie jumped back from the window, her beautiful sky blue eyes darting anxiously around the soft pink haven she’d cocooned herself into for the past five years.
“Go away,” she whispered.
Instead, as Lottie knew would happen, the door swung inward and Frieda bustled into the dainty pink and white bedroom.
Frieda, buxom and shapely in her blue satin nightdress and reeking of the remedy, stopped short and stared down into the hastily packed old satchel on Lottie’s pink bedspread.
“What’s this? You’re not still seriously thinking of leaving, are you Lottie Dear?”
“I’m not thinking of it. I’m doing it,” Lottie said flipping back her long blonde hair and snapping the latches closed on her worn old suitcase.
“You know what will happen to you without the remedy,” Frieda said, reposing into a pink satin armchair, like a queen on her throne. She clutched an ornate silver flask in her lovely, perfectly manicured hands.
“I don’t care, I’m leaving and I’m leaving for good this time,” Lottie said, her pretty face puckering into a frown as she backed toward the open door. “What we’re doing is wrong.”
“What’s wrong with wanting to look our best? What’s wrong with bringing a little pleasure to some lonely men? We have to make a living, don’t we? What’s wrong with that?” Frieda uncorked the slender silver flask increasing the pleasant lemony, jasmine scent of the remedy. “Are you leaving without tonight’s treatment? It’s almost midnight, you’ll revert soon.”
“We’re not beautiful, Frieda. It’s wrong to deceive these men. It’s wrong to take their money. This remedy you created is wicked—it’s addicting and evil. The remedy—it’s changed you—made your face and your body beautiful, but it’s poisoned your soul. It’s made you cold, calculating, and greedy. I often wonder, is any of my sweet sister really still in there?”
Lottie smoothed the folds of her old gray cotton dress with warty, liver-spotted hands. Her face began to sag on one side, her top lip splitting into a hideous fixed grin as words became harder to formulate. Tears sparkled in sky blue eyes. Beautiful eyes now receding into lumps of bone and wrinkled flesh which sprouted haphazardly across Lottie’s ravaged skull.
“Cuh wid me,” Lottie begged.
Frieda laughed.
Lottie shrugged her bent shoulders, grasped the handle of the old suitcase with a twisted talon, and limped out into the fragrant spring night.
“You’ll be back,” Frieda shouted from the window of Lottie’s old room. “You always come back.”


Note: Remedy is a reprint of my first “#fridayflash” piece.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

#TuesdaySerial: Wrenge XI

Wrenge (11) by Louise Dragon

Nietupski explained to Brad that to make proper sense of the whole affair, he'd have to begin with a little family history.
Apparently Nietupski's mother, young, pretty Joyce Ashton Nietupski, unbeknown to her husband, had been a victim of serious child abuse, for years, at the hands of her domineering father.
Sometime during her high school years, Joyce had become fascinated with historical Mythology and, to keep from having to spend time at home, she threw herself into those studies. The Wrenges and Furies, winged avengers from The Underworld who were known to punish for crimes that had escaped detection, had particularly intrigued her. Joyce became obsessed with her knowledge of these iron willed vigilantes said to travel up from the gates of hell to dispense their own brand of hideous justice.
She spent hours delving through old dusty volumes in the library and discovered that whenever enough frenzied anger spilled into the Netherworld at death, an Wrenge could be born. The Wrenge could travel up through a winged portal leaving behind her mark in the portal as a warning of her presence on earth.
Joyce figured she needed the Wrenges more than anyone. She needed them to defeat her father. To punish him for his cruelty.
Along this time, Joyce discovered black magic rituals designed to call demons up from the gates of hell to do the sorcerer's biding. She began to practice these rites, sacrificing small animals, burning black candles in tins of graveyard dirt, and chanting singsong phrases. Still her father lived on.
To escape him, Joyce married Joe Nietupski, a nice man from the east side of the city who might shield her from the monster who had raised her. Late at night, Joyce practiced her sacrificial rites in the basement of the old mission church where she and Joe lived. Her daughters, Meg and Tisi, where named after Wrenges from the myths. As they grew older, they worked with Joyce and developed their own adept skills in black magic.
Alec had been born much later -- around the time Joyce and the girls were discovering human sacrifices. Old man Ashton was still alive and well while Joyce had become thin, sickly, and old before her time. She continued to blame her father for everything that was wrong with the world.
In her eyes, once the old man was dead she would then live the life she was intended to live. Sacrificing a real human was, to her, a last chance for retribution. Her own colossal anger at having to commit this vile act would surely bring forth the Wrenges.

Many years later, Joe had explained that last day to Alec. Explained how Joyce and the girls had wanted to die. Had begged him to kill them so that they could be the portals for the Wrenges. Since he refused, they slashed their own naked bodies and drew winged portals on their flesh and the walls. Slashed open their own throats as Joe helplessly watched them die. The ultimate human sacrifices.
A few days later, Bradley Swistack, Senior, came and took Joe away. Alec never saw Joe again until he buried his father's body a few weeks ago.
Alec had blamed Joe for the death of his mother and sisters until his twenty-first birthday. On that day, he received the only letter his father ever sent to him. The letter with the truth and the key to the forbidden basement room. In the basement, Alec had found his mother's relics. His father had tacked the one empty portal above the front door before he was taken away. It was to be a gruesome reminder for Alec. Death isn't always permanent. "What do you mean by 'empty portal'?" Brad asked, confused.
"Well," Alec said. "See the red symbols inside the oval on the portal that you brought?"
"Yes," Brad replied glancing at the drawing in question.
"The portal that's tacked above my door, the one that belonged to my father. It's empty -- no symbols inside the oval.
It's those symbols that worry me. I remember what my father wrote, 'the Wrenge travels up through a winged portal leaving behind her mark as a warning of her presence on earth.' Why did you think I was so spooked?"
"Mr. Nietupski? The oval above your door is the same as this one," Brad said.
The color drained out of Nietupski's face. He rushed outside to confirm what Brad had told him, staggered back and threw himself into his chair. "I swear to you. It was a blank portal when Dad hung it there. Now it has those symbols in it.
This is worse than I feared. I'm afraid to go down and check the basement. Her stuff is still down there. Just like she left it.
I wanted to get rid of it, just couldn't bear to touch those things."
"Wait a minute, just wait a minute," Brad said. I sort of understand where you're going with this story, and everything. Not that I really believe all of this nonsense. Where does Elizabeth Michaels fit into all of it?"
"Who's Elizabeth Michaels?"

"She's the woman whose basement I found this in," Brad explained holding out the drawing.
"I don't know any Elizabeth Michaels," Nietupski said with a shrug.

"What about Turner, Elizabeth Turner?"
"Wait a minute, my sister Meg had a friend . . . Lizzy. It could have been Lizzy Turner -- blonde, attractive. Meg could have taught her about the Wrenges I suppose."
Brad didn't like it. Sure the story tied up a lot of loose ends, but it was just too friggin unbelievable! A friggin fairy tale from the friggin dark ages for Christ's sake. Still . . .
"Okay, Nietupski, say I buy your story. Are you trying to tell me there's some kind of demon out there killing guys off?"
"Well sort of. A winged demon. Female presumably.
According to what I've read, she could be a flawless beauty or a disfigured monster. Definitely winged though. Like a bat."

"Can it be killed?"
"No. I think it can be sent back though. Down there -- with my mother's things, there were pages from an old book . . .
Something about the shadow. It works through its shadow. Come on, I'll show you."
Brad followed Alec Nietupski down a narrow flight of stairs. The main part of the basement was like a neat concrete box, complete with the usual cellar things like furnace, spider webs etc. A small wooden door in a shadowy corner was locked with a padlock. This was where Nietupski headed, fishing a key out of his pocket as he scurried along. "Everything's just how she left it," Nietupski said. "Put this padlock back on myself ten years ago and haven't opened it since."
The hinges creaked loudly. The room smelled musty and old.


The light switch didn't produce any light, so Nietupski grabbed a flashlight and fresh light bulb from a shelf by the stairs and went in first. Brad decided to wait for some light on the subject.
He watched the flashlight beam as the dark room swallowed it up, heard Nietupski screw out the old bulb and screw in the new.

The blast of light stung Brad's eyes, but not enough to ever make him forget the sights in that room. All of Brad's doubts about Nietupski's credibility vanished with that first flash of light.
A large stone altar ran across one entire wall. Above the altar was a large crumbly-looking sheet, like a page from a huge volume. Hieroglyphic-like characters danced around the largest winged oval Brad had yet seen in his investigation. Eight blood-red symbols were centered inside the oval. Right between its wings. Alec Nietupski was staring at the parchment -- his face
pale. "That one was blank, too," he whispered.


"When I locked this room up, that portal was empty too. Now it has marks in it."
On top of the altar stood many twisted lumps of black wax, small dried bones, red and white vials, tin boxes of moldy sand, a large knife, and many broken old books and papers.
Brad picked up one old, yellow parchment from the top. On it was written a poem or chant of sorts:

A drop of blood, crimson red,
A pale white bone from the living or dead,
Falling tears from those mislead,
Dark earth resting across the dead.
The path of rage is up ahead.
Shadows of Wrenge are those of dread.

Brad jotted the strange words in his small notebook. They seemed important, somehow.
Most of what was written was in rhymes and riddles. Brad found another that also looked important and wrote these words down:

Oh sister Wrenge hear my cry
Ride with me across the sky
Called from the eyrie where shadows swell
Send offenders on to hell
Shadows cross where mortals walk
No more pretext, no more talk
Cast your shadow in his wake
Blood and bone from the wicked take
Tears and fears will end the ache

Nietupski continued to gaze up at the winged portal. Brad had to take his arm and physically lead the man from the depressing little room.

"Wait," Nietupski said. "There's another important passage here." The frightened man carefully moved aside some debris on the slab. "Here, here, write this down too, it must be important or they wouldn't have scratched it into the altar, 'Beware of watchers as you sleep, or to the eyrie your soul will creep.'"
Brad wrote it down with the others.

Upstairs, Brad showed Nietupski his notes.
"Mr. Nietupski can you help me decipher these riddles?"
"Officer, I think after all we've been through, you should be calling me Alec."
"All right, you can drop the Officer part too. I'm Brad. My visit was never official. Elizabeth Michaels was married to my best friend. I think he was the first victim of that Wrenge. Stabbed with one of his own bones. A real mess. No one at the station would ever believe this story. I
may need your help to stop this . . . this . . . whatever it is.

Can I count on you Alec?"
"It's falling together. It's all falling together, isn't it? Dad knew. It's why he kept drawing those empty portals.
When the symbols began to appear in his drawings he must have been petrified. All alone down there in solitary with nobody to talk to but the rats. Scared right to death!"
Tears flowed freely from Alec's bulging red eyes, reminding Brad of a curious statement that Nietupski had made earlier.
"Tears. You said something before about tears."
Alec swiped his arm across his face. "They use them – for their rituals -- my mother, sisters, probably Elizabeth Michaels.
Read back those words. There's something there about tears . . ."
Alec was right, it was all falling together. Brad, suddenly remembering the vials of liquids in Elizabeth's things, went back to the first rhyme that he'd written. "Falling tears from those mislead."
"They're tools," Alec said. "Blood, bones, tears, graveyard dirt, they're tools for calling up the Wrenges."
Brad felt cold. Slimy tentacles of fear slithered across the back of his neck.
Continued . . .

Link to Wrenge (1)


Friday, July 23, 2010

#fridayflash: The Essence

The Essence
by Louise Dragon

I crouched quietly in the darkest corner of the room, knowing she would appear. It was summertime. Warm dry breezes wafted the curtains gently. Neighborhood noises barked an occasional protest to the night. Ghostly shadows of an old black and white horror movie danced across silvery-white walls. Movie sounds, mere whispers, hovered scarcely within earshot. The buttery aroma of popcorn lingered like incense in our comfortable old living room.
As my chin bobbed gently against my chest, the apparition loomed out of the shadows. My breath whooshed out with a soft hiss. She didn’t glance in my direction.
The angelic vision glided by me with apparent purpose. I’ve seen her before. I’ve always marveled at her beauty. Long dark hair fell like midnight waves across her shoulders. Raven curls swirled softly around her cherub’s face. Large green doll-like eyes stared straight ahead. Her long white nightgown billowed behind her as her bare feet whispered over the carpet.
I watched with curious wonder as she floated from room to room. She stopped occasionally to pick up a knick-knack or bright object, and ran her fingers over its contours, as if blind, before gently replacing the object. She always returned the items to different locations -- not where she’d found them. Sporadically her pale lips opened and closed and she whispered uncertainly. The words were sometimes garbled and had no meaning. At times they were perfectly clear but out of context.
Fear settled over me like a sprayed tincture when the woman walked. I’ve thought about speaking to her. I’m curious about why she haunts my house on quiet summer nights. I wonder about her strange whisperings and even stranger wanderings.
As I opened my mouth to speak, her large round lustrous eyes jerked to my face – like she read my thoughts. Gooseflesh pebbled my arms. My mouth sagged soundlessly open as she lifted one pale and ghostly arm and pointed a finger directly at me. Her mouth yawned into a wide wavering cavern – I thought she would scream.
She vanished; dissipated like fog at daybreak.
With shaking hands I switched off the television, I paused briefly at my parent’s bedroom door. In the glare from the streetlights I saw two blanket covered humps. I heard gentle breathing and gained courage from the comforting sound. I pulled in a few shaky breaths of my own and struggled to shake off the fear that had enveloped me in its rigid clutches. Calmer, I tread softly upstairs to my own bedroom.
My three sisters, gently snoring cocoons, lay tucked away for the night in their own little rooms next to mine. I envied their oblivion. As I huddled wide-awake in my bed watching the streetlight beams dancing over my blanketed knees, I once again tried to unravel the mystery of the walking essence.
Am I the only one who sees her?
Am I the only one who hears her?
Sometimes, late at night, upstairs in my room, her whispers waken me. Disturbing cries echo mysteriously through our old house. Strange haunting pleas like, “where are my children?” Or “Please help me. The man! The man! He’s taking my children.”
“Can’t you see him,” she would moan. “He’s right over there.”
I would lie awake for hours on these nights . . . Listening and mulling those troubling words over in my mind. Too afraid to investigate. Too afraid to budge from the comforting warmth of my bed. I’m only a kid! Only a kid . . .
I worry that she’ll hurt herself wandering aimlessly through the dark shadowy house. I fear she may walk out into the night and never come back, lost forever in her gloomy trance. She could wander the dark streets for eternity, like a lost vampire.
I’m afraid to speak to her. I’m afraid that she’ll mistake me for the “man”; the one who wants to steal her children. The one she seems destined to evade.
Would the beautiful essence ever harm me?
Her voice is an echo from a deep cave. Her eyes are jade marbles in a pale face. Her words -- a meaningless jumble in the night.
Sometimes I’m so afraid.
I wish the woman didn’t look so much like me.
Maybe tomorrow I will speak to her.
Tomorrow, or the next warm summer night, I’ll dredge up the courage to walk quickly over to the essence of the woman, take hold of her smooth white pointing arm, look deeply into those rich green glazed eyes and speak to her.
If I speak quickly and calmly . . . it should work.
I’ll simply say, “wake up, Mom, you’re sleepwalking.”
No, I shouldn’t. Dad says it’s dangerous to wake a sleepwalker.
Do you think he knows?
Do you think he’s seen her?


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Dragon Chronicles XXXVI

XXXVI. Very near the Tiber Death threatens
In the path along the hollow Tibetans
Two great rocks will be at war
While wails of agony pitch the shore


Dragon Chronicles XXXV

XXXV. The earth trembles at Mortara
The Latin passage is opened shaped as a cynara
A prudent person is reduced to silence
His blood now poisoned in the sacred chalice


Friday, July 16, 2010

#flashfriday: Alma

Alma by Louise Dragon

“Hey, Mom, who’s this,” Holly yelled, waving an oval picture frame at me from across the attic.

Could it be, I thought squinting through the flurries of dust motes Holly’s waving had created. Alma, my God, I hadn’t let myself think about Alma in years. I could feel a pulse throbbing above my right eye as I snatched the picture from my daughter for a better look. The sweet little girl in the picture had large blue eyes and masses of curly blonde hair tied back with an aqua ribbon.

“It’s Alma,” I whispered, more to myself than to Holly. “My sister Alma.”

(Born with a caul over her face!)

“I have an Aunt Alma,” Holly asked, wrinkling her pug nose.

“No, Honey, Alma died long ago.”

“How come I never knew about her?” twelve-year old Holly questioned, hands on slim hips.

“Alma was . . . different. Our family never talked about her much. Come on, now let’s get Grandma’s attic cleaned out. The couple that bought this house would like to move in next week.”

“Why is her nose bleeding?” Holly was still studying the picture.

“Her nose isn’t bleeding, Honey.” I started folding up old clothes and sorting them into boxes.

“Holly, would you start over there in Grandpa’s corner? All those tools and jars of nails are going to the church. Can you pack them up in these boxes for me?’ I handed her two cardboard boxes.

“Mom, her nose IS bleeding.”

“No,” I said stubbornly. My hands trembled.

“Mo-om, look. It’s blood. Why take a picture of someone with a bloody nose?”

I didn’t want to look.

“Mom, what’s wrong? Why are you wiping your hands like that?” Holly’s voice took on a high, fearful whine. Without thinking, I was scrubbing my hands across the old clothes.

I struggled to pull myself together for her sake.

“Nothing’s wrong, Honey. I’m fine, really. Just brushing off the cobwebs.”

(Blood on my hands—under my nails. Alma’s nose bleeding?)

A gust of wind whirled through the dust motes and hit the attic door, slamming it shut with a crash.

“I’m scared,” Holly whined. “Can we go home now?”

(Excellent idea. Let’s get the hell out of here.)

I hastily wiped my hands one last time on one of Dad’s old spaghetti strap tee-shirts. “I think we’ve done enough for today,” I tried to keep my voice from shaking. “What say we go for ice cream and finish this tomorrow?”

Holly was already yanking at the door. Her wide blue eyes—

(Like Alma’s)

turned back to me, straining and stricken with fear. “The door won’t open,” she said in a panicky whisper. We’re locked in!”

“Don’t be silly. It’s probably just stuck.”

But the door wouldn’t open.

Frustrated, I kicked it and lashed out at it with my fists, pounding and yelling. I could feel panic rising inside me like flood waters. Holly, eyes wide and sparkling with tears, had backed into a corner. With both hands over her mouth she watched me bash at the attic door. I knew that my irrational behavior was frightening her. I must have looked like a candidate for a padded cell.

Finally exhausted, I put my back to the door and took deep breaths, trying to steady my nerves.

Holly was sobbing now.

Across the room, a ray of sunlight hit the glass of Alma’s old picture and sparkled there like a tiny light bulb.

(I should never have come back here.)

“I should never have come back here.”

“Mom,” Holly whispered through her fingers. “What’s the matter? Dad knows we’re here. He’ll come and get us.”

I sighed and plunked down on a box next to my daughter. “Of course he will, Honey. Of course he will.”

I felt the need to explain my actions to my daughter, although I wasn’t sure she was old enough to know about Alma.

“I was always afraid of Alma,” I began with a hoarse whisper.

(Alma could always hear . . .)

Briefly, I explained my fears. How Alma, born with a caul over her face, could do things: like move things and make herself or us bleed. Alma could roll her big blue eyes back until only the whites showed and make things happen.

What I didn’t tell her was about the day when Alma was twelve and I was thirteen. About the day when I put my hands around my little sister’s throat and squeezed until blood oozed from her nose and ears. Squeezed the nasty life out of my own sister right here, in this attic. Tied her heavy, lifeless body to the huge beams above and scrawled her suicide note.

When I had finished the story, I looked up—expecting that Holly would have questions.

I wasn’t prepared for the smirk on her face. Blood trickled from her little pug nose.

“Honey, did you cut your . . .”

A hideous chuckle gurgled from my daughter’s smiling lips. I watched as her eyes rolled back until only the whites showed.

Horrified, I heard the tinkling of the nails inside their dusty glass jars. Like a hideous torrent of black rain those nails flew toward me.

Blinded by the flying steal, I heard only part of Alma’s words before the tip of Dad’s screwdriver stopped my heart.

“Now, we’re even, sis . . .”

Bitter Blood: A True Story of Southern Family Pride, Madness, and Multiple Murder (Onyx)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

#TuesdaySerial: Wrenge X.

Wrenge (10)
by Louise Dragon

Chelsea Street -- on the East side of the city -- had become part of the nouveau district. All flashy pink and yellow stucco with lots of Bourbon Street type wrought iron fences and gates.

Number eleven, styled after the old mission churches, was no exception. Brad brushed through the yielding spokes of iron just as the marmalade sun dropped behind Mount Mariah for the day.

Above the plain, white-painted front door -- fixed to the yellow stucco wall with a series of ornate brass tacks – the red, winged oval was painted onto a tanned leather square. Brad realized he was holding his breath again, and let it out in one long rush. His hands were sweating almost to the dripping point

-- he brushed them quickly across his thighs before ringing the bell.

Alec Nietupski bore a striking resemblance to the man – Joe Nightshade -- that Brad had seen in the mug shot. Five-eight, if he stretched, wiry Einstein hair, and large, bulging tan-yellow eyes. He moved in quick short bursts, like a puppet with an inexperienced operator.

"Mr. Nietupski?"


"I'm Officer Swistack, Memphis PD. Could I ask you a few questions?"

"What's this about, Officer?" Nietupski's eyes bulged wider.

"Can we go inside? This will only take a moment."

Nietupski backed away from the door and Brad was allowed into the huge living area, which consisted of one vast room furnished in turquoise-Navajo.

"What's this all about, Officer . . . Swistack? Did you say Swistack?" Nietupski frowned.

"It was an Officer Swistack who arrested my father more than twenty years ago -- looked a lot like you . . . I answered the door that day. The day they took my father away. Sorry, my Dad died recently and I've been thinking about him a lot. You just reminded me of something is all. You're too young to be the same . . ."

Brad was feeling out of place. A trickle of sweat dribbled down the center of his back.

(What the hell am I doing here? This man could have a grudge. His father was a murderer. Like father like son?)

Brad coughed into a damp fist to clear his throat. "It was your father that I wanted to talk to you about."

(Just jump right in and get this over with!)

Brad pulled out Elizabeth Michaels' drawing of the winged oval and offered it to Nietupski. "Do you recognize this drawing? It's been connected to a recent string of killings and . . . Mr. Nietupski? Are you all right sir?"

Nietupski was swaying in front of Brad. His bulging eyes appeared about to pop out of his drained face. Low moans vented from his tightened lips.

"Oh shit. Oh shit. Damn. They're out. Somebody let them out. Oh my God. Oh no. We're doomed. That's it. We're all doomed!" Nietupski's hands swished through the air punctuating his babbling tirade. Groans and moans fell between his senseless statements and his eyes rolled back exposing a sea of whiteness beneath the tan-yellow irises.

Brad, instinctively taking over, pushed the trembling Nietupski into a nearby chair. "Put your head between your knees," he commanded, pushing down on the guy's shoulders until he was satisfied with his position. Quickly scanning the room, Brad found a small bar on one wall, grabbed a plastic tumbler from the kitchen area and sloshed in a few fingers of brandy.

"Here, drink this."

After a few sips, Nietupski's breathing slowed and his glazed eyes seemed as if they were trying to focus. His body trembled in spasms while incoherent, broken sentences flowed from his slack mouth. "They're out. They're out. At least one got out. Dad. Did they get Dad? He was so afraid."

Brad waited impatiently for the brandy to take effect. Some of Nietupski's obvious fear was transferring to the tight muscles on the back of his (Brad's) neck. The winged oval apparently meant something to Nietupski and Brad wasn't leaving until he got some answers.

As he continued to sip the brandy, Nietupski relaxed. Trembling slowed to intermittent hitches, his eyes cleared, and he stopped rambling.

"I'm sorry if I upset you, Mr. Nietupski. That wasn't my intention. Can you tell me what you know about this symbol?"

Nietupski turned wary eyes to Brad. "Just who the hell are you, and where the hell did you get that?"

Brad hesitated. He had been unprepared to reveal his own motives. Sure that Nietupski would spill his guts of his own accord. Perhaps another approach? Perhaps if he offered some info -- he might get Nietupski talking.

"That other Officer Swistack, the one who came to your door and arrested Joe Nightshade? He was my father. I remembered the old pictures of the crime scene. I remembered the winged ovals.

This one was taken from a new crime scene a few weeks ago. I, of course thought of your father . . ."

"Nietupski. His name was Joe Nietupski. You cops gave him that other name! What-da-ya-think, my father came back from the dead? He wasn't a murderer. He didn't really kill them, you know."

(It worked, keep him talking!)

"I don't understand," Brad said. "Wasn't your father involved in a cult? Human sacrifices, that kind of thing?"

"Ha," Nietupski barked. "It wasn't my father who was into that shit. It was my mother. My mother and my sisters. Oh, it's all so complicated. You wouldn't believe any of that stuff.

The courts didn't believe it. Nobody'll listen until it's too late. And believe me that time is coming. It may already be here."

Nietupski's voice had dropped to a whisper, his large eyes darted frantically about the big room resting uneasily on the windows. "Excuse me a moment," Nietupski rose shakily to his feet and wobbled from window to window, closing the blinds.

Switching on a bank of ceiling lights, he returned with another tumbler of brandy, which he sipped nervously.

"I'm afraid, Officer Swistack, that I can't tell you anything that you'd want to hear. My mother was nuts and into some weird shit. It's a long and complicated story and I just don't have the energy to go into it. Besides, your kind took my Dad. Took him and locked him away for all those years. HE WAS A DECENT MAN! I don't owe you anything."  Nietupski was furiously brushing tears from his eyes.

"Tears won't help," he mumbled. "They'll use them."

"Mr. Nietupski, good men are being killed right now. If you can shed some light on these cases . . ."

"Oh come now, Officer. It isn't GOOD men who are being killed, is it?"

That statement startled Brad. Nietupski knew. He knew who the Memphis-Mangler was. He knew far too much about everything.

Perhaps he knew so much because he WAS the Memphis-Mangler. The closed blinds . . . Brad had been foolish enough not to tell anyone where he was going . . .

Cautiously, Brad reached a sweating hand beneath his jacket and unsnapped the safety strap of his shoulder holster.

(Like father, like son?)

As if reading Brad's thoughts, Nietupski went on, "My father was no murderer and neither am I. We don't fit the profile – do we?"

Brad knew he was right but decided to goad him into talking more.

"You seem to know a lot about these deaths, Mr. Nietupski.   Perhaps I should take you in for questioning?"

This was the furthest thing from Brad's mind, but it seemed to work for Nietupski. He sagged back in his chair, "Okay, okay, I'll tell you what I know, but believe me, you'll wish I hadn't."

Continued . . .
Link to Wrenge(1)

Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters

Saturday, July 10, 2010

#flashfriday: Caretaker

Caretaker by Louise Dragon

“You’re treating the street people like pets,” Everett said as he watched his new girlfriend pack squares of leftover lasagna into a foil lined cardboard box.

“Just because you’re studying psychology, doesn’t mean you need to search for hidden motives behind a simple act of human kindness.” Polly pointed out. “I’m merely taking leftovers to some hungry people. If more of us helped out, perhaps we wouldn’t have street people.”

“Now hold on there,” Everett said helping Polly with her parka.
“I’ve lived in the city my whole life and street people have always been here.

Bag ladies and bums: they like their lifestyle — no taxes, no rules, and no worries.”

“What about food?” Polly asked punching the elevator down button. “Or warm clothing, or shelter? Things that you and I take for granted. Are you telling me that you believe street people actually enjoy this way of life?”

A swirl of snowy air ruffled Polly’s dark curls as she stepped outside the building. Everett zipped his jacket to his chin and stuffed his hands into warm pockets before answering.

“My grandmother used to tell us that street people not only enjoyed being street people, but that they actually chose this type of existence.”

Polly’s black boots slowed on the snowy walk and she turned her solemn brown eyes to Everett. “Why on earth would she think that?”

“Grandma was always afraid of the street people. She used to tell us stories about them. I think, so that we’d be afraid too. Afraid enough to stay away from Sluggards.”


“That’s what Grandma called the street people. She used to tell us that the Sluggards were actually aliens that came here into the cities of the world to observe us — you know — study our lifestyle so that they could infiltrate our planet better when the time came. Isn’t that crazy? Grandma sure could spin a yarn.”

Noisy street sounds clamoring to be heard swirled around Polly. As she strolled this darkening stretch of 42nd Street, however, it was only Everett’s words that she heard.

“That’s ridiculous,” Polly said. “No, it’s worse than ridiculous. It’s pathetic. If the street people are all aliens, then — look around you, Everett — they’ve already infiltrated our world.”

“Well, sort of,” Everett replied. “But they’re different. They’re street people, don’t you see? They can’t take good care of themselves like you and me because they’re not really human, but parasites with a human shape. Grandma used to say that they really look like an earthworm or a slug. It is ridiculous, I agree, but you know how grandmothers are.”
“I’ve never met your grandmother, Everett. Although I’d like to.”
Polly, still holding her box of leftovers, descended into the depths of the subway with Everett trotting at her side.

“Where does your Grandmother live?”

“Oh she’s in a rest home now. In Albany. I’ll take you with me the next time I visit. I’m sure she’d love to meet you.”

Polly’s booted heels clacked against the littered tunnel. Everett’s voice echoed hollowly against graffiti-covered walls reeking of urine and cigarettes.

“How much further are we going? It’s really spooky down here.”

“Just a little more,” Polly said. “There’s someone special I want to check on. Tell me more about your grandmother’s theory. It’s an interesting story. Even if it is a bit far-fetched. What’s her name? I feel like I know her already.”

“Ellen. Her name is Ellen Dodge. People say that I look a lot like Grandma Dodge. We have the same slate-blue eyes and, before she got gray, her hair was sandy-blond like mine. There really isn’t much more to tell. Apparently the Sluggards have a way of wrapping around a victim and absorbing them to take over their human shape. Gross, huh? According to Grandma, this leaves them so weak, physically, that they must live the remainder of their new lives as bums and street people. She used to speculate, however, that the Sluggards were breeding new life forms down here in the subway tunnels. Funny, huh? Caretakers, she called them.”

Polly stopped in her tracks and turned to face Everett in the dim tunnel.


“Yeah, Caretakers. A stronger breed of Sluggard who could fit in better with society. You know, hold down a job, have place to live. Someone who could help take care of the weaker Sluggards while they worked on breeding more of this stronger model.”

“Your Grandmother sounds like a remarkable woman, Everett. She has quite an imagination.”

They were standing in a remote portion of the subway tunnel. Everett, ever fearful of his Grandmother’s stories, would probably never have ventured this deep into the tunnels alone, but Polly seemed to know exactly where she was going. The pretty young woman reached behind Everett to a rusty lever buried in the concrete wall. With a raucous screech, part of the tunnel wall slid back exposing a weakly lit passage.

With a hasty glance in both directions, Polly shoved Everett into the passage. She possessed remarkable strength for such a small woman.

Everett, sprawled on the dank floor and shocked into silence for a moment, watched Polly step into the opening and depress a lever, thereby closing the concrete wall behind them.

“Sorry, kid, but you know too much,” Polly said. “We knew someone had been talking, just couldn’t find the leak.”

“Talking?” Everett said. “Talking about what? The Sluggards? It’s just a story. My grandmother made it up. Didn’t she? Polly?”

A bent old man dressed in patched jeans and a moth-eaten overcoat hobbled into view. An enormous woman swathed in a garish fake leopard skin poncho and plastic boots closely followed him. Her dirty, matted hair screamed out from her head in spikes giving her a porcupine appearance.

Polly handed the box of food scraps to this pathetically deranged looking couple. They immediately tore open the carton and with grimy fingers began stuffing cold lasagna squares into their slack mouths.

“Everett, meet Mom and Dad,” Polly said to her nauseous-looking young friend. The squalid couple grinned tomato-flecked teeth down at Everett who still lay prone on the cold concrete.

“He knows,” Polly said to Ma and Pa Street Bum. “But I have the name of his source. I’ll bring her here tonight.”

To Everett, Polly said gently, “We’ll need to make you one of us. Don’t worry; I’ll always take care of you and Grandmother Dodge. I’ll be your caretaker.”

The big woman in the oversized poncho reached a dirty hand under her leopard skin folds and drew out a wriggling slug-worm. The worm-thing oozed iridescent pools of slime across the woman’s arms as she held it like a newborn baby. It continually coiled and uncoiled much like a giant grub upon first exposure to light.

Everett, his slate-blue eyes wide and slightly vacant, seemed mesmerized by the sight of an actual Sluggard. His mouth opened and closed like a giant fish, but only faint clicking noises issued from his tight throat.

The large woman cooed unfamiliar lyrics to her squirming bundle before setting it tenderly beside a stunned-looking Everett.

As the Sluggard inched toward him, much like a giant oozing maggot, Everett seemed to come back to life momentarily. He scrabbled backwards like a crab until his body hit the unmovable concrete wall. His shrill screams became muffled and died out altogether as the Sluggard wrapped his struggling body into bulging iridescent folds of slime.


The following week, if anyone in the big city noticed, but unfortunately few ever did, a bent man in threadbare clothing helped an ancient crone hobble down the concrete steps to the subway tunnels below. The man’s face seemed altogether too young to be perched on such a bent and beaten old body. His arresting slate-blue eyes peering warily from rheumy sockets curiously matched those of his companion as the pair shuffled slowly through the crowded subway terminal.

If anyone had paused in their busy, bustling day to listen: they may have heard the old woman whining piteously to her companion. “I’m so hungry, Everett.”

“I know, I know,” her unkempt comrade replied. “The caretaker will be here soon. Then we will eat.”


Caretaker, The


Dragon Chronicles XXXIV

XXXIV. Greedy to see the plume of smoke wail in the wind
Infant found fire passes like water from the skin
A city of gold throws out the first lure
What will be found in the temple of the pure?

Brother Can You Spare A Dime


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

#TuesdaySerial: Wrenge IX

Wrenge (9)
by Louise Dragon

The following morning, Brad sent Joe Nightshade's name, AKA Joseph Nietupski, through the computer and learned that he had received two consecutive life sentences at Turney Prison in October of 1974 for murder. There was no chance of parole. The mug shot connected to the file portrayed a slight, nervous-looking man of about thirty with thick, unruly dark hair and bulging eyes. Brad tore off the printout, shoved it into his pocket, and finished out his shift.


"May I see your credentials, Mister, ah, um, uh?"

"Officer -- Officer Swistack, Memphis PD. Yes, of course Warden Enser." Brad flashed his badge at the serious little man and started talking immediately.

"I'd like to question Joe Nightshade. One of your inmates.  His name recently came up connected to a case I'm working on."

"Ah, case? How, ah, could Joseph be involved with anything ah currently pending." The little man began shifting the items on his desk -- lining them up into straight rows -- pencil, pen, stapler, and paper clips. The warden's eyes trained earnestly on this project. His hands moved with minor tremors, like a wino out of money.

Brad wiped damp paws quickly across the arms of his chair. "Not involved, no, of course not. Basically I'd just like to ask him a few questions about a symbol he used -- to mark his crime scenes. Perhaps Mr. Nightshade can tell me something about the cult he headed."

Warden Enser shook his head. "Ah, I don't think so, Officer."

Brad scowled. He certainly hadn't been prepared to have to prove himself to the warden for Christ-sakes. He was about to stand up and tower his imposing six-feet over the serious little guy and throw his weight around a bit, when he realized that the little man was still talking.

" . . . happened when he was in ah, solitary confinement. Suicide. The ah, body was unrecognizable when the guards found it. We ah, have a small rodent problem here, you see and . . ."

"He's dead? Joe Nightshade's dead?"

"I'm ah, afraid so."

"Is there anyone here who might have known him well? A cell-mate perhaps?"

Little Warden Enser swiveled to a nearby filing cabinet and began rifling through the folders inside. His thin little hands looked like skeletal spiders spinning across the pages.

"Ah, inmate number 013601 -- Gene LeSage. Mr. Nightshade also has a surviving son, Alec Nietupski, who saw to his father's remains. His address is listed as 11 Chelsea Street -- on the East side of the city. Would you like to see Mr. ah, LeSage in the interrogation room?"

Gene LeSage strutted into the small glassed-in room like a rooster looking for hens. Although the man was smaller and at least twenty years older than Brad, he appeared solid and well built, like an ex-football player or boxer. Gene's outgoing presence filled the room as he placed a hand on the guard's shoulder and politely thanked him for the escort.

Seemingly dismissed, the guard closed the glass door and walked away. Gene LeSage turned steely, ice blue eyes to Brad and glided into a hard plastic chair with the elegance of a silk scarf that had temporarily floated out of place.

"I don't know you, do I, son?"

Brad yanked his gaze away from those captivating eyes for a moment and collected his thoughts. "No, sir."

(Sir? The man was a convict, for Christ sakes!)

"I wanted to ask you a few questions about Joe Nightshade. I believe you shared a cell with Mr. Nightshade?"

"Ah, Joe. Such a frightened man. He could have enjoyed life so much more if he had stopped looking over his shoulder."

"What do you mean by that, Mr. LeSage?"

"Please. Call me Gene. The poor man was possessed! Bad dreams every night, even when he kept that bag under his pillow."

"Bag?" Brad prompted.

"Man had a little black bag. Old drawings and pictures -- who knows what else he had wadded up in there? Carried it everywhere with him. Well almost everywhere, they didn't let him take it into solitary that day . . ."

"Gene, why was Joe Nightshade put into solitary confinement?"

The ice blue eyes hardened into sapphires. "Joe was afraid of women -- did you know that?"

Brad shook his head negatively. Hadn't Joe's victims all been female? He shelved that thought and went back to what Gene was saying.

" . . . so he tried to kill the doctor that day. They take blood samples from us, you see. About every six months. Testing for AIDS, I'd say. Usually student doctors from the Medical Center. This one was a woman. Quite lovely too -- raven black hair, dark sultry eyes, legs that . . . Sorry, we don't see very many women here." Gene's magnetic blue eyes gazed raptly into a far corner of the room.

Teeming with impatience, Brad strove to keep his voice low. "Why do you think Joe wanted to kill the doctor?"

"Well -- because she was a woman, and Joe wasn't about to let any woman take his blood! He killed his wife and daughters! Did you know that? Slit their throats and then drew funny looking winged ovals across their dead bodies in their own blood."

"Winged ovals?" Brad felt a rush of heat move through his face. He pulled one of Elizabeth Michaels' drawings out of his pocket and offered it to Gene.

"Like this, Gene?"

A bit of the sparkle disappeared from Gene's eyes when he saw the drawing. For a second, Gene looked as though he might glance over his shoulder, but then he took a deep breath and went on. "Yeah, something like that. Joe used to squeeze blood out of his fingers and draw those damn things. His ovals were always empty. None of those symbols in the center like that one there.

Otherwise, it's damn close. Do you know what it stands for?"

Brad had been about to ask Gene the same question, now he sagged back into his chair. "I was hoping you could tell me."

"Joe never said. Sandy, the guard that just left, he said the walls in solitary were covered with winged ovals. Said he killed himself down there, then rats got to the body. Sandy said one Joe's arms had been chewed off -- blood everywhere." Gene's voice faded and his eyes sought out a ceiling tile. The once virile-looking man with his bubbling personality now looked old and tired. Lively blue eyes had faded to a dull blue-gray.

"That's about all I can tell you, son."

"Gene, do you know anything about Joe's son . . ." Brad pulled out his little notebook and flipped back the pages. "An Alec Nietupski?"

"Knew he had a kid somewhere, Joe got letters sometimes. Never saw the kid though. Joe didn't want him coming here."
Continued . . .

Link to Wrenge (1)

The Long Prison Journey of Leslie van Houten: Life Beyond the Cult (The Northeastern Series on Gender, Crime, and Law)

Friday, July 2, 2010

#flashfriday: The Glowing

The Glowing by Louise Dragon

Chase followed the sound of chanting to a lone rock sitting on the hillside. He laid his hand against it and immediately the landscape wavered, darkened, and smoothed out to become Moss Moor. The lone rock kept its color, but instantly transformed into the rock radio type devices known over here as calmblinks. The chanting words traveled from Chase’s fingertips, up his left arm, and stabbed into his brain cells like tiny needles of relaxation.

Passing through time and space to find himself in another dimension used to sting Chase’s brain with spines of terror until he discovered holding on to the calmblinks for a few moments after the wavering. Grandad called it The Glowing. Chase’s mind always moved back to Grandad when he visited Moss Moor. Grandad with his secret room of potions and tiny strange animals. The Glowing was something in Chase’s (and Grandad’s) brain that allowed them to hear the whispered chanting from Moss Moor even when nobody else around them could hear it. Grandad said that they Glowed a little, that’s all – he said the Mosmorians left some Glowing Americans behind to help them keep up with our world . . . or our dimension . . . Chase was never very clear on some of the details. He only knew that when times got tough in Sulpher, Maine he could follow the smooth chanting glow from the recesses of his brain out to a calmblink and disappear to the other side for an hour, a day, or even weeks of warm calming bliss at Moss Moor.

Mosmorians didn’t speak, they chanted. They were beings of airy light -- shrouded in dark gray hooded robes -- that wandered in packs across the Mossy hillsides of their land. They roamed like monks with heads down and hands clasped in front of them. Chase usually steered clear of them as Grandad had once instructed. The Moor was always warm. Cloudless purple sky was the backdrop for hills of soft gray mossy rock filled with natural caves and outcroppings as far as the eyes could see. The air was denser, heavy almost, but breathable. It was also not what you would call bright at Moss Moor. Perpetual twilight – predawn or dusk – was the best description Chase and Grandad could come up with whenever they dared speak of The Moor in the privacy of Grandad’s secret room back home.

Grandad had warned Chase never to speak of The Moor to regular Americans. Grandad said he had two friends once who knew about Moss Moor. He thought they had tried to talk about it to some doctors in Portland. Grandad didn’t see those friends ever again.

Now Chase was growing ever more perplexed. His Grandad had been missing for several days. Strange men in silver suits kept coming out to the cabin in Sulpher and calling Grandad’s name. Chase got scared and wavered over to Moss Moor, but Grandad wasn’t over there either. Yesterday, Chase took all of the little Mosmorian critters back to The Moor and set them free. He had to be really careful and only take a few at a time. Some of them have huge fangs and sharp orange talons. Others have hideous grinning snouts and large hopping legs. One was completely hairless, black with yellow spots, and looked like the cross between a bat and a snake. Grandad had named it Wix and said it glowed AT him sometimes – like he could hear its thoughts.

Today, Chase took Grandad’s potions over to Moss Moor before the men in the silver suits found the secret room. Wix helped him find a cave on the other side and wanted to help Chase finish Grandad’s work.

Only problem with that was . . . Chase didn’t know what Grandad was working on. Wix kept shooting glowing pictures of new beings shrouded in dark gray robes into Chase’s mind. The new beings were just a bit denser than the airy Mosmorians. One of them had an outstretched hand and looked like Grandad.


As Chase keeps a hand firmly on the closest calmblink, a knowing smile passes over his calm features. The soothing chants glow into his brain. For a moment, his entire body wavers in and out of existence but then blinks partially back. The Glow shows Grandad standing in his cave holding out a hand. In that hand is a new robe for Chase to wear.

The End

Author's Note: The first two sentences of this story (although somewhat modified) are courtesy of #storystarters, a Twitter Application.

The Glowing Bones in the Old Stone HouseThe Glowing Bones in the Old Stone House