Horror and Thriller Fiction posted July 1, 2012 Chapters: 1 2 -3- 4... 


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A con artist turns over a new leaf.

A chapter in the book The Supernaturalist's Collection

The Departed

by Axiom Gray

Talking Teddy Bear Contest Winner 

The author has placed a warning on this post for violence.
The author has placed a warning on this post for language.
The elderly police officer, Detective Phillips, handed me a cup of water from my kitchen faucet. His calm, wise demeanor set me at ease despite the fact I was certain I had gone mad. I could tell from the skepticism in his face he was out of his element in my home. Dangling crystal beads draped within every archway, incense wafting its exotic perfume throughout the living room, and my obnoxiously colorful gypsy getup were just a few eccentricities that caused him to tilt his head and nod whenever he spoke to me. I couldn’t blame him. My lifestyle would be a little much for most people.

“Madame Esmerelda? Is that your real name?”

I normally would have defended my alias, cop or no, but I didn’t want to lie anymore. I couldn’t. “No, sir. It’s Selena Cortez.”

“All right, Ms. Cortez, I want you to try and take me back through what happened tonight.”

A shudder ran up my spine as my mind inched towards the memory. I wasn’t aware I was shaking so badly until he gestured to another police officer, who placed a warm blanket around my shoulders.

“Hey, Madame Esmerelda?” the female cop asked after giving me the blanket.

I looked up at her young face. She was a pretty little thing. An obvious tomboy, but with a subtle femininity which blossomed in the noticeable effort she took with her hair and shiny fingernails.

“Y-Yes?”

“I know you’ve been through a lot and all, but you think it would be all right if I showed you a pair of panties I found in my boyfriend’s truck so you could…?”

“Are you serious?” I asked, flabbergasted. Blood and broken glass covered the floor of my home. A man’s bloody body lied covered in a white sheet near my door. Had none of this perhaps suggested to this woman I might not be in the mood to play psychic and tell her what she already knew?

“Officer Briggs!” Phillips reprimanded. The young cop blushed and hurried away, back under the yellow caution tape barricading my front door. Phillips turned back to me and faked a smile and sincere tone. “I’m very sorry about that, Ms. Cortez. Now, about what happened tonight?”

“I…” I tried to answer his question, but it was so unbelievable. To try and voice it was difficult. “Um…I…”

He reached over and gently laid his hand on mine. “Just start from the beginning.”
           
I nodded and took a deep breath. “Okay.” It was crazy. No, more than crazy. However, I didn’t spare any details. I told him exactly what happened.

                                                                          Ten Hours Earlier

           
It had been a usual day. I woke up, showered, brushed my teeth, and donned my mystic work clothes. I ran a small business out of my own home. I was the all-knowing Madame Esmerelda! It was an easy enough con job. The folks of the nearby town were so mired in superstition that I made a decent living on their gullibility.
           
I had a session with Mrs. Gloria Rathers, a recent widow of Paul Rathers. Mr. Rathers had been a pillar of the community; the typical big fish in a small pond. He owned most of the land in the surrounding area and was worshipped as a king by the denizens of their little backwatered town. He was a shrewd businessman and generous philanthropist. His wife, however, was a complete ditz.
           
She came in at noon, on the dot, as always. Her purple taffeta dress was almost as obnoxious as her diamond jewelry. I could tell she took a vindictive pride in flaunting her wealth. In our many sessions, she had confided to me that she was not always rich. She was a wannabe actress who ran away from home and got stuck in a small town, far from Hollywood. She met Paul after the war, and the rest was history.
           
I welcomed her to the séance table. A giant, crystal ball I bought on eBay sat in the center of it. I polished it and dusted it with glitter to make it look more "magical". Gloria was convinced. Of course, it didn’t take much to fool her. She was my most dedicated patron; or sucker.
           
She plopped down with a huff and asked me the same question she had asked since her husband's death. “Can I speak to Paul?” She handed me a golden gentleman’s wristwatch. It looked very expensive. I had told Gloria, and all my other clients to bring a belonging of the deceased person whom they wished to contact. It would act as a portal for me to bring the dearly departed back into this realm. I saw it on some bullshit ghost hunting television show, and it became my signature practice ever since.
           
I held the watch in my left hand and placed my right palm on the crystal ball. Mumbling a made up language, I put on another perfect performance for Gloria. It was a simple trick. I just paid attention to people's mannerisms, their actions, their subconscious tells. I simply reworded what each of them already knew in a Romanian accent, and suddenly I can predict the future. I knew why Gloria had come. She was being sought after by a gold-digging man-whore by the name of Jeff Rowley.
           
Jeff was a player through and through. He knew exactly what women wanted to hear, and he could sell it better than any romance novel. Once Paul was in the ground, he saw his opportunity to score it big. Gloria was here to ask for Paul’s blessing to pursue the cradle-robbing romance.

I couldn’t have cared less who the old woman slept with, but Jeff was a skeptic of the supernatural. His philandering aside, he was a part of the local Baptist church, who had been trying to run me out of business for months. He and his other protesting Protestants would stand outside my home and harass my customers with threats of eternal damnation for seeking my pagan aid. With him in Gloria’s life, my best client would be poisoned against me.

I smiled at her and told her Paul was very disappointed in her for breaking her vows to him. “Is he terribly upset?” she asked with wide-eyed terror.

“You want his spirit to rest, don’t you?”

“O-Of course!”

“Then you must never take another man again. If you do, Paul will haunt you forever!”

“No!” she gasped. “Okay, okay! I’ll get rid of Jeff.”

I could barely contain my laughter as she left so hastily. My livelihood was secure…for the time being.

I closed my shop early and readied myself for bed when a knock came at the door. Sighing, I went to answer it. When I opened the door, I almost let out a scream. A tall, gaunt man stood on my porch wearing black jeans and a black hoody. He stared down at me with deep sunken in eyes. His thin skin seemed pulled back across his face. He held in front of him with his two pale hands, a brown stuffed teddy bear with a little red bowtie.

“Yeah?” I demanded.

“Are you…Madame Esmerelda?” his voice was low and gravely. His lightless eyes continued to stare into me, and I felt a chill run up my spine.

“I…yes,” I answered. “But I’m closed.”

“Please,” he thrust the teddy bear at me with one hand. With his other, he fished into his pocket and retrieved a handful of one hundred dollar bills. I gasped at the money. There was over three thousand dollars in his hand; more than Gloria spent in ten sessions combined.

“But for you; a special reading. Come on in and have a seat.”

“Thank you so much!”

“Yeah, yeah.”

He sat down at the table and placed the teddy bear in the center. Its threaded mouth smiled up at the ceiling. Its black marble eyes stared lifelessly. “So, what can I do for you, Mr…?”

“No names!” he growled.

“Excuse me?”

“I…please. I just need you to stop her.”

“Stop who? What the hell are you talking about?”

He slammed the table with his fist, wringing a yelp from me. “Dammit! She won’t stop!” He covered his hands in his face and wept bitterly for a moment. I had no idea what this psycho’s deal was, but letting him into my house was the stupidest thing I’ve done in a long time. “This was hers,” he pointed at the bear. “They say in town that you can talk to the dead with something belonging to them. This was hers!”

“Who?”

He shook his head. “I can’t. I-I can’t say her name.”

“Why?”

He leaned in, his face was dripping fear. It was contagious. I could feel my heart racing. He whispered like a frightened child. “She’ll hear me.”

“Uh…look, buddy. I can’t deal with this right now. If you don’t want to play ball, I get it. You’re crazy.”

“N-No! I’m not!”
           
“Did those assholes at the Baptist Church send you to scare me?”

“I swear, I’m telling the truth!” He was up on his feet. His eyes were wild. I quickly walked to the door and opened it.

“Uh-huh. Sure you are. Well, this has been fun and all, but you need to leave. And you can tell those Bible thumping pricks to suck it.”

“Alice!” he screamed. “Alice! Her name is Alice. Oh God…please.” He fell to his knees in a terrible wave of sobs.

“Oh shit,” I sighed. Slamming the door shut, I stomped back over to the table. The three thousand dollars clutched in his hand was too much to resist. I shot my open hand out to him. “Give me the money.”

He weakly slapped my hand with his, depositing the money in it as he did so. I shoved the wad of cash in my pocket and sat down. “All right. Let’s get this over with.” I picked up the teddy bear, and it felt warm to the touch; almost hot. “Weird.”

“What?” he gasped. “Is she here? Oh God! Oh God! Tell her I’m sorry!”

“Relax, would ya? You’re freakin’ me out, man!” Something twitched inside the warm teddy bear, and a whisper emanated from within it.

Daddy


“Jesus Christ!” I screamed and dropped the bear onto the table. I pushed my chair away from the table as far as I could. The brown fur of the teddy bear was beginning to pulse all over. Its threaded mouth began to tear open. In silent horror, I witnessed the bear stand to its feet by itself and turn to the sniveling man at the other side of the table.

“Please!” he screamed at me. “Help me!”

I was paralyzed with fear. The teddy bear’s mouth opened wider. A black, viscous goo fell from its open maw, splattering over the table. The stench of cemetery dirt and rotting meat permeated the air. Had I not been transfixed, I might have vomited.

Daaaaddyyyyyyy


“Oh God! Baby no! I’m sorry! It was an accident!”

Daaaaddyyyy
. I’m coming to get you…

A small, maggot-covered hand reached out through the mouth of the bear. The flesh was partly decomposed. Its fingers clawed madly at the man.

Leaping from his seat, he bolted for the door screaming. A vase on a nearby cabinet flew off its shelf and smashed against his skull. He collapsed to the ground, dazed and bleeding. The teddy bear’s entire body tore at the seams. I gawked in heart-stopping terror as inch by inch a small girl in a blue dress pulled herself from it like an unholy birthing.

She stood on my table, her back was to me. Her long, raven hair just passed her shoulders. Dirt and nightcrawlers fell from her tattered dress. Several gashes and bruises were noticeable on her legs and arms.

Daaaaddyyyyy

The man sat up slowly, recovering from being stunned. In an instant, the little girl disappeared from my table and reappeared at his side. Her back was still to me. He opened his mouth and tried to scream, but she grabbed his throat with her little hand, stopping his breath. He gagged and choked.

Shhh. Remember what you said: It’s naughty if you scream.

The flesh of her cheek ripped as she stretched her jaw open and spewed a wave of mud and maggots into his mouth. His throat bloated outwards, getting larger and larger until the skin finally ruptured. Arterial blood spurted like mini-geysers from his throat, and the man made a suffering gagging noise as he drowned in his own blood.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I screamed. She spun around. Her face was half-rotted off. Worms and dirt oozed from her snarling mouth.

I have a message for you, Selena. The dead aren't happy. Paul’s very angry. 

"P-Paul? Paul Rathers?"

In an instant, the dead girl vanished and reappeared inches before me. Her empty eyes pierced me. Her growling lips, foaming with maggots made my stomach turn upside down.

He says you're a parasite. If you steal from his wife again, he'll kill you!

I shook my head and closed my eyes. “I won’t! I won’t I promise! Please!”

Several moments passed before I could muster the courage to reopen my eyes. When I did, the girl was gone. The bear was patched together as if it had never been torn apart at all. However, the man who had brought this nightmare to my door was now lying dead by it. Mud and maggots mingled with his own blood creating a sickening broth that oozed from his gaping mouth, frozen in a scream.

I couldn’t think. I couldn’t breathe. I felt my knees give out from underneath me as I passed out.

“When I woke up, you were knocking on my door,” I quoted to Phillips.

“Well, that’s uh…that’s wow. One helluva story, Ms. Cortez.”

“I’m crazy, right?” I grabbed his shoulder. “There’s no way that could’ve happened. I’m just insane, right?”

He gave me a pitying look before snapping to another police officer. “Bag the teddy bear, too.” He turned back to me. “Ms. Cortez, I don’t know what happened tonight. Any other time, I would’ve had you carted off to the nearest funny farm after a story like that.”

“But…?”

“Let me be frank. I don’t believe in this psychic bullshit. I think you’re a con artist. That being said: some things you spoke about tonight are eerily similar to an ongoing investigation two counties over.”
           
“What?”
           
“The dead man at your door is Roger Matthews. He’s currently being investigated for the rape and murder of his five year old daughter, Alice. Of course, the county sheriff has kept the details of the crime away from the press; or so I thought until you told me about your little ‘experience’. It begs a lot of questions. Matthews’s dead. You’re claiming the spirit of his daughter killed him.”
           
“I know it’s nuts,” I admitted.
           
“Nuts? Oh no, Ms. Cortez, we’re way passed nuts. The way I see it, I have two choices: you can either tell me how you know sensitive information about an ongoing case, or I can just arrest you now for the murder of Roger Matthews.”
           
“Murder? I didn’t kill him! I swear to God!”
           
“Then tell me what happened!”
           
“I…” I couldn’t lie anymore. Every time I reached for a deceiving phrase, I saw her dead eyes glaring at me; her maggoty mouth growling at me. I hung my head and didn’t answer.
           
“Fine,” he stood up. “Briggs!” The female cop came rushing back in with a smile. “Book her!”
           
“Wh-What?” she gasped.
           
“Did I stutter?”
           
“Y-Yes sir!” she yelped and hurried over to me with a pair of handcuffs. She lifted me up and gently pulled my arms behind my back.

I couldn’t believe this was happening, but perhaps it was justice. Alice’s final words to me rang in my head: If you steal from his wife one more time, he’ll kill you! That’s exactly what I’ve been doing. I was a thief; the worst kind. I preyed on people’s tragedies like a vulture.

She led me to a police cruiser, and placed me in the backseat. Climbing into the driver’s seat, she drove away towards town. “I’m really sorry about this. It’s gotta be a misunderstanding.” I couldn’t answer. I just sat and stared at the floor in silence.

As the car bounced against the country back road gravel, she spoke again. “So, about those panties…”


Talking Teddy Bear
Contest Winner

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This is a little longer than allowed, but I had a great time writing it. When the contest is over, I think I'll flesh it out some more.
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