Horror and Thriller Fiction posted May 19, 2015


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A Fall From Grace

by Dean Kuch


The author has placed a warning on this post for violence.
The author has placed a warning on this post for language.


 


 


















~A Fall From Grace~

By Dean Kuch


 

Bruce Cox, better known as OU812 within The Writer's Block community, was pleasantly surprised as he arrived at the pre-determined table nestled in a dimly-lit corner of Rosie's Diner & Cafe.

The young lady he saw sitting there was gorgeous. She was far more stunning than he could have imagined. Rich olive skin, long slender legs—muscular calves. Her silken black hair was shoulder-length, black as onyx. Her full, red, pouting lips appeared to be enhanced with collagen injections. She was dressed in a lacy black bodice woven over a body-hugging black dress. Damn, this bitch is a Gothic knock-out, Bruce thought, greeting the woman with a satisfied smile.

Still, nothing would deter him from his task; if he was successful, Grace, aka, U Luv Me 2, would be dead before morning.

"Excuse me, Miss. Are you Grace Jamison?"

Bruce flashed his toothiest, most feral smile. She smiled, nodding her acknowledgment.

“Why yes, I certainly am. And you must be Bruce?”

He extended his hand, grinned, then pulled up a chair.

“I'm so glad to finally get to meet someone in person—from the site—ya know?” She cooed, checking her reflection in the compact mirror she extracted from her Gucci handbag. “I took the liberty of ordering coffee for the both of us; I hope you don't mind, Bruce.” She smiled seductively, swiping a tube of liquid ruby-red lipstick over her gorgeous full lips. After smacking them together several times, she grinned.

“No,” Bruce lied, “I don't mind at all. Fact is, it'll save me the trouble of having to do so.” Just as I thought... a domineering little rich bitch who's used to getting her own way. Well, that ends today. “I'm glad to finally get to meet you."

“Yeah, me too, Brucie. So, how long have you been on the site, now? Four...five years?

Before Bruce could answer, Grace sprang from her chair, nearly toppling over their table in the process. Coffee sloshed from both cups. A muddy brown stain spidered out across the red and white checkered table cloth, weaving through the fabric like a cancerous growth.

“Oh Bruce, will you please forgive me? I know you've just arrived, but I must pay a visit to the ladies' room. Traffic was atrocious today! You'll hold that thought, won't you, darlin'?” Grace proposed this with the same dramatic boldness that made her such a popular fixture on “The Block," then pranced off towards the back of the coffee shop. Her stiletto heels click-clacked with staccato rhythm across the tiled floor of the diner.


Four years in a row, up until Grace brought her cute ass to the website—along with her too-cute handle—Bruce Cox had been the top-ranked author and most popular guy on the site. In just one short year, this brash poet wannabe stole his thunder. She'd yanked his lofty status—along with his comfortable cushion—right out from under him, as easily as one would a well-worn rug from an aged dog.

He thought he'd built an insurmountable lead. However, that was before the bitch came along and ruined everything. He with 7, 776 points, Grace was now a close second. She'd managed to sweet talk her way to an astounding 7,622 points, all of which she acquired in just a year and a half. Even as she began to rack up the points during her first year, he didn't worry too much. He figured as long as he kept writing, his fans would carry him and his lofty status forever upward, then help him remain there. At thirty-six years old, Bruce found himself more and more addicted to the persona he portrayed on The Block. Nothing was going to take that pleasure—his only pleasure—from him. Especially a no-talent slut like Grace Jamison. If she thought she could post her cleavage-laden profile picture and use it to steal his number-one ranking, she most assuredly had a rude awakening coming.

Nonchalantly reaching into the breast pocket of his tweed blazer, he retrieved the tiny glass vial of cyanide. He took a cursory look around the restaurant, then dropped one of the BB-sized pellets into Grace's still steaming cup of black coffee. It entered with a slight, “Ploip”... sizzled a few seconds...then vanished.

 

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Feeling a bit overheated from the nervousness and anticipation of what he'd done, Bruce removed his blazer, hanging it over the back of his chair. He prayed there were no sweat rings showing underneath his armpits.

After several minutes, Grace returned. Her perfect white smile beamed at him as she made her approach to the table. To Bruce, it appeared like some obscene, alien moon shining. Cold —devoid of life.

“Sorry 'bout that Brucie baby, but...when nature calls, you must...”

“Please, Miss Jamison...”

“A-w-w-w, don't be so formal, silly. Call me Gracie, everyone else does.”

Bruce let out an exasperated sigh, continuing once more. “Yes, Gracie, of course...whatever. Please, call me Bruce, or Mr. Cox, if that suits you. Anything but Brucie ba...”

C'mon, lighten up, Brucie-boy!" Grace cut in once again. “We're old friends here, you and I, right? Besides, you see that guy over there in the corner stall? The distinguished-looking white-haired gentleman wearing the white fedora?”

Bruce glanced around Grace to look in the direction she was pointing.

"Yeah...what about him?”

“Well, he's a publisher. Says he owns Cemetery Gates Publishing, or some shit like that. Anyway, when he saw that I was here with you, he asked if you and I were...an item. Isn't that exciting?”

Bruce's eyes kept creeping inevitably to the cooling cup of coffee now sitting innocuously between them. Preoccupied with thoughts of what might occur to the pellet he'd put into her coffee a few minutes earlier, whether or not it might create some sort of milky-looking morass-like film on the liquid's black surface, Grace had to yell at him to get his attention.

Bruce...Brucie! Earth to Brucie-boy... is anyone home?”

Bruce bolted erect, as he'd leaned closer over her cup, trying to see if he detected anything out of the ordinary. He glanced up into the puzzled face of his lunch date.

“I, uh...I apologize, Grace. Something just crossed my mind...an idea for a story. I do that frequently. 'Zone-out', I mean. I find inspiration comes from the strangest places. You know how it is, I'm sure.”

“You haven't heard a damn thing I've said, have you, sweetie?" Grace raised one well manicured eyebrow to accentuate her displeasure at being ignored. “Do you understand what I'm trying to tell you? Mr. Burgenstein, owner and operator of Cemetery Gates Publishing, wants to publish your anthology of horror stories. You know, that nonsense you always post. I believe it's called Apocalyptic Annoyance, or some shit like that.”

Grace had Bruce's full, undivided attention now. It was that one, single word that grabbed him—made him sit up and take notice. “Publish”.

“You mean Apocalypse & Atrocities? He's told you he's interested in publishing that? How—where has he seen it, it's not posted anywhere but on The Block?”

“I know,” Grace continued, “that's the beauty of it. He's a fan, an active member of the Writer's Block. He's been a fan of yours for years, he told me. He just needed to see how versatile you were, you know? Publisher mambo-jumbo, all that crap. Anywho, he recognized you from your profile picture. You'll be sorry one day, you know?

“Sorry? For what, Grace?”

"When you're a big, famous celebrity—doing book signings all over the world—shit like that, you'll wish you'd used a bogus profile photo.”

“Oh, that. Well, that hasn't happened just yet, has it?” Bruce didn't try to hide the sarcasm in his voice. This girl was beginning to get under his usually thick reptilian hide.

Bruce covered his mouth with his palm, an instinctive reaction to his amazement at what he was hearing. “And just when was this conversation supposed to have taken place? In the ladies' powder room?”

Grace shot him a crooked grin, “No, silly. I ran into him on my way out. He was going in, I was coming out. You know, mathematics of impact theory... all that physics crap? Wham! He ran right into me. That's when he asked me if I was your girlfriend, and it went from there. He wants you to go over and talk with him for a few.”

Bruce pondered what Grace was saying, then observed the elderly man waving his hand in a come-hither like gesture, urging Bruce to join him at his table near the rear of Rosie's.

“But, I couldn't... possibly. I mean, that would be extremely rude of me if I...”

“Bruce, Bruce,” Grace cut in, “do you think for one second if a publisher wanted to speak with me about publishing some shit I wrote, I'd be sitting here a minute longer? No offense, but I'd leave you here faster than a flat-footed cockroach caught in a spotlight.”

“A what?” asked Bruce, incredulous.

“Never mind. Just get your cute ass-ets over there, have a word with him. Set something up for later, if ya like. I'll be right here when you get back.” Grace flashed that cold, bright smile at him once more. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but there was something darkly sadistic behind that flashy grin.

“You're sure you wouldn't mind? I won't keep you waiting too...”

“Just go already, would ya?” Grace interrupted. “I'll be right here... I'm not in any huge hurry.”

Alliteration,” Bruce mumbled.

Grace shot a more sinister look his way this time. “Come again... Brucie?

“Oh, nothin,” he responded, smiling. “Just an observation's all.”

Grace returned once again to the sweet, kind, good-natured soul she'd seemed to be when Bruce first walked in.

“Yeah, that's what I thought. Now, I'd best be observing you walking over to that table in the back to start doing some serious negotiating.”

After Bruce spoke with Mr. Burgenstein for about fifteen minutes, he had to admit, the old guy made him feel like a celebrity. They made arrangements for another, more formal meeting later that week at the man's office, to hash out editing, the compensation. Those finer points published writers are far too familiar with, and fully dread doing.

When Bruce returned to his table, Grace was drinking her coffee while thumbing furiously on her cell phone keypad.

“All settled then? I was right, wasn't I? The old fart wants to publish you?”

Bruce could hardly contain his elation over what just happened. His smile cut a broad white slash across the lower half of his face.

“Yes, Grace, thanks. You were right. He intends to publish my anthology. We're going to go over the particulars later this week.”

Bruce picked up his coffee, taking a huge, scalding gulp. What the...? This has been sitting here for over twenty minutes, why the hell is it still so freaking hot? He gulped in huge breaths, then took a long drink of the ice water the waitress had brought along with their cuppa Joe.

“I had old Betsy Boop over there warm it up for us. Aren't I a sweetie?”

“Uh,...yeah, you're a gem, Gracie,” Bruce wheezed. “And it's Betty Boop, Grace, not Betsy.”

“Aw shit... Betty, Betsy...what's the fuckin difference?”

“The S,” Bruce replied curtly.

Finally, the realization of what Grace just told him sank in. Bruce was instantly overcome with dread. She'd drunk the spiked coffee while he was speaking with Mr. Burgenstein, then gotten a refill. How long would it take for the cyanide to kick in, he wondered? What if she began to convulse and foam at the mouth here, right in front of everyone in the diner? That would mean the needle for him for certain. He'd been the only one seen here with her , and he was sure that Mr. Burgenstein would be able to identify him in a line-up. The wheels in his mind were spinning out of control, like a gyroscope on a bent axis. He had to get her out of there. He had to do it quickly.

Before he could reply, Grace stood up abruptly from the table. “Can we get outta here, Bruce? I suddenly don't feel so good. I could use a little fresh air, if you wouldn't mind?”

Bruce couldn't believe this sudden stroke of good fortune. Not only had Grace turned him on to Mr. Burgenstein and his interest in publishing his stories; Grace had given him the out he'd needed in getting her the hell out of Rosie's Diner. Life was starting to look good.

 

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“Sure, Grace, whatever you say. Let's head over to Palladio Park; it's just a few blocks from here. We can walk there in a few minutes. That should give you some air, give your nausea time to subside.”

“No,” Grace groaned, “I'd rather go to my place. I just live fifteen minutes from here. You follow me in your car, deal? Besides, I have to look in on my parrot and my cat. Natural enemies, ya know? You just follow me. We'll be there in no time.”

Soon, both were heading down Route 17 in East Brunswick, quickly arriving at her apartment complex on Mockingbird Lane, just opposite the Rutgers College campus.

Grace let them into her small, one-bedroom apartment, tossing her Gucci bag and car keys arbitrarily on the kitchen table as she passed. Bruce took in the quaint surroundings. Cheap, abstract art on the walls, small dark-brown love-seat and recliner. A flat-screen TV took up the majority of the wall directly in front of the recliner. The shrill screeching of a parrot rang out from somewhere in the tiny darkened bedroom. Drawn shades and pulled draperies kept the place cool and dimly illuminated. Antique white paint on the walls was obviously the landlord's choosing. Grace seemed far too flamboyant for such a drab color choice. Threadbare rugs and miscellaneous whatnots rounded out the sparse decor.

“Have a seat,” Grace said cheerfully, then made her way towards her bedroom to calm the squawking bird.

As Bruce sat there, he heard Grace singing something to the as yet unseen parrot in the bedroom, and within minutes, she returned to the kitchenette. “Brucie, would you like some tea; I have chamomile. It's good for what ails ya.”

“No, thanks, Grace. I have to be going soon. I just wanted to see that you got home okay.” Why was he pretending he cared? No need for charades, they were the only two in the apartment. A fat Persian cat jumped into Bruce's lap, nearly startling him off of the sofa. Its soft, vibrant purring let Bruce know in good, old fashioned cat-speak, that it wanted to be petted. Or food, depending upon whichever came first.

“Oh, I see you've met Spooky,” Grace said, watching as the large feline nuzzled Bruce's chin. “He seems to like you, too.”

“Uh, yes... I suppose so,” Bruce stuttered, nearly to the point of sneezing as his nostrils were assailed by the cat's fluffy white fur.

Bruce began to notice the room was moving. It undulated up, and down, almost like a living, breathing thing. Slowly, the world began to spin, things in the room elongated and began to tilt. His head pounded with a jack-hammer-like thumping, and he could feel bile rising up in his throat, burning. He made an effort to stand, but just as quickly plopped down upon the sofa once again. Dizzy and disoriented, he looked up and noticed that Grace was leering at him. Her cold, wicked expression sent pangs of fear up and down his spine. He felt as if he were about to black out.

“Oh, it seems you're starting to feel the effects of that mickey you so cleverly tried to slip me back at the restaurant," Grace said, glowering over him.
"Cyanide, wasn't it? You are a very bad boy, Brucie baby. Glenn told me what you'd done just after you dropped it into my coffee.

Grace sounded far off, as if she were in a deep, vast canyon. Every syllable resonated in his throbbing head like a gong. Instinctively, Bruce reached for the vial in his breast pocket. It was gone.

“Is this what you're looking for, Brucie?”

“Huh—how did you...”

“Acquire it?” Grace presumptuously finished the sentence. “I told you, Glenn was keeping an eye on you the entire time. I needed him for an... alibi. You know, after I brought you back home and bashed your fucking skull in? He'll be here within the hour, and I must say, you've made the job of doing you in a lot less messy than it would have been.”

"Buh...but, how...how did you know what I was going to do? There's no way you could..."

“Oh, shush now, hon. Try to save your breath. You'll soon wish you had. You're already gasping for air.
I was setting you up, fuck face. You're the number-one ranked author on The Block, and I don't do anything half-ass. I was going to bring you here, fuck your brains out, then spill them all over the plastic I have back there, in my bedroom. Too bad for you, you get to miss the best part. You would have enjoyed it.”

All Bruce could think about was missing his meeting with Mr. Burgenstein next week, as the world began to close in on him and envelop him in darkness. “Mr. Burgenstein, he knows I'm here. I told him we were living together and...”

“Nope, sorry Bruce, there is no Mr. Burgenstein. You're a liar! The man you spoke with, that was all prearranged, darlin'. His name is Glenn Palto. He's the one I had keeping a close eye on you while we were at Rosie's. He is the person I was sending texts to when you came back to the table. He told me everything you'd done. He's also the one that made it possible for me to check out what you'd slipped into my drink. The smell of almonds was unmistakable. I may be a female, but I am far from stupid, sweetie. I read all of the good murder mysteries and Gothic romance novels I can get my grubby little paws on. Before you came back, I dumped the entire fucking thing into your coffee. Should be anytime now's my guess.”

“Whu—why? Why did you want to kill me?” Bruce slumped to the floor, as white frothy foam, the consistency of the head on a good mug of beer, poured from his mouth.

“The same could be said for you. But it's a little late for second guessing now, don't you think? Glenn will be here soon. We'll wrap your near-dead body in the plastic, put a blanket around you, then dump you in the Elizabeth River. No blood. No exchanges of bodily fluids...fucking. Yeah, I ought to adorn your final resting place with a bouquet of red roses. You made this all too easy for me. With you gone and out of the way, nothing can stop me from overtaking the number one spot on The Writer's Block. Like I said, I don't do anything half-ass.”

Just before the lights were extinguished in Bruce Cox's life forever, he heard a faint tap-tapping on Grace's apartment door. His body heaved with violent spasms and fits of retching. As vertigo overwhelmed him, the last sounds Bruce could distinguish were those of Grace Jamison's guttural laughter, and a parrot—as it croaked chords from Beethoven's 5th Symphony—from somewhere in the darkened bedroom.

Hah-hah—yeah, cutie, he's over there—on the floor. Let's wrap this up and get him outta here, okay? Oh, and grab that ax, would you, sweetie?

I've got lots of writing to do, and some cuts I gotta make.”


 

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Horror Story Writing Contest contest entry

Recognized


A little film noir, a bit tongue-in-cheek, perhaps. I doubt very seriously if anyone on any writing site would actually go to such great lengths to become number one...would they?

As always, thanks for reading, and Pleasant Screams... heh-heh.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.


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