I asked myself, ‘why don’t I ever write anything surreal?’ Besides being an odd question to ask yourself, it was also a bad time to ask myself. I have a lot of stuff I should be writing, so trying another project right now was a terrible idea. Still, I started a story, and here it is. Hold on to your butts.
A Little Mystery
There was a knock at the door. Arty didn’t answer. He was looking at the painting on the wall of the hospital room. It took up a sizeable piece of the far wall. Men being mauled by lions, the browns in their faces distorted and lengthened as the beasts bit down on them. It was obviously a fake, who put a real painting in a hospital room?
The door cracked, and someone popped their head in. He couldn’t tell who, not until he heard the heavy footsteps on linoleum. They had a snap to them, each bootfall had emotional weight with them. It was Clark. Arty could see him now, pulling up a chair by the hospital bed. Carl was all shoulders, hunched forward, his eyes twisted up in sadness.
Arty did this to him. He was different before. Taller, wider, brighter. Before Arty had to sit in hospital rooms, staring at paintings.
“Hey, partner,” Clark said, leaning against the bed.
“Hey, buddy,” Arty replied. He didn’t bother looking at Clark.
Clark let his words hang in the air. He sniffled, and Arty could hear him squeezing his hat in his grip. It was painful, watching Clark sink into himself, become more tears and sobs than man. Back on the force, he was larger than life. He was always the man-of-action, could push Arty into doing anything.
Now he had a leak he couldn’t plug. He was pouring over Arty’s sheets, occasional blinks stymying the flow. The old man had been stuck in the face, and he was letting it all out.
“We have a real one right now,” Clark said, “We could really use your help out there.”
Arty turned, his eyes focusing in on Clark.
“It is your kind of case. Me, I don’t know what to do with it. You know how it is, if I can’t shake someone down, I’m lost.”
Clark laughed, but it didn’t stop the tears. This was interesting, it was something to do, anything besides sitting, waiting, listening.
“Tell me everything,” Arty said.
Clark shook his head, “I don’t know. Maybe I shouldn’t be bothering you with this. I don’t want you stuck with this.”
Arty leaned against the other side of the bed, leaned over, “Tell me everything Clark, do it.”
He knew he couldn’t shake Clark.
“Hell,” Clark said, “Whatever. You aren’t here for sappy stories. Plus I thought of you as soon as I walked in on the case.”
Arty closed his eyes.
‘You should have seen this place. It was beautiful, Victorian style, everything redone. Inside it was Oak everywhere, the floors, the cabinets, the walls.’
When he opened them again, he was in the doorway. A stairwell lead off into a black wall of shadow, one turn left into the sitting room, old oak bookshelves and tables. It was the sort of house you inherit, but keep in great condition. It was a house that had history. The kitchen was even better, all new installations, with nods to the past. Pictures hung from the walls, faceless people watching looking back at Arty as he walked through.
He made the loop back to the living room.
‘There were signs of a struggle, but only inside. Blood smeared across the floor, pictures knocked from the wall. Then I saw her. She was your type Art. Her skin was as smooth as silk, curves in all the right places, that short black hair. Her make up made her look like a doll, those bright red lips, eyes bold against pale skin, shit.’
She walked into the room. She was wearing red, and had that slight smile when you meet eyes with someone for the first time. Her eyeliner pulled back to the side, like an imitation of some actresses Cleopatra.
What was she doing here, in this room? Why was she dressed so nice, was she going somewhere? In a house like this, was this her lifestyle, wake up and dress to impress? He needed to know more, he wanted to know her.
‘That bastard. Arty, he put one right between Mrs. Moon’s eyes.’
He heard the pop. Her eyes went wide, and the dark hole drilled through her forehead. She didn’t gasp, didn’t cry out. She just collapsed backwards, struck the hardwood floor like a sack of meat.
“Damnit, Clark,” Arty said, “Damn you.”
‘I can’t figure it out. He didn’t drag her out there. The blood is her husband, dead upstairs. He dragged the fool to his bed. As far as forensics understands, Mr. Moon was dead first, then the monster came back, found her, and killed her with one shot. He didn’t take a thing, the house was intact, no locks broken. He came in, and sent a message, and the only man who knows what it is got the same damn treatment!’
Arty looked away from Mrs. Moon. Clark was in the kitchen now, leaning over the bed. Arty walked over and put a hand on his shoulder. Clark put a hand out and grabbed Arty’s hand on the bed, his real hand, laid out with tubes sticking out of every hole they could find.
To Arty it was a white mess, a hole he didn’t bother filling. It was the splotch he didn’t need to fill to see the puzzle complete.
“I’m going to go,” Clark said, “I need to get back out there, catch this guy. I’ll do you proud.”
Arty looked around, “Wait, tell me the rest. I need more.”
Clark’s chair screeched against the floor, “You be strong. I know you’ll come out of it buddy. You owe me a beer, remember?”
“Clark, what else is in the file? Time of death? What did they do for a living? Neighbors?”
Clark reached out to the door to the patio, opened it, and looked back inside to Arty. He didn’t say a word, just walked into the darkness, and closed the door after him.
There were footsteps, and Arty turned around in time to see Mrs. Moon walk into the kitchen.
“So I guess that just makes me and you,” She said. The hole in her forehead was still smoking.
She leaned against the doorframe, her arms crossed across her chest. Mrs. Moon smiled at him, and then walked to the cabinets in the kitchen. She opened one, and pulled out two glasses.
“Are you thirsty?” She asked.
She looked over her shoulder, “That’s a shame. Sit down, I’ll get you some water.”
He pulled up a chair to his bed, and sat down. Something else was lingering on his mind, and he couldn’t lock it down. It was hard to figure out, especially when she was in the room. His eyes couldn’t help but follow her, the curve of her back, the twist of her fingers as she held both cups under the tap.
A rumble shook the house.
Arty looked around. The door Clark left through, it was dark outside the window. All the windows, they were black, he was alone here, with her.
She put a glass down in front of him, and pulled up a seat on the opposite side of the table.
“Get comfortable,” She said, then took a sip.
He put the cup to his lips, “You’re wrong.”
Her eyes popped wide, “Huh?”
There was a growl from outside the kitchen, like a tiger locked in a cage. He could feel it on the side of his face, as if it was right there. The sound of it made the house tremble, but still, he knew it wasn’t here yet.
“We’re not alone,” Arty said, “He’s here.”