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Chapter 13 needs you.
Chapter 13 needs you.
I didn’t sleep well, and I didn’t sleep long. There was too much to
do. For one, Marco needed to get to the hospital – I had too much
going on to add another dead motherfucker to my case load. We had been
able to stop the bleeding – Ed said he’d last, and he said that with
suspicious conviction. I believed him. Ed looked like he’d seen
scrapes with bullets before. I trusted him on this. Still, we started
back on the road around eight-thirty and my head was splitting with
this headache. Pulled into a small local hospital and brought him in,
staggering, stammering and crying in his periods of intermittent
lucidity. I felt bad for him, in that moment – I guess I hadn’t
realized how bad off he was until that florescent light hit him and
the nurse dropped her tray with wide-eyed horror, yelling, “What
happened to this man? How long has he been in this condition?”
“All night,” Ed answered glumly, and I kept my lips shut tight.
They took him away. I turned for the door. Ed put his hands on my
shoulder and spun me around hard. “Where the fuck do you think you’re
“Where the fuck do you think?” I snapped. “I don’t care what happens to him.”
“Well you should,” Ed snapped. “See, you don’t use your head. Knew it
from your file. All the shit you actually did pull was pretty shallow
and cheap and fuckin’ brainless. So, you listen to me.” I did. “You’re
gonna stay here until he wakes up.
“Fuck that!” I hadn’t realized how loud I’d been – Ed cast his steely
gaze around the hospital before he settled it back on me. “You’re
gonna stick me in a room with that rat? Why?”
“He can help us find Odette’s sister. And we can use him. If they come
after you, we can use him.”
I stood there with my jaw taut and my fists tight at my side. There
was nothing else to say. Marco was the key to the mess Johnny had left
Ed continued. “You wait here for a couple of days. I’ll be back once I
get more information.”
“He’ll run off on his own soon as he gets the chance if I’m not here.
Yeah, I get it. He’s a goddamn coward.” I looked off in the direction
of that long and sterile hallway, where Marco had been dragged off
into surgery. I knew he was right and I hated it.
“You comin’ back, Alpha?” My voice had gone quiet. This moment of
vulnerability was coming over me. He was the only one I could consider
trusting. This paranoia was eating me alive. I wanted so much to
believe in Ed as my avenging angel.
Ed rolled his eyes. “I’ll be back in a couple days. Give me your
keys.” I hesitated. “Hey! Hand them over. It’s likely your girl is
laying low, really low, or somebody’s taken her. I gotta go find
somebody who’s got a clue.”
I looked at him with clenched teeth and tried to get my muscles to
untie. Everything seemed to be crashing down around me – I found
myself emerging into this brand new landscape, this unrecognizable
juxtaposition of the reality I had known then and the facts I was
taking in now. I was floating in on something that felt entirely new
and it was terrifying.
“What about Christina?” I asked. Ed, with his hands in his pockets,
gave me a look.
“Don’t fuck with me, Alpha. Not here. Not now.” My gaze was dangerous
and my voice refused to waver from the weight.
“If they did take Becca to get to Johnny…They might go after Christina.”
Ed seemed to be deciding how much he would reveal to me, here, in the
midst of this artificial white and green sanctum of the dead and
dying. If Johnny wasn’t who he said he is – something they were bound
to figure out – they’d be looking to gun down the real Carl Marlowe.
She was the only person in the states, maybe even in the world, who
might’ve cared about me. Even that was tentative. And they would find
her, if they wanted to. I remember her restless dreams and hoped she’d
see them coming, she’d see them coming and run before I had to come
and get her. Had to. The thought echoed in my mind awkwardly. I didn’t
have to do anything for her.
Finally, Ed settled on his answer. “She’ll find us.”
He took the keys out of my trembling hand and walked out and I didn’t
stop him, didn’t yell after him, just stood there waiting for him to
come back. I didn’t need to ask him what he meant – and turns out
things happened sooner than later. Even Ed wasn’t able to anticipate
what would happen next, the brilliant bastard. I stalked off down the
They asked me questions I couldn’t answer. I told them I found Marco
while I was driving through, and recognized him as somebody I used to
know. I didn’t know who shot him. They didn’t believe me. They’d have
to call the cops. He was in shit shape but we stopped the bleeding and
there was no bullet to pick out. He’d live, he’d limp, but he’d live.
His shoulder was torn up and he’d never be able to lift the shit he’d
been used to lifting again, might have a more limited mobility when it
came to stretching it out, but he would survive it and as long as it
was long enough to throw him to those chemical dogs he’d had run on
me… That was all I cared about.
Just what we needed, I thought. But I didn’t say a word. They were
bound to catch a whiff of this sometime. Ed was legal, he was legit.
When he came back, he could deal with them – if it came to that. I was
hoping we’d be out of her before they showed up. They would be called
up soon to take a statement from me, and then again when Marco was
well enough to speak.
In the meanwhile, I just sat at Marco’s bedside, drifting in and out
of sleep. He was laying there, vulnerable, bleeding, mine. All mine,
now. I would make him rue the day he let Johnny, full of life and
laughter and itching scratching for attention, raise his arms in a bar
and take my name.
At night the sheets would shift and Marco would moan and cry for
Johnny – sometimes he’d turn to me and smile in this fractured
consciousness. Sometimes he addressed me as Carl. Once he thanked me,
presumably for bringing him to the hospital and not leaving him to
die. But twice, twice, he called me Johnny, and it was awkward as fuck
because there was no way of measuring what he meant by that. I was
just a stand in object of misplaced affection – when he said “Johnny
come here for a minute will ya I feel I f-f-feel like I’m dyin’ all
over again and I need ya, come here, p-p-p-plaese” – and I wasn’t
gonna be the one to push back his hair or any of that shit…
So I would lean back, my shoulders shuddering, my eyes shut. They had
him on drugs I couldn’t pronounce that numbed his mind and neutralized
his body. But I remembered nights when Marco got fucked up, really
fucked up – never could handle it like Johnny could – and Odette would
drop everything to make sure he rode it out. That kind of loss did
something to a person. When Christina -
- no, stop, that’s not the same fucking thing at all. I killed my
train of thought. There was no way I was gonna start feeling bad for
this stupid fucker lying in that white bed, turning it to a
rusted-blood off-yellow cacophony of a white clean hospital full of
lead poisoned blood.
I was haunted, haunted by the idea of her figure in the doorway again.
Always poised to run. And no matter how much I hated her I also loved
her and I didn’t want her getting hurt. When I feel asleep, finally
fell asleep, she rode to me again on an abstract dream. Nothing like
the last one. There were no words or clarity – I was watching a
montage play like communist cinema, all the scenes crashing into one
another as they were rearranged and mismatched. I saw the first heist,
I saw England – rainy, sad sack of shit England – and I saw its
equivalent sad brother in Wisconsin state. I saw Christina and her
hair was dark; I saw Rebecca holding someone’s hand. I saw a sky
sliding by purple and red and all the colors in between brought me
past theta state. The thing I remembered most vivid was the sound –
train tracks, thump, thump, thump, it rolled on and on and the wheels
squealed and walloped the metal…
But when I woke up, things were different. It was early. Six. The room
was bathed in unreal light. A nurse changed the painkillers in Marco’s
IV. I watched her drift out like a ghost. Her passing was like a
curtain lifting – there were new things to behold. Marco’s body
wrapped up in the bed looking beat up, and somebody beside him in some
kind of prayer.
Her head was bent over Marco and she was holding his cold hands. Her
hair was longer than I remembered. Beneath the hanging firmament of
her wispy bangs, I saw a black and purple bruise, swelling. Or at
least, I thought I did. I thought I was still dreaming.
But then clarity set in. It was Christina, and my words were all gone.
-written by Special Kae
It was the middle of the night, no one was awake. I hated it. I hate sleeping in the country, it’s much worse than the city no matter what people will tell you. In the city, you can go, “Yeah, that’s a gunshot. Yep, that is a woman screaming.” Here it’s, “What the fuck is that?” and you stay awake for the next hour wondering. Last time I was there, there was so much heroin, even in the fucking atmosphere, that you could sleep no matter what went on.
As I lay there awake, my mind wandered back to the first time that I robbed a quick mart.
I remember it wasn’t a really difficult of a decision to come to. I needed money. They had money. I had a gun. They might, but it’d be under the counter and they’d be far too shaky to aim accurately. Simple. Christina agreed to buy something, and I’d stand behind her in the queue, then when they least expected it - hand gun to the face, money on the table, sex in the hotel room before we gun it down the freeway. Very Bonnie and Clyde, but whatever. Crime is a turn on, deny it all you want. I thought, from the moment the shaking clerk handed over the cash, it was all hard ons and highways from then on in.
So, the morning came. I hid the handgun inside my jacket. It wasn’t exactly a pocket, rather it was a slit I’d cut in the fabric with Christina’s pen knife. We drove to the store, in our piece of shit metal matchbox with all the windows down, so we could feel like we were in a convertible and immortalised on celluloid, about to commit another crime on Route 66. Really, it was Melrose Avenue and the closest we were getting to celluloid were the traffic cameras we set off pushing the clunking motor at 60. Every time I changed gear, the whole thing whined and crunched beneath the hood. Christina whooped and banged on the outside of the windscreen when I did that. We were like kids on Christmas Eve - but perhaps more excited. Christians before the Rapture, would be more fitting. We turned into the car park, with all five slots, always empty as usual. Some particularly poetic teen had sprayed “Name ten dead redheads… go!” on the wall in front of where we parked. I swear sometimes, that still bothers me now.
Quick. Name ten dead redheads.
We walked over to the store, kicking a crushed twisted can out of the way as we entered through the automatic doors. This is when automatic doors were still kinda cool and Star Trekkie, rather than ubiquitous and worn away like now. We walked in. Early 90’s (maybe late 80’s, I was never one for dates) shops hold special places in my heart. Everything was left over from the 80’s - the floor tile patterns, large crème tiles among smaller black ones, shelves that were always off-white, and sun worn signs hanging above the aisles with what I guess were clip-art graphics. It’s nice in a nostalgic sort of way. At the time, it was just a reminder that everything was decaying around you, but you know, it’s weird what you miss.
Christina and I browsed for a few minutes. I was suddenly terrified the gun would go off, hit me in the stomach and it’d be all up. I started sweating. Christina, on the other hand, looked free and easy. Like she’d been set free, and she giggled, trying on sunglasses, blowing the tag out of her face and fogging up the lenses. She smiled, and I wish I could of taken a picture of her at that moment. It was like those pictures you find, Polaroids of girls that somehow define something intangible, like that. It was perfect. The glasses were pushed up to her forehead, and she was wearing this puffy brown leather jacket and a tight as hell t-shirt underneath. It was like a defining moment of a whole generation, and only I saw it. Okay - hyperbole, but whatever. Don’t tell me you’ve never had one of those moments. She placed the glasses on a random shelf - I think it had children’s books on it, you know the ones that have sound buttons at the side that you never see anymore?- as we walked towards the counter. Moment of truth.
“Hey, can I help you today?”
Ah. My first job enthusiasm. Before the McJobs remind you that, yeah, dropping out of high school to smoke weed and have slightly more sex than the others, was a really bad fucking idea.
“Hey, yeah, scratchers?” Christina didn’t even sound nervous. How could you not be nervous in a situation like this?
“Sure, ma’am. We do liberty bell, cherry an-”
“Liberty bell . And cigarettes.” She held her hand up in the air and ran her hand mentally across the packets, choosing “Lucky Strikes. Yeah. That’d be good.” Every time, with the Luckys. Madonna smoked Lucky Strikes.
“Sure thing, ma’am.” He turned around to get them.
This was my cue. Enter stage right. I pulled the gun out and ripped the entire lining of my coat. Great, I thought, now I’ll look like a twat on CCTV.
“Motherfucker, get the fucking money out of the fucking -” I gestured towards the till with I’d suddenly forgotten it’s name. The kid span round and cowered.
“T-t-t-the till?” he stuttered.
“Yes, the fucking till! Empty it on the fucking counter!”
He opened it, still crouched to the extent that could barely see him. The notes were ripped out. It looked about $200. Not much but a start.
“Do-d-d-do you want the change?”
“Do you think I want the change? Honey, get the money.”
Christina grabbed the notes and stuffed them into her pockets quickly. I’d calmed down and placed the gun in my jeans waistband. I felt like a bad ass and real bad asses were always calm. What can I say, the movies warped my fragile mind. Mother felt like Jimmy Cagney movies were as good as a sitter.
“We’ll be taking some gum as well,” I said, grabbing and handful and heading out.
The kid squeaked. I think he wet himself. I like to think he wet himself. Look, I’m a sick power tripping fuck, accept it already.
We ran out, and Christina squealed, yelped, and ran over and threw her arms around me. Romeo and Juliet with sins. Mickey and Mallory but PG-13. Bonnie and Clyde, but with less money.
She kissed me. Inside the alarms went off. In his panic the kid had accidentally set off the fire alarms and sprinkles were soaking his bosses stock. Still, blue lights were blue lights and we had to go.
Hard-ons and highways were on the horizon. The future was blue skies and blow jobs.
-written by Callum
Rebecca was the type of girl who could punch a stoner for just looking at her, while smashed out of their head and searching to get lucky. Knowing the kind that rolled through Johnny’s turf, she was a highlight. Or closer to an anomaly; rarely seen in the circles in which Johnny ran. Drenched in black, her lips, dyed hair and soul matched her chipped fingernail polish and the boots she wore constantly. Week after week, summer after summer made her calloused; tough but not dull. She was an intellectual, or the closest to brilliance you can achieve in the school of narcotics and hard liquor.
I always doubted Johnny loved her but never said a word hinting the fact. It was as if she was dragged into the hell her brother created and cuddled with satisfaction. Her childhood was a guessing game for me, as Christina and I would question whether she was a crack baby, orphan, or just the “girl-next-door” gone horribly wrong. I feel as if her ears would burn as she glared at us, either in hate or jealousy. She would always sit in that same stained, foam-green recliner stuck precariously in the back corner, with a bottle of Beam, and stare at a painting she had done, wishing it was reality. Her interests had always included that sort of confusing, obscure poetry and the occasional portrait of pain she expressed in acrylics.
“A raven, huh?” I asked, somewhat interested and somewhat hoping to uncover a portion of where this heavy, apathetic countenance was born.
She turned to correct me, “Not a raven, well, not just a raven; a lost soul. The melancholy animal is searching but hindered by its shape and very nature. When you see a raven, you think death, and maybe if you’re not illiterate like the rest of these pricks, you think Poe. There’s always something past first glances. Sometimes, shallow hulls of men can’t see through a canvas and the opaque. What do you want?”
“A person that won’t bitch at me in casual conversation.”
That’s when she slapped me. The hopes of learning anything of this lost soul were victim to the throbbing sting of her palm colliding with my left cheek. My luck and charm was customary in burning bridges before they are even built. She mostly ignored me for the rest of the time at the shack, but almost curious when I saw her steal gazes at Christina and me sitting on the porch at dusk, shooting the cannabis-laden wind.
She always tried too hard to be abstract and write some hipster shit or just be shady in generality. But the harshest reality was that she painfully dead-on. That canvas was a picture of who she was, and who I am becoming: a free spirit of night. Ravens have been known to the reds as tricksters. The Loki’s of the wilderness, living for the next carcass to devour. “Carl fuckin’ Marlowe” had always been my thorn and chains. Every time I pulled into a filthy parking lot of an even filthier cheap-ass motel, I wondered if this was what God thought of me. Pulling strings in the heavens, laughing when I got arrested for whatever felony those damned fools did next. But now, I’m the hell-raiser. Carl Marlowe is just as dead as the corpse of good ol’ Johnny; enjoying rigor mortis.
“Why should we run after a bitch like Rebecca? She knew about Johnny’s shit and the trouble he was askin’ for and bailed the second she could.” Marco squealed after a moment of silence. ”And more importantly, screw Rebecca, I need a doctor or maybe another bullet just to put me out of my own mis-”
Ed interrupted with a pistol pointed at Marco’s temple. “You know I’d be so fuckin’ happy to oblige.”
“Put your damned gun away so I can think for a sec, alright?” I screamed over Alpha’s rage. “Did she ever talk about places she liked or where she could go?”
“Have you met the girl? She barely made a sound unless you forced her, pissed her off, or both.” Marco reminisced. “She backhanded me once just because I wanted to see if she would make out with me. Still don’t know why she didn’t.”
Marco would never come out of denial long enough to understand how disgusting he was. Even covered in blood and helpless, he was still the most apeshit as possible.
“So we’re driving blind then, Johnny boy?” Ed chuckled with a hint of concern.
I replied, “No. We’re flying free.”
-written by Elijah
The impact of the car door slamming reverberated through my bones, buzzing and rough as if to shake me awake. My pulse popped answers to it in my ears and through the riotous din I could hear Marco yelling, “Carl! The fuck are you going? I need to get to the hospital, man.”
“Shut up. I’ll get you there.” I kicked the car door closed on Marco’s protests, Ed’s unquestioning laughter, dulling that noise of uncertainty clashing with knowing exhilaration in the stirring light.
A horsefly whipped past my ear as I slogged through the debris in the yard, all symbols of old hours that stabbed through blades of grass like accusing fingers. I walked right over them or kicked them aside, sometimes breaking them under my feet before I stooped down to lift a molding piece of cinder block holding down one side of a porch steps. I shoved open the front door with a fist directly against the HIPPIES USE SIDE DOOR sign. Determination brought me the last few feet, but it was cold fury that slipped me into a crouch so I could tuck the sleeve of my shirt over my hand and slide the wallet out of Johnny Odette’s back pocket. It earned a glance before finding a new home in my own pocket. The muscles in my arms trembled, all of me humming with fresh awareness, and I pushed Johnny onto his back.
Flat eyes peered into nothing. The bullets in his back had never made it through the rest of him and out the other side. Still warm, limbs just beginning to stiffen in anticipation of what now would never come. Marco’s timing was on the mark. Johnny’s flesh was splotchy, paling to robin egg hues, plum pricking against the line of his jaw like negated stars. It had been three, maybe four hours since he had tried to run from the consequences of being Carl Marlowe.
I lifted the cinder block and brought it down on the face, crumbling teeth, breaking bones. Flesh ripped and blood smeared, but there was so little of it without a working heart to pump out more. I could feel the impact of my blows in the hollow of my stomach, acid filling the space where hunger had a moment ago been.
“Where we going now?” Ed was leaning against the hood of the car when I came back out of the cottage, burly arms crossed over his chest in a manner I might have mistaken for defensive if not for the smirk slashing his mouth. My frown deepened into a scowl, eyes narrowing against the morning light. Reaching past him, I jerked open the car door and settled behind the wheel.
The world settled in tune with my slowing heartbeat, the welter of adrenaline fading. Motes of light glowed on the dashboard, dappled with the shadow of road dust on the windshield. I remembered Christina standing beneath the eaves of the porch, a cigarette drizzling shapeless prophecies into the air. My knuckles bled white through my skin, hands tight about the steering wheel. I swear I could smell the smoke.
Marco was breathing heavily in the back seat and I did not need to look to know the whites of his eyes were showing as they darted between me and Ed when the passenger side door opened. Ed dropped into the seat with a creak and a grunt. Glancing sidelong at the man with all my tomorrows in his head, I waited for complaint about who was driving, what I had done, where we were headed now.
“We, uh, goin’ to the hospital now, Carl?” Marco’s voice was half swallowed.
Ducking my head, I turned the key in the ignition, listening to the engine rattle and hum. An ancient beer can crunched beneath the tires I turned the car away from the cottage, back towards the road where I would be choosing the turn again.
“Johnny?” Ed prodded with a note of discerning amusement.
“Yeah,” I said. “We’re going to find Rebecca.”
-written by Katie
I didn’t pick my head up from the steering wheel for a good fifteen minutes. I cried it out, like a fucking little child, but I didn’t care. This was bullshit. This was overwhelming, and exhausting, and confusing. Less than twelve hours ago, I was still on the run, yes, but at least enjoying a quiet moment with just a few beers and my thoughts. Now this.
Ed had sat in silence for the duration of my quiet little breakdown, continuing to stare off at the last sliver of sun sliding upwards from the horizon. A thought occurred to me. Lifting my head from the steering wheel, eyes wet and red, I looked at him.
“Ed, why did you bring us here? How did you know I even had any history with this place?”
He slowly turned his head my direction, stared for a moment (with a surprising amount of intensity coming from his singular eye), and said simply, “Because you needed to see it. I know for the same reason I knew the whole rest of your goddamn history.” He then turned his stare towards the backseat, at Marco (still unconscious, still bleeding slowly from his shoulder wound). Ed said, “I think Marco has more of a story for you than me, if he can keep himself awake and get his head together long enough to tell it, but I can guarantee you ain’t gonna like it.”
With that, Ed proceeded to rearrange in his seat and reach back to pound Marco in the chest with the side of his fist a few times.
Ed said, “Wake up, Marco! Come on! Shape up, ya’ dumb ass,” and roughly slapped the side of Marco’s face. Marco stirred and coughed deeply, licked his lips and tried to blink the grogginess away. He was terribly pale. The blood on his shoulder and all down his arm and jacket was a sickening, crusty-dried purple.
“Sh-huh…” Marco sputtered, “Sh-hit guys, aren’t we o-on the way to the damn hospital yet? I’m hurtin’ like heh-ell, here.” He winced and put his hand gently over his hurt shoulder, leaning his head all the way back on the seat.
“Marco,” Ed said, no sympathy in his tone.
“What, man? What?” Marco said, aggravated.
“Marco, tell Carl what you did,” Ed said flatly.
“What… what the hell are you saying, Ed?”
“Playing dumb won’t cut it, Marco, nor is it a smart move with me around and you damn well know it!” Ed said, his voice raising.
“Ed, I, eh… Come on, Ed, I just got shot, man!”
“Tell Carl what you and Johnny-boy got yourselves mixed up with and why Johnny-boy is now dead and why you’re sitting here all fucked up in this backseat. We go nowhere until we hear Marco’s version of motherfucking masterpiece theatre and don’t you dare leave anything out, because I know the rest and if you lie, then I’ll really come back there and beat your ass all the way!” Ed roared, spit flying.
I glanced sideways at Ed, nervous. I thought he was being a little harsh on Marco, and at the time I couldn’t imagine what could be so bad as to get him this worked up. Ed was giving Marco a death-stare - eyes blazing, teeth-gritted, a red intensity that was really freaky to have sitting next to you in a car. Only minutes ago, he had been as calm and meditative as a damn monk in the mountains. But just as he knew so much about me, he obviously also knew something about Marco and he was pissed about it. I recall it was around this point that I moved from thinking Ed Bunting was just a little ‘out-there’ to beginning to realize he was truly a man gone far off the deep end.
After a minute, Marco said something under his breath. I think it was ‘fuck.’ He sat up, winced again and cleared his throat shakily. He began, “Carl, man, uh… you and me, we go way back right? Had some damn good times in those crazy summers, right? Heh, hell, right there in that same fuckin’ shack!” He nodded out the window towards the house, paused, looked down at his lap. Licking his lips and clearing his throat again, Marco said, “Well uh… it kinda looks like you did a little better leaving your party days behind than me. Well, ya know, not too much time passed before Johnny and I realized we might as well start moving some shit and making back some of that cash we were constantly shelling out just using the stuff. Stupid, right?” Marco was talking quick and sputtering, nervous as hell. “Well, so, we started out usual street-shit dealers, sellin’ low-grade coke to middle-class pricks and cheap-ass Mexican weed to high schoolers. Anyway, heh, uh… that part’s not important, you know how all that goes, huh? The point is, eventually we started moving up, selling higher-class shit, making better money, getting to know some of the guys above us. And that was when,” he paused, smiling to himself but keeping his head turned down. “Then we started hearin’ these stories…”
I shifted in my seat, uncertain of what I was about to hear next. Ed hadn’t moved yet, his intense single eye was still trained unmoving on Marco.
“Johnny and I start hearing these stories, in bars, from the other dealers, sometimes even the kids we were selling to. These crazy goddam stories were all about some fucker named Carl Marlowe.”
My heart lurched, stomach dropped. What Ed had told me before we went in the house was apparently true.
Marco continued, “Well obviously I recognized the name immediately, but kept quiet about it for a while, at first unsure if it was just a coincidence about the name or what. Shit, I thought, maybe there was some other Carl gaining himself such a nasty reputation with the cops, but a rather saint-like rep with the less-than-respectable community. It’d been a few years since I’d seen ya, of course, and these stories didn’t sound like the Carl I knew. But then it started to get ridiculous, man, I mean… everywhere we went we heard a new story! Carl Marlowe had supposedly pulled shit from L.A. to Detroit to Atlanta to fuckin’ Mexico City and everywhere in between, yet always got away clean from the law, the dealers he screwed over, the bosses he pissed off and the families of the children he had raped or killed. It was like he traveled to a new city just to give it the middle finger, man. But supposedly nobody had ever seen this cat! All the stories came from a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy that got screwed by Carl Marlowe. That’s why he sounded like such a fuckin’ ghost story, a faceless bad-ass notorious for stirring shit up and getting away with it. The stuff they said he did was just ridiculous, ya know? Like the shit kids at school make up to freak each other out, right? Carl man, your name became a bit of an urban legend in the ‘underground’ these past few years.”
Marco raised his good arm to do the quotations gesture with two fingers of one hand when he said this. He had a weak smile on his face while recounting this, like he actually admired this fictional Marlowe prick.
I was sweating and numb, practically shivering with fury and fear at the realization of how far these lies attached to my name had gone.
Marco went on, “So I hoped the whole time that the stories weren’t true, and I hoped to hell it wasn’t actually you if they were. I still kept my mouth shut hearing this stuff all over, ya know? And so had Johnny, up to this point. He would just listen and kinda smirk every once in a while. Hell, I wasn’t even sure he still remembered you, man, as drug-hazed and mind-fucked as he was. The drugs made him loopy and forgetful. Though Johnny was also cocky, wild and stupid, as you know, and he didn’t need any help from drugs to have those traits. So one night we were tradin’ stories with a few guys down in Anchorage, ya know, shootin’ the shit and getting pretty tanked. Then Johnny, thinkin’ he’s being real ballsy and liquored-up enough to feel invincible, goes and says, ‘Hey, so uh, you know that crazy Marlowe fucker’s been really gettin’ around lately?’ Then he kinda paused and grinned at ‘em all, letting the moment build a little. ‘Well, tell you what boys, you’re looking at him!’ Heh, yeah, Johnny out and claims he’s Carl Marlowe, all smug and proud of himself.”
Marco blew out a big puff of air here and shook his head, like he was still in disbelief that Johnny would say something so stupid and dangerous.
“At first of course, all the guys think he’s full of shit and just pulling their legs, but his arrogance and love of attention kept him going. Johnny says the stories are all true and more, and just to sweeten the deal, he came up with a few stories of his own invention that night. Meanwhile I’m sitting there fuckin’ shaking, man, scared to death and furious at Johnny for pulling this shit, but trying to keep cool and hope the guys are too drunk to remember any of it tomorrow. Johnny, man… that lousy fucker went and got himself killed over a couple flimsy stories and what he thought was a pretty good joke. Just wanted attention, ya know? For them guys to think he was some bad ass gangster or tough guy or some dumb shit like that.”
Marco sighed heavily, then said, “Well, those drunk guys didn’t forget the next morning, and what’s worse, Johnny didn’t give up the act. Word got around, and as you know a hell of a lot of people’s ears perked up at hearing somebody had met the real Carl Marlowe, much less knew he might be in close proximity. We were in deep shit real soon, me just by association with Johnny, or with Carl rather, so we shacked up here and laid low for a couple weeks. Somebody tracked us down, as I was sure they eventually would. Two big guys in blue Adidas tracksuits, black cotton masks and latex gloves on busted through the door out of nowhere. Johnny was at the opposite end of the house as me, he ran soon as he realized what this was, screaming to me as they chased him down the hall and shot him just as he got in the door to the front room where I was. He fell flat on his face, one big guy walked in and shot him once more in the back. I was crouched in a corner with my hands trembling over my face. He took no aim but simply fired a shot in my direction before leaving. No idea why he didn’t make more certain I was also dead. That shit went down maybe less than three hours ago.”
Marco coughed hard again, laid his head back on the seat and closed his eyes.
I was speechless. I just stared blankly at Marco, trying to absorb this.
Lastly, with his eyes still closed, Marco said, “Shit man, for all those big blue bastards know, that was the real Carl Marlowe they just gunned down in there. You’ve got the name of a dead man, now.”
Beside me, Ed said quietly, “That’s goddamn right.”
-written by Josh Gaines
In the dead veil of the coming morning, Ed Bunting told me everything. Or, at least, what I thought was everything. My eyes adjusted to the fading light, chopped up into shadows by the towering trees. This was no clichéd thriller. There was no government conspiracy keeping a file on me in some air-tight office, no espionage at work; there was no mad doctor trying to track me down, a disfigured experiment from a twisted past. There was nobody chasing me for the sake of anything particularly important. My alpha watched me with regret.
The first thing he warned me was that there was nothing supernatural about this, no matter how it might have looked. I thought of Christina, that beautiful Cassandra I had once fucked and maybe loved. No, she couldn’t be involved. This was some new beast.
In front of us loomed the cottage of John Odette White and his merry pranksters. I recognized it when I squinted. White lights were wrapped around the porch. They glimmered like little night jewels. An iconic, “HIPPIES USE SIDE DOOR” sign was nailed to the front door. How could I mistake it for any place else?
I had been here years before. Hid out here with my girl back when she was still my girl, when I was still hungry with nothing lining my pockets. John Odette White was a crazy motherfucker, him and all his friends were always strung out and wild. Music all through the night, sex ‘till the morning, and drugs, drugs, drugs. His cabin was something that had never been touched by the passing of the summer of love, always full, even when he wasn’t there. I had stayed for a crazy Spring and left disoriented and bitten. Knew I had to get out – the time vortex that sucked into you there didn’t let you age, or at least not gracefully. It would run you into your grave and turn you to some acid-headed martyr, a casualty of psychedelia.
It was a shady place, and the kind of deals they made to live the life they lived led to deep debts, in wallet and soul. Saw a guy stumble in once with a knife gone clean through his arm from some dispute made about methamphetamines. Girls who stumbled skinny into the backyard and never came back in, done themselves to death. Few weeks into that Fall and shit got really scary – I loaded up with Christina and made for a new state, bidding a bitter goodbye to the rag-tag violence of the hipsters who lived and died unnaturally in Johnny’s woods.
When it came down to it, it was Johnny, his sister Rebecca, and Marco. They lived there, really lived there, slept and ate 365 days a year. The rest passed in and out. Any other details, specifics, had gone from me in the drug-haze. Of-fucking-course this had something to do with them.
“There is something you been carrying that ain’t yours alone,” Ed says, leaning back and lighting a cigarette. “I work for this small agency. Used to cover identity theft. This kid came in and told me someone had been stealing his name.” He smiled this cracked smile of his, trying to keep the mood light. “Ballsy, huh?”
“What kid?” I tried my hardest to keep my voice level but my head wasn’t even there, yet. My fists clenched and unclenched inside my pockets.
He took a long drag on his cigarette. “Carl Marlowe.”
While Ed was laughing out loud, I shot up in my seat. “The fuck is –”
“Knew it wasn’t the real one,” Ed continued casually. “Couple more kids stepped up, claiming to be Carl Marlowe. Jittery motherfuckers. Questioned them and they scattered.”
“Fucking Odette!” I kicked the dash hard, hard enough that the drawer opened.
“We’ll get to fuckin’ Odette, don’t worry. You remember the first crime you got picked up for? First one that wasn’t yours?” I nodded “The first of ‘em were real crimes.”
“What do you mean by ‘real crimes’? There’s a way to fake breaking the law?”
“Don’t be a smartass. Real as in, I traced ‘em back to a Carl Marlowe based out of Wisconsin. A real, honest-to-God, birth certified Carl fuckin’ Marlowe. American gangster.”
I still wince every time I hear that word, that ugly, ugly word – Wisconsin. He didn’t notice, just kept on talking. “Got snagged for it, by somebody. Doesn’t look like it had anything to do with the cops. He’s dead now. Crimes didn’t stop. We got a couple of guys killed in drug disputes in Philly, and everybody knew this fucker as Carl Marlowe.”
He gave me a slow sideways glance. I gritted my teeth. “You know I didn’t–“
“Calm the fuck down. I know you haven’t pulled anything harder than robbing Quick Marts. Pussy.” He snorted. I glared at him. “Hey, loosen up, huh? I’m just trying to lighten the mood before I give you the bad news.”
“It gets worse?”
“You mentioned Odette.” He flicked the butt of his cigarette out of the cracked-open window. “You spent a few months with him. Weeks at least. You told him some shit about all this. And now it’s coming to bite you in the ass. People been doing ugly shit under your name, thinking they could pin it on whoever else was pinning it on you. Get it?”
Every state I went in, another crime. Happened to me twice before I met this fucker, and I told him about it that early Spring. Gave somebody ideas. I knew they were fucking nuts but Christina had liked them – oh, she’d loved Marco. Made me bristle to think about.
“He’s been taking stuff, Odettes people. Chemical stuff. Bad deals and bad blood. Someone’s gonna be on your head. Nasty people are looking for you.”
I looked at him pitifully, sweating and scared in the suffocating darkness of the Cougar. “Why would you risk it? Helping me?” My throat had gone dry from the nerves.
“Promised someone I’d look out for you.” He patted me on the shoulder. “I’m your alpha, now. Remember?”
“Who? Who did you promise?” I knew he wouldn’t give me a straight answer. Didn’t expect him too. We shared a look, this long look, where I was challenging him to speak any word of truth to me – begging him I guess – but it was broken by the sound of clashing pots and pans. We both turned towards the cabin and decided it was time to go inside. I wanted answers tonight, or this morning, or what the fuck ever, and I was sick of sleeping in my fucking car.
When we walked in, there was no ruckus. No crowds of people moving in and out of bedrooms. The familiar strains of Bad Company spun and skipped in the player, through the monster stereo speakers. Every crackle and pop magnified in the blackness of the living room. Something was wrong, eerie. The lights were never out. The music was always loud. There was always somebody… Yet I had walked into an empty house. Least, I had thought it was empty. I looked a little closer for shapes in the slivers of streaming light. What I found was something else.
Johnny was lying dead on the ground, his face covered in blood, eyes half-closed. Shot twice in the back. Must’ve been running away.
I fell against the doorway, the smell hitting me sudden. I was almost knocked down.
“Carl? Carlito, is that you?”
I recognized the voice immediately. “Marco? The fuck are you?” No answer. I walked around Johnny, careful not to look down. Covered my nose and mouth with the neck of my shirt in hopes to filter out the stench of death.
Marco Gideon. Johnny’s man. That’s what everybody said about him. It was hard to tell, by the ambiguous nature of their relationship, if he was Johnny’s right hand man, or his man, you know. With Johnny left the bleed out running like a coward on the floor of his Lincoln log Love Shack, the question was moot. I found him slumped down in the corner of the room, a gun in hand. He looked up at us and all I could see were his eyes, illuminated by the weak sunlight streaming in from the window. Ed hit the lights. Then I saw the blood.
Shot in the shoulder. “First time I been shot since the war.” He smiled, looked delirious. Next to him, I saw a shelf had fallen – the noise we’d heard outside was him trying to get our attention. He must’ve seen the headlights cutting through the night, up on the path, while the sun rose a clever voyeur.
I heard Ed move through the house coughing. Took a quick look at the two of us on the ground and went to dig through the house. “I need bandages!” I yelled, and then I turned to get a good look at Marco’s eyes.
He laughed at me, light and crazy. “Shit, how you been, brother?”
“Hang in there, man. I got some questions to ask you. Is anybody else here?” I took the gun from him easy – his grip was weak. Not a good sign. “How long have you been here?”
“It’s only a flesh wound,” He groaned. “I’ll live. But you gotta patch me up quick.”
“Ed! Where are the god damn bandages?” And just as soon as I said that he reappeared, with a First Aid kit that had been ravaged in it’s day. We could make due.
“Passed right through,” Marco groaned. “Just patch me up and get me somewhere, alright? Damn, it’s good to see you, Carlito.” He smiled, broken. Just kept saying that. We got his shirt off and bandaged him up. The whole time, “It’s good to see you, so good to see you, Carl…”
Rebecca was gone, too. Checked the whole house and couldn’t find anything useful. We patched Carl up, even as he slipped unconscious, tossed him into the backseat of the Cougar. I was in the drivers seat. Ed didn’t like that. I told him to fuck off.
On one hand, I’d never been so exhilarated. On the other, I knew I was going to die. It would all be Bunting’s fault, and Christina’s, and even Carl fuckin’ Marlowe’s. But most of all, I would blame Johnny and it’s-so-good-to-see-you Marco.
I didn’t know what to do until he woke up, just leaned my head against the steering wheel and bawled, I was so scared. Wiped my eyes and controlled my breathing and then swore. “What the fuck are we going to do, Alpha? Give me a fucking clue!” And Ed just stared at me sadly, a prophet, seer of visions and of the future and he knew I was not going to make it.
-written by Special Kae
She sees him for the first time in years. They are in his childhood home and she is warning him of impending danger. She can see it all. It’s her gift and curse - to know the future before it happens. He never did listen to her. Ever. Now she must tell him not to trust Ed, to get out of the car, run away. She does not love him anymore, but she can’t bear the thought of losing him.
No. No. Go Away, he says.
Christina woke from the dream and adjusted her vision to the darkness. She sat up, listened to the sound of the rain striking the windows, and winced as the headlights of a passing car briefly illuminated her face. These premonitions had not become any easier to cope with as the years had passed. They started when she was just a child. She’d get flashes of the future, but they were never good. It was always death she saw - deaths of pets and grandparents and even celebrities a few times.
The worst vision was of mother’s death. She desperately hoped it was only a dream, but just a few days later, Doris was gone, gruesomely murdered by a serial killer who was terrorizing the area. She had already seen the strangulation, the mutilation, the horror of what the person did. It was all in her mind, a nightmare that was now her reality. She was at college when the news came, but left for home, driving through the night and never looking back. There had been no way to save her mother. Christina felt profound guilt and helplessness and fury. It always struck her as especially cruel that she could watch her mother die in her mind, but could not see who killed her. There was no closure. Life became dark, empty, uninhabitable.
She became obsessed with finding the person responsible for her mother’s death. So did her father for a little while until he sank into a heavy, impenetrable depression. She left college to take care of him and to pursue the killer she still could not identify. It wasn’t even clear if it was a man or a woman, just a figure in black, a shadow really. Time and again she thought about her vision and wrote down as many details as she could remember, but it was still so nebulous. The police did a thorough investigation to no avail. There were never any suspects and the case went cold.
When no leads materialized and her vision offered no more details, Christina felt at one of her lowest points. One night, unable to tolerate her father’s silence and the memory-filled house, she went to a local bar she often frequented. The drinks were cheap and the people were mostly friendly and left you alone when they could tell you were in a foul mood, like she was that night. Carl sat on one of the stools beside her. She heard him speak to the bartender and was secretly thrilled and aroused by his British accent, which she’d never heard in real life, only in movies and on television shows.
At first, they did not acknowledge one another and wondered who would make the first move, say the first word.
“Hello,” she said, more brazen now that vodka was in her system.
“Hello,” he said and turned to her, staring her straight in the face. She felt it right then - a connection. It wasn’t that cliché of love at first sight or anything like that, rather it was an understanding, as if he knew what had led her there, what her life had been about for so many months, what she had lost, what she was trying to get back. She sensed something sorrowful in him too, a man who was haunted and didn’t know where he should be.
But none of these things came out that night. There was no conversation about the past. Instead, they lived only in the present, laughing and dancing and flirting. She liked the way he smelled and how he put his hand on her back, how he made her smile and forget the tragedy of her life for a little while. He reminded her of who she had been, the girl who was alive and open and unafraid. Little did she know how disastrously it would end, but if she could go back in time she would not change that night or their relationship. His love changed her, it deepened her, it gave her the strength to save herself and to go on living.
The rain was still pounding against the walls of the house. The wind was ferocious and the shadows of swaying trees filled the room. The dream congealed in her. She was filled with dread. If only she could find Carl, rescue him. But how? Where was he? Was it already too late?
-written by Caitlin