(AUTHOR’S NOTE: So if you remember that story AMORE I wrote with a partner 3 years ago? Yes, this is another case where me and the artist known as Berko collaborate again. Only this time, she thought of the story idea and written a large portion of it and I wrote an act in here.)
1982, New York City, 11:50 AM
Passed out on the couch lies Gilbert Scott. He appears dazed and confused even in sleep.
“Ohhhhh…..” he groaned. “My head… Oh damn.” He stumbled through the house into the kitchen to get some coffee.
“Lydia!?” He shouted. He discovered the empty coffee can lying around. “Lydia? Sweetie, we’re out of coffee!!”
He shouted, “I think you might need to go grocery shopping soon. We need some coffee.”
He went back through the hall bypassing his trophy case as he headed upstairs. “LYDIA! Do you hear me? I said we need mo–”
He paused, taking in the sight of the empty bedroom.
“What the?” He said, “She isn’t here.” The window is wide open.
“What in the hell…” He searched in the closets, the living room, dining room, and even looked outside for any trace of her, but found none.
“Lydia? LYDIA?!” he shouted, “Where are you?!?” He opened the garage but alas she wasn’t there either.
At about the same time in an office building at across town, Detective Leland Wade was busy constructing a house of cards while the TV played in the background.
“Come on… Steady… steady…”
“Tonight on WHAK news, more animals have gone missing from the Bronx Zoo, among them a rare albino komodo dragon. Zoo officials are currently speculating this may be the work of an underground poaching ring. Security is expected to be increased further. But now, sports with Tuck Wang!”
The card sticks.
“Yes! That’s one.” He took another sip of bourbon.
“And now for the piece de resistance….steady…..steady…” The phone rings and his concentration breaks. The two cards topple over. “Oh…dammit!” He tossed the card in his hand to the ground. “Two hours wasted.”
He answered the phone.
“Hello, Detective Leland Wade speaking. How may I help you today?”
“Hello?” a teary voice said, “My name is Gilbert Scott.”
“Yes, that Gilbert Scott.” the man on the line said, still sniffling.
“What can I do for you Mr. Scott?”
“Listen, I’ve got something big for you and I need you to come to my place immediately.”
“Immediately?” Wade asked, “I’ll be straight with ya Mr. Scott, I never rush a case without hearing the details first.”
“It’s something I need you and only you to do.” He said, “I will pay you marvelously for your services.”
“Marvelously?” Wade remarked, “What’s marvelous?”
“$100,000 if you take the case. You’ll get half just for coming and hearing me out.”
“100 grand?” Wade tried not to sound too excited. “Sure. I could do that.”
“My address is 56 Terry Duck Lane. I’ll be waiting.” Gil hung up.
“Hello? Hello? Mr. Scott?” Wade hung up. “Better see what’s up.”
Wade got out of the car and knocked on the door. “Mr. Scott? It’s Detective Wa–” Gilbert opened the door and pulled the detective inside. “Sshhh!!” Gil hushed the loud detective, “I don’t want anyone else snooping around.”
“Discretion is my middle name, Mr. Scott.” Wade said in a cool demeanor, “Why don’t you explain what am I here for?”
Gil shut the door and collected himself. “OK….The truth is Mr. Wade…..I called you for an important mission. Probably the biggest of your career so far.”
Gil motioned for Wade to follow as led to the kitchen.
As they walked through the hall, they passed the shiny trophy case full of belts and cups.
“That’s a lot of trophies, Mr. Scott.”, Wade said admiring. “These all yours?”
“Yup.” Gil said proudly, “Undefeated heavyweight champ for ten years!! It was a damn good decade!” Wade took a good look. The last one was dated 1978. “Look, Mr. Wade… It’s my wife, Lydia. She’s gone missing.”
“For how long?” Wade asked, pulling out a pocket notebook. “I’m not entirely sure.” Gil said shaking his head.
“When did you last see her?”
Gil strained as he tried to remember.
“Yesterday. She was here when I went out. I was meeting up with some of the fellas from back in the day, catching up over some drinks. You know. By the time I got home I was pretty drunk so I crashed down here on the couch. I don’t remember if I saw her or not. All I know is when I woke up my wife was missing and I found the window in our bedroom was wide open.”
“And there’s no way she might have just left? Gone out for some groceries or something?” Wade said calmly. “Generally you wait twenty-four hours before reporting someone missing.”
“Frankly Mr. Scott, I’ve dealt with alot of domestic cases like this, and these things usually end up being a miscommunication or infidelity. Now I’m not trying to upset you, but I want to be upfront.” “Nonsense!” Gil shouted. “We have a very happy life together. She could never be be with another man! No one else could ever satisfy her!” Gil tried to keep a straight face.
The boxer in the trophy photos was long gone. In his place stood a bloated, wrinkly carcass, straining not to burst out of his high-watering pants.
“Some people just get tired or exhausted.” Wade said. “They don’t mean to, but it happens.” “Not to us.” Gil said, “We are forever.”
“I believe you.” Wade said as believably as he could. “Can you tell me more about what she was doing the last time you saw her?”
“Well, it was yesterday before I left and she was watching TV on the sofa.” He said, “That’s about it. Nothing unusual.”
Wade nodded as he made a note. ”Please, Mr. Wade. Help me find my wife.” Gil pleaded, clenching his hands.
“I’m not asking you as a celebrity but as a married man who is deeply concerned for his spouse.”
Wade tried to smile reassuringly. “I’ll take your case, Mr. Scott.” Gil smiled with relief. “Thank you, Mr. Wade.” “As long as we’re both honest with each other, I’m confident your wife will be home in no time.”
1982, New York City, 11:23 AM
The NEXT DAY…….
Wade glanced down at the short list of Lydia’s friends that Gil had given him.
It was only two names. Not much of a list at all really.
The first name had been a bust. Julie Ponderosa had moved out of state over three years ago.
The only other name, Teresa Rodgers, was still listed in the phonebook, which was a good sign.
Wade still wondered if it was worth the gas.
When Wade arrived at Teresa’s address it was nearly noon.
A woman in a bathrobe and ratty pajamas opened the door.
“Yeah?” She wiped her nose.
“Whaddya want?” Wade put on his best smile.
“Afternoon ma’am. Are you Teresa Rodgers?” She looked Wade up and down distrustingly.
“Yeah, I’m her. You a cop?” Wade shook his head reassuringly.
“My name’s Leland Wade. I’m a private investigator. I’m trying to find a friend of yours, Lydia Scott.”
Teresa scoffed. “Ain’t no friend of mine. Said so herself.”
Wade pulled out his notebook.
“Last time she came ‘round with that Maggie chick she hang out with, they tried converting’ me to some new church they joined. Left me a pamphlet. Wait here, I think I left it on top of the fridge.”
Teresa disappeared in the back for a moment before returning with the folded paper.
“I told them right off. This is my house and I don’t need anyone telling me to get my life together.”.
“Branch of Life?” Wade read from the pamphlet. ”May I keep this?”
“Take it. I’d never heard of em before neither.” Teresa thought back. “They must’a come around here over a month ago. Maybe month and a half.”
“Miss Rodgers you’ve been immensely helpful today.” Wade put away his notebook. “Just one more thing…”
“This Maggie chick, you happen to know her last name?”
Wade knocked at the address of Maggie Koresh.
He looked around the small yard as he waited.
Finally the door opened. A tall guy with a receding hairline stood imposingly.
“What do you want!?” The man belted.
“My name’s Leland Wade, I’m a private detective. I’m looking for a Maggie Koresh. Does she live here?”
“She’s not in.” The man said as he began shutting the door.
Wade stops him, shoving his foot in the door.
Inside he sees the top of someone’s head over a high-back chair in the living room, watching TV with their back to the door.
“Can you at least tell me when she’ll be back?” The man shoved Wade back and slammed the door.
Wade headed back to his car and circled back.
He parked near another car a ways from the house. “I fucking hate stakeouts.”
It had been hours. Wade tried not to look at the clock. He knew it would still say 7:42.
He took another sip from his flask. He would need coffee soon. Suddenly, the man erupted from the house.
Wade stayed low as he watched him pull on a leather coat and get in his car.
Only once he was totally out of sight, Wade ran back to the house.
Wade knocked and rung the doorbell several times.
“Mrs. Koresh? Anybody home?”
He rang again.
Finally, after several minutes, he heard the door unlock.
Slowly, it opened a crack.
A thin voice whispered,”Hello?”
Wade tried to match her tone as bees he could without totally whispering. “Good evening. Are you Mrs. Koresh?”
The door opened fully. The woman’s face was a mess.
“Yes, that’s me.”A faded black-eye, split lip, and her nose looked like it had been bleeding.
Wade felt a lump in his throat. “Are you alright, ma’am?”
“I’ll be fine.” She murmured. “My husband is out right now. Could you come back later?”
“I only need a moment. I’m here to ask about Lydia Scott.”
Maggie looked up and met Wade’s eyes. “What about her?”
Wade fished out his notebook. “When was the last time you spoke with Mrs. Scott?”
“Just the other night. She called two nights ago after Gil had passed out.”
“Really? This was after he got home from drinking then?”
Maggie looked confused. “Lydia said he had been home drinking all day.”
Wade nodded, making note. “What else did she say?”
“That she was leaving him.”
Wade stopped writing.
“She was planning on leaving him?”Maggie nodded.
“She say where she was going?”
Maggie shook her head. “No.”
Wade pulled out a business card.
“Thank you Mrs. Rodgers. If you hear anything, give me a call.”
Maggie took the card and gently shut the door.
Back in his car, Wade sighed.
“Dammit!” Wade slammed the steering wheel. “Son of a bitch was lying!.”
1982, New York City, 11:10 PM
“Mr. Scott! It’s Detective Leland Wade! Open up!!”
Wade pounded on the door a few more times.
Gil opened the door. “Detective? What’s going on?”
He reeked of whiskey.
Wade stepped inside.
“What aren’t you telling me, Mr. Scott?”
Gil tried to piece together what was happening.
Wade pulled out his notebook. “Maggie Koresh got a call from your wife the night you claimed to be out of the house. She said you never went anywhere. You were here drinking till you passed out.”
“Well Maggie is a lying whore!” Gil seethed.
Wade grabbed Gil by the collar and shoved him against the door.
“I’ve had just about enough of you.” Wade spoke through his teeth. “If you don’t start telling the truth, I’m going to put your face through that trophy case of yours.”
Gil screamed as tears streamed down his face. “I don’t know! I was so drunk. Lydia was supposed to go to a late night meeting for her church, but I passed out before she ever left. By the time I woke up she wasn’t here! That’s all I know! Honest!!”
A snot bubble popped from Gil’s red nose.
Wade dropped the weeping man to the ground.
“I don’t really buy it. If you aren’t going to tell me everything I’ll be taking my $50,000 and leaving now.”
Gil lunged forward, clinging on to Wade’s legs as he pleaded. “Please, no! I need you!”
“I can’t stand begging.” Wade kicked him off in disgust. “Get a grip, man.”
Gil laid on the floor, blubbering. “Lydiaaaa…”
Wade walked around him and opened the door.
“I’m going to check out this church. If you aren’t ready to be honest by tomorrow morning then I’m calling it quits.”
He took one last long look at the pitiful creature writhing on the floor.
It wasn’t much of a church. More like a misplaced lodge seated far outside town.
A dozen cars were visibly parked around back.
Wade walked up to the front door and knocked.
The pace was all lit up, but totally silent.
Trying the door and found it open.
He peered in.
The carpet and walls were all the same faded shade of salmon. Wade struggled not to gag as he walked inside.
To his left was a large open basement door. The warm flickering light made it almost look like fire.
As he made his way down the steps, he began to hear the growing murmur of a chant. The stairwell was lit with flaming torches.
They seemed to go down way too far.
He turned a corner and found himself standing on a balcony overlooking the mammoth sized basement.
Staying low, he stared down at the bizarre sight.
A massive pentagram had been painted on the floor.
Each point of the star had a telephone booth with wires stretched across to the next point, creating an outer barrier.
Inside each booth he could make out the shape of people in cloaks.
Standing just outside the circle stood the congregation holding red candles.
In the center of the star, a naked woman lie on a stone slab.
A piercing screech shook Wade to his core. He looked and saw another hooded figure leading a terrified baboon out on a rope.
When they got to the center they tied the baboon to a pole near the slab where it flung itself in every direction.
The woman pulled her hood back revealing her shaved head as and walked up to the slab.
Wade watched as the woman raised her hands high above her head.
Suddenly the electricity cut out. The massive room suddenly became a void.
The torches illuminated small patches within the blackness like islands poking above the water.
The wire circle began to spark. Small lights inside the booths started to glow.
The hooded woman before the alter was holding a crooked blade. Wade was sure her hands had been empty a moment ago.
Suddenly, five low thuds erupted from each of the phone booths leaving them filled with blood.
In a bloody instant, the blade came down and struck the naked woman in the heart.
As her screams faded, so did the cry of the distressed baboon, quickly becoming calm and eerily silent.
The woman with the hood calmly walked over and untied the still primate. By then, Wade was already running up the stairs.
Wade drove madly up to the Scott’s residence. He slammed the breaks but still managed to skid across the lawn.
Once he’d jumped out, he noticed the smashed front door.
Rushing inside he called out, “Mr. Scott!? Gil!?! Hello!?!”
A thud from upstairs.
Wade booked it up the stairs.
The door to the bedroom was broken just like the front.
“Mr. Scott!? Are you alright?
He pushed the debris out of the way and barged in the bedroom.
Gilbert Scott was sprawled out on the floor unmoving. Tearing at his throat, a massive white lizard stood atop him.
Wade found himself unable to run. He dropped to his knees in horror.
The albino dragon looked over its shoulder at the terrified man in the doorway.
Its bright red eyes were teeming with victory.
(Story idea by Berko / Written by Berko and the Blue Hybrid)
©2017 M+B Inc.