#AtoZChallenge: Rained Out

“Another ‘impossible drowning’ case. Victim found dead in a suite at the Chesterton Hotel. This one’s even weirder than the others.”

“How’s that?”

“The suite’s on the 50th floor.”

“Damn. How the hell does that even happen?”

“Ya got me, partner.”

Detective Roger Bakshi was stumped, and he wasn’t the sort of man who was stumped easily. Three murder victims in the same week. All three drowned. None of them were near a body of water. A waterlogged car sitting in a garage, a greenhouse that got turned into an aquarium, and now this. It didn’t make a damn bit of sense.

Two men and a woman. Different ages. Not all the same race. No professional connection. No common interests. No thread that ran through them. But they had obviously been killed by the same guy. Or gal. How, though? How does someone flood a sealed room unnoticed? Even clogging the toilet and tub wouldn’t cause that to happen.

Bakshi arrived at the Chesterton and was escorted up by the manager.

His partner, Chandni Harrison, was already at the crime scene. His scuffed shoes squelched on the wet carpet as he walked over to her.

“So, what have we got?”

Chandni gestured to the bloated gray body lying on the giant double bed at one end of the suite. “Meet Prabhat Wallace. CEO of HighPoint, an online rag focused on celebrity gossip and ridiculous rumors. He was found by the housekeeping staff in the morning when they went to clean his room and noticed a large puddle of water under the door. Little did they know that was just a teaser.”

She tapped her foot on the floor, which reeked of mildew. “The victim was probably killed last night, though there wasn’t any record of him having visitors.

His body fell onto the bed when the water was drained. That’s about all we can determine for now. Course, it doesn’t look like he was getting ready to turn in for the night.”

The victim was dressed in a loud buttoned shirt and slacks, probably on his way out to enjoy the nightlife or have a few drinks at the hotel bar. A look of shock was frozen onto his bloated face. No kidding. Who wouldn’t be shocked about drowning in their hotel room? Aside from every surface being wet or water damaged, there wasn’t a trace of outside interference.

“He wasn’t planning to go for a swim either. Did the killer use a fireman’s hose or something?”

“Thing is, there’s no record of abnormally high water usage in this area. It didn’t come from the faucets or the fire hydrant at the end of the street.”

Bakshi rubbed his stubbled chin in frustration. This case was making less sense by the minute.

One of the uniformed officers approached them. “Detectives. This might be of interest.”

He held up a book that was found hidden in the victim’s briefcase. On the front cover, bold, snaking letters read: ‘Indraloka: Cult of the Rain God’. The two detectives exchanged a look.

“So our guy was in a cult?” Chandni asked.

“Looks like it. And, hey, hold on a second.” Bakshi’s brow crinkled. “I’ve seen that book somewhere before – Professor Mitra!”

“The history professor who drowned in his car?”

“Yes! I saw a copy of the book in his house!”

Chandni’s eyes narrowed. “You’re right. I remember seeing it too. Second row on his bookshelf. Wanna bet the third victim had a copy as well?”

The faintest trace of a grin crossed Bakshi’s face. “That’s just easy money.”

The both of them thanked the officer, then headed back to the station. Cult of the Rain God? That might explain why the victims were drowned. But it still didn’t provide a damn clue about how.


 

“Need anything else?”

The waitress had a pretty smile. He had noticed that the moment he walked into the place. She could easily have been half apsara. He smiled back at her with a radiance that belied his drab gray clothes.

“No, thank you. Just the check please.”

He looked out the window after she had gone. Fat drops of rain splattered against the glass; it sounded like the tapping of giant fingers. He could have stopped it with a mere thought, caused the clouds to retreat and brought the sun out again. But he liked the rain. There was beauty in the chaos of the storm, in the symphony of thunder and lightning. If it were up to him, he would spend the rest of the day sitting by that window, humming to the rhythm of the rain.

Idly, he ran a finger along the water glass in front of him, causing its contents to bubble and froth like the ocean on a stormy night. He put a stop to it before the waitress returned.

The man in the gray overcoat paid his bill, left a generous tip and walked out the door. The whole world was dripping wet, but not a single drop of rain touched him. They merely bounced off, as if they were little rubber balls.

He took a small notebook out of his pocket and consulted the list of names written on the first page. Three had already been crossed out. He traced a finger along the fourth, then put the notebook back.

It was time to go to work.

 

13 Tales of Terror: Life of the Party

“Raymann! Good to see ya!”

Raymond grinned and bumped Thomas’s extended fist with his own. “Sup Tommy. Sorry for being so late.”

“Hey, no worries man! Ain’t no rush over here!”

Thomas clapped a hand around Raymond’s shoulder and led him into the large drawing room. The party was already in full swing. Several clusters of people were spread out around the room, drinks in hand. There was a group in the center several shots into an intense drinking game.

“You’re the odd one out, bud!”

Raymond laughed as Thomas handed him a glass. He downed it one long gulp, ready to mingle with the crowd.

Thomas called for attention and the whole room went silent.

“Alright, guys. Raymond’s here!”

Several drunken cheers erupted in response.

“Now the night can really begin!”

Everyone cheered again, but their voices sounded really far away to Raymond’s ears. He was smiling, but couldn’t feel any sensation in his face. Thomas smiled back at him, but there was no warmth to his smile.

“Let’s get him ready!” he yelled. Several hands grabbed Raymond, pulling him toward a large door at the back of the room. They were chanting, but he couldn’t understand them. It was a language he had never heard before. They led him through the door into a darkened room that smelled vaguely of smoke and rotting eggs. He was placed on a stone table on his back and tied down.

Through his blurring vision, he saw Thomas approach, holding a jeweled dagger. Everyone was looking down at him now, smiling identical cold smiles.

“It’s party time, Raymond…” were the last words he heard before the dagger pierced his throat.

13 Tales of Terror: Vacant

The room was empty, except for a spider skittering across the floor. It didn’t make it very far.

“Damn bugs,” McDermott growled, scraping his boot across the floor boards. He looked around the room, nodded once, then walked to the far end of it and opened the closet. Empty. The boys had done a thorough job.

The old house had been on the market for a while. Richard McDermott knew its history well, including the murders. Three separate families had been killed in this house in less than a decade.

The Richardsons were strangled in their beds. Husband, wife, two kids. Three years later, the Browns moved in. Young couple, planning to build their lives there. Young wife was found in the kitchen, decapitated. Husband disemboweled in the tub. Then came the Dukes. Big family. Died in ways so gruesome that nobody even talked about them anymore. Just tried to scrub them from memory.

Everyone said the house was haunted, or more likely, possessed by the Devil. McDermott didn’t pay much attention to any of it.

There were no ghosts or demons to worry about in this place.

There was only the thing in the basement. McDermott had no idea what it really was, where it had come from or how long it had been in the house. He just knew he didn’t want it to get out. So he kept it fed, as often as he could. Everyone knew about the three families. Nobody knew about the others, the ones McDermott brought in himself.

It had been hungry for the past few months. But that was about to change. A new family was moving in next week.

McDermott walked out of the house and locked the door behind him.

Just one more week.

13 Tales of Terror: In Her Eyes

In her eyes,

I see love.

I see longing and desire and passion.

We are lovers, young and eternal,

Two hearts with one beat.

In her eyes,

I see bliss.

New beginnings,

Our dreams shimmering into reality,

Souls linked by two rings.

In her eyes,

I see fear.

Gray creeps along a golden horizon.

Our youth slips away,

Lives shift in different directions.

In her eyes,

I see pain.

A storm rises in the distance.

Our love is a faded photograph,

Finding color in another’s arms.

In her eyes,

I see rage.

A broken ring, an unforgivable betrayal.

Our world has crumbled in my fingers,

Both on a road with only one end.

In her eyes,

I see death.

A knife blade flashing in the dark.

My life bleeds out one drop at a time.

As darkness approaches,

Hate is all I see

In her eyes.

13 Tales of Terror: Creature of the Night

The fat man continues to run, wheezing and gasping for breath. His whole body shakes from the strain. Soon enough, he stops and doubles over, retching onto the pavement. The rancid odor of his puke contains traces of fried meat, beer and grease. His insides are as disgusting as his outward appearance, it seems.

He tries to say something in between wet, gurgling gasps. He probably wants to beg for his life. They always do. It doesn’t matter anyway. This isn’t a negotiation. It’s a hunt.

 Another smell soon joins the putrid bouquet of sweat and vomit: urine. The poor bastard is really in bad shape. Best to just put him out of his misery. Especially before he attracts any attention with his pathetic mewling.

A lunge, more for dramatic effect than anything else. He isn’t going anywhere. A few slashes to deflate that bulging belly and make him bleed, adding a much more palatable smell into the mix. One swipe across the throat to remove his voice. And finally, the big finish. Biting right on the neck to suffocate. He struggles against the teeth, limbs flailing in protest. It doesn’t last long. He’s done.

The hunt is over. Time to eat.


 

Janine sat up in bed, half screaming. Her whole body was coated in a film of cold sweat, her sheets drenched. She hated it when she had the dreams.

She closed her eyes and sat still, wrapping her blanket around her shoulders and waiting for her breathing to slow. Over the years, she’d learned to control her reaction to the dreams, but she still felt sick.

After a few more minutes, when her heartbeat was thumping at a steady pace again, Janine went into the bathroom and splashed some cold water on her face. A haggard young woman stared back at her from the mirror on her medicine cabinet. Dark, bushy hair that was strewn across her head, skin that was almost grayish in the dim light and dark circles under her hazel eyes.

“You look like shit,” she muttered to the woman in the mirror, and she agreed.

Janine downed two glasses of water, though her throat still burned, then walked back to her bed. In the silver rays of moonlight streaming through her window, she saw something glinting on the floor. Had she dropped an earring? No, she hadn’t worn any jewelry that day.

Curious, Janine bent down to examine the object. It was a silver wristwatch, attached to an oversized wrist that was sitting at the end of a severed arm. Janine swore and fell back onto the floor. It was the fat man’s arm.

She quickly scrambled to her feet and flicked on the light. The arm was lying on the carpet, a rusty stain underneath. The rest of the room was clean. No blood, no body parts, no bones.

Janine let out a huge, relieved sigh that almost bent her body in two. She got a garbage bag from the kitchen, put the arm in it, wrapped it around tightly, sealed it, put the whole thing in another garbage bag, and dumped it in the trash can. She’d deal with it the next morning.

She washed her hands and her face again, double checked all the rooms for traces of gore, and finally went back to bed.

Finally, Janine could enjoy a dreamless sleep again. Until the next full moon, anyway.

 

A to Z Challenge: Unsaid

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Una wanted to tell her husband that she was tired of being taken for granted.

She wanted to tell him that her heart no long beat as rapidly as it used to when she was around him.

She wanted to tell him that she knew about the waitress at the diner, and the girl from the New Year’s Eve party. He was sloppy about covering his tracks.

She wanted to tell him that she had strayed as well (though she’d done a better job of hiding it) and had been enjoying the company of one of her colleagues for almost two months now.

She wanted to tell him that she loved their daughter dearly, but it wouldn’t be enough to hold their marriage together.

She wanted to scream at him, to curse at him until her voice turned hoarse, to let out every frustration she’d dealt with for the past 12 years.

But Una said nothing.

When her husband came home from work, an hour after she did (she knew why), she greeted him with a dutiful smile and a perfunctory kiss.

She let him wrap her in a constricting embrace, her body trained not to recoil from the stink of booze on his breath.

And without a word, she plunged the cold steel blade right between his ribs.

A to Z Challenge: Soap

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This is the story of Sybil St. Clair, heiress to the vast St. Clair publishing fortune. Her father, Gerard St. Clair, is the owner of several newspapers, magazines, two new channels and a website. Her mother, Virgina St. Clair, passed away when Sybil was a young girl. A despondent Gerard threw himself into his work to cope with his loss, leaving Sybil to be raised by their family butler Clarence and housekeeper Mrs. Finchley.

On the eve of Sybil’s 15th birthday, Gerard met a beautiful young woman named Tabitha. Within months, they were married, and Tabitha, who wasn’t really the maternal type, begrudgingly accepted Sybil as her stepdaughter. Whatever helped her hold onto Gerard’s fortune.

Sybil kept a distance between herself and her stepmother while yearning to be closer to her father. But, she also had to navigate adolescence and school life at the Frampton Academy with her two best friends, Allison Davenport and Deirdre Holliday. Plus, there was her unrequited crush on Kyle Barlow, future inheritor of Barlow Hotel Group. Sybil had fawned over him for almost five years now, but in spite of some nudging from her friends, she never said anything to him. And perhaps she wouldn’t get her chance, thanks to the arrival of the new exchange student from Switzerland, Gretchen Friedman.

Gretchen wasted no time in climbing the teenage social ladder to become the most popular girl in school. And of course, she dug her claws deep into Kyle’s heart, so that Sybil became nothing more than a shadow to him.

Tabitha, meanwhile, was growing increasingly impatient. Along with her brother Talbot, she agonized over the fastest way to take over Gerard’s media empire. A skiing accident? A poisoning at a charity benefit? Perhaps a boring old home invasion? She knew she had to think of something fast. Sybil was becoming a woman, after all. At last, Tabitha formed a plan. A car crash. Simple, but so very effective.

And so it came to pass. Gerard St. Clair was involved in a fatal car crash. Sybil’s entire life was upended. Clarence and Mrs. Finchley did what they could to console her, but it was no use. Tabitha put on the guise of the dutiful widow. Gerard’s funeral was attended by hundreds, from extended to family to friends to old business associates. And there was another unexpected guest. Gerard’s estranged twin brother, Jerome.

It had been twenty years since Gerard and Jerome had last spoken, yet there he was, paying respects to his dead brother. That wasn’t the only reason, of course. He wanted his share of his brother’s inheritance. And more…

Who will win in a clash between Jerome and Tabitha? Will Sybil ever tell Kyle how she feels, or will she lose him to Gretchen forever? Will Deirdre ever solve the mystery of her haunted mansion? Will Clarence be rescued from his alien abductors?

Stay tuned to find out!