.
A Wildclown Case
by G. Wells Taylor

.....I was in my office chewing the cold, wet nub of a cigarette. The moisture in the air had soaked into everything, and I was resting now between frustrated attempts to light it. I didn't crave nicotine as much as the tangle of twisted and broken matches in front of me suggested. Nobody could want a cigarette that bad. But it was more about the weather, the fiftieth consecutive year of rain. It was the struggle against the ocean that squatted on Greasetown, that colored everything a dark gray. It was my hatred for the incessant spatter of droplets that soaked all my clothes permanently, and was responsible for the deep damp cold that ate its way into my kidneys and stayed. It was the rain. Greasetown's rain. The rain that came with the Change and never really stopped. I was determined to win this time.

.....It was a serious fight. Bad weather was the leading cause of death in Greasetown. Death of the spirit anyway, very few people actually went through with suicide in a world where they would rise from the dead after a short amnesia-like period we call Blacktime. But we all contemplated it. It was as common a fantasy as dreaming about a day on a sunny beach. Wouldn't it be nice to whack yourself and stay dead? Wouldn't it be nice to get out of the rain?

.....But the world had Changed. And the dead rose up, and went about their afterlives.

.....My partner Elmo was one of them. He sat across from me in a deep leather chair as he usually did between cases. Somehow he had managed to light a cigarette that smoldered in the dark lifeless fingers of his left hand. I tried to look him over without envy. Even as a corpse he was better dressed than I was. He always was. Where he wore the best suits his meager income could afford, I was relegated to my strange coveralls. White with faded colored spots and pink skipping rope belt. The look was almost completed by the big black army boots I wore. And we can't forget the greasepaint. White powdered with black nose, lips and garish clown's eyes.

.....It was obvious I didn't choose the way I looked. It wasn't my appearance anyway. It was the way I had to dress when in possession of my host's body. That's the way he liked it. Otherwise, I'd be expelled like so many cold germs. One big sneeze and I'm a curious phenomenon overhead.

.....Usually, I enjoyed being in him-the sensations were sweet to someone who spent his time between possessions wafting about stucco ceilings. But Greasetown had a way of numbing the senses, and making even me yearn for the null nervous void of disembodiment. Maybe that's why Tommy Wildclown let me use his body. He was sick and tired of the rain.

....."Elmo," I startled my partner. "Can I have a light?"

.....Elmo's dark face wrinkled in concern before he levered himself out of his chair, one dead hand going for a pocket and lighter. I shook my head, gestured in the lamplight.

....."That will do" One of my hands went for his cigarette. I huddled over my desk blotter a few minutes trying to breathe life into my smoke like some hysterical comic caveman at an AA meeting. I only stopped when both cigarettes were cold and damp in my hands.

.....I gave Elmo's back to him; his eyes gave a forlorn roll.

....."Sorry." I said, dropping into my chair. I pondered pulling my office bottle out and starting the opening act of the drunken clown opera; but the phone rang before I could cause any damage.

....."Hello." I shuddered at the receiver's clammy kiss. "Wildclown Investigations."

....."Hello." The voice a man's came hesitantly back. Behind it, I could hear the dull murmur of other voices on other phones. "I have a question."

....."Please ask it." My guts wrenched a bit, genuinely pining for a cigarette.

....."Would I be correct in assuming that you could deliver something for me?" He had the clipped diction of someone who knew how to talk through a handkerchief. A phone rang in the background.

....."You could assume that." I was watching the expectation rise in my eavesdropping partner's expression. "Though, what I could deliver might demand a discussion."

....."It isn't anything illegal." That time I caught a flash of emotion as he lowered his voice.

....."Sure." I knew there were legal implications to the hush that had entered his tone. "Why don't you come over and discuss this."

....."Mr. Savaridge will come to your office shortly." His voice drifted away. "Thank you, Mr. Wildclown."

.....I hung up the phone, smiled at Elmo's nervousness. For a full second I didn't ask the obvious question. Why hire me to deliver something that you're about to deliver to me?

A Missing Wife

Mr. Savaridge's disguise was a poor one. In fact, I penetrated it the moment he entered the office. It was the clumsy hand play at his extended coat collar and the low hanging droop of his hat brim. I recognized him from a crime scene some years before. It was the investigation of a headless woman's body showing up in line at a movie theater. We'd met at the front door to her apartment and he'd done the same collar and hat trick before shoeing me from the building. It was an affectation brought about by the weather, by the incessant rain that left his shoulders dark and heavy. I could also say that the absence of the double take on seeing my clown's face had given him away. He hadn't raised an eyebrow. I don't care how jaded you are or where you've been in this great miserable world, when you walk into a detective's office and find a six foot, 200 pound clown, you're going to look twice. You're going to blink. Savaridge had seen me before.

....."My name is Savaridge." He dispensed with the pleasantries of handshaking and his designation of Authority Inspector. His face was dark, lined and wore a pair of middle-aged jowls. A large nose emerged from the gloom. His eyes flickered in shadow.

....."Sit down, Mr. Savaridge." I decided to play along, pointing to my company chair. Elmo had taken up position in the waiting room. He'd be listening for signs of trouble. Savaridge climbed into the chair with some effort, damp wool binding on leather.

....."What can I do for you?" I moved around my desk, leaned a hip against the windowsill. I shook a long errant lock of hair from my face then flicked a crack open in the plastic slats-looked out at nothing. The streetlight was a white blue haze in the rain.

....."I have a package I'd like you to deliver." Savaridge's manner seemed nervous. He had a hard time holding my gaze. "But I'll have to ask you for confidentiality."

....."It's between you and me." I declined showing him my detective's license or reciting the confidentiality agreement that went with it. "That's how I keep my license."

....."My wife was kidnapped three days ago." He pulled his hat off to reveal a twist of thinning hair. "I need you to deliver the ransom."

.....I reached out and snatched a cigarette from the damp pack on my desk. Instead of lighting it, I opted to absorb the nicotine through my lips. "Why don't you talk to Authority?" Authority was all that remained of law and order after the Change and though they were corrupt, excessively violent and frequently unjust, they did frown on kidnapping.

....."I-I can't." He dropped his eyes, crushed his hat in his lap.

....."I'd think it would be second nature" I decided to hit the nail on the head. "I recognize you as an Authority Inspector. Just thought I'd mention that. Did you quit or did they kick you out?"

.....A sensual heaviness convulsed the muscles of his face-something bloody. "I'm still in the force. But, I can't-it would-it would be too embarrassing. It would ruin meif it were known."

....."Fine." I was so used to the run around that I moved effortlessly between lies. "What happened?"

....."A drug dealer that I was going to give evidence against kidnapped her. Said I'd have to keep my mouth shut in court. That was no trouble. I agreed right away, he's got my Anna after all. But then I guess I agreed too quickly because he decided he wanted twelve thousand dollars for her return." He looked up at me during pauses; his fingers kneaded his hat.

....."Honestly?" I gave him the most earnest look possible in clown makeup. "Sure you're not involved with something"

.....He was quiet for a full minute. "Okay. I was in business with him briefly. It was supposed to be easy money. Lots of people do it in the force. But he got greedy and I wanted out. It was a bad idea. I think he kidnapped Anna to show me he could. To keep me quiet, in case I ever got an attack of conscience."

....."So he's shaking you down, and shutting you up." I grabbed a match and in a lucky moment managed to light my cigarette. "You shouldn't take any chances. You should come clean and tell Authority."

....."He said he'd kill her if I did. He said he's got friends in Authority." He leaned forward. "I know how Authority works. He has friendsbelieve me."

.....I knew Authority's ways well enough to agree with Savaridge. Everyone had friends on the inside. It was possibly as corrupt as it was huge. "How are you supposed to pay the ransom?"

....."I can't bring it myself." Savaridge looked at me, then pulled a slim nylon satchel from inside his coat. "He said I was to hire someone to drop it off at an address he gave me-tonight at seven. If he sees me or Authority, he's going to kill her." My guest's knees disappeared in his fists. "That's the frustrating part. I know where she is. But I can't take the chance of Anna being caught in the crossfire."

....."And when he gets the ransom?" A hot stream of smoke curled out of my mouth-I smiled involuntarily.

....."He will hand Anna over to the courier, you, immediately. Case closed." He looked exasperated. "And when she's home, I will not look back."

....."Why'd you pick me?"

....."Your name's around Authority. People say you can be trusted to do the right thing but no one's likely to believe you if you talk later." His hands went to his chin-his nails scratched the stubble there

....."It's my special charm." I gave him my steely glare, tried to see past his watery eyes. "I want seven hundred to do it." Savaridge's eyebrows rose momentarily. "And when she's home we don't look back."

....."Fine. That's fine." He repeated.

....."You have the address?" I asked. He nodded "What's the kidnapper's name?" I pulled out a notepad as a grimace passed over my client's face.

 
Another Drive in the Rain

It was pouring rain again. The streets of Greasetown were in an advanced state of decomposition from the ceaseless downpour. It was getting to the point where walking would be faster than the pothole to pothole obstacle course Elmo lurched and wheeled through. His driving had condensed my back into a jar-proof slab of bone and muscle. It was a practical adaptation. I kept my shoulders permanently hunched against the rain. The brim of my hat dripped slowly into my lap. It was a dark fedora, nothing with big bows or balloons. I wore an overcoat too-dark gray. As long as I wore the other clown gear I was allowed to possess my host and take certain liberties-I had some leeway. I could feel the clown's greasepaint ride my face with claustrophobic density. I wanted to scream. Most days I wanted to scream. With the streaked windows up all I could smell was old tobacco smoke and the oils that Elmo applied to his dead black skin to preserve it.

.....I decided to distract myself from fruitless efforts to see through the heavy curtain of rain by going over the information Savaridge had given me. I didn't like the idea of stepping into something with Authority connections but my financial life had suffered in the preceding months and it required a transfusion of cash or the doctors would pull the plug. It was that bad.

.....Savaridge had given me a Gritburg address. That put me in an area of Greasetown I rarely frequented. While it lacked the unpredictable and dangerous dead populations of Downings District it made up for it with competing gangs of drug dealers, prostitutes and gunmen. It lay along a lawless tract of the city between bad and worse and existed only as long as its participants paid for Authority protection.

.....Elmo drove the Chrysler with his usual alacrity. There was no such proscription in the ransom arrangements and I always preferred his back up. I'd get him to park a couple blocks away where he could wait in the car and if all went well, drive Mrs. Savaridge and me back to civilization.

....."Keep your eyes peeled for Hollingsworth Manufacturing." Elmo watched me from the corner of his eye as I spoke. "Tupov's set up in an old building there."

....."I hear the Russian mobsters kill quick." Elmo's dead voice rustled like a whisper. "Like snakes."

....."I've heard that too." The drug dealer who had kidnapped Savaridge's wife was named Peotor Tupov. Savaridge said the dealer was a distant relative of a highly connected Russian mobster. Myself, I'd heard the Tupov name before but had never crossed paths.

....."I heard they'll shoot you even if you're dead!" Elmo's imagination always ran neck and neck with reality. "Terrible business."

....."It's all terrible business, Fatso." The appellation referred to Elmo's overweight days among the living. Now he had wasted away to lots of dead skin and bone. "Hopefully, you won't even have to meet him." I glared out the window and up at the relentless rain. "When we find the building, I want you to park a block away so we don't spook him. I'm not back in thirty minutes, come get me."

.....Elmo vowed with a nod of his head.

.....I grumbled, already feeling the rain. "I'll walk."

Mr. Tupov's Receptionist

"You fucking Wildclown?" She asked through the downpour, a quiver of disbelief or humor on her red lips. Every kid loves a clown. I met Tupov's receptionist on the crumbled steps of the Hollingsworth Manufacturing warehouse-an abandoned and decrepit red brick structure that covered most of the block. Its first story windows were boarded and bricked-the upper floors were broken and covered sporadically. A cracked and pitted sidewalk staggered away from me to left and right as far as the eye could see. Fifty feet from me the burned out body of a truck leaned against the warehouse and cast a spreading shadow of rust. My guide stood across the battered steel door. She looked about twenty, pre-Change years of age, and showed little of the slow aging that affected the living. Perhaps at the roots of her tall green Mohawk there was some mention of it, I could see a twist of gray. She was thin, but wiry and managed to keep her low-riding denims up with attitude alone-her hips were conspicuously absent. Tiny flat breasts poked hard nipples against a dark green tube top. An ugly iron ring pierced the navel in her sinewy belly. Mascara clawed out of her eye sockets like witch's fingers. A pair of tattered black sneakers made squishing noises when she moved. There was a pack over one shoulder festooned with many slangy buttons and peace signs. I saw the whole outfit with a tint of green through the large lime colored plastic poncho that was draped over her.

....."Yeah." I answered her with a dip of my dripping hat brim. The plan was that Savaridge would phone the kidnappers-let them know the ransom was on the way. He'd already introduced me.

.....The receptionist sneered or smiled giving me a second look, then turned, pulled the door open with a single action. A flick of her chin told me to follow. She moved into the hallway's low light with the insolent, provocative carriage of a woman who had experienced the worst the world could offer and no longer feared anything. This woman would not run-there was no retreat. I saw the green tinted butt of a revolver poking up from her pants between her kidneys.

..... Thirty feet in, we passed through a doorway into a huge open space. The warehouse had been painted a dull blue from its corrugated iron and concrete floor to the cracked walls and high vents that traced the ceiling. Dim lamps hung from wire every twenty feet. The receptionist led me across an open floor marked by abandoned barrels and crates toward a brick and steel structure that formed a central platform about two stories high. Beside it was an ancient rusted van. All around me, I could see the floor was dotted and scarred marking out places where equipment and heavy machinery once stood.

.....I climbed the iron stairs after the receptionist to the first level of the central structure-at one point I was close enough to identify her weapon as a .38 snub-nosed. A grated floor ringed in with tube steel railing was at the top of the stair. This formed a square roughly twelve feet on a side. A long line of plastic chairs followed the railing. Across from me another stair rose to another similar level fifteen feet up. A thick haze hung over this, and I could just make out the movement of a hat or head. I smelled tobacco-cigars and cigarettes-maybe a pipe. This odor barely made it over the palpable stench of oil, garbage and exhaust fumes.

.....Noises came out of the fog up there-a throat was cleared, a harsh laugh followed and then a queer female titter. The receptionist told me to raise my arms as she gave me a quick frisk. She did this in a brusque distracted manner then told me to give her the satchel that hung from my shoulder. With a glance that clearly suggested I sit in one of the plastic chairs, she climbed the second set of stairs with the ransom hanging casually over one arm.

.....I sat down thinking. Something was wrong here. The pat down, everything was way too casual. There was clearly no fear that Mr. Savaridge might break and rat them out to his coworkers in Authority. The receptionist could have cared less and if I wasn't mistaken, I could hear the quiet rustling of cards from the next level up. Tupov wasn't a big enough player to be this relaxed. Or was he? The only thing that kept me from weeping was the .9 mm Glock I had tucked in my boot. I'd just have to keep my eyes peeled. Truth was, my career was hardly something to rival Pinkerton's-and my biggest cases had barely made mention in the papers. When considering that at the end of the day I was a detective who dressed like a clown-my credibility usually drained away at the first meeting. In fact, it was half the reason I had gone along in the first place. Savaridge had involved me for a reason-first sight of me usually deflected an impressive amount of apprehension or suspicion. It got me kicked out of places, but I was no threat. To Tupov's crew I might be a private dick who had gone over the deep end with the rest of the world after the Change. Spent his time being a bagman on kidnapping deals. I decided that my biggest problem now was remaining insignificant without becoming expendable.

....."This it?" An angry voice came clanging down the stairs. It carried a Russian accent that was barely audible over the streetwise, hip-hop gangster twang. "The hell is it?"

.....I heard a few muffled voices, then the clatter of chairs moving and boots striking metal. I lifted my head and watched the receptionist lead Tupov and some friends down the stairs. I stood up as they approached.

.....I could tell Tupov by his manner when he almost pushed the receptionist down the stairs going past her. He had a stiff brush of iron gray hair which wove into a long set of dreadlocks covering his shoulders. His face had the look of a pre-Change thirty. The hair color was either premature or altered-his face did not look ready for gray. A dagger was tattooed onto his left cheek-its blade traced the rout of his carotid artery before disappearing under the collar of his denim shirt. He wore a medium length leather coat over dark trousers. Chrome tips drew attention to his cowboy boots.

....."The hell is it?" He glared at me with light blue eyes, moved quickly toward my chair. "Where?"

.....I took a second to gauge the caliber of his help. Thug One looked like he'd died by gunshot wound to the face. The right side of his jaw was wired into place and covered by some kind of flesh colored tape or bandage. In many places there were tiny tears that showed flesh and bone underneath. The eye in his right socket protruded slightly and must have given him a distracting fish-eyed view of the world. His hair was combed over from the left, and barely hid an ugly exit wound above his right temple. The flesh was a tangle of green stitches and wire. Like the others he wore a heavy overcoat that exaggerated his bulk.

.....Thugs Two and Three were dead also but otherwise unremarkable, making up for their fairly normal appearance with exaggerated, aggressive movements. The blond was shorter and his limbs had a muscular appearance. The cause of death was unknown for both. I could tell they were dead by the ghoulish gray of their untreated skins and deathly purple darkness around their eyes.

....."The hell is it?" Tupov repeated with barely a trace of an accent. His light eyes ran over me. "Wildclown a clown?" He stepped in close. His cologne had already started dissolving my makeup.

....."Fucking clown." He shook his head, pushed the satchel at me. "Fucking thief!" I grabbed the empty satchel. "The rest of it?"

....."$12,000." I said, opening the empty bag then dropping it between my boots. "$12,000."

....."Should be 15 G, thief!" He glared at me hard enough to draw blood. I watched thugs One and Two moving to my flanks.

....."Savaridge gave me $12,000 for the ransom." I began, shifting my weight slightly, getting ready for the worst of it.

....."Ransom?" A quizzical half-humorous look crossed Tupov's face. "He calling it a ransom?"

....."Yeah." Laughed the receptionist. "He want to get his bachelorhood back safe and sound."

....."What do you call it?" I spat the words, the hairs on my head starting to crawl.

....."Short three grand!" He lashed out fast and caught me on the left cheek. I felt a ring grind into the bone. Before I could return fire his thugs were on me. One of them must have been carrying a bathtub because something about that heavy landed on the back of my head. I tried to keep my balance, but a number of knees and well-placed kicks made it impossible.

.....Next thing I knew I was looking up at the receptionist. Her gun was out and pointed at me. She was still smiling at the clown. Tupov stepped into view over my head; he knelt.

....."Savaridge pay me fifteen G to whack his bitch wife." He patted my cheek. I noticed his hand came away red. "I ain't getting ripped by no clown."

.....The receptionist laughed and couldn't resist kicking me in the head.

The Whereabouts of Mrs. Savaridge

I awoke to find myself still in possession of Wildclown's body-lucky, except for the many aches and bruises that went along with the exchange. In the past when I was knocked out, I'd find myself hovering overhead like so much cigarette smoke-then I'd have to hustle to regain control. This time I was fortunate and could feel the cold cloth being pressed against my cheek. I was sprawled on the floor, could feel the corrugated metal cutting into the flesh on my back. I opened my eyes and looked into Tupov's face.

....."Look." He pressed the cool cloth against my head. "Sorry for my friends. They angry people. And the dead men work for peanuts, and they don't want no peanuts." He chuckled. "They like to do things, you know? Specially to live people."

....."You killed Mrs. Savaridge?" I growled through clenched teeth.

....."We did." Tupov grabbed my arm and pulled me upright until my back rested against the railing. We were still on the first level. "For fifteen G."

....."You work cheap." I grumbled then took the cigarette he lit and offered me. For a minute I enjoyed the taste of the smoke. Behind Tupov I could see Thugs One to Three pacing, getting rested up for a little clown beating.

.....A flash of violence sparked behind Tupov's eyes, then he laughed. "Not cheap, clown. I know Savaridge, he a dirty Authority Inspector, and now I own his ass." He knotted his fingers in my collar. "I talked to Savaridge while you were sleeping. He said he gave you fifteen G."

....."You spoke to him?" My brain suddenly fired a mixture of synaptic juice and terror.

....."Said you took three from me." Tupov pulled me upright, until I fell onto a chair. The world spun momentarily. When I looked down, I saw that the shoulders of my coverall were scarlet.

....."We're dead now." I looked into Tupov's eyes.

....."We" He frowned. "Dead?"

....."Where's Mrs. Savaridge?" I looked at Tupov's companions this time. A flash of doubt flickered over their expressions.

....."In the van." He scowled. "You fucking my head around?"

....."She's all we've got." I ignored the vertigo and climbed to my feet. Tupov tried to push me down, but his doubts had weakened him. I pushed back. The dead thugs stepped forward; the receptionist raised her gun. "Wait." I pulled hard on my cigarette. "Let me think."

.....A loudspeaker rang through the shadowed warehouse. "All right Tupov! This is Authority, you are surrounded."

.....Tupov glared at me. "You brought them!"

....."Lay down your weapons and exit the building" The bullhorn continued.

....."Damn it! Use your head." I grabbed Tupov and shoved him hard against the rail. "Savaridge sent the money short so we'd fight, so he'd have time to get into position."

....."Savaridge hired me to whack his wife." Tupov insisted.

....."Did you really think he'd let you get away with that?" I slapped my own forehead. "Damn it, I almost deserve this." I grabbed Tupov's shoulder. His bodyguards were hurrying down the stairs to take up positions against the force I knew would be gathering. One of them must have paused to kill the overhead lights. Darkness collapsed around us.

....."How did you kill her?" I couldn't resist. I punched him hard in the temple. His head snapped back but I kept him on his feet. "After Blacktimecan she talk?" I caught the forms of the thugs flitting across the dark warehouse floor. Their guns glinted blue.

....."In the heart. I shot her heart." Moisture glistened in Tupov's eyes. "The boys grind her up when we get paid."

.....I flinched when the first string of shots echoed in the air. Someone screamed. Floodlights illuminated the warehouse's windows-threw crazy shadows across the ceiling.

....."In the van?" There was a loud report, and I saw smoke begin to creep from the hallway and out across the warehouse floor. Tracer bullets ricocheted. I turned to Tupov. "What were you supposed to do with me? When you called him. What did he tell you to do?"

....."He said he pay the difference that you ripped." Tupov's whole body shook when a blistering line of gunfire strafed and sparked on the walls around us. The smoke billowed in. "Plus said we whack you for another two."

.....I needed time to think and I didn't have any. I was about twenty-five feet from the van that contained the remains of Anna Savaridge. I had her cold-blooded murderer in my hands. His boss her husband had brought gunmen with him and was unlikely to leave any witnesses.

.....I pulled my Glock and without hesitation placed the mouth of the barrel between Tupov's eyes.

Some Time Alone

.....I could hear the van doors open through the rubber sheeting that was wrapped around Anna Savaridge and me. The gunfire had died down some time ago. Voices had bellowed, bad guys were captured or killed. I imagined that the dead thugs had been difficult to overcome. How do you kill a guy who's dead? My initial theory that Savaridge would bring an army was wrong. Most likely he'd bring a few loyal guns, or underlings he could either trust or silence with a bullet.

.....I felt Anna Savaridge's recently killed body go stiff when her husband's voice echoed in the van.

....."Oh my god!" He said. "They killed her."

.....I could smell Mrs. Savaridge's blood on the rubber sheet that bound us together. It was pooled under us. I was sticky with it, my own too.

....."No." Savaridge said. "No. No. You look around for others." I heard muffled voices. "No, you look for them. I saw them head that way. To the back." There was a thick sobbing sound. "I need to do this for her. You look for themdon't let them get away." He paused mid-soap opera. "I want them to pay."

.....And I knew he wanted to be alone with his dead wife to be sure the job was done properly. I heard footsteps move away, there was silence for a full minute. Then the rubber sheet was flung back.

.....Through closed eyelashes I saw that Savaridge stood at the rear of the van, his long black overcoat gleamed with moisture. "Anna?"

.....I felt some minor stiffening of her dead limbs but she did not answer. We had already had a talk. Mrs. Savaridge and I had a plan. Tupov was out cold across the front seat. I had bound and gagged him.

.....From the shadow I saw that Savaridge had a gun, its barrel drooped as he looked at his wife-there was nothing on his face. He looked at me and a cold sneer curled his lip. He mumbled something like "Clown, too" then looked back to his wife.

.....I reached up, snatched Savaridge's gun, then grabbed his coat and pulled him into the van. His wife's dead arms and legs wrapped around him and her eyes snapped open. I slipped a hand over Savaridge's mouth.

....."When I came in here to hide, I was going to tell her." I whispered. Savaridge's face was barely an inch from his wife's. Her lifeless eyes stared into his. "But she was out of Blacktime. She'd already heard Tupov and the others talking about your deal, talking to me."

.....The dead woman's limbs vibrated as they tightened; I felt them go rigid as steel over her husband's ribs and hips. I heard a harsh exhale of breath. He whimpered something into my hand.

....."I think you two need some time alone."

.....Savaridge tried to plead when my hand left his mouth, but Anna's arms grew tighter around his ribcage. A breath squeaked out. He gasped something. Anna's lips curled back. Her teeth gleamed like fangs.

.....Slipping out of the van, I saw that a smoky haze still rolled over the floor-it would help cover my escape. I closed the doors and moved. When I was no more than twenty feet from the van, there was a horrible scream and then the vehicle shook on its old axles.

.....Distant footfalls followed. I used the distraction to melt into the shadows.

Copyright (c) 2003 by G. Wells Taylor


......

G. Wells Taylor lives in Canada and has worked as a journalist, copy writer and web graphic artist. In addition to polishing the sequels to his horror detective novel When Graveyards Yawn he edits and designs The Wildclown Chronicle, a strange new breed of online magazines.

Taylor has written numerous novels and screenplays that he plans to fit into a burgeoning publishing and production schedule. The works feature genres ranging from horror and science fiction to contemporary fiction.

He lists Raymond Chandler, Stephen King, Jack L. Chalker and D.H. Lawrence among his greatest inspirations.

NOTE: A revised version of this story forms part of the opening chapter of G. Wells Taylor's new collection of short stories, Wildclown: Hard-Boiled.


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"And I'll tell you right out that I'm a man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk."
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