Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The evolving Smitty

The ever evolving 'Smitty.'
I'm really getting excited.  As you can see.  The image of what and who Smitty is is coming along nicely. If you scroll back through earlier examples of the artwork you will see how the image has matured.
But a note of warning:  this is NOT the complete assemblage of the full cover I have in mind.  The original idea was have the above image seemingly lifting itself out of a blob of ink and becoming the three-dimensional hit man you see.  The original idea has morphed as well.  The blob of ink is no longer a blob of ink.  Now it's a blob of bright red blood.  Smitty may be behind the image now, walking away.  We MAY have Smitty out in the open and moving away underneath a brightly shinning street corner lamp.  Maybe not.

But whatever happens, I wanted to share this on-going creative montage with you.  I get kinda revved up doing this stuff!  I hope you do too.

If the rebirth of the Smitty short-story series takes place (and that is limited only to finding an ebook publisher willing to work with me)  I've got the line up for the first four short stories.  Yes, I want to make the series going four stories at a time.  Occasionally I might throw in a novella two short story combo.  But by in large, it'll be four stories in one package.  And it won't be going for ninety-nine cents a pop as it was at the other place.  By time Amazon takes its cut, and then the publisher takes his cut, out of the ninety-nine cents if I see a quarter out of it I consider myself damn lucky.  So the price will be higher.  Maybe pegged at around $1.99.   We'll see.

But there is a treat for you if the new series comes out.  I've rewritten the Call Me Smitty story--radically changed much of it yet keeping (if not adding) a layer of two of deeper raw emotion.  This revamp is called, There Is No Johnny--Call Me Smitty.

I'm pretty sure that when you read it, it'll knock your bloomers off and hand'em back to you.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sharing an old Turner/Frank story today

Turner Hahn
I thought I would share an oldie but a goodie with you today. A Turner Hahn/Frank Morales story I wrote a little over a year ago.  One of my favorites.  As, as I have often confessed, are these two characters of mine.
You know, being a writer who loves to write various serial pieces featuring clearly defined characters, I had to say it is much like being a parent.  Characters come along and they are like your children.  You develop them.  Watch the grow.  See them become mature.  They do indeed develop their own personalities which aren't necessarily the same as their creator's.  Turner and Frank are my first two.  My oldest.  Of course they are closest to my heart.  I've spent more time with them than with any other character so far.

The story I am going to share today is called Jimmy's Dead.   It's a favorite of mine because it cuts right to the heart of what makes these two guys tick.  You see their humanity in them.  Their sarcastic brand of humor.  You begin to like'em.  Begin to trust'em.

Yeah, like several of you, I love my Smitty character--that cold-hearted, yet oddly moral, killer of the night.  But in Turner and Frank I find two old friends I'd love to sit down and share a beer with (if I drank) and swap obscene jokes and laugh over the strange things that happen in this world.

You know; the things you normally do with friends.

Hope you enjoy it.

Jimmy’s Dead

In the back of the dimly lit pool hall the juke box was playing loudly.  Very loudly.  Playing to an empty space.  Playing to lost souls long since forgotten.

 Playing Smuggler’s Blues by Glenn Fry.  Appropriate, I thought, shoving hands into my trouser pockets and staring at the folded mass lying face down on the rickety looking table shoved rudely up against a wall.  Fry’s song told a story about drug buys gone bad, sleaze balls, and creeps you wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.

Creeps like Iggie Johansson and Mickey Mulligan.


Cops like us–my partner Frank Morales and me.  Homicide detectives.  Except we worked in the South Side Division while Iggie and Mickey worked out of Downtown.  After that there was nothing good to say about them.

Creeps.  Sleaze balls both of them.  Standing in front of us with smirks on their faces and toothpicks stuck in one side of the mouths.  One had thick curly black hair slicked down by gobs of some shiny oil and dressed in a business suit that had to cost a grand or more.  A Chicano pimp wannabe.  The other had a butch flat top, beady little brown eyes and a big red pulp of a nose which had seen too many greetings from a hammy fist or two smacking into it.

Looking at Mulligan and his smirking grin I wanted to flatten his nose just one more time myself.  It would have given me great pleasure.  The only thing I could think giving me more pleasure was possibly putting a slug in him.  One that’d wipe that smirk off his face permanently.

But not today.  Not today.


The place we stood in was called Howard’s Lounge.  It smelled of old urine and decades of the long forgotten smoking cigarettes as they tossed back shot after shot of cheap whiskey.  A dead place for dead souls.  Just a dive really–nothing but a long narrow room and a long oak bar stretching down one length of it.  The floor was worn through linoleum.  Once white linoleum but now a dirty brownish gray. The wall paper ancient, faded, and peeling.  The place was dark.  Only three or four light bulbs hanging from long electric wires down from a high ceiling lit the place.  Two of the three lit the green velvet tops of the six pool tables in the back of the place.

Frank Morales
There were only five us in the entire place.  Five of us–and one of us was very dead.  His name was Jimmy Platt.  A kid about twenty-two or twenty-three.  Just a skinny, pimple-faced white kid who had an alcoholic mother and a druggie of a father he hadn’t seen since he was about six or seven.   Just a good natured kid, for all his pedigree and upbringing, who liked to grin a lot and look for that quick score which would get him out of this section of town permanently.  Sure, he’d have a few scraps with the Law.  Frank and I had thrown his skinny ass in a holding tank two or three times over the years.  But nothing serious.  Nothing that resulted in any major charges.  Over the years we got to know Jimmy.  Got to like him.  Helped him out whenever we could.  A kid we wanted to help. Wanted to see get his life together and make something of himself.    He was someone we considered to be a friend.

Now he was dead.

Someone drilled him with a 9 mm in the back of the head at close range.  Drilled him here in the pool hall.  Drilled him sometime after closing time.  Around four a.m.  And interestingly, Iggie and Mickey were claiming Jimmy as their case.  Which was odd since the pool hall was in South Side’s bailiwick and Jimmy lived just a couple blocks away from here.

“Well, well, well.  Look what the sanitation department forgot to pick up,” Mickey growled his smirk widening as he pulled the toothpick from between his lips. “It’s the rich cop and his pet gorilla for a partner.  How’ya doin, boys?”

Frank–who by the way, is built like the east side of the Rockies and has a distinct resemblance of a Neanderthal–hell, he might even be a Neanderthal–nodded and stepped up and almost into the face of Mickey.

“How’s the rash, Mickey?  Is the medicine working?”

“What rash?  What are you talking about?”

“You know,” Frank continued softly, almost grinning. “That rash on your pecker.  I hear it’s tough to get rid of without surgery.  That’s what you get when you start playing doctor with the girls on this side of town.”

“I don’t have a rash, you oversized monkey,” the smirk leaving Mickey’s lips as he stepped back angrily and stuck the toothpick back between his lips.  “Who the hell told you two to come here and stick your noses into our case?  Scram!  This is our case.  We don’t need a couple of jerks like you fucking things up for us.”
“Oh, we can’t help you fuck things up any more than they are,” I said, almost grinning. “In that department you two boys don’t need anyone’s help.  No, we’re here because we have an interest in this case.”

“Says who?” Iggie grunted, dark black eyes peering at me with an almost bored expression as he rolled his toothpick to the other side of his lips. “What was this creep to you?”

“This . . . creep . . . as you call him was named Jimmy Platt.  He was a friend of ours.  A close friend.  Got a call from someone telling us to come down here and check it out.  Said something was screwy about his death.”

Iggie’s eyes narrowed as he reached up and pulled the toothpick from his lips.  Of the two Iggie was the brains.  And meaner.  Mickey Mulligan was an irritating oversized fly who needed to be squashed with an open palm.  But Iggie Johansson sadistic sonofabitch hiding behind a detective’s shield who knew how to work the system to his advantage.  He enjoyed his work.  And the rumor was he liked inflicting lots of pain on people he didn’t like.

Iggie didn’t like me one bit.  Which was okay by me.  I didn’t like him.  In fact I was really hoping he would try to correct the problem. 

But, dammit, I did say he had some savy to him.

“What do you mean something is screwy?”

“Just that, lover boy,” Frank grunted, flexing his fists.  The popping of his knuckles was very audible to all of us.  “We talked to Jimmy day before yesterday.  He seemed happy.  Told us he was going to marry his girlfriend and the two were getting the hell out of this city.  Now he’s dead.  Executed by the way it looks.  Looks screwy to me.”

Iggie’s blue eyes took in Frank’s scowl with a look sheer boredom in them as he stuck the toothpick between his lips again. 

“Nothing screwy about this case, Frank.  We got the call about an hour ago.  As far as we can tell it’s a contract kill.  Word is your friend was trying to put the touch on Nathan Brinkley.  Apparently he had some information which might seriously put a crimp on Brinkley’s gambling operations.  Brinkley is not the kind of guy you want to mess with.”

Nathan Brinkley was a hood.  A hood who had all of his sticky fingers deep into the pockets of just about every politician in the city.  He was into gambling, prostitution, and the ever lucrative drug business in a very big way.  He owned city politicians, state politicians, and some said even the governor.  He owned a few cops as well.

Like . . . maybe . . . Iggie Johansson and Mickey Mulligan.

“Got any proof to nail Brinkley?” I asked.

Iggie shook his head no.  As I knew he would.

“Witnesses?” Frank asked.

“So far, no one,” Mickey popped up with a smirk on his lips I wanted to slap off with a tire-iron. “Back door to this place has been jimmied open.  Apparently your friend broke in here trying to get away from someone.  They found him in here hiding underneath the table and popped him in the back of the head.”

Frank and I both turned and stared at fat nose.

“My, my, that’s good detective work Mickey,” I said softly.  “Your investigation told you Jimmy was hiding underneath the table when the killers found him?”

A little color drained from the smirking goon.  But before he could say anything Iggie jumped in.

“That’s what we think happened, Hahn.  We don’t know for sure.  But we figure if we find his girl she might give us some additional information.  We’ll ask her just as soon as we find out where she lives.”

“We know where she lives,” Frank grunted, knuckles popping like the staccato bark of a machine gun nest again. “Two blocks over.  Wilmont Arms.  Apartment 50.”

“Well now, isn’t that sweet,” Mickey put in, the arrogant grin on his lips again as he turned and nodded at his partner. “Isn’t it wonderful what public education can do for the verbally challenged these day, Iggie? Just amazing.”

Jimmy’s girl was a young prostitute by the name of Mary James.  She was a relatively new comer to the city.  Which meant she wasn’t the stung-out, desperate drug addict most prostitutes on this side of town eventually became.  How Jimmy and Mary hooked up was never explained.  But they had and–miracles of all miracles–something clicked between the two of them.  They fell in love.  They became a team.  Each worked magic on the other.  And together they became better people.  They wanted to change their lives.  Wanted to marry.  Wanted to have a family.

Wanted to be normal.

Wasn’t going to happen.  Not with a 9 mm slug in the back of Jimmy’s head.

“Tell you what,” Iggie nodded and smiled. “We’ll go over and see if she’s home.   Follow us over and we’ll talk to her.  All of us.  How’s that for cooperation?”

“Sure,” I said, nodding. “We’re all for cooperation, Iggie. We’ll be over in a couple of minutes.  Frank and I want to look the place over first.  You know, give you a hand in your investigation.  Maybe we’ll find something you overlooked.”

Mulligan laughed, shaking his head.

“Yeah, right.  I didn’t know you were a comedian, Hahn.”

Without saying another word the two men brushed past us and walked out of the bar.  When the door closed behind him I reached inside my sport coat and pulled out my cell phone.

“Calling Mary?”

I nodded as I flipped the phone open and lifted it to my ear.  It began ringing.   And ringing.  And ringing.

“They seemed too damn eager for us to follow them over to her apartment,” Frank said, a hand rubbing his jaw.  “This smells, Turner.  Really smells.”

I flipped the phone closed and dumped it back inside the coat.  Frank looked and me and frowned.

“Betcha a hundred clams she’s dead already,” I said, feeling the grim fingers of certainty gripping my stomach and grinding it into a small knot. “They iced both of’em.  What one didn’t know the other did.  Jimmy found something nasty about Brinkley and told her everything.  So both of’em had to be eliminated.”

Frank nodded in agreement and turned to stare at the door.

“Never wanted to pull my gun on anyone and shoot them, Turner.  Never.  Had to sometimes.  But never wanted to.  Tonight I want to.”

“Let’s go,” I said, shaking my head but not saying anything else.

I felt exactly the same way.

Out in the summer’s hot night air we walked to the ‘91 Chevy Z-28 Camaro rag top we were driving tonight–a car out of my collection–and started to get in.  The night was pitch black, the heat was stifling, and the air was as still as a tomb.  We were walking in a concrete and brick canyon of stillness and gloom and feeling a bit edgy. We were expecting almost anything.  So as we stepped past the black hole of an alley opening between buildings to get the car we heard the rattle of a beer can being kicked in the darkness to our left.

My Kimber .45 semi-auto and Frank’s 9 mm Glock were in our hands before the beer can rolled to a slow finish between us.
“Jesus, you two!  But the goddamn cannons away before someone gets hurt!”

The voice came out of the blackness of the alley.  But there was nothing to see.  It was nothing but a very black patch hanging in mid air of a black night between the dark shadows of two run down brick buildings.  Yet we didn’t have to see.  The voice had a distinct British clip to it and we were quite familiar with it.  It belonged to the owner of Howard’s Lounge.

“Christ, Turk! “ I hissed, lifting the muzzle of the Kimber up and thumbing the safety on again before sticking it underneath my left armpit. “It’s not the time of the night to play peek-a-boo!”

‘Turk’ Buchanan stayed buried in the darkness of the alley and refused to step forward.

“Turner . . . Frank, you can’t let them get away with this.  Those bastards did it.  They killed Jimmy.”

“Turk, come out here and let’s talk,” Frank grunted, the Glock still in his hands but the muzzle down as he glanced to his left and right. “Iggie and Mickey are gone.  They’re not going to see you.”

“Like hell!  I’m not about to show my face.  In fact, I’m leaving this place.  Leaving the goddamn country, mate!  I’m heading back to London tonight and you’ll never see my white ass again.  Never!”

“Did you see them do it?  Did you see them pull the trigger?” I asked, stepping close toward the alley opening.  “If you did we have them.  We can put’em away for a lifetime.”

“That’s just it, Turner.  I saw nothing,” the Cockney accent clipped back in anguish. “I was in the back room opening some cases of beer when I heard the back door jimmied open.  I didn’t stick my head out to see who it was.  I turned off the storeroom light and hid behind some cases of gin.   I heard Jimmy’s voice crying and pleading for his life.  I heard a second voice just laughing.  And then I heard the juke box start playing.  I thought I heard a gunshot, but I’m not sure.”

“If you saw nothing, how do you know it was Iggie and Mickey?”

“Yesterday afternoon they came around asking about Jimmy.  They seemed really interested in finding him.   And the way they kept asking questions I got the feeling they weren’t asking as cops.  They had other interests with Jimmy they wanted to complete.”

“You see Jimmy before he was popped?” Frank asked.

“Yesterday morning,” came the voice. “Early.  The kid was hopping with excitement.  Said he had tickets for Mary and him to get out of town that night.   All he had to do was make a phone call and get the money.  I said that was great.  I liked Jimmy, Frank.  I liked Mary.  Both were kids who had bad things they didn’t deserve happen to them.  Just kids, that’s all they were.  Just kids.”

Frank glanced at me and nodded.  I said nothing and half turned to stare down the dark empty street.  In my gut I knew we were too late.  Too goddamn late.

“You got enough to get out of town?” I asked, not looking at the black opening of the alley. “Need in cash?”

“Naw, I’m fine, Turner.  But if you’d do me a favor, you could make arrangements to sell the bar and send me the cash.”

“Sure.  Take care yourself, Turk.”

We left the darkness of the alley and climbed into the Camaro.  It didn’t take long to drive over to the Wilmont Arms.  When we arrived we found what we expected.  Mary was lying face down in her bed dressed in nothing but a pair of sheer panties.  Her legs were spread apart, her arms hanging off the edge of the bed.  She had long blond hair.  It fell like liquid gold down onto the floor.  Scattered over the bed beside her were various prescription bottles.  Sleeping pills and anti-depressants.  All empty.

Iggie and Mickey were waiting for us as we walked into the bedroom and found her.  Both had the looks of someone knowing they had pulled something over you and you knew you couldn’t do a damn thing about it.  Their smirking faces almost got them killed.

“Well, that’s that, Turn.  Case closed,” Iggie grunted, his smirk spreading across his lips as he handed me a crumpled piece of paper.  “Nothing more than a murder-suicide.  Mary’s the one who shot Jimmy.  From what the note says she found him in bed with another dame.  She tracked him down and found in at the bar at closing time.  After she pulled the trigger she went crazy.  Apparently she came home and decided to go to sleep.  Permanently.”

I glanced at the note and then handed it to Frank.  It was Mary’s handwriting.  It would hold up in court.  But it didn’t matter.   The note was a lie.  Mary would never do anything to Jimmy.  She loved him.

“You expect us to believe this?” I asked, staring at Iggie and barely keeping myself under control.

“Don’t give a damn what you believe, Sparky.  Like I said, case closed.  We’ll just mosey downtown and start filling out the paperwork.  See ya.”

For the second time that night they physically brushed past us and tried to move us aside.  Neither of us budged.  Turning, we watched them move to the apartment door and open it.  Iggie walked out the door first.  But Mulligan paused in the doorway, turned, and looked at us grinning.  Lifting a hand up, he pointed a finger at me and clicked his thumb forward as if it was the hammer of a pistol.  And then he left.  We heard the sound of his laughter echoing in the hallway outside.

It took a few seconds to get myself under control.  Frank’s breathing was slow and measured as well.  But we did.  Barely.

“Turner, you know they as much as confessed they killed both of’em.  Iggie’s comment about Brinkley puts them right in the middle of this bullshit.”

I nodded, saying nothing, flexing hands into fists and staring at the apartment door.

“It ain’t over, pal.” Frank said softly, but not talking to me, as he stared at the open door of the apartment.   Whispering in a soft hiss that could raise the hairs on the back of the neck of a corpse.  “It’s a long way from over.  We’ll be seein’ya soon.  Very soon.”     

I nodded in agreement.  It wasn’t over.  Not by a long shot.

Friday, February 24, 2012

More odds and ends to consider

If you haven't heard, J.L. Rowling has signed a deal with Little, Brown &Co. as her new publisher.  She's about to come out with something new.  Very hush hush.  Won't reveal the title or a synopsis of the book.  But it sounds like the release is imminent.

Goody!  Looking forward to this.  Yes, I read all the Harry Potter novels.  Turns out that after you get past the first one (originally designed for a YA audience--basically for a bunch of seventh and eighth graders)  the novels begin to get quite innovative and rather dark in nature.  I really do believe Rowling took Fantasy in a whole new direction--came up with some original concepts when the story dealt with magic.

Rowling was original--yet not so original--in her writing.  Original in that she painted a different portrait of magic and the fantasy world.  Different in that she kept to the traditional rules of creating a highly sophisticated plot that required fully developed, three-dimensional, characters to occupy and interact with each other. THAT'S what made the Potter series marvelous to read!  The characters.

But now NEW stuff is coming out!  And I can't help but roll my hands in anticipation.  A couple of years ago a rumor began circulating around that Rowling was spotted frequenting her old writing sites and doing some intensive writing.  The rumors went on and said she was . . . perhaps . . . writing a crime story.

Oooooooh . . . !  Now wouldn't that be delicious!  Adding 'crime' to her brand of 'magic' in a story!

And now this little tidbit. . . .

Ever heard of a website called Kickstarter.com?  A web site to pitch ideas . . . on just about anything and everything . . . to potential would-be investors.  Raising money for new projects to start up.  From businesses to comic books.

In fact Publishers Weekly has a fascinating article about a comic book start up that raised 1.25 million dollars to get it up and running!   This is, frankly, one of the Internets finest moments.  Providing instant access to investors who would be willing/foolish/crazy/or visionary in funding just about anything that comes down the pike.  Honestly, I think it's a fabulous idea!  It by-passes the stodgy traditional gate-keepers in the financial markets and goes straight to the heart of the matter!  An investor either likes the idea or he doesn't.  There are no middle-men to contend with.

Hmmm. . . some friends and I are creating a graphic novel.  Maybe, when the project is three/quarters complete, we ought to think about going this route.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

As promised, here's an update on the on-going cover design for the Smitty series of short-stories I'm writing.  If you compare Smitty from my earlier blog the boy is dressed significantly different.  More like what a lot of people envision.

There is going to be just one more modification to the figure.  Somehow we've got to incorporate the idea of physical motion.  Yes, it seems as if he is walking away.  But he's too tidy.  And you haven't seen the complete imagery I have in mind.  Somewhere in the composition is going to be smear of blood.  VERY bright red blood actually smeared in a downward angle, suggesting someone just ate a bullet and slowly slid down the face of a wall, leaving a bloody trail behind him.

I have an idea on how to accomplish this.  We'll see how it goes.

And now a treat (I hope!)

I mentioned I'm writing a full Smitty novel tentatively called 'The Ripper' (title subject to change).  And  if you'll recall, I shared the rough draft of chapter one in the book recently.  I want to share another chapter with you.  Share it with a specific idea in mind.  I think it's a scary, balls-grabbing chapter!  But . . . . is it?  I need feedback.  And you're just the huckleberries who'll give me some.

Read it.  Critique it.  Make suggestions (maybe I'll accept, maybe not).  Put your two cents in and let me know what you think.  (remember, it is just the first draft.  Words, ideas, concepts may change)

 Yeah; it is important to me to hear your ideas . . .

Here's the set-up;  the cops and Smitty are looking for a serial-killer who reminds the public of the bloody antics of London's Jack the Ripper.  On a rainy night a call comes in from a truck driver that he's heard a woman screaming down by the docks.  So cops go investigate.  And here's where it starts to get spooky . .


            The black and white cruiser smashed through the lakes and small seas of rain water filled streets like some kind of prehistoric ocean predator, sending red and blue eerie, almost surreal, beams of light through the pounding rain.  The beams of colored light reflected off the dark windows of warehouses as the cruiser turned down a narrow alley of street and slid to a halt.  Officers Joe Gallagher and a rookie by the name of Jerald Arthur came out of the car with flashlights in one hand and pulling from their holsters their department issued Glock 9 millimeter weapons with the other.
            A truck driver called in a report that he heard screaming . . . a woman screaming hysterically . . . somewhere close by.  The warehouse/wharf district was the killing grounds for the madman who was terrorizing the city with his grisly murders of prostitutes.  So when the call came in dispatch was routing marked and unmarked cruisers to rendezvous there as fast as possible.  Just so happened he and his rookie partner were the first to arrive.
            "Stay close and watch our back!  Got that?" he barked, aiming the beam of his flashlight into the face of the big black kid with the big, frightened eyes staring back at him.
            "Got it, sarge."
            Joe didn't like it.  Didn't like not having his regular partner with him tonight.  Didn't like the idea of being saddled with a rookie's first night out on the beat.  But Artie had called in sick with another one of his migraine headaches and the lieutenant told him to stay home and take a couple of days off.  Ten minutes later the louey informed him he was stuck with the rookie for the night.  Bad enough it was raining with an electrical light show lighting up the skyline--always a combination that made people edgy in this town--but now this!  A call that maybe The Ripper was working his grisly trade again and they were the first ones on the scene!           
            He almost grinned when he saw how frightened the big kid was.  The kid's hand were shaking violently; the kid's flashlight beam dancing all over the place as it cut through the heavy rain and black night.  The gun hand shaking so violently the gun looked like it was ready to drop out of his hand.  Reaching out he used the hand holding his flashlight and pushed hard on the kid's big shoulders.
            "Jerald!  Get a grip on yourself.  You've got to focus.  You can't let fear cloud your judgment! Otherwise it could kill both of us!  Understand?"
            "Yeah . . . yeah, sarge.  I understand," the big guy nodded.
            "Good.  So let's go."
            In the distance they heard approaching sirens of other cruisers hurrying to this location.  Just a few more minutes and the place would be crawling with cops.  Just a few more minutes.
            But that's when the scream.
            Not just a scream.  Something horrible.  Something almost primordial.  A woman's scream filled with all the emotions of someone being both terrified and terrorized at the same time.  The sound hung in the rain . . . seem to reverberate off the brick walls of the warehouses around them. 
            "This way!" Joe yelled, heaving the beam of his flashlight toward the open door of an abandoned warehouse.
            The two of them ran through the rain and dived into the black abyss of the doorway, the beams of their heavy flashlights cutting the night open like a sharpened scalpel.   Cautiously they began moving through the darkness while the rain, and the lightning and thunder, continued to rattle the night outside.
            "I dunno," Gallagher answered, shaking his head. "I thought I saw a shadow move in the doorway.  Maybe I was seeing things.  But to be on the safe side let's check this place out from top to bottom."
            They both involuntarily ducked with an ear-splitting boom of thunder cracked open the night and physically rattled the building they momentarily occupied.  Regaining their composure they began to systematically search the ground floor.  Slowly.  Methodically.  Flashlights arcing back and fourth probing every dark hole and hidden crevice they found.  Minutes slipped by and then Jerald, looking over his shoulder, saw the stabbing beams of more flashlights moving outside.
            "Sarge, helps arrived."
            "Good," Gallagher said, nodding and turning to aim his flashlight at the first figure to enter through the open door of the warehouse.
            Two patrol officers came through the door with flashlights glaring and guns drawn.  Both beams of light fell on Gallagher and the rookie at the same time.
            "Derek!  Peterson!  Stick with us!  We're going upstairs to check this place out," Gallagher yelled. "Heard a woman screaming just before you got here, so watch out!  I think she's in here."
            The two officers nodded and hurried over the broken, littered floor of the warehouse to join them.  Gallagher nodded and then turned his flashlight toward the rack of stairs which led up into the darkness to the second floor.  Ascending the steps in a tight gaggle of light and high strung nerves the four officers stepped out onto the creaking boards of the second floor of the warehouse and aimed their flashlights to the middle of the room.
            All four beams landed onto the bloody mass of steaming flesh lying in the middle of the floor at the same time.  A kill so fresh, bathed in the powerful light of four beams, blood was still spilling out of the ghastly cavity that once was a woman's vagina.
            "Oh my gaw . . . . !" one of the officers yelped, turning suddenly to one side and retching violently at the same time.
            "Jesus, sweet Jesus," the rookie whispered softly as he stared at the mound of bleeding flesh.
            "Jerald!" Gallagher barked, throwing his flashlight beam over to his right and at the base of stairs which led up to the warehouse's third floor.  "You stay here with Peterson and make sure nothing disturbs the body.  Derek and me will go up to the third floor and check it out!  And for chrissake, call for forensics and a meat wagon to get over here!"
            The big kid could only nod silently as he stepped back to the still heaving Peterson, gripping his gun firmly in the process.  Gallagher, playing his flashlight first across the rookie's face, and then checking out Peterson to see how sick he was, nodded and told the officer behind him to follow him.  Moving to the first step of the stairs they aimed their flashlights up into the darkness and began ascending slowly.
            Jerald watched his sergeant and the other officers disappear upstairs before turning his light toward the now somewhat recovered Officer Peterson.  The man was standing up and using a kerchief to wipe his mouth clean as he turned toward the big man standing beside him.  As he did his flashlight swept across the body.
            "What the hell . . . ? " he murmured as he squinted his eyes and leaned forward to see better.
            Jerald heard the officer's odd tone in his voice and turned his flashlight toward the body as well.  The moment he did he saw it as well.  The Devil.  The Devil rising out of the corpse of the dead woman!  A black form . . . no face . . . no hands . . . just a black form with a large blood stained blade of a butcher's knife gripped in one black fist came rising out of dead woman's carcass in a blur of motion and hurled itself straight at them!  It moved so fast neither had time to lift their weapons and fire at the mirage before it struck!
            Jerald felt something heavy and hard smack into his chest.  A blow so powerful it made him stagger two or three steps back and drop both his gun and his flashlight at the same time.  As he staggered back he heard the officer behind grunt in a surprised fashion.  And then silence.  But not completely silent.  Bending down the rookie felt the floor beside him for both his weapon and his flashlight.  He felt more than saw in the darkness Peterson still standing beside him.  He also felt something wet . . . something hot . . . splattering across his cheeks and the back of his neck.
            Finding gun and flashlight the rookie stood up and whipped the light around in all directions searching for the thing which had  rushed them.  Finding nothing near him he turned his light toward Peterson.
            Peterson stood facing the rookie.  Stood with both hands clutching his throat.  Stood with his mouth moving as if he was trying to speak.  Stood with eyes wide with astonishment.  And blood.  Blood pouring out of his mouth in great spurts.  The hot liquid which had splattered Jerald's cheek and neck as he hunted for his gun and flashlight.
            Jerald could not help himself.  He started screaming.  Screaming hysterically.  Screaming . . .