01 Sep Dumpster RabbittZ – Part Five
Dumpster RabbittZ – Part Five
Bryan Higby and Ricky D. Snyder
“Anything come back on that missing persons yet?” Detective Moxley called through the intercom to dispatch. A few seconds passed and then a spunky female voice came across the line.
“Nothing yet detective.”
The line went dead. Moxley sat stewing on this dead-end case. He had crime scene photos of the deceased Ken Kennedy eaten half to bits by something. The dispatchers had been premature when sending out the 187 code to surrounding cruisers. Had to be wrong on that point. Moxley had visited the morgue, seen the teeth marks with his own baby blues. It had to be an animal but nowhere in CarLowDen’s history of animal attacks did those bite marks match. Two more uniformed cops had been sent out to the golf course with another animal control guy earlier this morning. The detective hadn’t heard back from them either.
Moxley checked his watch—nine AM. It had been almost three hours since the last deputies were sent to the golf course. He pressed the intercom button again.
“Dispatch? How many more uniforms we have on duty?”
A few seconds while the dispatcher checked the shift schedule.
“Ten. Three on patrol. Two on break. Two were sent out to the golf course, nothing back from them yet, one called in sick, and…”
“No whereabouts for officers Perez and Hamilton again sir,” the dispatcher sounded more than annoyed.
Moxley knew what again meant. He was on his feet exiting his office. The station was dead silent except for the moans coming from the men’s room. The detective almost snarled as he quietly pushed open the restroom door and entered. Glancing beneath the stalls he saw a pair of police boots with blue uniform slacks framing them. He heard muffled moans and then a shriek. Perez and Hamilton were at it again. Moxley peered through the crack in the door and saw Officer Maria Perez naked from the waist down, uniform top open, bra missing, sitting on Hamilton’s lap. One erect nipple between Officer Hamilton’s teeth.
He slammed a fist on the stall door and both uniforms squeaked.
“Assholes, we have a corpse in the morgue and a possible rabid animal on the loose. Four missing cops and two animal control guys MIA. I need all my deputies on the roads looking for that animal and the missing persons not in the john screwing like a couple of horny rabbits. Get dressed and get the hell out on the roads, or both of you will find yourselves looking for other employment. Is that clear?”
Perez and Hamilton both fumbled over one another answering yes, yes, absolutely sir.
“And no more screwing in the station. You want to do that you do it on your own time,” Moxley snarled as he walked out of the restroom.
He adjusted the crotch of his own slacks for a second before walking back through the station. Moxley stopped at the dispatcher counter for a minute.
“Kelly, put another call to Brown and, who’s on shift with him today?”
Kelly, the dispatcher, checked the schedule again.
“Call them again,” he said starting for his office but then stopped and called. “Get Sergeant Mullinex on the line too.”
“Statees? You really think that’s necessary detective?”
“Would I ask for them if it wasn’t?”
Moxley slammed the office door.
* * *
Officers Brown and Ripley had tracked the blood trail from Ken Kennedy’s shack to the now defunct CarLowDen Golf Course Clubhouse. The Clubhouse was huge, with gray flaking paint, slumped roofs. The windows were all still intact but greased over with dirt, dust and grime. The bushes that were once beautifully manicured were now overgrown with weeds. There was a foreboding feeling that permeated the place. Like a haunted house in some kid’s spook story. This place had that same feeling. All four of the men standing in front of the CarLowDen Clubhouse felt the goose flesh rise on their necks.
“I, ah, I’m gonna head back I think,” Miles stuttered as he turned around and faced back toward the sprawling lawn.
“Wait right there mister. You’re a county employee. Your job is animal control and based off everything we’ve seen this fits the bill. So toughen up and let’s go inside there,” Officer Brown said.
His partner, Ripley, didn’t seem too keen on going inside the clubhouse either.
“Fine, fuck this. I quit,” Miles said, walking away from the others.
The cops watched him walk and Rice fired off a couple of pictures. They were so disgusted with this loser that they could spit nails.
“Fucking amateurs,” Brown snarled as he approached the front door of the clubhouse. He was one of those hero cops, flat top, broad chested. The kind of guys that made you sick. Ripley on the other hand was a tall skinny cop with a Barney Fife bull-legged style walk.
Officer Brown pointed to a busted window in the front door. The bloody tracks went through that window. What killed Ken Kennedy was inside the clubhouse, Officer Brown would bet his pension on it. Jeff Rice shot some more pictures of the front of the clubhouse as the officers reached for the door.
“Locked,” Brown said, reaching through the busted glass.
He found the deadbolt latch on the other side and flicked it open.
“Call this in,” he said to his partner as he pulled open the door.
Officer Ripley called into his shoulder CB. Brown heard his partner speaking to the morning dispatcher, Kelly. He glanced back over his shoulder as he watched that asshole animal control guy disappear into the trees. Karma would snatch up that jerk, Brown was certain of it.
* * *
Miles was almost running back to his Dodge. He didn’t bother looking over his shoulder. It was one thing to follow a possible blood trail in the sunlight across a misused golf course. It was quite another to follow a couple of flat foots inside a haunted clubhouse. Whatever animal killed that Kennedy guy was not the kind of animal Miles wanted to meet in person. Especially not in a dark spooky ass clubhouse. He was quite happy with raccoons, dogs, or cats but that thing mauled the shit out of old Ken Kennedy. Maybe it was a black bear that wandered in from the woods. Not unheard of.
He was almost at the Dodge when he heard a familiar voice calling to him from the back doors of the Animal Control van. That stupid Pollock was inside the van for some idiotic reason. Maybe he saw the animal that those cops were tracking. Maybe it scared him so bad that he wussed out. If Miles had half a brain he would have realized that he too had wussed out on the job.
“Bernie? That you?”
“Yeah, Miles…Miles come take a look. I caught something cool. I wanta show you…”
It was definitely Bernie Falchuk’s voice coming from the back of the van, but there was something wrong about. It sounded like that idiot but not quite the same. Miles was still holding his Taser in his left hand as he approached the double doors in the back of the van.
“Bernie what the hell, man? You drunk again?”
Miles approached the windows in the back of the van and peered inside. The interior was dark, almost black. A strange blackness. Without thinking, or maybe he was being compelled somehow, Miles dropped his Taser onto the gravel driveway and opened the double doors. What he saw then—long jagged fangs, glowing reddish pink eyes, and drooping ears, made him scream. Too late, the things in the back of the van, who were formerly cops and Bernie Falchuk, but now twisted and changed, snatched Miles and pulled him into all that darkness as they sank their teeth into his flesh, injecting him with the venom.
Across town Detective Moxley finally received the updates from Officers Ripley and Brown regarding their investigation at the CarLowDen Golf Course. No sign of the two previous cops, or Bernie Falchuk. Ripley told Moxley that Miles Schakowsky, the animal control guy, had quit. They were heading inside the CarLowDen Clubhouse following the trail of blood and Ripley was requesting backup.
Detective Moxley snagged deputies Perez and Hamilton as he exited the station.
“Follow me to CarLowDen Golf Course. We might have a break in the Kennedy case,” Moxley said as they exited the station house.
The deputies slid inside their cruiser and followed their senior officer out of town.
* * *
“So, what you’re saying is you don’t really have a plan. You have a small arsenal of weapons and you’re going blindly out to the CarLowDen Golf Course to hunt down this wererabbit and hopefully kill it,” Randy, said rubbing his bloodshot eyes.
He had a point. Rob and I didn’t have an actual plan, at least we were proactive though. The janitor and I sat silent, like a couple of bad students facing the firing squad. Randy’s eyes were practically bullets of frustration.
“Okay, why did I call off work for this? John, I love you like a brother pal, we’ve been close for years, but traipsing out into the CarLowDen woods, or golf course, with a bunch of weapons…remember John you’ve got no experience with guns, and hunting down a wererabbit sounds insane. Why not just contact the cops and let them know what you’ve got?”
Rob and I looked at one another and shook our heads.
“You kidding Ran? Those bozos? CarLowDen cops are a bunch of redneck morons. They’d end up getting bit or some shit by one of those rabid things and that would start a chain reaction,” I said, not knowing how true that statement was at the time.
“That Detective Moxley that took our statements seemed pretty adept,” Randy said.
We had all finished our coffees and breakfast. I remembered why Ralph’s was called The Grease Spot as my stomach churned. Mister hairy ass and Mister toilet seat would be making a long-term acquaintance soon.
“Moxley? You think he believed a word of my statement?”
I shook my head, feeling the morning exhaustion wear on me like a bad migraine.
“You fellas finished, gotta turn over this booth,” Al said. There was a line forming.
I checked the grease-smeared clock on the wall over the grill.
“Almost ten? Damn. Time flies,” I said.
“Yeah, Al bring the check,” Randy said, smiling.
“You got this covered Ran? Me and Rob were thinking about going back to his place, pulling out some local maps and strategizing our next move.”
Randy ran his comb through his mustache.
“If you promise to call Detective Moxley before you make that move,” Randy said.
Rob and I looked at one another. Rob just shrugged. He was a pushover.
“Deal,” I said as Al delivered the check and we slid out of the booth.
As Randy was paying the check and Rob and I were sliding into our jackets, I had rescued my corduroy jacket from Marty’s at some point, trust me on that point, Al mumbled something about the activity out at the golf course.
“What’s that about the golf course, Al?”
Al took Randy’s cash, rang it up, and gave him change.
“Strangest damned thing. Old Ken Kennedy’s death, police scanner says more cops were rolled out to the site. Seems there is something serious happening at that old golf course. Place gives me the creeps. It always has, ever since we was kids. Guess the feeling was mutual. Probably why the county closed it up for good a few years back,” Al said.
“More cops out at the CarLowDen Golf Course you say?”
“Yep, oh anything else Randy?”
“Nope, Randy Bliss has left the building,” Randy mused as Al chuckled.
Outside Randy met me and Rob at Rob’s truck.
“Maybe we oughta take a trip out to the old golf course,” he said.
“Golf course? What for? Me and John got it figured that we’d stop by the Bateman, load up with some artillery first,” Rob said.
I was smoking an American Spirit, the last in my pack.
“Old Al just gave me the skinny on some police activity out there,” Randy said.
A few seconds later Rob was reaching beneath the dashboard of his old Chevy. There was an RCA CB system screwed beneath the dashboard. A police scanner was attached to the bottom of the CB. Ran and I listened as Rob tuned into the local police station. There was some chatter about cops at the CarLowDen Golf Course Clubhouse. It was kind of weird because there was one uniformed deputy who was giving a play by play of the interior of the clubhouse. I knew that place like the back of my hand. In the time when I worked as Ken Kennedy’s assistant greens keeper I had been in and out of that building hundreds, maybe thousands of time. I knew just where the cops were.
“Brown this is Sergeant Mullinex, New York State Troopers. We received a code 10-91L and a possible 10-57, and 10-00 from your station dispatcher,” Sergeant Mullinex said. He sounded like a big bear of a man, deep guttural voice.
“Ah, we have a definite 10-57, and a possible 10-00. None of our previous officers present. Making our way through the CarLowDen Clubhouse, blood trail led us here…out.”
Officer Brown cut out and the radio went silent for a bit. Randy looked at us.
“Follow me,” he said sliding into his El Camino.
* * *
Officers Ripley and Brown were moving slowly through the clubhouse with reporter Jeff Rice on their tail. Their flashlights scanned the horrible remains of a once beautiful golf clubhouse gone to seed. This place back in the day had been a major stopping place for the high class big spenders coming down from Canada. The 1970’s, 80’s, and 90’s had been good years for the CarLowDen Golf Course. Once stocks crashed and the housing market tumbled, no one had extra green to roll their balls on the well-manicured greens of this golf course. The Blue Mansion behind the golf course was still prospering however and no one could figure that out.
Brown glanced around, amazed at how just five years could turn this once ritzy place into a weathered hovel. Ceiling tiles collapsed, walls busted through, expensive carpets soiled by rain and animal feces. He was sure that the high school kids and vagrants had taken their time with the expensive décor as well. Just another wasted fountain of cash down the county drain.
When the reporter, Jeff Rice, fired off a couple of shots from his camera in the large lobby, Brown scowled.
“Rice, keep that flash off. We don’t want to spook whatever animal is in here…” Brown said.
“Or, vagrant,” Ripley added.
Brown looked at his partner for a second and nodded his head.
“What a waste,” Rice whispered staring around at the deserted relic.
“Yeah just more wealth flushed down the financial toilet,” Brown said, moving forward.
He shone his flashlight beam around the floor trying to spot the blood trail. There it was. His light flashed across the grimy carpet but all three of them didn’t need a floodlight to see the blood. The red stuff was plastered everywhere.
“Oh god it stinks in here, man,” Ripley said, covering his mouth.
“Yeah smells like a…”
“Week old grave? Maggotty stink and flesh and…” Rice said, finishing Brown’s statement. He caught the cops watching him and he shut up quick.
The cops all looked back at the reporter for a second.
“We need to leave now. I got a really bad feeling about this,” Rice said, backing up, but that’s just when they heard the first signs of life moving about in the shadows.
Something ran across the lobby, fast. The cops flashed it with a light but all they saw was a…cotton tail?
“What the hell was that?” Brown asked.
“Cotton tail?” Ripley said.
They were not aware of the written statement that John Friend had given to the police, the statement about a demented large rabbit. If they had known that they might have run, or called for backup. Rice was not stopping. He back pedaled and ran toward the front of the lobby, shooting off his flashbulb to illuminate his way. With each flash he got closer to the front doors. There was still sun out there but the gray rain clouds were quickly rolling in.
“Rip, we’re going to follow that thing, whatever it is,” Officer Brown said in his most red, white, and blue voice as he snagged his shoulder CB. “Sergeant Mullinex?”
A second passed and then Mullinex’s voice was on the line.
“Yes, Brown. We’re on route. ETA fifteen minutes.”
“We have a possible 8-385. We spotted the animal a second ago. Be advised that we are still inside the CarLowDen Golf Course Clubhouse on Whitaker Road. Officers Ripley and myself are in pursuit,” Brown cut out and moved forward.
Rice was nearly at the front doors now and turned back to see the two uniformed cops moving deeper into the clubhouse.
“Officers I’m advising you to withdraw now. I think I know…”
When Officer Ripley belted out a blood curdling scream and Officer Brown fired off three rounds of his service revolver, Jeff Rice bolted to the front doors. He heard something scurrying behind him and could only imagine what that something was, as the reporter’s blood chilled. All the hairs on his body stood up. Rice lived in DenMark, a small city thirty minutes away from CarLowDen. DenMark was a bizarre place, different than most. Rice had covered many strange and unusual stories. What he was experiencing here was just the same. Had that bizarre evil that filled his city finally seeped out? Rice paused at the grimy glass doors, hearing the cops scream—more gunfire. He turned on his heels and took a series of photographs before he pushed out of the clubhouse doors, heart bumping, legs pushing him back to his Oldsmobile.
* * *
We hit Whitaker Road going about seventy. We could barely see Ran’s El Camino now that he was so far ahead. The guy had to be going at least ninety. I was running through all possible scenarios of what the cops could be seeing out there at the CarLowDen Clubhouse. If they were seeing what Rob Wash and I had seen the night before, I prayed that they had brought the fire power to kill that rabid beast.
“Rob, you got a weapon in here?”
Rob leaned forward and slammed the button on the glove compartment. The door dropped open and the cold steel of a Glock nine-millimeter shined beneath the warm glove compartment light.
“Grab it,” he said.
I lifted the gun, amazed at the weight of it. Now, for those of you reading this little memoir, (if anyone is), I’ve never fired a gun before in my life. Living in a small quiet town like CarLowDen I bet very few have even held a gun. Only the seasonal hunters.
“Give it here,” Rob said. He was breathing heavy, all that excitement and adrenaline pumping, I guessed. “The magazines too.”
I handed Rob the Glock and noticed two loaded magazines inside the glove compartment as well. I handed them to him.
“Okay first things first. We get there, and if that wererabbit thing is the reason for these police calls, you and the DJ stay behind me…I kinda wished we’d had a chance to stop home first, grab a few more guns,” Rob said.
I saw the anger on his face.
“Well, the good news is that with just the one gun you’ll be less a threat to those cops,” I said.
Rob glanced at me for a second. I guess he was trying to determine if I was joking, and then started smiling.
“You okay, white boy,” he chuckled.
We were quickly reaching the end of Whitaker Road. I could see the sprawling rutty lawn of the golf course ahead of us. I also saw some vehicles parked in the front lot. I spotted two police cruisers, an animal control van, and an ugly brown Dodge. Speeding down the gravel road toward us was an old Oldsmobile swerving back and forth. Randy spun sideways avoiding the Olds by inches. As the car sped past us I saw that reporter guy, Jeffrey Rice, from the DenMark Gazette again. He looked out of his mind panicked.
“Oh shit,” I whispered just knowing that what we were going to encounter inside the clubhouse would be one, or more, of those fucking freaky rabbit things. I had read Rice’s by-line in the DenMark Gazette. That was a freaky city, DenMark. The guy had reported on things that were best left under wraps. There were even eye witness accounts of the US president making a stop in DenMark a few years back to address the weird threats. Things like giant pizza monsters, winged demons and rabid mutant chicken monsters. Of course, it all had to be horse shit, right?
“You see that guy in the car back there?”
“You mean that asshole who nearly ran us off the road in the car back there?”
“Yeah him. That was the reporter guy, Jeff Rice.”
“So,” Rob said, as the Chevy rushed down the road about to turn into the CarLowDen Golf Course parking lot. We were still rushing along at about sixty miles an hour.
“He writes for the DenMark Gazette,” I said.
“That’s a rag. What about him?”
“He’s written some wild articles about DenMark. Seen some really weird stuff. You see Rice’s expression when he sped past? It was like the devil himself had set up shop in CarLowDen,” I said, as Rob slammed on the brakes nearly striking Ran’s El Camino.
“SHIT!” Rob shouted dropping the Chevy into park.
“That was close,” I said unbuckling my seatbelt and exiting the Chevy.
Rob followed. I glanced around and saw Ran was standing just outside the front doors of the now defunct CarLowDen Golf Clubhouse. The glass front windows were busted in. A chain and padlock was on the floor. Randy looked back at us. He saw Rob’s pistol.
“Got any more of those?”
“Nah, back at The Bateman, but not sure we got the time…” Rob started to say as we heard the inhuman screams coming from inside the clubhouse.
We all three jumped. I felt fear like I’d never felt before. Rob took the lead. Ran and I followed. The sun had disappeared behind thick black rain clouds and the wind had picked up blowing the branches of the CarLowDen trees about. Everything was going to freeze, I thought, looking at the icy rain fall. I saw a few bits of forgotten trash blow across the fairway green like tumble weeds. If there was a picture to go along with the definition of a Haunted House in Webster’s I’d imagine it to look just like this broken-down disfigured structure of the CarLowDen Clubhouse.
The Clubhouse had gone gray, as if a vampire had sucked all its life out. Pain peeled off the exterior walls like dead flesh. The broken glass doors in front now yawned open like a giant toothless monster. I couldn’t believe we were about to enter this place with just one handgun. Christ, we were nuts.
“Whatever happens stay close to me, and when I say run soldier, you run. Got it?”
Randy and I both nodded our heads. God, I felt like a pathetic virgin all over again.
The sun had done more than disappear behind the dark clouds, it looked as if it had practically retreated somewhere beyond the Milky Way. The cold late March rains grew icier then as we rushed toward our doom. By the time we made it under the drive-around outer roof we were nearly soaked to the bone and shivering like three drowned rats.
“Shoulda parked closer I guess,” Randy said spritzing his brown perm and running the black comb through his thick mustache.
I just shook off the rain from my corduroy jacket, adjusted my collar, running my fingers through my matted wet hair, and followed Rob.
“Once we’re inside it’s going to be dark with these storm clouds. The electricity has been off in this place for years,” I told them, being the authority on the grounds.
I peered out past the weed strewn greens to see the rusted relics of the tacky mini golf course that the last owner, a guy named CarMichael Mitchell, had constructed in the late 70’s. The mini golf course lasted about five years and folded. The weeds now overtook the once happy whale and dinosaur statues that had welcomed kids long ago. These rusted statues now looked ghastly silhouetted against the darkening sky.
Rob hesitated at the front doors. He listened for movement. Glancing back at us I noticed that Rob was looking at the two deserted police cruisers. He must have been thinking the same thing that I was. Where are the cops? Lowering his Glock, he looked at us.
Randy and I both nodded our heads. Rob pulled back the busted front doors and we entered.
The thing that struck us first was the stench. There were the usual mingled smells of decay, water mold, rat feces shit like that, but then there was another stench, something so horrible and alien to our senses that I felt that morning’s greasy breakfast fight to upchuck. Then I hesitated because I saw Rob’s expression and I knew that we were thinking the same thing.
“Wererabbit stench,” Rob said. He looked at me. “You smell it kid?”
I nodded my head. This was the same stench that had been in Rob Wash’s apartment. Randy looked at both of us for a second and I got the feeling that maybe old Randy Bliss hadn’t actually believed Rob and my story about the demented rabbit thing that attacked and fled the previous night. The idea that Randy didn’t believe Rob wasn’t so hard to swallow but thinking that he didn’t trust my story…well that was more than troubling.
“Hello! Is anyone here? Officers? Are you here?”
I was reminded of Scatman Crothers from Kubrick’s film, The Shining, calling out to the Torrance family just before he got the ax. Another chill raced through me as my eyes stared in all directions. If something was going to jump us we were fucked. Only Rob had a gun. I had seen how fast and large one of those things were. That’s when I turned on my chicken blood heels and started back toward the door.
“John?” I heard Randy’s voice but then I froze, because standing silhouetted in the crashing lightning streak flashing through the busted front door was one of those horrible rabbit things.
The others turned and Rob fired off a single round at the creature. The gunshot rang incredibly loud inside the vacant clubhouse. My ears were still ringing when I heard the fear in Ran’s voice. The thing, whatever it was fled.
“We should get out of here.”
Randy started toward the door. Rob’s shot had frightened the rabbit thing back into the shadows but I saw its eyes watching us as it cowered somewhere just a few feet away from the doors.
“Wait? For what man? We’re not prepared to deal with this shit. This is animal control territory,” Randy said.
He was almost at the doors now.
“Yeah? I seen the animal control van, and two police cruisers out front. You see any of those motherfuckers now?”
“No, which is exactly why I want to get the hell out of here,” Randy said.
“Ah, Rob I gotta second that vote,” I said.
I was turning toward the front doors again when I saw two men-sized things standing in the open doorway now. Their features were unclear because of the darkness inside and outside of the clubhouse, but as another flash of lightning filled the area I saw two things at once. Thick jagged teeth dipping over the lower jaws of these things and long dangling rabbit ears lying over their shoulders like dread-locks.
“What the fuck?” I whispered.
Another flash of lightning, a crash of thunder, and I saw cop uniforms on these two new ghouls.
“I think we found those cops,” Randy said.
Movement to our left. Rob fired off two rounds as a figure carrying a flashlight dropped the light and ran into the shadows.
“What the hell was that?” I shrieked.
“Animal control. I saw his uniform,” Rob said.
This felt like one of those carnival haunted houses except that whatever these things were, they were out for blood.
“Let’s go,” Rob, shouted as we raced toward the front door.
The two cop rabbit things didn’t move as we approached. Rob fired off a couple more rounds into the air. The cop rabbit things shifted but did not run. Randy reached into his pocket and pulled out some of the jelly beans that he had pocketed from the bowl back at the WWAY Station. On instinct he removed some of the shiny sweet jelly beans.
“Here, bunny, bunny,” he called to the men-rabbit things.
Rob and I looked at Randy like maybe my old friend had lost his mind. The flashlight that the animal control guy dropped was still shining its light across the saturated carpet. Randy dropped the jelly beans onto the carpet inside the light. The rabbit human things immediately lifted their noses and sniffed the sweet aroma of Easter jelly beans. We backed away from them as they sprinted on rabbit legs, yes you read that correctly, rabbit legs forward.
“Move,” Randy whispered to us as Rob and I stood there, mouths open watching as these human rabbit things started to devour the jelly beans.
Randy pushed us out the front doors and we sprinted to the El Camino. I slid into the passenger seat of the El Camino, Randy took the driver seat and Rob pushed me across the bench seat as he slid inside and slammed the door.
“Go! Go!” Rob screamed.
I glanced back and saw that the three former county employees had finished gobbling up the sweet jelly beans because they were standing, or crouching rather, at the double broken glass doors. I saw their eyes glowing reddish pink, their teeth long and jagged with obscene looking dangling rabbit ears. They looked like a mix between human, rabbit, beaver hybrids. I ran my hands over my body checking for bites. Rob and Randy both watched me with expressions ranging from terror to surprise.
“Those things were not the same as the wererabbit I saw in your apartment last night. Those things were the cops and the animal control guy. You saw the uniforms, right?” I said, relieved that I found no bites on my body.
“Yeah, we saw them,” Rob said. “Quick thinking with them jelly beans, man.”
“Where’d you get those anyway?”
“Bowl at the station,” Randy said.
I shook my head smiling awkwardly. If there was one person you want on your side in case of nuclear attack, the one person besides MacGyver I mean, it’s DJ Randy Bliss.
“Kind of funny those wererabbits…” I paused shivering, unsure that we were on the same page. “You think that’s the correct term?”
Rob shrugged. Randy just nodded his head.
“They have to be wererabbits right? I mean they look kind of like demented human rabbits. And what about those jelly beans? They were actually distracted by jelly beans,” I said.
“Easter’s almost here and they are rabbits…I mean sort of. Maybe we oughta stop by the grocery store and pick ourselves up a wheelbarrow of jelly beans. What do you think works best? Gimbals, Brach’s Classics or Jelly Belly?” The sarcasm in Rob’s voice was practically dripping off his thick dark lips. The janitor was shaking and I had a thought that perhaps he might be suffering from what the doctors call post-traumatic stress.
I noticed the Glock was still in Rob’s waistband. I wanted to snag that in case he went section eight on Randy and me.
“John’s not wrong about the jelly beans. That was odd behavior back there. I thought that we were goners until those things went for the beans,” Randy said, sliding an American Spirit between his lips.
“You serious? Christ,” Rob moaned.
“You saw it same as us. Those things reacted to those jelly beans like they were meth-heads,” Randy said, lighting his cigarette. He offered the pack around. Rob refused but I snagged three cigarettes and tucked two into my cargo pocket.
“What do we do now?” I asked, looking right to Rob and left at Randy.
Randy dragged off the cigarette, thinking.
“Maybe we oughta get a drink,” I suggested.
“It’s barely ten in the damned AM,” Rob said.
“That’s not such a bad idea. Marty’s opens at eleven. Let’s see if Norm’s in. I wouldn’t mind holing up in a quiet pub for an hour before the drunks get there,” Randy said.
He hit Route Twelve and sped toward CarLowDen and Marty’s Pub.
* * *
We arrived at the back door to Marty’s Pub, rapping desperately like three thirsty camels who had just crossed the Sahara. To our dismay Bonnie answered the door, not her hubbie the big lovable Norm.
“Well if it isn’t local celeb DJ Randy Bliss, the would-be writer Mr. Friend and…The Bateman’s janitor? Keeping strange company these days Randy,” Bonnie said.
We were drenched with rain water. Bonnie didn’t seem to notice, or care that we looked like three drowned sewer rats, or maybe she did because she didn’t open the door more than a crack.
“Can we come in for a bit Bonnie?” Randy asked.
Bonnie gave us a look like we were wasting her time. Bonnie isn’t so bad really. She’s a hot little thing with milk chocolate skin, almost as dark as Rob Wash’s. When she was happy she could be the life of the party but based off what Norm mentioned the night before with drunks stiffing her she could be mean, real mean. She had that mean look on her face then.
“We just need an hour in a quiet locked place to…” I started but couldn’t finish. What would I say? To discuss how to stop a possible killer wererabbit infestation?
“To what?” Now the steeliness in Bonnie’s voice made me want to backpedal. She narrowed her eyes at us.
“Come on guys lets hit the Grease Spot. I’m sure they’ll take our cash quicker than this dump,” I finally said as me and Rob turned to leave but Randy stood his ground. The mention of cash sparked Bonnie’s interest as well.
“You got cash on you Johnathan Friend? That’d be a first,” Bonnie said.
She looked at something above the pub beyond our vision and then pulled the back door wide open.
“Come in, the drunks’ll be here soon enough anyway.”
“Thanks,” Randy said as we passed through the door.
Rob removed his Yankee’s cap.
“Ma’am,” he said.
I just entered without a word. The back room was dark but we followed Bonnie’s perfectly shaped buns through the room, past the kitchen, to the front of the pub. She switched on the track lighting and the Pabst Blue Ribbon, Budweiser, and Heineken squiggly neon lights behind the bar and then removed the drinks of choice. Randy took the Heinie, he could afford the imported stuff. I took a can of Pabst, and then Bonnie hesitated to look at the janitor.
“Never served you before,” Bonnie said. “What’s your poison?”
“No ma’am, I’d certainly remember if I was served by one as precious as you,” Rob said.
Ran and I both stared at the black janitor shocked at the smoothness coming from this dude. His voice changed to a sultry Marvin Gay. Randy smiled and downed a swallow of Heineken. I just shook my head, tasting the familiar stink of my skunky Pabst with the blue ribbon on the label. Nothing worse than beer from a can as my old man used to say just before he chucked a crushed one at my head.
“Well ain’t you a sweet one. First one’s on the house. For you that is,” Bonnie said and then glared at Randy and me.
“I’ll have a rum and coke, please missus,” Rob said.
Bonnie smiled, obviously pleased with the choice. As she poured Rob’s drink, Ran asked:
“Nope. He’s a little under the weather this morning,” Bonnie said, sounding a bit distracted. Was that concern in her icy voice?
Ran and I looked at one another for a second. Couldn’t be…could it?
“What’s the trouble?” Randy asked.
“Not sure. Guess he’s come down with something,” Bonnie said as she went about checking her coolers.
“Cold, flu?” My turn.
“No. Said something about…fever. I gave him an over-the-counter bottle of something we had in the medicine cabinet and here’s hoping it does the job because I need his sweet ass behind the bar tonight. Weekends are always a bitch with all the drunks around here.”
Bonnie looked at us again and continued walking about with a clipboard marking off stock.
“When’d he come down with this fever?” Randy asked.
Rob sat back, listening to this exchange. He had sipped off his drink just once but he was picking up the reason for our queries.
“Late last night. We were in bed watching something on the TV and he excused himself. Spent like thirty minutes in the bathroom. I thought the big lug had fallen asleep on the toilet again. I knocked and he coughed out a reply. He come out and laid down, rolled away from me shivering like a penguin on ice,” Bonnie said.
“He didn’t say anything about animals, or nothing did he?” I asked.
Bonnie paused a second. We all saw her body tense up.
“How you know that?”
“What he say?” I heard the fear in my own voice then.
Bonnie just shrugged, setting her clipboard down. She had lost all her tough bad bitch attitude for a second and we all felt the fear in her then.
“He said he was dropping the trash off at the dumpster out back and he saw something crawling out of the dumpster. At first he said he thought it was an animal, but then he said it was too big.”
Randy, Rob, and I all exchanged a—Holy Fuck—expression.
“It scared him though. Said he dropped the bags of trash into the dumpster when the thing’s head popped up and he felt something sharp, jagged he said, nip his hand. I told him we should take him to urgent care, rabies you know, but you know the big bear. He’s terrified of needles,” Bonnie said, but we saw the fear on her face. “I’m just afraid that the thing had rabies.”
“That’s the least of his worries,” I heard this coming out of my mouth as Ran elbowed me.
Bonnie looked at us.
“What are you talking about?”
Now that stern ice bitch was back.
“You boys know something about this?”
“We don’t exactly know…” Randy started to say when we heard something big thump from the apartment upstairs. The apartment where Bonnie and Norm lived.
All eyes stared up at the thump. It came again.
“Is your husband at home ma’am?” Rob asked.
“Yes, like I said he’s sick,” Bonnie said defensively.
We looked at each other. None of us had a clue what to do.
“Maybe we oughta call the cops,” I suggested. Yeah, let the flat foots deal with this shit.
“You kidding? You remember those uniformed things back at the clubhouse?”
Rob was referring to the transformed cops that almost nabbed us back at the golf course. He shook his head. The janitor had a better idea. Sliding off the bar stool, he headed for the door.
“Where you going?” Randy called. He couldn’t keep the fear from his voice.
“I’m gonna grab my Glock from your car and we’re gonna go see if Mr. Barman has grown teeth, long ears, and a cotton tail,” Rob said.
He was already at the front door pushing outside. I heard the cold March rain still pelting the sidewalk out front. The rain clouds overhead had gotten heavy and more menacing. Bonnie looked from the closing front door to us sitting with our beers, like dicks, in our hands.
“What’s that crazy janitor talking about? Glock? He bringing a gun in here?” Bonnie was already reaching for the sawn-off shotgun that Norm always kept beneath the bar. Normally with Norm’s size locals didn’t mess around in Marty’s. Every so often though a drunken trucker might get too friendly with Bonnie, or get real mean with the locals. Norm, or Bonnie would have to pull out the heavy artillery.
“Bonnie wait!” Randy said as he hopped off his stool, like…oh Christ don’t make me say it—like a rabbit!
Rob was entering the bar holding the Glock nine-millimeter in full view. I noticed the three full magazines shoved into his waistband.
“How do we get upstairs?”
“You ain’t going nowhere with that gun mister,” Bonnie said, lifting the sawn-off shotgun to show that she meant business.
“And enough of that ma’am shit. You’re old enough to be my father and this ain’t the damned South. Now put that gun away, or I’ll be dialing the sheriff and have you put away,” Bonnie said.
She wasn’t kidding now. I saw that ice bitch glare again. Bonnie was a lot of things but when it came to her Pub and Norm she was all business.
Rob looked at Randy and me. We just shrugged. When the next thump from above hit, it almost rattled the entire pub. Glasses shook and we all jumped. We glanced up, Bonnie too. I saw the fear on her beautiful face and god help me I wanted to kiss it away.
“Norm?” Bonnie whispered.
“He’s changed,” Rob said.
“Let’s not jump to conclusions. We don’t know anything yet,” Randy said, as another Pub shaking thump hit.
If Norm had changed into one of those freaky fucking wererabbits with his strength and size I didn’t want to even consider approaching him but Rob was set. He was going upstairs to confront Norm. The ex-military Ranger had no intention of letting this infestation spread.
“I’m going up there alone if I have to,” Rob said, searching around the pub to see if there was a door that would lead to the second floor. Randy and I knew Marty’s well and we knew that the only way to the second-floor apartments was out the front door, through the adjoining door and up the first flight of stairs.
“Like hell,” Bonnie dropped back both hammers on the double barrel and leveled them at Rob Wash.
I was almost shitting my pants at this point. I had never been in a gun fight before. Randy did what the DJ always did under stressful situations. He took the Zen approach by downing the last swallow of his Heineken. He looked from Bonnie with her finger on the triggers and then back at Rob, who had lifted his Glock staring down the crazy Bonnie.
“Bonnie there is more in Heaven and Earth than is dreamt up in our philosophy,” Randy said simply.
Bonnie blinked. Looking at the radio DJ with his colorful sweater and matt-soaked white man’s afro. As he ran a small black comb through his thick attractive mustache, Bonnie lowered her shotgun for a second. Reason seemed to be kicking in. Rob did the same with his Glock, staring at Randy as if maybe the DJ dude had lost his mind. Even little old me, John Friend—would-be writer—hadn’t expected that little Shakespeare line drop.
“What I’m getting at folks, especially you Bonnie, is that we all experienced something in the last twenty-four hours that none of us could have ever come up with. Out at the CarLowDen Golf Course we saw what can only be described as wererabbits. They were responsible for killing Ken Kennedy,” Randy said, sliding his black comb back into his slacks.
“Where what?” Bonnie asked.
“Wererabbits!” Rob and I both said.
“We seen cops, local boys, transformed into these rabbit monster things…” Rob said.
“And at least one animal control guy,” I said.
Bonnie looked at us for a second and then a charming smiled crossed her beautiful lips and she lowered the shotgun shaking her head.
“April Fools, right? Listen boys Easter and April Fools might fall on the same day this year, but I’m not falling for that one. Besides April Fools ain’t until tomorrow,” Bonnie said.
The tension immediately disappeared as she set the shotgun on the bar and picked up her clipboard again. Rob looked at Randy and me and motioned for us to come over. We walked across the bar to the front door. Rob pulled us aside.
“What we gonna do? She thinks we kidding.”
Randy looked at me. I shrugged.
“We need to get upstairs without Ms. Parole there watching us. We all know what’s going down up there,” Rob said, as another loud thump struck the ceiling. This time dust fell from the rafters.
“Jesus Christ Norm? What the hell are you doing up there? Jumping jacks?”
“Maybe he’s bouncing around on his new rabbit legs,” I giggled, feeling a little insanity creep in.
Rob and Randy both glared at me. Their expressions said that they both believed that that was exactly what old Norm was doing. Jesus John, why can’t you just keep your mouth shut. Bonnie moved from around the bar and headed for the front door. As she stalked past us Rob grabbed her arm.
“Where you going?”
Bonnie pulled her arm away, glaring into Rob’s face. Bonnie is small in stature but huge in intimidation. She leaned forward, forcing Rob Wash, who was a big dude, backward.
“I’m going upstairs to see my sick husband,” she said and then looked at us. “Alone!”
Bonnie pushed past us and out of the pub.
Rob’s desperate eyes shifted to us.
“What we gonna do? If her husband really is one of them rabbit things he’s gonna bite her, or kill her. We can’t let that happen,” Rob said.
“We’re not going to let that happen. John grab the shotgun,” Randy said, pointing to the twelve gauge Bonnie left on the bar.
“What?” I was exacerbated.
Randy glared at me so I moved. Picking the shotgun off the bar I was reminded that this was the second gun I had held in twenty-four hours. Like I mentioned before I never held a gun in all my twenty-five years on this blue globe. Now twice in such a short period of time. Not a good sign.
“Come on,” Randy said pushing through the front door.
The icy rain and sleet were still beating down hard. The temperature felt like it had dropped about ten degrees. We watched Bonnie disappear inside the front door that would then lead her to the second floor where she and Norm lived. An earth-shattering roar echoed down the shadowy corridor of stairs. Ran snatched the shotgun from my hands. He was the first through the door.
Rob was huffing and puffing but he was keeping up with Ran, a guy fifteen years his junior. They both had their guns raised as they reached the open apartment door. Bonnie screamed. I took the stairs two at a time with my long legs. As I entered the front door I saw Rob and Randy staring in awe at the horrible scene in the small living room. Norm, or what used to be Norm our favorite barman, the only barman in CarLowDen who would trust me to settle up before I died, seemed to occupy the entire space. He looked twice his normal size with those same glowing red eyes that I saw in Rob Wash’s apartment the night before. The wererabbit that I had seen was tiny compared to old Norm.
His back looked all hunched over like a lumpy gargoyle. Long shredded blonde ears protruded from the top of his head like mangled roots while long jagged fangs nipped out at us. Bonnie had passed out on the ugly orange carpet right in front of her former human husband. I snatched the shotgun from Randy who stood frozen and fired off three rounds at the hulking menace. Norm spun on me hissing looking like a living nightmare. The eyes that watched us twitched in an inhuman fashion. I fired again. Rob finally followed suit and shot off several rounds from his Glock nine-millimeter. Norm growled at us, looking down at Bonnie for a split second as if marking her for the future before he raced through the living room, brushing past us down the hallway to the back bedroom.
Rob stopped firing. The apartment stunk of fresh gun powder and rabbit turds. The shotgun barrel was steaming now. I hesitated kneeling down in front of Bonnie. I checked her flesh, neck, hands, arms. She was clean. The Norm-rabbit hadn’t bit her. Thank God for small favors, I thought, standing up and rushing down the hallway.
“John!” Ran’s voice came to me as if from a fevered dream.
I stopped, glancing back.
“Let it go, man. We got sirens,” Randy said.
I heard police sirens now. Those boys in blue worked fast in CarLowDen. Not much time. If old Norm was still inside this apartment and more cops arrived they’d be changed like the stooges back at the golf clubhouse. I couldn’t let that happen. Rushing down to the end of the hallway I heard something that sounded like aggressive munching.
“John!” I heard Ran’s voice calling to me again but it was coming from miles away.
Approaching the bedroom door, I saw shadows cast across the hallway. Norm was most definitely inside that room doing something. I pushed open the door as Rob shadowed me. He popped a fresh magazine into his Glock. We pushed the door open a bit further as we saw the hulk that was formerly my favorite CarLowDen barman hunched over a stash of something in a series of CarLowDen Supermarket bags.
“What the hell?” Rob asked.
Randy was behind us now too. I held up the sawed-off shotgun as the Norm-thing turned. We saw bits of Easter candy smeared across his long horrible teeth. Jelly beans and chocolate eggs dropped off his mouth. The sound of policemen racing inside the apartment shouting commands for everyone inside the place to drop their weapons and hit the ground. Norm’s eyes were glowing red but there was also panic in those eyes. It was afraid.
“Look at that,” I said excited.
“What?” Rob asked, he was out of breath and his voice was shaky.
“It’s afraid. Look!”
The Norm-thing glared at us with its inhuman eyes and then leapt for the single window that overlooked the alley.
“Stop it,” I shouted.
Too late the cops were bursting into the bedroom, throwing us to the ground and Rodney Kinging our asses with their Billy Clubs.
The shotgun flew from my hands. Rob dropped his Glock and lifted his hands. No good. The nearest cop shot Rob with a Taser. The black janitor jumped and jimmied around the room as the window shattered and the Norm-thing leapt out into the rainy day.
“Hold it! Hold it! Officers!” Randy shouted with his hands in the air.
“DJ Randy Bliss?” One of the uniformed cops asked, surprised.
I felt the Billy Club collide with my skull. I heard Randy shouting to me as I tasted the salty blood filling my mouth just before I blacked out.
To be continued…
About Bryan Higby
Bryan Higby is the writer that Amazon bestselling author Joe Konrath said: “Bryan is easily one of the most prolific and enthusiastic authors I’ve ever run into. He writes with unabashed exuberance. If you missed the link above, I encourage you to check out some of his stuff here.” http://thelatlateshow.com/ (Podcast Link)
And New York Times bestselling author of the Wool Science Fiction saga, Hugh Howey said: “Hey Bryan, congrats on your success thus far. Sounds like you’re doing it right. Took me years to get where you are right now, so you’re on a good pace. And these covers rock. Congrats on those.”
New York Literary critic Robert Plyler compared Higby’s first novel, The Diary of a Logos, to the works of James Joyce, Franz Kafka, and Mickey Spillane.
Bryan also writes, directs, and co-produces the podcast The Lat Late Show with his longtime collaborator Rick Snyder. You can check out this fictional podcast here:
Higby lives with his wife and three kids in Central New York.
Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Bryan-Higby/e/B00CWEFNVS
About Rick Snyder
Rick Snyder is the co-author of the critically acclaimed Gonzo Pulp Horror series The DenMark Chronicles. Snyder is also a filmmaker and musician. He is also the co-creator and producer with Higby for The Lat Late Show podcast and the DenMark Chronicles podcast. You can find their links here: