05 Jul Dumpster RabbittZ – Part Four
Dumpster RabbittZ – Part Four
Bryan Higby and Ricky D. Snyder
Miles Schakowsky was punching the clock, about an hour and a half late, at The CarLowDen Animal Control Department when he heard the telephone ring in the front office. That asshole Bernie had probably skipped out at four. Asshole, Miles thought, but then again, he was over an hour and a half late himself, and Bernie’s shift did end at four.
He checked the heat on the front office coffee pot, still hot, but probably as strong and thick as tar, Miles thought. Okay that was fine with him since he needed the early morning wake-me-up anyway. Miles wasn’t as young as he used to be. Pushing fifty with a gut to prove it. The telephone continued to nag with its shrill old school ring.
“Okay, okay, Jesus,” Mile grumbled at the constant ringing telephone. “Worse than the damned wife.”
He poured himself a cup of hot black joe and then slammed his hand on the receiver of the telephone. The receiver popped off the cradle and into Miles’s hand.
“Yeah, Animal Control, what can I do you for?”
He was taking his first sip of coffee and nearly choked when he heard the cop on the other end of the line.
“Say that again?”
* * *
Twenty minutes later Miles was on route to the old CarLowDen Golf Course. Speeding down Whitaker Road, Miles kept running through his head what the cop had told him about Bernie Falchuk. Possibly dead, definitely missing persons with evidence of foul play. Miles had no love for that Pollock Falchuk, but Bernie was a regular player at his poker night, and lost badly. Without old Bernie’s cash where was Miles going to get the extra dough for his trips to The Blue Mansion?
Sipping off his coffee, Miles saw the red and blue flashing police lights. A couple of cruisers were parked on the rutty lawn next to an ambulance. The ambulance driver looked bored. He was standing outside the vehicle smoking a cigarette listening to the cop’s talk. Another guy, short, wearing a cheap suit and a short-brimmed Fedora who looked like a reporter was trying to ask the uniforms questions about the missing persons. Miles pulled his brown Dodge in behind one of the police cruisers. He glanced left and saw the Animal Control van.
“Fucking Bernie,” he whispered downing the rest of his warm coffee and tossed the cup into the car’s backseat.
As he exited the Dodge, the cops saw his uniform and walked over to him. The reporter followed.
“Are you Miles…” the cop asked, checking his notepad. “Schakowsky?”
“Yep,” Miles said, smiling, hoisting up his khakis.
“Schakowsky, is that with a Y or an, I?” The reporter guy asked.
“Rice get the hell out of here!” The cop snarled at the reporter. The other cop turned to Miles.
“Your co-worker, guy name Bernie Falchuk and two of our deputies were out here earlier this morning responding to a…” checking notes again. “10-91L possibly a 187. That was approximately three-forty AM. This was in response to the recent death of one Kenneth Kennedy on these grounds. Both of our deputies have gone missing. Have you heard from Mr. Falchuk?”
“Ah, no sir, officer sir. I just punched in at the office when I got your call. He wasn’t there. Somethin’ happen to him?”
The cops exchanged a concerned glance.
Miles disliked that look. It said of course something had happened.
“Follow us,” one of the uniforms said, leading Miles back into the trees, but then hesitated. “Did you bring any of your animal control equipment?”
Miles paused, reaching for his Taser on his belt. Shit, he had rushed out of the office without thinking that he would need any of his supplies. Then he glanced at the Animal Control van and figured if he had to he would blame Bernie for snagging all of his supplies.
“Just this? Standard issue. We use it to subdue the larger animals. Should I have…?”
“Probably not,” the officer said but then both cops removed their service revolvers as they led Miles into the trees.
Miles flipped the safety off on the Taser and followed them. He also noticed that the reporter, Rice, was on their trail.
They walked past a row of trees which opened onto a sprawling unkempt golf course. Miles hesitated, soaking in the bright sunlight and the quiet peaceful morning. Such a peaceful place for a killing.
“Over here, watch your step,” one of the cops said, motioning to what looked like maroon patches of paint on the green lawn.
“What is that?”
“Too soon to tell. We called the CSU guys in. They’re on route. My best guess…blood,” one of the cops, Miles noticed the name tag, Walter Brown said. “That’s off the record Rice!”
“Best guess blood?” Miles was frightened now. “Why blood? Why not maybe paint. Yeah, a guy walks through with a bucket of maroon pain. Maybe old man Kennedy himself before he died. Maybe he’s drunk and spills some on the grass.”
Miles was panicking now. He took a shot of his asthma inhaler. The cops looked at one another for a second.
“Are you okay Mr. Schakowsky?”
“Yeah, but why blood?”
“Because this is the same area where Ken Kennedy was found half eaten by some wild animal,” Officer Brown said.
“Can I quote you on that Officer Brown?” Rice asked, holding up a small recording device. The cop frowned at the reporter.
“Holy shit,” Miles fingered the Taser trigger.
“Come on,” Officer Brown walked further along the grass when his partner stopped him.
“Walt look at this,” the other cop said.
He was staring down at some deep impressions in the muddy grass. Brown walked over, but Miles stayed frozen glancing all around. He wasn’t an idiot like Bernie. Miles wouldn’t let some stupid rabid animal jump him. The reporter was following the cops. He noticed the impressions in the mud and shot off a couple of pictures.
“What is it?” Brown asked.
“Looks like deep impressions. Fairly fresh.”
Officer Brown knelt and looked at the dents in the muddy grass. He removed a tape measure from his belt and the two cops took the distance of the marks.
“About seventy-eight inches,” the other cop said.
“What makes a dent seventy-eight inches wide? In a large square shape?”
“Better wait for CSU,” Officer Ripley said.
Rice was scribbling furiously on his notepad. He had his recording device held high to capture every word.
“Come on,” Officer Brown continued forward.
Rice snapped off a couple more pictures and followed the cops. When Miles didn’t follow they stopped and turned back.
“Hey, what are you waiting for? You’re on the states dime. Move it,” Brown told Miles.
Miles almost jumped from the cops remarks and then followed them.
* * *
“The last nail in the coffin,” Rob whispered as he dropped the hammer on the small wooden table next to his picture window, or the wafer board that he used to replace the busted apartment window. He had a whole stack of that cheap chip board in the basement. “Shit.”
The view from that window was one of the only things about this apartment that he even liked. Now he couldn’t see shit because of that fuck up drunk John Friend. Karma sucked.
“Friend my ass,” Rob said and then walked across the living room to the gun cabinet.
He had two twelve-gauge Browning shotguns and one assault rifle he bought at Walmart. Two Berettas and a Glock nine-millimeter. Layover weapons from his time in the desert, Iraq. It wasn’t the only thing Rob brought back from that war. Nightmares and a world of anger and depression. He glanced at the cabinet and removed both Berettas and checked the loads. Full magazines. The Glock was almost smiling at him now. He was amazed that he still had these beauties. Rob had thought the pigs might have confiscated them after his wild west scene earlier. Guess cops in this town were a little more loyal to an old vet than he originally thought.
Rob glanced back at the wafer board blocking out most of the morning sunlight. The cold breeze wafting in through the cracks didn’t ease his anger any. He’d need to go back down to the basement and find some plastic wrap to seal those cracks. The worst of winter was nearly over. Easter was coming soon but mornings were still cold as hell.
“Isn’t that just fuckin’ poetic man, cracks in my life. No light to speak of,” he said, shaking his head as he shoved the pistols in his belt and then snagged a couple more magazines per weapon.
Man-made shit blocking out the sunlight. Karma sucked big time.
Next Rob walked into the kitchen and opened the cupboard. Inside were his arsenal of prescription pill bottles. You name it, he was prescribed it. Drugs to regulate his Serotonin levels, drugs to regulate his alleged hallucinations. Hallucinations? He glanced back toward the living room. Had he hallucinated the whole night? Maybe he threw a chair through his own window. Maybe the cops never even came. Looking down at his pistols he started to think that this was a more reasonable scenario than CarLowDen’s cop’s loyalty to a black vet. Maybe that dude down the hallway, John Friend, never even arrived at his place last night with that DJ dude, Randy Bliss. After all, why would a local celebrity be lurking around a shit-hole like The Bateman for anyway?
There was only one way to find out.
Rob left the prescription bottles in the cupboard and slammed the door closed as he walked to his front door. He’d knock on Friend’s door and see if the guy was awake. He noticed how the guy in Three-B didn’t rise much before noon. Rob checked his wristwatch.
“Seven-thirty,” he whispered.
Dude was probably fast asleep. Sleeping the sleep of the drunken hearted. Rob smiled at that, and then he frowned. His hand was poised to open his front door when he noticed that he still had both Berettas in his waistband. He removed the pistols, setting them on the hutch next to the front door and then opened the door.
The hallway was quiet. He turned, locked his door and then walked casually down the hallway to Three-B and knocked.
“Mr. Friend? You awake?”
He knocked again.
A few seconds later Rob heard footsteps, groans, and then the door opened. The chain lock was still in place as John Friend stared out. His eyes were bloodshot and only slits. He smelled like booze and sweat. Oh great, Rob thought, a boozer and a prescription drug user were about to have a conversation about seeing a demented fucking Easter bunny. This is going to be great.
“Ah, Mr. Friend can we talk?”
“About what? How you fucked me at the police station, man? I don’t think we have shit to talk about.”
That took Rob back for a second, but only second. Last night did happen. He had been at the police station. That meant that there really had been a freaky fucking rabbit-thing in his apartment. This guy could vouch for it. Rob wasn’t hallucinating. In an odd way that made him happy.
“I’m sorry about all that bullshit. Can we talk?”
John looked long and hard at the black janitor and then slammed the door. Rob was about to leave when he heard the chain drop and the door opened again.
“Come in. I’ll start some coffee.”
* * *
I couldn’t believe that the black dude who screwed me over with the cops was knocking at my door at the crack of dawn. As I pulled the red bag of Eight O’clock Coffee from the cupboard and tipped the grounds into the filter of my Mr. Coffee the guy just stood in the open doorway of my minuscule kitchen. He was a big dude but his posture and facial features made him look like a kindergartener.
“Have a seat,” I said lifting a couple of Ralph’s Grease Spot mugs from the strainer.
As the coffee brewed we held our silence. The sun shining through the dingy kitchen window helped bring me, at least, back to reality. The machine beeped, coffee was done, so I poured it.
“Cream and sugar?”
“No black’s fine,” Rob said.
“Like your women?”
Rob looked at me for a second, gauging me, and then a kind smile crossed his large lips.
“Nah man, I always preferred vanilla to chocolate,” he said, and I laughed at that.
“Vanilla? That’s a good one man. Okay, so why you waking me up at the crack of dawn.”
“Hardly the crack of dawn Mr. Friend…”
“Save the Mr., I’m John,” I said shaking the black janitor’s hand.
He seemed a bit bashful.
“I’m sorry about what I said, or didn’t say, to them cops. I mean sometimes I’m not like positive shit really happens…sometimes,” Rob said.
“By shit you mean seeing a tall skinny Easter bunny from hell in your apartment?”
He looked at me terrified and then nodded his head.
“Yeah, shit like that…you really see it?”
I nodded, sipping off my coffee. Something seemed to release in the dude because all the tension in his body just let go and a big hound dog grin crossed his features.
“Ugly as the day is long,” I said, sipping more coffee.
“Hot damn,” he said, slamming one thick palm down on my red Formica table top.
Our coffees jumped.
“Sorry, sorry it’s just man I couldn’t believe that something that fucking weird actually happened. Since coming back to the world I ain’t seen nothing that strange.”
“Yeah you and me both. What’s this about not believing what you see? What do you mean?”
He looked long at me again I guess gauging whether he could trust me. He finally said.
“Sometimes I see shit. Spent some time in the desert.”
“Yeah, come back here jumping at shadows. Every noise making me jump like a little bitch. I take pills mostly. They help some. Sometimes not so much. So, when I woke up this morning with a busted front window…”
“Shit man that wasn’t me, really that rabbit thing dove through it,” I told him.
“Yeah, I figured. I told the cops what I did so’s I could keep them off my back. They run my record and I could lose this gig…and I need it. The Bateman is for shit but a man like me, with all my problems, well let’s just say it ain’t no walk in the park at job fairs. Oh, people always want to hire an ex-military man on paper, or in the news, but in real life they scared of us. Think we some kind of whack job gun-toting lunatics,” Rob said.
“Well, aren’t you?” I asked half-joking.
He looked at me and must have seen the joking half because he smiled again and sipped his coffee. Without looking at me he asked:
“What did you see? I mean exactly?”
I paused because now it was my turn to ponder. What had I seen last night? After the whiskey and the pot my mind was more than a little fucked up. I wished that Randy was here, but then again Randy had been outside the apartment speaking with the cops when the rabbit thing appeared. Only I had seen It, whatever the hell It was.
“I don’t know man. I’d had a lot of whiskey last night. Poor Ken,” I said.
“You saw something in my place. We both saw something. I…I just need to hear it from someone else because I can’t really trust…”
“Yourself, yeah I get it,” I said, closing my eyes and rubbing them.
Flashes of teeth, long and razor-sharp. Jagged yellow fangs. Red eyes and whiskers.
“Okay. I remember just impressions really. Ah, teeth, no fangs, long jagged yellow fangs and…”
“Glowing pinkish-red eyes,” Rob said.
“Yeah, and whiskers like a rabbit. Long ears too. They kind of just dangled off its skinny frame. The thing looked like it was starving.”
My mind went back again and again to that thing’s horrible face before it lurched out the window.
“It was freaky, like that scene in The Twilight Zone movie when the gremlin on the wing of the plan wags its long creepy finger at the poor sap’s face before it launches itself off into space. The thing I saw last night kind of seemed like that. Like it was a kind of warning,” I said.
“God damned. You saw it better than me. It was little more than a flash. I saw its fangs and eyes but that was it. Poor Tabby still under the bed back in my place. She probably won’t come out ever, or at least until I put her tuna out. But after seeing those fangs and eyes my training kicked in and I had my Glock in my hand and was firing off shots around the living room. That’s when…”
“We showed up followed by the cops. Yeah, I got it,” I said, sipping my coffee.
“Sorry I didn’t tell the cops the truth about what I saw. Maybe I oughta change my statement,” Rob said.
“Shit no man. Fuck the pigs. What we need to do is lay low until someone else finds that demented Easter bunny.”
“The hell you say. What if it’s a kid that finds it? What if the thing is rabid? Bites some little kid and…nah man. I’m gonna try and find it myself. Kill it even,” Rob said standing up and he started out of the kitchen.
“Hey man wait.”
I was on my feet now too, following Rob Wash out of my apartment, down the hallway to his place.
When he unlocked the front door and let us inside I was taken aback again at the size of the janitor’s apartment, which was twice the size of my dump. Rob walked to his living room. He was holding two pistols and grabbing a third. I saw the two shotguns in the open gun cabinet. So much for not prejudging the whacked out ex-military dude. This guy was loaded for bear.
“What the hell are you going to do with those?”
“Hunt down that thing and kill it before it bites someone,” Rob said.
“Hold on. You leave this apartment with that kind of weaponry in broad daylight, the cops’ll book your ass for sure. If they don’t shoot you first. No. What we need to do is think, reassess and call my friend Randy Bliss.”
“The DJ dude?” Rob sounded a little more than excited at that prospect.
I rolled my eyes.
* * *
Randy was on his third cup of coffee and he couldn’t count how many times around the television dial when his telephone rang. He wasn’t able to fall asleep after all. Randy looked at the digital clock next to the television.
“Eight AM, shit.”
He just knew who was calling. He grudgingly answered his banana shaped phone.
“Yeah the Blissman here, who’s speaking?”
“Ran it’s John, we gotta talk man.”
Randy knew it. Shit!
“John come on, give a guy a break. I mean we’ve been up all night. I got to work in six hours,” Randy said.
The truth was that Randy wouldn’t have slept no matter what. His adrenaline was still kicking from earlier. The three cups of coffee were just the chaser.
“Ran man we gotta talk. Rob Wash is here…”
“John have you been drinking this morning?”
“Nope, stone cold sober. Scout’s honor,” John’s voice sounded excited but even.
Randy figured trying to get to sleep this morning was an act of futility anyway.
“Okay. Meet me at the Grease Spot in twenty minutes,” Randy said.
“The Grease Spot? You bet, and Ran…”
The line went dead.
Randy dropped the banana telephone back into the cradle and lit a cigarette, running his small black comb through his thick mustache. He spritzed his perm, feeling his thirty-four years weigh on him like bricks.
“What other shit are we getting ourselves into John?”
He looked once more around his cozy house on Ramsey Street and frowned.
* * *
As he drove his El Camino to Ralph’s Grease Spot, a local twenty-four hour dive in the center of town, Randy thought about his life in CarLowDen. John was right about a lot of things regarding this town. It was boring and short-sighted, but Randy found that a little more than charming, and comforting. Growing up in Detroit where his family was originally from was no three days in Disneyland. Randy thanked God that they had moved to this tiny little burg on the East Coast before he was old enough to remember much of the Iron City. Visits back to Detroit as a kid had always been violent nightmares for him. What were left of his relatives in Detroit were nothing to write home about. Randy hated leaving the borders of CarLowDen. The small town felt like a warm womb that loved and nestled him.
No, John and the others could complain all they liked about CarLowDen but Randy Bliss was happy to be here.
He saw an old beat-up Chevy, that he recognized as The Bateman janitor’s, parked in a slot in front of the Grease Spot. Pulling in a couple slots away Randy saw John’s shaggy head through the grimy window. He couldn’t see Wash. Must be on the other side of the booth. Randy hesitated for a minute. The late March temperature this morning was a blustering single digit. Easter and Spring was on the horizon but for now it still felt like the dead of winter. He glanced at the diner again seeing the Easter decorations with lively happy bunnies and bright shining eggs and then shook his head. If what John described he saw inside Rob Wash’s apartment actually did exist, the killer demented rabbit-thing, then this town he loved so much was in for one hell of a holiday season. If he didn’t get some sleep soon he might as well call his sound engineer, Brad, and tell him to run an old show.
“Well time and tide and all that shit,” Randy whispered, snuffing his cigarette as he exited the El Camino.
* * *
Outside the wind was brutal, but inside the diner the place was toasty warm. When Ran entered The Grease Spot he saw Rob Wash and I in a booth. I motioned for him.
“Local DJ Randy Bliss in the house!” The fry cook, an old Canuck from way back shouted through soggy-cigar-clinched teeth.
“Hey Al,” Randy said smiling, running his small black unbreakable comb through his thick mustache.
“The usual? I got some killer onions and pickles this morning.”
“Nah, just coffee thanks. Got to think of the ladies, you know,” Randy said, waving his hand over his mouth to ward off the onion stench.
“You betcha Randy. Gotta think about them broads, eh?”
The fry cook, Al, just chuckled as he flipped some pig skin on the sizzling grill and placed his soggy cigar in an overflowing ashtray.
Randy made it to the booth with a few more locals slapping him on the back. Yeah it was good to live in CarLowDen for some.
“Ran? Thank god. Have a seat,” I said, sliding over. There was nothing so great as to see my friend DJ Randy Bliss. The guy was just so cool and calm always.
Randy slid in next to me. We both faced Rob Wash. Wash was about ten years older than Randy and nearly twenty years older than me. He was hunched over the chipped Formica table with thick shoulders and a graying afro. Sipping off his coffee and barley touching his eggs and toast.
“Ran you know Rob, right?”
“Only in passing,” Randy said, shaking Rob’s hand.
“Pleasure to make your acquaintance Mr. Bliss. We all sure like that WWAY station around here. I mean the working-class folk, me included. I listen all day on my radio. Got a little transistor radio I carry with me on the job,” Rob was rambling now. Truth is he never really listened to WWAY but he knew greatness when he saw it.
Al came around the corner with Randy’s coffee and a fresh pot of black tar.
“Fill ’er up boys?”
“You bet,” I said, pushing my mug across the table.
Rob shook his head.
Al poured the coffee, gave Rob Wash a mean look, and then went back to the grill. Randy and I exchanged a look.
“What was that about?” Randy asked.
“Oh, he’s a racist pig like a lot of others around these parts,” Rob said and left it at that.
I’d have maybe probed a bit further, I hate racist pigs, but we had a mission that took priority.
“Ran, Rob’s got something to tell you,” I said looking at the janitor.
Randy sipped off his coffee and waited. The sun was shining through the diner’s grimy windows, but even with the grime it seemed to create a kind of reality check for all three of us in that booth. Rob and I had run over our stories several times before we called Ran. We wanted to make sure we had it down tight, no contradictions. Of course, in the bright light of day the nightmare we both experienced back at Rob’s place the previous night seemed less urgent.
“I’m listening,” Randy said.
Randy Bliss is a good-looking dude and we’ve been best friends for years, but even I had to admit that he looked like shit that morning. A tiny part of my mind said that I was responsible for those dark circles under the DJ’s eyes.
“Everything yer friend here told you and the cops was correct. There was a demented looking were-rabbit, or something in my apartment last night. At first I thought maybe it was one of those exotic pets from the blonde on the second floor, or worse maybe it was one of my delusions,” Rob said, blushing.
Randy and I both saw the shame on the black janitor’s face. We sipped our coffees in silence as Rob pushed the eggs around on his plate again.
“Well like I told John here, I come off the late shift. Just finished mopping up and doing my final rounds at The Bateman. I had a six pack of Bud on ice just screaming my name. I was all ready to kick back and watch a late-night flick with those beers when I noticed Tabby, my cat. She wouldn’t come over to me. She was hissing at somethin’. At first I thought maybe I done somethin’ but then I noticed that she was looking over my shoulder at something. I turned and…”
Rob shivered and grabbed his cold coffee swallowing a gulp for support.
“I seen that thing, jagged yellow fangs, droopy ears like a rabbit. It’s eyes actually glowed a pinkish red, or reddish pink. Anyway, they was scary as shit,” Rob was speaking but I was reliving last night too. I wanted to ask Randy if he had a joint on him. I could use a toke in the john.
“Go on,” Randy was leaning forward now.
He had lost interest in his coffee.
“Well I showed John my weapons, a few rifles and handguns. I went to the cabinet as the thing launched at me. I could shoulder it off for long enough to snag the Glock. That’s when you fellas heard the gunfire. Then the cops come. The creature disappeared…”
“Until I entered Rob’s place and then it attacked me,” I told them. “We figured who better than WWAY The Calm’s best rated DJ to speak with. You keep a level head always Ran. We need that right now because Rob and I have a plan to find and kill this thing. Are you in or what?”
Rob nodded as if that made sense. Randy looked at both us for a long time and then excused himself from the booth. Rob and I watched as Randy walked down the diner to the phone booth by the cash register. We waited.
“You think he believes us?” Rob asked, frightened and a little foolish.
“Yeah, sure he does,” I said, watching Randy talking to someone on the phone. I just prayed it wasn’t the white coats at the DenMark Asylum. My worries lessened when I saw my friend smiling and laughing like he hadn’t just heard the craziest fucking story alive. I guess a DJ like Randy Bliss had to be on all the time.
I saw Randy run his black comb through his thick mustache a few times. I’d seen him do that on many occasions as he sat around thinking.
“Yeah, he believes us,” I told Rob. That seemed to ease him a bit.
When Ran made it back to the booth he shouted to Al behind the grill.
“Al my usual. Double the onions and throw in a bit of that garlic you always use. And another round here,” he said sliding back in the booth.
“You sticking around?” I asked.
He looked at me and Rob, smiling that winning smile of his.
“I just called Brad. He’ll run some promos and an archive show. I doubt anyone will notice,” Randy said. “Now let’s talk about how we’re going to find this thing and kill it.”
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: