Posts Tagged ‘big bad


Short Story: A Visit From Lenny

Lenny came creeping in the bar in a gigantic coat with the collar up and an old baseball cap pulled down so low I barely recognised him.

His head jerked awkwardly as he scanned the room like it was attached to him with a series of gears that were grinding and cracking under the strain.

For a second he looked like he was about to turn tail and bolt back into the street, half the bar was already staring at him, trying to catch a glimpse of his face and see if it looked anywhere near as dirty and destitute as the rest of him.

His nerves got the better of him eventually and he leapt back into the street, disappearing completely into the shadows and the ventilation-shaft smoke.

A minute later, he bounded back through the entrance, crossed the room in a weird half-shuffling, half-skipping motion and perched at the far end of the bar where he fumbled with a box of matches for nearly a full minute and then lit the wrong end of his cigarette.

I finished pouring the draught I was busy with, slid it down the bar counter to Joe and his cronies and went to say hi to Lenny.

“Hi Lenny,” I said.

“Sam!” he replied, “S-Sam, my man, my main man, Sammy-Sam, Calamity Sam, heh heh…”

“You got out?”

“Yep. Yepyepyep. Yessir. Heh. Free’s a bird Sammy-Sam,” he said and lapsed into a violent coughing fit.

“You’re smoking the wrong end, Len. Here,” I said, taking his smoke and showing him, “see?”

“Heh! I see it, I see it man, I see it… S’ok, happens all a the time! All a the time!” he said, laughing apologetically. “Umm… you don’t happen to err…”

“Here,” I said, taking a smoke from my pocket and lighting it for him. He took it from me delicately, with the fingers from both his hands, like he was holding a tiny recorder or a flute or something.

He smoked for a bit and chewed his thumb nail horizontally between his two front teeth. I watched him cast anxious, jerky glances over his shoulder at every person in the bar. Not one of them so much as took a sip without Lenny’s skittish eyes fixing on them.

“You got a plan this time Len?” I asked him.

“Hm?” he said, his attention snapping back on me.

“You got a plan?”

“Ooh I gotta plan Sammy, I gotta plan you bet your fucking ass I gotta plan,” he said and laughed nervously, “I been hearing stories, everyone saying the same things, all a them, which makes it true.”

“What stories?”

Lenny suddenly grew quiet. He cast a quick jerky glance over his shoulder and leaned in a little closer.

“Big Bad stories,” Lenny said, “Big Bad stories.”

“Ah Jesus Len,” I said.

“Nononono Sammy, you don’t understand!”

I looked at Lenny, his fucking eyes twitching, red as road maps and sunken deep, too deep into their black sockets. I looked at his motley beard, uneven from the hairs he’d either pulled out or twisted into hard knots all over his starved, pallid face. His cracked lips, his yellowing teeth, his fin-bone nose.

I looked at Lenny, my oldest friend, but I barely recognised him.

“They said you were getting better,” I said.

“I am! Much, much, much, much better! Better ‘nuff to pull the ol’ switcheroo, the ol’ Cansas City shuffle and get the fucking FUCK outta there Sammy-Sam!”

“Alright Lenny, calm down.”

“Better ‘nuff to give em the slip, heh heh! Because I think…” Lenny suddenly grew serious, “there’s truth in the stories, Sam. Really. I do.”

I’d regret it later, but I had to know.

“What stories?” I asked.

Lenny leaned closer.

“There’s a guy in there. Santos. Hardly fuckin’ speaks a WORD!” Lenny said, spitting a little in my eye. “But he speaks to me. When the others aren’t watching and they switch the bugs off, y’know?”

I nodded.

“WELL! Turns out he knows, Sammy! He knows about Big Bad! Where he comes from! Says he worked for his fucking family! His fucking family! When Big Bad was just a fucking kid Sammy!”

“Lenny, I’m calling the bin, I’m sorry…”

“Nononononononono! Sammy! Wait!” Lenny said, gripping my arm, “Don’t do that, please, don’t.”

Something in his voice made me stop. I turned to look at Lenny, he’d stopped shaking and twitching. His eyes had stopped rolling around endlessly in his skull and there was a tiny glimmer, underneath the broken shell sitting across the bar, of my old friend.

“I’m going there,” he said to me with total and utter conviction, “I’m going to find his family.”

“And that’s going to make it better?” I asked him and no sooner had I said the words than he exploded with shrill, manic laughter.

“What do YOU think Sammy-Sam! Heh heh heh heh, what the fuck DO YOU THINK?!”

He stubbed his cigarette and pulled his collar back up, his head jerking as he scanned the room one last time.

“I’m getting better Sammy-Sam,” he said, “not much longer and I’ll be the old Leonard we all used to love.”

“Goodbye Lenny,” I said, but he’d already taken off disappearing like smoke into the smoke.


*                    *                    *                    *                    *                      *                    *                    *


I went home after that, drank half a bottle of grain whisky and tried to pass out, but sleep wouldn’t come.

I couldn’t shake Lenny from my mind, babbling like they all do about the place Big Bad comes from and how they know someone who knows someone who swears they knew Big Bad when he was a kid, harmless as any other, climbing trees, scraping his knees, making mud pies.

They’re stories told by babbling idiots, wretched basterds that all have one thing in common: what Big Bad did to them.

So they make up stories about the man, a hundred different kinds of bullshit and they hang for everything it’s worth onto the last shreds of sanity they have left because they can’t bare the truth.

That he has no family. No past. Not even a real name.

That we have it on pretty good authority that Big Bad was spat straight out of hell onto this Earth a thousand, thousand years ago and will exist for a thousand thousand more.

But it’s not that thought that keeps me up. I’m too old and powerless to ever be of any interest to a man like Big Bad.

It’s the memory of how I found Lenny, holding them to him, his head buried in the bloodied curls of their blond hair.




Short Story: Animals In Love

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the years I’ve worked here, it is the universal truth that no matter how they might try to dress it up and pretend otherwise, humans are messy creatures and that is a fact.

Some of them loved a good, hard party and they’d leave the rooms smelling like a bar the next day, beer pooled in sour patches on the carpets, cigarette butts spilling out of ashtrays knocked to the floor, that kind of thing.

The Higgs brothers were crazy like that – Joe kicked the TV in one night when they were good and wasted, and Mike got a mean gash on his forehead because he was jumping on the bed and got whacked by the ceiling fan.

Their old man owned a hunting surplus store that didn’t make them a lot of money so they paid for the damage in gin traps instead. I was fine with that. Kept the wild animals away.

Some of them were bedwetters, and lemme tell you, the cleaning ladies hate a bedwetter, for obvious reasons.

Some of them were messy eaters and left our sheets stained with all manner of shit – salsa, ketchup, bacon fat, mayonnaise… at least I hope it was mayonnaise.

All those people, they were harmless folk. Messy folk for sure but harmless, and mostly I didn’t let it get to me that they treated my rooms exactly like they were, cheap places to spend a night after a long day’s drive.

But then every once in awhile, I’d get a call from the Big Bad telling me to book out three rooms, one next to the other and I’d put down the phone after a call like that and I’d swear under my breath because I knew what was coming.

The next day I’d find the two rooms on the outside untouched, Big Bad just hired them so no one else would, but the one in the middle? I’d find it looking like wild animals had torn it to shreds.

The mattress would be lying half off the bed, springs bursting out of it at every angle and the sheets would be drenched in sweat and spotted with blood, lying in a crumpled heap in the corner.

The pictures would be lying face down where they’d been torn off the walls and the curtains would hang ripped on the railings, faint, bloody stains trailing down them where they’d been clutched in desperate handfuls.

The cupboards would be broken from blunt force, the bedside lamp would be a sad and tattered mess, the basin in the bathroom would be shattered and the floor would be drenched an inch of water from the broken faucet.

Anything that was glass would be smashed – windows, mirrors, anything. Those animals even managed to destroy the ceiling fan once, I found it turning in slow, lopsided circles, with only one propeller left on it. Not even Mike’s thick head ever managed to do that.

At first I thought the Big Bad was getting people murdered in those rooms, maybe people who owed him money or who had wronged him in some way. He never let me see the people who checked in, that was part of the deal and the next day he’d send one of his boys over with a bag full of money, more than enough to repair the damage, so I kept my mouth shut.

Still though, it was fuckin’ weird and I couldn’t stop my mind ticking over and over every time that phone call came.

In the end it was the screaming that really got to me. I can turn my back on a lot of things, more than I’d care to admit, but the sound of a woman screaming? You gotta be one cold-hearted bastard to not let that get to you.

I convinced myself that Big Bad was renting the room out to the worst kind of people you could imagine, maybe thugs of his who liked to beat up women and worse. Maybe that’s how he rewarded his hired guns, rented out these rooms in the middle of nowhere and let them do whatever the hell they wanted with them.

So one night I stayed up, listening and waiting because I had to know and even though it fucked me up pretty bad, what I saw, I’m glad I saw it.

Around four o’clock in the morning things finally went quiet in the room Big Bad had rented and a calm descended over the desert around us that was so deep, I swear you could hear the moon setting in the pale sky.

I climbed into the back of my truck and pulled the tarpaulin sheeting over myself, leaving a tiny gap for me to watch through as I peaked over the tailgate at their front door, about 50 feet away from where I lay.

It was there that I saw them.

He came out first, stooping as he stepped out the door in jeans, a black vest and more tattoos than you could ever count. His eye was swollen shut and crusted with dry blood, red scratch marks ran down his neck, and his shoulders were riddled with bite marks.

He was huge, carved from stone and had a mean look about him like he’d seen and done a lot of bad things in his life and he would see and do a lot more.

He scanned the parking lot for a few seconds and then slowly stepped aside, holding the door open with a thick, tattooed arm.

She stepped outside carefully, like a fawn, into the breathless morning, wearing his jacket.

She was every kind of beautiful that woman, but that’s not what stuck in my mind. What stuck in my mind was that after all that screaming and destruction, she stepped out of the wreckage of that room without a scratch on her.

And I knew in that instant that the screams I’d heard all those times weren’t from pain.

He closed the door softly once she’d stepped through it and she turned back to face him and gently put the palms of her hands on his chest and then lay her head between them, right where his heart was, to listen.

His arms rose slowly to encircle her and he tucked her head under his chin and closed his eye and they just stood like that for a long time while the sun rose red above the aching desert.

I don’t know how many years I’ve got left in me, probably a handful at best, but even if I lived another hundred, I don’t think I’ll ever see two people, two animals, more in love.

A black limo pulled up to where they were standing and she reached into one of his jacket pockets, took out a ring and put it on her left hand. She gave him his jacket back, wiped her face quickly and turned to get into the car.

He stood there watching her in silence until long after the limo had pulled away and the dust had settled, and then he jammed his fists into his jacket pockets and started walking down the road into the desert, the same way she went.

The rest of that day I didn’t do much but stare off from behind the front desk, lost in half-thoughts about what I’d seen that morning. By the end of the week it wasn’t much better.

A couple of months later Mike and Joe stopped by, asked how the gin traps were working out, so I lied and told ‘em they were working out just fine.

Truth is after that morning I dug a deep hole behind the shed, threw the gin traps in it and buried them, I don’t know why. It just seemed like the right thing to do.

The world carried on turning as though that morning had never happened, as it always has. The hours added up to days, which added up to months, which added up to years and I stopped thinking about those two. I just took it for granted that that big mean bastard finally met someone bigger and meaner or that that beautiful woman went back to whatever life was waiting for her in that limo and didn’t look back.

And so you can imagine my surprise this morning when I picked up the phone to hear a voice I hadn’t heard for nearly five years.

‘I need a room Sam,” he told me in that same old wolf-voice.

“Actually, make it three.”