Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Wedding Photographer by Al

 Sometimes crimes aren't just about breaking the law... sometimes they are about life...

I have been told that I am an extremely boring person, and I believe this to be true. I also believe it to be true of most of the general population as well. Isn’t that why action movies, romance novels and reality shows exist, to take us away from the mundane and ordinary lives that we lead and whisk us to the places we rather be, occupying the bodies of the people we secretly hate because we are not them. I have the desire to believe that away from the camera and red carpets, the Brad Pitt’s of the world are as every bit as bored with life as I am. However, that is a secret I seldom share.

But, back to the subject at hand. I’ve been boring and ordinary all my life. In high school, I had not one girlfriend, not one date. I didn’t play football or basketball, didn’t excel in grades or anything else for that matter. I was invisible as I suspect, so were you. Maybe the difference is that I admit it.

College was no better for me. Two years of lonely dorm life surrounded by what seemed a never-ending stream of keg parties I was never asked to attend, but was forced to listen to until the wee hours of the morning. At the start of my third year, I left. I quit because I wasn’t learning anything useful and to be quite honest, I found college even more boring than high school. Besides, during the summer months back home In Queens, New York, I worked a job I found I was actually good at, if not excelled at, photography; Weddings, a Specialty, that is the company logo, or was as the owner recently passed. He gave me a break and hired me as an assistant that first summer off from college. I had two courses in photography in high school, found it rather interesting and took two additional courses my first year in college. My job was to set up tripods, check lighting and audio if recording a DVD and back up with a secondary camera for missed shots. It was easy work, mostly done on weekends, as that is the days most couples choose to hold their weddings.

After four years in his employment, I gave my notice to go off on my own. I set up shot in the basement of my parent’s home where I also resided. Business was slow at first, but having nothing else to do with my life, I persevered and after several years, I had a thriving business and an actual girlfriend. Mary, her name is Mary, applied for a part time position I advertised for to supplement her college tuition. We discovered immediately that besides photography we had in common the fact that we were both extremely boring people. She is dull, I am listless, and it was a match made in Ho Hum Heaven.
After a year, Mary quit college to work for me full time. A year after that, we got married, purchased a home in Rego Park, Queens to the delight of my parents, and set up shop in the basement. Long story short, we will shortly celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary. Through the years, the business grew. Mary and I both had assistants as we often worked several weddings a day on weekends. Weekdays, you see were spent developing and organizing albums and DVD’s. All that is quite boring and has nothing to do with what I am about to tell you, except as a backdrop.

Not long ago, after an exhausting Saturday wedding, I stopped for a drink at a local bar on
Queens Boulevard
a few blocks from my home. It’s a nothing bar, ordinary and average in every way, which is probably why it attracted me as a semi-regular.
It was a bit after eight in the evening when I parked my car and dragged my exhausted tail into the bar. A dozen or so regulars sat scattered at tables and at the bar itself. I took a seat at the bar between an old timer and a man I’d never laid eyes upon before that night.
He was tall, inches above six feet with broad shoulders that stretched his suit jacket to the limits. He wore a full, very dark beard that enhanced his rugged appearance. I didn’t see his eyes until a bit later.

As I settled into my seat, the bartender wandered over to me in no particular hurry. “Usual?” he said. I nodded.

The bartender looked at the empty glass in front of the stranger to my left. “Another for you?”

“Why not,” the stranger said and when he spoke, his voice was so soft and mild, it betrayed his size and powerful presence.

The bartender mixed my drink first, a rather ordinary screwdriver and set it before me. Then he filled a glass with shaved ice and slowly drizzled Maker’s Mark Whiskey over the ice, watched it settle and set it before the stranger.

“Thank you,” the stranger said and then I realized that his soft-spoken tone didn’t detract from his physical presence, but only added to it.  This was a man, I realized, who didn’t need to make noise for the world to sit up and take notice. His self-confident presence of being did his talking for him. I was filled with immediate envy for this was a man who with a wiggle of his pinky could sleep with my wife.Yours, too, I would imagine.
Not because our wives don’t love us, they probably do, but because they settled for us instead of the one they could never have. We, the ones settled for don’t like to admit that fact, but it’s true nonetheless.

I took a meager sip of my drink and tried not to stare at the stranger in the mirror. I averted my eyes a bit and noticed a long black case resting against the bar beside the stranger’s right leg. My eyes went down to the case and the stranger must have noticed me looking at it because he said softly, “It’s a Remington 7MM high powered medium to big game rifle.”
I turned and looked directly at him. His eyes were steel gray and appeared like glass marble. They sent a shiver down my spine. “You mean that’s a gun?” I said.

“No, it’s a rifle,” the stranger said. He reached inside his suit jacket, removed a massive revolver, and held it for me to see. “This is a gun. What’s in the case is a rifle.” I was stunned.

The stranger smiled. “Relax,” he said. “I have permits for both. I’m catching a plane later tonight for a hunting trip.” He stuck the revolver away, picked up his drink and took a small sip.

“I…I’m sorry for my reaction,” I said. “I’ve never held a gun…rifle and to see one like that in a public bar…well, you understand.”

“Yes, I do,” the stranger said. “Most people who’ve never held a weapon react just like you. The thing is the weapon in itself is harmless. It’s the person holding it that’s dangerous.”

“I guess that’s true,” I said. “So, you’re a hunter?”

“Yes,” the stranger said. “I guess you could say I’ve hunted all my life.”

“What do you hunt?” I said. “Not that I wish to pry, I’m just curious.”

“Any medium to large game,” the stranger said. “I’ve hunted them all and all over the world.”

I took a sip of my drink to work up the courage, and then asked my question. “How does it feel? To hunt something, I mean.”

The stranger smiled at me. “Do you mean is it exciting? Do I get a rush?” He calmly sipped his drink. “I suppose that I do, but it depends on the prey. If it’s a chase and a hunt and the prey is dangerous, it’s much more exciting and fulfilling. If the prey quivers like a deer in the headlights, I can barely pull the trigger.”

“But, you do anyway?” I said.

“Pull the trigger?” the stranger said. “Yes.”

We both sipped our drinks. For some reason my legs felt weak. I believe it was adrenaline running through my body, although I had done nothing to stimulate my glands. “I have to admit,” I said, feeling rather foolish. “That I find you a most fascinating individual.”

The stranger looked at me. “So what do you do?” he said.

“Do?” I said. “Oh, for work, you mean? I’m a photographer.”

“For what, the newspapers?”

“No, nothing as exciting as that, I’m afraid,” I said. “My wife and I own a small wedding photography shop we operate out of our home. It’s all quite dull, I’m afraid.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” the stranger said. “You make your own hours; work with your wife and judging from the suit you’re wearing do quite well.”

“We make out alright, I guess,” I said. “The suits are a business expense. I wear them for wedding shoots. I had a long one today that ran six or more hours.”

“That’s a lot of pictures, my friend,” the stranger said.

“Thousands,” I said. “I’ll spend the week reviewing proofs and selecting the best one hundred for development and process a DVD for the bride and groom. I have a selection of music I add to enhance the viewing.”

“Just in time for the next wedding,” the stranger said.

“Yes, I suppose so,” I said.

“So, what do you do for fun?” the stranger said. Good question. I sipped my drink while I pondered for an answer.

“You must do something you enjoy?” the stranger said. “Movies, sports, a favorite restaurant you and your wife frequent? Everybody has something they enjoy.”

“I’m afraid that I’ve been dull all my life,” I said. “I wish I wasn’t, but I am. The truth is I can’t think of a single thing I can honestly say gives me enjoyment.” I don’t know why I made such a confession to a total stranger. Maybe it’s because he was a total stranger and had no stake in my life and I would never see him again, I don’t know.

“What about sex?” the stranger said. “You must enjoy making love to your wife or you wouldn’t be married to her, right?” How do you answer a question like that? My silence was my answer.

“You need to get out, get away, do something that opens your nose and lets you breathe,” the stranger said.

“I know it,” I said.

“Life is too short, my friend,” the stranger said. “There’s too many things to see and do because before you know it, you’re gone.”

I nodded my head and looked at the stranger. “What about you, are you married?”

“Me? No,” the stranger said. “There’s too many women in the world to settle for just one, if you know what I mean.” I didn’t. I had no fucking idea.

“That first walk into a woman’s bedroom, that first time she takes her clothes off for you, that feeling fades quickly,” the stranger said. “By the second week I’m bored and I move on. It’s just the way I am.” It’s the way I always wanted to be, but couldn’t.

“But, that’s just me,” he said. “Some men, like you, can stay with one woman their whole life and that’s a good thing.” Is it?

“It’s the very fabric of society,” the stranger said. “Family life.” Jesus Christ.

“The backbone of modern civilization,” the stranger said.

I looked at him. “Are you fucking with me?”

“Yes.” I sighed, took a final sip of my drink, and set the glass on the bar.

“Bartender, set my friend up again,” the stranger said.

“Thank you,” I said.

“Least I can do for my minor transgression.”

The bartender set a fresh drink before me and I took an immediate long swallow. “Let me ask you something,” I said. “What does it feel like to shoot something? Really feel like?”

“Good question,” the stranger said. “Exhilarating, perhaps. Liberating to an extent. Satisfying, maybe. All of the above.”

“That doesn’t tell me much,” I said.

“No, I guess it doesn’t,” the stranger said. “It’s like that feeling a man gets when he sees a woman’s breast down her shirt for the first time. That thrill of seeing a quick peek of something you’re not supposed to. That excitement, that thrill, do you know what I mean?”

A few months ago, I photographed a wedding on Long Island. A young couple still in their twenties. It was a large weeding and besides my wife, we used two assistants. After the formal pictures, the bride wanted casual shots of the guests and so forth. While the band played and guests danced, the sister of the bride, blind drunk by this time, flashed me her breasts. It was just a second long look, but the excitement I felt was something I hadn’t felt for twenty years, if ever.

“Yes, I do know what you mean,” I said.

“Good, but you know, I can never fully explain the feeling,” the stranger said. “It’s something you have to experience for yourself.” I sipped my drink and nodded my head.

“Hey, why don’t you come along with me?” the stranger said
“With you?” I said. “You mean hunting?”

“Sure, why not?”

“I…I’ve never even held a gun…rifle,” I said. Truth was I’d never even been in a fight, unless getting beat up on a regular basis in school by boys and girls alike counts as a fight.

“So what? There’s nothing to it? You point and pull the trigger.”

I was suddenly covered in sweat. Not sweat from heat, but from fear. I suddenly realized how boring and cowardice are so closely linked. A coward is afraid to take chances, to risk and thereby settles into a boring, mundane routine. My bet was that the stranger never committed a cowardice act in his life. I did nothing but.

“I…I have another job tomorrow,” I said. “A large wedding in Forest Hills. I’m committed to it. I’m sorry.”

“Well, maybe next time,” the stranger said and downed his drink.

I feared he was about to leave. “Wait,” I said

“Have you…I mean…maybe you could take some photographs and show me?” I said.

“I’m afraid I’m not much with a camera,” the stranger said.

“It’s easy with a digital,” I said. “Nothing to it. I have several in my car I can lend you.

We can have a drink when you return and you can show me what it’s like on a hunt.”

“You’re serious?”

“Sure, why not?”

“Well, why not?”

“I’ll be right back,” I said and scurried to my car for Kodak digital.

The stranger held the camera in his hand. “What do I do?” I showed him.

“It’s simple enough,” the stranger said. “Okay, next Saturday we meet right here for a drink. My plane lands at eleven. I can be here right after .”

The wedding scheduled for next Saturday was at five with a reception. I did the math and said, “I’ll be here.”

The stranger gave me his right hand. “What’s your name?”

“John Smith,” I said.


“I’m afraid so,” I admitted. “What’s yours?”


“First or last?”

“Just Nash.” That figured. A cool name for a cool guy, another of life’s little injustices.
“I’m glad to know you Nash,” I said.

“Me, too, John Smith,” Nash said. With that, we shook and went our separate ways.

The following week was the longest, most ponderous week of my life. I’ll share some of what it’s like to be me. On Monday, Mary and I spent the day processing proofs from our perspective weddings. We had meatloaf for dinner. On Tuesday, we spent the day selecting proofs for the bride and groom to approve for their wedding albums. We had roasted chicken with potatoes and carrots for dinner. On Wednesday, we mailed out proofs to our clients and spent the afternoon tidying up our basement studio. Dinner, I believe was pot roast. If I remember correctly, Mary was in the mood and we made love, although I’m not really sure. Thursday we spent readying our equipment for our Saturday and Sunday commitments. Baked fish was dinner that night. Wait, now that I think about it, we made love on Thursday, not Wednesday. On Friday, I double-checked my equipment and booked four more weddings for the coming month. I don’t remember what I had for dinner or if I even had dinner as the anticipation of seeing Nash again consumed every waking moment. If Mary noticed a change in my behavior, she didn’t comment on it, but then again, would Mary notice an anvil if one fell on her head? I think not.

Saturday arrived. I shaved and showered, dressed in my best wedding suit, kissed Mary goodbye and drove to the church in Forest Hills. Mary was booked on Long Island for an evening weeding and wouldn’t be home until well after I. The circumstances for meeting Nash were perfect.

I set up shop in the church. Do you…blah, blah…and do you…blah, blah, kiss, kiss, hip, hip hooray. On to the reception hall. Here comes the bride, blah, blah, blah. Stand, smile, pose, cut the cake, first dance, blah, blah, blah. Finally, it was over. I packed in a hurry and nearly forget to take my check, loaded up the car and drove along
Queens Boulevard
to the bar. I lucked out and found a vacant parking spot along the curb thirty feet from the front door of the bar. I was about to get out when I looked at my watch. I was early. I decided to sit and wait and keep a lookout for Nash’s car, but then I realized I had no idea what he drove or if he would be arriving by cab.

Twenty long minutes passed and suddenly I wasn’t early, but Nash was late. A feeling of dread washed over me. What if he stood me up? The first truly interesting person who took an interest in me and…

A yellow cab pulled up next to the curb.

A moment later, Nash got out and paid the driver. I was so excited to see him I didn’t realize that all he carried was a laptop shoulder bag. He entered the bar.
I waited for a few seconds, wiped my soaking wet hands on my pants, got out of my car and walked to the bar. I hung back for a few more seconds, then entered and walked straight to the bar even though I could see Nash was in a booth by the window.
At the bar, I pretended to notice Nash in the mirror, turned and walked to the booth.

“Sorry I’m late,” I lied. “The wedding and all.”

“No problem,” Nash said as he took a sip of his drink.

I sat opposite him. The bartender sent the lone waitress on duty to the table. “I’ll have whatever he’s having,” I told her.

“Maker’s Mark over shaved ice,” she said.

“Sure,” I said. The waitress went to the bar.

“Well,” I said. “I’m excited to see your photographs.”

“Let’s enjoy our drinks first,” Nash said. “Then I’ll fire up the old laptop here and play a slideshow.”

The waitress returned with my drink and set the glass on a coaster. I carefully lifted the glass, took a sniff and the aroma of the whiskey all but cleared my nose. I looked down into the glass at the dark colored whiskey, then took a small sip expecting it to go down like an angry lion. Instead, it went down like a passive lamb, it was that smooth. The delight must have shown on my face.

Nash said, “Amazing what twenty years can do to a fine whiskey, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” I agreed. I took another sip and set the glass on the coaster. My palms were sweating. I had to admit that I couldn’t wait to see Nash’s photographs.

“How was the wedding?” Nash said.

“Fine,” I said. “Long, but it pays the bills.”

Nash raised his glass and swallowed his drink in one quick motion. “So, are you ready then?” he said.

“Absolutely,” I said, trying my best to appear cool.

Nash set his laptop on the table, flipped it open and spun it around. He stood and slid in next to me so I was against the wall
“Let’s see now,” Nash said and clicked some files. “I think I want slideshow. Is that okay with you, John?”

“Fine with me,” I chirped, sounding like a high school girl on her first date.

“Okay, the first picture is of the lair of the prey,” Nash said.

I eagerly awaited the first photo to pop up, anticipating some jungle mound or hidden cave occupied by a wild tiger. A photo of my home filled the laptop screen.For a moment, I didn’t know what I was looking at. It was my house. What the hell was my house doing on Nash’s laptop?

“Is that my…?” I said.

“Wait,” Nash said.

The next photo was of me mowing my lawn, and then another followed of me walking to my car, followed by another of me entering the local grocery store. “What is this?” I said, confused, disoriented. “Is this some kind of joke?”

“Now take it easy, John,” Nash said, softly. “No, it’s no joke.”

“Have you been following me?” I said. “Why?” Nash sighed softly, turned and showed me his steel gray eyes. I felt something press against my side.

“What you are feeling is a .32 Magnum pistol with a silencer pressed against your liver,” Nash said barely above a whisper. “If I pull the trigger, the sound of the bullet will be as a slight cough. No one in this bar will know you’ve been shot. Do we understand each other? Say yes.” I was paralyzed with fear, unable to speak or move.

Nash sighed. “Are you listening to me, John?” he said and jabbed my liver with the .32.
“Yes,” I found the strength to mumble.

“Good boy,” Nash said. “Now put your cell phone and car keys on the table.” I couldn’t move. I wanted to do what I was told, but fear so gripped me I couldn’t move a muscle.

“Keys, cell phone, now,” Nash said. “Or I’ll just pop you right now and the hell with your wife.”

I blinked. “What, what did you say?” I rasped.

“Put your fucking keys and cell phone on the table,” Nash said. There was no anger in his voice. He might have been ordering a burger from the menu; he spoke with such lack of emotion. I removed my cell phone and car keys and set them on the table.

“Okay, here’s the deal, John,” Nash said. “Your wife hired me to kill you. She is sick to death of you, John. She said life with you is as exciting as a blade of grass. She said that, not me. I try never to make things personal.” My head started to pound, my lungs wouldn’t fill with air. Bile rose up in my throat, fowl tasting and rancid.

“Don’t you puke, John,” Nash said. “Not in here.”

“Mary hired you to kill me?” I croaked weakly.

“Don’t hold it against her, John,” Nash said. “You are one boring son of a bitch. Christ, I’d kill you for nothing just too free up some extra oxygen.”

“Please?” I whispered
“Oh, don’t start that shit,” Nash said. “Begging never works. I’m a professional, John. They all beg and they all die slobbering on themselves.”

“Oh, God…oh, God,” I said softly to myself.

“Well, he’s not going to be of much use to you, John,” Nash said. “So without further ado, let’s get this show on the road.”

“You’re going to kill me here?” I said.

“God, you are a stupid fuck,” Nash said. “As dumb as you are boring. No, I’m not going to kill you here. What’s the fun in that, huh? I ask you.”

“Fun?” I said. “Killing me is fun for you?”

“It can be,” Nash said. “If you do it right. Like I told you, John, I like the thrill of the hunt. I like to stalk my victims before I kill them.”

“What?” I said.

“I’m going to give you a head start,” Nash said. “I’m going to count to ten before I come after you. You can waste that ten trying to call for help or find a pay phone, or you can use that ten to try to escape. Up to you, John.” Nash stood and moved to the other side of the table. “Go,” he said.

“What?” I said.

“Go,” Nash said. I wanted to get up, but my legs wouldn’t work.

“One,” Nash said.

“Please,” I begged.

“Two,” Nash said. I suddenly realized that I was eight seconds away from certain death and that propelled me from my seat. I ran to the door, opened it and dashed out to the street. For a moment, I was so paralyzed by fear, I couldn’t move. I heard a tap on the window, looked and saw Nash hold up three fingers. I ran.

Amazing how dark and empty the streets are at one in the morning. I ran without direction, feeling my lungs burn with each step I took. My wife hired a lunatic to murder me and for what…because I’m dull and boring? Is that a reason for murder? Is it? Okay, don’t answer that.  I heard footsteps echo behind me. I didn’t need to turn around to know they belonged to Nash.

Christ, my lungs burned, my legs felt like cooked spaghetti, but I had no choice but to keep moving. At a corner, I made a sharp left turn. I remembered the park a few blocks off
Queens Boulevard
in Forest Hills. If I made it to the park, maybe I could lose Nash in the dark, hide somewhere and escape.

I suddenly became aware of a noise. I realized the noise was my own labored, raspy breathing. I knew if I stopped, I would puke my guts out, so I didn’t stop. There it was up ahead, the park. Dark and ominous, I raced toward the opening and onto a stone path. No, I needed cover. I veered off the path and onto the grass and ran toward a soft hill where a clump of trees provided cover. A large oak. I raced to it, ducked behind its wide base and cringed in darkness like the coward that I am. I heard Nash enter the park. I prayed. Please God, let him not see me.  Please! I heard his footsteps on the stone path.

I cringed in fear and asked God to spare me, although God was probably as sick of me as I was of myself. Dull, lifeless, boring and a coward my entire life, why should my death be anything different. Still, I clung to my miserable existence as if it were gold. I hid in the dark on my belly like a worm.  A noise. I turned and slowly looked up at Nash’s smiling face.

“There you are, John,” he said.

“Please,” I begged.

“Now, now,” Nash said and grabbed my by the shirt, lifted and flung as if I were a rag doll. “Remember what I said about begging?”  I hit the dirt and rolled a few feet before Nash lifted me again and shook me like a rag doll
“Aw, come on, John,” Nash said as if speaking to a child. “Be a man. Fight me.” A fist punched me in the gut, another in the nose and I fell over backward.

“Don’t go out like this, John,” Nash said. “Fight. Be a man once in your fucking life, would you.” I crawled on my belly in the dirt.

“No, please, no,” I begged. Nash grabbed my ankles and pulled me backward. My face dragged in the dirt.

“Jesus, John,” Nash said. “What do you have to live for?” I rolled over and vomited in the grass. He politely stood by until I was done.

“Better now?” Nash said. “Good. Now get up and fight or so help me God, I’ll make you die so slowly and painfully, you’ll beg for a bullet between the eyes.” I tried to stand, slipped and fell.

“I can wait,” Nash said. Slowly, I made it to my feet.

Nash grinned at me as he pulled out from inside his suit jacket the biggest fucking Rambo knife I’d ever seen. He held it up for me to see and moonlight glinted off the jagged steel blade.

“Now I’m going to carve you into steaks,” Nash said. I stepped backwards and stumbled into a tree.

“Life is like a box of chocolates, John,” Nash said in a Forrest Gump like voice. “You never know when you’re going to die.” This sick fuck was actually enjoying himself.
Six feet was between us, the tree was at my back. I was boxed in. My eyes glanced around for a weapon, a tree branch, a rock, something. There was nothing.

Nash waved the massive knife through the air like a sword. “Ever have one of those days where you woke up and just had the urge to kill something and watch it bleed,” he grinned. I watched the blade of the knife slice through the air. His grin was as sharp as the blade. Then slowly it faded and he lowered the knife. “Aw, come on, John,” Nash said in almost a little boy pout. “You’re not making this any fun.”

“I’m sorry if you’re disappointed in me,” I said.

“That’s it, that’s what I mean, John,” Nash said happily and waved the knife again. “Now you either fight me or I’ll make sure you’re sill alive when I cut your balls off for a keepsake.” Fight? With what? The knife slashed closer. I could hear its breeze as it sliced the air.

“Ever been stabbed, John?” Nash said. “It ain’t pretty. You die slow and get to watch. Not like being shot where you go out quick.”  The tip of the blade flicked against my cheek. I felt flesh tear, blood run. Nash stepped back and looked at me disappointedly. He sighed. “Okay, John, have it your way. Let’s get it over with.”

My belt. I grabbed the buckle, loosened it and slid the belt out from around my waist. I wrapped one end around my right hand and let the buckle dangle at the end of two feet of leather. Nash looked at me. He moved forward and I slashed out with the belt like it was a whip. The buckle hit him in the right hand just above the wrist and a tiny red welt appeared.

“Yes!” Nash yelled. “Yes!” I raised the belt and slashed out again and again Nash yelled with joy. The buckle hit him in the cheek, drawing blood.
“That’s it, you fucking worm, fight!” Nash yelled.

I slashed out with the belt. The sharp buckle struck flesh and another drop of blood appeared. A feeling I could only describe as joy washed over me as I drew more and more blood. The excitement of seeing a woman’s breast for the first time paled in comparison.

“You sick twisted fuck,” I screamed and drew more blood with the buckle.

“That’s the spirit, John!” Nash yelled as he came in low under the belt and struck me in the stomach with his head. “That’s the stuff dreams are made of.”

My back hit the tree. Nash yanked the belt from my hand. The knife came straight for my chest. I grabbed his wrists and looked Nash in the eyes. He grinned at me. I pushed hard, with all that I had, but he was strong as an ox and slowly the tip of the blade move forward.

“Fuck you!” I yelled.

“What?” Nash said as he drove the knife closer to my chest, my heart.

“I said, fuck you!” I yelled. “Are you deaf, you sick, twisted fuck?”?” Nash grinned wildly as the knife touched my shirt. I pushed with all that I had, but it was no use. I felt the knife press against my flesh, pierce my shirt.

“Go…and…fuck yourself,” I hissed through gritted teeth. The knife pressed hard and I could see the blade start to disappear. Then, with one mighty shove, the knife struck and dug into the tree.  Nash and I made eye contact. His eyes were positively orgasmic.

“Too fucking easy,” Nash said and grabbed my shirt. “Let’s make this more interesting. With a flick of his powerful wrists, Nash flung me to the ground.

“Tell me something, John,” Nash said as his arms encircled my throat. “I’m curious to know,” he said and pressed hard against the soft flesh of my throat. My hands felt for his arms.

“Do you see a white light,” Nash said. “When you die, I mean.” I dug my fingernails into his arms.

“Is there a tunnel?” Nash said. His grip was unbreakable. I was starting to go lightheaded.

“An angel?” Nash said
My vision grew dim. I knew it was the end of the line. In a moment, I would cease to exist and my boring life and all its tedious humdrum would be no longer.

“Or is it all just bullshit and superstition?” Nash said.

I mustered my final breath. “Fuck…you,” I rasped. Time stood still. It was the end. My end.

“Good boy,” Nash said, released his grip and I fell over and gasped for several minutes. Finally, my head cleared and I sat up.

“I don’t understand,” I said, still dazed and confused.

“Happy anniversary from your wife, John,” Nash said. “I’m your anniversary gift. From this moment on, you’re alive. Every meal you eat will be fit for a king. Every time you make love to your wife will be like the first time. Every breath you take will be as sweet as wine. Now go home. Mary is waiting for you.”

“Mary hired you to do this?” I said. “For our anniversary?”

“She felt your marriage could use a little …excitement,” Nash said. “You started out slow, but you came through there at the end.” I stared at Nash in disbelief.

“Go,” Nash said. I turned and walked away from Nash, and then I started to run. As I reached
Queens Boulevard
, the erection in my pants was like iron and I could barely contain myself, my lust for my wife was so great.

One footnote to this story:

Mary and I are now freelance photographers. We are currently on assignment with the troops in a war zone. Explosions are going off around us all the time. I’ve never felt more alive.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Santino The Great!

Crime waits for no one as evidenced by the slew of bodies being left around the city. Victim number thirteen had been tossed on my desk that morning. The crime scene was similar to the others; throats ripped out mercilessly and not a single bit of evidence to go on. The district coroner, Joe Mazzilli, reported that he was positive the wounds were inflicted by another human, yet not one bit of DNA was left behind. We were all baffled and had been working non-stop for weeks to solve the murders. Rumors had started circulating and people were staying in their homes, afraid of being next. I couldn’t blame them. We just needed a fucking break in this case.

My wife had been on me that morning, saying I was working too many hours and it had begun to show. I couldn’t seem to gather any coherent thought, so I was thankful when she called to remind me it was my Birthday and demanded I take the evening off to hit the Comedy Club on the upper eastside of Manhattan near the river.

“I have two tickets for tonight to see Santino the Great. You’ll be there Jeff, no excuses. You need a break from this case. Everything will still be there even if you are gone for a few hours. Besides, you’re thirty-five today. Life’s passing us by and I don’t want to wait until retirement to enjoy it.” This was her way of telling me she worried I wouldn’t make it to retirement age.

“I’ll be home by five to get cleaned up, we should have plenty of time to make the seven o’clock show. And you don’t have to say it, Amy, I promise, I’ll be there. Love ya.”

“You better and I love you too.” She hung up, I went back to reviewing reports trying to find something that would help break this case.

Engrossed in my reading, I hadn’t realized how much time had passed since I talked to Amy. It was four thirty. “Oh shit!” I exclaimed, closing my files, shoving them into my drawer and locking it. I grabbed the coat of the back of my chair and tore ass out of the station house.

I hurried through the door of our Rego Park home at ten after five to face Amy staring at me with THAT look. “I’m not that late, babe. I’ll be ready in a few.” Her answer was a raised eyebrow. I approached her and wrapped my arms around her, leaning in to kiss her. “You look hot tonight, babe. You sure you want to go out?” I asked. She laughed, lightly smacked me on the arm and ordered me to get upstairs and dressed. At the top of the landing, my two boys came running out of their room where they had been engaged in combat between Transformers and the Sith. “Daddy!!” They cried in unison and jumped on me for hugs. “I love you boys, but Daddy’s got to go get dressed before Mommy turns into Darth Mom and cuts me down with her light saber.” The boys giggled as I kissed each one on the head, put them down and went into the bedroom.

Forty minutes later we were waving goodbye to our sitter, one of our neighbor’s daughters and heading out the door. We opted to take the car for our commute from Queens into the city. The sixteen-mile drive took fifty-five minutes, but at least we didn’t have to share our car with the array of drunks and addicts that usually occupy the F Train on a Saturday Night.

I parked the car in a lot on East 91st and we walked to the club two blocks south on Second Avenue. We were a few minutes early. I couldn’t help but flash Amy a grin, my way of expressing my success of actually being on time for a change. A line of forty stretched from the door to the end of the block. After about a five minute wait, the door opened and the line filed into the club. It was a sold out performance for Santino The Great, a hypnotist from Europe, who owned and performed in the club for years. He had a huge local following that kept coming back for more and more. I was surprised by the turn out in light of the recent murders, but here they were, waiting in line to get their dose of brainless entertainment.

Amy and I shared drinks at our table for two directly in front of the small, elevated stage while Santino performed his pre-dinner act. He was a dark man with stature, six three or four with his long, black hair tied back in a pony tail. He dazzled us with his slight of hand of coins, cards and objects from the audience. He even made a marvelous display of levitating a spoon from a table.

After forty-five minutes of performance, Santino announced that after dinner he would conduct an example of hypnosis that would astound us. He requested a volunteer. Amy raised her hand and told Santino that today was my birthday and that it would make a wonderful gift if he chose me. Santino agreed, told us to enjoy dinner and that the show would commence in an hour.

Dinner was surprisingly good and the hour passed quickly. As bus boys cleared tables and drinks were served, the spotlight on the stage flashed on, illuminated Santino as he made a commanding entrance. From a cloud of smoke, he rose straight up from the floor as if rising on a board until he was stranding erect. The cloud vanished. There was no board. There were no wires. There was just Santino the Great.

“I hope you all enjoyed dinner and are ready to be astounded!” Santino bellowed from the stage. The entire audience clapped, cheered and whistled, ready for him to make good on his promise to amaze and astound.

“My volunteer, please,” Santino said in a commanding voice.
Amy gave me a nudge. Beaming, I rose from the table and climbed the platform stairs to the stage for my fifteen minutes. I stood next to Santino, he shook my hand warmly and said, “What is you name?”

“Jeff,” I replied, feeling a bit nervous in front of all the people.
“Happy Birthday, Jeff,” Santino remarked.

“Thank you,” I said.

“Now Jeff, before we begin, I’d like to know something,” Santino stated inquisitively, “are you a fan of the movies and if so, what is your favorite type?”

“I’m a huge horror film fan,” I said. “Not slasher films, but the classic Dracula and vampire movies. Even the silent ones. Also, movies like The Shining, where the story matters. It’s not just gore for the sake of gore.”

“I see. Do you have a favorite?” Santino asked. “One that stands out in your mind.”

“Shadow of the Vampire is high on my list,” I said. “And the original silent version from the nineteen twenties.”

“Yes, I rather like that one myself,” Santino said. He faced the audience. I saw Amy riveted on Santino. “How about it, folks, would you like to see Jeff become a vampire right before your eyes?”

The reaction to Santino’s question was a resounding yes, with cheers led by my lovely wife Amy, who could whistle with the best of them.
“May I have quiet then, please,” Santino shouted above the crowd. He waved his arms and slowly the room fell silent. “I’ll require two chairs from the audience, please.”

Quickly, two men from the audience carried chairs to the stage.

“Face them about three feet apart,” Santino instructed.

Chairs in place, Santino turned to me.

“Please, Jeff, sit in the chair and relax,” Santino offered.
I sat and glanced at Amy. Her eyes were locked onto Me. Her hands partially covered her mouth in anticipation. I winked at her and grinned.

Santino faced his audience. “I’ll need complete silence from the audience for this to work. Hypnotism is something that requires complete concentration from the subject and the hypnotist alike for the session to be successful.” The crowd grew silent.

Santino faced me, sat in the chair opposite me and removed a pencil from his jacket pocket. “A standard number two pencil,” he said. He held the pencil by the point in his left hand exhibiting it to the audience in a dramatic flair, then held it in front of me. “Do you see the eraser, Jeff?”

“Sure,” I said.

“Good, good,” Santino commented. “Now look closely at the eraser. In fact, I want you to concentrate very hard on the eraser and nothing else. Do not look at me, the floor, your wife, just at the eraser. Can you do that, Jeff?”

“Yes,” I said, with holding sarcasm at the idiotic way he was addressing me.

“Good,” Santino said. “Now while you concentrate on the eraser, I want you to listen to my voice. Do you hear how soothing my voice sounds to you, Jeff?”

“Yes, I do,” I responded, staring at the pencil eraser.

“You’re starting to feel very relaxed, aren’t you, Jeff?” Santino asked in a soothing voice.

“Yes, I am,” I said, feeling a wave of relaxation wash over me.

“The stress and troubles of life are fading away, aren’t they, Jeff?” Santino continued.

“Yes, they are,” I said. The mortgage, the kids, car payments, college funds and murder cases all seemed so very far away at that moment.

“In fact, your body feels more relaxed than at any time in your life,” Santino stated, “and your mind is at total peace.”

“Yes, it is,” I droned.
“All that matters, all that you see is the eraser before you,” Santino said.

“Yes,” I said, feeling my vision narrow to a field that included just the eraser and nothing else.

“Now keep listening to my voice, Jeff,” he said. “Do you hear how soothing my voice sounds to you? How sleepy it makes you feel?”

“Yes,” I answered back, my voice sluggish. My eyelids were suddenly made of lead and I had to fight to keep them open.
“Don’t resist that feeling, Jeff,” Santino encouraged. “Embrace it. Welcome it. Allow it to put you at complete rest and peace.”

I felt completely relaxed and at peace for the first time in my life as a warm sensation wrapped itself around me like a blanket on a cold morning. I never wanted to leave this place.

“Your eyes are closing now, Jeff,” Santino said. “They are heavy and you want to sleep.”
My lids closed and it was funny, because I was sound asleep and heard every word Santino spoke to me.

“Can you hear me, Jeff?” Santino said.

“Yes,” I said.

“How do you feel, Jeff?”


“Except that your nose itches,” Santino interjected. “A terrible itch that you must scratch immediately.”

I felt my nose burn with one of those mystery itches that never seem to be quelled and I scratched it rigorously with my left hand.

“And your right ear is clogged,” Santino said, a hint of amusement in his voice.

The finger of my right hand went up to my ear and poked around as if the ear was filled with water, I started shaking my head sideways to get whatever was caught in there loose.

“Okay, Jeff, relax. Everything is fine now.”
I relaxed.

“Now listen to me carefully, Jeff,” Santino said. “I am going to suggest to you that you have a secret, a very dark side of your personality. That in fact, when the sun goes down and darkness emerges, you will become the vampire that possesses your soul. A fire rages through you, a thirst fills your veins and only blood can satisfy that thirst. You become that vampire you always wanted to be. But only when you hear the words Car Keys. Do you understand, Jeff?”

“Yes,” I said.

“I am going to suggest that you awaken now, Jeff,” Santino said. “I’m going to count to three and snap my fingers and you will wake up and feel totally refreshed. One, two, three.”

My eyes opened. I looked at Santino. The eraser was gone. He smiled at me.

“How do you feel, Jeff?” Santino asked
“Good,” I said. “Really, really good.”

“Excellent! Now I’m going to say the words…”
The front door of the club was abruptly thrown open and two firemen rushed in.
“Sorry to interrupt the show, folks,” A fireman said. “But, there is a gas leak right outside in the street and we have to ask everybody to please vacate the premises immediately. Don’t panic, don’t rush, but please exit the building.”

There was obvious disappointed in the crowd as everyone makes sounds of disapproval. “Sorry, folks, but we must do as the firefighters ask,” Santino said.

I left the stage, took Amy’s hand and along with the crowd, left the club. We crossed the street and stood on the sidewalk while a crew from the gas company went down an open manhole to investigate the leak. Several fire engines and ambulances were parked nearby just in case. Police kept the street crowd at bay.

“Well, that’s that,” Amy said.

“Should I call the sitter and tell her we’ll be home early?” I inquired.

“Might as well,” Amy said. “I’m sorry, hon.”

“So what happened in there?” I said. “I don’t remember much at all after going on stage.”

“I’ll tell you all about it in the car,” Amy said.
I took my wife’s hand and we started walking toward the parking lot on East 91st Street. As we neared the lot, I reached into my pocket for my cell phone to call the sitter and didn’t realize my keys fell from the pocket to the sidewalk. I dialed our number and spoke briefly to the sitter. When I hung up, Amy held the keys out to me.

“Dropped the car keys, hon,” Amy said.

There was a pause in my mind. Everything went blank for a moment, then there was a burst of energy that shot through my brain with the speed of a high resolution camera shutter snapping open.My vision cleared.

I looked at Amy. She smiled at me.

“Your car keys,” she said and dangled the keys.

A fire ran through my brain. The blood in my veins ran hot. I stood staring at Amy.

“What’s the matter, honey?” Amy asked, a look of concern crossing her beautiful face.

I noticed for the first time the elegance of Amy’s neck. How the vein on the left side stood out and pulsated with each beat of her heart. I thirsted with a hunger I’d never felt before.

“I want you,” I rasped in a voice not my own.

“Sweetie, want until we get home,” Amy giggled.

“No,” I said. “Now.”

“What?” Amy said, looking at me.

“I want you now,” I said.

“What are you…?” Amy didn’t get all her words out before I rushed forward and grabbed her.

“What is the matter with you?” Amy said, trying to push me away.

I leered at her, my teeth exposed.

Amy felt the car keys still in her hand. “Oh, no,” she said and tried to turn and run.

I pulled her jerked her closer and brought my teeth closer to her neck. She tried to wiggle away, but I held fast. A sinister laugh came from my throat and she paused.

“Jeff, this isn’t funny. You’re scaring me!” She protested. “You’re not a…”
I sunk my teeth into Amy’s neck and bit down hard.

Amy screamed as I drew blood. Thick, rich and sweet, Amy’s blood was the taste of the sweetest wine of the sweetest grapes .I drank.

“Oh my God!Help!” Amy screamed. “Somebody, please help me!”
I pushed Amy down to the sidewalk and held her pinned under my weight as I drank my fill of her sweet, sweet blood.

“Please!” Amy screamed, punching at me with her fists. “Jeff, stop! Please!”

I grabbed her throat to squeeze every last drop of her precious fluid. I suckled on the gaping wound of Amy’s neck until she slowly slumped and went still in my arms.

“What the fuck?” A man’s voice cried from behind me.

I jumped up and turned around with Amy’s blood still fresh in my mouth and on my lips. I looked at the man and woman who stumbled upon vampire and victim in the night.

“Holy fucking shit,” the man shouted.

“Call 911,” the woman screamed.
I showed my teeth, sharp and red with Amy’s life giving blood. I wasn’t full. The thirst in me was still strong. I moved toward the couple.

“Fuck that!” the man exclaimed, “Run!”. He turned to dash away.

I leapt over him, took his head in my hands, twisted, and broke his neck, he fell dead to the pavement. His scent didn’t appeal to me, it was the woman I wanted. I needed more blood, fresh blood. The hunger for it burned through me. I turned to her, she was paralyzed with fear. I could smell it oozing from her, it excited me. I grabbed her and sank my teeth into the soft flesh of her throat, the warm sweetness ran into my mouth.

“There!” Someone shouted. “It’s the murderer! Right there!”

“Police, freeze!” came the next shout.

I released the woman, she fell to the sidewalk in a heap. I turned towards the shouts, a pair of uniformed police officers with weapons drawn were closing in quickly.

“Hold it right there, Buddy!” one of them yelled, his weapon fixed on me.

I looked him in the eye, “Don’t worry, I’m a police officer,” I stated, holding my hands up.
“Yeah sure, Pal and I’m the Quen of fucking England. Now get on the ground.”

I threw my head back, laughing, “Well your Majesty,” I stated as I bowed towards him, “I’d love to stick around for this party, but well, you guys don’t seem like much fun at all.” I turned and ran down the street hooking a left down an alley way. I felt that I could change shape and fly, but of course, I couldn’t. Not yet, anyway. I needed more blood, more blood would increase my powers, I knew.

I reached a parking lot, jumped the six-foot high fence in one bound, landed inside, and ran into the shadows. The police took the long way in, entering through the gateway and by the time they were in, I was up and over the opposite gate running along 1st Avenue by the river. I ran through two open buildings, down a flight of long stairs to the East River Walkway.

“Where the fuck did he go!” a police officer yelled from the street.

“He’s on foot, for Christ’s sake,” another police officer yelled. “Find him!”

But they wouldn’t, couldn’t really, they were no match for me. Having lost the tail, I walked along the dark walkway with the thirst in my belly and the heat in my veins. I needed blood.
Ahead of me, I heard a noise. A female moaned softly from behind a tree. I slowed my pace and made a silent approach – Grinning – “Tsk, tsk, what’s going on here?” I said, leaning on the tree they were using to hide their lascivious activities. My shadow danced across the naked back of the male, who turned to me, “Dude! What the fuck? You some kind of a perv or somethin’?” He shouted, jumping off his mount.

My right hand shot out, encircled his neck and crushed his windpipe. He died instantly in my grip. I released him and he fell over, exposing the girl beneath him. She was lovely in a white summer sundress that was hiked up to her waist.

“M-m-mister,” She sputtered, I grinned. She was afraid, of course. Petrified at witnessing the death of her boyfriend, but she didn’t want to die. No one wants to die. “I’ll make you feel good, Mister.” She said, eyes wide, hiking her skirt up further.

“Take it off,” I said. “I won’t hurt you, just let me look.”

She stared at me from the ground.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“M-m-mena,” she stammered, wiping at the tears that fell sown her cheeks.

“Well, Mena, take off that dress and stand up,” I said.
Slowly, Mena rose from the ground. I could see grass stains on the back of her dress as she removed it.
“Now, come here, Mena,” I said looking her up and down. Ah, to be young again. “Don’t be afraid, Mena. It’s all going to be okay.” I reached a hand out to her, she placed one of hers in it and I pulled her towards me gently. “Oh Mena, Mena, Mena, are you ready for me?” I asked. She shook as she stepped towards me. “That’s right, Mena. Come to me.”

The thirst in me pinnacled. My very flesh was on fire. I grabbed a handful of her long blond hair pulling her head back. Leaning down I tore into her exposed flesh, feasting, trying to quench the thirst the burned in me.

“There!” an officer shouted. “On the walkway.”

I looked over Mena’s shoulder at the dozen police officers that were rushing to the walkway. With a final sip, I released Mena and took off running.

Shots rang out behind me. Bullets struck me in the back and legs. I ignored the minor annoyance and continued running until there was enough distance between the police, and me, then jumped the guardrail of the walkway, landing securely twenty feet below.

“How the fuck?” An officer above shouted.
I raced across the street and darted west toward Second Avenue. I was growing stronger, could feel he energy building inside me, but I needed more.

A car was stopped at the intersection for a red light. One of the little min cars from Europe. A man, a college student looking type was behind the wheel. His was the only car at the light. I stepped in front of it and looked at him. He rolled down his window, “what the fuck, man?” he yelled. “Get the fuck out of the way, I’ll run your ass over, fucker!”

“Open the door,” I said.

He paused, shook his head then pushed a button, the door lock popped. I walked to the side of the car and got in.

“Drive me to Rego Park, Queens,” I said. “Do you know where that is?”

“Yes,” he said.

“Take the Triborough bridge, it’s faster,” I told him

The light turned green and he stepped on the gas. The mini car was a stick shift and we drove to the bridge in 2nd gear as the speed limit is thirty miles an hour and we didn’t need the police pulling us over for speeding.
The ride to and across the bridge was torture. My insides were on fire, my thirst great, the desire for the blood was consuming me. We crossed the bridge into Queens.

“Take Queens Boulevard,” I said. “Go fast, but don’t speed.”

I told him to stop when we reached my home. The lights shining through the front widows from the living room. I knew what was waiting for me, and I wanted it. I rushed up the front walk and opened the door. Stupid sitter, leaving the door unlocked, doesn’t she know there is a murderer loose in the city?

“Boys,” I announced as I entered my home. “Daddy’s home.”

I stepped into the living room. On the floor lay the body of the sitter. I felt a moment of anger, I wanted her. That bitch! I kicked at her prone corpse, “No tip for you tonight, missy.”

A deep laughter rose from the sofa catching my attention. Santino sat in all his glory between my two sons. The boys were sleeping, or in a trance. Santino’s yellow eyes flashed with delight.

I approached the sofa. Santino smiled, his long, razor sharp fangs predominant in his mouth. “I’ve waited a long time for you to come along,” he said. “Centuries, in fact.”

I fell to my knees, a servant before his master. “There is one task you must complete, Jeffery, to become whole, to walk in eternity with us.” He pushed my youngest towards me. “You must drink of your own flesh, otherwise you die,” he grinned.

The front and back doors of the house slammed open simultaneously as a S.W.A.T. team started running. “There is no time, Jeffery. Decide now!” Santino exclaimed. I was frozen, could I eat my children? I took my youngest child’s head in my hands, looking at his throbbing vein. The hunger pained me throughout; the only way to make it stop was to…

Several men in full riot armor rushed into the room, guns drawn. “Freeze! Don’t move,” one of them shouted. I brought my eyes back to the sofa, Santino was gone. I looked around me, noticing the blood from the sitter staining the carpet, pooling around her body. I looked down at the child in hands, I was confused. “Hands up! Hands up now!” another shout. I was frozen.

Hands grabbed at me, pulling me up. “I’m a vampire!” I shouted. “You can’t beat me, you can’t kill me. I will suck every last drop of blood out of every one of you fuckers!” I protested as handcuffs were roughly put around my wrists, my arms pinned behind me. Two burly men escorted me outside to put me in the back of a squad car. I could see some of my associates from the station staring on in disbelief. “Man, I knew he was working too hard. This shit gets to you after a while, but damn, none of us saw this coming,” one of them said to another. “Fuck, this is not going to look good for the force. Cop goes crazy, goes on homicidal rage. I never thought Jeff would be one to break. Poor fucker.”