Pound of Flesh – Chapter 1
I didn’t stop the guy as he pushed his way into the convenience store. Why would I?
Blowing a hole into the back of this son-of-a-bitch’s skull would let him know something was up. And I didn’t want him to know that. At least not yet.
So instead, I flipped a packet of Sugar Babies around in my hand, pretending I was one of those douches who read the nutritional information on the back of candy wrappers as though it could have possibly said anything other than “awesome sugary poison.”
This gutter trash bastard had hit up six convenience stores in the last four weeks, and his MO was always the same. Pull a gun, rob the place and, just as the sobbing guy or girl behind the counter thinks he’s going to take the cash and run, he guns them down along with anybody else in the store who might have been unlucky enough to be going on a beer run.
I had seen his type before, tangled with them on more than one occasion.
They never won. They wouldn’t start tonight.
Charlie made his way to the freezer, pretending he was trying to decide between a two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew and a six-pack of Bud Light.
It was patently ridiculous. One, because anybody who cared to look could see the crease in the back of his jeans where he’d shoved his pistol, and two, because everybody knows that when faced with that decision, the only correct answer is both.
I guess, in the end it wouldn’t matter which one good old Charlie chose. He was about to meet a fate I reserved for only the sickest, most depraved individuals.
Which was to say, I was going to eat him.
Now, before anybody starts getting the wrong idea, I wasn’t actually going to eat him. At least, not in the traditional “fork and knife” sense of the word.
What I do, what I’ve always done since I was a little half demon kid trying to come to terms with the hunger inside of me, is a little more sophisticated than that.
No, what I do is much more humane. At least, as humane as someone who’s batting .500 on the demon scale can be.
Charlie settled on the two liter and started toward the counter.
There was a cute little blonde girl behind the desk. She was chomping on gum, eyes glued to her cell phone, with a nametag on that read “Staci.”
“Staci with an I,” I muttered.
She wasn’t paying attention, but she would be shortly.
Charlie Whitmore was planning on making “Staci with an I” his seventh victim in the Atlanta area in two months.
It was business as usual for him, old hat.
But it wasn’t going to be old hat.
And not just because I was a cop.
I shoved the packet of Sugar Babies into my pocket and headed for the counter behind Charlie.
No, I wasn’t going to steal the candy. What kind of cop would that make me? I’d toss the money on the counter after I made short work of Charlie. Though honestly, if Staci accepted it, I’d be a little pissed off. I mean, come on, saving somebody’s life is totally worth some sugary goodness.
Power welled up inside of me as I neared Charlie boy, causing me to sweat and giving me a touch of the shakes. It wasn’t my warlock half. Nah, that sort of energy was easy to control. At least in contrast to the other half.
This was the dark part of me, the demon part, the impolite part I wasn’t supposed to talk about at dinner parties, the part that absolutely, under no circumstances would shut up unless I fed it.
Well, put your lobster bib on, demon part. We’re about to dine.
Charles Whitmore settled in front of the register with his two-liter soda. Staci with an I paid him about as much attention as you might a buzzing fly that decided to keep its distance, which was to say she threw up an index finger, head still planted firmly in her phone’s screen and chomped, “One second, mkay?” through a mouth full of pink bubble gum.
But Charles Whitmore had no intention of waiting one second. As I said before, for him, this was old hat. While he might have been more cautious before, well, let’s just say he’d gotten cocky.
“Put the phone on the counter and open the register,” he said flatly, his eyes betraying the sort of hardness that could only come from having done this many times before.
And there it was.
I needed to wait, not because I needed proof. No. I just needed to be able to live with myself.
Sure, I had done my research. I was a good detective. I knew Charles Whitmore was the person responsible for all of this death, even if the rest of the department hadn’t quite figured it out yet. But I needed to see it happen. I needed to watch the offense taking place. In my experience, that sort of proof was the only thing that helped me sleep at night.
“What?” Staci with an I asked, finally looking up from her phone. What she found was a tall, blond, reasonably handsome man with a crooked grin on his face and pistol in his hand.
Things just got real.
“On the counter,” he repeated.
She did as he asked, her entire body shaking with fear. This had not been what she’d been expecting.
He smashed the butt of his pistol down on the phone hard, nearly snapping the cheap plastic in half.
“And you,” he said, equally calm, gesturing at me with the two-liter to let me know he was speaking to me. ”You’ll stop right there if you know what’s good for you.”
I wasn’t sure why, but the phrasing tickled me a little, and I couldn’t help but chuckle.
If someone getting pissed off was something you could hear, I’d have been able to hear it coming off of Charles Whitmore like a marching band at 2 AM.
“Is something funny, prick?” he asked, his mouth twisting into an angry scowl. Oh, look at that. I could hear it. He stepped back and turned his body halfway between me and the girl so he could see both of us, and eventually shoot both of us.
Not that I was going to let that happen.
“There’s a lot of funny things, man,” I said, still walking toward him. ”Kevin Hart, Modern Family, when a guy slips on a banana peel.” I settled in front of him, still far enough away so he’d think I didn’t pose any real danger. “You know, I wouldn’t normally admit this, but I’m a fan of those Kate Hudson movies too. You know, the ones where she gets the guy at the end. Those things are funny as hell. But do you know what’s the funniest thing in the world to me? The thing that just puts me in stitches? It’s when some douchebag loser is in way over his head and he doesn’t even know it.”
Charlie boy narrowed his eyes at me, like he couldn’t believe someone was actually saying this stuff to him.
“Big words for a guy with a gun pointed at his head,” Charlie said, moving the barrel of the pistol toward me.
And why wouldn’t he? One look at the way Staci was shaking was enough to tell him she wasn’t going to try anything.
“Oh, you’re looking for a gunfight,” I said, smiling and opening my jacket just enough for him to see both my newly issued APD badge and the gun holstered at my waist.
“You’re a cop?” he said, grinning. “That’s awesome. I never killed a pig before.”
“I’m a detective,” I clarified. “Detective Roy Morgan. And don’t get too excited, scumbag. You never will.”
“Tell it to the angels,” he muttered, and I could see his finger twitch on the trigger.
There was no time to pull my gun, and certainly no time to conjure up an incantation.
Instead, I went right to business.
I lunged for the waste of space.
Grabbing the barrel of the gun, I jerked it upward as he fired.
A bullet whizzed right past my head, lodging itself into the market’s ceiling.
Staci screamed, but I didn’t have time to comfort her.
My hand was on fire. The jerk and heat of the firing gun caused me to stumble backward, but as I did, I reached for my gun.
Falling, I fired twice, but the angle threw me off and all I ended up doing was taking out one of those disgusting hot dog spinners.
I leapt up as Charlie ducked behind one of the store aisles.
“Get out of here,” I muttered to Staci with an I. My hand burned and my head was starting to pound. Both were signs my demon half was getting ready to play.
“He’ll shoot me,” Staci replied, her voice shaky.
“He’ll shoot you if you don’t,” I answered, trying my best to sound confident. “Now go. I’ll cover you.”
She didn’t move.
“Go dammit!” I yelled, frustration filling my words.
Yelping, Staci darted from behind the counter.
Because he was a sadistic bastard, Charlie Whitmore started to shoot at her. He didn’t care that it gave up his position, or that it wasted valuable ammo he was going to need if he wanted to get out of here alive. All he cared about was his prize, killing another innocent person.
“Shit like this, Charlie,” I muttered, shielding her with my body as I fired back at him. “Shit like this is why I’m going to eat you.”
Staci made it out the door as one of Charlie’s stray bullets found its way into my shoulder. I pulled back, wincing in pain.
A lot of movies lead people to believe demons are bulletproof. Those same movies might say something similar about warlocks. As a half-breed from both those communities, I’d like to set the record straight and call bullshit. Getting shot sucks.
As pain shot up my shoulder, I ducked behind a display of beer cases and shrugged my jacket off. I placed a hand to my shoulder and muttered some of the Latin I had learned while being taught the ways of the warlock.
It was a simple spell and wouldn’t do much to actually heal me. It would take a proper doctor for that, but it would ease the pain enough for me to get the job done. And that was what mattered.
“Charles Whitmore,” I said, letting him know I knew his name. “Charles Whitmore of 1537 South Hampton Street. Apartment 4D. You can’t hide from me.”
“Then I guess I’ll just have to kill you,” he answered back. Which, to be fair, was a reasonable answer.
That’s right, you son of a bitch. Remind me how much you suck. Make it easy for me.
I muttered more Latin, this time to lock the doors and disable the security systems. There was no need for this to spill out into the street, and God knows, I couldn’t explain myself should a video of what was about to go down ever found its way to the public eye.
“You’d be surprised how many times I’ve heard that, Charlie boy,” I said, steadying myself.
Now for the big one.
I used to think that growing up as only half warlock would mean I would only be half as strong. What it actually meant was I would have to work twice as hard to be half as strong.
That was okay, because it meant while other witches and warlocks were out popping each other’s cherries and disappointing their parents, I got to learn crap like this.
Throwing my hands out in front of me, I muttered some ancient shit the Druids used when their enemies hid from them.
The aisles separating me from Charles Whitmore disappeared, leaving a charred wasteland in their place and opening up a clear path to this bastard.
The world went red for me, which meant my eyes had gone red a demon party trick that usually caused anyone in viewing distance to wet themselves.
Charlie was no exception.
As he brought his gun up, hands shaking so hard he couldn’t have hit the side of a barn let alone me, all the blood drained from his face, leaving him pale as a ghost. He didn’t fire. He should have, but he didn’t. That was the weird thing about people. Show them a monster and they become as useless as a wet parachute on a skydive.
“What-what the fuck are you, man?” His voice cracked mid-sentence, and for a moment, I almost felt bad for him. Almost.
“What you deserve, Charles Whitmore,” I said, feeling the heat of my body preparing for what was about to happen.
My hands began to glow, red to match my eyes.
As soon as I laid them on Charlie, I’d suck the energy right out of him. I’d take it all, hollowing him out and leaving him a literal husk of a person.
It was harsh, sure. But no harsher than what he wanted to do tonight, than what he had done to countless people before.
It was why I saved it for people like him.
Besides, it had been too long since I’d “fed.” It was starting to make me antsy. Starting to find its way into my head. If I let that happen, if I let the demon side of me go too long without getting its “lunch” on, I’d find myself losing control to it. My inhibitions, my sense of right and wrong, all of it would be skewed by the monster inside.
Charlie froze there, the gun slipping from his hands to clatter across the cheap laminate floor as I neared him.
I didn’t feel death around him, which was odd. Another of my demon perks was that I could sense whenever death was about raise his hooded head and stick his hooded sickle into somebody’s ass. It usually found its way to my victims by now.
Maybe it was the bullet. Maybe it was throwing me off.
Either way, this was almost over.
“Calm down, Charlie. It’ll only hurt for a second, but it’ll hurt a lot.” I tried to sound comforting although I didn’t know why I bothered.
He screamed as I laid my hand on him.
I felt him start to pour into me, the connection that would soon end his life as well as his reign of terror on Atlanta’s poorest district.
Then the doors flew open. I cursed. All of my energy had went to feeding, using up the energy from the spell I’d previously used to lock the doors. Oops.
Police poured in, guns at the ready.
Dammit. Staci with an I must have gotten help.
I figured she would, but didn’t think reinforcements would come this quickly. Atlanta was faster than Boston. Good to know.
I pulled myself off of Charles Whitmore, feeling like a kid pulled away from dessert as I severed the connection.
Damn. This was worse than if I hadn’t started at all.
Like blue balls for the soul.
“You have the right to remain silent,” I said, tossing him on his back and placing cuffs on his worthless wrists. I leaned in closer, so that only he could hear me. I suggest you use it, asshole.”