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Authors: ed. Jeremy C. Shipp

Aberrations

BOOK: Aberrations
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Aberrations

Edited by Jeremy C. Shipp

Aberrations

Edited by Jeremy C. Shipp

Anthology copyright 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Individual stories copyright by individual authors

Kindle Edition

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored, or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means (electronically, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the proper written permission of the copyright owner.

This anthology is a work of fiction. People, places, events and situations are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or historical events, is purely coincidental.

Table of Contents

Money Well Earned by Joseph Nassise

Bug House by Lisa Tuttle

The Thing in the Woods by Nate Kenyon

Survivors by Joe McKinney

The Hounds of Love by Scott Nicholson

Goat Boy by Jeremy C. Shipp

Tested by Lisa Morton

Bus People by Simon Wood

Beggars at Dawn by Elizabeth Massie

From Hamlin to Harperville by Kealan Patrick Burke

Money Well Earned

by Joseph Nassise

I make my living killing things.

Sometimes I kill animals.  Big ones, usually.  Rhinos.  Elephants.  Stuff like that.

More often than not, though, I kill people.  Somebody knows something they shouldn’t know or somebody sees something they aren’t supposed to see and someone else wants to make certain that they don’t talk about it.  When that happens, they call me in.

It’s not a bad job, as jobs go, and I’m rather good at it.  One of the best, actually.  And that’s not my ego talking, either, just a simple statement of fact.  The Marine Corps trained me well, way back when, and the years I’ve spent as a private contractor have honed those skills even more.  I can kill a man at two thousand yards, with the right equipment and time to set up the shot.  Believe you me, that’s not an easy thing to do.

So I wasn’t surprised when I got a message that Big Al Dantoni wanted to see me.  I’d done some work for Big Al in the past.  He always paid on time and never argued about the price.  I like that in a guy.  Straight up, ya know?

Big Al was in Vegas, so as soon as I got the message I made the necessary arrangements and caught the first flight out.  Philly to Vegas, with a stop in Phoenix just to be certain I didn’t have a tail.  I wasn’t expecting one, but it never hurt to be cautious.  And I’d made a career out of being cautious.

I grabbed a cab at the airport and twenty-five minutes later I was being ushered into Big Al’s living room. He lived in this big place outside the city, more a compound than a house, really.  Word was that Bugsy Siegel himself had built it back in the thirties, when those guys were throwing cash all over the place like it was going out of style.  Back before RICO and federal racketeering statutes and all that.

Big Al was somewhere in the neighborhood of three hundred fifty pounds, but he moved with the grace of a man half his size.  He came forward to shake my hand and gestured for me to take a seat.

He wandered over to the bar.  “Drink?”

I shook my head.  “I’m good.”

“Mind if I have one?”

That was Big Al.  Always polite.  Until you pissed him off and he had some guy like me put a slug through your eye from a few thousand yards out.

“Your house,” I said with a slight grin. He’d been offering for ten years and I’d be saying no just as long. It was a familiar ritual.  Our way of saying, “Good to see you,” or some shit like that.

Through a variety of cut-outs, Al ran all the construction that took place within the city limits, small and large.  If you wanted to build a new hotel or casino complex, or simply wanted to add a room to your house, you went through Al.  If you didn’t, bad things started happening at your job site.  Crew members got hurt.  Tools went missing.  Product showed up damaged or not at all.

Al poured himself a scotch, a generous one, and wandered back over to take a seat opposite my own. 

“I’ve got a job for you.”

That much was obvious, so I kept my mouth shut and waited to hear the rest.

“It’s in West Virginia.”

I shrugged.

A slight grin crossed his face.  He reached down beside his chair, picked up a file, and handed it to me.

It was full of old newspaper clippings, police reports, even a few first-hand accounts written in pen on fading paper.  They told an interesting story.

Late in the evening of November 15, 1966, two young couples encountered a strange creature near the abandoned TNT plant outside of Point Pleasant, West Virginia.  The creature was described as being shaped like a man, but bigger, in the neighborhood of seven feet tall.  It had large red eyes and a pair of monstrous wings that it kept folded against its back.  When the couples sped away from the scene, the creature took to the air and followed them right up to the town limits.

Other people saw the creature that night and during the course of the next few weeks.  Many of them were reputable individuals, which gave their testimony added credence.  The creature, dubbed the Mothman after a villain on the popular Batman television show, was reported as either grey or dark brown and had a tendency to glide when it was aloft.  Other strange occurrences were also noted during that time; odd lights in the sky, unexpected problems with televisions and telephones, cars stalled for no reason while passing by the old TNT plant.

The events continued right up until the night of December 15, 1967.  On that evening the bridge that crossed the Ohio River outside Point Pleasant abruptly collapsed, killing forty-four people.  Some later theories suggested that the Mothman had come to warn the people of the disaster ahead, but that his message hadn’t been understood and the people of Point Pleasant, West Virginia had paid the price.

Whatever the reason, the Mothman wasn’t seen again after that fateful night.

I finished reading and tried to collect my thoughts.  I was confused and not too embarrassed to say so.

“I’m sorry.  I don’t understand,” I said, looking up.

He smiled.  “Your target is right there.”

“Who?  Someone in these old clippings?”  I started leafing through the photocopies again, paying attention to the names, looking for one that made sense given what I knew about Al’s business practices.

Then a fat finger entered my frame of vision and came to rest on the picture of the artist’s representation of the Mothman.  The finger tapped the photo, once, and then Big Al pulled his hand back.

You have got to be shittin’ me…

I kept my cool.  “Let me get this straight.  You want me to go to West Virginia.  Track down a flying…” I glanced down at the paper to get the name right, “Mothman, and bring it back here for you.”

He nodded.  “Yes, that’s exactly right.”

In the back of my head I knew that pissing Big Al off was a very bad career move, so I tried to be diplomatic about it.  “Al, these articles are more than thirty years old.  Since you don’t have any newer ones, I’m assuming this Mothman thing hasn’t been seen since 1967.  The trail is cold, Al, real cold.”

His grin got wider, if that was at all possible.  He reached down beside his chair and handed me a second file.  This one had a couple of recent articles in it from the same paper.  They told of lights in the sky and the sighting of a strange figure at night just off Highway 62.

“It’s happening all over again,” Big Al said.  “Which means he’s coming back.  Except this time it will be different.”

He clapped his hands together like a delighted child.

“This time you’ll be waiting for him.”

He’s gone absolutely nuts
, I thought to myself.  I came within a hairsbreadth of turning him down flat, right then and there, but after a moment I started to think about the financial opportunity in front of me.  Al was paying me to go to West Virginia and hunt a mythical creature that hadn’t been seen in over thirty years.  That meant my daily rate, for as long as it took to get the job done, plus expenses.  I could probably add in another 10% for hazardous duty pay, too, as there was no way of knowing how dangerous this thing was or what it might be able to do.  It was simple math.  Added risk equaled a higher price.

I laid it out for him, step by step.  How I’d have to observe things for awhile, get the lay of the land.  How it would take time to confirm whether the sightings were real or just some country bullshit.  How, if they were the real thing, I would then need to figure out the best way of taking this thing down.  I’d have to be thorough and I’d have to be sure; I probably wouldn’t get more than one chance to blow it out of the sky. 

He listened, nodded a few times, and handed over an envelope stuffed full of cash.  “First two weeks pay plus a generous amount for expenses.  I’ll have a special refrigerator truck on call twenty-four hours a day to pick up the body once you’ve handled your end of the job.”

And just like that, I became the first hit man in the history of violent crime to be hired to kill a myth.

Sometimes this job is just damned strange.

*  *  *  *  *

West Virginia was about what I expected.  Lots of trees.  Lots of green.  Lots of long, lonely stretches of highway.  After flying back from Vegas, I’d loaded my Expedition with the equipment I needed and driven south.  Interstate 81 took me out of Pennsylvania and into West Virginia.  At that point I headed west on 68, crossing half the state before turning south on 79.  Another two hours of travel took me into Charleston, where I stopped and had a quick lunch before completing the final leg north into Point Pleasant.

It was a quiet community, perched on the edge of West Virginia with the mighty Ohio River at its back.  Population just over 4000.  As I drove through the town, scoping things out and getting my bearings, I came to the conclusion that little had changed in the forty some odd years since the Mothman’s first appearance. 

Except for the statue, that is.

It was a large, silver thing, with big wings and red eyes, and was humanoid in appearance.  It stood on a pedestal right there in the center of town, with a plaque commemorating that first sighting back in 1966.  The statue had been done by a local sculptor, a guy by the name of Bob Roach, and I wondered for a moment if he’d ever seen the thing or if he’d just decided this was what a Mothman should look like.

Probably the later, I thought to myself.

Turns out the town not only had a statue of their favorite monster, but a museum and an annual festival devoted to him as well.  Clearly someone somewhere along the way had the bright idea to capitalize on their notoriety and would probably still be doing so fifty years from now.

That was when I made up my mind.

I knew it was crazy, but I decided then and there to act as if the Mothman was a real target. Big Al was paying me a lot of money and it didn’t seem fair to write it all off without checking to see if there was any substance to it.

I needed a place to set up watch.  Someplace that was out of the way enough that I wouldn’t be noticed by the locals but that had a better than even chance of letting me catch it in the act, if it actually did exist.

The old TNT plant seemed to be my best bet.

The area around the plant was comprised of several hundred acres of dense woods.  Large concrete domes were scattered here and there.  The domes had held high explosives during World War II and had fallen into disrepair not too long afterward.  A network of tunnels stretched throughout.  I imagine it would look something like a giant ant colony, if it could be viewed in a cross-section.

Searching the place was out of the question and it wasn’t because I was worried about encountering the Mothman.  There were enough natural dangers to keep me out of a place like that all on its own.  Collapsing tunnels, old pitfalls, rats and other vermin.  You needed a team with plenty of rope and a strong GPS signal to do it right, neither of which I had at the moment.

So instead I set up camp in a thicket on the edge of a slender valley leading to the plant.  With a wide area in front and plenty of ground cover to hide in, I would be able to see the Mothman as it was silhouetted against the open sky above.  I had my favorite rifle with me, a Remington M24, fitted with a Leupold scope.  A memento of my service days.  I was confident that if the Mothman put in an appearance, I could shoot it out of the sky with that weapon.  Easier than shooting fish in a barrel.

Except the Mothman didn’t make an appearance.

At least, not for me.  Other folks were seeing him left and right.  Soaring across the fields.  Standing by the side of the road.  Just about everywhere else but the old TNT plant where it had taken up residence the first time around.  Every time I went into town I’d hear the latest story, how so and so had seen such and such and what did it all mean?

BOOK: Aberrations
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