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DEATHWISH: Book 4, Chapter 1

 

Paint it Red!

CAL

Once, when I was seven, I was chased by a dog.

We lived in a trailer park then, my brother, our mother and me. There were lots of dogs around, most of them running loose. I didn’t mind. I like dogs. But dogs…dogs don’t much like me in return. Puppies do Puppies like everyone. They’d crawl in my lap, chew happily on a finger or the tattered edge of my sneaker. Dogs are different—one sniff of me was enough. More than enough. The upper lip would peel back, ears would flatten, and the warm brown eyes would go glassy and slide sideways as they hunched with tail tucked beneath their legs. Dogs don’t just not like me, they’re afraid of me.

Except for Hammer. Hammer wasn’t right, not right being flat out crazy. One hundred pounds of Shepherd mixed with Rottweiler mixed with God knew what else. Black and gray with a wide chest, a flat head, and empty amber eyes, Hammer wasn’t afraid to look at me like the other dogs were. No, Hammer liked to look at me. He liked to think about me. If anyone thought animals didn’t think, didn’t plot, didn’t plan, then they’d never met Hammer. Two trailers down and one of the few dogs in the park kept on a chain, he watched me every day as my brother and I walked to school. He never barked. He never growled. He never even moved. He just watched.

With a lack of any apparent aggression, any other kid might have been tempted to pet him. Not me. Even at seven I knew a monster when I saw one. It didn’t matter if his owner had made him into one or he’d been born one like me, Hammer was Hammer. You didn’t pet him any more than you petted a rabid grizzly bear. You just walked by and kept your eyes on the ground. You never looked…just like Hammer never moved.

Until he did.

Hammer was bad inside, wrong, and like I recognized him, he recognized me. And when drunk old Mr. McGee let the chain finally rust through, Hammer came for me. I had my dollar store sneakers and a bagged lunch my brother had made for me, but I didn’t have my brother. He’d gone ahead, although still in sight. He never failed to make sure I was in sight. This time I’d forgotten my backpack like kids do. I’d catch up. I always forgot things. I always caught up. No big deal. Yeah, no big deal, but Hammer made it one.

He ripped the backpack off of me. He’d been lying in the same position he lay in every day. Bowl of dirty water, gnawed club of wood. I saw it from the corner of my eye as I walked past. That day, like every day, I wondered why he didn’t like me. We were both twisted. Both wrong. So why? I didn’t get a chance to wonder any further than that. There was a blur of fur, jaws clamped into my backpack, and my body thrown sideways. He dragged me several feet before he tore the pack completely off of me.

I didn’t think. Like I said, I’d seen monsters. You didn’t hang around and ponder the situation. I got up and ran. While I’d seen monsters before, been followed, watched, I hadn’t ever been chased by one. It was my first taste of death at my heels, my first taste of running for my life.

It wasn’t my last.

In fact, I ended up spending a vast amount of my life running. Not just living my life on the run, which I had, but actually running. I wasn’t seven anymore, but I was still flat out hauling ass. Like the wind—like the fucking wind. Running from this, running from that—usually from something with teeth, claws, and the attitude of a Great White on steroids. Things that made Hammer look like a toy poodle.

I hated it, the running. Hated it like poison. Which may be why I had finally decided I’d had enough and committed to staying in one place over a year ago, and that place was New York City. A veritable Mecca for monsters like me as well as monsters like Hammer—those that had me literally running for my life or the life of one of the few people I gave a shit about. There weren’t many of those, people that I cared about. Part time bartender, private investigator/bodyguard/jack of all trades to the non human world, and one suspicious son of a bitch. That was me. Not precisely Mr. Social. It paid to be wary in a dark world thought to be nothing more than fairy tales and ghost stories by most people—most people being the blindly oblivious, the cheerfully clueless, the ever so lucky assholes.

The handful of people, humans and non, that I did give a crap about had all ended up in New York, too—in the City That Never Sleeps, a good place for us creatures of the night. Everyone I cared about and one in particular, my brother. He had been with me since the beginning, my beginning, and now had me running through the streets to make sure my beginning didn’t bring him to an end.

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