Dr. Nekros got out of his rusted 1936 Packard 1408 Dietrich, told it not to go anywhere, and approached Wendeln’s Hardware with his unbuttoned black peacoat catching the stiff October wind.
He could feel the townspeople staring at him. An obvious outsider, they didn’t know Dr. Nekros, and in those parts, not knowing someone proved grounds enough not to trust them. Combine the fact that Dr. Nekros was a stranger with his scarred face, half-missing right ear, scraggly black beard, and macabre clothes—well, let’s just say no one rushed to shake his hand or offered to buy him a cup of burnt coffee at Lujan’s Café.
Taking the handle that would open the door to the hardware store, Dr. Nekros glanced back at the Packard, and said, “Seriously. If you leave me here, I’ll trade you in for a scooter. I kid you not.”
Though its engine had cooled, the Packard suddenly backfired.
“Very funny,” Dr. Nekros muttered and then pulled the handle.
A small bell’s tinkle alerted Mr. Wendeln, as he sat behind the ancient counter manning an even older cash register, that luck had spit in his face for the millionth time and the man in black he’d been watching through the window had entered his reputable business.
“Good morning,” Mr. Wendeln managed in a voice that was anything but inviting.
Dr. Nekros briefly set his brown eyes on Mr. Wendeln.
“Help you with anything?” the old man asked.
Dr. Nekros did not bother to answer. He made his way to the section deep within the antiquated store where his materials awaited.
“Fool hooligan,” Mr. Wendeln griped beneath his breath. “Hords are going to hear about this one, you bet, as soon as the pasty critter pays for his goods and leaves my store. They’re going to get a phone call like never before, and I don’t care if they never come to me for a bolt or a smoke detector again!”
The bell jingled once more, and Mr. Wendeln felt both joy and dread when he saw Cliff Flynn and Hank Mottsinger enter. They’d been drinking, he could tell as much, but that was nothing new. After all, they didn’t have to report to the mill for another seven hours. What else were they supposed to do all day?
“He in here?” Cliff hissed through the gnarled whiskers that riddled his face.
Mr. Wendeln jerked his head to the left, motioning to the back of the store. That was all Cliff and Hank needed. They unbuttoned their Carhartts and took off their stocking caps. Cliff’s matted blonde hair stood out in every direction, and Hank’s bald head gleamed in the florescent lighting like a shark splitting the surface of a moonlit ocean. They each took a hammer out from deep within their coats while their boots squeaked upon the waxed tile. Mr. Wendeln experienced an assortment of emotions at the sound of their death march, for while he knew the interloper would get what was coming to him and that made his heart flutter, he also knew Cliff and Hank would do considerable damage to his store in the process and then neglect to pay for the restoration.
The drunken men found Dr. Nekros waiting for them, leaning against a wooden shelf full of outlets with his arms folded and his chin sunk upon his thick chest. Somehow, the harsh lights made his damaged visage all the more severe.
“Looking for something, gentlemen?” he asked the two men.
“Yeah,” Cliff said, for he was the talker between the two. “We’re looking for you.”
“I’m not surprised,” Dr. Nekros sighed without taking his eyes off them. He’d been through this sort of thing before.
“We don’t like you,” Cliff said before he started to lightly rap the head of the hammer against the palm of his other hand.
“Yet, you don’t even know me,” Dr. Nekros chuckled while staring at them.
“We don’t care mister—”
“—Doctor,” Dr. Nekros interrupted.
“What?” Cliff questioned.
“Not ‘mister.’ Doctor. Dr. Nekros: Occult Aficionado.”
Hank laughed while slurring, “If that’s your real name, then I’m the king of England.”
For a fleeting moment, Dr. Nekros thought perhaps Hank was much smarter than he appeared. He briefly considered that Hank understood there was no king of England, and so thus had made the point that Dr. Nekros could not possibly be a real name. In conclusion, however, after Hank produced a riotous belch, Dr. Nekros decided that the bald man had simply gotten confused about his British royalty.
Frowning at them just a bit and cocking his head slightly to the side, Dr. Nekros quickly realized that these two men were likely going to beat him with those hammers and he could count on Mr. Wendeln looking the other way. The Packard would be of no help, that much was certain. It never was.
Dr. Nekros didn’t hear the slight tinkle of Wendeln’s bell before Cliff spoke anew.
“We don’t care who you are,” Cliff informed with an aimless swing of his hammer, confirming Dr. Nekros’ presumptions. “You’re pulling some kind of scam on the Hords, and we don’t like nobody taking advantage of our townsfolk.”
Arms still folded and chin still sunken, Dr. Nekros grumbled, “Gentlemen, I assure you that my intentions are completely honorable. I’m only here to help. The Hords have a problem, and I am their solution. Surely you won’t stand in their way of finally achieving peace?”
As he said this, Dr. Nekros unfolded his arms and placed his hands into the pockets of his peacoat. His left hand met with a small satchel of sand he always kept on his person. It served a variety of purposes.
“The only piece they’re getting is the one we’re going to break off of you,” Cliff growled. He and Cliff suddenly rushed Dr. Nekros, their hammers held high into the air, and when Cliff abruptly dropped like a stone, Dr. Nekros swung his satchel of sand and introduced it to Hank’s temple with the speed and precision of a dive-bombing eagle.
Dr. Nekros fought to slow his heart after the altercation had ended, but the sight of Zetta Southerland made that quite impossible, especially because she still held the pipe which felled Cliff Flynn in her hand.
“What are you doing here?” he asked her.
“Is that your way of saying thank you?” she asked in return.
“How did you find me?”
She dropped the pipe and it complained for several seconds before finally settling. She then put her hands on her hips and huffed, “Still not showing much gratitude.”
Dr. Nekros replaced his sand bag into the pocket of his coat and took the items he wanted from the shelves. He rested them in the crook of his right arm, then, fixing his gaze directly upon Zetta, pointed at her with his left and lectured, “I could have taken care of these two. They’re too drunk to even stand up straight.”
He then lowered his finger and stepped over Cliff and Hank as they writhed in pain.
Zetta stepped aside while he powered past her, pushed her black-rimmed glasses up after they slid slightly down the bridge of her nose, and then yelled, “Yeah, right! Those guys would have cleaned your clock!”
“Absolutely not,” Dr. Nekros responded from over his shoulder. “I had the situation completely in hand.” He stopped after reaching the cash register where Mr. Wendeln cowered in the corner. He spun on his boot heel and said to Zetta, “You really think this is the first time a couple of small-town bullies have tried to intimidate me? I’ve gotten out of worse than that.”
He next leaned over the splintered counter to find Mr. Wendeln with his knees up to his chest and his liver-spotted arms folded over them. His watery eyes just barely peeked at Dr. Nekros from beneath his hairy forearms.
He pointed at the items in the bend of his right arm and said, “Instead of calling the sheriff about your willingness to participate in attempted murder, I’m taking these items—free of charge.” Dr. Nekros next spotted a jar of beef jerky, gathered it up, and added, “The jerky, too.”
Mr. Wendeln had never been so happy to hear the tinkle of his bell as when the strange man and woman exited his hardware store forevermore. He suddenly had an urge to visit the men’s room and imitate the bell as best he could.
“You’re appalling,” Zetta accosted while following Dr. Nekros to his car.
“What?” Dr. Nekros asked, glancing at her before pulling on the door to the Packard. Of course, it was locked. “Come on; not now!” he screamed at the car. It suddenly unlocked. Dr. Nekros tossed in the items he had collected from the store.
“What just happened there?” Zetta asked, pointing at the Packard.
“The car opened on its own.”
Dr. Nekros folded his arms and complained, “Which is it, Zetta? Are you here to climb my back about the store or to examine this stupid hunk of junk?”
The car protested with a surprisingly robust honk of the horn.
Dr. Nekros kicked the side of it while yelling, “Shut up!”
Zetta, her brunette hair whipping across her face, noticed that a crowd had gathered on the town square and watched them. “We can’t talk here, Micah—”
“—Don’t call me that.”
“It’s your name.”
“My name is Dr. Nekros.”
Zetta took her eyes away from the man with the scars running across his face and stared at the broken pavement beneath her feet. She wrapped her pink wool overcoat more tightly about her body and then looked at him again, saying, “We need to talk, Dr. Nekros. I’ve spent a lot of time tracking you down. Can you at least give me the courtesy of a conversation? A private conversation, away from all these people?”
Dr. Nekros rubbed his bearded cheek for a moment, thinking deeply as he studied the woman he hadn’t seen in thirteen years, and then said, “Follow me.”
He turned his back to her and tugged once more on the door to the Packard.
It did not open.
“I swear to God, if you don’t cut this crap out, I’m taking you to the junkyard!”
The door swiftly sprang open and collided with its driver’s knees which prompted a howl of agitated pain.
Zetta had no idea what to make of such a scene while Dr. Nekros hobbled into the car, and so she simply got into her silver Honda Pilot and followed closely behind.
Zetta tailed Dr. Nekros for many miles as they wormed their way along the country roads. A chill had set in, unusually so even for October, and Zetta cranked the heat in her SUV as she contemplated what she planned on saying to the man driving the car in front of her.
Well, maybe not driving.
She could see that Dr. Nekros chewed on a beef jerky while staring out the window, and had been doing so ever since they left city limits. He appeared to ponder what her reappearance in his life meant as well.
They finally came to a gravel lane. Dr. Nekros’ car pulled onto it. Zetta listened to her tires consuming innumerable pebbles after she followed suit. Eventually, a yellow house came into sight. It was a two-story affair, obviously a former farmhouse. She thought she might even see the hint of a barn behind the southwest corner of the residence.
Dr. Nekros pulled off the lane onto an overgrown field and drove a few hundred feet before stopping under an oak tree.
Zetta pulled up alongside him and got out. He had already made his way to the opposite side of the tree so that his back was to the house still fifty yards away. She stood next to him, both of them looking off in the distance. They saw slight bluffs covered with fields, fences, and disrobing trees in the mid-morning, overcast light.
“What are you doing here, Zetta?” he questioned.
“I’m here to see you.”
He turned and faced her. She noted the scars along his face had not lessened in all the time gone by. They looked as fresh as the day after he received them. One started along the right side of his head, leaving a slash through his hair that would never sprout follicles again. This was the one that took half of his right ear. It finished its path just past his right cheekbone. The next scar began a touch past his hairline near his right temple. It made its way over his right eyebrow and jumped the valley of his eyeball and finished before it reached his right nostril. He was lucky his eye had not gone the route of half his ear. Another scar’s origin could be found between his temple and his widow’s peak, and it ran through his hair and finished near the center of his forehead. When he furrowed his brow, it took on the characteristic of an eternally dry riverbed. The last scar, on his face at least, started at the left temple, a few inches into the hair, and completed its journey near his left eyebrow.
The scars were deep and they were ugly, and nothing could ever hide them from the world at large, and so Dr. Nekros did not bother to try. He wanted people to gasp when they saw him, for that would always serve to remind that the one who did this must pay.
“There,” he finally said. “You’ve gotten a good look. Now go away.” He turned his back to her.
“I can’t do that, Micah.”
She saw his shoulders jump at the mention of his first name. How long had it been since someone had said it out loud before today? Ten years? Twelve? Thirteen? She prayed it hadn’t been thirteen, not since the day she last said goodbye.
He turned, his oversized turtleneck not moving with his broad neck at all, and he seethed, “You can do that, Zetta. Go back to Jason and the kids. You’re wasting both our time.”
For a moment she thought about reaching out to touch his shoulder, but realized far too much had happened between them to ever do something so bold. She looked up to the gray sky, swallowed hard, and then hurriedly said, “I have to help you, Micah.”
A bitter laughter erupted before he harangued, “You tried to once before, remember? You couldn’t talk me out of it then, and you certainly can’t do it now. I’m getting close, Zetta. I can feel it.”
She looked away and whispered, “That’s what I’m afraid of.”
“What?” he asked, finally turning to face her again. His eyes, with their dark, intense circles, looked nothing like the eyes of the man she once thought she knew.
“Never mind,” she quickly dismissed. Then she rushed, “I’m not here to talk you out of anything, Micah—”
“—Stop calling me that.”
“It’s your name. Get over it. Anyway, I’m not here to try to get you to stop your ‘investigations.’ Just the opposite.”
“That’s right,” she said as she pulled her hair into a ponytail. Her plain lips offered him a smile when she said, “I’m here to be your partner.”
A light drizzle fell, dampening both their clothes and one of their spirits. The other’s spirit couldn’t get much lower.
“No,” the morose Dr. Nekros finalized.
His sullen eyes enlarged as he said, “I could spend the rest of my life offering reasons why you and I should never be in the same room again, much less working together. Furthermore, if that isn’t enough, I don’t need a partner.”
Zetta listened to him comment on “the rest of his life,” and a chill went through her slight frame. The real reason she was there was to make sure “the rest of his life” would last quite a long time. But she could never tell him that. He would equate that with the core of her argument from over a decade ago. “You do need a partner, caveman.”
“That’s right—caveman,” she repeated. “I tracked you down using your blog and MySpace page.”
“What do you want from me? They’re free,” he huffed while wiping the water from his face.
“I’m not insulting your web pages,” she assured. “Given your financial situation, I think it’s a brilliant way to drum up business.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“The problem is you offer no solid technology.” The rain decided a drizzle wasn’t dramatic enough, and so it doubled its efforts to a full-on shower. “This ‘I go with my instincts’ stuff is from the dark ages. You need to offer your clients real proof. I’ve invested in all kinds of equipment that will take you to the top of your game.”
Dr. Nekros announced, “The top of my game isn’t about proving to people that their house is haunted, or that they’ve been bitten by a vampire, or that a creature lives in the lake behind their summer home. The top of my game is for when I destroy the monster that did this!” He slapped the scars on the side of his head. “Everything else is happenstance—meaningless.”
Normally Dr. Nekros would never dare utter such revelations, but he had informed Zetta of his plans long ago, and if she had planned on exposing the true motives behind his paranormal investigations, she would have done so well before now.
“Even so, Micah, wouldn’t you at least like to capture some of your findings on a recording? Some day this mission of revenge is going to come to an end, and what will you do after that? With the evidence you collect from these outings of yours, you could get back into a doctorate program and write your own ticket!”
“Enough!” Dr. Nekros yelled. “Mrs. Hord is probably watching us with her telescope. I can’t afford to waste any more time. You either stay or leave; I don’t care which. But if you stay—and I know you probably will—then keep your gear in the car. Got it? You don’t breathe a word about recorded findings to the Hords. Maybe one day I’ll stop being a caveman, but I’m not going in today with equipment I don’t know how to use and lose out on seven hundred dollars.”
“Wow, you’re making pretty good money with this line of work, huh?”
“So says the wife of a millionaire.”
“He was penniless when I married him, Micah. Just like you.”
“Stop calling me Micah.”
“I’m just using your name. Speaking of which, what’s with this ‘Dr. Nekros’ stuff?”
Dr. Nekros slumped his shoulders, walked away from Zetta, and grumbled, “She’s going to get along famously with the Packard.”
“Where have you been?” Mrs. Hord demanded. She had thrown open the door as Dr. Nekros and Zetta scaled the front steps. “You said you’d be right back! The banging has been going on the whole time you’ve been gone!”
“Not to worry, Mrs. Hord,” Dr. Nekros offered with a smile from ear to half-ear. “Some fellows in town offered to get hammered with me, but, as you know, I don’t go in for that sort of thing. I respectfully declined and made my way back to you and your problems just as fast as my rusty Packard would take me.” He brushed past her, patting her affectionately on the plump shoulder as he did so.
Zetta had no choice but to trail behind him. She saw the old woman giving her the once over, working her dentures back and forth. The younger of the two women stuck out her red-knuckled, rough hand and said, “Hello, Mrs. Hord. I’m Zetta Sou—”
“—This is my assistant, Mrs. Hord,” Dr. Nekros quickly interjected. “She just arrived after verifying some information you gave me about your land. I contacted her before she drove down and she went directly to the nearest city library. You doubtlessly noticed us conversing down the lane, in the rain, under that grand oak of yours.”
“I did indeed,” Mrs. Hord said with her eyes squinting. She burned distrustful holes through Zetta.
“Yes, she was filling me in on all the details. You were exactly right, Mrs. Hord. Many tragic deaths have taken place where this very house now stands. First the Indians; then the slaves; then the Civil War soldiers. After that, God only knows. This land is mired in unsavory history, to be sure.
Zetta here has confirmed all of my worst suspicions, and you’ll find her endlessly helpful in my plight against the evils of the spirit-world. It is my sincerest hope that you will welcome her into your hospitable home as graciously as you did me.”
Dr. Nekros stood within the old farmhouse, grinning at Mrs. Hord with all the fabricated charm his brooding disposition could muster, while Mrs. Hord blocked the doorway from Zetta, whose hand still waited in limbo to be shaken.
Finally, Mrs. Hord accepted Zetta’s outstretched hand and said, “Welcome, dear. I’m sorry to be so standoffish, but the good doctor never told me he had an assistant.”
“He didn’t!” Zetta exclaimed, placing her hands on her hips and shaking her head at Dr. Nekros. “Well, you know how forgetful a genius can be. Mica—er, Dr. Nekros gets so wrapped up in his investigations that he sometimes forgets to mention the little things.”
“Guilty as charged,” Dr. Nekros guffawed as he tugged on his poorly trimmed beard.
“Well now, let’s have a seat and I’ll summarize for Zetta what has transpired up to this point. It is absolutely and vastly important that we are all on the same page.”
“Oh, good! I’ll make some coffee. I’ve already set the cookies out on the coffee table, so you two help yourselves.”
After Mrs. Hord left the room, Zetta eyed the cookies and muttered to Dr. Nekros, “Seven hundred dollars and the perks aren’t too bad, either.”
Dr. Nekros responded, “She uses raisons in her cookies.”
Zetta bit off a bit of cookie, smiled, and said, “You always hated raisons.”
After the coffee had been brewed and several cookies eaten by the two women, the supposed occult aficionado and his conjectural assistant got down to business. They sat atop a flower-patterned couch. The home owner sat across from them upon an old recliner.
“As you know, Mrs. Hord, I have spent the last three days sleeping in the very basement you believe to be haunted.”
“Yes,” Mrs. Hord agreed.
“After you contacted me through my website, I finished out the case I was then working on and immediately made my way here. You told me you regularly felt as though someone watched you as you did the wash. Furthermore, at all hours of the day and night, you said you heard maddening thumps and bumps of the like experienced never before. This has been going on for years, you told me, yet, until you found me over the Internet, you had never been comfortable asking anyone for help. You and Mr. Hord, whom I presume is at work,” here Dr. Nekros paused for Mrs. Hord to substantiate his deduction, “have felt like prisoners in the very house that is supposed to serve as your refuge from the harshness of the outside world.
“When you first took me on the tour, three days ago, I immediately felt the eyes of which you spoke when I entered the basement. I could feel them boring through my back, precisely as you described. And within hours of interviewing you and Mr. Hord, the tumultuous booming began.
“We looked for thunder and there was none. We ran to see if a semi had backfired, but none had passed along the distant highway. We even checked to see if a branch was too close to the house, colliding with the siding whenever a stiff wind arose. We left out traps, and though we caught a few rats in the attic, we captured none of the raccoons or feral felines I thought might be to blame.
“Mrs. Hord, as you know, my fee is not cheap. Therefore, I offer my clients the opportunity to pay only one-third my bill if I can debunk a haunting. In my experience, the supernatural making itself known in a home uninvited is a rare occurrence indeed, and so I like to prove to the homeowners that their fears are nothing more than an overzealous air conditioner or a television sensitive to cell phones. I’m willing to do that because my full fee is meant for combating the evil unknowns in this world of ours, not to close air conditioning vents.”
All three of them paused to laugh heartily. Zetta could not believe the words coming out of Dr. Nekros’ mouth. When he had told her of his plans to investigate haunted houses for a living, back when he still introduced himself to people as Micah, she never dreamed he would one day become the expert he currently proved himself. Sure, he was laying it on a little thick, but he brought such confidence and fairness to his clients, especially Mrs. Hord, that she was completely drawn in.
Perhaps becoming his assistant wouldn’t be so bad after all.
“However, in your case, Mrs. Hord,” Dr. Nekros resumed, “it is with utmost conviction that I tell you this house is certifiably haunted. My war against the darkest parts of our unseen world will once again be waged on this night, and so my fee will be the total amount quoted. Are you and Mr. Hord sure you want to go through with this costly endeavor?”
“Oh, gracious sakes alive! How can you say such a thing, Dr. Nekros? Of course Mr. Hord and I want you to get rid of the demons in our home!”
Suddenly Dr. Nekros became very dismal, all showmanship disappeared, and he flatly said, “You have no demons in this house, Mrs. Hord. I’ve only met one demon in my entire life, and that was many, many years ago. Your house is safe from the most evil of evils, whether I intervene or not. I want you to know that.”
The room became still as Mrs. Hord and Zetta stared at the scarred man who obviously relived some terrible event behind those dark eyes. Mrs. Hord had no idea what that event may have been; Zetta, on the other hand, was very well versed on the topic, though her information came second-hand.
“Well, then,” Dr. Nekros continued, apparently overcoming his spell. “If you are still willing to pay the full seven hundred dollars, when Mr. Hord gets home, the battle for your peace of mind shall commence.”
Several hours later, just before dusk, Zetta stood outside the Packard while Dr. Nekros chewed on a beef jerky and dug through his many supplies in the backseat of the surly vehicle. She could see nothing but the seat of his dark gray cargo pants while he reached to and fro, doing what she knew not.
Finally, he emerged, slammed the door, pointed his finger at the driver’s side door, and said, “If I come out tonight and you’re nowhere to be found, you are out of my life forever. Do you understand? You’ll be dismantled and sold for parts, or, worse, remodeled into some monstrosity with flames on your sides and subwoofers in your back. You’ll fade out of existence. Do you want that?”
The Packard’s steering wheel shifted from side to side and Zetta thought perhaps Mrs. Hord had added a secret ingredient to those cookies of hers.
“Good,” Dr. Nekros said to the Packard. “Then I’ll see you in an hour or two.” He next gave his attention to Zetta, saying, “Listen, Zetta, you didn’t give Mrs. Hord your last name, right?”
“No, you stopped me before I could finish.”
“Good. This thing, you know, you and me as partners, it’s clearly not going to work out. But, if you ever meet anyone who’s been a client of mine, it’d probably be best not to mention that you know me. Certainly don’t give them your last name. Ever. No matter what. Got it?”
“Why?” Zetta asked. “What are you talking about?”
“Just remember what I said,” Dr. Nekros ordered as he tapped her forehead with his left pointer finger. She noticed he wore no ring. Why should he? He was, after all, single to the best of her knowledge.
Leaving his coat behind, Dr. Nekros made his way along the front walk. The sky had gone lightless, and the moon refused to make any sort of an appearance at all. The chill that had existed earlier in the day had set in even deeper, and though a reprieve had momentarily been granted, a damp smell in the cold air hinted at more rainfall.
Zetta followed him along the walk and then grabbed hold of the sleeve dangling far past his left hand. She spun him around before he reached the front steps and said, “Micah, what you’re doing—it’s a good thing. I had no idea how much you were truly helping people. You know I never believed in this sort of thing, not until your … experience—”
“—That’s putting it mildly,” he interjected.
“—but I can tell you really believe these people have a haunting. I can tell you really want to, I don’t know, exorcise whatever it is in their house. I thought all of your … nobility had left you after the, um … experience. I just wanted to say … I’m glad to see you’re back.”
Dr. Nekros’ eyes began to flutter just a little as though he had something he desperately wanted to say, but he only managed, “Well, you’re in for something else tonight. And don’t call me Micah.”
The four of them stood in the living room: Dr. Nekros, Zetta, Mrs. Hord, and Mr. Hord, who had finally arrived from his shift at the power plant. Dr. Nekros faced them and rubbed his hands together as though slightly nervous.
“In a few moments,” he initiated, “I shall make my way to the kitchen and then descend the stairs to the basement. It is important that you do not follow me. No matter what you hear transpiring, your involvement may tip the favor to the evil spirits that attempt to commandeer this loving home. Furthermore, it may give them the upper hand and they perhaps could drag me into their dimension, making me their slave for all eternity. As you can imagine, I wouldn’t want that.”
“I would think not,” Mr. Hord said with an unlit cigar in his mouth. He still wore his baby blue Dickerson Power hardhat. “But I’d be happy to grab my shotgun and fill them rascals full of holes if you need some help.”
“Mr. Hord,” Dr. Nekros began with the emergence of a strained smile, “your willingness to risk life and limb in order to help me in my never-ending battle with the evils of this world warms my heart. And were we about to engage an enemy who had blood coursing through veins, I would not hesitate to make you my comrade-in-arms. However, the villains I must struggle with have no physical body to speak of. Your bullets would pass through them and only damage your hot-water heater or deep freeze. I assure you, I will prevail. But you must let me do this alone.”
For just a moment, Dr. Nekros thought he saw Zetta’s eyes betray her emotion from behind those black-rimmed glasses of hers. “Not even my assistant can come to my aid. Isn’t that right, Zetta?” He asked her this more as a reminder than anything.
Surprised at her compliance, Zetta said, “Of course, Dr. Nekros. You must do this alone; we all understand and shall honor your wishes.”
“Very good,” Dr. Nekros said.
He made his way to the seventies-styled kitchen, then, just before he placed his hand upon the door handle leading to the basement, Mr. Hord took off his helmet and said, “I want to shake the hand of a man so brave, Dr. Nekros.”
Dr. Nekros reached out to take the sinewy hand, shaking it briefly. Before he knew it, Mrs. Hord wrapped her jiggling arms around him tightly, saying, “God speed, Dr. Nekros! You don’t know how much this means to us. No one has ever stood up for us like this before! You are a blessing! A blessing!”
She released him, and Dr. Nekros nodded humbly. He turned to the basement door again, took its knob, and opened it.
“You stay safe, Dr. Nekros,” Zetta offered from behind. Though she tried to sound playful and relaxed, he heard absolute fear in her voice. She truly believed he might be descending to his very death.
Not bothering to look at her one last time, Dr. Nekros crossed the threshold of the doorway, then closed the door behind him. It made the slightest of clicks when it latched.
They heard one heavy footfall on the first wooden step, then a second, then a third, and just when they thought the fourth would follow, a bright flash erupted from beneath the closed door and Dr. Nekros flung backwards through the doorway, hurling the door open and destroying the latch. Mr. Hord had to rush to avoid Dr. Nekros’ tossed personage when the man in black landed on his posterior and then slid across the kitchen floor until he came to a rest against the rusted sink.
“What happened, boy?” Mr. Hord erupted in a panic after he took in Dr. Nekros’ appearance.
Like Mr. Hord, Zetta also saw that Dr. Nekros’ nose had been bloodied and was already turning a frozen shade of violet. Crimson spewed down into his beard, which sopped it up with sickening efficiency. His sweater had six claw marks forming an “x” across his chest. They didn’t appear to puncture his skin, but it seemed they tore through his shirt with ease. Through those slits, she could see just a hint of the damage left upon his chest by the same incident that had scarred his face years before.
“I’m fine!” Dr. Nekros bellowed as Mr. Hord helped him to his feet. Mrs. Hord had burst into tears and clutched at her breasts as though she thought they might bounce off and run away in terror.
“Boy, let me get my shotgun!” Mr. Hord begged.
“Oh, my sweet Lord Jesus in Heaven above!” Mrs. Hord wept. “I don’t want this brave young man to die in our house! We’ll live with the ghosts, Dr. Nekros! I don’t want your blood on our hands!”
“Nonsense!” Dr. Nekros roared. He appeared to be running on pure adrenaline. “If I die against this vile monster, it will be a glorious death spent protecting the innocent! I can think of no better way to meet my maker!”
He gently moved Mr. Hord aside and made his way to the basement door once more.
Zetta hustled up next to him and, after benefiting the Hords with a heartening smile, whispered into Dr. Nekros’ full ear, “What is this, Micah? Could this thing really kill you?”
“What if it did, Zetta?” Dr. Nekros returned beneath his breath. “Why should you care? You have your children; you have Jason. They are whom you should be with right now, not in some farmhouse in the middle of the countryside. This is my life, not yours. This is what I must do if I’m ever going to get even with the monster who tried to tear my heart out.”
“Is he the one down there, waiting for you?” Zetta asked while absentmindedly clutching his left elbow. She thought for a moment she felt some sort of tool beneath his sleeve.
“Not this time,” he said.
She let go of him, studied his countenance exactly as she had done over a decade before, then said, “If he’s not the one waiting for you down there, then you won’t die tonight.”
He then gave her his full attention, meeting her brown eyes with his own. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Go finish your work,” she said matter-of-factly. She then, without thinking, lifted to her tiptoes and kissed him on the hairy cheek. “But even though you won’t die, you be careful. If those tears had gone any deeper through your shirt, you’d be in serious trouble.”
“There was never any danger at all,” he muttered before stepping through the doorway. He then turned and faced the huddled Hords, saying, “My assistant and I had to get a few business matters straightened out in case I do not return from the dank dwelling below. Fear not, Mr. and Mrs. Hord, for in a short time you will sleep as soundly as never before! Zetta, if you please, hold this door shut behind me. I believe the beast broke the latch when he hurled me through it.”
Dr. Nekros pulled the door shut behind him. Zetta extended both hands and held it in place. She fully looked as though she expected Dr. Nekros to come flying through it again at any moment.
Time crept by without a sound from down below. Zetta had repositioned herself so that her rear rested against the door with all her weight against it. Mr. and Mrs. Hord leaned on the counter next to the very sink for which Dr. Nekros had come to a halt. They still held one another with moist arms and damp hands. No one said a word as they could only imagine the trials and tribulations Dr. Nekros had to be experiencing without a single soul’s help.
Suddenly the three of them heard an obnoxious horn blowing outside. Then they heard someone shout, “You get that fraud out here right now, Troy! We got a score to settle with him and we mean to do just that!”
“What’s this all about?” Mr. Hord, whose first name Zetta had recently surmised as Troy, asked of her.
“Uh,” she began. “Dr. Nekros had a bit of a run in with a few gentlemen this morning. It got a little rough … for them.”
Mr. Hord cocked his head and looked at her from the corner of his eye. “How rough?”
“Rough enough that they probably want some sort of retribution,” she replied with a shrug of her shoulders.
He let go of Mrs. Hord and mumbled, “I’ll get my gun, dag blast it.”
Zetta watched him leave the kitchen like a dog that knew it had a lashing coming. Mrs. Hord followed him out, and when he turned to head for the shotgun he kept under their bed, she went to the front door. Zetta knew she was supposed to keep the door pushed shut, but she figured the garbage can along the wall could do just as good of a job.
She made her way to the front door as well, and, after twisting and turning to see past Mrs. Hord’s considerable frame, she observed a camouflaged pickup truck parked next to the Packard with Cliff and Hank standing in its bed, wielding shotguns of their own. Hank had a large bruise on the side of his face the color of Mrs. Hord’s varicose veins. Cliff sported a bandage wrapped completely around the top of his head.
Maybe she’d put a bit too much oomph in that swing with the lead pipe back in the hardware store. She doubted, consequently, that she had inflicted any brain damage.
“You get him out here right now, Lavinia, or there’s going to be bad trouble,” Cliff yelled from the truck with its headlights cutting the darkness. “You get him out here or there’s going to be trouble like you ain’t never seen before!”
“Your first name’s Lavinia?” Zetta asked the old woman from behind.
“Yes, dear,” Mrs. Hord replied without removing her eyes from the riff-raff on her front lawn.
“Oh, that’s really pretty.”
Mrs. Hord glanced down at Zetta and her face melted from utter concern to sincere flattery. “Why, thank you!”
“Move out of the way, women!” Mr. Hord commanded before he barreled past them and poured down the front steps with his cigar bobbing up and down. He lifted his own shotgun and waved it back and forth from Hank to Cliff. “You buzzards get off my property!”
“Now, Troy, we don’t want no shots fired, all right? Just bring that trash out here and we’ll take care of things quick-like. You don’t need to get involved in this.”
“That boy’s the only one who would listen to us, you dung-eating maggots! He’s helping us when no one else would! I’ll be a monkey’s uncle before I’ll let you dunderheads have your way with him!”
Hank began laughing and Cliff said, “Troy, you old idiot! For the last time, your house ain’t haunted! There ain’t no such thing as ghosts and ghouls; my daddy taught me that almost right away. You probably just got some old pipes acting up, that’s all.” Hank laughed even harder, and Cliff couldn’t help but join in, but when Mr. Hord fired a warning shot off to the side of them, the laughter came to an abrupt end.
They heard glass shatter after the blast, and suddenly the Packard, who was now missing its driver’s side rear window, roared to life, backfired several times in protest, then sped away to the back of the house kicking up a considerable amount of dust and gravel as it did so.
Cliff, Hank, Mr. Hord, Mrs. Hord, and Zetta all stared in complete bafflement while it made its retreat.
They exchanged glances, the lot of them, hoping someone could offer some sort of an explanation, but when none arose they took the easiest route and simply chose to ignore the animated automobile.
“That was a warning shot, you scum-suckers! The next one won’t be so good-spirited!” Mr. Hord yelled at Cliff and Hank.
“Troy! What’s with you, old man?” Cliff yelled in return. “You’re willing to kill us over some snake-oil salesman?”
“Dang right I am!” Mr. Hord returned.
“Then let’s get it on, geezer!”
The three men trained their weapons on one another and bloodshed seemed imminent when someone shouted, “No more!”
All looked to the east side of the house and saw Dr. Nekros spewing forth from the shadows. The Packard followed slowly behind him.
“No one fires a weapon on this night, or any night to come!” he snarled. “There has already been far too much war waged on this land!”
Taking in the torn shirt and bloodied nose, Cliff interrogated, “What in the blam hill happened to you, son?”
Without skipping a beat, Dr. Nekros answered, “I have vanquished the spirits that tormented this home. Mr. and Mrs. Hord have nothing to fear any longer … except for Neanderthals with shotguns.” He glanced at Zetta and ordered, “Get in your vehicle and follow me.”
Sensing the gravity of the situation, Zetta quickly said, “It was nice to meet you,” to Mrs. Hord and then jogged past Hank and Cliff on the way to her Honda. They seemed too stunned by Dr. Nekros’ aspect to pay her any attention.
“Lower your weapon, Mr. Hord,” Dr. Nekros suggested after walking up to the skinny old man. When Mr. Hord did so, Cliff and Hank followed suit. The only sound surrounding them was the wind struggling with the branches of the neighboring trees.
“Here you go, boy, as promised,” Mr. Hord said as he pulled out seven one-hundred dollar bills from his front pocket and handed them to Dr. Nekros. “You came out the cellar door?”
“Indeed,” Dr. Nekros responded.
“Come on, Troy! He’s swindling you!” Cliff hollered.
“That’s the best money we ever spent!” Mrs. Hord cried out to them.
“And how!” Mr. Hord agreed.
“By the way, does your mother know you’re waving guns at members of her church?” Mrs. Hord next inquired of Hank.
The man whose head looked like a polished disco ball did not answer her loudly enough, which prompted Mrs. Hord to double her efforts with, “Well does she?”
“No ma’am,” Hank replied with his head lowered.
Mrs. Hord put her hands on her ample hips and said, “That’s what I thought. Mm-hmm, when you get home tonight you can be sure she will.”
“Dude, you’ve got to move out of your mom’s place,” Cliff whispered to Hank. “We’re almost forty!”
“What? It’s rent-free!” Hank responded.
Dr. Nekros stuffed the money into one of his many cargo pant pouches, shook Mr. Hord’s hand, waved to Mrs. Hord with a forced affectionate smile, then approached Cliff and Hank. He walked directly into their high beams as they stood in the bed of the pick-up and stared at them for several intense moments. The dark rings under his eyes, like two oil spots that grow year after year in a mechanic’s garage, seemed to deepen in their gloom.
Suddenly, the Packard’s own high beams sprang to life from behind Dr. Nekros, forming a dramatic silhouette for Cliff and Hank to perceive. Dr. Nekros said, “Gentlemen, this is over. You won’t come after my assistant, the Hords, or me any longer. I’ll never see you two again, nor will you see me. It’s over. Agreed?”
His dark gaze froze the alcohol coursing through their veins, and both Cliff and Hank looked away from him when they grumbled, “Okay.”
Dr. Nekros turned his back to them, then plopped into the Packard like the most tired man in all the universe. He folded his arms and continued to stare at them while the car shifted into gear. It pulled right up alongside their pickup, and Dr. Nekros looked up for one last word.
“Let this be a lesson, gentlemen,” he said with a slight grin, the first real one he’d had in quite some time. “Don’t agitate a professional.”
The Packard then sped away with Zetta once again following closely behind.
The next morning, after driving through most of the night and crossing state lines, Dr. Nekros sat at a table in a little café in an unassuming small town. He’d have to make his way to somewhere larger soon so he could find a rather affluent neighborhood, park the Packard along the curb, and leach someone’s unsecured wireless network. It’d been days since he checked his email or websites. He needed to find his next gig.
“Man, I feel like road kill,” Zetta said after she sat back down. She had gone to the restroom to wash her face and try to clean up.
“And you want to be my assistant,” Dr. Nekros chuckled. “Even if I were willing to let you tag along, you’d never last. I sleep in the car most nights.”
“Really?” Zetta asked incredulously.
The waiter brought them their breakfast, and Dr. Nekros shoveled in a complete sausage link as he confirmed, “Really.”
“Well, if that’s the way it is,” Zetta said absent-mindedly as she stirred the cream into her coffee.
They sat in silence for several moments, slurping and chomping away at their most important meal of the day, when Dr. Nekros finally asked, “Is your marriage in trouble, Zetta?”
Zetta nearly spit out her whole-grain cereal. “What?”
“Is your marriage in trouble?”
“No!” she answered. “Of course not! Why would you ask me such a thing?”
“Why would I ask you such a thing?” Dr. Nekros repeated. “Oh, I don’t know … I mean, it’s not like you hunted down your ex-husband after thirteen years of not one spoken word and then demanded to shadow his every move. That doesn’t seem to send up any red flags, does it?”
Zetta removed her glasses, fully exposing those eyes Dr. Nekros adored, and groaned, “It’s not like that, Micah.”
“Then what’s it like, Zetta?” he questioned. “What’s the angle? You’re a successful woman; your husband is at the forefront of digital technology; you’ve got two healthy, smart kids; a big house; an awesome dog—”
“—about that … ”
“Oh, no,” Dr. Nekros moaned. “Not Houdoggy. Tell me he’s doing fine.”
Zetta appeased him and said, “He’s doing fine.”
“Bull,” Dr. Nekros chastised. “He’s fourteen years old. He’s probably at death’s door and you’re not even telling me. In fact, he’s likely been dead for years.”
Zetta fidgeted with her banana, and that was all the answer Dr. Nekros needed.
“Aw, nuts.” He dropped his head into his hands.
Again, silence followed for several moments while Dr. Nekros collected himself. He didn’t allow any tears, such a man as he never would, but if anything could have brought on the waterworks, it was the news his dog had died.
“Okay,” he choked. “Getting back to the business at hand.” He cleared his throat so loudly that the few patrons in the café turned around to poke in their noses. Dr. Nekros stiffened, feeling their eyes upon him. He would not turn to face them. Eventually, the diners gave their undivided attention back to their steak and eggs.
“So your marriage is fine; your work is fine; your kids are fine. Why neglect your life to pester me in the boonies?”
Zetta cleared her own throat, and Dr. Nekros instantly recognized a rehearsed speech: “I wanted nothing to do with the path you were taking thirteen years ago, Micah. But when I saw your websites and the reports you’d written about the people you’d helped, I knew you were doing good work. I want to be a part of that. No,” she sighed, “I have no interest in rekindling the relationship we once had, not like that, but I do want to help with your investigations. I think I owe you that much.”
Dr. Nekros simply stared at her as he left a sausage suspended from his fork in midair.
He didn’t believe a word of it.
“I can bring credibility to your work. I can help you provide hard evidence to the skeptics. Jason helped me find equipment that’ll make your investigations so much more efficient. Digital video recorders, digital sound recorders, infrared thermometers, thermal imaging cameras, electromagnetic field meters—”
“—Jason is helping you with this?”
Zetta couldn’t bring herself to look at Dr. Nekros when she said, “Er, yes.”
“Your husband is willingly helping you spend time with your ex-husband, neglect him, your children, and your work, all so that you can help me improve my investigations?”
“He’s a great guy, Micah. He loves me and wants to make me happy …”
“So helping me ‘improve’ my work makes you happy? Please,” Dr. Nekros huffed. “Cut the crap, Zetta. No one comes out of the blue like this just to help. What’s this really about?”
Dr. Nekros could see the turmoil on Zetta’s face. He knew it well. She kept something from him. Something so vastly important that she’d be willing to go without seeing the children he knew she cherished and a husband that seemed more and more like the man Dr. Nekros once thought he could’ve been.
“You’re in danger,” she finally blurted out.
“What?” He now completely disregarded his food despite the fact he didn’t know where his next meal would come from.
“You’re in danger, and I want to help you stay safe.”
“That’s very kind of you, Zetta, but trust me, I’m in no real danger. Go back to your fam—”
“—How can you say you’re in no real danger?” she interrupted. “Look at your face, Micah! You’re hunting down the thing that did that to you—”
“What?” Zetta asked.
“Its name is Xaphan.”
“Since when did you learn its name?”
Choosing to ignore her question, Dr. Nekros said, “In all my experiences, Zetta, Xaphan is the only one that’s truly wounded me. You have nothing to fear.”
“Really? What about when you went crashing through the Hord’s door? You’re telling me that didn’t hurt? The cuts through your sweater and the bloody nose, no pain there, huh?”
“You can’t be my assistant, Zetta.”
“Who’s going to protect you?”
“I don’t need protecting, Zetta.”
“Damn it, Micah!” Zetta yelled, getting the attention of the café once more. She quickly lowered her voice and said, “You do need protecting. What if I hadn’t shown up in the hardware store?”
“They were inconsequential. Like I said, they’re not the first ones who’ve tried to rough me up.”
“Really? Because it looked to me like you were about to get demolished. And what about the ghosts you fought in the basement last night? What if you’d needed help with them?”
“They can’t hurt me, Zetta,” Dr. Nekros pleaded. “I was never in any danger. Go back to your kids.”
“I won’t. I don’t love you anymore, Micah, but I can’t let you die. Not knowingly.”
“Die!” Dr. Nekros blurted out. “I’m not going to die on these jobs, Zetta! Maybe if I tripped going down the stairs, I suppose …”
“What are you talking about?”
“You thought you hated me before,” Dr. Nekros smirked. He shifted in his seat to better shield what he was about to do from the café’s customers. He pushed up his oversized sleeves and revealed an elaborate contraption attached to each of his forearms and elbows. He flicked his wrists and three blades shot out just past his fingers. They hooked at the tips, much like the dangerous talons of some merciless bird of prey, and then he crossed his arms and ran them across the very tears his sweater still sported.
Zetta’s heart dropped when she realized the exact cause of those rips.
He retracted the blades with the same motion, pushed his sleeves down past his hands once again, then pulled out the bag of sand he always carried. In a slow motion, he showed her the trajectory necessary to bop himself in the nose with it.
And thus the perpetrator of his bruised and bloodied nose had been determined as well.
She stared at him with her mouth hanging open.
Finally, she said, “You flung yourself through that door.”
“The flash of light?”
“There were no ghosts at all.”
“Nary a one.”
“You stole those people’s money.”
“Not true,” Dr. Nekros retorted. “They had an outlet emitting way too much voltage down there. That’s why they felt like they were being watched. Too much electricity can do that to people, make them feel odd. I switched it out while I was ‘battling the evil spirits of the world’ and such. And the banging they heard, that wasn’t anything but some loose pipes rattling. I fastened them down. No problem. So no, I didn’t steal their money. I might have overcharged them a bit for work any handyman worth his salt would have noticed, but I didn’t take their money without services rendered. Besides, I think seven hundred dollars for a little peace of mind is a fair trade. Don’t you?”
“You make me sick,” Zetta scorned.
“I need to make a living, Zetta,” Dr. Nekros lectured. He made sure to keep that smirk steady and pompous.
“The whole thing, the fighting ghosts, it’s all a ruse. It’s all a show.”
“Oh, sometimes I come across an authentic case. But even if there’s something really going on, it’s usually harmless.”
“I don’t believe this,” Zetta groaned. “I thought you’d changed.”
“I won’t change for anyone, Zetta. You know that best of all.”
Zetta closed her mouth and clenched her jaw so tightly Dr. Nekros thought she might just grind her teeth down to a fine dust. She suddenly stuck her arm into her purse and pulled out a cell phone. She practically threw it across the table.
“Next job you get, you call me,” she ordered. “That’s a prepaid cell. It’s good for thirty minutes. I’ve already loaded my number into it. You call me on the next assignment, and I’ll meet you there. Whether you like it or not, you’ve got yourself a partner.”
Dr. Nekros picked up the cell phone and turned it end-over-end in his hands. Then he said, “You realize you’ll be aiding and abetting acts of criminality. Do you really want your kids to have a mom in the penitentiary?”
Zetta dropped a wad of cash on the table to pay for her half of breakfast then exploded from the vinyl booth. “Just call me,” she hissed.
“If you insist, partner,” Dr. Nekros joked, his smirk still firmly planted upon his face beneath the mask of hair. His cheek muscles were beginning to burn.
Before she spun away from him, she whispered, “Now I see why you’re using this ‘Dr. Nekros’ garbage. Mr. and Mrs. Vadenburgh would have been ashamed if you had sullied their good name.”
Dr. Nekros intensified his smirk, and even added an irritating lift of the eyebrow to accompany it. “I wouldn’t know,” he stated.
“You’re incorrigible,” Zetta muttered before leaving the café.
His face went completely blank as soon as her back was to him. Dr. Nekros watched through the windows of the café as Zetta climbed into her Honda, backed out with a squeal of her tires, and then sped away.
Though his plate was still half-full of rarely enjoyed breakfast food, he pushed it away from a loss of appetite.
Dr. Nekros emerged from the café to find a local townsman checking out the Packard. The spider-webbed fractures in the driver’s side rear window seemed to bother the stranger to no end.
“That window’s looking better every minute. You should’ve seen it last night,” Dr. Nekros said to the man.
“This your car?” the local asked.
“Of sorts. It takes me from place to place.”
Totally enamored with the Packard, the man ignored Dr. Nekros’ vague statement and said, “I haven’t seen one of these in a good long time. My granddaddy had one, and it was pretty old even then. I sure would like to have it—if it’s for sale, that is. I do miss my granddaddy.”
Dr. Nekros lifted his left hand up to his chin and rubbed his beard. He did everything he thought he should to make the man believe he was deeply contemplating.
“I’ll tell you what,” Dr. Nekros finally voiced. “How much money do you have on you—right now?”
The man took off his cap and ran a hand through his thinning hair. He narrowed his eyes while he studied Dr. Nekros, weighing some possibilities.
Guessing at the man’s thoughts, Dr. Nekros comforted, “I’m not going to rob you, my good man. I’m not that sort of person. Besides, look at all the wonderful denizens of your fair town out and about. Surely they would never stand idly by while you were burglarized. You have nothing to fear from me.”
The man thought a bit more, then said, “I got about five hundred dollars.”
Dr. Nekros leaned against the Packard’s fender and said, “That’s a lot of money to be carrying around. Even in this wonderful municipality, is that a safe decision?”
“I was on my way to the bank.”
“Ah, that explains it,” Dr. Nekros nodded. He could feel himself getting right back into character. “Well, my friend, watch this.” Dr. Nekros moved off the fender and climbed into the Packard. The keys were already in the ignition, as always, for the Packard refused to let them go. Dr. Nekros twisted them and the engine puttered to life. He looked at the man standing in the empty parking space next to the Packard and grinned.
Turning the engine off, he climbed out of the car and held the door open for the man. Seeing the inquisitive expression upon the man’s face, Dr. Nekros said, “I’ll make you a deal, kind sir. As you’ve seen, the car has no trouble starting up. Though—by its own wish—the exterior leaves much to be desired, the inner mechanics of the vehicle are perfect. When I prompt you to turn the key, if the engine rolls over, the car is yours. Free of charge, no strings attached.”
He saw the man’s blue eyes widen in disbelief.
“However, my magnanimous friend, if the engine should fail to start on the first twist of the key, the car remains mine and you part with your five hundred dollars. Are you a gambling man? Is the risk worth the reward?”
“Sure enough!” the man exclaimed. He hopped in and reached up to rotate the key. But before he could execute the complete action, Dr. Nekros intervened.
“But wait! I just want to make one thing clear.” He slammed his hand down on the top of the Packard for emphasis. “If the engine turns, the car is yours. No doubt you will restore it to its original shape and treat it as a king in honor of your obviously beloved grandfather. If the car roars to life at your hand’s slightest movement, it shall be freed from driving me across this great nation of ours day after day, week after week, year after year. It shall finally get the rest it has so longed for, and some would say, deserved. Do you understand?”
The man in the driver’s seat stared up at Dr. Nekros like he was a lunatic and said, “It ain’t that complicated, fella. I get it.”
Cocking his head with a true grin, Dr. Nekros gave a wave of his hand and said, “Of course you do. By all means—commence.”
Taking a deep breath like his entire life’s savings rode on the flip of his fingers, the man paused, said a quick prayer, then turned the key.
As Dr. Nekros suspected, nothing happened.
The man cheated just a little and turned the key several more times, but the engine might as well have been stone.
“That is too bad, my friend,” Dr. Nekros sympathized.
Climbing out of the car with his chin scraping the pavement, the man reached into his wallet and handed over the five hundred dollars. He didn’t even look at Dr. Nekros as he sulked away.
Plopping down into the driver’s seat, Dr. Nekros reached into one of the pockets of his cargo pants while the Packard instantly sprang to life. He pulled out the cell phone and called to the man, “Sir!”
The man, despite thinking better of it, turned to face the scoundrel who had forced him to part with his hard-earned money.
Dr. Nekros yelled, “A consolation prize!” He tossed the cell phone to the anguished loser. “It’s prepaid for thirty minutes, so enjoy!”
The Packard then flung into reverse and tore through the narrow town streets.
Dr. Nekros pushed up his sleeves and removed his claws while the Packard navigated through the countryside to their next destination. Tossing the homemade contraptions that had served him so well over the years into the back seat, Dr. Nekros next closed his eyes with the hopes of getting some rest.
Before he did so, however, he murmured, “You’re such a coward.”
The Packard slammed on the brakes, jettisoning Dr. Nekros forward so that he banged his head on the steering wheel, then burst into drive once more.
Rubbing his forehead and feeling his scars as he did so, Dr. Nekros grabbed a beef jerky, unwrapped it, ripped off a bite, and then admitted, “I guess I deserved that.”
THE SAGA HAS JUST BEGUN! CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE FOLLOWING THE ADVENTURES OF DR. NEKROS!
Dr. Nekros: The Tragedian
(Volume I, Episode I)
Copyright © 2007, 2011 by Scott William Foley
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this story may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews or articles.