alley, graffiti

Seven of Ten, by Robert Bose

Seven of Ten

Tyson flicked the butt of his cigarette onto the filthy ice covering the alley pavement and made an exaggerated effort to grind it out. The clove flavoured smoke lingered, clouding the frigid air around our heads and masking the decaying stench from the nearby dumpster. And from him.
“Quit stalling and hand it over.”
“I don’t have it Boone. You ain’t listening.” The gaunt, rag wearing zombie slid down onto his doubled up cardboard and snuggled under a torn sleeping bag. He fumbled to insert a pair of earbuds, our conversation, in his mind, over and done.
I waved the revolver. “Last chance.”
He peered up at me, his soulless eyes glittering, and smiled. “You think that scares me? Ha! Go ahead. Shoot.”
Crack. The shot punched through the soiled nylon, where I thought his leg should be, the thunder bouncing around the alley.
“You asshole.” Tyson exploded in a fury of flailing limbs and surged back his feet. “That hurt.”
“Silver. Want another?”
“Give me the box. I know Aibell gave it to you. She told me before she passed on.”
“You killed Abbey ? And they call me a monster?” He examined his cratered, yet bloodless thigh and glared.
“No. Overdose.” A victim of the cursed dust, same as the others.
“I don’t believe you. Nightmare’s not like that man.”
“So you know?”
“Of course I know. Everyone knows. But I don’t have it. I swear.”
I kept the gun on him and kicked over the garbage bag he carried his life around in. Ratty clothes. Gnawed bones. Junk. No box.
“Empty your pockets.”
He dug around and tossed a few gruesome objects onto the cardboard. They jiggled and glistened scarlet in dim light and my stomach heaved. A gnarled hand slid behind his back.
“Real slow.”
I don’t know where he was hiding the foot long bloodletter, but he whipped it out and flung it towards me in one fluid motion. Left. Down onto the ice as the knife creased my shoulder. A roll. Crack. My shot took him in the back as he dashed further down the alley, further into the shadows. Crack. Crack. Always the hard way with these monsters.
“Ergh. I’ll kill you for that Boone. It burns goddammit.”
“Get in line.” The ghoul flopped around like a fish out of water, endowed with terrible resiliency, despite the silver. Still strong. Still struggling. I pinned him with my boot and thought about how fantastic a pair of gloves would be right about now. And there it was.
The box. The little bloodwood box. The box of nightmares. I flipped it over and found the rune on the bottom. Seven of ten.
“Who has the next one?” I stomped hard. Bones cracked.
“Why the hell should I tell you,” he said, coughing up something grim and chunky.
I twisted my foot, slow and hard, like he’d done with the cigarette earlier, and put the gun against the back of his head. Pulled back the hammer. “When you reach the Underworld, tell them I sent you.”
He went still, deflating. “Moloch. It’s Moloch.”
Bad news. The demon made this nasty old ghoul look like a sweetheart. Still, I knew my next target now. “Thanks. It’s for the best Ty, trust me on that.” I backed away, one step closer to finishing this wretched job.
A whisper. A whimper. “It’s the good stuff Boone. The best.”
Yes, I thought to myself as I opened the box. Yes it was.

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