Serial Killers: The Child of Hyacinth Road (Part 2) by F.M. Scott
- Serial Killers: The Child of Hyacinth Road (Part 1) by F.M. Scott
- Serial Killers: The Child of Hyacinth Road (Part 2) by F.M. Scott
- Serial Killers: The Child of Hyacinth Road (Part 3) by F.M. Scott
- Serial Killers: The Child of Hyacinth Road (Part 4) by F.M. Scott
- Serial Killers: The Child of Hyacinth Road (Part 5) by F.M. Scott
- Serial Killers: The Child of Hyacinth Road (Part 6) by F.M. Scott
- Serial Killers: The Child of Hyacinth Road (Part 7) by F.M. Scott
Brian stretched out on his sofa, captivated by an episode of the series he’d been following. Watching interviews with North Vietnamese and Vietcong war survivors was like getting stories from another planet. These stories had existed for a long time, but no portal opened up to let them in. When it did, you got to hear from the other side and you found people like you, with families and homes and jobs.
But watching films always carried a side effect: reminders of the solid video producing career Brian ditched in favor of selling more tangible chunks of the American Dream. Mina was the center of his own dream until the night they quarreled and she went for a drive to cool off. Brian’s girlfriend of three years, the orthopedic nurse with sky-blue eyes, drapes of raven hair to the shoulders, and a razor-sharp explanation for anything, turned her Mazda onto 36th Street near a blind hill, into the path of a pickup truck carrying a pair of gentlemen malfunctioning on beer at 70 miles per hour. Mina flew backward through the rear windshield and landed in someone’s yard—all three sections of her. The driver of the truck died at the scene; his buddy lingered in the ICU for a month before the tubes came out. The rage seized Brian like a hot band around the head, forcing things from him that he hadn’t experienced since his school days as both bully and bullied. One night he found perfect surrogate for those who couldn’t be there to suffer his wrath. The guy zoomed, smirking, into the strip mall parking space into which Brian had been signaling to turn. Under that smirk, of course, he also beat his wife. He tortured animals. He stank of cheap aftershave and wore the words Be All to End All, not just on both arms but on his whole fucking being. These things destined him to have his nose broken and both eyes pounded shut by an All-Duty-No-Glory Avenger who parked two rows over and waited for him to return with his goods. A kink in life’s random fabric—and the absence of security cameras—had helped the Avenger avoid being tracked down and arrested. It was the bully between his ears who reminded him that his ambition died that night on 36th Street, and who now told him he’d sunk so low that he needed to sell his cameras and drones and give it all up. You’re one of those people now. But the world still has to feed your miserable ass, so you might as well do something to serve the deserving. Houses, yeah, go learn how to sell houses. Make good people happy, and the company will take care of you if you do right by them. From then on, it was love. A forceful, self-punitive love.
The music on the series soundtrack popped, Brian thought. It was more than just a background; it was a cellist bent on wringing every possible sound from the instrument. Percussive slams of the bow. Plucked notes reverberating. Whole chords pulsing in and out, bending and making hairpin turns, a musical Formula 1 road course. And the squeals—desolate cries of one left in darkness, spidering out then reducing to one siren-like moan. A moan that seemed to linger after the other music had stopped. Isolated. Coming from somewhere in the house.
Phaedra acted weird when he came home, Brian recalled. She started to greet him with the usual rub of her face on his shin, then she recoiled as if he smelled of dog. She didn’t want him to pick her up. He’d grown accustomed to the vagaries of cat behavior, but now his gray-and-white shorthair had jumped from her throne of entitlement to some place where things poked and prodded her, changed her into something contrary and skittish. “What is it, Phae?” Brian went to the hallway, where he stopped and froze. His cat stood facing the wall near the spare room, her back arched as if something had compacted her. Her eyes darted about. Drool dripped from a mouth that trembled with something between coiled rage and pure terror. Her sound dropped to a beastly growl that had never before issued from her. “Phae? Sweetie?” At once she jumped and swatted at something above her head. She started after it, then came to a sharp halt at the door of the spare room. Whatever she saw had apparently gone in there.
Brian turned on the overhead light. He wiped Phaedra’s mouth and hauled her into his arms. Her motor purred and she nuzzled his cheek; she had returned. But her eyes told a different story, not one of comfort or security. Maybe a kind of seizure, something to keep an eye on. He sat Phaedra down and surveyed the chair, file cabinet, and stacks of boxes—none of which held a single clue as to his cat’s all-new behavior.
The first showing of the house on Hyacinth Road brought a recently widowed University of Tulsa professor. He was chatty, recounting some recent travels and conceding a slowness to start over after his loss. The question loomed as to why a single person would be interested in buying a house that size. The answer, of course, flew like a flag: Who gives a fuck, as long as he has the money! The professor scarcely made it past the checkered tile of the front hall before he stopped, his head cocked toward the floor.
“What is it?” Brian asked.
“That.” The professor pointed at his feet. “Don’t you hear it? Don’t you feel it?” Brian shook his head, and the prof described in detail a metallic pounding. “Like someone banging a hammer on a piece of pipe or something.” Brain strained to listen.
The two reached the kitchen. “There it is again!” the prof declared. Again, Brian shook his head.
“But it’s as loud and real as can be!”
Great, Brian thought, recalling plenty of awkward moments in the business, but nothing like the task of denying a prospect’s word without implying that he was delusional. Four fast years in real estate had won him the ability to think on his feet and maintain a sense of humility.
“Hmm. I suppose this is the moment when I go back to check what they call idiot bells. Those ring when something needs attention.”
But something had sucked all of the humor out of the professor, whose already sallow complexion was now milk jug white. Brian leaned in. “You okay?”
“I…I don’t want to be rude, but I have to go. Right away.” Without the smallest apology, the prof turned and left, closing the front door behind him.
Brian went to the kitchen and took a seat at a barstool. The house was certified to be in excellent condition. Apart from the weird smell in the little storage area, there wasn’t much more to go on. As he reviewed things, he became aware of another prospect, implausible but not impossible: Someone might be fucking with Brian Best. Had the parking lot altercation finally caught up with him? Even if so, who would (or could) go to the trouble required to freak out a prospective buyer by staging noises, sensations, and smells. The logistics were next to absurd. Since he neither heard nor felt the pounding that spooked the professor, he could link nothing to trickery or a problem with the house. Let it cancel out and move on, Brian concluded.
Phaedra met him at the door that evening. She gave her usual “where the hell have you been” meow and implored him to scoop her up. He did, and she purred. Brian cuddled her, planting kisses on the top of her head, and his mind went to the hallway episode. There was no explaining cats, period. As long as his loyal companion was okay now, he had no reason to belabor things, only to be watchful.
F.M. Scott is from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he lives and writes. His stories have appeared in The Killer Collection, Sirius Science Fiction, The Horror Tree, The Tulsa Voice, and The Rock N’ Roll Horror Zine. A few of his drabbles were collected in Trembling with Fear: Year 2 Anthology.
Facebook and Twitter @fmscottauthor
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Stephanie Ellis is a member of the HWA and writes dark speculative prose and poetry which has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Her work includes the novel, The Five Turns of the Wheel and the gothic novella, Bottled, both via Silver Shamrock Publishing.She can be found at https://stephanieellis.org/ and on twitter @el_Stevie.