Serial Saturday: The Sweet Shoppe Part 3

  1. Serial Saturday: The Sweet Shoppe Part 1
  2. Serial Saturday: The Sweet Shoppe Part 2
  3. Serial Saturday: The Sweet Shoppe Part 3
  4. Serial Saturday: The Sweet Shoppe Part 4

The Sweet Shoppe by Jameson Grey

III – Behind the Beaded Door

Pearl dragged open her heavy eyes. She was aware her arms were aching, but her brain couldn’t process why. She tried moving them and realized they were above her. She shook her head, hoping to clear the fog, and tried again. She looked up – in slow motion it seemed.

Her hands were bound together, looped over a hook that hung on a chain suspended from the ceiling. “Wh–” Ahead she could see the beaded doorway. She must be in the sweet shop’s back room.

“Oh, you’re back with us. I did worry I’d given you too big a dose of my special tea. It’s a specialty, you know.”

Pearl whipped her head around to her right, where the voice had come from. Bad idea – the sharp movement succeeded only in making her dizzy.

The storekeeper was grinning – once again Pearl could see how rotten his remaining teeth were. He thumbed over his shoulder and stepped aside. Pearl saw what he’d been pointing at. A body was lying on a workbench. There was a bloody mess where its head had been and a hammer next to it. From the clothes, she knew it was John. Pearl screamed.

“If it makes you feel better go ahead, nobody will hear you out here. But I’d much prefer you didn’t; it does give me a headache so.”

“Who the hell are you? What have you done?” Pearl pulled at her wrists – they were tied tight.

“You see, because he had coffee, I had to put him out the old-fashioned way. For some reason, the caffeine in the coffee bean counteracts the soporific effect of the drug in a way that it doesn’t seem to do in tea leaves. Perhaps it’s the higher levels of tannin …?” he mused, before returning his focus to Pearl. “‘Fraid I killed him outright, so …” The storekeeper walked over to what was left of John and picked up a saw. “… I’m going to have to work quickly, I’m afraid.” He turned back to face Pearl. “You my dear,” he said, still smiling, “I’d like to s-s-simmer.” He put the saw down. “I think I’m going to strip him down before I, ahem, strip him down, so to speak.” He chuckled and began removing John’s bloodied clothes.

Pearl tried wriggling to see if she could get her hands free.

“Please don’t try to escape,” the storekeeper said calmly, without turning around. “I would hate for us to fall out.”

“Fall out! We’ll do more than fall out, you bastard,” Pearl spat.

“Oh dear, oh dear, you are a potty mouth. Perhaps I should leave John here for later and get to work on you.” He stopped his undressing of John and faced Pearl, considering it.

“What are you going to do to him?”

“Why, the same thing I do to all my customers. Make them into sweets, of course.” He turned back to John, discarding his shirt before removing his shoes and trousers. “The sweets are all mine you see. I make them for myself. It is Mr Wolfe’s Sweet Shop, after all. Do you know one summer I got three hikers? That kept me going for months. Families are my favorites – so many different flavors.”

“Is that why your names are so … witty?” One of Pearl’s wrists moved a little, so she decided she’d better try to keep him talking.

“Yes,” the storekeeper enthused. “The names are a game for my own amusement. Loveshearts, perhaps predictably, I use the hearts in them. Terror Balls, sometimes it’s eyes.      Sometimes, it’s … well, the balls.” He’d finished undressing John. “Oh my, aren’t, or should I say weren’t, you the lucky girl? Your John here is a well-endowed fellow. I’ll get a few Sweet Penises out of him, maybe even fill that jar up again.”

“When I’m done,” he continued, “I burn the remains and make the Cinders Toffee. Not too keen on that if I’m honest – mostly hair and gristle – that’s why there’s so much of it left.”

“How long have you’ve been doing this?” Pearl said, trying not to wince as the loosening rope began to chafe her wrists.

The storekeeper paused, ruminating. He walked slowly up to Pearl. She noticed for the first time he was ever-so-slightly hunched over, as if his back was giving him problems. “Oh, let me see – I left Europe when those German brothers started re-telling all those tales, so it must be, oh …” He brought his face up to Pearl’s and she could smell his rancid breath. In a hoarse curdled whisper that chilled her to the core, he said one word: “Centuries.”

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