Duende

(doo-en-day)

copyright October 2002

by

April Hladis

Disclaimer: This tale is a little gory, a little lezbish, a little sexy and there's lots of cursing. What more could you want in a supernatural story?

Comments are always welcome :) Email: ahladis@aol.com

Commentary: This is a short Halloween story loosely based on the Jack & Jill nursery rhyme. Its name 'Duende' is a Spanish word meaning bait or lure. The idea for this little tale came to me while rearranging BOO-ks in my overly crowded BOO-kcases.

As you read you'll notice the detective's name is never mentioned in this story. I also give vague descriptions of what all my character's look like, ages, etc. purposely. I wanted readers to imagine they're actually walking in these folk's BOO-ts...it's spookier that way. BOO!

I

Mrs. Beatrice Crenshaw handed me the set of keys.

"I'm not sure which one opens the front door, but it's one of those. Nobody's wanted to rent it since..."

Her voice trailed off as she eyed my Newports lying on the coffee table. Pocketing the keys I picked up the pack of cigarettes. I bent back the flip top and offered her one.

"Are they menthol?" she asked.

I nodded yes. She reached toward them then drew her hand back.

"No, I'd better not. I've been trying to quit. Heh, heh."

She smiled in that half-hearted way that all slaves to the smoke altar understand. I quickly hid the pack inside my jacket, which made my breasts look stupidly lopsided. Mrs. Crenshaw kept sneaking a look at 'em. Believe me, the hidden cigarettes were all she was interested in.

"You were saying, 'nobody's wanted to rent it since..?.' " I offered, trying to keep her attention off my one bulging boob.

"Oh, ah...yes," she continued, "nobody's wanted to rent it since those girls left."

Her eyes started drifting slightly downward again.

"They didn't actually leave mam, they've up and vanished."

Mrs. Crenshaw lifted her gaze to mine. She didn't care for the sudden sharp tone.

"As it would seem. Look, I've done my best to help the authorities with their investigation. They poked around in there for days and found nothing." She gave me a subtle once-over. "I guess you're Livvy's last hope."

She didn't appear to care for private detectives either. I stood up to leave.

"Yeah, so it would seem. Thanks for your help mam."

I headed for the rear exit and flicked open the screen door latch.

"Tell Livvy to bring me back my keys when you're done," Mrs. Crenshaw called after me.

Outside, Olive 'Livvy' Weaver was patiently passing the time near my old clunker. The sun beat down brutally, but she looked cool and dry leafing through her magazine. I, however, was overdressed and sweating bullets.

"Waiting long?"

Livvy smiled at my question.

"Nope, I just got here. Damn it's hot."

She raised her periodical to temporarily shield her eyes against the glare. That's when I noted the white sundress she wore was quite transparent. Livvy squinted despite the makeshift awning.

"Did you get the key from Bea?"

I produced the ring with 5 keys dangling from it and tinkled them slightly.

"Yeah, but I'll have to try a couple till one fits the lock."

Livvy folded her magazine and tossed it in the back seat of my car.

"Great! Let's get going!"

"You're not thinking of coming along, are you?"

Livvy ran to the passenger side.

"Sure, why not?"

"I work alone, that's why not. Get in, I'll drive you home."

"If you think I'm going to twiddle at home, you're nuts. I'm going with you!"

She had a little trouble opening the car door to emphasize her statement.

"Push the button in then pull the handle."

The door croaked open and Livvy hopped in. It was like a boiler room in my car. Livvy squirmed about in her seat.

"This friggin' vinyl is searing my butt medium rare."

I peeled off my jacket.

"Put this under you."

Livvy raised herself off the lava bed and I did the 'putting'.

"Whew! That's a relief!"

She paused momentarily in thought, smoothing her hair behind an ear then suddenly perked up all excited.

"Say! This is exactly like a Sir Walter and Queen Elizabeth thing! Remember the cloak over that puddle jazzola?"

I turned the ignition and shifted my car into drive.

"Yeah."

We chugged along the main road a few miles leading to Templeton. The ride had been fairly peaceful. Instead of small talk, Livvy combed her hair in the sun-flap vanity mirror. Every now and then my tires caught a dip in the asphalt.

One particularly hard bump caused the sun-flap to sag loosely on its swivel hinge. A fresh red lipstick smudge joined other stains dotting the worn beige covering.

"Shit! You're hitting every pothole on purpose!"

Annoyed, Livvy righted the mirror and wiped at her smeared lips. I couldn't help being amused by her frustration.

"That house must have an inch of dust everywhere and you're laying on the goo. Doesn't that strike you as a tiny bit silly?"

Livvy stopped primping.

"Not at all!" She turned to face me, "A girl's always got to look her best under the worst conditions. You could stand a little fixing up..."

Without much warning, Livvy began painting the red stuff all over my mouth; none too gently I might add. I lost control of the car. We skidded across the shoulder nose down into a wet ditch to a jarring stop. My car was tilted sideways with no hope of backing out again.

"Are you okay?" I asked, wiping at the slimy rouge.

"I think so," she quickly scanned for damage, "but my lipstick didn't make it."

She woefully held up the fancy gold cylinder; a large piece had snapped off at its base.

"Don't worry, I'm sure it didn't suffer."

I pushed open the door and climbed out. Livvy exited too, but with help. I grabbed my jacket and fished in the pockets for my Newports, my flattened Newports and lit one. I went 'round to the other side of the ditch to look over the damage. My heap was a sorry sight.

"It's obvious we'll have to walk the rest of the way. What the hell got into you?"

Livvy was busily trying not to get her thin summer sandals stuck in the muck.

"Pretty stupid, wasn't I? How pissed are you?"

"Not very," I said taking a long, luscious drag from my cigarette, "I'm guessing old granny here will get a nice facelift out of it. You are the paying client."

She hopped over the ditch and missed. Mud splattered everywhere.

"Damn it!"

Livvy frantically shook her feet trying to dislodge some sludge.

"Well, if I'm the paying client you should show me more respect! You've been treating me like a pest!"

I'm sure she was more riled over getting messed than my attitude towards her. I didn't get into it. Instead, I'd pulled out the Templeton map looking for a short cut to Mrs. Crenshaw's empty estate. There seemed to be a back road that led to it.

"Come on, we've got a ways to go."

I scrambled up the rise to get my bearings. Livvy sulked and brushed at her soiled clothes.

"You could at least help me out of here! Some Sir Walter you are!"

"I'll let you in on something Ms. Weaver, I'm more the Queenly type. Get yourself out," I said smiling.

Livvy didn't like it, but she managed to climb up all by herself. She stood close to me, peering at the map I was holding.

"How far is it from here?" she asked.

"We have to go that way," I pointed towards the dirt road on the other side of a field, "It shouldn't take us long to walk it."

Livvy looked skeptical.

"Why that way instead of taking this main road to Templeton?"

I stared down at her grubby sandaled feet then into her eyes.

"Because it's shorter."

II

We started on our trip. Livvy bitched most of the way.

"Aren't we there yet? We've been walking too friggin' long!"

I hated to admit it but she was right. I couldn't understand why we hadn't come to the turn off. My map indicated that a little fork should've appeared already. I stopped walking and checked the map again.

"We must've missed our turn somewhere back there."

I gestured 'back there' with a twist of my head as I lit another cigarette.

"Oh that's just GREAT!! IT'S GETTING DARK AND I'M NOT SLEEPING IN THE FUCKING WOODS! I'M GOING BACK!" she bellowed.

"You'll have to go alone you know. I'm pressing on."

Livvy marched toward me, fists clenched.

"Well, get you!" she mimicked me in nasally sing-song, "'I'm pressing on'. This isn't the Goddamn BBC! I WANT TO GO HOME! NOW!!"

She stood there red faced and glassy-eyed, glaring at me. I put my hand on her shoulder and squeezed it lightly.

"I'm tired too. Let's just walk a little bit further, okay? I'll go back with you if nothing comes up. Deal?"

I could feel her relax under my touch as she reluctantly agreed. For the moment she was appeased.

We trudged on for another few minutes, still nothing in the distance. I was about to tell Livvy we could go home when the fork suddenly appeared. One moment it wasn't in sight then

*Presto* it materialized out of nowhere.

"My feet are squealing. Can't we rest for a while?"

"What for? There's the turning!"

Livvy instantly brightened and hurried ahead to the fork.

"Move them bones!" she called behind her, "I've got me a date with a water pump!"

I easily caught up with Livvy, yet I couldn't help thinking about the turn off materializing like it did. After a while I wrote it off as plain old weariness.

The road had gradually become steeper; we were definitely walking uphill.

"Hey! Look there!"

Livvy's excited voice made me jump a little. I indeed 'looked there'...'up' there would've been a better way to put it. Towering above us at the top of our dirt path was a vague outline of...

"...A wishing well? What's that doing here?"

Livvy was almost hopping with joy at her discovery.

"I think it's charming! Let's go take a peek!"

The shadowy form cast against a darkening sky radiated uneasiness rather than rustic charm. I tagged along after her, but I put a hand to my belt; it held the brown leather holster with my .38 in it. The dread eased somewhat.

Livvy raced up the hill and immediately began looking the awful thing over with feverish energy.

"This is great! I wish we could take a picture. How old do you think it is?"

The circular grayish stone structure looked ancient. No bucket, though a weathered arm-like contraption was nearby. It had probably once been used to fetch water from the underground spring, though now it lay useless toppled across the misty overgrowth.

Frankly, I didn't give a rat's ass how old that well was; I just wanted to leave. Livvy leaned over the stone lip.

"Do you have a penny or something? Let's make a wish!"

Just to hurry things along I checked all my pockets and came up empty.

"Sorry, I'm out of change."

She frowned slightly then brightened.

"There's one!" Livvy said, pointing at a thin patch of ground.

Sure enough, a shiny coin rested conveniently at the foot of that thing. She snatched it up and handed it to me.

"Here, since you're such a gloomy Gus why don't you make the wish?"

Livvy saw me hesitate to get any nearer to the mouth of the well.

"Awwww, come on! It's not going to bite you!"

She laughed so pleasantly I couldn't refuse. I crept up to it and slowly looked over the side. It was pitch-black down there and I stupidly forgot to bring my flashlight. A putrid odor exhaled up from the bottom of the well. I figured it must've been a pool of stagnant water.

I know it seems crazy now, but I thought I heard flutes playing so softly they were barely audible. Panpipe flutes, I don't know how many, playing flat notes in whirring harmony.

"I wonder how deep this is..."

I Absently pocketed the coin and picked up a small stone tossing it in as substitute. Instead of a craggy echo there came a sickening 'PLAP'. Sloshing sounds, like raw hamburger moving about in viscous fluid, slinked somewhere below. The panpipe's mantra halted as a piercing growl took its place.

"Christ!"

I seized Livvy's hand and pulled her along. I meant to put as much distance between that creature and me as I could.

"What's wrong? Slow down!"

She stopped in her tracks, jerking her hand from mine.

"I hope that's just somebody's idea of a bad joke! Didn't you hear it?" I gasped between breaths.

I reached for Livvy's arm again; she backed away.

"I don't know what you're talking about and I'm not moving another inch until you tell me what happened."

"Listen, you'll have to trust me on this. We need to get as far from that freaky thing as possible."

"Wait a minute...are you trying to say there's a monster in the well?"

Livvy stared at me for a moment then laughed her head off.

"Shut up will you! I'm serious! Let's go!"

The laughing came to an abrupt end.

"Okay then. It's getting dark anyway."

There seemed to be an irritated undertone Livvy was trying to hide. I didn't really think much of it at the time.

Evening clouds had gained momentum during our little detour to that well. With only a slip of moon we ambled off trail trying to find another way out. It turned out to be a hopeless trek; we ended up walking in circles.

I hated Livvy for wasting the last bit of daylight we had and I hated myself more for going along with it. We were lost somewhere in a woody area. And being lost in said woody area there's only one thing to do: accept defeat and dig in for the night. I could just make out some trees grouped together and we settled in. My thoughts drifted back to the well. That stench, that grisly snarl.

"Would it be foolish of me to ask why you're not making a campfire?" she said out of the blue.

Livvy's ill-timed nitpicking grated on my nerves.

"I so want to slug you right now. Why don't you try making a campfire in the dark!"

"Because my dear, I don't have matches and clearly, neither do you."

I could have screamed. My nicotine level had plunged and I was in no mood.

"So, in other words I'm responsible for this mess?"

She had the nerve to yawn.

"Well, a scout's motto is 'be prepared'. What's yours?"

III

It seemed like hours we lay there, not speaking. I was listening all the while for any out of place movements beyond our shady nest. Livvy breathed peacefully, apparently unconcerned. Strange. She'd bitched so much a few hours earlier I was surprised by her calm. I, however, was completely unnerved by our plight.

"I know you're awake. Say something."

She answered in the sweetest voice I ever heard.

"I was waiting for you to speak first," there was a pause, "Why don't we make the most of a bad situation?"

"I'm afraid to ask what you're talking about."

Livvy sighed a breathy sigh.

"We could get to know one another a little...better."

I sat up so fast I felt woozy.

"Oh yeah? Just what do you suggest?"

I knew the answer; I wanted to hear her say it.

"Come on...you know..."

Livvy sure made that 'you know' sound positively triple X.

"Sex? You're thinking of sex at a time like this?"

"Yes."

"That's the stupidest suggestion I've ever heard!" I sputtered, "I'm scared shitless and you want us to make love to each other?"

"Yes."

Her unexpected candor threw me. I could make out her silhouette fairly well in the dim light.

"You know," I continued, "I've read so many stories with scenes where the main characters are on some such and such mission then stop to screw their brains out. A pit-stop fuck on their way to save the world! How credible is that?"

The night clouds parted. I saw Livvy clearly illuminated by the pale moonlight; her skin glowed in mists hovering close to the ground. Dew droplets shimmered in her gently fluttering hair...

"Not very," she said, slowly moving toward me.

Her curious manner hypnotized. I guess the atmosphere played a big part.

"I mean, doesn't it seem really inappropriate? Only Jackie Collins would put her seal of approval on that sort of thing!"

I sat there trying to catch my breath while staring at this young woman who'd once been sitting a lot further away.

"Don't be afraid, I won't bite..."

She clutched the back of my neck, drawing me forcefully to her mouth.

'Don't be afraid, I won't bite?'

This sentence disturbed me. In the meantime, Livvy's lips were inviting, but enjoying their searching tenderness with her phrase buzzing in my head became frustrating.

'Don't be afraid, I won't bite...'

Of course! She'd spoken similar words at the well! I felt a light tugging at my belt, my .38 lifting ever so gently out of its holster. I clamped a hand over hers.

"What do you think you're doing?"

"It might get in our way..."

I yanked my gun out of her hand and stuck it back in its leather sheath.

"You mean it might get in 'your' way, don't you?"

I quickly got to my feet.

"Get up!"

I grabbed Livvy's arm to make her stand. She readily cooperated; a peculiar smirk curled her lips as if she'd just read my mind.

"You can't escape her embrace, you know."

I let go of her arm.

"Excuse me?"

"I said: 'you can't escape her embrace'. She bites, but there isn't much pain."

Her smirk never wavered as she took a step towards me. I didn't wait to find out what the heck she was talking about. I ran like hell. Livvy ran after me...effortlessly, unrelenting in her pursuit. Yes I had a gun, though somehow I didn't think it would kill her. I raced blindly through curtains of twisting ivy that ripped my clothes and clawed at my hair. It made Livvy's task all the more easy clearing the way as I ran for my life.

Exhausted, I turned to face her; my lungs begged for more air. Goddamn cigarettes. Awkwardly, I unsheathed my gun accidentally dropping it in my haste. Livvy leaped forward bringing me down like a rodeo bovine. Her strength overpowered me as she held my trunk securely in an iron grip.

"You see? I told you there's no escape. Foolish beasts, why must you always struggle against inevitabilities..."

Chatty Livvy wasn't the least bit out of breath; hell, she didn't even break a sweat. Whatever being possessed her body couldn't have been a local. While she raved I looked about me. We were lying near the base of a stone wishing well. The same fucking well I tried to save us from. The laugh sure was on me.

Gathering clouds above warned of rainfall, muffled panpipe flutes began to play a warm melody as Livvy heaved me up toward its source.

"Almost there my dear," she tirelessly declared.

Her tone wasn't threatening at all. Not then nor when she decided to show her true colors. I couldn't get out of her grip. I'm not religious, so I didn't bother to pray. I only felt sad that I wouldn't get to do or see half the things I'd planned. I thought, 'this is a really shitty way to die' as Livvy prepared to chuck me down the well's glistening, foul smelling gullet. The flutes grew louder in anticipation. Nothing like a good ol' rousing tune to boost your spirits.

"That friend of yours is a noisy fellow or should I say fell-ette?"

She frowned at me. Apparently I'd hit a sore spot.

"Many came before you, many will follow. Some toss a coin to quench her hunger others must be shepherded. I serve my lady's whims."

I'd been corrected.

Rain began to fall, its wistful pitter-pat almost keeping time with the unusual rhythm of those damn flutes.

"Can't you get this shit over with already? The stink is killing me!"

Livvy leaned close to say something when a titanic thunderclap boomed above us. Lightning soon followed; its spectacular electric discharge distracted her. She loosened the suffocating grip she had on me. All at once, I thrust her away with everything I had left. Livvy grinned. It wasn't an evil expression...quite virtuous actually. Weather she lost her balance or purposely fell backwards I'll never know for sure. Livvy went head first down the ravenous, open mouth of the well.

*POP! POP! POP!*

A crimson fountain spewed straight from the depths showering my face and chest with blood. Shrieks of agony roared out of the well, more crimson colored the air. The ghoul didn't have a chance to enjoy Livvy's flavor sensation. Those unmistakable reports could only have come from one source: my .38 special. I tripped out of blood's way, frantically wiping scarlet from my eyes. God was I a disgusting mess.

The horrible moans finally became faint whispers then a stillness you could cut with a knife. Warily, I approached the lip of the well and peered over. As usual it was too dark to see anything. I threw a rock down...no flutes, no growls. I then took a chance and tossed in the coin Livvy gave me. Nothing. The friggin' thing had to be dead. I helped, but Livvy deserved most of the credit. She had my gun.

Something caught my eye; at my feet was another shiny coin. These little pieces of metal must've been used by the demon to bait unsuspecting victims. Livvy and probably others that came before were employed as temporary mobile lure when fresh meat didn't arrive regularly to table.

Poor Livvy. Did she willingly sacrifice herself? That last smile will haunt me forever. I wish I could've done something to save her. I picked up the new coin and dropped it down the well.

IIII

 

 

Log entry: 12.2.99

Patient Q-33-088 presented her version of what occurred 18 months prior to above date in the presence of State Attorney Wilbur Evans, Dr.'s E. Rilling, C. Norris and myself, Dr. T. H. Piper.

Note: Initial patient interview 24 hours after processing date 9.3.98 (file available upon request) revealed no new specifics to help clarify her psychological condition. Said interview of 9.3.98 has since been updated with data recorded today. End note.

In June of 1998 she, (patient Q-33-088) was discovered by a police officer in Templeton Township wandering on vacant Crenshaw property incoherent and covered in blood. Later examination and laboratory analysis proved that patient was not source of blood group.

Though not satisfactorily verified, patient Q-33-088 was believed responsible for a Miss Olive Weaver's disappearance. As of this date authorities report that neither Olive Weaver nor her remains have been recovered. In addition, Olive Weaver's relatives have not been located nor are their whereabouts known.

Recommendation of transfer to follow further evaluation by Dr.'s E. Rilling, C. Norris and T.H. Piper.

~End~

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