"I'm fed up with men and sick of being used!" the large, thirty-something woman complained to the stranger who had just sat down to her right at the bar. She was a regular at The Owl. She fiddled with a pack of matches, as she tossed down her third shot of tequila. "I always get stuck with the bills, holding the shitty end of the stick."
"Yeah, I know what you mean," twenty-year-old Eddy Marsh said, eyeing a skinny redhead on the dance floor. He set down his empty glass and looked toward the woman. "Well, nice meeting you."
Then Eddy noticed a man wearing a white cap sitting to the woman's left. Their eyes locked. Suddenly, the smoke-filled room was like a silent movie on pause. The man was a spitting image of himself, but twice his age. The woman turned, blocking Eddy's view. "Good luck," she muttered, placing a cigarette between her lips. Laughter and noise returned to the room.
Eddy leaned forward to get another glimpse of the man, but he was gone.
Making his way through the crowd toward a blue door marked "RAMS," Eddy thought how much the angry woman at the bar sounded like his mother, who had told him endlessly she'd never wanted a son. "I nearly died giving you birth in that damn Yellow cab while the driver sucked on a cigar. He even kept the meter running." How many times had he heard that story?
Opening the washroom door, Eddy was suddenly hit by the smell of marijuana smoke and the strong stench of urine. A broken beer bottle lay in the sink. He stepped up to a urinal. To his right, a machine featured glow-in-the-dark condoms and beyond that was a black and white poster of a shirtless man in leather pants.
Once out of the washroom, he found a wall to lean against. Eddy continued to watch the redheaded man whose hair stood straight up like porcupine quills. Music was pounding from the ceiling speakers and the lights were flashing.
Eddy had left the bar and was now leaning against a car when the redheaded guy came out. The night had carried a thin fog in from Halifax Harbor. The guy strutted up to him, asking for a light. Eddy took out a box of wooden matches and lit the redhead's cigarette.
"What's up?" Eddy asked, blowing out the match.
"Not much. I'm Pete, by the way." They shook hands. "They're playing some hot music in there tonight."
"The name's Marsh, Eddy Marsh." He took out a cigarette and stuck it between his lips. "You're a good dancer. I was watching you."
"What's up with Eddy?" Pete laughed, feeling nervous. Eddy was around his age, twenty-one or so, but taller, and much more muscular.
"Wanna go to my place for a while? These are my wheels." Eddy stepped back from the black 1978 Pontiac Trans Am and stuck out his arms the way that Vanna White would show a new puzzle. "What D'you think? Isn't she a beauty?"
He then stepped aside, opening the passenger door. "Hop in."
"Oh, cool!" Pete said, sliding into the car. He instantly smelled the leather seats. Pete flipped through several 8-track tapes, surprised that Eddy didn't have CDs, or at least cassettes. "You like this old KISS and Black Sabbath stuff?"
"Old? I just got those. Anyway, I only like rock," Eddy said, putting the car in gear. "Country sucks. My mother likes Kenny Rogers. Oh, I share an apartment with her. Hopefully, she'll be asleep. I live off Quinpool Road."
As they drove off, Pete shoved the Black Sabbath tape in the slot.
"I work at a coffee shop on Spring Garden Road," Pete said. "Well, for now anyway. Some day I'll have my own coffee shop. I've saved some money; I put away forty dollars every week." He lit a cigarette. "I've never seen you around before, Eddy."
"I've never seen you before, either."
After parking the car they walked toward Eddy's apartment building, their footsteps muffled by the damp asphalt. The misty air smelled fishy; the moon was a mere haze. Above the entrance a sign read, "Whitman Apartments." Once inside, bright, glowing fluorescent lights emitted a low, eerie hum. Mailboxes were set in the right wall, each with a little black window.
Eddy pointed toward a mirror beside a door that read SUPERINTENDENT: MR. ATKINSON. "That's a two-way mirror," he explained. "It's supposed to be used for security purposes--to see who's coming and going, but several tenants, including my mother, suspect that Mr. Atkinson stands inside, masturbating while women put on lipstick or fix their hair in the mirror." Eddy appeared quite distraught. "My mother hates Mr. Atkinson. But then again, my mother hates everyone."
On an impulse, as Pete walked passed the infamous mirror, he licked it. Suddenly cold chills crawled up his spine; he could have sworn that he heard fingernails tapping the glass, and the haunting words: "Go to hell."
Pete rushed down the hall to catch up to Eddy who had already opened the door to his apartment. "Mr. Atkinson was standing behind the mirror," Pete said. "I heard him! Scratching like a cat!"
"I wouldn't be surprised; the man's sick. Don't let it bother you," Eddy said as he bolted the door.
The apartment consisted of a small kitchen, a living room, and a hallway that led to a bathroom and two doors. One was closed. "Your mom's room?"
"Yeah, but I'm sure she's asleep." Eddy walked into his bedroom, beckoning for Pete to follow. He switched on a lamp and closed the door.
A painting of an old man with a widow's peak, wearing a white cap, hung on the wall above a single bed. Several thin scatter rugs lay on the hardwood floor. Pete took out his cigarettes and lit one.
"We have to be quiet. Mother's a sound sleeper, but I don't want to wake her." Fear entered Eddy's voice. "Did you hear that?"
"Mother," he murmured. "Damn it! She's awake!" Eddy sprang from the room like a scolded child. "I'll be right back."
Pete heard angry voices through the door. "Edward! I don't care if he is nice. What would your poor grandfather think? Well, he'd turn over in his grave. To think I almost died in that cab for this!" There were a few moments of silence, then: "Use the hunting knife on top of the refrigerator. Kill him, Edward! Kill him!"
Pete was stunned. He crushed out his cigarette, horrified. His hands shook as he opened the window as quietly as possible. He tried to squeeze his body through it. Almost. The mother's voice again: "Slice his throat, Edward!"
By scrunching his shoulders, Pete got out. He landed on his chest, nearly knocking himself out. He got up and started running. He glanced back at the window and saw a black haired woman with very thick, black-rimmed glasses.
He raced across the parking lot past Eddy's car. For an instant he thought he saw a man wearing a white cap sitting in the driver's seat. Pete continued running. He took different side streets until he arrived at his apartment building where he woke up his roommate. Gasping for breath, he explained what had happened.
"Call the police," Terry said. "This is crazy. You could have been killed!"
"I'll call the cops in the morning," Pete said, lighting a cigarette. "I'm exhausted. I ran all the way home. You should have seen his mother looking out of that window. She really looked crazy."
"Well, it's late. Go to bed, get some rest."
"Yeah, I probably should. Terry, I was so friggin' scared. I could just imagine being sliced to shreds with a hunting knife. Have you ever seen one of those? God, they're used to cut up deer!"
Sunbeams lay across Pete's blue comforter when he woke in the morning. Music came from the living room. Madonna. He immediately thought about the night before. Eddy, his deranged mother, and the superintendent who got his jollies through a two-way mirror.
"Morning Terry," he said as he entered the kitchen. "I need some tea."
"Morning," Terry replied. "I just made a pot, help yourself." "I'm calling the police." With a cigarette stuck in his mouth, Eddy telephoned the police department. When a woman answered, he began a spiel about him dancing at The Owl the previous evening. "I wasn't looking to get picked up--it just happened. You know what I mean?" he asked, taking a quick drag on his cigarette. "Well, like, that's probably never happened to you. Oh, God. Not that it could. That didn't sound right. Anyhow, the guy drove me to his apartment and, boy, what a weird superintendent. You know he has a two-way mirror . . ."
"Sir," she interrupted firmly. "Slow down. What is your full name, address, and phone number?" The report took about ten minutes. At the end, she strongly advised Pete to be more cautious with whom he goes home in the future. "We'll check it out."
"Thank you," Pete said. "I appreciate your help."
That evening, while surfing the internet, a knock sounded at his door. It was a police officer who asked if he was Peter Fowler.
The officer wasted no words. He said that Eddy Marsh had used a hunting knife to hack his mother to death. Mrs. Marsh's own sister couldn't identify her, although she had recognized the blood-soaked nightgown.
Pete gasped, his body tightening. The officer explained that Eddy had then gone on to murder the superintendent. He was found with his pants around his ankles, the hunting knife embedded in his mouth. "That happened twenty years ago yesterday, to the day," the officer continued. "The building was torn down fifteen years ago. Eddy Marsh would be forty now." He studied Pete's face. "You haven't been reading old newspapers, have you, Mr. Fowler? This is very serious, young man."
"Oh, my God!" Pete said. He began to feel sick. This was something right out of a Stephen King novel. "You don't believe me, officer?"
The officer disregarded the question, hesitated, then opened an envelope containing photographs. He glanced at the first one and passed it to Pete. "Recognize this woman, Mr. Fowler?"
"That's Eddy's mother!" Pete exclaimed. "She gawked out the bedroom window at me!" "How about this one?" This second photograph was of a young man with black hair, wearing a white cap.
"It's Eddy," Pete's voice was a whisper as he held the picture in his trembling hands. His mind raced. Suddenly a thought came to him. "Officer! He was at The Owl last night! Someone else there must have seen him!"
A sixty-year-old man sat drinking a beer at The Owl, a white cap tucked in his pocket. He was listening to a woman talking about how men used her. Could she be the next victim?
Barry Wood was born in the small village of Mosherville, Hants County, Nova Scotia, Canada, attending Brooklyn Elementary District and Hants West Rural High School. He has been writing since he was 12. After high school, he moved to Halifax and worked for 18 years as a clerk/word processing operator for a trust company while continuing his writing in every spare moment. Barry has written more than 50 short stories since he started to write full time in 1997. Barry's official site: http://www.barrywood.net