tagErotic HorrorThe Night Crawler

The Night Crawler

byGeneralBethlehem©

Copyright © 2006 De Rozario Jesse

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*

1

The woman watched the crowd and marked its people, but so far there were no potentials.

The evening started out optimistic as any. Zodiac was packed to canned food tightness on any Friday night, and tonight was no exception. The heavy techno-bass thrummed through her body—through all their bodies—fusing with the drink and dope that most were hyped up on by now. The glaring, colorful lights wailed and flashed like sirens. The woman drank a little, danced some, laughed a lot; she didn't shoot or snort—such things made one weak. She was here alone. Always her eyes, her body, every sense, were searching and scanning the oblivious crowd for that certain kind of man.

She walked through the moving throngs of sweaty bodies and wasted, high faces—her body systems more alert than normal, sensing and interpreting every touch and brush and jostle against her. Even those that came near were picked up by her senses and analyzed for compatibility. She watched every pair of eyes—like laser scanners checking for retinal blueprint, only she searched for something else, for that look of twisted, comprehending desire, that abnormal flash of heat spurred neither by drink nor drug. That compulsion. Lust. That need. Just the anticipation of meeting such a man was enough to switch her hormones to a raging magnitude.

But she was taking her time, being choosy. The Old Ones would have chosen at random any that chanced their fancy. But times were dangerous now. Different. Besides, this selective method lent a greater challenge; and the one she chose would merit his rewards. Why give medicine to a healthy man, or food to those not starving?

The woman smiled.

There were so many of them nowadays. She was certain that every nightspot had at least one; it was only a matter of finding him. As of tonight, she'd never left empty-handed, and had no intention of starting that fad now.

Time passed. Hours.

Nothing.

The woman resigned herself to a long wait. She leaned back against the bar.

She was twenty-five or thirty. It was hard to tell. Sometimes her white face looked innocent as a teenager, and at others, she looked old enough to be that girl's mother. It might have been the light. It might have been something entirely different. Her slim legs were drawn tight together in their black leather. The fabric glistened like wet plastic, but the leather was genuine. Her hands were clenched on her knees like a hunting cat waiting for prey. Her black singlet matched her pants. Heeled boots ended in pointed toes. The woman's hair was jet black—so dark it looked blue—pulled back into a single bunch that didn't swish when she turned. She was not smiling and her lips were parted a crack, but the white points of her incisors peeked out like sprouts. They reflected the lights of the club. Each ear had steel studs through them—four in the left, three in the right. The studs sparkled too. Her lips looked as if she'd just finished putting to waste a handful of blueberries without the juice staining farther than the borders of her curved lips. She sat there, not hearing the music but the heartbeats, seeing not the lights but the eyes, feeling not the heat of sweat but that of hormones and brain waves and instinct. She was prepared to wait all night, if that's what it took. He would come. She was sure of it.

"Hey, lady." The bartender's voice did not startle her. "Lady, can I get you anything?"

The woman turned slowly.

"No thanks," she said.

The music was hellishly loud and of bad taste, and the bartender had to holler his rockers off to be heard, but the woman made direct eye contact and spoke with a calm softness. He heard her fine. Too fine. The clarity frightened him. As if she'd spoken through his mind instead of ears.

The man scurried away to the far end of the bar counter.

The woman went back to watching and listening.

There were over three hundred guests here tonight, but none that suited her. A middle-aged man in a silk suit and wide face hidden by giant bee-like sunglasses sat alone in the deepest corner with his Cuban and Martini. He had a whole table to himself; he sat back and watched with displaced interest as the hours dragged by. Perhaps he would do. Most of the cocaine here tonight was his doing. But he was fat. Fat men tended to last longer. She did not want that. She wanted quick satisfaction.

At the other corner, two blondes were draped over a steadily stoning young man. All three were laughing and smoking and shooting. One of the blondes was massaging the man's groin through his pants. Both of them had a Ruger .22 each. Though it could not hit a man from twenty yards, it might do a good deal of damage at close range—enough to scare the man into surrendering his wallet and cash without a story to the cops. The women also had a notebook of all the targets they had gunned and robbed in the past month. They might do.

No.

Women were always, somehow, strange. They left her feeling queasy after all was said and done with a bitter aftertaste in her mind and on her tongue. But other than these, there were none that caught her fancy.

She would wait.

Then an idea came to her.

There were actions she could do to speed up the noticing and perhaps draw that man to her. Grinning with impish knowledge, the woman slid off her seat and turned towards the Ladies', swinging her hips, moving her arms to the music. Her tight, all-black leather caught a few stares and eye-gropes, but none that interested her. When she returned their appreciative glares, even the most wasted fled in panic.

The restroom was lit with glaring white light, trashed and deserted. Soiled tissue and Carefrees, used condoms, wrappers, bottles: they decorated the place wonderfully and overwhelmingly. The smell was that of old lime and rotted urine. Females can be so atrociously abhorrent of public hygiene, she thought. But at least it was empty. A flashing light from the club behind her glinted off one of the mirrors, reflecting the vibrant color of her eyes: Clear and brilliant as sapphires.

The woman closed the door and turned the lock.

When she was done, she would drink a little more, but just a little; she would dance much more, perhaps get on stage and show the crowd what the steel poles were for; but she'd never touch the needle or powder. They would dull her senses, and she needed every bit of that for later on.

Tonight was hunting night.

2

Zodiac was not his favorite nightspot for finding girls—the kind that could be easily manipulated to supply his need, the kind that was either too stupid or too trusting, or a healthy measure of both.

Craig Joner staked out every Friday night unless he was out of town on business.

He wandered through the club from early that night when it had just opened. It filled quickly on Fridays, but tonight there weren't any takers.

This need started a year ago, when he managed to chalk up substantial debt to a certain Mr. DePulez, but Joner's kind was as old as the dust. They adapted their methods throughout the millenniums of human mutation, the essence remaining unchanged.

When Craig told Mr. DePulez that he didn't have the money to pay him—not yet—the east European only laughed.

"I know you don't, mister Joner," he laughed darkly. Only it sounded like Ah noo ya don, meestah Jonahz. "Of course not. They never do." Av cooz nat. Dey neva doo.

Mr. D explained to Craig how he could save his fingers from getting sawed off before his wife and daughters were auctioned to some brothel in cold eastern Europe. Ya dough-ter izz steel vary yong. Sheed fesh a high prize.

The money lost would have to be regained, he explained, and he knew jas da waay. Craig was choiceless. A few days later, he took his first victim.

Craig drove the van while Mr. D and the woman got acquainted in the rear compartment. All Craig heard for the hour-long drive was her screams and Mr. D's cackles. But it was done. There was no turning back. When the Bulgarian was convinced that the merchandise was satisfactory and would fetch high on the underground auctions, Craig was dropped off and he never saw either the woman or Mr. D again. His debt had been paid.

But that was only the beginning for him.

Three weeks later, Craig found himself back in front of that club where his nightmare first started. He stood there at the entrance, gazing up at the flashing neon sign like a man seeing the sky for the first time.

He almost got away. He might have escaped the clutches of this inexplicable need—this hunger—had the bouncer decided he didn't like his face and told him to take a hike. But he didn't tell him any such thing, and Craig was out two hours later with his second victim. By the time they got to the outskirts of town—over on the far side of Loral Highway where no cars drove in either direction on weekend nights—Craig Joner was having fun.

He'd let that one go when he was done with her, knowing she was frightened bad enough keep their secret unshared. Even if she did spill, Craig was confident she'd never be able to identify him. And no one would believe the jerky, uncertain tale of a woman who'd been seen clubbing by herself, then gone off with a man while she was lost high in the colorful land of tequila and Bolivian-grade cocaine. Craig wasn't thinking of this, though. After he dropped her off at the expressway shoulder, he just laughed and blasted his music and roared the old engine of his dying Toyota Crown like a mad hyena celebrating after the kill.

He hot-wheeled all night across the highways, stopping only to refill his tank twice, working to slow the metabolism now that his need was temporarily satiated. But he soon realized that the fires burning within him were not abated—the more he gave it, the hotter it roared.

That woman was the first of several that passed his eye and through the doors and backseat of his purple Japanese car. He'd taken his pleasure from all of them, roughed up and frightened most, and beaten a few so badly that they'd shun a mirror for a few weeks. It was just for kicks. For that need—but often he got carried away. With those of the latter, it was sometimes so bad that Mr. DePulez almost didn't want them.

Oh yes, that frightful Gypsy was back in the picture. You rune da merchendize, he'd say, and scowl.

Mr. DePulez's ghoulish face had reappeared in Craig's side window as Craig enjoyed his third victim in the Crown's back seat. The Bulgarian looked worse than Craig had ever seen him or imagined he could look. Pale moonlight shone from behind his head, silhouetting his oily black curls like tendrils of some graveyard plant. His skin was paler than rotted wax. And when he exhaled, his breath didn't fog up on the window like it should've.

Even the woman knew not to expect help from him. She didn't try screaming for help though Craig had taken her to the backseat over an hour ago and done things to her she'd only vaguely heard of. She looked at the face in the window and opened her mouth to scream, but the sound refused to form.

After the Bulgarian took his turn with the newly-wed, he stated his conditions for silence, for though there was no proof of their first abduction, Mr. DePulez had captured enough video evidence of this recent torment to put Craig away for the better part of the next millennium. Da nehz mee lahnoom.

The terrified woman was bundled into the back of Mr. D's battered van. Craig never knew what happened to her, but he saw Mr. DePulez again. Many times again, thank-you.

Their business became a weekly arrangement, and after the fifth transaction, Mr. DePulez paid Craig a commission—maybe to keep him quiet, but mostly to rule out any chance of blackmail Craig might hope to pull over him.

But Mr. DePulez needn't have worried. Craig was hating the job as a bee hates the hive or a banker his money. An evil bone in him had been struck after his first job, and now he found that he couldn't stop—that dormant side of him now lively and vigorous. It was worse than addiction. It was a compulsion. A need. The money was good, so were the perks that came along with sampling the merchandise, but at the end, Craig did it because he loved doing it. It gave him thrills. Joy. A hunger he could not quell from any other source.

When Mr. DePulez explained how the younger ones brought in seegnifi kant-lee greytah prowfit, Craig changed his targets. Out went the college girls and housewives and single professionals, exchanged for a more tender breed.

But his hangout was always the same; he thought that changing it might ruin his so far good luck. To the date, he'd never failed his employers. Until tonight.

His regular club closed when several women, all frequent patrons, had disappeared. It had closed on Monday, when Trisha was finally reported missing. Craig smiled as he remembered her and the four hours they spent together before he sold her to the Gypsy.

But with the closing of the club, Craig could have stopped right there and then. He could have rejected his bosses. He owed them nothing. But he was addicted. Craig could have thrown in the towel, but he persevered because of his need. And so he came to Zodiac.

3

Craig prowled through the flashing sodium arc lights and burning smells of sweat and alcohol and cheap air freshener. A colorful assortment of partygoers patronized tonight—peculiar for any club; they mostly catered to a certain type of customer. Some were young as high school students, others old as professionals living in the houses that neighbored his own, punks and Barbie's alike. That was good. It would be easier to find his mark. But it was also riskier. He would have to be careful.

At the same time, Craig wondered why he hadn't chosen this club in the beginning. It was a disaster waiting to happen.

He saw the stoned young man with a blonde in each arm, his mind vacationing to Never-Never Land from the fat suit's coke. He regarded the man smoking the cigar and was frightened shitless for a moment when he thought it was Mr. DePulez, bloated as if he'd swallowed a whole pig.

After a couple hours of surveying, Craig realized this night might be the first where he left empty handed. It started out hopeful but cautious; now he was beginning to think that his luck had all run out. The techno-bass was getting to him. He wandered past the bar, music vibrating his brain, the orange and green lights stirring the vision in his eyes, the laughing and screaming adding to the confusion. It was around the time he remembered this was Friday night—tomorrow was a special school day for most on this last weekend before summer—thus the disappointingly low number of young students and high school kids, when he saw a lone girl prance past him, dancing and swaying to the music that had long ago melted into a throbbing headache. She was beautiful. Young.

Craig smiled.

The girl wore a lime tube top and short plaid skirt that didn't quite do the job of covering her ass. Heeled sandals covered her toes. Streaked blonde hair was tied in three ponytails. He caught her gaze and she entertained it for a moment, then the beat changed and she skipped over to the bar, pulling out a fake ID from her purse.

Craig had no doubt she was underage, trying to dress up and drink to feel older, but those eyes had told him enough. She was confident. Self-assured. He could not ignore the arrogant way she danced and drank and flirted with the guys before turning around and walking away casual as pancake syrup. Craig watched a couple men move to the point where they might have been ready to say something. She'd look at them blankly, then laugh and wave her hand in their face before walking away.

Craig smiled. This one would be good. He would love breaking her in—seeing first the arrogance then fear in her eyes, listen to her shout then scream then beg then do nothing but cry and give in. And she was stunning. She would do. In fact, the more he watched her, the more he saw she was perfect.

Craig made his move.

Emptying the martini to the back of his throat, Craig straightened his cuffs and walked over to where his target had just got off the dance floor with two boys—slightly older than her, but nothing compared to his mid-forties label. The boys looked confused—even angry. Craig laughed to himself, then his face fell and the deep hollow boom of expectation dropped from sky-scraping heights to shattered pieces at the floor in his gut.

His girl walked into a circle of another eight or nine girls, all of similar age and dress.

They high-fived her and slapped her back, laughing and congratulating her on that great show, good moves, sure showed those boys and hee hee giggle giggle now it's Marsha's turn but you should've got them to buy us some drinks first. And then the song changed again.

Craig ground his teeth and stepped back to the bar. It was all setup fine. She would have done more than fine. She was made of the stuff that guys like him set their standards and records by. She might even get him a bonus from Mr. DePulez, not to mention an extra kick in the back seat of the Jap-mobile. But now the only thing she gave was rage.

Mr. DePulez's first and only warning to him was never target those in a group. Craig never bothered to ask why, but figured he'd do best to stick to those rules. No witnesses.

Craig went back to the bar, straightening his teal-specked maroon shirt, resigning himself to a long wait. Someone took his seat, so he moved to an empty one next to it and sat down.

"Hey, man," the bartender hollered over his left shoulder. It startled him horribly, nearly sending him off his chair. Craig recovered and turned on the young man drying out glasses. Then he saw the man's eyes. They were afraid. Very afraid. Smugly satisfied, not knowing that the fear came not from him but from the seat's previous occupier, Craig did nothing further.

"Hey," the bartender said again, looking pale and sweated as a Greek out of a steam bath. "Sorry, but that seat's taken."

Craig looked at him, stunned. "What did you—" But the man cut him off. He had to shout to make himself heard, but he did it anyway.

"You better leave that seat for her. She left to the toilet, and I think she'll be back."

Craig could only stare. The shock was too strange and he was caught unprepared. He stared wide and blankly at the bartender before backing away. He was shocked at his own meekness. He backed away another step, slowly, watching the bartender with his hand stuck up the glass like a doctor trying to extract a trapped baby from the crushing walls of the birth canal.

Craig Joner stepped away, balls shrunken to pea-sized things for no reason whatsoever, and walked in the direction of the little boys' room, cursing himself, trying not to trip over his own feet.

4

Craig strode quickly to the lavatory but found it not.

He thought he followed the signs correctly, but something was clouding his mind—making it unreasonably stupid. To add to the tragedy of the misplaced restroom, his bowels were suddenly demanding release. He was sweating and dizzy from the pressure in his nether regions despite the pills he'd taken earlier that were supposed to help him keep on top of things during trauma. Slight fatigue or an abnormal sense of humor could be expected—but not nausea or this weird sense that tonight his luck was jinxed from the time he left the house.

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