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The Two Lives of Barton Crick


A confidential informant provided Constable Crick with the crucial piece of information he needed to bring down a gang that had been plaguing his community for a long time.  The nondescript building in the old warehouse district was surrounded by heavily armed men sufficient in numbers to breach the building and arrest those responsible.  It was decided that they would quietly enter through different sides of the building because of the dangerous nature of these particular criminals and their penchant for violence.  They also wanted to bring their leader, Archibald Prentiss, to justice alive if possible.  Things didn’t go as planned.  Shots rang out and chaos ensued.  The remaining men stationed outside stormed the building and joined fray.  Barton Crick was one of those men.  He wanted Archibald all to himself because his blatant disregard of the law was personal, and Crick always got his man.  As soon as he entered the interior, he saw his quarry climbing a metal ladder leading to a catwalk above the floor.  Archibald was not being pursued by any of his men because they were engaged in the violent firefight.  Though shots were whizzing around him, Crick holstered his weapon and began to climb the ladder in hot pursuit.  The older Archibald was no physical match for the younger Crick as he was closing the gap between them.  His men had the situation under control and arrests were occurring on the floor below.  Now he had his man trapped at the end of the catwalk with nowhere to run.  Archibald wasn’t finished yet, and with a tip of his hat in Cricks direction,  as if bidding him adieu, crashed through the window behind him, falling some 35 feet into the cold waters below.  Crick swore under his breath and called for his men to search for Archibald along the river banks.  The sweet hands of justice would have to wait yet again.

Later that evening, as his head hit the pillow, he thought of Archibald and understood his foe was a clever criminal, but in the end, he would pay for his crimes.

Barton Crick had possessed an active imagination since he was a little boy.  At first he thought that they were just wonderful dreams of an imaginary place in another world.  His parents were amused by his tales when he was awake, but after a while they became quite concerned with his mental health.  He really had it good in those younger years, the best of both worlds as they say, but that all changed with the concern his parents had.  He learned to keep his worlds separate as an endless stream of doctors began to invade his waking world.  Those doctors would come and go as they tried to cure him of this affliction.  He was diagnosed as bi-polar; schizophrenic; psychotic, and finally dual personality.  With each doctor that came and went, so did the medications they prescribed to keep his other world at bay.  The medications didn’t work on him, of course, because he didn’t have a mental condition but, a temporal one.  This kind of condition didn’t require a PhD, it required a quantum physicist. 

Each night when he went to sleep he would transport his waking self to this other realm, leaving his body behind as a place mark like you would fold a corner of an unfinished paper novel.  If it weren’t for the other world and its wonder and promise, this world’s troubles would have been a little hard to deal with. 

Sometimes he wished he could sleep forever in this world, so he could be in the other all of the time.  In this world he couldn’t be himself because the medications altered his energy to the point he was nothing more than a 160-pound paperweight.  After a while, his parents had him committed to the Billings Hospital for the mentally ill.  That was fine with him, because he could sleep more and more.  The problem was the more he slept here, the more ambitious his doctors became in their desire to curing his malaise.  The Group therapy sessions as well as the intense individual sessions with psychiatrists were wearing him down to the point that he was starting to believe them when they said his alter ego, and the world it inhabited, was all in his sick mind.  He was no longer the boy with fanciful dreams, but a 30 year old man with serious mental health issues.  In his youthful days it was easy to discount adults because honestly, how could they know what was in his mind?  But, as an adult, he saw things in a different and logical light.  The alter ego, as they called it, smells; tastes; loves; cries and does everything else associated with normalcy.  How could he make them understand it was reality?  The quick answer was ‘he couldn’t.’

He needed to sleep.  Archibald was still at large, or at least he was when he laid his head to sleep in that world.  The only thing that could keep him away from sleep was to stand in line and ingest what was dispensed from a little white paper cup.  While waiting, it dawned on him that Archibald had just lost his base of operations and most of his ill-gotten gain in the raid, so he would be off his game.  Depending on how many men he lost he would be desperate to regain that which he lost, Barton knew his next move, and once asleep, would flip into that world to be where he needed to be.  It was strange because in the other place, he really had the most to lose.  His wife and child resided with him by the purple lake called Epsilon in the house that was built with his own two hands.  He coveted the life that was so rich in everything he lacked in this one.  You would think he would have chosen a safer profession there, but he was incapable of complacency because complacency was his identity here.  He had the ability to fight for what was true and just, and had the reputation anyone here would be envious of.  Not once had he given thought to the consequences of dying in the other perfect world.  What would happen here?  Perhaps he should be a little more careful instead of running around warehouses with bullets flying all around.  It never occurred to him before then. 

The line was going slowly, but he eventually found himself standing on the other side of the dispensing window when the nurse looked up at him from her sheet. “Ah, Mr. Crick”, she said, like a snake hissing prior to striking its prey.  “It looks like we have a change in medication for you today, now that your new doctor has reviewed your charts.”

“I don’t have a new doctor.”  Barton countered.

“Yesterday you didn’t, but today, you do!”  She hissed again.

She tapped the sheet with her sausage-like fingers as if saying paper does not lie. 

“It would appear your current treatment regimen has not improved your condition sufficiently so a new doctor has been brought in.  He is quite an impressive man, very clever you know?  He has all the answers.  The good news is that in an hour you will get to meet him in person.  His new treatment regimen is contrary to everything you have experienced since your arrival.”  She proclaimed proudly.

“I am telling you, I do not have a new doctor and I must go to sleep soon. I do not want to have a session with someone when I should be sleeping.”  He said pleadingly.

He had no choice, as two burly aids standing on each side of him loomed in case of resistance.  He took the pills, downed them, then padded back to the common room and waited.  It didn’t take long, as all of the other patients on the wards on his unit were systematically herded into their rooms like compliant cattle to the slaughter house.  Each and every one of the patients was going to sleep and apparently, he was not.

An hour later, the same two goons who convinced him to take his medicine were there to escort him to meet the new and clever doctor.  While padding his way through the mazelike corridors he noticed that his new medication was having a different effect on him.  He didn’t feel the normal drowsiness that quickly followed his ingestion of medication.  In fact he felt energized, edgy and very alert.  It was this type of affect that would counter his ability to sleep.  Dread crept in with the realization his doctor’s treatment was meant to keep him from sleeping.

He approached the door of his new doctor, which was emblazoned with the name, “Archibald Prentiss, PhD”

Pawnshop Horrors


Pawn shop horrors

Jimmy Childress snuck through bushes on the side of the house, keeping an ever watchful eye for any movement inside it.  His modus operandi was always the same.  Find a door in a secluded spot cloaked in darkness and apply masking tape to the lower portion of the glass in order to break it without any sound outside that would carry in the still of night, but instead a dull thump that wouldn’t arouse any suspicion.  Normally, a short but forceful rap of a hammer in its center would suffice, then all he had to do was peel away the tape and the glass came along with it.  Then all he had to do was reach inside the hole, unlock the door from the inside, and voila.  He has done this type of burglary hundreds of times before.  The only downside was that if he ever got caught, it would be easy to pin all of them on him instead of the one that night.  This was a risk he was willing to take because his prints weren’t in any law enforcement system and getting caught would be his first offense.  The added bonus was that he was a minor, so his ultimate sentencing would be light.  His only rule of thumb was to take only what you can carry without trouble, hopefully cash or jewelry.

He had studied the house for over a week and never saw any movement around this time of night.  The fact the house resided at the end of a cul-de-sac with a large stand of woods behind it made it a juicy target. 

He entered the kitchen and paused to listen for any signs of the occupants.  Satisfied he was alone, he started for the second floor because it was also part of his routine of things.  He always worked his way down before leaving.  He made quick work on the upper floor, pocketing a few pieces of jewelry, no cash, and came down the stairs to hit the ground floor next.  Much to his dismay, he wasn’t finding enough in the rather large house.  He’d thought he would find more, and was about to call it a night when he saw another door that stood just to the left of the one he came through.  He opened it and saw it led down to a basement.  He stepped onto the top step and closed the door behind him before turning on the lights.  He proceeded down the stairs, and once he was halfway down them, he heard a sound coming from somewhere below him.  He stopped in his tracks and swore under his breath because he was careless in thinking he was alone.  A voice came from below.  “Jimmy, don’t stop now.  Come on down, we’ve been expecting you”.  The blood in his veins came to an icy stop while hairs on his neck stood tall like saw grass.

He still stood motionless, trying to comprehend who it was that knew his name, let alone knew he would be there.  He took the last five steps and looked around the corner leading into the main room of the basement which was the same size as the floor above it.  That’s when he saw a man sitting in a chair bound and gagged with a neat-looking man in a blue suit standing over him with a menacing looking gun in his hand.   He motioned with the gun for Jimmy to take a seat waiting for him directly across from the bound man.  Jimmy did as he was told, and as he did so, was looking for a way out of this unusual predicament.  “How do you know my name?  Have we met?”  Jimmy asked.

“Well, you don’t know me, but I certainly have been following your work for quite some time”.  The man replied.

“Let me be more specific.  Introductions are definitely in order.  My name is Grandy Jenks, and over in the corner is my son, Bart Jenks,” he said, as Jimmy noticed the young man standing in a darkened corner for the first time.  He too was armed with a gun, and nodded his head as if introducing himself without saying a word.

“We are the purveyor’s of G & B Pawn.  You know the establishment well because you are one of our repeat customers.  You have been selling us your stolen goods for quite some time.”  Grandy said, in an amused voice.

Jimmy didn’t know what to say.  Again, he swore under his breath about another mistake he has made. 

“Anytime we conclude a purchase we check the items against a police report that is provided to our establishment because we are bound by law to report it when discovered.  After your second visit we noticed a trend with you, young man.  That was the exact moment you made it to the top of our list,” he stated, with much amusement, again.

“List, what list?  If you knew the items were stolen, then why didn’t you go to the police and turn me in?  The first time I sold to you was over 5 months ago, and I have been back many times since.”  Jimmy sneered.

“Well, my boy, let’s just say you are …er…, our hobby.  Don’t you watch the news?  You have become quite famous as of late.”  Grandy exclaimed, with grandiosity.

Now, Jimmy was getting angry at this man and his riddles.

“Like I said, after your second visit we took an interest in your career and began to follow you closely.  You are quite the busy thief.  All those houses you robbed.  Anyway, it was your last four houses you should be concerned with, because that is when we enhanced your work, so to speak,” he said matter-of-factly.

As Jimmy was trying to digest all of this, Bart stepped out of his hole and placed a small table directly in front of the two men, then untied and unbound the first.  He reached into his waistband and from its backside, produced two handguns and placed them onto the table.  He then returned to where he was standing when Jimmy first saw him.

“As I was saying, you’re quite a famous man.  The police have been searching for you because you have killed the occupants of your last four burglaries, seven dead in all.  But, being the sporting fella that I am, I’m going to give you a chance to survive this.  On the count of three, the two of you will reach for those loaded weapons and eliminate the other.  The one who survives has a chance to escape the fate of the other.  Those are the ground rules gentlemen.”  Grandy explained.

Both men turned their attention from him to each other, anticipating the countdown.

“One . . . two . . .three.”

Both men reached for the weapon closest to him and fired at the other. 

Because Jimmy was much younger and quicker than his opponent, the owner of the home managed to get off only one shot before succumbing to his fatal wounds.   The basement was filled with the smell of cordite and Jimmy’s ears were ringing from the report of his weapon, but he quickly raised his gun at Grandy.  Unfortunately for the young burglar, Grandy had already put a well placed shot in the center of his forehead, killing Jimmy instantly.

After staging the basement to look like the homeowner and the intruder shot it out, killing each other, Grandy and his son Bart had one last stop to make before they went home.  They entered Jimmy’s sparse apartment using his own key taken from him an hour before, then placed all of the items he had sold to the pawn shop into a shoe box and hid the serial killer’s trophies in the freezer behind several pizzas. 

The news came on the following night with a breaking story stating the police had solved a spate of killings tied to a young man in the area.  The police chief told the public that they were sure they got the right man since he used the same method to gain entry to all of the homes of the deceased as well as many, many more.  The city could now rest safely.

Grandy got up from his recliner and turned off the television when his son walked into the room and announced with a smile, “Dad, I think we have a new candidate”, as he brought the stolen property list and items for Grandy’s perusal and acceptance.”


The Devil's Glasses


It was Jackson Mayes 23rd birthday, and it was the same as his first 22, alone and in ill health.  He had blown through his inheritance in just three years’ time since his parents died in an auto accident. To make matters worse, sitting on the table since last week was a notice from the court ordering child support resulting from a paternity test order last month. The string of one night stands due to his inability to sustain any meaningful relationship with the fairer sex finally caught up with him in the worst way. He didn’t even remember her. Topping this unwanted news was the fact he lost his job a week ago with rent looming in a couple of days. He was sure it was because accounting received the garnishment order from the same court and it was easier to just let him go. Boy, he could sure use a little luck for a change.

Losing his parents wasn’t that big a deal because they never showed much interest in him, especially since he constantly needed surgery to correct one thing or another and they were always fighting about money. He knew they despised him because of it. He was cooking one of his last cans of spaghetti for lunch when his front doorbell rang. Now what? He turned the burner to low and dragged his left leg behind him to answer it. 

When he opened the door, it was his parent’s attorney standing there with a briefcase in one hand and a clean white handkerchief smartly covering his mouth with the other, as if Jackson had leprosy and the man didn’t want to inhale his essence. “Mr. Balducci, I hope you’re not here for money, I spent it already,” Jackson said dryly.

“No, no, my good boy. In fact, I am here with news of another inheritance. Your Aunt Esmeralda, from New Orleans passed away and I am here to codify your portion that she left for you,” Balducci informed him.

Stunned into silence, he could only motion for the meek but impeccably dressed man to enter.  “For the life of me, I don’t remember an Aunt from New Orleans,” he stammered hesitantly, hoping not to jinx the good fortune.

“It’s true, you’re Aunt Esmeralda’s attorney contacted me last week, and the contents arrived this morning,” he said as he balanced his case precariously on his lap and opened it. From Jackson’s vantage point he couldn’t see inside of it, but soon an envelope appeared clutched in the hand that formerly held a handkerchief. He neatly sat it on the table in front of him and reached into the mysterious case again, pulled out a small box that looked like one that would hold a diamond bracelet and sat it on the table next to the envelope. He smartly closed his case, reached inside his lapel and pulled out a gold-embossed ball point pen and neatly placed it on the table.  The economy of motion he employed in this ritual was hypnotic.

Without a word, Jackson opened the envelope and freed a legal document that the man asked him to sign to complete the legality of the matter. Curious to see what was in the box, Jackson took the pen that was offered and quickly signed on the spot that a little arrow sticker indicated and slid the executed legal paper back in Balducci’s direction. He caught himself licking his lips as a nervous response. The attorney took the paper, opened his case and neatly placed it inside, closed it with a whip-like snap, then slowly slid the box in his direction. Their business having been concluded, the lawyer stood and walked out of the house leaving him sitting at the table with the mysterious bounty. As he reached for the box he noticed that the envelope still lay where the fastidious man left it and it still had contents in it. His reaching hand stopped momentarily, then redirected from the box to the envelope. As he picked it up it had a considerable heft to it and he plucked the contents out and unfolded them to read.  He counted the pages before he read them. There were 23.

It was a letter penned by his Aunt to Jackson. He had never been much of a reader and the lure of the little box was getting the better of him, so he put the pages down and again reached for the box. The box was light in weight, which disappointed him as his imagination told him that much bigger things were about to change his destiny. He slid the lid off and inside was another box which appeared to be carved ornately out of wood and very old looking.  He pulled it free and turned it over and over until he perused all six sides. There was a strange string of odd rune-like markings which he could not read that ran around the sides.

He slowly opened the lid exposing a single pair of ornate eye glasses. They looked very old and very expensive as they were encrusted with jewels that appeared to be inlaid into gold frames.  Bingo.  He picked them up and scrutinized them like a miser would count his gold coins.  He carefully laid them back into the case and returned his attention to the letter.  Perhaps there would be some indication as to their origins and a clue to their value.

He read:

Dear Jackson,

I know this may come as a surprise, but I am your Aunt Esmeralda. If you are reading this it means I am dead. I’m sorry for any confusion, but I, as well as your mother, kept my identity a secret as we attempted to keep a larger secret hidden. This secret has been in our family and goes back to your Great Grandfather William Mayes. The glasses that sit before you now are a sort of talisman that has passed from one family member to the next, and that immortalizes a blood oath with dark forces during a difficult period in his life.  Unfortunately, this pact with the devil did not end with his passing, and will not end until every last Mayes on this earth leaves this mortal coil.  It appears to end with you as the only surviving heir to our family line, thank God.  It is imperative that you do not bear any more children as the curse will remain ongoing.  Do not attempt to destroy or sell these glasses, as they always return from whence they came. They are intended only for our family tree as a reminder that you cannot cheat destiny. If and when you pass, and provided you do not bring another Mayes into this world, then it ends with you and the glasses disappear as well.  Please understand that you can try to outrun this curse, but there is nowhere you can hide that darkness won’t find you.  Your soul as well as all those souls of our ancestry have been spoken for and damned. I am sorry that you must learn this unimaginable fate of ours, but you must know and prepare for the inevitable.

Esmeralda Mayes

He sat back into his chair and realized this must be some cruel joke—it had to be. He didn’t believe in the mumbo jumbo that Aunt Mayes espoused in her last letter written on earth.  He picked up the remaining 22 pages and rifled through them but unfortunately could not read their content because the language was in the same rune-type writing on the box lid. He did see his Great Grandfather’s signature at the conclusion of this mysterious letter.  It looked to be signed in blood instead of ink. As he sat there in shocked silence, his left arm felt like it was on fire and much to his horror his flesh was actually singeing like when cattle are branded, leaving behind a sick aroma in the air. When the pain subsided, he saw that an indelible mark was left in a red welt. Unfortunately, it was too much for him to bear and the next pain that he felt was in his chest. The pain was unlike any pain he had ever endured in his short life span as he slumped forward and hit his forehead, pinning the paperwork to the table like a grotesque paperweight. 

Three weeks later, a pregnant Jessica answered the door to a strange fastidious looking man clutching a briefcase in one hand and a handkerchief in his other. “Yes, may I help you?” she asked.


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