They killed a girl every night at The Palace after it shut down at midnight. Frankie’s special invite crowd got to stick around and drink his smuggled booze and watch her die.
Frankie himself wasn’t all that impressive, really. Sheila had always thought that about him, even before she got to stick around after midnight and was still being ushered out with the rest of them.
No, he was an ugly and decadent man in an ugly and decadent time. He was a hard drinker, and mean, and vulgar. He was like if somebody had put the hired help in an expensive suit and then told them to act like they ran the place. She thought he was dull, in other words.
Jimmy Horse on the other hand was a different story. Even though he never left Frankie’s side and never really said a word or even looked her way, she’d been attracted to him for as long as she could remember.
He was tall and dark with sort of stoic features. He had soft brown eyes and a thin scar on his jaw. He was quiet, and unlike Frankie, never made an ass of himself through laughing or shouting or swearing too loudly.
One night, Sheila caught Frankie’s eye by accident. So she thought she’d use it to her advantage and try to get closer to Horse.
They were gathered around the pit watching it kill a girl. The first few times that she’d stayed after hours she’d been too scared to get close and really watch anything. Eventually, though, morbid curiosity and a drive for real kicks overcame her fear. Soon she was jostling with the rest of them to get right to the edge of the pit and watch.
That night though, the entertainment was more spritely than usual. The girl in the pit managed to get loose of its embrace. She made a climb up to the edge, right at the place where Sheila stood.
It wasn’t much of a decision to make. She kicked at the frightened face and got her in the eye with her stiletto heel. The injured girl fell back screaming into the thing’s arms.
There were cheers and backslaps from the crowd. She saw Frankie and Horse pushing through the crowd towards her. Then she could smell his cigar smoke as he embraced her and shouted something ecstatic – too loud to understand – into her face. Then, quieter, he invited her to the after after party so he could get to know her better.
You couldn’t really turn Frankie down anyway. He’d be furious and you’d end up at the bottom of the pit. But the truth was that she really didn’t want to turn him down. She wanted a crack at Horse, and she thought that she could get that through him.
So she agreed and they met later in a little room at the back. It was Frankie’s special place, all decked out with a private bar, an Oriental rug, and an oval-shaped bed that he pushed her down on before she could even take off her heels.
She knew that he was going to be aggressive, being an asshole and all, but even as he took off his belt and crawled up onto the bed on top of her, what really made her skin crawl was the fact that Horse had followed them into the room.
He was standing right up against the edge of the bed, practically right up in there with them. And he was watching with the same cool and detached air that had attracted her to him in the first place. Strong and silent had crawled into creepy and voyeuristic, and suddenly she wanted out.
“Frankie — cut it out.” She tried to slap his hands away and point at Horse at the same time. It didn’t really work. “What’s with him? Are you two gay together or what’s the story?”
Frankie laughed and slapped her hard across the face. Then he spit on her.
There was a kind of dildo made of glass sitting on the nightstand beside them. She picked it up and smashed it against the side of his head. Frankie shuddered. Horse winced. She took the moment to grab her pistol from beneath her dress, and then she shot Frankie in the face.
There was a second of quiet, and then Horse started screaming. He flailed like a man set on fire. Something like tendrils or filaments or nerve endings blackened into existence from nowhere and began to curl away from the back of Frankie’s whole body. They retracted back towards Horse like a wounded sea creature.
She rolled Frankie’s corpse to the floor and his brains hit with the sound of wet oatmeal. She left Horse flailing and jittering and ensnared in his own puppet strings.
When she was outside of the club and far away on the dark streets again, she slowed her run to a walk and tried to make sense of everything that had just gone down.
Horse, some sort of parasite. Frankie, some sort of host. No… there was more to it than that. Horse was some sort of unfeeling parasite, and Frankie was like a radio antenna of feelings. Bad feelings. Vices.
And speaking of vice, she had to work all week at the textile mill and that was going to be dull and tiresome work. Come Saturday night, she was sure that The Palace was going to be open again.
And sure enough, on Saturday night she was there and waiting around for after midnight. She saw them come out of the back. Frankie was leading Horse along as always. His head was a wreck of bloodied bandages and ugly black stitch work.
They came right for her, and she could tell by the glare in Frankie’s one visible eye that he was going to try and talk to her again.
© Michael R. Colangelo
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