absk group story - the story so far...


Chapter 1 - by Steve Milligan

Everyone has a needle. A need they feed. Priest or prisoner, saint or sinner, everyone has one. My needle is death.

The rush I get feeling life ebb from a human body is incredible. It defines the word ecstasy, yet the word comes nowhere near explaining the burning bright purity of the moment. Death is better than booze, better than drugs, better than sex. A shot of Jack Daniels is damn fine, the white hot high of a speedball a crazy high, and orgasm is ... well orgasm just is. But death? That's another level all together.

I was seventeen the first time I killed. It was pure chance that led me to it. I keep telling myself it was chance, anyway. I wonder sometimes, but I try not to go too far down that road 'cause I'm not sure I really want to know.

I was raised in the church, and taught to do for others. I worked summers at a downtown mission when I was in school, and one of my jobs was delivering Meals On Wheels to old folks who couldn't get out.

I had a regular route to run, and I got to know most of the old cranks pretty well. They liked me because I took the time to talk to them. I never acted like it was work for me to be there. I guess I'm a pretty good actor.

Some of those places smelled like sewers, and some of those biddies were more than a few bricks short. But I smiled, and chattered away with them about the weather, and the world, and the bad old days. They loved me like I was there son, and nobody ever doubted me when I said I found Miss Cashun dead.

She was the third last call on my route, and the biggest 'Crazy Mary' of the bunch. She was eighty if she was a day, and she dressed and made herself up like she was eighteen. Blonde wigs, heavy eye makeup, and bright pink lipstick. She wanted me in her bed. That's the truth, and it's what brought push to shove the day I took my first hit off the death needle.

It was a sunny July day, and everything was just fine. It was Friday and I was thinking about the weekend, hoping the weather would hold, because I had tickets for an outdoor concert. I had the radio on in the van, and they were playing summer time rock and roll. 'Dancing in the Streets', and 'Summer in the City'. 'ZZ Top' and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

I was singing as I bopped up to the old farts doors with their meals in hand. A couple of the more sprightly biddies, come to the door to meet me, even caught me singing. They loved it. Here's this happy young fella come to visit them with a meal and a smile. What more could they ask?

I was groovin' to the radio, and soakin' up the summer vibe as I worked my way through the route. By the time I pulled up in front of Miss Cashun's house, I'd just heard the forecast for the weekend. Nothing but sunshine. I pulled Miss C.'s meal out of the van, singing the old 'Mungo Jerry' classic, 'In The Summer Time'.

The inside door was open when I got there, and I could smell the overpowering scent of her perfume. I swear she must have bathed in the stuff. It was all I could do not to retch most days, but it barely bothered me this time. It was like I was buzzed on something smooth and mellow.

I've wondered more than once about that. Wondered whether there wasn't something controlling things that day, setting the mood, setting me up for the rush. Hookers have their tricks to keep the johns coming back for more, and the pusher seems to know just when to offer a free sample to the fish that's ready to take the hook and run.

Do you think death's got a pimp talkin' the talk and setting the mood? I don't know about that, but I've thought about it more than once, mostly when I remember how damn good I felt as I knocked on Miss C's door that morning.

I rang the bell and heard her call for me to come in, the door was open. She was in the living room, and as I popped the meal into the kitchen, which was just inside the front door, she called for me not to forget my end of the month tip.

We weren't supposed to take money from the old crazies, but I was damned if I was going to insult them by turning down what they offered. Besides, I never had any trouble finding a use for the extra money. I headed into the living room, figuring to kill a few minutes with 'Crazy Mary', pick up my tip, and be on my way.

I remember the rest like it was yesterday. I can see it like a movie running on a screen.

Glen Miller was playing 'String of Pearls' on Miss C's stereo as I started out of the kitchen. She loved that old music, said it reminded her of when she was eighteen, out dancing every weekend to Miller, and the Dorseys and the rest. The musical pearls were no surprise at all, but what I wasn't ready for was what I saw as I came around the corner, out of the hallway and into the living room.

The curtains were drawn, there were candles burning all around the room, and the old girl was lying on the couch wearing nothing but a double strand of pearls. It was so disgusting, that I came within inches of turning around and running. But there was a voice whispering in my head.

"The pillow Brad, do her with the pillow."

Or maybe I just decided to kill her on my own.
Which do you think is more likely?
Did I jump, or was I pushed?
Did I buy the needle, or did someone sell it to me?

All I know for sure is that I took it, and the hit sent me flying so damn high.

Chapter 2 - by Jack

The first time I killed, it was more on an impulse than a need. But it's like being around your buddies cokin' up. At first, you hear how bad it is, but one time you do it. Whether it's because you're loaded off half a bottle of Cuervo Gold, or the taunting gets to you, or because you're feeling left out, it happens. And it feels damn good. So you do a little more. A few rails go by, and then it's time to leave 'cause you get those jitters. Y'know, when everyone seems to be looking at you. You get back to your pad, and lay there on the couch bright eyed and tingling. Then sleep comes, followed by the next day and reality, crap like work. Next thing you know, it's on your mind a little. Then you think about it more and more until you get some. And then the cycle repeats.

Now, I'm a fairly successful man for someone so young. The bar I manage (and bartend in a pinch) is good sized, with four dollar pitchers during Monday Night Football and the NBA playoffs. It's only been around for three years and I was lucky enough to be part of the opening staff. I crawled, scraped, bitched, and moaned until I got to the place I am now. I know the ins and outs of everything there, from the type of floor cleaner we buy to the last name of the BudCo delivery guy. And a bar is a very good hunting ground for out-of-towners. If you don't believe that, drive up to Tulsa, find the Lakeside Park cemetary, and go ask Sabrina Pollard.

I remember reading somethin' back in high school about that big-ass Statue of Liberty meaning "give us your poor, your tired". Now whenever some silicon-enhanced whore walks in and pull up a seat, the whole flock turns their heads. But when a dumpy, fat broad comes for a coupla drinks, she's quickly forgotten. And that's what you have to be looking for.

Brina came in on a rainy night in November, and it was fairly cold, 'bout as cold as it gets in this part of Oklahoma. So this cow, soaked and shivering, pulls up underneath the set with the OSU-Colorado game on, and ordered some womanly drink, like a Cosmo. The Black Crowes "Remedy" was blarin' and I felt the tingle right at my lower back. Of course, my needle can tell if it's time or not. I can sometimes tell it to go away, but that panting sex-kitten whisper will keep coming until something's done to it. Then Chris Robinson stopped wailing and Van Halen's "Poundcake" came on. THEN I knew it was time.

Lonely women always find some object to fixate on while they have their cocktails. Sometimes it's the rear of the 'tender, the bottles on the racks, or even the basketball game. They want to look occupied so if someone comes up to talk with them, they didn't appear to be trolling. The Cowboys were down twelve to the doormats of the conference, even though Reeves had twenty-four. Something Brina was taking a lot of notice of. So I stroll up in my most professional manner and ask her if she needed anything. You always need to come up during their second drink. Otherwise, they might be ready to leave or have enough booze in them for awhile.

"Yeah, this is sorta weak. Maybe I can try one of those orange things your blond buddy's making."she said, eyes wide. "Yes, ma'am. Be right back.", I state, then throw in a big smile. Walking off to the ice bin, I can hear It again. "Easy one, Brad. Make it look like a mugging." Hell, after that, that big damn smile was stayin'.

I bring it to her and walk off. There's plenty of other people there and I had to hustle for my rent money. But I kept that really discreet eye on her, the one you use when you plan on using someone. Most of the sheep in Trudy's are regulars, and most of the foreign types stay at the Ramada on the other side of the freeway. So maybe an hour later she gets up and leaves. I see Sabrina getting into a green Taurus with out-of-state plates. My vision ain't great, but the needle helps you when you need it to. And the needle knew that blue plates on a car meant she was an out-of-towner.

I told Phil I was going on a smoke break and saw the Taurus take the turn-around. It braked suddenly, like most people in an unfamiliar place (especi ally in the rain) and pulled in the Ramada. Loree came strolling by, and i told her I was running to the 7-Eleven for some Pepto. Cover me for ten minutes, I urged her. She complied, and turned inside. I jogged down to my Blazer and drove over. The needle is almost causing make to shake, and I'm about to piss my pants.

She had just left the checkout office and was pulling up to the south face of the hotel. I drive into a slot about four down and pretend I'm looking for something in the back seat. Sabrina paid no attention to the car that pulled up, and that cost her her life. She gets out and pops the trunk, for her suitcase or some crap like that. My needle is causing all the blood to rush up to my head, and I feel like Popeye after three cans of spinach and an hour of Olive Oyl. Rarin' to go.

Sabrina Pollard stuck her head in to retrieve something, and probably never felt me slam the door on her neck, killing her instantly. And that needle gives you the eyes of an eagle and the balls of a tiger. Not to mention the strength of a medium-size dragon. The head popped off cleanly as the door slammed home on her coat's collar, looking like this car had been dragging a fat woman all night. No sound, no sight. "AHHHHHH!", moans the needle, and it quits yet again. And the radio in my Blazer's playing Hotel California. Can it get any better?

When I got back to Trudy's five minutes later, Loree said she'd never seen Pepto-Bismol work that fast.

Chapter 3 - by Zorina

Maggie, honey, I think I got somethin' to say to you ... The traffic lights on the corner of 4th street and Roosevelt, and all the way up to 14th, had gone berserk. The early morning commuters, juggling their cell phones and their omigawd-it's-too-hot-I'm-gonna-sue cups of fast food coffee were suddenly treated to a preview of what the Christmas decorations had in store that December. Red ... green ... red ... .The yellow kept silent behind it's window, never blinking a single caution at the downtown traffic. Red ... green ... and caution was definitely in order.

Maggie sat fidgetting in her Honda amidst the cacophony of horns and insults, directed against the electric company, the city, the governor and God himself from opened vehicle windows, while she was rummaging through her purse with her right hand. She was looking for that errant secret cigarette pack she kept with her for just such an occasion, and she was certain that there was one cig in it. Her other hand tapped well manicured fingernails nervously against the steering wheel, while her brain concocted various threats against humanity if she couldn't find at least one smoke!

She was training her eye on the ugly yellowish Volvo in front of her, when a mountain of a man, beer belly preceding him, leaped out of the cab of a delivery truck three cars ahead. From behind, Maggie giggled to herself, he looked remarkably like the Incredible Hulk as he attempted to extricate another prisoner of traffic hell from his vehicle--obviously without said driver's consent--and was screaming and gesticulating wildly at the driver, while punctuating obvious obscenities with his fist on the hood of the hapless sedan. Yes, all hell was breakin' loose, and Maggie was gonna miss her plane if it didn't stop soon! She glanced worriedly at the headline of the morning paper on the seat.

Decapitated Woman Found In Parking Lot

"Paydirt!" she yelled aloud, and held up a crumpled pack of Marlboro Lites from the bowels of her handbag. She smiled at finding not one, but two flattened cigarettes. She quickly lit one, and settled back into the seat in a blue cloud of ecstasy. As if by magic, the Miller Time Man looked a bit calmer, and the Volvo crawled a few feet from in front. Maggie breathed easier now, not because of the nicotine calmative, but because she could now return to those more important thoughts that were niggling at her brain. Someone, or something, was pirating her supplies, and she was pissed. She followed the Volvo like any good sheep, and thought out her problem.

Red ... green ... red. Maggie noticed the arrival of a motorcycle policeman into the snarl up ahead. As she rolled down her window to lean out and get a better look at the situation, she glanced into the neighboring vehicle to her left. A battered and rusty old stationwagon, seemingly filled to capacity with young children, was rocking back and forth in beat to the music blaring from it's radio. Maggie Mae, Rod Stewart was singin', ... got somethin' to say to you. Yeah, I hear ya, Rod, Maggie thought to herself.

The frazzled not-too-blonde-anymore-lady driver looked tired and sat a little too close to the steering wheel. Maggie couldn't decide if this was more in an effort to distance herself from the jostling brats (probably from fear of dismembering them on the spot) or because she had merely forgotten her glasses that morning. At any rate, the gaggle of youngsters merrily bashed each other with their backpacks while Rod kept on singin' away. Maggie ... the mornin' sun really shows your age. Maggie mused that the once-blonde driver was praying for the sky to open up and zap the lot of them with a well placed lighting bolt to the gas tank. She was able to stop staring at them when the little boy in the front seat began making faces at her, while plunging his index finger straight to his medulla oblongata through his nasal passages. Charming case for planned parenthood, Maggie said to herself, as she hit the up arrow on the door panel and continued sucking in nicotine relief with renewed enjoyment.

Looking at the headline once again, Maggie returned to the problem in her vacation spot. All those sweet old biddies who had provided her with a good life were being systematically removed from her shelf, well before their expiration dates. At first, she thought it was just a fluke. Then the body count started mounting, and Maggie took notice, 'cause they were HER inventory, dammit!, every one of them! The idea that it might be another just like her who had inadvertently poached on her territory quickly evaporated. None of us are that stupid, Maggie thought. Red ... green ... green ... green.

The Volvo started to edge forward at a regular pace now, and Maggie sped after it. The needle on the speedometer moved into the 30's when she finally made the turn towards the freeway. Maggie's foot hit the accelerator into the clear roadway ahead, while her internal needle raced ahead of her, and all the other rush-hour crowd on the way to the airport. She glanced into the rearview mirror. No flashing lights. "Easy girl," she soothed, and adjusted the mirror to check her flushed cheeks. Her green eyes lingered briefly on the reflection of a woman in her early 30's with porcelain, wrinkle-free skin, and masses of wavy auburn hair, untouched by L'Oreal, even though she was worth it. Except for the antique garnets shining back from her earlobes, not a trace of her own millenium stared back at her. As she flicked on the radio, she wasn't surprised to hear Rod still singin' away. Maggie, I wish I'd never seen your face.

Chapter 4 - by Tammy

The bright yellow Accord hummed along the highway on cruise, now set on 72. Glancing at the Seiko with the large dial on her svelte wrist, Maggie again stole a long glance at this morning's headlines. Suddenly, the Rod triple play broke on the radio: We interrupt this program to bring you a special report. Early this morning, a woman's body was found in a parking lot near a mountain tavern in the town of Purgatory, Colorado. Apparently murdered, this unidentified woman's decapitated body was found by an unnamed tavern regular after 3 am this morning. Sheriff Beula "Bull" Mansfield of the local county said: "At this time, we have no motive in this woman's horrific death. She was brutally beheaded in some crude type of guillotine. We ask that any citizen with any information regarding this incident call our office or the Federal Bureau of Investigation-"

Maggie hit tapped the brakes as she took the BWI exit. Speaking to the headlines, Maggie exhorted "What? The FBI? That would mean this isn't an isolated incident - and they know that. Somehow they've made a connection. Damn!! What have they found? What connection have they made? DAMN!" The citrus convertible floated through the ticket entry into LONG TERM PARKING.

This was the third death in as many months of Maggie's stock. The first was the untimely death of Bette the Blessed. Bette was her rock; old reliable. Whenever she needed a fix, Maggie knew she could count on Bette; good, kind, foolish Bette. Bette had an untimely dose of her thyroid medicine in conjunction with her mytoxicillin for her damaged kidney; they said she must have lost track of when she took what - yeah, right. Bette didn't lose track of fifteen Bingo cards; she didn't lose track of which old, decrepit cat needed diabetic medication and which required low magnesium and which loved Cherry Garcia; fat chance she lost track of her medication. She was a very organized and sharp cutie-patootie. Maggie missed Bette's contributions to her now perfectly functioning renal organs. Then there was Godfrey. They said Godfrey's break down of white blood cells and eventual death was natural, but Maggie knew otherwise; she may not know it, but she knows. And so does her HIV rejecting body. And now this.

She drove the Honda to the second level, toward the north side of the parking garage. Slipping into the stall next to Big Daddy's Cowboy Cadillac, she inched to a stop and slammed the tranny into "P." Maggie glanced in the mirror and touched up her lips with Chanel's Plum Crazy. Her bright, autumn fronds complemented her luminous emerald eyes, a combination that will stop any man (or woman for that matter) dead in his (or her) tracks. Maggie grabbed her Entienne bag and followed the arrows to the airport terminal.

Maggie proceeded straight to Gate C4 for her flight. Seated in first class with the first luscious swallow of a Royal Kir sliding down her throat, Maggie stared out the window as the Boeing 757 pulled away from the jetway. Maggie glanced around the cabin and caught the headline again on the paper the elderly gentleman across the aisle was reading.

"Oh, Ruby, what am I going to do without you?" Maggie thought to herself as she brushed a swish of hair behind her right ear. She didn't need them to identify the decapitated. She already knew she's lost her jewel.

What the sheriff didn't say is that the head of the victim had not been found and slight puncture marks were discovered on the inside of her thighs and in both armpits.

Chapter 5 - by Jack

I lead a pretty charmed life, you could say. When I'm hungry, I eat. When I'm achin' for a beer, I get one. It's called being single, and I damn well play that role well. Some of my old Army buddies can come over and we can get 'faced, smoke a little dope if that's your thing, and not worry 'bout the other half comin' in and breaking up your good time. So we get together about once a month and do exactly that.

Last December, we did it on a Tuesday night, right before all the hoildays hit. We're usually real busy up at Trudy's around then, with the mall right around the corner and all the college kids coming in town. But I'll be damned if I can't get a day off to go out tomcattin'. Only problem with doing it on a weeknight is that everyone wants to go home early 'cause of work and the wife and whatnot. So we broke it off around eleven and only Johnny Kotara, the BudCo guy, stuck around. We watched SportsCenter, talked about who was getting any, who was in trouble with their boss, and Johnny got a great idea. Down at Briana's Caberet there was some out-of-town headliner. Maggie-somethin'-or-other, he said. Up and comer, was in Hustler last month with a boa constrictor. Hell, i didn't have to be in until four the next afternoon, and he was off, why not? We hopped in my Blazer and drove down there.

The facade out front said, "12-6 to 12-10, Featuring Maggie Mounds!!! No cover past 11:00!!!" We got out and ran inside, since neither of us remember to bring our coats, and we sure as hell didn't think we were gonna wind up in the back of the parking lot. I mean, this sucker was filled! We almost had to park at the Texaco next door. For some reason as soon as i walked inside the little hall up front my back started to throb. "That's what you get for running like some high-schhol kid, Brad.", I thought, trying to catch my breath. Then Johnny said, "Maybe you should cut down to a pack a day, buddy." We both started laughing and I thought nothing of it.We showed our cards, tipped the door-girl and went inside.

Brie's, as we call it, has a real nice layout. The main bar's right down the middle, and the main stage is on one side. The bathrooms and "second stages" are along the other, right by the entrance. The place itself is all jocked out. Lonnie, the owner, is a sports nut and a diehard Detroit Pistons fan. There's more pictures of that fat f**k with Bill Laimbeer and Isiah Thomas than with half-naked teenage girls with coke sniffles. He flies up to michigan to watch at least twenty games a year, and never misses them in Denver or Dallas. I don't particularly like the guy, but I know him. And he has a table right up front, like usual. When he waves me and Johnny over, I didn't hesitate. I had to sit down, 'cause my back was killin' me.

The little blonde girl with the pierced belly-button's picking up her dollars and waving to the crowd when we sit down. And I mean, this was a crowd. Lonnie had to be a fire-capacity. In a tittie-bar, that's no small feat, too. "Give it up for Starla, boys!" , the DJ yelled. The place shook. Guess she was pretty good. Lonnie was clappin' like a lunatic, dreaming of all the money this bar was taking in. The end of Motley Crue's "Dr. Feelgood' came up and the familiar first bars of the Guess Who's "American Woman" piped in. "And now...", the DJ said, his voice dropping three octaves, "from Boston....Adult Superstar....MAGGIE MOUNDS!!!" OK. Why does every out-of-town stripper have to be labelled a superstar? I'd never heard of her. Thank God Lonnie ordered our drinks, because I woulda fallen over if I was standing.

My jaw dropped when I saw this woman. Beautiful green eyes, like the same color as a major-league ballpark outfield. And about as clear and distant. She must be doped up outta her mind, I thought. Incredible legs, and a bustline that would bring you to tears. The leather skirt-outfit thingie she was wearing coulda folded up in my hand. And then a random thought hit me. If she's all up in a leather goddess outfit, why is she wearing those old-lady earrings? For as incredible as this woman looked, those earrings just kept ahold of my attention. I'm glad Johnny didn't see this, 'cause he woulda never shut up about it. Then again, maybe I wish he woulda.

Maggie Mounds started to pull her leather crop-top over her head and it caught one of those earrings that kept pullin' my vision. The earring fell to the stage and she stopped swayin and lookin' sexy for just a moment. The gorgeous doped-up stripper had a head with snakes growing out of it and rotting teeth. It looked kinda like a cartoon I saw when I was a kid, with all the ancient heroes. I think it was called a Medusa. Before Jesus, all the saints, Joe DiMaggio, and Abe Lincoln, I just met a beast. I saw it, fifteen feet away Better yet, my needle saw it. It stopped making my back throb and started screaming in my head. F**k, great trade-off. I'm glad I was so shocked and disorientated, because that thing was looking to see if it got caught. The thing grabbed the earring and put it on in about three seconds, like it happened all the time. All of a sudden it was the pretty brunette again. She smiled directly at our table and winked at me (well, maybe at Lonnie or Johnny), and dropped her top. She looked like an above-average woman there too, not a monster.

The song ended and all the guys that were lined up across the stage sat down, as if their old TI showed up. It was almost like a formation. The DJ said Madam Mounds was taking a break and would be back in ten minutes. Some skinny Mexican girl came up with a tattoo on her ankle in the interim, and I told Johnny we needed to leave. We'd been drinking since seven o'clock, and we'd both spend the night in orange jumpsuits if we got pulled over. He agreed, and we got up to walk out. Once we got to the door, a cocktail waitress said she had something for me. Monique, according to her nametag, gave me a folded over note on Ramada stationery.

It said, "You know something. Room 818, if you want to live."

Of course, the signature of the bottom simply said Maggie.

Chapter 6 - By Corné de Leeuw

My first thought was "Well, this is going to be an easy one...", considering this was the easiest way yet for me to approach my victim - my victim basically commanded me to come and get her... but then again, I was not alone. I still had Johnny with me. First I had to take care of that. I couldn't just go up there and kill her while Johnny was still around.

"So, what does she want?" Johnny asked. I quickly folded the note when I realized he was looking over my shoulder, trying to read it too. I turned around.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, it is a note from Maggie, isn't it? I saw here name at the bottom of the paper." Johnny started to grin. "Seems you made quite an impression on her."
"Oh, it's probably nothing" I said to Johnny, while I tried to concentrate on what to do now. Picture's flashed behind my eyes. Pictures of the stripper on stage. And every time the earrings seemd to be the centre of all these flashes. What was wrong with these earrings? "Concentrate, Brad. Concentrate" I kept telling myself.
"Nothing? This gorgeous lady wants to see you, or at least that's what I think, and you call that nothing?"

I slowly started walking back inside again, towards the door of the men's room. Johnny followed. What was wrong with those damn earrings? Did I see them before? I tried to concentrate even harder. My head was screaming. Pictures were flashing. Yes, I had seen them before... but where? Then a thought started to take form. I was starting to remember where I had seen these earrings before. Johnny looked at me with this look in his eyes that said "What the hell is wrong with you?"
"Well, ok, maybe it isn't nothing," I 'explained' to Johnny, "It's just that I wonder what this woman would want from with me. That's all".
Johnny laughed out loud. "Hey, I can think of a couple of reasons why *I* would want to see *HER*!". I managed to produce a smile, in spite of my anxiety, which soothed Johnny a bit.
After all this wasn't going to be as easy as I thought.

A face popped into my mind. It was a face that looked vaguely familiar... it was the face of an old woman. Damn. Who was this old nut?

"Well, I suppose you don't want me around when you go see this Maggie-woman. At least I wouldn't really dig it if any of my friends were looking over my shoulder if I were, well you know, trying to make out." Johnny showed me his smile again.
"You know, I really appreciate that" I said to Johnny.

All of a sudden an adrenalin rush - I knew where I had seen the old bitches face - it was one of the old farts I knew from my former "Meals On Wheels"-job . Oh damn, what was her name again? It started to come back to me now. It was this old lady that had like four or five cats - bloody animals. Bette - yes, that's right! Bette it was! Bette something. Were these her earrings? And if so, how did they end up with Maggie Mounds?

Johnny must have seen something on my face, because he looked at me in a peculiar way. The fact I remembered where I had seen the earrings before made me feel euphorious. I genuinly smiled and laughed out loud. Johnny started to laugh with me and everything seemed to be right again. Johnny's face had cleared and he seemed to have forgotten the whole thing instantly. We said goodbye to one another and decided to get back together soon. Then Johnny left Bries, leaving me alone with the needle which would undoubtfully lead me through all this.

So, what to do next? Of course - go upstairs and take the life of this woman. Maybe have some fun with her first. And I would have to find out some other things, like the "earring-connection" and the question behind her note. With these thought my legs started to tremble a bit out of pure anxiety.

I headed back towards the exit, took the elevator and got onto the seventh floor. I started walking down the hallway. 815. . . 816. . . 817. . . 818. I stood there just for a second, trying to calm myself down a little. My head was screaming - temples pounding. I pressed my hands against my temples, trying to calm down the adrenalin rush. After a couple of seconds, I started to feel a bit more relaxed, so I decided to knock at the door.

"Yes?" A warm, yet powerful and compelling voice.
"Maggie Mounds?" I asked. The door opened, showing Maggie wearing a bathrobe and holding a slightly flattened cig in her right hand. I quickly glanced down the room, which appeared to be empty. "Maggie Mounds?" I asked again.
"Taylor," she said, "Maggie Taylor. Mounds is just my artist name. Come on in. We have important matters to discuss." She walked back into the room.
"You're quite right" I thought, and followed her, closing the door behind me.

Chapter 7 - By Burning Daylight

She looked me in the eyes, "I'm glad you made it, I thought that you might think I meant 818 in the Ramada." Her voice was silky but kinda deep for a chick.

"Why would you think that?" I asked even though I pretty much knew the answer.

"The note I sent was on Ramada stationary."

"Oh. I didn't even notice."

"That doesn't matter." She said as she turned to the window and looked out onto the parking lot. Dropping her cigarette into the ashtray, where it continued to smolder. "Did you see me when my earring fell off?" Maggie asked without moving.

"Yeah, I saw you, everyone saw you, saw a lot of you." I said not trying to hold back a smirk.

"I mean, did you SEE me?" She repeated.

I knew damn well what she was talking about, but I also know that sometimes it better to play it safe. Sometimes it's better to play it dumb. "What? Did your panties fall off or something?"

She smiled and there was almost a minute of silence. In this time I could barely withstand the needle, the needle pusher, pressing the place in the back of my neck where the skull ends and the spinal column begins. I could see myself wrapping the curtain strings around her neck.

"No, my panties didn't fall off. If you know what I'm talking about, you should just tell me now. It will save us both a lot of trouble. Take your time to think about it, and don't lie. I'll know."

She still stared out the window, looking at god knows what. I wanted my damn fix, but what about Johnny? He'd tell the cops that I came up to see her. When they found the body, he'd rat. He's a good friend, but sometimes even good friends will turn you in once they think you've gone over the edge. Sometimes they'll even do it just to get their face on the news. And Johnny, no, he's not the type of guy that would take a bullet for anyone. He was one of those guys that went out with your girl friend a few days after she became your x-girlfriend. Selfish son-of-a-bitch.

I was drooling and empty eyed. I could hear my heart in my ears, throbbing, pushing, screaming. When she began to stretch and yawn, I couldn't resist. I played it cool, walked over slowly and swept the curtain cords into my hands. While she was lowering her arms, taking in the after-stretch-breath, I did it. I got the cord around her throat and tightened it hard as my muscles would let me. My breath was racing. "I'll just have to visit Johnny when I'm done with this bitch." I thought.

Then I caught a glance at the window. All I saw was _my_ silhouette, nothing else. I looked down onto the top of Maggie's head and she was there all right. Reflectively challenged, but she was there. Before I even knew what was going on, we were face to face. The bitch looked more disappointed then scared, if she looked scared at all.

"You simple shit." She said calmly while I tried to synch off her head with all the strength in my arms.

"HOLY MOTHER-" I started to say before she grabbed my neck and lifted me off the floor. I couldn't stop thinking of Darth Vader picking people up and snapping their necks the same way. I also couldn't help thinking that I was going to die, good as dead, buh-bye. It was the same feeling that I'd had when I was in a car that was about to crash. Kinda like, "Oh...shit...oh...shit...oh,shit,OhShitOOOHSHHHIT!" crash.

Then she dropped my on the bed.

"So you did -" She started and then was interrupted by the ringing of the good old, one buttoned hotel phone.

Maggie turned to the phone and looked back at me. "That's your friend, he couldn't get a ride home. Tell him to come up here, but don't mention anything else."

I guess she saw him walking around in the parking lot, because I still can't figure out how she knew.

The phone rang again. "PICK IT UP!" she said looking from me to the phone.

I reached over and answered the phone. "Hello?"

"Hahahaha, sorry brad, I can't find a ride home. When your done up there come down and get me. Don't leave me here all night." Johnny said through the lobby phone. His dopey giggling pissed me off. I imagined the idiotic gape that hung on his face at the thought of what was going on up here in room 818. Boy was he wrong.

"Come on up Johnny, room 818, we're just talking now." I said, trying to slow the pace of my breath. He would think that I was out of breath for other reasons. Other then trying to kill Mounds of trouble that is, but I thought it best to calm down anyway.

"Are you sure?" He asked.

"Yeah, come on up, she says that she'd really like to meet you."

With this Maggie smiled and I could almost hear her saying, "Good boy."

"What room again?" Johnny asked.

"818, hurry up."

"Ok, be right there." The phone clicked when he hung up, but I was in no hurry to talk to Maggie.

"YES Johnny, she said that she'd like to meet you." I continued a fake conversation and then paused. "Come on up." Pause. "Yeah, room 818 dipshit will you get your ass up here!" Pause "Yes, 818 is on the eighth floor." I held the phone out, looked at Maggie, raised one eyebrow, looked at the phone and then brought it back to my head. "Will you just -"

"That's about enough of that bullshit." Maggie said as she grabbed the phone from my hand and replaced it on the hook. "Go stand near the door."

I did what she said. I had noticed that I was in no position to argue.

"Now, it's obvious that you saw me. After what is about to happen, you will know what will happen to you if you ever mention this to anyone." As she spoke she untied her robe and let it slide off her arms to the floor. "Perhaps, we can actually become friends." With this she released the hook on the front of her bra, which then literally popped off her chest. "But one word..." She slid down her panties and wriggled them to the floor. Stepping out of the two fabric circles when they landed. "and your toast. Got it?" She caught me staring at her goods and laughed. I would have been stiff as a board if I didn't know it wasn't all a mask. "Oh." she smiled, "This isn't for you. At least for now. This is to make things easier on your friend. Or should I say, make your friend easier for things." Of course I had no idea what the hell she was talking about, until after the knock at the door.

Johnny's knuckles clacked against the door. I guess he hurt his hand because when I opened the door he had one hand curled in the other. The door swung all the way open and Johnny caught site of Maggie. His jaw dropped. She reached passed me and grabbed the collar of his "Boob Watch" t-shirt with the big picture of Pamela Anderson on it.

"Come here cutie." Maggie loudly whispered like she was Ginger on Gilligans Island. She pulled him through the door, without any hesitation on his part, and threw him on the bed.

"You're smarter then I thought, keep it that way." Maggie said into my ear before she threw me out of the room against the hallway wall. I slide down and landed hard on my ass. "See ya later, loser waiter." were last words I heard before the door slammed and I was left sitting in front of room 818.

Chapter 8 - By Jack

Two thoughts hit me at once, something like a freight train crashing into a school bus. I gotta run, and quick. She's gonna find me sooner or later, and there isn't a damn thing I can do about Johnny. Whatever she just did to him, it had to have been quick, right?

The Omni had twelve floors, and I was on eight. Improvise, improvise, improvise. I hit the stairs at a gallop and didn't even hesitate to go up. I got up to ten before the voice in my head telling me I was a pussy took over. Improvise, improvise. Then it hit me...like a ton of bricks. If I got to 918's balcony, I could just drop a floor and try to brain her with something. But what? I'm in a hotel for Christ's sake.

Then I saw the housekeeping cart. Without thinking, and trying like hell to ignore the pain in my back, I pulled three of the wheels off the cart and wrapped them in a towel. Then I tied this up to anoher one pulled into a cord, and the second to a third pulled the same way. A whole second set of questions hit me then. How do i know 918's occupied? What about it they just don't let me in? And I can't jump from balcony to balcony across the floor, 'cause I can tell by how far the doors are away from each other in the hallway. I guess I could go up to 1018, and then 1118, but I better knock on this one before I lose my nerve. I twisted the handle of 918, and when it wouldn't budge, I knocked three times, increasingly louder. No answer. Fuck.

This lyric kept bustin' through my head too, something like "We've got to move these...refrigerators...we got to move these color TV's..." Move fridges? Sony's? What the hell? The click happened just then, on a cart, ya move 'em on a cart. Uh-huh, "...custom kitchen deliveries.." I got to it immediately, just like when you run across some crazy notion that you know will work. Besides, I saw it in a movie, the one with Pacino and De Niro playing cop and bad guy. Long-ass flick, too. "Heat". I grabbed the cart and tried pushing it. The screech and the scarring I just pulled on the Omni's pretty hardwood floors was enough of an answer. Wrong move, dipshit. Minus three wheels. I ran down to seven and looked for a cart, and couldn't find one. Same for six and five.

Now, when someone tells me about finding God or something like that, I think to this moment. I go up to eight and said out loud at the landing, "Jesus, I hope there's a cart here." I open the door and see my stripper buddy at the other side of the hallway, lighting a cigarette and waiting for the elevator. I took one step with all my force and the overhand windmill of my towel hammer popped her once in the crown of her head, the brunette one. Naw, I didn't kill her, there's no way I was that lucky. But I was quick enough to take the room card-key off the floor and haul ass for 818. God works in fucked-up ways, if you ask me. Sometimes he delivers in ways you can't complain about, and others he's just stays out to lunch. The card for 818 opens the door no problem, except for the one laying on the floor. My old buddy Johnny Kotara, who I jumped with in the 82nd Airborne, who I used to go whoring with down in Juarez, and who always managed to keep up smile on his face, was now minus a face. Not to mention the left half of his torso. I know a world of shit when I see one, and it was time to haul ass. Lots of ass. With as much speed as humanly possible.

818's roomcard falls to the floor and I truck out towards the stairs. Then I realize I got a problem. Naw, strike that. One huge fuckin' Puff-the-Magic-Dragon dilemma. No stripper girl lying by the elevator door. For what felt like the umpteeth time today, I hit the stairs in a dead run. The needle's still screaming for something or another, and that helped inspire me to haul ass, just as much as my multiated buddy in the suite upstairs, or the beautiful brunette that happened to be a witch or monster or somethin'. I run across Sunchase Drive from the hotel to Brie's, and hop behind the wheel of my Blazer.

The cloverleaf's coming up on me, and I can't decide which way's best. Never Eat Shredded Wheat...Never Eat Shredded Wheat...Never Eat Shredded Wheat. Screw it, I'm running South, down to the Mexican border if I gotta. Besides, Dallas has five million people in the area. I'm just another one. Interstate 35 comes up and I jack up the speedomater as the first rays of sunlight come thru. Then I remembered that song earlier was called "Money For Nothing" from Dire Straits. Dire Straits? Try crappin' in my boots for a little while. Right now I think I'd prefer "Walk of Life".

Chapter 9 - by Jon R.

Then, suddenly, a large comet struck the earth and killed everyone mentioned in this tale.

One of the cows on the local quantum field mooed and said:
"Now, what did you moo and do that for?"
"Sorry, I had to sneeze," was the reply from Ard Cow, the unlucky beast.
"Oh, just as well," mooed the first one. "I don't think it was going anywhere anyhow."

There was a sharp light, psychedelic in nature.

"What did you moo?" asked Ard Cow.
"Oh, I saved mankind from the terrible repercussions of the comet disaster.Animalkind, too, come to think of it. And Animalbad, of course."
"Moo-wow!" exclaimed Ard, "that was really something. I could need some grass now."

She nodded towards a pile of hay conveniently located nearby.

"I wouldn't recommend that one, Ard," the wise cow mooed. "You see, I confined the disaster to a small quantum plane, containing the entire story with people and events and all...and then I tossed it into the straws."
"But I'm really in the MOOd for some grass, cow," Ard co(w)mplained.
"Oh, moo ahead then," came the reluctant answer. "It probably won't do any harm. The chances for you screwing up reality isn't much larger than finding a needle in a haystack."


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