Excerpt from The Journeyman--coming this Halloween to your eyeballs.
Coming this Halloween (That's four days away, folks!), is my fifth novel: The Journeyman.
You can find more details on Amazon.com or on Smashwords. It is available for pre-order at either location. If that isn't enough incentive for you to read about your new favorite serial killer....maybe a sample chapter will help.
Meet Arthur Clay. He lives next door to you. He goes to your church. He shops at the same stores you do. He sees your children getting off the bus at the end of the school day and he watches you. He is always watching.
From The Journeyman, a novel by Dan Dillard...
One hour earlier, Arthur Clay finished his work and clocked out. The appliance factory had lost a shift, down to two, but business was picking back up and talk of the third shift reopening had grown from rumor to the planning stages. Hiring notices were out in the local newspapers. Hopeful candidates wore ties into the foreman's office for interviews. Arthur didn't care about any of that. He had but one thing on his mind, and that was the plaything in his basement. It had been there for three days and was cleansed and exhausted. It was ready for the ritual.
He punched his time card and checked it three times before placing it in the slot which bore his name. He smiled and nodded at the well-wishers who each said “Have a good weekend, Art”, or something to that effect. He nodded at each of them with a half-hearted grin and walked in his oddly stilted way—as if he was afraid something might swoop out of the sky and carry him off—to the burgundy Honda Accord and opened its driver’s side door. He shut it and opened it two more times before he could sit down. He knew the others watched him, talked about him—laughed at him—but he couldn't help it. Everything had to come in threes. If it didn't, the stress became too much and the headaches came.
Let them watch. Let them laugh. She laughed and she watched.
When he shut the door for the third time, he was okay again. He turned the radio on, but it wasn’t tuned to a particular station. The static filled his brain with a wonderful empty quality and allowed him to concentrate as he drove home. It was waiting, and when he got there, it would be ready.
It would be done.
It would be time.
He pulled into his driveway and put the car in park before he pressed the button on the automatic garage door opener. It cranked up slowly, disappearing above the opening. There was nothing inside except for some shelves, a water heater and a push lawnmower. He always feared something else might be waiting for him there. Pulling the shifter into drive, the car rolled into the garage where he got out and shut the car door three times. He heard the flurry of notes as an opera of some sort floated from the next-door neighbor’s upstairs window. Art hated opera. He hated all the music those foul people listened to. He assumed it was the young one. The girl. He liked music from the 1950’s. Real rock and roll from the greats like Eddie Cochran, The Platters and The Falcons.
The large overhead door shut but Arthur had to close the inside door three times, the one that led into his kitchen. He breathed in the clean scent of bleach and pine-scented floor cleaner. Then he hung his light windbreaker on its hook next to the door and looked at his face in the mirror. He was clean shaven with well-groomed and thick brown hair. His teeth were straight. His eyes were blue…not icy like hers, but blue. He was regular, nothing offensive, but neither was there anything spectacular about his appearance. His thirties were being kind to him in his estimation. A muffled scream distracted him for a single clock’s tick and he smiled. Not a sinister expression, but one that displayed the comfort of being home after a long day spent inspecting appliances for the kitchens and laundry rooms of America.
A quick glass of orange juice crossed his lips before he walked out to check the mail.
Close the front door three times. Open the mail box and look inside in case something is in there that shouldn’t be. A human hand perhaps…or something crawling with maggots. Grab the mail, close the box once, twice, third time’s a charm. That infernal music from the neighbor’s. Back to the porch, back to the door, three times. Three. Three times.
Once inside, he found the muffled screams were still there. Arthur clapped his hands. That was music to him. He checked the calendar in the pantry, not once or twice, but yes, three times. It was today. It was ready. He hurried through the basement door, shutting it over and over and again and then descended to the bottom of the stairs. It was still secured to the chair, but its back was to him. This was by design, so it could not see him when he entered. It could not watch him and pass judgment with its cold blue eyes. The most beautiful eyes—but cold.
“I take it the medicine has worked?” he asked, not caring if it responded. It couldn’t speak anyway, not with the gag in place.
The woman grunted, screamed, then grunted again against the wad of terrycloth that was shoved into her mouth and secured with duct tape. This set off a fit of coughing and more gagging.
“No need for that. It will only make things worse,” he said.
The room was large, rectangular in its form, but instead of being concrete and cinder blocks or finished with carpet and sheetrock, it was covered in ceramic tile on the walls and on the floor. The ceiling was the drop in type, build of a metal grid and acoustic tiles. In front of the woman in the chair, there were three things: a plastic barrel, a Rubbermaid storage cabinet, and a garden hose attached to a spigot and coiled around its hanger. Three windows should have let in some natural light, but each had been painted black. The only light provided was harsh, clinical and artificial. It left nothing to the imagination which was how Arthur Clay liked it. There would be no surprises if he could help it. He was less and less surprised with each ritual.
He made a face as he came into its view. It, a woman in her twenties of average build, maybe five and a half feet tall with shoulder length black hair, leered at him over the duct tape. Her legs were bound at the knee and the ankle to the heavy chair with silver-gray tape and her hands were taped together behind her back. She watched him with eyes that were an impossibly pale blue and exhausted, but filled with hatred. Their color stood out against the red rims of her eyelids, made all the more stunning by the stinging tears.
“First, we have to remedy this stench,” he said as he snapped on a pair of latex gloves.
She was drenched in sweat and smelled of her own urine and feces. The Magnesium Citrate—the liquid prescribed for colonoscopy prep—he’d force-fed her through a funnel had indeed worked, and she was covered in an unmentionable mess under her clothes. The filth had soaked through her skirt and dripped down the legs of the chair onto the floor. This was always his least favorite part, but the ritual had to be complete and that meant cleansing inside and out. She screamed again, sounding like a teenage girl taking adolescence out on her pillow and doing her best to thrash about. Her right foot popped loose of its binding and she kicked her foot with all she could give, sending a rather expensive stiletto heel flying across the room to strike one of the windows. It scraped a patch of the black paint clean. Her eyes gleamed with the possibility of escape.
“That’s all right. I have plenty of tape,” Arthur said.
He struggled with her leg for only a moment, then placed it where he wanted, wrinkling his nose at the smell of her. With one knee driven into the top of her foot, he taped the leg back in place, then checked the bond on the other side. She moaned in pain and began to cry.
“That looks good to me,” he said. Arthur opened the storage cabinet and pulled out a large pair of shears and cut first the sleeves of her shirt up to the neck, and then the three buttons that ran down the center of its front. He snipped the tiny satin piece of fabric that held the cups of her bra together, then the shoulder straps before removing the garments from behind her with a jerk. Her hands folded backwards, fighting with the duct tape in a failed attempt to cover her exposed breasts. Arthur dropped the clothes into the nearby plastic drum. All the while, he hummed That’ll be the Day by Buddy Holly and the Crickets.
In front of her again, he slid the scissors down the soft skin of her belly. She tightened, sucking her stomach in and trying to shrink away from the cold blades. With a few quick snips, the skirt fell open. He sliced the tiny strands that held her panties over her hips and stood back to look at her. The pink cotton cloth stuck to her skin, glued in place by human waste. Arthur regarded her face—its face—and then snipped the tape that held her knees.
“You said you were going to be with me,” Arthur said as matter-of-fact as if he were reading from a newspaper article. There was no anger in the words, no emotion whatsoever.
She shook her head.
“Yes, Christina. Yes you did. When I told you I loved you, you laughed at me. It’s okay. I was mad at first, but now I understand and I forgive you. It isn’t your fault. The world has its way with us. You are simply a dirty thing and need to be cleaned. I will cleanse you.”
She shook her head and screamed again, tears flowing. Arthur looked at her eyes as he uncoiled the garden hose and turned the pressure on full. He pulled its trigger, dousing her with cold water and rinsing the filth from her body. She squealed. Arthur hummed again, singing the occasional word as he sprayed her down. The water and waste exited the house through a drain in the lowest point of the ceramic tile floor.
“That’ll be the day,” he sang. “When you said goodbye.”
He sprayed up close, tugging her to one side and then the other, pulling apart her buttocks and spreading her legs and cleaning as much as he could with her still attached to the chair. Her squirming helped his cause. He kept enough of a distance so as not to get splattered by any filth. Arthur pulled the panties and skirt out from under her and tossed them into the barrel before turning the hose back on her once more.
“That’ll be the day, when you make me cry…”
Satisfied with everything rinsed, he turned off the hose and coiled it back up on the hanger.
He went back to the cabinet and found his tools including an invention he called The Tube and likened to a small version of the spiles those Northeastern folks hammered into maple trees to collect their sap for syrup. His version had a bit of flexible tubing attached to one end. Arthur set up a metal tray table next to her and placed The Tube on top along with a pint-sized glass jar and a pair of small knives.
“You say you’re gonna leave me, you know it’s a lie...”
He picked up the tube and straightened its coils, letting one end dangle down inside the plastic barrel. Arthur held the other end up for inspection. As big around as a child’s pinky but sharp as a woodworker’s gouge. Her eyes were wide, scared, staring at the implement.
“You like to stare, don’t you Christina? That’s what you do with your beautiful, haunting eyes. You stare into me and find what hurts. That’s what you do. You find what hurts and jab at it. You hurt me. You are a dirty thing.”
She shook her head but never took her eyes from the tool in Arthur’s hand. He gripped a handful of her hair and pulled her head to the side.
“’Cause that’ll be the da-a-ay, that I die,” he sang and slid the sharp tube of metal into her neck, piercing the carotid artery and letting the hot red blood flow into the tub. It only took a couple minutes before she was unconscious and shuddering, her last movements. Arthur held his fingers to her jugular, monitoring her pulse. In less than five minutes, Christina was dead.
He went back to humming as he used the small knives to cut away her eyelids and then he used their handles to pop the orbs from their sockets, careful not to pierce the delicate sclera. Once out, it was an easy snip to remove them from her head and place them in his jar.
His prizes acquired, Arthur clipped the duct tape and let the body slide from the chair to the floor. He peeled the tape from the chair and scrubbed the glue from its frame along with the few drops of blood and other matter he’d missed with the hose from its seat and frame. It took him a long, meticulous time to get the piece of furniture clean. When he was satisfied with it, the chair was placed on his back porch next to its twin.
Back in the basement, he made a quick inspection and noticed a speck of light filtering in through one of the windows.
“Well, that won’t do,” he said and quickly remedied the situation with a can of spray paint. Black, matte finish.
With little struggle, he dismembered the corpse using a hacksaw and a hatchet and placed the parts into the barrel. A generous sprinkling of sodium hydroxide gave the macabre contents the odd appearance of chicken dusted and ready for the fryer.
He cleaned the room with bleach until it sparkled. Once he had wiped down the outside of the barrel and placed the rags inside.
Upstairs, Arthur boiled several large pots of water on the stove and carried them carefully back to the container and carefully poured them into the barrel to prevent splashing. Experience told him seven pots would be enough to do the job. Once finished, he secured the lid and made sure the cap to its pour spout was screwed in place. A package he was proud of.
“Almost clean, Christina,” he said, and patted the top of the barrel. The noise it made was a satisfying sound, deep like a tympani drum.
He picked up the jar with its eyes inside and walked out of the basement. “Come with me, Christina,” he said to the orbs and gave them a gentle swirl. They rolled about and Arthur smiled.
Late afternoon had become late evening as he made his way to his bedroom with his prizes in hand. The time, 11:06 pm, glowed from the alarm clock on his bedside table. There was another table, a crafting table where he made scrapbooks for all sorts of occasions. It was something he had done with his mother as a boy. She was long dead, but Arthur kept the tradition alive and well. A box sat on the corner and inside, his favorite tools were kept. There were two large needles and pint-sized A and B jars of two part epoxy resin.
He removed one of the eyes from the jar and inspected it. Already, it showed some signs of dehydration. With great care, Arthur inserted the first needle inside and extracted the vitreous humour. After a quick mix of the resin, he used the other hypodermic—this one with a much thicker needle—to inject it into the eye. Arthur rolled it in his hand for a few minutes to help maintain its spherical shape, a skill he’d learned through trial and error. He placed it on a small stand—the white plastic thing that came in delivered pizza to keep the lid from sticking to the toppings. More resin was applied to the outside with a paintbrush. Once the first one was sealed, Arthur moved to the other eye.
“You look lovely this evening, Christina. Your eyes are beautiful,” he said and hummed Baby Love by the Supremes.
On his hands and knees, Arthur reached underneath his bed and retrieved a wooden box. He placed it on the mattress and opened it. Inside there were two-dozen velvet lined compartments, eleven of which were occupied and each labeled, CHRISTINA. He stared at them while the new additions hardened and while still on his knees, Arthur unzipped his pants and masturbated.
...to be continued...
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