by MARK SLADE
Charlie sat in the flimsy plastic chair, the legs buckling under his 280 pound body. He kept tapping his left foot, rolling his lucky dice around in his hands. He cleared his voice several times while watching Burke Williams pace up and down his office, the burnt-orange carpet wearing thin under those thousand dollar heels.
“I’m not really a hard man,” Burke said—in what sounded like a rather depressed voice. “But I’m not a fool either.”
Burke turned on his heel, placing a stony finger across his lips. Charlie stopped talking and slumped further down into the plastic chair. The legs buckled even more in protest. The dice made a scraping noise in Charlie’s closed hand. His left foot kept a steady nervous beat.
He’s going to kill me, I know it, Charlie thought.
Burke continued his pacing. “You owe me a lot of money here, Charlie. $10,000. What would you do in my position?” Charlie began to speak and Burke turned on the dime to face him. “Please Charlie…It was rhetorical.” Burke rubbed the stubble on his face up and down several times. “You have to understand that I have a reputation to uphold.”
He’s definitely going to kill me! Charlie dropped his dice at the same time the chair broke under him, his eyes instinctively darting to the result of the roll. Burke went to his aide and helped him to his feet.
“Damn, I’m real sorry that happened, Charlie.” Burke straightened Charlie’s tie; brushed off Charlie’s coat.
“It’s fine, Mr. Williams. It was my fault. I’m hard on chairs.” Charlie fidgeted. “I should lose some weight, maybe.” He chuckled nervously.
“Let me get you a drink, buddy. What would you like?” Burke offered a reassuring smile as he patted Charlie on the back.
Charlie shrugged. “A vodka and orange juice?”
Burke nodded. “Coming right up. I’m real sorry about this, Charlie.” He pressed the call button and spoke dryly into the small black box. “Vicky?”
“Yeah, boss?” The whiny female voice came though like crossed telephone lines. She was definitely from New York; Charlie was sure of it from her accent.
“Bring Charlie here a vodka and orange juice, will ya’? He’s thirsty.”
“Sure thing, Boss.”
In a few minutes, a short redhead strolled into the office like it was a catwalk. She was dressed in all black from head to heels, and Charlie was more than turned on when he noticed her large blue eyes behind wide-framed glasses sitting on the tip of her button nose. Vicky handed Charlie a tumbler. She slipped on a pair of black driving gloves, making sure they fit snugly on her hands. Charlie watched as he drank his vodka and orange juice, thinking it was strange for a woman in the modern world to do.
Do women wear driving gloves now a days? He thought.
Charlie finished off his drink and nodded to her. “Thank you.” He tried to hand the tumbler back to her, but Vicky wasn’t receiving it.
“Was it good?” Vicky asked.
Vicky didn’t so much as wind up before punching Charlie in his big, overlapping gut; she took a step and drove it in hard. The tumbler fell to the floor and shattered into three pieces. Charlie made a face and the usual woof came out from his now gaping mouth.
He struggled to catch his breath, but Vicky didn’t give him a chance to find it before a left caught him in the throat. Charlie fell to his knees, hitting the hard ground like a sack of potatoes. She proceeded to kick him in the mouth and nose, his blood splattering across her shiny black stilettos. Charlie did what he learned to do whenever he was beaten up in school—roll up into a ball and take the punishment. After a few more swift kicks to his left side, Burke stopped it.
“Thank you, Vicky,” Burke put his hand on her shoulder. “That’s enough. I’m sure Charlie gets the picture. Better get those heels cleaned up.” He turned his attention back to Charlie. “I want that $10,000 by Tuesday.” Burke growled. “Now, kindly vacate my office, or Vicky here will kick the shit out of you again.”
Charlie stumbled through the streets, finally finding his way home. Mary was sitting on the couch, going through bills when Charlie burst in, leaning against the door in obvious pain.
“Hey Mary,” he said, swallowing back blood.
“Oh Charlie!” Mary ran to him, helping him to the couch. “What happened?”
“Ohhh…I happened to fall into Burke’s assistant’s fist…several times. He was pretty big, Mary.”
“Oh, Charlie…you are going to have to stay away from that mad man. I’ll be right back to clean those nasty wounds.” Mary scurried to the bathroom and came back with a first aid kit. She sat down softly beside Charlie, dabbed at his lips with a cloth soaked in alcohol. Charlie howled. “I’m sorry, honey.” She kissed his forehead as Charlie gave her those puppy dog eyes.
Mary wasn’t the best looking girl Charlie ever had. As a matter of fact, she was very plain, even when she teased her blond hair and wore eyeliner. But Mary was the most decent person he’d ever met, always caring for Charlie. No matter how terrible he treated her at times, or how many jams he got the two of them in, she stayed.
“Oh Charlie.” She sighed as she shook her head. “Please stop gambling. If not that…just stay away from Burke Williams. He’s going to kill you one day.”
Charlie shrugged painfully. “Not one day, Mary—it’s definitely going to be Tuesday.”
“Oh…Charlie…You really should come to those classes with me. I’m telling you, Dr. Devlin helped me work out so many personal problems. I don’t even care that my Daddy left when I was ten anymore, and as for us….well, I’m prepared for anything, Charlie.”
Charlie pushed her hand away, attempting a macho attitude. “Darling, I am not a sheep.”
“Meaning what, Charlie Rhoades?” Mary huffed, placing all the bandages and ointments carefully back into the First aid kit.
“Meaning, Miss Mary that I do not follow every damn fad that rolls into town. It’s obvious the man is not a real doctor—”
“He is! A doctor of the mind. Just open up, Charlie. You roll into a ball whenever anyone wants to help you.” He glared at her, recalling his response to the beating as she continued. “Dr. Devlin can help you by using a revolutionary dream structure; it forms walls around your mind, then takes you into past dreams to find a recovery for a safe and happy life.”
Charlie’s glare turned into a bewildered stare. “That’s a direct quote from one of his infomercials.”
“It’s true, Charlie. It’s…it’s like…quoting the Bible.”
“Oh just stop! Mary, life is too short for all that mumbo jumbo. Only two things matter—money, and money. That’s happiness.”
“C’mon Charlie. Just come with me and see if Dr. Devlin can help. What do you have to lose?”
Charlie pondered a minute. “You’re right. Who cares anymore? I’m a dead man on Tuesday either way…”
Mary drove them to the old recreation center on 7th street. The building had been transformed from its previous poor info-structure. Now it looked more like office suites than a community center where kids had sprayed graffiti on the walls, piss flowing out of commodes like a river when flushed.
They rode the elevator up two stories to room 114-C. A bronze name plate on the door read:
FOX DEVLIN—DREAM GURU
Two over-sized men in black turtle necks took $150 that Charlie could have used towards his bigger problems, and that was just for Mary; for Charlie, thankfully, his first session was free. A poster read: Dr. Devlin is very tired from appearing on the talk show circuit so frequently. We cannot guarantee he can help everyone in the assembly today. Thank you for your cooperation.
What a scam. Charlie thought.
At least the room was nice, the walls were paneled and the carpet was clean—making that squishy sound it makes when it’s first laid down. Metal fold out chairs were strategically assembled across the room in front of a large desk. Behind the desk was a blackboard that had a crude chalk drawing of a man’s head with the brain exposed.
Several people had already made it to the class when Mary and Charlie arrived. There were only two chairs available. Mary always looked nice in her blue dress. Charlie knew she wasn’t wearing it for him. At the apartment, Charlie commented on the fact maybe they could have some fun later that night. Mary shook her head and said, “Oh Charlie, you know after class I’m too mentally out of it, too drained. I’m only wearing this so Dr. Devlin will pick me.”
The doctor entered dramatically through a side door that led to another office, with his P.A., Trish. Devlin was a slender man, wearing a black turtleneck with beads hanging around his neck, underneath a tweed jacket. Owl-horned glasses rested atop his long nose, and his straw-colored hair was pulled back into what Charlie considered a hippy ponytail. Trish introduced Devlin, speaking generously, praising the fact he’s helped celebrities such as Mike Tyson and Al Pacing. Even let them know he got the chance to have dinner recently with President Obama.
Charlie was not impressed and showed it.
However, it was the exact reason Mary showed her legs that night, and immediately Dr. Devlin was drawn to her, right during his opening speech.
“Who do we have here, Mary?” Devlin asked in a smooth, serene voice. Charlie thought, he could calm even the most psychotic sports enthusiast after his team’s loss with a voice like that. “You’ve always come alone.”
“This…this is Charlie, Dr. Devlin. He’s a non-believer, even though he needs the help.” Mary said. A nervous frog cropped up whenever she spoke, and she kept looking around the room to see who might be judging them.
“Mary,” Charlie turned red, a sudden embarrassment replacing his anger. “I just have doubts is all…”
“Charlie, everyone doubts me at first,” Devlin scoffed. “No reason to be embarrassed. I have to prove myself every time I wake up in the morning. What most of the public doesn’t know about me is I am an average, everyday Joe. I just choose to use my unique power—a power I can help all of you to tap into. I can help you, Charlie. I place you in a state of rest with myself and together we dream, exploring whatever ails you. If it’s job stress, like Mr. Lincoln here.” He motioned to a short, older man with a pencil thin mustache who looked as though he’d been through a battle. He looked down at the ground, biting his lower lip. “Or just being able to relax, and be a giving person— sexually—like Mary here.”
Mary looked away uncomfortably, swallowing hard.
“I think we have our evening set,” Devlin told Trish. Trish scribbled on a notepad and nodded. “After the seminar, Mr. Lincoln and Charlie shall come to my quarters and all will be right with both. We will have our usual Q&A; take a break, where Trish has generously set up a beautiful spread of sandwiches…fruits…and of course our signature chamomile tea.”
The seminar lasted an hour. Twice Charlie had fallen asleep, both times ending in Mary jarring him awake and angrily whispering that she would leave him on the side of the road if he did it again. Luckily, for Charlie, the lights were dimmed and the spotlight removed from Devlin. He announced it was break time.
“I’ll be damned if anyone will need any chamomile tea to fall asleep for this guy,” Charlie said to Mary. “All you have to do is listen to him.”
Mary gave him a disdainful look. “Ha-Ha, Charlie—go get me a sandwich, ok?”
Charlie didn’t feel like schmoozing anyway, even though that seemed all Mary lived for anymore. They couldn’t go to the grocery store without Mary stopping and talking to every person she came across. She was shaking hands, gathering a small crowd around her as if she was running for office; he was glad for an opportunity to get out of that situation.
Surprisingly, Charlie only saw one other person at the table. Mr. Lincoln hovered uncertainly over a spread of pimento cheese, Swiss cheese, and pepper jack—trying to decide which one to add to his pastrami sandwich.
He appeared to be a nervous man, always looking behind him. When Charlie spoke to him, he jumped about ten feet in the air.
“Boy,” Charlie said, fixing the sandwich Mary requested with five pieces of boiled ham and one piece of Swiss, layered with a few globs of mayonnaise. “That Devlin character sure can talk.”
“Yes, yes he sure can.” Was Mr. Lincoln’s short reply, keeping his nervous little fingers close to his lips as if ready to prevent them from parting with unbecoming speech.
“You almost want to tell the guy to get a decent job and stop poking his nose in your business.”
“Well…no. Dr. Devlin has helped me quite a bit. I’ve been having problems with…things in my dreams. What line of work are you in, Mr.— ?”
“Just call me Charlie. I’m a construction supervisor. Say, you don’t really believe in all this crap, do you?”
“Oh, I most certainly do. I’m Cornell Lincoln.” Lincoln flashed a gloomy smile.
“What do you do, Cornell Lincoln? You kind of strike me as the college professor-type?” Charlie looked down and decided Mary could fix her own damn sandwich. He took a bite, and a line of mayonnaise spurted out, covering his top lip.
“Oh, no, no. I’m not smart enough for any of that. I’m a jeweler. I have my own jewelry shop out on Jefferson. ‘Heart to Heart Jewels’. Say, maybe I can help you out with a four-carat for the misses?”
“Not my misses.” Charlie retorted quickly.
“We’re not married.’
“Oh. It seems like you two are.”
“Yea, well, she likes to put on.”
“I see.” Mr. Lincoln looked disappointed.
Trish came over and took Mr. Lincoln by the arm. “We are ready for both of you.” She smiled, her buggy eyes bulging out of her head. She reminded Charlie of a Chihuahua he once had. Whenever you’d try to take away its favorite chew toy, the dog would bare its teeth and its eyes would look ready to pop out from its little apple shaped head.
“Will you join us?” She showed Charlie those teeth, now clenched together.
Charlie sighed. He tossed the paper plate on the table, taking another bite of the sandwich before throwing it down.
Trish took Charlie and Mr. Lincoln through a dark corridor and into a room that had two cots and a chair. There was a TV tray with two glasses holding a reddish liquid. The room was cozy— lights with a low orange hue casting shadows on the ceiling. It could have been a room rented out to a college student. To the left was the bathroom. The light was on. Someone was in there, puking their brains out.
Trish motioned for Charlie to take residence on a cot. She turned to Mr. Lincoln, and did the same. She walked over to the bathroom and rapping gently on the door. A muffled, “Yes?” came through.
“Dr. Devlin? Your patients are ready, sir.” Trish’s eyes held concern even though she showed Charlie and Mr. Lincoln a happy, everything-is-fine smile. “Dr. Devlin?” She knocked again.
The bathroom door opened quickly and Devlin appeared. He wiped his damp face with a towel. “I’m not sure if I can go through with it tonight, Trish,” he said. “I’m not feeling….particularly strong, I’m afraid.”
“Now, now, you say this every time before you do a session, Dr. Devlin.” Trish’s tone was rather forceful.
“But this time……I swear to you. Something is wrong.”
“Dr. Devlin, they are waiting for you.” Trish took him by the hand and led Devlin out of the bathroom. “Show time,” she told him.
Trish handed Mr. Lincoln the glass with the red liquid. He drank it down, choking a bit as he finished. His eyes became droopy and his jaw slack. Mr. Lincoln lied back on the cot and immediately fell asleep. Trish handed Charlie the other glass of red liquid. He looked at the glass, then her.
“Go on,” Trish urged, smiling and cooing. “Drink for mama…”
Charlie reluctantly drank it down, gagging. He gave a “How could you?” look to Mr. Lincoln.
Mr. Lincoln flashed a sickly smile. “It’s not so bad once you get used to it.”
“What the hell is in that stuff?” He asked Dr. Devlin.
“Nothing you would understand, Charlie. It just helps you fall asleep, and allows me to find you in the sea of dreams…”
Suddenly, Charlie found himself standing in an empty parking garage. It was strange to be in a parking garage with no vehicles in it. His eyes scanned the area—shrouded in darkness as elongated shadows encroached menacingly. He heard echoes of voices and decided to investigate. Still keeping an eye on the unnerving shadows, he climbed a flight of stairs leading to the top floor of the building, stopping in front of a gray metal door.
The address plate in front read: 2668 Colby, Brenner.
“How odd,” Charlie mused.
How odd to be dreaming of being inside the Brenner building—maybe Devlin screwed up? He heard more hushed voices; saw eerie shadows dancing across the stairwell.
“I hope the old man gives up the jewels this time. I’m getting tired of beatin’ on him.” It was a whiny voice with a hint of a Boston area accent.
“So let Giggles get his knuckles bruised for a while,” a gruff voice with more of a twang said. “It was his idea to hook up with such a nutty plan.”
Charlie unexpectedly appeared in a showroom for jewelry, except nothing was in the cases.
They were all empty. Then he saw Mr. Lincoln bent over a safe. His trembling hands were trying to turn the rusty knob on the small safe as a shadowy figure held a nine millimeter to his bruised and bloodied face. Charlie could see Mr. Lincoln’s lips moving.
Mr. Lincoln looked extremely rattled, his mouth hung open, his eyes were bulged and bloodshot. A grey hand with its skin hanging from bone, reached out from the darkness and took hold of Mr. Lincoln by his coat lapel. The hand violently jerked him closer to the darkness. Mr. Lincoln screamed……
Charlie and Mr. Lincoln awoke to Devlin’s screams. Devlin was out of the cot on his knees with his hands clutching his head in agony. Charlie and Mr. Lincoln exchanged uncomfortable glances. Trish ran to him, dropping down next to Devlin.
“It hurts!” He screamed, fingernails digging into his scalp.
“Dr. Devlin, are you alright?” She asked, trying to face him as he burst into tears.
“Let me look….” she demanded, but he pushed her hands away; Trish fought with him and was finally able to secure a look at Devlin’s face.
So did Charlie.
Devlin’s forehead was extremely red. There were two pulsating boils just above his right eyebrow. In the middle of the boils was a tip shaped like an arrowhead, bleeding streams that dripped down past the bridge of his nose.
“Oh God!” Trish exclaimed throwing her hands over Devlin’s face so Charlie and Mr. Lincoln couldn’t see anymore. “It’s gotten worse. Lance! Lance!” She called out for security, and a muscle-bound man with a ponytail behind his shaved head, wearing a t-shirt prominently displaying ‘THE CULT’ on it.
“Lance! Help me get Dr. Devlin to his room! It’s gotten worse…”
“Maybe he needs a doctor?” Lance helped Devlin up.
“No doctors!” Devlin screamed, followed by a long moan.
Lance steadied Devlin as they slowly walked to a door leading outside.
Trish sighed, taking a moment of meditation. She fought back tears and turned to Charlie, who was still sitting on the cot—slightly shocked but taking everything in. Mr. Lincoln had already put his jacket on and was ready when instructed to leave.
“You two can go,” Trish told them coldly.
Charlie looked perplexed. “What the hell just happened?”
“Just go, please.” Trish raised her voice.
“Is he going to be alright?” Charlie tossed another question at her.
“I’m sure he will be,” Trish said, tight-lipped. “Any other questions you have can be answered another time.” With that, Trish stormed out the door.
Charlie stood and grabbed his coat, meticulously mulling over every detail of what he’d just witnessed in his mind. He looked at Mr. Lincoln, who already had opened the door that led to the conference room exit.
“What the hell just happened?” Charlie repeated.
Mr. Lincoln offered a sickly smile. “Who knows? Only Dr. Devlin does.” Mr. Lincoln shrugged.
“No, I mean the dream…I think we were crossed up—” Charlie stopped talking. He thought a minute.
“Yeah….” Mr. Lincoln replied. “That seems to happen.”
Charlie laughed callously He followed Mr. Lincoln out the door, slapped him on the back.
“Yeah, pops. I guess it does.”
He motioned to Mary. “Let’s go.”
It was 4:00A.M., and Charlie was sitting at the kitchen table making his third ham, bologna, and cheese puff sandwich. He was sitting there, going over the events from the night before. Mary was up, standing behind Charlie, trying to keep her breasts from bursting out of the short nightie she’d bought ten years—and twenty five pounds—ago.
Charlie knew she was behind him.
“What, Mary?” He took a bite of his sandwich.
“Charlie…come to bed, will ya’?” She reached her arms around his neck.
Charlie carefully placed his sandwich back on a plate. He removed her arms. “Quit it. Can’t you see I’m thinking.”
“Oh, Charlie!” Mary clenched her hands before placing them on her hips and gritting her teeth. “I’m so sick of this! I’m lonely, Charlie. I need a man’s touch…”
“Then go find one.” Charlie finished chewing, then found a crumb stuck in his tooth. He picked it out with an over-grown pinky nail and discarded it to the floor.
“I don’t want to, Charlie. I love you and I want you in my bed, not Tom, Joe, Dick and Harry…just…you.”
“Well, if Tom, Joe, Dick, or Harry aren’t busy, like me, they are welcome to you.” Charlie said, proud of himself for firing back with that one.
Mary hung her head. Her bottom lip trembled a bit, but she held back the tears. She quietly drifted back to her bedroom.
Charlie tossed his sandwich down. A smile rolled across his rubbery lips. There was a twinkle in his eyes. He had it. He finally had an idea that was going to take care of his financial problems…with Burke Williams.
“Hey, Mary…” He called out. “I’m sorry, baby. I’m coming to bed.”
Trish stormed into the office. Devlin looked at her, as did the man sitting across from Devlin. “Trish, I’m in a meeting with Conrad here.” Devlin said.
“There’s a man out there—Charlie something—he says he is going to sue you over a session the other day.”
Devlin laughed. “He signed a release, didn’t he…?”
Trish shook her head slowly.
“How did that happen, Trish?” Devlin snarled. “You could have at least made sure…”
“I don’t know how he slipped through. He says he’s getting headaches.”
“I think I should leave,” Conrad said. He stood and buttoned his coat. “I’ll call you later about the property, Fox.”
Devlin nodded. “Sure, Conrad.” Devlin reached out, taking Conrad’s hand for a short second. Conrad smiled half-heartedly, opened the office door, and saw Charlie waiting anxiously outside.
Devlin bowed his head. “Send him in, Trish. Maybe we can offer him a settlement, until I talk to Lowell about a possible lawsuit again.”
“He doesn’t have a case.” Trish tried to console him, but Devlin wasn’t having it.
“Just send him in! I don’t want to take any chances after the last one. I didn’t think she did, either—until the other side brought up the possibility the sleep aide had some ingredients used for headaches—medicines that might’ve been outlawed. Okay?! So send him in.”
Charlie walked in, confident in his pastel blue suit. He sat down and the two of them sized each other up. Charlie tried to cross his legs, but thought better of it as he almost lost his balance. Devlin smiled impishly, rose from his desk. He paced a few steps before sitting on the edge of his desk.
“Charlie.” Devlin broke the silence. “We can work this out. I’m sure of it.”
“I’m sure we can. $15,000 is what I want.” Charlie told him.
“The headaches are worth that much?” Devlin nodded.
“Them’s some bad headaches, Doc,” Charlie pouted, speaking in baby-talk. “See, Doc, I remember reading about you. I don’t doubt you’re….talents. But it’s how you raise your talent to a new level. You did this trick years ago, under another name: Roger van Dyke. I had to go the library to look all this up, though…hard copies and all. But the initial story I read—and funny, if I hadn’t been down on my luck, broke at the track, with not even money for a cup of coffee…well, I wouldn’t have seen that paper sitting there on an empty bench.”
Charlie gave Devlin a vindictive smile. “Now, you’re right of course. It all being ‘nothing I would understand’, but I do know you use that…concoction you made us drink to heighten the dreams, and somehow make it easier for your abilities to find the secrets there. Only its bad news. Even for you. I see the marks on your head. Causes serious brain damage, I bet. I also read…this is funny…the U.S. army had been robbed of a certain recipe. Some Martin Blake had gotten hold of it and tried to manufacture headache medicine for it. Geez, and would you believe that guy looked a lot like you, Doc?”
Devlin’s nostrils flared. His hands formed tight fists, which he kept swinging back and forth. “$15,000?” Devlin said coldly. He walked around his desk, searched in the drawers for a green checkbook. He angrily wrote out the check, stabbed the desk with his pen, then tore it out, tossing it at Charlie.
Charlie jumped for it— he could move pretty fast when motivated. He almost caught the thin paper before it landed on the floor. Charlie scooped it up, reclaiming some of his dignity as he slipped it into his jacket pocket.
“Get out of my office.” Devlin demanded.
“Oh, I don’t think so.” Charlie sat back down. “I want another session Doc.”
Devlin laughed. “You want….? You are extorting money because of headaches, caused by me and my wonder drug, but you want another session? No. I don’t think so. I smell a trap.”
“I had beans this morning, Doc. It’s not a trap you smell. I want that session with Mr. Lincoln. I know what you are up to.” Charlie pointed a stubby finger at Devlin. “We’re after same thing. Oh. Yeah. See, I checked with Mary. You pick Mr. Lincoln every damn time. You want those numbers from his safe.”
Devlin’s face drained of color.
“Yeah, I got your number, T. Fox Devlin. And this time—this time you are going to finish that dream.”
“I don’t think we should.” Devlin pleaded. He touched the wounds on his forehead. “He has an understated personality. Something is preventing him from showing everything in the dreams. Not like most people. That’s why I was using a double act; bringing someone else in the dream. It hasn’t worked because people usually just witness— never trying to stop what’s happening. It’s complicated.”
“I don’t care what it is. We are going to do it.” Charlie and Devlin locked eyes. Devlin was whipped. He knew it. He looked away, rubbing his forehead.
“Okay,” Devlin said. “Come back here at seven. We’re doing a private session with him. I was going to use Trish. But….it seems the situation has changed.”
Trish gave Charlie a judgmental look when he arrived, eyeballing him even as she opened the door to the session room wider. Charlie smiled, even winked. “I’m very happy to see you, as well.”
“You’re late. You take the cot on the left. Mr. Lincoln is already prepped, he’s on the right; and of course Dr. Devlin will be in the middle.”
Charlie wanted to say something snappy, but it wouldn’t come. He went over to the cot, took his jacket off. Trish reluctantly handed him the glass of red liquid. Charlie looked at it, sighed.
Charlie heard the voices again. He was in the parking garage, standing on the stairs. He saw two shadows rolling across the concrete walls. Charlie went up the stairs, slowly, taking in everything. He was conscious that he needed to be aware, possibly find where things had gone wrong in Lincoln’s dream a few days before.
Suddenly, Charlie was in the showroom again. Like before, all the jewelry cases were empty. A shadowy figure held a gun on Mr. Lincoln. Mr. Lincoln was on his knees, trying very hard to open the safe, his trembling lips miming the numbers as his shaking hands turned the dial.
Charlie stepped toward the shadowy figure. He heard Mr. Lincoln scream. He turned to see a skeletal version of Devlin, his arm reaching out to Mr. Lincoln. Charlie swiped the .38 from the shadow. He fired twice at the skeletal Devlin. Devlin fell, his bones shattering …
Trish screamed, tears streaming down her face. She called out Devlin’s name and buried her face in his chest. Devlin was lying motionless, his mouth wide open, eyes transfixed on the ceiling. Blood drained from two nickel sized holes in his forehead.
Security rushed the door already left open. They ran to Trish and Devlin.
Charlie and Mr. Lincoln were still in their cots, comatose to the real world.
Charlie’s greed was repaid…with an eternity of being lost in that dream.
Mark Slade has appeared in Hell whore series, Blackout City, Dream walkers and Nightmare Stalkers Volumes 1 & 2, and other publications. He is co-editor of Nightmare Illustrated magazine along with Horrified Press publisher Nathan Roawrk. He also writes a column From the grave for Horror Metal Sounds magazine. He lives in Williamsburg, VA with his wife and daughter. To find out more, go to: http://bloodydreadful.blogspot.com/