Playing With Fire (A DFTD Spin-Off Tale)

Posted: July 12, 2016 in Apocalypse, books, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Horror, horror fiction, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, zombie books, Zombies
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Playing With Fire

~~~

***SPOILER ALERT***
This is just a reminder for anyone currently reading Don’t Feed The Dark that these spin-off stories branch off directly from the main story line and will jump around all over the place, revealing revelations out of normal sequence. I highly recommend skipping this read of Playing With Fire until after reading the first 15 chapters.

~~~

Angela Darrow absolutely despised her job at Herbie’s House of Ladies—but it still paid the bills (barely). She’d been working the weekday grind as a topless waitress for the last three years and she was fed up with Herbie’s bullshit.

Angela had been promised a weekend spot up on the stage after she’d paid her dues. But short of sucking off the boss on his lunch breaks, which she was certain all those other whores had done to get their chance, Angela had suffered through everything else she was asked to do.

She was originally hired on to dance. Herbie had interviewed her and said that she wasn’t ready for his stage. If her finances weren’t the mess they were then, Angela would’ve told that fat fuck off and stormed out. But instead, she’d swallowed her pride. A girl’s gotta work.

Tuesday nights were dead as usual—which meant, shit for tips. She made her circuit around the stale smoke-filled room, clearing tables of half-spilled drinks while batting her eyes and flashing her plastered on smile at the drunk pervs who gawked at her dangling boobs, which she kept just out of reach of their groping claws. Angela knew who her regulars were, and more importantly, which ones shared from generous wallets. At first, she’d scored pretty well working the tables and soliciting lap dances, but now, she was just old news—yesterday’s flavor that had gone stale in the eyes of those greedy monsters who got tired of being turned down for sex after the private dances weren’t enough.

Competition on the floor was fierce and there were always sluts who were willing to bend the rules and let the patrons touch where they weren’t supposed to… or allowed them to do other despicable things. But Angela refused to play the game, and as a result, she was branded a ‘tease’. And that meant her tips got smaller and smaller as her regulars diminished, reducing her to the half-naked waitress that kept the drinks flowing as she allowed the occasional ass grab in the hopes of landing better tips. It didn’t take her long to become invisible… and pathetic.

And then it finally happened. Last night, Angela, desperate for money to pay the rent, had been offered five-hundred dollars to let her last lap dance of the evening go beyond the boundaries she’d set. She could still feel that old man’s tongue all over flesh… and where he’d placed the first two fingers of his left hand.

After Monday evening’s late-night shower of shame, she had decided to quit after her Tuesday shift.

What happens next time someone flashes a thousand dollars in my face? She’d reasoned. How far will I let it go next time? She didn’t want to be around to found out.

Before she had an opportunity to put in her notice, Herbie had asked to see her.

She walked over to his office, feeling her sore ankles scream out against the ridiculously high heels she was forced to wear. He’s probably going to bitch again about how I’m not making his precious patrons happy enough. Well… tough shit! She took a deep breath and entered Herbie’s office.

Howard Bledsoe (a.k.a. Herbie) sat behind his cluttered desk and leaned back in his large leather recliner. He was an overweight bald man with four chins and an annoying bellow-of-a-laugh. Behind his back, many of the girls called him Jabba-The-Hutt. On the surface, Herbie seemed like an easy-going guy with a healthy sense of humor. But the girls knew better. Howard Bledsoe was a mean and arrogant pig who considered himself an artist, using skin for paint and the stage as his canvas.

When Angela entered, Herbie rose and said, “Damn… you look just like her. You two could be sisters.”

“Sisters?” Angela asked confused. She was too tired to fake patience; too tired to care. “What’s this about?” she asked.

Herbie smiled and motioned to a small chair in front of his desk. “Please, sit.”

Angela did… and it felt good.

“Do you know who Crystal Evans is?” he asked, sitting back down.

Yeah… that’s your favorite Thursday night whore. She dances like shit, her tits sag, and she wears more make-up than a corpse, she thought. “That’s your Thursday night dancer… right?” Angela decided to play coy.

“That’s right,” Herbie said. “Anyway, Crystal’s got some… personal issues… to work out. Frankly, I don’t give a shit, but she’s left me in a jam. Thursdays are becoming a money-maker lately. I think it’s because of Crystal… but don’t tell her that.” Herbie winked and laughed.

Angela wanted to take off her left heel and shove it in his big, fat mouth.

“Anyway… I need a dancer for Thursday night. Are you interested?”

Angela was shocked. “You mean, up on the stage… in Crystal’s spot?”

Herbie gave her a strange look. “Yeah… what else would I mean?”

Angela shrugged her shoulders.

“Anyway… I can get you off the floor for a couple shifts and let you have your chance Thursday night… if you still want it.”

“Of course I do,” Angela said.

“Good!” Herbie said, rising to his feet. “You’ll have to come in early for a dress rehearsal tomorrow and let the make-up gurus doll you up… but I believe you’ll pass for Crystal… easily.”

Angela’s face changed. “Wait… you want me to dance… but pretend I’m Crystal?”

“I know… I know… you won’t be able to ‘perform’ like she does, but hell… you look a lot like her. After enough drinks, none of them will notice anyway. Hopefully Crystal will be ready to come back next week.”

“You call that a chance?” Angela was pissed. “I’ve been here three years and when I finally get to prove what I can do up there, you want me to be somebody else? That sucks!”

Herbie sighed. “Look… I’m doing you a favor here. You certainly can’t fill Crystal’s shoes. All I’m asking you to do is dance a bit, shake your ass, flash your tits and fake it. The special-effects will take care of the rest. You’ll make a lot of money if you pull this ‘performance’ off… and that’s what we do here. So what’s the problem ?”

“The ‘problem’ is, I’m not her!

Herbie’s face was turning red. “Look! I’m giving you a chance, a chance you certainly don’t deserve! I expected a little gratitude after all the complaints I’ve received about your poor service down on the floor. I’ve tried to overlook it, believing that you might come around eventually. But honestly, I’m starting to doubt that you’ll ever get with the program.”

“And what program is that?” Angela asked. “I’ve put up with all those jerks touching me and propositioning me for three-fucking-years! I’ve seen what your other girls do, and if that’s what you call ‘getting with the program’, than you’ve mistaken me for something I’m not! I’m a dancer, not your fucking whore!” She immediately thought of Monday night, and wanted to vomit.

Herbie lifted his hands. “All right… just calm down! No need to take it all so personally. It’s just a part of the business that you obviously don’t understand. Look, I’ll be frank with you. Crystal’s got some serious medical issues and she might not be coming back. I don’t know what’s going to happen but I need a quick fix for Thursday night while I consider my options. If you can pull off pretending to be Crystal, I might be persuaded to give you her spot… depending on how well you perform.”

“You promise? Because… I really don’t think I can work the floor anymore.”

“Yes… I promise.” Herbie lied. “We just need some time to wean the Thursday night crowd off that bitch and then we’ll have time to introduce you properly… with all the proper theatrics. I can see it now… Angel Darrow. It’s got a nice ring to it, don’t you think?”

Angela smiled. “Yes… I do. ‘Angel Darrow’… I like that.”

“Then you’ll be my Crystal Evans… for now?”

Angela nodded. “For now.”

Herbie smiled. “Good… good! When you come in tomorrow night, I’ll pay you your usual floor wages, but instead of working the floor, I want you to come in early and wait in Crystal’s room for the makeup guys to arrive. They’ll doll you up and walk you through Crystal’s routine.”

“If I’m going to be your ‘Crystal’ shouldn’t I get her wages for Wednesday and Thursday?” Angela folded her arms.

Herbie laughed. “Alright… I’ll pay you for the rehearsal, too. But you better not be wasting my time. I need a stellar performance out of you so take advantage of the rehearsal to get her number right. You have seen Crystal dance before?”

Oh, I’ve seen your talentless whores dance every Monday through Thursday for the last three years. Angela smiled and answered, “Yes, I’m familiar with Crystal’s routine… I won’t have any problems emulating her… performance.”

“Now that’s what I want to hear. Confidence is the key. After we put you in makeup and wardrobe, I’ll have a video of Crystal’s routine sent over for you to study. Take the rest of the evening to get it down in sync with the special-effects. Timing is everything. Remember, you need to become Crystal, so work on the details.”

“Got it,” Angela said, getting irritated, but trying to bite her tongue. This asshole’s already forgotten that I was a dancer before he made me his bar bitch.

Herbie gave her a stern look and finished, “Remember, I’m not paying you to go up there and dance, Angela… I’m paying you to perform… as Crystal Evans. That’s who people are paying to see on Thursday night. Are we clear on this?”

“Crystal.”

~~~

On Wednesday, Angela arrived to work early and was met by four of Herbie’s stylists. They quickly rushed her back to Crystal Evan’s dressing room (all the star whores had their own) and within four painful hours, they had created Miss Evan’s clone. After they were all satisfied, the stylists departed, leaving Angela the promised recording of one of Crystal’s performances.

Finally given a moment alone, Angela stood up and looked into the large vanity mirror and was stunned at how well Herbie’s stylists had done their job.

Holy shit! I do look just like that bitch!

She wore one of Crystal’s skimpy sequin-slaughtered outfits that needed no stretch of the imagination to deduce what it barely covered. Her once long brown straight hair, now permed with so many curls, flowed down her shoulders like erratic rivers. Her pale skin had been remedied with a fake-tan solution that made her appear like she’d spent the afternoon in a tanning booth. They even put vibrant blue contacts in her eyes to hide her dull brown ones.

After marveling at the stylists’ recreation, Angela said, “Could be worse. At least you’re not pretending to be Friday night’s girl with all that fucking body paint. You’d be sitting in front of the stylists for another four hours while they dyed your hair red and drew pictures all over your tits.” She sat down in front of a small television, placed the DVD of Crystal’s performance in the player, and started watching.

“They nailed it,” she said, studying Crystal’s appearance. “We are the same height, build… add in the low lights and the special-effects, no one will be able to tell the difference.” After five minutes of watching Crystal’s mediocre dancing, she turned off the TV and walked over to Crystal’s locker. “How the hell am I going to mimic that massacre of a performance?” She started removing the tight outfit, wanting desperately to get back into her own clothes. “It’s bad choreography for one thing… and that bitch barely pulls it off…”

Angela stopped when she noticed a leather satchel sitting at the bottom of the locker. “What’s this, Crystal?” She knelt down to inspect the satchel. She hesitated for a moment, feeling like she was invading Crystal’s privacy. “Well, if I’m going to be You then that means I get to know all your secrets.” She started opening the satchel. “I’m going to laugh my ass off if I find a copy of How To Dance For Dummies.

What Angela found in the satchel made her gasp. The bag was loaded with bundles of one-hundred dollar bills. “Holy shit, Crystal! Ever heard of a bank?”

A little voice inside her head tried to warn her away from the money—a voice that screamed, That much money lying around in the bottom of a stripper’s locker can’t be legal. Forget about, Angela.

But she had to know. Angela got up and made sure the door was locked before returning to the money. By the time she was done, she’d counted a hundred grand.

“Fucking Herbie must have been paying you under the table for a good long while to come up with that much scratch.”

But she suspected there was more to it than that. She looked inside the satchel again and found a letter at the very bottom of the bag. Angela was beyond caution now as she opened the letter:

~~~

Miss Evans,

Here is the agreed upon award for your services for the year, and for going above and beyond to satisfy
our clientele. Your work has been exceptional and we hope that this token of our appreciation continues
to guarantee your participation in the months ahead.

Included is your retainer of twenty-thousand in advance for our upcoming dinner party at the usual
locale, on Friday, October 2nd. There will be a moonlight ceremony on the beach. We’ll send someone
to pick you up at the usual time and place.

We are looking forward to seeing you again,
Malcolm

~~~

Angela dropped the letter back into the bag and quickly replaced the money. That’s this Friday. You don’t want anything to do with this whore’s illegal activities. Crystal’s playing with fire. I bet Herbie doesn’t know what one of his star girls is doing on the side. Angela considered this and smiled. One way or the other, she was going to secure her spot on the stage. If Herbie didn’t follow through on his promise, she could expose Crystal’s activities. It felt damn good to have leverage.

She stepped back in front of the mirror and said, “And as for Your shitty performances on the stage, you high-priced whore, I think I’ll do you a favor and show you how a professional dancer performs. You can thank me later. I may look like you tomorrow night… but I’ll be dancing like Angel-Fucking-Darrow, bitch!”

~~~

On Thursday night, Angela Darrow took the stage as Crystal Evans… and she blew their fucking minds. None of Crystal’s regulars had ever seen their star stripper dance so provocatively. She had them under her spell and emptying out their wallets faster than they spent their usual loads from beneath the tables. Angela made two encore appearances before the night was finished. She had everyone fooled. Not even her coworkers on the floor recognized her as they were too busy filling up empty glasses and getting annoyed that all eyes were on the stage.

After a much earned rest, Angela retreated to Crystal’s dressing room and waited long enough for the crowd to thin out. She sat back in her chair, relishing the apologetic look on Herbie’s face when he realized how wrong he’d been for placing her down on the floor instead of up on the stage where she belonged.

Finally… no more working for scraps down with the dogs. After tonight, I’m going to get what’s coming to me. She looked at her reflection—at the artificial Crystal Evans staring back at her—and said, “And fuck you, too! You never looked as good as I made you look tonight.” Angela got up and exited the dressing room.

When she was just outside Herbie’s office, she stopped before his open door when she heard the boss yelling at someone on the phone.

“I don’t give a shit what time it is! Make the arrangements… tonight! I don’t care who you pick but give him a name because he’ll be here tomorrow night to seal the deal!”

Angela waited just out of sight, not wanting to enter his office while Herbie was so upset. She couldn’t help overhearing the conversation.

Herbie continued, “Yes… I know… it’s not your fault… it happened just a few hours ago… but that changes nothing, you fucking idiot! They said it was massive heart failure… I don’t know what causes that… do I look like a fucking doctor? Fact remains… Crystal Evans is dead and there’s not a fucking thing we can do about that, so get another girl lined up.”

Angela’s heart skipped a beat. Crystal’s dead? Holy shit! Things just keep getting better for me. She felt bad for the thought as soon as she thought it… but not that bad. Here’s my chance! They’ll need a replacement for Crystal… and after the night I just gave them… I’m the obvious replacement! Just keep it together… don’t seem too anxious… make that fat fuck practically beg you to stay! You have him exactly where you want him.

“Alright… do it,” Herbie was finishing. “If she says no… well… we’ll have to find him another in a big fucking hurry. We’ll cross that bridge when the time comes. Look, just get it done! I’ve gotta go.” Herbie slammed the phone on the receiver.

Okay… stay calm… but firm. You walk in there like you own the fucking place, but stay respectful. Angela took a deep breath and entered Herbie’s office.

Herbie looked up, surprised, and then scowled at her. “What do you want?”

Angela immediately lost her cool. “I… I mean… I figured we could talk… after tonight.”

“Talk about what?” Herbie sat down and started rifling through a stack of paperwork on his desk.

Angela looked confused. So much for gratitude. Stick to your guns, girl. Angela stepped forward, folded her arms and said, “Let’s talk about my performance. I believe you owe me an apology.”

Herbie looked up in disbelief and laughed. “Apology? Are you fucking kidding me! After that piss-poor performance… all I asked you to do was one… fucking… thing: Be Crystal Evans! And you fucked that all up.”

“But… the crowd loved it! They loved me!

Herbie waved a dismissive hand in her face. “I’ve got more important things to think about right now. Get out of here.”

“Excuse me?”

“Pack your fucking shit and go! You’re fired!”

~~~

Angela returned to Crystal’s dressing room and collapsed in the closest chair. She was too much in shock to feel outraged or break down into tears.

What the hell do I do now?

She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror, at the make-up smeared face of the dead woman who seemed to mock her, and hissed, “This is all your fault! I don’t deserve to be treated like this! He just used me and tossed me out like a piece of fucking garbage! And all because I couldn’t bring myself to dance as horribly as you!

Angela couldn’t look in the mirror any longer. She turned away and stopped when she saw Crystal’s locker. She immediately thought about the money… and about the dead woman who no longer needed it.

“There’s no good that can come out of what you’re thinking, girl,” she reminded herself.

And then she had a dark thought: You could take the money and no one would ever find out. There’s enough green in that bag to get the hell out of town and start over.

Angela stood up and shook her head. “Just forget about it.”

But she couldn’t.

If you don’t take it, Herbie’s going to find it when they clear out the room. And you better believe he’ll make that money disappear!

Angela turned back toward the locker. “Fuck that!” She grabbed the bag, her few belongings, and quickly exited the dressing room before she had second thoughts.

She rushed across the parking lot to her car. Angela opened the trunk, tossed the bag in, and then closed it. Too late to turn around now, she thought, getting into her car and starting the engine. She was already thinking about the airport. Fuck it all… fuck everything! Just one more night to pack a couple of bags and get some sleep and then we head to the west coast and far from this fucking place… no looking back! She sped out of the parking lot, already spending the money in her mind as she pictured herself lying on a white sand beach with palm trees.

~~~

Angela took one look around her claustrophobic dump of an apartment. She shook her head in disgust at the piles of whorish clothes littered around her living room. A small arsenal of bras lay scattered about like discarded slingshots after another indecisive war had been waged on how best to package her weapons of seduction. Last night’s microwave mac n’ cheese dinner sat collecting mold next to an ash tray with a partially smoked joint and a cheap wine glass holding even cheaper wine on a cluttered coffee table. A small television (no cable, of course) sat waiting for her to resume her position on the trash-infested couch where she could once again drink herself to sleep while watching whatever mind-numbing shows were available on the few channels that got the best reception. The longer she looked around, the more pathetic she felt. And this is my life. My God, how long have I been slowly rotting away like this? It’s amazing how much clarity a hundred grand buys.

Angela called the airlines and booked the first available flight to Los Angeles in the morning. She decided to pack light—fuck the rest.

Angela went into her bedroom, pulled out a suitcase from a small closet and tossed it onto her unmade bed. She started back toward the living room to pour herself a glass of cheap wine. Pack now… then strip off the Crystal costume and take a long hot shower. After that, sleep like the dead for a few hours and then go catch my flight. After I get to LA, I’ll lay low for a while and spend only what I need to get started. I’ll find another job and keep the rest of the money hidden in a safe place.

As she entered the living room, she was startled by a very large man in a suit with curly blond hair standing in front of her television. “Miss Evans?” the man asked.

Before Angela could cry out, someone else grabbed her from behind and covered her mouth and nose with a damp cloth.

The sweet-tasting liquid worked fast as Angela’s world went dark.

~~~

She heard the sound of a car engine running as Angela opened her eyes and was greeted by a massive headache. As her disorientation lifted, she looked around and discovered that she was lying on the floor of what appeared to be an empty box truck. The big curly-haired man in the suit was watching her near the back of the truck. He appeared bored out of his mind.

“Where… where am I?” Angela asked.

The big man ignored her and yelled out the back of the truck. “Boss, she’s awake.”

Angela tried to get up but she felt dizzy and weak. She managed to get to her knees as a small man with slick-brown hair tied back in a ponytail climbed up into the truck.

The man with dark eyes, a hawkish nose and a clever smile absently brushed dust off his expensive suit. He walked toward Angela with his hands in his pockets as he studied the stripper with partial amusement and annoyance painted on his face. “Good evening,” he said.

“What have you done to me?” Angela asked. “I feel like a truck ran me over.”

The man seemed amused by her response. “I apologize for the rough treatment, but under the circumstances, I thought it prudent to meet with you without delay so we might get to the bottom of this… unpleasant situation. My name is Malcolm Hathaway. And you are certainly not Crystal Evans.” He knelt down and finished, “I am very curious to understand how a woman who looks like another woman that died a short time ago, ends up racing out of a club with my money. You are Angela Darrow, are you not?”

Angela’s face went pale. “Look, I don’t know what’s going on here, but this is not what it looks like,” she lied.

Malcom laughed. “And what does it look like, Angela? Because it appears that either Crystal faked her own death , or, someone posing as Crystal decided to sneak away with something that didn’t belong to her.”

Angela started to sweat. “I… I wasn’t trying to steal your money. I’d just heard that Crystal died. She told me about the money when I was hired to fill in for her and she instructed me to keep it safe since she was stuck in the hospital. I was planning on returning it for her.”

Malcolm raised his eyebrows. “Wow. You must really be a good friend. It’s not every day someone entrusts a hundred grand to just anyone. I assume that you and Crystal go way back, yes?”

Angela smiled. “Exactly. That’s why she told me about the money. As you can see… she even trusted me to perform in her absence. That’s why I look like her right now. I’m sorry about the confusion.”

“I see,” Malcom said, getting up. “Excuse me a moment.”

Oh, please, please, please, God… get me out of this and I’ll never touch another cent that doesn’t belong to me!

Malcolm walked over to the curly-haired man and started talking out of ear shot.

He’s not convinced, she thought. Come on, Angela, talk your way out of this before it gets any worse. And then she had a desperate thought.

“Excuse me, Malcolm,” she said.

Malcolm came back over.

“Now that you have your money back… and I’m sure you know that it’s all there… I have to tell you the rest.”

“Go on.”

“As tragic as it was to find out that Crystal died, I was hoping that you might consider letting me fill in for her… you know… at your party on the beach tomorrow night.”

Malcolm’s face shifted a little. He sighed and asked, “And just how do you know about that?”

“Crystal told me about it… when she thought she wasn’t going to make the appointment. It seemed very important to her not to let you down… and so, I kind of offered to fill in for her. She liked the idea.”

“Really?” Malcom looked at the curly-haired man who shook his head. He turned back and finished, “And did your great friend fill you in on the details of what was expected?”

Angela opted for the truth this time. “Not really. But I assumed it was a private dancing gig.”

Malcolm laughed. “Well… Angela… I’m afraid that Crystal did a little more than that for us. But you’re correct, the dancing was paramount.”

She felt cornered and needed to tell them anything they wanted to hear just to make it out of this box truck. You know damn well what he’s getting at. Crystal’s probably their regular whore among other things. “I assure you… I can dance as well as Crystal… and perform in other areas as well.”

This time, both men laughed.

Malcolm shook his head and said, “That won’t be necessary, Miss Darrow. I appreciate the offer to stand in for your… friend… but to put it as politely as I can, you are not what we’re looking for. Crystal is an exceptional performer and we can’t settle for anything less.”

Fuck you! First that fat fuck, Herbie… and now I have to hear it from this asshole, too!

Malcolm could see that he’d struck a nerve, and it amused him. “Of course, if you were willing to compensate in a lesser capacity to make up for your serious lapse of judgment, I would consider having you serve my guests at dinner. Perhaps you could keep their glasses full and flirt with the horny ones… you know… the usual. Let them cop the occasional feel and enjoy the eye candy.”

Angela could barely keep her anger in check. “Anything you want, Malcolm. If that would make up for this misunderstanding, I’ll gladly do it.”

Malcolm studied her face. He finally smiled and said, “And that pathetic attitude, Angela, is why Herbie has taken advantage of you for the last three years and made you nothing more than one of his pretty serving wenches. You aren’t star material… like Crystal was… and that’s why I wouldn’t let you serve my dogs at my party. I only want the best… and you are far from it.”

Angela balled her fists and looked away. Why is he trying to provoke me?

Malcolm shook his head and said, “Well… I guess I could cut you some slack tonight. The money is all there, as you said. No harm. No foul. Just answer one last question for me and I’ll be satisfied that you’ve been straight with me.”

Angela waited.

“Your good friend… Crystal… what is her real name?”

“Excuse me?”

Malcolm’s face went dark. “Her name… what is it? Surely you can answer that… since you two go way back.”

“I… I don’t know,” Angela said. “We were close… but not that close. Crystal’s a private person and she- ”

“Maria Sanchez,” Malcom interrupted. “That’s her real name.”

“Of course it is,” Angela said. “Maria… that’ s right. I knew that. I must still be feeling the effects of the drugs- ”

“That’s not her name, you stupid thieving bitch,” Malcolm said. “I just made that up. You’re not the only person that can spin stories when it’s convenient.”

“Wait… let me explain- ”

“Shut up,” Malcolm said. “You’ve wasted enough of my time with your lies.” He walked over to the curly-haired man. The man handed him a .357 Magnum.

Angela managed to get to her feet when she saw the hand cannon. She held her arms out and said, “Please… don’t do this. You’re right… I lied. I was just fired tonight and I remembered the money… and I was desperate and stupid. I should not have taken your money… and I’m really sorry.”

Malcolm turned toward her with the gun at his side. “Yes… you were very stupid. If my men hadn’t already been watching the club to see if Herbie had acquired it, and if you hadn’t walked out of there looking like the ghost of Crystal Evans, you probably would’ve made it to LA, as you had planned. We would’ve caught up to you eventually, but you would’ve had a head start.”

Angela began to cry. “Please… I’ll do anything you want. You can pass me around at your party and I’ll make everyone happy… free of charge. Just… please… don’t kill me!”

Malcolm shook his head and smiled. “You are mistaken, Angela. I’m not the one that’s out to kill you. Truth be told, most of that money was Crystal’s already, minus the twenty grand for tomorrow night. If anyone wants to kill you, I think it’s Crystal.”

“I… I don’t understand?”

“Of course you don’t,” Malcolm said. “And that’s why you’re in this fix. Let me paint the picture: You tried to take a dead woman’s hard earned cash—money that could’ve gone to whatever family she had left. But you chose to steal from the dead. First, you tried to take her spotlight, but that wasn’t good enough. But when you tried to take her savings… shame on you.”

“But she was already dead! I never would’ve taken it if I thought- ”

“You know what I think,” Malcolm started, “I think Miss Evans has managed to arrange our little meeting. Perhaps this is payback from beyond the grave. What do you think?” Malcolm lifted the gun.

“Please… I’m so very sorry for all this trouble. I’ll do anything you want.”

“But I don’t want anything from you!” Malcom said, shaking his head. “It’s Crystal that you should be apologizing to, don’t you think?”

“Yes… yes… anything you say.”

“Well, apologize to the poor girl!” Malcolm aimed the gun in her face.

Angela looked down. “I’m sorry.”

“What? You call that an apology! I could barely hear you, let alone Crystal. Louder.”

“I’m sorry!”

“Louder!”

“I’M SORRY!”

“There we go!” Malcolm said. “I think she heard that one.”

Angela looked up. “Then… then I can go?”

Malcolm smiled and said, “That’s really not up to me, Angela. You’ll have to run it by Crystal when you see her.”

Angela raised her hands to her face and started to scream.

Malcom fired three rounds into her chest.

Angela struck the ground hard and didn’t move again.

Malcolm lowered the smoking hand cannon and said, “You know, she really does look just like her. Don’t you think?”

The curly-haired man stepped up. “Yeah, Boss. She does.”

“I’m really going to miss her,” Malcolm said.

“Which one?”

Malcolm turned. “When did I start paying you to be funny?”

“Sorry, Boss. What do you want me to do with her?”

Malcolm stared at the bloody remains of Angela Darrow and said, “The only thing worse than a thief is a fucking liar.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” Curly said. “Want us to set the truck on fire?”

Malcolm smiled wickedly, and said, “No. I think we should take Miss Darrow up on her offer to help us tomorrow night.”

~~~

It is early Saturday morning, beneath the midnight demon moon. It is the beginning of the end.

Angela Darrow is oblivious to the sounds of waves breaking on the shore; oblivious to the tribal drums and howling naked men and woman dancing around a large bonfire in a primal celebration and release of their animal spirits. She is unaware of the drugged and naked red-headed woman, dancing wildly around the blaze as Malcolm Hathaway gives his ceremonial speech. Angela Darrow is dead.

Malcolm’s men had put her body in a crate and placed it at the base of the large bonfire, as instructed.

She is their blood sacrifice to the gods of whatever insanity they worshiped.

Angela’s dead flesh begins to burn as the flames penetrate the wooden crate.

Gina Melborn collapses from exhaustion before the fire as the dead woman in the crate opens her eyes.

Angela is not in pain. She is not terrified to discover her skin black and bubbling over from the heat. She is hungry. Hungry for something she cannot comprehend. Angela is compelled to rise… driven by the blood. There is only the blood and nothing more.

The dead woman manages to stand inside the flames. Most of her body is charred beyond recognition. Before her eyes melt away, she sees the red-headed woman lying before the fire.

And Gina sees her.

There’s someone in the fire!

Angela tries to step out of the fire and reach the woman. She wants the woman’s flesh like she’s never wanted anything before… when she was still alive. The Blood! She must have the woman’s… BLOOD!

Someone steps up to the red-headed woman and takes her away from the fire.

Angela cannot follow… but she must… follow! Her body is too badly burned to function. Angela’s corpse collapses into the fire.

Her hunger for the blood completely consumes whatever remains within as the bonfire starts to turn her body to ash.

Miles away, in the county morgue, the unclaimed body of Crystal Evans, former star stripper, opens her dead eyes and rises to heed the call. The blood compels her to feed. The blood is all.

For the first time, Crystal Evans and Angela Darrow are the same.

They are… The Dead.

~~~

Author’s Note:

For those who don’t remember, this spin-off takes place around the time Gina Melborn meets with Malcolm Hathaway at Herbie’s club after her Friday night performance back in Chapter 2. Gina reluctantly agrees to dance at Malcolm’s late night dinner party at a private beach house in Geneva. Tony Marcuchi, the club’s bouncer and Gina’s friend, accompanies her to the dinner.

After taking some very strong unknown drugs, Gina is escorted down to the beach where there is a bonfire lit and a strange ceremony is being conducted led by Malcolm, himself. During the strange ceremony, Gina dances naked before the fire as the other house guests strip naked and pretend to be animals. From there, a wild orgy begins while Gina slowly tries to regain her senses. As she turns toward the bonfire, she sees someone standing in the center of the blaze. Later, she believes that Tony was the one she saw in the fire and that he was burned alive as some strange ritualistic sacrifice.

This story explains what really happened and uncovers the mystery of that strange sighting in the bonfire.

Be sure to check out my second spin-off tale, titled, Red Light

________________________________________________
“Playing With Fire” Copyright © 2015 Scott Scherr. A spin-off short story from the Novel “Don’t Feed The Dark” Copyright © 2014 Scott Scherr.

No part of this short story may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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Comments
  1. I like how you explained the story from the opposite side, and filled in the plot holes. Makes your story well-rounded, plus gives you more options for further stories.

    Like

    • sscherr says:

      Thanks Allen. Yeah, I love the idea of going back and telling short stories about these ‘moments’ throughout the series that weren’t relevant enough to explore at the time they happened or they just simply slowed down the pace too much. Now I can go back and find a story in anything. These are fun to write when time allows. Hopefully I’ll have time to write the third one soon ;)

      Like

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