“Hell’s Spell” by Jeff Brewer
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
This week, we travel to Oregon with Jeff Brewer, who takes us to hell’s door with disastrous consequences. Next week, Stephen Buehler brings us to Hollywood to witness the demise of a vigilante street magician.
by Jeff Brewer
Eastmoreland, Deep South East Portland, Oregon
The last time we moved was because she said an ex of hers had shown up and zigzagged a razor through her wrists. The time before that she said a pair of meth heads broke in during the day and left her barely living after wrapping a shower curtain around her neck.
This move would be different.
Even though when we pulled up to our new house with our drenched belongings barely strapped down in the back of our truck, the day had already turned into yet another one gone gray, shaded in rain.
What are we doing here? she asked.
It’s our new house, I said.
You know I don’t like surprises, she said.
We got a great deal, I said, and no one will look for us here.
She pushed her way out of the truck and puffs of steam lifted in waves from her shoulders.
We don’t belong here, she said.
She was right. Eastmoreland, a neighborhood of legit moneymakers, oozes a charmed history. Brass horse rings have remained attached to the curbs since the early 1900s; the trees that line the street have been here longer. Our history began in a blackout in a condemned house in felony flats. Not much to remember other than we were together and no one had been trying to off her.
I feel hot, she said.
Don’t do this, I said.
What’s that on the porch? she asked.
Maybe it’s a surprise, I said.
Look at the address, she said, flip the numbers—7734—it spells hell.
Don’t do this, I said.
But she had already flung her shoes in the grass and peeled off her socks.
I’m burning up, she said.
Not here, I said.
She started soaking her feet in the puddle that formed over the clogged street drain.
I’m not going in there with the address above the door like that, she said.
I left her on the sidewalk and went to see what was on the porch. There was a half-eaten moldy pie at the foot of the door. There were also dead potted flowers in front of a series of pictures that were tacked to the house. The pictures: a pair of children, a woman with unflinching eyes, and one of an old VW Bug sprayed with bullet holes, a bizarre collage which was hidden from view by the railing. I sidestepped this mess and got busy working the numbers off from above the door with our new house key and dropped them into the street drain.
Handled, I said.
She was now on the porch, unbuttoning her shirt.
That’s a vigil, she said.
No one leaves a pie at a vigil, I said.
I don’t like this, she said.
After I went in and walked around in the basement, I ended up following the trail of her clothes into the bathroom. She was sitting on the edge of the tub, naked and chain smoking, running a bath, a black box open in her lap.
I can’t stop sweating, she said.
Where’d you get that?
A man brought it by when you were downstairs, she said.
Before I could ask her about the man, she began reading from the clippings in the box: A mother had shot her daughters in their heads and then turned the gun on herself. Another woman became the victim of a serial killer who shot her car up before strangling her and leaving her for the worms in the west hills.
How did you not know that they all lived here, she said.
The vigil wasn’t here when I looked at the house, I said.
We can’t live here, she said.
We have nowhere else to go, I said.
He says I’m next, she said.
What’s this man look like? I asked.
Kind of like you, only better looking, she said.
I left her at the edge of the tub and went into the rain to see about this man.
When I came back, thick smoke was pouring from the front door, which was open.
She was on the grass, naked and soaked, a man standing over her, his mouth on hers.
I rushed to hold his neck in my hands.
She’s not breathing, he said.
Firemen soon showed up. A few tended to her. A few peeled me from him, pinning me down next to her. One fireman stood with a limp hose drooping in his hands, the house burning, as the rain rolled off her open, dead eyes.
JEFF BREWER is originally from ‘deep southeast’ Portland, Oregon. He holds an MA in English Literature from Portland State University and an MFA in Fiction from the City College of New York, where was awarded the Geraldine Griffen Award for Fiction. His writing has appeared in the Ampersand Review, Portland Review, Publishers Weekly, and was anthologized in Re:Telling: An Anthology of Borrowed Premises, Stolen Settings, Purloined Plots, and Appropriated Character, published by Ampersand Books. He teaches writing at the City College of New York and at the Fashion Institute of Technology. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected] paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Jan 27, 2014
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