The Grand Dame Hotel
H.B Overton stood over his son. The young man was sprawled out on the sofa, reeking of stale whisky and vomit. An angry gash at the corner of his left eye was mostly sealed by swollen, bruised skin. H.B.'s lips pressed tightly together as he fought the urge to spit into his son's face. Instead, he leaned over and pressed an index finger deep into the gash, bringing the young man up and out of his slumber with a pained yelp.
"Get yer sorry ass up, boy. I swear yer the biggest, most worthless piece o'flesh walking this good earth," he said as he cuffed his son's head.
"Damn, pa! Wha'd..."
H.B. grabbed the young man's arm and pulled him off the couch. With a violent shove he propelled him toward the restroom.
"Get 'yer smelly ass into that toilet room and clean up. We have ta leave. Ya drunk ass pile of cow shit. I swear, I still don't know how yer of my seed. Walking, talking ignoramus!" he kicked Merle in the backside. "Get in there and clean the vomit and shit off ya. I swear, I'll take ya out o'this world if you don't come out clean in da next five minutes."
"But wha'd I do, pa?" Merle said as he stumbled toward the bathroom.
"Shut-up!" H.B. roared as he snatched up some clean clothes and threw them at his son. "Ya have less than five minutes now."
The door to the bathroom slammed shut as the elder Overton began to pace about the room.
"Boss, I'm not meaning to tell ya how ta treat yer boy, but to speak on his side," Isaiah paused to lite a thin cigar clamped between his teeth, "he's been passed out most of the night on that couch. Pretty sure his skull's about to split from the hangover he's sport'n afta last night."
The old man spun on his heals and faced his foreman. His eyes narrowed into slits as he looked at the handsome man.
"Don't ya question me, Isaiah. Not ever. Ya might be my favorite and like a son ta me, but I won't hesitate ta cut ya down, and ya damn well know it."
"Yes, sir. I was just try'n ta point out that the boy has been passed out and asleep all night. His only sin was too much whiskey and not enough wisdom."
H.B. took in a deep breath and shook himself. Isaiah could see his boss tremble as the man attempted to release some tension.
"Damnit all. Makes little diff'rence, he still can't be my son. And don't ya tell me he looks like me, damnit!" he retrieved a cigar from a walnut box on the end table and jammed it between his teeth.
"Ya sure everything is cleaned up?"H.B. asked. He paused in front of the large window overlooking downtown and chewed on the cigar.
"Yes, sir. Cleaned everything and rolled up all the evidence, then tossed it all in the trash pile," Isaiah replied.
"Damnit, Isaiah. Ya best be sure. Or we'll be hang'n by a noose."
"Boss, she was a nothing whore who folded sheets and sold herself to wealthy men," he said as he tamped out his cigar. "I'm not say'n she deserved what she got, you did get a bit outta control, if I may say so. Just saying she's nothin compared ta you."
"Watch yer mouth, Isaiah. Ya had more than a turn on that little filly ya'self."
"Ta be sure. Just don't ya worry ya'self, boss. I'm sure, if anyone finds the whore, the local authorities won't be inclined ta put much into their investigation."
The bathroom door flung open and the younger Overton stepped out. Hair wet and combed straight back. Left eye black and swollen, the gash red, and angry, and still oozing a small trickle of fluid. He tossed his soiled clothes on the floor by his bag and glared at his father.
"What the hell was that 'bout, pa?" he pressed his and too his forehead. "Hell I don't even remember last night, just foggy mem'ry of dancing. I think you ow me..."
A knock sounded at the door. Merle pressed his palm harder into his forehead and squeezed his good eye shut. The other two men glanced at each other. H.B. raised an eyebrow and pointed a finger at his foreman. "Ya best be right, boy. I'll get the damn door."
The high-pitched ding of the elevator chimed as the doors parted. The deep-red carpet stretched out before him--a crimson trail leading him to his fate. Cecil leaned over, pressed the hold button and stepped out and onto his path. Emotions he had thought dead or held at solidly at bay raged within him. With each step he battled them. Doubt was crushed easily at it made a feeble attempt to sneak into his thoughts. The burning anger, feeding off his vengeance, fought his will to the breaking point. Teeth grinding and fist clinched, he fought to gain control of that need to destroy that which destroyed his entire world. He must gain control, he told himself as he battled his rage. A fate worse than they could ever imagine awaited them. He must be patient and calm a little longer. He stepped in front of the door to 1501 and shoved his rage back into the dark reaches of his soul.
Cecil stared at the solid brass number on the wood door for a moment before knocking. He waited for his summons to be acknowledged, the seconds ticked by with no response. With the door staring silently back at him, a worry started to settle in his mind. Did they already leave? He was too far gone now, there was no repeating this day and they must, absolutely must be in the room. He shifted his weight and reached up to send out another solid rap to the door.
The door opened mid-knock. Cecil jerked his hand back. He found himself looking directly into the eyes of the oldest of the three men. Fire erupted in him again as he gazed into the face of one of his daughter's killers. He felt the rage rush through him, loud and pulsing, clawing at his control once again with a vengeful snarl. He quickly averted his eyes and lowered his head in a servile pose, forcing himself to be a non-threat to the man before him.
"What?" demanded the man in the doorway."
"I beg your pardon, sir," he bowed to the man.
"The manager has sent me to request you and your companion's presence for supper, with his compliments."
He does, does he?" H.B. leaned out the doorway and glanced back toward the elevators. "And does yer man'ger always make such requests ta random guests?"
"I'm afraid I don't know the answer to that, sir. I was simply instructed to request your presence, and escort you to your table on the balcony. Sir."
And, perhaps ya can tell me why the man'ger sent a...," the older man sneered, "employee, and didn't come himself? He too good ta greet his guests?"
"I was instructed to escort you and your companions as a lesson, sir. For the troubles caused to you and yours while in the lounge last night. Sir," Cecil tilted his head slightly and tucked his chin to his chest once more. "I'm to make sure you enjoy your evening and ensure your needs are met during your complimentary meal."
Cecil caught the gleam of recognition in the man's eyes.
"I knew you looked familiar," the man gave a thin-lipped smile. "That trumpet playa from last night," he glanced one more time up the hallway before taking a step back into the room and calling over his shoulder.
"Change of plans, boys. We're going ta enjoy a bite ta eat and a snort or two of the finest whiskey this 'stablishment has ta offer. Curt'sy of the Grand Dame and the poor behavior of this...good fellow," he glanced at Cecil. "Lead the way, boy."
Cecil turned and retraced his steps back to the elevator. The ordeal was almost over. He could feel the tension inside of him, straining for release. Only one more task to perform. Then what? His step faltered ever so slightly. Then what? He had not once asked himself that question.
Then nothing, Cecil. More than likely a hangman's noose for you. It doesn't matter. You have nothing more to live for. Try to escape if you can. Protect the bones if possible. But be honest man, you're a dead man once those doors open up and you step into the lobby.
As he approached the elevator, he stopped just outside the door and bowed to the three men. With a wave of his hand he gestured them inside. As the last one cleared the threshold, Cecil entered and punched the button for the first floor.
The floor indicator started its slow, backwards slide. The needle touched the number fourteen. Cecil began to hum softly. He tapped out a steady rhythm on the brass faceplate of the floor buttons. He turned his head and looked at the three men, a smile spread across his face.
The old man cocked his head toward Cecil, "Elevator rides make ya a bit uppity, boy?" he said. "I'm sure a word ta..."
"What a'hell is that?" exclaimed the younger of the three.
H.B. scanned the car in search of what caused his son's concern. Before he could ascertain the reason, he saw the taller man kneel.
"What is it, Isaiah?"
"Looks ta be chicken bones."
"What the hell is a bone doing in the elevator, boy?" H.B. said as he swung his head to look at Cecil.
"Not one bone, sir. Looks ta be three of'em," Isaiah said.
"Well, I asked ya a question, trumpet playa."
Cecil smiled at the dark-haired man.
"You see, sir. Every one of us here on God's good earth has a divine spark in them. You. Your boy. Your hired hand. Even me. And, most of all my daughter," Cecil knelt and picked up the bone in front of H.B.
"These bones..." he picked up the bone in front of Isaiah, "they are to hold your divine spark," he leaned toward Merle and picked up the bone in front of him. "One for each of you," he said as he stood.
The old man's lip curled as a retort made its way to his mouth only to have it die before utterance as Cecil plunged his bone into his neck. H.B. writhed as flesh began to boil around the bone. His eyes bulged and the skin ripped at the corners. Blood frothed between his clinched teeth.
Isaiah never had the opportunity to stand before his bone was buried deep into his chest. Terrified screams bounced off the walls of the small car. Smoke swirled about the bone. Cloth burned away. The foreman clawed desperately at the macabre dagger. Rib bones, flesh and lung peal away as he pulls it free.
Cecil never slowed. He turned to face the young man who was slumped against the wall. Merle's eyes were wild and fixed on his father, horrified at the black, charred skin migrating across the elder's face. Cecil slipped his bone easily into one of those wide-open eyes. Merle's head snapped back, slamming against the wall convulsively. Flames lick out of his eye and up the bone. His skin begins to melt from his cheek and run in fatty rivulets into his open mouth as he screamed.
Cecil spread his arms wide and raised his voice over the men.
"Eshu! Accept my sacrifice! Grant me my vengeance! Take them to your realm. Let their mortal bodies and minds suffer in agony for eternity!"
The bones glowed red hot. Shadows flowed from the back wall of the car. They swirled and grew until the entire back half of the cab was filled. Grunts and cries could be heard coming from them. Long, massive arms reached for their victims, now insane with panic and pain. Thick, vicious claws dug deep into flesh. The men were pulled into the shadows. Their screams blended with the chaotic chorus of their new home.
The shadows roiled and retreated. Light filled the elevator once again. All that lingered was the stench of burned flesh, pools of blood and three bleached white chicken bones.
Cecil stood alone. Silent. He glanced up and watched as the indicator slid past the number three.
He bent and retrieved the bones, dropping them into the red pouch before cinching it up.
The elevator announced his arrival to the lobby with a tiny 'ding'.
The doors slid open. A small child stood outside. Her mouth dropped open and her eyes widened as she looked into the car. She stared up at Cecil as he made to step past her.
Something hot and slimy wrapped around his legs moments before his face slammed into the hard floor. Shattered teeth skid and bounced, tiny bits of ivory darted across the glossy black tiles. The child's screams caught the attention of those gathered about the lobby. Cecil's will struggled to maintain consciousness. He felt himself being pulled back into the car. He gained his wits in time to see his legs disappear into nothingness at the back of the elevator. His fingers clawed at the blood soaked floor. His nails dug into the wood paneling as he struggled to stop the inevitable slid into hell. Charred, cracked hands reached out of the black void and wrapped around his shoulders. He tossed the red pouch to the little girl.
"Child, keep it safe."
Two more sets of arms wrapped around him and pulled him through.
The girl stood trembling. Her sobs wrack her body. Adults pushed past her as they rushed into the cab. Pools of blood are all they found.