The evening had started well for the splendidly - and as it turned out, rather optimistically - named Richard Edward Hercules Hampson. Celebrating his re-emergence into the world outside of the prison fence, Richard – or ‘Ricky’ as he was most frequently called - although he’d occasionally been known to answer to ‘Asshole’ too - set out to tie one on with a hundred bucks withdrawn from his creaky old credit union account just as soon as he had made it down the hill into town. Only two short hours after the seemingly endless process of signing himself out of prison clothing and into his old, stiff and mysteriously stained denims, Ricky was successfully hammered - and man; it felt good. He knew, of course that it would soon stop feeling good and within a short time start feeling shitty, but for now he’d take what enjoyment he could from the taste of that liquor and the who-gives-a-shit feeling that it gave him. It had been eight months since decent liquor (in other words; not that God-awful prison hooch) had passed his lips, and there hadn’t been a day that he’d not missed it. Hell, he’d missed it even more than he thought – more even than the feel of a woman’s skin, and the realization bothered him; bothered him so much that he’d drunk even harder to make that realization disappear.
Two hours in The Pitsnake bar had numbed his lips, his worries and his good sense – not that he’d ever been blessed with an over-abundance of the latter, as his criminal record and list of short, dead-before-they-started relationships would testify. Over the previous ten years, life had been a roller coaster of good booze (sometimes), bad women (almost every time), way too much heroin, a little crack here and there, and a total of about four and a half years spent looking out at the outside world through a chain-link fence from the inside of one institution or another. Ricky wasn’t a bad guy, no sir; he was just an ordinary fellah trying to break a long streak – a very, very long streak – of the worst kind of luck. That’s what he told himself, five or six times each day - just to stay on the right side of crazy.
He’d never hurt anyone (except for that one time the snot-nosed kid had come at him with a broken bottle; he’d been askin’ for that) but, shit; he’d been hurt plenty of times himself. That old stab wound in his side ached when it got cold or just kicked him in the gut out of spite if he moved the wrong way or too fast. The only time that pain went away completely was when he could get himself on the outside of a large amount of some hard liquor. A time like tonight.
By the time he hit (literally, with his head) the battered exit door of The Pitsnake Bar, that old bite had stopped hurting. Pretty much everything had stopped hurting – unless of course you didn’t forget the absolute one hundred and ten percent pain-in-the-ass-truth that life was a fucken bitch, and that then, when the shit was finally piled on you deep enough, you died. Life sucked, and Ricky, numb as he was and with alcohol doing its thing to his brain, had plenty of time to think about exactly just how fucken much it sucked as he walked back up that fucken stupid hill towards his sister’s fucken house - the house that had been their mom’s, and should’ve been his. Just another fucken injustice to add to life’s pile of shit.
Earlier in the day, on the way down the hill after his release, he’d dropped off what remained of his belongings, leaving them in a plastic-wrapped heap in the front porch so that when she got home from work she’d know he was back out and to expect him some time after the bars had closed. She knew exactly what to expect; she’d been through it enough times with him. As a social worker she knew how it worked all ways round, knew from the outside and up close how booze and drugs had sucked him in and spat him out time after time, how he’d learned to not give a shit about who he pissed off if it meant that he could score; knew that he would probably die one day when he poisoned himself, whether it be with legal shit or illegal shit. When that happened, he figured that it didn’t much matter what the law or anybody else thought, anyway. Dead was dead. The idea that he could drink himself to death quite within the bounds of the law (and pay fucken tax while he was doing it), but would be arrested for simply getting a fast high made him smile grimly as he dragged his sorry carcass up the stupid, pain-in-the-asshole steep hill. The fucken law made no sense. Life made no sense and therefore his philosophy was simple and to the point: fuck it.
He paused outside the familiar house for only the second time in eight months and three days, exactly – almost to the minute, his chest rising and falling after the long uphill stagger. A few hours ago he’d flung his bag of shit onto the porch without giving the weary old place a second glance. It was good to be out, but like him the Hampson house was tired; worn out and almost at the end of its rope. Something had to change; he really was too old to be doing this shit any more. Maybe, perhaps, this time was the time when he could keep a promise.
Eight months and three days ago he’d been arrested on that very same spot, on the way back from the bar on a cold, wet night and having failed spectacularly - yet again - to get inside Laura Deacon’s panties. As a result, he was feeling as mean as a starving dog when the young cops pulled alongside him and called out to him by name with goofy smiles on their pimply faces. He’d felt even worse a few seconds later as his arms were forced roughly up his back and the cuffs were tightened around his skinny wrists, but he'd learned long ago not to give the cops an excuse to take their fists to him, and made his feelings known, not by physical resistance, but with a stream of the worst insults he could come up with, given that he was still feeling pretty humiliated by Laura calling him ‘Needle dick’ in front of the other customers in the bar. His howls of protests had brought his sister to her window, and her plaintive call-out to the cops had eventually led to a shouted explanation of sorts – another fucken warrant. A warrant. Fuck the law.
He’d seen her shake her head and slide her window shut, slide it shut on the world and him in particular. That was a long time ago – eight, long, hard months ago, but now he was back. Well, he thought; fuck her, she was still his sister and she knew that he needed help, dammit. He knew that she knew that he had no other place to go, and despite his liquor-fuelled bitterness and petty spite, he also knew that she would forgive him one more time, just as she always had - and just as their parents had never done. She loved him, and he could never figure out why or how. In return, he loved her to pieces and he knew exactly why, but in thirty nine years he’d just never worked out how to show it, or even how to tell her.
The light was on – that was a good sign. It meant that she was waiting up for him, and that usually meant that she would be pleased to see him - maybe even had some home-cooked food ready. As he walked unsteadily up the overgrown path – Sadie had always hated gardening – it struck him as a little strange that the blinds were still open. She was usually a stickler for her privacy, to the point of locking her bedroom door even if she was the only one in the house. No matter, he thought, hopefully she’d got something good waiting in the oven for him – cherry pie, even. Cherry pie would be very good.
He stopped when he noticed his plastic bag on the front porch, exactly as he’d left it a number of hours earlier. That was not a good sign, for fuck’s sake. That quite possibly meant that she was pissed – probably because the cops had paid her yet another visit while he’d been out. He’d been pinched at the prison gates before today and taken to the courthouse before his clothes had even gotten warm, only to be back in the big house by nightfall, but he’d also had the only slightly less aggravating experience of being out a few hours before the warrants caught up with his release date. Perhaps this was another one of those. Fuck. What the hell was it for this time? He didn't even try to remember - it didn't matter in the long run. Jail was jail, no matter why you were there.
Slowly climbing the three steps, Ricky the drunken fool approached the front door and tried to open it. Nothing doing. Shit and bastard! Trying as hard as he knew (i.e. not very) to not sound like a pissed drunk, he banged on the front door and called out to Sadie. Nothing. Shit – the last thing he wanted was to wake the neighbours and have the cops around - but dammit, Sadie was being a bitch. Biting his tongue in concentration, he unsteadily negotiated the darkened steps down to the garden level and wound his way through the thick unmown grass and weeds to the kitchen windows. The light beamed out from the chest-high windows across the small yard and lit up one side of the tall, unkempt hedge. Despite his irritation, the idea of startling her by suddenly appearing at the windows had him grinning like an idiot as he approached the stucco side of the house.
The windows were all shut – again, unusual for a woman who liked to have the air moving through the house as long as it wasn’t freezing outside – but Ricky chuckled to himself, knowing that the surprise would be all the greater. Pausing to allow himself to stop laughing and setting his face in his favourite Jack Nicholson expression, he crouched down below the window line and began to slowly rise into the light. Keeping his face rigidly manic and eyes focused on the far wall, he rose fully into view, ready for the scream that would surely come from his sister’s mouth. She’d always been so easy to scare, especially when they were kids and he would jump out on her at the bottom of the stairs. Her strange quavering cries of dismay and shock used to reduce him to tears of laughter. Hell - he wished he could be that happy again.
Staring at the furthest wall for maximum creep effect, Ricky’s expression began to lose its rigidity as he realised that Sadie wasn’t reacting as planned. Relaxing his face and cursing her silently, he blinked a few times to get the old peepers working again, and stared intently into the kitchen.
Sadie wasn’t there. What was there was a horrific, grotesque thing lying awkwardly on the floor, wearing Sadie’s clothes and surrounded by what looked like a pool of black pitch. The fact that most of the back of Sadie’s head was a matted mess told Ricky the rest. As his eyes took in the scene, his mind quickly began to overload. This…this…couldn’t have happened, not to Sadie, not to him. A high pitched whine began to ring in his ears and a grey tunnel started to form around the edges of his vision. “No!” he thought, desperate to cling to consciousness; “Not now!”. The ringing in his ears became a deafening high-pitched shriek, and the world faded to a stop.