Sunday, October 2, 2016


The creeper
Jason Huebinger
Copyright © 2016 by Jason Huebinger
Sally scanned the scene and saw that the bar was pretty empty, though it rarely was hopping on Tuesdays.  It was just the bartenders, the manager, a couple of regulars, and the creeper.   
She watched as the man studied his drink, which was a welcome change.  He looked more tired than normal, weaker.  He was also dressed differently—he wore a blue polo instead of his typical v-neck undershirt.  There were other differences, too: slumped shoulders and a curved back replaced his usual erect posture.  But it was him, of that she was certain. 
Though she had never spoken to him, she hated everything about the man.  She hated how he magically appeared in the bar during each of her shifts. Hated how he gawked, his one fake eye always looking at her.  Hated that awful toothy grin he flashed in her direction.
That grin never changed—he had it two days ago when she spotted him across the street.  And three days before that when he was sitting in her favorite coffee spot.  And last week when he was reading a book at Barnes and Noble. She swore she even saw him a couple times in her house, but that was probably just in her head. 
He was getting to her.  Maybe that was his plan?  Did he want to drive her crazy?  She had no idea. 
For the thousandth time, she fought the urge to approach him.  How would she explain that to her boss?  She doubted he would be sympathetic, especially when she told him she lost it on a customer for smiling at her.  The double-digit number of dollars in her bank account meant she couldn’t do anything to jeopardize her job.
But she had to do something because that grin scared the hell out of her.
He wants you, she thought.  And he will take what he wants someday.
She tried to dismiss that thought, but she couldn’t avoid it.  Why else would he show up all the time?  Follow her around town?  He had to be obsessed with her.  There was no other answer. 
He’s will take it. Unless you do something.
Her blood pressure rose as he stood from his chair.  She had never seen him leave.  He came and left like a ghost.
She couldn’t confront him in the bar, but perhaps outside.  Then, it would be her word against his.  Without witnesses, her boss would believe her; at least, he wouldn’t fire her over the ramblings of a drunk.  Anyway, she wouldn’t be mean or rude.  They would just have a chat, and she would tell him to back off.  He was creepy, but also sort of old, so she doubted he could do anything.
At least, he can’t do anything if you’re expecting it.  But what if he’s hiding in the bushes outside your door?  Or in that alley by the bar? 
She spotted her manager in the distance and waved as she jogged towards him. 
“Slow down,” Bill said with his hands extended.  “Can’t have you slipping.” 
“Sorry,” she replied.  “It’s just, I have to go.”
“Go?  You mean, like, leave your shift?”
“Yeah,” she nodded.  “Just for a little bit.”
“Of course you can’t.  What’s wrong with you?  It’s just you and Jane tonight.”
“Yeah, but look,” she gestured towards the empty sitting area.  “It’s dead.”
Shaking his head, he said, “Yeah, dead now.”
“Come on,” she said, her eyes looking straight into his. “I really got to go.  It’s…you know.  Woman issues.”
“Oh,” he replied with a flinch and scrunched face.
“Yeah,” she said.  “Come on.  Jane can handle it.”
“Fine, fine.  Just get back ASAP, got it?”
“Promise.  Thanks Bill!” She hugged him quickly and ran out the front door. 
Outside, the bar’s blinking red and blue neon sign illuminated the parking lot.  In the distance, she saw the creeper get into his car, a faded red P.O.S. with a “GOD BLESS AMERICA” bumper sticker. 
“Hey,” she screamed as she ran towards the car.  “Wait up!”  But he was already backing out and didn’t notice her flagging him down.
Maybe it’s for the better, she thought as she watched him drive slowly towards the bar’s exit.  Did she really think she could talk sense into him?  No way.  She’s found that most weirdos don’t listen. 
But there was a nagging thought she couldn’t shake.  You have to do something.  You might not get another chance before it’s too late.
The lie to Bill had bought her some time.  It would look weird if she went right back in the bar.  And if he didn’t live far, she wouldn’t be gone for long.
Do it.  There’s no other way.
Her car was nearby; she jogged to it, hopped inside, and turned the key.  The ignition sputtered in protest before the engine turned over.  She hit the gas and pulled up behind the creeper as he was waiting for other cars to pass before turning left.
You’re doing the right thing. 
She kept driving as he pulled into the driveway of a dilapidated white bungalow.  She parked a couple of houses down, killed the engine, and looked at her Timex which read “10:46.”
I’ve only been gone fifteen minutes.  She had plenty of time before she had to head back to the bar.
She sat in her car, steering wheel in one hand, a small Taser in the other.  She bought it about a year ago when her ex-boyfriend was stalking her.  Thankfully, she never used it because he moved to Dallas.  She still saw him from time to time, though, so she kept it in her purse.  
Without the AC or radio, the car was like a tomb; stale air invaded her lungs and the doors caved in on her.  She rolled down the window and let the night air cool her.  She felt eyes staring at her from all directions, judging her, just like her ex.  He had called her crazy, said she was “losing it.”  But he had also stopped following her, so all that other crap didn’t matter.   
That’s what you do.  You do what has to be done. 
She grabbed her purse from the passenger seat; she placed the Taser inside, sat back in the seat, and breathed deeply to calm her racing heart.  Even with the cool breeze running over her, her palms trembled and sweat. 
It’s time.  End it.
She opened the car door and more cold February air washed over her, calming her nerves a little.  Walking towards the creeper’s house, she reviewed the quaint neighborhood, one of the older Houston Heights areas unblemished by new-builds.  His house was easily the oldest on the block and in the worst shape; even in the dim glow of a distant streetlight, she saw chipped paint, a cracked walkway, and unruly grass.
After taking a few moments to gather her thoughts, she walked up to the front door; a Christmas wreath hung on the door and over a mat that read, “WELCOME.” 
Doubt stung her.  What was she doing?  Who cares if this guy stared at her?  He wouldn’t be the first or the last.  She shouldn’t be in front of a stranger’s door at night, ready to fight over something as trivial as a grin.
But it’s not the grin.  It’s what’s going on behind the grin.
“Stop it,” she whispered to herself as she rubbed her temples.  “Stop it, you’re losing it.” 
The door cracked open, startling her.  Half of the creeper’s face peered out the opening, his one good eye looking her up and down.
“May I help you?” he asked.
“No.  Yes.  I—” She didn’t know what to say, how to explain why she was standing in front of his door at such a late hour.  No explanation would make any sense.
“Ma’am,” he said quietly.  “I’m going to have to ask you to get off my property.”
“Ma’am?” she asked.  “What do you mean, ma’am?  You don’t recognize me?”
“Recognize you?  I’ve never seen you before in my life.  Please leave or I’m calling the police.”
Lying bastard.  She balled her hands into a fist so tightly that her fingernails dug into her palms.
“You know who I am,” she said. “Stop playing dumb.”
“Now listen here.  You have ten seconds to get off my property before I get my gun.  Got it?”
“Stop it.”
“Stop lying.”
He’s playing games.  What game is next?
“Screw you!” Anger boiled over and she shoved the door inward, slamming it into him; he fell backwards with his hands cupping his face.  She reached into the purse, grabbed the Taser, and pointed it towards him as she stepped into the house.  “Now, are you done with your crap?”
Carefully, he took his hand from his face; blood ran from his forehead into his fake eye, tinting the blue iris red. 
“Now just wait a second,” he said, his trembling palms facing her. “I don’t know you, and I didn’t do nothing to you.  Take anything you want and I won’t tell a soul, swear on my momma.”
“I don’t care about your swears.  I got questions, and you better answer them. Okay?”
He nodded.
“I’ll do the counting,” she said.  “One, why are you following me around town?”
“Following you?  I ain’t ever seen you before.  I told you that.”
“Wrong answer.”  She rushed at him and slammed the Taser against his chest as she pushed the trigger switch.
It seemed to happen in slow motion; his eyes widened, his fake eye trembling in its socket.  He let out a muffled scream as he crumbled to the floor, every part of him shaking.  A second, louder scream rung out, and he gripped his chest.
“Please,” he pleaded.  “No more.  I have a pacemaker.”
“Two.  Ready to answer now?”  She held the Taser near his forehead as he frantically nodded.  “Why do you keep coming to Hurley’s and staring at me?”
“Hurley’s?”  He looked at her intently.  “Oh hell, I do know you.  You’re one of the bartenders there. You were working tonight, yeah?”
She nodded.
He continued:  “Tonight was the first time I’ve been to Hurley’s in a year.”
“What?” she asked.  “What are you talking about?”
“I go on my late wife’s birthday.  Tonight, the 22nd of February.  That’s where we met.  Been going the last four years.”
“I—” she paused.  “I don’t understand.  I see you there every time I’m working.”
“I swear I have no idea what you’re talking about.  Please, don’t hurt me anymore.”
He’s lying!  But the man’s face overwhelmed that thought.  As he watched her, one eye wide, the other bloodstained, he looked much older, much more fragile.  Deep lines of wrinkles covered his face and the empty scalp of his head.   His breathing was sporadic and challenged, as if the air had to maneuver an obstacle course to reach his lungs. She first guessed he was in his fifties, but the man kneeling in front of her had to be in his late sixties. 
What have I done? she thought.  What needed to be done.  No.  Stop.  Please.
“You were at Hurley’s last year on February 22?” she asked.
“Yeah.  Why?”
“That was my first day working there.  You wore a v-neck undershirt, right?”
“I, I don’t know.  I don’t know.”
“It’s okay,” she said as she lowered the Taser.  “I’m sorry.  I’m really sorry.  I’ll leave now, okay?”
He nodded hesitantly.
“Just one last question,” she said.  “How did you lose the eye?”
His hand touched the skin near his fake eye, a reflex she figured when someone asked about it.  “Nam.”
“Aw.” She gazed down to the floor and said, “Please don’t call the cops.”
“Okay, okay.  I won’t tell anyone.  Just please leave.”
“Yeah.”  She sighed and walked out the door, wondering how she would live with herself after tasering a grieving veteran.
She was thankful the bar was still empty two hours later.  As she stood cleaning a glass, she finally decided to read the email she had thought about since leaving the man’s house.
She pulled out her phone, hit the Gmail app, and searched for her mom’s name.  The email she received two weeks ago popped up.

Hi sweetie.
I tried calling.  Bad news.  Grandma had another episode.  She called me and said that men were in her house and the voices were louder than ever.  I rushed over to her house, but she had already torn it apart.  We had to check her into Austin Oaks, there was just no other way.  If you get a chance, can you call her?  I know she’d love to hear from you, and it might calm her down.

She read the email over and over, analyzing every word.  Voices.  Men.  Austin Oaks.  Was that her future?  Where they would take her?
In her periphery, she saw police officers walk into the bar.  She was somewhat relieved, because she couldn’t wait to get away from the creeper sitting in the bar, grinning and raising a toast her way, his one fake eye staring into her soul.

Yeah, take that CREEPER!!!!  Now onto our giveaway … today our featured author Jason Huebinger is giving away FIVE PRINT COPIES of FATES PAST!!! That’s right!!! FIVE!!! 
To enter: Click on back to the FB Event Page, find today’s post featuring Jason and comment, “I WANT TO WIN!” in that post!!! Good luck to all!!!

FATE’S PAST is the story of a couple, Cameron Harrison and Carrie Fields. While driving in rural Louisiana, Cameron and Carrie notice that their environment has changed—a faint cloud distorts the empty road, the clocks blink “00:00,” and a feeling of lifelessness creeps through their veins. For miles, they do not see any other cars, animals, or people.
Then their experiences splinter. Carrie hears sounds that Cameron cannot hear. Cameron sees things that Carrie cannot see. As Cameron and Carrie wander through the unfamiliar landscape, they are literally hunted by their biggest regrets, forcing the two to separate. And in confronting their regrets, Carrie and Cameron must come to grips with who they were in order to escape their suffering, find one another, and take the next step in their journey together.
Outside of his family, Jason Huebinger has two great loves in life--the law and writing. And he has been blessed with incredible opportunities in both areas.

He grew up in McAllen, Texas, right near the border of Mexico. As a freshman in high school, he wrote short stories for extra credit and just never stopped writing. He is a proud alum and rabid fan of Texas A&M and Notre Dame, and he scares his dog whenever he roots for either. He has a beautiful wife, Yasmin, whose only flaw is that she is a LSU fan. By day, he is a lawyer who specializes in labor and employment litigation.

His debut novel, FATE'S PAST, is a supernatural horror work scheduled to be published by Pandamoon Publishing on April 12, 2016.