Saturday, October 14, 2017

W. POTOCKI: Curses Pass & Giveaway

Copyright © 2017 W. Potocki

A dull blackness greeted John Manning.
It wasn’t usually that way. A welcome dose of sunshine was normally there to start the financier’s day. Only in the winter or when a storm front was rolling in was it this dark in the mornings. The only other time was when it was that day—the one he avoided at all costs.
Friday the 13th.
The day would creep up on him if he let it, but John had long since taken the necessary steps to avert disaster by subscribing to a service that alerted him to one’s approach weeks ahead of schedule.
It made not booking clients on the auspicious occasions that much easier.
The drawn shades and curtains accounted for the dark, but they were a necessary precaution. Whatever was happening on the other side of the window was none of his business— not today it wasn’t. But keeping prying eyes out of his life was a priority.
Rising out of bed with a yawn and good stretch, he switched on a light and padded to the bathroom to indulge in a hot shower. The water pelting against his body felt more than good and would have to suffice since the other parts of his daily routine were taboo. Shaving usually followed, but there’d be no use of sharp instruments until this day was sayonara. He wouldn’t tempt fate and a slit throat would serve him right.
He’d been warned.
He dried himself off, dressing in casual attire before hanging on to the railing for dear life. The stairs were no joke. One could take a life-ending spill if not careful. The attention to detail continued throughout the scrambling of two eggs. A nasty splatter would require a trip to the hospital, and staying inside was of prime importance.
The proactive approach paid off. The preparation of breakfast left him intact. He’d only just sat down to partake of the tasty fare when the buzzer sounded. A look chanced out the peephole brought him eye-to-eye with a tall man dressed in a familiar brown uniform. Pulling back for a wider view, he saw a package tucked under his arm.
“Just a minute!” he shouted as he ran to the window and looked outside by means of a handheld mirror. No way a drone could misidentify his face and launch an errant strike using this tactic.
Although there was a truck parked in front, it could all be a part of a serial killer’s clever ruse. After all, he hadn’t bought anything and this wasn’t Clem, the deliveryman he’d come to know.
Tiptoeing through the vestibule, John unlocked the front door before retreating back behind the inner one.
“Sir! Sir! I need your signature!” the uniformed stranger with the nametag William pleaded.
He would say that. It didn’t prove anything, but John knew what to do.
“Then place the Diad on the floor and step outside!” he fired back.
Repeating the instruction two more times was required for William, if he was a William, to comply. With the hallway empty, John grabbed the scanner and scribbled his name before scrambling back to safety.
“It’s signed!” he shouted from behind the locked barricade.
“Thank you, sir!” the intruder exclaimed.
John waited with an ear pressed against the painted wood.
While it sounded as if William had left, it could be a trick. The muscular specimen could just as easily be crouched down and readying an attack. Another sprint to the window confirmed the truck driving off and vanishing around the corner.
The coast was clear.
Putting the mirror away, John retrieved the package. The name of the sender struck almost as much terror in him as the accursed day.
The self-same woman who refused to believe in such things as curses and prophecies that came true was responsible for the false alarm. Well, he’d had enough of his sister’s dismissive attitude, and he’d tell her so—tonight.
* * *
“Kate, you had absolutely no right sending me that overnight delivery! You knew damned well it would arrive today, and that—”
“You’d be forced to interact with the world? Yes, of course I knew! It was the entire point, you imbecile! I want you to get over this obsession, John! Friday the 13th is just another day!”
Kate’s Skye Terrier Noodles was near her feet, lapping up his portion of dinner spread out on the white china.
His sister’s four-legged companion had the right idea. The roast beef John served was tender, moist, and delicious. The wine was perfect also. There was only one thing wrong with the meal—and he was looking at it, and had been for thirty-seven-years.
“It’s not your business to tell me how to run my life!” he bellowed. “Or to keep inviting yourself over to dinner! Why I allow you to keep bullying me into you barging over and eating me out of house and home while you nitpick every scintilla of what you think is wrong about me is—”
“Me, a bully?” she interrupted, but when was he allowed to get a sentence out with her around? “Ridiculous! You should be happy that I take pity on you and provide you with entertainment. And I might remind you that it’s your fault you’re all alone. It’s all on you.”
He cocked his head, wondering what the penalty was for strangling a sibling.
“Are you badgering me about my marital status, Kate? Are you really going there yet again?”
“Well, you are nearly forty. You’re not a child any longer, and you shouldn’t be finding pleasure in responding to anonymous women on online dating sites. Those one-night stands lead to nowhere.”
She was wrong … sometimes they led to two-night stands.
Not bothering with an explanation, he chewed in silence, pretending that every bite he took was an opportunity to sink his teeth into her thick neck.
“The silent treatment?” she taunted, but then she was never one to leave well enough alone. A meddler. That was what she was. If meddling were a profession, she would be gainfully employed in a lifelong career. But it wasn’t a career, and he was sick of her interference, but there she went anyway.
“If you don’t want to discuss being a man whore, then how about the habit of hermitizing yourself on Friday the 13th? Nothing is going to happen, John. Nothing except you losing a full day to abject foolishness.”
“It’s destiny,” he remarked before sipping more wine. He was going to need another glassful before this night was over.
“No, it’s not! If it were destiny, it would happen no matter what you did; that’s what fate is. The roof would cave in. Or there would be an earthquake that would swallow you up in a fissure. What I’m trying to say is that prophecies aren’t always right, John. Especially ones given at the fair.”
Belittling … belittling … always belittling …
“Sharma didn’t work at the fair. She had her own shop, and was only appearing at the carnival to help charity. Don’t you remember? Mother used to consult with her on a regular basis. She was part of Sharma’s devoted clientele.”
“Oh, I remember! That charlatan is the one who predicted our parents would divorce.”
“Which they did,” he reminded as he made good on refilling his goblet.
The matronly forty-one-year-old shrugged as she twisted her wedding ring. Another piece of meat was passed to Noodles.
“Maybe that wasn’t a good example,” she allowed.
“And maybe it was. She was right about the divorce and about Dad cheating. Nobody even guessed that he was such a philanderer, but Sharma knew.”
“A trait which you seem to have inherited,” she sniped.
“I do not engage in sex with unattractive women!” he defended.
“That’s the objection you have to Father boinking our seventh-grade teacher?”
He mulled over his response.
“One of many,” he mumbled.
“God, you are such a misogynist! You’ll never get married at this rate. And you’ve managed to get me off the subject of that stupid woman!”
“Yes, Sharma! What exactly did she say and could you be a darling and bring me more water?”
Groaning, he pressed to his feet and toddled to the kitchen, complaining every step of the way.
“That’s the problem with serving dinner; you don’t actually get to eat any of it yourself! How many trips have I taken to the kitchen? Twenty? Thirty?”
“Only six,” she placated.
“Six? Pretty exact number, Kate. What? Have you been counting?” he asked as he sat back down and gave Noodles a pat.
 His sister feigned shock at the accusation.
“Me? Never!” she exclaimed, but a giggle leaked out and spoiled the performance.
“Okay, what’s going on, my backstabbing sister? Why are you laughing about my going to the kitchen?
“I’m not. I was laughing about something entirely different.”
“Kate—” he growled.
“Could we get back to this obsession, John? I think it’s all connected.”
“You mean, Mother traumatizing me by taking me to the fair?”
“Yes, that’s exactly what I mean,” she said, breaking off another piece of muffin and buttering it before soaking it in gravy.
“I don’t believe my hatred for women started then.”
“Oh, so you admit the misogyny!” she exclaimed
“Not admitting anything except that I’ve never been so scared in my entire life. Why Mother elected to leave me alone with that … that … witch!”
“You do realize that being a witch is a religion and that you’ve just insulted all witches everywhere?”
His brown eyes narrowed.
“I hate it when you get all PC and sanctimonious on me, Kate. I really do. The word was figurative and not to be taken literally.”
“Do you toss around your client’s money like you do terminology? I highly doubt it. Now about Sharma, what exactly did she say?”
Closing his eyes, the painful memory came rushing back. The panic, the fear, the wishing he’d never heard what Sharma assured was “his destiny.”
“She said I was cursed, and that I would die on Friday the 13th. Dessert?” he asked as he stood and picked up his plate.
His sister nodded, her dog Noodles wagging his tail and tagging along. The scooping of the frozen confection didn’t take long, and conversation abated until his return. After all, a discussion about one’s demise was best not shouted.
“Seven,” he announced in case she’d lost count of the trips. She giggled again. An evil eye cast in her direction expressed some of the animosity brimming over the cauldron inside, but there was the prophecy hanging in the air like some ghastly odor.
They both spooned the sorbet, Kate emitting a sound denoting intense pleasure at first taste. She took another helping before speaking.
“And that’s all she said? That you’d die? She didn’t mention how or—”
“Yes, she said I’d be murdered.”
That took out the flush in her cheeks. He’d have said it sooner if he knew the impact it would have.
“But that doesn’t tell you much, and how could you be cursed? You were only nine as I recall. What could you possibly have done to rise to the level of someone placing a curse on you?”
“There’s just one thing it could be.”
“Then there was something?”
“What?” she pressed.
“I stuck chewing gum on a gentleman’s backside at the cinema. The line was taking too long, and he’d told me to shut up numerous times during the showing of the film. He didn’t notice it until crossing the road and must have twisted around to get it off, when he was struck by a car.”
“And you know this how?”
“I recognized his picture in the paper the next day. “
“And it mentioned the gum?”
“No, only the fact he’d been killed.”
“I see! So based on what Sharma said, you filled in the rest, making it a self-fulfilling prophecy! John, don’t you see that you did nothing that any bored child might do, but you’ve blown up a silly prank into something deserving of a curse! This really has gone too far!”
“Stop!” she yelled as she shoved her palm into his face. “What that fake psychic said was enough to put a scare into an impressionable child, but as I keep reminding you, you’re not a child anymore! View things through adult eyes and you’ll see that what she said wasn’t set in stone. She had no magical powers! She was only a phony who used a scam to bilk people out of money! Mother included! It’s time to put these fantasies away!”
The blistering attack over, a silence reigned.
It was easy enough for her to say, but she hadn’t been there. She hadn’t looked into those hypnotic eyes rimmed in strokes of black. The woman cloaked in scarves was impossible to tear away from. Sharma’s words punishing, his heart had literally stopped—only for a fraction of a second, but stop it did.
The moment let him know how it would feel to be dead.
Of course, there was more—there always was in matters such as these, but he’d never told anyone about the second part of the prophecy.
The cryptic words haunted him, and he’d never wanted to involve anyone else in the horror of deciphering the mystery—not even Kate. Why involve her in such hocus pocus? Besides, if he didn’t understand—
How would his sister?
“I don’t know why I’m trying so hard to convince you. After tonight, it won’t matter,” she whispered with a grin.
John’s head shot up.
“What? Why won’t it matter?” he queried at the resting b*tch face.
“You’ll see,” came the enigmatic reply. Followed by a wink, she swiped at her mouth with a napkin. “Dinner was lovely, but it is after eleven, John. Seymour will be worried.”
Hs head swung to the clock in the hallway that was never wrong. A crestfallen expression dripped over his features. How could it be?
“That’s what happens when you have good company,” she teased, rising up. Noodles danced in place, anticipating departure.
“Not even passable company,” he murmured under his breath.
“What? What did you say?” she asked as she attached Noodles’ leash to the rhinestone-studded collar.
“I said thank you for the jogging outfit.”
“Then you did open the package?”
“Yes, I opened it.”
“I thought maybe you wouldn’t. As for the outfit, you might use it,” she joked, poking him in his soft middle section that never did firm up.
“Ah, a parting shot! How entirely predictable of you!” he retorted. Bending over, he gave his sister’s better half a pat. “Goodbye, Noodles. You are the only part of this team that’s welcome back!”
* * *
No signs of dinner remained.
The dirty dishes loaded in the dishwasher, the final bit of leftovers were stashed away. With a clean counter, there was only one thing left to do and that was retire. About to switch off the lights, he wavered as he listened to the noise filtering in from outside.
There it was again. He’d ignored the soft mewl the first few times, mostly because of the time. It hadn’t been past midnight and going outside was verboten. He checked the trusty clock in the hallway once again.
Well, there it was. He’d made it through unscathed.
Sharma be damned!
Breathing in deeply, he rounded up the cat treats he kept on hand. Tender-hearted was how his sister described his acts of kindness towards strays, but despite the accolades, it was another thing she’d like to change.
Fat chance!
“Here, kitty, kitty, kitty!” he called as he stepped outside into his backyard. The moon bright, he hadn’t bothered turning on the floodlights. No way he’d scare the poor thing half to death.
Craning his neck, he could not hear reciprocal sounds or discern any movement. He tried again.
“Here, kitty, kitty, kitty! Come on! Here’s some food for you, you dear little—”
He’d been bent over, in the process of placing the food dish on the ground when the first blow struck. Landing on the back of his neck, he tumbled forward, crashing shoulder-first onto the lawn. His arm hit at a bad angle—a sickening crunch signaled damage to cartilage and bone.
He moaned, writhing in agony before sprawling onto his back.
A rustling and flash of leg to the side and—
His right knee exploded.
His left knee followed. Both kneecaps shattered under the barrage; he heard himself scream.
Whoever carried out the assault was still there. The tears filling his eyes prevented him from seeing clearly, but those legs … those legs belonged to a woman. He’d been around enough to know that, but it was the baseball bat held in her hands that generated the panic.
His vision unclouded as his gaze drifted up, meeting the eyes painted in lunacy.
“It wasn’t a cat, you twit!” the red-haired hyena standing above him blasted.
She really was a mess. An abnormality oozing out of her, it made her febrile insanity almost contagious. The clown make-up spread thick over her features did an effective job in disguising her face, but not those eyes.
They looked familiar.
The downturned mouth bathed in a slash of red spreading from ear-to-ear opened as he braced for what she had to say.
“It’s me, John … the girl you took out three months ago! You were stupid enough to tell me that you fed strays, and I’ve been around enough cats to know how to make a proper sound.”
Three months?
 His brain was freezing up … going slow and skidding like a rabbit on ice. An advanced degree of hysteria causing the malfunction, he’d be hard-pressed to remember his own name, let alone a girl he dated three months ago.
With a maniacal laugh, the woman reached down, grabbing a metal pail off the grass and shoving it over his head. He’d left it there after watering the plants. He’d been too tired to bring it in. He so regretted the feeble excuse, but it didn’t matter. The bucket would never fit.
Wrong again!
It was only too tight if one cared about ripping his ears off. She didn’t. With the bucket in place—
In a matter of moments, the robust man was turned into the perfect victim, unable to defend himself. Crippled and blinded, the side of his head was the new target. He screamed again as nausea set in.
“I’m Mandy!” the shrill voice continued. “Mandy Campbell! We connected online and met at Thrushing Square! You promised a dinner at The Great Panjandrum. It was to be a romantic evening, but you cut the date short before we even ordered our meal, you bastard!”
The barrel of the bat struck again. The ringing wouldn’t stop as a headache kicked in. Worse than any migraine, the pain was intolerable and caused him to roll up in a ball. He had to get out of this mess and the only way was to remember!
Think, John, think!
Mandy! Yes, he did remember her. She’d been a thick awkward girl who could barely speak without spitting like a defective garden hose. She’d used an old photo to entice him. If she’d sent a current one, he’d never have wasted his time on that piece of—
“YOU LIED! You told me your name was Marshall Albright! WHY DID YOU DO THAT?” Your name is JOHN MANNING, YOU ASSH*LE! JOHN NOT MARSHALL!”
“You left abruptly—without paying for my drink! I was curious as to where a pig like you lived, and so I followed! Yes, I followed you home that night, but you didn’t even notice, did you? HOW COULD YOU HAVE NOT KNOWN I WAS FURIOUS? Too wrapped up in yourself to care? Or was it because you thought I was too stupid to do anything about it? Too dull to follow and USE YOUR ADDRESS TO FIND YOUR RIGHT NAME, you FU-K-K-K-K-KERRRR!”
The bat bounced off his cranium three times in quick succession. Lights behind his eyelids flashed as his skull caved in.
The girl dressed in something approximating a circus tent was correct. The night had been all about him. Sex was off the table, and he’d thought her too dim-witted to do much of anything—even swing a bat. But it was no time for confessions. Not with consciousness departing and leaving the John Manning station.
A greedy type of grogginess engulfed him as the ringing in his ears ratcheted up to deafening. He was staring death in the face when a sudden dawning lightened the hopelessness of the situation.
It wasn’t Friday the 13th.
That one factor made it impossible for him to die. Her voice cut through the joyous celebration going on inside.
“No explanation, John? No explanation as to why you didn’t call when you promised you would? What’s the matter? Was I too fat? Or perhaps I said the wrong thing? AS IF YOU’RE ANYONE TO TALK!
“That’s for not calling!”
 “That’s for lying!”
“That’s for humiliating me, you b*stard! I told all my friends you’d call, but you didn’t! YOU MADE A FOOL OUT OF ME!”
Wait! Hadn’t she already landed a blow for lying? He could have sworn she had, but then he wasn’t thinking very clearly.
Mandy was wielding the bat like a pro, and while he admired her catching on to major league form so quickly, his crushed nose and broken jaw took the edge off the achievement.
Loosened teeth backed up in his mouth as blood flowed into his airways. As he choked, the high-pitched barking of a dog closed in.
A harrowing scream affirmed it was. He’d recognize his sister’s big mouth anywhere.
He was right. He wouldn’t die. His sister was the unlikely savior. Then there was the trumpet of sirens. His neighbors must have called the authorities. The busybodies were rapacious about reporting even minor infractions, so this must have really gotten them going.
Footsteps running away. They were as ungainly as the person thundering across the lawn.
Mandy was gone.
“John, John!” Kate cried as she knelt beside him and took his hand. “Noodles must have known! He broke away and came straight here!”
God bless Noodles.
“But this … it’s all my fault!” she lamented. But why?
More footsteps.
“What’s going on, ma’am?” a male first responder queried.
“My brother! He’s been attacked by a clown that ran that way!” his sister explained in between gasps.
Not a clown … by Mandy Campbell … and she was wearing a wig!
Why couldn’t he speak? Why? He tried to move his fingertips, but those were numb as well.
“Get the cutters!” the first responder ordered as he fiddled with the misshapen bucket that wouldn’t squeeze over John’s oversized head.
His lungs filled with liquid as his will to live dwindled. He was drowning in his own blood.
“We’ve got to get this off, ma’am. Please back away.”
“Yes, yes, of course,” Kate acquiesced. “But I have to explain! John!” she called out. “John, I’m so sorry. It was because I didn’t believe you!”
Another set of hurried footsteps. This time, it was a woman telling Kate it was all right.
“No, no, it isn’t!” she countered. “You see, I had dinner here tonight. I made up pretenses to get my brother to go into the kitchen, and every time he went, I set the clock in the hall ahead. He always trusted that clock and so he thought it was after midnight and safe to come out. But don’t you see? It’s only 10:45!”
The wailing might be doing Kate some good, but the crocodile tears weren’t doing anything for him. It was still Friday the 13th and it meant that he was a goner. The second part of Sharma’s prophecy drifted in.
“The curse will pass to the one engaged in trickery.”
Although he never understood, he did now. As he drew his last breath, a giggle came from under the pail. He’d have the last laugh.
* * *
Mandy kept her eyes on the road—and on Kate.
She recognized the old battle axe from a news aggregation site she’d subscribed to. Learning all about John was the best seven dollars she’d ever spent. It was strange, but getting rid of John’s sister had never occurred to her before tonight, but why not? The bat was broken in and she had shared that final supper with the late Mr. Manning.
John had probably recounted the cruel treatment of women, including Mandy, and Kate had probably laughed and laughed. Brother and sis were so much alike. John hadn’t noticed Mandy following him … and Kate hadn’t either. Nobody noticed but that dog on the end of the long black leash. He kept craning his head around and growling, for all the good it did.
Kate took a turn onto a deserted street, and Mandy was right with her. The car put in park, she grabbed her bat and got out.
Why not get rid of the Manning family? All traces of John should be removed, and two killings in one night would be a good record. Besides, she’d always wanted a dog and this one would do.
* * *

Yup, it’s my turn to deliver and I’ll be giving away THE ADDUNE VAMPIRE TRILOGY!!!! I set the price to zero (as in nada) so Miranda Perry’s entire journey into the dark world of vampires is yours to enjoy!!!! Just click on the linked book covers to download!!!

Sweeping. Powerful. Unforgettable. Award-winning novelist W. Potocki takes you on a harrowing adventure. This Gothic journey into the dark world of vampires will leave you breathless.

Still shaken from the untimely death of her father, Miranda is forced to assume control of his business empire. She begins the arduous task of overhauling Perry Antiques, but soon discovers a priceless treasure that her father hid from the world. In attempting to ascertain its authenticity, she is placed in the crosshairs of a cunning vampire named Adduné. He is consumed with exacting vengeance for an unpardonable transgression--an offense that demands the ultimate punishment. There are "many twists and turns" throughout the story, and there "is no way anyone could have seen that ending!! Great read!" -- Brandi Pearson.

The Adduné Vampire Trilogy is the complete series and contains:
Part I. The Vampires Game
Part II. The House of Cards
Part III. The Reckoning

I was raised by wolves in the deepest part of Siberia. My brethren taught me the mother tongue, so “AAAARRRRRROOOOOO” probably means something much different to me than it does to you.
Trivia: I’m part amphibian and part wolverine; the secret to my marinara sauce is adding a drop of menstrual blood to the stewing tomatoes, and I'm in the Guinness Book of Records for holding my breath the longest during Tobe Hooper films. When not writing, I am training a squirrel army to wage war against my neighbors. As to how I remain so spry, I’m one of the undead. If you know anything about horror, that explanation should suffice.
In truth, I live and write in NYC, and am the author of eight books. I won the honor of being named One of the Top Ten Best “New” Horror Authors by Horror Novel Reviews, and last year, I was an award-winner in the Male v Female Writing Competition hosted by J. Ellington Ashton Press. In terms of writing style, I was heavily influenced by Ira Levin. I loved the way his work developed around one central horrifyingly creepy idea and that blood and gore weren’t used to mask the enormity of it.
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