Feather in the Tar: Flashlight

       Frank sits at an empty stool at the end of the bar. His hood is down, but he is hidden behind a cloud of smoke from his burning coat. The patrons around him are coughing. The woman next him is rubbing her eyes. She bends down from the smoke and vomits violently.

       “FIRE!” She yells as she lifts up too fast and collapses off the stool onto the woman sitting next to her. The physical therapist catches her, “thanks.”

       Few in the bar turn and look. The smoke quickly disperses, but the smell of burning leather makes its way along the crowd.

       “Oh,” a man in a blue button down covers his nose and mouth with his hand, “what is that smell?”

       “Bad barbeque,” his friend in running shorts and sweaty t-shirt responds.

       Coughing and gasping for air, only a few of customers closest to Frank head for the door. The rest are unaffected and continue with their conversations. Cyan looks over at the first mention of fire, but she only sees a cloud of smoke. The smell hits her in the face, and she covers her mouth while reaching for a fan on the shelf behind her. She doesn’t, no one notices Franks odd appearance. The plasma rail on his arm is hidden below the bar under the customer over-hang. Cyan walks towards him and places a drink napkin in front of him.

       She fans the smoke away from him, “what would you like?” She coughs, “sorry, where is that smoke coming from.” She looks behind and around him.

       Frank looks to her eyes. He says nothing.

       “What would you like?” Cyan asks again.

       Frank thinks back to the night they first met, “I’ll have a Jameson, neat.” His voice is mechanical, as if he is using an artificial larynx. His boiler pops into high, and the plasma rail glows blue. It is still resting below the lip and Cyan cannot see it directly. Frank is careful not to touch the bar.

       “OK. You don’t need that flashlight in here. The smokes gone.” He pushes his arm further under the ledge. She turns and walks to the middle of the bar. She leans down and takes out a fresh bottle of whisky. She unscrews the cap and lays it down. She carries the bottle back to Frank.

       “Hey Cyan, can you do something about that smell.” The smoke has disappeared, but the scent wafts and hangs all along the bar.

       “It’ll clear, just give the fan a chance.” She replies. She sets an empty doubles glass onto Frank’s drink napkin and pours a generous shot of Jameson. “I hope that helps with the smoke.” She smiles and sees Frank’s dead eyes for the first time. She notices the two camera lenses attached to his head and takes a half step back. It must be some kind of experimental rig for blindness. His lenses activate and zoom in on her eyes.

       “Oh my God,” her jaw drops, and she fumbles with the heavy bottle. She blinks and shakes her head to break the trance. Cyan turns around to the back of the bar. It can’t be she thinks to herself. It just can’t be, and she sets the bottle down across from Frank.

       “Hey man,” a patron on three stools down on the opposite wall touches Frank on the shoulder. You don’t need that flashlight. It’s hurting my girlfriends eyes.”

       “FULL PREASURE,” flashes in bright nixie blue across Frank’s virtual read-out. Instinctually, he spins around in his stool, and before the 30-something professional in a grey subtle stripe silk suit sans tie can react, Frank’s plasma rail swings around in an upward arch and cuts of the his head. His mouth and eyes are locked open as his head bounces once, twice on top of the bar. His body stands in place until a final bounce.

       The searing and thud sound draws Cyan back around, and she screams as she sees the shocked face and faded eyes. The guy’s girlfriend runs over him, as the entire bar turns towards Cyan, the scent of copper wafts toward them. The girlfriend just reaches her boyfriends body as it collapses straight down like a heap of fresh Chinese laundry. Frank swings his arm back towards the bar and cuts the top of her head off just at her mouth in mid-scream. It flies to and bounces off the back bar, knocking the bottle of Jameson to the ground.

       Cyan screams again. A 50-something gentleman is pulled off his stool and trampled as the crowd falls backwards and pushes out toward the street. He is out cold midway to the door and a heap forms on Frank’s side as they others scramble and claw to get out.

       “FRANK, FRANK!” Cyan yells at the top of her voice as her hands clutch the sides of her head. She turns and steps toward the door.

       “STOP! STOP CYAN.” Frank calls out to her.


       “DAMNIT, I DIDN’T DO IT.” Genie stands up, “I WANT A LAWYER.”

       “Calm down Genie,” Seven rushes to her side and wraps his arms around her.

       “I didn’t do it.” Genie begins to weep again. She turns toward Seven. “I didn’t kill Sal.”

       “Let’s take a break,” Cochran says and steps back from the couple. “We all need some air.”

       “LEUTENENT, COCH,” Sampson bursts into the room, and one of the hinges on the door pulls free. “We got to go Lieutenant.”

       “WHY, what’s going on?”

       “It just came over the radio. One, two, maybe more people at the Marina Lounge just had their heads CUT-OFF.”

       “WHAT?” Cochran heads to the door.

       “Hey, wait a minute.” Bardo lets go of Genie and grabs Cochran’s arm. “You’re not going to leave us here.

       “LET GO, Bardo. This is police business.” She yanks her arm from his grasp.

       Seven raises both of his arms, standoff with body language. “This proves Genie innocent. She was here with you the whole time.”

       “We’re going.” Genie adds and pushes past Cochran out the door.

       “I don’t have time to argue, DICK.” Cochran follows Genie out of the door and down the hall. Seven leaves the room last at a full run to catch up with the trio.

       “Tell me again what happened, Sergeant.” The Lt inspector sits next to Sampson as he starts the car and guns the engine. Genie is already sitting in the back seat. Its door is still open, and after car begins to pull away, Seven jumps into the back. Accelerating through a red light on Lombard, Sampson puts the magnetic cherry on top and turns on the siren. The force shuts the door.

       “I don’t know Lieutenant, dispatch put a live 911 through to the walkie.” He brakes and turns hard to the right on to Fillmore, barely missing a pug and its owner. She flips the cop car off. “Two headless victims at the Marina Lounge, and the a madman is till there.”

       “Any description?” Cochran asks.

       “Uh, yeah, but I don’t think, the caller is in shock.”

       “What?”

       “A street person, the smell was really rank, and something with a blue laser; a monster attacked two people and cut off their heads.”

       “HUH, that’s crazy.”

       “Yeah, what the fuck,” Seven says as he leans over the seat between the two officers.

       “I told you, SHOCK, its’ got to be shock.” Sampson answers. The tires on the cruiser squeal as it turns onto Chestnut. Cochran holds on to the window rail, but falls back on Genie.

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