SKIN SUIT: a horror story in six parts.
There were many things Charlie Attenborough might have done on March 29. For example, he could have taken the day off from work and rested his ailing hip. He could have phoned his aged mother, Delores, a resident of the Sunnyside Retirement Home, just to issue a long overdue hello. He could have dropped off a back-rent check with his landlord, Sammy Watersmith. Lots of things. Instead, Charlie Attenborough went to the post office.
Charlie arrived just prior to the 5:00 p.m. closing. I watched though the glass panel of the front door as he sucked in the brisk afternoon air and stepped out of his maroon Chevy. Attenborough was a stocky, balding man who worked as a contract electrician. His hands were heavily calloused and he was prone to sudden outbreaks of psoriasis.
“Gotta grab the mail,” he said, pushing open the door and waving a key near my face as I attempted to lock up.
He opened and closed his post office box.
“Nothing but bills,” he said, slipping the envelopes into his front pocket.
“How’s it going, Bridger?”
“Going okay, I guess.”
“You, uh, dating anyone these days? Special lady friend maybe?”
I stared at Attenborough and shook my head slightly.
“No. I didn’t think so. See, the thing is, I seen you. Month or two back. You and Hoffmeyer. I seen you in the men’s room at the tavern. Seen and heard. That ain’t right. What you’re doing ain’t natural,” Charlie said, shaking his head in exaggerated disapproval.
“Of course, it’s none of my business what a man—what two men—do with their personal lives. But, ya know, information like that in the wrong hands. Fellow could get hurt, or worse. Much worse.”
“What do you want, Charlie?” I asked, discretely, and quietly inserted a key into the inside cylinder housing of the door lock before rotating it clockwise.
What followed was a brief tête-à-tête in which a verbal agreement was reached.
“You’re a smart man, Bridger. And I’ll expect the first installment by the end of this week.”
“I’m glad we’ve reached a consensus,” I nodded and extended a hand as Charlie approached the locked door. There was no handshake. The blade concealed between my index and middle finger was miniscule, a little penknife I kept in my pocket and used on envelopes and packages. I closed my hand into a fist and quickly drove the blade upward into Attenborough’s neck, smashing Attenborough’s windpipe while tearing through flesh. Charlie reeled and fell backward and against the wall of metal mailboxes as a light spray of blood splashed side to side and decorated the room in a primal crimson graffiti.
Later that evening, I returned to the building with C.F., who followed me through the lobby and past the cashier area of the building. We stepped through a door and walked toward a small room where mail was typically sorted. The darkness through which we moved was broken only by a metal flashlight. C.F. shook his head in disbelief.
“What a mess. You could have simply agreed to pay him, old chap,” C.F. said, staring at the corpse sprawled out along the floor.
“What’s done is done,” I whispered.
“I suppose so. What’s the game plan? Do you have one?” C.F. asked.
I retrieved and unlatched a black tackle box from an adjacent desk. The metal blades within glistened against the glow of the flashlight and I passed a cleaver to C.F.
“Jesus Christ, Bridger. Is this really necessary? I mean, he’s dead, right?” C.F. asked.
“He is. I just want to make certain he stays that way.”
NEXT: SKIN SUIT continues.