“Hey, stop! What the hell you little spooks up to? Did you just steal that? Gimme that, let’s see what you got,” Manis demanded.
Roy Manis was the second shift security guard at the Miller Creek Mall. A blatant bully and overt racist, he may have had a promising career on the police force if not for the formerly stated. He was tops in his class at the academy, a crack shot with a keen sense for detecting criminal behavior, a virtual future shoe-in for a gold detective badge. Unfortunately for him, as much as it was likewise fortunate for the city, his success bred arrogance, a trait that led him all the way to the unemployment line.
As if a drowning event at the beach wasn’t tragic enough for the visiting family, then officer Manis somehow thought he would garner accolades from his fellow officers by kicking sand at the mourning siblings of the drowned boy, an incident caught on film by local news crews.
The camera however was not sensitive enough to discern his words from so many others amid the chaos of the scene. Witnesses would testify that what he said was eviler and more wrong than any one person could imagine.
The hearing held by the fire and police commission ruled the testimony as hear-say and ordered it stricken from public record. Manis himself decried the accusations as baseless lies and that he was only attempting to kick away a bee that had fallen to the beach. He surmised that had any one of the children been allergic, the situation could have become even worse and he should in reality be rewarded for his actions. The commission wholeheartedly disagreed.
The boys at the mall were well aware of Manis’ reputation for cruelty to children and complied out of fear.
“You let those boys go right this instant. And give them back their bag. You have no right to harass them. Do you really think they’d steal something and then take a bag too? With our logo on it yet? And spooks? Are you kidding me? Go on boys, you’re fine. Come see me next time I’ll have a little something extra for you,” she said.
“What? It’s a Halloween store right? Spooks, goblins, that sort of thing? Look, just because you work here doesn’t give you the right to tell me how to do my job,” Manis said.
“You see what it says on the sign? I’ll help you in case you can’t read. It says Seely’s Unique Boutique. That’s me, that’s my name, Tempest Seely. I don’t just work here, I own this place. You, Roy Manis work for me, and I swear to God if I catch you harassing any more of my customers, and for that matter, anyone else in here, I’ll make your life a living hell,” Tempest said.
“God? Ha, that’s a laugh. I thought witches like you didn’t believe in God. And no, I don’t work for you, I work for the owners of the mall,” Roy said.
“I am Wiccan Mr. Manis, and my beliefs regarding supreme deities is almost certainly beyond your comprehension of who or what God may be. Rest assured security guard, the rule of three will be harder on you than most, and that, Mr. Manis is a fate you have indignantly earned,” she said.
“Yeah whatever, freak,” Manis said walking away.
He whistled often but only when he was alone. He never really gave it a thought, even though he was pretty good at it. Tonight, like so many others he whistled his way through his rounds, making certain that he was alone in the mall.
He made it a point to stop in front of Seely’s window and give the store a long, hard, finger.
“Fuck you witch,” he said to himself.
Directly across the mall, also on the second floor was the hobby shop. Blake Gift and Hobby. Roy considered the owner John Blake to be a friend of his. He vowed repeatedly to give John’s store extra attention due to their perceived relationship. “Nobody is taking nothin’ from you John, I guarantee it.” It was a sentiment John both appreciated and abhorred, much like making a deal with the devil, when the devil doesn’t know that you know it’s him.
Roy stood staring into the display window of the hobby shop. Front and center, mired in hanging cardboard planets, oversized plastic aliens, and spaceships stood the Interstellertron 3000, the last telescope anyone would ever need. At least that’s how it was marketed. In Roy’s case, it would be the only telescope anyone would ever borrow, something he did quite regularly.
As the only security, Roy kept a key for every store in the mall on a huge steel ring attached to his belt. He even had keys to the pull-down security grates meant to keep people like him out. He took macabre pleasure in pissing on the wall in various places like Seely’s, knowing that even though it would most likely be dry the next day, it would still maintain a foul and hard to find odor.
A faceless gray mannequin wearing a red ball cap backwards, blue jeans and a faded tee the owner brought from home peered into the viewfinder of the telescope. One plastic, immobile hand appeared to salute the stars while the other shaded the viewfinder from the many fluorescent suns of the mall.
“Move over buddy,” Roy said.
He slid the mannequin to the side in order to more easily remove the telescope from the display.
“You got it made buddy, just sittin’ here lookin’ at asses all day long,” Roy said.
He left with the telescope shaking his head, lamenting his luck compared to that of a store front mannequin.
The roof of the mall was Roy’s personal sanctum sanctorum, a holy place where he is self-allowed to violate the neighborhood.
The majority of houses surrounding the mall were of the same basic, post WWII simple construction. Often, only the lower panes of many of the bathroom windows enjoyed frosted glass.
Roy set up in his usual spot hidden alongside a giant HVAC unit. He kept a mental list of which houses he’s had the best luck seeing women in various stages of undress. He gave them names he thought best suited their physical attributes. His favorites included Big Blondie, Hair Girl, and Black Mamba. It only took one, and after that, it was usually less than a minute before he had to zip up his blue khaki guard pants and get back to work guarding the mall.
Mid October and business at the mall was booming, especially for Tempest Seely. Although her boutique regularly offered items some would consider a few shades darker than contemporary, the autumn season was by far her busiest. Costumes and specialty items available nowhere else pinned her squarely on the insider’s destination guide to one offs and unique Halloween fanfare.
A woman, definitely not young but undeterminably old stood quietly at the counter inside the boutique. Her head was wrapped in a tightly crocheted scarf that at one time used to be red. Her dress was plain and gray but vaguely Victorian, its white accents tarnished by time. Her skin and eyes were dark brown and if a person looked closely enough, they would see the ink of ritualistic tattoos under her eyes, but most people never got that close.
“Lady Pireau, how good to see you,” Tempest said gleefully.
“You as well. You are well, I know this to be,” Pireau said.
“Yes, yes, very well. And what do you have for me today?” Tempest asked.
“I have as you asked girl, they will harm no one, and no one may cause harm with them. I have seen to that,” she said.
Lady Pireau lifted a large burlap bag the size of a toaster oven onto the sales counter. Inside were two dozen perfectly hand crafted, tirelessly impotent voodoo dolls.
“They are absolutely incredible!” Tempest gushed looking into the bag.
“Come back to the office and I’ll get you paid,” she said.
“Help, help!” the child yelled.
A young boy, maybe ten years old dodging around customers and under clothes racks was busy running for his life with mall officer Roy Manis hot on his heels. The boy crashed directly into the arms of Lady Pireau, accidentally but possibly quite instinctively finding the very safest place to be.
“I got you, you little thief,” Roy said grabbing the boy’s arm.
“Unhand the boy!” Pireau screamed.
She raised her fully extended arm into the air easily breaking Roy’s grip.
“Manis what did I tell you about harassing kids in my store, this time you’ve gone too far!” Tempest protested.
“This little shit stole a pretzel out of the hot case at the food court. Seen it with my own eyes. Shoved most of it in his big damn mouth before I could even catch him,” Roy said.
Lady Pireau stroked the side of the boy’s face and held her other hand over his heart.
“That is because this boy has not eaten anything but trash in days,” she said slowly, quietly.
Lady Pireau wept silently, looking down on the boy, letting just a few of her tears drop onto his forehead. She spoke quietly.
“Let the belly always be full of this boy who has suffered,” she said.
She looked up at Roy, still grabbing for air after his run, face dripping with sweat and anger.
“And let he who has caused suffering, suffer unto himself his dire envy. Release him to things not meant to be to know what he has become,” she said.
Lady Pireau reached into the bag and removed one of the dolls.
“There will only be twenty-three my dear,” she said.
“Oh don’t worry about that, I would be glad to pay you in full,” Tempest replied.
Roy stood dumbfounded at his lack of willingness to pursue the issue any longer to the point where he inexplicably felt like he had to walk away.
“Oh and Roy, tell the people at Hot Sam’s I’ll be down to pay for his pretzel a little later would you please?” Tempest asked.
Roy was only able to obediently nod affirmatively as he shuffled out of the store.
The rest of his afternoon passed without trumpets or parade. He couldn’t wait for lock-up. With winter just around the corner, the cold fall nights were starting to affect Roy’s routine so the earlier the better. Once again he found himself in the hobby store display window.
“Hey buddy, how’s them asses today?” Roy laughed.
“Not to worry, I’ll have her back in a flash,” he said leaving.
Safely tucked into the shadow of the HVAC unit it didn’t take long for Roy to score.
“Oh baby! Black Mamba it is!” he said excitedly.
He unzipped his pants.
Far into the distant neighborhood a black woman stood topless with her back to the window. She was readying her bath as Roy waited with bated breath for her to turn around and inadvertently give him exactly what he came for. He grew increasingly impatient as she held her motionless pose for what seemed like an unnatural amount of time.
What the hell are you doing? It’s cold out here. He was amused by his own thoughts although be it only temporarily. Suddenly and without warning, an unexpected and overwhelming feeling of dread draped over him. His lecherous smile fell flat with all the anticipation of a man in a barrel about to go over the falls.
The Black Mamba, suddenly familiar, turned to face him. She stared directly into the telescope, far into the backs of Roy’s eyes, but somehow deeper. Lady Pireau then snapped her fingers across her face. In a blinding flash, Roy fell backwards into a state of unconscious, crashing hard onto the gravel covered roof of the mall.
He wasn’t sure how much time had passed. It took him a few seconds to even realize where he was. A good sign to him was that nobody was in the mall so he felt it couldn’t have been that long. He briefly remembered the flash and then recalled seeing Mamba and connecting her with the woman in the store earlier. So jarring was the revelation that he didn’t realize at first that he was not able to move anything besides his eyes. Even at that, they moved very little. They recognized no color as if he was looking out through lenses of dark gray or black.
Initially, Roy suffered through a few solid minutes of sheer panic until he caught his reflection in the glass. There, he saw himself in a red cap turned backwards, wearing blue jeans and a faded tee the owner brought from home. He was inconspicuously bent down over the Interstellartron 3000, shading the viewfinder from the lights of the mall. He could not move, he could not make a sound, he could only watch through gray eyes, one narrow view of the world outside his window.
A groundswell of end of the world terror and hysteria overtook him. His mind passed out, but his plastic mannequin body stayed steadfastly poised over the telescope.