Title: Cat O’ Nine Tales
Author: Krystal Lawrence
Publisher: Telemachus Press
Author: Krystal Lawrence
Publisher: Telemachus Press
What happens when you pursue your dreams into the desert after dark?
Beware the man borne of your imagination. He could seek vengeance on the one who created him.
Visit a bookstore offering a most alluring and sinister service.
Journey to the dark side with ten twisted tales of horror, malevolence, and the truly uncanny.
On an overcast Tuesday, Brianna awoke to a commotion out on her back patio in the early morning hours. Glancing at the clock next to her bed, she saw it was just after sunrise.
Having no idea what all the racket was, Brianna flung open the window shade in her bedroom. Taking in the unbelievable scene playing out below her in the backyard, she stumbled away from the window and screamed.
Literally hundreds of birds were whirling in a dizzying cloud on her lawn. They formed a tight sphere and appeared to be pecking and clawing at something caught between them. Brianna had never seen so many birds at once.
The way they were moving together in that frenzied dance was worse than anything from even Tippi Hedren’s worst nightmare.
All were converging on an unknown victim, in a blinding array of colors, shapes and sizes. Brianna could not see where one bird ended and another began. Their claws were working, their beaks snapping, and God help whatever was caught in the middle of the murderous orb they had formed.
She ran from the bedroom, taking the stairs two at a time.
As she approached the back door she heard the mad cacophony of thousands of beating wings. Bartholomew hissed and charged between Brianna’s feet and up the stairs, retreating to the safety of her bedroom.
Brianna cautiously opened the curtains on the back door. She watched in dumbstruck horror as the colorful shroud of madly pecking birds elevated into the sky. It was impossible to see if her trio of crows was a part of that insane roaring tapestry.
Brianna collapsed against the door as the thick veil of screaming feathers flew over the house and due south. Just as they were ascending over the trees, Brianna uttered an anguished moan.
Peeking from between all those madly rushing bodies was Rob’s staring face. It was frozen in a death mask and covered in dozens of bleeding scratches. Where his right eye should have been was only a bloody gaping hole. She saw this grisly scene for only a few seconds before the birds disappeared over the horizon.
With shaking hands Brianna unlocked the back door and stepped out onto her patio. Apart from several brightly colored feathers lying on the patio and strewn about the yard, there remained no evidence of the unspeakable horror she had just witnessed.
She plucked a single sleek black feather from the Dogwood tree and staggered back onto the patio. Falling into a chair, she called weakly, “Hey, crows. Are you guys here?”
The morning remained eerily still, and silent as a tomb. Her feeder sat empty and there was nothing perched in any of the bushes or trees. For the first time since she moved in, there was not a single bird anywhere in Brianna Douglas’s yard.
Eyes glazed over in shock, Brianna sat slumped against the table for several minutes. When the doorbell rang, she recoiled as though a canon had been fired next to her head.
Sucking in harsh gasps of air, she rose on wobbly legs and made her way to the front door. She did not recognize her visitors, but began shaking uncontrollably when she saw a police car parked in her driveway.
Convinced Rob’s body had already been found, she was sure the men on her porch were there to arrest her. She was the only person alive with a motive to kill him. It would, of course, be futile to try and explain to the authorities what fate had actually befallen him. Who in their right mind would believe it? She barely believed it herself. Brianna hoped Paula knew a good criminal defense attorney.
Neither of the two men waiting at her front door wore a police uniform. They were in business suits. Brianna steeled herself for their accusations and opened the door.
They smiled politely and held up their badges for her inspection. “Mrs. Douglas?”
Unable to trust herself to speak, Brianna nodded.
“I am Detective Ramirez, and this is my partner Detective Soames. We are sorry to disturb you at this hour, but we have reason to believe your life may be in danger.”
This was not what she was expecting to hear. For several seconds she did nothing but look back and forth between the two men, her brow knitted in confusion. Finally, Brianna whispered, “What?”
“Ma’am, we received a phone call this morning from a woman named Ariel Forbes. She claimed that her boyfriend——your ex-husband, Robert Douglas, was on his way over to your house with a gun. According to Ms. Forbes, he was planning to kill you. We put out an APB on his vehicle and it was located about a block from here. We were afraid we might have been too late. Have you seen or heard from Mr. Douglas today?”
Brianna shook her head. Tears welled in her eyes and she sagged against the door frame. The detective who had done all the talking put a supportive arm around her waist.
He said sympathetically, “I know this is a lot to absorb. May we come in? We don’t want to leave you alone until Mr. Douglas is apprehended. There are officers and a canine unit in the area looking for him. It’s only a matter of time before we catch him.”
Brianna allowed the officers inside. She looked nervously toward the backyard, but all was quiet there.
Brianna offered the detectives coffee, but her hands were shaking so badly she spilled the grounds all over the floor. Detective Soames wiped them up while Ramirez got the coffee pot going. Brianna excused herself to get dressed and went upstairs to her bedroom.
The full impact of what the detectives had told her hit her like a ton of bricks and she collapsed onto the bed. She now understood what this morning’s hellish occurrence was all about. The birds had saved her life. Equally amazing; the skinny, anorexic bitch alerted the cops to Rob’s plans in an effort to spare Brianna from his wrath. She supposed she should thank her.
Robert Douglas’s body was never found. His disappearance was investigated and even made news headlines. The case was listed as unsolved in the police archives. His fate remained a mystery to everyone. Only Brianna knew the truth.
Eventually the birds returned to her yard——all except the crows. Brianna waited for them every morning and left toast for them on the grass, but they did not show up.
After several months, Brianna accepted that they probably weren’t coming back. She missed them a great deal.
She reasoned they had been her guardian angels, and once they saved her from Rob, their job was done.
It was a pleasant surprise when the following summer she found a sparkling seashell waiting for her at the edge of the patio one morning.
She shaded her eyes against the sun and peered up into the Dogwood. The crows weren’t there.
That was okay. She smiled and held up the shell anyway. “Thanks, this is very pretty. Come back and see me, okay? I miss you guys.”
The next morning Brianna awoke to the familiar sound of the crows cawing, and looked out the window to see all three of them waiting patiently for their toast on the lawn.