Get Ready for The Professional-Coming this Month!
Lucas is coming this month. Are you ready? If your itch is dying to be scratched right now, grab a copy of the novella “The Girl Next Door,” and get introduced to Lucas before he became The Professional.
Here’s an excerpt:
I woke up on Saturday morning to a pounding so loud it seemed like the house was coming down around me. It sounded like somebody was trying to knock the front door off its hinges. I bolted up, slid out of bed and went to the window to see what the hell was going on.
I saw the Thunderbird down at the curb at the same time that I heard Harold yell, “Annie! Annie, open this goddamn door! I know you’re up in there!”
I was already mad that this fool was on my property making all that racket. But then, under Harold’s pounding and yelling, I heard a pitiful wail come through the wall.
It was Lucas. The poor kid sounded like the Devil had him by the ankle was dragging him down to Hell.
That little boy’s terrified crying did something to me. I went from being mad to being something else, something dark and cold.
As I put my clothes on I felt like my mind was a room, and someone was standing at the door, flicking the light switch up and down. But instead of a light going on and off, it was my consciousness changing, moment by moment. As I got dressed, one moment I was in the present, in my bedroom in my house on Spruce Street. But in the next moment I was on the other side of the world, in Korea. And in that place, there was blood – so much blood.
I left my bedroom and went downstairs, one moment as my present self and the next as the soldier from my past, with the ghost of Korea finally caught up with me, pushing and encouraging me.
For ten years I’d tried to run and hide from that ghost, but had never been able to really get away. I suppose that I’d always known that one day it would find me; that one day it would catch me.
Now it was finally back, and it wanted blood.
When I stepped outside Harold looked over to my side of the porch. He glared at me, and then turned back to Alicia’s door, dismissing me as if I wasn’t worth his attention. He started banging and yelling again:
“Annie, open this damn door! Annie! Don’t make me break a goddamn window!”
I said, “I’m buying this house. You break a window, I’m taking it out of your ass.”
Harold looked at me again. He said, “Nigga, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll take your punk ass back in the house and mind your business.”
Now that I was out on the porch, I could hear Lucas’ crying more clearly, coming from an upstairs window. Harold heard him too, because he changed tactics. He yelled, “Lucas! Boy, come down here and open this damn door! Don’t make me take a strap to your ass along with your momma’s!”
I stepped off my porch and around to Alicia’s side of the yard. I was peripherally aware that some of our neighbors had heard the disturbance and had come out of their homes to see what was going on. I wondered if one of them – maybe the same person who’d called the police on Francis – would call them again. The ghost of Korea hoped that no one would.
Harold saw me coming and turned away from Alicia’s door. I sized him up; he was a little taller than me, but slender. He moved with catlike quickness – he was down the steps and in the yard coming at me in a hurry. His hands were fast, too. I almost saw the straight razor in his fist too late.
I was in Korea again. The North Korean soldier was running at me, screaming, his knife poised to kill me. I was scared back then. I’d been forced into a life or death, kill or be killed situation.
I wasn’t scared this time. But I wasn’t nineteen anymore, either. Maybe my reflexes were just a hair slower than they’d been ten years ago, because even though I was able to lean back far enough to dodge Harold’s swing so that he didn’t slice my face open, his blade caught me high on my chest.
As I reached to the spot the razor had sliced me, Harold said, “See boy, I told you.”
Harold’s razor was sharp, so I felt the splash of blood on my arms and hands before I felt the burning pain. But by the time the pain set in I was gone. The blood had taken me away, and taken me back in time.
The blood is on my face; in my eyes; soaking the front of my uniform. I wipe it from my eyes, and see the North Korean on the ground in front of me, on his back with his unseeing black eyes open wide. The wound in his throat is horrifying. It’s not even a wound – it’s what’s left after his head is almost separated from his body. His blood has come out so fast that the flow is already almost down to nothing. Most of it is on my face and the front of my uniform.
I hear the men in my company behind me, running from out of the trees. They’re too late. The blood is already on me. A man’s death is soaking into my face, into my skin. I wonder if it will ever wash away. I want to scream again, but somehow I manage to choke it back.
I’m disgusted, not at the blood, but at the way that it – and other things – make me feel. I can still feel the resistance of flesh against my bayonet blade, and the way that flesh yields to my strength. I can feel it up the length of the blade, along my rifle, and into my arms, the power I have over life, the power I have to take life away. And I feel it, another human being’s death. It’s on me, represented by blood, soaking into my uniform; my face; my skin. I want to scream again, not at the horror of the bloody death I’ve caused, but at the realization that a part of me – the evil part of me – likes it.
That ghost – that evil within me – has haunted me, chased me for ten years. And now it’s finally caught me.
As I pressed my hand to my wound, Harold said, “See boy, I told you.”
I guess he figured that he’d taught me my lesson, and that now I’d back off and leave him to handle his wife and son. But I wasn’t me anymore, and I wasn’t satisfied.
Maybe Harold saw something on my face or in my eyes, because in the next breath his look of victory fell off his face and he backed up in a hurry, so fast that he stumbled on Alicia’s porch steps and fell back onto them.
And then I was on him.
Alicia had come out onto the porch. She saw me cut and bleeding and cried out, “Cam, oh God!”
I wasn’t thinking about the blood on me. The thing inside me saw that offering as a pittance, and it wanted more.
I wasn’t stupid. I’d come out of my house with my own weapon, a switchblade, and as I fell on Harold I had it out and open.
I dropped all my weight on Harold, driving my knee into his midsection just below his chest, and felt and heard his breath leave his body in a whoosh. He tried to gasp and suck air back in, but I clamped my free hand on his throat, cutting it off. While he struggled to pry my hand off his throat I switched my grip on my knife’s handle and drew it back behind my head, gathering myself.
I could almost feel it, my blade sinking into his chest, finding his heart. I could feel the impact as I drove my blade so deep that my fist slammed into his chest. I could feel the spurt of hot blood, Harold’s life gushing from his body under my authority, under my power. I wanted to feel it, so badly.
Alicia didn’t shout my name. In fact, her voice was barely more than a whisper. But I heard her. Somehow her soft voice cut through my rage and my bloodlust.
I paused with my fist cocked, my blade ready for the kill. I looked up at Alicia standing above me on the edge of the porch, at the top of the steps.
The ghost from Korea, which was really just the darker part of my soul, wanted to kill Harold. It wanted blood. But the face of the woman I loved implored me not to do it. Without speaking, she told me that I didn’t have to give in to the monster inside me, that I was better than that, if I wanted to be.
But the blood called to me.
I wanted to feel it, so badly.
THE GIRL NEXT DOOR