Read Bloodfire (Empire of Fangs) Online

Authors: Andrew Domonkos

Bloodfire (Empire of Fangs) (10 page)

16.

 
 
 
 
 

Mark sat in his trashed living room with his head in his hands.
 
Leo was outside the apartment, talking on his phone.
 
The cops had torn apart the air conditioning and it was boiling hot in the room.
 

 

Mark got up and looked for the remote in the clutter.
 
He found it and turned on the TV.
 
He flipped around the local news channels and found nothing about Zara or himself.
 
There were several active blazes still spreading. The blaze in Black Forest had already devoured 5000 acres, the reporter said.
 
The fires outside Gunnison and Silverthorne were out of control.
 
Firefighters were exhausted and had limited resources.
 
Thousands had lost their homes, and over thirty people had either died, or had been reported missing.
 
A woman bawled into a reporter’s microphone over her lost cat, Charlie.
 

 

Mark took out his phone and tried Zara’s number again.
 
Nothing.
 
The sound of her recorded voice was unbearable.
  

 

Outside Leo shouted something threatening into the phone.
 
Mark went into Zara’s room, which was even more trashed than the living room.
 
Her bed had been flipped, her cow clock smashed to pieces, her posters torn down to search for any hidden compartments.
 
Mark sighed and sifted through the mess on the floor-- photos and schoolwork mostly.
 

 

He found an old yearbook-- Arvada High 2009.
 
Mark remembered Zara’s Graduation.
 
He had been so proud.
 
He remembered meeting Twig that day too, after the ceremony when everyone was standing around in their robes talking about the future.
 
Nobody was there to cheer for Twig except his friends, and he stood away from the joyful clusters of family with a hangdog look on his face.
 
Mark had asked him if he wanted to join them for a celebratory pizza down the street, an offer Twig enthusiastically accepted.
 
They had played pool and he thanked Mark
 
many times, and when Mark drove him home that nasty woman at his foster home chewed him out for being late for dinner.
 
She had made macaroni and cheese.
 
Zara told her dad on the drive home that that was all she made—a big huge pot of the stuff to feed the six foster kids.
 
She said they all lived in a cramped room so that the woman could collect a monthly check.
 
It was like a business to them.

 

Mark sat on the floor and flipped through the pages of the yearbook.
 
Someone named Amy had scrawled “Don’t lose touch! Love
ya
Z!”
 
Mark scanned over the other sundry sentiments, and found one that stood out.

 


Zar
, you’re a great friend, and I know you’ll go far in this world.
 
Thanks for being there.” Twig-

 

Mark read the words twice.
 
He couldn’t believe this nice kid was some murdering psychopath.
 

 

He flipped through the pages, past the black and white faces of the fearful freshmen and the confident seniors.
 
He found his daughter’s picture.
 
She had just gotten her blonde streaks that year, and her hair was swept over one eye.
 
Her smile seemed more hesitant than those on the faces all around her, more skeptical of the perfect future that lay in wait for her.
 

 

Mark flipped to the end of the book.
 
A photo had been stuck to the last page, obviously missed by the marauding cops.
  

 

It took a moment to realize the boy holding the big fish was Twig.
 
He was wearing an oversized flannel shirt and muddy pants.
 
He was looking up and away, with mock nobility, with his other hand on his hip like he was some romantic conqueror.
 
Behind him an old painted sign read, “Dream Lake.”
 

 

He peeled the picture off and tossed the yearbook aside.
 
He went back into the living room where his brother was searching the cabinets.
 
“Don’t you have anything to drink in here? It’s been a trying day,” he said with a sigh.

 

Mark went into the kitchen, and reached up into a cabinet over the stove.
 
He found an old bottle of whiskey and set it on the counter.

 

“This the one I gave you on your wedding day? You never drank it? Do you know how much this stuff costs?” Leo asked with his accusatory lawyer’s tone.
 

 

“Told you I don’t drink.”

 

Leo shook his head and broke the seal on the bottle.
 
He found a glass and poured himself a good belt of the stuff. He threw the drink back and set the glass on the counter and sighed.
 
He was sweating profusely in the hot little apartment.

 

“Pardon me.
Gotta
use the bathroom.”
 
Leo said. He slid past Mark in the tiny kitchen and went into the bathroom.
 
Mark hadn’t seen his brother in a long time, but didn’t remember him being this nervous and sweaty.

 

Mark noticed his brother had left his fancy phone next to the empty glass.
 
He picked it up and tapped on the Google button.
 
He typed “Dream Lake Colorado” and waited for the results to load.
 
In a moment, a page of links came up.
 
He tapped on the top link, and a page loaded that said “Lost Valley Historical Tours” appeared, with a tiny montage of people enjoying various wild-west themed activities.
 
He was trying to find the map when the phone suddenly vibrated in his hand.
 
On the screen it read:

 

Omw
, keep him there.

 

Mark set the phone down carefully.
 
He noticed the keys next to his brother’s briefcase.
 
He snatched them up and slipped out the front door, quietly.
 

 
 

17.

 
 
 

           

 

           

 

“What’ll
ya
have there sprout?”
 
The crusty man said from behind the bar.

 

“You got Pabst?” Twig asked.

 

“Yeah we got that.”

 


Lemme
get two” Twig said, and slid a ten to the man.
 
“Keep the change.”

 

The man nodded and reached under the bar and pulled out two cans of Pabst out of a little fridge and placed them in front of Twig.
 
He opened one and leaned against the bar, putting his back to the bartender.
 

 

An older woman was at the end of the bar, staring at a little glass of whiskey and sucking on her teeth.
 

 

A few other old-timers were scattered about the bar, one nodding thoughtfully at the jukebox, which played a
twangy
country song.
 
Another was throwing darts so lazily hardly any were reaching the board.
 
The woman at the end of the bar smiled at Twig, showing him a few rotten teeth.
 

 

Twig picked up his beers.
 
He could see through a hallway to where the green of a pool table shone under a bright light.
 
He walked away from the seedy bartender and into the hallway.
 

 

A young guy was shooting a game of pool by himself.
 
He wore the usual mountain garb—the western button up, jeans and black scaly boots.
 
His cowboy hat was hanging on the wall, on a row of hooks designed exclusively for that purpose.
 

 

He had just racked the table and was about to break, when he looked up and grinned at Twig.
 
“Howdy,” he said.
 

 

“Sup,” Twig said, taking a sip of his beer.
 
He thought about going back to the bar.
 
He really wanted to sulk in peace.
 
He wanted time to think.
 

 

“Up for a game?” The young cowboy asked.
 
“I been playing myself here
cuz
those mummies out there all got shaky hands and couldn’t hit a barn with a bazooka.”
 

 

Twig chugged his beer and looked down at the triangle of colored balls.
 

 

“Damn boy.
 
You got a thirst up huh?”

 

Twig nodded.
 
“Eight ball?”
 
He asked.
 
He crunched the empty beer and set the disc on a nearby table.
 
He popped open the next one.
 

 

The kid slapped his knee and let out a whoop that almost made Twig jump.
 
“Now we’re talking!” he said.
 
He put out his hand.
 
“Name’s Casey, but everyone round this old
dirthole
calls me Case.”

 

Twig shook his hand.
 
“Twig.”

 

The guy laughed and lined up his shot.
 
“Now that’s a downright peculiarity.”
 
He jerked his arm forward and the triangle exploded and two solids went down.
 

 

Casey moved around the table like a panther sizing up its prey, making incredible shot after incredible shot.
 
He ran most of the table, only stopping occasionally to take a sip on his drink and chalk his cue.
 
Then, with two solids and the eight left, he missed what Twig thought was an easy shot.
 

 

“Guess I got too proud there
fer
a minute.
 
Pride’s a real killer
ya
know.”
 

 

Twig lit one of his cigarettes and turned away from the shark, putting his lighter on the table.
 
He took a good drag, took a sip of his beer and walked over to take his shot.
 
“You live in town?”
 
Twig asked.
 
He put the nine in the corner and moved around the table.
 
Casey sat on a stool by the wall and lit a thin cigar.
 
“If you could call it that,” he said.

 

Twig kept shooting.
 
He was no slouch at a billiards table.
 
He had the eight in his sights, a sitting duck on the rail.
 

 

Twig called the shot and looked over at Casey, to make sure he knew what was coming.
 

 

“You’re
gonna
miss,” the young man said with a devious smile.
 

 

Twig took the shot.
 
The eight rolled slowly to the pocket, but stopped short an inch from sinking.

 

Twig shrugged.
 
“Guess my aim
ain’t
what it used to be,” he said sheepishly.

 

Casey hopped from his stool and took aim.
 
He was focusing like a sniper.
 
He fired the cue ball into the eight and it went down with a loud plunk.
 

 

“Nice one,” Twig said.
 
He rounded the table, picked up his beer and walked over to Casey, who was bowing to an invisible audience.
 

 

Twig raised his beer.
 
“Thanks for the lesson,” he said.

 

Casey picked up his glass from the table behind him and tapped the glass against the beer can.
 

 

They both took a long drink. “Goddamn!” Casey said, slapping the pool table and whipping his lips with his collar.
 
“Stuff got kick.”

 

Twig nodded.
 

 

“Now, let’s play a new game,” Casey said wiping his mouth with his sleeve and chuckling. “Why don’t
ya
tell me where the girl’s at.
 
I reckon you
ain’t
a bad sort, just fell into the wrong crowd is all.
 
No reason we can’t all be civil bout this.”
 

 

Twig took a step back and held the pool stick in front of him.
 

 

“Alright then, guess we do this the hard way,” Casey said disappointedly.
 
He began to move forward very casually but stopped and put his hand to his gut.
 
He grunted in pain and fell to his knees.
 
“The hell is this?” He asked, looking wide-eyed at Twig, who looked coldly at the cowboy.

 

Twig pushed Casey over with his foot.
 
He squirmed and coughed and kicked wildly on the floor.
 
Twig walked calmly back through the hallway and up to the bar.
 

 

“Hell’s going on in there?” The bartender barked.
 
“You alright in there Case?”

 

“I would duck if I were you,” Twig said.
 

 

I’m So Lonesome I could Cry
crooned out from the jukebox.
 
Casey wailed like a banshee from the other room and then a loud explosion shook the bar.
 
Wooden shrapnel blasted through the hallway followed by a swirling tail of dust and debris. Everyone ducked except the old woman who kept on staring at her drink even as she was pelted with debris.
 
The eight ball rolled into the room and bounced off Twig’s shoe.
 

 

The bartender poked his head up over the bar, looking at Twig with terrified eyes.
 
“You know what you done?”
 
He asked.
 

 

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