"Who sent you?"
by Tony Noland
For the third time, my hand went numb as I again reached inside it and squeezed. When I did it the first time, its face became a crowded mass of fangs, barbed and bloody. Its neck elongated and it whipped the gaping maw downward. I felt cold pinpricks as it struck at my arm like a nightmarish cobra, again and again, biting and snapping. Soon, though, I'd found what I was looking for inside it. When I squeezed the spectre's heart, it screamed, yanking its head back in an agony that it had not only never felt, but had never even conceived of being able to feel.
Stupid piece of shit.
I gave it a solid working over, just to let it know I meant business. I mean, you'd think the fact that I'd captured it mid-flight would have been enough to tip the damned thing off that I wasn't a man to be screwed over, but no. Ghosts aren't the stupidest creatures in the world, but they are all as arrogant as any stuck-up Harvard rich kid, every single damned one of them. Furthermore, I've yet to meet a ghost who didn't think he was the meanest, scariest son of a bitch that ever floated across the face of the earth.
It pleaded and begged when I started to go in for the second time. Yeah, the threats and the snarling were old news after it had gotten its first taste of what I could do, but it still thought I was a regular human, the usual kind of dumb ass who was impressed by a little razzle-dazzle magic. It reshaped its body into a real knockout, a melon-breasted blond with wide, childbearing hips, exactly the kind of girl I liked. It was just like a ghost to think that because I had real blood in my veins, I could be led around by the dick.
Even so, I might not have given the treatment to it so hard the second time if it hadn't offered me three wishes to let it go. That was just a goddamn insult to my intelligence, that was. Oh yeah, it blubbered and cried even before I reached in, but when I took things up a notch? Hoo boy. With my hand wrapped around its frozen heart, squeezing and kneading, it was practically going berzerk with pain. I could feel the ichorous vapor pulsing as the heart tried to keep beating inside my clenching fist. But when I started digging my fingernails in? It completely lost shape and was just a mass of vapor for a while. Man, did it get a little taste of the kind of thing I could do to it, or what? Welcome to Agonyville - population: one shitbag ghost assassin.
More than half an hour I had to wait for it to regain consciousness. When it finally came to, the first thing it sees is me standing there. That same look of shock... I don't care if it's a spectre, a spirit or a hoodoo, they all look the same at that moment. And then, to feel that it was still pinned to the wall with that mop handle I'd shoved through it? I know you've never heard a ghost cry, I mean REALLY heard a ghost weep in despair and fear. I know it for two reasons. First, because people generally can't hear that sort of thing without going insane and taking their own lives the first chance they get. It's one of the sick little games ghosts play with us. Secondly... well, like I said, ghosts almost always think they're gonna win. In the normal course of events, they never feel fear or have reason to despair.
I get to hear 'em cry like that a lot, especially after a little softening up. It's a disgusting sound, to tell you the truth.
When its cries started to rise to the level of shrieks, I reached my hand out, as though to go in again. The cries turned back to histrionic pleading.
"Shut up," I said. It stifled the wailing down to a continuous moan. "I asked you this before and you gave me a line of bullshit," I said, "which made me angry. I hurt you because you lied to me. You said you weren't acting on orders from anyone."
It started to speak, but I cut it off. "If you tell me that again, I'm going to hurt you again. It gets a lot worse from here on in, you smoky-faced fuck, and I'm already in a bad mood. So don't try to bullshit me again. Clear?" Its whole body was trembling, but it nodded its head. "Now then, let's recap the evening. You came in here to kill me, but you decided to have a little fun first. While you were busy practicing for Halloween, I got the drop on you with the sharpened hunk of mistletoe on that mop handle. Any real ghostkiller would have been on guard against the ancient magic instead of assuming I was going to be easy pickings. Your boss must not think much of me to send someone like you to do the job.
"And speaking of your boss..." I put a hand on the end of the mop handle and started to drum my fingers. It quivered and flinched with every flex of the wood. "Who sent you? Who's your boss?"
Glowing tears made moonlight tracks down its face as it shook its head from side to side.
"Who. Sent. You." I flicked the wood with every syllable. The impaled ghost writhed, but still shook its head, refusing to say who wanted me not just dead, but soul-consumed.
I stepped back and laced my fingers together, giving it plenty of chance to see me crack my knuckles. It started to cry again.
"Oh, you'll tell me," I said. "I've got all night, and all day tomorrow to get it out of you."
And that was when I went in for the third time.
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