Frighten Me has a special treat for OCTOBER FRIGHTS today! It’s the first part of a never before seen short story from Naching T. Kassa. This is a noir/horror story about a private detective in supernatural post-WWII New York called, “Medusa, My Sweet.” We hope you enjoy it.
Medusa, My Sweet
By Naching T. Kassa
I woke in a pool of blood. I knew it wasn’t mine. It wasn’t even red.
The blood, thick and black, had come from the body of a dame laying nearby. She’d been dressed to the nines in a scarlet-colored dress and matching snakeskin shoes. The cut to her neck was clean. Looked like one strike. I dipped a finger in the ichor and tasted. Definitely not human. Had to be Gorgon.
I struggled to remember how I’d come to be in this room. Hazy memories of a phone call from my new client—Sheila O’Shea—filled my head. Somebody had been threatening to kill her and her sister. She wanted me to come to her apartment and discuss it.
I’d arrived too late to save her and just in time to play patsy. Someone had knocked me cold the moment I walked through the door.
I reached for my gat and found the shoulder holster empty. A quick search of the apartment confirmed my worst fears. The murderer had taken it along with Sheila’s head.
The phone rang then, an insistent, almost urgent sound. I’m no psychic—if I were, I wouldn’t be in this mess—but I knew it was for me. When I picked it up, a gleeful voice spoke.
“You better get out of there, Sarge,” the caller said. “She’s on her way up. And when she sees what you’ve done, she ain’t gonna be too happy.”
“That you, Peterson? I thought this might be your handiwork.”
The caller laughed. “Doesn’t matter now, does it, Sarge? It ain’t me she’s gonna kill.”
The line went dead.
Only three men had called me Sarge after the war. Two of them, Peterson and McDonald, were monsters, altered by black magic. The third man, Lieutenant Jason White, had found eternal rest in Green-Wood Cemetery. I know. I put him there.
Footsteps approached the door and halted before it. The key clicked in the lock.
I decided against running. Even though it would take only a few seconds to get out the window and down the fire escape, it’s what Peterson wanted me to do. And I’d learned long ago that he wasn’t interested in my health.
I stood my ground as the woman stepped into the room.
Sheila O’Shea hadn’t told me much about her sister on the phone, but I figured this had to be her. They had the same build and, except for color, the same taste in clothes. This doll wore a green dress with her snakeskin shoes. It matched her eyes. So did the green draped turban which covered that beautiful head of hers. Several somethings slithered beneath it.
She froze when she caught sight of me, and her hand went for the turban faster than a gunslinger for his gun.
I shut my eyes tight, held up my hands, and spilled my guts.
“I’m Rick Webber, a P.I. Sheila hired me. I didn’t kill her.”
The dame didn’t reply. I waited while her muffled footsteps crossed the carpet, before cracking an eye open. She knelt beside the body, tears like crystal spilling down her cheeks. I stayed where I was and let her grieve.
“What happened?” she asked, at last.
“I don’t know, not really. She called me over this morning. When I walked in, someone hit me over the head. I found her like that when I came to.” I paused. “Sheila said someone was after you two. Know who it might be?”
She shook her head.
“Ever heard of Mike Peterson or Alan McDonald?”
“The killer took your sister’s head. You know why he’d want to do that?”
She turned to me, a cold gleam in her lovely eyes. “I know two reasons.”
“Turn someone to stone?”
“What’s the other?”
“The blood from a Gorgon’s head has two uses. If you take it from the left side, it’s poison. If you take it from the right, it heals. It also raises the dead.”
She rose to her feet and gazed into my eyes. “Now it’s my turn to ask the questions.”
“Do you know who killed my sister?”
“Old army buddy of mine. We’re not on such good terms now. His idea of funny is framing me for murder and turning you into my executioner.”
“Do you know where he is?”
“I know where to start looking.”
“Then I’m coming with you.” She stared at me, her little chin lifted in defiance, as though daring me to say no.
I may be many things, but stupid isn’t one of them. If I wanted to catch Sheila’s killer, I’d need all the help I could get.
“Alright. But first, what’s your name?”
“Is there any other?”
“I thought Perseus did a number on you.”
“That was my sister, Euryale. Sheila was Stheno. She changed her name at Ellis Island. Then she got married, but he took off last year. We haven’t heard from Mr. O’Shea since.”
I glanced down at my bloody coat. “I don’t suppose you have any of his clothes lying around?”
Sheila’s husband had been a snappy dresser and, luckily, my size. The midnight blue suit fit like a glove and the fedora covered my face. He’d also left a 1903 Colt Pocket Hammerless behind. It filled my holster nicely.
I called the cops next. Detective Al Wooley was a friend from my school days. I figured he’d be a little more sympathetic to my plight, seeing as how I’d saved his life when we were eleven.
“You’re in trouble, Rick,” he said. “The tip came in a few minutes ago. Whoever it was said you killed a dame called Sheila O’Shea.”
“Wasn’t me, Al. I’d swear to it. But I think I know who’s responsible. You arrest anyone called Mike Peterson or Alan McDonald lately?”
“Not for homicide. Let me check with robbery and vice. It’ll take maybe ten minutes. Are you at your office? I’ll call you back.”
The sound of sirens suddenly split the air. I glanced out the window. “I…uh…can’t right now. Got a bit of a sticky situation going on.”
“Rick…are you still at the scene?”
“I’ll call you in about twenty minutes.”
I hung up before he could speak another word. Medusa grabbed me by the hand and led me toward the window.
“We can’t take the fire escape,” I said, pulling her back toward the living room. “They’ll have someone waiting.”
“How do we get out of here, then? We can’t just waltz out the front door.”
“Who says we can’t?” I pushed her through the door and out into the hall.
The elevator hummed as it approached our floor. I pushed the fedora down low and hooked an arm around Medusa’s waist, pulling her in close. Her hair hissed and squirmed under the turban.
“Just act natural,” I said. “Like you don’t have a care in the world.”
The elevator bell sounded as it arrived. Just before the doors opened, she pushed me against the wall and pressed her lips to mine. Sure, it was an old ruse—maybe the oldest in the book—but it worked. The cops didn’t even seem to notice us as they piled into the corridor. They didn’t even look back when we rushed into the elevator and closed the doors.
“Sorry about that,” she said. “I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t want to hurt them.”
She glanced up at me. “You sound surprised.”
“A monster?” She crossed her arms and lifted that little chin again. “You really shouldn’t believe everything you hear.”
The elevator doors opened on the ground floor.
Like I said before, I’m no psychic, but something seemed wrong when those doors slid aside. Maybe the lobby was too quiet, or I somehow heard the guy breathing outside. Whatever it was, set me on edge and I grabbed Medusa by the arm, dragging her back. The blade appeared a second later, slicing the air where her pretty neck had been and whizzing just past my face. It hit the back of the elevator and buried itself in the wood paneling.
Medusa trembled as she clutched my arms.
“You alright?” I asked.
She nodded, but her face seemed paler than before.
I detached myself from her grip and, keeping low, took a cautious step out. Someone, dressed in black, disappeared through the front door about twenty yards away. It banged shut after him.
There was no way I could catch him. He’d be around the corner before I could get to the door. I returned to Medusa. She stood at the back of the elevator, staring at the axe. The blade was covered with black ichor, and you didn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to see it was gorgon blood.
“The killer was here,” she cried. “He was here the whole time.”
“He probably wanted to see me killed or caught,” I said, taking a handkerchief from my top pocket and grasping the axe handle. I jerked the axe out of the wall. “When he didn’t see either, he took matters into his own hands. Pretty stupid move. His fingerprints are all over this.” I took her by the elbow and led her out of the elevator. There was no one in the lobby. No one stood at the desk or the door, not even a cop. I steered Medusa toward a large palm in an oversized pot near the front door, then hid the axe behind it. We hurried outside.
Blood smeared the sidewalk, but I didn’t see a body. And there was no cop standing guard near the two black and whites. Without a word, Medusa and I crossed the street and got into my 40 Ford.
“Where did that blood come from?” she asked as we pulled away.
“I think it might have been from a cop. Probably the one who was supposed to guard the front.”
“Where did he go?”
“What about the axe?”
“What about it?”
“Will it be safe there? Won’t somebody find it?”
I glanced at my watch. “One phone call will take care of that.”
“Your friend? The detective? You’re going to call him?”
“He’s waiting. I said twenty minutes.”
“Let’s go to my place, then. It’s around the next block.”
“Someone might be waiting.”
She gave her turban a little tug. “This time, I’ll be ready.”
We parked in an alley near her apartment building, and she led me to the back entrance. It was locked.
“Wait here,” she said. “I’ll go around and let you in.”
“Maybe I should go in with you.”
“You don’t trust me?”
“It’s not that.”
“Yes, it is. You think I’m evil—a monster—that I can’t control myself.”
“No, not at all. It’s just that…”
“Just that what?”
“You might wind up like your sister…I failed her. I don’t want to fail you too.” I avoided her gaze.
“That wasn’t your fault.”
I didn’t answer. She put a gloved hand to my cheek and forced me to share her gaze, then smiled as though she’d read every thought in my head.
“I can take care of myself, Rick,” she said. “I’m not exactly a damsel in distress.”
“You’re a nice guy.”
I shook my head. “That’s one thing I’m not.”
She paused as though she might say something else, but turned and rushed off instead. I watched her vanish around the corner.
Minutes dragged by, and I could feel the old worry welling up inside. It felt just like Omaha beach. I could still remember waiting to disembark from the Higgins boat, knowing I might be shot the moment I stepped off.
This time seemed much worse. This time, I wasn’t worried about me.
At last, the door opened, and Medusa urged me inside.
We mounted the stairs to the second floor and soon found ourselves outside her apartment door. The door was still locked, but I took the lead anyway. After she unlocked it, I took a quick tour of the apartment. I found nothing.
Medusa directed me to her phone, and I placed the call. Al had been waiting for me.
“They’re looking for you, Rick,” he said. “Havisham is on the case, and you know, he doesn’t like you very much. He’d skin me alive if he knew I was talking to you. Then he’d bust me down to traffic.”
“I’ve got something that can vindicate me, Al. Go to Sheila’s apartment building. You’ll find it behind the potted palm.”
“What is it?”
“I don’t want to talk about it over the phone, but the fingerprints on it aren’t mine.”
“Thanks for the tip. I owe you one.”
“You can pay me back right now. Did you get that address?”
“Got it right here. It’s 500 25th Street.”
“You want me to read it again? 500—”
“No, I got it.”
“Rick, what is this all about?”
“I can’t tell you now, Al. Wait until it’s over. I’ll buy you a drink at Clancy’s and tell you all about it.”
“I’ll hold you to that.”
I hung up the receiver. Medusa settled on the arm of the couch beside me. The apartment had grown dark as twilight arrived, and her eyes shone green in the half-light.
“You got the address?” she said
“Where is it?”
“It’s at 500 25th Street.”
Recognition shown in those glowing eyes. “That’s a cemetery. Green-Wood Cemetery.”
“Yes. I should have known he’d be there. Should have known they’d both be there. Now I know why they wanted Sheila’s head. You said the blood from it could raise the dead? That’s just what they intend to do.”
“Who do they want to raise?”
“Someone who’s better off under the dirt. His name was Jason White—Lieutenant White.”
“Not at first. Not until the Ardenne.”
“The forest? What happened there?”
“We stumbled on a castle, a place run by the Nazis. They had a kind of experiment going on. Something unholy, unnatural, and occult. They summoned a being, the Man with the Melted Face. He possessed White and destroyed his soul. Then, he corrupted McDonald, Peterson…and me. I did things, horrible things, in his name.”
Faces sprang up from my memory. A young woman screaming. An old man crying. The nightmare continued on and on until I saw the little girl’s face in my mind. The girl who’d led me out the other side.
“There was a little girl in Bastogne. The thing in White’s body wanted me to kill her, sacrifice her to him, to the darkness that ruled us…and…I couldn’t do it. Somehow, I broke the hold he had over me. And when I wouldn’t obey him, he stabbed me. They left me to die in the forest.”
A hushed silence grew between us. She covered her mouth with one gloved hand, her eyes wide.
“How did you survive?”
“Somebody in Third Army found me. Got me back behind the lines. It was my ticket home to the states. When I returned, I found White had been wounded and sent back too. He was here. This time, he didn’t have McDonald and Peterson to help him.”
“You killed him?”
I avoided her gaze. “Yes. And I buried him in Green-Wood. McDonald and Peterson have been after me ever since.”
“What will happen if they raise White’s body?”
“The creature will rise again.”
“Then we have to stop it.”
“No dice. You’re staying here.”
She stood. The turban writhed.
“I told you. I can take care of myself. That’s the good thing about being a monster—maybe the only thing.”
“You’re not a monster. Not to me. Not since I first saw you.”
She stared at me in surprise. Then, her expression softened, and tears shone in those glowing green eyes. “Please, don’t do that. Don’t lie to me.”
I rose to my feet. “I’m not. I wouldn’t. Don’t you see? I’ve known monsters—for Christ’s sake, I’ve been one. You’re nothing like that.”
“You really think so?”
I took her hand and held it against my heart. “I believe you.”
“No matter what they say?”
“I don’t care what they say.”
I pulled her close, kissed her lips. All too soon, she pulled away.
“I have to go with you,” she whispered. “You know I do.”
I nodded. There was no use fighting it. Not anymore. I couldn’t bear to part with her.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Thank you for joining us today, fiends! Please, come back tomorrow for Part II of MEDUSA, MY SWEET.
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