Yesterday In Black by Brian J. Jarrett by Brian J. Jarrett - Read Online

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Summary

Three years ago Tom Miller lost his entire family to a brutal serial killer. Now drowning in alcohol and haunted by the ghosts of his past, he decides one night to finally end it all.

But when he sees the face of a murdered little girl on the evening news, Tom thinks he might know who the killer is. Desperate to stop the next murder before it happens, Tom mounts his own investigation—and quickly finds himself in over his head.

When the next little girl goes missing, Tom will have to come to terms with his past and face his demons in order to track down a monster. But with time running out and his leads falling short, his chances at finding the killer are quickly diminishing.

Along with a child’s chances of survival.

Published: Elegy Publishing, LLC on
ISBN: 9781386269632
List price: $0.99
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Page 1 of 1

Acknowledgements

Yesterday In Black

a novella

Brian J. Jarrett

Copyright © 2015 Brian J. Jarrett

Elegy Publishing, LLC

St. Louis, MO

Original cover image by Iuri Pisotchi, Dreamstime.com

All rights reserved by the author. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted by any means without the written consent of the author.

This book is a work of fiction. Any names, people, locales, or events are purely a product of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to any person (either living or dead), to any event, or to any locale is coincidental or used fictitiously.

Copy editing and proofreading by Sandi Powell.

2015.YIB.1.2

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Chapter One

The gun barrel in his mouth tasted foul, but that would only last a minute. Once he pulled the trigger it wouldn’t matter anymore.

None of it would matter anymore. That suited Tom Miller just fine. He’d lost everything—his wife, his son and his daughter—and now there was simply nothing left. He was drunk and had been since he woke up that day. Same as every day; alone on a ratty bed in a shitty apartment above a dive bar, swimming in whiskey, his murdered family now only memories.

He wondered why he cared how the barrel tasted. Old habits. He’d assumed that the last seconds of his life would have been more profound, more important, but the most pressing thoughts running through his brain included the taste of gun oil and a full bladder that needed emptying.

He wondered in a grim sort of fashion if he’d piss his pants once the bullet did its job. He hoped Joe wouldn’t be upset with him leaving such a mess behind. Landlords had enough to deal with as it was and Joe already had his hands full running the bar downstairs. Probably be bad for business too if the news found out.

He squeezed the trigger a little tighter and squinted. He almost laughed at himself. Squinting, like a nervous kid waiting for a jack in the box. A habit of someone who expected to live.

Susan would be pissed, royally and then she’d be sad. He felt a pang of guilt about that. They shared something, for what it was worth. Not love, exactly, but…acceptance. Was that love? It occurred to him that love might take many different forms. She might eventually understand though. She barely knew him, but nowadays he thought she knew him better than anybody else did.

Would he hear the shot that killed him? Probably not. By the time it registered in his brain, the bullet would be in flight, tearing out a messy tunnel in his brain as it sped away from the gun barrel and, after that, no sights, no sounds, no feelings and no fear.

But most importantly, no more memories.

He thought he’d be more afraid, but his days of worrying about dying had long since passed. Now he existed as a dried-up husk without substance, hollow on the inside and shrinking every day deeper into himself. Like a man trapped in a black hole’s event horizon, slowly descending into crushing singularity.

The television blared from across the room. Rare considering how much he hated the damn thing. From the idiot box an overly excited voiceover actor posed a question: What are you gonna pick? To which another voice replied in song: Hot Pockets! One good thing about being dead; at least he’d never have to listen to another shitty jingle.

The six o’clock evening news promptly replaced the Hot Pockets jingle. A heavily done up female newscaster appeared on the screen, her face forcing a pained expression as she announced the latest tragedy in a slow, methodical voice:

"Police report that eight year old Melinda Chase’s body was discovered late last night in a drainage ditch, just outside in Ellersville in Mingo County. The girl had been missing since Tuesday when she never arrived home from school. A massive search was mounted involving the police and dozens of volunteers, but unfortunately it was too late for little Melinda.

"Melinda Chase is the third young girl murdered within the last four months in Mingo County. The bodies of ten year old Annie Parker and eight year old Christina Dalton were discovered only miles apart. Although police have not confirmed a link between the three murders, they say they haven’t ruled out the possibility of a connection.

We asked local residents—

Three dead kids, Tom thought. No, he wouldn’t miss this world at all.

Tom’s mind wandered, going to the place it always went. Once it started he couldn’t stop it, no matter how hard he tried. Instantly he found himself transported back in time, in his mind again walking down a narrow, windowless corridor lit by harsh fluorescent lights.

A man with a grim face led the way, two police detectives flanking Tom on either side. He walked, numb, as if someone else had control of his body. The grim-faced man opened a door that squeaked loudly on hinges in need of oiling, revealing three tables in the center of a dimly lit room. On each table lay a body, one larger than the other two, all covered with crisp, white sheets.

His wife and his two children.

The police showed him each body, one by one and he hated them for it.

Tom looked upon each of them, nodding as the police had instructed. His wife, Amanda. His son and daughter, Keith and Jennifer. They looked as if they might be sleeping, but they were too pale, too still.

And the horrific slashing across their throats, the blood cleaned away but somehow making it even worse…

He tightened his finger on the trigger and closed his eyes.

Ellersville. That name. He remembered hearing it somewhere. He tried to ignore it and get back to the job at hand, but he couldn’t shake that nagging thought. Someone had been talking about Ellersville just the other day, somebody in Joe’s bar below him. He tried to remember the details, but the whiskey made things fuzzy. Details scattered and mixed together like colors on a pallet.

He closed his eyes and pushed the barrel of the gun tighter against the roof of his mouth. But the thought kept nagging, no matter how much he tried to push it out of his mind. Like a tickle in his brain that demanded to be scratched. He opened his eyes and saw a school photo of the dead girl plastered all over the television screen.

He thought of Jennifer, his little girl, only ten when she died. Her school photo had also been shamelessly broadcast for the entire world to see, alongside her brother’s.

He removed the pistol from his mouth, spitting out the gun oil onto the filthy linoleum floor of the apartment’s small kitchen. He placed the gun on the table and closed his eyes. The face of the dead girl on the screen filled his mind.

The guy talking about Ellersville had been a real creep, an asshole constantly bragging about something. Tom remembered the guy mentioning something about a government drywall contract and how he’d be ‘swimming in bitches’ when it was all said and done.

It was fuzzy, but coming back. Back when Tom had been a realtor, before descending into the sad state in which he now existed, he’d been keen to remember faces. Referrals and repeat business kept his mortgage paid, so it behooved one to be the remembering type.

Tom got to remembering. The guy had been a scrawny thing, complete with thin, greasy hair, a weak chin and eyes too close together, the kind of facial construction that suggested a concoction of bad genes.

Was he the kind of guy who had deviant interests? Maybe a man whose Internet browser history you didn’t want to see? The kind of guy who might kidnap little girls?

Maybe.

Tom stood too quickly, catching himself on the table. The room spun as he made his way to the meager bedroom of his apartment. For the first time in a long time he found himself keenly aware of the smell of old sheets, dirty clothes and spoiled food.

He opened the top drawer of his nightstand and retrieved a single photograph. He saw himself in the photo and hardly recognized that man. His wife, Amanda, stood beside him, jet-black locks spilling over her shoulders. His children stood on either side, Keith on the left and Jennifer on the right, the same high cheekbones and good looks of their mother. The Grand Canyon loomed behind them, indifferent to it all but no less picturesque.

The perfect family.

He carried the picture back into the kitchen and sat down at the table. He picked up the pistol and stared at it for a long time, feeling its deadly weight in his hand.

You and me, we have unfinished business, he said to the 9mm, staring down the barrel. His slurry voice cut the silence of the empty apartment like a chainsaw through a tree.

But first you have to help me with something else.

Chapter Two

Tom staggered into Joe’s bar, directly downstairs from his apartment. The room spun as the overwhelming odor of stale cigarettes and spilled beer wafted over him. A few old drunks sat at the bar, with only a few more sitting at the tables. The real rush wouldn’t start until after work. Weekends were big for the bar (appropriately named Old Man Joe’s), mostly because all the hipster kids thought it was ironic to hang out with the geezers and drink cheap beer. Tom could remember a time when people drank Pabst Blue Ribbon because they were too poor for the good shit. Now they called it PBR and paid three bucks a can. Go figure.

Good morning, sunshine, Joe croaked from behind the bar. He held a towel in one hand and a wet glass in the other. Years of smoking a pack a day had given him a bullfrog’s voice and a mummy’s appearance. A cop for thirty years, Joe had the bedside manner of a wartime interrogator. Whiskey?

Nothing right now, Tom replied.

Joe raised his bushy eyebrows. No shit?

You remember that skinny fuck that came in here last week? Maybe the week before? Tom asked.

Son, I’m sixty-six years old. I don’t remember whether or not I changed my goddamn underwear today. You expect me to remember one asshole out of the hundred that come in here every week?

One of the men sitting at the bar looked up from his beer, a look of mild indignation on his face.

No offense, Joe said.

The man grunted in response before returning his attention to his beer.

This guy was a real loudmouth, Tom continued. He mentioned the guy’s talk about getting the government contract and his future as some sort of high-roller.

Joe scratched his chin and looked toward the ceiling. I might remember him. He the guy that ate all my goddamn peanuts?

Yeah, Tom said.

He wouldn’t shut the fuck up. Joe finished drying the glass and put it under the bar. Didn’t tip for shit either.

He didn’t mention his name, did he? Tom asked.

He owe you money or something?

Tom shook his head. Nah. Just curious.

One of the rummies motioned at Joe. ‘Nother, he grunted.

Joe brought the man his beer before marking it down on his tab. Folks don’t usually volunteer their names, Joe said, turning his attention back to Tom. And as long as the pay their bill I don’t give a goddamn what their name is.

What about credit cards? Tom asked.

I just swipe ‘em, Joe replied. The machine don’t store names.

Tom glanced toward the yellow legal pad sitting behind the bar. You keep names on that notepad back there. That’s how you keep track of all those drinks you sell, right?

Joe grinned, revealing a crooked-toothed smile that mimicked the old curmudgeon’s personality. Keen, boy. Very keen. You’d have been a good cop, I think. I must be getting soft in the head these days.

Care if I take a look? Tom said.

Joe shook his head. I ain’t that soft. Not yet. I wanna know what you want those names for before I hand anything over.

Tom eyed the customers at the bar. Joe picked up on the hint. Grab a table, boys, he said. I need the bar.

The three men sitting at the bar grunted unintelligible replies as they hopped off bar stools and moseyed toward seats.

With the bar now clear, Joe turned back