Emir gave him directions that led Chet to a large overgrown field positioned adjacent to a walled apartment-complex similar to the one Amber lived in, though the two places were located on opposite ends of Metairie (a suburb of New Orleans; it’s where we keep our strip-malls and Best Buys.)
As Chet was driving past the complex itself, he almost spun out as he suddenly heard Emir’s voice clear-as-day say…
Hey, Chet, over here! You see me?
After regaining control of his vehicle, Chet glanced to his left and saw what looked like a shimmering cardboard cut-out of Emir hovering beside his moving car and grinning. When Chet was finally able to speak again, he said, “Yeah… Kind of.”
Receptions not so great on you. Sorry. That’s the lot there but drive past and park-a-ways down the street, just to be safe.
Chet did as he was told and the 2-D Emir followed alongside him as he started back toward the large overgrown lot on foot. As Chet reached the unlit field and started across it, he quietly asked, “So what am I looking for exactly?”
You’ll know it when you see it, trust me.
“Thanks for the ominous explanation. Super help-fuh….”
Chet tripped over something that felt heavy and yet strangely soft. After landing face-first in the dirt and just barely catching himself with his hands as he fell, Chet quickly glanced back to discover that it was indeed a dead body he had tripped over.
Chet’s eyes had started to adjust to the darkness and he could see that the large dead man’s face was covered in a strange red leather mask that looked distinctly homemade and extremely creepy. The dead man’s right hand was still clutching his left bicep and what appeared to be partially dried vomit was leaking out of the sides of his mask.
I need you to put that mask on.
Chet scoffed while still staring down at the vomit caking the dead man’s hair and neck and then looked up to see that the cardboard cutout of Emir was no longer smiling and his black eyes had turned a glowing white.
I need you to put that mask on.
Chet knelt down and, with a grimace, he slid the mask off of the large guy’s face. He got a good look at the man as he removed the mask and saw that his ears were also bleeding and several black linguini-thin worms were dangling out of them. Chet squinted up at Emir and said, “Do I even wanna know?”
It’s actually quite a funny story but we don’t have the time.
“Fair enough,” Chet replied as he took a moment to thoroughly wipe the inside of the mask on the dead man’s jacket. Then, with a grimace, he slid the thing on over his own face.
2-D Emir gestured at the condo complex neighboring the overgrown lot.
Now, I need you to get inside that complex and head up to the courtyard on the second floor.
Chet turned to face the complex and gestured at it as he said, “That wall is like nine feet. You think I’m a Navy SEAL?”
See where it meets the wooden fence running along the back end of the lot? Use that to hoist yourself over. When you’re done, I’ll show you how to pick the lock on the door to the stairwell.
“Pick” was playing it fast and loose with that word. The keycard’s magnetic locking mechanism was old and missing its metal guard-plate and all Chet had to do was jam his library card between the bolt and the door and pull kind of hard and it popped open almost instantly.
Chet started up the stairwell and, as he reached the landing, found himself beside the complex’s gated swimming pool. It must’ve been closed by this time and was shrouded in darkness save for the dim glow emanating from the pool’s several submerged lights.
The picnic area is in the courtyard to your left.
Chet started down the hedge-lined passageway leading into the adjacent courtyard when a young couple suddenly emerged from around the corner, a guy and girl maybe in their mid-twenties and each carrying laundry baskets heaping with clothes.
Luckily for Chet, they had been so engaged in their conversation that they hadn’t seen his masked form duck behind the hedge as they entered the courtyard. Chet crouch as low as he could while still prepared to take off running if need be. The young couple passed inches from him without so much as a glance toward the hedge between them.
“So now what,” Chet muttered and finally realized that 2-D Emir hadn’t been beside him since the stairwell. Checking to see if the coast was clear, Chet slowly stood to peak over the top of the hedge and was overcome with the overwhelming sense that he was being watched.
Chet slowly craned his neck around to gaze through the window directly behind him and came face-to-face with a terrified little girl. She wasn’t the only one. Chet let out his own startled exclamation which, through the mask covering his face, sounded something like “SHAAAAAAH!”
That only made the child scream louder. Chet vaulted out from behind the hedge and took off back toward the stairwell leading down to the parking garage. Just as he reached the lower access door, he heard someone on the stairs behind him shout, “Hey, mu’fucker!”
But Chet wasn’t about to look back. Adrenalin had the volume on his racing heartbeat set to eleven and he was barely even aware of the stomping footsteps pursuing him as he sprinted across the garage.
Chet scrambled onto the hood of a sedan parked adjacent to the brick security-wall and just as he was gripping the top of the wall, a man much larger than Chet suddenly grabbed him by the ankles and yanked, sending Chet plummeting face-first down onto the garage’s cement floor.
In his dazed state, Chet didn’t stand a chance. The enraged man rolled him over onto his back and began to pound on Chet’s masked face with both fists, a process which finally snapped him out of his stupor long enough to realize that he was clutching a dislodged brick from the top of the security-wall.
Chet blindly swung at the man, giving his unsuspecting assailant one good whack against the side of his head. The corner of the brick made contact with the man’s temple and he instantly went limp.
Chet shoved the stunned man onto his back and left him lying there, eyes wide and one leg twitching, on the garage floor as he hauled ass over the security-wall.
Absolutely stunning! You know you’re a real natural at this!
Cutout Emir was suddenly hovering beside him again, beaming like a proud father as Chet stood and started jogging away.
We’re at the homestretch now. All you need to do is get rid of the evidence. You still have that road-flare and the lighter fluid?
Chet groaned and patted his pockets, signaling that he did.
Good. Now, go burn that body and the mask you got off it.
Knowing he needed to hurry, Chet quickly retraced his steps to where the corpse had been located but when he reached the spot, all he found was a large person-shaped indentation in the overgrown weeds.
Damnit, I knew I should’ve had you burn him before taking care of the girl.
Chet opened his mouth to respond but before he could ask any follow-up questions, 2-D Emir suddenly disappeared as Chet heard him shout…
The brief WOOP-WOOP of an approaching police siren was all the explanation Chet needed. He dropped down into the dense underbrush just as a squad car pulled up to the curb at the front of the lot.
The swarm of mosquitos feeding off Chet wasn’t exactly making it easy for him to lie still but he did his best while watching through a small gap in the weeds as two cops exited the car. They were greeted by a middle-aged woman in a bathrobe who was gesturing back at the parking garage and then towards the vacant lot Chet was hiding in as she shouted something to them that he couldn’t hear.
One of the officers followed the woman back towards the parking garage as the other slid a flashlight from his belt and switched it on, scanning the overgrown field. The beam of light briefly swiped across Chet’s hiding place but the patch of weeds was too thick for it to penetrate. The light swept away but then returned a moment later and was held there as it slowly grew larger.
Chet realized the cop was coming towards him and then suddenly there he was, bending down to peer through the weeds. The officer narrowed his eyes as he spotted Chet and said, “Alright, we ca…”
The large dead man from before suddenly tackled the cop, pinning him to the ground. The long black linguini-worms began to snake their way from the groaning corpse’s ears down to the officer’s screaming mouth.
Chet suddenly remembered his instructions. He emerged from the weeds and began to spray the lighter-fluid across the preoccupied dead man’s back and head. Chet struck the ignitor-cap across the top of the flare, which began to spit a torrent of blue fire that he then pressed to the infested corpse’s back. The man lit up with glorious abandon.
And then Chet took off running in the opposite direction of the parked cop car, hopping the wooden fence at the back end of the lot with a grace he hadn’t known he was capable of and which meant he wasn’t able to watch as the large man’s corpse burn with a sudden intensity that not even lighter fluid could explain. It would’ve been like watching dry kindling burn. Take it from a novice-level pyromaniac who has seen some truly fucked up shit in his day: evil things burn the best (the cop was probably fine though, so don’t worry.)
There was actually an open grocery store one block over from the complex (thank you, Metairie) and after disposing of the mask and circling back around the block, that’s where Chet decided to hang out until the heat finally died down. While he was there, Chet bought easy-make dough mix, a bag of white chocolate chips, and raspberry flavored frosting.
Gwen awoke later that night in a bit of a panic. It was almost midnight and Chet wasn’t in bed beside her. She didn’t remember hearing him come home from his trip to Whole Foods and started downstairs to check and see if his car was in the driveway.
On her way, Gwen saw that the kitchen light was on and it was in there where she found her husband, passed out at the kitchen table and softly snoring with his head lying beside a tray of freshly baked white chocolate raspberry cookies.