Featuring art by Roger Clemens
Suggested Audio Candy:
Pensioners. The least threatening of all of God’s little creatures. They are considered of little threat to society, more nuisance than anything. Their brittle bones appear to have all but disintegrated, once proud posturing has been replaced with crooked curvature and the skin draped around their marrow has halved in elasticity. Nothing at all to fear then right? Wrong, more wrong than you could possibly fathom. These antiquated aunties are a potent danger to us all. Beneath that docile exterior, who knows what sickness resides? The mistake we all make is to expect that whatever person once was, can no longer be, and we do that at our peril.
I know as much as I live three doors away from one such ruthless killer. She is known as Beatrice Zebub and is, at first glance, absolutely typical of the breed. Permed white hair, antique reading glasses, sloppily applied mascara; all the usual traits of one well beyond their prime. She dresses in moth-eaten frocks which appear to have survived the holocaust and covers her varicose veins in flesh-colored stockings which have no knee muscle left to cling to. By all accounts, she is a eulogy waiting to happen. But looks, as I have discovered many times, can be rather deceptive.
We are all culpable of forming judgements, whether purposeful or instinctual, based purely on first impression. Beatrice has lived on my street since as far back as I can remember and I can honestly say that she’s always given me the willies. However I never took her lightly. The first time I kicked my ball over her fence and snuck in to retrieve it from her bramble bush, I sensed that she harbored an intense disliking for me. I remember her curtain opening just a fraction and a beady eye looking over me with disdain. Since then she has been firmly on my radar and I hers. Astonishingly she appears never to have aged in over thirty years and, if anything, is looking leaner and meaner as time wears on.. When I pass her in the street I can feel her stare and, even though I pay her no mind, it penetrates me.
Yet nobody else shares my consternation. She is something of a master of illusion you see. I’ve staked her out on many an occasion and, once those drapes are closed for the night, creepy-assed things begin to happen. Beethoven’s fifth is replaced by Slayer’s Reign in Blood, all cups of lemon tea are relinquished in favor of bottles of crude ale and her knitting needles are brought into play with no intention of fashioning woolen scarf and mitten sets. She shows her true colors and that dear little old lady from No 6 becomes your worst nightmare with not a soul any the wiser. Nobody except me that is.
I’ve had her number since day one but it is proving it which poses the stiffest challenge. The elderly are commonly regarded as benign and any crankiness on their part entirely vindicated. Nobody suspects anything untoward as their frailty masks their malignancy well. How could anyone incapable of crossing a road without assistance possibly be responsible for such villainous acts? To the naked eye Beatrice is no different from any other geriatric with a chip on her shoulder but I know better. I’m convinced that her pantry houses something far less innocent than raspberry marmalade and ginger nut biscuits. I believe it is packed tight with rotting cadavers and neatly labelled jars of plucked-out eyeballs.
I’m not a conspiracy theorist and ordinarily prefer to think the best of folk but, in the case of Beatrice, I know my estimations are bang on the money. Over the years there have been numerous unexplained disappearances which have left the authorities in a state of befuddlement. All cases have long since been closed as there were insufficient leads to launch a murder inquiry and none of the bodies have ever been recovered. Of course, every local has their own reckoning as to what occurred but none of them suspect her. I know different; there isn’t a doubt in my mind that she has been responsible the whole time and I would hedge a bet that their remains are stored within her foundations.
It’s all an elaborate ruse on her part. She makes her daily runs like clockwork and paints a picture which fits the bill of a lady of her advanced years perfectly. She shuffles along with her arthritic joints creaking and a faint smell of urine accompanying her arrival. What’s there to suspect, surely an old dear like Beatrice couldn’t be responsible for acts of genocide? Nobody seems to question the fact that she has no family to speak of, when one reaches a certain age it is almost as though they cease existence in our eyes. They conform; carpet slippers and cardigans are donned and nobody so much as bats an eyelid from that point onwards.
I must admit it always saddened me to think that this is the natural course as we reach our twilight years. Former beauty queens and war veterans become soon-to-be-amended statistics; their heritage all but forgotten. That must be a constant source of frustration, heralding from an entirely different time, long before technological advancements put opportunities at our finger tips. This is why so many of them grow bitter and treat life as though it owes them a huge debt of gratitude and, I guess on some level, it does. However, a little crankiness is one thing and the slaughter of countless undeserving townsfolk quite another.
I’ve sat back for my whole adult life and turned a blind eye as best as I could. She may have the rest of this small town fooled but I’m hip to her game and the time has come to take action on this nagging hunch. I’ve been watching her from a safe vantage and at 3.30pm every day without fail she sets off on her errands. The greengrocer for a punnet of plums, bakery for an uncut farmhouse loaf and then back to her homestead. The entire rotation takes her forty minutes and I have exactly that to find my answers. Of course, being the criminal mastermind that she is, all locks are securely fastened in her absence. I shall be required to apply force to traverse these barricades but a little curiosity sure can increase one’s resourcefulness. I shall do what I have to; her reign of terror must be unveiled before any more blood is spilled.
Whoever said that they don’t make them like they used to was onto something you know. It takes the best part of a quarter of an hour to break the seal on her back door and I practically have to take it from its hinges to afford access. She can bill me for damages, at least she could if I had any intention of sticking around after the bell chimes four. I’m taking no chances here as I am not foolish enough to take her lightly. She may have others fooled with her sweet little old lady act but that shit doesn’t wash with me. Her eyes attest as to exactly the kind of atrocities she is more than capable of and there’s not so much as a flicker of remorse. She is unspeakably evil.
I have been poking around for a full ten minutes now and everything appears to be in its place in true geriatric fashion. The place is spick and span from stem to stern although in dire need of an airing. Her furniture looks like it has seen two world wars and the front room is clouded by a musky haze which suggests multiple mothballs. I think it is time to peruse her collection of vinyl, maybe that will shed further light. Englebert Humperdink, Nat King Cole, Bill Withers; nothing untoward thus far. But what is this? Cradle of Filth’s I Raped The Virgin Mary and Hung The Bastard Christ. You see, I fucking knew it!
The pantry. I have to check the pantry. All the hard evidence I need will likely be stocked up in there, from floor to ceiling no doubt. I’m going to bury her for the heinous crimes she has committed, they’ll have a village fete when they realize that she is responsible for over two dozen brutal murders. Do I feel the least bit of remorse over sentencing an old harmless spinster to a lifetime behind bars? Do I fuck, if this was actually the case then I’m sure I’d be empathetic but this is no docile old dolly we’re dealing with. I dip both testicles into her denture water as a final exhibition of my contempt and make my way to the pantry.
It’s locked, an ominous sign if ever I saw one. Nothing my Blockbuster Video membership card and a little elbow grease can’t overturn. I rotate the ornate handle; fearing the worst, hoping for it too, but not fully prepared for the sight about to greet my eyes. Just at that moment I hear a voice which causes the blood to chill in every ventricle. “Hello dear.” It’s her. I dare not turn about-face and instead still feel compelled to push the door wide. Once I have revealed her wrong-doings then I am convinced one of her slight frame cannot overcome a man in the prime of his life. Justice will prevail this day and if that means beating an old lady to within an inch of her sorry life then so be it.
“Would you mind telling me what you’re doing here?” That’s not her voice. I swing around and indeed she has company, local law enforcement officer Bill Brayburn to be precise. Ordinarily I would be shitting a brick and mixing the cement for another at this juncture but I figure that he needs to see this too. His attendance is poetic if anything. “Glad you’re here officer. There is something I think you should take a look at.” I whip open the door and all color instantly drains from my face. I can’t believe I feel disparaged by a lack of hacked-up human surplus but I was convinced, would have sworn blind she was up to no good. “You’re in a whole cauldron of trouble son.”
Just then, something totally uncharacteristic occurs. “That’s okay officer, he comes around once a week to clean my pantry. I can’t afford a housekeeper and it’s been so hard to keep on top of since my hip replacement. Hasn’t he done a marvelous job, such a dear little cherub.” Brayburn steps forward to investigate further and the recess is indeed both well-kept and lacking in body parts. “Looks like you have a keeper here Beatrice.” She smiles a wicked grin intended for my eyes only. “I make you right dear fellow. I have snagged myself a Keeper.” Bill spots a jar of apricot jam and his eyes light up. “I love this stuff. Haven’t had it for years.” She closes the door behind her “Then it is decided. You shall both stay for scones and tea and I won’t take no for an answer.”
I make my excuses as best I can but she has my short and curlies in her wrinkly palm right now and could blow the whistle on me in a picosecond if I don’t keep up appearances. “Nonsense young man. I shall hear no such thing. You and officer Brayburn take a seat in the lounge and I shall rustle something special”. Bill is already seated and the look in his eyes suggests that I should do the polite thing and join them for afternoon tea. “Of course. I’d be delighted.” It’s hard to conceal the sarcasm but he is far too busy licking his lips to spot the irony in my voice.
“Thank you so much Bill. I don’t know what I would’ve done if you hadn’t been at the bakery when I had my turn. I really appreciate the chaperone, it’s been a long time since a big strapping man escorted me home”. She’s incorrigible. I swear she’s actually flirting with him and she’s got to be forty years his senior. Maybe I’ve got her all wrong, Beatrice could be a cougar and those lingering looks ones of desire. Has she been giving me the come on the whole time? Suddenly I am beginning to doubt myself and, as she brings in the tea and bends over to reveal her saggy skin satchels.
Credit where it’s due, her tea is delightful. Bill seems to agree and has already slurped it back but I’m too wary of wandering tea leaves to throw caution to the wind in the same manner. “Here Bill. Let me get you another cup. You are a thirsty one aren’t you?” Bill looks at his watch “Not for me Beatrice. I have a ton of paperwork waiting back at the station.” She is having none of it. “I won’t hear of it young man. You don’t want to hurt an old lady’s feelings do you Bill?” She makes her way back through from the kitchen and steps up behind him. “Well I guess one more cup isn’t going to kill me is it?” I am horrified as she lifts both arms from her side and is brandishing a giant woodsman’s axe with the officer blissfully unaware. “No Bill, that won’t kill you…but this might.”
With one fateful swing Bill’s balding head is split like a honeydew and he drops his bone china to the floor as she pushes it further into his fragmented skull. She then commences to pull the weapon free from his fresh cavity and his twitching cadaver slumps in its seat, all life ebbed away. Beatrice turns her attentions back to me with a smile lacking any prior semblance of warmth. “A little learning can be a dangerous thing dear boy.” I attempt to prise myself from the armchair but the bitch has sedated me. My leaden legs cannot take my weight and I tumble to the carpet, paralyzed and terrified. “I don’t keep them in the pantry you know. The bodies. I used to, but space was becoming such an issue. Thankfully I have a far more luxurious cellar.”