A Murder of Crows (Part Two of Nine)

An excerpt from Descendant
Available now from Belfire Press

TWO

“So, Billy, how’s life been treating you?” Brian Potter asked, drink in hand. The two young men had been friends since grade school but opted for separate colleges. Brian was pursuing a biotech degree at nearby Hocking College. Despite a razor-sharp mind, Potter was finding academia bothersome as it tended to interfere with his pursuit of the perfect altered state of consciousness. Billy Craft had similar issues and had dropped out of Seton Hill after only one semester to return to their small Ohio hometown.

“She won’t even talk to me,” Billy responded, ignoring the question. His eyes were glued on a Jennifer Cox, who hovered near the pool in a French Maid costume that left little to the imagination. She was short, redheaded, and had a fiery disposition. She, like most of the young people at this party, had a fondness for drink, especially Screwdrivers. Jennifer was also one of the most sought after women in Hocking County. She had looks, brains… and pour a couple of drinks down her throat and she was what the kids liked to call easy. Not the kind of girl smart young men fell in love with, but then Billy Craft wasn’t exactly one of the smart ones… at least when it came to matters of the heart.

“You’re not still pining over that slut are you?” Brian said, putting his arm on his old friend’s shoulder. “You do still remember what happened last summer before we all left for college, right? You know, when you caught her fucking Sherman Oakes during that canoe trip on the Hocking?” The questions were rhetorical. He knew damn good and well that Billy remembered. He also knew that Billy was introverted when it came to the opposite sex and that he had a tendency to fixate on exactly the wrong woman, even when better choices were throwing themselves at him.

“Piss off, Brian,” Billy slurred, finishing off another Bacardi and Coke. He’d already drunk his way through two fifths of rum and was intent on dusting off a third. He staggered to the makeshift bar by the back door and poured himself another stiff drink.

“Well, far be it from me to be the voice of reason, but dude… haven’t you had enough?”

“Piss off, Brian,” Billy said, more forcefully this time. He raised the glass to his lips and slammed it home. He spun about and threw the glass against the brick exterior, laughing as it shattered into a million tiny shards. He grabbed a bottle of Jack Daniels, took a swig and then staggered off toward the pool.

“Fine,” Brian called after him, “be an asshole.” He hated to see his friend in such a state. Billy was one of those guys that everyone seemed to love. He was a good friend, an excellent sounding board, and extremely well read. He could drop into a conversation with anyone and feel right at home. Subject matter was never an issue. Of course, it was women who tended to take a real shine to Billy. He had a knack for knowing just what to say to make you feel better… to make you feel special. If it weren’t for low self esteem issues, Billy Craft could have had his pick of women with that silver tongue of his. But no, he had to go and get hung up on Jennifer fucking Cox.

Brian watched as his buddy tried desperately to get the vixen to speak with him and it pained him to see the hurt on his face and the pure evil emanating from hers. He considered walking over and saving him from himself, but when he saw them finally stagger off together, passing through the south gate, he decided against it. It was a party after all. He stalked off toward a group of girls that were passing around a joint and tried his best to get laid. Far be it from him to stop his buddy from doing the same, even if it was with a she-devil from hell.

The French Maid and the vampire clad Craft strolled through the back lawn gate, angling their way toward Twin Knot Cemetery. It was a small plot of land that sat on the edge of Old Man Potter’s cornfield. It didn’t get much attention. The poor souls who had been laid to rest there had been long forgotten, their weathered grave markers all but unreadable. Now their only visitors were kids looking to get high far from prying eyes and the murder of crows with something altogether different on their minds.

“How long are you going to keep wasting away in this shit-hole of a town, Billy?” Jennifer Cox asked. Ginger hair spilled over milky white shoulders in the pale moonlight of the chilled autumn evening; a chill kept at bay by the bite of the sour mash Billy Craft had culled from the costume party.

Billy sat down in the wet grass with a sigh. He raised the bottle of Jack to his lips, surveying the girl’s scantily clad form with a mixture of desire and pained realization. Jennifer Cox was an ambitious girl. She had looks and smarts to spare. She also had the beginnings of a serious drinking problem and used sex as a bargaining tool with almost every guy she met. Worst of all, Billy Craft was head over heels in love with her. She had him wrapped around her little finger and they both knew it, but Billy was powerless to stop it.

“Logan isn’t so bad,” he answered, taking another hit from the bottle. “It’s quiet, peaceful, and weed’s easy enough to score. Why go anywhere else?”

“You’re a real piece of work, Billy,” she quipped, taking the bottle from his hands and taking a deep swig of the comforting spirits. “How could someone as smart as you have absolutely no ambition beyond your next buzz?”

“It’s because I’ve already got it figured out, Jen,” he said, lighting two cigarettes and handing her one. He filled his lungs and exhaled slowly, staring off into the deep black of the night sky. “Life is short. Why waste it on college or some meaningless job? Why be a slave to the machine? It’ll all be over in the blink of an eye. Before you know it, you’ll be thirty… forty… fifty… and what will it all have meant? Cars, houses, jewelry… a fucking dead end career… it’s all bull shit. Shiny baubles dangling out there to distract you from what matters.”

“So tell me, Billy Craft, what does matter?”

“Right here,” he said, leaning in close to her, lips almost touching. “Right now,” he whispered. He descended on those lips like a ravenous wolf, his hands sliding along her shoulders, drawing her closer.

Losing themselves in their youthful passion, neither noticed the pinpoint of a burning cigarette from the shadowed bower but a few yards away, nor the dark shape that lingered, watching their coupling embrace. Billy Craft was oblivious as the shadow advanced from its place of concealment. By the time he realized they weren’t alone it was too late.

 

Return here next week for another Wicked Wednesday installment of
A Murder of Crows

Chapter Three will be posted on September 14th

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