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THE COLOR OF BLOOD

a horrifying tale of Harvey Banks, by J. Vandersteen

 

The people living in The Projects were used to the sirens. Violence had become a part of their lives. They had to deal with gangs, thugs and dealers 24 hours a day. Still, if they had paid any interest to the dead body in that room on the 3rd floor, even they would have been shocked.

I pushed myself through the cops, acting like I was supposed to be there. With my jaded face and beergut I probably resembled a New York Homicide detective. Then I saw the familiar face of Kenneth McGowan, an old drinking buddy of mine. Ken’s been patrolling the streets for 15 years now, and he’s still an honest guy.

"Shit, Harvey! What are you doing here? You’re not supposed to – Say how did you get past the other guys?!"

"Staying up late, watching reruns of NYPD Blue, Kenny," I answered. "I deserve a fucking Oscar. But seriously, what’ going on?"

"We got one terrible homicide case here, Harve. Take a look at this guy."

The dead body was a mess. He was sitting on his knees, his head missing, his back cut open. His heart was lying on the floor. Everywhere I looked was blood, on the floor, on the ceiling, on the walls.

"Christ…." I muttered.

"You can say that again," Ken said. "It seems this poor sucker’s head has been cut off, killing him. After this fact his back’s been cut open and his heart removed through it."

"Take a look at his heart, Kenny. It’s got fucking teethmarks in it. Do you see that?" I asked Ken.

"Dammit, you’re right. Jesus, what kind of monster could have done something like this?"

"Gang? Maybe a pusher, trying to set an example?" I offered.

"I don’t know. This is really sick, even for guys like that."

Then a very big, pissed off black individual approached me. I recognized him too. His name was Tyrone J. Kelly, homicide. We usually don’t get along very well. Today proved no exception.

"What the hell do you think you’re doing, Banks!?" he yelled. "You could be screwing up an official police investigation! How the hell did you get past my men!?!."

"I gave them what they have to pay you for – some good head," I remarked.

That made him really angry. "Get the hell outta here for I put you in jail, little shit! If you try this kinda crap one more time I’m gonna bust your fuckin’ ass in jail, you bloodsucking leech!"

I smiled at Kenny. "That’s my cue to go, I guess." Then I left the room. Kelly was still yelling at me when I climbed down the stairs.

***

It’d been some time since I’d visited this neighborhood. Things hadn’t improved. Used needles, shit, blood and bullets were everywhere. In the hallways, on the sidewalk. All decent folks had locked themselves behind their doors, while the gangs ruled the streets. Every act of violence in this neighborhood is usually attributed to the gangs, but this time I didn’t think that was the case. This was some weird shit. This was sinister, cult-like creepy stuff. That meant I had another article for The Inquirer.

As I walked to my car, someone called for my attention. I looked around. It was an old lady.

"You’re a cop, right?" she asked me.

"Yeah, sure. You got something you want to tell me, granny?" I informed.

"The guy on the 3rd floor… I know who killed him. And why, too."

"That means I’m gonna buy you a cup of coffee. Get in my car, we’ll drive to some place we can talk."

***

Fifteen minutes later we were drinking a cup of coffee at Joe’s. We were the only people in the place. The only reason Joe could afford to keep this place open was that cops buy their coffee and donuts there. Of course, all cops in the neighborhood were at the crime scene at that moment.

"All right, gran. Speak to me!" I said to the old lady, getting down to business after my first sip of coffee.

"You know who killed poor Wesley? That chink did! Damn straight he did!"

"Chink?" I asked.

"Yeah, the chinese guy who owns the grocery store, a couple of blocks away from us. You see, Wesley was dating his girl. Now, that must have gotten him really pissed off. He’s been threatening to kill Wesley for some time now! It had to happen, eventually!"

"Maybe I should have a talk with that guy. Thanks, lady." Then I drove her back home and followed her directions to her suspect’s store.

***

It couldn’t be easy for this guy. He was about the only non-black person in this neighborhood. In front of his store was a big old Cadillac, surrounded by black thugs, their car stereo blaring rap music. A black hooker was selling her body in front of the window next to his store. Some poor hobo was searching through his garbage cans for some food. His window was broken. On his door someone had spray-painted the words "fuck off, chink". No, it couldn’t be easy for this guy.

I entered the store, feeling the suspicious eyes of the thugs in my back. They had to figure I was a cop. Why else would a white guy be in this neighborhood, right?

A bell sounded as I came in. The owner eyed me an uncomfortable look as well.

"Hi," I greeted him. "Get me a pack of smokes, kid."

"What brand?" He asked me.

"Lucky Strike, please," I answered and got my wallet. "You Vietnamese, kid?"

"Dayak, from Malaysia."

"It can’t be easy, living in an all-black neighborhood. I’ve got to admit, I admire your courage."

"Courage has nothing to do with it. I have got as much a right to live here as those other people do," he told me.

"Still, if someone thrashes your window and fucks up your door, that should get you a bit edgy, right?"

"Sometimes, yes."

Then, there was a soft voice, coming from a door behind the man. "Yeri? Do you still need those extra cans?" A few seconds later I saw the owner of the voice. She was as lovely as the voice had been. She was oriental as well. She had an exceptionally slender figure, moist dark eyes and raven black long hair. This had to be the object of Yeri and Wesley’s desire. I couldn’t blame them.

"Oh," she said, in a surprised voice. "Good day, sir."

"Hello lady," I greeted her back. Then she turned to Yeri. "Have you decided to call the police like I asked you to?"

"No. I told you I would deal with our problems myself," Yeri told her. Then he addressed me. "Take your cigarettes and leave. You have no business here. You will only get yourself killed."

"What happened to having as much right to live her as anyone else?" I asked him.

"You have a choice," he answered.

"Listen," I said. "I’ll be straight with you guys. I’m a reporter. Something weird happened to some poor s.o.b. a couple of blocks from here. I heard you know the guy. His name is Wesley, and I was hoping you could get me some information."

Yeri didn’t flinch. The girl however, turned pale.

"I don’t know who you’re talking about," Yeri said.

"That’s one hell of a shame. I gotta write an article about it, you see, but I’m looking for someone who-"

"I told you I don’t know any Wesley," the Dayak interrupted me. "Now get out of my store." Then he took a big machete from under the counter.

"All right, all right! I get the message. No reason to turn Freddy Krueger on me!" I offered the girl my card. "Still, if you guys change your mind and want to talk, gimme a call." The girl took my card and put it in her pocket. That was a good sign.

***

I was lying on my bed, smoking a cigarette, thinking about this whole fucking mess. First, we enslaved the African people, forcing them to work on our plantations. Then some guy with a big hat and a funny beard stands up to the madness and injustice and gets shot for his trouble. Still, luckily slavery is forbidden and the black people are offered their freedom. Now calling themselves Afro-Americans they try to make something of their lives. Unfortunately, not every American agrees with good old Abe’s vision. A lot of blacks become unemployed, not given enough chances by the white majority. Then things start to turn ugly. The blacks riot, kids get involved with gangs and are forced to live in The Projects, because they can’t afford a decent home. It’s a fucking shame, but the media doesn’t help either. Let’s face it, if you see a black person on TV it’s either a rapper, basketball player or a drugsdealer. What about the all the black guys working at life insurance companies, factories, schools?

Then, when it seems things are finally looking up for them, the new minority arrives: the Chinese, the Vietnamese, the Mexicans, the Cubans. What happens? The blacks feel threatened by these new Americans. They started to come after their jobs. They started their owns stores, their own restaurants, cashing their wellfare-checks. Hell, some of them even started to date their women! What about their rights? They were here first! Shit, they didn’t even want to come there, they were forced by the white slavers. Now, you’ve got the white ones, hating the blacks, who hate them back, while hating the yellow ones as well. It’s all about colors, man. In the end though, the powderkeg will explode and the only fucking color will be the color of blood.

I was startled by the ringing of my phone. "Hello?" I immediately recognized the soft voice on the other side. It was the girl from the store.

"Mr. Banks, I need to talk to you. I am scared. Yeri, he is acting strangely. I am afraid he is going to hurt himself."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"I think he’s been possessed."

***

While she was calling me upstairs, from their living-room, trouble was brewing downstairs, in Yeri’s store. There were three of them. Tough-looking gangbangers, wearing a lot of gold around their necks and fingers. Two of them were armed with shotguns. The middle one, obviously their leader was unarmed. He didn’t need any weapons, after all, his two friends were all the weapons he needed. He spoke up. "You killed Wesley, didn’t you? Didn’t you, chink-boy? You fucking killed him!"

"Yes. Yes I did and I enjoyed it," Yeri said, smiling. "And I’m going to kill all of you black demons, all of you until I can live here in peace. You are the enemy and for that you will all die gruesome deaths."

***

"It started a few weeks ago," the girl told me. "He started to act strangely, paranoid I believe you Americans call it. He was telling me how he would kill all the black dogs that would get in his way. That Wesley would be the first to die, for making a pass at me."

"So, he was pissed. That doesn’t mean he’s possessed, lady."

"No, you don’t understand. There’s more. I found a bowl of blood in his closet. According to the legends of the Dayaks a teriu, a war spirit, can reside in a bowl of blood, called the mangkok merak. When the color of blood appears the good spirit, the semangat, can be driven away by the teriu. I have seen this happen in my village. I have seen men, driven by bloodlust, controlled by the war spirit kill men, women and children. I have seen them drink the blood of their enemies. They could not be stopped, not by gunfire, steel or reason. They good spirit would only return after all the enemies had been killed."

"If this happened to your boyfriend, your neighborhood is in a whole lot of shit," I remarked.

Then the other side was silent. "Oh my god. There’s someone downstairs with Yeri. I hear yelling. Please, Mr. Banks, come quickly!"

***

"You’re dead, killer!" the leader of the thugs screamed, as his men fired their guns. Yeri jumped over the counter, machete in his hand. Bloodlust raged in his eyes, as he screamed like a madman, surging towards his enemies. It was difficult to tell if the guns did not hit him, or simply didn’t phase him, but he kept coming towards the gangbangers.

The machete slashed through one of the armed gangbanger’s neck, separating his head from its body, in one single strike. Yeri seemed to enjoy the rain of blood that soiled his body, gulping some of it down his throat. The other armed man was too shocked to fire, amazed by this flesh-and-blood demon. That cost him dearly, as the machete spilled his guts all over the floor.

When she came into the store she could not scream. She could not move. She could only watch, as the man she loved slashed his steel through human flesh, like he was slaughtering chickens. The revenge of the teriu, just like she had seen when she had been just a child in Borneo.

"Keep away from me, you crazy fuck!" the leader of the gangbangers shouted, slowly moving backwards. Yeri did not answer. He just smiled, then slowly stuck his tongue out. Then, slowly, he licked his blade, savoring the blood of his enemies. Then he howled and came for the cornered enemy, blade first.

***

"Stop it!" I shouted as I entered the store. I got Yeri’s attention, but I doubted that was a good thing. He turned to face me, sizing me up for a moment. A look of relief appeared on the gangbanger’s face, now the madman had shifted his attention to me, he even started to weep. Then Yeri decided I had to be an enemy too, because I seemed to want to get in his way. He came after me too, but not before wiping the last surviving gangbanger’s look of relief of his face with a backhanded swipe of his machete. His throat opened like a piece of rotten fruit, spraying Yeri’s neck with wet, dark, sticky blood.

Doing my best not to slip over the entrails of the dead I knelt down and picked up one of the shotguns. I got up and aimed it at the madman. "Fucking stop – now!" I warned him.

"No, don’t shoot him!" the girl shouted, finally having finally found the courage to speak. "There’s a ritual to drive away the teriu again! We have to help him!"

"I’m sorry but it doesn’t seem we have the time for…" Before I could finish my sentence he was in front of me. I rammed the barrel of the gun in his mouth, coiling my muscles to keep him away from me. Like an artificial arm the shotgun made the madman hold his distance, slashing his machete at me, but not quite hitting me. There was no way I could keep up this test of strengths from this mad demon, though. I only had one chance. Possessed by a teriu or not, a shotgun blast to your head will stop anyone. I closed my eyes and pulled the trigger, blowing Yeri’s head from the inside. There was a loud bang, a bright flash I even saw with my eyes closed and then a warm shower of blood. Clutching my shirt as he fell down, Yeri pulled me down to the floor with him, falling down in the pool of blood and gore.

***

Uncomfortably, I was still holding the crying girl in my arms as the police arrived. I never was good at this comforting stuff. I never was too fond of cuddling either, just call me a product of a lousy childhood. I heard sirens coming from outside.

"What the hell went on here?" Tyrone J. Kelley asked as he came in the store, followed by a couple of street cops. One of them started to vomit as soon as he came into the room, while the others held their breath.

"Get the girl some valium and get me a cup of coffee, " I told him. "Then we’ll talk."

 

THE END

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