The Ruiner "Easy Way Out" Pt. 5


V. Let’s Make a Deal

The sub-basement of Fourth Branch Safe House, Newark, NJ November 15, 03:13

“I told you, I’m supposed to be on vacation. That’s the only reason why. I’m not saying anything else until I hear from my boss.”

Agent 99 shook his head for the twenty-second time in the 15 minutes he’d been interrogating Vincent Harris.

“I’m going to ask one more time and if you still want to be a wise ass, I’ll have to, uh, switch my interview style, if you see where I’m going.”

“Sure, buddy. Whatever you have to do. You don’t want to believe me, that’s your ass- not mine. I already gave you the same answers to the same questions about six times now. Is my face that dishonest looking? I’m not sure why we’re having all these problems establishing rapport.” Continue reading

T.J. Washington In "Hoodoo, Hoodone, Hoodid Pt. 2



I don’t really like to talk to the police. My line of work routinely requires I rent a flame thrower from someone who is over 300 years old. Also, I’m dating a pixie and I just helped my best friend murder a mummy while committing insurance fraud. Talking to the fuzz is part of the job, though. No getting around – or used- to it.

” ‘Grease fire made worse by way of mummy interference’ is my best guess officer. Near as I can figure, the mummy stumbled into the kitchen and then, well you know, everything was on fire,” Sam explained to the cop in front of him.

She was a short woman in a big hat. It was the smallest hat available (Sam made sure to ask) and it was still too big on her. Continue reading

Jimmy Jam, Sally Slam, and The 7th Circle Bedlam Pt. 3


Gentle and Patient reader, if you remember Jimmy and Sally were last seen being talked to by a very thin man wearing a top hat, who may not have even been a man at all, but rather a living skeleton, in the Young Adult Section of the Grove of Suicides.

You may also remember that our favorite children had been trapped for years in the afterlife due to a misunderstanding over the fundamental nature of how coupons function, a paperwork mishap, and the general slowness of the After Life Judicial System. Being dead for so long isn’t something Jimmy and Sally were used to. Yet, here they were, still dead years after they died.

They had been dead so long this time that everyone they knew back on Earth had expired. Neither Sally nor Jimmy knew this, of course. Those on the other side of the veil experience the passage of time differently than the living; that is to say they have no real concept of it. It’s always “now” in the afterlife. There is no tomorrow and all the yesterdays are fuzzy and blend together. It’s a lot like not being able to remember what you had for breakfast last Wednesday, but instead of breakfast, you can’t remember who you were, where or when you lived, or who loved you the most.

Jimmy and Sally stood in front of the tall man with the clipboard. Jimmy tried to look him in the eye and say something horrid but when Jimmy’s eyes met the tall man’s gaze Jimmy felt an entirely new feeling. He didn’t have a name for it, so he just lowered his eyes to the ground and looked at his ghost shoes.

Sally was scared for the first time in her life or afterlife. If she had a body it would have trembled at the sound of the thin man’s voice when he said her name. She didn’t have a body though, so she looked to see what Jimmy was doing instead and decided to do that.

“Listen to me, children. I have good news and bad news, do you have any preference as to which you’d like to hear first?” said the man. His voice was kind and nothing to be so afraid of, not just by monster voice standards, but by human voice standards. It sounded like putting on a big sweater and eating a hot bowl of soup on a cold rainy day.

Both children refused to look up from Jimmy’s shoes. That way they could pretend the nice-voiced man was just that: a nice man, and not a suspected monster of some sort.

“Very well, bad news first it is then.” A smile may or may not have briefly appeared on his face before he continued. “The bad news is that you’re going to get to go back to Earth and finish living your lives.”

Jimmy held Sally’s hand, gathered up all his courage, and looked up at the Skeleton Man. “Ho-how is that the ba-bad news?” he said through chattering teeth.

“That’s wha-what always happens to us.” Added Sally, tightening her grip on Jimmy’s hand.

“Well, kids, there’s been a bit of a mix up. You see, after your parents refused to revive you, Jimmy’s Grand Father stepped in and tried to straighten things out. He forgot to sign a few papers and well, arranging your release took longer than anticipated. About 75 years longer.”

The man looked at Jimmy. Jimmy looked at Sally. Sally looked at Jimmy and shrugged her shoulders before returning her gaze to the bony gentleman before her.

“So, our parents left us here and Jimmy’s Grand Father saved us?” Sally managed to squeak out between waves of horror and shame.

“That’s correct. You’re a lot smarter than your file indicates. Maybe your time here has done you some good after all. Jimmy’s Grand Father did save you but…”

“Everyone we know is already dead?” Said Sally. “And when we get back to Earth, the only people we’ll know is each other?”

“That’s about the long and short of it, cupcake,” Confirmed the man.

“Excuse me, sir, ” Jimmy said for the first time in his life (or after-life), “Ca-can we hear the good news now?”

“Hmmm, that’s the first time you’ve ever used your manners, isn’t it young man? Not so bad is it?”

“No, sir. I think I might be able to get used to it.”

“You’re an interesting pair, that’s for sure. According to your file, I thought you’d be trying to knife fight me by now. I think you might have learned something here in spite of yourselves.”

Jimmy smiled. He felt good about being nice. He didn’t know why though, it never felt good before. “I’ve been dead too long,” he thought. He figured he’d snap out of it as soon as he was made of solid matter again.

While Jimmy was tying to come to terms with these strange new feelings that were a result of using his manners, the old man continued to speak. “To answer your question young man, the good news is you’ll be alive! Being alive is a fantastic thing to be. You won’t have an easy go at it considering, but you’ll eat and breathe, and if you’re lucky you might fall in love. You might do that if you’re unlucky too, heh heh.”

The old man turned his attention to his clipboard and made some scribbles on a sheet of paper. When he was finished, he waved his hand at Jimmy and Sally and they faded away.

It was rough at first, being alive again that is. They were both still little kids, despite being dead for over 70 years. They had no parents. No home. No friends. No jobs. No money or extra shoes, either. They had each other, a switchblade, and a straight razor.

At first they ate out of trash cans and slept in jungle gyms at local parks. They occasionally found work as chimney sweeps. When they were a little older they would sneak into school and learn all kinds of things. Some of it was even useful.

When they were a bit older, they used the computer lab in the library to forge the documents they would need to exist. They used these documents to get proper library cards. They used the library cards to check out interesting books, instead of the boring ones school gave them.

The years passed and somewhere along the way they learned to be not just nice to each other, but kind. There’s a difference. Most people are nice to others because they have to be. People tend to be kind to each other because they can’t not be.

As they learned to be kind something strange happened. They grew fond of each other. This fondness blossomed into affection, which turned, in time, to love.

When they were old enough to need jobs they joined the Air Force because they don’t ask too many questions and make you do the least amount of push ups. They eventually married and had two kids of their own. They somehow managed to raise them correctly and eventually they grew up and had kids of their own.

The years flew by and Jimmy and Sally found themselves not only happy, but content. Having one or the other is usually more than enough for most people. Having both was far more rare. Somehow Jimmy and Sally knew this, somehow they had learned to see just how lucky they were.

Then came the day for Sally to pass over to the other side again. This time was for real. A year later Jimmy joined her. They left behind two children and six grand kids, who all lived full happy lives of their own.

Sally woke up yelling “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, ” over and over again as tears fell off her face and onto her pillow. She sat there weeping for what seemed to be far too long, but then again a crying child always feels that comfort is too slow to arrive.

Eventually her second dad came into her room and sat down next to her.

“It’s just a bad dream,” he said as he rubbed Sally’s back. “Everything is OK, cupcake.”

Sally sniffled and burrowed into her dad’s chest and thought about her dream. He kissed the top of her head in the most calming manner he could muster.

“It was just a bad dream, kiddo,” her second dad whispered again, but Sally knew it was more than a dream. She wasn’t sure what it was, but it was more than a dream that was for sure.

Sally managed to calm herself down and fall back asleep. When she woke up she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was different. She wondered if Jimmy had shared the same dream. It sure felt real enough to be shared.

When Sally came down to breakfast that morning, she did so without being yelled at ten times. She decided not to wear her pink coat today and even combed her own hair.

Her parents were too busy getting ready to go to work to notice the differences, but they did notice that having Sally around this morning wasn’t as horrible as it usually was.

The Ruiner "Easy Way Out" Pt. 4


IV. Crabs in a Barrel

Home of Commander Rich Terbim, Ruiner Project Head, U.S. Army. Nov. 14, 2016 23:03 pm. Monday.  

Commander Terbim was hissing furiously into his telephone even though the party on the other end had hung up about five minutes ago. He eventually noticed this and slammed the phone back into its cradle.

That’s how all his conversations with Vincent Harris ended.

Continue reading

T.J. Washington In "Hoodoo, Hoodone, Hoodid" Pt. 1



“Put the gun down, Sam. Ain’t going to do us no good.”

“Can’t hurt.”

“I’m not saying that you shouldn’t shoot him or that it isn’t the right move to do so or even that I don’t want to shoot him myself, just saying that it won’t help.”

Sam pulled the hammer back on his .45 and rolled his eyes at me. I covered my ears and waited while I rolled my eyes at everything.

People with .45s are different from people with .38s in the same way people with .38s are different from people with .32s. People with .32s are the same as people with .22s and don’t let anyone tell you different.

Sam’s gun barked twice and spat once. A stream of embalming fluid trickled from between the man’s eyes and then there were two holes in his chest all a sudden. The wall behind him now wore his hat and most of his skull, there were no brains.

Continue reading

The Ruiner “Easy Way Out” Pt. 3

III. Time Out
Agent 34 turned on her bedroom light and saw Vincent Harris standing against the wall.
“Hello there,” he said.
She answered with two shots from her pistol. Vincent had anticipated this, and moved out of the way allowing the two bullets to slam into the wall, spitting out little clouds of plaster behind them.
She tried again, just once this time. The result was about the same. Right before she was going to pull the trigger for a fourth time Vincent vanished from her field of vision while at the same time she felt a slight breeze behind her. Her shoulder went numb, just for a second, and she dropped her pistol. Vincent Harris caught it and returned to his spot leaning against the wall.
“I don’t like these things, they make you lazy.” Harris said as he was talking apart Agent 34’s pistol and tossing the parts onto her bed.
“How..?”, she said, backing up slowly and raising a hand to her mouth.
He hated this part of the job as much as he hated the other parts. You dodge a couple of bullets and everyone freaks out. “How? How did you do th-th-that….” or “What the hell?!” Never was there a realization on their part that they weren’t living up to their potential and with enough time and effort, just about anyone could dodge a bullet or two.
They usually went into a mild state of shock and stared at him for a while. This only happened when he talked to people instead of killing them. As much as he complained about it, the killing part wasn’t as bad as the talking to people after you freak them out part.
“I was supposed to kill you,” he said, “but I’m not going to. I could have killed you just then, instead of taking your gun. It also could have happened about two hours ago when I first got here.”
A blank stare was Agent 34’s reply. She’d seen an alien before. She knew all about interdimensional portals. Demons were so common they had become boring. In her career as a spy, she’s killed plenty. She’s never, not once, aimed her gun at something, pulled the trigger and have it still be there. There was no precedent for this.
Experience had shown Vincent that there’s no getting through to people who are in a mild state of shock from watching him do what appeared, to them, to be impossible. She would be fine in a few minutes. He decided to wait for her rather than to continue talking and have to repeat everything he said after she pulled herself together.
“Let me know when you’re ready, OK? I hate repeating myself.”
She nodded. That was good. He might be able to get somewhere.
“Would you like a glass of water or something?”
She nodded again, this time in the negative.
“Have you ever been in a car crash?” Vincent asked. He didn’t really wait for an answer before continuing, “Time seems to slow down. A second feels like an hour. You can watch pieces of debris slowly fly past your face. It’s like you could almost reach out and grab them. A person can learn to do that anytime they want, if they really want to. Inducing time dilation is a great way to dodge bullets. It’s pretty easy once you get used to it.”
“Huh?” she said, having pretty much snapped out of it.
“I learned to shift my perception of time in order to make dodging bullets easier. It’s got something to do with the metabolism.”
“You asked”, he reminded her.
While “safe” might be a bad way to describe how she felt at the moment, “in danger” wasn’t a good description either. She didn’t need a name for what she was feeling at the moment, she needed some information about why this weirdo broke into her apartment to kill her but decided to not. Why would someone do that?
“I saw you at the house in Vermont. I blew the house up after killing Alum and taking his briefcase. You pulled up, got out of the car and made a phone call before driving away. This morning I was ordered to kill you. I decided not to because I’m supposed to be on vacation.”
Agent 34 nodded and sat on the edge of her bed, more curious than nervous. She was about to say something when he started talking again.
“Harris, Vincent Harris. I work for the United Sates Government​, same as you. I kill people for them. There’s some other stuff too, but it’s mostly killing. I know you work for the Fourth Branch and have a pretty high security clearance with the Department of Agriculture, so I’m guessing that you know about the aliens. I don’t know your real name or anything else about you. I don’t really want to either. I just want my vacation and it’d be nice if you’d be willing to help me out here.”
“So, wait.” She said, having fully regained her composure. “Why were you after Alum? I’d been working that case for six months.”
“I don’t know. I don’t get reasons, just names and locations. That guy was a weirdo and I’m not sure I want to know anything else about him.”
“What was in the case?” She asked.
“I didn’t look.”
“Because you weren’t ordered to?”
“Mostly because I don’t give a crap. You know how many secret briefcases I have to deal with in any given week? They all have secrets in them.”
A phone rang from the other room.
“You should get that, it’s probably for me. I bet it’s work related.”
“You go get it.” She answered.
“So you keep your spare gun in here then?” Harris guessed out loud.
He didn’t wait for an answer, he just went and got the phone. By the time he found it and returned to Agent 34’s bedroom, it had stopped ringing.
“Does your phone get calls from more than one number? Mine doesn’t. I have to carry around two if I want to be able to order a pizza.”
The phone rang again and Vincent answered it. “Hi there. Nope, not dead. I already told you why.” Then he hung up.
Vincent handed the phone back to Agent 34 and turned his attention to re-assembling her pistol.
“Here ya go. You might need this. We should go soon.”
“Why’s that?” She asked.
“Because someone is trying to kill you.”