Saturday, 12 September 2009

KINGDOMS SIN by Lee Hughes

Part Eight of Lee's epic, The Osseous Box

Kingdoms Sin


Billy stopped what he was doing. He recognised the voice from by the river the night before. He looked down into the face of the man he was throttling with a length of kettle flex.

Billy caught the flicker of hope in the man's baby-blues. He could see him conjuring up one last burst of survival strength.

He couldn't let that happen. He'd chosen to strangle the man because it was less barbaric. After having opened a man's skull with a baseball-bat Billy had decided there was a level of violence that wasn't for him. Strangling was like putting them into a permanent sleep, it was peaceful.

Now, there was no option. He reached for the knife on the counter and planted it into the man's face. Something inside the man switched off instantly.

"Hello?" Louder this time.

Billy let go of the knife and stood.

"One minute. Hold your horses." Billy rushed for the man's bag and rummaged through it for the cook's uniform.

It wasn't a bad fit. He donned the white cap to conceal his lank hair. The shoes didn't fit. He'd have to go barefoot. He'd just have to try and keep them out of sight.

He made for the door, something caused to him glance back. He looked at the folded form.

He wondered when murder had become so undemanding.

He knew it was when the Devil had made Billy His shoe-leather.


The man and the woman looked at him as he walked to the counter. The woman twisted in her seat embarrassed for staring and began to bother the salt and pepper shakers.

Billy smiled.

“Sorry about that. It's just me here today, what can I get you?” He asked it as though it were his proper job.

The man nodded.

Billy could tell straight away that the man was dangerous. He'd proven it the previous night.

The man asked. "I was wondering if we could have a look around the visitor's centre?"

Billy paused for a moment, running through scenarios in his head.

"I have a couple of things to do first. Can I get you any refreshments?"

"I'll have a coffee thanks." The man said. Billy watched as he looked to the woman. She was nice-looking, in a plain way.

She smiled. "Cup of tea for me, please."

Billy managed another smile even though his jaw throbbed.

"Coming up." He turned and limped back to the kitchen.


Billy unwound the flex from the man's neck and plugged it back into the kettle. He leaned up against one of the worktops whilst the water boiled and decided what to do.

It was all down to him. The beast wouldn't come until dark. Everything was at his doorstep and failure was something Billy didn't even wish to think about.

He scribbled down their order on a piece of paper to make it look as though the whole sham was above board.

With the knife hidden down the back of his pants he was ready.


The order ticket fluttered to the floor. Billy made an attempt to pick it up. The man moved to help.

Billy didn't pause or dither. He pulled the cook's knife and stepped around behind the woman and set the blade tight to her gullet. Tight enough that she would know that any more pressure and she'd be bleeding, any deeper after that and she'd be blowing bubbles through her neck.

Billy liked the look in the man's eyes. The man clearly didn't like being fooled.

"Don't be an idiot." The man said.

Billy said, "Take it you were the one that blindsided me last night?"

The man surged forward in his chair. Billy didn't think twice, he added a little pressure and could feel the lip of the blade sink through her skin.

The man stilled, and then eased back.

Billy smiled. He'd just seen a weakness; the man was a good-guy. If it had been a film he'd have been wearing white.

"You wanted to see the visitor's centre, so let's go. You've got some digging to do." Billy nodded with his head towards the door and asked.

"What's your name?"

The man had already started for the door. He didn't stop or look back. "Jon."

"Well, Jon, I'm, Billy. Go and pull the cords down from the blinds over there please."

"Why?" Jon looked around this time.

"Two reasons. The first being, I said so. The second being, that I want you to tie up that dog of yours. Take it you brought it with you?"

Jon's eyes hardened.

"Don't take me for an idiot, Jon." Billy gave the knife a little wiggle and freed some more blood.

Jon swallowed hard. He looked into Beth's eyes and nodded to her to show her everything would be fine.

That was the hardest look he'd ever given. He could see the blood on her neck, no longer a thin beaded necklace. Now it was more of a cravat. She didn't look to be handling it well either.

He couldn't blame her for that.

Jon walked without a word over to the first set of blinds. He didn't care about delicately removing the cords, he grabbed and he yanked and he brought down most of the rig. He planted a foot on the slats and tugged the cord free.

He did the same to the next. He paused to hitch in a couple of breaths to calm himself. Being in a rage was no way to sort this out. He bundled up the cord and headed to the door. He looked back at Billy.

"You coming?" there was a level of dare in it.

Billy gave a smile and a 'Wish-I-could' shrug' and said, "I'll wait until you've got the Littlest Hobo secured. Make those knots tight, I don't want to make any sudden movements."


Jon sucked in the crisp morning air.

The dog was looking up at him.

Jon tied the two lengths of cord together and spied the drainage pipe at the corner.

"Come on."

The dog looked at Jon and then at the door. It was as if the dog knew that something was going on inside. It looked at Jon with a questioning tilt of its head, and then limped after him.


Jon was expecting the dog to fuss as he put the lasso over his head. It stayed still, not even pulling at the cord once it was tied off.


Jon opened the door. "The dog's tied up."

"Head over to the Visitor's Centre and un-lock the door." Billy tossed the key over.

Jon snapped it out of the air.

He concluded that the man was a psycho, but he wasn't an idiot. He wondered about the cook. He knew he would be dead. He knew whoever was supposed to be manning the Visitor's Centre would be dead too.


He unlocked the door and pushed it open. The top hit a medley of bells that instantly grated on Jon's nerves. He reached and pulled then from the hook and tossed them to the ground.

That's when he saw the feet. They were sticking out from behind the counter. Jon ventured deeper.

He looked over the counter and shook his head. The woman had been in her fifties. Jon could still see the man's fingers stained into the soft of her throat. He hated seeing people strangled. Eyes nearly forced from their sockets. Tongue fat and seeking freedom through blue lips. He could smell her piss and shit in the air.

Jon found a throw and covered her with it.

"I had to." Billy said from the doorway.

Jon looked past Beth who had the same vacant stare that she'd had the previous night in the car.

"I'll say the same, once I'm done with you."

Billy ignored it and tossed the shovel they'd brought with them down on the floor.

"The floorboards should come up easily enough. If I were you I wouldn't dawdle. You'll want to have the digging done and be on your way before it gets dark. There won't be anyone to save you when the beast comes."

Jon picked up the shovel. "You'll kill us anyway."

"Just dig up the box and I'll let you go. The beast won't."

Jon set the blade of the shovel in-between two of the floorboards and put some weight behind it causing the wood to creak.


As he levered the first board up he knew he had to bide his time. Besides, he was digging and that had been what he had planned to be doing anyway. The original idea didn't involve Beth being held at knife-point.

An hour in and he had his shirt off. The palms of his hands were red-raw. At least the majority of the floor-boards were up.

Two hours in and he'd ripped a couple of strips from the shirt to wrap around his hands.

A couple of times the aches slowed him. Those times he'd just look at Beth in the corner with Billy standing behind her.


The soil was solid and rocky as hell. Jon had discarded the shovel and was excavating rocks by hand.


Near the end of the third hour he needed a few moments rest. He didn't ask permission. He took his sweat-greased body over to a chair and sat down.

"Thirsty?" Billy asked.

Jon stared at Billy.

He wanted to tell him to go fuck himself. But part of him, the thirsty part wanted water.

"Yeah." He looked at the hole and kept quiet about feeling the blade of the shovel connect with something that was neither soil, nor stone.

"We'll be back in a minute. Don't do anything foolish." Billy pulled Beth towards the door.

Jon waited until the door closed and rushed and dropped into the hole and began to clear away the coating of soil. His heartbeat quickened, he'd found bone.


Beth felt the knife leave her throat. She could see the crook of the man's arm so knew that the blade wouldn't be too far away.

She spied the dog watching them from where it was tethered. Its body wounded yet its eyes were keen as it followed them.

She couldn't help but see those feet in her mind. The ones that had belonged to the woman in the visitor's centre

So many deaths, undoubtedly there'd be many more. She tried to count them in her head as she was led over to the standing fridge.

She knew of the nun, Sister Gail had died for the cause. Mordecai had been slain by the beast. Two workers here and God knew how many Billy had slaughtered on his travels.

"How many people have you killed?" Beth asked.

Billy took a bottle from the fridge.

"Do you want a bottle?" He asked with his mouth beside her ear.

"How many?" Beth persisted.

Billy took that as a no and started moving her back towards the door. He was doing the maths in his head.

"Since I got mixed up in this I've killed a man with a baseball bat, strangled two, stabbed another, and hurt countless others. But if it's either them or me, it's not even a question."

"And you'll be adding me and Jon to that tally." There was a hollow feeling in her stomach. This was all her fault, she should have been wary of an attack. Instead she had let this poor excuse of a man make a prisoner out of her, out of Jon too.

"Depends on whether you both play the game my way."

"Bullshit!" her anger came fast. She even surprised herself. If she stopped and thought about it that was the first time she'd sworn in over a decade.

"Easy." Billy warned as he opened the door and moved her through it.

"Do you know what Jon will do to you?"

"Absolutely nothing whilst I've got you." Billy could feel her body tensing. She was cracking up. It didn't surprise him; it wasn't exactly a normal run of events that she'd found herself a part of.

She knew it was the truth. Jon would remain a prisoner as long as she was.

"You, you're evil. The Devil's in you all the way! And you'll keep on killing and hurting until someone kills you!"

"Probably." He opened the door and moved her through.

Jon was still sitting where they'd left him which was good figured Billy.


Jon quickly covered it again with soil and retook his seat. He decided he'd dig around it and then give the plan he'd come up with a try. He figured it would work. At the very least it would get Beth away from Billy.

The door opened. Jon watched as Beth came in. Her eyes were wild, the knife up close and personal with her throat.

Billy had a slight look of concern on his face. "Jon, tell the lady to calm down."

"Beth…" Jon began.

But Beth's eyes had gone to the wild state. "Jon, you have to stop him."

She grabbed Billy's arm to keep it still and thrust herself neck-first onto the blade. She knew the moment she breathed steel she had freed Jon.

"NO!" Jon roared and dived forward.

He knew it was too late.

He altered his course.

Billy was stunned, giving Jon the upper hand. He grabbed at the knife arm and twisted it as they both fell.

Jon heard the satisfying crack of Billy's arm being snapped at the elbow joint. He ignored the knife and began to pummel Billy into unconsciousness. Jon didn't stop there. He got the shovel and busted open Billy's head like an egg.

Jon fell back. He didn't need to be a doctor to know a dead person when he saw one. He'd killed Billy just as he'd killed all those others.

He crawled over Billy's body to get to Beth's.

She laid there, her eyes finding great interest in the ceiling. Her throat was open in a wide grin, the blood still flowing. Her lips were twitching, trying for a smile.

Jon reached and held her hand for comfort as she journeyed away. He closed his eyes. He'd known her all of a day, but it made him hurt just as if he'd known her for an eternity. It wasn't love, it was guilt. He'd brought her out of the safety of her library to use as a map. He'd gotten her caught up in all of this…this shit.

Jon looked away, sick of the sight of death. All his eyes found were the feet of the woman Billy had strangled.

He felt dizzy. He clambered to his feet and staggered over to the large hole that he'd been digging. He picked up the shovel. He gripped it tight enough to purge fresh blood from the gashes in his knuckles that he'd earned from beating Billy.

He raised the shovel over his head and looked down to where the box was hiding beneath a thin sheet of muck, the box that was the cause of it all.
Lee Hughes's short fiction has, or is due to appear on, Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers, A Twist of Noir, Powder Burn Flash, FlashShots, Blink-Ink, MicroHorror, Every Day Fiction, Daily Tourniquet and in Cern Zoo: Nemonymous Nine.


  1. Jack London of the serialized epic....

  2. Thanks Henry, that's high praise indeed!

  3. like putting them to sleep eh...chokingly good..

  4. The Littlest hobbo, White Fang...all we need is Lassie and we're sorted. Seriously, though, I'm enjoying this tale immensely. Remember that conversation about Herbert van Thal? This epic is taking me back on a real nostalgia trip to those dark old days, but it is also very new and original. A real treat - and I generally get to read them first!!! P.s. I think Lee Van Hughes has a real ring to it.

  5. Bloody good this, Lee.
    Just playing catch up after the wrist op - off to read the next one!
    See yah.

  6. Thanks gents, glad that people are enjoying it. Lee Van Hughes, hmmm yeah, seperate me from the football player who's done chokey I suppose lol