I hunt killers blood boy, p.1
I Hunt Killers Blood Boy, page 1part #0.25 of I Hunt Killers Series
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About the Author
Also by Barry Lyga
an I Hunt Killers prequel
HOWIE STAGGERED OUT OF the hallway and into the living room, his temple bleeding profusely, the left side of his face covered in bruises.
“Howie!” Mom screamed, bolting off the sofa in a blur. Dad, always the slower of the two of to react, blinked stupidly for a moment before saying, "What the hell...?" as though asking questions would help in some way.
Mom damn near teleported to him, hands hovering just above his skin, wanting to touch, afraid to touch. She stood five six-and-a-half, five nine in heels, but that was an action figure next to Howie's towering height. The top of her head came to his throat, meaning he always had a nice whiff of whatever hair product she'd used most recently. Today was some kind of strawberry and mango concoction, which made Howie think of smoothies, which made his stomach rumble.
"What happened?" Mom howled, and turned to Dad. "Don't just sit there! Call 911! Get the bandages--"
"Chill, Mom." Howie put what he liked to think were calming hands on her shoulders and pushed her slightly away from him. "I'm fine. I just needed to see if it worked."
"If what worked?" She goggled at him, exploring him with searching, terrified eyes.
"The makeup," he told her. "For Halloween."
Mom stared for a protracted moment. Behind her, still on the sofa, Dad rolled his eyes and grunted something noncommittal.
"This is your Halloween costume?" Mom's jaw twitched the way it did whenever Howie did...well, did pretty much anything, really. That jaw of hers got one hell of a workout.
“Gotta own it, Mom!” He stooped a little bit and checked himself out in the fancy mirror Mom had bought at a consignment shop. He looked suitably grotesque. Car accident, maybe. Or trip-and-fall-into-the-fridge-door. Something like that.
Shivering slightly, she stepped away from him, tears glimmering in her eyes. "Don't. Do that. To me," she said very quietly.
Howie shrugged. "I'm fine. What are you all worked up about?"
"You can't just traipse around like. Not with your condition. I worry, Howie."
"I'm sixteen, Mom. I'm gonna be out of here in a couple of years. What are you gonna do, put cameras in my college dorm to make sure--"
But she'd left the room already, rushing down the hall toward the bathroom.
"I did think dinner was a little rich tonight," Howie said.
"Don't be an idiot," Dad said, never lifting his gaze from his iPad. "Go apologize to your mother."
"I didn't do anything," Howie protested.
"You stabbed her through the heart." Dad's tone was casual. "Again. Apologize. It's the right thing to do."
Howie sighed like Atlas and loped toward the bathroom. Halfway there, his dad called out. Turning around, Howie beheld his father gazing at him from the sofa.
"Damn good job, by the way. Maybe you should go into special effects or something."
Howie pshawed. "There's no chicks in special effects, Dad."
MOM EMERGED FROM THE bathroom after Howie threatened to knock on the door hard enough to bruise his knuckles. Which would not have been all that hard.
"You can't do that to me," she whispered. Her eyes were red and Howie felt like he'd just kicked a puppy, so he reacted the only sensible way he knew.
"You need to chill," he told her sternly. "You're too sensitive. I'm supposed to be the one who bruises easily. You have, like, psychic hemophilia. And I guess I'm sorry I was a dickbag, if that's the sort of thing that offends your delicate sensibilities."
"Don't use that kind of language around me." She hugged him, gently, always so gently.
A FEW HOURS LATER, the test run successful, Howie finished up his makeup job, continuing the bruising down his body before heading out.
Mom caught him at the front door. "You should at least wear real pants," she complained.
He glanced down at his shorts, which revealed roughly ten meters of leg, much of it "bruised" and "contused." "It's seventy degrees out," Howie told her. "In October. Your generation managed to screw the planet with global warming; at least let me enjoy it before I drown when the oceans rise."
"Will Jasper be there?" Mom asked.
Howie had anticipated this question. Truth be told, it did not require Cassandra-level foresight to predict it; Mom asked if Jazz would be present every chance she got. Hell, when Howie went to the bathroom, she wanted to know if Jasper (at least she'd stopped calling him "the Dent boy") would be there.
"I don't think so," he lied smoothly. "He's busy with that new girlfriend of his."
Dad clucked his tongue from somewhere within earshot. Howie couldn't tell if it was disbelief that Jazz was macking on a lady or disappointment that Howie was currently -- and perpetually -- unattached.
"I know what I don't think so means," Mom said shrewdly, eyes narrowing. "I don't want you riding around in that Jeep of his."
Jazz's Jeep was no more dangerous than any other vehicle, and Jazz was actually a pretty decent driver.
But the Jeep was a hand-me-down from Jazz's father, Billy Dent. Also known as Hand-in-Glove, the Artist, Green Jack, and a billion other of the absolute worst super-hero names in the known universe. Butcher Billy was the leading favorite these days, mainly because Billy had, indeed, butchered many, many people in his serial killing career.
"There are no ghosts in the Jeep," Howie told her.
"I won't ride in the Jeep," Howie swore, knowing he would break this promise in the next twenty minutes.
Mom always looked worried and nervous, but for some reason, she seemed even more so this night. Maybe it was Halloween, giving her the spooks.
Propelled by some instinct that he hated and tried to ignore — but couldn’t — Howie bent down to kiss her on the top of her head. "I'll be fine, Mom. It's just a party. I've heard the odds are, like, four or five to one that no one will die."
"Those are pretty good odds," she admitted, finally grinning. "Have fun."
And then, because things were going too well, he pretended to bang his head on the top of the doorframe on his way out.
JAZZ DIDN’T LIVE FAR away, his crazy grandmother's house being close enough that you could almost walk it. Almost, but not quite. Very little was in walking distance in Lobo’s Nod. It was a small town, but for some reason, the smaller the town, the more badly you needed a car to get anywhere.
Howie pulled into the Dent driveway and parked. Jazz was just coming out the front door, locking it carefully behind him. With a groan and a moan, Howie pushed open his car door and spilled out of the car. When Jazz did nothing, Howie picked himself up and stumbled over to his best friend, limping, lurching from side to side. "Jazz... Stopped too fast... Hit my head..."
Jazz coolly looked him up and down in roughly half a second and said, "Nice makeup.” He strode to where the Jeep waited, silent and bland.
"Not...makeup..." Howie groaned, following him. "Hurts so bad... Call 911..."
"I'm sure," Jazz said, and yawned. "What are you supposed to be?"
"I'm Victim number one hundred. Billy's diamond anniversary."
Jazz didn't so much as twitch. "Number one hundred was a sixteen year old girl named Patricia--"
"You're less fun than my parents," Howie complained. "How is that even possible?"
"Lots of hard work and Billy’s version of Take Your Son to Work Day."
"Touché!" Leaning against the Jeep, he not
Jazz shrugged. "I'm going as a normal person."
"And you do an admirable impression of one, I must say. Almost had me convinced.” He jerked his chin toward the dark house. "How's Gramma Dearest?"
Jazz's grandmother was a nice old lady. She was also a raging bitch-demon from the lowest pits of hell. Which one surfaced at any point in time depended on some formula of factors that Howie had never figured out. One minute, she could be puttering around the kitchen, intent on baking cookies. The next, she'd be hiding under the kitchen table with a big knife, wondering why the Democrats were writing legislation to make her brain illegal. Unable to read her, Howie had instead learned how to read Jazz. He could tell pretty quickly if it was a good Gramma day or a bad Gramma day.
Today was a good Gramma day -- Jazz shrugged diffidently and said, "So-so," which was the Jazz equivalent of bursting into song with little cartoon birds twittering and tweeting around his head.
"So we can stay out little later than usual, then?"
"Sure. Let's go." Jazz slid into the driver's seat of the Jeep.
Howie didn't move. "I'm forbidden by parental edict from riding in Billy's Jeep of Death, so you'll have to force me."
"Get in or I'll kill you," Jazz said tonelessly.
What else could Howie do? Clearly terrified for his very life, he had no choice but to comply. He hopped into the passenger seat and slammed the door.
"I can't believe I finally talked you into going to a Halloween party. Hell, to any party!" Howie rubbed his hands together gleefully.
"You didn't. Connie did."
Connie was Jazz's...girlfriend, Howie supposed. They'd been dating for a couple of weeks, whereby dating meant seeing a few movies and stealing makeout sessions in Connie's driveway. Given that even on a good Gramma day, Jazz's grandmother was almost hilariously racist, Jazz couldn't very well bring her to his place. And Howie imagined most fathers wouldn't be thrilled to have the spawn of Billy Dent in their houses.
Since dating Connie, there'd been a change in Jazz, a change Howie was glad to see, though he would never, ever admit it. He was the tiniest bit more relaxed, and he'd joined, of all things, the Drama Club. Which, in a way, was perfect -- who had more drama in his life than Jazz?
"Let me have my dreams, Jazz. Why do you have to kill my dreams? Why can't you let them live? Why can't you be merciful?"
He was teeing Jazz up to say something melancholy and doleful. Maybe something like, Because my dad never taught me mercy. Or Because all of my dreams died a long time ago.
Instead, Jazz shrugged and put the Jeep in gear. "Because I like the way they scream when they die."
"That Connie girl is just no good for you," Howie grumbled. "You might actually be something like normal someday, and then where does that leave us?"
“Happy?” Jazz said in a tone that didn’t believe it.
“Good luck with that.”
Jazz put the Jeep in gear and rolled them down the driveway. Even though there was no one behind them, he signaled his turn onto the road. Soon they were on their way. Howie rolled down his window and hand-surfed the wind.
"Do you have any idea what you could sell this thing for?" he asked, peering around the confines of the Jeep. A part of him always expected to find something lingering from Billy's days of stalking his prey, even though the cops had thoroughly scoured every micron of the Jeep when they'd impounded it after arresting Billy. They'd discovered exactly nothing, as well as a little more nothing, which was why Jazz had it.
"I don't care," Jazz told him. "I need it to get around."
"If you sold it," Howie pointed out, "you would make so much money you could hire someone to drive you around."
"I doubt it."
Mouth open, ready to speak, Howie changed his mind. On a whim, he'd poked around one night on one of the crazy-ass serial killer fanboy message boards. Under the pseudonym BillyFan125 (BillyFan124 was taken), he'd casually inquired as to what someone might pay for Billy Dent's Jeep. The enthusiasm of the responses had startled him, as had the range of offers, none of which was less than five figures.
A couple of days later, he'd received a PM on the board from someone pseudonymmed GoingUnderAgain, who had said, in part, "I notice your IP address is from Lobo's Nod. Do you have a line on the Jeep? I will outbid anyone else. No questions asked."
The message had gone on in that vein, persuading Howie that GoingUnderAgain was very serious and very rich and also very, very serious and also very, very rich and also so, so freaking serious.
So much for online anonymity. Howie had deleted the account and considered tossing his laptop in the trash just to be sure. Still, the idea was there. Jazz could make a bundle selling this heap.
"You never know," Howie said noncommittally.
"Profiting off Billy's murders would be wrong." And then, because something human issuing forth from Jazz's mouth always came at a price, he said, "And I'm not going down that route."
"You know, making a little money to help yourself and your grandmother doesn't make you a serial killer. It's not like Billy left you with the means to rake in the cash."
"He did exactly that. Selling his legacy." Jazz signaled onto the highway on-ramp. TYNAN RIDGE said the sign. "And I won't do it. And remind me again why we're going all the way to Tynan Ridge for a Halloween party?"
Gazing out the window as though something utterly fascinating hung out there in the dark waste, Howie lied smoothly and easily, "Just wanted to try something different this year. Tired of the old Nod scene."
"Oh. Yeah, I guess that makes sense."
Jazz had a built-in lie detector that seemed to ping for everyone and everything except for Howie. Howie could slip falsehoods by Jazz in ways that no one else could. He wasn't about to tell Jazz the real reason they were going to Tynan Ridge.
So simple, though.
In Tynan Ridge, no one knew Howie.
THEY ARRIVED AT THE party house in Tynan Ridge a little past nine o'clock. Some late trick-or-treat stragglers ambled along the sidewalks. Cars were crammed in the driveway and up the block. The house itself was a medium-sized Colonial in a development packed with them, a clone that stood out only by the pulsating lights and throbbing music coming from within.
"Are you sure this is the place?" Jazz asked.
"Oh. Give me a heads up next time. I’ll be sure to laugh.”
Howie unfolded himself from the passenger seat and stretched. His life seemed, sometimes, to be a series of unfolding and stretching into a world that was too small for someone so tall. If only he were allowed to play basketball — fame and fortune would be his as the greatest white player since that other white dude, and he could afford to build a world around him scaled to his height.
“I guess we go in now?” Jazz asked, eyeing the door to the house as though Billy lurked behind it. To Jazz, Howie knew, it was far worse. Billy would greet his son with a hug; the kids in this house, if they recognized Jazz, would be far less enthusiastic.
“That’s usually how it works, yeah.” Howie peered around. “Where’s your Nubian princess? I thought she was meeting us here?”
“I don’t think you’re supposed to say stuff like that anymore. It’s not PC.”
“Right. I forgot. Where’s your Nubian equal-partner?”
“What? I didn’t say princess. I know that’s, like, sexist and stuff.”
A gentle sigh was all the reaction he could prod out of Jazz tonight, so Howie gave in. They trooped up to the door and Jazz was actually about to knock, the big geek, when Howie shoved the door open. “Breaking and entering!” he chortled. “Just like Dear Old Dad used to,
Jazz shrugged and they entered into a foyer that overflowed with bodies, many of them jutting uncomfortable costume parts randomly. House music pumped and throbbed, as though the house had a heartbeat, one going into overdrive. Trying to avoid being impaled by some guy gesturing with a homemade lightsaber, Howie managed to jam his back against the doorknob. He grinned into the sudden pain.
“You see Connie anywhere?” Jazz asked.
Down amongst the normal-heighted, Jazz couldn’t see much, but Howie had the advantage of a Lebron-like vantage point. The foyer led off in three directions — through an archway to what looked like a living room, down a hallway into the depths of the house, and up a flight of stairs that ascended into darkness, no doubt the family bedrooms, where much hooking up would commence. Howie planned to be a part of that.
“I see her,” he said, catching sight of Connie. She was making her way down the hallway, fighting against a tide of bodies. “Forward! Mush!”
Between the two of them, they shoved through the crowd. Connie spied Howie above the throng and gestured to one side. The three of them met in the living room, which was a little less sardine-y. Connie perched on the arm of the sofa, crossing her legs at the ankles. She wore black boots, a red wig, and a skintight black one-piece suit that zipped up the middle, stopping right at that perfect place Howie loved so much, where it seemed like the boobs might fall out of their own accord. They never did, but a man could dream, right?
“Who are we this evening?” she asked Jazz, kissing him lightly on the cheek.
“He’s normal,” Howie said with disgust.
Connie smiled. “I approve.”
With a snort, Howie crossed his arms over his chest. “You would.”
“And what are you supposed to be?" Connie asked him.
"I am the face of spousal abuse," Howie intoned with utter seriousness. "Until women stop beating up their husbands, I will wear this makeup in solidarity with…"
He trailed off as Connie's interest slid away. She had learned far too quickly when to ignore him. It was vexing. Usually people took much, much longer to get to this point. But she was already turning back to Jazz, taking his hand and holding it in both of her own. It was sweet and adorable and nauseating.
by Barry Lyga / Literature & Fiction / Comics & Graphic Novels / Young Adult have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes