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  Table of contents Issue Nineteen BRIDGE WORK

by
GARY CLIFTON
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reat God, Margot, body parts are scattered all over the damned place…even the trees,” Captain Louis Baptiste pointed upward. “This had to take some maniac hours.”



Detective Margot LePlatt, tall, shapely, beautiful, with jet black hair and deep dark brown eyes surveyed the carnage at the edge of the huge swamp on the south side of Lake Pontchartrain. A string of intestines had been looped over the low-hanging limb of a cypress tree. A blonde, female head was posed on a decayed tree stump nearby. “And several knives,” she added.



Margot was a New Orleans Police officer with a reputation for being a devastating interrogator and extremely effective detective, but in archaic 1892 New Orleans, the department still had to justify her position by having her double as both cop and medical examiner. An accomplished surgeon, she knelt to examine a severed hand which she instantly recognized as having been removed by someone with knowledge of knife work, perhaps medically trained.



“The chief is going to pitch a bitch, Margot. This is the third in the past two months.”



Margot stepped over a glob of flesh and held Baptiste’s gaze. “Actually, three we can tie together. There may very well be more…either dumped outside our jurisdiction, or we just haven’t found them..... yet.”



“God, Margot you’re a bundle of optimism.”



Margot pointed out several areas and pieces of flesh to a police photographer who lugged his bulky camera laboriously through the mucky soil underfoot. Even with the primitive late 19th-century equipment, he would record enough of the carnage to use against the madman responsible when they managed to bring him to ground. Margot didn’t realize it yet, but she already had a suspect in mind.



Although her youthful beauty made her appear twenty-five or thereabouts, she smiled at what Captain Baptiste would think if he knew she had actually been dealing in mutilated body remains for nearly three centuries.



Margot had been an innocent, naïve servant girl who lived with her eight-year-old daughter, Shelbina, in the huge estate of a powerful baron in Transylvania three hundred years earlier. One night, the baron summoned Margot and her daughter to his bedroom, where he bit both and drank blood from them. Margot, horrified, but also strangely satisfied, became the baron’s regular, summoned night after night to his bed as his source for whatever pleasure he desired. Oddly, especially when considering the era, he never touched Shelbina again. It took several increasingly boring years as the baron’s toy, but she gradually realized that once bitten, she not only became immortal but neither she nor Shelbina aged.



They remained the baron’s ‘property’ for another thirty years. The baron, an educated man, made tutors available to both Margot and Shelbina, rewarding their servitude with broad, extensive educations. Margot became a very capable doctor. Shelbina spoke a dozen languages and played several classical musical instruments. Elevated to the status of Countess by the baron, Margot became the physician for the surrounding area.



It was during those years that Margot learned she and her daughter did not fully fit the model of a 'true vampire'. Both could tolerate being outside in daylight, could sleep at night, and could satisfy their need/lust for blood by consuming animal flesh.



Margot, shortly after being bitten, saw another change developing in her mental processes. When she spoke with any man, she could sense his lust for her sexually, which somehow opened his mind to her. When she bore her dark stare into any man’s eyes, she quickly realized first that she could see what he was thinking and eventually that she could actually dictate his thoughts.



From the village on the edge of the estate, the parish priest, a rabid, anti-vampire advocate, came to her for an ailment of his private area. She saw immediately he was dying from the third stages of syphilis. When she read his thought that he intended to order her, as lord and master of the realm of God in the area, to strip, she preempted him, dropped her smock and waited. When he approached her with his diseased penis, she snipped it off with a scalpel and watched him die in agony on the floor as she re-dressed.



She immediately performed an impromptu autopsy, thus covering the cause of death, and joined the townspeople in a church mass to pay respects to such a fine man.



But times changed. For several years, rumors had circulated through the countryside that the baron, Margot, and Shelbina were of the undead. The peasants attending the priest’s service at first grumbled among themselves. Then a full riot ensued. Because of their superhuman strength (another gift of the bite), they were able to flee the crowd. Margot and Shelbina managed to escape in a load of hay with only the clothes on their backs.



For the next three hundred years, the eternal mother and daughter drifted around the world, Margot using her medical skills in various ways to survive. The burden of fitting in was especially difficult in that they were forced to move every ten years or so because they did not age. In the early 1890’s Margot worked as the onboard doctor of a Belgian ship on a voyage from the African Congo to New Orleans.



The local newspapers advertised that Orleans Parish was in need of a skilled medical examiner, a position managed by the New Orleans Police. She applied to the chief of police, a fat, degenerate man with a huge belly and similarly large, dirty mustache.



“Our medical examiner must be a man.” He eyed her lovely figure. “Women just can’t stand the gore and blood. Besides the job calls for the doctor to be a sworn police officer. We’ ain’t got no women police officers.”



He held her gaze across the battered desk a few seconds too long and in three heartbeats she had firm control of his thoughts. His carnal cravings were no surprise. She stepped to the door, closed and locked it. She moved not an inch, arms crossed in annoyance, but in his mind, she lay naked and on his desk. In reality, five minutes passed, but to the chief, he had spent hours of lustful bliss with this gorgeous creature. As suddenly as she had appeared naked before him, she was standing again at his doorway, as fully clothed as he now was. The chief decided, stuttering and confused, that since few doctors would accept a job as a police officer while doing double duty as a morgue manager, he could bend the rules slightly. Margot twisted the mystical matter in his mind just enough that he would never question his decision, and if he ever did, he would find himself suddenly right back on his desk underneath what actually amounted to a fairly accurate mental approximation of her naked form. ‘Foolish men’, she thought as she left the chief, ‘so easily led by fantasy....’



And hence, Margot LePlatt, to add to the many, many jobs she’d held in three hundred years, became both the medical examiner and a New Orleans police officer. She moved with her daughter into a small apartment in the French Quarter. Shelbina enrolled in the local elementary school, being mindful daily to act no smarter that the ‘rest’ of the eight-year-old children.



Margot, originally assigned to desk duty, quickly earned a reputation for being an amazing interrogator, as she routinely interviewed and processed arrestees into the parish jail. While veteran, male detectives spent many frustrating hours hammering at suspects, Margot only needed a few moments to look into their eyes and they seemed consumed with the urge to tell her every malicious act they’d ever done. Male cops didn’t like her success at first but soon learned to rely on Margot to question most suspects brought into custody. In less than a year, medical examiner/patrolman Margot LePlatt became Detective LePlatt.



Then, on a muggy spring morning, a burly, disheveled man of thirty burst into police headquarters. He told the desk officer of finding a dismembered corpse beneath a bayou bridge not far from downtown. Margot responded to the scene with other officers, then spent several hours performing a forensic examination of the remains.



“Female, prostitute, about thirty, carved into pieces by someone who had knowledge of knife procedures,” she told Captain Baptiste. Normally, that would have ended Margot’s involvement in the crime. Late that afternoon, the man who had originally reported finding the body returned to the desk sergeant to inquire if any reward was offered for his discovery.



Margot, by pure chance standing nearby, looked into the man’s mind and saw an aberration. Her penetrating eyes could not immediately lock on his brain, nor could she get a grip on influencing his thoughts.



She interviewed the witness for nearly an hour and finally concluded the man was mentally challenged and incapable of enough independent thought to make his mind readable. As she dismissed him, she casually asked his occupation.



“Meatcutter, miss. You certainly have a lovely figure. Don’t suppose a man could…?”



She saw the usual lustful thought, but still nothing else. “No,” she smiled.



Three weeks later, a second mutilated body of a prostitute was found on the fringe of Lake Pontchartrain – then a third, bringing Margot and Captain Baptiste with the cumbersome camera to the scene.



Captain Baptiste ordered any and all potential suspects brought to the station house for an interrogation with Margot. She spent the next two weeks penetrating the sexual urges of dozens of men but found none who had butchered any victims.



One late afternoon, she walked wearily into the apartment she shared with Shelbina. The aroma of roasted flesh permeated the room.



“Mama,” Shelbina said excitedly, “I stopped at the meat market and bought some fresh cow brain. I know you love the blood taste.”



“You’re such a good girl, Shelbina,” Margot tossed her briefcase on a sofa.



“Mama, the meatcutter asked me if I knew about the prostitutes that have been found cut all up lately. I told him everyone knew because it was in the newspapers. He asked me if I was old enough to read the paper. Isn’t that funny?”



Margot instantly recalled the witness who’d reported the first mutilation. “Describe him to mama, baby?”



Margot realized Shelby had talked with the same man who’d reported the first crime. Margot, as a good police officer, immediately thought up a plan to check on the meatcutter.



Margot knew Shelbina, despite the appearance of tender age, was a formidable person, fully capable of taking care of any strangers, molesters, or related types. It was a part of their immortality.



“Baby, you and I are going to eat your dinner, then we’ll go watch that meatcutter when he leaves the shop.”



“Oh goody, mama. Can we bring him home for dinner? We could roast him in smaller pieces.”



“Let’s just watch first, darling.”



endmark





At 9:00 P.M., the lamps were dimmed inside the butcher shop and the bulky form of the meat cutter stepped out into the evening foggy air. He walked immediately the several blocks to the street frequented by prostitutes and could be seen having animated conversations with several. When Margot heard one girl say, “No, baby, cash first before we duck under the bridge,” she knew.



“Come along, honey,” she told Shelbina as she approached the man.



In the fog, he did not recognize her.



“What’s your price, missy?” he sneered. “And does the little one come along with the deal?”



“Two dollars for me and the girl both, good sir. You can pay when you’re satisfied.”



With Shelbina in the rear, Margot followed the man toward the same bayou bridge where the first victim had been found. He stopped, looked back and pointed under the bridge.



“Both you bitches strip,” he commanded as the streetlight caught his eyes.



Margot managed to lock on his mind. She saw he intended to draw them under the bridge and slaughter them both. But she also saw something else. The man had been brain damaged and his thought process was only partly discernible. In his highly sensitized zeal for blood, his barriers had lowered slightly and she quickly counted 17 dismemberment murders in his memory.



“We only do business beneath the bridge,” Margot purred seductively. The man seemed slightly crestfallen that he wouldn’t have to convince them to walk down to their deaths, but no matter. Margot had him now. “Follow me,” she cooed.



endmark





At 3:00 A.M., Margot answered a frantic knock on her front door. It was Captain Baptiste.



“My God, Margot, another victim beneath the bayou bridge. This time, we’re pretty sure it’s a man. Get dressed and come to the scene as fast as possible.”



She closed the door and turned to find clothes. Shelbina, awakened by the noise, stepped out of the kitchen.



“Mama, I’ve got that bad man’s hindquarter almost fully cooked. When you get back, can we have breakfast on fat roasted man and wash it down with a jar of his blood.



“Of course darling,” Margot smiled. “You make mama so proud. And I don’t think I’ll be able to bring home supper from work for a while, baby, so enjoy this fresh kill as long as you can....”



   
   

 

endmark



Gary Clifton, forty years a cop, has over sixty short fiction pieces published or pending with online sites including Bewildering Stories, Flashes in the Dark, Spinetingler, and Black Heart Mag. He's been shot at, shot, stabbed, sued and is currently retired to a dusty north Texas ranch. Clifton has an MS from Abilene Christian University. Gary’s stories can be found in the following issues of HelloHorror: Blood Passion appears in the January 2013 issue, Measure Twice, Cut Once appears in the April 2013 issue, Mother’s Nature appears in the August 2013 issue, Mind's Eye appears in the October 2013 issue, Sinning in the Rain appears in the December 2013 issue, Special Handling Required appears in the April 2014 issue, Queen Margot appears in the June 2014 issue, The Trial of Margot LePlatt appears in the Winter 2014-2015 issue, and The Ace of Cooper Avenue appears in the Spring 2015 issue. All but one of Gary’s stories appearing thus far in HelloHorror have been part of the Margot LePlatt series. Read more of Gary's work at his new blog, Bareknuckle Thoughts.



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