Episode 1 – Tender Morsels
Julian and Beatrix
Julian watched the delivery boy drive away, then headed back to face the music. As he passed through the kitchen, he noticed the pizza and brought it as a peace offering. Before he could knock. Beatrix let out a screech: “Julian Crane! Get in here this minute!” He pushed open the door to find his sister red-faced and agitated. “What in the world were you thinking…bringing the postman’s son in this house?!”
“I was so concerned about getting someone healthy and young, I didn’t consider anything else.”
“Julian, I thought you were sensible…you used to screen people carefully.”
“I know, but it never occurred to me his father might be the postman.”
“Why not for heaven’s sake? We can’t assume anything. Children of town employees are a threat…the postman’s son especially. His father knows were everybody lives and could lead the authorities right to us. The boy could still turn us in…it sends a shiver up my spine thinking about it.”
“I doubt he will. I made excuses and gave him a healthy tip.”
“But Julian, I felt his privates. That’s grounds for arrest. Can you imagine me being taken to the police station! How would I explain it? I don’t deserve this, Julian…you’re behavior is positively criminal!”
“All right, sister, enough. Lining up choice candidates isn’t easy in this town. I’ll be more careful next time. Don’t worry. Nothing will come of it.”
“Please be more thorough. You’re our face to the outside world. One ill-conceived move could wreck us. Did the boy see anything else?”
“No, only the kitchen.”
“Did he ask about the pickle barrels.”
“No. There’s not much in them anyway.”
“Well, we’ve got to fill them…and bolt the tops down. If anyone looked inside, we’d be done for.
Julian held out the pizza. “Do you need the sharp dentures?”
“No, my regulars are fine,” Beatrix said, ripping the box from his hands. She tore away the top, and stuffed slice after slice in her yawning mouth…while her monkey scaled the rolls of fat searching for crumbs. Within minutes the pie was gone and Beatrix let out a satisfied belch.
“You shouldn’t eat so fast,” Julian said. “You’ll aggravate your reflux.”
“Hogwash, modern medical mumbo-jumbo. Honestly, Julian, it torments me to see that fresh young body go to waste. The boy was stringy, but after a few weeks in brine, he’d be a tapas delight…the meat would peel off the bone. Young flesh cures delightfully, and the internal organs are delicious. You know how much I love liver and kidneys…even the brain absorbs a lot of luscious brine. You and Janet have perfected the seasoning wonderfully…though a pinch more sage would be nice. The youngster’s cullions were perfect for pate…their quality and size were exceptional. It’s frustrating to see them walk out the door.”
“I’m sure that boy isn’t the only candidate in town. I’ll call around and see who’d be willing to send someone. Boys love yard work. You can get anyone for the right price.”
Beatrix rubbed her hands eagerly. “This is very exciting…but, Julian, proceed cautiously. We can’t afford a slip.”
“You can count on it. From now on, anyone who comes here will be a prime candidate.”
After bouncing and banging, his car made it to the highway. The delivery had taken two hours and been a total nightmare, but Justin netted thirty dollars. It was such a big tip, he wondered if he should split it with Lori…a gesture that would cement his future at Cavallo’s, maybe forever, but he reconsidered. “No fuckin’ way!” Especially after the shit he’d taken.
Visiting the Crane’s was the most disturbing experience of Justin’s young life. He couldn’t shake the sensation of Beatrix’s claw-like grip and roaming fingers! Like roaches on his body…and balls! So fuckin’ creepy! It was hard to accept the Crane’s were actually real, not some Hollywood creation…Beatrix was like a monstrous animated pudding…oozing and dripping from the pull of gravity…like the gigantic dough boy in Ghostbusters. Where did all her food come from? To get that big she’d have to eat whole pigs or whatever. He’d heard about athletes that ate huge meals…a zillion eggs and steak, but Beatrix was in a whole different league. The kitchen looked like a slaughterhouse, but except for the chicken coop beside the house, there were no animals in sight. It was puzzling, especially since there were supposedly five mouths to feed…maybe six including the monkey.
Jack Lombardi finally showed up…her biggest headache. He was hired as a favor after getting laid off from a construction job…just couldn’t stay employed, but the reason was obvious. The 18-year-old was arrogant and conceited, unable to resist giving unsolicited opinions about everything. As if that weren’t enough, his appearance made things worse….like an immense toad. Though strong as a bull, he was overweight, with short brown hair, bulbous features and a bad complexion, center on the football team, captain of the wrestling team…hung out with a tight circle of bullies. In private, few liked him, but in public, teammates and coaches expressed nothing but admiration for his strength and leadership.
“Jack, where have you been?” Lori asked. “I haven’t heard from you in two days.”
“I been busy,” he grumbled.
“So have we,” Lori said, “and last time I checked, this is supposed to be your job.”
“I know, but a bunch of us headed up to Montreal for the weekend, and just got back.”
He pissed her off…acted like she was a nobody. Had this blank look on his face like nothing he said to her really mattered. “Jack,” she said, “my uncle did you a favor when you lost your job. Don’t you think you should pay him back by at least making an effort?”
“Hey, Lori, I’m a construction guy. Delivering pizzas is not my idea of a job. It’s fine for a kid like Justin, but not me.”
“So, you’re quitting?” Lori asked, hands on hips.
“No…but I want you to realize this is only an interim thing.”
“Thanks for telling me.”
At that moment, Justin’s car pulled up and Jack strutted to the door. “Hey, you little fucker! I can’t believe they let kids drive!”
“Yeah,” Justin said sheepishly. “I got my senior license in May.”
“Shit, I’ve been driving trucks and tractors since I was five. You sure you can steer, put on the brake and everything?”
Justin blushed. “Yeah, of course.”
At that moment, a battered pick-up filled with mowers and lawn equipment pulled up beside Justin.
Justin looked up to find his best friend Will Clark parked next to him.
“Hey, Will,” he said, glad of an excuse to ignore Jack. “Didn’t expect to see you. How’s your day going?”
“Busy. New work all the time. Just got a call from Crane’s. They want to restore their lawn.”
“No way,” Justin said. “I was just out there. They are totally fuckin’ creepy.”
“The guy sounded okay over the phone…just old.”
“No. A guy named Thorson…Swedish or something.”
“Will, believe me, they are not okay. I never want to go back.”
“They offered me two hundred fifty bucks. That’s good money. I can’t turn it down.”
Will got out of the truck and stretched. Justin was proud to be his friend.Though only sixteen, Will was an institution around town…loved work. Started running errands at ten…now 6′ 2″, blond curly hair, and a steady girlfriend. Everybody figured he was destined for success.
It pissed Jack off to see Will pull up. He didn’t like him. None of his friends did….too friendly, too popular, too cutesy. Figured anybody like that had to be gay, though there was no proof. He was dating a junior, Suzie Callahan. It bummed Jack because he had an eye on her.
Everybody was suddenly talking to Will. It got under his skin. “The guy’s totally fuckin’ superficial,” he said to himself. “If I looked like a toothpaste commercial, they’d be kissing MY ass too….but who gives a shit? While he’s rotting in Whitlock Falls, I’ll be on a free ride to Penn State.”
Jack looked around…felt invisible…figured it was time for some major ball busting, especially with his two favorite targets nearby.”Well, if it isn’t the two butt fuckers,” he announced. “What a surprise. You two gonna hump in the back seat?”
“Fuck off, Jack” Will said.
Lori chuckled and Jack felt a surge of anger. As Will tried to enter Cavallo’s, Jack got in his football stance. “Let’s see you get past me.”
Will rolled his eyes. “Jack don’t be a prick.”
Lori intervened. “Jack, stop! This is a business. Don’t bother the customers.”
“Jack, listen to Lori!” Lou yelled from the back.
Jack was steaming, but moved out of the way. “Hey, Will,” he called. “”You know what the Cranes do to pretty boys?”
“All fucking rumors,” Will said.
Jack bristled. “Bull shit. They’re total psychos. My buddy Rick’s been out to fix their oil burner…says they keep a genetic monstrosity locked up in the one of the rooms. Doesn’t eat anything but guy’s nuts.”
Will laughed. “Jack, you are so fuckin’ crazy.”
“Not this time, asshole. See how you feel with your balls gone.”
That night, at The Town Tavern, Jack couldn’t get Will off his mind. Where did the young cocksucker come off sassing him? The kid was too stuck up for his own good…needed to get knocked down a peg, but it wasn’t only that. Jack was pissed he’d admitted his fear of the Crane’s. As a kid, the evil witch was always Mrs. Crane… “Mrs. Crane’ll get you if you don’t watch out!” His mom thought it was funny, but it got under Jack’s skin. He pictured the old hag waiting in the woods at night…hated being alone in the dark.
He threw down another shot of tequila and slammed his glass on the bar. “I’m going to the fuckin’ Cranes!” He announced.
His cronies were dumbfounded. “Are you crazy! It’s 2:00 am!”
“I’m gonna give ’em some major shit,” he said, weaving toward the door.
“Jack, stay here. You can’t drive like that.”
“The fuck I can’t,” he bellowed. “I’m gonna show them they can’t fuck with the Lombardi’s, or anybody else in this town. Right? Shit, they’ve been freaking everybody out for a million years. Fuck them! Who’s with me?”
“You’re on your own man.”
“No fuckin’ problem,” he said, charging into the night.
Next Time: An abduction. Beatrix’s bizarre history. Victor Crane watches Will.