(SP) -The revised edition of my vamp novella Young Blood is only $.99 until May 1. Yeah.
Custodians don’t save the world every day, but there’s always recalcitrant teachers who think they know what’s what…, and mice. A problematic combination. Not to worry. Us professional Custodians are highly trained to take care of any situation. Especially ones specific to our particular school. Like this guy.
The Night Custodian, dark cap pulled low, wearing a well-fitting T-shirt and khaki pants pushed his custodial cart along the outside walkways of the Grace Glass Elementary school. Still daylight, the students had left for the day and only a few teachers remained.
He approached the bullpen, a fenced in space next to the main building where dumpsters, old furniture, pallets and boxes were kept. The chain link gate was open.
A woman's short little scream came from inside. Calm, despite the invasion of his area, he looked inside.
With a broken mop handle, Miss Penki, a young teacher new to the school, poked agitatedly between two dumpsters. Seeing the Custodian, she dropped the handle and nervously wiped her hands on her skirt as she backed away.
“Oh, there you are,” she said with an annoyingly haughty tone. “I caught a mouse in my classroom on one of those sticky traps. I was throwing the filthy thing into the trash when it squeaked at me. It dropped down there so I pushed it back out of sight.” She shook her hands as if ridding herself of mouse cooties. “Just let the thing die by itself. If you did your job, I wouldn’t have to do things like this.”
Miss Penki shuddered and quickly walked away.
From the gate, the Custodian watched her with a frown and narrowed eyes. He entered the bullpen and peered into the dark between the dumpsters. With the broken handle he slid the trap out. It was torn, and there was no mouse.
He heard a scuttling, claws-scratching-on-cement sound. Alert he looked deep into a cluttered corner. Large, human-sized, beady red eyes regarded him. Slowly they blinked, then whatever owned the eyes turned and vanished.
Thoughtfully, the Custodian folded the trap together, shook his head, and pitched it in the trash, then resumed his rounds.
The next day as The Custodian closed his office door a kid stopped in front of him. “Mr Custodian, the Principle wants to see you in her office.”
The Custodian nodded, pointed a strong finger at the boy. The boy touched the finger with his own, tip to tip, smiled and ran off through the outside gate, the last student to leave.
In the Principal’s office he leaned casually against the wall, hands in pockets.
Lounging in her chair, the Principal, a handsome Hispanic woman, said, “Miss Penki seems to be missing. She was here for fourth period, but didn’t show up for fifth period. Her car is still here. Have you seen her lately?”
The Custodian raised a quizzical eyebrow.
“Apparently she had some uncomplimentary words to say about you yesterday. Not doing your job?”
He hung his head, but didn’t mean it. Their eyes stayed connected.
“Do you have any idea where she might be? Or do I need to call the police?”
Frowning, thinking, he stared at the floor. He had a thought.
“What?” the principal asked.
A minute later they stalk toward the bullpen.
“And she just pushed it away? Fool.”
It was late in a cloudy day and the bullpen was shaded, a bit spooky. He moved a couple pallets and boxes from where he saw the red eyes. Behind them he found a two foot diameter hole in the wall. Picking up the broken handle, he spun it like a martial arts Bo-staff as he studied the hole.
Still casually, yet expertly, spinning the broken mop handle, he led the way to a storage closet. The Principle waited as he found a half-filled plastic jug and a large flashlight. Together, they moved to a blank door with no number or name. The Custodian handed her the jug, opened the door with his key, and cautiously entered.
Wary, they made their way down a dark, narrow, dusty passage littered with old boxes, old equipment, and old furniture toward a muffled, keening cry for help. At the end, in a small open space covered with gravel The Custodian’s flashlight revealed Miss Penki, hands, knees, and face awkwardly stuck to a giant sticky trap.
Eyes on the rat, otherwise unperturbed, The Custodian poured a yellow liquid from the jug around Miss Penki’s knees, feet, hands and face. As she came loose from the trap the rat made a grab at her foot with human-looking claws. She yelped and scrabbled across the gravel while The Custodian beat the creature back with the handle.
The Principle helped her to her feet. Miss Penki opened her mouth to speak.
“Not a word, Miss Penki,” The principle said in her no nonsense principle voice. A very unrat-like roar sounded behind the women as they stumbled toward the door.
Fighting noises, growls and grunts, gravel scrabbling and handle whacking, follow them out the door. Twin red beams of light burn gouges in the cement walls.
Outside, Miss Penki collapsed on the grass. “Oh my God! What was that thing? What happened to me?”
Still in principle mode, the Principle said, “There is no thing, Miss Penki. And nothing happened to you.”
“Miss Penki, in the unfortunate event you have to kill a mouse around her, do it quick and clean. Do not shove it under a Dumpster to suffer and die of thirst or hunger. Do you understand?”
The teacher’s eyes grew wide. She looked to the bullpen then the open door then the Principle. “You mean…?”
The Custodian closed the door. He carried the sticky trap folded together. Blood spattered his ripped shirt and pants. The broken handle dripped blood. He nodded to the Principle.
She nodded back. “Put in a damage form. The school will buy you a new shirt and pants.”
The Custodian nodded, shot Miss Penki a hard look, and headed for the bullpen, twirling the bloody mop handle.
Don’t forget my newest thriller Blood on the Water.
Soul Retrievers, a supernatural adventure novel is available for download pre-order, delivered July 10.
SP = Shameless promotion.