Author’s Note: Hey, guys. So, I’ve recently noticed that I kinda forgot to ever actually link my site to my Patreon… which explains a couple things. So, uh, yeah. You might note a new Patreon link in the banner menu. Yay. On with the chapter.
The final hours of Lee Shyver’s life were exceptionally dull.
“Sorry, man. I’m stuck in traffic. Gimme like, ten minutes, okay?”
Lee moved the phone away from his cheek for a moment so Lauren wouldn’t hear him sigh, and glanced at the clock. She was already half an hour late. He took a breath, then returned the phone to his cheek.
“Sure, fine. But try and make this the last time, kay? I’m getting kinda tired of having to cover for you like this.”
The girl got maybe halfway through thanking him, before he hung up, and stepped back out of the office into the main area. Still no customers. He sighed. At least serving someone would have given having to work late some sense of purpose.
Across the way, Evan shot him a grin as he dragged the mop over the grease laden floor.
“You cut her way too much slack, dude. I mean. I get she’s got a cute ass, but still.”
Lee managed to restrain himself to merely frowning at the boy at that.
Not his fault, he reminded himself. He’s seventeen. All seventeen year olds are idiots. Just let it go.
“She’s a good worker,” he murmured, casting a cursory glance around the store for something to do, and settling for checking the till. “Better than you when she gets here on time.”
Evan brushed off the rebuke with nothing more than a snicker.
“Sure, man. That’s why you keep her around,” he replied, his tone dripping sarcasm. “Got nothing to do with that rack. Come on, dude. You know you’d tap that.”
Lee didn’t respond to that with words. Instead, he just caught the younger man’s gaze and held it, his expression calm. He watched, with just a hint of satisfaction, as Evan slowly realized he’d put his foot in it, and the grin slowly faded from his face.
“That… Uh,” Evan muttered, his cheeks going a little red. “… Too far?”
“She’s your fucking co-worker,” Lee murmured, folding his arms. “Show her some respect, or I’ll put you on toilet duty for a month.”
Evan returned his eyes to his task, ashamed.
Lee didn’t answer right away, instead, he just let the kid stew while he counted out the money in the first till.
“One day, Evan,” he murmured, not really bothering to look at him. “You’ll meet a girl, you’ll fall in love, and you’ll realize it feels kinda bad to see people treating her like a set of boobs on legs. Not your fault you haven’t learned that yet, but I’ll let you know for free, the sooner you learn it, the more likely you are to find a girl that sticks around.”
“… What are you, some kinda guru now?”
“Heh,” Lee chuckled. “Nah. Just a guy who’s telling you how he sees the world.” He raised his eyes to Evan then. “Besides, It’s kinda annoying to see you talking shit when I know she likes you.”
Evan had been looking away from him until then, purposely averting his eyes as he continued to mop the floor, not really making it any cleaner. At those words, though, he jerked, turning his gaze to his manager in shock.
Lee only laughed at that, returning his attention to the till.
“Why’d you think I’ve been putting you two on shifts together all month?” He asked. “Cuz she’s been waiting for you to nut up and ask her out, you doof.”
Evan opened his mouth, then closed it again; a process that repeated more than once. Lee chuckled. Given even the simplest prospect of romance, and the kid was glubbing like a fish. Eventually, Evan managed a single question.
“… What do I do?”
Lee considered it the greatest act of mercy he had ever performed that he didn’t simply cackle at the boy right then. Instead, he settled on a grin.
“Well, first thing I’d advise is maybe don’t keep talking about her rack. She likes YA movies. Maybe ask her to see one with you.” He watched as Evan gave a quiet nod, then decided to test him.
“You’re right, though,” he murmured. “Girl has the best tits.”
Almost immediately, Evan’s expression changed, shifting from absent shock to anger.
“Hey,” he growled. “Don’t be that guy, you dick!”
“See?” Lee asked, trying and failing to hide his smirk. “It’s different when she likes you back.”
Lee vacated the store almost the moment Lauren arrived, stopping only to pat the terrified looking Evan on the shoulder as he passed. Then, because he was an adult, he gave the boy a none too subtle wink from behind her back, just to watch him squirm.
He stepped out to his car, climbed in, and in line with his tradition, pulled off his manager’s badge before chucking it in the back seat with all the contempt he could muster. He picked up a burger on his way home. Double patty, extra chips. The late shift always left him hungry.
The drive was a short one. Half an hour or so, at most. He enjoyed it, for the most part, using it to unwind. Evan was a good kid, but his idiocy got under his skin sometimes. He put on some music on the way home, and did his best to let the rhythm wash it all away. He ate his burger on the road, a couple bites for every set of traffic lights, washed down with over-sweetened coke.
Eventually, he made it home, pulled in at the tiny parking lot beside his apartment block, and climbed out. A shower sounded great right now. A really long one.
His apartment was on the ground floor, and it was dark, the blinds in the tiny main room pulled closed against what little light the moon had to give. As such, he didn’t notice the figure sitting on his couch. He drained the last of his coke, then stuffed the burger wrapper inside the empty cup, and crumpled it into a ball with the chip packet. He tossed them in the bin on his way through to the shower.
The figure on the couch watched him from the shadows in silence; surprisingly calm.
Lee groaned as he upended the shampoo bottle over his head and squeezed, only for nothing but air to come out. Just his luck. He knew he’d forgotten something earlier. He shook his head, and opted to just stand under the spray for a while, letting the warmth soak through his tired muscles. It was a workout day tomorrow. He looked forward to being even more achy afterwards. But hey, it was working. He looked better and better every day. He chuckled. Not that it was any use to him, really.
He stepped out of the shower and brushed his teeth in the nude, letting most of the water simply drain off of him as he stood before the mirror. He considered shaving, then decided he couldn’t be bothered. He found a towel, wrapped it around his middle, and stepped out of the bathroom. Maybe he’d watch a movie or something before be-
“Good of you to take your clothes off first,” murmured a male voice in the dark, bearing just the faintest hint of an accent. “It saves some effort dealing with you later.”
Lee bolted by instinct before the man had even finished speaking, his wet feet padding through the thin carpet as he made for his door, some wordless exclamation of surprise and fear hanging from his lips. The man on the couch made no move to stop him as he pulled the front door wide. There was no need.
There was a woman standing in the hallway; elderly; stern. He tried to push past her, and let out a wordless yelp as something caught against his midsection, hurling him back into the dark in a tangle of limbs and fear. He felt something glass-like break against his back; shards of it digging into his skin as some solid kind of frame hunched his shoulders forward. Of all the things he could think in that moment, he felt a pang of loss for his television.
The woman stepped inside, her expression unchanged, and closed the door behind her. All was dark again.
For a moment, all was quiet but for Lee’s breathing and the thudding of his heart inside his chest. What was that? Who were these people? What the fuck was going on?
“We’re not going to be gentle with you, Lee,” the woman’s voice murmured in the dark. “You don’t deserve it. Not even the barest shred of mercy.”
There was something in that voice that was less than human. Too calm. Too cold. The words shook him to his core.
“… Why?” he asked, his voice small; afraid.
No answer. Instead, from the rough position of the couch, he saw a light begin to flicker pale orange in the darkness, the faint shape of a hand caught in silhouette around it. The hand gave a tiny flick, and the fire was upon him.
In the hours that followed, Lee Shyver forgot his name. All he knew was pain, heat, and the ever present glow of that sunset orange light.
In the moments before they took his ears, the man spoke one final thing:
“You really shouldn’t have touched my grandson.”
In the final minutes of his life, Lee Shyver felt regret.