From the Malafarina Files, ‘Tools Of The Trade’ a short story by the master of terror Thomas M. Malafarina

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by: Thomas M. Malafarina
© 2014 Thomas M. Malafarina

The knife shimmered in the glow of the candlelight; its blade honed to a razor-sharp edge. Its scrimshawed ivory handle was amazingly detailed with the original owner’s homeland scenes. Angelo Morelia had no idea where that particular homeland was, nor did he care. He had removed the blade from the cooling dead hand of one of his victims. Although he had no idea where the man had originated, a china-man was how Angelo thought of the man. He was some sort of Asian. Angelo didn’t consider himself either a racist or a bigot. He liked to think of himself as an equal opportunity businessman.

At that time, the only thing he knew or cared about was that someone needed the man to be killed, and his doing so netted him a healthy bundle of cash and a nice unsuspected souvenir to boot. And this knife was no longer just a keepsake from a conquest. It had found its way into his personal arsenal of weapons, his tools of the trade.

And that trade was murder for hire. He would have been called a hitman on the streets, but Angelo preferred to think of himself as the ultimate problem solver. If someone had a nuisance that they needed to have eliminated, they contacted Angelo through one of his many non-traceable avenues of communication, and the negotiations would begin. Once the deal was set, he received half of his payment up front and the remainder when the job was finished.

Angelo rewrapped the knife back in a fine cloth and placed it into its appropriate drawer in his special toolbox. It was a heavy-duty mechanics-style metal box on wheels with multiple drawers and a few cabinets. It came with a combination lock so that only Angelo could access the contents inside. This wasn’t to suggest that the combination couldn’t be deciphered or that some determined person might not be able to force his way inside. But that was not of immediate concern to Angelo since the purpose of the lock was to serve as a deterrent for people who had no business looking into his private business, people such as his wife or teenage daughter.

To the casual observer, Angelo Morelia was just another suburbanite living his life day to day and struggling to give his family all the things they felt they needed in this overly materialistic world. His subdivision was a bedroom community where people usually only saw one another on occasions, perhaps giving a friendly wave on the way to work, maybe out doing yard work in the summer or shoveling snow in the winter. For the most part, everyone minded their own business and basically kept to themselves, perfect for Angelo’s needs.

Most of his neighbors knew almost nothing about Angelo, other than he was some sort of independent consultant. He and his family didn’t live above their means, and by design, he did all he could to appear to be another neighbor doing what he could to support his family.

Angelo pulled open the bottom drawer and withdrew a long filament of wire with hand grippers on both ends. He gave a slight smile of pleasure, remembering how well this tool had served him in the past. How many times had he used that little gem? Two times? Three? Funny, but he couldn’t recall. But he could remember the sight of his victims’ bulging eyes as the garrote did its job of snuffing out their lives.

Perhaps, he thought, if he were lucky, he might get to use it again someday soon. But he knew it wouldn’t be tonight. He would be using something more basic and something he felt was quite mundane for this assignment. But his customer was paying good money for this job, and the customer was always right.

His latest project was a request for Angelo to eliminate a certain head accountant for an unnamed import/export business. He knew the accountant’s name, Bradford Glickman, and that the unidentified owner of the undisclosed company wanted him dead. Apparently, the owner had discovered Mr. Glickman had been skimming money from him for many years and had transferred the funds into an off-shore account.

Unbeknownst to the felonious Mr. Glickman, his employer had not only managed to locate the funds but had also cleaned out the accounts, transferring the money back to his bank. And this not only included everything Bradford Glickman had stolen from him but everything in the accounts. After all, the soon-to-be deceased Mr. Glickman would no longer have any need for the money anyway.

Angelo felt the assignment was somewhat unexciting because the accountant’s boss had requested that Mr. Glickman be shot once, right between the eyes at close range, simple, direct, and to the point. Angelo had offered some other creative alternatives, but the customer insisted on short and sweet. Angelo assumed Glickman’s boss was also a boring accountant, and as such, he had reluctantly agreed, understanding that sometimes a job was just a job. There would most certainly be plenty of other opportunities to express his murderous creativity later. He could play it as straight as Glickman’s boss wanted for twenty-five thousand dollars in cash.

Angelo could have easily done a bit of digging and found out where Glickman had worked and maybe even discovered the name of the man who was hiring him, but that wasn’t how Angelo worked. He earned his living through death and discretion. He found new clients by personal reference and word of mouth. He couldn’t afford to be too curious. Just do the deed, collect the money and disappear was his motto.

Besides, his daughter Amy was in her junior year at a private high school and was considering several Ivy League colleges. That all cost a lot of money, so just like every other nine to five working stiff, sometimes Angelo had to do what was required rather than what he might want to do.


He opened a deep drawer and removed a Smith and Wesson Model 986 nine-millimeter revolver. It held seven shots which would be six more than he would need for tonight’s job, but he had been looking forward to trying it out. He also had a homemade silencer to mount to the front to keep the noise down. It was too bad the gun would have to disappear when he was finished. He hated when he had to give up one of his tools. He tucked the gun into his jeans at the small of his back, pulled his jacket down over it, placed the silencer in his jacket pocket, and headed out to his car.

When Angelo arrived at the quiet, luxurious suburban colonial, which he was told was the home of Bradford Glickman, the sun had set, and darkness had fallen. Angelo had also been informed that Glickman’s wife and two children were out of town for the weekend, so he would not have to deal with the potential problems associated with family members and collateral damage.

As was his method, Angelo went around to the back of the property and found a basement window which he expertly opened, dropping inside and landing quietly on the cement floor. He was dressed entirely in black and wore a fake beard and mustache and a ball cap to disguise himself in the event of outside security cameras at either this or other homes. He had parked his car several blocks away and had made his way to the property on foot without being seen.

Carefully working through the cluttered cellar, Angelo tiptoed up the open wooden staircase being cautious to keep his feet over the top of the stair joists to reduce the possibility of loud squeaks. With a skill honed by years of practice, Angelo made it stealthy to the top of the stairs and slowly opened the cellar door, which led to a darkened kitchen.

As soon as Angelo began to walk across the kitchen, the hair on his neck began to stand on end. Something, he didn’t know what was very wrong. There was a scent in the air, coppery, metallic. It was quite strong, and Angelo thought he could taste it in the form of microscopic particles floating through the air for a moment. He recognized that smell; it was impossible not to be in his profession and not recognize the scent of blood, and lots of it.

From what Angelo could tell from the light streaming into the kitchen from the adjacent living room, the kitchen was free of any traces of blood. That meant whatever he now smelled had likely taken place in the living room. Angelo pulled out his nine, screwed on the sound suppressor, and held the gripper comfortably in his hand with his finger near the trigger and at the ready. He turned and carefully looked into the lighted living room, unsure what he would find or if he even wanted to know what awaited. His primal instincts told him to turn around and leave immediately, but he had made a deal for twenty-five large and couldn’t leave until he was certain what had happened.

What Angelo saw when he turned the corner was unlike anything he had ever witnessed in his entire life. And considering he had earned a profitable living murdering people, he had seen quite a bit. But nothing prepared him for the vision spread out before his unsuspecting eyes. The only phrase that adequately described the carnage in that living room was a charnel house. In a few seconds, Angelo took in the entire unbelievably gory sight.

No matter where Angelo looked in the blood-splattered living room, he found body parts, a hand here, a leg there. Arms, fingers, and strips of shredded flesh seemed to be draped over every solid surface in the room. Some dangled from the chandelier while others were draped over lampshades. The tan carpeted floor was saturated with gore, and the ceiling, walls, and drapes were splattered with crimson droplets.

And in the middle of the room, in front of the sofa, Angelo saw one of the most horrid tableaus he could have ever imagined. Lined up in a neat sickening row were four severed heads a man, a woman, and even worse, two young children; a boy and a girl. Glickman and his entire family had been torn to pieces. But Angelo had been told his family wasn’t even supposed to be here tonight. Angelo couldn’t begin to imagine what had happened to them.

Most people would have felt sympathy for the murdered family, but that was not Angelo’s way. After all, bringing death was how he earned his living. Then he suddenly remembered his own reason for being here. He was supposed to kill Glickman, and it was to be neat. This house of horrors was anything but tidy. Then suddenly, Angelo became furious. He had just realized he was now out twenty-five grand. Whoever had done this had cost him a lot of money. And Angelo would use all of his resources to find out who had shafted him, and he would pay. Oh yes, Angelo would use all of his murderous creativity on them when he found out who the perpetrators were.

Angelo decided it was time to get out of this horrible place, but as he started to back out of the living room, he saw something move very quickly out of the corner of his eye, off to the right. But when he turned to look with his gun raised, no one was there. He heard a slight swishing sound like a quick breeze when he saw the movement. The hairs on his neck were now standing tall as an icy chill raced down his spine. He was back on full alert now. Then he thought he saw movement off to this left and once again heard the same swishing sound. What the hell was going on?

Angelo quickly turned his head to the left but once again saw nothing. Yet he had been certain he had seen movement just a millisecond earlier. He stood motionless, his eyes and ears searching for any sign of activity. But there was none. Once again, he began to slowly back out of the room when he saw a slight motion coming from a shadowed corner across the room. Angelo raised his gun and pointed it directly at the corner, shouting, “Whoever you are, you had better come out here where I can see you, or I’m gonna start shooting.”

At first, there was no response. Then after a few interminable seconds, Angelo saw someone walking slowly into the light. He didn’t know what he was expecting to find, but it was most certainly not what now made its way out of the darkness.

It was a beautiful, mysterious-looking woman wearing a semitransparent evening gown. Angelo assumed the gown had been white at one time, but now the thing was old, worn, and yellowed, at least in those places that were not splattered with gore. The woman had long, flowing black hair, and even from his distance, he could see she had dark yet glowing enchanting eyes.

She stood completely still, her arms hanging limply by her sides. Her lips were blood red which seemed even more accentuated by her milky pale skin. She looked to Angelo like some sort of specter, something unearthly. Then he realized how such a thought, although appearing real enough, was nothing more than his imagination brought on by the horror scene spread about the room between himself and the strange woman.

Then Angelo wondered if this woman might be a victim and a survivor of this holocaust. Maybe she had somehow miraculously not been slaughtered in the carnage. Perhaps she had been a house guest who had been sleeping at the time of the murders and awoke to find the massacre. He didn’t know, and if he were to be perfectly honest, it didn’t matter.

Unfortunately for the young woman, she had seen Angelo, which alone meant he would have to silence her permanently. Like it or not, she had become collateral damage. This thought troubled Angelo, not because he would have to kill the woman, but because he knew he might be required to do so in the same fashion as whoever had slaughtered Glickman and his family. He would have to make it look like she was just another victim of the same maniac. And he had no idea how he might pull that off.

Despite his profession, Angelo had never committed such a brutally heinous act in his entire life. In addition, he didn’t have the tools with him necessary to duplicate the crime. He wasn’t even certain his toolbox arsenal contained any means to create such mayhem. He decided to delay the inevitable for a few moments with the hope of possibly coming up with a more palatable alternative.

“Who are you?” Angelo asked the young woman. “What happened here? Who did this?” He waved his arm, gesturing at the carnage before him. “Who killed these people? And why did they let you live?”

The woman just stood staring at Angelo, not saying a word. He began to wonder if perhaps she was in shock. Then Angelo had an idea. He decided that the woman might be willing to go with him in her present condition. She seemed almost catatonic enough to be led wherever he chose to take her. The two of them could slip out the back door and walk down the street in the darkness to his car.

Once there, he could drive her to a remote location, maybe a place near a lake, where he would strip her naked and put a bullet in her head. He smiled when he realized he might have to rape her first to make it look like she was the victim of a sexual assault gone wrong. Angelo liked that idea, especially seeing that flimsy see-through outfit.

“Look,” Angelo said. “I need you to come with me. We have to get out of here. I want to take you … to get help. I’ll drive you to the police station. This place … well … we just can’t stay here.”  Angelo hoped his sympathetic voice would be convincing enough to get her to go with him with as little resistance as possible.

Again she didn’t respond, nor did her expression change. She stood silently across the gruesome expanse of blood and dismemberment, staring at him. For a brief moment of frustration, Angelo considered putting a bullet in her from where he stood and not worrying whether her death was different from that of the Glickman family. He knew both his bullets and gun were untraceable. The cops would rack their brains, trying to figure out what had happened, but that wasn’t his problem. Now that he had given the idea some thought, he found it quite amusing. He could imagine the local keystone cops stumbling about foolishly. The idea was starting to grow on him. “Why not?” Angelo thought to himself.

He raised his gun and pointed it directly at the silent woman. Then without another word or thought, he pulled the trigger. He heard the almost inaudible sound of the silencer as the bullet flew across the room. He heard it strike the wall but impossibly, the woman was suddenly gone. How could that be? Angelo had been looking right at the strange woman a second earlier, and now she had somehow mysteriously vanished.

Angelo looked around the room but couldn’t find a trace of her anywhere. He took a cautious step backward and then stopped as he heard something behind him. It sounded like deep heavy breathing accompanied by a slight moan or perhaps even a growl. He quickly spun around to find himself staring into the black glowing eyes of the woman who was now standing just a foot or so in front of him.

How was such a thing even possible? He had just shot at her a few seconds earlier from about twenty-five feet. How could she have not only dodged his bullet but gotten across the room and behind him so quickly? It wasn’t humanly possible. “Not humanly possible.” He thought again.

His gun was still in his hand and pointed directly at the woman. All he had to do was squeeze the trigger. But he realized he couldn’t pull the trigger. Angelo realized he couldn’t move at all. The woman’s strange hypnotic stare had somehow paralyzed him. He tried to break his eyes free from her gaze, but he was helpless.

Then he noticed something. For the first time, the woman’s expression began to change. She acquired a look of satisfaction or perhaps even joy. He realized she was aware she had him right where she wanted him. And he also noticed the woman was not nearly as beautiful as she had appeared to be from across the room. Her eerie black eyes were rimmed in red, and the flesh hung around them with sagging brown circles. Her breasts, now clearly visible through the sheer gown, hung limply downward, and the pallor of her skin was more of a dusky gray than the milky white he had originally assumed.

Then, everything seemed to make a senseless sort of sense. Angelo suddenly knew this woman-like creature had not been a surviving victim at all, but somehow she had been the one responsible for the bloody massacre. She had slaughtered Glickman and his family. But how could she have done it? She had no weapons, no tools.

Angelo tried to move his right index finger. All he needed was enough motion to generate a slight pressure on the trigger, and he would splatter this crazy broad’s guts all over the kitchen table behind her. But no matter how hard he willed his finger to move, it wouldn’t budge.

Never taking her eyes from his, the woman lifted her right hand high enough for Angelo to see it peripherally. The hand was thin, gray, and wrinkled with exceptionally long fingers, longer than he had ever seen before. As Angelo looked on helplessly, the fingernails on each finger began to grow slowly; to sprout upward, reaching an impossible length of more than three inches. They were a dark yellow color and reflected the light filtering in from the living room.

Angelo could see the nails appeared to be razor-sharp. Then the hand seemed to twitch almost imperceptibly, and Angelo felt a searing pain in his right wrist, followed by a metallic clunk as his gun fell to the floor with a thud. Then in an instant of clarity, Angelo realized his right hand had accompanied the weapon to the carpeted floor.

In agony, which he was helpless to express, Angelo looked into the now maniacal glowing black and red eyes of the woman and saw a smile appear on her face for the first time. A large hungry smile exposed all of her large yellowed animal-like teeth, especially the two oversized canines stained with crimson gore. It was at that moment Angelo understood everything. Those deadly teeth and razor-sharp claws were the tools of this creature’s trade. And that trade was the savage slaughter, dismemberment, and likely consumption of human beings.

Angelo watched powerlessly as her clawed hands rose slowly toward him, wrapping tightly around his throat. The very last thing he felt was his spine shattering as the creature gouged his neck and then twisted his head from his body.

The next day the police investigators arrived at the scene. They had been called by a neighbor who had suspected something was not right at the Glickman house and had peeked in the living room window to see the bloodbath. The police had managed to identify all of the victims, including Angelo. Still, neither they nor Angelo’s wife would ever understand what had happened to them or what Angelo had been doing on the scene.

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