Murder, It’s What’s For Dinner
. . . And breakfast, and lunch, and especially dessert, when you're a 500-pound serial killer named Chaingang.
From the jungles of Vietnam, something has emerged—a putrid, rolling mass of murderous hate embodied in the form of a human being. His name is Chaingang and he is a 500-pound behemoth of a man, a one-time American soldier who has killed enough people to equal his incredible weight. And in this world of vulgar lust, savage indecency, and the darkest of vices, Chaingang is the undisputed king. Now, he’s coming back home.
Read on for an excerpt from Rex Miller’s Slob, a Bram Stoker Award nominee and debut novel Stephen King called “terrifying and original.” Then download the ebook on Amazon, iTunes, and Barnes & Noble.
Her first awareness of him is a presence. Unseen. A stench. It comes around the corner before him, preceding his physical entrance in a sickening downdraft that washes over her and she recoils from the smell which is a combination of rank body odor and sewage and sulfurous stink of rotten food, and it assails her nostrils with the foulness of evil. Then seeing him she flinches again, fighting to regain her composure, resolutely, politely, trained to serve the public, a smile fixing itself to her mouth as he approaches the counter in this awful, stinking swirl of poisonous air.
He grunts out a monosyllabic name, not his real one, and she mumbles something as she hands him his order and checks the amount. It is exactly forty dollars to the penny. She tells him and he produces the money. He hands her the exact amount in filthy, sweat-soaked, crumpled bills that she can barely stand to touch. She thanks him, ringing the order on the cash register and vowing to wash her hands immediately. He swoops up the large sack of food in a giant paw and lumbers away, leaving behind the stinging, terrible odor and the paralyzing, heart-hammering fear of some imagined and unspeakable threat. To her he will always be “forty dollars worth of egg rolls.”
He is the one they called CHAINGANG in Vietnam. He was the one who they said back in Marion had taken a human life for nearly every pound of his weight, and he weighed nearly five hundred pounds. He is death personified, demoniacal, unstoppable, bloodthirsty, and very, very real. He wrenches open the door of the stolen car and tosses the sack of food into the passenger seat as he crashes down behind the wheel, the springs groaning in protest. He thinks how easily he could have killed the aloof woman behind the counter in there. How pleasant it would have been to sink a sharp object into her throat, ripping down across the breasts and then the abdomen and then gutting her and taking the parts he liked the best. And the thought of this fills his head with a scarlet roar.
Ed and Edie Lynch
She was one of those women who could look like eleven different people depending on what she felt like, what she was wearing, and when you saw her. At thirty-eight, Edith Emaline (rhymes with valentine) Lynch was the woman you see but can’t quite describe five minutes after you leave the checkout lane of the Piggily Wiggily. She’s the sort of vaguely good-looking one in the second row at PTA. The anonymous-featured Wednesday-night mother whose turn it is to drive the kids in to church. But catch her when the moon is right and her self-esteem is in overdrive, give her a few minutes to pull herself together, and another Edie steps out on those long, long, shapely legs that seem to just keep going. And you’ve got a knockout.
Knocked out was more like it at the moment. Stray wisps of hair loose around that wide, interesting although not precisely pretty face, she wasn’t at her peak. She hadn’t had a pang of loneliness for Ed hit her like that for weeks, and when she dusted the mirror frame in the hallway she had seen a sort of a shadow or something and she jumped halfway out of her skin and felt her heart nearly jump out of her chest. Christ! Oh, my God. For not more than a fraction of a second she thought she’d seen something, not in the mirror exactly but in the shadows and just a hint of movement and Lord have mercy she’d just had the feeling Weirdo was outside the window again watching.
Weirdo was a totally harmless but maddeningly incorrigible old handyman who had all the women in the neighborhood looking over their shoulders. He was a peeping Tom, as her mother’s generation had said, a voyeur whose major thrill was to peer in windows. He had never done anything, and in spite of having been rousted by the police endlessly, locked up a few times for short periods, and having generated a sizable rap package at the local constabulary, he’d never actually committed any crime beyond being a public nuisance. His peeping misdemeanors paled in a big city where even the affluent yuppie suburbs had their fair share of raincoat flashers, hugger-muggers, dong danglers, and wienie waggers. Still. Who knew for sure? Maybe one day Weirdo would glimpse something that might turn him around and he wouldn’t just look in the window, he’d COME in the window.
After having laughed with the coffee-crowd gals about the Weirdo stories, he’d paid her a social call—and it hadn’t been all that funny. The first sign of him had been the tracks that they kept finding around the house from time to time. At last they figured out what it was. It was the wooden box Weirdo dragged around to carry his tools in. Suddenly the jokes about him doing “odd jobs” had come back to haunt her. He was coming around, presumably at night, peering in the windows, thinking God only knows what thoughts. Ed went crazy. Finally they called the police and the cops picked the old guy up.
He promised he wouldn’t come around Edie’s house. And since they’d never actually caught him looking in, the cops let him go with a tough warning. If anyone saw him anywhere NEAR the Lynch house again they’d throw away the key. He was his usual meek, apologetic, harmless old self. She knew he was still out there somewhere doing his thing and scaring housewives and kids half to death. He wasn’t so harmless, Edie thought to herself, if he gave somebody a heart attack.
It was just at that second, with her thinking of her own pounding heart as she took the rag and squirted Windex on the mirror and started rubbing, that she thought about how it had been done to Ed and then she had just let it all come back flowing over her again and for just that moment she squinted her eyes shut as tightly as she could and pretended that the shadow had been Ed sneaking up behind her the way he liked to do, and she recalled the last time between them and how sweet it would always be to her.
He’d come home early and Lee Anne had been over at Jeanne’s and they’d had most of the weekend to themselves. They were never great, imaginative lovers. Sex had been fine between them but no big thing. For a while she’d kind of worried about that but no matter what the other women said or what she read in those magazines she subscribed to and picked up at the grocery store, instinctively she knew it was all right between them. They just didn’t go for anything kinky or far out. Just the plain old-fashioned way was plenty okay for Eddie. He was gentle but he never wasted a whole lot of time with it. It was something that he enjoyed, in other words, but it hadn’t occupied a big part of their shared life.
She remembered how prosaic and boring the conversation had been. They’d talked about Lee coming down with flu, about the contract he’d picked up from Rathmusson Farms, how Sandi and Mike wanted them all to go to Gatlinburg again that year and split the cost, how the Jehovah’s Witnesses had come by again that day and left a Watchtower, how you shouldn’t pick up hitchhikers anymore, all kinds of typical, thrilling stuff that a married couple discusses. She remembered that dialogue as very special, though, since it was their last time together. She still recalled how he’d told her they needed new locks, that he’d seen something about those chains being worthless and the word dead bolt had lingered in her mind. The word echoed around in her mind now with its dark imagery. Dead bolt.
She thought of how vulnerable she was, alone in the big house with its windows everywhere and the shadows and how the neighborhood was so empty at this time of the day. She thought of a news story she’d read in last night’s paper about a little boy being abducted not far from them. Somebody could grab Lee even in the few hundred feet between the school door and her car. God. It was all enough to make you scream. Nobody was safe anymore, she thought. But why Ed? He was such a good man.
“Ritualized,” the detectives had said when they were describing the way he had been mutilated. Mike’s folks had died like that in a way. Mike had been Eddie’s best friend and his wife Sandi was Edie’s best friend. It had made for such a great foursome because even the kids could play together, Edie’s eight-year-old and Sandi’s youngest. And Mike’s mom and dad had won a trip to Japan and the plane had crashed into Mount Fuji and everyone had lost their lives and Mike had never recovered from it. There had been something almost ceremonial in the mass death. She could never quite explain it but that had somehow made it seem even more awful. And then to have someone do that to Ed.
The thoughts were all running together and she started to squirt cleaner on the mirror again and realized she’d been polishing the same circles over and over. It was squeaky bright. It was her eyes that were misting over. She gasped involuntarily and pulled out one of the dining-room chairs and let herself slump down in it momentarily, but then she snapped right out of it. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, missy. You’ve got to clean this house and go shopping and you’ve got a fine little eight-year-old darling of a daughter to care for. And none of this is going to get done with you sitting here wishing Ed back. And she jumped out of the chair and attacked the household chores.
With any luck Lee Anne would never see any of the old newspaper headlines. The ones that said “MAN FOUND MUTILATED” were bad enough. But the tabloids had started calling the murderer “The Lonely Hearts Killer.” It was a phrase that still hovered over Edie like a cloud full of acid rain. And now, two years later, the name was back in the papers again. He was still out there somewhere. That—that THING that had killed Ed and taken his heart.
The mist thickens, solidifies, begins dripping, settling over him like a wet, clinging blanket. Dropping down over the trees like a vast, ominous shroud that drapes the triple canopy in moist blackness. The night noises intensify. The air is redolent with the smell of rotting fish and the presence of death. This is cadaver country.
The spooky killer’s moon has all but vanished now, the yellow almost gone, and yet he sees HE SEES each blade of grass, each slime-covered twig, every veiny leaf and every drop of every bead of moisture rain mist dew dampness glistening clearly sparkling and dancing on the leaves. HE SEES. It is not just night vision. He sees without seeing. Sensing would perhaps be a better word. Sensing the atoms and molecules of the air and the matter and the nothingness of the dark. He owns the night now.
The presence of death stands and breathes slowly, deeply of his nightworld. He hears the trees whisper and laugh there in the wet blackness. It is the faraway tinkle and shatter of jagged vampire laughter and it makes Death smile his huge, radiant, dimpled smile. In his mind’s eye he sees a coven of witches moving now, gliding through the jungle night like a breeze rustling through rice paper, and he slows wills slows his massive heartbeat almost to a standstill.
It is the lurking presence of black, oily death waiting there in the jungle scarcely breathing, unmoving, still, infinitely patient, unspeakably evil. It senses the movement that is coming down the worn hardball trail, out there in the night somewhere beyond the great triple-canopied jungle edge, across the fields and paddies and beyond the far treeline, coming down the hardball that is their nighttime foul-lane blacktop, moving quietly through the darkness.
Tick . . . Tick . . .
But he is not in the jungle now he is driving in a stolen car, driving carefully if aimlessly, driving the darkened streets of a strange town, sensors purring, tuned, vigilant, concentrating on his surroundings. He is never lost, confused, he has his strong inner compass that always points him back on trail. His mind is a heat-seeking device that homes in on the warmth of a vulnerable human heartbeat. He likes it here, driving without purpose through these cozy suburbs. His smile is wide and dimpled. He beams with pleasure at the thought of the families inside those houses.
Death likes to drive through strange, darkened, suburban streets at night, sightseeing as you would take your loved ones to look at the Christmas lights on a chill and snowy December’s eve, bundled up and filled with good cheer, your heart filling with joy at the sight of the brightly lit yards and homes bedecked in multicolored displays and scenes of the Nativity. He warms at the sight of the golden lights, the mystery of the darkened homes full of loving families. He loves it.
For to Death a drive through the suburban tract homes of idle America is to take a sightseeing tour through the strange, wondrous, and exotic locale of some unknown country. The residential landscape at night is as alien to this creature as if it was a vision of a far distant planet. Who could live in that home with those twinkling, golden lights, he wonders in something approaching awe. What are they doing in there? In that expensive, neat, well-tended home over there he senses that there are human beings living their quiet lives behind those walls.
And in the foreign landscape he sees, senses, an endless smorgasbord of humanity there for the taking. An infinite variety of humans all happy and snug in their little, brightly lit shelters, safe from all harm behind their ridiculously thin walls and flimsy doors with their televisions sets and pets and toys, and as he imagines the boundless delights that await his pleasure that are his for the TAKING he can taste the thrill of it and if he doesn’t stop the spreading heat of it that is coming over him he will pull up in one of these concrete driveways and go kick down a door and feed this rapacious, awesome appetite of his, and he lets it roar up into his head and it is the color of blood and it has the rich, red, bitingly cuprous smell and taste of life’s fluid.
And now he is out of the car and moving toward humans again, moving through the darkness on those powerful treetrunk legs, faster than anyone alive has ever seen him move, and in his right hand he is holding a heavy coil of taped tractor-strength safety chain. In a few seconds he will see the little people coming down the hardball there in the blackness and he feels the strong human heartbeat nearby and he churns ahead into the pitch black where the human is.
The blunt, thick fingers shaped like huge, steel cigars lash out with the coil of chain and it cracks into something solid and there is a scream and his face beams with the joy of it using that thick, rock-hard wrist and forearm of bulging muscle with the fluid snapping motion that he’s worked on until it is a part of him all smooth and automatic as he makes the lethal chain smash out, uncoiling and striking like a big snake whipping out and splitting the human head open snakewhipping into the man killing him in that one powerful smacking wet bloodsmear.
And the hot, red, rushing thing has set his brain on fire and Death has dropped the dripping links of chain and is slashing out with that big, razor-sharp bowie all wild and insane with his surging pressure cooker exploding as he rips the human open taking the fresh heart in a tearing, gutting, rending of flesh and offal and bloody organs and bone as the profluent river of Death floods the night and nothing stops a river.