Perry is writing a novella linking all of the seven sins, but breaking each sin up into semi-stand-alone offerings. Because of this, he asked that I include this prologue/synopsis to set up the story. Here it is, as submitted to me:
The Hunt for Lust
Copyright 2021 — Perry Broxson
(3,671 words – approx. reading time: about 14 minutes based on 265 WPM)
Ralph did take Barton’s cell phone but did not call 911. Instead, he found an all-night diner, sat down, and scrolled through Barton’s data history.
“Coffee, please,” he said to the waitress. When she returned with a pot and a cup, he looked up at her. It struck him how much she looked like Hanna. “Thank you.”
Halfway through his coffee, he found what he was looking for – the mapping directions to St. Jerome’s Child Placement Agency. It was nineteen miles away, in Los Lunas. He recalled a time, a dozen years ago, when he bagged a Jumper in Los Lunas. The city was a shithole back then – no reason to believe it had gotten any better.
“Ma’am,” Ralph called. “Can I get the check – gotta run.”
As she tallied his bill, he realized that he had no cash, and that his credit card was back at Hanna’s place, where he’d used it to staunch her sucking chest wound.
“Listen,” he said, as the waitress handed him the bill. “I don’t have any money . . . on me. It’s a long story, and I’m in a big hurry”–
“On me,” she interjected. “If you can pay later . . . that’s cool, too.”
“What’s your name, young lady?”
“Bessie,” she said.
“Bessie,” he said, standing. “Take this. When you’re absolutely at your wit’s end and it seems humanly impossible to fight another fight . . . use this.”
“A white feather?” she said, holding it up to the fluorescent light.
Ralph smiled his lopsided smile and said, “One wish. One miracle. Don’t waste it, Bessie. Promise me you won’t waste it.”
Bessie, mesmerized, nodded and mouthed the word: “Promise.”
Ralph walked out into the dark deserted street. He looked through the diner’s window front, and gave Bessie and silly salute. He then expanded his great white wings and flew into the night sky.
Twenty-three miles in a car, through the city, would’ve taken forty minutes. As the angel flies, it took forty seconds.
Ralph landed on the steps of St. Jerome’s Child Placement Agency. It was 2am, and the large, sleek building stood in stark contrast to the rundown structures surrounding it. “Fancy,” Ralph said, then inserted Fidel between the double metal doors and sliced through the locking bolt. The cut was so clean that the alarm was not triggered.
Ralph walked through hallways, peering into offices, taking note of door placards and desktop nameplates. At the end of the hallway, was a massive mahogany door. “Father Doctor Sean Maloney,” the placard read. “Director of Child Placement Services.”
Again, Ralph inserted Fidel between the jamb and lock, slicing the mechanism. The room was immense and lavish and adorned with baroque Italian art. “The kid brokering biz is brisk,” he said to no one. He then sat in Maloney’s leather desk chair. It occurred to him that he was exhausted. Sleep, he thought, would do his body good – the human half of his body.
Six hours later, Maloney entered the room.
“Who . . . who the hell are you?” Maloney demanded, standing in the threshold.
Ralph started, waking reluctantly. Nightmares had robbed him of sleep’s salvific powers. “Mahoney,” he said, “come in. Have a seat. Got any coffee?”
“It’s Maloney,” the man said, “you can call me Father or Doctor. Now what’s the meaning of this intrusion?”
Ralph rubbed his eyes with his knuckles. “How about Sean? Will you answer to that?”
“I’m calling security,” Maloney said, then lifted his cell phone to his cheek.
Ralph pointed his palm and animated Fidel. The blade extended fifteen feet and punctured the device. Ralph reeled it in and dropped the damaged contraption on Maloney’s desk. “No you’re not. You’re going to tell me where Mirabelle Chamberlain is.”
Maloney dropped his attaché case and attempted to flee. Like quicksilver, Fidel flashed forward, stabbing the door, slamming it, slicing off the knob.
“What are you?” Maloney asked, his one eye wide with fear.
“I’m her tea party playmate,” Ralph said. “I love her enough to kill you and everyone in this building. That’s all you need to know.”
“I don’t do placement,” Maloney said. “I’m the Director – I deal with budgets and fundraisers and community relations.”
“Stop talking,” Ralph said. “I saw you take her from Barton Slivic. You gave him cash in exchange for a three-year-old girl.” The act of citing the charges infuriated Ralph and caused Fidel to sing in a menacing frequency. The point of the sword swerved to within a millimeter of Maloney’s single blue eye.
“In the kingdom of the blind a one-eyed man is king,” Ralph said. “You seem to enjoy being king, Sean. Shame if things changed.” Fidel scratched the man’s cornea and a tear of blood trickled down his cheek.
“Okay,” Maloney sniveled. “Carlisle. Sebastian Carlisle.”
“The billionaire Wall Street guy?”
“Yes,” Maloney said. “He owns an island in the Caribbean. It’s called Aisha Island. It’s one of his vacation homes. She’s there. She was taken by his private plane two days ago.”
“Sean,” Ralph said, chewing on his anger. “Is this what I think it is?”
Maloney said, “I don’t know. I just provide the children.”
“Never occurred to you to ask if Carlisle was running a pedophilic sex ring for himself and his perverted pals?”
Maloney blinked and the sword tip slit his eyelid. He opened his mouth to scream for help. As he did, Fidel took his tongue. It was quick and surgical. The heat of the blade cauterized the stump. The severed end tumbled across the hardwood floor like an acrobatic slug.
“I’ll be taking this with me,” Ralph said, wrapping the tongue in tissue, placing it in the pocket of his navy pea coat. “Doggerrall should find it a satisfactory payment for his ferry services.”
“Aaaaahhhhmmmm!” Maloney moaned, clapping his hands over his mouth.
Ralph sheathed Fidel and snatched the priest’s collar off his neck. He dropped it to the floor and stamped it under his boot tread. “I should kill you,” he whispered. “I should gut you and hang you with your own entrails. But I’m not going to kill you, Sean. Not today. I will be checking on you, however. If I see you’re back up to your old tricks . . .” He displayed six angry inches of Fidel like a middle finger. “Capiche?”
“Aaaaaeeeeeesh,” he spurted, saliva flowing over his lips.
Ralph gave Father Doctor Sean Maloney the same salute he’d given to Bessie, the waitress, six hours prior. Before departing, he reached into the man’s back pants’ pocket and pinched his wallet. Unfolding it, he plucked a sheaf of cash and one credit card. “If you stop payment on this, I will return and I will disassemble you, piece by piece. Are we clear?”
“Good, boy, Sean,” Ralph said. “Now, I really must fly.” With that, Ralph leapt. His wings appeared and propelled him upward, toward the skylight. Fidel breached the thick glass, causing it to shower down upon Maloney like jagged hail.
When the fusillade had ceased, Maloney looked up. Through the hole in the ceiling, he saw a soaring speck vanish into the morning sun.
At hypersonic speed, Ralph flew through the heavens. Within minutes, the ground below him gave way to crashing coastlines, which soon gave way to open, oceanic waters. He was no geography wiz, but he knew the basic location and configuration of the Caribbean archipelago. It was the ark amulet around his neck that guided him to the specific locale. The amulet hungered for Lust . . . meaning: it sensed one of the Seven Mortals, and like a bloodhound, it tracked the fugitive Sin.
The amulet tugged at the white twine, pointing east, then southeast, then straight down. Aisha Island, Ralph knew. Then he recalled an Islamic Studies course he’d taken before a Middle East military mission. Aisha was the name of Prophet Mohammed’s youngest wife . . . the four-year-old daughter of his friend. The thought of this exploitation – historic and current – galled him. His fury increased with each mile traveled. He dove downward, puncturing clouds, watching a brown dot expand in the sea of blue.
Aisha Island. Owned by Sebastian Carlisle, a man that made billions by creating software that allowed him to buy and sell stocks a split second faster than any financial institution. After he’d made his money, it was rumored that he destroyed the code.
That was all Ralph knew about the man, save the vilest and salient thing about him: Carlisle had his granddaughter.
The mansion, built into a mountainside, came into view. It was pretty much what Ralph expected: too large, too flamboyant, too everything-ugly-American. He followed the pull of the amulet, as if it were a witch stick, guiding him to underground water. As he hurtled toward the tinted glass roof, he deployed Fidel to slash an ingress. The crash was deafening.
At meteoric speed, Ralph struck the marbled floor, causing it to crater. Dizzied, he lifted himself, and surveyed the scene. It was an indoor pool, peopled by bathers, children and adults, all of which screamed and sought safety . . . from him.
“I am Raphael,” he announced, “sent to apprehend Lust and free the enslaved. Show yourself, One-of-Seven, and no one gets hurt.”
He watched as two dozen people quailed, hiding behind lounge chairs and gazebos and the pool bar. There were Arab sheiks, Japanese CEOs, Dakota fracking magnates, and Tech titans – all possessed by Lust.
“Lust,” Ralph shouted. “I smell you! Show yourself.” He retracted his wings and strode purposefully past the cowering crowds, allowing his amulet to detect his target.
Ralph was aghast to see the harem of young girls and boys, five to fifteen, clad in minuscule swimsuits. He scanned the expanse, hoping to locate Mirabelle. She was not among the crowd. He sighed, unsure if that was good or bad.
“Sebastian Carlisle,” Ralph called. “This is your party. Be a good host and greet this party crasher.”
A Frenchman with charred skin and diamond earrings charged him, striking him with a foam pool noodle. Ralph seized his pinky, doubled it, and applied painful pressure. “Tell me, which one is Carlisle.”
“Owwww, tu me fais mal!” the Frenchman screamed, flapping like a goose.
Ralph applied more pressure and he dropped to his knees. “Lui,” he gestured with his free hand. “He’s Carlisle!”
The Frenchman was pointing at the fattest man among a field of fat men. Ralph crushed the pinky digit and strode toward the shirtless man in the fuchsia speedo. “Sebastian Carlisle, you’ve got something that belongs to me.”
“What might that be?” the man asked around his cigar.
“My granddaughter, Mirabelle Chamberlain. She’s three years old.”
“Oh,” Carlisle laughed, “that lot. Came in Sunday. Too young for me, but I’ve got her on auction for seven figures. There’s a bidding war between a Senator and a Bulgarian arms dealer. She’s quite a cutey. ”
Ralph punched the man in the face so hard that a portion of his cheek tore away, exposing a row of yellow molars. But the fat man seemed barely to notice. In fact, the man kept talking. “We call it the Tot Lot. I’ve never really seen the appeal, but there are some real freaks in this world, Mister . . . sorry, did you say Raphael?”
“Call me Ralph,” he said. “Ralph Chamberlain. You should know the name of the man that is going to kill you.”
Ralph then summoned Fidel to the battle. This was his Jumper. This was one of the seven fugitives, escaped from the Ark of the Covenant. This was Lust.
Ralph slashed the man, carving off great tanned slabs of flesh. Carlisle laughed and taunted him. “You’re too old for this, Ralph Chamberlain,” he jeered. “Why on earth would the great archangel Raphael chose such a feeble, aged avatar as this?”
Ralph attempted to skewer Carlisle’s abdomen, but Fidel struck an unyielding solidity beneath the skin. As Ralph twisted and pressed, a strange thing happened. The veneer of the man called Carlisle sloughed away, falling to the marble in jiggling piles. Still, Carlisle laughed.
“They’re just so damned irresistible,” Carlisle continued, tearing away his face with his serrated tongue. “Puberty ruins them, you know. Before puberty, they’re neither boy nor girl, man nor woman. They’re all of it and none of it. Children are a seasonal species, to be relished and ravished by the bold, those unencumbered by arbitrary mores and artificial taboos.”
“You rape children,” Ralph growled. “For that, you die.” He swung Fidel sideways, connecting with Carlisle’s fleshy neck. The man’s head wobbled in the cradle of his collar bones, then toppled to the floor. Immediately, a monster’s head grew from the gore of the open amputation.
Ralph felt a paralyzing sense of deja vu. He’d fought this Mortal before, captured it, and delivered it to Jordan and the Betters. How, was the question that dogged him.
The Mortal, the monster, grew, sprouting from the soil of ichor. Its sleek, pink body thrashed, shedding the flesh of its host, Sebastian Carlisle. Two stalks, festooned with black, unblinking eyes, examined Ralph. Then, its vertical maw opened and spoke:
“Raphael, this is your final Cycle. Look at you – a once mighty warrior – guardian of Our Betters – Sentinel of the Seven Sins . . . now, an old and broken man. You’ve chosen an anemic avatar, old friend. For that, you will be dispatched.”
Ralph released his wings and brandished Fidel. “You chose the wrong grandpa to fuck with,” he replied.
The Mortal called Lust changed color, its pink skin reddening to an angry rash. From its gonadal groin, a thick tentacle sprang, looping through Ralph’s ankles, snatching away his balance. Ralph caught himself with his wings, then hacked at the monster’s appendage with Fidel. Blue-black ink spurted from the wounds like miniature oil derricks.
Lust unleashed another tentacle, this one ending with a spiked clot of carapace. Lust swung it, whipping the pernicious tip at Ralph’s head. As with the bullets from the Sig, Ralph saw the cudgel and ducked. As it passed over his shoulders, he charged the beast, Fidel leading the assault.
Into the sleek meat, Fidel plunged. With a thought, Ralph signaled the sword to oscillate, to cause as much damage as possible. Instead of a cry, the Mortal tittered a keening laugh. “As I hoped,” it said, engirdling Ralph with eight taut tentacles. “Give Lust a hug.”
Ralph realized he’d been outwitted, lured by his own lust to slay the thing that stirred men like Carlisle and his lecherous companions. The beast’s embrace was sticky and suffocating. The suction cups on the tentacles made wet smacking sounds, like spittle kisses. He could not deploy his wings and fly to fight from another vantage. He could not even rotate his wrist to guide Fidel. He was stuck, like a fly on flypaper. Stuck, as Lust erected its ultimate weapon – a phallus, long and broad as an anaconda, curved to strike like a scorpion’s tail – a tail affixed with a glistening tusk.
With angelic vision, Ralph saw the phallus rise, aiming its toxic tusk at the back of his neck. The creature, he knew, was lining up the perfect strike, targeting the single, vulnerable centimeter upon an archangel’s body.
He wondered what it would be like to die . . . for real . . . not just reinvent, reincarnate Cycle after Cycle. A prickly warmth suffused him. A peculiar peace spread through him. A welcome resignation broke him.
“Do it,” he said, thinking the words his last.
Lust quivered and climaxed, delighting in the lethal, libidinous act. “So be it, Raphael. You have proven a great nemesis. But mankind has changed. They have chosen dark over light, iniquity over purity. You, Raphael, are as antiquated as the decrepit avatar you’ve inhabited. May the Seven reign for infinite eternities – hail to The Seven!”
The unctuous creature crowed as it lifted its malevolent member, pinpointing the susceptible spot.
Through the din, Ralph heard a single word: “Grampy!”
“Mirabelle,” he said, craning to catch a reply.
What he heard was a little girl’s voice say: “Let him go, you bad ol’ boogeyman!”
It was her, he knew. It was his reason to fight, to persists, to complete his quest. “Mirabelle,” he called. “I’m coming for you!” As he spoke the words, Fidel thrummed and warbled, sheathing and thrusting like a sewing machine needle. As it did, Ralph strained to torque his wrist, to drag the dagger up toward the beating heart of Lust.
The creature struck, firing its stinger at Ralph’s neck. Sensing the impending blow, Ralph employed all of his psychic reserve to unfold and fully deploy his wings. It worked. The increasing wings broke the bands of the tentacles and shielded his neck from the poisonous harpoon.
Levering his weight, Ralph kicked free from the beast, sliding across the slurry on the marble floor, landing in the pool. His wings were a hindrance in the water, costing him precious seconds to counter his opponent’s tactics. As he breached the surface, he saw the unthinkable: Lust had Mirabelle coiled in its tentacles, with the dripping tip of its stinger inches from her temple.
“What we have,” Lust said, drooling from its maw, “is a standoff.”
“Put her down,” Ralph demanded. “She’s not a part of this. It’s you and me. It’s always been you and me.”
“Yethhh,” Lust lisped. “But you always win, Raphael. What say we mix it up this Cycle? Instead of me going back in that stuffy old box, how about you . . . stabbing yourself . . . with that silly, singing sword . . . in the back of your neck.”
The amulet around Ralph’s neck jittered, tugging at the white twine like a dog fighting a leash.
“Let her go!” Ralph cried. “If you release her, you can leave in peace. You have my word. If you don’t, you leave in pieces. Again, my word.”
Lust gurgled, “Not funny, Raphael. What is funny, however, is dead babies. Want to see me run this tusk in one ear and out the other?” Lust tickled Mirabelle’s earlobe with the tusk.
The amulet agitated, straining furiously against the twine.
“I’ll count to seven,” Lust said, “my favorite number. If you haven’t killed yourself with Fido, I’ll skewer her little brains out. One.”
Ralph climbed out of the pool, his wings wet and heavy. “What would the other Seven say about this . . . this cowardice? Using a child as hostage – you, too frightened to fight fairly?”
Lust exploded with laughter. “Two, three, four!” it counted. “I’m certain they’d be pleased with my cunning. Now do it. Deploy your sword and stick it in your neck. Five. Six.”
Ralph did deploy Fidel. The blade made a mournful wong-wong sound.
“Seven,” Lust said, spiteful. “Stick it in, Raphael. You know you want to end it. I’m doing you a favor. Stick it in or I make a brain ka-bob and eat it in front of you!”
Ralph waved the sword, flashing its quicksilver steel. Instead of striking his own death blow, he severed the angel-hair twine that secured the ark amulet. Immediately, the free amulet leapt, landing at the cloven feet of Lust.
“Enough,” Lust keened. “You’ve killed your granddaughter. Live with that.” The creature snarled and commenced to penetrate the child’s ear. But something stopped it. Something magical.
The ark amulet opened as it struck the floor. A beam of green light spilled out, capturing Lust in its pulsing cone.
“Nooooo,” Lust bawled. “I don’t want to go back!”
The beam seemed not to hear or to care; it meant only to grasp the ancient animal and return it to its cage. The traction shrank the creature, dragging its imploding form toward the amulet’s open emptiness.
Ralph raised Fidel and charged the decreasing creature, swiping at the muscular tentacle, intent on freeing Mirabelle. The beast met the metal with its poisonous phallus, blocking Fidel’s blows.
“Where I go, she goes,” Lust yowled, embracing the child like a lover. “She comes with meeee,”
Mirabelle squirmed, using the oozing oil of the beast to lubricate her body. Ralph parried, slashing at the tentacle from every conceivable angle. He managed to draw more of the inky ichor.
“That’s it,” Ralph shouted. “Rub it all over, Miri. Make a mess!”
He could see it on her face; she was repelled by the fetid fluid, but she did as she was told. Mirabelle slathered it on herself and made one final flail.
It worked. She slid from its grip, free, like a fetus from a womb.
“Good girl, Little Bit!” Ralph rejoiced, then he plunged Fidel into the gonadal abdomen of Lust, forcing it to follow the traction of the green beam.
One-of-Seven squawked, flailing its appendages like a drowning ape. As it subtracted, gouts of multicolored fluids spewed forth in great, gushing streams. The odor was overwhelming. Mirabelle held her nose and closed her eyes.
“In you go,” Ralph said, twisting Fidel, cramming the creature into the tiny box. “Don’t, worry, you won’t be alone very long.”
Lust’s voice was small, tinkling, and defiant. “You’ll never catch the other six. Never. Neverrrrrrrrrr!”
The green beam retracted and the lid of the ark amulet slammed shut.
On his flight from Los Lunas to Aisha Island, Ralph had made three calls. One was to his old friend, Marvin Wiesel, director of Interpol. One was to his pal at the FBI. The last, to a Coast Guard Admiral he’d served with on a long-ago joint services’ mission. Even now, as he held his granddaughter, he heard helicopters and boats and sirens. The inhabitants of Aisha Island would have their days in court – the victims and their victimizers.
Justice, Ralph hoped, would be served.
With Mirabelle under his wing, he rocketed upward, onward, back to his adobe home in Carbino, Mexico. Miles to fly. Jumpers to catch. A granddaughter to love.
Here are the links to the other two stories:
Number 9 <<link
Writer: R. G. Broxson
Word count: 4,620 words – approx. reading time: about 18 minutes based on 265 WPM
Writer: E. J. D’Alise
Word count: 4,210 words – approx. reading time: about 16 minutes based on 265 WPM
If you’ve read all the stories and care to cast a vote, here’s the link to the Poll:
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