I sat at my kitchen table with a drink in my hand. Whisky, two ice cubes. Drinking alone had become a habit for me. It was the only way that I could sleep. The only way I could close my eyes at night and not relive all of the horrors that I’d experienced since Journeyman came into my life.
Speaking of horrors, one of them was keeping me company tonight.
He came folded over in a large cooler sometime around dusk. A hoot at my gate announced his arrival. I went out and found one of those meat transfer trucks waiting for me. The man in the driver’s seat got out and waved a clipboard at me.
“Delivery from Ivy’s Heaven, Bar and Grill,” he said.
I considered telling him that they had the wrong address and send them back with that cargo that I didn’t want.
The man with the clipboard shook it at me. No, If I sent them away they’d just pull a few laps before Journeyman sent them back here. I sighed and opened the gate. The truck driver drove in and parked where my car would have been. Both men stepped out and went to the back of their truck. They opened it and pulled out a large white box.
I guided them with it into the kitchen where they placed it on the ground and opened it. A blast of cold air escaped when the lid came off. Inside the box I saw I saw a tangle of limbs bent in on themselves.
“What are you doing?” I said.
“The box is property of Ivy’s Heaven Bar and Grill,” said the man who’d held the clipboard. “The contents are yours but the box has to come back with us.”
I looked at them with my eyebrows raised.
“Where am I supposed to keep the body?” I said.
The guy with the clipboard glanced at my kitchen table. I shook my head. He nodded.
“It’s either that or I leave him on the floor,” he said.
Yeah, sure. Just put the dead man on the spot where I have my breakfast.
“Let me get a tarp,” I said.
I went into the store outside my kitchen and fished out a plastic tarp. I took it back to my kitchen and spread it out over the kitchen table. The two men pulled the Shadow’s body out of the white box. His limbs unfolded like a blanket being aired out. They placed him on the table then passed me the clipboard. I signed it and they left.
Not sure of what else to do, I poured myself a glass of whiskey. The alcohol made its way from my stomach to my tongue and made it flappy. I asked the dead body on my kitchen table about his life and what his aspirations were before he ended up with Black Ivy’s meat cleaver in his skull. But he made for poor company. He didn’t answer a single question.
That was how Journeyman found me; having a one-sided conversation with a corpse.
“Ah, good,” he said over my shoulder. “My special something came.”
“A long time ago,” I said. “He and I have been getting to know each other better.”
“Good,” said Journeyman. “Because we’re about to get even more intimate.”
Journeyman took a mat from under his arm and unfurled it on the table. A set of shiny instruments, all long and sharp, stuck out from the pockets inside. They looked like the kind of instruments that you’d find at a hospital or a butchery.
“What are those for?” I asked.
Journeyman ignored my question.
“Help me take these off,” he said, pulling off the dead man’s jacket.
“We’re molesting him now?” I said.
“He’s dead,” said Journeyman. “And necrophilia is not my thing.”
He handed me the black blazer and I folded it over my arm. The blood stain on its front was already dried and caked. Journeyman took a pair of scissors and cut through the patient’s shirt, exposing pale skin underneath. The man was definitely of African descent but his skin was so ashen it was almost grey. Journeyman pointed to a tattoo on the man’s left pectoral. It was of a hand folded into shadow-puppets and casting a shadow of an ominous looking man.
“The sign of The Shadows,” said Journeyman. “Pass me the scalpel.”
I looked at the row of blades in the unfurled mat, trying to make out which was which.
“The one that looks like a razor on a stick,” said Journeyman.
I pulled it out and passed it to him. He gave it a quick inspection then made a Y-incision on the Shadow’s chest. A thick line of congealed blood appeared as he sliced in, all the way down to his waist. He pushed the flaps of skin aside and exposed a row of ribs which he pushed aside to expose the organs inside. He stuck both of his hands inside the body and pulled out the heart. I gagged when I saw it. I had no idea what the stages of decomposition were but I knew that there was no stage where the heart looks like that. The entire organ was jet black like a child had ran a marker over it. I’d seen enough. I walked out of the room and left Journeyman to continue his grizzly work.
I still had The Shadow’s jacket in my hand. I took it with me into the room next door and placed it on the living room couch when I had an idea. I riffled thought he pockets and found a business card inside. It was black and had an open palm on the center tilted slightly to the right. Underneath the open palm were two words; The Hand.