After the Party
By Brandon Massey
When Terry was halfway along the twisting, dark country road, he looked in his rearview mirror and saw a frightening sight: the flashing blue lights of a police cruiser.
“Damn, I don’t believe this,” he said. “He better not be coming for me.”
But at two thirty in the morning, his was the only vehicle on the desolate road. It was a pretty fair bet that the cop was coming for him, and him alone.
Terry took one of his hands away from the steering wheel, blew into it. His lips curled. The sour smell of alcohol was thick on his breath.
“Shit,” he muttered. But he wasn’t surprised. At the Halloween party, he’d had a lot to drink. Three Heinekens … two Rum and Cokes … two Hennesseys . . . and more. His memory of exactly what he had drunk was foggy—as it always was when he was smashed.
On the stereo, an Outkast song thumped at a bone-jarring volume. Listening to loud music was one of his tricks to make it safely home after he’d had too much to drink. It kept him alert.
But the music wasn’t enough to save him tonight. He should have known better than to be out on the road in a drunken daze on Halloween night. Johnny Nabb (his uncle referred to all cops by that dubious name, and Terry had picked it up) would surely be out in force, cruising for suckers like him.
He’d fallen right into the trap. Shit.
The cop car veered up to his rear bumper, and sounded a sharp horn that made Terry jump. The beacon’s blue lights whirled around, shining into Terry’s car like some crazy disco strobe light.
Biting his lip, Terry slowed his Nissan Maxima. He pulled to the shoulder of the road.
With a trembling hand, he shut off the stereo.
The last time he’d been pulled over was two years ago, for speeding. He’d gotten away with a fine and a slap on the wrist from the judge. He’d never had a DUI, in spite of driving home drunk at least a dozen times. DUI was a serious trespass in Georgia.
But if you got away once without being caught, you always thought you could pull it off again. His apartment was only twenty minutes away, after all, and the country road was a shortcut, and it wasn’t as though he was falling-down drunk. He floated in that dreamy, slow-motion world that existed somewhere between Tipsyville and Truly Wastedland.
But he was definitely over the legal limit, and he knew it.
He should have accepted Nikki’s invitation to stay at her place for a while, to sober up. But she’d gotten on his last nerve at the party, following him around as if she were a lovesick puppy and getting all in his mix while he tried to hang with his boys. He couldn’t tolerate another minute of her company. Clingy females like her made him sick. They reminded him of his mother.
Still, her company would’ve been better than his upcoming date with Johnny Nabb.
Behind him, the police car waited like a hungry beast, headlights glaring. The cop was probably running Terry’s license plate through the system. He wouldn’t find anything, but the thought didn’t comfort Terry. Driving While Black was enough to land your ass in jail for something—anything Johnny Nabb could dream up to nail you. And his being drunk didn’t help his case at all. Although he was rapidly sobering up.
The worst part was that he was still dressed in his costume. He’d gone to the party as Blade the Vampire Slayer. He had the long black-leather jacket, the boots, the gloves—all the gear. Instead of a real sword, a plastic blade dangled from a loop on his belt.
He could only imagine being hauled to the county lockup dressed like this.
He never should’ve gone to the stupid party in the first place. He should’ve rented some horror movies and stayed home. But he’d been excited about showing off Nikki, who, for all her clinginess, was fine as hell, and looked great in her tight, black-leather vampiress outfit.
The fellas had asked him about her all night, and it had stroked his ego to respond, “Yeah, man. She’s mine, I’ve got that girl strung out on me …”
What the hell’s taking that cop so long? he asked himself. The asshole still hadn’t gotten out of the car. He was probably sitting back there chomping on a doughnut, knowing that he was making Terry sweat and enjoying every second of it.
God, he hated cops.
Not a single vehicle had passed since he’d been pulled over. Thick, dark woods crowded both sides of the road. There were no streetlamps out here, and a cape of purple-black clouds concealed the moon. The only light radiated from the police car’s headlights.
Anything could happen out there, between him and the cop. And no one would know.
Okay, don’t think about stuff like that, he warned himself. You’re freaking yourself out. There’s still a way out of this.
He remembered the Certs in his cup holder. His hands shook so badly it took three tries for him to pop the mint into his dry mouth.
He might not fool Johnny Nabb into thinking he was sober, but he had to try.
Behind him, the cruiser’s door finally swung open. A tall, beefy cop climbed out. He strutted toward Terry’s car, as if he had the world on a leash.
Remember, be respectful, and enunciate crisply, Terry told himself. You can talk your way out of this. You’ve got to convince this cop that you’re sober.
The police officer tapped on the glass with a fat finger.
“Mister, please roll down the window, will ya?” The cop had a thick Georgia accent.
Terry pressed the button to lower the glass. Chilly air swept into the car.
“Yes, sir?” Terry asked.
“I spotted ya weaving over the line back there.” The cop hooked his thumb behind him, then bent closer. “You been drinkin’, buddy?”
“No, sir. I’m only tired, it’s late.”
“Where ya comin from?”
“Um … a party.”
The cop’s penetrating blue eyes raked over him. “A costume party? What you got on there?”
“Uh, I’m supposed to be Blade. You know, the vampire slayer from the movie?”
“The flick with that black boy, Wesley something?”
“Yeah, that one.”
The cop grinned. It wasn’t a pleasant smile. “Gimme your license and registration, Blade.”
Here we go, Terry thought. I’m fucked. First, I hand him this stuff, next he’ll be asking me to get out of the car to take a Breathalyzer test, which I’ll fail, and after that, I’ll be riding in the back of his cruiser on the way to the Clayton County Jail.
Terry dug the registration out of the glove compartment and slid his driver’s license out of his wallet.
The cop snatched the items out of his grasp and stuffed them into his pocket without so much as a glance at them.
Something isn’t right here, a voice cautioned in the quiet, sober part of Terry’s mind. Something about this policeman isn’t quite right.
But when the cop stepped back and commanded Terry to get out of the car, Terry hesitated only a second before he obeyed. He was a law-abiding citizen, and the policeman was an authority figure. No black man in his right mind resisted arrest or caused conflict with an officer. Look at what had happened to Rodney King.
“Wait by the car, Blade,” the officer said with a smirk. He strolled back to the cruiser.
Terry stood beside the car. He didn’t feel drunk anymore. Nothing sobered you up as much as knowing that you probably were going to jail.
Beyond the circle of light cast by the cop car’s headlamps, the night seemed to shift, like a living thing. Terry found himself staring at a spot in the dark woods, maybe a hundred yards away. He had the oddest feeling that something was out there, watching him, just as he was watching it. He felt the weight of a sentient creature’s gaze, like a pressure on his forehead.
It’s an owl, he thought. Or a raccoon. Something like that. The forest is full of living shit.
But he shuddered.
He was almost relieved when the cop returned.
“Okay, tell it to me straight,” the officer said. “How much did you drink at the party?”
Terry shrugged. “A couple of beers. Not much.”
“That’s all, eh? The punishment for DUI is stiff in Georgia, buddy. But there are worse things than a DUI. Much, much worse.” His pale lips twisted into a strange smile.
“I’ve never had a DUI,” Terry said. “You pulled up my record, you know it’s true.”
“You mean, you’ve never been caught,” the cop said.
Terry didn’t respond. Why had he thought he could fool this guy? Johnny Nabb put the hook on suckers like him all the time. He wasn’t special.
The cop threw open the door to Terry’s car. He removed the key from the ignition, and then slammed the door.
“Are you taking me in to the station?” Terry asked. “Aren’t you supposed to give me a sobriety test first?”
Without answering, the cop pressed the button on the key chain to activate the door locks. The locks snapped down.
“Do I have to get someone to tow my car?” Terry asked.
The cop wound up his arm like a baseball pitcher. He hurled the keys into the woods. They tinkled somewhere in the darkness.
“Hey, what the hell are you doing?” Terry asked.
A deep laugh bellowed from the policeman. Laughing, he turned to Terry, and in the bright light, Terry saw the purplish bite marks on the side of the cop’s pale neck: two small puncture wounds positioned on the jugular vein.
Terry didn’t believe his eyes. Surely, he wasn’t as sober as he thought he’d become. He had to be imagining things.
“The master will be pleased with you,” the policeman said, in an oddly formal voice, as though he was repeating words that he had memorized. “Quite pleased, indeed.”
“What are you talking about? What’s going on? Is this a joke?”
Chuckling, backing away, the policeman shook his head. “Good luck out here, Blade.”
“Where are you going? I thought you were arresting me!”
Still laughing, the cop hopped in his cruiser.
“You can’t leave me out here!” Terry ran toward the car.
The vehicle sped forward. He jumped aside and grabbed at the passenger door handle. But his sweaty hands slipped away.
The patrol car shot down the road. Soon, the red taillights dwindled into darkness. Deep silence fell over the night.
“Help!” Terry shouted. “Someone help me!”
His shouts echoed into the woods, uselessly. There was no one out here to help him. He was alone.
Well, not quite alone.
His gaze shifted to the dark patch of forest that had claimed his attention earlier.
Something had been out there watching him. It was still watching him. He felt it as surely as he felt the cold October air on his face.
“Who’s out there?” he asked, in a cracked voice.
The darkness did not reply. But something out there, a large, shadowy shape, edged closer.
Within a heartbeat, it was rushing toward him.
I don’t believe what I’m seeing, but it’s got to be real, because now I’m pissing my pants.
Weak-kneed, he reached down, and drew his flimsy plastic sword …
About the Author
Brandon Massey was born in Waukegan, Illinois and grew up in Zion, a suburb north of Chicago. He currently lives with his family near Atlanta, GA.
He originally self-published Thunderland, his first novel, in 1999. After managing to sell a few thousand copies on his own, Kensington Publishing Corp. in New York offered him a two-book contract, and published a new, revised edition of Thunderland in December 2002.
His newest thriller, Frenzied, was published in October 2017.