‘See ya in the great beyond’

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Three men walked in single file under the light of a full moon in the Sahara Desert.

They were deserters from the French Legion. If their unit caught them they’d be summarily shot. Yet, they took the risk to get away from their notoriously cruel captain.

All had been severely punished for minor infractions numerous times. They were stationed at an oasis, Azerbu, located in the Libyan Desert, when they decided the risk of deserting outweighed their lives under their crazed superior.

All three men, Americans seeking adventure, found themselves involuntary Legionnaires in January of 1840.  The three devil-may-care Americans who sought adventure found only misery.

They were forced to work, and do military drills in the hot Sahara sun every day. Then they would have to stand guard duty at night. It pushed many men beyond their physical endurance, breaking them down physically, and even killing them.

Between the notoriously bad food, fiery days, numbing routines, and harsh treatment from the captain, the three men plotted to escape. It took them months to achieve their goal. Circumstances had to be just right.

All they knew about their surroundings was that they were in the Kufra District of Libya, about 150 miles to the northwest of Kufra. Having only been stationed in Azerbu since they enlisted, their knowledge of what lay ahead in the world’s hottest desert was minimal at best.

But they were all young, still in their 20s, and strong-willed enough to risk their lives for freedom.

The night they left all three were on guard duty. They each stuffed a backpack of essentials in them (including a change of civilian clothes), and brought two canteens of water. A coarse blanket was rolled up and tied onto the top of the backpack. They also took their rifles and extra ammunition.

The men had no trouble slipping past their sleepy comrades and getting to a grove of palm trees ten miles outside the fort. They knew it would be just hours before the sun came up and the search for them would get underway immediately.

After talking with local workers who were allowed to enter the fort during the day to do domestic duties, they had found out about the hiding place ten miles from the fort in a wadi that had some ancient caves concealed by local vegetation.

Their mission was to get to those caves and hide out during the day. The following night they planned to strike out for Kufra on foot.

When they reached their destination they selected a cave and crawled inside of it. The small opening gave way to a larger area where it was possible to stand up. Anyone coming in after them would be an easy target for the trio.

They slept throughout the day. Roscoe, the oldest of the three, was the first to wake up as the sun slipped out of the sky. He stood up, stretched, and gave his partners a kick to rouse them from their dreams.

“Easy Roscoe!” Henry complained.

“That time already,” Ben said, sitting up and peering out the entrance.

They each chewed on some beef jerky, while taking small sips of water to get it down. After packing up, they cautiously ventured outside. A hyena cried out at the full moon. A cheetah, hunched behind a thick cluster of vegetation, warily watched the men walk by.

Roscoe took out his compass and looked up at the clear skies. The stars glittered like diamonds as he sought familiar constellations.

“Northwest is this way boys. Let’s set a good pace. We have 140 miles to go.

The men silently walked in single file, lost in their thoughts.

Henry, from Dallas, Texas, was trying to compare how hot it was in the panhandle during the summer, compared to this desert. It was making him homesick.

Ben, who was from Boston, Massachusetts, thought he’d been in the hottest place on earth when he took a stagecoach to Dallas, Texas where he met up with Henry. He knew better now.

Both men responded to an ad that Roscoe ran in the newspapers, looking for individuals interested in adventure. When Roscoe rode down from Laredo to Dallas, to meet with the two men who responded to his ad, he wondered what kind of experience each would bring to the table.

Over beer in a Dallas saloon, the three men got to know each other. Both Texans immediately recognized that Ben was a greenhorn despite the western garb he was wearing.

After a few hours of steady drinking, Ben admitted that he was a librarian back home and was bored to death with his life. He always wanted to go on an adventure to the Wild West, or anywhere else in the world that offered excitement.

Both Texans were uneducated. Neither could read or write their name. Roscoe had to get a friend to write-up the adventure ad for him. But, they were both outdoorsmen familiar with weapons and horses.

Henry and Roscoe were raised on small ranches, but left early in their lives to become cowboys driving cattle along the “Beef Trail” to New Orleans. One of the things that motivated the two men was a restless urge to see more than cattle on dusty drives.

Though they never met, they were of one mind when it came to traveling. After that saloon meeting in Dallas the men agreed to go to Europe first. They pooled their funds and agreed to share everything from that time forward.

After a series of drunks in French bars, they were recruited into the French Foreign Legion by what they thought were drinking buddies. Once the two Texans made their mark, and Ben signed his name, they passed out.

When they woke in the morning they were in the French Foreign Legion.

As they trudged through the night towards Kufra, the men were trying to keep their spirits up. Ben estimated that if they walked 20 miles a night it would take about seven nights to reach Kufra.

Just before the sun started its journey up in the sky they came across a small wadi. The pool of water was brackish and they didn’t try to drink it. They tied their blankets together with pieces of rope to make a tent for shade.

The trio kept constant guard by rotating the duty through the day. Sleeping came easy as they were exhausted. Ben figured they had enough supplies left to last a week.

Two days later a monster sandstorm separated the trio.

When Henry woke he had his blanket wrapped around his head and his body was half buried in sand. As he dug himself out, coughing all the while, he wondered what happened to the others.

It was daylight, and the fierce sun beat down on his head as he looked around for his hat and Charleville musket. It didn’t take long for him realize it was a fool’s errand. It was like looking for needles in a sea of sand.

He gave up and thought about searching for his partners. His odds of finding them were as long as finding his hat or musket. He didn’t even know what direction to turn. Confused and dispirited, he found a pile of stones to sit on. He leaned back and took the canteen out of it’s pouch on his belt, and sipped from it.

It was almost empty. He checked the other one. It was still full. He still had food, but didn’t feel like eating. He was discouraged and exhausted when night fell like a cool blanket on the desert floor.

As he sat there, head nodding in an effort to sleep, a voice pierced his thoughts.

“There you are!” Roscoe said.

“Looks like you made it!” Ben congratulated him.

His joy at seeing his two partners didn’t hide the fact that they were hovering a couple of feet above the sand. One part of his brain said that was impossible, and the other part said…”Oh, no!

Reading his mind they both smiled reassuringly.

“Listen Henry. There’s a caravan coming this way today. There’s an English woman on it who will help you get home.

But what about you fellas?”

“As you’ve guessed by now, we didn’t make it partner. But the good news is we’re going on an adventure better than anything we ever dreamed about. See ya in the great beyond.”

As It Stands, you can’t keep an adventuresome soul down for long.

The Reluctant Ghost Whisperer

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Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry.

Sven wasn’t always a ghost whisperer.

He was like any other kid on the block growing up. Nothing special. No superpowers. Nothing that separated him from his peers. But that changed when he got out of the Army at 22-years-old.

As a combat veteran in Afghanistan, Sven saw more than his share of people die. Friends and enemies. Death didn’t scare him. He always understood he could die at any time.

There was a moment, when a sniper’s bullet passed through his cheek and shattered his teeth, when Death eagerly hovered nearby, waiting to see if his time had come.

The first thing Sven did when he mustered out of the military was to buy a used Harley motorcycle from a high school friend. Then he pointed the Harley north, towards Northern California.

He was trying to stick to the old Pacific Highway Route 1, but discovered it no longer went straight through to Oregon. There were areas where the road disappeared off the steep cliffs into the ocean. He followed the bypasses when it came to those points.

One afternoon he was cruising along enjoying the scenery when a pickup truck came barreling up behind him at a high-speed! He veered hard to his right to avoid getting run over, masterfully bringing the Harley to a stop in the dirt running alongside the highway.

It took him a few minutes to compose himself before he got back on the road. He didn’t go far when he saw something suspicious. He pulled his Harley off the road and hopped off.

What he noticed were dark black skid marks on the road leading to the drop-off on the left. He walked across the road and looked down the 100-foot embankment. A pickup truck was turned upside down, partly in the Eel River, and on the rough shoreline.

He didn’t hesitate.

When he got to the bottom he spotted a body that was thrown from the truck. He checked it out. There was nothing he could do, so he went to the pickup truck to see if the someone was still inside, and alive.

He wasn’t. Sven shook his head sadly. “Was it worth it?” he wondered.

“Oh, Hell no! I didn’t mean to lose control,” a voice next to him replied.

Sven jumped up and spun around in alarm. Then he saw something strange. The dead guy was standing up and talking to him! But…the dead guy was still trapped in the pickup when he looked over at it.

“Listen…you gotta tell my mom I love her, okay?” the dead man pleaded.

“Yeah sure…what’s her name?” he automatically replied.

“Joan. Tell her I love her, and I wished I wasn’t speeding.”

Then he was gone.

Sven stood there for minutes in shock. He didn’t believe in ghosts. How could this happen to him? Was it a flashback of some kind? As he climbed back up the steep embankment he regretted not having a cell phone yet. He’d have to flag someone down when he got back up top.

For once in his short interesting life, he was glad to see a cop when a California Highway Patrol car came down the road. He stayed for nearly an hour answering questions. He told the investigator everything…except, of course, about the ghost part.

He didn’t want to end up in a VA psych ward trying to convince someone he didn’t have PTSD.

Two days later. Southern Humboldt County.

Sven sat on his Harley and watched the latter-day hippies and wannabes mingle in the supermarket parking lot. He was parked next to a small park area – a rude sign proclaimed it “The People’s Park” – with two wooden tables packed with homeless people and travelers.

It was nearly dark when he decided to go to the motel room he rented during the day. As he locked up the Harley in front of his room, a stranger laughed, and said, “These kids don’t know nothing about mother nature.”

“Say what?”

 “You know. Those punks over by the supermarket and park. They don’t even know what they’re pretending to be.

“Excuse me dude. Do I know you?

“Oh, I doubt it man.

Then he disappeared, as Sven blinked in stunned disbelief.

What was going on? He told himself one more time that he didn’t believe in ghosts. Why was he having these hallucinations? He wasn’t using any drugs. It was several days since he had any liquor.

Sven had a hard time going to sleep. Just as he started to slip off into dreamland someone said, “I was murdered in this bed.

He sprung up and threw the blanket aside! Standing at the end of the bed was a young woman. Her sad eyes drew him to her. He tensely waited to see if she’d speak again.

“The guy that runs these crummy hotel is a murderer!” she hotly claimed.

“What can I do about it?” he asked, while wondering if he lost his mind.

“Tell the cops where my body is.”

“Where’s that?”

“Underneath your bed, below the floorboards.”

He jumped out of the bed at the same time she disappeared. He pinched himself to see if it was just a nightmare. It wasn’t. He’d just conversed with a ghost. He went outside hoping the cool night air would clear the cobwebs in his head.

“There he is!” a woman standing by the motel office shouted, pointing at Sven.

Suddenly he was surrounded by ghosts! He could see through their bodies, but they maintained enough of an image for him to tell they were once human. Questions flew at him from all angles.

“I’m buried underneath the parking lot, will you tell someone?”

“The manager is a murderer. Will you stop him?”

“Will you tell my family I’m buried beneath the floorboards in the main office?”

“Will you help me?” a chorus of undead voices pleaded.

While trying to hold on to his sanity Sven spoke out, “I don’t know why you picked me to haunt. I never believed in ghosts.”

“Joel told us you were a ghost whisperer, ” one of the young women said.

“Whose Joel?”

“He was killed when his pickup truck went off a cliff recently. He passed the word on that you could see and hear him,” the woman explained.

Sven was stumped. He didn’t know what to do. This supernatural drama playing out had him as a central character.

Then he heard someone scream in terror! The ghosts were gone when he headed for the room where he thought the scream came from. Without even thinking, he kicked the door in.

Bent over a young woman in bed, with his hands around her neck, was the motel manager!

Sven ran over and punched the manager in his jaw just as he was letting go of the woman who was gasping for air. The punch shattered his jaw, and when Sven put a chokehold on him, he passed out.

“Do you have a cell phone?” he asked the young woman who was still gagging. She pointed at the end table. He dialed 911 and sat on the end of the bed, watching to see if the manager woke up.

Afterward, the police hailed him as a hero. Everyone in Garberville was stunned to hear about the murderer in their midst. That he was a serial killer made it a national news story.

After talking with police investigators he refused to grant any interviews. He didn’t want to be a public figure. When he got back on the road, going north towards Eureka, he started thinking that what happened was probably a once in a lifetime thing.

He certainly hoped so.

As the days went by he lost himself riding his Harley along the beautiful northern coast. He stayed in motels and continued to head north with no real destination in mind.

One night, while he stayed at a little offbeat motel just below Seattle, Washington, someone woke him up. He opened his eyes warily expecting the worst. He wasn’t disappointed.

A man dressed in animal furs and holding an ancient rifle stood in the corner of his room staring at him. It took all he had not to get up and run out of the room screaming!

“Hold on sonny…” the man said, “I don’t want anything from you. I just heard that you can talk with ghosts and I wanted to see if it were true. I know you can see me now, but can you really hear me?”  

Inspiration struck Sven like a lightning bolt. He didn’t answer the ghost. Instead he just stared dumbly in his direction.

After a long pause the man shook his head, “I didn’t think so. You can’t believe everything you hear,” he said.

“It’s too bad…I could have told him where to find that hoard of gold I stashed just before the Indians got hold of my hide.

“Wait a minute! Did you say gold hoard?” Sven suddenly piped up.

“It’s too bad,” the ghost said mischievously, before disappearing.

As It Stands, maybe Sven won’t be so quick to deny his talent next time.

The Space Orphans Of Pallidia

What happens when a planet is overpopulated and torn by continuing wars?

In the case of Pallidia, one out of every ten babies get sent to other planets. The rest are killed. Only the super wealthy, one-percenters, could afford to send their new offspring to other planets with similar atmospheres.

Even so, there was no guarantee that those children would be accepted by whoever found them. It was a last-ditch gamble by a desperate civilization. A forlorn hope that their species might survive somewhere else.

With only six other planets in their solar system, the choices were down to four planets that could sustain them. Nothing was known of their populations and civilizations. Space travel had only progressed to sending small lifeboat capsules to nearby planets.

The capsules didn’t always make it to their destination.

The one’s that did, suffered different fates on the four targeted planets. The nearest planet Hatho II, was the worst one. When its inhabitants discovered a capsule, they took it as food from the gods! The fate of those babies was a barbaric death.

The second nearest planet Strava, was populated by bipeds similar in stature and make-up to the children from Pallidia. They were an emerging civilization using crude technology to survive. Whenever they found a capsule with a live baby in it they rescued it and adopted it into their tribe.

The third planet, Arsus, was a cold bleak world that seldom saw much light from the twin suns in the solar system. It was populated by bipeds and quadrupeds. There was no cities, because no species existed with that kind of expertise. Half the planet was underwater and unexplored. There was zero chance for a space orphan.

The furthest planet, Zenxa, was populated with advanced Homo sapiens who built great cities and civilizations. They were a peace-loving species that welcomed the space orphans when they arrived…which was very seldom.

Only three of the nine capsules that actually made it to Zenxa bore live cargos. The other six had problems with entry and burned up by the time they hit the ground. Of the three, one died a year later for unknown reasons.

The remaining two children, both boys, were adopted by two sets of parents. The adoptive parents lived half a world away from each other so the boys weren’t raised together in the same city.

The capsules quit coming as the years passed by and the two boys grew up.

Cain and Abel grow up miles apart and had no knowledge of one another. They both had one trait in common, a violent streak. Each worked their way up in the local governments until they were a step away from becoming supreme leaders of their civilizations.

Cain formed a militia. The concept was unknown in Aton until then. He had succeeded in his desire, because the Supreme Leader died of natural causes.

When word got to Lux, where Abel lived, that the kingdom of Aton was doing some strange things like training groups of men to fight together, Abel knew he had to convince his people to arm themselves.

The current Supreme Leader, Sray, resisted Abel’s efforts to form a militia however. He was a scholar who studied lost civilizations, solar systems, and other mysteries of the universe. He was also an expert at Mindsight, and knew exactly what was going on in Abel’s head.

Sray knew Abel’s history and that he came with another alien who had somehow ascended to the Supreme Leadership of Aton. It was time, he decided, to tell Abel about Cain and their orphan heritage.

Abel’s reaction went from surprise to curiosity. Then suspicion.

“Why tell me now?” he bluntly asked, “Why hasn’t anyone told me this before?”

“Because no one could foresee the future. Your adoptive parents, may the Lord of Life always keep them in his heart, didn’t see the need. They raised you as one of their own.”

“What now?” he sullenly asked.

“You two should meet,” Sray answered. “I’ve taken the liberty of inviting him here.

Two days later.

“Thank you for inviting me,” Cain said to Sray.

“Thank you for coming. I have something of special interest to you, but first you must agree to hear me out before reacting to what I tell you.”

“An intriguing offer. Please tell me what’s so interesting.” 

“Excellent!”

Sray went into another room and came back out accompanied by a man roughly the same age as Cain.

“Cain, meet Abel. He’s from another planet just like you.

Cain’s coutesy melted away in an instant, as he glared at Abel.

“What is this about another planet?” he demanded.

It took an hour for Sray to calm Cain and Abel down. Using his Mindsight he was able to say the right things to address each man’s concerns. Then he contacted Cain’s back-up, and they mind-melded. A plan was formed.

The next day Sray heard that Cain had murdered Abel in the night!

The plan was thrown out. Citizens and scientists of Aton and Lux did not believe in killing, but they didn’t want Cain on their planet any longer. It was decided to put him on a space ship that would take him out of their solar system.

All provisions were made for his safety. He would be at the mercy of the ship’s computer – GOD – wandering other universes for a lifetime.

As It Stands, this tale is a nod to supreme beings that I’m sure exist somewhere.

Meeting challenges

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To my readership;

Thank’s for cruising by to check things out daily, but I’m going to have to slow my story production down for awhile.

I’ll be straight up with you, I have PTSD, and this is a bad time of the year for me. Some psychologists call it an “anniversary date.”

That simply means something terrible happened around this time of year when I was a combat engineer in Cambodia. Also Vietnam.

In a nutshell, I have a lot of trouble focusing in April and May. They’re the worst two months of the year for me. Hence, it’s difficult to write. I’m trying to meet this challenge by not giving up totally.

If your new here, please check out my archives on the right side of this page. I’m sure to have something for you there.

From Science Fiction to Speculative Fiction, I’ve hopped from one genre to another in order to offer the most discerning reader a variety.

I don’t expect to write more than two stories a week right now – if that. But, I’m going to try.

Thanks for your understanding.

The Blood Roses of Halfeti

Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry.

Prudence was a third generation Hoffenberg whose family owned the biggest hothouse nursery in the state of New Hampshire.

The Nursery – Heavenly Sent Gardens – specialized in exotic flowers and rare roses. The entire Hoffenberg family was involved in the business, from top to bottom. They stuck together ever since immigrating from Germany in 1919.

What started out as a flower stand, bloomed into a multi-acre showroom of flowers from around the world. Rarity and Quality was their business motto. Shoppers from the whole east coast, and from around the world, regularly visited the famous nursery.

Prudence’s day was taken up with ordering specialty flowers from Asia to Zambia. The best seller list was a who’s who of the flower world.

The top five were: the Kadupul flower, mainly found in the jungles of Sri Lanka. This incredibly rare flower only blooms at midnight and dies before dawn.

Campion flowers was their second bestseller. Once they could only be found in the British territory of Gibraltar. This flower also has a short lifespan and prior to the Hoffenberg’s obtaining some, they could only be found in the botanical gardens on Gibraltar and London.

Their number three best-seller was the Ghost Orchid, that only grows in Cuba and Florida. It was the demands for high temperatures and high humidity that made the ghost orchid so rare.

Number four on the hit list, was Chocolate cosmos native to Mexico. Sadly, this flower has been extinct in the wild for years.

Wrapping up their top five was, Blood Roses from Halfeti. Turkey accounts for 25 percent of all species of roses and none more famous than the Blood Rose of Halfeti. The secret was what to feed it.

Heavenly Sent Gardens worked with experts in Turkey for years before finally obtaining the secret to keeping it healthy. It came at great cost.

As Prudence walked past the section of Blood Roses in her daily hothouses inspection, she stopped to admire one that was blooming. Once again she wondered if it was worth the price.

Haydin Hoffenberg, Prudence’s 21-year-old grandson, was very much involved in the family business. His job however was unique, and dangerous. He had to go out and find the main ingredient for the Blood Roses very special feeding times.

Blood. Not just any blood. It couldn’t be older than one hour and must be given at right at midnight.

The second generation of Hoffenberg’s were the first family members to approach Turkish agriculturists who led them to the, then underground, market of Blood Roses. A corrupt Turkish regime later made their importation legal.

Only very special people ordered blood roses. Not only because they were very expensive, but because they had to sign a contract stating it was their responsibility to provide fresh blood (defined as less than an hour old) for the rose. How they did that, was up to them. No refunds.

Rather than bleed family members dry, the second generation of Hoffenberg’s chose to kidnap a feeder victim, and keep them alive for as long as possible. A special underground bunker was built during the cold war with Russia just for that purpose.

Located on their own land, near the hothouses, the bunker became the last resting place for numerous victims over the years. Haydin Hoffenberg’s job was to “maintain the feeder victim,” and make sure they stayed as healthy as possible, despite living in restraints.

It was harder than it sounds. Not catching the victim, but keeping them alive. Sometimes they just gave up and died after a year or so. Others lived for years. They even had one feeder who lived there for a decade.

Finding new feeder victims was a delicate process.

After decades of refinement, the family had a formula for selecting feeders. They should be in their early 20s, healthy, and have very few (if any) family members. Orphans were all right, if they were at least in their teens.

Homeless people weren’t as reliable, as they didn’t tend to be too healthy. They were sometimes just taken as temporary substitutes, while the family kept searching for the ideal candidate.

This system thrived for nearly 80 years before crashing down in a night of horror.

Among his duties, Haydin had to feed the blood roses. He became an expert at hooking up IV’s to drain the feeder’s veins. It was his habit to go down in the bunker about thirty minutes before midnight. It gave him plenty of time to set things up and go back to the nursery.

Being raised in a family of psychopaths, Haydin saw nothing wrong with what he was doing. It was a family thing. Looking at the victims as feeders, made it easier for him to do his job. He was a little excited about finding the new feeder.

He was living in the streets of the city, but looked healthy, and best of all, he was a loner shunned by other denizens of the streets. He knew that because he asked around.

He caught the new feeder sleeping in an alley. Gave him a shot that would have knocked a gorilla out, and managed to get his big body into the back of his SUV. When he got home, he got his younger brother, Nicholas, to help him take the feeder down into the bunker.

As he walked outside he looked up at the full moon overhead. It was beautiful. He pulled his keys out and unlocked the metal cover protecting the door over the bunker. He idly wondered if the feeder was conscious yet?

He flipped the light switch, but it didn’t come on. Annoyed, he wondered when the last time was since he changed it? He warily went down the stairs until he reached bottom.

He started to take a step, heard a growl, and stopped! The growl got deeper! Something was thrashing around in the room. He heard something tearing, and then a roar of rage! The werewolf slammed into Haydin and knocked his breath out!

Another low growl…and Haydin screamed as the werewolf slashed him apart with it’s deadly claws and teeth!

The public was stunned when the family announced it was closing down the business two days later. Everything was sold at 75 percent off. The only thing that Heavenly Sent Gardens didn’t sell were the remaining Blood Roses…and that’s because they were all dead.

As It Stands, how do you make your garden grow?

The Gentle Embrace of Death

Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry.

GangstersLouie Marozzi wasn’t part of anyone’s gang.

It’s true that Al Capone, Dion O’Banion, and Bugs Malone all asked him, at one time or the other, to drive trucks for them. But he turned them all down. He wanted to stay independent…no matter the cost.

Not only was Louie an exceptional driver, he was a giant of a man. At six-feet, seven-inches, and 340 pounds, he was a specimen to behold. People thought Big Louie, as many called him, wasn’t too bright.

He seldom spoke and when he did he stumbled over words, going from Italian to American in the same sentence. His appearance, with a dark unibrow and jutting forehead, probably furthered the narrative about his low intelligence.

He was slow to anger. He didn’t drink alcohol, or smoke cigarettes. The few friends he had were homeless, and lived on the streets of Chicago. His daily challenge was to stay out of the way of warring gangs.

Louie saw plenty of guys get gunned down in a hail of bullets from a passing car. The gangsters spent as much time killing each other as they did innocent victims. Dead men turned up all the time.

It was that environment that gave Louie his chance to kill people without getting caught. He wasn’t a violent killer, and never used a gun. He preferred to put his victims to sleep in his firm, yet strangely gentle, chokehold.

Unlike some psychopaths, Louie knew it was wrong to kill people. He justified his hobby by killing what he judged were bad men. He tried to keep the murders down to just a couple a week.

With the rate of weekly murders in the streets of Chicago in 1931, two more a week were easily lost in the shifting statistics.

In Louie’s mind he was doing his criminal victims a favor. They probably would have been violently killed by someone else. He was nice enough to make their passing painless and not traumatic.

Even in that violent time and city, there were whispered rumors of a serial strangler stalking the streets. The police, aware of the rumors – and the circumstances involving a string of choking victims – kept their eyes open for a suspect.

One day his friend Leo emerged from the streets, and hunted him down.

“I need your help Louie,” the shriveled old man pleaded.

“Sure Leo.

“A couple of thugs in Bugs Moran’s gang took Angelo this morning! They beat him up and dragged him into one of those big black cars and took off!”

“Why they do that?” Louie asked.

I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s about a briefcase he found in an alley, and they were looking for it.

“You sure Bug’s boy’s did it?”

“Yeah…I happen to know a couple of them. Ran a few errands for ’em.

“I’ll see what I can do come amico.”

As Louie walked back to where his truck was parked, he noticed a couple of thugs loitering around it. The first thing that went through his mind was Angelo convinced them he had the briefcase, in order to stay alive.

The normally calm and composed Louie was slowly melting away, as he watched them from the window of a shop he went inside of. He didn’t like being threatened. He looked at both men closely, memorizing their faces.

There was a rear exit in the shop and Louie took it out to the alley. He knew where the Moran mobsters hung out. There was one location in particular, a house, that he suspected they’d taken Angelo too.

It was a couple of miles away, but that didn’t bother him. He liked a good brisk walk. It helped calm him down. He didn’t want to shed blood. He just wanted to gently put them to sleep in his powerful arms.

He was right about the house. It was on a big lot and fenced in, but Louie had no trouble getting over the fence. As he got closer he heard a muffled scream. Louie sat down and waited for hours until the moon climbed to the top of the sky, before overpowering the sleeping guard on the front porch.

He went through the front door, surprisingly quiet for a man of his size. He took care of the two thugs sleeping in the living room. He went to the cellar door and opened it. He softly descended the stairs.

Another guard was asleep on a chair. Louie wished him sweet dreams and sent him to eternity. Angelo was a bloody pulp. His hands were tied behind him with twine, and he was unconscious.

Louie approached his body on the floor. He was laying sideways. He checked for a pulse and was surprised to find a weak one. He probably wasn’t going to make it from the looks of his smashed skull.

Louie sent him gently into the night.

No one knew what happened at the Bugs Moran gang’s house, because it was engulfed in flames set by Louie that night.

Locals said Moran’s gang never bothered Louie again. Some say it was because Al Capone and his thugs took a lot of Bug’s time just trying to survive.

Other’s say that Louie Marozzi was the most feared and famous killer in Chicago… that the public never heard about.

As It Stands, this tale is a chapter out of the urban lore from Chicago’s “gangster days.”