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Bad JuJu

The rituals of a superstitious gambler are hackneyed at best,

but went applied to hands-on crime it's just plain dangerous.

Bad Juju by Jeff Marsick



Murder wasn't his intent when Pudge had roped Spencer Tilson to the overhead beam and stood him precarious on the edge of a three-legged stool. Pudge figured the anticipation of certain demise would be incentive enough for the art dealer to give with the digits to the wall safe, and, if not, a couple strangling pendular swings would certainly do the trick.  Instead, the man had gone full spastic and slipped off, mass plus acceleration and a little too much rope doing the rest, producing in the high-ceiling loft apartment a loud audible like a head of celery snapping in half.

"Well, shit," Pudge said, watching Spencer's corpse lazily pirouette two feet off the floor.  Pudge took off his sweat-stained Mets cap, scratched at the bald spot that no amount of comb-over could camouflage, and let out an exasperated sigh.  He had come to crack a safe, but now he'd have to disappear a body.


"I told you," said Yo-Yo, Pudge's skinny partner.  He pointed at the antique rocking chair in the corner.  "I told you, never rock an empty rocking chair.  It's bad luck."

"Shut up, idiot," Pudge replied, rolling his eyes.  "And cut him down."
 
Yo-Yo mumbled to himself, then pulled out a Leatherman multi-tool.         
              
Pudge walked over and looked longingly at the safe that mocked him with its digital face and numerical keypad.  It wasn't so much in the wall as in the wall.  Without the code, it would take an act of God to pull it free.  Behind him, Spencer's body came down heavy, his head thudding off the reclaimed floorboards like a bowling ball dropped.  Pudge turned, saw Yo-Yo straddling the body, sawing away at the noose with the Leatherman.
              
"The fuck're you doing?" Pudge asked. 

"Hangman's rope," Yo-Yo replied, a veiny arm straining at his task.  "It's good luck.  Also cures ailments."
              
Pudge stepped to, kicked the Leatherman out of Yo-Yo's hand, then shoved the slighter man asprawl.
              
"Fuckin' weirdo.  Leave it be.  That's just creepy."
              


Yo-Yo stood up, adjusted his too-small acid-washed jean jacket, then stroked a calming hand over the coif he had moussed from forehead to mullet.
              
"Hey, man.  Superstitions is real, yo."  He tapped a finger in Pudge's direction.  "You'd best respect."
              
"Yeah, well, you'd best roll Captain Cadaver here in that Persian or we'll see how well you respect gravity when I throw you out the window."
              
Yo-Yo muttered a retort but set to clearing the furniture off the rug.  Pudge padded around the loft, looking for anything of easy taking, trying to save a minor victory from the clutch of this colossal failure. 
              
Nothing.  The big money was on the walls in heavy frames and UV-protected museum glass and he couldn't tell good from garbage amongst the antiques littering the shelves.  Even humping the smallest paintings down the stairs they'd be so obvious that they'd be in handcuffs before reaching the lobby.
              
Pudge sighed again and ambled back to the living room.  Yo-Yo had the body rolled up in the rug and was standing there like a patient dog awaiting his next command, even panting to look the part, either from exertion or withdrawal, Pudge wasn't sure.
              
Pudge didn't hesitate, just came up, grabbed the end of the roll, paused for Yo-Yo to grab his, then began an awkward backwards waddle toward the door.  He reached back, pulled the door open and started to lead them out.
              
"Wait, wait!" Yo-Yo shouted.
              
"What?"
              
"Do you have the head or the legs?" Yo-Yo's eyes were wide and fearful.
              
"Fuck does it matter?" Pudge hissed, starting to pull again.
              
"A corpse has to leave his house feet first.  It's bad luck otherwise."
              
"Can't see how his luck could get any worse given that, y'know: dead."
              
Yo-Yo dropped his end of the rug, peered inside.
              
"Nah, man.  It's bad for his soul.  He won't get to where he's goin' and then he'll haunt us forever.  Fuck that.  Aw hell, I got the feet.  Gotta turn him around, man.  Gotta turn him around."
              
"I'm halfway out the door, jerk-off!  Now help me get this down the stairs and maybe I won't take you round back and Old Yeller you."
              
Yo-Yo reached down, pulled back, reached down, pulled back; the dance of the indecisive.  Pudge shook his head and hauled on the dead weight.  But the rug unrolled in his hands and he lost his grip, slipped backwards into the door jamb and impaled his triceps on an exposed nail head, which kept a chunk of flesh as his girth continued on and past, into the hallway and onto his fleshy backside.
              
"God-DAMMIT!" Pudge roared, grabbing at his arm, coming away with a palm painted crimson. 

              
Yo-Yo clutched his coon-skin mane in both fists, then spun and sprinted for the kitchen.  Pudge got back to his feet amid a clamor of banging cabinet doors and objects shoved pell-mell in every direction.
              
"Asshole.  What're you doing?"
              
"Salt!" Yo-Yo triumphantly exclaimed, holding aloft a blue canister of Morton's.  He dumped a fistful into his right palm, muttered an incomprehensible slurry, then threw the salt over his left shoulder.
              
"Okay, okay.  We should be all right now," Yo-Yo said as he emerged from the kitchen. 
              
Pudge heard something then, turned and looked out the south-facing window.  A black-and-white with flashers pulsating and siren a-scream came into view, screeching to a halt in front of the apartment complex, followed by a second.  Yo-Yo looked out the north window, heard a unit roll in hot and squeal to a stop, covering the rear.
              
"Aw, man," Yo-Yo wailed.  "It's threes, man!  Bad shit happens in threes!"
              
From the angle he was looking, Pudge suddenly caught it, up on the ceiling there, a bulbous pimple that subtly blended in:  the eyeball of a closed-circuit security system. 
              
"Aw, shit," Pudge muttered.  He reached into his waistband for the Glock he had tucked there, watching a handful of blue uniforms pour out of their cars and sprint into the building.
             
Bad luck, indeed.

Jeff Marsick is a former Coast Guard officer, now a screenwriter and comic book writer. He's in Connecticut, but yearns for someplace warmer and drinks a lot of Scotch to dull the pain. Check out "Dead Man's Party", his comic about a hitman who puts a contract out on himself at www.DeadMansParty.org; and "Z-Girl and the 4 Tigers", about a female zombie leading a monster-fighting special ops team at www.ZGirl.org.