The Hook

It was time to suit up again. The night on the snow covered roof was still fresh in his mind. The mysterious couple had shown him some amazing things. Magic. He sighed. He didn’t need this in his life. But they professed to be on his side. The jury was still out. What he did know for sure was that Blough was out there. His nemesis from those years spent in the Arctic circle with the Inuit Samurai…he had followed him here. He would have to deal with him. Before he could posses anyone else. That terrible hook hand…and that tattoo that swallowed souls.

The Rain Man

The Rain Man had been chasing his brother for over three years. The Night Man was hard to track, but he knew he was in the right place. He was close.

This alley seemed to be where everything was centered in this town and his schizophrenic brother wouldn’t be able to resist such a hub of activity. The Rain Man knew it wasn’t going to be easy, bringing his brother in. But justice was justice. And the death of Ahab the Sailor wasn’t going to go unnoticed…

Chef gone missing…

The last time they saw the chef he was slipping his hooded sweatshirt on and hoisting that mysterious bag he always carried onto his burly shoulders. The shift had been long but good. Cheerful but exhausted goodnights were exchanged as he turned down the bartendresses offer of a cold beer. “Not tonight,” he’d said in an unusual tone of voice. “No, not tonight. Hasta mañana everyone.” Six days later no one had seen hide nor hair of him. Vanished into thin air. Not a clue as to where he’d gone or what happened to him…until, ten days after they’d last exchanged those late night pleasantries, his shoes showed up to work – without him.

Prodigal Son

Tommy Kirk stood outside of the window, peering in. What the hell was in that cocktail the bartender had given him? The Ginger Bread? The Red Ginger? He couldn’t remember the name of it. But it sure did fuck him up. And now this kid standing in the alley behind him was claiming to be his son. The last thing he wanted to deal with was post abandonment issues from some hipster with arm tats. He put his head down and wheezed a little. It was going to be a long night. And that’s when it started to rain…

Strawberry Cupcake

He’d never worked in a joint like this before. He’d been watching the place as it grew into some sort of Mecca- an oasis of great drinks and gourmet pizza. No one knew what to make of it but they knew they loved this cocktail bar that seemed to spring up like some sort of beautiful flowering weed in a cracked city sidewalk. So when the chef offered Strawbco this gig – making pizza in the tiniest, hottest kitchen that the city had seen in years, if ever – he jumped at the chance. His initial reception by the staff on hand was cordial but somewhat cool. He was okay with that though, he’d been around the hospitality industry long enough to understand the tight knit sense of family that was the backbone of all good bars or restaurants. He was “the new guy”, and he was cool with that…until that raven haired bartender came up with a nickname for him, on day freaking one: Strawberry Cupcake. Strawberry fucking Cupcake?!? They called him Strawberry Cupcake – every last one of them. Like he was just another kitchen slug. Just another grinder wanting to be a part of this rocket-ship that was Speak of the Devil. If only they knew. If only any one of these people in there calling him “Strawberry Cupcake” understood that he’d been watching this joint for nights on end from various places, positions and perches…if only…

April, 1961

April, 1961. Corner of 5th and Broadway. Lorain, OH. It was the last time anyone would see Jacob “Blind Dog” Penny play again. The last time anyone would see him, period. He’d come back home. Back to Paradise Alley. And nobody knew why. Except me. I raised my hands and pretended to snap a picture with a pristine Kodak. We didn’t have cameras on the other side. But I wanted to remember this moment. Blind Dog was here to give me a message…and he knew the price he’d have to pay to speak with me. But first, I’d let him finish his set. He was on fire tonight….

The Final Chapter

 The boy ran behind the moving van as it ambled down the alleyway. What looked like a worn, tattered comic book had fallen out of the back as the man rolled down the gate. He snagged it and watched too late, the van pulling off. “The Mystic Adventures of Night Man” he read. Cool. He flipped thru the pages as he shuffled back the way he came. Bizarre stories of whale hunters, detectives, snake charmers, little people, musicians, beautiful women and ringmasters abounded in its torn pages. He sat in the alley reading for what seemed like hours. But there was so much missing. It was a confusing ramble, patchwork tales that didn’t seem to tie together. Almost like the most important parts were missing. The kid was a little disappointed. Guess he’d never know the full story. “Sometimes, you just had to have been there.” He dropped the magazine and whirled around! Who said that?!? He stared up at the buildings all around him. That deep, hypnotic voice had almost been inside his head...could it have been..no, he thought. There’s no way. No way that was real. But he still picked up the comic book. And he walked a little faster down the alley than he cared to admit. What a strange place. People had always said that about Paradise Alley...

…Or, is it?

He dropped down from the roof an hour or more after watching the Uhaul pull away. That goddamn kid had gotten in the way and now he had some ground to make up. These bastards had a plan all along and he was going to get to the bottom of it. No one does what they did; they turned a town upside down and then just decided blow it all up. He’d always been suspicious of that goddamn chef. Ever since those giant-ass shoes showed up at the side door that cold snowy morning. That was a sign, a warning, a clue, a message…what the hell was this pizza man up to? Who was he really? After all, he had all along claimed his name was “Soto”, and folks bought that, but the birth certificate the Night Man had obtained clearly stated that this guy was no “Soto”. He was and always would be a “Cortez”, it was only a matter of which brother was his father…

And he wasn’t really going anywhere…except maybe up the street.