Samantha Graham and The Warehouse of Blood
by Shane Migliavacca
Samantha Graham and The Warehouse of Blood
April 13th 1979
It’s 1:00 A.M. on Friday the 13th and I’ve been awake for two days. My long brown hair needs a good combing, haven’t been back to the apartment in three days, and I think my bra is starting to stink of sweat. I’m sitting here on a wood crate and my butt’s fallen asleep. I’ve been following Teddy Stoneberry all night. Teddy’s been the talk of the town lately. Only surviving son of Peter and Dorothy Stoneberry. Peter owns a huge shipping empire. Teddy’s twin brother Chuck died in fire when the boys were ten. This left Teddy to inherit everything. His younger sister Ann had run off with her female tennis instructor. Word was the folks disowned her after that. Lately Teddy had been seen galavanting about town with a model by the name of Suzy S. No last name, just S. Guess that makes her interesting. Suzy became a lot more interesting a week ago when she went missing. At first it was looked at as just another Suzy lost weekend coke binge. Then her purse showed up in a gutter on 43rd street, everything intact. Not even a penny missing, so robbery wasn’t the motive. If it was a kidnapping, why hasn’t anybody come forward? Pretty soon all signs were pointing at good old Teddy. He was known to have quite a little temper. The popular theory was: They got in a fight over her drug habit and hit her a little too hard. Poor Suzy is most likely stuffed in a crate on one of Daddy’s cargo ships. Halfway to Singapore. The other theory: Suzy’s old flame, Jay Jay Brown of a fifth rate punk band called Motherfuckers from Mars, killed her in a jealous rage.
I don’t buy that theory myself. Teddy is involved somehow. I can feel it in my gut.
I watch as he enters a warehouse owned by the family. We’re not far from the pier. I can hear the water crashing against the side of a nearby cargo ship. There’s chill in the night air. Forcing me to pull my denim jacket tighter. It’s furry collar prickly against my neck. I pull my wool wide brimmed hat down.
“Time to snoop Sam.” I say to myself. Watching my breath twirl in the cold night air.
I slip off the crate, worming my way past the stack of crates I was hiding behind. My butt and legs are asleep from sitting there, causing me to limp along for a few seconds before the blood gets flowing again.
If I can catch him red handed, I’ll have the scoop of the year. I’ll be done with these shitty little news stories I’ve been covering for a year and a half. Just because I’m a woman the chief gives me the most boring stories possible. Flower festivals and craft fairs.
Catch him red handed doing what I don’t know. I figure he wouldn’t have the body stashed here. Right? Maybe he’s got something of her’s here. It’s slim, but better than nothing.
Teddy entered using a door marked office. Too risky trying to enter through there. Maybe I can find another way in. An open window or something. Preferably nothing that involves climbing. Not like when I was following that embezzler and ended up having to climb halfway down a apartment building using the balconies. Thankfully a kind old lady let me in and I made the rest of the trip down using the stairs.
I’m in luck, I find a dumpster around the side of the warehouse. Above it is a large window. There’s a horrible smell coming from the dumpster. The image of Suzy’s decomposing body pops into my head. Shit, now I gotta look.
Fishing the small flashlight from my jacket, never leave home without it, I lift the lid of the dumpster. Thank god I’ve got my riding gloves on. I shine the flashlight over the contents of the dumpster. There’s a few black trash bags, some empty beer cans, some flattened cardboard boxes and something else, just underneath everything else. I can only see a little bit of it. Red. Bright red. Could it be? Suzy?
I try to push some of the garbage out of the way, but it’s too far down. I really, really do not want to climb down there. I ease the lid back down and go hunting for something to extend my reach. After a little looking I find a broken board from a wood pallet. I head back to the dumpster and use it to push aside some of the trash, while holding the flashlight in my other hand. Laying there under everything is what remains of a fair sized dog. The greasy cheeseburger I had for lunch almost makes a return appearance. I throw the board in and lower the lid. God, the dog looks like it was skinned. Not only skinned, but there’s chunks missing, like it was carved up.
What the hell would do that? Teddy got a dog meat fetish? That would be far out.
I decide to get back to why I’m here. Checking out this warehouse and where Teddy got off to. I climb up onto the dumpster lid. The cold metal creaks under my weight. One too many cheeseburgers. I try the window, but there’s a wire mesh protecting it. That’s what a high crime rate get’s you. Worse yet the glass is frosted, so peeking in isn’t possible. Damn.
I stand there, frustrated. Trying to come up with another plan. That’s when I hear a loud scream from inside.
I jump down off the dumpster, trying not to break a leg in the process. I run around the side of the warehouse to where I saw the door marked office. Before I can pull it open, the door flies open of it’s own accord. Knocking me on my ass. The air knocked out of my lungs.
In the commotion I see a vague man-sized figure, standing in the doorway. The light from the warehouse interior blinding me. I hear a groaning noise as it rushes past me. I try to get a good look as it rushes away, but I’m too slow. It’s gone before I can tell who or what it was. I’m fairly sure it wasn’t Teddy. But that’s about all I’m sure off.
I stand. I look off in the direction it went. I can try and follow or go in the warehouse. I decide to go into the warehouse.
Whoever knocked me down left bloody footprints. What’s going on in there? Just to be safe I pull a small double barreled Derringer pistol from my jacket. I keep it for “close encounters.” Better safe than sorry.
I pull open the door. There’s a modest office inside with desks, carpet and filing cabinets. The bloody footprints mar an otherwise decent carpet. Shame.
Making my way through the office, following the bloody prints back to their source leads me to a hallway. The blood trail leads down the hallway to the main warehouse area. Aisle upon aisle of metal shelves. About ten feet high. Each one crammed with boxes and crates of various sizes and shapes.
The blood trail leads to a large pool in the center of one of the aisles. There’s no body. Just a cap. Looks like the kind a security guard would wear.
A pained moan comes from somewhere in the back. The guard maybe? I try to follow the sound but get lost among the aisles.
After a little searching. I give up. “Hello?” I call out. “Where are you?” Then I add. “I’m here to help.” When I was actually here snooping. Although they don’t need to know that.
There’s no answer, I try a couple more times. Holding my breath and waiting for an answer…when finally.
“Here!” The voice says weakly, a man’s voice. “I’m here.”
“Keep talking to me.” I holler back.
After a few minutes I find a very beat up Teddy Stoneberry in the rear of the warehouse. He’s slumped against a wood crate. A large gash on his forehead. His hair matted with blood.
“What happened?” I ask, kneeling down by him.
“Who?” He mutters. “Who are you?”
I need a good lie. “Samantha Graham. I was passing by. Heard a scream.” Not good, but it’ll do. He’s barely with it anyway.
The wound on his head is pretty bad. He needs help. But the reporter in me overrides my natural instinct to help.
“Who did this too you?” I ask.
His only answer is a groan, his eyes closing as he slumps forward. I check him, still alive.
Wanting to stop his bleeding somehow, but afraid to touch him. I scan the area for a rag or something. That’s when I see the room. Behind a stack of crates. Almost hidden away.
I go over to it. The room is dark. I pull out my flashlight. It appears someone was being kept here. There’s a stained mattress on the floor and some blankets. There’s also a bowl with hunks of bloody meat. The smell of rotting meat and urine is overpowering in here. I back away, trying not to vomit. That damn cheeseburger won’t stay down.
God, were they keeping Suzy here? What did they do to her?
I go back over to Teddy, suddenly not caring about helping him. Angry, I shake him till he moans. His eyes fluttering open.
“Who did you have here?”
“Who?” He mumbles, his head drooping forward.
“Hey! Hey!” I shake him again. “Stay awake Teddy! C’mon! Who was in that room? Suzy?”
He laughs, coughing on his blood. “Suzy who? Suzy Q.”
“In that room.” I point towards the room. “Were you keeping her there?”
Teddy coughs, spitting out some blood. Right onto my cheek. Thanks. He grabs my left arm tight. “Brother. Brother’s here.” He says, before finally going out again. His grip goes slack. His hand falling to his lap.
Brother? “Your brother’s dead?” I say, even though he can’t hear me.
Off in the distance, somewhere in the warehouse there’s an excited whoop. Then one by one, each row of lights go out. Leaving me and Teddy in darkness.
“Play! Want to play!” A hideous voice calls out, from somewhere in the pitch blackness.
I click the flashlight on. The light beam dances around as my arm shakes. In my other hand, I grip the pistol tight. It’s only two shots, but right now it’s all I got.
I jump as a box come crashing down off one of the shelves, a few feet behind me. I shine the flashlight upwards and catch a glimpse of a bare foot as somebody runs along the top of the shelves.
I hear a noise overhead and stop dead in my tracks. Another large crate crash into the floor in front of me. Empty plastic bottles spill out of it. I raise my arms as wood splinters and bottles fly at me.
I drop the flashlight in the process. As it rolls away from me, I catch a brief glimpse of an open space on one of the bottom shelves to my left. Using it to dart through into the next aisle. Anything to distance myself from whoever is up there.
I cross the aisle until I come to the next row of shelves. Pressing my back against it. Using my hands in the darkness to inch along it. Trying to head in the direction of the hallway.
I stop moving. Water? A leak maybe?
Reaching out in front of me a drop hits my hand. Warm. I pull my hand back.
It’s right over me!
A large rough hand tries to grab me by the head. Knocking my hat off. I push away from the shelves, trying to run. But they grab at my hair, yanking me back.
“Don’t break dolly.” It says.
The pistol! It’s only two shots. In the dark I’ll be firing blind, but I’ve gotta risk it. I angle it up, towards where I think it is, squeezing the trigger. A bright flash in the darkness and an explosion of sound.
Over the ringing of my ears I hear it let out a loud scream. Letting me go in the process. This is all I need as I run. There’s light ahead. I’m not sure if it’s from outside or just my eyes reacting to the muzzle flash of the pistol.
At this point I don’t care which it is. Running towards it, I hit something in the darkness. Going down on my knees. Hard. Frantically pull myself up, limping forward towards the light. The light is all I have.
I reach the light. It’s the office. The lights are still on in there! Adrenaline surges through me as a way out looms ahead. I reach for the metal bar of the door. My hands feel the coolness of it. Freedom.
Then reality’s large rough hands grab me by the hair. Yanking me away from the door.
My hands fly out, grabbing at anything to hold on to. Latching onto the corner of a desk. I kick at my attacker. Digging my boots into their legs and bare feet.
Howling in frustration, they throw me over one of the desks. I tumble over the desk, colliding with a chair and crashing to the carpeted floor. I lie there, the carpet really is nice. I could take a nap here.
No. Don’t lie down and die. Fight.
I see it there, just under the desk. A letter opener. Pulling myself towards it, fingers outstretched. Almost.
A shadow falls over me. It’s here.
My fingers wrap around the plastic handle of the letter opener. I roll over coming face to face with it. With him.
He looks down at me. His face was once handsome. But it’s marred by horrible scars now. From being burned. Drool hangs from his lip, like a pendulum. Sparse tufts of hair dot his fire ravaged head. The right cheek partially burned away. Leaving a gaping hole. Jagged bone poking through. Savage, bloody teeth line his mouth.
How can somebody live like that?
He reaches for me. His large, coarse left hand caked in in dried blood. Their right arm hangs limp. A large jagged bloody wound just below the shoulder. Is that where I shot him?
“Broken dolly.” He say, the words whistling through his exposed cheek. The hand almost touching my face.
I lash out with the letter opener. Stabbing him in the neck with the blade. The handle snapping off in the process.
He stumbles back, The blade stuck in his neck. He pulls it out, blood jetting out in spurts.
I pick myself up, off the floor, barely able to stand.
He looks at me, panicked as his life drains away. Sadness in his eyes.
“Pretty.” He, says, reaching out with his hand, before tumbling backwards into a desk. Slumping against it and coming to a rest on the carpet. Blood pooling around him.
Damn. Now the carpet’s going to be really ruined.
I stumble outside. The cold air waking me up. It’s bitterness rushing through my lungs.
I hear sirens in the distance. Are they coming here? I could go to my motorcycle. It’s parked not far from here. Stashed behind a shipping container. Disappear. Or stay.
After a few moments debating, I decide to stay. I really don’t feel like walking. I sit down on the cold concrete and wait.
Three hours later I sit at a desk in the precinct 12 police station. Sipping a very bad cup of coffee. It couldn’t be more welcome at this moment. What A Fool Believes by The Doobie Brothers is playing on one of the detective’s radios. The hard wood chair under my ass isn’t doing me any favors. I thought that crate was bad. I’m going to feel like shit tomorrow. The police have grilled me over and over. There was no use lying to them about why I was there. I already have a bad reputation with the boys in blue, getting into various jams. The cops get a little tired of seeing my face. Usually means they have a big mess to clean up. This time is no different.
From what I’ve gathered Teddy is still alive. Rushed to the nearest hospital. The thing that knocked me down outside the warehouse and left a blood trail. Turns out that was a security guard at the warehouse. Got half his face bit off. Before dropping dead from blood loss he was able to flag down a passerby. Who in turn called the cops. Seems Teddy was paying him under the table. Keeping his burnt brother there under lock and key. At least that’s who I think it was.
Did crazy burnt Chucky kill Suzy? I think so, even though I have no proof and no way of proving it. Maybe Chuck was the dirty family secret. A secret that got free. It’s not a story I’ll ever get to tell. Teddy’s family lawyer showed up about an hour ago. After some words with the detectives I was given a choice: Keep quiet or face numerous charges. Including trespassing, gun possession and murder. What a fucking laugh that is. Sure I shouldn’t have been there. But Chuck? That was self defense. But I don’t have the money to fight Teddy’s team of lawyers. And I sure as hell don’t like the thought of prison bars.
Jimmy Quinn, my very put upon sidekick and photog comes marching up the stairs outside the detectives bullpen. Looking like I just woke him up for either a great dream or a hangover.
He raises his arm up. “This is becoming all too common Sam.”
I shrug. “What can I say?”
He runs a hand through his messy hair. “Weren’t you supposed to be covering a Spring Flower show?”
“Uh…got canceled.” I take a last sip of coffee before standing. “Get my motorcycle?”
He hands me the keys. “Right where you said it would be.”
“Would you drive?” I ask, stretching. “I’ll ride in the sidecar.”
We walk towards the stairs.
“You know there’s an all night Chinese place down the block from my place.”
Good old Quinn. Always trying. Maybe one of these days I’ll give in. Maybe.
“All night huh? Well I could go for some General Tso's chicken.”
“And then?” He asks, looking a little awkward.
“Then I’m going home to sleep.”
I could see how disappointed he was.
“Think I’ll get chewed out by the chief?” I ask, already knowing the answer.
Outside the cold air hits my face. I couldn’t get the image of burnt Chucky out of my head. And the thought that poor Suzy would never be found. Would never have justice. As tired as I am I don’t think sleep will come easy tonight.
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