It’s early morning in Monstertown, where the bustle never ends and the city never sleeps.
Yes, it’s early morning but the streets are already quite busy. I have to squeeze past a Man-Mountain haggling with an early vendor over buns, and dodge past a delivery man’s truck.
Near the park I meet Frankenstein’s Monster, who’s taking his pet werewolf for a walk. The werewolf wrinkles its muzzle at me and bares its teeth. Not that it has any memory of how it came by its present state; it probably imagines it’s defending its master against me. I give it a wide berth.
“He still remembers you,” Frankenstein’s Monster says, with a grin that makes it look as though the top of his head will fall off. He’s certainly overdue for a tune-up and servicing, but that’s his problem, not mine. Maybe the head will fall off and the werewolf will use it for a chew toy.
“Yeah, sure.” I nod at the Monster and enter the park. It’s the quickest shortcut, and several monsters of all kinds are already hurrying along its gravel paths.
As I pass the lake around which the park is wrapped like a bandage, a zombie lurches up to me. It’s an old zombie, beginning to fall to pieces, and it’s easy to sidestep and push it into the water. There’s a brief roiling as the creature tries frantically to swim to safety; Nessie’s head rises for a moment as she chomps down her unexpected meal.
“You shouldn’t feed the animals,” says the park keeper. He’s a thin elderly Yeti with disapproving eyebrows. “It’s not allowed.”
“It was trying to mug me,” I protest. There’s a small band of zombies making gang signals at each other on the far side of the lake, and I point them out to the keeper. “Why don’t you do something about those there? They’re Undead members, from their colours, and dealing resurrection juice if I’m not mistaken. Why don’t you get them out of the park instead of coming after me?”
Muttering angrily in his fur, the yeti lumbers off. I knew he wouldn’t go after the Undead; they probably give him a cut of their earnings.
Just inside the far end of the park, I stopped near the cave. It was pitch-dark inside but I could hear the rustling of leathery wings. “Mistress?”
“Yes?” Her ancient voice was as fresh as a young girl’s. “Is it done?”
“No, Mistress,” I have to confess. “The Serial Killer got away. I am afraid I do not have Leatherface’s blood in a flask for you, as I promised.”
Her ancient voice hisses in annoyance, so hard that I fear for her fangs. “Get thee gone,” she said, “and come not here until you have a flask of that fiend’s special, special blood. My tongue craves it.”
“Yes, mistress.” I am about to depart when she calls me back.
“And do ye not tarry too long about it; for if you do not have it by this day week, your throat will feel my fangs.”
Swallowing nervously, I finger said throat. It may be wrinkled and scrawny, but it’s my throat, and I don’t wish it punctured. “I will get it, Mistress. But he has a big chainsaw. A big, big chainsaw.”
“That is your problem, not mine. Hire some assistants if you want. But get the stuff for me.”
Saluting silently, I leave her. The suggestion to hire some goons is good, but the only ones I can think of at the moment are the chupacabras over in the shanty town near the Graboid pits. I don’t like chupacabras, but they can probably do the job.
Unfortunately the shanty town is a shambles. Someone’s forgotten to feed the Graboids, and the creatures have – not surprisingly – dined on the chupacabras. The survivors are still picking up the pieces and aren’t interested in employment.
I decide to take the day off. Maybe some ideas will come to me. As a diversion, there’s the Sasquatch Heavyweight Boxing Title today, and I know where I can get a ticket. Frankenstein’s Monster is a promoter, and he owes me. I mean, he really owes me.
Frankenstein’s castle is no longer the Monster’s home; he’s leased it to the Addams Family and moved into a condo.
“I thought the rules didn’t allow pets,” I say when he answers the door.
He grins, revealing one missing tooth. “The janitor was going on about that,” he tells me, “but my werewolf solved that problem. Why don’t you come in?”
“Thanks,” I reply, edging slightly away. “Another time. Uh, can you give me a ticket for the fight?”
“You planning to bet?” He peers at me as keenly as he can from mismatched eyes. “Don’t. It’s fixed.”
“Oh?” I’m surprised he’d admit it. “Who’s going to win?”
“That would be telling, wouldn’t it? I tell you and you go out and before you know it the whole damned town knows who’ll win. Uh-huh. Nothing doing.”
“All right, all right. Keep your hair on.” His hair’s beginning to wobble dangerously on his head, as though the scalp is about to fall off. Just in time, he claps a hand on it. “I just want a ticket,” I say.
He shrugs and hands me a crumpled piece of cardboard. “That’s the last freebie you get from me,” he says.
The stadium where they’ll hold the fight is beginning to fill already. The audience is a fair mix, including representatives of all the monster clans, except the vampires, who don’t like the daylight; but that’s why they invented pay-per-view TV. And nobody wants to be around vampires at night. That’s when they feed.
My ticket entitles me to sit next to a ghoul. She glares at me as though I’ve personally offended her. Turning away, I see an old friend making his way through the crowd.
“Hey, Skullcrusher!” I call, waving.
The orc gins at me. He’s big and green with jutting tusks. “Hi,” he says, coming up. “Let me find you a better place, nearer the ring.”
“You’ve got influence here?” I ask him, surprised.
“What d’you think? The Boss is interested in the fight. I mean, really interested. So he’s asked me to keep an eye on things. Us.”
“The Boss?” I’d known that Skullcrusher worked for the Mafia; who else would give orcs gainful employment? But I hadn’t known that the Mafia is interested in the fight. And that gives me an idea.
“You know the fight’s fixed?” I ask in the orc’s pointed, hairy ear. “Frankenstein’s Monster told me.”
“Oh?” Skullcrusher glances at me sharply. “Who?”
“I don’t know,” I confess. “But I do know it’s fixed. I suppose the one with the greater odds will win.”
“Wait here,” he snaps. “I’ve got to talk to the Boss.” He turns away, fumbling for a cell-phone, and spends a few minutes in earnest conversation. A big orange monster of a kind I don’t know pushes past me. Spikes sprout from every one of its joints, and I have to twist to avoid being impaled.
“Right,” Skullcrusher says. “Let’s go have a beer before the fight starts. We have plenty of time.”
It’s not much of a fight, after all. The defending champion knocks the challenger, whom the bookies favoured, out in two minutes flat.
“Hardly worth a fix,” I say morosely. “I’ve seen better sparring bouts at the local gym.”
Skullcrusher grins, showing all his tusks.
I reach home late. There’s a sloppy look to the door, as though someone’s broken the hinges. When I touch it, it swings slackly open.
“You’ve done it now,” Frankenstein’s Monster says. He’s sitting in my favourite chair, right opposite the door. “You’ve gone and screwed up the fight. I am upset.”
“But the guy won!” I protest.
“Exactly. And he was supposed to lose. A lot of money went down the drain when you flapped your lip.”
“I never thought…”
“You never do think, do you?” His mismatched eyes stare at me, or past me. It’s hard to tell. “Haven’t I always helped you?” he asks. “And this is how you repay me?”
“I promise you I won’t do it again,” I say.
“That right,” he says, softly. “You won’t.” He raises his hand, and I turn to run. Too late. Something rushes from the shadows.
I hear the werewolf begin to howl a moment before I feel the crunch of its teeth.
I’m so glad I decided to spend all that money on my silver-plated vest.