“For the love of God, make it stop…” Sam’s plea came off like a bad Charlton Heston impersonation.
He arched his back, writhing like a snake. Mr. Felt kept the pin in the doll. Pushed it in deeper.
Sam growled. “Pull it out, Mr. Felt. Works like a charm. Damn it all to Hell.”
The old man did as he asked. The tiny weapon slid cleanly from the wad of cloth.
“Just act one, Sam my boy.” Felt may have been a little too excited. Seemed almost turned on. Sam stared sideways at the doll. Not that it looked like one. More like a stuffed sock with Sam’s hair on it. He pulled up his green flannel and rubbed the bare skin above his ass. Just where the pin had been in the doll fabric.
Felt carried the puppet to an alcove in the wall behind him, opposite the cash register. The old man ran an antique storein San Francisco’s Castro District, but as Sam learned, his passion was pain, at least the sort he had no business inflicting. Pale as a gallon of milk, dotted with age spots, the shop owner had more in his ears than up top, all of it gray. Dressed in a wine-red V-neck sweater and black slacks, he seemed no more an expert in the occult than Sam, who knew only enough to stay away.
Karma could be a bitch and a half. And only morons go asking for that shit. The bills in his pocket kept his mouth shut.
The store, tucked under one of the city’s iconic Queen Anne style homes, didn’t get sun. A lazy rain meant there’d be no warmth anyway. Place was swollen with Turkish rugs and Victorian furniture.Rainwater made the gutters rattle outside.
The nook held Felt’s altar. To Sam it was nothing more than three black candles and a bowl full of Hershey’s kisses, an offering Felt said. He explained the process to Sam just after slipping him two grand. Sam’s usual fee for odd jobs.
They were always fucking odd.
Felt wanted Sam for some voodoo. He’d emailed that morning with the time and place. Had to bring a gob of his dirty brown hair with him. Not much hair, justenough for the hocus pocus to work. Felt called it magic. Sam called it bullshit. But he had his kid chop some off before heading over. Two grand is two grand.
Felt lowered his eyes. “Now for a little heat.” His bony, saggy-fleshedfingers held the doll to the center candle. Sam gritted his teeth. Felt rotated the toy, dipped it lower to the dull yellow flame, and Sam hissed. “Getting warmer, Sam?”
He sputtered. “Like being in Phoenix inJuly. All the same to you, Mr. Felt, let’s not get any closer to the candle.”
“Quite understand, my boy!” He pulled away, turned, and plopped the doll on the counter next to the cash register. Sam saw the strands of his hair stapled to the doll’s chest. Following his gaze, Felt nodded knowingly. “It’s the hair of course. Creates a direct link with you. Used a sharpie to draw your eyes and lips at the top. Set it outside to get washed clean this morning.”
“Sure know your shit,” Sam lied.
Felt pushed his thumb into the doll’s neck. Watching, Sam craned his neck to the side, straining the muscles there. Old manpulled the thumb away.
“Spirits, the Loas, channel the energy from the doll. The chocolates you see are for them.”
Sam snatched the bad resemblance offthe counter. “Think I’ll hold onto this. Where can I get your ex-husband’s hair?”
“Prefer his old socks. He loves those ugly, fucking argyle socks. Really just need one for the model. I’ll shoot over his address in a text.”
Sam made for the door. Damn doll felt heavy in his Dockers. Not bad for a shitty actor. Only it wasn’t all pretend, Sam realized.
His neck hurt like hell.