The Shrieking Flesh

Chapter Four

Ken Preston

26 April 2024

Listen to the audio version, or scroll down to read the post.

A German expressionist illustration of a dark angel with frayed wings.

‘Bloody hell, can’t you get a move on? This ain’t a knitting club, you know.’

Lori spun the dial to the right, all the way until it clicked to a halt.

‘You sure you know what you’re doing?’ Tony said, standing over her. ‘Time is short, young lady. The clock’s ticking. Tick-tock, tick-tock.’

Lori turned the dial back, her ear against the safe door.

‘What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue, has it?’ Tony said. ‘Mind you, that’s the effect Mr Jakel has on most people. Bit of a shock when you first see him, isn’t it?’

Lori focused on the tiny clicks as she rotated the dial.

Writing in the Shadows is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

The flare of a match being struck, Tony’s deep, contented sigh, the smell of the tobacco.

‘It’s nice to have a bit of peace and quiet, to be honest. And I respect a woman who knows when to shut her mouth. My old lady, she never stops yacking, on and on and on, the silly bitch. I show her the back of my hand every now and then, just to let her know who’s boss, right? I mean, I’m not a violent person, and I got no time for any man who beats his wife.’ He paused to take a drag on the cigarette. ‘But still, sometimes you’ve got to give your woman a little slap, you can understand that, right?’

There, just the hint of a sound, almost a feeling, really. A lever inside the door, shifting. Lori twisted the dial in the opposite direction.

‘It’s funny, you a safe-cracker and all.’ Lori felt him lean in close, over her shoulder. ‘No disrespect, of course, but you being a girl …’

Lori felt another tumbler clicking into place. It was like the sensation ran up through her fingertips.

‘You married? Got kids?’ His hot breath, fluttering against her cheek. ‘A healthy-looking girl like you should have kids.’

Slowly, slowly, slowly.

There!

Lori twisted the handle and pulled the heavy iron door open.

Tony got down on his knees beside Lori and shoved her out of the way. ‘Let’s see what we got in here then.’

He reached inside and pulled out a round, silver tin. ‘What the bloody hell’s this?’ He passed it to Lori and reached inside the safe and pulled out a second tin. ‘There’s a bloody great stack of them in here.’

Lori turned the tin over and revealed a label on the other side. ‘It’s a film, look it says it here, it’s called The Shrieking Flesh.’ She tapped the tin with her fingernail. ‘This is reel number four.’

‘What the bloody hell does Mr Jakel want with a bloody film?’ Tony glanced back, over his shoulder, at the empty duffel bag, at the vast sitting room with its shelves of books and its wingback chairs, and the oil portraits hanging on the walls, and the standing lamps casting shadows in the drapes. ‘Whoever owns this place must be bloody loaded. Why can’t we bloody well steal some money?’

Lori started loading the reels of film into the duffel bag. ‘Maybe Mr Jakel just wants to watch a good film.’

Tony shook his head. ‘You’re a bloody odd one you are.’ He grabbed the duffel bag. ‘Here, give me that, is that all of them?’

Lori reached into the depths of the safe and scooted her arm around. ‘It’s empty now.’

‘Right, well let’s bloody well scarper before whoever owns this pile finds us.’

Lori closed the safe door and spun the dial. She replaced the dark wood panel and pushed it into place.

‘There, it’s as good as new!’

‘Oh, bloody hell.’

Still on her knees, Lori turned around. A massive black hound was standing in the sitting room staring at the intruders, its tongue hanging from its mouth, and long strings of drool dripping from its jaws.

‘Nice doggy,’ Lori said. ‘Nice doggy.’

>