Tavern of Terror vol. 7: Short Horror Stories Anthology
Tavern of Terror vol. 7: Short Horror Stories Anthology
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Welcome to Hannigan’s. We hope you enjoy the fright…
A mysterious package reveals a deadly secret lurking in a couple’s new home. Feline fury is unleashed with deadly consequences when a burglary goes wrong. And detectives come face to face with the supernatural, when their suspect reveals his power to summon a demon…
It’s last call at Hannigan’s, a cozy little tavern with a sinister past. Locals whisper tales of ghosts and ghouls around a roaring fire. And you never know just who—or what—will stop by for a drink.
A skeletal hand reaches across the bar to pour another pint. A drunken patron flashes you a toothy grin from the shadows. Rotting bandages dangle from the chair next to you, as the fetid stench of death fills the air.
Prepare to have your senses tested and your sanity questioned as you immerse yourself in the twisted tales that haunt the patrons of Hannigan's.
Enter if you dare, for the night is long.
And the terror, everlasting.
The Rat King
Carlo sighed as he got out of his van, looking at the old brownstone building before him. The building dated back to the 1930s and was held together with hopes and prayers as much as mortar these days. It looked decayed, which made it fit in with everything else in the neighborhood known as Scarsdale. Most people just called it Scars now. Old wounds that never quite faded. Ugly stuff from the past.
He opened the sliding side door of the van and shouldered his large canvas bag. This was the third time he’d been to the decrepit old brownstone in a month. The place was infested with rats. It was well beyond a problem by now. This was not a building full of tenants who had discovered they lived with rats. It was a building full of rats who had discovered they lived with humans.
Carlo had been working as an exterminator for nearly twenty years. He learned the trade from his father’s best friend, Ray Santini. Ray had been a decent guy, if not altogether on the straight and narrow in life. He was willing to cut any corner he could cut and bend any rule he could bend to get ahead in life. He and Carlo’s dad had been on one or two misadventures in the past. And Carlo had heard a lot of the stories and had been told he could explicitly not hear a few as well.
So his apprenticeship into the world of pest control was maybe not traditional. Ray showed him shortcuts as often as he showed him the right way to get the job done. He was a fan of the “enough but not everything” approach to pest control. In Ray’s world, if a house had ten rats, you killed nine of them. Then let that tenth one roll the dice and see what happens. Maybe a new infestation rises out of it, and in a few months, you get another paying gig.
You could never do too little, though. That was another rule Ray had. If the house had ten rats, never leave five. Five was a sloppy job. Five meant the homeowner thought you were a failure and wouldn’t be calling you back. Five ruined your future gig and maybe gave you a bad word-of-mouth reputation. So no, never do that. Enough, but not everything. And never not enough.
Carlo generally tried to do a job right the first time. It made sense. It created more loyal customers, he thought. Not that he wasn’t above trimming the odd corner to get a job done. If a customer wanted the organic, holistic, pet and family-friendly poison, he might use a bit of the cheaper, more dangerous stuff in cracks and crevices. It wasn’t like anyone’s dog was going to be in the ceiling or between the walls. What a customer didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them, right?
The brownstone building was home to a number of families, singles, elders, and pets. There were thirty-six apartments in total, and every single one was dealing with rats. So Carlo kept coming back.
Unfortunately, the owner of the building was not willing to commit to serious measures to eliminate the problem. Carlo had instead been spreading snap traps, glue traps, and a non-toxic repellent formula he made himself out of garlic, black pepper, and Tabasco. All of it was effective at temporarily controlling rats. Temporarily being the key word.
“Carlo, my God, where have you been?” a voice called from the first-story window. He turned to face the building as he finished packing up his gear and smiled, waving at Mrs. Pelfrey, a lady in her 60s who was one of the chattiest people he had ever met.
“Hey, Mrs. Pelfrey. It’s bad again, huh?”
“Bad? I found a rat in my toilet this morning. They’re in my cupboards. They’re in my drawers. This is not legal!”
“I’m doing what I can,” he told her. “Until Monty is willing to top to bottom this building, though, I think we’re fighting an uphill battle.”
Mrs. Pelfrey grumbled and scowled. She knew as well as Carlo that the landlord, Monty Jellico, was not going to evacuate the building to clear it of rats. There were a handful of residents with health issues that had complained of being unable to leave the building for the time it would take to fully clear it of the infestation, and others were wary of any poisons that might hurt their children or pets.
The neighborhood was in something of a shambles, and both neighboring properties had been torn down within the last year. In part, that was where the rat problem came from. Their old homes were destroyed, and the brownstone was the closest, best place for a rat to find food, water, and shelter.
The fact was that the Scar was dying. New developments were eager to get into the place and revitalize the old by bringing in the new, but the old still hadn’t moved. The residents of the brownstone were not wealthy people who could up and move somewhere. Many of them had their rent locked in at a low rate, and the building was just a money loser for the owner. So aside from the protests of the residents, he didn’t have a lot of motivation to want to spend money cleaning it up.
Carlo came back on a regular basis to replace old traps with new ones and clean up the rat carcasses no one else had attended to. Most apartment owners cleaned up after themselves or got Monty to do it, but Carlo also worked in the belly of the building, down in the boiler room where residents couldn’t go. That was where the worst of it was.
“Miss Sharon isn’t doing so good, either,” Mrs. Pelfrey said as Carlo made his way to the door.
“No?” he asked.
The older woman shook her head. “You should go say hi. She keeps asking about you.”
Carlo sighed quietly but nodded.
“Will do,” he replied.
Truth be told, he hated going to see Miss Sharon. The woman lived at the back of the first floor in a tiny apartment that was about half the size of all the others. It was cluttered floor to ceiling with decades upon decades of junk. She was a hoarder of the highest order, but more than that, she was just creepy.
Miss Sharon had been a fortune teller a long time ago, hence the knock-off Miss Cleo name and schtick. She read tarot and did auras and crystal healing… the whole bit. But Carlo had been raised to avoid all that stuff. People who messed with dark forces were dark people, as his grandmother told him long ago. There were no good fortune tellers. They were either liars and scammers, in which case they were not to be trusted, or they were real, communed with evil spirits, and were also not to be trusted.
Miss Sharon’s rat problem was often worse than everyone else’s due to her small space and all the clutter. Rats loved it, but the old woman did not. She had suffered bites already, and there were droppings everywhere.
Carlo was about to knock on the old woman’s door when it opened, revealing Sharon herself, half hunched and in a long, yellow robe.
“When are you getting rid of these rats?” the old woman asked. She had the robe pulled tight around herself, and for a change, she seemed far more low energy than usual. Her brow had a sheen of sweat on it, and her voice was weak.
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