I never felt quite comfortable with Elaine. There was something a little off. I recognised her bag as a genuine Chanel and her scarf was Hermes, but her nails were cracked and dirty and there was a dead look in her eyes. It didn’t matter, I needed the job. Times were hard.
“You want all of this cleaning?” I asked. I stared at the battered, graffiti-covered door. “It may well attract graffiti afterwards. I mean, almost straight away. It may be easier to paint over it.”
Elaine shook her head. “I would like the door taken back to the original paint,” she said. Her eyes darted around as she looked for an explanation. “I need to find the original paint for correct restoration.”
That was another thing. When Elaine spoke, she used an accent that I would have put somewhere in the Home Counties, with nothing particularly striking. The way she said the words was as English as Buckingham Palace. The words she used, however, were just that little bit off, like she was translating in her head. Still, these sort of cleaning jobs had dried up recently. “It will take some time,” I said. “I’ll have to go carefully as well. It’s an old building and the wood may not be sound. I may have to use specialist cleaners.” It was a rundown building in a rough part of town. This back alley was the back of closed shops, empty sheds and long disused garages. It wasn’t worth the effort, but who was I to argue with the fee she was paying.
“As long as you are thorough,” Elaine said. “And you requested half of the fee in advance.” She handed me a bulky envelope which I hastily stuffed inside my jacket.
“Thanks,” I said. “I’ll start this afternoon.”
I got back into the van and discreetly checked the envelope. The notes all looked genuine, but it was the same strange jumble. They hadn’t gone to a bank and withdrawn the cash in neat bundles. Instead it was a mishmash of notes of all denominations and conditions. I checked a few with the pen that I had picked up but couldn’t find a fake. My instincts were screaming at me to run, but I had rent and the van payments to consider and no other jobs on the horizon. I carefully stashed the money under the toolbox in the back and went to inspect the door.
I didn’t believe for a second that Elaine really cared about the original paint, but I took pride in my work and I took pains. If you have the right product, it’s not a hard job, but it took some time as I was washing off the chemicals between scrubbing the layers. I wondered if I would get in trouble with the gangs. It didn’t seem that sort of street, but I could feel an uneasy prickle between my shoulder blades as I worked, as if I was being watched. It didn’t matter. I needed this very generous payment.
The last layer was the worst. It was some strange signs that I had never seen before, not in years of graffiti removal. I squinted at them and took a picture on my phone. It looked like some strange writing, or a collection of symbols that should have been on ancient monuments, not a scruffy doorway in Leeds. I sent it to Kate at the University. She was into odd languages and perhaps could tell me who had tagged this.
It was getting dark as I finished. The usual chemicals hadn’t worked on the last layer but I fell back on the old faithful mixture of washing up liquid and biological laundry detergent. Eventually even that last tag was wiped away and the mushroom coloured door was left clean in glory just as the streetlights came on. It had been easy money, really, and I felt a twinge of conscience at the amount I had overcharged, but I had done a good job and the door gleamed.
My phone vibrated and I pulled it out of my pocket to check the text. I smiled. Kate had got back to me telling me not to wipe off the last layer, under any circumstances. I had to wait until she got there. Well that was too late. I sent back a pic of the immaculate door just as it was opening. I wasn’t expecting that. I hoped that the guy inside wasn’t upset at the change in his doorway.
Elaine appeared at my side, making me jump. “You have done well, especially with that last layer.”
“It was a little tricky,” I said. I fought with myself for a moment, and my conscience lost. “I needed some extra chemicals that I hadn’t accounted for in the quote for the job. I think…” I trailed off.
The man stepping out of the door looked barely human. Grey skin stretched tautly over sharp cheekbones and his eyes were red-rimmed and sunken. Great, I thought, a junkie. The elderly overcoat hung loosely on his tall frame and he swayed a little as staggered down the steps.
“Is that your door, mate?” I asked carefully.
He ignored me and turned to Elaine. “You have done well, my dear. You shall be rewarded.
My phone started ringing. Automatically I pulled it out of my pocket. It could be work. “Excuse me,” I said to Elaine. It was Kate.
“You need to get out of there, now!” Kate yelled frantically. “Just go!”
“I’m just finishing up now,” I said. “I’ll get my money and I’ll be over straight away.”
“Don’t wait for the money!” Kate screamed.
With unexpected, snake-like speed, Elaine pulled the phone out of my hand and ended the call. “You have done a wonderful piece of work,” she said, with a chilling smile.
I looked back at the door. That last layer of graffiti, that last bit of paint. It hadn’t been graffiti. I could feel the realisation flowing through me like ice water. It had been a warning.
“You removed the lock on the door,” the man said, also smiling. “Now you need to find what you have freed.”
I watched as the man’s smile changed, his teeth lengthened and his jaws gaped. I screamed and screamed as he stepped closer. And as his teeth fastened on my neck, everything went black.
It’s Day Three of the October Frights Blog Hop. I hope you enjoy the somewhat scary stories. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blogs!
Night to Dawn Magazine & Books LLC, Hawk’s Happenings, Heidi Angell, Curiosities, James McDonald, Always Another Chapter, Spreading the Writer’s Word, Yours in Storytelling, Carmilla Voiez, Hello Romance, GirlZombieAuthors, Frighten Me, M’habla’s!, Angela Yuriko Smith, Brain Matter, NLCARTERWRITES.COM