Double Standards | By: Dallas Releford | | Category: Short Story - Horror Bookmark and Share

Double Standards

DOUBLE STANDARDS BY: Dallas G. Releford It was a cold, dark, rainy night in San Francisco. On a chilly rain-drenched street, a patrol car passed by two old, ragged men collecting valuables from a trash dumpster. The old men only gave them a quick glance and went on about their business. In the distance, police sirens wailed loudly cutting through the night air. In the midst of danger and poverty on this grave Saturday night, a young woman walked slowly but cautiously down a street barren of shops and the company of other suitable human beings. The steadily falling rain drenched her beautiful, long brown hair. She didn’t seem to mind the rain but she carried her umbrella in her hand as if ready to fend off some unsuspecting demon of the night. Her left hand clenched the strap of a black purse slung over her shoulder. Unlike most of the other people in this part of the city, she seemed to have an objective in mind, a place to go and a purpose in life. She had the hope, the dreams and the motivation that set her aside from the other hopeless creatures of the night that dwelled in the slums. These “hopeless” creatures consisted of drunks, bums and homeless people that didn’t have any other place to go. As she passed an alley on her right, dark, evil eyes followed her every move. Purple lips were moistened by the perspiration falling from a dirty, ugly face. The wrinkles on the forehead told stories of days gone by and other women the cold blue eyes had watched. The calloused hands that held the knife so tightly could also tell tales about the many women’s bodies it had caressed just before it was drenched in the blood of the victim. For some reason, the feet of the being in the shadows just couldn’t remain still and they had to move while the target was still in easy range. Wasn’t it always this way? The anxious seconds before the beast fell upon its prey were always the worst. It was the final few moments that were the most difficult; just before it moved up behind the victim, dragged it into some dark alley, made love to it after ripping off the clothes and then slitting the throat. It was all methodical, mechanical and like any creature of the night seeking prey, it was murderous. It knew the routine but it didn’t need the practice because it had killed many beautiful, young women in its time. Elizabeth Keene sensed something behind her but it was too late. Extremely strong, cold hands dragged her struggling body into the ally. She was too terrified to even scream. She struggled but it did her little good because the hands that held her were much stronger than she was. The hands that held her meant business. They were the determined hands of a serial killer, a vulture that preyed on helpless women in places most of us never venture, except in the deep recesses of our minds or in our worst nightmares. The beautiful young woman, who only moments ago had nothing but thoughts on her mind of going to a party now begged for her life as her clothes were ripped from her body. The creature stood above her admiring his work more than her beautiful body that lay helplessly below him on the wet, damp pavement. He didn’t have any mercy to give anyone and he wouldn’t give it away even if he did have it, especially to a woman. He despised women. He only liked them when he could watch them suffer. Elizabeth lay there wondering if she should take the chance of defending herself or running down the street in the middle of the night naked. She was worried that if she defended herself that she might give herself away to some passerby or someone in the shadows that might be watching. She made up her mind when she saw the dark figure in the shadows lower his dirty pants and she knew that she would have to do something. She closed her eyes and concentrated. Slowly the beautiful body began to change. The once soft, white silken skin began to take on another color. Both the color and the form became that of a vampire bat. Only this was a special bat, one that had the features and wings of a bat but the dark, gray hands of a human. Her legs now had feet with toes that had long, sharp claws instead of the more appealing toenails that the human woman had had only a few moments before. Two killers who loved blood stood facing each other. The killer trembled but held his ground. He didn’t know what was going on at that point but he was determined that no female, bat or otherwise, was going to show him up. He clenched the knife even more tightly and lunged at the creature. The creature stepped backwards, spread its wings and flew into the air with one tremendous leap. The bat landed behind the killer and turned around just in time as the killer launched another ferocious attack. They engaged in a deadly hand to hand combat that could only end one way. One of them would have to die. The bat let out a vicious scream, sunk its teeth into the neck of the victim and tore out a hunk of flesh that it dropped to the pavement. The killer slumped to the ground in one massive, dark form but then tried to get back up only to collapse to the ground again. That time, he didn’t move anymore. The bat creature picked up the torn clothes from the ground and looked at the once beautiful garments that had covered a body of such beauty. The bat turned around and walked down the alley into the shadows satisfied that its job was done. The Spirit of the Night had claimed one more poor soul and had eliminated one more criminal from the face of the earth. Her task finished, she slowly changed back into the beautiful young woman that she had been before and put her clothes back on as best as she could. Satisfied with her appearance she decided to continue on to her destination. After all, wasn’t that her assignment? Just because a monster had attacked her in the heart of the night didn’t mean that she should quit her assignment? The party would have to wait for her for a few more moments but she would get there eventually. She truly hated killing any being, especially humans. It seemed that it was her lot in life to be put into situations where she had to kill. But wasn’t that precisely what she had been designed to do? She knew that she had been designed to kill and to prevent criminals and others from inheriting the Earth. Dr. Khan had told her so. She remembered looking into his deep brown eyes on that fateful day so long ago. He had told her that he and other scientists had genetically engineered her to have special powers with which she could defend the human race against evil. She wasn’t like other people and she knew it. It was a very strange feeling and a lonely feeling knowing that she was different from everyone else. It was the isolation that bothered her the most. Elizabeth looked down at her body, at the well-formed breasts, shapely stomach, her perfectly round buttocks and her perfect legs. Most human females would give almost anything to have her body but how many would want her attributes, her problems and her special powers and the responsibility that went along with it all? They had even put a complete cellular phone system into her head and interfaced it with her brain. It was only a small part of the communications system that was built into the chip inside her head. If she wanted to dial up a connection via satellite, she could do that and connect to the Internet. She could even listen to any radio station and watch any television station in the world. She was a walking communications system and sometimes she had found that to be a good thing. Yes, she felt special but only because she had special responsibilities and special troubles. She could listen to anything that was broadcast and even communicate with anyone in the world. She could change her form and even change her molecular structure and blend into any object that she wanted to duplicate, even the sidewalk beneath her feet. As a special agent for the Office of Scientific Investigations (OSI), she was obligated to put her life on the line every moment of her life. On this cold, wet night that was just what she was about to do. Her assignment was to go to a party, a special party. What was so special about it was that her special enemy was supposed to be at the party. His name was Petrocoff. The very thought of the name, Petrocoff had always given birth to thousands of butterflies in her stomach and instilled gallons of fear in her mind. He was the man or beast that she wanted to get her hands on. She knew that a lot of other people in the world wanted to get him too but she hoped that she would be the first to do so. What was so special about Petrocoff? He was the beast that had killed thousands of innocent human beings and had been responsible for many more deaths. Her assignment was to get him and put him out of business, any way that she could. She had nightmares about meeting the beast in the darkness of some long underground tunnel. She was running from him and in her dreams, she never got away from him. The good thing was, he never caught her either. Now she was ascending the long steps up to the big mansion on Sacramento Street, near the business district. She was an uninvited guest but she was sure the fake invitation and identification papers would allow her to have access to the party. As she walked up the dimly lit steps, her form slowly changed from that of Elizabeth Keene to that of another woman. She looked more and more like the dead woman the identification papers had once belonged to. The OSI would do anything to get Petrocoff, even kill one of his business associates and pass her identity along to one of its agents. In this case, that agent was a very special agent named Elizabeth Keene. Of course the agency had learned everything possible about Mrs. Meredith Evans. She was the personal secretary to one of Petrocoff’s managers. With several hundred photographs of Mrs. Evans in their possession, Elizabeth could change her form to match that of the late Mrs. Evens almost perfectly. The computer simulation program had given her the information that she needed to take on the form of Meredith Evans. She could adjust her body to match the woman’s hair, eyes, build, figure and even her skin color without much difference between her and Mrs. Evans. The tattoo of a small red bird; a Cardinal, on her right hip was an exact duplicate of the one on the dead woman. In reality, Elizabeth Keene became Mrs. Evans. As she neared the top of the steps and her last chance of escape before entering the wolf’s lair, her mind was focusing on the communications center of her brain. Everything she was feeling, seeing and hearing was being sent to a satellite high overhead. In the agency, far away in Washington, trained eyes and ears were observing her every move and directing her when she needed direction. She could call up any information about the woman, Mrs. Evans or just about anything else that she needed. She was far more confident now. She had transgressed the final steps and was now entering the building. The automatic weapon in the holster underneath her dress gave her some comfort and the small pistol she kept in her purse gave her more even more confidence. Not only that but didn’t she have the powers that Dr. Khan had given her when he created her? She had more abilities and powers than anyone else on the face of the planet. There wasn’t another creature like her because she was the first of her kind. She had heard some of the people at the agency talking about others that were being created but she was now the only of her kind in the whole wide world. Her assigned duties were to get to Petrocoff, who was usually heavily guarded, convince him to have sex with her and when they were alone, she was to eliminate him. Just how easy that would be or just how hard it would be would depend on her. It would also depend on how much Petrocoff liked her because he had his choice of hundreds of women. She passed by the guards and they only glanced at her identification badge and then casually motioned her on. She felt their cold, hard stares at her backside as she walked away. In defiance of them, she swung her hips from side to side even more than she normally did. She wasn’t sure whether she just wanted to give them something to look at or if she wanted them to suffer. She finally settled on the latter just before she saw Petrocoff talking to ten or twelve other people in the center of the room. There was something wrong. As she neared Petrocoff, she became uneasy about the entire thing. She thought it was the fact that she had a certain amount of fear of the man or maybe it was because she knew she was in danger. She had been in danger many times before but this time was different. Elizabeth had the number-one criminal of all time in her sights and couldn’t shoot him. She would have to do it the way they had planned. “Why hello,” Petrocoff exclaimed as she walked up to him, “I haven’t seen you for a little while. How have you been and where have you been?” “Oh, just fine,” Elizabeth said simulating the voice of Meredith Evans almost perfectly except there was a slight quiver in her sexy voice. “I’ve been fine --- just working hard --- we stay pretty busy you know. I’ve been working on some projects for Mr. Townsman, as I’m sure you’re aware of. He’s been keeping me busy with answering phones, making phone calls for him and doing research. Yes, I’m a busy little Bee these days.” “Good that will keep you out of trouble and make you rich,” Petrocoff said and then laughed. “Oh, I’m sure it will,” she said warmly smiling at him and giving him a inviting look. Elizabeth wanted to make sure that he understood that she was available. Petrocoff understood that look as he had seen it many times in the eyes of many women. “Well, we’ll have to get together later and have a drink,” he said. “I’m discussing business right at the moment but don’t run off dear. I’ll find you.” “I won’t be that hard to find,” Elizabeth assured him and turned away to join some of the other people in the room. “Great,” she heard Petrocoff say as she walked away. She heard him make some comment to the other guests but didn’t have time to focus her special hearing abilities to catch what he said. She supposed it was something about her body, it usually was. Elizabeth managed to mingle with the other guests for the next hour. She had four brandies and finally a sip of sweet wine. Her stomach was beginning to churn like an old automobile attempting to climb a steep hill. Not only that but she was getting a little dizzy and decided to step out on the front porch of the big, white building to get a breath of fresh air. When she attempted to leave the room one of the guards directed her through the white open doors with the white curtains. They said it led to the patio and she wouldn’t have to be outside unprotected. She wondered what they meant by, “unprotected” but decided not to worry about it. After all, wasn’t she the strongest person in the room? Elizabeth Keene, in the form of Meredith Evans stepped through the open multiple pane glass doors and felt the cool night air hit her in the face. It had quit raining but the patio was still wet and so were the wooden seats. She decided to stand by the stonewall that surrounded the patio and just do some serious thinking. Had Petrocoff purposefully instructed the guards to deny her access to the front of the building to prevent her from leaving? Perhaps most dominant in her young mind was the question of whether he would let her leave at all? If he had the slightest suspicion that something was wrong about her then she would be in big trouble and the plan would fail. Of course, he couldn’t really stop her but she might have a rough time convincing him of that. Had Meredith Evans had a previous relationship or encounter with him? If so, why hadn’t the agency told her about it? She knew that everything she thought was being monitored but she didn’t get any feedback from the OSI so she figured that her secret was still safe. There were a lot of questions and she realized that she would most certainly have to be on her toes. Elizabeth was about to find out some of the answers. Slowly the crowd drifted away and Elizabeth waited on the Patio until after midnight. The scattered dark clouds were being driven across the night sky by unseen forces obscuring the full-golden moon from time to time. She was slowly regaining her composure once again and could think more clearly now. It had been stupid on her part to drink while on duty but she just needed something to take up her time. Listening to some of the conversation from complete strangers was something that was completely boring. She wasn’t a person to surrender to boredom so she had to find something else to do. Consuming the drinks while pretending to listen to the chatter was one of the options she had. When she thought the last few guests had gone, she slowly and cautiously moved back into the large room with the beautiful crystal chandeliers hanging from the tall ceiling. Petrocoff was bidding goodbye to the last few guests and when he was free he motioned for her to go up the stairway. A touch of his finger to his lips indicated to her to be indiscrete about it. She made sure that nobody was paying her any particular attention before climbing the long stairway to the second floor above her. Elizabeth wondered what was up there? Probably bedrooms and more bedrooms, she thought to herself. Just what else would a man like Petrocoff have in his house? She stood by the railing at the top of the stairs until Petrocoff could free himself and join her. “Sorry it took me so long,” he apologized. “When you have a party you have to make sure that all your guests leave happy.” He had a bottle of Champagne under his arm and two glasses in his left hand. “Oh don’t apologize,” Elizabeth urged him, “we have the rest of the night.” “Yes, as usual,” Petrocoff said. She wondered if that meant that he and Meredith had such encounters often or did it mean that he had such encounters with other women often? She wasn’t quite sure and that meant she would have to be on the alert. He took her by the hand and led her toward a closed door at the end of the long hallway. She thought the house reminded her of a motel on some extravagant island. One thing she was sure of and that was that Petrocoff had good tastes in houses and women. Elizabeth opened the door for him with her free hand and was amazed by the décor in the large room. Even in the dim light of the single lamp on the table by the bed, she could see that it was extravagant. “Okay dear,” Petrocoff addressed her, “let me put these down and then we can talk. He released her hand and placed the Champagne and glasses on a nearby table. “Now, that’s taken care of. Well, why don’t you get comfortable while I go take a bath and then I’ll give you one if you like.” Elizabeth wiped the sweat off her hand on the side of her dress. He didn’t notice because he was busy surveying her slim body. She wasn’t quite sure why someone who had been with so many women would be so nervous. “Sure,” she replied, “why don’t you do that and I’ll get out of these damp clothes.” “You can put them in the dryer later,” he suggested, “there’s one downstairs.” With that, he removed his shirt, shoes and trousers. She wondered what she had gotten herself into? The fat, stubby, ugly little man repulsed her. The balding head and the mole on the side of his face were the things that repulsed her the most. She suddenly realized that if she wanted to get rid of the monster that she would have to suffer to do it. After a quick hug and a wet kiss on her soft lips he left for the bathroom with just his boxer shorts hiding his manhood. Elizabeth felt the sudden urge to turn into the Bat creature and bite his ugly little head off but she restrained herself. She managed to wait until he left before running to the window, opening it and almost expelled her guts right out the window. This was going to be a rough one unless she could do the job quickly and get away. She walked to the door and locked it making sure that it was secure. Next she walked back to the open window and made sure there was a ledge outside the window. She would need a quick exit after she had done the dirty deed and the window was the only way out of the building without passing the guards downstairs. Apparently Meredith had been with him quite often and was a trusted companion. She knew this was probably true because she had overheard him tell the guards to take the usual action. Since they weren’t upstairs, she speculated that the “usual action” meant that they were to be left alone. Standing beside the closed bathroom door, she listened intently. Finally, she heard him flush the toilet and turn the water in the tub on so the tub would fill up. A loud thump on the side of the tub led her to believe that he had hit his toe against the side of the tub. She heard a grunt, a groan and then a curse that confirmed her suspicions. She carefully turned the doorknob when she was satisfied that he was in the tub and relaxing. It was unlocked and her luck was holding. She decided quite sometime ago that if the opportunity ever came that his death would be quick and final. She didn’t open the door just yet but instead reached inside her blouse and pulled the automatic pistol from the holster under her arm. She cocked it as quietly as she could. Elizabeth knew that an experienced criminal like Petrocoff was always on the alert and could probably hear a weapon being activated without any effort. Opening the door quietly, she held the weapon down beside her leg concealing it from Petrocoff. She decided that such an action wasn’t necessary because Petrocoff had soapsuds all over his face and shampoo on his balding head. She guessed that all bald men had to wash their heads and he wasn’t an exception. “Is that you dear?” “Yes it’s only me,” she answered locking the bathroom door behind her. Elizabeth didn’t want to give him the opportunity to escape. The monster had escaped many traps before but she had made her mind up that this was one trap that he wouldn’t escape from alive anyway. Petrocoff seemed uncomfortable with her being in the room and quickly finished washing his head. When he finally had finished washing his face he used a towel that Elizabeth handed to him to dry his head and face. He could see again but he didn’t like staring down the barrel of the Colt .45 automatic. She surmised that he wasn’t only surprised but genuinely scared. “What? What’s going on here?” Petrocoff had faced many dangers in his time and many people had tried to kill him but he had never even been suspicious of the beautiful woman in front of him. What reason did she have to do him harm? “What it is,” Elizabeth explained, “is that you’re going to die and you’re going to die in the next few seconds.” She squeezed the trigger and the bullet impacted right in the center of his chest. The silencer permitted her to use the weapon and it couldn’t be heard outside the room, or so she hoped. In the excitement, Elizabeth changed from Meredith Evans to Elizabeth Keene. It wasn’t something that she intentionally wanted to do but it was something that she had been warned about. In order to maintain her identity as Meredith Evans she had to keep her focus on that subject but during the excitement of killing Petrocoff, she had forgot all about who she was. Petrocoff didn’t have time to say much. His mouth hung open and his eyes rolled back in their sockets. Petrocoff wasn’t dead, yet. “Why --- why did you --- why did you do that?” He was weak and the blood was squirting out of the open bullet hole in his chest. As Elizabeth watched something strange happened. The body of Petrocoff began to change. All the hair disappeared and the flesh became smoother and appeared like that of a woman. Within a few minutes, the body of a young woman was in the place where Petrocoff had been. Elizabeth Keene was astounded to observe that the figure in front of her was, Elizabeth Keene. Petrocoff, or the person that had been Petrocoff, slowly opened his eyes. He looked down at the beautiful body that once had been ugly. “Why --- you look just like me,” he said with some effort. His breathing was getting shallow and slow. “You --- you are me!” “It looks that way,” Elizabeth agreed, “and I’m you. Who are you anyway?” “I’m Tara Kane, an agent of the Office of Scientific Investigations. I was sent here after we found out Petrocoff was killed on a desert island. They don’t know it yet here and we thought that I could find out some of their secrets. I’m a genetically engineered creature and I’m the --- I’m the only one!” “Guess what?” “What?” “That’s what they told me too. I’m just like you. I can change form and do all the things that you do. What surprises me is that they told me Petrocoff was still alive. I’m the one who blew up the island and killed Petrocoff. The agency told me that I had been wrong and that Petrocoff escaped. I thought you were him.” “That’s incredible. I think we’ve been lied to and deceived. I’m dying --- I can feel my strength leaving me. Can you --- can you --- well, help me?” “Maybe,” Elizabeth said but wondered how she could save the young woman. “Well, I can try to turn my hand into some kind of instrument and get the bullet out but I don’t have any way of knowing how far the bullet went into your body or how extensive the damage is.” “That --- that’s a problem,” Tara said. “Wait,” Elizabeth said excitedly, “we have X-Ray vision. Remember, they gave us night vision and X-Ray vision, among other things. I can turn my finger into an instrument and using my special vision to guide my instrument, I can get the bullet out but there’s the problem of the injury.” “Not --- not so,” Tara said. “What do you mean?” “Once the bullet is out --- once a foreign object is out, I can heal myself by closing off the wound and the little Nanomen in my body will do the rest. They are unique little biological robots the size of molecules that can repair the damaged cells --- they can repair me, if they have enough time.” “Good,” Elizabeth said, “there’s so much about us that I tend to forget or maybe I’m just excited.” “Probably because of both reasons,” Tara said weakly, “let’s get to work. Within minutes the bullet was recovered, the wound started to heal and Tara seemed to get a little stronger. “Do you think you can keep yourself awake while I fly us out of here?” “Yes --- I sure will try,” she promised. Elizabeth carried the young woman to the open window. She laid her upon the carpet and put a couch pillow under her head. Elizabeth quickly wrapped the naked body of the young woman in a sheet from the bed and relaxed as much as possible so she could transform herself into the Bat. Minutes later, she had the young woman in her arms and climbed out on the ledge outside the window. She jumped and spread her large wings. Within seconds, she and Tara were airborne. The sight of a large, dark, ominous creature flapping its massive wings and that was transposed against the large, silver moon startled the guards on the ground so much that they forgot to fire their weapons at it. “Well the folks back at the agency sure have a lot of questions to answer,” Elizabeth said. She expected a response in agreement from her companion but none was forthcoming. She was sound asleep from the exhaustion. Elizabeth Keene was comforted that she could still feel the young woman’s heart beating. She held in her arms an exact duplicate of herself and living proof that the agency had double standards. The End
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