Case No. 001… Dalmation Man
Filed Under… Missing Person(s)
I received this email a few weeks back and thought nothing of it. Until I came across an interesting child abduction statistic, specifically the numbers on the City of the Plains, Morin Park in South West Havenbrook. A staggering three times the abduction rate compared to other territories in Havenbrook County. The number made me dig up this uh, “Dalmation Man”. Research was done conductive to answering the matter of the “Dalmation Man”. Evidence isn’t conclusive quite yet, on who or…what the man is. But this frightening account was taken from a… Mr. Joaquin Ramirez who had encountered a “spotted man” in his youth. His chilling account was taken from a 60-minute interview by Channel24 news. Flourishes have been added for readabilities’ sake.
Subject: ever hear about the dalmatian man? <email@example.com>
it’s something the kids keep spreading. I hear them. i hear them. like in the chatrooms. in the schools. the spotted dalmatian man, that’s all they talk about!…they say he lifts them wherever he can. he comes in a car. he comes from the sewers. he leaves their mothers in wake…leaves a piece. something to know he was there and now they gone…
14 lost kids in too mnths. LOOK IT UP…breaker figueroa monte de sol LOOK IT UP…!
when you see the spotted man you do not turn away kevin lindsey lauryn tobi maple chris. chris. Chris looked away and look at where that got him… six pieces six spots…CHRSTIAN RAYNOSA…look it up…
they’ll never catch him believe you me…cops to busy writing tickets and looking tough…chasing cement guy…trust me…dalmatian man is out there. ask any high schooler, they laughed until Sammy got his arms cut off. left on front lown, del Sol high school…LOOK IT UP…
kids are smarter. pray for them. Dalmatian man is OUT there NOW…
He did not seem like an evil man when we saw him. The Dalmation man, that’s what we called him at least. Given the black spot on his eye. Not like a black eye, not like something you get, but something given. A spot where God had missed his touch. The Dalmation man was stood behind his white van. Paint cans opened in the back and he himself dipping his roller inside and working several coats along the side of the laundromat. The three of us – Joaquin (myself), Buddy and Ian – watched him from the corner of the store. Our finger tips gripped tight on the cinder blocks. Somewhere inside a machine rocked my laundry. You could feel it in the walls.
We watched the man (who paid us no mind) with half-gaped mouths.
“How do you think he got that?” Ian asked.
“Born with it.” I said.
“How does someone get born with that?”
“Same way you got born with your arms and legs, stupid.”
“His eye looks broken.” Ian breathed through his mouth.
Ian, the youngest of us. Dumbest of us. Tallest of us. Buddy hated that Ian was taller, I hated it too. Being tallest he managed to shade the two of us, which was nice considering the brutality of midday. The ground across towards the Dalmation man looked warped. A hot day, summer of 98’. I wiped my forehead. Buddy loosened his cap. The Dalmation man endured – no – maybe enjoyed it. He whistled and painted as if the steam from the asphalt meant nothing.
“Is this the guy you keep talking about?” Buddy turned to me. Fitted cap slid to the side, blocking a sun high in the sky.
“He doesn’t look normal.”
“No he does not.”
“Is that his lunch?” Buddy pointed to a black back inside the open door of the van. “It’s in that bag, ain’t it? What’ya think he eats?”
“I don’t know. Sandwiches and shit. I guess?”
“I want a sandwich.” Ian rubbed his stomach.
“Bet you can’t steal it.”
“Of course I could steal it.” I said.
“Bet you won’t.”
“Why would I take this bet?”
“See? You’re chicken.” Buddy turned to Ian. “See? He’s chicken.”
“I’m not going to steal something for nothing. But I could if I needed to.”
“Always bragging about how tough you are. And you can’t steal a sandwich?”
“Why aren’t you stealing it then?”
“I’m not the one who says he’s tough all the time.”
I looked to Buddy then back to the painter. No cars drove beside us on the quiet street. Liana’s Laundromat hovered above us, the logo in pastel paints. Next to it the faded image of an old woman holding onto a little basket of clothes, the pretty pinks and blue pants and dresses hanging by the edge of her basket. The colors muted, eroded. Pipes ran out the side of the cinder blocked building. Steam rose up in the air behind us carrying the musk of detergent. Harsh to the lungs, when we played out behind we always had to pinch our noses. Games of soccer in the narrow alley-ways. Hide and seek. Those types of games. Things close to the apartment complex.
“Why don’t you ask Ian to do it?” I asked.
“He’s a baby.” Buddy said. “Besides, you’re the tough one. Right?”
“So then take the bet, twenty buck says you can’t make away with his lunch.”
I looked at the bag in the van. Plastic, black, something lumpy weighing it down.
“I-I don’t know.” I said.
Buddy smiled. The Dalmation man kept whistling and stuck his paint roller inside the can. And in doing so looked our way. All three of us retracted and turned our backs against the walls and kept still. I felt twitchy, my legs shook. I kept licking my lips because they were dry and cracked. I started walking away, towards the back door of the Laundromat. Buddy and Ian followed, we went inside and gave the man side long stares through the windows.
“Enough messing around. My clothes are almost done.” I said.
“We can take them for you.” Buddy ran to the shaking machine. He took out bundles and put it in my basket. Him and Ian both taking onside and lifting it up.
“Why you are you so obsessed with this?”
“It’d be funny.” Buddy said.
“He’s just a guy.”
“He’s a weirdo.” Buddy said. “Always here, never talks to no one. Smiles at us all the time. I don’t like him and I want him to know we want him gone.”
I breathed hard. An old woman was deep in sleep by a bench. Women looked at their magazines from little plastic seats. Half the machines were plastered with out of service notices. An arcade cabinet, Street Fighter II, glowed with quick moving animations, but bars of static ran across the screen. I streaked my shoes against the linoleum as if preparing to charge.
“Alright. But for twenty five.” I said. “And you buy food.”
“And I buy food.” Buddy smiled. We went out the back again and returned to the corner. Ian stared blankly, the weight of my laundry rounding his back.
He rushed out the door and to my apartment.
I breathed heavy and eyed the man rolling paint, counting steady at the repetitions and licks he did against the wall. Waiting. My heart in my throat, the pulse in my fingertips heavy. I squatted a bit. Waited. The man dipped. He shook his roller. Went up the ladder.
I bolted. Pouncing off my hinds. Feeling light. I ran up behind the truck, crawled on the asphalt. Opened the door from the driver’s side. Reached over for the bag of what I assumed to be lunch. I gripped it. Held it. Turned. Started off —
He grabbed my arm. The blood curdled in me. He pulled me up slow, I found his gaze upon mine. The black spot on his pale face, the eye dead and white within. Like I was staring at an empty skull. Milk-white and glossy, blood shot, a stare that undressed the courage in me for the underfit article it was. I was stiff and holding onto the bag, his bag. Not even struggling. Too shocked to. It felt like having my nape in the maw.
After a few seconds the blood began to pump again. I pulled. And the man smiled. He let go. Stood tall, I couldn’t see his face anymore, a large cape shadowed his face. But in that dark I could notice it, his smile.
I ran out with the bag and came around the corner. Buddy had a sprint headstart down the block. I chased after him with the bag in my hand.
We went around the corner and ran until my legs were lead and my chest heavy. I caught myself from tripping several times. We must have been blocks off from the heist.
“Where’s Ian?” I leaned over to a fence, breathing, dropping the bag.
“Probably at your house.”
“Right.” My hand shook.
“You look sick.”
“I feel sick.”
“Well, what are you waiting for?”
“Open the bag. Fucking run got me hungry.”
I grabbed it from the floor, it was slouched and uneven, the little grocery bag from the grocery store. I started undoing the knot, it was tight.
“Maybe he likes dog food. He kind of looked like a dog, huh.” Buddy said. Our breaths easing up.
“Fuck.” I pulled at the bag. Then I bit into it with my front teeth and ripped a hole open. I stretched the hole bigger and reached inside. No food. Nothing wet or hot or mushy. I felt again, then held something pleated and pulled it out.
Trousers. A cap. Overalls. A small skirt.
“His laundry?” Buddy asked.
Small panties. Crusted, spent into. Though I didn’t know that at the time. Buddy made an ugly face.
“Gross.” That was the word. And more. It was far, far more than gross. An emotion you can only study in retrospect with the years to finally frame it. Because the boundaries of a child were too small. What I felt was entrenched in the id deep into new descents. A floor on a skyscraper without the number. A feeling without the word.
Something you archive for later study, later intuition.
It was dread.
We spent the night at Ian’s place. He always had the best of everything. Unstained carpeted floor, a playstation on the glass counter top, posters and stacks of DVD’s their father collected. I sat at the study table, they were both on the floor with folded legs, hands on the controllers playing something. I couldn’t quite keep my eye on the tube screen, I just flipped through comic strips pretending I was there. Which I wasn’t, of course.
“Do you want a turn?” Ian asked.
The pizza still hot next to us. Half eaten slices on paper plates scattered about. Out the window was the back of the apartment. The expanse of alley dark stretched out to unlit roads, not that was strange or out of place. The roads were never lit, never repaired, never safe. The neighbors were coming from work. The dogs and cats were being called in. The older high school kids were biking back into their suburban garages. Things as they should be. But normalcy felt strange. Sat there rubbing my tired eyes, watching scanning lines on the television, turning over random comics. Keeping my hands on something as to not fidget.
“I need to go to the restroom.” I said.
They didn’t look at me. They leaned to one side and tapped fast on their controller. Fatality – the words bloody and dripping on the screen as a character got their spine removed and their body charred. I breathed heavy. It wasn’t hot, but I felt hot. I tossed purple bead curtains between the kitchen and the living room. I stepped through them to get some soda and watched the darkness of the apartment the pendulum swinging beads. The light of the fridge cast my shadow deep into the room. I turned. No one there. And I felt my cheeks again and breathed and reached into the cold innards. Pepsi. I sipped, looked out into the dark. My hands shook.
They’d been panties. Kids panties.
I shook my head and traced the outline of the apartment. The furniture losing its form. Walls thin and weak, yet I couldn’t hear my neighbors. Strange. Especially at the top fifth floor of the apartment. My own home was on the second. Not that I wanted to be there. My mom was still working late into the night. All of our parents were, the trend of a Sunset Villa family. Late long nights. Housing at a discount.
I drank until my belly fizzed. Didn’t realize it. The two liter was almost empty. The beads were still swaying. I went to the front door and locked it. Put my knees on the sofa and made a small slit in the metal pleaded curtains and peered through. A girl outside, smoking with her arms on the guard rail. A dull expression on her face as she finished her cigarette and rubbed it down on the metal. She walked back into her room. I studied her, never blinking once. The door closed and the lights on the halls died out to some dull orange. No one else was outside.
I sighed. Went back into the room. Knocked over some Ninja Turtle figurines, rubbed my eyes and slid back into my chair. I ate. Burped.
They were playing a new game now. Buddy was at least.
Ian watched, mouth agape. Some little pixel crawling underneath a tank. Big red exclamation mark. Loud sound. My foot tapped on the floor.
“The door is locked, you know.” Buddy said.
“The front door.”
“My parents said you can stay over if you want.”
I chewed but didn’t eat much. Just kept at mawing at the same piece of pizza and looking out the window.. Was it a darker night than usual? I couldn’t tell you. Felt darker. Creeping up. Something crawling up my back, a centipede. I turned away and then back to the window thinking I could catch that which was sneaking up on us. If there was! If there was…
Nothing differed about the frame. Maybe a dog? A dog turning itself to piss and to trot away.
“I’m getting tired.” Ian said.
“You’re always getting tired first.” Buddy shook his head.
We prepared ourselves to sleep and I took the bed closest to the window of course. All of us laid down and we started talking.
“What are you, a fucking mime Joaquin?” Buddy asked. “Is he asleep already?”
“I think he’s asleep.” Ian said.
I stayed quiet. They chatted away about movies and new arcade games at the mall. Girls. A new clear colored pepsi, I remember that one lasted for hours. What a strange feeling to listen but not be present, the ghost of my consciousness up and above and away from the moment. Even in all that talk I couldn’t help but daydream. Well, night dream I guess. I thought about ways I might have died, having my belly sliced open and my guts ripped out. Being pushed off the building and snapping my neck on the garden fence below. Taken and put underneath monster truck tires to be crushed. Imaginations that kept me up, at first, until they started getting ridiculous. When I started thinking about being pushed out of planes, or thrown into volcanoes. Strange silly things like in the cartoons that lulled me into that falsestate of safety we often find ourselves in.
I passed out, for what felt like a second.
Near midnight I woke up again, rubbing my eyes. Something loud, I thought heard. It kind of sounded like a dumpster closing, far below us. A diver, perhaps? I yawned and looked out the window and slicked my nose with my forearm. My eyes widening as the picture outside focused and the image sharpened.
“Wake up, Buddy.” I jumped out the bed. I shook both of them. “Wake up please.”
“What?” Buddy turned over.
He rolled out and stood and looked around. Ian was slow to come back into reality. He was still talking in his dreams.
“What. What?” Buddy asked.
I dragged him by the collar and pulled him to the window and pointed out.
He looked out, then to me.
“The van, dude. The fucking van.” I pointed.
He stared for a while. His breathing sped up. He looked around and scratched his head.
“The door is locked. Right?” I asked.
He didn’t say much, just nodded yes. We walked outside. We looked out towards the living room. The halls looked larger, felt it too, as we tiptoed through the house. Ian slumbering quiet behind us. I went to the door and checked it. It was locked, alright. But there were scratchings on the keyhole? Or maybe they were always there? Oh, what you don’t notice that becomes a curiosity in panic. I breathed heavy. Buddy tiptoed on the counter and picked up the phone.
“It won’t ring, dude.” Buddy said. He tried the lights. Nothing.
I looked around the room. Buddy slammed down on numbers. 9-1-1. 9-1-1. Please God. He set the phone down. Picked it up. Tried. Tried.
I surveyed and found nothing strange – until I looked at the kitchen again. In the corner. In that darkest dark. Something moving ever so slightly. A single hand coming out and behind — Buddy.
“Run.” I said. I blitzed it to the door. Buddy looked confused, he scrambled too. I waited by the door. I swear I waited. But he just wasn’t fast enough or maybe they’d gotten him? I couldn’t (still can’t) tell. I made it to the room, Ian was just coming up from his sleep. He sat on his knees. I closed the door, I left it unlocked. For a while. Enough, I left it open long enough for him! I swear I tried! But I didn’t hear him, I couldn’t hear him. There was just a shuffle, chairs getting knocked down. I was screaming, Ian was crying. It was noise. And I locked the door. I locked it.
Buddy came up, minutes after. He took so long! He sounded so tired, so beaten.
“Open the fucking door!” He slammed. Something slammed. “Please. No. No. Open the fucking door!”
But I heard him. Both of them. He shouted until his mouth was muffled. Then he just dragged, his shoes scraping. Something slammed again. The thick noise, plopping, something wet being dragged around. The door knob moved a little bit. I kept my palm on Ian’s mouth.
“Are you there, little lamb?” The Dalmation man asked.
My stomach dropped.
The metal turned and almost broke and I was praying and I was – I’m so sorry – I just wanted Buddy to go out quietly, to not take us with him. The door ceased turning after a while. All noise did. And in the silence Ian could finally cry. He looked around and I had nothing to answer for him. Not a thing.
Thirty minutes later the police arrived. The neighbors called them in. In the blur of red and blue I had nothing to give them. And I doubt I ever will.
All I could give them was that vague description of the Dalmation man, from a young child in the dark.