The Cleanup

by John Skipp and Craig Spector

Cover ImageBackstory: In this horror book, a man with reality-warping powers takes it upon himself to deal with the criminal element. In the first two excerpts, we see how he baits and then deals with a couple of would-be rapists. In the third excerpt, he visits a painful transformation on a couple of man-hating women.

Note: This title, long out of print, has recently been re-released in hardcover format by Stealth Press. There, you can also indicate interest in out of print titles, and if there is sufficient interest, it can apparently track the availability of rights to "lost" titles.

Excerpt 1: The Central Park encounter

Excerpt 2: Central Park encouter--epilogue

Excerpt 3: The face of the enemy

Excerpt 1: The Central Park Encounter

"' dat was when I hadta cut loose from the bitch," Dewayne Peterson complained. It was nothing new. Either was the story, which--barring constant revision and twisting of facts--Richie Grover had suffered through thirty times in the two weeks since Dewayne's wife split with the children.

Richie rolled his eyes and sucked on the joint. It was low-grade Colombian, the same shit he dealt. But it gave a righteous buzz if you smoked enough, and he had. Coupled with the Thunderbird, it melted down his inhibitions and made him feel like the stinking High Lord of the Universe.

"Dewayne," he croaked, still holding in the hit, "you so full o' shit dat it hurt."

"Suck mah big black dick," Dewayne retorted cleverly, reaching for the joint.

"Suck it yo'self, you so Goddam big." But the joint changed hands, and silence resumed.

The park was quiet at night. Peaceful. All the street noise was far away. Sitting down by the lake, with the cool grass beneath them, it was almost possible to forget how fucked up your life was.

Richie looked at Dewayne, and Dewayne looked back. They'd been hanging out together since they were old enough to pronounce mo' fo' grown up on the same block of East 108 Street, gotten into much of the same kinds of trouble. Sometimes they got on each other's nerves like crazy, but they had enough in common to keep them together.

Both of them were black, broke, and twenty-three in America. Both of them were high school dropouts. Both were minimum-wage messengers who still lived at home; even Dewayne, with one child and another on the way, was still stuck at Momma's indefinitely. They had mutual tastes in drugs and music. They also shared a profound hatred of the white-dominated world.

So when they saw the beautiful white chick walking across the Bow Bridge, less than a hundred yards away, an identical idea pinged in both of their heads. It was too cool to be true, and both of them knew it.

When Dewayne's mouth opened to let out a coyote howl, Richie slapped an urgent finger to his lips and shook his head no-no.

She was coming straight toward them.

All they had to do was wait.

She was tall and blond and unspeakably well-proportioned. Her tits were as big as they could get without turning sloppy. Her hips were profound, in the best sense of the word. The jogging suit she wore had money written all over it, and it clung to her body like a sausage skin. Her flesh was white as cream. Her hair hung to her ass.

"What da fuck she doing here?" Dewayne whispered.

"I don' know. Shut up." Richie's answering hiss was popsicle cold. She was stepping off the bridge. She could have been stepping off the cover of Vogue. It would have made just as much sense. As if sense mattered.

If there was one way to get back at the white man, raping his women was it. It gave him the coldest, boldest satisfaction available. Richie couldn't stop smiling, anticipating his dive into that sweet white meat. It made him hard. It made him wiggly.

Dewayne snubbed out the joint on the bottom of his shoe. Uncharacteristically good thinking. The less they did to tip her off, the better. She was walking down the pedestrian path that led within five yards of where they crouched. With any luck, she wouldn't see them until they were already up her ass.

Then she turned, following the path that led deep into the Ramble. Dewayne let out a muffed curse that Richie nearly echoed.

Until he thought about the choice she'd made.

Alright, he silently cheered. Alright.

Because the Ramble was the deepest, darkest place in the park: a real live maze of twisty pedestrian paths, leading to the heart of the mystery that was Central Park at night. The trees grew thickest there; the shadows fell most heavily. You couldn't even see the buildings.

In was the most private place in the park. And the scariest, for the cops and everyone else.

At night.

"C'mon, man," Richie hissed, dragging himself to his feet. Dewayne grinned, catching the drift. She had disappeared up the path, was inextricably in the Ramble now. They stole after her in a sublimely cautious half jog, were swallowed by the darkness themselves.

The path curled and ascended. They followed it up. Even so, it took a minute before they spotted her again. Dewayne smacked Richie lightly on the arm, flashed him a glance that consigned stealth to blackest Hell. Richie nodded, grinning fiercely.

They took off, full-speed.

The woman froze, half-turned toward them. Richie couldn't read the expression on her face, but he guessed it wasn't mild amusement. Then she started to run, those long legs pumping. The chase had officially begun.

"Damn!" Richie hissed after only a second. She was fast. They'd gained a couple of yards on her with the element of surprise; she'd won it back at once. Dewayne surged forward, keeping pace with her, but Richie felt himself falling back slightly, cursing. The whole damn trail was uphill, for one thing; for another, he'd been drinking and smoking too much for a long time. It all came together to wreak havoc on his stamina.

The woman reached a fork in the path and veered toward the left. Dewayne tore after her. Richie let out a tight-lipped grimace that was meant to be a smile. The fork to the right was a slightly shorter route to the selfsame place. If he pushed, he might even be able to beat them there.

And what a wonderful spot it was.

Richie veered to the right, pushing, pushing, the path listing south and then veering rather sharply to the left. Not twenty yards ahead the land began to level off. Already, he could see the roof of the altar on which they would sacrifice the woman's right to choose.

It was a pagodalike shelter, one of fifteen summerhouses built throughout the park in the 1860's. It was an octagonal structure, open at either end, with a solid and ornate roof and floor. The support beams were not squared-off slabs of featureless timber, but unhusked and knotty tree trunks whose branches reached up to merge with the ceiling. There were no walls, but six of the eight sides were lined with benches and handrails.

The whole thing came off looking primitive but complex, organic yet meticulously sculpted. It was as if the thing had grown, full-blown, from a mutant seed. It was 125 years old and had held up nicely. It didn't look a day older than the dawn of Time.

The path was plateauing under Richie's feet when the woman popped out of the darkness to his left. Dewayne was maybe five steps behind her. There was no doubt that everyone was feeling the uphill sprint, but she had tired more quickly than her pursuer. It was a matter of seconds before Dewayne had her nailed.

Richie was bummed. He had been hoping for more than sloppy seconds, but it didn't look like it would work out that way. It was like playing Capture the Flag. There was no question that Dewayne was gonna have first dibs.

She was six feet into the summerhouse when Dewayne pounced onto her back. Her knees buckled under his weight, and she collapsed to the floor. She didn't scream. Even through his disappointment and exertion, Richie found that somewhat strange.

He entered the structure just as his friend flipped the woman over and used his knees to force her legs apart. She struggled like crazy, but it didn't do any good. Richie came to a halt beside them, staring down at her savagely snarling face.

Something wasn't right there. She seemed almost to be smiling. He knelt to get a closer look, and dread exploded in his chest like a fragmentation mine.

Because she was smiling, oh yes, and the smile was literally growing across her face, bones creaking as her jaws elongated and her long sharp teeth jutted outward. Her eyes were slit-irised balls of luminous gold; they fired out beams of light that bored straight into Dewayne's, making them glow as well�

Richie was no stranger to the sleazoid movie theatres on Forty-second Street. Next to kung fu fantasies and jack-off spectaculars, horror movies were his favorite things to watch. Staring at the creature transforming before him now, he couldn't help thinking about the vampire chick in Fright Night, the transformation scenes in The Howling and An American Werewolf in London. He'd never been seduced enough to believe what he was seeing.

He believed it now.

Dewayne's mouth flopped open, but no scream was forthcoming. The only sound was something like a leaky radiator. His body had gone rigid. It started to jerk and twitch and shudder. The tight curls of his hair seemed to tighten and writhe like tiny, black snakes.

Then jagged lines of searing brilliance began to etch themselves across his forehead, blood rolling from the trenches of flesh they cut, blazing from within. Richie fell back, screaming, but he couldn't drag his gaze away from the horror.

A word was forming, letter by letter, as if branded onto Dewayne's face. One word, in large block letters of hellish fluorescence.


Dewayne jerked to his feet suddenly, though Richie knew for a fact that his friend was dead. Invisible fingers seemed to yank the corpse's belt open, yank down the zipper, drag the pants down to the knees. Something wet splutted down with them; in death, a final load had dropped. The body just stood there while the creature climbed out from under it, then toppled face first to the ground and lay still.

The monster smiled at Richie.

Richie screamed and began to run.

Out of the shelter, the altar on which his friend had been sacrificed instead. Down the path, away from the way he'd come, away from the nightmare behind him. The path itself, zigging and zagging in a subtle downward motion. The creature, loping after him on all fours like a hound of Hell.

A pond opened up before him. The water looked black and fetid. Richie stumbled and fell straight into it, and struck his head on a rock less than three feet under. The universe went dull and indifferent for a moment; just long enough for him to realize that he was swallowing water. Then he pulled himself together, and his head broke the surface just in time to see the monster hit the surface of the pond.

There was the ka-booming of a cannonball off a high dive, the requisite pillar of gushing spray. Richie whirled and screeched and ran in hideous slow motion, hands frantically dog-paddling before him. Underwater, no one can see you piss your pants. It was the only reassurance he had.

He was less than a foot from the other side when the hand closed around his ankle.

His throat sucked in for the power to scream, and got a quart of black water instead. It jetted up his nostrils as well, gagging him, flooding the inches around him with hundreds of anguished bubbles. He waited for his life to flash before his eyes, but there was nothing but darkness, nothing but darkness and the solid weight of the monster that held him now, grabbed him by the forearms and dragged him to the surface.

The monster was a man.

Richie sputtered and coughed and drooled, eyes bulging.

The monster was a man: no longer a woman, no longer the thing that had slaughtered Dewayne. The monster was a man with pale white skin and light brown hair and piercing eyes. It smiled at him as it reached for his throat and pinned the back of his head to the shore, leaning close.

"Now you know what it's like," the monster said. "Fun, huh? Did you ever think about what it was like to be on the receiving end of a fucker like you?"

Richie shook his head crazily back and forth, not in answer to the question.

"Well, now you know. Or maybe you don't." The man/monster probed its gaze into his own for a moment. Richie remembered what that gaze had done to his partner in crime, slammed his eyelids shut abruptly. The voice continued, its source mercifully invisible.

"No, I don't think that you've quite grasped it yet." The voice was smooth, ebullient, remorseless. "You need something more explicit. More dramatic, shall we say.

"No problem."

Richie felt himself begin to change.

It started with the burning of his skin. That would have been bad enough. The burning of his skin was like a trillion tattoo needles at once. Then he felt and heard his own bones stretching: spine, hips, limbs, skull. There were no words for the pain he felt. There were no rational sounds in his head at all.

And all the while, the Power thrummed through him like a turbines roar. It numbed and disassociated him from the paling of his flesh, the jutting of his breasts, the widening of his hips and the recession of his genitals into the newly formed wet slit across his groin. He couldn't feel his hair grow blond, flow down past his shoulders. He most certainly couldn't feel the change in his apparel.

Until the thrumming stopped.

And the voice said, "Look."

And he found himself staring at the reflection in the water.

At the man who looked almost indescribably happy. At the woman, whose goggly eyes stared blankly back up at him.

At the woman who he and Dewayne had assaulted.

At the woman who he had become.

"In a way, you're getting of easy," the man/monster said. "If you make it home, you can have a wonderful time with yourself.

"If you make it home," it repeated. And winked.

Richie Grover staggered backward, hit the edge of the pond, and clambered up onto the shore like a crab. By increments he realized the nature of his fate. He saw his brand-new firm white tits, shimmering in their expensive jogging togs. He sensed the immensity of Central Park, sprawling all around him like a great dark jungle full of wild and horny beasts. He envisioned his appearance at the door of his parents' apartment, the what-the-fuck expression on the face of whoever opened the door.

"You'd better run," the man/monster advised him, "before you start looking good to me."

Then Richie ran, trim and hairless feminine legs propelling him forward. He heard Billy's laughter and his own heart pounding, alive in his ears like tribal drums.

As he ran deeper into a park that had never seemed so black and merciless.

As he ran deeper into a darkness that had no end.

�1987 John Skipp & Craig Spector. All rights reserved. Used with permission of the authors.

Excerpt 2: Central Park encouter--epilogue

"While you're at it," Clint continued, "you might want to round up the rest of the boys. They're scattered all over the park, but I'll tell you where."

The next three minutes of tape were spent on descriptions and locations of the dead. If the descriptions were to be believed, the variety of deaths was staggering. The voice kept saying things like, "I scared him to death. You don't wanna know how." Odd tickles of laughter punctuated the speech, but the man appeared to remain basically under control.

"All this stuff accurate?" Hamilton wanted to know.

"The locations are," Bartucci said. "It's hard to say what killed a couple of them--Pathology's looking into it now--from the looks of it, he's pretty much dead-on. He killed them. Or at least he had a part in it."

"There's one other person you might want to look for," the voice continued. "This beautiful blond woman: the one my little rapist friend was on when I, um, dealt with him." That laugh again. "She ran off into the Ramble somewhere. I lost her. You might want to look for her, just in case."

"You find her?" Rizzo was lighting a cigarette.

"She made it almost all the way up to the Seventy-ninth Street Transverse." Bartucci passed the ashtray off his desk. He didn't smoke. "Multiple rape, from the looks of it. Multiple stab wounds for sure."

Hamilton perked up. "Any similarity to--"

"He's not your pattern killer, no. This was random. Just a bunch of fun-lovin' guys, I suppose." Then Bartucci put a finger to his lips and said, "Ssssh. This is the part you wanna hear."

"You're probably wondering why I did it," the voice began. "No problem.

"Your hands are tied, but mine are not That's what I like. The dumb fuckers I cleaned up for you tonight couldn't stop me, no matter how hard they tried. Neither can you. Don't even bother to try.

"The best thing you can do is let the city know--and you can quote me on this---the following:

"I am out here, people. I am stalking the streets. I am looking for the muggers and the rapists and the killers. I am looking for the kidnappers and the pimps and the enforcers. When I find them, I will kill them, and I won't lose a second of sleep over it.


"Do I make myself clear?"

Three seconds of silence enveloped the room: dramatic pause on the tape, stunned silence from the men.

"And I've got a special message for Detectives Rizzo and Hamilton, the men assigned to the so-called Smiley-Face Slasher. You'd better move fast if you want him to face due process of law.

"I don't. I want him all to myself."

The click of the deadened phone line followed, and Bartucci stopped the tape.

"So what do you think?" he inquired.

Hamilton was staring at Rizzo. Rizzo knew what his partner was thinking. He refused to acknowledge the stare.

"I think," Rizzo said, "that the guy's a fucking fruitcake."

"Absolutely. Only problem is, he's good at it." Bartucci got up, paced for a second, stopped. "You know, I've seen a lot of strange shit in my life, but this one takes the cake. We can't explain some of the things he did. It's driving us nuts."

�1987 John Skipp & Craig Spector. All rights reserved. Used with permission of the authors.

Excerpt 3: The face of the enemy

Billy seized on the image of Paula and Susan. It kept him at a safe distance from his loss and pain, gave him a place to put his rage. He thought about how they'd tried to use Mona's rape as a symbol of oppression, Mona's career as a striking piece of poetic justice, Mona herself as emotional cannon fodder in the grand crusade to rid the world of erect penises. Or even limp ones.

And then a truly hideous thought occurred to him, fanning the spark into a white-hot flame of hatred that grew and grew and grew.

And the thought was: What if they try to do the same thing to Lisa? What if they make her a martyr to their cause? It would be so easy to do. She wouldn't even be there to defend herself, much less make her own position clear.

He could picture it with total clarity. He could hear the bullshit now. All the words they would put in her mouth. All the lies they would make of her life.

"Sorry, girls," he hissed, scarcely more than a whisper. "I can't let you do that."

Billy closed his eyes, and Paula Levin's face played crystal clear in the private screening room of his mind. It took a little longer to bring the face of the other woman into focus. But it came.

Somewhere in the city, they were together. From the darkness of that private screening room, he reached out for them.

With the Power.


In the last several seconds before their lives spiraled down into nightmare, Paula and Susan were pleased with themselves. They'd faced a tough decision, but they'd risen to the occasion. They had to. There was a war on, and grief was a debilitating factor.

Diane's betrayal still rankled them, of course: they'd been robbed of their moment of glory. If they took credit for the bombing, they would also have to take credit for the deaths. Aside from the crimp that a prolonged incarceration would put in their agenda, the Movement was liable to frown on such a successful fuckup. Their involvement with the death of Show World had to be kept absolutely secret.

Fortunately Diane had her own reputation to look after. Beyond that, she swore a solemn oath that not a word about the entire affair would leak. Her letter had arrived today, postmarked Chicago, accompanied by a trio of sadistic paperbacks that she evidently found amusing.

The note was short and sweet. It read:

Dear girls,

Have fun with the books. If you won't tell, I won't tell. Good luck with your next movie. You should stick with them. You're much better at rhetoric than you are at real life.

It was an infuriating footnote, but there was a nugget of truth therein. Making movies was their business, spreading the word was their mission. Once it was clear that they would not be going to prison, they were free to get back down to it.

Hence, their difficult decision. With which they were well pleased.

The bad news was that another beloved sister had died. The good news was that she would have a chance to live on. And Pieces of Meat had a new central image: a gut-wrenching true story to dramatize and bludgeon the male supremist society to its knees with.

The true story of Mona and Lisa.

In the last several seconds before their world went mad, Susan was breaking out the wine. Their nerves were frazzled from two pots of coffee and the meticulous restructuring of their harrowing tale. Making Lisa a hero was a piece of cake: even though they'd often disagreed with her, they'd always respected her inner strength and dedication to the Movement. Correcting her obvious flaws in judgment was child's play; what she'd failed to grasp in life, she'd come to symbolize in death. It was an honor that either of them would have been proud to bear.

Fleshing out Mona was a little more difficult, because they really didn't understand her. Not that it mattered all that much. Wrongheadedness had held the public center stage long enough; it didn't need to be lovingly spelled out again.

But if the power of her conversion was to come across on the screen, it was important that they make her at least marginally deserving of respect. Giving the opposition credit for anything beyond a certain animal cunning was always a problem. It was much easier to simplify, zero in on their faults.

"Well, Lisa seemed to like her," Susan said, acknowledging her glass of Chablis with a terse and joyless sip.

"I think the reasons are obvious," Paula stated. "It was a matter of infatuation. Lisa never quite outgrew the male concept of feminine beauty. You know how slavish she was about her looks�"

Paula had a point that she was circling in on, vulturelike. She never quite got to make it.

Because the pain hit.

And the world went mad.

And the whirlpooling nightmare sucked them in.

The two women screamed, very nearly in unison. The wine bottle slipped from Susan's fingers and exploded against the floorboards. Paula doubled up in her seat. Susan did much the same, but she was crashing to her knees in the process

In the first quarter of human development that follows conception, the sexes are exactly alike. They store the same organs, the same primordial sex glands. If a person's sexual politics were determined at that point, there would be no war. There would be no other side.

But somewhere in the neighborhood of the eighteenth week, the crafty male supremist Y chromosome imposes itself on slightly less than half of the fetus population.

That early in the person's development, the transition to maleness is both natural and painless.

Undergone some thirty years later, it's another story entirely.

Bones creaked and shrieked and ground against each other: broadening shoulders, narrowing hips. Breasts receded and sprouted hair. Hormones mutated. Cells went berserk.

Both of them were on the floor now, writhing and howling with voices that steadily deepened in pitch. For Paula Levin, the anguish of her rebelling physiology was nothing compared to the anguish of her mind. A different kind of conception had taken place there: an embryonic lunacy that would grow and grow and grow.

Just as something else was growing, in the battlefield between her thighs.

Her enemy was growing there.

And, dear God, it was enormous.


"Hey, buddy!" yelled the voice from far away. "You want out here or what?"

It took Billy a minute to claw his way back to the surface. For one thing, he was in something very much like a trance; for another, he was having a blast there. The visuals from his private screening room's vantage, were not to be believed.

But he realized that the cab had stopped, and that the cabbie was getting impatient. It's alright, he told himself. Now that the girls are big strong men, I'm sure they can take care of themselves.

He paid the cabbie and got out. The cab wheeled away, and Billy turned to face the darkness of East Thirteenth Street. He could feel the adrenaline pumping now, and it was the most wonderful feeling in the world.

"Look out, Stanley, cuz here I come," he announced. "Gonna send yon to a far better place."

The night, ever tactful, let him go on believing it.

�1987 John Skipp & Craig Spector. All rights reserved. Used with permission of the authors.

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