Fantasticoe -- Fall 2011
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"Marco Polo"
by Rebecca Scheckel



“Marco…”
    Peter awoke with a start.  Somebody was in his house.  Swinging his legs over the side of the bed, he listened.  He heard nothing—it was dead quiet.  Maybe he had imagined it.  The old house could get spooky at night, and he had always been prone to vivid dreams.
    Convinced he was alone, Peter laid back and closed his eyes, quickly drifting into a dreamless sleep.  The next noise that woke him was the persistent screech of his alarm clock, warning him not to be late for work again.
    A quick shower and a cup of coffee later, Peter was cruising down the street in his tricked out Buick LeSabre.  The rims glistened, glaring at the other, more inadequate cars.  The fuzzy dice dangled from the rearview mirror, dancing with every bump in the road.  Peter was riding in style; in the car his uncle gave him when the driver’s door fell off of his much-abused Jeep.  The average age of a LeSabre owner was 65, but Peter didn’t really have a choice, not with his meager salary.
    Peter guided the beastly car to the curb in front of Tony’s Bar and Grill and put the refrigerator on wheels in park.  Three minutes to spare.  His boss would be proud.
    Peter pushed open the door to the small restaurant and squeezed past the growing line.  Taking a deep breath of the grease-saturated air, Peter groaned at the full dining area.  All of the twelve tables were taken, and there was barely enough room to breathe.  Sometimes, Peter wished Tony would expand the place—it was really only big enough to be a take-out joint, but the hungry customers never seemed to agree.  They wanted to be able to sit down and eat.
“Pete!  Get behind the counter!  Shelly called in sick,” Peter’s boss, Tony, commanded. He was all over the place, trying to take orders, serve food, and cash out the checks.
    “Sure thing, man,” Peter said, sliding behind the cash register.  “What can I get for you, sir?”
    The man stood there, biting his right thumb nail and staring at Peter. Peter was paying more attention to the growing line than to the man standing in front of him.
    “How can I help you?” Peter asked.  He gave his full attention to the man in front of him and quickly found himself mesmerized by his eyes.  They were like nothing he’d ever seen before.  One was green, and the other blue.
    “Marco…”
    “Excuse me?” Peter asked, rubbing his forehead.  He could’ve sworn it was the same voice he heard last night.
    “Marco…”
    “Seriously dude, you’re holding up the line.  Either tell me what you want, or get out of the way so the paying customers can order.”
    “When I say ‘Marco,’ you say ‘Polo.’  MARCO!”
    “Hey Tony!  We’ve got a little problem here!” Peter yelled.
    “What’s wrong now, Pete?  Forget how to work the register again?” Tony asked.
    “When I say ‘Marco,’ you say ‘Polo.’  MARCO!”
    “Is there anything I can get for you?” Tony asked. 
    “When I say ‘Marco,’ you say ‘Polo.’  MARCO!”
    “Polo?” Tony responded, scratching his head.
    “Not you!  Him!” Marco said, pointing at Peter.  “When I say ‘Marco,’ you say ‘Polo.’  MARCO!”
    “No way!” Peter said, fidgeting.
    “NOW!  When I say ‘Marco,’ you say ‘Polo.’ MARCO!”
    “Just do it, Pete!  He’s holding up the paying customers!” Tony hissed.
    “Fine.  Polo.”
    “You’re a weakling.  Now do it right!  When I say ‘Marco,’ you say ‘Polo.’  MARCO!”
    “Polo!” Peter said with slightly more enthusiasm.
    “Better,” Marco said, turning from the counter and walking out the door.
    “What was that guy’s problem?” Tony asked.
    “I have no idea.”
***

    Peter was dog-tired by the time his shift ended.  He got in the LeSabre and drove home.  Peter pulled into the tiny driveway that barely had room for a normal sized car.  He had to be careful not to hit the garbage cans sitting next to the house.  He got out of the car and started for the front door when he heard a clunk.  It was coming from the Buick.  With a groan, Peter turned around and started back to the car.  Before he could reach it, he heard another clunk.  That’s weird, Peter thought, it sounds like it’s coming from the trunk.  Convinced some small animal had somehow gotten into it, Peter popped the trunk open.  Lifting the lid, he saw one green eye and one blue eye staring up at him.
    “When I say ‘Marco,’ you say ‘Polo.’  MARCO!”  Peter didn’t get a chance to respond.  Marco shoved a cloth over his mouth and nose.  Within seconds, everything went black. 
***
    Peter awoke with a start, hitting his head on the trunk lid.  He had no idea where he was, or how he’d gotten there.  He began to panic, clawing at the sides of the trunk, not thinking to call for help.  All he could think about was getting out.
    “Shut up!” Marco screamed, silencing Peter’s struggles.  Suddenly Peter knew exactly where he was and what was going to happen to him.  He felt his heart sink when the car turned onto an impossibly bumpy road.  He’d spent enough time in the country to know Marco was taking him somewhere nobody would find him.

***

    “Have you seen this?” Tony asked from behind the bar.  The restaurant was mostly empty, not unusual for thirty minutes after it opened.
    “What now?  Another alien spotting?” Shelly asked.  Tony was reading the tabloids again, and he always insisted that everything in them was always true.
    “No.  This is about some crazy serial killer.  This article supposedly has an interview with him.  It’s ridiculous that the cops don’t pay more attention to the news.”
    “Tony, Tony, Tony.  How many times do I have to tell you that that’s all fake?”
    “Wait a second, Shelly.  This guy looks familiar,” Tony responded, completely ignoring the waitress’ comment.
    “Never seen him in my life,” Shelly said.  She glanced over Tony’s shoulder and studied the picture for a moment.
    “That’s probably because you called in sick.  I swear, this is the crazy dude that kept wanting Pete to play ‘Marco, Polo’ with him yesterday.”
    “Have you been drinking again?” Shelly asked.
    “No, I’m dead serious,” Tony said, the color draining from his face.  “And Pete sure is late today.”
    “Isn’t he always?”
    “Yeah, but he’s never this late.  Plus, he usually calls.  I’m going to call the police,” Tony said, reaching for the phone.
    “Why?  So you can tell them you think a ‘serial killer’ that you read about in the Enquirer kidnapped one of your employees?  Pete probably just had a little too much to drink and didn’t feel like getting up this morning,” Shelly said.

***

    A crow perched on a branch, surveying the scene below him.  The trees were thick, but the car had left a trail.  It could be fairly easily seen from the small dirt road that the farmers used to avoid the main highway.  Earlier that day, the car had just sat there, but now it was surrounded by crime scene technicians and police officers.
    “I think I’m gonna be sick,” Officer Jenkins said, clenching his stomach.
    “Well, go be sick somewhere else,” Detective Adams said.  He couldn’t stand being saddled with a damn rookie.
    “No, I’m OK.  I swear.  It was just the smell, you know?  It’s just really strong and…” Jenkins slapped his hand over his mouth and ran over to a bush. 
    “Do we have an I.D.?” Adams asked the forensics guy.
    “Yeah, Marco DeNali.  We’ll have to run prints to be sure, but I’d say it’s him.”
    “How can you tell?” Adams grimaced, taking in the mangled remains.
    “He has a medical I.D. bracelet with his name on it.  Allergic to shellfish and penicillin.”
    “We got the owner of the car,” Jenkins said from behind the crime scene tape.  He wasn’t getting any closer to the body than he had to.
    “And?” Adams asked.
    “Peter Papadopoulos.  Supposedly his boss called in and said he didn’t show up for work.  He was convinced that some serial killer got to him.”
    “More like he got to killing,” Adams muttered.
    “What sir?”
    “Nothing, Jenkins.”

***

    A beat-up Toyota pulled up in front of a small diner in western Arkansas.  The driver cracked each of his knuckles before getting out and walking up to the door.  He looked around the restaurant, noticing how empty it was.  He walked up to the counter and sat down, waiting for the waiter to help him.
    “What can I get for you, sir?” the waiter asked, stopping in front of the new arrival.
    “When I say ‘Marco,’ you say ‘Polo.’  ‘MARCO!’” the man responded, staring at the waiter. 
    “What?” the waiter asked, looking up from his notepad.  He stared, mesmerized at the man’s different colored eyes—one blue and one green.  You don’t see that every day, the waiter thought to himself.
    “When I say ‘Marco,’ you say ‘Polo.’  ‘MARCO!’”  Peter said, continuing to stare at the waiter with his lifeless blue and green eyes.