If you're in the mood for some light reading, may I suggest the adventures of Leo Persky, reporter for the World Weekly (ahem!) News, with a nose for supernatural and out-of-this-world news and a penchant for trouble. The Devil and Leo Persky collects six short stories starring Leo and a new novella that takes Leo to Hell!
Check out an excerpt from "The Case of the Missing Alien Baby Momma," Leo's run-in with the extraterrestrial answer to the Kardashians. There's even a link to order the book at the other end!
The Case of the Missing Alien Baby Mama
The first thing you’ve got to know is that while I write like a “Terrence Strange,” I look like a Leo Persky. Which makes sense since I am Leo Persky. Strange is my penname, as well as a bit of a family legacy. I’m an investigative reporter for World Weekly News, which also makes “strange” my profession. Just like my granddaddy before me. (My daddy, between us, was an appliance salesman for Sears). Granddaddy was the first Persky to go by Terrence Strange for professional reasons – some to do with public relations, others with anti-Semitism; the name on his Russian birth certificate was Jacob Persky.
I’m everything you think a Leo Persky might be. A solid five foot seven, 142 pounds of average, complete with glasses, too much nose, not enough chin, and a spreading bald spot that I swear isn’t the reason I always wear a hat. Just so you know how cruel genetics can be, Jacob, the Terrence Strange I should have been, was ten inches taller and eighty pounds heavier than me, movie star handsome, and a world-renowned traveler and adventurer. I’m also a traveler and adventurer, but since I’m short, scrawny, and ugly (traits acquired from my mother’s side), nobody knows who the hell Leo Persky is. Even the photo that I use at the top of my column is a 1943 Hollywood publicity shot of my grandfather. It was my editor’s idea to replace my face with someone else’s, as he felt my real one would “probably repulse even our readers.”
If you’ve never seen World Weekly News you’ve probably never been in a supermarket checkout line. Of course, if you’re like most Americans, even if you have flipped through our photo-packed black-and-white tabloid pages, you’ve probably dismissed the stories about extra-terrestrial visitors or the descendants of the Titanic still living in the wreck of the great ship as “fake news,” but—surprise! —every word we print is true. Except for the horoscope. We just make that stuff up.
Anyway, I’m a hard news guy. Remember the animal-vampire infestation in West Virginia? My story. The plot to replace the members of the Blue Man Group with renegade Holy Mimes from Venus? Mine! The story about the president’s dependence on orangutan gland-extract injections? Me! Which is why when night editor Rob Berger summoned me into his den to hand me my next assignment, I felt compelled to remind him:
“I’m a hard news guy, Rob.”
Rob was night editor for two reasons. The first was that he was likely some sort of vampiric life form unable to survive the cleansing light of the sun. The second was no one on the day side would work with him. Some of my colleagues argued that he only kept me alive to prolong my torment, but for all his lack of humanity, he was one hell of an editor. Me being his top writer, it was lucky for us both that I was made of sterner stuff and didn’t frighten easily.
“You’re my shoeshine boy if that’s what I want you to be, Persky.” Rob wore thick glasses that distorted his eyes behind the lenses, but after more than twenty years under his thumb...pardon me, in his employ, I had learned to read every inflection of his voice. Right now, he was giving serious thought to having his shoes shined. With my tongue.
“C’mon, boss, ‘Kh’leesberg’ is a gossip column story. Alien crash lands on Earth, alien meets trailer trash gal with stars in her eyes, alien and gal hatch human-alien hybrid brat, alien loses gal, Dr. Phil sprouts wood anticipating the happy family’s reunion on live TV.”
“Frankly, my anticipation of your delivering a hard news Kh’leesberg headline to hike our circ is making me feel a little amorous myself.”
I recoiled and had to swallow down my rising gorge before I could say, “Oh, ick.”
“Don’t be a damned snob. You know why we care about Kh’leesberg?”
“No, why do we care about Kh’leesberg?”
“We don’t give a good goddamn about Kh’leesberg,” he shouted across the desk. “But the people who buy this newspaper do care about Kh’leesberg, so we’ve got to care even though we don’t care.”
“Is it okay if I take a second to parse that thought?”
“No time. As usual, I’m guessing you haven’t been paying attention to the news.”
“None that includes such terms as, say, Kh’leesberg or Kardashian, no.”
“How about murder?”
That got my attention.
“Kh’leesberg” was the cutesy tabloid mash-up name given the romantic duo of the alien Kh’nodb from Kn’otnerus (in the spiral galaxy Messier 81—aka Bode’s Galaxy—about eleven point eight light-years from Earth in the constellation Ursa Major) and the self-described beauty queen, reality star wannabe Danielle Von Kleesberg from the town of Crotchet Falls, about 222 miles southwest of Toledo in the state of Ohio.
Ms. Von Kleesberg and Kh’nodb met in the office of their shared agent, Bud “Speedy” Potter and found that most rare thing, love at first sight. Well, that was the way Speedy told it at the press conference. My guess would be that the first time he saw them together in his waiting room, the crafty old fart had a brainstorm: The Alien and the Beauty Queen. Although if the truth be told, the nearest Ms. Von Kleesberg had ever come to any sort of royalty was in her job at the Crotchet Falls Dairy Queen.
“Sold,” I said. “Where’s the corpus delicti?”
“It just got called in ten minutes ago, in Brooklyn. Williamsburg.”
I made a face. “Crap. I hate Williamsburg. If my mother didn’t live there, I’d call for its erasure from the map.”
“Yeah? What do you hate most?” he said with a wicked grin, already knowing the answer and, as unusual, enjoying my unhappiness. “Is it the alt-rock cultists you stopped from taking over the city with their Satanic verses? Or maybe the vampires you switched those Red Cross blood shipments with sheep’s blood on? Oh, could it be the guy whose dimensional portal you shut down with him stuck halfway through it? No, no, wait...”
“It’s worse than that and you know it,” I snapped. “It’s the damned hipsters and their man-buns.”
By coincidence my old friend Sgt. Mike Payne in Homicide had caught the Kh’nodb case. Of course, when I say, “old friend,” I might be exaggerating a bit. Not on the old part; Payne's been pounding a beat since the Empire State Building was a three-story walk-up. But calling us friends was pushing it.
“Get outta my face before I gouge your eyes out and use your head for a bowling ball, Persky,” the old bull snarled as he caught sight of me ducking under the yellow police tape blocking the way into the old warehouse that had been converted some years ago into Stacked, a high-end topless nightclub.
“Good to see you too, Payne.”
“What do you want?” he growled, knowing there were too many witnesses around for him to get away with shooting me.
“Hm, you’re a cop, I’m a reporter, and there’s a dead alien inside.” I tapped my chin with a finger. “Can’t imagine what I’d want.”
The grizzled old cop spat on the ground, missing my left shoe by an inch, then looked at me with the deadeye.
“Who said what?”
“That there’s a dead alien inside.”
“Only the lunatics reading your rag believe in aliens. That’s NYPD policy.”
“Yeah,” I said, “but we know...” but Payne cut me off with, “I only know what I’m told to know. And you’ll know what I’ve been told at the same time I tell the rest of the press.”
The door of the club opened, and a uniformed cop stuck his head out and called his name. Payne turned on his heel and left me standing by myself. I tried once more, calling out his name, but he just raised his hand and waved good-bye. Being a man of few words, he waved just the one finger.
I hovered around the fringes of the crime scene, picking up the small talk from cops and reporters. It was sounding like the official story was going to be that a busboy had been killed in an altercation with an unidentified customer. The police were following up on several leads, the name of the victim was being withheld pending notification of his next of kin, yada yada yada. They would just let the investigation drag on until the mainstream press got bored and forgot about it.
Payne had spread the word among his men to freeze me out, so I did what any self-respecting reporter would do. I went away.
But not far. Just around the block, in fact. The attention was all on the building’s front entrance, but it had originally been a warehouse, and warehouses meant a lot of holes in the perimeter for loading docks and doors. If this had been an actual police investigation, the cops and CSIs would have been crawling all over the place, front to back. They loved to bag and tag stuff and run tests. They could walk in on the murderer as he pulled the trigger in front of a full house in Yankee Stadium and they’d still collect every last cigarette butt at the scene for evidence, just in case.
But the alley behind the warehouse was deserted. Nightlights glowed over the empty loading bays and closed doors. Payne hadn’t even bothered to post a cop there to shoo away snoopers like me.
The doors were heavy duty, faced with steel and secured with chunky industrial hardware and locks. They were stenciled with “No Entry” signs, and what’s more, they were actually locked. But being an ex-smoker, I knew that a sign was no barrier to anyone wanting to grab a cigarette without the hassle of leaving the club and coming back in through the front door.
And, sure enough, I found a puddle of cigarette, cigar, and blunt butts outside a propped open door two-thirds the way along, near the dumpsters.
The door lead into a service corridor, walls painted black and illuminated by a few low wattage fixtures and the red glow of the “Fire Exit” sign over the door. I crept on cat’s feet along the sticky, beer scented carpet, pausing to peer around the bend to check the way ahead. Another black-painted corridor, this one broken by a bathroom and what appeared to be utility closet doors. There was no one in sight, but I could hear voices echoing hollowly in the large empty space beyond this hallway.
By the time I was close enough to make out what the voices were saying, I was also pretty close to the speakers. I recognized Payne’s soothing tones as he barked at his cops, “Yeah, I said all of you. Outside. Now.”
I slipped off my hat and slowly edged my right eye around the doorway. Payne was a dozen feet away, his back to me, standing next to the lifeless Kh’nodb. The late reality star from the stars was half-sprawled on a leatherette banquet seat in the V.I.P. lounge, his big black eyes staring off into nothing and his usually hearty baby blue complexion a sickly gray. His lean seven-foot frame was clad in cargo pants, a pair of Phillip Crepe lace-ups, and a blue checkered flannel shirt open over a black band t-shirt. I couldn’t tell you which band, because most of the logo was gone, having disappeared along with a perfect five-inch circle punched through his chest. And to make matters worse, a third of his big, bulbous head had been cleanly sheared off at a 35-degree angle.
An altercation between a customer and an undocumented alien busboy my pale tuchus!
Payne was watching the cops clear the room, giving me a few minutes to make my observations and pull out my smartphone. While I was fiddling with it, I caught the sounds of a new arrival. Correction. Arrivals. Two of them. I guessed they had arrived through one of the other back doors. I couldn’t risk a look around the doorway, so I set the camera for video, hit “record,” and slid my phone just far enough past the door jamb to give the phone’s lens a clear shot.
“This him?” one of the newcomers said.
Payne didn’t respond. I imagined he was just staring at the guy.
Newcomer number one realized he was a schmuck and cleared his throat, so newcomer number two, a woman, took up the slack. “Witnesses?”
“We’re holding eight eyewitnesses. And three others who tried to give him medical aid. Everybody else started running as soon as the blasting began. Someone got off a few shots, but we haven’t found a gun and don’t know if they hit anything. But the gunfire makes for a good cover story about the busboy.”
“And your men?”
“They’ll keep their mouths shut. I told them it was a national security matter.”
“You may not be wrong, detective. Suspects?”
“Just one. The Von Kleesberg girl. She and Kh’nodb were seen arguing just before the shooting. They lost track of her in the panic, but I’ve got units out looking for her.”
“Did you recover the weapon?” Payne must have replied with a negative shake of his head because the woman said, “Okay, so little Miss Ohio could be packing a Kn’otnerus disintegrator.”
“Unless someone else picked it up in the confusion,” the schmuck said.
“Let’s hope not,” the woman said. “Alright. We’ve got an unmarked van waiting in the loading dock. We’re taking Kh’nodb. And there’s a team en route to scan the club for any abnormalities, so keep everybody out of here until they run their tests.”
“What kind of abnormalities?” Payne said in a voice I would not describe as pleased.
“Radiation. Unknown toxins,” the other guy said. “We don’t know what leaks out when you poke holes in one of these guys.”
“Should we be standing so close?” Payne said.
“Like I said, damned if we know.”
I decided I’d heard enough. Exposure to radiation and alien toxins aside, Stacked would soon be crawling with technicians. I didn’t want to be one of the little germs they scraped up when they got here.
Continued in THE DEVIL AND LEO PERSKY... available by clicking below!