When arson claimed the sixth Krispy Krème in Atlanta, Detective Spears took it as a personal affront. Tall, thin, and twitchy, Spear’s main source of fuel was caffeine and sugar, and the donut shop was his favorite place to refuel and indulge. There was always something hot coming out of the kitchen, and the irresistible aroma of warm sugar and hot chocolate washed him with sticky fingers. He even liked the manly heft of the thick mugs, and the way the waitress had to visit his stool multiple times to refill his shallow cup.
There was only one KK left in a twenty mile radius of his station, and he intended to keep it safe. He had convinced the store manager into letting him moonlight as a security guard at the last store still standing, but he would have probably been sitting inside the store with his back against the wall, even if he wasn’t getting paid for it. Each time a store burned, one employee disappeared along with all of the cash in the register, and that made it a high profile case.
The cooks clocked-out at six, and by midnight the customers had faded away, until there was only two apron-clad waitresses and Spears left in the store. Flo and Maxine pampered him shamelessly, while the three of them stumbled through the graveyard shift, pretending that it was just another Wednesday night.
Midnight was the magic hour for the perpetrator to strike, and Spears kept his right hand under the counter with his thumb resting on the safety of his Colt 45. His coffee had grown cold, but it didn’t matter. It was just a prop now.
As the hands on the clock moved toward the half hour, Flo and Maxine moved to the far end of the counter and looked out the big plate glass window, toward the road and the shuttle of cars lighting up the street. They were holding hands and whispering to each other, as if they could sense some danger. Detective Spears scanned the parking lot, but there were no cars or pedestrians crossing the black asphalt, and the back door was doubled locked; he had checked it himself, twice.
Something popped in the kitchen and a gush of hot air flung the double doors open. Fire rolled under the countertop and licked at Spears’ pants—almost, as if the flames were seeking him out. Flo and Maxine screamed in unison and scrambled for the front door. They were moving torches, and the scent of burnt hair filled the air. Spears jumped to his feet, and flipped the safety on his gun, but he knew that he had already failed in his mission. Fire soared over his chest, parted under his chin, and licked at his eyeballs. Instinctively, he closed his eyes, pummeled his chest with flat palms, and gasped. Heat snaked down his windpipe, filling his lungs and belly with smoke. It happened as fast as the pop of a flash bulb; too fast for his brain to cope. He reached for the Colt, but it fell from his hand, taking three blackened fingers with it. Then the fire vanished as quickly as it had appeared.
Flo and Maxine never made it. He could see two black, motionless lumps near the door. He tried to walk toward them, but stumbled and fell. His right leg was gone. Where did it go, he wondered, and shouldn’t he be screaming in pain by now?
Something crunched behind him. He tried to turn his head, but the muscles in his neck were too taut to turn, so he hopped on his left foot until he could see what was behind him.
He had never seen a ghoul before, but he had no doubt that he was looking at one now. Green skin splotched with purple freckles over a wide flat nose rotting at the tip, yellow talons on extra long fingers, and sharp teeth—the teeth were digging into Spears’ missing leg, snapping muscle from bone.
The ghoul looked up, smiled, and winked at him. He ran a blue tongue over his white fangs, snapped off one of Spears’ toes, and dipped it in Spears’ coffee.
“I cannot believe that you’re still standing. That’s so awesome,” the ghoul said. “I got this sweet tooth, and this is my favorite sweet shop.” The ghoul smacked his lips.
Spears opened his mouth. “Arrrk. Arrk,” was all that he could manage.
“Yeah? It’s usually like that,” the ghoul said. “Hmm, you’re so delicious. Where do they keep the chocolate syrup?”