The End of Days - New Orleans

Submitted into Contest #85 in response to: Start your story with the line, “That’s the thing about this city…”... view prompt

58 comments

Crime Thriller American

“That’s the thing about this city,” said Detective McMurtagh. “It’s impossible to discern what is real—or just a Mardi Gras illusion.”

Maretha shook her head. “I just don’t like the South in general. Voodoo. Fried foods. And that peculiar institution left its stink on everything. The New Orleans slave pens trafficked more people than anywhere else in America—combined. This city is cursed.” 

She looked out the car window. To no one’s surprise, it was raining. They drove silently from the airport to the downtown hotel where the FBI awaited them with the boy. 

“How did you end up in Arizona?” McMurtagh asked Maretha, navigating the rental car down the narrow pockmarked roads with great care. Road maintenance didn’t appear to be a Louisiana concern. 

“Some distant relative was a Buffalo Soldier,” she said with pride. “Stationed at Fort Huachuca. We’ve been in Eastlake Park for generations. I love Phoenix,” she said, eyeing the colorful street characters of the French Quarter. A hipster in full Beau Brummell attire played the xylophone to a small crowd's delight. A tiny blonde dressed as Tinkerbell was drinking a hurricane and swearing at the man in front of her. Halloween was six months away.

“So your family has always been in public service,” McMurtagh remarked.

“In one way or another. Police officers, nurses, teachers . . .” she waved her hand, dismissively. “We’ve always been suckers.” 

McMurtagh and Maretha both laughed. Though they’d worked with each other for over a decade, this was their first trip on a case out of state—a very disturbing case that grew darker week by week.

“How did you end up working for CPS?” McMurtagh asked, always the detective. 

“No one works for Children Protective Services, McMurtagh. It’s a calling.”

“A calling from God?”

“A calling from somebody . . .” Maretha looked out the window as a pack of teenage gutter punks loudly walked by. Several had extreme body modifications. One young man saw her staring at him. In response, he darted his split tongue at her, laughing at her nonreaction. 

In her line of work, she’d seen worse. Much worse.

“Lord have mercy,” she muttered. “Makes me glad I never had any children of my own.” 

McMurtagh flashed both his badge and steely eyed look at the eclectic group. The gutter punks understood him well enough and quickly evanesced. 

“What about you, McMurtagh? How’d an Irishman make it all the way to the White Mountains of Navajo Country?”

“The Irish are everywhere,” he said, pulling into the parking garage for the Hilton New Orleans Riverside. The Feds certainly don’t skimp on accommodations, he thought. 

The hotel’s elegance belied what they had been summoned for. McMurtagh wondered again for the dozenth time why he wasn’t questioning the boy in a police station. The Hilton was a place for conventioneers to discuss new computerized widgets for business, not interviewing an adolescent apocalyptic psychopath.


McMurtagh sat alone in one of the Hilton’s conference rooms. Agents were on either side of the door. He had been briefed and prepared himself to confront a teenager accused of unspeakable crimes. McMurtagh flipped through the crime scene photos, allowing himself to feel sickened at the creative criminality and complete disregard for human life. The pictures were similar to a case file sitting on his desk labeled Malachi. 

After waiting an inordinate amount of time, another FBI agent silently walked in with a handcuffed young man, his upper lip covered in peach fuzz, eyes darting around the room. 

“Who are you?” the boy asked with authority, his voice still unbroken and painfully young. 

“Marty, I’m Detective McMurtagh,” he began. “I am going to record our conversation. Do you understand?”

“Please, detective. I have a new name. Please call me Mortimer. Malachi said you cannot put new wine into old bottles,” the boy replied with such grace and dignity that it gave McMurtagh pause. This boy should be playing video games with his friends, not answering to wholesale butchery of several middle aged women.

“Fine, Mortimer. May I record our conversation?” 

“Malachi said you would come,” Mortimer smiled. “You are numbered with perfection. He said that once he killed The False Twelve and The False Six that you would join us at the place of waters.”

“Mortimer, where is Malachi?”

“Malachi is preparing the way of our Lord,” the youth replied, eyes glistening with fervor. “He is assembling his twelve disciplines. I will be consecrated when I turn twelve next month.” Mortimer scratched his ear, scarred from gages and other piercings. His skin was wan and eyes yellowed, probably from hepatitis A. His eyes were world weary behind the religious façade he had recently adopted. He won’t live past his teens, McMurtagh thought.

“When did Malachi give you your new name?” McMurtagh asked. 

“Last week after the French Quarter Festival,” Mortimer replied. “We were asking for alms to get some beignets, and he said the Mississippi River was cursed. Malachi said I was the new Dead Sea.”

“Now I understand your new name, Mortimer. Mort is French for death. Mer for sea.”

“Yes! Malachi said you were clever. Malachi explained that I am a sign of the times. When I came to life, almost twelve years ago—just like Malachi, we were sent to usher in a new millennium. He taught me about Ezekiel’s prophecies about the Dead Sea. The Bible foretold me!”

“Where is Malachi, Mortimer?”

“I told you. He is preparing the way for our Lord. Malachi taught me how the Whores of Babylon have to be sacrificed.” 

McMurtagh made some notes. “Tell me about the new Twelve.”

“We are not all twelve yet, but Malachi is reforming the twelve apostles so we will be ready when the Lord comes.” He leaned in, to confide with McMurtagh in heartfelt tones. “Detective, there is so much work to do, but we have begun. We are finding all of the Whores of Babylon.” Mortimer said, trying to be helpful. “There are so many.”

“When will you see Malachi for more teaching?”

“We meet at The Twelve to learn and to talk about how the work is coming.”

McMurtagh paused and tapped on his iPhone. 

“Who are the other twelve apostles, Mortimer?”

“Malachi has not found them all. Peter is the rock. Matthew. James. Me.”

“Where do you meet?”

“We meet together with the son of Odysseus as the day ends to the Lord.”  

“The son of Odysseus?” McMurtagh looked at Mortimer quizzically. He tapped on his iPhone again. He stood up and opened the door. “Agent?” 

The silent agent entered, looking at Mortimer, then McMurtagh.

“Malachi will be at the Twelve Mile Limit bar on 500 Telemachus Street about sunset. He will be with four to five youths about twelve years of age. They’ll probably be around the back.”

The silent agent nodded his assent and disappeared.   

McMurtagh turned to see Mortimer breathing heavily, anger enlivening his deadened eyes. 

“You tricked me.”

“Mortimer, some people will come to take you to Children Protective Services. You have been misled,” McMurtagh said. 

“I have betrayed the prophet,” Mortimer cried, putting his head into his hands. “Like a blindman, I was led astray.” 

“Mortimer, we are going to have people help you—”

“No one can help me now. I have offended the prophet. Malachi will cast me out!” he wailed.

“Mortimer—”

“I will not see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. I will spend the end of days with weeping and gnashing of teeth,” he sobbed, unconsolably. 

“Mortimer—”

“I was blind, but now I see! And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee!” Mortimer screamed, his shrill voice echoing in the small conference room. “That thy whole body should be cast into hell!”

With that, Mortimer dug his hands into his sockets, gouging out his eyeballs, offering them to McMurtagh as a sacrifice. 


March 17, 2021 01:53

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

58 comments

Zilla Babbitt
20:37 Mar 17, 2021

My favorite part is the tone, the very dry matter of fact American tone. I'm not confident you can gouge out eyeballs with just your hands, I think you need a tool at least. Thank you for that horrible picture 😬

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
21:14 Mar 17, 2021

Dry tone with a shot of bourbon... On drugs (especially bath salts, a favorite of gutter punks), eyeballs can be plucked. Definitely a shout out to Samson in Judges 16:21...what else do Philistines do for fun? Also: Though gouging out one’s own eyes—known technically as self-enucleation—is a rare occurrence, there have been at least 50 documented cases in medical journals over the last half-century, according to the British Journal of Ophthalmology. Along with Kaylee Muthart, a recent high-profile instance of self-enucleation occurred in...

Reply

Zilla Babbitt
22:08 Mar 17, 2021

Aagh you made it worse!

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
22:27 Mar 17, 2021

Mwah ha ha

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Scout Tahoe
18:08 Mar 17, 2021

Dear leprechaun, D. I don’t know how you come up with the religious backstory of the cult. Congrats, this is thrilling.

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
18:46 Mar 17, 2021

The sequel was even more fun to write ☠️ Hooray for crazy teenagers and their homocidal tendencies!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Julie Ward
17:09 Mar 20, 2021

When I saw that Malachi was back, I knew this one was gonna be good. First of all I love Maretha. I want to hear more about her. You've got enough troubled youth in just this story to keep her busy for a long time. And Malachai/Mortimer. So much double entendre, so much confusing, meandering language. He's quite the psychopath. Love the deep, twisted Biblical dive. I'm thoroughly creeped out. Which is a good thing.

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
17:46 Mar 20, 2021

You’re welcome for the creepery. I had far too much fun writing this—not sure what that says about me. Malachi may need a longer work as he has so much work to do (creeping people out). Maretha needs a backstory, too. Hate to leave her character undeveloped. Thanks so much for your amazing support ❤️

Reply

Julie Ward
19:05 Mar 20, 2021

I love your stories. And I can tell you had fun with this one. Maretha already has the beginnings of a backstory - you've got a good start here. As for Malachi, he's already down that David Koresh path (or maybe Dr. Hannibal Lecter...) I'm so curious to see what's going to happen next.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Valerie June
21:43 Mar 19, 2021

That ending was just very disturbing and creepy, I'm so glad that I read this in the afternoon and not during the night. Just thinking about it gives me the creeps... Anyway, enough of my rambling. I loved how the suspense was slowly built and for what McMurtagh has to put up with, he deserves a huge salary! Secondly, I love how this story was written in New Orleans. I've actually lived in the French Quarter for about two years and it's like living in a different country. It's crazy how people there dress up and party whenever there's a sma...

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
22:53 Mar 19, 2021

We lived in New Orleans for three years right on St. Charles. Great food. Great people. No societal structure or functional government. How the lights turn on or anything gets done down there is a mystery to me.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
K. Antonio
15:12 Mar 18, 2021

I see a crime series just surging out of these stories. What a fun read!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Amanda Fox
19:34 Mar 17, 2021

Poor McMurtagh has been through a lot with these kids. What was Maretha up to while McM was off interviewing Mortimer? I hope no one mistakes her for a whore of Babylon...

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
20:03 Mar 17, 2021

Maretha, I’m sure, was doing paperwork...waiting to process these rabid acolytes into the system. My favorite comment suggested a confrontation between Jax & Jillian vs. Malachi and his apostles. Hard to pick a winner there...haha

Reply

Amanda Fox
22:23 Mar 17, 2021

I saw that! The idea of Jax vs Malachi in a battle of words is delightful.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Christina Marie
19:24 Mar 17, 2021

Incredible! Deidra - this is amazing. Every bit of it start to finish had wonderful detail. The setting and the characters were so well crafted. Such great work.

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
19:59 Mar 17, 2021

Huzzah 🎉 It’s always fun to write crazy. Thank you for your kind remarks 😜

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Holly Fister
12:32 Mar 17, 2021

This is a great sequel, Deidra! And New Orleans was the perfect setting for the crazies to fulfill their prophesies. I’m just wondering why on earth they would let Malachi out?!?! Or did he escape?

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
12:40 Mar 17, 2021

Malachi killed “The Six” FBI agents and did what all troubled teenagers do: runaway to New Orleans...(I lived there for three years. Oy vey!) Thanks for the support. I think I may do 12 stories on our little psycho. A vast departure from my Jax & Jillian silliness 🥸

Reply

Holly Fister
12:49 Mar 17, 2021

Gotcha! Jax and Jillian are fun but this is gripping! Maybe you can swap back and forth when you need a change.

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
13:17 Mar 17, 2021

Maybe Jax kills Malachi with some takeout chopsticks in a crossover episode. 😜

Reply

Holly Fister
13:20 Mar 17, 2021

Haha! If anyone could do that it’d be Jax!!

Reply

Holly Fister
14:26 Mar 17, 2021

Oh my gosh, I keep imaging how absurd their conversation would be before their battle. You could totally pull it off! Now I’m crossing my fingers for a crossover.

Reply

Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Zelda C. Thorne
08:25 Mar 17, 2021

Oooo creepy. I enjoyed how the detective worked out Malachi's plan from Mortimers rant. Clever without being too far-fetched. I actually squirmed at the ending, urrrgghhhh!!! Good job!

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
14:24 Mar 17, 2021

I stole the ripping out of eyes from Shakespeare and the Bible, but 99% of stuff comes from those two sources anyway 😜

Reply

Zelda C. Thorne
14:32 Mar 17, 2021

"Good writers borrow, great writers steal" 😄

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
A.G. Scott
02:33 Mar 17, 2021

oOoOoOoOo my god. I want this blown up and directed by Fincher. Devious detail, delicious dialogue, well done, Deidra.

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
02:36 Mar 17, 2021

It’s the sequel to the previous week’s. Creepy teenagers ☠️ are always fun to write.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Leo Fall
18:14 Mar 14, 2022

The training that one goes through to be able to pluck their own eyes. The pain tolerance too! I wonder how far down this path Malachi will go.

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
18:41 Mar 14, 2022

He's a creeper. I have his novel on deck once I finish The Medicine Girl.

Reply

Leo Fall
19:04 Mar 14, 2022

Oh fun. I'll keep an eye out.

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
19:06 Mar 14, 2022

Bhahahhahahahahahahahhah You are my favorite person today.

Reply

Leo Fall
19:11 Mar 14, 2022

Thanks?-

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
19:22 Mar 14, 2022

"I'll keep an out eye" -- the eye plucking scene. You meant that as a pun, right?

Reply

Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Esther Kurisu
15:37 May 27, 2021

Wow. Just wow. This was amazing and a little intense...BUT SO AMAZING!!!

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
15:54 May 27, 2021

I'm thinking of writing this as a novel. Pretty dark, but I do like the characters :)

Reply

Esther Kurisu
16:09 May 27, 2021

I would totally read it though! :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
18:58 May 13, 2021

magnificently terrifying. that last paragraph gave me major shivers. great job. :D.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Phoenix Langston
22:10 Mar 28, 2021

An excellent sequel! New Orleans is a great setting for such craziness, given how the city seems to be crazy as it is (e.g. the drunk, cussing Tinker Bell). I also liked the conversation between McMurtagh and Maretha at the beginning; it seemed to show their chemistry. And, like Zilla said, the tone throughout is very direct and to the point, which I think helps keep readers completely engrossed in the story. And oh my God, that ending! I kind of felt for Mortimer when he was agonizing over betraying the cult. But the mental image of him plu...

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
22:47 Mar 28, 2021

I'm thinking Jax & Jillian take Malachi down.

Reply

Phoenix Langston
22:49 Mar 28, 2021

Jax and Jillian, eh? Guess I'll go read those stories now!

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
23:54 Mar 28, 2021

Completely different tone. COMPLETELY.

Reply

Phoenix Langston
00:07 Mar 29, 2021

It does have a very different tone. But I still loved the first story, and I'm sure I'll love the others when I read them. 😉 I wonder what kind of roast Jax would come up with before killing Malachi. . .

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
00:15 Mar 25, 2021

I thoroughly liked this gritty and tightly-woven piece. I felt like I was reading the beginning of a crime novel. I had a few criticisms, but nothing that really detracted from my enjoyment of the story: Evanesced. Love the word, but used here seemed a little stilted and awkward. I would have used scattered. Rather than eyes darting around the room, I would use gaze or glance darted around the room, although after what Mortimore did at the end, it might actually fit, LOL. Also, I'd replace dug his hands into his sockets with dug his fingers ...

Reply

Show 0 replies
Katina Foster
16:07 Mar 18, 2021

Yes, yes, yes. I need more Malachi. I hope you're going to keep telling these stories. I know that lost and broken kids follow each other, but this Malachi's got to have charisma or something to inspire such devotion. I sorta want to see his recruiting method. Also, I am enjoying the style change up. Your writing is always engaging, and that hasn't changed with the darker subject matter. Very talented, my friend!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Ash Jarvis
00:35 Mar 18, 2021

I loved this installment of the Adventures of Incredibly Creepy Malachi! Kidding aside, I appreciate the fact that although these children are horrifying, McMurtagh is a match for them with his temperament and quick thinking. One suggestion—I would perhaps get us a little more ready for the ‘eyeball incident’ (can’t wait to see what my dreams are like tonight) by giving a graphic detail or two, earlier on, to hint at what Mortimer is capable of. I understand it’s a fine line to walk, because you obviously don’t want to desensitize people t...

Reply

Show 0 replies
13:13 Mar 17, 2021

Mortimer, you had me at Mortimer. Brilliant.

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
13:26 Mar 17, 2021

Thanks! It just came to me. You know how things just kind of burst 💥 into being. I can imagine these characters thrown into some mysterious black van, disappearing into the night.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Aisa M
04:46 Mar 17, 2021

OMG. This is dark but compelling. Really good one.

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
14:56 Mar 17, 2021

Ironically—dark, compelling, and really good is how I like my coffee, my chocolate, and my men. 😉

Reply

Phoenix Langston
22:12 Mar 28, 2021

Oh, wow, this has got to be one of the greatest comments I've ever read! "Dark, compelling, and really good. . ." 😁

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Susannah Meghans
15:55 Mar 16, 2022

Wow! What a sequel to the previous story! The imagery You described as the suspect dug his eyeballs out and offered them to the detective is blazed into my brain!

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
16:04 Mar 16, 2022

I'll write this up after I get the Medicine Girl off to print. :) Malachi has more mischief to unleash!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply