The Little Black Doll

“The Little Black Doll” is from a book I wrote entitled Stories to
Smoke a Pipe by.
I revised the original story and present it
here.

I hope you enjoy it!

Melvin S. Schwartz

The blue Honda Accord pulled up in front of 19 Lorimer Street, and
a short, thin, middle-aged man got out of the car. He stood there and
studied the six-story apartment building.

He decided to enter.

After finding the superintendent’s name on the intercom system,
he pushed the little black button.

“Who’s there?” a woman’s voice crackled through the intercom.

“My name is Harry Rhames. I’m here to see about the three-room
apartment for rent. Is it still available?”

“Yes,” she answered. “When you hear the buzzer, open the door.”

Rhames walked through the lobby, found it quite clean, and neat
looking. Apparently, the building was under careful supervision.

The superintendent’s door opened. A woman of about fifty with
disheveled hair and an old tattered dress looked at Rhames. She rubbed
her nose with the back of her hand, sniffing as she did so, and then
asked gruffly, “Are you, Rhames?”

“Yes,” he said, smiling weakly.

“Come with me,” she said, putting a finger in her nose. “I’ll show
you the apartment.” When she turned to lock the door, he saw the dirty
stains on the seat of her dress.

They walked into the elevator and she pushed the button for the
fourth floor. Rhames looked at her rather curiously and asked, “Are you
the superintendent?”

Her face flashed with anger as she spoke excitedly: “No! My husband
is the superintendent.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”

She stared into his eyes and asked, “Do I look like the
superintendent?”

“Well, no, I only—”

“Forget it!”

As the woman opened the elevator door to the fourth floor, she said
sternly, “Follow me.”

They entered apartment number 4C. Rhames carefully observed all the
rooms.

The woman asked inquisitively, “Well, how do you like the
apartment?”

Rhames looked around the living room. The sofa and chair showed
evidence that a cat had been present: there were scratches in the black
vinyl recliner, and threads dislodged from the mauve and navy colored
fabric that covered the sofa.

He spoke softly: “The furniture is a little worn—”

“Look, mister, this is the furniture that comes with the apartment. It
will be eight hundred dollars a month. I haven’t got all day—do
you want it?”

He looked around the room once more.

The woman folded her arms against her chest and said gruffly, “If
you want something better, why don’t you go to that fancy building on
Glenwood Avenue and pay twelve hundred dollars a month?”

“Twelve hundred?”

“How long have you been looking for an apartment?”

“Almost two weeks now.”

“Well, you’re in for a rude awakening if you think you can find a
better apartment than this for eight hundred a month.”

He thought a moment. “You’re probably right,” he said, fingering his
chin. “I’ll take the apartment.”

Rhames signed the lease agreement and gave her the check. She handed
him the keys and said, “I hope your stay is longer than the others.”

“Are a lot of people moving out of this building?” Rhames asked.

“Not actually this building. It is this apartment. For some strange
reason there’s been a tremendous turnover in this apartment.”

“Why should that be?”

“I haven’t the slightest idea. It isn’t like there were any complaints
about the neighbors or anything. They move in and the next thing you
know they’re gone—disappeared.”

“Disappeared?”

“Yes. Some of these people are just plain crazy. They don’t even give
a damn about the security—they just disappear. For some strange
reason it’s been happening a lot in this apartment.”

She put the check into a pocket and turned to leave. He stared at her
broad back as she walked to the door. She stopped and turned her head
around; then with a sly grin on her face she said, “I hope you like it
here, Mr. Rhames.”

He didn’t say anything. He just stood there and watched her leave
the apartment, and then he got a sickening feeling that he had made a
terrible mistake.

Rhames was smoking a pipe the day he moved into 19 Lorimer Street; it
was a graceful-looking pipe that had a white bar inlaid into the stem.

He brought his suitcases up to apartment 4C. As he turned the key,
the apartment door next to him opened. A man about fifty-five with a very
pale complexion appeared: he had a long nose with a pronounced downward
bend at the front; his eyebrows, dark brown and bushy, were partially
hidden behind the thick horn-rimmed eyeglasses; and his bald head,
sort of egg-shaped, was perfectly smooth and very shiny.

His portly figure stood there as his dark brown eyes examined Rhames’s
appearance. He smiled. “Hello, are you the new tenant in 4C?” He spoke
in a rather raspy tone.

“Yes, I am,” Rhames answered, the pipe still wedged between his
teeth.

“I’m your next door neighbor. My name is Stanley Cooper,” he said,
and then extended his right hand to Rhames.

“Hello, Mr. Cooper,” said Rhames, as he grasped the man’s hand. “My
name is Harry Rhames.”

“Glad to meet you, Mr. Rhames. I’m sure happy those Haitians moved
out of your apartment.” He paused, as if waiting for a response from
Rhames.

Harry Rhames was not the kind of person who went around looking
for an argument, but he hated racists or bigots of any kind, and the
way Cooper was talking made his blood pressure rise. He relit the pipe
and braced himself for an argument, and then asked, “What do you mean,
Mr. Cooper?”

Cooper’s face lit up excitedly. He took a deep breath, and then said,
“Well, Mr. Rhames, I’m glad you asked, even though after I tell you,
you’ll probably think I’m a wacko.”

“Why is that, Mr. Cooper?”

“Look, I haven’t told anyone about this, and perhaps I shouldn’t be
telling you, but I’ve had it bottled up inside me for a long time now
and really feel a need to get it off my chest. But you’ve got to give
me your word that you won’t tell anyone else.”

“You have my word on it. It will just be between you and me. I must say
I am surprised you’re going to tell me when you don’t even know me.”

“Because I see you smoke a pipe. I have always felt that a man who
smokes a pipe is a deep thinker, and a man that can be trusted. Moreover,
since you have given me your word on this matter, I will tell you. And I
tell you, Mr. Rhames, I’ve heard what I’ve heard and I’ve seen what I’ve
seen. I can tell you those Haitians were weird—I mean they were into
voodoo. When I rang their bell one day, the husband, a tall black guy,
opened the door and I could see his wife sitting at the kitchen table
holding a little black doll and sticking pins in it. Now, isn’t that kind
of crazy? I mean, why in hell would she be sticking pins in a doll?”

“I don’t know. Perhaps, like you say, they were practicing voodoo,”
Rhames said, although he really didn’t believe the man’s story.

Cooper continued: “Well, I didn’t like them, and I’m real glad
they’ve gone. Also, there used to be some strange noises coming from your
apartment. Those Haitians didn’t have any children, and yet, at times
there were sounds of a little girl’s voice. When I asked them if they
had a child staying over . . . they said no. In fact, when I told them
I heard a little girl’s voice, they said I was imagining it. Now, Mr.
Rhames, I can assure you that I wasn’t imagining that little girl’s
voice. I can never forget when I heard her scream in agony. And I heard
it more than once. Now, what do you think of that?”

Looking somewhat bewildered, Rhames removed the pipe from his mouth. “I
don’t know, Mr. Cooper. Let’s just be content that it’s over.”

“Mr. Rhames, do you believe in black magic?”

“No, but I guess anything is possible. Now I really must be getting
inside. I have a lot of unp
acking to do.”

“Sure, Mr. Rhames, we will have to continue our conversation some
other time. I hope you enjoy living here, and if ever you need something,
please let me know. I am home most of the day. Since I lost my left
leg I’ve been on disability.”

Cooper pulled up the trousers of his left leg showing what looked
like an artificial leg.

“I’m awfully sorry, Mr. Cooper,” Rhames said softly. “How did it
happen?”

“I used to be an automobile mechanic, and one day I had my legs under
a car when the lift failed—a tire came down and crushed my left
leg. It was so badly mangled that they had to amputate.”

“What an awful tragedy, Mr. Cooper.”

“Yes . . . it was horrible,” Cooper said, his eyes filling with tears,
and then shut the door behind him.

Rhames entered apartment 4C. He went into the bedroom and opened the
large plaid suitcase to unpack his things. The bedroom furniture was
just about what you would expect from a furnished apartment.

It was nearly noon when Rhames was almost finished unpacking. With
towels in hand, he walked to the closet next to the bathroom. When he
opened the closet door, the muffled sound of a little girl’s voice called
out: “What’s your name?”

Without even hesitating, possibly by some sort of reflex action,
he said, “Harry.”

The young muffled voice spoke again: “Harry, I like that name.”

Rhames looked up and down the closet but didn’t see anyone, and yet,
he was certain the voice was coming from inside that closet.

“Harry, lift up the pink blanket.”

He saw a pink blanket on the second shelf off the floor. He put
the towels on an upper shelf, and then, with hands trembling slightly,
slowly lifted the pink blanket.

A look of amazement appeared on Rhames’s face. Underneath the pink
blanket was a little black doll. She was no more than eighteen inches
long, wearing a dark brown dress and tiny black shoes. Her lips were
painted a bright red, and her black hair was combed straight back into
a short ponytail.

The little black doll sat up; her bright red lips opened, and she spoke
in a sweet childlike voice: “Harry, please take me out of here. Take me
into the bedroom.”

Rhames was aghast by the sound of the little doll talking. For the
moment, he was speechless. He put his hands around her small figure and
carried her into the bedroom. He then placed her gently onto the bed.

“Thank you, Harry. You’re a nice guy. And I like you, Harry.”

He watched her lips move as she spoke. And he was still in a state
of shock not knowing what to say, until, finally he managed to ask in
a low voice (almost like a whisper), “What are you?”

“I’m a doll, Harry. Can’t you see? Just a doll.” Rhames stared at
her lips as they moved and the words were coming out. He found it hard
to believe it was really happening, and he continued to speak in a low
voice, as if he were afraid someone might hear him. “But dolls don’t
speak, and you are talking. How is that possible?”

“Where I come from it is not unusual for dolls to speak.”

“Where do you come from?”

“I come from a little place known as Raymond’s Magic Shop in
Haiti.”

“Are you a voodoo doll?”

“Yes, but I don’t like to be called that.”

“What do you like to be called?”

She paused a moment, putting her tiny hands on her hips. “I’d rather
be called a black magic doll.”

“I see,” said Rhames, who by now had regained his composure. “Tell me,
black magic doll, what were you doing in the closet?”

“Well, the people who used to live in this apartment left me here. They
weren’t satisfied with me. I didn’t perform up to their expectations. To
tell you the truth, I didn’t like it when they stuck those pins in
me—it hurt!”

“But that’s what they do to voodoo—I mean, black magic dolls,
stick pins in them.”

“I know. But I don’t want to have pins stuck in me. And I really
don’t want to cause any harm to people, which is why my owners weren’t
happy with me. When I didn’t want to fulfill their request, they would
keep sticking pins in me until it hurt so bad that I had to give in. Oh
how I hated to give in to their demands. But those pins were so painful,
so terribly painful!”

“That’s awful.”

“Yes, it was. Thank goodness, it is over. Harry, I’m so glad you
came. I was getting so lonesome and didn’t know where to go.”

“You didn’t know where to go? Do you mean you can walk?”

“Yes, but it’s so slow getting around that way. When I want to go
somewhere in a hurry, I just will it and it happens.”

Rhames stood there, his blue eyes staring at the little doll. He
wondered what to do about it.

She seemed to read his mind. “I won’t be any trouble, Harry. I don’t
require any food, and you’ll hardly know I’m around.”

“I’m sorry; this just isn’t going to work out. You will have to
go.”

“Oh, Harry, I like you. Don’t make me angry.”

“I will take you somewhere. Just tell me where you want to go. Now,
where can I take you?”

“Harry, I don’t need you to take me anywhere. If I wanted to leave,
I could do it myself. I just want to stay here with you. I like you,
Harry. I like your wavy brown hair, your sparkling blue eyes, and your
smooth white skin. Come closer and let me touch your face.”

He didn’t move.

She smiled. “Now don’t be bashful. Come closer.” She motioned with
her index finger, moving it back and forth.

He leaned forward placing his hands on the bed.

She reached out with her right hand and gently touched his
cheek. “You’re cute, Harry. I really like you.”

He straightened and moved back a step.

“Please, Harry, don’t move away. Don’t be so bashful. Come closer. I
want you to lift my dress.”

Rhames looked startled. “What for?”

“You know, Harry. You know.”

“No, I don’t know.”

“Oh, Harry, you’re so shy. Don’t be that way. Come closer and lift
my dress.”

“What in heaven’s name for?”

She spoke in a very sweet, sensuous voice: “So we can make love,
Harry. Don’t you like me?”

“You’re nuts! I mean you are really insane!”

“But I like you, Harry.”

“Listen, you damn idiot, I am not going to make love to
you. I am not going to make love to you today, tomorrow, the next day,
never! Got it? Furthermore, you are going to leave my apartment, and I
mean right now!”

“But, Harry, I like it here. I don’t want to leave.”

“I don’t give a damn what you like. You are definitely leaving!”

Rhames was in a raging anger. He grabbed her small frame and moved
quickly towards the door.

“Harry, don’t do this. Don’t take me away.”

“I don’t want you here!” he shouted.

He took her downstairs and placed her into a metal garbage can. After
he slammed the cover down, he shouted, “Good riddance!”

As he started to walk away, he heard her muffled voice:

“I’ll be back, Harry. And I’ll be very angry.”

He hurriedly walked back inside the apartment building.

As he came out of the elevator, Cooper was leaning against his
apartment door.

“Hello, Mr. Rhames.”

“Mr. Cooper, I really don’t have any time for conversation. I am a
little hungry and plan to have lunch. So if you’ll excuse me—”

“I understand, Mr. Rhames. I just wanted to tell you that I again heard
the childlike voice I told you about, and it came from your apartment. It
must have been coming from your bedroom because it is next to my living
room, and that is where I heard it, in my living room. Didn’t you hear
the child’s voice?”

Rhames hesitated, wondering if he should tell him. “No, I didn’t,”
he said, deciding to end it right there.

Cooper persisted, “Now, Mr. Rhames, I know you couldn’t forget
hearing a voice like that, but, are you absolutely certain you didn’t
hear it?”

“Yes, I’m positive, and I’ve told you often enough. Now I am going
inside, and then I will be going outside to have lunch, so good day,
Mr. Cooper.”

Rhames picked
up a pipe from the rack sitting on the dresser. He
filled the pipe with tobacco, lighting it with a wooden match, and then
walked out of the apartment.

He was puffing hard on the pipe as he left the building, leaving a
thick trail of smoke behind him. He walked east to Evans Avenue. It was
there that he found Mike’s Delicatessen. After checking the menu posted
on the window, he decided to go in.

“What will you have, sir?” asked the heavyset man behind the
counter.

He took the pipe out of his mouth and said, “A corned beef on rye,
French fries, and a Coke.”

“I haven’t seen you before. Are you new in the neighborhood?”

“Yes. I’ve just moved in today on Lorimer Street.”

“19 Lorimer?”

“Why, yes. How did you know?”

“Just a lucky guess,” the counterman said, smiling.

“That was a very good guess because you hit it right on the nose,”
Rhames said. “The odds against that must be tremendous.”

“I’m pretty good with guesses, except when I go to the racetrack,”
the counterman said with a big grin on his face.

“Can you tell me if I’m really rid of that pesky little black
doll?” Rhames asked, bringing the pipe to his lips.

The counterman leaned closer and asked, “Of what?”

“Oh, nothing,” Rhames said, realizing the futility of asking.

He sat down and ate his lunch, still thinking of the little black
doll. He couldn’t quite get her out of his mind. He remembered what she
said after he dumped her in the garbage can: I’ll be back, Harry. And
I’ll be very angry.

His hand trembled as he reached for the Coke.

Rhames returned to his apartment at three that afternoon. He was
feeling tired so he laid down for a nap.

About a half-hour later, the alarm clock rang. He shut it off and
wondered if he had set it, but he knew there wasn’t any reason for him
to have set it, and yet, someone had set the alarm clock. He didn’t have
to wait long before discovering who that nasty individual was.

A childlike voice that sounded quite familiar spoke:

“Hello, Harry.”

He looked around the room until his eyes came to a stop at the little
black doll standing on top of the dresser. She had a big broad smile
across her face.

“I told you I’d be back,” she said proudly. “I hope you’re not mad at
me for setting the alarm clock, but I was feeling so lonely, Harry. There
is absolutely nothing for me to do.”

Rhames got out of bed and was standing in front of her. “What the
hell are you doing here? I can’t believe this shit. For the first
time in my life, I get my own apartment and I have to deal with you! I
don’t understand it, a doll that talks and walks. Am I going out of my
mind? What the hell is going on?”

“Harry, you’re getting yourself all excited about nothing.”

“Nothing? I thought I made it perfectly clear that I don’t want
you here.”

With a childish look of innocence upon her face, she looked up at
Rhames. “Oh, Harry, don’t be so nasty. Pick me up.”

“If I pick you up it’ll be to throw you out again.”

“Now, Harry, that won’t do you any good. Don’t you see that by
now? Come on, Harry, pick me up. Let’s kiss and make up.”

“What? You’re screwy.”

“Oh, Harry, you shouldn’t talk like that, after all, I like you. You
are so handsome. Let me touch your wavy brown hair.”

“Let you what? You are only a doll, a little made in wherever
doll. What the hell are you doing here?”

“Please, Harry, let me touch your hair.”

“If I let you touch my hair, you’ve got to promise to leave.”

“Okay,” she said sweetly.

He lifted her up to his face. She opened her bright red lips and
asked, “Would you let me kiss you, Harry?”

“No!”

“Come on, Harry, just one kiss?”

“Definitely not! Now come on and touch my hair so you can leave.”

She reached out with her right hand and slowly ran her little fingers
through his hair. “Oh, Harry, it feels so good.”

“Okay, that’s enough,” he said, and then put her down on the
dresser.

She looked into his blue eyes. “But, Harry, I still haven’t kissed
you.”

“I know, and you’re not going to.”

“You want me to leave, don’t you?”

“Yes, very much, and you promised—”

“I don’t care what I promised. I want to kiss you. If you don’t let
me kiss you, then I won’t leave.” She lowered her eyes and pouted.

His cheeks reddened. “All right, goddamn it, but just one kiss. Do
you understand? One kiss and off you go, right?”

“Yes, oh yes, just one kiss, Harry.”

He lifted her up. She leaned forward and pressed her bright red lips
against his. He could feel what felt like soft vinyl pressing against
his lips. He pulled her away and placed her roughly onto the dresser,
and then vigorously rubbed his lips with the back of his hand.

She touched a finger to the corners of her eyes. “Oh, Harry, you
didn’t like my kiss.”

“Now let’s not have any of that,” he said harshly. “You promised to
go—so leave!”

“I can’t. You didn’t like my kiss, and now I feel so depressed. I’m
sorry, I can’t leave now,” she said, and a tear rolled down from her
left eye.

“Look, I don’t give a damn!” he shouted at her. “You are leaving,
and now!”

He moved quickly to the bed, grabbed the pillowcase, emptied it,
and in one sweeping motion he pushed the open end down over her face,
swallowing her little body; then he whisked it off the dresser and tied
the open end with a necktie and carried her to his car.

He started the engine and took off in the direction of Milstone
Boulevard. From the back seat, through the pillowcase, she whimpered,
“Harry, I like you. Why are you doing this to me?”

Rhames did not answer; he pressed down a little harder on the gas
pedal.

“Where are you taking me?” she asked anxiously.

“None of your business,” he said sharply. “But I’ll tell you this,
you will not be coming back!”

“Oh, Harry, you know I’ll be back.”

“Not from where I’m taking you.”

“Harry, I’ll be back, and I’ll be very, very angry. You haven’t
seen me when I’m that
angry.

“I won’t have to worry about that, not from where you’ll be going. You
won’t be coming back.”

After about thirty minutes, Rhames parked his car near a fishing
pier. He opened the trunk and took out a tackle box. Then he removed the
pillowcase from the back seat and walked to the far edge of the pier.

Through the pillowcase she asked, “Harry, what are you going to
do?”

He laughed. “I’m going to give you a bath.”

He opened the tackle box and took out a spool of fishing line. With
a nail clipper, he snipped off a length of fishing line and slipped
it through a dozen large sinkers, and then tied it tightly around the
pillowcase.

“What the hell are you doing?” she asked.

“Like I said, I’m giving you a bath,” he shouted back at her.

He wound up his right arm and flung her out into the water. He stood
there watching the pillowcase float. It went further and further out
until it disappeared.

He smiled.

On the way back, his face reflected a rather broad grin. He felt
certain he had seen the last of that little black doll. When he stopped
for a red light, he began singing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony:

“Da-da-da-dah

Da-da-da-dah

Da-da-da-dah

Da . . . dah”

Rhames had just stepped out of the elevator when he spotted Cooper
standing by his door.

“Hello, Mr. Rhames.”

He smiled and said, “Hello, Mr. Cooper.”

“Mr. Rhames, I know you won’t believe this, but I heard that child’s
voice again.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes. I heard it coming from your bedroom. Didn’t you hear it?”

“No. It must be your imagination, Mr. Cooper. I don’t have any children
in my apartment. If you don’t believe me, you’re welcome to come inside
and take a look.”

“Oh, that’s all right. I’m sure you wouldn’t be lying, Mr. Rhames.” A
smile suddenly appeared on Cooper’s face. “I g
uess you’re right. It
must have been my imagination.” Cooper’s smile broadened. “However,
Mr. Rhames, if you ever do hear it, please let me know.”

“Mr. Cooper, how can you expect me to hear a child’s voice in my
apartment when I don’t have a child there?”

Cooper grinned so much that you could see the metal clasps of his
bridge. “That’s a good question, Mr. Rhames. Perhaps someday you will
have the answer.” He opened the door, still smiling, and went inside.

Rhames entered his apartment. He took out the steak and can of
vegetables he bought at the supermarket on the way home, and prepared
to have dinner.

Later that evening, a cassette tape was playing the final movement
of Schubert’s Ninth Symphony through a Sony Cassette-Corder. Rhames was
sitting in the black recliner, looking very content as he puffed on the
pipe. The smoke swirled upwards, and with sudden rushes exploded from
between his lips. There was a sparkle in his blue eyes; maybe it was the
Schubert Symphony, or perhaps the euphoric pleasure one derives from a
quality briar filled with the right tobacco. He leaned back, stretched out
his legs, and filled the room with clouds of smoke; a subtle aroma that
was quite interesting permeated the air. With his straight pipe in hand,
he occasionally gestured to the music. This appeared to be a most relaxing
period for Harry Rhames. The problem of the day had been solved, and
everything seemed so peaceful. There was calmness in the room that meshed
beautifully with the bursts of energy from the Schubert Symphony.

As the final note of the symphony sounded, he rose and began looking
through his collection of cassette tapes: Beethoven Symphonies, Mozart
Symphonies, Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, and works of Haydn, Bach, and
Brahms. With a sudden smile across his lips, he selected Vivaldi’s The
Four Seasons.

His face beamed with joy as the first movement of “Spring” began. The
sparkle in his blue eyes shined even brighter as he tamped down the
tobacco in his pipe, and relit it with a wooden match.

Suddenly, from out of nowhere, she was there.

“Hello, Harry.”

The voice shot through him like a thousand volts of electricity. He
turned his head and the pipe fell out of his mouth and landed on the
hardwood floor, the shank cracking. He glanced at the pipe and felt his
body stiffen.

“I told you I would be back,” she said boastfully.

He looked at her and saw that her brown dress was still wet. He finally
found the words to speak: “It’s incredible. I don’t know how you did it,
but you did. Is there any way I can be rid of you?”

“Never, Harry. I like you too much. Even though you are so
cruel to me, I still like you. I like your wavy brown hair, your
blue eyes, and your milky white skin. Yes, I guess I just like you
too much, Harry, and I want to stay with you forever.”

“OH GOD NO!”

“It won’t be so bad, Harry. I will keep you company so you will never
be lonely. After all, it’s no good for a man to live alone.”

“NO! NO! NO!”

He suddenly picked up the matchbox, and with eyes staring wildly he
shouted, “I’ll get rid of you!” Then he lit a match and put it to her
dress, trying to set her on fire.

She laughed. “Harry, you can’t burn me.”

He lit another match, and another, trying desperately to set her on
fire. She just stood there, laughing, not resisting at all. He tried to
light still another match, but his hand kept shaking and he could not
get it lit.

She taunted him: “What’s the matter, Harry, got the shakes?”

He tried to strike the match and the box fell out of his hands. She
picked it up, lit a match, and put the burning flame to her chin. He
watched in awe as she stood there laughing while the flame caressed her
chin; it trickled down to her fingertips and went out.

“Why don’t you try one of those propane tanks, Harry?” she asked
smugly. “There’s a sporting goods store on Adams Street. Go on, Harry,
give it a try.”

He went into the kitchen and grabbed a large carving knife. With
his right hand tightly clutching the knife, he moved quickly to the
living room.

“Okay, you little pain-in-the-butt, I’m going to rip you to shreds.”

She stood there waiting for him.

With his left hand, he pushed her down to the floor. She looked up
at him with an odd smile on her face and did not move. He raised the
knife high above his head, and then, with all the force he could muster,
he drove the knife to her chest.

She laughed.

His right eyebrow twitched and his face quivered as he looked at the
blade, which had snapped in half. He backed away still looking at what
remained of the blade.

She stood up, reached into one of the pockets in her dress and pulled
out a small blowgun.

“What the hell are you doing?” he asked.

“Now it’s my turn,” she said sharply, and then reached into another
pocket and took out a small needle. She placed the needle into the
blowgun and put it to her mouth.

He started to run.

Pffft.

The needle shot into the back of his leg; he fell to one knee and
winced in pain.

“Can I stay now, Harry?” she asked, smiling.

“Yes,” he said, without turning to look at her.

She loaded the blowgun.

Pffft.

“Ow!” he screamed in pain as the needle dug into his back.

“Are you sure I can stay, Harry?”

“Yes, you can stay!” he shouted. “I swear it!”

She loaded the blowgun.

Pffft.

“Oww!” he screamed in agony as the needle penetrated the back of his
neck. “Please, no more! No more!”

He was trying to remove the needle in his neck when she got him in
the hand.

“Ouch!” he shouted in agony.

He turned around and saw her dipping the point of a needle into a
tiny bottle. He got up and reached for the Sony Cassette-Corder; he
wanted to blast her with it.

She looked at him and smiled, and then put the blowgun to her
mouth.

He turned around with the Sony in his hands. He raised it up, getting
ready to throw it at her.

Pffft.

The needle struck him right between the eyes.

He let out a loud scream and toppled forward, hitting the floor hard,
the Sony crashing down in front of him. He managed to push the Sony aside
and crawl about two feet before he stopped. Something white and bubbly
began dripping out of his mouth. His eyes opened very wide and there
was a god-awful look of fear in them. He tried to open his mouth and
the foamy white liquid drooled out even more. He gasped for air and the
side of his face hit the floor with a bang, his body suddenly becoming
rigid. Then his left leg jerked uncontrollably—three times the
leg jerked in and out until it locked into an outstretched position. He
was lying there, looking stiff as a board, with that foamy white liquid
oozing out from between his lips.

The little black doll went over to his body. She smiled. Then she
walked to the wall that connected Cooper’s apartment and knocked three
times, paused, and knocked again. There wasn’t any response.

A few minutes later, someone knocked at the door to Rhames’s
apartment. The little black doll walked to the door, and, as if by
magic, the door opened. Cooper was standing there with a big smile on
his face. He walked in and closed the door behind him. She levitated
herself to his open arms and he gave her a gentle kiss on the cheek,
and then they both sat down on the sofa.

“Good work, sweetheart,” he said.

“Thank you, Mr. Cooper, but why did you want me to get rid of him? He
didn’t make any noise, and he seemed like a quiet man. Why did you want
me to do it?”

“Look, baby doll, sooner or later he would have made noise. They all
do, eventually, and you know my bedroom is next to this apartment’s
living room. So sooner or later they’ll play the television loud, or
the stereo loud and you know how hard it is for me to get any sleep.”

“But, Mr. Cooper, won’t someone get suspicious when the people moving
into this apartment always disappear?

“I could care less. Who would ever suspect that a little black doll
from Raymond’s Magic Shop was the cause of it all? There is nothing to
worry about, nothing at all.”

“But if I should ever fail you—”

“You will not fail me. If you ever do fail . . . I won’t give you that
little something I got from Raymond that gives you the magic powers you
have, and then you’ll be just another little black doll like the others
in a toy store: no powers, no magic, just one very ordinary doll. Now,
you wouldn’t like that, would you?”

“No, Mr. Cooper, I wouldn’t.”

“And now let’s get rid of the body…the way we always do.”

Three months later, a young man carrying a suitcase walked into
the lobby of 19 Lorimer Street. He entered the elevator and pushed
the button for the fourth floor. In apartment 4C, there was the sound
of tiny footsteps scurrying about, a closet door closed, and a little
girl’s voice giggled.

Cooper was in a hurry to get dressed. When he was putting on his
trousers, he lost his balance and banged his elbow into the wall behind
him, knocking a little doll off a wooden shelf. He picked up the doll
and put it back on the shelf, next to the other little dolls. He knew
something was missing and began searching the floor.

Suddenly, he heard the door to 4C slam shut. “Damn it,” he said
quietly, peeved that he missed the usual greeting. He continued searching
the floor until finally he found it. He picked up the pipe and rubbed it
against his shirt, and then put it back into the little doll’s mouth. As
he watched, the doll’s blue eyes began to sparkle; a sudden smile beamed
across Cooper’s lips.

“Are you happy now, Mr. Rhames?” Cooper asked.

The little doll did not answer. It wasn’t ready yet.

Two months later, in the Sovereign Pipe Shop on Main Street,
a young man behind the counter was watching a customer looking at
tobacco tins.

What the hell is that kid doing? Does that little punk
think he’s going to purchase a tin of tobacco? Ha-ha, what a
joke!

“Hey, kid, you have to be at least eighteen years old to buy
tobacco.”

The little person came over, placed the tin of tobacco on the counter
and asked, “How much is it?”

“You got to be kidding! I told you eighteen and over, not eighteen
and under,” he said, trying to contain the laughter.

“I am over eighteen,” said the little person.

“Really? All right, let me see your driver’s license.”

The little person took out a card and placed it on the counter.

The young man behind the counter laughed, and then said, amused,
“Are you Harry Rhames?”

“Yes,” Rhames replied.

“Uh-huh, and your driver’s license says you are five feet seven
inches tall—and you ain’t even three feet tall.”

“You think it’s funny?” Rhames asked.

“Look, kid, just get the hell out of here and go play your games
somewhere else.”

Rhames took out a blowgun and placed a needle into it.

Pffft.

“Ouch!” the young man yelled as the needle shot into his neck. “What
the hell—cut that shit out!”

Rhames again loaded the blowgun, but this time he dipped the needle
into a small jar.

Pffft.

The needle went straight up the young man’s nose, knocking him back
against the wall and sliding down to the floor, foamy white liquid
spilling out from between his lips.

Rhames took the tin of tobacco and left, a wry smile on his face.

Stanley Cooper was waiting. “Did you get your tobacco?” Cooper
asked.

“Yup,” Rhames answered. “The jerk behind the counter was a real wise
guy, but I straightened him out real good. He won’t be making anymore
wisecracks, and you can be sure of that,” he said, grinning.

Cooper smiled. “Good, I never did like wise guys.”

Rhames went back to the wooden shelf and lit up his pipe, joining
the other little dolls; they were each awaiting their turn to have a
little fun.

Suddenly, all the little dolls on the shelf began whispering to each
other; Cooper was reading the newspaper and didn’t notice. The little
dolls took out their blowguns and dipped a needle into their tiny
jars.

Sharp poisonous needles went flying through the air and dug into
Cooper’s head. A look of terrible fear appeared on Cooper’s face; his
head slammed down to the kitchen table, foamy white liquid spurting
out of his mouth. He tried to open his mouth and the foamy white liquid
gushed out even more, spilling all over the newspaper.

The little black doll led them off the wooden shelf, Rhames following
with his pipe still lit, and they marched out of the apartment.

There was something they forgot: the substance Cooper acquired from
Raymond’s Magic Shop that gave them their powers. But they didn’t need
it anymore, and they knew that. They were free, and they were going
to have some fun.

EPILOGUE

At 19 Lorimer Street, the building superintendent, using a key,
went into Stanley Cooper’s apartment—the tenants were not
allowed to change their locks without giving a duplicate key to the
superintendent. A month passed without receiving rent money from Cooper,
so the superintendent was ordered by management to make an inquiry. He
walked in and saw a tall metal can, the kind used for burning leaves,
filled with a pale blue liquid, sitting on the floor in a corner of the
living room. What he didn’t know was that liquid came from Raymond’s Magic
Shop and was used to reduce the human size to that of a doll. Cooper
amusingly referred to the metal can as the shrinkalator.

The superintendent covered his mouth when spotting Cooper bent over with
head lying sideways on the kitchen table, eyes almost bulging out of their
sockets, and that white liquid flowing from his mouth onto the newspaper.
Still in a state of bewilderment and shock, the superintendent turned to
find a phone to call the police. He made the call and walked back to the
living room where he noticed a large jar filled with a green liquid, which
was the substance Cooper purchased from Raymond’s Magic Shop that initially
gave the dolls their powers. Cooper knew it was only required to give one
injection, but told them they needed the injection at regular intervals,
trying to fool the dolls into thinking they needed him in order to keep
their powers. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you see it,
one of the dolls discovered they needed one injection when hearing Cooper
arguing over the phone in a conversation with Raymond, the owner of
Raymond’s Magic Shop. Cooper was asking for more of the green liquid and
Raymond stated quite loudly only one injection was necessary; he was angry
with Cooper for using up his supply, which he needed for other customers,
and complaining how difficult it was to get that green liquid. The little
doll who heard the conversation decided to tell the other dolls, waiting a
long time because the security of Cooper’s environment was hard to
break.

A widescreen television was on at the front window of Russo’s Appliance
Shop, the program interrupted by late-breaking news:

“Police discovered someone robbed Karsten’s Smoke Shop on Elmore
Street, taking tins of tobacco and possibly a few small pipes, as reported
by the owner who had not finished checking inventory. The owner, Peter
Karsten, was not present when the robbery took place, but contacted
immediately when police discovered the dead body of an employee found
with a small needle stuck in one of his eyes. Police are not releasing
the name of the murdered employee until his family can be notified.
The cause of death has not been determined at this time, but detectives
on the scene believe the needle in the eye was the cause of death. WVIG
reporter Dan Robertson was at the scene.”

The broadcast went to reporter Robertson holding a microphone in
front of Detective Dennis Pierce, a tall, heavyset man.

“Why anyone would want to rob a pipe shop is beyond me,” Detective
Dennis Pierce said. “This is the second murder involving a pipe shop in
the
last few months. There must be some deranged lunatic out there and
I hope we get him soon.”

“Do you believe the same individual committed both murders?” Robertson
asked.

“I think it is quite obvious,” Detective Pierce replied.

“Do you have any clues?” Robertson asked.

“Yes,” Detective Pierce began, “must be one crazy pipe smoker.”

Detective Pierce left refusing to answer anymore questions.

The next day, another report came over the TV about a jewelry store
that was robbed, and again an employee was murdered, this time with a
needle stuck in her ear.

Rhames liked his pipes and tobacco, and the little black doll liked
to wear jewelry, so it was obvious who was behind the robbing and
killing. Yes, I knew, but I wasn’t going to tell the police, because I
didn’t want the other little dolls coming after me!

The dolls gathered in an old abandoned building and began making
their plans.

We should keep our eyes open for little people that move, that is,
little people that are actually little dolls. You never know, sometimes
it can be too late, and that white liquid spurting, oozing, and gushing
out of mouths just gives me the creeps.

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