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The Lost Collection

 

 

            Charles Manson crept silently toward his unsuspecting victim, a menacing and entirely out-of-proportion sized butcher knife clutched in one gripping hand.  His face wore a perpetual leer of evil and corruption — eyes slitted, mouth upturned into some unholy expression between a grimace and a sneer.  As he moved closer, raising the knife, the young woman with the long blonde hair sat seemingly oblivious, scanning the rapidly darkening horizon with a vacant stare from her crystal blue eyes.

            Just as he was about to pounce, another figure arrived on the scene, a grizzled, battle-scarred veteran wearing torn army fatigues and casually clutching an M-16.  Manson straightened at the sight of this interloper.  “You!” he hissed.

            The other figure raised the M-16 until the barrel was even with Charlie’s face.  “Call me…Joe, scumbag,” he said, and prepared to fire.

            “Elliott! Elliott, where are you?”  a woman’s  voice called crossly from the house.  “You know I want you inside before dark.”

            Both Charlie and the solider dropped to the ground next to Barbie as Elliott grudgingly let them go and stood up to answer his mother’s call.  “Come on, Mom!  I was only in the backyard!”

            “Well,” the voice from the house continued, “you know I don’t like it when you’re out there all alone in the dark.   Come in and I’ll make you some warm milk and graham crackers before bed.”

            “Awwww, Mom!”  Elliott began, but it was no use, she had already left the window and gone to another part of the house.  The debate was over, case closed.

            Elliott looked down at his dolls.  Joe and Barbie were filthy, having weathered many backyard adventures with Elliott.  The Manson doll, however, was spotless.  Elliott didn’t play with him very much.  And with good reason — he had gone through the dickens to get that doll.

            So instead, Charlie, Jeffrey, Richard, John, Ted and rest of the crew sat mostly alone in Elliott’s secret compartment in his toy trunk.  If his mother ever found out he had managed to snag so many of the Bloodthirsty Murderers Collection, she would definitely freak out.  Even worse, she might take the dolls away. 

            And THAT was something Elliott didn’t want to happen.  So, he gathered up his toys, careful to brush off some offending grass clippings from Charlie’s wildly long and unkempt hair, and went inside. 

*****

            Elliott’s father had been in the Army, so Elliott had moved a great deal in his twelve years.  Elliott didn’t mind moving so much, but Mom didn’t like it, or so they said, and that was the reason why Dad and Mom didn’t live together anymore. 

            But Elliott remembered very well how it was to be the new kid, and so he empathized, when on Monday the teacher made a small boy stand up and face the class and said, “Everyone, this is Marty Clemmens, his family just moved here from…”  she trailed off and looked at the boy quizzically.

            “Two Forks, South Dakota,” he prompted, looking shyly at the ground.

            “South Dakota,” Mrs. Peterson said brightly.  “I am sure you will all go out of your way to make Marty here feel welcome.”  She let go of the boy’s thin shoulders and put her hands on her hips.  “Now who can tell me what the capital of South Dakota is?”

            Elliott tuned out the teacher and watched the new boy slowly take his seat.  There was something helpless seeming about the kid, as if he was more fragile than an average boy.  Maybe he was a hemophiliac, Elliott’s cousin Robbie was one of those, and he couldn’t play sports, or even run with other kids.  The slightest touch to his skin and a nasty bruise would immediately swell up on Robbie.  Once, they had been standing in line together for Thanksgiving pie, and some dim reptile part of Elliott’s brain had seized control for one second, and he had viciously poked poor Robbie in the upper arm, just to see what would happen.  Robbie let out a yelp and the area around the poke had quickly turned a highly incriminating shade of crimson. 

            Elliott had been mortified.  He had expected something, but nothing like the dramatic reaction that was taking place.  As Elliott’s and Robbie’s parents came rushing over to see what all the commotion was about, Robbie began to cry, and as he did so, he fixed Elliott with such a look of pain and sadness that Elliott had begun to cry as well.  The hastily-mouthed apologies and barely-insinuated recriminations were far less memorable to Elliott than that haunted look in Robbie’s eyes.

            “TOPEKA, KANSAS” the teacher’s voice boomed off the chalkboard and walls decorated with cartoon animals and ambulatory numerals.  It took Elliott a moment to realize that Mrs. Peterson was directing her thundering to him.  He blinked, and she said, “If it’s not TOO much trouble, Mister Warwick, please answer the question.”

            There were titters of laughter sprinkled throughout the classroom, but Elliott’s attention was completely absorbed by the new boy, Marty Clemmens, who now turned slowly in his desk to meet Elliott’s gaze. 

            Marty Clemmens had wide, watery blue eyes, which stared confidently back into Elliott’s brown ones.  As they looked at each other, Elliott felt something pass between; some type of bond was forged between the two boys.  Marty’s eyebrows rose a bit, reflecting that he too noticed some type of transference.  Then, the moment had passed, and Marty turned back around in his chair and Elliott was left to confront the angry Mrs. Peterson and the rest of the giggling class.

            Curiously, at lunch and afternoon recess, Marty was nowhere to be found.  Elliott looked all over the playground for him, but there was no sign of the new boy.  When the 3:15 bell rang, Elliott almost lost him again, but spotted him ambling alone down the back path, a frayed-looking purple backpack carelessly draped over one thin shoulder. 

            He ran to catch up, and only when he pulled alongside Marty did he stop to catch his breath.  “Hey,” he said, panting.

            Marty turned and looked at him briefly.  “Hey,” he answered noncommittally. 

            They fell into step together, walking through the field behind the school.  “New here, huh?” said Elliott when they had walked in silence for a few minutes. 

            “Yep.”

            “Do you like it here, I mean better than…” Where had he said his family moved from?  Kansas?  “Topeka?”  Elliott asked

            Marty turned and looked at him, “No, not Topeka.  Two Forks.  Two Forks, South Dakota.”

            “Oh yeah, right.”  Elliott could see that this wasn’t going too well.  “How long did you live there?”

            Marty shrugged.  “I dunno.  Not long, I guess.”  He looked at Elliott again, longer this time.  “We move around a lot.” 

            “Dad in the army or something?”  Elliot asked.

            “Somethin.”  Marty said, without feeling the need to elaborate further. 

            “WELL…” Elliott tried again.  I know how it is to be the new kid a lot.  My dad — when he used to live with me and my mom — was in the army, and we moved around a whole bunch.”  Marty was looking at him but saying nothing. “So, I, well, I know kinda how it is to be the new kid.” 

            “Oh”

            “SO ANYWAY,” Elliott barreled onward, “I thought maybe you might want to come over to my house, and we could play guns or something.” 

            Marty stopped walking, and Elliott stopped with him.  “I don’t really like to play guns,” he said quietly. 

            “Oh,” Elliott was nonplused.

            “Do you like dolls?”  Marty asked him.  “I mean, like real cool dolls?”

            “You mean, like the Bloodthirsty Murderers Collection?”  Elliott replied.

            “Exactly!”  Marty said, “I LOVE the Bloodthirsty Murderers Collection!”

            Elliott could scarcely believe his luck.  What a bonus!  “I have lots of the Bloodthirsty Murderers,” he said. 

            “Really?” asked Marty, showing real, unfeigned interest for the first time.  “Like who?”

            “Well, I have Manson, and Speck and Bundy and Gacy and Dahmer.”

            “Doesn’t everybody?”  Marty was shaking his head.   “Which Manson?”

            “The sixties, hippie, pre-swastika one, of course,” Elliott answered.  The toy company which manufactured the Bloodthirsty Murderers Collection, Imperial Toymakers, supposedly made more than one version of the Manson doll, its most popular product.  But, the other Manson was rumored to be extremely rare.  “You can’t get the other one.”

            “Oh really?”  Marty replied, somewhat haughtily, and unslung the pack from his bony shoulder.  He unzipped it and began rummaging through.  “Take a look at this.”

            He handed something wrapped in a towel to Elliott.  Unwrapping it carefully, Elliott could not believe his eyes.  It was a miniature likeness of Charles Manson, except in lieu of the tangled mass of hair, this one had a shaved head and was dressed in prison blues.  An angry swastika glowered redly from the doll’s forehead.  The same malevolent stare was evident that adorned the face of Elliott’s Charlie doll.  The workmanship was really something to be commended.

            “WOW!”  Elliott said.  “This is really neat!” 

            “So, what others do you have?”  Marty asked, again, somewhat patronizingly.

            “Well,” Elliott began, still mesmerized by the doll in his hands.  “I have Son of Sam.”

            “Yeah, so?”

            “Oh, wait,” Elliott had a burst of pride. “I have Albert DeSalvo.”  The Boston Strangler was one of the rarer members of the Bloodthirsty Murderers Collection, and he figured that should impress Marty.

            “Ho hum,” Marty yawned.

            “Well, WHO else do you have?”  Elliott asked, exasperated.

            “Me? I have them ALL.”  Marty replied.  And for emphasis he added, “All of them, even the Lost Collection.”

            Silence followed this proclamation.   Elliott was thunderstruck.  Nobody, but no one could have the entire collection — there were just too many rare dolls.  Plus, it was not easy to track down stores carrying the Bloodthirsty Murderers Collection. 

            As it might be imagined, Imperial Toymakers faced a tremendous challenge when they decided to begin marketing the Bloodthirsty Murderers Collection.  Not only was the public outraged, but multiple lawsuits by everyone from victims’ families to the convicted themselves (at least those who were still alive) made it extremely difficult to get crucial shelf space at most major retailers.  Of course, none of the big chains would touch the Collection, and in some small towns in the South, it was actually a felony to distribute or even possess any of the dolls. 

            Most parents forbade their children to even talk about the figurines, and it was next to impossible to get any advertising space on televisions or papers.  However, cryptically-worded ads in the back of selected comic books and fanzines alerted the faithful on where portions of the Collection could be obtained.

            Predictably, sales skyrocketed.  The more strident the public outcry against the dolls, the keener the interest.  At conventions, Bloodthirsty Murderers commanded top dollar, and eager children queued up in lines snaking across hotel ballrooms all across the country for a chance to plunk down hard-earned allowance money to take home a likeness of a particular favorite killer.

            In the lip-service press releases which Imperial Toymakers sent out, their ostensible reason for marketing the Collection was “education.”  “If children learn from the mistakes of others, then the atrocities perpetrated by these individuals — atrocities which Imperial Toymakers, Limited and its subsidiaries, shareholders and Board of Directors absolutely do not condone — will serve as excellent reference material for inquiring young minds to avoid the horrors which could plague them.”

            Therefore, as part of the “educational component” in each doll’s package was included trading cards with a full color (computer digitally colorized in the case of old photos) face portrait of the killer on the front, along with a helpful “stat sheet” on the back.  Even more useful to the young scholar was the comic-like booklet “history of ___________” which recounted — in glaring primary colors and lurid detail — each and every blood-splattered moment of a particular murderer’s career. 

            Additionally, each doll came with an authentic set of accessories and outfits, whether it be a large plastic meat freezer, a tiny wrapped case of various knife blades, or a ingeniously-realized clown costume complete with minuscule greasepaint applicators.  All in the interest of — as Imperial Toymakers promotional materials trumpeted — “scrupulous historical detail.”

            Naturally, the airtight veil of secrecy surrounding Imperial Toymakers, their mobile factories and corporate headquarters  — the address listed on the boxes was in reality a brothel in New Jersey — caused endless speculation among the faithful, who waited eagerly for some firsthand information about what and when new product was being added to the line.

            Rumors grew up and dissipated like wildfire  — new figurines, Imperial going out of business, a Congressional act to outlaw any more toys, etc. etc.    However, the most pervasive rumor surrounding the Bloodthirsty Murderers line was of the fabled “Lost Collection.”  What exactly comprised this Lost Collection was anybody’s guess, but the most popular story had it that the Lost Collection was made up of all of the dolls which were so hideous, so vile and so nasty that even the folks at Imperial Toymakers had been unable to run a full production line.  So, after destroying the molds, only a few of these precious figures remained, and no one knew if they in fact existed, and if so, where they could be had. 

            Now, here was this new kid in town, not only sneering at Elliott’s hard-won group of murderer dolls, but boasting of having each and every figurine produced by Imperial Toymakers, including the Lost Collection. 

            It was all a bit much.

            “Oh yeah?”  Elliott said, “Prove it.”

            Marty smiled thinly at him for a moment, and then produced another carefully-wrapped object from the depths of his backpack.  As he ceremoniously removed it, Elliott had time to wonder if the new kid was completely crazy.  At Shady Grove Elementary School — and virtually every institute of education, public or private — possessing a Bloodthirsty Murderer doll on school property was an offense warranting immediate expulsion.  Even worse, confiscation of the toy in question was also a given.

            “Here,” Marty said, casually handing the object to Elliott.

            Elliott unwrapped the heavy fabric and gazed disbelieving at the doll in his hands.  It was of an older gentleman, wearing a tweed suit.  His neatly cut white hair and impeccably trimmed mustache were clues, but the penetrating stare of the pale blue eyes gave it away.  But it was impossible — this was a doll of Albert Fish, a notorious kidnapper/murderer/cannibal who had butchered and eaten many hapless children in the 1930s. 

            Albert Fish was number one on the list of the mythical “Lost Collection.”

            Elliott looked up at Marty.  “No way!”  he breathed.

            Marty just smiled, as if he was used to precisely this type of reverent reaction.  “It’s true, all right, you can even check the back of his neck.”

            In order to avoid the obvious problems of unauthorized duplication and copyright infringement, all official members of Imperial Toymakers Bloodthirsty Murderers Collection had a small mark — similar to a tattoo — on the back of their necks, just below the hairline.  This complicated and extremely difficult to reproduce mark was Imperial’s “Guarantee of Authenticity.”  Sure enough, right there on the back of the neck was the mark.  It was genuine.

            Elliott felt like his whole being must be shaking.  The sinister figure in his hands must be worth hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars, and yet, Marty didn’t seem too concerned about letting him hold it.  “What other ones do you have?” he asked breathlessly.

            Marty carefully extracted the doll from Elliott’s sweaty grasp.  He smiled again, “Too many to list…too many.”

            “Oh,” Elliott said.

            Suddenly, Marty seemed to brighten.  “Wanna come see ‘em?” he asked. 

            “What?”  Elliot said, startled.  “Where?”

            “My house isn’t too far from here,” Marty said. 

            “I don’t know,” Elliott offered.  “I probably should be getting home.”

            “Oh, OK,” Marty said, voice inflectionless.  “I thought maybe you were a serious collector.  I thought maybe you wanted to see the Lost ones.”

            “There’s more?”  Elliot asked, astonished. 

            Marty beamed at him.  “Lots more.”

            Elliott stopped walking along the path a moment to think.  Here was a golden opportunity to see an entire collection of Bloodthirsty Murders…maybe one of the only collections in the world.  And this new kid was offering to show it to him for free — just because he had been nice and tried to befriend him.  Elliott thought happily that his mother was indeed right, good deeds do get rewarded.

            “Sure, but I can’t stay long.”

            “That’s OK,”Marty said, “it won’t take too long.”

            Onward they walked, and Elliott lost track of time and distance as he asked Marty question after question about both the Bloodthirsty Murderers Collection and savage killers in general.  The kid was like a walking encyclopedia, filling in gaps in Elliott’s knowledge of some of the more infamous exploits of the last hundred years or so. 

            Finally, they came to a house well away from the road, in fact a house Elliott had only seen two or three times in his lifetime and which he had heard was abandoned.  It sure looked to be in disrepair.   “This is your house? “

            “Well, we like a lot of land and privacy, and we got it for really cheap my dad said.”  Marty said, and proceeded to the side door.  “It’s still kind of messy because we haven’t really unpacked yet, but that doesn’t matter, because all the dolls are in the basement.”

            “The basement?”  Elliott asked.  “Why?”

            “It’s my mom, you know?”  Marty offered a shrug.  “She says she gets the creeps from all the dolls being in my room, so I have to put them somewhere where she doesn’t have to look at them.”

            Marty reached into his shirt and produced a key attached to a piece of rawhide tied around his neck.  He inserted it into the lock and grinned at Elliott.  “Get ready for this.”

            Descending the stairs, Elliott was half expecting the basement to be a cobwebby, dusty place with old musty smelling boxes of toys stacked haphazardly in the gloom.  He was not prepared for what he saw. 

            It was a shrine.

            Immaculately presented on all four walls were hundreds of dolls.  Each wall had a special shelving unit attached to it, which made every doll have its own separate compartment to stand upright in.  From floor to ceiling, row upon row of murderous insanity in tiny plastic form.  Killers from across the ages graced the room, all garbed in authentic period dress, down to the smallest detail.  Here was Lizzie Borden, in a high- necked black Victorian dress, stained axe in her hand.  There was Jack the Ripper, scalpel at the ready, brownish kidney clutched in between two long fingers. 

            “Wow,” was all Elliot could say. 

            “Impressive, aren’t they?”  Marty agreed. 

            “Amazing.”  Elliot whispered.  It seemed appropriate not to speak loudly.

            He glanced around the room, at this Who’s Who of murder and mayhem.  In the dark, the dolls’ eyes seemed to glitter, thousands of little eyes looking back at him from faces possessed by unspeakable madness.  Elliott felt gooseflesh break out all along his arms, and turned to look for Marty.

            He was no longer standing next to Elliott, but was inserting the key into another door in the side of the basement.  “Well, thanks, but I think I have to get going now,”  Elliott said, in a rather pathetic squeak. 

            Marty turned from the door and looked at him quizzically.  “I thought you wanted to see the Lost Collection?”

            “I have, and now I’m ready to go home,” Elliott said, aware that his voice had taken on the petulant, whining tones of a spoiled child.

            Marty knit his brows in honest puzzlement.  “What do you mean?”  He looked around the basement.  “Those are nothing…in here” he said, motioning to the other room, “here is what you came to see.” 

            Elliott could only feebly shake his head as Marty crossed over to him and gently took his hand, propelling him through the doorway.  “This is the Lost Collection.” 

            Elliott looked around the room.  If anything, this room was even more magnificent that the other.  At least ten times as many dolls lined the walls in here, thousands upon thousands of dolls.  But what made them even more astonishing was their condition.

            Almost every doll was covered in blood, some had one or more limbs missing, others were in several pieces.  Some, which were so hacked up as to be virtually unrecognizable, were held in place by chicken wire and model airplane glue. 

            Elliott turned confusedly to Marty, “Who are they?  Are they…”  He trailed off.

            Marty shook his head.  “Yes. They’re the victims.  The Lost.”

            Looking closer now, Elliot was able to see just how much work had been put into setting up this collection.  Each section was divided, so that the killer was grouped among his victims.  For example, a skinny pock-marked doll surrounded by eight woman dolls in crisp white nurse uniforms was obviously Richard Speck.  Similarly, a portly John Wayne Gacy doll lolled among a gaggle of broken boy figurines.   

            Elliott saw a replica of his own Charles Manson doll, along with Tex Winter and Squeaky Fromme, and among them their victims.  He picked up the exquisitely beautiful doll of the pregnant actress, and sure enough, a tiny plastic detachable fetus was enclosed in the belly, evidence of Imperial Toymakers unflinching commitment to historical authenticity. 

            Elliott looked around at the display, eyes bugging in their sockets.  Something was wrong with one of the groups, and it took him a minute to deduce what it was.  There was one set that quite obviously was missing figures.  It was on the first shelf, lower to the floor, in a place of apparently not much significance, and Elliott had to stoop to look at it.

            Curiously, he didn’t immediately recognize any of the figurines.  They were mostly children, with only two adult victims, a man and a woman.  Elliott picked up the Bloodthirsty Murderer figurine and looked it over closely.  Something was odd about this one, and he realized with a start that it was much smaller than the others, like it was a midget…or a child.

            Marty’s voice over his shoulder made him jump.  “The Lost Collection…the highest form of honor or respect.  A place for all those lost souls to be immortalized forever with the one who took their lives.  Fitting, don’t you think?”

            Elliott turned to him with a look of horror, but even before that he realized that the doll in his hand was dressed the same as Marty, down to the battered purple backpack slung over this thin shoulder. 

            Marty stood regarding him coolly.  In his hand was an absolutely enormous and sharp-looking knife.  He had already stripped naked and was smiling perversely at Elliott. 

            Irrationally, Elliott pointed to the victims crowded into Marty’s work-in-progress compartment.  “But, where do you get those made from?”  he asked.

            As he stepped forward, bringing the knife up, Marty answered, “Well, you see…I’m not just a customer, I’m the President.”

 

 

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