Bartley Jones adjusted his thick glasses and slumped over the counter at the Regent Hotel in downtown Las Vegas. He appeared to be in his late forties, and the kind of man who should work at a public library in some small, reclusive town. The gangly man’s hair glistened with an unhealthy layer of grease over its dull brown color. He kept it raked to the side, but still managed to appear unruly as if though he had just woken up. His all black attire was grungy, loose and had ‘Thrift Store Clearance Special’ written all over it. Bartley Jones was the kind of man who repulsed people and yet, didn’t’ seem to notice.
His panicky brown eyes, darted between a young, blonde girl clacking away on the computer in front of him, and a large flat screen TV behind her which aired the news. His timeworn mother, dressed in an orange jogging suit, stared into space like a zombie from the other side of his suitcase. Bartley gave the old woman a concerned glance and turned back toward the girl. He tapped his long, shaky fingers against the hard marble-top counter and exhaled noisily. “Did, d-did you find us?” he squeaked.
The girl looked up with a smile. “One moment Mr. Jones. Being that it’s Halloween we’re over-booked and the computer is very slow right now.”
“Oh no! Take your time! Take your time! I’m in no hurry. Nope. Not me. It’s my first time in Vegas you know,” Bartley responded with a creepy grin.
“How great for you Sir! I am quite sure you’ll love everything this hotel has to offer!” she replied.
At that moment, Bartley could hear the people behind him gasp. He looked back at them and saw they were wide-eyed and slack-jawed at the TV. The disheveled man turned his gaze to the television where he saw an image of a man’s badly deranged face on the screen. “What in the dickens is that on the news? Halloween costume or something?” he asked the counter girl. She turned back to look and cringed at the sight.
“Ugh! You don’t know Mr. Jones? About the guy that got his face chewed off by the naked… zombie man?”
Bartley’s face turned ghost-white and he placed both hands on his cheeks while he stared in silence.
“It happened yesterday. You didn’t hear about it?” The girl asked, almost shocked.
“I try not to watch the news.” He looked to his mother who said nothing. “Mommy says TV is bad for me. Why did someone chew that man’s face off?”
“I’m not really sure. All the news said was that some naked fellow ran up and started eating a homeless person’s face, in broad daylight. Probably drugs,” she responded while shrugging her shoulders.
Bartley shook his head and sighed. “That’s awful... I just, don’t understand why people get on these illegal drugs when it’s so easy to lose self-control. I mean, legal drugs are okay, they actually give you control, like mine, Haldol. If I miss too many days, I just get coconut crazy you know!”
“When is the last time you took your pills… Bart?” his mother sneered.
Bart turned toward his mother with a look of resentment. “Oh shut up Mother! You don’t honestly think I’m so bad that I need them daily now do you?”
The old woman scoffed and looked away.
The girl stared blankly at him for a moment and then began to type faster. “I… know what you mean Mr. Jones. And good news, I found your reservation. Here are your room keys.” She pushed them across the counter and quickly retracted her hand. Bartley snatched the card keys and picked his suitcase off the floor.
“Thanks so much! And watch out for ravenous naked men on drugs!” he joked.
“I will Mr. Jones and you keep out of trouble. It’s Sin City after all,” the counter girl replied with a forced chuckle. Bartley giggled and stared at his mother. “Ready Mummy?” The elder woman sighed and they walked off to the elevators.
Minutes later, Bartley stood in front of his door and applied the card key into the lock. After several attempts the little light flashed green and he let himself into the room. The middle-aged man had never been inside a luxury hotel before and his face immediately brightened as he looked around. Every inch of the room sparkled and was lavishly decorated. Bartley smiled at the plush carpeting, the king size bed with its dozen or so silk and cotton pillows. Across from the bed he noticed a 60-inch flat screen TV mounted on the wall, and a full array of snacks, fruits and liquors decorated the expensive cherry oak table beneath it.
Bartley walked further into the room and opened another door where he discovered a bathroom nearly as large as the bedroom. The sinks were pure white marble, the floors were black and gleamed with streaks of gold, and there in the corner, sat a Jacuzzi tub big enough for four people.
Bartley skipped into the main room and threw his suitcase onto the floor. He removed his shoes and leaped onto the bed where he jumped up and down with the appearance of a child at his birthday party. “I…. am ha-ving the time of my…. Liiiife,” he sang as he leapt back onto the floor. He clicked on the TV and then ran toward the balcony. “And I ne-ver felt this way be-fore!” he sang as he entered the balcony which had a full view of the Las Vegas strip. Smiling contently, Bartley raised his arms up high. “I’m the king of the world!” he screamed.
“Shut up!” came a voice from below, “Go home!” from above, and far off in the distance he heard, “I fucking love this place!”
“Stop being such a fucktard Bart,” his mother scolded.
Bartley smiled at her and stepped back into the main room. He looked through all the items laid out for him, opened the fridge, smiled again, and then shut it. He walked to the closet, opened it, and pulled out a bathrobe. I need a bath! he thought to himself. “Oh but first, I must order lunch to be delivered. Do you want something Mother?”
“You know I don’t eat,” she replied.
He ignored the bitter old woman and looked at the wall clock which read 1:33pm. He then sat on the bed and used the phone on the nightstand to call room service. “Ah yes, hello, is this room service?”
“Yes Mr. Jones, what can we help you with today?” came a man’s voice through the phone speaker.
“Oh, well I’d love a hamburger with pickles please and some French fries. If it’s not too much trouble!” Bartley giggled a bit on the loud side and winked at his mother.
“Absolutely Mr. Jones. Would you prefer your meat cooked medium or well?”
“Oh… um, I suppose you ought to cook it the best you can. Hold nothing back!”
“Of course Sir. We’ll have that up for you in no time and-“
“WAIT!” Bartley screamed.
“Yes Mr. Jones?
“Bring it up at 2:45. I am going to take a bath right now and I’d like to soak a while if you know what I mean.”
“Y-yes Mr. Jones, I, uh, I understand. 2:45 then,” the man said and hung up.
Bartley placed the phone back on the receiver and sighed happily. “There Mommy, you see, I can handle myself.” He stood up, laid the robe on top of the bed and pulled up his suitcase and opened it. He removed a leather hygiene travel bag and set it next to the bathrobe. Just then, the TV caught his attention. He could see the man with the eaten face shown once again. His stomach immediately turned sour, and thoughts of lunch escaped him. “There’s some really sick people out there, wouldn’t you agree Mother?”
His mother glared at him a moment. “Indeed Bartley. Indeed…”
Ignoring the old woman, Bartley continued to watch the report. The screen captured the homeless man’s disfigured face and then cut to an image of a censored and suggestively nude corpse of a black man.
“What was at first thought to be an early Halloween prank has escalated into a gruesome scene where we have just now confirmed that the attacker whom was shot and killed by police is identified as Rudy Eugene.”
Bartley, his hand covering his mouth, threw the remote to the floor and grabbed his robe. Clutching his stomach and sighing in disbelief, he sauntered into the bathroom. The paled man turned on the water to the giant tub. He looked through the various gels and soaps and into a lavender bag which read, "Finest Bath Salts." Bartley dipped his pinky into the bag and brought a bit of granules to his tongue. He swished the salt in his mouth and swallowed. Content, he poured the entire bag into the burning water as it continued to rise. Within moments, he removed his clothing and got into the steaming tub.
An hour passed.
The wrinkled man stepped out of the bathtub, dried off, and put his glasses and the bathrobe on. He looked into the mirror while rubbing his haggard face and stuck his tongue out teasingly. Bartley turned to the door and reentered the main room where the TV was blaring loudly. His mother sat in the same chair she’d been an hour before and stared blankly at the wall. “Mommy! I’m all clean now!” the strange man chortled.
As he sorted through his clothing on the bed, the TV once again caught his attention. “It is now confirmed that the culprit of this vicious assault was on a drug called bath salts. That’s right, bath salts. Please stay tuned for more information on the lethal chemicals-”
Bartley screamed. His face drained from its rosy red hue to stark white. His eyes went wide while his pupils dilated to an unhealthy distance, and he turned to face the TV. The news show ended and went to commercial. Bartley grabbed his wet, brown hair and moaned in agony. “Bath Salts! Bath Salts! I just ate some bath salts! Oh my god, oh no, what... what... what did I do Momma? I’m... oh my... oh my god!”
His mother cackled loudly as she continued staring at the wall. “You always were a colossal fuck up Bartley. Ever since you were just a boy. Little Bart… the big fuck up we’d say!”
“Shut up!” he screamed. The panicked man turned the TV off and paced the room back and forth, back and forth, back... and forth. He opened his suitcase and clawed through it frantically. Finally, he pulled out a prescription Rx bottle entitled "Haldol: One to Two Pills Twice daily or as needed." He unscrewed the cap and dropped two pills into his sweaty palm. Then two more, and two more until his hand was full with them. He opened the fridge underneath the TV pulled out a single-serve sized bottle of vodka. He crammed the pills into his mouth and downed them with the alcohol. Bartley then walked to the corner of the room and slumped down onto the carpet. He rocked back and forth as he clutched his skull where sat images of an eaten face flashing violently. His stomach growled, and the room all around him began to quiver.
And this is how it starts... he thought to himself.
A few minutes later, there was a knock on the door. Bartley clenched his fists and pounded his head until his bloodshot eyes appeared wild and frenzied. He stood up, removed his bathrobe, and approached the door fully nude.
“What are you going to do Bart?” his mother asked in apathy, still in her chair.
Bartley ignored the question and quickly thrust the door wide open. Standing there, was the Room Service Attendant, he had a striking resemblance to Juan Valdez. The Hispanic man wore white pants and a white polo shirt. He carried a metallic platter with a silver-domed cover. When the man saw the naked and frenzied Bartley Jones looming before him, his once smiling eyes grew in sharp terror. The naked Bartley grabbed the man by his shirt and yanked him into the room. The attendant fought and screamed as Bartley attempted to bite into the man’s face.
In the hallway, an older gentleman strolling by, stopped, peered inside and promptly jolted away as he screamed in fright. Meanwhile, the attendant who’d dropped the platter to the floor, recklessly clawed and hollered for Bartley to end the attack. Unfortunately for the man, the raving lunatic could hear only his mother shouting loudly at him in the background.
“EAT HIS FUCKING FACE BARTLEY!” She wailed. “CHEW OFF HIS LIPS AND GRIND HIS CHEEKS!”
Bartley and the attendant both fell to the floor, squashing the burger and mashing the fries. “Please! Let me go! Please!” the man begged, but Bartley was in a blind rage, fully consumed by hunger and vivid flashing imagery of the mutilated face he'd seen on the news. The madman finally got a bite into the man’s nose and tore it clean off. Blood sprayed in every direction, all over the attendant’s white shirt, pants, and the plush olive carpet. Bartley spit the man’s nose against the wall and clutched the attendants neck with his gnarly fingers as he laughed hysterically. “Your hotel should not be giving bath salts to the guests! I’m on bath salts right now! I’m going to gnash my teeth into your soft supple flesh and devour you bit by bit!”
The attendant’s shrieks were deafening. Bartley’s mother began to nag from the back of the room. “You need to shut this man up. You know how tired I get in the afternoon. Kill him now, Bartley. KILL HIM NOW…”
Just as Bartley launched in for the man’s throat, two police officers rushed in from the hall, guns drawn and aimed at Bartley. “STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND PUT YOUR HANDS UP!” the first officer roared.
The lunatic snapped his head up, blood dripped from his mouth and fire raged in his eyes. He stared blankly for a moment, and then returned back to his assault on the Attendant. The officer fired a shot into Bartley’s shoulder sending the naked man onto his back. Unsure of what had just happened, Bartley stared at the ceiling, his heart pounding two hundred beats per minute.
The police officer grabbed the nose-less attendant and radioed in for emergency care.
Bartley’s face turned bright red, almost matching the color of the sticky Hispanic man's gore pasted on it, and he looked down to see his naked and blood-spattered body. The truth of what he'd done instantly dawned on him and deep shame etched itself onto his face. He started to cry. Bartley looked over to his mother and saw she was leering at him with devilish eyes. “Mommy, why didn’t you stop me?”
Mrs. Jones said nothing, and only continued to grin at the pitiful man.
The cop who shot him approached slowly, gun still drawn. “Sir, are you on any drugs right now?”
Bartley continued to stare at his mother. “Momma? Answer me!” he screamed.
“SIR! Who are you talking to? The officer demanded.
Bartley turned his head slowly toward the policeman. “I’m talking to my Mommy, Officer. She’s right there,” he said as he nudged his head toward his mother and pointed.
The officer glanced over and saw an empty chair. “I’ll ask you one more time Sir, are you on any drugs right now?”
Bartley stared at the cop and tilted his head. He remembered the news. The disfigured face. The man that was killed and the drug he was on. “I’m on bath salts. I ate and soaked in the finest bath salts Officer. This… this wasn’t my fault, it was the… hotel, the hotel gave them to me.”
Another officer approached with a blanket and a pair of handcuffs and promptly shackled the crazed Bartley Jones, then stood him up. “Just ask my Mommy! She’s right there!” Bartley pointed again at the empty chair.
The officer shook his head, while a third policeman came forward with an empty bottle of Haldol. “What do you take these pills for --- Mr. Jones?”
Bartley stared at the empty pill bottle and raised his eyebrows. “I don’t know… I just don’t know. It’s not my fault. The bath salts…”
“Alright then. Get his shoulder patched up and get him out of here,” the officer barked and shook his head in disdain. “Happy fucking Halloween Gentlemen.”
Minutes later, Bartley walked through the hotel lobby in police custody. His hair was a mess, face smeared in blood, and his skinny bare legs caught everyone’s attention. He glanced over to the counter where he saw again the blonde reception girl who had checked him in only a few hours earlier. She stood there without blinking and inaudibly mouthed, “What-the-fuck...”
In the distance, Bartley could hear the faint sound of his mother, cackling in glee.
It wasn’t my fault Mommy. It’s not my fault.
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