The perpetrators are still at large. They are armed and dangerous. If you see this man and these women, do not approach them.
“You are the sole survivor of the attacks.”
“Why don’t you tell us what happened? How did it start?”
“I don’t rightly know. Well, maybe I do. It started years ago, when Little Red set fire to the school. She’s always been a hell-raiser, that one, and then she fell in with a bad crowd.”
“Can you identify the others?”
“Yes, sir. Snow White, Rose Red and Goldilocks. Little Red Riding Hood. The Big Bad Wolf.”
“What are these? Nicknames? These kids some kind of a gang?”
“Something like that, sir.”
“How did you survive? Two other police officers died-”
“I know, sir. They were my father and my sister. I guess I survived because I made it to Granddaddy’s house. It’s big and stone, sir. It stood firm. Dad and - well. I guess they weren’t so lucky. I - oh god-”
“May I offer my condolences on behalf of the committee, Officer Bacon? You may stand down.”
Sure, the cops blame Little Red, and they blame Snow and Red and Gold. They’d blame Sleeping Beauty but she’s been in a coma for thirteen years.
There are Wanted signs all over the city, curling in the rain and torn at the edges. Have You Seen This Girl?
Bad things come in threes. Good things, too; Snow White and Rose Red and Goldilocks have this thing, ever since Gold ran the Ursa Major girls out of town.
Gold goes into the diner with one hand down the back of Red’s skinny jeans and the other tangled in Snow’s long black hair. Snow lays a shotgun on the table and Red walks straight to the jukebox and those low-riding jeans leave nothing to the imagination and the regulars are scandalised but they’ve long said it; this place isn’t what it used to be.
This place is going to the dogs. Just look at Little Red (no relation).
The lampposts are gnarled, like branches of a tree, and Little Red pulls his hood down low. All around him, the buildings are tall; looming skyscrapers with flickering lights. The corners of his mouth are tilted up, in a red-smeared, swollen-lipped smile.
“These are dangerous streets,” says a passer-by, scurrying away, head bowed against the flurrying wind.
“I know,” he says, his voice low and hoarse. His throat hurts but it’s a pleasant ache.
“There’s wolves,” they say at the diner, where the neon fits and fizzles and where no one recognises him because they think Little Red is a little girl. “There’s witches, who’ll grind up little boy bones and sprinkle them on their oatmeal, or snort them, or swallow them whole.”
“I know,” he says, again, stirring sugar into his coffee.
“You’re up past your bedtime,” they say. “These are dangerous streets.”
“You sound like my grandmother,” he says. The corners of his mouth are tilted up. “I never liked her anyway.”
No one goes to school since Little Red burnt it down.
Little Red taught Big Bad everything he knows. Little Red’s wearing nothing but a red leather corset as he sits on Big Bad’s stomach, his hands flat on Big Bad’s chest and he laughs at him. Little Red’s hair is tousled, hanging over his ears in soft, chocolate-y brown tendrils and curls. Big Bad rests his hands on Little Red’s thighs and shows his teeth when he smiles. Big Bad likes it when Little Red fucks him and Little Red loves it when Big Bad begs.
Little Red leans down and sucks Big Bad’s lower lip into his mouth and his grin is fiendish and what big - oh - you have.
Gold says that it’s her parents’ fault for leaving her at home on her own, while they’re away some tropical cruise. She’s a teenager, with a fast car and a penchant for breaking and entering. Everyone knows where the sorority girls live, in their pristine estate on the edge of the city.
Gold leaves the car running, outside the wrought iron gates on which the Ursa Major crest can be seen.
Little Red has big brown eyes and long eyelashes that girls and mascara companies would kill for. Little Red wears leather pants and keeps a knife in his motorbike boots, just like his momma taught him. Little Red isn’t scared of witches or wolves and someone has to be their nightmare. Little Red is a cautionary tale all of his own and witches and wolves travel in pairs when Little Red is out for the night.
Snow and Red and their mother are terrorised by one of their neighbours and it’s been going on for years and years. He’s small and ugly and their mother tells them not to be cruel. She reads pamphlets about political correctness and ableism and racism and she tries to impress on her girls the importance of tolerance.
“Tell us about tolerance,” Snow White demands, gesturing at the apartment door. “That little cun-”
“Sorry, Mom, but that little bastard’s been giving you dog’s abuse for years and you’ve just taken it. He calls us names, you know. Daughters of a whore. He calls us whores. He pissed in that goddamned potted plant last weekend-”
“Snow, really, your language-”
“Snow, Mom’s right-”
“Red, you’re supposed to be on my side.”
“I am,” says Rose Red, softly. “But you catch more flies with honey-”
“We’d need a lot of goddamned flies to rid the neighbourhood of that piece of-”
Red smiles, slowly and sweetly. “You catch bears with honey, too, Snow, and I know just the bear.”
Snow smiles too. She’s so beautiful when she smiles. “He’ll pop his head off like a goddamned Barbie doll.”
“And we’ll be completely blameless. Pure as the driven, dear sister.”
Little Red doesn’t like Peter because Peter’s been spreading lies about Big Bad. Peter must be stopped.
And the trouble with Goldilocks is that she’s insatiable. Nothing is ever too much or too hot. Her purse is lying on the floor, stuffed full of stolen jewelry and credit cards, and she’s in bed with the youngest pledge and it’s just right.
She’s still fucking her when the older girls come home. They scream blue murder and Gold beats a hasty retreat, her lips wet and her smile sharp as any Ursa Major pledge.
Ever since this city was annexed, the cops have struggled. Half of them are rotten and the other half are burnt-out (some more literally than others). It’s easy to blame the parents, and the gun lobbyists but Hansel and Gretel blew through town with a flame-thrower and that’s when Little Red learned how to strike matches and how to walk like a woman. That’s when he seduced Big Bad. That’s when it all went to hell.
They’re in the ladies’ room in the diner. There’s a crack in the mirror and it’s seven years of bad luck. Little Red is sitting on the edge of a chipped sink and Snow is pacing up and down.
“We gotta problem, ladies,” she says. Gold looks up from adjusting her lipstick and Little Red makes grabby hands until she passes the lipstick to him.
“The cops,” says Snow. “They’re sniffing around. Since Peter bit it, they’re getting closer-”
“Well, if some of us didn’t have criminal records already, they’d be sniffing the next county over,” says Red, who likes to keep her hands clean. Little Red and Gold look at each other and then at her. Arson, petty theft, grievous bodily harm, breaking and entering and indecent exposure. They shrug. It’s a fair cop.
“Then we’ll take care of ‘em.” Little Red’s smile is terrifying. “I’ll get Big Bad. We’ll make a night of it.”
Snow turns and looks at him. She strikes a match against the wall and lights a cigarette. “You sure you can handle it?”
He bites his lower lip and then he pulls up his hood. “Three little pigs? Yeah, I think we’ve got it.”
He walks out of the restroom, his hips swinging orbits fit to make hearts stop and tongues start. He stops at Big Bad’s booth and curves his fingers around his jaw.
“C’mon, darling,” he says, looking into Big Bad’s brown eyes. “We gotta go huff and puff and all that good stuff.”
WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE
Little Red Riding Hood
The Big Bad Wolf
Once upon a time, there were two sisters, a boy who looked like a girl, a petty thief and a soldier-turned-guard-dog.