This one has been kind of a pain. It’s changed a number of times since I finished it nearly a year ago. It’s gone from uncomfortable ending, to sad ending to mediocre ending. There were visible ghosts at one point. It was only a ghost story at one point. I guess what I’m getting at is that it probably still isn’t in its final form, but it’s brand new and no one has seen it in it’s current form. I welcome feedback and hope ya’ll like it!
a place you cant come back from
“My god, I love the open layout.” Christina said leaning her hands against the back of the show-couch, resting.
“Yeah, this place is huge.” Arnie said back to her, glancing around the room to make sure the realtor hadn’t come back.
Arnie was slightly balding and overweight. He was a gopher for Steward and Lang, a semi high powered Law firm in downtownSeattle. He’d been in law school for years and it seemed the longer he worked for Steward and Lang, the less likely he would ever get his degree. The law firm paid enough for him to subsist so his laziness seemed to bloom.
Christina was constantly being called “thick.” She wasn’t by any means fat, but then again she wasn’t by any means skinny; Arnie, on the other hand, thought she was the most beautiful woman to ever walk the earth. She was a third grade teacher at Frederick Douglass elementary and she played the part; long plaid skirts polyester blouses and up-done long black hair.
The two of them stood in the room looking at each other in wonder. This was the place of their dreams. It was a huge apartment, right next to a quaint little coffee shop, with a view of the Pacific.
They stood there like that, staring with small smirks into each other’s eyes, when the realtor walked back into the room.
“Sorry I forgot the keys,” She said pulling them out of her briefcase. “I forgot that each door had their own lock, but…” She looked up into the couple’s eyes and saw the confirmation which would make her day. “You two have the smiles of someone discovering their dream home.” Before they could respond she was pulling papers out of her small smart briefcase. “It’s a good thing I got the keys…” She tried to hide her smile, but she failed.
“Honey, is the box of flatware in the kitchen?” Christina yelled out to Arnie from her crouched position in front of a wall of boxes.
“Yeah babe, they’re in the box marked kitchen 2.” Arnie said pulling out a shoebox from a packing box marked: Art supplies. He quickly opened the drawer to his large oak desk and slid it to the back of the drawer, trying his best to keep the box hidden. He hadn’t noticed that Christina had walked into the room behind him.
“I can see your underwear.” She said coyly.
“Jesus!” Arnie jumped up, and slammed the drawer closed. Christina didn’t recognize from his movements that he was trying to hide the shoe box from her; she only saw his panic and took it as embarrassment. “Why do you always do that?”
“’Cause is funny!” Christina laughed while jumping on him.
They wrestled around on the ground for a few moments smiling and laughing, but eventually Arnie pinned Christina to the ground. He snarled playfully and snapped his jaws at her and she laughed and fought to free her arms. After a moment he stopped the playfulness and smiled down at her. “Welcome to your new home babe.” Then he lowered his head and kissed her, releasing her arms.
She kissed him back and pulled him down to her, hugging him. Then after a few moments she let go and he slowly got up. She stood and walked to the doorway. “I’ll be back soon…” She smiled at him then walked back to the kitchen.
She went back to the box she could only find with Arnie’s help and continued to unload the dishes. She took one out at a time and slowly and carefully unwrapped each piece of newspaper, placed the dish in the sink, then carefully folded the newspaper into a four inch square.
“Hey babe?” Arnie called from the bathroom. Need filler paragraph. “Babe?” Arnie called again from the bathroom.
“What is it?” Christina meticulously folded another piece of newspaper.
“Are there any stains out there?” Arnie had the door to the bathroom partially closed, but the echo he created in the empty apartment resonated perfectly in Christina’s ears.
“Of course not, they always clean apartments when people move in.” She reached into the box and grabbed another plate.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought.” Arnie said staring at a red stain on the tile behind the bathroom door. He didn’t know where they had packed away their cleaning solution otherwise he would have cleaned it right then to spare Christina’s wild imagination, but he could swear that that copper stain, partially on the wall and partially on the ground was blood.
That night they huddled in one of the two empty rooms trying to decide which one would be the office and which one would be the bedroom. They had a single sleeping bag on the ground and the area around them was lit by the ethereal glow of candles. They had yet to make it to the store to get light bulbs.
“I don’t know if I like the fact that the fire escape is right outside of this room.” Christina said twirling Arnie’s curly hair around her finger; that is, what curly hair he had left.
“That could be a really good thing though babe. If there’s a fire, all we have to do is go out the window and down the stairs.” Arnie said lightly rubbing her hip.
“Yeah, but what if a burglar came up there. All they’d have to do is break the window and then we’d be dead.” She was trying to mask her concern and be as objective as possible, but she was failing.
“Out of all the places inSeattle, why would they come here? The neighborhood isn’t upscale and we’re on the third floor, you can’t even see if we have anything of interest, why would some thief just randomly pick our apartment?” Arnie was smiling, trying to avoid Christina’s infectious fear. He looked over at the window which held the fire escape and took a deep breath. He got up and checked the lock and closed the blinds, then lay back down next to Christina and blew out the candles.
“It’s still possible.” Christina said demurely. She rolled onto her side and then had a thought. “What about the other locks? Did you check those before we got into bed?”
“Get into bed? Babe we’re lying on the ground in a sleeping bag!”
“You know what I mean!” She said slapping his shoulder.
“Yes I locked the doors and windows. Now I’m not getting up again,” he said spooning her. “It’s sleepy time babe. No one is going to climb up three stories, just to climb in our window and besides, the fire escape ladder is raised. They’d have to be twelve foot tall to get to it. It’s just a new place, you’ll feel better once we get our stuff situated and it feels more like home.” Apparently he didn’t have to worry about her because she was already softly snoring.
Later that night Arnie woke startled. He’d been dreaming, but for the life of him he couldn’t remember what
about. He tried to lie for a moment longer, but he felt pressure from his bladder so he gently got up, making sure not to wake Christina and went into the bathroom to pee. Once he finished he took a step over and turned on the water looking down at the faucet and a momentary flash of fear grasped him. What if I look up into the mirror and I see someone behind me? He thought, patiently waiting for the water to warm, terrified to look up at his reflection.
Don’t be stupid. He said to himself and that was all he needed. He took a shallow breath and looked directly into the mirror and the only thing that looked back at him was his own tired reflection. He gently smiled and then walked out into their immense living room. The apartment was two bedroom one bath and thirteen hundred square feet; it was simply huge. He looked out into the street lamp filled room and smiled. This was his new home. He could already see the arrangement of furniture. He walked over to the kitchen which had a window overlooking the fire escape and grabbed a glass of water. He looked out the window and down the fire escape; from the look of it, the ladder had descended all the way to the ground. When they viewed the house he could have sworn that the ladder had been pulled up. Then he thought back to the red stain in the bathroom and his mind started to wander. Oh, my god, could that be blood? Could someone have come up from the fire escape? He pushed the thought from his mind and climbed out the window and down to the first level to pull up the fire escape. He made a mental note to ask the neighbors whether they had lowered the ladder in the morning.
He climbed back in through the window and locked it. He started back to the temporary bedroom and then had an idea. He went back to his desk and pulled out the Art Supplies box and grabbed a few tacks. Before he lay back down with Christina he laid a few on the window sill in the kitchen and another few on the window in the room where they slept. He had trouble sleeping that night.
The next day Arnie went off to work leaving Christina behind to do some more cleaning. Christina loved the extra time she had at home. She loved the idea of nesting, especially in this large apartment; her fears from the night before gone with the morning sun.
Christina walked into the large open living space and stared out into the bright morning sun and smiled. She could unpack most of what they had brought over today and the movers should be here tomorrow with their furniture. She was already visualizing the layout, reveling in the thought of a nice chamomile tea and the most recent Nicholas Sparks novel in the nice little breakfast nook she was going to create while Arnie worked away in his office. It was perfect. It had room for everything.
She went back to the kitchen and continued to unpack in her singly odd way; very carefully unwrapping the dishes and silverware and wiping them individually with her small dish towel then placing then in the sink to wash off. She smiled, enjoying the mundane task in the fresh new apartment when she looked up at the sun filled window in front of them. She remembered briefly that the window also connected to the same fire escape as the room they slept in and noticed little thumb tacks sitting on the window sill. She made a mental note to yell at Arnie later for putting those there. She could have hurt herself!
She brushed aside the tacks and leaned to look out the window and down the fire escape. She could see from her vantage point that the ladder at the bottom had been pulled up. She smiled because Arnie was right. The ladder was pulled up. Who would want to break into their apartment anyway? She made a mental note not to bring the issue up again because she didn’t want to deal with his smugness. She could just see the look on his face and she couldn’t take it.
She finished the dishes about an hour later and moved onto the box marked jackets ‘n coats, carefully pulling the tape off the box and pulling it open. The box had a meticulously created divider to separate the coats and jackets from the hangers. Christina had cut another box and then used Gorilla glue to hold the divider in place. She pulled the box to the closet door and, one by one, took the hangers out and laid them on the rack. She had a number of colored plastic hangers and they all had to go in according to color; the blues with the blues and the yellows with the yellows. She smiled at the configuration once it was complete.
She then reached down to grab the jackets when she happened to look at the back wall off the closet. There was a small red splatter, down at the moldings. She grimaced and immediately turned around and went into the kitchen to grab the box she had labeled cleaning supplies. She grabbed her favorite bleach spray and rag and headed back to the closet. She sprayed like it was an infestation of ants, holding her body away from the spray and shielding herself with the hand holding the rag. Once she felt she had sufficiently slathered the stain she attacked it with the rag, pulling off just a little bit of paint in the process.
She folded the rag, careful not to touch anything she had just wiped up, and caught a glimpse of the maroon stain. It was just a glimpse and all she could smell was bleach, but she had a horrible suspicion that the stain was blood. Come on, why would there be blood in the closet? Christina, normally incredibly superstitious, was galvanized by the warmth and light of the sun and the exciting prospect for a new apartment, ignored her fears and threw the rag into the hamper.
She continued to clean and organize for a couple of hours, until the afternoon sun began to beat down through the windows and heat the apartment. She began to feel the beginnings of sweat break through her skin making her scalp itch and decided it was time for a shower.
She gathered her necessary toiletries and headed into the shower, turning on the hot water and shutting the shower curtain. She put her towel on the rack and the various bottles of soaps on the counter and turned to shut the door. There was another red stain behind the door on the wall again at the moldings. She squealed lowly and ran back out of the bathroom grabbing the rag from the hamper and the bleach cleaner from the kitchen. She went at this stain with the same ferocity as she did the one in the closet and then put the rag back in the hamper and the cleaner back in the kitchen.
When she got back to the shower she could see the steam coming from over the shower curtain and she chuckled to herself nervously. It was only a stain, she told herself, it was only a stain.
She de-robed and jumped into the shower, reveling in the hot water. She scrubbed herself thoroughly, until her skin turned red, then turned up the heat and deepening the tint. After about ten minutes she had finally had enough and turned down the heat, enjoying the afternoon sun coming in through the window, when suddenly the power went off. The lights in the bathroom went first and then the water started to get cold. She reached down to turn the water off when there was a loud knock on the front door. Four distinct pounds. She jumped then turned off the cold water. She wrapped a towel around her body and yelled out “Just a minute!” Then ran to the bedroom and opened a new box quickly, giving herself a cut on the cardboard in the process. She swore and sucked on her finger as she pulled on some tights and threw on a long tee shirt. She made it to the door and opened it slightly hiding behind the door. The hallway was empty.
Christina, scared slams the door shut and makes her way back to the temporary bedroom. The room has echoes of the afternoon sun, now setting, laced across it. She looks at the window sill and sees more tacks sitting on it and suddenly she realizes what Arnie put them for. They were a defense mechanism. She quickly pulled the blinds on the window looking out over the fire escape, then she turned and grabbed her sleeping blanket and ran into the other bedroom, laying the sleeping bag in the closet, shutting herself in and sliding the closet door closed.
Inside the closet she cried. Not necessarily out of fear, but out of helplessness. She understood that she was letting her mind run away with itself, but the thought of being alone in this alien house, despite how beautiful it was, suddenly scared her.
She cried for what seemed like forever. She cried until her mind cleared and she couldn’t remember what she was crying about. The tears wiped her memory and slowly lulled her to sleep.
Arnie came home shortly after she had fallen asleep, content to come home to a new place. He noticed that most of the boxes in the living room were still there and he smiled to himself. Christina must have spent so much time being her meticulous self that she didn’t get to everything. He went from empty room to empty room until he started to think that she had run out to get some dinner for them. It wasn’t until he went into the bathroom and he heard her familiar snore. The snore that sounded a little more like a moan. He followed the sound until he walked into the room opposite their new bedroom and found the sounds coming from the closet.
Arnie slid the closet door aside to find Christina lying in her sleeping bag asleep on the ground. He leaned down and slightly shook her shoulder, then kissed her forehead and she abruptly sat up looking him straight in the eyes.
“Where the hell were you!” She says bunching the sleeping bag in her fists and bringing it up to her chin, covering her body.
“I was a work babe.” Arnie said, slightly recoiling.
Arnie opened his mouth to say more, but Christina dropped the sleeping bag and hugged him tightly.
Arnie woke up the next day, showered and wondered what had come over Christina the night before. She wouldn’t let him out of her sight, even just to go to the bathroom, and then there was that outburst at him when he got home.
She’s so superstitious, He thought, moving into a new place and sleeping there must be horrifying to her. There’s nothing familiar about the place.
He quickly washed himself and was grateful that the furniture was coming today. It would mean other people in the house and it would also mean a distraction. When thy finally had their possessions there it would finally startg feeling like home to her.
He shut off the shower and glanced at his watch sitting on the bathroom counter. 7:45AM, he was going to be late…again. He quickly dried himself and then noticed the red stain on the wall behind the door. Damn, he thought. I forgot to clean that yesterday. That’s not going to help Tina calm down at all. He looked back at his watch and swore to himself again.
He cracked the door open, slowly as to make sure he didn’t make any sound, then peeked into their new bedroom. Christina was sound asleep, her tousled hair in her face as she lightly snored. She made a mandate last night that they would no longer be sleeping in the room with the fire escape access. It was just too dangerous.
Arnie tiptoed into the kitchen and rifled through the cabinet under the sink until he found the bleach cleaner and he made his way back to the bathroom. He sprayed the stain a few times and then took a swath of toilet paper and wiped it clean, flushing the red paper down the toilet.
He quickly got dressed and looked in on her one more time.
“Love you.” He said softly making sure not to disturb her, then slipped out the door and went to work.
At work Arnie sifted through paperwork, trying to organize the jumbles the privates left on the desk for the various cases the lawyers were taking. Arnie was a master at his craft. He would organize just enough to know where everything was and then procrastinated for the rest of the day, handing off the documents to the various lawyers as they came by for them. He always gave them exactly what they were looking for, but his desk was a total mess. It was his protection mechanism because it ensured that no one else in the office knew what was going on in that horrible mess of a desk.
It was while he was sifting through the piles during his morning that the phone call came.
“Thank you for calling Steward and Lang, this isArnoldspeaking.”
“When are you coming home?”
“Damn it, when are you coming home” There was venom in her voice.
“Later on babe. What’s up?” He asked but there wasn’t any real concern in his voice.
“Come home now.” There was something wrong with her voice, but he couldn’t quite place it. Just something…off; Something not quite Christina.
“I’m working babe. They’d cut my pay.”
“I’m never going to get anything done!” He could feel her frustration flowing out through the phone covering him in a thin layer of anxiety.
“God, I should just kill myself!”
“Tina, what’s wrong!” In their various arguments they had had, Arnie had always tried to keep his voice down; he told himself it was because he was level headed, but deep down he knew there was no one better for him than Christina, and the thought of angering her and increasing the probability that she would leave was too much to take. He didn’t yell this time either, but the timber of his voice did rise.
“I need a specific time when you’re getting home!” She was starting to whine.
“Please talk to me!”
She paused for a moment, ashamed at herself for what she was going to ask next.
“Do you think our place is haunted?” She trailed off by the end and he could barely hear her.
“Babe, there’s no such thing as ghosts. What happened?”
There is another pause on the other end of the phone and then in another meek voice Christina comes back on.
“Are you cheating on me?”
“What?” His hand tightened on the receiver.
“I found some letters.”
“Letters? Babe I’ll be home later…”
The phone cut out, leaving a horrible sorrowful tone in his ear. A sound indicative of an ending. But before it did, Arnie could swear he could hear someone knocking on a door through the phone.
When Arnie got home that night Christina was already asleep on the couch. Her gentle snores told him where she laid in the darkened apartment. The apartment seems impossibly cold, so after kissing her gently on the forehead and making sure she’s completely covered with blankets, he turned on the heater and made his way to the shower. He turned on the hot water and looked at himself in the mirror as he waited for the water to warm up. His eyes are drawn and there are large dark bags underneath. In the poor light of the single bulb in the bathroom he looks ten years older than he actually is and he suddenly feels depressed. This is his life. He is an aging intern working for a soulless law firm, where he virtually has no upward mobility and he has no idea what he’s even doing at the firm in the first place. The only reason he took the job in the first place is because he wanted to be more responsible for Christina’s sake. He wanted to be the breadwinner like all the classic TV shows portray. He wanted her to have the lifestyle she always wanted, and yet here he was, a balding, overweight, gopher at the age of thirty burning the midnight oil for lawyers who could care less about him and not at all for his girlfriend at home.
Once the water was warm enough Arnie peeled off his clothes and stepped in. The water itself was hot, but for some reason he just couldn’t heat himself up. It was as if the cold had sunk in his bones and kept his core cold. He twisted and turned in the shower trying to keep the hot water on his freezing body.
While he was shampooing his hair he heard Christina call for him. It was faint, but he distinctly heard her soft caring voice. It was the voice she used when they had just finished in bed; slightly sultry, but infinitesimally caring.
“Just a minute babe. I’m getting out now.” He called from the shower, hoping for a little late night coitus.
Once he turned off the shower the water on his body seemed to freeze. He grabbed the towel as quickly as he could, but in doing so he saw a red stain on the wall behind the bathroom door. Damn it, I thought I got that! He thought to himself.
He quickly dried himself off and grabbed the bleach cleaner again and some toilet paper to clean off the red stain. Then he went into the bedroom threw on some clothes and went back into the hallway. He stopped immediately. There was a figure walking out in the main room. He felt a chill course through his body and he took a deep breath. As quickly as he saw the shape it disappeared and he thought for a moment it must have just been Christina-until he heard her soft snore.
He quickly flipped on every light switch in the vicinity and looked around the open room. The only person in the room was Christina and she was sleeping on the couch. Arnie shivered as he walked over to her. Was she sleepwalking? Sleep talking? But she sounded so awake.
He got over to her and took a quick look about the room making sure there was no one there, but he noticed the kitchen window slightly ajar. No wonder it’s so cold. He thought as he walked over and shut the window. He looked down, just as a precaution and saw that the ladder to the ground was pulled up. Then he turned and walked back over to Christina, making sure to put on the heater full blast as he passed it.
He gently shook her and kissed her again on the forehead.
“Why don’t you love me?” She said in a voice which didn’t sound like her own. He wouldn’t have believed it was her except for her lips moving. He kissed her on the lips and picked her up carefully, grunting in the process, and took her to bed. When he lay her down he gently kissed her ear lobe and whispered “I do love you” and covered her up in blankets. He fell asleep shortly after.
Arnie woke in the middle of the night when he heard footsteps in the hallway. It sounded as if Christina had put on heels and was walking around on tiles. He sat up and felt Christina’s side of the bed and found her absent.
“Babe? What are you doing?” Arnie said getting up from the bed. She must have turned off the heater, he thinks to himself, shivering as he put on a sweater. He opened the door from the bedroom and again heard heels clacking on the tile. It almost sounded as if they were running away from him. Outside the bedroom it felt even colder. He shivered and looked about the hallway, flipped on the light switch. It didn’t go on.
“Babe?” He called out, as he peered through the darkness. He thought he could see her moving around in the large living room, but he wasn’t sure if it was just shadows and his sleep deprived mind playing tricks on him. He walked out into the kitchen and noticed that the window was open again. Startled he closed it and peered out through the window. The ladder was down.
He whirled around and whipped his head to the left and right searching the room.
“Tina, where are you?” He said hoarsely, trying to be loud, but at the same time trying to be quiet.
“Why don’t you love me?” He wasn’t sure if it was Christina this time. It sounded like her, but at the same time it didn’t. Something about the timber of the voice, he just couldn’t put his finger on it.
“Baby where are you?” He said again a little more forcefully. He took a step forward and hissed as he stepped on a thumb tack. He pulled it out of his foot and turned to the window sill, noticing that they had been brushed from the sill. He shut the window then heard more footsteps behind him and a weak knocking at the front door.
A chill ran through him making him involuntarily shiver and he grabbed the coffee pot, wielding it as a weapon. He walked over to the front door and looked through the peep hole. There was nothing on the other side. He turned and looked through the room and saw a figure standing with its back to him in the corner. Arnie’s mouth went dry and he clicked his tongue trying to get some moisture back, but failing. He slowly walked towards the figure, brandishing the coffee pot. He got to within a few feet when he heard the shower curtain shut and a sob coming from the shower.
Arnie gulped and cocked the arm back ready to bash the figure with the coffee pot and reached his other hand out to turn the figure around. As soon as he touched it the façade fell and what he could have sworn was a person dissolved into a pile of clothes.
There was a louder knock at the door and Arnie turned and jumped. He heard more footsteps and saw the window in the kitchen was open again. Shivering he walked towards the bathroom. The door was open and he could see the curtain shifting as if someone were on the other side moving around.
Arnie took a deep breath and began towards the shower when the light in the spare room came on. He turned to see Christina sitting in the middle of the room with blood on her hands, flipping through notes from his past girlfriends.
“Why don’t you love me?” She said with tears in her eyes, looking directly at Arnie.
“Babe why are your hands bloody?” Terror gripped Arnie and he took a step towards Christina, as he did, the curtains billowed into the room. The ladder was down and that window leads to the fire escape! Arnie thought briefly, but before he could come up with a more concrete thought, the door to the spare room slammed shut and the shower curtain opened.
The tub was filled with blood and it had splashed out onto the floor and the walls in the bathroom. There were bloody handprints covering the walls and written in blood on the mirror were five words.
“I do!” Arnie said and took a step backwards. He saw stains covering the walls, bleeding down to the moldings. Down to the spot he cleaned twice already.
There was a loud knock at the front door behind him and he turned to look at it. He felt a breeze of freezing cold air and the lights went out. In the darkness he felt a hand on his chest and a brush of hair against his cheek and a soft feminine voice whisper in his ear. Liar!
Arnie woke the next morning, disoriented. He was curled into a fetal position on the bathroom floor and his teeth were chattering from the cold tile. He sat up to get off the tile, still confused as to where he was. Then he remembered. He shot up holding his hands out toward the shower curtain, but it was open and there was nothing in the shower, except for a single ray of light coming in through the window and illuminating the bathroom.
Arnie stood and rubbed his eyes in confusion. The red stain behind the door was still there. Arnie lumbered out into the hallway. He looked into the spare room and saw Christina curled up on the floor holding something in her hands. Arnie turned and went into their bedroom to start packing clothes. He had already made the decision that they weren’t staying there for the night.
As he was packing he thought about how easy it was to get this apartment and the smile of relief the realtor had when she saw they wanted it. Arnie grabbed the cell phone off the night stand in the room and dialed the realtor.
“Caroline Jacobs!” Her familiar bubbly voice souded tinny in the phone.
“What is wrong with our apartment?”
“Excuse me? Who is this?” Concern and a little fear filled her voice.
“ArnoldLawton. Third floor apartment. What’s wrong with it?”
“I don’t know what you…”
“What happened here?” His voice was cold and he stopped looking at what he was doing, but continued shoving random clothes into his duffle bag.
There was silence on the line for a moment and Arnie waited it out. Eventually she sighed and told him a story.
“A couple lived there before you. He was cheating on her. Apparently she came home one day and caught them in the act and she took a butcher knife went into the shower and turned on the cold water. She waited in there until he came to investigate and she killed him. Killed the other girl in the hallway and killed herself in the closet. Why are you asking this now? Did something…”
“You bitch! How could you!” Arnie said and hung up on her. He stopped packing and put the heel of his hand to his face and started to weep. This place was supposed to be his freedom. He was supposed to be able to relax here and he was supposed to learn what love really meant here. It was his first time living with a girl and she seemed to really care about him.
“Were you talking to her? It’s ok, I knew you never really loved me.”
Arnie jumped when she spoke. He thought she was still sleeping in the other room. He must have woken her when he yelled at the realtor.
“Babe!” It was all he could get out because he couldn’t comprehend what she had just spoken.
“I’ll leave.” She looked down at her feet and her hands clasped a folder. The folder he had hidden in his drawer so she wouldn’t see it. The folder with letters from the one who got away.
“Oh, baby, no…” He chuckled a little bit and he stood up from the bed gesturing that he was going to hold her. She flinched and backed up.
Immediately Arnie felt like he had slapped her. She acted as though she were scared of him. Arnie thought he could hear the squeak of the handles turning in the shower.
“Why don’t you love me?” She was crying. Tears were pouring down her cheeks.
“Babe…” He held out a hand and she took a step back.
“It is because I’m fat? Because I’m ugly?” Water blasted through the shower head and hit the back wall.
“No.” Arnie said forcefully. The lights flickered in the house and Arnie could feel goose bumps. It was cold.
“You are beautiful now help me pack; fast.” He grabbed her arm and she ripped it back, out of his hands.
“You’re only saying that. What about these? Why did you keep these? Why did you bring them here?” Christina said waving the folder in his face.
Arnie didn’t have a response for her, but he did hear foot steps go toward the kitchen.
“I blinded myself thinking that you love me, but I knew all along it was only a matter of time. Guys are all the same. They never stop looking for options.” She waved the folder in his face again. “I’m not going to be one of these girls who holds onto the hope that because you kept a couple old things that you’ll call back. I don’t want to be played.” Her hands were balled at her sides now with the folder crushed in her hand. “I THOUGHT YOU LOVED ME!” Arnie was pretty sure she couldn’t see through the tears in her eyes and he was also pretty sure he heard a knife retract from its sleeve in the kitchen and heared a soft knock at the front door.
“I do love you! I do!” He was rolling his eyes and huffing because of his fear of what was in the kitchen. It was his fear for himself though, it wasn’t for Christina.
“Admit it.” She said making a smug look and wiping tears from her eyes; Arnie could hear footsteps walking back towards them.
“Goddamn it! What do you want me to say!” He said flailing his arms.
“I see the way you look at girls as they walk past. You’re with me for now, but you’re always looking for the next thing.” She pounded his chest and then he backed away. He grabbed the duffel bag and went to sling it over his shoulder when behind Christina in the doorway he could swear he saw a hand on the door jamb.
“You want to get of here that badly huh?” Christina said slumping. Tears rolling down her cheeks.
Arnie didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know what love really was. He wasn’t sure if he ever really felt it. He knew what it meant to lust and to yearn, but what did it mean to love? How could you let one person have everything you have. Let them have everything you are?
“No!” He said it, but there was no conviction in it, and Christina caught it instantly.
“Why did you bring me here? Why did you say you want to move in with me? Were you only looking for cheap rent?”
The room dropped twenty degrees and Arnie could see goose bumps jump out on Christina’s arms. There was a soft sobbing from the other room. Arnie looked over Christina’s shoulder into the other room and she ever so slightly turned her head.
“Babe, we need to get out of here!”
“Our home…” She said.
The door to the bedroom began to close and the light receded from the room as clouds passing over the sun. A low moan echoed in from the bathroom and a loud knock came from the front door.
“Babe listen…” Arnie began and Christina looked him in the eyes. Her cheeks were puffy and her eyes were red and her lip quivered. “I don’t know what love is. I don’t know if I’ve ever been in love. But I wanted to move in with you.” He raised his hands, gesturing around the room. “This is a place you can’t come back from. Moving in. There are only two paths we can take from here. We go on or we don’t. I don’t know if I love you. I’m not sure if I’ll ever really know, but I know I don’t want to live without you. We’re moving forward and that has to be what’s important.”
Something crashed in the kitchen and Arnie suddenly felt tired. He let the bag slide off his shoulder and it echoed when it hit the ground. Christina looked at the window sill and there was a knife sitting on it. Arnie hadn’t noticed it sitting there earlier.
“This is a place you can’t come back from.” Christina echoed.
“Baby please!” Arnie pleaded.
Christina looked into Arnie’s eyes and he looked back. She took a small step forward and they fell into each other’s arms.
The apartment was in a horrible neighborhood. It was small and dingy.
“Who was the previous tenant?” Arnie asked the realtor.
“A couple of college kids, who graduated and moved on.”
Christina looked to Arnie and smiled.
“We’ll take it.”
So this represents the last of the stories from the book which came out nearly a year and a half ago. I plan on discussing the method of writing this book in the next post, so I wont go on at length here. Anyway, enjoy!
Daniel tackled the fat thief with voracity. He felt the fat man grunt and immediately collapse and he knew immediately he would win the fight. What he didn’t know was that the gay college guy would see the gun he’d hidden in his belt.
When the two men hit the ground Daniel ground his knees into the fat mans ass and pushed his face against the ground, while Daniel grabbed the hand that held the gun and ripped it out of the fat mans hands. He was about to stand and look at Mary to see how she was doing, but before he could he felt a hand rip the gun out of his belt line and shortly after the cold embrace of steel against the back of his head.
“You drop that gun now mister!” The gay boy’s voice cracked and Daniel thought it endearing how hard he was trying to hide his lisp.
Daniel thought back on his night and then took a quick peek at Mary. He saw the fire in her eyes and knew that she was a fighter just as much as he knew that the gun the gay boy was holding was near empty from the night’s escapades. He managed a quick glance at the waitress and saw that she was standing in the archway to the kitchen watching the action. That’s good, he thought at least she hasn’t called the cops yet.
“I mean it mister!” The crack in his voice was gone and there was a distinct click of the hammer being drawn back on Daniel’s Colt Python. I guess I underestimated him. This kid has balls.
Thoughts of Mary’s life floated around his mind as he weighed his options. The gay boy was holding a gun which had killed six people. Daniel had killed without remorse and without regret and now that gun was turned on him. Maybe it was karma, maybe it was cosmic Darwinism.
“pull the trigger you fucking fairy.” He said it slowly, clearly and low. Almost growling it.
“What?” The weight of the gun against his head abated a bit as the gay boy hesitated in shock.
“I said pull it. You think it matters at this point?” He looked pointedly at Mary, who stared back at him with desire; an emotion he mistook for love.
Ten years ago Petunia Higgins had sent him a note saying she had been pregnant and had given birth to a beautiful baby girl. Of course at this point, Mary Higgins had already turned eight and had a number of surrogate fathers.
It surprised Daniel to hear that he had a daughter and made a decision in that moment to be the best father he could be. The very next day after he got the letter from Petunia, he packed a bag and traveled back from his job inNew Yorkto his home state ofWyoming. This would be his penance; this would be his retribution.
His whole life he’d had a terrible temper. He turned to sports as a child to facilitate release for his pent up emotions, but it only worked for a time. He joined the football team when he entered high school and joined the in crowd of jocks and cheerleaders. Drugs, Steroids and the untouchable quality of the football greats galvanized his young emotions and he began to get into fights and had trouble with the authority of the school.
It wasn’t until the “event” happened during his senior year, that he decided it was time for a change. He was with the center of the offensive line and one of the defensive backs hiding out by the boat house at the side of the lake giving each other steroid boosters and cocaine bumps, when they came across a car in the woods with a freshman from the school and his little girlfriend.
Deciding that a freshman shouldn’t be getting any more action than they were, they opened the door to the car. The scrawny kid was immediately offended and turned in his seat.
“What the fuck man! Get outta here!” He seemed to have a Texan drawl.
Daniel stood behind Frank (The Center) and Carlos (The defensive back) and they stood hulking over the open door peering in on the couple, not saying a thing. The cocaine made them jittery and excited and the Steroids made them quick tempered.
“I said get the fuck outta here!” The young freshman yelled again trying to grab for the door. The kid was joined soon after by his little girl friend: “Yeah, you fat fucks!”
When looking back on the incident Daniel rationalized that the girl mouthing off had caused it, but in actuality the outcome probably would have been the same whether she said anything or not. The football players never noticed the bumper sticker with the Vagabond biker gang logo on it.
Without saying a word Frank grabbed the girl by her hair and tore her out of the car, clear of the freshman’s arms while Carlos reared back and gave the boy a devastating right hook.
“You shouldn’t be with a little prick like that. You should be with a big prick like this.” Frank unzipped his fly and pushed his penis in the girls face.
She squirmed and squeaked while Carlos blocked the freshman’s view and continued to pummel him. Daniel stood in the back vaguely exhilarated and waited his turn. When Frank was finished, her nose was broken her dress was torn and she was no longer a virgin. Then Daniel had his way. Carlos continued to beat the freshman, who’s squirming began to slow.
When it came to Carlos’ turn he grabbed the girl’s throat and squeezed until the girl turned blue. It wasn’t until they had put their pants back on that they realized what they had done. Daniel looked in on the destroyed face of the freshman while Frank checked the pulse on the girl.
Those were the first two deaths Daniel had experienced. They dumped the bodies in the river, made promises that they would never talk about the incident again and parted ways. In the thirty years since he had been questioned once about the incident, but the bodies were never found.
Coming back toWyomingbrought the memories back to him, as well as the one time he had sex with Petunia. It was short and angry and he never talked to her again. The only correspondence he had with her was the letter he got telling him he was a father of an eight year old girl.
Daniel showed up at her school and watched her play on the playground. He felt old anger well up at Petunia for holding this little girl a secret for so long.
She was a beautiful little girl. She was everything he could have hoped for, a small, lithe, spindly little girl with a kind smile. She roamed the playground dancing around the other children with that broad kind smile on her face. She laughed and played with both the boys and girls alike and he felt immense pride well up inside him as tears began to spill from his eyes.
This beautiful young girl was his. He was her father.
He waited until some of the other little ones started to leave and he waved for her to come over to him. She noticed immediately and waved, giving him that award winning smile.
His heart warmed with every step she took toward him. His little girl and she was so beautiful and innocent. He felt himself smiling uncontrollably.
“Hi mister, my names Mary.” He wanted to pinch her cute little chubby cheeks, but kept his hands in his jacket pockets.
“Hi Mary. D’you know who I am?” He leaned down to her and managed to hold his hand out for her to shake.
“Nooo.” She drew out the o coyly. “but my step daddy says that if a man comes up to me I should play with his peppy and he’ll give me money for our rent. Is that true?” She continued smiling at him and Daniel went pale and immediately felt sick.
“No. Never talk to any man who may come up to you. Don’t listen to anything your step daddy says.” He wanted to be kind and helpful, but he couldn’t help the anger boil up in his stomach. He had images in his head of strangling the man who misled her so badly.
“K!” She gave him one last smile and turned to continue to play, oblivious to his anger and of the implications of her statement.
That night Daniel waited outside Petunia and Mary’s house and waited for them to sleep. He watched the drunken slob who was married to Petunia drink and watch TV and eventually pass out on the couch, so Daniel slowly slipped into the doorway of the trailer. He saw the fat face of the man and the stains on his wife beater and immediately knew he had to die. He could see in the sleeping slob’s face that what Mary told him was the truth.
He took a blanket from the floor next to the couch and gently squeezed the fat man’s nose while covering his mouth. Daniel stood rigid in position for nearly five minutes making sure the fat man didn’t stir then stole his way into Mary’s room. She slept on beer and cum stained blankets so Daniel covered her in the blanket that he used to murder her step father. He was careful not to touch her, as if the stain of murder would rub off from his hands and taint her innocent soul.
The rest of the night he spent burying the fat man out next toLakeMeneloua, exactly fifty paces from the boathouse.
He promised himself he wouldn’t re-visit the grave and for years he stayed true to his intentions. Petunia would occasionally have a difficult new “Step-Father,” but Daniel would have a talk with the man and they always went away. Then Mary turned sixteen and suddenly adopted the moniker “Candy” and when she was supposed to be out with her friends she was actually prostituting herself out by the biker bars.
Daniel kept his distance and tried not to interfere, but as she got older she got in to more and more precarious situations. The more danger she got in the more he felt he had to be there to protect her. It got to the point where his ventures out to protect his daughter started to interfere with his work, but he couldn’t bear to be apart from her. He was always standing in the background, a guardian angel hidden from the fray. Whenever someone got rough with her, he would step in and make sure that man could never hurt her again.
It was only when he was burying his sixth body that he felt as though he was venturing into dangerous territory. He was standing deep in his mass grave, 50 paces from the boathouse, and looked around at the bodies in varying states of decomposition. This cant be considered heroic anymore, he would think. It had never dawned on him that murder, even to protect a family member was still murder.
Mary was approached by the police twice. The first time was to arrest her for the murders of some of her known johns who ended up dead. They let her go for a bail of 6,000 dollars for prostitution, but she was acquitted from the murder charges. Daniel anonymously paid of course. The second time she was arrested, it was in a bar called Stephanie’s which was being raided by the ATF and the local police grabbed her up again on prostitution charges. The ATF let her go because it was obvious to them that she was oblivious of the Vagabonds influence in the bar and of their illegal trafficking.
Two bodies and two years later “Candy” got a call from an introverted disaster of a man. Daniel listened in on the tapped phone conversation in a room he rented in an IN-Law up the street. He tracked the call (with the machinery he got from the bank account he called “The Good Daddy fund”) and went to the johnny’s house and surveyed who would be taking out his daughter.
What he saw horrified him.
Behind the closed doors that constituted the façade of an office was a room dedicated to murder. There were pictures on the wall of dead women and posted next to their destroyed bodies were newspaper clippings of their young faces declaring them missing. Nazi paraphernalia littered the walls in between the dead women and two German pistols were carelessly thrown on the desk, but what held the room together was a big tapestry with the sign of the biker gang, the Vagabonds. Daniel stayed in this room for only a moment then he pulled out an electronic devise and began to study it. A few months earlier he had momentarily borrowed Mary’s purse while she was with one of her Johnny’s and sewed in a tracking bug, purchased of course, from the Goody Daddy Fund.
He followed the signal for hours until it finally stopped atLakeMeneloua. Daniel smiled when he noticed where the little beacon stopped. It was like divine providence. His prey was going to his burial ground.
When approached theLakehe parked his car on the side of the road and walked to the boathouse. He knew the area, he understood the land and he knew where they were going to go. He was destined to be a hero. Perhaps this was how he was going to introduce himself to his daughter. He was a hero who would catch a mass murderer. He was so lost in his thoughts that by the time he reached the scene, the Johnny had already knocked her against the window and was starting to tear her clothes off.
Daniel, forgetting his desire to be a hero, let his terrifying anger take over. His eyes glazed over with anger and he pulled out his Colt Python and pulled the open the car door. The Johnny was salivating and his eyes were dilated and when he looked up Daniel pistol whipped him as hard as he could. The Johnny screamed and covered his spurting nose, but Daniel didn’t hesitate. He grabbed the John by his collar and yanked him out of the car slamming the John’s head into the car door on the way out. The John screamed again, this time in frustration, but he was cut short by the echo of the Python in the open air which surroundedLakeMeneloua. Five shots in quick succession followed then the waters were still again.
Daniel took time to put on gloves then took care to replace as many of Mary’s clothes as he could. He was careful not to touch her, just knowing that the act would wipe off onto her innocent form. He put Mary back in his car and drove her back to the interstate. He left her money and left her unmolested, then went back to work on the Johnny. He wanted to keep her away from the knowledge that he was helping her. He was just her guardian angel in the shadows. He wanted her to know her father, not the creature of the night he had become.
He dragged the body behind the boat house and began digging. Delusions of grandeur raced through his head. How heroic it was. How good of a father he was. Pride welled in his chest and he felt good about his actions, slowly moving aside the bones which were so carefully laid in his mass grave.
What he didn’t notice was the policeman who had spotted his parked Rover and was slowly approaching him.
He later rationalized his actions by telling himself he did what he had to do. He needed to be a good father. He had to protect his Mary.
When the policemen approached him and asked what he was doing (after delicately putting the fresh body into the hole) he didn’t hesitate. Daniel knew the policeman genuinely didn’t know what he was doing, but his natural instincts took over and he fired two shots from his powerful Python. The officer dropped immediately.
What do I do now? He thought. They’ll know he was out here. They’ll know he saw my car. Mary is still lying on the road out there. What if they take her in again? I have to get to Mary!
Daniel went back to his car and took up the tracker. The blip was moving. She had found another ride. He raced back to his car ignoring the dull pain in his muscles from burying the two bodies. This was going to be an adventurous night it seemed and he only had three more bullets in his gun. Then the blip stopped moving.
Two things happened when he got to Raven’s. The first was the Raven who sat on the warm neon sign cawing at him and the second thing was the coat of arms which hung above the bar. It was the symbol for the Vagabonds.
He made eye contact with the man who was sitting with Mary in a booth. He was a dirty man with long hair. The man smiled and winked ever so slightly. Storm clouds echoed over from above the diner and the cawing of the crow not only warned him he was entering the end of his days, but also of how many bullets remained in his Python; three distinct caws. He gazed out into the stormy night and saw a distinct separation of the edge of the world and the entrance of the heavens. He hoped Mary’s luck kept. He hoped he’d have enough bullets. He looked at the painting over the bar and took a deep breath. Then looked down at the man witting with his daughter. A man he knew brought her here for a purpose. A man who knew Daniel had killed one of his fraternal brothers tonight. Don’t worry Mary, He thought. Your father is here.
The power of the gun shocked him. Frank had seen many movies and in every one the guy with the gun shot smoothly and without remorse. When Frank did it his arm shook and brains splattered his face. It shocked and surprised him long enough for him to reconsider whether this was a good idea or not. It wasn’t nearly as satisfying as he thought it would be and then he was lying on the ground with a businessman playing hero and a young college guy trying to be the bigger hero.
Frank cursed his luck, something that he was very good at, and whimpered at the feel of the gun being pressed against the back of his head.
“Please don’t shoot me!” He cried and both the businessman and the jock turned to look at him, but Frank he was looking at the other jock. The one with the accent. “Please, I’m sorry I don’t want the money any more! I didn’t mean to kill him I swear! You can keep the money!”
A week earlier Frank had received a phone call; and it was a fortuitous one at that. He was out on his luck again, living in a cockroach infested shack, overdue on his rent and without any prospects of a job. He had beer cans and empty pizza boxes splayed throughout his apartment which created ragged landscapes of waste. The dust was layered into a thick film, giving the flat a slightly eggshell hue.
“Franklin Peter Delamotte?” The voice on the other end of the phone had a slight southern accent, but it was rough around the edges as if the person speaking were trying to be suspicious.
“I have a proposition for you.” Frank said nothing, but he did lean forward in his seat. This was something important. No one called him by his full name. Not even his mother.
“I’m taking your silence as consent to continue. Today is your lucky dayFranklin. I plan on giving you ten thousand dollars.”
Frank continued his silence, more out of shock than contemplation. Ten thousand dollars was a lot of money and he hadn’t paid rent for the last two months. He was surprised he hadn’t heard from his landlord yet.
“In return, Mr. Delamotte, I ask a favor from you.” His drawl changed it to faaava. Again Frank kept his mouth shut. He missed that the voice had switched into professional diction by using his surname. “At this time, I would in fact, need ya to agree. It’s important.”
Frank rubbed his face vigorously while trying to decide what to do, but the man on the other end didn’t have the patience for it.
“Mista Delamotte. I need you to agree or you will lose this opportunity. Now, do you agree?”
Frank quickly eyed his studio and assessed the filth, the size and the smell before he answered.
“Ok, what is it?” His slight alcoholic drawl taunted the southern one on the other end.
“Good. Now Franklinyou will receive your money when you have succeeded in this favor. You will go to the city of Cheyenne, Wyoming. To a place called Raven’s diner. There will be a group of people in the diner. Specifically a man and a woman sitting together. The man may have a ring. You will go on March 15th 2005. There will be a gun strapped behind the broken neon sign. Shoot the man who may or may not have the ring. Then shoot the prostitute. Once this is done, drop the gun and walk out of the diner. Then, when you get back to your studio your back rent will be paid and there will be ten thousand dollars waiting for you in a sack just inside ya door” It came out dowa.
“Right.” It was a question more than a statement, drawn out like a groan; riiiight, but the man must have picked up on his incredulity so he continued.
“Mista Delamotte, two shots and walk. Easy money and your back rent. Now you have entered into a binding agreement, you cannot back out.”
Frank rubbed his chin and quickly looked out the window, feeling eyes on the back of his head.
“Is this some kind of joke?”
“Hardly. Ten thousand dollars plus a pass out of debt. Now before I end this conversation I need to hear some confidence.”
“How do I know?” He was talking to bide his time, but he was too drunk to think of any plan.
“Mista Delamotte, you disappoint me. If you must have verification please drive to breakneck bend onMustang Avenue. We will give you half the money now and we are sure that the money will make all doubt will vanish.”
Frank tried to say something back, but the dial tone began, cold and empty in his ear.
He looked about his apartment. The carpet was buried underneath the aggregate filth of years and what he could see was bug infested.
Ten Thousand Dollars.
Frank resolved to find out what was in the dark, forest covered bend on the emptyMustang Ave.
Mustang Avenue was a dark mysterious expanse of road, which had one particular dreary and dangerous sharp curve shrouded in shade from the overhanging maples. There was a wall on the edge of the three foot shoulder, but no reflectors adorn this dark wooden railing. Head lights are the law in this dark stretch of road, but few ever adhere.
Frank saw the curve up ahead and frowned trying to mask his fear. He clicked off the radio, distracted by the Boss’ rendition of “Nothing Man” and peered out over his dusty dash board. Seeing nothing he flicked on his headlights, not out of duty to the law, but out of a sick curiosity for what he might find out there in the darkness.
A few hundred feet from the curve he saw a man walking a dog. The man was dressed in black and the dog was as well. This must be it. He thought and parked his car off the shoulder just before the curve. The man paid no attention to him until Frank was near enough to touch him. Then the man spoke.
“There is a man who will be driving through here shortly. He is the one you are to shoot in the diner. The prostitute will be obvious. For now you are to take this dog to the dumpster at the rear of Raven’s Diner and replace it with the duffel bag which will hold the money.”
The man never turned to look at him, just kept his attention on the English Bulldog while it did its business.
“What is this? Why did you call me?” The man turned to Frank with his piercing green eyed stare.
“You’re a poor slob. You need the money. You have nothing to lose. You are the perfect choice. Now do you understand the instructions I have given you?”
Frank, incredulous at the man’s statements, merely nodded.
“Good, the car is a mile down the road. You better get moving.” The man produced a gun from his jacket and shot the dog in one fluid motion. Frank took a step back in horror as the man quickly hid the gun and walked straight into the forest.
“What the fuck!” Frank said under his breath and turned to look after the man, but the shadows were thick and the man had already disappeared into the night.
Frank’s heart pounded, brining bile up to the back of his throat. He looked down and saw that his pants were covered in the blood of the dog and he frantically wiped, trying to disavow the knowledge of what just happened. The dog’s corpse was laying at the edge of the road and from Frank’s point of view it looked serene.
“Could it have been staged?” He said out loud, his jowls shaking. It looked like the dog was just lying down on the ground sleeping. Could it be that they had trained the dog to play dead at the sound of the gun? Frank wondered how they got the blood to splatter on his pants. There was no blood he could see on the dog.
Frank boldly walked over to the creature, angry that these people might think him stupid enough that he might fall for a cheap parlor trick, but when he got within reach he recoiled and retched on the side of the road.
The side of the dog’s head had been blown away and Frank didn’t notice the small black hole just above the collar.
Desperately Frank grasped at its hind legs, trying to stay clean, but then looking back at his car. He cursed himself for parking so far away and then began to drag the dog back to his car. He nearly got there too.
He was passing the rear drivers side door when he saw the headlights of another car moving around the curve.
Shit! He thought. The person driving is going to see me dragging a dog with half a head! He did the first thing that came to him.
He dropped the dog and quickly started walking towards the headlights. With any luck they’ll just drive right past me. He took a few steps forward praying for the best, but when the car got near it began to slow. Keep going, keep going. But the car continued to slow until it seemed to be just crawling towards him. Fucking Good Samaritan. But then he remembered something the informant said. The man he was supposed to shoot was going to be in a car that will drive by.
He squinted and covered his eyes with a hand, cursing the man for not leaving the gun he shot the dog with. This could be all over now. Ten Thousand Dollars!
He stood tall and tried as best he could to hide the dog behind him as the car slowly rolled up to him.
“Howdy! Having some car trouble?” The man said. Frank could tell the man was white, but the car was veiled in shadows. Frank didn’t answer him, just continued to sneer, trying to get more specifics about the man.
“You hear me man?” Frank heard the concern in the man’s voice and relished it. He knew he should say something to the man, to make him feel more at ease, hell, maybe he could kill him here and now and everything would be resolved without any shooting later in the diner. The only thing that held him back was something the southern man on the phone told him. Shoot the man who may or may not have the ring. Then shoot the prostitute.
The car neared enough for Frank to get a decent glimpse of the man before, presumably, the man saw the dog lying behind him and possibly the blood spatter on his trousers. Frank took a step towards him arms outstretched, still with no exact expression on his face and still without saying anything. The man’s eyes bulged and the car suddenly jumped forward and zoomed down the road.
Frank chuckled as the exhaust swirled around him. There was a stack of papers in the passenger seat. On top of the stack of papers was what looked like a title page. It said “DOWN ON LUCK” by Robert Tanner.
Frank took his time loading the dog into the car, but he was long gone before the police arrived on the scene, chuckling the whole way to Raven’s Diner, thinking about the Ten Thousand dollars and how he would spend it.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Daniel said with a new emotion creeping across his face…fear.
“I’m sorry I know I was supposed to shoot her too, but I didn’t mean to kill him and it kinda shocked me. It was like the dog. There’s so much blood.” Dark stains began to spread across the taut fabric at his arm pits and a sour odor emanated from his perspiring body. “Please, I just want to go!”
His voice was nearly drowned out by Tanya’s screaming. She didn’t take notice of the others in the room. She slipped out of the seat and cradled Robert’s head in her arms. Blood covered her mixed with the surprisingly white bone fragments from his skull. She tried to fix the wound, pushing the bone back against his head, until she realized how futile the effort was. She felt as if something weren’t right in the world. This wasn’t supposed to happen. He wasn’t supposed to die that easily. He took care of Chopper single-handedly. How could this happen? It can’t be true!
She combed his hair back from his face and kissed his forehead while periodically shaking his head.
“What’s he talking about?” The business man said to the jock still sitting in the booth, ignoring the gun at the back of his head.
Charles sat silent by the table. All he could think about was the note. Someone here knew they killed the girl; however none of them looked like the man in white suit. He knew the business man was yelling at him, but he couldn’t process the situation. Was the robber just happenstance? Would there be someone else coming in through the door to deal with him? Or was it the slob?
“Why did you want him to shoot Mary?” Daniel roared at Charles. Daniel forgot all about the slob bawling on the ground and turned his attention to Charles. The boy was looking down at Daniel and his eyes were full of fear. Something more was going on here than meets the eye. The kid holding the gun came here with the kid the shooter is talking to.
“What is he talking about?” Daniel asked Abe indicating Charles with the gun. Frank now a crying mess of the ground.
Abe was astonished. He still held the gun to Daniel; however Daniel was acting as if nothing were wrong. Then Abe remembered what Charles told him. About the man with the letter and he thought about what they did and why they were here. He looked into the fire of Daniel’s eyes and felt all the courage in his body evaporate. This was a man who had no qualms killing. He had this way of looking at you, as if he were looking through you. Abe shivered and shook his head. He wanted to say something, but was worried how it was going to come out.
Daniel thanked God that Tanya stopped screaming, he might have a chance to think. He knew he couldn’t stay here. Having an unregistered gun which killed eight people isn’t the greatest thing to have on you during an interrogation. He tried to piece together the puzzle forming in his head. This slob comes in and shoots a man, then later says he didn’t mean to kill him. He insinuates that a college kid puts him up to it, paying him an, as of yet, undisclosed sum of money and for some reason that same person wants to shoot Mary.
Daniel slaps the gun in Abe’s hand to the side and a smile touches his lips when the boy pulls the trigger and the bullet flies wide. He raises his gun and presses the barrel into Abe’s head, then turns to look at Charles.
“What the fuck is he talking about boy?”
“Please.” Abe whimpers crossing his eyes to look at the barrel. Charles doesn’t answer.
“It was you right? The accent?” Frank mutters on the ground, desperately trying to get an answer from Charles. Charles stares at Abe.
“I don’t have time for this.” Daniel’s famous anger was noticeable in his voice. “One more time, boy, what’s going on?” Abe lets out a moan and Frank loudly farts.
Charles still says nothing, staring wide eyed at the gun in Daniel’s hand.
Tanya, meanwhile, has let go of her vice grip on Robert’s head and in doing so, loses her grip on reality. Her vision turns red and black spots invade her peripheral vision. She quietly stands and grabs a steak knife from the table while the men are arguing. She takes a look over at Mary who is crouched in a booth hiding her face and feels the anger renew, white flashes spotting her already diminished vision. He should have shot you first bitch.
There is a loud resounding bang as Daniel pulls the trigger and Abe falls back to the ground, lifeless. Then Daniel turns his gun to Charles.
“What, exactly did he tell you and how do you know it’s him?” Daniel asks Frank, but looks at Charles. Frank is confused and terrified. He stares at Abe’s corpse and holds his breath. He doesn’t answer and he doesn’t hear Tanya approaching from behind him.
“You, slob. I’m talking to you.” Daniel tears his gaze away from Charles and looks down at Frank.
“Stop!” Daniel yells surprised that Tanya has gotten as close to Frank as she has. She was holding the blade overhand above her head. Daniel swung his gun around to stop her, but he’s too late.
There is a sickening crunch as the blade hits the top of Frank’s head, then a loud grinding noise as the blade slides down the front of his face and buries itself into his windpipe.
Daniel pulls the trigger on the Frank’s Glock and Tanya’s head pops backward before she slumps to the ground. Cursing himself for forgetting the grieving woman, but thankful for her making the shot easy. He knows he would have to kill her anyway. If he’s going to get away, there can be no witnesses to tonight.
He begins to turn back to Charles when he hears Mary cry out. He whirls around and sees Charles holding Mary by her beautiful hair, holding Frank’s Python to her head.
“Y-you d-drop that thing now mista!” Charles stutters though his southern accent is still prevalent. Mary looks Daniel in the eye and he can see the little girl in her.
“kkkelp.” Frank’s voice comes out bubbly and grating, as if he were choking.
Daniel ignores Frank and looks at Charles. Inwardly he curses himself again. He should not have walked into this environment. Simply too many variables. Now he has to protect Mary and get her out of here and make sure no one else does. Shit, there’s still the waitress, he thinks, but does not divert his attention. Some things were of a higher priority.
“Things may have gotten a little out of hand boy. Death can do that. Now just tell me. What is this slob talking about? Why is he apologizing to you?” He adjusts his grip on the pistol and flexes his arm. He has to move fast and he has to be accurate. One shot to the head hiding behind his beloved daughter.
“I dunna what’s going on! You just let me go ya hear?” There is a rustle from the kitchen, but Daniel decides he needs to take this shot and then deal with whatever’s going on out there. The police are probably almost here and he needs to move fast if he wants to get away. He’ll have to forgo the information he’s seeking.
“Don’t lie to me.” Daniel says as calmly as he can muster.
“I ain’t lying! I…” While Charles mutters Daniel turns his head towards the kitchen gasping, as if someone were barging into the room, all the while keeping Charles in his periphery.
When Charles turns Daniel takes his shot, quickly raising the gun and taking short aim. Charles falls limply away from Mary and Daniel lithely moves forward cradling Mary in his arms. He kisses her on the forehead and he feels tear well up in his eyes…this is the first time he’s ever touched her.
“I was hoping it was going to be you.” The voice comes from the kitchen and echoes in the small bloody room. Daniel turns to see who is speaking, but before he can he feels electricity enter his body and the ledge of reality he has been struggling to hold onto crumbles slowly away…and everything is dark.
Mary’s screams of agony awoke him. Daniel ached all over, but when he tried to move he found his arms and legs bound. He slowly opened his eyes and little by little the darkness receded.
He was in the kitchen of the diner, or at least he assumed it was the diner. Mary was being held over the stove by a tall, burley man, her face was a collage of burned skin and each tear drop sizzled on the burner as if wiping away her right to feel.
“Stop!” Daniel yelled through coarse vocal cords and the big man turned to look at him. He had a devilish, angular smile. He let go of Mary and she fell to the ground whimpering. Then a voice spoke from behind him.
“Welcome back to the world Daniel.” The voice was distinctly feminine and the determination in the voice scared him.
“We’s just so happy to see ya.” The big man said in a fake southern drawl. Then he giggled, it was high pitched and sounded like a weasel.
“Leave her alone. She didn’t do anything.” Daniel attempted. He tried to take a deep breath, but felt something constricting his chest.
“You’re telling me that a disease infested whore didn’t do anything?” It was a new voice, one that Daniel recognized, but he couldn’t quite tell where it came from.
“You’ve brought this on yourself Daniel. You have sinned. You have murdered and now it’s time for your come-uppance.” The woman walked into his view and he immediately recognized her from the outfit she was wearing.
“Do you repent Daniel?” The waitress’ nametag said Stephanie.
“Quite honestly I don’t give a shit if you repent or not, but you killed one to many Vagabonds.” Now Daniel knew where he knew this man; it was the man who brought Mary here earlier in the evening. “You see, you did a lot of dirty work for us Daniel. We were gonna kill all those people out there. Then Stephanie here came up with the plan. We lured you all in and you did the work for us. It was brilliant. Now with the infector over there gone and her benefactor, meaning you Daniel, out of the way. We bikers take a breath of fresh air. How many of us did you kill?”
Daniel tried to answer but he was too short of breath. He looked down and saw a rope tied around his chest. As he watched it he saw it visibly tighten.
“Robert and Tanya only killed Chopper. Charles and Abe killed Kick Stand’s little girl. Frank was the easy fall man and then there are you two,” The rope tightened as the man spoke and Daniel felt his lungs burning and felt the crack of two of his ribs as the rope cinched tighter. “The pariah and the avenger.”
“Your time of destruction is over, Daniel. We will now live in peace.” Stephanie smiled down at him and gently caressed his cheek. “Goodbye Daniel.”
The rope tightened again and the light slowly drained from his vision. I’ll be with you soon my darling. I’m sorry I couldn’t save you in this world, but nothing will touch you in the next.
“And you darling. I’m gonna be happy that I will never have to see your face in my bar or my diner, ever again.” A ghost of a smile played about Stephanie’s lips.
So my producer for the podcast got caught up with some prior engagements, so we’re going to have to wait until February to get to listen to the last three installments of the podcast (Final Punch, and All Night Diner parts 1&2), so I’m going to trudge ahead and post All Night Diner in two parts because it was the longest of the stories in the book and it might bring about some suspense for those of you who follow it.
This story is my version of a “who done it.” Initially I wanted to play with the narrative a bit and keep it one flowing story where Robert’s ring would roll around the diner and that was how you got introduced to the characters. I got about twenty pages into it before I realized that it was a failed and flawed attempt and I’d have to go at it from another angle.
This story has a bunch of characters and is very exposition heavy because it’s almost a novel length idea condensed into 55 pages. I had hoped to finish out the book by having each section be a different genre, you have a horror story, a love story, a suspense story and a gothic moral tale a la Donna Tartt. I’m not sure it if succeeds, but I loved writing it and I love the twist.
Next Friday will be the conclusion, then I will offer up some more Bowling Alley poems before I post a brand new, never been seen before story “a place you cant come back from.” Enjoy!
All Night Diner
The diner lay in a desolate wilderness ten miles from the town ofCheyenne,Wyoming. It was a way station for weary travelers as they made their way through the depressing flats of theGreat Plains. Its original name was “Capote’s” with a carved wooden sign hanging above the door. Its owner was Jacques Capote who built the place as a façade for a drug and arms trading post. He dealt with gangs, delinquents and bribed the police; all the while developing a taste for cooking and turning Capote’s into a place coveted by the passing trucking and biking crowd…a crowd who could pick up, not only a decent bite to eat, but some uppers for the road. It wasn’t until Jacques’ beautiful wife and newborn son were killed in an altercation with police in the diner that he decided to change his career and in an effort for safety, the bar’s name.
The story goes that the funeral for his family was delayed because a raven landed on the casket of his son. He spent hours staring at the raven, screaming at anyone who tried to move the bird. He raved that it was the spirit of his dead son. Later that night after the bird flew away and the woman and the boy were buried. The raven returned to Jacques. It sat on his window sill, and if you believe some that tell the tale, spoke to Jacques. It gave him instructions.
The next day the wooden carved sign, which travelers strained to find, came down. The day after that, a new neon sign which read “Raven’s Diner” went up. The day after the newly instituted diner opened, ownership of the bar went to Jorge Calaveras; a man who frequented the diner. On the fourth day Jacques put a shotgun in his mouth and displayed his brains on the window of his newly christened “Raven’s Diner.”
Some said the place was cursed. Some said it was haunted. Some said it had the best corn beef hash in theGreat Plains. No matter which story you believe, it was in this place where seven people met and spent the night in a diner which had a view of the edge of the world.
Robert and Tanya
“Fuck you! I’m not going to jail! I didn’t do anything wrong!” The greasy biker said from the other side of the diner. Robert looked over at the man out of the corner of his eye, just to make sure he wasn’t going to ruin the night then turned and looked back at Tanya.
Robert drank his coffee in abstinent silence; fingering the ring he brought to the tryst. He looked across the stained Formica into Tanya’s brown eyes. There were slight crows-feet at the corners of her eyes which used to catch excess makeup and make caked lines; spindles out away from the corner of her eyes. Makeup she used to hide the bruises her dead boyfriend gave her.
Robert had saved her from all that. She no longer wore makeup, in fact whenever she passed a counter with a young woman attempting to sell, she would shy away and hide in Robert’s arms. That night was their anniversary. It was a year free from makeup and abuse.
That was the reason Robert brought her back to Raven’s. He wanted her to stand in the diner she used to frequent with her abusive boyfriend and face her fears. Once she did he was going to have the waitress serve her favorite dish, then present the giant diamond which weighed down his pocket. She amazed him with her vitality and stubbornness. He wondered sometimes why she stayed with a man who abused her for so long. Robert intimated that if he were to raise a hand to her she would tear his head off, but then again, he thought, maybe being beaten for a solid year is what it took for some people to finally stand up for themselves.
He remembered the first time he saw those eyes.
A year earlier he was on a poorly run PR tour for his new book “The Ingredients of Life” which featured a poor writer traveling from city to city and trying to find his purpose. The protagonist had sex with prostitutes, did drugs in Portland flophouses, tipped cows while tripping on acid in the Wyoming plains, had a drinking contest with a senator from Texas and eventually died of a gunshot wound in a cemetery in El Paso.
Cheyennewas as far as his publicity company was willing to pay for and Robert wasn’t sure if that was a reflection of their budget or their opinion of his writing.
He was passing the quaint little “Raven’s” when his Dodge Dart’s radiator boiled over. Six months later he would tell Tanya that their meeting had been serendipitous. If his writing were any better, they never would have met.
Her make-up application was thicker that day than it normally was. Her boyfriend, whom she called by his nickname, “Chopper,” had beaten her especially bad the night before. He would usually focus his efforts on her stomach because it brought fewer questions from people; not that he really worried about such things, he just found it easier to avoid questions altogether.
Robert had looked at her, took note of the obvious swamp colored distortion of her skin tone and sighed in absent empathy. She saw him looking and gave him a slight and self-conscious smile, then raised one of her hands and covered as much of her face as she could.
Robert wrote a novel called “Life; Intransigent” three years earlier where the main character was a battered woman. He felt it would be untruthful or perhaps somewhat un-realistic if he wrote about the experience the woman had in the moment, so he focused the battering as a memory, something as fleeting as a dream, used only as back-story so as to give a greater understanding of the woman’s decisions to avoid male contact. She was a villain because of it. A cold calculating bank-robber who couldn’t understand affection because it was something she never had, or if she did, couldn’t remember. The book was a perfect statement of Robert’s ignorance of the broad range of human emotion.
So when he saw her eating dinner with the large man in the leather vest; when he saw her look at him and smile at him, he smiled back then focused on his meatloaf.
Throughout his meal he noticed her stealing glimpses at him. Every so often he would look at her directly and she would smile and very coyly look to the ground.
Robert’s assumption was that she recognized him from one of his book’s dust jackets, but that was only partially true. She did recognize him, she’d read all of his books, and where she thought his writing was a little sub-par, she also thought he understood what it meant to be in peril. Every story he wrote had characters in extra-ordinary circumstances. In “The Particles of Faith” a priest is excommunicated from his church for alcoholism and travels the country as a preacher, stealing and healing along the way. In “Dodger” a young man is imprisoned for killing a man when he’s eighteen and spends his time in jail plotting escape. The list went on.
So she locked eyes on him and tried to convey her situation, covering her bruises only that once and giving him a view of what she represented through her body language.
Robert, whose longest relationship was only a year, was ignorant of her efficacious flirtations. He felt mildly uncomfortable, as if he were starring in a third rate Dukes of Hazzard knock-off, and the large biker would turn around and beat him for staring at his girl. Her gazes were just so resolute.
When he finished his meatloaf he got up and gave her a shy grin as he made his way to the bathroom. He didn’t know it at the time, but this small furtive glance was his downfall. She had been desperately trying to gain his attentions because her perception was that all writers had money and she thought the best way to escape the choking grasp of Chopper was to run away with a man who could solve problems through money. Money could fix anything. He didn’t seem to be responding to her though and as his meatloaf began to disappear from his plate her hope began to drop like the first dead leaf of autumn. Slow but steady.
Then, on his way to the bathroom, he smiled at her and she saw her shot. She excused herself from Chopper’s side (he didn’t even register her leaving, he was busy wolfing down his own portion of meatloaf) and demurely made her way to the bathroom doors where she waited for him to come back out.
Robert peed languorously, searching his mind for ways to avoid contact with her. Robert was a pacifist at heart and the thought of confrontation scared him. His big plan was to exit the bathroom, throw money down on his table and nod his head at her, so when she met him at the entrance to the bathroom door he let out a little squeak under his breath.
She stood before him with her arm on the door jam, her legs spread, her lips full and her eyes held a worldly and knowing gaze. She handed him a piece of paper, then leaned forward and grabbed the back of his neck and pulled his lips to hers. Her lips were glossy and she tasted of coffee.
The kiss lasted only for a moment and when it was over. She slid her hand from the back of his head to his cheek. She looked, not away, but down as she did this. She wanted to show him she understood what she was doing was wrong. She wanted to show him she felt shame for her actions, but the hand on his cheek was meant to display that no matter how wrong it was she wanted it.
There were no words in their first interaction (unless you count Robert’s squeak). It ended there, she walking back and sitting next to Chopper and him fulfilling his earlier plan. He walked over to his table, threw down money then walked out of the diner. The one change in his plan came at the door (next to the neon sign) when he turned back to catch one last glimpse of her. She was looking back at him, her make-up caked face wrinkling with expectancy.
When Robert got back to the hotel he opened the note. There were four words and ten numbers. Tanya Pearson 803-567-8956.
My God! He thought this is like a story I would write!
He called her back the next day.
Initially Tanya used him. Their first meeting she found out he had no money, but that he seemed to be willing to do anything for her. He was like an angel sent from heaven. He was everything she wanted in a man. He was considerate, he listened and most importantly he didn’t beat her.
They met secretly for months, always talking briefly about their separate lives and then spiritedly copulating when the conversation ran down.
Robert was in love from the first moment. He loved her small town mentality and her ineffable compulsion to be needed. Her life didn’t seem to have purpose and she was slowly slipping down into depression. Chopper only seemed to need her as a focus for his outpouring of lust and aggression. Robert though, accepted her and empathized with her. He hated Chopper and often talked about giving him a piece of his mind (Of course this was always taken lightly by Tanya because Robert was so soft spoken and Chopper was three times his size), but when the evenings devolved into intercourse he quickly forgot his anger.
Three months after their first meeting Tanya came to a realization. She was pregnant. She decided to wait to tell both Chopper and Robert until she knew when conception was. The only way she was going to keep it was if it were Robert’s, if she couldn’t definitively identify the father she was going to abort it. There wasn’t any reason to chance having Chopper’s baby.
A few months later she began to show and immediately Chopper was proud. When he found out he grabbed Tanya in a headlock and gave her noogies laughing and whooping. He said it was a miracle; the doctors told him that (after a fight he got into when he was twenty and got kicked in the testicles…repeatedly) he would probably never be able to conceive a baby, his testicles were just too damaged.
Robert was elated when she told him he was going to be a father. He held her tight and kissed her deeply, then that night after they made love she left him to return to Chopper and he began to formulate a plan to get his new love away from her tyrannical husband.
When Tanya got home she was dismayed to find Chopper even more tossed than usual. He had gone to his local hangout “Stephanie’s” (it was a bar owned by the head of the Vagabonds, his biker gang) and gotten free drinks in congratulations all night long. Chopper tried to fuck Tanya that night, but because of the alcohol, was unable to attain an erection. She tried to buffer his ego by sucking him, but he remained skin taffy.
Chopper, who had never dealt with embarrassment well, beat Tanya unconscious. He had tried to keep his blows to her face and torso, avoiding her stomach so as to save his unborn son (he had no idea that not only was it not his, it wasn’t even a boy); unfortunately in his stupor he eventually forgot she was pregnant and laid a few very well placed kicks and managed to kill the unborn baby.
When Tanya woke she was lying in a pool of blood and immediately knew what happened. She called Robert and told him about the beating, weeping and sobbing into the receiver. They agreed about a meeting spot to discuss what they would do. She wouldn’t have cared if it were Chopper’s baby, but because it was Robert’s it opened her eyes to the reality of her situation. She was not living a real life, but some kind of bizarre, warped Wonderland. She came to the realization that she was the only one who could change her circumstances. She was the one who would have to act. She just didn’t realize Robert would be so willing to help.
“Let’s kill the son-of-a-bitch.” He said it so coldly, with a determined look in his eyes. Tanya thought she saw his nostrils flare.
They came up with the plan together. They would call a rival gang, the Sons of Chaos, and tell them Chopper was selling on their property out in the forest byLakeMeneloua. Meanwhile Robert called Chopper, explaining that he was a friend of one of Tanya’s high school friends and set up a date to acquire some crank.
It was the perfect plan and it worked just how they thought it would. Tanya stayed home so she would have plausible deniability and Robert went out to meet Chopper. Robert got to the meeting spot (out in the woods next to an old run down boathouse) early and was surprised when Chopper got there ten minutes before the scheduled time. Chopper didn’t say a word during the transaction; he just looked at Robert, stared deep into his eyes. They exchanged money for goods and Chopper took a few steps backward, wearily eyeing Robert. Chopper made it a hundred feet when he stopped in his tracks. Robert, knowing the rival gang must have started their move, began to slowly walk in Chopper’s direction.
The kill shot came quick. They didn’t give him a chance to speak; they didn’t even give him a chance to run. He took two .22 caliber bullets to the head and dropped to the forest floor. As Robert walked past, giving the body a wide berth, he raised a hand to the man holding the gun. The man nodded back.
Four months later Tanya and Robert sat, again, in Raven’s diner. Tanya had gone to Chopper’s funeral, then disappeared leaving a note behind that said she was too heart-broken to stick around. She and Robert had been living out of hotels and hostels ever since. She never dreamed her life would be lived in hotels, but she relished every minute of it. The freedom and liberation which came from the road was like nothing she had ever experienced. She felt like she had been released from prison.
Robert pulled the ring from his pocket and brought it to his lap. He smiled at Tanya who smiled back; it was a look of complicit joy and it made Robert’s heart sing.
Robert was so wrapped up in mentally practicing his proposal that he didn’t notice the short, fat, balding man walk into the diner behind him. It wasn’t until Tanya’s eyes widened as a short fat man raised his arm and pointed a Glock at the back of Robert’s head, that Robert realized something was wrong.
Robert turned slightly saw the man’s face and said one word before the bullet destroyed his brain and he collapsed into a pile of useless organics in his seat.
“You!” His publicist would hardly be happy to hear this was his last word.
Abraham Gelding Winslock watched in horror as the short ugly fat man barged in the front door and pulled the trigger. The sight of Robert’s head exploding out across the table and covering Tanya was too much for him. Abe turned to the window with his hand daintily covering his mouth, holding in the high pitched screech he felt building within him. It was not the first time he saw someone’s brain exit their body.
Abe was descendant from old money. His father was a banker who graduated from Harvard in the top of his class. His father before him did the same. The Winslock money came from the early 1800’s when the first Abraham founded New England Trust, which rivaled Bank of Italy in prestige. The original Abe’s son, Tristan, sold the trust to the Bank of Italy (which shortly afterward changed its name to Bank ofAmerica) and became a millionaire. That money had been invested and saved and it slowly grew to immense proportions.
Abe’s father was the first to branch out into work outside of investing and became a philanthropist of the first order. He spent his time building soup kitchens and hostels for the unfortunate. His plan was for Abe to follow suit, after he finished Harvard of course and continue the prestige of the Winslock name. For the entirety of his life Abe believed in these goals and strove for them. He was the top of his class in his Academy and had near perfect test scores. He was accepted into Harvard and the first two years he excelled.
Abe was a quiet boy; unassuming and polite. He seemed to live to please people and to serve. His desire to please began at a very early age when he realized he was gay. His father took him to a brothel (a high end, very expensive bordello known only to rich men and ignored by their wives) and let him pick out anyone he chose. Abe couldn’t choose, so his father did for him. When the prostitute took him to her room she instantly recognized the problem.
“Does he know honey? Is he trying to make sure you’re straight or is he trying to make you fuck it out of yourself?” She was crude and beautiful, but the only love Abe felt for her was for her elaborate dressings.
He vowed from that moment that he wouldn’t let his father know and that he’d do anything he could to please him and that meant hiding his homosexuality. Abe saw his sexual preference as a problem, an issue he was unable to resolve, so he decided to ignore it and as a result he grew up shy and anti-social, but extremely intelligent. The quality time he would have spent with friends he languished in the comforting embraces of Proust, Dickinson, Dickens and the Bronte sisters.
He didn’t branch out of his bubble until the second year at Harvard. He met another boy who seemed interested in him, the way that Abe deemed only appropriate between man and woman.
Charles Van Pugh was a beautiful boy. Six foot tall and the perfect Aryan. His hair was delicately cropped and framed his deep blue eyes and creamy skin.
Charles was the captain of the basketball team and loved by everyone at school. The women coveted him and the men envied him. He spent his nights doing anything he wanted and his days sleeping. His father was a man of fairly new money. When Vincent Van Pugh was ten his father started his own insurance company and grew his moderate salary to unforeseen levels. Vincent took over the family business when he turned thirty and his plans for Charles were the same.
Charles, knowing his fate, accepted that he had a direct path and decided very young that he would need to live his life as fully as possible, because once he turned that fateful age, his life as he knew it would be over. So Vincent took care of everything for him. He spent his time at the office and had his lawyers take care of every issue his firebrand of a son had and decided that Charles was just too much of a handful. So Vincent slowly backed out of Charles’ life. The only interjections were to hand Charles favors, like acceptance to Harvard despite his straight D’s, and his trust fund which totaled eight point eight million dollars (which he would receive when he turned twenty-five).
Charles in his all knowing twenty-year old wisdom, decided that sex was the gateway to everything he wanted and since he was lucky enough to be princely bred, things generally worked out for him. He fucked girls for rides. He fucked guys for favors. He fucked his teachers for grades and the school administrators to erase his records. It was during this promiscuous streak that Charles met Abe.
To Charles it was just a fuck for homework, but to Abe it was the first real person who seemed to take notice of him. Charles was Abe’s first and because of this he fell for him hard. Abe felt he loved Charles and forgave everything he did. He knew Charles slept with everyone he could, but Abe just liked being in his company so he put up with it all. Abe was just waiting for the chance that Charles would see how much he loved him and possibly return the emotion.
Charles’ bad behavior and Abe’s love for him is how they came to be in the diner on that night.
One month before Robert was killed in the diner, Abe met Charles at a party. Charles told Abe the only way he would continue to fuck him was if he was high so Abe met him there with a baggie of weed and a six pack of beer. Abe spent the better part of the day trying to score an eighth and when he did he grossly overpaid. It was just something he had never done before and the dealer, recognizing his innocence raped his wallet.
That night Abe’s plan seemed to be holding up well. Charles smoked most of the bag during the night, sharing with other people and intermittently drinking his beers until he decided there was nothing else of interest (in actuality the girl he was after had left with another guy) so he wanted to go home. Abe offered to drive since he hadn’t done anything but admire Charles’ perfect jaw line, but Charles would have nothing of it. He grabbed the keys from Abe’s hand and jumped in his Aston Martin. Abe barely had time to get in before the car zipped away.
It took Charles ten miles to realize he didn’t have his headlights on and the whole time Abe sat clutching the sides of his seat. Once he realized he snapped them on then looked over at Abe and smiled. Abe was terrified and Charles relished in it.
“Relax, baby. It’s all copasetic. I know what’ll calm you down.” His eyes wavered and he didn’t look at the road, while he unzipped his pants.
“Charles, please.” Abe was scared and his lisp came through stronger than it normally did.
“You know you want to.” Charles didn’t even look Abe in the eyes, he just grabbed the back of Abe’s head and pulled it to his crotch.
Abe didn’t say anything, it actually scared him a little the strength that Charles put behind it; slamming his face down into Charles’ flaccid penis. Later he would chastise himself for not putting up a fight, but at that time (actually every time Charles was horny) Abe felt needed and wanted by someone he was attracted to and he couldn’t stop. The more time, though, that he spent blowing Charles the more flaccid his penis seemed to become.
It confused Abe because Charles kept speaking as he liked it “Yeah Bitch! You suck that cock!” There were even a few groans thrown in there, so Abe just kept at it. Abe didn’t realize, though, that in Charles’ state he still wasn’t watching the road and less than a minute into the act the car jolted in conjunction with a loud bang, as if someone had punched the hood of the car.
Abe whipped his head up and Charles slammed his foot on the brakes.
“holy shit.” Charles’ voice was very soft and very calm.
“Whatthefuckwasthat?” Abe said staring at Charles, too scared to look out the window.
Charles didn’t say anything he just gripped the steering wheel and looked through the windshield.
Abe vomited when he dared a look through the windshield. There was red goo all over the windshield, almost like pumpkin innards died red with little bits of gray sludge and white fragments intermittently dispersed throughout.
“That little girl, man. She just popped!” Charles looked out forward through the windshield and Abe vomited again when he heard the windshield wipers start.
Charles only waited until the windshield was clear, then he took the car out of park and began to drive away. Abe never said anything. He was terrified and his stomach was threatening to continue its regurgitation so he kept his face between his legs.
Charles took him to his dormitory and dropped him at the entrance. He didn’t wait for Abe to say anything, he drove away while the door was still open. Abe got one last glance of Charles’ flaccid penis as the stained Aston Martin drove away.
That night he didn’t sleep. He waited for the police to come to his door and arrest him. He waited for Charles’ to come and kill him, for fear that Abe would squeal. He waited, but he didn’t do anything. He didn’t call the police, he didn’t call his parents. He didn’t know what to do and he saw that girl’s brains sprayed about the windshield every time he closed his eyes.
He stayed in his dorm room for a week, waiting. His roommate stopped coming home, his clothes stank, he didn’t shower, he was a wreck. He felt dirty inside his mind. He felt constantly sick and restless, exhausted and sleepless, bored and terrified. He didn’t know what to do.
Then after a week he ventured out to take a shower late at night. There was no one in the hallway and no one in the shower and it was quieter than he’d ever experienced. He crept down the hallway, making sure to be quiet and jumped under the warm water. He felt relief wash over him. He went over the events of the night and decided he shouldn’t get into trouble. After all he never even saw the girl. It could have been a deer. Charles was so trashed that night it could have been anything. He gave himself countless excuses for what it was and took all responsibility off his shoulders. When he got back to his dorm room he fell fast asleep.
He went on with his normal life after that.
He didn’t give that little girl another thought for a week.
But then one night the fog started to roll in over Havard yard. He could see the fog moving in closer, thickening and congealing the air. He peered out into the morass and saw a lone figure standing next to a tree, leaning on the tree to hold its weight.
The fog and his tortured mind blurred the reality of the situation and when the figure began to walk through the milky cloud Abe thought for sure it was the girl. His rational mind left him and fear of being tormented by the girl’s ghost seeped into his conscious mind. He imagined her half shattered body shuffling toward him, scraping a useless leg behind as she slowly made her way to his window.
Abe shut his eyes and sank down underneath the window. He could almost feel the fog beating against the dorm.
He was about to stand again to take another peek, when he heard harsh breathing coming from the other side of the window.
He flatted himself against the ground and looked vertically up to the window. He could see hands cupped over eyes…blue eyes. Charles’ eyes.
Abe lept up and threw open the window startling Charles. Abe reached out through the window and slapped Charles, then brought his face close and gave him a soft kiss on the lips. Abe’s emotions were running wild and he didn’t know what to think or how to act when he finally looked Charles in the eyes.
Through the whole ordeal Charles never said a word and it wasn’t until Abe was finished scolding himself that he realized Charles was as white as a sheet.
The story came out in a slow metered cadence. Charles was at basketball practice when a man in a suit showed up and gave a letter to his coach. After practice the coach handed the note to Charles and gave him a sympathetic pat on the back. Charles ignored it and went to the locker room. Once there, amidst his fellow teammates he opened the envelope which had a Polaroid in it. It was a very clear picture, taken at night with the flash to maximize the carnage. It was the girl, her head half gone the chest caved in and one leg a twisted branch with bone gleaming in the flash from. On the back of the picture a sentence was written out.
“Raven’s Diner at 7PM Tuesday.”
It was that night Abe was thinking about as Robert’s brains splayed across Tanya. The thick fog rolling in from the darkness. They had taken a step out of reality, a ride given by the fog. Now they were stuck in the diner with a man who already killed some one else…and they were told to come here. Someone knew what they did and set them up.
Oh, God, thought Abe. What if it’s the man with the gun?
The man who’d followed her here looked at her first when the gun went off. She saw that much right away. The two, slightly homoerotic college studs never even gave her a second glance. The smaller effeminate one (Mary thought of him as the receiver) jumped up in his seat and screamed like an arachnophobia prone prepubescent girl while the larger muscular one (this one was the giver) just sneered in disgust.
The business man was the first to react. He leapt from his seat and tackled the tubby gunman, spilling them both onto the floor. She could see them both struggling for the gun, but the businessman seemed much better in such physical disputes. The woman who was with the dead guy was screaming and the pitch hurt Mary’s ears. That bitch had to calm down.
Mary slid back to back of the seat in her corner of the diner and thought back on her night. One of the most fucked up nights I’ve ever had. She had to get out of this diner before someone else died and more importantly before the police got here. A crime scene was no place for a twice convicted prostitute.
She looked out into the dark black night and noticed the deep green sign for interstate 82 down at the end of the driveway to the diner. She looked longingly at the road and thanked God that she had been as lucky in her life as she had been; all she needed now was an extension of that luck and she could get out of here tonight.
Of course her luck hadn’t always been there; when she was a little girl she had been decidedly unlucky.
She grew up without a father and her mother always told her he had died when she was very young. He had been a firefighter and had died in a burning blaze when Mary was still in her womb. He was a policeman who saved a group of nuns from a bank robbery while Mary was being born. He was a priest who died while exercising a demon from a young girl. The story changed weekly.
Mary’s mother faked at being religious. She often told Mary she was named after the mother of God, because she was meant for great things. She was meant for much better things than living at the trailer park with her mother.
Mary and her mother were very poor and to supplement the meager money Mary’s mother, Petunia, made at the Laundromat she dated and tried to find men who would be willing to support her. It was something she very bad at.
Mary was shown early that physical and verbal abuse was something that just happened in relationships. To her it was a normal course of life. Petunia’s first boyfriend used to come home from his construction job and slap her if the dinner wasn’t on the table. He used to put tape on Mary’s mouth if she cried. Then one day he hit Petunia too hard and she fell, cutting her face on a plate she was drying. Mary’s mother told her she needed to be beautiful always because the man who had been so kind as to provide them with food had left because she got a scar from the plate and he didn’t like to look at it.
Mary also learned, very young, that a woman has her place and she learned it over again in a new brand new way when she turned eleven. Her mother’s boyfriend at the time was a slightly overweight, greasy, stay at home father figure. He’d gotten a million dollars off a frivolous lawsuit and used the money to be a disgusting slob and waste his time on a couch. Mary had just gotten into third grade and her mother was taking less and less interest in her, being too overwhelmed by the pressure of life and having a child, so she began to drink. Heavily. Most nights her mother drank with her slob of a boyfriend (who slept all day; that is when he wasn’t watching TV) and they tried, loudly, to fuck. Most nights he was too drunk to get it up, but one night after her mother had passed out in a drunken stupor, this drunken slob of a boyfriend entered Mary’s room and told her what good daughters did for their fathers. Told her what men look for in a woman…and he never had trouble maintaining an erection with her.
Things continued on like this for years until the slob left them. With the money gone and work the only apparent option Mary’s mother made a hard decision. She sent letters out and tried to find Mary’s actual father. While doing this, she sent Mary out to the street to get money. Petunia knew what Mary did with the slob and thought of Mary as a real woman now. She had a brief thought that maybe she named her daughter after that other biblical Mary and then started to drink and forgot the whole thing.
That was how Mary spent her early life, going from one John to another. Making pittances and spending them on pleather outfits.
Petunia died when Mary was seventeen. She literally drank herself to death. It took Mary three days to realize that Petunia was dead and when she finally understood, she closed her mother’s eyes, slapped her face and left the trailer, never to return.
The night she ended up at the diner started off the same as any of her other nights. She was at home getting dressed when she got a call from a new Johnny. She often kept her regulars on speed dial just in case she needed some extra money; also it better prepared her for their special requests.
The call she got was cryptic and intriguing. It asked her to meet at an address and if the John was pleased, payment would be copious. Mary didn’t know what that meant, but it sounded promising.
She arrived at a nice looking townhouse and honked twice in quick succession as instructed. Two minutes later a man in a pressed double pleated suit exited the house and made great care to lock all three deadbolts on the door, then secured the standard knob lock. Mary took no notice, because she was busy practicing her pouting look in the rear view mirror.
When the man got in the passenger side seat he didn’t say anything, but laid his hands meekly in his lap and lowered his head slightly looking down at his carefully manicured hands. Mary looked over at him and smiled at his innocence.
“Where to baby?”
He looked up at her and purposefully blinked twice.
“Go directly to interstate 82 and exit on Meneloua pass and park by the boathouse. Do not speed.”
He blinked one more time then looked back down at his hands.
“Honey, the only speeding I’m gonna cause is when your blood rushes to your dick.” She licked her lips in a lubricious and vaguely vulgar way and put the car into gear.
He didn’t say a thing the entire drive down to the lake, just kept his hands in his lap and kept his eyes trained on his hands.
When she put the car into park she turned the volume up slightly on the radio and turned to him.
“What can I do for you baby?” Her ignorance was due to her luck. She had been doing this for years now and she never had an issue with anyone. She never had a pimp, but then again she never really needed one. No one ever gave her any trouble and when they did they never came back to her again.
He didn’t raise his head. “I want you to take off your top. I want you to rip it off.” He spoke fast and out of breath as if he were turned on already.
Mary smiled and slowly lifted her shirt. “Is this what you like baby?”
“I said rip it off!” Spittle flew from his lips and he raised his eyes from his hands, they burned with fire and drool was falling from his lips. She felt her luck drain. She leaned back against the window and let her satin blouse fall back into place. “Why do they always make me do it?”
Mary didn’t know if he’s talking to himself or her, but she didn’t want to stick around to find out. She reached behind her and tried for the handle of the door.
“You don’t leave!” This time she knew he was talking to her and she felt his strangely large hand cup the crown of her head. “Why do they always try to leave when I’m teaching them a lesson?” He whispered in her ear just before he smashed her face against the window.
For the first time in her life she realized that the abuse she had previously thought normal in a relationship was far darker and more menacing. She wondered if her mother feared, as she did now, that the man abusing might be trying to kill her. Her heart sang for her poor dead mother as she slipped from consciousness.
When Mary came to she was lying on the side of the road. She had her purse with her and her attire seemed in order, nothing ripped or cut. She looked about trying to get her bearings and noticed she was no longer atLakeMeneloua, she was sitting on the side of interstate 82. Groggily, she stood and started to walk down the highway unaware in the darkness of where exactly she was along the interstate.
She walked for nearly two miles before a car passed and she was grateful when it did. While traveling she had a distinct feeling of being watched and at one point, she thought she could hear a crack of a twig from out in the woods, but she ignored it and walked all the faster.
The old Ford Taurus stopped just a few yards ahead of her and she ran to the car, not in elation for getting a ride, but in fear of the man who had hurt her, who was probably following her in the woods.
She whipped open the door and plopped into the passenger side and shut the door. “Thanks Mister.”
“Holy shit! What happened?” The man had long hair, and looked a little greasy, but she felt safer with him than without him.
She looked quickly into the rear view mirror and was not surprised when she saw her face was covered in bruises, but what disturbed her even more was the bandage on her forehead. She reached up and lightly touched it, wincing at the lacing pain.
“Please drive, I’ll tell you on the way.” She glanced into the woods to see if she could see the man and then breathed a sigh of relief as the car started moving.
They pulled into the parking lot at Raven’s fifty miles later after the man who introduced himself as Tommy told her she looked as if she needed some food (and knew he did) in her.
They were there for a short time, not quite long enough to get food, when the businessman walked in. Mary’s new Johnny immediately started to seem nervous.
“That fucking guy has been staring at us since we walked in here. Is he a cop?”
Mary turned around and looked the businessman in the eye.
“He looks like a horny old fogey. That’s what he looks like.” He didn’t though. In fact, Mary found him very attractive and when she looked at him, he stared straight back into her eyes and smiled slightly. She felt her heart flutter and a strange need to have the businessman hold her.
“He better not be a cop. Are you setting me up? You can’t get anything on me. I’m just an innocent bystander!” His voice started to break and Mary realized for the first time she had never propositioned him. All men were the same. Even if they did something nice for you they wanted something out of it. Maybe he thought he could get it for free if he took her out to dinner.
“This isn’t “Pretty Woman” pal, you’re still gonna have to pay.” She turned back to find him half standing.
“Fuck you! I’m not going to jail! I didn’t do anything wrong!” He was loud, but not terribly. She hoped the people on the other side of the restaurant count hear him. She felt strangely ashamed that the businessman could.
She didn’t make a move to stop him and he charged out the front door, sneering at the businessman as he went by. The businessman never took his eyes off her. He ignored Tommy completely.
Mary looked at him and had a distinct feeling of déjà vu. Something about him seemed familiar. It could have been one of the cops who arrested her when she was seventeen, high as a kite selling herself at a biker bar. It could have, but she didn’t think so.
She had nearly placed where she knew him from when the fat slovenly man burst into the bar with the gun and shot the poor bastard at the other side of the diner.