By Kenneth James Crist
“What the fuck, Elaine!” David
was pissed, mostly because he wasn’t getting his way. He was winding up into temper-tantrum
mode and I was throwing shit into boxes, working fast, because this wasn’t going well. I was
moving out and there was nothing David could do about it. We had lived together in his off-campus
condo for a year, but now it was over. He just wasn’t getting it, yet.
“We’ve been over this, David. I don’t love you. I made a mistake moving
in here in the first place and for that, I’m sorry, but I just have to move on. I was too
young and naïve to know what I really wanted, and I thought living with you would be fun. I was
“Wait. Wait, we had lotsa fun together,
Babe. . . .”
“No, you had fun,
David, making me do things for you . . . to you. As usual, getting everything your way. You’re
a rich, spoiled, know-nothing, David, and I can’t stand being with you, anymore. I
don’t know how I could make it any plainer.”
He went into his
normal pouting mode, slumped on the couch with his lower lip hanging almost to the floor. It was
almost comical, I thought, and I kept right on boxing things up and carrying them to the pickup
I’d borrowed from a friend for the move. I didn’t have a car. My dad had offered me
one of the pickups from the farm in Kansas, but I had declined. I was in my second year at a college
in Massachusetts, on a scholarship, and my bicycle did just fine for getting me
around. Kept me from having to go to the gym and endure the stares from all the jocks, too. In between
playing with his iPhone, David continued glaring at me. That was another thing I was sick of. Playing
second-fiddle to his phone. We couldn’t get through a meal or spend any time without him glued
to the damned thing.
I’m what you might
call a Kansas corn-fed farm girl all the way. I was raised in a no-nonsense environment of honesty
and hard work. David was almost the complete opposite. He was raised by doting parents in a filthy-rich
world that I couldn’t even conceive of, a world of little or no responsibility and anything
you might want. I had reached the point that I’d had enough, and besides, I had
recently met the perfect man.
met Monroe in the library, a place that was steadily failing as the internet took over as The
Source for most college students. They could jump on the ‘net, plagiarize others’ work
to their heart’s content, rearrange some wording, and get their “B+” grade and
move on. I hadn’t been raised that way. I believed in doing my own work and getting the credit
for it, not to be shared with anyone else. It turned out, Monroe was that way, too.
I’d started going to the library because I got tired of using David’s laptop
and I couldn’t afford my own. It seemed everything I did on David’s computer was subject
to his inspection, and even though he made mediocre grades at best, he always felt
he could advise me on every paper and project.
I caught Monroe
peeking at me over the terminal he was working at, sneaking looks at me almost constantly. At first
it was irritating, but then it got to be cute, like watching a chipmunk waiting for a treat. And
Monroe was definitely good-looking, although he didn’t seem to know it. The exact opposite
David enjoyed tooling around in his custom-painted
Corvette, paid for by doting Daddy, and watching all the campus cuties swoon while he ogled their
bods, even when I was right there in the car with him. Monroe, it turned out, drove a four-year-old
Camry that he’d worked and sweated for, gutting out those “easy” car payments
as a carpenter’s apprentice at a cabinet shop in town. He was one of those guys who wanted
a college degree, plus a trade that he could fall back on. In the event he wasn’t able to
find a teaching job right away, cabinet-making paid at least as well as teaching, maybe better.
On that first day, when I met Monroe (Monroe was his last name and what everybody called
him—first name Travis, which I seldom used except when we were making love. More on that
later) I had finally gotten tired of the peek-a-boo routine and I just reached out and pointed at
him and said, “Hey, Sport-o, how ‘bout some coffee?”
had stumbled and stammered, also very cute, and finally we headed off to a Starbucks a block
south. Over small lattes, I had checked him out, as he had been checking me out. He was taller than
David and slimmer, but in a rawboned way. His hands were work-hardened and his face was angular,
softened somewhat by a Clark Kent set of horn-rimmed glasses that magnified his hot blue eyes slightly.
He had the little curl of dark hair on the forehead, too. He was quite a package and
he was definitely interested.
“So, Monroe, why the
library? Is that where you normally pick up girls?” I was being a bit of a bitch and I knew
it, but I decided he might as well get the full treatment right up front. If he panicked and ran,
well, maybe he didn’t deserve to even get to first base. After David and his spoiled-ass,
expectant ways, I was ready for something different. And did I ever get it. In spades.
“I don’t have my own computer yet. And I can use one of the ones at the library
free, so I spend a lotta time there.”
okay. I’m from Kansas, and I’m not rich, either. Up here on a scholarship and all. My
dad would prefer I not be so far away from home, but . . . ” I realized I was babbling
and made myself stop. Monroe was grinning at me. Straight, white, even teeth. Good dental care.
A great smile. Damn, he was pushing all my buttons and he didn’t even know it.
“Well, there’s one thing we have in common,” he said, “being poor
is okay, though. Makes ya work harder and you appreciate the things you do get that much more. So,
there I am at the library at least four nights a week.”
I finished my latte and said, “Guess I’ll see ya, then, okay?”
“I hope so,” was all he said, that first
night. I was still with David then and I had gone to the condo and curled up with him and sucked
his cock just the way he liked me to, then mounted him and raced to keep up and get something for
myself before his usual quick ejaculation left me unsatisfied, as he had done so many times
before. And it wasn’t too hard to do that particular night, because I was thinking of Monroe
and what it might be like to have his workman’s hands on me the whole time. . . .
Weeks went by and spring came to Massachusetts, all in one day, or so it seemed, and dammit,
I fell in love. Big-time. Monroe had a loft over a garage four blocks from campus,
and I found myself studying there more and more. “Studying” included a lot of fooling
around and lovemaking breaks after the first few nights.
That was how we
thought about it: Lovemaking, not just fucking. Because Monroe was different in that area, also.
He was never in a hurry. He was always amazed by my body, which I didn’t think of as anything
special. His touch was always gentle and yet when he touched me there, and there, and especially THERE, he awoke
something in me that I’d never known I had. The man definitely set me afire.
His man-parts were average. His chest was brawny and covered with hair. His hands were
hard, but gentle and loving. His attentions to my lady-parts drove me into a shaking,
gasping mess and he loved to make me cum. I never had to hurry or try to catch up with Monroe. He
usually got me off several times before he permitted himself the pleasure of orgasm. After a couple
of weeks, I knew he was gone on me, too, and that was good.
I had hated facing the move-out, because I knew David so well. I knew how spoiled he was
and how he felt he owned me. I saw him now as a petulant child and I couldn’t wait to
get away from him. I knew he was vengeful, too and I was just a little afraid of him. Not too much,
though. I had pinned him once when we were just wrestling for fun in the living room. He pouted
for days and claimed I cheated, but I knew better. Having grown up on a farm and had my own share
of chores to be done without fail every day, I knew I was just the stronger person. He had
never hit me and that was a good thing, because I was pretty sure I would have kicked his ass quite
I loaded the last of my stuff and fired
up the pickup and headed for Monroe’s place. It was far enough away, I figured I wouldn’t
have to keep running across David every time I turned around. And for that, I was glad. I looked
back once as I left and saw David standing on the front stoop, hands on his hips, glaring at me.
Maybe I shouldn’t have laughed, but right at that moment, I couldn’t help it.
It was a glorious summer. As soon as the semester ended,
we took off for Kansas, riding the Trailways bus to Wichita, where my family met us. We stayed at
the farm, my family’s farm, for two weeks, sleeping apart for decency, sneaking off to make
love whenever we could, because we had to.
When our stay there was over, we took another bus to Indiana and went to his folk’s
place. They were a bit more open-minded and Monroe and I shared a bed for the next two
weeks. We made love at night, slowly and as quiet as church mice, with just the occasional giggle
slipping through. Monroe’s mom said we made a cute couple.
The summer was miserable for David. He was not only
spoiled, he had a decided lack of coping skills and he spent the summer brooding about Elaine and
her new guy. He missed her, to be sure, and he told himself it was because he loved her so much.
But it really was because her leaving him was such a blow to his ego. Before he went back to college
in the fall, he paid a visit to his dad’s man-cave and procured what he needed to take care
of the situation. As he headed back to school, he was a little happier. He knew
everything would work out okay, now.
Monroe and I worked through the rush of getting our classes set for the semester. We
compared schedules and arranged everything so we would both get the classes we needed, but we could
still have the maximum amount of time together. The first week went smooth as silk and Friday afternoon,
we left the library early. As we walked outside, hand-in-hand, there was a sudden sound from beside
me. It sounded like an axe splitting wood. I will always remember turning to Monroe
and seeing the wide-eyed look of shock on his face and the bloom of blood on his chest. He staggered
backward and then just collapsed. Looking back, I think he was dead before he even hit the ground.
The far-off sound of the rifle shot barely registered in my mind and I found myself screaming and
trying to hold onto Monroe, even as his blood and his precious life were slipping away.
At the spot where Monroe landed and the spot where I
wound up, we were behind a concrete park bench, which was probably all that saved my life. The firing
of the rifle went on and on, and others were screaming and taking cover. Some were falling,
struck down by the unreasoning rage and ego of my ex-boyfriend, David. He had stolen his dad’s
AR-15 rifle and thirty rounds of ammo and he intended to use it up.
When he was at last surrounded by cops, being basically a coward, he dropped the rifle
and gave up without fighting the police. Later, I heard that several of the
officers were sorely disappointed they didn’t get a chance to kill him. Final score: three
dead, thirteen wounded. David was booked into jail on three counts of capital murder and thirteen
counts of attempted murder by use of a firearm.
there he sat in jail, because there was no bail allowed for what he had done. I once again
rode the bus to Indiana and attended Travis Monroe’s funeral. My heart was broken and it matched
the grief of his parents. Somehow, we got through it, and when it was over, I went back to the college
to somehow continue my studies. And to plan for the next event in my life.
First, I shipped a lot of my stuff home to Kansas and then, with the bare minimum of possessions,
I moved back into the dorm. I got stuck with a roommate who was a total squeaky-voiced airhead.
She could have been an irritation and a vexation to the soul, but I would not allow it. I ignored
her. Blocked her completely out. I had too much to do in preparation for what was coming next.
In addition to keeping up with my studies, I self-educated in anatomy and biology, learning
enough that semester that I could have easily aced any final exam in either discipline. For the
other thing I needed, though, I turned to the internet. I hardly ever shopped online for anything,
but I needed it to find one single item. The technology was just new enough, I couldn’t find
what I needed in the books or catalogues available at the library.
Once I found what I needed, I ordered it, expensive though it was, and had it shipped by
overnight express. David’s trial date was fast approaching and so was the event I was planning.
The package arrived three days before David went on trial. The box was four-and-a-half inches long
and one-and-a-half inches wide. It weighed four-point-three ounces. The contents fit nicely into
my front jeans pocket, and there I would keep it until event time.
Day One of David’s trial. It was tedious
to the extreme. Jury selection was a pain in the ass. An unnecessary pain in the ass, I thought.
Picking a jury for someone like David? The cops should have made him kneel, right there on the grassy
knoll, which was how I thought of his firing position, and shot him in the back of the head and
left his carcass for the crows to pick clean. To commit such a heinous act as multiple murder of
innocent people with an assault rifle, be taken into custody, and then be somehow magically transformed
into a “suspect” was personally repugnant to me.
But, the jury selection was necessary so that precious David, coddled David, spoiled-ass David could be assured of a fair trial. He had
no less than three attorneys at the defense table with him. The best legal talent that money could
buy, to cross-examine and browbeat every witness, to examine and question every action of the police
and every piece of evidence, to use every means, fair or foul to get David off, worthless David,
the evil, spoiled little shit. And whenever they would bring him into the courtroom, the fucker
would smirk at me. Impossible to believe I had ever liked this man enough to move in with him. To
. . . well, to do the things he liked so well. . . .
Two. More jury selection. The triple-threat attorney team was plowing through jurors as my Dad
used to say, “like shit through a goose,” getting them knocked off willy-nilly. At this
rate it would be a month before actual proceedings began.
Day Three. People
were becoming bored with the whole process. The courtroom, which had been packed on Day One, was
now down to half-full. Good. Very good. Boredom and apathy would only work in my favor. Hopefully,
in a few more days, people would be asleep in their seats. One could only hope.
It seemed to me that David was enjoying himself immensely. It was apparent that he was
quite sure Daddy’s money and Daddy’s legal team would get him off, if not scot-free,
then with a minor slap on the wrist. He had taken to pushing his swivel chair back from the defense
table and leaning back against the wooden rail that separated the judge and legal folks from the
commoners who were merely there to spectate.
Four. I arrived early and was first into the courtroom, when the Bailiff unlocked it
for the day’s business. I took a seat in the front row, directly behind where David would
be sitting. And I waited. As I waited, I thought about the love of my life, now tucked away so neatly
in his grave, never to love me again, never to touch me again in his special way. I would never
again hear his voice or lay my head on his chest and hear the stalwart beating of his heart. That
had been forever stilled by the thoughtless act of a spoiled, jealous twerp of a coward.
I snapped out of my reverie as the bailiff called the
court to order. Rose to my feet as the judge entered. Slipped my hand into my pocket and withdrew
the very expensive Boker super-ceramic folding knife. A knife I had carried into the courtroom each
day, without once setting off the metal detector. The blade was black as obsidian
and three times sharper than any metal razor. The grips were of black carbon fiber. As black as
David’s soul. It was double-edged and designed to last a lifetime. And it would. Last a lifetime.
Not mine, but David’s.
The prisoner was
brought in and after he was seated, his handcuffs and belly chains were removed. His feet
remained shackled as a precaution against him attempting to flee. More jury selection. More boredom.
More examples of excellent attorneys doing what they do best. Litigating and generating billable
David leaned back
against the rail and got comfortable. Today, he was being aloof. If he had even noticed me
when he was led into the courtroom, he had given no sign. I gave it a couple of minutes. I looked
back at the exit doors. The security guard was all but asleep on his feet.
Then, I flicked open the blade of my weapon and reached forward, casually and almost
nonchalantly shoving the super-ceramic blade between the vertebrae in the back
of David’s neck. It went in so easily, it was almost like cutting Jell-O.
I severed David’s spinal cord, and nothing moved. There was
no shaking. No convulsions. Nothing. Except David ceased to live. No heartbeat. No respiration.
No signals from body to brain that anything was
wrong. No signals from brain to body telling the heart, lungs or the rest of the nervous system
what to do. I had learned the biology and anatomy. I had learned it well. There was almost no
Then, I just stood up and
walked out to the center aisle and calmly out of the courtroom. I might have been headed out to
the ladies’ room. The security guard even opened the door for me. Out in the hall, I picked
up the pace a little, but I still did not run. I walked to the bike rack and retrieved my bicycle,
adjusted my backpack and mounted the bike.
I rode south,
down the hill toward the center of town, upshifting through the gears and building
speed, coasting occasionally, then shifting up again and accelerating, always accelerating.
Five blocks down the hill, I again coasted, then accelerated and shot through a red light intersection,
not caring about the traffic. The bus station was now eight blocks ahead. The seat of the bicycle
was rubbing me in a sensuous manner, almost like a lover. All the money I possessed was in my
pockets, and the bus was still the most anonymous way to travel.
A freshening breeze lifted the hair away from my neck. It had been many months since I
had felt this free. And no matter what happened from here on, I was satisfied that
everything was as right as I would ever be able to make it.
Behind me, way back, miles away, over the roar of morning
traffic and other city noise, I heard the barking of the first police sirens. . . .
A Barry Wilder Short Story
never a good deal when your dog dies. When you lose one of your all-time best friends and your dog within a month of each
other, it totally sucks.
Nesper was a retired Sheriff’s detective from Carbon County in Wyoming. He and Iva
Gonzalez had moved down to Wichita with me and Iva had paid for that decision with her
life. We had been ambushed right at my own home and it had been our final contact with
the cartel and the bloodthirsty bunch of assholes who made up that jolly band.
Commando Cody, the
huge Doberman, had been trained initially as a bomb dog for the Carbon County Sheriff’s
department. That didn’t work. He was too enthusiastic for bomb work. They cross-trained
him for drug work. Again, too much enthusiasm. When it was decided he would be put down,
Roland stole him and after that he was Roland’s and Iva’s and mine, too, I
guess. We had all loved him and cared for him equally, but after Iva was killed, I began
to see him decline. Roland and I worked with two different veterinarians, but they were
both of the same opinion. Large breed dogs tend to have shorter life spans, and even dogs
in relatively good health eventually die.
My personal opinion was that he died of a broken heart,
pining for his mistress. When his time came, he was curled up in his bed and one morning
he just didn’t wake up. Roland and I took turns digging his grave in the hard Kansas
soil behind my house. We buried him wrapped in Iva’s old leather bomber jacket and
we put in a box of dog treats and several of his favorite, chewed up toys. When we were
finished, neither of us had much to say. Roland took off his glasses and mopped his face
with his bandana. It wasn’t just sweat he wiped away. He walked off toward the house
and, when he was out of earshot, I said, “Goodbye, Cody. You were a good dog and
a good friend. I’m sure I’ll see you soon. Take care of Iva until I get there.”
There are those who
believe that heaven isn’t open to animals. That they have no souls, and they know
nothing of God or Jesus or Vishnu, or Yaweh or any deity, so they cannot enter the Kingdom.
I believe those folks are full of shit. Commando Cody had been highly trained and highly
functional. He had saved lives and taken lives and, since I never knew him as a puppy,
I often wondered if he had always been a serious warrior, dedicated to the protection of
his people. Dogs who serve as Cody did deserve a place in whatever we call the afterlife.
To paraphrase Will Rogers, “If dogs can’t go to heaven, when I die, I want
to go wherever they go.”
didn’t have it that easy. He already had two stents in his heart when he came to
live in Wichita. We both knocked around my big old house, as content as two old guys
can be in each other’s company, both nursing our losses and wishing things had turned
Cody had been in the ground not quite three weeks, when Roland and I were sitting at the
breakfast table, having morning coffee and he suddenly said, “Shit, that hurts!”
I said, “What?”
But he wasn’t answering. He keeled over and slid to the floor, managing to break
his own fall, barely knocking his glasses off. He was clutching his chest and I snatched
up the phone and called 911, getting paramedics started. I found Roland’s nitroglycerine
pills and got one under his tongue.
Station 17 arrived and started CPR and the ambulance took him to the emergency room. He
survived that heart attack, too. Roland was a tough sumbitch. The following day the cardiologist
decided to try and place another stent and during the surgery, Roland coded, and they were
unable to get him back. I’m convinced he was halfway over to the other side and heard
Cody barking and just said, “Fuck it, I’ve had enough, c’mere, Good Dog!”
I had Roland’s
Power of Attorney and he had mine. He wanted to be cremated and I had that done. I drove
his ashes up to Natrona County in Wyoming, and had him interred right next to Iva. When
it was all over, and I was once again alone, I fell back into my old ways. I took Thumper,
my Harley Ultra Classic, to the dealer for a tune up and oil change and while he was in
the shop, I cut off the mail, put all the house plants outside and made sure all the utilities
were on auto-pay. When Thumper came out of the shop, I packed my shit and hit the road.
As I had done many
times before, I looked at the weather forecast and picked the direction in which I would
encounter the fewest storms. I headed southwest. In one day’s ride, I was in Pueblo,
Colorado and I stopped for the night. The following day, I rode to Taos, New Mexico, one
of my favorite old haunts. I visited Kit Carson’s grave and also that of the famous
actor, Dennis Hopper. I stayed the night, gambled a little at the tiny Indian casino, then
Southbound toward Las Cruces, the
weather warmed, and I was soon in shirtsleeves and getting baked in the good, dry desert
heat. Sometimes, when things have been going shitty, it takes several days and numerous
tanks of gas to get my head straightened out. Moving on from the loss of friends is one
of the most difficult things for me to deal with. In my imagination, a whole group of friends
rode along with me and Commando Cody paced my bike, whenever he wasn’t distracted
by a rabbit.
Cruces, I headed further south and west, into the eerie desert country near the Mexican
border. The last time I came that way, I had been going the other direction and had been
caught by a storm. I had sheltered in an abandoned gas station and had been joined by a
Western Diamondback rattlesnake, or perhaps by a woman. It had been a strange episode.
I knew the snake was real and I dreamed the woman, but her footprints were there when I
awoke. Now, as I travelled west, I watched for the old gas station, but I never saw it.
Never even saw any place where it might have been. That in itself was disturbing. It was
not the only disturbing episode I’d ever had when riding alone and somehow, I was
sure it wouldn’t be the last.
When I reached Organ
Pipe Cactus National Monument, I decided to be a tourist for a while. I still had a National
Park senior pass I’d bought at the Grand Canyon years before and the Ranger at the
entrance allowed that it was indeed still valid. Best ten bucks I ever spent.
The day had turned
exceptionally warm for the time of year, this being October, and I found myself buying
extra water at the gift shop before I moved out into the park. I had done the tour and
seen all the huge old cactus plants a guy would ever care to see, and I was headed out,
when I stopped at a turnout that had restrooms. Figured I’d hit the can one more
time before I headed further west.
When I stepped out
of the restroom, there sat the most worn-out, bedraggled Jack Russell terrier I’d
ever seen. No collar or tags. She just sat in the shade provided by the roofed overhang
of the restrooms and panted. I looked her over and I knew she was in trouble. First, there
was no one around. Second, there was nothing to drink, and third, she had accumulated several
cactus spines in her feet.
I know enough about
dogs to know that they cannot sweat. Therefore, they pant, to get rid of excess heat. Without
water and shade a dog can sicken and die very quickly. I walked over to the bike to get
some water. The Jack stayed right where she was, watching me. When I pulled a bottle of
water out of the tour trunk, she saw it and stood up. I saw her tongue flop out and I could
see it was swollen.
I walked to the trash barrel nearby
and rooted around and found a Styrofoam container and popped it open. There was some dried
ketchup in it, but it would have to do. I walked back to the dog and put the container
down and poured it half full of water. She set to, lapping it up. As she drank, I walked
around the area, looking for anyone else who might be around. I needed to find this little
lady some help. There was no one but me.
When I returned, she
actually wagged her stump of a tail and looked at the water bottle expectantly. “Okay,”
I said, “but if ya make yourself sick, I’m not cleanin’ it up.” I
poured the rest of the bottle into the improvised bowl and watched her go after it while
I thought about those cactus spines in her feet. I knew that the cactus plants naturally
shed a certain number of spines every year. She probably picked them up wandering the park.
I supposed I’d never know how she came to be out here abandoned and alone.
I went back to the
bike and pulled my tool kit and got out needle-nose pliers. I sat on a bench that was tucked
up against the restroom wall in the shade and when the Jack was finished drinking, I gave
her a couple minutes. She went around the building sniffing and peeing, but never letting
me out of her sight. Finally, she came over and sat at my feet.
I petted her for a
few minutes and talked to her, then carefully lifted her up to join me on the bench. I
showed her the pliers and told her what I was about to do and that it would probably hurt.
I started with the back feet, snatching the cactus spines out quickly. They had been in
her feet long enough that none of them bled and several appeared to be infected. They would
require more attention later.
My next problem was
getting her to ride on a motorcycle. We’ve all seen Jack Russell terriers perform
on stage and in circuses. They are one of the smartest and most agile breeds, but training
must begin early for almost any dog to be comfortable on a motorcycle.
I walked her over
to the bike and let her sniff her way around it. She carefully avoided both tires and I
took that as a good sign. She was smart enough to know about the dangers of wheeled vehicles.
In a few minutes, I lifted her up and set her on the seat. I figured that would be fine,
until I started the motor. That’s when almost any animal will bail—when the
machine starts making all those scary noises.
I let her get used
to sitting on the seat while I put on helmet and gloves. Then I threw my leg over and sat
down with her, putting her on the saddle in front of me. She turned and looked up at me
and I didn’t quite know what her expression was telling me. I stood the bike up and
flipped up the kickstand. She looked over the side to see what that noise was. I turned
on the ignition switch and the fuel pump whined, and the radio came on. I killed the radio.
I figured we didn’t need The Eagles right then, doing Witchy Woman.
my left hand, I steadied the dog and with my right thumb,
I reached out and touched the starter. I expected the Jack to bail right then, in a mad
scramble to get away from this two-wheeled work of the Devil. I felt her shiver and she
looked up at me again. I figured this deal might work out after all. I could feel her tail
wagging, catching me right in the crotch. “Well, okay,” I said, “let’s do
this.” I clicked the shifter into first and the Harley made its characteristic clang
as it went into gear. I eased the clutch out and we rolled off, headed out toward the ranger
station. In spite of the heat, I could feel the dog pushing herself back against me.
We rode several miles
and when I rolled up to the ranger station, I killed the engine and the ranger tried to
wave me through. I stopped and called him over.
“Sir?” He was
looking at the dog and speaking to me.
anyone reported losing a dog in the last few days?”
“Not that I’m
aware of, but let me check a couple things. Sit tight for a minute.” He went back
inside and picked up a phone. Talked for a minute. Hung up and made another call. Talked
again. Hung up and made a third. Finally came back out and said, “No reports we’re
aware of. Do ya wanna turn her in? We can have animal control come out and get her.”
The Jack turned and
looked back up at me again and I knew what the score was then. “Nope. Think I’ll
just take her along and we’ll see how that works out. Have a nice day.”
I started the bike
again and we moved on out. I spent the first fifteen miles expecting the dog to just go,
fuck this! and jump, especially whenever we
leaned into a curve, but she hung in there and we soon rolled into a place called Ajo and
I decided we’d call it good. I figured my new friend could use some chow, and air
conditioning wouldn’t hurt, either.
picked a small, single-story motel called, predictably,
the Cactus Motel and got us a room. The dog waited outside the office and the desk guy
asked, “Is yer dog house-broken?”
than most of your guests,” I said, grabbed the key and went to the room.
When we got inside,
the dog made the rounds, checking everything out. I watched her carefully to see if she
was going to do anything she shouldn’t. In a few minutes, she jumped up on the bed,
turned around a couple of times and lay down. I headed for the shower.
minutes later, we headed out to find food. I had no leash, but the dog stuck close and
didn’t seem inclined to run off. We walked a couple blocks and found a hamburger
joint with outside seating that was in the shade. I went to the window and ordered two
double cheeseburgers, one plain and one with everything, a large order of fries, a Coke
and a water, easy on the ice. I sat at an old red-painted picnic table that was scarred
with many names carved into the wood. The dog ate off the wrapper of her burger and licked
the paper clean. I fed her fries while we talked. I knew I was going to have to come up
with a name and a collar and vaccination tags, and a leash would probably be a good idea,
too. I was sure these were all things she was used to. After we ate, we walked around
the town a bit and she got barked at by some Pit Bulls and some junkyard dogs. I was looking
to see if there might be a veterinarian’s office, but I never saw one. We wound up
back at the motel, watching TV on one of the three channels available until just past ten,
when she jumped off the bed and went to the door. I let her out and watched from the door
as she made her rounds. When she was ready, we went to bed. As I was drifting off to sleep,
it occurred to me that this Jack Russell was getting me trained quite nicely.
In the morning, I
knew her name. I don’t know how. I didn’t know then and I still don’t. I just
woke up and looked at her, curled up beside me on the hard motel bed and said, “Bonnie,
you ready to go out?”
characteristic Jack Russell fashion, she bounded off the bed and yapped at the door. I
said, “Hush now. Let’s not wake everybody up. Go do your business.”
She quieted immediately and went out into the lot, then
found some straggly grass. I didn’t watch her. I figured if she was inclined to leave
me, she would at some point. Might as well be sooner as later. I left the door open an
inch and went to use the can. In a few minutes, I heard the door squeak as she shouldered
it open and then her nervous pacing as she looked for me. Heard her sniffing and
blowing under the door. Then, she tried to dig her way under. I said, “Hey. Quit
that. I’ll be out in a minute.” She stopped digging and blowing and when I
came out of the bathroom, she was again curled up on the bed.
We rode on up highway
85 to Gila Bend, where I was able to find a pet supply place and they clued me in on where
to find the best vet in town. By noon, we were sitting in the vet’s waiting room.
Bonnie was wearing a new collar and was on a leash. A box of liver-flavored doggie treats
had been added to the cargo in Thumper’s trunk and we were next up to see the doc.
When the vet came
in from lunch, I had a bad moment. She looked so much like Iva, the resemblance was uncanny.
She was obviously Hispanic, but her name was Curry. Angelica Curry, DVM.
As she examined Bonnie,
I told her how the dog came to be in my possession. “First thing we should do then,
is see if she’s microchipped,” she said. She tucked Bonnie under her arm and
confidently marched off down the hall somewhere. In a couple minutes, she was back. “Looks
like you got yourself a free dog, Mr. Wilder. There’s no sign of a chip. So, I guess
we’d better get her current on shots and get a fecal smear to check for parasites.
No chip means no records, so we gotta start from scratch.” As soon as the doc said,
“scratch,” Bonnie sat down and scratched her right ear with her back foot.
The doc and I looked at each other and then we both laughed. Bonnie tilted her head, wondering
what the joke was. She looked like the dog ‘Nipper’ in the old RCA ads, his
head tilted just the same, listening to “His Master’s Voice.”
A half hour later,
I had spent a hundred and eighteen bucks and Bonnie had a rabies tag and we were on our
way. We had some ointment to put on her feet to help the cactus spine punctures heal and
the doctor assured me that as soon as I put it on, Bonnie would try to lick it off. “Try
to keep her occupied for a while after you apply it, so it has time to soak in and do some
The day was hot, and we rode west
on Interstate 8 toward Yuma. The heat of the sun and the heat off the Harley’s engine
were tough on me and I knew Bonnie had to be suffering. We made frequent stops for water
and potty breaks and just to find some shade. We stopped in Yuma and found a Dairy Queen
and got ice cream. I figured this would be a novelty for the dog, but once she got started
on it, I realized it was not her first rodeo. She worked the waxed cardboard cup all over
the sidewalk and reduced it to sloppy shreds in short order. More water and more potty
time, then we rolled into California. When we pulled out of Yuma, I tried putting her
on the back seat, thinking she’d be further from the engine heat. It didn’t
work. Up front was where she wanted to be and she almost fell off once before I could get
pulled over into the breakdown lane and move her back in front of me.
Another fifty-seven miles put us in El Centro, and after
a break, during which I gave Bonnie a rubdown with bottled water, we went north on state
road 86 toward the Salton Sea. This was a huge lake that had been created in1905 by an
engineering problem with the Colorado River and it had become quite a booming tourist
attraction for a number of years. Since the 1970’s it had been in the process of
dying. The salt content of the lake, along with pesticide runoff from farming in the Imperial
and Coachella Valleys had killed off most of the marine life and the receding shoreline
had killed the hopes and dreams of many entrepreneurs and property owners. I had wanted
to see it before it was all gone back to desert and besides, it was on my bucket list.
I figured it would be a glimpse into the past and also a good example of environmental
disaster. I was right.
about everywhere we stopped, the skeletons of dead fish littered the shoreline and
the place stank of death. There were whole towns that were abandoned, and they might have
been fun to explore, but I figured there might be quite a bit of danger there, too. I didn’t
need Bonnie getting attacked and killed by a wild dog or further injured by falling through
a floor or something. Her cactus spine injuries were enough for her to deal with at the
I did stop at several places that
were just too picturesque to pass up. I took pictures of an old salt-encrusted pier that
fell a quarter mile short of reaching the water. An abandoned motel that was now the target
of taggers and vandals. An old boat, left high and dry several hundred yards from the water.
A ruined aluminum house trailer, half filled with weeds and trash. At each stop Bonnie
ran and sniffed and came back for more water. It was at the old trailer where we found
she staggered out into the sunlight, Bonnie went right
to her. No hesitation at all. But the girl turned away, as though she were afraid. I tried
calling Bonnie, but she wasn’t inclined to return. I was also looking around for
a car or any other form of transportation. I flashed back to when I found Bonnie, alone
and left for dead in the National Monument.
I approached the
girl slowly. I could see she’d been beaten and her clothes were torn. She looked
to be in her late teens, maybe a little older, but not much. Her eyes were dark, and the
wide planes of her face indicated Indio blood. As she saw me, she looked like a deer in
headlights. She was ready to bolt, to try and run away. But she kept looking at my hand.
I realized I was still carrying a bottle of water. I held it out to her as an offering
of peace. She backed up another step. Thinking quickly, I sat the bottle on the ground,
called Bonnie and backed away. When I was back fifteen feet, the girl moved forward, picked
up the bottle and moved away again. She opened the water and drank greedily,
glancing at me from the corner of her dark eyes, making sure I wasn’t moving on her.
When she had finished
the water, I said, “You’re in trouble. How can I help?”
“You stay away
from me…” Her jeans were ripped up, but I was pretty sure that was just fashion.
People seem to have the desire to pay big bucks for torn-up shit nowadays. Her shirt was
a feminine-styled T-shirt and it was torn, too. I was quite sure that wasn’t a fashion
statement. She was holding herself together, not just the shirt, but her injured psyche,
From my back
pocket, I pulled something I seldom use. When I retired from the Wichita Police department,
I was issued a black leather wallet containing a retirement badge. I opened it to show
her the badge and the retirement ID. She was too far away to realize it said I was no longer
As I tucked
the badge wallet back into my pocket, I said, “What happened here?”
clicked. I was safety. I was The Law. I was the person who would get her out of whatever
horror had befallen her. Then, she rushed me, and I caught her as she threw herself in
my arms and I held her as she sobbed and wailed and bawled out her pain.
Getting the entire
story out of her took a half hour. I needed to get myself and Bonnie into shade, but the
girl, Lupé Rodriguez, would not go near the trailer. Her story was a tale of abduction
and rape and threats that if she came back and told, she would die.
She knew her abductors.
She was from San Bernardino, and she had been working hard to keep her younger brother
away from drugs and the local gangs. For her trouble, and as a lesson to her and others,
they had abducted her at gunpoint and brought her here. Tortured her and raped her. Beat
her and left her for dead.
Between Lupé and Bonnie, they finished off the water,
so I knew we needed to move on down the road. I went to the bike and dug out the
extra helmet. It’s a shorty helmet that doesn’t take up much room and it was
packed full of socks and underwear. I got it out and gave it to Lupé and said, “I’ll
take you home or to the nearest police station we can find. Your choice.”
She said, “No. No
police. They’ll kill me.” She didn’t mean the cops.
I said, “Not if I
find them first.” I dug a clean t-shirt out of my saddlebag and gave it to her. We
had no water left, so I could do nothing about the crusted blood around her nose and mouth.
She turned her back to me and stripped off the remnants of her own shirt. She wore no bra.
Whether that was by choice or she had lost it to the thugs, I never found out. From what
I could see, she was well endowed, but seeing the livid bruises on her body turned off
any sexual desire I might have had. My t-shirt swallowed her up, being many sizes too large,
but it covered her up too, and it, along with the helmet, would make her harder to recognize
if we came across her attackers along the way.
showed her how to mount Thumper’s rear seat and
I avoided touching her as she slowly managed to get seated. Bonnie jumped from the ground
and landed on the seat in front of me and we headed north, looking for food and water.
And maybe some medical attention, too.
We didn’t see anything but desert until we reached
Indio, which sits right on Interstate 10. I pulled into the first service station I
saw because Thumper was running on fumes and Lupé headed for the ladies’ room. After
I filled up, I moved the bike around front and went inside to get water and snacks. Bonnie
sat by the door for a minute, and then changed her mind and went around to the shady side
of the building, which also happened to be where the restrooms were.
In a few minutes, Lupé came around to the front, with
Bonnie trotting happily at her side. Lupe came inside and went straight to a display of
sunglasses. She picked out the largest, darkest pair she could find and looked over at
me. Raised her eyebrows. I nodded and motioned for her to bring them. They would help hide
some of the damage to her face and further disguise her. On the way up, she had told me
about the car her attackers were driving. I was keeping my eye peeled for a white Honda
with slammed-down suspension and blacked-out windows. Couldn’t be more than a few
thousand of those in Southern California.
As we got ready to
go, I asked the clerk where the nearest hospital was. He gave me directions, but when we
got back out to the bike, Lupé said, “No hospitals, okay?”
“You need medical
attention,” I argued, “there’s no telling what they might have damaged, beating
on you like that.”
Too many questions. Plus, the hospital would have to call the cops. If I was gonna die,
I would have by now.”
moved on up Interstate 10, headed toward Palm Springs
and Beaumont. It was getting late in the day and it was starting to cool down a bit.
It was as we were passing
by Palm Desert that Lupé leaned forward and said, “I just saw the car!”
there, at that casino!”
It was Hector’s car, for sure!”
I jumped off at the
next exit and circled back. Took some confusing side streets and eventually came up on
the Agua Caliente Casino and Spa. We cruised through the lot and she pointed out the car.
I parked some distance away, and we got off the bike. I dug out my road atlas and phone
and started working to find someplace not too far away that I could lure them to. I needed
them away from the Interstate. Somewhere more isolated.
The town of Yucca Valley looked pretty good. It had
a population of 20,700 souls and was just up highway 62 about thirty-five miles.
I got out a pad of paper and a pen and wrote a note. It said, ‘I have Lupé and I
know what you did. Yucca Valley tonight, pussies.’ I said, “Stay here,” and
walked over to their car and tucked the note under the wiper on the driver’s side.
Walked back and we mounted up and rode out. Found highway 62 and went north. I figured
whenever they found the note, they would probably get the security at the casino to review
the camera footage of the parking lot and they would see the bike and me and Lupé. They
would know I was for real and they would need to find me and try to finish what they’d
started and shut me down, too.
When we got to Yucca Valley, I figured we had time
to eat. We found a diner and got burgers and fries. We both saved some for Bonnie, who
was waiting out front by the bike. When we had finished and fed her, we went
and found a motel. Nothing fancy, just a mom and pop that looked clean. I got a
room with two queen beds and installed Lupé in the room and told her to keep
track of my dog, then took off to find somewhere to ditch Thumper.
than a mile back the way we’d come from, there was a U-Store storage place. In fifteen
minutes, I’d rented a unit large enough to park Thumper in. I would use it once and
then disappear. Eventually, maybe after thirty days, they’d check the unit and find
it empty and just rent it again. I parked Thumper inside, backed in, so I could get him
out quickly. I broke out weapons. I unloaded my Glock Model 22 and carefully wiped off
each of the rounds, then put on gloves and put each round back in the magazine, charged
the weapon and tucked it in the waistband of my jeans in the back. I figured I
might not have time to pick up any expended brass and I didn’t want to leave
Took out a new ultra-ceramic folding knife and carefully
wiped it, too. It had a blade that was probably at least twice as sharp as any
metal blade. I liked it because it wouldn’t set off metal detectors. I put it
in my right front pocket.
Dug around in the trunk and found my brass knuckles.
They weren’t really brass. Actually, they were made of stainless steel and they had
half-inch spikes sticking out of each knuckle. Illegal in every jurisdiction
I’d ever had occasion to check. They went into the left front pocket. I looked
around in the storage unit and saw that they hadn’t bothered to clean it out
very well. In one of the back corners, I picked up a dusty old Dodgers ball
cap, a plastic Wal Mart bag, and a four-foot chunk of mop handle. Perfect.
* * *
Gene Fuente and Mark Jimenez found the note about an hour after it was placed on
their windshield. They didn’t go back into the casino. Instead, they flagged
down a casino security officer who was cruising the lot.
to the guy. “Hey, Bro, you see anybody fuckin around my car?”
The security guy looked like he might be a retired cop.
Gray hair, buzzed off short, red face, overweight. Wearing a tan uniform with epaulettes
on the shirt. Probably couldn’t run thirty yards to save his ass. “This about
“Yeah, man. On the white Honda there.”
on a blue Harley. Had a chick on the back and a fuckin little dog with ‘em. I was
watchin’ pretty close. They didn’t do anything to the car. Just left the note
Hector didn’t like this shit. The bitch shoulda been dead by now.
As they walked back to the car, Mark said, “I
wanted ta choot her, man. I woulda chot her when you was screwin’ her, but you said
Hector just gave Mark
the stink-eye and said, “Get in the fuckin’ car, man. Let’s go find this biker
asshole. Teach this gringo fuck to mind his own business.”
They piled into the Honda, the screwed-up suspension
creaking and groaning as their weight settled in. Hector fired it up and the loud, expansion-chamber
exhaust crackled into a rough idle. He slammed it in gear and spun around in the lot and
headed for the exit. They would try very hard to be in Yucca Valley in thirty minutes.
actuality, it took them more like forty minutes. As they came blasting into town, they
never even noticed the old dude in the ball cap and jeans beside the road with a stick
and a plastic bag full of aluminum cans. He was such a common sight, he didn’t even
register. They drove around town for a half hour and found no sign of a blue Harley. They
decided they’d stay the night and have another look in the morning. It was getting
dark and they were in strange territory. The motel they decided on was a little nicer than
the one Barry and Lupé chose. It was about a half mile further north. When they got
their key and went to their room they failed to notice the guy with the stick
and the bag of cans for the second time.
* * *
waited until the three idiots were in their room, then
strolled across the lot and wandered around the motel until I found a utility room that
was unlocked. I stepped in and swung the door until it was open about an inch. From there,
I could look past the ice machine and down the row of rooms right to their front door.
“How we gonna find
this biker dude, bro?” Gene was pacing back and forth across the room and
around the beds. He always paced when he was nervous or agitated. “This fucker
knows all about us and we don’t know shit about him.”
Bro,” Hector said, “if we don’t get him here, we’ll get him when
he brings the fuckin’ bitch back home. That’s where we got the advantage. He’ll
come to us if we miss him here. Either way, we’ll cap his ass. Take care a his dumb
Mark said, “Hey, you
guys want somethin’ ta drink? I’m gonna get some ice and a Pepsi.”
Hector pulled out
some money and handed it across and said, “Mountain Dew, man. Thanks.”
Gene just shook
his head. He was clearly worried.
It didn’t take long. I figured they’d have
to have ice and some sodas, and the smallest of the three guys got elected. He came padding
toward me barefoot and went to the ice machine first. Filled his ice bucket,
then stepped over to a noisy, clanking beverage machine. As he was putting
money in the bill acceptor, I stepped out and started to walk past him. As his
head turned, I wiped the blade of my knife across his forehead, opening a six-inch
slit that went clear to the bone. In moments his eyes were flooded with his own blood and
he was effectively blind. As he spun around, frantically wiping at his eyes and face, I
carefully stuck him just above the right kidney at an upward angle, perforating his diaphragm.
Now, he couldn’t see, and he couldn’t get enough breath to scream. As he stumbled
around, I took one more swipe, catching his left carotid artery. I sidestepped the blood
spray and walked away.
“What the fuck? He
hafta go ta fuckin’ L.A. ta get ice? Jesus, Man…” Gene was still pacing.
“Fuck, Dude, if you’re so goddamn worried, go check on the little fucker. Maybe
he got his hand stuck in the machine or some shit.”
Out in the parking lot, I crouched between two cars
and waited. I figured fifteen minutes, but it only took ten. I guess they were
impatient for their drinks. The second guy was a little taller and heavier, and
as soon as he came out the room door, I started for him. I reached him just
about the same time he saw his buddy, lying by the soda machine. He was so busy
staring at the body there on the bloody concrete, I just walked up and slugged him with
the brass knuckles. I caught him a perfect shot right in the temple. I had all my weight
behind it, and he went down like a sack of stones. There were four perfectly spaced holes
in the side of his head. There wasn’t much blood and in a minute, I checked him for
vitals. Found nothing. I checked him for weapons and found a nice little Defender .380.
Probably stolen. I took it and dragged him over to join his buddy, then scurried across
the lot and hunkered down in the ditch at the edge of the parking lot. I tucked the Defender
into the front of my jeans. I had a view of the room door from about twenty-five yards
away. I waited.
Inside the motel
room, Hector was watching Jeopardy and managing to catch about every third answer.
He was smarter than he let on. He had actually done almost two years at USC before he figured
out he could make more money cooking and selling meth than he’d ever make in legitimate
work. He dropped out and went to making drugs full time.
When the program
cut to commercial, he suddenly sat up. He realized Gene had been gone six or seven
minutes and Mark ten minutes longer than that. Something was going on. Briefly, he thought
about the biker dude. Could he be out there? Was he that good? Could he have already fucked
up Mark and Gene?
He got up from the bed and
picked up an AMT Hardballer from the nightstand between the beds. It was a typical Colt
1911 knock-off, packing 7 rounds of .45 ACP. It was a brutal weapon and very scary-looking.
He stepped to the door and cautiously opened it. He never had time to realize it was a
minutes, this time. The room door opened, and the third
guy was there, silhouetted in the doorway. I centered my front sight on his head, which
was turning right and left, and squeezed off one shot.
A single gunshot in an urban area will seldom even generate
a 911 call. People who hear a single gunshot will first ask themselves if it
was a gunshot or a car backfire. Most people who commit violence with guns are
so unskilled they tend to completely unload their magazine and fire the weapon
dry, hoping to hit something vital. Among cops, that’s called “spray and pray.”
My single .40 caliber round entered through the guy’s
right eye and caused his head to snap back as it passed cleanly through. I know it passed
through, because I saw the curtain on the far side of the room jump as the
round struck it. I got up and walked south toward my motel. In seven minutes, I
was in the bathroom, washing off a small amount of blood and gunshot residue.
Seven minutes after that, I was in bed, with Bonnie curled against me.
the other bed, Lupé asked quietly, “Did you find them?”
“Listen. You can hear the sirens coming.”
In the morning, I walked
down to the storage place and retrieved Thumper, then we got breakfast and I took her home.
When we got to San Bernardino, she directed me to her neighborhood, but then had me stop
a few blocks from her house, at a small park. We took bottled water and walked to a
picnic table and sat.
“You understand, you can never say anything
about this to anyone, right?”
She looked at me, then
took my hand and said, “And you can’t either, Mi Amigo.”
“I have something for you, if you want it.” I took the
Defender .380 out of my pocket and laid it on the wood beside her. She looked
at it. Didn’t pick it up.
“You took that off Mark, huh?”
“If that was his name…”
“He pointed this
at me when they made me get in their car.”
“You can keep it. For protection. But it
may be stolen, I don’t know.”
keep it hidden. Maybe I won’t get raped again or killed.” She picked up the
gun and shoved it in the back pocket of her jeans.
heading out then. Have a good life, Lupé Rodriguez.”
“Vaya Con Dios, Barry.” I looked for tears, but there were none.
I walked back to Thumper
and Bonnie jumped up on the saddle. I stroked her head and said, “You ready, girl?”
She looked over to the park, where the battered young woman
was walking away and yapped a couple of times, then looked back up at me.
I said, “we gotta go home now. You gotta new house and yard and neighbor dogs to
bark at. Squirrels to chase, too. We’d better head on down the road.” I turned
on the ignition and thumbed the starter. Bonnie yapped a couple more times as we got under
way. The girl never looked back.
Late One Night, We Killed
A Barry Wilder
home from the road actually felt pretty good for a change. I had been home several weeks,
catching up on chores, getting the house cleaned up and the yard ready, doing
everything from fertilizing the grass to shampooing carpets.
I was back
from a road trip of several months, after the death
of two of my best friends. Commando Cody, the big Doberman, had gone first. Natural causes
for old Cody. He just got old and when it was time, he went as gracefully as he could.
The vet said he was healthy right up until he wasn’t. In other words, he ran out
didn’t fare quite so well. He had a series of heart attacks, stents installed
and all that, but the heart killed him in the end. I had carried his ashes to Wyoming and
planted him next to Iva Gonzalez, a woman we had both loved at different times, but never
competed over. I had buried Cody in my backyard, wrapped in an old leather jacket that
had been Iva’s.
A lot of the miles
I have ridden since the loss of my friends are a blur. There was that incident
at the Salton Sea and a major disagreement with some gang people that they had lost,
but other than that, the days have pretty much flowed together.
I inherited a
dog along the way, a Jack Russell terrier I’ve named Bonnie,
and she has taken to the lifestyle like a duck to water. She seldom even lets me out of
her sight. I think she’s afraid of being abandoned again, like she was when I found
her, wandering in the park at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. She has perfected
the art of riding on Thumper’s saddle, either sitting upright in front of me or
lying crosswise across my lap.
It was about
the time I started running out of chores that I ran across what was at first only a
curiosity, but later became a mystery and finally an obsession. On my
handy-dandy home computer, I had installed a copy of Google Earth and sometimes
when there was nothing good on TV, I would play with the software, like most people,
getting satellite views of famous places: The White House, the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids
at Giza. Then I started getting interested in things other people had found, mostly by
accident. Area 51, which we all know doesn’t exist, but there it was, big as life,
overflown by LandSat, the unclassified satellite that takes nice clear pictures everyone
can see. I looked at shipwrecks and the hulks of crashed airplanes, based on coordinates
anyone can find with the investment of a little computer time.
me interested in a game, or sport maybe, called Geocaching, in which people place
small boxes or cans at certain hidden places and then publish the GPS
coordinates on a website. You make your way to the site, find the cache, log in
on a notebook contained there and if there’s anything you want in the box, take
it. The only catch was you had to leave an object, too. That was fun for a while and
on pretty days, Bonnie and I would go find a couple sites. I always logged us as Barry
and Bonnie. Never bothered to tell anyone that Bonnie was a dog. She often left small Milk-Bones
as her part of the contribution, and I actually think she was smart enough to understand
that someone else would find the box and perhaps give the treat to their own dog.
evening around the first of May, I was on Google Earth, looking at places in Kansas and
seeing how recent the pictures were. Of course, you always have to look at your own
house. The picture of my place was almost two years old. The detail, especially
whenever a spot was available in street view, was pretty amazing. I “flew” out
of town and looked at a couple of lakes in the area, seeing boats and swimmers
from the equivalent of just a few hundred feet up. In the back of my mind I
wondered, if the imaging from an unclassified satellite was this good, what must
the high-performance military birds be able to do? The ones we mere mortals were never
allowed to see. I had heard that if the angles and lighting were right, they could read
a license tag on a car from orbit.
Skimming across the landscape,
I found myself looking at everything from wind farms to combines cutting wheat, to tall
granaries, to individual cars on the highways. Far out in western Kansas, I swooped over
seemingly endless fields, many made circular by the use of irrigation rigs that travelled
slowly around a central point. I swooped over a John Deere tractor with a doll beside it
and a guy digging in the middle of a field. I was getting sleepy and I soon turned off
the computer and went to bed.
That was at 10:30.
At 4 A.M., Bonnie needed to go out and patrol the yard. I got
up and let her out and stood on the sunporch with a .40 caliber Glock in my hand. I had
been hearing our local coyote pack singing a lot lately. Coyotes get pretty bold at night,
even in rather densely populated areas. And they like nothing better than a tasty little
dog or cat for a midnight snack. As I stood there waiting and watching Bonnie doing her
business, my mind wandered back to the satellite images I’d seen the night
before. Something was bothering me about something I’d seen. I almost had it,
but then it was gone. A few minutes later, we went back to bed. Bonnie tunneled
under the covers and crammed herself against my feet. Gotta love those
four-legged heaters. . . .
Over a bowl of raisin bran at a quarter
to seven the next morning, my brain finally kicked in and a sudden chill ran down my back.
A John Deere tractor with a wagon. A doll beside it on the ground. A guy digging . . .
but if that was a doll, why was it as big as a
Ten minutes later, breakfast forgotten, I was back on
Google Earth, looking hard and retracing my path across western Kansas. It took a half
hour to find it again, but there it was. Big green tractor. Wagon hitched on behind, looked
to be painted red. Figure of a woman, nude, or partially nude, splayed on the ground. Guy
with a gray shirt, overalls and a red ball cap . . . and a shovel.
Oh, well, fuck.
Here we go. Call the sheriff? What the hell county was it in? This would require some
research. I knew how to take screenshots and I got busy. Pictures of the tractor and the
guy digging, zoomed in as tight as I could get. Then working my way around, looking for
the closest habitation. Finally finding a farmhouse and outbuildings, four miles to the
east on what appeared to be a dead-end dirt road. No street view available. More screenshots.
Printer working its ass off, printing everything out in living color. Then, looking for
the nearest town.
There was Tribune, where the timeline ran through just east of the town, separating
Central Standard from Mountain Standard time. I slowly worked my way back north and west,
counting squares. Kansas is laid out on one-mile square grids in most areas. Seventeen
squares north, and eight west of Tribune.
There was my
spot. I switched to the GPS function and laid the crosshairs on the grave the unknown
guy was digging. I scribbled down the coordinates and stopped to think about
this. What were the chances that the satellite would be right overhead when
some guy was burying a body out in the middle of nowhere? If it weren’t for bad
luck, this poor schmuck wouldn’t have any luck at all.
But, was he really
burying a body? Maybe the crazy bastard knew
the satellite would be overhead at a certain time and did this shit for a
joke, to show his buds and laugh about over a few beers. Some farmers plowed
and planted pictures into their land—the American flag, maybe an actual
portrait—knowing satellites and people in airplanes would see their handiwork. Maybe
this guy had a goofy sense of humor and bought a blow-up doll and was having some fun.
And what were the
chances that I would be dicking around on Google Earth and see the image? I thought, maybe I should run out and buy a lottery ticket .
. . because I already knew it wasn’t a doll. And it wasn’t a prank. It
was a woman. And she was dead.
Now would be a
good time to call the Greeley County sheriff and tell them what I saw. Let them
deal with it. But then, I thought, fuck it.
This is mine. Why else did this chain of events take place? So I could call some county
sheriff who probably has two deputies and three pickup trucks? Nope, I’m gonna take
this as far as I can. If I get in too deep, then I can drop a dime on the local boys and
Bonnie started paying attention to me, then. I guess
she could smell excitement coming off me in waves. First, I went to the gun safe and looked
to my weapons. I pulled out my Mossburg New Haven 12-gauge shotgun. It’s cut off
to a legal 19-inch barrel and still retains the original stock and forearm. It is essentially
a riot gun. A box of .00 buckshot and a box of deer slugs. Next, my Ruger AR-556 rifle.
My “assault rifle,” some would call it, not knowing the AR designation actually
came from Armalite, the original Colt model name for the rifle, which was sold
to the U.S. military as the AR-15 and the M-16 during the Vietnam era. This one
had a starlight scope mounted and sighted in for 100 yards.
An old European model Berretta 92-S in blued steel, 9-millimeter,
16-shot capacity. A Glock Model 36, chambered for .45 ACP, its barrel threaded for a
suppressor, and last, a Smith and Wesson Shield in .40 caliber. Lotta guns?
Yeah. I’d rather have ‘em and not need ‘em than the other way around. This
would not be a motorcycle trip. I was figuring a lot of dirt and gravel roads
and maybe some cross-country driving through fields and rough terrain. I took
the guns to the garage and opened up my Toyota Tacoma pickup. In the back seat,
there was a doggie “hammock,” which fastened around the headrests and was
designed to keep dog hair and other debris off the upholstery. Bonnie didn’t care
for it, but I’d left it in the truck because it was easy to hide stuff under and
still be able to reach from the front seat. The shotgun and rifle went under this, lying
on the seats with the stocks toward the left side door.
In the Tacoma,
the back seats unlatch and swing forward, with storage areas behind them. The
Berretta went behind the left seat, the Glock behind the right, along with a
box of ammo for each. The Smith went to its usual place, in the waistband of my
pants, in the back. Two spare magazines went into the center console glove box.
went to my walk-in closet and started rounding up clothes.
I was headed for farm country, and while I was not kidding myself about trying to blend
in, I still rummaged around and found some old bib overalls that fit, some plaid flannel
shirts, and some clodhopper boots that still had mud on them from the last time they were
worn. I packed a medium-sized duffle and included my shaving kit and all the
stuff I normally keep in there. I completed my ensemble with a couple of cheap,
giveaway ball caps, one in black, with a Cat Diesel Power emblem, and one in
red with Northcutt Trailers on it. Northcutt had a facility in north Wichita.
about taking Bonnie to the animal hospital a mile from my house and having her
boarded, but I knew she was smart enough she could prove useful, and besides, I
hated leaving her. The look of reproach I would get from her would just about
freeze my heart. I grabbed a bag of kibble and her water bowl and packed those
in the truck and a half-case of bottled water went in the bed, under the locking tonneau
cover. I threw in a spade and shovel and a pickax. I strolled across the street to Steve
and Jeannie’s house and told them I’d be gone for a few days. They would pick
up my mail and the daily paper and keep an eye on the place.
were ready, Bonnie hopped up into the truck and we set the alarm on the house and
rolled out. I stopped on west Kellogg and filled the tank and we cleared town
just before ten o’clock.
A hundred miles
west lies the small town of Greensburg, Kansas, made smaller on the night of May 4th,
2007 when about 95 per cent of the town was destroyed by a tornado. Now, eleven years later,
much of the town had been rebuilt, but there were parts that would never return. It was
being rebuilt with an eye toward energy efficiency and was touting the slogan “Greenest
Town in Kansas.”
I pulled into the
Dillon’s store on the south side of the main drag and let Bonnie out to run. I
said, “If ya got business to take care of, now would be a good time.” I watched
her as she slipped around the back of the truck and carefully assessed the traffic,
then, when the coast was clear, she set off across the street and into a number
of vacant lots where a mobile home court had once stood. Once I knew she was safe,
I went inside for coffee. My interrupted breakfast hadn’t lasted long and I noticed
a display of muffins and snagged two on my way to the register. A few minutes later, I
was back at the truck. I looked around for Bonnie, and when I didn’t immediately
see her, I began to look around the parking area.
Two stalls to
the west was a dilapidated old Chevy station wagon that had once been green. Inside
the car were three or four kids sporting dirty faces and snarled hair. By the
driver’s door was a fat, red-faced woman who was holding my dog. Bonnie seemed
to be undecided as to whether she should be enjoying the attention or
struggling to get free.
“This yer dawg?”
The woman had a smirk on her face I didn’t like and there was a belligerence in
“Ya know it’s
ee-legal ta let a dawg run without no leash.”
“No, I am not. But
I know him. I could call him an’ git choo in some trouble.”
had now decided she didn’t care for this woman and she had begun struggling. “I’d
suggest you put her down now,” I said, “and go call your friend the sheriff,
put her down when and if I get ready. Maybe I’ll just keep her for my kids,
since she was runnin’ at large.”
tolerantly and then said, “Okay, Bonnie. Tell the nice lady bye-bye and let’s
go.” I opened the truck door and Bonnie kicked her struggles up a notch. The
fat woman had her hands full now and Bonnie had entirely lost her friendly
demeanor. I heard the woman say, “Damned mutt, settle down!”
clamped down on the webbing between her thumb and index finger, whereupon the
woman started shrieking. It didn’t take her long to let go.
Bonnie shot over
to the truck and jumped into the passenger seat, as the woman continued to howl
and hold her bleeding hand. I added insult to injury by saying, “I’d get that
looked at, if I were you. She’s had her shots, but ya just never know.” By this
time half the kids in the car were staring, and the other half were bawling.
Mama got hurt and they weren’t quite sure how all this was going to turn out.
gonna sue yer fuckin’ ass! That animal’s
I decided I’d had
enough at that point and I stepped over to the woman and moved up well within
her personal space. Very quietly I said, “Her name is Bonnie. You had no
business touching her, and in spite of that, she saved your miserable life today.”
she was sniveling, and she whined, “Whatta you mean?”
eased my Smith and Wesson out of my belt just far enough that she could see it, but it
wasn’t visible to anyone else. I said, “She kept me from having to shoot you
dead in this parking lot. Go home and put some peroxide on yer fuckin’ hand and forget
this ever happened.”
As I got in the
truck, the woman had retreated into her car and was wrapping her hand with a filthy
handkerchief and staring at me. I smiled at her and waved as we pulled out. Bonnie had
discovered the muffins and had forgotten all about the woman dog-napper. As we rolled on
west, we shared the muffins and had a good laugh.
Our total time
to Tribune was four-and-a-half hours. When we got there, I decided we needed a
place to stay before we did anything else. A room at a Best Western cost us
eighty-six bucks, which included a “dog deposit,” presumably in case Bonnie ate
all the wallpaper and sheetrock or destroyed the carpeting. I looked at the
weather channel and discovered there would be a full moon that night, and I
decided right then that I would go find the proper spot and do my digging in the dark.
I fed Bonnie and we took a nap.
At around eight-thirty, we were on the move,
grinding slowly up and down dirt and gravel roads, trying not to raise too much dust or
attract too much attention. The area was all but deserted. I decided we should take a turn
past the nearest habitation, the farmhouse I’d seen in the satellite photos. I pulled
out the pictures I’d printed out and kicked on the dome light. I found the house
and figured out where we were and then cruised on, making a couple turns and then
we were moving up the dead-end road. The house wasn’t really a house, as such.
It was more of a compound. At first glance, it reminded me of the Reverend
David Koresh’s compound near Waco, Texas, where the U.S. government had backed
itself into a corner it could not get out of gracefully and had wound up
killing a shitload of people.
There were six buildings, but none that
actually looked like a proper house. All were painted the same shade of tan and roofed
in the same green metal. And other than that, there wasn’t much to see. Except a
big green John Deere parked in the grass beside the biggest building. And a guy with a
rifle standing in the yard. There was a big halogen yard light on a pole, lighting the
place up like daylight, and the man with the rifle was making no effort to be stealthy.
The rifle was some kind of lever-action carbine, probably a Winchester or maybe a Marlin,
most likely a .30-30. He had it casually balanced back on his shoulder, holding
it one-handed. He was comfortable with it, for sure. I was stopped at the end
of the driveway and I decided to just play it cool. Just some guy who’s lost.
Nothin’ ta see here, folks.
I put the truck
in reverse and K-turned across the drive and drove away, feeling a cold spot on
the back of my neck. I watched the rifle-guy in my mirror as we left. He never
took the rifle down from where it was resting on his shoulder. He kept his eye
on us as we left and as we were almost out of sight, I saw the flare of a match
or lighter as he lit a cigarette.
Babe,” I said to Bonnie, “let’s go dig us a hole.” Fifteen minutes
later, the Toyota was tucked in behind the hedgerow on the east side of the correct field
and I took the shotgun, the shovel, and the pickax, and we took a stroll.
found the spot, as I knew she most likely would. In
the drenching moonlight, her coat looked almost silver, and the ground was level enough,
it was easy walking. My portable GPS got me within about five yards of the spot, and Bonnie
did the rest. She walked right to the spot, where the ground was actually mounded
slightly, and stood and then sniffed and pawed the dirt.
that’s the place, Bonnie. Good girl! Let’s
find out what’s down there.”
I slipped on
some leather gloves and set to work. The pickax was not needed. The soil was loose
enough, it was easy digging. Twenty minutes and I could smell what Bonnie had
been smelling from above the ground. The body had ripened quite a bit. I was
surprised the coyotes hadn’t been digging at the spot. I only removed about two
and a half feet of dirt before I saw blonde hair and another ten minutes of
careful work fully exposed the corpse of a woman, maybe twenty-five.
I dug out a small
flashlight and took a long look around, then turned on the light. Near her
feet, there was a cheap black plastic purse. I tossed it to one side and
examined her as closely as I could stand. I would be throwing away the gloves. She had
been beaten badly enough that her head appeared misshapen and I saw no other signs of injury.
No gunshots. No stab wounds. Beaten to death, evidently. I turned off the flashlight just
as Bonnie growled, and a woman’s voice said, “Freeze! Federal agent! Do not
I let go of the shovel and raised my hands. Bonnie was
still growling and I knew in just a few seconds, she would erupt into shrill, furious barking.
“Bonnie. It’s okay. Settle.”
the gloves and drop ‘em.” The voice had a slight
shake, maybe excitement, maybe fear. Definitely nerves. I don’t like nervous, armed
people. I did what I was told.
behind your back. Don’t do anything stupid.”
placed my hands behind me and my thumbs were grasped in one hand and cuffs were applied
with the other. Very quick, and very professional. A very bright flashlight came on and
the woman said, “Gettin’ ready to move her some place better?”
ma’am. Just seein’ if what I thought was
here really was here.”
“Sounds like you
and I need to have a talk. First, I’ll read you your rights….”
proceeded to do that. I didn’t tell her I knew
my rights better than she did. I didn’t figure it was the right time. She picked
up my shotgun and checked it, stripping the rounds out of it and rendering it safe. “Let’s
leave the shovel and pick here. We’re gonna take a walk to my car.”
had parked right behind my truck and I had heard and seen nothing. She was good. At her
car, she opened the back door and said, “Take out your ID and give it to me.”
I surrendered my wallet and then she said, “Watch your head getting in. . . .”
followed a few minutes in which she and Bonnie sat up
front and she talked on her radio and petted my dog. Finally, she hung up the mike and
said, “Okay, Wilder. Retired cop. One of the good guys. Vouched for by about thirty
different people, even at this time of night. So exactly what the fuck are ya doin’
out here, diggin’ up a body?”
I told her all
about my chance viewing of the burial going on, shot by satellite and my
curiosity and need for something to do. She took my keys and went to my truck
and retrieved the satellite pictures and looked them over.
said, “Where ya stayin’?”
I named the motel
and she said, “Okay. There’s a recovery team comin’ here to take . . .”
She looked at a driver’s license she’d taken from the black purse. “Janey
Rickett out there to a morgue and work the crime scene. I’ll follow you to your motel
and we’ll see if we can get this shit straightened out.” She let me out of
the car and uncuffed me, handed me my keys and wallet and let my dog out. Back in
my truck, Bonnie stood with her back feet on the passenger seat and her front
feet on the dash, watching the road and periodically looking over at me. I felt
like she was enjoying the shit out of me getting arrested by the FBI.
reached my motel, I walked to my room and stood waiting
while Bonnie ran the lot and took care of business and the FBI talked on her radio some
more. Finally, Bonnie came back and we went in. I left the room door ajar and went to use
the restroom. In a minute, I heard Bonnie’s collar tag jingle and I figured she was
on the bed. When I came out, the agent was by the bed, again petting Bonnie and
introduce myself,” she said, hooking her red hair back over her ear. “I’m
Carolyn Foster, AIC of Western Kansas Division.”
I shook her hand
and only thought to myself, Holy shit!
Agent-in-charge? She’s young for that. . . .
then. What do you imagine is going on out here?”
idea. Some guy’s idea of a quickie divorce?”
“Not exactly. I’m
just glad I found you out there tonight, instead of the Mission of Life Ministry
idiots. . . .”
“So, you’re dealing with a religious
“They just like
not paying taxes. And having total control over their brides, the adults and the children.”
compound out on the dead-end road?”
you were out there, too?”
long enough to turn around in the driveway and get some
looks from a sentry they had posted.”
Rickett was one of theirs, I’m pretty sure, but the
women are brought out so seldom, we can’t even be sure of that. We know they have
some really young girls there and that they marry them as young as eight years old, then
let them grow and develop and consummate the marriages later.”
they’re of legal age?”
always. The few times we’ve been able to even
talk to any of the women, it’s been apparent they’ve been browbeaten and brainwashed
into believing their leader sitteth at the right hand of God Almighty.”
He’s a big, mean, nasty son-of-a-bitch. Doesn’t care much about personal
hygiene, either. I ran across him in Tribune once, in the Dollar Store. His body
odor alone cleared the place out.”
tried finding some way to get an operative inside?”
Both agents have gone missing. No contact and no reports
after the first day. Both young women agents, cute and smart. They may just be captive,
or they may be dead. We can’t be sure, but I’m not sending in another agent.”
can’t you get a warrant and raid the place?”
not really. I sent the agents in off the books.”
wasn’t authorized through channels?”
I fucked up, and I’ll be the first to admit it.
Now, I’m at a loss. I don’t know what my next move is gonna be.”
you shouldn’t do anything. . . .”
sat down on the end of the bed, still petting Bonnie.
“What’s that mean?”
“Maybe if you just
bide your time, the problem will solve itself. . . .”
I don’t see that happening.”
I think it could, if you and your folks just
pull back and put your feet up.”
now, I can’t allow you to do anything . . . illegal . . .
or improper. Besides, you’re just one guy. What could you possibly do, against them?
I know they’ve got lots of firepower out there and they have the advantage of ownership.
As soon as you step foot on their property, you’re a trespasser, and they could be
within their rights to kill you.”
Agent Foster? You worry too much.” I stepped over to
the door and opened it. “I need to get some sleep. I’ll say goodnight now.
. . .”
“Best you go back
to Wichita, Barry, and forget about this. If you get in trouble, I won’t be
able to help ya.”
“Yeah. I know.
okay. I put my phone number in your phone, just in case you might need to talk to me
. . . at some point. . . .”
I gave it thirty
minutes and then took Bonnie out for another walk. I wanted to be sure Agent
Foster was gone. Once I was sure, I took everything out of the motel room and
we loaded up and drove back north, toward the Mission of Life Ministry.
I made one stop
at a combination truck stop/convenience store and bought a gas
can, a gallon of unleaded, and a package of road flares. Nothing illegal, just ordinary,
everyday stuff every motorist should have.
I made my approach
from the south, since the prevailing wind was from the north-northwest. If they
had dogs, I didn’t want to set them off from too far out. I parked the Toyota
over a mile south and hauled out the Glock .45. I reached under the driver’s
seat and felt for the two Velcro strips and peeled them loose. Into my hand
dropped an eight-inch long suppressor, which I stashed in my back pocket.
I grabbed the
AR-556 rifle and the filled gas can and road flares. I knelt down and spoke to
Bonnie. “Okay,” I whispered, “really quiet now. No barking, okay? Gotta be
sneaky. . . .” I was pretty sure she got it, but ya never know with dogs unless
you trained them yourself.
We started hiking
north, directly across plowed fields, and as we got closer, we kept in the long
shadows thrown by the buildings from that extra-bright yard light. We made it to the south
side of the largest building, which was a hay barn, and in a quick check of the side of
the building, I found a door set into the side near the east end. There was a hasp, but
no lock. It had been secured by putting an old, rusty screwdriver through the hasp. I pressed
in on the door and silently removed it. I opened the door as quietly as possible, but there
was a bit of noise from rusty hinges. There was light inside, but not much. A couple of
old, dusty electric bulbs were set high up on two of the walls.
and I slipped inside and looked the place over. There was baled hay almost to the
roof on the south end, stair-stepping down toward the north end, where there
was an old table and a couple of chairs. Maybe this was where the boys came to
play cards and get away from the women.
We climbed to the
top of the hay bales and settled in to wait. I wanted to hit them at about 4 A.M. It was the best time
to attack, when people are at their lowest and most vulnerable. As it turned out, we
didn’t get to pick the time. Instead, we got to meet Chas Burgher himself.
had been in place maybe four minutes, when a door at the north end of the barn flew open
and he came in, dragging a small, struggling teenage girl. I watched as he
dragged the child to the table and then strapped her face-down with leather
restraints I hadn’t noticed before. The upper half of her body was on the table,
and her feet were not quite touching the floor. He fastened more restraints
around her ankles, to the table legs, as she moaned and begged. She knew what was coming,
maybe from experience, maybe from the other women who had been there.
he yanked down her jeans and panties, I pulled the suppressor
from my back pocket and screwed it onto the Glock .45. From a nail on one wall, I watched
Chas take down a razor strap. I was familiar with the strap, or “strop,” as
it was properly called, from my own childhood. I knew it would cause a lot of pain and
if overused, it could cut and split flesh. It was leather on one side and canvas
on the other and almost three inches wide. Bonnie was sitting up with her ears
raised and she didn’t like this shit at all.
waste any time talking, but immediately began smacking her ass
with the strap. She wailed and screamed, and he hit her about seven or eight times. I had
Bonnie’s collar in my hand, keeping her from bolting down there to try and eat the
guy. As we watched, he stopped and talked to her. I could not hear what he said, but
I had an idea what was coming next. The girl did too. It was apparent, when she
began really fighting the restraints, much harder than before.
Chas Burgher unbutton his overalls and drop them to his ankles. He wore no
underwear. He was much too well-equipped for the child he was about to rape,
and as hard as it had been to watch the beating, I knew I was not about to let
this shit happen.
As he took himself in his hand and stepped
forward behind her, she took a deep breath. She was ready to scream loud enough to raise
the roof. I squinted down the barrel of the Glock, over the suppressor and squeezed off
one shot. He had just tipped his head down to watch his own penetration and the round took
him in the top of his head. It blew a fine mist of blood out onto his back and he toppled
backward onto the floor, dead before he hit the dirt.
silence for a moment, and then Bonnie was scrambling down, headed to the girl. I
followed her down and went to the table and got out my ceramic knife and cut
“Get yer jeans
pulled back up and we’ll get ya outta here,” I said.
are you?” She was sniffling and wiping her nose
on the back of her hand. “You the cops?”
but you’re safe now. Not gonna let anything happen to ya. What’s your name,
“How long ya been
“A . .
. about a month, I guess. They grabbed me right off the street in Denver. I think they
were gonna send me someplace. Maybe overseas, like to some Arab place. I got in
trouble with him, ‘cause I wouldn’t behave myself and keep quiet.”
many women are here?”
thirty, thirty-five, in three houses. Some of them are
their own wives and stuff. We’re not all people who’ve been kidnapped. . .
“Okay, we gotta
get ya outta here.”
“No! I wanna stay
“No, listen, it’s
gonna get really bad here, shortly.” I took her face in my hands and made her
look up at me. I wiped her tears away with my thumbs. “I want you to take this.
. . .” I pulled out my truck keys and pulled the remote off the key ring. “Go
out this door back here and walk straight south. In a little over a mile, yer
gonna find a silver Toyota truck. Unlock it with this and get inside and lock
the doors. My dog here is gonna go with ya. Her name is Bonnie. Can ya do that
She nodded her head and swallowed more tears
and said, “Kay . . . okay.”
“Keep the dog with
ya, okay? I’ll be there in a little while. . . .”
her over to the door, and she and Bonnie slipped out
into the dark. I gathered up my flares and gas can and got to work.
splashed gas on the hay bales, on the table, on the
walls of the barn, and especially on the body of Chas Burgher. When the can was empty,
I checked myself and made sure there was no gas on me. Then I walked to the back door and
ripped the tab on a flare and ignited it. As soon as it was burning intensely, I threw
it back into the barn and shoved the door shut and leaned against it. Felt the force of
the ignition push on the far side of the door like a dragon-beast from a fairy
tale, blowing its hot breath around the door, lusting for blood.
the rusty screwdriver back into the hasp, grabbed my
rifle and took off to the east, getting back into the dark, getting distance from the carnage
that was coming.
It took a few minutes. Long enough for me
to pick my spot and get into my prone shooting position. First, I heard dogs. Sounded like
two, maybe three, raising hell, howling and barking. Then, I heard two gunshots, probably
from the sentry’s rifle. That brought men out of the houses, and the yelling began.
I could hear, “Fire!” “Fire!”
“Barn’s on fire!” Brilliant fuckers.
Gonna do something about it, or just run around and yell at each other, belaboring the
I switched on the
night scope, then immediately switched it off. The yard was too bright. Carefully, I sighted
on the yard light and squeezed off one shot. The roar of the fire from the barn, along
with the popping and cracking of old, dry wood, covered the sound of the shot nicely and
the yard light winked out.
Men were running around in the dark now,
trying to hook up garden hoses and get some water going. Waste of time on a hay barn, but
I guess they needed something to do. The nearest fire department was twenty-four miles
away. The barn would be gone by the time the first unit arrived, but maybe they could save
the rest of the buildings.
I turned the
night scope back on and went to work. The men were ghostly green figures in the
scope, with a bright green dot at the aim-point, where the bullet would strike.
I took my time and got the first three before they began to realize what was
going on. As soon as they got their shit together and went for weapons, I
moved. They had seen muzzle flash from the east. When they came back out with their own
rifles, I was gone, moving through the dark around to the north. I picked a spot and dropped
to the ground again and got a good shot and took out another guy. Now there were several
women moving around, too, making it more confusing. No kids, though. I was glad. Kids didn’t
need to see this. I got up and moved again.
As I reached
the northwest corner of the buildings, I saw the lights on the
big John Deere tractor, and I heard its big diesel engine start. Now it would get more
interesting. The tractor started out, bouncing and roaring toward me. I stepped
around the corner of a building and waited.
When the tractor
came roaring by, I raised the rifle and shot the driver. The tractor was a
fancy, air-conditioned, full-cab model. I watched the driver slump down, dead
at the controls.
The machine continued on out into the fields,
making a long arc around to the east. I tore my attention away in time to see a man taking
aim at me with a shotgun. I dropped to the ground as he fired, and most of the shot load
went above me. I felt the sting of some pellets on my left shoulder. There wasn’t
enough impact for it to be lethal. It was most likely birdshot, rather than something
He racked the
slide, raising the gun nearly vertical to do so. Bad technique. He could have held on
target while he operated the slide; it wasn’t that hard to do. As he started to lower
the shotgun, I fired twice, both snap-shots with little in the way of aim.
first shot missed. The second staggered him backward, and I saw blood erupt from his neck.
He landed on his back and thrashed around for a few seconds. Very few. He was
no longer a threat.
I looked back
to the tractor and saw it still going and still turning. If it kept going like it
was, it would soon be back. In its headlights, I saw a small brown and white
dog, racing toward the buildings. Damn
dog . . . you were supposed to stay with the girl. . . .
I could do little
or nothing for Bonnie. If I whistled, she might or might not hear me and I
might give away my position. I saw her go behind one of the buildings and then
I saw two German shepherds headed my way. I looked for someplace to go, but I
would not be able to make it anywhere before they would nail me. They were much too fast
for me to have any hope of outrunning them.
They slowed as
they saw me, hesitating just a little, not quite sure what to do, but I was upwind
and they soon had my scent. And they smelled my blood. I saw their hackles come up and
their tails bush out and then they were in motion again, coming on strong.
from my left, a small brown and white rocket shot across in front of them, barking
shrilly and raising hell. As one, both shepherds turned and started pursuing
this interloper. I glanced around to make sure I wasn’t about to become meat,
then looked back into the compound. Things were lit up nicely now by the fire,
and I watched as Bonnie did an amazing thing. As the larger dogs closed on her,
she made a sudden tremendous leap and landed on the low-hanging limb of a dwarf pear
tree and scrambled over more branches until she was out of reach. Until that moment, I
had never seen a dog climb a tree.
The shepherds milled around
below the tree, confused and wanting very badly to kill this dog-cat. Or cat-dog. They
had completely forgotten me. Then I ducked as more gunshots came, but they lacked that
special sound you only hear when you’re out in front of the gun.
moved around the outside of the compound and watched
as several women, two in particular, shot several men, even walking over to where they
had fallen and shooting them again, just to be sure. Most likely the two missing FBI agents,
loose now, and armed with rifles they’d either found in the houses or picked up from
the fallen. I decided maybe it would be a good time to move out. I looked back to
Bonnie’s tree, but she wasn’t there. The two shepherds were gone, too.
worked my way around to the south side of the compound again and saw Bonnie, racing between
buildings, dodging back and forth, wearing out two big shepherds, then I didn’t
see her again for a while.
And then, here
came the damned tractor again. I watched in amazement as it drove itself directly into
what was left of the burning barn. Its engine stalled, and it didn’t come out the
I was halfway back
to the truck, when Bonnie came up on me out of the dark. The other dogs were gone and
there was no way she could tell me how she lost them. She seemed pretty proud of herself,
At the truck, I had
to knock on the window to get Ellie to unlock the doors and let us in. She had actually
fallen asleep in the passenger seat. When we got in the truck, Bonnie kept trying to crawl
over the seats to get to me and I finally realized it was because of the blood from my
shoulder wounds. I got in the back of the truck and dragged out my first aid kit and stripped
off my shirt. Ellie helped me clean the pellet holes and apply a big gauze dressing. It
would have to do, until I got back to Wichita.
As we left
the area, I pulled out my cell phone and called Agent Foster’s number. She answered
on the first ring.
get out there. All kindsa shit going on out there, fires, shootin’, lotsa trouble.”
already on the way. The local cops are headed there,
too. What did you do?”
“Me? I didn’t do
anything. Oh, by the way, ya know that convenience store there on the north
side of Tribune?”
“Yeah . . .”
you send somebody by there, you’ll find a young
girl named Ellie Miner. She’s a kidnap case outta Denver. She’ll need a ride
home. I think maybe there’s a number of kids out there. Human trafficking, I’m
“Did you see
anything of my two agents?”
the two who were walkin’ around, shootin’ assholes? Nope, didn’t
see ‘em. Wasn’t even there. . . .”
night, Mr. Wilder.”
this, then, Agent Foster?”
And thanks. I think. . . .”
Ellie off at the convenience store. As she was about
to get out of the truck, I said, “Promise me you’ll wait for the cops and
not take any rides from truckers.”
I promise. And thank you.”
She told Bonnie
goodbye and kissed my cheek. I gave her twenty bucks so she could get an ice
cream. Then we hit the road, headed home.
Bonnie curled up in the right seat and I could swear she was smiling
in her sleep.
|Art by Kevin Duncan © 2018
Kenneth James Crist
“What’s this doggie’s name?” Reba June was
sitting cross-legged on the carpet of the living room. From my vantage point in
the kitchen, looking through the pass-through, I could see the smooth, white
flesh of her upper thighs and a bit of her black panties. She was wearing a
short green skirt, the same shade as her eyes, and a halter top. Her kinky, curly
hair was just as red as I remembered.
I said, and watched her dissolve into helpless laughter.
The Corgi puppy backed up a step and cocked its head at her and just made her laugh harder.
“Why would you name it that?” She was still
giggling and I added another slam.
‘Booger-snot’ or ‘Cock-knocker’ just
didn’t have quite the pizzazz I was looking for.” Now, she was flat on her
back, gasping and guffawing great gales of laughter. The three glasses of wine
were making her a bit giddy, too, I suspected.
had run across her at Quinn’s, a pub down in Old
Town that I hadn’t been to in several years. It had been that long since I’d
seen her, too. She had aged a bit, but chosen not to mature.
I finished fixing her screwdriver and carried
it in, setting it on the coffee table.
dropped down and sat on the floor and waited while she
got herself under control, then sat up. She reached out to me and we kissed, her cool fingers
playing in the hair on the nape of my neck. “Where you been all this time?”
Her eyes sparkled as she asked it. “We always had so much fun together. . . .”
“And then you went and got married,” I said.
“And you got a dog and named him Motherfucker.”
“Not really. . . .”
His real name is Gizmo.”
started laughing again and the dog was pawing at her
lap. She pulled him up and reached for her drink.
“Shit. That’s almost as funny.”
“I didn’t name him. He was at the shelter and
the people who had to leave him had already named him.”
they leave this sweet boy?” She was hugging the dog, getting dog hair all over
her top and her tits, which were not held in check very well by the skimpy cloth.
I got up and sat with my drink on the sofa,
hoping she’d get over the dog and join me. She played with him for another
couple of minutes, throwing one of his toys and laughing as he streaked after
it on his stubby legs. Finally, she got up and came to the sofa. Instead of sitting beside
me, she straddled me and sat on my lap, her skirt riding up almost to her waist.
We had been together many times in the two
years we’d dated and each of us knew what the other liked. My hands stroked her
thighs and we enjoyed a lot of orange-flavored kisses as the vodka kicked in.
In a couple minutes, I untied her top and freed
her breasts, and brushed some dog hair off. There was a bit more sag there, but
she was still very well put together. She stripped off my shirt and leaned into
me, letting my chest hair tickle her nipples.
another minute, I said, “Trade places with me.”
When she was seated, I pushed the coffee table
out of the way and went to my knees before her. I pushed her skirt up, then her
legs and began kissing her squarely on the center panel of her panties. She
knew what was coming and she was just as eager to get there as I was. In moments, she was
skinning her panties off and then I was invading her with my lips and tongue.
“Holy shit . . . I’ve missed this,” she
murmured, a scant few seconds before she had the first orgasm of the evening. I
held her tightly while she came, then she got the giggles again. “My damn
husband won’t do that,” she said, “he thinks that’s just too dirty.”
As I started on her again, I whispered, “What a
dumbass. . . .”
in my bed, I asked, “Can you get away with staying
the night, or do you hafta scurry home?”
snuggled closer and said, “I probably should go
home, but I don’t really want to . . . In a little while. . . .” Then we fell
It was barely
turning daylight when I felt her scramble out of bed and she raced to the bathroom.
I sat up and looked around. There was a broken trail of clothing from the living room into
the bedroom. I got up and started gathering up her things and brought them to the foot
of the bed.
she came out, having brushed her teeth and done something
with her hair. I was worried just a bit.
much trouble are you in?”
was slipping into her top as she said, “I texted
one of my girlfriends. She’ll cover for me. Should be okay.”
Then the doorbell rang. We looked at each other
and I heard her breathe, “Oh, shit. . . .”
I walked through the living room and out to the
front parlor and looked out through the sheers in the bay window. In a moment,
she was right beside me.
“Oh, shit. How the fuck did he find me?”
“Duh. Your car’s right out front.”
“But how . . . oh, well. Guess there’s no help
for it, now.” She quickly turned and kissed me and then yanked open the door
and bolted past her husband, who turned and watched her as she flew to her
turned and looked at me. There was no animosity in his
stare. No more than there would be in the eyes of a scientist examining an interesting
specimen on a microscope slide.
and stepped off the porch and walked back to his pickup
and left. As soon as he was at a safe distance, Gizmo barked him the rest of the way.
I didn’t exactly haunt Quinn’s, but I started
hanging out there more than I had been. I found her there the following week.
She had the fading remains of a pretty good shiner and her split lip was
healing nicely. As I slid into the booth beside her, I said, “Sorry I got you
carefully and said, “Not the first time I’ve
been there, My Man. Besides, it was totally worth it. And you should see the other guy.
. . .”
You mean yer husband? What did you do?”
you’ve never been in my kitchen. It has an island
in the middle, with a pan rack overhead. We were in the kitchen when he punched me. I wasn’t
expecting it, and he got me pretty good. Then he turned around to stalk outta the kitchen
and I reached up and got a cast-iron skillet.”
“Oh, no. . . .”
“Yep. I said, ‘Hey, motherfucker,’ and he spun
around and I fuckin’ clocked his ass with the skillet. Knocked him colder than
shit. Then what?”
he came to, one of his eyes didn’t look just right,
so I drove him to the emergency room. I’d given him a concussion.”
“Didn’t ya get in trouble?”
“Nah. We were both fucked up and I just told
‘em we’d been in a car wreck. They kept him overnight. Next day, when I was
drivin’ him home, I told him if he ever punched me again, I’d kill him. Pretty
sure he believed me, too.”
then, a slightly younger, prettier blonde walked up
to our table and Reba stood up and they had a quick girl-hug. “Who’s this nice
lady” I asked, standing up from the booth.
nice lady extended her hand and said, “I’m
her cover, when she doesn’t get caught with her panties down. I’m Pamela.”
I turned back to Reba and said, “Well, I’m glad
you’re okay and I really hate it that you got in trouble.”
this is only the second time in, what, four years? And I was a bad girl both times. After
I got his ass home, we had pretty good sex. Nothing like you and me, though. But he’s
learned there are some things I just won’t stand for. Being beat on is one of them.”
I glanced at Pamela and she hurriedly looked
away. I knew I had been discussed at length by these two and that Pamela had my
measure. I wondered if she’d make a move and, if so, how soon it would be.
As it turned
out, it wasn’t that long. Pamela apparently had
never had what Reba described to her about our times together, and it wasn’t long
before I had my own personal stalker.
At first, it didn’t really register. I had
stopped at my usual convenience store for gas and suddenly, there she was on
the other side of the same gas pump island, seemingly having a problem.
I stepped around the pump and said, “Ma’am?
Are you having trouble?”
turned, and I saw it was Pamela and she said, “Oh!
Hi, Jerry. I can’t get this damn thing to take my card. Would you mind trying it
As I put her
credit card in the machine, she seemed to stumble a little and I felt one of her boobs
bump against my arm. “Oops, sorry,” she said, giggling a little, “I
had a couple glasses of wine. . . .” She steadied herself by gripping my arm.
The pump kicked on and I put the nozzle into
the tank and started it. About that time, my own pump clicked off and I went
and hung it up. When I looked back up, Pamela was standing on my side of the pump,
watching me. “Nice to see you again,” she said.
“Yeah, you too, Pamela.”
Weird, I thought at the time. It would get
later, on my regular day off, I was doing some grocery
shopping, when I found Pamela again, browsing the aisles at the grocery store.
“Hi, Jerry! Hey, is that a new coat? Wow, that
color looks good on you.”
thanks, Pamela. How you doin’ today?”
“Well, could be better . . . hey, are you busy
tonight? I’ve got a couple friends of mine that want me to go to a play, and I
could use an escort. . . .”
Pamela, I’m really flattered that you’d
ask, but yeah, I’m kinda tied up tonight . . . (Screwing my favorite redhead, whom
you know very well. . . .)
well, thanks anyway. Don’t let me keep ya. Nice
seeing you, Jerry.”
watching by back trail and I soon realized Pamela was
following me a lot of the time—too much of the time to be coincidence.
I didn’t say anything to Reba about it, and
looking back at the way things turned out, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have
made a bit of difference, if I had.
a Saturday night, when Reba’s husband was in town
and I was having a stay-at-home weekend, my doorbell rang at ten-thirty at night. I had
already gone to bed and I was almost asleep. I had to get up and clear the alarm system,
then go to the door. I took along my Glock, as I always do. Gizmo was right behind me.
I’m sure in his little doggy brain, he figured he had my back.
Pamela was at the door, and she was far from
sober. She was slurring her words and she was unsteady on her feet. There was a
shit-eating grin on her face. It was raining like a bastard and her hair was wet
and plastered down.
I jus’ waz passin’ by an’ I thought, ‘I bet ol’ Jerry
would like a lil’ company’ . . . how ‘bout it, Jerry, you up fer some
fun . . . ?”
with the help of some booze, she’d gotten her nerve up.
“Um, no. I don’t think so, Pamela. I’d like to
hang out with ya, but right now you’re sloppy drunk and I don’t care for that.
You go home and get some sleep. Maybe call me later, okay?”
As I gently closed
and locked the door, I could hear her yelling out there, “Hey, you . . .
you fucker! Am I not good enough for you? What the fuck! You got some cunt in there? You
asshole. . . .”
on for a few minutes and then I watched from behind
the sheers as she tottered back to her car and eventually drove away.
Just as I turned away from the bay window, I
saw Gizmo stretching upward and putting his paws on the sill. He was staring
intently into the dark, which was relieved only slightly by the streetlamps. Then,
I caught a flash of a dark car going by, in the same direction that Pamela had gone. Desperate
Pamela. Needy Pamela. The car was running with no lights. It didn’t mean anything
at the time and again, even if it had, it most likely wouldn’t have made any difference.
I tell myself that often.
morning, as I opened my garage door to back out and
go to work, there were two police cars blocking my driveway, one uniform car and one plain
vanilla slick-top. I walked out into the driveway and a plainclothes copper got out and
that’s me. What’s up?”
need ya to come with us.” The uniform was out
of his car now, a big, strapping youngster in an immaculate uniform.
“Okay. I was just on my way to work. . . .”
“Call in. Tell them you’ll be in later.”
“What’s this all about, guys?”
“We can talk about that downtown.”
“I could drive my pickup and just follow ya
down. . . .”
You can ride with me. We’ll bring ya back when
I under arrest?”
Not yet. We’re just detaining you for questioning.
. . . hop in, let’s go.”
Miranda, no cuffs. I got to ride in the front, like
a citizen. Down to the building I’d worked at, for twenty years. Up to the sixth
floor and into an interview room. Then they let me stew for an hour, while they watched
me. Watched my body language. Seeing how nervous I might be. Seeing if I was worried. Seeing
if I would get pissed.
they came in. The first detective and another one, both
in shirt sleeves and ties and empty holsters, carrying yellow legal pads and coffee in
Styrofoam cups. None for me, though. We went through the preliminaries. Name, address,
DOB, etc. I pulled out my wallet and took out my driver’s license and my concealed
carry permit, then my retired police ID.
were a cop?” This came from the younger guy.
“Yeah. Right here. I’ve interviewed perps right
here in this room.”
did you retire, Sir?” Now I was “Sir.”
Things were improving, somewhat.
the time you were born, I would imagine. My ID number
was 738, what’s yours?”
let’s quit dickin’ around and you guys tell
me what the fuck’s goin’ on.”
had just taken over their interview and they would realize
it in a minute or so.
know a lady named Pamela Richards?”
“I know a lady named Pamela. Didn’t know her
last name. Blonde, pretty, about thirty, maybe?”
“Twenty-eight, yeah. How do you know her?”
I ran through the whole meeting, stalking,
drunk-at-the-door story for them as they took copious notes, which I knew was
all for show. The camera was rolling right on the other side of the glass, recording
When I was finished,
the older cop stepped out. In a minute he was back. This time I got coffee and
a couple donuts. Now I was their hero. I was helping solve whatever they were working on.
Halfway through the second donut, the younger guy said, “She’s dead.”
I set the rest
of the donut down on the napkin it had come with and looked them both over.
in the head. In her car. Saturday night at eleven thirty,
“Yeah. Fuck. Where were you?”
“Home, in bed. And all alone, damn it.”
“Okay, look, you’re among friends here. Any
ideas who might have wanted to do this?”
I thought back to the dark car I’d seen running
without lights and said, “Yeah, I’m afraid I do. . . .”
Reba was picked up the next day. The gun was
still in her car. A firearms identification test proved the bullet that killed
Pamela had come from that gun. Cops had already speculated the shooter was someone
Pamela knew. The window was down on the car and it happened right in front of Pamela’s
house. A search warrant on Reba’s house turned up clothing with microscopic blood
spatter—blowback from the shot that killed Pamela. Reba eventually confessed and
I took vacation
time to attend the trial, but I never had to testify. In the hallway between sessions,
and with court guards watching us closely, Reba said, “You know why this happened,
really,” I said.
of the other things I can’t stand. Anybody trying
to cut in on one of my guys.” She paused a moment and then asked, “You never
fucked her, did you?”
It never went anywhere near that far. . . .”
“Good. That’s good, Jerry. I’d hate to think
there was any . . . unfinished business.”
And less than an hour later, she was convicted,
and they gave her a life sentence.
I need to get
rolling now. It’s three hours up to Lansing, where the prison is
located, and Reba looks forward to my visits. Her husband divorced her about a month after
her conviction. Nobody else comes to see her and she won’t be getting out for at
least twenty-five years. I probably shouldn’t feel responsible, but if I’d
let Pamela in and sobered her up, maybe . . . well, shit, who knows?
|Art by Kevin Duncan © 2018
Kenneth James Crist
“Yeah, I haven’t
had many people look at this one…because…well, you know.”
Yeah, I knew. The house had been empty for over
a year. It was not in really bad shape, nothing wrong with it that a handyman such as myself couldn’t
handle. The real estate guy was still yacking away.
can prolly get this ol’ house for a song. They’ve lowered the asking price three times
now. They only boarded it up to save the windows. Kids around here are kinda little
pricks, ya know. Bust out the windows in a heartbeat.”
“Can we go inside?
I’m not buyin’ any house I can’t walk through.”
“Yeah. Let me go get a flashlight outta
While I waited on
Mr. Oliver, the real estate guy, I walked around the house. Two-story, built in the
1940’s, heavy wooden siding that looked like it had about fifty coats of paint over the years.
Sitting vacant all this time. Because someone had died in it. Front porch needed some new floor
boards. But the roof looked tight and the foundation was good. Lost in thought, I jumped a little
when the real estate guy stepped up onto the porch and rattled a ring of keys.
As he unlocked the front door, I asked, “Was it suicide?”
“Nope. Murder. Somebody killed the lady and took some stuff. A little money.
Some jewelry. An old portable TV. So far, they haven’t caught anybody…” He adjusted
his ball cap and pushed the door open. Turned on his flashlight and we went inside.
Fifteen minutes later, we were back outside. I
was surprised at how good the house actually was. And it didn’t even smell. Well, no more
than any house might smell when it’s sat empty for a year. Mr. Oliver said the lady had been
found in the parlor and it had been several days between her death and when somebody found her.
They had called a professional company to come remove the carpet and do the cleaning
necessary when a body has been there a while.
I made a low-ball
offer of eighty-six thousand, expecting I’d get bumped at least once. The house
was worth nearly twice that, after all. The next morning Mr. Oliver called me and said
I’d just bought a house. We set up closing and I sent the down payment that afternoon. Because
of some good investments, I was now retired, and I could afford to pay cash for the house. It also
meant I’d have all the time I needed to work on it and redecorate to suit myself.
Not to suit a wife. I don’t have one of those. Not to suit some other woman,
or even some other man. There was just me and Snubs, my American Pit Bull Terrier. Yeah, I know,
Pits have a bad rep. Wonderful dogs, often made mean and vicious and uncontrollable,
by the same kind of stupid fucks who like to mess up everything around them. They have become the
epitome of fighting dogs, used by idiots to bet money on. In some places, they are even banned.
Snubs was lucky. I’d been driving through a rather seedy part of town one day and saw a little
kid sitting on the curb with a box of tiny puppies. He was waiting for cars to come
along and whenever a car got close, he’d throw a puppy into the street.
As you can imagine, I slammed on the brakes and got out. Yeah, I was pissed. I found
myself yelling at this little cretin, “What the fuck are you doing? You can’t do that
shit! These are lives you’re messing with!”
make no difference,” he said, very nonchalantly, “mah Daddy’s
goan kill ‘em anyway. Ol’ bitch ain’t taken keer a dem, nohow.”
Long story short, I snatched up the box and piled back in my car and drove. I was
suddenly the owner of seven Pit puppies that were not even weaned and had to be bottle fed
for another two weeks. I spent over a month getting them placed in homes. All
except Snubs. He had one blue eye and one sort of gray and he was “tuxedo” marked,
a uniform dove gray on top and white underneath. He was the one that followed me everywhere as soon
as he was able to walk. He was also the one the kid had thrown into the street in front of my tire.
As he grew up, he filled out into a fine, well-muscled example of everything the breed was supposed
to be. He was too pretty to leave alone and, yeah, I took him to a good vet and
had his ears cropped and his tail docked and dew claws removed. He was protective, but
never mean. Usually the mere sight of him and the sound of his slightly hoarse bark was all anyone
needed to convince them to screw around elsewhere.
I went to the
closing on the house with Snubs on a sturdy leash and got the usual stink-eye from
the realtor and the property owner. Snubs ignored them and went to lay down in a corner and took
a nap. Real vicious, that one. After the closing, I started opening up the house, getting plywood
off the windows and starting the process of cleaning it up and making it livable. It was nearly
a month before I was able to move out of the old apartment, much to the joy of the landlord, who
hated me and my dog, and finally occupy my house.
All the cleaning,
painting and activity had caught the interest of all the neighbors, and within
a day or two of moving in, Snubs and I had visits from no less than six women, four of whom were
widows or divorcees, and we had enough pie and cake to keep us fat for a couple months.
We settled in and spent our days cruising junk shops and antique emporiums, looking
for items to furnish the place. I had gone from a three-room apartment to an eight-room
mansion (or, so it seemed) and I needed stuff.
Snubs went through the usual doggie thing, like, when are we goin home, Dad? Huh? Dad? In due time, he finally got it and settled in
well. We had been in the house nine days, when we had the first hint of trouble.
was a Sunday morning and we had slept late. Being a middle-aged guy, I had gotten up at
three in the morning to pee and Snubs figured that was a good idea, so I let
him out. Ten minutes later, we were back in bed, him in his doggy bed and me in my California
queen-size bed. It was nine o’clock by the time I shaved and hit the shower and as I got out
and was drying off, the day went to shit.
I looked up at the triple-pane mirror on the medicine cabinet
and froze. For a moment, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand erect. On the mirror, carefully
drawn in the steam, was a heart and within it, the words ‘Love You’…
the towel in at my waist and slipped quietly into the bedroom and retrieved a small
5-shot Taurus P-85 revolver from the nightstand. Snubs was still laying in his bed,
not asleep, but not upset about anything, either. As I methodically went through the house, top
to bottom, checking every window and door and looking for any intruder who might be there, Snubs
was right there, ready to get in on any fun that might be coming. He had been with me on shooting
expeditions. He knew about guns. They didn’t particularly bother him.
There was no one. Doors
and windows all secure. I went back to the bathroom, almost convinced I’d imagined the cryptic
message on the mirror. The room had aired out and the steam was all gone. By breathing on the mirror,
though, I was able to make it come back. It was still there, in latent form now, but definitely
there. Then I wondered if it could have been there all along. Maybe a prank, pulled by
someone at Lowe’s home improvement center, where I’d bought the cabinet. The
more I thought about it, the more I was sure that mirror had been wiped several times
when it steamed up and I needed to see myself. I usually just used the bath towel and wiped it.
As I did now. I wiped it very carefully, right to the edges.
The next thing I thought about was the numerous ladies who
had come to visit, bringing their high-calorie tributes to the unmarried guy and his ‘nice’
had done nothing to reciprocate their visits and their generosity, and maybe that had been a
mistake. Maybe one of them had a key and just let herself in, quietly moved
through the house, avoiding the bedroom where Snubs was pulling his lax form of guard duty
and was able to slip into the bathroom and leave the message. At any rate, it seemed I had an admirer.
It could be worse, I thought, as the shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’
ran through my mind. She could have brought a knife and a hateful attitude…
Later that day, I went
and bought and installed all new locks.
Everything went well
for another four days. Then came the Restless Night to end all restless nights.
I piled into bed at about ten-thirty, after watching the news. In ten minutes, I was out
like a light. I have a clock on my headboard that projects the time in red letters on the ceiling,
so I know it was twelve seventeen in the morning when a long, mournful, pain-filled wail made me
sit straight up and reach for that Taurus again. I sat for a moment, thinking I might have dreamed
that horrible, breathy, screech of pain. It had happened that way before, on rare
occasions. I had been a cop for a twenty-year career and I had seen enough horrifying
shit to keep anyone awake at night and make for the occasional dream-scream.
But, whatever it was, Snubs had heard it too.
He was standing at the bedroom door, a low growl rumbling in that deep chest, and I knew he was
primed and ready to do whatever was necessary to keep us both safe. I jumped out of bed, gun in
hand and grabbed a tactical flashlight I keep on the dresser and we went to check the
We checked the back
first, because it was the closest, then we went down the hall, headed for the front.
That was when the floor above us creaked. In older houses, floors squeak and creak. This
house had tongue-and groove oak floors throughout, and they really sounded off when walked on.
I froze in place, and felt Snubs press himself
against my leg. I could feel him trembling like there was a low-voltage electric current running
through his muscles. I killed the flashlight and reached down to pet his neck. As we stood there,
we very clearly heard footsteps move down the upstairs hallway, which was directly
above us. This was pretty scary shit, but I was also getting pissed. I thought about
stepping into my office and opening the gun safe and getting out something more substantial, maybe
my 12-gauge riot gun. But that would take time and besides, the electronic lock would make a beep
with each number entered on the keypad. I decided we’d just go for it.
We stepped as quietly as we could down to the
end of the hall, (those squeaky floors again, only working against us this time) and I looked up
the stairs. Up at the top of the landing, everything was pitch black. I decided stealth would do
us no good and a whispered to Snubs, “Go! Go get ‘em! Get ‘em!” Bravely,
or foolishly, he shot up the stairs like a rocket, ready to tear someone’s ass up. I followed,
two steps at a time, my flashlight and revolver at the ready.
By the time I made the top of the stairs, Snubs was back, tongue hanging out and panting
and looking at me like, “What the fuck?” I took my time checking everything
upstairs and found nothing. There was only one stairway. Nothing came past us.
And nothing was there. “Well, this is fucked,” I said aloud. Snubs snorted and headed
back downstairs. I suspect he thought I’d somehow engineered this whole deal just to mess
with his head. After all, humans can do some magical things, at least from the viewpoint of man’s
It took a bit longer
to get back to sleep that night, and when I got up in the morning, the message
was back on the mirror in the bathroom. Only, this time it said, “Love you, Pete”,
and it was in a particularly hideous shade of orange lipstick.
Oh, yeah, that’s me.
Pete Lauffer. Old fart extraordinaire, buyer and fixer-upper of houses, widowed
myself at fifty and, apparently the object of someone’s affection. I thought about
calling the cops while I was standing there wondering how I was gonna get that greasy shit off my
mirror. Not because the cops could really do anything, but just to start a paper trail, in case
I did wind up blowing someone away in the middle of the night. But what did I have? Messages on
mirrors and noises at night. I could see the carefully covered feelings of any cops who might show
up, wondering what kind of pussy this retired cop was and why he couldn’t take
care of business himself. I looked all around the bathroom for the lipstick, thinking
it might be there, discarded in the tub or whatever. Of course, it wasn’t there. Just like
the upstairs intruder.
Things began to
change again four days later, when I ran into Freddie Carlisle at the grocery
store. I turned a corner and almost rammed her cart with mine. Hurriedly backed up and said, “Sorry,”
and gave her the patented Pete Lauffer smile, guaranteed to soothe jangled nerves. Then I realized
I knew her, vaguely. “Oh, hi, it’s, um…” Trying harder than I should have
had to for her name.
Freddie Carlisle. I stopped by just after you moved in…”
“Oh, yeah, I remember.”
“That’s okay, I think you had a lotta
visitors for a few days there.”
“Well, yeah, it was
kind of a whirlwind of activity…”
was the pineapple upside-down cake. One of my specialties.” I had to admit, out of all the
women who had stopped by in that frantic week, Freddie was the one I was most taken
with. She was on the upside of forty, and a very well put-together forty. Blonde hair,
most likely tinted by someone who knew what they were doing and worn short enough to look pixie-like.
Dark, liquid eyes and a body…well, let’s just say good-sized boobs and a tiny ass. That
was enough for me.
“I remember. That
cake was really good. I remember you mentioned you were a widow, too. Like me.”
“Couple years ago. Marcy had breast cancer
that got out of control.”
“Don had a heart
attack. One. First and final.”
I said, “I’m gonna hafta move along here, and it was nice seeing you again. You suppose
we could get together some time? Maybe go out to dinner?”
She dug in her purse and found a business card. Handed it to me. “That number
is my cell phone. You just call me whenever, okay?”
As she strolled away, I alternated between looking at the card, (Freeman Motors, Freddie
Carlisle, Sales Representative) and checking her tight little butt in her white
Capri pants. Holy shit. Just call me whenever.
I was very suave
about it. Waited until that evening at about seven-thirty, just after eating my microwaved
Hungry Man chicken dinner. I found I was actually nervous. I hadn’t called a woman for a date
in literally years. She answered on the first ring. Very professional phone-voice, pitched low and
slightly breathy. “Freeman Motors, this is Freddie Carlisle.”
“Pete Lauffer, nice lady. Does that Freddie
stand for Frederica?”
“Well, hi, Pete.
Yeah, it does indeed, spelled with a ‘K’ at the end. What’s up?”
“I assume you’re at work. Didn’t
mean to bother ya when you’re working.”
“No bother. Slow as hell around here. Haven’t sold a car in almost two
tell me what nights you’re free to sneak out to dinner, then.”
“I’ll be loose tomorrow night. I’ll
pick you up at six-thirty.”
pick me up? Okay…”
seen your truck. My ride’s nicer. If it bothers you, I’ll let you drive.”
“Sounds like a
deal,” I said, and I noticed my heart had sped up a little, “see you then.”
Her ride sure as hell was nicer than my truck. She rolled up about three minutes early in a red Mercedes
Benz E-Class coupe. I didn’t make her come to the door. I had dressed in a casual sport coat,
no tie and tan Dockers, hoping I wouldn’t be over- or under-dressed. I hustled out to
the car and she started to get out. I waved her back and said, “You can drive.”
She had opted for a black skirt, just above the knee, white blouse, red belt,
matching lipstick and matching ‘fuck me’ shoes. I was blown away. No nylons. Her nice
tan let her get away with that. When I got in, she leaned over for a hug and an air-kiss, then snatched
the car into gear and we roared off. I spent the first few minutes alternating between admiring
her legs and watching the road as she skillfully whipped the car through traffic. She drove it like
a Mercedes should be driven, using the
performance without abusing the machine, and taking no prisoners.
She drove us to Bishop’s Grill, a place I’d heard about but hadn’t
been to yet. It turned out to be more folksy than hoity-toity and the steaks were on the rare side
and served sizzling on a hot skillet, tucked into a wooden tureen. Over dinner we
talked about anything and everything and I could tell she was enjoying herself. When
the check came, there was no bullshit about, let-me-get-that. She let me get it and we stepped on
out into the evening.
early yet,” I said, “would you like to go see a movie or something?”
She took my hand as
we walked to the car and said, “Yeah, I’d like that. I have a home theater at
my place and I have Netflix. Let’s go see what we can find.” Again, Holy Shit…
house was actually smaller than mine and just four doors down on the same street. It was
newer and had a more open floor plan, except for the bathrooms and the home theater.
We settled in with a movie and a big bowl of popcorn and watched a few episodes of some modern western
series about a sheriff in Montana or someplace. At eleven, I decided I’d better head home
and she walked me to the door. She reached up to put her arms around me and we shared a kiss. Then
another. She felt really good in my arms and my crank was screaming, ‘go for it!’, but
I resisted, and I felt that was probably the right thing to do. It was too early.
I sensed she appreciated my decision. We said goodnight and I walked up to my place.
As I was unlocking my front door, my phone buzzed with a text message.
taste good. See you soon?
texted back, Damn right. Can’t
wait. You taste pretty good, yourself.
got back a smiley face emoticon. Snubs was overjoyed to see me and to see the grass in the back
yard. While he did his business, I brushed my teeth, took a leak and got ready
for bed. I don’t even remember my head hitting the pillow.
red numbers on the ceiling said 4:40 when I came about half awake and snuggled up to the warm,
sweet-smelling woman next to me. My hand slid over her stomach and upward, to
cup a full, warm breast. I started to drift off to sleep, when alarm bells and a-woogah horns
started going off in my head.
I snapped awake and
suddenly sat up and watched in the dimness of the moon-lit bedroom, as the
sheet on the other side of the bed deflated, like
a hot-air balloon, that had just landed on the ground. Something (a woman, my mind said) had been
there, and then it wasn’t. Like the lipstick and the creaking floor. I sprang from the bed
and backed against the wall. Snubs was still in his bed, and he looked up at me with that, ‘what
the fuck’ look of his. I stepped into the bathroom, fully expecting to find something new
and maybe different on the message-mirror. There was nothing. I took a piss and
flushed. Walked back into the bedroom. I was badly shaken and quite sure there was no
way I’d sleep again that night. I turned on the overhead light and looked at the indentation
in the pillow. Not on my side. On hers. Whoever she
was. Whatever it was. I leaned over and grabbed the
pillow and held it up to my face. There was the faint scent of perfume. And I recognized it. It
was some stuff Marcy used to wear when we were young and full of love and sap. It was called ‘Poison.’
was time to stop bullshitting myself and admit that the goddamn house was haunted. Or occupied.
By something outrageous or outlandish or maybe even dangerous. Sort of like the
old saying about non-poisonous snakes—they won’t hurt you, but they might cause
you to hurt yourself.
So far, my “friend”
hadn’t done anything to hurt me or endanger me. But it—or she—was getting
stronger, and she was scaring the shit outta me. I wasn’t quite ready to put
the house on the market and move out. Not yet. But if things didn’t change, and
soon, that was definitely an option. Once again, I let Snubs out into his yard and I went to make
One thing led to
another and coffee soon gave way to bacon and eggs. I even made a whole tube of
biscuits and Snubs helped me kill them off. Yeah, he’s spoiled, but he’s all I’ve
I showered and
dressed and set off at eight to run errands and grocery shop. I had a feeling I
might soon have a guest over for an early dinner and, hopefully, some messing around and somehow,
I didn’t think Hungry Man was gonna cut it with this lady. I spent about two hundred bucks
and I was amazed how little I got for my money. I spent some more at the local package store and
got four bottles of wine, two I knew about and two that were recommended by the man at the counter.
When I got home,
Freddie was sitting on my veranda, kicked back in a wicker chair with a book.
She looked like she was prepared to wait all day, if necessary.
could have sent me a text,” I said, “and I would have hurried back sooner.”
I have a rare day off and I have a feeling we’re gonna be worth the wait.” She helped
me lug in groceries and she seemed to be impressed with the wine. When
everything was put away, she hopped up onto one of the kitchen counters and sat, swinging her legs
and said, “What shall we do now?”
I stepped over to her and ran my hands up her thighs. She was wearing red shorts and
a tie-dyed t-shirt, and she looked scrumptious. I leaned in and her arms came up and we
started where we’d left off the night before. As we smooched, she managed to
scoot forward some, pushing those impressive boobs against me, then wrapping her legs around
me. In a couple minutes, we came up for air and I nuzzled her neck, saying, “I’m sorry
if this is going too fast, but you feel really good and it’s been a while…”
“Mmmm…really? How long?” Her
hands were shoved down the back of my jeans now and I was getting hard.
“Bout a year and a half, I guess…”
More smooching, then I got a hand under a breast. No resistance there, none at all.
“Four years, here. And I’m ready to
break that losing streak. Let’s go get horizontal. Show me your bedroom.”
I walked her down the hall and into the bedroom
and took my time undressing her, kissing everything I exposed in the process. She was reaching to
me between my efforts and stripping me, too. When we were naked, she looked me over and said, “God,
I’m glad you’re not all fat and nasty.” I sat her on the foot of the bed and
pushed her back and moved downward, intending to lick her and make her crazy. Again,
no resistance. Some women taste okay and some don’t. And with some, you just
wanna live the rest of your life down there. Freddie was as sweet as honey and I gladly licked
and tickled her until she grabbed my head and held me tight, locked her thighs on me and came, groaning
and gasping, then giggling a little as I got ready to push into her.
She pulled me onto her and her legs opened and
she said, “Easy, Big Fella, it’s been a while.”
me if I hurt you,” I gasped, and I pushed gently, and we were joined a moment later. It was
warm and slow, and she was enjoying it, but I could tell she was feeling some
discomfort. I surprised myself by holding off for quite a while, long enough to give her
another good orgasm. After, we snuggled in the bed and I hoped she couldn’t smell that nocturnal
perfume of the unknown entity that had occupied the place the night before.
I was ready for a nap, but sex seemed to energize
her, and besides, she had probably had a decent night’s sleep. She suddenly bounded up out
of bed and as she moved past me, I tried to grab her cute ass. She giggled and avoided me and scurried
into the bathroom. Her gasp was loud enough, I heard it from the bed. Then, she walked
back out and stared at me, standing hipshot, and making no effort to cover herself
in any way.
“This is not funny,
Mister. In fact, it’s a little sick, okay?”
“What are you talking about?” But, in a way, I already knew. I jumped
out of bed and walked toward Freddie and she turned and went into the bathroom. I stood in the
doorway and did some deep breathing exercises. On the mirror was the orange
lipstick again. It read, “Get out, Bitch!”
was leaning forward onto the vanity top and she said, “What the fuck, Pete? If ya didn’t
want me here, all ya had to do was say so…”
“Babe, I didn’t write that…”
“What? Bull—shit! Who else is here?”
“I…I don’t know.”
“The fuck you mean, you don’t know? There are people here and we’re
in there…fucking…and you don’t know who’s in your own house?”
“No. Not people. There’s something
here, but I don’t know what it is for sure…”
yeah, here we go. Whatcha got, Pete, ghosties? Spooks? Spirits?”
“I’ve got no idea…” At
that point, she pushed past me and went into the bedroom and started grabbing clothes and slipping
into silky underthings. I could tell she was pissed and ready to storm out and I didn’t want
that to happen. So, I sat down on the end of the bed, making no effort to get dressed, and told
her the whole story, from the beginning, with nothing left out. By the time I finished, she
was sitting beside me and holding my hand.
she said, “that’s pretty unbelievable. If I find out you’re bullshitting me about
this, you know I won’t be seeing you again. If this turns out to be some kind of
weird turn-on for you, I’m not gonna appreciate it one bit…”
“No. Freddie, I
promise, it’s not a trick or anything I’m in control of. Whatever it is, it’s
real, and tell ya the truth, it’s started scarin’ the shit outta me.”
She got up and walked back into the bathroom,
and this time she didn’t gasp. She screamed. I ran in and saw her staring at the mirror. The
mirror was clean, the message was gone.
I made a pot of
coffee and we sat at the kitchen table. We were both fully dressed now, and I
was sorry the afternoon delight had been so brief. I was ready for more, but she had other ideas.
“I’ll tell ya what, Pete. Any further
hanky and panky will have to take place over at my house or in a hotel or, fuck I don’t care,
in your truck in an open field somewhere. But it won’t be here.”
“I’m okay with that. I think whatever’s
here doesn’t want you here. I’m not even sure it wants me here.”
“Well, I dunno, it got in bed with you…”
“Freddie, do you understand that I’m
not sure about any of this? I’m not sure what’s real and what’s not? I mean, yeah,
I think it was there…but I was half-asleep and
there was only moonlight…maybe I could have…imagined at least part of it…or dreamed
it, I dunno…”
stood up and walked over to the sink and dumped the last of her coffee, then turned off the
coffee maker and came to me. She stood behind me and wrapped her arms around my
neck and spoke next to my ear. “Let’s get outta here Pete. If there’s some
woman-ghost here, let’s let her have the place to herself for a while. Put yer dog out
and let’s roll.”
We walked down to her
house and got out the Mercedes and headed out. We drove in the country for
several hours, and fifty miles away from the city, we found a barbeque joint where the beer was
cold and the ribs were thick and juicy and we sat outside at old, scarred picnic tables and waved
away the flies. We ate until we were stuffed and took our time getting back. We stopped by my place,
so I could feed Snubs and then we went to her place. We went to bed and I expected we would be
more relaxed with each other, and in some ways we were, but we were also just
learning each other’s timing and rhythms. At some point, we slept.
Two more days went by and Freddie was back to
work, doing long hours and not much pay, unless she sold an expensive car and got a fat commission.
I spent time doing yard work and deliberately trying to wear myself out, so I’d be able to
sleep all night. Snubs helped me by digging holes and carrying off my tools whenever he got the
chance. On the second night, I was beat, and I found myself nodding off during
the ten o’clock news. I said the hell with it and took myself off to bed.
There was a storm that night and lightning knocked
out the power, so there were no lighted numbers on the ceiling when I woke up with an intense boner
and someone’s mouth working it slowly. Jesus, she’s
back, I thought, and then I just surrendered to the sensation. In the pitch-black,
relieved momentarily every few minutes by remote flashes of lightning, she worked
me up to the extreme edge of orgasm, then she would back off and let things settle. Soon, she moved
up onto the bed, and straddled me. She seemed to have no weight, but she was becoming very strong.
In the slight flashes of lightning, I could see that she had been moderately pretty and dark-haired.
When I slipped inside her, she was as warm and real as any woman I’d ever
loved. Her breasts were large and rather pendulous, with thick, hard, dark nipples. I
took them in my hands and tasted each in turn and she ground her hips into me. As I came inside
her, she arched back, and I heard that banshee wail again, the same as the night of the upstairs
floor creaking. And she dug her fingers into my chest hair and pulled out a handful. As we finished,
she faded until, on the next lightning flash, I could see through
her, and then she was gone. On my belly was a nice big load of my own
semen and a bunch of my own hair.
I leaped out of bed
and headed to the bathroom to clean myself up and I noticed Snubs was not in
his bed, or anywhere within sight. Probably the wailing ran him off, I reasoned, and grabbed
a washcloth. I was grasping at anything to keep my mind away from the fact that I had just had sex
with a ghost or spirit or phantom of some kind. And it wasn’t bad. My chest stung a little,
but I’d had rougher sex. Now the mystery of the mirror messages was solved. My nocturnal visitor
was evidently here before I bought the place and had now become infatuated with me.
I walked the house
and found Snubs cowering in the front living room, behind the sofa. It took
some coaxing to get him to come out, and even then, he spent some time sniffing around me. Whether
he was smelling my sex-sweat, or that perfume, (Poison. It’s called Poison) or the smell of
death, I could not know, and he could not tell me. But I was satisfied the entity was real. What
had happened was not some half conscious wet-dream, although I guess the result was the same. I
knew I was up for the day and I went and started coffee before I hit the shower.
As I got soapy and
steamy and clean, I thought about the house’s previous occupant. Murdered, Mr.
Oliver had said. But he’d never mentioned her name. I thought about possible ways
I might find out more and the library came immediately to mind, but then my next thought was, what about the Internet?
When I stepped out of the shower, my eyes automatically went to the mirror, but it
was blank. I realized I had been holding my breath, and I let it out with a sigh and a thank
you to whatever deity was now in charge of my life.
made coffee and heated up a couple of Pop-Tarts. I didn’t want to take time for a real
breakfast. I had research to do. I turned on my laptop and let it boot up, then
started the search engine. To start with, I put in my own address, and to my amazement, that
was all it took.
Police were called this morning
to 8556 Norway Place on a ‘check welfare’ call, where they discovered the nude body
of the resident, Ramona Clark, 41. A detective at the scene said it appeared she had been dead for
several days and that she was most likely beaten to death. The detective would
make no further comment on this ongoing investigation.
stated Ms. Clark lived alone and was employed at Claire’s Boutique
in the Westerly Mall. When she failed to appear at her workplace for the second day, employees at
the Boutique called police to check on her.
I ran more searches and read about the investigation that really went nowhere right
from the start. Ramona had no ex-husband, no boyfriend, no stalkers. She had mostly kept to
herself except for vacation trips. She had been on a Mississippi River cruise
the previous spring. I looked at the dates on the articles and realized I had moved in one year
and one day after she was found murdered.
So, I didn’t know
a hell of a lot more that I’d known before, except now she had a name.
As I was paging
through more articles, and not learning anything new, my cell phone buzzed and
I found a text from Freddie.
Cat got yer tongue?
Nope. How ya doin?
Horny as catshit…
We should do something about that.
WE should. I’ll be off today @ 5
I bring wine?
K. See you then…
seemed to be a lot of cat-thoughts in her conversation, but that was okay. I was pretty sure I
could deal with Freddie. At least she wouldn’t fade out and disappear on me…
I spent the afternoon napping on my sofa and watching
TV. I caught an interesting news story out of Austin about some crazy bastard who was sending bombs
to people, and I thought about Ted Kaczynski and Timothy McVeigh. I had some weird shit going on
at my house, but at least nobody was trying to blow me up. In fact, the only thing
that had happened to me was a pretty messy orgasm—not my first, by any means—and
some hair loss, which would grow back.
walked on down to Freddie’s house after I knew for sure she was home. She came to the door
in a bathrobe, her hair still damp from the shower. She smelled wonderful and
holding her was amazing. We headed straight for her bedroom and played for an hour, then
camped out in the kitchen in our underwear, sipping wine and nibbling whatever we could find in
her fridge—grapes, cheese, crackers, part of a summer sausage. We shared kisses while we ate
and soon she was in my lap and we were feeding each other and giggling like kids. Soon, we hurriedly
shoved things back into the fridge and cabinets and raced back to the bedroom.
By nine o’clock, we were exhausted from
love-making and I stayed the night. At around three, I got up to get rid of some wine and when I
came back to bed, we had another session and went back to sleep, holding each other. At seven AM,
I woke up to Freddie singing off-key in the shower. I went in to join her and we actually behaved
ourselves. When we were toweling off, she said, “Well, I guess the honeymoon’s
I was wool-gathering
and I said, “Huh?” Clever rejoinder, there.
“We just had a shower together and we didn’t attack each other once.”
“I was almost afraid to after last night.”
She grinned at me and said, “Me, too. Besides,
I gotta get to work. I’ve sold two cars this week and I’ve got good leads on two more.
This may be a record-breaker.” Then, she looked at me and said, “What happened to your
chest? Yer missin’ some hair, there…”
“I…I was thinkin’ about shavin’ it all off…but I didn’t
know if you’d like me that way and I lost my nerve.”
“No! Don’t you dare! I like yer furry chest. It tickles me, and I like
leave it alone, then…” I had just told Freddie the first lie of the relationship.
As I left, she had her car keys in hand. I kissed
her and patted her ass and said, “Go get ‘em, Tiger.”
go rest, old man. I’ll call ya…”
walked on down to my house and dealt with Snubs, who was frantic with love and had decided to
show it by trying to knock me down. He wasn’t missing any meals, but he had
sure missed his daddy.
I did house cleaning
and a couple maintenance chores until noon and then decided a nap might be a
good thing. Instead of curling up on the sofa, I went to bed. Stripped to my shorts and crawled
right in. No guilt about it, either. I had worked hard to please my lady and she was right, I needed
rest. I dropped off in about three minutes.
hour later, I was awake. The bed covers had been pulled down and also my shorts, and something
invisible was touching me, licking me and sucking me. I was transfixed, both by
fear and by pleasure. I could see the slickness of her saliva on me and I could feel everything,
but I could not see any part of her. I finally gasped her name.
I was rewarded with
a pause in the action. I could still feel her hand wrapped around me, and then,
very faintly, I could see the darkness of her hair and the shape of one breast. I whispered
to her, “I want to see you. All of you. Show me.”
And she began to manifest. That is the only word that I could find to describe it.
Very gradually, she began to take form. Her face came first and it was a lovely
face. She showed it for only a second or two, then she bent back to her task, taking me
back into her mouth. And then I could see her shoulders, her back, the curve of her hip, her shapely
white legs, everything.
In another minute, I
said, “Can you turn over? Can I do that to you?”
She did not speak. She turned onto her back and pulled her legs up and moved them
apart, her toes just barely touching the bed. I moved to her and began nuzzling her, right where
a woman loves it the most. She shuddered with pleasure and became even more
substantial, and I could smell her sex as well as taste it.
only performed cunnilingus on her for a minute, because I was afraid she would fade away
before I could finish with her. I needn’t have worried. I slipped into her and
she locked her legs around me and she urged me deeper. I moved until I was completely on
top of her and I held her tightly as she came again and again, raking me with her fingernails and
even biting me on my neck and chest. It seemed that her lust was endless, and we continued for quite
some time, until finally I could hold off no longer and I fired what seemed like a gallon into
her. And, at last, I heard her speak. She said, “Oh, Pete…” and then she was
gone. And I had sheets to change…
minutes later the bed was changed, the washer was running and I was getting out of the
shower. My cell phone was buzzing on the counter. I checked it and found a text
No nookie tonight.
One of the guys called in. Gonna hafta work.
Not yet, but I think
it’s a done deal.
Okay, stay safe.
Okay. Think I’m in trouble.
Think I may be fallin
for this guy that lives on my street.
could be good or bad. We better talk…
See ya later.
There was a smile on
my face I couldn’t get rid of for a while. I really liked Freddie. But I didn’t
know if I was really interested in being in love, or getting hitched or any of
that jazz. I’d have to tread lightly, I thought, as I looked myself over in the mirror.
The bite marks were fading, and Ramona hadn’t torn me open anywhere that I could see.
I curled up on the sofa with a beer and a bag
of jalapeno chips and started watching Forensic Files, with Snubs curled up beside me. Within a
half hour, my eyes were heavy and I dozed off. I woke up with Snubs growling, standing beside me
and staring at the hallway.
put my hand on his thick, hard neck and felt him vibrating against me. “What’s goin
on, Buddy? Somebody messin around?”
jumped down and ran down the hall toward the stairs and I got up and followed. He stood at the
bottom of the stairs, looking up.
followed his gaze and saw Ramona, standing on the landing at the top of the stairs. She was naked
and very substantial. She beckoned to me. I held up one finger and took Snubs
and put him outside. I went back to the stairs and she was gone. I went on upstairs, on
the off-chance that she might have stuck around, but it seemed she was gone again.
In the spare bedroom, where there wasn’t
even a bed yet, there was a photo album in the middle of the floor. I had never seen it before and
I had no idea where it might have been. I was pretty sure I had been everywhere in the house, but
apparently not. The album was open to a page near the middle and there were two
pictures there, both taken at a park somewhere. Ramona was recognizable in both and in
both there was a man with her. I picked up the album and leafed through it. There were lots of family
pictures, but throughout the whole thing there were only two pictures with the unknown man in them.
I wondered if she was trying to give me a message.
Was this guy the one who killed her? I pulled the pictures out and flipped them over. One was blank
on the back. On the other was written in blue ball-point, ‘Me and Luke, 6/16/08’.
So, Luke, who the fuck are you? I kept the pictures
and slipped them into my back pocket. To the air in the room, I said, “Thank you, Ramona.
I’ll look into this.”
It was going on four
when I got to the police station. At the front desk, a crusty old sergeant
tried to shine me on, but when I produced retired police ID, he relented and called back to their
homicide unit. In a few minutes a florid, slightly overweight cop named Gilmore came out and got
me. We went in the back and he offered me coffee. I knew about police station coffee, but I could
smell it and it seemed it might be fresh. I tried a cup and it wasn’t half bad. We went to
an interview room and took a seat.
First Class Neil Gilmore was one of those deceptively easy-going cops, who seem about
to nod off whenever they’re listening to you, but they don’t miss a thing.
“So, what’s this about, Pete?”
“Do you remember a homicide case a bit over
a year ago, a woman named Ramona Clark, who was found murdered in her house over on Norway Place?”
“Yeah. You’re the guy who bought the
“Yeah. How did you
guess. Go ahead.”
was wondering, one old cop to another, if there have been any leads on the case lately, or if
it’s a cold case now?”
hate the term cold case, Pete. I stay on these things and as far as I’m concerned any
homicide is always an active case, but right now, that one’s in, ah…shall we
I pulled the
pictures out of my back pocket and handed them to him. He looked them over on both
sides and then said, “Well, I’ll be god-damned. Luke Johns. Where the fuck did you get
“I found an old
photo album in the house when I was doing some renovations. They were in it,
along with a lot of others. He was only in those two shots, though.”
“You know what, Pete? We interviewed this
guy and he told us he didn’t know this woman, never met her, etc., and yadda-yadda, and here
he is. We can put him with her and we even have the date. You suppose you could bring in the rest
of that album?”
could do that, or you could have one of the night shift troops come by and get it if ya need it
we’ll do that. The sooner the better, I’d say. Thank you very much, Pete. This may just
blow this case wide open…”
drove home and after calming Snubs down, I trotted upstairs to grab the photo album, so I’d
have it handy whenever the cops came to get it. Of course, it was gone. I stood
for a moment, completely perplexed, thinking I might have put it somewhere without thinking
about it, but no. I was sure I’d left it right there on the floor. Now, I was gonna look like
an idiot when the boys in blue dropped by.
Finally, I stood right in the middle of the room and said, “Ramona? The cops
were very interested in those pictures and they’d like to see the rest of the album.
Where did you hide it, Babe? I need it…Ramona? You really want this guy caught?
Yer gonna hafta help me out, here…”
Nothing. Well, shit. Just then, the doorbell rang and Snubs started going ape-shit downstairs.
Under my breath, I said, “Fuck!”, and ran down to get the door.
Gilmore had sent a two-man car and I got the dog
settled down and asked them inside. One of them said, “Really like what you’ve done
with the place…”
I guess I must have registered a quizzical look with him, because he said, “We
were on the initial call, when Ms. Clark was found.”
“Oh, okay. Well, I…seem to have misplaced the item they sent ya for. I’m
sure I’ll find it in a day or so and I’ll be glad to bring it in, but…”
“Photo album, right?” The younger
copper had tilted his hat back and was looking at me a little strangely.
“Yeah, it had a brown cover with some kinda
gold strip making a square on the front…”
He reached past me and picked up the album from the kitchen table and said, “Like
this one?” His partner was smiling slightly, and I said, “Um, yeah, that’s it.
Damn, it’s hell to get old…”
we’ll get this right down to the station…” I knew when they got in their car,
the laughter would be uproarious.
they left, I said, more to myself than to Ramona, “You know those guys think I’m an
walked down the hall and stepped into the bathroom to make some water and saw the mirror. It
said, “Get rid of her…” The message was fading, even as I read it. In a moment,
it was gone.
Later that night, Ramona
came to me in my bed and we did what we had become accustomed to. This time,
she was almost gentle, but as she climaxed, she wailed and moaned, and tears fell on my chest.
And when I looked into her eyes, I saw the smoldering coals of ancient forest fires and ruined burned
cities, and then she closed those smoldering eyes and she was gone. As I was dozing off, I realized
there was no mess to clean up. Ramona was growing stronger and more solid, more real all the time.
Days went by and the summer was waning. I continued
to see Freddie, but it was like she was on the side, almost like when I was with her, I was cheating
on Ramona, whom I lived with, like it or not.
had gotten so used to her appearances, he didn’t get freaked or even excited anymore. A week
after I turned over the photos to the cops, they picked up Luke Johns in
Wilmington, Delaware. He waived extradition and they brought him back. He balked at a DNA test
and yelled for a lawyer. They got him his lawyer and also a warrant for the DNA. His profile matched
that of swabs they had taken of the bite marks on Ramona’s
breasts, neck and shoulders. The bite marks had been withheld from the media.
On the advice of his lawyer, he never confessed,
but a plea agreement was worked out to keep lethal injection off the table. He got life with no
possibility of parole. And I got a call from Detective Gilmore, inviting me to a bash he was throwing
at his place for the homicide division. Nothing fancy, beer and brats, come casual, but by
all means get your ass over here.
went. I was tempted to ask Freddie to go, but then decided I didn’t want to deal with all
the questions. It was a decision I would come to regret and very soon. I
realized I was keeping my activities with Ramona a secret from Freddie, even though she knew
I’d had an encounter and she’d seen the message on the mirror. At the same time, I was
keeping my activities with Freddie a secret from Ramona, as best I could. I had no idea if Ramona’s
spirit could travel from the house, even as short a distance as four houses away, or if she was
trapped where she was. I hoped she wasn’t able to follow me and watch as I frolicked
The party ran pretty
late and I had enough alcohol that I shouldn’t have driven home, but I made it
okay. When I stumbled into the back yard, Snubs was not to be found. I unlocked and
opened the back door and he met me, all wags and affection, but not nearly as manic as usual. But
I knew I had left him outside. Before I went anywhere else, I looked over the lock on the back door.
It appeared to be intact and working normally. I could not see any evidence that the lock had been
picked or the door jimmied in any way.
stepped into the kitchen and turned on the light. Everything appeared normal, but Snubs was
still acting strangely. I thought about that .38 revolver in my bedroom and I
figured I’d better get that first, then check the rest of the house. When I stepped into
the bedroom and turned on the light, I found Freddie. She was face up in the middle of my bed, the
large butcher knife from the countertop set in the kitchen shoved up under her ribcage and into
her heart. I reached out to her and took her slack, cooling hands in mine and bent my head down
to her, whispering, telling her how sorry I was. In my imagination, I saw her, lured to
my house somehow, maybe forced inside and then killed while trying ineffectively
to fight off something she could not see. Dying because of the jealousy of a woman already dead.
My God, why didn’t I just flee the house when that first encounter happened? Why?
Then, from behind me, I heard a grating sound
almost like fingernails on slate. I turned to look and there Ramona stood in the doorway, her eyes
glowing with evil and with blood on her hands. The grating sound was the laughter of one who was
already dead and could never be blamed for the result of her jealousy. I closed my eyes and
wept, even as I struggled to hold onto my sanity.
don’t know how long I stayed there, holding Freddie’s dead hands in mine, but when I
came around, it was to the high-octane stink of gasoline. I jumped up and ran into
the living room, where I watched in fascinated horror as my red, five-gallon can of
lawnmower gas levitated across the room, slowly turning, four feet above the floor, spewing gas
onto the furniture and carpet. Again, I heard Ramona’s voice. Again, that low, grating laughter.
And I ran. I found Snubs cowering near the back door, and I snatched him up bodily and bolted for
the truck. I was suddenly as sober as I’d ever been in my life and I realized if Ramona could
kill with a knife and handle a gas can, striking a match would be child’s play.
I started the truck and started backing for the
street, when I saw the first flash of fire inside Ramona’s house. Because it really was hers.
It had never been mine, and she was proving it now.
I drove all night and finally stopped, exhausted, at a mom-and-pop motel on the west
side of Cleveland. I have no idea where we will go. I know I will never convince anyone
that I didn’t kill Freddie and burn down the house. What am I going to say? “Well,
see, there’s this woman who was murdered in that house and now, she’s a
succubus and we’ve been screwing our brains out, but she got jealous of the woman who
wound up dead in my bed and…oh, fuck…”
know it’s only a matter of time before the police will track me down. And I hope that happens
Before Ramona does…
|Art by Kevin Duncan © 2019
Ted’s Christmas Adventure
Kenneth James Crist
seem to think that once time travel was perfected, everything
would just fall into place. That all of law enforcement’s problems would be solved,
right? I mean, some A-hole kills someone, just go back to before he did it and arrest the
idiot, right? No. Doesn’t work. The crime hasn’t been committed yet. Law says
ya can’t touch him. You can maybe stop him and save the victim, but legally, ya can’t
touch the fucker, even though you know that in your part of the space-time
continuum, he’s guilty as shit. Enter the Problem Solvers. I’m Dale Rogers,
number 666. I know, cool. I picked the number myself. Not because it is
supposed to be Satan’s, but because the Bible says it’s the “number of the
Beast”, and when I do what I do best, I am the beast…The newbies don’t get to
pick their own numbers anymore.
Step number one: Travel to the
correct time and locate the subject. Done. Subject found to be out for a night of casual
drinking, which may or may not include casual sex later. He is young, white and good-looking.
Most likely has good moves with the ladies. It’s a Christmas party at a local bar,
starring a lot of people he works with.
do-gooders all say we’re murderers. No better
than the scum we deal with. In a way, that’s true, but I can guarantee, if the victims
knew they were murdered on one plane of existence, they wouldn’t think that. But
we try not to ever let the people we save know they were targeted. We just go back and
quietly erase the problem.
travel is not cheap. And that’s a good thing,
too, or every dumbass would be building a warp device and the space-time thing would be
more fucked up than it already is. So, since it costs so much time and energy and money
to send someone back to correct a problem, we don’t do individual cases. Maybe someday,
if the cost comes down. Right now, all we’re doing is serial murder cases.
works this way: If you go back in time and kill the
serial killer before he gets started, all his victims get to live. It’s like it never
happened, and in fact, it never did, because we erased it. After making an adjustment like that, a ripple moves down the space-time continuum and it
sometimes takes months to find all the victims who, of course, are not victims anymore.
We like to do reports on them, just to cover our collective asses. Just to show the
powers-that-be what good things we’re doing. After all, it’s taxpayer money.
Step number 2:
Insert yourself into the subject’s confidence. I work my way up to the bar and
manage to bump into the subject, distracting him and at the same time, adding a little
something to his drink. He’s too busy chatting up a set of big breasts with a slight
personality to notice much else that’s going on around him. This is good…
order that people in the past never know what we’re
doing, we go to great lengths to fit in. For this case, my warp device has been fitted
into a 1960 Chevy Bel Aire 2-door hardtop. It’s period-correct, right down to the
whitewalls, silver piping and buttons on the upholstery and fuzzy dice. It’s had
the necessary mods, of course, and I must be careful not to wreck it here in 1966. If it
fell into the wrong hands, there could be hell to pay. It’s approaching midnight
and the highway is empty as I ease the Chevy upward off the road and kill the lights.
Wouldn’t do to have people see a car flying over. Cars that fly will happen,
but not for at least sixty more years.
the right seat, unconscious, is a famous serial killer,
initials only, T. R. B., a dark-haired, handsome and charismatic guy who really liked Volkswagens.
We know his body count was at least thirty. Some say as many as a hundred. After tonight,
it will be interesting to see how many lives will be put right by my actions.
Right now, at the age of twenty, he is innocent of any crimes, at least as far
as we know.
Step number 3, Capture subject.
Getting him out to the car was a touch of genius. When he went to the restroom, I followed
him. Asked him if he was busy, or could he break away from the boobs for a little fun?
Got his attention right away. Of course, he was suspicious. I could see it in his eyes.
He wondered if I was “queer”, a term that became passé in the 1990’s, in favor of “gay”. What did I
have in mind? Told him I had two very young girls out in my car. How young?
Like fourteen and fifteen. What, just sitting out in the lot? No, drugged and
stuffed in the trunk…
cruising in the Chevy at 14,000 feet—I told you
it had mods, right? —and I’m just waiting for him to wake up a little, so I
can solve his problem. I like them to know they’re fucked, right at the last. I wouldn’t
have to do it that way, but I have to admit, I like it. So tonight, I’ll give myself
a little Christmas gift. We are far out over the New Mexico desert when he begins to come
around. I hit a button and a section of the roof over the passenger seat slides back. The
rush of cold air wakes him up further.
When we got out to
the car, he was all, “Hey, cool ride. Big trunk, too, huh?” He was practically
licking his chops. He might not have started killing girls yet, but he was not
far off. I handed him the key and, when he popped the trunk, we had a bad moment. He
was very fast, for being half drunk and doped, too. Once he saw the empty trunk, he turned
and suddenly there was a knife in his hand. Fortunately, his heart rate had spiked, and
the dope finally kicked in. He slumped back against the car and the knife dropped from
his numb fingers. All I had to do was sort of guide him into the car as he started going
down. Didn’t even need my stunner.
looks out at the stars and then turns to say something
to me, a sappy smile on his face. Oh yeah, he’s flyin’ high on the stuff, but
it’s known for wearing off fast, so I just say, “Goodbye, Ted, you fucker.”
Initiate step number 4. Erase the threat of subject’s
actions. I hit the control on his ejection seat and blow his ass out into the night.
No parachute, of course. If they ever find him, it will be just one of those mysteries
that occur from time to time, unsolvable and soon forgotten. I close the roof and log the
time and date into the computer. December 25th, 1966, 12:24 A. M. I set
the controls for April 15th, 2108 and trip a switch. I’ll be home in
time for supper.
the sequence starts and the warp drive begins to whine,
I think, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night…”
is beastly and mostly lost in the noise of the field generators…
|Art by Kevin Duncan © 2019
The Very Special Valentine
or, Life Happens
When I was a
kid, way back in the fifties, we made our own Valentines.
Red construction paper and white paper lace, glitter to the moon and back. We made them
by the ton, to exchange with classmates and then they always ultimately got thrown away.
Except, once in a while, there was one special
one. That one came from whatever cute little girl you were crushing on at the
time. And of course, you made one for her, too.
have kept the one I got from Nancy Pfieffer. I’m
74 years old and I still have it. Nancy was my biggest crush and, I guess, my first real
love. The Valentine was not only the best I ever got from anyone, but it was also the biggest.
So big, that Nancy had to patch together four sheets of construction paper and use a whole
box of lace. And the glitter pen must have worn out with the message she put on that sucker.
It wasn’t just a cutesy little note. It was a letter.
We were in fourth grade then. Girls wore
dresses to school in those days and actual leather shoes and white anklets.
Barrettes in their hair, maybe polish on their nails, but never any make-up.
That was a no-no until they reached dating age. And
that wouldn’t happen until they were at least sixteen.
need makeup. Not then, or ever. Every time I ever saw
her later in life, she looked flawless.
I’m sorry. Sometimes
my mind wanders. Back to the Valentine. I could go get
that Valentine right now and read it to you, but I won’t waste the time. I have read
it almost to rags and I know it by heart.
It said, “Walt: I love you. I hope you love me, too. I will always care for you,
no matter how long I live. If I’m lucky, maybe some day you will ask to marry me
and make me the happiest girl in the world. Even if that never happens, I will
always be there for you. Love and kisses, Nancy.”
I know. Pretty long and serious letter for a
girl nine years old. But, sometimes, a person just knows. Ya know what I mean?
Nancy and I knew we were meant for each other, even then. We spent our little kid
years mooning over each other, holding hands on the playground, sometimes even sneaking
in a kiss. We didn’t care when other kids teased us about being “kissy lovers.”
We had each other.
Then life happened. Life
fucking happened to both of us. . . .
My father died when I was
two. Massive heart attack. He hit the floor like a ton of
bricks and he was gone. I remember when the men from the funeral home came to get him.
Nowadays, they would use the term “morbidly
obese” for what my dad was. To me he was just the big guy who carried me around
on his shoulders and took me to town for haircuts and ice cream.
When they struggled to bring him down from the
upstairs bedroom where he died, I remember hearing one of them whisper, “God
damn, he’s a heavy motherfucker. . . .” Then another man hushed him. I suppose
that was unprofessional.
My mother struggled along
for a while, and after a couple years, went back to teaching
school. Then the cancer came along. Breast cancer wasn’t something you beat in the
1950s. She had the double mastectomy. She had the massive doses of radiation. They even
had some experimental drugs they tried. None of it mattered. It killed her in four years,
and I was alone.
I remember that
Nancy was there at her funeral, along with her parents
and most of the town. My mom was well-liked and respected. After the service, Nancy and
I sat on the back steps of that little Methodist church and held hands until her mom and
dad came to get her. We cried together, and she told me she would always be there for me.
It meant a lot to me then, and it still does, even now.
Then it was foster homes, scattered to hell and
gone in other states for four years until I could finally escape to the
military. We wrote letters back and forth. Some were pretty torrid, too, until her
mother found and read some of them. Then, our jets got cooled rather quickly.
Before I got my discharge from the Air Force, I
got word that Nancy had gotten pregnant and was getting married to Bobby
Cannon, one of the biggest bullies I’d ever gone to school with. Maybe he’d
changed, I thought. At least I hoped so, for Nancy’s sake.
And life continued to happen. Marriage and
divorce, kids and child support, houses and cars and trucks and motorcycles and
careers. But through all of that, Nancy was never far from my mind. I would get
the occasional word from someone back home. Nancy had three kids. Then four. Nancy got
divorced. Nancy got married again. Life happens. . . .
Years went by
and we both kind of lost track, but then, less than
a month ago, I got an email from a cousin. Included in it was Nancy Steiner’s obituary.
Yeah, my Nancy. Steiner was her name when she died. Perfectly healthy when she skidded
on ice and hit a power pole in the dark. Electrocution is as bad a way to go as any. They
said, if she’d just stayed in the car . . .
But she didn’t. When she stepped out, her foot
made the connection that carried seven thousand volts to the ground. I doubt if
she knew anything. I made the trip back to the old hometown for her service and
only wished I could see her again. They did a closed casket service, so that
I spent several years alone,
and I kept thinking about Nancy. I wondered what she looked like, after
all the years we’d been apart. I was willing to bet she still didn’t need makeup.
The more I thought about her, the more I was convinced that I just had to see her one more
time. I needed to tell her how much I still loved her and how sorry I was that things
didn’t work out for us. She’d said she would always be there for me, and I knew
right where she was.
buried her in the big cemetery in our hometown, but
in a small, isolated family plot, miles out in the country.
When I could no longer stand not to see her, I
packed my truck and headed home again.
* * *
Modern embalming techniques are a miracle in
themselves. Modern science has made it possible to exhume a person after as
much as twenty years and, with some minimal restoration of makeup, have a
second, open-casket funeral.
But Nancy never needed makeup,
and she still doesn’t now. Yes, I went and found
her. And I rescued her from that dark and evil place where they put her. She said she’d
always be there for me, and she didn’t lie.
She was there. It was hard work removing the
hundred or so cubic feet of dirt they’d put her under. I’m not the man I once
was, and it took me two days.
like a dog for my Nancy, and at last I removed her from
the white satin. It was as white as the lace on that long-ago Valentine. She was as beautiful
as ever and I put her in my truck and reburied the casket.
Nancy and I are together now, and we will be
until it’s my turn to pass on. She doesn’t speak, but she sure is a great
listener. The slight smile on her face tells me all I need to know. That she’s
happy at last, glad to be with me and still in love.
Sometimes I worry that someone will find out
she’s with me and I’ll wind up in trouble, or packed away in the booby hatch, but
we don’t get many visitors out here. So, I just sit back and enjoy the company
of my very special Valentine, and, just like always, life happens. . . .
|Art by Kevin Duncan © 2019
A Gift of Death
Always pitch your
tent on high ground. I mean, if it’s just a silly little, one-man Wal Mart tent
and it doesn’t look like rain, fuck it, put the damn thing anywhere it looks
good. But if it’s a good-sized, serious tent and you’re gonna be there a while,
find the high ground and, if there’s a stream or river nearby, look for
high-water marks and locate above them. This way, if it storms, you get
drainage and a flood won’t carry your ass away, to be found weeks later,
drowned and a putrefying mess.
“Is this a good spot?”
Katie had never camped
out and it had been a while for me, too. We had forest all around and a stream
nearby. We were on federal land in a National Forest and our permits were in
order, all fees paid.
“This is about as good
as it’s gonna get, Babe.
We’re a few miles off the beaten path and I think we’re gonna have the place
all to ourselves. It’s too late in the season for a lot of city folks to come
up here. How you feelin’?”
“Surprisingly good, actually,”
she said, “Other
than being a little winded from the altitude.”
I was amazed at
how well she was holding up. We had hiked in from a parking area several miles
away. True, I had lugged most of the equipment, but she had done well,
considering how sick she had been just a week before. I dropped everything I’d
been carrying and reached for her. I kissed her neck and her lips and the top
of her bald head and we sat down together and rested for a while.
Katie had survived
cancer twice before. This time, she would not. I knew it and she knew it and
all her doctors knew it. The chemo had left her weak and skinny and bald and
she had good days and bad days. But now she had put all the bad days behind
her. She had opted, now that she was nearing the end, to just let all the
treatments go and end her life in the most natural way possible.
In the state we
were in, laws had now been passed to allow assisted suicide, under the
supervision of a doctor. I was that doctor. Nowhere in the law did it state
that the doctor assisting had to be the patient’s regular physician. Any
licensed doctor could assist. And when the time was right, I would help her on
It would not be
easy. We had been married only eleven years and we were still very much in
love. We had hoped to be together for fifty, sixty, seventy years, but it was
not going to happen, at least not this time around.
“So, you gonna show me
how to set up a tent, or
are we just gonna sit around and listen to the wind?” I gave her another quick
smooch by her ear and got up and started breaking out the tent. It was not new,
by any means, and it was borrowed, but I was familiar with what went where, and
in about forty minutes, we had a canvas house, complete with mesh windows, roll
up covers and a floor. Katie didn’t like bugs all that well.