She passed him every day. He was young, well built … and he was handsome. Just her type. She had tried everything to attract his attention. She had dressed provocatively, she had loitered, she had even taken a pratfall hoping he would come to her rescue, but some busybody stuck his big nose into her business by helping her up from the sidewalk where she lay waiting for Mr. Right to come to her aid.
In desperation, she came up with a plan. It centered on his profession. She would make some work for him and be there when he arrived. Then let him ignore her!
The plan was daring. A few blocks from where she saw him every day was an abandoned building; she would simply set fire to it and wait for her dream man to come to her.
You see, he was a firefighter. She walked past the firehouse daily, and that is where she saw the love of her life talking to his mates—paying her no mind.
The fire had spread fast and became larger than she had envisioned. But she stayed in place, awaiting her man. Finally he came. Now she could show herself at the window.
There he was—just below her—only a few feet away. His arms were reaching out to her and he was telling her to jump. You bet I’ll jump, big boy—catch me!
As she was in mid-air, and halfway to his waiting arms, she thought, “There must be an easier way to meet a man.”
I once had a girl. She was from Norway, but we met in New York City at a jazz club on the West Side. My friend Lane had dragged me there; he told me that the sax player would really send me. (I know, that is 60s lingo). I didn’t want to go because I was broke and I was embarrassed that Lane always picked up the check when we were out. But he persisted in asking, so I went with him that warm August night. It was a night that changed my life forever.
Lane and I were from upstate New York, we had been friends in high school. We were both going to be writers and write the Great American Novel. And here we were, Lane wrote copy for an ad agency and I wrote short stories that no one would buy.
I was twenty years old, and had just dropped out of college. I wanted to be a writer and I did not think college was the way to go about it. I thought the only way to be a writer was to write. So I headed for the big city, found myself a roach-infested apartment and opened my laptop. I got lucky and sold my first short story to a weekly newspaper. It was a free paper, but they did print fiction. They paid me all of twenty-five dollars for it.
After that, I figured it would be only a matter of time before I had TheNew Yorker knocking at my door wanting me to write my genius fiction for them, and if not the New Yorker, then at least the Village Voice. Well, things did not work out that way. Six months later, I had not sold another story. The newspaper that had bought my first story was long out of business as I contemplated my future. I was nearing the end of my savings and something would have to break soon or I would have to get a job. Something did break and her name was Karina.
Unbeknownst to me, Lane and his girlfriend, whose name was Sally, set me up with a blind date. When we got to the club, I saw Sally sitting at a table with a blonde girl. I immediately grabbed Lane’s arm and halted his progress toward the table. “What’s the deal?” I asked in a low voice. Then I added, “If Sally is trying to set me up again, I’m leaving. You know I don’t have any money to date.”
With a phony and shocked look on his face, Lane said, “No, no, it’s nothing like that. It’s just that the poor girl is in town and doesn’t know anyone. Sally’s mother and her mother were friends. Sally’s looking out after her, that’s all. Don’t worry; she’s not your date. And she’s got plenty of money; she can pay her own way.”
With a sigh and a shake of my head, I said, “Lay on, Macduff.”
We seated ourselves at the table and I was introduced to the blonde. Sally started right off yakking away, but I heard nothing she said. I was looking into the eyes of the blonde. They were green, the color of emeralds—they were sad eyes. She was good-looking in a not glamorous sort of way. There was something about her. Something that made me want to put my arms around her and tell her everything would all right. That night I fell in love, head over heels. To me, she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. But it wasn’t her looks that got me. It was her soul. She looked vulnerable and she had those sad eyes. I know that’s a cliché, but that is what it was, plain and simple. I was hooked. Her name was Karina.
We talked and ignored both the music, and Lane and Sally. When Sally saw where things were going, she nudged Lane and said they had to go, but that we should stay. As they left, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Lane hand some money to our waitress and point our way. He had made sure that I wouldn’t be embarrassed for lack of funds.
The music was really too loud to carry on a conversation, so I suggested that we go somewhere more conducive to getting to know one another. I had no hope that she felt toward me as I felt toward her, but I just couldn’t let her go out of my life until I knew everything about her.
We settled in at a Starbucks and talked until the early morning. Her parents were both dead and had left her relatively well off. She was in the States because she owned a cabin in North Carolina, up in the mountains, and she had come here to sell it. At twenty-two, she was two years older than I was. But that was okay with me; I liked older women. I prattled on about my writing and she said that she would like to read some of my stuff someday. Someday? I wanted her to read my stories right then and there. But I held my tongue.
As I walked her to her hotel, she slipped her arm through mine and we walked on in silence. My feet never once touched the ground.
We said goodnight in the lobby of her hotel. She looked at me with those big sad eyes. “Please, may I see you tomorrow and read some of your stories?” Now normally, I would let anyone read my stuff at the drop of a hat, even if I had to drop the hat myself. But in this instance, I was reluctant to say yes. I didn’t want her to see how I lived. I mean, she was staying at the Plaza, for God’s sake! After a momentary hesitation, I told her I could bring my laptop over the next day and that I would be proud to have her read a few of my stories. We set a time and I left. We shook hands—we did not kiss goodnight.
Well, the short of it is, she was as smitten with me as I was with her. Why I don’t know. She postponed her trip south and stayed in the city. We saw each other every day. Sally must have told her about my financial situation, because Karina always insisted we go someplace that cost no money. We hit the art galleries and the museums, among other venues. Central Park was our favorite. As we walked through the park, the sunshine would ripple in her yellow hair like waves upon a sparkling ocean. At the end of two weeks, we both knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.
Karina liked my writing and told me I should be writing a full-length novel. Then, when that sold, I could put out a book of my short stories. No wonder that I loved her, she believed in me, more so than I believed in myself.
One day, a Sunday, as we lay on a blanket in the park holding hands (we still had not made love), Karina asserted herself. She told me in no uncertain terms that she was taking me to her cabin In North Carolina. She would cook and clean for me while I wrote my novel, and then when it sold, I could take care of her.
I told her that I would have to think on it. She stood and took my hand. I raised myself from the ground, and forgetting the blanket, we went back to the Plaza. We made long, slow love all that afternoon. And then again that night.
We hit the mountains of North Carolina as the leaves were changing. It was the perfect metaphor. Our lives were changing; we were melding into one entity.
As the snows came, I wrote and Karina loved me. I didn’t want to write. I wanted to make love to my girl, but she made sure I stayed at the computer at least six hours a day. The rest of the time I devoted to loving her.
As the snows melted and the leaves slowly returned to the trees, my book took form. Karina would read what I had written each day. She would correct my mistakes and give me input as to the characters and the plot. As I sat there in the evenings, seeing the firelight reflected in her eyes while she read my daily output, I fell in love with her all over again.
When spring was in full bloom, the book also bloomed. I had completed my version of the Great American Novel. I emailed my query letters to agents. Within a month, I had a signed contract. When summer came around, the book had been sold to a publisher and I had money in the bank. Now I could take care of my Karina. But it was not to be.
It was August once again, almost to the day that Karina and I first met. We were leaving the next day for New York. My agent had set up a meeting with my new editor. There was still work to be done. Writing the story is one thing, getting it out there is another. However, before leaving I wanted to buy something for my love. I went into town and bought Karina a ring. Nothing fancy, it was a simple band of gold. I was going to ask her to be my wife. I couldn’t wait to get back to the cabin, get down on one knee, and tell her of my love for her.
I saw the smoke long before I turned into the drive to our cabin. Then I saw the flames. I pulled the car to a stop, rushed to the cabin, and heard her screams. Those screams will never leave me.
“KARINA!” I shouted as I rushed the door.
When I pushed open the door, a blast of heat and flames knocked me on my ass. I got up; nothing short of hell was going to keep me out of that cabin. And that is exactly what kept me out . . . hell. I could not penetrate the flames. On my third attempt, the burns and resultant pain caused me to pass out. When I awoke, I was in a hospital’s burn ward.
Karina was gone and I was alone.
I sold the rights to my book to my agent. I couldn’t edit and work on it with anyone else now that Karina was gone. I took the money and bought a sailboat down in Miami. I had Karina painted on the sides in large letters the color of her eyes. I now sail the Caribbean, going from island to island, looking for nothing and finding nothing. I’m certainly not finding relief for the pain in my heart.
I once had a girl. Karina was her name.
If anyone feels so inclined, I’d appreciate it if you’d like my Facebook page. You can click on the button on the right side of the page. Thank you.
Now I know you guys ain’t gonna believe this one, but I’ve got to tell it just the same. This all happened in 1984, long before the Internet, cell phones, and Lady Gaga. And please, when you’ve finished reading it, no emails, no phone calls, and no damn letters telling me I’m nuts. Because I already know it and what I’m about to tell ya just goes to prove the point.
My friend Rick and I were traveling through the mountains of Pennsylvania when it happened. We were heading to Colorado; he’s got his law practice out there. Me? I was just along for the ride. The day before, Rick had called and asked me to go with him. Help out with the driving and that kind of stuff. Or as he put it, “What else you got to do? Tag along. I’ll put the top down and the wind will blow the stink off ya.” I mean, how could anyone turn down an invitation like that?
So here’s the scene. We had left the Interstate and were on a small county road. We were looking for some place to grab a bit of food. It was about—no, it was exactly—a quarter to four in the morning. I remember because I looked over at the clock.
We’re in some kind of valley because there are mountains on both sides of the road. And there’s a fog appearing. Appearing from where? I don’t know, but this fog wasn’t descending like a good, decent fog should. No, this fog was coming up from the ground. It was weird. But now that I think about it, I believe it came from hell itself. However, at the time I was oblivious, as was Rick.
Just when the fog appeared, we hit a ghost town. Yeah … I know, ghost towns are supposed to be out in the West. Well, excuse me … this ghost town was somewhere (and don’t ask me where) in Pennsylvania.
I’m sitting in the passenger seat, looking at the buildings as they passed by. Man, were they spooky. Oh, I forgot to mention, it was a full moon, or damn near close to it. Anyway, with nothing else to do (Rick isn’t the best conversationalist in the world), I’m looking out the window at this town. All the buildings seem to have been constructed of wood, most of which had rotted away. I could see right through them to the moonlight and trees on the far side. It went on like that for mile after mile. Actually, the buildings looked as though they had sustained a fire, but I figured it was just a trick of my imagination, considering the fog and moonlight. After a while, I couldn’t see anything but the goddamn fog. When it really closed in, Rick slowed down, turned to me and said, “Where the hell are we?”
And I shot back, “You’re drivin’, pal. If you don’t know, then we’re lost.”
Rick may not be much of a conversationalist, but he’s hell-on-wheels when it comes to a quick comeback. His retort: “Screw you!”
It was just about then he saw it. I didn’t see it, but thank God he did, or you would not be reading these words. Right there in the middle of the road was a large, very large, pine tree. I mean really! What the hell is a pine tree, or any kind of tree for that matter, doing in the middle of a road that good, God-fearin’ people have to traverse? I’m not sayin’ Rick and I were God-fearin’, but you know what I mean.
As I’ve said, it was a good thing ol’ Rick was at the wheel because if I had been, we would have plowed into the damn thing. So Rick stops in time and we look at each other. And before either one of us can utter a word, a voice rings out, “WELCOME TO PERDITION!” When I say a voice rang out, well … boomed out might be closer to the truth.
Turning to Rick, I shouted, “Let’s get the hell outta here!” I didn’t have to tell him twice. Before the reverberation of the sound of my voice dissipated into the mist, Rick slammed the car into reverse and was burning rubber backwards. We were both looking out the rear window. Rick because he had to see where he was driving. And me? Because what else was I going to do?
We were moving at a fairly good clip considering we were going backwards, and in a fog. The backup lights didn’t illuminate much. So intent were we on peering into the white darkness that we didn’t see the obstacle in the road. It was another damn tree, though this one was a bit smaller, and we were on it before we knew it. I mean we were literally on it. The two back wheels bumped over it, but the front wheels didn’t make it. So there we were, the car’s chassis resting on the trunk of a pine tree, in the early morning hours, in the mountains of Pennsylvania, with a sinister fog closing in.
If that wasn’t bad enough, then the shapes appeared. They were dark and they oozed out of the mist. They had the shape of men, but because of the fog, we could not make out any discernible features, like eyes and noses, you know, that kind thing.
I must admit I was scared shitless. But at that moment, Rick brought me back to my senses, at least for a minute. He said, “Fuck this!” He got out of the car and played a wonderful bluff. He stood by his opened door and said, in a loud voice, “I am an officer of the court. You are interfering in official business and there will be repercussions if you do not remove the blockage of a state highway and allow us to proceed on our way.” As I said, it was a good bluff and it fortified me … for a moment. But when two of the dark forms enveloped him, and he disappeared before my eyes, well … I went right back to being scared shitless. Then I felt a sharp pain at the back of my head; a blackness overcame me and I lost consciousness.
I came out of my stupor slowly, and as I became more cognizant, I perceived my surroundings. I was lying on a hard earthen floor in what looked like a log cabin. There were no windows, but moonlight was seeping in from the spaces between the logs. There was a table against the far wall. On another wall, three chairs hung from hooks, and on still another wall was Rick … also hanging from a hook. His hands and feet were tied—he was trussed up like a Christmas turkey.
I was still a little slow on the uptake and I asked him if he was all right. His answer was a muffled “Mmm … ummm … umm!” That’s when I noticed the rag, balled up and stuffed into his mouth. I went and started to pull the gag out while Rick shook his head back and forth. Ignoring him, I removed the gag so that we could converse like normal people. And that just goes to show you, some people can be downright unappreciative. Instead of saying, “Thank you,” I was met with, “You idiot! Why do you think I was shaking my head? Screw the gag, get me down. My arms are killing me.”
Grasping him around the waist, I lifted him a few inches so that he could slide his tied hands off the hook, which he did. When I had him back on terra firma, I let go, and he toppled to the ground. I heard an exasperated sigh, followed by the words, “Will you please untie me so that if I feel so inclined, I can stand up without falling over!”
“Sorry, pal, I didn’t realize.” I got down on my knees and fumbled with the ropes in the dim moonlight until I had my friend freed. Well, freed may not be the right word. We were still in the cabin.
As Rick massaged his wrists, I asked him what had happened.
“You want to know what happened? Well, you’re asking the wrong guy. This is all I know. I was standing there one minute and the next minute I have a hand over my mouth and two brutes were half carrying and half dragging me into the fog. They were both massive and when they got me into this cabin, one of them hit me and the next thing I knew, I was hanging up like a side of beef and you were on the floor grabbin’ forty winks. And that’s about all I know. What’s your story?”
“I was knocked out at the car and came to in this here cabin. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. But why are we still here? Let’s get the hell outta here before they come back.”
“Go ahead and try the door. I don’t think you’ll be able to open it.”
I saw no lock, so I stood and pulled on the handle. Nothing. So I gave it a good yank. Still nothing. As I was gearing up for a third try, Rick interjected, “It opens outward. Before they muscled me into this damn place, I saw one of them remove what looked like a 4” x 4” sitting in slots across the door. Go ahead and try to push the door open and see what happens.” I did as asked and nothing happened.
“You see,” said Rick, “this is a jail cell and I don’t think we are the first to inhabit it.”
About then, the moonlight was changing to daylight, and it wasn’t long before we heard someone at the door. We both got to our feet and waited for whoever it was to make their entrance. We did not have long to wait.
The door creaked outward, and the small space within the cabin was flooded with sunlight. Both Rick and I were momentarily blinded, and then the shapes appeared again. However, now we could see them for what they were. At first there was only one; he entered the cabin and stood to the right of the door. Then other one came in and took a position to the left.
They were only men, albeit, big men—very big men. They each stood about six feet, six inches tall. They were well muscled, no fat on either one of them. I figured they weighed two fifty if they weighed an ounce. They wore black suits, but not the kind your friendly neighborhood undertaker would wear. No, these looked to be right out of the late 19th century. Kind of what a preacher would have worn back in those days.
At this point, Rick and I looked at one another and Rick cocked an eyebrow in my direction as if to ask, “What the hell?” And speaking of preachers, that’s exactly what turned up next. After the two behemoths were positioned on either side of the door, the star of the show appeared. He, in contrast to his minions, was a scrawny little guy. He was also dressed in the same archaic manner. He was about sixty years old and stood about five and a half feet tall. Rail thin with a few days’ growth of gray beard stubble, grizzled hair that looked greasy and was unkempt and which hung down almost to his shoulders. Unlike the other two, he wore a hat. It had a wide, circular brim just like the preachers of old wore. He did not come in, but stood framed in the doorway.
Without preamble, without introductions all the way around, without even a by-your-leave, he started right in. In a loud voice that would have been better suited to the two brutes standing on either side of the door he boomed, “REPENT YE SINNERS! REPENT WHILST YE STILL MAY DO SO. FOR THE JUDGEMENT OF THE LORD IS AT HAND!” He then raised his right hand over his head, and in it was a Bible. At least it looked like a Bible, and any thinking man would assume it to be a Bible. But I digress.
So, there we all stood … the monsters, the preacher, Rick, and I. No one said a word, no one said a thing. At length, I turned to Rick and said, “I want to hire you to act as my lawyer and I want you to sue that son-of-a-bitch for everything he’s worth. Which probably isn’t much more than the clothes he’s standing in. But that’s a cool hat.”
Replied Rick: “I’ll take the case. And when we win, I get his hat as my fee.”
However, The Preacher—as Rick and I took to calling him—forestalled any further attorney-client consultation by loudly intoning, “AT THE FULL OF THE MOON THE SACRIFICIAL LAMBS WILL BE OFFERED UP TO JEHOVAH. THEIR BLOOD WILL WASH AWAY THEIR SINS AND ALLOW THEM TO ENTER THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.”
Now, my first thought upon hearing the above was, “I wish he’d turn it down a notch. I’m getting a headache.” Then, all of a sudden, it hit me. “Did he say ‘sacrificial’ and ‘blood’?” And I think it hit Rick about the same time because he looked over to me and his smirk was completely gone, as I’m sure mine was. Up till then, we thought it was just some yahoo trying to save our eternal souls. However, after hearing his plans for us and looking at the non-smiling apes, we got the picture.
Before I could think of anything to say, like, Who the hell do you think you are? or something to that effect, Rick said, “You gotta be kidding me. Come on, Billy, let’s book,” and took a step toward the door. That’s when ape number one moved to block Rick’s egress. Rick tried to push pass him, but to no avail. Then The Preacher put in his two cents worth. “MY SONS ISAAC AND AARON WILL BRING YOU TO THE ALTAR OF PURIFICATION AT THE APPOINTED HOUR. TILL THEN, MAKE YOUR PEACE WITH YOUR MAKER.” And abruptly he was gone. I mean in a flash he was gone. I didn’t even see him move a muscle. It was as though he went up in a puff of smoke. Then the apes left, but in a more conventional manner; they walked out, shutting the door behind them.
Rick and I were left standing there like the two idiots we were. We should have tried to get out while the getting was good despite the apes. But we didn’t, so now we were locked in a small log cabin waiting for the moon to rise so that we could be killed by three psychos.
Finally, Rick said, “Well, if that doesn’t beat all!”
“It sure as hell does, pal. But I think there’s something weird about that little guy.”
“No shit, Sherlock.”
“No. I mean, I was standing right in front of him. He had the sun to his back and I could swear that at times he was transparent. But when he talked, he filled in. I know it doesn’t make any sense, but that’s what I saw.”
Rick walked over to me and gently said, “It’s been a rough night for both of us. We’re tired and I don’t know about you, but I’m hungry as hell. So don’t worry about it. Let’s just figure a way out of here.”
He was right, so I asked him, “You got any ideas?”
Rick, for all his high-sounding lawyer talk, had no ready answer. Then I suggested we might dig under the logs and squirm our way out.
Rick told me that if I looked around the cabin, I’d see shallow depressions around the edges that looked like others had tried to dig their way out. And he was right. But that didn’t stop us from giving it the good old college try.
We found that the damn place had been built on a slab of granite, and a few inches under the dirt was solid rock. So, there was no getting out that way. And after an hour of going around the cabin looking for a weak spot that we could use to our advantage, we discovered nothing. Hence Rick, being the practical one, said that we should take two of the chairs down from the wall and hold a council of war. I agreed, and we did so.
I’ll spare you the details of all the stupid ideas we came up with. I think we discussed everything except having Buck Rogers descend in his spaceship to rescue us. However, in the end, we came to the conclusion that the only avenue of escape open to us was to run like hell when given the chance.
So this is what we came up with. When they came back for us and we heard them outside, we’d get ready. And when the door was cracked an inch, we’d both push with all our might (as feeble as that might be), rush past the giants, and haul ass down the mountainside.
Because he was conscious when brought to our place of incarceration, Rick knew that we were about two thousand yards above the road we had been taken from. We figured that all we had to do was run like hell and the man-mountains wouldn’t be able to catch us. After all, it would be downhill all the way. It was a simple plan formed by simple minds. They say that the simple plans are the best. Well, I’m here to you tell that is not necessarily so.
We sat in that damn cabin all day and watched the sunlight that came in through the cracks move slowly across the floor. Then the light got dim and then things got downright black outside—and inside—we couldn’t see a thing. While we sat there in the dark, we spoke of food. We talked of charred steaks smothered in onions—of grilled hamburgers with melted cheese and side orders of French fries. Surprisingly enough, salads did not enter into the conversation, but hell, we were macho guys. No sissy food for us.
After what seemed like a lifetime, the moon made its appearance. Its light slowly seeped into the cabin and we prepared ourselves. Rick and I, standing shoulder to shoulder, placed our hands flat on the door. The minute we heard the wooden bar being lifted, we were going to push for all we were worth.
And that is just what we did, and we did it with such force that the goons, Isaac and Aaron, were caught off guard. Rick and I were through the door and starting our sprint for freedom before they knew what was happening. Rick was a few feet in front of me because we had decided that he would lead the way, seeing as how he had a better sense of where we were in relation to the road. We were maybe a hundred feet out of the cabin and the goons still hadn’t moved. Things were looking up. That is, until a line from a Robert Burns poem came into play. “The best-laid schemes o’ mice and men often go awry.”
I took a step and tripped over a root or something, and fell flat on my face. Rick heard me take the tumble and started back. But we didn’t have time for any heroics. I couldn’t see them, but I could feel the gruesome twins bearing down on us. So I did the only thing I could. I yelled at Rick, “Get your ass outta here!” And with a quick nod, he did just that.
I don’t want you folks to think I was being a hero or anything like that. No, I was just being smart. I knew if Rick slowed down for me, the Bobbsey Twins would have us both. At least this way he could come back with some help.
Rick was gone and I was picked up by my arms—one goon on each arm. Then Daddy appeared out of nowhere. He didn’t seem concerned that Rick was no longer with us. He instructed the boys to tie me tight with a rope and then bring me to the “Altar of Purification.”
One of the monsters, it may have been Isaac, I couldn’t tell the sons-of-bitches apart, held me while the other went to get a rope. When he returned, they wrapped the rope around me and tied it so that my arms were pinned to my side.
After that, it was my turn to be treated like a slab of beef. One of the guys hefted me as though I were a sack of potatoes and slung me over his shoulder. As we made our way to wherever the damn altar was, I had a good view of the ground, seeing as how the top half of me was hanging down Aaron’s back—or it might have been Isaac’s back. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, that is when I noticed the fog coming up from the ground. It was the same kind of white mist we’d seen the night before. By the time we got to where we were going, it was well over the head of whoever was carrying me. Speaking about where we were going … it was a rock ledge, almost perfectly flat, about four feet off the ground and a few hundred yards from the cabin. I was unceremoniously dumped upon said ledge, also known as the Altar of Purification.
So there I was, flat on my back and helpless. Then out of the mist came The Preacher. In one hand he held his Bible, and in the other, the biggest goddamn damn knife I’ve ever seen. The blade was a foot long, the handle six inches. It looked more like a sword than a knife, at least to me, lying in my precarious position.
He stood looking down at me with his sons, one on either side of him. Next, he raised his hands over his head, the Bible in one, the knife in the other, and started to pray. Well, I don’t mind telling you I said a few prayers of my own right about then. And in between praying, I was grateful for the fact that Rick had gotten away because I knew with certainty that it wasn’t going to be too long before that knife made a swift descent and was imbedded in Yours Truly.
Then time slowed down, it almost came to a halt. It seemed to me that we were all frozen in some weird tableau. My eyes were fixated on the knife and it became the only thing in the world to me. I prayed for the nightmare to be over and that I’d awake in the car seated next to Rick with us barreling down the highway.
All the while the mist continued to rise, enveloping us in its whiteness as it swirled higher and higher.
About then, I decided it would probably be better to close my eyes and wait for the inevitable. But before I could wrench my gaze from the knife, two things happened simultaneously. The knife flew out of The Preacher’s hand and I heard a gunshot.
As soon as the knife left The Preacher’s hand, I closed my eyes and rolled to my left. I just knew the damn thing was going to get me. But it clattered harmlessly onto the rock, barely missing my head. And when I opened my eyes, the three creeps were gone and Rick was standing over me, looking concerned.
Breathing hard, as though he was out of breath, he asked, “Are you all right?”
“I am now. But where the hell did you come from, and is that a gun in your hand?” Before he could say anything, I added, “Untie me; get these goddamn ropes off me!” As he untied the rope, the mist lightened and seemed to be seeping into the ground.
When I was free, Rick said it would behoove us to get out of there before our “friends” came back. I had to agree; following Rick, we made our way down the mountain. It wasn’t too hard because the mist was almost gone by then and we had a full moon.
We made the road in no time flat. Rick turned left and I followed. I was about to start peppering him with questions when up ahead I saw his car. It was sitting on the side of the road just as pretty as you please. And there was no sign of the tree it was sitting on the last time I saw it. It was then that I hit him with a thousand questions.
Rick said he’d tell me what he could, but first we had to go back to the last town that we had passed and report our little mishap to the local law. Him being a lawyer, he would suggest that. Personally, I was for hightailing it out of that country and the sooner the better, but I said nothing.
I’ll save you the back and forth of our conversation and just tell you what I learned.
When I had fallen and told him to keep going, Rick did so only because he knew he’d need some fire power against the two giants if he was to effect my rescue. It turned out that he kept a gun—a pistol—in the trunk of his car. When he got to the highway, he was as amazed as I had been to see his car off the tree and on the shoulder of the road. His only concern was about the keys. If they were gone, he didn’t know how he’d get into the trunk. But they were right where they were supposed to be, in the ignition.
The rest was pretty straightforward. He went back up the mountain, found the cabin, and was led to where I was by The Preacher’s loud voice as he prayed over me. When he saw the knife, he took a bead and knocked it out of The Preacher’s hand. I told him that that was pretty good shooting. That’s when he informed me that he was aiming for the son-of-a-bitch’s heart, but the gun recoiled and he hit the knife instead.
There was one thing that we didn’t understand. Well, there were a lot of things we didn’t understand, but one thing in particular baffled us. Where had the bad guys gone? If you remember, I had my eyes closed when they vamoosed; I thought they had just run away. But Rick had been only twenty or so yards from the action and he told me it looked to him as though they had vanished into thin air. But we didn’t dwell on it.
The closest town was about eight miles from the scene of the crime. But it did us no good. Initially that is. The place was a one-horse town if I’ve ever seen a one-horse town, and I have. The sheriff’s office was closed up tight, so we made our way to an all-night diner. There we were informed that the sheriff or his deputy would be in about eight o’clock in the morning and there was nothing we could do until then. Rick asked the counterman who had supplied us with the info what the town folks did if there was an emergency in the middle of the night.
His answer: “There hasn’t been one so far.”
So, seeing that there was nothing we could do until the appointed time, and as we were hungry as hell, we ordered just about everything on the menu (which wasn’t much) and killed time until the local constabulary deigned to make an appearance.
When eight o’clock rolled around, we finished the last of our coffee and went to the counter to pay our bill. As we were collecting our change, the big man himself walked in. His name, we were to learn, was John Brown, Sheriff John Brown. He was thin with gray hair and I figured him for about sixty years old. We approached him, and Rick started to tell him our tale of woe. But after a few words, the sheriff held up a hand and said, “Unless there is imminent danger of grievous bodily harm or someone is lying dying somewhere, then let’s adjourn to my office. I’m just no good in the morning until I’ve had my first cup of joe.”
What else could we do? We waited for him to get his Styrofoam cup of coffee, and then the three of us walked to his office. Once he was comfortably seated behind his desk and contently slurping his coffee and we were seated in the two chairs before the desk, Rick laid out our story.
When Rick had concluded his account of the previous night’s adventures, Sheriff Brown didn’t say a word. He swiveled in his chair and hit the switch to the two-way radio on the stand next to the desk. Speaking into the mic, he said, “You there, Abe?” When an affirmative answer came forth, he went on, “I have to take a run out on the county road and I need you to hold down the fort. If I need you, I’ll call.” Having taken care of business, he flipped the switch to the off position and said, “Let’s go.”
With Rick in the front seat of the sheriff’s car and me in the back, we headed out. On the way, Sheriff Brown asked a few pertinent questions which we answered. One of the questions was what happened to the knife? When we heard that, Rick and I just looked at one another and felt stupid. We had been in such a hurry to get away that we didn’t think to take the knife. The last time I saw it, it was lying where it had fallen when it was shot out of The Preacher’s hand. Then the sheriff asked where exactly along the road did we encounter the pine trees. Rick hesitated, but then he said things looked different in the daylight and he wasn’t quite sure where we encountered the trees.
Feeling brilliant, I said, “We came upon the first tree right after the ghost town.”
Said the sheriff: “What ghost town?”
Said I: “You know … the one along here somewhere, on the north side of the road.”
Said the sheriff: “There ain’t no ghost town in this neck of the woods.”
Said I: “Yes, there is. I saw it last night. It runs on for a couple of miles.”
Hoping to get confirmation, I asked Rick, “You saw it, right?”
Rick wasn’t much help. He informed me that with the fog coming up, he kept his eyes on the road. Or to put it in his words, “I didn’t have time for sightseeing.”
To no one in particular I stuttered, “But … but I know what I saw.”
The sheriff said. “This is my county, boy, and if there was a ghost town in these parts, I’d know about it. Now, if you boys can point out to me where the alleged abductions took place, I can start my investigation.”
“Alleged abductions!” Rick and I said in unison.
Well, to make a long, sad story short, we never did find the place where we hit the trees. In fact there were no cut trees, pine or otherwise, along the road. So, no trees, no ghost town, no nothing! We just couldn’t pinpoint where all the shit took place. And if we couldn’t do that, then there was no way we’d ever find the cabin.
On the way back to town, the sheriff made what for me was a startling statement. “You know, all this talk of a ghost town kinda reminded me of Jasper.”
Rick beat me to the punch. “Jasper? Who the hell is Jasper?”
“Jasper,” said the sheriff, “isn’t a who, it’s a what. And what Jasper is, or was, is a town that was burnt down about a hundred years ago. Some crazy preacher took a torch to it. When I was growing up, us kids told spook stories about it. And it was always claimed that the spirit of the preacher was seen on the nights of the full moon, roaming the hills over there.” As he said that, he pointed to the north.
Once again, Rick and I looked at one another. We didn’t have to speak. The thought was there. ‘Crazy preacher’! But before we could say anything, the sheriff said, “Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, and I don’t want to hear about no ghost preacher snatching you out of your car! Are you boys foolin’ with the law? Because if you are, I won’t take kindly to it.”
Rick slouched in his seat, folded his arms and put on his lawyer face. I did the opposite. I leaned forward and said to the sheriff, “Everything we told you is the truth. And we don’t believe in ghosts. Maybe it was some local nut who knows the story of the crazed preacher and gets his jollies kidnapping and murdering people in that vein.” Then, as an afterthought, I added, “You ever have a missing person report where the person was last seen along this stretch of road?”
After thinking for a moment, he answered. “No, we haven’t. Well, at least not recently. But when I took over as sheriff, I was handed a file by my predecessor. He told me it was the only unsolved case of his career; it goes back to 1934. There was a car found abandoned somewhere out here. It belonged to an out-of-state gent, like you fellas. He was never found. But it could not have anything to do with your boy. That was fifty years ago.”
“I think I speak for my friend as well as myself when I say that we’re getting out of this state just as fast as we can. But before we go, I’d like to know a little something about the firebug preacher. Is there any place in town that might have some more information on him and the town of Jasper?”
“You’ll be wanting to speak with Miss Wells. She’s our town librarian and the town’s unofficial historian. I can drop you off there and then I’ve got to attack a stack of paperwork back at my office that’s been staring at me for a week.”
So, we drove on in silence. Rick hadn’t said a word since the sheriff accused us of making up the whole sordid tale. Then just before we hit the outskirts of town, a thought entered my cranium. I asked the sheriff if he knew what date the car was found in 1934. He said that he didn’t, but that when he got back to his office, he’d check the file and call us at the library. I think he was feeling a little guilty for not being able to help us.
Sheriff Brown brought us to the library and introduced us to Miss Wells. She was in her fifties and wasn’t a bad looker. I wondered why it was Miss Wells. Rick, well, he was still sulking and mumbled in my ear, “Let’s blow this pop stand. I’ve got a law practice waiting for me in Denver.” I informed him that it was his idea to go to Johnny Law, and now all I wanted was to get a few salient facts about the original preacher. Just something to comfort me in my dotage when I think back about what we had gone through. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Lay on, McDuff.”
I told Miss Wells we were looking for any information on the fire that destroyed Jasper and of the perpetrator that started said fire.
She gave me a dazzling smile (again I wondered why it Miss Wells) and told me that, off the top of her head, she knew that the preacher’s name was Jeremiah Stone, that he was a fire (no pun intended) and brimstone type. But she said that was par for the course in that day and age. Then she blew me away when she said, “You can read an account of the fire that was printed in the local paper on the one year anniversary. And I believe there is a picture of Parson Stone.”
I told her that I would indeed like to read anything she had on the subject.
Walking to a file cabinet, she opened the top drawer and withdrew a small box about three inches by three inches. She led us to a viewing machine while telling us that the relevant newspaper story was on film. “TheClarion Dispatch,” she said, “was our local paper. It went out of business years ago; however, we have all their editions on microfiche.”
When we got to the machine, she inserted the reel and started fast forwarding the tape, stopping every once in a while to peruse the date. Finally she came to April 23, 1885. And there he was, The Preacher, staring out at us from the past. It was an old-time photograph; they used to call them “family portraits.” Seated on a small couch, next to a woman, sat our tormentor, hat in hand. And standing on either side of the two were the boys, Isaac and Aaron.
Miss Wells missed the look that passed between me and Rick. She simply said, “This is the article. When you are finished, leave the tape in the machine. I’ll rewind it.” Then she left us to our own devices.
The first thing I said to Rick after the lovely Miss Wells had departed was, “Look at the date.”
You know, I never put much stock in lawyers, and Rick just reinforced that image when he said, “Yeah, I see it. So what?”
“So what! I’ll tell you ‘so what’! Today is April the 23rd. That article said the fire was set “yesterday,” which would mean April the 22nd. Don’t you get it? That crazy son of a bitch burned down his town exactly one hundred years ago to the day that he grabbed us. Look at that picture. You know it’s the same asshole.”
Rick’s reply: “I don’t believe in ghosts.”
My response: “Neither did I until two minutes ago.”
Rather than continue arguing with my pal, I started to read the article. I was seated in a chair and Rick read over my shoulder. This is the gist of the story.
Jeremiah Stone had been the pastor of Jasper for a number of years and was well liked by the town folk. He was married with two sons. The sons were “touched” or “pixilated,” or—as we would say today—mildly retarded. Then, in the autumn of 1883, his wife died and Stone went into seclusion with his sons. When he emerged a month later, he was a different man. His sermons were of redemption by purification; he started talking of blood sacrifices to appease an angry God, and of fire as a means of purification.
In the early morning hours of April 22nd, 1884, fire broke out in the town of Jasper. It seemed to be jumping from house to house, from building to building. The town’s people gathered on the main street, the men forming a bucket brigade, the woman and children huddled together.
The fire was too well advanced to put out, and it was while the people stood in the street watching their homes and businesses burn, that three men ran up and said they had witnessed Pastor Stone and his sons, at the other end of town, setting fire to the few remaining houses not already engulfed in flames. Everyone ran to that section of town and arrived just as Stone and his sons were entering the church—the only building in town not on fire.
Two men, town leaders, said that they’d go in and speak with the preacher and see what it was all about. But when they started for the church, the crowd followed. They had a stake in the catastrophe and wanted answers. So, instead of the two going into the church, the town’s people stood outside and yelled for the preacher to show himself, which presently he did.
Holding his Bible over his head (as I’d seen him do), he told his flock that they were now purified and ready for the Kingdom of Heaven. That’s when the first torch was thrown. It landed at the preacher’s feet, then another and another. The preacher retreated into the church. Then someone ran to the front door and poured lantern oil onto the small flames of the torches. The fire quickly spread and soon the church was ablaze. As the roof fell in, the people heard, over the roar of the fire and in a loud clear voice, these words, “I AND MINE ARE CLEANSED! TODAY WE SHALL BE WITH YOU IN HEAVEN.”
The people stayed until the church was no more. Then they slowly filed away to search the ruins of their homes for anything left of value. The town was abandoned and never rebuilt.
As we finished reading the article, Miss Wells walked up and said she had a message for us from the sheriff. “He said to tell you that he checked the file and the car was found on April 23nd, 1934.”
We thanked Miss Wells for her help and left the library. While walking back to Rick’s car, I said, “That crazy son-of-a-bitch took someone on the fiftieth anniversary of the fire and then he tried to do the same to us on the hundredth.”
Rick only said, “You know, we haven’t slept in forty-eight hours and I’m not one bit tired. I think I’ll drive straight through to Denver. Let’s get out of this goddamn part of the country.”
I could only agree and wholeheartedly concur with my friend.
From that moment on, Rick was a changed man. He didn’t mind some nut job trying to kill us. He could handle that. But when it came to the supernatural that was something else altogether.
We didn’t speak much during the rest of the trip. Rick refused to discuss The Preacher or anything concerned with what we had gone through. He seemed somehow embarrassed about something. When we got to Denver, I caught a plane back to New York. It has now been more than thirty years since that night, and Rick and I have not spoken since. I tried contacting him, but he would not return my phone calls or answer my letters. I believe he thinks I would only remind him of something that he does not want to face—something outside his learning.
As Will Shakespeare so aptly put it: There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
I didn’t lose my life that night, but I think I lost something much more dear to me than my miserable life. In the twinkling of an eye, I lost a good friend.
DAMN YOU TO HELL, PREACHER STONE!
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This is my second thrill of the day!Vampyrie: Origin of the Vampirereceived another 5-star review.Luna Saint Claire, author of the thrilling novel, The Sleeping Serpent, has posted her review toGoodreadsandAmazon. Luna is a costume designer and author who loves Indie music, has an eclectic bohemian style, and studied ballet in her youth. Read my interview with Lunahere.
Luna’s review forVampyrie: Origin of the Vampire
I Couldn’t Put it Down! I have always had a fondness for Vampire stories. It began with Dracula. Twilight was mesmerizing. Vampire Diaries captivated me from the start, and The Originals, my favorite, enthralled me. Vampyrie is a complex, contemporary page-turner that I couldn’t put down! Phoebe, the protagonist is a strong, intelligent, compassionate and fearless character and her passion and perseverance make her a compelling character. What makes this story…
I have a longing in my heart—a yearning in my soul—as I stand here in the early morning rain.
I’d best be on my way, but the thought of you keeps me standing here—in the early morning rain.
I’ll be leaving this town ’cause I can find no work and I’m down to my last dollar.
I have nothing; I am nothing, so I cannot approach you. Instead, I stand here in the early morning rain and look to where you live. I want only one last look at you and then I’ll go—one look at you through a window—in the early morning rain.
I have nowhere to go and no one waiting for me when I get there. But the vision of you in my heart will sustain me, if I can only see you one more time—through the early morning rain.
I’m a long way from home, in miles and in time. I’ve been alone forever. I thought I needed no one, but now after having seen you but once, I find myself in the early morning rain with an aching in my heart.
There you are! You passed by the window, it was only a glimpse I had of you.
Now I’ll be on my way—in the early morning rain.
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I’ve been dead for nine hours and thirty-seven minutes.
Nine hours and thirty-eight minutes ago, I had my whole life before me.
Allow me to start at the beginning.
I was standing outside my trailer. It was shortly after 8:00 am when a police car drove onto my property. I live in far western Palm Beach County; my nearest neighbor lives two miles away. I moved out here because I wanted to be left alone. So, the last thing I wanted, or needed, are police-type hassles. Then I noticed something strange. Well, maybe not strange, but out of whack, not quite right. It wasn’t a County car; it was from a small municipality, Lake Worth. Now, only County cops have jurisdiction where I lived, so right away I smelled a rat. My first thought was, This can’t be good, and I was right; it was bad, about as bad as it can get, and it only got worse with each new development.
The officer got out of the car and approached me. When he got to within a few feet of where I was standing, he said, “You Billy Doyle?” I told him yes indeed, that was my name and asked what I could do to help him. He asked me if I knew a Randy McClinton. With that statement, I breathed a sigh of relief; he was looking for someone, it had nothing to do with me. I told him the name was not familiar to me. Then any sense that this was not about me evaporated when he said, “It should be. You assaulted him three nights ago.”
Finally, it dawned on me. He must be talking about that asshole who tried to pick a fight with me in Brownie’s. Brownie’s is a local bar I stopped into on occasion. I had been there on the night in question when some guy that I’ve never seen before, who doesn’t like the look of my face, or the cut of my jib, or maybe he was just in the mood for a fight, came up to me and said, “Why don’t you get your stinking ass out of here?”
I could tell that he was three sheets to the wind, so I told him I would be happy to leave and started for the door. But he scrambled to get between me and the exit, effectively blocking my retreat. By this time, I had had enough. I was willing to leave peacefully, but this guy just wouldn’t have any of it. And I just knew that until I had satisfied his desire for blood, there would be no peace. But I didn’t intend to get myself battered and scraped just for his amusement. So, we’re there, toe to toe, face to face, and I turned to the barmaid and said, “How about another round, darlin’?” With that, my would-be opponent turns his head to see to whom I am speaking. And with that, I lay a haymaker right onto his button. The fool goes down and lays there spread-eagled. I had to be careful to step over him, and not on him, as I made my way out the door.
As I came out of my reverie, I thought, Brownie’s isn’t in Lake Worth, so what’s with the cop? Then another thing struck me … how did this guy find me? As far as I knew, no one at Brownie’s knew my name, certainly not my last name. So I asked, “How did you know it was me, and how did you find me?”
“Identifying you was easy. You showed your business card to the barmaid awhile back, and she remembered your name. She told me it’s her business to remember names because when she calls a customer by name, it increases her tips. And as to finding you, well, that was easy. We have a whole computer system down at headquarters for finding assholes like you.”
By now, my Irish wise-ass was straining to be let loose. But, I held it in check; after all, it wanted to mix it up with a cop. So I respectfully asked, “First of all, what’s it to you?”
“I’ll tell you what it has to do with me; the man you attacked is my baby brother.”
So now I know two things; this is personal and the whole family is made up of assholes.
Thinking I might win a few points by putting him on the defensive, I said, “I thought police computers could not be used for personal matters.”
He forcibly disabused me of any such notion by saying, “Listen, you little fuck; we cops can do anything we please. If I wanted to put a bullet in your ugly head right now, there’s nothing you could do about it. All I’d have to do is walk into your kitchen, grab me a knife, and throw it down next to your dead body. I would simply claim you attacked me when I came out here to apologize for my brother’s behavior. When I’m in uniform and on the streets, I am God. The only thing you have to worry about is how I’m going to even things up for my brother.”
I had time to take stock of the man who stood before me as he was making himself into a god. He was about forty-five, overweight, his belly hung over his belt, and his hair was jet black; an obvious dye job. He had short, stubby, sausage fingers and a double chin, a most unattractive individual. I could also smell the cheap cologne he wore from ten feet away.
As he was wrapping up the deification of himself, my dog Mickey ran into the yard. That was why I was outside when the avenging angel pulled up. Every morning, as is our custom, I let Mickey out to run, sniff, and pretend to hunt in the woods surrounding my trailer. When he appeared, I started for the front door to open it and let him in. I figured there was enough taking place already without throwing a dog into the mix. After opening the door, I turned to call Mickey, and saw what turned out to be my death … but at the time, I thought it was Mickey’s.
I saw a smile cross that fat, evil face as he looked at my dog, who by now had found something new to sniff … the police car. I started to call Mickey in, but had to wait a moment. He had his leg lifted and was peeing on the left rear tire of the police car. I thought, Good boy.
As I waited for Mickey to finish his business, I saw Fatso unsnap the strap covering his gun, place his hand on the butt, and start to draw it from the holster. So, that was it. He was going to kill my dog and claim he had been attacked! Without thinking, I reached my hand around the frame of the door for the baseball bat that I keep there—just in case it was ever needed.
The cop was four steps away, and I covered those four steps before he could draw a bead on Mickey. I didn’t want to kill him, only stop him from what he had in mind. Therefore, I swung and aimed for the side of his neck. I knew from experience that a hit to that part of the body will knock someone out without killing them. And if he experienced what I had experienced when hit in a similar manner, he’d have a nice memory of all those pretty stars he had seen. Well, he went down like a sack of potatoes. For some unknown reason, I stooped down, looked at his watch and made note of the time. That’s how I know the exact time of my death; because from the minute I laid the cop out, I was a dead man.
I knew you can’t win with cops. No matter what I said, no matter what my motivation, I had struck a police officer, and I struck the fucker hard! I was okay with that, but when he finished telling his side of the story, it would mean many years in the state prison for me. And I wasn’t about to sit in a box years on end. No, I would take the easy way out of this mess; get it done and over with in one day. Therefore, I started doing what needed doing.
The first thing that needed doing was to get Fatso off my front lawn. He was lying on his side, so I turned him over onto his stomach. I removed the handcuffs from their pouch on his belt and handcuffed his hands behind his back. Then I grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and dragged him up the two steps leading into my trailer and through the front door. There, he was unceremoniously dumped onto my living room carpet. Next, I had to take care of Mickey. I called him in, and he went right for his would-be murderer’s face and gave it a good licking. My biggest concern was for Mickey; I had to get him off the property and safe. Because in a very short while, all hell was going to break lose.
I called my neighbor, the one who lived two miles down the road. On the very rare occasions I had to go out of town, I had always left Mickey with him. They were a two-member mutual admiration society. I told him something important had come up and I couldn’t leave my property, that I needed him to get his ass over here right away and get Mickey. He said he was on his way. That’s what I liked about Ben; you could count on him in a pinch and with no questions asked.
While I waited for Ben to arrive, I thought I’d get to know my guest a little better. For the second time that morning, I had to roll that big tub of lard onto his stomach. I extracted his wallet to find the proper manner in which he should be addressed. In other words, I wanted to know his name. I had trouble finding his driver’s license among all the crap he carried in his wallet. Once located, it gave me the name of the heap of humanity lying at my feet, Dilbert Chancy McClinton. What a handle!
Just as I ascertained old Dilbert’s name, I heard Ben drive up. I called Mickey to my side, and together we went out to meet him. He was just getting out of his truck as we exited the front door, but he didn’t notice us. He was enthralled with the police car on my front lawn with the driver’s side door wide open and the cop nowhere in sight. Ben finally noticed us when Mickey jumped up on him and licked his face. So Ben says, “What’s up?” while still staring at the police car.
“You don’t want to know, but I got a big favor to ask of you. Can you keep Mickey indefinitely?”
“Sure, you know how I feel about Mickey. But what’s up?”
“Ben, there’s bad, really bad, shit going down, and it’s going to get a whole lot worse. I want to protect you, so you haven’t been here today. They’ll have a record of my phone call to you, so when they ask you about it, just say I called to say good-bye. You tell them you thought I was going on a trip or something. I don’t think they’ll ask about Mickey, but if they do, tell them I gave him to you a week ago and he is now your dog. Unless they’re very vengeful, they’ll leave it at that. But please do all you can to protect him without getting yourself in hot water.”
“You know my brother’s a lawyer. They’ll have a goddamn hard time separating Mickey from me. But maybe my brother can be of some help.”
“Thanks, but it’s beyond that now.”
I told him to get going, I had stuff to do. We shook hands and he and Mickey got into the truck. I walked around to the passenger side and got there just as Mickey stuck his snoot out the window. I cupped his head in my hands and nuzzled him for a moment before telling him to be a good boy and mind what Ben said. As they drove off, a single tear trickled down my cheek.
Now to business. I went back into the trailer and checked on old Dilbert. Can you believe it, he was snoring! The son-of-a-bitch was napping while I had a million things to do.
The first of those million things was to call a local television station. I got Information on the line and asked for Channel 9’s phone number. Once I had it, I called the station. When the phone was answered, I asked for the news department, then the assignment desk. The young lady who picked up the phone sounded as though she should still be in high school. It made me feel old. Or maybe I was just feeling old because of my situation.
I said, “Listen, sweetheart, I’m only going to say this once.” She started to say something, and I cut her off, saying, “Just listen to what I have to say. I have a police officer held hostage in my home. His name is Dilbert C. McClinton and he works for Lake Worth. Call the cops and give them this information and my telephone number. I know it’s showing up on your Caller ID.”
She interrupted by asking, “But where are you?”
“I’m sure there’s a GPS in his car, and that the local constabulary will have no trouble finding the big piece of shit.” I added, “You get a reporter and camera crew out here pronto. Just follow the cops. I know you people do that very well.” I knew once she had called the cops, every television station and newspaper in the county would be in on the story, maybe even the 24-hour cable news networks.
What next, what next? Oh yeah, Dilbert! Before we were descended on by the barbarian horde, I had to get him up and functioning. But even before that, I had to ready him for a lesson in humility and empathy. He seemed to be semi-conscious by then. He was still lying on his stomach, so I had to turn the fuck over one more time. Once I got him situated on his back, I slipped his shoes off, unbuckled his belt, and removed his pants. I was happy to see he was a “boxer” man. It made what I had to do next a little less disagreeable. I grabbed the boxers from the bottom hem and pulled. I left his socks on for two reasons; I didn’t want to touch those fat feet of his, and a man with nothing on but a pair of socks is a rather ridiculous sight. Because I didn’t dare remove the handcuffs—he might have been playing possum—I went into the kitchen and got a knife. Maybe the same knife he would have thrown down next to my dead body. I cut his shirt from his torso. Dilbert C. McClinton was now a sight to behold. Nude as the day he was born, except for the socks.
It was now time to bring him around so he could participate in the festivities. I went to the kitchen and filled a pitcher with water, returned to Dilbert, and with much glee threw it in his fat, stupid face. As he came around, I said, “And how is God feeling this fine morning?” Of course, he didn’t answer. I didn’t expect him to; he just shook his head as if to clear it. I wrestled him into a sitting position on the floor and leaned him against the couch. I then grabbed him by his greasy hair, lifted his head until our eyes met and said, “Get your ass in gear, you sorry son-of-a-bitch. We got company coming.”
I think it’s about time I filled you in on what I had in mind. First of all, I was not a violent man. I did what I did to save my dog’s life. If I had wanted to, I could have swung as hard as I could and hit him upside the head instead of the neck, but then I wouldn’t be sitting here about to start a conversation with the asshole. No, he’d be lying dead on my front lawn. So it was not my intention to do any physical harm to old Dilbert. But if I could fuck with his psyche, why not? The outcome may be a kinder and gentler Dilbert. I was going to make him believe that I was going to do all sort of horrible things to him. In fact, it was my intention that when I got through with Dilbert, he would be asking me to kill him.
Before I could get his undivided attention, the phone rang. I answered it without saying anything; I just waited for whoever was on the other end of the line to identify his or her self. What I got instead was a question. “Is this William Doyle?”
It sounded like a professional negotiator. I had read enough on how this shit goes down to know they don’t give a crap about you, but will come off as your new best friend in an effort to manipulate you into doing their bidding. So, I figured I’d better set the tone of the relationship right off the bat. I said into the phone, “Listen, and listen good. I have a piece of shit in here that goes by the name Dilbert C. McClinton. I also have his service revolver and right now he’s sucking on the barrel, so he can’t come to the phone. I’m already dead, so if you want a dead cop, just come busting in here.” I hung up the phone, turned to Dilbert, and said, “Don’t despair. The cavalry is on the way.”
While we still had a few minutes to ourselves, I got to work on Dilbert. I sat in a chair opposite him and said, “What would you prefer? Being shot through the head or having your spinal cord severed so that you’d be paralyzed from the neck down? Oh, and by the way, if you choose option number two, you’ll need a respirator to breathe.”
His eyes got as wide as they possibly could. I continued, “Dilbert, old buddy, you’re pretty quiet for a god … say something. If you don’t choose, I’ll have to make the choice for you.”
Before he could muster an answer, we heard the sirens closing in. “Well, Dilbert,” I said, “Looks like your brethren are on their way.” As I said that, I picked up his gun and told him to open his mouth. I guess he didn’t quite yet appreciate his plight, so I struck him in the mouth with the barrel. Then I repeated myself. “Open your goddamn mouth!” This time he complied. I shoved the barrel in until he gagged, “You’re going to be the first to go if any heroes show up.”A trickle of blood started to run down to his chin from where metal had met flesh.
Within seconds, the phone rang. Without removing the gun from Dilbert’s mouth, I answered it and said, “Speak.”
“Is this William?”
“That is an inane question,” I responded.
I reckon my reply took him by surprise, because there was a hesitation on the other end of the line before I heard, “William, my name is Jack Kelly, and I was wondering if you would like to tell me what the problem seems to be?”
“Hey Jack,” I said. “We got no problem now; this fat fuck came out here to harass me and he threatened to kill me because I had a fight with his brother. If he didn’t have his mouth full of gun right now, I’d let him tell you what he’s doing out here in the sticks—in uniform—when he should be patrolling in Lake Worth.”
I wanted to leave Mickey out of it; they might track him down and use him as leverage against me. My statement seemed to give Jack pause. He eventually said, “Anything can be worked out. Why not let me come in and talk with you?” To which I replied, “Sure, come on in, but the first sound I hear, the first time my trailer sways in the wind, Dilbert C. has the back of his head ventilated. Hey Jack, let’s make this easy on both of us. You want your cop back and I want to talk to the media, so just call me when they get here and maybe we can wrap this circus up in time for you to get home for dinner.” He started to say something, but I hung up before he could articulate his thoughts.
Dilbert was getting kind of fidgety, so I thought I would do something to alleviate his anxiety; I took the gun out of his mouth. Then I said, “Okay, Dilbert, what’s it to be, blow your head off or put one into your spine?” He finally lost it and started blubbering like a baby. I would have felt sorry for him, but I had the vision of him taking aim at Mickey in my mind. I told him to buck up and be a man. I asked him how he thought the people he played God with felt as he was making their lives miserable—for there was no doubt in my mind that he had abused his police powers on many, many occasions.
I saw that I wasn’t making any headway with him; he didn’t care about the others he had wronged. No, it was all about Dilbert, and I knew that when he got out of here, he’d just continue with his evil ways. Short of killing him, the only thing that might protect the public in the future was to make it known exactly what kind of a stinker he really was. But that didn’t mean I was not going to make the rest of the day a living hell for Dilbert C. McClinton, because that had been my intention all along.
Just then the phone rang and I picked up the receiver. “What’s up, Jack?”
He told me the media was starting to arrive and asked me what I had in mind.
“First things first, Jack. We’ve gotta have a little talk.”
I proceeded to tell him about what.
“I know you have at least one sniper out there, so get this straight; if you see an eyeball peering out a window, be careful because in all likelihood it will belong to Dilbert. The poor boy is so compliant with fear, I think he would do anything I asked. Next: the swat, or tactical, team.” I went on to tell him that I knew those guys are always itching to put their training to use, but to keep in mind Waco and Ruby Ridge. By that, I meant the two prime examples of the government, and by government, I mean overgrown boys with a lot of toys (guns, explosives, etc.), attacking citizens when the serving of an arrest warrant would have done the job. Why do the ATF, FBI, and their ilk go on “raids” wearing black ski masks covering their faces, and nothing to identify them as law enforcement personnel? Why did the ATF deem it necessary to conduct a full-blown “invasion” of Koresh’s compound in Waco? He went to town every day, usually by himself and always unarmed. Why did the US Marshall’s Service traipse through the woods of Ruby Ridge masked and with M-16 machine guns? Why did they shoot a boy’s dog? And later, was it really necessary to shoot a mother through the head, killing her as she held her infant son? Of course, none of those acts were necessary, but the guys practice so long and hard and they have all that firepower, which is such a joy to behold, but more of a joy to use.
I told Jack that if they wanted their cop back in one piece, just play it cool; let me tell my story, and then they could have Dilbert back. But let me hear any strange noise—I knew every sound my trailer normally made—and scratch one cop. I went on to tell him that I hadn’t even locked the doors. “The gun is cocked and in his mouth. I can pull the trigger before a foot can be set inside my trailer.” Jack assured me that wasn’t going to happen. Yeah, right. They would break down the doors and come in blasting given the slightest provocation, like … it’s noon, and they want to wrap things up so they could go to lunch. I told him to call me when all the stations had their cameras set up. “I want to say something on live TV. I’ll come out to my front step and say what I have to say. But, before I do, I want to see the feed on my television.” I thought by telling them I was coming out to make a statement, the boys of the tactical squad would hold off for a while in the hopes of an easier target later on. Not that I intended to make myself a target for all the cops assembled on my front lawn. I mean, there were some were from as far away as Ft. Lauderdale.
I did not have the heart to fuck with Dilbert any further. He was crying and swearing to me he had not intended to harm my dog. “It was all a big misunderstanding,” he sobbed.
I went into the kitchen and got a large grocery bag, one of those brown paper types. My plan was to keep Dilbert docile. I had to inject some hope into his life. I told him that his pleas have touched my heart, and if he would be a good boy, he might just make it out of this mess alive and in one piece. That bit of news cheered him considerably; he nodded his head so vigorously I thought it might detach from his body. But to make sure he would not cause any trouble, I put the bag over his head and told him to just sit still and I would figure a way out of this mess for both of us.
About twenty minutes later, and right on cue, the phone rang.
“What’s up, Jackie?” was how I answered it this time. I wanted him to think I was feeling good because I was going to have my big moment on television. As I’ve intimated, it wasn’t going to be me making my debut on live television, but one Dilbert C. McClinton.
My old pal Jack informed me that they were ready, and if I would check my TV, I’d see the front of my trailer. I was told to turn on any local channel. I did, and lo and behold, there it was, my little domicile. I said to Jack, “Give me five minutes.”
He said, “Okay.”
Now to Dilbert. I removed the bag from his head and told him to pay close attention to what I had to say. It was somewhat pitiful the way he tried to please me. He said, “Yeah, anything you say, you’re the boss.” I agreed with him, and told him to shut up and listen.
“Dilbert—may I call you Dilbert?”
“Dilbert, the next few minutes are going to determine if I live to see a new day, and if you are confined to a wheelchair for the rest of your life or get buried with honors. Do you understand?”
“Good. Now here’s the plan. You are going to stand on my front steps and tell the truth of why you came here, how you threatened me, and how I did not strike you until you drew your gun. You got that?”
A third “Yes” came pouring out of his mouth. I didn’t bring up Mickey, and I hoped he wouldn’t, but if he did … well, there are a lot of dog lovers out there in TV Land. Then I had to tell him the bad news. He would go out as he was, with only his socks on. He would be tethered with a line, so the front steps were as far as he was going to get. And most importantly, his gun would be trained on the small of his back the entire time he was out there, and if one untruth, one lie, came out of his mouth, then we would both be very, very sorry. I finished our little talk by telling him that, if he did things right, he would be sent on his way. I knew he was thinking the entire time he could say anything and then retract it, claiming it was said under duress. That was fine with me. I just wanted the truth to get out.
I used Mickey’s extra-long leash to tie Dilbert’s still handcuffed hands to a support column, which would keep him from taking off as soon as the door was opened. There was just enough play to allow him to reach the door, and maybe a foot farther.
Before opening the door for him, I checked the television, same picture. That stopped the production in its tracks. Were they just feeding a loop of an earlier shot to fool me into believing this was all going to go down live? After all, what would I know, standing on my front steps, as they believed I would be doing very shortly.
Only one way to find out, I threw the door open and shoved Dilbert out into the limelight that was intended for me. I immediately stepped back and looked at the television. I need not have worried, this was too good of a story not to be covered live. There was Dilbert, not knowing quite what to do. He was as a deer caught in a set of headlights.
I knew I had to get Dilbert to focus. I said, in a menacing tone of voice, “Start talking or I’ll start shooting!” With that he spilled his guts. He gave the whole story, even admitted he was going to kill my dog. When he had finished, I cut his tether and told him to run. He hesitated a moment, as though he thought it some kind of trick. So I said, “Go, you big piece of shit, before I shoot you in your fat ass.” With that he was gone. I didn’t think the fat fuck could move so fast. I closed the door and sat down on my couch to await the inevitable.
There was no way I was going to get away with any of this. Even if every word Dilbert spoke was believed. I had assaulted and humiliated an officer of the law, and for that the law would come down on me hard. They had me for kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon, and attempted murder, just for starters. I was looking at twenty to twenty-five years—if I was lucky. As I’ve said before, I was not going to spend my life in a cage. Then the phone rang. Who else but my old friend, Jack Kelly. Before he could utter a word, I said, “How did a couple of micks like us get ourselves into a situation like this?” He agreed with me that he had experienced better days.
I asked, “Are you going to arrest me after hearing Dilbert’s confession?”
“He’s already recanted everything. But for what it’s worth, I believe every word he said. Cops like him are an embarrassment to all us good cops.”
“Jack ol’ buddy, cut the shit. If he was such an embarrassment, he would be on his way to jail instead of me.”
To that observation, Mr. Kelly had no reply.
“So what’s next?” I asked.
“Well, are you ready to come out and give yourself up?”
“Why don’t you come in here and get me?” And then I hung up.
So that’s it. In a few minutes they’ll break in my door and come looking for me. I won’t be hard to find. My couch, upon which I am sitting, is only a few feet from the front door. As I said at the beginning of this narrative, it’s been nine hours and thirty-seven minutes since this nightmare began, and I’m tired.
There they are, the first one is through the door, I lift Dilbert’s gun and point it at him. I do not intend to fire the thing, I hate guns. He sees me, turns his M-16 in my direction, and the last thing I hear is the staccato rat-a-tat-tat of his weapon …
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