There's a stark difference between a kill and a hit. Before you read this, I want you to understand that. Now, the court system, they'll tell you they're the same, a homicide and a hit, hit and a homicide, same difference. I can see where they would think that, at its base it's the taking of a human life, but there's so much more to it than that final moment. People don't think about that. See, a hit is business. That's all a hit is, is a business that you receive payment for upon completion, like paying the pizza delivery boy or the kid who services your car. Just a service. Now, much more dangerous and exciting than delivering pizzas or changing tires, but the comparison stays the same. In a hit, you don't feel anything. That was important, because you couldn't be an effective hitman if you were popping a hard-on at every job. Sadists make good serial killers and psychopaths, not good businessmen. There's a reason our kind are called professionals.
Homicide was a whole different ballpark to people in my line of business. The main difference between a homicide and a hit, above all else, was the emotion. While a hit stresses lack of emotion for effectiveness, a homicide always has emotion, on some level, and this caused interference. When you've got all that rage, or fear, or sadness buzzing around inside your skull you can't focus on the task at hand. It makes you get messy and violent, and that's when mistakes are made. Homicides were messy and full of feeling, and more fear than excitement. They were personal vendettas. Not business deals, not transactions. This leads me to stress this vital point: this chapter is about my first kill, which was a homicide, not a hit. That's almost a shame to admit to, because to my kind, homicides are a shameful thing. So drastic and unprofessional. But to this day I don't regret it for even a second.
Like all things, my story starts out with a girl, a beautiful girl who we'll call Jen. I was around seventeen at the time, and so was she. I had probably been with her for only slightly less than a year. Truly beautiful girl, and a truly beautiful relationship. I wasn't by any means a big-shot during high school, but man, I'll tell you that when I walked around the halls with this brunette bombshell on my arm, I sure felt like one. I guess you could call her my first serious relationship, my first love or whatever, and she definitely meant something to me. I didn't know it then, but she changed the whole course of my life.
The one night I'll never forget was a typical Friday. Jen was too busy to do anything, working late to rake in some extra cash to escape her hellish substitute for a home life. Me, the lucky person that I am, I was going to head out with my buddies. I clocked out of the diner around ten, said bye to the boss, and hopped into Clint's truck sitting in the parking lot. We blared music and headed to Dees' house to pick up him and Ragan. They piled in the back of the bed of the truck while I stayed up in the cab with Clint, probably my favorite of the group. It was going to be a good night: Dees and I had lifted some smokes off of our dads, Clint had made way with the cheap beer, and as always, Ragan was loaded down with the snuff. I always thought I was so smooth, lifting a cigarette here and there from my dad's boxes, never thought he knew a thing, but looking back, I think he always knew, but he never said anything. He knew what we did when me and the guys would all hang out, but there was a silent understanding between us, he knew what it was to go out with your friends on a Friday night. I wish I could hear him say that, though.
We parked at the quarry and bailed out of the truck around eleven, beautiful starry sky above our heads. We smoked and drank, they all dipped but I didn't, just wasn't my thing. We swam and just genuinely acted like fools, talked about life (like we even had a clue what it was), and talked about girls. These boys wouldn't admit it with guns to their heads, but they were all jealous of me for having Jen. She was my lucky break, and each one of us knew it. She certainly left an impact, probably more than I understand, even today. So for a couple of hours, we just hung out, typical American Friday night.
Clint had to go home eventually, so we had to go, too. He dropped off Ragan and Dees, and gave me a ride home while we smoked and blasted music, probably pissed off the whole town. At my house I hopped out, handed him a smoke, slapped the hood of his truck and he sped off, flinging dirt and gravel behind him. I can still hear the sound of the truck speeding out.
I looked at my house and all the lights were off, and I couldn't hear the radio or the TV. The rain was steady by then. I hopped the fence into the backyard and went in through the backdoor ever so slowly, so as to not make noise. Inside the kitchen, it was dark, seemed abandoned. I closed the door behind me and placed my cap on the counter and pulled off my wet shirt. My head jerked around as I heard someone say "Hey," and then a crunch.
I flicked the light switch on and saw my younger brother, Matthew, sitting at the dinner table in nothing but a pair of boxers, eating a bowl of cereal. "Oh, hey pal." He reached his hand out and rubbed his fingers together with his head cocked to the side. I dug in my pockets and handed him a cigarette.
"Thanks." He walked outside under the porch and lit up. He was always such a cool kid. I wish he would have gone with me and the guys that night, because it was the last night we all spent together as normal kids. From that moment onward around us, he always knew there was something wrong, I could see it in his face. He could tell we were all involved in something dark, even if he didn't know quite what it was.
I walked through my room without turning the lights on and fell facedown in my bed, a little tired and a little buzzed, without even bothering to change out of my jeans. I was asleep before I knew it.
I'm not sure how long I had slept, but when I looked at my clock it was around four in the morning. The rain was heavy outside. I'm not quite sure how I heard the pebbles bouncing off the glass of my window. She never snuck over in weather like this. Deep in my gut, somehow I knew something was wrong. I pulled the closest shirt I could find over my head, a dirty wife-beater, while more pebbles hit my window with increasing force. Something was very, very wrong, and I knew it. I rushed out to the window and looked down.
Jen was standing there in the pouring rain, staring up at me through the window with her dark hair plastered against her face. She wasn't looking at me with the mischievous, devilish grin I had grown so used to seeing when she would sneak over; instead this was an empty, pale face, a hurt face. I stood there for a moment and scratched my head, then gestured towards the backyard. She walked out of view, but not with the confident, sexy strut I was used to seeing her with. All this added up to my state of panic.
I went down the stairs silently and stopped at the entrance to the kitchen, peered around. No sign of life, I guess Matt had gotten bored skulking around down there. I moved across the room and opened the door, and she walked in without a word or a glance. "Hey, what's going on?"
No response from her. She wouldn't even look at me, she just looked right past me, like she saw something I couldn't. No expression in those eyes. Never taking my eyes off of her, I snatched a towel out of a cabinet and wrapped it around her shoulders. She tightened it around her but didn't say a word to me. Finally, she made a noise, just soft sobs, but still no words. "Look at me." She didn't turn her head. "Babe…" I placed my hand on her cheek and turned her head towards me. "What is going on?" Her eyes still dodged mine. "You need to talk to me here." She practically fell into me, sobbing. "Shh…" I whispered, stroking her hair. "Let's go upstairs. We don't need to wake them up."
I half walked her, half carried her up the stairs, and looked around again to make sure everyone was still sleeping. I opened the door for her and she walked in and I followed, closing it behind us. "Here," I said, digging through drawers in my dresser. I held out a pair of basketball shorts and a t-shirt. "Change into this. You're soaked." She absently stripped out of her clothes and changed into the ones I gave her. I never even noticed. With all the questions and ideas flying around in my head, sex was the least of my concerns. For a few minutes, she just sat there on the corner of my bed and sobbed, not saying a word and I sat there beside her, holding her. I didn't know what to say; what could I say? I had no idea what was going on, all I knew is that something bad had happened, and she couldn't tell me what quite yet.
It took several minutes of coaxing, but finally she told me what had happened, in between fits of sobbing. I won't quote her exactly, because truth be told, so much was said that I didn't hear the words, all I saw were the images in my mind. She was walking home from work because her dad was in a dick mood, and grounded her from her car- asshole. It was about a three or four mile walk, and while she had walked it before, she hadn't walked it that late at night. So after a mile or so, she stopped inside of a gas station to buy a Pepsi. She got it, began the walk home, not noticing the man that was tailing her. Another mile or so later, she saw him, and recognized him: it was a customer in the gas station who was checking her out as she left. She began to walk much faster, weaved between buildings and alleys, and her stalker increased pace and still managed to tail her. When she began running for help, he ran after her, and he was faster. He came up, grabbed her by the shoulders, and slammed her to the ground. She kept screaming for help but no one came. And then came the rape that she knew was coming, and she was too small to fight back against her attacker, all she could do was continue screaming. Still, no one came, and the bastard walked away laughing.
As I listened to her recite the story to me, I was silent. My fists tightened together so much that my fingernails cut into my palms. In fact, I still have the faint scars. She grabbed onto me and kept crying, and I figure I was crying too, but I don't remember because I was focused on something else. Somewhere during her story, somewhere inside my mind, way deep down, I had made up my mind to kill a man.
She stayed over with me and fell asleep at some point, but I didn't sleep. I was far from tired. Someone raped her. Someone raped my Jen. Someone had to pay for this, but she wasn't able to get a look at him, just the tattoo of yin-yang symbol on his hand. The only thing that went through my mind was that final moment when I would have his blood on my hands, and I looked forward to it.
When the sun came up, she went home and I watched her as she left, still walking like someone broken. It was the worst thing I've had to see, and given my career I've seen some terrible things. Nothing I've seen has hurt quite that much. As she faded out of sight I ran upstairs and pressed my ear against Matt's door, and then against Mom and Dad's. They seemed to all be asleep. I went back downstairs and snatched the phone off the receiver and spun the dial.
After a couple rings, Clint picked up the phone. "Hello?" I could tell by his voice that I had woke him up.
"Hey buddy. What's going on today?"
"What the hell are you doing calling at six in the morning?"
"Look, something's going on, I need your help. Can you help me out?"
There was a sigh and a moment of silence on the line. "Yeah. I guess I can help. What with?"
"I can't explain over the phone. Meet me at the quarry around twelve. I'll tell you more there."
"What the hell did-" I cut him off and put the phone back on the hook. All he needed to know right then was to meet me at the quarry. I went upstairs and into my room, closed the door, and caught up on the sleep I had missed over the night.
A little before twelve, I pulled up to the quarry, and wasn't surprised to see that Clint had shown up earlier than I told him. I pulled the car in beside his truck and stepped out. He was leaning on the hood taking a drag off of a cigarette. "So why the hell am I here?" he asked, without glancing over at me. "I couldn't get back to sleep after you called." He passed me the cigarette and I took a puff off of it and passed it back.
"Sorry about that. Look, there's some bad shit going on. Involving Jen."
"Whoa. What type of shit? Did y'all break up?"
I laughed a little. "No… Although that would be better."
"Fuck, is she pregnant?" A plume of smoke came from his mouth. I shook my head.
"No, no, she's not. But this is serious shit."
He handed me the cigarette and I took another drag off of it, sighed deeply. "You know that 7/11 on the corner of Main?" He nodded. "She was walking home-"
"Because of her dad." He nodded in understanding. "She was walking home, some guy started following her…"
As I recounted the story, I watched on as Clint's expression slowly shifted from concern to shock. "What the fuck… Dude, I'm so sorry… what the fuck?"
"Goddamn it!" I angrily threw a rock out into the water. Splash.
Clint shook his head and slumped back against the hood of his truck. "What are you gonna do?" I looked at him, without a word. "No, man… the bastard is sick but we can't do that!" I kept staring, still silent. "We can go to the cops."
"It's not enough."
He shook his head. "Do we even know who the guy is?"
"Jen saw a tattoo." I patted the back of my hand. "Yin-yang symbol, something like that."
"Man, I know it isn't exactly a large town but out of all these people? You expect to find one guy out of all of them, based on nothing but a tattoo?" Always the rational one, Clint began shooting holes through my idea. Lastly, he asked: "How do you plan on finding this fuckstick, anyways?"
"The gas station… Shawn is a talker. He talks up anyone who goes in there. Maybe he saw the prick. I'd be surprised if he didn't." He lit up another cigarette and thought on what I said for a moment.
"Yeah. I guess that's true. You wanna go, pay Shawn a visit?"
"Yeah, we'll go in your truck."
I locked my car and hopped into his truck and we sped out of the quarry.
"So… M, what do you plan on doing to this guy if you find him? I mean, really, do you plan on killing him, beating the piss out of him, what?"
I looked over at him. "Whatever I may do, are you gonna help me?"
He pondered this. "Dude, that's asking a hell of a lot. You need a ride, call me. Need money, call me. A place to crash, call me. But a dead guy, I'm not sure I can do this."
"I never said dead." I pointed out.
"Well, crippled, whatever. Either way, we can get put in prison."
"Clint, I'm doing this. With or without you. I'll go all by myself to do this if that's what it takes to handle this situation. But I don't want to do this alone. I need you, Clint. I need your help."
"Damn it…" He blew a plume of smoke out. "Fine. I'm in. But this is gonna come back to bite us."
"Thanks. Here's our stop."
We turned into the parking lot and he parked the truck. "What are you gonna say?"
"I'll figure that out along the way."
We walked up to the entrance and opened the door. Ding. Shawn poked his head over the counter. "Maynard, Clint!"
"Good to see you, Shawn." I shook his outreached hand, and then Clint did.
"Any of you boys got hair gel? I'm out of hair gel."
Clint laughed. "You don't got enough hair to bother gelling."
Shawn laughed too. "So what do y'all need? Cokes, smokes, snacks?"
I looked at Clint and then at Shawn. "Information."
He rubbed his goatee. "Information… Yeah. I have that, probably. On who? The mayor? The police chief? Principal? The mayor's secretary?"
"No… That sounds interesting, but no. I don't know this guy's name."
"Well, that complicates things."
"Yeah, it does."
"Got a description?"
"All I got is that there was a yin-yang tattoo thing on the back of one of his hands."
"Ah… That guy! Name's Chuck Handley. Yeah, he's one of my regular customers."
"What can you tell me about him?" I asked, with heightened interest. Clint pulled out a notepad and a pen and jotted down the name, and looked back up at Shawn.
He looked at both of us with confusion. "Hold on a second, why are y'all two so curious about Chuck?"
"I just need to talk to him."
"I can't just give away information about my customers like that."
Clint spoke up. "You were just offering up info about the mayor, and a few others."
"Difference is, I don't like those assholes." He folded his hands on the counter. "I'm sorry boys, it's not personal, but I can't give y'all anything else about Chuck, not without knowing what y'all need from him." He shrugged his shoulders. "Sorry."
Clint put away the notebook. "Well, thanks anyways. I understand." I said.
Shawn gave us each a Coke on the house and bid us a good day. Me and Clint walked back to the truck. "Well, that was a waste of time." I said.
"No it wasn't. We got his name." He showed me the name scribbled down on his notebook and grinned. "I got the newest phonebook at my house." I grinned and hopped in the truck.
"We may need more help." I said after a few minutes, when Clint stopped at a red light.
"Yeah. Maybe. Dees and Ragan?" he asked with a glance over.
"I guess. I don't know about Ragan though. Ragan might not be too willing. You know how he is."
"Yeah. But Dees?"
"Dees is emotional enough to where we could get him involved. We just have to get him away from Ragan, you know how close they are." I lit up a cigarette and pointed to a gas station sign that was coming up. "Stop here, we'll call and see what they have going on."
He pulled into the parking lot of the gas station and handed me a couple quarters. "If you need more, let me know." With that, I hopped out and went to the phone.
A couple rings. "Hello?" Dees' mom.
"Hey, Ms. Dees, this is Maynard. Just wondering, is Dees around? He left his geometry book in my car."
"No, sorry Dees is at Ragan's house. You can bring the book by, if you want."
"No, that's alright. I'll get it to him shortly." With that, I hung up and walked back to the truck.
"So?" Clint asked as I hopped in.
"Ragan's house. Both of them."
He nodded his head. "This complicates things."
"Yeah." I blew out. "It's all we got. Wanna head over there?"
"Yeah, sure." Clint shot out of the parking lot and merged with the light traffic. "So, what's your plan?"
"Well, I guess we'll go to Ragan's, just drop by. You keep Ragan distracted and I'll pull Dees off to the side." I shrugged. "It's all we got."
"Well, what are you gonna say to him?"
"I really don't know. Gonna tell him Jen got raped, gonna say that we gotta kill the bastard who did this, and we need his help."
"'Kill.'" He repeated "So I guess you've made your mind up."
I sighed. "I guess so. Yeah."
He shook his head. "Man, you know I love you. And you know how happy I am for you and Jen. And you know that I'll help you whenever you need it. But we can't come back from this." I didn't say anything. "I'm gonna do this with you, because I know you're gonna do this regardless. But once we do this, it's not like rolling a house or egging a car. This is something that we're gonna have on us until we die."
"Thanks, man." That's all I could really say. But he was right; this is a decision that couldn't be taken back. It's permanent, set in stone. Deep down, I guess I knew I was gonna do it, no matter what might happen.
"What do you plan on doing if Dees decides not to help us?" he asked as we pulled into our friend's neighborhood.
"Nothing. I'm not gonna force him to be involved. We'll go about this no matter what."
"What are we gonna tell Ragan?"
"Nothing. Unless Dees decides to join in, we tell Ragan nothing. If we get Dees on our side, Ragan is more likely to help. But if Dees says no, we tell him to keep quiet, and we go about our business."
"Alright." We parked in the driveway of Ragan's large house. His Cadillac was parked in the driveway, and Dees' junker was parked right alongside it.
I waited for Clint to lock the truck, and we walked up to the door. I rapped the door twice, and heard talking on the other side. The door opened up.
"Oh, hey guys." Ragan said. "Didn't expect y'all."
Dees stepped out in front of him. "Hey, y'all!"
"Hey guys." I said. Clint nodded towards them. "What do y'all have going on today?"
"Nothing really." said Dees. We walked in and sat down on the couch. "Figured we might go to the quarry at some point, maybe the trails."
"Depends what Mom has going on." Ragan explained.
So for the next few minutes, we made small talk, just trying to ease Ragan and Dees into a sense of normality. I took the bottle of Coke that Dees offered me and slapped my forehead like I suddenly remembered something. "Shit, man, I just remembered, you left your geometry book in my car."
He looked at me strange. "That's weird, I thought I had taken it with me. Be right back, y'all." We walked out the door and to the driveway. "Your car isn't here…"
"Yeah… about that." Dees took a step backwards and glanced back at the door. "Don't worry. I just need to talk to you."
"You couldn't have talked to me in there?" he asked, leaning up against the side of his car.
"No. Not about this." He nodded his head, without any real understanding. "Now, I need your help with something."
"Yeah, sure, what?"
"It's big." I gestured with my hands. "Big."
"How big are you talking here, M?"
He sat there for a minute, looking at the ground silently, and then at me. "I'm not sure what you mean."
Slowly, I recounted the story to him, adding extra emphasis to leave an impact, maybe convince him. "So, that's what I need your help with."
"Shit, M… You expect me to take part in a homicide?"
"I don't expect anything from you. But I'm asking you for your help."
"No. I can't do this." He shook his head and looked at me. "I can't do this."
"Look, this is gonna happen, with or without you. I got Clint involved already. He's in. I need all the help I can get." He stayed silent. "This fuck raped her. He needs to die. And me and Clint, we'll make this happen. And we want you to help. I would never ask you to help me with something when there's a chance you could take the fall. We can do this, and get away with it. I know we can."
"How the hell do you know that?"
I sighed. "Because I have to. You have to take my word for it. We'll get away with it, because we have to. It's what has to happen."
For a minute he said nothing. "If we get caught, I'm denying everything. I'm not gonna rat you out, but as far as the police are gonna be concerned, I know nothing. Damn you, Maynard… I didn't expect this."
"No one did, buddy." I told him, with a reassuring pat on the shoulder. "I don't expect you to take blame. I just need your help to carry this out, and we can go to pretending like it never happened."
"Alright. I guess I'm in."
I smiled at him. "Thank you. Now we just need Ragan."
"No. Hell no." He shook his head. "There is no way in hell that he's gonna take part in this. He's so concerned about his future and whatnot, if this gets out, it could ruin him. Me, you, and Clint, we ain't gonna make an impact anywhere; if this gets out about us, it won't affect anyone else. It'll affect Ragan."
"But he listens to you. He always listens to you. You can convince him."
"No. I'll say it right now, I'm not gonna go if he does. He might agree to go, but he'll rat us out. You know how he is."
I looked up towards the sky. "Yeah. I know how he is. Damn it."
"I'll go along, but he can't. We can't let him know anything. He's cool, but he's gonna crack under pressure, rat us out or something. I know him better than y'all. I know how he is."
I took a deep breath. "Alright. So I guess this is it? Us three?"
"Yeah." He kicked a pebble into the yard. "I guess so. When do you plan on us doing this?"
"Soon. Maybe even tonight. It has to be soon. You know Mom won't let me out on a school night too late. We're gonna go from here to Clint's in a little while. Gonna tell Ragan that I was wrong and the book is at my house. At Clint's we're gonna find the dude's address from the phonebook."
"You got the name?"
"Haven't heard of him." he said with a quick shake of his head.
"I hadn't either, until now. Anyways, when we find the address, I'll gather up the stuff we need and we'll meet up."
"What stuff do we need?" I saw Ragan peeking out the window.
"Shovel, tarp, flashlights… weapons."
"Weapons… what do you have in mind?" He tapped his pocket, which I knew had a knife in it.
"Dad has guns. I might be able to lift one."
"Do you know how to work one?"
Well, he had caught me. "No. Not really." I shrugged.
"Well, get the gear that you need, we'll meet up at the quarry. I'll give you a couple pointers, and we'll take off from there." We began to walk back inside. "One thing though: I'm not killing anyone. That's on you. I'll go with you, I'll help hide the body, but I'm not hurting anyone."
"I understand. I wouldn't ask that of you." I patted him on the shoulder and smiled. It was good to have an extra pair of helping hands for this task.
We went inside and all made small talk for a little while, before I announced that I was wrong and the textbook was at my house. Clint looked at me confused, and subtly nodded toward Ragan, but I ignored him. "We'll talk to you later, Ragan."
"Uh… alright. See y'all later." He looked on confused as I hurriedly ushered everyone out the door.
I pointed towards Dees' car. "Follow us to Clint's."
I hopped into Clint's truck and we took off. "Step on it." He sped up.
"What the hell was that? Did Dees say no?"
"No, he's in. But he made a good point. Ragan would rat on us, even if he went along. Like the fireworks thing?"
"Yeah, I remember. So it's just us? Me, you, and Dees?"
"Yep. Just us. And Ragan hears nothing about any of this. As far as he's concerned, we're all a little bit weird, and that's all he needs to know. We're gonna try to do this tonight."
"Alright. Got a gun?"
I lit up a cigarette. "No, but I can lift one from Dad's room."
"Alright, well that settles that… But what do you plan on doing with the body?"
"Stow it in the woods; maybe in the quarry. I know a lot of places in the woods that no one but us goes out to. Or we could sink him in the quarry."
"No, not the quarry. It's not right. It's our place, where we go to chill. I'm not swimming with a corpse watching me." Clint tightened his jaw and pulled up into his driveway. Dees pulled his car in right behind us.
"That's fine." We left our vehicles and went inside.
"Mom, me and the guys are here!" Clint shouted into the house. His mom walked out into the living room, an attractive woman nearing forty.
"Hey boys! Want something to eat? Sandwiches?"
"Yeah, that'd be nice." Dees said. She always had a soft spot for Dees. She smiled at him and walked into the kitchen.
Clint looked over and made sure she was out of eyeshot. He slid the phonebook out from under the couch and flipped through it. "Handley…" he muttered to himself as he flipped through. "Chuck Handley." He punctuated his words with a jab from his finger on the page.
"Sure it's him?" I asked as I read the address.
"How the hell am I supposed to know? It's the only Chuck Handley listed. That's all we got."
"Alright. Jot it down." Clint wrote down the address and phone number. "When we're done here, we can get the stuff." Clint pushed the phonebook under the couch and pocketed his notebook and pen. His mom walked out with a tray of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which we ate greedily. It was the only thing I ate that day, I believe. Hard to have an appetite, given the circumstances.
Me and Clint pulled up to the quarry and parked beside Dees. We hopped out.
"Got the stuff?" he asked. I pointed at the duffle bag on my shoulder and nodded. "Good, good… Lay it out on the bed of the truck."
We met him at the back of the truck and I unzipped the duffle bag, emptying the contents with a shake. He picked up the gun before anything else.
"Nice piece." He quizzically spun the cylinder and aimed off in the distance with it. "Yeah, it's nice. Ever used one?"
"No. Dad would never let me. Flat-out refused to let me shoot the one time I asked him."
"You ever used one, Clint?" Clint nodded his head and reached out for it. Dees handed it to him and Clint examined it for a minute. Then he handed it off to me. They both watched me fumble with the pistol for a minute before Dees chuckled. "How many bullets do you have?"
"I'm not sure. I just grabbed a handful from the box." Dees picked up a round and examined it.
"Here," he said with is hand extended, "let me show you how to work it." I handed him the gun and he slid the cylinder out, narrating his movements. "Slide the cylinder out; drop the bullets in with the lead tip down." He closed the cylinder. "You close it firmly, don't swing it shut like you see in the movies. You don't do that. It's a single action." he said as he examined the hammer. "Take your thumb and put it on the grooved part of this hammer. Pull it back." There was a click as he pulled the hammer back into firing position. He set it back. "If you decide not to fire, pull the hammer all the way back and pull the trigger while it's held back. Make sure you're still holding onto the hammer. Can I shoot it, and show you how it's done?"
"Yeah," I said, intrigued. "Shoot it." He brought the hammer back and aimed off in the distance.
"Squeeze, don't pull the trigger." he said to me, and with that last advice, he fired. There was a bright flash and a blinding noise. For a few seconds it echoed. He opened the cylinder and dumped the rounds back out. "Load it up, Maynard."
I repeated his motions clumsily, spilling rounds multiple times. After a few tries I loaded the cylinder completely. I pushed it back into the gun slowly, like he had instructed. "Aim." I aimed. "Keep those arms straight!" I straightened my arms up and cocked the hammer back, aiming into nothing. "There ya go. Now squeeze whenever you're ready." I slowly squeezed the trigger and the barrel lit up with a blinding flash. My ears rang and the pistol nearly leapt out of my hands.
Dees looked at Clint. "Wanna try?" Clint shook his head. "Alright." He looked back at me. "You'll get better." He patted me on the back and removed the pistol from my hands. I watched him cover all but one of the chambers chamber and a brass casing fell out. "This is your safety. I'm gonna keep the cylinder loaded, except for this one chamber. This way it won't go off by accident. When you decide to shoot, just rotate the cylinder." He handed me the gun and I tucked it into the front of my waistband. "Did you bring gloves?"
"Yeah, they should be in the duffle bag." He walked to the bed off the truck and peered over the side.
"These'll do." He looked back at me. "When you put them on, make sure to not touch the palms. Pull them on by the wrists. Keep as little fingerprints on them as possible. Do you know where to shoot?"
"Yeah… the head?"
He tapped his head and then the center of his chest. "Head or chest, but I'd go for the head. It'll be cleaner. And chances are it'll kill him instantly. If you want that…"
"Yeah." I wasn't all too sure I wanted him to go painlessly.
Clint spoke up. "We'll take my truck, head to the trails once we have the body wrapped up, and we'll ditch it."
"Alright. Are we ready?" I looked up at the sky. The sun was setting.
"As we'll ever be." Dees muttered.
We drove close to the man's house in Clint's truck. It was off a dirt road, real secluded, we probably passed it ten times before we even caught on. The seclusion was a good and a bad thing: a gunshot wouldn't be too noticeable from the main road, but if he saw us coming up on his house, we wouldn't have a great alibi; not much of a reason to intrude on a man's property that deep in the woods.
"So, when are we doing this?" Clint asked casually.
I pointed to a gas station off in the distance. "Take us there."
He complied, but looked at me weird. "Why's that?"
"We're gonna call his phone. You do still have the number, right?" He pulled out a crumpled yellow sheet of paper from his pocket. "Thanks." I unfolded it and looked at it. It was unbelievable that this was actually about to happen. Dees sat in the back, silently staring through us. "You alright, Dees?"
"Yeah… I'm fine." I knew that was a crock of shit, but I didn't bother calling him out; how could I? We were about to commit a homicide, and while we all tried to act casual, we were all panicking on the inside. I don't think any of us had ever been quite so scared. We were teenage boys, the most scared we had ever been before was worrying about whether our parents would catch us drinking and smoking. But we had never been scared like this, because we had never been involved in anything quite as dangerous and dark as this, nothing so life changing.
Clint pulled into the gas station. Trying to maintain a sense of normalcy, he asked us if we wanted anything, said he was buying. Me and Dees both said no. You know you're in a bad spot if you're too nervous for a cigarette, even. Clint handed me a couple quarters, I thanked him, and I headed for the phone. I looked at the number and dialed it carefully. A few rings passed, and then there was click. "Hello?" I said nothing; my throat was too dry to form words. "Hello?" he repeated. "Stupid kids." he muttered, and then hung up.
I walked back to the truck and nodded at Clint. "He's there, guys… Let's do this…" No one spoke a word. Clint drove back to the beginning of the man's dirt road, kept the lights turned off to avoid suspicion. We couldn't mess this up. He shut it off and we hopped out, closing the doors quietly. "Gloves." I whispered, and pointed to the duffle bag. Clint opened it up and gave them to us. Carefully, we all put on our gloves. Clint zipped the duffle bag back up and slung it over his shoulder. "Oh, y'all might need these." he said, and pulled out toboggans from his coat pocket. We pulled them on over our heads. "What do we do if there're other people?"
"I don't know. Knock them out I guess." I shrugged, disappointed at my lack of forethought. "Just don't let them know who we are. If we're lucky, he's alone."
"Alright. Let's get this over with." Dees led the walk up the trail, moving briskly. I think that night bothered him more than the rest of us, but that doesn't surprise me. He was probably the most morally upright of any of us.
We sped up to match Dees' pace. Between the trees, I could see the lights of a house; his house. I felt the gun rub against my stomach as I walked. I wasn't used to this, and I wasn't ready for it. But I knew deep down, that no matter how wrong it was, it was the right thing to do. It's what had to happen. I kept reminding myself of that as the house got closer. None of us spoke as we made the ascent.
Dees held out his hand. "Stop." He crouched and we followed suit. He pointed up towards the house, close enough now to where we could hear the loud TV. He whispered, "Look in that window." I peered out between the trees that concealed us and saw the outline of his head. I reached for the pistol in the front of my waistband. "Don't!" He grabbed my wrist. "Not yet. Me and Clint are gonna go up to the front door, distract him. There's a window," my eyes followed his finger, "that's open right over there. Go in and do what you have to do."
"How should I do it?" I whispered, not taking my eyes off that bastard's head.
"I would club him, tie him up while he's out so that he can't fight back. Then, do whatever needs to be done." He looked over at me. "Ready?"
"Ready." Clint and Dees stepped out of the tree line and removed their toboggans, to ease suspicion. I watched as they walked near to the house. I moved, still in a low crouch, through the tree line. When I was past the window that Chuck was sitting at, I stepped out of the tree line and ran up to the open window. Knock knock knock. I heard a mumbling, and footsteps leading away from me. Dees and Clint were setting up the distraction.
"Who the hell are y'all?" a thickly-accented southern voice said. I hoisted myself into the window and looked around. I was in his bedroom, I assumed. No one else was present, which was good. I could hear the conversation on the other side of the door growing in tension; Clint and Dees were saying something about looking for a missing dog, and Chuck was having difficulty with believing them. I crept through his room and out the door with the revolver in a tight grip. It felt like it was made of lead.
I stopped at the corner of the hallway. Judging by sound, he wasn't too far, and he didn't sound too happy with the intruders on his property. I looked around the corner and saw him blocking the doorway. His back was turned, which meant the distraction was working the way it was supposed to. My blood froze when I saw that he had his hand on a sawn-off shotgun propped against the door frame, out of sight of my friends. I thought about taking the shot then, but I couldn't risk hitting one of them in the process. I crept forward and looked around the room, and my eyes locked onto a heavy urn. Better chance of knocking him out with that than with the handle of my tiny pistol.
I gripped the urn and snuck up behind him. Clint and Dees looked at me with wide eyes, and Chuck turned around. He was about to say something but was stopped by the impact of the heavy urn against his skull. Glass shattered and fell like rain, and Chuck fell to the wood floor with a loud thud. "I'll get a chair. Y'all try to pick him up." They rushed in and grabbed him under each arm while I ran to the small kitchen and fetched a heavy wooden chair. I pushed it into the living room and helped the guys hoist him into the chair.
"Got any rope?" Clint asked. I produced a tangle of nylon rope from my pocket and began tying Chuck's feet and hands tightly to the beams of the chair. It wasn't perfect but, but I figured it would keep him still long enough to finish my job. I stood back and admired my work, fixed a few knots here and there, and sat on the arm of his comfy recliner, watching the unconscious man.
"So what do we do now?" asked Dees, while he emptied the shells out of the sawn-off shotgun. "Anything we ought to do?"
"No." I said, never taking my eyes off of the unconscious man in the chair, the man who raped my girlfriend. "Well, yeah, I guess. If y'all can help pick up those shards of glass, that'd be great."
"Alright." Clint and Dees began to pick up the shards that littered the ground. "So when you do what you need to do, how do we plan on getting him back down to the truck? That's a long walk, to haul a big thing of dead weight."
Clint spoke up. "When you do it, I'll run back down to the truck. I'll leave the duffel bag here for y'all to wrap him up. When I get back, have him ready and we'll toss him in the back. Then we can head to the trails."
"Sounds good." I said. As I sat there spinning the cylinder of the revolver, I heard a groan and saw Chuck blink. I gave a cautionary look to my friends and they took a step back. I pushed the cylinder back into the revolver and placed my thumb onto the hammer. Chuck groaned some more, and his arms and legs moved a little bit, and then as realization dawned on him, they moved more violently.
"Hey! What the hell is going on!" he shouted, trying to break the binds. He looked at me, then at the revolver in my hand, and then at me again. "Who the hell are you?"
I pointed at the tattoo on the back of his hand, the tell-tale sign. "That girl that you raped… Remember her?" I asked, cocking the hammer back, and then releasing it gently. "Do you remember her?"
"What the fuck are you talking about?"
I jumped up from the recliner and pushed the barrel up against his temple. "Don't bullshit me! You know exactly who the fuck I'm talking about!" I brought the hammer back again, tempted to just pull the trigger right then. "You sick son of a bitch! I'll kill you right the fuck now!"
"I didn't do anything!" he shouted. "Help, help me!" He thrashed against the ropes and kept shouting.
I punched him in the jaw with my free hand. "Scream all you want, here, I'll scream with you!" I screamed too, and then laughed, and punched him again. "No one can hear you!"
He licked away the blood on the corner of his mouth and glared at me, and then behind me at Clint and Dees. "When I get out of here, I'll kill each and every one of you punks."
I got close to his face and whispered, "Do it." I released the hammer again, and smacked him in the side of the face with the butt of the revolver. A tooth flew out, with a glob of blood behind it. He shouted out and I hit him again, and again, and then again. His head slumped as he fought to stay conscious. "Don't go to sleep!" I shook him. "Wake the fuck up!" I slapped him across his right cheek, hard. I looked at Dees. "The shotgun, give it to me." Dees picked up a shell and I stopped him. "No, unloaded, just how it is."
He looked at me confusedly, and tossed me the unloaded shotgun and the barely conscious rapist looked up at me. "It's unloaded, dipshit. What are you gonna do with that?" I turned it around and held it by the pump with both hands. His eyes widened, and I swung it like a baseball bat, with the handle driving into his stomach. There was a whoosh as the air shot out of him and the chair fell back with him in it. Tears rolled down his face.
I dropped the shotgun and knelt beside him and wiped off a tear with the barrel of the revolver. "Tears?" I looked at him and pressed the snub barrel into his swollen eye. "Tears? You're crying? The rapist is crying! You're fucking pathetic! I should blow your goddamn brains out right now!" I crossed my legs and sat down in front of him, with the barrel never leaving his skin. "It's easy to victimize someone who's defenseless, that defenseless girl! It's fucking easy, isn't it? Is this how you felt, when you raped her? In control? Like you run everything?"
He said nothing, just sobbed. I looked back at my friends, Clint- who looked on in shock, and Dees- who looked on with disbelief. I nodded at them and they knew. Clint looked down at the ground. "I can't see this." Dees said, and walked outside on the porch. I brought the hammer back a final time and pushed the barrel a little deeper into his eye, the barrel wet with tears.
"Goddamn you." I whispered.
We saw the lights of Clint's pickup as it got closer. "Are we all good now?" I asked Dees. He nodded; he hadn't said a word to me from the moment I shot Chuck. I cast one last cursory look into the living room, satisfied: the blood was as cleaned up as we could get it, and I had managed to dig the bullet out of the wall with my pocket knife. It wouldn't last forever, but it removed a hefty amount of evidence. I looked down at the tightly-wrapped bundle at my feet. No blood had seeped out so it was relatively clean. I nudged Dees and tapped the bundle with my foot. "Help me lift him up."
We hoisted the corpse over our shoulders and walked down the porch as Clint's pickup reached a stop. He leaned out: "Just toss it in the back!" We carried it around back and tossed the body in the bed of the truck with a thud. "Now get it in. We're gonna have to be careful. If we get pulled over, we're fucked. There's a canvas cover in the back, should be enough to stop the body from flying out." Dees helped me tie the canvas cover down tightly.
"We're good." I patted Dees on the shoulder and he just looked at me. "You good, man?"
He looked at me, and then at the hand on his shoulder. I looked with him, and saw the blood on my gloved fingers. "I didn't think it would be like that…" I pulled my hand away and wiped the blood off as best I could on a rag. "I thought you would just shoot him," he continued, "not torture him."
"That wasn't torture." I said quickly, shaking my head. "No."
"That was torture, Maynard! You beat the ever-loving piss out of him, I though you would kill him cleanly! Now there's blood everywhere, and there's a fucking body in the back of the truck!" By this point Clint had come out of the truck to see what the commotion was. "We're dead! We're absolutely dead! There's no way we can get out of this!"
"Calm down, man." Clint said as he came around the truck towards Dees. "We got this covered.
"You sure about that? Because all it takes is one little error and we're all in prison! One fingerprint and we're gonna be arrested!" He began hyperventilating and shaking.
I gripped Dees by the shoulders and looked him in his face. "Calm down. We were careful. We all got gloves, and the only witness is dead. We did what we came to do, and we just have to hide the body, and we're in the clear, as long as we're careful. Here," I said, and I handed him the revolver from my waistband, "do me a favor and clean this, alright? It'll keep you occupied." He took the revolver and looked at it for a moment, and then unloaded it.
"Thanks… Yeah, I'll get it cleaned up, cleaned up good. No one will ever know." He forced a weak smile and began wiping the gun down with a rag as he walked to the passenger door. "Yeah, we're fine… We're fine." I think he said that more to himself than anyone. He opened the door and got in.
Clint looked at me. "This is some fucked up stuff we're into. Let's just try and get out of it." Never a truer statement.
No one was at the trails when we showed up, which was a small miracle. Nights like that, around the first mile or so of trail, there were all sorts of kids from school. I took this as a good sign and pointed it out to Dees, to which he gave a weak smile and a nod. I began to question the decision of taking him with us, for the sake of his mental health. Poor guy, he didn't know it would be quite so violent. In my defense, I didn't think I would have lost my mind quite like I did. That wasn't exactly the plan.
"How much farther, M?" Clint asked, while tossing back glances at the rearview mirror.
"Just up ahead." I confirmed. "Once we get there, we take off on foot. It's off the trail, so it's gonna be a rough walk." Dees sighed at this and mumbled to himself. It really was sad to see him losing his mind. I should've known that someone so morally upright would have some adverse effects at being involved at something like this.
"Alright." Clint said. Dees handed me back the revolver.
"It's as clean as it can be. Looks like how it was when you gave it to me at the quarry. Your dad'll never notice." I thanked him and put the gun back into the duffle bag, beside the handful of unused bullets. I felt relieved that at least that part was done; I just had to put the gun and the bullets back into Dad's room, which wasn't anything difficult, since I'm always taking cigarettes out of there anyways. "Oh, here. Be careful hiding this." He dropped the empty brass casing, the one that held the bullet that killed a man, into my palm.
"Thanks buddy." I pocketed the casing. "Stop here." I said to Clint. He turned the truck off and looked at the two of us.
"Let's just get this over with. We get rid of this body, and we're done, completely done." I could tell that he hated this as much as, if not more than, Dees. That's why I loved Clint so much though, he was always so cool and rational. I think our group would have fallen apart without having him there to bitch-slap us with reality. Such a great guy, really, he was. I figure he still is. "So how far away is this place you're so keen on, Maynard?"
"Half a mile, more or less. It's not perfect. It won't be too awful long before someone notices the body, but this is the best part of town to get rid of a corpse." I pointed at Dees. "Help me out hauling the body, pal." Dees nodded without looking me in the eyes. "Clint, if you can just carry the shovel, me and Dees will haul the body. If Dees gets too tired of it, you and him can swap up."
"Yeah, that'll do." Clint said, and then left the truck. We followed suit and met him at the tailgate of his truck. I helped him remove the canvas cover and for a moment, we all stared at the tightly-wrapped bundle, which we could never deny had a body inside. Dees sniffled and turned around, and I looked at Clint and shook my head solemnly. We could never forget this night, no matter how much we might have wanted to.
Clint looked at the canvas cover and smiled. "No blood, I can still keep it." I smiled with him, even though it wasn't sincere; then again, I doubt his smile was all that sincere, either. He looked over at Dees and called for him. Dees turned around. "Hey buddy, come on. Let's go dump this off and get this over with." Dees nodded his head and walked beside me. Poor guy, I never wish he would have gotten involved in all of this.
I gripped the bottom of the tarp and pulled. The body slid towards me. "You get the feet, I'll get the head?" He nodded at me; I knew that the last place he wanted to be near was the man's head, the head with the hole and the blood and the missing eye. It was only appropriate of me to take that end. Dees pulled the feet-end out and I got a grip on the head-end. Chuck was a heavy bastard, not quite what I had expected when I undertook all of this. With a groan, we hoisted the corpse up and began walking into the tree line. Clint followed the two of us, swinging the shovel back and forth, using it like a cane.
"Are you sure you know the way, it being this dark out?" Dees asked, making a good point; it was very dark, and Clint's pen-light wasn't all too much help. Regardless though, I knew this place like the back of my hand.
"I know the way, we'll be fine." So for thirty minutes, they near-blindly followed my lead through the brush and the brambles. "We're here… Clint, shine your light around." Clint spun around slowly, the dim yellow light illuminating the surroundings: they consisted of absolutely nothing but distance and trees.
"What is this place, M?" Dees asked, scratching his head.
"A place I found a year or two ago. It's where I went for some quiet time. Never found a soul out here, and not even a sign of one, no trash, no campfires, nothing. As far as I know, I'm the only one who comes out here." I explained. "It won't be so unknown for much longer, though." Clint nodded in understanding.
Clint rested the shovel against his shoulder. "So where are we burying it?"
I gestured in a wide manner. "Out here, anywhere. Doesn't matter. May as well get it done here, since we're standing here." I motioned to Dees and we eased the body to the ground. Clint jammed the head of the shovel into the ground and pulled up a pile of dirt and slung it off to the side. "We aren't talking six feet down here, just enough to where it won't wash up in the next rainstorm." Clint nodded in understanding and continued digging. I think he liked to dig, because for the next hour, every time one of us offered to help, he declined. Personally, my theory is that he needed the work to keep his brain occupied, to make it forget, albeit temporarily, that he just took part in a homicide. Of course, I would never tell him that, because there are some things you just don't say to people out of decency.
I sat there and made attempts to talk to Dees while Clint dug his worries away, but Dees wasn't talkative. He answered my questions and responded to my attempts with simple yeses and nos. I don't think he was mad at me, but I think he was mad at himself for taking part in such a terrible thing. It surprised me that he agreed to come along, being such a churchy guy, and so down to earth and morally upright. I think he came with us out of honor though; he knew that I would do the same for him, and he was right. I don't think he ever was the same after that night, but in all reality, were any of us?
"How's this?" Clint asked, still digging away. It was the first thing he had said for a good while. I walked over, tailed by Dees, and we cast a glance into the hole in the ground that Clint dug. It was around four, maybe five feet, and just long enough for Chuck's corpse to fit.
"I think it'll do just fine." I said with a satisfied smile. "Should hold up for some time." Clint smiled at me and then at Dees, who smiled a little in return. "Come on, let's go dump him in." Dees and I took our previous positions at the feet and head of the bundle, and Clint supported the middle. I directed our movements to the hole in the ground. "And, dump!" The tarp-wrapped bundle rolled off into the hole. We all looked down at it for a minute, feeling a mixed brew of emotions: happiness that the job was almost done, guilt (for them, at least) that we had just taken part in a homicide, and fear, because we all knew that sooner or later, the body would be discovered.
"Help me shovel the dirt back in the hole." Clint ordered, and we helped. He dumped it in with the shovel, and me and Dees used our gloved hands. We were eager to just get this over with and continue being semi-normal teenagers. Slowly, the body disappeared from sight, covered more and more by the second with dirt. The pile beside us began to shrink, until after an unknown length of time of hard labor, it was all gone. We stomped the dirt down flat and each took a step back to take in our work. If someone came up here and they saw it, they would immediately know it was a shallow grave, but we had to rely on the fact that no one that I knew of went up that far; no one strayed off the marked path, but me. The anonymity of the place was our safety net, and we had to put faith in it.
"So, it's done…" Dees mumbled. "It's all done." I looked at him and nodded, squeezed his shoulder.
"Yeah, pal. The worst part is over now. We just gotta get rid of the gloves and the shell casing. We can just toss the casing in the quarry, burn the gloves right here. Ashes don't leave fingerprints." I explained. Without speaking, we all stripped off our gloves and placed them in a pile on top of the shallow grave. Clint fished a cigarette from his pocket and lit it up, taking a deep inhale, blowing columns of smoke from his nose. He passed it to me, and I passed it to Dees. Dees looked at both of us and nodded, we nodded back: there was a mutual agreement and a mutual bond between us now, one that we couldn't come back from. Dees placed the cigarette lit end down on the pile of gloves, and we watched with fascination as they caught fire and slowly dissolved.
Clint picked up the cigarette butt and looked at us. "From now on, this never happened. It's done, it's all done, and we never speak of this." With that, we all walked back to his truck, having one heavy weight traded off for a new one.