Darkness Falls

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: House of Ghosts


memories have a way of haunting

Submitted: April 27, 2018

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Submitted: April 27, 2018

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Thunder struck

Q. B. McKinney

 

 

“So what do we do now?” Rooster boy two asked.

“I don’t know and don’t care, Rich.” Charity replied in a huff.

“What got up your butt?”

“I lost my necklace somewhere, that’s all. It was the only thing of value my old man gave me. He said it was my mothers and that she placed it in my baby bed the night she left. The night she died…”

“Oh, hell. Here we go again…”Rooster boy one chimed in. “She always gets like this after a job. Honey, can’t we just get through our meal without the drama.”

“Fuck you Charles!” She screamed picking up her remaining French fries and throwing them at him.

“Hey you two, calm down. You’re attracting attention.” Rich pleaded. “I don’t want to get pinched after having such a good day. Let’s go and get a room somewhere and chill for the night…whadya say?”

“You and Chuck can get a room, and fuck yourselves.”

“That’s it! I’ve had it.” Charles states getting up from the table, pulling a wad of money from his front pocket. He counts out a few bills and tosses them down on the uneaten remains of burgers and fries. “I’m outta here.”

“Not before you give me my cut of the ‘earnings,’ Charity said approaching close enough to smell the beer on Charles breath.

“Can we settle this up outside, people are looking” Rich asked, nervously peeking at the other patrons in the diner. He nodded and gave a sheepish grin to an older couple that cast a glance in their direction.

“Yeah, sure.” Charles replied with a sneer, looking down his nose at the young lady. “Then I’m done with this bitch.”

They walk to the exit in a tight huddle, Rich exiting first and then Charles brusquely walked out next, bumping Charity into the door jamb.

‘Hey, fucktard” she exclaimed, rubbing her elbow and repositioning her small backpack. “You don’t have to be dick about it. Just give me my share and we never have to see each other again.”

“Okay, but not here. Let’s go around the corner, you know; so people won’t see.” Charles said pointing to the side of the building. Rich trotted over to the corner and scoped the scene out, “all clear.”

The trio walked to the back of the restaurant where the employee parking was located. The only cars parked there were an old Buick that was covered with more primer than paint. Next to that was parked a Chevy that was tilting to the left and had seen better days; and an old motorcycle parked near the dumpster. The trio walked toward the parked cars and Rich asked “is this area good enough?”

“Nah, let’s go to the other side of the cars, next to the dumpster. So no one can see us” Charles said with a wink. “I wouldn’t want witnesses to our little ‘transaction.”

Charity got a strange vibe about this situation, reading the body language of the two guys. She positioned herself with her back close to the wall, quickly assessing her escape route if things didn’t go as planned. She took off her backpack and kicked it between the narrow space separating the building and the dumpster. Charles sauntered up close to her, placing his left hand on the wall above her head. “Before I split the cash, how about showing us a little something to make it worth our while,” he said licking his lower lip and picking at the button on her shirt. Rich ambled a little closer anticipating a quick peek.

“Well, you know the more money I get…the more flesh you see” she replied, suppressing her gag reflexes.

“How much will this get me” Rich asked, waving a crumpled up ten dollar bill. He was beginning to salivate like a hungry hound getting a whiff of a prime steak cooking.

“Ten dollars will get you this” Charity mocked, slowly taking her hand from her front pocket and revealing an extended middle finger.  “Twenty will get you the other one.”

“You stupid…who do you think you’re are” Rich queried, flushed with anger from shirt collar to the top of his head.

“Now, now. You should be nice to the young lady. She IS the reason these jobs are as successful as they are” Charles stated calmly, putting his hand in the center of Richs’ chest to stay his likely assault. “Before we found her, we were comping chump change. We’ve made more in a couple of days than we would have made in a week without her.”

“And that’s why I’m asking for my share…which is half of the take. You guys can split the other half.” Charity watched as Charles ran his fingers through his hair, bracing herself for what was coming next. The left side of her face was engulfed with searing pain and her ear began ringing so loudly she thought it could be heard a block away. Her eyes watered, but not from pain. Clenching her teeth, she awaited his next move…

 

 

*****

 

“I’m going out back for a smoke. Care to join me?”

“Can’t…gotta run another rack through the dishwasher. We’re busier than a one legged cat in a litter box. Turning around in circles and ain’t covering shit” the large man said, mopping sweat from his balding head with a dishtowel. “You go ahead, bro. I’ll catch you next time.”

“It’s your call. But if I don’t get a cigarette, I’m gonna burn the next order just to get a smoke from something.”

“Dutch, you wouldn’t burn a meal if someone held a gun to your noggin. It’s not in ya’, you’re a perfectionist.”

“Yeah, whateva’. I’ll see ya in ten.”

Dutch retrieved his pack of cigarettes from the rack near the back door, bumping the heavy steel door with his hip while shaking out a single and checking his pockets for his lighter. Stepping outside, he didn’t know which was more refreshing; the evening air or the first drag from his cigarette. Peering to his right, he could vaguely make out the circus of events wrapping up. The emergency vehicles had long since left an accident scene and now the media vultures were finished spinning their ‘breaking’ story. He heard a commotion coming from his left and quickly turned in that direction, preparing to kick the butt of whomever was messing with his newly acquired bike. He noticed three young guys standing near the corner of the building, one of them was on the receiving end of being ‘tuned up.’

 Come on, kid…get the hell outta there was his first inclination, rapidly followed by this is none of your business Duke.  

It was as if the kid heard him or read what he was thinking, because in the next instant the youth dropped to one knee and shot a straight punch to the groin area of one of the attackers doubling him over in agony. To add insult to injury, the kid brought a knee up into the face of the attacker, knocking him back into the other kid. As the two were stumbling in retreat, the quarry turned assailant lowered its head and drove the two backward. Straight into a parked motorcycle. The bike rocked up off its side stand, balanced for a moment and toppled over on its right side.

Duke watched with his mouth agape, cigarette dangling from his lips, as his prized possession seemed to drift in slow-motion to a prone position. The two clowns that were the cause of its demise clamored after the fleeing, (gazelle like) prey; the epithet of “bitch” rebounding down the alleyway.

 

Well, Duke…this just became your business. Great…

 

*****

 

Charity sprinted two blocks and ducked behind a row of parked cars, waiting for rooster boys one and two to run past in hot pursuit. After a few minutes and no pursuit, she decided to go back to where they had committed their last act of violence; knowing Chuck and Rich would never return to the scene. She also knew that in their haste to get as far away as possible, they would forget to grab the old man’s keys. This is where she made her transition back into the real world, back to a sense of normalcy. She would leave ‘Beavis and Butthead’ for a while, go off on her own and live like she was meant to live.

Charity entered the building on its south side which gave her a more direct route to the scene of the incident. This also gave her the advantage of denying accountability if someone else was present when she got there. With the advent of darkness settling in, she was certain that there would not be any observers of her ingress or egress of the building. Finding the remains of the old man was the easy part, searching his person for keys or a wallet would be a different story. She was unable to gather anything from the deaf guitarist because his demise attracted too much attention. But this ‘mark’ posed its own set of challenges, one being that he had lost his bodily fluids upon expiration. The other is that he had clutched her necklace also on expiration. Thankfully, not enough time had elapsed for rigor mortis to set in. But as she was retrieving her possession, she noticed four letters traced in the dust next to the body…C H A R.

“Well, look at that…the old dog was tougher than we thought” Charity mused to herself, gently rubbing the side of her now swelling face. Lifting her foot, she was beginning to erase the characters but then stopped. “Okay Charles, you want to play rough? Let’s see how you deal with this.” She studied the letter structure for a minute and then added L E S on the end.

After finding the keys in the old mans’ jacket pocket and obtaining his address from the drivers license in his hastily discarded wallet, Charity began to relax a bit. She focused on covering her tracks near the body and quickly exited the building into the alley the way they entered. Breathing a sigh of relief, she turned her thoughts to starting a new life. Returning to the receptacle that she found the battered guitar, she picked it up and tucked it underneath her left arm and began walking back in the direction of the diner. Charles and Rich should be long gone, probably somewhere licking their wounds and trying to boost their pride with some cheap liquor Charity thought. I can go and get my backpack and put all of this behind me.

 

******

 

I can’t believe those knuckle-brains tipped over my bike… Dutch was ruminating as he placed the last order of the night through the pick-up window. “Order up!” he yelled, giving the stainless steel bell a quick tap…ding! He had bellowed after the two vermin as they scurried away, neither one of them wanting to be on the receiving end of the beating Dutch had for them. Much to his surprise, there was little damage done to his iron steed. But just knowing that a couple of clumsy, ass-clowns were hanging around the diner making trouble made his blood boil. When I catch those little turds, there will be hell to pay…

“See ya, Dutch boy” the old dishwasher sent his farewell before crawling into the leaning Chevy. The old car protested with a series of creaks and groans under the stress from the heft of the large man. Dutch could understand why the old car was leaning. With that much weight on me, I would lean too; he thought chuckling to himself and returning the wave of the departing man. He watched the car trudging down the block, then turned his attention to his mode of transportation.

A spotless 1997 ‘fatboy’ was awaiting its rider, the bar and shield emblem conveying the heritage of decades of motorcycle history. Dutch was proud of his recent acquisition, part because his father rode motorcycles but mostly because it was his first graduation gift to himself. Duke “Ellington” Cameron had graduated at the top of his culinary arts class and could have gone on to be a notable chef at any prestigious restaurant in the city. But he chose to work at the diner his family owned since he was a child. Call it nostalgia, call it dedication, or a combination of both. All he knew was that his grandfather had bought the place and passed it on to his daughter (Dukes mother), whom in turn passed it on to Duke when he came of age. “This is great…now I can change the name to Duke E.’s” he would jokingly tell his mom, who would threaten him with arson if he did. The youngest owner of Georges’ Place had lofty aspirations for the diner, working toward making this establishment ‘five star’ one meal at a time.

 

******

 

 

Finding the address was the easy part, gaining entrance to the high-rise apartment building would pose a different set of challenges. Standing across the street, Charity watched as one car after another drove to the corner of the building and made a right turn. She casually crossed the avenue and studied the vehicles entering the parking garage; pull up…punch in a code…wait for the gate to lift…drive in. Only twice the garage attendant stepped out of the office to let in a visitor, other than that no one else appeared to be present. Charity timed the entry of the next vehicle and made her move.

 

Charity discovered the elevator and took it up to the seventh floor. Apartment 7G was conveniently located near the elevator vestibule, which was a turn in her favor (for once she thought). Entering the apartment and perusing the area, she noticed it was modestly furnished. She could also tell the old man had lived alone for quite a while, although there were photos of women on the mantle and one of him and what she assumed to be his wife and daughter judging from the resemblance.  There were several guitars on stands lined against one wall, and several others mounted above them on the same wall. She went to a nearby table where there were tools and pieces of wood bonded together with a small tag displaying hand written letters… Duke.

Walking down a short hallway, put her in the spacious master bedroom. Throwing her backpack on the bed, she entered the bathroom and flicked the light switch on the wall. Peering into the mirror revealed what she had already known, and was beginning to become all too familiar with. Swollen cheek, bluish tint, split lip, the usual trauma from an open hand blow to the face. This was reminiscent of the discipline her aunt was the “best” at delivering to her. When her mother died Charity was placed in the care of the nearest family member which was her grandmother, who was an angel of a woman. Being elderly and taking care of a small child was a chore, so grandma recruited the assistance of her eldest daughter, whom never had any children of her own. At an early age Charity had an indifference for the education system, often faking illness to keep from going to school. Her aunt would drag her kicking and screaming to the bus, beating her to near unconsciousness, and throwing her onto the steps of the school bus.  One of the teachers noticed the bruises and reported it to family services, and as they say “the rest was history.” She was bounced from one foster care home to another, each time she would escape within a day or two.

 

Charity stared at her face for a long while trying to keep herself from going into the dark place of solitude within. She had worked hard for several years to suppress the demon that helped her endure such physical and psychological trauma. Seeing her face like this brought back a flood of haunting specters from her childhood. Desperately needing solace, she decided to draw a hot bath and soak her cares away. Climbing into the water, she thought how nice it would be to let this feeling envelope her for an eternity. She slid down until the water covered her body up to the chin, and then closed her eyes and went under. Slowly opening her eyes, she stared at the wavering ceiling that appeared to be floating away and listened to her throbbing heartbeat drumming in her ears. After a while a bubble obscured her vision and she slowly emerged back into the reality of chilling ambient air, her demons put back to slumber…for the moment.


© Copyright 2018 Q.B. McKinney. All rights reserved.

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