Judgment Day

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic
Raymond slaved his life away, working two jobs, to give his wife three beautiful daughters, a house in the suburbs and a car--and she gave him the news that she's got a new boyfriend. Now he's going to give her what she's got coming.

Submitted: November 29, 2013

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Submitted: November 29, 2013

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Judgment Day (a complete short story)

 

Copyright © 2013 by Gregg Bell

 

Digitally (ebook) Published by:

 

Thriveco, Inc.

 

207 North Walnut Street, Itasca, IL 60143

 

All Rights Reserved

 

Without limiting the rights under the copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

Cover photograph by hotblack

 

33313

 

 

 

The wind seeped under the door. Raymond felt it on his bare feet. It was warm air. There was no relief from the heat. Caroline would be over tonight, and he wasn’t ready. Not that there was anything to be ready for, but he wasn’t going to miss this chance. No, he wasn’t going to miss this chance for anything. She’d been dodging him for so long.

 

He went to the refrigerator. A small wine-red plastic container filled with slivery wafers was on the top shelf next to the milk. He shook his head. Caroline was such a spiritual giant. An extraordinary eucharistic minister or something like that. The container had been sitting there for months—he had the Son of God in his fridge—and now Caroline wanted it back.

 

He hurried to the front room and grabbed a vacuum from the closet. He figured he might as well get the place cleaned up. It was seven-fifteen. She’d said she’d be there by eight.

 

Really he shouldn’t be seeing her at all. He was so pissed off. But she said she was coming so she’d forced his hand.

 

In his bedroom was a solid-steel gun case. Safety had been drilled into him by his stepfather ever since he’d sliced his thumb firing a .45 at the shooting range when he was eight. He went to a chest of drawers for the key. He opened the case and the smell of gun oil greeted him. His guns made him feel safe, and he felt like sometimes they were the only things keeping him sane. A car pulled up in the parking lot below. It was a soft-running engine. No loud-idling diesel like the refrigerated trucks that dropped off lobster at Capriano’s restaurant across the street. It could be her. No, it pulled through.

 

He took a .44 magnum out of the gun case. He pulled the hammer back and the barrel zinged as he gave it a spin. Could it really all be coming down to this? He slipped smooth, shiny, hollow-point bullets into the pistol’s chambers. He felt sick to his stomach. Three beautiful girls he’d had with her. It couldn’t be coming down to this. Loaded, he set the .44 back into the gun case and sat, fists clutched to thighs, on his bed. He still had a half hour. A half hour in which he could call her, call it off. He fought the urge to cry.

 

It all made no sense. He smoothed his hands over the bed’s comforter. The comforter was the only thing he’d brought from the house. Their house. The house he’d worked double shifts for fifteen years at UPS to buy for her. In the kitchen, the refrigerator kicked on and he flinched. He was jumpy, but he was ready. Twenty-five minutes.

 

He walked into the hallway and strolled up and down looking at the photos on the walls. Photos of their girls. Hell, his girls. No, she’d pushed him to this. It was all her fault. All the joy they’d shared. The life. The striving. The heartaches. The successes. And then came Harvey.

 

She told him Harvey was different. Harvey was a CPA and Harvey was more stable. Harvey didn’t yell at her. Harvey listened to her needs. Harvey even went to her book club with her. Oh sure, at first they were just friends. They’re always just friends in the beginning.

 

Raymond shook his head and blew out a breath through his nose. Yeah, they were just friends, but he’d seen the writing on the wall. And he’d dealt with it. He’d been a man about it. People fell out of love. But when he’d seen Harvey playing with their girls. His girls. When he’d seen him bouncing Jessica on his thigh, that’s when the mood all changed.

 

No one was taking his place as the girls’ father. No one. Ten minutes. He grabbed the .44 and brought it into the kitchen. He stuffed it in between two boxes of breakfast cereal in the cabinet over the sink. The healthy cereal he ate so he could live a nice long life to be there for his girls. What a joke. His girls that played with Harvey now.

 

Five minutes.

 

He went to the fridge. The wine-red plastic container was still there. As if it might supernaturally move. Oh yes, Caroline was oh so spiritual. A paragon of righteous moral perfection. Except for cheating on him. Except for cutting him out of his family. He unlocked the kitchen door to the porch. No, she made him sick. The phony. Her day of reckoning had come.

 

The air pushing down from the ceiling fan felt cool. Maybe just because he was so hot. Starting to sweat like a pig. Another car pulled into the lot. It killed its engine. A car door slammed. He bit his lip so hard he tasted blood. He was trembling. No, it couldn’t be coming down to this. But it was.

 

He heard the porch door open and shut. Footsteps coming up the stairs. But it was a heavy tread. Maybe Caroline was depressed too. He laughed and threw his head back. She didn’t know what she was in for. He quick-checked the .44 between the cereal boxes, grabbed a dishtowel from the refrigerator handle and wiped the sweat from his face.

 

He walked to the door. The footsteps stopped. She had a key for the apartment, but he doubted she’d use it. He waited. Then he smelled smoke. Smoke? She didn’t smoke. There was a knock.

 

He glanced at the cabinet over the sink and then opened the door.

 

It was Harvey, a cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth, unshaven, hell, he looked like he was drunk.

 

“Raymond,” Harvey said and he walked in. He flicked his cigarette into the sink, where it died with a hiss.

 

“What the hell are you doing here?”

 

Harvey went to the refrigerator. His denim shirt was dirty, sweaty. Where was his usual suit and tie, his cheery composure? He stunk. When he got to the refrigerator, he turned. He held a silver handgun, it looked like a .32, in his left hand. “I’m sorry,” he said, and he pulled the hammer back.

 

Raymond thought of the .44. Could he get to it in time? And if he couldn’t, could he disarm Harvey? His Marine training was engrained in his brain, instinctive. But Harvey’d pulled the hammer back. That gun was trip-ready to go off. “Harvey, what the hell?”

 

“I’m sorry,” Harvey said again and he shook his head. His hands were shaking too.

 

“I don’t understand.”

 

“You’re the one she wants.”

 

What! Raymond’s face cringed up. “What the hell are you—”

 

“Caroline told me she’s still in love with you. She dumped me.” He twitched, like he was about to go into a seizure. He was really drunk, his eyes rolling in his head. This was the kind of guy who shot people and then the next day didn’t remember. “She dumped me for you.”

 

Raymond rubbed the back of his neck. Could what he said be true? No way. Caroline had dumped him for Harvey! But she was a heartbreaker. She made men do crazy things. “Harvey, she’s playing the both of us.”

 

“I gotta kill you. I can’t live without her, Ray.”

 

“That’s crazy.”

 

“I know it is but I gotta do it anyway.” His finger started to pull back the trigger.

 

“No!”

 

A blast. A white-blue torch from the muzzle. Raymond felt the bullet whiz by his ear. Harvey pulled the hammer back again. Raymond held out both arms. “Harvey, listen to me. She did the same thing to me! She told me she was in love with you.”

 

Harvey shook his head. His nose was running. “I’m sorry.” He tried to steady the gun. “But I gotta do it.”

 

“If you shoot me, it’ll just be somebody else, man. She’s the killer, Harvey. She messes with people’s heads until they’re crazy, and then they do the kinds of things you’re doing—or what I was planning on doing.”

 

Another head shake. But Harvey’s eyes seemed to be asking for more information.

 

“I’ve got a .44 magnum hidden.” Raymond nodded toward the cabinet over the sink. “She made me so crazy I was either going to kill her or myself. Or maybe both of us.”

 

Harvey pulled his shirtsleeve across his eyes. The .32 lowered. “Are you lying to me?”

 

“Just go to the cabinet and look. The gun’s between the cereal boxes.”

 

Harvey hesitated but then stepped toward the sink, but when he did, Raymond lunged for him and grabbed the .32, and in the process sent Harvey flying.

 

“Hey!” Harvey banged hard into the kitchen counter and collapsed a little, his hand to his lower back, like he’d taken a kidney punch from Joe Frazier.

 

Raymond opened the cabinet, grabbed the .44 and showed him. “I wasn’t lying to you, man.”

 

“Unbelievable.” Harvey leaned on the counter. “Absolutely unbelievable.” He sighed. “I was just like crazy there for a minute, Raymond. Like I was out of my mind. But I felt like I couldn’t live without her. Like I couldn’t draw another breath without her. I mean.” He shook his head. “I really came here to kill you.”

 

“That’s what Caroline does to people. She makes them crazy. She’s evil.” Raymond set the guns on the kitchen counter.

 

Harvey just kept shaking his head. “Unbelievable.”

 

Raymond squeezed Harvey’s shoulder and led him to one of the kitchen chairs. “Come on,” he said, taking down one of the cereal boxes. “It looks like you could use getting something into your stomach.” He went to the refrigerator, pushed aside the wine-red plastic container and grabbed a half-gallon of milk.

 

Harvey took a deep breath, his cheeks puffing, and blew it out slowly.

 

“She plays everybody, Harvey.” Raymond set a bowl on the table and shook out some cereal. “She’s always got some new friend she’s getting involved with, and guys like us in the meantime get killed.”

 

“Yeah.” Harvey rubbed his eyes. “It’s just such a strange feeling. I lost control of myself there for a while.”

 

Raymond poured the milk. “Everybody involved with her does. Hell, the guy who went out with her before me ended up hanging himself.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Really.” Raymond settled in at the table. “She makes you feel so special—I’d have done anything for her—then she dumps you in a heartbeat and suddenly you’re out of your mind.”

 

“Yeah.” Harvey crunched on some cereal. “Thanks, Raymond.”

 

“Not a problem.”

 

“What you’re saying makes sense. I was planning my whole life around her and the girls. And let me tell you, it wouldn’t have been easy, but I would have done it for her. I would have sacrificed anything. And then pow. She hits me with this.”

 

“That’s just what she did to me. We made love one night and then the next day—she told me over the phone—she told me about you.”

 

“I’m sorry I shot at you.” Harvey turned to look. A bullet hole was in the door. “I’ll reimburse you for the damage.”

 

Raymond waved him off and stood. He got the guns from the kitchen counter and laid them on the table. “Here’s your gun back.”

 

Harvey nodded and slipped the .32 into his pants pocket.

 

“So.” Raymond bit his lip. “Looks like we both got saved from doing something really stupid.”

 

The sound of a car engine in the parking lot. Raymond thought he recognized it. He cupped a hand around his ear.

 

“What?” Harvey leaned toward him. He took the .32 out of his pocket.

 

Raymond gently lifted the .44 from the table. “That sounded like Caroline’s car.”

 

“No way.” Harvey stood.

 

Raymond nodded. The sound of the porch door opening. Footsteps on the stairs. The brief jangle of a key chain. The door handle turning.

 

The two men pointed their pistols at the door.

 

“Caroline.” Raymond kept his gun on his estranged wife as she stepped in.

 

“What, are you nuts?” Caroline said, pulling bangs off her forehead. “Put that thing away.”

 

Raymond motioned with his gun for her to close the door. Geez, she looked fantastic. Those tight blue jeans. The black bra straps visible beneath her yellow ribbed tube top. Her funky windblown blonde hair. Her perfume. Could what Harvey said have been true? Caroline told me she’s still in love with you. She dumped me for you.

 

Harvey pulled back the hammer on his pistol.

 

Caroline rolled her eyes. “And Harvey with a gun too. Is this some kind of joke?”

 

Raymond laughed bitterly. No, she didn’t want him. She was just playing him the way she always did. The way she played everybody. “Yeah, it’s a joke, Caroline, but this time, the joke’s on you.”

 

She walked to the refrigerator, ignoring the guns, glancing at Raymond. “I just came for the eucharistic wafers. Why aren’t you at work?”

 

He thought about it a minute. “I quit.”

 

She took the wine-red plastic container from the refrigerator. “Why would you do something stupid like that?”

 

Raymond narrowed his eyes at her. “Why ask? You don’t care.”

 

“Yeah,” Harvey said. “You don’t care.”

 

Caroline scowled at Harvey. “Shut up, Harvey. This has nothing to do with you.”

 

Harvey brandished his pistol at her. “You. You’re the one who needs to shut up.”

 

Raymond glanced at Harvey. His gun hand was shaking. “Don’t get him excited, Caroline.”

 

Caroline headed for the door. “You’re both out of your minds.”

 

Raymond grabbed her arm. “You’re not going anywhere.”

 

“Let go of me.”

 

He squeezed her arm tight as a tourniquet. “Shut up. Harvey and me are calling the shots now.”

 

Harvey gave a quick nod. “Yeah, we’re calling the shots.”

 

“If you don’t let me go this second.” Her arm reddened and one of her bra straps slipped down. “You’re going to be in for more trouble than you could ever imagine.”

 

Raymond laughed. “How’s that?”

 

Harvey laughed too. “Yeah, how’s that?”

 

The sound of the porch door opening. Clomping on the stairs. Raymond slammed Caroline down onto one of the chairs, and both men pointed their pistols at the door.

 

“Ted,” Caroline said as the door opened.

 

A tall man in a police uniform, hat low on his forehead, held his service revolver in the two-handed combat stance, pointing the gun from Raymond to Harvey.

 

“Who are you?” Raymond shouted.

 

“Yeah, who are you?” Harvey shouted.

 

“I told you.” Caroline set the wine-red plastic container on the table. “He’s Ted.”

 

“Who’s he?” Raymond was ready to fire.

 

“Yeah, who’s he?” Harvey said.

 

Caroline sighed. “He’s just a friend.”

 

“Sure he is.” Raymond compressed his lips.

 

“Sure he is,” Harvey said.

 

“He is.” Caroline pulled up her bra strap.
 “I am?” Ted said. He relaxed his combat stance, the gun slowly lowering. “That’s all I am to you?”

 

Raymond watched him closely. He could see painful questions forming in his eyes.

 

“Yeah, that’s it.” Caroline drummed a couple of fingers on the table. “That’s all any of you are.”

 

Ted swung his gun onto Caroline. So did Raymond and Harvey.

 

“Oh my God.” Caroline closed her eyes. She blew out a long breath, her bangs fluffing off her forehead. She opened her eyes. “Okay, looks like there’s only one thing left to do.” She stood and opened the wine-red plastic container.

 

“You gotta be kidding,” Raymond said.

 

“Yeah, you gotta—”

 

“Harvey.” Raymond looked at Harvey.

 

“Sorry.”

 

Caroline stepped into the middle of them. “I’m not kidding, Raymond. And I’m not kidding, Harvey. And I’m not kidding, Ted.” She pulled one of the wafers from the container and nodded to Ted.

 

Ted took off his hat and holstered his pistol.

 

Harvey shrugged and lowered his gun.

 

Raymond scowled. “Ah, for God’s sake, guys, don’t let her fool you. They’re not even blessed or whatever the hell they need to be.”

 

“Body of Christ, Ted.” Caroline held the wafer out to him.

 

Ted crossed himself, took the wafer tenderly in his hands and placed it on his tongue.

 

“Body of Christ, Harvey.” She stepped toward him.

 

Harvey looked around. “I’m Jewish.”

 

Caroline sighed. “Body of Christ, Harvey.”

 

Harvey looked at Ted, took the wafer from her and put it in his mouth. He munched it like a cracker.

 

“And body of Christ, Raymond.” She smiled at him.

 

Raymond eyed her hard. He looked at Harvey and Ted. He looked back to her. “No.”

 

“Body of Christ, Raymond.” She extended the wafer to him.

 

Raymond gritted his teeth. Don’t believe her. She’d tricked him so many times. And yet, she was so good-looking. A fox. And her green eyes were saying that maybe what Harvey had said was true. Maybe she did want him back. He stepped forward, but then he said, “No way.”

 

“You’re making a big mistake.” Caroline exhaled deeply and wafer in hand sat at the table. “To refuse the eucharist is reason for excommunication.”

 

Harvey and Ted fidgeted.

 

“Get up.” Raymond pointed the .44 at her.

 

She planted her elbows on the table. “Raymond, why are you doing this? I mean, what’s the point?”

 

“I said get up.” He pulled back the gun’s hammer.

 

She rose.

 

He nodded at the door.

 

She put the wafer back into the wine-red container and shaking her head walked to the door. “Raymond, you know there’s always been something special between us.”

 

“Liar!”

 

She walked out the door. He followed her onto the porch. She faced him and let her hands drop to her sides, the container falling to the floor, wafers rolling all over the porch like wooden nickels, toppling down the stairs. “So after all we’ve been through together, you’re just going to shoot me?”

 

He nodded. He was. He had to stop the madness she was driving him to.

 

“Don’t do it, Raymond. You know I still love you.” She took a deep breath and clutching the handrail started slowly down the stairs.

 

“Caroline.” Raymond rested his forearms on the porch rail to steady his aim.

 

She stopped and looked up. “You’re the only man I’ve ever loved.”

 

Raymond’s hands were shaking, but he kept his aim steady on her as she proceeded down the stairs. At the porch door she stopped and looked up again. She pulled her hair behind her ears. She was so pretty, and there was something in those green eyes of hers—a demon maybe—that froze him. It was the moment. He grinded his teeth so hard. She was lying. She was killing him. She was telling the truth. She loved him.

 

He uncocked the .44’s hammer and watched the porch door slam behind her.

 

The End

 

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About the Author

 

 

Gregg Bell is the author of the blog, The Underdog’s Corner. He lives in Illinois. To learn more visit his web site.

 

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