Excerpt of zodiac lives
Owls hooted and coyotes howled in the blackness surrounding him as the wind rustled through the trees. A lonely dirt road wound through the tall grass, and a car with two young occupants parked near a creek bed.
He felt a hand on his shoulder. “Son, you have to crouch down like a tiger then pounce.” The man beside him, dressed in black, carried a .45 caliber handgun.
“Now the trick is ta startle 'em. They'll be neckin' and won't see ya comin'. Make a noise to get their attention.” The man handed him the gun, just as he had done in shooting practice with tin cans. But these were not cans, and this was no practice.
He did as he was told and slunk up to the side of the ‘54 Chevy. Shadows inside the car moved about as he peeked in the foggy windows. The older man waved his hand, urging him to continue.
He took a deep breath, gathered his courage, and tapped the snout of the gun on the window.
“Did you hear something?” asked a female voice from inside the car.
A male voice responded, “Only the beat of my love-filled heart for you.” The people shifted inside the vehicle, rocking the icy steel of the car against his arm.
Louder, she said, “I'm not kiddin'. I heard somethin'. Ya better get out there and take a look, or you better be fixin' to take me home right now, Bobby Joe.”
“Oh c’mon, Suzie. Ain't nothin' out there. You do this every time we get to the good stuff.”
He inched along the side of the car, just below the window.
His heart raced as he balled his sweaty palms. The gun in his hand weighed a hundred times more than it did before.
“Shh!” Bobby Joe whispered.
“See, ya heard it, too. I'm not—”
“I said shh!”
He pulled a buck knife out from his back pocket and plunged it deep into the back tire. The air hissed, echoing in the night, as the car's weight shifted to one side.
“Somebody's out there! Do somethin'.”
The car engine tried to turn over, but did not start. It cranked again and again, but nothing. “Help! Do somethin'!”
As he shot through the window, the boom echoed through the night and crackling glass fell everywhere. The recoil knocked him to the ground, twisting his ankle. Screams came from inside the car, as the steel gun slipped in his moist hands. Kneeling on the ground, he squared his shoulders, aimed the gun with two hands, and shot through the window a second time. Claps and cheers came from the man behind him.
As the screams continued, the passenger door opened and a woman in a dark dress came barreling out. Her hands flapped about aimlessly as she ran into the night toward the lake.
“Do it, son. Get her now.”
He hesitated before he stumbled to his feet, peering inside the car. Blood. Everywhere, there was blood. The dark, thick liquid bubbled from the man's head and oozed down in all directions.
His father ran to his side. “A head shot from the outside. I'm proud of ya. Means it's gonna be a great year.”
The woman screamed again, trapped between the lake and the killers. The father leaned into his ear. “Now, finish 'er off. This is yer big day. Yer a man afta today.”
He stared at her and shuffled his feet, limping on his injured ankle. Pain jolted through his body, as adrenaline pumped through him. Even his temples throbbed with anticipation and anxiety.
The woman fell to her knees and clasped her hands, begging. “Please, please don't. I ain't gonna tell nobody. I promise. Just let me go. Please.” The word came out in a three part gasp as tears streamed down her face. Her entire body trembled.
He tilted his head as make-up ran down her face. She looked like a clown and a helpless child at the same time. Leveled with her forehead, the gun wobbled in his hand but edged closer to her.
“That's my boy! Do it ... Do it now,” urged the father.
He looked over his shoulder, with the barrel of the gun pressed into the woman's face. “Do I have to, Papa? She ain't gonna tell no one.” Tears trickled down his face, and his nostrils flared.
The older man stampeded toward them and raised a hand in the air. Something metal hit the side of his head, flinging him to the ground. The man stomped and kicked him over and over, causing him to vomit. The foul taste of acid lingered on his tongue and floated up his nose.
The man's finger pointed in his face. “When I tell ya to do somethin', boy, ya better do it!” Again, the hand came down upon his head and back. Trying to defend himself, he raised his forearms above his head and curled in a fetal position on the ground.
The woman screamed in the distance. They both looked toward the voice, watching as she ran several yards away from them.
Another whack to the head. “Now I gotta go chase her. Yer gonna pay for this one.” The man hustled toward the screams, almost out of sight in the dark.
Bang. Bang. Bang.
The screaming stopped.
The man in black skulked toward him. “What's the matter with ya, boy? What ya think I been teachin' ya? This ain't fishin' ya know, this is life.”
His head hung low as he stared at the gun in his hand. It lay flat on his right palm as his left fingers traced the shape of it. Without raising his head, he lifted his eyes and glared at the older man.
The man's evil grin frightened him. “I know what ya thinkin'. And ya might kill me one day. But this ain't that day.”
His shoulders hunched as he dropped the gun on the ground. Do all twelve-year-olds go through this? Is this normal? With one hand holding his stomach, he toddled back to their parked car on the other side of the lake.
He climbed inside and waited. When his father joined him, he looked out the window into the night. The man twisted, putting the guns in the back seat.
“Son, ya gotta learn it's kill or be killed in this world. My Pa taught me this, an' I'm teachin' you. Someday, ya'll teach yer youngin's, and that's the way it is.”
With watery eyes, he turned his head and said, “But they didn't hurt nobody, Pa. Why?”
The man's hands clenched around his throat. “Ya don't ask why, dammit, ya just learn. Pay attention to what I teach ya.”
The boy tried to nod his head in the affirmative, but the man shook the child back and forth by the neck. “Ya see, I'm teachin' ya how to do anythin' ya want without gettin' caught. Don't ya get that?”
The boy's hands reached to break his father's grip. “Can't breathe ... please ... can't breathe.” The man released him by pushing him into the door of the car.
“One of these days yer gonna get it. One of these days yer gonna un'erstand.” The man pulled out a cigarette pack from under the car seat and lit a stick.
After a few puffs, smoke filled the car. “I never told ya about Texarkana, did I?”
The boy refused to answer. Any answer could result in a beating. The stench of the menthol smoke burned his sinuses as he tried to hold back his coughing.
Taking a drag of the cigarette, the man said, “Ya ain't no man 'cause ya can't kill. Hell, ya can't even breathe in smoke. I'll make ya a man one of these days, though. I promise ya that.”
The man looked out the driver's window as he started the car, “Back in '46 I decided to try my Papa's teachin's. Yer mama and me was fightin', and I went to stay wit' a friend for a while. Yer mama made me so mad when she said she wasn't gonna marry me.”
The man turned the wheel, and the car bounced over several rocks and uneven ground before hitting the dirt road. “That mama of yers, she really knows how to drive a man to kill.” Laughing at his own joke, he coasted the car along until they reached a paved street.
“That's when I come up wit' the idea of the sack on my head. That scared the bejesus out of 'em. Remember what I'm tellin' ya, boy. Yer gonna need it someday.”
I'm gonna need it all right, I'm gonna need it for you.
“Ya listenin'? Ya gotta pay attention so ya don't get caught. Anyway, yer mama and me got back together, and we moved to southern Texas after we got married. I been a good husband and provider. I kept my nose clean and stayed away from my games. But now that yer becoming a man, I reckoned it's a good time to play again.”
The father reached over and tousled the boy's hair. “Ya know how many boys wish their daddies spent time with 'em?”
The car weaved and bobbed along the roadway. Still refusing to talk, the boy just sat there, listening to his father and determined to find a weakness and exploit it. Yeah, Papa, keep talking. Teach me.
“I'll show ya the newspaper clippin' from back then. Those damn cops didn't know nothin'. Wasn't no reason to beat the gravel then.”
The boy lifted his ankle across his knee and rubbed it. The swelling throbbed and concentrating on the pain took his mind off his actions, as well as his father's maniacal soliloquy.
“Ya wanna know real power? It ain't even taking the life. It's turning an entire town crazy and against itself. Those people shut the whole town down after dark.” He puffed on the cigarette some more. Then he pulled the car over. The father turned toward the boy and said, “Never leave nothin' behind. Not a weapon, a cigarette, a footprint. Always check the area before and after. Always wear gloves. Keep calm. Even if the cops are around, even if they question you, remember that you belong there. Tell them you saw the killer go off in the other direction. Hell, give 'em a description—a bad one. Blame it on a Negro, that always works.”
The boy nodded.
“Ya gonna remember what I'm tellin' ya?”
Again, the boy nodded.
“Once ya get the thirst for blood, ya never lose it. After ya were born, I got the lust for killing again. It grew and grew. Then Korea called me. I got to slaughter lots of 'em commies,” he huffed. “Some of 'em boys shook in fear. They hesitated and died, a bunch of young boys they never become men. Some cried in the corner, afraid to pick up a weapon. Never understood them. Get the taste for blood boy, and you'll fear nothing. It's crazy to think that I got medals for being a hero, here they'd hang me for the same thing.'
The boy mumbled, “I'll never get the taste for blood.”
He wasn't expecting his father's hand to fly. Pain radiated from his left eye as the force of the blow resonated. His head clunked on the window. “Then taste your own, dammit.”
The warm coppery fluid spread through his mouth and down his chin. With stone cold eyes, he faced his father and proclaimed, “Yer warned. When I do, I'll come for ya.”
The man's hearty laugh flooded the vehicle. “Hell, maybe you'll become a man after all.”
Short & Silly
We all know single parents have it tough. The same parent always has to be the bad guy and never has anyone to vent to or ask for support. But how often do we think about one parent doing the "stuff" of the other gender? Now some of what I write here today might sound sexist -- yeah, I think men are more likely to kill bugs or take a fish off a hook (depending on the man of course). And the same parent has to give "the talk" with every kid, both sexes which can be awkward.
Thinking back on my widowed mother with five kids, I can recall plenty of instances where having my father alive would have helped. One very vivid scenario was when she took my brother, his friend, and I to Fortescue, a popular crabbing area. I'm not sure what she was thinking when she took three 10-year-old-ish kids out into what was basically a row boat with a small engine and a bucket of "chum" which equates to chopped up fish as bait.
Who did she think was going to take the long needle thing and push it through half a fish with its guts hanging out?
What did she expect to do with the crabs we caught?
Did she not think that three kids could tip a boat?
My guess is that she never thought of any of this. Growing up in South Philadelphia, she only saw grass if it grew between the cracks in the pavement. Expecting her to have a clue in open water was just plain stupid. Still, she tried. Failed, but tried. lol
On the only crabbing trip we ever went on, we all started screaming at each other, we didn't tipped over the boat-- but we DID knock over the cooler of crabs. The crabs were everywhere, we stood on the seats, which again almost turned over the boat. My poor mother scooped up the crabs from the bottom with a bucket. Then the engine died and a larger boat toed us into shore. It took two guys to carry the cooler into the trunk of the car when one said, "Hey lady, how many crabs did you catch? This thing weigh a ton!"
She opened the lid of the cooler, and lo and behold she had the cooler filled with water. "Lady, do you know you aren't supposed to fill the cooler with water? You're going to drown the crabs."
"Drown the crabs? I just took them out of the ocean, you can't drown crabs!" She didn't believe him, and started home. Anyone who has read my "Directionally Challenged Mother" post will understand that a typical one hour ride home took about four hours. By the time we got home, the crabs were floating in the cooler. What she was expecting to do with the crabs had they lived still baffles me. Never in her life did she cook crabs, fish, or most any natural food I can remember. Certainly never something that was alive when she got it. As I said once before, she swears she used to bake apple pies from the tree in our yard. The problem is that there was NO apple tree in our yard--- and she NEVER baked a pie lol.
Another incident occurred with a boat in our family. We grew up on a creek, and the teen girls would lay out and get tanned. It was the 70's & 80's, and skin cancer was not an issue at the time. What happens when you are around water? The water reflects, creating a stronger and faster tan. So what do you think teen girls decided to do? That's right, they climbed into a row boat and tied it to the dock then paddled to the center of the creek and laid down for sun. With their eyes closed. During a tide change.
Before they knew it, they were headed to the Delaware River and Philadelphia. Keep in mind, my sisters were born in South Philadelphia and spent most of their upbringing there, so they were not too familiar with how "the great outdoors" worked in New Jersey. You see, when they realized they floated down the creek, they tried to paddle home. That didn't work well, as they both paddled on the same side of the boat, turning it in circles as they drifted further and further from home. They screamed for help, and the neighbors waved, thinking they were saying hello.
At one point they almost made it to shore when a German Sheppard saw them and tried to attack them. This was especially traumatic for Gabby who is terrified of dogs, even tea cup poodles. She tried to hit the dog with a wooden oar, and then she dropped it in the water and it floated away. The girls continued to paddle in circles.
When my mother came home from work, she found the house and yard empty, expecting the girls to be there. The doors of the house were unlocked, the radio blasted in the yard, and a rope was tied to the dock, but that was it. She frantically scoured the neighborhood looking for evidence of the girls when a neighbor said, "Yeah, I saw them floating down the creek. They were waving and playing with a dog on the other side of the creek bed." Mom panicked knowing Gabby would never "play" with a dog.
Now, you might be thinking "What the hell is up with that neighbor? Didn't he realize the girls were in trouble?" But cut the guy a break. When you grow up on the water, rule #1 is paddle on one side then the other. When you grow up in South Philadelphia rule #1 is duck if hear gun shots. The survival tactics are completely different.
Luckily, some of the neighbors got together and pulled the girls to shore. It's a good thing they didn't wind up in the river. I could just imagine the US Coast Guard calling my mother "Uh, ma'am, we found your girls in a row boat, can you come get them?"
Considering Mom never found our town's library even after 40 years of living here, I seriously doubt she could have found the US Coast Guard post.
short & Silly
I'm writing this for my beautiful niece, Caitlin, who's probably never heard this story. I hope she finds it entertaining. Her parents might not know what happened twenty years ago to their car when left in my car, so here's hoping I still have a sister after this post.
Everyone in my family is incredibly unique, and often I wonder how we could possibly be related. We have the biker babe, the Stay at home mom, the computer geek, the yuppie puppy ... and well, me ... the troublemaker. Even when I'm not trying to find trouble, it finds me. Anyone who read my posts about the Secret Service will understand this.
Even in high school I was politically active. I marched in protests, volunteered for campaigns, and signed people up to vote. Who would have thought protests and demonstrating something you believe in could cause trouble?
My sister Renee moved to San Diego when I was in my teens. So at 19, I flew out to visit her and her husband. Although we did a lot of sight seeing together of the typical tourist attractions of Sea World, Balboa Park, and Del Coronado, they left their car for me to drive while they were at work. A BMW. It might have been older, but to a kid it was still a Beemer and I thought I was cool driving it.
While I was cruising around downtown San Diego, I stopped at a traffic light just as a group of demonstrators passed by. I asked someone what the cause was for, and one woman came to the car to convince me to join them. A California woman shot and killed her son's child molester, and the protesters were fighting for her release. It didn't take much convincing for me to realize a dead molester is better than a mom in jail, so I parked the car and joined in. The woman promised to take me back to the corner where the car was parked once the event concluded.
I should have written down the street names, but who would have thought I would lose the woman in a crowd of 20,000 people? After a few hours and lots of screaming and chanting, I decided it was best to try to find the car again. That was a big no-go! The sky darkened as I rode the streets of San Diego on buses looking for the car.
What was that? Why didn't I call my sister you ask?
And say what? "Hi Renee, I don't know where I am, but I lost your husband's car. So pick me up at the corner store so we can join up to comb the city together?" Yeah, I'm sure that would have gone over quite well. Luckily, I had $200 in cash on me and found the car before I spent it on bus transfers.
In case you couldn't figure it out, Renee and her hubby are the "Yuppie Puppies" of the family. Sometimes I think back to the first time Andrew visited our family for a holiday dinner. My biker babe sister Lee (who many of you might remember) was quite emotional that year and started a big argument. Just picture five siblings, three husbands, two small children, and my mother ... in a pear tree ... all screaming and yelling.
Gabby's hubby had been with our family for a decade and a half, so he was quite accustomed to our occasional outbursts. When emotions broke loose, he continued eating at the dinner table while the rest of us adjourned to the living room to settle the dispute. Renee's new husband, Andrew, did not know how to react. He was torn between wanting to settle the issue for us and staying out of family business. He turned to Gabby's husband, Sal, and asked, "Should we assist them? What should we do?"
Sal shoveled a fork of pasta in his mouth, took a sip of soda, and responded, "Duck if you see something flying." He continued eating. I wish I could have seen Andrew's face at that remark, but I was busy in the other room at the time. I'm sure it is quite similar to the time he was demonstrating his wine tasting abilities. He's quite the connoisseur. He didn't get the reaction from my family he expected when Lee's husband turned and said, "You go to wine tasting events? They used to call me a real Wino too, but since my spinal injury I can't touch the stuff." Something was definitely Lost in Translation there.
I hope you enjoyed today's post. Coming Monday, I will start posting book reviews again. Be sure to look for my FREE promo of Goin' Postal & The Creek. It will be free for a couple days this coming week. :)
Also check out my "Awesome Author" page for some great reads. There are plenty who have their books available FREE on Kindle Unlimited.
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