Sunday, November 1, 2009

Shifting Shadows

A smothering sky, black as coal
Choked the landscape of red and gold
And in its’ wake, the evil unfolds
Dreamless night, dank and cold

A lonely rider, high on a bluff
Inches his mount along a trail rocky and rough,
Numb from the cold, rested barely enough
The reigns slip, from finger to cuff

Slumped in the saddle, he whispers a prayer
He raises his eyes, as though someone is there
But no one is listening, nobody cares
Slumping further, he clutches his mare

The winds whisper, succumb to your fate,
Your life has been filled with anger and hate
Beseech your God, his answer await,
Till then you are mine, your peril is great

He watches the stones tumble and fall
Sees the blackness that covers all
His soul beaten, slashed and mauled
And then he feels nothing; nothing at all

Like the freefall of the condemned, upon the gallows
The cold anticipation that chills to the marrow
A bone crushing death, below in the dark hollows
Another victim of shifting shadows...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Witch's Bed

Lightening slashed the black velvet sky
Winds ripped the last colours of autumn
Giant oaks creaked, in unison cried
Bracing the witch’s wind, unable to run

A lonely figure silhouetted in black
Stared up at the skies and wailed
If this be my fate, so final, a fact,
Then allow my story to tell

Once I was loved, and loved so dear
Was blessed, and walked with angels
My vision of happiness, oh so clear
No fears, no doubt, no dangers

Into the clutches, headlong I fell
Into the arms of a woman
Beguiled and bewildered, a bottomless well
Of passion, no man can fathom

I drank deep from the cup, lust and desire
Without thought of the demands to come
My loins burned with passions fire
Satiated in the deed, exhausted, spent, done

She offered up drink, a ruby red elixir
I swallowed it with wild abandon
Thick and sickly sweet, as the tunes of a zephyr
In an instant, my soul was undone

Cursed be the night, cursed be the day
Cursed be the moon, cursed be the stars
Cursed be the method, and cursed be the way
And cursed am I, for I will always be this way

For in a witch’s bed have I slept
Her bidding forever my task
A longing for death, a wish, a promise never kept
Till that one day, long at last

Her thirst for herbs, and blood and hate
Will end in a fiery ball
If I am lucky, then with my mate
I will ascend to that golden hall

Till then, heed my words
Beware that which appears too good
Or suffer my fate, lost between two worlds
Before can becomes could

If God exists, then strike me down
This night, be my reprieve
But that is a dream, I am on my own
And always will be it seems

And so I search, never rest
On this all hallowed eve
The blood of innocents is my quarry
And what should I perceive,

You who are reading
Do you feel safe? Do you see my shadow behind?
What are the feelings you are feeling
Are you sure it’s only your mind?

And lightening slashed the black velvet sky…

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ode To a D

The silver seeds of spring, on gentle breezes fly,
tickling the warm soil, before back up to the heavens they fly,
seeking that perfect place, wherein they shall lie,
giving birth to their colour, in the warm sun, growing high.

Deep green and gold, this is her gift,
she thwarts all attempts, though narrowly missed,
mans dominion over nature, his control over bliss,
will not stave her from her duty, rest assured of this.

She watches as you trudge, off to your car,
she sees the skies, the clouds, above so far,
she smiles as she knows, a victim you are,
to the beauty she possesses, to the wonder of the briar.

They grow in profusion, splashes of gold,
emerald green, shapes strong and bold,
try as you may, with efforts untold,
she resists, and beckons, your efforts turned cold.

Embrace her, and love her, for she is the one,
who will never desert you, as others have done,
she dances in the wind, with wild abandon,
til she again gives up her seed, to the warm summer sun.

Don't ya just hate Dandelions?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Quiet Scream

Things just didn’t feel right as Bill Stanford pulled off to the side of the country road. He opened the map and traced with his finger the route he had been taking. He should have already arrived in Cedarville. As beautiful as the country road was; with tall standing pines and wildflowers in profusion; the hour was getting late. A hot meal and a warm bed to curl up in was all he wanted right now.

Odd that he hadn’t seen another car on this road in the last two hours. It made asking directions all the more difficult. The choices were clear. Two hours of driving back to the nearest truck stop, or forge on and hope to find some diner or homestead where he might get some help. Bill chose the latter as he slipped the shifter into drive and pulled back onto the road.

The sun was going down, and tall shadows were slithering across the road as he made his way through the turns and curves. This would be a tricky road to maneuver after nightfall. He stared ahead intently, gripping the steering wheel tightly and would have missed it if his peripheral vision hadn’t been so acute. Daddy Bucks Home Fixins’. Thank God! A meal and directions.

He hit the brakes, and turned into the gravel parking lot, raising a cloud of red dust behind him. Definitely not one of your fine diners Bill thought as he turned off the ignition. Apart from an ancient and worn out red pick up truck and a tacky old Oldsmobile, the parking lot was bare. As he got out of his car, he raised his eyes to the sign of the diner and noticed that some local yokel must have at one time used it for target practice. Still, it beat driving around in circles at night on this godforsaken road, and despite his misgivings, he pulled on the door and walked in.

His senses were assaulted as he walked into the dank darkness that was this diner. The air was thick with smells of things, too long left unattended. Hank Williams moaned out from the jukebox about how lonely he was. The tables and chairs were dusty and dirty and looked as though they had not been used in years. But the shiny red vinyl counter seats had been arse rubbed to a high gloss. Fly corpses hung suspended on a long brown sticky strip hanging behind the big man.

“ Howdy stranger “

He was a mountain of man. In a stained wife beater tee shirt and camouflage pants. His grin showed the left side of his teeth missing, no doubt from a solid kick to the mouth Bill thought as he advanced to the counter. Though his gut feelings told him to turn and run out of this place with all his might, Bill proceeded nervously and took a seat on the shiny swivel stool.

“ Howdy. What can I get ya this evening?”

Bill looked around for anything that might resemble a menu then thought better of it as he watched that fly strip slowly flowing in the stinky breeze that wafted through this putrid place.

“ I’ll just have some coffee please. “

The smile left the big man’s face as he leaned forward, resting his huge bear-like hands on the greasy counter.

“ Oh come on now! A strapping young feller such as yerself needs nourishment! Pickins have been a might slim these days with huntin’ season about to open, but I can still wrassle ya up a plate of Daddy Bucks special stew! Think we might have enough left for one last serving. What ya say city? “

Bill heard the skinny country boy at the far end of the counter snicker as Daddy Buck waited on his answer. Obviously he was the owner of the pick up. As much as he didn’t want to know anything about food in this place, to refuse now might be taken as an insult. He was in a strange place, with strange people, alone on a dark night in the middle of nowhere, and so he accepted Daddy Bucks offer.

Daddy reared like a big old bear and let out a throaty laugh. “ Enjoy the stew son, but don’t be thinkin’ yer gonna be gettin’ my recipe! “

Again there was that snicker, more like a cackle from down the counter. Bill squirmed and squeaked on the hot vinyl seat.

Daddy Buck whirred into action. He pulled a dirty plate from the sink and ran it under hot water for a minute and dried it with a decrepit tea towel. Bill’s stomach was churning watching the sight unfolding before him, wondering how on earth he was going to get any of Daddy Bucks food down his throat.

“ Won’t be but a minute city. “

Bill looked down at the man at the end of the counter who was nursing a beer and leering at him in a lascivious way that sent shivers up Bill’s back.

“ Daddy Buck, may I ask? How far is it to Cedarville? “

Daddy Buck turned towards Bill and in a nonchalant tone told him it was about two miles down the road. Bill felt the bile rise in his throat. Two miles? And he had put himself through all this torture for two lousy miles? Bill rose from the vinyl seat.

“ Hey, where ya goin’ city? “

“ I’m sorry Daddy Buck, but I have an urgent appointment in Cedarville that can’t wait. I will gladly pay you for the dinner, but I really can’t stay. “

As Bill started towards the door, he felt a tap on his shoulder. He swung around into the face of the country boy from the end of the counter. His look was demonic and filled with rage.

“ Ya ain’t very polite there city! Daddy Buck here went to a lot of trouble for ya, and you just walk away? That may be the way they do things in the city, but out here, well, we are simple folk who believe in God, country and damned good manners! “

Bill felt a sense of dread and looked towards Daddy Buck who was ripping off his apron like he was getting ready to rumble. Bill raised his hands to his chest, palms outwards and said “ Hey, I’m not looking for any trouble here. I just have to get to an appointment is all ! “

The country boy advanced with a demeanor leaving no doubt of his intentions. Bill turned back towards the counter.

“ Ok, on second thought, my appointment can wait for ten minutes. “

Daddy Buck started whistling through his half a mouth of teeth as he put his apron back on.

“ Smart move city “ said the country boy as he headed back to his seat.

As Bill turned back, Daddy Buck slid the plate of hot stew before him.

“ Enjoy city, but remember what I said; ya can’t have my recipe! “

Daddy Buck was beaming from ear to ear, waiting for Bill to dig in. Bill slipped in a fork, and slowly raised it to his mouth. It was the most horrible thing he had ever tasted. The meat tasted funny, and was fatty. Pale and creamy, it sort of slid down his throat, leaving a greasy trail to his stomach. Bill nibbled at the sparse serving of vegetables in the plate, but they had absorbed the flavour of that ghastly meat, whatever it was. He started to feel dizzy, weak, nauseous. As he let his fork drop, he tried to rise to his feet but felt his knees buckle as the world spun out of control and as the darkness set in, he heard that snicker, resounding over and over in his mind and all went black.

Voices were making their way through the blackness as Bill gradually regained some awareness. Distant, but growing louder as he struggled to open his eyes. The searing pain in his mouth hit him like a bolt of lightning and he tried to scream, but nothing but guttural grunts were all he could manage. He suddenly realized he couldn’t feel his teeth; nor the roof of his mouth! My God! My tongue was gone!

His eyes widened against the realization of his situation. Tied down securely in what looked to be a butcher shop! Drawing on all his forces to break the ties that bound him to the table but they would not budge! He strained to hear what was being said in the next room.

“ Morning Sheriff. How we doing this fine morning? “

Morning? How long had Bill been unconscious? And what had happened to him?

“ Mornin’ Daddy Buck. Mornin’ JJ. Sorry Daddy, but I have a few questions for ya. Some city fellow never showed up at his hotel last night in Cedarville and his bosses are concerned that he had an accident. Y’all aint seen nothing have ya? “

Bill tried hard as he could to grunt with all his might, over and over again!

“ Nope Sheriff, ain’t seen a thing. How about you JJ? “

“ Nope, been here all night, and I ain’t seen hide nor hair of no city guy. “

Bill was frantic! Yelling as loud as he could as the tears and blood chocked his grunts, he coughed blood and bile; every muscle straining against the restraints.

“ What’s that sound in the back there Daddy ? “

“ Aw Sherrff, it’s just the wifes’ retard brother. I am babysittin’ him while she is in Cedarville getting her hair done. “

“ Alright then Buck, what’s for breakfast this morning? “

“ Well Sheriff, how about some fried, thinly sliced tongue, a couple of eggs, grits and coffee? I got me a new shipment of meat last night. “

Bill eyes bulged to the point of exploding from his head as he heard them all laughing in otherworldly possession.

“ And tell ya what Sheriff, bring yer lady around tonight. I am gonna prepare a fine roast leg with all the trimmins fer dinner. “

Bill felt his stomach heave as he trembled uncontrollably, and the last thing he heard before his heart exploded in his chest was that snicker…and the diner became the dined upon.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

And Now Something Completely Different

I have taken a break from Dishonour for just a short while. In the meantime I’ll be writing and posting poetry, tales and what ever else comes to mind. As well, I’ve joined The Inferno, a group of amazing literary folks. The Price was submitted to the first Challenge, Curiousity Killed The Cat. Enjoy !

The Price

I don’t know what was worse. The cold and damp night air; the biting mosquitoes; or the fact that I had been lost in these damned woods for nearly three hours! Stick to the main trail they said. Ya, right! A guy steps off the trail to relieve himself amongst all the glory of Mother Nature, and next thing you know, you seem to be going deeper in rather than coming out. I was beginning to think that nature itself was conspiring against my safe return to my campsite! It wasn’t getting easier as it grew darker, but at least with the full moon rising, I could still see enough to avoid the most obvious hazards.

The forest seemed to be transforming itself from its normal daylight wonder world into something foreign and strange. The noises, the shadows, the creaking of dead tree limbs, all heightened my instinct to listen and look harder than I had ever done before. Perhaps that was a mistake. The human imagination being what it is, I thought it might be best to just ignore most of what I see and hear and continue on my quest of getting out of this godforsaken place!

I was starting to creep myself out. This is not a good thing. I was getting tired. But, in spite of my fatigue, I was determined that I wasn’t going sit up beside some tree in damp leaves to shiver and wait for the sun to rise. No way! I continued on. Stumbling here, cursing there, and the ceaseless swatting at those carnivorous bloodsucking beasts of the woods they call mosquitoes. As I stumbled over some mammoth dead stump of a tree, the sound of running water arose from ahead. I proceeded toward it with renewed inspiration. The brush thickened as I clawed my way through; thrashing like a bear in a raspberry thicket, till at last it opened unto a clearing. My immediate thoughts were those of salvation and jubilation. I could always follow the water; right?

What lay before me was a magical place. Lush ferns languished amongst thick velveteen grasses like giant sails rising out of an emerald lake. The water of the creek danced and splashed over ancient rocks; worn smooth with time. Droplets exploding in mid air like diamonds shattering in the moonlight. The fresh smells were intoxicating and delicious. And all was bathed in the silvery light of the full summer moon hanging low in a star filled sky.

I have no idea how long I stood there, stunned, in silent wonder.

“ You must pay a price!”

I swung around to see who had just said that! A strange, small voice. I saw no one there, so I called out, “ I’m sorry. What did you say?”

I waited for a response which didn’t seem to be coming.

“ Is anyone there?”

“ You must pay me a price!”

Again that voice. It seemed to come from no where in particular, but more like being carried on the warm summer breezes.

“ Who and where are you? Come out so I can see you.” Again I waited,,,,

“ I shall. But first, you must agree to pay me a price!”

I have never been the most patient of men, and this little game with my unknown protagonist was starting to unnerve me.

“ Fine! Name a price, and come out where I may see you!”

I had no intention of being blackmailed by anyone for information on how to get out of this wood, but my curiosity had gotten the better of me.

“ Then you agree to pay me a price?”

I thought to myself, I just might throttle this person when they show themselves, and so I answered.

“ Yes, yes. Whatever. Now, show yourself!”

A loud laugh filled the air. An evil laugh filled with wild abandon. I watched as a small shadow approached slowly until at last he emerged from the dark undergrowth and into the full light. I stumbled back, my legs growing cold and numb as I looked into the face of the voice that had taunted me. His eyes were tiny slits. His nose was long and pointed decidedly upwards. His sneer contorted his troll like face, and sparse whiskers covered his pointy chin. All of three feet high, his legs bowed like a horseshoe.

He wrung his hands and giggled and jiggled as he stared down at me on the ground; frozen in fear. His face grew serious as he licked his greasy lips and proceeded to address me.

“ All you see, belongs to me.
From that rock way down there, all the way to that tree.
You have entered my home, unasked I might add,
and now a price you shall pay, for behaviour so bad.”

My heart was beating wildly in my chest as I struggled to suck in air. My mind was afire with fear and dread. A price, yes, but what? I had nothing of true value on me. And what was with this rhyming thing of his?

“ You mentioned a price, but still you haven’t said what that price you want is. What did you have in mind?”

His eyes widened, and that sneer returned to his gnarled face. He hopped from foot to foot, in a distorted little dance.

“ Your desire to leave my happy abode, this wondrous place I own,
comes with a price, which you must pay, to this bargain, you are bound.
A price you say? A price it is, and when you have failed,
I will have your soul, mine to keep, chained, tethered and bailed.
I shall give you a verse, slowly at first, one that you must complete.
And when you fail, to complete the tale, you’re soul is mine to keep!”

This was madness! My mind was reeling! I couldn’t think, let alone complete one of his nonsensical rhymes.

“ If I do this, what’s to stop you from saying that I wasn’t right? For all I know, you could be making this all up as you go along! How can I win? You are trying to trick me!”

He went motionless and glared at me. The blood drained from my face as I saw the full horror of my last remark reflected in his evil stare.

“ Trick you? Trick you, you say? We have made a deal!
A bargains’ a bargain, a pact is a pact, the agreement signed and sealed!”

His demeanour left no doubt as to his seriousness; and so, in quiet resolution, I agreed. He drew close to me as though he would whisper. His breath was foul and repugnant and I grimaced as he slowly began…

“Every man is free to choose,
To gamble, win or lose,
To think with his heart,
To hurt with his words,
The choices are his to use.
To spurn the love,
And embrace the hate that steadily grows inside,
To build the walls,
Never heeding the calls,
Till all the beauty has died.
I have such beauty,
I have no walls for as far as the eye can see,
Finish my rhyme,
In verse so sublime,
And …”

He drew back from me, allowing me reprieve from the foul stench that exuded from his body and breath. I couldn’t think. The verses kept going around and around in my head, in endless repetition. My only thoughts were that of escape. I had no idea what this tiny troll of a man would want! That’s when I finally understood. I slowly repeated the verse in my mind, trying to grasp its meaning. If I finished his rhyme, what would be my reward? Freedom! Yes! That was it!

“ Before I give you my answer, may I ask you something?”

He stared at me with a quizzical look upon his wizened features, suddenly grown soft.

“ I think you may have already answered your own question, but yes.”

I don’t know if it was the moon playing tricks on the old man, but he seemed to be transforming before my eyes. Wisdom shone thru his misshapen features as he awaited my question.

“ This was all for my benefit, wasn’t it?”

He cocked one eye and leaned back against a stone.

“ Finish the rhyme!”

And in an instant, I knew.

“ And the traveller shall go free.”

He let out a loud laugh as he fell back on his rotund arse. Then he drew his knees up to his chest and looked me in the eye.

“ I followed you thru the woods. In spite of all the beauty that surrounded you, you saw nothing but the ugliness. You were so absorbed in your own self pity at being lost, you lost track of where you were lost. Being lost in the beauty of nature has immeasurable rewards. But, you refused to see that. And now, I have shown you the way and given you a choice. It is yours to use. You may stay here the night and watch the sun rise over the water, or you can carry on. Use your choice wisely.”

And with that, he rose and wandered back off from where he came. I laid back and stared up at the stars and swore; never again to lose sight of the beauty that surrounds us all.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Dishonour, Chapter 10

The machinery droned on, relentlessly filling the plant with oppressively hot, greasy air. Phillip, feeling a little worse for wear after a night of fine Scotch whiskey, could feel the sweat trickle down his back, sticking his khaki shirt to his body. His head was throbbing as he tried in vain to keep his mind on the task at hand. Enough was enough he thought as he made his way to the plant managers office to advise him that he was taking the rest of the day off. As he pulled out of the parking lot, the thought of going home and preparing lunch seemed too much trouble today. He would stop and pick up some take out food.

La Cucina was bustling, trying to keep up with the lunchtime crowd. A local eatery; what it lacked in opulence, it certainly made up for in fine Italian cuisine. Loryanne stared at Sam who was idly eyeing the lunchtime specials on the menu. She thought how handsome he looked sitting there in his impeccable suit. Her thoughts drifted back to childhood days and summer fun during school break. Sam loved to tease her with wild abandon, but she also knew how much he loved her; unconditionally. He had his Dad’s smile, but he had Mom’s pale blue eyes, his most striking feature; one that Loryanne was always secretly jealous of.

“ Hey! Are you going to order or sit there daydreaming all day? ”

Sam’s remarks brought Loryanne back to reality.

“ Well, I’m not really that hungry. Maybe I’ll just pick at whatever you’re having. ”

Sam frowned and Loryanne smiled as she knew how much Sam hated anyone touching his plate.

“ No way Jose! Order a soup or something, but you’re not getting any of mine! ”

“ You’re such a wussy Sam! ” Loryanne said as she returned her gaze to her menu.

Phillip could smell the pizza sauce and hot bread as he walked into La Cucina and made his way to the takeout counter. Idly looking up from her menu, Loryanne saw Phillip standing there in the corner. She let out a barely audible “ Oh shit ” as she quickly buried her face back into the menu.

Sam perked up in his seat, staring wide eyed at Loryanne with her face hidden behind the meal list, then turned slowly to see Phillip standing at the takeout counter.

“ A friend of yours LA? ”

Loryanne was in no mood for teasing just now.

“ Sam, just shut up and decide what you want. ”

Sam put on a playful pout.

“ Aw, but I would love to meet any friend of yours! ”

He was up and out of his seat in a flash, and making his way towards Phillip. Loryanne was quickly moving into a panic.

“ Sam, you get right back here this instant! ”

Her words came out as more of a hiss than a command. Sam, on the other hand, simply grinned over his shoulder as he continued to march towards Phillip, up till now, still ignorant of Loryanne’s presence in the restaurant.

“ Hello there! I’m Sam Banks. ”

Phillip swung around to see Sam with his hand outstretched.

“ I believe that you know my sister over there. ”

Phillip turned and stared into the enraged face of Loryanne. Shaking Sam’s hand, Phillip told him that, while yes, he had met her, they were not good friends. Sam had a disappointed look as he further inquired as to where they had met.

“ It was nothing really; just a cocktail party with some friends. ”

Sam’s look changed instantly from disappointment to bewilderment.

“ A cocktail party? Loryanne went to a cocktail party? ”

Sam’s face was now beaming with an unbridled smile.

“ It must have been at Alex McCulloch’s house. Right? I mean, Alex is the closest friend she has! ”

Phillip was growing very tired with Sam’s apparent inquisition.

“ No, it was another friends house. Now, if you will excuse me Sam, I would like to order and get home. ”

Sam persisted.

“ Tell you what, why don’t you join us for lunch? My treat! ”

Phillip was saved by the sound of the girl behind the counter asking him for his order.

“ Sorry Sam, perhaps another time? I have a killer headache and I really must get home. ”

Sam shook Phillips hand, wished him well, and made his way back to a livid looking Loryanne.

“ Sam, you have a hell of a nerve young man! How could you? Honestly, sometimes I could just smack you! ”

Sam was grinning like a guilty schoolboy as he took his seat.

“ So, a cocktail party eh? ”

Loryannes face flushed into a beet red.

“ What did he tell you? ”

Sam noticed a look of panic in Loryanne’s eyes.

“ Geez, calm down LA. He simply told me that he met you at a party at some friends’ house. What’s going on here Sis? What did you do? Is there something I should know? Did he try to get fresh with you? ”

“ Sam! Stop! No, he didn’t get fresh with me. This is none of your business! Stay out of it! Ok, I have lost my appetite. Order your lunch and I’ll just have some tea. ”

Sam fell back into his chair.

“ Ok, now I know something is terribly wrong here! I know that tone you’re using with me! You have me worried now LA. Who are these people that you’re having cocktails with? What are you hiding from me? ”

Loryanne burst into tears as she rose abruptly from her seat.

“ Sam! For Christ’s sake stop! I’m your sister! How dare you interrogate me. I asked you nicely, and I won’t tell you again! Stay the hell out of this! Eat your lunch on your own! I’m going home. And don’t call me LA again! ”

Sam sat dumbfounded and red faced as he realized that just about every patron and employee in La Cucina had just witnessed Loryanne’s outburst. Apart the soft sounds of recorded mandolin music, the restaurant was deathly quiet as Loryanne stormed out.

As Sam sat waiting for his food; one finger twirling the ice in his water glass; he came to the conclusion that he had learned three things today. One; something about that cocktail party last night pushed a button in Loryanne; BIG time. Two; this fellow Phillip was a part of it. And three; sometimes people need saving, in spite of themselves, and Loryanne had already had way too much sorrow in her young life. So, as her beloved brother, he would find out all he could about that soiree and who else was there. He was, after all, an FBI Agent.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Dishonour, Chapter 9

Loryanne opened one eye. Her bed seemed far too comfortable to crawl out of this morning. As her second eye opened, she stared at the ceiling fan humming softly as whisps of cool morning air drifted down and over her. It had been a short and dreamless night. She was always happy when she didn’t dream. There hadn’t been good dreams ever since “that” night. Haunted by visions of violence and personal violations and all the pain and anger that embellished her demonic dreams, they rose like a towering wall of tortured souls screaming for salvation. It always ended the same; with her feet stuck to the ground, unable to reach out and push back the wall that closed in and smothered her muffled cries, till she woke up shaking uncontrollably.

Loryanne swung her feet out from below the duvet and sat up abruptly. No, she would not think such thoughts just now. She raised her hands above her head and yawned and stretched. Plodding her way to the bathroom, she stopped to look out the front windows at a new day dawning. The sun was strong and hot, and promised to bring a beautiful late summers day to all. Reaching the bathroom, she pulled the string at the waist of her mens’ pyjama bottoms. They fell down around her ankles and she plopped her self down on the seat.

Sitting there, her thoughts returned to last nights meeting with Phillip and the look on his face as she explained the events of her past. Well, she thought, I guess that’s one man that won’t be calling me up for a date! She started to giggle at her silly thoughts as she reached out to an empty roll of toilette paper. Damn! She reached inside the shower and turned on water till steam started to rise and fog the large mirror over the bathroom vanity. As smells of soaps and shampoos filled the bathroom, Loryanne’s mind was whirring; planning her timetable for all she had to get done today. After a stop at the office to pick up some files for an upcoming case, she had a doctors appointment to keep. She always hated her appointments with Dr. Katz, but he was the best Internal Medicine doctor there was to be found, and he had worked miracles for her after her rape.

After that, it was lunch with her brother Sam. Sam was younger than Loryanne by 2 years and she adored him. He was smart and handsome, with a good education and with an amazing array of loyal friends who were always trying to set him up with the “perfect” girl. After high school, he went on to study Police Sciences and was accepted at the Police Academy. Upon graduation, he accepted the job as a Field Agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. His career was rock solid and his supervisors showered praise on the young Agent. The only thing that really bothered Loryanne was the annoying pet names that he gave everyone. In her case, it was LA. He always said that Loryanne was too long to say, and so even as a child, he would call her LA. Her constant admonishing and berating him; insisting that LA was in fact Los Angeles would not daunt him. He would only smile at her and say “ ya, well, whatever”. He was hopeless.

Loryanne climbed out of the shower and wrapped herself in a fluffy white bath towel. Wiping her hand across the steam covered mirror, she looked deep into her face and let one finger trace down the ugly scar. Why had God been so cruel? She had worked hard in school and had achieved success at a young age. She was surrounded by friends who loved her and encouraged her when she had proclaimed that she wanted to donate six months after graduation to working for Houses For Habitat. Her suitors were plentiful and she looked forward to finding the right man and raising a family. She sang in the church choir and always gleefully volunteered to help out at the Bazaars. But all that changed in the wink of an eye.

She dropped the towel to the floor and gazed at her nakedness. Who would have her now? She would never be a mother, a lover, a wife. She braced her hands on the vanity, lowered her head, and wept, almost whimpering like scared child. No arms would ever hold her in a loving embrace and kiss away the pain and tears. These cold silent walls would be her only reprieve from a cruel world. And so, Loryanne Banks was alone.

She raised her head in defiance and stared at the mirror; a flash of anger in her dark eyes. Loryanne took a deep breath, pulled the towel back around her naked body and strode out of the bathroom. A new day was here, and she was determined to make it the best day ever; a day with room for no remorse and silly self pity. No, she was stronger than that. Much stronger! Wasn’t she?

Looking for just the right thing to wear, Loryanne kept seeing Phillips startled face in her mind. Somehow, she just could not shake it. It was quite silly really; he hated her, and she him! And still, pangs of guilt at her brutal barrage on him last night haunted her. As she pulled out the gray pinstriped business suit, she held it up high to admire it and said out loud, “ I’m sure that Phillip would love me in this!” Lowering the suit, she let out an audible gasp, “ Phillip? I meant Sam! “

She flopped down on the bed and sighed as she watched the ceiling fan slowing turning in circles.

“ I don’t know what I mean anymore.”

Senator Alex McCulloch was a handsome man. His hair was cropped short, slightly greying at the temples and pulled forward in a rough finger comb. Having spent countless days in shopping mall parking lots and college campus lectures where he extolled the need for America to return to the values that made this nation great, his skin was tanned and firm from the hot Maryland sun. Although 43 years old, he looked more like a young Hollywood star.

His beliefs were strong and his bank account was short. And America loved him! His office was more like a shrine to past sports heroes and memorabilia than it was a Senators office. Dressed casually in navy blue slacks and buttoned down white shirt; less the tie; McCulloch was the epitome of laid back. His brilliance was unquestionable and his Presidential platform flawless. With impeccable credentials and an unblemished past, Alexander McCulloch was poised to usher in a new era for American history.

Unfortunately, the major industrialists were squeamish about taking on Senator Davis Flatt and his Texas cohorts. Lobbyists were hard on the trail declaring that support for McCulloch would be viewed by the future administration as in fact being an attack on the platform of the future President of the United States. That, of course, being Davis Flatt. And while never being stated, the insinuations of sanctions and withdrawal of financial support for those industries that transgressed would be serious considerations.

The American people loved McCulloch, but the American people did not award loans and bailouts. This was at best a crap shoot. The industrialists had the future of their empires to consider, and their shareholders were pushing relentlessly to get into bed with McCulloch. The unions were wavering on their support, and a large number of contract negotiations were upcoming. Time was running out, and they would have to declare their support soon. The McCulloch camp was well aware of Flatt’s influence and money. But they were also banking on the fact that industry would have to declare an allegiance quickly; bringing with it greatly needed funds.

Alex looked out his window and watched as a pigeon alighted on his window sill.

“ Oh to be as free as a bird with nary a thought to bother. You are luckier than me dear friend. A few grains of seed and a warm sill on which to perch are all that you need.”

Alex turned and stared hard at the phone.

“ Call Stan, for Christs sake, call!”

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Dishonour, Chapter 8

“ I’m Melinda’s brother. My friends call me Dan.”

As Phillip grasped the young mans outstretched hand, he noticed the family resemblance. The same soft brown eyes and dark hair. A friendly, open smile.

“ Regardless of Loryanne’s remarks Mr. Preston, the people here tonight are all victims; in much the same way you were a victim. I would like you to regard our little gathering here as a support group for victims.”

Phillip realized the irony in Dan’s remark and suppressed the urge to smile at the idea of a support group for felons.

“ I really don’t want to hear any more horror stories of who did what to whom Dan. That was not my reason for coming here tonight.”

A look of perplexity clouded Dan’s features.

“ May I ask Mr. Preston, exactly what were your reasons for accepting my sisters’ invitation to join us tonight?”

Phillip looked out around the room to the others, oblivious to the conversation going on between the two men. They milled about, sipping their wine, and partaking in lively party chat, only Loryanne looked on; a bemused smirk on her face. Phillip felt an icy chill run up his spine.

“ Mr. Preston?”

Phillip turned to the young man.

“ Ok, before we continue Dan, please stop calling me Mr. Preston. Call me Phillip. As for the reason I accepted your sisters invitation, well, I didn’t see that I really had any choice! I’m sure Melinda has all the best intentions. She seems a very nice woman. But quite frankly Dan, I was convinced that by this time I would have been arrested and charged. Make no mistake, I enjoy my freedom as much as the next guy but I was perfectly willing to accept the consequences of my actions; and still am. I make no excuses, and ask for no special consideration. I would be a liar to say that I have no regrets. But I am more than willing to live with those regrets. Unlike that Loryanne woman in there!”

Dan grabbed Phillips shoulder and looked deep into his eyes.

“ I understand perfectly Phillip, and, it’s alright. I’ll also make sure that you don’t hear anymore horror stories tonight. But please, just meet the people here. I’m sure you will see that they are all perfectly normal people who have felt the very same things you are feeling right now. Draw on their experience and resolve. You deserve a normal life Phillip; in spite of all the terrible stuff that has happened. Try to remember that. And try to also remember that we are all here to make that happen. Here, no one will judge you. We have no secrets. This is simply a circle of friends. Someone you can call at 2 in the morning when remorse sets in. Someone who will listen, and know. And, it will happen Phillip. Trust me; trust us all. We understand.”

He saw the sincerity and compassion in the young mans eyes and words. Looking past Dan, he saw Melinda. Her face showing an air of apprehension on what would follow and he suddenly felt sorry for her. The realization of all that she had done to make him welcome. Her tremendous efforts in making this a very special evening. A sudden wave of guilt washed over him as his thoughts of a plan to kill Melinda and her son came to the forefront of his mind. And he thought of Rose and Carly. He suddenly felt more ashamed than he had ever felt in his life, and his cheeks went crimson at the disgust that welled up inside him. Had he been just a tad weaker, he would have broken down in great heaving sobs. But Loryanne was watching; that demonic smirk fixed on her face; the evil scar enhancing her sinister regard. And so, he agreed to stay.

And no one was happier at his acceptance to stay than Brad Stryker. He wheeled Phillip about the room like a long lost brother; introducing him to all those present. Melinda smiled and brought out fresh pastries and she gleefully poured exotic wines of the world. Dan was chatting with a pretty young woman who was showing far more interest in his conversation then a young woman should. The talk was light and lovely and the guests were engaging, IF, you avoided Loryanne! And Phillip did.

Loryanne stood off in a corner, drinking her wine and eating with wild abandon; not really paying much attention to any conversation that might come her way. She was cold and inconsiderate and the conversation seemed to move away from her. And, she seemed to delight in that. Aloof and uncaring, she remained stoic right up until she announced her thanks for the food and wine, but she must be gone.

Upon reaching the front door, she pulled hard on the handle and turning, gave one last smile to Phillip.

“ Welcome to our little country club Phillip!”

And with that, Loryanne Banks was gone. The room seemed lighter without her presence. As the wine flowed, the conversation became more relaxed and Brad and Phillip agreed that Loryanne was a total bitch! They laughed their way through the evening as the guests babbled on to Phillip and greeted him warmly.

Brad’s cell phone rang.

“ Excuse me old buddy, but I really have to take this.”

Brad excused himself as he made his way out the back door. Flipping the cell open, he recognized the number.

“ Hello?”

“ Hello Brad, Bill Jacobs here. How’s our new guy doing?”

Brad looked into the trees and watched a squirrel run across the telephone line.

“ I think we can use him Bill.”

“ I’ll need more assurance than that Brad. My people are anxious to get this plan of ours underway. We need someone who is strong and willing to follow orders!”

Brad let the words sink in. Follow orders?

“ Bill, I understand you’re anxious. But let’s not forget; this is his first time meeting the group. He is still very angry and mistrustful. And besides, his meeting with Loryanne didn’t appear to be all that helpful.”

Bill Jacobs swallowed hard at the mention of Loryanne.

“ Are you telling me that you let that bitch talk to him? Why didn’t you stop her? I knew it was a mistake bringing her into this group! She is nothing but a loose cannon! It might just be time for her to quietly disappear from the group.”

Brad had no liking for the way this conversation was going.

“ Bill, I don’t know what you’re inferring, but I don’t want any part of it! That wasn’t our deal!”

Bill leaned slowly back in his chair.

“ Deal? You want out of our deal Brad? It would be a shame to have your lovely wife and kids visit you in a penitentiary on weekends for the next twenty fives years; wouldn’t it Brad? How long do you think she would wait for you? And all those lovely victims in the precious group, how many do you think would survive a life sentence? Do you want to be the one that sends them all away for life Brad? Don’t you dare talk to me about deals! It’s because of me and all my connections that you still have a home to go home to. Now this can go either one of two ways. You can shut the hell up and listen, and do as I say; or you can walk away from my deal. In which case, well, we have been through that! You better tell me right goddamned now Brad; what will it be?”

Brad’s mind was reeling with the vicious words and possible scenario that Bill Jacobs had just put forth. His mind raced to find a response; any response that would ease Bill Jacobs rage.

“ No Bill, I’m not looking to get out of my deal with you or anyone! It’s just, well, I would prefer not to be involved with anything that would upset the group and ruin your chances of finding the perfect candidate for whatever the job you have in mind. The sudden disappearance of Loryanne would invite too many unanswered questions. I don’t want to jeopardize the trust I have built up within the group. That’s all! And as I said, Phillip simply isn’t ready yet. Just give me some time. Please?”

Bill Jacobs slowly closed the file laid out before him.

“ Very well Brad. I will do nothing for now. I am a patient man, and I will be patient a while longer. But know this; my patience has its limits. If my time runs out, then so does yours and all the rest in the group! Remember that! Get back to me as soon as you can!”

The line went dead. Brad slowly closed the cell phone and took a deep breath of damp evening air. He had to compose himself before returning to the party; returning to Phillip; returning to the deal.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dishonour, Chapter 7

The office smelled of wood and old leather. Various pictures of heads of state; warm false smiles over brief hand shakes at photo ops; bedecked an antique dresser with worn brass pull handles. The air reeked of old money and born into affluence. One wall was lined with diplomas and various accolades from grateful charities. A large American flag moved softly with the gentle flow of air from the air conditioning. Beyond the oversized window, the Lincoln Memorial rose high into the blue skies over Washington.

Senator Davis Flatt was a man who was used to getting what he wanted. Born into wealth, he attended all the prestigious schools and acquired the contacts from the wealthy armament manufacturers that would make his run for the Presidency an obtainable goal. There was just one fly in the ointment. The Senators contacts were anxious for it to be removed. Failing that, they had off handily mentioned that they may have to shift their encouragement to another camp.

The consensus amongst the American people was leaning towards a winding down of military involvement and the shoring up of established industries within the American economy. There was no money to be made in peace and Senator Davis Flatt was all about the money. Though well concealed, his family interests lay deep within the Texas testing grounds, and his loyalties were to the men that made the delivery systems by which those tests were made possible.

Davis leaned in close to the man sitting opposite him, lap filled with files and folders, and breathed the words in a conspiratorial hush.

“ I hired you because they told me you were the best. But now I am getting the feeling that I was sold a bill of goods! Are you sure we are both on the same page here? Because if we aren’t I will then have to make other provisions!”

Bill Jacobs looked at the face of the Senator and saw the anger flashing in his eyes, and felt his blood run cold.

“We have done what we could to find the perfect person. We are still looking, but I think we may have found him.”

Davis fell back into the overstuffed leather seat.

“ May have? I don’t want answers of that sort Bill. We both know that Senator McCulloch is gaining power amongst the masses with his goddamned rhetoric about what a wonderful country this could be without America putting its ass out there in developing countries. He is coming off like John fucking Kennedy! And the people are eating it up. No Bill, you had better come up with something better then may have. America is on the verge of losing her interests abroad, and I am on the verge of losing MY interests here in America! And make no mistake about it, if that goddamned peacenik McCulloch does somehow manage to beat my sorry ass into the White House, you will not be around to see it! Am I clear on that Bill?”

The Senator had said what he wanted to say, and left no room for negotiation.

“ Our time is running out fast. The more people we bring into this scheme, the more chances we have being found out. And Bill, understand this; I have no intention of eating a bullet on this. This is your project and you will succeed or be forever branded a traitor to your country. Do not ever say may have to me again! Now, do you have someone in mind?”

Bill opened the file on his lap and looked at the information it contained. As he drew his eyes back into the face of the Senator sitting across from him, he sensed the murderous rage in the Armani suit.

“ Yes, I believe we have our man. Phillip Preston. He is new to the group, and we may need some time to confirm that he is suited to perform his task, but I strongly believe that he is the right man for the job.”

The Senator rose from his chair and made his way back to his desk. Sitting behind it and crossing his hands in an angelic fashion, a smile crossed his face.

“ Get him on board fast Bill for both our sakes. Time and money is running out.”

Phillip mumbled an inaudible apology and made his way past the officer at the door and into the cool evening air. The young officer turned and watched him trudge off to his waiting car then returned his look to his sister Melinda.

” What’s going on here Melinda?”

Melinda rubbed her nose with the back of her hand and replied; “ He just finished talking with Loryanne.”

The young officer rolled his eyes.

“ Ok, that would do it. Give me a sec sis. Let me see what I can do?”

With that, the young officer turned and yelled to Phillip.

“ One moment please Mr. Preston! May I have a word?”

Phillip was in no mood for further conversation and politely waved at the officer as he continued to unlock his car door.

“ Mr. Preston, it’s important that I talk to you for a moment. I really must insist that you come back into the house.”

His demeanor left no doubt to the seriousness of his remarks.

Phillip stared at the young officer for a few seconds and returned his keys to his pocket as he made his way back to Melinda’s front door and the awaiting policeman. At this point, Phillip was ready to turn himself in and be done with it. No good would come of this evening. He knew that. He also knew that he was returning to a house full of people who had committed a capitol offense. His only thoughts now were to find that bottle of Scotch and consume it with wild abandon. Perhaps this would all disappear in an alcoholic haze.

“ You know Phillip, Loryanne isn’t a shining example of the people who are here tonight. She is a very angry young woman. Mind you, she has every right to be, but still, I wish you had met the others here tonight. And yes Phillip, I know what Loryanne told you. However, not everyone here tonight has killed someone. My sister Melinda has never harmed a fly!”

Phillip stared incredulously at the young man at the door.

“ Then why is she here hosting this get together?”

The young officers face paled as he searched for the words; so difficult to find.

“ She is here because of me Phillip.”

Monday, March 30, 2009

Dishonour, Chapter 6

She was a tall woman. Her boyishly cropped hair complimented her well defined features. Phillip immediately noticed the ugly scar that ran from her jaw bone down the side of her neck. Though very good looking, that ugly scar immediately drew attention away from her natural beauty. Dressed in a loose fitting sweater and a pair of drab, ill-fitted slacks, she made no attempt to garner a smile or appear in any way happy to be here. Her icy demeanor left no doubt in Phillips mind that she was here to tell him something, and be done with it. This encounter was cold and awkward.

“ I am Loryanne Banks.”

She looked straight at Phillip with eyes so dark and cold, it was hard to tell what colour they were. Phillip feigned a smile and stretched out his hand in a gesture of friendship.

She simply looked at his hand and continued.

“ I think you know perfectly well why we are all here tonight. I, personally, would rather be somewhere else but I made a deal and will keep my end of the bargain in the same way you will. While everyone inside is passing around pastries and sipping wine, trying to hide the fact that they all have a dark and sinister secret, with strict orders to try to make you feel comfortable and a part of our little clandestine group, I am stuck outside here with a guy who feels so bad at having killed the son of a bitch that destroyed his life.”

Phillip fell back a step at the tirade that spewed into his face from this cold and vicious person who had just blurted out his crime.

“ Oh don’t look so shocked Phillip. We all know what you did and we all agree with your final solution. So please spare me the look of anguish and surprise. Everyone back in there has murdered someone! Pretty little housewives and soccer coach Dads, they are all guilty of the same crime. Some simply choose to try to hide it more than others.”

Phillip couldn’t breathe, let alone respond to Loryanne’s matter of fact attitude towards the crime of murder. He simply stared back into her face seeking some sort of reprieve from her relentless onslaught of verbal destruction and abuse.

“ Nothing to say for yourself Phillip? Fine, then I will tell you my story, get back inside, finish my wine and say goodnight to all you losers!”

The initial shock wearing off quickly, a seething anger started to rise in Phillips gut. In spite of her beauty, what faced him in this place of languid calm and serenity was a very ugly person. He clenched his teeth as he thought to tell this Loryanne person to go to hell and get out of his face. He moved in closer to her, a look of anger contorting his features.

” Why the hell don’t you go tell your story to someone else lady? I don’t need yours or anyone’s bullshit!”

Loryanne smiled for the first time since they had met.

“ Well well. A tad angry are we big guy? Did you honestly believe we came here tonight to sip wine and eat pastries and honour you with the Man Of The year Award? I’m telling you my story because I made a promise to do so. Listen if you want or piss off if you don’t! One way or another, I’m here; I will say what I have to say; and then you will be done with me, and I with you. Fair enough?”

Phillip took a long sip from his glass of Scotch and drew hard on his cigarette, the acrid blue smoke mingling with his response.

“ If you must, then just say it and be the hell gone!”

“ Ok Phillip, I will make this as brief as possible. I was beaten, raped, had my throat cut and was left for dead in a pile of garbage!”

Phillips eyes widened.

“ Oh, spare me that look Phillip. I am a lawyer by trade and had just left the office after an evening preparing for a case that was to be heard the following day. As I stepped out of the elevator in the garage, I had a bad feeling; like eyes watching me; but I ignored the silliness and continued towards my car. Rounding the corner, I was struck in the back of the head by someone. Although not unconscious, I fell forward hard into the pavement. Lying there, I could feel the warmth of my own blood running down my face and puddling on the pavement and was convinced I was going to die. That’s when I was struck again, this time on the back of my shoulder. The pain was searing, but I couldn’t scream. I could feel my clothes being torn from by body as he punched and kicked me over and over again. I tried to fight back, but had no strength. He pulled apart my legs and shoved whatever he had hit me with viciously into me. He laughed and talked all the while he was doing this, telling me how much I must love this. The pain was too great and I passed out. I awoke two days later in the hospital.

Well Phillip, as I sat there with the news the Doctor gave me about my condition, I realized that my life and dreams were over. He had cut my throat but missed the jugular. I don’t know if that was a blessing or a curse because I now have to live with the consequences of that night for the rest of my life. I will never have a child. There was nothing left undamaged. They had to sew up my anus. I have a steel plate in my head as well as a rod and screws in my shoulder. The biggest joke was that the Police had a good idea of who this rapist and murderer was but because they had no other living victims to testify against him and no semen to match DNA, they were waiting for the chance to get him.

And so Phillip, without getting into too many details about whom or how, I was contacted and given certain information. And the same thoughts that were in your mind last night, were also in mine. I killed him. Not just killed him; I mutilated him and am not sorry one bit for having done so. As you have probably already guessed Phillip, our crimes are hidden by the very same people that are sworn to protect. We are all protected. We are simply doing a job that the police want done. And don’t you ever forget it! And one last thing Phillip? This scar that you seem to be so taken with? Well, I could have had plastic surgery to remove it, but I want to keep it. It reminds me every day of the ugliness and pain that fills our lives. That is my story. Someone will be contacting you soon. And that’s all I have to say!”

Phillip stood in stunned silence as Loryanne turned and went back inside, letting the screen door behind her slam hard. Moments passed as Phillip half mindedly stared at the screen door, trying to digest the angry words of Loryanne. He suddenly felt sick and tired. Opening the screen door, he quickly walked through the kitchen and into the foyer. Loryanne looked at him with a knowing smirk as he made his way to the front door.

“ Phillip, is something wrong?”

Melinda had a look of concern on her face as she gently touched his forearm. The touch startled Phillip and he recoiled as though having been touched by a leper.

“ This is all so wrong Melinda. I should have never come here tonight. Who are you people? Why are you doing this to me?”

Melinda withdrew her hand from Phillips arm and took a step back. As her eyes welled up with tears, she gave one last pleading look to Phillip.

“ Please Phillip, we want to help you. Please stay.”

Phillip would not be swayed by Melinda’s tears tonight. As he turned and threw open the front door, he again returned his gaze to a saddened Melinda with begging eyes. Then, without looking forward he rushed out stumbling into an impeccably dressed young police officer.

“ Good evening sir. You must be Phillip. My sister Melinda has told me about you!”

Monday, February 16, 2009

Dishonour, Chapter 5

“ We all have our stories Phillip. Some are sadder than others. But rest assured that everyone here tonight has their own story to tell. Did you want to hear mine?”

He looked at the big man and could tell by his hard swallowing between sentences that it might be a painful one to tell. Still, his curiosity aroused, he asked Brad to continue.

“ I was always a big boy growing up. School was hard for me. My size invited challenges from the other boys wanting to prove how tough they were. Well, fighting became second nature to me and led to more than the occasional trip to the principals’ office. And though the vast majority of fights were not of my making, they deemed me to be a trouble maker. A problem student.

As my hatred for school progressed, my grades sank. They assigned me a mentor to help with my schoolwork and turn my attitude around. All of eleven years old and branded a nuisance. My mentor seemed nice enough at first. We worked hard at the books, and then he would reward me with a trip to the store for a chocolate bar and a coke. We would talk for hours. Me telling him my darkest secrets, my fears, and my desires. He was the perfect listener.

Up till then, I had no idea what a predator was, but, I soon found out Phillip. You see, as my trust in him grew, his friendly gestures turned to touches. Small at first, but always growing.”

Phillip could feel the blood in his temples pulsing, trying to take in what Brad was telling him. Brad’s complexion had also changed along with his demeanor. In his voice, the further the story progressed, the more pronounced the seething rage inside the big man surfaced.

“ Well Phillip, you have probably guessed by now. I was sexually abused by this man. I was confused and angry. And now, instead of simply defending myself, I would seek out confrontation anywhere I could find it. That’s how I dealt with it. Admitting my abuse was out of the question. For an eleven year old boy, admitting that another guy had touched you that way, well, the other kids would call me queer and stuff. And so I kept it to myself and raged against anyone and anything. They finally removed me from that school and placed me in another. And I was placed in a special class, with other special kids. It was horrible.

This whole thing carried on with me my whole life. It’s an awful lot of baggage for a kid, but I survived, and never forgot. It never left me. School was terrible for me. I could not make friends. Hell, I didn’t want to make friends. I didn’t want to trust anyone ever again. As the years went by, and my grades kept slipping, I discovered alcohol and dope. And by the age of sixteen I would consume anything with wild abandon. My parents were beside themselves and the family urged therapy for me. I, of course, didn’t want to know anything about it. All I cared about was beer and dope and anything that interfered with my getting high pissed me off. They suggested a trade. My Dad suggested the army. My choice though was to deal dope and get an apartment. And I did. I just kept sinking deeper and deeper into the abyss of despair and depravity. I met a girl. Phillip, I’ll tell you, I fell head over heels in love at first sight. I stopped dope and returned to trade school. Love can do that for you.”

For the first time since Brad had started to tell his story, Phillip saw a small smile light up his face. And for a second, Brad was lost in some delicious memory of those days of innocence. And then, as quickly as the smile had appeared, it drained from the big mans face.

“ We talked about everything in those days. Then, one night, I told her about my abuse. We cried together and she held me close like a baby; rocking me, saying over and over again it would be all right. We found a therapist and I started therapy with gusto. I had to drop all this baggage that had dragged me down all these years. And through it all, I finally learned to love myself again and believe that it was not my fault. I had been the victim of a criminal act. I learned to be happy and at peace with myself again. And I married that girl! We now have three kids.”

Phillips head was swimming with unasked questions and thoughts of why the hell is this guy telling me all of this? He reached into his shirt pocket and drew another cigarette. As he went to take a sip from his scotch, he realized that his glass was empty and after all that he had just heard, the numbing effects from just one glass simply wouldn’t do.

“ Brad, may I fetch you another Scotch?”

Brad gave broad grin and said, “ Just a sec Phillip.”

He opened the screen door, and asked Melinda, “You think we could get that bottle of scotch out here?”

His request was filled within a minute.

“ Here you go boys. Sorry, I have some stuff in the oven. If you need anything else, just let me know.”

Brad gave Melinda a quick peck on the cheek and thanked her with a grin and poured both of them a hefty dram of the heady elixir. Brad looked at Phillip as he gulped the Scotch.

“ Better now?”

Phillip simply nodded yes as he puffed on his cigarette.

“ Good. Now where was I? Oh yes. Well, it seemed my life was going well. I was happy; gainfully employed; the father of three kids with soccer and hockey and nights at the table helping with schoolwork. I had a beautiful wife and a lovely home. One evening I came home and was casually leafing through the newspaper when I came upon a story on the third page. It was about a young man that had committed suicide the day before. A child really, only sixteen years old. I continued reading the story. And as I read, I started to tremble, uncontrollably. My wife walked into the living room and saw me. She rushed over to ask what was wrong. I’ll tell you Phillip, I couldn’t talk! I simply held up the paper to her as my tears splashed on the pages. I couldn’t control it. It was the most horrible moment of my life! As my wife read the story, she saw the name. This young man had had a mentor!”

Phillip watched as the big mans body wracked with a tremour and a tear rolled down his cheek. Brad turned away from Phillip and quickly wiped the tear away and sniffed hard.

“ The thing is Phillip, the cops were already onto this guy and building a case against him. They had hoped that this kid would testify and finally give them the proof to put him away for a very long time. However, because he committed suicide before he could testify, and because of the Doctor/patient confidentially law, they couldn’t get the Therapist to testify. You see Phillip, we also have friends that are absent here tonight, but also have a story to tell. And those friends are in the force. I was contacted a few days later, and asked if I wanted to testify, but if not, then other arrangements could be made. After my tears, the rage set in. That’s when I realized the great opportunity that had been presented me. Now don’t get me wrong Phillip. I was never a great believer in revenge. I was never a believer in working outside the law, apart from my dope days.”

Brad gave out a hearty laugh at the last remark. And Phillip realizing the comical intent, laughed as well. The pressure seemed to leave as Phillip sipped from his glass.

” Well truth be known Phillip, and without getting into the gory details, I am the one that killed that rotten son of a bitch! I did it and I am not sorry one little bit for having done it!”

Brad turned squarely into Phillips face with his last remark as though to gauge his reaction. Phillip could not remove his eyes from the big mans face. No words would be right. He had no idea what to do or say to such a confession.

As the wetness hung about them on this warm summers night; the beads of sweat forming on his upper lip, Phillip simply turned to look down into his swirling glass. Then the big man spoke.

“ Phillip, I don’t need to know whether you agree with what I did, I simply want you to understand why I did it. As I told you earlier, we all have our stories. Mine is just one. Please try not to judge too harshly. You’re amongst friends tonight. I have to return to the guests now so I’ll see you in a bit.”

And with that, Brad was gone back inside in the wink of an eye.

Phillip felt dizzy. Maybe it was best to call it an evening and get the hell out of there!

As he butted out his cigarette and prepared his excuse for leaving, the screen door opened.

“ Hello Phillip!”

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Dishonour, Chapter 4

“ Hello Phillip, this is Melinda. Are you feeling any better now?”

Phillip was in no mood for mind games.

“ Yes, I am ok. I’m sorry, but is there something I can do for you?” Phillip waited for her response.

She seemed to be searching for the right words.

“ I was wondering. Are you free this evening? You see, I thought you might stop by my house for a drink. I am sure you will find it easily enough.”

Phillip pulled the phone away from his ear and looked at it incredulously as though it might respond to his regard.

“ Miss Beecham; Melinda; I don’t think that would be such a good idea. As you are aware, my wife died recently, and well, I am really not ready to be entertaining any sort of relationship with anyone just at the moment.”

Melinda recoiled at the last remark.

“ Phillip. I don’t think you really understand what I was saying. I am not asking you out for a date. I am having some friends over for drinks tonight. They are anxious to meet you. And, they may have some answers to questions that have surely been on your mind. But, by all means, if you feel that you are not up to it, then perhaps we can do this another time.”

Phillip felt his face go red and he quickly responded.

“ Oh, I am sorry Melinda, I didn’t understand. Forgive me. But may I ask, who are these people?”

“ Friends. People you can trust. People who know exactly what it is you are feeling right now. I really can’t say much right now Phillip. I am sorry to be sounding secretive, but you will understand when you get here. Will you come?”

Phillip thought that all of this was getting to be a bit much. Melinda knew his name; the deed he had done; she was having a secret meeting with secret friends; she was offering up scraps of information which lead to more questions; and being downright sickly sweet and compassionate through it all. Making his decision on where and how to kill her even more complicated. Getting her home address might prove rather useful though, and so he agreed to meet.

After Melinda gave him the address and time, she paused just long enough for Phillip to ask her what was wrong.

“ Well, may I ask Phillip? Would you please shave and dress accordingly? These are my closest and dearest friends, and well...”

Phillip assured her he would do his best to make himself presentable, and hung up.

The summer sun was sinking quickly into the western horizon; casting long shadows over the sprawling front lawn as Phillip put the car in park. The repressive heat of the day gave way to warm evening breezes that caught the scents of the flowers growing in profusion and carried them in waves of gentle smells. It was obvious that Melinda took great care of her home and garden.

A gnarled crab apple tree, heavily laden with summers’ bounty was off in a corner. The manicured lawn, lush and thick, swept gracefully up to the front porch. Its railings were snow white and set against the forest green color of her home. Atop the railings, planters, overflowing with rich red Begonias were placed every two feet. On either side of the large wooden front door were brass pots. Shoots of wild grasses and tiny flowers in purples and gold swayed in the gentle winds.

As Phillip climbed the front steps, he heard the sounds of soft music and laughter coming from inside the house. The clinking of glasses and the smell of warm pastry seemed to be hanging in the air. He grabbed out to the big knocker in the form of a lions head and was about to knock when the door suddenly swung open.

“ Phillip! I am so glad that you could make it! Please, come in.”

Melinda looked lovely. Her dark hair framing a pair of soft brown, and sparkling eyes. Her tanned complexion bore witness to the work she had done in making her front lawn summer perfection. She gently took Phillips hand, in a soft handshake, and without letting go, pulled him into the foyer. A large mirror to the right was far too harsh a reality that Phillip gazed upon in brief disgust; the damage of these past days had left their toll on his features.

The conversation; so bright and lively; came to an abrupt halt, as all heads turned towards the front door.

“ Everyone, I want you to meet Phillip Preston.”

Smiles beaming, and glasses raised, they seemed to all say in unity; welcome Phillip. He felt awkward. He felt like turning and running out the door. Melinda, sensed this awkward moment, and offered him a drink.

“ What can I get you Phillip? I have some terrific wines. But I also have a bottle of really great single malt Scotch whiskey if you prefer.”

Phillip agreed to the whiskey and Melinda, smiling and never letting go of Phillip’s hand, gently led him to the bar. The conversation continued as Phillip turned his back on the guests; all the while sensing their eyes upon him. This had been a mistake, but he was here now and couldn’t leave. He felt trapped and totally friendless. What had he been thinking when he accepted this invite from Melinda?

“ Hi Phillip. Brad Stryker.”

Phillip turned into the face of a man with a large smile and friendly demeanor. One large hand thrust forward. As Phillip took his hand, he noticed the grip. Strong and sure. Brad was a big man. Broad shoulders and barrel chested; he reminded Phillip of a wrestler from years gone by.

“ May I join you in the Scotch? Wine is ok, but whiskey is better!”

Phillip was glad someone was talking to him. So, he agreed.

Melinda smiled as she poured Brad his drink.

“ I have to check on some things in the oven. Brad, will you please take care of our guest till I return?”

Brad raised his glass of Scotch in the air and saluted Melinda as she slid from behind the bar.

“ Tell me Phillip, are you a smoker by any chance?”

Phillip was dying for a cigarette, and was relieved that he had met another person that shared this addiction.

“ Yes, I smoke.”

Brad gave a toothy grin.

“ Then I have just the place for you! Follow me.”

Phillip followed the big man as he wandered through the kitchen, stating, “Melinda was the greatest hostess and cook anywhere to be found.” Melinda, bent over near the oven, having heard this, blushed.

The two men continued out the side door in to a shaded back yard. Thick with trees and a pond, the croaking of frogs and birds singing made it a haven from the day to day stress. As much care as Melinda had put into her front garden, an even greater priority had been placed here. It was lush and damp. A cool wetness hung in the air and the myriad of fragrances from countless species of plants mingled with the smells of mosses and forest foliage.

As Brad reached down to pick up an ashtray that had been placed by the door, Phillip pulled his cigarettes from his pocket and offered one to Brad.

“ Oh, no thanks Phillip. I don’t smoke. I thought we might just talk a bit. You see, we are all here tonight for you.”

Phillip drew hard on the cigarette and said as his mind focused, ” What do you mean?”

Brad’s face grew serious as he searched for the words.

” We all have something in common Phillip. In spite of our different lifestyles and personalities, there is one common thread with everyone here tonight.”

Phillip stared at Brad, waiting for him to continue. Brad took a large sip from his Scotch, and turned his gaze back on Phillip.

“ On second thought, I haven’t smoked in years, but maybe a cigarette would be good just now. Do you mind?”

Phillip hastily fumbled for his cigarettes and Brad took one. Lighting it up, he took a long haul and gently let the smoke drift out into the evening skies.

“ I haven’t smoked since the night that I killed that son of a bitch.”

Brad drew another long puff from the cigarette as Phillip stood wide eyed at his last comment.

“ Killed? Who?”

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Dishonour, Chapter 3

After fumbling with the aspirin bottle for a few moments, Phillip used his teeth to bite off the top. Cursing, he grabbed 4 aspirins from the spilled contents on the coffee table and took a long drink from the half emptied water bottle, now at room temperature. Kicking off his shoes and removing the revolver from his belt, he laid back on the sofa. He watched intensely at the tiny flecks of dust tumbling and dancing on the small stream of sunlight peeking through the barely closed curtains.

Thoughts of this mornings encounter with Melinda Beecham flooded his mind; in spite of all his best efforts to banish them. Try as he may to block them, it seemed that all the sounds of everyday life going on just outside his window were amplified today. He heard the children squealing with laughter at some silly game. The neighbours dog barking incessantly; no doubt at a squirrel or cat that dared invade his domain. Dave across the street banging and clanking on the motor of that car he was hoping beyond all hope to restore one day. Phillip closed his eyes and let his thoughts drift off to happier days.

The years fell away as Phillip drifted deeper and deeper into his daydream and the chance encounter that would forever change his life. Phillip had gone with his buddies to the bowling alley for beers, bullshit and laughs. Just a few lanes down were a group of girls in candy pink bowling jackets with The Marymount Maulers emblazoned across their backs. He and his buddies had cajoled their way through more than a few pints when one of the guys made the unfortunate remark, quite loudly, that the Marymount Maulers looked more like the Marymount Mini Mice!

A tall blonde and a rather petite dark haired girl turned and glared at Phillip and his friends. The dark haired girl with large brimmed glasses reminiscent of Jiminy Cricket boldly strode over to Phillips table. The guys immediately stopped talking and you could hear a pin drop. Staring directly into Phillips eyes, she placed her hands on her hips and stated as loud as she could for all to hear that as they talked the talk, maybe they would like to walk the walk and accept a challenge from The Marymount Maulers to see just who the true mice here were!

The guys roared with laughter and gladly accepted the challenge. However, Phillip did not laugh. His eyes were locked on this feisty little woman standing before him. Pure defiance and courage in such a little package. She had dark blue eyes and frizzy dark hair, pulled back in a rough ponytail. Her features were as fine as a porcelain doll and the name Rose was stitched across her left shoulder. Rose he thought; how fitting in that pink jacket.

The men learned the meaning of the word “mauled” that day. Bruised male egos abounded while the rest of the patrons of the bowling alley stopped to watch these brash young men get their butts kicked. And the Marymount Maulers did not let them down. But all through the game, Phillip could not take his eyes off of the young girl named Rose. And more than once, he caught her looking at him with a sly smile.

It all started that day, so long ago. And Phillip returned, time and again to that bowling alley with and without friends to secretly see the girl he fell madly in love with. Rose Marie. Although she always really hated her name and tried to supplant it with the more familiar Marie, Rose had stuck. Her friends and family would have no other name for her. Her parents being devoted listeners to Rosemary Clooney songs during her conception, decided to name her Rose Marie. And thus, Rose it was and would be always. She was quick to laugh, and even quicker to cry. Although strong in most things, she had an overly sensitive side to her. With sparkling wit and an insatiable desire to devour any and all reading material she could come across, she was the exact opposite of Phillip. He feigned interest during dinner as she droned on about her newest found literary geniuses. The words did not matter to Phillip. As long as he could be with Rose, he would endure anything. He would move mountains for her, and would do so gladly. She was his world.

Days turned to weeks, and the weeks to months, and their love grew. Phillip found himself impatient to return home to their meager apartment after work simply to be with Rose. Their embraces at the front door, once closed, were mind shattering! They would listen to Carly Simon and drink cheap wine and dream. Money was tight, but their love was strong and they needed very little. Nights of passion were the norm and giggles and tickles at sunrise when a full day of work beckoned were not uncommon. The idyllic days of a young married couple in love marched on.

Phillips promotion to Foreman and Roses promotion to Assistant Chief Librarian brought much needed funds and a desire for Rose to start a family and find a new home. The evenings of experimental food, and more expensive wine, while Carly Simon sang about vainess, came to an abrupt halt the night Rose refused a glass of wine. Phillip asked if she was well. Rose responded with a big smile that pregnant women should not drink! They hugged and cried, and sat quietly in the candlelit living room as Phillip rubbed Roses stomach and repeated over and over how much he loved her.

The pregnancy was not an easy one, and the doctors advised Rose and Phillip that this would be their only one. Although devastated, they decided that this child would be the most cherished child the world has seen. And perhaps in a year or two, they might consider adopting a brother or sister for her or him.

Rose looked very tired and weak holding the infant daughter in her arms. A daughter. Dark hair and pink skin with delicate little features. Her name was Carly. Once again their lives were forever changed. Their home was filled with toys and songs and books as Carly grew into a young girl. She had her mothers’ love of books and her fathers no nonsense attitude towards life. Though a natural beauty, she had no awareness or considerations of such things. She loved her friends unconditionally, and they loved her in kind. Try as Phillip would, she could not see the world as a dangerous place. She loved all, and was convinced that through love and understanding, she could change the world.

Those were wondrous years, and Rose seemed to grow more beautiful with every birthday. She delighted in being Carlys best friend, and ganging up on old gruff Dad, attempting to change his cynical ways. The years flew by and Carly was now a college sophomore. Her beauty and easy going manner concerned Phillip, and more than one dinner conversation ended with Carly asking that her Mom intervene and get Dad to chill out. And Rose would always grab Phillips hand and reassure that all was well. Phillip would take solace in that and lightly kiss Rose and agree. Carly would roll her eyes in dismay at the expression of love of such an old couple at the dinner table. And though Carly attended a lot of parties, she always came home early, and sober, which made Phillip and Rose very happy that their little girl was outgoing and well adjusted but also well grounded and wise. But, all that changed one dark and rainy Friday night. It was a call that no parent should ever receive.

Phillip reached out to answer the phone knocking books and glasses to the floor and listened to the caller.

“ May I speak with Mr. or Mrs. Preston please? ” As Phillip assured him that he was, in fact, Mr. Preston, the caller continued.

” Mr. Preston, I am Dr. Goldbloom. I am the Physician in charge of emergency services here at Marymount General Hospital. May I ask you, do you have a daughter named Carly? ”

A wave of panic clutched Phillip as he wildly grabbed for the table light.

“ Yes, she is my daughter. What happened ? ”

“ Phillip, who’s on the phone? ”

Rose saw the look of panic on Phillps face and started to yell, “who’s on the phone Phillip? Where is Carly? ”

Phillip tried to listen to the doctor as Rose kept yelling over and over about Carlys whereabouts till he turned to Rose and blurted out, “ Rose, for Christs sake be quiet! ”

Rose immediately burst into tears and stumbled out of bed to get dressed.

“ Mr. Preston, I’m afraid there has been a terrible mishap. Your daughter is here in intensive care. I wish I had more positive news to give you, but at this time, it doesn’t look good. I will be available to talk to you when you arrive. I am truly sorry Mr. Preston. ”

Phillip jumped out of bed and dressed as Rose raced about the house in total panic, wailing my baby, my beautiful baby. Phillip tried his best to comfort Rose as he quickly ushered her out of the house into the car.

“ You’re going to have to calm down Rose. It seems something has happened. I’m not quite sure what, but I am sure that Carly would not want to see her Mom this way! Everything will be alright. She is in very good hands. ”

The ride to hospital was done with total oblivion to any other vehicle on the road as Phillip raced on. Rose simply cried and whimpered over and over again, Carly, my beautiful baby. Phillip and Rose ran into the emergency room where they were met by a nurse who asked them to follow her upstairs to intensive care. Rose was ashen and shaking uncontrollably as they exited the elevator. A doctor in a white smock was standing outside intensive care talking to a tired looking man wearing a rumpled suit.

“ Dr. Goldbloom? Where is my daughter? ”

Phillip realized that Rose was not beside him. He turned to see her standing beside the elevator door, unable to move, tears streaming down her face. He went back and put his arm around her shoulders.

” It’s going to be alright Rose. Come on now, be brave. ”

In the anteroom beside intensive care, Dr. Goldbloom explained that Carly had taken a massive heart attack after consuming drugs. By the time the ambulance arrived, the damage was too great. She was on life support, but declared brain dead. All hope was lost.

Rose and Phillip sat, numbed from the news, till Rose started smacking Phillip wildly.

“ You said it was going to be alright! You lied! I hate you, I hate you, I hate you! “

Dr. Goldbloom and the man in the suit gently pried Rose off of Phillip who had sat there, taking the beating, without even wincing. The last goodbye to Carly was too unbearable for Phillip and Rose. A room filled with tubes and machines and a solemn nurse who sat at her desk, darkened but for one lamp that barely illuminated the paperwork she was aimlessly rummaging through. One last gentle kiss, and Rose and Phillip were handed Carlys personal effects. Rose was never the same again.

The days that followed seemed unreal; dreamlike; a dream from which there is no waking. The funeral, the flowers, the sandwiches and coffee, the ministers kind reassurances of Carly being at peace in a better place. None of that mattered.

The card that the man in the suit had given to him that night at the hospital was from the Marymount Police, Narcotics Division. Phillip stared at it over and over again. Carly never took drugs. How did this happen? Little to no information was given to Phillips repeated requests at the police station. No information was available at all.

Rose continued her downslide into hell as doctor after doctor and medication after medication failed to restore her. She had become a shell of her former self, and no family member or friend could pull her out of it. Genuine concern for her physical health became paramount, and Phillip was losing way too much work to stay home with her out of fear that she may harm herself.

Three months to the day that Carly was buried, Phillip received a telephone call at work. Rose was dead. She had swallowed a combination of medications.

Alone, on the couch, revolver on the coffee table, Phillip wept like a child. He was alone. Rose was gone. Carly was gone. He was a man with nothing left to lose. He looked at the revolver. It would be over in a second. No one would care anyways. And he would not have to live with these memories anymore! As he reached out to the gun, the phone rang.