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?”