Tuesday, 15 September 2009

JORDAN'S TURN by Christopher Grant


This is the follow-up to Chris' FOR THE RECORD. Maybe you want to read that first if you missed it first time round.



JORDAN'S TURN


My earliest memory of my parents:

I am four years old. My parents are fighting again. I can hear Daddy yelling; Mommy is giving as good as she's getting. At least until the slap. And then I can hear him grunting as his fist meets her face again and again. I can't hear Mommy anymore. I've crawled into my bedroom closet and I'm crying. I don't like it when they fight.

Mommy was there one day, gone the next. When I finally got up the courage to ask Daddy where she was, he told me that she left us, that she was just gone. It was a pretty adult thing to say to a four year-old kid.

Growing up, I went wherever my Dad went when I could. Went to ball games. I got a look at the inside of a bar at age eight. I went hunting with him and he taught me how to skin animals after he'd shot them, taught me real good with a knife. Eventually, he taught me how to do the shooting, too.

I was eleven years old when I made my first kill; I wasn't on a hunting trip with Dad.

We had a dog, a hunting dog for when we went out pheasant hunting, named Bill. One afternoon, I took Dad's knife, the same one that he'd taught me how to skin with, took Bill and we went into the woods.

When I came back and Bill didn't, I told Dad that a bear had come out of nowhere and Bill had defended me, bought me time to get to safety. I cleaned the knife and then hid it under my bed.

Dad went down with a stroke when I was fifteen and I had to go to work to supplement his disability and, eventually, Social Security checks. He was helpless for the first time that I could remember and I had to be the man of the house. I resented it. I trooped to school and then to the six to midnight shift at the 7-11. Aunt Sarah, Dad's sister, took care of Dad while I was at work.

It all got to be too much for everyone concerned. Sarah had gotten a new job and would be working mornings. She couldn't be stuck with Dad from six until midnight without having to cut down on her sleep time. I couldn't handle both school and the job and, besides, no one would be with Dad in the morning anymore, not with Sarah working again. School wasn't paying so I dropped out. And Dad, you could tell he was upset, feeling like a burden to us.

I tried to get better hours, hours that would work out for Sarah and me, so that we could switch duties. One day, after asking for better hours for about the fortieth time, the manager at work got on my ass, talked about how I was coming in late and leaving early as it was. I punched him in the face, broke his nose and got fired. The pussy even threatened me with a lawsuit.

When I came home early that day, Aunt Sarah asked why I wasn't at work.

I lashed out. "You don't have to worry about your precious beauty sleep anymore. Get as much as you can. You fucking need it."

She started to argue with me, told me that I was a rude little shit. I grabbed her by the hair and dragged her to the door, tossed her out on the porch and slammed the door shut before she could recover. I never saw her at the house after that. I did see her around town every now and again but tried my best to avoid her.

I took care of Dad for the next two years, working out of the house, opening up the garage and working on buddies' cars. It was a modest living, at best. I barely scraped enough money together to call it a job.

Dad was making slow progress in his recovery, able to speak but not quite back to one hundred percent. He still had a hard time getting around on his own and used a walker. He could feed himself but needed help with bathing and getting dressed.

Just after I had turned seventeen, I discovered something about Mom and Dad. I was looking for a set of wrenches and dug deep into a pile of junk in one of the corners of the garage. I came away with what turned out to be a high school yearbook, instead.

I paged through the yearbook and found Dad's photo. It was the sixties and the hairstyles and fashions were outrageous. It was worth a couple chuckles.

I went looking for Mom and couldn't find the name Marian Crane anywhere in the book. I paged once, twice, three times through and wondered if I was somehow missing her listing.

The fact was she wasn't there.

There was no way that they could have been high school sweethearts like Dad and Aunt Sarah had always claimed. If Mom had even lived in town, she hadn't gone to school with Dad.

There were a few newspaper clippings tucked into the yearbook. One was my public birth notice. Dad would've been eighteen when I was born; I didn't know if that made Mom younger, older or the same age. Dad's name, Lowell, was right there in boldface. But Mom's name wasn't Marian Crane. The notice said her name was Angela Townsend. I quickly paged through the yearbook and located Angela Townsend.

Dark hair, full lips, very pretty.

Why had Dad and Aunt Sarah lied about her name?

Another newspaper clipping. A picture of a ravine just outside of town. Cop cars in the foreground, Police Line Do Not Cross across the faded tape that was strung between two trees at the top of the drop-off.

The article talked about a dark-haired female found dead at the bottom of the ravine, face-down in the stream that ran through it. She had been nude, mutilated. Perhaps animals had gotten to her if she had laid there a while, police said. They wouldn't give a name but I knew immediately that her name had been Angela Townsend.

My Dad was no longer my Dad. He was a foreign body rotting away in the E-Z chair in the living room. He was a goddamned liar and probably had killed Mom. I confronted him, presenting him with all of the stuff I'd found but made sure to keep it in my grasp.

"Did you do it?" I raged. "Did you kill her?"

He tried to say something. He tried but he couldn't find the words.

I took the stairs two at a time and pushed through the door to my room. I grabbed a backpack, stuffed it with clothes and the yearbook and what cash I had. I took the keys to his truck off my dresser. I got down on hands and knees and grabbed the knife out from under my bed. I came up slow.

How easy would it be to end his life, I wondered. I came back downstairs, knife in hand, and seriously thought about it, standing at the foot of the stairs. Then I walked to the door, listening to him yelling for me to stop, come back, that he would explain everything.

I kept walking. Out of my life and into the unknown.

*

I took the truck to the airport and then I bought a plane ticket to Seattle, which was halfway across the country. I wanted to get as far away as possible from Dad, from the lies, even though, at the same time, I wanted to know the truth.

The guy that sat next to me on the plane was fat, sweaty, balding. The tie he was wearing was unknotted, hanging loosely around his neck. The top two buttons on his shirt were undone.

He tried a couple times to strike up a conversation, talking about sports and current events. I didn't bite. I didn't want to chat. I was single-minded. I wanted out.

He gave up talking for a while. I felt his hand on my thigh.

"Wanna follow me to the bathroom?" he asked. His eyebrows went up with the question. I looked down at his hand, back up at him. He smiled at me.

"I'm afraid of enclosed spaces," I said.

But I didn't remove his hand.

When we landed at SeaTac, I followed him into the restroom. He locked the door behind us to make sure that we weren't interrupted. He led me into a stall and then locked that door, too. He brushed against me as he passed, then pulled down his pants and underwear and sat down on the toilet. He reached down and grabbed hold of his cock.

"Come on, boy," he said. "It won't bite you."

The stall reminded me of being four and in the closet and crying as Daddy beat Mommy. Is that when he killed her? I started to breathe heavily, panicking. I turned my back on the fat man and tried to get out of there. When I couldn't get the door open, I quickly rummaged through my backpack.

"What have you got there, boy?" the man asked.

My breathing returned to normal as I stabbed him in the eye with the knife. The same knife I'd learned how to skin with, that I'd killed Bill with, the knife that I wish I had killed my old man with.

The fucker screamed and writhed in pain, his legs and arms flailing, banging against the stall's walls and the toilet. I pulled the knife out and buried it in his throat, cutting off his screams. Blood geysered all over, all over me and the stall and the floor.

I kicked at the stall door and it finally gave way. I quickly stripped out of my bloody clothes, washed my hands, face and arms. I changed into something new, something clean in my bag. I left the restroom and Seattle shortly thereafter.

My biggest regret was that I had to leave the knife behind in that asshole's throat.

*

MONDAY:

The phone is ringing, well, vibrating, actually, and moving along the table in front of me. Three buzzes and it's almost over the edge. I reach out and grab it.

"Yeah? You did it? How many? Jesus! Yeah, yeah, lucky bastard."

I flip the phone shut. The waitress, a cute blonde, is standing next to the table, her hands full with my order. She sets the plates down. Steak and eggs, bacon and toast. I've got an appetite going, even if Craig just tried his best to spoil it.

When she finishes, she gives me a look like she wants an explanation of my conversation, as if she's owed it or something.

"Buddy of mine hit six on the lottery," I say.

"Holy shit," she says, making no apology for her remark.

"That's what I said."

She smiles, asks if I need anything else and then remembers my large OJ. When she returns with the juice, she gives me the check. Her nametag says Tina.

I'm waiting in the parking lot when Tina gets off work a couple hours later. The sun's not quite up yet.

"Need a ride home?" I ask.
*

I'm behind Tina and deep inside of her, my hands on her hips. Her moans are loud enough to wake the dead. When we finish, I fall forward and on top of her, still inside. I'm slow to slide out of her. I don't want to but nature takes its course. I roll off of her, but not before I have a taste of the sweet sweat on her smooth back.

I fire up a cigarette.

"Give me one of those," Tina says. I hand her mine and light another.

Her hand is on me, stroking me and I'm starting to get hard again already. This woman really knows what she's doing in bed.

"Been in town long?" she asks me.

I shake my head.

"Didn't think so," she says, her hand continuing to move up and down. "I would have noticed. What do you do for a living, Jordan?"

I've told her my name, told her a few other ancillary things, shit that won't ever matter. Now she's asking a loaded question.

I could tell her that I kill people, have done since the fucker at SeaTac years ago. That might drive her off, might make her want to marry me. I don't know much about her. Truth is all I know is that she can carry three plates at once and that she's a goddess in bed.

"I'm a businessman," I say.

"Oh, yeah? What kind of business?"

"None of yours," I say, grab her cigarette and mine and put them out between my fingers. I take her hand and pin it to the bed and then roll over and on top of her as we go for Round Two.

*

WEDNESDAY:

I've been watching this family, the Munsons, for the last couple weeks, almost as long as I've been in town. Old man, old lady. Found out that the old lady's going to be having a birthday party in a few days. A small get-together, a couple of their children and grandchildren are coming into town. It's amazing what you can find out on someone's computer when they're out grocery shopping.

I smoke the last cigarette in the pack down to the nub, then crush it underfoot as I watch from across the street. Family number one has shown up early. A little boy, mommy and daddy. They knock on the door, the old lady is crying as she hugs everyone. The door shuts behind them and I get in my car and pull away.

Tina's home when I return, in the backyard, topless, getting some sun. I love this woman's moxy. The neighbors have a clear view and she doesn't care. I touch her thigh with the back of my hand, then slide my fingers underneath her bikini bottoms. We do it in the backyard and fuck what the neighbors can see.

*

THURSDAY:

The night before the last family is to arrive, I decide that the job has to go down no later than Saturday afternoon. Tonight, though, Craig is all over the national news. The bodies in Texas were discovered by a mailman, puzzled as to why the mail hadn't been picked up for days.

The cops have Craig listed as a "person of interest". I know damn well he's the prime suspect. The sketch art of Craig, along with his vitals, is up on the screen. From what I remember of him (it's been about a year since we've seen each other), they've got the nose wrong and the eyebrows are a little thick but they got the rest dead accurate.

The difference between Craig and me is that I have always taken precautions. Disguises to fix something in people's minds. I've grown mustaches, shaved my head, worn glasses. All kinds of shit.

Even when I would meet with Craig, I was in disguise. And again, here and now with Tina, I'm not myself. Right now, I have long hair and a mustache. Saturday, after the job, it's gone.

Tina slides up behind me, her breasts pressing against my back. She feels so good. She reaches around and takes me in her hand and I'm not thinking about Craig or the job or anything else, except how Saturday is going to be a real shame.

*

SATURDAY:

She wants to know what I do for a living? She can find out firsthand. Tina's not working on Saturday and I drop by with the promise of a great lunch and then some fun.

"What kind of fun?" she asks, biting her lower lip seductively.

"You wanted to see what business I'm in," I say, "I'll show you."

The restaurant is expensive but I can afford it. Since I got out from under my Dad's thumb, I can afford anything. Tina reaches across the table and we hold hands like the lovers we are throughout the meal.

Tina gets excited as we drive through the rich side of town, thinking perhaps I'm something more than I've let on. A stockbroker or an accountant. Maybe I've got an estate of my own out here.

I stop the car and park it in front of the Munsons so that it's blocking the driveway. There are three cars there, a new addition to the one that carried the boy and his parents and the old man's vehicle. Everyone's home.

Tina grabs my hand as we stroll up the small walk and have her ring the doorbell. I put my arm around her just before the door opens and the old lady appears.

"Hi, Mom," I say and shove Tina into her, kick the door shut behind me. I'm always very careful not to touch anything with my hands, unless I have gloves on.

"What the hell is going on, Jordan?" Tina yells. I pull out my gun and shoot her in the head. Good thing I thought to screw the silencer on. Tina's body jerks a couple times on its way to the floor, even though she's already technically dead. The old lady is trying to scream but the sound catches in her throat. I don't hear anyone else in the house.

"Where's your husband?" I ask her, my voice exceedingly calm. This is the way it has always been. With Bill, with the fucker in the airport bathroom (at least once I had the knife in my hands), with others since.

"They...they're all in the backyard, backyard," she stutters. She's trying not to look at Tina, sprawled out on the floor. The old lady has Tina's blood in her white hair.

"Get them in here," I say, as I pull gloves from my pocket and yank them on. "All of them."

*

I put the two kids, the little boy and a little girl, in a closet. Children shouldn't see what I can do to their parents.

I line them all up, make them kneel, use plastic ties to bind their wrists and makeshift gag them. Execution style is how I'm killing them, six in all.

The only one that I'm really interested in is the old man. He's the key. When I ask him where the safe is, everyone's going to think that this is just a robbery. Even the kids, who might remember that and tell the cops later. It makes my job easier. When people are calm and don't think they're going to get hurt, they're less likely to do shit, less likely to fight back.

So I ask. I rip down the old man's gag and he decides to play hero, refuses to answer. I turn the gun to hold the barrel and smack him upside the skull with the butt. He goes down. Lights out. Maybe I killed him then. The old lady is bawling. So much for that plan. She makes noise like she wants to talk so I let, while keeping everyone covered.

She tells me where the safe is. I put the gag back in her mouth, pause, then shoot her in the head. Each family member takes a bullet, all except for the old man; I put two in him for his antics. I'm out of cartridges when I'm done. I owe it all to Dad, who taught me how to put animals down.

All kinds of animals, except for him.

I release the kids from the closet. Or at least open the door, offering them the chance to come out. They don't want to come out. Curled into the corner, holding each other, they're sure they're safer in there than out here with me. I stare at the tears streaming down their faces. I won't be around when they ask where Mommy is. But I've heard it before. I've asked it a million times myself.

***

BIO: Christopher Grant is a crime fiction writer and the owner of A Twist Of Noir. His fiction can be found at Powder Burn Flash, The Flash Fiction Offensive and Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers.

9 comments:

  1. "That was tremendous, tremendous!" Lee stuttered.

    Nicely done Mr. Grant.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very tense fast moving. Loved it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great story... reminded me of Catcher in the Rye as well as James M Cain.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Same goal, but two completely different personality types and, while the outcome is the same, their approach is totally different. These two guys are great characters and make for great stories. Keep 'em coming! If they ever get together, how? And, I'd love to be a fly on the wall when these two sit down for coffee...

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hey, Chris, first an opology. Don't know what happened to the formatting, but hopefully it looks much better now.
    Anyone reading this won't have a clue what I'm on about but for some reason the story strubg itself out with double spaces everywhere. great story, and I'm glad it didn't spoil anyone's enjoyment (judging by the comments it didn't, so all's well, as they say!)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Matt, I noticed the double spacing earlier today but it didn't really do anything to affect the story. Now, if you had chopped off words or removed sentences, that would have been a problem.

    Either way was/is fine with me.

    All is well and, once again, I can't thank you and Col enough for housing yet another story of mine.

    Lee, that comment was hilarious, hilarious, I stuttered.

    Paul, glad it moved fast while still being tense and, of course, that you loved it.

    Gavin, to be mentioned in such esteem with James M. Cain and J.D. Salinger makes my day.

    Joyce, the question of whether Craig and Jordan will ever meet, what with Craig running from the law now, is up in the air. If it makes sense for Jordan to ever get close to Craig again, then maybe we'll see it.

    Then again, it wouldn't surprise me if Jordan shoved Craig in front of the speeding train called law enforcement.

    I promise everyone that you will see these characters again. I had too much fun writing them, even if they are scumbags.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm a bit late catching up on a few stories Chris - So glad I didn't miss this one. Great characters and tense writing.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Chris,
    Excellent write this - original idea, too, and interesting to get the background on what makes these killers kill.

    I must add (like i do every time a kid suffers - I think it's the 'Daddy' part of me) that I did feel sorry for those kids in the closet, but then I remembered it was crime fiction, so it must have been realistic to stir these emotions within me (that's a compliment, not a criticism).
    Absorbing stuff.
    Col

    ReplyDelete