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episode fifteen - the powerful part six
I didn't make it to my mother's room that day I found Enoch at Cedar Cliff. A doctor found me and led me out of her wing. I tried to explain that all I wanted to do was talk to my mother, was that so wrong, but he wouldn't hear any of it.
Briefly, as he led me down one of the longer halls, I thought I spotted Enoch again, and I was tempted to ask him about that story he'd told me in the old church about that son going into politics and his father that killed on his behalf. I wanted to know what it meant. I wanted to know if Enoch was instructing me to kill someone, or to go into politics, or what?
The day after Enoch told me that story, I'd taken Jaimie to the old church. Then, again the next day, and the next, and the next. I hoped to find Enoch. But, he wasn't there. I really didn't know what to make of the story he'd told me. I didn't know what he was trying to tell me to do. Come to think of it, I didn't even know why I wanted so much to find a meaning in it, a command of some sort in it. It's not like I should have been intending to do whatever he told me to do. Look where that got Olivia.
Meanwhile, whenever I was home, I avoided any interaction with my father, not that he was too eager to have much to do with me after recent events. I didn't know what to do about what I knew about him. I thought of telling the police, but what could they do? They'd known he was involved back when everything had happened, and they'd done nothing. And, really, he hadn't even admitted anything to me, though I KNEW, and he knew I knew. There was no real evidence. Nothing concrete I could use against him. I wanted to go back to Phyllis and ask her for something, but it occurred to me that if she'd had anything, she would have passed it on to the police long ago. And besides, even if there WAS evidence, would the police here in Reverence even do anything to my father? Sure, the town as a whole didn't like him. But there were people around that did like him, people like Paul Lodge, and my father had influence in this town. He had real power, even though I tend to think most of the town wouldn't dare admit to this fact even if they had noticed it. And, though I knew he'd misused his power in the past, I could do nothing about it. I just had to bide my time until a window came, an opportunity to catch him doing something or admitting something, and then I'd get him put away for his part in Olivia's death, his part in her life.
I didn't talk to my sisters much at this time either. I mean, what would I talk to them about? All my thoughts were pretty focused on my father and on Olivia and on Jaimie and on . . .
I'd forgotten about Sam. Well, I hadn't really forgotten about him. But, I'd been so busy coming at all of this Olivia related stuff from one angle, I'd been neglecting another. Jaimie was in trouble. She'd never convincingly denied that Sam was hurting her. And, I believed Olivia knew what she was talking about. I believed Sam WAS hurting Jaimie and I knew that, unlike the situation with my father, I COULD do something about this one. I could stop it before it got out of hand. Of course, as I mentioned, I was neglecting my pursuit of Sam Carson, my pursuit of evidence that he was or would be hurting Jaimie. But, a couple days after talking to Enoch in the old church, several days after I'd last done any spying on Sam at his workplace, Saint found me in the hall at school and he reminded me of these things I'd nearly let get away from me.
Saint had some things to say about Sam that were rather interesting, albeit vague. He'd kept on with watching Sam without me, and twice he'd seen Sam physically fighting with people. They were just scraps over prices or something to do with garage business. Nothing too damning. But knowing that Sam did have a temper, that he was capable of physical violence, was enough to get me on the case again. But, just staking out the station where he worked wasn't enough anymore. With my hands tied in connection with my father's sins, I intended to get my hands as dirty as I could with Sam. I would stop him from hurting Jaimie. I would stop him from hurting anyone ever again. I would . . .
Enoch's tale occurred to me again as I was explaining this to Saint. And, I knew, or thought I knew, what Enoch was telling me. There was only one way for a kid my age to really stop someone like Sam Carson, only one way to stop someone like my father. The police of Reverence would be no help. Jaimie's safety was my responsibility, and there was only one definitive way to keep Sam from hurting her. I would make sure he could never lay a hand on her. I would make sure he could never lay a hand on anyone. I would kill him.
I only wish I could have gone back and done the same to Frank Cross and Jerry Sedgwick and Carl Silvers and my father and whoever else had been there. Then, I could have kept Olivia from ever being hurt like she had been. I could have kept her from falling apart, from trying to die so many times, from turning to an angel for support and then turning to me to look after her little sister so she could finally give up completely. Olivia should never have had to go through any of that. No one should have. People like Frank Cross needed to be stopped before they had the chance to do things like he did to his daughter. Olivia had never even gotten to grow up. He may as well have destroyed her in the womb or smothered her in her crib. He'd broken her very soul, and she had never recovered. Sam Carson was not going to do the same to Olivia's sister.
"You can't kill him," Saint told me.
"It's illegal. It's--"
"What? Wrong? It's not wrong. He's just like the rest of them. He's just like her father, he's just like mine. He's going to hurt her. Maybe he hasn't actually done it yet. I wasn't convinced when she told me he hadn't, but maybe he actually hasn't. But, he will." With complete conviction in the truth of what I was saying, I repeated that last bit. "He will."
Saint was quiet for a moment. Then, he just looked at me and I knew before he spoke again that he wasn't going to try to stop me, that he might even help. "How will you do it," he asked. And, I told him about my father's gun.
See, my father, like many fathers out there, has some guns. He doesn't use them much. He's gone to some shooting ranges. He's taken us--my sisters and me--up into the mountains to shoot at nothing in particular. He's one of those guys that has the guns around probably more to feel strong than because he thinks he might actually use them. As far as I knew, though he had some rifles, he had never gone hunting, at least not as long as I'd been alive. And, though he had a handgun, it wasn't like Reverence was a high crime town where people had to worry constantly about break ins in the middle of the night. Reverence may have had its share of bad men, but it wasn't much of a place for burglary. But, my father had a handgun anyway. He kept it in a drawer in his bedroom. As far as I could remember, my mother had never liked it being there, but I guess my father had browbeat her into leaving the subject alone. I don't know that he browbeat her, of course. I don't know that my father ever forced her into anything, except for Cedar Cliff obviously. But, it's hard to think of him dealing with anyone on any subject without somehow using force anymore. My father and pushing people around. Two things that have become forever entwined in my head.
That very night, I would steal the handgun from his bedroom.
But let's not skip past something very important that just happened to have taken place that same day. After school, I ran into Haley. She was alone. Kyle was nowhere nearby.
"Hey Travis," she said. It was very casual, like we were the best of friends, which I guess in a way we still were.
"How are things?"
"They've been better." I wanted to tell her about my father. I wanted to tell her about my plans for Sam Carson. I wanted to tell her everything. I wanted her to know every detail so she really COULD be my best friend again. So she could be so much more than that again. We'd been destined to end up together, right. Remember how many times I described it that way? We had been so perfect together. Then, life had to go and get complicated. Haley and Kyle had to go and hook up. Olivia had to go and die--unlike Haley, I really didn't think Olivia being around had changed much between us, at least nothing like Olivia's death had. Hell, if I really had to get down to when everything had started changing, it would have been before Olivia even came into our lives. It would have been that day at King's Fate. Haley had nearly died, and I had done nothing to save her. I had frozen. I could never forgive myself for that. And, I could never expect her to love me again as she had before that day, even if she had claimed more than once that it was no big deal. I knew she could feel it like I could, that it WAS a big deal, that it had changed everything.
"Want to talk about it?"
"Maybe later," I told her. "I've got to get home before my dad does."
She smiled at that for some reason. What was she thinking? Was she thinking I was doing some childish sneaking around? Was she thinking I was playing games? Was she--
"We should get together sometime, Trav," she said. "You can tell me all about whatever it is you've got going on lately, and we could catch up, you know. We need to catch up."
"If you decide you would like to talk about stuff," she said, "you know where to find me."
Part of me wanted to say something smart, like "yeah, at Kyle's" or something along those lines. But, I held it in. I didn't want to be mean right then. It actually sounded like Haley genuinely wanted to be my friend again, still. If I couldn't be more than that, I figured I could at least be that much. It was, afterall, better than nothing.
"Yeah," I said. "I know where to find you. And, you're right. We should get together sometime."
"Maybe at the Felix," she said. I think she realized even as she suggested it that it would never happen.
"Maybe," I said. We both knew I didn't mean that.
We stood there, silent but not uncomfortable. What might have been several minutes passed. Then, Haley smiled at me. "I thought you were in a hurry to get home," she said.
"Yeah," I said, smiling back at her. "I'll catch you later."
And, I left. And, that was the closest things would get between us to how they had once been. Not to sound too melodramatic and not to be too obvious in my foreshadowing, but things would be taking a darker turn in our relationship as well as in other aspects of my life. Had I known that, maybe I would have done things differently that night. But, you never really know how things will go before they go, do you? So, I just went ahead. I went ahead, blindly but determined.
I got home before my father did. I went to his bedroom without having to sneak around at all, took his handgun, took some bullets, and then met up with Saint in the park. Together, we headed for the Cross house. Saint had reason to believe Sam would be there that night, something to do with something he'd overheard Sam telling the guys at work, bragging about Phyllis, what a catch she was, or something like that. I'm sure you can imagine the details. It's like some twisted cliche that guys that work in garages are perverts who'll brag about their sexual conquests. I wondered, did Sam tell them about his plans for Jaimie? Did he tell them what he'd already done to Jaimie?
What HAD he done to Jaimie? She'd said nothing. But, she had lied. I could tell. She'd hesitated before telling me he'd done nothing. I knew her. She was hiding something. So, I had only Olivia's word to go on. And, when it came to knowledge of her mother's choice of men, I trusted Olivia explicitly. But, Olivia hadn't known for sure what he'd done, or that he'd even done anything. Yet, anyway. He was one of the bad men, I could feel it. Olivia had been right not to trust him. And, Jaimie had been wrong to lie to me about him. He was just like Jerry Sedgwick and Carl Silvers and just like Olivia's and Jaimie's father and just like my own father. He was one of those bad men. And he had to be stopped.
As we neared the Cross house, Saint and I separated. He went around to the back, just in case Sam caught on to my presence and my plan and made a run for it. I went to the front.And, there I waited until the moment seemed right.
But, you see, moments have a way of sneaking up on us. And, other moments, moments just as important as the ones we wait for, can sometimes show up unexpectedly, as if fate wants to tempt us at every turn, distract us from what we have to do. But, fate or God would have to try hard. I was not going to be distracted easily.
The thing was, God had planned ahead for this night too, I guess. God brought Kyle there, and Kyle was one of the few people that COULD distract me.
What Kyle was doing there, I didn't know. But, he yelled my name as he approached. And, I turned quickly so he would not yell again. I did not want Sam or Phyllis or even Jaimie knowing I was there until I was ready to go ahead with my plan.
Kyle was still half a block away. Seeing him coming, a part of my brain--just a small part, mind you--wanted to get out my father's gun now and use it on Kyle, clear the way for me and Haley to at least have some semblance of a chance. But, that wasn't to be the darker turn this path took. But, it wasn't far off. He seemed rushed, though that might just have been my imagination or my own anticipation of what was about to happen inside speeding things up. The thing is, he seemed to approach almost inhumanly fast, like the film of life was running at doublespeed just then. And, at that pace, as he crossed Spruce, he didn't have the chance to see the car coming up Spruce. It hit him without him so much as glancing its direction. There was no sound of brakes straining to stop, no screams, nothing. Silence took over the world, and it was unreal, Kyle's body flying through the air, a layer of the universe tearing away, one obstacle in my life destroyed before my eyes, an obstacle that had once been one of my best friends.
And, just like that, Kyle was gone. He landed far from the car, his body limp. He wouldn't move again. There was no last moment in anyone's arms. He was just dead. Killed instantly, as they say.
And, thought I had heard no noise as these events transpired, clearly there had been sound, as people emerged from various doors of nearby houses. Even as I instinctively ducked into the shadows next to the Crosses' porch, Phyllis Cross herself came out to see what the commotion was about. And, there was Sam Carson, right next to her. And, there was Jaimie, right next to him. And, was I seeing things right? Was her hand in his? What was that about?
People gathered around the car and around Kyle's body. Someone yelled for someone to call for help. But, no one rushed to do it. They all could tell, like I could, Kyle was dead already. Eventually, an ambulance DID come. An ambulance and a police car. That was all. One ambulance, one police car. That was what Kyle's death amounted to.
It's strange how things come together, how pieces fit. Right then, I remember all the good times Kyle and I had together. I remember when all of us had been friends. I wouldn't have imagined right then that only moments before the thought of shooting Kyle had been in my head. Kyle was my friend again. Dead, he could be my best friend again. Afterall, he was no longer any competition for Haley's affection. Right?
Kyle was my friend, and inexplicably, unexpectedly, he'd just been taken from me. And, it was like it all meant nothing. Why had he been there? Why had that car been there? Why hadn't Kyle or the driver noticed each other? Why did he have to die? Why did anyone? Why did God take lives like that? I've heard that death is necessary because it makes life mean something, makes life valuable. But, that's always seemed like a line of bullshit to me. God takes lives long before they've had the chance to mean much of anything so much of the time. If everyone died old and wise, or after setting some great example for the world or discovering a cure for cancer or, well, anything that could really mean something to us all, then maybe it would make sense. But, people died so young. Babies. Children. Olivia.
I closed my eyes. I knew what I had to do. Kyle's death would not mean nothing. My plan had been a little different. I had wanted to confront Sam inside, make him admit to his trespasses before I killed him. But, now, here was a simpler chance. Everyone was watching the ambulance, the police, the weeping driver, the dead boy. Sam Carson was still right there on the porch.
I opened my eyes.
I removed my father's gun from my pocket.
I loaded it with bullets.
And, taking Kyle's death as my cue, the commotion in the street as my distraction, I raise the gun and I shot Sam Carson.
And, I could have been a marksman.
His skull halfway gone, Sam stood there still for a moment. His grip on Jaimie's hand loosened. His body seized briefly. Then he collapsed to the his knees, then to his stomach, his chin striking the edge of the porch with a dull thud.
Only then did any of the crowd look toward the sound of the gun. And, I was already running. I ran around the side of the house to the backyard. Saint was already gone, clued in I'm sure to what I had just done, or maybe having left as soon as the accident had attracted a crowd and the police. I left the backyard, headed into the woods and didn't slow down until I was home.
My father met me in the kitchen. I assumed he'd heard what I'd just done. It didn't occur to me that no one had seen me do it. It didn't occur to me that even if someone had, they probably wouldn't have called him so fast.
"Where's my gun, Travis," he asked.
I grinned. "I don't know," I told him.
"You're not lying to me, are you?"
"Just like a liar to assume he's being lied to."
He opened his mouth to reply to that but said nothing.
"You're not my father anymore," I said. Then I took out his gun and handed it to him. "But, thanks for thirteen years. I've learned so much from you. I know what it's like now."
"What what's like?"
"You told me once what it was like to be powerless. How helpless you felt when you had to watch mom losing her mind. Well, you didn't stay powerless for long, did you? You locked her away and went on with your life. Well, no matter how powerful that made you feel, getting control of an out of control situation like that, you are NOT so powerful anymore. Maybe Paul Lodge wouldn't believe me when I told him about what you did to Olivia Cross--yes, I talked to him about it--but, someone will, and I'll keep telling person after person until enough people believe it and you have no power at all anymore. I'm the powerful one now, dad. I own you. My days of being powerless are over."
I left him standing there in the kitchen with his gun. I'm sure a part of me hoped my words had cut him deep enough that he might use one of those bullets on himself and make life a lot easier for all of us. But, no gunshot rang out. There was only silence. I went to my room. I changed into clothes for bed.
And, as I got into my bed to sleep, Olivia sat down on the edge of the bed. She said nothing. She didn't have to say anything. She leaned over and kissed my cheek. A chill ran up and down my spine. Then, Olivia flickered and disappeared.
I sat there for a moment. I'd be missing her again by morning I was sure, but right then, I felt too good to be missing anyone. I felt like I was important, like I could really effect the world. I had stopped one of the bad men. I had the power. When I'd said that to my father in the kitchen, I'd mostly been making it up, not really feeling it completely yet. But, now I felt it. I was one of the powerful ones now. And, not one of the ones that abused his power to hurt innocent children like Olivia or to lock away mothers needed by their children. I was one of the good ones. On the side of the angels. Enoch's story made complete sense now.
With that thought, I laid my head on the pillow and was asleep in no time.