Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Fifteen
Detective Martindale started up the steps to my front door. I didn’t budge. I knew that he would want me to go inside with him so he could ask me some obvious questions. I played hard to get. When he got to the top step and noticed that I wasn’t behind him he stared at me and coughed to get my attention.
“You should keep an eye on that cough Detective. We’re coming into Flu Season.” I smiled up at him.
“Ellis. Come.” He called me like I was his dog. If he’d snapped his fingers I would have decked him right in front of everybody. He didn’t. Instead he gave me the crooked finger curl.
“Ellis, inside – now.”
I tossed my cigarette into the gutter and followed him into my home- AKA “The scene of the crime” if he had his way.
The Forensics Crew had photographed the very dead body of Leslie Ann Wolas from every possible angle, taken samples of blood, urine, and snipped a sample of the bloody pile from my carpeting. Now there was a hole in it as well.
The head of the team huddled with Martindale bringing him up to speed – answering all of those questions I knew that he was going to ask me when he started in on me.
I looked up at my ceiling. There were definite spots up there, some red, but more grey ones. Three dimensional spots that I was not looking forward to cleaning off the plaster and paint.
While I was waiting for my turn to make Martindale feel competent I walked around the corpse into my kitchen. I wanted to get a beer. I had my hand on the door of the fridge when Detective Wink barked at me.
“Get out of there! Everything in the kitchen is evidence.”
“What? She shot herself, Mr. Detective. She didn’t hit herself with a beer bottle.”
“I told you to get out of the kitchen.”
I got my beer and walked past Martindale dropped down on my sofa and reached for the Remote.
“Mind if I watch a little TV or is that evidence too?”
A couple of the Forensic guys who were packing up their gear were trying hard not to laugh.
I don’t know if he caught on or what, but Martindale broke off his briefing and came over to me. He didn’t sit down. He stood there looking over me. I guess that might intimidate some people, but no one over 10.
“Ask your questions Detective, I have an appointment.”
“No, yours. I want to ask him how it feels trying to defend the indefensible.”
“Ellis, let’s just get through this and then you can get back to your cartoons, OK?”
“Please. I have to pack.”
“I don’t think I want to sleep here tonight.” I was dead serious about that, what with the smells and the blood stains and the brain tissue on the ceiling.
“That’s a good idea. I don’t want you tampering any more with the Crime Scene.”
“What ‘Crime Scene’? There was no crime here. She committed suicide. I was here, remember? I called you. This is no Crime Scene.”
“Suicide is a crime. Look it up.”
“Really? Well, then, there’s your Perp over there on the floor. Are you going to arrest her?”
Martindale paused, looked down at his notes, and then in a voice that was as tight as a cheap suit in the rain, he began his interrogation.
“Mr. Ellis, when did Ms Wolas come to your home?’
Since he was finally trying to behave professionally, I did too.
“I don’t know.”
“I don’t know when she got here. I was eating my lunch in here and she was outside.”
“Did you know that she was going to come here to see you?”
“No. she slipped a note under my door while I was eating.”
“A note? Where is the note?”
“It’s over there stuck to the floor.” I looked into the kitchen. The note was gone. “Or at least it was. I think your tech boys must have it.”
“What did the note say?”
“Open the door.”
“That’s what it said, ‘Open the door’.”
“What did you do?”
“I ate my lunch – most of it anyway, and then…” I gave him a dramatic pause.
“Yes? And then?”
“I opened the door, Sherlock.”
Some days, I admit, I have a mean streak in me that I let run loose. With this man, Detective Martindale, I just can’t help it. There is something about him that brings out the rattlesnake in me.
“Look, Martindale, let’s cut to the chase here. You want to know what she had to say, right? So let me tell you. You can fill in the blanks later, OK?”
He nodded, reluctantly, but knowing that I was saving him some time and work.
“When I opened the door she was standing there with that little Walther pointed at me. I thought it was going to be lights out for me, but she was thinking that I would open the door and shoot her. I was armed with a Braunschweiger and onion sandwich.
“She didn’t come here to kill me, Martindale. Not at all. She came to apologize for getting me all mixed up in this mess, the shootings and how I was their real target. All of it was a diversion put together by Nate Williams. It was to keep all of you focused on the killings so that Williams could knock over every Mom and Pop store in the city.”
“That’s stupid,” interjected Martindale. “There’s 425 of us on the force and three of them.”
“Two. Remember, I shot Timothy Collins at the Mall.”
“Well, Leslie Ann was seriously sweet on Timmy, but she blamed herself more than me for his death. He only went to the Mall for her.”
I swear, that Detective is heartless as well as brainless.
“C’mon Ellis, let’s get to this ‘chase’ you’re talking about.”
I took a long, slow sip from my beer just to get on his nerves.
“Leslie Ann couldn’t forgive herself for her Timmy and she saw no future for herself without him. So…she ate the gun and ruined my carpeting. The End. Now get out of my home.”
“The End, my ass. What about Nate Williams? Where is he? We’ve got two down now and I want to make a clean sweep of it. What did she say about him?
“Nothing, other than she had a combination fear and hatred of him. That’s something I think might be easy to feel for that man.”
Martindale closed his notebook and looked around. The body was still on the floor waiting to be transported to the Coroner.
“Then that’s it, Ellis? That’s all she had to say?”
“Pretty much. I gave you the Reader’s Digest version.”
“I want to hear it all – every word that came out of her mouth.”
“Sorry, but I can’t reveal what is said in the Confessional.”
SOME PEOPLE ARE FUNNY. Of course there are two kinds of “Funny.” There are people who are Funny (Ha! Ha!) And then there are people who are Funny (Uh, Oh). Sometimes it is difficult to tell them apart.
What is it that differentiates these two flavors of Funny? I think it all has to do with their sense of humor. They both have that sense of humor, but it gets displayed differently. An Example:
For Mr. Funny (Ha! Ha!) – A joke. “Why did the Dragon take some Pepto-Bismol?”
“Because he ate someone who disagreed with him.”
That’s it. Simple and to the point. Now that same joke told by Mr. Funny (Uh, Oh)
When it comes to the bits and pieces of Life things have actually gone well. It’s the big stuff that’s got me down. By BIG STUFF I mean the things that get me up in the morning and keep me up late at night.
You know – BASEBALL.
Baseball this year has been a tortuous exercise. It has been even more upsetting because I cheer for the San Francisco Giants and I live three time zones away. That means that more than half of the games don’t even begin until 9 PM or later. That can make for some extremely late nights and my aging body gets it’s revenge the next day. I do not recommend grocery shopping after an extra inning game from the West Coast.
At more and more hotels the Free Breakfast has become almost unavoidable. The big chains, such as Holiday Inn, Marriott, and a dozen others trot out the hot trays every morning to feed their guests between 6 to 9 AM. During those hours you can see the early risers slumped over their plates of eggs, sausage, and potatoes.
While I admit to being among that crowd on most mornings I am doing so for mainly medicinal purposes. Every morning I have my own buffet of medications that I take to stay alive and I am obligated to have something in my tummy to buffer the explosion when the pills kick in. So, I head down to the hotel lobby and the “Complimentary Free Breakfast.”
IT WASN’T THAT LONG AGO when I had those dreams about what I wanted to be when I grew up. At least it seems that it wasn’t all that far in the past. But, now when I look at with a calendar in my hand I realize that it was the better part of a century ago.
My God, where have those years gone?
Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Fourteen
Detective Martindale must love to shout. He does it almost every time I talk to him.
“I said that I have Leslie Ann Wolas at my place. You might want to come out here.”
“Have you got her tied up? I’ll send out a couple Black & Whites to pick her up.”
I could almost hear a little admonition in his voice, “You better not be wasting my time.” It must have been killing him that I called him like this.
“No, Martindale, I think you’d better come out here yourself.”
“Why, did she ask for me?” he asked.
“No, she’s dead.”
“What?” Yelling again. “If you shot her I will hang you myself!”
He was not going to like this.
“Suicide…On my kitchen floor. We had a long talk before she decided to eat her pistol. So…like I said, you might…”
“I’m on my way. Don’t touch anything. Don’t touch her!”
I’d hate to live with him, yelling all the time. He must be like living with a Jack Russell Terrier.
“Don’t touch her?” No problem there. I wasn’t being paid to clean up a mess like that, but I probably will end up scrubbing the floor – and maybe the ceiling too.
Suicides. They all think that their problems end once they pull the trigger or take the pills. Nothing could be farther from the truth. All they’ve done is shift those problems onto everybody they left behind.
It doesn’t take courage to kill yourself. It’s the exact opposite. If they really had courage they would face and attack what or who – ever was tormenting them. Instead they turn on the gas jet or drive the car into the bridge abutment. They leave behind a gory mess for someone else to clean up. That’s not an example of courage in my book.
When she fell back from sitting upright her head went past the edge of the linoleum in the kitchen area and landed on my living room carpeting. The linoleum I might just tear up and replace. No big deal, but the carpeting would never clean up right. There will always be a shadow of her blood and every time I see it I’ll think about…about everything.
The Forensics people showed up first. Martindale probably had to stop and pick up his blood pressure meds.
The neighbors were going to be getting quite a show with the lab boys traipsing back and forth. They are so jaded. They have seen things done to the human body that would make a statue vomit, buy it’s just evidence and samples to them. I wonder what they dream of at night.
By their standards what Leslie Ann did to herself was downright neat as a pin. No muss. No fuss. They chatted among themselves as they took swabs and samples. Just another day at the office
“My wife’s been taking a cooking class at the Community Center. We have been eating nothing but Italian food for two weeks now. I’m getting sick of all the different tomato sauces.”
“Me and my girl are getting into sushi. It took me a while to get past that gag reflex.”
I had to step outside. I lit up a cigarette and took a long pull. I must be getting old or my gore immunity is finally wearing off after these years away from The Job.
The Forensic Techies moved quickly but they never got sloppy or took shortcuts. They worked by the book. After a few initial questions to get my take on what happened they went to work and pretty much ignored me – except when I opened the front door.
“Don’t wander too far, Mr. Ellis. I’m sure the Detective will want to speak with you.”
“I’m just going to step outside for a breath of fresh air.”
The human body, when opened up, smells. Muscles and sphincters also relax and what is in the bowels and bladder is often set free. On my floor. On my carpet. I might move.
I sat down on the front steps. Three steps from my front door down to the sidewalk. A few of my neighbors across the way, newbies, were peeking out their windows at the to do going on – people going in and out of my front door, some of them in uniform with sidearms. Seeing me sitting on my steps with a cigarette in my lips assured them that I wasn’t either a victim or a suspect. I waved to them and their drapes dropped back into place.
Yeah, maybe I should move. Get a place out in the country where all of my close neighbors would have four legs and fur. Who am I kidding? I’m a city boy, born and raised. When I see too many trees in one place I get nervous. I need to hear the sound of sirens racing through the night. I don’t need owls hooting at me. What would I do in the country? Probably go nuts and end up like Leslie Ann, the poor kid.
I was halfway through my second cigarette when I saw Martindale coming down the street. Why did he park his car half a block away? Probably a Fitness Freak with one of those fancy wristwatches that count your steps or something. Even from a distance I didn’t like him.
“Good Afternoon, Detective. Welcome to my humble, if somewhat crowded at the moment, abode.”
“Where is she?”
“Mainly in my kitchen the last time I looked.”
WE’RE INTO A TIME OF SEASONAL CHANGE so I have begun to undertake the sacred seasonal rituals. Not wishing to offend the minor gods of calendar page turning I started getting into these rituals today.
I got a haircut.
As I have begun aging from being a responsible adult down the slippery slope into Geezerhood I have noticed that my hair does not grow as quickly as it used to. I also noticed that there are fewer hairs to cut than there were back when. At least the thinning of my cranial forest is evenly distributed. I’m not waking up, looking in the bathroom mirror and seeing a clear cut landing site on my skull. Thank heaven for small favors.
Throwback Thursday From September 2016 – “Do I Have A Roman Nose?”
THEY SAY THAT CAESAR’S IMPERIAL ROME had the best system of water delivery in the Ancient World. There was a series of aqueducts, canals, pipes, and fountains that covered hundreds of miles and kept the city of Rome clean and quenched.
I think they could have learned a thing or two if they’d been able to study my sinuses in the morning.
When I wake up every morning the entire function of my body seems devoted to the movement of fluids. It’s a good thing that I can blow my nose with my left hand clutching a Kleenex while my right hand is assisting me in doing an impression of the Terre Haute (That’s French for, “Is Paris Burning?”) Fire Department.
By the time my initial purge is done I feel five pounds lighter and the Wabash River is three inches closer to Flood Stage. I don’t know where it all comes from. During the night am I transformed into a sponge? Is my body taking moisture from the air like a fern? Am I the “Quicker Picker-Upper?”
If my first geyser activity was it I could just dismiss it all as, perhaps, Tidal Action – like the Bay of Fundy approaching low tide. The trouble is that this can go on for two or three hours where the only thing missing is a fish ladder. I go through a box of tissues like…like…like a box of tissues.
When my nose sends the signal to my brain that, “The dam has broken!” I grab the nearest tissue, handkerchief, or (embarrassingly) pancake and brace myself for the flood.
It ain’t Mrs. Butterworth, I’ll tell you that.
Having to deal with this for a couple of hours can be exhausting. I just got up two hours ago and I already feel the need for a nap. My nose is turning red from all of that tissue business, my skull is feeling like a used piñata, and I’m going to have to go buy some more tissues.
First, it’s one nostril. Then, when that one raises the flag of surrender, the valves open on the other. I didn’t know that noses could do that.
I’m impressed as well as depressed. My sinuses can operate as smooth as the locks on the Panama Canal. I guess that makes my upper lip the north coast of Colombia.
Once I get through this morning ritual the rest of my day can proceed as it will, but until then I can understand how the Egyptian Pharaoh and his Chariots must have felt when he decided to chase Moses and the Israelites into the Red Sea – five minutes too late.
Things could be worse. Despite all of this every morning nonsense when things eventually dry out I still have a nose. I still have sinuses, and my stock in the tissue company continues to go up.
I’ve been doing a lot of driving lately on our illustrious Interstate Highway System. It’ll really be nice once they are finished with it. It seems that no matter where I go or in which direction I am faced with long slow moving lines of cars all wedged into one lane.
The System was started back in the 1950s. President Eisenhower, a career military man, saw the maze of roads as a way to quickly transport troops across the country in case of an emergency. It’s a good thing that there was no call to do that because, if today’s roadways are any indication, we would be in deep doo-doo (Technical term meaning ‘Uh Oh’).
OH, I GET IT! You’re doing your Stevie Wonder impression. No? What happened? Tell me…if it doesn’t involve the Police.
Thus began my morning last Monday as I walked into the Chapel of St. Arbucks.
“Oh, you broke your glasses? That’s why you are wearing sunglasses at 6 AM.”
At least it wasn’t me who had the broken glasses.
“Timmy? He was such a sweet boy.”
“That ‘Sweet Boy’ killed eight people.”
I couldn’t let that pass.
“He would have killed me, Leslie Ann, if I hadn’t shot first. ‘Sweet Boy?’ What was his motive – He didn’t like his snack at the Food Court?”
She looked at me and I could see her underlying rage bubbling up to the surface. Her eyes flicked down to the Walther pistol on the table between us.
“Why did he really do what he did?” she said, her eyes back locked onto mine. “Because I asked him to. He did it because he loved me.”
How much horror has been set loose upon the world in the name of Love? Almost as much as devils have used Religion as their excuse to commit every atrocity imaginable.
“So how in the world is that a motive for mass murder? The idea was yours instead of his? So that makes him ‘Sweet?’”
“Shut up, Ellis! I came here to talk about me, not Timmy or Nate or certainly not you. Forget Timmy. Didn’t your mother ever tell you to not speak ill of the dead?”
“Which dead? The ones at the Mall or at the gas station or the pile of corpses at the ER?”
I was pushing my luck, but I needed to see how she would react to having her nose rubbed in it. She spat in my face and picked up the gun. I guess I found out.
“Ellis…if you say one more word about that boy and I will …”
“I apologize.” I decided to shut up.
“I came here for a reason, Ellis. Let me get to it and I’ll leave you to sit here in your pathetic little life.”
Rather than risk saying anything that might set her off I…picked up my sandwich and took a bite. No sense wasting what might end up as my last meal.
Leslie Ann Wolas, dangerous, and probably as crazy as they come, got up and began to pace back and forth trying to find her words.
“I came here to tell you that this whole thing is a scam. Nate has been running this whole show. I went along for my own reason. I told you…and Timmy, well…. Go ahead and eat your sandwich like a good boy.
“Nate is basically a thief and this whole thing is just a major distraction. While every cop in the city is all hot and bothered by the gunplay Nate will be knocking off everything in sight. Everything but banks thanks to you. Me and Timmy were going to cut out and go to Mexico. You took care of that too.”
She stopped pacing and stood looming over me.
“There’s no reason for me to go now – not since you murdered him” She stood there looking down at me. Me with a sandwich in my hand and a six round pistol in hers and I could see that she was weighing on whether or not to waste a couple of them on my head.
“No reason at all, so here I am. Nate wants me to go along with his crazy scheme, do some more shooting just to stir the pot. I don’t buy it. I told him that if he wants to then go ahead, but I’m done.”
I raised my hand like a third grader with a question.
“What?” she said. “What?” She didn’t like interruptions.
“Where is Nate going to hole up? He won’t go back to that attic on Wilson.”
“Why do you care? You going to go after him? He’ll cut you to pieces, old man.”
I put down my sandwich. I’d had enough. Now it was my turn to talk.
“I don’t recall the last time I heard more absolute bull at one time. All of you actually feel justified with what you’ve done, don’t you? You slaughtered I don’t know how many people there at the hospital. The people you shot weren’t The Hospital. They were not the people who committed the sin of saving your life all those years ago. They were people already in pain like you. If you want to get back at The Hospital go in and clog up all their toilets. You don’t murder people who had nothing to do with your own personal troubles.
“And Sweet little Timmy? You two were going to run off to Mexico as if everything was peachy keen after the two of you decided to help Nate Williams, perhaps the biggest lying piece of trash going, with his plan to rob a bunch of Mini-Marts and Mom and Pop Bodegas. Jesus H. Christ! You’re all nuts. None of you should ever have been allowed to be on the streets alone.”
I was on a roll.
“And somehow you tried to tie me into your twisted reasoning making me the reason you’re doing all of this idiocy. You should just put down that gun and go turn yourself into the police. Go talk to them. Tell them your cock and bull story and you just might avoid a ride on the Lethal Injection Gurney to Hell. If you don’t and the cops out there see you first they’ll show you what it’s like to take a round to the head.
“Now, tell me where I can find Nate Williams, because I want that piece of trash for myself. I brought down his father and I’ll do the same for him.”
I looked at her. She was looking right through me as if I wasn’t there.
“Hello. Leslie Ann? Did any of what I just said get through to you? Did you even hear me? Turn yourself in. Forget Nate Williams and save yourself. He’s dead meat and forget about Timmy too. ‘He was Sweet.’ That’s just nuts. I’m done with you. You’re crazy. Either get help or get out.”
She was still staring off into space. As long as she wasn’t pointing her gun at me I figured I was, not safe exactly, but with a better chance of making it through the day.
All I wanted now was for her to flip on Nate Williams and then to leave, go somewhere, anywhere that wasn’t in my house. I was sure that she wouldn’t turn herself in. she’d spent most of her life avoiding them. I wanted her out, but there was nowhere else she could go where she might get some head help. She was going full speed down a dead end street. Her faraway look snapped back and she was in my kitchen again.
“You’re right, Ellis. I am guilty. I accept that. I was too weak. I let Nate talk me and Timmy into doing these things. Guilty and weak – a bad combination.
“I don’t want to do it again – I don’t, but if I go back to Nate I know he’ll talk me into it again.”
“Where is Nate’s place? Where is he?”
“Oh, you don’t want to go there. Nate is evil. He’ll talk you into doing evil things. Where can I go though? There’s no place for me.”
“I don’t know, girl. I wish I could tell you, but…’
She sat down on the kitchen floor and looked up at me. For the first time I could see tears in her eyes.
“I have no place to go where I can be safe and happy. No place. I was happy with Timmy…but you took him away. Now there is no one. Because of you. You ended it all. Nowhere and no one.”
She closed her eyes, but firmed up her grip on the pistol.
“All I can do now is try to find my Timmy.”
She opened her eyes and looked me square in mine. She took that ugly black gun, put it in her mouth and pulled the trigger.
In my small kitchen the noise her gunshot made startled me. The top of her scalp splattered onto my ceiling in the split second before she fell over backwards with her own startled look.
The tears that had been in her eyes ran down her cheeks and fell onto the bloody floor.
I hoped she’d find her Timmy. He was so sweet.
My wife, the lovely and equally amazed, Dawn, were in Cincinnati last week. That, in and of itself, is nothing worthy of amazement. Cincinnati is, after all,…Cincinnati. If you’ve seen one fast food chili shop, you’ve seen ‘em all. But then we saw something that stopped us in our comfortably shod tracks.
We had stopped into a Kroger Supermarket to replenish our “Goodies” supply. Our shopping cart wobbled up and down each aisle ending up over near the Deli department and the in-store mini-St. Arbucks.
That is where we saw it.
Throwback Thursday From September 2016 – Whatever Happened To…
I GOT UP THIS MORNING AND TURNED ON THE TV, just like I do on most mornings. I fiddle with the remote until I find TCM – Turner Classic Movies. It is my first mental challenge of the day. Remember the channel number and get my fingers to cooperate enough to hit the right buttons.
Just about every day is some Star’s “day,” either the day they came into the world or the day they left it. Once it has been established who the Star of the Day is the next question in my mind is: Still Alive or Dead?
About a week ago I figured out that the featured Star was Van Johnson. Being sure it was Van was not as simple as it sounds. They were showing a movie with both Van Johnson and June Allyson. Those two made about 600 movies together (or so it seems). It took another movie coming on to nail it down as Van’s day in the spotlight. Alive or Dead was not so easy.
At about 8:30 I went to see if my wife, the lovely and cinematically knowledgeable, Dawn, could, hopefully, give me an answer.
“I think that he is still alive,” she said over the edge of her teacup. “I think so too, the last of his era,” I agreed.
Van Johnson died in 2008. I guess I missed that one.
He just disappeared from my consciousness that morning. He disappeared from everything else in 2008.
People come and then they go. Things do that too. One minute they seem to be everywhere and then, Poof! You find out that they disappeared years before.
This morning I mentioned one such thing to Dawn. She looked at me like I was leading up to another Van Johnson question.
“Whatever happened to all those old Fotomat booths that used to be everywhere?” I asked her out of nowhere. She’s used to me doing that.
“No, I know that, but what in the world did they do with all of those little booths where you dropped off your film? There must have been millions of them.” She did lift her eyes on that one.
“I dunno,” and back to the Kindle.
This sent me off on a fact-finding mission. For an apparently pointless reason I needed to learn more about Fotomat and their ubiquitous booths. I should have spent my time researching Van Johnson.
I found a lot of information about the company and its ups and downs and eventually it’s over and out as a corporate entity. But not one word about the fate of the (In reality – 4000 of them) booths.
When I finished my research I rushed into the other room to tell Dawn all about what I had learned. To say she was not impressed would be an understatement – like saying World War Two was just a little dust-up between friends. I can’t blame her, but still…
There is another show on the TV about a trend/fad in housing where people are building incredibly small houses, little more than – Oh, I don’t know – Fotomat booths. Maybe that’s to where they all disappeared: Cable TV – just a few channels down from Van Johnson.
TODAY IS A DAY THAT HAS BECOME WRAPPED IN SADNESS.
I can understand how that can be, but I choose to not give in to that. There is enough sadness in the other 364 days, more than enough to make anything on this date – excuse the expression – overkill.
Instead of spending today in what has become a sort of morose celebration I have made a personal decision to take the memory of the events and aftermath of 2001 and put them all into a long term perspective. A very long term perspective.
Things happen in Time. Time has been going on for quite awhile now – long before you or I showed up on the scene. God willing and the Creek don’t rise, it will continue on for a few years longer. We may not be around until the bitter end of Time, but Time doesn’t care.
“How do you think you will die?”
Unless you make your living as the ever so attractive target in a Las Vegas knife throwing act the answer to that question is strictly speculative.
I don’t know.
There are seven billion people on Earth and there are likely to be seven billion different answers.
Look at them. Chances are they’ll be looking back at you. If, while you are looking for them, you notice that everybody is looking at you…well, there you go. You are the Black Sheep in that family. Congratulations.
How does one become The Black Sheep? It starts early. In those formative years when the other kids in the family are setting up little lemonade stands there is one tyke, boy or girl, who starts their own business selling newspapers. What’s so wrong with that? Nothing except that, our lone wolf entrepreneur is selling yesterday’s newspapers to unsuspecting adults.
Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Twelve
Now I know how a mouse feels when it’s trapped inside a house full of cats. When a house cat catches a mouse it doesn’t kill and eat it like a feral cat would. No, they play with it. One cat stands on the mouse’s tail while another cat beats the crap out of it. Then they let it go so they can hunt and catch it again. In this scenario Nate Williams and Leslie Ann Wolas are the cats and I am the mouse, being hunted and toyed with.
I thought it was the other way around when I found Nate Williams had been arrested and I’d be able to find out what this nonsense of hunting for me was all about – but he got cut loose before I could get at him. Now I was back to where I started, worse actually, because now he knew I was on his trail. That jockey would blow the whistle on me.
Lacking anything better to do I went home. I saw no sense trying to guess where Williams and his lawyer had gone for lunch. I was hungry myself.
An afternoon at home isn’t all that relaxing when you know that a man who has said that he wants you dead is loose and in a good mood. I know that I sure wasn’t in a good mood.
I was sitting at my kitchen table. My fancy lunch was a sandwich – Braunschweiger and Onion. Who did I have to impress? Nobody. Nobody who couldn’t take me out from a distance.
Sitting there, wondering what to do next, when the answer came sliding under my door. A single sheet of paper, folded, slid under my front door. It didn’t look like an advertisement. There was a new dry cleaner in the neighborhood, but this wasn’t a sheet full of coupons.
It was there on the floor and I had half a sandwich in my hand. The paper could wait. At this point in my day it was just one more piece of trash that needed picking up. Ever since my last lady friend moved out on me my housekeeping skills have really gotten a bit lax.
A single sheet of paper. I suppose that if I’d gotten up quickly and opened the door I might have seen who left it, but I didn’t. First things first. Finish my sandwich and then open another can of something I really don’t need.
OK…OK. A single sheet of paper and I could see that it had handwriting on it. A love note? Not likely. A “Dear John” letter? Most of the women I know would have tied that paper to a brick and tossed through my front window.
Enough speculation. I got up off my ass and crossed over to the door and picked it up off the floor.
“We need to talk. Open the door.”
“What the…” I said to myself. That note could be a come-on from an insurance agent, a Jehovah’s Witness trying a new approach, or maybe Nate Williams. Unless it was Williams I guessed that they’d be long gone by now.
Here we go with “The Lady or the Tiger” again. Against my better judgment and the feeling in my braunschweigered stomach, I turned the knob and opened the door. It was the Lady – Leslie Ann Wolas and she had small Walther pointed at my chest.
At least it wasn’t the Jehovah’s Witness.
“We need to talk,” she said, but she kept the pistol aimed at me. I was in no position to argue.
“C’mon in, “I said.
I turned around and walked back into my kitchen. I was trusting that she wouldn’t plug me between the shoulder blades. She followed me. I sat down and picked up the rest of my sandwich. It might be my last meal, so what the heck.
I didn’t say anything as she sat down across the table from me staring at me like I was a two-headed chicken. I didn’t say anything and neither did she. It was making me nervous because I didn’t really know if she was stoned, drunk, or just crazy. At any moment she might start seeing things and open fire. I couldn’t take it. I broke the ice.
“You’re the one who wanted to talk, so if you want to start now I’d appreciate it. I had planned on going to the two o’clock matinee at the Cineplex. …Or, if you’re going to shoot me with that thing get on with it and I’ll forget the movie.”
Saying this while gnawing on my sandwich didn’t make me look like too much of a threat. She laid the gun down on the table.
“I need to explain something to you, Mr. Ellis.”
What else could I say to that?
She hemmed and hawed for a minute or so like she was trying to find the right words. Not too hot. Not too cold, but just right. How Goldilocks of her except for that black, ugly Walther PPK on the table – still pointed in my direction.
“First off, Mr. Ellis…I have no desire to kill you for shooting my father or for anything else before or…” I interrupted her.
“I’m glad to hear that, but why that calls to that TV station saying the opposite?”
“Oh, that was Nate’s idea. Motives for our actions and that. A distraction really.”
“But what was your motive? All those people? Why?”
“We‘ve each got our own motives and you were just a convenient coincidence. We are all from here so the odds of our fathers mixing it up with you at some point seemed pretty high.”
“You all had reasons, what you think were good reasons, to shoot up the Mall, that Mini-Mart, and you – the ER at the hospital? I don’t get it at all. I also don’t get why you’re here. Why you want to talk to me?”
She held up her hand to stop my talking. She was getting upset.
“I wanted to talk with you to explain… to explain and to ask for your help.”
“Yes, you see, we had our reasons…”
“You’ve said that before, but I haven’t heard anything coming from you that is even close to an explanation for mass murder. Why don’t you start over and quit dancing all around it?”
She lowered her head and closed her eyes. I couldn’t tell if she was trying to pull herself together or getting ready to lose it and pick up the gun again.
“I…it was that Emergency Room that kept me alive after I was…I should have died. I wanted to die. I deserved to die. It’s complicated. You wouldn’t understand.”
“No! No it’s not complicated. I do understand. Your Old Man put two shots into my back. It was a long time before I felt half human again, before I wasn’t in constant pain with every breath. They put me on a ‘Recovery Leave’ for the better part of a year. That just about did me in. It cost me my marriage and I thought of eating my service revolver a thousand times. So, don’t tell me that ‘It’s complicated’ stuff.
She looked at me with the saddest eyes I’d seen since my mother buried my baby sister when I was ten. I might have gotten too hard on her.
“I’m sorry, Leslie Ann. I shouldn’t have jumped on you like that.”
“No. No, you have every right. I haven’t got the courage to take this gun here and finish what was started when I was twelve.”
“Stop that talk. What about the others?” I asked her. “What about Timothy Collins…the one in the Mall?”
“The one you killed?
“Yes. The one I killed.”
“Timmy. He was a sweet boy.”