Category Archives: Robb White

Loser’s Bet

“Those losers are killing you. You know, maybe you should lay off a week.”

+++++“Fuck that,” Landolfi said, his smile as fake as his Rolex. “I’ll get it back next week.”

+++++Sweeney palmed the wad of bills Landolfi laid on the bar, and snorted his contempt as his answer to that.

+++++Landolfi’s smile turned into a crooked zipper; his heart filled with black rage. That tight-fisted bastard Sweeney. He still had his first dollar taped to the bar’s mirror next to a couple Doberman puppies, the tape yellowed with age. Landolfi’s theory that losing teams don’t cover their spots as often as winning teams was not panning out. The Niners weren’t the only ones going 0-for-nine; he was winless, too.

+++++Between the Niners and the Browns, he was cleaned out, everything but the car gone: savings and checking accounts, IRA, house and furniture. He was sleeping in the sole downtown motel with the cracked sign advertising X-rated films with letters missing like absent teeth in a meth-mouth’s head.

+++++Just like my old man, Landolfi thought. His father was a degenerate gambler too who left the family and wound up dead at 47. His 5’ 8” frame had packed on 150 extra pounds from a diet of cheeseburgers from the diner across the street from his efficiency apartment. The tiny room stank of methane and sulfur gas so badly one of the paramedics called in vomited on his shoes as soon as the sulfurous, rotten-egg odor of constant farting had overpowered him at the doorway.

+++++Landolfi signaled Sweeney over with a wiggle of his finger.

+++++Bastard sees out of the back of his head . . .

+++++“Four Roses?”

+++++“Top shelf,” Landolfi replied. “JW Black.”

+++++“I assume you can pay for it,” Sweeney said, his tone halfway to a real question.

+++++“I just handed you six hundred dollars.”

+++++“No,” Sweeney said; “you paid up, and I ain’t extending no more credit. It’s money up front from now on.”

+++++The word was out, thanks to those bar flies at the end of the bar.

+++++Landolfi had been canned from his job and his supervisor scheduled an immediate internal audit; several hundred was missing from accounts receivable, the same amount he’d just paid off his gambling debt with.

+++++The barkeep’s insult produced a red mist clouding Landolfi’s vision, but it evaporated and left behind an inspiration. He must have been thinking about it for weeks, ever since he watched Sweeney in the mirror, crouched over the computerized safe beneath the bar, punching in numbers.

+++++Landolfi’s brain reverse-imaged the sequence in correct order. His genetic inheritances from his father were all bad—tendencies to obesity and addiction, a loathing for work with a taste for the good things of life—except for one: he could read anything upside-down.

+++++Sweeney kept his bookie cash in that safe. Hours spent in this run-down, cement-block joint across from the town’s factories told him that; Sweeney’s lousy joint was the only place in this burgh you could lay down a big bet without involving mafia goons or exorbitant vigorish.

+++++I’ll get my money back tonight, Landolfi mumbled to himself with an eye on Sweeney reading the paper down at the end of the bar–and everything else you got in there, fucker.

+++++Fifteen hours later, Landolfi looked like a squat ninja. He left his motel at three in the morning and made the short drive to Sweeney’s bar.

+++++He parked under the single pole light. Better to let a passing sheriff’s cruiser, he thought, spot it than try to hide it.

+++++Both doors were rigged to alarms, but the storage room behind the building had a single window with a metal screen cover bolted over it. Landolfi had collected big on the Pats win in the Super Bowl and Sweeney gestured for him to follow him into the back to get paid. A couple off-duty state troopers were sitting at the bar. “No point in rubbing their noses in it, right?” He remembered glancing at the filmy light streaming through the white-wash staining on the window.

+++++His crowbar popped the four bolts easily and he tossed the screen aside. Strips of blanket from the motel were wrapped around the business end of his rubber mallet to baffle the sound of glass breaking.

+++++Next came the hard part: Landolfi had to hoist himself up and squeeze his bulk through the opening.

+++++He’d gained weight since the Super Bowl and the struggle to get inside left him with sweat streaming down his face and his shoulder muscles aching. His black windbreaker was shredded, and the lumberjack shirt torn at the sides. Beneath the fabric, his fingers found the crisscrossed welts raised on his skin where he had wiggled to get his fat stomach through.

+++++He used his hands to guide himself to the floor and lay there gasping for air unable to move. When he finally rose to his feet, he staggered a bit and felt dizzy in the blackness, but he was OK.

+++++Using his hands to feel along the paneling, he avoided the stacked cases of beer and liquor lined on both sides of the wall.

+++++Only the two red EXIT signs provided lighting inside the bar—Sweeney too cheap to leave a light burning.

+++++With his penlight in his mouth, Landolfi pressed the sequence of numbers and the safe door opened. He pulled out stacks of banded bills, separated into denominations of twenties, fifties, and hundreds, all secured by rubber bands. Twenty of them, several thousand easily. He stuffed ten each into the pockets of his windbreaker.

+++++The sudden stereo effect of low growls coming from both ends of the bar made him jump to his feet. He flashed his beam down one end of the bar and saw glistening, bared fangs; whirling around, he caught a duplicate image of white pointed teeth bared against pink gums. The dogs, as if on cue, approached, hackles raised, ears flat against their heads. His pen light had dropped from his hand the moment he’d lit up the second dog’s snout and its razor-tipped canines.

+++++Fueled with a burst of adrenalin, Landolfi scrambled atop the bar just as the dogs raced to him, lunging, one raking teeth along his left calf muscle before he pulled himself free. Crazed with fear, he ran blindly down the bar top, alerted to the sound of dog claws hurtling across wooden floor boards.

+++++His limbic brain kicked in to save him, those countless hours on that same bar stool, looking at the same rows of bottles and beer spigots, the same cheap paneling on the walls and the cracks in the cement floor. He instinctively knew how much room he had before he would drop into the slavering mouths of those running dogs.

+++++Landolfi leaped across the void, landed on his feet, and hoped with every fiber of his being he could muster the speed to make it to the window in back.

+++++Made it! O thank you, Jesus!

+++++He careened into the right-side wall, but he was through the passageway, his short fat legs churning as tunnel vision took over. He was aware of nothing else but that smeary, wobbling rectangle of light bouncing in his vision, drawing him like a magnet to safety.

+++++The dogs were so close he did the only thing possible: he aimed his body like a missile for the opening.

+++++Going from an all-out dash to an abrupt halt knocked all the air from his lungs. It took him a second to realize he was stuck in the frame, half his body outside, the other half pinned tight.

+++++The stacks of money had added just enough bulk on either side to prevent his whole body from going through. The full catastrophe of what was happening came roaring into his consciousness like a fist striking him in the face—his body wedged tight, the stabs of white-hot pain in his sides where the metal frames squeezed his midsection in a vise-grip; for the briefest moment, he was aware of the night breeze rustling the fronds of the cattails and the pungent smell of marsh gas.

+++++Landolfi squirmed. Nothing. His lungs screamed for more air. Then a thought: Where are those damned dogs?

+++++As if a diabolical prayer was just being answered, each one clamped its jaws around a leg and began yanking Landolfi backwards, their bunched shoulder muscles rippling their sleek physiques.

+++++Landolfi screamed as his body’s pain sensors exploded the circuits; a single message flowed like touching a live wire to his brain and back down to the nerve endings. The dogs’ teeth punctured his pant legs, his skin and the soft tissue beneath.

+++++Landolfi howled into the open air, a wounded wildebeest on the Serengeti with a pair of hyenas attached to its back legs. Warm blood ran down his legs to his shoes. He tried kicking the dogs off, but the effort took more air from his tortured lungs.

+++++The dogs wouldn’t stop biting as if they had to keep finding fresh meat for a better purchase to pull him back inside. Landolfi’s hands were useless; he couldn’t reach back to get at the money in his pockets to give more leeway to go forward; equally, the dogs were unable to pull him to them; he seesawed a few inches with every jerk.

+++++The growls of the dogs and his own howls of pain were a rhythmic counterpoint that rose and fell. Landolfi focused on a single thought: inch forward, get his body to the tipping point. He didn’t dare think about the damage happening to his legs.

+++++The pain was everywhere and all around him now. The dogs like greedy guests at a buffet went for everything; they bit deep into the meat of his thighs and buttocks in their frenzy. At any minute, his pants shredded to rags, his genitals were exposed. If he were in the ocean being savaged by sharks like this, he’d have gulped sea water and drowned. But there was nothing he could do.

+++++Things were blurring too fast. He couldn’t make out the edges of anything in front of him. He tried talking to the dogs—good doggies, good doggies—but the sound of his voice stirred them to a greater frenzy. The same thing happened when he involuntarily urinated; the dogs didn’t cease their attack for a single moment.

+++++His last decision was to evacuate his bowels. A rush of warm diarrhea gushed from his sphincter, the foul odor even penetrating the night air around him.

+++++Just like my old man . . .

+++++Landolfi was thinking of his father’s death in the motel the moment he died.

+++++Sweeney found him like that when he opened the bar for the first shift of factory workers heading his way from the industrial park. Cain and Abel ran up to him and licked his hands the same as they did every morning. That’s when he realized their muzzles were soaked in blood. He kept a fish bat under the bar and retrieved it before checking the storage room. The backside of a man’s body sticking through the window made no sense to his brain; the dangling form obstructing light from the window made him pause; ribbons of flesh hung from the right femur and pungent smell of blood and feces left no doubt what had happened.

+++++The first paramedic on the scene threw up when he saw Landolfi’s hind quarters. A week after they cut through the brick to free his body— over Sweeney’s loud objections about damage to his building—a sheriff’s deputy who bet on baseball told him Landolfi’s death was officially listed as heart failure owing to suffocation and blood loss as contributing causes.

+++++“He was always picking losers,” Sweeney told him.

+++++“He shoulda drunk lo-cal beer instead,” the deputy said. “He might have made it through.”

+++++“I don’t serve that shit,” Sweeney replied; then, as if a mystery had revealed itself in the skies, he said, “Wonder why the dogs let him get inside the place.”

+++++“Maybe he should have been a cat burglar instead of a gambler.”

+++++They both laughed.

THE END

Uck-fay My Life

My left hand started to shake at work. That’s how I first noticed it. I was driving the tow motor between plants one and two with pallets of styrene—the same thing I do every day between two and two-ten. I’ve been working in this shithole plastics factory since I graduated from high school—only to die of brain cancer. The doctors call it Glioblastoma Multiforme.
+++++They also told me it gets worse rapidly, much worse. The PET scan they showed me at this hot-shit clinic looked like some kindergarten kid’s finger-painting. The goddamned lump in my brain is moving up and sideways from the right side. That means I’ll be in full paralysis on my left side if they try to remove it surgically. I told them, “What the fuck’s the point of that if I’m going to be dead as a doorknob in three months?” Besides the hand tremors, my left eye is going lazy. Pretty soon I’ll have difficulty walking and I’ll need to go from a walker to a wheelchair for mobility. Mobility. That’s a laugh.
+++++They gave me a prescription for something called Temodar and sent me two more floors up to see another specialist on the seventh floor. This specialist turned out to be a shrink. Apparently they do this in case somebody decides to go postal after getting a really bad diagnosis like mine. As soon as he launched into this gibberish about my “situation,” I knew what was up. Motherfucker looked like a kid in his bow tie despite all the framed certificates on the wall to prove how smart he was as opposed to ordinary yahoos like me. He wouldn’t last a week in my factory with all that fiberglass dust floating around, guys yelling in your face because you can’t hear fuck-all with the noise from the presses, and all the crap the supervisors expect you to do on your shift. I turned around and walked out of his office while he was still babbling something about “bargaining” my way out of it. “So long, Doctor Phil,” I said.
+++++The first thing I did when I got free of that place, out into the sunshine, was to sit down on a public bench and think while the traffic whizzed by: people with lives and futures, going places. Me, I’m sitting here, I thought to myself, dying an inch at a time. I did what any sensible middle-aged man would do next: I found a quiet, dark bar and got shit-faced on Jack and water. I bought rounds for strangers until the bartender and some customers carried me out to my pickup and dumped me in the front seat. I woke up with the sun in my eyes, a blinding headache—and a desire to murder.
+++++I spent a month just brooding around the house not sure what I was going to do. I did go back to the clinic for another round of MRIs and PET scans, but I had an urge to leave before the results were in. This was a kind of torture, I felt, not something for me but for them, these bastards in the white coats who were only interested in charting the progress of the cancer ballooning in my head. I was a specimen to them, something to study and take digital photos of to store in their computer or gab about in the conference room at their regular meetings. “Oh, Mister Jones, he’s got a tumor in the medulla oblongata the size of a grapefruit and he won’t recall his name in a few more weeks” or “Miss Smith, well, she’s frigging hopeless. Got tumors like iron bananas in her cervix. She’ll be pissing blood by next week.” Fuck that.
+++++My bucket list now hadonly two thingstodobefore I died since I sure as shit won’t be outliving my ex-wife and pissing on her headstone is out of the picture. One says: “Do meth.” The other says, “Kill some worthless asshole before you die.” That’s all. That’s what I’m planning to do. I’ve got my death sentence, so I don’t have anything to fear—not jail, not death row, not anything. I’m free. If I take one person off the planet, I won’t die a loser. My life won’t add up to zero, zilch-point-shit. At the clinic, they told me there’s such a thing as a “cancer diet,” which would help to prolong my life. What happens to people at the end of stage 4 of Glioblastoma, trust me, isn’t pretty, and there’s no reason whatsoever why you’d want to prolong your life. I’d rather have my balls gnawed off by rats than endure that suffering.
+++++Accomplishing my first goal was harder than I thought. Half my town is stoned or drunk or hooked on opioids, yet try to find a little meth and see what happens. I went from one bar to another, talked to one twitching street addict after another, and all I got for my trouble was hustled out of my cash. I went to a cement-block redneck dive with a sleazy reputation just outside the township. I’d never been there and didn’t know anybody who did. It took a couple weeks of buying shots and beers until the regulars stopped eye-fucking me every time I walked in. They figured I was for real, and so I got hooked up with a guy I’d seen in there after eleven almost every night.
+++++He nodded toward the parking lot to do some business. I told him booze was my usual poison, but I wanted to see what meth does one time. They say it’s a hundred times more pleasurable than even the best drunk, I said to him. I told him the human brain isn’t designed to experience this much pleasure, and I wanted to try it. I got that last bit from the Discovery channel. I told the guy I didn’t want to smoke it. I wanted to shoot it up, and I’d give him fifty bucks if he’d do it for me.The guy’s eyes popped at me.
+++++“No fuckin’ way, man,” he said.
+++++“All right, then,” I said. “Twenty to tell me how to do it right so I don’t kill myself.”Dope fiends are always giving themselves hot shots and dying on some shitty rug. I didn’t want that to happen to me.
+++++He just shrugged as if I’d asked him to show me how to tie a granny knot.
+++++“What the fuck are you doing?”
+++++“I’m writing down the instructions,” I said.
+++++He slapped the notebook out of my hands and started to hand pat me for a wire. “Are you for fucking real, man?”
+++++I chest-bumped him off me, and said, “I’m serious as brain cancer. Tell me what I need to know.”
+++++He told me in simple words and repeated it twice like giving directions to a stranger from out of town. I never thought to buy a syringe ahead of time. I was so obsessed with finding the meth. “Use this one, it’s clean,” he said and handed me what looked like a used needle. Practice with an orange or something. That how they train nurses.”
+++++“Fuck that,” I said.
+++++He shrugged again. “Your funeral, man.”
+++++“Not yet,” I said.
+++++I left him standing there and headed for my truck.
+++++When I got home, I took what I needed to tie off my bicep and tapped the vein in the crook of my forearm until it swelled up like a fat worm. I poured half the powder from the glassine bag he gave me into the bowl of the spoon and heated it with my Bic. The next part was drawing the shit into the needle and being careful not to put an air bubble into my vein. I stuck myself with the needle two or three times, not being sure how to get it right inside the vein. Then I thought, What the fuck does it matter now? So I took one more good aim at that tiny bulge under my skin and slammed it home.There, motherfucker, got you!
+++++Now, I’m going to skip a lot of the dumb shit I did over the next thirty-six hours or so because this ain’t supposed to be about me getting high. But what a motherfucking ride, I’m telling you. Everybody should do serious dope like that if they’ve never done it. Me, I had to wait to get brain cancer before I put on themoon boots, as that drug-dealing jerk told me back in the parking lot. Shit, before I knew what was happening, I was climbing the drapes—if I had drapes and I don’t. I was sailing around my house in my own happy world, jabbering away at the TV and talking. I mean, I would just think of somebody from my past, like my ex, and my pin-wheeling brain would take over, cancer and all, just start up this amazing, intense conversation as if that person was standing in the room right there with me. Weird. I talked myself blue until five in the morning at nothing, or stared into the mirror just looking at myself and having a long conversation about life, and I’m not one for talking.
+++++The next part wasn’t so good, though. When I came down from thehigh, it wasn’t gradual like that lying fuck said it would be. I wentfrom a gorgeous feelingof bliss to feeling like I’m stepping off a burning building ledge with the flames licking at my ass and holding a manhole cover in my hands. I mean down, motherfucker, and fast. Suddenly my head’s all muddled up with crazy thoughts zigzagging around. I went from talking a blue streak to having somebody pour glue all over my tongue. My legs wouldn’t work right and my skin itched like I had fire ants crawling all over and stinging me.
+++++I finally snapped to sitting on the floor of my bedroom wrapped in the quilt my wife forgot to take when she looted the house while I was at work. I was a mess. Depression walloped me between the eyes like a fist. It was like the bad news they laid on me at the clinic over and over. Maybe worse, because there I wasn’t going to embarrass myself by whining like some pussy and begging them to save me. It took me a couple of days to gather myself together.
+++++The first task I set was to pick a worthy candidate—I mean, a worthless sack-of-shit the entire world would be better off without. Right off the bat, I wrote down a list of people I knew I’d like to see dead like my ex and my supervisor, maybe the plant manager, and the union steward who fucked me over. I tore it up. That was stupid. It would point the cops right at me. The point was to do it and to get away with it. I had to take my secret murder to my grave with me.
+++++My meth trip had taken a precious week off the time I had left. I had to get moving before I woke up one day and found myself unable to physically or mentally carry out the plan. Besides, I had not allowed for any travel time or set-up time that might be needed. I wasn’t going to pick the target and then drive him down in my F-150. That’s how drunk drivers do it.I read this story in high school—in fact, it was the only thing I did read in high school besides manuals in shop class—about this nut job in the olden days who wants to off an old codger living upstairs whose eyeball is always winking at him in some kind of way that really pisses off this wacko. The long and the short of it is he kills the old dude but fucks it up when the cops come round to question him. The fuckwit actually blurts out he did it and buried pieces of the codger under the floorboards.
+++++Stupid shit, but the point is if you want to get revenge, you have to tell the victim why you’re going to kill him. Only then do you kill him. Unlike that fuckwit in the story, you don’t run around telling people like half the criminals you hear about on TV or read about in the papers. I don’t intend to find myself in a small airless room with two detectives close enough to touch knees grilling my about my whereabouts on the night of blah-blah when I have just days left to live as a real human being.
+++++Then I found him by accident. He was perfect: a four-star, revolving, son-of-a-bitch. A no-good,motherfucking son of a motherless dog-fucking whore. As I said, perfect.
+++++His name was Chad Prevost III. I saw him on TV. This smirking prick was on CNN testifying before Congress about his charity that was accused of ripping off millions of dollars from donors to fund lavish parties at swanky resorts in the Caribbean for himself, his trophy wife, and their friends. The money was supposed to provide help for poor, handicapped Christian children made homeless in the war-torn Middle East. “Save the Innocent Christian Babies from the Wrath of ISIS!” was the charity’s catchphrase. I’d seen advertisements on Fox News and other channels. This Prevost was the CEO.
+++++I punched the Record button so that I could watch it over and over until I had every line of this guy’s face committed to memory. I did my research, starting then. I googled every fact the internet had on Mr. Fuck-You Prevost and his charity. I took notes. I was serious, cold-blooded, and every inch committed to what the prosecutors of my state like to call “a depraved-heart murder.”
+++++Mr. Prevost III and I were together on the seesaw now. When we reached the balancing point, eyeball to eyeball—well, then my life would be complete. I’d know what to do.
+++++Stage One: Pre-Game Prep. I live in Flint, Michigan, where the water puts real lead in your pencil. That means everything I owned went at bargain-basement prices except the house. A local house flipper wanted to buy my place at 10% of the original sale price. I told him to fuck off. I’d let it rot there on its foundation. The furniture, snow thrower, fishing gear, the whole kit and caboodle went in one giant yard sale and the rest to the Goodwill or a big rental dumpster. That is, except for the items I might need, which included my good field glasses, my Rossi-Braztech .38, aSavage M111 rifle, and a few hunting knives: a black titanium punch dagger, and a pair of Buck knives, one for skinning, a Macassar, and the other for filleting and peeling. I wasn’t planning on getting into any gunfights, but guns and a polite word are more effective than just a polite word. I think AL Capone said that. The one important piece of equipment was my Taser.
+++++I filled up the truck and never looked back in the rearview mirror.
+++++Stage Two: Stalking the Victim. Mr. Big Shot lived in Westport, Connecticut with the rest of the rich assholes who can flee the grime of New York City after making their bags of loot for the day. I rented a van from a U-Haul place and slapped a hand-painted sign proclaiming the fake name of a landscaping firm on the side. I even added a half-assed looking tree with some pretty flowers for it. You don’t drive around rich people’s neighborhoods looking at house numbers unless you have a reason to be there.
+++++Like his ego, his house numbers were gold-plated, oversized, and embedded into the fieldstone wall in the front of his estate; the wall stretched all around several acres of property. The house itself was some kind of plantation affair with giant columns and a balcony with fancy-looking spindles as rails. This wasn’t going to be easy. There was no place to hang around, and on my second drive-by, I slowed long enough to notice there were no cars in sight. There could be a garage twice the size of my house back in Michigan behind it but it wasn’t visible from the road. If I didn’t know what car he drove, I couldn’t follow him.
+++++I headed back to my motel room off the interstate, twenty miles away, and tried to rest. I had to think. I expected to be able to locate his house, note his vehicle and tag, and begin following him around right away. With a wife and kids at home, I figured he wasn’t likely to go off jet-setting with his rich pals right after his fracas at the hearing in DC. Of course, this smug bastard wasn’t the type to go hide away in a comfy bolt hole until the dust settled. I had to assume he was going to show up either at his house or at his headquarters on Riverside Drive and begin meetings to clean up his dirty reputation to keep the money rolling in from the suckers. When my plant cut back our hours to twenty a week during the Great Recession of oh-eight, the one-percenters like him were laughing it up, popping champagne corks, and awarding themselves huge bonuses. He wasn’t going to change his spots. Greed is eternal in the human soul. I heard a radio preacher say that on my way to Connecticut.
+++++I lay on my bed and wondered how much jizz had been shot all over it. This guy on TV, he had a luminol blood detector kit with him and he made the bed, the walls, and the rug glow. I thought about human beings and our stupid existence; it’s all squirting, puking, shitting, crying, spitting. A trillion ejaculations into the void—for what?
+++++When I awoke four hours later, my neck was stiff, and the throbbing in my temples was so painful that I had to lean over and throw up on the floor. It was a reminder I didn’t have much more time to waste. I showered, dressed, and headed for my target’s lavish house, hoping that some idea about how to get to him might come to me.
+++++I no sooner had that burst of exhilaration at spotting him than it was taken away. The Jag left me so far behind that I couldn’t keep close to him. When I came to the first junction sign, I knew it was hopeless. He could have gone anywhere. Something whispered in my ear not to give up. I drove back to his place and pulled off to the narrow shoulder. He was alone. Maybe he was running a fast errand, not taking a jaunt into the city to go clubbing or take in a Broadway show. It would be dark soon. I just sat there, and held my breath and practiced a story for when somebody eventually called the cops. I had one chance at this. If he came home soon enough, he’d see this crappy-looking van, and he wouldn’t like it sitting in front of his mansion and his manicured lawn with the landscaping just so. It would be like spotting a nose oyster on your mother’s white linen tablecloth. He’d want me gone and he wouldn’t give a shit whether the van had broken down or the driver had a fatal heart attack on the job.
+++++Seconds ticked by in my damaged brain like drops of water in Chinese torture. Finally, finally, Mister Fuck-Them-in-the-Ass showed up; his hi-beams sliced through my van and lit up the interior. I saw my own hands clenching the wheel and the knuckles white with the tension. Then the inside darkened. The light from his headlamps swung away to make the turn. I heard the subdued roar of the pipes from his downshifting. He didn’t take the bait. I was fucked.Fuck . . .
+++++. . . Wait, no. My heartbeat slowed to a reptile’s. He hadn’t made the turn in his driveway to the back of the house. I turned my head to see he’d gone halfway and stopped. The Jag’s big engine idled. More seconds passed. Then I saw the interior of his sportscar light him up. He was getting out; it was him all right, no doubt about it. He was coming toward me in a casual, Lord-of-the-Manor strut. A big jolt of adrenalin hit me in the belly as I waited for him to approach the window.
+++++He came around to my side of the van—even better. I wouldn’t have to fling myself across the passenger seat.
+++++I couldn’t see him yet, but I sensed him right there beside me. I rolled down the window ever so slowly—slowly,slowly, catchee monkey, as they say. The dash light wasn’t much but it gave me all I needed to judge the angle and distance of thrust.
+++++“What’s the problem here?”
+++++He barely finished the question before I had the Taser jammed into his neck. I’d used it on a dying deer I’d shot back in the U.P. one time just to see what it could do. He did a kind of jerky spasm backwards and then dropped straight to the ground, pole-axed by the juice knocking out his body’s puny electrical system.
+++++I was out of the van in a flash. I swung the side door open and had him scooped up in moments. He was light, and of course I was juiced on the adrenalin surging through me. A big man in his mind but a small bundle of expensive clothes even when he was dead weight in my arms. I thrust him into the van and had the plastic cuffs on his hands and legs and a strip of duct tape across his mouth. My heart hammered out the seconds and I had to keep the tunnel vision from making me waste motion in case someone left the house to check on why he wasn’t coming inside. Suddenly the interior of the van lit up again, and I knew a car was fast approaching; these people drove like drag racing teens down this narrow road unless there was something to see.
+++++I just got his legs out of the way and the van door shut as a vehicle passed us at high speed. I finished roping him to the eye bolts and tossed a blanket over himand in seconds more I was speeding back to my motel.
+++++I slowed to five miles under the speed limit all the way. I think I whistled a happy tune from my childhood as I drove.
+++++Stage Three: Let the Fun Begin. I had him spread-eagled on one of the twin beds and he was gagged with towels and more duct tape. I sat beside him and calmly told him I was going to kill him. I told him only that he was such a piece of shit that he didn’t deserve to live. I thought it might be better that way, leaving out the cancer, that is, because I didn’t want to give him even a smidgeon of satisfaction that I was not going to outlive him very long.
+++++He was a little short on personal courage, our trussed-up millionaire. He screamed behind his gag, wet himself, and shit his pants. I had to step to the door and breathe in some fresh air to keep from upchucking. The air in that parking lot where I had reserved the last two rooms at the end of this L-shaped dump was full of diesel fumes, but nothing like the stench from the second room where I was working—especially as it went into the second day. I’m not bragging here, believe me. He took his last breath in a kind of peace. Just to be sure, I rammed the punch dagger into his chest right up to the hilt. It was done.
+++++I pitied the maid. I’d bribed her to stay away. This place, let her think whatever she wanted. Whores, drugs, parties—I’m sure she was used to it. I left a couple hundred on the night table all the same. I was down to just enough gas and food money to get me back to Michigan.
+++++I took the van to a blighted part of Flint, which is almost anywhere you look. I removed the plates and torched the inside with a five-gallon can of gasoline. I slept for four days when I got back. I barely got out of bed except to shower and eat vegetables out of the cans from the pantry. When I was able to move around without too much pain in my head, I could see the red light winking on the phone recorder. The idea of talking to people or getting messages seemed bizarre like something I did in a past life but not now. My exit was all that needed to be planned, and I wanted it to go right. I mulled over a second and final meth trip. Why not strap on those moon boots for one last trip? Make it a good one, a hot shot that takes me away from the hideous pain creeping up on me like a dark shadow over my eyes. My dead millionaire, meanwhile, was all over the news. Westport detectives were looking for “a person of interest driving a white utility van seen in the vicinity of the house” and so on, every day, even in the news crawls at the bottoms of the screen. It was eerie to know all of this was for me. Major networks sent reporters to camp outside the millionaire CEO’s house in Connecticut and were milking every story possible from his bogus charity through his rich-boy, prep school background to his “sordid demise in a cheap freeway motel.”
+++++I was just on my way to the phone in the living room, its blinking red light semaphoring me like a siren’s call: Come get your dope fix, it said. The pounding on the door wasn’t the Meals-on-Wheels woman, for sure. It said “cops” better than any shouts could have. I hoped for longer, but I always expected this in the back of my mind. It was a shame, I remember thinking, I wasn’t going to get to use the other half of my meth stash.
+++++I took a peek out the side window and saw the flashing turquoise-and-cherry lights. No mistaking what they were there for. I only wished I’d had the goddamned sense earlier to put a gallon of antifreeze in the house. At least, it would have a sweet taste going down. I ran to the kitchen and rooted among the household products. It had to be faster acting than the ethylene glycol in antifreeze because they’d pump my stomach. I wasn’t going to give them the chance to revive me. I found a can of Drano and one of red Devil lye. I made a deadly cocktail in a tall glass and gulped it down. I coughed it up immediately and the acid flow scored deep burn channels down both sides of my mouth.
+++++Five weeks in ICU. Six more in rehab. I lost seventy-four pounds, six ounces (they told me this). I was skin and bones and had to be fed through a tube in my stomach and one that took out the “effluvia” (the tending nurse called it that, but she meant shit, blood, bile and anything else so foul I stank like a one-man body farm).
+++++The cops were there to do a welfare check. A kindly old lady whose paper I used to fetch when the idiot paperboy tossed it into the hedges called them because she hadn’t seen me since my garage sale. My second PET scan showed the cancer miraculously in remission. They couldn’t explain it. The doctor sounded jubilant on the phone.
+++++Naturally, my attempted suicide got them thinking about why and so one thing led to another and I confessed without any prolonged interrogation under the bright lights in that small room at the police station I used to fear so much. I have a life sentence to serve in a hospital for the criminally insane. There wasn’t any prison that wanted me or had the facilities to care for me in my condition. Sometimes I lie here in my own shit for hours at a time. I have nothing but time now. Bags of it, shitloads of it. I’m going to live a very long life according to the doctor who comes in twice a week to check up on me. Most of the people who work here are sadists. One guy, who works the night shift, is named Lamar, but they call him “Weasel” for good reason. He’s snapped photos of me in my condition with my face crisscrossed by burn scars and the tubes sticking out me everywhere and uploaded it to various sites that like this kind of thing.
+++++Last night, he told me he was going to put me on Gore-dot-com as soon as I died. I cuss him to his face but my words are slobbered, incoherent, like an infant’s tongue blowing raspberries. I finally communicated to him in Pig Latin—remember doing that as a kid?—which proved easier to create syllables from my damaged esophagus and palate. He’s just one demon in my private hell. At night, I see Prevost. I can hear his words in my head when the ward is finally asleep around three in the morning, that time mystics call the dark night of the soul. Mostly he echoes the last words I had said to him in that motel as I was showing him the skin of his face I had rolled up on my filleting knife like a kid’s party whistle: This is what you deserve, fuckface . . .