Under The Dock
We are how we treat each other and nothing more. Nothing More, The Alternate Routes.
My hand is inside the pocket of my jacket, tightly grasping the revolver. I hear the phone ring inside, but I ignore it. No phone call could have meaning tonight. Only my visitor on his way has significance for me now. After tonight everything changes, so what could anyone say on the phone that I could be interested in? I feel the cool smooth metal of the gun. I shiver.
Of course my lake has personalities! Its mood swings like a teenager in love. Tonight it is calm, peaceful, reflective. Even the coots next to my dock are cuddled together, seemingly in bliss. The surface is still, silent, waiting to be affected by some outside force, waiting to react, to change its character. I sit on the edge of the dock, really not thinking of anything. Just sitting. Listening to the music softly coming from upstairs. Watching the sun drift lower, in and out of the clouds, headed for the hilltops across the lake.
And I remember. 8 years ago this was my brothers house. I had lived with him for the 2 years since our parents had died in a jet crash in Scotland. My brother was a professional baseball player and bought this great house on the lake with his signing bonus.
When mom and dad died he immediately flew me to Southern California from our home in Seattle. “I know you got a bum deal, so did I” Drew whispered to me on the plane. “But we have done our mourning. Mom and Dad loved us, all they would care about right now is that you and I are together.”
I was a drained and hopeless 16 year old without my parents, but Drew kept me busy. He took me to his games and practices. During the summer, before school started, I even went on the road trips, stayed with him in the team hotels. I was a fixture on the team, the players knew me as well as their teammates.
That was his plan, not to give me time to think about mom and dad. He even fixed me up with the little sister of one of his teammates, and sure enough, she and I were soon a couple. Drew made me do my homework, made sure I studied enough to get As and Bs, just like our parents had done with both of us.
One warm night I was up on the roof of the house, looking through binoculars at the full moon, a beautiful golden harvest moon. I had my CD player turned up loud from my bedroom so I could hear it on the roof. It was windy , so it was hard to focus the binoculars on the moon. I finally gave up and climbed down the slope of the roof to the balcony. The balcony ran the entire length of the 2nd story and could be entered by French Doors from my bedroom, the master bedroom and from the loft, the room we spent the most time in. Drew had added the loft later, enclosing an empty space between the two bedrooms. The walls were covered with big slabs of antique wood he had gotten from an old barn he had seen a farmer tearing down.
I could barely hear Drew over the music, inside talking with someone. I leaned on the railing of the balcony, looking at the moon reflected on the lake. The lake was not calm this night. The hot wind had whipped up big waves, and the moon was reflected all over the lake, in little cups of light.
This yellow colored moon made me yearn for my girlfriend. I thought about her, what must she be doing at this moment. How great it would be if she was on the balcony with me. The balcony and the dock was our favorite place to make love, or to just sit here looking at the lake, talking. I thought to myself how happy she had made me. I was pretty much over the depression I had been in over my parents. I gave Brenda all the credit for that, even though most should have gone to Drew.
Then I heard my brother shouting at whoever it was he was with in the loft. I walked over to the French Doors and peeked in. Drew’s back was to me, the man he was arguing with was facing me from the other side of the room mostly behind Drew. He was short, I figured like 5’6’’, but fat and sloppy looking. I thought, hell, Drew can take this guy easy. Then Drew moved
just a bit and I could see, my God, this guy had a gun! I hid further away from the opening, sticking my head out just enough to be able to hear and see the face of the stranger. He had bright red hair, what was left of it, mostly just around the edges of his head. But he made up for the lack of hair by growing it long, way below his armpits. It was drawn back in a pony tail, and every time he barked out to Drew, his head flinched and his hair flipped around his shoulders.
“You are full of shit!” Drew yelled at him.
“What I’m not full of is my money.” He spit his words out to Drew. “The money I was supposed to win last night, when you guys were supposed to lose.”
“Glen, you asked me how the team was playing. I didn’t even know you. What’s your problem?”
“My problem is I bet $25,000 on the Rangers to win last night and your double in the ninth cost me almost 100 big ones,” he said, moving towards my brother. “No one double crosses me and gets away with it.”
That awful voice is ringing in my ears 8 years later as I hear the doorbell ring. I can’t believe it is really happening, finally. I can see Brenda coming downstairs to get the door, she is moving slowly, doesn’t want to seem too anxious. Does she feel anxious? I see her opening the door.
“I’m Mr. Logan. I am looking for Joshua Archer.”
“Yes, Mr. Logan, Mr. Archer is expecting you. Come in.”
I turn away from the house, move to the end of the dock for one last look at the lake. It has gotten choppy, some boats moving quickly at the other end and the wake is just getting to my side. I feel that same movement in my stomach. I turn back towards the house and see Brenda opening the slider in the kitchen.
“Mr. Archer is outside on the dock, let me show you the way.” Her voice is so soft, so smooth. Inside I know she must be jumping and kicking, like I am, but she isn’t letting it affect her role tonight. She has been my girlfriend and my partner in planning this night for the past 5 years. She is the only person who knows everything about me.
She steps out thru the door, Mr. Ponytail following her. He is trying to adjust his eyes to the relative darkness outside. All the post lights around the dock are on, but it is still dark compared to the bright flourescents of the kitchen he just exited. Brenda points to me on the dock and he moves my way.
He calls out, “Mr. Archer, I am Glen Logan”.
“I know” I say, with urgency.
When he gets to within about 6 feet of me on the other edge of the dock, I pull the pistol out of my jacket and shoot him. I aim for his knee, but miss. The bullet goes into the center of his shin on his right leg. He yells “Shit man” and collapses hard onto the dock. I like where he is at, he is right in the arc of one of the lights but I can back up to the bench and be out of the main part of the light’s glow.
I look at him closely. He hasn’t changed much. Still with
long hair pulled back in a pony tail, but now a bit of gray.
Still fat and sloppy looking.
He is squirming and screaming from the pain. He reaches for his leg, looking up at me bewildered. I lock into his eyes and say, “I can't tell you how happy I am to have you here, again”. My stomach has settled down. I did it. I actually shot him. I smile to myself, gratified with me.
He mutters a string of curse words and pulls up his pants leg to see his wound. In the middle of doing this, he hears what I said.
“What are you talking about. Damn. I have never been here. But I will be here again, to kill you. Damn, you will pay for this. Do you know who I am?”
“I know exactly who you are. I know every sour deed you have done for the past 8 years”. As I talk I am watching him intently. I keep expecting him to go for his gun. I know he must have at least two on him, he always carries at least two.
“You don’t know who you are fucking with here. I’m going to chew you up and spit you into that lake for the damn fish to swallow.”
I glance at the house and see Brenda heading upstairs. She is going to keep an eye on the video monitors and change the music, put something louder on. Even though my gun has a silencer on it, we don’t want any of our distant neighbors hearing the yelling of our victim. One thing I have learned living on this lake is that sound carries very well over water. I hear the new CD start. It is one of my favorites, Counting Crows, and I smile that Brenda has decided on that one at this time: Pull me out from inside. I am ready, I am.
Ponytail finally makes the move I have expected him to make. As I glance upstairs, he goes for one of his guns. It is the one strapped to his leg, opposite the leg I shot. I look down in time to see him pulling it out of it˚s holster. I aim my gun at his right arm, the one now grasping for his gun. That panicky shot misses, but the next one connects. The bullet enters right at his elbow. I think how much that must hurt. I am not smiling, but I do feel a level of satisfaction. Well, ok, maybe more, pleasure.
His arm spins with the bullet and the gun is flung a few feet from him. He starts yelling and cursing again. I move to the gun and put it in my jacket pocket. “Pull out your other gun and toss it over here, unless you want me to shoot you right where I think that gun is”. I am aiming my gun at his heart. He looks at me and spits out some silent exclamations, but he does what I said to do. The gun was inside his coat right where I was aiming, and he tosses it on the ground near me. I put it in my other jacket pocket.
“How many more guns do you have on you?”
“None.” That was barely a whimper.
I watch him for a minute, watch him struggling to know what to do next. He has two painful wounds, he has no idea why he is being shot, he is as lost as he has ever been. And damned scared. Good. I look up again at the balcony and Brenda has walked out for a moment to watch. When she sees me look up she flashes a very slight smile, a smile of confidence, of reassurance.
“Are you telling me you don’t remember the last time you were in my house?” I yell at him with vigor.
“You have me mixed up with someone else, I have NEVER been to this house.”
“It was eight years ago, this night.”
“Bullshit. 8 years ago I was living in Chicago”.
“It wasn’t my house then. It was my brother’s. I was just living here.”
“Look kid, I’m telling you . . .”
“I was up there on the patio, looking at the moon reflected over the lake. It was a beautiful night and I was happy. Happy for the first time in years. And then you were here and I wasn’t happy anymore.”
“Punk, I don’t know what happened here 8 years ago, and don’t really give a damn, but do you think messing with me is going to solve your problems? You think you are going to be happier after all this?”
“I think I will ready to get back to living.”
“Living huh? How about sleeping? Think you can sleep after this?”
I look at his eyes and feel the full fury of my hate, for really the first time tonight. “You think I can sleep now? After what you did? Believe me, I will sleep much better with you at the bottom of this lake.”
He looks over at the lake, but it is too late, he turns and spits at me, weakly. Now I can clearly see the fear. It has taken over his face. Then he becomes Mr. Ponytail again, “you are a fucking piece of shit, but you are not going to kill me. Yea, you made me hurt and I guess that is something I will always remember. But you won’t kill me. I had to kill your brother, he fucked with me.”
So he did remember. Had he been faking it all along, or did he just remember? In my satisfied state I drift off for a minute.
Now I am back there, back when this was Drew’s house. I can hear Cindy scream. Drew heard it and yelled to his fiancee. Mr. Ponytail told him to shut up and hit Drew with the back of his hand across the face.
Another man came into the room from the stairs, pulling Cindy with him. He was short too, with a dark complexion and huge hands. He had his arm around her neck and Cindy bit into one of those thick hands.
He shoved Cindy to the ground and kicked her in the side. Drew yelled again and rushed towards her. But after one step Mr. Ponytail hit Drew with his gun on the side of his face. Drew went down hard, out of my sight.
My head was swimming. There was a movie playing in front of me, only it starred two of the people closest to me. I was frozen with fear and dread. It had gotten even windier, gusting in my ears. I could hear my CD blaring, it was Steely Dan, talking about wanting to have a name as a loser. I curled up inside myself, searching for safety.
I peeked inside again. The two strangers were talking with each other, smiling. Mr. Ponytail nodded and the other man picked Cindy up and threw her on the couch. He started ripping her clothes off despite Cindy’s screams and her fists trying to pound on him. Mr. Ponytail picked up Drew and drug him over to the side of the loft, against a mostly bare wall. Drew was just conscious, barely able to stand up on his own. I had been ready to put some baseball pictures of Drew on that wall and they were all stacked up on the floor in the corner, with a hammer and nails. Mr. Ponytail picked up the hammer and drove a nail through Drew’s hand into the wood wall.
I let out a yelp, a grunt, some sort of sound. The man tearing Cindy’s clothes off thought he heard something and he turned towards the doors I was looking through. I scampered away, climbing onto the roof again and laying still, listening. I heard the French doors open and a moment later close again. I waited a few minutes and then slowly climbed back down on the deck.
What I saw as I looked into the loft again made me feel unhuman. The dark man was raping Cindy. He had moved her over to a chair and bent her over it. I realized he had moved her over there so they would be right in front of Drew. Both of Drew’s hands were nailed to the wall. He was weak, going in and out of consciousness. Whenever he seemed to sink, Ponytail would slap him, tell him to watch, tell him “this is what happens to assholes who try to screw me”.
And then it was over, as quickly as it had begun. I saw the dark man stand up and pull his pants up. He picked up Cindy and threw her at Drew. She grabbed onto my brother and looked into his eyes, sobbing. What was she thinking those last few seconds? Ponytail shot her in the head. She fell to the floor and he shot her twice more. Then he walked closer to Drew, who was barely conscious. He said something to him I couldn’t hear and then shot Drew in the face over and over.
I am intensely mad at him again. I shoot him in his other leg, this time I take careful aim and get him right in the knee. He just screams, but not too loud. Blood is oozing out of him in three places now and he is getting weak. I am realizing fulfillment.
“You know, don’t you, that soon, although not soon enough for you, you will be dead? You realize this don’t you? Nothing will stop this. No one is going to come and rescue you. This entire property is under video eyes, that is what she is doing up there, monitoring the videos. Your destiny is to die right here on this lake tonight. Painfully as I can make it, as slowly as possible.”
He didn’t need to hear that from me, he knew. He asked just one question, “How did you find me?”
“My brother was a rich man, and when he died, I became a rich man. Much of that money has been spent on private investigators over the years. It took us awhile to find you, but for the past five years you have been watched almost constantly. That is how I knew enough about your business to entice you to come here tonight.”
I don’t want him to think I am hesitating because of anything he has said, but I am having a moment of doubt. I move away from him towards the end of the dock. I look up to the balcony for direction from Brenda, but she is not there. She is putting a new CD on and it is playing now, Dave Matthews band, CRASH. The lake is mostly peaceful again with just a slight bit of movement, expectant, as if it too is waiting for my decision. I hear the music from upstairs: I am the king of the castle, you are the dirty rascal, crash into me.
I think of how lonely and sad my brother looked, by big studly brother, as he was dying. I think of how he had to watch the love of his life be raped by an animal of a man 3 feet in front of him and he could do nothing. I think of my brother having the blood and brains of his fiancee blown all over his face, just seconds before his own brain was blown apart. And I think of my shame, watching all this from the security of the balcony. I take a deep breath, straighten up, and aim for ponytail’s crotch. I wait a few seconds before I fire, long enough for him to look up, to see where I am aiming, to know. Then I fire.
This is becoming too hard. I am beginning to feel his pain. The wind, the music, the aggressive waves, all are swimming in my head. What did I think, I could actually shoot a man in his balls and not wince a little? I look upstairs again and I think Brenda is wincing too. I lift my gun one last time and point at Ponytail’s puny brain. He looks directly at my gun and closes his eyes. I take a deep breath; I pull the trigger and Ponytail is no more.
I strip down to the swimsuit I’m wearing under my jeans. I drag the corpse to the edge of the dock and I jump in. Pulling it behind me I go under the dock, to the far side where the water is deepest. The sturdy steel cage I made and attached to the underside of the dock is open and I stuff the remains of the asshole into it. Easier than I expected, I forgot how light my load would be under water. I secure the cage door and head up to air.
I spent lots of time designing and building this cage. I did not want the corpse ‘poppin up’ out of the lake, no matter how deep it is in the middle. My end of the lake already has a pungent smell from all the bacteria that builds up here where there is so little circulation, so no one would notice the smell. Hopefully I’ll be feeding the fish.
Brenda and I will know each time we enjoy the dock with friends, we eliminated one of the most useless human beings ever, one the police couldn’t find and put away. We will feel a sense of contentment that decaying below us is the person who made my life tragically different than it could have been, should have been. Yes, that will be me barbecuing the fish I catch myself in our lake.
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