Shootings (Part Six)

Shootings (Part Six)

Shootings is a story about two men with completely different goals, and how their actions affect the same group of women. It will unfold here in serial format.

Parts: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

The sick feeling in the pit of his stomach growing, Martin sat staring at the photo calendar on his wall. Ms. January stared back at him, a parka hood’s furry lining encircling her face. She looked out as if surprised — her eyes wide open and her mouth in an “O” shape — and her bare legs suggested that the large coat was the only thing she wore.

“No, it wasn’t you,” he said to the calendar. He thought he had recognized the woman who had tried to catch her son running across the coffee shop parking lot. Now that the news had shown her picture, he knew why.

He pulled the calendar off the wall and flipped through the pages, shaking his head at each month’s entry through winter, spring, summer — and then came Ms. July. Could it be her? Was she the woman the deflated cup had crushed along with her little boy?

“I never meant to hurt you,” Martin said. “I just wanted that cup to come down. You weren’t supposed to be there. Nobody was supposed to be there.”

He had bought the calendar at a local bookstore. He turned it over and read the fine print on the bottom of the back cover. “Gregarious Productions,” he read aloud. “See us on the Web.”

Martin entered the address in his web browser and, after clicking another link from that page, found that the women in the calendar were running in an upcoming marathon. Maybe he could redeem himself.

But how?

He could turn himself over to the police. It had been an accident, after all, and his friends and family would testify that he’s a good man. There was that matter of his lifelong mistrust of authorities.

Someone knocked on the front door.

Nobody ever knocked — on any of his doors. Who could it be? Had someone taken down his license plate number?

He stood up, then bent at the knees to pop his ankles. He had started that following therapeutic toe lifts prescribed to tone muscle after healing a broken ankle. Then he straightened out both arms until his elbows popped. He couldn’t remember when he had started doing that.

Beginning with his right pinkie finger, he cracked his knuckles at each joint. Folded in, side-to-side, and backwards, each popped with its own distinctive sound and sensation. That, he had started in second grade.

The large knuckle on his right thumb refused to pop on the bend-back motion. He pushed it back down to “reset” it and tried once more.

The knock came again. “This is Detective Renfield with the Smoten Police Department,” said a man’s voice from the other side of the front door.

Martin kept working at that right thumb. Fold down, bend back. It just wouldn’t pop. A bead of sweat traced a crooked line from his hairline to his eyebrow.

The voice came again. “Mr. Thandle, we need to ask you a few questions.”

Damn that thumb. He frantically worked it down, then back. Pop, already. Pop! The sweat hung on his brow, threatening to drop into his eye.

“We know you’re home, Mr. Thandle. We saw you through the window. We have a warrant.”

Finally the thumb popped, and Martin bolted from the living room, through the kitchen, into the addition. The snooker table and shuffleboard table — relics of a bygone Thandle family era — nearly glowed in early morning sunlight pouring in through the large, sliding glass door. Pool cues stood idly by in their wall-mounted rack.

Sweat burning both eyes now, Martin reached out with one hand to open the door, the other to grab a pool cue.

——-

Greg’s alarm beeped, but it sounded a lot like, “get-your-ass-up… get-your-ass-up… get-your-ass-up,” and it hurt. He smacked the snooze bar and went still again until it repeated its taunting mantra. Snooze, taunt, snooze, taunt.

“Well, do what it says, why don’t you?” Raelynn said, her voice coming from somewhere in the folds of the comforter.

Greg grunted and stumbled to the television on a table in the corner. He turned it on and grabbed the remote control, then punched a few buttons. “There, just like you like it,” he said as Matt Lauer’s face lit up the screen, the Today Show logo behind him.

The TV’s light spread from the corner and bathed the bed and Raelynn’s contours in its sporadically blinking glow.

“Thanks,” said her muffled voice.

Greg went about his morning routine in a mental fog. The hot shower felt good on his face, his back. After he toweled off and wrapped himself from the waist down, his shaving gel went on smooth and cool over his chin and cheeks. He started the first pull with his razor when Raelynn, her face obviously no longer buried, called to him from the bedroom.

“Honey, I think you’re going to want to come see this. Like, now.”

The TV’s volume increased. “We go now to Bob Stimmons, live at the scene of the incident. Bob,” said the local anchor woman.

“Thanks, Mia. As you can see I’m here at Ground Control, a local coffee shop. Reports are coming in now that witnesses saw a woman and child running toward an oversized, inflated cup just seconds before it collapsed on them,” the reporter said. “A large tear in the fabric lead investigators to suspect foul play.”

They watched as witnesses recounted their tales.

“So they think somebody made it deflate?” Greg said. “Why the hell would anybody do that?”

“Some real crazies running around out there,” Raelynn said.

Greg mumbled and rubbed his head, which hadn’t yet cleared. “Yeah, out there.” Then, to his wife. “I’ll be back in a few minutes. I need to start my coffee. You want anything?”

“No, I’m good.”

Once outside Raelynn’s view, he ran and plopped down in the recliner and opened his laptop. “I’m not good,” he muttered. “In fact, I’m very, very bad.” He went to YouTube and the browser’s logo spun while the page loaded. “Come on, hurry. Please, please,” Greg said.

“Daddy, what are you doing?” Alex said as he made his way down the hall from his bedroom.

Greg closed his laptop. “Oh, nothing. Just checking something for work before I eat breakfast,” he said.

“But who were you saying, ‘please’ to, Daddy?”

“Just the computer. I’m running a little late today and it wasn’t doing things fast enough.”

On most weekdays Greg welcomed breakfast with Alex as a great start to his day. At that moment, however, he didn’t need the interruption. He needed to take that video offline.

If only he had declared mutiny on Captain Morgan after the first couple of drinks, he might never have committed such a blunder. No, that was too easy. Had it been the need to have his work seen?

“Saying ‘please’ to the computer? Silly Daddy. That computer can’t understand you.”

“Sometimes even I don’t understand me, kiddo.”

(to be continued)

One Reply to “Shootings (Part Six)”

  1. I couldn’t access this chapter yesterday, for whatever reason. I’ll leave full comments on #7 after I’m done with that in a few minutes.