By Dave Stancliff
Sgt. Borgalac kept asking Rafter for his canteen of Scotch. His shattered face gleamed wetly under the full moon’s light. Sprawled out on the ground, without ears, eyes, and genitals, Hansen lay in a growing pool of blood in the middle of an alley. Suddenly he sat up and pointed at Rafter.
“Where were you buddy? I didn’t stand a chance?”
Rafter screamed so hard he fell out of bed! But he didn’t come to his senses. Still wrapped in his nightmare, he got up off the hardwood floor and lunged across the room. He began swinging his arms and making contact with walls and a lamp on the dresser, which he sent flying off into the dark room.
The shattering lamp woke Sundance and he immediately began to cry. Jenny jumped out of bed and ran to Sundance’s room. Her mother’s instinct blindly led her to him. She held him close. A wail of anguish startled her, until she realized it came from Rafter’s room.
Out in the drying shed, Smiley and Smokey were working on their second bottle of Jack Daniels. As usual, Smiley wasn’t holding his liquor as well as Smokey. He was nearly blind drunk. Smokey had drunk more than usual and was feeling reckless. Maybe it was because he felt so physically strong. Maybe it was because he hadn’t been laid in months.
“So you see the way she looks at him?” Smokey asked.
“What the hell are you talking about? The way who looks at who?”
Too drunk to back down, Smokey went on, ’Jenny of course. Your old lady. She gives Rafter that look a lot.”
“Look a lot?”
“You know what I mean. That look. Where you want someone to have sex with you.”
“Sex? Who? You mean Rafter and Jenny? I told you before they’re just friends.”
“Hell yes. Are you blind or what? I bet she’s been doing him when you’re not around for years now. They must have been laughing out loud behind your back all along. Hell, I’ll bet Sundance is his kid!”
“The hell you say…”
“Listen…I didn’t want to bring this up again, but your partner has been plowing your ground for years.”
Smiley stood up and shook his head as if to clear it. Then he raised the bottle of Jack Daniels and took a hearty slug.
“We’ll see about that,” he said, slurring the words. He stumbled towards the main house.
Jenny was so proud of Sundance. Once she explained to him that Rafter was having a bad nightmare, he settled back down in his bed. Then she was able to go into Rafter’s room and check on him.
He was leaning against the wall, head down and sobbing, when she came into his room. Without thinking, she went up to him, wrapped her arms around him, and gave him a hug. He kept sobbing. She held him close and felt his terrified heart beating in his chest.
Smiley walked into the room! Snarling like an animal he awkwardly lunged across the room and barreled into them! Jenny fell backward and Rafter wobbled around, but kept his feet. They embraced like two enraged bears and thrashed around the room. Rafter bigger and stronger, broke loose and threw a combination of punches that knocked Smiley down and nearly out.
He’d never been hit so hard in his life! His jaw felt like it was broken and he was sucking air between what he was sure were broken ribs. Unable to stand, he waited for more punishment.
Rafter staggered around the room throwing his arms blindly around like windmills. They hit the wall, the chest of drawers and paddled at the air furiously. Then Smiley saw the blank sleepwalker eyes and knew what was going on in a flash of understanding.
Rafter was having one of his damn nightmares!
He stopped and sagged against a wall. Jenny came up to him and hugged him. Smiley was suddenly sober as he looked at the panting, tortured soul before him and realized his mistake. Jenny was between them, facing Rafter, softly speaking words of understanding and assurance. She looked over her shoulder once at Smiley and saw that he understood what really was happening.
Jenny knew he was drunk again and spending too much time with that snake Smokey. She instinctively knew Smokey was to blame for this incident. She felt no pity for Smiley, and wasn‘t concerned about his injuries. She had stopped feeling anything good about him a long time ago.
Clutching his side, Smiley got up and walked out of the room burning with shame at his stupidity. He went straight to the drying shed to see Smokey. Despite the pain in his ribs and jaw, he kicked Smokey’s ass around the shed almost leisurely, inflicting pain and then taking a swig from a bottle of Jack Daniels, before continuing the beat down. It lasted for an hour before Smiley passed out drunk.
He should have tied Smokey up or run him off the property. It was too late for that. Smiley was deep in his drunken sleep when the shotgun roared! He was lying on his stomach and his back was suddenly turned into a bloody mess! Smokey looked down at the ragged flesh and the growing pool of blood and felt a warm rush in his loins.
Something had snapped inside him after the beating. For the first time in Smokey's life he was ready to take someone else’s life. He’d known where Smiley kept the old 12- gauge shotgun in the drying shed, the one they sometimes let him use when they were out tending the gardens. The beating had sent him over the edge. He got the 12-gauge, shot Smiley, and turned his attention to the house.
He could barely walk, he was so sore. His eyes were so swollen and he had to squint through slits to see. After shooting Smiley, he grabbed a pocket full of shells and hobbled toward the main house.
Jenny couldn’t stop Rafter from leaving the house. His hallucinations had taken over and he was somewhere in Southeast Asia running from an invisible enemy. She didn’t follow him out of the house because of Sundance.
She heard a shotgun blast outside. Reacting instantly, she ran to grab Sundance. Next she ran to her room and grabbed the .38 caliber Smith & Wesson she kept in the dresser drawer beside her bed. She slipped it into the pocket of her robe and ran to the back door. Mogli followed them.
The adrenaline pouring through Smokey’s system was better than the best Meth he’d ever had. It made heroin look tame. He could see how people got addicted to this pleasurable rush that came when you killed someone. Shooting Smiley had turned his monster loose, and now he stalked the others with eager anticipation. His time had come.
Jenny took Sundance and Mogli to the “hideout.” It was a concealed bunker the three partners had built for protection a couple of years ago. If you didn’t know it was there, you’d pass the hideout because it was well camouflaged. There were cots and camping gear stashed inside. Several folding chairs stood next to them. A complex air exchange and duct system was cleverly concealed from the outside.
There were boxes of C-rations and plastic jugs of water in the bunker, along with a battery radio, a 20 gallon tank of propane for the camp stove, and stacks of magazines to read. There were three battery powered lanterns and a box of flares. A small round wooden table sat in the center of the room.
She was starting to doubt herself for running to the bunker when she heard Smokey’s voice,
“Hey! Don’t be shy! It’s just me…come on out! I just want to play with you guys. Don’t you like to play games Sundance?”
Jenny put a hand over Mogli’s mouth, but he didn’t resist. It was like he understood he had to be quiet.
Smokey couldn’t see where they were and was hoping they hadn’t gone too far. That they were still within range of his voice. He didn’t feel like chasing them right now. He was feeling the effects of the beating. It was still dark out and he needed something for the pain.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be back in a little while,” he called at the tree line where he supposed they had disappeared.
He still had one more thing to attend to before hunting Jenny and her brat down. That crazy bastard Rafter was roaming around somewhere. He went back to the main house and started up the steps to the front door. He heard a moan. He froze and listened closely. There it was again! Someone was under the house and it had to be Rafter. He backtracked and looked at the wooden skirting surrounding the house.
It became a deadly game. He got down on all fours, crept up to the intricate lattice work and peeked under the house.
“Come out, come out wherever you are!” he called.
At first there was no sound and he wondered if he’d imagined the groan? Then he heard it! Another groan. He saw movement from that direction,
“I’ve got you now, you son of a bitch!” he shouted, firing the shotgun!
Rafter howled in pain when the shot struck his hip! He was still in the clutches of his hallucinations and didn’t know who he was. He was stuck between reality and the mother of all nightmares. He had no idea who would want to shoot him.
Only his survival instincts could help him now. He didn’t move despite the horrendous pain and slowed his breathing.
Smokey, who pumped another shell into the breech, peered through the wood work and saw Rafter’s outline clearly against the first rays of morning light. He wasn’t moving. Damn! This killing stuff was fun! He had no idea how easy it was. Who would have thought? He wondered if there was any beer in the house? He was thirsty.
Rafter heard footsteps above him and knew his attacker was inside the house. Animal instinct told him he had to move now. To get help. He was bleeding profusely. Ignoring the pain, he crawled to an opening in the lattice work and pulled himself through onto the wet grass.
He stopped crawling once and looked at the sunrise heralding a new day with shades of pink and orange at the skyline. Memories stirred. Names rattled around in his head. Lenny. Rick. Jenny. Who were they? Then instinct took over again and he crawled toward the tree line.
Jenny knew she couldn’t stay in the hideout forever. By now, she suspected Smokey had shot Smiley. She tried not to think about him dead. She had no idea where Rafter was, or if he was still alive. She had heard another shot hours ago and suspected Smokey had shot him too. That 12-gauge made a distinct sound. She prayed Rafter wasn’t dead. It just wouldn’t be fair. There was so much she wanted to say to him.
Sundance agreed it wouldn’t be fair when she shared her thoughts with him. With four-year old wisdom, he assured her everything was going to be all right, and he would look out for her. She smiled at him and thought he looked like a little angel with his golden locks. Then she slipped her hand into her robe pocket and held the pistol for reassurance.
Coming May 21st - Chapter Nine
DEATH IN THE REDWOODS