Friday, April 16, 2010


Carly walked down the long path that led from her family’s home to the river. She lightly carried a wooden yoke. Dangling from either end of the yoke was a woven sling. In each sling was an empty clear plastic jug with a blue top. Carly also carried a bucket with a funnel that had a screen. The well at the house was not providing a lot of water these days. It was necessay to supplement the well water with water from the river, which was a mile or so away.

It was a coldish day. Carly wore work boots, jeans and a sweatshirt. Over that was a knee-length denim coat that had been lined with flannel. A wool watch cap and gloves completed her ensemble. There was nothing stylish about it, only functional. The concept of “fashion” had disappeared years ago. Surviving was what people worried about.

She reached the river, which was sort of a glorified stream. Carly set up her equipment. Her routine was to draw a bucket of water, let it sit for a minute, pour off what was on top and then slowly pour three-quarters of what was left in the bucket through the funnel and into the jugs. The last bit of water was dumped back into the river. Then Carly would rinse out the bucket, back-wash the screen and repeat the process. It probably took her a half-hour to fill the jugs.

Carly shouldered the now heavy yoke, picked up the pail and the funnel and started back for home. She was about three hundred yards from the river, moving through a patch of woods, when she thought she heard something. She stopped and listened. She heard another noise. Carly didn’t think it was an animal.

“Who’s there,” she asked in a quiet tone.

A man wearing jeans, a flannel shirt, a denim jacket, boots and a brimmed hat stepped out from behind some trees about sixty feet away.

“Frank,” she said. It was a statement, not a greeting.

“Hi, Carly, it’s been a long time.” Frank had been a rough kid, back when the high school was still open. He looked rougher now.

Carly asked: “What do you want?” She was pretty sure she knew what he wanted.

“Well, now, I thought we might have a bit of fun, you and I.” The way Frank answered her made it clear to Carly what sort of fun he had in mind.

“Frank Anderson, I don’t have time for your foolishness.”

Frank started walking towards her. As he walked, he reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out a heavy folding knife, the “commando” kind, which could be opened with one-hand and had a blade that locked open. The click was audible as he flicked it open. “Well, that just makes it even more fun for me,” he said with a look that was both predatory and anticipatory.

Carly’s right hand barely seemed to move as she apparently made a large caliber revolver appear from nowhere. Frank had time to widen his eyes in surprise as his brain registered the sight of a weapon being pointed at him and the sound of the hammer of the revolver being brought back.

The heavy lead slug from Carly’s pistol caught him low in the center of his forehead. He was dead before his knees buckled.

Carly stood stock-still, listening for any movement, any sign that Frank was not alone. She then removed the fired cartridge case, replaced it with a fresh round, re-holstered her sidearm and resumed her trip back home.

She would send her brothers to bury Frank.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Hilary's Scars

(A response to this post)

Hilary took her shower that morning as she had for the last three years- with the lights of the bathroom off. She did not turn the lights on until after she had taken her shower, toweled herself off and put on her robe. Hilary changed clothes and got dressed either with the lights off or her eyes closed. When she went to the gym, she came and went in her exercise attire, she never showered there.

The reason was simple, really. Below where her cleavage started, there were scars. Scars crisscrossed her once gorgeous breasts. There was a deeper scar in her abdomen and there were surgical scars in the same part of her body. Scars from where surgeons had cut in. Scars from drains.

Three years ago, Hilary had been dancing at a nightclub. A man tried to dance with her, she spurned him. He grabbed her arm, she threw a drink in his face. He tried to hit her and she kneed him with some force. The bouncers ran him out the hard way.

He grabbed Hilary two blocks away from the club and Hilary fought back. He knocked her senseless, carved up her breasts, raped her and then stabbed her in the belly. He left her for dead in the alley but Hilary didn’t accommodate him. She dragged herself into the street and was found by a passing hack, who called 911. The doctors were more interested in making sure that they stopped the bleeding and repaired her insides rather than worrying about minimizing the scarring. And scar up she did.

There was no DNA recovered from the attacker. There were no security cameras at the bar. Hilary was very good with faces. She never forgot anyone she met. She sure as hell didn’t forget him. But all the cops would have had to go on was her memory. Hilary told the cops that she never saw his face. She didn't tell the cops that the jerk on the dance floor had attacked her. After Hilary gave the detective on the second interview her "I'm sorry, I don't remember anything" schtick, the detective gave Hilary his card, asked her to call if her memory returned, and he moved on to other cases.

Hilary had friends who were willing to do her favors and then forget that they had done them. One of them had pulled all of the credit-card slips from the nightclub for the three weeks prior to the night she was nearly killed. Another cross-referenced the credit card slips with records from the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Hilary was given copies of those licenses. She had a match.

Hilary now had a name. She had an address. Once she was out of the hospital, as recovered as she was going to ever be, she began to plan. First, she confirmed that the photo on the license was indeed the attacker.

Hilary's attacker likely saw Hilary a number of times after she had recovered. Whenever he did, however, Hilary was always wearing large glasses and she had her hair pulled back in a ponytail. Hilary had 20/15 vision and never wore her hair pulled back.

Every morning during the work week, between 11 and 11:30, Hilary’s attacker walked from his office to a coffee shop. The trip took two blocks. Hilary noticed that there was a nondescript and old brick apartment building across the street just before the coffee shop, which offered furnished rooms and “move-in” specials.

Hilary took a furnished room. Paying double the security deposit, in cash, worked to waive the credit check. Hilary wore leather gloves the entire time and told the apartment superintendent that her hands were damaged “from an accident of industry.” Hilary told the super that her name was Ivana Petrova. She had ID in that name. He didn’t ask to see her ID, the Benjamins that Hilary gave him were all that he needed to see.

Hilary never stayed overnight in the room. The super seemed to think that she had rented a tryst-pad and Hilary let him think that. The few times that Hilary spoke with the super, she spoke in a very correct, very formal and almost stilted manner. The super complemented her on her English, he thought she was Russian and Hilary let him think that. Hilary paid the monthly rent in cash. The super never gave her a lease or receipts and she didn't ask for either. She assumed that the super was skimming the cash and that there would be no record of the apartment being rented. She was right.

Hilary had other friends. Friends who had the ability to modify hardware in ways that were heavily frowned upon. Which is why, one day, Hilary’s attacker, who was returning to his office and carrying a venti latte with extra foam, dropped dead on the sidewalk from a heavy 9mm bullet which had been very quietly fired from a third-floor room across the street and which had smashed into his skull.

He never knew why.

After all, confronting the target of one’s vengeance was an act of an amateur.

For Hilary was on a busman’s holiday.