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Daniel Bird Daniel Bird
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A Dish Best Served Cold

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This writing contains explicit content and is only for adults. You have been warned.

Working on "Zombie Apocalypse" (Novelette) and some other things that are tying up most of my time, so I can't post anything new right now. Thought I would RE-POST this one. ENJOY!

      It was twenty years ago today that Larissa died. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of that day. I can still see her in my mind, the image…still so fresh. My beautiful baby, crying, so scared: bleeding, busted and dying, her faint words, her last words. “Am I going to die daddy?” How could I tell her the truth? What was I supposed to say? Was I supposed to be honest and tell her the truth? ‘Yes honey…I’m sorry baby…you’re not going to make it.’ What about all the things a man does to keep the light in his baby’s eyes, mind and heart? Does that still apply? Is it still right to be honest?

     I can still remember the way she laid there groaning, her bruised eyes, closing, becoming glossy, losing focus, losing the light. I’ll never forget the blood running between my fingers, hot and thick, drying by the second. I can remember in great detail the morning she was born. So red, as if she had just been through a great ordeal, bald, tiny hands, feet, nose, mouth and eyes. I was the happiest man alive.

     Nothing ever meant more to me than that moment. Maybe one thing: revenge. I’m not sure these days if it’s still the most important thing in the world, but it’s still there on the edge of my thoughts. Always looking in, always prodding. Like a sharp stick poking. I know it’s wrong but I can’t stop myself. Like a mechanism that keeps the blood pumping through my veins, I just have to do it. I don’t understand it, but I don’t question it either. Revenge…what a horrible thing. Such a powerful force for someone like me, someone who has never stopped when he had his eye on something.

     I remember those days when she was just tiny in my arms, when she would cry every time I left the room. Those green eyes, like her mother’s, so bright, so curious, her tiny blond curls, so soft in my fingers. I did the best I could with her. I always had big dreams for her, even before she knew what dreams were. She was a stubborn one. And after Clarissa died, I swore to her that I would do my best to be the best father I could be. I swore to ‘C’ I would give my life to keep our baby safe, to keep her happy. And up until that day, I have to say that I did a hell of a job.

     There was always clean clothes, a warm home, food on the table and in the pantry. Her room was filled with everything a child could want: television, video cassette recorder, books, crayons, Teddy-bears, everything that she could ever want. I went to all her Christmas recitals, her Halloween plays, her parent-teacher interviews, and I truly loved being there. I never complained. They all loved her, everyone did. And it was my job to make her happy.

     How she reminded me of her mother, so thoughtful and sweet and kind—a blessing that she had so very little to complain about. I miss her still to this day. The dreams have been coming back with greater frequency, more vivid than ever, so real. I guess I’ll find out soon enough if all the bad dreams will go away. In any event I’ll be going home to my girls. And its moments like these that get me to questioning if there really is a God. I guess I’ll find that out soon enough too. And if no one wins…at least I will have my revenge.

     And I know that both Clarissa and Larissa - my girls, would not approve, but…again, I just can’t help myself. Mechanism. There is no way to turn it off. You would have to kill it. It has to die and be buried deep. Hell, who knows, maybe when I’m a ghost I will be the same way, looking to avenge those I love. Or maybe Satan himself will find me and have his own revenge. But I don’t believe in hell or heaven or God or Satan. But I do believe in darkness. And I have been infected with it since that day Larissa fell asleep forever in my arms. And only last night it awoke like never before. Last night was the first night in a very long time that I never dreamt.

     And for so long I waited for this day. For twenty-years I plotted every detail. And Rolondo Rojas doesn’t have a clue. He has a nice family of his own now, a young daughter of his own, around the same age as Larissa when she died. Ten, eleven—maybe twelve; pretty girl, loves her daddy. God forgive me. Father Vashon would say I ought to find forgiveness. He would go on about how the greatest and purest thing in this world is love and forgiveness. How grace is God’s unconditional forgiveness. And by that time I would be walking out or thinking about all the little details: the gun…clean, untraceable, fully loaded, attached silencer to suppress the noise.

     It’s raining, cold. A chill runs through me. I know the shame will get me when it’s all over, and the guilt, and the tears and the screams and the blood. I’ll have to do it and just get the hell out of there. Walk quickly, but not too quickly, remain focused but don’t look around like a bumbling idiot. And right now, this very minute, I know I should just take Father Vashon’s advice to just let it all go and find God, to remember that I once loved the most beautiful thing in the world and to find peace in that.

     He would surely mention how my faith has been lost because of my not believing in miracles, the Saints or Angels. He would tell me that it’s a sin how I don’t believe in anything but the green fresh-cut dollars that seem to fall right off the tree and somehow land in my pocket. He would say that Luck is what it means to have such a beautiful little person made of my own flesh and blood even for a little while. And it would not matter one bit to him that I’ve always been lucky, in life, with…everything. Maybe he’s right. Maybe my Larissa’s a good luck Angel watching over me.

     And right now, before the hammer falls, an uneasy shame washes over me. What I’m about to do. The world seems like a weight distributed unevenly within me. And even as I sit here in the silence, with the engine off, with the quiet that’s supposed to calm my troubled heart, I can’t stand the rain, the busy pattering against the windshield. The sound of thunder rumbles by like an omen, as if to say, ‘Even if you don’t believe in me, I am here, watching.’ The weather creeping into my bones loosens my grip on anything gentle, anything soft, and the streaks of lightning so high in the clouds causes me discomfort.

     My breath comes in unsteady gasps, my hands are shaking. I’ve never felt old before tonight. And at forty-eight, I have to say I still catch the young women looking me over. And this morning, as the summer says goodbye, here under a gray sky, all the best suits in the world couldn’t make me feel handsome. I feel ugly inside. Like a deep dark blackness. Like the teeth of some terrifying beast waiting to bite down. Like some awful creature with fire for eyes. My heart is not good.

     And the worst thing about all of it is that I have everything I’ve ever wanted. Homes, vehicles, great friends, adoration, people who believe in me and look up to me. I have accumulated a lifetime of goodies. More than I need. Who would ever dream of giving this up? I must be one of those sick individuals that people don’t hear about until they do something tragic, like make the front page of the paper. But the money...the assets, hell, even the cars…my most sacred collection…just doesn’t hold anymore allure. No spirit. No essence. Everything feels wrong. My home is lonely. The windows don’t seem to let in anything nowadays but the gloom.

     I remember those long ago days clear enough to remember how I felt when Judge Shinomi handed twelve-year-old Rolondo a three year sentence. How I wanted to kill that little bastard. I wanted him to see me choking the life from him, wanted him to watch me end his life. Wanted him to know what it felt like to be so afraid. And Judge Shinomi, I wanted to kill her too, for being such a joke, for being so soft. I know she was just doing her job, but…well, she was terrible at it.

     And it took me some time to track her down, but even she has to take responsibility for what she did, for letting my Angel’s life get washed away behind a clean suit and the sly words of a fox. How I remember Socrates. Now there was a man who was good at his job. Julian Socrates…sly, charismatic, charming and very eloquent—knew the books like the back of his hand. Knew the law. He was worth all the thousands he racked up. A hell of a lawyer that guy. He would be worth hiring if I didn’t just kill him. And there’s no surviving what justice I handed down: one straight-through-the-heart and two in the head.

     You see, I just couldn’t allow old Socrates to go on living. Couldn’t allow him to defend killers and rapists, and make good money off bad men and a terrible justice system that seems only to protect the rich. There’s evil in that: defending bad men. And I don’t agree with the laws that say everybody deserves representation. Some people are just plain evil. Some people should just be executed where they stand—two in the noggin. Am I one of those people? Maybe I am. Hell, if I don’t deserve a bullet now, after this morning I definitely will.  

     Last night was the first time I ever killed anybody in my life. I put a dog down once; a dog disease that left him a cripple and dying. I loved that dog. I never owned one since. And tonight was a new experience. It got my heart pumping and my adrenaline blasting through every vein and vessel, breaking my nerves—making them shake. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I might have hesitated if old Socrates didn’t recognize me outright. If he didn’t answer the door with such hatred, with such an ugly sneer, like the world just up and crashed into him. If he didn’t just show me what a creep and scumbag he was; such a foul mouth, spitting his last words as if they could save his life, ‘what the fuck do you want, asshole!’ Like my baby’s life never meant a thing to him. And it didn’t. I know that much.

      Nobody ever taught me how to kill. That’s the one thing about humans, is that you don’t need to teach them how to kill. It’s just in them, waiting. And for most, the beast doesn’t ever present itself. Another truth about humans is that…despite the whole world falling apart, despite all the hatred in the streets the world over…there are those people who are just real honest to goodness warm hearted creatures who probably never hated anything in their whole lives. Not like me. Harboring that shit, keeping it close. Never letting it go.

     And tonight the hatred is alive and bright in the dark side of my heart, whispering things to me: how that little motherfucker deserves everything he gets. That he took a beautiful young life and practically got away with it: a slap on the wrist. The hatred speaks to me like a Mob Boss in the old movies, an eye for an eye and all that. But don’t just make it quick, no. Really make him pay. And that’s exactly what I intend to do. It’s almost time, five-thirty-three a.m. Rolondo’s wife Drenna will be home soon. She’s a nurse at the General Hospital; beautiful and young. Probably has a good loving heart. It’s time like these that I know monsters are all too real.

     And even though I know she didn’t have anything to do with it, with my Larissa’s death…she is part of it now. I don’t like it, not one bit, but…well, that’s just the way it is. An unwilling spectator turned unwilling actor in an all too willing play. No awards. No reviews. No nice words or winning dialogue, just death. Justice. Not the justice that eludes good people by letting killers walk free. No not that kind of justice.

     A different brand of justice, one that needs to set an example. To let others know…to let them think twice, that…that there just might be somebody like me waiting to pay them ten-fold for something they laugh at; believing they just got away with murder. To make sure they never laugh at a slap on the wrist ever again. To let them know that sometimes…fate has to intervene. And I know that innocent people are going to die this morning, but again…I can’t help that. I mean…I can, but…well, what kind of message would I be sending? That this was somehow to do with Socrates, instead of my baby girl? It has to be done, as simple as that.

     Five-thirty-nine in the morning and the rain is still coming down. The clouds are still dark gray, and cold. Cold like my heart. And all the love I have ever felt died a long time ago. The day that my baby girl stopped breathing. The day the light left her eyes. The early morning rush is beginning. The sound of tires sliding over water and asphalt is somehow soothing. The windows are fogging up. The news is blabbing about Socrates already. Found him dead in his doorway. No sign of a robbery. They won’t say whether it was a targeted hit. They won’t say much at all.

     Sitting here listening to the radio, the window wipers still, I can’t help but to think of the things my girls will say to me. And it makes me sad to think that my Larissa will be disappointed in me. And I would stop myself if I could, but I have this demon deep inside me. I can’t explain it. I’m hoping I will never have to. Anyways…it doesn’t matter, Drenna Rojas has just pulled up, passed right by me. The guns usually cold-steel feels somehow warm in my fingers, as though it’s ready to do what it came to do. But what about me? Am I ready? As ready as I will ever be I suppose.

     The more I think on it, the more I can hear Larissa saying, ‘Don’t do it daddy! Don’t go in there! Socrates is enough. He’s paid for everybody. Please, daddy…don’t!’ And I have to tell myself that it’s just my imagination. That she’s gone. My baby’s gone. That it is just my mind playing tricks on me. There goes my heart picking up, the clamminess in my palms, the tainted breaths coming in cold and empty. Breathe, I tell myself. Just breathe. It makes no difference, the demon is already here, looking out through my eyes.

     I never realized how pretty Drenna was before. Mexican. Peurto Rican maybe. Columbian? I can’t be sure. Soft brown skin, dark eyes, nice figure, hard working, in love with her daughter Dominique. A cold chill breaks over me as I open the door, and immediately I know it’s not the rain splashing me in the face. No. It’s that wild thing in the darkness of my heart wanting to feel the warm fresh blood splat across my face, wanting to see my enemy scared and dying before me. It’s the realization of knowing I stepped over some lines tonight, lines that should never have been crossed.

     Just one last look at the picture of my beautiful baby and one last feel of the letter, its crisp paper-feel in my fingers: the letter that explains everything in detail. How that by letting this little bastard free back into the world, they fucked up. That by the time they lift their hot coffees to their mouths, they would have a form of justice truly served. Not the kind of pussy-fuck justice that hides behind dollars and politics and furtherance of position - that, for some people like me, the only justice is an eye for an eye and more. An eye for an eye and the whole damned carcass.

     The radio is still talking rain for the next two days. I don’t like the rain. It’s like a sad song; the gloom that is my life, the darkness that surrounds everything about me. I take my first step into the day, and I never realized just how orange the trees are, the yellows, the reds covering the sidewalks and lawns, adding a strange elegant character to white pretty houses, pouring out into the neighborhood. And even the shrubs and the bushes are losing their colors to the season, giving up their green coats, as if to add a little more spice to the world, peppering their natural seasoning about the ground, as if to blanket it from the coming cold. As if to give it a form of comfort that perhaps only god himself might understand.

     And like slow motion my world becomes lit up in a single moment and I can see in detail like never before, Drenna: beautiful long black hair tied up behind her head, her blue scrubs hidden away by a brown winter coat, closing around shapely legs, accentuated by white sneakers meant for one who is on their feet all night long, constantly moving. I can see that she turned her music player off, and tucked it in her pockets safely away.

     I can’t help but to think just how silent my own steps are as I rush up behind her. And this is where it all matters, where a single moment has never meant so much evil. And from only ten feet behind her I can hear the jingle of the keys in her hand. I can hear the metal-on-metal scrape of them entering the door handle. Hell, I can hear the click and the turn of the knob. The door opens as I fly up behind her, butt of the gun coming down like the stroke of midnight. Lights out!

     She doesn’t even feel it. But she will when she awakes. With a quickness I have never known before, I drag her inside, close the door and lock it, easing her down onto the floor, hauling her unconscious body over to the stairs. Her head is bleeding. She’s groaning some. Not loud but horrible to look at. Like a person in mid-nightmare unable to wake and escape from a monster in a dark terrifying dreamscape.

     Quickly I bind her wrists around the banister with a set of zip-ties. She can wake up there when she’s good and ready. With the gun stiff and aiming everywhere I look, I rush through a modern kitchen and on through the dining room, finding no one else in the house, before heading quietly up the stairs. I hear the shower running and an electric toothbrush grinding over a set of teeth. Straight ahead down a shiny hard-wood floor, the bathroom door is opened slightly. Someone is in there. I can see a hand leaning up on the vanity. A man’s hand. He’s looking in the mirror. Brown skin.

     To my left is a door, opened just a crack. A girl’s room. Lace curtains, white bureaus, beige carpeted floor, pink blankets. A figure lying there: black hair, bare feet, sleeping soundly. Without hesitating, I rush in. And like an animal suddenly, without remorse, without thought to the figure before me: petite, frail, tucked away so comfortably—I reach out taking a handful of hair. And like the Devil just came up and took me away from my own eyes, I honestly don’t mind the screams, the kicking, the scratching or the noise.

     Wearing only a thin t-shirt top and panties, I yank her clean out of the blankets, bringing her up and out of the bed. My heart is pumping so loud that I can almost hear it like the thunder itself rolling by. Suddenly a figure is standing in the doorway, shocked and utterly taken, half naked the waist up. I look deep into his eyes, letting him find himself, and for just a moment it becomes clear. Who I am. Why I’m here. And that’s about all he can handle. And like a bad dream he has no choice but to play along.

     I point the gun right at him while his little girl is helpless and crying in my arm, her neck so thin and weak that I could break it without much pressure. All becomes silent. He puts up his hands, ready to play along suddenly, feeling as helpless as a broken bird targeted by an approaching predator. And what I see in his eyes gives me a certain pleasure, a pleasure that I cannot explain. And a certain other element fills the room suddenly, emanating thickly from him-self, the girl and from me as well. A strange energy on three-fronts explodes with the rush of blood, heightened adrenaline, and fear. Washing through each of our systems with grave intensity is uncertainty, like fire in our blood raging through to oblivion.

And the power I so seek means nothing in this little game of life and death. No. There is no will here now but the will to survive and the will to revenge, clashing cosmically: a man about to be winded by a sudden creeping guilt that begins to enter his bloodstream, seeming to rush up to the core of his brain. He stands there shaking, wondering why? Why now, after all this time? And soon he will know the answers to all his questions.

     For me, the whole scenario is a wild thing. Revenge, confusing all those parts that help me rationalize like a normal human, with vast feelings and true measures of right and wrong. And I know this is wrong, but like I have stated more than once tonight, I cannot let it go. There’s always been that beast deep inside me that will absolutely not let it go. And what’s worse, is that it will not let them go.

     And this beast…this thing…it’s never been truly fed like it is right now, gorging on the energy in the room; the fear, the acute senses, sensing every subtlety of life now: the moaning coming to life at the bottom of the stairs, the tears in the little girls eyes, the memories of a fateful sunny afternoon so many years ago that started all this. And right this moment I can tell old Rolondo has heard the news of Socrates only a few minutes ago—shot to death on his doorstep.

     And I can also tell that Rolondo never suspected even for a minute that it was linked directly to him. His sin. And now he knows. Now he sees that he has to pay. Now he wishes he had spent more time in the clink. Now he wishes he never met Larissa. Now he wishes he never had such a shitty attitude as a kid, going around being a bully. Now he wishes that he was never a punk kid with a sharp knife with bad morals, no manners, coming from a broken home. Now he wishes that he never laid hands on the blade that punctured the heart of my beautiful Larissa.

     In the stillness of the pink room, the soft carpet, the fluffy blankets and the books, crayons and pretty dresses slung over a chair, come to life for the both of them: father and daughter, as if it’s the first time they ever saw such nice things, as if it’s the last time they are ever going to have anything so pretty and comfortable and pure. And I sense something strange in the atmosphere. Something about this room, the way the dresses are slung over the chair, like a fashion-show interrupted so suddenly. A bathing suit. A video recorder in the corner of the room.

     Shaking and uncovered the waist up, towel still wrapped around his neck, dark blue pajamas suddenly holding more comfort than any pants could ever offer, with the last few seconds gone by like minutes, he mutters something, giving my beast more power and more thirst. His voice is trembling, fully understanding the situation, looking into my eyes, trying to read anything that might give him the edge. But he sees nothing that will give him an edge and his weak words prove that entirely, “Look, man…I’m sorry, man. I am. Please…don’t hurt her. Don’t hurt my baby!”

     As if sensing the very last thing she should do, the girl says nothing. Her frame is so tense in my arms and her breath is coming in quick gasps, still in disbelief, looking to her daddy for protection and somehow seeing him exactly as he is: Helpless. She is a brave one - still and submissive, offering me no resistance whatsoever. Smart girl. I can feel the skin of her legs against mine so acutely I can almost feel the goose-pimples springing up all over them.

     With a motion of my gun, Rolondo does exactly as he is asked. With no will to fight and no will to attack, and certainly not while I have his little girl in my arms at gunpoint, he heads down the stairs, hands up, looking back now and again as I follow him, the gun pointed to his little girls head.

     Drenna is just now coming to life, suddenly aware that she is bound at the bottom of the stairs, her quick bright mind trying to assess the situation, feeling a bloody lump on her head, looking up at me, her gaze locked in confusion. She screams and fights against the banister, tearing into her own flesh, but it’s no use. “Shut the hell up!” I yell out, my eyes gaining in intensity, somehow alive with malice.

     And she does as she’s told, seeing her daughter is at the other end of the spectrum of leverage. And silently she cries, the blood leaking from her head holding no more meaning, suddenly far behind her. Rolondo scans the room, looking for anything he might use to hit me with, anything at all. Nothing presents itself. The huge flat screen television, fronted by a plush sofa, loveseat, and side tables with their little plants and lamps offer no threat. Not when I have a silenced barrel aimed and a nervous trigger finger just waiting for him to fuck up.

     Stepping past Drenna slowly, I aim the gun at her face, stopping her from anything stupid that might make its way into her pretty skull - anything at all. I toss Rolondo a set of zip-ties and bring the girl wide around her mother, giving them both a wide berth. “Listen to me very carefully Rolondo.” My eyes get mean and very serious. “There is no playing now.”

     The girl whimpers, “Daddy…”  

     I let her know it before I say another word. “Honey…your daddy is a bad man who has done a very, very bad thing. And now he has to pay for it. He has to set it all right with God. Now sweetheart…why don’t you tell him to do exactly as he’s told.”

     She does, in the most precious voice. “Daddy, do like the man says.” And suddenly, it strikes me hard in the gut that I do deserve to go to hell. And it worries me only now, that I won’t be able to stop myself. In fact…I know it. Nothing will stop me. Not the goodness of the world. Not the better part of me that’s filled with good senses and a warm heart. Not the little girl under my arm who reminds me of Larissa; so pretty, bright and precious. I wish Father Vashon was here right now. There’s nobody who I would rather have on my side right now, with me or against me – just there.

     Sensing hesitation I aim the gun suddenly at him, “I’ll kill her. Don’t make me be a bad person! Don’t try me!” And then he thinks of Socrates. “Now tie yourself to the higher stairs Rolondo, and then we’ll have our talk.”

     “Please don’t hurt her. Please….man. Dominique...daddy’s right here baby.” And in his eyes I can see it: remorse. All the love a man has for his child. The worrying heart that tells him somehow to be very careful and it will be alright. That voice that is his conscience that speaks volumes, ‘Just do as he says Rolondo, and everything will be alright. He’s a good man, just a little bent. He’ll let Dominique go. He’ll release her and just take you.’ And then his voice fills the air with a bulb in the back of his throat, “Just take me bro. Let her go.”

     “You just do as your told, motherfucker!” A moment fills his heart with such a bravery that he thinks for a single moment that he can dive forward and grab the gun away. I point it directly to Dominique’s head, my eyes and heart telling him loud and clear, “Do it, fucker!’ He reaches as high as he can, bringing the zip-tie around a rung and binds himself good and tight. I can tell his heart is weak and so angered now like never before. And his mind is alive now with memories of that fateful day twenty years ago.

     Right here off the living room, in the hallway that leads to the dining room, it’s all coming back to him now, the way he sought fear in my baby girl’s heart. The way he forced himself onto her, engulfing her sweet, kind heart, turning her over onto her belly for his own evil purposes. And I know he enjoyed it. I remember how remorseless he was in that courtroom so long ago, like my baby’s life was worth nothing. And now I have him. And he still can’t believe it.

     Drenna is silent and very still, her breath coming through in little more than gasps, her wrists bleeding from the cuts she dug into herself, wanting so to plead, but trying to remain so very calm, hoping that everything will be alright, knowing full well what this is about. Knowing that Rolondo’s horrible sin has come back to haunt him. So beautiful, Drenna. So smart and patient, quietly waiting her release, her heart filled with dread and terror. And I can see that her mind is alive now with all the precious memories of her little Dominique. The day she was born. Her first steps, her first words, her first grade. All coming in waves.

     The rain is coming down harder now and the thunder is still rolling by like angry gods. I have each of them exactly where I want them. The house is quiet but for the shower and a television in one of the rooms upstairs still talking of weather and rain, and the news that wakes people up and keeps them up. Rolondo looks helplessly into the eyes of his wife and then to his little girl, so sorry that today had to happen. But for me…it’s not enough. I need more. The beast inside me needs more. This is simply not enough. An eye for an eye and the whole damn carcass!

     Drenna begins to plead with me, “Please…what do you want?”

     “Shut up! If I so hear another peep from either of you, the girl gets it, I swear. I’m not fucking around!” I look to Rolondo, deep into his eyes. “Why don’t you ask your husband what I want. No…don’t bother. I’ll tell you what I want. I’ll tell you exactly what is that I want and why I came here.” I look at Drenna, suddenly feeling Dominique’s fair skin against my pants, her hair against my neck, her perfect jaw about my hand. Slowly, I bring her gently to look deep into my eyes, “Sweetheart…I once had a baby girl. About the same age as yourself. How old are you sweetheart?”

     “Eleven,” she mutters, remaining brave. “I’ll be twelve soon.”

      “My baby girl Larissa was ten. She was beautiful, just like you.” I can’t help but to hold her closer, somehow feeling her little frame against my own like a warm hug. Nothing perverted, just a sense of two people struggling to remain calm. “What do you want to be when you grow up honey? Dominique, is it?”

     She nods under my forearm, her neck still in my grasp. Drenna looks at her to go ahead and tell me what I want to know. “I…I don’t know.” She says.

     “Running my gun-hand through her black hair, I say in the sweetest voice I can muster, “What are you good at? What do you like to do?”

     And sweetly, bravely, sensing the tension easing up, she answers, “I want to be a nurse, like my mom. I want to help people.” Good answer. Poor kid. So scared.

     “Well honey, let me tell you a story.” Rolondo’s eyes are filled with tears and it has hit him, the extent to which I have returned. “Your daddy…I don’t know if he told you this, but…he took my baby girl away from me. He lured her down a deep dark alley and punched her in the face over and over and over again. He then took out a knife and shoved her to the ground and took her money. She worked hard for that money too. I taught her how to work hard for what she wanted.”

     I wave the gun in Rolondo’s direction, I don’t know why but it seems the right thing to do, maybe just a natural thing to fill the air with a sense of measure. Like the truth coming out after so many long years. Justice. I continue, keeping a close eye on Drenna, who is very attentive, saying nothing, weakened by the whole affair, by the somber air of the house itself. And if these walls could talk, oh the story they would tell after this morning. “I know you love your daddy sweetheart, but…you have to hear the rest. And then you will understand why I am here. Do you love your daddy?”

     She nods responsively, looking directly at him, perhaps blaming him for all this. “Your daddy…nice guy that he is…after taking my baby girl’s money…stuck her face in the ground, rolled her over on her belly, put the knife to her neck, opened her pants and did a bad thing to her. Touched her where he should not have. And then…” I could feel her eyes looking deep into her father’s in disbelief, trying so hard to examine the outs, looking for the one thing in her daddy’s eyes that would make it all go away. That would make some sense to all these lies I was spilling out like an open wound. But in her wide eyes, the slight shift running the length of her body, I can sense something outright. I just can’t put my finger on it, but it’s there like a silent scream.

     “Your daddy, he dragged my little girl behind a shed in the alley and forced himself on top of her. And each and every time she screamed he hit her again.” A certain rage was overcoming me, and I could feel myself squeezing her harder until she let out the smallest choke, still remaining brave as possible, her eyes filled with tears, her little mind, perhaps thinking that she might not make it to school, that she might not escape to hug her mother ever again. And she began crying now, her sniffles filling the air, breaking the cold silence.

     Drenna moans, “No…please, not my baby! Please…I beg of you. Please!” She looks deep into my eyes. The love is there. The fright. The heartache. The sudden reality numbing the pain in her wrists. And how she can’t take her eyes from her beautiful Dominique, whispering feebly, “It’s going to be alright baby.” Both their eyes are filled with tears. And just then a certain rage fills the heart of Rolondo, and he screams and fights against the ties, against the rung he’s bound to, blood beginning to trickle down the length of his arm. Even with all his weight it is no use.

     His tears are filled with a sudden shame and a horrible guilt creeping up from the bottom of a dark pool. I can see in his eyes a certain awkward mind that looks deeply into his daughter’s eyes for forgiveness. Like something in their relationship just broke forth, something deeper than just a loving father and a loving daughter, something wild and tentative that touches them both in their hearts and minds, all the way down to their souls, to their groins. Something secret. Something sexual. It’s in the air now. A strange wild sense of it bursting forth.

     And though nothing is spoken of it, I can sense it come alive in the hallway right now. And so can Drenna as she looks deep into her daughter’s eyes. And it’s all right there; a deep secret washing forth from her daughter’s cries. Guilt. Memories. Daddy’s touches. His hands unable to help himself. His fingers. His mouth. And how she loves her daddy. How she is filled with his love. His ways. And they aren’t so bad. She’s just used to it. It doesn’t bother her no more.

     In fact she likes the way he touches her. The way he holds her. Their secret drives, that he buys her everything. That his hands are so good and loving to her. That they love to touch her body, between her legs, bending her over and rubbing her backside. Without words it becomes so virtually clear to all of us. And again Dominique squirms in my grip.

     Before Drenna has anything to say, Rolondo screams at me, looking right into my eyes, his heart filled with a sudden rage, a hatred so vast that he would kill me right this moment if he could. “Go ahead and just kill me you motherfucker! I did it! I killed that little whore! The things I did to her…! You’ll never know!” His breath is coming in heavy now, his heart pumping, his words…too late to stop them. Too late to hold them back.

     And Drenna screams, “Rolondo!” all her nightmares coming in violent and alarming, all her little suspicions coming to life before her very eyes, read aloud in both their eyes: Dad and Daughter. Like an open book that I myself can only imagine by deciphering the animosity in Drenna’s eyes: the little gifts for no reason other than that she asked for them, the late night movies, the strange giggles in the other room, the open shower door, the way Dominique would call for daddy to come and check ‘something,’ to bring her a towel, any excuse to have him come into the bathroom while she showered.

     And Drenna is tormented, stuck in such a strange evil wonder, all the little nuances coming to life. And it hits her full force, the look in Rolondo’s eyes – Dominique’s eyes; together their guilty shifting language, their eyes, unable to look at each other, the waft of a recent sexual bout filling the air. Very recent. Perhaps only last night while mommy was at work.  That would explain the dresses slung over the chair, the underwear and training bras strewn about the bedside, the little bundle of bills on the bureau. That would explain the camera pointing toward the bed and the open shower door and the fact that Dominique’s hair was only recently dried and still damp. The fact that she was still in her panties.

     The hatred in Drenna’s eyes is enough for me to consider letting them all live! It might be their only saving grace. “You bastard!” she screams at her husband. And all he can do is say nothing. Just hang there and bow his head in shame. Too much said already. The guilt in his eyes is quite enough.  

     Now that the air has been filled with such a dire tempo, I have my own idea of how to finish this tale. “See, honey…your daddy…well…he’s a monster. And that’s why I’m here today. I’m a monster hunter and I came here today to fix him, to fix everything. And I’m sorry I had to do this, but…well, it’s the only way to make him pay.” And I can feel the guilt pour out from her lungs in deep gusts, her breath coming in so violent now, her body trembling all over. The shame, simply too much to hold back,  like a dam bursting pouring forth with great force.

     And for one shining moment, a dark knight inside my brain quells the element that is my mechanism. I know now, suddenly, that I have beaten it. I have found my air, my winning grace, all right here, bound to the top rungs of a beautiful staircase. And suddenly…without pulling the trigger, without needing to…I have my revenge. Not perfect, but oh so fitting. Two truths, more than any of us can handle right now. I found out what I wanted to know; what the cops would never discuss further with me.

     I found out that he had meant to kill Larissa. That it was not just a random and sudden thing. That he had been waiting for his opportunity. I had found out too, that he had been doing it to his lovely daughter as well. Turning her into a little sexual beast all her own. As though a sudden weight has been lifted from my shoulders, like a beautiful warm light just entered the lonely halls of my mind, filling those deep corners of my own dark heart…I have a sudden desire to seek out Father Vashon and let him tell me how good it is to find God.

     I think I will. Take him to lunch and let him tell me just how lovely life could be if I just let this Good Lord that good people speak of, take me, heart, mind and soul. And you know what? I just might. I feel like taking a ride very fast down the freeway. I feel like cleaning out Larissa’s room, packing her things up and really saying goodbye. Maybe I’ll drop some flowers off at her gravestone. Maybe clean it and write her a letter. A letter of today. How by having her close by she lead me to an entirely different kind of justice. A mother’s justice - a mother bear’s will to protect her little one. All three are crying now. It’s all over for me, the obsession with revenge, the wanton desire to come here and kill all three of them for no other reason than that I have a mechanism that seems to flourish in Revenge; seems to wallow in it.

      And it strikes me as quite the thing, the need to kill the mother and daughter in front of Rolondo. But it’s gone now. I was going to kill them in front of him and let him go, that he might take his own life afterward. I wanted him to know what it feels like to lose a daughter, a wife, those he loves and cherishes most above all. Instead, what I got… What I got was a hard secret. A wild and brazen secret. The truth behind Rolondo’s love for his daughter. His ways. And right here and now, I have won. All without pulling the trigger. Again.        

     I have no need now to call up the cops and go out in a hail of bullets like I had originally planned. It’s all over for me. And I am actually glad that I don’t have to kill them. It’s over. But for Rolondo, it has just begun. For Drenna, it has just begun. I whisper something so utterly strange to Dominique, “Baby, don’t grow up to be like your daddy.”

     It’s something strange to feel her reply with the shake of her head, “I’ll never do those kinds of things to my kids.” And for perhaps the first time in her life, she recognizes that it was all wrong. All the touches. All the little trips, the late nights alone sitting on daddy’s lap. And still the guilt forces her tears, and her red eyes can’t even look at her daddy.

     I let her go, and instantly she falls into her mother’s arms, digging herself into the very bosom that gave her the most pleasure, the most warmth, the most safety. I walk away from them both, letting myself into the kitchen, opening up a single drawer where I pull out a pair of scissors that Dominique might retrieve it once I leave.

     On the way out I look down at Dominique, looking deep into her eyes, handing her the gun with the silencer, “Someday honey…when you get older, you come and find your revenge if you want. I’ll be waiting. You better kill me. Make it good and don’t miss. Don’t give me a chance, or I will be the one to kill you.” I look to Rolondo, “It’s your turn to lose all that you have come to love. I guess you never knew it, but…I never forgot. I never slept well since that day. I never let you out of my mind Rolondo Rojas. I forgive you now. Via condios, Rolondo Rojas. Via Condios.” And I thought I should do the same myself: ‘Go with God.’

     To Dominique, I said, “Honey, in the kitchen, you’ll find the scissors on the counter. Let your mother free. And your daddy too.” And I left. I closed the door behind me feeling that one evil man’s death had been enough justice to quell the mechanism inside me, the one that seeks revenge to no end. Socrates. I bet he’s walking toward hell right this very moment, screaming, begging for representation. And for a man who doesn’t believe in hell or heaven, I got a perfect sense of it just now. Very strange.

     And the rain stopped. The street itself, the trees, the sounds of the day, a dog barking up the block, the slick tires of passing vehicles, the people in them, driving along - lost to their own dramas - feels somehow colorful and warm. Driving off I feel good about ending Socrates’ life. I feel in my heart that I put a bad man to the truth of his ways. And in his death he had been served. Eternal community service in hell. He took money from bad men and gave them a deceitful light all his own, buying their freedom with lies and corruption.    

     And the courts believed him. They always believed him. He was just that good. How many rapists, killers, drug dealers and pedophiles had he helped free? A lot.

     Four days later I had read the story with the mind of a man who had found his peace. It was on the sunniest and brightest day I have had in such a long time, days after I had emptied Larissa’s room. It was in the papers. It turns out that after I left the Rojas’ residence that morning, Drenna left Rolondo bound to the banister and rushed out moments after me and headed straight down to the police station and told them of the years of Rolondo’s abuse of his daughter. She told them of how a man came in and bound them to the railing of the stairs and told them that her husband Rolondo had raped and murdered his young daughter.

     That’s when I read that, upon entering the house to arrest him, the Cops found Rolondo dead with a self-inflicted gunshot to the head, a note still clutched in his hand—a heartfelt apology to his wife and his baby girl, for all the years of abuse. And in the end, it was learned that the same gun was responsible for the murder of heavy-weight criminal lawyer Julian Socrates. They found three kilograms of Heroin in his trunk and a bag full of cash.

     It turns out that Rolondo was tied into small-time drug running and ready to make the jump to mid-level executive. His wife told authorities of how he had had dealings with Socrates in the past.

     As for myself, I haven’t had any visits from the police. Although I expect to. I will be right here waiting and willing. You see, I have found peace in Larissa’s death. In Father Vashon’s words. I have found peace in the Lord. He will guide me. I have all the money I need for a good lawyer if it comes to that. Hell, I might just plead guilty. If it comes to that.  I’m dying anyways. The Cancer has a hold of me. I just found out a month ago. I’ll fight it all till the end. Now that I have God…all is sunny and fine.

     And right now I can feel my baby-girl smiling, waiting for me. And my beautiful wife is there beside her. In that I am free from all sins. And somewhere in the eyes of God I will pay for what I did to Socrates. Or maybe I did the world a service. Who knows? Maybe I did God a favor. And now, the beast…the mechanism is dead. And no longer does the old saying ‘Revenge is a dish best served cold’ hold any weight for me. I am free, and happy. Finally. I can sleep.

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