Monday, November 24, 2008

Fiction - The Hunt

Three boys crouched in the trees at the edge of Gerard Beckwith's yard. The last few leaves of autumn drifted fitfully across the grass. They had been watching for what they had thought to be long enough, roughly two minutes actual time.

"Come on!" Jamie was agitated. He wanted to get on with the plan. It was so frickin simple a second grader could do it, and the two pansies crouching in front of him were acting like a couple old ladies. "We're just takin' a walk you girls. We're gonna grab some of the old bastards stuff, and walk home. It's not like it's Mission Impossible."

Jamie had talked George and Greg into it. Utterly bored with life in a small town in the hills of Pennsylvania, he was craving excitement. More importantly, he was craving a better game console to while away the hours with. A robbery was going to get some attention, but if it was the only one and they waited before they did anything with the loot it was foolproof. It had sounded just like a movie to the two other boys. Until of course, they were faced with the actual task.

With a grunt and a shove, Jamie got things moving. His two suddenly reluctant partners spilled out into the open lawn, looked at Jamie and started walking to the house, crouched over. A truck came down the road and spilled its headlights on the trees out by the mail box. The three boys made a run for it. Crouched behind the house they panted, wide eyed and looked at each other. "We better wait." "Hell naw Greg! Whoever that was is either driving home stuffed full of fish fry or headin' out to get plastered." Jamie had a point, who on a Friday night could care less what was going on in Old Gerry's yard.

----

"Oh what the..." Gerrard spat the driver's side window. He had just happened to glance at his house on the way in to town from a job. Gerry ran the heating and cooling business in town and had been working a bunch of extra hours lately, getting everybody ready for the coming winter. One too many nights of tuna sandwiches had pushed him to head in to town after the last tune up to grab a fish fry at the Hotel. Gerry wasn't rich but after forty years in the business, with the kids grown and his dear Mary gone on from breast cancer he wasn't going to live out the rest of his days in a dump feeling sorry for himself. The house was fixed up pretty nice, he had a big TV, some pretty nice hunting rifles and a bass boat that was the envy of every man in three townships. Damned if he was going to spend his Saturday morning cleaning up toilet paper because some ignorant redneck runts didn't realize Halloween was last month. He pitched his cigarette out the window and pulled in to a driveway to turn ground. Hell.

----

The boys had waited, crouched on cramped legs behind the old man's bass boat, tarped and awaiting winter behind his house. Jamie caught his breath first. Rising, he grabbed a brick from under the boat trailer's tire. "Time to rock" The other boys held their breath as Jamie walked up on the back deck and pitched the brick through the sliding door as casually as if he was throwing his dog a stick.

At the sound George and Greg scrambled under the boat. "C'mon ladies, let's frickin GO!" They looked at each other with saucer eyes and somehow found the balls to crawl back out and join Jamie on the deck. He stepped into the house through the gaping hole in the slider. "If you're gonna puss out at least let me hand you the old fart's DVD player before you run back home." The boys shared one more nervous look, George swallowed had stepped in. He froze and Greg had to shove him to follow.

Jamie was already in the next room rattling around. C'mere and grab this. Greg found his courage now that he was sure there were no dogs or alarms and padded into the living room. Jamie already had the DVD player unhooked, it was sitting on the coffee table. He had a piece of the stereo between his knees and was unhooking another as Greg picked it up. "Hey George! If you're done wettin' yer pants why doncha go see where he keeps his guns."

Greg marveled at how cool Jamie was under the circumstances. He had really thought this out. Everybody had guns. Even the poorest of the trailer trash at least had some old .22 handed down over the years. Old George had to have some beauties in his gun cabinet, he was about as close to rich as you could get around here. Rich.

"Hey Jame, you think he's got any money in here?" Jamie stopped what he was doing and put on his proud pappa face. "Weeeeell, turns out you got a brain in there after all. George! Come grab this shit, Greggie's got a hot idea. Go check his office." George edged into the room like he thought something might explode if he touched it. Greg, brimming with new confidence, slapped him on the shoulder on the way by. "C'mon dude, we'll be sittin' in your basement in twenty minutes." George managed a grunt and looked at the growing pile of electronics on the coffee table.

----

Gerrard drove past the house again, still at full speed so he didn't scare the little pukes off. Nobody in the yard where he could see, either gone or out back messin' with Proud Mary. The back of his neck burned at the thought of some teenage weenie desecrating his wife's namesake. He rounded the corner and pulled into the lane by the first corn field.

Shutting the truck off his hand went behind him and then stopped. There was a shotgun jammed between the seat and the bulkhead of his work truck. Better left behind. If anybody was taking a ride with the cops tonight it was going to be those kids for trespassing, not him for assault with a deadly. He grabbed the 4D Mag-Lite from the console instead and jumped out.

He didn't bother with sneaking. Figuring they'd be out behind the house still he walked right down the shoulder a quarter mile, turned at the mailbox and strutted right up the driveway. At the edge of the house he slowed his step until he was just around the corner from where the boys had crouched a few moments before.

His nerves were steadier now. No sense charging around the corner and scaring them off. Better get a good look at 'em at least before he called the cops. He waited another moment and was surprised to hear nothing at all. Shit. All worked up over nothing. Probably just some kids scrambling to get home so they didn't get whalloped by their fathers. His eyes were good and used to the dark now. With a chuckle he rounded the corner to check on Proud Mary just in case, flashlight jammed in the pocket of his Carhartt.

She was fine. No toilet paper, no eggs and, thank God, no damned paint balls. He stepped around the hitch on the trailer and walked along her port side, absently trailing his fingers over his wife's name on the fiberglass hull. He brushed a few stray leaves off the tarp and with another chuckle headed for the back step. He froze.

"Oh shit...." he breathed. This was a fucking situation. Without a sound he ducked down next to the deck. At sixty-six he was a little worse for wear, but he was still a hundred and eighty pounds of stringy muscle. Forty hears of humping furnaces and water heaters in and out of basements had kept him tough. Shotgun still in the truck though. Hell.

All thoughts of the police gone he crept toward the outside door to the basement. It would open silently, he knew. Not two weeks ago he had oiled the hinges after he had dragged the lawn furniture down there. Just get inside and three quick steps would have him in front of the bench where he reloaded shells. A Winchester twelve gauge lay on that bench, freshly cleaned and oiled for the first day of deer season next week. As long as they weren't in the basement he could slide around down there and listen for footsteps upstairs. And if they were in the basement... Hell.

In the space of three seconds all that had run through his mind and his hand was on the slope of the basement doors. He pulled out his house key and turned the cylinder, with a smile he swung the door up without a sound. Four, five, six steps down and he was at the inner door. Not a sound. He stepped inside and made for the bench. Not in my house.

----

Greg had walked through the kitchen and down the long hall of the little ranch house. The first door was the bathroom, the next was the office. He peeked in and saw what he was hoping to see. A glass fronted gun cabinet, three feet wide and crammed with enough wood and blue steel to buy out the game section at Wal-Mart. Except, he thought, who the hell is going to buy twenty guns from three kids who weren't even old enough to drive yet? Good thinking. He was just as cool as Jamie. With a few more good ideas they could hit three or four houses next year and forget about getting jobs. Who the hell wants to stock shelves at Wal-Mart anyway?

He walked to the desk and started shuffling the papers. The first drawer on the right had a check book on top. He picked it up and tossed it aside, writing bad checks would be a sure way to get busted. "I'm a frickin professional!" Greg mumbled to himself. Three envelopes down the stack he found it. A thick one with no writing on it. He took a quick look inside. The top bill was a twenty. He looked at the back of the stack, there were hundreds in there! "Hey Jamie!" he shouted as he ran down the hall, "forget that shit! We're frickin' rich!"

Two steps into the kitchen there was a huge boom behind him. He hunched his shoulders and squinched his eyes shut. "NOBODY MOVE!" came a shout from behind him. He didn't hear the sound of the Winchester being racked as he scrambled for the back door. He bumped smack into George doing the same thing. George slid sideways and pushed off the refrigerator. Greg knocked over a chair and raked his shin but somehow didn't fall. The two boys nearly flew out the back, sending shards of glass all the way into the living room behind them

----

Gerrard thought of five places he could fire a warning shot without wrecking anything more than drywall as he crept up the stairs. Silently, he turned the knob. Awright Gerry. He gave the door a hard shove and a big grin spread across his face at the sound it made when it smacked the wall. With a shout he hopped up the last step. He was already in the hall, racking the gun when the door swung back and hit him in the rump.

Holy shit! One of 'em was right there! Before he could do anything else though another one came thumping out of the living room and he drew a bead on them as they tore his kitchen apart trying to get out. Chest heaving, he swung the gun around toward the living room door. He heard the chain drop and a second later the screen door pound open. He lowered the gun and bumped the door behind him.

He spun around to cover the hall behind him. Oh boy, how the hell do cops do this? They think is what they do. Damn good thing he hadn't popped out a second earlier or there would have been one behind him. He was shaking like a leaf but he hustled down the hall to make sure there was nobody else in the house.

Half a minute later he was standing at his ruined back door. They hadn't touched his guns, the desk was a mess though. Bedroom, empty. The living room was fine except that his entertainment system was sitting on the coffee table. Two of 'em went that way, into his woods. Still shaking he propped the gun up against the counter. He was still breathing hard but he had collected his thoughts. No need for anybody to get hurt, but damned if they were going to get away with this.

----

Greg and George cleared the back yard in what felt like about four steps. They both plowed into the woods, not caring that the first six feet of it was raspberry bushes. The scratches didn't even penetrate the terror. Greg was following George now, his heavy frame was plowing right over saplings and his boots were pounding on the ground, despite the blanket of leaves. Greg looked over his shoulder and the world was upside down. He slid down the bank of a stream and landed on his knees in an inch of water, right against George who was laying sideways in it.

"SHIT!" hissed Greg. "What the hell happened to Jamie?!" George was up and cursing loudly. "Shut the hell up stupid! The guy had a gun! I heard it!" George stopped for a moment, stomped across the stream and was already scrambling up the other bank before Greg could say anything. "Dude! Go down the frickin' creek! There won't be any footprints!" Even a little kid knew that. Shit, how many movies did you have to watch to know that. "Whatever dude." George was pissed but he lead the way downstream.

----

"They're gonna freeze their nuts off." Gerard said out loud as he listened from his deck. Chuckling again he loped down the steps and walked to where the raspberry bushes had been trampled down. "Scratched all to shit too." He turned and walked twenty feet to the edge of the patch. He stepped into the woods at the head of the trail that lead to his tree stand. He could stroll up past his hunting spot, walk down the edge of a corn field and sight 'em where the stream went under the road. They'd be twenty minutes, splashing their way down there. He could walk it in five. With a broad grin he shoved his hands in his pockets and padded down the trail. Like shootin' fish in a barrel.

----

Greg was freezing. It felt like he had been walking forever. The water was low but it had cut pretty deep and they couldn't keep to dry land the whole time. He was wet to his pockets, shivering from cold and cursing from fright. George was soaked up to his wallet in back and completely drenched in front from his first spill down the bank. A steady stream of four letter words had been the only thing to leave his mouth. The adrenaline had worn off, this sucked.

"Dude. Dude! George! What the hell happened to Jamie?" There hadn't been anything in the plan about getting split up, or even about getting caught for that matter. "He got us into this he can damn well get his own ass out of it!" Geore Spat. He wasn't the brightest but he was right. George went on, "If we're lucky that old fart didn't see shit. I'm gonna walk my ass home, hide my clothes and stay in the basement till frickin Christmas! Jamie musta gone out the front. He's not gonna walk down the road and get picked up by the cops. He's probably freezin' his nuts off just like we are, sneakin' back home. You can ask him tomorrow."

"For once you're right stupid!" The boys jumped as Jamie came sliding down the bank. "I'm not as cold as you assholes. Geez, what the hell are you two thinking? I've been walking through the woods for ten minutes watchin' you stooges splash around."

"What the hell dude? You scared the shit out of us!" George poked Jamie in the chest. "Shut up stupid! You're gonna get us caught!" "You are too, leaving footprints like that. At least we were makin' a smart getaway." Greg found his voice. "Whatever dude. Even if there was a cop right in the neighborhood he's gonna be half an hour talking to that old fart. We can get on the road at the bridge and cut down behind school. We'll be back in the basement before we got anything to worry about." Jamie thought a moment, "OK brains." and turned to walk down the stream, apparently worried about foot prints after all.

----

"Oh you've got plenty to worry about." Said Gerrard as he slid down the opposite bank. The boys jumped for a second time. Jamie cursed. "Cops haven't been called yet. I'd like to invite you back to my place to get warmed up while we wait for 'em." He stood, feet apart, glaring at them in the moonlight.

He stood there silent, with his hands in his jacket pockets. He was surprised when the littlest one sighed and started toward him. The big one did the same a second later. Shit. He had expected them to bolt. He was just looking for the satisfaction of watching them crap their pants and go splashing off in the night. He had a good look at 'em, enough to give the cops, but this was even better!

"What the hell are you guys doing!?" Said the one farthest away. The other two had stopped in front off Gerard and turned to look, sheepish resignation all they could muster. Hiding his mirth, he called out, "You come along with ol' Gerry if you know what's good for ya. I seen yer face and this town's not big enough for you to hide long. Besides, your buddies'll probably give you up to the cops as soon as they get here."

With another loud curse the last one kicked a rock into the stream and made his way to follow. "You go up where I came down. Turn left and head down the edge of the field. I'll tell ya when to turn." One by one the boys scrambled up the bank and made their miserable way off to the field.

Three minutes later Gerard turned them down the trail and followed them past his stand. In two more minutes they were picking their way across the broken glass for the second time that night. Gerard flipped the kitchen light on and the boys stood blinking in the glare of the four flourescent tubes. It was possible that those boys were going to pop their eyes right out on his kitchen floor. Just a little too soon to let the pressure off though.

"Welp, I see you didn't make off with my TV or any of that junk. Guns are all still there too. So... just what exactly is it that you would like to tell me about your little adventure tonight." He had paced over to the end of the counter and stood by where the shotgun stood propped. Without a word, the skinny one reached in his back pocket and slapped the envelope on the table. His hands were visibly trembling.

"Anything else?" Silence.

He went to the phone and dialed the State Police. He knew the dispatcher, serviced his Lennox every October like clockwork. He explained the situation with a chuckle and hung up. Gerard went to the fridge and grabbed a Coke. He pulled the top and took a sip with his back to the boys. Bunch of scared little pups. Must've filled their britches three times over. Tracking them through the woods he had heard every splash and curse. He turned for a good look at his catch in the light. This was even better than nailing that twelve pointer last year. "You boys make yourselves comfortable. I'm starved, been chasin' you all over the North Country when I shoulda been eatin' a fish fry. I'm gonna make a sandwich." No response. Let 'em sweat. Hell.

----

Twenty minutes later the police cruiser pulled into Gerard's driveway. "Hey Ger" said the officer as he came through the door, "Heard you got some varmint trouble." "Yep" said the old fart, "Busted the hell outa by back door. Hey, how's that new A.O. Smith workin' for ya?" "Oh just great. I still got water for a hot shower even if both the girls go first." "Good, good. Welp, they're right here in the kitchen, at least they are if they didn't decide to go for another dip."

Jamie had found some courage by this point. Sitting there scared as shit for God knows how long was bad enough. No way was he going to let the old fart get away with this just cause he was buddies with the cop. "Hey! He's holding us hostage! He had a gun!"

Unmoved by the outburst the trooper turned to Gerard. "You pulled a gun on 'em Ger?" "Yeah, I thought it was just some kids gonna toilet paper the joint. I went out back to check on the boat and saw they'd broke in. I snuck downstairs and came up with the twelve. Unloaded it and left it here when I went after 'em though." He picked up the Winchester and racked it twice. Nothing came out of the breach, it was empty.

"That's bullshit!" Shouted Jamie "He chased us through the woods and made us come back here! How did we know he didn't have a pistol on him?!"

The trooper raised his eyebrows and turned back to Gerard without saying anything. "I didn't force you to do shit son!" Gerard barked "I had your asses cold in that creek, heh." He couldn't help but chuckle, "Then I IN-vited you back here and you pansies trotted off like Mary's little lamb!"

"Well now, I don't see anything wrong with that. Boys, this man could have shot each of you dead in this room and been within his rights. What the hell is the matter with you?! They get anything that you know of Ger?"

"Nope" said Gerard, rocking back on his heels, "Got my little stash of emergency cash but they were polite enough to give it back." Jamie slumped in his chair, miserable. The other two boys hadn't even looked up.

In a few more minutes the trooper had filled out his report and cuffed the boys. As he was herding them toward the front door he turned and said goodnight to Gerard. "Shit! I tell ya, best hunt I've ever had." the old man said "Is that wrong?" The trooper laughed out loud. "Naw Ger, a little screwed up maybe but you handled it fine."

Gerard chuckled one last time as he shut the door and turned to go clean up the glass. In another week there'd be three more trophies on his living room wall. Mug shots from the police blotter. Hell.

©2008 Jonathan Dayton - All Rights Reserved

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2 comments:

  1. dude, you had me all the way! I love your ending. Just the way it should happen. No over the top hollywood crap. The bad guy actually gets what he should get, and doing the wrong thing isn't glorified!!! I thought for a second that jamie was gonna be a little more difficult and try to jump Ger when he when to the fridge to get his coke!

    You have a great talent Jon! I will be expecting more like this from ya.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow! You're my favorite critic! I could probably write a dozen stories about a small town contractor who triumphs over teenage vandals. I'm living out my vicarious revenge against my neighbors.

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