The Wood Lot | By: Thomas Supanich | | Category: Short Story - Dark Bookmark and Share

The Wood Lot

                                                             The Wood Lot
    He spit his loogie into the chicken coop, then stopped to watch as the chickens jumped onto the wet glob and fought each other trying to gobble up the yellow phlegm.  Disgusting fucking birds.  The eruption lasted for a few moments, then the chickens dispersed and clucked around for a while until they became settled again.  He spit whenever he passed, and was always intrigued by the desperate instincts of the well-fed birds.  Eating machines, their eyes constantly examined the surfaces of the coop for ants, spiders and crickets, which they efficiently pecked up and swallowed.  They also pecked up and swallowed dried shit, feathers, pebbles, wood bits and leaves.  Any little thing that was peckable got pecked up and swallowed.
    He continued past the chicken coop, then headed to the clearing behind the barn where the large pile of dried brush was waiting to be burned.  His job today was to burn the brush and rake the area level.  Some job, standing around watching sticks and leaves burn.  It could be worse, he supposed… least it wasn’t too physical.  He could smoke cigarettes and daydream while watching the dried pile burn to ashes.  He had his rake and a gallon of gasoline in hand as he turned the corner of the barn to where the brush pile laid before him, his job for the day.  His weekly obligation to the old bitch.  Every Sunday she had something lined up for him to do.  Six to eight hours of labor on the farm and then he was free until the following Sunday.  This was what she required from him, he had no choice if he wanted to inherit the farm one day.  He had to be a good grandson.
    He leaned his rake against the barn, and set the gasoline down into the tall, wet grass.  He lit a smoke and leaned himself against the barn as well.  The morning sun was intense and it felt good in his face.  He closed his eyes, and absorbed the bright orange oblivion before him.  He felt the heated barn wood radiating through his clothing, and appreciated the fact that there was no breeze to carry the warmth away.  After a few minutes he reopened his eyes and squinted into the harsh brightness.  He let his eyes drift beyond the brush pile, then out to the stubble field where the summer corn had grown.  On the far side of the field a small group of turkeys was rummaging through the stubble for stray kernels and insects….much like the chickens, they pecked at everything.  Beyond the turkeys rose the tall wood lot where the ever-skittish whitetail holed up during the daytime.  The wood lot that contained the shotgun riddled carcass of his Grandfather’s Ford Sunliner left to rot there thirty years prior.  The wood lot that still held the dark secret from that awful night six years ago.
    The girl Rachael, whose missing body had long since turned to skeleton, lay in state beneath the leaves, vines and branches.  Her decayed black sandals still covered the darkened bones of her feet below the many layers of composted leaves and debris.  Her small beaded purse with the thin gold chain was still wrapped around her neck and lying flat against her spine within her silt and leaf-filled rib cage.  Her bright yellow sundress had long since rotted into nothingness.  A pair of Army dog tags on a chain were still entangled around, and in between the remains of her skeletal fingers now separated from themselves and from her wrist bones.  The girl who disappeared from the earth one day and was never seen again.  The girl who ran screaming from the farmhouse, and escaped into the stormy night six years earlier.  The girl whose bleached rib bones were protruding up from beneath the fallen oak leaves.
    He finished his smoke, then flicked it toward the pile.  Heaving himself off the barn wall, he picked up the gas can and rake, and approached his chore.  The brush pile was about seven feet high and spread over a ten by fifteen area.  The idea was to pull material off the pile and burn it to the side, to ignite the whole pile at once would lead to a fire that could become unmanageable.  He selected the dry branches and cutting from the top and dragged them the twenty feet over to the burn area.  After making a four-foot mound of brush he picked up the gas can.  He hardly needed gasoline to start the fire but it made things go faster.  With a whoosh, the orange flames engulfed the pile causing him to step back from the heat.  The instant crackling and popping of the branches, along with the sparks and smoke rising into the air were exciting to him.  The rich smell of the burning leaves meant that autumn was officially underway.  He headed back to the large pile for more tinder.  He heaped armfuls of brush onto the fire and subsequent ones next to the fire with the eventual plan of filling in the space between the two piles with a continuous berm of burning brush.  Spreading out the fire in this manner kept it manageable.
    Rachael…..the newspapers said her name was Rachael Walker.  He thought about her every time he came out to the farmhouse to do chores for the old bitch.  That Saturday night when he found her walking in the rainstorm….he had been kicked out of Jimmie’s for starting a fight with the barmaid, for grabbing her flabby ass.  Get the fuck out of here!  Come back when you’re sober, they told him.  He was driving back to the farmhouse where he was living that summer.  The old bitch was down in Georgia caring for her ill sister.  So unreal…..her yellow dress was rain soaked and translucent in the truck lights, her wet hair hanging long down her back.  She was walking on the gravel road in the middle of farm country, in the pitch black of a late night rainstorm.  The headlights caused her to step to the shoulder; he slowed his truck and pulled along side this strange woman.  She swept the wet hair from her face and turned toward the truck as she halted.  He leaned over and cranked the passenger window open….Are you all right?
    As he worked deeper into the pile, the brush was compacted and held moisture.  This caused enormous amounts of smoke and the fire smoldered more than it burned, just as cigarettes do.  He had to use some of the gasoline to keep the damp material from extinguishing itself.  He lit a cigarette and headed back to the gravel driveway where his truck was parked.  From under the armrest, he removed a pint of vodka and took a slug after he made sure the old bitch wasn’t spying on him.  He took another hit then stashed the bottle into his coat pocket.  He had half a pizza still in its box from the previous night on the passenger seat.  He broke the half circle of pizza into two equal quarters and carried one of them with him to the brush fire.  On the way, he tosses a pepperoni into the chicken coop, and watched the birds scramble for it.  When it had disappeared, he spit a loogie onto one of the chickens and watched as the other chickens pecked the shit out of the unfortunate bird.  He laughed and continued back to the fire.
    Yeah, I’m ok, she said….I’m just fine.  She staggered slightly as she turned and began walking again.  She appeared to be a bit drunk.
    He followed next to her with the truck; he was a bit drunk too.  What the hell are you doing out here?  It’s late; it’s raining like crazy….. you’re all wet!
    She laughed, I don’t know…I’m not sure what I’m doing.  I don’t even know where I’m at.  We were at a party….what time is it?
    He kept pace….It’s after three, I think… want a ride somewhere?  You look like you could use a ride somewhere.
    Naw…I’m ok….I’m fine.  I’ll be all right.  She continued walking.
    He followed a bit more, staying next to her with the open window.      Look, it’s raining like crazy and you don’t know where you’re going.  You’re miles from anything; you’ll be walking till morning.  Aren’t you cold?  You gotta be getting cold.  You should let me drive you home….. seriously, you should.
    She stopped walking and looked into the truck, her shoulders dropped as if to say she was considering the idea.
      I’m ok….I’m a nice guy…..a little bit drunk maybe, but I’m ok.
     She stepped forward and leaned into the truck.  She took a good look at him.  She studied his face… got a cigarette?  I could really use a smoke right now.

    He ate the hard pizza as he tended to the burn.  He used his feet to kick the scattered bits of branches and vines back into the fire.  The pizza was dry and greasy and he wished he had brought a coke.  Nothing washed down putrid pizza grease like coke.  He took a small chug of the vodka…..ugh, it was sickening.  He spit and wiped his mouth with his coat sleeve, then tossed the rest of the pizza into the fire.  Fuck it.  He went back to the farmhouse and drank from the hose.
    She hopped into the truck and rolled the window up.  She sat against the door and looked at him.   He gave her a cigarette and leaned over to light it with his left hand.  In the flickering light, he saw that her eyes were bloodshot with mascara running down; she looked as if she’d been crying.
    Thanks, she said.  I live over in Dexter.  The best way to get ther….
    Then, from out of the blackness came his hard right fist, connecting solidly with her jawbone.  BAM!  Just like that, she was out cold, slumped against the door…..he picked up the lit cigarette from off her wet dress and put it in his mouth.  He drove seven miles straight to the farmhouse and pulled the truck up the gravel driveway, stopping near the side door.  Not a single light was on in the place.  He cut the motor and turned off the headlights, the sound of the heavy rainfall on the truck cab was booming in the complete blackness.  He switched on the dome light.  She was still slumped over and hadn’t yet awakened from her love tap.  Good, he thought……get inside now…..tie her up.

    The entire twenty-foot berm was now burning and smoldering and he saw the eventual end of his labor for this Sunday.  He raked the loose scraps into the berm and flipped the burning brush over to encourage rapid burning.  He wanted to be back at his apartment, there was a game on this evening.  Before leaving, he would have to sit a while with the old bitch and let her tell him about her boring week while he ate something she would prepare for him.  Listening to the dreary details of her sedentary lifestyle always made him mental.  He would act concerned, give advice and kindly say no to her suggestion that he move into the farmhouse with her.  She asked him every week, and every week he said no.  He’d built up a lie about a girlfriend named Kelly who lived in the apartment above his; she was his excuse for not moving.  The truth was, he would go nuts living with the old bitch.  In close proximity, over time she would discover that he despised her.  He wouldn’t be able to hide it.  They would grow apart and she would eventually realize the fraud that he was.  He knew of his terrible shortcomings.  He knew it was best to keep things the way they were, with him being first in line to inherit the farmhouse.
    She awakened slowly as the truck rattled along the gravel road in the darkness and the rain.  She sensed that she was aboard an airplane taking off on a never-ending runway……a long runway where the plane never managed to lift off.  How strange, she thought……this airplane….it doesn’t make sense.  Then she opened her eyes and was startled when she realized that the man driving the truck had just lit her cigarette….then, what….did he hit her?  Did he just punch her? Is that why her jaw was screaming?  She seemed to remember his smiling face as he lit her cigarette in the darkness, then he suddenly gritted his teeth and scrunched his face as his whole body twisted, and for a split second before the lights went out, she realized a punch was coming.
    Without moving, she looked over to him and clearly understood her grave situation.  He was driving her somewhere, and she was certain he would do something horrible to her once they got there.  She stayed slumped against the door…..if he saw that she was awake, there would be no escape.  She considered opening the door and bolting into the darkness, but at the speed he was driving, she would likely get torn to shit and still not get away from him.  She decided it was best to remain still, and prayed that an opportunity for escape would present itself.  Play dead… matter what he does, be a rag doll and stay limp.  She could think of no better plan.  She realized that her jaw was broken as they pulled into the driveway.
     As he carried her into the farmhouse, she was able to see that all the lights were off and there were no other cars in the driveway.  We’re all alone, she thought….Oh god.  He fumbled with his keys and then unlocked the side door.  He managed to carry her through the doorway and turn on the kitchen light.  The first thing she noticed was the wooden knife block next to the sink….. she was looking for weapons.  He carried her through the kitchen and into the dining room where he gently kneeled to the floor and lowered her wet body onto the dining room carpeting.  She closed her eyes as he did this.  He laid her on her back and placed her arms at her side.  He hadn’t yet moved away from her…..he was kneeling over her and she could hear him breathing heavily through his nose.  Oh God.  She heard his knees creaking as he bent over and kissed her on the mouth.  His breath was pungent with cigarettes and old beer.  He kissed her on the mouth and gently traced the outline of her lips with his tongue, while his hand massaged her breast from outside her wet dress.  Her jaw was screaming as he pressed his lips into her mouth.  She remained frozen….if you move you’re dead, she thought… the rag doll…..Oh God, don’t move…..he’s not ready to hurt you….stay still.  He suddenly stopped kissing her and knelt upright.  She sensed that he was staring at her again….his breathing was becoming more rapid.  She then heard the clear sound of him removing his t-shirt, ending with the tight dragging sound of the shirt being pulled over his head.  Then she heard a tinny clanking sound from up by his head as he removed something else…some kind of necklace maybe.  She heard it clackle as he set it down next to her.  It became quiet except for his raspy nasal sounds, then he knelt back down and whispered into her ear.
    Don’t you move little darling.  I’ll be right back.
    She heard him stand up and walk away from her.  He crossed the dining room in the opposite direction of the kitchen and stopped.  She heard the unmistakable sound of a dead bolt being twisted, then a squeaky door opening.  She heard a chain pull turning on a light, then she felt the vibrations of his loud footsteps as he descended the steps to the basement.  She opened her eyes. She had to do something; this would be her only chance.

    The berm was reduced to a low mound of ashes and smolder, and he began raking everything into one central pile….almost done.  The air was beginning to cool off as a large cloudbank obscured the late afternoon sun.  He stepped back from the pile and removed his coat to shake the covering of ashes from it.  He brushed off his pants and boots and slapped his hat against his hip a few times.  He put his coat back on and removed the vodka for a final slug.  As he drained the pint, he noticed a hunter on the far side of the stubble field walking along the wood lot.  His orange vest stood out against the dark woods.  Probably someone from the Stenzel farm, the hunter waved to him.  He tossed the empty pint into the thick brush at the far end of the barn, then waved back to the hunter and watched him as he proceeded along the wood line.  Suddenly the hunter stopped and pointed his shotgun up into a large oak tree.  A moment later, he fired and something fell to the ground, probably a squirrel.  The hunter then swung the gun toward the landing spot and fired again.  After taking a couple of steps toward the squirrel, he suddenly turned and trotted into the woods out of sight.  A few minutes later, another shot was heard.  Fuckin idiot, he thought.  Three shots to kill a squirrel….what a hack.  He picked up the rake and the gas can and headed to the farmhouse for his weekly visit with the old bitch.
    She carefully sat up and listened.  She could hear rustling and a door being opened, then another light chain being pulled.  She stood up and noticed his shirt on the floor in a ball, and on top of it was a pair of military dog tags on a chain….like her fathers.  She snatched the dog tags and put them in her dress pocket, then tiptoed over to the basement door and tried to close it quietly.  She would need a head start.  She got the door halfway closed when suddenly it croaked loudly…..instantly she heard him rushing across the basement toward her.  She saw his face appear at the bottom of the stairs, and she screamed as she slammed the door tight and twisted the deadbolt.
    What the fuck you doin, Bitch!
    He charged up the stairs and attacked the door with everything.  He was already starting to bust the jamb and she was still in the dining room.
    You stay there bitch, or I’ll kill you!
    Oh God!  She ran over to the fireplace, removed the iron poker from the tool rack, and got back to the basement door just as it crashed into the hallway with him right behind it.  He stumbled out of the stairwell and she was already wound up with the poker and coming down for the blow.  It caught him on the side of the skull above the ear and he dropped to his knees.  She hit him again, this time on the back of the skull; he dropped flat to the ground and moaned.  Blood was pouring onto the carpeting already, as she turned and ran to the side door.  The doorknob turned but the door wouldn’t open.  She tugged with all her strength but the door wouldn’t open.  She looked across the dining room and there he was up on all fours with his bloody face, reaching back toward his hip with his right arm.  She screamed and returned to tugging and pounding on the door.  Oh shit, a deadbolt….she twisted the knob and BAM!  Her whole side recoiled and she fell against the wall, dropping the poker onto the linoleum. 
    Fuck you, bitch!  Fuck you, you stupid bitch!  He had shot her, and was aiming the pistol for another shot!  BAM!
    The shot missed to the left and blasted the dishware in the strainer.  Broken dish shards flew everywhere.  She screamed and jerked the door, it opened and she stumbled out onto the wet porch holding her side.  BAM!  Another shot that missed into the wall behind her.
    Fuck you, bitch!  You better run, because I’m coming after you.  You better run your ass off!
    She fell down the steps and landed on the wet gravel.  Her breathing was extremely painful and it was difficult getting up onto her feet.  Oh God, Oh God…..  She managed to stumble away from the farmhouse and wound up near the barn.  She heard the side door bang against the house as the porch light came on.
    Where you at, bitch?  Where you at?  He was screaming!  He had a flashlight and was shining it onto the ground.  He was on the driveway and walking toward her.
    I see your blood you stupid bitch!!  I see your blood!  And what’s this?  He bent down and touched the blood with his finger, then sniffed it.  It looks like you’re gutshot too……that’s gotta hurt!
    She followed the side of the barn until she got to the corner, then ducked behind it out of sight.  Oh God, it hurt so bad.  He was right, she thought, she smelled vomit too, which meant that her stomach contents were spilling out of her.  She didn’t know what to do, the pain was unbearable.  She knew he would be coming around the corner at any moment…..she saw the grass and the rain lighting up from the flashlight.  He’s coming…Oh God.  She hobbled away from the barn, away from him, until she stumbled into the wall of corn at the edge of the field.  She squeezed herself between the stalks and followed the cornrow in the darkness.  It led her away from him, so she kept going.
    Where you at, bitch!!!  She heard the gun firing into the night.  BAM! BAM! BAM!

    The old bitch had a sandwich and a beer ready for him when he entered the farmhouse.  She asked about the burn and he assured her that it went fine and the fire was completely extinguished.  Next week she needed him to replace the broken split rails in the fence along the road.  She always made him feel like her nigger when she told him what she needed from him.  She never said please, or asked if he could fit it in to his schedule.  She just expected him to do it…..she never said thank you either.
    The bread was dry and stale because she refused to keep the loaf in the freezer.  She liked her stupid breadbox.  That would be the first thing he trashed once he inherited the place.  The salami was old and tasted like the refrigerator, the mustard was the only thing that was palatable….beside the beer.  He got up to throw his paper plate and napkin into the trash, and stopped by the fridge for another beer along the way.  He tossed the garbage into the wastebasket under the sink, then opened his beer as he looked out the window above the kitchen sink.  He noticed some people on the far side of the stubble field…three or four people walking along the wood line.  The hunter was in the lead, with his orange vest.
    He grabbed the deer spotters from off the baker’s rack and returned to the window.  He put the glasses to his eyes….Oh God; police officers were following the hunter.  Three officers, and forty yards behind them a couple of men in suits playing catch-up.  They’d found her body, Oh Fuck!
     The blood was getting harder to spot with the rain quickly washing away the droplets.  He tracked her to the back of the barn and lost her trail.  He continued walking around to the other side of the barn thinking she might have tried to make it out to the road.  He didn’t see her in the driveway or out on the road, and the barn was locked so he figured she must have been hiding out back somewhere.  His head was split open badly in two places and along with the massive amounts of blood running down his chest and arms, a real migraine was brewing.  He was freezing without his shirt so he decided to get dressed with a coat, wrap his head, get a better flashlight and go find the bitch.
    Once inside, he grabbed the dishtowel and wiped the blood from his head, face and chest.  He threw the bloody towel into the sink, then grabbed a clean one from the drawer to use as a headband once he put his shirt  back on.  He walked into the dining room and picked up his shirt.  While pulling the t-shirt over his still bleeding head, he remembered taking off the dog tags and placing them on top of the shirt.  Where are they?  Where the fuck are they?  He looked all around the dining room for them without any luck.  Then he froze, screaming: She took em!  The fuckin bitch took em!! 
    He threw on his jacket, grabbed the flashlight from his truck, and went searching for the bitch.  He had at least four more rounds left in his .45 semi-auto…..plenty enough.  He retraced his steps from the side door out to the rear of the barn where he paused to consider her options.  Either she went into the cornfield or she continued around the barn and crossed the yard instead of going out to the road.  She wouldn’t go into the corn, he thought….she’d head toward the front of the house.  He trotted around the far side of the barn and searched the front perimeter and all around the farmhouse.  He looked in the tool shed, and even opened the hatchway doors to the basement without any luck.  He crossed the road and checked that field, then walked the perimeter of the yard again.  He never found her that night.
    He dressed his swollen and throbbing head wounds,  then wrapped them with gauze and stretch bandages.  It was daylight now, and a real sense of despair and panic was setting in.  He decided to head out with the truck and search the road for a few miles in each direction.  If that didn’t work, he would walk the front yard area and then head into the corn and look for her there.  He knew that deer usually died within two to four hours of a gutshot wound….probably the same with a human.  Maybe he nicked an artery and she bled-out, that would be too lucky.  In any case, he was hoping to find her collapsed somewhere near the farmhouse, or out in the cornfield.  He wanted her dead.  Even more, he desperately wanted his evidence back.

    The hunter and the three officers waited for the suits to catch up.  After a brief conversation, the hunter led the group into the woods by following the exact route he took when he chased the squirrel earlier in the day.  They quickly disappeared into the dark foliage.  He pocketed the deer spotters and made an excuse to the old bitch for going back out to the burn pile.  He needed to see what was happening in the wood lot. 
    He completely scoured the wood lot several times the day she got away and never found a trace of her.  When the news stories broke about her disappearance he knew that she must have died somewhere out there, and he scoured the wood lot again, along with the entire cornfield and every square inch of all the properties within half a mile of the farmhouse.  How in the fuck could I have missed her, he thought….especially there!  If only she hadn’t take his God damned dog tags….God, if only she hadn’t done that.
    He stood behind some tall bushes and spied on the wood lot with the deer spotters.  He saw no activity along the wood line, but there were two patrol cars and a black sedan parked to the side of the road a half mile down from the farmhouse.  He lit a cigarette and watched with his eyes as the gray daylight slowly faded into dusk.  Suddenly the hunter emerged from the woods and stood in place near the trees.  He brought up the deer spotters and watched the hunter talking on a cell phone using hand gestures to express himself.  Out on the road a dark van pulled to the side, along with two SUVs.  The forensic team, he thought.  Oh Fuck….what now?  The vehicles entered the field and drove along the wood line to where the hunter and one of the cops were standing.  They all got out of their vehicles and removed their field cases and bags and other gear.  One officer strung police tape along the wood line, tying it from branch to branch.  Another officer dragged out a portable generator while another carried lights mounted to the top of tripod stands.  Another black SUV turned off the road and joined the team.  Out from this SUV came two German shepherds barking like fools from the excitement.  Oh fuck, fuck, fuck….I am so dead, he quietly muttered.
    She kept falling down in the mud, dragging the corn stalks to the ground with her.  It hurt terribly to fall but she couldn’t help it, her legs had lost all their strength.  Getting back up to her feet was excruciating, so she crawled along the corn row until that became unbearable, then she finally managed to stand again.  She was shivering deeply from the cold and the shock….and from the fear of the lunatic pursuing her.  She traveled the cornrow because the straight line would lead her away from the farmhouse through the darkness.  She hoped to find help on the other side of the cornfield.  Keep going, she kept telling herself…keep going. 
    She emerged from the cornfield into total blackness, stumbling forward through the rain into the woods.  She began vomiting uncontrollably and tasted her blood mixed with the rancid stomach fluids, she moaned loudly from the pain.  Oh God….Oh God…nooo.  She felt her way through the woods, hoping for something….a light…a road….some kind of hope.  Finally, she tripped over some deadfall and fell hard against a fallen tree.  The stomach acids were poisoning her blood and her body was beginning to shut down.  She lay on her side next to the log, moaning and crying from pain and fear in the darkness.  She remembered the dog tags and withdrew them from her pocket…at least I got these, she thought, and clutched them to her chest.  Her abdomen convulsed repeatedly, while she shivered and agonized from the searing pain.  The rain washed over her, and she laid up next to the log as black sleep waves and delirium began to overtake her.  Her horrible pain and fear was lessening, and the wet darkness didn’t seem so awful anymore.  Her mother and father appeared to her from beneath the heavy leaves and welcomed her home with warm smiles.  They sang her a song, and presented her with a new bicycle.  Her little sister wore a party hat and was stepping on balloons in the driveway.  They called out her name, but couldn’t hear her response…..she was not with them anymore.  Here I am Mom….I’m over here……Help me!  She drifted back from unconsciousness and sobbed, wishing she could be home with them….they seemed so far away.  The dog tags.  At least I got these, she thought….at least I got these.  Smiling to herself in the darkness, she floated back into the dream world and never regained consciousness.  She stopped breathing an hour later as daylight came and the rain stopped.

    He watched them throughout the night with the deer spotters as the generator hummed near the vehicles and the glowing floodlights eerily lit the wood lot from within.  He didn’t know what to do.  If they found his dog tags on her body, he was a dead man.  If she dropped them somewhere that night, he was safe.  As many times as he played this scenario in his head the last six years, he still had not developed a viable answer that could explain his dog tags being in her possession….especially when the body would likely be found in close proximity to his Grandmother’s farmhouse.    
    The forensic team methodically uncovered the skeleton throughout the night, removing the leaves and small branches by hand, then brushing away the humus until the complete skeleton was exposed, lying on the black earth against the sunken log in a sleeping posture.  Daylight had come and they took their photographs before dismantling the skeleton for transport.  The dog tags were the first interesting bit of evidence they extracted from the site.  Being made of stainless steel, they were in perfect condition except for some mineral staining.  The information stamped into them was noted, and they sent an inquiry to headquarters.  The tags were marked as evidence and placed into a plastic bag.  They found her small purse and left it unopened, putting it into a separate bag.  Other than a bracelet and two rings, they found nothing else on the skeleton.  Once the skeleton was removed and crated, they ran a metal detector over the site and found two little stud earrings and a mangled bullet, which they also placed into separate bags.  They swept the entire proximity with metal detectors and German shepherds and found nothing else that morning.  They gradually reloaded all their vehicles and pulled out by early afternoon.  They left the police tape suspended from the branches, fluttering in the breeze.
    He left the farmhouse shortly after they departed, and drove home to his apartment where he immediately guzzled a small tumbler of whiskey, then refilled the glass and brought it out to the patio with him.  He sat down and put his feet up on the other chair, then lit a smoke and thought, what do I do now?  What the fuck do I do now?  He glanced to the parking lot as he swallowed more vodka from the tumbler.  He was waiting for the black vehicles to arrive.  They’ll probably show up pretty soon if they found my dog tags, he thought.  He finished off the tumbler, then tried to consider his options.  He didn’t have any.  He had no real explanation for the dog tags, and he had nowhere to run.  He was feeling nauseous and scared. 
    He thought of the farmhouse and all his plans for the place once the old bitch died.  He would stop farming the land and lease the fields out to the Stenzels who repeatedly begged the old bitch for the privilege.  He would gut the place of all her old shit and have the biggest estate sale ever.  He would tear out all the ratty old carpeting, refinish the floors, and repaint everything.  He would buy the 1959 Pontiac Starchief he’d always dreamed of owning, and start a restoration project in the pole barn he would build.  He pictured himself living comfortably on the farm for the rest of his life.
    A patrol car appeared in the parking lot followed by a black SUV, with another patrol car behind that.  His heart jumped, and he watched as all three vehicles parked along the curb in the fire zone and turned off their motors.  He set the glass down on the table and headed for his bedroom.  They got out of their vehicles and had a little conference on the sidewalk.  Two uniformed officers went around to the rear of the unit, and two remained out front.  The two men in suits walked up to the central entrance and rang his buzzer……after a few moments they rang again.  His heart was pounding as he approached the intercom and pressed the talk button.
    This is Detective Robert Linden of the Chelsea Police Department; we need to speak to a William Bennett.  Are you William Bennett?
    ….uh, yes…..what’s it about?
    We have some questions for you regarding a case we’re working on, we were wondering if you could help us out.
    What’s the case about?
    It’s in regards to the missing girl named Rachael Walker.  Have you heard of her?
    Uh, yeah….I remember the story from a few years ago…..did you find her?
    I’m sorry; I’m not at liberty to discuss that information with you.  We just have some questions we’d like to ask of you.  Can you press the door buzzer and let us in please?
    Yeah, sure.  Hang on a sec….. He was terrified and had the .45 in his hand.  The game was over and he knew it.  Goodbye farmhouse, goodbye happiness….his younger brother in Texas would get the farmhouse.  Well, good for the ass hole.  He pressed the intercom and asked a question….
    Did you find the dog tags?
    …..excuse me?
    …..did you find my dog tags on her body?
    …..sir, I cannot discuss the case with you.  You need to let us in.  We have some questions for you.
    ……I watched you guys last night….I was there….from my Grandmother’s farm I saw you.  I saw the trucks and the lights…I know you found her body.  I know you found my dog tags because you’re here already.   Just tell me….just tell me that you found my dog tags.  Tell me that and I’ll let you in.
    ……sir, we found evidence that causes us to view you as a person of interest in the case.   You need to let us in now.
    He held the .45 near his mouth and closed his eyes.  Grandma, I never really hated you, he quietly spoke.  I just wanted your farm so badly.  I’ve been such an ass hole to you, and to just about everyone I’ve ever known….I’m sorry.  It’s better this way….I couldn’t stand to have you visit me in prison…..I’m sorry…..he put the barrel into his mouth as the gun discharged.

    It was the voices in the darkness that brought him to the horrible realization of exactly what happened.  Two nurses were discussing his condition.  He could only hear muffled sounds from his left ear, the right side of his head pulsed and throbbed and burned fiercely.  Oxygen was being forced into his lungs through a tube that he could feel inside of him.  His hands were strapped to the bed, but he had a sense that his entire head was wrapped round and round with bandages.
    They talked of the wood lot and the suicide attempt, and of how difficult it must have been to miss a target that big from so close. Then they described his injuries to one another.  The bullet missed his brain entirely, but tore away his upper jaw plate, nasal cavity, his eye and socket, as well as his cheekbone and ear from the right side of his face.  The optic nerve was severely damaged, causing him complete blindness.  The right ear was deaf and would need reconstruction.  His cheekbone and eye socket were destroyed to the point that they could not be rebuilt.  Skin had already been transferred from his inner thigh, and bone from his hip was used for the repairs.  His nasal cavity had been reconstructed, but his sense of smell and taste were likely destroyed.  He would be severely disfigured and blind.  It would take approximately six months to recover to the point where he could stand trial.  They both agreed that he would likely serve a life term in prison.
    Then he heard something from the nurses that really didn’t surprise him that much.  Both nurses were delighted that he didn’t die.  They were pleased that he would live out the rest of his miserable life in a living hell.  May the Good Lord have mercy on his soul.  They both made tisk tisk tisk noises and left the room.
    God, he longed for his .45.   

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