The Fever | By: Chris Evenson | | Category: Full Story - Novel Bookmark and Share

The Fever

*****I wrote this piece in high school for a final portfolio project. It is not completely finished and at the end, you can tell I was short for time. I will come back and finish this story at some point. The story was developed from the prompt we were given: "When the fever broke, they had all hoped that they'd seen the last of Uncle Jack." Takes a little over an hour to read. Please leave a rating or feedback!








When the fever broke, they had all hoped that they'd seen the last of "Uncle Jack." But everyone knew he would be back; he never stopped until he got what he wanted. The excitement, agitation, and panic would continue. He would find us again, as he had done consistently for the last three years. Even so, we were safe for now, but-
The fever would find us again.


Chicago, 1982 - A step back in Time
The frigid air of early March chilled the body to the bone and darkened the spirit. Snow was falling, but wasn't collecting on the ground. Its color was grey, the same grey as the exhaust from the awesome smokestacks that filled the horizon, tainting the snow from the pureness the flakes were supposed to produce.
The darkened flakes landed in my hair as I stuck my now discolored hands in the pockets of my long, khaki trench coat. I lowered my head as I walked down the sidewalk, keeping to my own business. I ignored the masked bandits holding a revolver to the forehead of the owner of a small jewelry store on my instant right. I ignored the man in the black, hooded jacket across the street on my left, his eyes following me while he sucked on a cigarette. I quickened my pace as I crossed the street. A taxi ran the red light and dark slush was sprayed all over my trench coat. I sighed then ignored it. Conflict would only cause problems, something South Chicago didn't need any more of. I only had another three blocks to walk, but even so I clamped my hand around the switchblade in my left pocket. It made me feel better; it made me feel safe - well, safer. It was hard to feel completely safe around here.
My grip loosened a bit as my house came into view. It was hard to find if you weren't looking for it. The shack was worn down, one story, with a front porch that could be nice but didn't look the part as it had lost most of its paint. As I got closer to the house, all I could hear was the screaming of my two year old twins in the living room. The crying continued as I proceeded through the door. I hung my coat and slowly walked into the living room.
"I'm home!" I yelled into the kitchen where the smell of chicken broth originated. "Soup again," I muttered under my breath. I couldn't afford to bring home much for supper because my income didn't spread nearly far enough. The twins continued their moaning.
"We got robbed again today," Jennifer muttered as she popped her head out from around the corner. She came back into the dirty and messy living room to try to entertain the twins before going back into the kitchen to attend to her soup.
"They are just hungry," she told me as I frowned once they didn't stop their constant exclamations. I came back into the moldy kitchen to set the table. "We lost the radio and the rest of the jewelry..." my wife decrescendoed into a sigh.
I didn't reply as I went to grab the two little girls and set them in their respective seats around the table. The small kitchen was incredibly humid from the steam coming from the slow-boiling container on the old stove. Jennifer grabbed four bowls and loaded them up with soup and added a spoon to each. We all took our place around the small table to nibble at the never changing meal.
"Paul, will you say grace?" Jen inquired. I sat the spoon down that was halfway to my mouth and folded my hands together as everyone else followed my actions.
"Bless us oh Lord, in these thy gifts, which we are..." I continued. But even as I said the prayer, it was more of a routine than a ritual. God didn't care, or he would have helped us by now. I quickly finished the prayer.
"Amen," Jennifer whispered.
"A-MEN!" the girls exclaimed in unison.
Everyone instantaneously picked up a spoon and started slurping the onion and rutabaga soup from each of their own bowls. "Jen, where is the salt?" I asked as my eyes searched the table, hoping, but already knowing the answer.
"We don't have any, Paul. We haven't had any in over a month."
Disappointed, I went back to my slurping. The rutabaga in the soup had been overcooked, leaving flavorless orange cubes of mush in every bite.
After dinner, I took the girls into their room and read those Mother Goose Rhymes until they were fast asleep. I slowly closed their door and wandered to the kitchen. Jen was just drying the last of the dishes and almost ignored me as I walked behind her and grabbed her around her narrow waist. "Is there anything I can help with?" I politely asked after a brief silent moment. She shrugged herself out of my arms and replied with: "It's been a long day; I'm going to bed." She avoided my eyes the whole time.
I watched her walk down the hallway and disappear into the darkness at the end. I turned around and examined the constant plip-plop I was hearing. First, I turned to the sink faucet, but it wasn't leaking water. I noticed some discoloration above me as I looked up and saw some rust coloring on the ceiling. Water dripped at a steady and constant rate from the center and created a small puddle on the kitchen floor. I shook my head and let the splashing continue as I turned the light off and exited down the hallway.
I opened the bedroom door at the end of the hallway to my wife lying in bed, awake in her cotton pajamas. I stripped down to my plaid boxers and crawled into bed next to her. At first, all I could hear was the rain from the storm constantly beating the window. After a few moments of lying in bed, I noticed Jennifer was crying.
"Are you okay?" The crying continued.
"Paul, we don't have anything left. All we have are a few dishes and a few pieces of furniture."
"And now a leaking roof," I chimed in. The crying continued until she had cried herself to sleep. There was nothing I could do. It was the same night after night. I couldn't do anything anymore. But then I changed my mind. I could and would do something. We couldn't live like this anymore. Something needed to change.
I fell asleep deciding on a plan.


I was confident.
On my daily walk to work this morning, I was sure of every step I was taking. I was going to better my life as well as my family's. For the first time in my life, I couldn't wait to get to work.
The man in the hooded sweatshirt on the other side of the street was still there, sucking on his cigarette. I couldn't see his eyes, but I knew he was watching my every step, and almost laughing as if I had been defeated. But I was on the high of my career and was confused at the look on his face. Oh well, maybe he was about to see a new me. After today I may become a whole new person.
I soon arrived at the entrance of the large factory and inhaled the fumes before I even walked through the door. I walked through the crowded lobby and into the lock room.
I found my locker and twisted the dial a few times before the door basically fell into my hands. The rusty surface was old and needed to be repaired, as did every other locker in the room. I hung my coat and hat on the hooks and grabbed my gloves and goggles and headed for the foundry.
The sudden tile floors in the lock room changed to the hard, cracked concrete, reminding me of the hellish place I worked in day after day. Suddenly my brimming confidence was nearly gone. The environment quickly swayed the mood. I punched my number into a nearby machine on the wall and pulled the lever as it spat out a receipt informing me that I was now on the clock. I quickly moved towards my station.
John was already there, clocked in and hard at work. John, my best friend and partner at my work station, was a middle-aged, black-haired, beast of a man. He also had two kids and a wife at home, and could support them about as well as I could support my family. We were both making very minimal, actually below minimal, pay per hour. But at least it was a job, something a lot of people couldn't say they had.
As I slouched closer, I saw that he was shining as much confidence as I had been.
"Guess what," he whispered at me when I was close enough to hear over the thundering noise. His toothy smile was widespread across his face.
"I'm going to ask for a raise today. I've been here over a year. I can't wait for a bigger paycheck."
"Hey, I was going to ask today too!"
The smiles on each of our faces grew. We were teammates and we even thought alike - more like brothers. We concluded that we were going to go and talk to the corporate manager over our lunch break.

Lunch couldn't come soon enough. The warning bell rang and we went over to the machine to type in our numbers and pull the lever. We added the receipts to the growing number of papers in our pockets and quickly went back into the locker room. We quickly washed our hands and faces to look somewhat presentable to our boss. Hurriedly, we walked out of the lock room and back into the hallways and eventually the lobby.
Every person who worked here knew where the manager's office was and shuddered at the mention of it. It was the only staircase in the building that was carpeted. Our confidence suddenly left us as I gulped and let John lead us up the stairs. The intimidating narrow hallway and stairway seemed to go on forever.
Once at the top of the staircase, we were completely amazed at what was present before us. Wood paneled flooring covered the entire area and every item, every rug, every picture frame, every light fixture and lamp, was somehow trimmed in gold. Gold plates and platters were aligned in bookshelves along the walls. Two solid doors with golden doorknobs and elegant design were at the far side of the room, guarded by a brute of a man in a grey suit that looked dull and boring compared to the rest of the room. But his intimidation spread as we both noticed at the same time the tip of a silencer on the muzzle of a Colt .44 magnum that showed its outline in the holster inside the suit jacket.
We both took another moment and awed at our surroundings before taking a step too close to the door. The guard stepped in front of us.
"Does the manager have a minute?" I asked.
We started to walk past the guard when he put his hand over both the doorknobs. "One at a time!" he hissed.
"You can go first," I said to John after we had both stared at each other for a few seconds. I took a step back and the guard opened the door for John, who had suddenly lost all color in his face. They walked in and the guard slowly moved the doors to their original position, almost. He did not close them all the way and left a crack, one that I decided I was going to watch the interview through and maybe take some mental notes on what to do, since I couldn't bring myself to sit on the gold trimmed, red clothed chairs along the wall.
The office was much like the waiting room outside, but even more significant and magnificent in many ways. The floor was covered with one large polar bear skin and many other animal trophies were attached all over the walls. Nearly everything was gold and deep cherry wood. And made the room I was in look like a little kid's room. John was sitting on a chair inside similar to the one I wouldn't sit in while in the waiting room.
"WHAT DO YOU WANT!" the manager asked. Everything he seemed to do he felt as if he had to do it in a fast matter and yelled at everyone no matter the circumstances. "MAKE THIS QUICK SO YOU CAN GET YOUR GRUBBY SLIME OUT OF MY GOLD CHAIR!"
A knot formed in my stomach. This was going to be harder than originally intended.
"Well sir, you see I've been working here for over a year now, and I was wondering if I could get a small raise and at least get bumped up to the federal minimum wage standard." He was intimidated and showed it in almost every aspect.
"YOU WANT MY MONEY?" the boss questioned, insulted.
"A very small raise would suffice. I'm having a hard time supporting-"
"We'll take care of your money...issue," the boss acknowledged, suddenly calm. Tension heightened in the air as the brief silence was interrupted by a red explosion of syrupy liquid from the side of John's head. A brief moment later he fell over in the chair and his head, thudded against the ground. A puddle of red started collecting on the pure white of the polar bear fur, tainting its innocence. I felt sick, but continued to look through the crack and adjusted my view to see the silenced Colt still in the air, smoke coming from the muzzle. "THEY ARE ALL SCUM. NOBODY WILL MISS HIM. IT'S TOO BAD ABOUT THE FUR THOUGH, I REALLY LIKED THAT ONE."
"I can order another one," the guard replied as the manager took out a cigar and started chewing on the end.
"Should I bring the other guy in after I clean this up?"
"Yeah, the other one is waiting outside the door."
And that's when I bolted back for the stairs. Soon after I took off the door crashed open behind me. I didn't even turn around as I heard three bullets whiz past my head. I didn't stop when I got to the bottom of the stairs. I didn't even go to my locker. For awhile it sounded as if the thudding was right behind me, but I figured after awhile that it was the pounding of my heart and the thudding inside my ears. Even so, I didn't stop running.
Once I was past the jewelry store, I stopped to catch my breath and check to see if they were still in pursuit. They weren't, and I was thankful. The coolness of the winter day finally got to me and I shivered from the sudden cold that engulfed me. Something across the street caught my eye. I turned only to find the man with the sweatshirt, still sucking on a cigarette. But this time he had a different smile upon his face, one that gave an "I told you so" attitude. I stared at him for a few moments, and then moved on, my head racing with thoughts. It bugged me immensely that I could not see his eyes.
I continued walking home at a hurried rate and recalled everything that had just happened. I had just sent my best and only friend to his death and almost killed myself in the process. It could have been me taking that bullet and crumpling into the jaw of the polar bear. I instantly was sick at the thought and it took all my strength to keep from throwing up all the way home, the scene replaying in my head time after time.
Soon I was home and I ran to Jennifer. Her head snapped up, surprised as I threw the door open. I started rambling twenty words a second as soon as I saw her, but she shushed me and got me a glass of water and a towel and began to wipe the sweat and dirt off of my face. I attempted to calm down and started to play back the day's happenings to her. As soon as I had finished, it was like staring at a ghost. She was whiter than Chicago snowflakes.
"And then I ran home."
"Paul, oh my god, what are we going to do now?"
"I don't know, but I can't go back or they will kill me too! And we can't stay here more than a day or two."
Jennifer grabbed the newspaper after a few moments of silence to try to take her mind off of the day's occurrences. After a few moments reading, she threw the paper down and grabbed her head as she ran off towards her room. I sat at the table and scanned the paper as I sipped my glass of water. Eventually she came back and leaned against the entryway into the kitchen, arms crossed. Something was different about her. At first I couldn't put my finger on what it was, but, that was the answer, her finger.
"Hey Jen, where's your wedding band and engagement ring?"
The color that had just started coming back to her face suddenly left again. "Some guy came in and threatened the twins and me with a knife today," she choked out. "He told me to give them to me or he would cut off the kids fingers then mine and take the rings with it."
I paused, sickened by the thought. "Did you see what he looked like?"
"He had a mask."
"Did you report it?"
"Why? The police won't come to this part of Chicago or do anything about it anyways. You know that better than I do."
I silenced my next thought, stunned. That was where the conversation ended. She looked away and I grabbed the paper and looked at the comics and crossword.
The night went almost exactly the same as the night before. The kids cried and screamed, the soup was bland, and the puddle on the floor grew ever bigger. I went to bed tonight and Jennifer was already lying there, asleep. Her pillow was slightly wet from crying herself to sleep. I slowly and carefully crawled in, trying not to wake her.
I simply lay in bed, staring at the discoloration starting on the bedroom ceiling for hours upon hours. My best friend had been murdered and I had narrowly avoided death. My family was in danger. We had little food, little supplies, and no money. I promised myself right then and there that this would all change. We could not continue to live like this. I only had one card left to play, and it was a long shot, but it was the only choice I had left. I had to protect at least my family if not myself at all costs.
Tomorrow, I told myself, was time to pay "Uncle Jack" a visit.


I walked to the jeweler the next day, just before noontime.
I sat across the street and stared down the man in the black sweatshirt. Eventually the creepy, crooked smile appeared behind the cigarette on his face and I crossed the heavy traffic of the Chicago street. As I came closer he aimed his nose at the ground, never revealing his eyes to me.
"You wanna talk to Uncle Jack?"
"No-body talks to Jack 'cept me."
"Well then I need a favor."
His smiled widened. "Whatdaya need?"
"Money. I have to get a new job and house and take care of my family and...I have no job, I just need money fast."
He laughed. "You and half the city."
"Please," I pleaded. "I'm desperate." His laughing stopped.
"How desperate?"
"I'll do anything."
The hooded man took a long suck on his cigarette. His scratchy and demanding voice controlled the conversation. I couldn't imagine how bellowing and deep his voice would ordinarily sound without the scratchy aspect from the constant cigarette entertaining his lips. "Do you have any idea what you are dealing with?"
"Yes." How couldn't I? Everyone knew "Uncle Jack," except, nobody really knew him. He was one of the biggest drug traffickers and money launderers in Southern Chicago - not to mention one of the richest men in the Midwest. He was a very dangerous man. He could snap his fingers and you would be dead if he wanted it that way- and he always got what he wanted. He never stopped until he got what he wanted.
"I don't think you understand what you are getting yourself into."
I lied. "I do. I understand completely, and I'll do anything."
"You will be killed if you don't meet his demands."
"I figured." I tried to sound confident, but the gulp after the sentence gave away my anxiety.
He tilted his head back and for the first time, I saw his eyes. They were black as night, with red, bloodshot lines surrounding the darkness. He grabbed his lighter and lit another cigarette. The light from the flicker of the plastic canister instantly displayed his facial features for a short moment. He was rather handsome, his face perfect except for the unshaven scruff across his chin line. "Stay put," he said after long deliberation and also as he caught me staring at his face. He briskly walked down the sidewalk about a block and disappeared from my sight. While he was gone, I did simple things to pass the time. I tied my shoe laces a few times, counted taxis speeding down the street, and watched a nearby clock, among other things. I couldn't imagine standing here for hour after hour, day after day, like the man in the hooded sweatshirt constantly did.
Finally, he reappeared in a crowd, walking at a hurried pace. "Follow me, and keep up!" he harshly spat at me as he tossed his half-used cigarette on the sidewalk. He blew right past me and I almost had to jog to keep up with his long, quick stride. He was constantly looking over his shoulder, not at me but past me, almost as if he was expecting conflict.
After a few blocks of roaming, he pulled me back deep into an alley. Paranoia and adrenaline were all over his face.
"I'm going to speak quickly, so listen up."
He reached under his sweatshirt and pulled out four stacks of paper-wrapped bills.
"Here is one-hundred grand. In two years to this day, we will meet again in this exact same spot we are standing now. I'll be here all day. You need to show up with a quarter million. Yes, that is right, two-hundred and fifty thousand dollars. You will also be asked for favors along the way. You must comply. If you don't, you are dead. If you don't show up here in two years, you are dead; and your wife and two little girls will die a long, slow, and painful death.
I was suddenly alert and surprised. "How did you know about-?"
"Let's not go there, shall we?" he smirked as his grin returned and lit another cigarette. With the first inhale he was suddenly calm again. "Be here in two years." He tossed the money at me. "When we leave this alley, I'm going to the right and you are going to the left. Understood? Don't stop or turn around until you are home. Got it?"
"Yes. I got it." I suddenly felt extremely nervous.
"Good. See ya in two years."
"Thank you," I managed to choke out in a whisper. But before he could hear me, he was already moving and had taken off. He turned right when he hit the sidewalk and was gone. I went left once I had managed to figure out how to work my legs again. I was excited but extremely nervous at the same time. I couldn't stop the feeling of ecstasy pumping through my veins.
I took an extended route home, going around the block my house was on at least twice before entering. I ran into the house and slammed the door. Jennifer nearly hit the ceiling in surprise then scolded me for the amount of noise I was making.
"Ssshhhh, the kids are asleep!" she hissed at me.
"We're getting out of here!"
"What?" she raised her voice in alarm.
I pulled the money out from under my sweater and her eyes were suddenly wide in amazement and caution.
"Where did you get that?"
"That's not important."
"Jen, can't you see? This is an opportunity to start over! We can go where we want, get what we want, and be who we want! We can completely start over. No more getting robbed day in and day out. No more worrying about if we are going to have enough food to get through the day! AND NO MORE SOUP! SOUP, SOUP, SOUP! I WANT SOME MEAT! TONIGHT WE ARE GOING OUT FOR STEAKS!"
"Hush now, the girls are still sleeping."
I smiled at her and she continued to stare at me, but after a few moments, a smile broke and crept across her face.
"Is this really happening?"
"Every bit of it. C'mon, let's get out of here."
She stared at me again for a few moments. "I'll start packing-"
"No, Jen. Just leave it here. We're going to start completely over. We have nothing here left of value. We can get a hotel for the night and shop tomorrow."
She smiled at me in a way I had not seen in years. I smiled back. This is what we had been waiting for. This was our chance.
Jen half-ran down the hallway to wake the kids up. She used her supermom strength to pick up and carry one kid in each arm as I grabbed a small, combination suitcase to hold the money in.
Within minutes we had left the house, the front door wide open. We walked directly to the nearest hotel, ordered a family suite, and paid in cash. We headed to our room and unlocked the door. I held the door open for Jen and the kids and everyone was instantly taken aback by the wonder and sheer amazement presented from the hotel room in front of them. The two children were the most amazed as they had never been in a hotel before.
Jen set the twins down in their bed and they instantly fell asleep after ridding themselves of excess energy from running around the room for about 10 minutes, searching every hidden corner. We decided to let them sleep and decided to get steaks the next night.
Soon enough, for the first time since our honeymoon, Jen was fast asleep and looked relaxed and comfortable. The drowsiness created by my surrounding family eventually wore off on me and I was also fighting sleep. I took my rightful place beside her and kissed her forehead. She smiled, which left me wondering if she was really asleep or not. Either way, sleep came quickly from exhaustion, much fast than it used to, never feeling safe with the door locked every night.
I fell asleep, dreaming about what I could do with the money.


A sweet aroma filled the air as I woke from the comfort of the bed.
I did not recognize the smell at first, for I hadn't smelt it in such a long time, but eventually it hit me what the scent possibly was.
"Good, you're awake," my wife said as she brought a steaming mug to the bed.
"Coffee?" I asked half surprised half thrilled at the sight.
"Yes, they had some in the drawer over there by the counter. Paul, this is wonderful."
"Mmmmm," I said as I slowly sipped the coffee. "Where are the girls?"
"Swimming. I walked them down to the pool this morning and they've been having a grand time. I think we are some of the only people in the hotel right now."
I took another sip of the black liquid and smiled. Jen smiled back at me and lay down on the bed next to me.
"The girls are gone?"
"Mmhmmm," she answered.
"Really," I said and set down my coffee mug on the nightstand. Jen grabbed the blankets and pulled them over both of us.
"How long are they going to be gone?"
"At least a little while yet."
"Well in that case..."
"It's been awhile since we've done this."
"Too long."
She laughed and we continued until a rapping on the door interrupted our session.
"I'll get it," I said and quickly threw on some clothes before walking to the door. Jennifer was still giggling. The rapping continued against the door, harder than the first time.
I stuck my eye up to the peephole and saw a disoriented, unfamiliar face through the small piece of glass. "Who is it?"
"I'm looking for a Jacob Finch."
"Sorry, wrong room."
"Okay, thank you," the voice said and then walked away.
"What was that all about?" Jen asked.
"Someone was looking for somebody and they had the wrong room."
"Oh," she paused and then smiled, pulling the blankets closer around her. I started walking towards the bed when another rapping started on the door, this time much lighter than the last. I walked back to the door, irritated.
"Better not be that same idiot," I muttered as I stood up to the peephole. I saw nothing. Confused, I started walking back towards the bed. The rapping suddenly continued. Now angry, I stomped back to the door. Jennifer just laughed.
Once again, when I got to the door, I could see no one. I was just about to walk away when I heard a child's voice say, "C'mon Dad, stop playing games and let us in." Jen must have heard them too because she was instantly out of the bed, wrapped in the sheets, and hurriedly striding into the bathroom with a look of amusement across her face. Once she slammed the door, I opened the door for the twin girls.
"Gee wiz took you long enough. Where is Mommy?"
"She's in the bathroom, Hun."
"Well then why is her underwear and clothes all over the floor?" One of the twins asked. "Are these yours?" the other asked as she held up some red plaid boxer shorts. All I could do was laugh.

The day went by quickly after that.
We decided to order lunch to our hotel room, and the girls could not get enough of the kiddy pool area. Jen and I stayed curled up on the couch for most of the day and just relaxed and watched cable- a first for both of us. Jen was intrigued by the multiple soap operas and continued to wake me up as I watched them through my eyelids. But when suppertime came, I was more than awake.
"Everyone ready for steaks?" I yelled with enthusiasm.
"Yeah," I was greeted with much less enthusiasm. The twins were wiped out for al the swimming they had been doing that day and Jen was preoccupied for dressing them for the less than ideal winters of Chicago.
We left the hotel and found a steakhouse just down the road. Jen and I had gone there on special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries and such, because they weren't expensive and they had very good food.
When we arrived, we were immediately seated, just beating the suppertime rush. We were put off in a corner, away from the crowding of the restaurant, and I ordered premium sirloins for everyone right away.
Soon when the waiter came back, everyone received a large slab of meat in front of them, sided with French fries and coleslaw. A large bottle of barbecue sauce was set in the middle of the table. The twin’s eyes were huge when the plates were set in front of them.
"Would you say grace?" I politely motioned to Jen. She nodded and began the ritual.
"Bless us oh Lord, for these thy gifts, which we are about to receive, from thine bounty, through Christ, our Lord, Amen."
"Alright, let's eat!" I said and started sawing away at the tender meat. Jen cut up the food for the twins and they ate a few bites then moved on to the French fries, completely avoiding the coleslaw.
We boxed up everything that was not eaten and left a larger than normal tip on the table for the waiter to pick up. Jen took the girls to the bathroom to clean up while I paid the bill and soon we were on our way back to the hotel. Once there, everyone soon fell fast asleep. I lasted longer than everyone else, and I constantly stared at Jen and the girls, appreciating what I had been given to treasure. For the first time, I actually felt like I was succeeding at my job as a husband and as a father.


The next few weeks were a benchmark of success that I will probably never come back to receive.
The day, Jen and I went and bought a new car, a Mercedes none the less. It was a silver sedan, and it was extremely fun to drive. We also went to the mall and bought new clothes for everyone, and suitcases to put them in. On the way back from the mall to the hotel, Jen and I spotted the house of our dreams- and for sale. Right away we talked to the realtors and placed a down payment on the house. The day was a long yet successful one.
Within a month, we had moved into our new house and were as wealthy as any middle class family, something that neither of us had experienced since our childhood. Soon after moving in, I found a new job as commercial driver running public transport busses, and Jennifer also found a job as a receptionist at a small, local hospital. For the first time since our marriage, we were stress free and were not struggling to pay the bills; we actually had money left over at the end of each paycheck. The most stressful time we experienced was the week I had to leave town to get my commercial driver's license so I could drive the busses and I wasn't home to help Jen with the kids.
And the twins, they both started preschool. They made many friends right away. They went every other day, but the days that both Jen and I were working, they went home with their friends parents and one of us picked them up after work.
And my favorite part was the food. It was something different not to be having soup every night of the week. I found out that Jennifer was quite a good cook, and also found out that I was too. We were like the dynamic duo in the kitchen and even catered for one of Jennifer's coworkers once.
Then I created a habit- one that would come back to haunt me.

What a day at work.
I had worked overtime today because one of the drivers had called in sick. I picked up his shift right after mine, causing my eight hour shift for the day to double. And to make it even longer, I had started at four this morning.
I was starving, and when I got home, roast beef was sitting for me in the Crockpot. Jen was awake watching television, and the twins were both asleep. "How was work?" she asked without even turning away from the murder-mystery on TV.
"Long," was my one word response. The conversation ended almost immediately there as I dished up a generous helping of the tender meat onto my plate. I was too tired to even think. I joined Jen in the living room and tried to keep my eyes open through the show and eat my food without dribbling it into my lap.
"I got the day off tomorrow since I worked a double shift today," I said to break the silence.
"That's fine. I don't have to work until three anyways tomorrow. We can both sleep in."
"That sounds incredible to me right now," I replied, nearly dozing off right there and then. Jennifer just laughed at me.
"You poor thing," she said, still half-laughing. "Why don't you just go to bed," she said, grabbing the plate off my lap.
"Sounds good," I said as I reclined the chair.
"No no no honey. I mean in bed," she replied and I smiled as she started to laugh at me."
"Only if you will come with."
"Deal," she bargained as she turned the television off.

I woke late the next morning.
An aroma of eggs and pancakes filled the air. I nearly jumped out of bed in excitement and threw on a robe and slippers and rushed into the kitchen. I slid halfway across the wooden floor and kissed Jen on the cheek, which was accompanied by an "Eeeewwwwww," from across the kitchen. I turned around to see both the twins sitting at the table, trying to cover their eyes from the obscenity that they had just experienced. I sat down at the table between them and tickled the little bodies until they each nearly peed their pants in excitement.
Soon after, Jen sat omelets down in front of all of us. "Here you go. I made your favorite- bacon and tomato omelet." All I could do was smile. "And for you two, I made scrambled eggs with cheese."
"What do you say?" I asked the twins.
"Thank you Mommy," they said in unison. I said grace and we all started to devour the food that was on our plates.
Soon after, the kids went into the living room to watch Saturday morning cartoons, and I walked back into the bathroom to take a shower and get ready for the day. I got dressed and walked back into the kitchen to find Jennifer doing the dishes. I started to help out and started drying.
"So do you have any plans today?" I asked.
"Just work, but I should be back by eight. Why, did you have plans for today?"
"Well one of the guys at work is holding a poker night at his house, starts at 8:30. I was just going to go check it out and have a beer or two. Maybe I'll play a game here or there, learn to play."
"Just be careful," Jennifer jumped in. "This doesn't need to become an addiction."
I just laughed. "Jen, I don't even know how to play! I'm just going to go hang with the guys. Don't worry about anything."
"Fine," she sighed after a long deliberation. "Could you finish this up for me so I can start getting ready for work?" she asked.
"Yeah, I can do that," I responded. She turned around and walked out of the kitchen.
I soon finished the dishes and started to clean up the house a little bit before Jen left for work. She left, walking to the location since it was only two blocks away.
Since we had a late breakfast, lunch time was skipped and it was a little after three in the afternoon. The twins started complaining about being hungry, and I really didn't want to do dishes again or make anything, so I came up with what I thought was a pretty bright idea.
"Do you two want to go to McDonalds?"
"Play place!" they responded, almost as if they could read each other's minds.
"Alright, everyone into the car!" I called back as I grabbed the keys. The kids were already in the seats by the time I entered the garage.
The rest of the afternoon went by fairly quickly. The kids ordered their chicken nuggets and I ordered a Big Mac as we entered the play place. I could barely keep the kids in their chairs to finish their meals and before they took off to go run through the plastic tubing. They played for almost two hours, never getting tired of the slides and the nets and everything else McDonalds so generously supplied. I sat and watched, never getting tired of seeing the smiles across their faces.
"Alright kids, it's time to go!"
"Aww just ten more minutes?"
"That's what you said ten minutes ago. Quick, I found a toy at the bottom of your bags!"
"Toys!" they both responded and were instantly off the tubing. They both stuck their hands into the bags and pulled out two small dolls.
"Cabbage Patch!" they yelled out.
I grabbed their hands and started to head back out into the parking lot and buckled the kids in the backseat, still obsessed with their new pieces of plastic.
Once we got home, I took the kids out of the car and into the bathroom. "Alright time for a bath!"
"Nooooo!" they both exclaimed and tried to run out the door that I had already shut.
"Yes," I said. I could smell their sweaty little bodies all the way home. I filled up the bathtub with warm water and bubbles and threw two large towels in the drier. Both of the kids eventually stopped fighting and got into the tub, taking their two new toys with them.
I sat in the living room and watched TV until I heard them both complaining about the water getting too cold. I jumped out of my chair and jogged into the bathroom, going right to the drier to take the towels out; still warm from the cycle they had been put on.
"Okay you two little caterpillars, wrap yourself in your cocoons so you can become butterflies!"
They both jumped out of the tub and onto the ground and started rolling, bringing the towels with them and wrapping themselves up in the warmth of the stitched cotton. I pulled the plug in the bathtub and let the water drain. After rinsing the bubbles down the drain, my two little butterflies' towels started to lose their warmth and they suddenly stood up and ran into their rooms.
Soon, after much deliberation, they came out, wearing some of the brightest clothes they owned. "Ta-da!" they yelled in harmony.
"Well, would you look at that- two beautiful butterflies!"
They both ran up to me and started hugging my legs and I started to walk back into the kitchen, both of them hugging my thighs trying to hold on. I waddled into the kitchen and opened the freezer.
"Sounds like ice cream time to me," I half-yelled.
"Ice cream!" they both yelled and jumped up into their chairs at the table while I got out the bowls and spoons. I dished them both up large bowls and they started to eat it with enthusiasm, but then struggled to finish as all the action of the day started to catch up with the young bodies.
"Are you two getting tired?" I asked, prepared to put them to bed.
"No, we're not tired at all," they slowly replied, rubbing their eyes the entire time.
"I think it's time to go to bed."
"Okay," they responded, not even putting up a fight. I helped them out of their chairs and into their rooms where they put on their pajamas and crawled into bed. I didn't even have to read them a bedtime story. They were out as soon as they were in bed, not even under the covers all the way. I grabbed the sheets and pulled them up to their chins and slowly walked out of the room and closed the door. I walked back in the kitchen and looked at the clock, which read 7:36. I cleaned up the ice cream and threw the bowls and spoons in the dishwasher. As soon as I closed the dishwasher, Jennifer walked in the door.
"Hey," she greeted.
"Hi," I cheerfully responded and turned on the dishwasher.
"Where are the kids?"
"Oh shoot I knew I forgot something!"
"Ha-ha they are in bed. They had a busy day," I said and started to explain the happenings of the afternoon.
"Aww and I missed all of it. I even got home from work early and I still missed it," she complained as she headed for the cupboard above the refrigerator.
"The butterflies went to bed early," I smiled as I grabbed two wine glasses from the cupboard in front of me.
"Well at least you aren't asleep yet," she said as she poured two glasses of an olive colored drink.
"Yes, but I'm leaving soon for that poker night."
Her smile suddenly turned into a frown. "Oh yes, I forgot about that."
"Actually, I'm going to change now and start getting ready."
"Okay," she replied as I walked back into the bedroom, leaving my drink on the counter next to the cutting board. I quickly changed into something formal, yet casual at the same time. After changing, I walked back into the kitchen and found Jennifer freshening up her drink.
"See you later tonight," I said as I kissed her. There was no participation on her end. I paused and started walking towards the door.
"Paul," I heard right before walking out the door. I turned around to see Jennifer still at the counter, wide-eyed.
"Please be careful." I nodded and walked out the door.


I arrived to a house filled with noise and packed with cars in the driveway.
The house had not been hard to find, not too far from my house actually. I barely squeezed the Mercedes into the driveway and walked up to the door and rang the doorbell. I was greeted by three different guys, all from work, who welcomed me into the house. I came in and sat down in a sofa as Binky, they guy whose shift I picked up the other day, brought me a beer.
"Thanks," I responded as I cracked open the can.
"Don't thank me yet, I still have to take your money later," he said as he winked at me. "I'm going to make you want to get your own beer pretty soon." I smiled at him.
Soon enough, the poker games began. I teamed up with Mark, the host of the party, until I learned how to play. I picked it up easy enough. We weren't playing for cash for the first few rounds anyways.
"You guys ready to play?" Mark asked.
"Yeah, let's go."
"Do you wanna play or just watch?" Mark asked me.
"I'll play I suppose."
"Okay, everyone buy in!"
Everyone threw twenty dollars into the center of the table. I grabbed a twenty out of my wallet and tossed it in, telling myself I was going to stop as soon as I started losing money.
Mark dealt a stack of chips to everyone. I started as small blind so I was already being forced to throw chips into the middle of the table, next to the cash. Twenty bucks didn't seem like much, but we had two tables going and there were about seven to eight guys per table. Binky passed around another round of beers for everyone.
"Aww thanks, Binky," I said as he set mine down next to my right hand.
"What did I tell you about thanking me?" he asked, smiling.
"Hey, the way I look at it, you still owe me from taking your shift the other day," I joked back. He laughed and sat down after everyone was served.
The first game went fairly quick. I was playing conservatively and waiting for opportune times to gamble. I was slowly bleeding chips, but I stayed in while other people started to get weeded out and went to go watch Mark's four-hundred plus channels on cable.
Eventually two tables became one, and one became half a table. There were five of us left and even though I wasn't leading, I was still holding on.
Five left, four, three, two... I was one of two left in the game.
Then I took my opportunity and struck.
I definitely had the better hand, and I pushed all in, acting as if I just wanted to join the rest of the guys and watch cable. Binky was buying into my act, and matched my gamble.
"Holy crap, you just beat me. You have a full house."
"Is that what it is called? I didn't know I just figured it might be something," I lied. I had easily figured this game out. I was just playing an act. "Beginner’s luck."
"Yeah, beginner's luck," Binky replied. "Hey, I'm kind of sick of playing; we've been going at it for over three hours. Since you did so good for your first time, wanna split the pot? The game is on and I really wanted to watch."
"Yeah, that's fine by me. I kind of wanted to watch the game too."
"Alright, let me count up the cash and I'll split it down the middle."
"Sounds good to me."
And with that, I ended the night with one-hundred thirty more dollars that I had spent that night. It was free. It was easy.
I walked back to grab another beer and headed over to the sofa to watch the game with the guys: University of Illinois versus University of Wisconsin- Big Ten game. I casually posed my question to Mark.
"Hey Mark, when are you planning on hosting another poker night? This was kind of fun tonight."
"There is usually one every Saturday night. We switch houses though. This Saturday it was my turn. Next week we will be over at Mike's."
"Cool. Well I'm going to take off and get home before the wife gets too worried about me."
"Alright. See you at Mike's and at work!"
"Yup. See you later."
And with that, I drove home, wondering what I could do with the money.


When I got home, everyone was asleep.
I quietly slipped down the hallway into my bedroom, being careful not to wake any of the family. I quietly moved into my bedroom and stripped down quick and jumped into bed. Jennifer turned over, aware of my presence.
"Oh you're home."
"Yes, dear and I'm okay."
"You smell like alcohol."
"I'm sorry, I'll brush my teeth."
"Thank you," she whispered and turned over on her other side.
I once again, I snuck down the hallway, into the bathroom, so that I could brush my teeth. Afterwards I rinsed with Listerine, the heavy glass bottle difficult to hold after I sucked down a few beers that were finally getting into the bloodstream. I could barely keep it in my mouth it burned so bad. I brushed my teeth a second time to put some life back into my mouth.
Soon after, I crawled back into bed, and Jen was inquisitive about how the night went.
"Not bad, not bad at all."
"Did you play poker?"
"Yes, I played for a little bit."
"I didn't lose any money. I actually gained money."
"How much money?"
"Well I spent twenty and came back with one-hundred fifty."
"It was easy; like taking candy from a baby."
"It was a fun night, though. I had a few beers and I hung out with the guys and we watched the Illinois-Wisconsin game. Next week they are doing the same thing at Mike's house."
"Paul, be careful. I've heard terrible stories about people who have become addicted to gambling and it catches up with them. I don't want anything to happen to you."
"Don't worry, Jen. As soon as I start losing money, I back out. I play my odds. I'm smart about it. Like I said before, it's easy."
"I'm going to sleep; I'm not really in the mood to argue right now."
"Okay, well goodnight babe."
"Night, Hun."

A few times a month became a few times a week. A few times a week became every day. It wasn't just cards, either. I was addicted to gambling. I couldn't help it. I would be listening to a Big Ten game on the radio and I would gamble with my customers and 'bet them five bucks' that a certain play would happen. Eventually, it became greater and greater value. I started going to casinos and different places to play poker, having one-hundred dollars for a buy in instead of ten or twenty. I had surpassed the mark of the money that had been given to me, and I was well on my way to the $250,000 mark- and it hadn't even been a year yet. And Jen? She didn't have to know. She brought home her paycheck and I brought home mine. I took care of the bills, taxes, and bank statements. We hadn't ever worried about money since we had our first income wallop. As far as she was concerned, I had gotten promoted and had to go to numerous business meetings and was always late because I was checking up on my drivers night after night. Really, I had just received a small raise for being with the business for six months. I didn't consider it lying. I was helping out the family. I was doing what was necessary to help them and keep them safe.
The debt I owed and the money I needed to get was a distant thought. I needed one year's salary to get the money, something that poker provided in a few months.
Then the letter came.
I opened a strange letter, completely plain except for a typed version of my name and address on the front. It didn't even have a postage stamp. Once inside, I found a typed sheet of paper with nothing else but a location and time. I knew the place; it was the restaurant that we had steaks at the night after our inheritance. The letter was signed in the same type as the rest of the letter, and it was signed "Uncle Jack." Something felt very wrong.
I went to the restaurant after work the next day, hiding the letter from Jen. I didn't need to worry her. When I walked into the restaurant, the host took me to a table and threw another letter down in front of me and then left at a brisk pace. I opened the envelope. The letter read:

Do you remember when you said that you would do anything? Well, now is your time to prove it. As we speak, your bus is being loaded with fifty-million dollars that needs to be transported to the north side of Chicago. Inside the package loaded in your bus is a small bomb and a locator in the package. If you do something stupid or do no comply, the bomb will be detonated and your bank account will be emptied. You will do this before your route. This is the address that you will deliver to:

I finished reading the letter and folded it up and stuck it in my rear pocket. I was now going to be involved in crime, and if I wanted my family or myself to survive, I needed to do this.
I started to second guess my decision all the way home, wondering if the hundred-grand was worth the risk.


I cringed when my alarm went off a little after three in the morning.
I had to be into work by four, and I had definitely not gotten enough sleep the night before with a late poker game. But, on the other hand, I did come back five-thousand dollars richer- one of the best nights I'd ever had. That was the thing about gambling; I very rarely lost. Actually, so far I had never lost money on a night. I played too conservative. It almost wasn't gambling- I played my odds perfectly.
Either way, being to work at four in the morning was not one of the best things that could happen on a Monday morning.

Once arriving at work, I found my bus already out in the parking lot- something not usual or routine for my type of work. I walked up to it, finding it idling. I walked up the steps and found a large, metal case in the back of the bus.
I shifted into drive and started to pull out of the parking lot. I couldn't help but feel sorry for the people running up to the bus stops on the way to my destination, only to find out that I wasn't stopping to shuttle them around the city.
Finding my destination was simple enough. It was a casino that I had played poker and twenty-one at only a few nights before. As soon as I pulled in, four men in all black were there, simply walking through the doors that I opened for them, grabbing the case, and leaving. A fifth man came through the door and handed me an envelope. I was signaled out of the casino parking lot and pulled into a Wal-Mart to open and read the letter.

Congratulations, you have just assisted in your first crime for the biggest thug in all of Chicago! I hope you enjoyed your job and you will be contacted in the future for jobs since you offered to do anything to help out your precious little family. If you are reading this letter, you have successfully completed the job that was asked of you. You can go on with your pathetic little life. Tell no one or you and your family will die. Have a nice day!

I nearly puked in my mouth when I read the letter. The sarcastic tone was nearly unbearable. I couldn't help but imagine what I had just done as I drove back to the station to clock in. I completely ignored the people again running to the bus stop to try to catch my bus to a different part of town.
Life did get interesting once I got back to the transit station. I pulled in directly after my boss and a few coworkers. I parked the vehicle and in its designated spot and got out to find disgust on my boss's face.
"Where the hell were you?"
"Umm, I noticed a flat tire yesterday so I came in early to go get it filled."
"You know we have an air-compressor in the garage?"
"Yes, I know. I couldn't get it to work."
"Was it out of gas?"
"I don't know, I'm usually not one to use it."
"There is gas in the shelving above it. Go fill it up." I left to go to the garage, knowing that I had just dodged a bullet. Once finding the air compressor, it was indeed empty of gas. I lucked out, and found some gasoline to fill it up again. The mechanics here were lazy anyways; it's not my job to fill the air compressor and check the inflation of the tires.
After the early morning incident, the day went fairly smoothly. I picked up all the people on my route that I had avoided earlier in the morning and took them around the city to their desired destinations. The day went on just as normal. No one knew what had taken place before then sun rose that morning. When I got home, everything was a different story.
"Where were you this morning?" Jen inquired as soon as I had opened the door.
"The office called me in late the night before. I had to run a special route to the casino with a bus full of tourists."
"At four in the morning?" her voice was questioning.
"I only do what I'm told."
"Well, give me some heads up next time so I'm not at home sick all day worrying about you. All I heard from the twins today was "where's Daddy? Is Daddy playing hide and seek?" I didn't know what to tell them because you weren't scheduled to go in until almost noon."
"Don't worry, Jen."
"Don't worry me, Paul."
"It won't happen again," I lied. I knew deep down that it would definitely happen again. The good thing was that I was getting better at lying. Everything made sense and no one asked questions. Of course, that was part of gambling, making everyone else think that you were about to do something else.
The rest of the night went fairly smoothly, and for the first time in a few months, I stayed home for the night. It didn't raise the same thrill as winning large sums of money, but I was very relaxed and the night was calm. I went to bed early and got a good night's rest.

I couldn't stop.
The next night I was at it again, throwing away the money that I had earned that week for my paycheck. But I wasn't throwing it away; I was investing it and growing it exponentially. Tonight, so far, I had nearly come up with a quarter of the money that I needed to pay off the rest of my debt. I had just surpassed the two-hundred thousand dollar mark when I cashed in my chips for the night.
Eventually, my class of gambling improved. I started going to clubs to gamble, wearing suits and gambling thousands of dollars at a time. I hid the suit at work, not letting Jennifer know of my dual identities. She didn't need to know. The less she knew the better. Yes, she's my wife, but this was my responsibility. I told myself, after I had raised the money, everything would be over.
But it was never over. It was like a bad drug that had taken control of my life. It became an every night ordeal. I easily slid past the mark that I needed to hit and kept going. I had earned a reputation as one of the cunningest gamblers in the city. I played other drug traffickers, businessmen, anybody with money. I played at casinos, gentlemen's clubs, private boats, mansions, and once a week at my co-worker's house. And I always won. I always won. I never lost a game. And when I started falling behind, I got myself back in the lead quickly. I was the best. And to everyone who thought they knew me, I was a simple, middle-class husband living paycheck to paycheck.
I tried stopping on a few occasions, but it never happened. I couldn't ever stop. It was the best thing that had ever happened to me. Money, money was what made life worth living. But I always wanted more...
And I did odd jobs along the way. Most of the time, it involved transporting money across the city. It was simple, it was easy. I got caught once and I paid off the cop and that was the end of that.
Everything was beautiful. It couldn't get any better. I had more than enough money and I was close to the date I had to be at to pay back the money. No problem, piece of cake- or so I thought.


The thrill was not enough.
Recently, the idea of playing the games by choosing my battles started to lack its shiny luster. I wanted more of a thrill. I needed something regain that shiny appeal.
So I stopped playing the games, and I started gambling.
The thrill was unbelievable- putting thousands of dollars on the line and feeling the rise of adrenaline as the final card turned or the anguish of defeat as the opponent put you right where he wanted you. It was even more addicting then when I started. I couldn't get enough of it.
I had no worries. I was way over the mark that I needed to achieve, and had much to spare. Even so, I started bringing more and more money to each event. I got scared once in awhile, losing immense amounts of chips, but I regained them back slowly.

I pushed a stock of chips across the table, equating nearly eight times the amount of my paycheck that I had received last night. This was the nerve wrecking part of the game. It all depended on what he had; but the thrill of emotions and ecstasy at the end kept me coming back to the table.
My opponent called my bet, pushing in the remainder of the chips he had left. I nervously started chomping on the end of my cigar, spilling a residue onto my silk tie. These final cars could determine whether I win yet another night or whether I go home, down thousands of dollars.
I flipped my cards first. He followed suit.
"Three of a kind," he announced proudly.
"Full house," I replied, cocky.
"Bastard," he responded with a look of anger across his face.
And that was where the game ended. I took the remainder of the chips from the table and went to cash in. $48 grand was not at all a bad night of gambling. I was getting better every time. It seemed as if my luck never ran out. The thrill of winning never went away. It was my life. It was like a fever, a thrill that never went away. It was hot, always exciting, always changing.

"And I'll raise twenty-grand saying that you don't have that flush that you are trying to make us believe you have!"
"Ha-ha I call!"
"I bet you do, trying to scare me away from all that money!"
"Flush! Told you ha-ha!"
"Ah whatever, it's only twenty-grand!"
I leaned back in my chair after pulling all the chips towards my end of the table. I folded my hand behind my head and smiled as the dealer shuffled and dealt yet another hand.
Bigger money just meant bigger excitement. I had gotten lucky way too many times, boosting my winnings tremendously. Some people I gambled with were gambling away six figures like it was nothing. This nasty habit dominated my life.

Bigger gambles just made for bigger wins.
Tonight, I was not having a good night. I was so boozed up that I could barely sit straight in my chair. I had lost almost $350,000 tonight. I couldn't figure out why I continued to play with just a small stack of chips. I had told myself I was going to be careful tonight since tomorrow I needed to pay the man in the hooded sweatshirt a quarter of a million dollars.
This dark evening, I was playing some of the richest men in all of the Chicago-Milwaukee area. We met aboard a private yacht on Lake Michigan to play the biggest game that I had ever experienced. Buy-in was a half-million dollars- almost half of what I owned. I had just hit the million mark a few days ago.
The night had been going fairly well. There were a dozen of us to start, and slowly but surely everyone was weeded down to just two people. Me and this large, plump man. He hid his eyes with his suit-matching tailored hat and chewed on a cigar.
I was having a hard time surviving from round to round, struggling to stay in. I was amazed how the plump man weeded through everyone else, never seeming to harm me, just worried about eliminating the rest of the competition. Nothing made sense to me.
Game after game we played, and I slowly bled chips. I started to gain some back and my stack once again started to increase. Then the opportunity of a lifetime showed itself.
I had just gotten dealt pocket rockets.
I tried not to show the excitement in my face as I slid the cards closer to my chest. The first round of betting started, both checking. The first cards were flipped.
Another ace showed itself right away.
My turn to bet, I tried to sucker this man for as much money as he would allow. The next card flipped.
Nothing I could use.
The booze getting to my head, I was convinced nothing could stop me this game. I pushed all in, nearly two-million dollars worth of chips, trying to get the large amount he had put in and then scare him away.
He called my bet.
He must have seen me blush as a smile crept across his face- the first sign of emotion I had seen all night. He had more chips, about two-hundred thousand worth left.
The final card was flipped: nothing that could help me.
We flipped our cards simultaneously. What the dealer said broke my heart in two.
"Mr. Jackson wins with a Royal Flush, awarded 3.8 million dollars."
Clapping continued from behind us. Feeling defeated, the alcohol took over my mind as I made the mistake that would change my life forever.
"I would like to buy in for another round," I told the dealer. The clapping stopped and Mr. Jackson just laughed as the dealer supplied me with a rather small amount of chips compared to his large stack. I was taking a big risk. This was all the money I had left- the money I needed to pay back the man tomorrow. But I didn't think about that; I just thought about not going down without a fight and refusing to lose the biggest game of my life. I couldn't, I wouldn't, accept defeat.
Games continued, all eyes on the two men at the table. I started out better than I had done the whole night, but then I started to lose, and lose big. I couldn't believe what I was doing as the remainder of my chips entered the center of the pile. "I should never have had that last Jack Daniels," I thought to myself.
My heart broke as I saw the five cards laying face up. I had just lost all my money that I had earned over the last two years within the last hour. I didn't think about the money that I needed for the next day- I just thought about how I had lost one-million dollars in one night.
As I walked back outside to my Mercedes, a limo pulled up, all windows tinted. It stopped at the dock where the yacht was Mr. Jackson started walking towards it. The driver, a man in a black hooded sweatshirt, got out and opened the door for his client.
"How was your night tonight Uncle Jack?"
"Well I won again. And I suckered this one kid for a couple million dollars."
"Well that's not bad at all," he said as he closed the door and looked in my direction. He went nearly hysterical after he saw me and saw the defeated look on my face. All the alcohol I had drunken earlier kept me from comprehending what was going on.
I went home and attempted to fall asleep, but sleep wouldn't come. I kept rolling around, wondering, and starting to comprehend the outcome of my actions.
Tomorrow would be a day to remember.


Turmoil filled my every breath.
I woke up as the alarm buzzed six o'clock. Nightmare after nightmare had consumed my restless night, leaving my body completely drenched in sweat as I awoke. I attempted to make an agenda for myself as I ran myself through the shower and quickly dressed myself casually afterwards. I nearly ran out the door, not alerting Jennifer to my scheme for the day.
I started the car and quickly backed out of the garage. The engine roared and the tires squealed as I sped off towards town.

I found the place I had been looking for.
I parked the Mercedes on the street next to a store named Guns 'n More and hurriedly walked in. There was one, large man behind a large counter. He wore a ripped sleeve flannel t-shirt and faded jeans. I ran up to him in anxiety.
"Can I help you?" he asked while cleaning a half-assembled weapon.
"I need to buy a personal protection weapon."
"Nine millimeter?"
"Honestly I don't know that much about guns. I just want something that I can carry legally that is reliable and easy to get ammunition for." He smiled at my last sentence as if he had just found the perfect customer.
"Here is a Beretta 92 FS. Small, light, compact, powerful, and shoots nine-mil cartridges. Very good gun and easy to get ammunition for."
"I'll take it," I replied without hesitation.
"Do you want a spare magazine too?"
"Ammo right away?"
I paid him the appropriate amount for the weapon and he even showed me the basics of holding, shooting, maintaining, and reloading the gun. I later bought a holster and I stored the gun in it as I walked out of the small corner store.
I was now prepared to meet the man in the hooded sweatshirt.

I entered the alley, within seconds of the time I had been scheduled.
The familiar face, well, familiar hood was standing there, sucking on a cigarette. Before I was even done walking towards him he was already spouting questions at me.
"Do you have the quarter-million?"
He spat the half-used cigarette onto the concrete. "And why not?"
"I think you know why not."
He laughed at that, realizing that I had not only lost immense amounts of money, but now also recognizing that I was either to be enslaved to "Uncle Jack" or my family and I were going to die.
"I'm sorry to hear that," his voice faded, suddenly serious.
He pulled a hunting knife from what seemed like nowhere and slowly started to circle me, like a shark surrounding his prey. He came closer with every revolution, and finally he lunged at me.
A gun went off.
He was taken aback and blown to the ground. The knife hit the grey concrete a second later and clanged on the rock, almost cutting off a finger along the way. I looked down, not realizing what I had just done as I watched the smoke rise from the muzzle of the Beretta. Horrified, I ran back to the Mercedes. I could hardly put the key in the ignition because of my hands shaking so badly.
I sped home. I only had a little time.

"Get the kids, we're going."
Jennifer was suddenly alarmed as I came crashing through the kitchen door. Disgust and fear fought for control of her face, and she didn't know whether to believe me or not.
"What's going on, Paul?" She grabbed my arm as I walked by her to pack a few pairs of clothes in a backpack with some canned food. She repeated her question.
"Jen, just trust me please."
"And why should I?" My world almost stopped. "You have given me no reason to trust you for almost two years."
I fought back the tears of truth that I just started to recognize. "Jen, I'm sorry. I'll explain on the way. But if you ever trusted me in your life, trust me now."
Debate crossed her face. "Please Jen."
"I'll get the girls," she finally decided.
Ten minutes later we were out of the house and back in the Mercedes. An hour later we came back and the house was in flames. The kids were crying and screaming the entire time. They had no idea and could not understand the story that took me an hour to tell Jennifer. We stopped at a car dealership and sold the car for cash, something that we would need very soon.
And here we were, back to where we started.


There was a fever of anxiety that never stopped.
For the last year, Jennifer and I had been on the run with the kids, trying to escape Uncle Jack. The fever was always there, when we ate, when we slept, or when we talked. Everyone was continually on edge because he always found us. We traveled nearly halfway to Springfield just to find more of his loyal subjects there to try to scoop us up. Every place we hid they found us, and even though we escaped many close encounters, we somehow managed to always find a way out.
Recently, begging for money had become our new pastime, along with finding odd-jobs here and there. Finally saving enough money for a one-way ticket to Milwaukee, we hoped we could outrun the fever that hunted us, at least for a bit.
We did arrive in Milwaukee. After struggling at first, the family found a place to settle down and we had a short resting period before the chase would continue. For a time the fever broke, and we took advantage of the time.
When the fever broke, we all hoped we'd seen the last of "Uncle Jack." But everyone knew he would be back; he never stopped until he had gotten what he wanted. The excitement, agitation, and panic would continue. He would find me again, as he had done consistently for the last three years. Even so, we were safe for now, but-
The fever would find us again.



When the fever broke, they had all hoped that they'd seen the last of "Uncle Jack." But everyone knew he would be back; he never stopped until he got what he wanted. The excitement, agitation, and panic would continue. He would find us again, as he had done consistently for the last three years. Even so, we were safe for now, but-
The fever would find us again.


The chase was on.
I could not escape Mr. Jackson, also known as "Uncle Jack." When I came back to the burning of my house, my heart nearly split in two as I saw everything that I had worked so hard for go up in flames. I could hardly hear the kids' screaming and crying over the thoughts in my own head...

To Be Continued...



When the fever broke, they had all hoped that they'd seen the last of "Uncle Jack." But everyone knew he would be back; he never stopped until he got what he wanted. The excitement, agitation, and panic would continue. He would find us again, as he had done consistently for the last three years. Even so, we were safe for now, but-
The fever would find us again.


I simply could not believe my eyes when my husband brought home one-hundred thousand dollars in cash. We had been living so poorly, it was like a guardian angel had been watching us, knowing exactly when we were in the time of deepest need. I could not have been farther off.
"Ssshhhh, the kids are asleep!" I hissed at Paul as he slammed through the deteriorated front door.
"We're getting out of here!"
"What?" my voice raised in alarm.
Paul pulled money out from under his sweater and I could feel my eyes, suddenly wide in amazement and caution.
"Where did you get that?"
"That's not important."
"Jen, can't you see? This is an opportunity to start over! We can go where we want, get what we want, and be who we want! We can completely start over. No more getting robbed day in and day out. No more worrying about if we are going to have enough food to get through the day! AND NO MORE SOUP! SOUP, SOUP, SOUP! I WANT SOME MEAT! TONIGHT WE ARE GOING OUT FOR STEAKS!"
"Hush now, the girls are still sleeping."
Paul smiled at me and I continued to stare back, but after a few moments, a smile broke and crept across my face.
"Is this really happening?"
"Every bit of it. C'mon, let's get out of here."

To Be Continued...


Click Here for more stories by Chris Evenson