Just Kill / part 1
Kid was young and in love, when two renegade Texas Rangers frame him for murder and cripple his future. Hungry for justice, Kid lands in the comforting promises of Marie, an eccentric widow who seduces him with an ideology unbound by the fatalistic rules written by their dark pasts. With his quick witted muse riding shotgun, Kid’s ready for the knife-edge, chamber loaded ride that vows redemption or death. But no guarantees.
Marie turns on a video camera. It’s on a tripod. She adjusts the angle so the lens is directed at me.
“Before we can create order on the outside, we have to establish order on the inside,” she says.
I don’t answer because I don’t understand. At least not yet.
We are in her garage and it smells of chemicals. Sulfur mostly. Maybe she’s making explosives. I wouldn’t put it past her. Did I mention she’s crazy?
Marie shuffles through a duffle bag besides her Victorian ladies chair. It’s velvet and I’m sitting opposite on its doppleganger. I run my fingers against the grain and accidentally glance into the camera lens. It doesn’t blink. It is perfect. It is perfect and I am flawed. I am flawed and I will die. A sense of shame overtakes me. I look away.
She keeps rummaging. I grow impatient. “What are we doing?” I ask.
As if on cue, Marie takes a handgun out of the duffle bag and points it at my head.
“Shit!” I immediately buck back and tumble over with the chair. She stands and picks the chair up and sets it aright and comes at me with the gun held steady in her hand, like she has done something like this before, like this isn’t her first exercise of shock. And here I am, like a fool, fallen for this enigmatic widow’s trap.
I retreat to a corner in the garage, pressing my hands into the naked wall studs. They feel cold against my skin. Outside is the middle of winter and well below freezing, but if I dart past her now, perhaps she’ll miss and I can jet into the house and find my way out. It’s the panhandle of Texas in January. I’ll survive the cold… maybe.
I glance at the door. She clocks it and immediately back up towards it, the gun trained on me. She pulls out a set of keys from her pocket and locks the deadbolt.
“What the fuck are you doing?” I hear myself say.
She steps toward me again. “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?”
“Have you ever killed anyone innocent?”
I wanna ask why, but I figure I better not.
She points the weapon at my chest. “Ever shot or raped anyone innocent?”
She moves back to the chairs and camera. “Sit down.”
I stall on my feet. This is past hesitation. I’m full deer-in-trucklights.
“I’m not gonna kill you,” she affirms.
I look down at the gun in her hand. There’s no point in arguing. I take the seat. She stands over me, looking down at me with squinted eyes. And my eyes, they’re on the floor. Coward.
I must have been fidgeting my hand on the velvet arm rest again because she presses the barrel against the back of my palm. I stop and let it flatten out against the grain.
“You ever steal anything that shouldn’t have been stolen?”
My mind’s racing. “What?”
“What did you steal?”
I pause. Swallow. It tastes like acid. “Lots of things,” I shrug, feigning calm.
“What is this?”
“Think of the thing you regret stealing.”
I glance at her index finger caressing the trigger. Close my eyes, force a deeper breath. “A car,” I say. “Once.”
Marie presses a button on the camera. And tilts it down at my hand now. My heart rattles against my ribcage.
“Anyone get hurt?”
I look up at her, eyes giving away fear. She flips up her wrist and fires into the ceiling. The sound is deafening and I instinctively duck in my chair. She looks down at me.
“Put your hand back down.” I do and she places the barrel against the back of it. It’s hot and stings a bit against my skin, but doesn’t burn.
“Christ,” I wallow. “Jesus Christ.”
“We can talk about him another time,” she tells me. And then the next line slips out of her mouth like the most natural thing in the world. “I’m going to shoot you in your head if you don’t tell me what happened.”
“Shit,” I say. “Fuck.”
Her eyes stay on me the entire time, not blinking.
“I was twelve. I took a neighbor’s car for a joyride. Picked up some of my friends. I was driving. Hit a lamppost. My friend broke his leg. Shit, will you get that thing away from me!”
“What happened to you?”
“You didn’t get punished?”
“We couldn’t tell no one.”
She judges me for a split second. Then, “What was your friend’s name?”
“Tell Billy you’re sorry.”
“Look into the camera and tell Billy you’re sorry for breaking his leg.”
She tilts the camera up at my face.
I look at her like she’s crazy. Which she must’ve agreed with because she shrugged.
“I’m sorry, Billy…” I pause there. Your mind forgets things easily when you’re stressed. “For breaking your leg,” I finish.
Marie stands up and moves the gun from pressed against my hand to six inches above my thigh. BANG!
The sound scares me more than the bullet ripping through my flesh. It’s hard for me to say what it feels like because what I feel more is Marie’s hand slapping my face. “It’s a 22, you’ll be fine.”
This is what it must be to be in shock, I think. But the self awareness of the shock takes me right out of it and rolls in a wet, warm, burning. I see the blood pool up the hole and run down my leg in a trail with gravity. I try to plug the small crater. She kneels down and ties a rag around my thigh and that’s when I feel the sear and my eyes start to water. “What the fuck are you fucking avenging him?”
I cry like a child. It’s pathetic. And this woman, she just looks at me, reminding me that I am. I am a child. And I am pathetic.
“You’re not listening,” she says. “This is not about revenge. This is about bringing balance. You never paid for stealing that car, for breaking Billy’s leg…”
I grasp my thigh, but it only hurts more to touch it.
“You feel that pain?” she looks into my brimming eyes. And there’s a zeal in hers when she says this, like a Priest on a pulpit, “Pain is an equalizer.” Her lids spring out wide, like she’s communicating the consciousness of the universe. “You give. And so you take. This is order.”
I stare down at the red saturating the wrappings, a web of spit hanging down my chin. “You fucking bitch,” I manage.
There was a time when I was stronger. And that’s the point here, I know — she’s molding me back by carving me out. Because we need to be pure, she says, because we are about to do very bad things.
She places the camera back on the tripod platform. Then reaches in her duffel bag again and pulls out another gun. “It’s a taser, don’t worry.”
I get out of my chair and start hobbling about the room.
“It’s not for you.”
“Stay the fuck away.”
I try to go to the exit. She blocks me. The real gun is still in her hand and she holds it up, not pointing at me, but as a reminder. Then she holds out the taser. “Take it,” she says.
I hesitate but then carefully remove it from her hand. She adjusts the camera up and stands in front of it, looking into the lens. “In the search for my family’s killer I came across many men who I thought were the killer… I would tase their testicles until I was satisfied they didn’t do it.”
“What the fuck?” I stutter.
“I want you to tase me.”
“For one full minute.”
I look down dumbly at the black plastic gun in my hand. A taser shoots out wires affixed with electrodes and small barbs. When the barbs attach to your body, 50,000 volts travel down your nervous system. Your signals get overwhelmed and your muscles start to spasm and you face plant to the ground as straight as a log.
The burning in my leg is beginning to radiate out.
“I hurt a lot of guys,” she says.
I point the gun at her.
“Good.” she continues. “And don’t stop, no matter what I — “
I don’t let her finish. I pull the fucking trigger. The little gas canister inside the gun erupts two wires that pierce her skin just enough to grab on to her torso. She falls over and spasms behind the chair like a fish out of water.
I’ve been stunned before when I was 16. I was running away from the cops for stealing back my skateboard and socking the kid who did it. I just didn’t figure there’d be another cop waiting for me at the end of the alley. Your brain feels like mush for about an hour after.
Marie shudders on the floor. Violently. Her hand reaches out. Grasping at the chair leg. She makes a finger with her other hand and points at the camera.
“You want the camera?” I say.
She foams an indiscernible yes with her mouth.
I hobble to the tripod and lay it down on the floor with the camera attached so she can capture the moment exactly like she wants it.
Her face stutters over the cement of the garage. Veins pop out of her neck. Teeth gnashing.
I don’t really care, but I feel like I should ask, “Should I stop?”
She throws out her hand in protest. Then spams inward into a little ball like a snail into its shell. I hobble around the chair with the camera. The foam on her chin begins to turn yellow. And I smell it as I get closer.
Chunks of half digested halibut start slipping past her lips. I glance down at my finger on the trigger of the taser. “Are you sure?”
Marie struggles for words… blurting staccato spit… “DON’T. STOP. ONE. FULL. MIN-UTE.” Her eyes roll into the back of her head. “ONE. MIN-UTE.”
I wasn’t counting.
(to be continued)