Skipping 14, onto 15. Some of it doesn’t make sense out of context, but that was always going to be the case with this thing. Almost certainly the first few sentences would have been cut. Marlon Lord is a name I didn’t mention since the first Rankin Flats novel and almost assuredly I was the only one who cared that Garrett never brought him up apart from that one conversation. This was my attempt at closing a loophole of sorts, as Pitt, the first man Garrett killed, is brought up frequently but never Marlon Lord.
Anyways, here you go.
Taking off her seatbelt to stretch, Brianna said, “You don’t talk about him much.”
“Barclay?” Garrett asked, confused. “Or Pitt? Barclay’s just a footnote, really. And Pitt-”
“No, no. I mean Lord.”
Garrett’s face went sour. “Yeah. It still doesn’t sit well with me. The craziest ones never do.” Marlon Lord had been the second man Garrett killed. It was an accident. The vigilante had been trying to get the man to go straight, and he’d come unhinged and drew on Garrett. In the ensuing fight, the gun went off accidentally, killing Lord outright. “It was so damned… unnecessary.”
She reached out and squeezed his thigh. “Like you said, if it hadn’t been you, it could’ve been anybody he attacked.”
“Oh yeah, he was a nutjob. Still feel sorry for the poor bastard, though.”
Around them stretched the plains northeast of Drumheller. They’d taken a leisurely eastern route, circling up towards Edmonton in a vaguely crescent moon direction. If they’d gone straight to Edmonton, the trip might have only taken three hours, but both of them were of a mood to wander, both in mind and body. The sun’s bloated belly was starting to dip on the horizon, and soon it’d be time to start thinking about where to settle in for the night, but for the moment, they just cruised.
Brianna flipped through a few radio stations. Lusty Galavant fizzed on for a brief few seconds, then was swapped out with a new Halsey song. She let it play for a minute, trying to enjoy the music, but finally flicked the radio back off again.
Garrett glanced over, then back at the road. “I get the feeling you want to talk about something.”
“Yeah. Kinda.” Her hands drummed a soft beat on her hips, and quietly, she asked, “Are we bad?”
“We’ve… killed people. I’ve killed people. And I don’t regret it.”
Garrett snorted. “You did the world a couple of favors.”
“I’m being serious.”
“So am I. Ransom would have kept killing. In that mental ward, you would’ve been…” His hands tightened around the steering wheel as he contemplated her near-rape.
“And let’s not fool ourselves, we murdered two of the Princes even if we weren’t the ones to pull the trigger.”
“Fair enough. Look, this is the same question I asked myself back then with Pitt. Was I becoming something awful when I murdered him? The answer was no. Not because he deserved to die, but because of Murphy. His moral compass is what eventually saved me from the depression that question was bringing. Murphy saw that I struggled with the choice about Pitt. We tried to find a better solution, bringing the law down on him. Any time I question if I’m doing the right thing, I weigh it with him. And now you. You two are my real mirrors. What I see of myself in you, that’s my measure for if I’m doing right or wrong. I’m close enough to you to know you’re not becoming some maniac. We’re not going off the deep end, righteously speaking.”
“That’s… a good answer.”
“Rambling, I know.”
“Nah. Just more crap I need to chew on.”
His smile was a grim, nasty thing. “For what it’s worth, this doubt, it never goes away. It’ll keep you up at nights. Almost as much as all the monsters and psychopaths.”
“Something to look forward to,” Brianna said drily. The conversation drifted off, and she turned her attention to a paperback. They were usually comfortable in their silences – she was a bit chattier than him, but wasn’t so emotionally needy as to assume every silence meant he was annoyed with her. Quiet was sometimes just that – quiet. But Garrett kept casting glances up at the rearview mirror, once, twice, three times, and she couldn’t concentrate. “Now it’s your turn. The hallucinations?”
“Yeah. Not surprising considering that family, I guess.”
“Ransom or Vernon?”
“Neither. It’s…” He ran a hand over his face, mystified. Hadn’t he told her about the child? The Roadkill Museum? “I can’t believe I forgot about this.”
As he filled her in, starting with the walk he’d gone in back in Irisville, Brianna frowned. At the part with the stuffed dog, she shook with anger, and when he got to the little girl, she glanced at him in befuddlement, the eyebrow on the good side of her face arched. “Like Rowen?”
“No, this girl was older. Or bigger, at least. Just starting to develop, um…” He waved a hand at his chest.
“I can’t say anal and you can’t say boobs. Ain’t we a pair, raggedy man?”
“Oh, I know that reference. I know it… damn it. Tell me.”
“Shit. But no, definitely not Rowen. And this hallucination has ribbons. When I think about Rowen, she doesn’t have ‘em.”
Brianna mulled it over and shrugged. “Weird. Maybe you caught her face in a news report or a newspaper or something, you know?”
“Hey yeah,” Garrett said, thinking it over. “That could definitely be it. Glossed over something and my subconscious grabbed it out of the air.”
“And with you stressing about those kids…”
“Definitely makes sense,” he agreed. “High five, oh sexy wife of mine.”
And in the backseat, the ghostly child stared up at the mirror, her eyes glossy and dull. Hungry. She was getting so hungry.
* * *
As Garrett and Brianna worked out that night in their hotel in Vegreville just blocks away from a three-story aluminum Easter egg, Andy Waldon sharpened his knife until the edge gleamed under his hobby light, listening to the neighbors’ TV, his mouth locked in a tight grimace.
Always the same fucking video game. Always when Andy came home from the end of his second job washing dishes. Always when he was at his most frustrated.
The kicker was he’d liked the Burick kids. Liked their mom, too, with that tasty brown skin and those huge, heavy tits she kept locked up. Not long after Andy moved into the duplex, he’d worked his first job – a magician and entertainer in Vegreville and Edmonton – for some young ones, and the Burick kids had been there with their mom and dad. When Andy stole away for a minute for a slice of cake, she’d sidled up to him, and there’d been a little horseplay. Nothing much, just a handjob through his silky pants, but good holy fuck, her wide smile and those smoky eyes had been locked up tight in his jerkoff mental safe ever since.
But Mr. Burick? He was a grade-A dickhole. A car accident left him with a bum leg, and now he worked from home, doing tech support while he spanked it to Asian porn. And he got paid twice what Andy did. Fucking prick.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, his being home wound up rendering his kids almost feral, especially once the mom ditched them for a grocery store owner five blocks down. Andy had been a little hurt when she’d caught his eye hauling out her stuff. Not that she owed him, but still, there had been a little spark there.
But now Mr. Burick let his kids do pretty much whatever the hell they wanted. They’d wandered through Andy’s side of the duplex twice before he’d started to learn well enough to lock up. They’d stolen his grilling set out of his backyard and used his good spatulas and tongs to play in their cat-shit infested sandbox. And worst of all was the fucking endless noise. Day and night those kids played video games. Well, just one, really, and that was even worse, because Andy heard the theme song every waking (and sleeping) moment. The gunshots as they blasted alien invaders rocked him awake at all hours, until he was left blue in the face screaming at the walls for them to shut up, shut up, shut uuuuup.
And still they didn’t listen.
Mr. Burick would limp over, hamming it up on his cane, and apologize, looking not so much sheepish but like the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Andy had a sneaking suspicion Mr. Burick knew about the handjob his wife had given him and actually encouraged his kids to be complete little nightmares.
Tonight, Andy would show Burick. First would come his car’s tires. Without those, the fucker wasn’t free to drive on down to the liquor store and booze himself up enough to not give a shit about his kids and that stupid game. Then Andy would call Burick outside, point out the tires, say, “Gosh, what a world we’re coming to when kids just do whatever they want,” and then… and then…
Andy licked his lips. What came after the “and then” was up to Burick. Andy wanted him to fight. Just a little. Enough to give his kneecap a good kick, maybe see if he couldn’t rebreak it. Yeah. And if the little shits were watching, he’d just unzip his pants, drop ‘em, and take a nice, hot piss right all over daddy dearest. Give those shits something to carry with them the rest of their life. Andy’d go to jail, almost certainly, but he’d called in the noise seven times and nothing had been done. Seven. Horsefucking. Times.
Enough was enough.
He gave the blade one last lick with the whetstone. Time to do this. He stepped out of his garage, humming to himself. First came the tires. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. His knock on the Burick door was polite, cheerful, almost. Neighborly. He slid the knife into his waistband under his shirt and prepared his best “sorry” face.
The heat washed over Andy as footsteps approached the door. Something passed through him, an energy shaped like a fist, and grabbed hold of his spine, his lungs, his mind. Thought fled him, only the dull, thudding rage and everything that had led up to this moment.
When Mr. Burick answered the door, meaning to ask Andy if the kids were being too darn loud again, he stopped and clapped a hand to his mouth involuntarily. On his knees, Andy was sucking in great big gasps of breath, eyes squeezed shut, veins in his arms and forehead throbbing. Craziest of all, his hair was turning a stark white.
“I wanted to fuck their mother!” Andy shrieked. “I wanted to fuck her while you were in the next room! She jerked me off and it’s all I thought about for weeks the noise it hurts the noise was too much I was gonna cut you just a little just to teach them a lesson I was gonna I was gonna I was…” Andy’s voice dried up and he croaked like a bullfrog before he collapsed sideways. At least he didn’t have to deal with the noise anymore.