<i> Part V
From Parts I - IV: I returned from Afghanistan, having been shot in the shoulder and having two surgeries to repair it. I got out of the Army to help my mother who had bladder cancer and ran into the high school girl on whom I had had a crush. I found out she was a single mother of a young daughter and tried to ask her out, only to have her accuse me of treating her like someone who I thought couldn’t take care of herself and needed to be saved. She realized her mistake and we dated once then I was invited to her house, where I ran into her ex, who had drugged her and then knocked me out. After the incident, Lily says she won’t see me anymore, but then, one night she arrived, drunk, and fucks me. When she wakes, she says it was a mistake and goes back to not seeing me anymore. After a few weeks of being ignored and turned down by Lily, I asked the waitress Cindy out and she proved to be a sexual dynamo. After getting very close to Cindy and having wonderful sex, Buck gets sentenced and his family comes after me, leading to Cindy getting killed. </i>
Chapter 14. Now what?
1 February 2010
I managed to get through that day, but barely. The next day the police brought my car home and asked to talk to me. They asked me about the incident and I took them through it as I remembered it. I didn’t tell them about the Afghanistan flashback or the dream. No fucking way. They said it would be awhile before I got my weapon back. They were very apologetic while staring at me as if there was something wrong with me. It wasn’t that they seemed suspicious, but it was as if they were looking at someone who worked for the circus, the bearded lady or some other such freak. It made me realize that in this area and that town none of them had probably ever shot and killed someone. I wondered if any of them had even drawn their weapon while on duty.
I had intermittent bursts of emotion for the next few days and my sleep was interrupted by any sound at all. The slightest thing could make me angry and a sappy commercial could make me break down and cry. In short, I was an emotional mess. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I had found someone that I really did feel that I could spend time with and she was taken from me. I wondered if there was anything in life that was going to be fair to me when it came to relationships. I also thought about how great Cindy was about everything – sex, hanging out, shooting at the range, working as a waitress; she seemed to be able to enjoy everything in life. Her outlook had been rubbing off on me and now she was gone; and with it my cheerful outlook. When they killed her, they killed that in me, too.
I also felt that it was my fault. I knew that I wasn’t responsible for the actions of two lunatics, but if I had never gotten involved with her, she would be alive. She was so fun-loving, alive, and full of promise and good will. I think that’s what made me feel the worst. She always meant well and never once did I hear her utter any bad things against anyone. She didn’t blame anyone for her upbringing, her station in life. She just lived. And she knew how to live and have fun. That was the most difficult thing to take.
There was also the problem with Buck’s family. They didn’t go after Lily, they came after me. They went after me and Cindy got in the way and killed for it. At least I killed those assholes.
I didn’t leave the house for the next week at all, except for the funeral. It was sunny until about 10am when the clouds rolled in. It appeared that even God did not want to watch the funeral of a person so full of life and joy. All the sunshine was taken with her. It even started raining a little just when we laid her to rest, like even God had tears to be shed for her. I just prayed that there was a God, because Cindy deserved the best and she could even brighten his day.
Everyone there was local except for her mother. I finally met her mother, who looked exactly like what I expected. She was a little too tan, a little too flashy, and a little too much of everything in every way. She was the cliché I had always seen on TV and dismissed: divorced, but still playing the game, living in a small home in Florida, and probably chasing some man or other every moment. We only spoke briefly. She looked me over good. “My daughter said good things about you. I also know that you are the one that killed her killers. Thanks.”
What do you say to that? I thanked her and worked on getting through the funeral and wake without getting too emotional. Earlier in the week, Rhonda had mentioned that they might want me to stand up and give the eulogy. I passed on that and vehemently told her no.
The worst part was when someone came up and wanted to talk about what if felt like to kill somebody. He asked it loud enough that several people were shocked and stared at him almost as much as I did. If stares could kill, I would have left him a smoking hole in the ground. I didn’t answer; I just turned and walked away. I left the wake after that. I didn’t want anything else to do with that crowd and I was still feeling responsible.
It was at the end of that week that I thought of something that puzzled me. I had been wallowing in self pity and beating myself up over getting her killed when it came to me. I called Detective Wilson and asked how the Boyds could have possibly known where I was and where Cindy lived. He looked into his notes and hesitated for a moment. “They went by Lily Johnson’s café and she told them.”
I was shocked. I was dismayed. I was angry. Did Lily tell them because she was angry with me, jealous of Cindy, what? She had accused me of going after someone who worked for her on purpose. What a bitch!
The more I thought about it the angrier I became. She had done it because I had moved on and she was jealous of Cindy. That had to be it. She couldn’t stand the fact that I moved on and she didn’t have me fawning over her any more. I was not going to let her get away with that. I was going to make her regret it.
I got dressed and called her home phone. She answered the phone and I hung up as soon as she answered, confirming that she was home. I didn’t want to talk to her on the phone; I wanted to do this in person. I rushed out to my car and headed to her house. By the time I got there I had worked myself into a dark rage. I pulled up to her house, got out and slammed my car door. I was going to make her pay for this.
I stomped up to the front door, and it opened before I could knock. Lily was standing there; she must have expected me. She was wearing her robe. I just walked right past her and waited for her to close the door. I stopped in her den and turned to her. “You told them where to find us, didn’t you?!” I was yelling and she flinched at that.
“Yes.” She answered meekly and I could see some fear in her eyes, but I could also see something that looked like sad acceptance of what she considered her shitty life. I could see that she had been crying, but nothing could deter me from what I wanted from her.
“You fucking jealous bitch.” I advanced on her. “You couldn’t stand that Cindy and I had something special, could you? You were jealous that I had moved on from you.” I was now standing very close to her, advancing as I yelled, scaring her. She was backing up as I moved toward her, invading her personal space. “You just had to tell them where we were, and now she’s dead! How do you feel about that?!”
She stared at me, tears starting to fall down her face, but I didn’t care. I was in the blackest mood I had ever been in. I had finally backed her up enough that she hit her legs on the couch, sat down, and I stood over her. She finally answered me. “Terrible. I loved Cindy, too.”
“You loved Cindy? Well you had a fucking terrible way of showing it, didn’t you? You pointed two armed men in our direction and might as well have said ‘Go ahead, kill them’! And then you didn’t even call to warn us or call the police to have them get there before the Boyds!”
Lily struggled to her feet and I waited to see what was next. I couldn’t bring myself to punch her, but I sure wanted to. I stood there with my hands clenched at my side, taking deep breaths because I was so worked up.
She walked past me and pulled a belt from her jeans that she had hung on the back of a dining room chair. I stared at her and got ready for a fight. She was going to defend herself with the belt. I backed up and got ready.
Instead, she held the belt out for me. What? I stared at it and then snatched it from her grasp. She turned around and dropped the robe, leaving her naked, facing away from me. She leaned over and put her hands on the couch and looked back at me as I stared at her alabaster skin.
“Whip me. I deserve it.” She murmured.
I was not sure I heard that correctly and looked at her and then at the belt in my hand.
“Whip me!” She shouted at me, tears streaming down her face. I stood there stunned. “Beat me until you can forgive me!” She turned and put her head down and started sobbing. “Maybe then I can forgive myself.”
I stared at the belt in my hand and at her bare ass. My anger went up again. “Forgive you? You think I could ever forgive you for that?” And then I hit her with the belt. I let her have it across her ass and she flinched and jumped, but returned to the position. “I’ll show you a beating, you worthless bitch. How could you ever tell those assholes anything and not warn us?!?! You fucking bitch!” I hit her a couple more times, shouting all the time. “You fucking bitch!” Then I realized what I was doing and my rational brain came to life.
I don’t remember exactly how many times I hit her, but when she collapsed against the couch and I stopped, she had several red stripes across her back and ass and was sobbing uncontrollably. I was out of breath from yelling and swinging the belt. I was surprised at the number of stripes I saw across her back. It had to be at least 5 hard whips with a leather belt, and I stopped as soon as I realized I was out of control. My rage was diminished now and I looked at the damage I had done and immediately regretted it. I hated what she had done, but I hated what I had done more. I had wanted to hurt her, but this was too much. I was too strong to be swinging a belt like that at her. I threw the belt on the floor in disgust and started toward the door. I had to get out of there. I heard a noise and I looked back and she had collapsed onto the floor. She seemed to be in an awkward position, so I walked over and picked her up and lay her on the couch. I covered her with her robe and then I decided to leave before I said anything else, but she reached out and grabbed my hand. I looked down at her.
She seemed barely conscious, so I was surprised at what she said. “I’m so sorry, Jon. I wish it would have been me, but they didn’t threaten me, they threatened Lauren. They said they would eventually find her no matter what happened. I’m so sorry.” She turned into the couch and seemed to just pass out.
I stared at her. Fuck! Talk about sapping me of my anger and what remained of my strength! I almost collapsed in disbelief. How could I forget that? I was so depressed and angry and self-centered on my own grief that I was not thinking clearly enough to see that they would have used her daughter against her. Shit! I just beat her unmercifully and she took it because she felt as guilty as I did. She could have told me before, but she felt so awful over Cindy’s death that she just took the punishment as her atonement. It wasn’t until I finished that she told me about their threat.
I stared down at her poor abused body and wished I could crawl into a hole. There was no way I could ever forgive myself for being such an egotistical asshole. I never did ask her why; I just assumed that she did it to get back at me based on my own ego and self pity.
I continued to stare down at her. I couldn’t leave her like this. It was too much. I had done too much damage and now felt as bad as I ever had. I had lost my temper in the worst way and taken it out on a young woman who was only protecting her child. I sat in the chair next to the couch, trying to come to grips with what I had just done, but also shocked at how blind I had been to the truth.
After a few minutes of staring, catching my breath, trying to comprehend my actions, and watching her as her body tried to accept what I just did, I got up and went to her bedroom. I pulled back the covers and got it ready. I then went into the den and carefully picked her up. She was exhausted and passed out, but still seemed to flinch at any contact with where I had beaten her. Fuck! I was such an asshole.
I carried her into her bed and lay her down there. I made sure she was on her stomach and then I looked for some lotion in her bathroom medicine cabinet. I poked around and found some lotion that was for sunburns and figured that would be good for the injuries that came from being beaten with a belt; a beating that I had done. When I got back to the bedroom I looked at the damage and was shocked at what I had done. I sat on the bed and rubbed lotion into the angry red marks that lined her back and ass. Her skin was pale and sensitive and the marks showed vividly, with some swelling around them. She moaned a couple of times, but didn’t wake up. I couldn’t believe I had hurt someone like this. I had never, ever thought I would take a belt to someone like this, in anger or for any other reason. I had lost my mind.
After I had tried to provide some relief to the wounds, I covered her with just a sheet and I went into the den and tried to call my mother, but she wasn’t home and I didn’t want to call her cell.
I lay on the couch, turned on the TV, and tried to watch something to take my mind off what I had just done. I don’t know why I was staying, but I figured I should at least make sure she was okay when she woke up. With my anger depleted and the last few days behind me, I fell asleep.
When I woke, it was to being lightly shaken. I came to with a sudden jerk and the person who was shaking me uttered a surprised ‘Oh’. I sat up, shaking the sleep from my eyes and saw Lily’s mother closing the front door and Lauren standing in front of me.
Lauren didn’t say anything, so I smiled weakly. “Hello, Lauren.”
Mrs. Johnson came over and looked at me suspiciously. “Are you okay? What are you doing here?”
I looked up at her. “I’m fine. I was just talking to Lily and she and I were both pretty worked up about, you know, everything, so she went to bed and I guess I fell asleep here on the couch. What time is it?”
She looked at me, trying to determine if that was true. “It’s 5pm. Is Lily okay?”
I stared at her, willing myself to look innocent, but feeling that she could see right through me and knew that I had beaten her daughter. “I don’t know. It’s been a rough time for all of us.”
Mrs. Johnson seemed to accept that. “How are you doing, Jon? I understand you and Cindy had become close.”
I thought about that. Close? Is that what we had become? Close? Lovers? More than that? Did it matter now? “I’m getting better. Yes, we had become… quite close.”
I stood up. “I need to use the bathroom. I’ll be right back.” I got up and slowly made my way back to the common bath. I watched carefully to see what Mrs. Johnson and Lauren would do and they went into the kitchen. That allowed me to quickly duck into Lily’s room and check on her. I found her still on her stomach, covered by a sheet. All her wounds were hidden. I looked out into the hallway and the coast was clear so I rushed into the bathroom, flushed it, and came out to go into the kitchen.
Mrs. Johnson was checking out the kitchen, which looked like a mess. “I can see that Lily has been falling behind in doing the dishes.” She was stacking dirty dishes in the sink.
“Yeah, I guess so.” I needed to get out of here. “Mrs. Johnson, I think I’m going to head home now. Lily has been sleeping for a while and I need to get home.”
Mrs. Johnson looked at Lauren. “Lauren, don’t you have more homework to get done?” Uh-oh. Here it comes. She knows something.
She looked up, that typical pleading look was on her face; the one that young children get whenever they are asked if they have homework. “Can I watch some TV first grandma?”
Mrs. Johnson glanced at me. “Sure, honey. Go ahead.”
“Thanks!” Lauren was up and out of there in a flash.
Mrs. Johnson stared at me. “Jon, tell me what’s going on here. Lily has been upset for a week over what happened and I know she feels responsible. I also know that if you found out she was the one that told them where Cindy lived, that you might be angry about that. She told me she felt responsible because she was afraid to call anyone and warn them after you left. So what’s going on here? You are the last person I expected to see here.”
I stared at the floor, but there were no answers there. I decided to give a bit of the truth. “I came over angry when I found out about her telling the Boyds where Cindy lived and Lily and I fought about it. I think I understand her side of it better now and she and I were both exhausted after that, so after she went to her room I lay on the couch and just happened to fall asleep.”
Mrs. Johnson stared at me, searching my face for the truth. I was petrified that the actual truth was written on my forehead. “Okay.” She kept looking at me and I tried not to show her my unease. “I’m going to check on Lily. Are you going to stick around?”
“No, I should be going. I’ll see you later, Mrs. Johnson.”
I walked through the den and told Lauren good-bye and headed for my car. I could do nothing but hope that Mrs. Johnson didn’t see Lily’s injuries and that Lily didn’t mention them. If she did, well – I deserved whatever I got after what I had done.
When I got home, my mother was in the kitchen fixing some dinner. “Oh, good. I was hoping you were going to be home for dinner, Jon. Where did you run off to?”
“Lily’s.” I didn’t elaborate.
My mother turned and stared at me. “You went to Lily’s? How did that go?”
I sat down heavily. “Not well.”
“You want to talk about it?”
She left it at that and she finished the pot of soup she was making and brought two bowls to the table. I got up and got a beer out of the fridge and we ate and discussed anything but the one subject that was foremost in both our minds. I finished four beers with dinner and then collapsed on the couch with my fifth while my mother flipped channels. I didn’t see anything. I was wondering what I was going to do about Lily. I would have to see her again tomorrow and discuss what had happened so that we could clear the air. It was also important for me to determine what kind of trouble I was going to be in.
I lost Cindy last week and now had beaten Lily so that she would never want to see me again. My life had fallen into a chasm so deep I couldn’t see a way out. After enough beer I finally fell into a restless sleep.
Chapter 15: The shit hits the fan.
2 February 2010
I woke the next morning feeling terrible about the beer drinking and about Lily. I felt so bad that I was afraid to call her. Several times I picked up my cell, but each time I stopped. Finally, I got cleaned up and decided I had to see her. I had to face the music. One lesson they always taught us in the military was that bad news does not get better with age. You have to face the music about a bad decision or action immediately. I knew I had to do that now.
While I was driving to Lily’s I suddenly remembered that she was running a café and might not be home. I certainly couldn’t do this at her place of work and it had taken me a lot of time to work up the courage to get to this point. I sure hoped she was home. I pulled up and saw her car and breathed a sigh of relief, then had a moment of panic. I was glad she was home, but freaked out about seeing her. What the hell do I say to her? How do I apologize for being so self-centered and self-focused?
I took a deep breath and walked to her door. I rang the doorbell. There was no answer. I tried several times, to no avail. I called her cell and it went to voice mail. I finally gave up and went home.
When I got home I was in for a worse surprise. I saw Mrs. Johnson’s car in front of our house. Oh, shit! Did she know? What do I do now?
I entered the house sheepishly, knowing full well that I was in for a thrashing. I just hoped it didn’t include assault charges.
When I entered, my mother and Mrs. Johnson were sitting on the couch and Lily was standing off to one side, staring at the floor. Maybe she couldn’t even sit down. The two mothers looked up at me, one with unbridled hatred and the other with shock and dismay. I felt worse than I had ever felt when I did something wrong as a teenager. I could see the shame on my mother’s face and that was the worst thing. My mother started on me immediately. I didn’t even get a chance to sit down.
“Jon Kenton, how could you take a belt to Lily like this? What the hell have you done? Do you know what her back looks like? How could you ever strike a woman like this?”
I continued walking until I sat down in one of the easy chairs. I looked at the two mothers, both of them waiting for some response to that. But what could I say?
“I’m sorry. Yes, I did it. I wish I could take it back, but I was so angry that I didn’t even think. I’m sorry.” I hung my head and looked at my feet, unable to look either one of them in the eyes.
Mrs. Johnson then got in the act. When she spoke I looked up to see her eyes blazing and showing that she wished only the best diseases on me. “The only reason I’m not pressing charges is that Lily says she asked you to do it and won’t cooperate. Is that right?”
I looked up at the sad face of Lily. “Yes, ma’am. But it’s still my fault. I should never have done it. I should have asked why she told them where Cindy and I were. I’m so sorry.”
They both stared at me, looking like they were still unable to believe that I had done this heinous act. It looked like they were waiting for me to say more, but I couldn’t think of anything. I had done it, it was wrong, I was an asshole.
Mrs. Johnson stood up. “Well, Jon, you will never be welcome in my home again. I don’t want to ever see you around Lily again, you understand?”
“Yes, ma’am.” I looked at the floor. She got up to leave and my mother walked her to the door. Lily stayed put.
Lily turned to her mother. “Mother, please wait outside for a minute. I need to speak to Jon.” Lily’s mother started to protest, but Lily cut her off. “Mother! Please. Just a minute.”
Mrs. Johnson looked at me and then over at Lily. Finally, she left in a snit. My mother looked at the two of us and then left as well, leaving us along.
Lily walked over to where I was sitting. I couldn’t look up into her face. I had hurt someone I thought I had feelings for in a way that I never thought I would. She reached down and lifted my chin up so that I had to look at her. She stared into my eyes her gaze never wavering. “I forgive you, Jon. It was my penance. I had to atone for what I had done. I will always protect Lauren, but I should have called someone immediately after they left. I was just scared into inaction. Can you forgive me for what I did?”
I stared up at this beautiful woman, scarred so early in life, and my beating had just added to it. “Lily, after learning the truth, there was nothing to forgive. You were protecting your child, something innate in a woman. I just don’t know why you felt that you had something to atone for and why you are forgiving me. It was unforgiveable what I did.”
She smiled a sad smile. “No, Jon, it’s not unforgiveable. And don’t listen to my mother. I like you and would like to remain your friend. If you want to ask me out, I’d like that, too.”
I stared at her. “Are you sure?” I couldn’t understand where this level of compassion was coming from, but I was glad. It was just like the Lily I knew from high school to do this. I didn’t know if I could ever fully forgive myself for it, but it made me feel a little better that she said she did.
“Of course. Just give it some time.” She sighed and gave me a resigned smile. “I have plenty of that.”
I stood up in front of her and went to hug her. She looked at me briefly, and then let me. I tried to be gentle, but I could feel her wince just a bit as I put my arms around her. “Lily, you are a very good person. I’m sorry I hurt you.”
She smiled a tired, sad smile. “I asked you to, remember?” She looked back up and directly into my eyes, another intense gaze at me.
I squirmed under the intensity and looked away. “I know, but that doesn’t make it right.”
“I didn’t say that it did.”
I looked up at her. I tried to smile a little. “Thanks, Lily. I’m glad you told me.”
She looked away. “If only I had believed you when you said that you just wanted to date me – we wouldn’t be here now.”
I quickly looked up at her. “Are you blaming yourself for all of this?”
“Yes, hence my atonement. It wasn’t just for telling them where you were. It was for getting you involved in the first place. It all started with inviting you over and you having your run-in with Buck. It started there and just kept snowballing.”
“Lily, you’re wrong. Nobody can foresee circumstances like this. We just have to do the best we can and keep living.”
“I think I see that now. Same to you, Jon.”
She was right about that, but it was hard to admit it at that moment. “Right. Thanks.”
Lily turned to leave. “I’m serious about you calling me. I think I’d like to go out on a date again.”
“Okay.” I watched her leave, knowing that it would be awhile before I could forgive myself for being what I always despised in other people; self-centered to the point of ignoring someone else’s position or situation. I didn’t know if I could ever call her or see her again.
While standing there my mother came back in. She looked at me differently. “I don’t know who you are anymore Jon. I would have never suspected that you could do something like that.”
“I’m sorry.” I looked at her, trying to convey that I was in pain as well.
“I think it would be best if you figured out what you are going to do with your life and get to it. I’m going to go over to the mall and do some shopping. I can’t be around you right now.”
I watched her leave and sat down heavily. At least it was out in the open. I didn’t have to worry about being blind-sided by it later. I headed back to my bedroom and flopped onto the bed. Maybe I could get some sleep. I now felt responsible for Cindy’s death and Lily’s strapping. It was not a red letter day for Jon Kenton.
After thinking about what my mother said, I decided to head up to Chicago and see a friend of mine. I had to get away from this little town and all the bad memories that were running around in my head. It was the only way I could face tomorrow. I called ahead and reached his cell. He lived in LaGrange. I packed a small bag and left within an hour. I left my mother a note, afraid to speak to her on her cell.
It was a gray winter’s day on the trip up, matching my mood. There was no room for sunshine in my life right now.
I arrived at about 10pm and Jim opened the door and greeted me with a big hug and then asked me in. He had about 8 people there and they were all watching some movie. He could tell that I was not in the mood and pulled me into the kitchen. “What’s going on, Jon?”
“It’s a long sad story, and I need some time to get over it. I just needed someone to hang out with while I got away from home.”
He looked at me closely. He and I had been to Afghanistan together. He was in another platoon in the same company. “Jon, what’s this about?”
“Short story. I was dating a woman I think I was in love with and she was gunned down by relatives of a guy I sent to jail protecting another woman, who I then blamed for the first woman’s death and whipped with a belt.”
He stared at me. “Fuck! Wait here.” He went into the other room and I could hear him. “Okay, everybody out.” There were protestations and questions about why. “I need to talk to my buddy. We can do this some other time. Right now, he’s got problems that need immediate attention and I need to give it to him.” They were not happy, but he eventually shooed all of them out; after all, we were military family. He came back into the kitchen. “So tell me the longer version.”
I started telling it and he and I went through about a six pack. After he heard the entire story, he sat back and looked at me. “Wow! That is some story. How did you leave it with Lily?”
“I didn’t. She just said she would be waiting and I just said okay.”
“Alright listen, there’s a bar just around the corner that has some pool tables. It’s only midnight so we have a couple of hours. Shall we go there and finish off this drunk? It’s all on foot. We can do that!”
I just didn’t want to be alone and drunk, so this was good. “Great idea. Let’s go.”
We traipsed down to the bar and the pool tables were full. We sat at the bar and had another drink and then some guy started roughing up his girlfriend. She was taking it, too. I don’t know why. My rule was to never get involved in a domestic dispute and never, ever do it in a bar. I stayed away and the bartender finally broke it up and ushered them out. I wondered if I could ever pass judgment on someone like that again after my actions.
Jim and I drank and got fairly drunk. By the time we got back to his apartment it was about 2am. We crashed.
3 February 2010
I was awakened the next morning at 9am, way too early, but my cell was buzzing and it was sitting on a table that amplified the vibrations. I reached for it as my hand shook and my head said no to everything. “Hello?”
It was my mother. “Jon, are you in Chicago?”
“Yes, I left you a note.”
“I know. I just didn’t hear from you and wanted to make sure all was fine.”
“Yeah, it’s fine.” I felt like I was a high school student checking in, but it was good to hear her speaking in civil tones to me.
“I didn’t want to be checking up on you, but I was pretty angry when I left yesterday. I guess I should have stayed and asked for your side of the story.”
“There’s nothing much to say. I overreacted and did exactly what you saw to Lily. I was angry and depressed and didn’t even ask why she did it. She didn’t tell me they had threatened Lauren until she collapsed and I laid her on the couch. Until then I didn’t even think about it. I was too focused on my own pain.”
“Still, I should have talked with you about it. Are you coming home soon?”
“I don’t know. I’ll talk to Jim and call you later, okay?”
“I love you, honey.”
“Thanks, Mom. Bye.”
I closed my cell and tried to get back to sleep, but my mother’s call cleared my head of all but the alcohol. It made me realize that there was unfinished business back home. My running to Chicago would do nothing to resolve that. I waited until Jim got up and told him that I was going to have to go right back.
Jim stared at me. “You sure?”
“Yeah, I should go back and at least make sure my Mom’s okay.”
“Okay. Listen, if you ever need a place to stay, no calls are necessary. Just show up. You are always welcome.”
We ate breakfast and then I gave him a good manly handshake and quick hug. He looked me in the eye. “I mean it. You need something you call me. I can come down there, too. Got it?”
I gave him the Army answer. “Hooah.”
“Hooah. Now get your ass home.”
I left and started driving. I thought about what I was going to do there. I was a little afraid of staying in that small town after what I had done to Lily. If that ever got around, I’d be toast in the entire county. But the more I thought about it the more I decided to at least give it a try. At the next exit, I got off I-55 and pulled in to fill up my car. I also pulled out my wallet and retrieved the card of the prosecutor who asked me to be an investigator for them. I called him and told him I was willing to give it a try, He said that since it was Wednesday I could wait until next week and then we’d get together and go over the work.
With that accomplished, I felt better about at least starting toward becoming a productive member of society again. It also made me feel better about myself. I had not felt good in a while with all that had been going on in my life. It would provide me something to focus on while I decided what I really wanted to do with the rest of my life.
Finally, about 8pm, I pulled into my driveway. My mother came out of the house to greet me and gave me a big tearful hug. We walked into the house before she said anything.
“Jon, I think I understand what happened with you and Lily. I think it was very wrong, but I understand you were in pain and just handled it wrong in a spur of the moment reaction.”
I looked at her. “It was still wrong. I know better than that. I’m better than that.”
She gave me a wan smile. “Yes, you are. But you’re not a saint and it just shows that you are a fallible human.”
“Thanks… I think.”
“C’mon in. I knew you would get here around now and I have some chili on the stove.”
“Chili? Sounds good.”
We went into the kitchen and were able to get through the meal talking about everything but Cindy or Lily.
Chapter 16. The new job… and Lily… again.
8 February 2010
The following Monday I reported to the county courthouse and met with the DA. He told me what kinds of things I would be doing. It’s mostly a boring job being an investigator for the DA. You have to do all kinds of research, track down information, and sometimes actually do something exciting. I told him I’d take it. I was looking for boring and steady.
“Jon, we have to do one thing first.”
“We have to make sure you are cleared in the shooting death of the Boyds. I have two assistants going over that and they will come to me with their recommendations after going over everything with the police.”
“I’ll get you started on an interim basis since I believe everything will show you acted in self defense, but if it shows otherwise, the job offer is off.”
“Okay, let’s go.”
Darrin walked me out and introduced me to a young woman who had just graduated from law school and was working for the DA’s office. She took me to a small office that was to be mine and then walked me around, introducing me to everyone else in the office. Finally, she asked if I was ready for lunch, and since it was almost noon by this time I agreed. We walked directly across the street to a small tavern that evidently served a good lunch.
We had sat down at a small table in the corner and I decided to find out more about her. “So, tell me, Diane, how did you end up here?”
She looked at me for a few seconds. “Well, I’m from Saint Louis and just graduated from law school at Wash U. I wanted to work in town, but this was the best place for me to be close to the family, but far enough away at the same time, you know what I mean?”
I knew. “Yeah, I know what you mean.”
“I wanted to be on the prosecution side to learn the ropes and this place had an opening so I took it.”
“Is this what you want to do permanently? Be a prosecutor?”
“I think so. I’m not in this for the money.”
“Yeah, me neither.”
She grinned. “Yeah, I know what the approved salary for the investigator was set at and it’s less than mine. It’s abysmal.”
“Well, gee thanks for cheering me up.”
The waitress came and we ordered lunch. She got a soup and salad combination. I just opted for the BLT on wheat.
“So, Jon, how did you end up here? I heard about the run in with Buck. James told me about it and I saw the case when it was coming up for trial.”
I told her about my life and my mother. Then we got to the present. “Well, you probably also know about the situation with Cindy Tomlinson and the shootings.”
“Yeah, I heard. I was initially surprised that the DA wanted someone who was involved in a deadly shooting for this job. But from what I heard he is not going to press charges. I figured there still might be more to it than the rumors.”
“What do the rumors say?”
“Just that you and Cindy were attacked and you killed both of them. But they also say that Buck’s father was alive on the ground when you went up and shot him at point blank range.”
“To be truthful, everything happened so fast, I don’t remember how all the shooting happened.” I lied, knowing that I couldn’t tell the truth. I remembered everything perfectly, although some of it through an Afghanistan induced flashback. There was nothing to be gained by telling her that.
We finished lunch and she took me back to the office and so began my life as an investigator. Over the next couple of weeks, I had to learn more about doing computer searches and how to get access to other restricted resources than I had ever imagined. Diane was engaged and I was off the market, at least I was not even considering dating at that time, so we had lunch a lot when we were both in the office. She turned out to have a quick, biting wit, and a very good eye about people.
15 March 2010
It was about a month later that I was having dinner with Diane at one of the more upscale restaurants after we had both been in court all day. It was about 7pm and her fiancé had called and had to work late. We decided to have dinner together. We were dressed up from court and enjoying our meal. I had started earlier than her as she cleaned up some paperwork and was already on my fourth beer when she joined me. While we ate, she came up with some good one-liners to make fun of some of the key people in the case. I was enjoying all this when I saw Lily for the first time since our last meeting. I had avoided her café like the plague since our falling out, and it wiped the smile from my face.
She walked in with a man and they were shown to a table directly behind me. Lily saw me turn and watch them be shown to their seats and gave me one of her present-day wan smiles. I waved quickly and Diane watched to see who I was waving to.
Diane looked at me. “Pretty. How do you know her?”
“We went to high school together.”
“Have you seen her since?”
“Yes, we dated once.”
“Who is she?”
I didn’t even think about Diane being in the DA’s office. “Lily Johnson.”
“Wait, that’s Buck’s ex-wife? The one that you were meeting for dinner when you found him trying to kidnap her?”
I stared at her for a second. “Oh, yeah. I forgot that you saw the case when it was coming up for trial.”
“Yeah, I saw it. I wanted to prosecute it, but I was too new for the DA to assign it to me. She’s pretty. I thought during the trial that they said that you were going over there for a date? What happened after that?”
“She closed me off. She said she wasn’t going to see me anymore because Buck and his family would come after me. She got that right, eh?”
Diane nodded. “No shit!”
“Anyway, I guess she finally decided to start dating again.”
“Yeah, especially after you took care of Buck’s family!”
I just looked down at my food and Diane and I continued to eat. We got to dessert and Diane excused herself to go to the ladies’ room. I got beer number five.
Dessert arrived and I waited for Diane. She came back from around my left side and sat down in her chair across from me. Lily followed her and sat down in the chair between us to my left. She looked up at me and then over at Diane.
Diane spoke first. “Jon, I saw that she couldn’t take her eyes off you and when she went to the ladies’ room, I followed. I asked her if she needed to talk to you and so here she is. So talk.” Diane stood up and left. She was going to make a good prosecutor. She had a sense about people and could see right through them.
“Hello, Jon. How’ve you been?”
I took in Lily’s appearance as she sat and said hello. Her hair was pulled back, baring her beautiful pale neck. She had a nice slim neck that looked delicate and delectable and she had dressed it in a small strand of pearls. She was wearing just enough makeup to accent her beautiful cheekbones and eyes. Her dress was a nice black dress with thin straps and it came down to about her knees. She looked wonderful – and I hated that I couldn’t get her out of my mind. “I’m okay.”
She looked down at her hands and over at her date. “I can’t talk long. My date will be getting antsy.” She looked back at me, staring into my eyes. “I just want you to know that I really do forgive you. You don’t have to avoid me or my café. I like you Jon.”
I could have fallen into those eyes. They always mesmerized me and I could feel their pull and attraction. I wanted to hold her, kiss her, and make love to her again. But I was still unable to forgive myself. “Thanks, Lily. I always liked you. I just don’t think it’s in the cards for us.”
“What’s not in the cards? We can’t even say hello? You can’t even stop by and visit my café for lunch? No, I don’t buy it. You are not over what happened between us. I just want to say that I am. I’m over it. I want to move forward and stop dwelling in the past. I want you to do the same. Even if we never have a date, I want you to know that I will always be your friend. Is that okay, Jon?” She reached out and put her hand on top of mine. I flinched and felt the warmth of it.
I looked up at her and she was smiling, but she had this sad look on her face, like she had just lost a friend, and I thought it might be me. I tried to smile, but couldn’t. “I would like to think that we are still friends. I just need some more time.”
“Okay, Jon. Just stop by any time.”
I looked over my shoulder. “And it looks like you are dating again, anyway.”
Lily smiled. “It’s nothing. Just a first date. You know me on first dates. Besides, you are the one who told me I needed this.” She then grinned at me and it looked brighter than I had seen in a long time. “But if it will make you jealous, I’ll fawn over him.”
I tried to smile at her attempt at teasing me, but I know she saw through it. “It’s your date, Lily. Do what you want.”
She looked at me sadly and put her hand on my shoulder. “See you later, Jon – I hope.” She left and returned to her date.
Diane sat back down as soon as she left. “So, was that okay?”
“Yeah, fine.” I stared into my drink, not paying much attention to Diane as I thought of my history with Lily.
“So, there’s some history there and you’re not over it.”
“What?” I looked up, finally paying attention to her and getting Lily out of my mind.
“Nothing. Just making an observation about how you were miles away and didn’t want to talk about her when I asked that question.”
“Don’t be. I can see she’s hung up on you.”
I looked up quickly. “What?”
“When I spoke to her, I could tell she was hung up on you. She would rather be sitting here with you than her date, and she jumped at the chance to talk to you. I guess that’s why she was staring at you and ignoring her date.”
“Oh, yeah. Well, I was hung up on her in high school, but that was years ago.” About that time the waiter came by and I asked for a scotch – a double. I was going to do this drunk right.
“Scotch, huh? Do you want some company while you drown your sorrows?”
“I just feel like drinking. I’m not drowning my sorrows. What are you talking about?”
She looked around and spoke jokingly. “Do I look like I just lost 50 points off my IQ? I thought that you respected me, but if you think I’ll believe that, then I’ll have to reevaluate.”
I rolled my eyes and tried to look entertained. “Okay, okay. So I had a thing for her. It was over long ago and we can’t get back there now.”
“Okay, got it.” She waved the waiter over and ordered a scotch as well.
“Well, my fiancé is going to be working late and won’t get home for a couple of hours. We live in an apartment just down the street, so drink to your heart’s content. We have a couch that is very comfortable.”
“Thanks.” The waiter returned with my scotch and then hers. I held mine up and said a little too bitterly. “To ex-girlfriends.”
She shook her head. “I’m not drinking to that sarcastic toast. How about this? To true love.”
I groaned. “Shit, I have a hopeless romantic on my hands.”
“Yes, you do. I think you are, too, from the conversations we’ve had. Don’t deny it, Jon. You are, too, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, whatever.” I finished off my first scotch and waved to the waiter for another one. Diane just shook her head.
We traded more barbs and I finished 5 scotches by the time Lily and her date were ordering dessert. I had gotten well along toward my drunk after six beers and five double scotches. Diane said it was time to go so we paid and I stood up, albeit shakily. She helped me to the door and down the street to her apartment. We stumbled in and I was slightly aware of my surroundings at this point. She put me down in an easy chair, and I could barely make out that she was pulling out a couch with a hide-a-bed. Things were definitely getting a little fuzzy. She was talking into her phone, but I couldn’t make it out. I was very tired and the drunkenness was making me pass out. I leaned back and smiled. I was dozing off when I felt someone help me out of my jacket, shirt, shoes, socks and pants, leaving me in my boxers. They lay me down and covered me up. I fell fast asleep.
16 March 2010
I woke about 6am, having to go to the bathroom – badly. I slowly rose and looked around. It was dark still, but I saw a night light coming from the hallway. I walked that direction and found that there was indeed a small light in the bathroom off the hallway. I went in and peed for about a minute. I had way too much liquid in me. It’s funny how you can consume all those liquids, but get dehydrated. I washed my hands and headed back to the couch. When I got in there, I noticed that there was a human lump under there on the other side. That was odd. I couldn’t remember anything about getting onto the couch or how I got down to my boxers, and I couldn’t understand why someone would be covered up with me on the fold out couch. Shit, I hope it wasn’t Diane. The last thing I needed was an office romance with an engaged woman. Her fiancé was even coming home last night if I remember correctly. I went over and lifted the edge of the blanket and found myself staring at a sleeping Lily. I had an immediate flashback to the last time I woke to her pretty face. It was not a nice awakening, but she looked so peaceful lying there.
I walked around and lay back down on my side. I was too tired and hung over to do anything about it, so I just went back to sleep. The next time I woke it was very bright. Diane’s apartment faced south and the morning sun was starting to come in. I looked up and found that the other side of the hide-a-bed was empty. I looked around. No sign of Lily. Was it my imagination? Was it a dream?
I sat up and my head reminded me that I wasn’t supposed to partake of alcohol in large quantities. At that moment I agreed. I stretched and heard someone in the bathroom. I waited for a few minutes and then the bathroom door opened behind me. I just sat there, trying to make the headache go away when a vision walked in front of me. It was Lily.
“Good morning, sunshine.”
I grunted. She was still beautiful, and was only in her bra and panties. I stared, a little shocked, a little horny, and a lot confused.
“How about some breakfast?”
“Maybe.” My voice sounded terrible. I rubbed my head. My libido was wondering what exactly she might be offering for breakfast, but my head wouldn’t let me concentrate.
“Trying to drown your sorrows, Jon?”
“Yes. How did you come to be here?”
“Well, after Diane brought you home, she called my cell. I had given her my number at the restaurant, just in case, you know? So I came over to help you get comfortable and stayed.”
“What about your date?”
“Ugh! Dud. Glad to have an excuse to get out of there.”
“She’s with grandma; her favorite person right now.” She waited for something else from me. “See, you have no excuse not to take me out for breakfast after all that.”
“Her fiancé came in late and they are both still sleeping, I guess. Or maybe they are waiting for us to leave.”
“Why are you not dressed?”
She grinned. “I didn’t want to mess up my nice new dress.” She looked down and ran her hands over her body. “Do you like my new lingerie set?”
I stared at her body now that she had given me the chance to look it up and down. The panties and bra were both black and had lace around the edges. The panties were full, but high cut. The bra flattered her breasts, pushing them up a little. The set flattered her – well, fuck, everything. She looked fucking great. Shit! I had to get away from her. I just nodded. “Just a minute.” I grabbed my clothes, made my way into the bathroom, and tried not to look at myself in the mirror, but couldn’t help it. Oh, boy. I looked like hell. I got dressed, took a leak, washed my face and hands, and then tried to rinse my mouth a little. I felt like the Afghanistan terrain looked.
When I returned, Lily looked almost as presentable as she did last night. It stopped me for a second and I stared at her.
“Huh?” I hadn’t realized I was staring so intently.
“You were staring at me. Do I have something in my hair or on my dress?” She was running her hands over her head and looking up and down her dress.
“No. It was… I mean… well, you look beautiful.”
She smiled and her smile approached half of its old radiance. “In that case, I forgive you for making me sleep in a bumpy hide-a-bed.”
“What? I didn’t make you do that, you did it on your own.” I was not very receptive to her attempts at humor.
“I know. Just teasing.”
Ugh! She was too damn playful for talking to with this hangover. “Okay, let’s go eat. At least I’ll try.”
We left the apartment after Lily wrote a note and proceeded down the stairs.
When we got outside the sun attacked me. I couldn’t open my eyes toward it and I shielded myself with my hands. “Damn! It’s bright out here.”
Lily took my arm. “Don’t worry. I’ll guide you.”
Again with the playfulness. What the hell has happened in the last month? She used to be closed off to me and now she wants to talk, trade friendly banter, and what else? She offered to go out with me. Is that what I wanted? Could I do that without thinking of what I did to her? Or what happened to Cindy?
While ruminating on one of the major issues of my life, Lily guided me across the street to a small breakfast café. The main street in this town was not large, but it had several places to eat breakfast. This one was a small café with seating for only about 25 people. Lily led us over to a table in the back, thankfully away from the sunny windows and we sat down. When I looked up, I noticed that there were about 10 people in the place and they were all staring at us. I chuckled.
“What?” Lily looked up at me as she sat down.
“I just noticed everyone checking us out. You are in a cocktail dress and I’m in my clothes from last night. We look like quite a pair at this time of the morning.”
She looked around and the people tried not to let on that they were looking. “Yeah, well, let ‘em look. I don’t care.”
The waitress came by and took our order. I ordered my usual and hoped that I could eat it.
I looked up at Lily. I was still a little uncomfortable being around her. I leaned over so that not everyone could hear the conversation. “What the hell is going on, Lily? I mean we had a date, a second one went awry, you come over drunk one night and attack me, and then ignore me. Finally, after Cindy is killed, I whip you and now you are suddenly acting like a love struck schoolgirl coming after me.”
She looked at me for a few seconds and then took a deep breath and let it out as a large sigh. “Look, I’m not acting like a love struck schoolgirl. It’s just that, well, I was an idiot. There, is that what you wanted to hear?”
“About all of it. After our first date and our discussions over dinner I wanted to be with you in the worst way. I was really attracted to you, but it scared me. I wanted to protect Lauren, I had prepared myself to be a single mother, and I was still afraid of Buck and bringing a man into my life. As you can see, my past history with men was not good. I was going to tell you all this on the night that Buck was there. Unfortunately, that event scared me more than I thought it would. I tried to deny my feelings about you for a while after that, and by the time I realized my mistake, you were with Cindy. When I found out about you and Cindy I got jealous and angry. Once I realized that, I knew that I really wanted what you initially said – just to find out if we had a chance. When you came over that day, I wanted you to hit me. I wanted you to take your anger out on me because I felt so guilty about everything; denying my feelings, being jealous, telling Buck’s family and not being brave enough to call after they left. I just wanted… well, I just wanted for us to have a chance again.” She paused after rushing to get all of that out. She looked up at me and tried to smile. “So. Do we have a chance again? Is there anything I can say that will convince you that I’m over that incident with the belt?”
I stared at her. “I don’t know. What made you think that now was a good time?”
“Well. Please don’t be angry about this, but I’ve been over to your house talking to your mother a few times after you left for work. We talked through all of this and she helped me understand some of what I was feeling. Then she referred me to a doctor at the hospital who helped me understand my life and made me want to try to live for me again, not just for Lauren.”
“My mother? And a shrink?”
“And what about your mother?”
“She’ll come around.”
She stared at her hands and then looked up at me. “Does it matter?”
“Why? I’m an adult. I can make my choices.”
“Because she’s your mother and Lauren’s grandmother. She will always be there.”
She smiled at me. “And she loves me, so if she sees me happy, then she’ll understand.”
At that moment the food came and I tried to eat as much as I could. The sausage tasted wonderful and the eggs were okay. The toast went down well, too. However, the first belch that came up tasted like sausage and I stopped trying to finish it. We didn’t talk much during that period and finally, after I put my fork down and pushed my plate back, Lily was ready to leave. We got the check and I paid, and then we went back to my car, which was only four blocks away at the courthouse. I was still squinting because of the sun and my head was hurting. Lily held out her hand as we approached my car.
“Here, let me. You don’t look like you should be driving.”
“No, I’m fine. I just need my sunglasses.”
She stopped in front of me, her hand still out. “Bullshit. You shouldn’t be driving at all. I just read a report about how people are almost as dangerous and apt to have an accident with a hangover as when they are drunk.”
I stared and handed over my keys. “Okay, fine.”
She grinned and walked around to the driver’s side. We got in and she drove to her house, fiddling with my radio the entire way. We finally arrived and I felt better, but tired.
“Jon, why don’t you come in for a minute. I have some Tylenol and you look like you could use it.”
“No, I don’t think so. I can’t… I mean I don’t think I can… well, I just can’t.”
She stared at me with those penetrating blue eyes. “Okay, Jon. You know where I live, where I work, and you know my home and cell phone numbers. When you are ready, I’m here.”
I looked away from her gaze. “Okay.”
She got out of the car and headed toward her house. It was probably now almost 11am and I watched as she opened her door. She turned and smiled at me and then blew me a kiss. I was shocked. She had not shown much in the way of this kind of playfulness since I had come back home. She was a like that in high school, but it was definitely new for the adult Lily that I knew. I had to figure out what I was doing with my life and the amount of alcohol I had drunk was not helping me. Could I do something about Lily or not? Could I really see myself with her after all we had been through?
From Parts I - V: I returned from Afghanistan, having been shot in the shoulder and having two surgeries to repair it. I got out of the Army to help my mother who had bladder cancer and ran into the high school girl on whom I had had a crush. I found out she was a single mother of a young daughter and tried to ask her out, only to have her accuse me of treating her like someone who I thought couldn’t take care of herself and needed to be saved. She realized her mistake and we dated once then I was invited to her house, where I ran into her ex, who had drugged her and then knocked me out. After the incident, Lily says she won’t see me anymore, but then, one night she arrived, drunk, and fucks me. When she wakes, she says it was a mistake and goes back to not seeing me anymore. After a few weeks of being ignored and turned down by Lily, I asked the waitress Cindy out and she proved to be a sexual dynamo. After getting very close to Cindy and having wonderful sex, Buck gets sentenced and his family comes after me, leading to Cindy getting killed. When I find out that Lily had sent Buck’s family to Cindy’s address, I take it out on Lily… with a belt. Then I find she was protecting her daughter and I feel shitty. Our mothers find out and I am lucky I escape with my life. I visit a buddy in Chicago, but must return home and move on. I start a new job as the DA’s investigator and run into Lily one night. She throws herself at me, but I cannot get away from the past. </i>
Chapter 17: Me and guns don’t get along.
16 March 2010
I continued to think about the situation with Lily. I just couldn’t seem to get past what we had been thru. It was too difficult to think about with the hangover still affecting me, so I decided to put it out of my mind for a while.
27 March 2010
It was a few days later, a Saturday, and I was working on tracking down something on a guy who was being charged with grand larceny. The prosecutor had asked for information on the guy from his previous employers and his previous living location. I was checking it out using some web sites that the district attorney’s office had paid for access to. It was amazing to me what was put on line.
I was sitting there at about 2:30, taking a break and ingesting my favorite Diet Pepsi and a turkey sandwich from the deli across the street, when several phones started ringing quickly in succession. First the DAs phone went off, and then it went to each of the other offices. I glanced around. Whoever was calling was working through all the lawyers in the office. It was a Saturday, but all of them rang. I wondered what was so important that this would happen.
I continued to finish my sandwich as I surfed for information and checked my email. I was bored and was getting ready to leave when my cell phone went off. I took it out and looked at the number. I didn’t recognize it, but took the call.
“This is Detective John Wilson. Do you remember me?”
“Of course.” It was the good guy from the night of the incident with Cindy. “What can I do for you?”
“We are trying to reach everyone involved, but we just received word that Buck escaped from prison.”
“Yes, I know. Sounds ridiculous, but there was some sort of riot there and then a few guys got out. Buck was one of them.”
“Which prison was he at?”
“Decatur. It’s a medium security prison.”
“Okay. How long ago?”
“About four hours ago they had everything locked back down and were able to do a roll call. He’s probably been