A very dark fantasy, derived in part from people and situations I have known, but mostly fiction.
The phone rang.
Fuck, I thought to myself.
I'd just finished dinner, started the dishwasher, and settled in for a couple hours reading the latest thriller in a series I enjoyed, made all the better because of the Kindle.
I'd finished the first thirty pages, as the Kindle counts them, and that was when my cell bleeped at me.
I wear my cell in the V of my polo shirts, in a holster that makes the phone easy to extract and examine. I pulled it out of the holster, glancing at the front display.
The area code was meaningless; the number, even more so.
I opened the phone.
"Hello?" I answered as cheerfully as I could, hoping against hope it was a telemarketer I could ream out for calling a private cell number on the do-not-call registry. I love to abuse those assholes.
"They found bones," said the voice, a woman's voice, a voice familiar to me if not entirely recognizable.
A moment later, the full effect of the words slammed into me.
"Oh, hi, Linda, nice to hear from you. Doing fine, thanks, and you?"
Silence; then, "They found bones."
"So Doctor McCoy is for sure dead?" I asked.
"Don't play cute," said the voice.
"I'm not in the mood for this," I snapped, suddenly tired of the game. "Will you talk to me, or is the conversation over?"
Another silence. "They found his fucking bones." The voice was fiery, angry, full of self-congratulatory self-righteousness.
"Good-bye, Linda. Go to hell," I said, and snapped the phone closed.
I've always hated bullies.
I was bullied as a child, and I reached the end of my tether around seventh grade.
My family moved to a new city, my father having been transferred. We joined the local Baptist church, as we were wont to do.
There I met my salvation, a bully named Gerald C.
Gerald was piece of shit of the first order, a bully and sociopath and general candidate for the state pen. He worked his hatred on those smaller and younger and less able to resist.
Too bad he ran across me.
He gave me some shit at church. At first it wasn't too bad; but I fought back in little ways, infuriating him into acts he knew he couldn't perform in front of witnesses.
Oh, yeah, he hated me.
One day he really pissed me off. I can't remember the circumstances, but he pinched me and called me a pussy regularly, even in church, and one day I'd just flat fucking had enough.
After the services were over, and everyone was milling about in the church foreyard, I sucked up all my courage and walked to where Gerald stood with his parents. His father was Grady, a deacon in the church, and particularly susceptible to scandal.
I walked past Gerald, who gave me stink-eye the whole time, and strolled up to his father. I held out a hand, and said, "Mr C___, why do you allow Gerald to abuse people the way he does?"
There was a collective gasp from virtually everyone in the church yard.
After some fumbling, Mr C said, "I don't understand, Gerald has never..."
I cut him off. "Gerald raped Sally H___ last fall. That's why she left school. He just got through trying to choke me, just an hour ago. How can a deacon tolerate a son who does those things?"
I had no idea why Sally had left school, nor did I have any evidence against Gerald regarding any other offenses. Too bad about the Ninth Commandment.
Still, my little show ha its intended effect. Other kids came up and recited Gerald's abuses.
Mr C's face grew a florid shade; and after a moment he shepherded his family into a station wagon and drove away.
Oh, sure, Gerald gave me more than stink-eye; but he couldn't do anything about it.
Monday came, of course, and Gerald had failed to calculate our school principal's presence at my outburst. Did I mention he was a member of the same church?
Gerald and some of his friends ganged up on me, with the intent to do grave bodily harm. Oh, trust me, they were going to put me in a bad way.
Mr S (the principal) had ordered a few underlings to monitor my whereabouts. As soon as Gerald and the Ball-less Wonders attacked me, the adults were all over them. They were arrested, herded into police cars, and most faced jail time, ultimately. Juvie, sure, but that's jail when you're a kid.
Gerald's family were shamed into leaving town.
Bottom line: I was never again intimidated by bullies. I worked out, studied Tae-Kwon Do, and vowed I'd never accept maltreatment again.
I was always sort of a nerd, a numbers freak.
Didn't help, I suppose, that my parents were number people, too. My mother was a bookkeeper, my dad a meter engineer for the power company.
So I came by it honestly.
I took accounting classes in high school, and then in college, becoming an Accounting major with degree in hand in three and a half years.
I got a job and settled into what I assumed would be the American Dream.
Didn't work out that way, not exactly.
I met a young woman named Linda, and I thought we had a connection. We spent time together, and, I thought we might have a serious future together.
Not so much.
Turned out she had a boyfriend, Jerry by name, trucker by profession, asshole by avocation. Real piece of work.
(I later worked out she hadn't told me about him because we were so comfortable together, and while he was on long hauls, she retreated into our oasis. The evening I found out was unpleasant for me, but I digress.)
Linda began showing signs of being abused after a while. Little things, you know, like a black eye or a scratch, some lame-assed excuse where they came from. I asked her, and she always blew it off as if she'd been the one to cause the problem.
One evening there was a terrible pounding on my dorm door. I opened it, and there stood Linda, bleeding, clearly the victim of abuse.
"C'n I c'min?" she muttered; and without further explanation, she pushed past me, heading straight for the sink.
I guided her to a chair, where she worked on her injuries for a while. I assisted as best I could, holding a cloth to the various swelling places I could see. God knew what I couldn't, wouldn't see.
After a bit, I asked, "So you gonna press charges this time?"
She sat upright and looked at me, debating internally, by the look of things. At length she said, "No, just a squabble. It's nothing, really."
"Doesn't look like nothing," I opined.
She glared at me for a moment; then, "I knew it was a mistake coming here. You're thinking the worst of him."
"Linda," I said softly, "he just beat the hell out of you. What am I supposed to think?"
She rose suddenly, pitching backward from the sudden change of blood pressure. I caught her; she fought me off, saying, "I'm outta here."
She stalked out the door, slamming it behind her.
I sighed and resumed whatever it was I was doing. It gave me time to think about what I needed to do.
Three evenings later, I parked myself outside Jerry's door. I'd done a little surveillance, and I knew his schedule pretty well.
I was dressed in dark clothes, and I hid in the shadows. He never saw me as he opened his door. I shoved him through, from the back, stepped in after him, locked the door behind me as he scrambled to his feet.
I pointed a Desert Eagle at him. If you don't know what that is, it makes a 44 Magnum look like a peashooter. Well, maybe not, but it's an impressive piece of work. Israeli design. The sort of thing you don't fuck with.
He had opened his mouth as if to begin yelling at me; he went silent as soon as the barrel pointed his way.
"You beat up Linda the other night." It was a statement, not a question.
He started to deny it. "Who's Linda?" he blustered. "What the fu..."
I had cocked the hammer. He noticed and shut up. Probably shit up, from the smell.
I fastened hard eyes on him. "Touch her again," I said, "and dental records will be of no value."
I raised the barrel toward the ceiling, lowered the hammer softly into place; I slid the weapon into my jeans, turned and exited silently.