Authors: Ed Gorman
By Ed Gorman
First Digital Edition published by Crossroad Press & Macabre Ink Digital
Copyright 2011 by Ed Gorman
Copy-Edited by David Doddâ Cover Design by David Dodd
Parts of cover image courtesy of: Noel Taylor
This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.
This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people.
If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with.
If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return the vendor of your choice and purchase your own copy.
Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Try any title from CROSSROAD PRESS â use the Coupon Code FIRSTBOOK for a one-time 20% savings!
We have a wide variety of eBook and Audiobook titles available.
Find us at:
For Charles Spicer
Deep into the steamy August afternoon they drove, Jeff with his allergies, Mindy with her menstrual cramps.
The little girl was not fortunate enough to be up front with the BMW's air conditioning blowing and festive rock music playing on the tape deck. No, nine-year-old Jenny lay inside a four-foot wooden box in the trunk. She had been blindfolded, her mouth taped shut, and her wrists bound together with clothesline cord. Inside the box it was dark. Inside the box it was one hundred six degrees above zero.
"You think we should check her?"
"Jeff, will you relax?"
"She could've worked her way loose or something."
"And then what? She's in the trunk, for God's sake. Where's she going to go?"
By now the red BMW was climbing up into the steep clay cliffs and rough timberland above Silver Lake. Tourists were everywhere, plump in gaudy vacation clothes as they broiled in the sun along the side of the road, bug-eyed in dark glasses, packed into the station wagons and campers that zipped by in the opposite lane.
Jeff was careful to drive fifty-five.
Please, God don't let me get stopped for anything now. Not now.
"I should never have started that diet yesterday," Mindy said. "Not with my period and all. But, I guess, I needed to."
"Oh, honey, you know I like you fine the way you are."
"Dr. Goldberg said I needed to lose twenty-five pounds."
"Did you ever see Dr. Goldberg's wife?"
"No. Have you?"
Jeff nodded. Blond, he was one of those handsome men who would appear boyish well into his fifties. He was thirty-seven. "A blimp."
"His wife's a blimp?"
Dark, fat Mindy slapped the dashboard. "Then where does he get off telling me I need to lose twenty-five pounds?"
"That's what I'm trying to tell you. He wants to tell his own wife that she needs to lose twenty-five pounds but he doesn't have the nerve, so he takes it out on you."
"Oh Jeff, thanks. I really needed to hear that. I've had only seven hundred calories since yesterday. Now I can eat."
"Eating sensibly. That's the key, Mindy. Eating sensibly."
After another quarter-mile, Mindy said, "Do you suppose we could hit a DQ? There's one about a mile outside the park. I wouldn't get a big one. Just a dinky one. A real dinky one." Mindy always called Dairy Queen "DQ," and whenever she used the word "dinky" she illustrated it by putting her right forefinger and thumb about a tenth of an inch apart to show that "dinky" meant nearly infinitesimal. "Huh? Could we?"
"Sure," Jeff said. "Why not? A dinky one wouldn't hurt anything."
In the sunlight, the white DQ was blinding. Kids with stuff all over their faces tugged tirelessly on the tired arms of parents, wanting permission to pee or play or get another cone.
As Jeff aimed the BMW into a parking place, Mindy said, "Did you really see Dr. Goldberg's wife?"
"At the supermarket one day."
"How did you know it was her?"
"She was with him."
"You don't have to lie to spare my feelings."
"Really. You don't. If you think I'm fat just say so and I'll go right back on that diet."
"Really. I will."
"You're not fat. And I love you."
"And you really did see Dr. Goldberg's wife?"
"And she was a blimp?"
She smiled. Made her "dinky" thumb-and-forefinger sign again. This "dinky" was slightly bigger than the last "dinky" she'd flashed. "Could I get aâ¦wellâ¦not a big one, but not a small one, either?"
"Something in the middle?"
"Yes. That's right. In the middle." She kept her "dinky" sign up in the air.
As he got out of the car, Jeff wondered if he should have made up that lie about seeing Dr. Goldberg's wife. It was just giving Mindy permission to keep on gorging herself and she was getting so fat he could barely stand to look at her.
Dusk was purple. The windshield was fretted with the dead, black nubby bodies of mosquitoes. The air conditioning was almost cold now. Mindy, her head back against the seat rest, her mouth wide open, snored. She'd put a sweater across her knees.
Jeff drove through the dusk, glad for sight of occasional yellow headlights. With Mindy asleep, he felt isolated and afraid. All he could think of was Jenny in the trunk and what they were about to do.
While he couldn't actually say he loved Mindy's little sister, he certainly liked her. She was polite, obedient, and pretty. (He'd always felt uncomfortable acknowledging Jenny's good looks because she was so young, but,
, she was attractive and there was nothing wrong in admitting it.) Unfortunately, she was also the only person who stood between them and two million dollars, Jenny's inheritance. Mindy and Jeff had already squandered their part of the inheritance and now needed more. Lots more.
Getting her in the box had been no problem. Earlier that day he'd taken two Benadryl, an over-the-counter allergy medicine, and told her to take them too. Within fifteen minutes she was asleep. Within ten minutes she was in the box.
He hit his
as he angled the BMW up a gravel road to the fishing cabin. Dusk in the forest was dark as night. Stars burned beyond a gray spectral haze.
Reaching the crest of the hill, Jeff gazed down at the ragged terrain of buffalo grass and scrub pines that was to be Jenny's final resting place.
He pulled the car off the road, yanked on the emergency brake, and turned off the ignition.
Mindy came awake immediately.
"God, what time is it?" she said, stretching as if she were in her own bed and this was some fine lazy yellow morning.
"You don't sound too good."
"Uh-huh. You know."
She leaned over and kissed him with breath that could crack plaster. "Hon, by midnight we'll be back home. You can play that new video tape you got. The one with Candy Dane."
"How'd you know about that?"
"Well, I was cleaning your desk in the den and I just happened to find it."
"I thought we had an understanding about my desk."
"Hon, don't get cranky just because you're all plugged up with your allergies. Anyway, I don't mind if you have tapes like that. There's nothing wrong with masturbation. I do it, too. I just don't need videotapes to help me."
He knew he was blushing. He sat there and smelled the heat of the day dying and heard the nighttime crickets and gazed up at the lemon slice of quarter-moon and wondered just what it all meant anyway.
How did a former altar boy, Boy Scout, and Young Republican ever come to be sitting in a car in which his overweight wife told him masturbation was all right, while in the trunk a little girl waited to die?
How, exactly, did you get here, anyway?
"We'll have some smoked salmon."
"Huh?" Jeff said.
"You weren't paying attention."
"I said we'll have smoked salmon."
"Tonight. When we're home. We'll have smoked salmon and then we can watch that Candy Dane tape."
"Sure." She giggled. "Maybe it'll give me some new ideas."
He slumped in the seat. It was as if a giant invisible wrecking ball had just crashed into his stomach. "I can't do it."
"I can't go through with it."
"Hon, you're not thinking very straight."
"Hon, she's probably already dead."
"Oh, my God."
"You mean you didn't understand that?"
"Well, I didn't want to say anything in case you didn't understand that. But I'd bet you a hundred dollars that she's alreadyâ¦well, you know."
And with that, he flung open the BMW door, leaped into the night, ran around to the trunk of the car, inserted his key, snapped up the lid, and peered inside with the help of the flashlight he'd brought along.
The wooden box had never looked more like a coffin. Cheap pine, unpainted. He opened the lock with such force that he cut his finger. Throwing back the lid, he shined the light inside.
She lay as he recalled, bound, gagged, blinded in her virginal white blouse, her loose jeans, her white anklets, and her new blue Reebok
. Blond and slender, she was the daughter every man wanted to have and so few would ever know.
Staring at her now, at her frail, unmoving chest and her tiny pale hands, he could hear her on another gentle Summer night, creaking in her rocker with her doll held tenderly to her beautiful cheeks, a sweet lullaby coming from her perfect pink lips.
"No!" he shouted.
And began undoing all the restraints Mindy had put on her during the day.
Off came the blindfold.
Off came the gag in her mouth.
Off came the cords wrapped around her wrists and legs.
He was just lifting her from the box when Mindy, coming around the car, said, "Oh, God, Jeff. I really didn't want to have to see her again. I really didn't. It's just going to make it all the harder. For both of us."
He sat on the ground, Jenny in his arms, as if she weighed no more than an infant. He rocked her gently as he kissed her face and spoke soft, insistent, meaningless words to her.