Authors: Creston Mapes
Granger had unfolded out of the tiny truck and walked slowly and purposefully toward the house. His hands were chest high, as if someone was behind him with a gun, telling him to keep them in the air. He was thinner but still huge and broad, with a thatch of oily red hair.
When she heard his footsteps on the front porch, within inches of the door, within several feet of her trembling frame, Pamela’s breath departed. Her head buzzed as she waited for his shoulder to hit the door as it had before, like a medicine ball, busting through the glass and splintering the wood.
She felt worthless cowering there, paralyzed by the memory of him driving her through the night in the horrendous rain … as he smoked … talked nonsense … sweated … tore beef jerky with his crooked front teeth.
The first ring of the doorbell had jolted her back to reality. That’s when she fumbled for the phone and called Jack, and he’d said he would call the police.
Now the doorbell rang again, echoing in the foyer of the still house. Her heart ticked rapidly, like that of a frightened animal.
The girls would be worried.
Blanket them in peace, Lord.
His knocks reverberated in her chest like gunfire.
Tilting her head ever so slightly so she could see more out the front window, she saw he had backed away from the door seven or eight feet after knocking and was standing with one foot on the driveway and the other on the porch step. He wore a waist-high black leather jacket that appeared two sizes too big.
What is he doing out there?
He stood with his hands clasped behind his back. He examined the house, the windows—downstairs and up—then gazed up at the clear night sky, as if waiting for the girl he was courting to come out and meet him.
Is he here to apologize?
Although Pamela wanted that, wanted to forgive, wanted the air to be cleared between them—especially if he was going to be living in Trenton City—why would he come to their home? Why would he scare the girls? Why would he come when Jack wasn’t home? Why at night?
If that’s what Granger was there for, Pamela pitied his complete lack of protocol or understanding of acceptable behavior.
Jack will be livid.
She tilted her head again.
He was retreating, as slowly as he had come, toward the pickup truck parked along the front curb. Her shoulders went limp. She breathed again.
Half of her wanted Granger to hurry out of there before Jack or the police arrived, just to avoid a nasty confrontation.
The vehicle bounced when Granger got in. He shut the door, but Pamela did not hear the engine start. He just sat there with the dim streetlight casting a soft, yellow hue onto the old truck.
* * *
“You better be dang careful.” Derrick flicked his eyes toward the gun in Jack’s hand, then back to the road as he rushed them through Trenton City toward Jack and Pam’s house. “You know how to use that?”
Jack was in no mood for small talk. “Just hurry.”
Somehow Granger had known Jack was working late.
How dare he even think about returning!
Jack would hurt him.
“Dude.” Derrick kept his eyes on the road. “I know you’re ticked. I would be too. I just don’t want you to do anything you’ll regret.”
“The only thing I’ll regret is letting him leave unharmed. Hit this green light. Hurry.”
Derrick gunned it beneath the yellow light, bouncing them through the intersection of Perkins and Baker. Almost there.
“Take this next left,” Jack ordered.
Derrick hesitated but obeyed. Not many people knew about the shortcut.
“Now, right down this one-way,” Jack said. “You know the way from here?”
“Up here on the right?”
“Yeah. Hurry, dude.”
Derrick turned onto Jack’s street and floored it. The Cruiser seemed to lift off the ground as it roared toward Jack’s house.
“Hit your brights,” Jack said.
Derrick did so, casting floodlights on a small pickup truck parked along the curb directly in front of Jack’s house.
“That’s him!” Jack yelled. “Hurry!”
Jack examined the windows in every room of the house but saw no movement.
As Derrick’s vehicle drew closer, Jack noticed steam coming from the exhaust pipe of the pickup.
“He’s in the truck!”
The pickup’s headlights flicked on, and it began to roll.
“He’s moving. Cut him off!”
“Hold on!” Derrick ripped the wheel left and screeched to a halt directly in front of Granger’s truck.
Jack flew out of the car into the night, racked the slide, and braced both arms in front of him with the gun pointed at Granger’s chest.
“Get out!” he screamed.
Derrick pulled his parking brake and was out too.
Granger’s enormous frame filled the pickup like an overstuffed suitcase. His elbows and arms were scrunched up in front of him, his pudgy hands in the air. Jack immediately remembered those tiny eyes and the chronic sadness etched on his round face. His blocky head moved side to side. He was saying something from behind the dirty driver’s window, as if explaining he had a good reason to be there.
No reason would be good enough
Jack’s mouth was clamped shut. Without moving the gun from Granger, he said, “Derrick, check on Pam and the girls.”
“Okay.” His friend trotted toward the house. “Stay cool, man.”
Jack’s face was on fire.
He could actually pull the trigger and end all the insanity.
Granger’s left hand lowered, and his door began to open.
“Don’t you even
“Jack!” Pam was out the front door, arms crossed, no coat, moving down the driveway toward him.
Derrick stopped her.
“Are the girls okay?” Jack yelled.
“Yes,” Pam cried. “He didn’t come in. He rang the doorbell and went back to his truck.”
“What about you?” Jack yelled, stepping closer to Granger’s door.
“I’m fine,” Pam called. “Jack, don’t do anything. Just wait for the police.”
“Jack.” Granger craned his neck up through the ten-inch opening in the door. “Let me get out. I came to say I’m sorry. Please hear me out …”
“Stop right there, or so help me, I’ll blow a hole in your chest.” Jack stepped cautiously within three feet of the truck and spoke through clenched teeth. “How
you come here.”
“I’m sorry,” Granger said. “That’s what I came to say. For all the trouble, for everything I put you through. Please …” He pushed the door open more and started to get out.
“Stop!” Jack pointed the gun straight up and blasted a shot into the night.
Pam screamed. “Jack, the girls!”
He racked the gun again.
“Jack, dude,” Derrick called. “Stay calm.”
“I understand your anger.” Granger put one foot on the ground and started to get out. As he did, the pickup rolled forward. He plunked back inside, his one booted foot dragging outside, and jammed on the brake. The pickup banged to a stop three feet from Derrick’s car.
Granger dropped his head. Looking frustrated and embarrassed, he ran a hand through his hair. “Let me say what I came to say—”
“You don’t make the rules!”
“Jack, please,” Pam cried. She tried to come closer, but Derrick held her back by the shoulders.
“Just wait till the police come. Don’t interact with him.”
“Stay out of this, Pam. Go inside with the girls.”
Jack heard her ask Derrick where Jack had gotten a gun.
“Your number was unlisted.” Granger had his hands up in front of him. “Or I would have called.”
“So you come here at night, when I’m not home.” Jack inched closer to him. “I
you at Campolo’s.”
“Tonight! Stalking us.”
“I was not. I was at the library. I passed Campolo’s, driving home …”
“Phh.” Jack shook his head in disgust. “Get out.”
Granger opened the door and bent out of the pickup with his hands up. He was taller than Jack remembered, and thinner. “Pam, I’m sorry,” he called. “I’ve changed—”
“We don’t care about your personal life!” Jack said. “Say what you have to say. Clear your sick conscience before the cops get here.”
“I wanted you to know, you helped me, Pam—and I’m sorry for everything I put you through. You, too, Jack. I apologize.”
Pam cried and nestled closer to Derrick.
“Something was terribly wrong with me back then. Evan has helped me. God has helped me.”
“I thought maybe we could do this differently—”
“Oh, yeah, like what?” Jack hoisted the weapon closer to Granger’s chest. “Come in for coffee and dessert? Maybe read the kids a bedtime story?”
A siren sounded in the distance, and Granger dropped his head.
“Let him go, Jack.” Pam shook away from Derrick. “Let him go, now.”
With the gun still locked on Granger, Jack examined Pam. Her watery eyes were fixed on his. He knew she already felt betrayed because he’d bought the gun without telling her. Now Granger had done the most humble thing a person could do, and Jack was cutting him no slack.
The sirens drew closer.
Jack slipped the gun into his coat pocket, stepped toward Granger, and grabbed him by the jacket with both fists, shoving him with his forearms.
There was no resistance.
see you near this house again, you are dead. You read me?
.” Jack spoke within inches of Granger’s indifferent face, so Pam couldn’t hear. “This is your last warning. Don’t go near my family ever again, or it’ll be the last thing you do.” He bashed Granger into the pickup. “Now get out of here.”
“Will you forgive me?” Granger spoke softly, as if to let him answer while Pam and Derrick couldn’t hear.
Jack stared at the sad-looking stranger who had tormented their lives.
“Please,” Granger pleaded. “I need to make this right.”
The police cars were almost there, but Granger didn’t seem to care. He stood unmoved, waiting for the words he was desperate to hear.
Without a word, his eyes closed, his countenance fallen, Granger slipped into the pickup, backed up, and scooted into the night.
Pamela closed the door to Rebecca’s room ever so gently; both girls were finally down. Rubbing her stomach, she walked down the hall to the dark master bedroom and peered through the slats at the dimly lit street below. Jack stood next to the black Trenton City police car, talking animatedly to their friend Officer Dennis DeVry, who had handled the original Granger home invasion.
Dennis was one of the first officers to arrive, just seconds after Granger left the neighborhood. He took a report and concluded that, although no crime had been committed, Jack and Pamela could request a restraining order, which wouldn’t go over well with Granger’s parole officer.
But in Pamela’s mind, Granger wasn’t the problem.
Oh dear … how should she handle this? Her temples pounded.
She grabbed three tissues and crossed to the bay window, turned on a small lamp, and sat in one of two upholstered chairs. This was the sitting area where they sometimes curled up before bed to read or watch TV. Pamela sat there to pray when she needed a quiet place away from everyone.
She needed God now.
Oh … this hurt.
So this was what it felt like to be married, joined together as “one flesh,” but to have that flesh torn apart. Separated.
Jack had always been such a godly example.
What was happening?
How had things gotten so out of whack?
Jack’s change had been evolving ever since Granger showed up in their lives. She’d tried to sympathize. Tried to be a good partner by listening when he vented. But he’d crossed a line somewhere.
Too bitter. Too violent.
And now this …
He had lied to her—to her, his wife—about the gun.
The front door opened and closed downstairs.
Pamela dried her eyes and wiped her nose.
He was probably turning the lights off, locking up for the night.
She heard him on the steps. Her heart rate increased.
“Hey.” He stepped into the room, took his watch off, and began emptying his pockets at his tall dresser just inside the door.
She waited for him to say something else, but he headed for the bathroom.