Authors: Will Overby
T H E K I L L I N G V I S I O N
Copyright © 2013
All Rights Reserved.
This is a work of
fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either
the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Black Cat Books
Wednesday, July 4
the heat had baked the ground hard and dry throughout the day, the sun had now
set, leaving a layer of humidity over the town like a wet blanket. Hoards of
people—some from Cedar Hill, some from other communities, a few of the students
still in town at the college for summer classes—had converged on Riverside Park
for the annual band concert and fireworks spectacular. Families had spread
picnics over the grounds, and many were enjoying a watermelon or a cool drink
in the deepening twilight, slapping away the mosquitoes that had swarmed up
from the sluggish river below.
precisely nine o’clock, the first bursts of color exploded in the velvet sky,
bringing cheers from the crowd. Smaller children squealed with delight, and
some of the older teenagers took advantage of the distraction to sneak off
underneath the old grandstand to make out.
Missiles screamed through the sky, then erupted in
showers of spinning sparks, their smoke trails extending into the darkness like
the legs of giant descending spiders. Several large explosions shook the
ground; a young woman screamed with surprise, and several people with her
booming of the fireworks echoed throughout the river valley, stirring the
brackish water as well as the debris of tree limbs clawing at the shore. With
each vibrating explosion, a pile of rotting logs at the water’s edge shifted a
bit more until it finally broke apart and the trees drifted away, leaving a
mangled, twisted bundle that floated and bobbed in the darkness.
Sutton and Mark Davis had slid down the bank away from the crowd to a small
landing at the edge of the river. Mark’s plan was to get Kelly away from her
parents and friends so the two of them could fool around under the fireworks.
They had been together now for a few weeks, and the time was nearing when Mark expected
more than just a goodnight kiss.
repeatedly shoved Mark’s groping hand away from her breasts as they kissed.
“Not here,” she said.
looked around. “There’s nobody else down here.” With one finger he slipped a
strand of her hair out of her eyes and kissed her forehead. “Come on.”
slid away from him slightly. “It’s too hot. Let’s wait ’til we get back to my
house. Besides, it stinks down here.”
like something dead.”
a ’possum or a cat or somethin’.”
large explosion over their heads made her jump, and she settled back into the
crook of his arm. The boom vibrated the ground beneath them, and Kelly felt
the stirring in her chest that only added to the intensity of her pounding
heart. Mark kissed her lips again, and this time she kissed back. After a
moment, she pulled back to catch her breath; both of their faces were slick
with sweat. “Come on, let’s go. It really stinks down here.”
bright flash of colors briefly illuminated something at the edge of the water.
Kelly squinted at it in the sudden darkness. “What is that?”
Floating. See it?”
Mark grabbed a stick and scooted toward the water. He poked at the bundle,
is it?” Kelly asked. She moved up beside him.
fireworks exploded over them, and in the flare, Kelly saw the rotted, green
upturned face, its mouth yawning open in silent agony.
screamed, but her voice was lost in a barrage of erupting shells.
Thursday, July 5
If he kept his eyes closed, maybe he could fool
himself into thinking he was still asleep. Maybe the soft light filtering
through his lids was just some sort of sleep-induced hallucination. Beside his
head, the clock radio droned on in his right ear. Toby Keith.
Joel reached out and slapped the snooze button and blessed silence filled the
room. He rolled over and opened his eyes. Fuck. But today was Thursday, and
that meant he only had to make it through two more days before the weekend. It
had felt good having a day off yesterday, even if it had been close to a
stretched his massive frame spread-eagle across the double bed and stared at
the ceiling. There were several cracks snaking across the white plaster, like
tiny highways on a barren landscape. It reminded him briefly of the Martian
canals. But that made him think of something else, something dark, so he
pushed it from his head.
light through the dusty curtains was subdued. It was going to rain today for
sure. What was that old rhyme?
Red sky at morning, sailor take warning
or some shit like that. Only the sky wasn’t red, just gray and lifeless.
peeked under the covers, down past his rotund belly, to his underwear. Was
anything happening down there this morning? Any party in his pants today?
Nope. Nothing. Limp noodle city, baby. Actually, he hadn’t had an erection
in so long, he could hardly remember what it felt like. Or what it looked
like, for that matter. It was probably shriveled up past the point of no
return. Like a fucking raisin.
reached out and grabbed a crumpled pack of Marlboros off the bedside table,
pulled one out with his gummy lips, and lit it. First one of the day. God, it
felt good, sucking that sweet nicotine down inside. He placed the ashtray on
his chest, the amber glass cold against his skin, and balanced the cigarette on
its edge, watching the steel-blue smoke curl upward from the smoldering glow of
the tip, feeling the pleasant buzz in his chest.
The radio blared on again, and the ashtray tumbled
off his chest when he jumped, spilling ashes, crushed butts, and his lit
cigarette across the sheets. “
Gary Hamby of the WCDH morning show was just
starting the news. Joel was in the midst of cleaning up the mess on the bed
when he heard the report of the body they had pulled from the river last
night. It was Sarah Jo McElvoy. The fourteen-year-old girl had been missing
since April. Her throat had been cut.
Joel wondered briefly if he might be able to find
the killer, wondered if by touching Sarah Jo’s lifeless body the vision of her
attacker’s face would swim before him. But he knew better. The few times he
had touched a dead person he had come away with nothing.
standing in the numbing flow of the shower for ten minutes, Joel pulled on his
coveralls and sat down at the kitchen table for another cigarette and a mug of
He leaned back and stretched, feeling the soreness
in his shoulders from climbing the cable tower at work the other day. He had
almost asked Wade to do it; Wade was older, thirty-three, but he was in much
better shape. But he knew Wade would get pissed. Wade was like that; you
couldn’t ask him any favors because he resented it, and he held it over your
head for the rest of your life. Even if he was your older brother. Besides,
climbing the tower was Joel’s
He had been halfway up when the pain shot through
his left arm, a pain so sudden and sharp he thought at first he had been stung
by a hornet. But there was nothing. Sweat poured down his face, and despite
his lack of fear of high places, his head spun with vertigo. His boots slipped
off the tower. For a brief, horrifying moment he knew he was going to fall.
He was going to plummet straight to the bottom of the ridge that held the
tower. The safety equipment holding him, the same straps and buckles he barely
looked at when he put them on, would fail, would break under the strain of his
weight. He clinched his eyes shut and braced his body, waiting for the plunge.
But it never happened. The safety harness held, and
he was able to regain his footing, resting his head against the hot metal of
the tower while he tried to catch his breath.
“Hey,” Wade called up to him. “Let’s get on with
it. It’s almost time for lunch.”
Joel climbed the rest of the way to the top without
incident, made a great show of pretending to inspect the cables, and inched
back to the bottom. He doubled over and rested his elbows on his knees as he
tried to catch his breath. He fully expected Wade to lay into him for almost
falling, but he didn’t. Wade had apparently either not seen or didn’t care.
Wade clapped him on the back. “You’re gonna have to
start workin’ out, man,” he said.
And now as he sat at the table in the dim kitchen,
Joel massaged his arm and shoulder. For a while he had thought he might have
suffered a light heart attack. That scared him worse than the possibility of
falling to his death. But this morning he still felt sore, and he was fairly
sure he had just pulled a muscle. But he was still going to find an excuse to
not climb during the next tower maintenance.
* * *
When Joel pulled the cable truck into Wade’s
driveway, Wade was standing on the front porch, grabbing one last cigarette
since they were not allowed to smoke in the company trucks. He flicked the
butt out into the yard and motioned for Joel to get out.
Joel glanced at his watch as he slid out and slammed
the door behind him. “We’re gonna be late.”
“Got something to show you,” Wade said. He stepped
off the porch and headed up the drive toward the old barn at the back of the
Joel followed hesitantly. “You didn’t kill another
copperhead did you?”
Wade glanced at him and grinned; he knew Joel was
deathly afraid of snakes. Once when Joel was twelve and Wade was sixteen, they
had found an old snakeskin out in the woods. Wade hid it in a box in the
closet, and they both forgot about it. Wade found it some time later and
decided to have some fun with it. Joel awoke one morning to find the skin
draped over his pillow. By the time he realized it was just the old skin, he
had already wet the bed in fright.
Wade pulled back the heavy weathered door and light
spilled onto a shapeless mass hiding beneath a rust-stained tarp. “Got a great
deal on this from a guy over in Russellville. He and his brother even drove it
over here.” He whipped off the tarp, and Joel sucked in his breath.
Sitting in the shadows of the barn was a red Ford
Mustang convertible, its tattered top folded back. There were a couple of rust
spots on the front fenders, the bumpers were tarnished, and it was missing the
chrome “R” from “FORD” on the hood, but it was a Mustang just the same.
Everything from the scowl of the nose to the pony emblem on the gas cap
signified power. The car seemed to be in motion even though it was standing
still. Joel reached out to stroke the dusty surface with his fingertips—guiltily,
as if he were touching a naked woman. “What year?” he asked.
“How much you pay?”
Joel whistled softly, peering down the side of the
car for any telltale ripples. “Needs a lotta work.”
“I know.” Wade was still grinning with pride. He
caressed the black vinyl of the driver’s seat like a lover. “You’ll help me,
“Sure,” Joel said. He couldn’t help but finger the
pony emblem on the grill, tracing the galloping legs and flowing mane.
“Dad?” Wade’s son was peering around the door, his
dark hair sticking up in tufts.
Joel jerked his hand back reflexively, as if he had
been caught doing something obscene.
Derek padded into the barn, his feet slapping
against the packed bare ground. He was wearing only a pair of jeans, and his
chest already had that beefy hard look that ran in the Roberts family. The kid
was sixteen but big as he was he could easily pass for twenty. “When are we
gonna start working on the car?”