The people in rossford chapter one
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The people in rossford chapter one
12-18-2016, 04:29 AM
Join Date: Jul 2016
Location: South Bend, IN
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The people in rossford chapter one
THESE ARE THE PEOPLE IN
Todd Meradan remembered where Brian had lived years ago. The other night he saw where he lived now. He parked in front of the apartment building and sat there a moment, not sure in the daylight if it was the same. Yes, it was. He remembered the car he parked in front of, and he remembered the number of the brick building: 348.
In the lobby he looked over the brass mailboxes, searching until he found B. Babcock.
“I am in the right building,” Todd murmured. And then he went to the door and jiggled it. But he already knew it was locked. He’d have to wait, or maybe go around the back. That seemed like a wasted trip. Surely it would be locked too. He went to the end of the hall, pressed his face to the glass and wondered if a tenant would come.
Todd was sure it had only been about five minutes, but five minutes feels like forever when you’re not sure waiting will come to anything, or when it will come to something. As he was about to sigh again, and shift his weight to his other hip, he heard the door behind him open and he shouted, turning around.
“Hold that door!”
At the terrified look on the man’s face, Todd added: “Please.”
“There you go,” he said, smiling nervously. “You get locked out?”
“Key’s inside my apartment,” Todd lied, shrugging.
“Well, good luck getting inside.”
So Todd lied further. “My place is still open, thank God.”
He gave a friendly smile and went up the stairs to the third floor. He hadn’t seen an elevator here. Brian had always been a fit person. Todd thought living on the third floor was something like living in hell. Then there was, Todd remembered, the whole problem of getting inside, and the whole problem of, if you got inside, then what would lead him to Brian? Would Brian write a note saying, “In case anyone wants to look for me, I am at…. X.”?
So, there was C-7, Brian’s apartment. Now to get in. He’d seen on TV that people could use credit cards to break into apartments, or hairpins. But Todd figured that if it were that easy locks would be useless. He wondered, could there be a key under the mat?
“That’s stupid,” Fenn would have said. “Why the hell would you put a key under your mat where any crook would look for it?”
“The flower pot?”
“That’s the next place they’d look.”
And Fenn would have added, “Besides, there’s no flower pot here anyway.”
“Then what about—?”
“No,” Fenn would say, “Just… leave the windows unlocked. Always make the house a little break-in-able.”
Todd looked around the hallway. He leaned into the door, and then he shrugged and picked up the mat.
“I’ll be damned,” he murmured.
“Fool,” he heard Fenn say beside him.
There was the key.
He clicked it and pushed the door open. The house was as clean as Todd expected. But it smelled funny, like old breath, like someone who hadn’t used air freshener for a day or so.
Todd closed the door behind him, and looking around the living room, murmured, “Where to look…? Where to look?”
He went to the bedroom, which was mildly trashed, and then went over the bureau, flipping through loose change and papers.
“I wonder if he has a landline.”
There was a phone, which surprised Todd. He knew Brian had a cell phone. He wondered, “Why am I doing this? This is nuts. Why am I…?”
No one else will, and you won’t be right unless you do. And also, he knew Fenn expected it of him.
He didn’t know Brian’s number, so he decided to call Tom.
No… call Tara.
“Hello?.” He heard her voice a moment later.
“Veems. It me. What’s Brian’s number?”
“What the fuck for? Never mind. Hold on. Let me see if I have this bitch… Oh, shit. I do. Here it is.”
She read it and Todd thanked her, clicked off, and called.
The phone rang a long time, and then he heard a cheesy voice, Brian’s smarmy voice, say:
“Hi, I can’t come to the phone right now, but please leave your name and number, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.”
Todd didn’t know what to do with that. So he rang again. When he got the voice message he rang one last time and then there was nothing again.
No luck, what to do? What would a private-I do? He decided to look around the house some more, which was always fun. He looked through Brian’s underwear drawer. Of course he wore briefs; that was a Brian thing to do. All different colors, no white ones, a lot of red. Brian looked nice in a pair of red briefs Todd was sure. The phone rang and startled him from his reverie.
Todd almost didn’t answer it. Then he assumed that maybe Brian, seeing his number ring him up three times, had called back. So he went to the phone, but just then the answering machine came on. Not as impressive, a little grainier than the first message, after the squealing beep he heard:
“Hello, you’ve got me. I’m not here right now, but please leave a message, your name and your number and I’ll get back to you just as soon as possible. Good bye now.”
Then came the beep, and then, yes, Brian’s real voice.
“If there’s anyone there trying to reach me, please pick up. I’ve got this number on my cell phone. Please pick up.”
And if Todd said, “It’s Todd, where are you?” Brian would… tell him? No, that wasn’t likely. So Todd took a chance, deepened his voice, and lifted the phone saying:
“This is your building manager.”
“Oh… Mr. Vallero?”
Todd weighed his ability to feign a Spanish accent. He wondered if Vallero even had one. He didn’t know, so he lied again.
“Vallero’s out, but I’m Jackson. I manage finances. A message came from your credit card company saying they were going to decline last night’s payment unless there was verification you were actually there. If you travel for a certain distance they need confirmation that the bill really does come from you.”
Todd remembered this from a trip he and Fenn had made a couple of years ago. Every night they had to call to confirm where they were. It was nice, secure, but a little annoying.
“Oh, all right,” Brian said obligingly, and Todd put down the phone and sighed. Then he tried to stop laughing.
“I was actually in Armison.”
“That’s what out records say.”
“At the Days Inn.”
“Yes,” Todd said. “Good.” Then, “And do you have an idea of where you’ll be tonight? If you’re crossing the state line it may be important.”
“I’m shooting for Pittsburgh.”
“Oh, good,” said Todd. “Well, have a good trip. Family I suppose.”
“Not really. No, just a little trip by myself,” Brian said in a civil tone it was interesting to hear. So this was how he dealt with people he didn’t know.
“Have a good day,” Todd said.
“You too,” Brian said merrily. God, he was never that happy! He couldn’t have been that happy now.
Todd hung up the phone.
Or could he? And was Todd just being foolish and sentimental?
He sat on the bed.
“I know he’s… going to Pittsburgh.”
“Well, at least I’ve got it narrowed down. All I have to do is check every hotel in the greater Pittsburgh area.”
As they were turning into Versailles Street, Barb Affren’s purse buzzed.
“It’s my cellphone.”
“You have a cellphone?” said Fenn.
“Everyone does. It’s the twenty-first century. Answer that.”
Fenn shrugged and reached into Barb’s purse. He took out the phone and flipped it open as they approached the house.
“Yeah. Are you at home?”
“Yes, We just got here.”
“Don’t go in that house.”
“What? Stop the car,” Fenn said. Lee was never wrong.
“What?” she mouthed, her eyes wide behind her sun shades.
“What?” Fenn said.
“Okay, Lemonade told me about that Callan character.”
“Yes. He’s on his way to Rossford.”
“Yeah, you said something about that.”
“He was looking for… do you know a Noah Riley?”
“Yeah. Yes. What about Noah?”
“What’s going on?” Barb mouthed, frantically.
“Well, he said something about going after him, or waiting for him where he was, and I thought he might be at your house.”
“Well…” Fenn said, slowly, “yes. He is.”
“Fenn, either don’t go in the house, or be real careful going to the house… Or something.”
“I’ll be right over. Tom’ll bring me. Bye.”
The phone shut off and Fenn said, “Lee told me a man might be in that house who might be waiting to kill someone staying with me. Or, better yet, might have killed him already.”
“Oh, shit,” Barb said. “Blood’s hard to get out of the carpet.
“Well,” she reached into her purse, fumbling around in a side pocket, “I guess we’re just going to have to use this.”
“Watch your language,” Barb said, negligently, loading the little gun.
“Shit,” Fenn muttered.
“That’s better,” said Barb. “Now, follow me. Don’t make any crazy moves, Fenn.”
Barb climbed out of the car, and Fenn followed her down the block.
“I need you to sneak around the back and peer through the window,” she said. “I’m just gonna shimmy around and look through a front window.”
“You’re going to shimmy?”
“Don’t be sassy. Just go.” The old woman shooed him away as she slipped off with the gun.
Now that they were doing this, Fenn suddenly believed it. He was just a little bit terrified, and only slightly surprised when he looked through the back window and saw Noah Riley standing before the front door, very still, mildly terrified, and then, the figure of a man walking back and forth past him, a small gun in his hand.
Fenn ducked away and loped around the house, nearly on all fours. Barb turned around and saw him.
“I saw,” she whispered, wide eyed. “Now here’s the game plan.”
“First thing, we get the hell from under this window.”
They moved clumsily, asses waving in the grass to the next lot, and just then they saw Tom’s car. And then, before it had completely stopped, Lee jumping out of it, toward them.
“Someone’s got Noah at gun point,” they were telling him as Tom approached.
“We need to call the police,” said Tom.
“Don’t be crazy,” Lee said. “We need a game plan.”
“Exactly,” said Barb.
“It’s only one of him—”
“With Noah for possible hostage,” Tom reminded him.
“Yeah, I guess,” Lee waved this off. “—And one, two, three, four of us. And two guns,” Lee added, taking his out.
“Good God,” Tom said.
“You knew what you were getting into when you got with me,” Lee said. “Now, if Barb takes the back and I take the front door, I think it’s all good.”
“We can’t do this,” Tom said.
Lee said, “We can’t not do this.”
“Fenn?” Tom looked to him for some wisdom.
“What?” said Fenn. “I only wish I knew how to shoot.”
Fenn went in beside Barb, and because Tom couldn’t stand himself if he did otherwise, he went in beside Lee, at the front. So, when they had divided, and Fenn slipped the key into the door, Joe Callan shoutet, “Who the fuck is that?”
Walking into the kitchen with a raised gun, he said, “Get against the fuckin—” and then stopped at the sight of Barb Affren.
“Watch your mouth, young man, she said, the gun right on him.
She added: “And while we’re at it, put that fucking gun down.”
The front door opened, Noah shouted, Joe Callan turned around, but Barb said. “No. No, stay still.”
Into the kitchen came Lee, with the gun to Joe’s neck followed by Tom, much whiter than usual.
“Put the gun down,” Barb said, gently.
“You can’t shoot me you silly old bitch,” Joe said negligently, and moved forward to take the gun from Barb, but just as she clicked the gun, there was a firing, and Joe Callen howled and then fell down, doubled over on the kitchen floor.
“You son of a—” he started at Lee, clicked the gun, and Lee shot one more time.
There was stillness, and then Lee said, “It was either me who would shoot him or Barb. I thought I might be able to handle it better. I tried to just get him in the foot, but that second time he wanted me.”
Noah, greenish, said, “You… killed him.”
“Yeah,” Lee said, clinically, watching the red pool of blood under Joe Callan’s head widen on the linoleum floor. “I guess I did.”
“Whaddo we do?” Tom’s voice was dead.
Barb said, simply, “Quicklime. Lots of quicklime.”
“I’ll wait out here,” Claire said from the Jeep.
Paul sat beside his sister, twiddling his fingers.
“What’s wrong?” she said.
“I’ve never done anything like this,” Paul said. “I always have my stuff under control. When I need to be Paul Anderson that’s who I am. He’s nice and… cornfed. Butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. He’s not even remotely sexual. He’s just a really nice boy that people want to help. He knows how to… get what he wants.
“But Johnny Mellow. He’s the opposite. All the way to the part where he knows how to get what he wants. In the movies, if you saw them.”
“Not really, Paul.”
“Good. Well, in the movies, he’s kind of dumb and gee willickers and… you know. But then later on he was just my stage name, movie name. And he was the exact opposite of who I grew up to be. He was… sometimes he was mean, Claire. The same way I want people to see the nice Paul when I’m in public, he’s the one I don’t want people to see. And now Kirk’s seen it all. And…”
“You know what?” Claire said. “We’re wasting gas. Go inside, Paul.”
Paul knew that Claire understood his fear. He also knew that she knew he was hoping she’d say, “Don’t worry about it, then. Face your fears later.”
Paul nodded, climbed out of the car and said, “Don’t drive off without me.”
Then he headed across the car lot to Hanley’s.
Kirk wasn’t at the desk near the floor room. Paul put his hands behind his back, tapping his foot, wondering where he was. If he’d come back, He didn’t want to be surprised by Kirk coming from behind.
He came from the hallway looking the way Paul liked, with those little glasses pushed up, his pale blue shirt snug around his chest, his khaki’s fitting well, somewhat satisfied with his work. He must have just gotten off the phone. And then he stopped, and his expression changed as he saw Paul. It was angry at first, then he looked more like he was trying to find a way to escape.
Paul approached him.
“Look, Kirk, we need to talk.”
“No we don’t.” Kirk screwed up his face into a hard expression. “We have nothing to talk about.”
“I’d say we have a lot.”
“You’d say?” Kirk said. “You’d say, Paul, or Johnny or… whoever you are! You don’t get the say.”
“I want to see you.”
“You’re making a scene,” Kirk hissed, leaning forward. “You’re making a big scene.”
“For the… three customers in here.”
“It’s late afternoon. Things always get quiet.”
“That’s not what I was saying. I… I want to see you,” Paul made to touch Kirk’s shoulder, but Kirk pulled away.
“I want to touch you.”
“You don’t want to touch me,” Kirk said. “What you want to touch is that… vile—God, you made me use the word vile—that vile, vile Brian with his slick hair and his… God, what a gross asshole! And you were letting him fuck you. And fucking him! You’re… vile too. And that’s without the Pizza Slut and Boffer King and… whatever other stuff you’ve—”
“Wait, come, I want to show you something,” Kirk said, his voice changed.
Paul, as doubtful as he’d felt before, was truly nervous now.
“All right,” his voice wavered. He followed Kirk.
“Check this out,” Kirk said opening his laptop. It must have already been on. It whirred to the Internet and Kirk typed in something.
“Johnny Mellow in…. and this is because I forgot all of them,” Kirk said to him, before clearing his throat, “Pizza Slut, Boffer King, uh… Anal Bell, now that is cute… and there’s a clip—”
“Don’t look at that!”
“Oh, and then the other ones, GILF and BILF, that means,” Kirk said in an aside, “Gay I’d like to fuck, and Boy I’d like to fuck, and boy it’s a lot of people who’d like to fuck you, and don’t you think you might have told me that?”
“When?” Paul said, suddenly feeling defenseless. “When could I have told you that?”
“Everytime!” Kirk realized his voice had risen, and he brought it down.
“Everytime I almost kissed you and you told me you weren’t ready and pretended to be—”
“I wasn’t pretending anything. I wasn’t. And… all of that is in my past. That’s the past.”
“Really? Because… wait.”
Kirk clicked a few more buttons.
“Here, on this little amateur site there’s you and this buddy of yours, Noah. And it’s… well, it’s in your bedroom. It’s in Fenn’s house, and wow, I saw this a few times. And it’s a couple of months ago. And then… a three way in Georgia! That’s a few weeks ago.”
Paul’s face went red. He was hot and confused, and the floor was moving. “There wasn’t a camera there,” he whispered.
Kirk laughed and nodded his head.
“Wasn’t a camera there… so, it’s real? Of course it’s real. Just like that little silver DVD is real. And you know? That’s a couple of days ago. That’s—wow—that’s when you were telling me how we were falling in love and I was… dumb enough to believe it. So, that’s definitely not in the past.”
Kirk, winded and tired and angry, something sharp in his throat, stopped. Paul, standing over the desk, didn’t say anything.
Finally he spoke.
“Kirk… please. Look…”
“You look,” Kirk said. “I… You know what it’s like to find out what you are? You must. Even someone, even an asshole like you, must know what it’s like to know you’re not like everyone else. You’re not going to have… the wife, and the kids. I mean, this is before you figure out that it’s lots of guys just like you who have kids and the wife anyway. It’s long before you find out you can have kids too. You just think you’ll never find love.
“And then you do. Some son of a bitch sees something in you, and he preys on it and, because you’re young and stupid, you open up and tell him you love him. And then you let him make love to you. That’s the… That’s the thing. I mean, me, not like some nelly guy in church choir or, or… in the band or the drama club. That’s how I saw myself. I was the athlete, and here I am, letting it happen to me, letting myself fall in love, giving myself to someone else.
“And so when he says its over, it’s… it is absolute shit when you see him get a girlfriend and pretend nothing ever happened with you two. And you say it’ll never ever fucking happen again. You will never let another man do this to you. You almost go straight. You know why so many guys do.
“And then, you meet somebody else. You open up… the same thing happens again. And this time you say you’re wiser—”
“SHUT—the fuck up. I am talking,” Kirk said.
“And then,” Kirk resumed, “when you finally think you’re impervious, it happens again. I’m thirty years old, Paul, and I thought, I knew, I’d experienced more pain and betrayal than I ever could. I knew that nothing worse could happen. I could never be more hurt and feel more lied to, and betrayed and… stupid…”
Kirk shrugged: “And then you proved me wrong.”
This was all going wrong. There was nothing he could say. Paul closed and opened his fist. He ran his hands up and down his jeans.
“I was stupid,” Kirk said, in a tone of realization. “I mean… I don’t even know you, not really… We just met. How… could you possibly love me even a little?
“Please… go away. All right?”
Paul was out of himself. Someone, maybe Fenn or Lee or even Todd should have been there to save the day. Make him do something else. But Kirk had just told him to leave, and he had to leave. It was just going to hurt Kirk more the more Paul spoke. Nothing could be done. Nothing he knew. If only he could show Kirk the years on the streets, the fear when dirty old men touched him and he put his mind out of his body. If only he could somehow share with Kirk what Kirk had just shared with him.
But Kirk was so angry and so hurt, hurt and crushed. And he had asked Paul to go away.
So he did.
When Paul and Claire stepped into the house, no one was there, but blood was on the kitchen floor and there was an energy to the place. The basement door was wide open, and they could hear an older woman’s voice saying, “Right over there. Yes. There.”
“What the?” Claire murmured. The toilet flushed upstairs, and at the same time Fenn came up from the basement calling, “Paul! Is that you? Claire?”
“What’s going on?” Paul said.
“Oh,” said Fenn. “Well, Joe Callan—that’s the guy whose money we had—he came after Noah and tried to kill him—”
“Oh, my God—” Claire began, but Fenn put a hand up and murmured: “Just listen.
“Anyway, we came back to the house and one thing led to another. Well, you know, he just wouldn’t give up and he put Barb in danger.”
“Yes, Barb’s downstairs with the quicklime.”
“Why was she in danger?”
“Because she came into the house and had him at gun point. Joe Callan, that is.”
“Why,” Paul shook his head. “I mean, how did she have him at… gunpoint?”
“With her gun,” Fenn said, impatiently, and then, anticipating the next question, “of course she carries a gun. She’s Barb Affren. But the man tried to shoot her anyway, so that’s when Lee killed him.”
“And now we’ve got the body in the basement and we’re pouring quicklime over it.
“Oh, by the way Claire, Tom and Lee are going out for chicken, so you’re welcome to stay.”
“I think Claire had better go,” Paul said.
“I think I should stay,” Claire differed. “And I think I will. Only, I guess I can’t tell Julian about the dead body thing.”
“No, I’d rather you didn’t,” Fenn said. “You or anyone else.”
“What are we gonna do?” Paul lamented.
“We’re doing it,” Fenn said.
“I had better call mom, and tell her I’m staying here another night,” Claire said to her brother. “I’ll even let her speak to you so she knows I’m not fooling around.”
Claire took out her cellphone and Fenn said: “Did you go to see Kirk?”
“It was a disaster. I really, really screwed up.”
“Damn right you did,” Fenn said with empathy. “But at least no one got shot where you were.”
“All right, Mom,” Claire was saying into the phone. “Here he is.”
She handed the phone to Paul and said to Fenn, “I don’t know what to do. About him and Kirk. I don’t even know this Kirk, but he seems like he really made him happy, and now it’s like that Brian ruined it all. I could… I could really punch him.”
“I know what you mean,” Fenn said.
“He went to go find Brian, now that he’s disappeared.”
“Disappeared? You mean he ran out with his tail between his legs.”
“Yeah,” Paul was saying to the phone. “Yes. I love you too, Mom. G’night.”
“Pretty much,” Fenn answered Claire.
Paul clicked off the phone, and from the basement Barb’s heavy footsteps came up with her voice declaring, “I need a goddamn drink. And fast.”
“Coming right up,” Fenn stood up and motioned for Claire to follow.
“There’s no pop in the fridge?” she said as Fenn left the room.
“That’s not even close to what she was talking about,” Fenn said, opening the liquor cabinet.
“So, Todd went off in search of Brian?”
“Todd has a very big heart.”
“I guess,” said Claire as Fenn took out the Scotch and searched for glasses.
“Could you get me some ice?”
“Sure,” Claire said.
When she returned she said, “Is it distance?”
“Whaddo you mean?”
“I mean, you and Todd can be nice to him, to Brian, because of distance from the situation.”
“You see Tom in there?”
“Before he was Lee’s Tom he was my Tom. For ten years. Out of college. Brian seduced him. Tom wasn’t innocent, obviously, but Brian ended that relationship. This house you see around you, Tom and I bought it together. It was supposed to be ours. I… I have no distance from the damage Brian Babcock can do.”
Claire’s face was filled with so much horror that Fenn felt like he had to smile.
“It’s in the past.”
“And you can’t take it out of the past or change anything around.”
“I guess,” Claire said. “I mean, I guess that’s what they mean when they say being forgiving or being Christian.”
“It doesn’t make any sense to keep holding on to shit,” Fenn said. “I’ve thought for a long time being Christian is just a sanctified word for being a grown up.”
Claire laughed, and then she made a face.
“Fenn, I still wanna kick him in the jaw. I don’t want to be a grown up.”
He gave her a crooked smile and said, “To tell you the truth, most of the time neither do I.”
Todd decided it was time to check in.
“Baby, it’s me.”
“Where the hell are you?”
“Somewhere near Parma.”
“I won’t be home tonight. I’m going to Pittsburgh.”
“Are you serious?”
“I’m sure he’s there,” Fenn.
Fenn held his tongue.
“I know how this seems,” Todd said.
“The man that ruined my life almost a decade ago, sets out to ruin other peoples’ lives and then runs away when the damage is too much for him, and the one who chases him is… Oh, that’s right—my husband.”
“Do you want me to come home?”
“No, Todd, I really don’t. I don’t completely understand why you have to go after him, but I wouldn’t want you to turn around now. Especially since you’re already in Parma.”
“I gotta tell you, Cleveland sucks.”
“Get off the phone now,” Fenn said. “You know how I feel about people talking on cellphones and driving.”
“Or talking on cellphones period.”
“I confess, until today I thought there were pretty useless.”
“What happened today—oh, watch yourself you son of a bitch! Sorry, babe.”
“You watch yourself,” Fenn said. “And never mind what happened today. You’ve got your quest and I’ve got mine. Or something questlike. Well, anyway, you just take care of yourself and call me when you get… wherever you’re going.”
“I love you, Fenn.”
“I love you too,” said Fenn. “Goodbye.”
12-19-2016, 06:04 AM
Join Date: Feb 2009
Chris, the words in your post are super-large. Difficult reading. Probably why you aren't getting any feedback.
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12-19-2016, 07:18 AM
Join Date: Jul 2016
Location: South Bend, IN
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The font was smaller for other people's sake, but it could be smaller. I doubt that's the reason for so few replies, and judging by the supplies I've gotten, I'm not sure if I want more. I will also say this: critigue from people who are actually writing and have a body of work is helpful, but critigue from people with no credentials who have produced nothing, I will treat as... nothing.
Last edited by Chris Gibson; 12-19-2016 at 07:27 AM..
12-19-2016, 03:13 PM
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Midway, Iowa
It probably has more to do with the quality of the material than the font.
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