A Father's Revenge
A Short Story By
The diner was named Fresh, yet the place had served up a dish of lasagna that was nothing better than a plate of frozen TV dinner. There was very little sauce, very little cheese, and it had been served cold.
I pushed the plate away and gazed out the window to a view of a half full parking lot. The day was sunny, the strong rays of heat poured down from a sky blue and cloudless.
"The perfect day." I said in a voice a little bit raspy. A tired, dried throat would do that to a guy, especially one tired from sobbing. I picked up a cup still full with the diner's sour coffee. A perfect day, my mind repeated as I took a drink, a perfect day to die.
The parking lot may have only been half full, but the diner was buzzing. There were couples, some of whom were a bit too friendly while others seemed in quiet disagreements. There were business people, dressed in blacks and browns. These people ate quickly, gulping and drowning all while on their smart devices. And there were the small families, with their child or children. Their precious little boys and girls.
I poured the remaining coffee down my aching throat.
Don't you start up again, I silently told myself as I slammed the cup down and suddenly took note of my hands.
They were clean, but I could still see the stains that had marked my hands for hours before I was allowed to wash away the blood.
From my left pocket I retrieved my cell, which was one of those old flip models. The phone's keypad beeped as I dialed my voicemail, entered my pass-code, and then accessed my saved messages.
"Dad, dad it's me," I buried my face into my free hand as the saved recording of my son's voice played into my ear. "I need your help with some digging." There was a pause, "It's about the piece that I'm working on." Another pause. "Four D, one B-L."
A press of the eight key saved my son's voice for another fourteen days.
The meal and coffee had already been paid for so I left my tip in the empty coffee mug and then slipped from the booth.
It was a hot day, 87 degrees out in the sunny world, yet I wore my leather pilots jacket like a man about to exit into a chilly overcast city.
"Four D." I whispered as I left the diner for my SUV. ""One B-L."
My son's apartment was a small studio. It had a kitchen just off the right of the entry, right across from the one and only closet in the place. There was a bathroom at the back, one of those nice ones with a separate tub and shower. The door to the bathroom was just beside an oversized window that offered a view of a little park four stories below. My son's desk was positioned in order to take advantage of that view.
Along one side of the apartment was a sofa-bed, that had file cabinets as end tables. The other side of the apartment was lined with an entertainment center and bookshelves.
I stood there in the doorway, taking in my son's apartment. My mind tried to recall memories of the good times my son and I spent in this one and only place that he called home since he left his childhood nest. My mind tried to recall, but coward when a pain pounded at my heart.
Nine steps took me to the bookcases, where a book waited for me on the forth shelf down and first book from left to right.
"Four D, one B-L." I said aloud the directions my son had given me to the location of the book. My mind recalled the gut wrenching feeling that had consumed me when I had first heard my son's message. The unsaid words had immediately filled themselves in. "If something happens to me, if something goes wrong and we can't talk I put everything you need to know in a book." That was what the last part of my son's message had truly meant.
"Four D, one B-L." I said again, half smiling as I took my first look at the cover of the book, which was cover art based on a fictional detective.
My son had been a journalist, and since I was a private investigator I often emerged myself into his professional life. I hadn't been uninvited, it often gave my boy an opportunity to be in two places at one time, which meant that an article could be completed quickly. I was also someone who my son could trust, he had an ally in a field where every coworker seemed a rival.
Hours passed before I could open the book. Seated at my son's sofa-bed, I thought back to what little he had told me about whatever it was that he'd been working on.
"I can't tell you about this one," he had said, "Not yet. But it's turning out to be a tricky one and I need for you to take extra care."
"Don't worry about me," I had told him, "Just be careful."
I thought back to that moment three weeks ago when my boy was safe and alive.
Again and again my mind replayed the memory. Over and again even as it seemed my heart would crush.
The book now lied on the floor at my feet, where it waited for me.
I reached into my pilots jacket, the brown leather soft from years of favoritism. From a large pocket within, I pulled an item that I had wrapped in a blue towel because of its sharpness. The four inch blade concealed within was a sharp as a razor, which forced me to take caution as I unwrapped it.
The handle curved out from beneath the blade in the way that made the entire thing look like a letter J.
It was still stained with my son's blood.
The murderer hadn't left it by accident. I knew that it had been left to taunt the police, to make the media buzz, to attract the public interest. To become famous without becoming known. But I hadn't been expected to find my son first.
I had missed the call from my son by mere minutes, listened to the message then panicked as I tried to return the call.
My legs hadn't moved fast enough, my car hadn't driven with enough precision, and I therefore hadn't arrived in time to demand from my son an explanation of what he had gotten himself into.
If I had, we could have fought together.
Or died together.
The sight of my son's murder weapon filled me with the rage I needed to open the book.
My son had a plan.
He was going to keep the man who he believed was a murder suspect busy by hiring the guy as a photographer for an upcoming office event. While the suspect was busy taking pictures, I was to break into the man's house to try and find information.
"Oh boy." I gasped, then sighed as I continued to page through the journal.
There were newspaper clippings on a range of unrelated killings, all of which were unsolved and based throughout the country with dates that spanned for close to a decade.
Then came page after page of theories and outlines for serial killer personality traits.
I began to worry when the journal began to focus on one individual in a way that made my son seem like some sort of stalker.
Photograph after photograph outlined the seemingly normal life of a man, a 35 year old photographer whose relationship statues, past and present residences, and county of birth among other details were noted as they were learned.
Near the end of the book, a new character was introduced who my son named, Trench. A series of pictures showed a man dressed in a trench coat with his face hidden by a hoodie.
My son had managed to catch the Trench in some curious situations. One set of images showed a drink being spiked, and a caption stated that the Trench had spiked a stranger's drink.
"I followed the girl home," I read the remaining of the caption aloud. "I felt weird, as if I were her threat." My son had wrote. "I couldn't make sense of it, he spiked the girls drink but didn't threaten her."
The next page had a news article of a slain woman, beside the article was a photograph of that murdered woman in friendly conversation with the girl who had had her drink spiked by the Trench.
"This picture was taken on the same night that the dink was spiked," I read my son's caption, "It would seem that he had separated the girls by making one sick."
Another turn of the page changed to a new event, with a photograph that showed the Trench standing outside a window of some unknown house.
The image held my attention. It had been taken in bad lighting and was therefore shadow littered, yet my son's murder weapon shimmered as the Trench held it in his left hand.
"I made an anonymous call to the police," was what the caption read.
More photographs kept highlighting events such as these, while newspaper clippings showed unsolved murders and mysterious disappearances.
Nonetheless, the dots were not connected.
None of the images revealed an actual murder nor any real threat of one. Nothing revealed the photographer as the Trench, and there was nothing that showed the Trench in action.
I went through the book again, paying even more attention to my son's notes and image descriptions. Over and again I went over the journal, realizing why my son needed my help.
He needed proof.
There was no one in the world who remained for me to care about, no one to love or to worry about.
No one except for myself.
Four months had past since the Trench had taken my son away from me, and had given me a list of things that would need to be done without hesitation. Things such as burial arrangements, paperwork, appointments with lawyers, interviews with the police and with the media. My son's apartment to pack up and moved home. My son's unfinished business to complete.
Along the way I had ate, drank, and slept only to survive. Yet nothing had flavor and sleep tired more then rested me.
Those six months were a blur that I slept walked through, and it hadn't been until I slipped a needle into the Trench's neck that I was woken up.
It was probably the Trench's startled screams as I filled his system with poison that snapped me awake.
I had come up from behind with my weapon as I watched him backhand a young girl who had been in the wrong place at the right time.
We were in a park, an athletics playground with acres to run, bike ride, or even ride a horse. There were few people about, offering seclusion and a dangerous place to be alone. The slight breeze pushed around the scent of wet dirt and wildflowers, the sky was a bit overcast but the sun peeked through.
The Trench fell onto his side and curled up on the dirt where he belonged.
"Go!" I told the girl as I helped her stand, "Call the police."
When the girl had ran off I kicked the Trench, which made him turn onto his back. The hoodie slipped behind him, his hazel eyes stared up at me. Blondish hair topped a babyish face, which housed a pug nose, cat-shaped eyes, and a pale complexion.
My son's prime suspect.
"Don't worry," I reached into my pilots jacket to retrieve the weapon that had killed my son. "The poison I pumped your system with won't kill you."
His eyes widened at the sight of his own knife as I held it out for show and tell.
"In fact, they'll think that I didn't give you enough," I knelt down beside him, "That we struggled." I placed the blood crusted knife in his left hand. "And when they find this," From my pilots jacket I pulled out my son's journal, "When they analyze my son's notes and what I've added onto it."
I leaned forward, smiling down at the monster who had been conquered.
"You'll get the death penalty and my son and I will be waiting to drag you to hell."
Then I took his hand, the one I had put the knife in.
I had tried to puncture my heart, it seemed fitting since my heart was already dead.
I waited until I heard the sirens. Waited till I was sure that those sirens were coming in the right direction before I slumped over him. They where coming. They would believe that they arrived too late, but I knew that they would be just on time. Just the way I had planned it.
What I had not planned on was waking back up. What I had wanted was to see my son, my wife, my parents. I had wanted to see Jesus and beg for my forgiveness.
But I survived.
The doctors kept sedating me, yet sleep was no vacation when nightmares kept harassing me.
I kept crying.
Then came the day when I learned that God can reward long before Heaven calls.
"Dad?" My son's voice teased my ears. I kept my eyes closed, afraid to end what I believed was a sweet dream, yet at the same time terrified that it would turn into yet another nightmare. "Dad, I'm here now." I felt my right hand taken and held with gentle care.
Had I finally died? My mind wondered.
"You couldn't have known that it wasn't me," my son said, "The kid's face was slashed so horribly..." I tried t understand what it was my son was trying to say. "We kind of resembled each other, but he was just a cub reporter with a sharp eye."
I forced open my eyes, to a blurred and hazy vision.
"I should have come to you when the cub reporter pulled me into his investigation." Tears. He paused and I could feel the weight of his head along with the wet of his tears against my arm. "I knew it was for protection, but they drove me half mad when I was thrown into protective custody."
I tried desperately to blink away the haze.
"God let this not be a dream." The sound of my own voice was chalky and I half choked out the words.
"Dad!" My son sniffled, "Dad, I promise that next time I'll leave the fun stuff for you to do. Alright?"
Laughter never hurt so much.
And then my vision cleared.
I guess somebody else would have to drag the Trench to hell.
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed.