This was the Halloween story over at Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers in 2010.
You both wave goodbye from the porch as the wife drives away for a girl’s weekend. Images of Ryan and Tatum O’Neal in Paper Moon flash through your mind.
Father and daughter time, no rules just right.
Almost twenty years, since it was “suggested” that America might be a better place for you. Aer Lingus to Boston, no need for a return flight mate…ever. Rachel, your eighteen year old girlfriend at the time, decided to go with you, your sins, and secrets.
Three years since you had a pint, or a shot, but you’ve bent the rules a wee bit. The daily weed habit disqualifies you from collecting the poker chips. Now, the drought has you climbing the walls, but hey, it ain’t like you’re coming off the smack, physically at least. Two days since you’ve had a proper nights sleep and tonight offers no respite.
But you’ve made big plans for tomorrow. The amusement park, from open to close with your daughter Julie and her best friend Jenna. Sounded good last week, but you’re already doing the zombie shuffle.
The bowl, bong, and even the seeds, already scraped and cleaned better than a Marine’s M-16. My Country for a Goddamn joint, you think. It ain’t happening. Raise the white flag brother.
“Good night Dadda,” Julie says, still calling you that, even at fourteen.
“I love you sweetie,” you tell her.
It’s been slowly festering, the urge. Now you’re alone, it’s seducing you.
You’ve lost your privileges, but not Rachel. She likes a casual, deserves it, can handle it. It’s in the house. No need to be under lock and key, because you’ve beat it, at least Rachel thinks so.
Before the grace of I go God.
Rock-n-Rolla’s on the tube, but you’re so fucking tense; you decide it’s a good idea to add just a wee drop to the orange juice. Enjoy the show, take the edge off, get some sleep, and be on top of your game tomorrow.
You come to, still on the couch, Julie telling you it’s time to get up, start the big day. The agony in your head’s just the opening act for the guilt, the star of this morning show.
Time to play hurt lad. Suck it the fuck up. You know the cure. Old habits die hard.
You’re bloody dying inside as you tell her, “call Jenna, let her know we’ll pick her up in an hour.”
Three years down the shitter, but no one will be the wiser. Can’t bullshit yourself though mate, what’s done is done. The wheels are turning and you need to make a plan.
“I’m going to shoot down to the store, get some goodies and things. Be right back,” you say, lying to the one truly perfect person you know.
A quick stop at the store for ice, supplies…a pint of 100 proof Rumplemintz. Nurse it all day, maintain altitude, and get you through it. A pack of gum, ice frost flavor, will be a perfect match for the booze and throw the hounds off the trail.
Six hours has gone by fast. The three of you having a blast and you’re doing what needs to be done to survive. A wee taste every trip to the loo, a discreet swallow behind a tree while they enjoy the roller coaster, has you feeling good.
Shit, supply is low, time to ration.
The Turkish Twist fucks you up and you’re puking. It’s ninety degrees outside, but you’re cold and drenched in sweat.
Sitting on the bench, you’re white as a ghost, shaking, and you can see the disappointment in their eyes. Worse, it’s the concern you sense coming from Julie. Her hero, down for the count and it’s her fault for begging you to go on the ride, despite telling her you didn’t like the spinning ones.
What the hell do you do mate, balls in your court. You can’t let them down and pack it in. Sure, under normal circumstances you could, but not this time. The guilt will eat you for the rest of your days, so the wheels start turning.
You think, they’re both fourteen, big girls now. When you were their age you were…. There might be a way out. Give you time to sort things out.
“That’s okay,” you tell them. “How about this? I’m going to go lie down in the car for a while, get my sea legs back. Here’s forty bucks, any problems call the cell, I’ll be right there. Still four hours left, plenty of time for me to join back in the fun. Just need an hour or so.”
It’s a win-win. You straighten out, they get to stay, have fun, get some independence. Julie gets a kiss and you’re choking back puke and shame as you walk away, the World still spinning under your feet.
A rapping noise on the Jeep window rouses you, the cops telling you to open up. Jenna’s standing behind them, sobbing, hysterical. The clock on the dashboard informs you it’s eight at night.
You’ve been out cold for two hours.
The cops telling you Julie’s missing, the park is in lock down. Jenna saying she went on the Turkish Twist again, Julie sitting it out, didn’t want to get sick like dad. Jenna’s bawling harder and screaming that Julie was gone when she got off the ride. She’s begging for forgiveness. One officer is trying to calm her down, while the other asks you, “have…you…been…drinking?”
Four months later, Halloween night, and you’re playing the role of divorced, degenerate junky. Julie’s still gone and she took your soul with her. You hear a ring tone going off under the cushion of the fleabag couch you’re doing the nod on. You answer. The voice, some bloke telling you he’s got Julie, wants to play let’s make a deal, and to get your ass outside now.
Still in your skivvies, you stumble down the stairs, burst through the door, and out to the parking lot. It’s dark, but you see the black jogging suit and balaclava, just before the balloon hits you in the chest. A Halloween prank, water balloon, what the fuck? The smell of petrol registers with your nostrils, just as you see the muzzle flash. Gut shot and you are down on the ground.
You look up and the phosphorescence of the road flare illuminates the darkness before it lands on you, igniting the petrol.
The black figure standing over you, watching you burn, bleed profusely, and scream, points the pistol at your head.
“May you rot in Hell, you fucking drunk.”
The balaclava comes off and the barrel of the gun follows your head as your body writhes. You see your ex-wife’s face as she pulls the trigger and the image fades to black after the bullet enters your skull.
Sean Patrick Reardon is the author of the crime thriller novel “Mindjacker”. He’s blogging at: http://seanpatrickreardon.blogspot.com/