Ed was back with the coffee when we got back upstairs. He was sitting behind his desk,
working, I suppose. The Rev was sitting in a chair by the window, still reading the file.
He seemed to be examining the picture of me still in the blood-soaked pajamas, the one they
took just before they took me to the hospital. Lynn got on the phone to make an appointment
for me to see the doc that patched me up right after I got shot. I was the only one with
nothing to do but drink my coffee.
The Rev closed the folder and sat looking out the window for a while. Then he turned and
looked at me. You can see knowledge in people's eyes; it was there in his.
"It's almost impossible to believe; and yet we know such things happen. You were right,
Bud, when you said that, living in Bisbee, I was protected from the wider world. Part of me
wants to know and understand, and part of me wants just the opposite. This," pointing to
the file folder, "is horrible, horrible. The man who did this is downstairs, you said."
He shook his head. "Well, at least you caught him. I noticed the family name in this
report was White. Were they any relation to you, Bud?"
Jesus fucking Christ. Amazing. No idea whatsoever. OK, so maybe I was wrong about the
knowledge. Ed looked up from the report he was working on, like he was wondering whether
he should say anything. Lynn was watching us while she talked to the doc's office.
He nodded. "I thought maybe there was some personal interest in this for you. Although
you couldn't have been very old at the time. Oh, there's something in here that I didn't
understand-" more than one thing, I thought, "---the report on the boy, the witness,
mentioned something about his hands, he lost the skin on his hands…..what did the man do
that caused that?"
I took a deep breath and let it out. "The ties were too tight. Cut off some of the
circulation. Hands swell up when that happens, sometimes the skin dies and kinda sloughs
off. And 3 days without water'll kill skin, too. It was mostly on the backs. It grew
It musta been reflex-Lynn and Ed both looked down at my hands while I was talking. The
Rev noticed that. He looked to see what they were looking at. You could almost see the
wheels turning in his head. It still took him a minute to figure it out.
I walked over to the door, and opened it, looking out until he could get hold of himself.
Watching a woman cry is bad, I hate it; but watching a man with tears running down his face
is just pitiful.
I couldn't sleep that night. Lynn and I were in a motel; we left the Rev with Ed. The two
of them seemed to get along OK, and I needed some time without anybody watching me, or
asking me questions.
I still didn't feel so good. Lynn insisted I take a cool bath, and some aspirin. The doc
wanted to see me the next day.
Lynn fell asleep almost right away. I lay awake, thinking. Always so much time to think,
When I was a kid, living in foster homes, I had lots of time to think, too. The first few
years, I thought mostly about the old man. How we'd meet up again, and what I'd do to him.
I couldn't grow fast enough. I had to be big and tough the next time I saw him. I had to
be able to take him down with my bare hands. I used to spend hours imagining all the
different ways I could kill him, trying to decide which was the best. By the time I was
on my own, though, I'd just about given up on ever seeing him again.
But it was strange, sometimes it seemed like even though he wasn't there taking after me
with his belt, or calling me a moron, I couldn't get away from him. It was like he was
always right around the corner; or just behind me, maybe, where I couldn't see. Maybe
that's what Lynn meant when she was talking about demons.
Lynn slept with her head on my shoulder. I had a really bad feeling about her being here.
She didn't seem to understand. It was up to me to make sure nothing happened to her. It
was up to me to make sure he couldn't hurt her, too. Had to be something I could do this
I thought about it the rest of the night. It was almost dawn before I had it all worked
out in my mind, knew what I had to do, how I'd have to do it. I kissed Lynn, and went to
The doc opened up the wound in my chest again, and put another tube in. The outside had
healed over, but the inside hadn't, and a lot of drainage had built up. I had to get a
bottle of pills to take. I felt better almost right away. Not great yet, maybe, but better.
Went to the station again after lunch. Ed had the psychiatrist's report. He looked a
little apprehensive when he handed it to me.
Well, he fooled them. They said they thought he was "out of touch with reality." Smart.
No trial till "after treatment". Then he could plead insanity at the trial, he could show
he'd already been treated………. If he was real good at acting remorseful, there was no telling
what a judge would decide.
And this was all assuming his lawyer didn't find some loophole. Assuming he didn't escape
during transport. Assuming…..
OK. About what I expected. No problem. I'd just take care of it myself.
"Can I talk to him?" I asked. "Just him and me?"
Ed looked confused. "Well, sure, Bud, you can go into the lockup whenever-"
"No, I mean without the bars between us. Maybe in an interrogation room. You know, if
he doesn't think there's anybody else listening, maybe he'd say something to me. When he
finds out who I am."
It only took Ed a second. "We could have the shrinks listening in one of the other rooms.
That what you had in mind? That might work. But Bud…..what if he really is crazy?"
I shrugged. "Haven't lost anything."
"I'll get on it." And he was on the phone setting it up.
When he hung up, I said, "We don't have to wait for them to get here before we get started,
do we? They'll be here pretty soon."
Just that easy, I was in the interrogation room alone with my old man, all the intercom
switches turned on.
"It's you again." He looked at me suspiciously. "What's going on now?"
"Just wanted to talk to you. You don't have to worry, there's nobody listening this time."
He looked through the door at the still empty outer room. "OK, what's going on?"
I shut the door. "I just wanted to have a chat." He shuffled to the table and sat down.
"Talk a little bit." I dragged one of the chairs to the door and shoved it up under the
doorknob, then kicked it tight. "Just you and me."
Suddenly he didn't look like the dim good-natured old geezer he'd been pretending to be.
His gaze was sharp. He looked right at me. "OK, so who are you, asshole? And what do
you want with me?" He looked over at the chair under the doorknob, and back at me.
"My name's Wendell White." I pulled out another chair and sat down across from him.
I watched him think for a minute. Then he burst out laughing. "You don't say? You're
Wendell, huh? God, I always hated that name." And he laughed some more.
"Yeah, I know. I remember."
"Well, you're wearing a suit, and a white shirt. I guess you're not pumping gas for a
living, then, huh?" When I didn't say anything, he went on, "You're not still pissed,
are you? Over that little fight we had? Hell, you were a kid. My pap used to knock me
around a lot worse than that." He patted his empty pocket. "You got any cigarettes?"
I shook my head. "Having to dodge a tire iron aimed at my head is more than just a little
"Well, it didn't hit you, did it? Just wanted to scare you a little bit. A man can't
put up with no sass in his own house. That's the right of it."
"Is that what you were doing with Ma? Scaring her?"
He chuckled. "You're still a mama's boy, ain't you? A pussy. Like your pussy uncle
Wendell. I couldn't believe your ma named you after that brother a' hers. Shit, I don't
think I ever seen a more dim-witted bum than he was." He shook his head. "And the way
she carried on after he kicked the bucket. You woulda thought he was something special."
He reached inside his pants pocket and pulled out a half-empty wrinkled pack of cigarettes.
"You want one?" He smiled.
"Jesus Christ. Maybe you are nuts."
"That why you're here? Wanting to see if the old man is a lunatic? Make a difference to
All these years, I thought about what I'd say to him if I ever saw him again; gone over it
and over it in my mind, had so many things ready to tell him. Now these past days, I hadn't
been able to tell him anything. Hadn't been able to say all those things that had been
rolling around in my head for so long; discovered that none of it mattered anymore. Only
one thing mattered.
"All I want is to make sure you never get outta here."
"Oh, I'm gonna get out, all right-don't you waste time worrying about that." He lit a
cigarette and threw the match on the floor. "I got it all figured out. Maybe when I get
out, I'll look you up. See whether you turned out to be a man or if you're still the same
stupid pansy-ass you were when you were a kid." He smiled, a sly look. "I saw that blonde
for a second through the glass when you left the lockup yesterday. She yours?" He sat
back in his chair, crossing his feet at the ankles. "How is she in the sack? Man, she's
something to look at---gave me a boner that wouldn't quit last night." He looked right at
me and kept smiling.
I was right. All along, I'd been right. Things had worked out just the way they were
supposed to, he was here, I was here, I knew what to do. Everything that had been eating
at me just sorta seemed to disappear, and I was really calm for the first time in days.
I smiled back at him. "Hope you enjoyed it. It's gonna be the last one you ever have."
He laughed again. "You think so?"
"I'm gonna make sure of it. You're fucking garbage, but you're my responsibility. So I'm
gonna do what needs to be done."
He stopped smiling. "Listen, you piece of shit," he leaned toward me and poked the two
fingers holding the cigarette at me. "I'm your pa and don't you forget it. You watch
your mouth when you talk to me."
"Or maybe I'll wipe the floor with your ass."
"Oh, yeah? No tire irons in here, you sonuvabitch. And I ain't twelve years old anymore."
"You know what? I ain't worried. You couldn't whip a cat. Never could." He looked me
up and down. "You ain't got the balls."
I stood up and started around the table.
He picked a piece of tobacco off his tongue and looked up at me out of the corners of his
eyes. "Yeah, you scare me. Tire irons, huh? I know what's eating you. Let me tell you
something about your ma. That bitch. She asked for it. I was just giving her what---"
I dimly remember hearing pounding on the door. I don't know when they broke it open. I
wasn't paying much attention. I was busy trying to kill my old man. Too bad they got my
hands off his neck before I managed it.
The old man went to the hospital with a concussion and a crushed windpipe. Not crushed
enough. I woulda had more time, but Lynn and the Rev had come up to the observation room
to see the old bastard. Ed had told them it was OK.
The cops the Rev got to break down the door broke two of my fingers getting them off the
old bastard's neck. Turned out later to be lucky it was my left hand. I told the
ambulance drivers to just tape the fingers together. If I'd thought I could have gotten
another chance at the old man, I would have gone to the hospital, but I knew I wouldn't.
I'd fucked it up. Had the opportunity and couldn't get it done. He was gonna be alive
and pissed, and I was gonna be in jail.
Lynn was across the room, sitting with the Rev. I watched her while she talked to him.
He was agitated about something, and he did most of the talking. I couldn't hear what he
was saying. She put her head down, her elbow on her knee, her forehead in her palm.
Didn't mean to bring you so much grief, baby, I thought. Not what I wanted.
It was almost like she heard me. Her head came up and she looked right at me. She says
she can see in my face what I can't say. So I didn't look away, I let her see whatever
was there to see. The Rev didn't seem to notice she wasn't listening to him anymore.
She looked a long time, and then her eyes got wide. She put a hand, trembling, to her
mouth and a tear rolled down one cheek. The Rev was still talking, but she got up and
walked across the room toward me, past the cops milling around, and the reporters who'd
been taking pictures of me, past the guys who were supposed to be watching me.
"He saw you. He asked about you."
"I know. I heard." She put a palm on each side of my face and kissed me. The uniforms
standing around me looked kinda uncomfortable. We ignored them.
"I shoulda got it done. I shoulda killed him."
"Shh, it's OK."
"No, I screwed it up. I'm sorry, baby. I keep screwing things up for you. It woulda
been better for you if you never met me."
"Hush." And she kissed me again. "I'm sorry I didn't stay home like you told me to. It's
my fault." She sat down on my lap. "I didn't understand. I knew about your mother, but I
didn't really understand everything, not until just a minute ago." This time she
kissed me long, and deep, and serious, not a sex kiss, but…..a life kiss, I guess. I was
pulling against the cuffs; stupid, but I couldn't help it. I knew they were going to take
me to a cell pretty soon, and I wanted to hold her. She stopped kissing me and stared at
my face for a long time.
"When they lock me up, " I said, "you have to go back to Bisbee. I'll tell Ed to keep
track of the old man. If Ed calls you and tells you he's out, you have to move and not
tell anyone where you're going. You don't know---"
She put a finger against my lips. "Bud," she said. If I died with her looking at me that
way, I think I'd die happy. She's so beautiful, it makes me ache all over to look at her.
"I love you too," she said. And this time her kiss was everything, sex and life and pain,
all at once.