DEMONS

   
Part 6
The Rev was the one who broke it up. He stood behind Lynn and cleared his throat about a dozen times. I heard him but tried really hard to ignore him. I didn't want her to stop until she had to, until they came to take me downstairs. When Lynn looked up, he said, "I don't think this is the appropriate time or place for this." He didn't look happy. "I told him we weren't married," Lynn said. Oh. No wonder he was looking at me like that again, like I was that ax-murderer moved back into the neighborhood. Ed appeared in the doorway and motioned to Lynn. "I'll be back," she said, and she went to see what he wanted. The Rev didn't go with her. "So which is worse, Rev, fornication or murder?" I was watching her walk down the hall. I missed her already. "I don't know what to think about you. I felt for you because of the terrible experiences you've had, but I watched you calmly put your hands around that man's neck and try to kill him, and I can't condone that. And I thought you loved Lynnie, and now I find out you just want……" I kinda felt sorry for him. He couldn't even say it. He was really out of his element here. He oughta go back to Bisbee, and all those teenagers thinking impure thoughts. I sighed. "How can I ask someone like her to tie herself to someone like me? Huh? Especially now, I'll probably be going to jail. I might never see her again." His brow wrinkled. "I think she would wait, Bud. I think she cares for you." I had to smile. "Yeah. That's something, isn't it? But what I meant was, if I go to prison for attempted murder, there's liable to be some guys in there that I put there. I might not come out." "Well….but….what could they do to you there? I mean, it's a prison…..there are guards……" He stopped talking because I was laughing. "Take my word for it, OK?" "The Bible says that those that live by the sword die by the sword. I guess that applies here." After a few moments, he said, "You would have gone to prison if you had succeeded in killing him. Or were you going to attempt to deceive everyone?" "No, Reverend, I knew I'd go to jail." "Then I'm afraid I'm baffled. This makes no sense." "Did you hear the old man talking about Lynn?" He nodded and actually blushed. "What do you suppose will happen if his lawyers get him off somehow? Don't shake your head that way, it happens. What do you suppose he'll do?……Are you going to protect her? Or are you going to leave it in God's hands?" "That's what we all have to do, Bud, I think you know that." I shook my head. "So is God going to keep him from hurting her? Is God going to protect her?" "He may…." "The way he protected my mother? Was that God's will? Are you going to tell me God wanted my mother to die that way?" "I don't have all the answers, Bud…." "I know that, Rev, I know that. But I've never seen God save anybody from anything. And I'll tell you what I think. I think that old bastard is the devil himself, and I think the only way to make sure he can't hurt anybody else is to get rid of him entirely. And if you hadn't stopped me, the old man wouldn't be a problem anymore, and Lynn would be safe." "Son…if you had killed him, you'd have lost your immortal soul. You'd burn in hell." "But Lynn would be safe." I had to laugh at him again. He'd apparently forgotten I was that ax-murderer. "Anyway, I think I already have my reservations for the afterlife, don't you?" I was pretty cheerful for just having fucked up my life and Lynn's as well, I admit it. By rights, I shoulda been sorta anxious, I suppose. But Lynn loved me. God knows I didn't deserve it, but there it was. And not even the fear of God the Rev was trying to put into me was more important. I figured in a coupla minutes I'd have to come back to earth and let them lock me up; there'd be time enough then to be blue, to worry. Right now, just for this moment, I was going to enjoy it. Actually, I probably could live on that last kiss for a long time. Reverend Skinner was just staring at me, kind of a puzzled look on his face. "Reverend…why don't you go back home? You do a lot better in Bisbee. LA's maybe kinda hard to figure when you're used to a small town." His brow wrinkled even more. "It shouldn't be. Right and wrong should be the same everywhere." "See, that's the problem. You're thinking everything's either right or wrong. Good or evil. Black or white. I haven't come across too many things like that. Most things are some of each." "So you tried to kill your father, knowing you'd go to prison, and probably be killed yourself….to make sure Lynn would be shielded from harm….." "…..Yeah……Wouldn't you, if it was you?" "Committing murder, at the same time laying down your life for someone else……a conundrum….. good and evil in the same act……selfless culpability……." I decided he was talking to himself. Lynn and Ed came back in. Lynn looked quietly happy. Ed didn't. "I hope you know," he said, unlocking my cuffs, "that this cancels out any debt I may owe you." "What're you doing?" "I've been convinced," this with a sideways look at Lynn, "that the elder Mr. White's injuries were the result of self-defense on your part after he attacked you." That got the Rev's attention. "That's not so. How can you say that?" "Sir," Ed said very carefully. "We have a statement from a witness that Bud was defending himself." "I hope you're not asking me to lie." "No, sir, I wouldn't do that. I think….we're just not asking you." I stood up and rubbed my wrists. "Are you sure you want to do this? If I get the chance again…I 'm gonna kill him. You know that." "Well, we'll just have to make sure you don't get the chance."
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The telephone woke me up the next morning. I leaned over Lynn to answer it; she turned toward me, slid her knee up and over my hip. It was suddenly kinda hard to concentrate. I said, "Yeah," into the phone, and then lost the receiver for a second when her arms went round my neck. "Sorry…yeah. Ed……" I said that much, and then Lynn's lips were in the way. After she moved from my mouth to my neck, I managed, "I'll call you back." I think maybe he said, "Don't hang up the phone," but Lynn's tongue was in my ear, so who knows? Anyway, I meant to hang up, but Lynn was on top of me and I couldn't quite reach…. and so I didn't…..and I didn't really care at this point, anyway. If he kept listening, he got an earful, especially after I rolled her over; we were probably almost laying on the receiver. When the knocking started at the door, I wasn't quite ready to get up and answer it. It had progressed to pounding by the time I yanked my underwear on and went to the door. The Rev almost hit me in the face with his fist when I threw open the door. "This better be fucking important-" "Ed needs to talk to you." He was tousled, wild-eyed. "Ed can go-" "It's about your father."
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I didn't have to say I told you so to the Rev. He knew. Although we never spoke of it again, I imagine the thought of the man the old bastard had killed haunted him for the rest of his life. "I thought he was injured." Lynn had gotten dressed in the bathroom while I was on the phone; the Rev sat on the edge of the bed with his head in his hands. "Yeah, well, I guess he's a tough old bird." "How…?" "Nothing complicated. He killed a maintenance man for his clothes, and stole a car. Nobody was watching real close 'cause, like you said, he was supposed to be hurt." "He was hurt. I saw him when they took him out to the ambulance." "Yeah, not hurt enough." I reached for my pants and put them on. "You two need to get in the car and take off. Go back home." I grabbed my gun out of the suitcase, and checked to make sure it was loaded. "Bud….I don't want to go." I put the gun down on the top of the suitcase. "It's gonna be all right, baby. Don't worry. C'mere." I walked a coupla steps toward her, she came the rest of the way to meet me. I had my arms around her when the door opened and he staggered in. Where he got his gun, we never did find out. But he had one, and it was pointed at me and Lynn. "You fucking sonuvabitch," he snarled. "This is all your fault." He could hardly talk; it was hard to understand him. There was blood on his face, and on his coveralls. He had a shiner starting to pop up and turn colors. Looked like maybe the maintenance man fought back. "I shoulda killed you when you were still a pup." "Yeah, you shoulda." There was something hanging out of the stitches on his neck, and he was wheezing pretty bad. His eyes looked strange; I suppose he was full of painkillers. He wasn't real steady on his feet, either, but as close as he was, I was pretty sure he could kill me with the first shot regardless. I shoved Lynn behind me. "Get on the floor, baby." For once she did what I asked her to. I was just a step too far away from my own gun to jump for it with any chance of staying alive, but I was going to have to try it anyway. I could see his finger tighten on the trigger. The Rev was suddenly on his feet and right in front of the old man, standing between me and the gun aimed at me. I heard the shot as I dove for my gun. Went down on the floor, rolled over, and pulled the trigger as the Rev. crumpled. It wasn't a pretty shot, kinda down and left of where it shoulda been, but it did the job. The old man fell backward with a thump. "Oh, my God." Lynn scrambled over to the Rev. The bullet had taken him below the collarbone on the left side, so if he was gonna die, he'd do it pretty soon. If he lived until the ambulance arrived, then he'd probably be OK. 'Course he wasn't young anymore. When he opened his eyes a little later, Lynn kissed him on the cheek, and he smiled briefly before his face twisted with pain. "Hey, Rev," I said, leaning over him. "Pretty stupid to risk getting killed to save somebody like me." He smiled again. "I know." His eyes closed and I thought he went back to sleep, but then he said, "I'm still not sure who's right." "It's OK-you're gonna have plenty of time to think about it."
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The Rev had a hard fight before he got well enough to come home. His sister came to take care of him there. I came just about every day after work to sit with him. Once I brought a notebook and a pencil with me, and laid it on the table in front of him. I thought he was gonna keel over laughing. His sister took her broom to me, and shooed me off the porch, and then clucked over him like a mother hen. He still disagrees with me on most things, but I think he's decided to stop trying to save my soul. We have an arrangement; I don't tell him anything that'll upset him, and he doesn't ask. Some days we don't talk much, but that's OK, too. He told me once he prays for me, but he's not sure that's gonna be enough.
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I guess I thought when my old man was gone, things would be different somehow. And they were, a little. Not much. It comes back to that demon thing, I think. I got rid of the demon I could see. But it's the ones I can't see that're hard to handle. I feel sometimes like he's still here with me, like he's whispering in my ear what a moron I am. Lynn tells me I'm not stupid, and I try to believe her, but sometimes it's hard to remember. And I can never forget, no matter how often she says it doesn't matter anymore, that I hit Lynn. I love her more than I ever loved anybody except maybe my mother, and I belted her anyway. At the time, it seemed like the only thing to do, the answer to the pain I was feeling. I think about it. I watched my old man beat up my mother and I hated him for it. I hate women beaters. And then I did it myself. I don't understand it. We've had arguments. I get mad. I hit things; I break things sometimes. Can't seem to help it. It always seems, right then, like the only thing to do. I think I'd want to die if I ever hurt her again, but I can't guarantee the old man won't be there the next time I get upset, whispering inside my head, goading me, telling me she's asking for it, that this will take care of things once and for all. I should leave her. For her own safety. Like the Rev said once. But I need to be with her. You know? And she says she needs me. So I gave Lynn her own gun. I taught her how to use it. She's not supposed to tell me where she keeps it. I told her if I ever scare her, she's supposed to go and get it. If I ever come after her to hurt her, she's supposed to point it and pull the trigger. She cried; she kissed me. Said she couldn't do that. I made her promise, anyway. But I worry. FINIS

part 5

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