"She won't stop crying," Kenny announced as he stomped into the kitchen.
Darion reached down and wiped the tears from his little brother's face.
"Momma won't stop crying," repeated Kenny.
"She'll be okay." Darion peered around the corner and looked down the hall into his mother's room. She was still in there with Mr. Bradley, crying on his shoulder. His mother's new boyfriend was the last guest. The first to arrive and, so far, the last to leave... if he ever decided to leave. Sometimes he spent the night... and Darion prayed that this wasn't going to be one of those times.
"It's late." said Darion. "Everbody else is gone, why his he still here. Aint nobody even put you to bed yet, Kenny." The family, the friends, the preacher, all had stopped in to pay their respects. Not a stranger in the bunch, but Darion was still impatient for them all to go. Every "I'm so sorry," and "What a shame- why'd it have to happen," only made things worse. It only brought more tears and pain, and Darion had had quite enough. The preacher was the worst, all that going on about God and 'His Will'. God didn't have nothing to do with what happened. No, Terrence's death was the sole responsibility of one man... Rikky Foster.
"The Dead Man," whispered Darion. Kenny looked up at him and wrapped himself around Darion's leg, crying into his thigh.
"Why won't mom stop crying?" he bawled.
Because every time she gets ahold of herself some fat bitch or greedy-ass preacher says something to set her off again, thought Darion.
"She'll be okay," he said instead. "Everything's gonna be all right." He wondered if Kenny even understood what was going on.
There was movement from mom's room. Someone was getting up from the bed. Darion looked up and saw Mr. Bradley walking towards him. He appeared to be leaving. Darion sighed, and the knot inside his chest loosened.
"I'm going out to the car to get some things." said Mr. Bradley as he approached the boys. "I'm spending the night."
Darion's heart sank.
Mr. Bradley either ignored or didn't notice the venom in Darion's voice.
"Your mother needs..."
"She needs family, and that ain't you."
"Come on, Darion. You, Kenny and your mother are like family to me. After the funeral and all what's been going on, we all need to be together."
"Stop tellin' me what I need. I need to get outta here. You can lay around here and cry all over each other if you want to, but I'm gone. And since you just movin on in... you can put Kenny to bed."
"Darion, you can't go out. It's late. It's dangerous out there."
"Never stopped nobody before."
"But Darion, that boy that killed your brother is still out there."
"Oh, so now we're supposed to be hiding? Is that it?"
"Darion, your mother-"
"Can't stop me and neither can you." Darion spun around and stormed toward the door. Mr. Bradley called after him, but Darion was out the door and halfway down the steps before he even thought about turning back. The thought was summarily dismissed. He wanted to be alone, without people offering him sympathy, support and snotty handkerchiefs every ten seconds. Nobody could help him feel better but himself. And maybe Rikky Foster.
Darion went wherever his thoughts took him. At first, that was just the front steps of the apartment building. He sat down to think, but Mr. Bradley came rushing out, trying to catch up with him. He saw Darion on the steps, and, satisfied that the youth hadn't gone far, went back inside without a word. Shortly after that, Darion stood up, stretched, and started off down the street.
As he walked, his mind worked over the events that had brought him here. Glimpses of his brother's death... gunshots in the afternoon... police at the door... momma bursting out into hysterical screams. The body had been so cold and gray at the wake. Darion remembered reaching out to touch it; it was like... like nothing his sixteen-year-old brain could describe. Then the funeral... just a fancy show for a bunch of people who never said two words to Terrence when he was alive. The men were dressed in black suits that made them all look like monkeys. The entire affair was like the zoo that Terrence had taken him to when he was home for spring break last year. A bunch of sweaty, smelly animals... only quieter. Much quieter. Then that damned preacher opened his fool mouth and set half the bitches in the church to sobbing. Men AND women. Why couldn't everybody just shut up and go home. And leave him and his family alone...
Darion's normally calm, stoic demeanor, grew stern and dark. He deftly avoided everyone he knew, steering away from the basketball courts where his friends hung out, and quickly ducking into the shadows when he saw a familiar face. It occurred to him that he probably looked very suspicious. Like a criminal. Maybe if he walked and thought like a criminal for long enough, he'd eventually run into one. A certain murdering bitch in particular. Then what? Darion didn't have a gun, although he could get one with no problem. Especially now that he had a good enough reason to want one. Maybe that was something he should take care of right now. He was just out walking, tonight, but he'd certainly be out looking for Rikky soon enough, so why not start making arrangements. Who could he go to? Shaun? Jihad? Jihad. Yes, Jihad could hook him up with no problem.
A weak smile flashed across Darion's lips. His mind settled comfortably into his resolve to avenge his brother. It seemed to fit him well.
He made right a the next street, heading for Jihad's crib. He couldn't make the deal today, but he could set it up for later. Not too much later, though. The smile widened.
Darion had a sudden urge to go to the bathroom. He was too far from any stores, not that any would be open this late, so he ducked into the nearest alley. He was halfway down when a noise drew his attention. There was a wino camped out up ahead. The filthy drunk coughed and looked in Darion's direction.
"Excuse me," said Darion as he turned and headed away. He decided he'd wait until later.
"Wait. Can I talk to you?"
"No... you can't suck my dick for five dollars, so don't ask."
"No. That's not what I want."
Darion stopped and turned. The man standing in the alley wasn't the same wino that was there before. The drunk was gone. Now there was a tall, lean man in a suit standing in front of where the wino was laying. A shadow covered the man's face.
"Who are you?" Darion asked.
"Hope. Mr. Hope."
"That ain't tellin' me nothin'. Who are you? What do you want?"
"I saw you walking, and I thought I recognized you. Aren't you one of the Smith boys? Darion, right?"
"Uh-huh. Am I supposed to know you?"
"Not directly, no. But I've seen you around. Shame about your brother."
"Whatever, man." Darion didn't like this stranger, but there was something about him. Something that piqued his curiosity.
"Do they know who did it?"
"Everybody knows. Rikky Foster shot him out by Krang's grocery. Took his money and shot him."
"A thief and a murderer, eh? I'll bet you're looking for this guy Foster. Looking for this thief that stole your brother?"
"No." Not yet.
"But you wouldn't mind running into him, would you? In a dark alley somewhere, kinda like this one? You'd have something for him then, wouldn't you, Darion."
Darion backed away. Something wasn't right here.
"You know, Darion, I stole something from someone, once. Something that might be useful to you..."
"I don't care what you stole. I don't want nothin' from you."
"That's what your mouth says... but it lies.. I can see it on your face. Read it in your eyes. Every fiber of you being screams your desire to the world. I can hear it. You want what I have."
"Uh-huh. I'm outta here."
Darion turned to make a hasty retreat, but immediately stopped when he saw the mysterious Mr. Hope had appeared in front of him.
"Whaaa!" yelled Darion. He was now trapped. "I'm gonna scream."
"We both know how much good that will do. Please, Darion. Hear me out."
"Okay. I'm gonna scream and then I'm gonna kick your ass if you don't let me outta here. I don't want nothing from you."
"But you don't even know what it is I'm offering. And since you're trapped in this alley with me, you might as well hear me out, yes?"
Darion took stock of the situation. He was indeed trapped, the stranger was between him and the mouth of the alley. Despite his words, Darion had no intention of getting into a physical confrontation with Mr. Hope. He didn't know what kind of weapons the stranger had tucked away in his long coat.
"What you got?" he said finally.
"What I got?" mocked Mr. Hope with smile that was almost too wide for his face. "Come here and I'll show you."
"I'm here. What you got?"
"Come closer. I'll show you."
"Show me from there."
"It's... difficult to explain. You'll have to experience it for youself."
"I ain't doing no drugs, man. Lemme outta here or I'm gonna scream for real."
"It isn't drugs. It's better than drugs. You can get what the rest of these fools have been looking for all their lives. I've got it right here."
"Just come over here. You want Rikky, don't you? You want him to suffer?"
"What I want is for you to g-"
"Do you or don't you?"
"I can help you. All you have to do is say it."
"Say what brought you out here. What drove me to you. Say you want Rikky dead. Say you want him to suffer like he has made your family suffer."
"I want-" Darion jerked. Mr. Hope was suddenly a good deal closer to him than he was before. He seemed to have moved several feet without having taken one step. "What's going on?"
"Rikky-" The non-movement came again. Mr. Hope was now almost toe-to-to with Darion. "I want him dead."
"You want him to suffer?"
"I want him to suffer."
"And you want me to help you."
"I... if you can help me, then... do it, okay?"
Without warning, Mr. Hope reached out and encircled Darion's waist with his arm. He drew the youth close to him, and then cradled the back of his head with his other head. He leaned down in a lover's embrace and planted his thin, cold lips against Darion's.
Darion struggled to break the man's grip, but to no avail. Mr. Hope's strength was phenomenal. He felt the stranger's lips part. Then something fleshy and cold slid past his own lips. Their tongues dueled for an instant, and then the thing oozed back towards his throat. Darion gagged, lurched, and then swallowed. The thing quickly turned to fire in his belly.
Mr. Hope backed away, wiping his lips on his sleeve.
Darion looked down at the gun in his hand... and understood.
Rikky shuffled up to the dumpster and unzipped his pants. The smell of rancid garbage and his own urine assaulted him as he relieved himself in the darkness behind the grocery store.
"ahhhhhh..." he grunted as his piss splashed against the wall.
"Hey!" came a shout from behind him. Rikky crooked his neck to look; it was just some kid. Not a cop... not somebody working late that the Kroger. Hell, nobody, worked this late in this neighborhood.
"What'choo wont!" called Rikky. He zipped his pants and turned around. Then he saw the gun.
"Shut up, Bitch!"
The 'pop' of the revolver never reached his ears. The hot slug had already shattered his skull and splattered chunks of gray matter all over the brick wall behind him. Rikky's body hit the ground like a sack of rotten meat. His limbs still jerked involuntarily for several seconds.
Darion towered over the dead flesh and kicked it with his sneaker. Then he kicked it again, harder.
"I ain't finished, yet, bitch." his voice was laced with pain and venom. He fixed his eyes on the dead murderer, and uttered one word: "Live."
Rikky jerked awake, as if from a some nightmare.
"Remember me, motherfucker? Lemme remind you... this is what you did to my brother..."
Darion emptied the gun into Rikky's face, reducing it to an unrecognizable, bloody mess.
"Naw, bitch!" he screamed at the corpse. "Live!"
Rikky opened his eyes and screamed.
Darion kicked the youth in the ribs and then began beating him with the empty gun. The first hit stunned Rikky, and the remaining one shattered his forehead and cheekbones. He bit his own tongue nearly in half just before all of his front teeth were knocked out. Rikky tried to fight back, but the sound of his own skull cracking open took the fight right out of him. Rikky slipped away into unconsciousness... and then death...
Rikky opened his eyes and stared up at the face of a demon. The beating began again, and did not end until Rikky lay still...
"noooo...." Rikky managed to say before his jaw was kicked out of place. Everything else was a storm of pain that ended in darkness...
"AAAGIIIIIIIIGHH!!!" he screamed. His only though before darkness claimed him was he must already be dead... and that this was Hell...
He was standing. Had someone helped him?
"S-somebody..." he mumbled. Then he heard the sound of glass breaking. A horribly familiar face came at him with a broken bottle. Rikky tired to run, but in all his confusion he only stumbled and fell back against the wall of the grocery. Darion stood over him and pressed the sharp end of the bottle to Rikky's throat.
"Saw this one on TV, bitch. Wanna see if it works."
Rikky felt a sharp pain, and then the warmth of his blood running down his chest like a river....
The boy had a knife. It was Rikky's... the one that he always carried with him. If he had only kept his gun...
"Lemme show you what you did to my momma!"
The knife sliced through Rikky's chest and impaled his still beating heart... ending his life once more..
How, long... thought Rikky how many times...
"Now I see why you like killin' motherfuckers so much, bitch. This is fun." said Darion. "Only my brother didn't do shit to you! You shoulda left us alone!"
"ARRRGH!!!!" Rikky grunted as Darion sliced open his abdomen. His last image was that of his own entrails being strewn about the ally like Christmas decorations...
He couldn't breath. The pain... He realized with horror that he was being choked with his own intestines...
After that, the torture only grew worse...
HAUNTED? For the sixth time this month, police were
summoned last night to Ogles Cemetery on reports of strange noises
and possible vandals on the premises. Investigators searched
the premises once again, but they found no signs of vandalism
or any electronic devices that could be responsible for the feint,
screaming noises that have been consistently reported by cemetery
caretaker, Punch Johnson.
"I heard it start up around midnight," said Mr. Johnson.
"Just like last time. Them cops say they didn't hear nothin'
when dey got here, but I know least one of em' did. He say he
want ta go get the dogs, but dem others talk him out of it. They
think I'm crazy, but I know I ain't. And I got good ears. Always
had good ears... good hearin' runs in my fam-ly. This time I
saw sump'm too... Dis fella come over the fence and lean down
next to dat grave over there. He lean in close, like he whisperin'
a secret or somethin... and that's when the screamin' start, like
somebody been buried alive..."
Police were unavailable for comment.
Copyright 1998 by Marc Washington