I love woodworking and like many of you, I love to write about it.
This short story is my first attempt at something dramatic and I wanted to share it with you. I hope you’re OK with it. It was very hard to write.
Based on a true story.
No Good Deed
I believe you should pay it forward.
Our immortality lies in the knowledge you leave behind.
Our mark in the world lives on in the things we create..
I have tried to live by this motto as a carpenter, cabinet maker and a mentor to those in need.
But, it hasn’t always worked out the way I planned.
My wife and I met Mike when he moved into a rental house across the street. We always enjoyed it when he brought his little kids over to play with our two Retrievers, Abby and Jack. A few years later, he moved a few blocks away but he would stop by occasionally to visit with the kids so they could play with the dogs.
Then one day, he called on the phone desperately looking for a job. He said he was broke and needed money to pay bills and be able to buy Christmas presents for his kids.
At the time, we were working on on a large remodeling project and the deadline, right before Christmas eve was coming up fast so I hired him. I knew he was more of a handyman and a painter than a carpenter but I figured we could probably keep him busy.
Mike was a smooth talker and quickly made friends with the other carpenters and the clients were glad to see more people working on the project. He worked OK for the first week but then, things started to happen.
The other carpenters started complaining about his work habits. He was making mistakes and showing up late almost daily or he would take the day off without calling. Even the clients complained that he was spending a lot of time on smoke breaks and talking on his cell phone.
We didn’t want to hire a new guy considering we were a week away from Christmas. We were so close to finishing the job and I knew Mike needed the money to get through the holidays. We decided to spend a little more time working with him and keep our expectations in check.
I believe it’s true when they say, “Sometimes, it’s better to deal with the devil you know.”
That Friday after lunch, I encouraged Mike to help us out by stepping it up and staying off the phone. He seemed to respond OK so we shook hands, went back to work and cleaned up for the weekend. I felt glad we gave him a second chance and avoided having to fire a friend in need just weeks before Christmas.
The kids will have their presents after all.
As soon as I arrived, the clients pulled me aside and told me that there were several items missing from her jewelry box. Among the things missing were diamond rings, gold bracelets, emerald earrings and her grandmother’s diamond Tiffany watch. Mike hadn’t show up for work and wouldn’t answer his cell phone.
I was mortified. Never before has this happened to one of my clients.
That morning, two policemen and an investigator came to the house to dust for finger prints. The clients slowly began to discover there were several other things missing. They found Mike’s fingerprints in the master bedroom on her jewelry box but, he had permission to paint the new bedroom window trim so, they couldn’t arrest him.
After the investigators left, we went to the police station where we had to fill out forms and meet with a detective. I felt sick to my stomach as I listened to the client try to describe each piece of her jewelry as if it were a memory that was stolen.
They were so upset it was unbearable. We spent the rest of the day driving to every pawn shop we could find looking for her jewelry but to no avail. We were all emotionally exhausted.
We decided to take a break and give them some space for the rest of the week during the Christmas holidays. I felt horrible as I knew we ruined their Christmas and now, we missed our deadline.
The police found Mike at his house and convinced him to come down to the station where they questioned him. But, he refused to submit to a lie detector test and denied everything.
Several days later, the police called and said they recovered one of the items Mike stole and sold to his girlfriend. They immediately arrested him and put him in jail. But, Mike was released the next day when his sister posted bond. He told her he had an old warrant for a speeding ticket…. and she believed him.
Late that night,
Mike slowly drove by our house and threw hundreds of ice cubes out of his car window, spiked with poison,
all over the snow covered yard.
The next morning, I let Abby and Jack out to go potty and play in the snow. I noticed Abby girl was eating something and went over to see what it was. The little brown ice cubes were everywhere, sitting at the bottom of five inch deep mouse holes that peppered the snow like Swiss cheese.
I quickly forced her mouth open to see if she ate anything but couldn’t tell for sure. I brought the dogs back inside and immediately called the police. I couldn’t believe what was happening.
I thought, it must be Mike. He’s trying to kill my dogs. Why would he come after me and my dogs? It was his girlfriend who turned him in. I tried to help him.
A police officer came and collected some of the poisoned ice cubes for analysis and said they would call in a few weeks with the results. The officer was dumbfounded that someone would do this. He shook his head, took a few pictures, wrote down some notes and left.
I spent the rest of the day raking the whole yard looking for every single ice cube.
I kept thinking, What did he put in those ice cubes? How many ice cubes are in a tray?
What would happen if I missed one? And, what can the police do about it?
I was afraid to let the dogs out alone again. I couldn’t take the chance.
Two days later around midnight, he drove by and threw out another batch of poisoned ice cubes.
The police showed up again and took more samples. They said that unless I had a witness there was nothing they could do. They suggested we get a security camera so the next day, I bought one and installed it facing the front yard. I felt like we finally had a way to catch him. I stayed up late every night watching the yard, waiting for him.
A week went by and just when I thought maybe it was over, he drove by again. But this time I caught him on tape. The police came by and watched him on the video as he threw out around 60 ice cubes but they said it was too dark.
It was the same car as his but they couldn’t read the license plate. He also had a gray hooded sweat shirt on which made it hard to see his face and therefore, it wasn’t enough proof.
This went on for over two and a half months.
I couldn’t work. I spent most of my time checking the yard for anything that looked suspicious, staring out the window, watching the road and reviewing video tapes for any evidence.
I was determined to protect my family and catch this guy who was hell bent on killing my dogs.
Then early one morning,
Abby started throwing up and looked terribly sick so we drove her to the vet. After several tests they told us her kidneys and liver were shutting down …... there was nothing they could do for her.
We took her home and stayed by her side for several days knowing the time was near. She had stopped eating and looked so sad and miserable. This was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make…..
I couldn’t help but feel – This is my fault.
My wife and I never had kids. We tried but it just wasn’t meant to be. Our friend’s kids and our dogs are like our children but Abby girl, she was remarkable. She was almost nine years old and had such a sweet personality.
She could look you right in the eye, smile at you and make you smile back.
Everyone loved her.
On the last day, we took Abby and Jack for a slow walk to the park and spent the rest of the day close to her at home. She looked up at me as if she knew something was wrong. I laid down next to her, stroking her ears, counting the minutes before it was time.
She licked the tears from my eyes and tried to show me her smile as if she wanted to cheer me up.
She was such a sweet girl ….. And now, she’s gone.
That night, I sat in our car in the driveway, ..... waiting for him to drive by.
Breathing heavy and feeling faint, I rolled the window down a bit to help fight the nausea that comes and goes. Snow falls lightly, only visible under the street light in front of our house. A few snowflakes float through the open window and land on my face, mixing with tears from deep felt emotions that have haunted me for days.
What did Abby do to deserve this? ... and now, he wants to kill Jack….. Why?
A car approaches from the end of the block. Sitting still, straining, I can barely see through the dark.
I watch intently as the street light reveals, it’s a small white car,
...... But, it’s not him.
Cold air pours through the window and makes me shiver. Pulling my coat tighter, I roll the window up and wait. Heartburn rips my at empty gut from no desire to eat. The silence allows thoughts to run wild without restraint. Thoughts that swell up inside like surging waves crashing down. Tears burning my eyes and I’m short of breath.
Over and over, l kept thinking, Abby is gone. He killed her for no reason. She didn’t deserve to die.
The cold steel of a revolver stings my hand as I hold it tight. Not really sure why, but there it is.
Another car is coming. .
I wait, slowing my breath while squinting to see through the dark but it soon becomes apparent,... it’s not him.
Sighing heavily, I wondered if he will drive by again at midnight.
An hour seem to pass and still nothing. I am so weary, I know I should stop this nonsense and go back inside the house. There is so much angst inside of me, I am exhausted from this constant theater of movie script like imaginings of revenge that always lead back to one thing – How can I make this go away?
I rehearsed different scenes in my mind until it made my head pound, knowing I can’t. He will get away with killing her and there’s nothing I can do about it.
My swollen eyes finally give up and close tight. I can’t think about it anymore. Breathing deep, the warmth returns as I melt into the car seat. I must gain control of this.
If I can be still,.... just for a moment.
Sitting there in the dark, waiting, drifting in and out of sleep. Thoughts fade between dreams and memories.
I can see Abby’s eyes, she’s smiling at me with her toothy smile. Her tail is wagging so hard, she just about knocks me down! We’re running in the park with jack, chasing squirrels, chewing sticks, .... We were together.
I hear a car approaching.
Frost has suddenly appeared on the inside of the windshield and I can barely see. A white car is moving unusually slow; slow enough to make me think, this could be him. The car rolls under the street light and I can see a man in a gray hooded sweatshirt looking toward our house. He doesn’t notice me sitting in the car as he approaches but I can see the glow of his Camel cigarette hanging from his mouth,
.... and I just know it’s him.
After passing in front of me, he suddenly speeds up and takes off. I quickly start the car, throw it in gear and floor it, trying to catch up to him.
He runs the stop sign and speeds down the streets, weaving between the parked cars. I‘m trying my best to catch up to him but then, he slows down and turns in to a gas station and comes to a dead stop next to the gas pump.
I quickly pull up next to him but I can barely see through the frost so I roll the window down.
My chest is pounding….my mind is spinning, What is he doing? Why doesn’t he get out?
He’s sitting there in the dark looking at you with that smirk on his face,.... daring you to get out.
I grab the gun in my lap and squeeze it tight.
He’s waiting for you to do something. Go ahead! No one will blame you. He deserves it.
This is nuts! .... what am I doing!
If you don’t, he will continue to stalk you. He won’t stop. He already killed Abby…...
Are you going to let him kill Jack?
My heart is about to explode in my chest.
Do it man, .... Just Do it .......... DO IT …....
BLAM! – BLAM! – BLAM! – BLAM! – BLAM! – BLAM! – click – click – click …... click.
The bullet riddled car door opens and the driver, a young teenager falls out like a rag doll in a gray sweatshirt, covered in blood.
..... But, it’s not him.
I get out of the car and look down at the boy in horror as the snow covered driveway slowly turns blood red.
I look up and realize several people are staring at me in disbelief as I stand over him, holding the warm gun in my hand.
Everything is surreal, ......... like a slow moving film.
People are running, hiding behind cars and yelling something but I can’t hear them. I accidentally drop the gun and suddenly feel faint, dropping to my knees, weak from exhaustion. The lights fade as I close my eyes, shutting out the world, turning it all off,
.... As if it never happened.
Suspended in time, a loud noise like the buzz of an old florescent light blares in my head and I feel numb.
Thump, thump, thump. I can hear my heart beating loudly.
I force my weary eyes open and look around in the dark, trying to see.
THUMP THUMP THUMP!
I look up and there, .... standing outside the car door is my wife,
knocking on the window.
She shouts, “Honey, ... come to bed, It’s past midnight.
And, please put that gun away before you hurt someone.”
It was just, ... a dream.
I went inside and put the gun back in the safe. That’s when I noticed the damn thing wasn’t even loaded.
The next morning, there was a loud knock on the door …... It was that same policeman.
I answered the door, Yes, Officer?
“Morning… I thought you’d want to know, Mike was killed last night while trying to rob a gas station.
So, you don’t have to worry about him anymore…..
In memory of Abby,
I miss you, girl.
-- Mark - I prefer the tumult of liberty to the quiet of servitude.