Happy New Year, you guys!
So, I have almost all of this story written but there are a few scenes scattered throughout that need to be finished. One of those comes in the middle of this chapter, and sadly, I have been too sick to write it this week. But I didn't want to not post something, so what you have is the first part of this chapter. What I'm trying to tell you is, I'M SO FUCKING SICK, OH MY GOD. I think I caught a man cold, no lie.
If you haven't been reading this and you still want to, quit here and go start reading here, then go to Part II here. And onto Part III here. As always I'd like to thank the generous donors of Fandom Gives Back for making this story see the light of day.
Hope you are all healthy and in eager anticipation of rockin' New Years Eve plans. I'll be toasting all of you with a fizzy glass of Airborne right before I pass out at around 7:30.
xoxo and Happy 2012.
Reckoner, Part IV, i.
I ran north, all the way up to the town of Caribou without stopping. I didn’t answer the phone, didn’t read any text messages. I didn’t care if they called me a coward, or an asshole or even a brother or son. I only cared that I find some way to get them out of harm’s way. That meant I needed distance, and lots of it. Quickly. Eventually, I’d come back a solitary vampire like Mercy. And then I could kill whomever I damn well pleased for whatever reason suited me.
I booked a room at the Caribou Lodge, ignoring the tired old woman behind the counter when she raised her eyes at my lack of luggage.
“I’m just here for the hookers,” I said with a smile, slapping a pile of hundred dollar bills down on the counter. She scowled and thought I didn’t notice when she pocketed all of it.
For the first two weeks I stayed alone in a poorly decorated third-rate hotel room. Bad pastel wall paper, uncomfortable, cheap furniture, an outdated television I never watched. A bible I thumbed through now and then. I was still plagued daily by the unfaded vision of the woman of my dreams and by the twisted face of the man I’d killed in her name, whatever it was. I fantasized all the different ways I might kill Allston Kaine, too. Hell. All twelve Kaines. Why not? Really, why the fuck not? They were all murderers when it came down to it, and was I the Reckoner or not?
After another week of incessant stewing in that depressing hole, I desperately needed to hunt, but Caribou was somewhat lacking in rapists, child molesters and murderers. I could have hunted elk or moose or bear but if I was really going so far as to renounce my family, I wanted to indulge my thirst for human blood. I needed a bad guy.
After days of fruitless stalking in Caribou’s public school, church and three bars, I wandered over to the medical center in Fort Kent where I pretended to be a psychotic tourist. It had been awhile since I’d indulged the sicker side of my sense of humor, but the laughter that ensued when the poor intern tried to find my pulse only added to the authenticity of my ruse. Eventually, after they found that no needle could penetrate my skin and the Thorazine they administered by mouth had absolutely no effect, they called the local police. I thought I might hang out in the jail and see who came in, but before the local law enforcement team arrived, I’d found my next kill.
He was on the young side and I’d never enjoyed killing young men, but beggars couldn’t be choosers and I was feeling sketchy by then. My victim was a skinny, pale alcoholic kid, early twenties. Jimmy Colter was his name. He was an EMT and he had startling, relentless thoughts of a fixed murder-suicide plot with what appeared to be his ex-girlfriend, some girl named Jolene. I followed him home and watched him carefully load his handgun from his bedroom window. He still lived with his parents, there were still superhero posters on the wall, an old lamp with footballs printed on the paper shade. He drank two Budweisers from a can in under ten minutes, and then got into his truck and drove to the girl’s trailer. I dragged him out from behind the wheel before she even came to the door.
Out in the woods he struggled to run away but I held him firmly with his arms behind his back, dragging his legs behind him through the underbrush of the forest floor. There was some survival instinct left in this one, that was obvious and that for some reason pleased me. His eyes were blue, his hair was black and unwashed, probably for days. He shivered, underdressed for the dropping November temperature. When I found a good killing spot, I let him go and he ran, but I caught him easily. After a couple of more chases, he finally stopped trying to get away.
“What… are you?” he asked. “What do you want with me?”
“I know what you’re planning to do to her—what’s her name?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He stammered and nearly pissed in his pants, shifting from foot to foot as he wrung his hands together.
“Jolene,” I said as he thought her name, and then he began to cry softly. I hated when they did that. “That’s her, right? What did she do to piss you off so bad?”
“She… she slept with my cousin Ted. It all went to shit after that.”
“You were going to shoot her and then kill yourself in her kitchen? You think that’s justified for infidelity? Seriously?”
He didn’t say anything. He didn’t even ask me how I knew. He just cried harder.
“Do you know what I am?” I asked.
“Are you a cop or something?”
“No,” I said. “I’m the Reckoner.”
“I kill rapists and murderers.”
“Shit,” he whispered and began to tremble. Then he wiped more tears from the corner of his eyes and surveyed the woods. He began to scream for help and I just watched him go through all those emotions, the fear, the denial. The fight. He tried to run again and I dragged him back, finally limp with resignation and sobbing into his shirt sleeve.
He didn’t ask me to spare him and that bothered me. They usually beg for another chance, swear to do better. Promise to turn things around, to find Jesus—something, anything they think will convince me to let them go. This kid didn’t do any of that, though. He just lay there crying, didn’t even try to hide it.
“I need a drink,” he said. “Do I get a last request or anything?”
“Are you serious?”
Then he broke down into sobs. Full-on choking sobs. He thought about Budweiser, of all things. Shitty, canned Budweiser. Then he started thinking about some dog at home, a fat pit-bull with brown splotches, bleeding gums and missing teeth. Something about the whole situation there made me sick.
“Who is the dog?
“Sally?” he said. “How’d you know about her?”
“Is that your dog?”
“Yeah,” he said. “I don’t want her to go to the pound. They’ll put her down and she don’t deserve that.”
“Oh yeah? Did you think of that when you decided to murder someone and kill yourself today, asshole?”
“No.” He started sobbing again and then I had no thirst at all. None. In fact, the thought of drinking this guy's blood made me feel ill, though I knew it had to be psychological. He wiped his face with his sleeve. His eyes were puffy and red, his thoughts a tangled mess of pain I didn't even want to know.
“Let me ask you a question,” I said, regret filling me like dirty, wet sand. “What if I don’t kill you? What then?”
“You gonna send me to jail?”
“I’m not a cop.” Jesus, this kid was thick. “Just, tell me, if I let you live, what will you do?”
He was quiet, and I perused the clutter of his mind as he pondered this question. The first thing he thought of was shooting himself. I shook my head at him.
“No,” I said. “Not that.”
He looked at me funny, like he was confused. Then he had a thought of himself, obviously a memory from when he was young, maybe 11 or 12. There was another man there—some kind of coach. Soccer, maybe. And then I understood why he suddenly went back to the thought of him shooting himself and I had to ask myself, what the fuck should I do? What on fucking earth do I do?
His eyes went cold as they fixed on some blank spot in the distance, his thoughts very far from the moment. His mind then began to race, frantic fragments of memories. I saw not the intended rape-murder of Jolene or the suicide, but an elderly man he’d saved by administering CPR. A stray cat he’d rescued from the scene of a house fire. A toddler he’d saved from choking. His tears were flowing hot, running down his face, onto his jacket. His guilt, his shame, his rage, his remorse—I couldn’t stomach it. Not figuratively, not literally.
“I’m not going to kill you,” I said.
Jimmy stirred and looked up at me, his face contorted, confused, distrustful. He put his head back down between his knees and wretched, dry heaving and then coughing up clear mucus he spat onto the dead leaves between his legs. He wrapped his arms around his head and rocked back and forth like a frightened child trying to soothe himself.
“I need a drink real bad,” he said.
“You need a lot more than that,” I answered.
That's all for tonight, folks. See you all again here soon.