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Love has really gone wrong this time.
“Karen was murdered here exactly ten years ago,” Kathy said as she tenderly planted hyacinths at the base of the big oak tree. Tears trickled down her cheeks as she prayed silently for her sister’s fate.
Jim, Kathy’s husband, gently massaged her shoulders, feeling the anguish from the loss of her sister. “That was a long time ago, Kathy,” Jim said with his warm, satiny voice, “A long time to carry all that pain in your heart.” He stooped down to kiss her head and she kneaded his strong, warm hand on her shoulder. Kathy stood up, running her fingers along the rough bark of the oak. “She was shot over twenty times, Jim,” Kathy sobbed, “What kind of a monster would do that to my sister? And why?”
Jim turned his wife around and she felt a soothing comfort as he held her close to him. She closed her eyes, drifting through the years and the tears, to the day that she met Jim. He was the police detective assigned to the case and took an instant liking to Kathy. Jim lost his wife at the hands of an unknown killer and felt Kathy’s loss. They found strength through each other’s grief and soon started dating. Within a year after Karen’s death, Jim and Kathy married. Jim was tall, with glacial-blue eyes, broad-shouldered, and a man with scars. Puckered clusters from bullet holes, ragged ridges of dead tissue where Cambodian shrapnel had torn through him. His fists, too, were a latticework of dead white. Jim was a man who’d seen a lot of what the world can do to flesh. Kathy had never asked him about his past and never asked him about his deceased wife. In fact, Kathy never thought about how little she really knew about Jim.
“A jealous man,” Jim whispered softly into Kathy’s ear. Kathy suddenly opened her eyes.
Jim’s powerful arms tightened and she felt the hard steel of his service revolver press into her right breast. “An enraged man,” Jim said louder, “A man who murdered his wife because he was having an affair with your sister.”
Kathy’s heart began to pound and she tried to push away from her husband but couldn’t. “Let me go, Jim,” she told him, looking up at his face and into those cold, blue eyes. His face seemed to contort into somebody else.
“Your sister was just a toy to me, Kathy; a fresh piece of meat to me and nothing more.”
“You son-of-a--.” Jim’s grip tightened on Kathy’s arms and she wailed from the pain. He shook her hard, jarring her head back and forth violently.
“Karen wanted more than that,” he said with a robust, hearty voice, “So she got knocked up and thought that I would leave my old lady for her.” Kathy squirmed hard, but it was useless. Jim was just too strong and towered over her. “Karen got together with my wife and told her about us. Of course, I had to kill my wife because he was going to divorce me and get my inheritance.”
Jim was loaded. He was an only child and when his father died he left Jim with a considerable amount of assets.
“Let me go,” Kathy screamed. Jim backhanded her, swiping her off her feet and onto the ground. Blood streamed from one of her nostrils. Jim’s fists were doubled up and she could see his forearm muscles bulging. “I brought your sister out here. I told her this was where we would build our house and our lives together,” he said. “I killed her by that oak tree, all right. She fought well; managed to get away but I saw her hiding behind that tree,” he said, pointing.
Kathy was screaming now, babbling incoherently. She sat up and Jim grabbed a handful of her long red hair, tugging her up onto her feet. She made a feeble attempt to punch him in his heavily-muscled chest and he responded by shoving her towards the oak tree. Kathy tumbled to the ground, rolling onto her back as she screamed for help.
“Go ahead,” Jim laughed, “scream all you want. There’s nobody around to hear you,” he said, “That’s what I love about this place.” Kathy tried to crawl away on her hands and knees, crying and screaming. Jim grabbed her by her belt and hair and tossed her barbarically against the oak. Her face smashed into the trunk and she collapsed, unconscious, over the flowers she set out for her sister. Jim stared at her crumpled form and pulled out his revolver, pointing it at her head. “No,” he said, as if talking to her, “There’s a better way.”
Jim walked over to the car. Kathy was out; her bloodied face told him that. Opening the trunk, he grinned when he saw it: a genuine, military surplus flame thrower. It was Jim’s pride and joy and he got it from a stoolie on the street. Kathy would be fried alive and forensics would have a tough time of sifting through the charred evidence. He was whistling the theme song of the Andy Griffith show as he gingerly slipped the flame thrower onto his back. He took his time in buckling and adjusting, and ignited it. When he turned around, Kathy was gone. He smiled. Jim loved the challenge of the hunt.
“That’s it, Kathy, hide. Make it tough—make it a challenge,” he shouted. His eyes scrutinized a thicket, not far from the oak tree where Karen died. Jim moved slowly, still whistling the same tune, approaching the thicket. It was the only place that Kathy could have hidden. The land was flat and almost treeless, save for the single oak and the thorny thicket that grew along a small creek. Jim shot a gusher of pure fire at the thicket, spraying it down. Immediately, Kathy screamed, standing up, racing for the oak tree. She hid behind it, screaming, pleading and begging Jim not to hurt her.
Jim moved closer to the tree, within burning range of the flame thrower. “Tell you what, Kathy,” Jim said, “I’m going to barbecue that oak tree and hen it burns down, I’m going to barbecue you.”
And with that, Jim shot a deadly burst of fire from the flame thrower, igniting the oak tree. He sprayed the leaves and the trunk and Kathy screamed louder now, jumping out from behind it.
Jim was smiling, watching Kathy as she dropped to her knees. “Please, Jim, for God’s sake, let me live.”
“Karen whined for her life, too, Kathy,” he said, laughing. “By the way, I have a new woman—a younger one—and yeah, she’s knocked up, too. Funny how things work out like that.”
The tree crackled in the fire, as if the Devil was gnawing on its dying bark. Jim lowered the flame thrower and pulled out his revolver. “I think I’ll blow your brains out first, Kathy,” he said, pointing it at her, “After all, I’m not without mercy, you know.”
Jim took aim and a single shot rang out. Kathy’s body twitched and she fell to the ground.
When Kathy woke up, she was on a stretcher, an IV hanging nearby. Paramedics fussed over her and she looked up into the face of someone she recognized. It was police captain Milrose and he smiled down on her. Panic immediately seized her and Kathy screamed.
“Hey, it’s all right,” Milrose said, “It’s over, Kathy. You’re safe now.”
Kathy raised her head and saw that the fire department was putting out the last of the fires on the burning oak. Nearby, Jim laid, the flame thrower still strapped to his back.
“I though he killed me,” she said, crying, “He shot at me.”
Milrose shook his head. “No, his gun never discharged,” the captain said. “I remember your sister was murdered by that oak tree. Jim did it, didn’t he?”
Kathy turned her head and nodded. “It isn’t tough to figure out what was happening here. Anyway, the sap boiled away under the bark in that oak tree,” the captain said. “A pocket of steam exploded under one of the slugs he fired at your sister all those years ago. It propelled the slug and hit Jim right between the eyes. He never knew what hit him.”
Kathy lay back, sighing. It was over. Captain Milrose lit a cigarette.
“I guess you could say that your sister got the revenge she deserved,” he said.
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© 2005 Martin Abram
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