A Family Affair
PART THREE: THE BREACH
Chapter Seventeen: A Family Affair
Not long after, Scott was walking to his car after work and found all four of his tires had been slashed. He called fifteen minutes before my mother walked through the door.
Valerie had answered. After a short conversation, she informed Eli and me what had happened. We knew without a shadow of a doubt it had been Lenny who had childishly marooned my mother’s boyfriend at work. We knew he was off somewhere laughing like an idiot over his immature antics. We knew what he was telling us as well. It might be a silent message, but it was a clear one all the same. I am fairly certain the act was to dissuade the man from hanging around us that night, but in the uncertainty of the real world, it didn’t quite work out that way. It served to push him in directly toward us.
Deciding as one to go and get him versus having him call a cab, we picked him up. We left his car parked in the parking structure underneath his building. It would be safe until Scott could get the tires repaired the following morning.
We had been silent at first, more than a little uncomfortable over the situation. Scott was embarrassed, because he felt as though he were imposing. He had almost insisted he take the taxi option before my sister told him under no uncertain terms, we were going to bring him to the house. As she figured, we kinda owed it to him. Besides, a cab from downtown to Culver City would’ve cost him an inordinate amount of money.
Valerie was practical like my mom.
My mother was uneasy, because she’d never had to assist her significant other before. No matter the situation, Lenny would’ve never called. He would have a “friend” help him instead. To him, my mother was useless, unworthy of helping.
We kids were disconcerted, because we were ashamed of our father. There was no way to “sugarcoat” the emotion. Having Leonard Favor for a dad was a constant battle with self-deprecation and loathing. It was hard not to associate his actions with our own, and that night it felt like being a direct descendant of his was a curse.
Now, Scott, the mild-mannered, soft-spoken man my mom liked was his latest victim.
Though slashing ones tires isn’t the end all of bad things one could possibly do to another, to us it was grossly boorish. Scott had never hurt anyone. Scott was a true gentleman around my mother, around Valerie. He was a fun-loving companion to Elijah and myself, who took us to play basketball or catch – whether with a football or a baseball – it didn’t matter. Over the past months, he’d brought a degree of normalcy to our family. He brought routine around to visit once again. And, he brought passion into my mother’s life, something she needed more than anything at the time.
“Are you going to spend the night, Scott?” asked Eli, his head tilted to the right as he gazed at the man in the front passenger seat.
Valerie giggled before she could stop herself.
My mom glanced at me through the rear-view mirror, a semi-chagrined expression trying to invade her visage, though she was fighting valiantly to keep it from coming forth.
It wasn’t one of Scott’s “days” to stay over, but it wasn’t everyday he’d had all four of his tires slashed either.
“I think I’m going to have to, little man. Is that ok with you?” said the light-complected man with his amber eyes and dark brown hair, combed back as usual.
To me, Scott always reminded me of John Travolta. He was around the same height and build, though his face was narrower, his hair was cut higher along the back of his neck and face. But, his lithe frame and the bouncy manner in which he walked were a “spitting image” of the world famous actor.
Eli nodded gravely. “You’re gonna have to. You don’t have a car.” He was nodding emphatically now. “Good thing you and my mom work so close together.”
His young mind hadn’t processed the fact that was how they’d met in the first place. To my little brother, Scott had magically found our house one day and our mother had befriended him.
I was smiling at him, sitting next to his small body in the back seat.
“Yeah, I guess I’m a lucky man in that regard,” he said bravely in front of us kids.
My mom actually did something miraculous; she reached over and stroked his cheek. It was the most intimate thing I’d ever witnessed her do with a man, including my one-time father.
Scott smiled back at her, nonplused. It must’ve been something she’d done on a regular basis with him.
Eli had a huge grin on his face.
I was glad for it.
He was glad for my mom.
It was the front door I heard first. Or, at least it was the sound of something massive hitting it. The entire house shook with the ferocity of the impact.
I sat up in bed, the covers tumbling off me, breathing heavily, heart pounding in my chest, unsure if I’d heard thunder or an explosion. It could’ve been thunder, right? There’s nothing that could’ve hit the house that hard unless…
…Could it have been an airplane?
It was the only thing I could think of. Cars or trucks couldn’t get near the house, because of the rugged terrain and the steep slope leading to it from the street. Even a dirt bike would have a hard time negotiating the incline, as well as the bushes and shrubs, the retaining walls, and everything else growing in the front yard.
I continued to sit there, listening, half-poised to leap to my feet, but still uncertain of what to do exactly. I was confused. Could it have been -?
It came again.
It was a great crash. Only this time it was followed by the crackle of ripping wood and a much smaller, secondary thud that came from within the house.
I was on my feet, somehow able to slide into my slippers, making to head downstairs. I tripped on the bed sheet that had somehow wrapped itself around the lower portion of my body. I stumbled, my shoulder smacking into the back of the officer chair I had improperly shoved back under my desk. “Mother Fu -!” I was about to yell in frustration.
“Get the fuck out of my house!” she screamed.
I felt the finger of death itself ride the length of my spine. Or, at least, I thought it was death. It turned out to be something else.
“I told you I wasn’t done with you, Pillar!” came the answering voice.
Raw dismay made me whimper pathetically, remembering the phone call, the threat. I had to get to my mother!
“Come on, let’s fuck up this bitch!”
I could’ve sworn I heard laughter from another male inside the house.
I reached the threshold to my room and shot forth into the hallway beyond within seconds.
Then, “Hey, it’s time for you guys to get out of here! This is no place for you!” It was Scott; only his tone was calmer, steadier. There were no raging emotions coursing through his body. Even as he faced what I was imagining was more than one attacker he was level-headed.
I rounded the corner and saw Eli peeping out of his room. “Go back inside, Elijah! Wait for Valerie!” Even to my ears my voice sounded shrill, frantic. I could see the fear deepen on his face. He was shaking, visibly.
“What the fuck is he doing here?!”
I was at the top of the stairs, my chest filling with ragged breaths. Mom, stay away! Stay safe! Get away from them!
“How the hell should I -?”
I placed my foot atop the first step -.
I could sit here and tell you it was a wail I heard next, but there isn’t a word adequate to describe what suddenly assaulted my ears the next moment. A scream was incorrect. A screech would depict something high-pitched and sharp. An ululation would detail something long, drawn-out, howl-ish. What I heard was nothing like any of those words. Or, maybe the correct way to sit here and explain what assailed my olfactory sense was to say it was all of them, put together, spoken through a solitary throat, but done so a multitude of voices.
It was so loud, it was nearly as thunderous as the impact I’d heard less than a minute prior.
As I pounded down the steps toward the first floor a racket resounded underfoot like a tussle of giants thrashing and rumbling the earth itself. I stumbled for a second time, the stairs bouncing and bumping under the soles of my feet. I reached out to steady myself against the narrow confines of the stairwell, scraping the base of my palms in the process. Though I was loath to do so, I had to slow in order stop myself from a bad fall down the meandering passage. I knew if I hadn’t I would’ve broken my neck.
Ahead, there was abruptly no sound, as if everything – all movement, all noise – had been cut off by a switch.
I couldn’t help myself. “Mom! I’m coming! Mom!” I resumed running, terrified at what the silence might mean. “Mom, I’m coming!”
I had to get to her. I had to protect her. All of my life I had sat beside her while she cried, while she nursed the unfair bruises dotting her back or her neck, sometimes they trailed down to her breasts. They had looked so painful. I couldn’t stand aside any longer. I couldn’t let her get hurt again without a fight. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if anything happened to her and I had done nothing to prevent it. I had stayed obedient son long enough. I had been the supportive, first-born child for far too long. It was time for me to step up and be the man my father could never be. I didn’t care what happened to me. I wasn’t going to go down without a struggle.
If I had to… I would kill my own father. Tonight would mark the beginning of the end, this would be the final act of the story Lenny had initiated during the summer. It would end now. I would see it through.
I rounded through the back porch, used every handhold possible to fly through the kitchen and into the dining room beyond. I came into the room so fast I nearly tripped over Scott. He was facedown, his hands over his eyes. It looked like he was writhing in pain. He kept trying to get up with use of his knees, but they kept sliding upon the smoothness of the hardwood floors. He seemed oblivious to my presence, his entire focus on trying to get up from the ground.
I peered around, wild with fright, my heart thrashing against my ribcage. “MOM!” I bellowed, stepping over the twisting form of her boyfriend. He would have to sit tight for the time being.
I heard crying and turned to the right, gazing past the dining table, now askew. Something heavy had moved it aside. My eyes darted passed the chairs, each of them thrown asunder as if some hurricane wind had blown them every which way.
I saw them, huddle pathetically together, trembling in each other’s arms.
“Mom, Valerie - are you ok?!?” I came to them in two giant steps, my arms around both of them, holding them, loving them, so relieved they didn’t appear hurt in any way. “What happened?”
Neither of them answered. Neither of them so much as moved… other than quiver under my embrace.
It was like I wasn’t even there.
I was stupefied. My head swiveled to and fro trying to ascertain what had occurred. Darkness was everywhere. There’d been no moon that night. I scanned the living room for clues and saw nothing out of the ordinary. I looked back toward the front door… or where it should’ve been.
It wasn’t there any longer.
Rather, it hung from a single hinge, half-lying, half-propped up, the upper corner gouged into the plaster of the wall. Something had blasted it from its’ moorings. It had been something gigantic.
I saw a body, supine, upon the wood of the porch, unmoving. From where I knelt, I couldn’t tell if the person was breathing.
I looked at my mother and my sister for a second time. “Are you guys alright?”
I realized, deflated, I couldn’t help them. For some reason they were beyond me.
I stood, and then hunkered toward the body on the porch. As I approached I could tell the person was in fact still alive. It was a male, gasping for air, hands at his sides, tearing into the wood when they should’ve been clawing for air. It took me a few seconds to realize, he wasn’t struggling for breath. He was aspirating so fast, he was nearly hyperventilating. I stared down to gaze into his wide-eyes, searching. I felt my brow furl.
He was scared shitless. I was looking at a man near mad with fear.
I was about to ask what had happened when two things transpired simultaneously. I recognized him and he spoke.
“…G-g-got hii-m-m-m…,” said my uncle Kory. I hadn’t seen him in over three years, because he’d been locked up in County for drug trafficking.
What the hell was this nutsack doing at my house?
“I-i-i-i-it go-t-t-t-t h-h-h-h-iiiimmmm,” he tried for a second time, and then he passed out.
I came completely erect, my eyes gazing over the front yard on the other side of the ledge surrounding the porch. I saw the portly form of another man, running down the walk, dropping what looked like a baseball bat onto the ground. He was whimpering like a child, one of his hands clutching at the seat of his pants as though he’d crapped in them.
The fog surrounding my mind was clearing.
If my Uncle Kory was sprawled at the front of the house, then the fat ass fumbling down the walk had be his older brother, my Uncle Melvin. Both of them were Lenny’s half-brothers, begat of his mother and one of her many male suitors that came later in her life. Both of them were jailbirds, long-time, petty criminals that would do anything to score some quick money or a nice baggy of coke.
Now, I understood why they were here. They – the two of them – were going to give my mother a beating unlike anything she’d received in the past. Maybe they’d come to rape her too, have a little fun before they finished the job and killed her. I wouldn’t put it past them. They’d been busted for doing just that years ago. Why would they stop now?
I would never know. I would never get the chance to ask.
I faint scraping sounded to my left, from the other side of the small patio set below the windows of the kitchen. Instinctively, my orbs moved, my head followed with my body half-turning at the waist.
I was just in time to see jeans and a pair of Earth Shoes slide out of view along the side of the house. I was just in time to realize there’d been yet another man within them. It was like a ton of bricks fell from on high, directly into my shoulders.
Lenny was the only person on the planet I knew who still had a decent pair of Earth Shoes, who still had gall enough to wear them. My father had come to exact his revenge after all.
Only… someone was dragging my one-time father around the side of the house!
But who…? Bruce?
He was the only person I could think of that would’ve been on the property this time of night. Unless… Lenny had brought more people than Kory and Melvin. But who? Who would be willing to beat up a defenseless woman in her own home? Who else was there? I couldn’t think of anyone in the family, or anyone he’d know. Who the fuck does he know anyhow? He’s a god damned, glorified accountant!
The scraping continued, growing all the more distant with every passing second.
“Bruce what are you doing?” I called, stepping the remainder of the way across the porch to the steps leading to the patio. “Where are you going?” He was the only one strong enough the drag my one-time father way in that fashion. It had to be him.
Only the sounds of the night and the abrading of the back of Lenny’s shoes could be heard.
I scurried across the patio and around the side of the house.
I couldn’t believe what I saw. Somehow, the side gate has been thrown wide-open. And when I say wide-open, I mean it was hurtled open with such force, it’s embedding into the fencing separating our property from that of our neighbor’s. Yet, I hadn’t heard anything. There had been no noise.
Instead, I was met with a vision of Lenny. I was able to make out most of his legs and feet before he was bodily hauled out of sight and about the back of the house.
I saw the blood, then. It was being tracked by the heels of his shoes, a sinuous trail. It was thick in spots, light in others as if dropped onto the ground in spurts. What’s going on? I thought as I strode through the broken gate, at a near run. But I had this nagging feeling I should tread cautiously, so I didn’t go forth at a breakneck speed. I edged my way toward the side-yard fencing, trying to get a glimpse of as much of the back of the house as possible without exposing myself in the process. Craning my neck, I saw the lower half of Lenny being dragged down into the basement. I took a few quick strides forward when one of his shoes caught on the metal framing holding the large wooden doors in place.
For some reason, the pause in the action made me stop.
I grimaced when I heard something rip, then pop. I was about to go toward him when the Earth Shoe on his right foot suddenly flipped free, rotating in the air a few times before it hit the ground half the distance between me and the basement. I was amazed to see the laces had been shredded. The leather on either side of the shoe was ripped. It was soaked in blood. I cringed, realizing the “popping” might’ve been his foot being broken in the process.
Was Bruce that strong? He was wiry, built with solid, stringy muscles. I knew this because I had seen him without a shirt on many occasions. I knew he was no stranger to manual labor. He worked hard to keep his bee keeping business afloat. But, was he that strong?
“Hey, Bruce, what’s going on?” I asked, more fearful than before, still figuring it was our tenant who was pulling Lenny away from my mother. It had to be, right?
Yeah, dude, but why was he dragging him down into the basement?
Nothing, except Lenny’s body thumping as it was unceremoniously hauled into the earth.
I crept forward, gingerly easing over the fallen shoe, not wanting to befoul my slippers with the blood splattered all over the ground. As I approached the stairs heading down to the basement, I could see the doors had been thrown open, violently, as if something straight out of Clash of the Titans had pulled them open with such force, they were nearly torn from the hinges.
As with the side gate, I hadn’t heard anything, only the scuffling sound of rubber scraping across concrete.
I walked up to the gaping maw that was the entrance into the basement. I peered within. It should’ve been as black as coal down there. I should’ve have been able to see more than four or five steps down.
I was surprised I could see all the way down to the basement floor. Plainly, I saw the runnels of blood, the shoe marks muddling it. There was a thicker, darker rope of it that had to have come from Lenny’s mangled right foot. It was broad, almost brush-like. I could tell it was the impression made by his sock. It was drenched all the way through. His foot must look like hamburger.
My eyes darted about. I was beginning to realize it wasn’t Bruce. It wasn’t our friendly tenant who was doing this. The ageless hippy couldn’t’ve flung open the side gate as if it were no more than chicken-wire. He couldn’t have handled the heavy doors of the basement as though they were made of balsa wood. And, he sure as hell couldn’t have done it without making a sound.
Yes, he was strong, his muscles were ropey and defined, but he wasn’t the Incredible Hulk, he wasn’t that Bruce. He was Bruce, Bruce – your typical non-violent, bee-keeping, flower-lover from a bygone era. He wasn’t a raving monster. He wouldn’t saunter off with full-grown man in tow like he was a sack of potatoes.
Something else was happening. Something else had Lenny.
I realized this as I gazed down into the basement, my orbs capable of piercing what should’ve been sheer obsidian.
It wasn’t darkness either. Some alien light source was down there. It was phosphorous, a dim glow. It had no pulse or flicker, or periodic dimming. It was constant. It was blue, the color of gemstones, pure, of a single ray. It was emanating from the right, what I knew as the northern portion of the basement.
Something had Lenny. It wasn’t a person. It wasn’t an animal. It was a something.
Something I had yet to see.
I heard the sound of creaking hinges and the slam of a heavy door. The azure light extinguished. The basement went dark.
I felt my heart sink.
I knew something had taken Lenny into the passage leading to the root cellar. Whatever it was, it had closed the door leading to it. I knew whatever it was, it would kill him there. It would end his miserable life and, though I already felt something like it in my heart, I’d be fatherless.
Lenny would never see things above the ground again.