Murder is born of love, and love attains the greatest intensity in murder.
Octave Mirbeau, Writer
The golden necklace was severed. The delicate angel-wing pendant was caught in a clot of blood, resembling hot sealing wax against translucent skin. Her neck jutted to the side in an awkward angle.
Eyes full of empty stared upward as she lay sprawled out like some grotesque pin-up girl. An all-American beauty served up on cheap linoleum, a Jackson Pollock canvas of bullet holes and blood spatter.
A diaper-clad baby girl with blond ringlets sat next to the woman’s head, wailing at full lung capacity. The baby’s fist spasmodically beat against the dead woman’s face, splattering rips and reams of blood in every direction of the tiny kitchen.
One of the baby’s hands caught the necklace and clutched it, her body jolting with the violence of her crying. The golden angel wings were sullied red with blood and glinted dully in the late afternoon sun that slanted through the twisted blinds over the sink.
Bloody handprints smeared down the cracked plaster wall, revealing the woman’s last gruesome moments as she struggled down the wall, across the floor...
Never no more.
Even a small mouse has anger.
Native American, Tribe Unknown
When Enid Iglowski hauled off and slugged Joey Wysocki, she hadn’t been thinking about anything, she’d been simply reacting. The instant her fist made contact with Joey’s nose and she heard the sickening sound of bone and cartilage breaking, she also heard the sound of the last two weeks of her Junior year of high school getting flushed down the toilet.
The rest of the night proved to be a goulash of school officials, police officers and Joey’s parents – all punctuated by the glaring absence of her own missing-in-action mother. By the time they located her mother, who had somehow gotten her butt super-glued to a bar stool again, Joey’s parents had filed a police complaint against Enid and she’d gotten expelled under the school’s new zero-tolerance policy.
It was now one week later and, as the Greyhound bus pulled out of Abilene, Enid was feeling the effects of forty hours on the road – and on the run. Her teeth were gritty and she longed to take a hot shower and crawl into her own bed that she had left behind in Florida. She could hardly believe that she had another seventeen hours to endure until she got to Phoenix, where she was determined to find her real father, a man named Jack Fox, whom she had never heard of until one week ago.
Henry Iglowski was the man she had thought was her father. Both Enid and Henry found out at the same moment that Henry was not her father, that he was simply the man that her mother had duped into believing that he was Enid’s real father for the last sixteen years.
Her ears still rang with her mother’s drunken ravings on the day Henry had packed up and left.
The way her mother had screamed after him, “You know the kid that you thought was your kid? Enid isn’t yours, you piece of shit! Her real dad was a one-night stand in Phoenix! You remember Phoenix, don’t you? Jack Fox, that was his name! HA! You’ve been raising another man’s kid!”
Enid had stood in the front door, staring at her mother in horror. Henry had been throwing boxes into the back of a borrowed pickup truck. He froze, staring at her mother in shock.
It occurred to Enid that her mother didn’t seem to realize what she had said. She had that cloudy, where’s-my-drink look as she covered a burp, steadied herself against the Honda, turned and disappeared into the house.
From across the yard, Enid’s eyes met Henry’s, and she saw that he didn’t believe a word her mother had said.
Then he did.
Since that day one week ago, Enid had had the horrible sensation of not just being expelled from school, she felt like she’d been expelled from her whole life.
After three nightmarish days of being stuck at home with her drunk and/or hungover mother, Enid decided to take matters into her own hands. She stole four hundred dollars from her mother’s checking account and another forty dollars from her whiskey kitty. She also swiped Henry’s Glock 17, which her mother had hidden from him.
Enid wasn’t exactly sure why she took the gun except that it made her feel safer. She had no doubt that her mother would report the gun as stolen and would have the police on her butt faster than her mother could dive on a Smirnoff screwdriver on a Sunday morning.
Enid had used up her last chance with Joey’s broken nose. Her mother had assured her that her next stop was Juvie detention hall. And the thought of going to Juvie detention, where her archnemesis, Jackie Utton, was currently residing, made Enid sweat harder than a hooker at a Baptist revival.
Since grade school, Jackie Utton had been using teenage terrorist tactics and kicking the crap out of her on a regular basis, and every bit of trouble that Enid had gotten into at school had been directly related to defending herself against what Enid referred to as “the psychopath.” Jackie had pushed her, shoved her, pinched her, tripped her and pummeled her so many times that Enid had gotten into the habit of slinking through the school, stealthy as a Navy SEAL.
Not that her mother ever cared or understood or even took her side! According to her mother, Enid couldn’t kick a can across a deserted parking lot without running into trouble and coming back with three reasons why it wasn’t her fault.
It constantly amazed Enid that, for a kid who got good grades and didn’t smoke, drink, cuss or let boys grab her hand and shove it down their pants to feel up their junk, she spent a lot of time in the principal’s office.
If I end up in Juvie with Jackie Utton, I am dead dog meat on a stick.
She was relieved to be putting Florida behind her, but at the thought of finding and meeting her real father, she felt queasy. To make herself feel better, she dug her hand into her backpack and gripped the handle of the gun that was as mysterious and dangerous as Joey’s thing had been.
Boys are scary. Guns are cool!
Enid squeezed the gun’s handle and sent a prayer speeding up the highway toward Phoenix.
Please God, don’t let my real dad be a crack-head, meth-speed- freak, wife-beating, daughter-beating, sleazebag piece of crap, a woman- hater, racist, homophobic, fataphobic, passive-aggressive, lazy cheapskate loser or a rapist serial-killer pedophile.
Enid bit her lip, afraid that she left something out.
Oh! Or stupid.
“Are you praying?”
Enid whipped her hand out of the backpack. She glared at the chunky kid with the greasy cowlick who had proven nosier than a truffle-seeking piglet.
“What’s in your backpack?” he asked, poking at it curiously.
“None of your business.” Enid shoved his hand away.
“It looked like you were praying,” the chunky kid frowned.
A woman’s pudgy hand reached from behind his seat and handed him a sandwich that smelled like sardines. For fourteen hours, Enid had watched the hand appear and disappear as it handed up everything from toilet paper to boiled eggs to burnt snickerdoodle cookies to a kid’s book entitled “So Your Daddy’s In Jail?” The kid and the unseen woman at the other end of the hand never spoke. Their entire existence seemed to be defined by the hand anticipating what he needed and him accepting whatever was given to him.
Enid watched him chomp into the sandwich. Her stomach rolled with nausea as a tiny sardine face, frozen in “oh my” surprise, peeked out from between his fingers. He swallowed and turned to her. “Show me what’s in the backpack or I’ll tell the bus driver you stole my five dollars and hid it in there.”
Enid’s mouth fell open in astonishment. It was a mystery to her why everyone from Jackie to Joey to complete strangers, including this goofball twelve-year-old kid, took one look at her and pegged her for someone that they could push around. It was strange that for all the times she didn’t fight back with Jackie, that she finally snapped and hit somebody.
Punching Joey had felt good.
“Show me what’s in the backpack or I squeal louder than a stuck pig.”
She leaned forward and hissed, “Sure as my name is Jackie Utton, if you rat, I’m going to pop that little head off your shoulders, kick it down the highway and use it for target practice.”
He eyed her, unsure.
He doesn’t believe me!
Hands shaking with anger, Enid unzipped the backpack, revealing the Glock.
“Cool!” His eyes widened with admiration. “Who are you going to kill?”
“Shhh!” Enid looked around, making sure no one had heard.
“Can I hold it?” He asked, reaching for the backpack.
She shoved his hand away and, hoping that she sounded convincing, she whispered, “You say one word to anyone and I’ll pop you – with the gun, not my fist, you little punk.”
His eyes got wide as he gave her a new look of respect. He made a “zip” motion on his lips, locked them with an imaginary key and threw it out.
Enid settled back, wishing that she had sat next to anybody but this kid.
I just threatened to shoot him and now he respects me?
A thought occurred to her. She frowned, troubled. Back in school, when Jackie had first started picking on her, what if she had pretended to be tough? Would Jackie have left her alone? Could she have avoided the last four years of torment?
“You are so going to end up in jail,” the kid said matter-of-factly.
Enid shot him a look, rattled.
“My dad’s in jail,” the kid said sadly.
“Sorry to hear that,” Enid mumbled.
His head snapped toward her in astonishment, “How’d you hear?”
“What?” She asked, confused.
“About my dad! How do you know about that?” He eyed her suspiciously.
“You just told me. Duh.”
“Oh.” He sat back. After a long moment, he asked, “Your dad in jail?”
Enid shook her head. Everything she knew about her real father, she had found out from the Internet. He was a private detective, divorced and wasn’t on any of the social networking sites. He didn’t even have a website for his business. Enid had called his office but, when she heard the secretary’s voice, she had hung up.
The hand appeared with a pillow and a blanket. “Bedtime,” the kid sighed happily.
Enid watched him tuck himself in and had a jangly-stomach thought.
What if he doesn’t like me?
The kid nudged her and whispered, “Thanks for showing me.”
Frowning, Enid turned away and stared out the window. In daylight, the landscape had been speckled with gas stations, fast food joints, and billboards. Now that it was night, it was dotted with the neon lights from gas stations, fast food joints and billboards.
She re-focused her eyes and stared at her reflection in the window: a pale heart-shaped face with hazel eyes and shoulder-length brown hair, which was in the habit of confounding her comb and doing whatever the heck it wanted. Last summer, her mother had taken her shopping for a bathing suit and, after giving her a knowing up-and- down evaluative look in the changing room, had shrugged and said, “At least you have a good nose.”
Enid was waiting impatiently for the morning she would wake up and her scrawny flat-chested body would magically morph into cute. Or, at the least, something in the same zip code as cute.
She sighed, wondering if her mom would get un-drunk long enough to realize that she was missing a daughter. Enid had a feeling the gun would be missed long before she was.
Probably won’t know I’m gone till there’s no one there to wake her up in time to go to bed.
Enid kept expecting police sirens to scream the bus to a stop so that cops could drag her off and force her back to Florida where Dad...
Enid felt tears burn her eyes.
She corrected herself.
The name sounded foreign in her mouth.
Henry had been her father for as long as she could remember. He’d been to her school plays, read her essays and short stories, and, when she had been so obsessed with winning a trophy and lost again in the annual school science fair, he bought her a giant trophy with a winged goddess on top. He had the gold plaque engraved: Enid Ivy Rose Iglowski, First Place, International Invitational Science Fair.
He told her that his contest was ‘Invitational’ and she was the only one invited. Without him, she would’ve been robbed of her best memories.
Enid was jolted out of her thoughts as the bus hit another pothole. At the thought of meeting Jack Fox, who didn’t know she even existed, panic rose up in her throat. Enid stuck her hand in the backpack, grabbed the Glock and sent out another prayer.
Please let my real dad like kids!