Blood is Their Argument

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Chapter 6

No Immunity

It was a lovely slab of marble, light red and exquisitely polished. It glistened from the sunlight that reflected off its smooth face. It was remarkable. No matter how hot it was, the marble stood firm and rigid while everything around it wilted. Stone endures, and if a stone were alive, it might wonder about the fleeting life of a human, a blink of an eye to something that, for all practical purposes lasts forever. On this slab of beautiful marble there was writing. It said, simply,

Brittany Brinkley

Born March 20th 1988

Died April 11th 1998

Evans Brinkley looked down at the headstone. The flowers he had placed at its base yesterday had wilted from the heat, like they always did. He had brought fresh ones today, daisies. They were her favorite flowers. He placed the yellow and black ones at the lower left of the headstone, and the white and black ones at the lower right. They bordered “Teddy”. Teddy was the little stuffed panda bear that Brittany had had ever since she was two years old. He was faded from more two years of exposure to the elements, but the black buttons that made up the eyes, nose and mouth were still intact. Brittany once told him that the reason she liked daisies so much was because the black part in the middle reminded her of Teddy.

Some dirt had blown into Teddy’s face, so Evans gently picked up the stuffed toy, brushed it off, and put it back in place. He stood up for a minute and looked around, surveying the scene. There was no one around. He had been there for almost an hour and he had seen only a few cars drive slowly by some of the other headstones. The grounds were well manicured. It was a carpet of beautiful green Bermuda grass punctuated by headstones and occasional live oak trees. Looking down at his daughter’s grave, he closed his eyes and felt the tears trickle down from the corner of his eyes, blending with the sweat. The combination of grief and solitude provoked reflection. As if drifting into an altered state of consciousness he kneeled, and then he sat down, legs crossed, and

left this place to a past that was far too clear, and far too close.

It was a beautiful spring for Evans Brinkley in 1988. A graduate of Southern University the previous December with an M.B.A, in late February he had landed a great job in the Accounting Department with Microtec, an up and coming company that specialized in providing software for banks. His wife, Arlene, had helped put him through business school with her position as an antique dealer for a statewide buyer that had stores in Dallas, Lubbock, El Paso, Brownsville, and Longview, her hometown. Arlene had graduated from Southern five years earlier with a degree in Art History, and with family connections in Longview, immediately was hired to run the Dallas store. With her salary, combined with Evans’ part time work for a local tax office, they were able to save money and get him through the rigorous and expensive MBA program at Southern.

They had planned everything well. Once he had graduated, Arlene began looking for a place to open her own antique and art shop in Highland Park, one of the most upscale suburbs of Dallas. They found space to rent in the “Shoppe District”, which was a collection of high-end clothing stores, coffee houses, bistros, specialty stores and art boutiques in the Preston Avenue-Lovers Lane area. Arlene immediately began acquiring and selling African art, from masks and hand carved war shields to wood carved furniture. It was the only store of its kind, and sales were good.

With a store and a new job, the Brinkley’s moved into a spacious one story, brick ranch style house in Highland Park. The neighborhood was perfect. Expensive houses, well-manicured lawns, well-kept streets and services, and a plethora of new and expensive cars dotted the landscape. At just about any intersection or parking lot were BMWs, Mercedes Benzes, Lexus’s, or Toyota Land Cruisers. In this predominantly White neighborhood kids played soccer at the local parks. Men and women jogged, wearing the latest in expensive running attire, often with a cell phone close to their ear. Many of the homeowners had Mexican gardeners or maids. Some of the houses along Preston were huge, multi-storied, pillared mansions, with immense yards sporting luxurious lawns bordered by robust and colorful azaleas.

Evans and Arlene thought this was paradise, a perfect and safe place…a kind of social and cultural bubble that kept all the good things in and all the bad things out. Bad things included crime and people of color, which to Evans and Arlene were practically synonymous. They were not overtly racist. Evans and Arlene did after all have a Mexican girl do house cleaning every Saturday. And they paid her well, but they were more than a little pleased that she lived in Oak Cliff, south of the Trinity, a place Evans would often say was a more suitable environment for “those people”.

But to Evans the most precious thing about the spring of 1988 was the birth of his

daughter Brittany. The day she was born he had a Chinese Pistachio delivered from a nearby nursery. He planted it in the back yard, which Evans kept well weeded and manicured. A moderately fast growing species, though slower than a child, Evans liked the possibility that he would watch it and Brittany grow together. With an excellent income coming from Arlene’s shop, they were in fact becoming rich from the seemingly endless demand for African Art in Highland Park. Evans could afford to quit his job at Mircotec. It worked out best this way this Arlene traveled frequently, going all over the country on buying trips. About twice a year she would even go to Africa to scout out some of the craftsmen.

Arlene was not as anxious as Evans was to have a child at this stage of their marriage. She loved her daughter nonetheless, and was comfortable leaving her in Evans’ hands for extended periods of time. The result of this was that Evans and Brittany became very close, while at times Arlene felt more like an outsider. It was just assumed by everybody that they would procreate. Her father, of course, was all for it. A new grandchild would reward his Darwinian urge for spreading his genes. Besides he was the one who was bank rolling Arlene’s career. Arlene’s mother had died of breast cancer in 1985. They had never been close.

There was not a lot of intimacy in their relationship. Mostly this was due to Arlene’s frequent absences. But in part it had to do with the way they had sex. In Evans’ mind, having sex with Arlene was more a matter of her rewarding him for good behavior than intimacy. In bed she was mechanical, and uninspired. In Arlene’s mind, she believed that Evans just didn’t pay attention to her needs. Once, when Arlene asked him to perform oral sex on her, Evans replied, “But that’s where you pee.” She never brought it up again.

Although Evans wanted more children, Arlene did not. To her one bout with the weight gain, the sickness, and the long hours of exercising to retool her figure was enough. Arlene subsequently had a tubal ligation, an act that she had kept from Evans until he found a crumpled bill from her HMO in the wastebasket. He could have confronted her about it but he didn’t.

The closeness between Evans and Brittany began to take its toll on Arlene, who began to seek solace elsewhere. Calculating, correctly as it turned out, that Arlene loved men as much as she loved African art, Evans decided to keep the HMO bill in case he needed it later. He began to suspect her of fooling around. She was, after all, beautiful, rich, well educated, and often selfish about her needs. She was thin, tall, blonde in that Dallas big hair way, and always tan. He had always felt a little inferior in the looks department. He was of average height, and he wore his curly brown hair just over his collar. Of muscular build, and with blue eyes, he was not unattractive. But against Arlene he felt like the off- white wall of a richly and colorfully furnished room.

His attempts to control Arlene, to keep her on a short leash, had in fact backfired. So, he began collecting bits of information here and there about her. Arlene developed a big appetite for men. They offered her the attention and sexual gratification lacking in her marriage. They made her feel better about herself. Evans no longer trusted her. He checked her e-mail, at work and at home. But he knew enough about computers to know that she could have a safe e-mail address that he couldn’t access. Still, he would occasionally go through her dresser drawers to see if there were any letters or other incriminating evidence. One time, before taking Brittany on a weekend trip to the hill country west of Austin, he set a trap for Arlene. Measuring precisely how one of her favorite lingerie items hung on a clothes hanger, he hoped to catch her in an indiscretion if the mark had changed upon their return. He even bugged his own phone, and when Arlene was lounging around the pool he would leave under the pretense of doing some free-lance work. Then, when she was at work and he was home with Brittany, he would listen to the tapes to see if she was talking to a lover. Once, when he heard her telling a man how much she had enjoyed having sex in the guy’s hot tub, Evans carefully marked the tape counter in his notes…and then threw the phone through the sliding glass door leading to the pool. This did not in the least assuage his anger. It did wake up Brittany and she started crying. As he often did, he sang her to sleep with a lullaby that his mother used to sing to him when he was a baby:

Shush little baby who is dat

A furry black ball named Felix the cat

With his fiddle and his faddle on his bed he sat

With his bag full of tricks and his ratty-tat-tat

As Brittany grew up Evans doted over her. He took her everywhere. They became inseparable. When she was three, he enrolled her in a pre-school a few blocks from home so that he could spend time with her there. Much to the chagrin of the pre-school teacher, Evans constantly tried to control the daily activities. In his mind, he was unhappy that Brittany was not receiving most of the attention. He began to take her to parks, where they spent their time swinging or playing frisbee. He taught her to play soccer and baseball. He took her fishing, and even though they rarely caught anything, they had fun. Brittany loved baiting her own hook, and laughed as she explained how the worms tickled her hands as she pulled them out of the bait box. But for Evans, the holidays were special.

On Easter, after church, Evans, Arlene and Brittany would drive out to Joe Pool Lake, hop into their boat, and spend the day on the water. Arlene and Evans would take turns water-skiing while Brittany watched. Later, while Arlene sunbathed on the boat’s stern, Evans and Brittany would catch their fair share of crappie. Late in the afternoon, they would head to shore, find a nearby picnic table, grill the days’ catch, and watch the sun go down.

Memorial Day weekend was for baseball. Brittany had joined a youth softball team when she was eight and they played their first game the Sunday before Memorial Day. Brittany wanted to play with the boys, but Arlene explained that there were rules against such things. Brittany was a catcher. She had mixed feelings about her parents coming to the games. Her mother, when she did come, spent much of her time walking around talking to people, not paying much attention to the game. Her father would usually embarrass her by pointing out the obvious flaws that accompany childhood attempts to master a difficult skill. When she would swing and miss a pitch, he would yell, “Come on Punkin’, keep your eye on the ball!” Or if she made an error in the field he would yell, “Come on, get your head into the game!” Often he would bark at the umpires for making “lousy, bone headed” calls. But, after the game and a trip to Baskin-Robbins for ice cream the embarrassment dissipated. Usually he would convince her that the umpires had made bad calls, and they would laugh.

Fourth of July was picnic time at the park. Usually Evans and Arlene would join a few other couples at a nearby park, grill seafood, and lounge. Brittany had always loved the swing sets, so at some point Evans would take her there and they would swing together, along with some of the other kids. Arlene would occasionally come over and join in, but soon she would feel left out and go off and join a group of women, comparing their tan lines or discussing the best places to get their legs waxed. Evans had to admit Arlene had great legs, it was one of her many selling points. Trouble was, Arlene had great advertising skills. Evans both loved it and hated it, for it was precisely those skills that had won him over. On the other hand, her flirting often caused a knot to form in his stomach. But, as long as Arlene was willing to be the breadwinner and let him do just about what he pleased, well, he considered the account balanced. Besides, there was always Brittany.

She became his great little helper doing the yard work. Evans taught her to be as meticulous and as fussy as he was in making sure that every disorganized piece of turf, clod of dirt, or unkempt blade of grass was removed from site. For Evans, doing the yard was the functional equivalent of the pioneers beating back the wilderness, of bringing order and shape to an unkempt and chaotic world. Evans first learned about the ordering of the wilderness when Arlene and he had gone to New England on a buying trip before Brittany was born. One day they visited an antique shop outside of Salem, Massachusetts. While Arlene was looking at some antique bed frames, Evans started browsing a collection of books. It was there that he stumbled upon a number of books on the Puritans. In particular, he was struck with the writings of Cotton Mather, who extolled the virtues of hard work, and preached the need to bring chaos of the wilderness under the firm and ordered control of civilization.

To Evans, the Puritan writings of Mather meshed perfectly with his controlling personality and need for order. This was no more apparent than with his views on landscaping. To him, yard work symbolized the grand struggle between nature and culture, and he was determined to keep nature in her place, and off his sidewalks. He often told neighbors that dirt was simply matter out of place and that edging the sidewalk was creating the fine division between an ordered, predictable world and the chaos of the grass. They thought this not only a bit too philosophical but outright anal.

Labor Day meant the Dallas Zoo. Evans had always loved zoos, and he especially loved the Dallas Zoo despite the fact it was in Oak Cliff. Recent renovations included an outstanding open-air gorilla enclosure and a train that took visitors on a thirty-minute journey where they could see beautiful birds and exotic animals. Even Arlene loved going there. The heat still has its grip on Dallas in early September, so they would get an early start, arriving at the zoo just as the gates opened. First stop was always the gorillas. Brittany loved them, especially the big silver back males. She would see them lounging under a tree and try to get them to gesture to her by waving her arms or beating on her chest like she saw on cartoons. Most of the time the males would just look at her, blink, and go back to whatever they were doing. Evans’ attempts at gorilla talk, or more properly gorilla screech, were equally unimpressive to the primates. Arlene even saw one scratch his head after one of his outbursts. She told him that he should give the gorilla his business card. After a morning of serious zooing they would drive to their favorite Cajun restaurant for crawfish, shrimp, and scallops. Evans would always make Brittany laugh when he gobbled down a raw oyster with an exaggerated slurping sound that would usually draw strange looks from other patrons.

Thanksgiving was a time for beautiful fall days in north Texas, great food, a four- day weekend, and soccer. Brittany loved soccer much more than baseball. It was a lot easier for a nine or ten year old to master soccer than baseball. The rules were simpler, the field was bigger, and she got to run a lot. Brittany was an excellent player because she was very fast and had great leg coordination. She was top scorer of her youth league team. They always played the Saturday following Thanksgiving. Evans never missed a game, and Arlene went when she could. Evans reacted to Brittany’s soccer games the same way as her baseball games. He was loud, overly encouraging, and belittling of officials. He once threatened to punch the father of another girl who had accidentally tripped Brittany as she was about to kick a shot on goal. He had to be restrained by several other parents. Brittany was embarrassed, but got over it when she scored on the ensuing penalty shot.

Christmas time was the most special time of all. Even Arlene was attentive as they decorated their house inside and out. Then they would drive the Highland Park neighborhoods at night to see all the beautiful lights and Christmas scenes. People went all out, trimming houses, trees, sidewalks, driveways and shrubs with dazzling light shows and scenes of Santa Claus, reindeer, and the manger. They would all go Christmas shopping together in the Shoppe District, go to dinner and see a movie. Of course the traffic snarl was unbearable to Evans, who often would drive up on curbs, pass cars from the shoulder of a road, or impatiently wave ahead another car at an intersection as if he was in charge of traffic control. On Christmas Eve they would go to Midnight Mass, which Brittany loved only because she got to stay up so late. Once, when she got whiny because she was tired, Evans scolded her and told her that if she didn’t behave Santa Claus was going to put lumps of coal in her Christmas stockings that hung from the brick fireplace mantle. She acted sad, but knew he was just teasing her. He gave himself away in laughter, kissed her goodnight and told her that he had received an e-mail from Santa telling him what a good little girl she had been. The next day, Arlene would have brunch catered to the house, they would all open their gifts together, and spend the day eating, playing games, or watching some new movies.

So the holidays were the best, but for Evans Brittany was his whole life. Despite the word from the neighbors that he was a control freak and a doting father who was spoiling his child, Evans didn’t care. Life was like math. By taking the right steps, applying the right formulas, and doing the calculations correctly, the problem will be correctly solved. He was bound and determined that the cultural bubble in which they lived, the bubble that he had built for Brittany, would forever protect her from the ravages of life. He was her father, her guardian, and her protector. She was safe, and he was in control.

It was the Saturday before Easter. Arlene had gone on a two-day buying trip to San Antonio the previous Thursday, and was due back for an evening cookout. Evans and Brittany did some morning yard work, then ate a brief lunch before heading to the Dallas North Mall. It was tradition for Brittany to buy some new Easter clothes. Evans wanted to buy some of those magnificently polished geodes he had seen in the Science Shoppe the week before. They arrived at the mall about 1:30PM. It was packed. The mall had always been a popular haunt for shoppers in north Dallas, but since the completion of the new light rail transportation system, people from east and south Dallas had easy access to the mall. Evans did not particularly care for the kind of people that the light rail brought to north Dallas. Many lower income African American and Hispanic shoppers came, along with new groups of teenagers and young people who were now hanging around the mall. Evans and Arlene were worried that gang elements had found new turf. They had seen news stories about gangs on TV and, like many in the upscale neighborhoods, they became jittery when they saw groups of three or more people of color “huddling together”. Most troublesome were boys wearing baggy jeans, T-shirts hanging below the waist, baseball caps worn backwards or sideways, and lots of jewelry. In reality, except maybe for the jewelry, the boys didn’t dress much differently from the predominantly White teenagers in north Dallas. This was an interesting contradiction. Middle class Whites were quick to copy the fashion, slang, and even some of the music of urban minorities, while at the same time they were reluctant to accept them as neighbors. Most of the people who came to the mall from “the other side of town” were families, many of who had no other source of transportation. And, as the shoe so often is on the other foot in life, they felt a little jittery going into an area that was upscale and very different from their own neighborhoods. That is why they felt more secure by going in groups.

But still, when the light rail simplified travel in Dallas, only a myopic would fail to see that gangs would take full advantage of this new form of mobility. It allowed them to extend their drug trade into areas where there was a ready market of alienated kids all too eager to be cool and rebel against their parents attempts to control every aspect of their lives. Gangs anxious to expand their markets hotly contested for the new turf. Inevitably such competition would create instability, and fragile alliances would often collapse until a new order was established.

It was about 2:30PM when Evans handed the cashier at the Science Shoppe the money for his geodes. Brittany was sitting on a bench near an indoor waterfall and pond. The Science Shoppe sat at a corner where two mall walkways intersected. Brittany was sitting at this intersection, facing the sidewall of the Science Shoppe. One walkway led past an arcade, a restaurant, and then exited to a covered, three-story parking lot. The other one went past the Science Shoppe entrance to several other stores before spilling into a food center area. As Brittany sat waiting, something across the walkway caught her eye. She got up and ran toward it. Just about this time three teenage boys were coming around the corner from the parking lot. As they turned the corner they saw two boys emerge from the arcade. One of the two boys pulled a handgun that had been hidden in the waist of his baggy pants. The three boys froze, and as one of them was starting to cover his eyes with his hands he caught the flash of a girl jumping off the bench to his right. As she crossed his path he heard two loud shots- POP-POP. The girl fell, and he fell to the ground as a bullet creased his shoulder and then broke the window of a shoe store on the other side of the mall. The boy who fired the shot, and his companion turned and fled through the exit.

“What the hell was that?” Evans asked the cashier as he got his change.

“It sounded like two big firecrackers or somethin’,” the cashier replied. Soon they heard a commotion outside the store, and people were shouting and running around the corner.

“Someone’s been shot,” Evans heard someone say. “Quick, somebody get a doctor, this girl’s been shot,” he heard another say. A woman screamed. Evans walked out the door of the Science Shoppe and anxiously looked around for Brittany

“Brittany?” he called. “Brittany!” He couldn’t see her anywhere. As he entered the walkway and turned a corner he stopped dead still. He swallowed hard. It was the dry, painful swallow of a stunned person. Evans saw people standing in front of someone, a girl, lying on the floor. He hunkered down a bit and cocked his head so he could get a better look.

“I can’t see….oh no! Oh no, no, no, no, no.! He dropped his geodes. They crashed to the floor, breaking into shards of rock that skittered in all directions. Recoiling as if he were hit by gunfire, Evans fell to his knees and began crawling on all fours to Brittany.

“Get Away! Get Away!” he shouted as he crawled through the crowd. He finally worked his way through throngs of knees and legs. He saw Brittany lying motionless on the floor, her wide eyes looking at him, one hand trying to reach out to him.

Evans got to her, picked up her lifeless body and held her close He didn’t even see the massive head wound at her right temple. The side of her head was bleeding profusely. Her arms hung limp.

“Somebody help me!” Evans was sobbing as he pleaded for help. There was blood on his shirt and arms as he held her head. He put a hand over her temple to try to stem the blood flow. He held up Brittany’s face and looked at her eyes. They were as vacant as an empty lot.

Within minutes the police had arrived, and so had an ambulance with two paramedics. One of the paramedics had to physically remove Evans from his daughter so he could check her out while the other paramedic attended to the wounded boy. The paramedic with Brittany felt for a pulse. Not finding any, he bent to her lips and gave her CPR. He got no response. He told people to clear away while he pounded his fist on her chest, hoping to stimulate a heartbeat. Nothing! He repeated the procedure, three or four times. Getting nothing, the Paramedic looked deeply into her face and saw no signs of life. He took her pulse, nothing. Now resigned to what he was seeing, the paramedic reached toward Brittany’s face and closed her eyes with his hand.

Brittany was dead. She had been shot in the right temple with what turned out to be a .357 magnum round. She probably died seconds after hitting the floor. The boy who was wounded told the police what had happened, but could not identify the shooter beyond the knowledge that he was Hispanic. He told them that he thought he and his friends had been the intended target, and that for some reason she had jumped in front of him. He did not know why. No one else did either. Only Brittany knew that she had jumped up from the bench to try and catch a balloon that was floating aimlessly down the corridor.

Evans went berserk. When he heard that the wounded boy had been the target, he burst through two policemen and tried to choke him, and repeatedly screamed that the boy was “a no good bean dip.” He had to be physically restrained by the police as the boy was led to an awaiting police car. As Evans saw Brittany’s body being carried to the ambulance, he began to sob uncontrollably.

How could this have happened? he thought to himself. Not here, not in his bubble! He had taken precautions, had kept her safe. Everything had been under control. But as a Dallas police officer drove him home, Evans babbled incoherently about the wilderness getting Brittany. He stayed with Evans until Arlene arrived. When she found out what had happened, her body started shaking as she sobbed. The officer led Arlene to a couch and sat her down, then radioed for the Brinkley’s family physician. The police stayed until both Evans and Arlene had been sedated by their doctor. Evans grief caused him to be incapacitated. Despite her own grief, Arlene took control of the situation, making the calls, the arrangements. Brittany was buried two days later.

The Brinkley’s grief was compounded by the fact that Brittany’s murder went unsolved. The police were able to retrieve the murder weapon, but it turned out to have been stolen during the burglary of a dentist’s residence a year earlier. They told the Brinkley’s that they couldn’t link the gun to a suspect. No one in the mall had gotten a good look at the killer or his accomplice. The only thing the police could tell them is that the youths involved may have been members of two rival gangs, and that the investigation was “ongoing”. Every day for 6 months Evans called the police for an update, and every day he was told the same thing. The chances of catching Brittany’s killer diminished with each passing day as the case got colder, colder than a rack of lamb in a butcher’s cooler, and just as dead.

Inevitably, Evans and Arlene began to blame one another. Arlene blamed Evans for not being there to protect Brittany when she was shot. Evans blamed Arlene for hardly being there at all. The fact that the blame coming from each of them was groundless meant nothing to a marriage that had already been dying on the vines Too much water had passed over the nuptial dam, as each of them became firmly entrenched in their own rationalizations. With the death of Brittany, the final bond between them had been broken.

The following January two things happened, one less important than the other. Of lesser importance was that Arlene filed for divorce. At first Evans was shaken by the news. But, after thinking about it, he realized that Arlene’s action was for the best. They split amiably, but Evans got a lucrative settlement. It turned out that the evidence he had compiled on Arlene’s indiscretions gave her great incentive to see things his way. Her circle of friends would not take kindly to the fact that she had slept with several of her friends’ husbands. Arlene kept the antique business after a hefty buyout of Evans’ fifty percent. He kept the house, the boat, and his mouth shut.

The second thing that happened was that Evans Brinkley had a vision. More accurately it was a dream because, technically speaking, he was asleep. But in his vision Cotton Mather, the Puritan leader who extolled the virtues of hard work, discipline, and creating order from chaos during the late 1600’s, visited Evans. Among other things, Mather believed that God had ordained that the Puritans were the instruments of civilization. It was the duty of the settlers to bring order and civilization to the New World, and to subdue the wilderness, which was, Mather believed, the Devils’ house. Any body who lived outside the boundaries of civilization, Mather argued, was no better than the red savages who infested the forest primeval. Since Indians lived in the wilderness, they were defined as devilish and in need of extermination. Or so Mather had reasoned.

In Evans’ dream he saw Mather walking toward him pushing a wheelbarrow filled with lawn and garden products. Evans watched as Mather pulled a bag of weed and feed from the wheelbarrow. He cupped his hands, put them into the bag, extracted a handful of the stuff, and threw it into the air. Evans looked on as the granules came down and landed in the grass. As they did so the grass was transformed into people. They all had signs hanging from their necks. On some of the people the signs read “Decent People”, and they were smiling and applauding Evans. Others had signs on them that read “Gang Bangers,” and they were snarling with menacing looks as they melted into the ground.

The memory of the vision coupled with the sound of a lawnmower brought Evans out of his journey into the past. Alert now, he looked around, and saw that a man was mowing around some of the nearby headstones. Evans blinked, as much to get the stinging sweat out of his eyes as anything, and looked down at Brittany’s grave. He had waited two years before implementing his plan, and now he was on a road of no return.

It’s the deep and dark road, he thought. He would succeed where the police had failed. More than that he would cleanse his yard of the weeds and debris that sapped the life from that which was his heart. He would exact tribute, take revenge, balance the books. Whatever cliché crossed his mind would serve to rationalize his course of action. They had burst his bubble, and he had to take action. No matter how long, or how many, he would weed them out. He would become their worst nightmare. “Keep your noses into the wind bean dips, the Grim Reaper is coming,” he would repeat to himself as if it was a mantra. Until now he had had no idea how powerful a motivator hate could be. He was awash in it. Hate spilled out of him with the sweat that oozed from every pore of his skin. It covered him like a coat of paint. It owned him. Yet it was controlled hatred, calculated, absolutely and utterly cold. He didn’t want to get caught and yet he did not fear it. He had found no fear in the first three “cleansing events” as he called them, but he also had not found any relief. There was no satiation of any kind, no guilt, not a shred of remorse.

“How many more?” He asked himself. “When will I be clean?”

Tormented and tortured he looked down at the headstone one last time and said, “The yard is looking better all the time ‘Punkin’. I gotta go, but I’ll be back soon.” He got into his Chevy van, turned the key and drove off. The man on the lawnmower was now working his way over toward where Brittany lay. If he had looked closely he would have noticed something unusual. On that luxurious Bermuda grass that carpeted Brittany’s grave there were three divots where chunks of grass had been removed.

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