Malcolm Frieze wasn't a violent man. He had never struck anyone in anger or in play. Not even as a child. He never so much as raised his voice. It was his nature. If there had ever been a better test of his resolve it had been walking in on his wife, Eileen and her lover. Even then he had not raised either his voice or his fist. He had simply turned around and walked back out of the door. Not that he hadn't been tempted to react badly, he had been. Years of training himself to remain calm had prevailed that day.
This is what he was thinking about as he calmly sat at
his butcher-block table in his sun-filled kitchen eating a ham and
cheese sandwich while ignoring his bloodied knuckles. No, thought
Malcolm, he was not a violent man. That test of his resolve proved it
beyond all else. The man tied to the pipe down in his basement drove
him to this.
It started a week ago. Malcolm was on his way to the
grocery store when he was forced to slam on his breaks thanks to a
red convertible. HE had a car just like that,the man who had stolen
Malcolm's wife. He remembered the car well, it had been his first
clue something was wrong.
He had no idea why he followed the car,but he found himself not at the store but in front of a condo on the other side of town. Malcolm was about to drive away when he realized it wasn't just a similar car, it was the same car driven by the same man.
Malcolm watched as the man climbed out of the car and was greeted by a woman at
the door. Eileen was very visibly pregnant, Malcolm realized. This
man had stolen not only Malcolm's wife but his child as well. He was
angry then, truly angry for the first time about the entire thing.
So, he returned again the next day, with his fear for
her steadily growing throughout the day as he watched. He saw what he
missed at first, makeup covering bruises. Long sleeved blouses in
early fall when she normally would still be in t-shirts, her slow and
On the third day, as he watched once more, he realized
what he had to do. This man had stolen Malcolm's life, and worse than
that, he was mistreating them once he had taken them from him. There
were some things that just could not be let go.
On the fourth day Malcolm waited for the man to go on
another drive. He finally emerged from the condo and climbed into the
car completely unaware of being watched, Malcolm slowly followed the
Malcolm waited until he pulled into a mostly deserted
parking garage nearly an hour later and as he glanced around walked
up to him. The strange and annoying thing to Malcolm was the man
seemed not to recognize him at all.
He ruined Malcolm's life, but Malcolm was nothing to
him. He pushed aside these selfish thoughts, this wasn't about him,
this was about protecting Eileen. He asked the man with a smile to
help him, saying that his car seemed to have stopped working. The
man told him that he didn't know anything about engines, but allowed
Malcolm to come closer to him as he spoke.
As the man apologized and turned away Malcolm struck.
He was slightly taller than the other man, and a great deal heavier.
He struggled still as he pulled the man, now with a pillowcase over
his head, to his trunk. This was a lot harder than it appeared in
movies, but Malcolm finally managed it.
He was on his way home when he began to wonder, now
that he had the man, what was he supposed to do with him? What does a
peaceful person do with the abusive lover of his wife? How does one
deal with such a man?
He forced the man down into the basement, tied him to
the pipe, and then was at a loss. He couldn't just keep someone down
here forever. He couldn't just let the man go. He couldn't just wait
around for the guy to realize he was wrong and repent his abusive
Malcolm had gone to work the next day, full of concern
that somehow the man would escape or someone would somehow find him.
He returned that evening to find he had been concerned over nothing.
However, the man in the basement seemed to have overcome his shock
while Malcolm was gone.
When Malcolm had come down to the basement, intent on a
calm and rational conversation on the man's behavior, the man had
reacted with anger and threats of violence against him. Malcolm
returned to the kitchen which was the best spot in his mind to think
things through, and considered his options while he prepared dinner.
Clearly the man didn't understand the serious nature of
abuse. Malcolm did, and though the idea of it turned his stomach, he
felt maybe the only way to get this man to understand was to hurt
him. If Malcolm hurt him badly enough maybe he would realize that
hurting Eileen was wrong.
So he had spent the next two evening using the man as a
punching bag, but the man did not react as Malcolm expected. Instead
of feeling badly for his own behavior, he continued to threaten
Malcolm with promises of lawsuits as well as threats of beating
Malcolm in return. The lesson just would not sink in.
This morning Malcolm had taken a bat to him. He'd hit
him so many times the bat had broken, but the man still would not
bend. It was Terrible to realize that some people just would not
realize the error of their ways and change, no matter how hard you
tried. As Malcolm cleaned the remains of his lunch he made up his
mind. Men like the one in his basement were a stain on the world.
There was really only one answer. He just hoped he had the stomach
Malcolm nodded grimly to himself as he pulled the
raincoat from the hall closet. Violent man or not,sometimes one had
no choice. This could only end one way if he wanted to save Eileen.
She was what was important here, not Malcolm's resolve to always do
the right thing, or the man downstairs pleas for mercy, or the law.
He turned on the stereo on the way back to the basement
and opened the door as the first notes of Mozart filled the house.
Cowering against the water heater, in the shadow cast
by the stairs, sat the center of Malcolm's dilemma. The man pleaded
from swollen lips as Malcolm approached for mercy. Malcolm felt a
twinge of guilt as he looked at the man's battered and swollen face.
He wheezed in an unhealthy way from his broken nose, favoring a
shattered leg and bruised ribs as he attempted to move further into
Perhaps, thought Malcolm, the man had had enough?
Perhaps if he let him go he would leave Eileen alone and it would be
fine. Was he really willing to risk it? Could he live with himself if
this man hurt her again? No, he decided,no this was the only way.
With sad determination Malcolm laid down a blue trap
and rummaged around in his toolbox for something that would end this
quickly. After all, there was no reason to be cruel and draw it out.
Behind him, the man concentrated on speaking clearly.
“Please, I won't say anything to anyone about this. Just let me
go,don't hurt me anymore. I swear,I've never hurt her!”
Malcolm shook his head sadly as he returned to the tarp
covered area. If only that were true. He offered the man a heart-felt
apology as the claw end of ended the debate.
Malcolm waited for the sun to completely set as he hummed to himself and made another sandwich. The door to the basement was glaring at him, mocking him and what he had done. If someone were to visit now, he didn't know what he would do. It would be impossible, he felt, to behave normally with the body of his wife's lover just below their feet.
Fortunately for Malcolm very few people ever came to
visit, and none came unannounced. It was a foolish fear that gripped
him brought on by the guilt of his actions. It wasn't every day that
a quiet polite person decided that the lifetime of restraint was
He still wondered if he had done the right thing. It
was clear to him that Eileen needed protection, but still the guilt
was disturbing. Even his meal felt stale in the face of what waited
for him downstairs. With a sigh he pushed away the remaining
sandwich, of which there were only a few tiny bites removed, and went
out to the backyard. He'd put off the unpleasantness as long as he
He looked at the upper windows of the neighbors on
either side as he walked to the shed, it was still early enough that
they shouldn't be in their beds, but now was not the time to become
careless. The tall wooden fencing hid his yard from the ground floors
on either side. The lights were still off, so he assumed they were in
the middle of their evening meals, if they had returned home for the
After retrieving the shovel from the shed he looked
around the yard for the right spot, before with a sigh, he settled on
the spot under the elm tree. The ground was softer there, where he
had only recently turned the earth to place the body of his long time
He didn't wanted his beloved Shepard to have to share
the same space as this monster, but wanted the job finished as
quickly as possible. Was it always like this? He wondered, for those
who had to act violently, was there always the guilty fear of being
found out? Would it fade away?
He dug furiously, ignoring the pain in his knuckles as
the physical activity reopened the wounds. He only stopped when he
reached the blue tarp that covered the body already there. Malcolm
climbed back out of the hole, and looked around at the neighbors
If anyone noticed him, he decided, he would tell them
that he had bought a new puppy but it had been hit by a car. They
would believe that, he was sure. After all they knew what an honest
and peaceful man he was, they would see no reason to question him.
The yard was nearly black by the time he had filled
back in the hole and returned the marker to the grave. He then
returned the shovel to the shed, grateful that he was finished just
as the first light came on upstairs on the left.
He went back into his house, and walked down into the
basement. There was no blood anywhere that he could see, but he
wanted to be sure. He filled pail after pail of water and bleach as
he scrubbed every inch of the basement, ignoring the pain in his
hands as the rubber gloves filled with his blood.
He soaked the raincoat in bleach in the laundry sink as
he worked, before rinsing it out carefully and hanging it in the
closet. He then returned to the laundry room and scrubbed the sink
several times. After he was satisfied that short of taking apart the
pipes he had done everything he could to remove any sign of the other
man from his home, Malcolm finally address his hand injuries.
With wrapped and stinging hands, he finally went
upstairs to sleep just as the sun began to rise. He was lucky that it
was the weekend and he wouldn't have to call in sick, because he was
far too tired to go to the office today.
Malcolm watched the evening news, as he rubbed is right hand. The scabs were nearly gone on the knuckles now, but the itched terribly. He knew he should leave them alone, that it would scar if he pulled at them. The itch was terrible though.
The blond reporter was talking about some missing
person, distracting Malcolm from the annoyance of his hands.
Something vaguely familiar about the woman in the interview was
bothering him. She was pleading for any information on her husband.
Malcolm had no idea why she should seem familiar to him, perhaps he
had seen her around town at some point, she wasn't one of his friends
He turned off the news, reminding himself that this was
why he never bothered with it. There were to many twisted and sad
things going on in the world, he'd rather not know.
He headed to the kitchen to start dinner, when he
realized that he had never done the shopping this week. Admittedly,
he preferred to put it off as long as possible. Shopping brought back
bad memories best left buried. Memories of red convertibles and deep
betrayal. The other memory, the one that loved to try to surface when
he wasn't watching whispered at him as well, but he pushed it down.
Some things were better forgotten, the matter was done.
He was at the traffic light on the way back from the
store when he glanced at the next lane. Sitting there, less than
three feet from him, was the red convertible. Malcolm looked away,
determined to ignore it.
Malcolm didn't know why he decided to follow the car,
but he found himself, not at home, but on the other side of town in
front of a large Tudor. The man climbed from the car and Malcolm
It was him, the man who had ruined his life, Malcolm
was sure of it. Yes, there, if he didn't need further proof, there
was Eileen right there in the front yard, playing with their
daughter. Malcolm hunched down in the car-seat, so that no one would
notice him as he watched this stranger greet Malcolm's family.
He decided then, he would be back tomorrow. He didn't
like the way Eileen looked from here, what if she was being
mistreated in some way? Malcolm didn't know what exactly he would do
but he would have to do something wouldn't he?
Malcolm prided himself on the fact that he was not a
violent man, but sometimes you had to set aside your principles to
protect the helpless. He just hoped he had the stomach for it.