Short story I wrote. Please read if you have time.

The sky, dark and lousy with rain, stretched above a long line of cars that inched their way along the I-15 from L.A. to Vegas; a chain of orange brake lights in one direction, a stream of yellow headlights in the other. The Mojave, bisected by the highway, spread out around it for miles in shades of uninterrupted blacks and grays; a great expanse of desert terrain and gentle hills, with tiny roads leading off the highway and into the blackness like the rivulets of an asphalt river.

“This is some shit,” Ray said, lowering his window to spit into the rain, then quickly sliding it back up.

“Rain don’t let up, won’t be morning ‘till we get there,” Cash said. “The hell with it. Be worth it anyway.”

“You got that right," Ray said, turning down the radio. "It don't matter what time we get there, we start drinking when we do and we don’t stop until Sunday morning.”

“Amen.”

A forked line of silver slashed in the sky and repelled the darkness ahead of them. Thunder cracked, startling Ray, who then slid a cigarette from a pack in his pocket and lit it.

“Surprised the old lady let you get away for the weekend,” he said.

“She got her mom staying over to help with the kids,” said Cash. “Besides, I didn’t give her much choice. Told her it had been too long since you and me had a chance to get a little rowdy.”

“Life do get in the way. Gotta admit, I was surprised when you asked me if I was up for it. I thought those days was behind us.”

“Not yet they’re not. But almost. To tell the truth, I was more interested in the drive than the partying.”

“Why’s that,” Ray asked.

“Give us a chance to talk,” Cash answered. “Needed to get something off my chest.”

Just then, the car ahead slowed and Ray slammed on the brakes.

“Fucking learn to drive!” he shouted. His cigarette bobbed precariously on his lower lip, its ashes fell across his chest.

Cash laughed.

Ray cursed and brushed away the ashes, then rolled down the window and tossed his cigarette onto the road.

“We go way back, you and me,” Cash continued. “And there ain’t no one else I can tell this story to but you. And I got to tell someone.”

"If you can't trust ol' Ray," Ray said. "You can't trust nobody. You know that."

"I do know that. Just not sure where to start. The story's crazy and I ain't had practice telling it."

"You don't have to tell it perfect if you're just getting it off your chest. You just gotta tell it."

"I guess that's true, ain't it," Cash said, "So this goes back a bit. About twelve years in fact. Right before Katie was born. I was out of work. Stressed out. Just really stressed out what with the baby on the way. Gina wasn't making shit at her job and I didn't know when I'd work again."

"I do remember that stretch," Ray said. "You were different, man. You didn't return nobody's calls, stopped going out. I'd see your car in the driveway but you never answered when I knocked."

"Yeah, well, I was a mess. Even thought about doing myself in. Bought a gun and everything. Cheap piece of shit .38 from a pawnshop, but it woulda done the trick."

"Jesus, man. I had no idea."

"Yeah, it was like that. So, one day I'm feeling particularly miserable and I come across this news story about a couple of brothers in Camarillo, not more than an hour from where we live. A couple of teenagers. Just kids really. But what they did was steal a neighbor's dog and torture the poor thing. The story had the 'before' picture of the dog. Cute little thing named Chunky. Next to it was the 'after' picture. You shoulda seen that after picture. Man, they tore that thing up. Broke its legs. Broke its neck. Set its fucking face on fire. Stabbed it all over with a pocket knife and left it for dead in some bushes. Took a couple of days before anyone found it."

"Holy shit. Sick fucks."

"It was some heavy shit. But the heaviest part is that the dog survived. Somehow that made it worse for me; the dog having to live with the memories of what these sick kids did to it. It got to me."

The rain began to fall in heavy sheets, blanketing their windshield and rendering the wipers useless. It became loud inside the car, the rain striking at the rooftop like a shower of marbles.

"Can't see for shit," Ray said, leaning forward until his chest was nearly pressed up against the steering wheel.

"I couldn't sleep that first night after I read the story. Same shit the second night. I kept pulling the story up and reading the details of what they did. I'd catch naps from time to time, you know, but I wasn't sleeping right at all. Wasn't thinking right either. I started fantasizing about what I'd do if I got my hands on them."

"Everyone feels that way at one time or another. It's the goddamn media. Ain't never anything good in the news."

"This was different. It started becoming less about the dog to me and more about them. That was something low, you know? That was evil for evil's sake. There isn't a place for that shit in the world. I mean, I had done some things in my life--stupid things--but nothing outright cruel like that."

"Dumb kids. I hope that shit follows them for the rest of their lives."

"It did," Cash said, swiping his finger across the screen of his phone to check for messages before clicking it off and shoving it into his pocket. "Anyway, the baby was still a couple of months away and I knew I had to get my head straight so I started taking some pills to help me sleep. It worked. After a few nights of getting a full eight, I stopped thinking about the news story so much. And then not at all."

Ray retrieved the pack of cigarettes from his pocket and gestured with it. Cash declined by raising a hand. Ray lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply.

"A week later, I'm reading the paper and there is a headline that catches me off-guard," Cash continued. "PROBATION FOR BROTHERS WHO ABUSED DOG, it read. I couldn't believe it. The fuckers had to pay a fine and couldn't own an animal for five years, but that was it. It was like a switch was flipped inside me. But I didn't get depressed this time--I got inspired. I'd find them. I didn't know how, but I'd find them."

"So this is a revenge story? Holy shit."

"This ain't no revenge story."

"Well, get on with it, man. Wait. Is this for real? You're not fucking with me, are you?"

Cash reached into his pocket, produced a neatly folded newspaper clipping and handed it to Ray.

Ray clicked on the dome light before he pressed the brake and glanced down at the article. The car ahead of them moved forward. Ray kept reading. A large truck honked and flashed its headlights at them. Ray handed back the paper, his mouth agape, and released the brake. The car drifted forward.
"It says the brothers went missing. Jesus."

"The article is missing the most important details."

"I'm not sure I want to know, man," Ray said, the cigarette's cherry glowing brightly as he inhaled. "I mean, fuck that, I'm dying to know, but..."

"I don't know what I'm expecting to happen by telling you, I just know I gotta get it out," Cash said. "But maybe you ain't prepared for where this story is going. Maybe we should wait till we get to Vegas before I tell it."

"You're out of your fucking mind if you think I'm waiting two hours to hear it."

Cash looked out the passenger window at the blackness of the Mojave.

"Did you know Gina's brother's a cop? Well, he is. I told Gina we should invite him and his wife over for dinner, which surprised her because she always thought I hated the poor guy. A week later, they're over and we're sitting around the dinner table eating, drinking, and having a good ol' time. We're talking about his work and I'm asking him all kinds of questions about it. The wine is flowing and he's opening up about the job and it's nothing for me to slip in a question about the dog abuse case. He says he doesn't know much about it since it happened in another county, but that it was a damn shame--not only for the dog but for these kids who had this promising future on the football field before all this. Well, that was really all I needed. In a town the size of Camarillo, it really isn't hard to find the names of two brothers who are standouts in football. There would have been talk of them in the local paper a bunch of times."

"So that's how you found them. But what was your plan?"

"I'm getting there. So I stay awake all night coming up with a plan. I didn't want to leave no detail out because I wasn't gonna spend the rest of my life in jail on account of these two scumbags. So I rented a car. A real boring gray one. And I stole a license plate from an abandoned car in Van Nuys. Then I drove to Camarillo and went straight to the library. It doesn't take me long to find their names in the newspaper archives. No one pays me any mind. Then I drive home. The next day I return to the area and scout out a place to take them. I'm real careful switching the plates back and forth."

"Where does Gina think you're at all this time?"

"She was pregnant and working, so her mind wasn't on me so much as her aching back. I was careful to be home before she was every day. I wasn't worried about Gina."

The downpour became so heavy that it made the car feel like a cave in the middle of exactly nowhere. The dome light, yellowed from years of smoke from Ray's unfiltered cigarettes, cast the cave's inhabitants in shadows and sepia tones; the fire by which they huddled.

"It took a week of driving all over before I found a place. It was an abandoned warehouse down by the water in Oxnard. I know, straight outta the movies. It smelled like fish and trash. No cameras that I could see. It was perfect."

"You still had to grab them without being seen."

"You'd be surprised what a little patience will do. I camped out up the block from where they lived for a full two weeks and took notes on everything they did and how the folks in the neighborhood behaved. I took several other steps: I changed cars every couple of days, always renting from different agencies in order to not stand out. I used the fake plates and never parked in the same spot on the street. I took care to change my appearance a bit. Big aviator sunglasses and a hat pulled low. Anyway, the brothers came home every day at four, an hour and a half before their mother got home and two and a half hours before dad. The street was real quiet in the afternoon."

"You must have been nervous as hell."

"I was riding a wave of energy. Maybe it was nerves. Maybe it was just some sense of righteousness--like I was playing a part that had been decided for me. Like the Hand of God, but you know I'm not a religious man. The biggest thing I felt was this focus. Like I had those two in my sites and all I had to do was squeeze the trigger and erase a little bit of evil from the world."

"For someone who ain't a religious man, you sure talking like one."

"I guess I am. It wasn't like I was praying for help or hearing any kinds of voices telling me to do it. It's just that the few brief moments when a bit of doubt would creep in I'd think of that little dog--that trusting creature--and the way they just abused it for their own amusement, and I felt like I was facing real evil. No other way I can put it. What do you think about people like that, folks who take pleasure in harming others? Ain't they got to be dealt with?"

"I guess they do. It WAS just a dog, though."

"Maybe I'm not explaining myself right, but it's not about avenging the dog. I told you that. It's like this: someone steals something because they're hungry or stupid, fine, it's something I can understand. Someone gets in your face and you have to knock loose a few of their teeth, I understand that too. There's a lot I can tolerate because we're just dumb fucking creatures stuck roaming this rock without much sign as to why. But this was different."

The rain had slowed to a drizzle but it wasn't until Cash stopped talking that they realized it. Ray rolled the window down and spat into the darkness.

"The day finally came. I showed up with a van this time. A white rental van. You can just see me with my big ol sunglasses on and my hat pulled down, can't you? Pulling up in a white van like that? Shit man, you see a white van and a guy like me waiting for you and you know it's nothing good. Well, that's what they saw when they pulled into their driveway and stepped out of their car. But as quickly as they suspected something was wrong, they saw the gun and then they knew it. They froze completely. Big tough guys when it's a little dog. Not so tough looking down the barrel of a .38. I told them to get into the van and they did right away. Once they were inside it only took me a couple of minutes to get them tied up and gagged."

Cash's cellphone rang and Ray jumped. Cash chuckled at Ray's reaction.

"Hey honey, we're still on the road," Cash said into the phone. "Go on ahead to bed. It'll be too late to call when I get there. O.k., love you too."

He shoved his phone into his pocket just as Ray lit another smoke.

"I'm driving through Oxnard with the brothers in the back and now I'm actually nervous. I spot a cop at an intersection and I'm positive he can see right through the walls of the van. Hell, I was sure he could see right into my soul. But I turned left and he went straight and it was smooth sailing from there. I won't lie, my hands were shaking and I would have been hard-pressed to talk normally if I'd have had to at that moment, but we got there just fine. I parked in a spot between the warehouse and the water and forced them into the building."

All that was left of the rain were some scattered drops that hit the windshield and ran up it as if they were trying to get away. Traffic opened up just as they passed a big green highway sign that read Zzyzx Road 1 mile.

"Anyway. I get them inside and their eyes get all wide because the reality of it all came crashing down on them. It was at that moment that they thought they knew what was in store for them, but let me tell you, they had no fucking idea. One of them--his name was Owen--he starts crying right away. His brother, Ryan, starts mumbling frantically but I can't make out what he's saying because of the gag in his mouth. Well, I tie them to posts in the center of this big empty space. The floor is filthy with oil and dirt and all kinds of trash; as I said, perfect for what I was about to do. I then grabbed a duffel bag from under a tarp in the corner of the room and laid out all sorts of tools to inflict every kind pain imaginable on them. And for the next two hours, that's exactly what I did. I used everything I had--a hammer for their small joints, knives to cut flesh away from their body, a torch to burn their faces the way they burned Chunky's, and a baseball bat to beat at what was left of them until they were gone. I did them one at a time so that the other could get the full horror of what was about to befall him."

"You're fucking crazy, man. I hope you didn't get a kick out of that."

"Not as much as I thought I would when I first read the article. The truth is, right after I started on Ryan with the hammer--right in the beginning--I was already starting to feel some amount of pity for them. I can go to my grave knowing that I took no more pleasure in the rest of what I did to them than you'd take in killing a squirrel that's chewing up your garden. And when I was done, all I could feel was tired. But I still had to clean up, you know? I had left a mess of things. I spent the next couple of hours cutting them up and placing them in bags--bags I would bury all the way out here."

"Out here?"

"Well, not here exactly. But not far from here. I don't remember specifically where."

Ray was breathless. He looked away from Cash and from the road and instead scanned the desert and imagined his old friend covered in blood and dirt, burying the pieces of two dumbshit kids out in the middle of nowhere.

When he turned back around, Cash was holding a gun.

"Ray, old buddy, you're going to take the next exit."

"What the fuck, man. What are you doing, Cash?"

"You asked me if the story about the brothers was a revenge story. I told you it wasn't. That was a story of justice, I guess on some kind of spiritual level, I don't know. They hadn't done anything for me personally to avenge. But this...this thing that's about to happen to you. This here is a revenge story."

"Revenge for what, Cash, you've lost your fucking mind, man!"

"For Katie. The things you did to her. She told us everything."

Ray blanched.

"Ray, I want you to think about what I did to those brothers. Those two teenagers who hurt that little dog and how I made the whole thing right. Then I want you to think about what I might do to someone who hurt my little girl. Now exit here."

Ray did, driving miles and miles into darkness. Then he saw, parked on the side of the desolate road, a white rental van.

End. lol

Fucking awesome!  I was rivetted from beginning to end.  Loved it.

2 things though, I think Ray's build up of horror as he's hearing Cash's story isn't quite big enough.  Almost like they had a past doing bad shit together and Ray wasn't too shocked by what he'd just heard.  Second is, orange brake-lights? 

Awesome feedback, deepu! Thank you!

Maybe I should change the brakelights to red. lol

Ill also look at Ray's reaction throughout. Thank you!

Holy shit. You need to do a follow up to this... I'm not much into reading, but that.... that was exhilarating and my hearts beating. Lol well done, sir. You have a gift. 

BeardedGlory - 

Holy shit. You need to do a follow up to this... I'm not much into reading, but that.... that was exhilarating and my hearts beating. Lol well done, sir. You have a gift. 


Wow! Thank you very much!

Sub4later

I FOR ONE AM HARD AS A ROCK.    WELL DONE  SIR.

For later, love shit like this.

I hope you guys like it. Thanks!

Too long, can't read

ShanTheMan - Too long, can't read

Try!

TLDR. Can you highlight the Starbucks guard pull scene?

JK, in for later read.

MarsMan - 


Awesome story, Andre!



I agree with Deepu's comment on Ray getting progressively more horrified (maybe something that could suggest guilt without being explicit, like him feeling a knot in his stomach as the Cash starts telling the story).



 



Great to see you posting, anyway.


Thanks man!

In an earlier version I dropped some hints like that and one of the readers felt it took away the surprise at the end. There is probably some middle ground I need to find.

Thanks to everyone who plans to read it, as well!