Vengeance and Sorrow by Cody Love-Whitmer

Vengeance and Sorrow

Cody Love-Whitmer

The night stood still and quiet, slumbering softly under the desert moon. The responsibility and bustle of the day had long passed, and the excitement and hustle of the nightlife was thriving.  Amongst the many happenings of the shadowy night, a man faced his inner demons. Osiris Stone held his head in his hands, cold sweat dripping onto the 70’s shag carpet. The sweat formed from the heat of the uptown metropolis apartment and the AC was broken, but it also beaded because of the image playing over in his head. Like a wraith, it consumed him. A man’s cold, worried face frozen in time, crimson life pouring from his shoulder and chest from small tunnels in his flesh. Twelve shots were heard on the other side of the city at 10:34 this evening; the neon clock on the nightstand glowed sinister, red numbers: 11:16. He rushed to his bathroom and discarded his dinner. He washed his face and pondered his miscalculation. He killed a man out of a desire for vengeance, and the wrong man had been robbed of life this night. Sirens rang in the hot July sky, the dusk had awoken.

Around 2 a.m. the world outside seemed to have quieted down. Tenants down the hall were gossiping about the night’s drunken antics and were scolded by the old widow next door. Osiris stared at the snowy screen of his broken television, same dream-like wraith still haunting his conscience. Finally his uneasy mind clicked.

He sprang from the mattress and threw open his closet. He dug through all of the dirty laundry that had formed over the days and found the small steel safe in the back. It was black, what paint was left on it. It belonged to his grandfather, a railroad worker between St. Louis and Phoenix, passed down to protect the family’s most valuable possessions. The strongbox contained only two items, $500 dollars rubber banded and aged. The second was worth more to him than all the oil, coal, and diamonds in the world. A simple picture. It was of a little girl. She was the daughter of Osiris Stone, Eva. She was his world, and he had nothing now.

Six years ago, she was diagnosed with children’s leukemia; at that time, his world began to crumble. The only thing he was proud of was slipping away from him. Three years after her diagnosis he stumbled onto a quite substantial amount of money, selling the small amount of stock he had bought in an up and coming Graphics Company. When he received word he was financially set for many years to come, he immediately rushed to Eva’s doctor and asked how much it would cost for her to be given the best treatment. The doctor set up everything possible, and Osiris gladly handed the money to his recent ex-wife, with prayers aplenty for his beautiful daughter.

Weeks went by and after constant visits. Eva called him on the phone and asked him to come see her, and her voice seemed weak and short. He sped all the way to be with his daughter. When he got there and first set eyes on his heart and soul he began to cry. She looked as if she was barely hanging on. He walked straight to the bed and hugged the frail little girl. A few moments later a nurse walked in and apologized for her intrusion.

“I’m terribly sorry sir, I will come back.”

“No no,” he cut her off and led her just outside the door. “I personally paid for the best treatment and accommodations for that little angel you just saw.  Why does she look like that?” he trailed off as he sobbed deep and tears poured from his eyes.

“I think Dr. Reynolds had her moved back up here because,” she paused, “something about the mother not having the money to pay for it.”

At that moment, his eyes welled up with tears and he was in total horror, until an angelic voice pulled at him.

“Daddy…I know where the money went.” He quickly wheeled back into the room to hear her out. “Mommy said it was a lot of money you gave her, thank you daddy, but she said Hank needed a new car for his new job. It’s ok it isn’t your fault.” Hank was the new boyfriend. Osiris’s wife Lucy had left him shortly after Eva was born; she had been having an affair, and Osiris found out.

He stared into the optimistic eyes of the angel on the bed, tears still dripping slowly until she broke the silence.

“I love you daddy, I know how much you care about me, I’ll watch over you when I’m in heaven.” She smiled at her father and he wrapped his arms all the way around her and cried as she slowly wrapped hers as far as she could around his torso and laid her head on his chest.

A month later she died, and when Osiris thought of that painful day, his recollection of events faltered and he was brought back to the reality of his current time.  She would be 9 this year. That was the last thought he allowed himself. He slammed the closest door, grasped the contents of the safe, and sped out of the apartment. He did not know where he was going, but he had to get out. Out of the city, out of this situation, out of his normal day to day, and into something good for Eva; to make her proud of him again. That night he slept under a nearby bridge, the cool water bringing a fleeting peace to his unsettling mind and the cool air billowing off the water’s surface giving him a cold chill, something that confined apartment never seemed to give.

The next day’s headline read, “Trinity Industries executive killed in cold blood behind high class strip club.” Osiris held the paper in shock as he knew the extent of which the large corporation would go in order to find the perpetrator. “The man seen fleeing the scene was about 6’ 1”, 185 pounds, clean shaven with short black hair. Suspect left the gun at the scene and fingerprint analysis will soon give us a lead. Trinity Industries spokesmen stated the will assist the Phoenix PD in everyway possible to find justice for the loss of a dear member.” He tossed the paper in the nearest trashcan and began walking down the street, wondering where the hell he would go.  He knew he had to get out and soon, but he had no car and a plane ticket was out of the question. There was a charter bus line office about twelve blocks away. As he began walking he started noticing things that he never had before. The part of town he had been living in for longer than he could remember was…nice. The stores and apartments on top looked clean, pricy even, but Osiris knew that they all were like his in reality. He watched the people fly in and out of a grocery store, wondering if they all were like him and the surrounding buildings: normal and well on the outside, but dark and disoriented on the inside.

Block by block he made his way north, after every crosswalk he felt a little more hope of getting out of there. He heard sirens blocks away and he jumped, frightened by the threat but soon realized in a city this size it could be anywhere they were going. He cursed himself. The sirens came ripping around the corner and flew past him and sharply turned left into a parking lot. Osiris’s heart began to race. His paced quickened to a speeding walk, then a run. He sprinted to the corner, and he stopped along with his heart. The two cruisers had pulled into the charter bus line station and parked next to three others who had clearly been there a while. They were placing police tape blocking off the station and preventing anyone from entering. All the hope he had built up shattered.

Across the street one of the cops looked up at Osiris. He nodded and turned the corner and kept walking to avoid any kind of confrontation. He was out of ideas. He deducted that if they were blocking of bus lines, there would be more obstacles than just this. He tucked his hands into his battered blue jeans and kicked a piece of concrete with his worn high tops. His Houston Texans T-shirt was a little big for him and blew in the slight breeze that he now headed into.  He looked like an average Joe on the street, but Phoenix cops were not afraid to stop and ask questions. He knew he had to change his appearance, and his facial hair grew in quick. He decided to find the first clothing store he could and buy a hat maybe that would help. A few blocks down he ran into a University of Arizona apparel shop. Perfect. Nobody in this town would ever suspect an Arizona fan. He walked into the store and he approached the counter. Behind the counter a young girl was counting money in the register. We he saw her face he could have swore it was Eva.

“Sir, Sir, Sir,” she pleaded as he slowly came out of his hallucination.

“Sorry, can I get a Wildcat hat please.” He grabbed his wallet and pulled out thirty dollars.

“Well of course, sir, we sure ain’t Sun Devil lovers here. What kind would you like, fitted or sizeable?”

“Fitted if you don’t mind, large and preferably white”

She grabbed an extended hook and grabbed a white hat from the very top of the rack. “Here you are sir; this one is a hit with the male students.”

“Thanks,” he mumbled as he laid the money on the counter and put the hat on backwards. ”Keep the change.”

“Thanks!” she retorted quickly as he exited the door. Osiris let out a huge sigh, glad that he had distracted her from the poster with his face on it behind the counter of the small shop. He quickly continued on. He had made up his mind within that dinky shop. He was going to simply walk out of Phoenix and find someway out of state. He wasn’t far from the western way out of town, smack right into mountains. He could hide there overnight and then try to hitchhike to California. As soon as he completed this thought, it was like he started a fire. Sirens exploded behind him, and a cruiser rambled past him as more sirens blasted in the distance. The cruiser that passed him slammed on its brakes and began to turn around. Without a second thought, Oz ducked into an alley way cut serpentine turns through the path. The sirens rang all around him. He looked around for a solution, but it wasn’t around him but above him. A simple ladder. He climbed to the top of a shoddy Chinese restaurant and peered to the west. Disappointment flooded his heart. Someone told somebody he was near here, because there was a parade of police cars swarming the streets below. Within 10 seconds he counted twenty three cars, and under the over pass ramp on interstate 10 were three sheriffs and a couple Arizona State Patrol. His mind wandered. His heart was resonating through his chest. Again his instincts took over, which worked for the better. He began sprinting, out of one alley and into another, never stopping. He must have crossed twenty streets before he even felt any pain in his legs.

He began to slow down when he realized he had entered one of the rougher parts of town. For some odd reason he felt safer. He casually left the alley back onto the sidewalk. There were a few people walking, not nearly as many as in the heart of it all. Nearby a group of about sixteen Mexican Americans were standing around a ’65 Impala listening to music and making it hop with a hydraulics controller. He knew about this part of town, the PD stayed far away from here, it had a huge gang problem. He focused his gaze on the sidewalk, not making any eye contact with anyone, which caused him to knock someone over.

“Oh shit, I’m so sorry.” He reached to help the woman up, feeling completely stupid.

“It’s nothing.” She looked up and realized who he was. “Well hey, sugar, how are you?”

Osiris looked oddly at the woman as he helped her up. “Do I know you?”

“Let me refresh your memory love. So how do you like your women Iron Man?” she said in a seductive tone.

“Oh my god, Raven? Your hair, its brown?” he stuttered slowly.

“Hun, I don’t use my true hair color at the club silly, I use a blonde wig, patrons might recognize me on the street. My real name is Emma. Raven is just my stage name.” She did her famous wink she was known for, and they both laughed together until they heard sirens. Osiris’s face went grim.

“My place isn’t too far from here, let’s go chat there,” she said, and they walked casually to her apartment, sure not to cause any stir.

Within that suburban apartment above the Desert Sun Laundromat, the two adults recollected their brief history with one another. Emma walked into the modest living room with two mugs of coffee.

“Yeah I remember those few nights you came in. You reminded me of Tony Stark from that Iron Man movie; you looked like a real nice guy. I remember you asking about Hank, Angel’s regular, and I remember me giving you lap dances each one of those nights and you just watching him take his routine 10:30 smoke break. In the club you never told me the whole story, even though I love a good book”

“Yeah, sorry about that. Great dances by the way. My mind was just distracted.”

“I know, sugar, you told me. Me and almost all the girls up at Full Moon.”

“Oh yeah,” Oz sighed and sagged his head.

“Hun, don’t hate yourself, I was working the night the shooting happened, and if I were in the situation you were in, I would have pulled the trigger too.” She smiled at him and pulled his head up. “I don’t know you well, but my heart tells me to help you. I have this couch you can sleep on and a shower down the hall, you’re welcome to them both. I’ll do some grocery shopping, and you won’t have to leave the place. Gather your thoughts and maybe I can get you a way out of town if that is what you need.” She gave him another famous wink and disappeared down the hall. Osiris could not believe the break he was just given. He sat quietly for a good minute before he spoke up.

“Why are you helping me Emma?” he asked innocently.  She came into the room with two pillows and a fleece blanket. Her answer was simple.

“Because if that little girl was anywhere close to as cute as you are, she deserves justice. You made a mistake that you couldn’t have even predicted, you shouldn’t be condemned.” She threw the bedding onto the couch and walked to the kitchen to make a list. Osiris couldn’t do anything but smile as he said “Way cuter,” and Emma let out a small giggle.

He stayed with her for four days. Over those days they had gotten to known each other pretty well, and the outside world seemed to disappear. The hype of the hunt had died but was far from over with Corporation money fueling it. The first night she made him dinner and the days after he became more and more helpful until the previous night he had made her dinner. They talked about life, high school, and relationships past, realizing all of that negative matter was well behind them. She had helped him trim his excess facial hair into a chin strap, and he looked somewhat different than before. They had gone from acquaintance strangers to about as close to best friends as you can get in four days. They saw the beauty in one another, the self worth, and they understood the other.  On the fourth day after finishing dishes, Emma brought up the topic she wished she could have forgotten.

“I talked to my brother. He said he’s helping a friend move to a house on the outskirts of the city limits. Said he can put you in the back of the u-haul and get you mostly out of town. He is leaving tonight at 5, from a house by the river not far from here.” That was the last they spoke of it. The rest of the day they sat together, she leaned against him, and he had one arm around her. When 4:30 rolled around, Osiris grabbed the jacket and bag Emma had given him, full of simple foods, a sleeping bag, and a notebook.

“The notebook has my number in it and my address in case you can’t remember it. I want to hear from you as soon as possible, you got it?” she inquired serious but caringly.

“Hell yes, ma’am,” he fake saluted.

She ran over to him and hugged him tightly. He hugged back without hesitation. When they finally pulled away she kissed him lightly on the cheek and they stared at one another until their lips came together in a slow, passionate kiss that lasted minutes.

Reluctantly he made his way down the stairs and out the door. The river was five blocks away. His heart hurt that he had to leave Emma this way, but he was determined to find her again if there was anyway out of this. Three blocks went by without him knowing, and he was almost to his destination when suddenly he felt like he had been here before. He stopped and looked around. A few of the buildings looked familiar, and he could see the river between them. As he made his way toward the water and around a corner he stopped in shocked.

He stood motionless staring at the iron arch, a cold realization slithering throughout his body. He had forgotten why he remembered this place but a single arch made of a common ore struck him like a spear. “Augustine Cemetery” the arch read. He slowly glided through the courtyard past marble wonders big and small to a single plot all alone almost right against the river. She loved water. The cool marble had a carved image of her favorite stuffed turtle Eugene. The writing was in gothic script and the named flowed across the preciously smooth surface. “Eva Stone; a gift that made life much sweeter.” Osiris crouched down and ran his fingers over the letters one by one. Tears streamed down his face without a whimper. The teddy bear he had left last year, when he last visited, was tattered and worn but still standing guard over her.

“I’m sorry” he said softly. “All of this stress and confusion made me forget where I was.” He looked down in shame. “I’m not a daddy worth being proud of, I should be better for you. I should have never snapped, but once I saw him when I drove past that club two weeks ago, I lost it. Never thought I would see his worthless ass again, but I must have thought it was a sign or some twisted opportunity.” He fought back tears but they prevailed. “I love you Eva, and I miss you so much.” He whispered as tears fell onto the grass below. The wind picked up and brushed gently across his face and he looked up. He smiled and felt her on that short breeze. “I will be better for you baby girl, I promise.” He kissed his hand and laid it on her name and began to stand up. He breathed in a few deep breathes. He pulled off his new Arizona hat and laid it next to the teddy bear and was startled by a forceful yell.

“Hands up now!” the voice reverberated in the police loudspeaker. Osiris watched as cop after cop got out of their vehicle and pointed their gun at him outside of the cemetery fence. “Osiris Stone, you are accused of the murder of Cornelius Atwood, an executive at Trinity Industries. Stay where you are and come quietly and the Arizona Judicial System may show mercy.” The cop with the microphone sounded cocky. They did have him surrounded and Osiris knew he was caught. He began to put his hands up and stepped back from the headstone when the breeze suddenly started up again but from another direction that gently pushed Oz up against the railing that overlooked the river. He looked at the name Eva and smiled. Osiris Stone jumped fearlessly over the railing and into the Gila River in one fluid motion. At that moment a dozen Phoenix Police dead sprinted to the railing to see if he survived. They spotted him climbing a ladder on the other side of the river and running out of the City of Phoenix, Arizona. The closest bridge across the river was three miles either way, and the PD knew by the time they got over the bridges that Osiris Stone would have to be snagged by a Sherriff or a Trooper.

Over the next three days Troopers and Sheriffs searched for Osiris Stone. Little did they know that he was staying in a motel on Interstate 10 under the alias of Hank Warren. On the third day Osiris Stone fulfilled his promise to his daughter Eva. He walked into the Phoenix Police Department’s head Precinct and greeted the female officer at the front desk.

“Excuse me miss, I’d like to turn myself in for the murder of Cornelius Atwood.”

The redhead at the desk looked up at him and she smiled. “Well sir that is mighty right of you, but his killer has already been found.”

Osiris gave her a puzzled look and the lady tapped an aged detective on the shoulder and whispered to him. The man turned to Oz.

“Ah yes, two nights ago we got a call from a ranch farmer on the outskirts of town.  Seems his daughter Angel works at the Full Moon strip club, and, well, one of her admirers followed her home and tried to get some action. Her daddy came out with a 12 gauge and shot the stalker. We found Atwood’s wallet and credit cards in the man’s back pocket and finally got the Trinity snot nose’s off our backs. Osiris Stone’s name got cleared of everything wherever that smart s.o.b  got to.” The detective laughed and went back to filing his paperwork. Osiris stood awestruck at the story he had just heard. The lady behind the desk smiled at him and told him to have a nice day. Oz turned around and thought of what just happened. Did the world just give him a break? Hank stalked his favorite stripper to her house and got shot by her dad. He had Atwood’s wallet, meaning he took it when he passed him on his way back into the club. Hank must have taken his break early that night.

Osiris shook the past week off and opened the front door to the Phoenix PD. He stepped down the stairs, watching his feet descend when a whistle caught his attention. He looked up. Emma was leaning on Osiris’s car in her normal seductive way. She gave him a smirk,

“Thought you might be in the neighborhood, so I thought I’d pick you up.” She tossed him the keys.

“How did you…” he began, but she cut him off.

“I have my ways. I’m glad everything worked out Oz.” She smiled and got into the passenger seat.

“Me, too.” He looked up in the sky and smiled as he opened the driver door. He kissed his hand, raising it to the sky. “Thanks, Eva.” He started the car and drove in the new direction he was blessed with.

© All rights reserved.

Photo by Rachel Dotson. © All rights reserved.

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