Sometimes the person you hate the most is the one you ought to be most grateful to. I would go to my grave hating Denny Spencer but I never liked him to begin with. I caught him hunting on my land a couple of times and my neighbor popped him in the mouth one day, right there in front of me, with the stock of a rifle. Denny had no business on my property or Dan’s, but he was bad about stealing game cameras and worse about poaching. He will call another man “Mister” not out of respect but only to get something out of him. I and hated him and I hated the way he looked at my daughter when we would see him in town. Of course, I hated the way all of them looked at Shannon, and it bothered me she liked it.
No father is blind to the fact his daughter is going be like her mother. From a woman a daughter comes, and a man has to know that what he did to get a daughter some other man is going to want from his daughter, and just as young. I courted Mare when she wasn’t old enough to drive but old enough to let me lay her down in the seat of my truck. I couldn’t stand my daughter being that old and my mind refused to believe it. Mare and I talked a lot about it, how we had to let her go out, we had to let her date, and I knew it. They all dressed that way these days, and it was true. I’d be a true hypocrite if I didn’t say I didn’t catch my own eyes looking at some of Shannon’s friends. I knew Mare had caught me looking a time or two but she didn’t say anything.
Shannon was a good girl, good grades, smart as hell, but she was fifteen going on twenty-five. She wanted to stay out late, go to the beach on weekends wearing enough cloth to cover nothing at all, and she started listening to raunchy music with even worse lyrics. She got pulled over one night with Dan’s girl, and they both blamed the beer on something they found. I knew better and so did her mother, and Shannon pitched a fit about being grounded for a month. We knew this was the beginning of the end of our little girl being a little girl. I tacked another month onto her sentence for the language she used.
The nest day I caught Spencer on my property a full two weeks before hunting season and he didn’t realize I saw him until I was already there. He jumped and he looked around for Dan but before we could get down to the business of the excuses he made for being there he jumped out in front of the conversation.
“Reckon you got a right to be mad at me, Mr. Billy but I was just coming to see you (I had heard that one a couple of times before) and tell you that there’s been somebody coming in down South of your property and I done seen’em twict at night.” And that led to me asking him why he would be on my property, or Dan’s, at night, and that led to him looking for a lost dog, another story I had heard a few times. But he seemed more nervous about the story this time, the story about someone on my property, and I made my way to the border of where Dan’s land and mine met, and I could tell somebody had pulled in from the road, and had parked there, not a mile from my home.
Before my time there had been a house there and nothing but the chimney stood now, or half of it anyway, and Dan had told me his grandfather had bought the land after a fire had taken the house and everyone in it. It was an odd story because the house was so far back from the road no one knew it had burned for a couple of weeks but you’ll hear a lot of tales from a long time ago.
I knew Dan rarely came in from this part of his land, and I set up a string down low, and checked it to see when it was broke. Three days passed and on Sunday morning I found fresh tire tracks and a broken string, and some cigarette butts. Worse, I followed a set of prints from the place the tracks came in down the firebreak to where it passed within sight distance of our home. There was a couple of cigarette butts there, too. Someone was watching us, and I felt a sense of violation I hadn’t felt before.
The string stayed up during the week and I slipped out of the house at night to watch. The four dogs stayed quite but they slept on the porch at night so I knew they might not see or smell anything past the fence. Still, I wondered why they hadn’t lifted their voices at all, but no matter. I knew someone was watching and I knew from where, and I knew they had come on a Saturday night. I had bought a cheap set of night vision goggles and put fresh batteries in them. If someone came calling on Saturday night I would be there waiting for them. I put five shells into the shotgun just in case, and set out to wait.
The chimney could be seen by the light of the moon, what there was of it, and I stayed on the shadow side of it, if a car pulled in the lights wouldn’t reveal where I was. I turned the goggles off and felt a chill for being so close to where a house burned and people had died. Dark will play with your eyes because they can’t see and the ears start earing what the eyes are missing. I’d hunting too many times to believe what I thought I saw and what I thought I heard, but a couple of times I slipped the goggles on and looked around at nothing that seemed to be awfully close.
At one, about the time I was getting ready to call it a night, a truck pulled in from the road and shut its lights off before it stopped. I slipped the goggles on and saw a Chevy, jacked up past the point of need and I knew it was Eric Folsom’s truck. His father was a worthless drunk and he had taken to the family business with a passion. His brother, Tom, was slightly off, dim and slow, but not as bad to drink and would work. I watched them both get out of the truck, and Eric swung a bag out of the back, and hoisted it on his shoulder. I got up within a couple of feet of them and meant to scare the hell out of them, but good.
“Remember, dummy, toss the hamburger over the fence first and then wait.” Eric said. “Them dogs’ll be dead in about thirty minutes, but make sure they all get one, okay? One each. They all got to be quiet. Then when they’s dead we go in quick like. We go in through the porch and shoot first. Don’t shoot the damn girl. I just wish that sumbitch could see my face when I…”
“I can see your face, Eric.” And the shotgun blast took his brother’s face off. I jacked another shell into the chamber as Eric was backing away and fired into his groin. He screamed and fell on the ground. It was over in less time than it takes to tell it. One shot, that sound, another shot, and my ears were ringing and Eric was moaning.
There was no plan for this. I hadn’t expected to kill anyone. But Eric had a Glock in his waistband, behind him. His brother was carrying one too. My mind clicked on and I knew Raymond Swift, the Sheriff, would take self-defense in this case quick.
“Bastard” Eric gasped. “Help me.”
“You lie there and bleed, boy.” I told him. “There’s gonna be one story told here.”
“Please.” Eric coughed hard and I could tell it was hurting him, but he as bleeding out fast.
“You gonna kill me and mine?” I laughed. “No boy, you lay there and you die.”
“This place,” Eric gasped and tried to sit up and lay face down again, “this place is what did it. They’s still here and want gone. We never planned nothing but they’s want to leave. It was her idea. Look, you look, dammit, my phone, you look, they’s got her, she’s…” and Eric died.
I stood there and smelled the blood, and my ears rang, and then a light came on inside the truck. I walked over and there was his phone, and I knew the number that had texted him and I knew what had happened.
“Where are you dammit?” the text read. I scrolled through the last couple of days of what they had talked about and then turned the phone off and stuck it in my pocket. I called 911 and told them that the Folsom brothers had tried to kill me and both of them were dead.
There were flashing lights and sirens and an ambulance, but in the end Folsom gave me a ride home and told me he wanted to talk to me at his office the next day, for me to call him when I could make it. Mare was a mess and she was near hysterical over all the blood and she almost fainted when I told her I had killed the Folsom brothers. Shannon put on a pretty good show, too, but she was scared as hell for a reason. It was two days later when I sat her down and showed her the phone, and told her what I heard. She nodded, like she was surprised a little, and a little amused by it all, and she asked me what I was going to do.
“Who are you?” I asked her.
“I’m not going to stay here and rot in this tiny house in this tiny backwoods county in this hick state.” she said. “Either let me go or kill me.”
I told her I would give her some money and help her pack. She told me that the insurance money was what they had been after, and for me not to take it personally. I pinned her to the bed and handcuffed her. I sat on her until the poison that I had put into her coffee kicked in, and I waited to see what would happen when she died.
I felt it there, felt it trying to get into me, but it couldn’t and I felt it leave. I got Shannon to the hospital and there she stayed for nearly a month, but she didn’t remember anything. I knew it was worth the risk, killing my daughter to get her back, and I did.
About a week before her liver transplant, Shannon told me that she really did love Eric Folsom, but she didn’t remember me killing him or why. She told me she hated me for that, but she would try to forgive me, in time.
I told her sometimes we hated the people we ought to be most grateful to, but I never told her why.