THE WRITERS POST
VOLUME 5 DOUBLE ISSUE WINTER 2003 SPRING 2004
My God, it was hot. It hadn't rained around here since it last snowed around here. By local standards of intolerance that fact was exceptionally disquieting. Well beyond most in recent memory the end of that particular week had unforgettable written all over it. Courtroom testimony would later expose how every man has a breaking point. But does every woman? Thunder banged from a cloudless sky.
The local newspaper tumbled until finally coming to rest against a chipped stop sign. The day’s headline displayed a blistering, region wide, drought that was getting worse by the millisecond with no end in sight. Many yards away, late afternoon traffic inched along Southwest Vibe Street out of town to the highway. The cars crept past a coffee shop that had a poster of the movie Casablanca in the window.
At the end of the block were two joined buildings. As one got closer it was easy to see WET PAINT lettering hanging from the side doorknob of the taller of the two buildings. Those words of caution failed to cover a more distinguished sign: High Plains Theater.
The building was in good overall repair. The tastefully appointed hall was dotted with the professional directorial drama achievements of Jack Lace. There was also a photograph of Jack shaking hands with the governor. Behind the first door on the left came the muffled sound of a man and woman arguing. "I hate being trapped in that small town factory. I can't live like this!" she screamed.
"Its your choice!" Jack ranted.
Out of sight the enraged woman broke a glass.
Montgomery (Monty) Styles stood behind a door that had many locks on it, watching Jack unlatch each one. Sorry about so many locks. The people across the street were robbed last week. One can't be too careful letting strangers in."
"I came at a bad time."
From afar the woman peeked out.
Jack glanced at the simmering pizza box. "How much is it?"
Monty handed the box to Jack. "Seven o-nine."
Jack opened his wallet. "How's the job?"
"The pay is bad, but the hours are awful." Monty jested in an uncomfortable, choppy, language style; seizing that moment to slyly glance at his wristwatch. Jack walked with the pizza box deeper into the home. Next to where he placed the box was a static filled police scanner. "Darn thing. I can’t get it to work."
"I used to work for a company that made scanners for the police. Maybe I can do something," Monty offered politely.
"You're sure, your boss isn't expecting you back at work?" Jack opened the box and grabbed a slice of pizza and begun swallowing it.
"This wont take long," Monty said.
From the other side of the room came television news about the drought. Both Monty and Jack paused to listen to the dismal prognostication.
"We're all going to wither and tumble away with the rest of the bad memories," Jack mumbled, motioning to the bedroom.
"God'll get you for that!" the woman shouted.
Jack extended a can of beer to Monty.
"No thanks. I need a clear head tonight."
Jack gulped the beer. "A little buzz helps the atmosphere." After setting the empty can down Jack finished another piece of
pizza, then handed Monty a single bill.
"I have to go out to the Jeep. I'll be right back with your change."
"I'm not going anywhere." Jack continued to try to get clearer reception from the scanner.
Monty walked onto the front of the building looking inside at Jack. His expensive hiking boots made their impression in the dirt. He saw Jack seated. His head wavered before falling into unconsciousness. The beer can Jack held had fallen to the floor. Monty cupped the sides of his head with both hands. God'll get you for that, he remembered the woman say.
Many yards away Detective Thorne rode past in a family car unaware that Jack was standing nearby.
Nine months earlier:
The building attached to the High Plains Theater was called The Sugar Factory. It resembled a gingerbread house. After chipping away at thin, jagged, ice sickles that hung from a thermometer registering five degrees, an energetic rooster proudly stuck out its chest and beckoned the rural community that a new day was upon them. Heather squinted from the snows glare. She was a plain, naturally pretty, woman in middle years, hair highlighted with infrequent streaks of wisdom inspired gray. She extended her arm to pick up a full bottle of milk, replacing an empty one in its place. She walked briskly to the stores entrance, stopping to grab a bite of toast. Once at the door she ruffled her plaid apron free of sugar, flour, and wrinkles; taking a deep breath before addressing the patient faithful whose numbers steadily grew outside; those waiting their chance to get inside the store. "There's plenty of food for everybody," Heather announced with a slightly southern accent that did not seem all that abnormal coming from such a perfect mouth.
"Easy for you to say, you're warm," countered a face masked by a thick scarf, exposing the tip of a red nose, with breath that dissipated in the winters ridged air
"You'll be soon enough," Heather replied with that unmistakable smile.
Inside the store Monty saw Heather. "Is that true what you said about the food" he asked.
"Of course, not." Heather mouthed back, causing him to feel graced by the older woman's seasoning and motherly warmth. "I tell-em that because that's what they want to believe."
"Lies?" Monty frowned.
"In sweets and lust lies are called promises."
"Is that a fact?" His eyes graced her face; wishing to be granted one wish to touch it.
"I promise," she winked, whisking her dress to ride high against her thigh. Monty began to walk before she touched his sleeve. "I want to apologize for the other night. I can be awful."
"We all can," Monty said, with eyes that followed the gentle sway of her hips as she left, before having his thoughts distracted by the cashier asked, "Will that be all, Sir?"
"No." Monty was dazed.
Monty trudged through knee level snowdrifts before he reached a stone and mortar lighthouse recessed from the road. Inside the dark circular entranceway his fingers searched for the light switch then started walking upwardly. The door opened to his apartment. To one side Dirk was urinating in the kitchen sink. Beyond his unkempt appearance he is Monty's twin. The curved room was filled with Monty's low-level achievements for acting. Monty walked to the bed where he dropped a book on Beginning Acting on the bed. Jack's face was on that book.
"Your parole officer called here looking for you," Monty complained.
"And?" Dirk seemed totally unconcerned.
"What are you doing giving out this number?"
"I had an attack of civic responsibility."
"That makes it ok," Monty said sarcastically.
"The lights out in the hall," Dirk offered.
"Thank you for telling me what I already know."
Dirk sat and placed his feet on the coffee table. "I finally struck pay dirt."
"Don’t tell me, you stopped bouncing checks, and found a faster get-rich-quick scheme," Monty surmised.
Dirk's hand covered his heart. "I'm offended you think so lowly of me."
"What are you going to do sue me for definition of character?"
"I'm in love." Dirk's grin suggested there was more to the disclosure.
"She's a lucky girl."
"She’s also married," Dirk admitted.
Outside the school of acting the afternoon air was clear. Thousands walked the university's spacious grounds along many plowed snow trails. Monty strutted across the street without looking. A horn blasted. Monty was across the street in route to the building ahead. That building was the school of acting. Among many shoe prints in the snow was the Timberland insignia.
Monty sat in the rear of the classroom doodling on a notepad.
Class. We are blessed to have as this week’s guest lecturer a local hero to many of us who have followed his fine drama career. Please give a warm round of applause to Jack Lace. Jack entered from the side. Monty watched with facial surprise.
"Why do you students want to act?" Jack exalted.
"It's a chance to be someone else," Monty offered.
Dirk's head snapped with an eyebrow that fluttered.
"That's one reason." Jack acknowledged. "What are some of the others?
Dirk raised his hand. "It's an easy grade."
Some of the others chuckled, and that raised the ire of Jack. "That will prove not to be the case in this class. I'll tell you
that." Jack walked around the stage.
Taylor raised her hand. "Role playing.
"Why would a person want to be someone else?" Jack asked.
"Because they hate who they are." Dirk said.
Everyone stared at Dirk.
Later, Monty stood beside a pizza delivery truck. "To be. Or, not to be. That is the question."
Two-ton Tony approached with hands on hips smoking a cigar. "I'd like to see my pizza get to the paying customers why I'm still young enough to remember why I told you to do it in the first place!"
"Right away, Boss." Monty agreed. He hopped in the Jeep and shifted it into gear, and away he drove. En route Monty saw Heather locking the entrance to The Sugar Factory. At that moment he saw Dirk approach her. The two began talking, with her repeatedly shaking her head. He reached for her and she pushed away his advance.
Meanwhile, the night wind had picked up considerably. Inside the lighthouse a woman's moaning pulsated; while two erotic silhouettes grappled behind the curtain drawn window. Monty was nude and on top of Taylor in sexual play. They were wildly going at it.
"What are you trying to do, kill me?" she panted holding her throat, rolling onto her back. "You're not the same. I may be next to you physically, but you're a thousand miles away. A girl likes to feel her man is paying attention to her. The problem is you could never love anything past yourself."
"I have to go back to work tonight. Dirk quit at the pizza parlor today, and I have to work longer hours until they hire someone else."
"Liar." She rolled over in bed, closed her eyes and cried.
Against a full moon Monty trotted to the rear door to the theater where a cat slept. When its tail was stepped on the cat lashed back by scratching Monty's calf. Once past the cat he limped up the stairs.
Jack awakened from his chair. "Where've you been?"
"What're you talking about? I was gone only a few minutes." Monty sat opposite Jack. Monty opened a can of beer. "I'm doing my bit to keep up with you." He pointed to the pile of empty beer cans on the floor beside Jack.
"Shhh," Jack said as static leaped from a police
scanner. No need for you to try to fit the scanner, something is trying
to come in right now. He leaned his ear closer to the small speaker.
Through the window came the faint sound of emergency sirens. A voice came
through the police scanner speaking of a murder. Their hands began
"You're Jack Lace?"
Jack nodded. His tears had frozen to his pale face.
"I know, this is a rough time, but I need a few words with you. Is there some place quiet where we can talk?"
Nearby was the Timberland insignia embedded in the ground.
"Are you suggesting I murdered my wife," Detective?
"Those are your words. I merely asked, when was the last time you and your wife had an argument?"
Detective Thorne took notes on a small notepad. "What was the argument about?"
"A couple of things. My drinking, for one. There were signs that she was preparing to leave me." He poured himself a beer.
"There was one other thing. She told me someone was stalking her."
He stopped chewing his gum seeing Jack glance at the end table.
"She said, he was after her to get work; even went so far as to buy her what I thought was a strange gift for a big city-bred woman like Heather."
"Work?" Detective Thorne momentarily stopped writing. "You mean, next door at The Sugar Factory?
"I don't know."
"For about nine months I was convinced she was having an affair. I hoped I was wrong."
"It seems, well never know."
"I planned to confront her about it tonight. Raise the curtain on the issue at hand, as it were. Alas that was not to be.
Detective Thorne looked through Jack. "By your own admission you believed your wife was having an illicit affair with another man for nine months, and you didn't press her for the truth back then? Mister Lace, patients is a virtue in the movies. This is big-time real life. And somebody's going to get the electric chair for this." He calmed himself, sights remained riveted on Jack. "Tell me more about your relationship with your wife."
At the theater a hand arranged sign read: DRAMA CLASSES RESUME TONIGHT.
"Listen up!" Jack positioned those people nearest him in certain locations across the stage. "We're looking to make this rehearsal the best so far." He pointed for the scene to begin, "Action!"
There was a knock at the door.
"Who is it?" Taylor stood from the kitchen table and asked.
From the other side of the door Monty answered, "Post Office delivery!"
Taylor touched-up strands of wayward strands from her face.
"One minute." She opened the door to see Monty standing there. "Come in."
A tear formed in Jacks eyes.
"I need a signature, Ma'am."
"I have to get a pen." Taylor turned from the door and walked to the center of the area.
Monty followed her. "Nice place you have."
"Thank you." She motioned, "Put it down anywhere."
The lights went out.
A gunshot sounded!
Rapid shuffling of furniture followed.
"I can't see!" someone yelled.
"The light. Find the lights!
"There was a frantic pace generated by everyone.
"Turn on the lights!" another shrieked.
"Where!?" There was pandemonium!
Furniture continued being banged about, making chaotic noise patterns.
There were more screams!
"How did you know?"
Monty's arm relaxed to his side, shining the beam onto his own face. Worry began to show in his face. "Know what?" He was breathing heavily. "How did I know what?"
Jack pointed. "The flashlight."
The house lights came on.
"How did you know where to find that flashlight?" Jack repeated.
"I just." Monty was afraid. "Why are you all looking at me like that?"
Detective Thorne walked, slowly, confidently, into view with pistol drawn.
"Montgomery Styles, you are under arrest for the murder of Heather Lace."
"Arrest?" Monty gasped.
A second police officer came in and placed handcuffs on Monty.
"Only the killer knew there was a flashlight in the upper drawer of that end table. A fact that was not released to the press," Detective Thorne said, "Her own husband didn't even know. But he did know that a man was stalking her. And that it was that same man who bought the flashlight for her not a day before."
Taylor rushed to hug Monty but is grabbed by Jack.
"It was an accident," Monty pleaded as the second police officer led him away.
Taylor wiggled free of Jack and fell to both knees sobbing.
"I never meant to hurt her."
He dropped the flashlight to the floor, and it rolled and rolled.
"She said Dirk was coming-on-to-her in his usual obnoxious way, and she was afraid to lock-up at night alone. I got her the flashlight to make her feel safe."
Taylor glares at Monty.
"The truth is, I was in love with Heather. We had been seeing each other for months."
Taylor softens her face as Monty looks back at her.
"But I knew what we were doing was wrong. Dead wrong. And I wanted to end it.
That's why I came by that night. I wanted the flashlight back, was all. She refused to give it back. She said, it was all she had to hold on to for hope of ever leaving this town."
Jack is devastated.
"When she wouldn't give it to me we fought. And." His head dropped as he was led away by the second police officer. Monty is gone.
"Increasingly, I wondered who could get a man like this work. Then it hit me." Jack said. "Who, indeed."
Detective Thorne frowned at Jack who was helping Taylor stand. "How did you know the killer would return to the scene of the crime?"
"How?" Jack looked proud and professionally distinguished.
"Because he is an actor.”
Editorial note: All works published in this issue are simultaneously published in the printed Wordbridge magazine double issue 3 &4 Winter 2003 & Spring 2004. (ISSN: 1540-1723).
Copyright © Zaak Fresh 1999, 2004. Nothing in this issue may be downloaded, distributed, or reproduced without the permission of the author/ translator/ artist/ The Writers Post/ and Wordbridge magazine. Creating links to place The Writers Post or any of its pages within other framesets or in other documents is copyright violation, and is not permitted.