Al, Xander, and Deonte; they had grown up together and had always been the best of friends. And just as the people of Neffin had suspected, they had grown up to be nothing but trouble. With 24 arrests between the three of them, all for misdemeanors, they had come to be regarded as the town’s problem. Xander and Deonte had always been the odd ones out in the town. Xander, as the town’s only black male, had always felt a bit out of place. His father wasn’t around, and his mom died when he was young, which coincidentally was how Deonte met Xander; in a group home in the fall of 1997.
The town had always suspected that Xander, as young as he was, had something to do with his mother’s death. She died during what the police concluded was a home invasion. Xander couldn’t remember anything about the incident except for the fact that he hadn’t been speaking to his mother at the time. They had been fighting. He had gotten into big trouble at school and was being punished. He thought it unfair. They argued for a bit, and Xander was sent to his room. That’s the last of it that he remembered.
Deonte never knew his parents. He was given up for adoption on the day of his birth, and the system failed him. No one took him. He had always wondered who his real parents were and many times had imagined going to find them. But expecting only heartbreak at who they would be, put that mission to find them on the backburner. He reached out a couple of times, but never really went for anything. All he had was a name. The name of his supposed father. But there could have been a million Carl Thompsons living around that time.
Xander was ten years old at the time that he was put into the group home and Deonte was the only one who went out of his way to befriend him once he was cleared of suspicion. The rest of the kids at school and the group home thought he was strange and a bit off putting. Xander could recall the first time he tried to make a friend at that time. The kid ran off when he said hello and screamed that the “murderer is trying to kill me!” After that Xander pretty much stuck to himself, until Deonte came along. Deonte had walked right up to him, punched him in the shoulder and said: “Whats up, dork?”
Al however, among the three of them, was the odd one. Al grew up in a loving home with both parents, but despite their numerous attempts to get him on the straight and narrow, it never took. He delved into a life of crime at the tender age of 14 and hasn’t looked back; despite his parents’ attempts to change him. And now at the age of thirty, the three of them had finally felt like they had their big score. They had found a way into Old lady Mary’s home, and they were going to take her for everything she had and leave Neffin in the process.
“So, we doing this or what?’ Xander asked the group.
“Hell yeah, we about to be rolling in it, son”. Deonte said. Al nodded in agreement.
“Alright,” Xander said, “So walk me through the plan one more time. I wanna make sure we all know for sure how this is going to go.”
“Mary Rollins is the richest woman in town,” Al said, “So, that being said, she values her social arrangements more than anything. She’s got a standing ladies’ night with her friends every Saturday. So, two days from now, we break into her house, steal her most valuable possessions. And hop on this cruise headed to Mexico. We sell the goods once we get there and live a life of luxury after that. Simple enough, right?”
They all nodded in agreement. “We have her security codes or what? Xander asked
“Not necessary. Mary’s old school. She has no security system, but she does have 4 guard dogs. Shit’s about to get bloody.”
Al’s eyes sank a bit. “Do we really have to hurt the dogs?
“Yes,” Deonte shot back. “No way around it. So, I’ve got three hatchets at my spot ready to go that I lifted from the Build It Now building down the way.”
Al reached his hand in for a shake from the others. “This is it, boys, we’re getting dirty to live clean for the rest of our lives.” They all shook hands and parted ways.
“See you boys on Saturday!” Deonte said. “Also, it’s probably best if we don’t hang out too much between now and then. We don’t want this whole thing to be too obvious.”
“Deal,” they all said.
The next few days went slowly for Deonte. Deonte paced around his apartment, going over the plan in his head over and over. Not necessarily anxious for what was about to go down, but more worried about messing it up.
His phone rang. Must be one of the boys, he thought. Moonlight Sonata played loudly until he picked up the phone and an unfamiliar number filled the screen. “Hell if I’m answering that,” he said to no one in particular. He silenced the phone and put it down. But a nagging feeling was bothering him. He never got unknown callers on his phone. Why now? He checked his voicemail. Maybe it was important. The loading circle flashed briefly, and nothing appeared. “Guess it wasn’t that important.”
Deonte’s phone rang again. The same number as before. He pressed the green call button and with a brief pause began to speak. “Deonte speaking,” he said.
“Hi! Deonte Sheffield?” The voice asked with a heavy southern drawl reminiscent of those millionaire oil salesmen that are always in movies.
“Yes, this is he.”
“Oh, thank God I finally found you, boy. I know this may come as a surprise, but my name is Carl Thompson. I am your biological father.”
“What?” Deonte retorted. “You can’t be.”
“Well, how come I can’t, son?”
“Because, I’m in my goddamn thirties and I haven’t ever heard shit from you, you son of a bitch.”
While Deonte dealt with life altering news, Xander had a standing appointment with the new therapist in town, Sean McCarthy. Xander walked into the tiny office and gently rapped on the door. “Come in!” The voice on the other side of the door urged him to enter. Deonte entered into the tiny, sparsely decorated office. On the wall hung several of Dr. McCarthy’s therapy achievements and all Xander could feel was jealousy.
“Hi, Xander. Glad we could finally get this appointment done. So, tell me about you. Why are you here?”
“Well, I mean the short story is, it’s been 20 years since my mother was killed and I don’t think I’ve properly dealt with it. I mean, I’m a functioning adult, but I think I’m functioning in all the wrong ways.”
“Well, what do you mean by that?”
“I’m sure this is all in whatever fucking files you have there, doc. I’ve been arrested eight times. And those are only the times I’ve been caught committing crimes. I can’t seem to do the right thing.”
“I see.” Dr. McCarthy said.
“Long story, though, I have no idea what actually happened on the night of my Mom’s murder. I literally can’t remember. I was hoping you could help me with that.”
Dr. McCarthy’s eyes squinted. After a series of grunts and hmms, McCarthy let out a long sigh. “I can do my best, Xander, but keep in mind, psychology is not an exact science. There’s no one way to help everyone, but I’ll do my best.
Dr. McCarthy instructed Xander to close his eyes and try to remember that night. To place himself in the mind of his ten year old self. He remembered being upset that he was being grounded for fighting another boy at school. After all the boy had hit him first.
He remembered his mother had always told him he should defend himself, but, here he was, being punished for doing exactly as he was told. Then the memories started to flow, out of sequence, but flow they did.
“Xander! I won’t hear any more of it! Go to your room. You will learn to stop talking back to me!”
“But it’s not fair!”
“Life isn’t fucking fair, Xander! You’ll learn that one way or another!.”
And that was it, Xander had had enough. He picked up the snowglobe on the counter in their modest home and threw it at his mother. He didn’t think it was that hard of a throw, but with a deafening thud, it hit is mother on the head and she fell to the ground. He tried to wake her up. He shook her, he screamed at her. Nothing worked. He thought that this cant be happening. Things change overnight. Maybe if he just goes to bed like his mother said tomorrow all would be well.
Xander opened his yes; shocked at what he just remembered.
“I’ve got to go, Doc. Thank you.” He stood up and without acknowledging the doctor any further, he left the office.
Al laid in bed with his lady. She swept into his life like a whirlwind. It wasn’t expected nor wanted, but her advances had left him feeling like someone new, someone different. He had wanted to tell the boys for so long, but he couldn’t. they couldn’t know about him and her. They would judge. After all, she wasn’t the prettiest thing, and how could they have fully trusted him to leave when he was in love?
“You know, this is the happiest I’ve ever been?”
She looked at him with those bright green doe eyes. “Really?”
“Yes, honey. I mean, I’ve never felt so carefree as when I’m with you. My whole life it’s felt like I just needed to survive. But when I’m with you, I feel at peace.”
She smiled. “Well, I’m glad you feel that way. I’m happy too. You make me feel like someone I’ve never been. You make me feel the love I’ve deserved for so long.”
Al smiled and reveled in this raw emotional moment he was having with her. He left her side and went over to the dresser to fetch a change of clothes. “I’m going to shower, then I’ve got to go home and catch up on a few things. See you Saturday?”
“Absoulutely, baby. I love you.”
Al returned the sentiment and reflected on the fact that it was the first time they had said that to each other.
Deonte sat in his living room, phone in hand hearing the heavy southern voice of his father tell him all about he and his mother’s lives before Deonte had been born. But he didn’t care about all that. All he wanted to know was why he gave him up.
“Well that’s a bit of a loaded question, son.”
“Just answer it.”
“Well, when your mother told me that she was with child, I couldn’t deal. I told her that I was going to have nothing to do with you. I was young after all. I didn’t know or have what it took to raise a child. So, nine months came and went and I hadn’t spoken to your mother. A few months later, I guess I had something of a turning point. My current wife got pregnant and wasn’t going to let me off the hook as easily as your mother had. I thought, well, if I’m going to raise another kid I may as well get to know the first one. I reached out to her and that’s when I learned she had given you up for adoption.”
“Well, where the hell’s my mother?
“Son, I hate to tell you this, but she died of ovarian cancer a few years back. Refused to get treatment you see. I’m all you’ve got.”
Deonte was shaken. Well, there goes his chance for that. He couldn’t stand to hear any more, but part of him was elated that he had finally heard from the person who had brought him into this world.
“Look, Carl, it was absolutely fucking rotten what you did, but I want to meet you. I don’t know when just yet, and I don’t know where. I will figure that all out. How about you give me a call on Saturday and we hash out the details?”
“Sounds good, son.”
Deonte hung up the phone. All he could think to himself was ‘wow’.
Two days had passed and dusk was fast approaching. They hung around outside Mary’s place and could see her getting ready for her ladies’ night. She was over the top. Wearing a full fledged ball gown, just to go to a bar and get drunk with her friends. She just had to flaunt her wealth and it’d prove to be her undoing.
Deonte sat at Lara’s canteen across the street from the Ladies’ Ball bar where Mary would meet up with her friends, he had to be sure she was there before he and the boys made their move. Al and Xander walked in soon after.
“Sup, boys!” he said loudly. “How’s it going?
“It’s going,” Al said. He looked a little sullen. Neither Deonte nor Xander decided to ask why, fact was, they knew he was a little squeamish at the thought of hurting those dogs. Deonte found it funny. Al never had any qualms about hurting another person but put an animal in front of him and he was a regular pacifist.
Out of the corner of his eye, Deonte saw Mary, replete in her shimmering tan ball gown dragging along the concrete. Al found it disgusting, the amount of wealth she had and how little she valued it. In his eyes, they were doing the world a favor. “Let’s head out”, Al said quietly. Deonte downed his vodka tonic grabbed his jacket and headed towards Xander’s car.
Upon arriving at the house, Deonte handed a hatchet to the others. “For the dogs,” he said. Then they headed in towards the back door. Al picked the lock and they instantly heard barking. Four dogs bounded down the stairs and the three braced themselves for a fight
Deonte raised his hatchet ready to cut the dogs down, but strangely they didn’t attack. They sat down in front of the boys and stared at them, as if waiting for a treat.
“The fuck?” Xander said.
“Well, I guess they’re not really attack dogs after all,” Al stated with a smirk on his face. “Let’s go find those jewels. The three of them headed upstairs to Mary’s bedroom. They went through all of her dresser drawers, searched for hidden compartments and in closets until they finally found them; six bags of beautiful diamonds.
“These will sell fairly well in Mexico, I think,” Deonte said. Deonte stood, feeling proud of himself for finally doing something worth something in his life. For the briefest of moments he was happy to soon be able to live a life free from crime, free from the worries and stresses that had plagued him for a lifetime. That’s when it happened. He turned around to find Al standing behind him, hatchet in hand.
“Sorry, buddy,” Al uttered as he swung the hatchet down into Deonte’s shoulder.
“What the hell are you doing!” Deonte yelled to no avail. Al raised the hatchet once more and swung down, firmly planting the hatchet in the middle of Deonte’s head.
“Al!” Xander screamed from behind. He turned to run, but he was too late. Al quickly removed the hatchet from Deonte’s head and threw it towards Xander. Blood slung from the hatchet and planted into Xander’s back. He fell to the white carpet that was being forever ruined by the crimson blood leaking from Xander’s back.
“I’m so sorry, Xander. I can’t do this with you all. I love Mary and she loves me. We’re going to live in splendor together forever. A final hatchet blow came down amid Xander’s screams, and Xander was no more.
Al grabbed Xander’s keys out of his pocket and quickly showered in Mary’s bathroom. He came out to her dresser and grabbed the change of clothes he had stashed there the night previous when he had spent the night firmly snuggled in Mary’s warm embrace. He remembered the sweet words she had uttered to him.
“Do this for me, for us. I love you, Al, and I only want to give you the best. This is how I do that for you.”
The downstairs door closed loudly. Finally, Mary was home. He bounded downstairs an hugged her tightly. I did it honey, I did it. He fell to his knees before her and she held him softly.
“Honey,” She whispered. “Let’s go. Mexico awaits.”
While they stood there, together in the throes of love, Moonlight Sonata played loudly from the upstairs bedroom.