“Iphigenia” by Peter R. Bryant
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
This week, Peter R. Bryant tries to forget the past.
January in the North Country—the dark comes on quick. In the moonrise, the skeletal branches of the birch trees throw thin shadows on the glowing blue snow. My little ranch house was backed up deep in a graveyard of oaks and evergreens.
I was finishing my third beer when the dogs started yelping. Jury, my shepherd, was baying at the crunch of heavy boots through the topmost layer of snow. I put my beer down and looked around the corner of the curtain. All I could see was the blackness of the forest and the faint iridescence of the snow on the forest floor.
Then I heard two hard bangs against the metal door. “Open up, Jacob.”
Charlie Adams, local deputy. I’d busted his head open two nights before and left a couple of stitches under his right eye, and a purple shiner under his left. My knuckles were still bruised. He was the type of coward that wouldn’t take what he rightfully earned after a bellyfull of bottom-shelf whiskey and some nasty words about my daughter Jules’s dead mother. About how she got dead. And about all the ways in which he might have known her.
Bang, bang. The billy club again.
“There’s no reason for you to come through my door, Charlie. I’ll come out on the porch.”
I grabbed my jacket and knocked on Jules’s door. “I’m stepping outside to talk to Charlie Adams, sweetheart.” She didn’t open the door or say a word. She never does. Sometimes I wonder how long she’s been in there.
When I stepped out, I saw Charlie was in full regalia and was leaning up against the front railing.
“You won’t get away with it, Jacob,” he said.
I jammed my hands in my coat, looking for the battered pack of USA Golds that I saved for tough conversations. Charlie twitched, his hand going to the gun on his belt. I shook a bent smoke out of the pack and lit it up.
“You baited me, Charlie,” I said.
“You’re going to pay the price, Jacob.”
I took a drag, cocked my head, and squinted my eyes at him. “Everyone does.”
Jury was still baying and scraping her throat raw. My other dog Mags joined in the cacophony.
“Jesus, Jacob, how many you got in there now?”
“You’re not animal control.”
Charlie sniffed. “Dogs aren’t a substitute for them.”
He turned his head to look down black road. All I could see was his the purple shiner turning green. “You can’t come to town anymore, Jacob,” he said, as though he regretted it.
I spat over the railing. “That won’t work, Charlie. I’m laid off this winter, but Jules has school.” Charlie twisted his head, and his piggish blue eyes opened in alarm.
“Jacob—what’re you talking about?”
I gestured around the yard. “Bus doesn’t come up here, especially in the snow.”
Hand on his gun, Charlie said “Jacob, I don’t know how full-blown crazy you are, but you stay away from that school—” He paused. “Jesus, especially if you think Jules is—”
All I could hear were the dogs baying. My head began to get fuzzy, the way it always does when they talked about Jules or her mother. Especially that night in the station. I couldn’t remember anything from that night.
My hand strayed to the knife in my pocket.
Charlie tried to draw. Too late. I slashed at those piggy eyes. Charlie’s face was cut into ribbons and dripped crimson on the blue-white gleaming snow. I slashed again and again.
You can’t dig a hole this time of year. I learned that the hard way once already. I dragged Charlie out back and laid him down in the oaks and evergreens on a bed of snow and pine needles. Then I let Jury and Mags out to take their prize. Their baying reached a frenzied pitch until they reached Charlie. Then it was replaced by an awful snuffling and snorting. And crunching when they hit bone.
When I got back in the house, I knocked on Jules’s door. She didn’t answer. She never does anymore. I can’t remember the last time I even saw her come out of that room. Maybe not since the night her mother died. My head started to go fuzzy again, and I sat down on the couch and opened another beer. I watched the snow come down, harder and harder, burying me along with the crimson stains.
PETER R. BRYANT is a Philadelphia-based attorney and writer. He is originally from Upstate New York. Prior to becoming an attorney, he taught first-year writing at the college level. He wrote for the Bennington Banner and published music criticism with PopMatters. This is his first story for Akashic’s Mondays Are Murder.
Posted: Dec 21, 2015
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