September – 1963
She had stood there looking beautiful. Just like she had done on the day he had first set eyes on her in Fat Sam’s Diner.
With the sun shining through the oval window of the small, cramp, upstairs room, the yellow and orange light playing in amongst her strawberry blonde hair. The commotion outside in the street escalating to cacophony, the police sirens growing ever closer. He cast his mind back to that day, six months past, and a smile, like a whisper in the night, flickered across his lips.
He’d made her put on that same summer dress she had worn on that day. That day that both of their lives had changed forever. With that first look. The sudden spark of electricity. The shiver along the spine. The unexpected sensations of something hard to explain. He’d known that she was the one. The one to quell the restless voices from a distant past that raged inside. The memories of a simpler time, before all of the bloodshed and heartache, flooding his mind like a dam bursting its defences.
Now, as they both stood, facing each other, the tears streaming down their faces, and with the inevitability of their end carved into the fabric of time, he had whispered those three little words that he had longed to say for what seemed like an eternity.
Then, raising the gun that he had held at his side, and with a final breath, her jasmine scent rushing his senses, he shot in the head. Then, turning the gun on himself, did the same.
This is the story of how they died.
April – 1963
Jack Scarsbrook was a loser. For as long as he could remember it had always been the same. His mother and father had thought so, as had his older brother and younger sister, hell, they had all told him enough times.
‘Why can’t you pay attention in school like your brother?‘ he’d hear his mother say. ‘You’re never going to make shit of yourself, son. You aint fucking nobody.’ His father, full to the brim with whiskey, would remind him. ‘Get a fucking job, you dumb asshole.’ That was his brother one time. And so it went on, every day, no, every minute, of his life, he’d had the constant torture of negative opinions weighing upon his back like a ten tonne truck.
It was no surprise really, then, that he had killed them. Put a single slug in each of their heads one hot, humid, summer evening whilst they were watching some shitty show on television. The Montana farmhouse, a good ten miles from civilisation, ringing to the sounds of commotion and gunshots.
His sister, however, and just like she always had, the stupid little bitch, had struggled slightly, the bullet only grazing her left temple. Kicking her legs, arms flailing, mouth twisted in protest. It had taken another slug, this one between the eyes, to finish her off.
Standing over the four prostrate figures he, deep down, had felt that, maybe, he should have cried. Felt some kind of emotion for his slain family members. Maybe guilt or shame over what he had done. But he hadn’t. All he had felt was a strange relief washing over him like an alcohol haze. Easing the persistent throb in his mind and the ache that cracked at his bones.
He’d then wrapped their bodies, tightly, in sacking found in a dusty corner of the old barn, that had stood, creaking and unloved, at the back of the property. Dragging their corpses, along with a collection of each of their clothes and three suitcases, he lumped them into the back of his fathers beaten up, 1950 GMC, red, pick-up truck, before driving sixty miles to bury them in the wilderness.
Skip on five hours and he was back at the house, where, before anything else, he set to removing all trace of the incident. He cleaned the bloodstains from the wooden floor and furniture, and wiped down the wall where his fathers brain matter had splattered like a wet paper towel.
Heading upstairs he ran a bath, stripped off his clothes, his aching muscles burning like fire under his sweat filmed and dirty skin, and stepped into the cooling water.
Laying back, the fire slowing dissipating, he closed his eyes. It was the end of everything of he had known. The end of his past life, a life of torment and struggle. A life of being made to feel worthless and insignificant. The hardest part of all, though, the part that brought him to tears, almost, but not quite, was that the very people involved in his torture, were the very people that should have been the most supportive.
He had stayed there for a good long hour. Letting the water wash over him as it slowly cooled. His mind drifting to the grave that he had dug, nigh on seven feet down, the sweat pouring from his body, like a fountain, as the high sun burned its way across the sky. Rolling the wrapped corpses in one by one, a puff of dust and earth as each hit the bottom. Following them with the clothes and suitcases. The journey back had been spent in almost silence. Not a note of music emanating from the radio. Not a thought skipping through his mind. The only sounds that of the wheels rolling on the road, the clank of the engine and the breeze whistling though the open window.
He had slept well that night. Naked and uncovered. The cool night air breathing, as gentle as the touch of a feather, onto his body. The sounds of nature, like a symphony, swirling in his senses. The chirping of cicadas, the piercing howl of a coyote out on the plains.
Stood in the hallway the next morning, a backpack filled with clothes and supplies, the house, once filled with the noise of dispute and anger, now, deathly silent with the ghosts of past memories, Jack took one final look around, before turning and walking out of the door for the final time.
He hadn’t a single idea of where he was headed, or, of where his new life would take him. All he knew was that he wanted to live a little, to see some new places and meet some new people. To discover the wonders of the earth around him that had, since before that moment of blood lust, been shut off by the binds and constraints of negativity.
Maybe he would meet a nice woman. Someone who would love him and care for him. Someone who wouldn’t put him down and dismiss his every god dammed dream. A woman who would make him feel special, worthy, even, for the first time in his life.
He knew it was maybe a longshot, knew that he may just wander for the remainder of his existence in isolation, but dream he would, and it would feel wonderful.
The temperature was touching on ninety-five degrees as the bus pulled out of the station at a little after three pm on that day after Jack Scarsbrook had killed his family. Taking a seat next the window he sat with the stench of stale piss in his nostrils, and the howl of a newborn in his ears. With the sun burning a white hole in the azure sky he rested his head on the glass and closed his eyes.
He thought of everything that had been and pondered on things to come. Of a golden future, gilded along its edges and engraved with words of belief and courage. Of a future bright with possibilities endless. On where his life, so far, had taken him and where, now the shackles had, finally, been untied, life would lead him.
He wasn’t scared, no, that wasn’t the word. He wasn’t sure that he’d ever been scared. Wasn’t sure that he really knew how that felt, or, how it would feel should he ever be so. It was more a feeling of anxious anticipation. A feeling that swelled in his gut like foam swelled in a bath. But that’s where it stopped.
As each mile skipped by and the day bled from the canvas of the country that rushed past his window, one thought, one image, burnt its way through the centre of everything good and crumbled it to ash. That image was of his sister’s face, twisted in terror as he bore down on her, words of anger and fright spilling from her lips, the gun above her, waiting to fire, knowing that those moments, those last few precious seconds in which her family lay around her, blood seeping from the holes that had extinguished their lives, would, too, be her last. Sure, he had hated each of them from the day that he had fallen from the womb, and, knew, without any second of hesitation, that those feelings were reversed. He knew not why, of course, knew not what he had done to deserve their scorn, but, it was how it was and it was forever to be. But, her face, no matter how hard he tried, and no matter after all the years of near damnation, was there, pushing through, like some waking nightmare. He needed a drink.
The chance came at a small rest stop fifty miles from the state line of Nebraska. Stepping from the bus, the early evening sun dwindling on the horizon, its final light casting long shadows across the asphalt forecourt, he pushed his way through a crowd of fellow travellers, before making for the bathroom block.
Entering a cubicle, the floor no less than an inch deep in piss and god knew what else, a strong, sour, odour, hanging heavy in the air, he changed into some fresh clothes before bending over a corner sink to splash his face with cold water.
Straightening up on the third splash he gripped the sides of the cold porcelain and caught sight of his face in a grime cov and cracked mirror that clung by a thread to the wall. Standing for a long moment he stared at the face that stared back at him and it took a good few moments before the realisation set in that it was his own face that he looked upon. His skin was dry, sallow and cracked at the seams. Dark circles, like mud, hung under his eyes and faint lines, like rivers draining from an ocean, ran, at length, from their corners. He looked washed out, washed up, like a lifelong addict, the years of abuse finally taking their toll. To say that what he saw was unpleasant would not have been an understatement. To say that it was a shock, well, no. He felt as good as he looked and looked as good as he felt. Which was horrible.
Exiting the bathroom stall he headed across the, now, empty, forecourt, the large silver bus silent, its driver catching a few moments shut-eye in his seat on high, before starting out again on the, seemingly, endless trek across country. Once inside the diner he headed for the counter, an old Rockola Jukebox sitting against the far wall spitting out Poor Little Fool by Ricky Nelson, and picked up a Tab Cola from the poe faced waitress. Taking a moment he quenched his thirst, his parched mouth crying in relief. He thought about some food. Maybe a chilli dog or a nice juicy cheeseburger, just like the ones that he used to get back home on a Saturday night at the drive in. But the heat of the day had driven a sickness deep into his gut that he knew for sure would reject anything other than liquid.
Back outside, standing, solitary, he gazed out upon the awesome expanse of land that lay before him and beyond the highway. Cattle and horse speckled fields of green and yellow stretching off into the distance to meet the crisp blue sky on the distant horizon. That was all there was. A rich tapestry of colour, sights, and sounds. Forever and off to the end of time. Tossing the empty drink can into the trash he decided against climbing back aboard the bus, amongst all manor of the foul and obnoxious. Heaving his rucksack onto his shoulder, he drew in a deep breath of diesel fumes, freshly mown hay, punctuated with wood smoke from people’s backyard fire pits, and set out along the deserted highway.
He knew that it wouldn’t be too long before someone took notice of his thumbing. Some good, local, citizen passing by on their way home from work or out to meet their sweetheart. Wanting to pleasure themselves with a good deed. And it wasnt long before he was right.
Pulling up alongside him, the gentle thrum-thrum of the engine as the vehicle slowed to a crawl and then to a stop, Jack leant down and peered into the already open window.
The guy was in early fifties, balding and with a neat and tidy moustache that was half way to being a handle bar. He wore a clean, crisp, white shirt and dark blue jeans that looked like today was the first time they’d been worn.
‘Hey there, friend.’ His voice was mild, slight effeminate. ‘Where you headed?’
Jack smiled, took a look along the highway and then back to the man. ‘I have no idea, is the answer to that. How far you going?’
‘Well, I’m heading a little further into state, fifty miles or so. Not that far, but I can sure take you, if you want, that is?’
‘Sure, anything would be a help. That’s very kind of you.’
Reaching across with a smile, the driver opened the passenger door.
‘Just a word of warning, first,’ said Jack. ‘I think you may want to check your rear left tail light. It appears to have been smashed. I wouldn’t want you getting yourself a ticket.’
A frown formed on the mans face. ‘You sure, now? I only had the girl checked over two days back.’
Jack shrugged. ‘I’m pretty sure I know what I saw, mister. But, you’re welcome to take a look for yourself, should you want too, that is.’
Climbing from the car, Jack watched as the man walked around and regarded the rear of his vehicle, each light in turn. Looking back to Jack, who had now joined him at the rear of the car, he shrugged his shoulders.
‘I think you were mistaken, sir. Both look just fine to me.’
As it turned out, that was the very last thing that Jack’s ride, revealed three days after to be a Mr. Walter Getty, a fifty-four year old, divorced, father of three, would ever utter. He hadn’t seen Jack remove his father’s .22 snub-nosed revolver from his rucksack. He’d had even less time to react. The bullet entering his skull just under his left eye, his thoughts and memories splashing onto the grass verge, his lifeless frame slumping onto the asphalt like a sack of potatoes. It only took Jack a few moments to roll the body from the road. Dumping it into a roadside stream that was thick with grass and roots. He didn’t know how long it would it be before the body was discovered, what he did know, though, was that by the time it was, he would be long gone.
The next fifty or so miles passed by in a haze of dry heat and the tinny sounds coming from the car radio. It helped to clear his head. The music. The uptempo numbers were his favourite. The style, nowadays, that they were calling Rock and Roll. Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard. He liked these guys, and he liked the way that their music made him feel. The sensations hitting him in places like never before. His father, however, had taken great delight in warning the family against the dangers of the ‘devils music’ as he liked to call it, and that dabbling in it would claim their soul. ‘Keep away, I beg thee, keep away from this here music that will pull you closer to the devils side, taking thee asunder to a world of no return,’ was just one of his deluded speeches, this one given over dinner one evening. The rest of the family in rapture to his preaching, ‘Amen father,’ came their responses.
A smile brushed his lips as he recalled pulling the trigger on the old fuck. The thud as the bullet entered his skull. The satisfaction of watching the last drops of his life twitch away as he lay on the cold floor. With the music turned high, that satisfaction would stay for the next fifty miles. Where he would come upon the town where his life would enter its final months.