It Knows You By No Other Name
Stacy stared at the small design of the fabric on the ceiling of his car and listened for the telling squeak of the patrol car’s door parked across the street. He was lying on the front seat with his head propped against the passenger’s side arm rest. The pistol was held against his heart on his chest with both hands. His shirt had dissolved into paste long ago, the vinyl of the seat was sticky and hot. His neck had hardened into wood. Despite the mental rehearsals, his fingers were still trembling. He would move slowly. The door would creak when opened. He had heard it twice now and would recognize it again without seeing the car. Stacy would rise with the gun out before him. Taking careful aim at his brother’s head that would be directly in front of him at the steering wheel of the patrol car, Stacy would squeeze the trigger. Like going to the refrigerator for a slice of cheese. Then why was he so nervous?
He was well aware of his brother’s capabilities. Al had been seriously wounded in a shootout in Gary and had received a commendation for heroism. He was a cop. Stacy also knew that he had never taken the next step to get promoted off patrol duty. There was a big difference in the smarts of the guy that made detective. Al had no imagination. Any fool with a grudge could have found out enough to be waiting for him here. He ate out almost every night, always at the same time. He would even eat the same dinner for weeks at a time. It had been easy to get access to the restaurant checks. Stacy knew his brother inside out. So what if he had shown a spark when they were kids, he’d long since outgrown it. That time he had discovered Al in the garage dancing by himself to that Jerry Lee Lewis record, it was so far beyond anything he could imagine his brother doing now. Stacy glanced at the rear view mirror he had positioned so he could see down the street behind him. Not a soul was around. It was stupid to think about the past. He had his brother’s paper trail-- his accounts, his job history and driving records, where he bought his clothes and food. That was all he needed for a handle on him. All the rest was bullshit. It just wasn’t real.
He did wish that Al didn’t resemble him so much. He was afraid that he couldn’t do it if he had to look him in eye. Squeezing the trigger would be like shooting himself. He didn’t know for certain if Al had killed anyone in the line of duty. Most police departments made damn sure that wasn’t written down anywhere. Stacy was sure he could do it, but had never been tested. A few times in the insurance investigations he had butted heads with someone trying to pull a fast one. That probably wasn’t the same thing, though. He had gotten training in the army and if they hadn’t screwed him out of going into army intelligence, he would be definitely ready now. Hell, he was ready now. He could do it. Why didn’t he come out?
He was sweating again. He tried to make his hands stop shaking. It was the waiting that got to you. Was that the squeak? He held his breath, trying to be sure. That had to be it. He couldn't wait. He slowly sat up just like he imagined doing. The gun was jerking violently. He looked. Al wasn’t there! Where was he? Al’s eyes were looking at him in the mirror! He was behind him! Stacy dropped back to the seat, panic stricken. Damn him! How did he get there? What could he do now? He was a sitting duck! Al could walk up to car and blow him away. Then a car started somewhere. Across the street. It couldn’t have been his own reflection in the rear view mirror he had seen! He couldn’t have been such a shitless fool to scare himself like that. Al had to be fucking with him. God damn him! Stacy came up again. Now the pistol was steady. Where was the motherfucker? Al’s patrol car was already turning the corner at the end of the block. Stacy scrambled to get behind the wheel and fumbled with his keys. He was getting away!
Stacy almost lost him at first. He thought of going on to the restaurant where Al always ate, but he made a couple of good guesses and ended up a comfortable distance behind him. It wouldn’t have worked at the diner anyway. He’d have to wait for him outside. There would be too many people coming and going. Someone would remember seeing him sitting in the car. Now, it was just as well, Al wasn’t heading in that direction.
Stacy wasn’t sure if he was being fucked with or that Al was going someplace special. He really wanted to believe Al had popped up behind him and then sped away while he was cringing in the front seat, but wasn’t sure his brother was smart enough to pull a stunt like that. Stacy had planned it carefully, Al would have had to have eyes in the back of his head to spot him. Unless May had called him. That’s where he was going. It made sense now. He was being set up.
Al turned off on a small two-lane highway that lead off into the rolling hills west of town. When he reached the turn, Stacy followed reluctantly, certain that this would take him to a secluded spot where they’d be waiting. If he hadn’t already been made the ass, he’d quit now. Damn them! Let them give it their best shot!
The road was a roller coaster ride over sharp hills and deep ravines and twisted off one direction and then came back. Distant farm houses and open fields leaning at haphazard angles only momentarily postponed the growing ledge of trees he was nearing, He plunged into dark shadows going down and then broke out into the glaring sun at the top of the next rise. Once over the crest, he was too close, Al was halfway up the other side, so he pulled back. At the next hill, he’d find empty highway and he’d speed up, certain that he’d lost him. Al could turn off anywhere and disappear into the forest. Stacy caught up, but was too close again. They were headed toward the dam. Was that where she was waiting? He lost the patrol car once more. Dust was still dancing above the gravel of a little-turn off road near the top of the next hill. He had turned. They were close. Stacy pulled off and bumped along in slow pursuit.
The road ran down into a valley and curved behind a grove of trees. All the rest was cornfields and fences. The corn had been harvested recently; the land lay open with only crumpled stalks as a reminder of the rows. The air was alive with crows, circling and dipping over the remains. Beyond the trees, a small country chapel shone in the sunlight, its white walls and steeple radiant against the dusty green grove. A handful of crows appeared to be circling above it like buzzards. This was it. He drove down the hill as if in slow motion. The gravel crunched beneath his tires. Taking the slow curve, he found that the crows over the church had been an illusion. They were in the corn with the others. He pulled off to the shoulder just before reaching the last clump of trees between him and the chapel.
He wasn’t sure why he knew this was the place. The blind curve, the easy landmark, the seclusion of the spot, there weren’t any farmhouses in view, made it perfect for someone to think of quickly and to mention quickly in a phone conversation. She would have understood immediately where he meant. Then why not here, in the trees before the turn? His attention would be on the white building, it would be a chance to catch him off guard. Stacy knew better. Al didn’t have his experience. And besides, it probably suited them better to be hiding behind the freshly painted clapboard corner of the building. Perhaps they had even talked about getting married inside some day…afterward.
He put the car in park and got out, leaving the engine running. There wasn’t any sign of movement. The dust he had stirred up behind him in the gravel road was beginning to settle again. He checked his pistol. He didn’t want any more stupid mistakes. The safety was off. He slipped it into his pocket and hopped the drainage ditch. He would cut across, through the grove of maples. Perhaps he’d find them kissing. As he got closer, he realized something was wrong. Glimpses through the thick foliage revealed several bright colors and flashes of chrome. What had he stumbled upon? There were people on the steps. Cars were parked in a gravel lot next to the south wall of the church. He crouched down and made a hole through the top of a bush. It was a church meeting! Al was crossing the lot, headed for the group at the front entrance. May wasn’t to be seen. When his brother reached the others, there were handshakes and pats on the back.
“God damn you,” Stacy muttered. What could he do here? He was too far away to get a clear shot, and he might hit some pilgrim by accident. These things went on all night! Al couldn’t have led him here on purpose! This was all too crazy. Stacy remained where he was until everyone started to file inside. He finally stood up, his knees stiff, and turned to go, feeling more and more foolish. The singing from inside followed him back through the wood.
And he learned that there are parts of us that are inescapable.
"And the difficult choices this boy must make in the eddies of an unpredictable and murderous adult triangle remain believable as any horror story we have avidly listened to about neighbors or friends. Not Hollywood, the violence is normal, expected, unacceptable but untimately forgiveable. Read this book...for the redemption" -Rex Shirk
Dan McDan McNay has lived in LA 25 years and for a lot of that time has worked at USC. He has been active in numerous writing workshops and studied in USC’s Masters of Professional Writing Program. He has purchased millions of dollars worth of computers for USC, won the staff speed calculator competition at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel, paddled around Catalina Island with a bunch of Boy Scouts, sold used and rare books in the French Quarter, collected blood from unborn calves in a Utah slaughter house, lectured on Robbe-Grillet, worked the night shift in Monterey, San Francisco & Tucson, and owned and ran a cemetery in Illinois- not necessarily in that order.