Again John was having the “Rebel without a cause” thoughts and only difference was he had causes and some more causes. He hated the whole world not because the whole world is terrible but because his own world had always been cruel, unforgiving or even worse absolutely indifferent.
He had spent almost all of his youth in struggling to be an actor and dreaming about being a great actor. He had lost his parents when he was very young. After that his life was a big journey from one relative’s place to another. Everyone pitied the orphan but no one wanted the complete responsibility. He changed schools quite a bit. He managed some how with mostly handed down clothes, shoes, stationary, bags and all.
Only constant in his life was theatre and drama. He was good in school theatre. Every school he went to he got praise for his acting and that made him start dreaming. Dreaming is always a dangerous thing. It finally breaks your heart.
When he turned 18 he got the right to spend the little money he had inherited from his parents and grandparents. After finishing school he joined college and started working on his dream.
The little inheritance got over fast. After college he took on odd jobs and started going for auditions. Initially he wanted meaty roles only with directors who mattered. That did not happen. Then he lowered his standard and went to auditions of just anyone. After that he even did auditions for soap operas and infomercials. His standard became low and low but nothing happened. His world told him loud and clear if you are not well-connected or if you don’t possess conventional good look then you are not wanted.
After being heartbroken he joined the regular work force at a lower-medium level non-upwardly-mobile job when he was well into his 30’s. He had spent so much on his dream that now he did not have any close friend. And shattering the dreams made him too bitter to make any new friend.
Everyday he goes to his non-upwardly-mobile job and then the evening spent alone in the bar near his house. He never had any hobby other than cinema and theatre. Now he can’t watch anything without thinking about “what could have been”. So going to cinema or watching TV at home were not options.
Spending the evening in the bar while having replay of his sad life was his only choice. The bar was owned by a pleasant youngish man known simply as Light. Not being close to anyone John does not understand nicknames but he likes Light. Light does the bartendering too. On some slow days John goes to him and have a general conversation. It’s easy to talk to Light because he shares the world views with John. “The world is a selfish bitch, man! We gotta do what we gotta do”. That’s what Light used to say.
That was a really really slow day. The bar was almost empty. Only two booths were occupied. After sometime the whole bar was empty except John. But he was not in a mood to have a conversation with Light today.
John’s superior who was much younger than him had made some remarks about John’s age and brain capacity. The remarks made the people present there laugh loudly and made John to wish to jump from the office terrace instantly.
“How cruel people are!”
He felt like sitting in silence and feel all the sadness and anger he could. He had read in some self-help book feeling every bad thing in your mind makes you feel better finally. But he did not feel any better he felt only worse and worse.
Suddenly from his trance he was violently jerked back to reality with some shouting. He could hear Light arguing violently with some one. Light is not the arguing type so John thought of checking on him. When John reached at the counter he saw someone in long trench coat and a big hat pointing a gun at Light. John might not be conventionally good looking but he was really big with broad frame. He could take on anyone.
Without thinking anyone he pushed the man in trench coat with one hand and with the other grabbed the gun. The man was taken aback for a moment but instantly recovered and started fighting back. They scuffled to get hold of the gun. In that scuffle the gun got fired by John and the man in trench coat got shot.
John got up and saw the man trying to move but slowly going immobile. In few seconds everything was over. All John could see and remembered later was blood and blood everywhere. So much blood! Biology was not John’s strong point, he could only guess some major artery of the man must have been punctured.
John became immobile too. He froze and kept on staring at the blood with horror and fascination until he could feel someone shaking him. It was Light.
“John, John wake up from dream man! What have you done! You are the biggest nut. I could have taken care of myself. You are in deep shit man! That was a cop you shot.”
John came to senses and the moment he heard the word cop he felt the ground beneath his feet melting down.
“What do you mean he is a cop? So are you like a criminal? Oh this is the best. I helped a criminal by killing a cop. And very soon I will be dead meat.”
“Hey listen John I am a criminal all right but that cop was a bigger criminal. He was as dirty as a gas station bathroom.”
“What do you mean?”
“Listen, we don’t have time now. Let’s clean this up before some one barges in.”
Light switched off most of the lights and changed the sign on the bar door from “open” to “closed”. He was closing up an hour early but the way business was going he never thought anyone would notice. He locked all the entries securely. Then they got a big bag and packed the dirty cop inside it. It took 100 years to clean all the blood. At least that’s how it felt like to John.
Then they carried the bag to the river, tied it to a big stone and threw off. It had rained since last few days, the river had swollen and was flowing with great force. The bag flew away far and far finally became invisible.
It was almost morning by then and John’s brain was getting clearer. He started realising what had he done. He wanted to know where he stood now.
“Are we free now? Because there’s no body so no crime.”
“You are really nuts! In couple of days everyone will know a cop is missing. To find one of their own they will leave no stone unturned as it is said. Something or other will lead them to here. Don’t you watch CSI? Some fragment or some hair in some corner is going to implicate us. Maybe the bag would surface sooner than we like. Maybe there is some leftover forensic evidence in the bag which could be recovered even after days in water.”
“I am sorry if I don’t watch TV and sorry because I can’t think like a seasoned criminal.”
“Dude! Easy with the sarcasm. I am skipping town for few days. I suggest you do the same.”
The moment John said “no” he realised actually he did not have any reason to not to leave the town. “Light has a bar but what do I have? That non-upward-mobile job and a jerk boss?”
He then said aloud to Light “how are you planning to do that? It is not as if criminals are not caught after fleeing the city.”
John was not being sarcastic this time. Suddenly he felt a thrill inside him. He had never felt this excitement about anything in years. He felt as if he was alive and he mattered, to himself at least.
Light said “I will make fake ID for both of us. Actually that is my specialty, making fake IDs. And that is my crime too. Few days back I made fake IDs for a young mother and her little daughter. I did not know she was a prostitute with an animal for pimp. This dirty cop was on payroll from that pimp. The woman used fake IDs to flee from her pimp. Pimp is mad in anger now. His personal cop made inquiries which straight led to me. I just made the IDs, I have absolutely no idea where the mother and daughter are now. The cop was trying to scare me by pointing gun and I was explaining him about my ignorance. You know he would have let me off sooner or later because I was telling the truth. You just messed up, man!”
“Yes he would have let you go after practically confessing to a criminal he is a pimp’s pimp”
“Man again the sarcasm?”
“I saved your life.”
“Okay whatever. Listen I will need half day at least for making one fake ID. You meet me at 1400 hours sharp. In case you want to pick up something from home then pack a bag and come here. Don’t bring any thing which will give away your real identity. Just change of cloths, toiletries, money – and no credit card. Carrying a big bag will draw attention. Just pack few of these stuffs in your office bag. Don’t make a big ATM withdrawal.”
“As you order boss. But why only one ID? Aren’t you going to need one?”
“What do you think? I make fake IDs and I would not have multiple ones for myself?”
“Now who is being sarcastic?”
John was feeling so high that he did not mind engaging in light banter. In fact this may have been the first time in a very long time he had a light banter or a real conversation with someone.
There was a fear in him which would not go away even if he shook off himself physically. The fear has made him almost like a different person now. In that rush he rushed to him house (because he had never thought of it as a home). He collected all loose notes and coins lying here and there. Then he went for anything valuable like two watches and a pair of silver cuff link inherited from his father and a gold ring of his mother. No matter how much hardship he was in, he never sold off those because they are the only memories of his parents.
He packed a pair of denim pants, couple of Tees, some underwears, two shorts, two handkerchiefs and a towel. He decided he would buy if something was needed. It was only ten and he did not want to show up early. He withdrew some money from ATM. Not a lot to draw suspicion. He felt worried for some time about his bank account becoming useless for him. But that stayed only till he remembered about breakfast.
He went to a diner as far as possible from his house and Light’s bar and had a leisurely and lavish breakfast for the first time in his life. For the first time he watched the TV in the diner. CSI was coming on it. Definition of irony! There was then a close shot of a crime scene and there was blood everywhere. SO much blood! John froze again and could feel breakfast coming back from his stomach. He felt as if he would vomit all over his table. But that would draw attention to him. The horror of consequences brought him back from the freeze.
He went to the washroom and emptied all breakfast in the toilet and then freshened himself up. After that he went to a store and bought an over-sized hoodie in grey and wore it. The hoodie hid his face and camouflaged his posture nicely.
At 2 he met Light in the back alley of the bar as they had planned. He got his new ID, Don Whitley. He had already been feeling like a different person from last night. He said his goodbye because Light and he had decided never to contact each other in any way for rest of their lives. Light was skipping town too giving the charge of the bar to his brother. Wait what? He had a brother?
John who is Don now holding the new ID hitchhiked till the next town. From next town he took a bus to another state then from that state he took train to a third state. He avoided air travel knowingly and hoped the oversized hoodie took care of CCTV. His got off in a station in the middle of his journey to get the blood moving in his legs. From last two days he had been travelling.
The place where he got off was a small hilly town. The station was sleepy with only few stalls selling food and basics. It was evening and the city around the station looked beautiful in mist like a dream. Suddenly he decided to end his journey there. He was carrying his little luggage in his backpack already.
He did not get on the train when it started instead he went to the gate of the station and then into the city. For the night he stayed in a motel and promised himself a good night’s sleep because whole day tomorrow he could worry about his future.
Next day he got up and after a breakfast he explored the town. He was feeling like Don now. Maybe this was that special acting job he had been waiting for his whole life. He has to feel like Don, he has to act like Don 24/7. He thought of giving Don his own persona. Don grew up as an orphan too but with his loving grand parents. Don was not bitter. He was happy being non-upward-mobile. Don was a friendly boy scout.
He met few people and exchanged pleasantries. He got to know there’s a car repairing shop owned by a woman and she was short of hand. John, now Don, didn’t possess any certificate or testimonials in his name so he thought it would be best to take up a menial job. And he had always loved fiddling with cars.
He went there and met the owner named Bunny. Don thought “that’s a funny name, I wonder what is the real name.”
Bunny is that kind of women whose age was difficult to guess only from look. She might be anything from 30 to 45. She was attractive in a smart, intelligent kind of way. She hired Don immediately with the agreement he would report from the next day.
From next day Don started his new work. This job was almost at the rock bottom yet he had never joined his work before so much. There were two more hands and a manager of sort to manage and look into accounts.
At coffee breaks he chatted with all his co-workers and Bunny. He enjoyed those times. It was easy to talk to Bunny. Sometimes others leave while only him and Bunny lingered over coffee talking about theatre and cinema. So they had shared interests. Apart from her love for theatre and cinema Don knew almost nothing about Bunny. He had just a sketchy idea that she had reached in this sleepy town few years back with some money and knowledge about cars. And old owner was selling this repairing shop when she stepped in. Now she was one of the small time community.
One thing about Bunny was she was fiercely secretive about her personal papers. Maybe she was fleeing from an abusive partner. Or maybe she was trying to hide her age. Anyone can have vanity.
She had an ancient station wagon about which she was quite possessive. She took care of that vehicles herself. She even washed it herself frequently. Every weekend she took off to have some alone time in that station wagon. She says she is fond of fishing. Every Monday morning she comes back fresh for a new week. While she was away Don went to bar sometimes but not alone anymore but with his new found friends Bob and Dan because Don is a friendly guy.
One Sunday Don was supposed to go to lunch with his new friends but at last moment they cancelled. They got tragic news about a friend in neighbouring town passing away.
Don now lived in a room. They came to his room to tell him about it. Their friend had died apparently in one of those random violent incidents when he was driving in highway.
Bob told him all about it. “I tell you so many people have been dying since last few years in these random violent crimes. Ronny was stabbed and then bled to death. So much blood was at the scene that police had difficulty in reaching near his body.”
But Don had stopped listening anything after “so much blood”. He froze and started sweating. Dan asked him “buddy you are looking little blue. Are you all right?”
“Yes I am fine. I have weaker heart than I had thought” replied Don while trying to smile.
“It is better then you take rest for the day we will come back by end of the week. Let’s meet up coming Sunday then.”
After they left Don tried controlling his emotion by pacing up and down. He reminded himself again and again “he was a dirty cop.” When he felt little sane he decided to take a walk till shop to take his mind off the blood.
When he reached near the shop he saw the manager talking to someone in hush hush voice. Their behavior seemed so odd that Don decided to overhear them. He took another road from behind and reached near the shop’s wall. He could now hear the two people quite clearly.
“Start your van, I will load ten. No one is around, this is the right time.”
Then Don spied the manager loading ten expensive car parts in the stranger’s van and keeping money from him.
He could smell fish. On Monday, early morning he went to Bunny’s house and saw from far she was cleaning her station wagon. She was looking so carefree, happy and beautiful. Don could not stop watching her some time before approaching her. She took out lots of dirt and gooey stuffs which looked like dried blood mixed with other sticky stuffs from her wagon.
“Must be from cleaning the fishes inside the wagon” thought Don.
She lathered the seats in hard detergent and then washed them off. As she was wiping the wagon clean Don approached her and said
“That’s quite a cleaning up!”
Bunny was startled and jumped violently hearing his voice.
“Don don’t you dare sneaking up on me like this ever! Since when have you been here?”
Don was embarrassed and lied almost automatically
“I just got here. I wanted to catch you before reaching the shop”
“And why do I owe this honour?”
“It’s the manager. I think he is up to something.”
Then Don told her everything he had seen the previous day. Both of them went to the shop and went through the inventories. They could see many things were missing.
“I never thought of being on my guard. My callous attitude must have helped him in embezzling me.”
Don thought of informing the police but he did not want to get involved in any kind of police business. Now he was already regretting telling on the thief.
Thankfully Bunny said “No point in going to police. I will not get my things back. I think it would be a better idea to confront him directly with the proof we have. We may threaten him with police action. He will be scared and then we may extract monetary value of our loss.”
The manager really bolted under pressure and agreed to pay back. But unfortunately he was addicted to gambling so Bunny got only a part of her loss.
This matter brought Bunny and Don closer. Don unofficially started looking into books at the same pay. Actually he was in accounts in his previous job so he knew the job.
One day Bunny called him into her office and said
“Let’s make it official”
“I am promoting you officially to my book keeper’s position”
Don was really happy in a long time. Then they talked about pay etc.
In the evening he went to bar and treated his friends. While coming back he walked back and saw a poster of a cinema. It was Psycho. He and Bunny had talked about the cinema once. As a thank you he thought of taking her to the movie in the weekend. Then he remembered Bunny never stayed in the town during weekend so thought of asking her next day only. Surprisingly he never felt bad about watching a film.
Next day when they had their coffee break, Don wanted to ask Bunny about the film but suddenly he felt shy about it. He realized it was much more than just watching a film together, it was as if his life and death depended on Bunny accepting his invitation.
With lots of effort he finally asked Bunny about the cinema and she readily agreed.
“We must watch the cinema. Remember how much we had talked about it? Hey you care for a dinner after it?”
Don himself had thought of asking that but Bunny had taken over the conversation.
They closed the shop early to get ready. Then they took a pleasant stroll till the theatre. It was a small town so almost everything was on walking distance.
Everything went on smoothly till the shower scene came. After the stabbing scene there were so much blood in the bathroom. Don felt as if he could not breath any more. Some one was strangling him. Bunny was enjoying the cinema but she could notice something was wrong so after the show she suggested instead of going to a restaurant they could go to her place and order something.
Don readily agreed. He was thankful to be away from crowd. When they reached at Bunny’s place Don’s face was looking white as a sheet. To comfort him Bunny took him in her arms and then it felt most natural for them to move to the bed room and forget all about ordering that dinner.
Next day Don got up as the happiest man in the whole world. After that, days just flew for him. He was too happy to know difference between one day from another. Only difference for him was the weekend when Bunny was out of town. But then his buddies Bob and Dan were more than happy to provide him company.
One day while talking to Bob and Dan he talked about how happy he was. And then they started talking about relationships in general and how tough it was to get a good partner. Don thought “I am never going to get another woman as perfect as her”.
On Monday night he booked a table in the fanciest restaurant of the town. For that town fanciest meant the only restaurant using cloths napkin but food was excellent and there’s a live band. Between main course and dessert Don proposed Bunny to be his wife while band played their favourite song.
Don had expected a “yes”. Bunny said “of course”. But some how it was not the same as the expectation. He felt lack of warmth. “Perhaps real life can never live up to our expectation”.
While saying good bye he felt as if something was missing from her “good night”. Or was it just his imagination? The next day they met in shop and it was business as usual. It was a particularly busy couple of days so they hardly had time to talk about personal things. Then weekend came and Bunny took off. She came back on Monday and days went on pretty much same as before but Don felt as if something has changed. The smiles lacked warmth, the coffee breaks seemed hurried up and words sounded less sincere. Then weekend came and again Bunny took off. It just did not seem right to Don.
The weekend he had promised to be with Bob and Dan but felt like being alone. So spent the whole time alone trying not to think a lot about blood. He decided to talk about his doubts to Bunny. In worst scenario she would say no to marriage. That would not be end of the world.
As soon as Bunny came Don talked to her. She suddenly became agitated and started saying insulting things “your manhood is so fragile that it can’t take even my weekends’ alone time?”
It was entirely out of character for her. Don left her to sleep on it.
Next morning Bunny was again her sweet self. In fact she started talking about wedding plans. Don realized “a lady needs her alone time. I should not interfere.”
Wedding was fixed to be on March. And just before that Don said “let’s go on a road trip for five days.” Not mentioning the weekends was the unspoken rule between them now. Don thought if Bunny could see how much fun he was in a road trip then maybe one day she would change her mind about going solo on weekends.
That year it was still very cold in February. The town was most of the days covered in snow. On a snowy February morning they loaded their things in the station wagon and started their journey.
It was snowing but not heavily. Just the right amount to make everything look soft and pretty. The station wagon had good heating system and the tyres were snow complied. They took turns in driving. Talking, making future plans, munching on cold sandwiches and stale coffee from flask they were the happiest people on road.
They had not even planned where to go. Everything about the trip was fun and impulsive. They parked to eat whichever diner looked good to them and used to spend nights in small motels. They did not need anything lavish because they had each other.
On their third day they had taken a deserted highway on impulse. They drove on miles and miles but there was no sign of any life. The snowfall had increased too. It was white dirty sheets of snow all around them. The little food they had was over. The tank was full so they did not worry about that but they were hungry and needed rest.
The road ran straight ahead without any respite. Finally in late evening when they had lost all hope they saw a pale light at distant. They increased the speed and desperately went towards the light.
Thankfully that light was coming from a small diner. What was someone thinking opening a diner in the middle of nowhere? Maybe without snow the place become less deserted.
They got off. The driveway was plowed thankfully. There were only two people in the diner. A cook and a manager/owner/waiter. They lived in that diner it could be reckoned, hence they were open. But they did not have lot of choices. The cook agreed to make some cheese sandwiches, eggs and coffee.
Don and Bunny sat in a booth and waited for food. Don said “what a luck!”
“Yesshhhh” said Bunny stressing on each word.
That was a funny way of speaking.
“What’s with you darling? Your eyes are looking so odd. Are you coming with a fever? Do you think they will let us spend the night here? What are you doing with the knife? Knife? Where did you get this steak knife?”
Bunny was looking down with full concentration and cutting the table with the knife.
Suddenly she looked up and said in almost a different person’s voice “this is my knife. It has been always with me. You had to come on a road trip and spoil everything, huh!”
Dan felt as if he has entered some maze.
“What are you talking about?”
“For the first time in my life I felt I had got a home in us and you spoiled everything.” She was screaming by now. The two good people came running at them listening to her scream.
Bunny continued to scream “now these people have to pay for your foolishness” saying thus she hurled herself at them cutting both persons’ throats one by one before they could realize what was happening. Blood was spewing from their throats. There was so much blood everywhere on chair, on table, on their cloths and on Bunny’s hand. Yes his Bunny with so much blood on her hand yet clinging to the knife and slowly coming towards him. He was frozen. So much blood!
Dan was immobile. Few lines came to his mind as if they were being broadcasted by a far off radio station.
………she reached in this sleepy town few years back with some money and knowledge about cars
One thing about Bunny was she was fiercely secretive about her personal papers….
She had an ancient station wagon about which she was quite possessive.
Every weekend she takes off to have some alone time in that station wagon.
I tell you so many people have been dying since last few years in these random violent crimes.
She took out lots of dirt and gooey stuffs which looked like dried blood mixed with other sticky stuffs from her wagon.
Thankfully Bunny said “No point in going to police…..
Only thing he could mouth was “I had finally got a home in us” then he froze absolutely “so much blood”.