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Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
Guilt never rests
Night Guilt by lancellot
    Pitter-Patter Contest Winner 
 Category:  Mystery and Crime Fiction
  Posted: November 9, 2013      Views: 411

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LANCELLOT 

To be or not to be that is the question. So what's the answer.

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Warning: The author has noted that this contains strong violence.
Warning: The author has noted that this contains strong language.


 The pitter-patter of little feet in the hall normally woke her each morning. Today, it was the absence of it. Tracy took a deep breath and rolled over in bed. She didn’t want to look at the dead red glowing digits of the clock. She knew from the darkness leaking through the blinds and the deathly silence of the street near her window what time it was. Barely containing its hatred for her, the cheap clock seemed to scream at her.

“Yes, Bitch, it’s three again; the same time each night, the same time every night, until you do it. I’ll never let you sleep, never.” But the clock didn’t really speak. Tracy wished it would. She wanted someone to talk with; someone who would curse her, shame her and even beat her within an inch of her life.

“I deserve it. Oh, God, forgive me.” Tracy didn’t actually expect God to forgive her. She couldn’t forgive herself.

The sound of footsteps coming down the hall startled her sleep-deprived mind.

 “Jessica?” The name was out and past her trembling lips before her better sense could stop her. As the steps got closer, they became heavier, the time between each footfall, longer. It wasn’t her little girl. Not now, not ever again. She had made her choice. Oh God, God, help me.

The door burst open and he staggered in. The force of the door swinging pushed the stench of alcohol into her nose. I should pretend to be sleep?  Before she could close her eyes the lights came on with a snap, causing her to raise her hands to her face.

The seconds passed and her sight adjusted. With red sleep-deprived eyes she looked up and into Frank’s red bloodshot orbs. They stared at each other in silence, but in those few seconds, much passed between them.
************

Frank, by nature, was not a man of deep thought. According to his late mother, he wasn’t much of a man at all. Standing in the doorway of Tracy’s bedroom (he often called it his house, but it wasn’t and he knew it) looking into her eyes, he heard his mother’s voice echo off the walls.

“You’re just like your deadbeat father. He couldn’t hold a job to save his life and look at you.” She would down large swallows of Scotch, in between drags on her cigarette before adding on. “You’re just a shiftless, lazy drunk, and if that silly girl had any sense she would have never let you in her life.”

But, Tracy had let him in, and now they were stuck with each other in the worst possible way. It only took moments, before Frank pulled his eyes away from his wife. He knew what he did. He felt it each day he walked passed Jessica’s closed room. He hid it deep inside when they attended the press conference. When he wasn’t drinking that scene played out over and over again, like a never ending rerun.

“We all know why we are here.” The Sheriff stared into the cameras. “It has been a long couple of days for the Sheriff’s department, and before I hand this press conference over to the Millers, I want them to know we will do everything in our power to find little Jessica.”

Sheriff Michael Dugan was an old high school classmate of theirs and former admirer of Tracy’s. Frank knew he meant every word he said because all men can see the feelings another man has for their woman, even if she couldn’t. Frank never bothered about it. Dorky Dugan, as he was called back then, was not the kind of man Tracy was attracted to. Frank knew her history and relationship with her father.

Frank stepped to the podium as Tracy buried her head into her mother’s shoulder. The press had wanted her to speak, but Frank explained she was much too distraught to talk. That was what he said and seeing the tears raining down her face they didn’t argue.

“On behalf of our entire family I want to thank you all for your prayers and the long hours you’ve put in searching for our daughter. I…I know we will find her. Jessica…if…if you can hear me…your daddy loves you. Thank you all.”

Frank’s voice had been choppy and his hands shook terribly. To the crowd of searchers, press and well wishers, he looked like a grieving father. Only he and Tracy knew it was the lack of alcohol that gave him the shakes. Not wanting to stir suspicion, he had avoided the bar and the bottle for days. He paid a terrible price for sobriety. The pain of withdrawal added to his guilt and regret was like nothing he had ever experienced. Without alcohol, his memories of that horrible night beat him like, well, like a full grown man beating a twenty pound child. And each time he looked at Tracy, he saw, in her, the child he took away, and it hurt like the devil's dentist.

“Why are you up?” Frank didn’t want to look at her or speak to her. “I don’t need you waiting for me to come home. I’m a grown ass man and I’ll come and go as I please.”

Frank pulled off his shirt and threw it into the full hamper. “I thought you were going to wash these clothes. It fucking stinks in here. I don’t know why you can’t do your job around here. I’m sick of working all day and having to come home to your bullshit.”
***********

Tracy never took her eyes off her mistake. She saw Frank’s lips moving, smelled the putrid odor of beer and cheap perfume on him, but her mind never registered a word he said. She had heard it all before.

For the first few months, since ‘the accident’ as he called it, Frank had been a model husband. He had gotten a job at the Factory, and reduced his drinking to normal levels. But a leopard cannot change its spots. Frank’s alteration only lasted as long as the media’s interest in their plight. Kids were lost or killed every day and yesterday’s tragedy is quickly forgotten. Jessica had become just another missing person and Frank had become himself again.

So, Tracy watched in silence as he pumped himself into a rage. She knew the routine well by now. He would say something about being too tired to shower; in hopes she would sleep on the couch to escape his stench. If that didn’t work he would attempt to work himself into ‘the mood’ and then, by mistake, try repeatedly to enter the wrong hole. This too was designed to anger her and cause a fight or her flight. She understood the limited workings of his mind. He would do anything to avoid having to look into her eyes and see his shame. Guilt was a weight his narrow shoulders could not bear.

“I worked ten hours straight,” Tracy knew what was coming, “so I’ll just wash-up in the morning.”

Frank paused and Tracy didn’t move. With one quick jerk he pulled off his dingy underwear and stroked his flaccid member.

As he started for the bed, Tracy burst out in laughter. She laughed so hard her face become cherry red and tears streamed down her cheeks.

“What’s so fucking funny?”

Tracy didn’t answer; she just kept on laughing and then pointed to his little manhood.

“Shut the fuck up!” Frank yelled, but Tracy kept right on laughing.

Frank was a man with a naturally short fuse; he also was born with a short penis. Tracy had long suspected that the shortness of the latter contributed to the shortness of the former. She also knew that if there was one weak point all men shared, it was the fear of being ridiculed about the one thing that defined most of them and that no amount of money or exercise could change.

“Stop it.” Frank crossed the bed in four long strides. At that point Tracy was sitting on the side, doubled over in uncontrollable giggles. “I said stop!”

Tracy heard the anger, frustration and yes, the guilt was there too. She could imagine it calling out to her husband for release, and she intended to give it to him.

“I…I’m sorry, Frank.” She pretended to struggle to contain herself. “It’s just that it looks…it looks like a baby penis.” She shut her eyes, threw back her head and laughed deep and hard. Inside she readied herself. Okay, brace yourself. It will come any second now. For you, baby, mama’s doing it for you.
**********

Sheriff Dugan hadn’t overseen many crime scenes during his term.  He was lucky that most murders and shootings happened in the bigger counties.  He walked through the bedroom and around the blood stained carpet with care. He knew there was little need to collect any evidence. It was an open and shut case as far as he was concerned. He just didn’t want to throw out a new pair of boots. Blood was notoriously hard to clean.

“Sir, excuse me, Sheriff.” His new deputy was a bundle of young nerves.

“What is it, Simms?”

“Well, sir, it’s her statement.” The man looked down at his notepad. “It just doesn’t add up. He came home drunk. He attacked her and she just happened to have a loaded gun in the nightstand, and who strips all their clothes off before they attack someone.”

Sheriff Dugan calmly took the young man’s notepad, looked at what he had written and then slowly ripped the page off.

“Son,” the Sheriff spoke to him like the child he never had, “you just don’t understand guilt. If her story is a little off that’s because she just had to shoot her husband, and not more than a year since losing her daughter. I think we can cut her some slack.”

Sheriff Dugan handed his deputy back his pad and walked over to where Tracy Miller sat. She had stopped crying, but still held a box of tissue in her hands.

He looked into her blue eyes that had lost some of their shine since those long ago high school days, but not enough to lessen the effect on his old heart.  They held each other’s gaze for what was only a few seconds, but felt like hours. In that silence much was passed between them. In the end Dugan just nodded and then turned to his men.

“Alright, boys, wrap it up. We’re done here.”

As the weeks progressed into months, Dugan would visit Tracy more and more. They would never marry, but would share many things most husbands and wives never do. One quiet night, while they lay in each other’s arms Tracy confided in him the truth of what happened to Jessica and to Frank. It was no surprise to the clever man. To his credit Dugan never said a word, he just held his love tightly, and allowed what guilt she still harbored to flow from her soul.  

Sometime after three that night, Dugan opened his eyes to the pitter-patter of little feet. He would never be sure if he was dreaming or awake, and he never shared what he saw with Tracy. In the hall leading to their bedroom, was a little girl smiling. She waved to him, and seemed to whisper the words, thank you before fading away. Tracy never woke that night and slept peacefully for the rest of her days.
 
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