The Cadillac Diaries: Episode 86

It was dark by the time they reached the Woodland Hotel where David Crandall waited.

“This isn’t a good idea, Ray,” Richard warned.

“I know,” Ray said, “but I have to try.”

Richard signaled one of the officers to bring a bulletproof vest for Ray.

“Thanks, but I can’t breathe in those things. Besides, I’m trained to work without one,” Ray said as he headed for the hotel’s front entrance.

“Wait. What?” Richard asked, but Ray was already inside.

He kept close behind the police officers, following them up to the fourth floor. At the end of the hall, the lead officer cautioned,

“We’ve been ordered to stand down and let you try an approach alone. Remember that Crandall is armed and he’s already fired at officers. There’s no safe way to do this.”

Ray nodded his understanding then walked down the hall toward Crandall’s room. The last five years were weighing on him, and he was worn out.

When he reached Crandall’s door, he knocked twice and called out,

“David, it’s Raymond Slats.”

When no answer came, Ray knocked again.

“David?”

Finally, he announced, “I’m coming in.”

He turned the knob slowly and pushed the door open, pausing for a few moments. Then he walked in and closed the door behind him.

Crandall stood at the window, looking out. Ray saw that he gripped a pistol in his hand. When he looked around the room, Ray spotted a 2008 calendar on the wall.

“That was the last thing my daughter gave me. She circled my birthday with a heart,” David said, slowly turning to face Ray.

Downstairs in the parking lot, police officers were still arriving. The red and blue lights danced across the walls in time to the sirens as Ray moved slowly into the room.

“Isn’t this what you wanted, Detective? You wanted me. Well here I am.”
Shadowed from the police lights outside, Crandall stepped away from the window. All Ray could make out was the pistol and part of Crandall’s shirt.

“Why me?” Ray asked.

“Don’t play games. You know exactly why. First, there was the church and then your actions in the play,” Crandall said.

Ray moved closer, trying to close the distance between them.

“By that time, you were just an annoyance that should have been paid off, even though you thought you were too good for that. But what you did at the carnival, I’ll never forgive. She was mine. How could you have done such a thing?”

“I didn’t mean to,” Ray pleaded. “I tried to—”

“I don’t care! It’s too late now!” Crandall yelled.

“But—” Ray began.

“No more excuses!” Crandall said. “That heart attack should have killed you. You’ve escaped death too many times. But no more.”

Crandall raised his pistol and fired.

The bullet sliced through the air and slammed into Ray’s chest, throwing him backwards.

* * *

As Ray went down, Crandall felt a pang of relief. He knew the cops would be breaking down the door any moment, but he didn’t care. When movement from the bathroom caught his eye, he whirled around to see Captain Bonkers step out.

“You!” Crandall snapped.

But before he could fire, Bonkers raised his pistol and shot Crandall squarely in the heart. He was dead before he hit the floor.

* * *

When Ray came to, he was in a hospital bed, an IV in his arm and bandages covering his chest. Asleep in a chair near him was Deborah.

Ray loudly coughed then moaned at the pain, snapping Deborah awake. Joy filled her tired eyes as she looked at him.

“Daddy!” she cried, moving to his bedside.

Ray weakly smiled, “Hey, pumpkin.”

Deborah leaned over and gently hugged him.

“What’d I miss?” Ray asked.

“You’ve been out for a couple of days. The doctor said the bullet didn’t hit any vital organs. He said you’re lucky to be alive, especially given your advanced age,” Deborah replied.

“That’s a nice way of saying I’m old,” Ray joked.

“Daddy, he’s right. You shouldn’t have gone in there, let alone without protection,” Deborah scolded.

“I know, I know,” Ray confessed, patting her hand. “It’s just that—”

“I know you were bored, Daddy,” Deborah interrupted, “but you can’t keep risking your life like this. I’m all worn out from worrying.”

Before Ray could respond, the door opened and in walked Richard and Tommy.

“Great! I wake up after being shot, and the first thing I have to look at is you!” Ray teased.

“I’d say that gunshot improved your looks, old woman,” Tommy returned.

Ray laughed, wincing at the pain.

“What about King?”

“He’s going to be tried on so many counts, I’d need a note pad to remember them all,” Richard smiled.

“How’s my boy Pete?” Ray asked.

“Going nuts!” Deborah replied. “A friend of mine who’s watching him while I’m at work says he keeps trying to escape.”

Richard laughed and added, “He’s gotten pretty good at it too.”

Just then the door opened and Mavis stepped into the room. Her auburn hair fell forward, covering her red eyes and splotched face. When she looked at Ray, fresh tears washed down her cheeks.

“Don’t worry, sweetie,” Ray comforted. “I’m okay.”

Mavis weakly laughed then said, “I’m glad. I was worried about you. . .a lot. But there’s something else.”

“What’s wrong?” Ray asked.

Mavis worked to stop crying and get control of herself. Finally, she said,

“I’m leaving.”

“What?” Ray asked.

“Why?” Tommy asked.

Struggling to appear lighthearted, Mavis smiled and explained.

“I got a call from my father in Coldwater. He wants to retire, and he’s asked me to move home so he can teach me the business.”

“Business?” Deborah asked confused.

“The bar is his, of course, but he also has three other bars as well as two nightclubs and a restaurant. His plan is for me to manage all of them so he can retire in the next year or two,” Mavis answered.

“I’m sorry. Doesn’t seem like you’re too happy about that,” Ray pointed out.

Mavis started crying again and said,

“He’s my daddy, and he’s getting old. It’s just that I’m really going to miss you guys.”

Mavis moved in closer and bent over to hug Ray, crying into his gown.

* * *

3 Months Later

Bradford King sat in the dingy cell scowling at his reflection in the polished metal mirror.

“Considering my net worth, these buffoons should have at least given me suitable clothes.”

Frank Granger, one of the guards, walked up to the cell and banged on the door.

“King, you have a visitor,” he announced.

“My attorney?” King asked.

“I’m not your secretary,” Granger complained.

Then as the cell door opened, he added,

“Your daughter. Let’s go.”

Magdalene was King’s only daughter. Shortly after his wife died in a plane crash, he had enrolled Magdalene in a private school in Switzerland. With King’s promise of a sizeable donation to the school, the headmaster had promised to keep a close eye on her. King made a note to punish the man for not telling him she had left. He followed Granger to a private visitor’s cell. When Granger opened the door, King saw that another guard had been posted inside the waiting room. The black stubble on his face made him look dark and angry. As though frozen in place, his arms were crossed as his cold black eyes stared straight ahead. Although he stood at an angle behind one of the chairs, King could see part of his name tag. His first name looked like it was Joseph.

“That’s not my daughter,” King said sarcastically.

“Sit down! He’ll be watching you while you visit,” Granger explained.

As he took a seat behind the new guard, King protested,

“I don’t even get a private visit with my daughter?”

“You’re lucky you’re getting this much,” Granger retorted.

When Granger turned and left the room, Magdalene walked in, closing the door behind her.

“Maggie,” King greeted, pleased to see his daughter.

“Hello, Father,” Magdalene said, sitting down across from him.

Magdalene brushed her red hair out of her face and removed her sunglasses, revealing her different colored eyes, one blue and one green just like her mother.

King smiled and asked,

“Sweetheart, what are you doing out of school?”

“I heard you were in trouble,” she answered.

“It’s nothing my lawyers can’t handle. Just trumped up charges to get me out of the way so they can stop some deranged clown-faced killer,” King explained.

Magdalene smiled.

“Oh good. I was worried, afraid I was going to lose you like I lost mom.”

“That was a tragic accident that killed your mother. But don’t worry, Maggie. I’m not going anywhere,” King assured her.

Magdalene gazed into her father’s eyes then corrected,

“Murdered.”

“What?” King asked.

“Mom was murdered,” Magdalene said.

“Why would you think something like that?” King asked.

“Because she called me before she got on that plane,” Magdalene said, keeping her eyes fixed on King.

“She told me what she found out about you. About your business. Then the next thing you know, the plane she’s on goes down suddenly. Engine trouble they said.”

With a look of astonishment, King said, “You can’t think I did that!”

“You started this, Father,” Magdalene said, “and now we’re going to finish it.”

“We?” King asked nervously.

Magdalene’s eyes shifted from her father’s face to past him. King hesitantly turned around and saw that the guard who had been standing behind him was now Captain Bonkers.

Suddenly everything fell into place as he nervously swiped at his sweat-beaded forehead.

“You didn’t think we’d let you escape, did you?” Magdalene asked.

“Huh?” King responded, his thoughts muddled.

He watched as Magdalene slowly stood and walked over to the door. When she tapped on the glass, Granger opened the door and stepped forward.

“In a few moments, my father is going to kill himself. Please wait until I’ve left the property to call it in,” she instructed.

“Yes ma’am,” Granger answered.

As though in a daze, King stared speechlessly at his daughter while she walked back to him and kissed his forehead, placing a chess piece, the king, in front of him.

“Goodbye, Father,” she said without looking back.

When the door closed behind her, Magdalene walked away in peace, her eyes straight ahead. This was finally over. The guards nodded as she passed by moving down the hallway toward the exit. Suddenly from the room where she had left her father, she heard him yell,

“NO!”

When a gunshot rang out, the guards didn’t flinch and Magdalene kept on walking, a smile slowly spreading across her face.

* * *

Late in the middle of the night in a condemned, burned out house, the front door slowly opened. Roaches scurried across the floor, disappearing under the baseboard. The floor creaked beneath his feet as Captain Bonkers stepped into the room. He walked through the house and out to the back porch where he started up a small generator. Reaching down to grab the attached extension cord, he pulled it inside the house and lay it on the floor next to an old chair, its stuffing spilling out through the scorched fabric. Years earlier, the house had caught fire and suffered extensive damage before firefighters arrived on the scene.

Bonkers headed toward a nearby closet then pulled an old TV VCR off the top shelf. Centering it on a stool next to the chair, he plugged it in and sat down.

As he watched the screen, the white light danced across his cold dead eyes beneath the clown mask. He pressed the play button and a video started, a video of his boy surrounded by friends celebrating his birthday at a pool party. The boy looked up at the camera with a big smile and said,

“Watch this, Daddy!”

The boy turned away and ran towards the pool leaping off the side and splashing into the water. Just as the child’s head bobbed to the surface and he began swimming toward the pool’s edge, a young woman came on camera and said,

“Joseph, will you put that camera away for once? You’re missing your son’s birthday party.”

Bonkers watched without movement, without expression, as the tape played on.

* * *

It had the makings of a perfect day as Ray eased back onto the cushioned rocking chair. Across the room, Deborah rested on the couch, a pillow at the small of her back, with Pete her protector curled up beside her. Tommy whistled in the kitchen as he made tea and sandwiches for everyone. Just then the key turned in the lock and Richard walked in.

“Hey, sweetheart,” he greeted, bending over to kiss Deborah.

“Hey, babe,” she returned.

When Deborah started to get up, Richard stopped her with,

“You shouldn’t walk in your condition.”

“What condition?” Ray asked,

With a look of surprise, Richard asked,

“You didn’t tell him, hon?”

“I was waiting for you to get home,” Deborah responded.

“What condition?” Ray repeated. “What’s going on?”

“Deborah’s pregnant,” Tommy said matter-of-factly as he brought in the tea and sandwiches.

“Tommy!” Deborah said. “How did you know?”

“What? I thought everyone knew?” Tommy answered.

“You’re pregnant?” Ray asked, obviously elated.

“Almost a month now,” Tommy said.

“Tommy!” Deborah scolded, leaning over to pop Tommy.

“What?” Tommy asked confused.

“How did you know?” Richard asked.

“It’s what I do,” Tommy replied.

“That explains why Pete has been keeping so close to you lately. I thought he had abandoned me,” Ray laughed.

“Well, congratulations you two. I am de—”

Just then a frantic knock sounded at the door.

Richard quickly got up and answered it. Leaning against the doorpost, trying to catch her breath, was Mavis. She was disheveled, as though she had dressed in a great hurry and neglected to brush her hair.

“Mavis? What’s wrong?” Richard inquired.

“I need to talk to Ray,” she said, a frantic look on her face.

“Sure. Come on in.”

Mavis hurried into the room and crossed to Ray.

“Ray! I need your help!”

THE END?

To be continued in Unsettled

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