[excerpt of work in progress]
Dalton pulls up next to the main house, exits his truck, and notices the porch is dark.
“Damn bulbs never last as long as they’re suppose to,” he said as he moved toward the steps. The distance from town, rare visitor history, and chirping crickets keep him at ease. So he unknowingly walks passed Dante, who then steps from the shadow.
“Evening Old Timer.”
Dalton begins to turn, the first hint of alarm bristling up his spine, but it’s too late, Dante cold-cocks him with the butt of his gun.
Consciousness returns fairly quick to the tough septuagenarian. But he discovers he’s already bound, gagged, hooded, and being manhandled into a vehicle.
An old eighteenth century outlaw materializes, walking out through the ranch house wall, and eyes Dante enter his vehicle, slam it into drive, and stamp on the accelerator. The elder Boles, great-great grandfather of Dalton, whistles for his mount, and the buckskin companion appears while galloping up to him.
Dante speeds away as the old outlaw mounts, and the spectral pair take-off like the wind after the departing vehicle.
Ben, who usually commands the most respect in his joint, is practically falling all over himself, in his own office, because Carlo Giovanni, a well-dressed local under-boss, presently sits across from him flanked by two goons.
“The go-ahead has been given,” said Carlo.
“Thank you, Mr. Giovanni,” said Ben. “I won’t let you…”
The office door unexpectedly opens, and Giovanni’s bodyguards go into action. As Dante begins to enter he catches a glimpse of unexpected movement, sparking him to quickly draw his weapon. And the few second mutual surprise ends with the goons aiming at Dante, and Dante drawing a deadly bead on the seemingly unruffled under-boss.
“No!” said Ben. “He’s one of mine.”
No one moves, though Giovanni and his goons become aware of another figure bound and hooded in the outer office.
“You’re people don’t knock?” said Carlo.
“He’s contracted,” Ben said. “Did a job.”
“So I see,” said Carlo, and he motions for his guys to lower their weapons so the new arrival will stop aiming at him – it works. “I don’t like problems.”
“Nothing I can’t handle,” said Ben.
Carlo rises and begins to exit, but stops inches from Dante, who doesn’t give an inch.
“Make us money and you’ll be treated royally,” Carlo said to Ben without removing his gaze from Dante. “Bring us trouble and you’ll go down faster than this boy can draw.”
Carlo exits without looking back.
Ben sinks back into his overstuffed chair, as Dante closes the distance with a bemused look.
“Nice friends,” said Dante.
Ben closes his eyes; waits for the adrenaline to subside, and wonders for the umpteenth time, will I ever become a heavyweight, or just weighted down with cement?
Dalton soon found himself bound to a chair, with Dante standing menacingly beside him, as Ben leaned forward on his desk. The hood and gag was removed, and Dalton, though not about to show it, was surprised his son would go this far. He knew he was amoral, but never thought he had the guts for this level of play.
“Always knew you were a snivelin’ little pecker-head who couldn’t do anything without help,” said Dalton.
Ben just smiled and glanced at Dante, who punched Dalton three times in rapid succession: smiling bigger with each punch.
Dalton took it without a peep, and glared back at his punisher; as if oblivious to the pain while spitting a mouthful of blood onto Dante’s gator skin boots.
“Still trying to be the big man,” said Ben. “But you’re just an old man now. So the next time you get the urge to put on your little costume and write poetry – don’t.”
Dalton returned his gaze to his son.
“Yer’ as dumb you are weak,” said Dalton. “I weren’t even in town that day.”
“Deny it at all cost, huh?” Ben said. “Just like last time. Well, suit yourself. But my business associates wouldn’t respect me if I let anyone get away with stealing from me. And that includes you, old man. So I’ll give you a choice; pay me twice what you took, or pay it in medical bills.”
Dalton had no fear of his son, but knew the hired muscle was both capable of, and probably enjoyed inflicting pain. He likewise knew that if their positions were reversed, Ben would not hesitate to rat out Billy.
No greater love hath man than this, thought Dalton, that he lay down his life… And he began sniffing the air.
“Damn, if I don’t recall that smell,” said Dalton. “Ain’t it time for yer’ diaper change, boy?” He steals himself for the inevitable and doesn’t have to wait long.
Ben motioned to Dante, and the hired-gun stepped forward and unleashed his sadistic side.
The eighteenth-century grandfather clock in the foyer, by the stairs, struck two bells past the witching hour as the old outlaw materialized within the family farm house. The elder Boles slowly walked upstairs, with spurs jingling a solemn melody in tune with their owner’s countenance. The dark interior presented no obstacle to a past patron of Purgatory, and one who has seen the depths of Hell; though his present task is obstacle enough. As he stepped through the closed door – foregoing the usual wish to have had this power while still alive – he found Billy asleep beside Molly. And, though he had a task to perform, the fresh scent of woman, and the lingering aroma of the young couple’s pre-slumber passions filled the specter with torturous recollections of his past life.
Nothing less than a Herculean effort cut short the rising flood of loves found, and loves lost, and the paralyzing effect such recall has on a spirit outside the boundaries of Paradise. But the task needed doing, and the elder Boles never allowed obstacles to deter him.
To ensure there would be no mix-up, the old outlaw abstained from the usual ethereal smoke, opting for a stronger connection, as he placed his hand on Billy’s forehead. Manipulation of neurotransmitters within the mind of the living is a rare trait, mastered only by fearless spirits with unwavering focus.
In REM sleep when the connection was made, Billy restlessly began to stir. His mind’s eye was adjusting to the new and varied visions. In the surreal world of the subconscious Billy found himself attempting to escape a maze that has a lifetime’s worth of memories projected on the walls. Belittling memories of his pa were on one side, and uplifting memories with his grandpa on the other side. Then, in the imaginary blink of an eye, he finds he is young again, and riding hell-bent for his father with a voice chanting, “Run him down. Run him down.” But no collision is seen, and the scene shifts, and Ben’s visage distorts, both appearance and voice, and he begins to motion like a music conductor orchestrating Dalton’s vicious beating by Dante.
“One, two, and then punch,” said the ethereal Ben. “Three, four, and punch some more.”
Even subconsciously Billy tries to stop the brutal beating. He screams at his father, only to watch in awe as every word is literally sucked into the surrounding blackness. And as he begins to run forward this scene too – fades. It is quickly followed by an irritating strobe light effect. With each random illumination a shotgun is seen within the glow, and a shell is ratcheted into the chamber. The distinct sound of schick-schick during each illumination foretold the inevitable.
The flashing abruptly stopped, replaced by the solitary image of Billy’s grandpa; though Billy couldn’t help comparing his grandpa’s face to tenderized ground-round.
Dalton’s eyes sprang open and he yelled, “Billy!”
The penetrating gaze and earnest exclamation shot straight to the core of Billy’s soul… and the shotgun fired – Kaboom!
Billy catapults upright in the bed, sweaty and agitated.
Though he knows it was a dream, he also knows something bad has happened to his grandpa. And for the first time Billy knows he can take the life of another man; in fact, two. Though he is a bit surprised to realize one of his first kills will be his own father.