Imp, page 1
Copyright 2016 Jay Harez
Published by Jay Harez at Smashwords
Cover Art by Rochelle Contreras
Smashwords Edition License Notes
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your enjoyment only, then please return to Smashwords.com or your favorite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author
BRIAN WAS AN EXAMINER FOR the IRS in Austin and conducted Helene’s interview. Interview was what the IRS had renamed audits. It was considered to be more hopeful sounding.
Helene owned a small business that had earned staggering profits her first year and red flags had gone off when she filed her taxes. Brian met her that day in his office and he knew immediately that he wouldn’t find anything untoward going on with her business. She had kept some receipts for expenses she didn’t even know she could deduct and he helped her with those. She was a very meticulous person and that appealed to Brian.
The audit would take a few hours and had started at ten-thirty a.m. That meant that they would have to work through lunch or stop for an hour and reconvene. Helene had said ‘one should never do anything important on an empty stomach’ and smiled as she said it.
He was completely undone. He had heard stories about interviewees flirting with their examiner or in rare cases offering open bribes. He hoped that wasn’t what was happening.
As he walked out of the rear of the building in search of lunch he made his way to the nearest food truck. While in line he was pushed from behind. He turned around and it was Helene.
“I’m truly sorry,” she said and then she realized who he was. “Oh my god, I…” she was drowned out by a child of no more than twelve or thirteen.
“What do you care about this pencil-dicked-half-a-fag? Just get the fucking food. God!” the kid said.
She looked at the kid, then at Brian, then at the ground.
“Please Tanner. Try to be polite.” She said sounding as if she were about to cry. “I am so sorry.” She said again. “Let me buy your lunch.”
“Can’t,” Brian said still looking at the kid. “Regulations and all,”
“Sorry again.” she said. “That never occurred to me. Running a business is all new to me. I should have hired an accountant. I just didn’t think it would be this complicated this fast,” She said while digging in her purse.
“Hey, pencil-dick, pay attention.” The kid said pointing toward the food truck.
Brian turned and saw that the line had moved forward a few feet and stepped up to close the gap. Helene followed him and was in turn followed by the child.
“Tanner!” she said looking at the child then back at Brian. “He’s…” she couldn’t come up with anything.
“Not to worry,” He said and ordered his lunch.
The audit went smoothly. It turned out she owed the IRS seventeen dollars from one of her previous years filing. The interest brought it to forty-two dollars and change. She wrote the check, thanked him, and left.
Brian was appalled that such a capable woman was burdened with a child like that. He couldn’t begin to guess the turns her life must have taken and it wasn’t his business.
Brian was a cinephile, he loved the movies. He went almost every weekend to see all types of movies. When he went to the movies he only went to the ones that offered full meals and Bourbon Foster. He liked to have a drink and a meal while watching. That was where he ran into her - again. Hours before they had been sitting across a desk from each other and now they were two people at the movies. He knew that he was making much more out of the chance meeting than it merited but he was taken with her. Helene looked at him curiously.
“Well now that I’m not going to debtor’s prison can I at least buy you some popcorn?” she asked with a laugh.
That was it for him. He was done. He was going to marry this woman although he was aware that the idea was insane and premature at best. They opted to skip the movie and have some pints on the patio. They started talking and before he knew it an usher was telling them that the place was closing. They had talked for five hours.
She tried to explain how her kid had ‘gone bad’ somewhere along the way. She thought it was a combination of his father being overseas for months at a time leading up to their eventual divorce and her being an orphan. She didn’t know how to rear a child, let alone a boy.
Plus, her business had grown beyond her imagination so her time was divided and what parenting skills she had, suffered for it. She took full responsibility for the kid’s behavior but she was at her wits end.
Brian tried to console her but he had never married let alone raised a child. He offered zero parenting skills as well. That wasn’t going to stop him mind you, it was just a fact. He had never had kids and had never considered having kids. He did however, have every intention of doing whatever was necessary to make this relationship happen. He knew he was acting crazy.
The child in question, Tanner, was not only disrespectful and rude, but he was spiteful. After their third date Brian suggested that the three of them visit the local aquarium. They ate lunch in the cafeteria and Tanner behaved like a typical kid and asked about everything. Helene suggested they not join the tour group because she wanted Tanner to be able to see things at his own pace; in truth she was concerned about his behavior. They spent hours looking at all of the displays and were leaving when two security guards approached them.
“Folks I’m sorry but we need you to come with us for a moment.” The guard said.
“Brian, I….” she started to say then stopped. She was looking at Tanner who had the toothiest smile Brian had ever seen.
“What’s the problem?” Brian asked the security guard.
“We have some footage we would like you to look at,” the guard said and gestured toward a door marked ‘Aquarium Personnel Only’.
The trio followed the guards into a small room where a monitor had a frozen image of Brian, Helene and Tanner standing in front of one of the smaller tanks.
Brian and Helene watched themselves in horror as they talked to each other completely preoccupied. Tanner stood a few feet away from them and gingerly lobbed one of the salt shakers from the cafeteria up and over the display case. He watched with glee as it splashed down in the fresh water tank filled with tiny schooling fish. No one seemed to notice.
On the screen, the three moved on to the next display but the camera stayed on the tank. The fish began to swim erratically and poke their mouths above the surface until they all slowly suffocated.
“Tanner, why?” Helene asked.
Tanner just shrugged and continued to grin and stare at his work on the monitor.
“Needless to say we don’t want to prosecute so…” the guard stopped.
“How much?” Helene asked.
“It was almost two dozen specimens so…” the guard started.
“How much?” she asked again.
“Four-hundred, sixty-five dollars,” the guard said with less hesitancy.
Helene pulled out her check book.
“We’re not allowed to accept checks in cases of vandalism,” the guard explained.
She stopped writing and Brian watched the tears fall as she fumbled for a credit card.
He wanted to marry Helene more than anything. Everything about her made him happy. He loved her wit, her hair; he even loved the things about her that he had found annoying at first. Then Brian looked past Helene into Tanner’s eyes.
There was no h
“I know,” was all she said.
Brian drove them to Helene’s house in silence. Tanner hummed a nonsensical tune as they went. Helene quietly cried the whole way. When they arrived Tanner bolted out of the vehicle and into the house.
“I can’t ask you to…take on something like this,” She said and got out of the car.
Brian drove home alone with his thoughts.
He went to work the next day but he was preoccupied. He had a problem and his analytical nature soon converted the problem into a puzzle. Brian loved solving puzzles. He called Helene on his lunch break and told her his plan. Two days later Brian met her and Tanner at the office of Dr. Thao Nguyen a family counselor. Helene had resisted the idea at first. She was ashamed; she thought everything Tanner did was an indictment of her parenting. Tanner looked bored.
Dr. Nguyen did her best to analyze the situation, however she had handicaps. One, Brian and Helene weren’t married; so the level of commitment was different than had they been. Two, Tanner was not Brian’s son, biologically or legally that meant that there was little or no familial bond between Brian and Tanner. Dr. Nguyen met with all three, one evening per week for three months.
Helene felt comfortable revealing a little more with each visit. Although they tried to hide it, both Dr. Nguyen and Brian were astonished at the malice of Tanner. Every revelation was a window into the world of a budding sociopath.
She told Dr. Nguyen how Tanner had set his daycare on fire using a paperclip and a bottle of hand sanitizer. She told them Tanner had once dug a deadfall trap in the yard conspicuously close to the electric meter and that the city had sued when one of their meter readers had nearly bled to death after stumbling into it and being impaled on the spikes Tanner had lined it with.
Tanner had started a rumor that one of his teachers had exposed her breast to him. After the teacher had been fired and arrested he admitted to not wanting to take a test scheduled for that week. Tanner had sabotaged his father’s truck and a fire had started under the hood. His father had just made the last payment on the vehicle the month before. The stories were endless and while Brian’s heart ached for her, his feelings turned to Tanner. Brian was torn between sadness and rage. It was heartbreaking and at the same time infuriating. None of this made sense to him.
Brian didn’t subscribe to the concept of ‘evil’ per se. He knew that some people were ‘wired wrong’ as his mother used to say. Those people, in Brian’s opinion, just needed help. Worst case scenario they should be institutionalized where they could be afforded proper medical treatment and care.
One day Brian got a call at his office. He saw the caller ID and hesitated. All incoming calls to the IRS were recorded but he answered it anyway.
“Brian Stanley.” Brian said.
“Brian, this is Doctor Nguyen.” The voice on the phone said.
“Hello doctor.” Brian said dreading the reason for the call.
Dr. Nguyen said she couldn’t see them anymore and had no one she could recommend in good conscious. Brian was stunned.
“Brian I am going to send you a link to a research group from Europe. They are doing some pretty cutting edge stuff but I think Tanner may qualify.” Dr. Nguyen offered.
“Can you at least tell me why? I thought we were getting somewhere.” Brian was on the brink of pleading.
“Tanner…is beyond my scope of expertise. I can’t in good conscious continue to see the three of you.” Dr. Nguyen explained.
Brian thanked her for her efforts and hung up. He left work in a daze. He was on the brink of missing a chance at happiness because of an evil sixth grader.
I will not lose this opportunity he thought. As soon as he got home he looked for Dr. Nguyen’s email. The body of the email contained a link as promised but the subject line read: ‘PLEASE DO NOT CONTACT ME’.
Brian thought it odd and unprofessional but he really didn’t give it much thought as he clicked on the link. It took him to BellsNickle.com a German pharmaceutical company. The entire site was in German so he had to activate the translation. Some things were lost in translation but the gist of the site was about the use of holistic and natural remedies to address neurological problems. The treatment they offered included a regular dose of a combination of natural remedies that slowed aggressive behaviors and caused a person to consider the consequences of their actions.
Brian didn’t believe in most New Age or natural healing techniques. If he needed medical assistance, he wanted it from someone who had actually graduated from medical school. At the same time, this wasn’t about him. Helene didn’t deserve this. He continued to read, occasionally laughing at the grammatical errors along the way and decided to talk to Helene about it that night.
The minute he brought up the idea she withdrew.
“What happens if he finds out? What happens when he moves out? I don’t see how we can possibly get him to take any meds now let alone later in life,” She said.
It was too much for her to get her head around. Every day for Helene was a new experiment in terror. It was the life she had known since Tanner could walk and she couldn’t imagine living any other way. But Brian could. Brian thought how happy they could be together if only Tanner were… He stopped speculating and started planning.
The kit arrived at his home that following weekend. The English translation on the brochure was as bad as the website’s had been but he got the general idea. This translation said it created a naturally occurring chemical deterrent whenever the user exhibited negative behavior. It was a regimen of one pill per day for ten days.
He invited both she and Tanner to his place for a movie and burgers. Brian watched the kid wolf down the burger with the detached concern of a surgeon. Brian hoped he was doing the right thing. He was uncomfortable with how easy it had been to grind up the pill and mix it into the mayo for the kid’s burger.
The following day Brian had to go to the regional office for ten days as a part of his continuing education. Helene and Tanner spent the night at his place as she did whenever there was an opportunity and the next morning she drove him to the airport.
While he was away they chatted via Skype every night and Brian started to notice subtle changes in her. She looked younger somehow. The permanent frown lines seemed to be fading and she smiled and laughed more when they talked. Brian didn’t ask about Tanner but she assured him that although he was acting withdrawn he wasn’t misbehaving.
Brian didn’t bring the kid up for two reasons: first, he had come to hate the source of Helene’s suffering, second and most importantly, he was afraid that the pills had worked. Before he left town he had purchased a dozen Angus beef burgers. He had thawed them all ground up a pill in each one, then froze them again. He left them for Tanner as a gift and according to Helene the kid had been eating them non-stop since Brian had left town sometimes two a day.
Brian landed in Austin at 8p.m. on Christmas Eve. He turned his phone on to find he had two panicked messages from Helene begging him to meet her at the hospital. He went straight there from the airport.
When he arrived in the ER she explained what had happened. During the night Tanner had broken out with some sort of rash. Brian comforted her as much as he could then have excused himself supposedly in search of a restroom. He used his phone to get online with the intent of visiting the site again to get more information about possible side effects of the drug. He had to let the doctors know what was going on.
He couldn’t remember the exact link and decided to contact Dr. Nguyen’s office. He didn’t have the number so he did a Google search and found the local headline.
‘PROMONENT LOCAL THERAPIST BURNED TO DEATH IN OFFICE FIRE’. The article went on to say that
“Brian!” Helene shouted from where she stood in the doorway to Tanner’s room.
Brian sprinted back down the hall only to be intercepted by several medical staff trying to enter the door from the opposite direction.
“Ma’am you will need to wait out here.” A very large male nurse said as he gently ushered her out of the hospital room and into the hallway.
“Brian, I don’t know how to feel right now,” Helene said as she began to cry.
“What’s happening?” he asked.
“He’s dying Brian and no one knows why!” she said as she cried. She rested her head on his chest and the two stood together in the hall for a moment.
Brian tried to glimpse what was happening in through the narrow vertical window in the door. All he could see where the backs of the staff. One of the doctors burst out of the room with her hand over her mouth and tears streaming down her face. She coughed and staggered toward the nurse’s station. Leaning over the counter top she grabbed a phone and spoke in a raspy voice.
Minutes later the hallway was alive with activity. Red emergency beacons cast their beams in perfect circles along the ceiling and walls. A repetitive but soothing tone began to chime over the intercom. Both ends of the hall were closed by automated doors and then the door to Tanner’s room swung open with so much force that it broke the pneumatic closing mechanism.
The male nurse stumbled and fell on the ground coughing. His eyes were read and tears flowed freely down his face. It reminded Brian of their post 9/11 emergency training where he and his colleagues had been exposed to teargas. The nurse clutched at his throat and the distinct smell of sulfur filled the hallway. A hallway that was growing smaller by the second as more medical staff poured in.
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