I KILL RICH PEOPLE 2, page 29
At night, the black Honda blended right in where he leaned it up against the metal siding. It stood out like a giant chunk of obsidian, all glossy black in the sunlight. Spencer fetched a brown tarp from where it was bunched up under a metal-roofed lean-to and covered the stolen machine. He heard the women arguing through the thin walls while he prepared to secure the tarp around the handlebars.
“I am not comfortable with that.”
“Honey, it’s going to be fine,” XMercy assured Mouse. “Johnny Spencer is not a problem.”
“How do you know that? You haven’t set eyes on him in twenty years.”
Spencer wasn’t comfortable listening in, but he couldn’t shift the Honda off the wall without them knowing he was right outside their kitchen.
“Fifteen, twenty. Damn! We don’t need a man hanging ’round here getting up in our shit!”
“Mouse, you’ve got a good heart in there. I know it, even if you do hate men. But right now, honey, you’re starting to piss me off. I lived more than a year in their house, eating their food, sleeping under their roof. That motherfucker my mother brought home hit on me every time she turned around. She just closed her eyes; wouldn’t say a thing about it. If Johnny’s father hadn’t taken me in, I would have been living on the streets. On the streets,” XMercy was saying. “So now we have the chance to do a good turn for Johnny. I consider this a blessing and I will not turn him away, not ever. I’m not saying it’s a free ride. He’ll pull his weight. But until he says different, girl, he has a place right here.”
The front door opened then slammed shut. Mouse booted the bucket across the dirt, strode past the well pump and out into the pasture.
Spencer held the handlebars and stood his weight first on his right leg, flexing his left ankle and twisting his foot in a circle before shifting and doing the same with the other leg. He exercised each leg two sets of ten reps then tried a slow squat to see how deeply his knees would go.
“Demi plie,” XMercy shouted, catching him unaware. “Tendu. Degage!” She was holding a carbine in one hand, a box of shells in the other. .22. Notch and bead sight.
She had snuck up on him and she wasn’t even trying. His instincts were probably more fucked than his legs. What else was he missing?
“I put my bike under the lean-to,” he told her. Why the rifle? “Hope that is ok. Mercy—sorry— XMercy, you sure I’m not a bother?”
“You’re family. Period. That means we tell each other what’s on our minds, straight-out. Something you’re doing is bugging me, I’m going to let you know it. It works both ways.”
“What about Mouse?”
“Mouse is ornery. Give her time, she’ll come around. You let me worry about Mouse. You just go on and you don’t come home until you’ve got the truck bed and the cart full up. And don’t buck ’em too long. No more than sixteen inches, no less than twelve.”
XMercy stood the carbine up into the Polaris’ side rack and put the high-velocity bullets into the passenger-side compartment. “Rabbit, grouse, have at ’em. We’re trying to get as much off the land as we can, that means protein, too. But no deer. Deer season is months away. People are pretty damned tolerant really, but we poach a deer and goodwill goes bye-bye real fast around here.”
The sweet rich scent of freshly cut wood was something he never expected to be enjoying again. Even the blue-gray smoke smelled good coming off the chainsaw as he pulled on the rope to start it up. Once he had identified the muscle groups, he was able to brace his legs to keep his balance. The noise and rough vibration energized him. He craved hard work, but he lost control during the swing arc as he tried splitting a round. The maul weight shifted and he was unable to counter. Along his right thigh he thought he felt movement in the metal plate, which forced him to stop. Too soon. Don’t overdo it.
He unzipped the jeans, hooked a thumb under the giant waistband, took his penis out and then let it go, raising his hands high over his head and peeing hands-free, spraying toward the trees wherever the yellow line wanted to go. With the saw silent, he saw birds flitting through shafts of sunlight and listened as chipmunks scurried over and under leaves and needles. He watched them rushing, stopping to rapidly glance side to side for threats from all directions before settling onto a sunny log to trill their click-click-click-click and he clicked back at them, holding very still. An engine whined in the distance down some unseen road; he glanced back to the carbine, reacting automatically. Chipmunk.
A big ash was laying nearly level above a tiny trickling spring. He sought it out, straddled his legs across it, and lay back in the sunshine with his zipper still open, and pulled up his shirt to expose his lean white torso, letting the rays bake into his skin. When he zipped up again and returned to cutting rounds, he set aside the ear protection. He wanted noise. The Husqvarna’s honest throaty growl, the rough vibration, the sawdust flying… he loved all of it.
Inside an hour he had cut sixty rounds. Then, carefully setting both feet and feeling his way through the mechanics of bending and lifting, he filled the Polaris’s small truck bed. The repetition felt good; by the end of the fourth downer log, he was moving bigger sections and stepping his way up to the trail with his load, sometimes pausing to test a new angle, try a new demand on his body. Core and cardio checked out; knees, ankles, and large muscle groups were there, just still weak and half-asleep.
After the cart was filled, he eyed the .22, paused, then lifted it out, feeling its light weight in both hands before running his right palm along the smooth underside of the stock, his left under the sun-warmed short barrel. His fingers felt the release and dropped the magazine into his right hand, then he brought the clip to his nose and breathed in the scent. After reloading, he snugged the butt into his shoulder, leaned his cheekbone into the fat of his hand, and sighted down the simple v-notch, moving down the sights until his eye caught movement. The chipmunk lifted off its haunches, turned, and click-click-click-clicked. “Click,” Spencer answered, then slowly dropped the rifle against his lap.
Pulling on his earlobes felt good, but afterward the tinnitus was worse, especially when he rolled his jaw. Mouse eyed him across the table like he was a mental case.
“Are you doing ok?” XMercy wanted to know. “What’s up with the contortions?”
“Ears. No big deal.”
“Oh dang, did I forget the earmuffs?” XMercy apologized. “Man… I’m so sorry… all that sawing…”
“My bad. I had them, just didn’t wear ’em.”
“Don’t abuse government property,” she chided gently, getting up from her seat at the table. “I’ll get the lavender oil.”
Spencer’s mind floated adrift while he considered the comment. Thirteen months earlier he would not have done that, he would have used any means available to keep maximized fitness, his body and his mind. He surveyed his hands every single day. That’s what he had been. Government property. Now, as he looked them over in the dim lamplight, they were raw, blistered all along the grip lines where the saw vibrated against unconditioned skin. Hours of shucking rounds had etched nicks and cuts over every finger. He opened and closed them into fists, enjoying the stiff mix of satisfaction and pain.
XMercy’s touch shocked him, coming from behind to dab the fragrant fluid on her finger behind his ear. He stiffened, but held still for the other ear. When she finished, he leaned forward to breathe in the steaming grain on the table in front of him.
“That’s quinoa,” XMercy explained, slipping back into her seat. “Incas ate it centuries before Europeans ever sailed to the New World. We’re trying to avoid most other glutens; some wild rice, heirloom potatoes, but none of the Monsanto crap.”
Spencer hadn’t touched the wine, but she added to his glass anyway; not really a glass, it was a canning jar. Ball, emboss
“I like this,” XMercy told Mouse. “Zinfandel?”
“Primitivo,” Mouse responded, adding that “Pat”—their grocer—“is into Croatian wines this month.”
“How’s she doing?”
“Good,” Mouse was trying to be civil, which to her meant pretending Jonathan Spencer wasn’t there at all. “She’s all excited about some big wine tasting dinner thing she’s doing this weekend down in Beckley. Bunch of rich assholes flying in from all over. I told her to poison them. IKRP, baby. She says they probably have their own personal tasters.”
XMercy gave her the stink-eye.
“What?” Mouse asked.
Spencer tried to stab at the beet salad, missing and sending the purple root onto the tabletop, where XMercy snatched it up and popped it into her mouth. Mouse’s jaw muscles pulsed at the invisible connection. Beneath the block-letter tattoo on her neck, her veins stood out.
“Is that ‘Give’?” Spencer asked, observing the scripted capital letters.
“That’s it. ‘Give.’ Give until it hurts. It’s a D. D, not G.”
XMercy shook her head, admonishing Mouse to chill. “It kind of looks like a G.”
“Well it’s not a fucking G. Does he see an I or an E? It’s DV, dude. And it’s not for ‘diva.’”
“Dimitri Vosilych,” XMercy instructed. “Mouse’s Che Guevarra.”
“Who’s that?” Spencer asked.
“For real? Your ears really must be messed up.” Mouse’s eyes could have been daggers. “What, don’t soldiers follow anything but orders? You ever heard of the news?”
“Johnny brought in two loads of good seasoned wood,” XMercy interrupted. “Looks like four or five cords. How’d you like the Polaris? It’s sweet, isn’t it! We get in a few more good days like today we’ll rent a splitter and get a dozen finished cords stacked before things get busy. We had a terrible windstorm the winter before last. So many trees down, but it’s paying off now… the Circle of Life.”
“Dimitri Vosilych stepped up. He put himself on the line.” Mouse explained how “DV” wasn’t a terrorist. He just wanted fairness. “I mean, if we took back every dollar over fifty million and left that for the rich, would they be harmed at all? Imagine a country with free healthcare for everyone and nobody homeless, no hungry kids. That’s what DV was all about. How about representative government, not a government that listens in on us and subsidizes rich bankers?”
“No!” XMercy shouted. “No no no! We’re not doing this again. Mouse, I get it, life isn’t fair, but we’re not bringing that to dinner. No violence, not at this table.” She inhaled deeply; raising her arms in a circular arc, she then brought together her hands and exhaled.
Spencer couldn’t help noticing the long red armpit hair showing in the gap under her short sleeves. That hadn’t changed.
“I didn’t tell you, Johnny. I practice Tibetan Buddhism. It’s very centering. There’s a connection to all living things.”
“But she loves a bloody steak,” Mouse chided her.
XMercy ignored it. “Bodhicitta is tolerance above all, including tolerance of our own weaknesses. I seek to find boundless joy and compassion for all people and all things. This is room for variance, for differ-”
“Did you shoot anything?” Mouse challenged him. “I don’t see any meat hanging.”
Spencer returned her stare. He was willing to leave her alone, but letting her get into his face was not ok, even if it was her place, not his. “No. I was thinking about bringing in wood.”
“So what did they have you doing all those years in the army? I mean, if you were a cook, maybe you can do the cooking tomorrow. How does that sound?”
“Primitivo…I think it tastes like Zin.” XMercy put her nose into her drink jar and inhaled again. “Smells like Zin, too.”
“It is fucking Zin,” Mouse shouted. “Zin, Primitivo. Same thing.” Turning back to Spencer, she kept at him. “So what are you going to cook?”
“I’m not a cook.”
“Johnny jumped out of planes,” XMercy explained. She had been out to see her grandmother two years ago and saw Jack. He had filled her in on the latest. That was how she got Johnny’s APO address.
Mouse shot back her wine and refilled the jar. “Ever kill anybody?”
“We are not talking about that!” XMercy closed her eyes and practiced her controlled breathing, humming her mantra to cleanse.
“Well maybe ‘we’re’ not, but I am,” Mouse shouted back. “Did you?”
“What was that like, killing somebody? Going halfway around the world blowing up people you never met?”
“I didn’t do that,” Spencer responded calmly.
“You did kill or you didn’t kill,” Mouse badgered. “Which?”
“I didn’t do that. That’s artillery, Close Air Support, Air Force. I didn’t train for that. Not what I do. I don’t blow up anything.”
Mouse drained her glass, reached for the bottle and splashed out the last drops before getting up and moving out of the light. She turned on a harsh white LED, opened a cupboard, and came back with a large twist-top bottle with a yellow kangaroo label.
“Another bottle?” XMercy cautioned before getting up to turn out the glaring bulb.
“This is just getting interesting,” Mouse shot back. Turning her attention back to Spencer, she refilled and asked him point-blank just how he killed people?
“There’s all kinds of killing. An Apache helicopter fires a 30mm M230 chain gun that treats anything in its path like a sausage grinder. A 155mm Howitzer shell takes down a four-story building and everything in it. I never killed like that.”
“So you weren’t trying to kill, you just messed up? What did you do, run somebody over with a truck?”
“I did the job I was trained to do. Did it effectively. Because if I messed up, bad things happened. Messing up means taking casualties that might have been avoided, getting one of our guys wounded or sometimes killed. I never messed up,” Spencer said.
Mouse laughed aloud and pulled herself upright in her seat. “So you didn’t blow people up, you didn’t run people over, and you didn’t mess up. I guess that makes you a real badass then, huh.”
“You could say that.”
“I just did. Badass. You’re so good nobody around you got hurt or got killed. Wow, you must be something special.”
“I never said that. I said I never messed up. I didn’t say we all came home.”
XMercy stood up, reached out across the table and wrenched away the jar from Mouse’s hand. Her other hand got to the bottle before Mouse. “Whoa! That’s enough! Johnny is our guest. This is not dinner conversation, Mouse. Look at these beautiful plates. These amazing beets are from our own soil; the carrots, and the parsnips. We picked these spring onions together, Mouse. I made this cheese. I milked the goats; I curdled the milk and separated the curds. I drained and molded and polished and ashed this and there is not much left and I am never milking another goat again as long as I live so when it is gone that is it!”
Mouse looked up at XMercy’s clenched fists and flashed a puckish smile that melted the wrath.
“What would do this country more good, a hundred-thousand dead Afghans or a hundred dead Americans, provided the right ones were dead?” Mouse asked softly. “A hundred rich assholes gaming our entire system just for themselves.”
“No more. Please. Let’s enjoy a quiet meal,” XMercy pleaded.
“We’re working on a Dimitri Vosilych encampment this year,” Mouse observed. “If Burners
“Oh crap. Johnny, stand up and get behind her so she doesn’t fall out of the chair.” XMercy rushed into the kitchen and rummaged around until she found the brown sugar. She measured two heaping spoonfuls onto the carrots on Mouse’s plate then stabbed a fork into them.
“Hold her head upright. Mouse!” She slapped Mouse’s cheek twice and spoke more firmly. “Mouse! Open your mouth.” Mouse began chewing mechanically, and then chewing faster as the sugar melted over her tongue. “She’s hypoglycemic,” XMercy explained. “Alcohol and arguing makes it worse, and she loves both.” Within minutes, XMercy had Mouse holding her own fork; it took fifteen minutes before she was completely back. By then, XMercy had heaped food high onto Spencer’s plate and sent him down to the guesthouse with the flashlight. “We’ll get you a hot shower tomorrow, Johnny. I’ll take care of her from here.”
Jeffers wasn’t mincing words. Bishop could picture him on the other end of the line. He sounded like he hadn’t slept.
“You obviously never ran background on this team you hired. The one thing common to every one of your commandos is write-ups for excessive violence. None of them mustered out from the same units they were in when they joined. But you didn’t know that, did you? Trident Security and Blackwater rejected every one of them. You hired rejects, Mr. Bishop. The results speak for themselves,” Jeffers said.
Bishop took the phone off speaker, switching to the handset. How could Jeffers know they failed?