Dusty stepped from his back porch mud room onto the concrete stoop and took a long look across his driveway. He'd already moved the tractor, the line of sight was clear, and while the air was especially bitter this morning, he was dressed for a long winter's hunt.
Candice yelled to him from the upstairs bath
window; the bath she'd been locked into all morning. "Don't bother calling today
honey, I'm going shopping and I'll be gone all day."
"Yea, yea" he
replied in his best caustic tone. The F150 started after a few tries, and with a
lurch he turned toward County road Six and drove away. It was only a half mile
to the turnoff, clearly within eyesight of the house if the occupant just
happened to be looking in that direction from an upstairs window. Dusty knew he
had to take that chance. His friend would be arriving within twenty minutes of
his departure, and if he drove too far away to hide the truck, he'd never be
able to walk back in time.
He slipped into the treeline and parked near
the picnic tree, the massive elm that his grandfather had landscaped around so
as to have a secret garden where he might take his wife and children to
celebrate special events. As he walked back toward the house, his eye was struck
by a glint of reflected light, and for a moment he thought to cancel this whole
Carved in the picnic tree was a heart, a foot tall if an inch.
And at the base of the heart he'd carved a small dent where he'd pounded in his
favorite polished quartz, a symbol of his undying love. Love at thirteen is like
that, the fantasy that the stone was diamond was every bit as powerful as the
fact that it was not; and once his true love had seen "Dusty loves Candy" carved
into the heavy bark with the stone splashing prismed sunlight onto the letters
as if an open air kaleidoscope, she'd been his from that day
Until a few years ago in any case, and that memory wrenched
Dusty's attentions back to his task and he began to trot toward his machine
shed's back wall so as to take his place.
He'd called it a deer feed, the pile
of corn cobs and field trash he'd made between two outbuildings. Candy had
argued for days about his moving it; she liked her yard neat and tidy. But he'd
won the argument and in fact had made the pile a little taller once having tried
it out and noting he could still be seen.
Now he dug his rifle from the
snowpack where he'd buried it, slipped it from its case and checked for load
and safety pin. He'd made it just in time, the Volkswagen Beetle he knew would be
incoming as he was outbound, was just pulling into the drive.
to be one bullet if he could manage it, he really didn't want to chase anyone
all over the house trying to ignore the screaming and pleading. The longer it'd
take, the more likely he'd give up the quest, and he'd spent too many hours
working up the courage to ruin it by letting someone talk him off his
He needn't have worried, it was cold, but not cold enough to stifle
passion. Candy met Jack at the door to the back porch in her bathrobe and
obviously nothing else, and the two stood still for a long minute to reacquaint
themselves to each others' lips. Through Dusty's looking glass, the cross-hairs
made a mark directly in the center of his best friend's temple, if he could wait
just a moment, the two might turn that fraction of an inch that would make the
job easy, less unpleasant.
As Dusty saw the scope fill up with hair and
then the triangular "nape" of Jack's neck, he pulled the trigger, and ended
three lives in the space of a single icy breath.