"There is a God after all."
They were assembled in the study.
With her pistol resting on her lap, Lauren held the remote control in one hand. She didn't want to hear the sounds from upstairs. She wanted to know nothing about Goop's misdeeds.
What Lauren needed was to tune out for a moment, to figure out if she should just press the gun to Elliot's head now, pull the trigger, and get it over with. Or wait. Reconsider. Goddamnit, she thought, why did she have to love him so?
"Well," Elliot said, urging her on.
Nodding, pressing ON, Lauren actually gasped imperceptibly when the TV came flickering to life, the Weather Channel in all its glory.
"A cable TV God," Elliot said, as he took a seat on the large leather sofa, then motioning with his Beretta for the others, Alison, Peter, Vivian and Bob, to join then, to take a load off, he turned to Lauren, who sat by his side, and said, "Let's see what CNN has to say, shall we?"
Lauren pressed the channel clicker.
They caught the story mid-sentence.
A reporter, whose name had long since faded from the lower left hand corner of the television screen, said, ". . . severe weather conditions are hindering the search."
The reporter stood on the grounds of the Idaho State Correctional Facility in Jarring, Idaho.
"Look, Elliot," Lauren said, pointing at the TV, and smiling. "Home."
"Home, sweet, home, dear," Elliot corrected.
The reporter recapped: convicted murderer, Elliot Haring had escaped -- they flashed a photo of Elliot on TV, much to Lauren's amusement -- and Warden Norman Johnstone's body had just been found not far from the prison grounds.
The reporter then identified himself, then turned over the airtime to the news anchor of the hour.
"In other news," the anchor said, "A blizzard continues to trounce the northwest. As much as seven feet of snow has blanketed parts of Idaho and Montana in the past forty-eight hours."
A map flashed onto the TV screen. It gave expected accumulations, as well as the estimated time that regions could expect the blizzard conditions to end.
The words: Six AM, Monday were superimposed over the Idaho/Montana common border.
Perfect, Elliot thought. Mom Nature was playing along.
"And though the storm is expected to let up tomorrow," the anchor continued, "it could be days before . . ."
"Days," Elliot repeated, stretching his arms and legs.
"Gives you quite a head start," Peter said.
Elliot turned and smiled at his near-double. "A wonderful head start, Peter."
Peter nodded. He swallowed back the sour taste of vomit in his throat. It had taken everything to speak. He was surprised he could even utter the words.
"Let me have your gun, darling," Elliot said, smiling, his eyes sparking with mischief, holding his palm open before Lauren, but not taking his gaze off Peter.
It took a beat, but Lauren complied. Carefully placing her pistol in Elliot's hand.
Elliot glanced down at the Beretta 9mm for a moment, then leaned forward on the sofa, closer to where Peter sat on the floor amongst the others.
Pressing Lauren's pistol into Peter's hand, Elliot said, "Go ahead. Be a hero."
Then he sat back on the sofa, his own pistol at the ready.
"Elliot," Lauren said, softly.
"Hush, darling," he said, not looking at her. "This is a test."
Peter's hands were shaking, he raised the gun tentatively, clutching it, both palms sweating.
"Tell you what," Elliot said. "I'll make it easier."
He got off the couch, dropped down to his knees in front of Peter, and raised the gun to his head, pressing the muzzle against the center of his forehead.
"All you have to do, Peter," Elliot said. "Is pull the trigger."
Tears began streaming from Peter's eyes. He blanched, and was muttering, his hands still shaking so, his whole body trembling. His breathing hard, like a fist clutching his lungs, refusing to let go.
"C'mon," Elliot said. "Just like if I was back at home, at the Facility. Only you're my executioner."
"Elliot, stop," Lauren said.
"Peter can stop me right now," Elliot said. "Pull the fucking trigger."
The weight of the gun was tremendous in his hands. Peter felt the sharp edge of the trigger against his index finger. He could smell the oils, the steel, and gun powder. It was so heavy, so hard.
Peter tensed the index finger back, the tears coming freely now, the taste in his mouth. He could taste death, he was sure if it.
He stared into Elliot's eyes. They were so calm, so deep, so alive.
But just one shot, Peter thought, just pull the trigger, and . . . it . . . would . . . be . . . over.
They . . . would . . . be . . . free.
Peter closed his eyes and squeezed.
No bullet, no sound.
It still wasn't over.
"No," Peter murmured, feeling such utter defeat, such helplessness, but breathing again, the fist letting up, his lungs filling with air.
Elliot snatched the gun away from him with a quick slap of his right hand, then sat back up on the couch.
"Oops, forgot the safety," Elliot said, smiling now as he handed the pistol back to Lauren. Laughing, enjoying the joke. "Maybe next time."
"This one's for you, Felicity."
Greta was standing by the window in her room.
She faced the door. And had Mark, or any previous lover, happened upon her, looking as she did now, wearing only a silk chemise, all white with lace trim, her cross, and a mischievous grin, that man would have felt he were the luckiest to every take up space on this bleak planet.
Greta had bought the chemise for Mark, as something he might find sexy, appealing. She had ordered it and the bathing suit from the same catalog especially for this trip. But she saved it, for later in the week.
Mark never got to see it on her.
Greta heard Goop coming now from down the hall.
He was singing the Gang of Four's "I Love A Man In A Uniform," at the top of his lungs, reprising the chorus a few times, for her enjoyment, Greta assumed, as he stood just outside her bedroom door.
Whatever it takes, that was her mantra.
Greta repeated it over and over in her head.
She knew what she had to do . . . and thinking of Mark, of Steve . . . of Felicity . . . was all the incentive she could ever possibly need.
Apparently done with the song, Goop cleared his throat, slammed the door open, and in his best Cuban accent, said, "Lucy, I'm home."
But what the man saw was hardly what he expected.
Not an angry young woman, or even a lethargic one, but . . . well . . . actually Goop wasn't sure, really, and all he could manage was, "Wow."
Greta laughed seductively.
"You like?" she asked.
"Yeah," he nodded, his voice caught in his throat. "But, why?"
"I figured," Greta explained, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em."
Goop nudged the door shut with the heel of his boot, then walked to the center of the room.
He pulled his pistol -- he wasn't about to go anywhere without one ever again -- from the waistband of his pants, and placed it on the nearby nighttable, then took a few steps closer, admiring the view.
"You're so beautiful," he said, looking her up and down, and all around.
"Thank you," Greta replied, a hint of blush in her face.
Goop stepped up to her, and gently ran the back is his hand against her cheek and neck.
Greta responded, despite the revulsion eating away at the pit of her stomach, she cooed, turning her head to the side, pressing her face against his hand, kissing the top of his wrist.
He pulled her close, wrapping his arms around her small waist.
"Take me with you," she said, her voice so full of promise that it made Goop a little weak-kneed. "Don't leave me here to die."
Goop looked into the young's woman's face. Something tugged at his heart, stabbed him from the inside out.
"I can't," he said, reaching a hand up, touching the ear that still throbbed. He could hear from it all right, and Elliot had said that any good plastic surgeon could make it look brand new, but still, despite the pain killers Goop downed, despite what he bragged, it hurt like a mother.
This wasn't at all what Goop imagined. As he stared into the young woman's face, he could feel himself becoming aroused, her body pressed to his, melting into his, her heat, her heartbeat.
"I know what you need," Greta said. "I know exactly what you want."
Goop didn't doubt her for a moment.
Perhaps, she was the one. Finally, a woman to take Matilda's place. A woman he could play games with. Who wouldn't scream, wouldn't panic, wouldn't ever ask him to stop.
"Elliot wouldn't allow it," Goop said, wishing he didn't have to.
"Then let me go," Greta said. "We can meet up later. I'll make you happy, Goop. Save me and I'll show you my gratitude for as long as you live."
Their faces were so close. Their noses brushing. He could taste the sweetness of her breath, the licorice smell of her hair. He wanted her, to be inside her, to crawl into her womb and just . . . fall . . . asleep.
"Okay," Goop said, their lips brushing together. He wanted to kiss her now. Hold her, and kiss her, and love her. How long had it been since those were his desires?
He turned and pointed out the window.
"There's a barn, over on the other side of the pro shop. It's built into the side of the mountain."
"I can't see it," Greta said, squinting into the blackness.
"You can't miss it," Goop said. "Got these two huge doors."
"I believe you," Greta said, looking into his eyes.
Her trust blinded him. Goop felt for a moment as if he was seeing the Madonna, a heavenly vision, an angel.
"Inside it you'll find three brand new Artic Cats," Goop added, his voice choked with emotion.
"Mountain climbers," Goop said. "Take one of them. And I'll meet you later. I'll find you, I promise."
Goop felt almost as if he were about to cry. He felt the years of misery, loneliness lifting from his heart. The spirit of Matilda finally setting him free.
"Deal?" he asked.
The sound of a pistol's hammer being cocked froze the blood in Goop veins.
Paige stepped quickly and quietly from the bathroom, holding her Smith & Wesson 9mm aimed at his head.
"No deal," Paige said.
Goop turned and glared into Paige's face, there was a hint of a smile there.
He looked over at his gun on top of the nighttable.
"Don't even think about it," Paige said.
And there was the clicking cocking sound again.
Goop looked back and caught sight of the Pocketlite, held waist-high in her other hand.
If he tried lunging, knocking one away, she'd shoot him with the other. If he made a move for his, she'd shoot him with both. Very smart, he thought.
Goop turned back to face Greta, who only pulled away, moved to the other side of the room, and immediately began getting dressed. Layers, lots of layers. Thermal underwear -- tops and bottoms, a turtle neck, 501's, a wool sweater.
"What about the gratitude?" Goop asked, sounding so eternally wounded.
"I said for as long as you lived, didn't I?" Greta said, the sound of her ski jacket being zipped cutting through the room.
Goop watched the young woman as she walked to the door and waited.
"Out the front door," Goop said, turning to face Paige. He shook his head a few times. "You'll never make it."
"Who said anything about the front door?" Paige said, holding her pistol out at arm's length, point black range to his face.
"Aw, c'mon," Goop said, a sickening grin stretching his features to hell and back like a bungee cord tied to the rotting corpse of Orson Welles. "It ain't in you. Otherwise you'd have finished me off before."
"What do you mean?" Paige asked, taking a step back, her hands unexpectedly sweating.
Goop shrugged. He smiled as if the telephone had just wrung, and it was the governor granting a stay of execution.
"You can't shoot an unarmed man," he said, matter-of-factly.
Paige swallowed hard.
She didn't even notice the blur of movement.
Greta, picking up the Beretta from the nighttable, taking one step forward, and jamming the pistol under Goop's chin.
"But I can," Greta said, rejoicing in the sudden appearance of terror in Goop's eyes, the knowledge that he was going to die . . . just . . . as . . . soon . . . as . . . she . . .
. . . pulled the trigger.
"What the hell was that?"
Elliot jumped from the sofa.
"A gunshot," Lauren said softly, her tone frazzled and a little uncertain, wondering if Goop was through with Greta already, and perhaps he wasn't in the mood for his own revolting sloppy seconds.
Or, perhaps it was Goop who bought it for good. Lauren did her best not to smile at that image.
"I told you to put a leash on him," she said.
"Watch them," Elliot yelled, pointing at the guests, rushing from the room, through the great room, and up the staircase.
His heart was running. Elliot knew who he was looking for, and at the landing, turning, looking both ways down the hall, he caught sight of her.
She was leaning into the laundry chute, looking. Greta had made it safely down, Shane was pulling her out, disentangling her from the blankets and towels that buffeted her fall.
"Move it," Paige barked down the chute, one leg already through the small door.
She turned back just in time to catch a glimpse of Elliot.
He was raising his pistol, running toward her.
No time now to worry if Greta was out of the way. Paige pulled her torso through the opening, and dropped down . . . whoosh . . . crash . . . bang . . .
A bullet shattered the pine molding above the door.
Elliot ran to the chute, shoved his gun down the opening, and began blasting away.
He emptied the Beretta's clip, then pulling his arm back, Elliot moved his head tentatively through the opening, and glanced down.
A little light spilled onto the bullet-riddled sheets and blankets and towels, but no body, no blood.
Paige was seated on the floor of the laundry room, her right foot aching, thinking she must have banged it in the fall.
She checked for blood, nothing . . . then nothing to worry about.
Shane had pulled her free from the opening with a heartbeat to spare, and now she counted off the gunshots in her head. Fifteen rounds in the Beretta's clip, that sounded about right.
Taking a deep breath, Paige glanced over at him and Greta, then held out her hand.
Greta withdrew Goop's Beretta from the front waist band of her jeans and handed it over.
The gun was familiar, still warm.
Paige checked the clip, it was mostly full. Then, moving to her knees, she shoved her arm up through the opening, held it rigid, and pulled the trigger.
The 9mm automatic automatically shot off round after round, emptying its own clip.
The first bullet grazed Elliot's forehead, burning as it whooshed by.
He had seen Paige's arm, but when he pulled back, he smacked the back of his head against the top of the sliding door.
Momentarily dazed, Elliot blinked once, and saw the bullet coming, as if God had slowed it down so the Big Man could enjoy Elliot's death. He moved to the right, and jumped back, losing only a small patch of skin -- a flesh wound as Monty Python would call it -- to Paige's marksmanship.
Screaming, clamping a hand to the hardly bleeding wound, Elliot fell against the closest wall, and slid to the floor.
"Fuck!" he cried, over and over again, slamming a fist against the wall each time.
"Close," was what Shane was saying.
"Do you think you hit him?" Greta asked.
"Judging from that scream," Paige said, nodding once, then again. "I'd say he's down, but not out."
Paige was standing, shaking off the dull throb in her foot, then walking out of the laundry room toward the cellar.
Shane and Greta followed, then helped her barricade the door as best they could.
Upstairs, Elliot lifted himself to his feet. He needed to go to Goop, but somehow he couldn't bring himself.
Yet still, he knew he must.
He saw the open doorway, having passed it while sprinting down the hall. His friend of so many years, his partner of so many adventures, would be dead, of that he was certain.
And standing now in the doorway to Greta's room, Elliot glanced upon Harvey Goopowski.
He looked peaceful. Aside from blood, not that much blood considering, Elliot would have thought Goop was sleeping, taking a nap on the floor, curled up on the cheap, throw rug, a circle of crimson beneath his head.
Elliot walked into the room. He pulled a blanket from the bed, then approached his friend.
Bending at the knees, reaching out, he brushed his hands over Goop's cheeks, and closed his eyes.
Then, Elliot leaned forward, kissed the man once lightly on the forehead, whispered, "Goodnight, Goop," then covered him with the blanket.
Elliot stopped for a moment, taking a number of deep breaths, inhaling, then exhaling, filling his lungs, seeking solace, but finding none, and offering still a prayer for the dearly departed.
"He's in your hands now," Elliot said, sincerely, his voice choked with emotion. He sniffled once, and wiped the few loose tears from the corners of his eyes.
Standing, Elliot backed out of the room, closed and locked the door, and vowed then and there, to God, Allah, any Divine Being listening, that he would make Paige Turner pay.
An eye for an eye.
A life for a life.
SNOW BLIND ©2004 Gorman Bechard - All Rights Reserved