Thursday, October 21, 2010

Donahue and the Hatchet Thrower

The house at the corner of Eldon and Wright was old. A hundred years old. The paint was new. The garage was new-ish. The property was bordered on two sides with a knee-high concrete wall topped with box elder. The porch, a wrap around with a low rail, needing paint --the whole place could use some care-- was the height that Donahue used to try to jump over when he was kid. Sometimes he cleared it and sometimes he landed on his head. Or, in the forsythia. Which his mother disliked immensely. But the big stairway provided a makeshift stage for all the kids to play act on. The porch rail seemed taller then.

Donahue had watched enough scary movies to know he should never turn his back on a closet or a back his way through a hallway but he also had his .45 out and cocked and nerves of steel (not so much I-beam steel and wire steel.) The front door was open and he knew William Cobb Abernathy aka "B.C." aka "Sweet" (although no one seemed to know why he was called that and the last guy who did call him "Sweet," at the Riverside Tap and Dance, lost two teeth for his unauthorized familiarity) might be in the house this time. Sweet Abernathy was wanted for assault with a deadly weapon on the person of Jill Smithson. Ms. Smithson had no beef with Sweet Abernathy and he none with her but she said something inappropriate, apparently, and he went after her with the heavy end of a pool cue and a beer bottle. She was pretty well bloodied by the time the barkeep got there with his genuine Louisville Slugger. Abernathy lashed back and the crowd ducked long enough for him to get away.

Mr. Smithson was one to think the cops wouldn't find Sweet Abernathy so he hired Donahue to do it instead and sooner, perhaps for personal reasons. The cops had already searched the Eldon Street address, Sweet's mother's home. She was in the nursing home and Sweet would stay at the Eldon Street house sometimes but not that day and not several other days until Donahue figured Sweet just couldn't be anywhere else. Sweet didn't have a girlfriend, that Donahue knew of, and a call at the residents of Sweet's two best pals from an earlier run-in with the long arm of the law proved fruitless.

The house was cold. It was late October and the heat ought to be on but it wasn't and the lights were off except for one in the kitchen. Donahue gravitated to the kitchen but mostly it was only stale aired. The 'fridge hummed and there were dishes still in the drainer from the last time he was here, and a few pots stacked on the corner of the oven. The linoleum-topped table in the middle was just a tad dustier than last time, too. Donahue, .45 at his side, circled the table and then started down the hall towards the front of the house, nearly spooked by his image in the hall mirror by the front door.

Not looking ahead but instead looking down, he sensed something behind him, in the kitchen. He spun to his right, .45 coming up to eye-level, as the hatchet whistled by his ear. He saw Sweet Abernathy, crouched on the table, in some convoluted pose, a cross between Superman and Kato and Bruce Lee. The hatchet sailed on non-stop directly to the mirror, the crash of breaking glass ignored if even anyone heard. The .45 exploded in a deafening roar, the kick wrenching Donahue's half-bent elbow.

Sweet took the slow, heavy, lead round just below his Batman utility belt, folding him in half down to a four-point stance on the table. He didn't move for what seemed like an hour, as if he were getting his breath back, then his head, hooded in red, trimmed in lightning bolts, dipped to the table top.

Donahue froze, too, in awe. His fight and flight instincts in checkmate. He didn't swallow. He didn't breath. He didn't blink. He knew what happened in the movies if he did.

Sweet Abernathy dropped a shoulder, and ever so slowly, tipped over, off the table, almost landing on his back, his foot flailed out and caught the stack of pans on the corner of the oven, and they followed him down to the floor with a crash that broke through the ear-ringing of the .45.

Donahue got up his nerve to approach Sweet's body, wedged between the table and the oven, a pan laying flat on his chest. Donahue had seen too many movies where the warrior-wanabe leapt up from certain death to decapitate his victim in one motion with time enough leftover to smoke a cigarette.

But not Sweet Abernathy. He was completely dead.


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