A Taste Of Home – Chapter 04

Chapter Four

Johnny ran in the door, slamming it hard to block the blowing rain and potential terror which was trying to follow. Barely acknowledging the two girls who were planted firmly on the living room couch, he motioned for Becky to follow him upstairs. Taking two steps at a time, he nearly slipped midway up from the mud and moisture collected on the bottoms of his work boots. There wasn’t any time for explanations, but he knew he’d be delivering one soon to the near frantic Becky who followed close behind his every move. 

Dropping to his knees hard and in a hurry, he began to throw things from his bottom dresser drawer. Old photographs of girlfriends were flying past the current one, but Johnny couldn’t care less at that exact moment. If it caused an interesting argument later, so be it, but that particular conversation was sure to be on an indefinite hold considering the story about to unfold on the other side of Twin Oaks. For all he knew, his best friend was confronting a man who shot people for a living and got away with it. There was no time to waste. Why did he collect all those photographs to begin with?

“Johnny, honey, I don’t have any idea about what you’re doing right now, but it’s a little on the scary side,” Becky spoke softly.

Johnny could detect a sort of unknowing fear in her voice, so he decided to shift gears a little to ease her tension. He was all wit and rude humor until it came to her. For some reason or another, he’d always preferred the gentler approach. Of course, the next statement from his mouth sent her reeling in the opposite direction of calmness.

“Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints! Do you remember where I put those shotgun shells?”

Becky jerked slightly in surprise. So much for the gentle approach.

“Okay, you’re not necessarily helping me out too much when you come in, run upstairs, and start asking for ammunition! What’s going on?”

“Before I clue you in on anything whatsoever, you have to promise me the ultimate promise and swear that you’ll do everything within your power, or the power of the multiple guns we have laying around the house, to keep Katie safe,” Johnny barked loudly, nearly out of breath.

“If I wasn’t frightened enough before, I sure as hell am now!” Becky spoke to him in an impatient tone. “What am I missing here? What’s happening?”

“We were at the bar picking on Archie Weldon and…”

Johnny was immediately interrupted. “Dammit, Johnny, how many times have I asked you to leave that poor guy alone?” Becky protested. “He just lost his wife.”

Johnny rolled his eyes due to the familiarity of the conversation.

“Yeah, she’s better off,” he cut back at her. “Anyway, Archie told Toby that Jessica has been sleeping around with the Sheriff.”

He froze momentarily at the realization of what he’d just said and slowly cut his eyes upward at Becky.

“You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you? You two are best friends after all…”

She shot him back a look of indignity.

“Okay,” he recovered quickly. “That’s what I thought. You can stay. Sorry I even brought that up.”

Johnny could tell the last words he’d spoken had done little to keep him in Becky’s good graces, no matter how cute he’d tried to sound as he spoke them. He even used the useless puppy dog eye approach and was gaining little ground.

“So, we’ve established the fact that your sister is no longer a hooker in theory only. What’s with the frantic search for shotgun shells?” she inquired, not knowing for sure if she wanted to know the answer.

“Toby is on his way home for the big confrontation,” Johnny sighed. “And according to Archie, the Sheriff is there now. I wonder if she makes him do it with his hat still on.”

“What you need to be more worried about is whether he does it with his gun still strapped to him!” the girl shrieked, recognizing the possible horrendous outcome of the unfolding events.

Johnny paused momentarily as he finally discovered what he’d been searching for.

“I hope not,” he spoke as he gathered up a handful of shells. “That’s taking my sister to a whole new level of kinkiness that I’m not prepared to know about. Thanks for the mental image, though.  I’ll be in hypnotherapy for months now.”

He sprung back up to his feet with a purpose and retrieved the Remington twelve-gauge shotgun from his closet. He began to load the shells into the chamber. The cold steel now held in his hands jarred him with the reality of the situation.  This wasn’t a game.  This was real.  This was really happening. Why was he bringing a gun? If the situation turned sour, would he have the guts to use it? Shaking the fear from his thoughts, he pulled the cocking mechanism hard to chamber the first round and slung the frigid barrel of the weapon against his shoulder.

“Becky,” he spoke again with a sense of sincerity she’d never experienced before. “We’ve never encountered a situation in this relationship where I’ve ignorantly placed myself in serious danger. Not to this extent anyway, and I’m not quite sure where things are going from here but, of all the people in this world who I could trust with the care and well-being of my niece, you’d be my first choice.”

“Well,” Becky smiled at him with a tear beginning to streak down the left side of her worried face. “It wasn’t quite an ‘I love you,’ but I guess it will have to do.”

He smiled back at her as best he could. Nervous feelings of uncertainty were beginning to form in the arches of his feet, nearly taking them out from under him and collapsing to his knees again.

“All attitudes aside,” he choked a little. “I do love you. Blame Toby. I was on my way here to tell you I loved you, but he had this crazy idea of going home to watch a cop do dirty things to his wife.”

“You mean your sister,” Becky giggled.

“Feel free to stop at any time,” Johnny snarled at her.

“Be careful, try not to shoot yourself, and call me when you get arraigned so I can come and bond you out,” she said to add a little more humor to the situation.

Becky knew there was no hope of talking him out of his present course of action, so she never even attempted. The best thing she could do was try to take it in stride like he was doing. Deep in his eyes, she could see a glimpse of uncertain fear, but the feelings for his friend were much deeper.

Jessica Liberman was the closest thing to a sister she’d ever had but an unspoken anger toward her had taken root inside of Beck, planted by Johnny’s words. She was completely unsure at the time whether or not she cared if that feeling ever subsided. Not only was Jessica potentially putting Johnny and Toby in unspeakable danger, but she was tearing away at the fabric which bound their family together just for the chance at a cheap thrill or two. More importantly, she was inadvertently crushing the sanity of the young girl downstairs whose troubles were compounding with every passing minute. She stepped forward and hugged Johnny while trying to ignore the cold steel pressed between the two of them. 

“Be careful,” she whispered into his ear.

“Don’t worry about me,” Johnny whispered back, trying to assure her of his safe return. “I’m the crazy one. They’re the ones you should be worried about.”

Becky knew deep in her heart that no matter how crazy Johnny’s comment was, it was the honest truth. A loud crack of thunder rang through the house bringing them back to reality, and Johnny began to slowly make his way down the stairs toward the front door. With every footstep, the image of the teenage girl he loved as if she were his own daughter became clearer. She’d stopped her homework assignments again and was staring blankly out the window at the pouring rain. He wasn’t sure if he should break her attention to tell her goodbye, but he did anyway. After all, if this did go down wrong, he didn’t want his last conversation with her to be about naked pictures she’d found of Becky on his computer. Now that he thought about it, he’d wished that conversation never took place.

“Katie bear, come here and give your Uncle Johnny a hug and tell him you love him and all that other reassuring bull crap you always tell me,” he yelled over to her with his voice cracking slightly.

Katie sprang to her feet and launched into one of the “attack hugs” she’d been giving her Uncle Johnny since she was a toddler.  The affectionate impact was so hard that Johnny almost fell backward.

“Shut up,” she laughed at him. “You know I love you. Where are you going with the gun?”

Johnny’s mind began to race like a slow computer searching for a file. He said the first thing that came to his mind.

“There’s a pig running around that some people don’t like, so me and your dad are going to try to get rid of it.” 

So, it wasn’t the total truth, but there was a bit of honesty in the statement.

“Pigs are nasty,” Katie said in disgust. “You have my permission.”

He squeezed her tight and held back as much of the oncoming laugh as possible. When the time came for him to answer for the murder of the Sheriff, his defense would be that Katie Liberman, thirteen-year-old extraordinaire, gave him permission to do so.

***

Toby Liberman lurked in the shadowy darkness of his bedroom doorway like a silent intruder, hell bent on not being discovered. This was the room where his marriage had been consummated and where his loving daughter was conceived. This room had seen both laughter and tears for as long as he could remember. For the first time in his life, it was a place where he wasn’t sure he wanted to be. Between the pelting sounds of rain on the bedroom window and the occasional rumble of distant thunder, he was being tortured by the gentle moans of Jessica Liberman as she broke his heart into unidentifiable shards. As lightning struck around their home from the storm outside, he closed his eyes tightly in the hopes he would see nothing. Hearing it was horrible enough. It was no use.

He’d snuck up the driveway and into the back door of his house as quietly as humanly possible. Archie Weldon had unfortunately been right. From down the street, through a foggy windshield caused by his quickened breath, he’d seen the emergency lights atop the Sheriff’s vehicle illuminated by his own headlights. There was no feeling of normalcy inside his body, only pain caused by the shock of what was unfolding before his very eyes. His first intention was to barge in and attack him in a fit of jealous rage, but the realization that the man responsible for destroying his world carried a gun at all times had forced him to take less drastic measures. Now, at the threshold of his uncertain future, he waited and watched. Eventually, the lightning came…and his eyes weren’t quite quick enough. 

What he saw was something he’d only heard about in drunken stories at the local bar and seen in movies. With every thrust of the man’s waist underneath the blankets of Toby’s nocturnal sanctuary, his marriage was fading, and there was nothing he could do about it. There would be no returning from this. Every little noise being emitted was amplified as though a microphone was secretly placed under one of his pillows.

Their actions were fluid and sensual in a way which made him believe this activity was either thoughtfully planned out or well-rehearsed. The slow and nearly inaudible smacking noises of the man thrusting inside of her was like a nail driven deep into his brain. He had to catch himself to keep from screaming at the shocking pain it caused. As his eyes were adjusting to the darkness and all things going on were no longer shrouded by the mood lighting, he could see that her legs, even though hidden by the sheets, were wrapped tightly around him. He thought back to the many times he’d viewed her from this angle and could nearly imagine the feelings it caused the two of them. He wished he could forget. 

Jessica began to tense up and push herself downward in hopes the man would explore deeper, if only momentarily, to touch that right spot. He began to oblige instantly and her moans became louder. With every terrible exhale of pleasure, images of their life together came into focus in Toby’s mind and was subsequently torn to shreds, one by one. Their first school dance together, close and sensual with repressed feelings that a young boy has for his first love, and the two of them standing happily and smiling before a towering white cake with little figures that slightly resembled them were all ripped to pieces on the floor of his tortured mind. The innocent sounds of Katie’s first whimpers and cries as she exited the womb began to fade into a sea of nothingness and were being forcefully replaced with the sounds of unspeakable pleasure in which he was no longer a participant. He wanted to leave but his legs weren’t responding to the signals sent by his overloaded consciousness. His heart controlled them now, and the dark shadows of the show played out before him were turning from shades of grey to a hue of bright red anger. It was at this exact moment when he could take no more. 

As the lightning flashed again, his attention was grabbed by the flicker of the steel holstered a mere two feet in front of him in the gun belt hanging on the chair of Jessica’s vanity. Slowly and without fully thinking of the consequences to follow, he placed his lifeless hand around the handle and pulled the weapon from the Sheriff’s belt. Flawlessly, without so much as a ticking sound, he chambered a round. Toby finally spoke.

“Well, Sheriff, since you’re so preoccupied with your favorite gun, can I play with this one?”

There was a frantic flailing of blankets and bedding being thrown.  The bedside lamp came to life, illuminating the two people that lay before him drenched in sweat and guilt.  Although both were speechless, what was understood didn’t necessarily need to be discussed. Toby was now swimming in uncharted waters. Reaching deep inside of himself, he pulled out a bit of courage from the only person he knew would have the exact perfect thing to say in this situation.

“Jess, if this is what’s supposed to happen at class reunions, I should’ve gone to my last one,” he spoke surely, giving Johnny Haynes a mental high five as he did so.

Jessica Liberman was still deathly quiet with shock.

The Sheriff, unaccustomed to having his own gun aimed at him, was the first to speak.

“Liberman, stay calm and put the gun down,” he ordered.

The gun shifted directions and found a deserving target.

“Jessie McGee,” Toby spoke loudly. “You are not in a position to be giving orders. This is my house, my bed, and my wife. You’ve placed yourself in a precarious situation that makes me not care that you’re an officer of the law. Tonight, you’re just a guy who found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Toby wasn’t quite sure where the articulation and courage was coming from but it all somehow seemed familiar. After all, it was as though he was no longer in his own body, like he was watching it all go down from a spectator’s point of view. A spectator with ownership rights.

Jessica Liberman came to her feet slowly with a blanket wrapped loosely around her, momentarily exposing one of her breasts in the soft light of the bedroom lamp and began to get dressed. The look in her eyes left Toby unsure if she was sorry or just in desperate fear for her life. After tediously slipping on her shirt, she disappeared into the bathroom and shut the door. Now it was just the two of them, and this sent the already palpable tension and fear right through the roof.

“I don’t want to hear the whole ‘I’m sorry’ speech from you, Jessie, because I know you don’t mean a single word of it,” Toby growled at him in an almost unrecognizable voice.

“Oh, don’t worry,” the Sheriff spoke as he removed the tangled bedding from his lower body, exposing himself to Toby. “I’m not going to even go there.”

Sheriff Jessie McGee reached down to the floor to retrieve his crumpled uniform from the pile it had landed on earlier in the evening. Without an ounce of fear, he began to get dressed in a slow,  casual manner as though he’d practiced this scenario time and again. He attempted to take control of the situation.

“Liberman, do you even know how screwed you are at this moment?

Toby laughed, slightly confused.

“You are aware of the fact that you have a gun pointed at you, aren’t you?” Toby said to him, curious of his intentions.

The Sheriff bent downward to lace his boots, turning his eyes from Toby yet again as if to accentuate just how unafraid he was.

“And are you aware by the time this night is over you’re going to have a dozen guns pointed back at you?” McGee spoke surely.

Toby began to get nervous as he felt himself beginning to lose the upper hand in the situation. He wasn’t sure if he was being bluffed or if there was a legitimate reason for concern. The scorned man dug deeper into himself to try and regain control of the conversation.

“What you’re not considering, you fucking homewrecker, is that for anyone to find out about this you have to leave this room alive,” he said, hoping that his own bluff would do the job.

“And what you’re not considering, Toby Liberman, while your wife is in the bathroom there wiping the best of me out of her, is the fact that the ones I’m sending for you will have loaded weapons instead of the empty one that you have.”

Toby’s world disappeared in a crimson film over his eyes once again at the inexcusable words of the man standing before him. He pulled the trigger of the gun without thought of repercussion.

The Sheriff’s mouth began to form a sly smirk from the corner of his face and his eyes sparkled in a sort of predatory satisfaction.

“Did you actually think I would leave my own gun loaded while I had sex with another man’s wife in his own house?” McGee said as he snatched the weapon from Toby’s hands with reflexes of a striking snake. “This isn’t my first rodeo, Mr. Liberman.”

Fear consumed Toby as his enemy flipped the tables and asserted his control. Keeping his eyes locked on Toby, the man with the gun began to casually load it. Toby’s hidden hands searched frantically behind the cover of the bedroom door frame for something else to use as a weapon. There was nothing.

“So,” Toby began again, frightened to near tears. “What do we do now?”

The Sheriff clicked the revolver shut in a flicking motion which Toby was sure he’d done a million times before.  Then, he pulled back the hammer with a sweet sense of smug satisfaction.

“Mr. Liberman, my friend,” Sheriff McGee said to Toby as he cut his eyes toward him like sharpened daggers. “This is the part of this evening’s festivities where you run for dear life and I follow you!”

Jessica Liberman exited the bathroom just in time to see only the blur of the two men running for the front door but was startled by Johnny Haynes bursting through the other bedroom door on the opposite side, waving his shotgun.

“Where the hell are they?” Johnny yelled in fear and frustration. “And put some freaking pants on you dirty hooker!”

“Johnny!” Jessica yelled angrily. “We don’t need you over here with your mouth shooting off and making this situation worse than it already is.”

“Well, you got the bonus plan because I’m here, and for your information, this situation couldn’t get any worse because I just saw my sister with her pants off! Where’s your husband and McGee?”

“They just ran out the front door,” Jessica informed him, as though she didn’t have a concern in the world.

Johnny could take it no longer. “You know, you are one sick bitch. None of this bothers you in the slightest, does it?”

“Not at all,” she replied nonchalantly.  She seemed like a stranger to her brother.

“I’ll deal with you when you’re sober, you freaking tweaker,” Johnny yelled at her as he pushed her out of the way.

Removing the safety from the gun, he ran quickly for the open front door of the house. He hoped it wasn’t too late.

***

The frightened Toby Liberman was trying his best to disguise his frantic breathing so as not to be heard, but it was no use. Gasping to maintain consciousness, he knew for certain the man with the loaded gun was searching for him.

Even if McGee didn’t find him immediately, there would be no avoiding the events that transpired over the previous half hour. Running into the woods across the street from his home was his only option for sanctuary, and he prayed his knowledge of the forest would be an advantage when it came to avoiding his adversary. Nestled in a dark grouping of rain-soaked trees, he could hear McGee’s heavy footsteps cracking twigs and rustling leaves.

Lying as flat as he could against the wet forest floor, his mind sped out of control as it searched for a plan to successfully elude the man desperately seeking him. The cold was seeping through his clothing from the near freezing rain falling from above, and his breath puffed visibly from his mouth. Deep in his heart, beyond the stinging pain caused by what he’d witnessed earlier in the evening, he knew hiding was a lost cause. Any minute, Jessie McGee was going to find him and put an end to this game of cat-and-mouse for good. If not by the gun, then with the power of his badge. Toby would be overpowered, arrested, and spend a large chunk of his life behind bars on false charges.  

As he low-crawled across the forest floor, the selfish thoughts about his own future gave way to thoughts of Katie and how she would be affected by his impending death or incarceration. What was she going to think of all of this? Would she ever be able to forgive him for leaving her with Jessica and all she’d come to be? How long would it be before she started to follow in her mother’s footsteps without his balancing influence? His psyche could no longer bear these thoughts. Rolling again to his back, he began to cry at the mere thought of all that occurred and all that would follow. The crying afforded Toby some clarity, and he slowly pulled himself to his feet to meet his fate. For the good of his family, he was going to find the Sheriff and throw himself at his mercy.  As he listened closely to the sounds of the woods, he again heard the ominous footsteps and bravely headed toward them. 

Suddenly, from close behind, a shriek of horror froze him dead in his tracks. Slowly, Toby turned to determine the source of the noise and was met by something far worse than Jessie McGee. At the edge of the clearing, low to the ground, was a pair of glowing eyes which resembled the piercing shine of two flashlights carelessly laid close together on the forest floor. As he watched in both amazement and undeniable fear, the two eyes rose from their previous position and ascended to a height close to his own. When Toby first heard the shriek, he’d assumed it came from an animal. Now, as he faced the creature, he knew it was something completely different. At that moment, Toby was uninterested in identifying it, and he turned to run in the opposite direction toward the lesser of two evils. From his experience in the deep forest, any animal that didn’t bolt in the opposite direction from a human being was obviously not scared of him. The man with the gun would be thrilled he no longer had to search for Toby and could just go ahead and shoot him. As he realized the creature was chasing him, Toby considered the Sheriff’s bullets a welcome alternative to being ripped to shreds by some giant animal.

Dodging trees and fallen branches, terror had taken over his legs and was sending him in unknown directions deeper into the forest. No matter how much noise he made rustling through the underbrush, he couldn’t find the Sheriff. His situation had now gone from man against man to man against unidentified beast, and he had zero confidence he could survive that confrontation. He would’ve gladly traded his luck to that of dealing with a person carrying a weapon.

Glancing over his shoulder and still lurching forward into the darkness, the glowing eyes were hot on his heels as he ran for his life, or what was left of it. As the unknown creature’s breath reached the back of Toby’s neck, he screamed in ultimate fear and fell to the ground for acceptance of the coming end. The animal stopped within inches of Toby’s face causing nothing to be seen other than the glowing, piercing yellow gaze of the creature’s eyes. Then the pain came.

The hot, searing puncture of the animal’s teeth pierced deep within the flesh of Toby’s left arm and he screamed in pain. Then, as quickly as it had started, the attack stopped. Looking up with fearful eyes, Toby saw the animal staring at him with what seemed to be a sense of calm satisfaction. With another howl of ear-piercing terror, it took one last look at him and disappeared into the shadows of the forest beyond. He laid back in shock and panic, clutching his arm as it gushed entire pints of blood onto the wet leaves. Toby began to slip out of consciousness. The sound of rainfall and chirping crickets filled his fading senses. Without warning, a bolt of energy shot throughout his body cramping his muscles with unprecedented, excruciating tension stretching from his toes to the tips of his longest hairs. Again, he screamed in unimaginable pain, and then lost consciousness.

The change was instantaneous.

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Toby Liberman is nearing the end of his rope. After a fateful confrontation with his wife’s lover, he is chased into the woods only to be discovered by an unidentifiable creature. He is attacked and rendered unconscious. Upon waking at the scene of a gruesome triple homicide, Toby is arrested as the sole suspect and thrown into a jail cell with a strange man that knows way too much about his predicament. The stranger reveals to Toby that he now possesses the curse of the werewolf. Using his new-found strength to flee his captors, Toby begins to discover that things are not what they seem in the sleepy town of Twin Oaks, TX. Now hunted by law enforcement, as well as the town’s gun toting civilians, Toby seeks vengeance against his false accusers and embarks upon a quest to clear his name once and for all. 

Personalized, autographed copies may be obtained for $15 (shipping included). Email GonzoWolfPress@Gmail.com for availability.

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