You could meticulously plot out your revenge. You could fantasize about physically harming your enemies. You could daydream about murder. I’m fairly certain it’s normal, a regular occurrence for a human being to do. You can bottle up your hate, and allow your anger to fester and take hold of you, turning you into someone you don’t recognize or worse, someone familiar. The hatred embodies you. It takes the reins. It’s not about killing your boss because you got fired, you can get another job. That was weakness, immaturity. I’m talking about legit mortal enemies. Arch nemesis proper. In most cases, a rational mind will prevail, but sometimes it’s the rational mind that also requires justice. Did the world need another Carlton Ailse, another piece of shit to contend with? I thought not.
Viggo stood over the dead dog. He thought to himself, shit. He felt more compassion about a strange dead dog than most humans he knew. The dog lived longer than Ozzy did, albeit in dog years. Blood began to pool around the head of the mutt, soaking into the rough coat. Viggo went back to the Cadillac, asking Saoirse to hand him the Mets blanket Sonny kept in the backseat. She asked if the puppy was dead or alive and Viggo confirmed it’s death. Peter Cushing got to him.
He placed the blanket down on the dirty road next to the dog. Some cars honked, some high beamed but no one stopped to help. No one cared. Most people would rather not involve themselves for fear of becoming responsible, or they simply don’t want to be inconvenienced. He picked the dog up, his hands clamping around the malnourished body, squeezing the shoulders together, the dog’s head hung limply. The dog’s neck had been broken. A flap of skin on the dog’s head opened up, exposing the skull and allowed for a fresh spill of syrupy crimson. Viggo placed the dog on the blanket and wrapped him up. Sorry, buddy. Viggo thought of the dog he had growing up. A beautiful German Shepard named Hetfield, who ate socks and didn’t make it to ten. He thought of Cookie Hill and her own bowl for beer on the Craven’s lawn. Viggo and Saoirse didn’t say much the rest of the way to John F. Kennedy International Airport, with the lifeless dog in the backseat, seeping blood into his mange and onto the fabric of the Mets blanket behind them. She had made her flight with little time to waste.
Martin and I drove to Memorial Park with Carlton hog-tied behind us, but he was breathing, if only for the time being. We circled the park once to see who was around, if any, we were being cautious. We didn’t want any attention. We didn’t want to be noticed. We knew the irony of trying to be inconspicuous driving around in Polito’s sore thumb van, which we parked under a streetlight that Ozzy broke with a rock a year ago. His aim was always remarkable. We entered the park through a hole that we cut into the fence. The Parks Department fixed the hole regularly, but we would open it back up again immediately. They always fixed the fence but never the light. There are things in New York City that get tended to and it’s futile and then the things that matter get overlooked.
We didn’t want to overthink or wait to carry Carlton out of the van and into the park. It was the same mentality as graffiti, you just had to do it. You brought more attention, more heat waiting around, hesitating. If someone was going to see then they would have to wonder if they really saw what they thought they did. There was no bailing out now. Tell me what the difference is between a kidnapping charge and a murder charge? If we get caught we were doing time. You know how much time we were willing to do? Not a fucking minute. We’d sooner see Peter Cushing.
We didn’t carry him together. It was Martin’s cross to bear, he threw the now conscious Carlton over his shoulder after we got him through the hole in the fence. We brought him out into our fields, and we welcomed him into our home. The excavation machinery and all the large mounds of dirt, the parapet, and the darkness of the night gave us the shelter we needed from the street in order to carry out our vengeance. Carlton, whose mouth we had duct taped shut, tried to communicate and squirm as we marched through the wet grass. I wondered to myself if he realized the actualization that this was his end, if he assumed any blame, if he understood he forced our hands.
The fog fittingly crept into the park. The moon menaced its glow bright through the heavy clouds. It was almost a Hammer production, only real life. Carlton sat painfully in an ungodly position, propped up against dirt next to Mr. Craven’s shovel I left behind, he cried and spoke inaudibly through the duct tape muzzle. I felt sympathy for an instant. It did not make me change my mind. Crying was a good thing to do from time to time. He had to let it out. I didn’t look at him as being a pussy for crying. I thought he was a pussy for stabbing Ozzy from behind. We were no angels. We knew firsthand that sometimes things can get out of hand and quickly, we understood that. No passes were being given out. The truth was that the morning after was when you became aware of how unnecessary the majority of the violence we participated in was. Where does the hatred truly lie? Humanity had hatred sewn into itself. We hate for so many reasons, some valid and some invalid, but how much of it is even worth the energy? Though we know better we can’t shake the hate from our systems.
The three of us, Martin, Viggo and myself, were cognizant and of sound minds in our extrajudicial decision to execute Carlton. To us it wasn’t cold blooded murder, though we acknowledged by definition it was, he had to be punished. There was no joy to be had. This wasn’t fun or cool. We didn’t want to taunt him or torture him. We didn’t want to treat him any worse than needed to be in order to get it done. We were all bridged by the knife. Our lives were forever connected and intertwined. We were the vigilantes who sentenced Carlton to death for his crime. We invoked the wrath of Charles Bronson and the grim seriousness of Clint Eastwood’s man with no name in avenging our fallen brother. Eye for an eye. Dart etiquette.
Carlton sobbed louder, and I was nervous that it would attract attention. We had to get this over with.
“Shut the fuck up or I will spill your insides all over this wonderful park,” Martin told him, quietly and slowly.
“Where’s Viggo?” I asked.
“He’ll be here. I’m not worried, neither should you.”
There were houses nearby, far enough to not hear talking at normal decibels, but we couldn’t rule out that they wouldn’t hear loud crying or screaming. The duct tape was never coming off. There are always stupid scenes in the movies when the kidnapper gives their captive a chance to remove the tape or the gag or whatnot, they accept the convincing promises to not make a sound. Don’t you make a fucking peep. Though the captive always reverses and screams for someone to come and help them. We had no intention of listening to anything Carlton had to say. Carlton had absolutely no leverage, there was no room for negotiating. Kidnapper is a funny sounding word, we were technically kidnappers, I don’t know how kidnappers felt when they kidnap a person, but I didn’t feel quite like a kidnapper. I felt like a hangman. I was dropping the guillotine, swinging the ax, turning the switch, pulling the trigger on some old fashioned high justice, which came with a moderate amount of nausea and paranoia.
I thought about asking Carlton what he was thinking but what was the point. Maybe I felt obligated to inquire. My insensitivity toward Carlton’s thoughts and feelings, and his overall being made me feel slightly inhuman. I felt bad for his family but not for him. What was his family like? I assumed it was better than my own, they were probably normal and intact, they talk to one another and have holiday get togethers, I’m sure he was given ample amounts of love and opportunities growing up and yet he still managed to be a cunt. Was it possible that Carlton was actually a decent human being? Did we have it all wrong? Could we forgive what he had done to Ozzy? It is possible he just made one awful mistake. One action shouldn’t define a person, I guess it depends on what that action is. Is this what I really felt about him or was I justifying my own heinous crime?
The intro to Ghostface Killah’s Mighty Healthy stuck out in my mind. A song produced by Mathematics and featured a sample from the cult kung fu flick The Master, otherwise known as 3 Evil Masters. Was that us? Were we evil? “They kill one man, or kill ten, it’s all the same. After all, they can only hang you once.” Would we metaphorically hang for our actions? How long before someone would come for us? There was a strong chance we would get caught for this. We would stand trial if taken alive, co-defendants standing before the judge awaiting the verdict with our chins up, content with facing the gallows. If there was something beyond this life then the upside was we would be back causing trouble with Ozzy. If that was the case then it would be worth capital punishment.
Would people miss Carlton the way Ozzy was missed? It’s not unique to only us to lose someone close. Everyone loses somebody at some point and if they don’t, lucky them. It was difficult to view Carlton as a real person. His life had no intrinsic value to us. I was too self aware, not to think this outlook was a defense mechanism because of what we were committed to doing. I wanted to be done with it. The sounds of his cries and sniffles, and snot bubbles didn’t make me feel sorry for him, that moment had passed. Watching him as he pissed his pants didn’t make me want to untie him and set him free. It only made it more real. He pleaded through the tape around his mouth, professing how sorry he was for what he had done, and begging for mercy. To me it seemed insincere. I wanted Viggo to just get here so we could get on with it.
I preferred one on’s to murder. I enjoyed a straight up fair fight. It’s a throwback to the bare knuckle prizefighters of yesteryear. Modern day gladiators. A true display of realness. The Irish stand down. Two men stand face to face and throw, the best man stands tall at the end. It didn’t always go down that way but when it did it was glorious.
Martin said, “You know what I think, Carlton. I think most aspects of the government are suspect. While I am not seeing eye to eye with the judicial system at the moment. We’re steering the boat now.”
“We live in a world obsessed with senseless violence,” I said.
“It’s a trend to revere cowardice. A person can sucker punch an unaware stranger and it’s perceived as cool, and worse, tough. People enjoy this behavior and encourage it. No one wants to really throw hands, most do not..”
“No one wants to put their hands up. They can’t handle a loss.”
“I’d love to untie you,” said Martin. “I’d love to shoot the fair one. Really teach you a lesson. In this whole fucked up reality I guess I’m the student. You’ve taught so much already. You’ve taught me about myself. You’ve taught me about grief. You’ve shown me emotions I didn’t know I had. I won’t thank you for it but I’m aware it was you who unlocked these things for me.”
“It might be impolite, but I don’t think it’s customary or a requirement to thank him.”
“I’m not going to and I won’t jeopardize the plan or our freedom for you, Carlton,” said Martin, thinking about punching his knuckles bloody on Carlton’s dumb soppy face. “I don’t even enjoy violence. The world is violent as it is.”
“I’m violent but I don’t like that I am. It’s not how I want to be. But you had to level jump. And now here we are.” Martin stopped, and picked up a handful of dirt, throwing it into the grave. Carlton, he thought, misused his life and now was being removed, out of commission and pulled from the shelves. Dead and buried, so to speak. He would vanish and join the ranks of cassettes and walkmans in obscurity. He would be forgotten to most as if he never existed at all. He will only remain in the thoughts of the ones who birthed him and those who sacrificed him. The givers and takers of life are always connected. “We are here to feed you to the earth. We are here to offer you up to the park gods.”
Viggo came walking through the fog, across the fields that froze your feet through the soles of your sneakers in the winter, and softly cradled us during the warmth of summertime. We drank beer, tripped out and killed millions of brain cells huffing nitrous oxide there. We kissed girls who were more mature than us and who always remembered to bring blankets to lay on top of the patchy grass. Ozzy’s boom box, a 1993 Sharp cassette recorder and cd player, blasted anything from Tripface to Youth of Today, to Smashing Pumpkins and Das Efx, to King Diamond. I would have never thought back then, during those glorious sweltering nights listening to NYHC bands and Wu-Tang that one day we would be dumping a body in Memorial. Admittedly it felt normal, good almost to just be in the park, despite our forthcoming deed. The bats should have been present but I saw none, having heard not one flutter or squeak. Viggo was wearing Ozzy’s beat up olive green canvas knapsack on his back, the trench knife comfortably inside it and he had something wrapped up in his arms.
“What is that?” I asked.
“I hit a dog,” said Viggo. “It was unavoidable.”
“Let’s not prolong the inevitable,” said Martin. “Stand the prisoner up.”
Viggo placed the dog on the ground. He removed the knapsack and tossed it to Martin, who brought it to his face and smelled the bag. He thought of Ozzy, his younger brother who filled the backpack with G.I. Joe figures and stayed dressed in camouflage nearly his entire life. The toys were only in production for 12 years. He brought those 3.75 inch real American heroes everywhere he went as a child, which he swapped out for spray paint later on. Ozzy’s bag smelled like the Craven’s house. He unclasped the bag and removed the trench knife as I untied the knot, freeing Carlton’s hands from his legs so we could stand him up, while his hands and feet remained bound.
Viggo and I held Carlton in place, as he shook his head and wept, the hole I dug in the earth salivated behind him. Martin unsheathed the trench knife. He didn’t choose Mr. Polito’s favorite piece in his collection. The Nahkampfmesser, the german WWI trench knife, remained in its place on the wall in the Politos dining room, instead Martin selected the M3 trench knife. A carbon steel American fighting knife with a grooved leather handle issued to Airborne and Rangers during World War II in 1943, designed specifically for combat in close quarters. The knife was only in production until the 1950s. That knife, Ozzy and his favorite childhood playthings, and the forsaken dog all shared a common thread, brief lifespans.
Martin said something to himself and then spoke, “This won’t change anything but at least we’ll be squared.” Martin raised the knife, knowing that Ozzy could be avenged but not resurrected, that nothing was truly undone.
Mr. Craven stood in Ozzy’s bedroom with an ax in his hand. He cut away at the carpet and exposed an old, scuffed and scratched wooden floor. He looked around at his son’s room, his baby boy, and was flooded with memories and emotions. His first steps. Words. Sip of beer. Black eye. First little league hit. He saw the Starting Line-up Gary Carter figure on a shelf and immediately remembered the day he bought it for him at S.S. Linds. The room was messy but what did that matter now? Clothes strewn about. Comics and legal pads dogged with graffiti doodling piled on the floor in the corner. He looked at the posters on the wall and thought, he was still a kid.
Mr. Craven brought the ax up and swung down viciously into the wooden floor with everything he had, wrenched it free and repeated until he could see into the living room below.
Martin removed the dagger from Carlton’s chest, wiping the blade clean on the dying kid’s designer jeans before handing it off to Viggo. Martin stood in Viggo’s place, and we hooked our arms under his armpits to hoist him up. Viggo said something softly, that neither of us could hear. I wondered what he said. Did he ask God for forgiveness? Did you say a little prayer? Was he talking to Ozzy? Viggo didn’t chime in during our theological debates on the steps. He talked about girls and baseball. I never really knew his stance on religion and politics, and probably never would after tonight. I’m certain that whatever he said that it was honest and to the point. Viggo drove the M3 into Carlton’s abdomen.
Blair was topless and lying in Parm’s bed on fresh sheets that his mother recently purchased at Macy’s. Parm kissed her breasts while pawing at her crotch. There may have been some attraction between them, but the true motivation was spite. Parm fed his ego and got some proxy revenge on the Craven boys by fucking one of their girlfriends. Blair was acting out. This was her response to her broken back windshield. Parm fumbled at her jeans. She pulled them off and then slipped her thong down her freshly shaven legs, kicking them aside with her foot. He undressed himself and climbed onto his bed. She took in his ceiling. It was white and immaculate. Not a crack or bubble to be found. A fan slowly spun in the center, circulating the smells of the room. On the left side of the ceiling was a track, with three individual lights swiveled in different directions, casting down soft light from 40 watt bulbs. Of all the ceilings this might have been the nicest she’d seen. Parm eagerly dug himself into her.
Viggo pulled the knife out of Carlton’s stomach and placed it in my outstretched hand. We swapped places and now they held his slumping body in their arms. I didn’t think of anything. I just acted, like jumping out of a plane. I punched the World War II trench knife into the dumb kid’s solar plexus. I didn’t know what to expect. I wasn’t sure how it would feel. Would it be like driving a knife into a Thanksgiving turkey or a nice rare steak? It was different. I felt nothing spectacular or damning about it. I pulled the knife out of him slowly. Carlton consumed too many of my thoughts, so I concentrated on the knife itself. How many men and boys met Peter Cushing with this blade? Were they good men or bad boys? Did we shame them by adding Carlton to their order? Was killing him the right choice? Would it have been better to let him live knowing we wanted to kill him, to let him look over his shoulder for the rest of his pathetic days? It was too late for questions. Maybe now we would be the ones always looking over our shoulders, going through doors and turning corners bracing for a blast. It was ultimately Martin’s decision. We were moral support. Accomplices all the way. The whole one for all and all for one slogan. Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno.
The knifing was less ritualistic and more symbolic for us. What we lacked in proper technique or skill we made up for with conviction, and although it was not the cleanest crime we were deliberate in how we handled things and Carlton was handled, indeed, right into the open grave. We were bound by dart etiquette, brothers in an act of solidarity, for we have spilled blood together and had our own blood spilled together, with a shared culpability. This night, like many others before it, was our own version of mutually assured destruction, in terms of all party’s lives being ruined or forever altered due to an irreversible act. Whatever stormy course laid ahead of us, we would steer forth directly into it, side by side, brothers till death.
It still should have been me.
Our friends were at the bar. Philip, Wilhelm and Sonny. Mina and Imogen. To their knowledge they believed that we were assisting Mr. Craven in renovating the house. We might show up. We might not. Howard came over to our place at the bar, and placed those beautiful beveled glasses down, and filled them with whiskey. Our friends raised them and drank to Ozzy, and slammed the glasses on the bar.
Carlton’s body laid 12 feet deep, he would reside for eternity, hopefully, underneath a baseball dugout bench and public water fountain. It was deep enough to stifle the smell of decay from rising up from the burial plot, once the reconstruction of the park was completed. He was in his grave, we were almost done. The important part from then on was to keep our stories straight, our heads clean and the most crucial, our mouths shut. Viggo pulled a flask from thin air, unscrewed the top, and took a long swig.
“Tully?” I asked.
“Yeah,” Viggo said, “Here.” I took the flask and drank it. I passed it to Martin. He drank some and handed it back to Viggo, then yanked the shovel out of its place in the parapet.
“ Don’t,” I said, “I’ll bury him. I got it. Take it easy.” I reached for the shovel, but Martin pulled it away.
“No. It’s my duty,” Martin said, “Cowboy shit.” You bury your own.
“Suit yourself. If you get tired we’re here.”
We painted the field red. Martin dropped heaps of dirt onto Carlton’s bloodied, duct taped, tied up, lifeless body. Carlton’s eyes were open and watching us until dirt covered his face as well. Viggo and I killed the flask, toasting to Ozzy, no heaven or hell, just Ozzy. Martin buried Carlton just to where the concrete would be poured and gratefully would cover our tracks. It was time to leave. The park gods were happy and the belly of the field was full. Carlton would become hitobashira.
“One last thing,” said Viggo, sounding like the whiskey got him a bit. He unfurled the Mets blanket and unveiled the dog he had unintentionally killed. “I think I’m going to name him Van Wyck. Thank you for your service, Van Wyck.” Viggo hopped down into the hole, standing on top of Carlton. He carefully placed the dead dog down, as if trying to make the dog comfortable. If any red flags were raised about the hole, the blood on the form work or the grass it would be attributed to Van Wyck, and hopefully put an end to any further inquiry. The mongrel was an accessory. “Help me out of this fucking hole.”