PREVIEW

A LESSON IN REVENGE

 

The reclusive lifestyle of divorcee Robert Weber has been disrupted by the unwanted attraction he feels for newly arrived colleague Julie A Lesson in RevengeSimpson. He knows that he’s in her crosshairs and resents her determined web of entrapment.

Julie knew she had found the right man, however now that it has begun, Julie wishes she had never started her quest. She can never be sure of what he will do next. But even though she fears she is in over her head, there is no turning back now.

David found Julie standing in line at Tims for a coffee. His second chance. He remembers the caring, the touching, the sex. The love.  The fires haven’t been enough. But now he’s found her – and he’s not a kid anymore.

The lives of all three spiral out of control when brought together by a chain of events that threatens to make the past repeat itself. A past that threatens to destroy the future of all of them.

At approximately 90,000 words, A Lesson in Revenge is a suspense that morphs into a page turning thriller. A page turner perfect for a weekend read.

Preview A Lesson in Revenge

CHAPTER ONE

Thursday, January 29, 1990

 David Pierce’s steps forced tiny squeals from the snow beneath the canopy of stars above the quiet country field. Face pinched against the cold, the frigid air stung his nose as the wind explored his gaunt frame under the leather coat. In one hand, the chill of the metal propane cylinder burned through the thin glove. He raised the plastic squirt bottle in his other and pulled the trigger. A cloud of coal oil vapor hung in the air. Inhaling, he felt the familiar rush of excitement and pulled the trigger again, the fumes drifting down upon him.

His eyes focused upon the kennel ahead, a dark blot on the moonlit field of snow. The sounds of the animals drifted towards him. He pictured them pacing back and forth along the borders of their cages. Yes! The first warning yelp from some bitch. A chorus of barks cut the air as other dogs followed suit. The bedlam grew, shattering the stillness of the country side, but it didn’t matter, for they were alone. The owners of the white clapboard house in the distance weren’t at home. Only moments before, he had knocked on the door with the pretense of boarding his dogs.

The wooden walls of the kennel loomed in front of him, the din from within deafening. He leaned against it, listening. Listening to the arousal of the dogs and their primal fear. They could sense that something was different. That something was wrong.

He set the squirt bottle down at his feet and pulled the striker for the torch from his pocket. He cracked the valve, and the propane hissed softly as the flint of the starter raked over the knurled metal. The torch popped to life and he nursed the blue flame into a whispering roar.  Picking up the squirt bottle, he held his tools in front of him, weaving them back and forth, closer and closer. In the moonlight, his face was ashen. Strands of black hair probed his eyes as he leaned back against the kennel. “You know, don’t you? Somehow you know.” David’s voice was low and soothing and the dogs momentarily quieted. He smiled in pleasure. “You don’t have to worry. The fire will cleanse you and set you free.” His voice was lost amid the clamor of their barking.

He shrugged off the wall and turned to face it. A stream of oil, then a second and a third slashed the wood. When he swung the torch to one of the darkened lines, it leapt to life. A shudder of pleasure swept through him as the flames raced along the marks. He circled the building, concentrating on the overhang of the structure. The rough-sawn pine boards were old and dry and the flames coiled along their surface with serpentine ease.

Inside, the terrified dogs cowered and howled and leaped at the chain link doors and fences that separated them. Others threw their bodies at the sliding doorway that lead to the outside run and freedom. The temperature rose quickly as thick black smoke filled the interior.

Outside, he listened to the symphony of his creation. Above, thick smoke from the shingles cartwheeled skywards, blotting the stars. The heat grew, forcing him to retreat, but only far enough to be tolerable. He rubbed his hand over the bulge in the front of his jeans, his face flushed from the fire’s heat and his own fevered agitation. Release came with a groan, his face twisted in a mixture of gratification and contempt. His breathing stilled. It was growing quieter inside. Time to go.

He turned and retraced his steps to the rusted green Camaro parked beside the snow bank. Like his own, the rage of the fire had passed. Quiet had returned to the countryside. Only the soothing sound of the flames could be heard as they gently consumed the building.

In the car, David closed his eyes, gripped the steering wheel, and pressed his forehead against it, oblivious to the large flakes that had begun to fall. He felt better. Last night, his plans for the homeless guy in the alley had been interrupted by the appearance of the teenagers, but tonight had helped. The urgency wasn’t there now. The engine sputtered to life as he looked again at his efforts. He pulled the car onto the narrow country road, flipped the wipers on, and drove away.

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

Friday, January 30/90

 

After twenty minutes on the treadmill, Robert Weber finally felt better. He wiped his forehead with a towel and surveyed the clientele in the fitness club. It was a small gym, soft rock music in the background, a dozen treadmills, overlooking the weight machines. Too early at this hour of the morning for the retirees, but the working man was in getting a pump. He tried valiantly to stay focused on his pace, but it wasn’t the selection of young female bodies that distracted him this morning. It was Julie, the catastrophe of last night, and their inevitable meeting today. Lying naked on the bed last night, and talking for two hours, had set off warning bells. Big time warning bells. He had enjoyed the two hours as much as she seemed to, and that’s what scared him. He’d been made a fool of once, twice if you counted Moon Dancer, and had never let any of the others do the same again. As hard as it was going to be, he wanted to make sure that went for Julie Simpson too.

Robert nudged the speed on the treadmill up to seven point five and focused on the final high level intensity minute. His legs felt heavy, his breathing strained, when he reached thirty seconds. Stubbornly, he pushed it up to eight and watched the counter tick away as his feet hammered the treadmill’s surface. The counter hit zero, the speed lowered, and the five minute cool down began. He breathed deeply, exhausted, but pleased for having pushed himself.

As he stepped off the treadmill, a blonde in her mid-twenties approached. Robert could tell she was a regular; tight black workout pants, tank top and fitness room strut. She smiled a friendly hello.

“All done?” she asked.

“You bet. Don’t want to see it for a week.” Robert returned the smile, appreciating her good looks. “Just give me a minute, I’ll wipe it down, and it’s all yours.”

“Thank you, sir. I’ll just grab a drink and be right back.” She turned and walked to the fountain.

Sir? Jesus Christ, do I look that old today? He pulled his eyes from her butt, now feeling like a dirty old man, got a paper towel, sprayed it with disinfectant, and returned to wipe down the handles and screen.

“Thanks buddy.”

Robert looked over as a young guy in sweats placed his water bottle on the machine. “Sorry.” Robert motioned towards the fountain. “That girl at the fountain’s going on next.”

The guy looked at Robert, then towards the fountain where she was talking to another.

“Ah, she doesn’t look too interested in it to me.”

“Well she is. Just went to get a drink.”

“She can use another one.” He moved to step onto the treadmill.

Robert placed a foot on the machine, leaning in on the handle as he made eye contact. “No, that wouldn’t be right. She’s been waiting. I told her she could have it. It’s hers.”

The guy held his gaze then plucked his water bottle from the treadmill. “Whatever,” and he stalked off towards an elliptical.

***

In the shower, the hot water drummed upon Robert massaging his neck and shoulders. He turned, raised his head and let the water rake back the thinning brown hair, caught a mouthful of water, rinsed and spit. He hated being cold. Despite his yearly trip to the Dominican on the March break, the hell of Canadian winters still dragged on so damn long.

He hung his head and watched the water sluice down between his chest muscles to splash into and over his navel in a small waterfall. Consciously, he pulled in his stomach. Despite the regular jogging and the workouts at the gym, he was still thickening around the waist. He wondered if she’d noticed last night then decided it didn’t matter. It wasn’t going to happen again. Not that he hadn’t thoroughly enjoyed the sex, but in a relationship it always introduced complications. Expected commitments. None of which he wanted.

He shut the water off, toweled dry and shaved. Before his hair became too dry, he brushed it back, ruffled it and tried again, this time more satisfied with the result. He checked himself in the mirror and grimaced.

“Well, I guess we’re as ready as ever to face the music.”

***

Julie Simpson felt the heat of the curling iron, and quickly pulled it away. The odor of singed hair hung in the air. “Damn it.” She balanced the iron on the top of the toilet tank then grabbed it at the last moment when her hand snagged the cord and it spun sideways on the slippery top. “Shit.” The single bathroom was cramped, the fixtures old, but although the house was mortgage free from the insurance policy, money was still too tight for a remodel. With an exasperated breath, she curled one side then moved back and finished the other. She combed it out, fussing, trying to get it just right. She studied the transformation. Now, her naturally straight chestnut hair no longer brushed her shoulders, but curled, added an unruly, carefree attitude to her appearance. The whole curl thing was new and she wasn’t used to them. She hastily applied her lipstick, covering much of the white scar tissue that curled up onto her lip. Zipping up the makeup bag, she hurried back to the bedroom.

Julie dropped the bag into her purse and glanced at the wrinkled sheets of the bed. She closed her eyes and, despite her nervousness about today, smiled at the memory of last night. At the dresser, she pulled the framed pictures from the bottom drawer and replaced them on the top. Andy’s large school photo went in the middle, the old picture of her parents, her and her sisters, to the left, and the picture of her, Ken and Andy to the right. Julie checked her appearance once more, brushed the brown skirt smooth and drew a deep breath.

“Time for coffee.”

***

 When the dead woman walked into Tim Hortons and stood in line, David felt the familiar sense of dread envelope him and his senses started to shut down. The chair with its attached table seemed to imprison his gangly frame. Her image blurred and the banter and laughter of customers became white noise as his eyes fled to the tabletop to escape the vision of chestnut curls and shapely legs. He felt dizzy and wondered what had happened to his coffee. He found it, suspended midair in trembling hands. Carefully, he lowered it, closed his eyes and, with reluctance, willed her to disappear.

His breathing stilled and the sense of panic subsided as reason began to thread its way past his emotions. The newspaper article announcing her death was in place. Distant from the rest of the mourners, and ready to take flight, he had stood with a young lover’s angst and a strange satisfied calm at the funeral. David gripped the edge of the coffee stained table to stop his hands from shaking and forced himself to peer cautiously in her direction as she approached the counter.

Her back was to him, but he would recognize the shape of her head anywhere. The short beige coat hid much of her small frame, but David studied the full bottom with a sense of familiarity. There would be a small brown mole on her left cheek. She stepped forward and he watched her ass roll under the tight brown skirt and then right itself.

After all these years, she had no right to show up like this. But he knew, as much as it looked like her, it wasn’t possible. No, she would never tousle his hair again or slide her hand down the front of his jeans. He felt himself starting to become aroused as he remembered the maddeningly slow striptease that she would perform. Remembered how he would always have to ask permission to touch her. His eyes sought the coffee cup lid, reading the imprinted words. Anything to distract himself.

She had been the one who was always in control; in the classroom, after school, at her house. He felt the anger stir inside him and threw his shoulder length hair back angrily as he remembered the pain of his abandonment. Deserted without any explanation. He wasn’t fifteen anymore, and no bitch had ever hurt him again. His fear disappeared and his eyes zeroed in on the woman as she took the coffee and turned to leave.

She was at the door and he caught a glimpse of her profile as she slipped through. It couldn’t be her. He struggled out of the confining seat, weaving his way through the other patrons, colliding with an older man who stepped into his path. David swore at him as he pushed past.

In the parking lot, he searched frantically. No one. He heard a car start and spun in the direction of an older model Topaz. She was behind the glare of the windshield and the sun blinded him as she swung from the parking space and headed for the exit. He took a faltering step towards the car then stopped as it pulled away in traffic. For a long moment he stood, calming his nerves, focusing on the truths as he knew them, until once again he was in a safe place.

 

As she pulled the Topaz out of the parking lot, Julie took a deep breath then an appreciative pull on the coffee. She definitely needed it this morning. She had been drinking too much coffee lately, but would be grateful when the caffeine kicked in. She took another deep breath, eased back in the seat, trying to relax, but the car in front of her slowed unexpectedly and she hit the brakes. They squealed shrilly, the ten year old car shuddered, ground to a halt, and then stalled. Coffee splashed out of the drink hole onto her. She reached for the cup holder, hit the steering wheel, and spilled more onto the suede skirt.

“Shit! Shit, shit, shit!” She plopped the cup into the holder, restarted the car and rubbed furiously at the darkening marks. Julie looked at her watch, glanced down at the two dark stains on her lap and rolled her eyes.

“Ah, hell.” Switching lanes, she hung a right, then another, and started back to her house.  She didn’t usually drink the coffee in her car, but saved it for school. However, after the long evening last night, and then this morning, she needed it. A new car too, but that would have to wait.

Julie pulled up in front of her yellow brick two story and ran up the narrow walkway to the covered porch. Inside, she took the stairs two at a time to the second floor. Again the rumpled bed caught her eye and she smiled, despite her nerves. She slipped into a corduroy skirt and in a few moments was back in the car headed to her parents’ to pick up her son.

Julie glanced at her watch and pushed down on the gas pedal. She knew she was going to be late for the staff meeting. After two more lights, she wheeled left onto her parents’ street and eased up in front of their house. Andy was waiting on the front porch with her mother and father. Julie climbed out and met him at the bottom of the stairs. He had her dark brown eyes and brown hair.

“Mom where you bin? You’re late.”

“I know, I know. Hurry, go get in the car. What do you say?”

“Thanks, Nonno, Nonna,” and he ran to the car, his school bag bouncing on his back.

“Julie, you’ve, you’ve changed your hair,” said her mother, stepping down from the porch.

Julie unconsciously touched her hair, pulling at the curls. “Just needed a change, Mom. Gotta run.” She hurried to the car, turned and waved to her parents. “Thanks Mom, Dad. I’ll call you later. Bye.” Julie climbed in, dropped the car into drive and pulled out.

“Andy, do up your seatbelt.”

Andy clicked it in place, adjusted his backpack on his lap and rubbed his freckled nose with the back of his hand.

“Where did you go last night, Mom?”

“Robert and I went… to see a play, honey. That’s why I thought it would be best that you stay with Nonno and Nonna.”

“Why didn’t Sarah just babysit me until you got home?”

“Well, because it was during the week, and we didn’t get home til late, and I wanted to make sure you got to bed on time and Sarah really doesn’t need to stay up that late.” She glanced sideways at him, but he seemed to accept it.

“Was the play any good?”

“Yes it was good. Really quite good.” She chuckled.

Andy looked at her questioningly. “What’s funny?”

“Oh, nothing, honey.”

“What was it about?”

“What was what about?”

“The play.”

“Oh. Umm, it was about pirates.”

“Yeah?  Like this musical thing you and Robert are doing together?”

“Yes, something like that.”

“Did Robert like it?”

“Yes, yes I think he did,” she said biting her lip.

“What happened?”

Julie glanced at him. “What do you mean what happened?”

“In the story. What happened?”

“Oh, never mind, honey, I’ll tell you about it later, okay? Look, here we are now.”

“Mom?”

“Yes, honey.”

“Do you like Robert?”

“Umm, well, yes, he’s a nice man. Yes, I like him.”

“A lot.  Like enough to marry him?”

“I… I haven’t really thought about that,” she said and bit her lip again. “Now come on, we can talk about this later. Here’s the school. Away you go! Give me a kiss. Bye bye now. Have a good day.”

“You too, Mom.”

“I will, honey,” she said taking a deep breath.

 

 

CHAPTER THREE

 

Oh, Christ, Donna’s got a bee up her ass this morning,” Jim Bardavich warned Robert. They sat on one of several vinyl couches that occupied the end of the staff room at Bartrum Middle School. Formerly used as a classroom, the high-ceilinged room was utilitarian, a spattering of orange and yellow couches, stacking tables and chairs covering the thickly lacquered wooden floor. The obligatory counter, sink, and coffee machines occupied one corner.

Over the rim of his stained mug, Robert viewed the tall, broad-shouldered redhead in the purple dress. With her ample two hundred pounds, Donna reminded Robert of a football player. She was bitching about one of the kids in her advisor class. Robert tuned her out. She was always bitching about something.

Jim grinned. “You know what she needs, Robbie, he said. “You’re the man, Robbie. You’re the man.” What she needed, according to Jim, was a quick one in the supply room to help her shake off the divorce blues. Jim, a math teacher at Bartrum, was several years Robert’s elder, balding, overweight, and Robert’s only friend. They were complete opposites in both personality and interests, but somehow had struck up a friendship over the years that extended outside of school to Robert’s favorite bar.

The rest of the staff milled about, some guarding the second coffee machine at the end of the counter, others crowding the row of tables where they would eat lunch at noon hour. It was Friday, and the noise level was louder than usual as everyone psyched themselves up for Primmer’s monthly staff meeting. Sonya and Marlene, two other teachers, drifted towards them.

“I’m telling you, they do. All of them,” insisted Sonya.

“Get out. Maybe in the movies.” Both stopped in front of Robert and Jim.

“Hey guys.  Solve a disagreement for us. Marlene doesn’t believe that all you guys have pet names for your penises.” Robert and Jim exchanged deadpan looks. “I know you guys do. So what do you call yours Robert?”

“Goliath,” he replied not missing a beat. Both broke up.

“Right,” said Sonya.

Marlene giggled. “I don’t believe it. How about you Jim?”

“Moby.”

“Moby?  What kinda name…Ha! Cute, Jim. Cute.”

The two laughed and headed for coffee.

“Well done, Jim.”

“Thank you, Robbie. Oh Christ! Here comes His Worship.”

Jim always said, ‘Oh Christ’. This time it was in reference to principal Jack Primmer who had just entered the staff room. He made a beeline for a coffee, a large file folder of papers under his arm. After pouring one, Primmer hurried to the overhead projector at the end of the staff room. His bulging stomach parted the only suit jacket in the room as he carefully arranged his papers. Waiting to be noticed, he thumbed back his glasses. When that failed, he called to the staff.

“Ladies and gentlemen, if we could get started. I’ve got quite a bit of important material that we need to cover.”

There was the usual endless list of trivia that Primmer felt compelled to talk about. The noise in the halls was getting out of hand, please be on duty, attendance was due in the office by 2:15, the new Health and Safety Procedures binder had arrived and would be placed in the staff room with a second copy in the library.

“I don’t think the man is human,” muttered Jim. “He’s a machine. A tape recorder stuck on play.”

“Darth Primmer. That’s who he is,” Robert replied.

Primmer droned on, sedating the staff. Robert wondered how many times each of the issues had come up over the last twenty years of his teaching career.

“This next item is an academic memorandum regarding promotion policies and procedures for positions of vice-principal.”

The room seemed suddenly suffocating as Robert fought back a groan and took a deep breath. All the buzz words he could barely stomach came marching out from the memorandum as Primmer read. Words like process, candidate leadership profile, entry plan, vitae and holistic scoring at the assessment center. Robert squirmed in his seat, resting his elbows on his knees as he buried his face in his hands. It was all bullshit that resulted in assholes being put in “positions of added responsibility”. Robert leaned back, his eyes darkening as he studied Primmer. You rarely saw the man. When you did, he was in his office doing statistical reports and surveys and filling out board forms. A bomb could go off in the school and Primmer wouldn’t know it.

Robert watched Julie slide into the staff room, saw how fantastic she looked, and shifted uncomfortably on the couch, the vinyl of the cushion grabbing him. She appeared flustered and glanced quickly towards Primmer before finding a seat near the door. She wore a white blouse open at the throat, and a tight brown skirt that crept up her thighs as she crossed her legs. Robert rifled another quick glance, but dodged her eyes when they flicked his way. He felt Bardavich’s elbow in his ribs.

“Christ, Julie looks good today. Love the new hair. Is that for your benefit, Robbie?  Could it be she’s getting ready to spring the trap?”

Robert scowled at Jim, but in reality he was afraid the trap had already been set. Worse, that some days he was a willing rabbit. The two others on staff, Mary-Ellen and Barbara, had been different. He had used them as they had him; wild passion for several weeks with little sense of commitment. It was the only kind of relationship he was capable of after Karen had suddenly left him. The affairs were as deep as he ever wanted to get again. And then Julie had started at the school. Robert sipped the coffee as Primmer continued, and despite his uneasiness over last night, he smiled at the memory of their first meeting.

He had been in the supply room, moving some boxes around, looking for something, and she walked in, fresh in white cotton shorts and a powder blue t-shirt. Her voice sounded surprised, yet warm and natural. She approached him straight away, with an open smile, her hand outstretched.

“My name’s Julie. Julie Simpson. And you must be the caretaker.” Her handshake was firm. “I’m pleased to meet you.”

Robert smiled back, her natural beauty momentarily silencing him. When he didn’t offer his name she continued.

“Mr. Primmer told me you might be here. I’m new to the school this year, but I guess you must have guessed that,” she said, her eyes smiling in amusement at herself. “Anyway, Mr. Primmer said to speak to you about moving the two filing cabinets and my desk from the back to the front of the room.”

Robert nodded silently, his eyes studying the tiny scar, how it curled over the full bottom lip and disappeared. He was wondering how she got it. How soft and tender that lip would be between his.

From that first time they met, he had felt the attraction, but also a disturbing undercurrent that warned him away. Unable to ignore her, within the hour he showed up at her door with a dolly and wrestled her desk and cabinets to the front of the room, all the while studying her, fascinated by her ease and friendliness. She had stood back, hands on her hips, pleased with their new arrangement.

“There! That’s better. Now I can see their faces, not the back of their heads.” She turned to him, smiled and offered her hand again. “Thank you …” and she paused again, searching for his name.

Robert kept a poker face and took her hand. “Robert. Robert Weber. I teach English in 307 on the third floor.” He watched the surprise turn to embarrassment, and finally to humor, as she caught his lopsided grin. “Gotcha,” he teased as he wheeled the dolly towards the door.

“That, Mr. Weber, was a dirty trick!”

“Welcome to Bartrum, Julie.”

***

Robert could sense that Julie kept looking at him and focused his stare at Primmer, but his thoughts refused to leave her and traveled back to last night. Julie had finished his costume and had suggested he come over for a final fitting. He had agreed, but insisted on dinner first. After dropping Andy off at her parents, she met him at the restaurant. He hadn’t been watching for it but now realized that she had been different. During the evening, she had subtly changed the rhythm of the slow seductive dance that had begun five months ago when they had first met. The prolonged looks, the propensity towards laughter, the tabletop reach and touch that happened more often than ever before.

When he had arrived at her house, she handed him his costume. “Let’s see what kind of seamstress I am,” she said, and pushed him into the dining room closing the frosted French doors.

After changing, Robert entered the living room, wearing a black sleeveless vest over a white silk shirt. A red sash hugged the waist of beige pants. Julie too had changed and stood with her back to him and he caught his breath as he felt an unfamiliar rush of fear. Orange and red ruffles, hanging precariously on the edge of her shoulders framed the slender neck and silky splay of her back. His heart doubled on a beat, his mouth suddenly dry. The feeling scared the hell out of him. When she turned to face him, she seemed unsettled, almost scared herself, but she stepped towards him with purpose.

“And how would the infamous Blackdog treat an island girl such as me?” Julie asked, her hands resting on his forearms.

He held her by the shoulders, his gray, unsmiling eyes studying her with a mixture of passion and mistrust. Robert stepped forward and forced her back, his face a mask, the warmth of their dinner talk gone. Her eyes widened as he pulled her closer. He thought he saw doubt, even fear in her face as she looked up at him. His lips gently touched hers, but quickly drew away as a tremor shook his body. Blood pounded in his temples as he fought for control. He held her at arms’ length, but she avoided his eyes.

“Is this what you want, island girl?” he asked, his voice a harsh whisper.

Her hands trembled as she touched his chest. “Yes,” she whispered, her eyes meeting his. He drew her mouth to his and all control left him as he felt the urgency in her lips and tongue. He tugged the ruffled top of the dress from her shoulders to her arms. The cleavage of her breasts drew his eyes.

“Where?” His voice was hoarse. She motioned with her head towards the stairs as he picked her up. Julie’s hands went to his head and she pulled his mouth down harder on hers.  The hardwood floor squealed as he carried her across the room and up the stairs.

He remembered lying together, after, the perspiration slowly drying on them as they talked for two hours about everything. He had always been reluctant to speak about his past, but last night had been different. Their lovemaking had felt different and disarmed his defenses.

“Where are you from, Robert?”

“What’d you mean? Where was I born?”

“Yeah. Born, raised.” She had smiled up at him. “It’s really not a tough question.”

“Don’t be a smartass.” Still, he paused for a moment before continuing. “St. Jacob’s area. I was a Mennonite.”

“Get out! You?” She twisted around under his arm to study his face.

“Not a very good one. Guess that’s why I’m here, not there anymore.”

“What happened? How old were you when you left? You did leave didn’t you? They didn’t kick you out or something?”

He reached out and pinched her nose. “No, they didn’t kick me out. I didn’t fit. Everything was so, so calm. So damn calm. Everything had to always be done a certain way. It was suffocating.”

“Do you still see people from there? What about your parents? They must miss you. Do you see them?”

He hadn’t talked about it much, but he told her how he had dinner with his mother once a month in the town. Julie had told him she was sorry for the loss of his relationship with an Old World German father who was perhaps too demanding. He told her about the other two women on staff, and about Karen.

He had asked questions about her and Andy. Questions about her husband, Ken and how he had died. He heard her throat tighten when she spoke of Andy and of how hard it had been for him. Robert had drawn her into his arms and rocked her gently, kissing the top of her head.

Now, sitting here, across from her, he was worried that he wouldn’t be able to extract himself. Worried, as he remembered her flushed face after their lovemaking. The tiny scar on her lip. Her rounded white bottom as she lay on her stomach talking.

“Robbie, she keeps looking at you,” said Jim. “How come? Oh, Christ! Did something happen last night that you should tell me about?”

“Bugger off.”

“What’s a matter. Somebody piss in your cornflakes this morning?”

“I don’t eat cornflakes. Now shut up.”

“Oh Christ, it did! Something did happen. Ha! I think the ante just went up, and I think I’m going to enjoy the rest of the school year! But you, Robbie! I think you’re going to be one very tired puppy come the end of June. And it won’t be from the school musical.”

“Shut the hell up, will you. This is a staff meeting.”

“Aye, aye, Blackdog!”

***

As David drove to work his tension and unease slowly subsided. Many people, he reasoned, look like someone else. After all these years it wasn’t strange that he should see someone who looked like her. He shuddered and shook his head. It was still pretty fuckin’ creepy. He laughed. “Dead woman walking here!”

At a stoplight, the bells of the church on the corner began pealing, drawing his attention to the chiseled stone and stained glass. His eyes traced the ringing sounds upwards to the steeple, caught in the morning sun. A vision came to him; flames licking hungrily at pews as people shoved and pushed, fighting their way to the aisles; stained glass aglow, back-lit by fire as it raced up the steeple, bursting out, forming a gigantic torch for all to see. It would require time and planning to get it right. On a Sunday, when it was packed.

Looking. Always looking. Cruising the streets. He needed something big. Earlier he had considered torching his workplace. Ontario Used Tires was filled from floor to ceiling with tires. It would be so easy. And tires burn forever, harder than hell to put out. He was actually pretty tired of working in the place anyway. Now that he thought about it, it seemed perfect. Easy to set, couple months of employment insurance, and maybe days to watch them try to put it out. David bounced in the car seat as he felt the excitement. It felt right.

 

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