by Grasshopper

Chapter 14


The Reverend Karl Straihan of the Church of Redemptive Suffering was creating his sermon for Sunday. He didn't sit at a desk like most people would do. He didn't use a word processor or even write it in longhand. He paced back and forth in the barn hay loft, speaking in a loud ranting voice.

Actually, what came out of his mouth tomorrow might not be at all what he created today. The Reverend Straihan's mind had finally overcome what little conscience he had. He spoke in an odd tongue, English running in ribbons throughout. "The sins of our fathers are back to haunt us. They tear us limb from limb as we try to fight, we twen asly firncdel aslwy the fear of dark father who rimmel scanfare as we choke and catch our souls from below. Those who falter, those who lonkwx displam and defy his words will die." His eyes, bloodshot from the poison he shot into his veins, were glazed and caked with crust.

He knew not so much what went on around him in this life as what he saw in his drug hazed dreams. Confusion ruled his mind and punishment for sin had eaten away any faith or understanding that remained. What he saw as a sin, he punished. There was little time left before his life would be overruled by the 'angel' he pumped into his arm.

Exhausted from his raving, Father sat down on bale in the loft, his rusty black suit picking up the dust from the hay. Breathing heavily, he rested.

Awakened by voices below him in the barn and hearing the anger in the woman's voice, Father leaned over toward the railing to listen:

"Get in here and shut the door. I have to talk to you before I go crazy."

'Ah, the Hewett girl', Father thought to himself. 'She has a nasty secret'.

"What's so fuckin' important, I had to come out here to this godforsaken place?"

Father's eyes widened, 'My oldest son? Why is he here?'

"You know that night at the Blue Moon? The night you got me drunk? The night you forced me to have sex with you?"

'Sinners!', father's mind screamed at them.

"You were primed and ready for everything you did that night," Karl Jr. grinned. "Don't be pushin' it off on me just cause you got an itch, little girl."

'Whore ... Harlot,' Father smacked his lips.

"Oh, shut up! I don't want to be here any more than you do, Karl Straihan."

"Then say your piece. I got stuff to do." He slouched against two stacked bales of hay and lit a cigarette.

Father stretched to hear the voice that had fallen to a whisper. "I'm pregnant."

"And that concerns me how exactly?"

'The little whore is with child', Father rolled his eyes. 'She must be punished'.

"It's yours," Callie whined, using her best 'pitiful' voice.

"Ha! Man, you must be hard up to come beggin' to me about a kid."

"Will you help me?"

"Sure, Sugar Buns, we'll get married, buy a little house with a picket fence and have lots of little Straihans." His laughter was cruel, echoing in the old barn.

"Oh, Shut Up!!" I wouldn't marry you if.... if .....,"

"No one's askin', Sweetheart. It's your problem. You take care of it. Say, go tell my baby bro ..... if you can get him off that fag brother of yours, that is."

"What am I supposed to do?" Callie whispered.

Karl Jr. ground the cigarette out on the heel of his boot and flipped the butt into the horse's water trough. "Get rid of it. Bye, Kid," he called over his shoulder as the barn doors slammed shut.

Father's eyes narrowed as it sunk in. His son, his namesake, the first child of his loins, lay with a whore and now she was begging for help. He would have to be punished severely for this. Oh yes, beaten until he bled.

Callie stood still, her fists balled at her sides. She'd always gotten her way in everything, but life was starting to pay her back. Her mind flew from one plan to another. What to do? What to do? She hadn't wanted anything from Karl Jr. except money to pay for an abortion and she wasn't even going to get that. Stupid fuck! She stomped out the doors, slamming them behind her. Her next move was to "confide" in Wesley. She knew about the "Penny Money" jars and maybe she could get Wes to give her their money without telling Cole. He owed her !!

Father realized they had both left the barn. He slid off the hay bale and climbed stiffly down the ladder. "Oh yes, beaten until he bleeds," he muttered as he walked toward the house.

Wes leaned against the split rail fence staring at the Harrelson's place. Cole had just ridden off and he wasn't ready to go home yet. He watched as Callie came walking across the pasture. "What are you doing way out here?" he asked.

Callie thought fast. She hadn't had time to plan this next move. "I needed some time to myself, Wesley. I have big problems."

Wes smiled, "Like what dress to wear or who will take you to the dance?"

"I'm not always silly, Wesley. I have serious problems." Wes heard a different tone in her voice.

"Can I help? What's wrong, Cal?" he met her at the fence and looped his arm around her shoulders.

"I have to tell someone before I go crazy," she sighed, keeping her eyes toward the ground.

"Callie, why don't you talk to Cole? He's the better one to help you."

"I can't talk to Coley. He'd kill me."

"It can't be that bad, Cal.

"It is, Wes. It really is. I don't want to tell you either, but I kinda figured you'd want to help me when you know."

"Know what, Callie?" Wes was getting a really bad feeling in the pit of his stomach.

She turned her face into his chest and whispered, "I'm pregnant."

"What?" Wes cried out. "Pregnant? How? Who?"

"You're gonna hate me when you hear."

"No, Callie, No. I'd never hate you."

"Will you help me?"

"Of course I will, but you should tell the baby's father so he can help."

"Oh, believe me," Callie began to cry, forcing the tears to flow, an ugly sound ripping out of her throat, "He won't help."

"Tell me," Wes growled, "I'll make the son of a bitch help you."

Callie, knowing that she should play this for all it was worth to get Wes' sympathy .... and the money. She cut her eyes up at Wes' angry face and said softly, "You can't, Wes. It's your brother's baby."

Wes stumbled backwards, his brain unable to get past what callie had just said. "What? Karl? You're gonna have Karl's baby? How? I didn't know you even spoke to him. What the fuck, Callie?"

She sighed and covered her face with her hands. "I went to the Blue Moon with some friends, just for a good time and just to see what it was like inside. He.... he was there, Wes, and he kept bothering me. I told him to stop, but he was drunk. When I went to the ladie's room, he grabbed me and forced me out the back door into the alley. He .... he hurt me, Wesley," she sobbed. "He raped me!"

"Fuck! What the fuck were you thinking? Are you sure? Karl? Callie, you could have been killed. That son of a bitch raped you? He's gonna pay! He's going back to prison, this time for good. I'm going to the sheriff right now!"

"No!" Callie panicked. "No, Wes. My mother, my dad, Cole .... think of them.

What this would do to them." She was actually thinking of the witnesses at the Blue Moon who knew it wasn't rape at all.

"I don't understand why you don't tell Cole. Are you telling me I can't say anything to him? You know we don't have any secrets."

'But you sure kept huge secrets from me, didn't you?' Callie thought hatefully to herself. She sniffled, "Wes, you just can't tell him. He'll do something stupid."

"And I won't?"

"Karl's your brother. You won't. I know you."

Wes sighed, "What will you do ..... about the baby?"

"I don't know. Get rid of it, I guess. I don't know. That's a sin and I'll go to Hell, but I don't know what else to do." She grabbed hold of Wes and held on until he softened and hugged her back.

"I'll keep your secret for now, but Callie, Cole will find out in time and he'll be so hurt, so angry, that you didn't tell him."

"Promise me you won't tell him. Promise me, Wes."

He looked far beyond her, out toward the bluffs. Grudgingly, he mumbled, "I promise ..... for now. Don't do anything stupid without talking to me, you hear me, Callie."


Wes slammed in the front door and went looking for Mercy. He found her sitting on her bed looking through her mother's things, the quilt spread over her crippled leg, the cheap jewelry laid out carefully. He glanced at the little row of fake jewels, a tiny piece of the very back of his memory recognizing a little silver star; but it slipped away before he could catch the thought. "You are not gonna believe what Callie just told me!" he ranted. "Son of a bitch!"

"Slow down, Wesley. What's wrong?"

Wes took a deep breath, "Callie made me promise not to tell Cole, but you need to hear this. Damn his eyes!"

"Wesley ... What?"

"Callie's pregnant."

Mercy's thoughts flew immediately to Craig. Oh Lord, No! She couldn't bear the thought of Callie having Craig. "Slowly, she asked, "And the father?"

"This is what you're not gonna believe! Karl Jr. !!! Callie says that Karl Jr. raped her."

Mercy's mouth dropped open and she began making an odd almost keening sound. Wes sat down on the bed and took his sister in his arms. "Oh Mercy!

Our family is like a plague. What will we do to fix this? Cole will hate me now. His parents will hate us all."

"Cole wouldn't think like that, Wesley. You couldn't help what Karl Jr. did. They know that." A small part of Mercy's heart was beating happily. It wasn't Craig! It wasn't Craig! "How could this have happened? They don't run in the same circles. Did he just snatch her off the street one night or something?" Neither of them noticed that they didn't doubt for a second that Karl Jr. could do such a thing.

"Man, when this hits the fan, the name Straihan won't be worth shit in McLaren. It's time we were leaving, but I have to help Callie."

"What will she do? Getting any help from him is out of the question. Can you imagine having to shotgun marry our brother?" They both rolled their eyes.

"Father will have apoplexy."

"What should I suggest she do?"

"An abortion? That would be the easiest thing," Mercy sighed. "I don't suppose the world would accept another Straihan even though it would be the last one."

"Well, don't I count?" Wes frowned.

"I don't see how, if you're going to be with Cole the rest of your life," Mercy said softly.


"Well, duh, baby brother. I may be crippled, but I'm neither blind nor stupid." She hugged him tightly. "I'm just happy for you."

Wes blushed. "I guess we weren't as sneaky as we thought we were."

"Well, I'm a watcher," she smiled, "And there was no mistaking the look in your eyes."

"I'll talk to Callie later this afternoon, and maybe we can come up with a plan. Are you working tonight?"

"Yes," Mercy nodded her head, "I have the Saturday evening shift. Can you stop by for me a little early tonight?"

"Sure, why?"

"I'm just kind of tired and my leg's been bothering me." She didn't want to tell Wes that Craig had been asking her for that walk again and she was about ready to give in. Craig was always there at closing time and if Wes came early, she could avoid it one more night. Karl Jr. ruined everything he touched, but she wasn't going to let him touch Craig.

"One day, Mercy, we'll get that leg fixed. You know I promised you that."

"I know and I love you for that promise. You going to see Cole tonight?"

"Nah," Wes muttered, "I have to get used to not seeing.......," his voice broke.

"Wes, we'll come back. You'll be with Cole the rest of your life."

"I kinda think he's movin' on, Mercy. He has a date with Lily Campbell tonight."

"But ........."

"He said it's no big deal; just somethin' he's gotta do." Wes felt like screaming, but it was all for the best.


Cole stood in front of his bathroom mirror cursing Lily Campbell and her hateful 'friend'. He hated being at her beck and call and he hated not seeing Wes tonight. He hadn't taken a shower after working hard all day riding fence. He didn't put on any deodorant and he wore a faded shirt and ripped jeans. He didn't even brush his teeth. He hoped he reeked. Maybe he could find a nice fresh pile of cow shit to step in. This would almost be funny if it wasn't so treacherous. Damn and blast!

Mercy slipped into her fresh crisp white apron and laughed at the joke Mr. Leoni was telling MaryAnna, the other counter clerk. She liked this job because it had no hassles and customers didn't notice her bad leg and her pretty much useless arm very much. The hours would fly by til Wes was here to pick her up. She just wanted a look at Craig before she had to leave. Maybe one day .......................

Father rocked rapidly in the rocker on the front porch. He muttered to himself as he moved back and forth, "I knew one day, I knew it. I knew they'd cause me sorrow. Bad seed produces bad seed. All of them. No one here to tend to their father. I must be obeyed. I must be obeyed." His eyes held the glint of madness and his body the drug of insanity. All those years of searching, reaching for an evil god that would never love him had slowly eaten away his soul. The Reverend Karl Arthur Straihan of the Church of the Redemptive Suffering knew what he must do.

Wes had tried one more time to reason with Callie. He talked and yelled, but, but was as if she had just lost her mind. "We could keep this baby, you and I, Wes. We could get married and it would be like it was ours. No one would know. Mom and Dad and Cole, they'd just think we had been stupid."

"Callie, don't be a goose. That's not an option."

She burst out in great gasping sobs, "You don't love me!"

'Jesus, save me,' Wes muttered under his breath. "Of course I love you, Callie, but not like that. You'll find somebody that you love and want to marry one day."

"That's you, Wesley."

"Shhh, no it's not. You go lie down and get some rest. I'll talk with you again tomorrow, okay?" He watched as she rode off on Firefly and turned to walk up to the cave to think.

Callie rode back toward her house, her mind cartwheeling. "I hate them all. Nothing is making sense. What's the easiest way out of this mess? I just want to go to college and have fun. This isn't fun."

"Hey, Terry, hand me that wrench on the work table, will ya?" Karl Jr. yelled from under the tractor. He was draining the hydraulic fluid, looking for leaks, from Mr. Carson's old John Deere and settling in for a long night of greasy work. He had pulled a dirty denim jumpsuit over his clothes and snugged a black wool watch cap on to keep his shaved head warm. The garage was filled with loud raucous music from the old AM/FM radio oldie goldie's station and his life was pretty smooth at the moment.

Singing along with Jim Morrison:
"Come on, baby, light my fire; try to set the night on FI--RRRREEE!!" He screeched out the lyric and immediately wanted to get in somebody's pants tonight. Callie Hewett's face popped into his mind. Maybe tonight she'd light his fire and he wouldn't have to drug her. Yeah!!

He had backed the tractor up wooden ramps to set the two back tires on cement blocks. To drain the hydaulic fluid, Karl Jr. had to set off the front end loader over by the wall first. Mr. Carson wanted the hay bale spear put back on in its place. The spear was a five foot long heavy duty steel spike, sharp pointed to pierce a two ton hay bale, lift it in the air and carry it to the pasture for the cows.

"I'm cuttin' out early," Terry shouted over the music, "Catch ya later at the Blue Moon. I'll be the drunk at the end of the bar."

Karl Jr. was cleaning the air filter at the work bench when he heard the garage door bang open. "We're closed," he called out loudly.

"Look at your father when you speak."

Karl Jr. sighed and continued to wipe down the filter. "Shut up, old man. Get outta here. I don't have to listen to your shit anymore."

"I know what you did. You have to pay for your sins."

Karl reached up and turned the radio down, then finally turned around. "And which particular sin would that be, you crazy old coot?"

"I heard what you did. Voices in the barn. You had sex with a whore. You must be punished."

"You into your drugs again? Hearin' voices in the barn. Get outta here! I may not be worth crap, but you made me this way. You're the one that needs punishin'."

Father unbuckled his belt and pulled it loose. "It's time." He started walking toward Karl and suddenly, Karl began to laugh. "You think I'm afraid of you, old man? Maybe when I was five, but not now. I could you kill with one hand tied behind my back and my eyes closed."

Father lashed out with the old worn belt and Karl caught the leather with his outstretched hand. Pulling it roughly, he pulled Father up to him winding the belt around Father's throat. Looking down into the drugged eyes, Karl shook his head. It wasn't worth it. "What did you do with my mother?" he asked almost softly, "Tell me and I won't hurt you."

"Kat? The Kat ran away. Never was house broken. Can't blame me," he began to babble. "god told me what to do. The mountains ..... look in the mountains."

His bloodshot eyes became crafty. "Want to see her?"

'He's just spinnin' shit', Karl thought disgustedly. As he pushed Father away from him toward the door. "Get out! I've got work to do. Don't bother me with all this crap." He turned back to the worktable.

"You have to be punished. You must obey me," Father mumbled as he went toward the door. "This is not finished."

Karl sighed. His father was a raving nutbar. What the fuck had he wanted? Oh, yeah, voices in the barn and me paying for my sins. He laughed and shouted, "There ain't enough money in all of McLaren for that."

Filter replaced, he was just rolling under the tractor lying on the dolly when he heard the door slam shut. "We're closed!" he yelled again. Damn, if this isn't the busiest place in town tonight.

"Karl, come out from under there. We need to talk."

Karl used his heels to roll himself out and grinned up at his visitor. "Well, to what do I owe this pleasure, baby brother? You slummin'?"

Wes had thought long and hard and couldn't justify his brother raping Callie. He'd always known Karl was mean and ruthless, but this was bad, even for him. "What happened between you and Callie Hewett?"

"Well, and how do you know anything did happen, little bro?"

"Callie told me about it. She says you raped her in the alley out behind Blue Moon. Tell me the truth."

"Well, you've already made up your mind, so why should I bother?" He started to roll back under the tractor. Wes stuck his foot out and stopped the dolly. "Come out here and talk to me, damn you."

"Oh hey, so my little brother has finally found his balls. I figured ole' Cole Hewett had you by em all these years."

Wes frowned, ' Who didn't know'? Facing his older brother, Wes rocked back and forth. "You and Callie ... what's the story? I oughta beat the livin' daylight outa you."

"Go on, if you think you can, baby brother. She wanted it and I supplied it. That's all she wrote. If you wanna think I raped your little innocent angel girl, you can. I don't give a shit what you think of me."

"Like Mercy asked for it?" Wes growled.

"She's not good for much else. I figured she'd be happy to have it."

"You son of a bitch," Wes yelled, his fist connecting with Karl's jaw. Jumping on his brother, Wes knocked them both to the floor where they both delivered hard, sharp blows. Blood pumping from Karl's nose and running down Wes' face, Karl's fingers caught on the bracelet Cole had given Wes. The string broke and the beads flew over the floor.

They fought, seeming to be taking out an awful lot of old grudges and memories. Wes wanted to make Karl pay for the times he'd hurt Mercy, the times he'd terrorized them both, for hurting Callie. Karl wasn't really hitting his little brother; he was hitting all the hurt and pain of growing up under the belt of Father, of not knowing why his mother had left him. Finally, they fell apart and lay panting on their backs on the dirty floor.

"Think what you want about me," Karl growled, "You always have. I don't give a shit. Take this on home now. Get outta here. You belong to the Hewetts. You deal with it."

"Have you always hated us?" Wes asked, his voice breaking.

'Hate you?' Karl shook his head as he thought the words. 'You'll never understand, little brother.'

"And Mother? Do you know what happened?" Wes asked, slowly standing, every muscle in his body screaming out, blood staining his torn shirt and spotting his jacket.

"We'll talk about that one day. I think I may know where she is, but right now I've got to get old man Carson's tractor fixed up."

Wes walked slowly toward the door. Karl was his brother, like it or not. The only brother he'd ever have. If things had just been different. If Mother had not left them. If Karl had just been loved. Damn, Wes didn't want to feel sorry for him. Not now,

The door closed behind him and Karl stood quietly for a minute or two. One day, he would tell Wes what he knew about Father and Mother and that night.

About ten minutes after Wes left, Karl had finished checking the hydraulic fluid, had slipped the heavy spear into the holder sleeve and inserted the crossbolt. It was on tight. Climbing up on the tractor, he sat in the seat, turned the key and set the tractor running in neutral. Listening for skips in the engine, he climbed off and turned toward the workbench to turn the music back up:

"I see a bad moon arisin'
I see trouble on the way.
I see earthquakes and lightnin'
I see bad times today."

"Oh yeah, Fogarty, sing that song!!" he bellowed out loudly.

"Don't go 'round tonight
It's bound to take your life,
There's a bad moon on the rise."

The music blasting, the tractor engine running, he never noticed when the door slid open and the figure, wearing sneakers and gloves, slipped in, hiding in the shadows of the partially darkened garage. Watching him, singing and smiling, like he didn't have a care in the world, the shadow figure slid up onto the tractor seat, stared at Karl Straihan for a few seconds, eyes narrowed and full of hate. "You'll never hurt anyone again!" The figure shoved in the clutch, stomping it to the floor, gripped the gear shift and threw it into 4th gear – high range while the music blared:

"I hear hurricanes ablowing,
I know the end is coming soon.
I fear rivers overflowing,
I hear the voice of rage and ruin."

All in the space of three heartbeats, the tractor lurched off the blocks and began its deadly roll down the ramps. A voice screamed his name ... "KARL!!"

Wanted, needed him to see the face who hated him. Karl turned at the sound of his name, seeing the sharp hay spear aiming straight for him, but he just didn't have time to move out of its way. "Oh Dear Jesus!" he yelled, in that tiny space of time between life and death. The spear pierced his right side, rammed through his chest and pinned him to the wall. Karl could do nothing but stare wild-eyed into the face of his murderer. The tractor kept on moving and, as his body slid up the spear toward the tractor, Karl felt himself pinned between the cement wall and the still running engine. Eyes clouding over, he stared up into unrepentant hatefilled eyes. Acceptance came to him and he understood. The shadowy figure looked one last time and then slipped off into the dark of night.

"Hope you got your things together,
Hope you're quite prepared to die."
Looks like we're in for nasty weather,
One eye taken for an eye."

Cole was worrying about Wes. This afternoon, he had been quiet, too quiet and Cole knew that always meant trouble. As he sat beside Lily in the dark movie theater, he couldn't concentrate on the film dancing across the screen. "I'm going to go get popcorn," he muttered and headed for the lobby.

Standing by the front window, he could see lights still blazing over at Terry Collom's garage. Then, he saw Wes' camaro drive up and Wes walk into the garage. What was Wes doing with his brother? This was nothing good.

He sat in his seat as long as he could, then he leaned over and whispered, "I've gotta go. Get a ride home with someone," and he left Lily fuming.

Bursting through the double glass doors, he pulled on his jacket and headed toward the garage. Wes' car was gone, but he could hear loud music blaring.

Opening the door, he stepped into the garage. He heard the tractor running over the sounds of Mick Jagger and Jumpin' Jack Flash. Walking toward the tractor, he called out, "Karl, you in here? Terry?"

Coming around the back of an old Jeep, he saw Karl. He saw Karl pinned to the wall, his chest punctured by the spike of the hay baler spear. "Dear God!" he whispered. Running to Karl, he could see that Karl was almost gone, blood running from his mouth. "Karl, Karl, hang on. Let me call." He dug out his cell and punched in 911. "Yes, emergency ... accident at Terry Collom's garage. Hurry!!"

"What happened? Hang on, Karl, hang on!" Cole was afraid to touch him, afraid he'd make it worse, if such a thing were possible. Karl tried to speak as the blood bubbled from his lips.

"Wes .... Killed .... Tell ... Wes" and he let that last breath out and was gone. His body slumped, putting all his weight on the spear, but Karl Straihan wouldn't care. He was past caring.

"What?" Cole said frantically, wanting to shake Karl's body. "What? Wes ... Killed .... Tell ..... Wes???" Was he saying that Wes .....................? No Way! No way am I gonna repeat that,' he muttered. "There's no way.........."

He knew Wes had been here. Cole looked at Karl more carefully and saw the marks of a pretty bad fight. Why would Wes and Karl have been fighting?

He moved over to the work table and started to turn off the radio, but remembered what CSI always said, 'Don't touch anything!' But, if, somehow, Wes ............ Oh, God!

Moving away from the table, Cole stepped on something. Looking down, he saw a bead. Already knowing, he picked it up and held it in the palm of his hand. A hematite bead ... the one that stands for love; and there was another, the amethyst ... the one for protection. He tried frantically to remember how many beads were on the bracelet he'd given Wes. His mind wasn't working right. He could hear the siren coming ... think, damn it!

There had been one each of all the different kinds, how many kinds? But then there were ummm ummm, four hematites. That's right cause they were for love. Shut up! And find them all...quick. Cole gathered the beads up and had twelve in his pocket. One more. One more. Where was it? The sheriff can't find it. I know Wes didn't do this. It was an accident.

Just as the paramedics rushed in the door with their equipment and the sheriff followed with three deputies, Cole saw the last bead. It had rolled over toward the door and was lodged right up against an oil drum. Oh, dear lord! He had to get it.

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