The Road To Hell - An Avery Story
“Remember that all through history, there have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they seem invincible. But in the end, they always fall. Always”. Gandhi’s sagacious words would have met with agreement even in Avery, though for reasons at variance with their speaker’s intended meaning.
Evil episodes staining the pages of humanity’s history would eventually cease, just as the cold darkness of night must always surrender its stolen territory to the warm light of the sun. Tyrants and murderers, metaphorical monsters of the night, all inevitably banished by benevolent sunshine restoring both hope and peace.
Things worked a little differently in Avery. There, tyrants and murderers were more like the Lernaean Hydra’s head…cut one down, and two more would spring up in its place. Avery’s denizens knew that the man doing the shooting one day, would always become the man being shot on another. There would be no life affirming cessation of the cycle of abuse and death. There would be no triumph over oppressive evil, but whilst a man was pulling the trigger, pumping lead into an adversary’s body, he’d feel damn good, and just as invincibly lethal as his smoking gun.
Jasper too had known the feeling. He’d given Clarke no scent to follow, dispatching Mitch Deaton with scrupulous care, leaving no evidence bobbing in the viscous pool of fresh blood pumping out of his victim’s ruptured aorta. He had savoured the grisly kill almost as much as the knowledge that Clarke had nothing on him. This would look like an accident and arouse few suspicions, least of all any with Jasper’s name on them. His carefully contrived liberty had left him free to balance the final account circled in his black pocketbook.
Dispatching Bella Dixby, otherwise known as ‘Fat B’ had not required Jasper’s final piece of fiscal finessing to be dressed up to appear to be something it was not. Jasper had simply knocked her cold, fastened the ratchet strap around her ankles and then attached one end of his towing rope to Fat B’s unconscious body and the other end to his truck’s rear towing eyelet. He’d emptied the ice water over her head and waited for her own eyes to do their day job.
Standing over her writhing, panic-wild form, he told her he was going to give her a free ride to Hell. Her words were soon drowned out by the truck’s throttle and he set off slowly towards Coyote Rocks, the road littered with the sticks and stones he knew would break her bones.
Once on the gravel track to the base of the outcrop, he’d picked up speed and had seen the crimson tail behind his truck grow, staining the arid ground with glistening chunks of Fat B’s shredded flesh and bright red blood. Jasper had used a lot of red ink on her account in his black book, and figured she owed him a refill as well as the unpaid balance for work done.
Cutting his passenger free, he left her mangled corpse for the coyotes. He did not bother unfastening the ratchet strap. He’d have no need for it where he was going, and the coyotes were not the only ones being thrown a bone. Time he gave Clarke a little job satisfaction, his own now spent.
Jasper had done navigating his way along murder alley. He might have lost his way more than a decade ago, but recently he’d had no problems finding his path. The always false needle of his perverted moral compass had never detected anything other than magnetic retribution. Jasper had followed that needle like a drooling coyote follows its prey. When he set off on those trips, he’d already unknowingly agreed with Confucius: “Before you embark upon a journey of revenge, dig two graves’”. Without a purpose, there was no need to keep Clarke in the dark, and every reason for Jasper to welcome it.
The Latin proverb, “Revenge is a confession of pain”, motivated Jasper to look for some painkiller. Clarke might not look like a bottle of medicinal pills, but he sure as Hell would give Jasper the relief he now craved. If Jasper gave Clarke reason to shoot, he knew he’d be put down like a rabid dog. No longer wanting to endure Avery’s cruel sun, he’d be only too happy to spend the rest of eternity where its unforgiving rays could never find him.
Had Jasper been a more literate guy he’d have found himself agreeing with Anne Lamott, “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die”. Walt Whitman’s words would have resonated with Jasper: “God is a mean-spirited, pugnacious bully bent on revenge against His children for failing to live up to his impossible standards”. Ultimately, Jasper had murdered his way to something approaching peace, though he knew it came with a price…self-destruction.
Clarke’s chevy transformed itself from a dust splattered spec in the distance, into the all too recognisable chariot of Jasper’s nemesis. Clarke covered the scrub between him and Jasper’s veranda in long, measured strides, his hand on the Colt’s handle as it slept in his holster like a viper basking in the blazing afternoon sun. He was weary of bony old Jasper and knew his frail frame contained a monster almost as vicious as that dwelling within his own hide. He’d probably come quietly, but Clarke knew better than to turn your back on a black bear and assume the distance between you and it was enough.
“Howdy Sherriff. Been expecting a visit from you. Reckon Fat B did a bit of talking, but not much breathing. Wondered how long it would take you to find what was left of her big ass. You made any other discoveries you think might interest me?”. Jasper remained seated and his hands where Clarke could see them, his right resting on the butt of his ancient, unloaded Remington.
“Avery sure has been an unlucky place for some of your customers”. Clarke let the words dangle like fish bait and his blue eyes focussed themselves on the end of his line. He wiped a bead of sweat off his forehead with his left hand, the right was ready to wake the sleeping viper in his holster. “You gotta pay your dues Jasper and you’ve just taken credit for Fat B. Even if you don’t tell me ‘bout the others, you are gunna die in a cell. Much as I like you, even see you as one of Avery’s less fucked-up shitheads, my badge ain’t sentimental and my gun worships that damn thing like a fucking holy man does his bible”.
Jasper smiled, his leathery skin like the partially shed casing of a snake clinging to that which had once filled it. “Sherriff I’m not moving from this spot. If I’ve got to send you back to Hell to get some peace around here, that’s just fine with me”. Jasper knew how this conversation would end and had counted on Clarke responding like the psychotic bastard his badge unjustly legitimised.
No cell for Jasper, he wanted a grave, and Clarke to be the man who dug it. Unable to put a bullet in his own head, he needed someone with more enthusiasm for the task. Avery’s final sick joke; the only life he would not take was his own.
Jasper did not wait for a reply and fluidly drew his gun from its holster. He’d got no further than just about clearing the barrel from its snug case, when the first of two rounds punched their way through his bony chest, a third sending his limp body to the ground with a thud. His dead lips kissed Avery’s dry dirt for the first, and last, time in his life. It had shown him nothing but contempt, and now was a fitting moment to return the hell-baked affection.