Stained Concrete

📅 Published on August 29, 2021

“Stained Concrete”

Written by Ashley Fontainne
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

ESTIMATED READING TIME — 25 minutes

Rating: 9.00/10. From 2 votes.
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CHAPTER 1
Almost Free

Tucker Correctional Unit – Pine Bluff, Arkansas
August 15, 1995
3:55 a.m. CDT

Dan Kincaid stifled a deep sigh, concerned any noise would roust his slumbering cellmates. His entire body ached from the vicious brawl hours before. He lacked the strength to withstand another, so keeping quiet was a must.

Rather than think about the beating, he sought out images of his wedding day. They filtered through his mind in sporadic jerks. Closing his eyes, he wished for sleep yet was too keyed-up, sore, and wary to drift off to la-la land.

This year would have been what—our twelfth anniversary? Damn, I’ve lost so much inside these walls, including the concept of time. I can’t seem to remember anything of importance any longer. Stop stressing. In less than four hours, I’ll be a free man. No more foul food, sexually deviant cellmates, or mistreatment by the gorillas masquerading as guards. No more confinement like a mangy dog at the pound. Almost free.

Cara’s face the day they married swam behind his eyes. Bland, boring features plastered with a huge goofy grin. A thick waist and chunky thighs hidden by an enormous spray of red and white lilies. The ceremony and reception had been a typical 80s wedding—an opulent, over-the-top-extravaganza, full of flowing drinks, succulent food, and dancing until the wee hours of the morning, all funded courtesy of her well-to-do parents.

No expense had been spared for the only child of Roger and Anita Crow—which is exactly why Dan asked for Cara’s hand in marriage after the stick turned blue. He knew the second they met she was the golden ticket to financial freedom.

The image shifted, replaced by the one of her destroyed, bloodied face, matted blonde hair, and unmoving body splayed out on the floor of their garage less than two years later.

That was the night his life was supposed to begin after hers ended.

Anger sparked to life. Clenching his fists in the darkness, he checked himself. Now was not the time nor place to unleash years of pent-up rage.

The sweet release of raw fury would come later.

Reliving the memories was painful yet certainly better than staring at the gray, stained concrete or the ever-present bugs fond of skittering across the floors and walls in search of a snack.

Shifting his body on the uncomfortable mattress, mindful of the injuries to his face, his thoughts roamed back to the sweltering summer evening of 1985. A dark, sinister grin graced his swollen lips.

I’m coming for what’s mine. Dad always said a real man finishes what he starts, and I am my father’s son.

CHAPTER 2
A New Beginning

Outskirts of Perla, Arkansas
August 15, 1995
10:55 a.m. CDT

When Dan’s feet touched the ground outside the security gates for the first time over 3,650 days, euphoria flooded throughout his chest. Upon sliding into the cool interior of Theodore “Theo” Montgomery’s fancy-pants BMW, inhaling the luxurious scent of expensive leather and cologne, a wave of giddiness made him smile. The unfamiliar emotions switched over to irritation while staring out the window as he listened to his attorney prattle on about rules, responsibilities, and meetings with a parole officer.

When they stopped at the DMV in Malvern to renew Dan’s driver’s license, an overwhelming sense of panic hit him.

Hard.

Would he be forced to explain in front of all the staff and impatient customers why his license expired or the bruises and cuts on his face? What if someone recognized him? Pointed fingers while running away in fear? How would he handle someone hurling accusations about the dastardly crime he committed in 1985? What if he snapped and did something stupid to send him back to the hell known as Tucker?

The gut-burning angst turned out to be a waste of time.

The DMV had no customers. None of the staffers looked familiar. The woman behind the counter didn’t appear fazed in the least by the request for a new license, nor bat an eye while taking his picture or ask about the injuries.

For the past twenty minutes, they’d ridden in silence. Unfamiliar scenery whizzed by in a blur. Dan didn’t recognize his old stomping grounds. Back in 1985, Malvern was a blip on the map; a population of less than five thousand. Now, new buildings, wider streets, heavier traffic, vast suburban sprawl, and an updated sign noting the population at twenty-five thousand, made him feel like a lone traveler reawakening in a foreign land.

Rambling thoughts buzzed around inside his head. How would he find a job, afford a vehicle to get to and fro, or adapt back into society? Trapped in a loop of worry, he swallowed hard, glancing over at Theo. The loyal attorney had been the one and only constant presence in his life for the past six years after Dan’s previous lawyer died. They’d known each other since childhood yet weren’t friends.

He knew the legal-beagle’s mannerisms and sensed something was on his mind he didn’t know how to broach.

The car slowed.

Theo turned onto a road Dan did recognize—Ridgeview Circle.

His stomach flip-flopped. Burning gastric juices jolted up his esophagus. The last time he’d been down the bumpy pavement he’d been in handcuffs and stuffed into the backseat of a county cruiser.

Honed instincts from years behind bars lit up, flushing his system with a rush of adrenaline. The fight or flight response went into overdrive. He sensed a trap. Theo wasn’t a large man—maybe 150 pounds soaking wet and barely 5’7”. Soft, dainty hands of a man accustomed to using his brain and not brawn. Dan could overpower him easily. The ability to sense danger kept Dan’s 5’10” frame mostly free from injury during his decade-long stint inside Tucker.

Mostly.

Fighting the urge to shudder as a barrage of unwanted, ingrained memories of all the times he suffered injuries both at Tucker by bigger, meaner, nastier inmates, and the ones inflicted upon him while living in his childhood home, he lowered his voice. “What’re we doing here, Theo?”

“Reintroducing you to society.”

“I haven’t spoken to my old man since I got sent away. I’m not ready to dive into the hornet’s nest of our sour relationship. I’ve only been out of the can a few hours. I need time to reassimilate.”

Theo put the car in park, exited, and popped the trunk. Producing the small suitcase with Dan’s meager belongings from the prison, he motioned toward the house.

Raising his eyebrows, Dan said nothing while stepping out of the car. His body tensed, bracing for the ensuing fisticuffs with his mean-as-fuck sperm donor. What kind of twisted plan did the two cook up? A welcome home party straight from the bowels of Hell?

Keeping enough distance to form a counterattack or bolt into the woods should the need arise, he watched Theo walk over to the crumbling front porch and set the suitcase on the top step.

“Sit. Enjoy your freedom, my friend. Hell, take off your shoes. Run your toes through the sparse grass and dirt of your roots. Anything is better than the rough concrete floors of prison, right?”

Hackles still on alert, Dan focused on the front door. A foreboding sensation crawled up his back while waiting for it to open and the appearance of his father. “Thanks, but I’ll pass. Why’re we here and not in Malvern? Like I said before, I’m not ready for a confrontation with daddy dearest. Besides, we’re miles away from the halfway house. You said I’m supposed to be there at eleven a.m. for check-in. What happens if I’m late?”

Theo smiled, extending his arms like a gameshow host announcing a prize. “This is your home now, Dan.”

“Come again?”

Theo produced a key from his front pocket. “Today’s a mixture of good news and bad news. Which do you want first?”

The squawk of a lone raven from the dilapidated eaves made Dan jump. His mother was fond of saying the big birds were dark omens. “Bad—and just spit it out. I don’t need a long-winded story, just the cold facts.”

“As you wish. Your father passed away.”

“He did? When?”

“Two weeks ago. I kept tabs on him over the years after your mom died of cancer. His health declined quickly during the last seven months you know—possibly an early onset of dementia. I hoped the news would revive his spirits. I was wrong. There was a fire in the barn. He didn’t make it out in time. His, umm, cremains are at Eternal Slumber Acres.”

Mind spinning, Dan wiped rivulets of sweat from his brow. “What’s the good news?”

“He left everything to you. The house, a new truck, and two bank accounts at Bear State Bank.” Slipping two thin cards from his wallet, Theo passed them over.

Dan gaped at them. “Since when did Bear State Bank offer credit cards? How am I supposed to pay for any outstanding balance or a truck payment without a job?”

Theo chuckled, exposing a set of perfectly straight, bright white teeth. “These are debit cards.”

“Huh?”

“They work just like a credit card but with no interest. Funds come straight out of the bank account. Think of it as an electronic check. They were in the back of the freezer of all places. You’ll need to destroy the ones with your dad’s name. Keep yours. Your dad already set up the PIN codes—they are on the back of each card. I checked the land records—he recorded a beneficiary deed for the house and acreage over to you the morning before he died.”

“Beneficiary deed? Non-lawyer lingo, please.”

“The property remained under his ownership until his death and then passed directly to you. No probate will be necessary since the bank accounts were in joint names. Now, they are yours. I’ll take care of the paperwork to retitle the truck into your name. Cost will be fifty dollars. It’s a brand-new Chevy, and he paid for it in cash so you’re free and clear. She’s in the garage underneath a tarp.”

Stunned by the crazy turn of events, surprised his tight-wad father splurged on a new vehicle, Dan remained silent while absorbing the happy news. How much money was in the bank account? Would it be enough to make much-needed repairs on the dump? He wanted to dance a jig at the revelation the old bastard bit the big one, yet he decided to wait until alone to celebrate.

Theo straightened his tie while clearing his throat. “I know he never came to visit you, but maybe this was his way of letting you know he loved and cared for you.”

“Yeah, I’m sure that’s it.” Dan snorted while recalling painful memories of his youth. How many times did his father’s beefy fists land punch after punch on his young body for one minor infraction or another?

Way too many to keep count.

For years, no one, except his petrified mouse of a mother knew the true nature of the monster known to others as a happy-go-lucky auto mechanic, Arthur Kincaid. His mother insisted the dark secret be unveiled during Dan’s trial. Sebastian Donley, his defense attorney at the time and Theo’s mentor and former partner, agreed and used the abuse as a defense, convincing the jury Dan suffered a violent upbringing and simply continued the cycle with his wife after a wicked argument.

Dan glanced around the unkempt ten acres. All the legal mumbo-jumbo made his head spin. Was all this really his now? Did the cosmos finally cut him a break? A shadow of a smile curled his lips upward.

The smile vanished as his gaze landed on the back acreage. For a split second, he swore the old man stood by the fence, sleeves rolled up, muscles bulging, face contorted in rage. The sour aroma of stale whiskey filled the air. The booming voice of his father sent ripples of goosebumps up and down his entire body: “Come here, boy. Time to teach you a lesson! I gotta finish what I  started!”

Willing the hallucination to disappear, Dan diverted his gaze, settling it on the charred remnants of the barn. He fought to retain control of his emotions and reign his thoughts back to reality rather than succumb to utter nonsense. Ignore the ghosts of the past. The old man’s a putrid corpse now.

“He’s also the reason you’re free.”

Dan’s head whipped around. “Say what?”

“He came to the parole hearing, begging for you to be released.”

“Bullshit!”

“On my honor as an officer of the court, I’m telling the truth. Perhaps he sensed his time was short? Facing death changes the hearts of even the darkest of souls.”

“Maybe, but the keyword there is heart. That son-of-a-bitch didn’t have one.” Dan spit onto the dry ground. “So, what about the halfway house?”

The sound of crunching gravel made both turn their heads. A tan Aries K stopped behind Theo’s car. A woman with long legs, jet black hair, and enormous sunglasses sauntered their way. Her brown pantsuit fit a curvaceous body like a second skin. He hadn’t set eyes on a decent-looking woman in years. He fought the urge to let out an appreciative whistle.

Theo glanced at his watch while whispering, “That’s Gina Renfro, your probation officer. Woman’s always right on time. I pled your case with her after finding out about your dad’s passing. I’ll let her tell you about the halfway house.”

Gina grimaced at Theo. Dan surmised she overhead the whispered words. Removing a card from her purse, she set it on the railing. The sweet scents of lilacs and jasmine filled his nostrils.

“Mr. Kincaid, I assume Mr. Montgomery informed you of who I am?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Good. You have him to thank for your new living arrangements. He’s quite persuasive.” She paused while taking in the entire area. “As long as you stay out of trouble—which of course includes no drugs, booze, overnight female guests, arrestable offenses, find gainful employment, attend your bi-monthly meetings with me at my office, and pass random drugs tests, you may reside here. Unsupervised.”

Dan’s mouth dropped open. “No shit?”

Gina gave a curt nod. “I’ll need to inspect the residence before I leave to ensure no prohibited items are inside the home.”

“I uh…haven’t been inside yet. I have no idea what’s in there. Don’t hold me accountable for what my father left behind.”

“I took the liberty of having the house cleaned by my housekeeper, Constance,” Theo interjected, leading the way up to the front door. “It was a disaster area. The firearms were removed. We tossed most of the junk, including all the furniture, so what’s in there came from Goodwill. Constance is a dandy—very thorough. The fridge and pantry are stocked with food, and she removed all the liquor.”

Eyebrows raised in doubt, Gina motioned for Theo to open the door, keeping her attention focused on the house.

The scents of bleach and pine cleaner assaulted Dan’s nose, immediately reminding him of prison. The underlying stench of his father remained despite the cleaning. Unsure of his reaction upon setting foot inside for the first time in over a decade, he hung back, watching the duo go from room to room.

Gina’s heels clacked across the old linoleum and stained hardwood with each purposeful step. He hoped the maid truly did perform a thorough cleaning and removed all the bottles of Johnnie Walker his father used to hide throughout the house.

In minutes, they returned.

Gina paused at the bottom of the steps. “Your first appointment is Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. Do not be late, Mr. Kincaid. The address is on my card, along with my beeper and office number. Excuses are not tolerated. Abide by the rules. All it takes to send you back to Tucker for the remainder of your sentence is one infraction. Understood?”

Dan envisioned slapping the smirk off her pretty face. “Yes, ma’am.”  Waiting until the car disappeared around the bend of the road, he studied Theo. “Why’d you do all this? It’s not like I was innocent and got framed. You read the case file and know I did it.”

“I’m aware, just as I’m aware you made a mistake during a fit of uncontrollable rage after a triggering argument. You paid your debt to society and are a reformed man. I see transformation, and most importantly, so did the parole board. I’m the closest person to family you have left now, so what kind of attorney would I be if I didn’t offer a solid foundation for you to walk down on this new path of life?”

Dan pondered the words yet remained quiet. Was this really happening or just a vivid hallucination?

“There’s no one left to condemn you any longer, Dan. Reflecting on the past is a waste of time. Concentrate on building a better present and future. You’ve been granted a chance to start fresh. Take it and run.”

Pulling out a cigarette from his pocket, Dan lit up, inhaling long and deep. “I doubt Cara would agree with your statement. She’ll find out soon enough where I’m living. When she does, I promise you she’ll do everything in her power to make life outside of prison miserable for me.”

“No, she won’t. Trust me.”

“Trust you? I trust nobody.” Blowing out a plume of smoke into the damp, humid air, Dan let down his guard a fraction. “Ten years of keeping my ass clamped tight and head on a rotating swivel watching my back wiped that word right out of my vocabulary.”

“Think what you like about the world at large, Dan, but not me.” Walking back toward the BMW, Theo shook his head. “You must trust someone, sometime, or else that swivel head of yours will snap one day. Oh, by the way—the truck key is on the counter.”

“Thanks.”

“You have nothing to worry about. Cara died last month. Hit and run. Most likely a drunk driver.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

Theo shrugged his shoulders. “You aren’t the only client I have, Dan.”

“Holy shit—I really am free?”

“Only if you embrace your freedom. Don’t allow the past to trap you inside the prison of your mind. Oh, and one more thing.”

“What?”

“Come by the office on Friday, say around ten? I have plenty of odd jobs for you to do until you can find permanent employment. With your reputation and record, it’ll take time.” Theo waved, hopped into the driver’s seat, and sped off down the gravel road.

Waiting until the cloud of dust settled, Dan kicked off his shoes before ambling over to the grass. Scrunching his toes into the blades felt glorious. He stopped after a few seconds when the raven screeched again, drawing his attention toward the house.

The place that frightened him almost as much as the eight-by-eight prison cell.

Could he do it?

Could he live inside his childhood home—face the fears of his past?

“Only one way to find out.”

Snatching his shoes and the key from atop the suitcase, he steeled his resolve. Upon entering, a wave of painful, terrifying memories slammed into his mind so hard it was as though his father’s fist smacked into his brain.

Taking a deep breath, he lit up another smoke—a habit his father abhorred.

Seeing the place stripped of all mementos and with new furnishings was strange yet fascinating.

“That’s the last time you’ll hurt me again, you piece of shit. I’m glad you’re dead. Saved me the trouble of taking you out myself.”

With purposeful strides, he headed to the pantry. Opening the cabinet door, he felt around for the hidden handle. A quiet chuckle escaped his cracked lips while pulling out two dusty bottles full of Johnnie Walker. “Hello, boys. Guess this isn’t such a bad welcome home party after all.”

Snatching a bag of chips and the closest bottle, he headed back out to the porch.

After removing the lid, he held the whiskey toward the sky. “To freedom!”

He took a gulp, winced, belched, and laughed. “To Mom! I’m sorry you married such an asshole. At least you’re safe now while he rots in Hell.”

Another long swig.

The amber liquid burned a trail all the way to his gut.

“To no longer fearing my old man!”

Another swig, followed by a handful of chips.

“To sleeping alone in a real bed—with no fear!”

He chugged again.

Lighting a smoke, he squinted while staring out into the overgrown field. “Maybe Theo’s right—let go of the past—concentrate on the future. It sure isn’t what I had in mind when I left prison earlier. Not even in my wildest dreams! And I don’t have to dirty up my hands to get what’s mine.”

The trill of the house phone made him jump. He stood, fought off the rush of dizziness, and ambled inside. It took him a few seconds to locate the cordless phone, which was crammed in between the couch cushions. “Hello?”

Nothing but a dial tone.

“Ha, if you were looking for Arthur Kincaid, you’re shit outta luck. Ding dong the dick is dead!”

Dan laughed so hard he nearly fell while making his way back outside.

Taking another drink, the relaxing effects of the scotch made his chest warm. “To Cara—glad I don’t have to finish what I started. You’d better still have the safe—and my share of the spoils.”

As the trill of cicadas filled the sweltering afternoon, Dan continued to drink, laughing until tears came at all the terrible twists and turns of his life during his thirty-five years on the planet.

CHAPTER 3
Nightmares of the Past

Outskirts of Perla, Arkansas
August 16, 1995
1:55 a.m. CDT

From his hidden perch in the corner, Dan’s heart rate spiked while watching Cara open the door from the kitchen into the garage. Just as he planned, she went straight to the metal door, examining it with a confused look, trying to decipher why a long piece of gray metal was shoved into the housing.

Sweat trickled down his forehead into his eyes.

It was time to get the party started.

In a flash, and before Cara’s pea-brain registered any sound, he attacked. His vision blurred as uncontrollable rage guided his mind and body. In minutes, the vicious onslaught was over.

Taking a deep breath, instinctively wrinkling his nose at the pungent smell of her rancid blood, he smiled. Cara’s body was face down on the cold concrete floor, unmoving, her thick, honey-colored hair a congealed mass of knots. Her right arm was above her head, resting at an unnatural, awkward angle. Her work clothes were soaked in red. The crimson life force pooled around her head, forming a huge, kidney-shaped glob. Pieces of her hair, with blood as the glue, stuck to the floor and the metal garage door. About three feet from her head, a small, white object glinted under the glare of the single overhead light bulb.

He suppressed a dark, evil chuckle.

It was one of Cara’s teeth.

Her breath came in stuttered, small gasps.

She only had minutes left.

Standing, careful not to leave any footprints in the blood, he pulled the attic stairs down to give the impression of an accidental fall. Satisfied with his handiwork, he removed the metal bar lodged in the door and exited the area in the exact same way he entered it earlier—through the small window in the back—and then disappeared into the night.

He made it less than a mile before the high-pitched wail of emergency vehicles pierced the stillness of the night.

Running faster, pushing his aching muscles past the point of exhaustion, he zigzagged through the woods, guided by the full moon’s radiant beams, until arriving at the berry patch at the edge of his parents’ property.

In a panic, he shed the bloodied clothes and boots stained with his wife’s blood, retrieving the fresh sets he placed in a large garbage bag earlier by the fence line. Just as he slid on the left boot, his mother’s scream of anguish tore through his core. “Dan would never do such a thing! You leave my boy alone! He loves his wife. Why would he hurt her?”

Dropping the blood-spattered evidence into the bag, he snatched up several large rocks, tossing them inside. Slinging it over his shoulder, he sprinted toward the pond. He dove in, kicking his feet with all his might until hitting the bottom. Feeling around in the dark, his fingers grazed on old stump. Once securing the bag, he prayed the rocks were heavy enough for it to stay hidden in case it pulled away from the old, wet tree.

He had to get another breath. His lungs screamed for air.

As his head broke the surface, the sound of a dog’s menacing growl from his right made his heart flutter. It was followed by bright flashlight beams blasting into his face, temporarily blinding him. The splash of someone entering the water to his right barely registered before a strong arm wrapped around his throat, dragging him back toward shore.

“Move or even blink and he’ll give Kubo the command to attack.” The cop tossed Dan’s soaking torso onto the shore. “He loves ripping holes in the torsos of monsters like you. You’re under arrest for the attempted murder of your estranged wife, Cara Kincaid. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say…”

* * * * * *

Gasping for air, a scream trapped inside his parched throat, Dan fell, landing hard on his right shoulder. The vivid dream of the night he tried, and nearly succeeded, in killing Cara, made his stomach revolt.

Crawling over to the edge of the porch, he vomited, spewing potato chips and whiskey out like yellow lava from a volcano.

Screech!

Glancing up, he spotted the raven on the porch railing. “Damn bird. Get lost!”

Something sharp cut into his palm. He let out a low groan. Feeling around in the dark, he realized it was a large sliver of glass. The smell of whiskey hung heavy in the air. The bottle must have fallen from his hands and shattered upon impact with the hard wood.

After wiping his mouth, he rose, heading to the kitchen to grab some water and search for something to stop the bleeding. He hoped Theo’s cleaning lady left some bandages and peroxide.

Flicking on the overhead light, something out of place on the fridge caught his eye. He peered closer.

“No. Freaking. Way.”

Stuck to the door with his mother’s favorite magnet, “Bloom Where God Plants You” was Cara’s wedding picture. Below that was the newspaper article from July 10, 1985, with his picture underneath the headline—“Jury Sentences Local Man to 20 Years for First Degree Battery Against His Wife.”

Next to that was the obituary for Cara Renee Crow, dated July 4, 1995.

The final addition was the three-sentence obituary for his father.

Clawing through the haze of alcohol clouding his mind, he knew the items weren’t there before.

Rage bubbled up from deep inside his chest.

Someone had been in the house while he was passed out on the porch.

Someone was playing dirty little tricks on him.

A loud thump from behind and to the right caught his attention. Spinning around, he stared at the raven perched on the windowsill.

“Just you wait until I get myself a gun. I’ll blow your carcass to pieces, along with the asshole responsible for trying to freak me out.”

Returning to the porch, he stared at the shattered bottle of expensive whiskey.

He needed to drink himself into a stupor so he could sleep without Cara’s ghost pervading his dreams. It was time to open the other.

Taking in a deep, cleansing breath of the hot, humid night air, he scanned the woods, looking for any movement. The scent of honeysuckle and night jasmine tickled his nose, immediately reminding him of his horrendous childhood.

“Screw this. I’m too drunk to whip anyone’s ass.”

After locking the door, he staggered toward his old bedroom, making it two steps down the hallway before tripping over something heavy and hard. He stumbled yet remained upright. “What the fuck is this?”

Bending down, he picked up a thick, black binder. It looked like a photo album, but he really couldn’t tell in the dark.

Upon entering his room, he turned on the light, mouth hanging ajar while flipping through the pages.

It was full of trial transcripts.

More specifically, the damning testimony of the physician who treated Cara at the hospital.

“Died in a hit and run my ass! Theo, you idiot! Cara pulled the wool right over your eyes. Oh, you want to play games, huh, my pathetic ex-wifey?” Dropping the binder onto the floor, he staggered down the hallway. “I’ll show you, bitch! I’ll show you how a man finishes what he starts!”

Pushing the front door open, he plowed right into a body. The impact knocked them both to the ground. He heard a sickening thud followed by a low moan.

His anger peaked—it was a female.

“I’m gonna finish what I started, Cara! Squeeze the life right out of you!” Spittle flew from his lips as he fingers latched around a slender throat already slick with blood. A flash of black hair caught his attention. “Ms. Renfro?”

She tried to scream yet the pressure of his fingers cut off the flow of oxygen.

Dumbfounded by her presence, Dan let go and rolled off of her before scrambling to his feet. “What in the hell? Why are you here? Are you in on this? Part of Cara’s plan?”

“You…paged…me…9-1-1.” Gina whispered while rubbing her throat. Her eyes widened in shock as she pointed behind him. “Look out!”

Before Dan could spin around, pain exploded in the back of his head, sending him into a pit of ebony nothingness.

* * * * * *

“A decade of my life wasted while waiting for my love to regain the memories you erased. How’s that fair, Dan? Where’s the justice I deserve for my unending patience?”

Groaning, head a vortex of pain and confusion, Dan fought to open his eyes. Strange, squishy footsteps drew closer.

“There is no such thing as justice. Just ask Cara. The flimsy piece of paper issued by the court, restraining you from contacting her during the divorce proceedings, proved to be useless. And the law? Hell, ol’ slick Sebastian used loopholes to persuade the jury you were sick and needed help. That’s partly your mother’s fault. I bet you didn’t know she made a big spectacle at the office the day she hired him. Stood at the front doorway and yelled out her demands, shrill voice carrying for blocks. The entire town had eyes and ears on the case—and she knew it. Sebastian didn’t want his reputation shredded by having a client receive the death penalty. Ha, he even sought my counsel, asking my opinion on if he should play the abuse card. Of course, I said yes. I needed you alive. That part was my failsafe just in case Cara forgot the combination or died, both of which happened. Always have a backup plan, Dan. Always.”

A hot burst of fresh pain exploded in Dan’s left cheek as Theo’s foot connected. He moaned in agony. Sweat and blood streamed down his face as he finally managed, “Why, Theo?”

“You seriously have the audacity to ask me why? Give me a fucking break. Like you don’t know.”

Another round of pain, this time from his crotch. Terror thrummed inside Dan’s mind upon the realization his hands were bound. Damp cold seeped into his back. Despite the pain, he forced his eyes open, choking back a gasp.

“Ah, even with one eye swollen shut, you still recognize where you are. Appropriate, don’t you think? The garage floor of the house you once shared with my Cara.”

Dan’s mind spun to process all the stimulation. My Cara? What the fuck is he talking about?

Gaze scanning the area, his mouth went dry. Inches away from his body was Gina Renfro’s. Even in the dim light, he could tell she was dead. Shifting his gaze upward, he noticed Theo wore gloves, his entire body covered in what looked like saran wrap. Oh, shit. I’m in trouble.

Theo crouched down, yanking a handful of hair with his glove-covered hand, forcing Dan to stare into his demented eyes. Dan had to keep him talking until he could figure out an escape plan.

His throat burned and it was difficult to form words from his swollen lips. Blood seeped from his mouth. “I…don’t….”

“You ruined everything, idiot! All of our plans. I loved her.”

“You what?”

“My whole life—ever since first grade—Cara was my soulmate. Not yours. Mine. She cared for me as a friend but, damn, she fell head-over-heels when pretty boy grease-monkey, Dan Kincaid, former star athlete and quintessential bad boy, looked her way when she came back from college. Bland, boring, nerdy me ceased to exist in her mind and heart. Your looks and charm overrode the dirt underneath your nails and blue-collar job. She could have continued the high society life with me as the wife of a lawyer, but no, you knocked her up. On purpose. Tell me I’m wrong.”

Swallowing hard, fearing the response to the answer yet more afraid of getting caught in a lie, Dan nodded once, instantly recalling the night he poked holes in the condom. “You aren’t.”

Theo’s features contorted into an angry sneer. “I knew it! Cara adored you and was thrilled a child with your DNA grew inside her, despite the misgivings of her parents. I cannot begin to tell you how difficult it was for me to watch from afar as the woman I love carried the child of another and married such a worthless piece of trash. A loser only after her for money!”

Theo let go and stood, pacing in small circles. Dan watched him pull something silver and shiny from his back pocket. Sweat and blood pooled around Dan’s wrists, allowing him to slowly, steadily, twist his hands to loosen the bindings.

“Imagine my surprise when Roger Crow came to my house late one night, so drunk he could hardly stand. I found out then I wasn’t the only man in town disturbed by Cara’s life choices. Roger’s conscience bothered him. Actually, I think he was more concerned about legal culpability, but that’s just conjecture on my part. Anyway, he told me how the tainted fruit of your loins stopped growing inside his daughter’s body after his decision. He actually used those words, ‘tainted fruit.’ Roger was an odd duck.”

Dan’s simmering anger bubbled dangerously close to the surface. He kept it in check. “Are you saying he killed my baby? That’s impossible. Cara tripped and fell down the stairs at her parents’ house in her sixth month of pregnancy.”

“Yes, from a loose step on their front porch—the one loosened by Roger. And please, drop the act. You didn’t give a damn about your offspring!” Maniacal laughter filled the empty garage. “And here you thought your dad was a monster. At least you saw his attacks coming and could prepare for the emotional and physical onslaught. Cara had no clue her father was just as devious. The entire conversation with him was surreal. Roger rambled on about how the intentional miscarriage was an act of kindness. He didn’t want his precious daughter saddled with a child fathered by you. The second part of his plan was to convince Cara to divorce you.”

Dan continued to slowly wriggle his wrists. The right was almost free. “She loved me too much to leave. I don’t believe any of this. Roger Crow was a pompous asshole, but he loved Cara.”

“You know the fine line between love and hate? It’s easily crossed when proof of adultery stares you in the face.”

Dan’s eyes bulged from shock. “What are you saying?”

“All it took for Roger to cross the line were some vivid Polaroids, discreetly snapped by and hand-delivered to him by yours truly—Cara’s concerned, childhood friend.”

“You’re nothing more than a slimy bottom-feeder. I knew I felt someone following me around a few times!”

Theo’s smile was straight out of a horror movie.

Dark.

Devious.

Twisted.

“I promise I had no idea Roger would cross over into the dark side. Believe me, I was shocked. The night of his confession, he cried like a baby, whining about how much he loved his little girl. I knew then Cara married a man just like her father—cold, calculating, and evil—willing to do anything to get what he wants. She deserved better. She was a queen and should have been treated like one. I was her prince—her rescuer swooping in on a white horse—ready to whisk her away from the men who treated her like garbage. So, I told her the truth about the loss of the baby and her whore-dog husband. I assumed she’d be so grateful she’d pack up and run away with me. Unfortunately, I was dead wrong. To my surprise and horror, she crossed the thin line, diving headfirst into hate, ultimately committing murder.”

Dan’s right arm was millimeters away from freedom. The unanswered questions from the last few weeks prior to his attack on Cara finally became clear. “Now I know why Cara watched me work on my truck and asked me so many questions. She tampered with the brakes on their car, causing their deaths, right?”

A shadow of compassion and concern danced across Theo’s face as he nodded. “Love and hate make people do the strangest things, don’t they?”

“And money. Don’t forget money,” Dan hissed. “So why all this? Why involve her?”

Theo glanced over at Gina’s corpse. “You must pay for your crimes. Ten years wasn’t near enough. Everyone thinks you’re a monster, and tonight proves they are correct. Not even one day out of prison and you murdered your parole officer after paging her in a drunken stupor. She showed up at your house. You attacked her when she wouldn’t hop in the sack with you, panicked, drove her car here and came in search of the money stashed in the safe, intent on skipping town. The police will conclude she put up a valiant fight and landed a mortal blow before succumbing to the injuries inflicted by you. Death is what you deserved originally for hurting my beloved, but the information inside your head kept you alive, long enough for you to share it with me. Again, always have a backup plan.”

“You’re certifiable.”

Theo brandished the syringe in front of Dan’s face. “We can do this the easy way with a stick and a sting, or we can go the violent route. Your choice.”

Dan’s fingers slipped through the knot. His muscles tensed. “You want the combination? Good luck. My lips are sealed. No way you’re getting your filthy hands on what’s left of Cara’s inheritance. Knowing her spoiled ass, she probably spent it anyway and all this was for nothing. You killed an innocent woman for nothing.”

“For nothing?” Theo yelled, face radiating crimson.

The tip of the syringe was inches away from Dan’s eyeball.

“I sat by and watched while a once vibrant, effervescent woman, full of vim and vigor and smart as a whip, withered down to an unrecognizable shadow of her former self. She never got over the shame and embarrassment for being duped into marriage and the deplorable action of her father. Heartache was permanently etched across her face. My Cara was once the life of the party and the girl everyone wanted as a friend. You destroyed those wonderful characteristics! Those amazing traits are embedded forever between the tiny cracks in the garage floor. She never spent one red cent of her inheritance because she locked it all up in the safe and forgot the combination after you bashed her skull on the floor multiple times—now tell me the fucking numbers or I’ll slice your junk off and shove the flesh down your throat.

Dan’s arms shot out from behind him.

A loud crack filled the air. Theo’s body flew backward into the wall. He sputtered and coughed up a huge dollop of blood as his torso crumpled to the floor. “I…I…I can’t move! Oh god, I can’t feel my legs! You broke my back!”

“Oh, that’s too bad, Theo. But guess what? Not being able to feel any pain will be a blessing, trust me.”

Whack!

Whack!

Whack!

Like a deer caught in a spotlight, Dan froze in horror, stomach lurching at the disgusting sounds and terrifying visuals of wood connecting with flesh.

The noise stopped. His frazzled brain finally recognized the face and voice of the man standing inches away, holding the blood-soaked bat. “Dad?”

“Howdy, son!”

Before Dan could blink, his father moved with lightning speed, smashing the bat into his right ankle. The bones shattered. Dan screamed in agony, wishing the house wasn’t located in such a rural area.

“Give me the combination, boy, or the next whack will destroy your knee.”

“Why, Daddy? Why? I’m your son.” Snot and spittle flew from Dan’s mouth. “What did I ever do to deserve your hate?”

“You lived after nearly killing your ma when coming outta her. You broke the only thing I ever loved.”

The cold, hateful response crushed Dan’s spirit. Tears streamed down his face. “You ran over Cara, didn’t you? That’s why you bought a new truck.”

“Still a fool after all these years. No, I bought a new truck because I deserved one. You think I’m so stupid I’d use my own to kill someone? Dumbass. No wonder you got caught. I used the one Theo kept down in the deer woods, hotwired it, and then took it for a spin—right over Cara’s back!”

A round of throaty cackles threw Dan’s mind back into that of the terrified six-year-old.

“I found out the little hussy’s secret a few months ago because of him.” Arthur motioned toward Theo’s bleeding corpse. “Boy had a bad habit of spilling his guts when full of moonshine masquerading as sweet tea when he came by to check on me. One night he passed out after telling me things I shouldn’t have heard so I went and got the truck and paid my former daughter-in-law a visit. I tried to reason with the girl, you know, offering to split her ill-gotten windfall fifty-fifty? She kept feeding me some bullshit about not remembering the numbers. Swore only one other person knew the combination—you. Hearing Cara’s little bombshell is when I decided to help you get out of prison early. Of course, doing so required Cara not attending the parole hearing as the poor, distraught victim. I kept my eye on your legal counsel and knew he was up to something. He was obsessed with Cara and lost his marbles after she died. He needed her money. Theo loved to gamble—lost his ass playing blackjack. Owed a chunk of change to some nasty thugs from Louisiana. Boy was a planner, that’s for sure. Unfortunately for him, he was so focused on getting you outta prison and his hands on some cold cash, he didn’t realize I watched his every move. Gotta hand it to the kid—the mind games he played on you tonight were epic! But book smarts and common sense are two very different skill sets.”

Dan felt something cool and slender against his leg. He knew immediately what it was. With slow, imperceptible movements, his fingers inched toward it. “Whose body was in the rubble of the barn?”

“Ah, just some drunk I found passed out in Little Rock. Since the world at large thinks I’m dead, no one will come looking for me after finding this mess. I’m heading to the Caribbean. Always wanted to live on the beach. Question and answer time is over. Give me the numbers and I promise to end your suffering with one swing rather than hundreds.”

A guttural scream, born from the depths of his shattered soul, pierced the night air. Dan jammed the syringe into his thigh, pushing the plunger all the way down. Instant, burning pain tore up his leg. His chest tightened as his heart rate exploded. “This time, murder isn’t for money. It’s for a reckoning. This time, you don’t get to finish what you started. I do.”

“No!”

The voice of his furious father was the last thing Dan Kincaid ever heard before succumbing to excruciating pain. His body convulsed on the cold concrete, stained with the blood of the guilty and the innocent.

Rating: 9.00/10. From 2 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Written by Ashley Fontainne
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Ashley Fontainne


Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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