Benny struck me as an intrepid engineer of Thanatos; never once wavering in the line of fire; always inviting an affliction upon himself and others. In times of peace and times of war, inviting trouble, an object of scorn, Benny’s gold medallion shone as did Augustus at the height of his power, the Pax Romana transmigrated over two millennia but nevertheless the same: subjugation of the free will of others for personal and private gain.
“Benny, leave them alone,” I ventured. His face swung on me with a fearful expression, as though he had blacked out in the hinterland; scraps of his flesh debased; the macho insanity erased.
“Jaxson, you stay out of this, now. This ain’t got to do with you,” Benny entreated. But the chug chug sound of freshly shelled shotgun, once hidden under the floor in the backseat of the federal cruiser, was now held in my hands at port arms. The inebriated couple stood silent; sentinels in a furious shade of light and dark.
The man spoke up. “Please, just take it all. I don’t want any trouble.”
Benny swiveled his owlish face back to them. “Shut the fuck up! This ain’t got–”
“Benny you’re talking in circles now. Harm them and I fill you with buckshot. Doesn’t bother me one fucking bit.”
“How could you say that?” he asked with a placid nod, tears welling in his eyes. Then he fell to his knees and the G-34 clattered to the gray concrete floor and slid toward the couple.
The man broke his gaze on us and eyed the G-34. “I wouldn’t do that,” I said.
“Why not?” the man yelled.
“C’mon, honey, let’s go,” the woman said with serene, idyllic tranquility. I stood transfixed. She looked to be in her early 40s, but I sensed within her something indefinable yet ultimately beautiful. Her and her husband or boyfriend or whatever in God’s blasphemed name he was receded from my view, leaving Benny behind, speechless.
“Look what you did, Ben,” I said rather charmingly, concealing malice under my breath. In truth, I wanted to gut the bastard right there and then, but that action wouldn’t be commensurate with how I wished to live out the rest of my Godforsaken existence. Maybe my moral qualms were returning? Perhaps the tempests cavorting around my pockmarked soul were releasing within my breast an existential dread, a feeling or mood characteristic of Modernist philosophers.
But, as with all rapid assumptions, those excuses probably amounted to a heaping pile of dogshit. I had already—in the vein of Melville’s black Cardinal, Captain Ahab—consigned myself to Perdition. The Pantheistic amalgamation of despots and demagogues were manifested in the luxury community that was Windy Gorge.
I was certain that Clancy would never see me coming over the ridge with the scorched hull of a Remington 870 Tac primed to fire. If only Benny would loosen up a bit, we could team up for the revenge of a lifetime, I thought, the wicked entrails of abused trains of thought steamrolling forward atop my train tracks.
Impelled by a sickening fascination with death itself, Benny leveled the G-34 at me.
“Get back in the car, Jaxson.”
I put my hands up. “What’re you doing, Ben?”
“Protecting myself. I don’t trust you. You don’t trust me. I see and read people all the fuckin’ time and I’ll tell you what, you let some of these trust fund babies and self-righteous cultists have their way with you, they’re liable to reenter your life and tear it to pieces, you follow?”
“Who are you, Robert Shaw?”
“What in the fuck does that mean?”
“An old actor my father was a fan of, but that isn’t the point, Benny. You’ve set the sights of you G-34 right between my eyes. I can feel the burning sensation of the red dot sight. I’m telling you as a friend, right now—”
“You ain’t my fuckin’ friend, Jaxson!”
“Benny, if you don’t lower that goddamn weapon, I’m going to shove you in a fucking time warp and impact your brain as though it were run through a garbage disposal plant, you follow?”
The barrel of the G-34 angled downward by his side and tears rose in his eyes.
“I apologize for that, Jax,” he said stiffly, his impudence replaced by cold, machine like motions. “C’mon,” he continued. “There’s somebody we have to meet if we’re to set up shop in the Gorge.”
“Who might that be?
Benny’s beatific smile found itself on his deeply lined face again and the wizened, white hair that reminded me of some sage invalid brushed the arcing motion of a pendulum in the wind. “Clancy, of course.”