Fifteen minutes later due to Hart’s intercession, Bicky sat leaning against the wall of the TDU, his leg wrapped in a tourniquet that Hart was tying off. The tourniquet, made from pieces of an old ripped bed sheet turned rag, was streaked with dirt and motor oil; Jerry had refused to allow anyone in the house to get medical supplies. Bicky flinched as Hart secured the whole mess in place with a finishing nail.
“There are more civilized ways to get retribution, Jerry.” Hart snapped.
“Don’t tell me it’s not something you thought about yourself from time to time, Mr. Chief of Engineering.” Hart snorted.
“You know what surprises me, Hart? What surprises me is that a thousand freaking people a day don’t just get up out of bed, strap on a semiautomatic, and blow the crap out of something. That’s what surprises me.” Jerry’s voice cracked. He cleared his throat and scratched the barrel of the gun against his scalp. “And everywhere there’s death. People dying.”
“People are always dying, Jerry. It’s just the one that’s got you upset.”
“Actually, it’s two. And if you give me a minute, I’ll tell you about it. But first I want to clear some things up with your boss, here. Before he passes out, that is.” Jerry stooped down next to Bicky.
“You proved your point, man. You’re in control,” Hart said. “Now let me call an ambulance.”
“And then what? Have me arrested? I’m a rich man now. Rich men don’t go to jail.”
“Look, Jerry,” Hart said, watching Bicky. “Given the extenuating circumstances, I’m sure we can work things out,” Sweat poured from Bicky’s ashen face, but he managed a nod.
“I want to tell you a story first,” Jerry said. “Sit down,” he said to Hart. “Keep the kid over there on the hammock. Take the chair over next to him.”
Hart laid a hand on Gil’s shoulder and pushed him toward the hammock
“And get that beast outta’ here.”
Gil snarled at Jerry, but did as commanded. “Come on, Max,” Gil said. Max ran over and stood next to Gil, wagging his tail. Gil walked him to the door and ushered him out. “Stay,” Gil said. Max started barking as Gil shut the door on him.
“You better shut him up or I’ll shut him up for you,” Jerry said.
Gil’s eyes watered, but his voice didn’t waiver as he opened the door again. “Ssshhh! Sit, Max. Be quiet. Understand?” Gil raised his index finger to his lips and Max whimpered once, but sat down as instructed. Gil’s sad, brown eyes blinked, shutting the spigot on them as he closed the barn door. He took a seat on the hammock. A soft low growl rolled in like a wave through the crack under the door.
“You did the right thing,” Hart said, squeezing Gil’s hand. Gil returned a brave smile. Jerry’s face clouded with something akin to regret. He rubbed a rough hand over his eyes and it was gone.
“Story time, eh?” Jerry folded his arms across his chest, facing Hart and Gil, the gun poking out from under his arm.
“You see, one night, I’m sitting outside your house — ”
“My house?” Hart narrowed his eyes at Jerry.
“— and I’m watching, and I’m waiting, and I happen to see a familiar car pull into your driveway and lo and behold, who gets out, but your father-in-law. That means kin-by-law, you know, and brings with it a certain degree of responsibility which a lot of people don’t take seriously enough, I think. It’s not just about a seat at the holiday dinner table.” Jerry fixed Bicky with an accusatory glare and the two men could not let go the sight of each other.
“Anyway, he doesn’t knock, just goes right in like he owns the place. You know what I’m talking about, right?” Jerry tilted his face toward Hart for emphasis, but wouldn’t break eye contact with Bicky. “So I get out of my car and I walk around to the kitchen window to see what’s happening. Bicky’s in there and Sonia’s got the kettle on for tea and it’s steaming, but not whistling yet. She’s putting a tea bag in her cup and she’s got her back to him. The windows are open, which I don’t understand because it’s hot as hell out…”
“Sonia didn’t like air conditioning,” Hart said, his voice thick.
Jerry nodded. “And if not for that small fact, I wouldn’t be relaying this story to you now as I’ve witnessed it,” Jerry said to Hart, his eyes still glued to Bicky’s face. Anyway, I hear bits and pieces of things. Bicky says: ‘Sonia, enough,’…and then something something. And Sonia says: ‘Where’s what,’” and Bicky says, ‘You know what…’ and the tea kettle starts screaming and I can’t hear a thing for a minute, but this ear-splitting whistle and Sonia and Bicky stare at each other and words come out of their mouths, but I can’t make them out until finally, he yells at her to ‘shut the kettle’ and she very calmly walks over, grabs the kettle and pours herself a cup of tea.” Jerry smiled at Bicky as if he had just one-upped him.
Sweat continued its downward spiral, pouring from Bicky’s face and scalp while his face changed from pale grey to pale green. Bicky squeezed his right leg, but did not avert his eyes.
“You never could back her up, could you? That’s what always pissed you off about her,” Jerry said. “How did it make you feel, Boss, to finally have no control over something?”
Using his hands for balance, Bicky tried to stand, winced in pain and dropped to the floor, both hands wrapped around his thigh just above the entry wound.
“Kind of like now?” Jerry asked, the pleasure of the moment apparent on his face.
“Jesus Christ, Jerry. What the hell are you talking about?” Hart said.
Jerry sidled over to Bicky and put the gun to his face. “You want to tell them?” Bicky shoved the gun away, breaking eye contact.
“Uh oh,” Jerry smiled and patted Bicky’s face. “You lose.” Bicky said nothing.
Jerry sauntered over to Gil and Hart. “He’s quiet tonight,” Jerry said, a note of mock concern in his voice. He let out a long, labored sigh. “So – Bicky whirls on her, like this.” Jerry grabbed Gil by both arms and gave him a violent shake.
“Hey!” Hart said, jumping up. Jerry dropped Gil’s arms, stuck the barrel of his gun in Gil’s ribs and held up a single finger. Hart froze.
“Tsk, tsk, tsk,” Jerry said, shaking his head and motioning for Hart to sit down. He grabbed Gil again.
“He was in her face, squeezing her arms, saying a bunch of what, I’m not sure, and it must have hurt because Sonia finally let out a yelp. So what’s the son-of-a-bitch do? He loosens his grip, but still doesn’t let her go.” Jerry shot Bicky a murderous look.
Jerry dropped his voice, his face taut with recall, one hand tightening around Gil’s arm, the other still poking the gun in Gil’s ribs. “I wish now I had gone through the window after him.”
“Oooww!” Gil said. Jerry jerked on Gil’s arm as if to bring him back in line, but when he looked at Gil’s small, pinched face, he released his grip.
“Sorry,” Jerry said. Gil inspected his reddened forearm, already forming a bruise.
Jerry’s eyes misted over, but he continued: “‘I don’t have it,’ she said. ‘Don’t lie to me,’ he said. ‘What you sent wasn’t what you took,’ he said, and then a bunch of stuff I didn’t hear.” Jerry swiped at his watery eyes with his free hand, then rubbed his forehead with the barrel of the gun, leaving a bright, red welt. He pushed Gil toward Hart and motioned them back to their seats. He shook his head like a wet dog, before pointing the gun at Bicky. “Son-of-a-bitch,” he said, drawing back the trigger.
“Jerry!” Hart yelled, and pulled Gil behind him.
Bicky braced for the bullet, his face scrunched and tense, but his eyes were unwavering in their gaze. Jerry leaned back, inhaled slowly and fired, lifting his gun slightly before pulling the trigger. The bullet drove harmlessly into the wall above Bicky’s head. Bicky began shaking and sucked in a long, raspy, breath.
Jerry stood up and walked over to the drawing table where Gil had laid out a blueprint of the TDU. He thumbed through the drawings using his gun as a finger to turn the pages. He turned back to Bicky.
“What were you thinking that day, Boss? Did you understand? Were you resigned? I’ll never get why you so uncharacteristically backed up. Why’d you leave without it, huh? When you knew she had it? Cause you know, she’d be alive today if you would have just done what you always do which is not taken no for an answer.”
“I was with Bicky at the Union Club that night, Jerry,” Hart said. “I left before he did. So he couldn’t have been at my house.”
Bicky looked at his son-in-law; his lips forming into a slow, sad smile.
“Loyal to the end, aren’t you, Hart?” Jerry sat down on Gil’s stool, pointed the gun and spun around once. The moment he was in a direct line of fire with Bicky’s head, he planted his feet on the ground with authority.
“I tell you your wife would be alive today if not for him and you defend him. You’ve been duped. We all have.” Jerry spun around again and came to another abrupt stop in direct line with Bicky. This time he fired. The shot went into the wall just above Bicky’s right shoulder. Bicky heaved out a lung full of air, but refused to utter a sound.
“‘Just tell me you didn’t go to the newspapers,’ he said, and she shook her head. Just the way he looked at her, trying to see inside her, to see what she was up to. But he never could, never did understand her. Not like I did. Jerry swiped at his eyes and stared at the floor.
“What happened next?” Hart asked.
Jerry spun around a third time and once again pointed the gun at Bicky who was now sobbing quietly, the muscles in his face tight with pain. “I’ll tell you what happened next.” Jerry fired and the shot drove into the wall less than an inch above Bicky’s left shoulder.
to be continued