You must login to vote
The Justice Machine
By Forrest Hunter
Just another night in good, ole Jacksonville, Arkansas, Officer Pendelton thought as he squeezed himself into the seat of the cruiser.
And like all routines, this one was as predictable: He had a call right off the bat and it was a domestic. The location was given to him, 3456 Even Falls Drive. He rolled his eyes.
Karl and Ruthie Saunders.
No big deal.
He confirmed the call and took off to the address.
Karl and Ruthie Saunders’ spats were so predictable you could set your watch to the calls.
Every night at 7:00 PM, Karl would come home after frequenting the bars with the guys after work, walk into the house and see supper wasn’t ready, Ruthie telling him if he had come home on time, he would have had his supper. At which time, Karl would commence slapping her across the room, the neighbors would hear her screams, call the cops, and Officer Pendelton would take it, get there just as things were winding down, break it up, and fake writing a ticket. Ruthie would plead with him not to write Karl up or take him to jail or anything, her face the color of a bleak winter dawn, and he would say, “All right,” and tear the ticket up on the grounds they would promise not to do it again.
Oh, yes, they would promise.
And that would be that.
Until the next night.
He pulled up to the house, called the dispatcher that he was there and going in. When he got to the door, the door was completely open, his first hint something other than the normal lover’s spat was going on: the door was always shut tighter than a tomb.
Concern warping his forehead, he went in, billy-club out, the strap over his gun undone, and not even two steps later, he heard splashing coming from the bathroom. Cocking his head, eyeing the front room as if he expected the very furniture to come alive and attack him, he made for the bathroom which was down a narrow hallway toward the back of the house.
He stopped at the closed door of the bathroom, back to the wall, to the right side of the closed door.
No answer. A tuneless hum and splashes eked through the door.
“Karl. Ruthie. It’s me. Randy.”
Now there was laughter.
Officer Pendelton recognized the owner.
“Karl. Open up or I’m coming in.” Officer Pendelton wiped at his suddenly dry lips with a torpid tongue, as he kept thinking there was nothing wrong. Nothing was happening. Whatever was going on behind closed doors was normal.
“Come in, pardner. Come on in,”
Officer Pendelton reached for the door knob, grasped it in a sweaty grip, felt how cold it was, closed his eyes, and opened the door to a horror he had never been privy to in his fifteen plus years as a police officer.
Karl was smiling, his face red.
The ceiling was red.
The walls were red.
And the atrocity he sat within was ruddier yet.
“Ruthie is such a dirty person, Randy. She’s so dirty. I mean, she has the dirtiest mouth I’ve ever heard. You’ve heard her before.” A shake of his head. “Just awful. But I took care of that. Oh, dear lord, yes. I took good and God damned care of it.” A giggle, his eyes wide and glassy.
Officer Pendelton gagged as he looked at the slack jaw of Ruthie Saunders lying in the sink, the loose muscle and tendon still hooked to it glowing redly, half the teeth smashed out and lying about the floor like an early snow. Three things were lying on the floor between the sink and toilet: a can of Drano, its dark-blue metallic crystals winking from the shadows, flirting its intent; a box of All detergent, its blue and white powder scattered from sink to tub; and a tire iron, it’s haft red from tip to tip.
“You know what the bitch did?” Karl sat up, the bath water sloshing around him. “She left the front door open. Can you believe that shit? Left the front fucking door open. So I says to her – as nice as I can, now – ‘Hey, you fucking cow. Close the fucking door. Where you born at? A fucking barn?’ And she says back to me, ‘Fuck you, you sorry excuse of a fuck.’ So I ask you, what was I to do? I mean, what in the fuck was I supposed to do? Let the fucking cunt get away with it? Hell no. Fuck no. I couldn’t do that. She has a dirty mouth, Randy. A cruel and dirty mouth and that little eruption proved it to me, as I’m sure it does to you.” His eyes were wild, staring off at the ceiling as if he were talking to it rather than to Officer Pendelton. “So what was I to do? What was I to do, I asked myself and so I did the only thing I could do. I washed her mouth out. Oh, yes, I did.” He brought his hand up to his lips, which was red from finger to shoulder, and grabbed his bottom lip. “I tried washing her mouth out with soap, but she wouldn’t open her mouth. So I pried her jaw off and then poured some All detergent down her open throat and then brought her in here to soak.”
He began giggling and Officer Pendelton looked at what was left of Ruthie Saunders, who used to be known as Ruthie Williams when they went to elementary school and liked her enough in the fifth grade to write a note proclaiming he would love her for as long as they lived.
But then came high school and Karl Saunders. And now all there was left of Ruthie was a bathtub of softly dissolving flesh and the softly dissolving memory of the note, the note he wrote her in the fifth grade being passed from him to Freddy Chambers in front of him and from Freddy to Ruthie, who read it and returned it with a wink, the returned note reading she liked him as well and would always care for him.
For as long as she lived.
Ruthie’s hand came up out of the blood-tinged water and began caressing Karl’s jaw.
“She’s quite a woman, ain’t she, Randy? Ain’t she? Even after a little discipline, she still loves me. And do you know why?” His eyes widened, as if he were peering into the heart of a truth only he could see. “Because she knows she deserved it, that’s why.”
Her lower jaw was completely gone, eradicated, but Randy would have bet his pension on the fact if she would have had her lower jaw she would have been smiling. As it was, it was bad enough seeing her eyes coo the way they were, blood oozing from her opened mouth, her stomach erupting like a volcano, the lava-like remnants of her disappearing stomach-lining gushing down the front of her into the pool of depravity Karl poured for himself.
Officer Pendelton put a hand over his face and slowly backed out of the room. Before he made it out, however, Ruthie tried to say something, the sounds gurgling out of her mouth in bloody bubbles, her torn tongue wagging. When she seemed to become aware she wouldn’t be able to say anything at all, she raised her hand from the stygian depths and flipped him off.
Officer Pendelton turned from the room, Karl yelling after him something about it would have been all right if she had just shut the fucking door, ran back down the little hallway, through the immaculate front room, ran out the door, and barely made it to the car before his stomach evacuated itself all over the ground beside the driver’s door. He wiped his mouth on the back of his hand, absently wiped his hand on his pants leg, reached through the open window and grabbed the mike to call for back-up.
Forty minutes later, at 8:10 PM, Karl was dressed in sanitarium white, arms V’d across his chest.
And Ruthie, who died in Karl’s arms fifteen minutes earlier, was on a stretcher, her insides leaking from the many holes in her stomach.
That was the first incident.
The second incident came later.
The Justice Machine In Action
All he wanted to do was get off work without any more craziness.
But when Officer Pendelton was making his last cruise through the mall parking lot, he saw some prankster plying the old tool and die trade to a car. The guy was half in and half out of the car when Officer Pendelton passed him the first time. All the punk did was casually look his way, snarl at the intrusion, and continue his ministrations on the car’s intestines.
Randy shook his head. He didn’t want any more trouble tonight. Karl and Ruthie was enough. Hell, it took him a good half hour of scrubbing to get the vomit off his pants. He would make one more pass. Give the punk one more pass and hope he would get the message and be gone.
But the punk was still there on the second pass.
Randy pulled the cruiser up close. “Problem?”
The punk glanced at him, said nothing.
Damn. Randy called the dispatcher that he was going to check out a prossible car break in. He got out of the car, grabbed his billy-club, and sauntered over to the punk. “Car problems?”
“Can’t get this fucking radio out.”
“Can I see you license and registration?”
“Don’t have any.”
The punk brushed a shank of hair from his face and rolled his eyes. “You asked to see my license and registration. I told you I don’t have a license. Meaning I don’t have a registration. Meaning this probably ain’t my car.”
“Is this your car?”
“Are all cops bright as you are?”
Officer Pendelton pulled his gun and waved it at the punk. “All right, smart ass. We’re going in for a little chat.”
When Officer Pendelton got back to the station, he opened the back door and wrenched the punk out of the back of the cruiser, inwardly laughing when the young punk banged his head.
He took the punk into the station, past other law breakers, and gruffly sat him in a seat in front of the desk. Officer Pendelton then walked around the desk, opened a drawer, grabbed a paper and a pen, and began interrogating the punk (“My name is Tom Durant.”), who, surprisingly, gave him absolutely no trouble at all.
Upon completing the paper work, he went over to Tom, stood him up and turned him around and took the cuffs off him. Tom began rubbing the cuff’s pain (two lovely and deep strangle marks) out of his wrists.
“Come on, pal. Let’s get you booked and then--” Officer Pendelton said to Tom as he grabbed him by the shoulder. “Then you’re about to get first class room and board. Nothing but the best for you.”
“You mean cell 10?”
“Been here before, have you?”
“Yep. Last year. Before my parents threw me out.”
“We’ve made some improvements since you were last here. I think someone of your status will like it.”
Tom was fingerprinted, his mug shot (“My left side is my best side.”), and ran through the computer to check if he had any priors (“He’s clean as a whistle,” Randy was told.), then walked down the narrow hallway toward the cells. Officer Pendelton paid no attention to the threats, pleadings, and general trash the mealy mouths yelled at him.
It was the same shit.
Always the same shit:
“You porky assed motherfucker.”
“Please let me out. I won’t do it again.”
“I’m going to kill you when I get out.”
That was from Teddy Dantly who would be out in the morning and would be back in by tomorrow night. It had been that way with him since his wife and kid left him. Nothing to live for, no one to live with. So here he resided.
Finally, they came to the cell. Officer Pendelton inserted the key and opened the cage.
“Come on, pal. time to get reacquainted with--” the rest of the sentence froze on his lips. Tom began whimpering, thrashing at Officer Pendelton, and two hits later was running back down the hallway, yelling and screaming for help. Officer Pendelton, who was a trained killer, only stared numbly into the cramped quarters .
“Why, Randy. What are you looking at me like that for?”
A once-beautiful hand stroked what was once the most beautiful legs Officer Pendelton ever saw. Her legs were thrown wide, her stomach acid bloodily dripping to the floor, a pool of which was already forming. But when she spoke, her words formed freely, which was the real horror: for she was still without her lower jaw. Officer Pendelton could still see the pry marks Karl engendered in her ripped and torn face as he inflicted a little homegrown justice. “Don’t you still love me?”
Officer Pendelton’s eyes traveled up and down Ruthie’s body, taking in the holes in her stomach, the little mouths created for the express purpose to puke her life out of her as fast as possible.
“Don’t you remember telling me that you loved me?”
Officer Pendelton shook his head. “This– this isn’t happening. You’re—”
“But, of course, it’s been a long time ago and a girl can’t expect a man like you – a big, strong, healthy, and important man like you to remember such an insignificant event that took place in the fifth grade, now can she?”
The bedeviled words, spoken so eloquently, swiftly passed by Officer Pendelton. “You’re– you’re–”
Ruthie patted the bunk she was lying on. Dust puffed up. “Come here, Randy. Come here and sit beside me. Keep me company.”
She shrugged her shoulders, her skin rising, tightening, more blood oozing from the many empty cavities. “That day in fifth grade, the day you passed that letter to me, did you mean it?”
“Did you mean that you’d love me for as long as we lived?”
“No. Yes. I mean–?”
“Well, do you?”
Officer Pendelton took two steps forward, stopping at the lip of the cell. “Ruthie. That was a long time ago.”
“Not to me it wasn’t. To me it was like yesterday.”
“But Ruthie. You’re dead. I saw them pack you away. I saw–” he swallowed. “I see that you’re still steadily draining all over the place.”
“Oh, that.” She reached down and wiped at the blood. “That’s nothing. It’ll come out in the wash.” A giggle .
From down the hallway, Tom could be heard pleading his case with the head jailer.
“Come on in, Randy. Tell me you love me. Write to me you love me. Come over here, lover.” She pushed a finger into one of the holes in her stomach, then pulled it out for Officer Pendelton to see. “Come over here and finger paint to me that you love me.”
“Just two more steps, Randy. Two more.”
Without his consent, his left foot darted out from under him: one step.
“That’s good, Randy. See? That wasn’t so hard, now was it?”
“What’s going on–”
This time, his right foot joined the mutiny. His body leaned to the left while his right foot crept forward like a shadow in the growing day. It continued forward until it was two feet in front of his left.
“Better, lover.” She got up from her repose and stood erect. “Now we can be together. Together forever. And there’s no time like the present, is there?”
Officer Pendelton heard the cell door creak as it began to close, heard the head jailer’s keys tinkling as he came racing down the hallway, but Officer Pendelton knew he would be too late.
The cell door closed shut with a clank as he felt the slippery arm of Ruthie slide around his throat and felt Ruthie begin to grind his face off with what teeth she had left.
Love is truly forever, to the dismay of Officer Pendelton.