Warning...some language and possibly offensive religious material...although, please note Mom, I did not take God's name in vain.
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"We all live with a sense of well being." "We all think that it will only happen to the other guy...sometimes we're wrong."
My mind goes back to the day they fired Jack like it was yesterday. It was a Friday afternoon and I sat at my desk directly opposite Jack's. He got a call around 3:00 p.m., as he hung up the phone, he rolled his eyes looking in my direction.
"The boss wants to yank my chain some more." He said.
"Have fun." I said jokingly and returned to my work.
Approximately twenty minutes later Jack returned. With him was one of the rather large security guards that typically manned the desk in the lobby of our office building.
"They FUCKING fired me; can you FUCKING believe that?" Jack asked.
"That's messed up." I said unsure what to say.
"You're telling me, those fuckers are gonna pay, I can tell you that much...those fuckers are gonna pay."
"Do you have your personal affects in order Sir?" The security guard asked.
"Yeah, I got my shit honcho, let's get this show on the fucking road." "Take care man, hey I'll drop you a line once I get where I'm going." Jack said
"Yeah, take care."
Once he left, I let out a breath I hadn't realized I was holding. Jack had always made me nervous. In fact, the day they moved my desk next to his I talked to my boss about it. Unfortunately, the boss told me the office space was limited and that was the only place they could put me.
Jack never said anything particularly scary he was just strange. He wasn't clean either. He often looked as if he needed a shower, and although he worked in an office where a shirt and tie were a requirement, he didn't own more than two ties and maybe three shirts. He also had this way of confiding things in me that I didn't want to hear. Like the time he told me about how his neighbor's cat had disappeared. That wouldn't have been strange on its own, only that he continued by saying he had later found it in the street, ran over by a car. He had apparently picked it up, placed it in a brown paper bag and returned it to his neighbor. He said it was so she could give it a proper burial, but he added:
"Man you should have seen the look on her face when I handed her that bag."
He wasn't smiling when he said it, but you could see a certain satisfaction in his eyes, and it wasn't for being a Good Samaritan. What was even worse was that he had picked me of all people to speak to. I never saw him utter more than a handful of words to anyone else in the office. Yet he talked to me, although not often, I did my best to keep our conversations to a minimum.
I went to see my boss after Jack was properly escorted from the building. I told him all about my dealings with Jack. I expressed concern over him being fired and over the possibility that he might take revenge. Jack's words "those fuckers are gonna pay" echoed in my ears.
In the end my boss told me he would take care of everything. He would alert the appropriate people and consult Human Resources on what could be done about my concerns, but what more could be done?
I can remember the Monday following Jack's dismissal. I sat nervously at my desk, standing to see the door of the elevator every time I heard the bell ding. Yet no Jack. Tuesday and Wednesday also came without incident.
As the days rolled into a week and then into two, I began to put the whole incident behind me. On the Friday afternoon, two weeks after his dismissal I returned to my desk a few minutes before Five. I was in a happy mood and was looking forward to the weekend ahead when I noticed someone had left a large manila envelope on my desk. I didn't think much of it; I was always receiving large stacks of documents from our clients. As I opened it and pulled out the contents a chill went up my spine. On top was a black and white picture of Jack. What was even more horrifying was that he was standing in front of my house waving at me. I nearly ran screaming from my desk, and then I noticed the letter behind the picture. I felt compelled to read it.
I don't mean to scare you. Hell, since they let me go, I scare myself sometimes. I've done nothing but obsess over the wrong that has been committed against me. They set me up and they got what they wanted. My life is ruined and I bet they couldn't be happier. I did nothing to deserve being fired and that is what really gets me. They went too far.
As you can see by the enclosed documents, my life is now a tormented one. I am caught between my obsession of revenge and my desire to do what is right. I am a righteous man, so I struggle. I have no one to turn to, only you can help me. I consider you a friend Bill; you may be the only person who can stop me from wrong.
All I ask is that you drop bye my place, have a beer and talk to me for a while. I need your advice and your friendship more than ever. Please help me. Don’t leave me hanging.
God Bless you, Your Friend,
127 Forensie Ave
Right off Hwy 27,
2 blocks, Green house
As I finished reading the letter, I began to shuffle through the paperwork attached. It was mostly newspaper articles. “Man kills four in Office shooting” one read, “Former employee takes revenge, seven dead” read another. Article after article of office killings. Surely this must represent every occurrence in the past five years. I flipped through them as my hands began to shake. I came to one that had four words written on the article, "IS THIS YOU BILL?" The article was about a shooting in an office in Florida where six people had been killed; however, one man had been spared. The killer had held a gun to the man's head and told him that he would not kill him, since the man had been nice to him and helped him jump his battery once when it had been dead. As a result the man was the only one left alive in the office. The article quoted him as saying "I'm glad I helped him, I'll tell you that much."
I found one more article wherein Jack had written, “This is not me, I am not a killer!” With an arrow pointing to a rather burly man who had been convicted of killing eleven of his co-workers after they had fired him for continued absenteeism. Jack had drawn a little cartoon bubble from the man’s mouth with the words “Help me Bill” written in the bubble. This was absurd, I thought sitting at my desk. He’s crazy as shit.
Looking around the office I was now alone. Friday night it didn’t take the others long to clear out. I wish I could have at least shown this to my boss, his steady words might have calmed me. But I sat alone, with a care package from my buddy the nut ball. A smile crossed my face.
How Jack got the idea we were friends I will never know. I guess when you are near drowning and desperate, you will grab hold of anything that looks like it will float.
My first thought was to throw all this stuff back in the envelope and make a quick trip over to the police station. I pictured Jack sitting in an orange jumpsuit, knowing I was the one who turned him in. How long did they give you for conspiracy to commit murder anyway? I doubted very long. How long would it be before old Jack is out on parole? Who would be honored with his first visit? I pulled the picture of Jack in front of my house to the front. Another chill shot up my spine and the smile left my face.
I rationalized things, if Jack really wanted to hurt people, he could have just showed up at the office with his guns blazing. What was to stop him? No... clearly this was a legitimate cry for help.
I decided I would drop by his place and kind of feel things out. If he looked crazy or seemed dangerous in any way, I would head for the cops and take my chances. But maybe, just maybe, I could talk him into turning himself in. Convince him that he needed some serious help. Then the killing would still be avoided and I wouldn’t end up enemy number one in Jack’s little black book. It seemed a sensible solution at the time.
Driving to Jack’s house I changed my mind ten times. I kept telling myself how stupid I was. After all, I had no training in how to handle nut jobs. How was I going to talk a nut job into turning himself in? Yet I couldn’t lose the image of Jack sitting in an orange jumpsuit with a cartoon bubble coming out of his head, but this time it read “You fucked me over Bill, and you’re gonna fucking pay!” With that image resting heavy on my mind, I exited off Highway 27.
As I approached the house, I could see he kept his lawn much like he kept his clothing. It was more weeds than grass and both were badly in need of mowing. The house however, was more than I expected two stories and other than a gutter that needed repairing it was nice. I approached the front door and knocked. I waited a minute and then rang the doorbell, the doorbell didn’t ring and I thought it might be broken, so I knocked again harder. This time the door pushed open slightly. I called inside.
“Jack are you home?”
“In the back.” I heard him say “Come on in, beers in the fridge.
As I pushed the door open a rather large statue of the Virgin Mother met me. It was more of a shrine of sorts that had candles surrounding it. The candles had long since been reduced to little mounds of wax at her feet. I found my way into the kitchen and opened the fridge; inside it seemed well stocked and had several beers to choose from. “Certainly not the fridge of a nut ball” I thought as I grabbed an import.
A long hall led towards the back of the house.
“Jack, are you back here?”
“Yeah...all the way back here in the family room.”
I stopped in the hall to look at a huge picture of Jesus. It looked like an original oil painting of him bending down to help a child. Although, I wasn’t really into the whole “God” thing, it was a beautiful picture never the less.
“Nice Painting.” I said, but got no response.
The hall opened up into a large family room. The ceiling rose the entire height of the house; the rear wall was made up of windows. The room was quite grand. Large wooden beams lined the ceiling and focused on a large stone fireplace on the opposite wall. As I entered the room it appeared empty. I scanned around the room for signs of Jack and saw nobody.
As I looked up to the wall of windows I didn’t immediately comprehend what I was seeing. The wall was primarily comprised of four gigantic windows. Two large rectangular windows topped by two triangular windows. They came together in the center to form a huge cross and somehow suspended from that cross, twenty feet in the air, was Jack.
I heard my beer crash on the tile floor. It startled me so badly, I felt a warm patch soak through my underwear. My mind struggled to cope with what my eyes were seeing.
Jack was somehow suspended from this cross, wearing nothing more than a loin cloth. He was complete with the thorny crown and all. He had blood running down his chest and arms and by the yellow stain on the cloth, it appeared he had been hanging there for a while.
I began to back away from him; I stumbled on a chair as I tried to find my legs to run.
“Wait...don’t go!” Jack said looking down on me.
“Jack you need help man...you need more help than I can give you.” I said continuing my retreat.
“You’re wrong, I knew you would come, I knew you were the only one who could help me.”
“No you’re fucking wrong, I can’t deal with this shit.”
“Then why did you come?” Jack said it so calmly it seemed as if we were discussing the weather
“Cause I thought I could help you, I thought we could talk or something” I said still backing away
“You CAN help me and we CAN talk.”
“Why the fuck are you doing this, why are you doing this to me.”
“Look, Bill, I told you in the letter, I’ve been obsessing.” “All I can think about is taking revenge, yet I know that killing is wrong.” “I know that I will never be let into heaven if I take the revenge that I so strongly desire.” “I had not alternative but to restrain myself until you could arrive to help me.” “I didn’t know how until this past Monday morning.” “The Virgin Mother spoke to me in a dream.” “She said I must restrain myself until he comes to set me free.” “When I awoke lying there on the couch, I looked up at the sun rising and saw the cross between these windows and it all made sense to me.”
My mind raced at the realization he had been hanging there since Monday. I wanted out, I wanted out, I wanted out. “What the fuck do you think I can do for you now Jack?” I screamed
“Set me free so I can get the help I need.”
“Man, what are you talking about?
“Just untie me and set me free so this can finally be over and I can get help.” Jack gestured to a far wall where he had tied a rope to one of the beams. The rope ran up to a hook above his head and then around his chest area.
My feet felt frozen to the floor. I had to look down at them and command them to move before they would actually begin the journey across the room. As I reached the rope I stopped before untying it.
“Jack, you’re not going to hurt me are you.”
“Bill, I would never hurt you, you are the one person I can count on, the one person who can set me free.”
I stood for a moment looking up at him on the cross. I saw madness in his eyes, but I didn’t think I was violence. At least not for now. I pulled the rope and the knot untied quite easily, it snapped from my hand and chased itself around the pole. I turned to see Jack falling forward from his perch. Powerless to stop him, all I could do was watch him fall. I noticed another rope was tied around his neck. He continued to fall forward then suddenly the rope around his neck snapped tight. His body rocked forward as the rope bit into his neck. He stopped, still hanging nearly six feet off the ground. Jack was choking, kicking his legs wildly.
“Jack!” I screamed. I ran to him, but he was too high for me to reach him. I ran around the room looking for something to stand on. I found nothing high enough to reach him. I stood helpless as he hung above me. He kicked wildly while I watched.
He kept mouthing the word “Free” over and over. As the life slowly left him and his body relaxed I saw something drop from his hand. I bent down to pick it up, a folded piece of paper. I opened the note and read it.
“My dream was real, she told me you would set me free.” “God bless you Bill.”
It wasn't my fault...I fell asleep and missed my stop.