Content warning for: murder, brief mention of rape/sexual assault. Also, there is a semi-NSFW shower pic that may or may not include FEMALE NIPPLES.
It was too late in the year for the windows to fog over, or for it to snow at all. Still, it mesmerized Annette as she looked over the cityscape of Falls Harbor. Terrebonne’s state capital.
All of it seemed like a perfect recipe to escape. A weekend in a big city, watching the snow fall, and sitting cozy and alone with a cup of mint tea. And would it grant her mind some peace? Of course not.
It started on the night that she found Franco, after his pitiful attempt to run away. She would have doled out punishment right under that streetlight if it wasn’t for the text message Bill sent her. With that, she drove home and put Franco to bed. After grounding him from TV for a week (first thing that came to her mind), she needed to address what she was told.
Bad shit at the old house. Talk to you when you get home. If any place was associated with the worst that Twinbrook had to offer, it was the Racket mansion. Attempted rape, learning that she indirectly killed her boss, almost causing a gas fire while cooking breakfast and the following awkwardness. The list went on and on. And what was left that could phase Bill? The same guy who lived there for half a century and then some?
When Annette cracked the door open to their bedroom, she learned it was enough to being her husband down to sitting on the side of the bed to cry over it. Just a little, enough for one year to roll down and drop onto the carpet.
“I guess you can talk instead now,” said Annette. “I mean, whatever it was has me worried too.”
“I shouldn’t even be sad. I’ve seen worse done to people I, you know, liked,” he said.
“Sorry to hear about Dennis, then.”
He dried his eyes and elaborated.
Annette felt that confronting their son about what he did was her job. Bill went soft when it came to lesser misdeeds. Franco didn’t walk Peanut last month, causing the dog to shit on the rug instead? Bill shrugged, while Annette would have said no to him having a slice of berry pie for dessert that night. But running away? The shock from that almost killed both of them, and Annette needed to deal with that alone.
Bill, meanwhile, said he had a different errand to run. Sure, he mentioned the mansion before she left too. Earlier, he helped Lolly with some goods hidden in the crawlspace. Well, at least those he knew about. And after that, he left his driver’s license there. It was loose in his pocket after he last used it, and it must have fallen out.
All he intended to do was get that license back before a cop pulled him over.
No one came to answer the door, though the lock was broken and busted. Whatever. As if he needed formalities to get his own belongings back. But almost immediately, the sound of someone struggling alerted Bill to stay quiet and investigate that instead. It seemed to be coming from the parlor.
A low voice too, that might have belonged to a woman. Even without making out any of the words, he felt a threat from it.
Bill held on to the arch and peered inside from it. His heart dropped in his chest.
He was right about it being a woman. A tall, athletic one in a biker jacket stood there, posed with a sniper rifle. She towered over Dennis, who was tied up and on the ground. His back rest on the bookshelf, and he wriggled a bit as she spoke.
“Nothin’ against you. Mr. Armstrong just wants to know who ratted him out,” she said. “Someone said it’s one of you guys. And some of them back in Saint Peter knew your dad. He was one silly coward. And you? I bet you’re no different. You’ll crack under my gun.”
“You know I’ve spent my whole life trying not to be him.” He kept his speech firm, even when just a few feet away from her gun. “So what if I know? Whoever it is can stand their ground against you.”
“You’ve done a lot for us,” she said. “But jailing my man? Can’t say that the rifles were worth it.”
“At least I’ll die a better man than that. Executions weren’t our thing.”
She knelt down on the ground, hoisting up her gun so that the barrel was flush with Dennis’ forehead. “Alright, stick by those stupid morals of yours. Like we care about an old Racket much anyways. Last words?”
“Better me than…whoever it was.”
Bill backed away from the arch before it happened, and the three shots made more than enough noise for him to know what happened to Dennis. He hid until that woman was out the house, and she just waltzed out the door with a large rifle under her arm. Bill took one quick glance at the scene, and blood all over the family’s old books. How his younger brother lay limp and dead, with half his brain now scattered over the shelf.
Unlike the executor, he made a discreet exit out the back instead.
Annette sat on the opposite side of the bed to him as he told the story. “I’m…I guess watching a murder is a pretty low point, huh?”
“Just…just don’t be that person who tells me I should’ve done something. I still wanna live,” said Bill.
“Preachin’ to the choir.”
“…I think that was one of the guns you sold to the man.”
“Wouldn’t be surprised. I helped kill a man…can we really blame Franco now?”
“Rough night too?”
She sighed. “He’s well on his way to hating our guts. The thing is…I don’t think either of us know what else to do with our lives. I dunno about you, but this is an improvement to me. And now one day, he’s gonna have to learn that we killed his poor uncle Dennis.”
Bill stared at the wall in a bit of wretched contemplation. “And he won’t listen to us when we say we didn’t…I love our kid, but we suck at this.”
“We fucked up bad,” said Annette.
“At least we only have one to fuck up with.”
She cracked a small smile. “Well, at least tonight taught me to be happy that it’s only one.”
Annette lifted her personal ban on attending Racket funerals. It was the least she could do to respect the life of Dennis. And she didn’t even have to take care of the corpse herself, but it made her sick to think about whoever had to do that instead. The casket stayed closed for the entire time.
Dennis might not have made much of a good impact on Twinbrook. The only attendees were what remained of the acknowledged Rackets: Shark, Lolly, Bill, Franco. Annette and Justin tagged alongside their spouses. But good-byes and tears still flowed, even from Franco. Surely the kid had to have known what his uncle did.
The rest of the family left for the after-party at the mansion, but Annette pulled her son aside to try and come to an understanding.
“Look, I know you were angry at me earlier over the things I do, but…you do realize that your dad and I and uncle Dennis were all basically the same that way, right?” she asked Franco.
“Okay,” he said.
It got Annette to snap. “So why be so difficult with us? We’re just trying! Trying harder than your uncle Dennis ever did!”
“Would you rather I didn’t cry?” Franco asked, backing away with a disgusted look on his chubby face.
“I don’t care about that.” Annette stormed off to call a taxi for the two of them. The ride back to the Racket mansion was awkward, and Franco ran off to be marveled by all of his uncle Justin’s cool electronic toys. It seemed to attract Bill as well, which left Annette alone in the mansion. Again. Who knew what rapists it could still harbor?
She decided that the pool was a safe place to brood near. She got down on the concrete and looked distantly at the tepid poolwater. Her hands were crossed over her raised knees, and the distress showed on her face.
“I blew that too,” Annette said to herself.
Someone crouched down to join her.
“I guess things have kind of gone to shit for you too, huh?”
Annette tried not to look Lolly in the eyes once she noticed how…severe that young woman looked. But she did her best to remain civil. “When do they not?”
“Look, I had to clean up my dad’s bloody corpse and try to look uninvolved. I know someone killed him, and…sometimes I wonder what kept him in this business. He’s wanted to get out for…for longer than you’ve been here,” Lolly said.
“Are you blaming me for this?”
“You know that I feel bad about what happened too, right? That maybe I’m a link in that chain? I feel it! And I’m feeling like shit about this too.”
“If I remember, my grandpa tried to do something awful to you too.”
Annette’s face sunk at that question. “Well…you had to have heard it all that night. But…but…don’t they teach you guys not to drag others through trauma? It doesn’t help, okay?”
Lolly looked away from her, with a pout too. “It’s my trauma too. Look, you and uncle Bill put an end to one of the worst terrors in my life. And…I had high hopes for you guys after that. I saw lots of good in you two, but now I worry ‘bout you guys. I want this family legacy to stop. We could be normal, but I wonder if you’ll drag us down again.”
“Don’t pussyfoot around this. Just tell me that I made a moral fuck-up,” said Annette, in a stern voice.
“You made a moral fuck-up that lead to my dad’s untimely death.”
“Yeah, I did.”
Shark found them on the ground, next to the pool, in their funeral garb. “You guys doing okay?” he asked. “Anything you need to tell me about?”
“Nope,” Annette said.
“Not at all, dickass.” said Lolly.
“Glad to see you’re still you after all this,” said Shark, with a weird friendly air to his voice. He left the scene to either marvel at homebuilt gaming rigs or get a snack.
“Though, I think it’s best he doesn’t know,” Lolly said.
“I need him to stay in my good graces,” said Annette.
“And it’s your house, your rules right there.”
“Right. He doesn’t need to know a damn thing.”
Annette always held her nephew in high regard, but his friendship might have been held much higher. They had (remnants of) youth in common, and the guaranteed platonic nature of their relationship kept her confident about keeping him as a friend. It explained why Annette kept a lot of people around: they offered her something unique and needed. But there was also a lot she would risk just to have Shark stay by her side.
He doesn’t need to know a damn thing. She repeated that to herself a lot. At breakfast, helping him with lesson plans, Friday night beers together, every moment she spent with her nephew. Guilt was a difficult beast to contain, though. You loved your father. I aided in his death. Those words almost broke out of their chains. I’ve killed a lot of the things you loved. No, she needed to back out of that intrusive thought.
She didn’t pull the trigger on anyone.
Perhaps that comforting thought aided her for the first five kilometers on the treadmill. On a whim, she got a gym membership and wanted Shark to help her. Though against his advice, she took up cardio to stay fast. Just to stay fast, and not because she felt like there was a warrant out for her. Just to stay limber as she got older, and not because someone might chase her down.
She stayed at it until those thoughts started again. I’m a bad aunt, once you think about it. No, shut up! Keep running! Run for as long as he’s on the bench for!
Dennis: I helped kill him. Well, I made a moral fuck up. Yes I did-
“Ready for the punching bag?”
Shark was behind her, punching his palm for effect. “Come on, it’s part of that training you asked me for.” She slowed down the treadmill until the belt stopped, and got off to face her nephew. Her face looked cool, which was all that mattered.
Annette rubbed her neck, pretending to be exhausted. “I’m pretty disgusting right now. Maybe next time,” she said. “But I need to get clean.”
“You won’t stay strong on cardio alone!” But no, she was off to the women’s showers.
The hot water washed the sweat out of her mass of thick, curly hair. It rolled down her body and down the drain, until her skin was fresh again. But all showers did to the rest of her was give her some intense shower thoughts.
YOU helped me with the guns anyways. No, that’s a terrible thing to say. I roped him into that…and his dad’s dead. He didn’t seem too troubled about it. But that’s a shit thing to do anyways-
She got home and relaxed near her own pool that night. All she had to grapple with then was thinking her morals through. And that was just one flaw to have?
At least it wasn’t interpersonal failure too, right?
A/N: I’M BAAAACK.
Uh, so what is there to say…
The city of Fairview Heights is courtesy of freja64. It is a big city that segues into swamplands, which makes it a pretty good fit for Terrebonne’s state capital. At least in this story. Even if just for the views from atop a high-rise. Anyways, here’s the download page, and here’s the main page to her blog because Grey Witches is a pretty good story.