The Lords of Hell are here, They curl round you, lie at your feet, swing and wing through the darkness
~T.S. Eliot – Murder in the Cathedral
Pamela’s head hit the floor like a cabbage. Jacob had tunnel vision, only seeing bits and pieces of everything—her hair, her legs, her feet, which twitched like a rabbit’s. Jacob didn’t like that at all. He’d killed animals before at his friend, Mondo’s, ranch, and had witnessed their death throes. This was just the same, only it wasn’t the same at all. This wasn’t some ground squirrel. This was his mother…
Jacob turned his back on his parents. Echoes from the final gunshot still rang in his ears. “Do you think anybody heard?” he asked Major.
“Just the whole fucking neighborhood,” Gabrial responded, moving toward the bodies.
Soon the Smiths and Bridgemans and Mitchells and the elderly couple that lived across the street would be knocking on the door. Then the police would arrive with their lights flashing, guns drawn, and Jacob didn’t care. How had this happened? Nice and neat it was supposed to have been. Jacob would just wake up some morning and his parents would be gone. No blood, no screams, no pain.
“I didn’t want to be involved,” he said. “You fucked up.”
“It was the gun. The gun.”
“Why didn’t you slice her throat?”
“It was the knife,” Major said, referring to Mrs. Ed. “Leave it to you to give me a defective knife.”
Jacob would hear his mother’s screams forever.
Gabrial seemed to be searching for something but Jacob was suddenly anxious to flee the master bedroom, the bodies sprawled on the floor and his fellow executioner. If he looked around, he would see things he didn’t want to see. Blood everywhere. On the walls and floor and furniture…
“Do you have any ammo for this?” asked Gabrial, holding up the murder weapon.
Jacob handed him the box of shells and walked out.
Jacob sat on the edge of his bed. He felt sweaty all over, as if he’d just completed a five mile race. He stared into space. It had really happened. The house was finally his. He had his freedom. But it didn’t feel like freedom. What did it feel like?
Jacob lay down. His throat hurt from the mace and his hands were clammy. He heard the sound of running water from the master bath. Major must be washing off the blood. Silence. Jacob had no idea how much time passed or what had happened to Major. Nor did he care.
Jacob wanted to rest, to erase the last hour from his mind, but he didn’t feel sleepy. What was he feeling? He couldn’t say, which was hardly unusual. Jacob had long ago ceased being able to label his emotions. When he was little, Pamela had said, “Don’t you dare get angry.” “Toughen up.” “Don’t cry.” When Jacob couldn’t turn off his tears on cue, she slapped him and screamed, “Stop it!” Kermode chimed in, “No use crying over spilled milk.” If Jacob couldn’t respond to the wisdom of a saying he didn’t understand, Kermode clarified his point with his fist. Sometimes they’d have to slap him several times before he managed to switch off his feelings—at least in their presence.
But Jacob’s sadness had leaked out in other ways. He cried when Charles and stepbrother Cameron teased him about being “China Jacob” because the corners of his eyes slanted, especially when he smiled. He cried when they sang, “Flipper, the Hooker,” because Flipper was his favorite show and he didn’t want anyone making fun of his beloved dolphin. In fact, no matter how hard Jacob tried, he still found himself crying over a lot of inappropriate things. Maybe it was because he wasn’t allowed to cry over things that really hurt. Well, he HAD cried when the sorrow welled up from the very core of his being and he couldn’t control the pain, but those times had become increasingly infrequent. Sometimes after turning fourteen, Jacob had finally mastered the trick. No more tears.
Jacob heard Gabrial outside his room. He stood. His partner entered the bedroom and switched on the light. Major’s eyes were bright, excited. What had he been doing in the master bedroom?
Gabrial crossed to Jacob’s white dresser. “I think I may have lost a glove.” He held up his covered hand. “When you go back in the room to discover the bodies be sure and get my glove before you call the cops. I locked the door. You’ll have to kick it down.”
He didn’t seem nervous or upset, more like exhilarated.
“Better wipe that off,” Gabrial added, pointing to a bloody fingerprint that he’d left on the dresser’s surface.
Jacob complied, rubbing the blood onto his underpants. Major said something about meeting tomorrow in order to fashion an alibi. Then he stepped out into the hallway. Like the polite young man his parents had raised him to be, Jacob escorted Major to the door.
“I can’t pay you the full two thousand dollars,” Jacob said, watching his partner put on his boots. “I didn’t want to be involved in it.”
“I know. I’ll settle for a thousand.”
For the first time Jacob noticed that both the air lock and front doors were wide open. How long had that been the case? What was wrong with Major? Jacob suddenly remembered his cats. What had happened to them? Had they wandered outside?
Gabrial picked up his samurai swords. So that’s what he’d meant when he yelled for the swords. Major shrugged into his black overcoat, repositioned the weapons inside and readied to leave.
Jacob didn’t further pursue tomorrow’s meeting, though they’d have to come up with a hell of an alibi since Gabrial had fouled everything up so bad.
Major faded quietly into the night. Now Jacob had the house all to himself. He could do anything he wanted, only Jacob didn’t have any idea what he wanted to do. For the first several minutes he expected to be discovered. The Smiths were right across the road, the Sanduskys just up the street and there were houses in back. Sunnywood Manor was always so quiet. In the stillness screams, shouts and gunshots would carry a long way, wouldn’t they? But incredible as it seemed, no one came knocking.
Jacob decided to play some thrash music. When discussing assassination plans with David or thinking about the murders, initially he’d played a lot of it, particularly D.R.I., Dirty Rotten Imbeciles. The thrash group’s words, which emphasized death and violence, were kind of like a preparation, helping him bolster his courage. With David, he would think, Okay, I can go along with this. So many times he didn’t know whether he’d have the strength to end his parents’ lives. He knew he had to, but sometimes he just couldn’t face it. But as the lead singers yelled and the drums slammed and the guitars shrieked, Jacob’s resolve hardened.
D.R.I. sang, “You seriously ask for my autograph. I can’t help but laugh. Just leave me alone, Why don’t you go home? Go die! GO DIE NOW!” The words didn’t sound so terrific tonight. He put on Exodus. “We’re going to take your life. Kick in your face and rape and murder your wife.”
Jacob quickly clicked off the stereo. After picking up his guitar he strummed Claire de Lune and some blues-boogie style music. It didn’t feel right. Nothing felt right. He put on a Doors tape that his friend Mondo had lent him. These past few weeks he’d been listening to a lot of Doors. Maybe he should crank up the volume full blast. Now nobody would scream, “Turn that off!” Or take his tapes away. But he didn’t want the neighbors to hear and somehow the idea didn’t give him any satisfaction.
Jacob returned his guitar to its case. The house seemed eerily quiet. It creaked and moaned the way it always did, and the electric furnace came on with a tick-tick-ticking whisper, but there were no human noises, or any of the feelings that always accompanied the presence of his parents. Kermode and Pamela need but step into a room and the atmosphere crackled with tension. Tonight it was almost benign. But his parents weren’t really there. Technically they were, he guessed, but not in any dangerous way. Jacob was finally safe from them if he didn’t think about his mother with that strand of dark hair fanning across her face and that river of blood leaking onto the floor like some ghastly nose bleed…
What to do? Jacob decided to take a shower in the downstairs bathroom. First, he walked around the house, turning on the light as he entered each room. Jacob had always been afraid of the dark. He wasn’t sure why, only that he had to chase away the darkness in order to chase away his terror. He couldn’t even put a label to his fear. He just felt like a mouse cowering in a corner. Even now that he was older, he still preferred leaving the lights on when he was writing, daydreaming or reading. Occasionally, when he’d be concentrating on something totally unrelated, the phrase, ‘Fear of the dark is fear of the unknown,’ would pop into his head. He could never figure out why.
Jacob didn’t think it was really fear of the unknown. What was it then?
He finished his tour of the house. It was after two a.m. From the sunroom windows Jacob could see the Smith’s house, blazing with thousands of outdoor Christmas lights—colored ones, plain ones, winking ones and ones that looked like fireflies. The Smiths always made a big deal out of holidays. In addition to Christmas, Jacob watched the family gathering Easter eggs on Easter Sunday, and on the first day of every school year the parents took pictures of their children. Jacob didn’t know how to feel about all that family togetherness. He sure didn’t want his parents doing anything with him, but in a way he envied the Smiths. It would have been nice if the Jordan family could have enjoyed at least one event without fighting. Nice to have had parents who bought thoughtful presents and fussed over him and Charles and offered encouragement instead of abuse when they strung Christmas lights, and didn’t mind if the tree wasn’t flawlessly decorated. Why couldn’t something be done without criticism and complaint? Christmases with his real dad were a lot better. Frank didn’t care if Jacob put two silver balls right next to each other and he gave Jacob fun presents like computer games.
Jacob did remember one Christmas when Kermode and Pamela had gone all out. The tree looked perfect and the presents looked perfect, at least according to the photos that Pamela had meticulously placed in the family album. There were pictures of the Jacob and Charles opening presents with wrapping paper and bows strewn all around, and of the boys hovering on either side of Kermode as he strummed a guitar. But Christmas wasn’t Christmas without alcohol. Jacob never knew when either parent’s mood would turn ugly, shattering the festive atmosphere. Over the past several years his mother had decided that Christmas wasn’t worth the bother unless company was expected. Only then would she and Kermode put on a huge phony display and pretend that they were indeed the All-American family.
That act was wearing thin. Last year, 1991, the Jordans had arranged a big get-together. Kermode and Pamela had purchased a grocery cart full of liquor which Kermode had largely drunk by himself and he and his eighteen-year-old natural son, Cameron, had gotten into a fistfight in front of the other relatives. This season the decorations remained in the storage shed. Pamela’s shopping had consisted of a couple of shirts and pairs of pants for Kermode and Charles. She’d also bought Charles a microwave. Charles always got the best presents.
Jacob decided that he would take a shower. Despite the fact that he was alone, he locked both bathroom doors. Afterward, he returned to his bedroom. He couldn’t sleep. His room seemed lonely. Jacob figured he should feel safe, but instead, he felt…uneasy. His thoughts kept returning to that locked door behind which his dead parents were sprawled.
Jacob unplugged his clock radio and went downstairs. After retrieving a blanket from the bathroom closet, he made a bed for himself on the family room couch. The couch was contemporary in style, with a tan background and a splotchy pattern and individual cushions that made for a comfortable fit when he stretched out upon it.
In the far corner of the room was a wood-burning stove surrounded by a large moss rock hearth. Because electricity was so expensive, the stove was often used to warm the house, though not tonight. Still, Jacob’s woolen blanket kept him warm. Off the family room was a fifth bedroom which Kermode had converted into his study. One of his stepfather’s most prized possessions was a set of antique leather bound books dealing with Greek philosophy. Jacob had occasionally read from the books because he hoped to understand what Kermode found so fascinating about that ancient time period and to better argue a point during political discussions. Such things had been part of Kermode’s molding process. Kermode had tried to inculcate his own ideas into Jacob’s brain, thereby creating a miniature version of himself. His stepson: Revolutionary, Philosopher, Scientist, Genius. Kermode had molded Jacob after the fashion of Greek elders mentoring their students. Mentored him in ways that Jacob could only faintly remember, like the echo of a gunshot, the ghost of a sob…
Jacob lay in the darkness, staring up at the ceiling. His parents’ bodies were above him, resting atop the plywood and carpeting. Jacob didn’t like to think about that. He felt the same way as when he’d done something wrong and he knew he was in really big trouble. Only now the feeling was intensified a thousand times.
From out of the shadows, Hops, his favorite cat, appeared. She leapt upon his bare chest and he stroked her silky fur. Jacob particularly loved Hops because he’d watched her being born. Hops’s mother had crawled up on Jacob’s pillow and delivered her litter right in front of him. Hops purred and burrowed against him as if she knew that something was wrong. Gradually while comforting his pet, Jacob’s own dread disappeared. He felt perfectly calm, at peace with himself. As he contemplated his life, he was surprised to realize that this was the best he’d ever felt. Finally, finally he was safe.
Once Hops left, so did Jacob’s contentment. He retrieved an old Bible from the study and began looking up anything to do with murder. He didn’t know much about the Bible but he hoped it would say something like, ‘If you do it it’s all right.’ It didn’t. Instead it warned, ‘If you do such and such it’s just as bad as murder…’ ‘If your hand does something in sin, cut it off.’
And emphatically, ‘Thou shalt not murder.’
Jacob didn’t like that at all. There was no getting around it. He was in serious trouble.
How was he ever going to get out of this mess? He really only had one choice. Jacob began to pray.
“It’s been a long time since I actually talked to You,” he told God. “I fucked up.”
Jacob prayed for an hour or two. He ended his prayer by promising God that he would see Him the next day.
Now that Jacob had made up his mind to commit suicide, he had to figure out the details. He probably should go to school. He would skip first hour so he could explain to his best friend Mondo what had happened. Jacob would tell Mondo that he loved him like a brother. Then he’d go back home and write letters to his friends. He planned to give half of his pot to Lila and half to his friend Jeremy. Then he would call 911.
“I killed my parents and now I’m going to kill myself,” Jacob would say and hang up.
Immediately, he would retrieve the twelve gauge shotgun from the closet, take it out on the deck, put it to his forehead and pull the trigger.
The prospect of dying didn’t frighten Jacob. For as long as he could remember Jacob had been consumed with thoughts of death. Not that he believed anything would happen. He just expected an explosion, dazzling lights. Annihilation.
Jacob finalized his suicide plans. Then he slept.
‘Would you know my name, If I saw you in heaven? Would you feel the same, If I saw you in heaven?‘
At 6:45 Jacob awakened to the sounds of Eric Clapton’s, “Tears In Heaven.” Of all the songs, Jacob thought. Either this is supreme irony or God has a sense of humor.
Sleep hadn’t refreshed him. Even as he’d dozed, a part of him had remembered the bodies, the deed, the fact that in a few hours he would be seeing his parents. Only they wouldn’t be meeting in heaven.
Jacob returned to his bedroom. His room looked uncharacteristically sloppy with its unmade bed and discarded clothes, but Jacob didn’t bother to tidy up. He put on a pair of blue jeans and his diamond-patterned tie-dye shirt. Now he could wear anything he wanted. Maybe he should go all out with bellbottoms, flowered polyester shirt and the road runner necklace he’d purchased at Goodwill. Either that or wear some of his political buttons that bore slogans like “End U.S. Aid to El Salvador,” and “Support the Police: Beat Yourself Up.” In the past he’d often worn his “good clothes”—meaning those his mother approved of like dockers, turtlenecks, and sweaters—to the bus. Then on the way to school he’d change into something more to his liking. But if he appeared looking like a flower child, he might draw attention to himself. Not that that really made any difference.
Time seemed to drag. The bus arrived around 7:20. Jacob was ready to go by seven. He descended the stairs to the kitchen and sat at the table. He didn’t think about his parents, about what might be happening to their bodies. That didn’t seem real in a way, yet in a way it did. It was so hard to explain what he was feeling and thinking.
After awhile, Jacob decided that maybe he needed something to drink. His parents kept their liquor in the cabinet above the refrigerator. He removed a full bottle of Scotch and took a long drink. The whiskey burned going down and caused his empty stomach to rebel. He was afraid he’d vomit. Jacob closed his eyes and waited until the urge subsided. The liquid left a bad taste and did nothing to assuage his anxiety. With each passing moment, his nervousness intensified. In a few hours he would go out on the deck, sit down on one of the benches, take one last look at Pikes Peak surrounded by the brilliant Colorado sky, pull the trigger, and none of it would matter anymore.
Jacob put food and water out for his cats. He didn’t want to think about what would happen to them when he was gone. Everything was just so screwed up. He’d never wanted any of it to turn out this way, but there was no going back now.
Finally, Jacob put on his Levi jacket with a fur collar, stuffed Major’s missing glove, which he found in the mud room, in his pocket, and left for the bus stop. He was the first to arrive. After the others drifted from their houses, they chatted about inconsequential things. Nobody mentioned that they’d heard strange noises in the middle of the night or seen anything out of the ordinary.
Several kids discussed their plans for the holidays. In two days Jacob was supposed to fly out to Rockford, Illinois, to spend some time with his real dad. He’d nearly forgotten about that. Well, that was never going to happen now. Jacob concentrated on the next few hours—what he would say to Mondo, and about his own impending suicide. The more he thought about killing himself the less he liked the idea. Still, what choice did he have?
On the bus he sat next to fifteen-year-old Jeremy Watson (*). Jeremy, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed skater/stoner type, was one of Jacob’s best friends. Last summer they’d spent a lot of time together and Jeremy had helped Jacob get a dishwashing job at Jan’s Cafe.
“You bring it?” Jeremy asked, referring to some pot Jacob had promised.
“Nope.” Jacob had decided to give his entire stash to Lila. Turning, Jacob surveyed his fellow passengers, looking for his partner in crime. Major wasn’t on the bus.
“Why didn’t you bring it?” Jeremy asked.
Jacob kind of wanted to tell his friend about what was locked away in the master bedroom. Maybe verbalizing would make last night seem real, or make it disappear. If only locking away his parents could somehow lock away the deed. But it couldn’t, so he talked about pot instead.
“I need it. Why don’t you ask Dave?” he said, referring to David Mabie.
While the bus bounced along, Jacob sang part of the Doors’ L.A. Woman, repeating the chorus, “Mr. Mojo Rising, Is your mojo rising?”
Jeremy later recalled that Jacob seemed to be in a good mood, but Jacob was an expert at pretending. Show one face to the world, and never let anybody know the truth. For as long as he could remember his parents had warned, “What goes on behind these walls is nobody’s business,” and he hadn’t dared disobey them. Once, at age nine, he’d threatened, “I’m going to call the cops.” Kermode and Pamela had taunted him, saying, “Go ahead. Nobody will believe you,” and Jacob’s resolve had crumbled. He’d always had a terrible fear of being called a liar—maybe because Pamela stretched the truth so much and he didn’t want to be anything like her. Well, he wasn’t like her, was he?
But in a few hours, he would be. Yes, Jacob thought, as the bus lurched down Kelly Road. In a few hours he would be as stiff and cold and dead as his mother.
And (Jacob) was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place.”
~ Genesis 28:17
Chapter 7 (click to entire chapter)