It started pissing rain. Mom stood in her back yard, in her thin, torn dressing gown, soaked to the skin, the cold rain making her welts and bruises sting and throb. She was feeling very put upon.
There she was, surrounded by dead bodies and living wastes of space that were all somehow her problem. There was Cindy, lying like an unattractive heap of trash on the lawn. And poor little Gordon looked like he was asleep, except for the horrible way his eyes bulged out. There was Allen over by that tramp Laurie, shamelessly naked, getting a good look instead of being by her side when she needed his support. She’d deal with him later. And there was Judy, standing in front of her, looking pitiful, like she’d lost her homework on the way to school again.
Leaving Mom to deal with everything. It was always like that. Life was so hard. But it was her private penance. Her own children were God’s punishment for marrying against her parents’ wishes. And Judy was further punishment for having sex on their first date.
They all stood in the rain and looked at each other while the sirens got louder and louder and finally wound down to a moan. Then they stood in a cluster near the back door and watched as the EMTs packed Laurie away on a stretcher, zipped Cindy into a plastic shroud, and left Gordon where he was until they could get a Hazmat unit out to look at him.
The three survivors clustered by the back door, wrapped in EMT blankets, surrounded by police officers. The policeman in charge came up and asked what happened. Nobody said anything. Nobody knew where to begin.
“I know you’ve all been thru a shock,” he tried, “so just give me the basics, okay?” They stared at him.
He was wet, and getting impatient. “Don’t try to tell me nobody saw anything with three bodies on the ground,” he started, looking at the scene. “Or that this is a series of suicides or something.”
They all spoke at once. Cindy’s attack in the bedroom. Cindy and Laurie fighting in the bushes. Cindy and Judy struggling. The noise of the gun going off. The rain. The weak moral fiber of certain ungrateful children.
Just as the officer was starting to get a handle on who shot Laurie, the smell of seared Gordon drifted over them. They turned to look. “That’s Judy’s mat.” Mom pointed at the remains of Gordon’s head sauteing on Frank’s invention.
Allen piped up, “She moved it to the exact place where Gordon stepped on it. And then Blam.”
“I was just trying to put it back,” Judy protested.
“Don’t lie in front of a policeman,” Mom hissed. “You know very well that it belongs on the porch. You had no business moving it.”
“But I didn’t,” Judy protested.
The cop silenced their bickering. “Ok. Let’s get back to the shooting. Whose gun was it?”
Nobody living had seen Cindy draw it out of her bag, but they all saw her pointing it, so the consensus was that it was hers. It actually belonged to the truck driver Bill fired for smuggling clay pots from Mexico for Cindy, without letting his boss know what he was doing. But this information wouldn’t be confirmed for a few weeks.
“Where’s the gun?”
Nobody could tell him.
“Who fired the shot?”
They began bickering again. The argument seemed to be whether Cindy or Judy had been trying to shoot Laurie or Mom, with Judy insisting she was only trying to help and never fired anything.
The cop realized that he had at least one nutcase on his hands, the way they were flinging old accusations at each other. There was no telling what really happened. He ordered Judy’s hands bagged, just in case.
He spoke to Allen and Mom. “Did you see the gun?” They both nodded. “Then who had it when it went off?” They both agreed it was Judy. “So where is it now?” They shrugged. He looked at Judy. She had no idea.
Finally Allen remembered that Judy ran off around the house after Laurie was shot. So the cop left someone to watch them, and conducted a quick flashlight search of the front yard, but they found nothing. They came back and moved off to a corner of the back yard to discuss things among themselves.
Judy leaned in to Mom. In the middle of this crisis she needed Frank more than ever, but he wasn’t going to be able to help her with anything. And the thing she needed to do most of all right now was to express her feelings about it. It was the first chance she’d had to confront Mom about Frank’s death, but with all this sudden life and death stuff she didn’t feel like being nice. “You raped my husband,” she said, looking Mom in the eyes. “You tortured him.” Her hands clenched inside the bags.
Mom looked at her calmly. Her eyes did not cloud over with guilt. She smiled. “He enjoyed it,” she said slowly. “He asked for more.”
Judy was shocked. “You killed him. You’re wicked.” She stopped. She didn’t want to hurt Mom with the truth. But, no – she really did. “They all tried to kill you, you know. Even Gordon. Because you’re hateful.”
Mom reached out, grabbed Judy by the shoulders and shook her, hard. Like she’d wanted to shake her as a child. The dripping blankets fell off of them like parting curtains. Then Mom pulled back and slapped Judy across the face. Just like she did all those years ago when Judy told her to fuck off. “Don’t you dare talk to me like that,” she screeched. They stared into each other’s eyes with hatred flying between them like razor blades.
Judy raised her hand slowly to her cheek, feeling tears coming to her eyes, and forgot all about hating Mom. She’d just lost all her brothers and sisters, and now Mom hated her.
She started to cry, and Mom stood there looking at her for a moment, and suddenly reached out and hugged her, starting to cry herself. They stood sobbing, holding each other and swaying gently, while the rain fell on them. Judy held on and wished she could be little again. Mom stroked her back and patted Judy’s hair like as if she were little again.
“I never did anything to anybody, Mom,” she said, wheezing between gulps of air. “You just don’t know. I’m the only one who was good. I’ve always tried to be a good big sister. I tried to make them see. To stop them from being so hateful.” She thought of all her attempts to help, backfiring so spectacularly. “I only wanted everybody to get along. It’s all my fault.” She looked at her mother, with love and pleading in her eyes. “I did it all because I love you.” She started to bawl. “I only want you to love me. Waaaaaaah.”
Judy hugged Mom fiercely, and Mom hugged her back, but noticed something heavy in the pocket of Judy’s skirt and pushed her away with a grimace. “I’m not falling for that. You’ve wanted me dead since you were in high school.”
She turned to the police, her conflict between love and punishment solved with a single thought – I was too soft before, but you’re not getting away with it this time, my girl. She waved at the detective and pointed at Judy’s pocket. “She’s got a gun!”
That’s when the cops knocked Judy to the ground and stopped being nice to her.
The bruises were purple when they told her she was being charged with Cindy’s death too. The coroner identified a poison the investigators then found in abundance at Judy’s house.
The bruises were turning green when they charged her with Rick’s death from a similar poison.
The lacerations were only fading scars when they added on attempted murder charges for all the similarly poisoned strippers that ended up in the ER.
All her scrapes and bruises had healed and she was in perfect health by the time they charged her with the string of gruesome serial killings that suddenly stopped when she was arrested. Some of the murders involved a similar poison, and there were other links to Judy, like the gun she shot Laurie with, which belonged to one of the serial victims, a trucker found naked and upside down in the driver’s seat, belted in and drained of blood like a butchered deer.
She was then charged with all the attempts on Mom’s life, from cut brake lines to sideswipes on the road, and everything they found in Frank’s basement workshop.
Also, and most importantly as far as sentencing was concerned, she was charged with several dozen counts of making terroristic threats, because of all the plot devices she wrote down on stickies when she was interested in writing a novel about killing off members of her family. It didn’t help that she’d anticipated several attempts with chilling accuracy.
Continue chapter 28