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NINE, THE TALE OF KEVIN CLEARWATER

by T.M. Frazier

Copyright @ 2019 by T.M. Frazier. All rights reserved

CHAPTER ONE

Kevin 

Seventeen Years Old

Serial killer and mass murderer, Andrew Kehoe, once said, “Criminals are made, not born.” 

Maybe, that was true for him, but it’s not for me. 

I was born into chaos, with theft in my blood and rage boiling in my heart. Pushed out unceremoniously into the world, unwanted by everyone I crossed paths with, including my own piece of shit mother. 

I’ve had to fight for anything I’ve ever had. Earn it by way of scars on my knuckles and hate in my soul. 

My only family has been the streets. My only long-term home has been juvie. 

A month ago, I was released from the latter of the two. Now, I find myself in one of the places I hate most, but the only place I could legally be released to according to the powers that be. 

Yet another foster home. 

My personal purgatory until I turn eighteen or get locked up again, whichever comes first. 

I open the envelope given to me by my caseworker, Mrs. Peterson, at our most recent follow up meeting. Usually these transfer packages come with the standard stuff, copies of legal forms, release papers, wrap sheets, and is usually accompanied by a pamphlet Mrs. Peterson likes to toss in there about how to manage anger without violence. That particular literary treasure is my personal favorite. It features a diverse group of smiling children plastered on the front who look like they not only drank the Kool-Aid, but bathed in it twice. 

Of course, those kids don’t use violence to deal with their anger. They’re heavily medicated—preparing for a suicide trip to Mars with their cult leader. 

But this package isn’t like any of the others I’ve received. No pamphlets. No transfer papers. It’s a letter from my case worker.

 

Dear Kevin, 

Since you’re aging out of state care soon and I know you don’t have any plans as to where you’re going after you turn eighteen, I wanted to help in any way I could. I did some digging. I think I found your brother. His name is Samuel Clearwater. His last known address is in Logan’s Beach. 

Good luck, Kevin. I truly wish you all the best. You’re a very bright kid. I hope you use some of that intelligence to find your place in this world. 

-Mrs. Peterson. 

 

My place in the world? I’m pretty sure that’s the tagline from one of those infamous pamphlets. 

Mrs. Peterson has got to be losing it because I don’t have a brother. 

I don’t have anyone. 

I tuck the letter back into the envelope and pull out a picture, which turns out to be a mugshot of a guy who looks a lot like me but with lighter hair and a shit-ton of tattoos peeking out from underneath the collar of his dress shirt. My heart begins to race. I sit up and look closer at the picture. He’s wearing a bow tie and a matching pair of suspenders. His head is cocked to the side, and he’s making duck lips at the camera while holding a sign that reads LOGAN’S BEACH SHERIFF’S OFFICE INMATE with a date from two years ago listed below it. I look closer and realize that he’s holding the sign with only his two middle fingers. 

I wonder if the sheriff’s office ever noticed that. I grin to myself. 

A brother. My brother. 

The concept is baffling, having grown up with no family to speak of and no one to rely on but myself and my friend Pike. That is, until Pike and I got separated, and we lost contact when he ended up in a detention center clear across the state. 

My thoughts are interrupted when reality hisses at me like a snake about to be stepped on, courtesy of my foster father. 

“Loretta, where is that boy?” Jameson shouts angrily above the Willie Nelson song blaring beyond my bedroom door. The tune is cheery. The situation is not. It’s like “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” blasting through the speakers of Hell. 

“I don’t fucking know! You want him? You go look for him!” Loretta slurs. 

I’ve been in great homes, and I’ve been in terrible ones. On a scale of one to ten—ten being the shittiest—Loretta and Jameson’s home ranks in the triple digits somewhere above the seventh circle of Hell. 

My door is closed, but the unmistakable stench of crack cocaine and body odor wafts underneath the crack in my bedroom door. A few nights I’ve woken up to Jameson sitting at the end of my bed, watching me. That’s when I quickly discovered the attic access hidden in the closet. Most nights, I climb up into the muggy, dusty, attic and sleep crunched up in the tiny crawl space. 

Loretta and Jameson don’t give a shit if I’m here or not. That’s why, when I hear that they are looking for me, it’s usually to go find them drugs or ask if I have any money. 

I decide to make myself scarce. I climb up into the attic and make sure the scuttle hole is shut behind me. 

After only a few seconds does my bedroom door opens. 

“Shit. He ain’t in here,” Jameson says in his thick southern drawl. “I thought I saw him come in earlier.” 

“I paid you good rock. He better show the fuck up,” says a stranger’s voice. 

“He’ll be here, Henry. A deal is a deal,” Jameson snaps back. “I’ll tell you what I tell all the others. Don’t go leaving no marks on him. I don’t need DCF stopping’ my fuckin’ checks. I got another months’ worth on this kid. I ain’t gonna blow that now.” 

“I know. I know. I’ll put the shit you gave me in his beer so he won’t know a damn thing, but if he ain’t here in the next few hours, you owe me for the rock.” 

“Let’s check out back. Sometimes, he’s out smokin’ in the yard,” Jameson says before shutting the door. 

My hands shake. My blood boils. The sweat dripping from my forehead isn’t just from the heat in the attic. I’m dripping pure, unadulterated rage. 

I’ll tell you what I tell all the others

This fucker has been pimping me out…for crack. 

It all hits me. Nights of waking up after what seemed like an endless sleep when I usually can’t sleep for shit. Pains in places I figured I just got too drunk to remember doing something stupid to myself or falling or…

It was never any of that. 

I turn my head and release an endless stream of vomit between the rafters until there’s nothing left in me but an overwhelming feeling of disgust and a bloodlust like I’ve never felt before. 

I wait for what seems like forever for the music to die off and the muffled voices to turn to silence. Slowly, silently, I leave the safety of my hiding spot and grab my backpack. I stuff the envelope with the letter and picture Mrs. Peterson gave me and my beat-up laptop. That’s it. I’ve got nothing else; it almost feels stupid to be bringing a backpack at all. 

I creep into the other room. It’s littered with empty bottles and cans. Crumpled foil and overflowing ashtrays cover the couches where several people are passed out, including Loretta. Even though I know I couldn’t wake them from their drug induced comas even if I shouted in their ears, I don’t see Jameson so I creep outside onto the rickety porch where I don’t dare exhale until I reach the bottom step. 

“There you are, boy,” Jameson says, standing off his rusted truck. He almost trips over an old tire in the overgrown yard. His beard is wet and dripping with whiskey, his shirt sweat-stained at the neck and armpits.

My blood runs cold. I clench and unclench my fists. Every muscle in my body stiffens. I’ve always fought with my fists but for the first time in my life I wish I had a gun. 

Another equally drunk or high man stumbles up beside him with a wicked gleam in his eye. He adjusts his trucker cap. “How you doin’ tonight, boy? I’ve been waiting for you.” 

“Hi,” I say through clenched teeth. You must be that piece of shit, Henry. 

“You want a beer, kid?” Jameson asks, he holds out the full beer in his hand. The fucker has probably been walking around with that all night, waiting to drug me so the other piece of shit can rape me. 

My rage intensifies with every zap of the mosquito zapper laying sideways on the porch. I could run…or I could revenge

“Yeah, I’ll take a beer,” I say. I take it from his hands and pretend to take a swig. 

They exchange a knowing look that makes me want to bash this bottle over their heads. “Hang on,” I say. “You guys ain’t got beers. Can’t drink alone. I’ll be right back.” I set down my backpack, so they know that I intend to come back. 

“Nice,” Henry whispers to Jameson. “Very nice.” 

Jameson grunts. “Told ya.” 

My stomach rolls again as I make my way into the garage and get two beers from the cooler by the door. There’s nowhere to pour the drugged one without being obvious so I chug half from each of the two fresh ones and fill them with whatever is in mine. I grab a third clean beer and go back out to Henry and Jameson who are leaning on the hood of the truck. 

I hand them the drugged beers, buying myself time. 

“Mighty kind of you,” Henry says, taking a swig. His eyes gleam brightly from under the brim of his hat. 

“Come on, kid. I want to show you something in the garage,” Jameson says. I hear Henry chuckle. They set their beers down on the open tailgate. 

Shit. Time’s already up.

They move toward me. I have no choice but to back up into the garage. As much as I wish I can fight them off, I can’t. There’s two of them, plus they have the height and the crack strength advantage. I’m just a lanky kid with anger issues. I can hold my own, but I choose my fights wisely and this would be anything but wise. 

But I do have an advantage, something I have that these fuckers don’t. A brain. 

I step toward them, stopping them from backing me into the garage. “I wanted to show you something, too. I mean, since I’m aging out soon and I won’t be around anymore. It’s…it’s kind of a going away gift. It’s inside. I’ll go grab it and bring it out.” 

Jameson scrunches his sunburnt forehead. “Boy, you’ve been nothin’ but a fucking thorn in my side since you got here, and suddenly, I’m supposed to believe you got me a gift?” He chuckles. 

“Isn’t family supposed to annoy each other?” I ask, trying to deliver words that literally taste like bile in my mouth. “Besides, it’s not like a sentimental gift. It’s shit I know you’ll be into. Pike’s shit.” 

Pike isn’t just a friend; he’s a high-end dope dealer, and Jameson knows this. At the mention of his name, Jameson practically starts salivating for a taste of whatever it is he thinks I might have for him. He waves his hand toward the house. “Well, then by all means, go fuckin’ get it.” 

Henry looks annoyed and rolls his eyes, but I’ve got Jameson onboard and have bought myself the time I need. 

I duck back into the darkened garage and open the door to the house. When I’m sure they aren’t looking, I shut it again and crawl on my knees to the far wall. I grab an oily rag and shove it into the gas tank of Loretta’s wood paneled station wagon. I dart back to the door and pretend to be coming back out, locking it from the inside before slamming it shut to get their attention. 

“Well, where is this gift?” Jameson asks, peering into the darkness. 

“Come on in here. It’s in the front seat of Loretta’s car, on the dash. Didn’t want to bring it outside, considering the law’s been on this street every few hours since the meth-heads on the corner got busted. I figured the three of us could do it in here.” 

“Smart, kid,” Henry mutters as they both enter the garage. 

You have no fucking idea. 

Jameson gets in the driver’s seat and Henry the passenger’s. 

I pretend to be getting into the backseat, opening the door, but what I really do is light the rag in the gas tank with my Zippo. 

“It ain’t in here,” Jameson says, looking around the dash with irritation. 

“What the fuck, boy?” Henry barks, turning back to me. I stand in front of the lit rag. 

“Sorry, I meant it’s in the trunk. Hang on just a sec.” When he turns back to Jameson, I jog over to the trunk and pop it. With it open, they can’t see me as I step out onto the driveway and jump up to grab the rope attached to the garage door, but it’s high and I miss. 

“Wait, I didn’t see you open the fucking trunk. What the fuck are you up to?” Jameson grates, but he can’t see me. He opens the car door. 

Shit. I jump for the rope again, and this time I don’t miss. As soon as my hand is around it, I pull it down to the ground as hard as I can. The door closes with a bang, just as Jameson and Henry emerge from the station wagon. Thankfully, it’s one of those old school garage doors with a key in the handle, and even more thankfully, Jameson always stupidly leaves the key inside. I turn the handle to click the garage in place and then the key to keep it that way. 

“Open this fucking door!” Jameson roars from the other side. 

“This one’s locked, too,” Henry adds. 

“What the fuck are you up to?” 

I can’t resist answering. “This is my gift. The gift of travel.” 

“What the fuck are you talking about? Travel? We’re locked in. Let us the fuck out now!” His panicked screams only cause me to chuckle. 

“Enjoy your one-way ticket to Hell, motherfuckers.” 

“Shit, the gas tank!” one of them announces. The terror in their voices doesn’t make me feel sorry for them. It makes me want to pound on my chest with my fists like a triumphant fucking Gorilla, but there’s no time. I turn, grab my backpack, and run as fast as I can from the house. I vaguely register a few more frantic “what the fucks” before the deafening boom of the explosion and billowing roar of the flames fills the night air. 

The voices are silenced at last. 

I look over my shoulder and watch as the entire house catches fire, the roof collapsing within seconds. 

The smell of oil, burning wood and melting plastic is so strong it singes my nose hairs. 

It smells like…revenge. 

Freedom. 

I inhale deeply. 

It’s the best that fucking house has ever smelled.

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