KISS THE BAND GOODBYE
a novel by Dennis Earl Fehr
What does it mean to take a life?
It means that the life is yours.
If you do not want the life to be yours, do not take it.
Two quick pops. A third. Silence. Now footsteps. Then this man who I know as Vee comes out of my bedroom, where my father and I had been hiding. Stuffing a pistol into his pants, he walks into the living room, where he has told me to wait. I know nothing of guns. His is the first one I’ve ever seen, but I know what he did to my father.
He heads toward me, saying, “Sorry, kid. This was only supposed to be about your daddy.” Then he stops, looks me up and down, and grins. “But you’re a damn fine bonus.” He picks me up and carries me over the shattered glass and splintered wood that used to be our kitchen door.
I play and replay this scene as three years go by in his basement. When I am eight, Vee no longer wants to do his things to me. He has brought in another boy, Raymond, who says he is five. It is time for Vee to do to me what he tells me has done to the other boys who grew too old. He lives next to the ocean near a cliff. He has no neighbors. Our punishment for being old is to be thrown off the cliff.
He tells me many, many times about throwing the others off the cliff. He tells me whether they cried or not. Almost all did, he says. He mimics their voices as they begged.
“No,” some whisper.
“Nooooo!” others plead.
“NO!” some shout.
With his body he shows me how some of them try to pull him back from the cliff as they approach the ledge. He tells me that, even if they were screaming right up until he threw them off, no one ever makes a sound after he lets go of them. He says it’s because they freeze up with terror.
He watches them fall and smash on the rocks. Then he tells me about taking his dogs, Maleficent, Hitler, and Satan, down the trail to eat the boys’ bodies. I have never seen or heard the dogs, but he says that he starves them for two days so that when they are done eating the bodies, not much is left to put into the trash bags. And he tells me about rolling the trash bags in dog manure before putting them into the dumpsters so that homeless people won’t open them. He always ends by saying, “Your turn’s coming pretty soon. Pretty soon.”
His goal is to make me think about it, and I do. But I also think about other things. Like why Vee murdered my father. He hadn’t seemed angry at him when he did it. I never ask though. Vee doesn’t like it when I talk.
I think about how much I miss my mom and how worried she must have been when she got home and found my father dead and me disappeared. And I think about what it is like for her to wonder, every day, what has happened to me. And I think about if I will ever see her again.
There is one more thing I think about. I think about disappearing. I have learned how to do it. When it is my turn to go to the cliff, I will disappear, just as I have done when Vee makes his Wet Willie big. I leave my body and Magnus takes over. Magnus doesn’t know that I know about him, but I do. Magnus is mean, but he helps me with Vee. When Vee lets go of me, I will not be there. Magnus will crash on the rocks. I will not be hurt. I already will not exist.
When the morning comes for my turn, I don’t cry or scream or pull away. I walk outside with him. It is my first time outside since he carried me to his truck from our kitchen doorway. I am so shocked by everything I see that for a few seconds I forget why he took me outside.
I see and smell the ocean over the cliff edge. It is so very beautiful. But we don’t go that way. Vee leads me behind the house. A long, black car with dark windows is parked there.
“Take off your clothes,” Vee says. I obey.
We walk to the car. A man who looks like a policeman gets out. He opens the back door. Inside are long seats facing each other. A fat, naked man is sitting on one, facing us. He stares at my Wet Willie.
No. I would rather have Magnus jump off the cliff.
“Turn around and bend over,” Vee says, but he is way too late. I’ve already turned around behind him, and I’m running my fastest toward the cliff, getting out of Magnus’s way. I can still hear Vee running behind me, yelling, “NO! Nooooo!”
Now the edge.
Magnus jumps. He doesn't make a sound.
When the bird is alive, it eats the ant. When the bird is dead, the ant eats it. —THE BUDDHA
“So. You're Sammy Luchessee. Assistant to Sunday Raines. Thanks for granting this interview. I hope it leads to an interview with the real prize, Mr. Raines.”
“Assistant? Nuh-uh. Try partner. And also, my name ain’t pronounced Luchessee. L-U-C-C-H-E-S-I. That's Lu-KAY-zi. I’m a proud Italian who gets mistaken for Mexican, which is what you Europeans call anyone born between South Texas and North Antarctica. Not that it bothers me.”
“Of course. Mr. Lu-KAY-si. I have nothing but respect for—which one are you again?”
“So that would make you European too?”
“No need to get caught up in details. And it’s doctor, by the way.”
“You? You're kidding.”
“No, not me, lady. Don't be cute. Sunday is Dr. Raines.”
“I see. You know, I did hear him refer to you as his assistant. You might want to correct him.”
“You heard wrong.”
“Of course. Partner it is. So just what is Dr. Raines a doctor of?”
“Actually, he's a doctor twice. Doctor of art history and doctor of economics.”
“Hm. Those two fields are so different.”
“Sunday says they have a lot in common. Between you and me, he likes art and he likes money. He'll never admit it though.”
“And after all that, he ended up a private detective. Wow. How did that happen? How well do you know this interesting man?”
“Very well. Since we were in the hospital together when we were kids. I was in there for poison ivy. He was in there to recover from being starved, sexually abused, and tortured for three years, starting when he was five.”
“Yes, I know. Dreadful beyond words. And no one knows the name of the person who abused him, correct? Everyone just refers to him with the letter V?”
“Is it true that this V person supported himself by cashing in life insurance policies he took out on boys that he kidnapped and murdered?”
“We don’t think he murdered any of them. No money in it. He just told them that when they turned eight, he was going to murder them. It’s true that after they got to be eight or so, they couldn’t get him—you know—excited. He sold them to clients who liked their entertainment a little older. He lived close to the ocean, so twice he was able to get away with filing insurance claims that they drowned. He got greedy, though, and it made him stupid. Sunday happened to escape from V, but V filed anyway. That being the third time, the insurance people started asking tougher questions. That’s when V went underground, and no one saw him for ten years. Then Sunday discovered that V was alive. That's the moment he became a private detective. The chase is on, ma'am.”
“Does Sunday’s physical size make being a private eye more difficult?”
“No. His diet wasn’t so good during those three years with V, which is probably why he ended up five feet four. People underestimate him because of his size and he gets some good mileage out of that.”
“Speaking of his appearance, Mr. Lucchesi, Sunday’s obviously a Buddhist monk, what with the shaved head and the robes. What can you tell me about that?”
“In his late twenties he became a Buddhist. The Tibetan version. Taking refuge, they call it. He studied in India, met the Dalai Lama, the whole nine yards. He says Buddhism keeps his ego in check and enables him to be celibate. He’s telling the truth about one of those things.”
“Can't tell you. Too personal.”
“You’re the one who brought it up, so let me guess—monks’ robes, short stature, celibacy. And yet, I’ve heard that women fall all over the guy. Give me a hint.”
“Okay, break my arm. I didn’t say he was telling the truth about celibacy.”
“Your eyes did though.”
“My eyes? How did my eyes give it away?”
“They didn’t. I lied. But thanks for confirming it. So he’s egotistical. That’s boring. But he’s celibate with hordes of women fans. That’s interesting. So back to the women fans.”
“It’s true. I get a kick out of watching him. It’s the way he listens to them. He leans forward just so, looks into their eyes, hangs onto every word. Sometimes you can see a woman fall in love while she’s looking into that face of his.”
“The guy does have a gorgeous face.”
“Yeah. You’ll probably be in love with him by the time you’re done writing your article.”
“I’m already in love. Her name is Sheila.”
“Sheila? Oh, you're a dyke. Doesn’t matter though. In Sunday’s case, being straight wouldn’t do you any good.”
“I imagine some of Sunday’s fans might spill over to you once in a while?”
“Not really. Not that it bothers me.”