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Chapter 21 of my first novel BANK SHOT, available on KINDLE and NOOK

 

Chapter 21

 

Years Earlier – South Carolina

 

 

 

The affair between the young Reverend Bobby Lee Hunt and Sue Beckton lasted about a year. Bobby Lee thought it was about love. Sue Beckton knew it was only about sex.

 

 

 

Each time he visited her he became more and more comfortable with the physical part of their relationship. He had never experienced anything like the feeling he had when he made love to her. She drove his tactile sensors haywire; the smell, the touch and the taste of love was beyond anything he had ever imagined. Because he was a deeply spiritual being, most of the comfort he felt and enjoyed in life came in the metaphysical realm of reality; sensing something was there, but not actually touching. God provided his heart and soul with all the spiritual nourishment it needed. Spiritual comfort was good and Bobby Lee was satisfied with that up until now.

 

 

 

With a woman in his life, his physical senses were being supplied with a new kind of nourishment. The more physical enjoyment he received, the more he wanted. He couldn’t get enough of Sue Beckton’s body. His lustful thoughts about her filled his consciousness. Every minute he spent fantasizing about Sue was one minute less he spent doing the work of the Lord.

 

 

 

He tried to rationalize this fundamental change in his behavior. His inner demons were involved in the classic struggle of man since the beginning of time: good versus evil. He would make love to her in ways he never imagined and then feel badly about it all day after the heavy sex acts were completed. He would ask God to forgive him and would swear to himself, and to God, that he wouldn’t do it again. But when Sue called, the righteous thoughts would go right out the window.

 

 

 

With each passing day, with each rendezvous with Sue, his inner war came closer to ending. The joys of the flesh were winning over the path of righteousness. He couldn’t help himself. Sue Beckton was his opium and he was now an addict.

 

 

 

Sue Beckton loved her time with Bobby Lee. He filled her with a physical warmth that she had been missing most of her adult life. The act of making love with Bobby Lee gave her pleasures she never experienced while she was married.

 

 

 

But when he wasn’t making love to her, she went about her business as usual, status quo. Lovemaking was now only a small part of her existence, and now that Bobby Lee had scratched her itch, so to speak, she had to get on with the rest of it. The sex was good, but she was a busy woman; she ran her late husband’s business and her social calendar was always full. She didn’t mind having sex with her young lover, as long as it didn’t interfere with the rest of her life. She screwed him on her terms, and that’s the way she wanted it to stay.

 

 

 

The torrid affair came to a Hiroshima-type climax before the end of a year. Bobby Lee saved up all his extra cash for several months. When he had saved enough, he bought her a small diamond ring. It wasn’t much to look at, but he talked himself into believing that he was in love with Sue . . . and better yet, that she was in love with him.

 

 

 

He went to see her on a Saturday night with the ring in a small ring box in his front pocket and a dozen roses in his right hand.

 

 

 

She opened the door and immediately thanked him for the flowers. She put them in a vase of water and the two sat on the couch. She didn’t waste any time trying to get inside his pants, but he abruptly stopped her.

 

 

 

“I need to say something first,” he told her. He got up from the couch, took her hand in his and got down on one knee. He looked into her deep brown eyes and said, “Will you marry me?”

 

 

 

“Oh my God, what’s he doing now?” she thought to herself, almost wishing he had not come over to see her.

 

 

 

He gave her the ring box. She didn’t know what to think. A proposal was the last thing that she was expecting from him on this night – three or four orgasms maybe, but not a proposal. “Shit,” she thought. “How had this gotten so far off course?”

 

 

 

She opened the box and looked at the ring. It was a gold band with a small diamond set in four prongs. She looked at the ring and then looked back at him. A big smile came to her face but before she could say “I will,” she started to laugh.

 

 

 

“I’ve got bigger earrings than this,” she thought to herself, amused at the diminutive piece of jewelry with a grain-of-sand-like diamond. Then she spoke. “Marry you,” she said, and laughed several more times. “I can’t marry you. You’re just a kid.”

 

 

 

“A kid,” Bobby Lee exclaimed. “Do you call what we do every night kid stuff?” He jumped to his feet and stared back at her.

 

 

 

“No, no Bobby Lee,” she said, backtracking now that she knew his feelings were hurt. “It’s just . . . that . . . I . . . can’t get married again.”

 

 

 

“I thought you loved me,” he pleaded with her. “The things you say to me when we make love. You have to love me. You don’t just do those kinds of things unless you are in love with someone.”

 

 

 

“I think you are confusing love with sex. I do love what you do to me, Bobby Lee, but I’m not in love with you.”

 

 

 

When he heard those words from Sue he was filled with another kind of passion – anger and hate. The thought of strangling her flashed through his mind, but there was still enough of God’s presence in Bobby Lee to keep him from acting on this impulse. He did the best thing possible at the moment. He turned and walked out the front door. Sue tried to follow him, but he slammed the door as he left.

 

 

 

From the sound of the slamming door, she knew that it was over. She would miss making love to him, but she knew it was for the best.

 

 

 

. . .

 

 

 

Shorty Smitherman had big dreams. He wanted it all and he wanted it now. He was tired of working with his father in the restaurant. He wanted control of the business so that he could franchise the barbeque restaurant. Shorty was convinced that franchising was the only way to legitimately make big money with the business.

 

 

 

Shorty’s father, Simpson “Big Shorty” Smitherman, didn’t agree with his son. He thought they made a good living. They had a good product. He thought that franchising would dilute the quality and reputation of his restaurant if new owners didn’t do everything just right. He would always tell Shorty, “Why mess up something that ain’t broke?’’

 

 

 

Shorty’s father was a stickler for details. He made sure that every little thing was correct before he did anything. He would not open his restaurant each day until he checked to see if all the salt and pepper shakers were filled and positioned just right on each table. He’d check and make sure each bottle of ketchup was full and clean. He’d check the tops of each bottle to see if they were screwed on tight. He’d even iron each of the red and white checkerboard table cloth.

 

 

 

This type of anal behavior drove Shorty crazy. He would see his father folding napkins, arranging utensils and looking for water spots on clean drinking glasses while Shorty would be thinking about expanding the profit base. Shorty would tell his father “If a heard of wild elephants was chasing you, you’d be worried about a goddamned mosquito flying around your head.”

 

 

 

It especially ripped Shorty when his father would put his arm around his shoulder and say, “When I’m dead and gone Little Shorty, all this will be yours and you can do with it what ever you want.”

 

 

 

When Shorty was about 30 years old, he was thinking that time was running out on his millionaire dream. He decided it was time to make a profit from the restaurant and a prophet out of his old daddy.

 

 

 

It was late October and Shorty had taken about all of his father he could stand. They were working side-by-side, day-in and day-out in the restaurant. Shorty suggested to his father the two of them take a break from the daily grind and go duck hunting down on some marsh land near Edisto Island, between Charleston and Hilton Head.

 

 

 

At first Simpson didn’t want to go; he was too wrapped up in the daily operation of the business, but Shorty was persuasive. They both agreed to go down early on a Monday morning. Monday was a slow day at the restaurant and Shorty convinced Simpson that the restaurant could function for a day without them.

 

 

 

Years earlier Simpson had bought a little piece of land on the Edisto River. They built a duck blind on the property, which was about five miles up the river from where the Atlantic Ocean met the river mouth. Located just south of the Ace Basin National Wildlife Reserve, the marshy area was a favorite spot for migrating waterfowl. The little blue and green winged teal, gadwalls, widgeons and other ducks didn’t have a clue they were flying to their death when they landed on the still waters in from of Simpson’s and Shorty’s duck blind.

 

 

 

The ride to the marsh was about 30 miles from the Smitherman’s house in downtown Charleston. Shorty and his dad departed in the dark at about 4 in the morning so that they could reach the blind before first light. They took the family jeep because the last five miles to the blind was on deep rutted dirt roads and it had rained a lot more than usual for that time of year.

 

 

 

As they made their way through the last few hundred yards of the bumpy, slippery trail, the moon was starting to set in the west. The blind was on the east side of the river and the moon and its reflection off the water made for the only light other than the two dim headlights of the jeep.

 

 

 

They parked the jeep about 500 yards from the blind. This was where the tree line stopped and the marshy area started. The two used flashlights to find and stay on the trail that wandered through the pluff mud. The tide was high and the land area of the marsh shrinks considerably when the water is up. The marsh grasses formed a three-foot tall green wall along each side of the trail.

 

 

 

Simpson led the way, his Remington 20 gauge double barrel shotgun was slung over his left shoulder. His flashlight was in his right hand pointing at the trail. Shorty followed behind about five yards. As the two walked, Shorty quietly loaded his Browning Invector Plus 12 gauge automatic shotgun. He had turned off his flashlight when they got onto the trail. Shorty could see the silhouette of his father in front of him, backlit by the glow of the flashlight and the light of the setting moon.

 

 

 

They walked through patches of fog as they got closer to the water. The only sounds that could be heard came from the millions of bugs that made their homes in the marsh. They stopped walking twice in thick patches of fog when the moon and trail disappeared. They had to be careful to stay on the trail and not step into the pluff mud – which was almost like quicksand. For fun, Simpson turned off the flashlight once, messing with Shorty. He knew his son didn’t like the foreboding sense of remoteness the fog and swamp made a person feel.

 

 

 

“Turn the light on asshole,” Shorty yelled at his dad, breaking the natural sound of the marsh.

 

 

 

“Come on Shorty, I’m just joking around,” his father said. “Try to relax. We’re supposed to be having fun today.”

 

 

 

Before they reached the blind, Shorty caught up with Simpson and the two walked together side-by-side.

 

 

 

“I think you’re going to be in for a big surprise today, dad,” Shorty told him when they got to the corner of the structure. Shorty had the key to the door at the end of the blind. He unlocked the lock and motioned for his dad to enter first. When the door slammed into the side of the wood and sheet metal building, they both heard the unmistakable sound of rattlers.

 

 

 

“What the hell?” Simpson said as he pointed the flashlight down into the blind looking through the door into the dark hole.

 

 

 

“Surprise Daddy,” Shorty said. He took his right leg and pushed his unsuspecting father down into the dark pit.

 

 

 

There were three steps from the door to the floor in the blind. Simpson lost his balance, not being nimble of foot and surprised by the push, and fell flat onto the floor. He immediately screamed. It was the blood-curdling kind of scream you never forget. A scream made by a man immersed in complete and total terror. He had fallen onto several eastern diamondback rattlesnakes. The snakes would normally retreat from human presence, shaking their rattles to warn of danger, but they had no choice in this matter. Simpson had belly flopped on top of them and they attacked.

 

 

 

The flashlight had fallen onto the floor and it pointed back toward Simpson, who jumped and convulsed with each bite. He looked like a man getting repeated electric shocks. He bounced with each hit of the fangs like the ball in a pinball machine.

 

 

 

The screams stopped after about 10 seconds. He violently flailed his arms and thrashed his legs in all directions, trying to get the snakes off him and get to his feet. Each erratic jerk of his body was met with another penetration of fangs and the injection of enough poison to kill the man – and Shorty was so counting on killing the man.

 

 

 

Each prick of a fang felt like a hot iron being stuck into Simpson’s skin. Swelling immediately followed each bite. Simpson was not a thin man by any stretch of the imagination, but the swelling made him look like an inflatable doll. His face and head looked like they would explode. There were bites on each cheek, his neck and nose. His eyes looked like they would pop out of his head.

 

 

 

Shorty turned on his flashlight and pointed it at his father. Simpson had quit struggling. He had fallen onto his back. A look was in his eyes that Shorty would never forget. It was full of pain, but it also begged “Why?”

 

 

 

Simpson could not speak now and his body had quit jerking. He just looked at Shorty as he started to die. Sweat covered his now round face.

 

 

 

The snakes had stopped biting and retreated to the other end of the blind. Most of the serpents had exhausted their venom supply. There were exactly 20 rattlesnakes in the pit. Shorty knew the number because he had placed them there the night before. He bought the snakes from an old man at a snake show near Beaufort, at a carnival close to the Marine base.

 

 

 

“You should have listened to me about the restaurant, you dumb fuck,” Shorty sneered at his father. “When you’re dead and gone, which should be any minute now, everything will be mine and I can do with it whatever I want,” he paraphrased the words of his father. “And by the way, I’m big Shorty now,” he said sarcastically as he took the last look at his father.

 

 

 

Shorty couldn’t tell if his father heard the words. He didn’t really care. All he could think of was how to clean up this mess. Shorty left the door of the blind open, hoping the snakes would leave, and walked back to the jeep. He had to ride into Edisto Island, the closest town, and report the accident. His cell phone didn’t work that far from the main highway.

 

 

 

. . .

 

 

 

After the botched proposal the night before, Sue Beckton ended the affair with Bobby Lee. She knew he would become a problem if she let him keep coming around.

 

 

 

The dismissal was almost more than he could take. After the anger wore off, he decided that he would never let any woman treat him that way again. He told himself that he would never fall in love again. Just like in the Garden of Eden, he thought, women were inherently evil and he decided to never let one get into his psyche again.

 

 

 

But one thing about women did sneak under his skin. He could not forget the physical pleasure they could provide. He was a man and he decided his mission on earth was to sleep with as many of them as he could. He could see no reason not to. There was no earthly pleasure compared to making love to a woman. He was good-looking, and he had the access to a lot of women being a preacher. Sue Beckton had helped push the young Reverend completely to the dark side.

 

 

 

From that point, Bobby Lee Hunt remained a preacher with a little of the Anti-Christ on the side. His sermons were biblical and he preached from the Gospel, but he used the word to further his misguided mission. The amazing thing about it was that it worked. Most of the parishioners were like sheep, just waiting for some shepherd to lead them. Bobby Lee became that shepherd and he led them all right. The ones he got close to were usually led down a path straight to hell.

 

 

 

. . .

 

 

 

Shorty got into the jeep and started driving toward Edisto Island. He pulled into the Sheriff’s station parking lot. He calmly took a bottle of water and splashed some onto his face. It looked like sweat. He jumped out of the jeep and ran up the steps into the front door. He was panting from the short run, and started yelling as soon as he got inside.

 

 

 

“My daddy, my daddy,” he yelled frantically. “I need help!”

 

 

 

The screaming woke up the officer sitting at a desk behind a glass window in the hallway. It was six o’clock in the morning and there hadn’t been anything exciting at the station in months. Shorty’s performance was believable. After hearing about the situation, the officer radioed for a car in the field to respond to the scene at the duck blind. He got a second officer to ride back to the marsh with Shorty. The officer also called for an ambulance, but he thought it was too late for the paramedics to do the man any good.

 

 

 

The first officers on the scene looked at the dead man and promptly threw up his sausage and biscuit. Simpson was as dead as a doornail. He was still swollen and the skin around each bite had started to discolor and turn blue, something that happened while he was still alive. Only two snakes remained in the blind after the door was left open. They were quickly shooed from the building and into the marsh grass.

 

 

 

The paramedic counted 79 snake bites on the body, and that was from just a quick inspection.

 

 

 

Shorty acted horrified, only looking at his father once when he arrived. It was the first murder he was ever involved with. He’d heard it only got easier after the first.

 

 

 

He returned to Charleston and told his mother about the deadly accident. She was distraught and it took her months to get over the tragedy. The new Big Shorty was a rock for her to lean on during the trying times. He gave Simpson a grand funeral. It was the least he could do for the man that would make him a millionaire.

 

 

 

To preserve the family business, Shorty took over all operation of the restaurant. He talked his mother out of selling the place. The first franchise was opened in Columbia less than six months later and Shorty’s dream had become a reality.