A Favor For A Favor

April 25, 2015 at 12:00 AM

The estimated reading time for this post is 27 minutes, 31 seconds

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It must have been the most run-down, filth-ridden, motel room I had ever seen – the kind of place where cockroaches didn’t feel the need to scatter at the flash of a light bulb. I wouldn’t be surprised if a whole civilization of the nasty things were living between the walls, laying their repulsive egg sacks wherever they pleased, and multiplying faster than an Asian kid on Adderall. I was seated at the edge of the bed, shifting uncomfortably atop its warped mattress while trying to ignore the rank funk radiating from a pile of unwashed sheets bundled up in the corner. It was the type of room people did everything but sleep in. That was fine by me – I didn’t come there for shut-eye, anyways. In my left hand was a half-drunk bottle of Jack Daniels. In my right was a 32 caliber Smith and Wesson.

The extraordinarily depressing location was poetically fitting in a way – I was extraordinarily depressed after all. It was my wife who was the cause of my misery. She had broken my heart, leaving me with nothing but a vacant grief-stricken soul, like a teenager who listens to Fall Out Boy and writes poetry on Tumblr. For a while suspicions of infidelity had loomed over our marriage, but I had always chalked up my conjectures as nothing more than paranoid delusions. They say denial is the best remedy for heartache. It wasn’t until I stumbled across a series of implicitly sexual emails between her and the pastor of our church (a married man in his own right), that I was faced with the morbid reality of my wife’s secret sexcapades.

Pastor Alonso was a slick, fast-talking, cut-throat, shark who dressed more like a U.S. senator than a man of the cloth. He pulled in a far bigger salary than one might expect a holy man to earn. A lot of people would be surprised to find out just how profitable the preaching business can be, especially when you head up the 2nd biggest mega-church in California. Alonso had a taste for life’s opulent luxuries and wasn’t afraid to flaunt it. It wasn’t uncommon for him to drive a Mercedes Benz to church or showoff his collection of Rolex watches during Sunday services. I guess that’s why my wife gravitated towards him. She always did have a weak spot for material things.

There was one thing that all the pastor’s money couldn’t buy him though: kids of his own. His wife, Darcy’s, on again off again battle with the big C had thrown a monkey wrench into his plans to start a family. Recently, her cancer had taken a turn for the worse and while she lied up in the hospital on her death-bed, the pastor and my wife were getting together for some “extra bible study sessions”.

When I confronted my wife about the emails, things got ugly. Names were called, expletives were hurled, and threats were thrown out (by her mostly). She explained to me that the pastor invited her and the kids to move in with him once Darcy passed – an offer my “better half” had accepted. She said she was going to give him the family he always wanted – my family. I didn’t have the money to fight a long drawn out custody battle or hire big time lawyers, but Pastor Alonso did. Couple that with the fact women usually win these kinds of disputes (even if they don’t always deserve it) and you can see why things were looking so bleak for me. Another man had stolen my wife, my children, my life, and there was nothing I could do about it.

The room slowly started spinning and I realized my good friend Jack was up to his old tricks again. Nausea was beginning to settle in and I didn’t want to spend my last moments alive vomiting the Carl’s Jr. cheeseburger I had wolfed down an hour earlier, so I decided to stop stalling and finish what I came there for.

I placed the revolver’s barrel in my mouth and rested my finger on the trigger. In case you were wondering if my life flashed before my eyes, allow me to be perfectly blunt – it didn’t. I was thankful for it too. I’d have rather taken a bubble bath with Bruce Vilanch and Ron Howard’s little brother than relive all the agony that woman put me through. I shut my eyes as tight as possible in preparation for the bullet to pass through my brain.

**

They say that he who hesitates is lost. In short, the proverb means that spending too much time deliberating on an important decision can ultimately lead to disastrous consequences. Although in my case, one tiny minute moment of pause may have actually prevented said consequences and saved my life. The cold metallic taste of the revolver’s barrel on my tongue caused me to question my actions for only the briefest of seconds, but sometimes even that can be more than enough time to change a man’s fortunes. As I sat there, trying to talk myself into pulling the trigger, the telephone in my motel room began to ring. I slid the gun out of my mouth, sat good old Jack (the only friend I had left) down on the nightstand, and answered the phone.

“Hello?” I said in my best possible not-about-to-kill-myself voice.

“Jacob! I’m so glad you picked up!” I had no idea who the voice on the other line belonged to. I never heard it before, but whoever it was, they seemed to know me. “Listen, Jake,” he continued, “before you go and…redecorate the walls with the inside of your skull, we need to have a talk first.”

I hadn’t told anyone where I planned on being that evening, but this guy not only knew my name and location, but even the fact that I was contemplating punching my ticket to that big toga party in the sky. Had he been watching me? I needed some answers. Using every working brain cell in my head, I came up with the most rational, thought-out, intelligent question I could construct.

“Uhh…what?”

“I said we need to have a talk, Jacob. Now sit tight, I’m on my way over to your room right now.” And with that he hung up the phone.

I stared blankly at the wall, completely dumbfounded – my mind still trying to process what happened. I wondered for a moment if I had just been the victim of a prank call. It seemed from our short conversation, that the guy on the other end of the line had been watching me. My first inclination was that he might have been some sort of pervert. After all, the motel wasn’t exactly a four star accommodation and I did notice that the place looked to be a magnet for weirdos, freaks, and other types of seedy characters when I checked in. I took a swig of liquid courage. For some reason I always felt braver when Jack was around.

Knock Knock

The knock on the door nearly caused me to lose control of my bowels (that Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger was coming out one way or the other). I tried to convince myself that I was just being neurotic, but something about the call made me feel uneasy.
I had become aware of a dark inexplicable feeling that began bubbling from within the pit of my stomach the moment the phone first rang – an awful combination of dread, fear, hate, and a myriad of other terrible emotions all simmering together into some kind of unspeakable brew.

“Who is it?” I called out. No one answered. I waited for a response and then tried again, this time with a little more base in my voice, “Who is it?”

Knock Knock

I stood up from the bed, tucked the gun into the waistband of my pants, and zipped up my jacket, making sure it was properly concealed before making my way towards the door.

Knock Knock

“I SAID WHO IS IT!?”

“House keeping.” The voice on the other side of the door sounded like it belonged to an elderly Hispanic woman.

“Oh,” I chuckled at myself for letting a maid get me so riled up. “Please come back later. Thank you.”

Knock Knock

“House keeping.”

“I said come back please.”

“I clean now?” By this point, the woman was seriously trying my patience. Either she didn’t speak English or she was a complete moron. “I come in?”

“There’s a sign on the door knob! Can’t you read!?” I swung open the door, ready to give the woman a piece of my mind, “It says do not dist – ”

There was no one in the hallway. I leaned my head out of the room to see if the irritating maid wasn’t bothering some other poor sap, but the corridor was as empty and barren as a Blockbuster Video store. Convinced that I had officially lost my marbles, I retreated back inside and closed the door behind me.

Knock Knock

Not a second later the knocking started up again.

“House keeping.”

“GO AWAY!” I shouted at the top of my lungs. Where had she come from? Just moments earlier I was alone in the halls.

Knock Knock

“I change towels?”

“Listen, please just leave me alone,” I begged. “There’s no way in hell I’m letting you in.”

It was getting harder and harder to ignore that strange dark sensation that was still stewing inside my stomach.

Knock Knock

“I SAID GO AWAY!”

Once more I opened the door and once more there was not a cleaning woman in sight. This time, however, I was not alone. Doubled over in laughter before me, was a teenage boy, no older than sixteen. He was wearing a forest green hoodie and a matching flat-billed baseball cap tilted off to the side – a fashion choice that made him look spectacularly douchey. His baggy jeans sagged halfway down his ass, exposing a pair of striped boxers and accenting his douchiness even further. A black bandanna hung out of his back pocket as if he was some kind of gangbanger. I found this to be particularly stupid since he appeared to be type of suburban white kid whose mom drove him to soccer practice in a minivan.

“Can I help you!?” I said. I was about ten seconds away from ringing the little twerps neck. By the way he was convulsing in laughter, it was clear that he was the mastermind behind my harassment.

“Ho-ho-ho man!” he managed to squeeze out between breaths, “You should have seen yourself. You look like you just got caught with your dick in the family goat!”

“What?”

The boy wiped a tear from his eye and took a deep exhale in an attempt to rein in his laughter, “Damn, did that go over your head? Sorry, now that I think about it, the expression is a little before your time. It originated in Scotland in the mid 1700’s. A lot more people owned goats back then so I guess it used to be funnier. When you’ve been around as long as I have, it’s hard to stay caught up with the latest lingo. What are all the kids saying these days, Jake? Is YOLO still a thing? You know what, never mind. I came here to talk to you about something else. May I come in?”

“No, you may not,” I extended my arm across the door frame to block the entrance of my room, “Why don’t you get the hell out of here kid? I’m busy.”

“Oh yes, I can see that, but I’ll only take a minute of your time.” The boy ducked under my arm, scrambling past me before I could stop him. Once inside he paused for a moment, surveying the room, and smiling snidely to himself. “Jeez Jake, this place is a dump! Why the blazes would you want to blow your brains out here? I personally would have chosen the Ritz Carlton uptown if I was going to off myself. Oh, but not before ordering some of those delicious sweet potato truffle fries from the bar in the lobby!”

“You’ve got about three seconds to get out of here kid!”

“I’m shaking in my boots.” He giggled to himself briefly before continuing, “Honestly man, intimidation isn’t your forte. I promise I’ll leave in a second, but as I said before, I wanted to have a little chat first.”

“What do you want?”

“To help you out.”

“You can help me by getting out of my room.”

“A bit snippy aren’t we? Jacob, I know you’ve had a rough day, but it doesn’t have to end the way you think it does. So what if your wife hurt you? Buck up! There is a way to remedy this situation.”

It was then that I realized the darkness inside me had never gone away. Instead it had been flourishing – spreading from my core as it pervaded throughout the rest of my body. How did this kid know so much about me? For a second time that evening I was so rattled I could hardly spit out a sentence.

“Wh-who are you?” I said. He leaned in and cupped his ear like an old man who’s hearing had waned over time. “Were you w-w-watch – ”

“Was I w-w-watching you? Is that what you were going to say? Learn to ENUNCIATE man! Sorry to interrupt, but if I let you do all the talking we’re going to be here all night and believe me when I tell you, I’ve got other places to be. Now then, why don’t I answer your second question first? Yes, I was w-w-watching you, but not in a creepy staring at you through the window kind of way. You know, like Ryan Gosling in Drive? Did you ever see that movie? It’s surprisingly good. And that Gosling, he’s got chops I tell you! The guy is so damn handsome too! Some lucky bastards just hit jackpot in the genetic lottery, am I right?”

The kid was giving me a bad vibe. I slid my hand into my jacket pocket and felt through the fabric for the handle of my revolver. All the while, he continued to blabber senselessly about how The Mickey Mouse Club was the greatest thing to ever happen to the entertainment industry. I needed to somehow get control of the situation.

“Shut the hell up kid! You better give me some straight answers right now. Why were you watching me?”

The boy’s smile quickly disappeared. He scanned me up and down, probing me with his eyes as if he was examining every inch of my body – a look of utter disgust on his face. It was bizarre; his very stare made me feel ashamed and violated. “More questions, huh? First off, you should probably make sure the hammer isn’t cocked on that little lemon squeezer of yours. You’re going to shoot your dick off and then you’ll really have a reason to kill yourself.”

Somehow he knew about the gun I was hiding under my coat. I unzipped my jacket and pulled it out from my pants. He was right. I had left it cocked.

“I was watching you because I saw a doomed soul – a lost spirit so to speak, who was about to let the bad guys win and I just couldn’t bring my self to allow you to do it.” He moseyed over to the television and dragged his finger down the screen, leaving a spotless streak across the otherwise dust-covered glass. “Take it from a guy who’s been there before. I know exactly how you’re feeling right now. I too have been betrayed by someone I loved – cast down and thrown out in favor of another.”

He paused for a moment, looking at the dust that collected on his fingertip when he wiped it across the screen. “But I haven’t answered your first inquiry yet, have I? Who am I? Well, that’s a loaded question. I’m a man of many epithets. Over the years I’ve been known as The Bearer of Light, The Son of Perdition, even The Proud One. In a story he once wrote, Washington Irving referred to me as Old Nick. I have been anointed a prince, while at the same time branded a beast.”

“You’re telling me that you are The – ”

“Please to meet you! Hoped you guessed my name!”

“But that’s impossible.”

“Why? You go to church, don’t you? Is it so hard to believe that asinine little book – the one you people so arrogantly proclaim to be God’s true word, actually got something right? Don’t go patting yourself on the back for being a Christian though. The bible’s filled with more half-truths and garbage than a supermarket tabloid.”

I was completely taken back by what the boy was saying. A couple minutes earlier I was getting ready to lodge a bullet in my brain, now I was talking to a teenager who had just declared himself to be the embodiment of evil.

“If you’re the devil,” I asked, “then why do you look like a kid?”

“Why not? I do as I please. I can appear as whatever or whoever I want. You think this is weird, once I made myself look like a snake just so I could talk to a hot naked chick.”

“Yeah, but it doesn’t make any sense.”

“Neither did Carlos Mencia’s comedy career, but it happened anyways. By the way, I assure you I had nothing to do with that.” He shook his head, “I suppose it’s proof you require, eh? I miss the old days where you people would blindly take me for my word. It made it so much easier to cheat at poker.” The boy gave me a mischievous wink. “Alright, why don’t you pick up the phone? There’s someone who needs to speak with you.”

Not a second later a shrill, earsplitting, sound cut through the motel room. The telephone on the end table was ringing. I shot a skeptical look over to the teenager. He was holding his hand to his ear as if there was an invisible phone in it.

“Hello?” I said as I picked up the call.

“House keeping. I clean now?” As the boy’s lips moved I could hear the cleaning woman’s voice over the telephone. “No hablo Ingles. I come in?” He burst into a fit of laughter.

I was floored. I tried to play it cool, but I’m certain he could read the shock on my face.

“Check this one out.” He cleared his throat. “I’m leaving you, Jacob.” Now he sounded like my wife, “Pastor Alonso has a bigger house than you. As a matter of fact, that’s not the only thing that’s bigger.” This sent him into another round of giggles. After he had his laugh, his voice returned to normal. “Not bad, right? I mean, I’m no Danny Gans, but I bet I could still play The Nugget.”

And when he said that he smiled, but it was just a little too wide – wider than a mouth should stretch. Ever so briefly I caught a glimpse of his teeth. It was as if hundreds of tiny daggers were protruding form his gums. He shifted his head ever so slightly and his peculiar facial features had disappeared. Once again he looked like a typical douchebag teenager.

“You can’t have my soul,” I said, “It’s not for sale.”

The boy scoffed, “Come now, do you really think I just go around buying people’s souls from them? Ye have little faith in humanity, Jacob. Most people are too smart to fall for that kind of thing. What’s a lifetime of happiness compared to an eternity in hell?”

“Then why are you here?”

“Like I said before, I do as I please. And it would please me very much to do a favor for you. No contracts or souls involved. Honest Injun!”

“What kind of a favor,” I asked.

He turned and started out the door. “Why don’t you accompany me for a walk and I’ll explain? Oh, and bring that little pistol with you.”

As the boy exited my room, I picked up the phone again and held it to my ear. I didn’t hear a dial tone, so I followed the cord only to find that it wasn’t even plugged into the wall. Jack was still sitting on the nightstand, waiting to provide consultation for me if I needed it. He was going to have to wait just a little longer. I followed the boy out the door.

**

I caught up to him halfway down the hall and together we headed down the rusty metal stairs that lead to the parking lot.

“I see that you’re in a bit of a bind, Jacob. You’re wife of fifteen years is leaving you for that idiot pastor, and taking the kiddies with her. What were there names again? Oh yes, Hunter and Elizabeth. Such darling children – ”

“Leave my kids alone!” The mere thought of him mentioning my kids sent my anger into a tailspin.

He stopped halfway down the stairs and jabbed a bony finger into my chest.

“Listen here, tough guy. Just because I look like the lost member of the Backstreet Boys, doesn’t mean I won’t turn into some sort of ten foot tall Lovecraftian monstrosity and bite your legs off if you continue to disrespect me, capiche?” I nodded my head. “Good, I don’t know what all the fuss was about anyways. I love children. I’d have one of my own, but it’s so hard to find a suitable candidate to bare the antichrist. There’s something about heralding in a millennium of Hell on Earth and bringing about the apocalypse that turns most women off. The only people whoever volunteer for the job are nut balls and whackos. And trust me Jake, I don’t want no baby mama drama anymore than you do!”

I think he was making a joke because he paused for a second and glanced over to me as if he was expecting to hear laughs. He continued talking once he realized I didn’t find him amusing.

“If you ask me, you have three options.

Option number one: You go back to your room and blow your brains out. You never see your kids again, and your wife continues fucking the pastor.

Option number two: You don’t do anything like a pussy. Go back to your boring and now lonely existence. You’ll see your kids the second Saturday of every month, and your wife continues fucking the pastor.”

“I suppose this is where you tell me about option three?”

When we made it to the base of the stairs, he gestured towards the parking lot indicating the direction he wanted to walk. “Smart man,” he said. “Option number three is this. You take that 32 caliber Smith and Wesson over to the pastor’s McMansion tonight. You’re wife’s there right now, discussing church business.” He made a set of quotations in the air with his fingers. “I’m sure he’s got her down on her knees taking communion as we speak. You know? Accepting the holy body inside her mouth and all that – ”

“Ok, ok, I get it, but that’s a terrible joke. We aren’t even Catholic. What are you trying to say? You want me to kill Pastor Alonso?”

“Kill the pastor, kill your wife – hell, kill his annoying little shih tzu while you’re at it. You have to kill them, Jacob. Don’t let them take your children from you. End their lives for trying to ruin yours. I’d do it for you, but no killing is one of the few rules I’m bound by on this miserable plane of existence.”

I have to admit, it was an idea that had crossed my mind earlier that night – more of a fantasy than anything. I never actually considered going through with it. “But that would be a sin,” I said, “Now that I know Hell exists, there’s no way I’d do anything to risk damnation.”

“Look who you’re talking to, Jacob. Don’t you think I have a little bit of pull down there? For this one particular night I will absolve you of your sins. Think of it as a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card. And don’t worry about the fuzz either. I have friends in high places. You won’t even be considered a person of interest in the murder investigation.”

I couldn’t believe I was even entertaining the idea. I had become so engrossed in what the miniature Kevin Federline was proposing that I didn’t even realize he was leading us to my car until we were standing right in front of it. “So if it’s not my soul you want, what are you getting out of this?”

“Ah! I see my reputation precedes me. Like I said before, I’m just doing you a solid, man.” He stuck his fist out waiting for me to bump it. I left the devil hanging. “Maybe one day in the future, you’ll repay the favor…or not. You certainly wouldn’t be obligated to.”

“What kind of favor?”

“I don’t know, pick up my dry cleaning? I haven’t thought of it yet. Who cares? I may never even bother you after tonight.”

I reminisced back to when my wife and I were young. We were so in love and now I was standing in a parking lot, under the neon lights of the worlds dirtiest roach motel, letting the baby faced demon talk me into murdering her. How did it come to this? “She’s my wife,” I said. “Part of me still loves her. I don’t know if I could do anything that would harm the mother of my children.”

He rolled his eyes, “Oh and clearly she loves you too! Why else would she be on her back right now letting that idiot pastor plow her into next week?” And when he said that his voice got deeper – a thousand octaves lower than anything I’d ever heard in my life. The sound was maddening. It made me want to bury my fingers into my ear canals until my eardrums burst. “You’re adulterous, whore of a wife sins with that slimy, two-faced, sorry excuse for a human being as we speak! If that wasn’t enough, she plans on ruining you by taking your children! And for what? Because you don’t have a big house or a fancy car? She used you, until something better came along and he did the same thing to his wife. Hell is filled with men and women like them! Send them where they belong.” It felt as though his voice was microwaving my brain from the inside. I grabbed my head and fell to my knees. “That pastor sins in God’s name and you’d really sit there and do nothing!? Send them to hell, Jacob! Send them to me and I will make sure they suffer until the end of time!”

“OK! I’LL DO IT!”

“Excellent!” his voice had conveniently reverted back to normal. “Let’s get started, shall we? I’ll meet you at the pastor’s house. I’d ride with you, but I’m The Lord of Fucking Darkness and you drive a Prius so…you know.”

**

Even though he wasn’t in the car with me while I drove over to Pastor Alonso’s home, I knew that I was far from alone. Every time I doubted my sanity, every time I started to question if what had transpired was even real, he was there. Standing on a street corner, waiting at a bus stop, even watching me from the windows of other cars as they passed me by. I realize now that he was keeping an eye on me, making sure I didn’t get cold feet. It came as no surprise to find him already waiting for me on the front steps of the pastor’s massive home when I pulled up.

He placed a hand on my shoulder when I got near and spoke some final words of encouragement to motivate me, “Do it for your children Jacob.”

From the moment I nudged open the pastor’s gaudy, oversized, front door, I could hear he and my wife wailing away from the bedroom upstairs. I drew my gun and followed the moans up the steps.

“Jeez, Jake. It sounds like a couple of pigs getting slaughtered in there. Is that what it was like when you two used to bump uglies?”

I brushed off his inconsiderate quip and leaned against the door. The boy was licking his lips in anticipation. It seemed as if he wanted them dead worse than I did. Doubt began to seep into my mind. I was no killer. The very thought of murdering the mother of my children was beginning to make me feel sick.

Perhaps sensing apprehension, he started whispering in my ear, “Do it Jake. Send them to hell.”

His words were easy to ignore. I was too busy thinking about my kids. Could I really take their mother away from them? Even though I had let the boy manipulate me that evening, I still had my free will. I knew that I had the power to walk out the front door if I wanted to. No one needed to die.

“He who hesitates is lost, Jake.”

How could I even pull the trigger? For God sakes, I still loved the woman. That’s when that dark inexplicable feeling that had been growing inside me started to dwindle. In its place I felt hope. Hope that maybe if I could talk to her, even hear her speak, I would come to my senses. Then, almost on cue, her voice rang out, resonating through the air like a magnificent melody plucked from the fingers of a master harpist.

“Fuck me preacher man!”

I kicked in the door.

**

My gun had six bullets, but it only took me three. It would have been two, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to relieve the pastor of his holy scepter. It’s strange how draining murder can be. All I did was point my gun and pull a trigger, yet my body felt like I had just ran a marathon.

“I knew you had it in you, Jacob, but holy hell, I didn’t expect you to blast off his pecker too!”

It wasn’t his wisecrack that startled me. His voice had changed. It was deeper than a teenager’s now, more dignified too. Perhaps most alarming, it was a voice I knew very well – one I heard echo off the stained glass windows of my church every Sunday for years. Pastor Alonso’s voice. I whirled around to see the man I just shot smiling at me from the doorway.

“Relax,” he said as he entered the room, “It’s just me, Lucifer, King of The Underworld, Father of Lies, yada yada yada.”

I looked back to the bed. The real pastor’s bullet riddled body still lied motionless next to my wife’s corpse, their cadavers entwined within a set of tacky bloodstained bed sheets. “Wh-why did you make yourself look like Pastor Alonso?” I asked.

“Why does it matter? I do as I please.”

Before I had a chance at a follow up question, the thunderous sound of the pastor’s front door being slammed shut carried through the house and up to the bedroom. My heart began to race as a bevy of heavy footsteps made their way up the stairs.

“What the hell is going on!?” I demanded, but he didn’t answer. The wicked grin painted across his face sent a wave of fright through my body.

“Do you know what they’re going to do to you in prison, Jacob?” he said. Two uniformed police officers strode into the room.

As the policemen made their way towards me, my panic began to intensify. All I could think about was wasting the rest of my life away in an orange jumpsuit and playing housewife at the behest of my cellmate, a tattooed skinhead named Knife Face.

I still had three bullets left and I knew there was one way out of the situation. I raised the revolver to my temple as the cops marched towards me. I don’t know if I really would have pulled the trigger if they attempted to arrest me. Thankfully I didn’t get the chance to find out because instead of drawing their guns on me, they brushed right by without saying a word. I watched in awe as they started wrapping the pastor and my wife’s bodies’ in the soiled silk sheets. To my surprise, they appeared to be cleaning up my mess.

You-Know-Who fell to the floor and began howling. “HA! Now you really do look like you got caught with your dick in the family goat!” He thrust a finger into my bewildered face. “I’m just joshing you, Jake! These fine gentlemen are with me. Them too.” He motioned over to the doorway. Two more men I hadn’t noticed before wearing plain clothes, but still brandishing badges were waiting in the doorway. “Jerry, come over here for a second!”

The older heavyset man sauntered towards us. His somber face and reluctant gait made him look like a kid who just got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. The no-longer-baby-faced-demon patted him on the back, “Do you know who this man is, Jacob?” I shook my head. “Jerry here, is the head of the police department. That means he’s very important.”

“Pleased to meet you,” I said. I really wasn’t, at that point all I wanted to do was distance myself as far away from the pastor’s house as possible and forget the whole night ever happened. The police chief remained silent. The shame and discomfort in his eyes told me the feeling was mutual.

The demon gestured over to the other man still standing at the door. “That guy over there just made detective.” He turned his head in the detective’s direction. “Congratulation’s on your new promotion, Bill!” The man looked away to avoid eye contact. Once again he focused his attention on me. “Guess who’s going to be heading up your wife’s murder case?”

“What about the Pastor?” I asked, “Who’s going to be looking into his murder?”

He stretched his arms out and twirled around as if he was showing off a brand new coat. “What are you talking about? Pastor Alonso wasn’t murdered? He and his wife just decided to move away so they could do missionary work in Africa. See? Everything wraps up neat and tidy and you get off scot-free. Now Jacob, before you leave tonight, I wanted to speak to you about that favor.”

“What?”

“You know? We talked about this. I said that maybe one day I might ask you to return the favor I did for you.”

“Yeah,” I said, “I remember. I guess I didn’t expect it to come so soon.”

“Well, life’s funny like that sometimes. Don’t worry though. It’s really nothing you can’t do in your sleep! I’m not going to ask you to pick up and dispose of dead bodies like these guys.”

“What do you want?”

He leaned in close and looked at me with a solemn expression on his face. “Listen to me, Jacob because this is the only favor I will ever ask of you. It is imperative, that you never attempt to contact Darcy Alonso. Do you understand?”

“What?” his request had left me puzzled for numerous reasons, “But Darcy Alonso has cancer. She’s dying.”

His lips curled into a devilish smirk. “Well, let’s just say I did her a little favor.”

“What are you going to do with her?”

“What’s it matter to you? I do as I please.”

I waved my finger in his face, “But you said I’m not obligated to listen to you right? If I wanted to, I could go over to the hospital right now and tell her about everything that happened tonight.”

“Of course you can, Jacob! Like I said, there’s no binding agreement between us. Your soul is yours and you’re free to do what you want with it. As a matter of fact, I stake no claim to any of these men’s souls. They’re just people who were kind enough to repay the favor I did for them!

I’ve done favors for a lot of people, Jacob – cops, judges, lawyers, even pedophiles who take pleasure in the rape and murder of children. Hey that reminds me, don’t your kiddies walk home from school every day?” And when he said that, he looked me right in the eye. It was as if his stare caused my mind to play out a thousand different scenarios, each one more heinous and vile than the last. It was like looking through a window into Hell. “Darcy and I are going away,” he continued. “All you have to do is forget about her. Forget about this entire night if you want! But don’t forget that I’m always watching you, Jacob.”

He didn’t need to say another word. The message was clear. I turned and exited the pastor’s house without looking back. The next few hours were a blur to me. I remember driving back to my home, vomiting in the kitchen sink (that Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger finally did make its escape), and passing out on the couch in my living room.

**

My wife’s body was found 48 hours after I shot her inside of a liquor store dumpster. Just as he said, I was never even considered a suspect. Her murder was pinned on a 19-year-old kid from the barrio. It took no more than a week for the jury to reach a guilty verdict. He was sentenced to death. The kid is currently incarcerated and trying to appeal the jury’s decision, but something tells me he won’t have any luck. I have a feeling that I’m not the only person who has a favor to repay.

Darcy Alonso checked out of the hospital that evening and was gone by morning. Word around the church was that she and “the pastor” had believed her miraculous recovery to be a sign from God, so they set out across the globe to spread his message, but if you ask me, that story’s a bigger load of bullshit than a politician making a campaign speech while rolling in a pile of fertilizer. Two weeks after they left town, their house was put up for sale.

It was hard for my children to lose their mother at such a young age, but they’ll learn to get along without her. I like to think I’ve been doing a hell of a job as a single parent, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of them. It took a while for things to start to get back to normal for us, but the fact that they’re smiling and laughing again makes me think that they’re going to be ok.

About a year after everything happened, I received a green envelope in the mail. I didn’t think much of it at first. It was the middle of December and I had already collected dozens of Christmas cards. It wasn’t until I tore open the envelope that I realized that dark inexplicable sensation had made its presence known once again in the pit of my stomach. It wasn’t the title on the front of the card that made me feel sick [Merry Christmas, From The Alonsos!], it was what I saw when I opened it.

The message was just one sentence long, but it hit me in the gut like a body blow from Mike Tyson.

[The doctor says we’re due to have the best Christmas ever!]

Attached to the card was a picture of Darcy and “the pastor” wearing ugly Christmas sweaters and grinning from ear to ear. Darcy’s sweater however, was pulled up past her midsection, exposing her belly. She looked to be about nine months pregnant.

Credit To – Vincent Vena Cava