Thursday, March 27, 2008

Powder Burn Flash # 72 - James C. Clar


Ed Dodd sat on a bench behind the Waikiki Aquarium and watched the waves crash against the break wall in front of him. The coconut palms rustled dryly overhead in the trade winds. The power at his condo down where Kalakaua and Coconut Avenues intersected had been out since earlier that morning. Grabbing his mail on the way down the stairs, he had walked to the Starbucks on Kapahulu to get coffee. He stopped on the way back home to watch the surfers just off shore. A power outage; of all days for something freaky like that to happen! After all, it was forty-five years ago to the day that Ed Dodd had murdered his older brother.

Sitting in the bright sunshine absentmindedly sorting through his mail, Ed remembered it like it was yesterday. He and Mike had been jumping off a railroad bridge into the canal back home in upstate New York . Ed had been fifteen. Two years older, Mike had been taunting his younger sibling and showing off. While Mike was standing on the railing ready to dive, Ed ran up behind his brother and pushed. The older boy’s wet feet slipped and he tumbled. His head slammed against the trestle on the way down. Ed could still hear the hollow, ringing sound. They never recovered his body. Of course Ed lied to the police and fire-rescue crew. He said simply that Mike had been clowning around and fell awkwardly. The story had been all-too plausible and no one had any reason to doubt his word. Ed had been living with and running from that lie ever since.

The stress of their son’s death had been too much for Ed’s parents. They divorced shortly after that tragic day. His father went AWOL and the teenager lived with his mother amid constant recrimination and a succession of men she called her “boyfriend.” When he turned eighteen in 1966, Ed joined the Marines. He served three tours with the 1st Military Division in Vietnam . He almost hoped that he’d “buy the farm” in-country, but he survived. He was still waiting for his “luck” to run out. Karma might be one slow-moving bitch, but she was inexorable.

Ed sipped his coffee and worked his way through the pile of mail on his lap. One item caught his attention. It was a small envelope bearing only his name and address in red. The postmark was from somewhere in California . Ed read the message inside: “Eddie, my brother, remember what happened all those years ago? Pretty soon, everybody else is going to know too.”

Ed’s heart skipped a beat and he started to perspire. It couldn't be! True, they never found Mike’s body. He often wondered what it might be like if his brother had survived only to reappear some day, but there had to be another explanation. Shit, he had to relax. His doctor had warned him that he was a stroke or a heart attack waiting to happen. Ed put the mysterious note in his shirt pocket and continued opening the rest of his mail. At the bottom of the stack was a postcard emblazoned with the 1st Military Division insignia. It was an invitation to a reunion next month at the Sheraton Waikiki.

Suddenly, it all made sense. The enigmatic note had to be from his old friend Pat O’Sullivan. He and ‘Sully had spent three memorable days of R & R here on Oahu in 1969. Ed hadn't seen him in forty years. ‘Sully must have tracked him to Hawaii and figured that they'd meet up at the reunion. He recalled that his buddy was forever quoting some bullshit speech from Shakespeare about how the men in their division were a “band of brothers.” 'Sully hadn't known how ironic that was!

O’Sullivan must be talking about that wild night they picked up those two girls vacationing from Texas . That visit had been the reason why, after leaving the Corps, Ed decided to settle on Oahu . That plus the fact that Hawaii was as far away from New York as you could get and still speak English.

Breathing easier, Ed finished his coffee and stood up. He made his way to the sidewalk that ran along Kalakaua Avenue . The midday sun was blindingly bright but the iron wood tress that grew on this stretch of the broad roadway offered at least some shade. Five minutes later, he began climbing the steps to the second floor of his building. As he reached the landing, something niggled uncomfortably at his memory. Ed seemed to recall seeing Pat O’Sullivan’s name a few years ago in the necrology section of a 1st MDIV newsletter. Son-of-a-bitch, if he was right, ‘Sully had died back in ’05 or ’06.

Ed’s heart was pounding again. He began walking down the open-air hallway to the door of his apartment. Suddenly he heard footsteps behind him. He spun round but, as his eyes hadn't adjusted to the dimness of the corridor, he couldn't really see who it was.

“Hey, brother,” the figure seemed to be saying in a gruff voice. Ed never heard the rest. His heart exploded in his chest as he collapsed to the floor.

“Listen,” the guy from the Hawaiian Electric Company said thirty minutes later to the policeman taking his statement, “I just got to the second floor and saw this dude walkin’ in front of me. I figured he was a tenant. I wanted to tell him that the power would be back on in fifteen minutes. I said ‘hey, bruddah’ and he dropped dead. How ya figure dat?”

“Don't sweat it, man. It wasn't your fault. When your number’s up, your number’s up.”

“I guess you're right,” the shaken utility man said as he turned to leave. He mouthed the words “Hang loose” as he descended the stairs to the street.

The cop made a fist and, extending his pinky and thumb, gave it a shake in return. ”You too, bruddah. You too.”

The End

BIO: James C. Clar is a teacher and writer who lives in upstate NY. His book reviews, articles and author interviews appear regularly in the pages of MYSTERY NEWS. His work, including short fiction, has also appeared in the CRIME & SUSPENSE EZINE, MYSTERYAUTHORS.COM, WORD CATALYST, HACKWRITERS, A LONG STORY, SHORT, CRIMESCENE:SCOTLAND, MYSTERY REVIEW and CRIME TIME MAGAZINE (UK).

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