Braxton chose a rainy moonless night to bury his wife near the lawn jockey statue. It had to be a moonless night because the statue beside the bench was visible from the road and half a dozen of the nearby houses. But that was exactly why he chose the spot to inter the woman he had murdered. He moved the bench aside and dug as fast as he could. The earth was softer beneath the bench since no one had packed it in.
In less than a half hour the hole was deep enough for the petite form encased in his old canvass sea bag. It made no bulge when he repacked the dirt atop it and carefully replaced the grass.
In the days to come he would sit on the bench under the watchful eye of the statue, wave at the neighbors and gloat in his cleverness. To know that the nagging bitch of a wife was gone by his hand, dispatched to the hell she was trying to drive him to with her incessant whining, was delightful.
Braxton stared at the three-foot statue of the lawn jockey, resting on its pedestal. When he stood beside it they were almost eye-to-eye. The expressionless face of the metal figure seemed alive with movement as the cascading water slid off his painted features. The black lined eyes of the jockey were pointed off, away from the mansion, and gave Braxton the impression the statue purposely looked away from him, judging him.
Braxton could hear Charlene’s voice in his head again. “I swear, since you came back I get more conversation from Mister Abaddon than you,” she would say referring to her pet name for the statue.
Every day she would take a book and sit on the bench, read beside the metal figure and talk her heart out.
Braxton would watch her from the upper windows of the house and in profile could see her lips moving. Sometimes she would cry, sometimes laugh, but always she spoke her inner feelings to her unmoving suitor. Braxton came to hate the statue as he came to hate her sneering tolerance of him.
Charlene never knew Braxton watched her with a spyglass. She never knew he was reading her lips. It was a skill he had picked up in the days when he had worked the carneys before the war. When his name had not been Braxton … before he romanced Charlene and married her for her inheritance. Thus he became Jonnie Braxton, respectable husband to the former Charlene Abaddon and executive in the family firm.
She never suspected he knew she was going to have her husband discharged from the family shipping line. Or worse, that she planned to change her will so he didn’t inherit the house and land. She was going to leave her wealth to Beverly, her niece.
He trembled recalling it, and he lashed out with the shovel at the metal simulacrum of a man just as a flash of lightening and a peal of thunder rent the air. The flat spade slammed into the belly of the figure with a hard clack sound.
The echo of the strike lingered after the thunder in the night air.
Mister Abaddon stared and said nothing.
Jonathon Braxton was the image of a wealthy and successful shipping merchant. He was tall and had the robust carriage of former seaman.
“Good morning, sir.” Jill, his secretary, greeted him as he stepped out of the elevator. “Wet night last night.”
“Yes it was, but April showers bring May flowers.” He made a mental note to pay a little more attention to the girl now that he had a ‘freer’ hand.
“Well you are in a good mood,” she said, “and you’ll need it. Mister Harrison wants to see you as soon you are in.”
“Even that stuffed shirt can’t darken my mood today. Tell him,-five minutes.” Braxton went into the walnut paneled office and looked out over the harbor. His empire. Not his wife’s now, but his to do with as he wanted; and he had plans. Big plans.
“Morning, Jonathon,” Micah Harrison said as he entered the office.
Harrison had opposed many of Braxton’s plans to expand the company and Charlene had sided with him.
“Glad you could come in,” Braxton said, “I wanted to-“
“What are you doing sending our stores to Portland on the first; we need that-”
“Not anymore,” Braxton said, “I wired the captain to put into Portland.”
Harrison looked shocked. “We discussed that last week. We weren’t going to take that contract.”
“You and Charlene decided that,” Braxton said “And without consulting me. She changed her mind when I explained it to her.”
“What?” Harrison said, “She would never do that. Her father and Abnerville mills were feuding for twenty years.”
“Her father is dead,” Braxton said. “And I run things now.”
“Let Charlene tell me that. Then I’ll believe it.”
“I am your boss,” Braxton said.
“I will not take your word for that. I want to speak to Charlene. Get her on the phone.”
Braxton turned and stepped straight to the younger man so that he stood almost nose-to-nose with Harrison. “If you want to talk to my wife, you’ll have to do it long distance. She’s gone to visit friends out West.”
“I don’t believe that Charlene would leave on a trip and not stop in the office,” Harrison said.
“Well, believe it,” Braxton said. “My wife is a lot smarter than both of us. She knew when to step away, take that deep breath and let me work.” He walked to the door and opened it. “Now get out and put that order in.”
The rest of the day went well. The word that Charlene was gone on a holiday was all through the building by lunchtime. He saw the looks of pity from many of the women and a little bit of fear from most of the men.
As he drove up the main road to the mansion he saw the lawn jockey and the bench on the gentle rise that gave a view of the entrance. Both were silhouetted by the setting sun, and try as he might, he could see no telltale sign of the grave beneath the seat.
The figure of the metal sentry seemed to be facing slightly off from what he remembered and then he recalled that he had struck it the night before.
“Good thing I didn’t knock it off the base altogether. It would only have drawn attention.”
He drove past and watched in the rear view mirror. Because of the change in the statue’s orientation, he had the odd feeling that it was watching him. He decided to get rid of the damn thing as soon as it seemed safe to make changes.
Braxton sat in his study after dinner looking out the windows toward the lawn. There was a faint glow of Portsmouth beyond the dark shape of the statue. The unmoving figure was like a mote in Braxton’s eye.
Rather than feel satisfaction at seeing the bench beneath which his jailer-wife now rested, he felt anger for seeing the scarecrow figure. He had the unreasoning desire to race out with an axe to smash the stoic face to scrap.
“Get a hold of yourself, Jonnie boy,” he thought, “it’s all in hand.” He lit a cigar — something Charlene had not permitted in the house — and relaxed.
“I’ll melt you to a pile of slag long before that, you metal bastard,” he said to the distant jockey. “Maybe I’ll recast you as a spittoon and drop you in my favorite brothel in Boston.” The thought made the ex-mariner laugh long and loud.
That night the storm rolled in again from the North Atlantic, booming loud and slashing the night with white hot lightening. The sky show yanked the murderer from his slumber with explosive abruptness.
Braxton shot bolt upright and in the fading glare of the lightening he saw a figure standing in the corner of the room.
“Who is that!” Braxton grabbed for his pistol beneath his pillow and thrust it at the dark shape. “Speak up!”
But there was no sound or movement from the shadows.
“Speak up or I’ll shoot.” He rose from the bed. “I mean it.”
Still there was no sound but the pelting rain on the windows. Braxton raised the gun to fire as another peal of thunder rattled the house and a slash of lightening lit the room. Braxton gasped. The figure of the Mister Abaddon was standing in the angle of the room.
Braxton fired the gun until the hammer clicked on empty. He pulled the trigger until another lightening bolt flashed light into the room to show there was nothing in the corner.
The murderer ran to the light switched and clicked the light on.
There were six bullet holes in the wall of the room, nothing else.
Braxton stood with his arm extended, his muscles locked and shaking for minutes as blast after blast of thunder rocked the house.
Braxton threw his gun down and raced to the window. In the flashes he saw the figure of the jockey and the bench. “You bastard!”
The next day at work Jill’s greeting was subdued. “Why, Mister Braxton,” she said, “You look-”
“I didn’t sleep well. I was worried about Mrs. Braxton.”
“Of course, sir. Mister Harrison left this message for you.”
She held up an envelope and he took it from her and opened it.
“I hereby render my resignation effective immediately,” Braxton read aloud. Jill gasped.
Braxton worked hard not to giggle before he got into his office. He sat back and put his feet up on the desk and sipped a celebratory drink. “Better and better.”
“Mister Braxton.” Jill’s voice over the intercom broke him from his reverie. “Miss Abaddon is here.”
He sat upright. “Excuse me?”
“Miss Beverly Abaddon,” Jill said. “Shall I send her in?”
“Yes.” He was on his feet when the pretty twenty-year-old came through the door. A brunette. “Beverly,” he said in a cheerful voice, “So wonderful to see you.”
“Jon. I heard that Aunt Char is gone; what’s it all about?” Then she lowered her eyes. “Did you two have a fight?”
Braxton had been expecting a visit from the girl, but not so soon. “I was going to call you today.”
“I knew you two had been having some-uh difficulties,” she said, “But -”
“Maybe we can talk about it later,” he said. “Can you come over for dinner? The house seems suddenly very empty without her.”
He would play the deserted, injured party to the hilt and all the simpleminded yokels would fall for it.
“Of course, Jon,” she said rising, “I’ll come by—say seven?”
“Seven would be fine.” He leaned in to kiss her on the cheek and accept a hug of condolence from her.
After he closed the door he had a hard time wiping the smile from his face. He thought of the seduction scene in Richard III and had a giggle that he might be able to bring the scenario to life with Beverly.
He had Jill find him an agency to engage a cook and a woman to clean the house.
He left work at lunchtime and went to the mansion to pack some of Charlene’s things in a suitcase to make it look like she left of her own free will.
Afterward, he stood on the porch with the suitcase that contained his ‘proof’ that Charlene had left and looked out on the lawn. The figure of the jockey and the hidden grave were brightly lit by the noontime sun. The sight made him smile.
The new housekeeper cleaned the downstairs and the cook was busy preparing a roast beef and potatoes when Beverly arrived. She parked out front.
“Hi Bev,” he said stepping down from the porch.
“Hi Jonathon. I’m sorry if I’m late.”
“Not to worry,” he said, “The cook says it will be a while.” He waved a hand out toward the bench. “Why don’t we sit out here and enjoy the sunset.”
“That’s a great idea. Aunt Char’s thinking spot.”
They headed for the bench to sit and talk, but Bev stepped over to the lawn ornament and touched a hand to the cap on its head. “Funny little man,” she said, “Aunty Char used to talk about how she would come out here and speak to him all the time when she was a little girl. When her daddy was at sea. That’s how she came to talk him ‘Mister Abaddon’- she had heard them call her daddy that. So she pretended she was talking to her daddy.”
Braxton sat back on the bench. “A horse, a horse,” he said, “my kingdom for a horse.”
“What?” she said turning to him.
“Oh nothing. Just quoting from a Shakespeare play.”
“You weren’t listening to me at all!” She sat down beside him.
“Oh I was, dear. You were talking about dear Charlene coming down here to talk to Mister Abaddon about all sorts of things as if he were her oldest and dearest friend.”
“In a way he was,” the girl said, “She was a lonely girl, she told me. The poor little rich girl. Then when her mother died she took care of her father and sort of stayed to herself. A wall flower.”
“I know.” He enjoyed that the conversation took place above the corpse of his murdered spouse. “When I met her in Boston I was working in Stover’s receiving office. I knew right away she was special.”
Yeah, an easy mark for a smooth talker.
“She was so happy when you two came back together,” Beverly said, “You really made her feel wanted.”
Her money anyway, the frigid bitch!
“She was very special woman,” he said. “I hope she can find herself with this trip of hers.” He accepted a warm hand from the girl and captured it between both of his. “But I can’t deny that we were happy at first, but she became … troubled.”
“She became distant, self-absorbed. She seemed to come out here every night. It still feels like she’s here.” He had trouble keeping a straight face when he said that.
He had no trouble keeping the sympathetic eyes of the girl locked with his and knew he was going to get just where he needed to with her, all the way to home base before he cut and ran from Portsmouth.
“Aunty Char said her daddy told her this statue had been here as long as anyone could remember,” she said. “She said they always thought of it as the guardian of the family since Grandfather Abaddon brought it here from Haiti.”
She stepped up to the metal figure and idly ran her hand along the leg of it. “Funny, it seems to be moved a bit, Jon; do you suppose the wind the other night moved it?”
He thought of the shovel strike to the jockey and grinned. “I suppose that wind was pretty strong.”
She ran her hands along the base of the statue. “Hey did you know there was writing on this thing? It’s in a funny sort of language. I can’t read it in this light.”
She popped up and her face was bright with excitement. “I have to get a piece of paper and rub this so I can read it.”
“There’s paper in my desk in the study,” he said.
She headed into the house to get paper to rub the writing off the pedestal, leaving him alone with the metal man. “It always comes back to you and me doesn’t it, Mister Abaddon?”
Braxton took his lit cigar and pressed the glowing tip to the face of the statue, drawing it across to make a mustache. “Now at least we are two of a kind!”
Beverly came running back with an excited giggle. “The cook said dinner is ready when we come in.” She raced directly to the jockey and began to rub the paper on the raised letters around the pedestal in sections.
“It looks like old French,” she said, “It says “I watch you, always, beloved.”
“Probably some sort of mariner’s good luck charm,” Braxton said. “You said it came from Haiti, right? Probably a manufacturer warranty!”
They both laughed and she moved around to the front of the statue away from the house. “Oh you have no romance in your soul!”
“I’ve got plenty. I just haven’t had many chances to show it in a business suit.” He cautioned himself not to rush his plans.
Bev saw something that made her frown. “Oh those rotten neighborhood kids!”
“What do you mean?”
“Some little creep has been shooting BB’s at Mister Abaddon!”
Braxton shot to the statue. In the dim light, he could just make out six neat dents in the front of the jockey.
Braxton fled to the house with horror. He went straight to his study and poured a stiff drink of Scotch before Bev came into the house to join him.
“What is the matter?” Beverly asked. “Are you alright? Shall I summon a doctor?”
Those were my bullet holes in that damn statue; it was in my room. I did shoot it. But how? No, No, Jonnie, you have to realize it’s just the strain of it all.
“Those, kids shooting Mister Abaddon,” he said. “It just upset me, made me think of how much he meant to Charlene and how much she meant to me.” His voice caught in his throat.
“Oh Jonathon.” She reached to hold his arm. “I’m sorry, I should have thought.”
“Just punk hooligans. That’s all those holes mean.”
“I’m sure they can be repaired,” she said. “A little putty and paint. Old Abaddon could use a new coat of paint anyway.”
“Yes. I can take him down and put him in the basement to repair him. Yes.” And then melt the bastard hunk of junk to slag!
“Dinner is ready, sir,” the cook said.
Afterward, when Bev and the cook had gone home, the house seemed to grow around him and the sound of the wind-driven rain on the windows echoed off the wooden panels of every room. He poured himself a Scotch. He drank it without even tasting it, all the while his eyes fixed on the window and the darkness beyond where he knew the lawn jockey was standing.
He could see it in his mind’s eye looking out at the road. He could imagine the cast iron figure turning to face the house, somehow inexorably moving toward the house, coming to get him.
“Stop it!” He screamed, his own voice startling him. “The damn thing is just a freaking statue. I’ll bring it to the basement, get a blow torch and melt it.”
He paced back and forth while the wind increased in fury outside. He flicked on each lamp and bulb as he moved through the rooms so that the house was soon ablaze with light. It was his only weapon against the aloneness he felt.
“I’ll take an early day tomorrow. Go down to Boston and kick back.” He giggled like a truant schoolboy.
That’s when the power went out, the house plunged into darkness. Outside, the tempo of the storm changed. In the sudden enveloping darkness, the mansion seemed to roar.
He stared out the window. A flash of lightening slashed the night sky and illuminated IT … like a challenge.
“Okay, you bastard,” he said, “I will destroy you.” He grabbed a slicker and then went out into the driving rain. He ran across the soggy lawn to the rise where the statue stood mocking him.
“I’ll make sure you join Charlene in Hell you piece of junk!” Braxton screamed at the top of his lungs. The raindrops were like shotgun pellets driven against his skin, stinging his face and almost blinding him.
He set the lantern down and wrapped his arms around the jockey. He braced his legs and tried to pull the figure off the pedestal. “Come on. Give up!” He strained with all his strength, tugging the figure off the base with one mighty heave.
At that moment a massive bolt of lightening ripped from the Heavens and drove into the iron figurine in Braxton’s arms. The murderer was blasted off his feet, flying across the lawn. The lawn jockey dropped back to its base, almost exactly as it had been positioned before, except for a new black scar across its face. The lightning strike had made it look very much like the figure was smiling.
Teel James Glenn won the 2012 Pulp Ark ‘Best Author of the Year’ and was an Epic ebook award finalist. Also: P&E winner ‘Best Thriller Novel’,”Best Steampunk Short”, Multiple finalist “Best Fantasy short stories,” Collection” Author of bestselling Exceptionals Series, The Maxi/Moxie Series, The Dr. Shadows Series, The Renfairies series and others. Visit him at: Theurbanswashbuckler.com