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A NIGHT IN THE PARK


By Doreen Bradley Satter

Kevin peered through the window at the pelting rain. The street lamp shined on the wet pavement making the street appear to be a river flowing past. He groaned and zipped his black leather jacket, pulling the collar up around his ears and stepped out on the porch.

He was glad his mother wasn’t home yet. He’d never be able to make up a good enough reason to be going out on a night like this. Kevin looked up at the roof overhang that was suppose to protect the front door from inclement weather. That was a joke. It was raining so hard the gutters were overflowing, sending a waterfall cascading over the edge. Kevin put on his helmet and fastened it under his chin before stepping off the porch.


The seat was wet and he’d forgotten to bring a towel. He brushed off what he could with the sleeve of his leather jacket, then sat down. The moisture immediately soaked through his jeans and underpants. What a night. I should just take a hot shower and go to bed and watch T.V. The idea sounded good and he paused a moment to think about it. No, I gotta go! he chided himself and stomped down heavily on the starter. The Harley roared to life.

The roads were slick and Kevin rode slower than usual. Fortunately there wasn’t much traffic. He crossed the bridge and skidded a little as he took the sharp left turn to the side entrance of the park. No one was around. No one is this stupid, he told himself, and pulled to a stop in front of the ‘No Parking’ sign. He tried the kick stand, then pushed it back up and leaned his bike against the metal post. No one will bother with it tonight, he reassured himself, and walked toward the wooded entrance to the park.
===
Valerie was looking for the umbrella. It wasn’t in the stand by the door where they kept it, and she didn’t dare wake Dan to ask if he’d seen it. She tip-toed past the chair where Dan was napping in front of the T.V. and went into the kitchen, scribbled a quick note on the message board, then quietly opened the back door. “Damn it! “ she said aloud as she tripped on the umbrella lying open on the porch, drying. "That’s where it is!" Valerie grabbed the umbrella and ran across the grass to her car.

She hoped Dan wouldn’t hear the motor start. She backed quickly out to the street and drove off before turning on the headlights.

Valerie was nervous. She realized she’d been nervous for the past six weeks, ever since starting this foolish affair. She knew it wouldn’t last, couldn’t last. Kevin is almost ten years younger than me, and he rides a Harley, for God sakes! She added this last thought to the misery she was already feeling.

Life isn’t good with Dan, I know that. He’s married to that damn job of his. I need to make a decision to move on but not with someone like Kevin. I must be crazy!

Then she thought about Kevin. Sweet, childlike Kevin. She was enormously attracted to him. Some parts of the past weeks had been wonderful, really special. But now she knew she had to end it. Tonight is the night! she told herself sternly. She’d let him down easy, try not to hurt him too much, but it really had to stop. Now, before anyone found out.

Meeting in the park in this weather was just too much. At first, the park seemed a romantic place for their trysts, but the fall rains had come now and it didn’t seem romantic at all anymore. In fact, tonight it was just plain miserable, but there just wasn’t any other place in their small town. They couldn't take chances. Kevin still lived at home with his mother and Dan was home asleep in front of the T.V., and everyone in town knew who they both were. They couldn’t risk being seen anywhere together. They had been careful and lucky so far, and after tonight it would be over and she wouldn’t have to worry anymore.

No one will ever have to know that Kevin Palmer, the only son of The Honorable Judge Winifred Palmer and Valarie Larkin, the principal of Whitney Middle School and wife of the town’s Police Chief were having an affair... Valerie sighed and shook her head trying to come back into reality; then realized with a start that she was already on the bridge and was almost at the turn-in to the park. She slowed down and automatically glanced in her rear view mirror before making the sharp left turn.
==
Tony was scared. He didn’t have the money. He didn’t have the stuff. He couldn’t get the money. Heck, he didn’t even know anyone with that much money.

Tony had been laying low all day. He knew he was being watched; he’d seen the red mustang cruise by several times but he made sure the blinds were down and kept the lights off. He hoped Peaches thought he wasn’t there. Word must have gotten back to Peaches by now about last night, about the mugging. Then, right after he’d seen the mustang slow down and stop across the street, the phone rang. Tony answered it quickly thinking it was Casey, who'd promised to help him out, but it wasn’t Casey. The soft, raspy voice on the other end was Peaches. He’d been tricked. Peaches was calling from the car. Tony hadn’t thought of that, and now Peaches knew he was there.

“Tonight. Be there. Same time, same place as always.” Tony held the receiver in his shaking hand. He knew Peaches had hung up and the line was dead, but he couldn’t move. He was sweating and his heart was pounding. He’d lost the stuff and couldn’t pay Peaches off. He knew how bad that was. Tony’s head was throbbing again too.

He reached up and felt the dried blood on his hair around the gaping cut. There was a fresh trickle starting in again. Hell, I don’t even know who took it off me. Tony peeked through the blinds but the mustang had gone. He sat down on the bed and held his aching head in his hands trying to pull his thoughts together, trying to think of something he could do.

“Let me in, man! hurry up!” He heard Casey say through the door. Tony got up and unlocked the dead bolt. Casey pushed in past Tony and slammed the door shut

“Hey! Is that your old man’s piece?”

“Hell, my old man’s don’t work. He just keeps it sittin' on the table for looks. This is hot, man, I got it off Ricky. He said do what you gotta do but get it back to him tonight.”

“I don’t know, man, I don’t know...” Tony was rubbing his head again.

“There’s nothin' else. This or nothin'. Ricky says Peaches is bad news. It’s you or him. Ricky says Joey might be with, too. He’s a piece of shit. You have to off ‘em both, or it’s you, man. You gotta’ do it. There’s nothin' else to do.”

Tony knew this. Peaches wanted his money, and he didn’t have it. He knew what had happened to that runner from the west side last month. Everyone heard about that one.

“Yeah, I know, man.” Tony said so softly that Casey could barely hear him. “You got bullets?”

“It’s loaded now. Just take it. Remember, it’s you or them. I’ll drop you off. Get in there and wait in the bushes. When they get to the table, do it then... fast. They won’t expect it, man. They’ll be watchin' for you to come up in the pickup. Do it fast, then meet me back by the pool. No one'll be hangin' ‘round. It’s rainin' like hell out there.”

Casey drove to the side entrance of the park. Tony jumped out and ran to some bushes not far from the picnic table where he was suppose to meet Peaches.

Every Thursday night at 8:15 he met Peaches there for a pickup or drop off. Several other guys worked for Peaches too. All had their set times. Peaches hated if you were early or late. He didn’t want anyone to talk or know the identity of one another. Peaches’ work revolved around secrecy.

Tony crouched low and nervously fingered the cold butt of the gun in his pocket. Come on, come on... kept playing through his head in a sort of singsong rhythm. Come on, come on, come on.

Tony just wanted it all to be over and to be back in his apartment again. He had never owned a gun. As he hid in the bushes, he realized that he’d never even fired one before. I guess it’s like on T.V...You just pull the trigger he told himself, trying to calm his nerves. Just squeeze the trigger...He hoped that was true. He kept a close watch on the entrance to the park, waiting for Peaches’ dark figure to appear.

Peaches always wore a black leather jacket so he’d blend into the shadows. Tony would have to watch carefully to spot him as soon as he entered the secluded area.
==
The ringing phone jarred Dan out of a sound sleep. He looked around not knowing for a moment what the noise was. The T.V. blared a cop show, and until the phone rang again, he thought the sound had been from the television set.

“Yeah?” he barked into the receiver. “Tonight? Where did you say? Yeah...yeah, okay, I’ll be right there.”

Dan banged the receiver down and grabbed his jacket from the doorknob. “Val!” He yelled up the stairs, pausing at the front door, “I gotta go out. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” Then, as an afterthought he added, “You’d better not wait up for me, no telling how late I'll be.” He slammed the door behind him and ran through the pelting rain to his car.
==

Kevin walked to the secluded picnic table where he and Val always met. He was nervous and jittery and circled the table several times, rehearsing what he was planning to say before finally perching on top.

Valerie saw Kevin’s motorcycle leaning against a post. She pulled up to the end spot next to the park’s side entrance and turned the ignition off, and sat several minutes rehearing, outloud, what she was planning to say to Kevin. Finally she opened the door and got out, closing it quietly behind her, and headed toward their private spot.

Tony held his breath and crouched down lower, watching. The figure was coming his way. Yeah, that’s him...hey, where’s Joey... Tony watched Peaches walk over to the picnic table, then walk around it several times before finally stopping and sitting on top. I bet he’s waiting for Joey... I better just stay cool and wait.

Tony fingered the cold metal in his pocket. He was scared to death. Suddenly, he was startled by a noise and saw a second figure coming towards the table. Peaches looked up and began to get up. Tony pulled the gun slowly from his pocket. Yeah, keep comin'...just keep walkin’... that’s right... yeah, that’s good... He raised the gun, taking aim at the still figure waiting by the picnic table. That’s right, keep on comin’ Joey just keep walkin'’ till you’re right by your friend...Tony inched his finger towards the trigger. Yeah, that’s it, that’s it. Now, just a squeeze... and...

Tony froze. His finger was ready; he had both dark figures in his sight, but what was that noise?  He held his breath and released his finger slowly. Don’t fire now, oh, God, please don’t fire now he prayed frantically. Tony listened hard. Yeah, there’s something there...

He could hear a faint rustle, a sound like material rubbing against a branch. Something or someone was there, someone was in the bushes behind him! Tony could barely breathe. He hoped no one could hear his heart pounding. Please don’t see me, please don’t know I’m here... There, he saw something move. He squinted through the branches and saw a figure crouching in the shadows just a few feet away.

Tony watched and as his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he thought he saw someone else. Yeah, there’s two guys right over there. Oh, God, please don’t see me, please don’t see me... Tony began his frantic prayer-chant again.

“Stop right there, you two! Down on the ground, face down, Spread those arms out where I can see ‘em! Don’t move!”

Tony jumped as the megaphone pierced through the darkness. He watched as several men jumped out from the shrubbery and started running toward Peaches and Joey.

God, they’re cops! Tony realized. But they didn’t appear to know he was there. Just be calm... he told himself. Don’t move. Maybe they don’t know anyone else is here. Tony felt the sweat trickling down the small of his back. He crouched even lower, but his knees were aching badly and he didn’t know how much longer he could stay in that position.

Tony saw one of the men reach the two sprawled figures first. There was alot of commotion and loud talking. If I back out slowly and don’t make any noise, maybe I can get over to the truck. I don’t think they know anybody else is here...

Dan was ahead of the others as they ran toward the two figures by the table. He’d been after this particular dealer for months. He couldn’t wait to make the collar, and he wanted to do it himself. The guy had been clever, changing drop off spots and days. The drug team couldn’t seem to get a lead, but just a couple of hours ago an anonymous call alerted the police to a drop off tonight in the park--their first break in the case.

Dan reached the table first. The taller guy, wearing a black leather jacket, lifted his head and started to say something but Dan yelled at him to shut up and pushed his head back down roughly with his foot. That mouthy one is probably the leader, the one they call Peaches he figured.

Dan walked over and stood in front of the smaller guy. He reached down and grabbed a handful of hair, pulling his head up. “So, what do you have to say?” He growled at the figure lying on the ground. Then he let go abruptly and stumbled back in shock. He was starring into the familiar face of his wife!

(c) Doreen Bradley Satter 2010