Dan sat at the table fingering the gun with one hand and holding a half empty bottle of rye whiskey in the other. Ray slept on the floor against the wall and Sandy stood at the controls looking straight ahead not daring to look in Dan's direction.
Clare groaned and sat up on the couch in the living room. She wondered why she was on the couch. The last she remembered she was sleeping with Natty on the bed in the main bedroom. Feeling the left side of her face she found it to be swollen and tender, her left eye was nearly swollen shut. A dim memory came back to her of standing behind the kitchen door trying to hide, of something grabbing her by the hair and her screaming, then everything went black. The baby! Clare got up and staggered toward the door to the kitchen.
"Well, well, well the lady is alive and finally awakens,” a deep, unfamiliar voice came from the kitchen. Would you kindly grace us with your company in the kitchen here," the annoying voice called to her.
"Who are you?", Clare asked confusedly. Nothing made sense.
"Don't ask questions, lady, just do what your told," the voice ordered her. Clare heard something click, when she looked up she noticed the man held a gun point blank at her chest area. Clare let go of the door frame and cautiously did what he told her. Natty woke up crying.
"OK, lady, go get my daughter. Maybe she want's to see her daddy."
When Clare entered the bedroom Natty immediately stopped crying and said, “Cla, Cla”, and held up her arms for Clare to pick her up. Clare looked
outside and noticed it was day light. The last she remembered it was early evening before...
Suddenly she remembered. The intruder of the night before was the children's father. She knew his reputation and feared what he might do to
her and the children. A movement out side caught her attention. Someone on a sail boat waved to her. It was George! He had followed her all this way. Clare waved outward with her hands indicating for him to back away. If that animal in there saw him he would be dead. She then pointed towards the back of the riverboat.
"What's taking so long," Dan asked in an irritated voice. Clare walked into the kitchen holding Natty in her arms.
"Come and see daddy, daddy missed you." Dan stretched his arms out to take Natty, still holding the gun in his right hand. Natty smelled the alcohol on his breath, screamed and turned her head towards Clare and cried.
"Make her stop or I'll blow her brains out!”, Dan ordered, with an anger
that filled his face. “She's not my child anyway, I wasn't even home when
Mel became pregnant, I was in the bucket doing time. She slept around on me, she always slept around on me!," Dan raged slamming his fist onto the table.
"She was like a bitch in heat, always wanting I..." There was the sound of splintering wood at Dan's back and the fragments of a wooden chair fell to the floor. When Dan turned to look behind him he saw Ray standing a couple of feet away with two of the chair legs still in his hands.
Fast as a striking snake Dan stooped, leaned forward and lunged forward towards Ray. Ray jumped back just out of reach then took another swing at him with one of the chair legs. Dan caught his swinging arm in mid-air and sent him reeling with a crash against the wall.
Ray slid to the floor in a sitting position. Dan held the gun to his head and said, “Bye-bye!” Clare screamed and closed her eyes. There was a click
followed by Dan's uproarious laughter.
"Fooled you, see,” Dan showed his son the empty chamber in the gun; he held the bullet in his other hand.
“The next time son, if you are my son, there will be a bullet in the chamber. Maybe I'll play a little game of Russian roulette with you. That would be interesting, you the participant, I holding the gun and taking the shots. How would you like that, huh?, Dan asked grinning and tapping the gun barrel under his chin. You had better eat a lot of meat and potatoes if you want to beat up on your old man."
Dan said then turned, walked a couple of paces, stooped down and picked up one of the chair legs and whipped it around him. There was a whoosh follow- ed by a resounding thunk where the leg imbedded itself in the wall just above Rays right shoulder. “You can make a weapon out of almost anything, you just have to know how to do it. Some day you will learn, especially if you get the opportunity to do time in the bucket."
"I'm never going to go to jail! Jail is for two bit losers," Ray screamed then closed his eyes and waited for the sudden impact of a bullet. None came. Instead there came laughter. Ray opened his eyes. Dan sat looking at him smiling. “I like that, son, rebellion is a good sign of a survivor. I've learned that early in life, broken bones are an honor and much more
preferable than to be a spineless coward.”
Dan swung around to Clare. “Lady make yourself useful and make us something to eat and take the brat with you."
"Don't you dare call her a brat! she's our sister!” Sandy said turning to face him. This was the first time she had dared speak to him since he had intruded in their lives the night before. If you want to shoot me go ahead. Sandy let go of the helm and turned, arms spread out. “I would sooner die than listen to you put down our little sister and mother. You're the one
that made mom into the non-person she was in the end, you with your drunken
beatings and foul mouth. You're the one that slept around, not mum. Go ahead and shoot, you piece of woman beating low life garbage!" Sandy screamed, as her face turned beet red.
Dan got up and slapped Sandy across the face so hard the imprint of his
hand was visible where he had hit her.
"You're going to be a little slut, just like your mother," Dan said in a low, intimidating voice, then turned in time to see Ray half-stooped, ready to pounce on him once again.
"You want to try your luck again, come on do it." Dan crouched low, motion- ing with the fingers of his right hand for him to come. Ray lunged at him. Dan swung out of the way and let Ray's momentum carry him across the room to stumble over the kitchen table and slam head first into the wall with a dull crunch. Ray laid prone on the table, out cold. Dan laughed insanely then stopped abruptly and said, "That's one out for the night, you want to be the next one?" Ray raised his fist to connect with Sandy's face. Sandy flinched and turned to take the helm once more.
"Come on Ms. whatever your name is, how is that food coming along? The show is over!" Dan shouted then turned pointing the gun at her. Clare jumped and Natty started to cry again.
"If your going to scare the stuffing out of the baby all the time, you can fix your own meal," Clare responded, picking Natty up from the counter.
"Well, what's this? Another would-be hero. Have you been feeding every one hero sandwiches around here or some thing?", Dan growled.
"No I'm only trying to tell you to use common sense. Every time you talk loud in a threatening way the baby cries. and if she cries I have to pick her up and when I have her in my arms I'm not cooking."
Dan frowned and stared at her then raised his right hand and pointed his index finger at her and asked, "Do I know you?"
"I don't think so, but I know plenty about you." I was your wife's worker."
"So you're the bitch that called for the court order. What are you doing with my children on this boat this far away from Morganza. You're certainly not delivering them to foster parents, not in this manner."
"No I'm not, I was bringing them to their uncle up in Canada." Ray laughed.
"To that old fart of a brother of mine? He's crazier than I am. He's a writer, you know. He writes Injun stories, about ghosts and evil spirits and he believes in them, too.” Dan laughed until tears rolled down his cheeks. “What is he going to do with three children when his mind is always in space or should I say in the happy hunting ground?” This was followed by some more absurd laughter. What is your name anyway?" Ray asked.
"Clare, and it is miss, if you were wondering. Do you mind?" she motioned for the bottle he held. Dan passed her the bottle. Clare took a hardy pull and handed him back the bottle.
Á Á"You can be a mite trying on the nerves you know but nothing like some of the people I had to work with, No siree, you're a pussy cat in compari- son." Clare said with a smile.
Dan laughed, then said, “I think I might like you.” Dan put Ray on the couch while Clare set the table.
After supper Clare turned on the radio. Taking another swig from the bottle she danced, twisting and gyrating wildly to the beat of the music then stopped to take Dan's hand and pulled him to his feet. Dan stumbled around while Clare danced dizzily around him. When Dan slowed she would then swoop in and take him by the hand and twirl him around her. “Soon”, Clare thought, with a little more encouragement, she would have him in the position she wanted him: passed out.
“Come on, big man, one more.” Clare motioned for the bottle. Ray wondered
where she was putting it all; she was still nimble as a mountain goat on her feet while Dan could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. Clare vibrated and swayed to the music like she did at the night clubs. She could see Dan's flushed face and hoped that he would pass out before he got too much more sexually aroused.
Dan took one step backward and fell on his rear with a crash, still holding the bottle. The silly look on his face would have made everybody laugh if it would have been a happier occasion. Clare continued to dance, making sexual motions. Dan smiled, then his eyes closed and he fell back, his head hitting the floor with a thump. Immediately Clare pulled out a plastic bag with a yellow liquid from between her breasts and threw it in the sink.
"Stop the boat and get some thing to tie him up with," she ordered Sandy. I have someone to meet at the back of the boat."
Sandy smiled saying, "I really thought you were going turn coat on us."
"You work the night clubs, you learn a few tricks,” Clare informed her, then left to give the OK signal for George to board the Missy.
This man must really care to have followed them all the way out here. She was relieved and would feel safer to have another adult take charge of this situation. She did not think she could have held things together for much longer. As intense as this man was, like a bomb ready to go off at the
slightest nudge, either she or some one else would have got shot.
Sandy bent down to tie Dan's feet. She felt something cold touch her fore- head at the bridge of the nose, she looked up. The gun barrel was within one inch of her nose. Dan pressed his finger crossways to his lips.
"Just wrap the rope loosely around my feet and you go back to the controls. I believe Clare is bringing us company."
Dan laid back down with his hands at his back. He had noticed some thing wrong when he had watched her dance, no one could still dance like that after the amount of alcohol she had consumed. He had used a little trick of his own, when ever he tilted the bottle he had held his tongue to the bottle and only pretended to drink and appear to be getting drunker.
“It's too bad, she is quite the looker. We could have made good music together.” He wondered who this fifth party was. Did they have a friend following all along or had they just incorporated this fifth party recently? His biggest worry was, had this party been talking to the cops? He supposed that if this person had talked to the cops there would
be wall to wall cops here by now.
Clare had tied the catamaran to the back of the river boat and helped George unto the deck. He held here in his arms for a moment, then said,
"I was so worried about you and the kids, I had nightmares. Nightmares so real that I would wake up screaming and sweating. George hugged her and said, thank God you're alive. Are you OK?", George asked, holding her at arms length to examine her.
He felt panic rise in him when he saw her face. Her right eye was badly bruised and nearly swelled shut.
"Yes, he hasn't hurt any one seriously yet but I was in constant fear of that possibility."
"Where is he?" George asked uneasily.
"He's in the kitchen, passed out. Sandy should have him tied
up by now."
George pulled out the forty five from his pocket and said,
"Just a precaution."
George walked in first, cautiously, gun at the ready. The girl at the wheel did not turn to look. Something was not right. It was too late by the time George turned to look back at the man on the floor. There was a blurred movement and the explosion of a firearm. George felt something hot in his
right shoulder and the .45 slipped from his fingers.
"Not fast enough, Pilgrim." Dan said waving his index finger back and forth and smiling. He was up on his feet and in flash he had George by the shirt. Throwing him on the floor he proceeded to kick him in the stomach, chest, groin and legs. George doubled over in pain and turned his back to Dan who continued to kick him in the back, all the time screaming #@$ &*$@ bastard.
Getting down on his knees, straddling George, Dan rolled him on his back
once more. Leaning over, holding George by the shoulders, he paused to catch his breath.
"You had enough?" Dan asked. George remained silent. Dan seized George by the chin, fingers sinking into the flesh, and swung his head back and forth. “Ah, I believe that's a no!”
Dan pummeled George in the face until it was a mass of blood. Clare
screamed for him to stop but to no avail. Dan continued to pummel
George in the face. Dan stopped then reached over and put his thumb on the bullet wound and pressed down. George's screaming reverberated and echoed from both sides of the river. Fortunately for him he lost consciousness.
Getting up, Dan then turned to Clare. Seizing her by the shoulders he squeezed until she went down on her knees and cried out for him to stop. "Bitch!", he screamed, spittle flying in her face. Pulling her back up by the hair he cuffed her twice across the face, then pushed her backward with such force that the chair she landed in broke apart under her. Blood ran out of her nose. Clutching her by the hair with his left hand, he stood her up against the wall and struck her on the lower jaw with his right fist. Switching hands he struck her on the other side with his left fist. Clare closed her eyes and wished she would lose consciousness like George. The next blow was to the stomach. Clare doubled over with pain and fought to catch her breath. Jerking her back up by the hair he picked her up and raised her over his head and threw her against the wall over the kitchen counter.
Clare lay on the counter with all the kitchen paraphernalia that had been hanging on a wall rack scattered everywhere about her. At Clare's head,
Natty screamed and cried. She had been sitting there since
supper, too fear-filled to cry out or move. Natty leaned over and
put her arms around Clare's head and cried, "Cla, Cla, I lav Cla, Cla het."
Dan pulled out a chair and sat down facing Sandy at the helm. Picking up his discarded bottle he tilted it to his mouth and held it there till it was empty.
"OK, kid, unless you want to try some thing funny too, do it now, so I can fix that, too, like I did the others, or you can go
fix them up some. I'll take over at the helm.” Taking another
bottle from his duffel bag Dan walked a little unsteadily to the
Sandy didn't know who to start with. She went to check on Ray, she needed his help. Sandy checked his pulse, it was normal. She then checked the back of his head. There was some swelling and blood had coagulated from a small tear in the scalp but there was no indication of severe damage.
As she went to the kitchen to get a wet cloth she glanced at Clare and had to gulp hard to keep from retching. The man on the floor did not seem to be in much better shape. Sandy folded up a tea cloth and ran cold water over it. She tried to take Natty with her but she only cried louder, “Cla het, Cla het”, she held Clare's battered head; the eyes stared blankly at the ceiling.