Authors: Desiree Douglas
CABIN BY THE LAKE
Copyright 2016, Desiree Douglas.
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form, electronic or mechanical, without written approval by the author, except for short excerpts used in a book review.
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to real people or real locales are used fictitiously. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Rocco paced his prison cell like the caged animal he was. The cell block was loud, and his head hurt. He couldn’t think clearly with all that noise, and he needed to think about Lydia and how he was going to kill her. He’d nicknamed her his little Pocahontas the day he met her, teasing her about her braids. That was when he was falling in love. Now he just thought of her as the dead girl walking.
Thinking of Lydia’s impending death reminded him of another sweet-faced girl, one he knew long before he met her, when he was ten years old and still known as Denny Howe. Prissy Missy; she lived right across the pasture.
His family owned the remains of an old farm on the outskirts of town where other aging farms dotted the landscape. Denny’s family was officially known as one of the poor families who got charity presents left on their porch on Christmas morning, along with a turkey that his mother cooked a day or two later if she got around to it.
The farm had been a thriving business when it belonged to his grandfather, but then his father took over after he came home from Viet Nam with PTSD and began drinking heavily. Soon it was a farm in name only, the fields no longer plowed or planted. His father sold off the land a parcel at a time. By the time Denny was ten, all they owned was the lot where the shack sat that they called home sweet home.
That year the High Pointe subdivision sprang up across the pasture from the farmhouse on what used to be their north forty. The houses were new and cute, and Denny wanted to live in one of those houses more than anything else in the world. He wanted to hang out there, but unfortunately, the kids who lived in those houses were a close-knit circle of friends, and he always found himself hiding and watching them throw the football around in the street, and ride bicycles that he coveted.
Denny Howe was unaware of how different he was. Above and beyond the fact that his pants that were too short and his wrists hung out of his sleeves, he smelled. He smelled mostly of old urine because he slept on an old gray mattress with two younger brothers and the conditions in his home were squalid. There was no hot water, so even if he had been taught to bathe regularly, it would not have been an attractive idea. He smelled okay to himself, so it never occurred to him that others might find him offensive.
One afternoon he crossed the pasture to High Pointe, hoping to slip unnoticed into one of their games. The boys began to howl like dogs when they spotted him. Denny shouted that his name was Howe, not Howl, but they already knew that.
Missy was the only person in that neighborhood who was never mean to him. She was so pretty. She always had a bow tied in her hair that matched the outfit she was wearing. Prissy Missy; she was like a shiny new penny he wanted to put in his pocket and keep forever.
One day as he watched her get off the school bus, he saw her pink braided ribbon slide off her ponytail, and he picked it up and closed his hand over it, convinced that she had left it for him. The next day he sat down beside her on the bus, and she didn’t tell him to move. He took that as a good sign.
Missy was extremely soft-hearted and she didn’t want to hurt his feelings. She didn’t have a mean bone in her body, and had thought it would be cruel to ask him to change seats.
Denny decided she liked him. He worked up the courage to ask her to walk with him to the ballpark Saturday morning to watch the Little League game. He’d seen the High Pointe kids walk together in a pack to the ballpark many Saturday mornings. It would be like a date. He was not at all surprised when she said okay.
she liked him.
He stole a dollar from his older sister’s purse that morning, enough to buy them each a Coke. He’d washed his face carefully and showed up at her front door smiling, but he still reeked of urine. Missy’s father would have sent him on his way, but the rest of the neighborhood gang showed up en masse, and the crowd left in one big swarm, laughing and horsing around, with him and Missy walking stiffly side by side in the middle.
For once Denny thought he got the respect and acceptance he so craved. None of the other kids would dare to howl at him when he was obviously on a
with Missy. A couple of the older guys eyed him darkly, but he held his head up higher, the superior one, for once.
He and Missy sat together at the ballgame and drank their Cokes. She answered politely when he tried to talk to her, but she was very quiet. Her back was ramrod straight and her hands were clasped firmly in her lap.
He didn’t know that she was suffering extreme humiliation from having been unable to turn down his invitation. She’d felt sorry for him, and thought it would be unkind to just say no. And now she was already worrying about hurting his feelings when she had to say no the next time he asked, because she didn’t know how to do that.
Her heart hurt for him, but she wasn’t having any fun. He wasn’t bad looking, but he literally stank, and it was all she could do to keep from being sick. She thought that if she ever got back home, she’d lock herself in her room and stay there forever, just so she wouldn’t have to be mean to him.
To her credit, she endured the entire baseball game, and let him walk her home, all the way to her door. She ignored the sideways looks from the gang, and was grateful that they had the decency to mind their manners. It would have been more than she could bear if they’d started that mean howling again.
He went home as happy as he’d ever been in his life. He had a girlfriend, and she was the prettiest girl in school. When he got home, he got a beating for stealing the dollar, but he didn’t care. His beatings were frequent, but this time it had been worth it.
He’d planned to sit beside her on the bus Monday morning, but she was surrounded by her girlfriends. Every day that week it was the same. He didn’t know why she didn’t just save him a seat.
On Thursday evening he slipped out of his house and called her on a pay phone. He politely asked if she would go to the ballgame with him on Saturday morning, just as he had before, confident of her answer. But this time she said, “I’m sorry, I’d really like to, but my mom said I’m too young to have a boyfriend. But thank you for asking. Goodbye.”
She had gotten advice from her mother. It still felt mean to her, but she saw no other way out, and she didn’t think she could endure a repeat performance of last Saturday.
Denny held the receiver in his hand for a moment, shocked, and then began to beat the phone box with the receiver until it broke open and a cascade of nickels, dimes and quarters rained out. To him, that seemed like just compensation for the evil deed that had been done to him, and just like that, he went from being in love with Prissy Missy to hating the very air that she breathed. He wanted to kill her.
But he settled for killing her cat.
He skipped school Monday morning, and lay flat in the pasture grass and watched the High Pointe kids get on the school bus. He knew both her parents worked. He planned to break into her house and steal stuff, maybe mess up her room. But when he crawled along the drainage ditch between her house and her neighbor’s, and then darted behind the bushes lining the front of her house, he’d spotted her calico cat lying in the sun on the front porch.
“Here, kitty-kitty,” he coaxed softly. The cat ignored him as he crept closer. Indicative of cats, it didn’t even flinch as he picked it up and hunkered down with it behind the bushes. He stroked the cat for a while, enjoying the feel of its soft fur against his face. It smelled good. He imagined it smelled like Missy’s shiny blond hair.
He couldn’t understand why she liked him last week—the only kid in the entire school who
liked him—and one week later she wouldn’t even look at him. Maybe she was really the meanest one of all, and had planned the whole thing. Maybe the High Pointe kids were all laughing at him right now as they got off the bus, howling at each other before they entered the school building.
He was quite surprised when he looked down and realized the cat hung from his hands, heavy and lifeless. He was also surprised to see that he had scratches on his arms that were bleeding. He hadn’t felt a thing.
He was scared at first, and looked around to see if anyone was looking. No, he was all alone. He was really sorry that the cat was dead. But then he imagined how good it would feel to watch Missy come home from school, and see her find the cat. Maybe then she would know how he felt.
He placed the cat in the sun where he’d found it, arranging its lifeless body in what he felt was a natural sleeping position, all curled up and cute. Like an artist, he carefully looped its tail around its body. He was pleased with the results.
Later that afternoon he watched as she got off the bus. He saw her approach her front porch, pause, and bend over to pet the calico. She suddenly jerked back her hand. She dropped her books and began screaming as she backed away. Maybe it was the blow flies that made her become hysterical, and maybe it was the pink braided ribbon he’d tied around the cat’s neck so tightly that it disappeared into the soft fur, with only the carefully arranged bow showing.
No, come to think of it, that cat hadn’t really looked like it was sleeping at all.
Rocco smiled now at his memory of that day. He’d thought about saying something to Missy to let her know who had killed her cat, but he decided that if he got in trouble—and he surely would—it would spoil the pleasure he’d gotten from watching her pain. It remained his little secret all these years.
It wasn’t long after the cat incident that he did find friends of a sort, not a real gang like they had in the inner cities, but a gang nonetheless. Under the guidance of his new friends, he discovered the profitability of selling drugs, dropped out of school and ran away from home at the age of fourteen. He saw enough addicts to know that using drugs while selling them was not a formula for success. Luckily, he didn’t need to use drugs as an escape; making money was what made him high.
With his move to the big city of Nashville, he built up his own drug trade and became known as Rocco. He wanted to sound tough like his hero Sylvester Stallone, the Italian Stallion. But he couldn’t steal the name Rocky; it was taken, so he chose Rocco. It sounded just right to him, and people seemed to respect it. His days of being Denny Howe were over.
Now, sitting in prison, Rocco never thought to blame himself for his circumstances. All his woes were caused by Lydia. He had been the brains of the biggest drug operation in Tennessee and nobody—
—could touch him. Men walked in fear of him. Women stood in line to cater to his needs. He was a god!
Then he met Lydia, his little Pocahontas. She was a petite, green-eyed brunette, the prettiest thing he’d ever seen. She brought out his protective instincts, something he didn’t know he possessed. He thought, finally, that he’d found the woman destined to walk by his side. He gave her anything she wanted, jewelry, clothes, dinners at the finest restaurants.
She was young and malleable, and he knew he could mold her into the perfect mate. He hated the big-mouth broads he usually attracted, and his new-found love was so sweet and innocent, his chest had puffed with pride at how much she obviously adored him. She hung on his every word and never talked back when he told her to do something.
Right from the start he tested her loyalty. She delivered his drugs for him cheerfully and with enthusiasm; it was the best set-up he’d ever had. She was so clean-cut and wholesome; no one would ever suspect her of drug trafficking. At the trial, she claimed she hadn’t known what was in the packages, but he knew better. Sure, they had never discussed the business in so many words—it was just understood—but nobody was that stupid!
When she was arrested, he was confident that she loved him. He knew she would do her time, and then she’d belong to him. No big deal. He’d make sure his personal and business lives never crossed again, and they’d live happily ever after. That was his plan.
He stopped pacing and smashed his fist into the cinderblock wall, enraged at the memory of how she betrayed him. It was unthinkable that this ignorant girl could stab him in the back as she had, testify against him, and act hurt because he’d used her. She named every associate they’d ever had dinner with, every meeting place she’d seen while she was with him in his Porsche. His entire empire he’d spent years building from the age of fourteen folded like a house of cards.
He put out a hit on her life, but the FBI held her in protective custody until his trial, and no one could get to her. When he was convicted because of her detailed testimony and went to prison, her own trial began, and he was somewhat mollified to learn that the jury didn’t believe her ridiculous story of wide-eyed innocence.
Rocco knew he had to get out of prison. He now had only one goal in life, to find Lydia and kill her with his own two hands, much like he had killed Missy’s cat. He knew he had to stop causing trouble so he could land one of the cushier jobs in the area of the prison that housed the trusted inmates. He desperately needed to have his time cut for good behavior. He would become a model prisoner. Then maybe he could work in the kitchen or laundry where security was not so tight. He would not hesitate to escape if he had the chance. He liked that plan. When he made up his mind to do something, he did it.
And unlike Missy’s cat, he thought he would remember every detail when he finally killed Lydia.