Disclaimer: The following short story deals with childhood sexual abuse, violence and revenge…
Jackie Hemingway dealt with pain her entire life.
Whether it was physical or emotional, pain often hung over her like a dark cloud ready to burst into a storm all around her at any moment. She cried as she sat there and typed out her story and tried to put into words her particular pain.
One of those dark clouds had hovered over her since childhood — since before she was a she, when she still lived in the gender role and body that she didn’t belong in.
Living in a small town afforded a family a sense of security, well-being and knowing your neighbors. But sometimes, even in a small town, neighbors could be unneighborly.
The Hemingway’s happened to have neighbors who despite brandishing a smile most times in public, had dark and unmentionable family secrets that showed just how terrible humanity could be.
A verbally and physically abusive father headed up the Finley family. He often took out his frustrations and life’s failings on his wife Pearl, their daughters Daisy and Deanna. But the worst seemed to fall upon the youngest son Wayne while the eldest son Bob seemed to have escaped a larger portion of abuse by joining the Army.
As does sometimes happen when someone abuses another, the victim may eventually seek to lash out at someone else they can control and abuse, as a sort of release from their own unwanted pain and suffering. No one wants to be the only victim.
Having no one else to turn his pain and rage against, Wayne eventually found an outlet for all the hurt, pain and anger he felt. Unfortunately the person he chose to unleash his aggression on was a young Jackie Hemingway, or Jack as he wanted to be called in his youth.
It started out as the unwanted touching of his privates, then it became violent and sexually abusive towards Jack. Anytime the late teenaged Wayne took the abuse from his father, he would enentually come looking for Jack to exact some measure of satisfaction against the young Hemingway. The worst part for young Jack was that he never knew when the abuse would come or in what manner it would manifest.
In one instance, Jack was lured over to Wayne’s and was taken up to the barn hayloft and Wayne tied his hands together by the thumbs with baling twine and threw it over a beam and hoisted Jack off the ground so he was barely standing on his tiptoes. Then Wayne pulled Jack’s pants down and heated up the metal wind guard that housed the wick of his Zippo lighter and burned Jack’s privates with it like a branding iron. It would leave burns on Jack down there that would remain as fading scars up until his gender surgery decades later. But the memories remained, never fading and as fresh as the day they happened.
Eventually the Finley’s left Hollis which spared Jack any further abuse, but the damage had already been done. For most of his life Jack buried those horrific memories into the deepest, darkest parts of his mind, never allowing them to surface to see the light of day.
However, no memory really ever goes away, not the bad ones, not the good ones, and a person can only dismiss them for so long before something comes up and the pain returns and it becomes as vivid and painful as the moment it happened.
That day finally came for Jack. Someone he knew had a child who was abused and they shared the horrible story with Jack who instantly returned to those days and years in Hollis and Wayne Finley. He eventually spiraled into a massive depression at the recognition and self-admission of his own abuse, which he hadn’t thought about in years. He had lied to himself in his own mind claiming to have forgotten them, but he didn’t really believe his own lie.
His depression turned to anger and then rage. He became hell bent on exacting revenge against Wayne in some manner, but he hadn’t a clue where to find him.
It was a few years later when Jack became friendly with a guy who did skip tracing and private investigator work that would provide him with a way to find his childhood abuser. Sharing his trauma with his new PI friend Tom was very difficult and Tom, who was a few years older than Jack, took on Jack’s pain and anger — agreeing to help Jack not only find Wayne, but assist in any way Jack asked to help avenge his friend’s pain.
It took less than six months for Tom to find out exactly where Wayne was living and he went by Jack’s place to share the news.
“Want a beer?” Jack asked as Tom sat at the kitchen table. Tom was having a difficult time containing himself with the information he was about to share with Jack.
“Yup — and you’re gonna want one too Jackie boy,” Tom said with a bit of a grin.
Jack took two beers from the fridge, handed one to Tom and sat across from him.
“What’s up?” Jack asked.
Tom took a swig of beer and let out a sigh.
“I found him Jack.”
For a moment Jack was puzzled as his mind scurried to figure out who Tom was referring to. Then Jack swallowed hard and took a swig of beer as he felt his eyes begin to tear up.
“I found the fucker!”
Jack swallowed hard again and put his beer on the table staring at the bottle as the memories and emotions flooded his mind and the tears fell.
“Where?” Jack asked blinking tears from his eyes.
Tom began to feel bad for the happiness he had felt in sharing the news with Jack. He cleared his throat.
“Texas,” was all that Tom said.
“Texas? Shit, I thought he’d be someplace closer like Massachusetts or Maine or something.”
“Doesn’t surprise me. A lot of times shitheads like that want to get as far away from their past as…as their victims do.”
“Texas huh…never been to Texas,” Jack mumbled wiping his eyes. He downed the rest of his beer and got up and retrieved two more from the fridge. Anger replaced the pain he felt. He had hoped to find out that Wayne was already dead.
“You want to know more?” Tom asked.
“You’re goddamned right I do!”
Tom filled Jack in on all the particulars and suggested a course of action to take, if Jack was willling. It only took a day for Jack to reconcile the matter in his mind. He picked up the phone in the kitchen and called Tom’s office.
Tom’s secretary announced Jack’s call. Tom picked up the phone without saying a word, waiting for Jack to begin.
Jack paused for a moment. “When do we leave?”
Tom grinned, he had hoped that was going to be Jack’s answer.
“We can leave Friday if you can be ready.”
“I’ll be ready.”
“I’ll come get you at noon.”
Tom and Jack were on the road by 11:30am that Friday and began the 1,500 mile trek to Texarkana. Jack wondered what they would find when they got there. Whatever that would be, it would take two days of driving for them to find out.
Wayne Finley and the remaining Finley family left Hollis after their daughters were married and moved off on their own and the family moved to Medford, Massachusetts. After a couple of years there, and getting into more trouble and inflicting more pain in Medford, Wayne left out on his own, drifting aimlessly from one town to another, and from one victim to another. The pain inflicted upon him by his father festered and boiled over inside him constantly. Even abusing others more helpless than himself eventually came to hold little satisfaction for him. Alcohol and drugs became his self-medicating tools of choice.
He left a wake of pain and suffering wherever he went, getting arrested for multiple offenses — vagrancy, public indecency and intoxication were among the mildest offenses he committed. He fled prosecution for statutory rape, assault and indecency with a minor before he could be tried and sent to prison.
Ending up in Texarkana, Texas, Wayne enjoyed the macho, rowdy mentality that allowed predators to roam freely and feel safe until their unnatural desires caught up with them.
It wasn’t long before heroin took complete control of his life and he began to steal and rob to support his addictive habits. He could rarely remember his actions when he was high and drunk which gave him a false sense of peace and numbness to the world that he thought would alleviate his conscience.
As Tom and Jack drove along, nearing the Texas/Arkansas border town, Jack became fidgety.
“Does he work?” Jack asked.
“Nah, he’s a fucking junkie,” Tom replied.
They stopped at a truck stop just before crossing over into the Lone Star state to gas up Tom’s Ford Crown Vic and grab something to eat. As they sat in the small dining room of the Pilot truck stop eating one of the most unhealthy meals Jack had ever consumed, they went over their options.
Jack let Tom offer up his thoughts on how to deal with Wayne. Jack knew he wanted revenge, or at least satisfaction for what Wayne had done to him, but he wasn’t particularly violent or able to come up with a devious or sinister plan to deal with his abusive former neighbor.
Jack thought that if Tom had his way, they’d just string Wayne up by his testicles and inflict the most gruesome pain as possible upon him before killing him. While Jack knew death and had danced with that devil himself before, he didn’t particularly want to kill Wayne.
The two checked into seperate rooms at a motel just a few blocks from Wayne’s cheap apartment building. It was little more than a month to month dive apartment complex for those down on their luck or who had given up on life and themselves.
“We’re gonna grab him tomorrow,” Tom said, “soon as he leaves that shithole he’s livin’ in.”
Jack just nodded. They finished their beers at a small bar across the parking lot from their motel and turned in early. Tom gathered the things needed for tomorrow’s main event. Handcuffs, zip ties and his badge, which resembled a police badge if you didn’t look at it too close. His prized piece to be used was an old arrest warrant he came to posses from a previous case he had worked on. He had copied it, whited out the name and offense and had his secretary put Wayne’s name and any one of the numerous offenses he had been arrested for that he had skipped out on.
They would approach Wayne posing as police officers picking him up for an outstanding warrant against him. After that, the plan was to take him to a desolate area and do whatever Jack wished to do to Wayne. Whatever that would involve, Tom knew one thing was for certain — Wayne Finley would not be going home tomorrow night.
Jack spent a restless night laying in bed watching television. The sleep that usually eluded him continued to do so. Sometime around 11pm, Jack got up, got dressed and walked over to the bar next to the motel. He noticed that Tom’s Crown Vic was gone and Jack knew he was out somewhere making preparations for tomorrow.
Jack sat at the bar and had a few beers as he watched and listened to a small television that was in the corner behind the bar.
A half dozen or so people sat around the bar while a few others came and went. A man and woman played a game of pool off to the side while the jukebox offered up an occasional tune.
About 1am an intoxicated man came in loitering around the doorway trying to ask patrons nearby to buy him a drink. After a minute, the bartender yelled at him to leave. Pretending not to hear the bartender, the man walked over and asked the two playing pool for a beer.
“I said get the hell outta here Finley!” The bartender yelled.
Jack snapped his attention from the television to the intoxicated man, trying to get a look at his face. The man finally got mad and stormed out of the bar. Jack got the bartender’s attention as he took out his wallet.
“Calling it a night?” The bartender asked.
“Yeah, how much do I owe you?”
“Mmm, ten will cover it.”
Jack put down a twenty dollar bill and got up. “Keep the change.”
“Thanks,” the bartender said picking up the twenty.
Jack walked outside and looked around the parking lot until he saw Wayne staggering away towards his apartment. He kept back a good distance and figured that Wayne was in no condition to see if anyone was following him.
Victims of abuse rarely set out on a course of vengeance, at least not to the degree that Jack and Tom had set out on. Some people who have suffered abuse want nothing but to heal and try to return to some sense of normalcy.
Jackie Hemingway never found normalcy after Wayne Finley.
Of course at his young age he had no idea how to get to a place of normalcy anyhow. Pain and anger, depression and low self-esteem, feelings of lack of direction, no familial security, that life had no meaning or worth to living and thoughts of suicide danced regularly through his mind throughout his life.
Unlike a lot of abuse or rape victims who either do not know their attacker or do not know where their abuser’s rage stems from, Jack knew full well where Wayne’s rage evolved from — his father, and the abuse Wayne suffered at the hands of someone who was supposed to love him, not abuse him. Nevertheless, the abuse Wayne suffered in no way excused his behavior and the violent and abusive things he did to Jack. But somehow knowing firsthand where Wayne’s anger lay made Jack, even at a young age, feel a little bit sorry for him.
Perhaps that is why there was an air of hesitation within him when it came to hurting Wayne Finley. Jack wanted satisfaction, he wanted a sense of revenge, to know that Wayne was sorry for what he had done and to stop him from doing it to anyone else ever again. When he thought about it in those terms, the anger that settled upon him forced the painful memories to take a back seat. He would need that anger if he were going to follow through with their plan.
It was around 1pm when Tom and Jack saw Wayne Finley leave his apartment building. They waited until he walked around the corner of the building to a “blind” wall with no windows so that no one inside the building would be able to see them.
Jack drove Tom’s Crown Vic so that Tom would be able to jump out of the former police cruiser even before it came to a screeching stop in front of Wayne. They took Wayne completely by surprise as Jack rolled up on him. Tom was out of the passenger door, flashing his badge as Jack put the car into park and jumped out running around the car to where Tom had slammed Wayne up against the side of the building. Tom grabbed Wayne by the hair and back of his jacket and he yanked Wayne over to the front of the sedan and slammed him against the hood. That’s when Jack first looked into Wayne’s eyes. As their eyes made contact, Jack swallowed hard and his instinct was to take a step backwards as Tom handcuffed him.
Instantly Jack was back in Hollis and a little boy crying out for help but knowing that none would come. He felt the pain of physical violence and of being raped by Wayne as anger boiled over in him.
Tom flashed the warrant in front of Wayne’s face telling him he was going back to face some charge somewhere. Jack, with clenched fists, walked to the front of the car as Wayne protested his arrest.
“Stand him up!” Jack shouted.
Tom yanked Wayne up from the hood and turned him to face Jack as he came right up to Wayne and without saying a word cocked his arm back and punched Wayne in the jaw as hard as he could. Jack couldn’t feel the pain that throbbed in his fist. He punched Wayne again sending him onto the hood.
“What the fuck!” Wayne protested as he spit blood from his mouth.
“That’s enough for now Jack,” Tom said.
Jack took a deep breath and walked away to open the rear passenger door. As Tom wrestled Wayne into the back seat Jack scanned the area looking for any potential witnesses. None were to be found.
Tom let Jack drive to their predetermined destination, a remote location up along the Red River where it bordered Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. They chose this location explicitly for the convergence of those three borders, making jurisdiction a toss up between the three states and the unlikeliness of law enforcement coming across any evidence easily.
Wayne protested as they drove west on Interstate 30 out of Texarkana. He cussed at Jack who would occasionally stare at him in the rear view mirror. Jack looked at Wayne’s grungy appearance, unshaven, dirty, wearing the same clothes he had been wearing when Jack saw him in the bar earlier. He had the appearance of someone who had given up on life, not caring about a thing in the world, especially himself.
Jack exited the highway and travelled up remote county roads to even more remote dirt roads to an area adjacent to John Tom Island, which wasn’t really an island at all. It was the only point on the map that Tom could find that was about as exactly at the junction of all three states as there could be. He also found it ironic that ‘Tom’ was in the name of the place.
“Turn left here,” Tom instructed Jack.
“Where the fuck are we going!?” Wayne yelled.
“Shut up asshole!” Tom replied.
Jack looked at Wayne again the the rear view. He wondered how many lives Wayne had ruined up till now. He had to justify and think that way in his mind knowing what was about to happen.
They reached their dusty destination and stopped. Tom and Jack got out and Tom pulled Wayne from the back seat.
“Where are you taking me?” By now there was a touch of panic in Wayne’s voice. Somewhere in the drug-hazed corner of his mind he knew these two weren’t cops and that he was in trouble. His heart raced wildly, just as it did when he would inject himself with heroin, except now there was no rush of a high to make him forget this pathetic, shitty life.
They dragged Wayne into a small grove of oak-hickory trees and scrub brush, quite out of the view of prying eyes of any type. Under one of the larger trees was debris and trash from someone who had been there a good while. Empty chip bags, bottles of booze of varying sorts, cigarette butts and a small rock circle made a fire pit with freshly burnt twigs in it.
“Somebody lives here or something,” Jack said.
“Yeah — him,” Tom said nodding at Wayne. That’s where Tom was last night, Jack thought.
Tom pushed Wayne face first into the tree and tied the end of a rope around one of his wrists. The other end slung over a tree limb. He uncuffed the tied hand and turned Wayne around tying the other hand with the rope and then he removed the handcuffs and put them in his pocket.
Jack pulled on the end of the rope which hoisted Wayne’s arms into the air. He protested his innocence to anything and everything. Jack pulled the rope more and Wayne winced as he was nearly pulled off of his feet, he could just barely touch the ground with his tiptoes.
Tom gave Wayne a few punches to the stomach to shut him up as Jack secured the rope around the tree. He came over and stood in front of Wayne, staring into his expressionless, vacant eyes. They were void of all humanity or conscience. Wayne’s body shook with fear as Jack dead-eyed him with eyes completely void of compassion for his abuser.
“Do you remember me?” Jack asked in a calm, monotone voice.
“Fuck no! You guys ain’t cops! What the fuck do you want!” Wayne wanted to spit in Jack’s face but fear had dried his mouth. He struggled against the rope.
“Where are you from?” Jack calmly asked.
“What?” Wayne asked. “What the hell difference does that make? I sure as hell ain’t from around here.
Jack punched Wayne in the face and repeated his question.
“Fuck! I’ve been all over!”
“Medford?” Jack asked.
This surprised Wayne. “Yeah, I lived in fucking Medford.”
“You got an older brother Bob, two sisters, both got married on the same day in Hollis?”
Wayne swallowed hard at the information that Jack knew about him.
“Yeah, so fucking what?”
“Good,” Jack said and took a couple of steps back.
Tom undid Wayne’s ratty pants and pulled them down exposing his genitles.
“What the fuck!? This some kinda Deliverance shit goin’ on or somethin’?”
Jack took a brand new Zippo lighter from his pocket. He intentionally hadn’t filled it with lighter fluid. He took the inside case out of the lighter, turned it over and Tom handed him a can of lighter fluid. Jack slowly filled the lighter cotton with fuel as he looked at Wayne.
“You tell me when you remember who I am…”
“I don’t know you assholes!” Wayne yelled pulling at the rope again.
Once the lighter was full Jack put it back into the case and closed it. He gave it a couple of shakes to get the fuel onto the wick, then opened the lighter with a flick of his fingers and struck the flint wheel with his thumb. He turned the lighter sideways so the flame danced around the metal wind guard that held the wick, getting almost red hot. Then he turned it onto the other side and heated up the metal wind guard until it was nearly red hot.
Jack stood in front of Wayne and looked him dead in the eyes. He brought the still lit lighter up between him and Wayne until the flame danced between their eyes.
“Remember me now?” Jack blew out the fame and thrust the lighter into Wayne’s genitles as he screamed out in pain.
“How about now?” Jack asked.
Wayne lifted his head up and barely nodded, not wanting to admit who Jack was and what he had done to him.
Jack put the still hot lighter under Wayne’s chin and lifted his head up until their eyes met again.
“Say my name.”
Wayne fumbled in his memory for a few moments. Years of drug abuse and scores of victims rattled inside his dead brain.
“You’re, you’re uh — Jack, or uh Jackie?”
“Say my name.” Jack lit the lighter again and repeated what he had done to Wayne’s genitals.
Wayne writhed in pain and screamed out. “You’re Jackie — uh, Jack Hemingway, right?”
Jack nodded. “You’re right, I see you haven’t killed off every last brain cell in that fucked up head of yours!”
“Look man, I’m sorry…” Wayne shook and began to cry.
“That’s good, let it all out,” Jack said emotionless. “Let it all out and let that pathetic mind of yours race around wondering what the fuck I’m gonna do to you.”
“I’m sorry, I’m so fuckin’ sorry man!”
“You can be as sorry as you want, ain’t gonna change a thing. See, you’re gonna die here today Wayne. And if your piece of shit dad were still alive, he’d be hanging there next to you. Pieces of shit like you don’t deserve to breathe the same air as the rest of us!”
“Come on man! It ain’t my fault! Him — he did it to me!”
“Nah,” Jack said shaking his head. “That’s just your excuse. Something bad happening to you doesn’t give you the right to hurt someone else. Plenty of people have shitty things happen to them, and they don’t go around hurting other people. It’s a choice, and you chose to hurt not only me — you hurt who knows how many people you piece of shit!!”
“Come on…are you tellin’ me you ain’t never turned around and done the same thing to someone!?”
Jack shook his head no. “Never…see, no matter how bad you beat me, no matter how bad you burned me and raped me, I never took it out on another person, ever — that was my choice.”
“I’m sorry man! I’m sorry!” Wayne pleaded for his life, though he knew deep down inside that by Jack killing him he would be doing him a favor.
“It’s too late for sorry Wayne. By killing you, I’m exacting revenge for the dozens of people whose lives you’ve destroyed by your pathetic existence…and I’m saving the rest of the world from ever suffering from you in the first place!”
“You ain’t gonna be able to stand in front of god with clean hands if you kill me.”
“God? You think there’s a god out there that would allow someone like you to exist and do what you’ve done? Sorry Wayne, there’s no god for you to pray to for forgiveness or try and weasel your way into some kinda heaven — it doesn’t exist. But I wish there was a hell, cuz you’d be heading there promptly.”
“Looks like his life’s a living hell anyway, Jack,” Tom said. “You’re doing him a favor.”
Wayne looked at Tom. “Who the hell are you? Why you helping him kill me?”
“Because you’re a no good piece of shit asshole, that’s why!”
“I ain’t never done nothing to you!” Wayne sniveled.
“No, but I had my own abuser when I was young. ‘Cept I wasn’t quite as young as Jackie boy here, but young enough.”
“Well go kill him then!” Wayne pleaded.
“Oh he’s already dead. Now it’s your turn.” Tom took out a pistol from his coat pocket. It was an old .38 caliber revolver. He didn’t want to use a newer gun, there would be no way Wayne could have afforded it, being a junkie and all. Their plan was to make Wayne’s death look like a junkie suicide.
Tom handed the gun to Jack, who opened it and checked the cylinder for bullets. He closed it firmly and held his hand down at his side while Tom pulled up Wayne’s pants a bit to cover the burns.
“You kill me Jack and, and you ain’t no better than me!” Wayne’s plea fell on deaf ears.
“I’m saving the world from you, Wayne. If you dying today spares some innocent person from you destroying their life, it’s worth it.”
Jack and Tom stepped back from Wayne. Tom took a baggie from his coat and dumped the contents around the makeshift vagrant campsite. A couple of syringes, a small baggie of heroin, a used cooking spoon and a lighter all scattered around.
Wayne noticed the heroin. “Can I at least have some before you kill me?”
Jack shook his head. “Nah, you get to die straight…at least as straight as whatever you are right now.”
He held the gun straight out, pointing at Wayne’s head. “The day of judgment is here and settles eternally upon you…and I am the judge.” After a moment his hand began to shake as he tried to squeeze the trigger. Wayne kept his eyes closed.
Tom looked at Jack, waiting for him to shoot Wayne.
“Fuck!!” Jack yelled out. He lowered his arm and turned away. The sound startled Wayne who flinched at Jack yelling. He opened his eyes, surprised to find himself still alive.
Tom came over to Jack and put his hand on Jack’s shoulder. “Those were some righteous words. It’s okay Jack, I’ll do it.” He took the gun from Jack’s hand and turned and walked towards Wayne.
Wayne decided to use his last breath on earth to mock Jack. “What’s the matter? Poor Jackie boy ain’t got the nerve to do it? No wonder you were so easy to fuck!”
Jack turned back around, completely full of rage he walked up to Tom, took the gun from his hand and held it out walking up to Wayne.
“You don’t get to call me Jackie boy…now reap the whirlwind, asshole!” Jack said and squeezed the trigger sending a single bullet square in between his eyes. Wayne’s head slumped down, his body limp and dead as it swung gently back and forth.
Jackie sat bolt upright in bed screaming. Sweat poured from her body as she recalled the memory of what she had dreamed about. She got up and went to the bathroom and splashed water on her face. She dried her face and hands and wiped the towel under each armpit.
She looked into the mirror and at what stared back at her — an expressionless, emotionless face that somehow realized at that moment that Wayne’s life, taken in vengeance, no matter how justified, was never going to bring her peace. She couldn’t remember a time in her life when she felt any kind of peace when it came to Wayne Finley and the horrible things he had done to her when she was Jack.
Tears filled her eyes as she shunned the pain and memories. She felt down in between her legs, what used to be there was long gone now and she never had to look at those scars again. But sometimes physical scars heal faster than emotional ones.
A few people thought that she should write about the trauma that plagued her life, but Jackie had refused. It wasn’t until she was years long into counseling that her therapist Stefanie brought it up to her — suggesting that writing about those painful events that dotted her lifetime may actually benefit her, a kind of cathartic experience. Jackie hadn’t felt it useful to rip the band-aid off of those old wounds, so she was reluctant to write about them knowing the pain that would resurface.
Jackie went into the kitchen and made a cuppa English breakfast tea. She sat and stared out over the water of Boca Ciega Bay as a thought simmered in her mind. When she had finished her tea she went over and sat at her computer and looked at the blank screen. Then she ripped that old band-aid off and began to type.
“Jackie Hemingway dealt with pain her entire life.”
A slight smile traced acrosss her lips as the tears began to fall…and so Wayne Finley was finally dead.