Updated: Feb 12
I took the snowmobile for an hour ride before I got home. I went along a lot of the old trails and then to some of the trails in other areas. It was quiet. I was the only thing making noise.
Pendleton and the surrounding area is all old country New York. In the city, blocks are small, but here, the blocks between the roads are a mile or two by a couple of miles, sometimes many miles. There are houses and farms along the roads, but the center is uninhabited for the most part. Just woods and farm fields. Through those woods and around all those fields are trails for tractors, snowmobiles four wheelers, and of course hunters. The woods are loaded with tree stands. Some metal that you’d buy at the store, many wooden and many left abandoned and unsafe. I can get from the restaurant to the family homestead through the trails without ever touching a road, but it’s about a mile’s worth of driving at the most direct route.
This night though, I drove for miles, even crossed some roads. I was trespassing in certain spots on a technical level, but I knew every farmer in the area. There’s an understanding for the most part. It also helps keep the roads safer when guys would drink and drive through the fields rather than on the roads. If you’re going to drink and drive, risk your own life and not everyone else’s.
Chief Lyman Beck might try and get you if he thinks you’re drunk and operating an off-road vehicle, but he wasn’t going to catch you. That’s for sure. His Deputy Tyler Graveline grew up with us, and he saw the advantages in looking the other way sometimes. He played football with us but was a year younger. Good kid. Isn’t such a stickler for the strict adherence to the law as Chief Beck. Now don’t get me wrong, Chief Lyman Beck is a good man. He and my father were friends, way back. Used to come over to the house for dinner and parties when we were young. He’s just old school. Served in Vietnam and didn’t take crap from anyone. And no favoritism. While that’s good when you want justice, it’s bad when you need leniency.
Back when we were kids, there were no police in Pendleton. Didn’t need them. You might get a Sherriff’s deputy driving through, but that was it. There wasn’t a lot of crime. People left their doors unlocked, the area was small, and everyone knew everyone.
The school was located in Pendleton. It was called Starpoint because it served five towns, and, even so, the class sizes were small. It was considered a small school when it came to sports, and, as a result, we played in the divisions with the other small rural schools, most of which were up along Lake Ontario. I think the towns were the towns of Lockport, Cambria, Wheatfield, Sanborn and of course Pendleton. The central school was the center hub in a star-like wheel with five towns at the points. Beyond those towns, you had the City of Lockport to the east, the City of Buffalo to the south on the other side of Amherst and Williamsville, the City of Kenmore, the City of Tonawanda, the City of North Tonawanda and the City of Niagara Falls. To the north were just more rural towns and then the Lake Ontario. It was a great place to grow up. You could get to any of those cities in two shakes of a pig’s tail, but you didn’t have to deal with the psychoses of those cities.
Then it started to change. Pendleton nearly doubled in population because people in those big cities wanted to escape. The parents would still work there, but they didn’t want their kids growing up there. Who could blame them? Pendleton and the surrounding areas changed a bit. There were now houses along roads that had previously had farm fields right up to the road. Parts of the farm field were sold, and homes were built. Nice homes with small trees that had just been planted in strategic places by people with the big picture in mind. They weren’t always going to be small trees.
The school grew so much they had to build a new high school on the old track and football field. They built new fields of course. They then combined the old high-school wing with the junior-high wing to make the new junior high. Instead of playing sports against the small schools up along the lake, Starpoint played against the bigger schools in the Buffalo Suburbs like Williamsville, Kenmore and Sweet Home. But the teams were still great. I’d put a callous-handed farm boy up against a soft delicate-fingered city boy any day of the week.
Even still, we knew how to laugh at ourselves. We the students of Starpoint had nicknamed our school: Starfarm. The school paper was called “Down on the Farm,” and my brother had named the bar “The Trough” to signify the trough from which farm animals drink. He had a mural on one wall showing a couple of cows wearing varsity jackets and standing up on two legs against a bar with beers in their hooves. Because they were painted from the chest up, it didn’t look as absurd is it might sound. He’d covered the walls with photos of the great Starpoint athletes over history, and even had a section to highlight the feats of the new kids. He did more to promote the athletic department than the members of the booster club. He tried to join them and sponsor them numerous times, but they rejected him because he ran the bar. Didn’t want to promote alcohol and drinking. He understood though and didn’t let it change his mind. Glory days needed to be celebrated, and he had a lot of glory days.
It was about 5:30am when I parked the sled in the barn and entered my brother’s house. He’d set his bedroom up in my parents’ master bedroom, leaving our old room, the barracks, as a dust-collecting memorial museum to our youth. I thought about checking it out but was too tired. I took a seat on the couch and started watching an old TV show on Nick at Night. I was asleep before it was over.
I woke up around 8:00am, all startled that I was late for work and not in the right place, but I wasn’t. I remembered Cash was supposed to stop over about 9:00am, and we were going to switch our identities back. Just another fun year of switching it up without getting busted. Too easy. No five-dollar bill switching hands this year.
I went back to sleep. Meeting up with Jake had me up much later than normal. I was tired. I figured Cash would wake me up when he got here. Around 10:30am, I woke again. Cash was an hour and a half late? That wasn’t like him. This wasn’t something we played around with. The goal was to never get caught. It was an obsession to both of us. Neither of us wanted to be the one that got busted. It would ruin the game forever once someone had realized what we’d been up to for the last thirty years.
Did my wife figure him out? I sure hope not. She was already crazy. How does a woman who was so amazingly sweet and wonderful turn into such a shrew? Maybe she thought Cash and I would be suitable replacements for her true love Jake Charm, and maybe we both failed miserably.
Then Jake freakin’ Charm shows up just in the middle of this mess – what are the chances? The competitive side of me wanted Cash to be caught, but the rest of me didn’t want to give up next year’s opportunity to take a break from my life and my wife. That latter desire was much stronger than my desire to win a thirty-year-old five-dollar battle. Playing the game was better than winning it, like watching a movie you never want to end.
I waited another half hour and then called the house. No answer. Maybe they were outside. I called again in fifteen minutes and still no answer.
Maybe this was the year we got busted. I got in Cash’s Chevy pickup and drove over to my house. My Trailblazer and my wife’s car were both in the driveway, parked just like normal. Mine on the right and hers on the left. I just drove by. So, they were there.
I then drove over to the Convenient Store at Five Corners. Five Corners is the center of Pendleton where three streets intersect to make five corners. My bank is located just off the southeast corner. The Convenient Store was on the northwest corner. I went there because they still had a pay phone. True, I could have used my cell phone, but I didn’t want the caller id to pick up too many calls from me. Callie might think something was up. No answer again.
As I was getting back into my truck, I saw Daren Flacks coming out of the store with some milk and a paper bag folded under his left arm.
He looked at my vehicle and then at me. “Hi Cash.”
“Morning Daren.” He got into his car and took off. I did as well.
I took another pass by my house. Nothing was changed. I drove around the block and then pulled into my driveway. I parked behind Callie’s car on the left and went through the small garage door. The big two-car garage door was closed. The cars would have been parked inside, but I had a project in the garage I hadn’t finished yet. I hadn’t moved all the sawhorses and tools.
The driveway had been shoveled recently, but there was still snow on it. Just not as much as on the two parked cars. Cash should have known I don’t normally shovel the driveway until before I have to leave, unless we’re getting a crap load of snow, in which case I’d shovel it multiple times a day so it wouldn’t get overly burdensome. Nonetheless, the driveway had been shoveled after the cars had been parked for a while. No wonder he’d been caught. Little mistakes. Sucker.
I walked in through the small doorway to the garage, which led to the doorway into the kitchen. At first, I went to open it with my key, but I didn’t have my keys. Cash had them. Good thing. I knocked like Cash would. Only strangers knocked on our front door. I knocked again. No answer. I knocked again. And again. Nothing. Not a peep.
I went out the back door of the garage to the back yard. Once on the porch, I knocked on the sliding glass door. No answer. Nothing inside looked amiss. I walked around the house and peered into the windows. The shades were down, but there’s always a small sliver of view.
I saw nothing new. The bedroom was upstairs, so I couldn’t see what was going on there. I went back into the garage and remembered I’d stashed a key in the nail and screw compartment box I had on one of my workbenches. It was hidden under an emptied box of finishing nails so it wouldn’t be seen by someone rifling through all the little clear-plastic drawers.
I opened the kitchen door and wiped my feet as best I could on the rug in front of the door. There were actually water spots on the kitchen floor, probably when Cash had walked in after shoveling the driveway. They were partially dried because you could see a ring of salt left at the outer most reaches of the drying puddles. As the water dried, the spots got smaller. Cash must have wanted to get caught. Callie doesn’t go for stuff like that, and he knew that. She’s a clean freak compared to us. There goes my yearly vacation, jerkwad.
Callie’s actual husband – me – hoping to preserve peace in my world, would have grabbed the mop from the closet and started to clean up the mess, but I didn’t. If Callie walked into the kitchen to see Cash mopping her floor, my cover would be blown. When it came to keeping the bar clean, Cash knew what to do, but he wasn’t married like me. Living alone and able to retire to his bachelor’s castle at the end of the day, he was still impervious to the pleas and demands of women for his domestication. He’d never voluntarily mop a floor just to keep from having to hear my wife’s complaining. But her real husband would. I couldn’t risk it. I had to leave it and hear about it later.
As I walked through the kitchen, I said, “Helloooow. Hellooow? Anyone here. Curt? Callie? You guys here?”
As soon as I walked into the dining room, I saw very little amiss. The wooden floor was covered with water like the kitchen. The table was cleared and dusted, other than the centerpiece. I looked into the living room area, which was just beyond the front-door entrance. The door was to the left, and the stairway was to the right. At the foot of the steps, I saw my baseball bat and a small puddle of blood that had dripped off the bottom step.
A shot of fear ripped through my body. I had beads of sweat forming on my forehead and my heart started pumping blood as if I’d just finished running a six-minute mile. When I picked up the bat, I saw it was speckled with dried blood, but I grabbed it for the security of knowing I’d have something to defend myself if necessary. I didn’t have a gun on me. I looked up the stairs and saw Cash lying face down on the wooden stairway. He’d been shot, and his blood had made its way to the floor. He was wearing my flannel pajama pants and one of my t-shirts. That’s how I’d be dressed if I wasn’t in bed yet.
Did Callie shoot my brother? Why would Callie shoot my brother? Or was she shooting me? Did she want out of our marriage more than I did?
I stood there for a moment completely unable to move. Sure, I’d gone there to find out why Cash hadn’t met up with me as per our prearranged plans, but this was no longer about avoiding being discovered. It wasn’t a game anymore. My twin brother was lying dead in front of me.
What if he’s not dead?
I checked his pulse, “Cash, you still with me? Cash, I’m here.” There was no pulse, and the blood on the bat was dried. Dried quicker than the water on the floor. He’d been there for a while.
My gosh, my brother’s dead.
“Callie. Callie.” I walked upstairs carefully. I did whatever I could to avoid walking in the blood. I got to the top of the stairs and quickly looked to the right to see that no one was in the bathroom. I turned to the left and walked towards the front of the house where the door to the master bedroom was on the right.
Callie wasn’t on the bed, and the sheets were pulled back. Our bed was queen-sized with four lathe-turned wooden posts connected to a headboard and a footboard. The bed was up against the far wall. Her dresser was to the left, and my dresser was on the other side. I walked to my side of the bed. Her body was face down on the floor, partially under the bed. There was a bullet hole in her head and a large puddle of blood soaked into the purple rug under her. It looked like she was hiding under the bed, but they pulled her out by her ankles. Her left arm was still under the bed. Apparently, they eventually pulled her by her right arm as well. It fell to her side after it had been dropped.
I was sweating. The fear of being killed had subsided because the killer or killers were gone, but I was sweating and shaking like never before. What do I do? Fight or flight kicks in, but there was nothing to fight, and where do I go?
I knew well enough not to touch the crime scene, but I didn’t have the first clue of how I was going to handle this. I stood there and contemplated my situation without disturbing the crime scene any more than I already had.
Who was being killed? - Curt or Cash? Most likely me, Curt. Right?
When I report this, how do I explain that my brother Cash was killed with my wife and not be a suspect in the murder of my brother and my wife for apparently having an affair?
Do I admit that I’m really Curt and that we were playing a game?
If I do, that would mean I hadn’t yet been assassinated and thus make me a target for death again.
What if I just report it as Cash discovering my brother Curt and sister-in-law Callie dead? Can I get away with it? At least then I’ll be alive to figure out who did this and get justice for my brother and wife.
If I tell the truth that I’m really Curt, I will be the number one suspect for sure. Can’t do much investigation from the jail.
Is there a chance that Jake Charm did this after he walked home from the bar last night?