Chapter 3 – Walker Bob
Summary of the Journals
Subtleties of choice
Often echo unintentional transformations
***Bobby – Ten Years After The Collapse ***
Some things do not need an event to mark the occasion. Some outcomes are preordained. Perhaps it is a combination of circumstance and decision-making that sculpts character; perhaps the sculpting is subtle and slow-baked; perhaps it is hot like a hammer shaping molten steel. Years before the world fell apart many knew each day they woke that all hope was lost. The molding was complete, no polish necessary, the possibility of gleam long exhausted. More precisely, they no longer cared about hope. Such an attribute would mean they had aspirations of their own. This represented the people who served his father. Before and after the collapse those who worked for his father, served him and him only.
Robert MacDonald had no aspirations either. His father ran this city. The West End had once represented a city within a city—people with all sorts of backgrounds speaking a variety of languages. The area had sported three universities, all those students with their minds waiting for the store of drugs his father and his army provided; not the legalized stuff, which came watered down as a bottle of gin in a sleazy bar. Before the collapse his father sold misery to folks; after, he inflicted misery.
Bob’s dad liked to walk the streets and meet with the folks who sought his trade. He remained careful to have his well-trained posse by his side in case someone decided to welcome his presence in a manner not to his liking.
Bob did his utmost to stay out of his father’s way. That was not a task to be accomplished easily, no matter how great his effort. The same posse protecting his father kept a soft collared leash on him. No one wanted the wrath of his father should his father’s son come up missing.
Bob finished his workout in the private gym. Two hours of programmed routines under the watchful eyes of a trainer who reported all progress to his father. The last half hour required a ring workout designed to keep him up close and in focus with his fists, his body, and his face. Well, this morning’s ring work-out had only lasted a few minutes. The dude was still out.
He tied his worn leather boots and left the pile of workout clothes for someone else to clean up. Today was Saturday and his father had told him to be in his office by nine o’clock. The clock showed eight forty-five and his arriving on time necessitated a five-minute walk. He’d best not be late, as that would mean a lesson before the main lesson. He crossed the gym floor with the two guards flanking him from a distance. He pushed the two big doors open and stepped out into the sunshine. He moved forward and let the doors swing shut behind him. He walked down the steps well aware that his not hearing the click of the doors closing meant his two guards were following close behind.
Bob turned to the left as he entered the main pathway that joined his home, his father’s office to the right.
“Bobby! You know you got an appointment, right?” One of the guards rushed to catch him.
“Ya, I know! I need something from the house first.”
He continued along the path and through a wrought-iron gate guarded on either side by watchtowers. The real guards peered down from a perch well-hidden on the roof of his spacious home—a much safer and more functional place from which to guard the residence.
He opened the door and went directly to the kitchen, where he encountered his mother.
She glanced at the clock. “Bobby, you’re going to be late.”
“I need a kiss from my mom and a grape juice.” He swung the fridge door open, grabbed a long, slender bottle of grape and closed the door gently.
He kissed his mom on the cheek. “You’re right; it looks like I’ll be late again.” A huge grin spread across his face. His mother gave him a gentle pat on the cheek.
“You are a strange boy. I love you.”
Bob headed out the door, took a sip of grape, replaced the cap and tossed the bottle to one of the guards. “Let’s go.”
He gave his left shoulder a turn, attempting to press out a kink from having landed that last uppercut to the chin of his opponent and dropping him to the ground.
That guy was at least eighteen. My father is upping the ante.
Well, not bad for a thirteen-year-old.
The dude should not have smiled at me after I jabbed a few easy ones. I was hoping to have a fun round, rather than the usual lesson insisted upon by my father.
I bet the dude won’t smile tomorrow.
They entered the waiting area of his father’s office at eight minutes past nine. Bob took note of the time but held back a smile. This was not a place to smile.
He sat for twenty minutes; not like his father to delay a slap across the head for being late. Maybe he had something better planned. No matter. Bob would suck up whatever punishment he was dealt and get on with the day.
His father had told him this would be a day of instruction; he would learn how to use a weapon while on the move. Bob had already had numerous practices with targets, utilizing guns of many sizes and calibers—his father referred to these as the old stock from a romantic era. He liked to explain to his son how the old weapons released the feel of power to the shooter as they exploded their intent. Modern weapons were far more effective and deadly but gave no such payback to their user. But they offered an advantage while on the move—a burst that releases itself over nanoseconds should the first round not be precise as intended.
The large oak door finally swung open and his father’s main man ushered him inside the den, where his father and two other men stood viewing a screen. His father’s reference to his office as a den conjured up all sorts of irony. But then again, a den was truly the home of a wild animal.
“When did it happen?” his father asked one of the men. He turned to acknowledge his son’s presence with a slight nod.
“Don’t know, sir. There’s no time stamp on these old systems. The warehouse was empty. We didn’t give it much interest.”
“Well, this happened in one of my warehouses, so that makes it my problem. Why did we ever review the recordings?”
“It was a routine service, sir. It just so happened she took it last night.”
“Do you know who she is?”
“Cindy something or other.” One of the men started looking through items that had been collected from the site.
Bob’s ears perked up as he heard mention of the name Cindy. He had been to a birthday party two days earlier and had received his first kiss from a girl named Cindy. She’d been celebrating her fourteenth birthday.
Bob got up and moved closer to his father.
His father turned to face him and positioned the screen so Bob could no longer observe what they were viewing. “This don’t concern you. I have some things to take care of. So let’s you and me meet up tomorrow same time, and do it then.”
Bob pressed closer. “Who is this Cindy, Dad? Why are you talking about her?
“She’s a mess I need to clean up. It don’t concern you.”
“Dad, I know a Cindy. Tell me it’s not the Cindy I know. What did she do to you? She’s just a girl, and she doesn’t do drugs.”
His father gave him a stare designed to melt an iceberg. Bob saw his father’s fists clench and relax. Not at all like his father to pass up a moment to be a little brutal.
“You two get out. Wait outside. And close the door.”
He turned to Bob.
“If I show you this, it stays in this room, you understand?”
“Dad if you hurt her, I—”
“I didn’t hurt no one. Shut up and sit down. Tell me, who is this Cindy you know?”
Bob proceeded to tell his father about the girl and the birthday party.
When Bob finished the story, his father moved to the shock proof plate glass window and stood there, silent for a while. He turned and came back to the video screen.
“I don’t know if this is the Cindy you know. But if it is, you’ll find out soon enough, once you leave here and check and she comes up missing. It’s best you find out now. All our warehouses are monitored. Some more than others. This warehouse was empty, but monitored nonetheless. One of our men was doing a routine inspection of the equipment and he found this. As best we can tell, it went down last night. This is not pretty. We had to dump the body.”
“Dad, let me see the video, please!”
His father turned the monitor his way and pushed the rerun.
He recognized Cindy.
The video went on for what seemed like hours. No voice, nor was voice necessary to understand what was happening. So helpless, so cruel, so unbelievably gruesome.
Even his father turned away.
Bob tried to run from the office. His father stopped him cold and pushed him into a chair. “I assume you know the girl. That makes this even more a problem.” His father pointed to the screen. “You know who the guy is?”
Bob shook his head.
“We do. He’s a hothead punk kid who likes to think he can run a gang and take whatever he wants.” His father put his hand on Bob’s shoulder. “I got no problem with whatever he wants to do unless he messes up my territory. It now seems he’s messed with more than my territory. He messed with a friend of yours. That, son, is a death sentence.”
“Father, I want him.”
“One day this’ll be your business to handle, but this is my problem.”
“Father, this is not one of your problems. This is…was my friend. That punk is my problem. He has to pay for what…that…I wanna make him pay. Do you know where he is?”
“My men have him. They picked him up a few hours after reviewing the video. They have him at the warehouse.”
“Let’s go!” Bob made for the door.
“We go when I say.” His father turned off the video. “Let’s go!”
They entered the warehouse. The blood had already been cleaned from the earlier scene. Jamie Devereux sat in a chair, bruises readily identifiable on his face, his mouth holding a gag.
One of the men turned to his father. “We gagged him. He wouldn’t stop screaming for his bloody miserable life.”
Bob approached him. “Untie him, remove the gag, and give him a knife.”
The men turned to his father for direction. “Do what he says.”
One man untied him and removed the gag. The other returned with two switchblades, blade in.
Bob took one of the knives and pointed to the prisoner. “Give him the knife.”
“I ain’t fightin’ no boy; especially no boy who belongs to him.” He pointed at Bob’s father.
“Suit yourself.” Bob tossed the knife to Jamie Devereux who caught it but did not switch the blade open.
“My guess is you’re better suited to fighting little girls. Well, you’ll never do that again.” Bob took a quick step and lacerated Jamie Devereux’s right cheek. The blood poured.
Jamie Devereux pushed the switch and the blade flew open. “Hey, I got no fight with you.”
“Oh, but you do.” Bob stepped in and lacerated the other cheek and stepped back before Jamie Devereux had registered what had happened.
The trick with a switchblade on skin required you to tear with the edge, not cut. More pain, more blood. Cutting belonged to surgeons. He wanted to lacerate, and so he did.
Jamie Devereux went into fighter stance, flipped the knife over. Bob read the move. Jamie Devereux intended to finish the fight with a stab to his chest. Bob feigned a jab, and as he had anticipated the other man reached out his free arm, a move designed to pull him in and plant the knife in Bob’s chest, clean and final.
Bob pulled back before completing the jab. He instead sliced through Jamie Devereux’s wrist as he tried desperately to retreat from the ill-fated extension.
The contest continued for some time before it became apparent that this was a game of cat and mouse but Jamie Devereux was not the cat.
Bob’s father had planned to teach him about modern weapons today. But there were some things even his father didn’t understand about power. The new-style weapons were fast and lethal, silent and effective killers. Yes, the old style weapons gave the feeling of power but they did very little to engage the emotions of the opponent, especially if they held one too. The knife presented power and emotion. The situation allowed each to assume some hope, some possibility of victory. Bob took care to take a small slice at a time; each slice took away hope, until all hope was gone. The sweetest part of victory came in knowing your opponent accepted that hope had abandoned them.
Jamie Devereux pleaded for his life, offering up all sorts of gibberish about how he was forced to do what he did to such a helpless young girl.
Bob let his knife end it.
“You should have said no.”
His father took the knife from his hand. “Go with my men. I’ll be along in a bit.”
Bob looked at the blood on his hands, ran them against his pants, and followed the two men out the door.
Bob’s father waited until two of his personal guards arrived on the scene. “Which one of you pushed the Devereux kid into doing this?
The two guards looked at each other before one of them spoke. “We did what you asked sir.”
“You forget this happened, you hear me?”
“And clean up the mess.”
Bob never forgot the name, Jamie Devereux, nor did he ever speak the name again.
***Bob – Twenty Years After The Collapse***
Bob was more than comfortable in his city. Well, his father’s city. He’d left his teens behind a few years ago. He took some measure of amusement in being referred to as a Gater—a play on words which aptly described his way of life.
The collapse had been a most glorious event for his father, who’d immediately recognized the wonderful opportunity it presented. Like rats on a sinking ship, people scurried everywhere, looking for a place to hide. The sinking city like the sinking ship offered no place to run, no place to hide.
All the wonderful stuff left behind—a gold mine beyond anything his father had hoped for—so easy for the picking, at least in the early stages of the wonderful disaster.
The West End was now a fortress inside a city that had shrunk from millions to less than a hundred thousand—not the doings of his father, though he might have hastened their demise as he gathered and controlled everything of value. The circumstances that destroyed the world were many steps beyond his father’s ability to comprehend. The collapse gave people extremely limited possibilities for survival. Most failed. His father thrived.
His father walked about the neighborhood with his guards in tow—a passive display of power. Walker Bob adopted the walkabouts for its obvious symbolism; though he learned that some theatre was necessary now and again.
He had his men pull the prisoner along behind him. They moved out to what had once been a well-maintained sports field belonging to one of the universities. The field had given itself up to trampled grass and rubble. Bob strolled to the center and waited for the word to get out. Walker Bob was taking a walk. His men had impressed upon the locals they’d best attend the meeting.
Walker Bob stamped out his second smoke and approached the prisoner. “Okay then. I need to know who helped you with this.” The prisoner dropped his eyes. He had already been informed he would not be leaving here alive. Walker Bob waited.
“That’s okay. You know you’re a dead man. But it’s not that easy.” Walker Bob gave a short whistle.
Six of his men marched from the back of the gathered crowd with four children and a woman, their hands tied behind their backs.
Walker Bob went to where the youngest stood, put his hand on the child’s shoulder and turned to face the prisoner. “My promise to you all is we will protect you and ensure you live well while under my care. In return you will not steal from us or betray us. This man has done both. He did not operate alone. I must know who the others are.”
Walker Bob turned his eyes on the crowd. He turned back to face the prisoner. He gripped the young boy’s shoulder; the small boy winced but was unable to withdraw from the grip. Tears formed in his eyes.
“I know at least three others helped you steal from my father. I’ll ask you one more time, and then I’ll kill this child.”
“No…no…stop, please. I’ll tell you.”
Quick movements erupted in various sections of the assembled crowd as the guilty men attempted to flee from the inevitable. Walker Bob’s men moved to intercept, but he stopped them with a wave of his hand. “They have no place to run. We’ll deal with them later.”
The names of the accomplices were gathered and verified by those in the crowd who’d watched them flee—three other men in total.
Walker Bob turned to the prisoner. “Say good-bye to your family, and choose your way to die.”
***Walker Bob – Twenty One Years After The Collapse***
His father had, soon after the collapse, decided the old university would make a great residence. The grounds now housed extended family and the personal guards who came trained to identify and kill any predator with an intent to attack. They watched for, listened to, and sought out information on a level that would have impressed the agencies of old. The entire clan of the city was now widely referred to as the Gaters—a loose derivation of the gatherers they’d been. Of course, they did not only gather what they wanted; they took whatever they desired from whomever they wished to. Many unfortunate souls fell in the wake of their precision raids.
Walker Bob understood emotion of any sort was a poor director of a careful plan. You might allow yourself to have one or the other, but not both. Not that he ever had an urge to lose himself in some flood of joy or remorse, shame or pride.
He needed to get about his father’s bidding, but for that he needed a key.
Walker Bob found his father’s right-hand man inside his house on his knees, puking and struggling for breath. He had come looking for him, needing to retrieve a warehouse log from his father’s office. The den stayed locked to all except his father and Reggie. His father was not due back until late afternoon.
He picked Reggie up and helped him sit on the couch.
“Bob, he poisoned me.”
“Who poisoned you?”
“Why would my father poison you?”
Reggie coughed again, and a small trickle of blood dripped down his chin. “I’m old. It’s my time to go. Your father has to replace me. I know too much to remain alive. I had hoped for a more honorable way to die. You father has a strange way to reward all my service to him.”
He coughed, spit, and struggled for a breath. “Perhaps I can return the favor. I pushed your mother off the roof that night.”
“Listen to me! Didn’t you find it strange his new wife showed up so soon after?”
Walker Bob struggled with the rage inside. Rage he could summon at will to bring fear to those he wished to admonish. He never thought it could arise from a button someone else had pushed. His mother had fallen to her death from the roof many years ago. She liked to go up and gaze at the distant Big River, especially on a night when the sky was full of stars. He knew it represented a moment in which she conjured some semblance of freedom. He had assumed it an accident. “You’re a crazy old man.”
“I might be and lots more. But I remained faithful to your father and I did what he asked.”
Walker Bob pulled his boot knife and ended the misery, for one of them at least.
Walker Bob had drugged all of the guards. When they awoke they would assume someone else had done so.
The last words to his father before he pushed him off was that his mother was getting her payback.
He stood at the edge of the roof where his mother had taken her fall. He gazed down.
His father lay on the ground below, blood and bone mingling together.
Walker Bob left the roof, went downstairs and outside.
There he sounded the alarm.