The Tire Burner

The night had a bitter chill to it, which was strange for the north coast. There was no rain falling, just a cold wind blowing in off the Pacific Ocean as Brady made his way home from the radio station in the dark.

He had traveled this path many times both during the day and while the stars were out. He walked home from KPOD along C Street, passed the old high school where his mother had been a student in the fifties. He continued down the hill towards the fire station and then to the cemetery.

Brady had both family and friends buried there. It did not bother him to walk through the grave yard even on nights where the weather would have tortured a more spiritually possessed person.

His path continued outside the cemetery on the back side of Northcrest Motors, where both he and his father had worked a few years before. Now just his father worked there as General Manager.

Brady could see the old tire burner in front of himself as he walked a steady pace along the path. He thought for a moment about how many times he had loaded the black rubber tires into the old steel furnace and poured the mixture of gasoline and diesel over the mass and lit it on fire.

He thought, “There’s something strangely satisfying about seeing that black smoke oozing out of the chimney.”

Suddenly his reverie was broken by a voice just off the path and in the tree line to his right. “I was told I’d find you here like clock work,” said the voice.

The small hairs on the back of Brady’s neck stood up. He knew the voice and male violent character that it belonged too. His mind flashed back a half dozen years.

“I’ll be right over Kathy,” Brady said as reassuringly as he could.

He gently placed the telephone receiver down on the cradle and stood silently for a few seconds. He was attempting to gather his thoughts about him.

His parents had gone to bed a couple of hours before and Brady was the only one up. He had been sitting in front of the television when the phone rang.

It was his friend and a neighbor girl, Kathy. She lived across the field from his family’s house. She had called crying, saying that the guy that Brady had introduced her to a week ago had just raped her and had let two of his friends rape her as well.

Brady went to the hall closet and reached into his father’s old unused service jacket. The inside pocket held a special key that he had once been shown. That key went to a small gray-brown lock box that lay on the top shelf behind several mason jars of nuts bolts and nails, inside the wood shed.

The seventeen year old walked outside to the shed and stepped inside. He pulled on the string cord that brought to life the single naked sixty watt bulb in the plywood and two by-four ceiling.

He carefully stepped up on the small tool bench and reached to the top shelf. He lifted the dusty box out of its resting place, set it on the bench inserted the key, twisted it and lifted the lid.

There wrapped in oil cloth lay his fathers service pistol. A forty five caliber hand gun that his father had been given while serving in the Korean War and then carried with him the four times he had returned to Vietnam to serve his country.
Brady picked it up.

Within minutes he was on his way across the large open field to Kathy’s house. He did not dare tell his parents where he was going because they would want to call the sheriffs office and then his father, who was also the town of Klamath’s constable and fire chief would have to be involved.

Brady wanted to solve this problem all on his own.

When he arrived at her front door, she let him in. Her mascara was all runny because she had been crying. He put his arms out and she fell into him sobbing.

“Have you called your parents?” he asked her.

“No,” she said, “I wasn’t supposed to go out and I am afraid they’ll be mad at me.”

She continued to cry. Brady let her cry for a minute or so.

Then he suggested, “Maybe you should call them.”

Kathy sniffed, “I’ve got a bigger problem than that.” She paused and looked down. “I can’t stop bleeding,” she said.

She pulled down her jeans and revealed that her white panties were soaked red with blood.

“That’s it, Kathy,” Brady exclaimed, “I gotta go get my Dad.”

She started crying harder, falling to the floor and curling up into a little ball. Brady walked quickly into the bathroom and grabbed a towel.

He returned and placed it between the young woman’s legs. He pulled her jeans off and then retrieved a yarn comforter from the back of the couch and laid it over her.

Next he picked up the telephone and dragged it to the side of his friend and dialed his own home number. As the rotor spun around with each number he thought about how he would explain leaving the house and having his father’s gun.

“Hello?” It was the voice of his father. “Brady? Is that you?”

The young man spoke as calmly and deliberately as possible, quickly explaining what was happening.

“Okay, your mom and I will be right there. You stay put, got It.!” instructed Dad.
”Yes sir,” Brady replied.

Within minutes his parents were there. His mother sprang into action by helping to move Cathy to a bed and getting her comfortable. His father called the Air Base and requested an ambulance.

The ambulance arrived long before the sheriff deputy did, so Brady’s father left instructions with his wife to tell the deputy to meet them at the Base infirmary. Then he left with the ambulance, leaving Brady and his mother alone to wait for the law to arrive.

In the meantime Brady’s mother decided that she should call Kathy’s parents to let them know what had happened. The deputy arrived while she was on the phone.

Once the officer was on his way to the base and Kathy’s parents were notified Brady and his Mother started the long walk back across the field. They did not speak as there was not much to say at a time like this.

Finally as they walked up the steps to the house Mom turned to Brady and said,”I’m proud of you. It’s what’s known as a judgment call and you made it—right or wrong—and you stood up for it. I’m proud of you.”

She hesitated for a moment then added, “If you wanna go up there to hold her hand and be her friend you can.”

Brady hugged his mother tightly and kissed her on the forehead before racing into get the keys to his Dodge Plymouth.

As he drove the few miles up “the hill” to Klamath Air Base, he fingered the pistol still tucked in his belt line. He decided to put it in the center box before entering the main gate.

Once at the hospital he tried to see Kathy but the medical technicians would not let him. Instead he sat in the waiting area near the two Air Police Officers and the sheriff deputy.

He eavesdropped on their conversation about what had happened. The more Brady listened the more he realized that they were not going to do anything.

They called Kathy a tramp, because as the two air police men had put it, “She’d been in the dorms with several airmen on different occasions.”

Brady had heard enough. He got up and went to his car.

He retrieved the pistol and walked over to the barracks. He knew where the room of the main rapist was and walk straight up to it.

He could hear laughing and talking coming from the room. He reached down and tried the door knob. It turned. He pulled the slider back on the pistol, twisted the door’s handle and pushed it inward.

There they were—all three of the men that Kathy said had gang raped her.

Brady raised the pistol and leveled it waist high. Their laughing and talking stopped, as they looked at the pistol and the young man holding it.

“I trusted you,” Brady started out, “With my friend and you guys all took turns at her.”

The oldest one, about twenty-three, responded, “Now, Brady it wasn’t like that.”

He was cut off, “Wasn’t, like what?” Brady asked. Then he added, “Wasn’t like what? How do you know what I’m talking about?

The three looked at each other with wide and frightened eyes.

Behind Brady came a small noise. He stepped back and towards the far corner of the room, looking to the door on his right. It was Dad and the Base Commander.

“Brady,” said the commander, “You don’t wanna do this. It’ll ruin you’re life too.”

The major stepped inside the doorway but away from the young man.

“I wanna confession from them. They raped her and she could have bled to death from cutting her up like they did,” Brady responded.

His father spoke, “It wasn’t a cut, Brady. It was a tear like having a baby.”

Then he added, “It doesn’t bleed all that much, jus’ looks like it does. Kinda like a head wound.”

Brady thought about it for a few seconds. It did make sense.

“And perhaps,” he thought, “I’m overreacting.”

He felt the tension slip out of his shoulders out through his head. Without warning, the Major and his father sprang on him like cats on an unwary mouse.

The two men wrestled the pistol from the teenagers hand and pinned him to the floor. Brady did not have the strength to put up a fight so he laid there like a limp noodle waiting to be arrested for having assaulted the three airmen.

In the meantime, the three airmen wasted no time in scrambling out of the room. They rushed out into the hallway and into the waiting cuffs of the sheriff and air police.

The commander and Brady’s father let the young man up as soon as they had the pistol secured. The commander pulled the clip out of the gun and slipped it in his pocket.

Brady watched as the officer popped each bullet deftly out of the clip and then replaced the clip in the weapon. He slid the hammer back again, causing the bullet in the chamber of eject.

With reflexes of a juggler the commander caught the shell in mid air and stuffed it in his pocket as well. Then he handed the pistol to Brady’s father, saying, “Good thing that show piece of yours ain’t loaded.”

His mind raced back into the present moment and the danger he was facing now.
”Look,” Brady said, “I don’t want any trouble with you.”

The man laughed and asked,” What? Don’t have a gun this time, huh?”

Brady felt for the knife near his back pocket.

“You ruined my career,” the voice in the shadows said, “And I always said I’d find you alone one day.”

Brady slowly withdrew the knife from its sheath.

The man stepped forward and out of the shadow of the tree line. Brady could see he still had the physique of a body builder. He also noticed that the man had something in his right hand as he approached Brady.

The man snorted,”This time I brought the gun and I made certain to load it.”

He pulled back on the double action hammer, making a loud click-click sound. Brady knew that if the man was serious, he did not have much time.

“You ruined your own career,” Brady responded,”you did the raping not me.”

“Yeah, but everyone knew she was a slut and wanted it,” the man replied.

“No,” Brady stated calmly, “She was a confused fifteen year old kid who jus’ wanted some sort of attention.”

He snickered again, “Well, she got it didn’t she.”

The man bared his teeth in a fiendish smile that sent chills along Brady’s spine. Then he asked, “Didn’t anyone ever tell you, it’s not smart to bring a knife to a gun fight?”

As the rhetorical question passed his lips, the man raised the pistol and stepped forward. There was no time for Brady to think, just react as he stepped forward and to the left of the man.

There was a blinding light, followed by a deafening clap of thunder. The man had pulled the trigger. The pistol went off again and again.

By the time the man fired his third round though, Brady had a grip on the pistols barrel. All three shots had missed their intended target.

Brady held tightly to the gun as the man slammed his left fist into Brady’s head. Brady continued to move forward and then to the right of the man, pivoting under his arm.

As he did, he stabbed violently at the man’s lower torso. The pistol went off again, this time harmlessly into the air. Brady continued to jam the knife at his assailant.

He heard the man gasp out a breath of air as he drew back the knife. For the sixth time the pistol discharged. This time it fired into the ground as the man slowly dropped to his knees.

Seconds later Brady stood there holding the gun in his hand by the barrel. The man had pitched forward and collapsed face down into the dirt.

Brady did not move for nearly two minutes. He was frozen, listening for noised from around the area. He could hear nothing out of the ordinary.

Still he waited.

As he waited, he reached down and felt the neck of the man lying on the chilly earth before him. There was no pulse.

He rolled him over, revealing that the lifeless body had died in a state of surprise. The man’s eyes were wide open, not expecting to be overcome by a knife verses gun fight in close combat.

Brady squatted down by the body. He heard the words of Major Graham echoing in his head, “It’ll ruin your life…”

He realized that the Major had been right and was still correct. This incident would ruin his life and the piece of trash he had just killed would be the one to get off easy no matter what.

Brady looked around and decided that his best course of action would be to dispose of the body. He was so close to the graveyard and just beyond that was the old swamp area.

Then he realized that the body could be discovered and that would lead to a murder investigation. It would be better if the body disappeared completely.
Brady looked around and saw the old tire burner.

“That’s the best place to get rid of the body,” he thought.

Brady quickly went over and opened the burner. He tossed four tires inside it and doused them with the diesel fuel.

He added four more tires and then more fuel. Brady struggled to lift the body into the furnace and get it centered on the tires.

Brady added four more tires and the fuel and then repeated the process one more time. Finally he pushed the igniter and the furnace roared to life.

Shaking and feeling terribly sick to his stomach Brady walked through the cemetery and down into the swamp. He tossed the pistol into the deepest channel he could see after taking the chamber out and throwing it off into another part of the swamp.

He walked back up the hill and through the grave yard once again. He opened the furnace and tossed as many tires onto the raging fire as it would hold.

The black smoke billowed out of the chimney as the tired cooked down into ashy soot. He stood there, watching the furnace as it continued to push the smell of diesel fuel, gasoline and rubber into the atmosphere.

While he stood and watched, the sky grew cloudy and the stars went away along with the moon. Minutes later started raining, muddying up the pathway where the pair had fought to the death.

As Brady walked away from the furnace he could hear the rising sound of the rain drops as they struck the super heated blasting furnace, hissing in a sinister way.

The young man could not help but wonder, “Is this what Hell will sound like?”

Eddie Arnold, 1918-2008

Eddie Arnold  died this morning, days short of his 90th birthday. Originally a country-crooner, Arnold was perhaps the most successful cross-over artist of his time.

In March, his wife of 66-years, Sally, died and in the same month, Arnold fell outside his home, injuring his hip. He died at a health care facility near Nashville, Tennessee.

My Grandma Lola , who died in 1987, loved him. She had an autographed photo of him in her kitchen, jus’ above the dinner table, so the knowledge of his passing brings both a smile and a tear to me.