Genre: Thriller Warning : Contains upsetting content
“Ballllleeeerr. Baller come quick.”
Baller finished his glass of water, he could see Banjo pedaling hard up the hill to his house. He was sweating, red faced and bare chested. It was quite comical actually. It was Banjo that gave him the nickname Baller – short for Balwin. It was a standing joke between the boys which had caught on, now everyone called him Baller.
“What now Banjo?” Baller smiled. “Why the hurry and did you forget something.” He gestured to his bare chest laughing.
“Baller its Tammy. Come quick.” Baller took one look at Banjo’s face and realized that something was terribly wrong. Icy fear trickled down his spine.
“Is your mom here?”
“No just Vicky. What’s….?”
“Bring her Baller. Its bad. Someone has hurt Tammy.”
A wave of emotion passed over Baller. Anger, terror and disbelief.
“Vicky?” he shouted.
“Something’s happened to Tammy.”
Her face paled, showing her fear too and they ran out of their house towards the Watershed, following Banjo. It was in the middle of the town and they knew not to play there.
“What’s happened?” they quizzed Banjo as they ran but he just shook his head, breathing hard.
Running like the wind, fear gave them wings. Baller’s strong legs carried him quicker than the others and he felt frustration having to wait for the other 2 to catch up. It showed on his face.
Banjo took them through the gate and into Watershed grounds, turning right.
At first Baller couldn’t see the problem. Tammy was asleep on the grass. Getting closer he realized she was butt naked under what looked like Banjo’s sweat-stained T-shirt. Realization hit and Baller stopped short, too scared to go the rest of the way. Vicky ran up to her, quickly pulling her cardigan off and covering the little girl’s legs. Heaving sobs pouring from her.
“Oh Tammy, Tammy wake up” she sobs holding the little girl close.
Baller moves slowly forward, leaving a shaking and crying Banjo behind him.
“Tams?” he asks softly. “Tammy?”
Her blue lips and vacant eyes burn into his brain.
“Banjo? Go get the police.” Banjo just stands there crying, his white face a mask of sadness and shock. Tammy was like his little sister too.
“Banjo GO!” Vicky shouts louder, still sobbing and holding the little girl on her lap. Banjo finds the strength to move and runs, tripping over roots and rocks as his tears blur his eyes.
Vicky makes a call to her mother. Taking a breath she tries to speak but cannot get the words out.
“Vicky? Is that you? What’s wrong?”
Baller takes the phone swallowing hard, feeling much younger than his 18 years.
“Mom you better c…come. Its…its Tammy.”
“What happened?” Baller can hear the fear in his mother’s voice.
“Mom someone killed her.” He starts to sob and his mother is frantic.
He manages to squeak out where they are, all the while staring at his lovely little sister’s face. It’s like a nightmare that he prays he will wake from soon.
The police come. They have to pull Vicky off her sister sobbing and in shock. Baller tries to comfort her but can’t believe what he is seeing. They hold each other sobbing and alone until their mother arrives. She walks across to her little girl, her legs failing her at the end. Baller runs to her, holding her up. She clings to him, vomiting now and crying. It’s all so unreal.
It’s dark by the time they get home. The house is standing open and none of them care. They sit at the kitchen table trying to process the day.
“She was raped wasn’t she?” Baller asks, his eyes unreadable.
His mother nods and fresh tears course down her cheeks. Vicky takes her hand hiccuping little sobs. Under his grief, Baller feels a burning anger. It grows white hot and he must leave the kitchen to deal with it alone. He is the man of the house his father left when Tammy was just 2 years old. He hasn’t had contact with his children or wife since then and they have learned to deal with it. He is the protector. The failed protector. Going to his room, he crawls into bed in the fetal position, wrapping his blankets around him like arms. Keening softly he tries to deal with his grief.
“Tea mom?” Vicky asks. Mother nods and waits for the kettle to bubble. Vicky pours the tea making it sweet and strong. They sit and watch it get cold. Emotions course rivers through their heads. Hate. Anger. Disbelief. Intense loss. Utter sadness.
The little light that was Tammy will never reach its potential, its been extinguished.
Finally they give up and go to bed, holding hands as they walk to their rooms. It’s a terrible day.
Baller wakes the next morning and for a few seconds is free of the horror of the day before. All too soon it rushes back, threatening to drown him in sorrow. He turns to the window, fresh tears on his cheeks. He knows he must support his family but just for a minute he allows himself to feel weak. To feel vulnerable. To grieve. Who knew what the day would bring, but it would definitely include heartache and sorrow.
The police arrive just after breakfast. They have the foresight to bring a female officer with them which makes it easier. Each family member is interviewed but cannot help much. Baller’s frustration shows on his face.
“What was she doing at the Watershed?” Sargent Browne asked.
“She’s not allowed to play there, I don’t know” mother shrugged. “She went to play with her friend Calinda have you spoken to her?”
The policeman nodded. “She never made it to their house. Calinda’s mother just assumed she wasn’t coming. Apparently they often went to the Watershed to play. It’s a gold mine for children with the waterways, birds and nature.”
Mother nodded. They all knew to stay away but didn’t.
“Who would do such a thing?” she whispered.
“So she was raped?” mother asked already knowing the answer but hoping for a different one. The policeman looks down but nods. It’s horrible to get confirmation of what we expected.
“Who in this town would do this?” mother asked more determined. “Do we have any sex offenders here?” Sergeant Browne nods.
“We are interviewing every single sex offender as well as anyone seen in the vicinity of the Watershed. DNA testing will be done. We will catch this bastard!” He says with conviction. Putting his hand on my mother’s shoulder he squeezes. We all pray he’s right. This animal cannot be running our streets. He must be put away, forever.
“What do you know about Benny Walker, the boy who found her?” Sergeant Browne consults his notebook.
“Banjo? He’s a friend of Baller’s, we’ve known him for years. Tammy was like his little sister” Vicky said, looking at Baller. Her eyes were red and dull with grief. Baller looked to his mother. She looked grey and had aged overnight. It was terrible to see and broke his heart all over again. Jumping up he left the room, breathing the fresh morning air deeply. It did nothing to relax his troubled soul.
The interviewing went on for hours, eventually finishing up with a polite smile and handshake. They promised to follow all leads and blah, blah blah. Baller could see they didn’t have any clue who had done this and hoped that they would put the resources behind it.
Unfortunately for Tammy and her family that same day a madman opened fire at their local mall. The killing spree would last 7 hours, take 18 people’s lives including the gunman and ensure that the rape and murder of little Tammy was all but forgotten.
Baller’s frustration showed in his fists. He was demanding answers from Sargent Browne and not having much success.
“It’s been 3 weeks!”
“You must understand that the Cedar Park Mall massacre has to take up most of our time and resources.”
“You know who did it and I don’t give a shit. What has been done to find my sister’s killer?” Baller demanded. After a frustrating and pointless argument Sargent Browne left to get them coffee. Baller saw the file “Tammy Batton – Unsolved Homicide: Special Circumstances” on his desk. Baller waits until the Sargent is out of sight and opens the file. The shock of seeing his naked sister again reinforces his determination to find her killer.
Baller pages quickly through to the one headed “Persons Of Interest”. He stares at the list of 4 names memorizing them. Hearing Sargent speaking to his colleagues on they way back, Baller quickly puts the file back and stands up.
Looking him in the eye Baller states “We expect a weekly update.”
The Sargent nods, feeling sympathy for Baller but knowing that they probably have a snowball’s chance in hell of catching whoever did this. He leaves his standing with 2 coffees and a sympathetic look on his face.
Baller is elated, finally some hope. He will search for this bastard himself. The names run through his mind – forever burned into it:
“Buddy Thornton, Ahmed Fasson, Old Man George, The Garson Brothers.”
He knows them all, except for Ahmed Fasson. Heading home to research them Baller finally feels like he is doing something. Starting with Ahmed he plans to work his way down the list. If any one of these spineless pigs have touched his sister, they will die.
Ahmed owns a small, local bakery on the other side of town. His two daughters are both too young to be in school. Ahmed was accused of statutory rape at the age of 19. Of course he claimed she said she was 18. He ended up on the police radar and would never lose that stigma.
That evening Baller parks down the road from Ahmed’s and walks to the back of his house. Ahmed’s house backs onto a woodland and Baller can easily sit in the dark without being seen. The family are outside having supper. His wife shows no sign of being down-trodden or fear towards him and his children are playing on the grass. Baller watches for any sign of violence or inappropriate behavior towards them. There is nothing. He waits.
“Bath time” his wife takes the two little girls inside and Baller stands and shows himself. Apprehensive Ahmed approaches him.
“May I help you?” he says concerned.
“Did you hear about Tammy Batton? The little girl who was raped and murdered down at the watershed?” realization dawns on his face and Ahmed steps back putting his hands up.
“Yes. I’m so sorry about your sister” he says looking Baller directly in the face, looking extremely sympathetic. Baller nods a lump in his throat. “And you are here because of the police being interested in me?” Baller nods again.
“I swear on my little girls lives I had nothing to do with it. That they could ever consider me…” he looks down, the horror on his face is real.
‘The statutory rape thing wasn’t real – I didn’t know…'” he stops in shame and embarrassment. Baller believes him.
“If I ever find out it was you…” the threat hung in the air.
Again Ahmed put up his hands “I swear I would never”.
Baller walks away mentally ticking one off his list. Buddy Thornton’s next.
Buddy’s a well-known town bad boy. He works at the “Raging Motors” garage and always looked dirty and unkempt. Baller guesses that Friday nights he spends his pay check at the seedy local pub. That’s where Baller will start his search. He’s there, already well into the beer and mouthing off about “dem bitches who’s shit don’t stink that think they’re better than me…” They were. Con men were better than this living piece of excrement.
The longer Baller watched him the more convinced he was that this – this idiot was too stupid and cowardly to have pulled this off. He waited patiently for him to drink his fill, this guy could put it away. Finally having enough he staggered out of the bar, the bartender was sad to see him go. He was a good patron.
Outside Buddy went round the back of the pub and proceeded to piss against the side wall. Baller was disgusted, there were toilets inside – why?
Baller grabbed him from behind causing him to pee all over his shoes.
“What the…” Baller twists his dirty collar into his throat to get him to shut up. Buddy does, his wide eyes red from drinking but he knows when not to make a scene.
“I don’t have no money left man, I drank it…”
“Shut up” Baller hisses at him, twisting tighter. Buddy waits, you can feel the fear coming off him in waves.
“Tammy Batton was raped and murdered a few weeks ago in the Wetlands, what do you know about that?” Buddy looks confused.
“I…I…” Baller twists harder and the veins in Buddy’s neck started to pop.
He tries to push Baller away “I don’t recall, when was it?” he shook his head obviously trying to clear some of the drink fuzz from his brain.
“The 17th of May. What do you know about it?” Baller is now losing patience.
“17th? I was in hospital you can check, asshole. I was pissing blood and ended up there in ahhh…. what’s the clinic down by Wiggins Street?” he asks scratching his head, still trying to pull his neck away.
Baller let’s go. Buddy closes his fly rubbing his neck which was turning from white to bright red. Stepping closer to him again, Buddy said “I will check and if you touched her, I will kill you.”
“I believe you man, but I didn’t I swear…” Buddy walks away feeling disgusted and can’t wait to shower the sweat and stink of beer off. He’s frustrated and angry. He wants to find Tammy’s killer and make him pay and it’s taking far too long.
Old Man George is a familiar figure in town. He lives in a rambling, broken shack on the edge of the forest closest to the Watershed out of all the suspects. George cuts and sells firewood to survive. Having no family and no-one who cares for him must have been hard. Baller knew if he took a little girl home by force that he would have no witnesses, unlike some of the other suspects. But was he capable? That is what Baller would find out.
He got to the old man’s shack just as the sun was going down and made himself comfortable. He didn’t have to wait long, George liked his sun-downers and poured himself what looked like a strong glass of cheap whiskey. He sat rocking on the creaky porch, sipping away and slicing pieces of salami off a long, fatty roll. He didn’t look capable of a crime. Baller was torn. He respected his elders, those who deserved respect and hated that he would have to bully this old man. But his need for revenge was much stronger than anything else. He had to do it.
Baller walked up to him.
“Hello friend. What can I do you for?” he asked in a neighborly manner. “Need some wood?” Baller shook his head.
“Then what you disturbing my supper for?”
“Tammy Batton, you know of her?” he looked confused.
“Little girl raped and murdered not far from here” Baller gestured towards the Watershed “A few weeks ago”.
Realization dawned on the old man’s face.
“I wish you and the bloody police would get over this. What the hell has it got to do with me, just because I live close by doesn’t mean I know anything about it. Get the hell off my land.” Baller raised his hands this time, but something wasn’t right. The man’s anger was misplaced. Was he just grumpy? Baller didn’t think so. There was terror in the old man’s eyes. Baller walked closer.
“You know something don’t you?”
“Are you with the police?”
“No. I’m her brother and trust me old man, you would rather have the police here. What did you do?” he lowered his voice on the last question, forcing the old man to lean forward to hear. Baller grabbed him and threw him off the porch onto his back, placing a heavy, booted foot on his chest. The whisky glass shot up into the air, landing in wet pieces on the porch.
Fear filled his eyes as he looked at Baller in disbelief.
“Get off me, you can’t do this.” He tried to regain some dignity but Baller was having none of it. He moved his boot to his face, pressing it down, enjoying the old man’s discomfort.
“Start talking old man, or you are gonna die.”
Suddenly he burst into tears, racking sobs that shook his whole body. Baller removed his foot, pleased to see the imprint of his sole on the old man’s skin.
“You piece of crap! How could you hurt a little girl? She was innocent, my angel.”
He cried harder and Baller picked him up by the shirt, throwing him across the porch. The skin scraped off the old man’s chin on the rough wood, leaving beads of blood on his face. Baller felt such anger that he had to stop to get control of himself again. Old man or not he was going to pay in blood, then Baller would take him to the cops to get justice.
Suddenly the old man turned on Baller, he had the salami knife in his hands, he sliced through the air towards Baller, catching his shirt and cutting above his nipple. Baller grabbed the old man’s hand twisting it until he heard a pop. The old man screamed.
“Yes” Baller whispered in his ear. “Scream like a little girl, like my sister did. No-one can hear you and no-one will come.” Yellow, tear-filled eyes stared at him, the fight slowly leeching out.
“I’m sorry” he breathed. “I couldn’t help myself, she was so sweet, so innocent and I’m so lonely. She was friendly and intrested…”
“Don’t bother” Baller said his anger threatening to overwhelm him. “Tell it to the police.” The old man paled.
“No rather beat me, I can’t go to prison.” He looked around at his shack, not that it was much but it was better than prison.
“Get up old man, we are going now.” Baller took his broken wrist and guided the old man down the road to his car. By now he was begging and Baller enjoyed his discomfort. Shoving him into the car, Baller climbed in and pulled off. The old man was still crying but all Baller wanted to do was get this stinking old man away from him and to justice, before he did something he regretted. He had faith in the police and knew they would do their jobs.
Old man George looked at Baller.
“You know, your sister…”
“Her name is Tammy” Baller said through clenched teeth.
“She was so sweet, she tasted like honey.” Baller couldn’t believe what he was hearing. The old man smacked his lips together in as if tasting her all over again, Baller was furious. He was obviously doing it to upset Baller but he kept tight control, driving faster to get the old man out of his sight. his hands turned white clenching the steering wheel.
Suddenly George opened his door and jumped out. Baller jammed on the brakes in a cloud of dust, knowing that he would not let this bastard get away. He jumped out to chase him but didn’t have to. Old man George couldn’t have timed his jump better. At the top of Hell’s Hill, where they were passing through was an old settlement. Rusty fence poles, old corrugated sheets and forgotten mementos littered the hillside.
When George jumped, the momentum carried him further than he thought it would, he landed on two rusty fence poles. The first went into his stomach, the second through the side of his neck, effectively pinning him to the fence.
Baller slowly walked up to George wondering how he was going to handle this. Sitting down on the grass next to the dripping and weeping man, Baller sucked on a blade of sweet grass enjoying the sight.
Baller shook his head.
“You’re dying. You are slowly going to bleed out on this rusty fence in terrible pain and you deserve it.” Baller sat watching the old man scream and cry, he wasn’t moved by it. He deserved it. Baller was grateful that he hadn’t beaten him to a pulp, this was much better. It was self-inflicted and permanent.
He hung there like a trussed goose, every so often becoming unconscious. Baller woke him every time.
“Come on old man, no peaceful sleep for you, you are going to feel this for everything you have done wrong in your life. For Tammy. Stay awake, time is short. Can you feel your life dripping out?” Baller got himself some water, drank long and slow and waited. The old man opened his mouth but Baller ignored him. It wouldn’t be long now.
Old Man George, wood-cutter and paedophile died on that fence at 10H17, closely watched by an ecstatic Baller. He would only be found the next morning by workers on their way to the fields. They would first steal his shoes before reporting his death to their boss.
Baller made it home, slept like a baby and had a huge breakfast the next morning. It was a great day.