Gassing Joe by Walter Giersbach

Sarah’s so-called boyfriend was Joe. Not much of a man, or young adult as they pigeon-hole them now. It was easy to get him drunk since there’s not much else to do in this forgotten part of Connecticut except shoot deer or shoot pool.

 I’d returned from Afghanistan wondering who was still in town and why everything was out of whack. “Joe’s still around,” my sister Sarah told me in a dull voice. “Bastard!”

And I learned the war had come home. To my home, haunted by a sister who never left home except for necessities like food. It had taken me a week to get her story out that Joe had date-raped her. “I pleaded with the cops,” she said. “Went to the hospital. Saw a lawyer — and nothing. I want Joe dead or I’ll kill myself. Him or me, one of us has to go.”

I’d seen and done my share of killing in the Marines. Joe was going to be the end to the mayhem once I’d finished the job. The war had hurt me. I wanted him to feel Sarah’s pain. My pain.

Not saying I didn’t give Joe a chance after I invited myself over to his place. He’d been a high school pal — kind of, once — so I asked if he wanted some company and a drink.

Joe was mouthing off about what a raw deal he got from his boss, his father who kicked him out of the house, about the cops leaning on him. Oh, boo-hoo. So sorry, but Sarah had made it clear the world would be better off with one less Joe. Joe might still be alive if only he hadn’t gone on and on about being such a hotshot. Sarah gave me no alternative. I mean, what kind of pal rapes your sister?

Joe didn’t understand when I hit him in the back of the head with a hammer. Hell, I understood. This was America, land of opportunity, and the guy blew it.

He kind of came to as I put him in his car, turned on the ignition and closed his garage door. A pair of handcuffs locking him in the backseat made sure he wasn’t going anywhere except to hell.

This was so much easier than calling the cops again, sitting through a trial and seeing Joe hike out a free man. I’d take the cuffs of later and let Sarah deal with the conscience thing. I’d seen too much death to think one more made any difference. At least this one was guilty, not just collateral damage.

The gas started filling the garage, Joe began to get sleepy and his yelling stopped. Soon he’d slip into carbon monoxide poisoning and die. At least he wouldn’t suffer the prison violence or somebody else’s knife in the back. Fifty-fifty odds he’d eventually die in prison or on the street anyway.

He had escaped paying for his crap too long. He’d been free to enjoy himself, to roam where he wanted, to do as he pleased while she lay terrified of leaving the house. Now he was paying for that undeserved freedom.

It didn’t take long. Joe died a quiet death, unlike his chaotic life.

*

“I changed my mind, Matt.” Sarah stood at the door leading to the kitchen when I came in the back door “I’m…I’m not sure it was Joe who did it to me.”

“What the hell do you mean, Sarah? The cops, the doctors, you insisted Joe raped you.”

“Well, but now I’m not sure. I’d had a lot to drink that night. Joe had turned me down when I asked if he liked me just a bit. He laughed at me, made me look like a fool in front of his friends. And he called me fat.”

I looked at the now haggard woman I’d known my entire life. “You had me murder him because you were embarrassed? You lost face?”

“I was confused. It’s not too late, is it? You can revive Joe.”

I put my hands on her shoulders and held her at arm’s length. “We live in terrible times, Sarah, and you’ve just made them worse.”

*

Bio: Walt bounces between writing genres, from mystery to humor, speculative fiction to romance. His work has appeared in print and online in over a score of publications. Two volumes of short stories, Cruising the Green of Second Avenue, are available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and other online booksellers. He’s also bounced from Fortune 500 firms to university posts, and from homes in eight states and to a couple of Asian countries.

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