The sounds they made reminded me of the secrets I was carrying in the back of my soul.
I caught sight of the sun, just as I almost tripped on one of the logs that had fallen across the path. Judging from the rot and decay, it had been there for decades. My foot easily went through the outer bark into the porous soil that had once been a tree standing proud and tall in the forest.
But now it lay along with dozens of others on the forest floor. Slowly feeding the next generation of trees that were protecting it from the morning sun. But I quickly pulled my thoughts away from the fate of trees long dead. My more immediate concern was the cabin at the end of the trail. I hoped against hope that it was still there. The chances of the small log cabin still standing after the decades of being forgotten were slim, but I had to try. If I was right, she was there.
I reached the clearing where the cabin still stood. The weeds had long ago taken over the landscape, and the pond behind it was now green with the scum that often took over when fish and wildlife died. In fact, the whole place was falling apart.
But I really didn't come to see the dying cabin.
She was there.
“I said I would.”
“But you swore you’d never come back again.”
“Yeah, I did, at that, didn’t I?”
I bowed my head looking over the top of my glasses. “I lied.” I paused. “And I found Grandpa’s Money.”
Charlene seemed to light up at the mention of the money. “You what? Where? How?” She came running toward me.
“Right where you left it.” I pulled the revolver from under my jacket.
She stopped in mid-step.
“I still haven’t worked everything out yet, but you knew where he buried the money before he died. How I don’t know, but somehow you knew. Why you had me going through the bullshit with the pills, try to remember I don’t know. No matter, the jig is up. And now you going to pay for killing my grandpa. He would have never had that heart attack if you hadn’t helped it along with the pills you were sneaking in his coffee and beer.”
She tried to look shocked and confused.
“I was only sixteen at the time, but I knew something was bothering him. He would never say that, but it got me thinking. And your instance that I try to remember something I didn't know. I still don’t know what that was about. But. I’ve done some checking, and you knew him. All too well. You knew what no one else knew, he had a soft spot for young girls. Girls that liked to show a little too much skin and teased a bit too much. No, he wasn’t perfect, but he was my grandpa, and I loved him.”
“But you love me,” she pleaded.
“I did. Once, when I was spellbound by your body, and your charms, but that wore off a long time ago.” I took a step closer to her. “Now—now I see you for what you are, a gold digger and a slut. You used your charm and body to get to grandpa because you knew he was well off, and you wanted what you couldn’t earn on your own. How many other men in the city did you con and use, and ruin their lives for sex, and money?”
She stared at me. I could see the wheels in her mind working.
I leveled my gun at her, drawing back the hammer on the revolver.
“You never loved him. Hell, you never loved any of them, not even me. I woke up about six months ago. Started digging into your past. Found out about the police records sealed because you were a minor, talked to families all over the county and found out the truth. Saw the pictures of you with the old men. Saw it all, Charlene, I saw the truth. You didn't just “Run into me,” at the diner that day, you stalked me, and targeted me because you knew who I was.”
I took a deep breath, bile rising in my throat “And I fell for it. The whole thing even married you. But it’s over now. Yeah, grandpa was an SOB, but he was an honest SO, and he never cheated or killed anyone. I count at least three old men who you killed, but no one can prove it.” I shifted positions, to get a better shot at her. The gun was getting heavy in my hand. I needed to end this soon.
“You said you found the money. We can go away together and forget all of this.”
“How dumb do you think I am? I’m not going anywhere with you.”
“The money was here alright, but not where he hid it. You flashed your boobs at him, or worst, and got him to tell you where it was, but then you took it, re-hid it, hoping to come back for it. But it was easier to con me into finding it. It would look better if I found it and no one connected you to it. You made up the bit with the pills and remembering. The only problem is I remembered.” I waved the gun in the air. “Remembered it all, how I had seen you sneaking out the back of the house a few times, right before he died.”
“That wasn’t me. You’re crazy, I wouldn’t do that.”
Laughter gurgled from my throat. “I didn’t tell you all I remembered. Then I found the pictures. And the letters. That's right. I found out the whole ugly truth.” She began to back up as I continued. “Grandma never knew. It would have broken her heart and killed her. It did kill her. Because she died right after he did of a broken heart.”
She was breathing hard. “Now what?”
“Now I do what needs to be done.”
With that, I touched the trigger on the revolver. The gun bucked in my hand.
The recoil sent it upward as the barrel went up ever so slightly as the shot fired and I saw Charlene slowly fall to the ground just past the end of the barrel.
The shot echoed in the woods. She never heard it. The sound of the birds and the woods slowly returned as the echo died off in the distance. But I heard it. I could still hear the ringing in my ears for several hours after. A constant reminder of what I’d done but this too would pass.
It was late by the time I had buried her.
I had had it all planned out. Exactly what I was going to say to her. Hell, I didn’t say half of what I wanted to, but I decided it didn’t matter in the end. She knew I knew exactly what she’d done, and why, she had to die. That's was what mattered.
As I slowly drove from the end of the trail back toward the main road, I thought it had gone perfectly. I had avenged my grandpa’s murder and found the money he had stolen from the bank decades ago. Yeah, she never knew the money was from ill-gotten gains, but I’d found that out too.
Turning onto the main road, I smiled. Now I could live my life in peace and luxury.