I Am Santo

Fiction, poetry, music and mindscape pictures by creative artist Jason Santo

Grave: Part 1

“This isn’t a holiday, Kramer,” Petty said, his green eyes stinging as much as his words, a snarl on his face that curled his lip into a ghastly visage that seemed impossible for a man almost universally declared as handsome. Strong jaw, peppered with sandy stubble, he stared long at Benson with anger in his every aspect, and Benson knew then it didn’t matter how great looking Nature might have made a man; all were capable of looking like animals, especially when they were acting like them. He felt his neck grow hot.

“I realize that, Petty,” Benson spat back. “ And my name is Creamer, like dairy. Like what you put in your coffee.”

He turned and struck the ground hard with the spade, tearing loose soil and rocks from this diseased spot of land. An ugly job, Benson Creamer knew it had to be done.

Petty stepped back, presumably gauging the the degree of his next torture, but Benson expected nothing nearly as painful as the fast chop to the back of his calf., his right leg buckling with sudden shock and a muscle piercing ache. that son-of-a-bitch had sucker-punched him and, dead-legged, he lost his balance, crumbling on the edge of the hole he’d dug.

“I take my coffee black, you wise-ass fuck.” Petty bent down and Benson could smell what he’d suspected. The bastard had been drinking all the while he and Duncan had been working on their plan. Their sweat traded for his nips at a flask. And yet here they were, all splitting the bounty equally.

“Talk back to me, yeah? I’ll destroy you,” Petty hissed. “You know that, right?”

Benson shrugged.

“I doubt that highly.”

He wasn’t afraid of this pretty boy regardless of how mean a face he could pull on. He’d beaten much tougher guys while blind drunk and right now he was stone-cold sober. And holding a spade.

“Oh you’re just so tough. Aren’t you, Kramer?” he chided, and when the boot came at him, Benson caught it with both hands, leaving the spade for this chance to surprise the pretty boy. Petty responded fast, a quick pull away from Benson, but the big man in the dirt held on, twisting Petty’s ankle with half force, just enough to send a fresh jolt of white hot pain up his leg. Petty winced and swore, and then Benson kicked at the man’s other leg, landing his boot squarely into the pretty boy’s shin. A scream of anger – more than pain – filled the still air of the meadow and Petty fell in a heap onto his stomach as Benson kept twisting the foot in his hands, moving fast onto Petty’s back.

He pinned the man, keeping his leg bent and the foot under his arm. Another, harder, twist forced another scream out of the good-looking fool.

“We good? “ asked Benson, ready and waiting to turn the ankle enough to break it. “Or do you want me to send your cut to the hospital I’m going to put you in?”

Grave: Part 2

“Good! Fine!” Petty conceded and Benson could feel the fight drain from the pinned man’s body. He was tempted to give another twist to the foot, but then remembered they were supposed to be working together, something that Petty had quickly forgotten.

“Right,” Benson said, and in a quick motion he stood, scooping the spade from the ground – partly because there was more work to do and partly because he didn’t know if Petty might try charging again.

As the man on the ground was slow to rise, Benson knew the spade would be used for its intended purpose. Part of him was disappointed by this fact. He relished the chance to clear out Petty’s bell tower with it. Unfortunately, the pretty boy was crucial to their plan and to their getting paid at the end of this sordid adventure.

“Duncan was right about you,” Petty laughed, a bit of his charm leaking out.

Benson turned and struck the ground with the spade again. Probably another twenty-five or thirty minutes of digging and the spot would be deep enough.

“He told me you were a tough S.O.B.,” he stressed each letter by dragging them into a long breath, then paused, spitting into the dust. “And he said you patient. To a point.”

Benson kept digging, but the bait was too strong for him to leave.

“To a point. Yes,” he said slowly. “But I grow impatient for a good, deserving come-uppance. And you’ve been asking for one all damn day.”

He punctuated his statement with a shovel full of dust, turned, and tossed it at Petty’s feel. The good-looking fella, ex-football star and all-around ladies’ man who somehow lost everything thanks to a love for dice, smiled.

“That’s just the way I get to know the real character of the people with whom I do business,” he paused, smiling big and toothy, adding: “Mr. Creamer.”

Benson sighed and returned to his digging, wondering when Duncan would be back with the body. As if his old friend had heard his thoughts from across the flat county, a cell phone rang. Pre-paid, and with Duncan being the only one who had the number, it was a genuine coincidence.

Petty pulled the phone to his ear. “Is it done?” he asked.

Benson stood, studying pretty boy Petty and he quickly realized the news coming on the other end of the line wasn’t good. Petty avoided eye contact.

“No witnesses, man. We all agreed to that. Sure as shit,” he spoke at last.  Benson suddenly felt a huge weight settle on his shoulders. Someone saw Duncan.

Petty turned and looked off toward the dying horizon, but he could still be heard clear as day when he relayed his next order.

“Kill her, man. She’s seen something that’ll never allow her to be okay anyhow. Kill her because that’s the merciful thing to do.”

Benson didn’t flinch, but his heart plummeted. Lorna’s daughter saw the murder.


Grave: Part 3

Abel Petty listened for a moment, then mumbled an inaudible agreement and snapped the phone closed. He then stood for a long moment and stared at the wisps of clouds burning off in the heat of the late day. There was probably an hour left of full daylight, then the shadows were going to grow long and in two hours headlights would be needed. He had to be sure Duncan would move fast with this and that everything they needed to do went  according to plan.

He didn’t turn when he heard Creamer start digging again, and he didn’t want to face the fat man. He had only met him recently, and he ran him through the usual hazing by showing him who was boss at home that morning when Creamer picked him up from Luellen’s shack. She got mouthy, just as he’d predicted and he was pretty sure he would’ve cracked her tooth had he exerted a touch more force when he clocked her in full view of Creamer. Lu was used to the violence, and more than once asked from it during sex. So he knew the knock wouldn’t cause any permanent damage to her or to them. What he did know was that it would send a message to this new partners in crime; Abel Petty gets his way. That’s the way of things. Always has been, always will be. And if the fat trucker who’d graduated from Tokena a couple years behind him was going to partake in this deal, he was damn well going to respect Abel’s role as leader.

“Are you seriously going to have us dig two graves?” Creamer asked. He sounded winded. Abel didn’t turn but kept watching the clouds disappear.

“I let you catch me off guard once, Creamer,” he said in a flat tone. “Don’t think I’ll let it happen again. Keep working and everything will be fine. Think… money.”

The sound of digging stopped and Abel realized this wasn’t going away as easily as those distant clouds. He sighed.

“We have to do this by the book. No witnesses was the agreement and Duncan said he didn’t have his mask on when the girl saw him.” His voice lowered and he couldn’t help allowing some degree of sympathy. He’d known Lorna back when the world was still new. Back before she started smack and turning tricks to keep herself in the habit. But she’d mostly cleaned up until this whole mess went down with MacDonald. Now she was dead, and soon her eight year-old would be joining her.

“It’s his fault,” Abel added to excuse himself for the judgement he had to make.

Creamer didn’t say anything at first, and the men stood in silence as if quietly mourning the dead for whom they were responsible. Then his voice came, stern and clear.

“Call him back.”