Alfred W Lee Word length: 9664 5088 Hillcrest Drive Catawba, SC 29704
Pen Pal by Alfred Lee
Young teenage female looking for male pen pal with similar interests. Like dancing, movies, talking on phone, and writing letters. Please contact at Box 616. Will answer all responses. Would love to hear from YOU! Penny
Peter thought this ad was as good as any he had seen in the local paper. After all, it was his first attempt at anything like this. Between his Mother's over protective attitude and his sister always meddling in his affairs, how was a guy going to get any experience? So here he was, pounding away at his Dad's old abandoned Smith-Corona. He could understand why his Dad left it behind when he ran out on them years ago. It was a manual, not electric. Oh well, it was better than his chicken scratching! All the other guys in his tenth grade homeroom had girlfriends and he wasn't about to go to the School Valentine Dance alone again. Last year was so humiliating! His mind drifted back to memories he wished he could forget. It was about a week before the scheduled event that the homemade posters appeared in the halls and school cafeteria. He was headed to lunch when Bobby and his wanna-bes stepped in front of him, blocking his path to the steady flow of kids rushing to beat each other out for a better place in line for some more of that "great" school lunch! It looked like one of those educational films Mr. Hendricks showed in health class about how blood cells raced towards the heart like cars jockeying for position at a nearing construction site on the interstate. Bobby started with one of his hateful jabs that he liked best. "Hey, four eyes, you goin' to the dance?" "What dance? I don't know anything about any dance. Let me pass. I gotta get in the milk line before all the half pints of white milk are sold." Peter tried pushing his way past the group of bullies but to no avail. "Not so fast, four eyes. I got a suggestion for ya. Why not ask my sister? She's in the ninth grade like you and ya both have a lot in common. Course, her bein' in Special Ed an' all shouldn't bother a guy like you. Might be the only way you get yer cherry popped!" The laughter was deafening! All Bobby's cronies were whooping and hollering while jabbing and poking him in the ribs and various other places. Peter could feel the rage within him rising like mercury in the thermometer his Mother used on him when he had a fever. Before it reached the boiling point, a deep bellowing voice from behind startled the group with promises of detention if not disbursed without delay. It was the voice of the giant six foot eight assistant principal, Mr. Slaybaugh. Kids often made fun of his name but never to his face. That man could strike the fear of God in children with just his mere presence, let alone his voice, and if you caught sight of his eyes? He had a certain look that would curdle milk! "This isn't over, four eyes. I'll get you for this." Before Bobby could say another word, the long arm of righteous damnation reached in through the now disappearing mob, right over Peter's left shoulder, and snatched Bobby Bates by the back of the neck. Bobby was then elevated to a point where his scrambling feet no longer made a difference as to his direction of retreat. "Yes, I thought you'd be at the center of this little show of force, Mr. Bates. I think five hours of detention plus an apology to Peter would be the appropriate sentence. Now, let's hear that resounding, heart-filled atonement, shall we?" With a glare filled with hatred for Peter and certain promises of agonizing days ahead, Bobby said through clenched teeth, "I'm sorry." Another hearty shake from Mr. Slaybaugh's powerful arm and a tightening of the vise grip fingers, Bobby continued. "I didn't mean to keep you from your lunch. I promise I'll not do it again." Peter could see the tears welling up in Bobby's eyes even if the others could not. He knew he would pay for every one of those words with days of unending beatings and torn clothes on the way home from school. He would have to lie to his Mother again about how they happened. "That's a good little boy, Mr. Bates. Now, how about a little visit to my office where we can continue this discussion in more pleasant surroundings? Shall we?" We all knew what that meant. Mr. Slaybaugh's little games of torture. His favorite being where his captive victim was seated in one of those old wooden and metal seat/desk combinations. Except it was fixed so the desk part would not fold down beside the seat but stay in the upright desk position. Then Mr. Slaybaugh would come up behind Bobby and place his thumb and forefinger underneath Bobby's neck muscle right above his collarbone. Then squeeze them together until he could feel them almost touching. Always on the left side as the natural instinct would be to twist away from the cause of pain but being blocked by the desk so as there was virtually no escape. Not even a teen that was big for their age could lift the chair or tip it over as it was bolted to the floor. His victim would twist in the chair trying to get away from the excruciating pain that usually brought tears and pleading for release. It was rumored that some of his prey had either seen or inadvertently felt a large bulge in Mr. Slaybaugh's pants at the height of this inquisition. Yes, Peter knew he might never here the end of this. Since Mr. Slaybaugh only picked on the bullies from the poor side of town whose parents treated their kids with either total disregard or smacked them around whenever the mood struck them, his misconduct was never brought to the attention of the school board. The inner city schools with their inadequate budgets can not always get the better-qualified staff members. Although some of Mr. Slaybaugh's peers felt his methods were needed these days with all the violence that had erupted in many school districts. "Now when you go back to class, don't forget that I'll be keeping a watchful eye on you. So don't you dare touch that Winston kid. Peter will be told to report any and all instances of physical or verbal confrontation regarding you and yours directly to me. That is unless you want to come back here for another visit?" As Bobby shook his head no, Mr. Slaybaugh continued. "I thought not. I must say though, Mr. Bates, that I thoroughly enjoy our little talks. After a while, you do become completely cooperative. Now, here's your pass to get you back into class. See you next week, I bet?" Bobby could still hear his laughter echoing in his head as he walked back to science class, vowing he would get even with Peter Winston down by the freight yards. No one went down there except the bums that hitched rides out of town. We will see who gets the last laugh, he thought. Bobby Bates of course.
* * * * *
The following Saturday, the night of the Valentine Dance, Peter's mother had him all dressed up for his first Junior High after hour's affair. This would be nothing like going to a sporting event but a real big deal! At least it was to his Mother. She took him there and picked him up just an hour after she dropped him off. Peter had called her with the sad news that he had developed a bad stomachache and had to come home. Truth was that because he had no date and everybody else did, the humiliation was more than he could bare. Bobby Bates was at the heart of it all. Bobby told Peter to meet him down by the freight yards and they would settle this conclusively. Peter knew he would not go. He just stayed in his room and waited for sleep to overcome him, hoping that the nightmare would not come with it, haunting his dreams again. Bobby Bates had caused everybody to make fun of Peter at the dance. It all stopped that night after the dance with Bobby's accident. Bobby was always getting' into trouble so no one really thought much about it when he caught the 12:10 freight train bound for California. Trouble was that he should have bought a ticket instead of catching it with his upper torso. If it hadn't been for his Mom sewing nametags in all his shirts, they never would have figured out who the body was. Dental records would not even help. Police weren't a hundred percent sure it was an accident, but since the kid was from a poor family, who would even care?
* * * * *
Peter's thoughts changed to the pressing topic of the moment. I'll just send Penny a nice letter telling her what she wants to hear and ask her to the dance, he thought. I'm a nice looking guy. Mother is always telling me I'm the spittin' image of my Dad and she swears I could sell ice cubes to the Eskimos with my million dollar smile. I won't let Paula influence me this time. After all, she doesn't have a boyfriend so why should she count? Sisters are supposed to ride their little brothers. Yea, that's the reason she's on me all the time. As Peter entered his room, he heard Paula's voice taunting him and knew it was going to be a long night. "Gonna write to some slut? Some prissy, snot nosed, Daddy's-little-girl whore? Who you think your kiddin'? Let me see that address." Peter threw the scrap of torn newspaper clipping at the bed. As it settled on the still crumpled bed linens from morning, Paula snatched it up before it could become another part of the cluttered landscape. "Penny? Yer gonna write a letter to a 'Penny'? The address is in Maple Glen, fer Chrissake. You think a girl like that is gonna be attracted to a nerd like you? Boy, are you dreaming!" Gloating, she smiled that usual sinister like smirk that she always got when she knew she had him right where she wanted him, squirming in the palm of her hand. Twisting like a worm on a hook, she continued her badgering on into the wee hours of the morning while Peter lay in bed pretending to be asleep. If she would only stop! How was he supposed to get any rest?
* * * * *
The letter from Penny finally arrived. "I bet it's bad news." Paula, Peter thought, was in rare form today. Her caustic sense of humor was at work again, as usual. "That girl you wrote to probably has a dozen guys chasin' after her. They're all better lookin' than you! Gonna tell you she can't go to the dance with you. Mom won't let you go by yourself and who wants to ride to a school dance in the back of a '79 Chevy station wagon." It was best not to answer her when she was like this. He'd talk to her later after Mother went to bed or just passed out. Besides, the letter was more important than listening to your sister. "Dear Peter, Your letter was so lovely and you sound so clean-cut. I am five foot, three inches tall and weigh ninety seven pounds. My hair is blonde and to my shoulders and my eyes are blue. I would be glad to go to your dance with you. I am enclosing directions to my house so you can find it real easy. I am so happy we have so much in common. Well, gotta go so I can get this in the mail. Hope to hear from you soon and I am looking forward to meeting you and enjoying your company on our FIRST date at the school dance. Hope you are as happy as I am. See you soon, Penny McMasters
The paper correspondence was fast and furious that week. Penny answered all of Peter's letters as fast as he sent them. On paper, Peter was experiencing his first puppy love. Peter's Mother was all for it. When she came home from the plant, no matter how tired or irritated with the day's activities, she had to hear all about that day's letter. Paula kept quiet until the lights went off and their Mother was fast asleep. Then she would crack on her brother and drive him into tears and nightmares. The dream that re-occurred regularly, like a bad case of cramps. It was always the same. The old warehouse, the two of them playing, getting into trouble, Mother yelling at him, Daddy leaving right afterwards. The same one he'd had for years now. Always waking up right before it made any sense.
* * * * *
Well, the big day finally came. As she stood with her son in front of her full-length mirror, she couldn't believe the image she saw staring back at her! She had pressed his Sunday shirt and pants, got out his Dad's tie he had left behind, and had him looking sharp! Just a tuff of his brown hair touching his forehead, but cut very short. She couldn't let it even begin to curl up in the back! Yes, a red plaid shirt, loose fitting, with the black tie and black chino pants. That's what she called them, anyhow. White socks so his feet wouldn't sweat and black wing-tips. She had clipped his nails extra short and, of course, no rings or jewelry except that Timex she had bought him last Christmas. To her, he looked handsome! She had fixed his glasses so no one would see and that was that. Her son's first date! So what if it was a blind date? It would turn out just fine. "Hi. Penny? I'm Peter. I know I forgot to tell you about my glasses but I figured you wouldn't mind. So, if you're ready to go, my Mother's waiting," said Peter, trying to keep talking so Penny wouldn't have time to turn him down. It didn't work. "That's your car? Is your other one in the shop? Couldn't you find any decent clothes to wear? And what's that smell? The cologne you’re wearing? A Drug Store variety, I suppose. And about your glasses! Did you think I wouldn't notice the adhesive tape you colored with a black magic marker. "I'm sorry to break the news to you, Peter. I would not be caught dead with you anywhere!" At that, she turned and walked back inside her house. To Peter, it looked like a mansion compared to his little two bedroom apartment he shared with his Mother and dreaded sister. Right now, however, it was the farthest thing from his mind. He calmly returned to the car and asked his Mother to go home. She cursed that girl all the way. It was all he could do to keep her from turning the car around and telling Penny to go straight to Hell. At home, his Mother tried to comfort Peter as best she could. "Now, don't you worry, son. You will find yourself a nice person to settle down with when you are grown. Besides, you have your dear old Mother to look after. You do like looking after me, don't you son?" "Yes, Mother. You are my life," Peter said between sobs. "I'm going to my room now, okay?" "Sure, son. You go on to bed and to sleep. It will all look different in the morning. I'm gonna go out and get myself a bottle of medicine. I'll be back soon. Don't wait up. I might be a little while. The store may not have my brand, so I might have to go over to the other side of town. See ya soon."
* * * * *
Penny decided to leave the dance early and smoke the joint Bryan gave her for "promises to be kept". It was a drag anyway. The best part was when she told all her friends about how she mortified some little creep. They all had a good laugh over that one. It was so easy to draw that little fly of a boy into her spider web. The ad in the paper was a stroke of genius. She had gotten a reputation at school for being a tease and a true bitch, as all her friends called her. She liked for them to call her that; she wore the name like a badge. What was that noise? Is someone following her from the dance? Was that sound behind her or coming from the swings up ahead? This old park was always filled with strange noises late at night. She was only a couple of blocks from her house and then she could call Jason. He was her latest conquest. He loved to listen to her talk dirty while he.... That was the last thought Penny had right before someone grabbed her from behind, reached around and plunged a fountain pen into her eye socket with such force it punctured her brain! A scrap of writing paper was retrieved from a pocket. Using another pen like the murder weapon, Penny's blood was used in place of ink to inscribe a short note written with a slight feminine flair. Then her assailant gently placed it on the body.
To Penny, With Love, P.P.
Peter's Mother decided she would unplug the radio and television until all this blew over. She would not allow her son to be hurt anymore. The news of Penny's demise would be just too much for his delicate condition. His irregular heartbeat, since birth, was much better, or so the Doctor said. At least it kept him out of Gym class. The authorities wouldn't be finding Peter's love letters to Penny either. She had stopped at that bitch's house on her little nightly trip for her "medicine". How long had she been drinking now? Since her children were just little angels. She guessed it all started right after the accident. But she wouldn't let herself think about that. She had more important things to think about. She still couldn't get over her good fortune in finding Peter's letters in the trash! Right there on the curb and sitting right on top! Penny must have put them on top on her way to the dance or wherever she was going after she had humiliated her son. She'd just tell Peter that the TV and radio were broken and she'd get them fixed on payday. That would hold him.
* * * * *
"I told you not to bother writing to that slut. I told you that she would hurt you. But, nooooo! You wouldn't listen to me! You never listen to me. When are ya gonna learn, huh?" Paula screamed at her brother. He was such a pantywaist. If he would let her take over, none of this would happen. He'll learn someday. Just hope it's not too late. "Just leave me alone," Peter said. "I'll do whatever I want whenever I want. You're just jealous. 'Cause you don't have a life, you don't want me to have one. Just shut up and stay out of this!" "Yea, you say that now, but when the going gets tough, you call me to take care of things, don'tcha, ya little wimp. Mom knows who is the stronger of the two of us. That's why she fusses and coddles you. She knows that if I do your thinking for you that she won't be important to you any more, won't be your center of attention." Peter had, however, already tuned out Paula and was answering his next Pen Pal. This one would be different. She'd see. He'd make sure that he didn't make any mistakes this time. Her name was Alice and she lived within walking distance just like Penny but in a little different neighborhood. Her ad in the paper was very much like Penny's but it seemed to have more life in it. He would send out his answer and wait for her sure reply. Days went by and then it came! He ripped it open in his impatience and read the very short note. Just four lines long. Dear Peter, This is to inform you that I have a boyfriend. I'm not interested in starting another relationship at this time. I've changed my mind, too. I don't want a Pen Pal either, as it is too much of a bother. Please don't write me again. Alice
Peter was devastated. He threw the letter in the trash and ran to his room crying like a baby. He had only mentioned it to his Mother once so maybe she wouldn't remember. And he'd just have to tolerate Paula's abuse. He'd just tune her out like he always had to so he could sleep. He knew that the dream would be back that night. It always came back when he was upset. He knew he should have written to that other girl. The one he saw in the paper right beside Alice's. What was her name? Ursula? She was a Swedish foreign exchange student or something like that. He would write her next. He would make this idea about Pen Pals work even if it killed him. Peter's Mother heard him crying when she opened the door and saw the trash can lid open in the kitchen. She noticed the torn envelope lying on top and fished out the short note. After reading it she decided to pay this Alice a visit and give her a piece of her mind. She'd go right after supper and get her bottle and then stop on the way home and have a word or two with this little witch. Just whom did she think she was leading boys on this way? Right now, however, she had to go to her son's side and comfort him; also, to make sure he was taking his medicine. And she had to get to him before Paula did. Oh, how she hated to even think of Paula. But she wouldn't. Not right now, at least. Sooner or later she would have to deal with that problem but right now Peter needed her most.
* * * * *
That night, Alice was on her way to end all her troubles. In Algebra, at least. It was no secret she was failing that subject. She had tried the school newspaper by placing an ad for a pen pal that also liked math but only got that nerdy kid, Peter. He seemed to want some kind of friendship! Of all the nerve. Anyway, her algebra teacher, Mr. Travis had called and told her to meet him at the town library around nine to "figure out a solution" to her problem. Alice knew what he had meant. He had pulled this with a few of her girlfriends before and she was next. For "sexual favors" he would give her the answers to the mid-term and the final. What would one good blowjob hurt her? She'd been giving them to her boyfriend, Scotty, for months now and, according to him, had perfected the act to a fine art. She never heard the person behind her, didn't even know someone was there until it was too late and its hand was firmly clamped over her mouth. Her body was lifted up with such strength that her feet were off the ground and her legs were kicking wildly. Terror was all across her face as the fountain pen found it's soft, moist target. Her attacker waited for Alice's body to go limp. The wait was very short. She struggled no more. Then, gently, the body was laid down on the dampening grass behind the darkened library. The note, a torn shred of letter paper from a once used letter was now having a purpose again. Drops of her blood were retrieved from her cheek and penned the short but sweet line. A trademark.
To Alice, With Love, P.P.
Lt. Daniel Carter and 1st Detective Johnny Flannigan were called to the scene at about 11:30pm that night by their watch commander. Dan was the first to speak. "Officer, who discovered the body?" Officer Dillon responded, "Two high school kids were meeting in the bushes behind the library for their Wednesday night romp when the boy, Kenny rolled the girl, Denise, over and they slammed right into her, ..... I mean, the body. They slammed into the body." He was a bit nervous, as this was his first night on second shift. "They're over there by the ambulance." "Thanks, and, take it easy. You're doin' just fine," replied Dan. He remembered what his first sight of a stiff was like even though it seemed like a lifetime was a long time ago. And, speaking of firsts, this was his new partner's first one, too. "Johnny, you take the girl's statement and I'll get the boys. Okay with you?" He was tryin' to keep Johnny at ease and get his mind to working on the right things and off the first view of that young girl's body just layin' there with that pen stickin' out of her eye socket! It seemed that they had the formation of a serial killer on their hands. Back in the car and on the way home they discussed the case. "What do ya think P.P. stands for? Besides the obvious?" Dan liked to get other people's feelings on his cases right away so as not to get a bad case of tunnel vision like in his past. "Well, it might stand for someone's initials, of course. But, I think it stands for something else. I'm just not sure what, yet. And why use a fountain pen as a murder weapon? I think we can rule out a crime of passion, don't you?" Johnny was glad Dan was letting him in so quickly. He had heard he was a swell guy as well as the best detective the department had. What an honor it would be to crack this case with him. What an honor it is just to be his partner. Here he was, fresh out of the academy, twenty-four years old, and working with a legend! Johnny reflected back to when he was growing up in the farm hills of Northern Pennsylvania, always playing Cops & Robbers, always being the good guy that saved the day. The other boys wanted to play War and Cowboys & Indians but he usually got his own way. He guessed it was because of his charm and wit but probably 'cause of his size. He towered over his friends, even today. Six feet, seven inches, 280 lbs., and graduated third in his academy class. His dark features were very alluring to all the women but all that mattered to him right now was making a good first impression on Dan. "Tell you what. First thing in the morning, you run with that idea, Johnny. You get to the computer and find out how many names begin with the letter "P". And don't leave out the girls, either. Then, we'll go to her school and check out her schoolmates. Find out if any had a grudge or a crush or some sort of connection. In the mean time, I'll work on the "nickname" theory. One of us is bound to strike pay dirt. What ya think, Johnny boy? Too much of a long shot?" "Not at all, Dan. I'll get right on it first thing tomorrow morning. That's about six hours from now." As they pulled up in front of Johnny's house, Dan could tell his new partner was gonna work. He had enough enthusiasm for the two of them.
Peter was up bright and early. Paula was keeping quiet for now. He had noticed she was not a morning person and that's why he liked mornings better than any other time of day. He had gotten the letter ready for the mail and put the stamp on it when he went to his Mother's room to wake her for work. No use telling her just yet. He decided to wait until he and his new Pen Pal were better acquainted. He just knew this was the right one. At least, he hoped so. He was beginning to dislike failure. "Hey, what are you up to, pip-squeak? Not another letter? How many rejection slips does it take 'til you finally get the message, shit-for-brains? Can't you understand that you are not man enough for a girl? They don't like you when they see you. Give it up and get a grip. Your days of wining and dining are not to be!" As she slapped his reflection in their mirror so as not to bruise him again and get their Mother mad at her, Peter flinched. He realized what he had just done and counter-acted with a sudden jerkiness in the opposite direction. All this made him appear uncoordinated. Paula laughed out loud. She laughed so hard it made her fall backwards on the bed. When she regained her composure, she said, "I'm gettin' tired of you always looking stupid. One of these days I'm gonna.... Ah, never mind. You wouldn't understand. I oughta smack you but it would do no good! Just leave me alone." He had never heard her threaten him quite so profoundly. And she seemed so bold about it. He would have to have another talk with Mother about this. Their talks always seemed to calm her down and make her listen. Paula was afraid of Mother, he thought. But right now, he had more important things on his mind. Mail this letter and get to school. He might drop off his letter in Ursula's mailbox personally as her address was on the way. He had no way of knowing she had made up the whole thing just to make Lonny jealous. Her house was only a block or two from the warehouse. He knew this was the right girl, as he didn't have his nightmare last night. The one about the warehouse. The one where somebody gets hurt. In his dream, there is a faceless little boy... or was it a girl? He can't tell. Just as he gets close enough to the figure, something horrible happens and he wakes up, sweating and usually he has wet the bed. Not as often as when he was little, but often enough. Mother never mentions it when he comes home from school. Of course, Paula does. She's always there to make fun of all his "accidents". What a bitch!
* * * * *
Ursula took out the garbage for her Mother and didn't mind at all. It was the one chore she did around the house that got her out of the place long enough so she could smoke a cigarette. Her Mother didn't like he smoking and dear old Daddy didn't care what she did just as long as she stayed home on Thursday nights, Mother's bingo night. He'd get drunk and wanna play "house" with her. So far, if was mainly voyeurism, watching her take a shower or go to the bathroom or get ready for bed but, sooner or later it would escalate. When it did, she'd have to teach the old bastard a lesson. That was one of the reasons she was thankful for Lonny, her boyfriend. All she had to do was tell him someone was bothering her and he smashed their face in, no questions asked. Just thinking of him made her horny, like right now. Down at the end of their walkway by the trashcans, across the street behind the old warehouse was where she lost her virginity. As she leaned up against the telephone pole adjacent to the end of her yard, the dark figure was they’re waiting. It had been there the better part of the evening. If only Lonny hadn't been early that morning to pick her up. If only he had been courteous to the boy with the taped glasses. If only, if only, if only. We could change all of history had we just be allowed "if only". She struggled more than the others, had much more fight in her, but she was still just as dead in the end. The fountain pen found it's mark and the pains of death were over in a matter of moments. It almost seemed a letdown to her assailant as the body of young and pretty Ursula was gently laid on the cement walk. The killer felt sadness and remorse, but not for the normal reasons. It had ended far too quickly. If only there was a way to make the battle for life last a little longer. As the note was ceremoniously placed on Ursula’s already stiffening body, her murderer thought, what if the eye was penetrated more slowly next time?
Dan and Johnny had tried every conceivable name and reference to their elusive "P.P." and came up with zero. What they needed was a break. Some clue they had overlooked was gonna crack this case. But what? Dan had been over everything with a fine tooth comb. They had checked the paper: a common stationary you could buy in any drug store or department store. The pen was the same dead end, although fountain pens wer