Hey, Teddy. It’s Roger. Roger Ward. You there? If you’re there, pick up. If you’re not there–good. I’m really hoping you’re out of town, way out of town, at your parents’, whatever, having a nice Thanksgiving. I’m really praying you’re not home, screening your calls.
But if you are, go get one of those guns you keep in the basement. You still have the “Regulator,” right? Load that sucker up, and get ready to shoot somebody.
Get ready to shoot me.
‘Cause I’m coming over there to kill you.
And I want you to get me before I get you.
I guess that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, so I’ll say it again.
I want you to kill me before I kill you.
So, yeah, I’ll explain why. I’ll try. If this machine doesn’t cut me off, that is.
Here’s how it happened, Teddy.
I’m going to tell you everything. The way it all started was, okay, you know I still work over at Firelight–right?
Or maybe you didn’t know. I haven’t talked to you in, what, five or six years?
It’s been awhile.
You’re still banging rubber hammers on people’s knees–right?
Me, I’m still at Firelight. The top searchlight rental-andsales outfit in Southern California? We still do movie premieres every once in awhile, sure, but the real money’s in high school proms, car dealerships, Office Depot openings. That sort of thing.
That’s us you see, up in the San Diego sky, every Friday and Saturday night.
And you know what? We did one-point-two last year. I’ve been with the company three and a half years–since the four-hundred-thou days. Renting searchlights. Selling searchlights. All the live-long day.
And, like I say, we’re top dogs in the trade. Doing really good. Fifty-seven employees. I’m number three man on the sales team.
Well, number one. As of yesterday.
And it’s fifty-four employees, now. Or, less than that, actually. Now that I think about it.
Which is what I’m trying to explain.
See, Y-and-R–Yellen and Riggenrathern, the two partners who started Firelight–are real decent guys to work for. I, personally, never had any trouble with them. But some other folks have. There’s been a bone of contention or two, that I know about. The partners are smart enough to know about it, too, and do something about the whole employee morale thing. That’s part of the reason why, every year, on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, they hold a company-wide “turkey shoot.”
You ever played in a “turkey shoot,” Teddy?
Oh, that’s right–you’re not a golfer.
Well, a “turkey shoot” is where everybody in the company goes over to Friendly Hills Country Club for a nice round of golf. It’s a regular paid day of work, but it’s really a day off. The company holds a little tournament, see. The winners get prizes. Gift certificates, Chargers tickets, shirts.
And I know it’s kind of hard to believe, Teddy, but last Wednesday morning, when we walked into that clubhouse, everybody was just as happy as could be. We all got a free continental breakfast (well, Krispy Kremes, coffee, and Bloody Marys), and put our names on slips of paper, and put the slips of paper in the little miniature searchlight we use on sales calls. (It runs on batteries–you can turn it on and aim it and everything.) Then four names got picked randomly, and that constituted our foursomes.
It’s the luck of the draw.
Because, see, it was a “best ball” tournament. Meaning, everybody in your foursome tees off–right? If three of you hit terrible shots, that’s okay–you pick up your balls and everybody shoots their second shots from where the “best shot of the foursome” landed. And so forth. And so on. Until you finish out the hole.
For my foursome, I was put with Elmer Cassidy, Gary Upchurch, and Lanville Sundsjord.
Now, Teddy, I should tell you, I don’t know any of these guys very well–didn’t know them, I should say. Elmer and Gary were both new to the company. Lanville worked in HR, across the street. He’d been in a few meetings with me–and I’d seen him at the “turkey shoot” last November–but we’d never even had a conversation.
And, by the way, Teddy? Maybe you’re listening to this, you just came in the door or something, and you haven’t picked up the phone? Pick up now. ‘Cause I’m on Robson Street. En route to your house. To kill you.
Okay, right, I already said that. Sorry.
So. Where was I?
Oh, yeah. The start of the “turkey shoot.”
I was in the foursome, on Wednesday, with Elmer, Gary, and Lanville. We were the last group of the day to tee off.
Lanville stepped up to hit. Like I say, I didn’t know the guy very well. I’d heard some rumors over the years, sure. About how Lanville would back-date new hires to qualify them for health insurance, in exchange for kickbacks. Because, technically, you have to wait six months at Firelight.
It was one of those bones of contention I was talking about.
But it’s not like the guy was stealing from the company or anything–right?
As for Gary, the only thing I knew about him was that he was married to this foxy little thing. Heidi. I saw a picture of her, on Gary’s desk, one time. She looked like Jennifer Lopez put away wet.
Which is where she is right now, actually. Put away wet.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Our “turkey shoot,” yeah, started off with a hell of a drive from Lanville. He must’ve been two forty, two fifty, dead down the middle of the fairway. And even though the rest of us didn’t do anything with our tee shots, we all got in our golf carts, y’know, smiling and everything, headed down that first fairway thinking Shit, Maybe We Got A Shot At Winning This Damn Thing.
But none of us hit our second shots onto the green, nobody could chip for diddley, and we ended up with a bogey five on the hole.
The next couple of holes weren’t much better, Teddy.
And when we came to the turn–the ninth hole, that is–and found out some of the other scores, we knew we weren’t going to be winning any “best ball” turkeys. Leroy Rossi and three guys from accounting had us beat by eight strokes, and they were already in the clubhouse. Leroy yelled down at us from the terrace, holding up a Bloody Mary pitcher like a trophy, weaving like he was on a cruise ship.
Now, I’m not going to lie to you–some of the stuff Leroy slung at us, from up there on the terrace, wasn’t real nice. I, personally, always hated Leroy, anyway. He was such a teacher’s pet–and that pet was a hippo. And talk about a brown-noser. The guy was always sucking up to Y-and-R. It was constant. I mean, it was shameless.
Look, we were playing badly. Leroy didn’t have to rub it in like that. We already knew we weren’t going to win the “best ball” tournament.
But in a “turkey shoot,” Teddy, there are other ways to win turkeys.
One is the “closest to the pin” competition.
The eleventh hole at Friendly Hills is a nice little 165-yard par three. And when our motley foursome stepped up to the tee, we could see the little placard sitting up there on the green. Somebody’d nailed one pretty close to the flag.
Sure enough, after we’d teed off, and went up nearer to the green-–none of us had made the dance floor, but Gary was on the fringe–we saw the little indicator. It was mounted on a thin metal spike, stuck gently into the surface of the green, about ten or eleven feet from the hole. The spike had a little notepad-and-pen velcro-ed to it. The idea being, if you hit a closer shot to the pin than the one that was already there, you wrote your name under the one that was there, stuck the spike into the green at the precise spot where you’d hit your “closest to the hole” tee shot, and waited out everybody’s round to see if you’d won turkeys for your group.
If you were closest to the pin, see, you won.
It wasn’t us, obviously.
But we all went over and took a look at that little placard anyway. The bottom name was Kyle Stith. But he’d been bested by Lawrence Cabot, who worked in MIS. Cabot, in turn, had been bested by Craig Koon. Who’d been bested, finally, by Leroy Rossi.
The four of us looked at each other when we saw that.
We had the exact same looks on our faces.
Now, like I say, I didn’t know Lanville all that well. And the only thing I knew about Gary was the whole hot-Heidi-posingin-the-bikini-in-Maui thing. And I didn’t know Elmer at all.
But when we saw Leroy Rossi’s name, Teddy, it was like we’d
all just scaled a mountain together and were admiring the view.
We bonded, all of a sudden.
It wasn’t a positive bond, though.
‘Cause that view we had? From the mountaintop? It was curdled, Teddy. Curdled and grim. We weren’t looking down on a golf course, or anything nice like that. We were looking down on a cemetery that was being retrofitted for a garbage dump, with no searchlights anywhere in sight.
At that moment, we all hated Leroy Rossi.
I mean, despised the fat fuck.
Which was why, on the sixteenth hole, we did what we did.
By the way, Teddy, just to let you know? I’m on Anderson Avenue. If you just walked in the door, get down to the basement. Load up that “Regulator.” Get a steak knife. Find your Black & Decker. Anything. To kill me.
‘Cause I’m going to be there in, like, five minutes.
To kill you.
I mean it.
So, yeah, okay. Where were we?
Oh, right. The sixteenth hole.
A really nasty par five. Five hundred and thirty yards from the whites, a dogleg to the left, you can’t even see the damn green from the tee.
But it was the “long drive competition” hole.
See, like that “closest to the pin” hole, if you–or anybody in your foursome–happened to hit the longest drive of the day on this particular hole, hit it past the little spike-and-placard that was stuck way out there in the middle of the fairway, everybody in your foursome would get turkeys.
It was our last chance, Teddy.
I teed off, and hit a worm-burner that went maybe seventy-five yards. Gary duffed his shot completely, and threw his driver at the ball-washing machine. Elmer manhandled a duck hook that hit a palm tree, bounced onto Bennett Beach Boulevard, shot down into a culvert like a scared rabbit, and made three kids on skateboards stop and look over at us.
But then Lanville hit his tee shot. Killed it, actually.
Dead down the pike.
Right at that placard.
I have to tell you, we all got pretty excited all of a sudden.
But when we got to Lanville’s ball, we could see that the shot was just short of the spike. By maybe four inches. It was like Lanville’s ball had hit the thing and bounced back a little.
Which is another part of the reason why we did what we did.
Now, I’m not saying it was right.
I’m on Carruthers, by the way.
I should be there in about two minutes.
But I’m telling you, Teddy, Lanville’s tee shot was right there. I mean, right there.
And we wouldn’t have done what we did if Leroy Rossi hadn’t been the top name on the placard.
His was the long drive of the day.
The lactating motherfucker.
We couldn’t very well let him take the “long drive” turkey along with the “closest to the pin” turkey and-–probably-–the “best ball” turkey, too–right?
So that’s why we did what we did.
Hell, we didn’t even need to talk about it.
We all looked at each other, and everybody nodded. Elmer glanced around to see if anybody was watching. And then Gary went and did it. He pulled that spike-and-note-pad out of the fairway, took the pen in hand, and wrote Lanville’s name under Leroy Rossi’s.
Only he spelled it wrong, and Lanville had to take the pen from him and write it in right.
Like I say, none of us knew each other very well.
And then Gary put the spike back in the ground. About six inches further down the fairway from where it had been.
So, yeah, I’m not going to lie to you, Teddy–we lied.
But felt damn good about it.
At the time.
An hour and a half later, after we’d finished our round and everybody’d taken showers and the executive assistants figured out who all the winners were and the prime rib had been served, the awards presentation took place. Y-and-R gave turkeys to Leroy Rossi and the rest of his “best ball” foursome, then gave them another set for “closest to the pin” honors, and then–as dessert was served—-our foursome finally got called up for “long drive” turkeys. Lanville, Elmer, Gary, and me took those turkeys in hand, looked at each other, and smiled. We deserved those birds, Teddy. We really did.
We all took our turkeys out to our cars as the sun was setting.
I went home and put my turkey in the garage freezer.
I guess Elmer didn’t have a freezer that was big enough.
He ate his turkey that night.
He must have–he killed his next door neighbors the next morning.
The Friday paper said he loaded up a handgun, went over to the neighbors’, rang the doorbell, and–-after he was let in–-shot up everybody in the damn house. The man, the woman, the kid, the dog.
And then, Friday afternoon, Gary called me from jail.
He told me he’d just killed his wife that morning.
That hot wife.
He said he didn’t mean to stab her in the neck with the Phillips-head screwdriver while she was sleeping. Something had come over him. A compulsion, he said. He couldn’t stop himself.
Just like I can’t stop myself.
I’m here, Teddy.
On your street.
Just to let you know.
I’m not going to lie to you–Gary was crying a little when he talked to me from jail.
Like I said, we’d bonded.
He told me there must have been something in those turkeys.
Something that made him do what he did to Heidi. He was being punished, somehow, for lying.
Lying about the “turkey shoot” at Friendly Hills on Wednesday.
Lying about how much money he’d lost on NFL parlays, the past few years. (Twenty-one thousand and change.)
Lying about not having an affair with Bethany, in admin, with the dreadlocks.
“I killed Heidi,” Gary said, “because I lied to her.”
Which made about as much sense as anything, I guess.
Suddenly, somebody took the phone away from Gary and said “this communication is terminated by order of the San Diego Police Department.” Then there was a dial tone.
Real official and everything.
Teddy, I have to tell you, I didn’t know what to think, at that point. I mean, two members of my foursome had committed homicide within thirty-six hours of the “turkey shoot.”
What the fuck, over?
So you want to know what I did next?
You guessed it–I went out to the garage, opened the freezer, and looked at my turkey.
And you want to know something funny? It looked fine. Like a regular turkey. Maybe even more so.
But maybe it was contaminated or something. Maybe those turkeys really did cause people to go crazy and kill people.
I decided to call Leroy Rossi.
I didn’t want to call him, but I didn’t have Lanville’s number–and I didn’t know how to spell his last name, for directory assistance. Calling Leroy seemed like a logical idea, since he’d won two of the birds, too.
I got him on the horn, and he said he’d already eaten both of his turkeys. And he was on his third–somebody in his foursome had given him an extra one.
Like I say, he was a fat fuck.
He even apologized about yelling at us, from the terrace that day. He said, “I was as drunk as a dozen Indians dancing in a cornfield”–whatever the hell that meant. Then he asked me if I wanted to come over and join him in that third turkey.
No thanks, I told him.
Then I asked him how those turkeys tasted.
“Great,” he said. “Real tasty.”
Once a brown-noser, always a brown-noser.
Leroy started to say something else, but I hung up on him.
I’d found out what I needed to know–he wasn’t killing anybody.
So I didn’t think it was the turkey itself that made Elmer and Gary do what they did.
By the way, I’m here, Teddy.
In your driveway.
I’m getting out of my car.
I’m headed for your door, right now, if you want to try a shot.
If you want to kill me before I kill you.
Yeah, that turkey.
In my freezer.
Didn’t look contaminated.
I didn’t see why I shouldn’t eat the damn thing.
So I brought it out, defrosted it, and started cooking.
This was six and a half hours ago.
And I’m telling you, that turkey looked damn good.
Tasted good, too.
But right after my second bite of white meat, the doorbell rang.
It was a police officer. A Detective, actually. Detective Reginald Caan.
I already knew what he was going to say, but he said it anyway.
Lanville Sundsjord had just killed a whole mess of people.
Took out a bunch of folks from Firelight–including two other guys from the sales team and Y-and-R themselves.
“Eight people are dead,” the officer said quietly.
Then he said that it had already been determined, in the immediate investigation, that Lanville had been in the foursome with Gary, Elmer, and me on Wednesday. The Detective said I was the only person in the group who hadn’t committed a homicide in the past two days.
Then he asked me if I didn’t think that was a little unusual.
I said it was.
Then he asked me if there was some sort of connection between us.
I said no.
Which was a lie.
I lied to the Detective, Teddy.
The words just came out of my mouth.
The knife just went into the Detective’s chest.
I didn’t mean to do it.
I didn’t even know what the hell I was doing.
Are you in there?
I can hear the doorbell ringing, Teddy. If you’re in there, come on out and kill me.
So, yeah, that Detective.
Died right before my eyes.
Seemed like a nice guy.
And, like I say, I don’t know why I did it.
But I don’t know why I ate that turkey, either, after finding out the things that I found out.
I mean, I knew that Gary and Elmer had killed people, and that the only thing we really had in common were those “turkey shoot” turkeys.
And I still went ahead and ate my bird.
And liked it.
I guess the inclination was inside me, Teddy.
I know it was.
I could feel it.
To seek out and kill people you’ve lied to.
The only thing is, I’m not much of a liar.
As you know.
I can count the number of people I’ve lied to practically on one hand. Four of those people are dead, by natural causes.
And then there was that Detective.
The only one left is you, Teddy.
I lied to you.
Eleven years ago.
When we were sharing that house in San Ysidro.
Steph had just dumped me because I was “lacking a personal five-year plan”–remember?
You, on the other hand, were applying to med school.
It looked like you were going to get that scholarship.
I was working minimum wage at Rapid Messenger, and my car broke down. I had walked home–twenty-seven blocks–in the dead of summer. And when I got there–got home–there wasn’t any beer left in the fridge.
You’d drunk it all.
I’m not going to lie to you, Teddy–I was pissed.
That’s why I did what I did.
A FedEx package came for you.
I signed for it, and couldn’t help myself–I opened the damn thing.
It was the final paperwork for your scholarship.
It looked like you were going to get it.
But you want to know what I did? I took the shredder out of the closet, plugged that sucker in, and shredded your whole FedEx. Every last bit of it.
That’s how jealous and upset I was.
You never got the package.
Even though you ended up going to NYU.
Even though you’re now a doctor.
You’re still a doctor–right?
So I guess it didn’t matter in the end.
But I remember you asking me–did a FedEx come for me last week sometime?
And I said “no.”
I lied, Teddy.
I lied to you.
It wasn’t much of a lie, in the grand scheme of things, but it was a lie nonetheless.
Like moving a “turkey shoot” stake six inches.
Good–you still keep a key under the mat.
A tiger doesn’t change his stripes.
Here I come.
I’m opening the door right now.
I hope you’re ready.
God, I hope you’re ready.
Because I’m going to kill you, Teddy.
You hear me?
I’m going to kill you.
What’re you trying to do–blind me?
Is that you back there, Teddy?
Shit, that’s bright!
I mean, that’s CL-5 bright!
Like our model CL-5!
One of our best searchlights!
One of our …!
Oh, you’ve got a gun, too!
That’s good, Teddy!
Hey, how’re you doing?
You must’ve gotten my message!
You must’ve …!