Author: Johan van Nierop
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Share in the trials and tribulations plaguing estranged and troubled brothers, Paul and Steve Stanton, as they struggle with morality and mortality throughout their lives, attempting to find the meaning and reason for their return to the town of their youth; a town that has recently lost its innocence to murder and corruption. Their tale chronicles encounters with people from different walks of life through the passage of time; each influencing and shaping their own and others' destinies in joy, sorrow, sacrifice and the pursuit of redemption. A slice of the grand unknown that is life, as lived through the eyes of each of the characters.
The silver Smith and Wesson 9mm clicked as the full magazine clip was slid up into it. Bob
slowly slid it back into the suspender holster beneath his tanned suede jacket. He walked
gradually towards the door of motel room 9. It was going to have to be a quick and shipshape
job. He’d need to enter and exit hastily, do Joe, and then make like a library and book. In their
ongoing road-going game, there had been instances where they had used silenced weapons to get the job done; instances that required a job more akin to the finesse of professional hit men than two hired thugs. Jobs that had to be carried out in densely populated areas, where a gunshot heard could put the cops on their trail in less than five minutes; jobs that demanded for silent assassins. This contract in town, however, did not call for such stealthy and hidden operations, and alas, Bob would need to work around the fact that he didn’t have a silencer for what lay imminently ahead. Putting an un-silenced bullet in Joe in this place would be less risky than some of the contracts that they had previously undertaken, but it was sure to prompt someone (probably the manager, and owner) of the fleabag motel they were staying at to reach for the phone faster than a fat man at a dessert buffet, grabbing for the last slice of blueberry pie that had caught his ravening eye and call the law. Seeing that it was neither New Year’s Eve nor the fourth of July, the chances would be very slim that he would mistake the pop from the exploding brass cartridge as that of an exploding firecracker. Cops will thus be called and lowlife’s hunted: fact. But like every thuggish villain, Bob was very industrious and ingenious with circumventing that little problem of pending audible menace. Pillows make the unlikeliest, yet most effective do-it-yourself apparatus for silencing gunshots; that, of course, a technicality thoroughly dependent on the actual caliber of the firearm used. It is no use trying to silence a .50 caliber with a haemorrhoid-friendly ass cushion. That would be somewhat like trying to block out the sound of a stick of dynamite exploding two feet away by merely covering your ears with your hands. Still, no rocket science or PhDs were required to figure out what would work the best for Bob’s dilemma. Two normal bed pillows would convert the loud pop to a hushed phip with no problem at all. The underprivileged murderer’s homemade silencer would do the trick, which consequently meant none-the-wiser manager’s that could ring 911-rent-a-pig. The biggest and certainly the most daunting challenge that awaited Bob was actually getting Joe to submit to being in the path of the deadly pillows. Joe also had a piece of his own. That presented a new level of risk, though Bob was pretty sure that Joe wouldn’t have quick access thereto when he drew his gun. When he had left to call Ed, Joe was still sitting on the couch next to the window with the roadside view. He was dressed in casuals; jeans with no shoes and a vest. His gun was probably lying on the coffee table a few feet away. Bob would be quicker on the draw, for sure.
Well, he had to be, not so? It wasn’t going to be such a quick and risk-free job after all, Bob
thought as he reached for the door handle. Still, he’d figure a way out to do it. He didn’t have
any other alternative.
The door was still unlocked as it had been at the time he had stormed out of the room. He
entered. Joe was still sitting in the same spot as before, with his eyes closed in the dimly lit
smoke hazed room. Bob approached carefully.
“Trying to sneak up on me, eh?” Joe suddenly spoke from his slouched couch position, his
eyes still closed. The unexpected words had given an already nervous Bob a fair jolt. How the
hell was he going to pull this off if he couldn’t even enter the room without closed-eyes Joe
knowing he was there?
“Bastard! Always had a sixth sense, you.” Bob tried to conceal his real reasons for his
stealthy arrival by making a mockery out of being caught out. Joe opened his eyes and shifted
into a more upward position on the couch. Bob’s eyes skimmed the room for any sight of his
partner’s pistol. It wasn’t on the coffee table like he had hoped, but his eyes could also not detect its presence on Joe or in his immediate vicinity; a blessing without disguise.
“So where the hell did you storm off to just now in your pissy state?” Joe asked, as he shook
a cigarette from out of its confinement in the crumpled soft pack.
“Nowhere special, just went for a walk,” Bob said as his left hand crept towards the inside of
his jacket. Joe glanced over at his moving hand, inducing Bob to start scratching an invented itch of subtle misdirection. It had invoked no shape or mode of suspicion from Joe.
“For a walk, eh?” Joe dampened his words through lips stretched tight at the right-hand
corner of his cigarette-clasping mouth. He was busy fidgeting in the crevices where the
cushioning of the couch met the armrests and then directed his attention to the deep, dark realm
that lurked from beneath the couch. He straightened out from his bent-over position and placed a coin that he had found under the couch on the coffee table in front of him.
“Mmm,” he muttered with the cigarette in his mouth and continued mining beneath the
couch. He was leaning forward with his back turned to Bob. Bob’s hand crept to within his
jacket and gripped the butt of the Smith and Wesson.
“Got a light on you?” Joe asked, still in his curved-over position.
“Yeah, sure thing, buddy. Got a light right here in my pocket.” He withdrew the gun from its
holster and pointed it in the direction of Joe. Bob had the upper hand now. He’d force Joe to
walk to one of the beds in the bedroom where he would take two pillows and end his life.
“You know I lied about that walk, right? It wasn’t just for shits and giggles. I called up Ed,
spoke to him . . .” Bob spoke to Joe as he cocked the Smith and Wesson into loaded mode. Joe stopped his couch-rummaging for a moment when he heard the click and continued again as if nothing had happened.
“You know what he said, my old buddy? He said that I can have your share if I take you
out,” Bob almost whispered the last few words to Joe in a voice weighed down with conceit.
“And being the stand-up loyal friend that you are, you naturally told him to stick it up his ass,
right?’ Joe answered with his back still turned to Bob.
“Well now, if I did, well then, guess you wouldn’t have heard my gun cock back just now.
You see . . . I’ve been giving this some thought now. This situation between you and me. All the
stuff that has happened in this last week or so . . . and you know what, Joe? I think it would be in our best interests to do what Ed had told,” Bob said as he pointed the gun at his partner-incrime’s back.
“That so? Now when you say in our best interests, that actually means your best interests,
right?” Joe spoke from his faceless position, blasé and calm as if he were a man without a care in the world, let alone one that had a gun pointed at him at this instant.
“Well, now that you put it that way, my old friend, I guess you do have a point. Too bad it
had to be this way, Joey boy, just doing what you would’ve done in my situation. I mean, think
about it, Joe. You’ve lost it in the time we’ve been here. Lost that thing that used to make you
indispensable. You’ve gone soft, burnt out, not worth keeping on anymore. You’ve become just another expendable nobody, just another contract. You’ve always been cleverer than me, Joe, but not today. You should have seen this coming, my old friend, just more proof that you’ve struck out, that you’ve come to the end of your line.” Joe still hadn’t turned around from his crouched position to face his betrayal. His Judas with the gun pointing at his back.
“Fair enough. Still need that light, though,” Joe answered, cool and composed. If it weren’t
for his good fortune, Bob would have surely pitched a fit of rage at Joe’s tranquil and unfazed
demeanour, whilst death was on his doorstep.
“Sure thing, buddy, guess it’s the least I can do for you.” Bob reached into his jacket pocket,
feeling for the book of matches that was in hiding.
“You know what, Bob? You’re right. I may have lost it and may have even burnt out, but
you’re wrong about something,” Joe said, finally taking hold of what was under the couch.
“Yeah, and what may that be?” Bob asked with a smug look on his face as he produced the
“I did see it coming,” Joe said as he leapt up from his position on the couch, turning around
in a flicker of time as the bullet exploded from the dark cavity of his gun barrel. The 9mm
projectile hit Bob square in his chest. For a second or two they stood there in the silence and the gun smoke. Bob had a look that projected more of an incomprehensible fascination on his face, rather than one of disjointed perplexity at what had just happened. He looked down at the
expanding bloodstain beneath his jacket.
“Sneaky bastard,” he said with that bemused look of a man that couldn’t really make sense of
what had just happened, but captivated with it nonetheless. He pulled the trigger of the firearm
clasped in his hand. He hit Joe somewhere in the region of his stomach, causing him to
momentarily recoil at the flesh-penetrating impact. Bob’s hand grew weak and his grip released
on the butt of the pistol, sending it crashing down onto the motel room’s brown carpet. He
staggered left until he hit wall, trying to balance himself, but then he also went crashing down to
the floor. Bob sat slumped over to his right-hand side, with his left hand trying to hold back the
blood gushing from his wound. Joe left his wound to bleed and stumbled over to where Bob was sitting. There was a big dark puddle starting to form on the brown carpet around Bob. He tried to reach for his pistol as Joe slowly and off-balance approached, but his arms seemed to be nothing
more than two heavy pieces of lame meat hanging beside him. His hand had also now slid off the weeping hole punctured in his chest. Joe left a trail of blood behind him as he walked closer to Bob and finally fell against the wall beside him. He looked at Bob’s pallid face and into his
“You see, the trouble is, I’ve known people like you and me my whole life. Valueless
miscreants whose only talent is destroying others’ lives. But you know what I have realised, old
Bob? One hundred of our lives put together are not worth one of those that we have taken. The
road has become too long and too far now and I ain’t walking it no more. We have created
nothing, but have destroyed everything. No more. I have just two more lives to take and then it’s done. It all ends here today. It all ends with us,” Joe said as both men lay, systematically expiring on the carpet of a cheap motel room floor. Bob glared at Joe with the last hints of defiance in his eyes and started laughing almost hysterically. He shook his head and shifted it closer to that of Joe’s. He looked him in the eyes with ridicule and disdain.
“You will never escape from this,” he said as a stream of blood trickled from his mouth.
“I know,” Joe said with a sombre smile of finality on his face. “But neither will you,” he said
as he raised the pistol against Bob’s forehead and pulled the trigger. The back end of his head
splattered against the floral wallpaper as the bullet exited through his skull. He slumped down,
leaving a smear of bloody pulp signifying his trajectory of decent. Joe looked at the dead corpse of his long-time companion in misery and death. Only one more life to take and then it would all be done. He fell over to his left and dragged himself by his arms across the carpet to the notepad lying on the coffee table, next to the telephone. He reached for it and took the pen out from its oval compartment affixed to the spine. His hand started shaking and grew weak as he tried to hang on to consciousness, admitting his guilt in the murder of others. But he had grown too weak to remember who they were. He ripped the page from the notepad with his bloodied hand and crept the last mile across the room to where his deceased partner lay. He forced himself up against the wall and adopted a sitting position. With his last fading lucidity, Joe wrote a footnote on the bloodstained page:
This monstrous life has finally ended.
He crumpled the paper against his chest and placed the barrel of the gun in his mouth. As he
closed his eyes, he hoped that he would see heaven. He inhaled as a solemn smile appeared on
his closed eyelids. Heaven is no place for monsters. He pulled the trigger. Somewhere in one of
the motel rooms a woman was screaming and a child was crying. It was finally done. Ended.
Faded to black.
The creek hadn’t lost its magic throughout all of the years that it had been an integral part in
the lives of the town’s children. Generations had played their different daydream games in the
same waters that Andy and Kyle now embraced. In a sense the creek was as much of a town
monument as town hall or the old church built by the first inhabitants deciding to settle down
here. Great-grandparents, grandparents, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters throughout the timelines spent countless hours growing up in its cool waters on hot summer days. In the ripples of these waters history was written. It was a place of memory, a silent testament remembering those who had come and gone throughout the course of time. It was a place that had the ability to purify and cleanse those who called upon it from all the troubles and discord of the outside world. A place of forgetfulness and a place without sin. A place that was there long before the birth of the town. A place that will be there long after its death. Unbeknown to Andy and Kyle, these waters were once the playground of another band of brothers: Paul and Steve. But with the passing of time, the innocent waters were forgotten and they drifted apart in the currents of life.
The consecrated water washed off their existence by the poisons and corruption of the world.
Their happiness turned into sadness, their presence here, a silent memory.
With the escalation of environmental concern, a town proclamation was passed to ensure the
shielding of the creek against pollution and other vices. The local authorities did not overlook the importance of this place in the context of the town. Many of them had also called the creek a home away from home during their growing years and the preservation thereof was thus of
paramount importance. The creek was, after all, a place for children. A place that ensured a
wholesome development whilst at the same time safeguarding their innocence and virtue.
Swimming, playing, and messing about in the water protected children from the tempting vices
of the outside world. Drugs, hooliganism, and underage sex were a beast mostly confined to the
parameters of the cold and concrete world of the city. Technology was on the increase and more and more kids spent most of their young and formative years growing up two to four feet from a television or computer screen. The creek offered a substitute to this life of technological house arrest. Too many children were now being held hostage by the surge of electronic gadgets and gizmos. Thus, in order to curtail the evolution of a new species with square, pixelated eyes, the town did all that it could muster to rip their children away from lounge lives of isolation and into the creek: into a place of friendship and interaction, of activity and cultivation. Life in town was systematically changing; there was no doubt of that. Some of the unsavoury of the outside world had found a way to sow its seeds in the streets and the homes of the townspeople. But then again, the place wasn’t called “Perfection” and somewhere along the line certain vices were always going to be unable to eradicate. Still, the town had something that was special and conducive to innocence: the calm creek between the big old Weeping Willow trees. Winston was right in persuading his son to stay in town for the sake of his children. This was one of the last good places to raise a family. A place where they could grow up in due course to become upstanding young men. A place that still had some purity left.
But tonight wasn’t as clear as yesterday or even the night before. The translucent black skies
illuminated by its infinite radiating stars did not present itself on this addiction-filled night. The
light shining from the yellow moon and stars were shrouded by a copious veil of charcoalcoloured clouds. Ominous, menacing, and portentous looking clouds, stretching as far as the eye could see, blotting out whatever deep nightlight tried to fight its way from beyond the ozone to shine upon the earth; covering the way to the store, stealing light and replacing it with shadow.
Long, ubiquitous shadows. Julie felt a chill run down her spine, U-turn at her coccyx, and follow the same neuron back up her vertebrae to where it had originated. She, like most human beings would testify, always remain a bit circumspect of the dark. Call it the echoes of childhood Nyctophobia: an irrational fear of the dark tormenting the very core of most children when that light of refuge clicks off just before bedtime, the luminosity that kept them safe from all of the creatures of the night, now gone. Creatures that up until that moment had been nothing more than a dormant thought. Creatures that have now been awakened by the breath of shadow and darkness, filling the spaces with an expanding black mass of evil. Sinister eyes of something unimaginable peering from the partially open closet; deep, rasping breathing from below the bed (which always conveniently sports a base high enough from the floor to harbour an incarnate spawn from nightmare, as if bed manufacturers deliberately want to traumatise young children into bedwetting for shits and giggles). Sure, most people will claim that they have outgrown this fear of all things enveloped in shadow as they grow older, but in most cases that fear never really passes. It just becomes more manageable, more substituted by other rigors in life as time passes.
But it never truly disappears. The instinctual fear of things that we cannot see, but know are
there: peril of what the mysterious unseen may hold in store. An abdication of wanting to make
footsteps into the unknown.
Julie increased her pace, shaking the feeling of hard, long talons of darkness scraping over
the nape of her back down her shoulders, which had knotted up with recoil. She didn’t like the
dark one bit. Suddenly she felt very young again. Staring at the closet doors in her room after
Mother had shut the light off. Hoping, praying that God would have an angel or two to spare, to
patrol as doormen in front of the closet of evil where she could feel in her very bones that she
was being watched. To prevent whatever was inside from escaping as soon as she closed her
eyes, and . . .
Johan van Nierop was born in South Africa in 1981. He studied Law at the University of Natal and was later admitted as an attorney. Following the publication of his first novel, Remnants of Another Yesterday, he decided to pursue a career in writing, for it is only when writing that he feels most complete.
My 4 Star Review:
I was so surprised to meet a fellow South African on Book Blogs so when he asked for a review I jumped at the opportunity. Here is my thoughts.
A clear message were send in this book. Making decisions based on circumstances and feelings in your life and it would steer you on the wrong path. No matter how good the intentions at the time, explaining it to yourself in a believable script the end result will be: you will eat from the fruit of that decisions.We meet a family of three, Earl Stanton, his eldest son Paul and Steve the youngest and the heartache they faced for wrong choices. We walk with them through their developing years to see where mistakes were made. Bonds made in the rush of the moment were not honored and guilt and rejection took its place. Which sculptured their future leaving a father alone in his own failures as a man. Which brings us to the topic of the book mortality and morals. The author did a wonderful work explaining this in a detailed plot that spanned over years with in depth study laced with profanity, heart ache and the one question we all face. Why me God?The strong characters of each of the men in the story brought out the human race in its ugliest but also in its beauty. Moments that cause you to pink a tear away. The effects what people can do to each other in the name of greed and the unexpected care when a person act differently when you expect it the least.At times there was just to much detail that bordered on rambling but the author allowed the story to flow and develop into a good read. Well done Johan I hope we can expect more books from you soon.