Pinellas County, Florida The rain had turned into a drizzle which did nothing to lift the oppressive humidity that was unusual this early in the year. Cursing under his breath, the man in a black Toyota wiped the sweat from his forehead. “No A/C. Not tonight,” he said aloud. He couldn’t take a chance on drawing attention to his parked car. He closed his eyes and without a conscious thought he rubbed the shaft of the tire iron cradled between his legs. “No, Daddy,” he whispered, “no, don’t.” He shuddered as the memories came back. A couple walked by. He let the metal tool slip to the floor and tugged at his baseball cap pulling it down over his eyes. He remained motionless until they passed. Across the street the lights at the sports bar turned off. The front door shut when the last customer exited. He read the note once more, folded it with a sharp crease and tucked it into his shirt pocket. The waiting man saw his prey. “Your time has come, Lenny Chambers.” Lenny Chambers was a handsome man with a swagger of confidence and the sway of someone who had too much to drink. Lenny stumbled up next to the black car, leaned against the back fender and puked into the grass. He took a few steps and stopped. He fumbled to light a cigarette then staggered toward his pickup truck parked under the overpass in the remote parking lot of Tropicana Field. The man inside the car scanned his surroundings—saw no one else. He left the Toyota, tire iron in hand, and overtook his victim. The inebriated man had no time to react when the tire iron smashed into his knees, popping them like an aluminum bat bashing a baseball. Before Lenny could scream, the attacker swung again. Lenny raised his arm to shield his face. The weapon broke his forearm. Another strike cracked Lenny’s other arm. The final blow came down across his head. He lay crumpled and bleeding—his mouth agape. The assailant reached into his shirt pocket and fished out a rag from a plastic bag and shoved it into the helpless man’s open mouth. Lenny’s eyes bulged as he choked on gasoline fumes, desperate to get air into his lungs. The attacker opened his lighter and knelt down to ignite the rag, making sure he made eye contact with Lenny. The cloth burst into flames. Lenny’s face lit up in the darkened night. He shook his head in a frenzy trying to dislodge the inferno in his mouth but only succeeded in waving the rag back and forth like a distress signal. The man turned from his victim and pulled a small pouch from the pocket of his jeans. He tossed the pouch next to Lenny’s charred face. “Karma, brother,” he said, “Karma.”
Stretched out on the bed, he stared at the ceiling fan listening to the hypnotic click of the motor. He now knew what contentment felt like. The nagging depression that had haunted him for so long was gone! He climbed out of bed and stepped over his bloody, mud-soaked clothes and shoes that were piled on the floor. The thought of last night comforted him. This would be a good day. He rubbed his forearms scarred from years of cutting and shivered when a blast of cool air hit his naked body. He walked to the antique desk and opened his journal. ‘Karma’ was written at the top of the page in Peacock Blue ink. With the fountain pen that once belonged to his father, he began to write: Mom and Dad, Today I am free of my Karma just as she predicted. I’ll turn forty soon and will have peace for the rest of my life. Thank you for giving me the strength to rid the earth of one more unfit human being and giving his family a chance at life. I hope the three of you rot in Hell. He signed it: Your Devoted Son
“I’m starving,” he mumbled and checked his watch. There was plenty of time to dispose of his bloody shoes and clothes, shower, get dressed, and go to the Pancake House for breakfast before his twelve-thirty meeting. He’d finished taking care of the mess in the house and went into the garage. He thought about the tire iron in the trunk of the car. He’d have to clean it later. He removed the gray dust cover from his other car; his fun car, his silver Jaguar convertible. He bought it when she told him he deserved to do something nice for himself. The odometer read fourteen thousand nine hundred and fifty-one miles. “I’ll put more on it now,” he said aloud. “I deserve it. I’ve earned it.” He pulled out of the driveway and onto the street. “Good morning star shine,” he sang, “the Earth says hello . . .” # It was a perfect spring day in Clearwater. The sun was bright and in the air was a slight breeze off the Gulf of Mexico. The forecast predicted temperatures in the low eighties. She opened her office windows to let in the fresh air. At the nearby mirror, she stopped to admire her new coif. She was pleased that she could pass as a natural redhead. She leaned in closer. “Oh, brilliant!” The blonde roots were showing already. “Time for a touch up.” After giving her hair one more fluff, she answered the incessant knocking at her door. “This was too big to put in your mailbox. There’s no return address and there’s thirty-seven cents due on postage.” She paid the mail carrier, and with package in hand, sat at her desk. Inside the padded envelope was a card: My Dear Friend, Of all the psychics I’ve been to, you’re the only one who predicted my book of poems would be published. So, I’m sending you my first autographed copy. Warm Regards, Your newly famous client, Nicole Angelo
She smirked at the title, KNOWING. “How trite.” She scanned the sophomoric rhymes throughout the book and snickered. “Like I want a book of bad poetry and for this I paid postage!” She tossed the book into a drawer and closed it as her twelve-thirty client arrived.
At the conclusion of his reading, she said in her proper British accent, “It’s been delightful.” “Wait! Isn’t there more you want to tell me?” he implored. “You sure you haven’t left anything out?” “I’ve covered what we need to discuss today,” the psychic replied. “I’m sure I’ve told you all that was necessary.” “Don’t you see anything about last night? I did what you—” “STOP!” she snapped. “There’s no need to discuss that issue.” She leaned forward. “Suffice it to say you’re on the right track. Do keep up the good work.” She stood without further remark and started toward the door. He tapped his watch. “Our time’s not up yet. I have half an hour left!” Her brow furrowed and she returned to her chair, then jotted a reminder for herself—tell clients scheduled times are UP TO an hour. He spoke first. “I had to tell you . . . when we met you said that my karmic debt would be paid in my forties—that I’d find peace and happiness. Well, you know I’ll be forty next week and when I woke this morning, I knew it had already started!” “How grand for you.” She glanced at the clock on her desk. “I hope you know I didn’t say that so you would remember my birthday.” “Oh. But, I did. I could never forget your birthday!” She reached into the desk drawer. “Truth be told, I bought this especially for you, but I was waiting for next week to post it to you. If you don’t mind that it is not wrapped, I will give it to you now.” “I can’t believe it! You did remember!” He opened the poetry book. “It’s autographed! I never expected a gift. I don’t know what to say.” With outstretched arms, he leaned over to give her a hug, but she pushed her chair back away from him. “Just have a happy birthday, and I do hope you find this book as meaningful as I did. Now, if you will excuse me,” she said, “I am expecting an overseas call,” and ushered him to the door. # Unable to contain his eagerness, he opened the book as soon as he got in his car. KNOWING. The perfect title. “She actually remembered my birthday! This is the first time since I was eighteen that anyone remembered!” He leafed through the pages. There it was, right in front of him—a poem entitled, ‘Sharing Our Secrets.’ Mine to give, yours to keep, Only the two of us know. That special place between two souls, Where only we can go. She read this same poem. That’s why she bought the book ‘especially’ for me! This is my sign. As soon as he arrived home, he poured himself a drink then stripped off his clothes, a ritual he began years ago. He couldn’t remember when exactly or why he started the habit, but he liked the feeling of nakedness. He plopped on the bed, picked up his special birthday gift, and began to read. Each poem held a different meaning for him. He dozed off remembering her words, ‘I bought this especially for you.’ He switched on the television news as soon as he woke. Still naked, he went to the kitchen to microwave his dinner. His attention was diverted to something the news anchor was reporting. He dashed into the living room and turned up the volume. On the screen was a picture of the Tropicana Baseball Dome. A reporter was describing the grisly find near the remote parking lot . . . “that of an unidentified body. Police are giving little information except to say it appears to be a homicide.” “NOT A HOMICIDE, YOU IMBECILE!” he shouted at the television. “THE BALANCE OF JUSTICE!” The report reminded him of the bloody tire iron in the trunk of the Toyota. After he ate, he went to the garage to clean the Karmic tool and returned it to its compartment. Nothing suspicious about a tire iron in a trunk. Pity no one will ever know the sacred significance of this simple tool. No one, that is, except Lenny Chambers.