Randy Tarr steered his turquoise Chevy pickup off the highway, through a fallow field and parked behind a stand of birch by the old Kiminee family property. He clasped an Antonio y Cleopatra cigar smoldering in the ashtray, took a long puff and stubbed it out as he exhaled, filling the cab with smoke. He coughed, grabbed his Winchester 94 from the passenger side, muttered, “I’ll get you sons of bitches,” and existed the truck.
With weapon slung over his shoulder, Randy crept up an overgrown path leading toward the back of the property. Sweat beaded on his face, neck and arms as he made his way to a rosebush hedge that surrounded the backyard where the Kiminee children once played. Usually wild and tangled, the hedge was clipped. “I’ll be damned,” he said. “Little fuckers playin’ fix-up think they can waltz in and take over.”
At a break in the hedge by a garage freshly painted red and sporting a mural of giant ears of corn on one side, Randy entered the yard and slinked across the newly mown lawn to the main house. Not one board creaked as he climbed the stairs and crossed the porch. He tried the door. It was open. He stepped into the kitchen where his stomach growled at the scents of tomato, basil, garlic, oregano and Italian sausage. He stood tall, then made his way on polished oak boards toward drum thumps, guitar licks and howling vocals coming from the front of the house. At the living room doorway, he paused, inhaled marijuana-scented air and listened to voices singing along off key, “Like a rolling stone, like a complete unknown, no direction home.”
He counted to five and burst into the room, rifle drawn. “Where is she?” he demanded.
Two young women on a Persian-style rug, grabbed each other and hid under large pillows. A cat leaped over a couch by the window and crouched against the glass. A long-haired man by the turntable that was playing Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited album held up his hands and said, “Um, where is who?”
Randy lurched forward and pointed the Winchester at the man’s head. “You know who, you useless squatter.”
“Hey now, I’m no squatter. This is my place.”
“Sure, and I’m President Lyndon Johnson.”
“I don’t know who you’re looking for, fella, but—”
“Carly Mae. I’m looking for Carly Mae. What did you do with her?”
“You think we took the Foley girl?” A woman with thick eyeliner above and below each eye peeked out from beneath the pillows.
“I don’t think. I know.” He pointed the rifle at her.
From behind him a timid female voice said, “Uncle Randy? … Uncle Randy, is that you?”
Randy spun around. “Rosalie?” His rifle was three inches from his niece’s chest.
Realizing the intruder was indeed her very own uncle, Rosalie scolded him. “Oh, my God! Put that thing down. It’s not deer hunting season.”
He lowered the weapon. “What’re ya doin’ with a bunch of squatters? I thought Bud raised you better than this. You’re supposed to be babysitting my Cindy. What’s going on?”
A little girl peeked out from a blanket in the corner of the living room. “I’m here, Daddy.”
“What on earth?” Randy’s face and ears reddened as he questioned his niece. “You brought my baby here of all places—to the vermin who took Carly Mae?”
“Vermin? Honestly, Uncle Randy. Sometimes I wonder how we can possibly be related.” She gestured to the man at the turntable. “Meet Willie Holt. He teaches English lit three days a week at Western. His great uncle, Matthew Kiminee of Cahokia, left him this home and all the land around it in his will. The old man never had children of his own. Haven’t you noticed all the nice things Willie’s done already?”
“But Carly Mae—”
“Nobody was here the day she was taken. Everybody was at a music festival all the way down in Carbondale. If you’d bothered to check with Officer Wiggs, who’s already been here asking loads of questions, you wouldn’t have flown off the handle like this.”
“Oh shit.” Randy shoved the rifle into Rosalie’s hands.
She forced it back. “I don’t want this. No guns for me. Nuh uh.”
He ran a hand through his thinning hair then motioned to his daughter. “Cindy, get over here.”
The girl complied. Randy grabbed her hand and said to Rosalie, “You haven’t heard the last of this. Not by a long shot. Wait till I tell your mom and dad what your idea of babysitting is. Bud will go through the roof.” Then he tugged Cindy, sprinting, out of the room, down the hallway, through the kitchen and out the back door. They jumped off the porch. Cindy landed safely. He twisted his ankle when he hit the ground and limped all the way back to his truck.
In the living room, Willie said, “That was wild!” He took a toke of marijuana and passed it to Rosalie.
“Sorry,” she said, inhaling deeply. “I think he meant well.”
This struck her friends as hilarious. They were overcome with belly laughs. When the frivolity died down, Rosalie let out a little chortle, and the room filled with giggles and hoots again. This continued until, finally, Willie said, “Let’s eat.”
They barged down the hall and stampeded into the kitchen, where talk of Randy Tarr’s grand entrance dominated. While they gobbled a spaghetti feast, they exaggerated his bulk, the rumble of his voice, the thunder of his footsteps. In retellings, details were added: the Winchester went off, windows shattered, a chandelier fell from the ceiling, he was wrestled to the ground but regained the upper hand before escaping by breaking through a kitchen wall. By the end of the evening, Randy Tarr was the stuff of Kiminee legend.
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