Cain . . . By David M. Humphrey, 1998 ã
“Are you crazy!! Give me tha gun!”
He took a step toward me looking for all the world like some kind of mad man. And repeated, louder,
“I said give me the gun Robert!”
I was scared to death, so I pulled the gun and pointed it at him to make him back away from me. Instead, before I could think, like lightening, he jerked me to him by my collar until the barrel was between us and right up against his chest!
So close I could feel his breath on my face he said,
“Don’t you know who I am?? Haven’t you been listening to a thing that I said!! Robert, your life is at stake here! Listen to me!! Look around you,” he said with the sweep of one hand as the other still held me fast. I grabbed the hand with my free hand in an effort to break his grip.
It was like grabbing a steel vise.
“Look at the plants!”, he screamed again and again, “Look at the plants!”
Frustrated and struggling I screamed back,
“I see them! I see them, they’re all dead Cain, so what!”
“Now do you know who I am? Doesn’t that tell you who I am!”
“Yeah, Cain, it tells me that you’re crazy, that’s who you are! Now let me go, I’m leaving, I’m getting out of here let go of me!”
“Crazy am I!! C’mere!!!”
They say you should never call a man who’s crazy, crazy to his face, and they’re right. Say, officer these cuffs are hurting my wrists can we just loosen them a bit? I’ve promised you that I‘ll tell you everything and I will. I mean it’s not like I can run anywhere, we’re in the middle of an LA police station, I mean like, where can I run if I wanted too? Ahh, that’s better, thanks, yeah, that’s enough.
Say, one of you guys wouldn’t have a cigarette on you, would you? Sorry. It’s a bad habit I picked up from Cain.
Thanks, yeah, mmmm, that’s good. No, my hands always shake like this when I tell this story. I told it to the assistant DA this morning, but I could tell…that he didn’t believe me either.
Well, anyway, when I said I was leaving he got really angry, furious!
“ You think this is some sort of game, don’t you!” he said,
“No, I don’t, I.., just let go of me Cain. I don’t want to hurt you!”
After all, I was the one with the gun, I said to myself.
“Hurt?” he shouted. “Hurt me?? You still don’t get it do you, you little young fool! I’m Cain, and I’m trying to save your miserable life !!”
Then he slapped me, hard across the mouth. I felt but never saw it coming—he moved so fast. It cracked out loud like a rifle shot. The second one was as hard and as loud as the first. It was unexpected, and hurt and angered me. So, I-I shot him, in the chest, point blank range. It was out of anger more than anything else. I didn’t mean to do it! But--but no one’s ever struck me like that before.
A wisp of smoke from the barrel rose upward from between us like a offering to God. He slowly looked down at his chest and his sweater where the bullet hole was and another wisp of smoke rose to heaven. I was terrified.
I had killed the man.
I kept expecting him to fall but—But, he didn’t! I was scared but then whent beyond scared when he looked back up at me and a said smirking,
“You still don’t know who I am—Do you…” I almost fainted as he knocked the gun out of my hand, and feeling no ill affects, dragged me out the back door by my shirt collar down the back steps to the side of the house and up under the stairs and--no. No! I’m not lying! Why would I lie! No! No, I’m not lying to aviod a double murder charge. What happened, happened. And that’s all there is to it. I’m telling you exactly the way it happened. I didn’t believe it either at first, but that’s the way it happened! Now do you guys want to here this or not! If not fine, take me back to my holding cell—now.
Alright, alright, but if your partner interrupts me again I’m leaving.
Yeah, well, accepted, but he’s the one who needs to be apologizing, not you. I’ve got 25 years to serve and I don’t need any cheap, stogie smoking, two bit detective telling me I’m lying. You came to me for help trying to find this guy, remember?
Alright, alright, now where did I leave off?
Yeah, so anyway he drug me down the steps, and—What? No. There was no sign of blood. You’d think I’d missed or something, but no-I-didn’t! I couldn’t explain it, I was in shock. I tried to resist, but after seeing that, frankly all the fight was gone out of me.
He kept saying as he dragged me down the steps and then up under the wooden stairs,
“Where do you think all those dead plants came from?? Do you think I went out and bought them like that!! Don’t you know who I am yet?”
“You’re crazy!!”, I managed to gasp out with his choke hold on my throat.
“Crazy am I !! C’mere!!”
My strength returned and I started fighting in earnest then, because under those dark stairs I knew for sure he was gonna kill me, but he dragged me like I was of no consequence and like I was a rag doll. He then fell to his knees and drew me down with him and pulled my face down by his powerful grip on my collar. Inches from the dirt I choked. The land lady had just fertilized the soil.
Then, he looked at me like an insane man and said “Look!”
I struggled to free myself of his grip.
He tightened hold till it seemed I would lose consciousness, then screamed,
So I watched as he drove his left fist like a pile driver past my head and into the rich soil beside my face.
It penetrated the ground up to his elbow..
Immediatley he ripped out a chunk of earth.
For a moment, he was deathly still. His eyes penetrating the wounded ground almost as fiercely as his fist had.
Then, the most horrifying thing I’ve ever witnessed occured. The ground turned dry and a crusty gray, and then this red stuff bubbled up out the ground. It splashed on me. It felt --felt warm.
Inspite of myself, I touched it, rubbed it between my fingers and then I realized--
My God! It was blood!
Blood bubbled up from the hole, like thick oil from a dying well.
Horrified, I flung myself backwards to the earth and fell on my hands, and this time, not even he could stop me.
“Is..is there a body underneath?” I said.
“A body?” He looked at me briefly and laughed, then buried his face in his hands and wailed so loud I felt the neighboors must hear.
A body that’s thousands of years old, that God nor the earth herself will let me forget. My brother’s body! My brother! He sobbed, “My BROTHER!! Do you understand now! Do you believe me now!”
Gingerly I asked,
“Who are you??” I said incredously, “And who is your brother?”
He slumped to the ground and sat there oblivious to this, thick gathering of blood which now began to touch and caress his boots.
“My brother’s name was Abel, and I, I am his brother and his murderer. I, am Cain….”
Breath felt as if it had been kicked from my chest.
“No,” I said, “You’re lying, that—that was a fantasy. A, a lie, a myth!”
He simply looked at me with deep guilt ridden eyes, the kind of odd, sorrow filled eyes, filled with years beyond years of anguish and said to me as he pointed to the congealing blood,
“Does this look like a myth to you…”
What? Ofcourse I didn’t believe him… At first, but I kept looking at the growing pool of blood and then all the other little things, odd things, strange things, about him, and some how they all began to make sense now…
Why he always wore shoes. Never let his feet ever touch the ground. Even on the beach. Never wore sandals or open shoes. Always acting afraid of letting bare earth touch his skin. He loved plants, his apartment littered with them, never took off his gloves around them. Watered, fertilized and nurtured them, like a real expert, but they died anyway, by the dozens. Yet every weekend, he still tried, going out and buying fresh ones, new ones. He must’ve spent hundreds of dollars on those stupid plants. And now I understood why. I remembered that in Sunday School they had taught us that Cain was a ‘tiller of the ground’ before he murdered his…
Cain had saved my life by foiling a robbery that was actually a thinly veiled attempt on my life. I’d inherited a number of businesses and millions in cash and stocks from my mother when she passed. A widow, I was the son of her old age before my father died. Frankly, they had spoiled me rotten, gave me everything I’d ever asked for. After my mom died, I took the millions she left me and squandered it all.
Makes me sick to my stomach to think of it now. Millions. Down the drain. Gambling, horses, women, drugs, cars, boats, planes, safaris, hangliding, traveling around the world. You name it, I did it. Or had atleast two of them in the garage.
In addition I made a few bad investments here and there and it’s amazing how fast money can disappear.
Crest Computers LTD. was the best business investment I ever made. A young and dynamic company, it grew by leaps and bounds for several years, but then, by our fifth year in the business, our stock went from $165.00 bucks a share down to $15.00 bucks a share.
We couldn’t give away our stock. People started jumping ship for jobs at other companies. But this was all I had left, so I couldn’t leave. It was all I had. I saw our only way out as being goverment contracts. We started bidding then on the biggest government defense contract to come down the pike.
Enter Cardigan Investors.
Cardigan Investors was the flag ship for the most feared and ruthless corporate raider this side of the east coast. He was particularly fond for some reason of hostile take overs. The president and CEO of the company had a reputation for buying up old and young companies a like, chewing them up, and spewing out the remnants and selling them off for their assests, piece by piece.
He bought up all of our competitors and chopped them up, sold them off and surplused all the employees.
All of his companies, that is, but one—our chief conpetitor.
Our chief competitor he left intact, and used it to bid against us on the government contract. We had it sowed up until they purposely under cut us—at a 2 million dollar loss I might add to their own company.
All to get back at me.
You see, the CEO and president of Cardigan Investors was my older brother William Cardigan...
Still angry after seven years, that I had received the massive bulk of the inheritance when our Mom died, he was left with only a then run down nearly backrupt investment company, which he later turned into the mega giant it is today.
What’s the stock running at, $200.00 dollars a share now days?
Yeah I know, lock down’s in a few minutes. I’m almost done.
Anyway, Cain saved my life and I befriended him. He seemed to know things about me that no one else knew.
I felt I owed him. He’d just kept my brother from becoming $10 million dollars richer. Yeah, mom, before she died took out a policy on me and left my brother the beneficiary. She may aswell as signed my death warrant. He’d always hated me since we were kids.
So anyway Cain and I get ta palin’ around and sure, he’s kinda strange but I like him. He’s an alright guy. But then things start to change. He goes wierd on me telling me that my brother and I ought to patch things up and the like.
I tolerated him, but didn’t saying anything.
Then when I found out we’d lost the contract because William under bid us, I was furious. He and I had just met to patch things up the week before. I had told him how much this contract meant to me. That I had serious gambling debts I had to pay and that this contract would help me stay solvent, pay my debts, avoid bankruptcy and even pay my stock holders, those that had still held on, a dividend. He agreed for a slice of the pie, and I agreed to throw some business his way as a subcontractor.
But then he went behind my back and through a friend of his at the Pentagon had my contract pulled and replaced with his.
I was mad enough to kill him.
And Cain knew it. Hence the gun, the argument and the fight up under the stairs..
But that day under the stairs, Cain told me an incredible story. That he was the original Cain, in the Bible. I called him a demented liar, but he showed me from a small Bible he carried that God cursed Cain for killing his own brother. Cursed him to be a vagabond and wander in the earth. He said that his curse was that he could never die, but was doomed to wander the earth until the end of time viewing the fruits of his actions. Knowing that he was the doorway for violence and murder that had come into the earth.
Every cry of the innocent, ever drop of innocent blood could point it’s accusing finger all the way back in time, to him…
And the thought of it and the reality of it all had been eating him alive for thousands of years…
In the beginning, he said that he was a farmer who had loved the earth, he then handed me his Bible and a blood crusted finger nail pointed to the passage he wanted me to read. God was speaking.
“What hast thou done! The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand; When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.
“And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.
“And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengence shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain,lest any finding him should kill him.. “
“And that mark is,” he said dryly, “Is that I can never die and rest in peace till the end of time. I must wander the earth and see my handy work, forever. Somehow, I feel that if I can save one life. Just one, maybe—maybe there’s hope for me. I have to believe that. Life is too miserable otherwise…”
“So listen to me Robert, don’t end up like me! Full of guilt and misery, seeing my brother’s face haunting me, for the rest of my life! Go to your brother and try to patch things up.”
I sat up on the ground as the blood began to sink back into the earth from whence it came.
“But Cain, he’s ruined my business and my life, and he’s trying to kill me.”
“I’ll go with you,” he said. “I’ll buy time for you, so that the two of you can talk.”
Somehow he convinced me to give it one more try. And we made it past all the armed guards, and Cain was responsible for that. Hmpf, for a guy who’s old as dirt, he sure could fight.
I sure wouldn’t want to tangle with him again.
I walked into William’s office as he, hearing the comotion of Cain with the guards, rose from behind his huge mahogany desk. He wore that blue Armani suit that he liked so much.
On his desk was a gun. His right hand lay near it.
“What do you want,” he said coldly.
“I came to talk William. We need to talk.”
“Listen to him William, or you’ll both regret it! But only one of you will live to regret it!” Came Cain’s voice over my shoulder as he threw a guard over his back like a tired sack of wheat. He slammed the door shut then so William and I would be undisturbed and guarded it from the outside.
“Get out!” He shouted and picked up the gun.
“Get out of my office, and take that horrible ruffian with you.”
“Oh, so if they work for me they’re horrible ruffians, but if they work for you and try to murder people they’re—what, upstanding citizens??”
“I haven’t the foggiest idea of what you’re talking about...”
“You little thief!” He said maliciously.
“Yes, you stole everything that belonged to me,” he said beginning to point the gun at me now,
“Including our mother’s love,” he said coldly, looking down the barrel at me. The weapon never moved and never wavered, a deadly steel finger pointing at my chest, my heart.
“Take one more step Robert, and I’ll kill you where stand. Thanks to your atheletic friend out there bouncing around my guards, I can claim self defense and get away with it. And collect $10,000,000 dollars on you to boot. Humf, it would be almost like a bounty,” he said. And his normally cold and expressionless face broke into a smile.
“Any last requests before I do you in? Humf. Thought not. Say, where did you find that guy anyway. Maybe he’d like to work for me after you’re dead. Be my corroberating witness. What’s his name? Cain, isn’t it?”
The words dripped from his lips like hot venom from a Kingsnake.
I was starting to get a little angry, despite the gun.
“Yes it is, and infact, he’s the reason that I’m here William. Put down the gun and let’s talk.”
“I don’t want to talk, I want to kill you,” he said smiling evily, enjoying the power moment immensely.
That was it.
“Well then do it,” I said disgustedly.
“What.. You think I won’t?” His gripped tightend on the gun.
“Do it William! I came here to talk to you today because that man out there fighting to give us a last chance to act civily and like brothers, believes in you and he believes in me. And he believes that brotherly love is something worth fighting for!
I stalked up to him until the gun barrel was right on my chest. A 9mm, clip fed, 15 shot Baretta.
“And may be I’m crazy, but he’s got me believing it too!” I said, staring him in the eye. The steel pointed finger of the barrel never wavered off my chest for a moment.
I held my breath.
Finally, he tossed the gun on his desk and sat down and propped his feet up on his desk.
Hands behind his head, back turned, he stared out the window over the Mahattan skyline.
“You’ve got exactly 5 minutes, start talking. But it won’t change a thing.”
“William, I..I came here to apologize for my part in our anything but loving realationship. I’m sure this is not what Mom would’ve wanted…”
I talked for several minutes talking about how we should get along, maybe even team up, since we were the only family either one of us had left.
He lit a cuban cigar and returned to staring at the skyline as he blew smoke rings. I poured my heart out to him. I told him that the only thing that mattered to me was my business and that it was all I had and that I would make it work some how, keep it afloat. I told him I’d forget about him stealing my contract. He could have it, our relationship was more important than that. And for a moment I thought I caught a gleam of a tear in his eye from the side... until he slowly swung round, place his cigar in the ash tray and said,
“Times up, Ace. Nice speech. Save it for someone who cares, like your buddy Cain out there.” William reached in his right desk drawer at that moment.
Cain must have sensed something was wrong, because I heard his voice just then calling my name through the thick mahogany doors to William’s office.
William placed a stack of papers on the desk.
“Partnership?” He smirked.
“Robert, I own you. As of 4:00 o’clock this afternoon my lawyers obtained the last bit of stock held by the majority of stockholders for Crest Computers.”
He took my breath away. I couldn’t believe it.
“Took me weeks to do it, but with the company being in such bad shape. Didn’t take me long to over come the objection of a few hold outs.” He smiled broadly.
He’d taken my company. The last thing I had in this world!
“Robert!” Cain’s voice was a faint echo in my head as the room began to spin.
“Money talks”, William smirked.
“Robert! What’s happening?” Cain’s voice grew more desperate, as if he knew something was wrong.
“I own you Robert...” Laughed William.
“I even bought back that second insurance policy you used as collateral for your second bank loan. Ha ha ha ha...”
My blood began to boil.
“Roberrrrt! Don’t do it Robert!” Cain’s voice was rising in pitch, excited, near panic.
“I OWN you, lil’ brother,” William said and turned his back to me and laughed his glee at the New York skyline.
“Robert, No! I’m coming Robert! Robert!! Robert!!! No!!”
I heard his foot steps rushing toward the doors.
“ You’re worth more to me dead than you are alive!”, laughed William as he swung around to face me, and found himself looking down the barrel of his own 9mm baretta.
“I know,” I said and pulled the trigger six times,
“So are you...”
The gun exploded in my hand six times, hitting William four times in the chest, just as I heard Cain’s full weight hit the door behind me, crashing it open. The combined noise rolled around the posh 60th floor of Cardigan Investments like a thunderstorm. I turned to face the door behind me but— there was no one there...
He was gone... Yes, just disappeared, just like that. I guess he… He was disappointed that I hadn’t listened. I let him down...And myself.
So you see, I didn’t kill him! He left of his own accord! I don’t know where he is or where he’s gone. But he is alive. I swear it. I swear everything I’ve told you is the truth!
(Sigh). He was right though. I’ll remember this feeling for the rest of my life...
The hungry north wind chased the tattered scrap of paper down the deserted
street, much like a child does a playful squirrel.
The street, shiny from a brief but intense shower, provided a solemn back drop for thier late night play.
The paper swayed teasingly this way and that until kicked by a black Oxford oblivious to thier cat and mouse game..
The stranger's mind was clouded with thoughts. Thoughts of the huge, overwhelming depths of the world's suffering, agony, misery.
A single tear, like a solitary snow flake fell from his cheek as he realized that he was the cause of that suffering.
He tried for the trillioneth time to pray and again, he couldn't.
In the beginning he'd despised praying. He'd hated it—talking to God.
Then, when it was taken away from him--forever, he realized what a priviledge it had been. So self confident and self assured in those early years…
He turned the corner and slipped into a nook of a doorway out of the chilling rain which began again. He turned up the collar of his light coat. He lit a cigarette that glowed in the wet darkness. He held the cigarette between his forefinger and thumb and looked at it bemused as a thought crossed his mind.
“Those things will kill you” someone had once said to him.
“I wish…” He said half aloud to himself.
“I wish…”, he said again softly, almost prayerfully this time.
Almost as if in a trance he slowly took the cigarette and crushed it out in the palm of his hand..
Afterwards, he held his hand up to the flickering light of a dying street lamp. He turned it over in the light rain carefully. As he knew there would be, there were no marks, scars, nor any indications of a burn. Indeed, no mark of any kind.
He dropped his hand by his side in disgust, lit another cigarette and stalked off into the rain muttering again the heartfelt words..