A small Laundry business man gets more to launder then the clothes.
Ben Milton slipped the money into his tight denim pocket then handed Old man McAllister a receipt. Then heaving the bulky bundles of laundry one over his shoulder and the other carefully just above the wooden porch surface and quickly down the steps to his old rusty but reliable pick-up truck. McAllister said little, but when he said something, he meant it. An angry man. He had spent most of his life in prison, for all manors of crimes and offenses. Most in town left him to himself. He was once convicted for killing four men after a card game as a young man, two he killed with his just his hands.
“You have them back here, just like you say, tomorrow noon.” he said.
McAllister was just a new customer to Ben so he'd let the rudeness run over his back.
“Don’t you worry yourself none sir. I’ll be on time, and they'll be spotless.”
McAllister didn't answer. Back at his converted garage laundry which shared space with all the junk of the house. Ben began the work by hauling the bags off the truck tossing them against the walls of the garage in piles by customer. This was his last haul of the day and being short a few loads he wanted to end the day early. There were ten machines in his garage. Five were washers he rebuilt and filled with the loads he had put in in the morning and had expected it to be done.
No answer, his heart sank a bit knowing his part-time partner had gone off once again. Pissed off, but resolved. He Put on a pair latex gloves, he just took care of it. And when he had all the dryers going he pulled over to him one of Old man McAllister’s laundry bags and sat a moment taking a solid draw on his smokes. Ah, now to the favorite part. Going through the laundry. You never knew what you could find. And he wanted to see what he might have. Forgotten money, pawn receipts even jewelry which would never find it way back to its owner. He’d seen all kinds of undesirable articles, scum coated lingerie, used depends pads and shit soaked socks with matching underwear. He was truly in the business of cleaning up filth, and he loved it. He pulled up his chair, sat back with six-pack in hand in knowing full well that, he was king, the boss. There was no one making any demands on him. So, when he found the clothes of a child, his world was shaken a bit. A little voice in his head began to say the things he didn't want to hear. He ignored it.
What the hell is this? he said.
McAllister lives alone, doesn’t he?, he thought. But, They were a child’s clothes, a girl, dirty and with blood stains. The little voice inside him grew louder and he began to speak back aloud. He pushed the bag back and that’s when the note fell to the floor. It lie there clearly folded, but he could see the impressions of crude writing though its back. Fixated, with beer in hand, for what seemed like and hour. That voice in his head shouted to him.
Pick it up!
Examining it, the paper seemed soft, like it was damp, or had been in water a bit. Unfolding it, it read, “Help me please, I’m locked in the cellar.” And it ended with what seemed like a name. It was damp, and he instinctively began to rub the ink when he realized the ink was drying blood.
He could just make out the name, Glenda Maitland. He’d never heard of her. That didn’t matter did it? He thought. Then he remembered what McAllister told him when he took the job.
“You can do the Job but remember them clothes there is my business. You just clean’um. You do understand my meaning?”
Ben felt a cold draft slide down his back.
“Oh, hell no! I’m not getting involved. ”
And he quickly began to toss the clothes into the washer. Slamming the lid down and setting the machine. He shouts,
“That’s right. It’s none of my business.”
Looking up and seeing a mirror, he sees himself, and hears a familiar voice, he remembers as his mom's, Truth then speaks,
“You are involved and Benjamin Milton you know it is your business.”
With his finger on the start button, he pauses,
“What are you waiting for Ben my man? In a soft friendly voice, Denial said to him.
“Press it. Who’s to say you didn’t just dump the load into the wash and see nothing?”
She had come to his side, but to convince him denial was what he needed. And Ben agreed.
“That, that’s right, who’s to know?”
Truth, beckoned, “Look at yourself.” You deny me, and I will haunt you with this no matter how dark and deep a hole you climb into. You will never live free of me.”
Ben in a cold sweat, pleaded. “But, he’s going to kill me.”
Truth screams into his heart, “He’s going to kill the child too.”
Denial wipes his brow, “It’s not your child.”
Then, Truth, “But it could be? Some mother out there…”
Then Denial, “Yeah yeah yeah, c’mon, there’s always some mother out there wondering about her lost child.”
And then Truth again, “And there always will be, turning to Ben, if you don’t do your part when the gauntlet falls at you feet.”
Ben with hand at the side of his head cries “Stop, Just stop, both of you.”
Then he silently looks out his garage, down the street and at his neighbor’s homes, their children playing on the street, listening to the sound of the trees in the warm breeze overhead, then in silence looks back to the mirror, smiles at himself as he pulls out his phone and dials, 911.
This story was written for entry into the Writers Cramp 24 hour Competition and has a 1000 word restraint. The story has 999 words. Written by D.S.Ferguson –Ironworker156