HONOR THY PARENTS
Prequel to Ghost – The Rick Watkinson Story
Copyright © 2016 Trish Faber & John Coventry
All rights reserved.
Wonder Voice Press
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“I died inside at that moment.
I remember telling myself
‘I am dead inside…I am a ghost’.
A sudden switch flipped, and I literally felt an empty coolness
inside my soul that brought comfort through absence.
It didn’t take long over the next year to die
inside completely and ‘train’ myself not to feel.
I just stayed focused on the pain
and hatred spurned from that day, and reminded myself every time
that something happened that I should have feelings for that I couldn’t…
Soon, I didn’t even have to think about it
– it became completely natural for me to stay ‘shut off’
and not feel anything about anything period.
I knew I hated my father for leaving and betraying us.
I hated God for letting it happen.
I hated the world for being so fucked up and cruel.
I knew the hate was there but I couldn’t feel it.
All that was left was an utter apathy for everything in life.
Thus, Ghost was born.”
Grabbing both his lock blades and Leatherman tool, the boy stuffed a handful of ammunition in his coat pocket before running back upstairs to the entryway. He didn’t look at the carnage. He didn’t feel their pain. He couldn’t. He had nothing left. He was empty, a shell of a person, shattered and spent, just like the used shells that now littered the house he had once called home. The blast of frigid Alaskan air choked his lungs as he flew out the front door and tore down the driveway, his steel-toe boots crunching the hard-packed snow. He hadn’t even thought to grab his gloves or a beanie for his head, and the thin winter jacket was no match for the plummeting November night. It didn’t matter. He couldn’t feel the cold anyway. Adrenalin surged through every ounce of his body, pushing him to run, to get the hell out of there as fast as he could. Man versus man. Man versus nature. Man versus himself. The first battle won, the second battlelooming, and the third battle lingering.
With all trace of realistic reasoning abandoned, Rick squeezed the barrel of the Ruger .22 semi-automatic Long rifle and took off running north up Doggie Avenue. Even in the extreme cold, the barrel still felt slightly warm, still excited from the furious frenzy only moments before. His instincts sent him right on Shebanof Ave and up toward the Upper O’Malley Trail Head. The trail was off the road and shielded by a hill and some wooded shrubs, providing a semblance of cover from the police lights and sirens. The air was quiet for the moment, but he knew they would be coming.
Rick paused at the top of the hill, letting his pounding chest rest a beat. A right would take him into the deeply forested area towards Flattop Mountain and the lakes between Ptarmagin Peaks, where without shelter and supplies, he might escape capture for the time being, but would probably freeze to death in the mountains. A left would steer him back towards Anchorage, out-skirting around the back of Hillside East. He figured it was easier to get lost and hide in a highly populated area, so he took the left and set off down the trail. As the trail traversed the rising topography, Rick had a full view of Hillside, and the web of police cars screaming toward the neighbourhood. He crouched low in the snow and watched the myriad of flashing lights break the blackness of the still November night; all the while, his hands skillfully and mechanically looping his belt through the lock-blade cases and Leatherman pouch. Taking one last look at the commotion below, Rick picked the rifle up from the snowy ground and settled into a jog. He had no idea where he was going or how he was going to get there – he just knew he had to keep moving and stay off the roads.
There had never been a plan, despite what people would say. The day just happened. The pent up anger, hurt, and betrayal exploded, and it was more than his sixteen-year-old mind and heart could take, or even comprehend. Running through the minus ten-degree Fahrenheit wind chill, Rick still hadn’t acknowledged exactly what he had done. He was in full survival mode, operating purely on animalistic instinct and adrenaline, his mind detached, his emotions locked in a windowless box. He kept his hands firmly around the wooden rifle-stock and maintained a good pace, following the trail as it snaked behind the upper-class neighbourhood he had come to loathe.
Keeping to the bike and power-line trails, Rick kept running; a void travelling through time and space, with few thoughts. He concentrated solely on the pounding of his heart, and the burning in his lungs, as the frigid air ripped down his internal passages. He had yet to utter a word, not even to himself, his voice silenced by the shock of his own horrific deeds. He could end it all, right then and there. He had a gun and a pocket full of ammunition. It would be easy to turn the gun on himself. One shot and all the misery of his life would be over. Done. Over. No more problems. It would be that simple. But he’d once made a promise to someone very special, and to break that promise would be a betrayal. And in his short life, Rick had had enough of betrayals. He would not take the easy way out.
He didn’t break stride until he was above the Ski Area and could see the large spot-lights that usually illuminated Hillside Park. At 12:45 in the morning the park was dark. So still. Rick didn’t trust the stillness or the darkness. Staying hidden in the icicle-laden woods, he carefully and quietly made his way past the Ski Office and the Ski Rental building, watching intently for any sign of movement. He couldn’t remember whether the ski hill had dogs, but he knew with certainty they had guns. This was Alaska – everybody had guns. The last thing Rick needed was to have someone report someone ‘sneaking’ around the park. It wouldn’t be too difficult for the police to figure out who was doing the sneaking.
Keeping out of sight, he crept along the west side of the access road until he finally caught a glimpse of Abbott Road. With the thick snow covered evergreens acting as cover, Rick felt somewhat safe from detection, although every set of headlights booming down Abbot Road sent him sprawling to the ground, his hand deftly on the trigger, instinctively ready to defend. The cold meant nothing. The numbness in his brain had spread throughout his entire body. He moved only because his adrenaline pushed, like an out of control train storming wildly through his veins. He had no strength to stop it. He went where it took him. Conscience thought had yet to break free from its locked box. In a stupor and in a fog, he pressed on down the trail.
The snow-covered path led west away from Abbott Road and skirted the outer boundaries of Service High School. Rick somehow felt drawn to the school grounds; maybe since it had been the only place he felt he’d really ever fit in while in Alaska. Familiarity led him from the safety of the woods to the school’s track, which he inexplicably crossed, right out in the open, on route to the parking lot. Elevated some twelve to fifteen inches feet than the track, Rick crept up the slight embankment, keeping his head below the guard rail, re-establishing his cover. Out of nowhere, Trooper Mike Marrs tore around the corner, ripping through the parking lot in his unmarked car. Safe behind the cover of the guard rail, Rick froze, his hand firmly gripping the rifle, his brown eyes never shifting focus from the trooper. Slowly, he raised the rifle to his shoulder and sighted-in the passenger side window with the gun scope. The dark night and the tinted windows blurred any type of distinctive picture. As he led the car in his sights, he processed the circumstances with lightning speed. Did the trooper see him? Had the ski resort reported a disturbance? Where was the trooper headed? Rick continued to watch the car from the gun-sight, as it turned another corner and sped back towards the road. He lowered the gun from his shoulder and lay down on the embankment. He could have fired a shot at the trooper but he didn’t. It was the first rational decision he’d made all night.
Sure that Trooper Marrs was long gone, Rick headed back down towards the northwest corner of the track where a short trail led into his best friend’s neighbourhood. Realizing that walking through a residential area in the middle of the night with a long-rifle in his hand was probably not the best idea, he found a large tree with low-lying branches near the end of the trail, and half buried, half camouflaged the rifle with pine branches, dirt and needles. There was no emotional attachment to the weapon. No feelings of relief that he no longer had to carry around the burden, or a sense of burying his sins along with the gun. His head wasn’t there yet. Burying the gun was practical. Nothing more, nothing less.
Burrowing his freezing hands deep into the pockets of his jacket, he left the cover of the woods and ventured into the Abbott Loop neighbourhood like he done so many times in the last few months while walking his girlfriend home from school. Taking a right on Sahalee Drive, he walked slowly down the road to where it met Meridian. Still without a plan, the teenager was just sticking to what was familiar. He took another right on Jupiter, and thought for a moment about going to see his best friend Kristy, or maybe even stealing a car; but stolen cars get reported quickly, and he decided he was better off under the power of his own two feet. This boy wandering aimlessly through the neighbourhood was not the Rick Watkinson that everyone knew. That Rick was methodical in his actions, someone who always had a well-thought out plan, weighing the pros and cons of his actions. Shock has a funny way of taking control of the senses.
A brief right on Elmore Road brought him to East 84th, where he immediately turned left. It was only about three miles from the high school to Crystal’s house, less if you took the trails and short-cuts, and Rick covered the distance easily. He stood at the back of her house and paused, having no real idea what to do. Normally, he would climb up the side of the house and onto the roof that was level with her second story bedroom window. But after the events of this evening, normal was a distant memory. Did he wake her and tell her what happened? Should he even involve her? He had no idea what even possessed him go to her house in the first place. What was he thinking? Rick stood on the ground and stared at the window. Slowly, he turned and walked away. No point in involving anyone else in his mess of trouble. Besides, he was Ghost – and he would survive alone, or die alone.
Death wouldn’t be far off if he didn’t find some way to get warm. His ice cube toes were dead against the metal of his steel toed boots, his socks long since losing their ability to keep in any warmth. His fingers even worse. He tried to rub his hands together to create any sort of friction, but his fingers barely moved. All the surface capillaries on his hands were constricted, sending the blood coursing away from his skin and extremities, and deeper into his body, trying desperately to protect his vital organs. That’s how hypothermia begins. Rick was already a few stages in. The sweat from his constant jogging had dampened his cotton shirt, and the wetness on his skin was dispelling any extra heat he had in his wiry teenage body. His core temperature dropping fast, he had to find shelter.
The residential side-roads of Crystal’s neighbourhood brought him all the way to the corner of Abbott and Lake Otis Parkway, without seeing a soul. Crossing the intersection would be a challenge. Staying as hidden as possible in the dark, he waited and listened. One car, two cars. Silence. Ignoring the throbbing in his aching feet, he shot off across the road and into the parking lot of the Abbott Loop Community Church. Finding an alcove on the north-east side of the building, he ducked in and leaned against the wall, giving him a reprieve from the biting wind, which was better than nothing. With his adrenaline spent, fatigue quickly overtook his exhausted body, forcing his eyelids closed, and sending him into a deep sleep.
When he awoke two hours later, he hadn’t even remembered falling asleep. The hours of not moving had drained every bit of heat he’d generated from running, and he could no longer feel his toes or his fingers. His whole body felt like it was frozen in his veins – like someone could take an ice chisel and shatter him with a few whacks. But while his body was frozen, his mind had thawed.
“What have I done?”
The images of the previous day came streaming back as if someone had hit the ‘replay’ button on a video. The cafeteria. His father stomping in red faced and pissed. Pulling him out of ROTC, the only place he finally felt he belonged and had a home. Another betrayal. Then home. All the yelling. The fucking yelling between his father and Rosemary. About him. Always about him. His father throwing him out in the Alaskan winter without even money for a ticket back to Oregon. Him choosing HER over him. Again. Just like when he was a ten-year-old boy. He had spent six full years hating his father for destroying his family, abandoning them, and then trying to have some say over his life. He had forfeited that right when he left.
And now six years later, his father was making the same choice again. Rick never wanted to move to Alaska with him. His father had forced that on him ‘for his own good’ – the same line he’d used the day he left. Bastard. Fucking bastard. He had taken him away from everything, ruined his life, and forced him to forge a new one. But none of that mattered to his father. He chose her. The spineless bastard chose her. Again. Rick was confused. He couldn’t understand. And he hated his father for what he had done. Lying there on his bed. Just thinking. Just listening. Wanting it all to stop. For once and for all, wanting the pain to go away. Needing silence.
Then the dam broke. He couldn’t control it, couldn’t even really think or move. The years of hatred, pain, loss, depression, agony, apathy – all bottled up, swept under a rug. All the feelings of betrayal washed over him like glacier water, chilling him to the bone. This was the very reason he had ‘died’ six years ago; a family destroyed, loved ones abandoned, a son betrayed. It was why he had gone Ghost in the first place. He couldn’t take the pain then. It was easier to ‘die’ and act like he didn’t feel at all. Except the pain was still there; buried deep in a box he didn’t even know existed. He had lied to himself about being ‘dead’ to his feelings. The emotions were all still there. Building. Waiting. Every friend he had lost, every defeat, every sorrow, every unfilled desire; he had trained himself as Ghost to feel nothing. None of it mattered. He had talked himself into believing that his emotions didn’t exist. That he couldn’t feel. But there, in that moment, lying on his bed listening to the incessant yelling, absorbing the second betrayal, his mind crazy with emotion, he couldn’t deny the crashing waves of pain and heartache that exploded through his body. He was lost. Broken. Drowning. The tempest inside had completely taken control, and Ghost was replaced by a seething frenzy of feelings and memories.
He dimly remembered hearing the side door to the garage open and close, and the roar of a cold engine coming to life. He was going after her, leaving his crushed and shattered son alone, at a time when he needed the comfort and reassurance of a father; at a time when a son was screaming for an explanation, screaming for even just the slightest hint of love. Rick lay on the bed for another ten minutes or so, overwhelmed by memories and emotions, every minute past, a countdown to that moment when the soul is consumed, and all rational thought or consciousness is abandoned.
He suddenly found himself walking up the stairs and heading to his father and his step-mother’s bedroom. He knew there were three guns in the house; a Ruger .22 Long-rifle, a small .22 Ruger pistol and a .38 caliber pistol. He told himself that he didn’t want anyone to get hurt, scared that if things went too far between his father and Rosemary, they could use the guns on each other – or even him. Finding the long-rifle standing in its usual spot in the corner of the closet, he took it and the small carton of ammunition next to the box that contained the pistol, setting both on the floor. He took the pistol out of the box and removed both clips, checking to make sure there wasn’t a round in the chamber. Removing all the clips and ammunition from the pistol served two purposes. If someone did grab it and try to use it, they couldn’t. Second, if his father realized that it was unloaded, and the clips were missing, it would mean that he had gotten the pistol down, and more than likely had intended to use it on someone that night. Why else would he check?
He searched the closet for the .38 but it was nowhere to be found. Was it in the bathroom? The cupboards built into their bed? The garage? Rick had no idea where the .38 was but he knew if either his father or Rosemary came home and found him walking down the stairs with a rifle, hell would break loose. He ran back down the stairs to his bedroom, hoping that the .38 wasn’t somewhere easily accessible. Without even checking to see if the gun was loaded or a round was chambered, Rick stuffed the long-rifle under the framework of his bed and emptied the box of ammunition in the bottom drawer of his nightstand. Laying back down on his bed, his troubled mind was overwhelmed. He had no idea where he’d be tomorrow. His father had told him to be gone by the morning, but where the hell was he supposed to go? All Rick knew was that Ghost couldn’t save him now. The ‘switch’ had been thrown wide-open and he had no hope of shutting it off like he usually could.
Around 8:30 the ripping of tires up the driveway and into the garage told Rick that his father and step-mother had returned. The minute the car doors slammed shut, the arguing continued.
“What the fuck are they still arguing about,” thought Rick. “He chose her, I have to leave, so what is the fucking problem?”
Still raging on full steam, the intensity of the screaming match hadn’t changed from the moment Rosemary had stormed out the house and into her car a little earlier.
“Just shut the fuck up. Seriously. Shut the fuck up.”
The actual words they were saying didn’t even register with Rick anymore. It was like they were being spoken underwater or the soundtrack had gotten stuck on slow motion. The pressure in his head pounded against his skull, threatening to explode at any moment. The feeling reminded him of looking past the ‘Veil’. There was a fluidity that permeated everything; a blurring of reality where one couldn’t really tell where the world of spirits and demons stopped and the ‘real’ world began. The shadows, the shapes, the vile energy clinging to everything – like swimming through a dark ethereal matter that possessed a restrictive quality but no substance. And now this dark seething matter broiled deep within his core, threatening to suffocate him from the inside out.
It could have been the door slam, it could have been Rosemary’s blaring sobs, it could have been the mention of his name, again – he didn’t know – but somewhere in the midst of all the noise and commotion the spark flew and his psyche exploded. The rage over the betrayal, the infinite sorrow over being cast away, forced back, only to be cast away again, was too much. Dropping to the side of the bed with his head in his hands, he just wanted to grab the rifle and shoot them both. Do anything to just SHUT THEM UP! Instead of reaching for the gun, he reached for his notepad, tore out a sheet and began to write extremely slow and methodically:
To commence at 0100hrs
On overdrive, his chaotic mind was a blur. Writing steps to his plan, all the while imagining what he would do to his father. He didn’t actually see himself murdering them in his vision, nor did he see the aftermath, or freedom, or happiness afterward. It was a self-induced outburst focused on his hatred and the destruction of his father. He was so fucking angry that no punishment or harm could be enough for his old man. He deserved every torture the Nine Hells could give him.
Rick had no idea what he hoped to accomplish by writing the note, except to maybe dispel some of the anger by writing out, instead of acting out his rage. In that moment, the boy didn’t care who lived or died, including himself. Anything would be better than the uncontrollable frenzy of pain that had overcome his entire being. Folding up the note, he slid the paper between the components of his stereo system, set his alarm for one A.M., then lay back down on his bed, staring at the ceiling with grey, empty eyes. He was there, but he wasn’t there. His mind wasn’t right. He felt more like an observer to the experience, neither conscious of his physical actions or the wanderings in his brain – like there was no more room in his head for thoughts, and all he could do was watch.
Then it stopped. The yelling. The only thing that was able to distract his mind, stopped. Had they gone to bed? Was his father banished to the couch for the night? The sudden silence was deadly. Almost unbearable. Without anything else to listen to, the reverberation in his skull amplified, a constant and unending ‘whoomp’, ‘whoomp’, ‘whoomp’ equivalent to slow moving helicopter blades slicing through the air, sending long, painful vibrations racing through his body. Time had ceased to have any meaning; all he could feel was the numbing howl of pent-up emotions screaming in his ears. He tried to breathe, to somehow slow the building rage. He tried to intercept his thoughts with others. He tried to wedge his conscious mind back somewhere into the present. He couldn’t. The crushing weight of his angst was too much for the experience of his sixteen-year-old mind. His head felt heavy. The pressure built. His vision blurred. The pressure built. His muscles tensed. The pressure built. The betrayal. The betrayals. Not again. Never again. Then, like a single steel cable, brittle and taught – he snapped.
At five minutes to twelve, he removed the rifle from under his bed. All rational thought disbanded, Rick could only watch himself go through the motions, powerless to stop the monster that had risen from his teenage soul. Everything had taken on the hue of rust; an orangish blue colour like the reflection of a burning sunset off a crystal clear lake. He had seen that colour before. Fear. Unknown. The night of the betrayal. Quietly, he walked up the stairs. The couch was empty and the guest bedroom door was open. Rick figured they were both together in the master bedroom. With the muzzle of the rifle pointing towards the floor, he approached the door without a sound. He stood there listening for almost a minute. Silence. Slowly and carefully, he turned the door knob. As the door cracked, a soft light spilled out onto the hallway. He had been wrong. His father lay still under the covers on his side of the bed as if he were sleeping, while Rosemary was still sitting up, awake, and reading by a book light. From a far corner of his mind, Rick could hear his brain screaming for him to just turn around and not open the door. Chaos. Anger. Hurt. Betrayal. Jezebel.
Then Rosemary shifted, sensing something was off. She climbed out of bed and took two steps forward. Rick swung the door open, bringing the gleam of the rifle into full view. The metal clicked as he racked the bolt to chamber a round.
“Oh God, Bob!”
Everything happened at once. As Robert Watkinson started to get up from his side of the bed, Rick fired his first shot, center mass through the bed sheet and into his lower abdomen. He hadn’t even raised the rifle to his shoulder yet. Instinct and madness took over. Accustomed to firing his single shot Springfield Star .30-06 hunting rifle, Rick slid back the level of the .22 semi-automatic rifle, spitting out an unfired round on the bedroom floor. His father fell to his knees on the side of the bed. Rick raised the rifle to his shoulder and fired again, aiming point blank from ten feet. His father’s body buckled as the shot hit him in the left shoulder, sending spurts of blood across the bed sheets. Rick ejected another live round from the magazine. Rosemary jumped from her side of the bed, grabbed Bob and flew into the bathroom, slamming the door shut behind them. Rick shifted position to the large wooden dresser standing to the left of the bathroom door. His mind jumped to the .38 pistol. Was it in the bathroom with them? Were they getting ready to fire back? With instinct and survival controlling his every move, Rick fired two rounds blindly through the bathroom door. He couldn’t give him the opportunity to come after them with the .38. He ejected two more live rounds. Out of the nine shells, he had fired four and ejected five to the floor below. Hardly the model of planned efficiency.
Out of ammo, he raced back down the stairs and grabbed the shells from his nightstand. With no acknowledgement from his brain, he quickly reloaded the spent clip. Footsteps creaked the floorboards upstairs. On full ‘op’ mode, Rick crept slowly up the bottom level stairs and listened for movement. By the time he reached the mid-level entryway near the front door, he could hear his father on the telephone in the kitchen.
“I’ve been shot by my son.”
Rick raised the gun between the wooden railing bordering the upstairs level, and locked his half-naked and bleeding father in the crosshairs of the low-powered scope. Forty-five degrees and two inches down to the left of his right ear.
“11481 Doggie Avenue…”
The crack of the shot rang clear to the 911 operator. With the bullet passing right below the bottom of his skull and cutting a tunnel through his cerebellum, Robert Watkinson fell forward from the chair onto the floor, right onto his forehead, almost in the fetal position, curled on top of the phone. A pink ‘puff’ of blood followed the bullet as it exited the other side of his neck. Rick slowly walked up the stairs, stopping at the edge of the kitchen, not four feet from where his father lay. He felt nothing. No sadness, no happiness. No anxiety, no relief. A deep-red pool of blood seeped out from under the body; the quiet disturbed only by the sound of blood trickling to the floor.
Rick turned from the kitchen. He imagined Rosemary hiding behind the door with the .38, ready to blow his brains out. With the rifle cocked and ready, he cautiously made his way back into the bathroom. Curled up in a ball, his step-mother lay shivering. Rick had no way of knowing that his first shot through the bathroom door had hit her square in the chest, piercing her lung, sending her sliding sideways into the bathtub as her chest cavity filled with blood. His second shot through the door went into the porcelain of the toilet bowl, spinning a full revolution before exploding out the side. Rick didn’t even see the blood in the bathtub as he stood over her for just a brief moment. He thought she was just in shock from seeing her step-son kill his father. Her eyes didn’t rise to meet his, her gaze locked straight forward into nothingness. There were no words. He raised the rifle barely two feet from her head and fired, hitting her exactly where he had hit his father mere seconds ago, putting her out of her misery. She’d been through so much like the rest of them, she didn’t need to live through this trauma as well. It was over. Done.
Standing in the alcove of the church building, furious with cold, Rick was in his own shock and disbelief.
“What the fuck have I done?”
His mind ran. He knew he’d been angry at his father for many things but to kill him? And Rosemary? His body recoiled as the weight of the deed crashed down on his heart and his soul. On the run, he’d been too numb to even think of, let alone understand the ramifications of his actions. But no longer in that ‘fight or flight’ mode, with the tempest spent inside his head, rational thought returned. Over the years, he’d wished a lot of harm to his father, but standing in the cold December 1st morning, he just could not fathom what he had actually done.
There were no thoughts of running. Instantly, he knew his life was over. That irreversible line had been crossed.
“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. I need to die.”
For Rick, that was the only acceptable outcome, the only outcome righteous and worthy enough for any thought at all. His life for theirs. He had taken two lives, and now his was forfeit. It was just a matter of how and when. He thought of the rifle buried in the pine branches. It wouldn’t take him long to make it back out to the woods. But he had made a promise and he didn’t want to violate that, not to her. There would be questions. Why did he do it? No, killing himself wouldn’t bring anyone any peace. He needed people to know that it was his fault – that his father hadn’t touched him that night and that he and Rosemary hadn’t needed to die.
He could make them kill him. Engage the police in a shootout and die in the fight. The idea was quickly dismissed. What if his survival instincts kicked back in and he managed to injure or even kill someone else during the melee? As much as he thought he could, he knew he wouldn’t go down without a fight. He just didn’t trust his own mind yet. He’d completely lost control once, what was stopping him from completely losing control again? There had to be a better, non-hostile way.
The death penalty. He could turn himself in and be sentenced to death. If Oregon had the death penalty, then surely a frontier state like Alaska did? It would be poetic justice. He had killed with the gun; he would die by the gun. He would willingly turn himself in. But where? His mind raced. It had to be somewhere public, where the police wouldn’t fire and hurt any innocent bystanders. The Mall? It wasn’t open yet. The airport or the hospital? Both were far away and difficult to reach on foot, especially frozen foot. School. He would go to Service High School. The school was packed at seven thirty in the morning, and there was no way the police would make a scene or cause a confrontation. Besides, he wouldn’t even take the rifle with him. He would just walk into the school counselor’s office and tell her right away that he’d killed his parents last night.
Armed with his first real and cognizant plan of the past eight hours, he set off back into the cold, retracing the path that led him to the church only a couple of hours ago. His pace was deliberate. Not fast enough to be a jog, his frozen legs wouldn’t allow it, but a walk with a purpose. As he stepped back onto Jupiter Drive, his mind shifted to Kristy and how lost he had been without her. To think that she might never see him again, or that he might be executed without so much as a ‘goodbye’ was something he didn’t want either of them to live with.
He slowed his pace as he juggled the idea in his head. Him and Kristy hadn’t been that close the past few months, and hadn’t even really spoken since the mid-September party where she laughed in his face and told him that she didn’t believe he could love her. But Rick knew they’d had a bond, and if anything, he at least wanted to apologize. She made him wear her rings to keep the violence with his father from escalating.
“Don’t you get blood on my rings,” she’d say.
Now, he’d done far worse than get blood on her rings, and after everything they’d been through together, she deserved an apology. He walked up to the front door of her house and knocked.
“Rick?” The middle-aged woman was somewhat surprised. “Come on in. What are you doing here?”
Kristy’s mother Nora had always been an extremely sweet and compassionate woman, and Rick didn’t want to alarm her.
“I was kicked out of the house last night and have been on the streets ever since.”
“What are YOU doing here?” said a sleepy-eyed Kristy on her way down the steps.
“I was kicked out of the house last night and have been on the streets ever since.”
“Oh,” she said softly.
“Well you must be hungry Rick,” said Nora. “I’m just making some pancakes for the kids. There’s lots. Have a glass of orange juice.
Kristy sat across from Rick at the table, and he sensed right away that she knew something else was up. But she wouldn’t press him in front of her mother. They never shared any of their secrets in front of anyone; that was saved for their quiet intimate moments alone.
“You look freezing Rick,” said Kristy. “Take off your boots and let me warm up your feet.”
He did what he was told, and they passed the time with small talk, none of it registering in his mind or memory. He was completely fixated on trying to find the right moment to apologize. But he knew he couldn’t tell her why he was so sorry, especially not in front of her mother.
“You guys ready to go?” said Kristy’s brother holding the car keys.
“We stopping to pick up your girlfriend?” said Kristy.
“Yep. So hurry up.”
Kristy and Rick sat in the back of the car saying nothing. The girlfriend lived back up on the Hillside, and Rick half expected to see cop cars flashing their lights on the way. As they rode back down the hill towards Service Hill High School, Rick felt the desperate urge to hold her hand, to share one last intimate moment. Just as he was about to touch her, he stopped himself. She shouldn’t have to live with that. There was blood on his hands now. How would she feel about holding his hand after she found out about what he’d done? He pulled his hand back, resting it uncomfortably on his knee.
Just then the song on the radio changed, and as Rick listened to the words of the chorus, the sealed box of emotions blew open once again, only this time, there was no anger or rage, just complete sadness and sorrow.
What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Tryin’ to make his way home?
He became caught up in the words. What indeed if God was really one of us? Would he mourn all he had created when he witnessed horrific moments like this? If God could truly understand the desolate sorrow and unending regret in his heart right now, why did he make man so fallible? All the pain inflicted upon each other for the sake of immaturity and misapplied love? Why couldn’t things have been different? And in the quiet of the moment, lost in the words and the memories, Rick had an epiphany. Amidst all that anger, all that hurt, all that bitterness, he should have walked upstairs and given his father a hug instead of a bullet. The thought pierced the very core of his soul, and it took every ounce of his ability to go Ghost at that moment and not sob uncontrollably. He had to keep his composure and not let Kristy see how far he had fallen. He couldn’t, he wouldn’t let things end that way. As the car pulled into the high school parking lot, Rick knew his time was slipping away.
“Kristy, I’m sorry.”
News of the murders had travelled fast and Rick was completely unprepared for the onslaught of questions and distraught faces as he entered the school. The police had worked quickly, questioning at least half of his close friends by the time he’d even made it to school. The Troopers were careful, disclosing only that the Watkinson’s had been murdered, not letting on that Rick was a suspect, only that they were concerned and looking for him.
“Are you okay man?”
“Yeah,” Rick answered. “I don’t know what happened. I got kicked out of the house and have been on the streets all night.”
As soon as Rick saw Crystal with tears streaming down her face, he knew that she suspected what he had done. The police had been to see her hours ago. She knew the sort of violent, volatile relationship he had with his father. He couldn’t bear to acknowledge the truth, not in the central hallway of the school, so he said nothing. Suddenly Rick felt a strong warm hand on the back of his right shoulder.
The ex-Marine leaned in close to his ear. “You’re in a whole lot of trouble son.”
The second he felt the hand on his shoulder, Rick knew it was over; that it was time to come in from the cold. All the chaos and misery in his life had come to an end, and his path to atonement had just begun.
One is supposed to honor thy parents. At least that's what the Bible says. In the prequel to Ghost - The Rick Watkinson Story, "Honor Thy Parents", tells of the fateful night that 16 year old Rick Watkinson picked up a semi-automatic rifle and fatally shot his father and his step-mother. Why did he do it? What was his state of mind that led to his actions? This prequel sets the stage for answers to those questions and more.