tagLoving WivesMad Dog and the Dream Ch. 03

Mad Dog and the Dream Ch. 03

bySirThopas©

Ron Melor wanted to scream.

He'd spent the last eight hours rolling around his lonely bed, tossing and turning in a way Maddy's presence should have made impossible. He was unable to either shut the thoughts of the last few days out of his head or to refine them to the point of isolation. Instead, a constant swirl of images and words flew around his consciousness: Maddy's face as she watched Mark hand him an envelope ostensibly containing photographs, the tired upset in her voice when they talked, the pathetically brief letter she'd left him as she'd run out.

The first hint of smoke wafting from the office building as Andro talked.

The sight of the briefcase, opened, full of nothing more than heavy blue paper.

Two collapsed, bleeding figures in the night, one dead and the other dying.

The gun, warm in his hand.

Now, as the sun rose on Monday, he felt both exhausted and lost. As far as he could tell, the best case scenario was for the police to come and arrest him. Maybe, just maybe, there'd be some hope of survival in prison. Out here, there was none. Once Andro discovered how last night had turned out, he was sure to come for him. Ron had single-handedly started a war that would ruin all of the Mafioso's plans. He'd ended any hope of peaceful coexistence with La Raza, making bloody, expensive conflict a certainty.

But maybe that was okay.

As far as Ron could tell Andro had been willing to risk that possibility in order to get him killed. He'd wanted either to finalize his hold on Maddy or to lead Ron to a poetic end in retribution for Lee's death. But Ron was alive and the war had begun. Or, it would shortly. Whatever had pulled Maddy away from him, and whatever she may now be feeling, Ron also knew that she was lost to him. The blue paper in the briefcase last night had been notice that Andro knew all about his games and was never going to be less than one step ahead of him. How he knew was impossible to guess...Andro seemed to operate with both a keen perception of people around him and a distance from humanity that allowed him to interfere with it without consequence. Still, to know the very contents of the envelope...Ron couldn't figure it out.

With a start, he put his hand to his mouth.

"No," he said to no one. "Please no."

He rushed the phone. His nerves, already burnt and blackened matches, reignited. The possibility he had just realized left his hold on the world full of smoke. It took him three tries to dial the number correctly.

A voice answered, sounding tired. But, even tired, the man was a loud talker. "Hello?" he said.

"Mark, thank god," Ron groaned. "I thought..." he suddenly realized what he was doing, what he was saying, and stopped.

"Ron?" the man sounded concerned. "What did you think?"

"I, uh, I saw a car accident last night, on the interstate. It was pretty bad. I, uh, I couldn't figure why it looked familiar. It just occurred to me that it was the same make and model as yours. I thought you were hurt."

"I'm touched, Ron. But the Ford Taurus is not exactly an uncommon sight."

"Yeah, I...look, honestly, I'm a little embarrassed now. But when I remembered your car, I had picked up and dialed before I realized what I was doing."

"Well, no worries. I love getting up at four in the morning during summer vacation."

"It's seven."

"That's what I said. Four. Oh, hey, how'd that thing with the missus turn out?"

"Hasn't yet." Ron had to fight to keep the sadness out of his voice.

"Are you gonna tell me what it was all about yet?"

"No."

"Then I'm going back to bed. And Ron?"

"Yeah?"

"Next time you think I might be dead...wait until after lunch to confirm. Alright?"

"Yeah. Alright."

He hung up and sighed. At last, Ron had to admit that not only were Andro's methods completely unpredictable, but even his knowledge of the events around him was impossible to gauge. There was no way to understand anything about the man, no way to try and outmaneuver him.

And by admitting that, Ron knew he was admitting that he had no weapon left to fight with.

He leaned against the wall. For a brief second he considered running, grabbing what he could, and fleeing. He could go south, or maybe he could even get away with going north.

Andro's words came back to haunt him yet again. "You get far enough north, the snow takes everything," he'd said. "You reach places that feel like eternity." Something like that.

And then, he'd said, "No matter the conditions, something survives."

Maybe that something could be Ron Melor.

But he knew that running was a futile exercise. And, anyway, he had no stomach for it. He had run once before, and it had led to this moment. He was no longer simply a glorified gopher for drug dealing mob bosses. Now, he was a killer. He had murdered a man last night, or maybe two, all because he had run away from a problem once upon a time.

His mouth moved silently, offering unspoken hope for the life of the man he'd left wounded. The man didn't deserve for his life to be added to the cost of this great mess.

Ron wouldn't run. He had thought he might die yesterday, and he hadn't. Instead, he had been the one to do the killing. If he died today, at least now he knew he deserved it.

But he did wish he could think of something to do besides stand here waiting for it to happen. What had Andro said? "The fear of the moment is worse than the moment."

As if to grant him release, the phone rang. He stared at it. The first blast of electronic beeps went by. Then the second. He licked his lips. The third.

He answered.

"Hello?" he said, his voice suddenly hoarse.

There, in the quiet, he heard a small female sob.

"Maddy?" he asked, voice rising. "Maddy, is that you?"

"Ron." Her voice sounded tired and weak.

"Maddy? What's wrong?" He was almost yelling now. "Maddy?!"

There was silence, aside from some heavy breathing.

"Maddy," he tried again in a calmer voice, "please talk to me. What's wrong? What are you...where are you?"

More silence. "Ron," she whispered.

"What?"

"How could you?"

How could he? How could he what? He fumbled for a response.

And then, before he could find one, the connection was broken.

He stood staring at the phone, hearing the dial tone, holding his breath.

What the hell was that? What was she talking about? What did she think he'd done? Let her walk away? Not fight for her? Accuse her of betraying him?

Lie to her about his past?

Kill a man?

Before he could so much as gather his thoughts, the phone rang again. This time, he grabbed it immediately.

"Maddy?"

"Ron," Andro's voice came down the line. "My good friend Ron." From the slight distortion and the background noise, he was clearly outside and talking on his cell phone. Ron was suddenly sure that Maddy had been on a landline. There'd been almost no noise accompanying her voice, and it had been clearer.

Andro and Maddy, wherever they were, were not together.

"Andro," he snapped. "I'm sick of this shit. You fucking set me up last night, and I know it."

A barked laugh was his response. "Yeah. I like that. Set you up. Is that how teachers say it?"

"That's how I say it," he growled. "That's how I'm saying it right fucking now."

"Sure. Sure. I can't tell you how glad I am to know that I'm done, Ron. I was getting tired of constantly setting you up all the time. It's a full time job. Every time you fall, I've gotta be there to set you back up. I'm glad you're finally starting to get back up on your own."

He fought the urge to scream, to howl down the line that he was fed up with the doublespeak and bullshit. Instead he took a deep, open-mouthed breath, feeling that cool air race across his tongue. "What happens now?" he asked.

"It's hard to read these situations. You know that. But I wouldn't ask, anyway. I mean, who wants to know how it ends before it ends? That ruins the suspense. The worst thing about asking a question like that is getting it answered, I think."

"Is there a chance the LRZ could find me here?"

"Is there a chance that a dead man will speak?"

"So no."

"I'm not as certain as you are," Andro chuckled.

"Andro," Ron said, not even realizing what he was asking until the words had already escaped, "where is my wife?"

"To the best of my knowledge," Andro said quietly, "you don't have one. Rejoice."

"Where is she? Where is Maddy? Goddamn, it, tell me!"

A pause. "What did you dream about last night, Ron?"

"I don't remember. Hell, I'm not even sure I did dream. Now just fucking tell me where she is."

"I am. Think harder. You dreamt. I know you did. Tell me about the dream."

Ron gritted his teeth. "There was no fucking dream!"

"That's not right. You're lying. Not only am I certain that was there a dream, but I'm starting to think that maybe there still is. I'm starting to worry that you've been asleep this whole time, in fact. That's how it appears. Somewhere beyond the rest of us, on another plain, you're just breathing softly into a fat pillow, and we're all just residents of your subconscious. It means we're in danger, Ron. The whole world on the brink of death except Ronald Melor, who is fast asleep. Pity the world, my friend. We're all of us under threat that you might wake up and end us, and we're powerless to stop you. Me, Maddy, Piero...maybe even Larry. I mean, I find that really upsetting. What does happen to us if you wake up, Ron? What happens to the walking, talking remains? Do you just leave us here, to continue on without you? Are we gone forever, forgotten even by the god that gave us life? Do we come with you? These are scary ideas. I'm not sure which is more upsetting, to be honest."

Ron took another calming breath. "I didn't dream last night, and you know I'm awake right now."

"You are? You're sure? There's absolutely no doubt in your mind."

"Yes."

"Then you must be wrong."

"Stop the bullshit and tell me about Maddy. Tell me about my wife."

"I already told you, I am. But not before we talk about the dream."

Ron let out a frustrated growl. "I'm awake, Andro! Understand? I'm awake, and I'm angry."

"Maybe not awake. But you're definitely aware. That much is clear...after all, what better represents awareness than anger?"

Ron opened his mouth to respond, felt a twinge in his chest, and closed his eyes. "Hope," he said softly.

"Hope. That's funny. It's not even close." There was another pause, and Ron imagined Andro taking an amused pull from a cigarette. "I need to see you. Well, maybe 'need' is the wrong word, but 'see' isn't. For some reason, the sound of you just isn't enough." Another pause. "Get something to write with."

Ron eyed the gun, lying where he'd left it on the table, right in front of his wife's empty chair. "Sure thing," he said.

Arriving at the address Andro gave him forty minutes later, Ron pulled up to the curb and stopped. For several minutes, he stared vacantly at the lavish structure in front of him.

It was the kind of house a doctor might own, a broad dried-clay two story house made to hold a family...one that owned more things than they needed. There was a four foot marble structure, the modern domestic American equivalent of Greek art flair, housing the mailbox. Desert shrubbery, a poor excuse for foliage but perfect for decorating dry rock front yards, were spaced like landmines. Ron inspected the scope of the mini-palace. Three car garage, he guessed three bedrooms to match, two story foyer with a chandelier that could be seen through the windows.

So this, he thought, is what a dog's house really looks like.

He reached over and ran his fingers across the cold angular workings of the gun, sitting impassively on the passenger seat.

He couldn't beat Andro. And, even now, he had to admit that he was afraid to die.

He took his hand away. In his heart, contracted and weary though it was, he still felt a thin hope that there was a way through this. He just had to stay alive, and stay aware.

"I'm not dreaming," he said to himself, and he killed the ignition. Climbing out, he locked the doors and looked at the gun through the glare of the windows reflection.

Walking up the front path, he wondered idly just what Andro's place in the business was. Ron had never met or heard of him during his three years as a runner, but the man was clearly high up on the food chain. Not everybody was afforded franchise rights or seven hundred thousand dollar houses.

So just where had this guy come from?

Reaching the front step, Ron took a deep breath and was about to ring the bell when suddenly the door swung open. Andro smiled at him across the threshold. He wore a pair of sweatpants and some leather sandals. His shirtless physique was lean, muscled, and hairless, his skin's natural tone reading like a perfect tan. His eyes flickered over Ron for a moment, and his smile faded.

"You didn't bring my gun," he said flatly.

"I almost did," Ron said it sharply, as a threat.

Andro shook his head. "Almost," he said. Then, he stepped aside and waved his arm, encouraging Ron to come in. "It's an entrance," he said, "I promise."

"What if I don't believe you?"

"You're hardly the best judge, Ron. You never even try." He moved back, clearing the way, and Ron stepped inside.

The entryway was as luxurious looking as the outside had been, with marbled floors and a curved staircase that led up into an unseen second level. Next to the door was a cast iron statue of a barking dog.

Ron looked at it, and grunted a laugh. "I can almost believe that you decorated this place yourself," he said.

"I can almost believe it too," Andro nodded, and looked around as if it were his first time seeing the place as well.

Ron opened his mouth to say more, but was interrupted by a familiar voice wafting down from the upstairs.

"Andro?" a woman called out, sounding equally affectionate and sad. "Did I hear the door?"

Ron felt the muscles in his face slacken, and was aware of himself staring up at the top of the steps, but he experienced it as though far away. His chest squeezed mercilessly against his heart, and that at least felt immediate and real.

Maddy had come to the top of the stairs and looked down, freezing in horror as she saw her husband looking up at her. Her hair was wet and she appeared to be wearing nothing more than a large mens robe. Andro's robe. It had to be; it was ridiculously large on her small frame. She had tied it at the waist, but her inability to fill it out had left it loose and open near the top. When she had first come into view, turned slightly to the side from Ron's vantage point, he had been able to look up and see, through the loose gap, the inside curve of her right breast. As soon as she saw him, she pulled the robe shut and gasped.

He had known, almost without doubt, that this was where she had run to. But the sight of her, here, was something else entirely.

"Ron!" she gasped, wide-eyed, "why are you here?" She turned to Andro, her expression becoming beseeching. "Why is he here?"

Dizzying rage struck at Ron like a blow to the temple, as she silently pleaded with Andro for support. "You bitch," he snapped up at her. "You fucking whore. Was it that easy for you? Did you even shrug your shoulders as you left? Or did you just give up and walk away?" She winced at his words, but something like anger slid across her face, too. Ron continued his attack. "Tell me the truth, Maddy: did you love me at all, or was I some kind of fucking joke to you?"

"What are you talking about, Ron?" she demanded. "Why are you attacking me like this?"

"Look at yourself!" he roared. "Do you think there's any question in my mind as to what you're doing here? Do you think I don't realize that you've been lying, and sneaking around, behind my back?" his voice cracked on the last word, and he lowered his voice. "Do you even know how much I've loved you?" he shook his head as he said it, as if to answer his own question.

Maddy stared at him for a long moment. A flicker of sadness lit across her face, and was gone. "Then why..." her mouth hung open, and for a moment Ron thought she would finish the question, but instead she turned and ran. He heard a door somewhere up on the second level slam.

He turned to Andro, angry adrenaline driving him to attack. He moved forward. "You son of a-"

Andro was fast. Ron hadn't even realized that he was swinging at the tall man until Andro had lazily grabbed the incoming wrist and pulled, used Ron's own initiative to drive him downwards even as he brought his knee up into his sternum. He may have been made of skin and bone, but the blow felt like iron. Ron rolled around on the floor, gasping for breath.

Andro looked down at him. "Why is it so hard?" he asked, his voice almost sympathetic. "Why does it hurt you so much?"

"Fuck you," Ron gasped.

"No," Andro said. "I don't think that's it. I don't think it's because she fucked me. It's because you trusted her. You had to...you had no choice. Love is such a dangerous thing, such a huge gamble, that you have to be prepared to trust the other person. You have to trust them with your life. I mean, that's what you're playing with, right? You have to put so much faith in them that you are incapable of doubt. You have to give them a clean shot and know that they won't take it." He offered Ron a hand, but Ron ignored it and struggled to his feet on his own. "It's not so different for us, Ron. When your business is dangerous, you have to know that the people you work with will always be there for you. You have to trust them." He leaned on the word 'trust,' and looked at Ron expectantly.

Ron glared at him, and didn't speak.

Andro sighed. "Larry trusted you, Ron. My god, he trusted you. And you looked at him there, kneeling and crying in the dirt, and you pulled the trigger."

Ron swallowed. "He trusted you, too." He put his hand to his sternum. His stomach was rolling, threatening to vacate its contents.

"No," Andro shook his head. "He never did. He was too smart for that. How do you suppose Larry felt, Ron, kneeling in the desert and hearing the click as you pulled the trigger on him? How did Lee feel, dying alone in the cold night air, knowing you abandoned him?" Andro raised his eyes sadly to the top step, where Maddy had stood. "Do you think they felt like you do, now? Or was it worse?"

Ron leaned over and threw up on the marble floor.

Andro didn't seem to notice. His gaze was still on the top step, his eyes glazed over. "And poor Maddy," he said. "She's in so much turmoil. Is that how you felt, too, Ron, when you betrayed their trust? Did you feel the way she feels now?" he turned to look at Ron, his expression still one of sympathy. "Or was it, too, worse?"

Ron was struggling for control. His eyes were watering, his stomach rolling. "I didn't have a choice."

"You felt that way, I'm sure. But you were also torn, I think, and that should have been an indication. How can you be torn unless you are aware that you're making a choice?" Andro shook his head. "You felt trapped. Sure. But you knew there was a choice to be made. I wonder, is that how Maddy feels too?"

"She had a choice," Ron snapped. "You can't possibly expect me to believe she's being forced."

"Oh, she's not being forced," Andro admitted. "But neither were you. You both made your own beds." He looked back up the stairs. "And you're going to have to deal with her, now. You know that, don't you Ron? Something like this requires vengeance. It requires catharsis. You can't let a betrayal this thorough pass unnoticed. It's unacceptable."

Ron looked up at the tall man with a pained expression. "I love her."

Andro nodded. "That's what makes it unacceptable."

Ron's jaw clenched. "And what about you?"

A smile. "Oh, I await your judgment, my lord. But try to take one thing at a time. She was your wife, after all."

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