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Real Life Tragedy


To the reader:

I recently found myself waiting for a connecting flight at the San Francisco airport and grew tired of watching the parade of people going by so I started looking around for something to occupy my time. Sitting on the seat next to me was an out of town newspaper from somewhere in the upper Midwest, Cleveland, or Chicago, or Milwaukee, or some large city like that, so I picked it up hoping to find a virgin crossword puzzle. But instead, on the back of the third page, tucked away below the fold I found a short article about a police involved shooting that piqued my interest. I read it and noted that the story was so commonplace that it didn't even make the front page. It was a sad and tragic story that left two people dead and a third in critical condition. After reading the article I started wondering about the people. Other than the facts about the shooting victim it said nothing about the cause of this tragedy, the lives that were ruined, or the legacy they left behind.

That's when my writer mind went to work.

When my flight home finally took off I pulled out my laptop and started writing. The story you're about to read is the result.

To start with you need to read the same article I did. Since copyright laws prevent me from printing the original article here, I rewrote it for you to read, changing the names and places to protect the innocent. I wrote it like the reporter did, dry and emotionless. My story follows afterwards telling what might have happened. It will not be dry and emotionless.

Everything in this story is fiction. FICTION! Sure I based it on real events but it in no way reflects what actually happened. I made it all up, but based on the general facts of the case. Besides, this proves that reality is a lot crazier than anything I could ever come up with in my warped little mind.

I want to thank jo for editing.

I also want to thank you for reading. But be warned, this one isn't for the faint of heart. It's a bit violent in places. And sorry, there's no real sex in here either.

Copyright © June 2013 by the author.


The article:

City police: Officers shoot man who pointed gun at them

By Anna Nonymous

City Chronicle Breaking News Team

May 15, 2013

City police officers shot a man after he pointed a gun at them late Friday evening in the picnic area of Lake Eisenhower State Park, according to a police official.

Officers were called to the scene by residents near the park reporting a man carrying a gun walking around the picnic area. Authorities found the suspect sitting on a park bench when they arrived. The man stood and began screaming at the officers when they asked for some identification. He reportedly stood facing the officers holding a handgun at his side. During the confrontation he waved his weapon around and refused to drop it when officers instructed him to do so. When he raised the gun and pointed it at the officers they opened fire striking the victim multiple times.

The man was later identified as Maxwell Bloom, age 36. The police had been on the lookout for Mr. Bloom as a person of interest in a double homicide that was reported in the City Chronicle last week involving Virginia Bloom and Jon Thompson, a prominent local real estate agent.

The victim was taken to a local hospital where he was reported to be in critical condition, according to a hospital spokesperson.

No officers were hurt in the altercation. Both officers have been placed on routine administrative leave pending an investigation into the shooting.

Witnesses told police that the man seemed distraught and had been frightening joggers and bike riders.


The story behind the story:

There was nothing remarkable about Max, just your ordinary working stiff spending 80 hours a week trying to keep his landscaping business from becoming another statistic of the economic downturn. Plants were his life and the business he started with his brother five years before was the culmination of a life-long dream: Bloom and Bloom Landscaping. It wasn't a big company, only six employees beside himself and his brother, but it provided the total income for their two families. But times were tough and Max did the work of three men and his health and family relations paid the price.

In the last year Max seldom had a day off, working as many hours on Saturday and Sunday as he did on any given weekday. Just trying to keep up with his customer's demands made doing anything else but work impossible and trying to keep a positive cash flow so Bloom and Bloom could make the payments on their bank loans was an additional strain. Max kept all of the stress bottled up inside him. Even his brother Ed didn't know what was going on with him.

And the guilt of not being there for his family made his life's work, his passion for anything green, feel like a burden instead of a pleasure.

When Max got home in the evening Virginia always met him with a smile and some warmed up dinner. She knew that her husband was doing everything humanly possible to make his business a success. She loved him for that. She loved him for a lot of things, working hard being just one of them. But the strain was beginning to show on her too. Gone were the dinners out with Max. Gone was any chance for a family vacation. Gone was even alone time in the backyard with a beer. She hadn't even had enough money to buy herself a new dress in the last year. Daily time with her husband dwindled down to a quick late night dinner before watching him fall into bed exhausted. She knew how important Bloom and Bloom was to Max.

Virginia never said a negative word. She could see how much pressure he was under and she went out of her way to not add to it. She even started working part time for a local real estate company to try to help out. Her minimum-wage salary, and the occasional commission when a property sold, just helped keep food on the table with an occasional treat at McDonalds for their daughter. Their daughter Jamie was in kindergarten and the things she needed for school were getting expensive. But Virginia never said a word. She vowed to never let Max know the pressure she was under.

She kept her emotions a prisoner inside her too.

Their relationship suffered from just the sheer exhaustion of the day: Max from doing three jobs at a time and Virginia from trying to scrimp and save for the day-to-day things they needed to exist. Everything in their life was either at bare minimum survival level or just gone completely. The last thing that disappeared was their sex life.

The pressure cooker of their lives was boiling. It was only a matter of time before it exploded.


Springtime was the time for planting and everybody wanted their homes and businesses to be the best in the neighborhood. Bloom and Bloom added another five men to the payroll and still there was more than enough work to go around. But at least Max could now concentrate his efforts in the garage and supply shed and equipment lot. Only a couple times a week did he have to drive out to resolve a problem one of the crews couldn't deal with. Ed spent time drumming up new business and handling clients and doing the accounting and anything to do with the front office. Ed was just as busy as Max.

It was a sunny day in May when the pressure cooker started to rumble.

"Max, there's a phone call in the office for you," Ed's voice boomed over the loudspeaker in the equipment yard.

Max entered the office shed and reached for the phone. "Who is it?" Max asked before pushing the button to connect the call.

"He wouldn't say," Ed said shrugging his shoulders.

Max connected the call and said in his best business voice, "Hello, this is Max Bloom. How can I help you?"

"Hi Max this is George Carlisle," the voice on the line said. "Got a minute?"

"My God George, of course, for you anything. What's up?"

"Listen this may be none of my business, and if it isn't then just tell me to shut up and keep my nose out of things, and I will, but Max there might be a problem here."

"What's going on George? Raccoons make a nest in the garage again? The lawn needs mowing? I know I haven't been home much lately but I can send one of my crews around to take care of whatever needs to be done. I can always count on either you or my other next door neighbor to remind me of something I haven't done around the house. Just tell me what's going on."

"Christ Max, I don't know how to say this. It's kinda' hard..." His voice trailed off to nothing.

"Just spit it out George. I won't be offended."

"Okay Max, here goes. Max for the last few weeks I've been hearing sounds coming from your house during the day. It's not every day but a few times a week. Sounds like screaming. Well, maybe not screaming but yelling at least. I can hear them now. Here, let me put the phone out the window and let you listen."

Max listened to the phone and heard nothing.

"Did you hear that?" George asked after a couple minutes.

"Sorry George, I didn't hear a thing. What did it sound like?"

"Christ Max, I can't repeat what I heard, it's... it's..."

"What George? Spit it out."

"Shit Max, it sounds like you and Virginia going at it in the bedroom. I've heard you two a lot of times in the evenings doing, well you know what you were doing. I never said anything about it because it kinda' reminded me of my Katie and me. Sometimes we would get so carried away we'd forget we had the windows open. The silly smiles we got from the neighbors after a night of..."

"Stop George!"

"Sorry Max. Got to rambling a bit."

"George, tell me exactly what you heard," Max said his voice getting a little higher pitched.

There was a long pause on the phone before George began. "Max I heard a woman scream out 'Fuck me, fuck me, God fuck me hard.' I can't be positive but it sounded like it was coming from your house."

Neither Max nor George said anything for a long time. Ed looked over and saw the strange expression on Max's face and gave him a wave and a questioning look. Max waved at him and turned to face the other way.

"George, do me a favor," Max asked under his breath. "Look in the driveway and see if Virginia's car is there. I'll hold on."

The minute of silence had Max's heart beating so hard he could almost hear it.

Max could hear George taking a breath before speaking. "Max? Her car's there. I don't see any others, just hers. And the noise has stopped."

Max tried to find a reason Virginia would be home in the middle of the day but couldn't find one. The thoughts bouncing around in his head made no sense. He needed to do something but couldn't figure out what. His heart was now beating loud enough for Ed to hear.

Finally George broke into his thoughts. "Max? Max? You still there?"

"Yeah George, I'm here. Listen do me a favor. Keep an eye next door and tell me if anything happens. I'll be there in about 30 minutes. I'm leaving now."

Max didn't even say goodbye. He just put the phone back in the cradle and looked at his brother. "Ed, I've got to go home for a few minutes. I'll call you and let you know when I'll be back. The southern crew's truck is loaded up and waiting for them when they get here. I've gotta' go." And he tore out of the building like his pants were on fire. Ed watched his younger brother's car kicking up gravel from the parking lot as he sped away.

Ed was instantly worried. "Aw shit! Now what's going on?"

Max was home in 20 minutes, breaking every traffic and speed law along the way. Luckily the local police were busy somewhere else. Virginia's car was not in the driveway but George was standing on his front porch waiting for him.

Old George waved and yelled across the fence, "I'm sorry Max. I didn't see her leave. I had to go to the bathroom and when I got back to the window her car was gone. It's been gone about ten minutes now. Sorry."

Max stood there wondering what to do next. Shortly he found himself unlocking the front door and walking inside. The house was quiet except for a swooshing sound coming from the laundry. He walked through the kitchen and into the laundry room and saw that the washing machine was running. Lifting the lid stopped the rhythmic twisting of the drum, he was able to put his hand in the water and pull out what appeared to be one of their bed sheets. He let it drop back into the water and put the lid down. Looking around the kitchen he saw nothing out of place. Everything looked like it was when he left in the morning. There was nothing out of place in the living room when he walked through and he stuck his head in Jamie's room to check there too, but also found nothing. He stopped in front of his bedroom door afraid to walk in. His heart was still beating like a bass drum. His hands were sweating. His head was pounding. After a long minute of paralysis he took a step forward.

The first thing he noticed was the humidity. The room felt musky, almost like someone had left the shower on too long. And there was a definite aroma to it. Max's heart skipped a beat when he realized where he knew that smell from. He remembered the many times he laid with his arms around Virginia after they had just had one of their marathon sessions messing up the sheets. And he remembered the sounds she made when they did it. That confirmed what George heard. Max stumbled around the room looking for anything to tell him what he thought was wrong. Everything looked to be in its place except the bed. It wasn't made. A fresh set of sheets were lying on the bed and the old ones were in the washer. He picked up the clean sheets and saw underneath a circular discoloration on the mattress. A wet spot.

Immediately he dropped to his knees, his chin falling to his chest. All the evidence was there. Everything said what he couldn't believe. His head started pounding to match the bass drum in his chest. Breathing sped up too. His body was out of control. His mind had long since abandoned him.

For the longest time Max knelt on the floor next to his bed and wondered what happened to his life. How long he sat there he didn't know. Something forced him back to reality; a noise, a pounding noise coming from the living room. Slowly he stood and walked down the hall. Through the little window atop the front door he saw a shadow of a figure, the figure making the pounding noise. Whoever it was wasn't knocking, they were pounding on the door with their fist. He took a deep breath and opened the door.

"Jesus H Christ!" Ed said his face all red. "You scared the hell out of me. What's going on? Why'd you tear out of the lot like that?"

Max didn't say anything. He just stared at his brother on the verge of exploding.

"Christ Max you look like shit. Let's go into the kitchen and sit down." Ed guided his brother to the kitchen table and sat him on one side. After pulling a couple beers out of the refrigerator he sat himself in the chair across from Max. "Now talk. What happened?" Ed asked twisting the top off of his bottle.

Max just stared across the table with nothing behind his eyes. His mind wasn't working but he had enough automatic reflexes left to take a pull on his beer. The cold brew going down his throat kick-started his senses and then his mind started working. The sounds in his head were screams, his screams. When his eyes focused on something again it was his brother's face.

Max looked his brother in the eye and lied to him. "Go back to work Ed. There's nothing going on here. Everything's fine."

Ed looked at him and knew he was lying. "Bullshit little brother. I know you and everything's not fine. Now spill."

Max just stared at his brother for the longest time. Then he stood and started walking to the front door. He got in his car and drove away before Ed could catch up to him or say another word. Ed stood in the driveway looking down the street shaking his head. Before he left he cleaned up the kitchen and locked the front door.

Max didn't go back to work. He circled the block and came back in front of his house just as his brother's truck went down the street. Max parked and went over to George's house.

"George I need to ask you a favor," Max said with his head hanging down.

"Anything Max, just name it."

It took a minute for the words to form in Max's mind and when they finally came out they sounded shaky. "George, I want you to keep a close eye on things over at my place and call me if Virginia comes home in the middle of the day again. Don't wait for the screaming, call me when her car shows up. And if there's anybody with her let me know that too."

"I'm sorry Max but I'll do what you ask. What are you going to do?"

Max looked up at his neighbor's face and said, "Frankly I don't know. I guess I'm going to confront her. Other than that I don't know anything."

"Well let me give you some friendly advice," George said putting his hand on Max's shoulder. "Don't do anything stupid. My son was in the same situation you are and did something that landed him in prison for six months. I don't want you to do anything to hurt Virginia or get yourself hurt. Come over here and get me before you do anything, but be calm and think first. Okay?"

Max gave a half-smile to his friend before walking back to his car and driving away.


Five hours later Max pulled up in front of his brother's house. He didn't get out he just sat behind the wheel trying to make the ache in his heart and head go away. It wouldn't. The relentless pounding buried all ability to think rationally. He knew the pain was real but didn't know if it was emotional or physical. But he knew where it came from. Every part of his body emitted some sort of distress signal telling him that his body was on the verge of collapse. And he knew his mind was close too. His stomach was on the verge of erupting. The staccato rat-tat-tat of his heart echoed in the empty car. The rale that was his breathing sounded like the final gasps of a dying man. But at the center of his universe was a soul with a giant hole as big as outer space.

At that moment he would have welcomed death.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Again knocking interrupted him, this time on his passenger side window. Max turned to look and saw Ed's face in the window. Without consciously willing his body to do so, one hand reached down and pressed the 'door unlock' button. Ed scooted in the empty seat and shut the door.

Both men sat in silence.

Ed looked at his brother and saw something he'd never seen before. Max's face was expressionless. Gone was his almost constant smile and gone was the sparkle in his eyes. Whatever turmoil was going on behind his eyes there was no reflection of it on his face. Marble statues showed more emotion than Max.

"Max?" Ed asked in a low voice. "Talk to me brother. What's going on? You got me really worried."

For the longest time Max didn't do anything more than stare out the windshield, he didn't move, he didn't even seem to blink.

"Max, are you there? It's me, Ed. I'm here for you, just please talk to me."

Max's head slowly rotated and he looked straight into his brother's eyes. He still didn't say anything; he just stared with hollow eyes.

"Max, you're scaring me bro, what's wrong?" Ed begged. "Is it Virginia?"

Max's expression changed. In a matter of a second the marble statue expression morphed into one of absolute pain and suffering, then just as quickly back to nothing.

"I... I... I have a problem at home," Max finally said under his breath. "I... I think Virginia's playing around on me."

Now Ed's face took on the expression of horror. "Uh that's bullshit man," Ed finally choked out. "Virginia would no more do that than you would. She loves you just as much as you love her. What makes you think that?"

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byradk© 82 comments/ 82170 views/ 24 favorites

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