All Stories, Crime/Mystery/Thriller

Trigger by Doug Hawley

I’m out target shooting in the country when I hear the gravel crunch and somebody yells “Hey asshole, what are you doing?”  Without thinking, I turn and shoot him.  Well, shit, nobody should sneak up on somebody and scare him like that.  Before, I can check him out; somebody comes running up with a handgun and screams “You shot my brother.”  I turn around and shoot him too.  Him carrying the handgun, I figure it is self defense.  The first guy was sort of an accident.

Now that I have to check them out, I find that they are both dead or near dead.  Considering that I don’t really have a good explanation for my near innocent part in all this, I clear out and go home.

I suppose this was a long time coming.  I always had a hair trigger going back to grade school.  Fights every other day, inattention in class, talking back, small fires that never did much.  Mom and dad never cared much; they thought it was standard boy activity.  Can’t say that they were too happy about hitting the dog with his brush or wetting the bed.  Fortunately for me they were more worried about paying the rent and buying whiskey than what I was doing.  The tight ass youth authorities would come around from time to time, but except for a few stints in juvie, I was mostly left alone.  Juvie taught me a few things about petty thievery that I could use later in life.

I dropped out of high school my sophomore year after knocking up a cheerleader, I don’t remember her name or what happened to her.  By then I was drinking and smoking pot.  I got lucky and got a job at the local mill.  I was underage, but it was a small town and nobody checked.  Made good money.  Nobody checked ID at the bars, which is a good thing, because that is where I found the babes on the lookout for bad boys, of which I was about the baddest.  I lot of them were married to boring guys.  They told their husbands that they were out with the girls.  Kinda like the Eagles “Lying Eyes”, except I wasn’t a rich guy.  By this time, I always wore rubbers to keep from making the same mistake I made with the cheerleader.

We had a lot of fights in the bar parking lot, but it was all fists and knees.  None of us knew any martial arts (but I thought I was always good at unmarried marital arts).  My method was just to hit or kick the other guy first while he was still thinking of what to do.  I not only won most of the fights; I regularly went home with the other guy’s girl.  None of us thought too much of it, it was just what we did and our parents before us did.  In fact, I’m the result of a fight in which my daddy won my mother.  I suppose that I am a son of a bitch.  Anyhow, you can see how I ended up as I did.

Unlike the city, out here in the country guns are mostly used for hunting animals rather than killing people.  Just about everybody has at least one shotgun for birds, a rifle for deer and a handgun for pests like rabbits and porcupines.  Nobody has any expensive gear, it’s all for practical use.  No need to hit anything at a l,000 yards.  Mostly we poach or hunt out of season.  We shoot from the road, we spotlight deer, all that illegal stuff, but nobody cares, and we got no law enforcement to speak of.

So it was unusual for me to be out target shooting that day I shot a couple of guys.  I don’t know if I was on somebody’s property or if it was government property.  I didn’t care.   At that time, I was pissed off about the gal that I took back to my apartment last night who turned out to be a guy and I just wanted to blow some holes in something.  Maybe I was a little too drunk to check out what I was taking home.  Anyhow after beating the crap out of him and pushing her/him down a flight of stairs, I was justifiably in a bad mood.  Fortunately, he was too ashamed to complain.  I suppose that you could blame the dead guys for bad timing.

Back at my apartment, I start to think if I could get in any trouble.  Since I didn’t know either of those guys, I don’t think anybody could accuse me of having a motive to kill them.  I didn’t steal anything from them that could connect me to them.  Now that I’m home, I wonder why I didn’t see what was in their wallets.  I wouldn’t have taken any credit cards, but I could have taken cash money.  There would not have been any way to trace that.

I watch Perry Mason reruns every night at 8pm on independent channel 26, so I have a pretty good how the “real” murderer (never his client) is caught.  I already know that I have no motive.  How about opportunity?  Is there some way that I can explain the time that I was shooting that nobody can check?  Did anyone see me leave my apartment?  I’d better not claim to have been in my apartment all day.  After I left town, I didn’t see anyone or any cars.  I think that most of the sinners were in church.  So I could have been swimming at the lake in the opposite direction.  Not much any way to check on that.  Weapon?  Well I bought the pistol from some shady character in the Big City, so it is unlikely that it could be connected to me, but just in case maybe I’d better bury it.  Can’t remember anybody seeing me with it, because I mostly use my shotgun or rifle for hunting.  Would my record make me a suspect?  Naw, I don’t have any felony convictions and most of the guys my age around here are hell raisers.

The newspapers the next day covered the deaths.  I find out that the brothers were a couple of rich bastards that lived in the Big City and just visited their property from time to time to see if they could hassle trespassers.  Sometimes they came out to hunt and fish.  My good luck, the bastards had called the cops on a bunch of guys that they had caught trespassing, so the cops had a bunch of people with possible revenge motives to check on.   So far, so fine.

My life continued as if nothing happened.  That night I picked up a local slush Jen – local term for a slut who is a lush.  Seemed like everything was fine at the time.  I even let her stay overnight, which was way magnanimous of me.  But here is the bad part – she woke me up around midnight asking me why I was talking in my sleep about killing.  I said it was just a nightmare and she went back to sleep, but I couldn’t.  What if she blabbed to someone else?  She was known to kiss and tell to her fellow slushes.  I started to sweat.  What did I have to do to be sure she would not talk?

While she went back to sleep, I wracked my brain about what to do.  If I asked her not to repeat what she heard, she would repeat what she heard.  If I didn’t ask her not to repeat what she heard, she would repeat what she heard.  Maybe a few more drinks would cloud her mind.  Clearly, I did know her and if she were murdered, I would be a suspect.

After pacing the floor for an hour, mumbling to myself, a gamble occurred to me.  What if I doubled down on the drinks?  She was known to be a reckless driver and was even worse when she was drunk.  She had to drive past a 200 foot drop off on her way home.  Wait a minute.  What if she had a flat as well?  While she was still sleeping, I went out and put a nail part way into her tire.  From Perry Mason class, I knew that a cut brake line would be suspicious.  OK, drinks plus flat tire and hope for the best.  It wasn’t like I was killing her, it was up to fate.  If she survived, I would just hope that she forgot about my sleep talking, or I could talk my way out of it.  Like I told her, I was just having a nightmare.

Next morning, I offered her a few stiff drinks and she went for it.

Next day after work, the sheriff comes by.  I was ready.  He asks, “Did Jen Hudson stay with you last night”.  I say “Ye-s-s-s”, hoping for the best and responding like someone who expected bad news.  Sheriff “I’m sorry to say that she died in an accident last night.  She went over Shelly’s Cliff at 60 miles an hour.  The accident is under investigation but knowing Jen as we all do I expect that she was stone drunk.  We know that she drank at the bar, did she have anything here?”  I was ready for that.  “She helped herself to several shooters.  I tried to stop her, but she just grabbed the bottle.”

At this point a guilty party would claim that he was so shaken by Jen’s death.  I knew how phony that would sound, so instead I said, “You know I’ll miss her, she was a good time girl, but the way she lived we all knew she wouldn’t last too long.”  As nearly as I could tell from the sheriff’s reaction, I hit all the right notes.

Over the next month or so, I did not hear anything new about the double killing or Jen’s “accident”.  All clear.

One night at the bar I notice a real babe checking me out.  She definitely did not appear to be any local talent – way too classy.  She came over and asked if I’d buy her a drink.  Duh on that.  Later at my place, while Joyce and I are having more drinks, she asks me if I recognize her.  Absolutely not.  Then she drops the bombshell “I’m Jen’s sister.”  I call bull, because she looks nothing like Jen – Joyce is 6 inches taller and weighs 20 pounds less.  She replies, “Well not exactly sister, I’m her half sister.  Our mother left her father and got herself a real trophy in my father after she moved to Portland.  He is rich, tall and good looking, and the opposite of Jen’s father.  How mom pulled that off, I’ll never know, because my mother is no prize.  Maybe she got him to knock her up, and he did the right thing by her.  Anyway, it turned out well for me.”

Joyce said “You’re probably wondering about why I picked you up tonight.  Jen called me after she left your house before she started driving that morning.  She told me you had been acting very suspicious while you thought she was asleep, and if anything happened to her, you were to blame. Obviously, she didn’t think it would happen so soon.  I don’t know how you did it, but I don’t think the accident was an ‘accident’.”

I then tell Joyce that she is just crazy, none of this makes any sense.  She gives me a strange look and says “If you are right, then I should not have poisoned your drink.  You have about an hour to live.”

If I’m going, she’s going first.  I grab a knife out of the drawer, she yells “Wait, wait, wait”, but by then I’m cutting her ten different ways.

I call an ambulance.  The driver can’t help but notice Joyce bleeding on the floor, so he takes both of us.

Hours later, I’m still alive and have no ill effects.  Maybe the hospital had an antidote.

The sheriff checks in later.  I tell him that Joyce had poisoned me and wanted to kill me.  I was just defending myself.  Sheriff says “That might work except you were never poisoned.  By the way, Joyce said before she died that you killed her sister.”

I go to trial for Joyce’s murder.  They don’t try to get me for Jen, no point in two murder charges.  I get some half-assed public defender.  Because we are in Oregon, there is no chance I’ll ever be executed, even if I ask, thanks to the too moral for execution many-divorced governor.  We try insanity, low IQ, bad parenting, whatever, but nothing works.  Unfortunately, I’m white, partially educated, somewhat normal, so no sympathy.

The prosecution has a little trouble explaining why I claimed to be poisoned.  Their theory is that out of desperation, I would try to poison myself at the hospital to claim self defense.  They said that I killed Joyce to cover up Jen’s murder.  I got life.

I think that a fair-minded person would see that all of my so-called murders were either accidents or self defense.  Anyway, everybody that died, with the possible exception of Joyce, deserved it.  I’ve been trying to figure why she said she had poisoned me.  Did she hope for a death bed confession?  She had a tape on her, which she didn’t have a chance to turn on, so maybe that was it.  Boy, did she screw up, and she wasn’t the only one.

James Farnsworth

Editor’s Note – We think that this story in our ‘Caged Pages – Lifers Write’ anthology is a deluded attempt to gain sympathy or more likely a way to buy a better life in prison from his proceeds from the story.


Doug Hawley

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9 thoughts on “Trigger by Doug Hawley”

  1. Two things, one I hope is obvious and one is not:

    This is fiction.
    I should have properly credited that this first appeared in Fiction On The Web


      1. Thanks – Given the number of publications that have died or are dying, I’m spending more time getting old stuff published than writing new stuff. Not that FOTW is dying, but at this point I’d like to have stories two places for security.


    1. Holy Moliere – You are a neighbor and a Literature guy too. Good to hear from you. I’d be at Portland writing things, but they told me to stay away. I did note that the Pacific Northwest was over represented in The Best Of Fiction On The Web. Maybe there are writers here. Despite the name of this fine journal, I’ve never committed a literature, but I have written stories.


  2. Hi Doug,
    This was a brilliant character driven story. The voice was flawless throughout.
    I really enjoyed this!!
    Oh and just to let you know, I reckon the day that this was published, the site had around three hundred hits which is the best this month.
    All the very best my friend.


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