“Don’t move or I’ll blow your fucking head off.”
The voice was calm. It emitted absolute authority.
Mark DePonce woke his wife, Cheryl. As she came to, she saw the four armed men in masks standing in a semi-circle around her bed and she screamed. Mark put his hand over his wife’s mouth.
“We just do what they say, honey,” he assured her, as her eyes grew wide with terror and she thrashed against her husband as he held her still.
“Yeah, this bitch would do well to listen to you.” Only the leader spoke.
“I will not have you speak like that in my home–“. He was trying to be a toughguy, but the sawed-off shotgun to his temple put an end to that act.
Mark DePonce shut up and urinated all over himself and his wife, but neither seemed to notice.
The four men motioned for them to walk downstairs to the living room where two more men were waiting with the three DePonce children.
“Daddy, what’s going on?” asked the middle child, Jessica.
“It’s gonna be OK, baby. Just be quiet and do what these men say, OK?” She nodded.
Jessica held on to her little sister, Megan, who was only six. Their older brother, Matthew, had his arms around both of them. He was protecting his little sisters and his father swelled up with pride until he noticed the lack of urine on his son’s underwear, which stood in stark contrast to his own soaked pajamas. His pride was quickly replaced with shame.
Mark’s mind was going a mile a minute. He looked for any sort of blunt instrument he could use to turn the tables. Not finding any, he reminded himself he was no Steven Seagal. No, it was best to play along, do whatever they said.
The family stood there for a moment, not sure what was coming.
After what seemed like a whole lifetime of waiting, the leader produced a 9mm handgun and issued a command to Mark: “Choose.”
The children looked to their father, confused. He couldn’t look back at them, though. He knew all too well what the man in the mask was asking him to do.
“I can’t… I can’t do it,” he pleaded in a tone of desperation that sent shivers up the spines of his wife and children. This was their father, their husband, their protector. He sounded like a scared, little child.
“Fine. Then I shoot them all. All but you,” said the voice.
“You bastard!” Mark grew a sack and lunged at the leader. It was futile. Two others grabbed him and a third hit him on the back of the head with the butt of his shotgun.
Mark felt his face against the cold floor, the knee of one of the men on his back. The face of the leader loomed large above him.
“You fucking coward,” he said with disgust, “you wanted us to shoot you. You go out the hero and you don’t have to make the decision.”
As he said it, Mark realized the man was right.
“Pick this piece of shit up,” he commanded.
The others roughly pulled Mark to his feet. His wife and children were crying now.
“Listen up, buddy boy, no matter what you choose, someone’s gonna die. And it ain’t gonna be you. You’ll live a long life, grow old and have to think about this choice you’re going to make for a long time. I’ll see to that.”
Mark hung his head. How could anyone make such a decision?
“I can’t,” he whispered.
“Fine, they all die.” The man raised his gun to Matthew’s head.
“Daddy?” he sobbed.
“No!” Mark yelled, “I’ll do it.”
“Good,” said the man.
“Cheryl, I’m sorry,” Mark said through his tears.
Cheryl felt immediate betrayal. This was her soulmate, the man she loved. But in the seconds that followed, she realized she would have done the same, to protect the children.
“I love you,” she mouthed to him.
“Wrong,” said the man in the mask. “You choose one of them.” He motioned towards the kids.
“Goddamit!” Mark cried out, “Have some fucking mercy, they’re children for Christ’s sake!” The kids crying got louder.
“5…” the leader counted down.
“No, I won’t,” insisted Mark.
“4… 3…” Continued the voice behind the mask.
“2…” He cocked his gun.
“1…” He again raised his gun to Matthew’s head.
“Wait! Fine! It’s Megan! Shoot Megan!” screamed Mark DePonce, motioning towards his youngest daughter.
“What?!” came the words, so primal and frenzied from Cheryl DePonce as she struggled in vain to protect her youngest and most-treasured daughter. “Why not Matthew?” she asked, not realizing what she was saying.
Matthew looked up at his mother, who was so quick to feed him to the wolves, but before he could say anything, the man in the mask cut him off.
“It’s done. You made your choice.” He strode over to the little girl, held the barrel of his handgun against her forehead and squeezed the trigger.
They all stood there. Not sure what had happened. There comes an acceptance in the last few moments of your life. An acceptance of the finality of things. And this finality had been disturbed.
“What the–” asked Mark, speaking for the group.
The man in the mask knelt down by the littlest girl and did something odd: he hugged her.
He flung his arms around her neck tenderly and held her head against his face and whispered in her ear as she sobbed.
“It’s going to be OK, none of you are going to die. But you must always remember: they picked you. They love you the least.”
And with that, they were off. The family remained standing there, in a trance, wondering what the fuck had just happened.
Outside in the van, the leader took off his mask. As the guys congratulated themselves on a job well done, he called someone on his cell phone.
“Hello?” asked the voice, groggy with sleep.
“It’s done,” the man said.
“Chad?” I asked.
“I did it, buddy,” he said with pride.
“Oh God, what did you do this time?” My mind began to wander the universe of terrible possibilities.
“I got even with that no-good son-of-a-bitch who stole your presidency!”
Albert Johnson of 1629 Bluebird Lane had ran against me in the election for leader of our town’s Harvey Danger Fan Club. Things had gotten pretty heated and it seemed like someone had been spreading rumors about me and my past involvement with a loose association of people who traded tapes of Dave Matthews shows. Chances are it wasn’t even Albert, but one of his supporters who was behind it.
Anyway, like I said, Albert lived at 1629 Bluebird Lane, right next to Mark DePonce and his family, who lived at 1633 Bluebird Lane. When my “good buddy”, Chad Robuckle, heard about my loss in the election for presidency of the Harvey Danger Fan Club, he took it upon himself to “fix things”, concocting this elaborate revenge scheme on Albert and his family.
Of course, after months of planning, it never occured to Chad to make sure he entered the correct house and hatch this scheme on the right guy and not some innocent bystander whose wife was now filing for divorce and custody of two of her three children.
But hey, that’s Chad for ya.