Novels and Short Stories
The Dawkins Murders is a four-part opus that I wrote in high school in the late 1980s!
"Retribution" is Chapter Three.
The gentle drumming of the rain on the dusty window pane hypnotized Joyce Kravitz as she stared out at the dark street. The late March winds were whipping bits of newspaper and used cigarette butts into miniature cyclones on the sidewalk in front of the coffee shop. She glanced at the letter that she had been nervously folding and unfolding since she had sat down in the tiny booth twenty minutes before. Joyce spread the slightly crumpled sheet of gray monogrammed stationery on the smooth surface of the table and reread the lines that she had nearly memorized.
Dear Mrs. Kravitz,
You don’t know me, but we have more in common than you might think. My sister, Susan Duffy, was murdered on the evening of December 22 by a Mr. Gregory Dawkins in the Potomac Mall parking lot. Your husband, Paul Kravitz, was murdered by Patrick Dawkins on the evening of January 23 in the home of your neighbor, Katie Millner, who was also killed that same night. The Dawkins brothers killed Barbara Atkins on January 23 and kidnapped and later murdered Rudy O’Leary on February 24.
Are you beginning to see a pattern? I’ve tried to go to the police for help, but they’ve just brushed it off as a coincidence. Can you believe that? Our only hope is to band together and try to come up with a plan of attack. I would like you to meet me in front of the coffee shop on 26th and Cunningham – Al’s, I think it’s called. Will you do that? Many lives may be in the balance.
Jason P. Duffy
P.S. Be there at 11:30 p.m.
“Could I take that for you, Miss?” Joyce heard the polite voice of the waitress from above her. She looked up into her smiling face, and noticed that she was gesturing at the cold cup of coffee that Joyce had been nursing.
“Oh, thanks a lot,” Joyce said quietly, feeling embarrassed. The waitress’s long strawberry blond hair was pulled into a tight bun. She had a large, slightly crusty black mole on the end of her nose that made her appear cross-eyed. Joyce self-consciously felt the tip of her own petite nose to make sure that nothing was growing on it. The waitress flashed her an indignant stare.
“How much does that come to?” Joyce asked, reaching in her large leather pocketbook for her wallet. She glanced at the waitress’s starched white uniform, complete with a stained light blue apron and a tiny plastic nametag which read: PATTY. It was upside-down.
“This is all the big it’s gonna get, lady. Mind yer own business,” Patty replied sternly.
“No, not your mole. The coffee. How much do I owe you?” Joyce explained, stifling a grin.
“Fifty cents,” she told her, rolling her eyes and cracking her spearmint gum noisily. “Say, you waitin’ for someone or something?”
“Uh, yeah,” Joyce answered, checking the street outside. A battered Plymouth Duster had pulled up and parked by the sidewalk across from the coffee shop. A dark shape was hunched in the front seat. She glanced at her watch and realized that she was ten minutes late.
“Here you go. Thanks. Sorry for the misunderstanding,” Joyce said hurriedly, pushing the coins across the table. She stood up and noticed that she was the only patron left in the room. Al, the owner of the establishment, was wiping off the counters and tables with a wet cloth. He had bulging muscles and a large tattoo and wore a chef’s hat covered with ketchup stains. Joyce pulled on her raincoat and grabbed her purse, and then quickly sprinted out the door. She heard the wind slam it shut behind her as she ran across the cracked sidewalk and the nearly deserted street, trying unsuccessfully to avoid several menacing puddles.
She reached the car and ran around to the passenger’s side, fumbling for the door handle in the darkness. The coffee shop was in a dilapidated area of town; many of the streets were ill-lit or completely dark. Her hands closed around the cold metal of the handle, and she threw open the door and plopped down on the front seat. After wrestling with the door for several moments, she finally slammed it shut against the harsh winds. The driver immediately started the car and they began to drive slowly down the street.
“I’m really glad you could make it, Joyce,” Jason Duffy began in a deep voice. She couldn’t see anything but his silhouette by the dim light of the moon, but Joyce sensed that he smiled at her through the darkness. “It’s time for us to band together and try to beat these guys.” A cheap pair of fuzzy dice swung listlessly from the rearview mirror above his head.
“What do you suggest that we do?” Joyce asked, watching the windshield wipers slice back and forth. “I mean, uh, -- do you smell something? What THE HECK IS THAT SMELL?” she asked suddenly. Jason had pulled the car under a burnt-out street lamp next to a tiny park. She could just make out the shape of a broken-down swingset behind a group of tall trees—it looked like a jumble of bones jutting out of the ground.
“Yeah, uh… I smell something, too,” Jason answered. He was quickly rummaging around on the floor for something. Joyce reached in her raincoat pocket for her key ring. She was searching for a small plastic flashlight that she kept on the ring. Finding it, she flicked it on and flashed it around the interior of the car. The smell was getting stronger now, it smelled of—
“TURN THAT DAMN LIGHT OFF!” Jason roared, just as Joyce flashed the light on the back seat.
Her heart stopped.
The body of a young man was sprawled on the seat behind them. He wore faded blue jeans and a red baseball cap that matched the color of the thin line of blood that was trickling from the fresh slit across his throat. Joyce screamed hideously and felt for the handle of the door beside her; at the same time she saw the glint of metal from the knife that the figure next to her had seized from the beneath the seat. As her door swung open the light on the car flickered on and she found herself staring into the enraged eyes of Gregory Dawkins. She struggled out the door just as she reached for her.
The cold rain immediately soaked her skin and the pounding winds buffeted her as she ran, screaming at the top of her lungs, back toward Al’s Coffee Shop. Most of the buildings on the street were boarded up and dark. The blood was rushing loudly in her ears as she helplessly scrambled down the sidewalk.
Suddenly she saw two figures step out of a building about a block ahead of her. She recognized the waitress’s uniform from beneath the slit in her raincoat.
“HELP ME! OH MY GOD WOULD SOMEBODY PLEASE HELP ME!” she screamed at the top of her lungs, struggling to be heard above the raging wind. Al and Patty began running toward her. Joyce felt as if her heart was going to give out any second. She risked a glance behind her, just as Gregory Dawkins tackled her to the ground. Joyce winced as her face smacked solidly against the cold pavement. She could hear him breathing heavily on top of her as she tried to escape. Joyce felt the impersonal metal of his long knife press against her as he grabbed her and brought her roughly to her feet.
“Let her go!” Patty ordered. She was shakily pointing a small gun at Gregory that she had pulled from her purse. The wind was whipping her hair around her face wildly as she and Al ran up to them. The group was standing in front of a dark alley.
“Stay away from us!” Gregory warned, backing away. Joyce felt the knife shaking against the tender flesh of her neck.
Suddenly, a dark shape emerged from behind a dumpster in the alley. Patrick Dawkins raised a large crowbar above his head and brought it down across Al’s shoulders, sending him sprawling to the sidewalk. Patty turned and fired. The shot missed Patrick and lodged in the cracked cement wall behind him. Gregory let go of Joyce and lunged at Patty. The gun flew out of the waitress’s hand and landed in a shallow puddle. Patrick threw down the crowbar and grabbed for the gun at the same time Joyce did, but she got there first. They rolled around on the wet blacktop for a minute, but Joyce’s gloved hands closed around the barrel of the gun and she pointed it at his chest and pulled the trigger. She felt the weight of his body collapse limply on top of her. The last thing she heard before she fainted was the sound of Gregory Dawkins’s footsteps fleeing down the alley.
* * * *
“What’s the date?” she asked the paramedic as he helped her into the ambulance.
“The twenty-fifth,” he told her. “Of March. Why do you ask?”
“He’s still out there,” Joyce Kravitz whispered to herself. “Oh My God, he’s still out there.”