Chapter Two – Reinforcement
Tuesday morning and Allen awakes to the odors of bacon and eggs wafting into his room from the kitchen downstairs. Dressing quickly he descends the stairs and enters the dining room.
“You’re early, Allen, I haven’t finished everything yet. Sit and I’ll get you some coffee,” greets Buddy, cheerfully.
“Thanks. I just wanted to get the day started. I’m eager for my second day on the job,” he answers. Getting used to the voice in his head, he doesn’t even realize he didn’t say what he said.
He sits, sipping on the coffee, his mind battle continuing. He wonders why he picked up and absconded with that tube of petroleum jelly at work yesterday. His wonderment continued last night as he woke up at the head of the stairs, holding the tube of jelly in his hand. “Stealing is wrong” he speaks to himself. “They won’t miss it, it was one among dozens on the bench,” he hears from his demon.
Buddy calls up the stairs to alert the other residents of this halfway house to the completion of breakfast. A voice from above answers back “I’ll be right down”. This voice, tired and weak, belongs to Joseph Lawrance, a recently released inmate of the state prison. Having served forty years behind bars and reaching old age he was given a pittance and set free. His crime was murder; his wife, she interrupted the football game on the television and he shot her dead. Now 75, and no doubt incapable of doing harm, the prison system deemed him harmless, and out he went. The halfway house saw fit to keep him on, he had no place else to go. Now he spends his days cleaning and doing whatever he can to earn his keep.
As he reaches the bannister at the top of the stairs and grasps it for his first step down, his hand slips. His foot hanging in air, his hand no longer holding the bannister, down he goes, feet first, then head over heels into the floor below. As Buddy reaches the crumpled figure it is apparent that from the odd angle of his head that old Joe is no more.
“Call 911, Allen, quick.” Buddy shouts, even though it is apparent that there is little medicine will be able to do.
“Sure thing!” responds Allen as he reaches for the phone. If only Buddy had seen the grin on Allen’s face, the gig might have ended there.
Police and rescue are quick to respond. They examine the man but it is clearly too late. The medic looks up at Buddy and remarks, “There’s some kind of grease on his hand. That’s probably why he fell. Here in the pocket of his robe is the tube. Probably had dry hands.”
“He must have gotten it at our last trip to the store. Why he would buy that I don’t know, we had plenty of hand lotions around here already,” adds Buddy.
Inside, Allen is raging. “You killed that old man, you monster.” “Wasn’t as funny as I thought it would be, oh well,” is the reply.
As the body is carried out the door, in the way of another clue, Allen resumes sipping his now lukewarm coffee. Buddy, distracted by the other residents coming down the stairs, does not notice the cool and calm Allen sitting at the table, and instead resumes breakfast preparation.
“Why, why kill that old man,” asks Allen of his demon. “A demonstration, to let you know, you are no longer in charge,” the creature murmurs with finality.
Abruptly Allen stands erect. Most curiously then, he does something most humans cannot do. His fist comes up with frightening force and strikes his chin with a loud crack. They go down, both man and demon, smashing the chair behind them.