This is the second part of Chapter Zero from my upcoming book, Out of Tune. To read the first part, click here: http://gregfowlerauthor.com/2020/12/10/out-of-tune-chapter-zero/
Chapter Zero (continued)
“Uh, what are you doing?” Jeff said as Susan turned around and pulled down the sweater, uncovering her right shoulder. Jeff saw a faded green and purple mark on her shoulder blade.”
“What is that?” Jeff asked but Susan didn’t answer. Instead, she lowered the sweater off her other shoulder. The discolored patches were worse on that side, and Jeff could make out what he thought was a handprint on her upper arm. Susan’s shoulders began to tremble and Jeff began to hear sobs. He stepped toward her and whispered, “What’s going on, Susan?”
Susan turned around and collapsed into Jeff’s arms. The sobs grew heavier and Jeff stroked her back lightly. “Shhh. Breathe deeply,” he said and then held her quietly until she calmed down. “Tell me what happened.”
Susan backed away from Jeff and wiped her eyes. She took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. “He hits me, Jeff, and I can’t take it anymore. Please help me.”
“What about I wait here and kill the bastard when he gets home?” Jeff said, barely controlling his anger.
“With what? That little tuning hammer? You know he’s armed.”
“You’re right. But you need to get out. Just come with me. I’ll get you to a shelter or something. Or at least a doctor.”
“No, I don’t want to leave my students, my house, or my hometown. I want him gone, but I can’t exactly go to the sheriff’s department, can I?”
“I see your point.”
“So use your fancy little camera there and take some pictures. That way when I kick him out later tonight, I can tell him I have proof that I’ll use against him if I need to. If he’ll just leave quietly, I’ll keep quiet.”
“I don’t like that, Susan.”
“We don’t have much time, so get busy.”
“Fine, but I don’t like it,” Jeff said and turned the camera back on and spent the next few hurried minutes taking pictures of all the bruises on Susan’s body. “Hold on a sec,” he said.
“What’s the matter?” Susan asked.
Nothing, Jeff said. “Memory card is just full.”
“Yes. It’s like film for a digital camera. See, look,” Jeff said and opened a small compartment on the camera and pressed a button. A small sliver of plastic popped up and Jeff pulled it out and held it up.
“So you have it developed now?” Susan asked.
“No, the pictures and videos are stored on here for as long as I want. There’s a slot in my computer at home that this goes in. I can copy the files off here if I want and clear the card and reuse it. Or I can just save the card for later.” Jeff set the camera and card down back down on the piano’s music shelf. “I have another card in my tool bag. Let me get it.”
As Jeff rummaged through the tool bag, he didn’t hear the sound of tires on the crushed shell driveway.
“Oh my god, he’s coming,” Susan cried. “You’ve got to leave!”
“He’s already seen my Jeep at this point,” Jeff said. “And, besides, he knows I tune the piano regularly and bring Melanie over here. Just play it cool. I’ll act like I’m finishing up. Breathe deep. Relax. Just another afternoon of piano lessons.”
They heard the carport door open in the kitchen down the hall, followed by heavy footsteps.
“Don’t you do anything stupid, either,” Susan said barely above a whisper.
“Susan!” Tommy called out.
“I won’t,” Jeff whispered and knelt down to his tool bag.
“In the piano room,” Susan called out and sat down on the piano bench.
“Why is dinner not ready?” Tommy said as he appeared at the entrance to the piano room.
Dammit, Susan thought to herself, her heart sinking. “I’m sorry. I had to call Jeff over to work on the piano at the last minute. Time just got away from me.”
“Hi, Tommy,” Jeff said and stood up, holding his tuning hammer.
“Jeff,” Tommy said, barely acknowledging him, and turned back to Susan. “That old piano sure is becoming high maintenance. Jeff seems to make a lot of trips over to see it.”
“It gets a lot of use; then there’s the change of seasons-”
“I don’t want to hear it, Susan. Get in there and start dinner. Jeff, you’re done. Send her the bill.”
The three paused there in silence for a few seconds, and Jeff finally broke the silence. “Sure, Tommy. Good to see you.”
“No. Don’t move, Jeff,” Susan said.
Tommy took a step toward Susan. “What did you say?”
“It’s over, Tommy. I want you out.“ Susan said and stood up.
“Jeff, you need to leave now. Susan, you need to get into the kitchen and start dinner.”
“Jeff knows, Tommy! I told him all about it. We have pictures!” Susan said and turned to the piano and grabbed the camera and held it up. “See!”
“You’re lying,” Tommy said and took another step toward Susan.
Jeff stepped in between the two and stared down into Tommy’s face. “No, she’s not. I’ve seen the bruises. You leave now, and we won’t say anything to anyone as long as you stay out of her life.”
Tommy stepped back and took a deep breath. “Now hold on. Sounds like you two are accusing me of something I know nothing about.”
“Just do what she’s asking-” Jeff began to say, but these were the last words he spoke before Tommy drove his right shoulder into Jeff’s chin, knocking him back into Susan. The two bodies crashed into the side of the piano, breaking the prop and causing the lid to fall. Susan lost her grip on the camera as she fell, hitting her head on the side of the piano on the way down. Jeff’s limp body fell to the floor with a thud beside her. Tommy stood over the bodies and breathed heavily.
Copyright Greg Fowler 2020