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Misadventures of A Swine

written by: Mark Kuglin

@cr8fiction

 

In two significant ways, my cousin Pete Boare was aptly named. He could talk your ear off and— at his core— he was a swine. Now I know that's horrible to say, especially about a relative, but in his case it was true. He was born that way and over time he perfected both flaws into an art form.

The first time I got a glimpse of my cousin’s true nature was at our grandma’s house. We were both nine and we had stopped by her house on our way home from school. We were both hungry and we hoped she had some cookies. As luck would have it, grandma had just finished a batch and had them sitting out to cool.

While we waited, we sat at grandma’s kitchen table—with the cookies mere inches away— and listened to Pete as he regaled us with one of his tall tales. As he spoke, he gesticulated wildly for what I assumed was dramatic effect. However, I soon came to realize he was distracting our grandma with one hand, snatching cookies with the other one and simultaneously rearranging the placement of the rest.

For the next few minutes, I sat stunned. Pete’s sleight of hand was completely obvious to me but it went unnoticed by our grandma. I was about to alert her to it when she suddenly looked down and happily said, “I think they're cool enough now.” However, an instant later, a perplexed look crossed her face and she said, “That's odd…I could have sworn I made more. “

“You did Grandma,” I loudly said— as I rose to her defense. “Pete took them.”

“Paul Robbins…How dare you!” grandma instantly scolded. “You need to apologize to Pete right now!”

Little did I know— at the time— that this was a harbinger of things to come. Within minutes, Pete convinced our grandma he was innocent, she miscounted how many cookies she had made and I was the villain— one she then angrily sent home.

I waited for Pete around the corner. The moment I saw him coming I angrily yelled, “I hate you.”

In response, he just laughed and said, “Relax, I’ll give you some of the cookies I swiped.”

For a moment I hesitated, I didn't know what to say or do. I then reached out and took one of the cookies from him. After I took a bite of it I said, “I still hate you…I’ll get even somehow.”

Pete then gleefully laughed and said, “That isn't ever going to happen.”

In that moment, I knew— as much as a nine year old can— that he was different. Very different. So much so, it frightened me and I silently vowed to have as little to do with him as possible. Life, however, doesn't always listen or care about your vows.

Six months later, my mom and dad were killed in a car accident and I was forced to live with my aunt and uncle— Pete's parents. At first, I was given plenty of leeway and time to grieve. However, it became apparent over time that Pete— in effect— ran the household. If he wanted something to happen or for it to go away, he created the necessary scenario with one of his orations.

For some time thereafter, Pete ran his games on me and I did my best to counter them without help. I learned very quickly that my aunt and uncle, like everyone else, were under his spell and that going to them was pointless— Pete would win regardless of the truth.

On the morning of my eleventh birthday, Pete shocked me with an unexpected declaration. He came to my bedroom, silently closed the door behind him and then came up close and said in a whispered conspiratorial tone, “I have a surprise for you.” For a moment, I didn't know what to think. But before I could respond or react he added, “I’m calling a truce with you.”

“Do you seriously…?” I started to ask.

“It's true,” Pete said— while trying not to laugh. “It's no fun pulling anything on you…You’re the only one who sees through it.”

The moment he said it, I almost— ironically— called him a liar. However, the closer I studied him, I realized this wasn't an act. He really meant it. All of the games between us were over. Yet, something about his sudden change in attitude troubled me. I knew there was more to the story than he was letting on. A minute later, it hit me.

He needs someone to brag to…He wants me to listen to what he calls victories.

As we grew older, a pattern quickly emerged. Pete would pull one of his outlandish stunts— or outright cons— and then regale me with the details afterward. I was sickened to hear them but I had decided that somebody needed to know. I knew I didn't stand a chance of unraveling what he had done but I had decided I would turn him into the proper authorities if he went too far.

Thankfully, the bulk of his exploits didn't require any action on my part. As I listened to Pete’s version of the events, I came to realize that almost all of the people weren't victims—they had it coming. They were active participants who happily listened as Pete told them what they desperately wanted to hear. The rest were naive. I felt sorry for them and hoped the experience was a learning lesson.

However, each— after the fact— conversation I had with Pete shared one thing in common. I would look at him and say or remind him over the phone, “Pete, Someday you’ll get yours…You’ll meet your match.”

And every time his response was the same. He would laugh at my warning and say, “That's never going to happen…I play to win.”

***

In our twenties, life took Pete and I in vastly different directions. I started a pattern of bouncing between low paying jobs and dead end relationships. It didn't seem to matter how much effort I put in or how badly I wanted something to happen. Eventually, it would go sour and leave a bitter taste. Pete, on the other hand, skyrocketed to the top. His ability to convincingly sell anything to anyone— albeit dishonestly— served him quite well. He was a multi-millionaire by twenty three, owned several mansions and he had a fleet of luxury cars at his disposal.

Thankfully, Pete's ever growing business interests and our vastly different social circles kept us— for the most part— separated. I never told him but I had grown deeply resentful of his dishonest success and having to see his exploits first hand. As time passed, the frequency of my interactions with Pete— in person or over the phone— decreased dramatically. Eventually, they stopped completely.

A few days before my thirtieth birthday, Pete broke the silence with a phone call. The moment I heard his voice, I was incensed and wanted to hang up. Pete— in his uncanny way— immediately sensed my mood and read my thoughts. “Before you hang up,” Pete said— with a mischievous laugh, “I have a birthday surprise for you.”

As Pete was speaking, alarm bells went off in my head. However, I was intrigued and chose to ignore them. I then warily asked him, “What kind of surprise do you have in mind?”

“Nothing like you're thinking,” Pete replied with a laugh. “I haven't forgotten our truce.”

For a few moments, I hesitated before replying. The alarm bells had increased in intensity but once again— with my curiosity now fully aroused— I chose to ignore them. “Okay,” I said and then asked, “What do you have in mind?”

“I have a business trip I need to take to Monte Carlo,” Pete replied. “When I realized the date was near your birthday, I decided to invite you along as a present.” And after a very brief pause, he then added, “Don't worry…I know you can't afford it…I’m covering everything— including money to gamble with.” Once again, I hesitated. But before I could answer him, Pete said, “I can't fly out with you…I’ll meet you there.”

I should have refused his offer but I didn't. Instead, I got lost in thought about the glitter and excitement of a trip abroad. And without thinking it through, I accepted. Two days later, I found myself alone— with the exception of a highly attentive crew— on a chartered Gulfstream jet.

***

I flew to Nice, France and landed at Cote d’Azur— the nearest airport to Monte Carlo. Instead of seeing Pete, as I stepped off the jet, I was greeted by a voluptuous redhead holding a sign with my name on it. I was about to ask her what was going on when she suddenly handed me a thick envelope and said, “This will explain everything.”

After I tore it open, I was stunned to find a three inch thick stack of Euros— all of them 500’s. Along with them, I found a typewritten note— from Pete— informing me that he was going to be tied up for a day or two and that I should amuse myself until then.

I wasn't surprised to see Pete's note— with him everything was subject to change— but the amount of cash left me staring at it and frozen in place. Almost a minute later, I was popped back to reality when the redhead laughed and then said, “Hey, I’m still here.”

Her comment really embarrassed me and I apologized profusely. She just smiled, stuck out her hand and said, “My name is Amber.” And after a very brief pause she added, “Don't feel bad, I had the same reaction when I opened mine.”

For a moment, I just looked at her. I didn't know how to react to her revelation. Once again, Amber smiled and broke my trance. “Pete's booked the three of us into a suite of rooms at the Hotel de Paris Saint-Tropez…. Let's get you settled first… We can put the pieces together later.”

***

Not long after we were ushered into our suite, I heard a faint— but very familiar— voice emanating from one of the two bedrooms. Neither Amber or I wanted to disturb Pete— until he finished whatever he was doing— so we sat down and talked quietly. A few minutes later, Pete called out, “Cousin, can you come in here…Alone?”

The moment Pete saw me, he instructed me to close the door and asked me to listen to what he had to say without interruption. After I nodded my agreement, he said, “I have to run back out but I’ll be finished sooner than I anticipated. I’ll be back in the morning.”

As he spoke, Pete was in the process of changing his clothes. When he finished, he turned his attention to an overnight bag he had sitting on the bed. The moment he saw it, he looked up at me and said, “I deliberately overstuffed Amber’s— and your— envelopes with cash to let you both know I was serious about covering everything.” Pete then paused a moment before adding, “However, it's a bad idea for both of you to be carrying around so much cash…Take some money out of your envelope and go have Amber do the same…And when you're done, bring both of them to me.”

When I returned, Pete shocked me by pulling a gun out of his overnight bag which he then immediately handed to me. But before I could react to it, he said in rapid order—while on his way to the door, “I have to go…There’s a safe in my closet…Put the gun and both envelopes in it…I’ll see you in the morning.”

For a minute or so, I stood frozen in place— and stared at the gun— while I vacillated between wanting to strangle Pete and getting on the next plane for home. With great reluctance, I finally did as he asked. After I did, I angrily marched out of the room.

***

When I walked into the suite’s sitting room, I was surprised to see Pete sitting on the sofa— causally talking to Amber. “What are you doing with a gun?” I angrily asked him. But before he could answer, I snapped, “I thought you had to leave.”

True to form, Pete laughed at me and then said, “Calm down cousin…There's good reasons….”

“I’m waiting,” I angrily interjected.

“I rarely carry the gun,” Pete calmly replied. “I only have it with me when business takes me to places where there aren't very many people about.” He then laughed heartily and teasingly added, “You’re not very grateful cousin…I decided to have a birthday drink with you before I go.”

In an instant, I felt like a complete fool. Pete just smiled and waved me towards a chair. He then got up, took our drink orders and headed towards the sitting room’s bar. When he returned, he handed us our drinks and made a toast, “To my cousin…May this be your best birthday ever!”

After the three of us clinked glasses, I looked at Pete and I opened my mouth to start an apology. Pete just smiled, waved me off and said, “No need cousin…Drink up.”

I then took a long pull on my bourbon before I put it down. It's the last thing I remember clearly. It's the very last thing I remember doing before my world fell completely apart.

***

When I regained consciousness, I was naked and lying on the sitting room floor. My head felt like an artillery unit was using it for target practice and I found it difficult— at first— to focus my eyes. When I could, I was shocked to see nothing but devastation in the direction I was facing. Tables and chairs were overturned and anything that had been usable glass was now shattered and in pieces. It looked like a hurricane had passed through.

I then paused for a second before I gingerly pushed myself high enough off the floor to look in the other direction. And to this day, I wish I hadn't. For the moment I did, I found myself staring into Amber’s lifeless eyes.

The moment I saw Amber my entire body convulsed and I violently wretched. I then rolled away in horror and flipped over several times before I stopped. Once I did, I sat up and forced myself to look at Amber. In an instant, I knew there was no need to check for a pulse. She was definitely dead. The bullet hole— high on her forehead— confirmed it.

For a few moments, I sat there stunned and tried to piece it all together. A split second later, I was rendered fully coherent by a series of highly disturbing and revolting sounds— Pete's taunting voice reverberating in my mind.

I play to win…I play to win…

In an instant, I knew questions of how and why were immaterial— they would have to wait. I needed to get out as fast as possible and do my best to disappear.

***

In retrospect, I shouldn't have bothered. As I searched for my clothes, I knew it was pointless—Pete had covered every angle and possibility. However, I felt compelled to try. Maybe, just maybe, he slipped up an inadvertently left me an option. In the end, it didn't matter. After I hurriedly left the hotel, I was arrested a block away from its entrance.

The moment the Gendarme put me in handcuffs, I knew it was game over and that it was absolutely pointless to protest my innocence— Pete had indeed won. So much so, I didn't even bother to attend the trial. Instead, I stayed in my cell and ranted and raved. I was so enraged, I pounded my fists on the walls until my hands bled.

Not long after my trial concluded, I was transferred to La Sante prison—where I was to serve out my twenty year sentence. Thankfully, I only had to stay in that hellhole a year. The American Embassy stepped in and somehow worked out a deal that allowed me to finish my sentence in a U.S. prison.

Throughout my time at La Sante, I was bitterly angry. However, my attitude dramatically shifted—one day— not long after I had been transferred stateside. I was sitting morosely in my cell when the answer to long nagging question suddenly popped my mind.

When the answer hit, it felt like a huge burden was lifted from my shoulders. However, it was quickly replaced with another. In a few seconds, I went from being bitterly angry at Pete to feeling extraordinarily foolish. As much as I hated to admit it, I stupidly ignored Pete’s true nature, all of my internal warnings and—worse of all— I had to admit Monte Carlo had been a brilliant choice.

Pete's decision to have all of this play out in Monte Carlo was devious and shrewd. Until I had this revelation, I couldn't understand the need for the distance and great expense. It wasn't until I understood— that without even seeing it— I was blinded by all the glitz and glamour. And having me away from familiar surroundings made me pliable and reliant.

However, there was a part of it I never did figure out. Was Amber somehow a threat— one that needed to be neutralized— or did Pete simply use her as a pawn? Both possibilities disturbed me greatly. After much consternation— and for my own piece of mind, I let both of them go. I decided that it was between Pete and the highest of authorities.

***

I spent the remainder of my sentence with my head down— trying to stay out of harm's way. For the most part, I was successful. I had a few minor scrapes but no serious incidents. Prison can be brutal but if you follow the convict code— to the best of your ability— most trouble can be navigated around or avoided completely.

I spent the bulk of my days reading or performing some sort of task in my cell. I did whatever I could to keep my mind focused outward rather than inward. That's not to say, I didn't reflect on what had happened. I chose to focus on my part in it and nothing more. I was determined to use my time constructively and not let it use— or abuse— me.

As I grew closer to my release date, my thoughts repeatedly turned to Pete. For the better part of a month, I was deeply concerned about how he would react to the news. Would he try to pull another stunt that would land me back in prison? Would he commit the ultimate act— as he had done with Amber— and plot to kill me?

After a great deal of consternation, I decided the only reasonable course of action was to find Pete, offer a truce and hope he would accept it. I had no intention of interacting with him so I wrote him a letter. My plan was to hand it to him and immediately leave.

***

Not long after my release, I tracked Pete down. After a series of anonymous inquiries, I determined Pete was having lunch at a restaurant I knew. Upon my arrival, I saw Pete sitting in a booth towards the back. At first, he didn't see me coming. However, the moment he did, he turned as white as a sheet.

When I reached his table, I paused for a moment. I had never seen Pete so afraid or absolutely speechless. I then wordlessly reached into my sport coat for the letter. A few seconds after Pete saw me move, he started to wheeze, sweat profusely and both of his hands gnarled and clawed at his chest. It was obvious he was in agony and in the throes of a massive heart attack.

“Somebody call an ambulance,” I screamed.

Within moments, the restaurant was in a state of pandemonium. People were running in every direction, screaming in fear or pleading for somebody to help him. During the chaos, I slipped outside— sat on the curb— and waited for the ambulance.

About five minutes after help arrived, I got up and looked in one of the restaurant’s windows. In an instant I knew— due to the paramedics lack of expediency— that Pete was dead. I stood there for a few moments— in a state of shock— and then returned to my spot on the curb.

As I sat there, my mind raced with all sorts of thoughts. However, I couldn't bring myself to feel anything for Pete. For some time this really disturbed me. But then, a sense of peace came over me. A few minutes later, a series of thoughts brought me a sense of understanding.

Aberrations exist and Pete was one of them…Why is an unanswerable question…Staying ahead of or defeating one is impossible…They can only be destroyed by their own hand…

Mark Kuglin

Mark Kuglin

JULY 2018 AUTHOR OF THE MONTH at Spillwords.com
Mark Kuglin is an American expat currently living and working near Ensenada, Mexico. He writes fiction, poetry and the occasional essay. Samples of his work can be found on his website 'Mark Kuglin'.
Mark Kuglin

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