Screams in the Night
© Copyright 2018 by Kathryn Lynch
Herein lies a case of do-it-yourself self defense.
Bone chilling screams penetrated the quiet and tranquility of the early evening. They frightened the Old Lady, who had been watching TV in her trailer, and who had slipped close to sleep from the understimulating presentation piping into her living room.
“Someone is in big trouble," she thought, as the screams continued. Infirmities of age had slowed her considerably in recent years, so going to the rescue not her first reaction. When she called 9-1-1, the Deputy Sheriffs would come, but probably not in time to render timely assistance because they were 10 miles away.
So it was, that after making the call, the Old Lady set out with her .357 Magnum in one hand, and assisted by her cane in the other, stumbling in the direction of the screams. She did not take a flashlight, fearing that if she were discovered, she might be in trouble herself.
The sounds appeared to come from the forested area on her land. Natural growth and the slow descent of darkness made the going extremely tough. She began to pant from the shortness of breath that plagued her daily. It forced her to stop for a few moments to rest, but she used that time to see if she could narrow down the location of the screams.
The Old Lady know that a clearing lay ahead through the trees, and suspected that she would soon discover the trouble. She was careful to observe from behind the last redwood, and was filled with horror. A man hovered over a woman, hitting her repeatedly with his fists.
The screams had now been reduced to periodic whimpers. It was apparent that the woman did not have much left, and that the Old Lady would have to use her gun in order to make the beating stop and protect herself as well. She knew that if she missed, she might accidentally shoot the woman, or allow the man to take away her weapon, or both.
Taking careful aim, she fired. The forest shook from the sound of the big revolver exploding into the clearing, as the man appeared momentarily to fly into the air, away from the whimpering woman. He was hit, but he managed to look around, then crawl into the bushes out of sight. She would never forget his face. A few moments later, she heard a vehicle start up and drive away.
The Old Lady had taken no phone, so she returned home as quickly as she could to direct the Deputies to the woman. She did not tell them that she had probably shot the man, to avoid long, tiring statements at the Sheriff's Office as well as the seizure of her gun.
The woman survived. She sustained terrible injuries, but eventually was able to return home. The victim could not not recall injuring the perp, but Deputies told her that an “arrest was imminent because the man had bled at the scene and they had his DNA”. The Old Lady went back to watching TV, secure in the knowledge that the man had not seen her.
No arrest came.
He walked with a limp now, suspecting that he would never again have a normal gait. The bullet had gone cleanly through his leg, so he had managed to avoid doctors, hospitals, and detection. He had no idea who had shot him, but he was going to find the shooter and take care of the problem.
He had grabbed the woman at the Mall. He watched carefully out of his rear view mirror to see if he was being followed. No one seemed to notice as he drove away from town. She made no phone calls after the grab, so he was reasonably certain that neither her relatives nor the police had followed him into the woods. He was in the clear.
He drove again to the wooded area, making several loops back and forth to view it in the daylight. He knew the area well for he had once delivered newspapers in that neighborhood. Only one residence was positioned where the woman's screams probably could be heard.
The man parked down the street where he could watch the trailer. His leg was throbbing fiercely, when nearly an hour later, he was rewarded. An old woman, clinging tightly to the porch rail, made her way slowly down the steps to a small white car, and drove off.
The Old Lady was doing her monthly grocery shopping. Several months before, she had begun to use the handicapped carts because she ran out of breath easily. Items on the top shelf were a problem because they were just out of reach. She often asked passing shoppers to get those items for her. The bag of dog food on sale was near the top, so she waited a moment or two until a large man came around from the next aisle, moving in her direction.
He was walking slowly and limping, so she studied him carefully. She would know that face anywhere! Fear seized the Old Lady; her hands and feet shaking visibly. She could hear herself gasping for breath. She was shivering cold and roasting hot at the same time. Shock began to set in, as her surroundings darkened from lack of oxygen.
“Get a grip", she thought to herself, inhaling deeply. The man was now at her side. She could scream, but he would run out of the store and hunt her down later. Instead she asked him to reach for the bag of dog food and place it her cart. Mumbling a "thanks", she powered the cart toward the cash registers.
Two things were certain now. First, the man knew who shot him, and second, he would kill her when he thought he could get away with it. A hundred solutions, none of them practical, raced through the Old Lady's mind as she sped toward home. Parking quickly, she entered her trailer and locked it tightly. The sounds of her ragged breathing filled the space, alerting the dogs, who stood vigilant at the door.
The Old Lady knew that she was on her own when it came to protecting herself. Help would never arrive in time. A plan to defend herself could have no loopholes, or she was as good as dead.
An ancient well was located on the Old Lady's property. It could not be used for drinking water because a well which met code requirements had to be at least 90 feet deep. This well went down only 16.5 feet. It had been covered by a tight-fitting plywood cover to prevent her grandchildren and pets from accidental falls.
Now she located the cover and pried it open with a crowbar. She was pleased to see that the hole would accommodate a large man without too much effort. There was a passing concern for children and animals, but the Old Lady was certain that the man would arrive after dark that very evening.
She returned to her unlocked trailer, placed her granddaughter's baseball bat in the shower, trapped the dogs in the back room, and sat down in her favorite chair to wait.
Darkness fell, but the Old Lady did not turn on the lights or her TV. Headlights from the arriving vehicle gave her sufficient warning to take her place in the anonymity of the shower.
The man entered the trailer when he realized that the dogs were barking from the back room. She was hiding with them of course, but he had come prepared. His fingers wrapped around a large can of mace, ready to fire. The dogs and the Old Lady would be subdued. He would drag her outside and run her over several times, until that "Snoopy Old Bitch" was gone.
He walked slowly to the back, concentrating on the initial efforts that would be required of him to overcome the dogs. At last he passed the shower where the Old Lady was waiting, beaded sweat rolling down her temples. Using every ounce of willpower she had, she waited until she heard the man attempting to open the locks on the back room door. Then, in one quick movement, she opened the shower door and swung the bat with all of the energy she could muster.
He was down, severely injured, but not dead. Wrapping a rope across his back and around his arms, the Old Lady pulled, a few inches at a time, until the two of them traversed the distance to the well. He had moaned at first, but as they approached the well, he began to scream. The crowbar she had left there took care of the problem. She hit him again on the head.
Placing both of his legs into the hole, the Old Lady propped up the man's trunk and head until he slipped out of sight, landing in the water below with a loud splash.
Apparently the water revived him, for he began to scream again. He screamed and screamed the entire time it took her to replace the plywood cover on the well.
Epilogue: The Old Lady removed the license plates from the man's pickup, double bagged them and disposed of them in the trash. The truck became the property workhorse, hauling building materials and animal food from one section of the land to another.
Two years later, the plywood cover was removed from the old well. Pickup loads of dirt and gravel were introduced into the hole, over and over, until the old well was gone. It would no longer be a danger to children.
The Old Lady remained in her trailer. TV was still understimulating, but she slept well at night and she went to the grocery store without any fears.
The neighborhood remained quiet.
In Delores Claiborne by Stephen King, a wife murders her husband by putting him in a well. This author actually has an old well on her land. The manner of death in her story is a coincidence.