Ep. 05 Time Cannot Erase

Amateur

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: This takes place after the events in “A Desperate Caress” and “Rolling Shadows of Night”. (2008) After re-reading this, and after much rumination, I felt that I needed to re-edit this story. While I appreciated, and still very much appreciate, StogieMon’s help in developing the story, I felt it had gotten too far away from what I initially intended it to be. Moreover, I plan to go back and re-edit all of the stories, up to and including ‘Ep 06 Misled By Beauty’.

Besides, the sequel ended up taking a bit of a left turn, now didn’t it?

Anyways, italicized dialog preceded with an asterisk denotes subtitled speech.]

*

“He’s been seeing someone else, Rachel,” Rosanna Tarunen put as much sympathy as she could muster into the words. It was all an act, but she was a consummate performer, as her high school and college drama accolades testified. “I’m so sorry you had to hear it from me…”

Rosanna held her breath, waiting to see if her daughter took the bait properly. The response wasn’t long in coming.

“WHAT?!” Rachel’s roar assaulted her eardrums over the connection. “You better be fucking kidding me, Mother.”

“I wish I were, sweetie,” her mother said with a sigh, trying her best to ignore her daughter’s language, as any loving, caring mother would, given the ‘situation’. “I wish I were.”

“Are you sure it was him?” Rachel asked, desperation creeping in her voice.

“I . . . ” her mother’s voice trailed off. “I found a picture . . . I sent it to your email.”

A long pause followed, a silence through which Rosanna could hear the ‘beep’ of her daughter’s laptop computer booting up, followed by the rapid clicking of keys as Rachel accessed her campus e-mail account. Then, dead silence, followed by the hiss of an indrawn breath.

‘Good!’ Rosanna thought to herself with a wicked smile. ‘Whoever said that one picture is worth a thousand words had nailed it, right on the money!’

“I’m so sorry, Rachel,” she spoke the words and sounded so sincere, but her heart was leaping for joy at the despondent note she heard in her daughter’s voice.

“I’ve gotta go, Mom,” Rachel said flatly. “Love you.”

[CLICK!]

Rosanna Tarunen pressed the disconnect button on the phone and breathed a heavy sigh.

‘The deed is done,’ she thought to herself. The tone of her daughter’s voice upset her slightly – more a result of the girl’s choice of vocabulary and the slight disrespect than anything – but Rosanna was confident that she had done the right thing.

Placing the handset back in its cradle, she crossed the kitchen to the sink and shoved the freshly sliced onion down the garbage disposal. It had served its purpose well, as it had given her watery eyes and a runny nose, the combination making it sound as though she’d actually been crying in sympathy for her daughter.

Then, taking up the container of soap from Bed, Bath, and Beyond, she washed her hands. Three long washings failed to fully remove the onion-smell from her flesh and, as she lathered her hands for the fourth time with the vanilla-scented soap, a line from her high school portrayal of Lady Macbeth suddenly popped into her mind.

Out, out, damned spot!

She ceased all movement for an instant, wondering where the thought had come from, and why. Then, shaking her head, she dismissed it as a mere flashback brought on by the repeated washing motions. She hadn’t washed her hands that many times in a row since she’d done the play.

Satisfied at last that her hands smelled as befitted a lady of her station, she walked into the living room and sat on the recliner. Her husband, Joe, was lying on the couch across the room, reading a well-worn paperback copy of The Naked Lunch. Lifting her pack of cigarettes from the side-table at her elbow, she shook the last one loose from it. Putting it to her lips, she lit it and drew a deep, satisfied puff on it. Inhaling the first drag, she followed it immediately with another, exhaling the tremendous cloud of smoke with a long sigh.

“Do you think what we did was right?” she asked her husband.

“‘We’? It was your idea, Rosie,” Joe said without looking up. “The whole twisted scheme was your idea, from start to finish. Bribing those girls to get the picture at one of the boy’s gigs was your idea. Sending the boy that e-mail, using Rachel’s AOL log-on, telling him that she never really loved him, and that she wanted someone more like Scott, the boy who humiliated her at the prom; that was also your idea. Putting that block on Rachel’s incoming AOL e-mail, so it would bounce any messages from Randy was your idea. Calling the dean’s office at USM, and feeding him that story about Randy stalking Rachel, and getting them to put the same block on Rachel’s campus e-mail — as well as putting Randy’s vehicle on the Campus Security ‘watch list’ was your idea. It was all your idea, and the only part I played in any of it was that I haven’t told Rachel what you’ve done!”

“Oh, come off it, Joe!” Rosanna roared. “You didn’t like that little urfa escort punk either! What was it you said? ‘I’d rather have my daughter marry a fuckin’ nigger than that god-damned gook?’ That about get it right?”

Joe sat up and threw his book down. He glared at his wife hatefully from across the room, but she didn’t notice.

“Yeah, I’m against my daughter associating with that slant-eyed yellow bastard,” he countered, muttering under his breath, “but I’m against lying to her even more.”

Even if Rosanna had heard him, it wouldn’t have mattered. Her question of whether they’d done the right thing, in lying to Rachel about the boy, was purely rhetorical — her desire to hear some voice other than her own, praising her twisted little scheme.

This whole deal had made Joe very uncomfortable from the moment his wife had laid it out to him. For perhaps the thousandth time — or was it the ten-thousandth? — Joe questioned his decision to stay with his social-climbing bitch of a wife. He thought seriously, again, about leaving her. All the other times — at least, the times when he’d actually broached the subject to her — Rosanna had always convinced him that they should stay together for Rachel’s sake, but hearing his daughter cry herself to sleep every night for all those years tore him apart.

Joe always felt that that cool evening in March of 1985, when Rachel was born, was the happiest night of his life. As much as he hated his wife, he loved his daughter even more, and he was fanatically protective of her. Her simple presence in his life was often the only thing that enabled him to get through days filled with waking nightmares, and nights filled with horrors that stalked his attempts at sleep. Had it not been for his darling daughter, he’d have succumbed to the urge to swallow his pistol long years ago.

And then that kid came into her life. Even though he didn’t like him, Joe couldn’t help but notice that — for the first time since she was a child — Rachel was smiling. It was true that he’d made that racial-epithet-laden comment about the boy, just as Rosanna had repeated it to him only moments ago. Moreover, he’d meant every word of it. Still, he knew that when Rachel found out what her mother did — and learned that he had done nothing to halt the plan — she would never forgive him.

‘No, I don’t want my daughter being with that kid,’ he thought to himself, ‘but, goddammit, I wouldn’t have stopped her. When she gets an idea in her head, she’s just like me. She sticks with it, no matter what.’

Joe knew that Rosanna had her own interests in mind, as far as their daughter was concerned, and that such had been the case since day one. He knew that Scott Lister treated his daughter badly — he’d found out, through sources at work, about Scott’s humiliation of Rachel, at the prom, a few months back — and he knew that she would never be happy with a man who could treat any woman that way. Rosanna didn’t seem too concerned about that sort of thing, not even when he’d told her about the prom incident.

“He’s just a boy,” she told him. “He’s popular, now, and that means going out with those girls on the cheerleading squad. Not one of them can cook, run a house, or do the things a woman needs to do, for her man. He’ll see that, in time, and then he’ll be apologizing to her, and asking you for her hand. You’ll see!”

Joe hadn’t bothered to mention that — of the girls on the cheerleading squad — three had already been accepted to pre-med curriculums at Ivy League colleges, and a fourth had been nominated to the Naval Academy, at Annapolis. He’d already fired that round in a half-dozen previous talks with his wife, and it hadn’t put a dent in her armor plate. No, when Rosanna set her mind on a thing, you couldn’t change it. No power in the world could. All she cared about was keeping up appearances and climbing the social ladder.

Joe knew that it would be futile to argue with Rosanna further. When she had her mind made up about something, she’d never budge, and fighting her on it was as useless as the fighting he’d done back in Vietnam — and with the same result: she always won. She had him whipped, and they both knew it.

Rosanna stormed off as Joe picked up his book and resumed reading. She didn’t know, or care, that he was once more seriously contemplating putting his .357 in his mouth and pulling the trigger.

* * * * * *

Randy was deep in thought, as he drove his van home from the Tae Kwon Do tournament. He had to admit that overall, 2005 had been good to him. He remembered the smiles on his family’s faces as he accepted his diploma upon his graduation from Miskatonic, and his joy that his grandfather, as ill and frail as he was, had been able to attend.

In the early days of May 1953, a full battalion of North Korean troops and tanks just north of a place called Kwang-non-do ambushed a unit of South Korean soldiers, of which his grandfather was a member. Cho Chang-Hong, like the rest of his unit, was balıkesir escort pinned down under a withering hail of enemy fire. Late that night, when clouds moved in and blanketed the area — cutting off the moonlight — Cho and two other soldiers were dispatched to take out three of the tanks, which hemmed them in. Shortly after 2:30 in the morning, local time, when – psychological studies show – humans are at their weakest point of vigilance and most fearful, the three soldiers struck their targets. Chang-Hong crept forward and climbed the side of the tank, dropping two grenades down the open hatch. As he turned to make a hasty retreat, a section of his web belt snagged on a protrusion on the tank’s surface. The thick Soviet armor had shielded him from most of the blast-force, but he had sustained some shrapnel injuries, including some tiny fragments that entered the rear of his skull near the base of the brain and slipped inward.

It took the unit three days to make its way safely out of North Korean-held territory and back to a rear area and an American M*A*S*H unit. Cho spent five hours in surgery, but the medics were combat surgeons, not neurosurgeons. They were unable to remove the tiny fragments lodged inside his skull. Two weeks later, Cho was transported to a hospital in Seoul – and from there to the major US Army facility outside Tokyo. By then, the fragments had drifted far enough into his brain that the best medical technology of the day was unable to remove them without risking damage to surrounding brain tissue. The doctors told Cho that he probably shouldn’t plan on a long life, but the wiry soldier had outlived every last one of the specialists who looked at his cranial x-rays, shook their heads, and sighed.

Yet now, at the time when Randy felt he needed him the most, Chang-Hong was slowly slipping away. The fragments had begun to enter the more critical areas of his brain, and their affect on his health — so very long delayed — was now beginning to accelerate. The specialists at Mass Gen, and at the Harvard Medical Center, gave him anywhere from three months to three years, but suggested that the former was a more accurate estimate.

Randy had always known that this would be something he’d have to face, eventually, but he loathed the fact that it had begun to happen now, of all times. His grandfather had been unable to officiate at the ceremony when Randy had been awarded his First Dan – first-degree – Black Belt, because of his weakening health. This had hurt Randy, but he had stoically accepted the fact. As much as it hurt him, not to have his grandfather even present at the ceremony, he knew that it pained the elder Cho even more.

And today – he’d won his fifth straight tournament, but this time, his grandfather had been unable to attend, even to watch. His former band mate, Mark Sinclair, had shown up with a video camera, so at least Chang-Hong could get to see his grandson’s latest triumph, but the horrible realization was finally sinking in: his grandfather was dying, and it would probably be only a matter of time before the elder Cho would be absent from his life forever. Three years? Three months? One of the doctors had even hinted that it could happen in as little as one month.

Randy’s brooding came to an abrupt end as he pulled in at the curb in front of his family’s house. Stuffing his worry into a pocket he’d carved out in the deepest part of his brain, he grabbed the big trophy from the seat behind him, slung his equipment bag over one shoulder, and tried to put a little ‘triumph’ in his step as he walked up to the front porch — just in case somebody chanced to be looking out the front window, watching for his arrival. Opening the door, he stepped into the living room and greeted his mother and grandparents, who were all gathered there waiting for him.

“*Where’s Mi Na?” he asked.

“*Practicing with her band,” Ji-Won, his mother, answered. “You remember that her school’s talent show is in two months, right?”

“*Oh yeah, duh!” Randy muttered, clapping a hand to his forehead. How could he forget? It wasn’t like he had much on his mind…

He had been quite proud, a few months back, when Mi Na had announced to her family that she wanted to form her own band over the summer vacation, and maybe compete in the school’s annual talent show.

“You’re getting more like your brother every day,” their mother had chided.

“Thank you, honorable mother,” Mi Na had responded, executing a perfect Korean bow.

“But you’re only twelve, young lady,” Ji-Won had added, with a wry grin that was aimed at both her children. “I’m drawing the line this side of the smoking, drinking, cursing, and coming in at all hours of the early morning. Understood?”

“Yes, mother,” Mi Na gave an elfin chuckle and bowed respectfully, again.

Randy had blushed, given his mother an embarrassed grin, and found something interesting on the linoleum floor to observe.

“At least I’m not doing that any more,” he offered.

“Which trabzon escort is something I’m grateful to see,” Ji-Won nodded, touching her fingertips to her son’s cheek in understanding.

Ji-Won had left the kitchen, then, and Randy sat his sister down and explained both the positive and negative sides of being in a band.

“There’s a lot of factors involved that you don’t always think of at first,” he told her. “You need good musicians, true. But, if you’re going to do more than just be a ‘cover band’ – playing other bands’ music at parties and dances, you’re going to need someone who can compose new music, and someone who can put the right words to it. You need to have a group of people with one vision of where the band wants to go, and who are all willing to put in the long, hard hours of practice that it takes to get you where you want to be.”

“That’s why you left Bloody Solstice, right, Randy?” she interrupted him at that point. “You had differences of opinion with some of the guys in the band, about the sort of music you wanted to do, right?”

“That was part of it, sis,” he nodded. “But part of it had to do with Grandfather’s health, and his needing me to spend more time at the dojo, taking over some of his classes.”

There was more to it than that, really. But the ‘more’ was an area he chose not to go into with his sister. Part of that area was his brief relationship with Rachel, and also part of the reason for the rift that grew between himself and Rick, the vocalist. And it all traced a path back to his growing dissatisfaction with the music. His heart just wasn’t in it any longer – at least, as far as death-metal was concerned. He’d already made his decision to leave, and was only hanging on because of the number of gigs they’d booked, and the contract for the last of the band’s albums. He realized that his logic was sound when Mark Sinclair, the bassist, told him that Rick wanted to change the band’s musical direction, and felt that Randy had no place in the band’s new focus and style.

Being part of a successful band wasn’t easy, so it concerned him slightly that Mi Na – at only twelve years of age – wanted to form her own band. Still, he was also very proud of her, and wanted to help her in any way he could. He remembered – with great pleasure – the expression on her face when he gave her the seven-stringed Jackson guitar he’d had custom made for himself. He even had Jon airbrush a Goth version of “Hello Kitty”, raising the ‘horns’ salute, on the lower wing.

“May it serve you as well as it served me,” he told her, as he placed the expensive instrument into her hands. “Take good care of it, and it’ll make sweet music for you until the day you’re too old to play it.”

Her jaw had dropped, her breath had caught in her throat, and then she had burst into tears as she embraced him. For the last four years, she had considered herself quite fortunate that he occasionally allowed her to use his B.C. Rich. He’d barely let her even LOOK at the Jackson, let alone touch it, and now he was simply handing it to her!

“Thank you so much, Randy,” Mi Na said, as she hugged her brother tightly. “I don’t know what to say! I can’t tell you how much this means to me! I’ll always treasure it!”

“The rest of my rig is yours, too,” he informed her. “The amp, effects box and pedals, the works. I’m just gonna keep my practice amp, and my Warlock.”

“Are you sure, Randy?” Mi Na said, worry creeping in her voice.

“I’m not in a band anymore, so I don’t need all that crap. And you’re in no position to buy new gear. You need it more than I do. I just ask that you take care of that stuff. Care for your arsenal, and it will care for you for years to come.”

Mi Na knew that Randy’s setup wasn’t cheap, so she knew the magnitude of the gift he was giving her. The guitar alone cost over $4,000, and the rest of the stuff wasn’t exactly bottom of the line either. She had always envied her brother’s sound, and she knew it would help her a great deal as she formed her new band.

“*Thank you, Ran-Jong,” she whispered through her tears. “*If you ever need to use any of it, go ahead. I wouldn’t have it, if it weren’t for you.”

“*You’re welcome, Mi Na,” he smiled back at her and ruffled her hair a bit. “*But, don’t worry; if I decide I want to form another band, I can always buy new gear.”

Over the summer, she already had two members for her band — her best friend, Cassie Lombardo and Cassie’s older sister, Danielle. Cassie had gotten numerous solos in their chorus class at school, so she was an ideal pick for lead vocalist. Danielle – Dani, as her friends called her – had always admired bands with female bassists, like White Zombie, Sonic Youth or Smashing Pumpkins and this inspired her to take up the instrument herself. Later, after spending some time listening to bands like Rush and Dream Theater, she realized how inferior a lot of those other bassists were. Part of that lower skill level was, of course, due to the age of those bassists. Still, the sort of music those bands played didn’t really require intricate bass-work. Dani wanted better, though, and strove to reach a level of musicianship the likes of some bassists a friend had turned her onto. She had become really talented, and was beginning to compose some original music built around intricate, driving, bass riffs.

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