Thursday, March 17, 2011

Patient #110317: Sean Patrick Reardon

It occurs to me that the selected stories this week showcase a balance of "horror" and "noir" writers. It's part of the reason, I think, that there are so many different takes on the central theme.

Sean Patrick Reardon is the third writer who, though I was familiar with his work, and have quite enjoyed it on Thrillers, Killers n' Chillers, found the story below to be one of the best I've read by him, and am honoured that he chose to share it here. I will be watching Sean's future stories with great interest.

(Incidentally - Happy St. Patrick's Day. The choice of a "Patrick" for today was unintentional, but definitely serendipitous.)

Here then, is "Heart Shaped Hammer"

Heart Shaped Hammer
Sean Patrick Reardon 

I push the Sgt. Peppers CD into the disk player of the Lincoln, select track six, and the tears start coming before “She’s Leaving Home” begins.  I have listened to this Beatles song every day for six months, waiting. This will be the last time, forever. 

The day she was born.

I was always what doctors and educators now call ‘hypersensitive’.  Even at six-years old, “Eleanor Rigby” would have me crying my eyes out. Nobody came.  I was not sensitive earlier this evening though and I will not be telling my version of Father McKenzie what I have done. No one except my wife will ever know.

The pink Barbie nightgown.

Julie was fifteen, would have been sixteen last month, if he hadn’t given her the poison that night. I know in my broken, yet guilt free heart, the right thing has been done tonight.

The first day of kindergarten.

We didn’t like him from the start, ended up forbidding it to go any further. Parents know such things, if they have lived fun, adventurous lives growing up like my wife and I had. He was bad news and we knew it.

First Holy Communion.

Sure, Julie protested, sulked, got dramatic, maybe even hated us in the way only a teenage girl can. We honestly thought it was over. The cell phone, computer, and schoolbag were secretly checked out of love, not distrust, of her at least.

The adolescent female secrets I was not supposed to know about.

A Saturday night at the mall with her friends was not something to be concerned about. Trust earns rewards and she hung around with a good bunch of girls. I dropped them off myself, leaving the pickup to another parent.

The junior high prom

We got the call that Julie was not there when it was time to leave the mall. The parent told us the other girls said she left with someone, but had not returned like she was supposed to. Him!

Christmas mornings, vacations, and Confirmation.

Calls to her cell phone went straight to voicemail, text messages weren’t answered. A half hour later, the police called, telling us they knew where she was. We were scared and concerned, but relieved.

The hospital.

We rushed to the emergency room. The officer we met at the entrance mentioned heroin and overdose. She was in very bad condition. He told us the suspect, him, had fled the scene, but was apprehended and in custody at the police station. A house party was where they found her, details were still scarce. Julie died before we got to see her, say goodbye, or tell her how much we loved her.

The body identification.

He gave her alcohol and she sniffed some powder that he offered her, telling her it would make her feel alive and relaxed. Everyone does it. Julie lost consciousness. He left her to die on the bedroom floor of the house where the party took place.

The funeral

My wife and I attended every court appearance. He cleaned up well, even wore glasses. Turns out he was a popular kid, promising athlete, even had decent grades and was accepted to a college. This meant nothing to my wife and I. He was a killer and a coward.  Many people spoke on his behalf, but none on Julie’s.

The plea bargain and probation.

We were destroyed. Life as we knew it was decimated. There was no other child to transfer our love to. Julie’s room and belongings were left just the way they were when she left for the mall that night.  It was not fair, justice had not been served, and we were helpless. Or were we?

The six-months spent waiting, watching, and suffering.

He hadn’t changed his ways, never went to college, and was selling drugs again. We were sure of this, had the proof. I watched him leave his dealer’s house and as he walked down the dark street toward his car, I pulled up next to him pretending to ask directions. I had sixty seconds and absolutely nothing to lose. If I got caught, I did not care.

The abduction

The bucket hat, long haired wig, and fake beard ensured he wouldn’t recognize me and run.  I sprayed Mace in his eyes and jumped out of the Lincoln, clutching an aluminum bat. I cracked him across the side of the head. He fell to the ground, unconscious, and I took his cell phone from his pants pocket.  He fit nicely in the trunk of the car, his mouth taped shut, hands and feet zip tied.

All the things we never got to do with Julie.

I pulled into the two car garage at our house and the automatic door closed once I was inside. The other bay was empty. I dragged him out of the trunk, letting his body crash face down onto the plastic that covered the concrete floor. I rolled him over and wrapped more tape around his mouth, before kicking him in the groin and stomping on his face, crushing and flattening his nose.  I hit him in the ribs with powerful swings of the bat.  He was now ready.

The sledgehammer

I broke him in every possible way. His clothes and skin became nothing more than a facade for shattered, splintered, and grossly disjointed bones. I thought about the disassembly of Steven “Willy” Williams as he looked up at me and I brought the hammer down on his head with all my rage and hatred. He was finally gone.

The hacksaw

My wife did a fine job covering the floor and walls with plastic. There will be no blood evidence, or any other trace of what has been done.  I wished she could be there with me, but she decided to stay in the house and keep the bed warm for my return.  I started by removing his head, then cut off his legs at the knees, and arms at the elbows. The remaining stumps were severed at the torso.

The disposal.

His body parts easily fit into an industrial strength, black trash bag. The tools, bloody plastic sheeting, overalls, and gloves went in a separate one. As I lifted the bag filled with Julie’s killer and swung it into the trunk, I was happy, smiling…vindicated.

The Our Father and Hail Mary.

Nothing will ever be found. I am sure of this. There is no longer anything left to find. It is after midnight when I pull the Lincoln into the garage bay where justice was served. The door rolls down behind me and I let out a long exhale as the final notes of “She’s Leaving Home” play. I eject the CD, snap it in half, and put the pieces in my coat pocket.

The alibi.

When I get to the bedroom, my wife is sitting up, looking concerned. I crack a smile, nod, and she smiles back as I climb in beside her. We now have peace, closure, and a secret that we alone will share. We cry, holding each other, knowing we will be able to sleep tonight. I have been home with her all night and she will never crack or deviate from that story. I am sure of this.

Sean Patrick Reardon is an aspiring writer from Massachusetts and author of the crime thriller "Mindjacker". His stories have appeared in Thrillers Killers 'n' Chillers, A Twist of Noir, and Do Some Damage.


  1. The alternating A-B graphs did it for me. Moving forward and backward in time, exactly how I'd expect someone in this state to think. It helps to drive the reader down further and further into the father's despair, only to find a light at the end called revenge.

    I felt this story as much as read it. Now I feel like taking a bat to some POS punk.

    Maybe you didn't intend it this way, Sean, but I get the impression this is a fantasy the father is having while listening to that CD.

  2. Even the thought of one of my children killed gives my brain just a touch of insanity. For it to— God forbid— really happen in the way described in your story would push any parent over the edge. Realistic vengeance to subdue the madness of grief. Well done, Sean.

  3. Sean, I loved the back and forth writing, I imagine that's exactly what would go on in a parents head when losing a child. Very well done.

  4. Chris- Thanks for the great introduction and the opportunty. It means the world to me.

    Ben, Angel, and Glenna- Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I really appreciate it. As much as this is a fictional tale, I saw a story that was making the rounds on the news recently about a dad who was going to take matters into his own hands if his child's killer was ever released from jail. I had already submiited this story, and have to say, if I was in his shoes, I would most likely feel the same way.

  5. I like the bite-size chunks in the delivery. I can almost imagine a curtain falling and raising between each scenario and memory.

    There's a fine line here; as a parent too - and one who is almost phobic about drug abuse - I could easily imagine taking revenge on a piece of slime like Williams. Where this tale slips into madness is the extent of the revenge; but even then I get it.

    A thought-provoking and talented write, Sean.

  6. That's a powerful tale, expertly told. This one will stay with me for a long time. Thanks for a terrific read, Sean. I was so totally immersed in the story that it felt like coming up for air when I finished it.

  7. You portrayed the ultimate madness, Sean, and broke it down so well. Very chilling write, and I gotta say, I rather enjoyed the ending very much. Great job with this!

  8. Sean - this was a fantastic story. I think you managed to find the one "madness" that just about everyone can relate to, and see themselves doing what your character does.

    You don't stop there, though, you give us the full ride, and show the ultimate end of those impulses. Whether or not we can live with what we do, even in the name of our children is up to us.

    Thank you so much for bringing this story to everyone here.

  9. Lili, Julie, and Erin- I so glad you took the time to read it and provide such kind comments. I have enjoyed following each of your blogs and writing over the past year, as well as learned a ton.

    Chris- The thanks go to you for hosting such a cool challenge. Can't wait to read the rest of them. You are one hell of a writer and I have enjoyed reading your stories very much.

  10. I'm going to agree with the effectiveness of the contrapuntal technique. I also like the way that music is part of the setting of the story, as it has been in other pieces of Sean's fiction. And I also remember that Sean has said elsewhere that he doesn't really care for happy endings.

    I thought Ben's alternate reading, if that's what it was was quite interesting, and it brings me to the whole setting of the story, as written by Patient 110317. Can we assume that we have an unreliable narrator on our hands?

  11. Sean, What separates you from other writers is you don't poke at stories or characters with a stick. You are fearless with situations and dive all the way in passionately. I love this about you. In this story, you could see his mind bend, pull, break. I could feel that sweet revenge, but there is a price. There is darkness that is rooted in his soul. He and his wife thinks this will be enough, the end, but it won't be. And we as readers know. its just the beginning of pure hell. Awesome creation, Sean.

  12. Seana- Ben certainly raised a good question and although it was meant to be a "real" story, the fantasy angle is certianly a worthy interpretation. Would that make me an unreliable writer? ;)

    Jodi- Coming from you that means a lot and thank for the comments. I was alo thinking that what happens after, might make good material for a continuation someday, ot at least a good premie for another story.

  13. Sean, this is excellent writing and a story that every father would consider doing in the same situation. I admire the way you wrote it with the headings being part of the story...almost like the jotting down of an alibi.

    Great work, mate!

  14. This is a certain trigger to insanity, for something horrible to happen to one's children. I think you really captured that altered state. The breaks throughout were the golden touch.

  15. Dave and Laurita- Thank for the read / comments. I'm glad you liked the little headings/ flahbacks that broke up the main text. It is a little unorthodox, but I try and mix things up if possible.