December 6, 2000
“It was terrible,” the girl sobbed, wiping wet clumps of long blonde hair off of her red and dampened cheeks.
She’d look pretty good if she wasn’t crying, Buddy thought. She seemed to be about his age, fifteen or fourteen at the very least, considering the fact that the interview was being conducted among other students of the high school where the shooting had just taken place.
The girl on Buddy’s television screen continued, “He just jumped up on one of the benches and dropped his bag and his books all spilled out of it. I knew right away he was gonna do something crazy, so I ducked around the corner. And then these shots, they were so loud, they seemed to go on forever! This clique from the drama club, the ones he’d called the freaks, that’s who he opened up on first. Mr. Harrison was the nearest teacher, he tried to stop him. But he ended up getting killed. And then Patrick turned on the football players. I don’t know how many bullets he had, but he seemed to just keep on shooting forever! When the police came in, he turned to shoot at them, and I looked at the kids and there were . . . dozens of them lying in blood, not moving. I don’t know who was dead or who was wounded, some were screaming, I don’t know if they were dying, but God! I think they were!”
The reporter nodded and signaled for a paramedic to tend to the hysterical girl as he turned to address the camera. A black man in his late twenties, the reporter wore a poker face throughout his air time, as if he were giving the scores of the previous day’s football games. “That horrific scene just described took place only two hours ago, mere moments before the homeroom period began. This senseless shooting here at Jefferson High School just outside of Mobile, Alabama, left fifteen dead and ten others wounded. Among the dead are ten students, four of whom were on the football team, history teacher Jesse Harrison, three police officers, and the gunman himself, sixteen-year-old Patrick Horton.”
At that moment a black-and-white picture of a grinning young man with a face full of pimples appeared on the screen. The boy wore a chain around his neck and a black tee-shirt. From his appearance, Buddy could tell right away that people in his hometown would say, “I’m really not surprised. He looked vicious, like he could snap at any given moment.” But one cold hard fact that Buddy Rose had learned over the past five years was that just anyone could snap at any given moment. The news media, including his own father, would have the public believe otherwise, but it was irrefutable. It’s human nature to let the emotions take control, despite the risk of the lives of others.
Richard Rose, Jr., was called Buddy by his divorced father to avoid confusion; however, that opened up a can of worms, inviting his tormentors to refer to him as “Rosebud.”
The nineteen-inch television sat on the blue carpet of the teenage boy’s bedroom, across the room from and directly in front of his air mattress. His father had bought him a bed, but nightmares kept causing the boy to toss and turn until he’d finally collapse onto the floor. To keep him from hurting himself in his sleep, they put the bed in the garage and put the air mattress flat on the floor. It made it awkward for him upon waking, but otherwise it was comfortable.
Aside from the television and the air mattress, the only piece of furniture in the room was a dresser, upon which sat several empty soda cans, the TV remote control, a drawing pad, a red and black lava lamp in the shape of a rocket-ship, and a stack of Richard Marcinko paperbacks. The top drawer was open as he pulled out a plain navy blue tee-shirt and a pair of socks.
A thin boy that was a single inch shy of being six feet tall, Buddy managed to stay unnoticed. People at his school knew who he was, mainly because of his father’s reputation. Those who didn’t simply looked over him because of his plain looks: short brown hair, dull brown eyes, and a complexion that wasn’t completely clear, but wasn’t overrun with zits either. In other words, totally plain.
Once he was fully dressed, he picked up the remote control and turned off the television just as the reporter, identified as Zach Simmons, was interviewing one of the officers responsible for ending the late Patrick Horton’s shooting spree.
Buddy Rose watched the morning news every day before school, not because the current condition of the world concerned him, but because it would determine the mood his father would be in later that day. Richard Rose, Sr., was the producer of one of the most-watched conservative talk shows in America: Gus Farraday’s Eyes. It was the opinion of Buddy Rose (and even that of his father) that the world envisioned by Gus Farraday’s eyes sucked in infinite ways, but considering the fact that the show kept food on their table, rarely was a disparaging word said about Mr. Farraday.
Just as he had expected, his bedroom door opened at exactly seven o’clock and his father stuck his head through the doorway. Richard Rose’s red tie hung down limply beneath his face like Rip Van Winkle’s beard. The white shirt and blue suit accompanying it were immaculately clean and wrinkle-free, just as he always demanded of their lovely young maid, Maria, who also served as Mr. Rose’s personal masseuse . . . in private hours only, of course.
Richard had the same dull brown eyes as his son, but the boy’s brown hair had come from Linda, the former Mrs. Rose, who was now residing in Las Vegas in a penthouse with her new husband, a professional gambler. Richard gave that relationship eight more months. At best. Richard’s own hair was golden blonde, and it was accentuated by the hours he spent in tanning salons. Eighteen years earlier, the year he became part of the cleanup crew for the television studio he worked for, he had gotten his teeth capped so that they would all be perfectly straight and white; he had known how to prepare for his days as an executive producer. Now he flashed those perfect teeth at his son.
“Oh, good, you’re dressed. We’ve got to go right now. I assume you know the news already?”
Buddy sighed and nodded. “Yep. Just turned the TV off.”
“So you know about the shooting. Which means we have exactly,” he looked at his watch as if he didn’t know what time it was or what time Gus went on the air, “five hours to get Gus ready. I really wish I didn’t work with news syndicates. Sitcoms would be so much easier. Even soap operas and prime-time dramas! They script a show, and it runs on schedule. But when you get something like what happened in the Bible Belt this morning . . . the psychos completely re-write the script of life, my son, and that is a sad truth.”
The boy shrugged and asked, “Why does he have to take five hours to comment on the news? The reporters do it as it happens, so why can’t he?”
Richard laughed and put a hand on his son’s shoulder. “Buddy, live TV is best left to comedy. You never know what could happen. So unless everything is planned out to the last syllable, the ass-mites on camera think disaster could strike. Not only that, but it’s politics. You get a guy running his mouth on a platform and he doesn’t shut up.”
Buddy scowled and grumbled, “Fifteen people dying isn’t a political platform.”
His dad sighed and said, “To them it is. He’s going to rant on about it as if it’s a political platform anyway. And before you know it, he’s offended twenty different groups and he has every last phone line busy. Besides,” he said in a mocking stuffy tone, “this is Augustus Farraday, one-time governor of this great state of California! It’s much too unprofessional for a politician to go live before his constituents to discuss a manner as grave as this.”
Buddy smirked. One of the few things about his father that he liked, other than the money, was his impression of the pompous Farraday.
“Come on, kiddo, we’re running behind schedule.”
“Okay.” Buddy hoisted his backpack over his shoulder and followed his father out of his room.
Once Buddy was dropped off, Richard Rose went to the television studio, where he would make the decision that would ultimately seal his fate.
When he walked through Farraday’s studio door, he found Gus yelling at everyone from the camera crew to the caterers. But mostly he was yelling at his fellow writers.
Gus Farraday was a plump man that stood just over five feet tall. He hid his balding head by combing over what little bit of black hair he had left. His eyes were two bulging brown and white balls that stuck out of his head when he was angry. Also when he was angry, his face would turn purple. It was purple now, and his eyes were bloodshot as well as bulging. “No, no, no! This kid should not be pitied! He killed fifteen people! We’re not going to glorify this scumbag in any way, so stop researching the boy’s past! Start looking into the backgrounds of the victims!”
One of the executives of the news station ran through the doors. “Gus, Mr. Turner is on the phone, he wants to know if he should take an hour off of the next show to allow you to take extra time on this subject.”
Gus looked at him with incredulous insult. “Just an extra hour? Fifteen people were shot and he thinks I can cover it all in just two hours? I’m going to have so many people calling me today, from the Democratic gun control Commies to the victims’ family members and authorities with their take on what should be done to prevent this from happening! I’ve got to show my viewers details about each of those ten kids whose futures were cut short, not to mention the police that gave their lives for the rest of the kids! And let us not forget the teacher that risked his life trying to save his students! Do you realize that he was from California? It’s my understanding that he moved down South to keep from having to deal with something like this, which just goes to show that despite the reputation our great state has, no one is safe until each and every one of those little outcast assholes has been firmly disciplined into knowing that this is intolerable! Two hours? Ha! Tell him to take that ridiculous ‘sports news’ program off for today so that I can have at least three!”
The executive, his eyes cast down to the floor, nodded. “Yes, sir, I’ll ask him.”
“No! You don’t ask him, you tell him!”
“Right, sir. Sorry, sir.”
Richard Rose shook his head, walking towards Farraday. “Jesus, Gus, to hear you talk to the network execs, one would think you owned this station. But you don’t. So just take it easy. Do you have a guest lined up for today?”
Taking a deep breath, Farraday tried to calm down before answering his producer. Richard Rose was the only person that Gus never raised his voice to, because he knew that Rose wouldn’t hesitate in physically beating the shit out of him. “There’s too much to cover here without a guest. But I was thinking we could get the chief of police in Mobile to fly here tomorrow morning. How’s that sound?”
“Good. That sounds-” He paused. “Wait a minute, you told Jerry to tell Turner that you want three hours?”
“That’s right, I won’t settle for less.”
“Well you know that at three o’clock, Al Lindsay’s show comes on the national station. You’re going to be competing with him.”
Gus snorted. “That damn Commie. Nobody’s going to turn from my show for him!”
“Don’t kid yourself, Gus. His show and yours are very close as far as ratings go. Need I remind you that the last Presidential election was just about fifty-fifty, proving that there are just as many Democrats as there are Republicans. And after two hours of watching you, the viewers are going to want to see someone else’s opinion on the matter.”
“That’s why we have callers, Richard.”
“But most of the callers are Republicans, too! They may want a more liberal outlook on things. I’m telling you, a third hour is no good. Focus on the events today in a two-hour special, tomorrow we’ll work through the popular opinion, then Friday we’ll have the police chief on, okay?”
Gus sighed, but before he could reply, the executive, Jerry, ran back into the studio. “Mr. Farraday, Mr. Turner says he’s not one hundred percent sold on the idea of canceling the sports news today. Two hours, okay?”
Richard Rose jumped in before Farraday could respond. “That’s fine, Jerry. Two’s perfect for today.”
Gus ground his teeth as he frowned at his producer, his face turning purple again. “I think I could have beaten Lindsay with the ratings, Richard. I wish you hadn’t done that.”
“Turner wasn’t going to bow down to you anyway, Gus. Get over it. People have a short attention span, you know that. If you make this story last throughout the week, it’ll keep them interested, and in anticipation of the next show. Am I wrong?”
With a sigh, Gus said, “No, I guess not. But I think the people would agree with me far more than they would with Lindsay! What better way to prove it than go up against his time slot in the ratings war?!”
Gears began to turn in Rose’s head. His eyes darkened as he grinned and rubbed his chin. “I think you might be on to something there, Gus.”
“A way to prove whose views are more widely accepted on such a topic: the Republican’s, or the Democrat’s. You go on today for two hours, then let people watch Lindsay’s show. After it’s over, let me call his producer.”
Gus raised an eyebrow. “What for?”
Richard’s grin expanded. “Picture this: A prime-time standoff between the two most critically acclaimed political television minds. Gus Farraday and Albert Lindsay debating live over what causes and what should be done about violence in the school systems. Friday night, after the police chief’s been interviewed, Americans everywhere, especially those directly affected by this tragedy, will be tuning in to see the conservative versus the liberal.”
Gus smiled slightly. “I don’t think Lindsay has the balls to stand up to me live on TV. I’ll chew his pansy ass in half. He didn’t even have the guts to run for Senate when everyone was backing him! He had it in the palm of his hand, but couldn’t deal with the responsibility and quit politics.”
A voice behind him muttered softly, “Like you couldn’t handle the rejection after losing the vice presidential campaign.”
Veins in his face stood out as he whirled around and angrily shouted to his writers and crew, “Who the fuck said that?!”
Richard put a hand on Farraday’s shoulder and said, “Gus, calm down. Your reasons for giving up politics are your own business, but today the topic at hand is this competition over the popular opinion on the school shooting. I’m going to call Al Lindsay’s producer, okay?”
Wiping sweat from his brow with a handkerchief, Gus nodded. “Sounds good to me. Today I go on for two hours and cover the victims. Tomorrow I take calls, and Friday I talk to the police chief of Mobile. Good.”
“An hour live sound good to you?”
Gus chuckled. “An hour of me chewing him up is going to seem like an eternity to that weasel. Tell the network to line up a sitcom rerun just in case we end early.”
“I don’t think this is a good idea, Al,” Martin Deuce said.
Al Lindsay, a tall handsome man in his late forties, smiled at his agent and put a hand on his beefy shoulder. He still had most of his golden hair, and very few wrinkles around his mesmerizing green eyes. “Marty, everything’s going to be fine. I’ve got a calm disposition on my side. Gus Farraday is an angry little prick that’s going to blow up after the first five words out of my mouth.”
Martin frowned. A foot shorter and a hundred pounds heavier than his client, he easily got out of breath, especially when he was nervous. Now was one of those times. “Exactly, he wants to make you look like a pussy on national television. The only reason he’s proposed this is because he wanted his show to go on for three hours today but his producer knew that he’d lose viewers to your show. This is how he wants to settle that little battle, and I tell ya, it stinks. I don’t think you should give him the opportunity to piss on your values.”
Al laughed. “He pisses on my values every day, this time I just get a chance to defend them! Don’t worry, it’ll be all right. Friday at six, we go on the air and face off. Personally, I can’t wait.”
Marty sighed. “I still think it’s a bad idea.”
Friday, December 8, 2000
The two chairs sat upon the iron stage before the bleachers full of people there to see their favorite political staple tear the opponent apart. Each armchair was wooden with a blue cushion, as Richard Rose had wanted to make the two combatants as comfortable as possible before they faced off. The day before, Rose and Martin Deuce had flipped a coin to see who would host this event. Had Martin won, the questions would not have been so piercing, and less sweat would have been broken. But the quarter had landed heads-up, and it just so happened that Richard Rose had called heads in the air.
Microphones adjusted upon their tie clips, Lindsay and Farraday shook hands to the great applause of the crowd before them. Once they were seated, Rose walked onto the stage holding a stack of blue flash cards in one hand and a microphone in the other.
After the sound checks were worked out, the lighting adjusted.
Rose looked at the cameraman and asked, “Are we clear?”
Richard grinned. “Good. This is going to be the crown jewel in my career, right here.” He looked in the front row and tipped a wink at Buddy, who casually raised a hand in a wave in return.
He walked over to his son and asked, “You’ve set the VCR to tape this, right?”
Buddy sighed. “Yep.”
Richard flashed his pearly whites. “Great!” He then jumped back in front of the camera.
“Okay,” the cameraman said, Martin Deuce standing behind him sweating up a storm. “In five, four, three-” He gave the hand signals for two and one, and then Richard Rose smiled into the camera as a recording of a band playing America the Beautiful filled the auditorium.
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the debate of two of television’s most provocative political minds, Albert Lindsay and Gus Farraday. I’m Richard Rose, and I’ll be the mediator of tonight’s events. Or the referee, if you will.”
The audience laughed on cue, and once they were finished, Rose continued.
“The events of this past Wednesday were quite grisly indeed. Sixteen-year-old Patrick Horton took a gun to school and mercilessly murdered fifteen people, including a teacher and several law enforcement officers. Tonight we’re going to ask these two former politicians for their views on what could drive a young man to do something like this. Mr. Farraday, could you start for us?”
With a grin, Gus nodded. “Certainly. It’s obvious that the boy was raised with no morals.”
“Actually,” Lindsay interrupted, “his parents are devout Catholics. They took him with them to church every Sunday until he started telling them he didn’t want to go.”
“Exactly my point!” Farraday spat. “No discipline! These days the kids tell their parents what they’re going to do, when it should be the other way around! When I was a boy my father disciplined me almost daily, and now I respect people.”
With a smirk, Lindsay said, “I thought your point was that they were raised without morals? This particular child was given every opportunity to have morals. He was taken to church every week, where he was told to honor his mother and father, and yet he disobeyed. Why? Not because his parents weren’t strict enough. If you can use that as an excuse, you can just as easily blame the church.”
Gus’s face already began to redden. “Are you trying to say that religion is the cause here?”
Richard Rose lowered both his microphone and his cards. It was best to let these two go at each other without intervention.
“Not at all,” Lindsay replied. “But if you can blame his parents for things he did when they told him not to, you can say the same about the church. He chose to disobey both the Bible and his parents.”
The audience roared approval.
Grinding his teeth, Farraday said, “If the Bible was allowed in school, he wouldn’t have been able to avoid it.”
“Avoid it? You’re talking about forcing religion upon people now! Don’t you know what happens when you try to force a belief on the people? That’s exactly what the Spanish Inquisition was all about!”
The audience roared again, clapping wildly.
“Okay,” Gus said evenly, trying to control his anger, “Maybe what I said was a bit out of proportion. What I meant was, if prayer hadn’t been taken out of school, perhaps the children would be more exposed to morals.”
“Ah! Exposure! A much better word,” Lindsay said with a grin.
The audience laughed, but before Farraday could retort, Richard signaled the cameraman to shift towards him and said, “We’ll take a break and get back on the issue of religion and school and how it might affect violence in the classrooms after this.”
The lights dimmed a bit and immediately Marty Deuce and Richard Rose ran to their clients like boxers to their managers at the ringing of the bell.
Gus frowned and tried to keep his voice down as he said angrily to his producer, “What the hell is going on, I thought you said this audience was going to be made up of my audience!?”
Richard shrugged, eyes wide. “It is! I hand-picked them myself! Eighty percent of them are voters on the Republican ticket!”
“Then why the hell does Lindsay have them eating out of the palm of his hand?”
Richard thought but didn’t say, Because he’s right.
On the opposite side of the stage, Marty said, “You’re pissing him off, Al! Religion is a very touchy subject, you know where he’s going to go next. He’s going to call you a godless heathen and a Communist to boot.”
Al smiled. “I have a response to both claims, Marty. Stop worrying.”
With a sigh, Deuce walked back to his seat as Rose jumped back to his spot in front of the camera.
The lights adjusted once more and the cameraman gave the signal. “Okay,” Rose said, “we’re back. When we left off, Mr. Farraday was addressing the issue of religion in schools. He feels that if children are more exposed to the Bible among classmates, they’d be less apt to break the Commandments. Is this correct, Mr. Farraday?”
Gus took a deep breath. “Yes, it is. The recent separation of church and state has greatly damaged the school systems. When prayer was advocated, violence did not take place.”
Lindsay interjected, “Yes, but in many schools, moments of ‘silent reflection’ are offered, in which students who wish to do so pray.”
“But everyone should be aware of the presence of God, not just a certain few.”
“I remind you, Mr. Farraday, that not everyone worships the Christian God. Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims would feel persecuted if a school forced them to accept a god different than their own. And I think that the separation of state and church is irrelevant in this case. If the boy in question would choose to ignore Christian morals at home and in church, what makes you think it would be any different at school?”
“Because his peers would be more aware, and the influence of friends is very powerful!”
“That is true, but this particular boy, like most of the kids who have taken guns to school, had no friends. He chose to be alone. Why? No one knows. His parents offered him attention, but he didn’t want it. As a kid, they tried to get him involved in Little League, but he refused to participate. If he had, maybe he would have had friends. But he chose not to.”
Gus barked angrily, “What’s your point?”
“My point is that we’re all individuals. No one makes us do the things we do except for us.”
Over the audience’s applause, Farraday replied, “Just moments ago you agreed that the influence of peers is very powerful and now you say it’s an individual’s choice.”
“That’s right. We’re shaped into the people we are by the company we keep, but because we become who we are, we make our own choices. No one does it for us once we’ve established who we are.”
“But like you said before, this boy had no friends! Who or what molded him into the person he became?”
Lindsay shrugged. “The dark recesses of his mind. Psychologists would agree that when a person doesn’t like his peers, he creates some imaginary ones, and they echo the person himself. And since that person is lonely and unhappy, the imaginary friend is also unhappy. And that unhappy ‘person’ can develop in terrible ways.”
Gus rolled his eyes. “Psychology. Another waste of time. People get away from life in prison because of psychiatrists all the time, and it’s usually a lie.”
“Sometimes a lie. But there are a lot of mentally ill people out there. People who were abused as children who grow up to have anger management problems. That’s not the case here, but mental illness does exist and probably played a large part in why he did what he did. Witnesses to the killings said that he had a vast emptiness in his eyes that told a tale of madness. His parents even expressed that they were worried for his mental behavior. They tried to get him to go to a psychiatrist, but he refused to go. But what gets me is how someone who was previously displaying signs of mental instability could get his hands on a gun in the first place.”
Waving like a madman, Richard Rose got the attention of the cameraman. Once the camera was back on him, he said, “Sounds like we’re about to go into an issue that’s on the minds of everyone here: the second amendment. We’ll get to that after this.”
The lights dimmed and Marty Deuce shook his head as he strolled over to his client. “You’ve really opened up a can of worms here, Al.”
Grinning feverishly, Gus called over to them, “Your agent’s right, Lindsay. The second amendment is my Bible. You’ve set yourself up on the dunking chair.”
Lindsay smiled. “We’ll see.”
When the commercial break ended, Rose said, “Okay, we’re back. If you’re just joining us, Mr. Al Lindsay has made an interesting point. How could a boy displaying signs of mental instability get a gun in his possession? Mr. Farraday, what do you think?”
A thin smile on his lips, Gus replied, “The boy’s parents, devout Catholics, were obviously also American patriots trying to defend their household, not knowing that their son’s mind had become polluted.”
Lindsay asked, “How could they not know? They monitored the boy, they knew what he was capable. And as Catholics, they should have known better than to own a gun in the first place.”
“Ah! The second amendment grants that every American, regardless of religion, has the right to bear arms! The fact that they’re Catholic has no bearing here!”
Folding his arms, Lindsay narrowed his eyes and asked, “Are you a Christian, Mr. Farraday?”
As if insulted, Gus burst out, “Of course I am!”
“Then you should know that one of the Ten Commandments is ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ A gun is an instrument of destruction, its only purpose is to kill. I’ve had similar debates in the past, that guns can be used to get food, or for sport, or to control population. But the fact remains that in the beginning, the purpose of inventing the gun was to kill. And according to the Bible, killing is wrong. Correct?”
Flustered, Farraday yelled, “Don’t tell me what’s in the Bible! I should know! God Himself had to lay philistines to rest for breaking His laws! In America, we have to protect our own laws!”
Raising his brow, Lindsay said with a smirk, “So now you’re comparing yourself to God?”
“But you admit that God contradicts Himself in the Bible.”
“It’s not a contradiction!”
Laughing, Al said, “Oh, that’s right, the Commandments were directed towards us, not Him. But America hadn’t been established when the Bible was written, do you think that God advocates the use of guns by ‘patriotic Americans’ such as the Hortons?”
Grinding his teeth again, Gus was now fully purple. “God doesn’t want any of His people killed. Therefore we have to protect ourselves. That’s why we have the second amendment, to allow us to protect ourselves.”
Lindsay shook his head. “You said the second amendment is your Bible, but you seem to have forgotten the fine print. It says we have the right to bear arms to protect our nation. So unless you’re a freedom fighter in the national armed services or the police force, you really have no right to own a gun.”
The crowd cheered again, making Farraday even angrier. So much for eighty percent of the audience being Republican voters. Clutching at straws, he said, “Those decent God-fearing people wanted to protect that child and he betrayed them by taking the gun and putting it to his own uses! He probably got the idea from gothic music, or violent movies and video games!”
The audience booed as Lindsay rolled his eyes. “Using the first amendment as a scapegoat is really pointless, Gus.”
The cameraman looked from the clock to Rose, who nodded. The camera on him, Richard Rose said, “Very good observation. Does the entertainment industry have any effect on violence in America? We’ll touch on that when we return.”
Gus sprang from his seat and ran over to Richard, who was dialing a number on his cellular phone. “What the hell are you doing?”
Richard sighed. “You’re finished, Gus. Lindsay’s dancing circles around your old-fashioned conservatism, and it’s obvious that we have a few converts up there. There are rumors that Lindsay is considering a return to politics, and you may have just placed him at the alter and nailed your own coffin shut at the same time. You fucked up, Gus. We fucked up.” He put the phone to his ear and said, “Yeah, this is Rose. Get that TV show ready, we’re calling it quits with the half hour. Just a few minutes of Al Lindsay bashing Gus for trying to blame the first amendment for the school shooting, that’s all that’s left.”
Gus gaped at him with pleading eyes. “You’re soulless. The whole damn lot of you, soulless.”
Rose shrugged. “What can I say, Gus? You said it yourself, you get influenced by the company you keep. Go sit down, we’re about to go back on the air.” To the cameraman, he said, “When we go back on, keep the focus off of Gus.”
The cameraman nodded as, obediently, Gus sat down, looking beaten.
The lights came back up and Rose said into the camera, “Okay, we’re just about ready to wrap this up. When we left, Mr. Lindsay was addressing the use of the first amendment as a ‘scapegoat’ for violence such as the Jefferson High School killings. Could you please elaborate, Mr. Lindsay?”
Lindsay nodded. “I’d be happy to. The first amendment allows us to express ourselves in whatever we see fit, peacefully. There is no fine print there. We can say whatever we want as long as it doesn’t infringe upon the rights of others. To say that that amendment can trigger violence shows the stupidity of the person who reacts violently. I guess it makes sense that those amendments are in the order they’re in. One and two. With the first amendment, I’m free to say things to piss you off, and if you let it make you angry enough to bear arms and kill me with your gun, that’s bull-” he paused and smiled at the audience. “Number two.”
The audience all clapped and cheered, except for Buddy Rose, whose focus was on Gus Farraday sitting in the dark, pouting, knowing that no one cared about his opinions any more. Al Lindsay was their favorite and he was just a purple-faced little fat man in the dark, feeding their champion with material. He was the Lou Costello to Lindsay’s Bud Abbott. The Jerry Lewis to his Dean Martin. Nothing but comic relief.
Richard Rose made his closing statements, but Farraday didn’t hear them. All he heard was his own thoughts, echoing his words and the words of his political adversary.
Sunday, December 11, 2000
One bullet. One gun. One shot. That’s all it would take to make the suffering end.
Gus Farraday sat at the kitchen table in his yellow boxer shorts and a dirty, sweaty tee-shirt that he had had on since the night of the live debate. The words of Al Lindsay, Richard Rose, and himself rang throughout his head. He just couldn’t take it any more. He put the gun against his temple and took a deep breath.
Then he stopped and opened his eyes. “Wait a minute,” he whispered. “I’m not giving up this easy. I’m Augustus Farraday, one-time governor of the great state of California. Gus Farraday doesn’t let bleeding-heart liberal Commie bastards ruin his life. I’m not the problem. He is.”
And with that, Gus flipped the chamber of his gun open again and added five more bullets, filling it. He then laid the gun down on the kitchen table, rose from his seat, and ventured into his bedroom, where he pulled on the same slacks and shirt he had worn Friday evening. Once fully dressed he picked his gun back up and went out to his car.
Needless to say, Al Lindsay was surprised when he opened the front door to his mansion on the hill to see Gus Farraday standing there. He was even more surprised by the stench of the former governor.
Trying to smile, Al said, “Hi, Gus. What brings you out here at this hour?”
Gus shrugged. “I just felt the need to apologize. Why, did I catch you at a bad hour? Are you entertaining guests?”
Al shook his head. “No, I’m alone. Come on in, have a drink.”
Once the front door was opened, Farraday pushed his way inside, throwing Lindsay to the ground.
Looking up in anger, Al shouted, “What the hell is wrong with you? You stink, you’re still in the suit you wore Friday . . . have you snapped?”
Gus grinned, pulling the gun from his pocket. Al’s eyes grew to the size of saucers at the sight of the revolver. “Maybe. That’s why I wanted to apologize, Al. You were right. The influence of our peers, especially if we hang around people with no souls, can make us lose our minds. And when we lose our minds, we take advantage of, what you called number two, when you use the first amendment to piss us off! Well, you certainly did that!”
Al hid his eyes behind his arm as Gus pulled the trigger of his gun three times, each bullet striking Lindsay squarely in the chest, piercing his heart.
Once his enemy was dead, Gus smiled. “You won the debate, but I did not put you at the alter. And the only coffin I nailed shut was yours, asshole.” He then laughed insanely . . . until the voice came.
“Wrong again, dumb shit. You just nailed your own shut. They’re going to give you the gas chamber for what you just did. Or is it the lethal injection in California now? You’re the one that supports that shit, as a Republican, so you should know.”
Eyes wide with horror, Gus stared at Al’s body. His mouth wasn’t moving, but he could hear his voice all the same.
“What’s your plea going to be, Gus? Insanity? You said that psychiatry was all a load of crap, remember? Of course, your case could be genuine. After all, millions across America heard you say that your dad used to beat you, and as I pointed out, that’s a major cause of mental instability. But you don’t believe in that, do you? So you’re probably just going to plead guilty and take the lethal injection like the true man you are.”
“Shut up!” Gus screamed, as he fired another shot into Lindsay’s head.
“I think it’s already been established that this voice isn’t going to be shut up by you shooting this corpse. Are you going to continue to waste those bullets and increase the chance of someone down in town hearing them and giving a shit, or are you going to do something about the body?”
Gus scrambled to his feet and ran to the back door. Once he fumbled the door open, he spied a tool shed.
He stepped out onto the back lawn only to be approached by a barking German Shepherd. Gus raised the gun and fired a shot into the air. The dog whimpered and ran off into the woods behind the former mayor’s mansion. The voice of Al Lindsay said, “Oh, now you only have one bullet left, Gus. I suggest you put that barrel in your mouth and put it to good use.”
Ignoring this suggestion, Lindsay’s insane murderer ran into the tool shed and grabbed a shovel. Then he spied something else. Something shiny. Something that made him smile.
It was a chainsaw.
Monday, December 12, 2000
When Richard Rose arrived at the studio that morning, Gus Farraday smelled like a rose and looked like a million bucks. He grinned at his producer. “Good morning, Richard.”
Rose perked an eyebrow. “What’s so good about it? You realize that Turner’s probably going to shit-can both of us after that awful performance Friday night. That was the worst idea I’d ever had, even worse than marrying my ex-wife. Hell, it’s the worst idea in the history of television, even worse than the dream season of Dallas!”
Gus chuckled. “Don’t worry, Richard. I’ve got a special guest today. After today’s show, I’m going to be so much bigger than Al Lindsay. Everyone’s going to know my name. And you? You’re going to be involved in several TV shows after today. Trust me.”
Richard sighed. “This better be good, Gus.”
“Oh, it is.”
At noon, the cameras began to roll and Gus Farraday’s Eyes began. Immediately, Gus said to his audience, “Good afternoon to one and all. I’m sure most of you watched my live debate with Al Lindsay Friday evening.”
Richard Rose sighed. “Oh, shit, what’s he doing?”
“Well, it seemed to most that Mr. Lindsay was correct in his beliefs as to why the Jefferson High murders took place. He made points involving the madness of those who take the second amendment more seriously than the first. Well, we’re going to discuss this again today. You see, Al Lindsay’s show won’t be coming on today, as he’s today’s special guest.” He reached down beneath his desk and pulled out a deep brown suitcase. He opened it up to show, wrapped in Saran-Wrap, Albert Lindsay’s severed head.
The cameraman instantly vomited on his shoes. Jerry, the executive, passed out. Richard froze, his face pale. He wasn’t even aware of the fact that he had evacuated his bladder in his pants.
“Yes,” Gus said, “Mr. Lindsay was correct. The insane find it quite easy to take out their peers that are more easily accepted than they. But I do have him beat in one field. He killed my career on live television, but I’m going to get the final laugh because it is I who kill myself live on TV.” And with that, he pulled his gun out of the brown suitcase, pressed the barrel against his temple as he had done once the night before, and pulled the trigger, the right side of his head exploding in a mist of red clumps.
In a very low voice, Richard said, “Turn the camera off.”
The cameraman did as he was told.
Tuesday, December 13, 2000
Buddy watched the news once again, hearing the reporters talk about how terrible it was that a man had executed himself on live television after revealing the severed head of his rival. They showed clips of Friday night’s debate, Farraday talking about how his father had “disciplined” him as a boy, Lindsay talking about the psychology of these killers, and finally clips of Farraday’s last show, with the gore shielded by clear fuzz. They interviewed several police officers, who found Lindsay’s body buried in his own back yard, the grave marked by a red and silver chainsaw, tinged with crimson.
The executive producer of Gus Farraday’s Eyes, Richard Rose, had appeared on several news programs to discuss the impact that Friday’s debate had had on his client’s mental health. In fact, he was so busy talking about what Gus Farraday had done to Al Lindsay with a chainsaw that his son had to walk to school that morning.
The first bell rang and students began piling through the doors with absolutely no organization whatsoever. One boy bumped into Buddy and felt a hard object in his green book-bag, which was much larger today than usual.
“Damn, Rosebud,” he said, “What you got in there?”
Grinning wildly, Buddy said, “Oh, you’ll find out during lunch. You may hear about it from the other students, you might even see it. Hell, you’ll probably hear me rev it up.”