Joseph Kawalski grew up on the family farm on the North Dakota bank of the Red River. His mother died at his birth. His father, Big Joe, tried to raise him, but he never could understand his son. Big Joe, at times, seemed to understand that his son needed more help to grow up but … He just couldn’t quite figure out the whys and wherefores of raising a child. Little Joe didn’t take care of himself after weaning! The orphaned calves and pigs were fine after being weaned off the bottle and to solid food. Why couldn’t his son handle his own raising?
Joe inherited his father’s size and just enough brains from his mother to make it in school. In grade school, he was at least fifty pounds heavier and a foot taller than his classmates were. Unlike the gentle giants everyone hears about, Joe discovered that he could get anything he wanted from his classmates just by towering over them. He stuffed himself on the best lunches of his classmates. Relaxed in the best seats in the back of the room. His first few weeks in college were a shock to him. There were dozens of bigger and, in some cases, meaner students in the school. He floundered until the fall of his junior year in college. He got a freshman girl drunk and date raped her. His power back was back! That quarter his grade point average went from a 1.9 to a 2.8, after he started to use his size to intimidate selected undergrads to do his homework. His favorite technique was to date rape a girl in a class he was taking and rough her up until she helped him with his homework. In his senior year, he refined his scheme. He would get a girl who had a steady boyfriend to go with him to a quiet corner of the student union to study. There he would drug a can of pop he would buy her with an animal tranquilizer he got from his father’s farm. He would then time his rape to correspond to when she started to come out from under the tranquilizer so she would remember the sex act. After showing her Polaroids he had taken of her while she was unconscious, she would be willing to do his class work. He never got caught in either his blackmail or his rapes. After each success, his confidence grew. By the time he graduated, he had raped two dozen young girls and had a grade point average of 3.0.
His skill in intimidation grew when he graduated. Somehow he knew he was small time. He always seemed to know whom he could push and whom to avoid. That was until he met Jefferson William Shermon. He became Shermon’s sycophant. He now lived on the scraps that Jefferson gave him and he lived well. At eighty thousand dollars per year, he earned more than ninety percent of the local rural population. He loved lording his wealth over the neighbors with a facade of leased cars, boats and ATV’s. He also controlled the lives of hundreds of people, either through their finances or their children. It was a
rare month that he didn’t collect something for his due.
Joseph sat in his office for a few minutes with a cup of coffee before he had to walk the rounds of the hallways for the mandatory morning appearance. There was a timid knock on the door that he knew had to be Amy, his secretary. She was old, ugly, and fat. She had come with the job. Shermon refused to let him fire her. Besides, she was so old you could get her to sign any document you needed and she would never know what she had signed. It was a perfect way to protect themselves if there ever was an audit of the school’s books.
“Mr. Kawalski, John Penington is in the office. He says that Mr.
Makinen is here. He wants to know who is he suppose to be substituting for?”
“Makinen here?” Anger burned in Kawalski. _The little prick showed up, did he? Well, he will regret it!_ “Amy, you tell Mr. Penington that Makinen will be leaving. I’ll take care of Makinen.”
Kawalski boiled down the hallway to Makinen’s room. Staff and students parted before him, recognizing the foul mood. But the curiosity seekers, the ones who stop at an accident hoping to see the blood, were pulled along in his wake.
Bursting through Makinen’s door, he growled, “I fired you last night! What are you doing here?”
James, surprised, tried to figure out what Kawalski was talking about. As Kawalski continued to yell at him, James slowly unraveled the events. Instead of anger, James felt a weariness, but something else burned behind a thin boundary in his mind.
In a soft voice, James said, “Joe, Joe, Joe … I know this is hard for you to understand, but you can’t fire me. I have something called a contract. You’re just a building principal. My contract is with the school district, just like your contract is. I’ll do my job and you do whatever it is you do.”
“You God Damn Little Prick! You get out of this school now! I don’t give a fuck about your contract! You get your ass out of this building. Now!”
“If that is how you want to play the game, I will leave but with everything I own.”
“You’re leaving now!”
But James had already turned his back on Kawalski and started to take down the posters decorating the walls. Screaming, Kawalski reached down. Grabbing James’ shoulder, he rolled him around pushing him into the wall. Kawalski’s fingers gouged into James’ shoulders as he glared into Makinen’s face. Something happened! Kawalski didn’t see fear in those eyes. The eyes had turned flat, emotionless. James’ hands came up through the hold that Kawalski had on him. They pushed against the inside of Kawalski’s elbows and circled around the arms. Kawalski’s grip on James was gone. His thumbs were bent back. His arms twisted and locked fully extended. Pressure was applied straight up, tendons stretched joints creaked and Kawalski went up on his toes unable to move. The pain was excruciating.
James, his emotionless eyes penetrating Kawalski’s mind, whispered, “I am going to get all my things. You are going to leave.”
James released his hold on Kawalski. Joe collapsed down from his tiptoes, his knees wobbling as the pain subsided. Kawalski stumbled away, rubbing the feeling back into his sore arms. He saw the crowd at the doorway. He hesitated. He wanted to turn around, but he remembered the eyes with no fear and the ease in which his hold was broken. The pain still throbbed though his arms. When he looked up again, the crowd was gone and he lurched through the door.
After Kawalski left, the strength went out of James’ legs. On his own wobbly knees, he staggered to his desk. He sat heavily on the old rickety swivel chair with a bad spring and tried to understand what had happened to him. His mind drifted from the amazement of the karate move-that he had only practiced alone-actually working, to the real possibility of losing his job.
He sat in dumb bewilderment until he heard over the loud speakers the voice of Joe Kawalski, “James Makinen has been suspended from his duties. If any staff or students have had problems with Mr. Makinen, please come to the high school office during first or second periods this morning. Mr. Makinen’s classes will meet in the library this morning. Bring study materials.”
Henry Hakanen and Al Gallea had been sitting in the district office waiting to discuss a schedule for interviews with the staff and students about the sexual-assault complaint with Shermon when they heard the announcement echo in from the hallway. They stared at each other in astonishment and said in unison, “Damn!” Together they got up and walked down the hall to the high school office. There they found a red-faced Kawalski standing in his doorway.
Henry was the first to speak. “Mr. Kawalski, this is a police investigation. We cannot have you talking to any potential witnesses before we interview them. I am going to have to ask you not to talk to anybody about Mr. Makinen and to give me a list of names of all the people you have already spoken to.”
Kawalski erupted, “I don’t give a damn about your investigation! I fired that little prick last night and he still showed up for work today. He won’t leave and I ordered him to.” His eruption sputtered to a stop as he finally realized who he was talking to and what he was saying.
Henry and Al glanced at each other, an opportunity! “We’ll talk to Mr. Makinen. Just remember, don’t speak to anyone about him.” Henry took a step closer to Kawalski, making sure he was focused on what he was about to say. “I will be stopping by after I talk to Makinen. I expect to have that list from you made out by then. Okay?” He waited until he got a nod.
Henry and Al left the office. “Do you know which room Makinen is in?”
“Yes. My grandson had him a year ago. I picked my grandson up after school a couple of times from Makinen’s room.”
“Do you think Kawalski blew our case?”
“We never had one. After this little escapade of his, we’ve got even less. We still have to go through an investigation, but we’ll have nothing when we’re finished.”
“What do you mean?”
“I know the girl, Makinen, Kawalski and Shermon. The only one who hasn’t lied so far is Makinen and he hasn’t said anything.”
“What do you mean?”
“Jenny Rossetti is a ‘good time’ girl. She never would have met Makinen after school to get help for her schoolwork. I asked my grandson. He doesn’t think she is passing a single class. If she met Makinen after school, it was for something totally different. They still could have had sex, which is statutory rape because she is seventeen, but the whole first part of her story is wrong. Kawalski and Shermon are troublemakers. I don’t know how they got the jobs they have but they are real bastards. Watch them carefully and you will see what I mean.”
He paused for his next thought. “Makinen is on the edge. This thing with the girl doesn’t sound right with him. He has been just hanging on since his wife left with his kids. Be careful with him. If he goes over the edge, he could be very dangerous.”
Gallea looked at Hakanen in shock. What in the world was he talking about? They continued down the empty hall in silence. When they came to Makinen’s room, they found him with his head bowed, sitting at his desk. Henry motioned Gallea to back away from the doorway. Going back a few steps, he said in a loud voice, “This is Makinen’s room.” When they got to the doorway again, James was piling books on the desk. As they stepped into the room, Al seemed to catch a glimpse of something feral and lost in James’ eyes. It scared him.
Again Henry started the conversation. “Hi, Jim. Talked to Kawalski.”
There was a slight break in Makinen’s voice, “I know. I’m leaving. I told him I’m taking everything I own with me. You know he can’t fire me. Suspend, yes. Fire, no.”
“I know, Jim. Could I help?”
James looked up in surprise and in gratitude replied, “Yes.”
The two deputies helped take down posters and pile books. Hakanen asked, while taking down a poster, “Jim, what are you going to do tonight?”
James paused and looked Henry straight in the face. “The same thing I’ve done every night for the last six months, go home. Unless, of course, it is Wednesday or Saturday, sauna night at Dad’s.”
It took awhile for Gallea to catch on to what was said. By the time Al caught up with what was happening, Makinen was sitting in front of his computer deleting programs and files. He was telling Henry, “This school district is so cheap, I had to buy most of the programs I use in class.” James got up and picked up a stack of books with the computer still working in the background.
Gallea had to ask, “What are you doing now?” nodding at the computer.
Makinen gave him a conspiratorial smile and said, “I’m defragmenting the hard drive.” Seeing the confused look on Al’s face, he continued. “I deleted the main program files, resident programs, and data I owned on the hard drive, but with a utility you can bring back the files. You see, all that happens when a file is deleted is that the address is erased. The file will stay there until it is written over. Defragmenting a disk rewrites all the information on the disk drive and stores it at the end of the disk. That means all my files will probably be written over and cannot be used again.”
By the way James continued smiling, Gallea knew he had done more than what he said, but he had no idea what. He left the room with an armload of books, feeling that he had participated in something. It was the same feeling he’d had when he was in high school and he and his friends went out during Halloween to soap some doorknobs. Later in the day riding back to the station with Henry, he asked, “What really happened with the computer files?”
Henry laughed, “Just what he said. He just didn’t tell you that the computer would probably have to have the system reloaded, which is a real pain. You see, a computer program that you buy is really a set of programs.
Jim just erased one of those programs. The remaining programs are just sitting in the machine and will probably start running the next time you turn the computer on, but without the whole set of programs, the computer will lock up and quit working. With what Jim did to the computer, the easiest thing for them to do will be to erase everything on the computer disk and reprogram it as if it was new.”
“Why did you let him do it?”
“He needed a break, a release. Besides, I owed him one. He did tell us where he was Tuesday night.”
* * * *
Kawalski gave the deputies the list of names. He left for home still fuming about the disrespect given him. Nobody had treated him the way the deputies and Makinen had since his first year in college. The rage simmered through the night. He planned his moves for tomorrow and savored the thoughts of what he would force Lori Waithe to do during tomorrow’s follow-up review meeting in order to get her tenure. He packed in his briefcase duct tape, sex lubricant, an assortment of drugs, and a Polaroid camera. He had great plans for his meeting after classes with Lori. He knew that there were no meetings scheduled after school hours this Friday and that the janitors would be gone after six o’clock from the wing of the school he planned on bringing her to.
He squirmed uncomfortably in his car seat while driving to school Friday morning. His penis had hardened as he thought about his torturing of the girl. The irritation of the sensitive skin against the fabric of the pant leg and the thoughts of a possible stain caused the squirming.
Kawalski started the morning by visiting every teacher in his or her room. In double talk he’d spent the night rehearsing, he told them he wanted Makinen out and anyone who didn’t help him get rid of Makinen would have their lives become a living hell. His years of intimidation and torture had honed his phrasing to an art form. What he didn’t realize was that except for the few he was already blackmailing, his intimidation strengthened the resolve to oppose. An impromptu faculty meeting formed of its own accord at noon. A union rep from the State was called and plans were made to force him and Shermon
Kawalski’s next stops were to the support staff. Here he met with greater success. All but one of the janitors buckled under his intimidation. When he was finished, he felt he had in place enough slander to easily justify Makinen’s dismissal. His power assured, he went next to a personal attack on Makinen. He wanted Makinen to feel pain.
It was noon. Kawalski left the building. He walked down the street toward downtown. Halfway to the business district, he turned down an alley. He worked his way back toward the school building. Only a block and a half from the school behind the Lutheran church next to a dumpster, he found them, Pike Borland and his two strong-arm flunkies, John Whitefeather and Arne Johanson.
Pike was the slick ‘pretty boy’ who, in some high school classes, becomes the permanent class president. He personally introduced a dozen girls to sex and passed on ten of them to John and Arne before they could pull their panties up after he was done with them. He was never the best athlete but, somehow, always was mentioned first at the pep fests. He always arranged to make the final decision on the prom theme or the homecoming float. He took the credit for everything that worked and accepted none of the blame. If anyone had a problem with that, John and Arne were always there to change their minds.
Every day at lunch, the three boys would meet behind the Lutheran church. Smoke a little pot. Drink a little beer. On occasion, an eighth or ninth grade girl would be with them to be introduced to the joys of drugs and sex. The old Lutheran preacher never knew the hasp holding the padlock on the gardening shed was broken, let alone that under the shelf in back of the shed was a stash of drugs, booze, and a couple of blankets for a quickie.
Kawalski had followed the boys to their hideout a year and a half ago. Instead of busting them, he used them for information and a source of income. They were more than willing to buy their liquor and pills from him … at a reasonable mark up, of course.
“Pike, got enough of everything?” The nod in return was enough. “How about anything for me?” Again a shake of the head was the response. “You know, it is too bad someone doesn’t take care of Makinen. The way he laid his hands on poor Jenny … and getting away with it! All that will ever happen to him is getting laid off for a day or two.
“Now, boys, you should head back to school soon. You don’t want to be late for your next class … Do you? It would be better not to go back at all if you are late.” Kawalski left.
The boys knew that Kawalski was hinting at something when he mentioned not being late for classes. On that cue, the boys went into the shed. They found a case of beer and a bottle of whisky that they hadn’t put there. Party time went through their minds. Arne left to get some girls. John went for his car. Within five minutes, the boys and two girls were driving out of town to a fire trail ten miles north of town. By the time John pulled the car off the highway and into the State Forest, one of the girls had a can of beer in her hands and Pike pounding between her legs. The other girl was pushing Arne’s hands away from her breasts with one hand while pulling on a can of beer with the other. She would belch out between gulps of beer, “You don’t get anything till I’m drunk.”
Pike sat by the bonfire John had made, sipping beer. He could hear John and Arne with the girls, back by the car. He liked his life, girls, booze and money. He knew that after high school he would have to clean up his act. He knew that as long as he was careful and only pimped and sold drugs in school he would be safe. He was under age, protected by Kawalski. Besides, no one thought anything bad could be happening in their nice quiet rural school. He wanted the five to ten grand he knew he would make off the students in the area schools before he graduated. He would have Arne set up something for Makinen to satisfy Kawalski. What he needed now was another beer.
Lori Waithe waited as long as she could after the buses left with the students before going to her scheduled meeting with Kawalski. It had been an open secret that he would try to get her to sleep with him. At the noon meeting, the two women teachers who had been hired since he became principal confessed that he had blackmailed them with tenure to get them to have sex.
She had, with the help of the other teachers, developed a plan. She would enter his office with two voice-activated tape recorders. One would be hidden in her handbag and the other would be in her jacket pocket. At least one of the recorders should record Kawalski’s blackmail. The faculty would then use the recordings to force the removal of Kawalski and Shermon. To protect her during the meeting, two teachers had volunteered to wait outside his office for her, Bonnie Franklin and Mike Garrison.
Lori knocked on Kawalski’s office door. She opened it after hearing a muffled ‘come in.’
She started the conversation, “You asked me to come in for a follow up on my evaluation for tenure?”
“Yes, yes. Sit down. I have just a couple of things to finish up.” Kawalski pretended to file some paperwork. He took his time. He knew that forcing people to wait was intimidating. It immediately set the rules on who was in charge. His next step was even more intimidating. After putting a file in the cabinet across the room, he walked back to his desk. Instead of sitting in his chair, he sat on the edge of his desk. His huge bulk towered over Lori.
“Now, during our last meeting, I listed some problems I felt you had with discipline and communication. I know there hasn’t been time for you to develop any changes in your teaching style yet. What I want to talk to you about today is ‘Why should we give you more time to develop your teaching skills?’ You have been here a year already. Why should I give you more time to learn how to teach? What makes it worthwhile for the school to continue paying your salary while you learn, and not just hire someone else?” At the same time Kawalski said those words, he shifted his position on the desk. His foot now rubbed the outside of Lori’s thigh. He slowly drew his foot back and forth across her thigh.
Lori looked up at Kawalski and crinkled her nose. When she was younger, vanity had kept her from first getting glasses and then wearing them. She had learned to squint to see the chalkboard or a friend’s face. Her mother had bought contact lenses for her to try, but her eyes wouldn’t adjust to the lenses, so another year passed squinting at the chalkboard. By the time she started wearing her glasses, the squinting was an ingrained habit. With the weight of the eyeglasses now resting on the bridge of her nose, the squint had changed to a crinkling of the nose adjusting the position of her glasses. What no one had ever told her was that the scrunching of her face was more than a little distracting, it was down right erotic. Her lips would pout and open slightly. The wrinkling of her cheeks and focusing of her eyes gave her the same expression of someone lost in passion. The reason the arousal was so intense was that the look would flash across her face and then be gone. It was a little like subliminal suggestion, a flash of sex then nothing. She knew that there was something about her being close to anyone talking that would break their train of thought. She had even overheard an old boyfriend describe her as being distractingly cute when she was near. But she never learned what it was.
Unconscious of what she was doing, she looked up at Kawalski crinkling her nose and saw in his face his confusion as he forgot what he had planned to say. She took the opportunity the hesitation caused to quietly, but firmly, say into say into the recorder, “Please stop touching my leg.” She then gently pushed his foot away.
Kawalski, unfamiliar with being refused and confused at having his seduction interrupted, leaned closer to Lori’s face and reached down to put his hand on the inside of her thigh. “You need to make it worth my while to let you stay.”
“Mr. Shermon won’t let you get away with this.”
Kawalski laughed, “Shermon? He wants to fuck you too. Let’s cut this crap. You want to keep your job-you put out. No fucky, no money. Get it?”
Lori reached between her legs and pulled on his hand. “I get it-but you’re not!” she gasped as she pulled at the resisting hand.
Still laughing, Kawalski said, “And just who is going to stop me, sweetie?”
“I am, dearie, and Bonnie and Mike, who are waiting for me just the other side of that door.”
“What?” Kawalski removed his hand and stood up. He looked at Lori, still sitting but trying to arrange her clothes. “You’re fucking with me. There’s no one out there.”
“See for yourself?”
Kawalski opened the door. Bonnie and Mike were sitting at his secretary’s desk. They looked up when the door opened. Bonnie said, before Kawalski’s opened-faced astonishment, “Mike, it looks like I was right. We will have time for a meal before the first showing of the movie.
“Hi, Mr. Kawalski. Don’t you just hate being stuck working on a Friday
Lori pushed past Kawalski. “Goodbye, Mr. Kawalski,” she spit out as they left.
Kawalski stood in the doorway his fingers turning white as he clenched the doorframe as they left.
* * * *
_The door opens. *Click.* The light is on. The hands seem to be slow and deliberate as they turn over the_ next card.
_An angel pouring water between two cups is the figure on the upside down card._
_The shrouded figure gazes for a time at the card before reaching for the light._