A BETTER KIND OF HATE is Beau Johnson’s debut collection of stories, one that Tom Pitts called a “how-to on the craft of short fiction.”
Beau has generously allowed us to reprint the title story here, one that is illustrative of the depth and intensity of the tales included therein.
First time I meet Lamar Purdue is in another life.
Squat for his age, he’s thicker at fourteen than the height he’d come to be in all his years.
Little man had a hound dog face and jerry curl eyes. He was polite too, politer than most, which is why things played out the way they did I suppose. All his Yes, sirs and No, sirs music to my rookie ears. The coldness in his eyes I didn’t see until later, at his hearing, and then behind bars. Rookie mistake number one. You cannot fix things. You can only try. Not me, though. Not then. I knew things. I was there to save the day.
I didn’t know a damn thing.
We found Lamar’s mom slumped in a chair, the back of her head now the top of her throat.
“Lamar. I’m Detective Rider. This is Detective Batista. You up for some questions?” I look over at Batista and he gives me the nod. Go ahead, kid, it’s your show. We’d been partners three weeks. Three weeks and this was the first time he’d given me the reins.
“She said her banana…said it tasted like suicide.” Poor kid is what we thought, but that was it, the kid and our investigation giving us nothing more than what it looked like. Three months later I enter another house to find Lamar. He’s on the steps, same hound-dog face, same jet-black eyes. His hands are bound behind his back though, cuffed and ready to go. Doesn’t take me much to figure it out from there.
The foster family he’d been living with had been gutted and then cut into more manageable pieces. By the look of the tub and the bottles of bleach beside, Lamar was looking to try something new.
“Don’t let it wear on you too much, kid. Sociopaths will always be the hardest ones to catch.” Batista was right, but even then, it still didn’t sit.
Kuwait had yet to start.
April and my mother were still alive.
But I could not save lives because I had yet to fully see.
I see now, though. I see very well indeed. So does Lamar, even after I go to town on his eyes.
“That all you got, Rider?” He’d been released this morning, seventeen years to the day we shut him down. From behind I stayed close, followed him to an IHOP just off the 15, picked him up just as he sat to eat. “’Cause they’re worse than you from where I been.” I move forward, toward the chair, and put a bullet through his right knee.
He screams. Curses. Other knee bouncing up and down like mad.
“Man, you was a cop once! This ain’t right!”
“And all you’ve done is?” He stops at that, and then everything is still. We look at each other. I see the future as well as the past. I want to go back. I want to see the murder hidden in that young punk’s eyes. I want to stop what he did. I can’t though, and I know that, just as I know I will never stop what I do; what men like Lamar have forced me to become. I’d like to say its centrifugal force, that something is pushing me on, that it’s pulling as well, but it’s not and I realize as much.
It’s just a different kind of killing. A better kind of hate.
It’s here I begin to cut.