STEER ME AWAY
By Jean Majury
A few weeks after I joined the Steers Pro Football Team, I attended a pre-season party. While there a gorgeous woman stopped me in my tracks. I didn’t know who she was. But I knew I’d run the length of a field to tackle her even if she didn’t have the football.
Without invitation she moved her body close to mine. “I hear you’re a vegetarian,” she began.
Unprepared for her advance, I almost spit out a mouthful of tomato juice all over my shirt. “How did you know I was a vegan?”
“Coach told me,” she said. Sparkling white teeth crowded her smile. “You’re a rare one. The team only had one vegan before you.”
I wanted to keep the conversation going, but it took me a while to grab my mouth. Finally, I managed to open it and ask, “Where’d the guy go?”
“Somewhere else,” she said.
I figured she meant to another team.
The woman kept talking to me as if I were a person of interest. I couldn’t believe it. Me, a rookie, still amazed I had even made the team. And here someone with knockout looks was paying attention to me.
“Have you been a vegan all your life?” the woman asked.
“Yes, since Day One.”
Her eyes widened in surprise. “How so?”
It had been years since I thought of my parents and their vegan food style. “In our home it was the norm,” I explained. “No red meat, pork, or even chicken and fish. All the grains, vegetables and fruits our family ate made me and my brothers healthier than everyone else.”
“So you’ve never been sick.”
She laughed and flashed those headlight-white choppers at me again before turning serious. “By the way, I’m Lisa,” she said. “And Bruno just happens to be my husband.” She pointed towards the team owner, who was huddling with the coach. Bruno picked up on her gesture. He was by her side in seconds.
“Rick and I were talking about his vegan background,” Lisa said.
Bruno chuckled. “Of course you were.” He reached for my hand and shook it. “Good to see you again, Rick.”
“Same here, Bruno.”
“Sorry to interrupt, but there’s someone I want Lisa to meet.”
I took Bruno’s hint. “No problem,” I said. A few minutes after he and his trophy wife walked away from me, I left the party.
After that meeting, I kept my distance from Lisa. But she didn’t keep hers from me.
One day she showed up as I was leaving the practice field. “Look what I’ve got for you, Rick.” She shoved two paper bags full of lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, berries, the whole nine yards, into my hands.
“They’re from our greenhouse,” she said. “All organics.”
Hey, man, I was flattered. I couldn’t keep the grin off my face until Devon, a linebacker, cornered me later in the locker room. “I want to talk to you about something,” he said.
I thought he meant football. I was wrong.
“I noticed Lisa and you after practice today,” he said. “She gave you some goodies, didn’t she?”
“Goodies?” I pointed to the bags I had put down on the bench. “They’re organic vegetables and fruits.”
“She’s not bringing you that stuff ’cause she’s worried about your diet. She’s hitting on you, Rick.”
“Be serious,“ I said. “She gave me that so-called ‘stuff’ because she knows I’m a vegan.”
Devon snorted. “Yeah, sure, she’s your own Mother Nature. Get real, man. She’s dangerous. The other guy who bought her line left the team.”
“He probably got a better deal,” I said.
“Better deal?” Devon wiped the sweat off his brow and shook his finger at me. “Justin’s not on any team now.”
“So where is he?”
“No one knows,” Devon said. “But remember this. Bruno was a butcher before he made his millions. And he’ll carve you up if he finds you’re messing with his wife.” He thumped me on the shoulder. “Watch it, rookie.”
Devon’s warning stayed with me. When Lisa showed up after practice a week later with more organics, I said, “I can find my own.” Instead of acting hurt, she grinned and pinched my arm. “I like it when you’re lean and mean, Rick.” She left, carrying the bags of organics with her. I figured that was the last of Lisa.
Ten days later there she was again, standing outside my apartment garage when I got home from practice. The second I cut the engine, she was by my open window, her face close to mine. “Rick,” she said, her voice low and tempting, “How about going for a quick ride?” She twirled her corn-colored hair around her fingers and said, “I know you’d like to see something.”
Hey, man, I was only 23, but I knew she didn’t mean talk. Yet Devon’s words still stuck in my ears. I got out of the car and pressed the lock button. “Not right now, Lisa. Thanks anyway.”
Like a made-for-express envelope, she slipped her body into mine. “Please, Rick, it won’t take long.”
My body pulsated worse than a NASCAR start-up. This woman was too hot to resist. “What am I supposed to see?” My voice throbbed with sexual need.
“You’ll find out. But you’ll have to open the car door and let me in.”
“What about your own car?”
“I took a cab over here.”
“Get in,” I said. All concerns about Bruno chopping me into pieces disappeared. I pressed unlock, helped her into the passenger seat, and jumped back into the driver’s. I followed her directions until we were about three miles out of the city.
“We’re almost there,” she told me. A few more twists and turns brought me to a tall, wood gate. It swung open upon Lisa’s text code.
“Drive to the end,” she said as the gate closed behind us. We passed vegetable and berry plots with orchards beyond. As the road curved, I first saw a low, rambling, ranch house. Next to it stood a giant greenhouse. “That’s where we want to be,” Lisa said.
Confused, I asked, “In a greenhouse?”
“Park in front of it, Rick.”
After I cut the engine, Lisa got out of the car. As she moved toward the greenhouse, she said, “Hurry up.”
And hurry I did. I leapt out of the car at the prospect of sex among organics. I didn’t even bother to lock it. I followed Lisa to the greenhouse and waited as she opened the door. Once inside she led me down a long aisle with hundreds of plants alongside it. When we reached the end, a heavy-duty door faced us.
“I thought I was supposed to see something,” I muttered, impatience taking over.
“Well, what I want to show you isn’t in the greenhouse.” Lisa reached into her pocket and pulled out a key. She shoved it into the door’s massive lock and pushed it open. “We’re almost there,” she said, stepping inside.
Was there a secret alcove behind the greenhouse where we could get it on? No, just a dark, chilling area. “What is this, the Arctic?” I asked. Only Eskimos had sexual encounters at these temperatures, I thought. Yet, I grabbed at Lisa, figuring somebody had to start the party.
She spun out of my grip and said, “Stop it.” She moved behind me and prodded me forward. “We’re finally here,” she said.
“Where is ‘here,’ Lisa?”
Dim lights led the way to an answer. In the distance, I saw a long table, with an assortment of tools on it. Above there was a long cable with hooks attached to it running beyond the table.
“Is this what you wanted me to see?”
“It’s just a teaser,” Lisa said, laughing. She pulled me backward and around. As soon as I faced her, she threw her arms around me and hugged me tight. I thrust my body into hers. Any concern over the bizarre surroundings vanished. I could think of nothing except how much I wanted her.
But Lisa stopped me. Smiling at me through teeth now resembling prehistoric incisors, she said, “I’ve got to tell you something.”
“What,” I said smiling back at her. “We both know why we’re here.”
“Not exactly, Rick. You’re here because I chose you.”
“Chose?” was all I managed before her mouth smothered mine. When I came up for air, she repeated, “Yes, Rick, you’re my chosen one.”
Okay, I thought, Lisa’s a sex maniac and she chose me. I wasn’t about to tell her different. I ripped into her body like a forager, ready to get down to business.
That’s when spotlights hit me. They exposed what the dim lights had not. There was something hanging from the last hook, the one furthest from me. I didn’t want to label it just yet. But it told me to get out.
I released my grip on Lisa. “Look, I’m sorry,” I said. “I shouldn’t have done that. Better go.”
“No, don’t.” She pulled me back, winding her arms around me like a human octopus.
“I must,” I insisted, pulling her off me. As I turned around, I saw Bruno in the doorway. He held a weird pistol in his hand.
“Bruno,” I said, “I was just about to leave.”
“Leave?” He looked perplexed. “Why?”
“Well, I think I’ve seen enough of your organics,” I said. A nervous snicker followed my words.
Bruno gave what sounded like a steer grunt and said, “So, what’s next?”
His question threw me off balance. “Look, Lisa and I haven’t been having it off. I’ve done nothing wrong except take her to something she wanted me to see.” Even I didn’t believe the lie I had spun.
Bruno waved his pistol at me. “Of course, you did nothing wrong, Rick.” He added, “Just like Justin did nothing wrong.”
“Justin?” That was the guy who supposedly had fooled around with Lisa. Devon’s comments about Bruno’s butcher tendencies made me want to run until my legs gave out.
“Justin and you share one thing,” Bruno said. “And it’s not Lisa.”
“Then why don’t you put down your gun?” I forced firmness into my voice.
“You don’t get it, do you, Rick?”
I shook my head and said, “No, I don’t.”
Bruno turned to Lisa. “Clue him in, will you?”
As if explaining something to a child, Lisa said, “Bruno and I need the right diet.”
“Right diet?” I asked. “What are you talking about?”
“Lisa and I eat only unadulterated meat,” Bruno answered for her. “The meat vegans create by their diet.”
“You’re right, Bruno. I still don’t get it.”
“Come on, Rick,” he snapped. “Plug into the circuit.”
Once again, I surveyed the huge room. I realized the table and the tools belonged to a butcher. Worse, hanging from the last hook, what I had not wanted to label before, was a human body.
Fear crept over me. But before it suffocated me like an ominous cape, I got my voice. “There is no circuit, Bruno.”
“You dumb steer. The circuit is life.”
His attitude ticked me off. “I may be a dumb steer,” I said, “but please don’t tell me you’re some genetic genius.”
Bruno waved the gun at me again and said, “Think again, Sherlock. Why does Lisa look like she’s 25 when she’s 45? Why do I look like I’m 35 when I’m 55?” He walked over to the table and dropped the gun on it before lifting his head up high and flexing his muscles. “This is the result of pure, unadulterated, human-vegan meat,” he announced.
“Yes,” said Lisa as she copied Bruno’s movements.
I stared at both of them, surveying the health that coated them like a painter’s glaze. I watched Bruno pick up the gun and move to within six inches of me. Without effort Lisa pulled my weak-with-disbelief arms behind me.
Bruno raised and leveled the gun at my forehead. Before he fired, I yanked my arms away from Lisa’s grip and shoved my elbows into her chest. As I closed in on Bruno, he said, “Heck, it’s just a captive bolt pistol.”
Months ago I had seen something on TV about stun guns like that being used on steers prior to butchering them. That chunk of memory stirred me into action. I twisted the gun from his grip. Next I smashed one fist into his face and used both to pummel his body. Lisa tried to stop me from behind by digging her hands into my shoulders. But I flipped around and threw her to the floor.
With both of them writhing beneath me, I quickly scanned their private slaughterhouse for a way out. The only exit was the entry door Lisa had not locked. The door that let Bruno in. I rushed toward it, opened it, and slammed it shut behind me.
In about five minutes one or both might be after me. Yet neither ran up and down the football field, pumped iron, or played chase with team members as I did. So I finished my dash through the greenhouse and out of it, slamming that door behind me, too.
As I ran toward my car, I pulled the key out of my pocket. I plunged it into the ignition the same time I got into the driver’s seat. Within seconds, I was headed to the gated entrance. I jacked up the speed and crashed through it. The force mangled the front end of the car. But it didn’t stop me from driving forward and away.
Within 30 minutes, I reached my apartment, grabbed my cash and financial documents, and drove off. I assumed Bruno would contact the police as well as hire paid trackers to find me. I wasn’t worried about their follow-up with my parents. They had died in a car accident a few years earlier. Nor was I concerned about my brothers. Both were in Europe on work-study programs.
On my escape route, I discovered I was wrong about Bruno involving the police. At rest stops, I checked my cell phone. Not once did I find any mention of a crime involving Bruno or Lisa. I couldn’t figure out why, unless it was fear of exposure.
When I was about 500 miles away, I anonymously mailed a letter to the sheriff’s department about Bruno. That information never hit the media. But afterwards I noticed small newspaper ads cropping up in cities and towns where I stopped. “We need to contact former Steers’ player, Rick Brinkman,” they said. A small photo of me was displayed. “Call” – a number was given – “if you see him.”
Those ads forced me completely underground. I cancelled my phone service and always bought prepaid disposable ones. I dumped the car for cash and took a bus to another part of the country. From clean-cut, I became seldom-cut. I took a more useful, but not as profitable, job. I even changed my name. But that wasn’t the only thing I changed. I’m no longer a vegan. Now I eat meat.
Jean Majury's mysteries have been published in Mystericle-E, an online mystery magazine, which published "Daisy and Dolly" (January, 2014), in Woman's World, and she received mention several times in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine's write-a-plot type monthly contests.
Copyright © 2015 Jean Majury. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!