Henry Vaughn’s Big Score
By Christopher S. Bell
“Death by Non Art, Thou Understood
Death by Non Art, Henry Vaughn” – Of Parades and Processions
The local radio station began to get slowly more fuzzy as Henry Vaughn reluctantly drove his mother Anna’s run-down brown Ford out of East Heights, Vermont towards the next available state. He was blindly following the directions of Dalton Applebee after the two smoked his last joint in the alley behind Henry’s house and then set off on their mission to hopefully score more tightly sealed plastic baggies for their suburban cohorts. Henry had quite a tall order already on his plate; the majority of disillusioned Easton High School students depending on his constantly evolving drug-dealing etiquette to help them numbingly get through another cold September night.
Plans had been loosely set in stone following news of Henry’s best friend Leonard Kenny’s recent good fortune. His mother and eleven-year-old sister, Leann, were spending the weekend in Hershey, Pennsylvania for a routine tap dance competition. Leonard instantly thanked the gods upon hearing such news before crafting an open-ended schedule for the night’s cruel spin. He would be inviting a number of reliably fickle, albeit extremely attractive girls from his high school over for drinks and excessive drug use, hoping that the long-legged still slightly wet-behind-the-ears females wouldn’t tell any chiseled participants involved extracurricular athletics about said events.
Such wishful thinking quickly fell apart by seventh period that Friday afternoon, seniors Henry and Leonard both hearing about the proposed festivities through different sources. Leonard was walking towards the gym when fellow classmate Kurt Tipton (who was well known for throwing similar booze-fests when his parents vacated the premises despite the fact that Leonard and Henry had yet to be invited to one) asked what time he could head over to the Kenny’s small house on Sheridan Avenue. Leonard simply froze dead in his tracks wondering exactly how he was going to handle the recent boost in fake friends, before realizing that such acceptance into the out-of-town parents’ club could really only help him in achieving several of his short-term goals, the main one being getting laid before graduation in June.
Henry was on a completely different page as he hazily watched sophomore Brandy Ryan make-out with her boyfriend Curtis Buck a few lockers down in the blue and gold hallway. Soon Doran Reese was blocking the scene, asking if Henry could come through for him that night as he had in the past. The seventeen-year-old simply nodded his head and attempted to get through the remains of his day without promising too many more favors to anybody else. Such a thought proved to be beyond difficult as word spread equally as fast about Henry’s subtle East Heights’ connections.
Soon the capitalistic side of his mind began to take over as Henry collected various crumbled up bills and called Easton Class of ’92 graduate, Dalton immediately after school. Then the wait began as one had to clock out of Griffith Landscape and Lawn Service, while the other had to plead with his already exhausted mother if he could borrow the car for an evening of purely ambiguous happenings. As the pieces finally came together, Henry felt an undeniable sense that possibly everything was going to work out that particular night and yet as he crossed the border into Delaware, taking various back roads as instructed, such feelings soon subsided. He was falling out of his element with each mile clocked onto the odometer.
“I’m not getting anything.” Dalton said, fooling around with the tuner knob on the radio.
“Well keep trying. I don’t think I can deal with silence right now.” Henry replied, more on edge than he thought possible.
“I’m telling you, reception’s fucked out here. Why didn’t you bring any tapes?”
“Her deck doesn’t work. It ate my copy of Automatic for the People last time I used it.”
“Well, then I guess we’re just gonna have to deal with the static, my friend.” Dalton leaned back in the passenger’s side seat.
“Jesus Christ, this really is no man’s land.” Henry flicked the radio off and looked back up to the road.
“Yeah, I know, but what do you expect? This is where ya gotta go to get good shit.”
“Ya know, I was unaware that Dormer, Delaware was like an oasis of good shit, Dalton.”
“Well, you wouldn’t expect it, but this guy I know always comes through for me.”
“Whatever. I just wanna get all of this over with. I have a lot of other plans for tonight.”
“Ya know, high school parties aren’t exactly the most worthwhile of places to kill time, Henry.”
“You just say that because you’re time has already passed you by.”
“No, I say that, because it’s true. I mean, there’s other shit to do around town besides crashing some lucky motherfucker’s living room when the occasion presents itself.”
“Oh yeah, like what man?”
“I don’t know. There’s the woods, the Roaring Lion, other places.”
“Ya know, I’d prefer the absurdity of high school parties rather than paying some nasty-ass stripper to dance all over me.”
“Well you just don’t understand life well enough yet man.”
“And you do? You’re like three year’s older than me Dalton, and you obviously haven’t really figured too much out considering that we have to drive out of state to score some weed.”
“To score some good weed, we do.” Dalton clarified.
“Yeah, but I don’t exactly care about how good it is. I mean, I’m selling most of it off to spoiled assholes anyway. It could be the bottom of the barrel and they wouldn’t be able to the tell the difference.”
“But don’t you feel better knowing that you know the difference?”
“No, I don’t.” Henry said simply.
“Whatever, you just keep proving my points for me.”
“Well that doesn’t really say a lot considering how fucking stupid your points are Dalton.”
“Yeah, well… Make a right here.”
Henry turned onto another dirt road, putting his highbeams on so to better see the truly idiotic mess he was getting himself into. The woods began to get thicker around the car as Dalton started to hum to himself. Henry tried to think about simpler times, the only thought popping into his head being the previous summer when he had fingered Clara Petrella in the woods outside the East Heights golf course. She had called him strictly to get high and then paid off accordingly and yet every rushed sexual teenage incident that had occurred in Henry’s life up to point was missing one highly important aspect. He very rarely felt anything other than hormonal imbalances when messing around with typical high school girls. Love hadn’t stuck yet.
The turns came fewer and farther between as the two continued to head down the beaten path, Anna Vaughn’s automobile barely making it over the gradual bumps. Henry wasn’t sure how much time had passed as he constantly checked to see the remaining gas level in the tank, before another light struck his pupils from a distance. Dalton then simply pointed at the glow as Henry drove towards the dim destination, soon turning up a hill by a rusted black mailbox and parking in front of the medium-sized house. The two then quickly hopped out of the car, Henry stressing the fact that such an exchange of money and services needed to happen quickly in order for him to get back in time for the party at Leonard’s. Dalton reassuringly nodded his head again before ringing the rectangular doorbell.
“So how do you know this guy again?” Henry asked after five seconds of waiting.
“My drug dealer drove me out here one time.”
“Who was that?”
“Remember Shane Lashinsky?”
“Oh, well I guess you wouldn’t have. He graduated two years before me, and then got arrested for being drunk and high on PCP about a year ago.”
“Great story Dalton.” Henry replied dully.
“Yeah, well whatever. This guy’s more reliable.”
“He would have to be to live the whole way out here in bum-fuck nowhere.”
The front door then sung open and the man of the hour blankly starred at both of his new guests. Brian Dietrich wasn’t what Henry Vaughn expected. A tall and skinny individual in his mid-twenties with glasses and a face full of stubble, he didn’t exactly fit the mold for a typical drug dealer living out in the woods of Delaware. Furthermore as Brian’s expression quickly shifted from stoned and contemplative to joy, pulling Dalton in for a welcoming bear hug, Henry let out a much-needed sigh of relief as he thought one clean and childlike thought. Everything was going to be okay.
“So who’s your friend?” Brian asked Dalton as he pulled away from the embrace.
“This is Henry. We uh… went to high school together.” Dalton explained.
“Oh, well cool. Come on in guys, I got what ya need.”
Brian then gleefully led the way as Henry and Dalton followed him into the scatted space. Several candles on the table and counter tops illuminated the kitchen; a sink full of dishes and a tall overflowing garbage can just two of many obvious tells that Brian didn’t get out much. The walls were lined with other full black plastic bags of scum that the groundskeeper hadn’t gotten around to disposing of quite yet. The smell then filtered up from the bags and throughout the whole house, the living room sharing an equally nauseating aroma.
However, the smell wasn’t the first thing Henry or Dalton noticed upon their entrance, but rather the two fully nude blondes sitting on the bright blue couch, flipping through channels as they waited for further instructions. Both guests soon froze upon such a sight as the young girls looked at them with enlarged grins and then over at Brian who wasn’t saying a word, but rather gravitating directly towards a large black trunk sitting in the corner of the room by the sparked fireplace. He spun a cheap combination before opening the trunk and rummaging through various multi-colored shoeboxes.
“So how much did you say again?” Brian asked.
“Um, we’re not sure. We uh… were kind of hoping for a deal.” Dalton replied, Henry quickly pulling out the wad of Easton High School students’ cash from his blue jeans’ pocket and handing it to his friend.
“Well how much do you got dude?” Brian placed three boxes down on the floor in front of the trunk before letting the lid fall shut.
“Uh… let me see.” Dalton began to nervously count the bills in his hand, before opening his wallet and adding in his own contribution.
“I thought you said only one other guy was coming over.” One of the girls asked Brian, confused.
“Yeah, another guy is. These two are just here for a quick fix.” Brian explained back.
“Oh, well okay.” The girl leaned in over the rectangular coffee table, doing a thick line of cocaine with a rolled-up fifty-dollar bill before rubbing her nose accordingly. The other girl then soon followed suit; Henry Vaughn completely boggled by the situation.
“Six twenty-five.” Dalton finally said as he walked over in front of Brian, holding the pile of cash out in his right hand.
“Well shit, what exactly are you looking for my man?” Brian sat down on the floor Indian-style, opening up one of the boxes.
“I’m thinking a few cuts of whatever the best you got is, and then all the rest can be mids.”
“Alright, let me see if I can figure this out.” Brian grabbed the money and began to count it. “You two should sit down. Get comfortable.”
“Um, okay…” Dalton replied with wide eyes as he looked over at Henry.
His high school client reluctantly sighed before sitting down on the couch next to one of the blondes, Dalton instantly stealing the available recliner. The two were then completely silent, as the girls looked them over, one at a time. Dalton simply kept his head down while Henry began to stare at the various drugs and items of paraphernalia lining the coffee table. Besides the multiple lines of cocaine there were various pill containers, roaches, plastic bags of mushrooms and finally a large clear blue glass bong, dead center.
“How much longer is your other friend gonna be?” The same blonde asked, before grabbing the already packed bong from the table.
“A little while. Now shut-up, I’m trying to figure this out.” Brian kept counting the bills, while grabbing various bags full of different qualities of marijuana and placing them on a small black digital scale.
“Well I’m just getting a little antsy is all.” The girl replied, before taking a quick hit and blowing the smoke back out in rings. She then handed the bong to her mute friend.
“You’re fine.” Brian continued to check his addition before standing up from the floor holding two large plastic bags full of plants in each hand. He tossed both bags to Dalton on the couch and then grabbed the bong from the second girl. “There ya go man. I take it you can tell the difference.”
“Yeah, I think so. Thanks a lot Brian.” Dalton instantly darted up from the recliner, not taking the time to inspect the contents of the bags further until they were long gone. Henry was standing tall, a second later.
“No problem man. You can stick around for awhile if you want. I gotta a lot of shit here and not really too many other people coming over.” Brian plopped down on the couch in-between the girls to take his bong hit.
“Oh that’s alright. Thanks, but we both got other shit to take care of, so we’ll see ya around, okay?”
“Alrighty, take it easy dudes.”
Henry and Dalton were soon walking out of the living room together, not saying a single word to each other, but rather letting their individual looks speak louder than words. They were halfway through the kitchen when the front door opened again, and another mysterious figure walked in, holding a large double-barreled shotgun at his side. Neither one said anything as they simply froze dead in their tracks and the skinny man who was roughly the same age as Brian looked at them both before smiling largely.
“You two better not be going anywhere so soon.” He said in a squeaky voice.
“Okay…” Henry replied, petrified, looking over at Dalton who was at a complete loss.
The man then walked through the kitchen and into the living room, Brian doing a line of coke before standing up from the couch and turning around to greet his new guest. Henry and Dalton simply turned their bodies back as they stood completely cemented in the linoleum their separate palms starting to sweat profusely. Neither one of the naked girls said a word at first as their mouths remained open before ducking their heads down behind the couch cushions.
“Hey man, you finally made it.” Brian said before his already bloodshot eyes noticed the large shotgun at his high school friend’s side. “What the fuck Barry, I thought…”
“Just shut the fuck up. This has been a long time coming.”
He held the gun up on his shoulder, pointing the barrels directly at Brian and without hesitation pulled the trigger. The drug dealer’s body quickly fell back into the coffee table, the legs cracking before falling off completely from his weight. Separate globs of blood splattered on both naked girls who had been purchased specifically that night for Brian and Barry’s pleasure. They gasped in unison, before Barry turned back to Henry and Dalton in the kitchen and placed the already smoking barrel in his mouth. He then bit down hard on the metal, before quickly squeezing the same trigger and blowing his brains out as they were quickly caked on the walls as well as both prostitutes’ naked frames.
The house was then dead silent, as the gunshot echoed off of the walls, the four remaining people completely confused as to what exactly had happened. Neither one was in the least bit sure why Brian’s expected friend had so viciously decided to end both of their lives nor did they care. The girls grabbed their scattered skimpy and blood-soaked clothes up from the floor and were soon following Henry and Dalton out of the house towards Anna Vaughn’s car, both females having been picked up by Brian at the Dormer Mall parking lot a few hours earlier.
Henry attempted to screw his head on straight as he got behind the wheel of the car, two more passengers now occupying the back seat. All three voices then began to talk, trying their best to ground themselves in any available explanation as to why Barry had just up and shot his friend Brian and then himself. Despite how empty their heads were not one shred of an explanation was coming to mind, the noise of nervous voices beginning to swallow and consume everybody as they continued to ramble on and on without any available shifts towards clarity.
Finally as his life began to lack more and more meaning with every second Henry Vaughn quickly silenced all three passengers in a swift motion. “Everyone just shut the fuck up!” He yelled, the sound of his voice lingering in the car longer than the blasts within the house moments earlier. “Okay, so no one here knows why that happened, right?”
“No, we don’t have fucking any idea man. That’s why…”
“Okay, stop it!” Henry soon cut Dalton short again.
“What man, I was just…”
“No, you’re rambling, and you’re gonna need to fucking snap out of it, because we need to go back in there.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Dalton asked, completely appalled by such a suggestion.
“We need to get the fuck out of here.” The one blonde then butted in.
“Yes, this is not the place to be right now.” The other cried.
“Well fine, then I’ll fucking do this myself.”
Henry pulled the keys out of the ignition and quickly ran back into the house. He could instantly smell the powder from the shots having mixed in with the rotting garbage scent that was caked within the walls as each step taken toward the living room was a hair slower than the previous one. Henry thought about shutting his eyes then as he first looked down at Barry’s dead body, the entire back of his head hollowed out from the shots. Then a glance toward Brian, whose arms were sprawled, all blood from the chest wound having leaked out of his body, forming a symmetrical pattern on the light blue carpet.
Henry Vaughn took a large sigh as his nerves crept up on him before subsiding completely. He simply thought about better times that had sporadically occurred up to that point in his life as his hands quickly opened the thick black chest in the corner by the still lit fireplace. He then rummaged through the various shoeboxes, finding sealed plastic bags of drugs that were in so few words every bored suburban high school student’s wet dream. Henry refrained from sorting in any sense, but rather grabbed as many bundles of pot, mushrooms, acid tabs, pharmaceuticals, and cocaine, shoving what he could in his enlarged jeans pockets, while stuffing other supplies in four of the shoeboxes.
He then placed a box under each shoulder and grabbed the other two with his hands, before hightailing it back out of the house. His eyes remained fixated on the plaster-chipped walls, while the images of both dead bodies were light years away from leaving the foreground of his head. Henry Vaughn would later continually tell himself that such an incident needed to happen in order for him to figure the rest of his life out. Even as the years passed with variations of stoned vision, there was no denying that bearing witness to such a random and completely unexplainable murder helped much more in the process than etched pamphlets and taped television specials.
Henry was seeing the world differently, and yet even as he popped the trunk of his mother’s car and quickly stored the boxes, there was no denying that priorities for everybody had changed. Dalton sat in the backseat with his pants down at his knees, both prostitutes taking turns using their mouths in the best way they knew how. Henry wasn’t in the least bit sure how to handle such a sight at first as he returned to the driver’s side seat, but luckily his words were working on a much more rational level since having ran back into the house. Things were beginning to make sense, and there was now a trunk full of possibilities to help him level out once again.
“What the fuck man?” Henry scowled, starting the car up.
“Sorry man. They offered.” Dalton said with a smirk, his individual breathes beyond heavy.
“We can do you next.” The blonde, who wasn’t working, said.
“That’s okay.” Henry shook his head, quickly backing out of the driveway. “I think you should just knock it off.”
“Oh C’mon, uncool man. I need a way to calm the fuck back down again.” Dalton panted.
It was the last word Henry said for a long time as the girls finished and he drove as fast as he could back towards any signs of civilization. Not a single car drove past in the opposite direction towards Brian’s house, nor did any one of the four see flashing lights and hear sirens on their way toward the Dormer Mall. The girls, who said their real names were Nancy and Shelly, quickly hopped out of Anna Vaughn’s car, and into another with tinted windows parked at the far end of the empty lot. Good-byes were brief; both simply pleased to be alive, Dalton smiling largely from the complimentary blowjob as he sat back down in the passenger’s side seat.
Directions were then given out again as the lower-level drug dealer led the Easton High School senior back to their hometown, eventually coaxing Henry into splitting the haul with him. Dalton rolled multiple joints from the stash they had actually paid for, as the turns became more and more familiar along the way. Words were spoken only if either one felt that speaking was a necessity. Local radio stations came back in tune and helped subdue even more of the two hapless wanderers’ individual fears that would still loosely hang from the ceilings like streamers for sometime after that night in late September.
Dalton took bags of the harder drugs, placing them in his own trunk parked in front of his parents’ medium-sized house on Echo Avenue. He then coolly drove off in an opposite direction, the night still having plenty to offer despite the scab on his brain from Brian’s recent bad fortune. Much like Henry, he would pick away at it until the red mark eventually turned into a scar. It would then be a reminder of the way life was once, before he left East Heights for awhile searching for shades of enlightenment and free reign. Outcomes would be varied.
Henry smoked another joint alone as he drove towards Sheridan Avenue, deciding to simply park in his best friend Leonard’s driveway rather than searching for a spot somewhere on the crowded street. There was an overabundance of staggered automobiles having been parked by disillusioned high school students, mere hours earlier. They were all still inside the house, Henry focusing in on their shadows as he looked in through the living room window, before simply opening the door to drunken cheers. Deals were fast, taking place in Leonard’s bedroom as various Easton hallway regulars threw in for a blunt that Doran Reese just happened to steal from Galloway’s Corner store earlier in the day for that very reason.
Henry quickly lost count of all his profit, more crumbled up bills occupying the remaining space in his pockets. He knew that all of the leftover drugs in his mother’s trunk would stay fresh enough for the following weeks ahead, leaves systematically beginning to fall off the trees as teenagers attempted make graceful descents toward any discernable meanings in such a small town. The cash would add up before Henry Vaughn had a stoned epiphany of his own. He had seeds and enough cash for soil, water, fertilizer and most importantly lights; multiple areas of space available in the basement amongst boxes of his father’s old trinkets that were willfully left behind eleven years earlier.
The process would be slow, but nevertheless work out to Henry Vaughn’s advantage much in the same way everything had coincidentally fallen in his lap that night. He thought about such circumstance while standing on Leonard’s back porch alone, sipping from a red plastic cup of cheap keg beer and wondering if there were reasons for such unexplainable madness, or rather maybe such spinning properties occasionally collided at random, the seventeen-year-old just happening to be in the middle of everything that very night.
He stopped thinking, though, as his eyes caught sight of what would later be the deciding factor in the majority of his decision making. Her name was Naomi Gordon and she had heard from friends of friends that somebody just happened to be holding a surplus of plastic bags. The skinny seventeen-year-old blonde who was reliably lost in her own constantly depressing world centered around Easton High’s rival, Saint Marie’s Catholic School, didn’t hesitate to walk right up to the seemingly sketchy Henry and say the eight words that would inevitably change his life more so than anything else had that very evening.
“So everybody here pointed me in your direction.” Naomi said with a drunken smirk.
“Well what do you need?” Henry asked with a sigh, certain lost butterflies beginning to resurface in his stomach.
“Just something to help me forget about the fact that I’m stuck here at this specific place in this specific town right now with nothing but time to kill.”
“Well, I’ll see what I can do.” Henry replied sweetly before finishing the rest of his beer and settling into a brand new idea of himself, an outlook that felt refreshingly perfect.
“Wonderful.” Naomi leaned against the house and reached for the pack of cigarettes buried at the bottom of her small red purse.
“But before I do that, can I ask you something?” Henry reached into his pocket for his signature blue lighter
“Do you ever feel like this is a jumping off point?” Henry asked as he quickly sparked the end of Naomi’s cigarette.
“All the time.” She exhaled.
“Well okay, cool. Don’t go anywhere. I’ll be right back.”
He would pop his mother’s trunk again while thinking of more questions to ask her. She would instantly realize that such an encounter between the two wasn’t so much fate or divine intervention, but rather unavoidable in such a small town. Their separate thoughts would then converge as the seasons passed in similar outings. Henry Vaughn understood the why, that up until that point he had constantly concentrated on, and if nothing else such a fact would eventually rip him apart. There would be no other explanations made readily available, but rather simply another body to share the load, as driving back home under the influence became like riding a bike. Balance was a necessity.