Billy took another long pull from the bottle of Jack. He reckoned he had already consumed enough of the fifth that there didn't seem to be much point in not finishing it off. Had he been a bit less drunk or in a tad less pain, he might have realized how stupid that reasoning was. He obviously didn't make that intuitive leap and so he sat and he kept drinking.
Truth be told, Billy was a far cry from what one might consider especially bright. That was, remarkably, one of the qualities that had made him an ideal fit for the mission. The Grand Cyclops, himself, had engineered the attack and chosen those who would participate.
He had explained his rationale to the mission commander. In every war there would be casualties. In every war there was on ongoing need for men who were little more than walking targets..cannon fodder. Billy was young, strong as an ox and nearly as smart as one. He would prove useful for certain tasks best suited to be performed by one with a strong back and a weak mind.
The arson attack on the Fifth Street Unified Southern Baptist Church went off with near- flawless precision. The stained glass windows were demolished by axe handles The flaming bottles of gasoline they had lobbed in had broken easily and the flames spread quickly. There would be no saving the structure. The lazy, shiftless niggras that "worshipped" there would just have to find someplace else to wail their heathen African spirituals. Preferably that "someplace else" would be in some other poor bastards town besides where honest, hard-working and God-fearing white folk lived.
The key word being: "near-flawless". Their plan had made no allowances for the church's caretaker being inside at the time of the mission. The attackers were loaded into their trucks, enjoying the prospect of a clean getaway, when the hapless man tumbled out the church window.
His clothes were aflame and his screams carried clearly in the chill night air. He stumbled about, the flames relentlessly crawling over him until he was fully consumed. This was, most definitely, a complication best dealt with quickly and decisively.
The commander, immediately, recognized the rationale in including Billy for this task. Cannon fodder was exactly what was called for in this case. Someone needed to stay and deal with the man while the rest of the team made their escape. That someone was Billy.
If Billy were unable to deal with the problem before the authorities responded...well that was okay. His affiliation with their group was not common knowledge. His diminished mental faculties would make it child's play to discredit him if he attempted to implicate the other members of the team. In the commander's mind, Billy was little more than a blunt instrument of poor quality. He would not be missed.
The trucks roared off into the night as Billy sprinted back towards the church. He dealt with the burning man by the simple expedient of picking him up and hurling him back in to the burning church like, nothing so much as, a sack of potatoes.
His solution, though remarkably inspired for Billy, proved to be both highly effective and incredibly ill-conceived. The sleeves of his cheap coat caught fire and burned him rather severely before he managed to snuff them fully out.
Even the dumbest beast is capable of relying on its base instincts to find its way home. Thus it was with Billy. He summoned up the presence of mind to call the only phone number he had for one of the members.
In short order, someone unkown to him showed up at Billy's ramshackle house. His burns were cleaned and wrapped and he was provided both food and the bottle. He was told, in no uncertain terms, to lay low and keep quiet. He would be taken care of but he really NEEDED to stay quiet and stay put.
That had been two days ago and Billy was in a bad way, both physcially and mentally. The pain in his arms was maddening. Unable to resist the urge, he unwrapped the bandages.
At first, he felt a calming sense of relief. The
burns on his arms were healing better than he'd expected. What had been raw, bloody flesh was scabbed over and scar tissue was beginning to form. As quickly as the relief had flooded in, it quickly drained away...replaced by unspeakable, abject horror.
He began screaming even as the scars began to change. The tortured flesh writhed and crawled about on his arm. The scar tissue flowed until it formed letters...a word. That word was: murderer. From the beyond, the victim cried out for justice in a most bizarre way.
The combination of the physical trauma, excessive alcohol and Billy's limited intellect snapped his mind like a dry twig. He lived out the remainder of his days in a drug-induced haze as a guest of the State Mental Institution.
No one understood or cared about his irrational rantings. His scars were just that...scars. How he had been injured and why he had not sought treatment remained a mystery. His scars, while not pretty to look at, spelled out no words and left no clues as to what Billy had done.
There were no repercussions on those who had carried out the arson and for that, they were both glad and satisfied. There were no arrests or trials or days in court for the poor janitor who perished in the church. But, from beyond this world, justice WAS meted out and for that, the soul of the janitor was both glad and satisfied.