The Final Letter

A Western Novelette





I first met Percy Ingovoll at a saloon called the devil’s watering hole outside of Cisco Texas in the Fall of Eighteen Hundred and Ninety. I had just been discharged from the U.S. Army Calvary after spending five miserable damn years in Mexico hunting renegade indians and mexican bandits. I had six months worth of Army wages in my pocket and was well on my way to an epic drunk and maybe a poke or two with some of the sportin’ girls when a gunshot rang out behind me at one of the poker tables. Looking over my shoulder I saw Percy Ingovoll standing behind a smoking Remington Single Action with a local gambler and lowlife name of Wally Steven’s sitting across from him with his face and head damn near missing. Before anybody could begin to ask questions, Percy walked over to Wally’s corpse and held up his right arm. Rolling back Wally’s shirt sleeve he removed an ace of diamonds. “I want everybody to see why this bastard got killed. He’s a cheat!” There was a low murmuring among the crowd as Percy held up the card for all to see. Percy then removed his hat and began raking the large pot of cash in the middle of the table into it. About this time, the bartender, a barrel chested Irishman with a thick brogue and even thicker mustache produced a sawed off 10 Gauge from behind the bar and cocked both hammers. To this day I don’t know why I decided to intervene. Maybe it was the fact I did not like seeing a man shot in the back or maybe I just did not like irish bartenders, I don’t know, but before you could say boo I skinned my Model 3 and walloped that bastard upside the head with its heavy barrel, knocking him out cold. Upon hearing the commotion, Percy instinctively spun around and drew down on me. “Whoa partner!” I said laying my Model 3 down on the bar next to a collection of the bartenders bloody teeth. “This sumabitch was about to shoot you in the back, I just helped change his mind.”  A wide grin came across Percy’s face as he eased the hammer down and holstered his gun. Taking a look behind him to check for any more would-be bushwhackers, he approached me at the bar. “Appreciate what you did.” he said, extending his hand and introducing himself. I shook it and returned the courtesy. “Logan Chandler. Originally from Lampasas.”  I replied. After talking for a while, four men, all half-drunk and armed approached and began asking questions about the toothless, unconscious bartender. Percy quickly grabbed my arm and led me outside. “Listen, both Wally and that bartender are locals and I am just some stranger from out of town. These peckerwoods are all drunk as hell and it won’t take long before they decide to lynch both of us for fun. Whatta you say we haul ass out of here before that happens?” Hearing the men getting more riled up and drunk in the saloon it did not take long for me to agree with Percy’s wise suggestion.

The night was clear and cold, with a three-quarter moon and a slight breeze from the east carrying the smell of rain. We decided to ride south for about a mile or so and then checked up off the trail into a stand of cedar trees and waited to see if we were being followed. “So why did you do it?” Percy asked as he watched the dark trail behind us.  “Do what?” I replied. “Whack that big irish bastard across the head that was gonna shoot me.” Percy spat tobacco juice and glanced over at me. “Hell I don’t know, I guess I just don’t like seeing men get shot in the back.” My answer must have amused the hell out of Percy because he laughed like I had just told the funniest damn joke you had ever heard. We rode a few more miles up the trail and finding a small creek, decided to make camp for the rest of the night. Being that it was only a few hours until dawn, we decided not to make a fire. The next morning I was awoken to the smell of bacon and Percy feeding our horses with a bag of oats. As I wiped the sleep out of my eyes Percy came over and poured me a cup of coffee. “Did you hear them coyotes yippin’ it up last night?” he asked smiling as he squatted down by the fire like an indian to tend the bacon. “I would not have heard a damn buffalo crash through the woods last night I was so tired.” I replied. Percy smiled. “You think them boys at the saloon are still looking for us?” I asked sipping my cup. “Hell, I bet them boys are more worried about nursing their hangovers right about now.” Percy replied turning the bacon over with a fork. “I don’t know, you did kill a man.” I replied looking at him sideways. “Shit! The day it is a crime in this country to kill a card cheat or whack a sorry ass bush-whackin bartender will be the day I move to Mexico permanently!” I could tell Percy was still half drunk as he stood up to stretch his back. In the daylight I realized he was taller than I realized, with long, lean, muscled arms that resembled thick braided ropes. His hair was sandy brown with hints of red and the week’s worth of stubble on his face was orange like the mid-day sun. He had eyes that were a strange deep shade of green, almost the color of cedar with small specks of brown.

After finishing our bacon and coffee we broke camp. As I was rolling up my bed roll, Percy walked over and handed me a hundred dollars. “What is this for?” I asked looking at the money. “For saving my ass last night.” Percy replied smiling. “Shit Percy this is too much!” I said shaking my head handing it back to him. “The hell it is!” he replied pushing my hand back. “Besides, I got plenty more where that came from.” Percy replied with a wink. He then cinched up his saddle straps and got on his horse. I did the same and we both rode out of the woods out to the main trail. “Well Percy, what do you plan on doing?” I asked looking both ways up and down the trail. “Oh, I don’t know, maybe head over to Abilene for a friendly game or two and then catch a train to New Mexico. A friend of mine just opened a saloon near Four Corners and invited me to help run it. How about you?” Percy asked as he placed a chaw of tobacco into his mouth. “I was thinking of riding south to my old home place in Lampasas, see who I can find.” I replied. “Well hell, why don’t you ride with me over to Abilene and at least let me treat you to a nice meal and a bath? I sure could use the company.” Percy replied smiling. I thought about it for a second, looking up the empty trail and watching the pine trees sway in the gentle breeze. Hell, I knew there was nobody in Lampasas waiting for me. Both my folks died from scarlet fever five years back and my younger sister, Clara, had gotten married and moved to California with some tin pan name of Clements. “Sure, why the hell not!” I replied, reigning my horse west toward Abilene.

After going a few miles, and listening to our horses fart in rhythmic time and watching some buzzards circle high above us, Percy spoke up. “So if we are going to be traveling companions, we best know a little bout’ each other in case one of us are killed. That way we can say something meaningful at the funeral.” I smiled at the comment without looking at Percy. “Okay, where do you want to start?” I asked. “Were you ever married? Have any children?” Percy looked at me sideways. “Came damn close to getting married once to a gal in Durango. She was mexican of course and did not speak a word of English, but damn that gal could….” My story was interrupted by several gunshots up ahead of us. We both spurred our horses and coming around a wide right bend in the trail we spied a covered wagon about a hundred yards ahead of us under attack by three men with mask on horseback. The wagon had come to rest near the side of the road after both of its horses had been killed. Near as I could tell there was one person inside the wagon returning fire with a rifle at the bandits as they circled. “Whatta you say we even up the odds pardner?” Percy said pulling out his repeater from its scabbard smiling. Before I could reply that maybe we should find cover before engaging three armed men, Percy let off three quick shots, none of them finding its intended target, but all of them letting the bandit’s know our location. “Dammit Percy!” I said spurring my horse into the brush off the trail. By the time I had dismounted and pulled my Winchester, the bandits had decided not to fight it out and hauled ass, leaving a plume of brown dust in their wake. “What are you doing down there in the brush?” Percy asked me, sitting tall and smiling from his horse. “You crazy sumabitch” I spat.

We both were cautious approaching the wagon, as nobody had shown themselves yet. “Hello! In the wagon there! Don’t shoot! We both come in peace!” Percy called out. Nothing was heard in return. We stopped ten yards shy of the flap and Percy dismounted while I held his reigns .”Hello in the wagon!” Percy called out again. This time we could both hear somebody inside breathing hard. Percy drew his pistol and pulled back the flap. There laying down inside was a man of around forty with blonde hair. His face was pallid and his sky blue eyes were bloodshot and haggard. He had one hand on his stomach with blood leaking out around it and in the other hand a cocked Double-Action Colt Army. “Help me, I have been shot…” the man whispered weakly. Percy turned and gave me a concerned look and I quickly dismounted and jumped up into the wagon. “Whoa there pardner” I said trying to soothe him. Before looking at the wound, I carefully took the Colt out of his hand and let down the hammer, placing it back in the man’s holster. I then moved his bloody hand aside and examined the wound. The Bullet had entered three inches right of his naval. Rolling him over slightly on his side, I could not see or feel an exit wound.  “I’m so damn cold.” the man said looking at me with scared eyes as sweat poured from his forehead and his teeth began to chatter. Percy climbed up beside me and gave him a drink of water from the canteen while I looked around for something to make a dressing out of. Rummaging  around inside the wagon, I could tell right away the man was a tin pan, a miner. Pans, picks, shovels, spades and other digging implements littered the back of the wagon. Finally finding an old shirt, I began ripping it up into strips for the dressing. The blood was almost black and I knew right away he had been shot in the lower bowels, which was never a good sign. I dressed the wound best I could, trying to staunch the bleeding. “You keep your hand here as tight as you can.” He nodded while his teeth chattered so violently I was scared he would chip a tooth. I covered him up with my wool blanket from my bed roll and then me and Percy went outside to talk.

“We gotta get him to a Doctor Percy. He’s burning up with fever.” The man was loudly mumbling incoherently about something while we talked. “Since when are we responsible for bushwhacked travelers?” Percy asked with a confused look on his face. As I was thinking up a keen response the man yelled out with a concerning tone so much that me and Percy both immediately jumped back up in the wagon. The man eyes were large and he was pointing to the back of the wagon as if his life depended on it. Through chattering teeth he managed to get out “In the trunk, please hand me the small leather satchel in there.” Not thinking anything of it I went over to the trunk and opened it and retrieved a small, well-worn brown leather bag. As I was about to hand it to him Percy intercepted me. “Let’s see what he is so anxious to get at.” Opening the bag Percy found ten soup can tins with a piece of cloth stuffed down into them. “Whatcha got in here partner?” Percy asked smiling looking over a the man, who by now had a look of extreme anxiety on his face. As Percy removed one of the cloths covering the can, both his eyes and mine almost popped out of our heads. Inside the can were dozens of chunks of gold as big as a man’s thumb. “Holy shit on a shingle!” Percy said laughing. As a huge grin began to spread over my face I will never forget how loud the sound of that Colt’s hammer was when it was cocked. Me and Percy turned around at the same time to see the wounded man had drawn down on us and that anxious look had turned into one of pure anger. The smile disappeared from Percy’s face as he looked at me and said “Well Damn Logan! Don’t you wish now you had disarmed the sumabitch!”




After me and Percy had stared down the barrel of that cocked Colt for a long few seconds with our hands in the air, the man motioned for us to hand over the bag, which we did quickly. Once the man had the bag he motioned with the gun barrel for us to get out of the wagon, which we also did quickly. Standing there with our hands up, Percy had the presence of mind to state the obvious. “Looks like to me you are in quite the pickle feller. Yeah, you have your gold, but you are also gut shot and dying. Without someone helping you to a Doctor, you are certainly going to lie there and bleed to death.” Percy’s words hung in the air for a long few seconds while the wounded man observed his terrible situation with a look of agony and anxiety I have yet to see duplicated on another human beings face since. The miner took a deep breath and spoke. “You get to me a Doctor and I will give you one can.” Immediately me and Percy did the math. There were at least a dozen chunks of gold in that can, each chunk weighing around 6 ounces, maybe more. With gold currently at around twenty dollars an ounce, one can was worth around fourteen hundred dollars minimum. With around ten cans in the bag, this gut shot miner had around fourteen thousand dollars in his possession.  No damn wonder those bandits were after him so hard! With his arms still raised in the air, Percy began to haggle with the miner. “I think the going rate for something like this should be two cans.” The miner spit blood and raised the Colt. “The fact that you would argue with a dying man holding a gun on you shows your character sir.” Percy never flinched at the insult. “Still, being things as they may, you need us if you wanna stay above ground.” Seeing my chance I gently moved over next to Percy, “Percy, let’s take the one can and get him to a Doctor.” The look Percy gave me reminded me of the look my mother used to give me when she found me in my fathers tobacco. Pure scorn and anger. Before he could reply I continued. “The man’s dying Percy! Now let’s stop farting around and get going!” Percy finally relented. “OK tin pan. One can paid right now and we will get going.” Percy switched his gaze from me to the miner. The miner shook his head in disgust and took out one can and handed it over. “By the way” the miner said through gritted teeth.” In case I die on the way to town my name is Arthur Wingate and I have relatives in St. Louis.” Percy shot me a confused look as if the information had confounded him.

We rode into the town of Abilene, Texas an hour later with Arthur Wingate barely clinging to life but damn sure clinging to his Fourteen Thousand dollars worth of gold and that Colt revolver. Not seeing a sign for a Doctor’s office, Percy asked a man crossing the street where we might find one. We were directed to a fine-looking home not far out-of-town. “Charles A. Kirkpatrick, MD.” a sign read outside a ranch style affair with a white picket fence and gate. The yard was well manicured with several rose trellis’ by the front steps. With me on one side and Percy on the other, we walked the wounded man to the front door. Percy banged on the door with a bloody hand. The curtain on the front window parted and the door was quickly opened. A balding man in his fifties with wire rim spectacles and bushy black eyebrows that resembled two caterpillars crawling across his head answered. Taking one look at the miner he motioned us inside. We dragged the miner through the entryway and parlor into some type of exam room. “Get him on the table over there.” the Doctor instructed us brusquely. The room smelled of wood polish and antiseptic. As we laid him on the table the Doctor felt the miner’s pulse on his neck and then went over to a cabinet and started preparing some kind of injection. “Anna!” the Doctor called out into the air. Immediately a large, round-faced woman with auburn hair who looked to be around forty or so entered the room. She was tying a large white apron around her ample waist as she approached us. “You gentleman may wait in the parlor”  she said as she herded us out the door and shut it behind us. The parlor, which sat just off the entrance hall, was decorated with fine china, a persian rug and a large love seat upholstered in a pattern of dainty roses. “Damn! The Doctoring business must pay good!” Percy remarked looking around at the room. As we both sat down on the love seat I took notice of a large painting hanging on the wall opposite. It was a duel between two large man-of-war sailing ships. “Battle of Baltimore – 1814” read the gold-plated inscription below it. As I stared at the painting I felt Percy’s heavy head collapse against my shoulder. It did not take long for my head to collapse the other way as both of our bodies surrendered to exhaustion.

Two hours later the Doctor was shaking us awake. “Your friend is alive. I got the bullet out but he lost an awful lot of blood. If he doesn’t get an infection in his colon, he should survive. He should stay here for the next few days so I can keep an eye on him.” Me and Percy both got to our feet and followed the Doctor into the exam room where Wingate lay asleep. “I just gave him a large dose of opium tincture so he will be asleep for the rest of the evening. Please feel free to come back in the morning.” With that the Doctor began to escort us to the front door. Before we walked out of the room. Percy stopped. “Say, that leather bag he had, where is it? He would want us to take it with us.” The Doctor eyed Percy suspiciously. “Well Mr. Wingate informed me and my wife that the bag was to stay here under our supervision until he was ready to travel, and when I give my word to a patient, I keep it.” Percy smiled back at the Doctor and just nodded his head. Before leaving I extended my hand to the Doctor. “We appreciate all you have done Doc, what do we owe you?” The doctor smiled wearily. “We can settle the bill when the patient is discharged.” I nodded understandingly and me and Percy turned around and walked out of the door.

Riding into town it did not take Percy long to say what I knew was on his mind. “So when do you want to rob the good doctor and his plump wife?” I did not even look at him when he said it. I let a few moments pass just to aggravate him. “Hey, shit for brains! Did you hear what I asked? When do you want to go get that fourteen thousand dollars just sitting in that sawbones house waiting on us?” We were just coming into town and I stopped my horse. “Percy you really expect me to go along with you robbing an honest miner of his find? Hell, the man already gave us over a thousand dollars just to bring him to the Doctor! You remember that?” Percy stopped and swung his horse around to where he was facing me. “Logan if you honestly think I am gonna give up an opportunity like this you are crazy! There is enough gold sitting in that house to set you and me up for life!” It felt like I was talking to a brick wall. “I will have no part of it and I will not stand by and watch you rob him either, so I am just letting you know.” Percy stared at me for a long minute as I returned the stare. “You’re serious!” Percy asked, his mouth open. “Damn right I am serious. We already got Seven hundred dollars worth of gold each! Shit man, be happy with that!” I spurred my horse and headed for town, leaving Percy sitting on the side of the road confused and angry.

Being alone that afternoon, I felt good about things for the first time in a long time. Instead of killing and maiming I had helped to save a decent man’s life, and had been rewarded handsomely for it. Perhaps this is something I could do on a more regular basis I thought to myself? Riding this strange wave of euphoria I decided to get a haircut, shave and a bath and then went next door to the tailor’s and bought me a brand-spanking new outfit. I had to laugh at the tailor when he asked me what I wanted to do with my old clothes. I  told him to promptly “burn them” and without missing a beat he replied “My thoughts exactly sir.” Suited up in my new duds I went to the hotel and had a steak dinner complete with peach cobbler for dessert and then got me a room with a big soft bed where I slept like the dead. At breakfast the next morning however, Percy was nowhere to be found. My first thoughts to where Percy might be scared the shit out of me I don’t mind telling you. I imagined in my mind’s eye the miner and the good doctor and his wife laying dead in pools of their own blood with Percy riding hard for Old Mexico with that brown leather satchel.

It did not take long however for the reality of Percy’s plight to be revealed. Walking down main street, I spotted his chestnut mare tied outside the city jail. Shaking my head with disgust, I walked over, took a deep breath, and entered the jailhouse. A man in his fifties with a head of white hair and a matching waxed handlebar mustache sat behind a desk with a name placard that read “City Marshall Arthur T. Roberts”. The marshal did not get up when I entered and made sure I saw the double barrel 10 gauge in his lap.  “Yes sir can I help ya?” he asked, eyeing me suspiciously. “Yes, I have come to fetch my friend, Percy Ingovoll, I believe you have him locked up in your jail.” The lawman grinned and took his boots off the desk. “If you are referring to the gentleman whom was trying to fight the entire saloon last night, yes we have him.” There was a long pause as the lawman continued to size me up. “OK, so let’s have him.” I said impatiently. The lawman gave a smirk and reached over on his desk and picked up a piece of paper. Taking time to remove his spectacles from his front shirt pocket, he then studied the paper. “He is scheduled to go before Judge Tillerson at 10 o’clock this morning.” The lawman answered. “For fighting in a saloon?” I asked. “That hardly seems right.” The lawman stood up. He was a tall, gangly man with long slender arms and almost no waist to speak of. I also noticed as he stood he wore a tie-down rig, which told me he fancied himself a gunfighter. “Disturbing the Peace, Drunk and Disorderly and Destruction of Private Property are charges we take very serious here in Abilene, Mr.? I did not catch your name.” The atmosphere was getting tense so I decided to cut through the bullshit and talk a language all  corrupt lawmen know. Money. “I did not give my name. How much are the fines for those three charges?” I asked. The lawman’s expression turned smug as he walked over to the gun rack and holstered the 10 gauge. “Well, let’s see for those three charges plus court cost, and the cost of stabling the man’s horse, let’s call it what we took off him in gold last night as payment in full.” He reached into his shirt pocket and laid out four thumb sized gold nuggets wrapped in cloth. My temper flared at that moment and I felt like the top of my head was gonna blow off. “That seems a bit excessive since that gold is worth well over seven hundred dollars.” I replied, my face feeling hot and most likely the color of crimson from anger.  The lawman walked over and sat on the edge of his desk. He removed makings for a cigarette and began rolling one up. “Well sir, it very well may seem excessive, but that is the price if you want to walk out of here with your friend this morning. Of course you are more than welcome to let him have his day in court but let me caution you, Judge Tillerson is not as lenient as I am.” The marshal smiled a shit eating grin as he lit his cigarette with a match. “And by not as lenient you mean more expensive?” I replied looking at him coldly. The marshal shot me a look of pure cruelty through the haze of smoke. I thought for a brief moment before I spoke again since my anger was at the fine point of boiling over. “Very well, let’s have him then.” I said. The marshal hesitated as if he had not heard me and then stood up, making a big show to pocket the gold. He then slowly reached over on a peg and retrieved a set of keys.

A few minutes later he returned with what was left of Percy. My mouth fell open when I saw him. Percy literally looked like death warmed over. Both eyes were black and swollen and his lip had been split in several places. A deep gash on his scalp was leaking blood down the side of his head and to top it all of he could barely walk. “My God! What the hell happened to him?” I asked taking hold of Percy’s arm. “Like I said he tried to fight the entire saloon.” The Marshal responded non-chalant. Percy gave me an incredulous look that confirmed that statement was pure bullshit. As we left the marshal handed me Percy’s gun belt. “If you or your friend make trouble around these parts again, I am going to do more than fine you next time, is that understood?”  I was so mad at that point I did not even turn around to acknowledge the smug bastard. Once we were out the door and to our horses I asked Percy if he was alright to ride. He nodded that he could and I followed along as he swayed back and forth in the saddle like a drunkard.



“What the hell happened!” Dr. Kirkpatrick exclaimed as he answered the door.”Your town marshal’s handiwork” I replied helping Percy inside the house. “Oh my God! Bring him into the exam room” The doctors wife came from the parlor and took Percy’s other arm as we both helped him up on the exam table. Wingate sat up in his bed as we came in. “Bandits?” Wingate asked with a weak voice. “No, worse, the town law.” I replied sarcastically. After laying Percy down on the table I walked over to Wingate’s bed. “What happened?” he asked hoarsely. I walked over and explained the whole thing. “Ain’t nothing worse than crooked law.” Wingate fumed, his face turning three shades of scarlet. “Looks like they broke two ribs and fractured his arm. He has a slight concussion and this cut on his scalp is gonna need a couple of stitches too.” I walked back over and gripped Percy’s hand. “Hang on pard, just hang on…” I said as Doc began the process of stitching his head back together.

The next day Percy was awake, but only for a little while. He was still so out of it he would not even get up to urinate he would just roll over and attempt to pee in the bed pan. As I was sitting there next to Percy Doc came in to check on him. I suppose he could see the concern on my face. “His body is repairing itself, we need to let him rest.” Doc told me checking his pulse. I walked out on the porch where Wingate was sitting in a rocking chair smoking his pipe. “How is he?” he asked through the pipes blue-grey smoke. I shrugged and leaned up against the porch post. “Don’t you worry yourself Logan. I once seen a man get the living shit kicked out of him by three other miners for poaching a claim.They worked him over good with them shovels. He did not get out of bed for a damn week. He could take only broth and water. But you know what? after a week and a half he got right up and went back to work. Of course he did not learn his lesson too well and a week later he was shot dead for poaching another man’s claim. Some men are just dumb beast.” I had to laugh at Wingate. The man always had an entertaining story to tell, even if it was depressing as hell.

Early the next morning before sun-up somebody shook me awake. Looking up through bleary eyes I saw Percy standing there. “We need to talk.” he whispered. I pulled on my pants and followed him quietly through the dark house and out to the front porch. The early morning was cool and damp and the smell of honeysuckle floated on the air while a Whip-poor-will bird cooed from a tree out in the yard. Percy sat down in a rocking chair and lit a coal oil lantern on the table beside him. I could tell he had something serious on his mind. “We need to get Wingate and get the hell out of here come first light.” Percy said matter of factly, sitting back in the chair. I gave Percy a puzzled look. “What are you talking about? Why? I thought you might want to get back at the son-of-a-bitch marshal for what he did to you!” Percy shook his head. “You don’t understand Logan. That marshal knows everything about Wingate and his gold.” The look I gave Percy was the look you see on a man’s face when he is utterly confused and lost. “Wait a minute, so is that the reason they questioned and beat you like they did? They think we are all in cahoots or something?” I asked amazed. Percy nodded. “Yep they think we know something. And the reason they think that is what happened out on the trail when Wingate got shot. Us accidentally finding him being ambushed out on the road and driving those deputies away that were trying to kill him was proof to the marshal that we are indeed in cahoots! Can you believe it!” Percy leaned over and lit the cigarette with the flame from the lantern. I put my head in my hands. This was just too much for my foggy brain this early in the morning. “So why not just me and you cut and run and leave Wingate to deal with this Marshal by himself? I mean you said the other day we are not responsible for helping every poor pilgrim we come across, right?” Percy sat forward in the rocking chair and looked at me. “Normally I might agree with you, but now, like it or not we are involved in this thing up to our necks and we owe it to Wingate to get him somewhere safe. It may not be the smartest move, but it is definitely the right one.”

A half-hour passed and the soft light of dawn begin to break. I went into the kitchen to put some coffee on and then went and woke up Wingate. After Percy had explained everything to him and we agreed the best thing to do was leave town as soon as we could, Percy asked Wingate a question that made me do a double-take. “That marshal knew an awful lot about you Wingate. How is that, being you are not from around here?” Wingate let out a long breath and shook his head. “I sure am sorry you boys got mixed up in this thing.” Wingate said looking at us. “Enough of the bullshit Wingate. Answer the question!” Percy said flatly. “The claim in which I found the gold belonged to the Marshal’s brother. He was killed in a saloon brawl in Austin almost a year ago. When his claim came up for sale at the land office I snatched it up and began mining it. Of course this was before anybody knew the man had a will and had left the claim to his brother, the Marshal of Abilene, Arthur T. Roberts.” Wingate said lighting his pipe. “Well I’ll be damned!” Percy said getting up out of his chair. “It all makes sense now. He thinks you cheated him!” Percy exclaimed. “Yeah what caused the confusion was Roberts had not filed the will with an attorney or any next of kin, he had left it with a whore in Austin he frequented. Once he died and the whore came forward to a judge, the land and mine had already been sold to me, so the marshal had no legal recourse, so he resorted to trying to rob and kill me out on the road when you boys found me the other day.” Wingate replied. “Why the hell didn’t you tell us this earlier?” I asked. “I did not want to get you boys anymore involved than you already were, I guess.” Wingate said looking at the floor sheepishly. “Well there’s one thing we know for sure. That marshal intends to kill you to get that claim.” Percy said matter-of-factly. “Yeah and the only reason he has not done so by now is because you are here, at the Doctors house. I reckon at any moment he is going to ride out here to arrest you for something and then take you back to that jailhouse and kill you for any number of reasons” I replied. Wingate leaned back in his chair and took a deep breath, “Hell, there ain’t no way the three of us can hold off that marshal and all them deputies he has! What should we do?” Percy got up out of his chair and walked over and leaned against the railing. “Only thing to do is to take the fight to the marshal before he brings it to us. We kill the head of the snake, the rest will die.” Percy spoke these words as he looked out into the early dawn. A smoky silver haze floated just above the earth while two whitetail deer, a doe and a spike buck, grazed on the lush green grass. Uncertainty and fear coursed through my body at that moment like no other time in my life. Glancing over at Wingate I could tell the same was true for him. “So we go in there and kill him? That is our plan?” Wingate asked looking at both of us, his lips quivering. There was a long pause. “That or we wait and let him come out here and kill you, which sounds better Wingate?” Percy asked, still looking at the deer grazing peacefully.

After breakfast and a long discussion with the Doctor, it was decided all three of us would go into town that evening and murder the Marshal. I could tell the Doctor was troubled by our plan, “Doctor if I am killed, I am signing off ownership of the claim and the gold I currently have in my possession totaling fourteen thousand dollars worth to be equally split three ways between You, Percy and Logan.” Wingate said as he signed a piece of paper and slid it over to the Doctor. “Would you please witness this Doctor?” Wingate asked. The Doctor put on his spectacles and read over the document. After reading it he paused for a long moment and took off his spectacles. “Mr. Wingate are you sure this is what you want to do sir?” Wingate cleared his throat. “I am sure.” he replied. “I would like to ask one more thing.” Wingate said as he stood up from the table. “If I shall be killed in this mis-adventure, I would like my body to be shipped back to Missouri and be buried next to my mother and father in our family cemetery outside of House Springs. Here is a hundred dollars to see to the cost.” Percy, me and the doctor all looked at one another with a sense of sincere sadness. Then Percy did something totally our of character. He stood up from the table and said. “You can count on me Wingate!” the two men shook hands and smiled as if they were long lost brothers.



That evening as we were preparing to leave the doctor and his wife asked us into the parlor “I called all of you here to make a suggestion that I think can solve your problem much simpler than your current plan.” As the doctor said this his wife entered with a freshly baked apple pie. A smile spread across Wingate’s face as he realized what he was about to say “You intend to poison him!” Wingate said jumping up from his seat like a man who had been touched in the head. “Indeed we do. Anna has dosed this pie with enough hemlock to kill five men easily.” The doctor replied with a sly grin. I just sat back and admired the simplicity of the plan while Percy just shook his head in amazement and poured himself a brandy. “Anna will deliver the pie first thing tomorrow before lunch and I expect you shall have the desired result shortly thereafter, depending of course if he eat’s it right then or later that evening.” The doctor’s tone was both proud and strangely enthusiastic.

After the meeting, we all moved into the dining room where Anna had prepared a lovely fried chicken dinner with all the trimmings. Everybody ate and drank until they were full as ticks. It was an overall jovial occasion. When we were finished, Wingate, now fully drunk, stood to make a speech. “This day has truly turned out to be a surprise. I thought for sure it would end with me either being wounded or killed.” Wingate grew more unsteady on his feet as he kept talking, slurring his words so badly it drew nervous laughter from everybody in the room. Suddenly I began feeling light-headed and dizzy myself, even though I had not touched a drop of alcohol. As my heart began to pound in my chest at the thought that was forming in my mind, I remember seeing Wingate collapse on the floor in a heap and hearing the loud thud his head made when it hit the wood floor. Looking over at Percy I noticed he had collapsed sideways in his chair, his tongue rolling out of his head like a sick dog. “What the hell?” was all I got out before the world turned upside down, sideways and then went black as midnight.

When I awoke I was lying in the exam room with my head busting wide open from the most terrible headache I had ever known. Looking over to my left I saw both Percy and Wingate lying in a bed together like they were asleep. Suddenly two men’s voices could be heard. “So why is this one still alive?” I heard one of the men ask. “Not sure, he ate the same as the rest.” I suddenly felt nauseous like I was going to throw up. “Oh jesus! Anna, come help us with this one!” One of the men called out. “Turn over on your side Logan.” a woman’s voice instructed me curtly. After I had retched, Anna wiped my mouth with a moist washcloth and then patted my head with it. As my eyes adjusted, I saw that we were not alone in the room. Standing there at the end of the bed was Dr. Kirkpatrick and Marshal Roberts. As I tried to raise my arm to draw my gun, I realized my arms were bound with leather straps and I was not even wearing any pants, much less a gun belt. “Now now Logan, you need to take it easy.” Anna whispered. My blood was literally boiling in my head I was so mad. “What the hell have you done!” I yelled out with a hoarse voice. Anna looked at me with abject pity and then turned around to her husband. “Can’t we spare him?” she asked. “Afraid not darling, he knows too much.” Dr. Kirkpatrick replied coldly. Anna gave a pouty look. “Now Marshal our deal stands, we get all the gold and you get the deed to the claim, correct?” The Marshal gave her a look of disgust and answered  “Yes Anna, that was the deal.” The Marshal walked over to the bed where Wingate and Percy’s bodies lay. “As for Mr. Chandler there, I figure a good story to tell the judge is these three had a falling out about the gold and Logan murdered them over it. Of course you two can be key witnesses as you saw the whole thing happen in your dining room, correct?” As those words hit my ears it felt like a lightning bolt went through my body. It seemed like pure, seething anger emanated from every pore in my body. As I jerked at the restraints the doctor and his wife backed up from the bed. “Logan! You need to settle down!” The marshal yelled taking out his pistol to whack me. “You murdering, corrupt bastards!” I yelled out, spittle flying from my mouth in a rant. After a minute of my temper flaring I was spent, the poison in my body completely zapping me of all energy and willpower.”So he will hang then?” The Doctor asked, setting the brown satchel containing Wingates gold on a table to inspect the contents. “Oh yeah, the judge won’t hesitate on this one.” The marshal proudly replied looking at me. “A double murder over gold. It’s open and shut.”

Hot tears rolled down my cheeks as I turned to look at my best friend’s dead faces as one of the marshal’s deputies lifted me from the bed and handcuffed me. A flood of memories washed over me. Percy’s infectious laugh. Wingate’s wild mining camp stories. I remembered them all. As Anna watched from the window as they put me up on a horse, I was reminded when me and her helped carry Wingate into the house after he had been shot. I remember the Doctor taking such care sewing up Percy’s head after the Marshal had beat him. Now both Anna and the Doctor had murdered the same men they had cared for all these weeks in their own home! Greed infects men’s souls and turns them into heartless beast.

Arriving at the jail I was told it would most likely be tomorrow when I would be hung because they had to build a gallows and those things took time. I asked for some paper and a pencil to write a letter to my next of kin, and this is that letter my dearest mother Catherine. I hope you have received it or if you have not, I at least hope whomever reads this will seek out justice for me and my friends, Percy Ingovoll and Arthur Wingate who were murdered in cold blood by poisoning by City Marshal John Roberts, Doctor Charles A. Kirkpatrick and his wife Anna Kirkpatrick because the three of them conspired to steal Arthur Wingates gold and his gold claim. Please let Justice Avenge us!


Logan Chandler


The End


Double-Blind (Chapter V)

A Modern Crime Novelette





Camp Inferno

Reyes sat blindfolded with his arms and legs zip-tied to a chair.”This is getting to be too fucking familiar” he said to himself. Two hours ago he had been at the D.E.A. safe house when his burner got a text. Logan needed to talk to him about a change in plans. Kessler did not like letting him go without a tail or a GPS tracker, but he had no choice. These guys were way too smart for any of that. Besides, Reyes was expendable. It was worth the risk letting him go to get one step closer to these guys. He hoped, anyways.

Logan removed the blindfold. Reyes shook his head and blinked several times waiting for his vision to adjust. “Where am I?” he asked. “The end of the road.” Logan replied, staring at him through his Oakleys. Reyes looked around. Besides Logan there was another man there. Not the driver but a guy he had seen in the pictures Kessler had showed him. “So, Captain Reyes, here is how this is gonna work. I am gonna ask some questions and you are going to answer truthfully. If I feel you are not being 100% honest, my associate here, Mr. Tarzan, is going to have some fun with this table full of tools over there…” Reyes glanced at the man and then at the table full of power tools. He knew right away he was fucked. “So first question: How long have you been an informant for the D.E.A.?” Logan asked. Reyes’ heart began thumping in his chest and he became nauseous. Tarzan picked up a pair of needle nose pliers. “Jesus en la’ Cruz! It’s not what you think!” Reyes exclaimed. He was beginning to sweat so bad it began dripping off him like he had just taken a bath. “OK, so explain to me, in detail…” Reyes took a breath. “The girl I was with that day, Jasmine, they had gotten to her. She drugged me and the next thing I know the D.E.A. is asking me questions.” Tarzan kneeled down at Reyes feet. “You really should take better care of your feet their Captain.” Tarzan touched Reyes’ toes with the pliers. Reyes begin to whimper like a child. “Look, I swear to Christ that is the first time I had ever talked to them…” Tarzan looked up at Reyes and then over at Logan. Logan nodded. Tarzan jabbed the serrated edge of the needle nose pliers underneath the big toenail and then clamped down on it and ripped it out. Reyes yelled out in pain. “Oh dios me ayude!” Reyes jerked against the zip ties as terrible, searing pain pulsed through his body. Tarzan stood back and held up the bloody nail for him to see and then tossed it in the garbage. After a few minutes of Reyes crying. Logan spoke up. “OK, so let’s start over. Obviously you did not understand the rules.” Reyes interrupted him. “Logan, look, I swear to Christ. I had not talked to the D.E.A. before four days ago, Why would I? I was doing fine. You think I want to fucking cross the cartels!” Logan took off his glasses and stared at Reyes. He gestured with his head for Tarzan to back off. Reyes took a deep breath of relief. “OK then, so them seeking you out specifically was just blind luck? Come on Reyes! You know how that sounds!” Reyes shook his head. “No, of course it was not blind luck. The Federal Police is full of snitches. Somebody ratted me out.” Logan put his glasses back on. “And you led them straight to us.” Logan motioned for Tarzan to continue. Tarzan smiled he was getting to play again and picked up an electric grinder. Reyes’ eyes got big. “Jesus! No! Not on purpose! Look, the D.E.A. knows all about what you guys are doing OK? Some former spook who works for them now told them yesterday.” Logan stood up when he heard that. He moved Tarzan out-of-the-way and squatted down so he was eye level with Reyes. “And what is it exactly that we are doing Captain?” Reyes gave a smirk. “Helping Consolidate the Cartels of course. Instead of seven or eight cartels fighting for control, there will be one cartel divided into several areas. One cartel, one boss.” Logan stood back up and looked over at Tarzan. Both men had a look of utter confusion. What was this crooked cop playing at? Reyes noticed the look on their faces. What the hell? They looked as if they truly were confused. What the fuck was going on?

Logan took Tarzan by the arm and walked over to the other side of the trailer. “What the fuck is that crazy spick talking about!” Logan said, wide eyed. Tarzan placed his hand on his shoulder.”Brother, relax. The guy is scared and is just spouting off crazy bullshit in an attempt to get us to stall taking him apart piece by piece. I’ve seen it a hundred times before.” Logan shook his head. “No, that is not what that is. That sounds to me like he is serious.” Tarzan laughed. “Look man, I know you have not had as much experience with interrogation as me, but a drowning man will do ANYTHING to stay alive. It’s a survival instinct. Let me continue working on him and you will see.” Tarzan turned to go back and Logan stopped him. “Wait. Let me talk to him first. Go over to the shoot house with Jolt and Luis or something.” Logan walked around the trailer to find Reyes praying. “Have you suddenly found God Captain?” Logan asked. “Well, either that or I hope he finds me, Pronto!” Reyes replied, half smiling, still in pain. Logan walked over to the table and opened up a first aid kit and took out some anti-biotic and a band-aid. Kneeling down he took out his knife. Reyes began fidgeting in his chair. “Relax, I am not going to hurt you.” He cut the zip tie and began doctoring Reyes’ toe. “Thank you.” Reyes said with a tear in his eye. Logan walked behind him and cut the zip-tie on his wrist as well.  Logan then walked over to the cooler and got a cold bottle of water and handed it to him. Reyes downed the water in one go. “Muchas gracias.” Logan grabbed a beer out of the cooler and sat down across from him. After a few minutes, Reyes spoke up. “So let me ask you a question Logan. Why did you guys act so damn surprised when I told you what I had overheard? Isn’t that what you have been doing?” Logan smiled and took a long drink. “Let’s put it this way Captain, It appears you are not the only one getting played .” Reyes look at Logan funny. “What do you mean?” Logan shook his head. “I probably should not tell you this but who gives a shit now. We were hired to jack loads of CJNG coke so the CIA could sell it on the black market and buy weapons and material to fight ISIS.” Reyes’ eyes got big. “What the hell? That’s what those assholes told you!” Logan nodded his head. Both men began laughing. “Unbelievable!” Reyes exclaimed. Logan stood up and began pacing. “And all the while what I was really doing instead of fighting terrorism was expanding the global drug trade!” Reyes shook his head. “Well, I am not innocent in that regard either Mr. Chandler.” Logan stopped pacing and realized what Reyes was saying. “Oh Hell Captain, I know that, but at least you are honest about what you do. Yeah, you are corrupt and help the cartels, but my employer had to lie to me to get me to do this shit! I would have never agreed to do it if I had known the truth!” Reyes nodded his head. “I understand where you are coming from. It’s a matter of principle.” Logan stared at Reyes for a long minute and pondered how strange it was to hear that word come from the lips of a man like Reyes.

Instead of going over to the shoot house with Jolt and Luis, Tarzan had stayed put on the other side of the trailer and had heard every word of the conversation between Reyes and Logan. Confused about what to do next, he stepped away and retrieved his cell phone and battery and called McRay. After Tarzan had given McRay the cliff-notes version of events, McRay had to make a command decision. Since he had been discovered in his scheme he had to do two things quickly: Justify his Actions and Eliminate the Problem, which in this case and at this point in time, was Logan and Reyes. McRay quickly got to work on the first part. “Tarzan you need to understand I was under orders from the top brass to keep this operation under wraps. It is of vital national importance that we get the cartel situation in Mexico sorted, do you understand where I am coming from son?” Tarzan hesitated to agree. He hated being lied to, especially when it involved killing people. He would much rather have had the whole truth before going into this job. Still, this was the C.I.A. we were talking about, not fucking Sears and Roebuck. “Yes, I understand Sir.” Tarzan replied with military bearing. “Good, Good. Glad to hear it. You think Jolt and Luis will be as understanding?” Tarzan hesitated. “Well, I can talk to them sir…” Tarzan felt a knot in his stomach forming. “Good. I will leave that up to you to convince them. In the mean time, Chandler and Reyes need to meet with a terrible accident.” There was dead silence on the line. “Say Again Sir?” Tarzan’s heart began thumping like a rabbit. “They know too much and are not on-board with the Operation, I know it’s a tough call, but it has to be done.” Tarzan’s mouth got dry and his stomach was turning flips. “Tell you what Chris, I know this is a tough thing to ask, so I will add $250K to your paycheck and get you on-board full-time, how does that sound?” Tarzan was amazed. The man’s tone was calm and measured, as if he was ordering a pizza. There was a long moment of Silence on the line and then, as if Tarzan was watching himself in a tragic play, he answered. “Yes sir, you can count on me.”

When McRay hung up the phone he reached in his coat pocket and pulled out a burner with a red dot sticker on the back. He pressed the #2 to speed dial the only number programmed into it. After three rings a young American female voice answered. “Doctor Kellerman’s Office.” “Yes I need to make an appointment for 1pm on Tuesday ” There was silence on the line, then a series of clicks. A male voice came on. “Number of targets?” McRay did some quick math. Even though Tarzan signed on he would eventually be a liability. “Five.” More silence. “Location?” McRay opened his laptop and signed into his encrypted email. A tech in Langley had already triangulated Tarzan’s location from their short chat. “Location is Known. GPS coordinates to follow.”

Sliding his phone into his pocket, Tarzan took a deep breath and then casually walked over to his trailer. He suited up and grabbed the suppressed MP-7, some extra mags and two grenades. Before walking out, he wrote a quick email as he took one last look at a picture of his daughter taped to the wall. The jagged border of the picture where he had cut out his ex-wife reminded him of the night several years ago when, after a few drinks he had decided to “drunk dial” his ex. The conversation was short. “Just think of us as dead and gone. That’s how we think of you” then she hung up.

The email was short and simple, addressed to his lawyer in Panama.

Mr. Victorio:

I hereby assign you as EXECUTOR of my estate.

Please see that the balance of my two offshore accounts including ALL of my stocks, bonds and property are placed into a trust and go to my only daughter, Rachel L. Bell.


Chris Bell

When Tarzan came out of his trailer he was met by Jolt and Luis who had just finished up in the shoot house. “Hey just the guy’s I need to talk too…” Tarzan said smiling nervously.

When Logan came around the corner from the Lounge and saw Tarzan standing there fully kitted up and armed talking in an animated fashion to Luis and Jolt he got a really bad feeling. As he began walking toward them he began asking himself questions. “Why is Tarzan armed?” “Why does he look nervous?” and as he got closer the big question he hated to ask but had to:  “What if McRay already got to him somehow?” Fifty yards away Tarzan looked up and saw Logan coming. Logan smiled but Tarzan did not. Suddenly Luis yelled out “Logan, watch out!” At that point Luis went to draw his Glock, but Tarzan was so close he fouled his draw and the fight was on. As Tarzan and Luis clinched up, Jolt took off in a sprint, heading for the Little Bird. Logan was running toward them now with laser focus, looking like a Linebacker getting ready to make an open field tackle. As Logan was lowering his shoulder for the hit, a gunshot rang out. A pink mist blew up into the air like a geyser as the top of Luis’ head was blown away, his lifeless body dropping with a thud. Logan came to a screeching halt just ten yards away. Tarzan quickly spun around, his face splashed with blood. Pieces of skull and brain had lodged in his thick beard making him look like some crazed viking fresh from battle. The sound of the little bird’s rotors began to hum loudly as Jolt quickly got the helo into the air. With Tarzan distracted, Logan thought about going for the bloody Glock in his right hand but quickly realized Tarzan had the drop on him. A broad smile spread across Tarzan’s face. Logan watched as the massive tendons and muscles began to constrict in his right arm as Tarzan brought the Glock up to fire. Logan’s only move was to close the distance as fast as he could and hope the vest protected him. Logan lunged for the gun.

Suddenly Logan’s face felt wet and something gritty was in his eyes, blinding him. “Son-of-a-bitch!” Logan stopped in his tracks. Fully expecting to be shot, he reached out but felt nothing, no Tarzan, no gun. Bringing his hand up to his face, Logan wiped blood and bone matter from his eyes, all the time thinking “Am I Shot? Is this my blood?” Finally able to see, Logan’s vision came into focus and that question was answered. There on the ground beside Luis was Tarzan with his head almost completely blown away. As Logan stood there dumbfounded a voice came from behind him. “I have not shot a rifle since like forever. Amazing I was able to make that head shot!”  Logan spun around to see Reyes with a huge smile on his face, an HK 416 in his hands. “Muchas Gracias Captain.” Logan said, taking a breath.  As both men stood there, trying to process what had just happened, the familiar buzz of the Little Bird broke the silence. Suddenly, Logan remembered Jolt was airborne and he was not sure which side he was on. “Cover, Reyes Now!” Logan yelled. Both men bolted for the nearest cover, which was underneath one of the trailers. Just as they were diving underneath the trailer Jolt passed over them, flying so low Logan felt the prop wash. As they were both laying there catching their breath the radio clipped to Logan’s vest came alive. “Hey Chandler what you running around like a scared rabbit for?” Logan smiled. “Wasn’t sure what side you were on partner. I am sure McRay made you a tempting offer via Tarzan.” Logan could hear Jolt laughing over the radio. “Hell I ain’t gonna lie to you brother, I thought about it. But the way I look at it, a man gotta have some things he does not put a price tag on.” Logan smiled and shook his head. “How much did that bastard offer you to kill us?” “One-Hundred Thousand.” Jolt replied. “Man, I though I would be worth more than that!” Logan joked, smiling. “For your southern-fried redneck ass! Hell, I would have taken fifty!” Jolt replied laughing. Reyes got Logan’s attention. “Hey, you can bullshit with your buddy later, right now tell him to come pick us up!” Logan laughed. “Hey I got a pissed off Mexican down here, you better come pick us up.” Jolt could be heard laughing over the radio. “Roger that, on my way.”

Jolt landed a few minutes later and after Logan collected a few things him and Reyes loaded up on the helo. Before shutting the door Logan gave one last look at the bodies of Luis and Tarzan. “Damn shame about Luis. that is no way for a warrior to die.” Jolt said over their headset. “Yeah, he deserved better.” Logan said. As they lifted off Logan kept his eyes on the bodies of the two men he called brothers. “I can’t believe Tarzan tried to sell us out man, what an asshole.” Jolt said flipping the bird as they passed. Logan did not reply. “So where to Logan?” Jolt asked. “Panama. I got some friends down there that can help us all disappear.” Jolt gave a thumbs up and turned the chopper South. “You really think we can hide from the CIA?” Reyes asked. “We are gonna try.” Logan said. Suddenly a loud alarm went off on the control panel. “What the hell is that!” Logan asked. “Radar Lock! Somebody is locking on to us!” Jolt asked as he jerked the stick up trying to evade. “Locking on to us with what!” Reyes asked. “Anti-Aircraft!” Jolt said as he jerked the stick left this time trying another evasive maneuver. The helicopter jerked wildly in the sky, left then right, up, then down. But the missile just kept on coming. The missile impacted into the rear of the helicopter, just aft of the engine. They never saw nor heard it when it hit.  The little bird helicopter exploded into several pieces eight miles from Camp Inferno, killing all aboard.

The man who had fired the Stinger missile admired the fireball in the sky for a few seconds and then un-shouldered the launcher assembly and calmly walked over and placed it in the back of the waiting SUV. After closing the hatch he walked around and got in the passenger seat. “Did we Get all of them?” McRay asked from the back seat. The man turned around in his seat and in a crisp military tone replied “Yes Sir. Three Tango’s Down.” McRay put the phone to his ear “Yes Mr. Morales, all our loose ends have been tied up.” After hanging up the phone McRay tapped the driver. “Let’s get out of here.” As the driver put the vehicle in gear McRay looked out the window at the burning wreckage on the horizon. Just as he was about to feel some type of pity or remorse his phone chimed. It was a notification from his offshore bank that a wire transfer had been completed. McRay opened up the screen to read the amount. Ten Million US Dollars. Suddenly McRay forgot all about the burning wreckage behind them and smiled at the bright future that lay ahead.


The End.

A Border Redemption (Chapter V)

A Western Novelette

Part 2 of the Border Trilogy

Chapter V

La Voyant Ranch

It was a few hours before dawn and the cabin was dark and quiet. Everybody was fast asleep except the three men on watch at the windows. Creed had been on guard for an hour when Eve came over and brought him a cup of coffee and some fried cornbread. “My mom’s recipe.” she whispered, brushing her hair back from her eyes. Creed admired her beauty in the dim shadow of the candles. “Thanks. How’s Tick?” Creed whispered in reply. “He’s resting. The bleeding has stopped but he still has a fever.” Creed noticed the look of concern on Eve’s face. “Will he be OK you think?” Creed asked. “The fever worries me. It means there is an infection. He really needs a Doctor.” Creed just shook his head in frustration. “You think we can get out of here soon?” Eve asked. “I hope…” Creed did not finish his sentence as a sound outside caught his attention. “Pssssst” Creed got Knowles attention at the next window and Grissom’s at the back. Instead of talking Creed pointed to his ears and then outside. “Eve go take cover by the bunks and keep that revolver handy.” Creed whispered. Eve nodded her head and quickly moved over to the bunk with her waiting mother who already had a shotgun loaded and ready. Knowles, Grissom and Creed all shouldered their carbines and went on high alert at their windows scanning the area. It was a moonless night, and with the combination of the pre-dawn hour, the darkness outside was a sheet of complete blackness. Creed cleared his mind and listened. There! The sound he heard earlier, a rustling. Creed slowly cocked the hammer on his carbine and aligned the sights, scanning with the barrel of the gun. The sound, as best he could tell was coming from in front of the corrals next to the barn. Movement in the shadows! Creed aligned the sights and right before he squeezed the trigger Grissom whispered. “Hold your Fire! Coyotes! They are eating on the dead horses!” Creed let out a sigh of relief and relaxed the hammer on the carbine and withdrew the barrel back inside.

Creed shot a glance over to Grissom, who was smiling. “I guess we forgot there was half-a-dozen rotting horses out there!” Creed smiled at the remark. He glanced over at Eve and Sarah who were also smiling in relief. “Well since we are all up now, I think this calls for some coffee.” Rojo said, climbing out of his bunk. Creed was just about to say “I would love some” when the cabin exploded in gunfire. Knowles and Grissom were already calling out targets before Creed could get back behind his carbine. “Looks like they got reinforcements!  I count six guns back here!” Knowles yelled as he returned fire. “I count eight, No! Make it Ten! Jesus! Where did they all come from?” Grissom exclaimed as he returned fire as quickly as he could. By the time Creed had drawn a bead with this rifle, there were upwards of twenty mounted gunman surrounding the bunk house. Splinters of wood flew as bullets pierced the cabin. The women yelled in sheer terror as bullets impacted all around them. Rojo quickly herded the women into a corner away from the windows. He then took one of the mattresses off the bunks and laid it over them. He repeated this with Tick. “They are setting up some kind of barricade back here!” Knowles yelled as light first appeared outside and things could be seen more clearly. “Same thing in the front!” Creed replied. Creed watched in horror as three wagons were rolled into place not twenty yards from the bunk house. “Ammo!” Grissom yelled. Rojo crawled over and retrieved the saddlebag Knowles had brought and flung it over. “This all we got?!” Grissom looked up in distress. “Si!” Rojo replied. Grissom shook his head in disgust and continued firing. After the wagons were rolled into place, Newton and his posse stopped firing. Creed likewise ordered everybody to cease-fire. After a few moments, Creed watched two men ride up and dismount behind the wagons. Directly, a voice pierced the silence. “This is John Randolph speaking. I need to speak to the man in charge in there.” Grissom and Creed looked at each other in amazement. “This is Creed La Voyant Speaking Randolph.” Creed yelled out through the window. “Listen son, this thing has gotten way out of hand. I don’t want to see anybody else killed. So here is what I propose: You hand over the nigger and the mexican and we let Sarah and Eve go back home safe and sound.” Randolph replied. Creed shook his head in disbelief at the gall of Randolph. “That dirty sum-bitch!” Grissom exclaimed, shaking his head. “Tell me something Randolph, how many people out there know why you want this land so bad?” Creed asked. There was a long pause. “Well, I guess now, just me and you.” Randolph replied amused. ” Go ahead and laugh, you’re finished Randolph regardless what you do to Rojo and Tick, you  are still going down for all the evil you have done in this town! Right now John Lewis is in Austin at the State Attorneys office with a certain black ledger, sound familiar?” Creed replied. Five minutes passed in silence. The next voice was that of the hired killer, R.T. Newton. “OK Indian, you have heard the offer, either you send out the nigger and mexican and we let the women go or we just blow you all to hell, your choice. You got two minutes to decide.” Newton held up several sticks of dynamite wrapped together with a long fuse for all to see to give a visual aid to the seriousness of the threat.

Feeling like he needed to stall for time, Creed quickly answered. “One of the men you want is badly wounded and cannot be moved…” Newton could be heard laughing. “Oh Yeah, the gut shot nigger, forgot about that. That’s OK, you can just lay him out here and we will finish him off…” Creed’s anger boiled over immediately. “I’ll be damned if I will! And you all can go to hell!” Newton continued to laugh. “OK, have it your way. It is everybody’s funeral in that cabin in exactly one minute.” Rojo immediately stood up. “Tell him I am coming out, but only after the women are allowed to ride off safely.” Creed and Grissom traded glances, frustrated. “We don’t have a choice kid. The bastard has us by the balls.” Grissom whispered. Suddenly Sarah stood up. “Tell Randolph I want to talk to him face to face.” Creed looked at Sarah for a long moment. “It’s risky.” Grissom replied, looking at Creed then at Sarah. Creed paused and then yelled out. “Sarah Patterson wants to talk to John Randolph, face to face. I am sending her out, unarmed. Everybody hold your fire!” “You are trying my patience kid!” Newton replied from behind one of the wagons. Without warning and with the boldness of a lioness, Sarah burst out the door before Creed or Grissom could stop her. “John Randolph stop hiding behind your attack dogs and come out here and face me!” Sarah yelled out, her face red with anger. “Knowles, you and Rojo keep a sharp eye out back there, they may try something!” Grissom whispered. Meanwhile, Eve was glued to the window, watching her mother intently.

After a few minutes, Randolph came slowly walking out from behind the wagons, two armed goons following him. He stopped ten feet from where Sarah stood. “OK Sarah, here I am, what’s on your mind?” Sarah took a deep breath and stared at Randolph for a long minute, the anger seething out of her. “John Randolph for the last six years I refused to believe the truth about what happened to my husband. But then yesterday as me and my daughter were comforting Marshall Prescott’s widow and she told me the rumors that were going around town about you, I realized how big a fool I have been. I refused to acknowledge the truth about what you really are Randolph.” Sarah had a look of utter disgust on her face. “And what am I Sarah?” Randolph asked, an impatient smirk on his face. “A Murderer.” she spat., glaring at him. Randolph chuckled. “You know every man who has ever accomplished something great in life have had accusations thrown at them. The Carnegie’s, The Rockefeller’s…” Sarah interrupted him. “Oh For God’s sakes Randolph! Stop your illusions of grandeur! You are nowhere close to an Andrew Carnegie or John Rockefeller! You are a lucky tin pan who turned into a crook, pure and simple. You have lied, cheated, extorted, bribed and murdered to get where you are and I hope to see you swinging by the end of a rope before all of this is over! And if you think me and my daughter are simply going to crawl away like whooped dogs while you and your goon squad murder those brave men in there you are sadly mistaken!” When Sarah finished her speech, you could have heard a mouse fart. Everybody, including his own men, were now looking at Randolph to reply while Sarah stood there with her arms crossed, a look of stern defiance on her face. Visibly agitated and embarrassed, Randolph took two-steps toward Sarah. As he raised his hand as if he were going to strike her an arrow burst out of his chest from behind, spraying Sarah with blood. Randolph’s eyes went wide as he looked down to see the black flint head  protruding from his chest. “Indians!” Randolph’s men yelled as they dove under wagons and Gunfire erupted from every direction. Grissom quickly went out and grabbed Randolph and Sarah and pulled them back into the bunk house. Creed took one look at Randolph and knew he would not live long, the arrow was too close to the heart. Knowles and Rojo had already took up positions at the windows and were firing at any of Randolph’s men that were still out in the open. Creed yelled at Rojo who was manning the back window. “How many riders back there?”. “I count ten, no twelve!” Rojo replied. Creed smiled. His uncle had been true to his word. He had returned, and in the nick of time.

It did not take long for the two dozen mounted braves to over run the disorganized posse. A large majority of the men were farmers and merchants that had no stomach for killing. Most dropped their guns and ran for town while others cowered under wagons and whimpered like children. Knowles put on his hat and holstered his pistol. “I am gonna go out there and make sure all the men who surrendered get treated fairly. Gotta have some semblance of Law and Order round here.” As Knowles walked out the door, Creed, Grissom and Rojo walked over to Ticks bunk. All three men removed their hats as they approached. They all knew from the way Eve was crying that he was gone. “When did he pass?” Creed asked quietly. “About the time the fight started.” Eve replied as she hugged him. Creed’s heart swelled with grief. Tick was the one who had found him wandering in the desert after his parent’s were slaughtered over three years ago. He had been the kindest to him out of all the men in Diaz’s gang, often sharing his breakfast and supper with him. Creed reached over and gently closed Tick’s eyes and then covered his head with the bed sheet. “Do you know what his real name was?” Eve asked, looking at all three men, all of their eyes wet with tears. “Tick was all we ever knew.” Suddenly Sarah’s voice broke the stillness. “Confess you son-of-a-bitch! Confess your sins before you go to meet your maker!” Creed jumped up and was surprised to see Randolph on the floor, still alive, with Sarah towering over him, shaking a cocked revolver at his head. “Confess you had a hand in murdering my husband and Marshall Prescott in cold blood! Confess right now!” Randolph’s face was ashen gray from the blood loss, his eyes going white as they rolled back in his head. His tongue, hanging loose from his mouth like a sick dog.  “Sarah.” Creed said in a clam and quiet voice. Sarah, surprised, spun around to face Creed, the revolver still in her hand. “Stay out of this Creed! That Bastard, That Monster, is going to confess!” Sarah’s face was contorted with hate, her eyes red and swollen from crying, her hands shaking from anger. “Sarah, how about we put down that gun before somebody else get’s hurt. He’s gonna be dead in a few minutes anyway Sarah, there’s no need for it…” Creed hoped he was making sense. After a few moments he took a deep breath as Sarah lowered the gun and handed it to Creed. Sarah then dropped to her knees in front of Randolph, who by now had died from massive blood loss. Between the great sobs and wails Sarah would try to speak but her pain was so great Creed could not make it out. Soon Eve came over and kneeled down with her mother and held her. Looking over at Randolph and then at Creed, Eve comforted her mother. “He’s dead mama. He’s dead. He will never be able to do this to anybody’s husband or Father ever again.” Both women cried for several minutes as Creed took a blanket and covered Randolph’s body.

Creed walked outside to find his uncle, Spotted Rabbit and Marshall Knowles conversing over the body of four dead men. Creed recognized one of them as R.T. Newton, Randolph’s hired gun. He guessed the other three were part of his outfit. “These four refused to lay down their weapons, fought it out and died like the dogs they were.” Spotted Rabbit spat. “Bury them with the rest.” Creed said as he surveyed the carnage. “How many dead?” Creed asked Knowles. Knowles shrugged. “I would guess around thirty, but I haven’t counted. What about Inside?” The look on Creed’s face told Knowles and Spotted Rabbit all they need to know and both bowed their heads in respect. “What about Randolph?” Knowles asked. “About ten minutes ago.” Creed said softly. “Good riddance.” Knowles replied coldly. “Tick was one tough sumbitch to have survived that long gut shot, most men would have died within an hour or two.” Knowles said as he put a plug of tobacco in his cheek. Creed nodded his head in agreement. “Well, on the bright side we won’t have to go to the trouble of a trial or building another damn gallows.” Knowles said smiling. “But, we still have a problem with Spotted Rabbit and his outfit being wanted renegade indians who have escaped an Indian Reservation. By law, I should arrest them and have them transported back to Mescalero. But hell, the way I see it, what you done here today makes up for all that Spotted Rabbit, so here is what I am going to do. I am gonna get on my horse and ride into town for a few hours. When I return, I want you and your boys Gone, and by Gone I mean out of Texas, comprende?” Spotted Rabbit nodded and turned to go talk to his braves. Knowles and Creed walked over the Barn where his horse was stabled. “I expect to hear back from John Lewis and the State’s Attorney’s office any day now.” Creed said, tightening up Knowles saddle straps. “Yeah, it’s a shame that bastard Randolph won’t be able to stand trial for the murders.” Knowles replied. “Yeah, but the main thing is the people who were taken advantage of in this town will get justice. That ledger proves he cheated this town out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Hopefully a judge will give that money back to the people who were cheated.” Creed replied as Knowles mounted his horse. “I hope so Creed. Now don’t forget. Your Uncle and his outfit need to be gone. Preferably Mexico.” Creed nodded and Knowles lit out for town. Creed walked over to find his Uncle readying several horses. “I knew I would see you again Uncle.” Creed said smiling. Spotted Rabbit smiled back as he holstered a rifle in a saddle scabbard. “What are your plans?” Creed asked excitedly. “We will ride South.” Spotted Rabbit replied. “And you? What are your plans Nephew? To become the next Texas Oil Tycoon of Shafter?” Spotted Rabbit eyed Creed and smiled. “Honestly Uncle I have not thought about it. I just want to get things made right for the people who live here.” Creed replied. “Well with John Randolph out-of-the-way I am sure things will start to improve.” Spotted Rabbit replied. “And do I have you  and your bow to thank for that?” Creed eyed his Uncle smiling. Spotted Rabbit just smiled and mounted his horse. “Until next time Nephew!” Spotted rabbit yelled raising his hand as a red cloud of dust billowed into the air and thirteen riders and two loaded mules headed south to Old Mexico.

6 Months Later

Mayor John Lewis, Creed, Grissom, and Marshall Knowles sat outside at a picnic table under a large Elm tree in front of the main house. “So with the ledger, The State’s Attorney General was able to take it before a judge and seize all of Randolph’s cash and assets?” Creed asked. “Well, of course Randolph’s family is fighting all of this in court, but the bottom line is yes, that is exactly what he did. Plus the judge awarded all the business owners that Randolph had extorted all these years large cash settlements.” Lewis replied. “What about Sarah and Eve?” Creed asked.”The judge awarded them the silver mine that Randolph stole from her husband three years ago and a very large unspecified cash settlement.” Lewis replied. As Creed listened, his gaze shifted to the small hill behind his house where he had built a memorial for his dear friend, Tick. It consisted of a polished wrought iron fence and gate with a beautiful marble bench and a Tombstone, six feet high. The inscription on the tombstone simply read “Tick  1860-1903. A True and Noble Friend.” As Creed looked at the Memorial, his gaze shifted farther into the distance, where several oil derricks could be seen dotting the landscape. “Creed, excuse me, are you OK?” Lewis asked. Creed suddenly snapped out of his daydream. “Ah, yes. Sorry, I drifted off there.” Creed said smiling. “I was asking about the ranch, how are things going?” Lewis asked. Creed looked at Grissom to take over for him, still lost in his daydream. “Well, we have five wells producing right now and have plans to drill three more by years end.” Grissom said smiling. “Outstanding!” Lewis responded. Obviously happy at the revenue that was going to eventually produce for the town.”And Marshall Knowles, do you have any information on the band of renegade indians that attacked three months ago?” Knowles shot a glance over at Creed who was still lost in thought. “No, last I heard they were seen in Old Mexico.” Knowles replied with a smirk. “Well, let’s hope they stay on that side of the river.” Lewis replied standing up, signifying the meeting was over. All men shook hands and the Mayor and Marshall Knowles were driven back to town by their personal driver in one of the first Model T Fords in Shafter.

Creed and Grissom stood watching the automobile for quite a while, both of them amazed at the contraption. After a few minutes, Eve came from the house and coming up behind Creed, put her arms around his waist. Creed turned around to face her and smiled. “And what did our Good Mayor have to say?” Eve asked. “Oh, just that Randolph’s assets have been seized by the State and all the people in town that got swindled, including you and your mom, are going to be made whole.” Eve’s face lit up. “Oh Creed! Mom is going to be so happy!” She started to hug Creed and Creed suddenly recoiled, afraid he might hurt the growing baby inside her womb. Both of them looked at each other and grinned. “It’s OK, you’re not gonna hurt the baby!” she whispered in his ear. He smiled back and hugged her, lifting her off her feet and spinning her around as she giggled in delight. Suddenly in the distance, a loud explosion could be heard. As they all three turned around, they saw a fountain of oil spraying into the air out of one of the derricks. “There she is Creed! What did I tell ya! Number three hit!” Grissom yelled laughing, “Come on Boy!” Creed gave Eve one last kiss and set off toward the derrick, he and Grissom running at full sprint toward the derrick. Eve stood and watched them for a long while, the black oil raining down on her in a mist. She had never been so happy in all her life. She put her hand on her belly and felt the baby give a small kick. Eve smiled as she walked back to the house, content for the present and the future.

The End

The Year of the Knife

(Authors Note: As a change of pace, I am going to start publishing a few original short stories now and again for you guys. Some of these stories were written recently and inspired from actual events, while others were begun some time ago. I wrote “The Year of the Knife” while the epidemic of terrorist knife attacks was at it’s peak a few months ago. All characters are fictional and any resemblance to anyone living or deceased is strictly coincidental.)

Knife Related Crime and Victims of Knife Attacks

A Short Story by The Tactical Hermit

Daniel/Jerusalem, Israel

Sergeant Daniel Akkerman removed his Oakley sunglasses and wiped his brow with a handkerchief. Although used to the heat of the open desert, inside the city walls, where no air could circulate, the heat was like a sauna. “How do these city people stand it?” Daniel asked his good friend Avi Strausser. This was Daniel and Avi’s first day patrolling inside the “new” city of Jerusalem. Since the attacks on law enforcement, military and civilians by Hamas and Hezbollah had increased in all parts of the country, IDF Army presence had been doubled, sometimes tripled, in major cities all over Israel.

Raised in the foothills outside Nazareth, Daniel had decided to stay in the Army after his two years of conscription. Two things propelled him in that direction. One was the prospect of going to college or trade school for another 2 years and sitting in a classroom for that long did not appeal to Daniel. The second was Revenge. His Grandfather, Levi, had been murdered by Arabs in 1945 while working for what was then called the Sherut Yedioh or “Intelligence Service”, the modern name for it now was the Mossad. His father, an IAF Pilot who had flown Mirages during the Six Day War and shot down 3 Egyptian MIG-17’s,  had told him the story with a tear in his eye at his bar-mitzvah when he was 13 years old. A fire was lit that day in Daniel’s heart. A Fire that has burned hotter every day since. Daniel soon grew to love the discipline and camaraderie of his Army unit. The “fellowship of adversity and suffering” as his Commanding Officer was fond of calling it. All the Officers in Daniels unit knew his family name intimately. His father was not only respected but revered, and because of that Daniel was always pushed harder than the others. One day after a particularly grueling 10 mile ruck through the foothills Daniel’s platoon leader  gave a small speech while the sun was setting low in the western sky and the wind played a sad melancholy tune as it blew down into the low canyons. “What we have here in this unit, this brotherhood, has already been forged in fire.

Daniel and Avi took a position above a small strip mall. The elevated position gave them both a good vantage point and allowed a breeze to cool them off from the sweltering heat of the day. Daniel took a quick drink of water as he scanned the market area below.  “Quiet Day” Daniel commented. “Yeah, real quiet” Avi replied. “Do you ever wish we were back on checkpoint duty?” Avi asked with a gleam in his eye. “At least then we might get some action.” Avi asked, cutting his eyes over to Daniel. “Action” Daniel responded. His voice and thoughts slowly drifting off, as if taken on a hidden wind. Avi noticed the expression on Daniel’s face had changed. He was no longer smiling.

At the tender age of 23, Daniel had already been in three engagements with Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist. The most recent had been at a traffic checkpoint outside Tel-Aviv last fall. At a Standard check-point for weapons, three adult arab males in their mid 20’s rolled up acting very nervous. While Avi checked ID’s and paperwork,  Daniel slowly walked around the car with the vehicle mirror checking underneath for anything out-of-place. When Avi asked the men to exit the vehicle and pop the trunk, one of the men shouted something in arabic and the driver hit the gas. As the car hit the spike strip at high-speed, the driver swerved to try to run over the gate guard, Staff Sgt. Yohan Gertz. Gertz immediately backed up several steps, at the same time firing a controlled burst from his Tavor into the driver’s side windshield, hitting the driver in the face and neck multiple times, killing him dead. As the car lazily slowed and rolled to the side of the road 15 yards from where it began, the other two men, one in the front passenger seat and the other in the back, exited the car.  As Daniel and Avi both took cover behind a barricade, Daniel quickly noticed both men were armed with pistols.”Gun, Johan, Watch Out!” Daniel yelled in Hebrew.Hearing Daniel’s voice, one of the terrorist quickly fired two shots at Daniel’s position with his pistol. Both rounds hitting low, a few feet in front of the barricade. Johan returned fire from behind the guard booth, the rounds clipping the car door but missing the terrorist altogether.. As Daniel peeked back over the barricade, he saw one of the men preparing to hurdle the guard rail and disappear into the scrub brush of the gorge below. Daniel quickly framed his target with the Aimpoint Red Dot on his tavor and squeezed off three shots. All the rounds found their mark, zippering the man in his upper back. The man slumped over the rail in a heap, dead. The other terrorist, seeing this, got angry and broke cover from the front of the car, moving toward Johan at the guard booth. The terrorist began firing rapidly with his pistol, the rounds impacting wildly all over the booth, splintering wood and piercing plexiglass, with Johan safely tucked away behind cover. It was not long until the man’s pistol was empty, dropping it, he then drew a 6 inch blade from a sheath in his belt and charged Johan like a crazy banshee yelling “Allahu Akbar!!” Johan, a veteran of the 2006 Lebanon War, was not rattled by this stupid display. He calmly stood up from behind cover, shouldered his tavor and fired one three round burst from no more than 50 feet away. The rounds found their mark with deadly effect, the arabs chest exploding like a ripe watermelon all over the hot Israeli asphalt.

Daniel and Avi were just finishing their patrol sweep of the market area when the radio came alive. “Assistance required near University Entrance. We have a report of a stabbing of an elderly woman by an Arab Male, early 20’s.” Avi quickly looked up at Daniel, his eyes dancing with excitement “Action Brother!” The University entrance was only a couples miles from the market. Jumping in the jeep they were there in a few minutes. Daniel quickly spotted the wounded elderly woman. She was lying under the shade of a tree, her eyes wide and scared. Another soldier, Sgt. Issac Kaplan was tending to her while four other soldiers had formed a security perimeter. “Avi take security with them, I am gonna see if Sgt. Kaplan needs anything.” Avi quickly dismounted, his rifle at the ready, scanning the area. A Woman who looked like a student approached Avi “The guy who did that is over by the fountain in the park up the street.” “He is in a red shirt and a tan baseball cap.” As Daniel approached the elderly woman Sgt Kaplan was applying a Quicklot bandage. The woman was crying now, her voice a hoarse whisper as she prayed.”Need anything Sarge?” Daniel asked as he scanned up the street. “No we got an ambulance en route. No arteries cut, but it is deep, and nasty to be sure. Plus the asshole shoved her down really hard, so she might have a fractured arm and hip, not sure though.” “This lady said the perp is up the street a block or so.” Avi said, walking toward Daniel. Daniel quickly keyed his radio and informed base of the whereabouts of the attacker. “We are moving to intercept.”was Daniels last words. Daniel did not wait or a response. He knew if this guy had already attacked a little old lady, God knows who was next, and he was not waiting around to find out. Daniel, Avi and two of the soldiers on the security team raced up the block.. Daniel did not even wait for the jeep to stop before dismounting. As they started walking down the path into the small park, A scream suddenly broke the silence. Avi gave Daniel a concerned glance and they both broke into a full sprint. As they turned a corner, a small family met them running the opposite direction. The mother cried out “He has a hostage, a young girl, please God, help her!” Daniels adrenaline spiked. A Hostage situation. This was one of the most serious scenarios they trained for. He keyed his radio and informed base. Avi, as always, had charged forward, not waiting on Daniel. The terrorist was standing off the concrete path behind some park benches in a grassy area, his back to the wall of a small building that was labeled “Maintenance”.

As soon as Avi and Daniel saw him, the terrorist, who had his face covered with a red shemagh, shielded himself with young girls body. Avi quickly saw the stainless knife-edge to her throat. The knife was big, at least 8 inches. The girl could not have been more than 13 or 14, her small, skinny body being dwarfed by the grown man’s frame. Her dark curly hair was matted and her face red and puffy from crying. Her sobs came in waves of despair as her body trembled with fear. “Please don’t kill me!” the girl screamed in Hebrew. The terrorist dark eyes darted from left to right, taking stock of the situation. Daniel could tell he was not much older than 20 or 21. He spoke in arabic, with a heavy Syrian accent. “Put down your weapons or I Kill this Jewish slut!” the Terrorist shouted. Daniel and Avi calmly kept their poise, the two soldiers behind them spreading out, forming a security perimeter watching their flanks and rear, exactly as they were trained. As Daniel processed the scene before him, Avi  side-stepped to the right, attempting to gain the right angle for a clean head shot. “I mean it you Jewish Dogs…Drop your Weapons and Stay back or she DIES NOW!” The terrorist voice was getting louder and more desperate. “Avi Back Off” Daniel said. “Give him room.” Avi slowly started backing away a few steps at a time, keeping his rifle up. About that time, Police Sirens could be heard pulling up and three more military trucks arrived with troops. “Tell us what you want” Daniel said over the din of the sirens and chaos behind him. Daniel slowly started making his way closer, his hand cupped over his ear so he could hear better. “I want Israel to Pay for the atrocities they have committed against my people!” the Terrorist yelled in Arabic. The girls sobs had turned into a pitiful wailing of despair.”Help me Dear God!! Help Me!!” Daniel noticed Avi had stepped off the sidewalk and was making a wide circle to his right. Immediately Daniel knew his partners play. “OK, you have to give me specifics on what you want.” Daniel said. “Hostage Rescue 101: I have to keep the terrorist engaged mentally and verbally and get his mind off hurting that poor girl” Daniel caught a blur over his left shoulder and noticed a sniper team setting up in a gazebo. The terrorist seeing the sudden show of force got nervous fast.”Get the fuck back or this bitch dies!!” Daniel saw a small crimson stream of blood trickle down the girl’s neck. Time was running out.

 Suddenly, Daniel saw Avi appear on the left side of the building, no more than 12 feet from the terrorist, but out of the terrorist line of sight. Daniel quickly starts side-stepping to his right to get the terrorist to look the opposite direction so he would not notice Avi. Daniel quickly keyed his radio and whispered “All Teams stand-by, Sniper Teams do you have a clean shot?” “Negative, all we can see is the girl’s head” Daniel knew this was it, he had to act. “Look, I am sure we can work this……” Daniels sentence was cut out by the loud report of Avi’s Tavor. The bullet entered right above the terrorist right ear, the side of his head literally exploding like a cracked egg; brain matter covering the tool shed and the hostage combined. As the terrorist body dropped with a thud, Daniel quickly advanced to secure the weapon and retrieve the hostage. Before he could reach her, The girl screamed hysterically, and covered in blood from the neck up, took off like a track star past Daniel and the dozens of other cops and soldiers and out into the Jerusalem street. Soon a few cops gave chase after they realized she was not planning on stopping. With ears still ringing from the gunfire, Daniel met Avi by the fountain while the Bomb Squad checked the body and the area for “secondaries”. “Well you got your Action today in spades Avi” Daniel said with a smirk. Avi acknowledged with a nod of the head, not saying a word. Daniel noticed the expression on his face had changed. Avi was not smiling anymore.

Logan/New York City, NY

Sgt. Logan O’Grady was a Fourth generation New York Cop. He would join the force a year after his father’s death in 2010 and was soon assigned to the 34th Precinct in Manhattan. After six years in, Logan had made hundreds of arrest, fired his weapon four times in the line of duty and had two surgeries for injuries sustained while on the job, one on his foot, the other on his knee.  His father, Dale, a Captain with the 43rd Precinct had passed away in 2009 after battling lung cancer for 7 years. Like so many cops and firefighters from that fateful day the 11th of September 2001, they were the “forgotten casualties”; those brave souls who had worked in and around the twin towers with no consideration for their own safety, not realizing they toxic soup of chemicals they were breathing in would kill them years later.

Logan took a series of deep breaths. Even though it was a mild day in the 80’s, he was sweating like it was 100+ degrees. He wiped his brow with the back of his arm, dried the palms of his hands on his pants. Removing his Glock 17 from his holster, he brass checked the weapon and slid it back home. Physically, he knew he had to get his heart rate down before the next course of fire. Mentally, he had to concentrate better, where was his mind today?  The Range Master motioned for Logan to step up. Logan walked up to the red line and quickly glanced at the course before him. This was a timed “shoot and scoot” course of fire, where the shooter moved from one location to another, in this case 100 gallon blue drums of water, engaging targets from behind cover as he went. The course had been designed by Logan’s mentor and future father-in-law, Captain Paul Dennison, who had been a cop for over 20 years, working in the Precincts SWAT Team for 13 of those. Before that Paul put in 8 years with US Marine Corps serving in Desert Storm. Suffice to say Paul was handy with guns and tactics. It had been Paul’s ideal to start this monthly training program where officers who wanted to sharpen their shooting and tactics could do so at no expense except for their ammo. Logan had not missed a training session since it started two years ago. After Logan finished his course of fire and was told his time and scores, they were recorded in a log Paul kept. “Big Improvement Logan” Paul said. “You shaved almost 20 seconds off your time and improved your A Zone Hit’s by 40% over last time, way to go!” Paul slapped Logan on the back. His pride evident to all. Paul had been friend’s with Logan’s father Dale. They had worked together at the 43rd for five years before Paul transferred. Since Dale’s death, Paul felt he had a duty to look out for Logan. He reminded him so much of Dale. Smart, Hardworking and just crazy enough to be a good cop. The fact that Logan and Paul’s niece Ashley were now planning to be married just put the icing on the cake as far as he was concerned. He had actually planned them two getting together for a while now and was elated when he found out the plans for marriage.

The next day started off like any other for Logan. Arriving at the station early for his shift, he stopped by the break room for his morning does of motor oil cop coffee and then headed to his desk to knock out a pile of paperwork he had to catch up on. One hour later he got a “notice” text, text sent out to all Sgt.’s advising them of Precinct activity. SWAT had been called out to an address of a barricaded person. The address was only 6 blocks away. Logan decided to head down there to see if he could help. Paul out in any way. Arriving at the scene a crowd had already formed. Logan saw the SWAT vehicle parked by the curve but no SWAT and surmised they must have already made entry. He also noticed an ambulance with an EMT crew waiting. Ducking under the yellow tape Logan made his way to Captain Phillips. “O Grady, What the Hell you doing here?” Phillips asked a puzzled look on his face. “Heard SWAT was making entry, thought I might drop by and see what was going on.” Logan replied. “Whats going on is a friggin’ goat rodeo. The guy inside yelled some threats about killing Americans out of his window, passerby called 911, Patrol came by did a knock, got nothing but a bunch of cursing and then through the door the guy told the officers he had a gun and was gonna kill Americans. Before leaving Patrol heard a woman and baby crying. Patrol fell back per procedure and called SWAT/HRT and here we all are.” Phillips spat black tobacco juice on the pavement and pressed the earpiece to his ear. “SWAT is going in 2 minutes. 4th floor Apartment.” Logan looked up at the fourth floor windows, he could see one that had a black sheet over it. “We got snipers covering that window, plus another team around back.” Phillips replied, noticing Logan’s gaze up at the window. Logan felt antsy. “What can I do Captain?” Logan asked, shifting his weight from foot to foot. “Standby to Standby Sgt.” Phillips responded with a smirk. “This is SWAT’s party right now, we are just the spectators.” Phillips spat tobacco juice again and then yelled at a nearby officer to get the onlookers further back.

Two minutes later Logan heard a woman screaming, 10 seconds after that gunfire, Three quick shots from an M4.  Logan quickly looked over at Phillips for a radio report. “Capt. Dennison Report” Phillips said into his mic. Phillips shook his head at Logan. “Nothing” he said. Suddenly, more gunfire erupts. A Pistol Shot and then several shots from M4’s. Suddenly Phillips radio explodes with traffic. “Office Down Officer Down! Captain Dennison is Down!” Logan’s mind did not even fully register what he had just heard before his body was in motion. As he was running for the front door Phillips could be heard yelling for EMT’s to get their asses up to the 4th Floor. Logan burst through the double doors of the building, making his way past several officers. As he was making his way to the stairs, self-preservation and training kicked in and he yelled behind him for them to radio the SWAT team he was coming up. Don’t want to get shot trying to help! Logan thought to himself. Logan could hear one of the four officesr following him up radio SWAT. Logan scaled the stairs four at a time, his heart pumping like a locomotive. Images of Captain Dennison raced through his head. The range practices, the fishing trips, the Fourth of July parties. At Dad’s wake, Paul was one of the only cops who stuck around after everybody had left. He had helped Logan clean up and then afterwards they had a beer on the porch. “Thanks for sticking around Cap” Logan said, his grief still visible. The words shook Paul up. It took him a minute to compose himself for a response. His voice still halfway quivering he said “I ain’t never leaving Logan, you can count on that buddy.” And that was that. Their friendship had been sealed with that one act of eternal kindness and respect.

Logan burst through the door to the 4th floor like a bull, turning the corner, he immediately saw the black clad SWAT officers in the hall outside the apartment. Upon seeing him, immediately all of the officers cleared a path for Logan. They knew where he was going and why. As Logan entered the apartment he heard a baby crying softly in one of the back rooms. After a small hallway, he entered the living room and there on the floor lay an arab woman and man, the woman’s face was gone from bullet holes. Blood splatter had painted the walls behind her and the rug she was laying on was turning black from the blood. Logan saw a huge sword like machete laying by her body.The man was about 4 feet from her to the left.  His chest was a pulpy red blob and Logan noticed a pistol laying beside him. In a small hallway to the left was Paul. Two officers were kneeled down beside him applying bandages, doing what they could. As Logan walked up to Paul, immediately he saw a blood soaked bandage on his neck. “Where the fuck are those EMT’s!!” Logan yelled. “Give me a fucking radio!!” Logan yelled. One of the SWAT guys hurriedly brought Logan a handheld. Logan was so mad he did not even identify himself. “Get those fucking EMT’s up here now or I am gonna shoot them myself!!” Logan yelled and threw the radio back to the young SWAT officer. His fear had turned to anger now. He was literally seething with it. Logan kneeled down beside Paul and grabbed his hand. “Hey Cap” Logan choked out. Paul’s eyes were wide with fear but when he heard Logan’s voice immediately his eyes softened and relaxed. “He can’t talk, the bullet pierced his voice box we think” One of the SWAT medics told Logan.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Logan looked at the bandage on Paul’s neck as it became filled with blood. A Tear formed in Logan’s eye and he quickly wiped it away. Paul was now looking at Logan, a small smile on his face. Paul gripped Logan’s hand tighter.”Here they are!” one of the SWAT officers said, and about that time two EMT’s burst through the door. “About fucking time! What the Fuck!?” Logan stood confronting the Paramedics. Ignoring him, they pushed Logan aside and started working on Paul. Six Minutes Later Paul was in an Ambulance with Logan right beside him.

A Week later Logan was at the range. It was early morning and he was the only one there. He was thankful for that. He had come there not to shoot, but to clear his head, the past week had been a tough one. As Logan finished off a mag, he removed his earmuffs and cleared his weapon. He heard somebody walk up behind him. Turning around he saw that it was Officer Perez, one of the SWAT officers Logan had seen the day of the shooting. “Hey Sarge, how you doing?” Perez asked as he extended a handshake. Logan shook his hand and gave a smile. “Fine Perez, how you holding up?”  Logan asked. “Good Man, I wanted to tell you I was glad to hear about Captain Dennison, he is gonna pull through huh?” Perez answered.Logan smiled. “Yeah, it is going to be a long haul with the rehabilitation, but the Doctors expect him to get back about 50% of his voice, the bullet destroyed most of his larynx you know” Logan replied, a sadness still on his face. “That’s great man” Perez answered. “The Captain, man he is one tough SOB.” Perez said, shaking his head in disbelief. Logan looked at him for a minute. “Hey I never got the full story of what happened that day; you were second in the stack, right?” Logan asked. Perez looked up at him, his face changing expression. “Yeah, the Captain, for some reason always liked to take point, the most dangerous position.” Perez replied. Before Logan could say anything else, Perez went into the story. “So we breached and as soon as we entered the woman was in the living room holding a fucking sword…she was screaming something in arabic. We told her to drop the weapon but she just kept yelling, and before we could even think about getting a translator she charged the Captain and he dropped her with three to the face. About that time is when the male charged out from the bedroom to the left. I still remember having him in my sights but not squeezing off. I just did not see the gun until the shot. I remember me and Herty, the guy behind me, fired almost simultaneously. That is when I noticed the Captain take a knee and then collapse. It was such a lucky fucking shot man. To hit a guy in the neck who is armored up like we were? One in a million when you think about it.  I mean the guy just charged in and fired without aiming.” Perez took a breath. You could tell reliving the experience was not pleasant for him. “Thanks Perez for telling me that, I really appreciate it.” Logan said, reaching out and shaking his hand again. “Oh Yeah man, no problem. I only wish I could have been faster and shot first.” Perez said, his voice shaking a little. “Don’t beat yourself up man. You didn’t see it, it happens…” Logan responded. “Thanks for seeing that way Sarge. I’ll see you around.” Perez replied. As Perez walked off Logan noticed a storm rolling in. The wind picked up and blew a target stand over down range. Logan packed up his stuff and headed to the truck. He had time to drop by the hospital to see Paul before going home for dinner.

Chris/Frisco, Texas

Chris Nance was distracted and just slightly pissed off. On his way home from work he had got a text from his wife saying something about how their 5-year-old had been invited to a birthday party and needed a gift to take. “Would you please stop by Toys R’ Us and pick up a little girls toy, something $20 or less?” The Text read. Twenty Dollars! Why the hell do I have to spend $20 on a kid I don’t even know!? Chris thought to himself. Shaking his head in disbelief at the text he quickly decided he would kill two birds with one stone and swing by the jewelry store in the mall, His 12th wedding anniversary was quickly approaching and this year he wanted to do something really special for Amy, since last year he totally screwed up.  Besides, they had a toy store on the second floor not too far from the shop and he could be in and out in thirty minutes or so. Parking his truck, Chris popped open his center console, removed his Garrity Appendix Holster and spare mag carrier and slid it on his belt. He then reached under the seat to his lock-box and punched in the 4 digit code and retrieved the Smith and Wesson M&P Shield 9mm. He inserted the magazine, racked the slide and then took the extra 8 round magazine laying there.  His job did not allow Concealed Carry on the premises yet, but did allow employees to keep weapon in their vehicles. Chris and two dozen other employees had been constantly pressuring the owner to allow CCW carry for over two years now to no avail. Stepping out of the truck, Chris quickly adjusted the rig for comfort, pulled his Polo shirt over it, checked his wallet was secure and started walking to the mall entrance.

Being a Friday and after 5pm, the Mall was starting to get quite crowded. Chris politely navigated his way through meandering, clueless shoppers. On his way into the jewelry store he saw a young woman sitting on a bench holding an adorable infant baby girl. Chris immediately thought of his wife Amy and their 3-year-old princess Kylee. Once inside the jewelry store, Chris got down to the business of finding the perfect, but affordable anniversary gift that would not force him to have to sell a kidney to pay off the credit card balance. After 30 minutes, he found it. A beautiful diamond necklace with his and Kylee’s birthstones interlaced. Amy liked stuff like that and it gave the gift a personal touch. Leaving the jewelry store with purchase in hand, he headed up the escalators to the toy store. Having no ideal what toy to get, Chris made the decision to just buy what he would buy Kylee. He found a doll that talked and peed itself on sale for Eighteen dollars. Perfect. Paying for the purchase, he walked out into the mall with necklace and doll in hand and headed for the escalators.

Going down the escalators Chris decided to text his wife to tell her he was leaving the mall and would be home in 20 minutes. As he was finishing up, he noticed some commotion ahead of him near  the food court. It looked like two men fighting, one black, the other white, and then Chris heard a woman scream “He has a knife!!” Chris’ heart rate increased and he felt that familiar tingle at the base of his brain as the adrenaline started to flow. Chris worked his way down the escalator past a man who had not even bothered to take notice of the stabbing taking place 40 yards down the mall. As Chris closed distance several people were either running or walking very briskly past him, all of them on their phones, calling 911. Chris decided to approach slowly and use what cover available to him in the event this guy was armed with a gun also. As he closed distance he spotted the guy that had been initially attacked, the man was laying on his back, his hands over a large gash in his stomach, blood pouring out of the wound. “That man needs medical attention ASAP.” Chris thought to himself, no time to waste here. As he got closer to the scene, he heard a lady scream. Suddenly, from behind a kiosk that sold drones, a young black lady came running out, clutching her left arm, blood trickling down her fingers. “Help Me! He is trying to kill us all!” The lady screamed, crying hysterically as she ran past Chris and into a nearby store.

At that moment Chris made the decision he could not wait for the “Calvary”, he had to confront this guy or other people were going to get needlessly hurt. Chris quickly thought about the possibilities here. If Cops showed up, they would see not only a crazy-ass man with a knife, but also some tatted up white dude with a gun. The problem rolled around in his head for a few seconds and Chris made his decision. He was gonna stop this fucker. He drew his pistol and started walking briskly that direction. As he closed distance, the floor was wet and slick with blood. The sickly odor of copper and tile wax floated up into Chris’ nostrils. Up ahead Chris could hear more people screaming, trying to get out of this maniac’s way. As Chris came around the corner of the drone kiosk, he saw the attacker. He was a tall, thin black man. He was wearing all black clothing with a red handkerchief partially over his face.The weapon he was holding was not a knife, but a 20 inch Black Panga machete, like the ones used in Africa. The attackers eyes were wild, like a beast, darting from left to right, looking for another victim. Chris raised his weapon and centered the man in his sights. He was about 15 yards distance. “Hey Asshole!! Drop the Machete!!” Chris yelled.The man turned quickly to face him. Chris had his front sight centered between the man’s nipples, just like he had practiced so many times before. The man looked at Chris intently. The man muttered something in a foreign language Chris did not recognize and then stepped forward at the same time raising the machete. Chris heard the report of the gun before he remembered pulling the trigger. The round pierced the man near his right nipple, spinning him around suddenly like some dance move. The man yelled out in pain. “You die Now Fucker!” The man yelled in a thick accent, amazingly regaining his composure. He raised the machete and charged Chris again. The pistol barked three more times, each of the bullets center punching the man on his breast bone. With the last round the man went down to both knees and fell over sideways, the life already drained out of him before his body was all the way on the floor.

Sound and time whisked through Chris’ ears with a vacuum like sound. His vision blurred for a moment, the whole scene coming to a fine black point and then expanding out again. He saw blood flowing out of the bullet holes he had just made in the man, some of the droplets making their way to the floor in slow motion. His concentration was broke by several Police Officers in Black uniforms coming down the mall, and instinctively Chris dropped his gun and got down to his knees, interlacing his fingers behind his head, just like his his ex-FBI instructor had taught him in his advanced Concealed Carry Class. Everything after that was a blur. A mixture of sound and light, muted human voices and the smell of cordite and copperish blood. Chris was taken handcuffed outside and questioned while sitting in the back of a Police Tahoe. After several eye-witnesses were interviewed and CCTV footage reviewed, the handcuffs were removed and handshakes were in order. A few at first, then hugs and sobs from strangers Chris did not know. On his way down to the Police Station to give his statement Chris called his wife. He kept it short, just the basic information, There had been some trouble, he was safe, etc. Of course his wife wanted more details as women always do, but he knew he had to keep it short, the truth is after he heard Amy’s voice he was afraid he might lose his shit right there in the back seat of that cop car. “I will explain everything when I get home babe, Love ya.” Chris said hanging up quickly. After giving his statement and spending 2 hours answering questions with Detectives, Chris was free to go. “We will have to keep your weapon for evidence Mr. Nance. A Detective will call you in a few days letting you know when it will be returned.” One of the Detectives said as Chris got up to leave. “That’s fine.” Chris nodded. Suddenly Chris’ feet felt like lead. “Ughh, can somebody drive me back to my Truck?” Chris asked, realizing his predicament with awkwardness. “Hell, Mr. Nance, we can do one better, than that, we can drive you home; you’ve had one helluva day!” The Detective said smiling. “You can say that again.” Chris replied as he opened the door, “A Helluva Day indeed.”

The End