Note from TTH: With Matters growing Worse by the Day regarding gun rights, I wanted to put together a small collection of Fiction stories from around the inter-web that would definitely be worth your time to read and heed and then pass on to somebody you care about.
Time is Short. Prepare Accordingly!
By The Good Citizen
By The Good Citizen
By John Ross
By The Tactical Hermit
By The Tactical Hermit
By The Tactical Hermit
This is a work of short fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in this short story are entirely fictional and are of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or organizations or persons living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Detective First Grade Jimmy Boland took three steps into the Tipsy Gent saloon at a quarter past one in the afternoon and stopped dead in his tracks. The owner and Jimmy’s mentor, Tommy Donovan, seated on his elevated perch behind the bar, looked up from his sports page and with his bifocals on the end of his nose, studied Jimmy intently.
“What the hell you doin’ here this time of day?” Tommy asked with his mouth slightly ajar, confused.
Tommy was sparsely white headed and a good twenty years older than Jimmy. As he got closer to seventy, Jimmy could see all those years working the mean streets as a beat cop catching up with him. Two bullet wounds, one back surgery, a complete knee replacement, a fractured skull and numerous concussions had left him not as mobile and sharp as he used to be, but he could still make a mean Bull Shark if you asked him. Jimmy ignored Tommy’s question and just stood there, looking around the bar like he was dazed.
“What in the hell is wrong with you boy-o?” Tommy asked, taking off his glasses and straightening his posture.
“It just occurred to me that I have never been in this bar before five p.m, ever in my life.” Jimmy replied.
Tommy stared at him like he had a screw loose for a few seconds and then went back to his sports page shaking his head. Jimmy sauntered around behind the bar, grabbed a bottle of Glenfiddich single malt and a glass and took a seat. Without looking up from his paper, Tommy said
“You may not have answered my question about why you’re here at this hour but by your choice of drink, I think I can guess.” Jimmy poured himself a liberal three fingers, and took a long swallow.
“So you gonna wait for me to ask like a schmuck or are you just gonna tell me?” Tommy said looking over.
Jimmy took a deep breath and looked at Tommy.
“Yeah the bastards canned all of us. A hundred years of combined service between us and they fired us for doing exactly what they trained us to do.” Tommy took off his glasses and gently placed them on the bar. He then got up and retrieved a whiskey glass and walked over in front of Jimmy and poured himself a snort.
“What does it state on your paperwork?” Tommy asked not looking up.
Jimmy pulled a sheaf of folded papers out of his inside jacket pocket and threw them on the bar.
“Discharged for non-cooperation in an ongoing IA (Internal Affairs) Investigation of abuse of office and gross professional misconduct of Police Detectives First Class Murphy, Duran, Kearns and Boland.” Jimmy replied shaking his head in disbelief. Tommy picked up the papers and skimmed over them.
“Since you were not fired for misconduct you kept your severance and your pension.” Tommy stated, pursing his lips together and nodding in amazement.
Jimmy looked at him with tired eyes.
“What the hell is that look for?” Tommy laughed and then downed his drink in one go.
“Whatta you mean what’s that look for? You fuckin’ kiddin’ me?” Tommy replied pouring himself another snort. Jimmy reached in his coat pocket and pulled out a pack of Camels and his USMC zippo.
“What Tommy? Explain yourself please.” Jimmy asked, lighting a cigarette and then grabbed one of the silver tin ashtrays that sat stacked at the end of the bar.
“You all were fired, yeah, but you kept everything you worked for, including your reputation, intact, so who gives a shit about this IA dog and pony show bullshit?” Tommy replied, a huge grin on his face.
Jimmy exhaled the pale grey smoke and shook his head.
“I don’t see it that way Tommy, I see it as a kick in the nuts from a group of backstabbers I busted my hump for. Hell, most of the people in that room made rank off my collars.” Jimmy exhaled loudly, crushed out his cigarette and ran his hand through his thick brown hair. His pale blue eyes were dim and puffy from lack of sleep.
Tommy replaced the cap on the bottle of scotch and put it back behind the bar. He then turned around, took a deep breath, placed both hands flat on the bar, leaned down and looked Jimmy square in the eye.
“Pride is a son-of-a-bitch boy-o. It can cloud you perception of things, so let your old friend Tommy Donovan. break it down for ya’. The case IA had on you four was paper thin to begin with. A bunch of fucking hearsay with no evidence. No CCTV, no phone video, no recordings, no wire-taps. Nada. Nothing. The only card those bastards in internal affairs had left to play was to threaten you four with termination if you didn’t rat on each other. You all kept your mouth shut, so they fired you, but union rules still apply. No proven misconduct means you keep your pension and benefits. You just got an ace of diamonds for your river card for a fuckin’ royal flush boy-o!”
Tommy laughed again and slapped Jimmy on the back hard. Tommy fished a cigarette from Jimmy’s pack and lit it.
“I thought you quit?” Jimmy asked with a smirk.
“Yeah I did but sometimes certain situations call for a celebration relapse.” Tommy replied smiling. Jimmy laughed. Tommy was a fucking hoot.
“Let me tell you something Jimmy. I gave twenty-five years of my life to this city as a cop. It cost me everything I hold dear. My health, my marriage and my relationship with my only son, Logan, who chose the streets and drugs to his mother and me. But that’s the sacrifice. That’s the price you pay for doing this damn job, you understand what I’m saying to you?” Tommy looked at Jimmy with tired eyes filled with tears.
“Shit Tommy, I’ve known you for a long time now, and that’s the first time you ever mentioned your son.” Tommy took a long drag on his cigarette and exhaled the pale grey smoke into the air.
“Some things you keep locked away deep inside, hoping they will fade away like the tide, but of course they never do.” Tommy replied, looking out the window toward the street with a blank expression.
Jimmy got up and hugged Tommy’s neck. He loved him like a father and hated to see him in pain.
“OK Jim, enough of this hugging bullshit!” Tommy said, crushing out his butt and gently pushing him away.
“Guys come in here gonna think the place has turned into a damn gay bar!” Tommy said smiling. Jimmy laughed and patted him on the back.
“We still on for poker Sunday night?” Jimmy asked as he headed for the door.
“Hell yeah, I still gotta win back that twenty bucks I lost to you last week!” Tommy answered as he re-opened his newspaper to the sports section. Jimmy just smiled as he put on his Ray-ban’s and walked out the door.
Jimmy got home a couple hours later to find fellow ex-Detectives Mike Murphy and Patrick Kearns sitting on his back deck drinking his expensive german lager.
“Been calling you non-stop” Mike said agitated.
“My phone died” Jimmy replied, lying his ass off.
“Why the house call? What’s the emergency?” Jimmy asked cocking an eyebrow.
“Patrick has a problem he wants to discuss with you.” Mike replied cutting his eyes over. There was a lengthy pause and Jimmy noticed his grass in the backyard was looking a little brown. He made a mental note to turn the sprinklers on that evening.
“OK, let’s go in the house if you don’t mind. This neighborhood has ears.” Jimmy replied while he collected the empty beer bottles on the table. Walking through the patio door to the kitchen he tossed the empties into the trash while Mike and Kearns followed him in. Before Patrick had a chance to speak Jimmy spun around to face him.
“So how much you owe and to whom?” the bluntness of Jimmy’s question froze Kearns in his tracks.
“What the hell you talking about Jimbo?” Kearns replied, trying to look dignified.
“Come on Patty, don’t pull that shit, I know that look.” Kearns was quiet for a long moment, looking like a kid who had been busted stealing bubble gum.
“Super Bowl was supposed to get me square.” Kearns replied, keeping his head down.
“Unfucking believable!” Jimmy threw up his hands and walked into the living room over to his corner bar and poured himself three fingers of whiskey and took a long swallow. A bright green neon sign above the bottles of rum, tequila and vodka flashed ‘Jim’s Place’. Mike and Kearns followed him in and sat down on the couch. With his back to them at the bar Jimmy asked again in a calm voice.
“One more time Patrick. Who do you owe and how much?” Kearns cleared his throat as if the answer was going to come out sideways.
“A hundred K to Nikolai By Saturday” he replied.
Jimmy spun around with his eyes wide as saucers.
“You owe a hundred thousand dollars to the Russian Mob and you come to me?” Jimmy’s mouth was so dry he could hardly talk. Sensing Patrick needed help, Mike stood up and walked over to the bar.
“Jimmy, Patrick really needs our help man.” Jimmy downed his drink in one go.
“No Mike. What Patrick needs is a fucking undertaker.” Jimmy replied looking at him with an icy stare. Kearns got up and walked over to Jimmy, his head bowed in reverence.
“Jimmy I know I fucked up, I do, but if you could just talk to Nikolai and see what could be worked out? I just need some more time to put it all together.” Jimmy took a long, deep breath and rubbed his temples.
“There is no ‘working out’ things with these people Patrick but I’ll see what I can do. No promises though.” Jimmy filled his glass again and stared into space. Kearns nodded his head, breathed a deep sigh of relief and in a low voice whispered “Thanks Jimmy.”
That night Jimmy didn’t sleep. This thing with Kearns was a big problem. Paddy boy was as loyal as they come but he was never that smart and he just could not understand that with the Russian’s you did not work out “payment plans” or “deals”. You paid what you owed or body parts got broke or severed, both on you and the people you cared about. Jimmy considered squaring the debt out of his own money, but taking a hundred thousand out of his ‘retirement fund’ he had vacuum sealed in his garage wall put a serious dent in his long term plan. The money would have to be replaced if he did it, and being a realist, he knew Patrick was not good for it. That mean’t another job and with IA still up their ass, it was risky. So what to do? Jimmy had been on the street long enough to know that he could not walk into a meeting with the Head of the Russian Mob in Boston asking for leniency on a friend’s hundred thousand dollar debt without offering something in return.
Just before dawn broke Jimmy made his decision on what he had to do.
Nikolai Petrov had been sitting in his darkened office staring at a picture of his late mother for over an hour now. From a very young age he had accepted that death was as much a part of life as breathing. It was the Russian way of things. As he traced his mothers picture with his finger a tear escaped which he quickly wiped away. Watching his mother die a slow and painful death from ovarian cancer in a filthy, understaffed Soviet hospital outside Moscow had left a scar, a raw, nasty scar on his soul. Nikolai remembered watching her writhe in agony on the yellowed sheets as a picture of Premier Brezhnev stared down uncaring from the wall.
“Those fucking Politburo cocksuckers with their fancy new hospital in Kiev and all the modern western drugs and here we are in this rat infested hovel treating cancer with aspirin!” His father said as they drove home after their evening visit.
Nikolai remembered with clarity watching his father talk and smoke at the same time. It was a Russian art form. The staccato rhythm of his words were like venomous barbs that when combined with the pale grey cigarette smoke resembled a dragon breathing fire at his enemies. Two weeks later they buried his mother in the same cemetery his grandfather who had fought in the Great Patriotic War was buried. He did not cry at the service. He emulated his father in that respect and ate the pain, digested it down deep inside of him to give him fuel for the struggle that lay ahead. Before the memory could stab any deeper, there was a knock on his door.
When Jimmy pulled up at Nikolai’s club Trance, he was so damn jittery he had to take a xanax to calm down. After waiting fifteen minutes for it to kick in, he walked inside the club. Like all night clubs it looked unimpressive in the daytime. Amazing what you can do with lighting, Jimmy thought to himself. After asking to see Nikolai, he was searched and then escorted up to the office on the second floor.
“Jimmy Boland! As I live and breathe!” Nikolai said smiling as he came out from behind his desk and shook hands.
Dressed in an impeccable John Phillips grey suit, Nikolai had not changed one bit since Jimmy saw him a decade ago. He had retained his muscular physique and though pushing fifty, had the waistline of a twenty year old vegan meth head.
“Still a single malt man?” Nikolai asked as he walked over to a stocked bar cart.
“Your memory is as sharp as ever.” Jimmy replied smiling. Nikolai poured Jimmy and himself two liberal fingers each of top shelf scotch.
“My memory is sharp for things that matter Jimmy” Nikolai replied handing him the glass.
“Na Zdorovie” Nikolai toasted in Russian.
Jimmy raised his glass and took a long swallow.
Nikolai walked over and took a seat on a black leather couch and invited Jimmy to do the same.
“The club is amazing” Jimmy said smiling, trying to make small talk and flatter a bit.
“Yes. We just re-decorated and added a new sound system, You and a lady friend must come on a Saturday night as my guest. VIP lounge, dinner, drinks, everything my treat.” Nikolai replied, smiling.
“That’s very kind of you Nikolai” Jimmy said rubbing his hands together, thinking of a way to broach the delicate subject.
“Listen, Nikolai, we’ve known each other for quite a while so I am not going to disrespect you by wasting your time and blowing smoke up your ass.” Jimmy made a point to keep eye contact with Nikolai even though his coal black eyes were intimidating as hell.
“Patrick Kearns owes you a hundred grand. He asked me to come speak with you to ask for more time but I am not as naive or stupid as my friend so this is what I have to offer. Promise me nothing happens to him or his family and me and my crew will go to work for you re-cooping the money owed while at the same time ripping your competition apart just like the old days.” Jimmy kept eye contact for a long minute as absolute silence filled the room like grey vapor.
Jimmy could literally see the small cogs and wheels turning behind Nikolai’s cold dark eyes. Schemes within schemes, plans within plans. Angles intersecting with hidden agendas with one absolute final goal: self-interest and lucrative profit.
Nikolai kept the stare for a long moment and then smiled and leaned forward to retrieve a silver cigarette box from the coffee table. Opening it, he removed a russian cigarette and lit it with a gold zippo. After exhaling the pale, blue smoke his gaze fell upon Jimmy like a raptor about to devour a meal.
“It’s true we have known each other for a long time Jimmy, so in the interest of time, I will dispense with the bullshit. When you and your crew of corrupt pigs worked for me back in the day you were useful. You did things for me nobody else could do because of the singular reason that you had a badge. Now, I hear you and your crew have been fired from the department. Put out to pasture as it were by your internal affairs. So what makes you think you can still be of use to me?” Nikolai’s gaze had become icy laser beams now. No emotion. No sentimentality, all business. Jimmy swallowed hard but did not miss a beat in his response.
“Because even though we don’t have badges anymore we still have the two most important things: contacts and information, both within the department and out on the street. Twenty years working the gutter gives you a lot of angles if you know how to play them.”
Nikolai pursed his lips and laughed.
“As always Jimmy, you shine when under pressure.” Nikolai crushed out his cigarette in a black marble ashtray, got up and walked over and sat on the edge of his desk.
“Hundred grand is a lot of fucking money Jimbo. You think you can re-coop all that in one job?” Jimmy stood to his feet.
“Trust me when I say that we can. I have an account from the old days I am going to cash in.”
Nikolai took a seat behind his desk and folded his hands together as if he was praying.
“Typically I would want details but since this is you I am gonna do this. Just like the old days I will provide you any logistical support you need for the job. Vehicles, weapons, etc. Also, you have my word Kearns nor any of his family will be touched but I am gonna need the entire principal amount by Sunday noon. If you can do that I will forgive the ten grand vig and me and Kearns will be square.” Before Jimmy could think about it, he stepped forward and shook Nikolai’s cold hand.
“You got a deal.”
As he was walking to his car Jimmy’s heart began thumping like two jack rabbits fucking. It had worked. He had bought some time. Now all he had to do was go rip off a bunch of armed to the teeth coked out gang bangers. No big deal, Jimmy thought to himself. We got this.
The next morning Jimmy called a meeting at the storage unit over in Chelsea. As the crew filed in with sleepy eyes and grande cups of coffee, Jimmy was trying to play it cool even though he felt like at any moment he was going to shit himself.
“Alright, we don’t have a lot of time so I’m gonna cut to the chase. Saturday night we are gonna hit a Southie Point Dawgs stash house in Telegraph Hill. Estimated take is half-a-million plus.”
You could literally hear the oxygen being sucked out of the room as everybody’s sleepy eyes suddenly grew large as hen’s eggs. Before anybody could pick their jaws up off the floor, Jimmy continued.
“Before any of you start bitching that this is too quick of a notice to do a job this size, Nikolai has agreed to provide all logistics and front any expenses. If we do it right, we can be in and out of there in less than five minutes and if the take is good enough we can not only square Kearn’s debt, but also walk out of there with a nice payday for each of us to pad our retirement.”
A few moments passed and Kearns, looking like death defrosted, stood up with tears in his eyes.
“I don’t know what to say to everybody except thanks.”
Everybody nodded until Mike, in true Irish fashion stood up and said:
“I tell you what you can say Paddy Boy; promise everybody here that you will never make another fucking bet in your life!”
Raucous laughter could be heard all the way to the street from inside the storage locker.
Jimmy checked his watch and yelled “Lunch! check your weapons!”
He made his way out of the shoot house to a set of picnic tables where he removed the magazine from his HK-416, ejected the round in the chamber and placed the rifle gently in the standing gun rack. He then removed his Level IV vest and helmet, mopped his brow with his shirt sleeve and drained a cold bottle of water. He was completely knackered. The crew had been running breach and clear drills since seven this morning and overall Jimmy was impressed. None of the men had lost their edge. Other than being slightly out of shape, Jimmy felt confident that everybody would do their jobs. After lunch they had another briefing to keep things fresh.
“First things first. I greased our old friend Captain Delaney for Saturday night, so we should not have any noisy patrols investigating gunfire if these assholes get any rounds off. Also, we got lucky with the location of this stash house. It is parallel to a commercial park with around ten businesses close together, so there will not be a lot of civilian traffic to get in the way and worry about. Estimated number of bad guys is going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of six to eight. Figure three to four out front and four inside.”
Jimmy pointed to a spot on the white board where the stash house had been meticulously drawn.
“If it was me I would post my outside security here, here and here with a possible over watch position here.” Mike laughed as he removed a sandwich from his cooler.
“Correct me if I am wrong, but these are coked out gang-bangers Jimbo, not the Taliban. These numb nuts would not know an over-watch position from the missionary position.” That drew a round of laughter from everybody.
“Point taken, but let’s keep this in mind on the approach, OK smart ass?” Jimmy replied smiling, shaking his head.
“What kind of hardware these boys typically carry?” Duran asked with a mouthful of pastrami.
“Best I can tell from recent UI (undercover informant) reports is AK’s and assorted small arms like Mac-10’s. Let’s not forget these guys move weight for the Sinaloa cartel, Nikolai’s biggest competition, so we have to go in there expecting they will be rolling heavy.”
Jimmy flipped the white board over to reveal an assignment list, timetable and another drawing of the AO.
“OK so to recap, Duran is gonna be on Overwatch with “Leroy” (Leroy was the nickname of a Remington 700 .308 Sniper rifle equipped with a IR Nightforce 4-25x Mil-Dot scope and an AAC Suppressor) to cover our ass and provide security. Number one is Mike as breacher with the shield and ram, me as second and Kearns as third. Timetable will be as follows: 12:45 Duran is dropped off two blocks from the location to setup here.”
Jimmy pointed to a red x on the white board drawing, an elevated spot roughly two-hundred yards diagonally opposite from the house.
“The great thing about this perch is it will allow coverage of almost the entire house in the event we have anybody wanting to squirt out the back.” Duran interjected.
“The Van will then post up here out of sight of their hawks until he is in position.” Jimmy pointed a blue x on the board.
“If he able to take the shots without raising alarm, Duran will take out as many sentries on the outside perimeter as possible. Either way, as soon as we get the all clear over the radio, we move in to execute. Remember: Stealth is the name of the game. All weapons will be suppressed so let’s not make any unnecessary noise. As an added precaution, everybody police up their brass if rounds are fired. The ammo is clean and from a random lot but we still don’t need some forensic nerd shaking our tree. Also, as we discussed. there is a good chance they will all be wearing vest, so put two in the dome and put your man down. OK, so if there are not any more questions, go home, get some rest and we meet at the storage locker ten p.m. sharp tomorrow night.”
On the way over to the storage locker Jimmy’s hands were sweating so bad he had to wipe them on his pants twice. He went through his mental checklist for the tenth time in an hour. He felt confident but as always he had the pre-op jitters. Nikolai had called earlier that evening to make sure everything was still a go.
“I want to re-iterate our agreement Jimmy. You leave no witnesses” Jimmy was silent for a moment.
“Hello? Did you hear what I said?” Nikolai’s voice had an edge to it now.
“Yeah I copy.” Jimmy replied. The line went dead and the tone hung in Jimmy’s ear for a long minute before he hung up the phone.
The dodge work van came to a stop at the drop-off point at precisely 12:45 on the nose. Jimmy took a glance around, The streets were bare, as expected. Duran’s sniper nest lay on the roof of a massive refrigerated warehouse.
“See you on tha’ flip” Duran said as he exited the van with leroy slung over his shoulder in a extra large Addidas racket bag.
To make it look official, Duran was dressed in work out clothes so to the casual observer, he was just another dude going or coming back from the twenty-four hour gym a few miles up the road. Duran quickly made his way to the side of the building where the service ladder to the roof was located. As soon as he disappeared around the building, Mike drove the block then turned right into a narrow alley and killed the lights. Jimmy adjusted his wireless ear bud, checked the mic level and then pulled his black balaclava over his head where just his eyes were showing and then topped it off with his kevlar helmet. Everybody else followed suit. Twelve minutes passed and Jimmy’s ear bud crackled to life.
“In position, I got three tango’s on roving patrol all wearing vest at two-hundred yards. Clear shots on all of them. Give me the count and I will take them out.” Mike let out a whistle as he started the van.
“Damn. Duran has not lost his touch.” Jimmy smiled as he pressed his mike.
“Roger. We are rolling your way now, give us ninety seconds and let em’ fly.”
There was one squelch for a reply and a minute and a half later the first 168 grain HPBT round exited Leroy’s barrel at over twenty-five hundred feet per second with the sound of a delicate whisper.
As the van turned the corner for the final approach to the house Jimmy rolled down his window and turned on his situational awareness radar full blast. It was dark and quiet. No vehicle or pedestrian traffic. Hell, there wasn’t even a dog barking. Whoever had decided on the location for this stash house was smart. It was a ghost town. Must have been somebody from cartel accounting Jimmy thought to himself because no street gang banger was this damn smart. Before the van rolled to a stop the sliding door opened and in one seamless motion the entire stack took shape. Mike took point followed by Jimmy and then Kearns bringing up the rear. Each man covered their own sector as they moved heel to toe, like a deadly black anaconda going in for the kill. As they approached the front door of the house Jimmy spotted all three of the lookout’s bodies laying dead in the grass spread about twenty yards apart. Having to step over one of them to reach the front door, Jimmy noticed he was a young kid, early twenties, hispanic with half his face missing. Kearns’ round had entered just below his right eye and blown out the entirety of the back of his skull.
Once they were in position at the door, Mike checked the exterior for wires and booby-traps and then tried the knob. Right away he gave the hand signal it was locked and barred from the inside. Jimmy whispered into his mike “Breaching now” as Mike swung the small battering ram like Conan. It only took two swings and the door and metal bar came away from the frame and crumpled like crepe paper.
Immediately Mike tossed the ram aside and retrieved the kevlar shield from his back and drew his suppressed Glock from his holster while Jimmy tossed in a flash-bang grenade which filled the room with ear splitting POP! and a brilliant bright light like an arc welder. After a count of three Mike charged in with shield held high and Jimmy and Kearns in tight formation behind him. The front room was empty save a card table with empty beer bottles, ashtrays full of half-smoked blunts and a couple of folding metal chairs. To the right was an entryway into what looked like the main hallway and kitchen.
“Moving right” Mike announced.
“Covering left” Jimmy replied.
As soon as they rounded the corner into the kitchen earsplitting gunfire erupted. A tall, skinny white kid with a MAC-10 and a blue bandanna tied around his head fired wildly from the far corner. The .45ACP slugs slammed into the kevlar shield with a loud thump as all three men instinctively got low and returned fire. Mike, Jimmy and Kearns all fired simultaneously with their weapons. The kids’s head exploded like a melon and painted the beige walls behind him with a pink spray and brain matter as his limp body collapsed to the floor with a thud.
“Son-of-a-bitch!” Kearns yelled from the rear.
“Anybody hit?” Mike asked.
“I’m Good” Jimmy replied.
“I just shit my pants but I’m not hit, thanks.” Kearns replied smiling.
“Brass! Everybody police it now” Jimmy reminded the crew.
When they were done finding all their spent rounds Mike cleared the rest of the room and then turned around to go down the hall.
“Watch these doors” Mike called out as they started down the hall, waling heel to toe in unison. As soon as they came to the first bedroom on the right a commotion could be heard inside the room.
“Looks like we got a squirter trying to crawl through the side window” Duran called over the radio. A few seconds passed and the earpiece crackled to life again.
“Tango down.” Duran called out. Jimmy smiled and shook his head.
“Duran has not lost a step.” Mike reached down and tried the doorknob. Locked.
“You wanna do the honors” Miked asked, looking at Jimmy with a smirk.
“Gladly” Jimmy replied.
Jimmy took two steps back and delivered a front kick right behind the doorknob. The door was flimsy particleboard and the doorknob lock a joke. Jimmy’s foot went clean through the door while the lock flew into two different pieces. Mike quickly took his position in front and entered the room quickly. Nothing. Empty. Not a stick of furniture. “Clear” Mike yelled out as he turned around to continue down the hall.
As they came to the next bedroom door Jimmy could hear voices speaking in staccato Spanish inside. This was it. The target. The epicenter. The Holy of Holies. The count room. All hell was about to break loose Jimmy thought to himself. These fucking cartel soldiers are going to fight to the death to protect this money because if they lose it there bosses are gonna kill them anyways.
As Mike lined up on the door and Jimmy got ready to kick it in suddenly a voice called out in heavily accented English from the other side.
“Hello? amigos! There is no need for any more people to die here today. You want the money, yes? We will gladly give it to you. Our only request is that let me and my compadre walk out of here alive.”
There was silence as Mike gave Jimmy a quizzical look. Kearn’s was shaking his head violently mouthing he words “It’s a fucking trap!” Jimmy thought about it a minute.
“OK, here is the deal. You lay down your weapons and lay face down on the floor. We come in, clear the place and once we have the cash we let you go.” Another long period of silence as the two cartel members discussed things in spanish. Finally the same voice replied.
“Amigo how can we know you will do what you say?” Mike laughed to himself and Jimmy smiled.
“You don’t but I don’t think you really appreciate how badly you are really fucked right now. I Have a sniper outside your bedroom window ready to blow your asses back to Sinaloa and a team of guys out here itching to paint that room you are in with your brains so what say we cut through the bullshit and get this over with!”
Hushed voices could be heard talking.
“OK, we are laying down our guns and getting on the floor.” The man replied.
Two minutes passed and Mike pointed to his eyes with two fingers and then pointed to the frame of the door. He was going to look for tripwires to make sure these fuckers were not inviting us into a booby trap. Mike slowly turned the knob and cracked the door and peered up, to the side and down. After giving the thumbs up he stood aside as Jimmy delivered a front kick which sent the door flying back on it’s hinges.
Inside two hispanic men were lying flat on their stomachs with their arms spread. One fat, one thin. Two AK-47’s with folding stocks lay on the floor beside them. A Large desk with two digital money counters, rubber bands and a notebook lay on the desk. Some loose bills, no more than a few thousand dollars was scattered on the desk as well.
“Keep your head down and do not look up!” Jimmy ordered. Kearns quickly walked over to the desk and started rifling through it, frantic.
“Where’s the money! Where the fuckin’ deniro?” Kearns asked excited, his eyes big as saucers. When neither of the men answered, Kearns quickly walked over to the fat one and put the tip of the suppressor in his ear.
“Last chance El Gordo, where the fucking money?” The fat man began whimpering and cried out
“The closet behind the desk!” Kearns smiled and walking over to the desk, unstrapped his carbine and then opened the closet.
Inside were a dozen brown cardboard boxes stacked on top of each other to the ceiling. Kearns quickly grabbed one and put it on the desk, removing the lid with the numbers “125K” wrote on the top, a huge smile spread across his face as he reached in and pulled out three bundles of cash wrapped gangster style with rubber bands. “Fucking jackpot!” Kearn’s yelled as both Mike and Jimmy let out a whoop.
It took under five minutes to load all the boxes and guns in the van with Kearns and Duran having to sit on top of some of them to ride. Before they pulled away Jimmy ran back into the house. Walking back to the count room the two cartel soldiers were sitting up talking when Jimmy walked in.
“OK, so you let us go now, yes?” The skinny one asked in broken English looking up at Jimmy.
“I’m sorry amigo, but I had to promise a very dangerous guy that I would leave no witnesses and send a message to your organization.” As Jimmy pulled out his suppressed Glock the Fat man began crying out “But!, But! We did not see your face! Please! Plea…”
El Gordo’s sentence was cut short as the first round hit him an inch to the left of his nose, blowing out the back of his sinus cavity and brainpan with a swoosh. The skinny one fell sideways trying to escape but it was of little use as Jimmy pumped two into the side of his head, pinning him to the carpet and staining it a deep crimson. The fat one was still squirming as Jimmy began to leave so for safe measure he pumped one more into his head. Reaching down he collected all his brass and slipped it in his pocket and then walked out of the house as quietly as he had came.
The crew drove parallels for an hour to make sure they were not being followed and finally arrived at Duran’s bungalow near Winthrop for the count. Jimmy and Kearns finished the count at a quarter past two in the morning. Mike and Duran both passed out thirty minutes after sitting down. They both had earned it. As the final stack of bills ran through the counter, Jimmy plugged the amount in the calculator for the final tally. His mouth got dry and his throat tried to close up a little when he started to read out the number:
“Nine Hundred and sixty three thousand dollars.” There was silence in the room. Silence like in a church. Nobody spoke. Nobody moved. Nobody breathed for what seemed like minutes.
“Christ Jesus and the Saints” Mike whispered to himself. Kearns laughed so loud he woke Duran and Mike up.
“After we pay Nikolai that is two-hundred and forty grand each” Jimmy said hoarsely, barely able to talk. He quickly took a drink of beer to wet his throat then let out a “Holy Shit!” that could be heard for two blocks. Duran went over to the cabinet and pulled down a bottle of Irish whiskey he had been saving.
“This calls for a toast gentleman” Duran said sitting down four shot glasses and filling them liberally.
“To the Four Horseman of the apocalypse” Jimmy said holding up his glass with a huge smile.
“May they forever ride!”
Jimmy awoke to this cell phone ringing the next morning.
“Just dropped off the cash to Nickolai” Kearns said in an exhausted voice and hung up.
Jimmy in turn hung up the phone and mumbled “Thank God” as he fell back to sleep. By six p.m. that evening he was sufficiently rested and after a shower and some dinner felt like a new man. After watching the evening news where the top story was a “Gangland massacre” in Telegraph Hill he decided to begin work on stashing his new loot. The garage wall was stuffed with somewhere around $3,5 million, so he considered hiding it in an old standby: Inside the Refrigerator. Jimmy had lost count how many times they had searched drug dealers house and found the guts of a refrigerator stuffed to the brim with cash. The trick was replacing the rubber gasket sealant around the door you bad to break to get the cash inside. He chose the refrigerator in his man cave versus the one in the kitchen mainly because it was older and he did not want to rip apart his brand new stainless steel Maytag. As he was diving into the project his cell rang. It was Mike.
“So what time we doing this? Same as usual?” Immediately Jimmy remembered it was his turn to host poker night.
“Oh Shit” was all Jimmy could say.
“What? You forgot?” Mike asked laughing.
“Yeah, I guess so, hell it’s not like I have not been busy!” Jimmy replied, heading downstairs to his man cave.
“No worries Jimbo, I’ll bring everything, just have the table ready! See you in an hour.” Before Jimmy could answer Mike hung up.
In short order over the next two hours Duran, Kearns and Mike showed up, all with their arms full of beer, whiskey and munchies.
An hour into the game and Jimmy realized Tommy had not called or shown up.
“Since when was Tommy Donovan late for poker night?” he asked out loud. Everybody shrugged.
“Tommy is getting old Jimbo, he may have just forgot who knows.” Miked replied, counting his chips. Jimmy called Tommy’s cell. Straight to voicemail.
“Shit I hope the old fart did not have a stroke or something.” Jimmy thought to himself.
“I’ll try him again in half an hour” Jim said in passing as he began to deal the cards. An Hour and a half later Jimmy’s doorbell rang.
“My God Tommy, I have been calling! What happened?” Jimmy asked as Tommy Donovan slowly walked into the front hallway. Right away Jimmy could tell something was off. It looked like he had been crying.
“Come on down to the basement and let me get you a drink, all the boys are here.” Jimmy said, leading him down the stairs. When they got down to the man cave everybody was immediately concerned about Tommy.
“What the fuck happened to you Tommy?” Mike asked, standing up. Tommy remained silent and stoic. Jimmy sat him down at the table and poured him three fingers of Jameson’s. Tommy turned up the glass and downed it in one go. He then wiped his mouth and ran his hand through his white hair.
“I just got back from the Coroners office” Tommy said, his voice cracking. The entire room went deathly quiet.
“To identify my son’s body.” Huge tears rolled down Tommy’s red cheeks as he reached over and poured himself another snort.
Jimmy swallowed hard, put a hand on Tommy’s shoulder and in a gentle voice asked “What happened Tommy?” Duran asked leaning in at the table.
Tommy downed the drink and then looked up and stared into Jimmy’s eyes.
“He was killed during that shootout in Telegraph Hill last night.”
Jimmy’s heart shot up into his throat and all the color drained from his face. Mike tried not to react and turned and walked over to the bar. Duran and Kearst just sat there, wide-eyed and dumb founded.
“I didn’t know you had a son Tommy!” Kearst replied, his mouth still agape.
Tommy just kept his stare on Jimmy, his bloodshot pale blue eyes as chilly as a January morning.
“Yeah, he would have been twenty-two next Thursday.” Tommy replied.
Jimmy just shook his head, patted Tommy on the shoulder and walked over to the bar with Mike. As Mike and Jimmy’s eyes met, one thought kept jabbing itself into their mind like a splinter: Does he know?
Jimmy walked behind the bar to grab another bottle when a thundering gunshot rang out.
Instinctively Jimmy ducked down behind the bar.
“Jesus Tommy! What the hell!” Kearst could be heard screaming.
Jimmy moved to the end of the bar and peered around the corner. Tommy was sitting casually at the poker table with his Colt 1911 in his hand. Kearst was standing with his hands high in the air and seated across from them was Duran, slumped backwards in his chair staring at the ceiling with the back of his head blown out. Jimmy craned his neck around the bar and saw Mike on the floor in the corner, his eyes wide.
“Sit down Paddy boy” Tommy said in a calm voice, directing him with the barrel of the pistol.
“Mike and Jimmy! You two assholes come over here and sit down!” Tommy yelled out. Instinctively Jimmy reached for his cell but realized he had left it in the kitchen. He then quickly began to grab the small .380 he had stashed behind the bar when Tommy yelled “And I know about the hideout piece behind the bar Jimbo, so don’t even think about it.”
Jimmy’s heart sank as he placed the gun back on the shelf and then walked over to sit down with Mike.
“Listen, Tommy, whatever is going on we can help you man, just put the gun down…” Jimmy was quickly interrupted as Tommy pointed the pistol at his face,
“You got some balls Jimmy, some real huge balls. Still trying to con me even now! After all this!” Tommy’s gun hand began to tremble.
“Whoa! What the fuck Tommy! Con you? What are you talking about?”Jimmy replied in his best, surprised bullshit voice.
Tommy shook his head in disgust.
“Let’s begin with this: Kearst, the degenerate gambling piece of monkey shit that he is, owed Nikolai a hundred grand and you decided to get the four horseman back together and go rip off a gang of drug dealers for the money. Sound right so far?” Tommy replied, his eyes laser beams of ice.
The room was church house quiet.
“See the problem is that gang of scumbag drug dealers you massacred in that house included my son Logan. He was the kid you popped in the kitchen with the MAC-10, remember?” Tommy held out his phone with a crime scene picture of Logan dead on the kitchen floor.
“So you want to keep lying to me now Jimmy?” Tommy asked, keeping the pistol trained on him.
“OK, Tommy, you’re right, we killed your son. But not on purpose! We had no ideal he was part of that crew, no ideal whatsoever.” Jimmy pleaded. Tommy shook his head in disgust and leaned back in his chair, keeping the pistol level on Jimmy.
“Why did you have to kill Duran Tommy?” Jimmy asked looking over at Duran’s corpse.
“Self-Defense. Don’t you see the gun in his hand?” Tommy replied. Jimmy shook his head.
“You’re losing it brother. He’s not fucking armed!” Jimmy replied.
“No problem, I have a throw-away in my truck, we’ll just plant it on him.” Tommy replied with a smirk. Jimmy’s mouth fell open.
“What? Does that offend you Jimmy? I thought that was Corruption 101 shit for the Four Horseman!” Tommy spat, his eyes wide with anger. Jimmy stared at Tommy for a long moment.
“I would be real careful throwing that word ‘corruption’ around Tommy. It’s not exactly like you were snow white when you had a badge.” Jimmy replied. Tommy leaned forward and slammed his fist down on the table with a thud.
“Yeah I may have shook down the occasional dealer so my family could go on vacation or my son could have braces, but I wasn’t a greedy criminal with a badge, murdering and stealing at will like you and your crew!”
While Tommy was distracted talking, Kearns had gradually positioned himself behind him. Thinking he had the drop, Kearns moved to snatch the gun but Tommy was one step ahead of him and turned and fired, hitting Kearns high in the chest, right under his throat. The blast sent Kearns reeling backwards, with the bullet exiting out the back of his neck painting the walls behind him with a wet splash of crimson mist. Kearn’s was dead before he hit the ground.
“Shit! Why did you have to shoot him Tommy!” Mike yelled, jumping out of his chair to check for a pulse on Kearn’s.
Tommy stood up and glanced over at Kearn’s body and then walked over to the bar as if nothing had happened.
“Because the son-of-a-bitch would have killed me if he got my gun! Another clear cut case of self-defense.” Tommy replied self-righteously.
“You have lost your fucking mind Tommy.” Jimmy spat in disgust. In the silence they could all hear a loud pounding upstairs as SWAT made entry into the house.
As Tommy was busy at the bar, pouring himself a drink and mumbling to himself incoherently, Jimmy got Mike’s attention. He mouthed the words it was now or never. With Tommy’s back to them, Jimmy and Mike rushed him like two linebackers, Tommy tried to spin around with the gun but Jimmy controlled his arm while Mike grabbed the half-full bottle of Jameson’s off the bar and knocked the gun out Tommy’s hand with a wallop. Once disarmed Tommy began to buck wildly. Jimmy was surprised at how strong Tommy was for his age. Even though he had a good 20 plus years on him, the old man was still a street fighter at heart. As Jimmy was positioning an arm bar and a take down, Mike picked up the gun and placed it against Tommy’s temple.
“You going to settle down or am I going to have to fucking kill you Tommy?” Mike asked out of breath.
“You morons don’t get it do you? I don’t give two shits about dying. In fact I welcome it. But I was hoping to kill all of you bastards before I went.”
About that time the door to the man cave busted open with a loud crack and in rushed several armed men clad in black with balaclavas covering their faces. Instinctively both Jimmy and Mike raised their hands and before MIke could drop the gun three rounds hit him high in the chest, spinning him off to the right like a pinwheel.
Jimmy could hear himself yelling “Don’t Shoot! Don’t Shoot!” in the chaos as Mike’s body crashed to the floor with a loud thump beside him. Jimmy’s mind went into freeze frame and as he was studying the expression on MIke’s face as he died, a question pierced his mind like a high beam through a fog bank. Why had they not announced themselves as Law Enforcement? Why had they not given commands to drop the gun? Why were SWAT using Suppressors? The chaos and stress had made his mind like molasses in the winter time. As he was raising his head to look around, somebody hit him hard over the head and things went dark. The last thought Jimmy had as the blackness swallowed him up was that those guys did not have helmets or SWAT ID on their vest.
Jimmy woke up with a splitting headache handcuffed to a metal chair. He could taste the familiar metallic flavor of dried blood in his mouth along with nauseating bile. He tried to gather up enough saliva to spit but was unsuccessful. As he rotated his head around to see where he was he realized his left eye was swollen shut. What he could see out of his right eye was definitely not home, maybe a warehouse or garage? The smell of rust and old motor oil permeated the place.
“Hello? Where the hell am I?” Jimmy yelled.
Suddenly, a door opened off to his left and light from what looked like an office illuminated the warehouse. Immediately Jimmy knew where he was. He was at the docks at one of the dozens of shipping container facilities. As Jimmy squinted his eye to try and see the figure walking toward him, lights came on in the warehouse with a loud thump, revealing several armed men dressed in black surrounding him. The next voice Jimmy heard made his heart sink into his stomach.
“Jimmy Boland, as I live and breathe!” Nikolai said smiling as he walked over and pulled up a chair.
Jimmy smiled back like a fiend, revealing bloody, chipped teeth.
“Why am I not surprised to see your ugly face here Nikolai?” Jimmy replied shaking his head.
Nikolai chuckled. “Why are you not surprised? I will tell you Jimbo, because like you I am an opportunist and when I see an opportunity, I pounce!” Nikolai reached into his jacket pocket and retrieved a cigarette case and took out two, without asking Jimmy, he lit them and put one of them into Jimmy’s mouth. Jimmy inhaled and exhaled the smoke like a pro, his eyes like icy laser beams on Nikolai the whole time.
“So when you discovered Tommy was out on the street asking questions about who murdered his boy, you made sure he found out it was us who pulled the trigger and then encouraged him to come get revenge because it was a really convenient way to kill off all your loose ends and get ALL the money from the heist, not just what was owed to you, right?” Jimmy exhaled more smoke and then spit the cigarette toward Nikolai like an out of control rocket.
Nikolai watched the cigarette land harmlessly well short of his feet, politely stamped it out and then looked up at Jimmy and smiled.
“Once again Jimmy, you have proven why you are such a great Detective. You see all the angles!” Nikolai stood up and crushed out his own cigarette and nodded to the goons behind Jimmy.
“Wait, before you go, you have to tell me. No way you were alone in all of this, there were way too many moving parts. Who was your inside man at the Department?” Jimmy asked, looking intently at Nikolai with his his one good eye bloodshot and swollen.
Nikolai smiled and motioned toward the office from which he had entered. The door opened and out stepped Captain William C. Delaney, Boston Police Dept.
“Me and the Captain here have been partners since the good ole ‘days Jimmy. In fact, he was the one that suggested I approach you twenty-five year ago!” Nikolai smiled like the cat that ate the canary as Delaney walked up.
“Son-of-a-bitch” Jimmy muttered to himself. One of the goons undid his leg shackles and stood Jimmy up.
“Thanks to Captain Delaney here we found all the money you had stashed in the walls of your garage and house. We also found the stashes at Kearns, Durans and Murphy’s place.” Nikolai replied.
“Oh how nice of him.” Jimmy spat.
“Delaney you always were a backstabbing cocksucker.” Jimmy shot daggers with his one good eye.
The Two goons turned Jimmy around to face an open shipping container of which to Jimmy’s horror were the bodies of Tommy, Duran, Kearns and Mike, all covered in white lime and wrapped in thick sheet plastic. Jimmy tried not show any fear when he saw the large piece of plastic on the ground obviously meant for him, but fear boiled out of him none the less.
“So you’re shipping us all off to Russia huh Nikolai?” Jimmy asked as the goons moved him inside the container.
“Yes. It’s for the best.” Nikolai replied.
“You know I only did this job to help a friend. I figured it was my Last Good Chance to do something good in my life.” Jimmy said, looking at the bodies.
“In the end we are all punished for our kindnesses my friend.” Nikolai replied as he motioned to the goon with his hand.
The gunshot was loud as it echoed off the inside of the container. Jimmy’s body slumped to the deck like a sack of bricks and the goons began covering him with lime and wrapping him in plastic.
Container #BE-456732 was loaded onto a transport ship bound for Murmansk, Russia later that day.
This is a work of Short Fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in this short story are entirely fictional and are of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or organizations or persons living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Somewhere in the South in the not too distant Future…
I was chopping wood behind the barn when one of the dogs began barking and looking out toward the main road. Taking a step around the barn I spotted a Black SUV idling in the road. I wiped the sweat from my brow with my forearm as I shaded my eyes with my hand in time to see the vehicle slowly turn into my long driveway. Letting out a breath and shaking my head with disgust I walked into the barn and told my brother who was tinkering with the tractor to go inside the house and get ready for company. I then walked over to a pail of cold water and washed my face and the back of my neck and after drying off walked to the front of the house. As the SUV was pulling up I took a seat in a lawn chair by the blooming blue hydrangea bush and began packing my pipe for a smoke.
As soon as the two men exited the vehicle I made both of them for federal stooges. Cheap haricuts and suits with the standard issue oakley sunglasses and the useless and faulty N95 masks. They both did a cursory scan of the property and then took interview stances about ten feet away from me.
“Good Afternoon sir. I am special agent Giddings and this is my partner special agent Marks. We are both with the Department of Domestic Security and Well-Being. We are looking for Mason Hightower.”
I puffed my pipe to life and exhaled the first batch of bluish-grey smoke into the humid afternoon air.
“You found him fella” I said flatly.
Agent Giddings nodded and following his interview training by the numbers, attempted some levity to further gain my trust and break the ice.
“Excellent! Our navigation assistant was right for once Agent Marks, can you believe it!”
As Giddings and Marks giggled together like mentally deficient children, I remained stoic, puffing my pipe and giving the impression this entire encounter was about as thrilling as me trimming my toenails. Seeing my impatience, Gidding’s smile and laughter dissipated and he got down to business.
“Mr. Hightower we are following up on a tip we received via our new app “Neighbor Nanny” which allows law-abiding comrades of the State to include local health care providers to report serious covid mandate violations of their fellow neighbors and co-workers.”
I stared at the man like he was lower than monkey shit.
“Yes sir, well your local health clinic has reported that you are in violation of Covid Mandate 617.85 which clearly states all Children under the age of twelve must report for vaccination within seventy-two hours of notification. You currently have three children that are all under the age of twelve that have not reported to the clinic for vaccination, are you aware of that Mr. Hightower?”
I noticed both agents stances were now fully bladed and their hands at their waist line.
“Yes I am aware of that.” I answered, as I finished my pipe and tapped the spent bowl on the bottom of my boot.
Giddings curled an eyebrow at my response and for the first time a look of insolence came across his face. Before he could speak however I hit him with a zinger.
“Which is why I would like to ask you kind gentleman if you could help me round up the little rascals? They are such a handful at this age and me being a single parent, well, I don’t mind telling you they can stretch my limitations at times!”
Giddings and Marks looked at each other with a confounding smile.
“While yes sir! We would be glad to help you!” Agent Marks answered gleefully.
“Thank you so much! They are just inside the house here…” I replied smiling leading the way up the steps to the front door.
Opening the front door I led them down the hallway to the living room.
“Come on in, make yourself at home gentleman, let me see if I can locate the little hooligans…”
I gave them both a reassuring smile and then walked out of the living room into the kitchen where I flipped a red switch which automatically locked all doors and windows in the house and began distribution of an odorless, colorless sleeping gas through the main ventilation system in the house. After waiting around a minute I walked back into the living room to find Agent Marks and Giddings fast asleep, collapsed on the floor.
“It’s a good thing this gas only works on humans” My brother commented as he walked into the living room from upstairs with two aero-pods floating behind him.
“Yes, another ingenius invention by our Bio-Weapons department, but I do wish they could make these mask where they don’t itch so badly…” I replied as I tore the human face off myself with wet sucking sound and discarded it to allow my delicate translucent blue skin underneath to breathe and my eye tentacles to extend and rotate.
My brother followed suit, tearing off his face as well.
“Oh by the Hand of Neftu of Orion that is so much better!” he replied as his eye tentacles and proboscis extended to their full height.
We loaded up both of the humans on the aero-pods and moved them upstairs to the cryo chamber.
“When is the next pickup” I asked opening the cryo chute
“In two days” my brother replied.
I entered the proper code and the aero pod slipped into the cryo chamber with a quick hiss of air.
“The Research Department are very anxious to start dissection on these two. They want to discover why it is a species would knowingly spread lies and propaganda to murder their own offspring with poison under the guise of so called vaccinations and boosters? It is a biological conundrum they hope to solve.” I replied watching the cryo chamber process the pods.
“There is no conundrum to solve. From their inception this species has always invented new reasons to kill themselves off. If you ask me we should just bide our time. In another hundred years we will be able to take over this planet without ever lifting a finger.”
I pondered my brother’s words for a moment then turned around and headed back downstairs.
“Come on let’s go get suited up. Who knows what kind of people they will send around next to arrest us for not wanting to willingly murder our own offspring.”
My brother laughed so hard at the joke he had to reach up and wipe bio-slime from his eye tentacle.
(Artwork is “Winter Travelers” by Alfredo Rodriguez)
This is a work of short fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in this short story are entirely fictional and are of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or organizations or persons living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
This story is dedicated to my friend, John Gregory Herring, aka “Spotflare” (1947-2020)
“Keep your nose in the wind and your eyes along the skyline”
It was the waning days of late summer in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and forty-eight when ‘Red-Tail’ Jack Patterson came down from the Little Belt mountains for his annual visit to the Medicine Gun trading post near the mouth of the Judith river. Coming down into the low country on his three year old roan mare, the mountain man was a spectacle to behold. Everything he wore was self-made (except his tanned buckskins, which he had traded for with the Cheyenne) from his knee length Grizz coat to his red fox and muskrat hat, to his knee high Elk boots trimmed in the finest beaver fur. Resting in a tanned leather scabbard was his trusty fifty caliber hawken rifle while two fifty-caliber pistols were mounted on either side of his saddle horn. Tucked into his belt cross draw was another pistol, this one with a custom short barrel for a wider spread at close-range, along with his fourteen inch drop point knife with a antler horn handle rightly named “Annabelle.” He also on occasion tucked a razor-edged pipe hawk in his belt he had taken off a Crow brave last year after the bastard tried to steal his horse.
The owners of the trading post, Otis and Prudence McSween, were overjoyed to see Jack return since in the thirteen months he had been gone there had been countless rumors of his death from any number of french trappers, wagon train masters and Army scouts alike. As was the custom when Red-Tail visited, before he was ever allowed to put his feet underneath her supper table, Prudence handed Jack a large piece of homemade lye and mint soap, scissors, a small hand mirror and a towel and pointed him toward the creek to bathe.
“I love ya’ like a brother Jack, but My God! Me and Otis smelled you long before we saw you!” Prudence exclaimed, smiling.
Jack slapped Otis on the back and let out a hearty laugh as he took the necessaries from Prudence and headed to the creek whistling an old church hymn.
When he showed up an hour later, the couple did not even recognize him.
“My God, you look like a new man Jack Patterson!” Prudence exclaimed, smiling as she grabbed him by the arm and pulled him inside to the dinner table. Typically Jack would take offense at somebody calling him by his Christian name but Prudence McSween was the closest thing to family Jack had, so she could rightly call him whatever she pleased as long as it was not late for supper!
“So how many this time Prudence?” Jack asked, smiling as he sat down at their large maple dinner table as she poured him a steaming cup of coffee.
“Well, let me see.” Prudence replied, holding the coffee pot with a dish towel and looking up at the ceiling as if she was reading off an invisible tally sheet.
“Three at last count: cree war party, grizz attack and drowned in the Powder river.” Prudence replied with a wise smirk.
Prudence was a tall, handsome wisp of a woman, not yet thirty with dark, raven hair past her shoulders and soft, sad brown eyes. She and Otis had lost their twin daughters to the pox three years prior and the sorrow still clung heavily to her soul. Jack shook his head and laughed heartily as he enjoyed the regal comforts of having good honest white folks for company, a roof over his head and real coffee to drink.
“The Powder this time, huh? Last time it was the Milk, wasn’t it? And Cree? Hell, last Cree indian I saw was Rutting Pony. He tried to marry me off to his humpback sister for two horses and a pistol, can you believe it!”
The comment caught Prudence and Otis totally off-guard and they looked at one another in total shock and then busted out laughing so hard they both had tears in their eyes.
After finishing their coffee, Otis helped Jack unload the few black bear, mule deer and elk pelts from his mule as Prudence cooked up a dinner of venison backstrap, mashed potatoes and fresh squash from her garden. As they ate and talked about local news, Prudence took stock of Jack, whose full Christian name was Johnathan Obadiah Patterson. He was somewhere in his thirties and had deep set blue-grey eyes that often twinkled when he laughed. He had got the name “Red-Tail” not from the hawk as many thought but from his temper. Three years prior at a gathering near the Musselshell, ‘Coon-Eyes’ Jim Grady, a man of fearsome low-reputation and character, accused Jack of poaching beaver on his patch and a fight ensued. After the fight ole’ Coon-eyes actually in fact resembled a coon with both of his eyes blackened courtesy of Jack. After that day Johnathan became known as “Red-Ass” Jack, which later was changed to “Red-Tail” so as not to offend Prudence McSween, the only white woman in the territory Jack cared about not insulting with foul language and bad manners.
To their delight, Jack stayed on and helped Otis and Prudence with several jobs around the place including patching the roof, building a smokehouse and planting a fall garden. On the afternoon of the fourth day however things took an unexpected turn. While working in the garden Jack noticed one of the flea bitten dogs Otis had kept looking up the trail as if annoyed by something. Never one to ignore an animal’s instincts, Jack walked up past the barn to take a look. There, about fifty yards up the path was a skinny and winded grey mare with a man slumped over in the saddle. As Jack looked closer he could see a small pair of arms wrapped around the man from behind. A child! With his protective instincts telling him to run to the horse and help the man and child, his hard taught experience told him to stay put. This could easily be a trap. Besides the riled up injuns, there were bad outlaw elements around these parts since the wagon trains began coming through regular. Slowly backing up off the trail, Jack pulled his pistol and took a knee behind a tree. He sat there for a long minute listening and looking. After deciding they were indeed alone, Jack slowly walked up to the horse with his pistol cocked and trained on the slumped rider.
“Hello there on the horse! I say Hello!” Jack yelled out several times.
The horse was so exhausted it did not so much as flinch at Jack’s approach.
“Easy there girl, easy…” Jack cooed as he gently walked up and put his hand on the reins.
Immediately Jack could see the saddle covered in fresh blood with the slumped man in the saddle unconscious but alive, if not barely. Peering around the side, Jack could now see the child was a little girl around the age of eight, her wheat colored hair and little round face burrowed into the back of the man, whimpering softly like a wounded animal. Jack double checked that the child was not wounded and once satisfied started leading the horse toward the barn. By this time Otis had heard the commotion and came out running with rifle in hand to help.
“We got us a badly wounded man and a scared child here” Jack yelled as Prudence came out the door of the trading post wiping her hands on her apron.
“My God! Bring them both inside now!” Prudence demanded as she quickly went inside and began clearing the table.
Jack gently tried to pry the child’s arms away from the wounded man but the child was not having any of it, letting out a shriek of pure terror.
“Child, you are gonna have to let go so we can help him” Jack pleaded.
After a brief tug of war and the child finally relenting out of exhaustion, Jack gingerly lifted her off the horse and carried her inside to an anxiously awaiting Mrs. McSween who then took the child into their bedroom. After that Jack and Otis went to work lifting the man out of the saddle and into the house.
“Damn this feller’s lost a lot of blood!” Otis remarked as they laid him down.
“We need to find these holes and start pluggin’ em’. Otis, help me turn him over and get these clothes off of him.” Jack commanded, taking out his knife and cutting the bloodied shirt and pants off the man.
As Jack began to examine the man right away he counted two bullet holes high in his chest and one in his stomach. He could not find one exit wound. After a couple more minutes of searching the man let out a soft whimper, took a wet gurgling breath, whispered the name “Celia-Anne” and then died right there on the table.
Otis and Jack both stared at the man for a long moment and then removed their hats out of respect.
“Not much we could have done. He had been shot in the lung twice and had lost too much blood.” Jack said softly.
As Prudence walked in from the back bedroom holding the child to her shoulder, her eyes met Jack’s and he gently shook his head that the man had passed. Quickly Prudence turned back around and shut the bedroom door behind her while softly singing a hymn:
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
Jack went through the man’s pocket’s respectfully looking for any clues as to his identity. All Jack could find was a worn brown leather wallet with three U.S. dollars which he promptly handed over to Otis.
“Who do you think he is Jack?” Otis asked, looking concerned as he pocketed the money.
“Well, he’s not a trapper and he’s not a scout. Judging from his haircut and clothes I’m guessing he’s a pilgrim that got lost or separated from the wagon train, maybe.”
“But why would somebody shoot a pilgrim with a child? You think injuns done this?”
Jack shook his head. “I doubt it. And since he still has his wallet, I don’t think bandits did this either. It’s peculiar.”
Otis and Jack then proceeded to wrap the body in a blanket and bury the man behind the trading post in a little makeshift cemetery Otis had created for folks who had died while passing through, either from sickness or being murdered by injuns.
“We don’t even know this feller’s name for a marker.” Otis said, wiping his brow after shoveling the last of the dirt on the grave.
“The Good Lord knows him and I guess in the end that’s all that really matters.” Jack replied, his gaze fixed on the mountains in the distance.
A week passed and although the girl still had not spoken, Otis and Prudence slipped right back into their roles as loving parents. They had taken to calling the little girl “Celia-Ann” and she seemed to cotton to it just fine. Prudence sewed her some right handsome dresses and in the evenings after supper all three of them would go for a walk down by the creek while Jack watched from a distance on the porch smoking down his pipe. One evening Celia decided to pick a small bunch of yellow and blue wildflowers for Jack.
“Well that is right nice of you young lady! Thank You!” Jack said, smiling as he kneeled down and took the flowers.
Celia looked at him for a long moment, her little blue eyes twinkling with delight. Jack could see she wanted to say something but just couldn’t bring herself to do it. Instead, she cracked a smile that could break your heart and ran off into the house with a giggle, her sun kissed hair bouncing with every step.
“Someday that girl is gonna start talking and when she does the world better watch out!” Jack said out loud laughing to himself as the sun disappeared behind the little belt mountains and somewhere out in the valley the soft purr of a whip-poor-will floated on the evening breeze.
The next day Jack headed out early to go hunting. With fall quickly approaching the Mule deer and Elk would be active in the valley timber below the snowline and he intended to take advantage of it.
As he was heading out Prudence came out the front door in a rush.
“Wait! You can’t go without taking a lunch!” she exclaimed smiling, handing Jack a small red handkerchief tied up with a hunk of jerky, a sliced onion and some homemade goat cheese.
“Much obliged Mrs. McSween.” Jack replied, tipping his hat.
As Jack rode off he smiled to himself. If any of his old mountain buddies could see him now he would be the laughing stock of the territory. Packing a lunch in a handkerchief to go hunting for the day? Whoever heard of such foolishness! But that’s what living indoors does to a man. Still, Jack may not have wanted to admit it to his buddies or even to himself, but he was fast growing accustomed to these small little pleasantries of life.
Prudence watched Jack until he disappeared around the bend and under her breath uttered a small, earnest prayer for his protection and return.
After about an hour of riding, Jack got off the main trail and headed south. Although he intended to do some hunting, that was not all he intended to do on this outing. He had decided to satisfy a curiosity he had about the man who died bringing Celia to safety. Where had he come from? Jack knew he had most likely been part of a wagon train going west to Oregon. It was the only logical explanation of why an eight year old white child would be out here in this wilderness with a man who was obviously not a trapper. The only problem was the trail the wagons took was over a hundred miles to the south. So the most likely explanation was the pilgrims had gotten lost or separated and went looking for help. The question was why had the man been shot? and by whom?
Although Jack knew the trail would be cold and almost impossible to track, he followed his gut instincts and backtracked south-east. It did not take him long to find something. Stopping at a small spring to fill his flask and let his horse drink and graze, he spotted smoke on a ridgeline to the southwest. Jack ruled out injuns. Injuns did not make big fires for all to see like white men did, they were smarter than that. No, this was most likely eastern tenderfoot pilgrims. Being cautious, Jack decided to make a big circle and approach them from down wind. As he got closer he began to smell their clothes and their cooking. These men had been on the trail for some time judging from how loud they were stinking up the countryside.
Coming within a hundred yards of the camp Jack left his horse in a small stand of ash and maple trees and crept up within earshot of the camp. Taking a knee in the high grass he sat there with his Hawken rifle and watched and listened.
There were three of them, all of them with decent, well-fed mounts.
“How long is that rabbit gonna take to cook? I’m so damn hungry I’m ready to eat it raw!” One of the men complained.
“You watch your mouth young’un! Yeah, you eat this meat raw and you’ll wish you were dead!” An older man replied sitting by the fire, turning the meat in a pan with a fork.
After a few minutes the man cooking by the fire divided up the meat between each of the men.
They all ate like they were starving except the older man who had done the cooking. He restrained himself and ate like a civilized man, savoring the taste.
“How much longer do we gotta stay out here Boss? Pearson and his daughter have either been scalped or are bear turds by now!”
“We stay out here until we find them or find proof they are both dead, it’s that simple.” Boss replied
“That Jake Pearson was stupid to argue with the prophet like he did. He should have just given up his daughter to marry when she turned twelve like all the other families in the wagon train agreed.”
The man called Boss stood up to stretch and looked over in Jack’s general direction. Jack could see clearly he was heeled with a pistol and a large knife.
“We’ll rest up a few more hours and then ride North. An Army scout told me there is a trading post near the mouth of the Judith. It’s possible he could have made it there.”
As the three men settled down for a rest Jack shook his head and cursed under his breath. This beat all he had ever seen or heard. A grown man marrying several twelve year old girls? What the hell was going on? And why did they call that man a prophet? Were they some kind of church? Jack had more questions than answers about who exactly these people were but he knew one thing for certain: These were the men responsible for that man’s death and they were about to ride to the trading post and find Celia. Jack simply could not allow that to happen. Jack crept back to his horse and thought about a plan. Judging from listening to these three talk, only the older one, “Boss” , had much experience with killing. The other two, were just hired pups. The simplest plan would be to just to ride in there with his three pistols and kill all of them in one fail swoop. But it was also damn risky. Better to divide and conquer and pick em’ off quietly, one at a time, using fear as his primary weapon, just like the injuns did. He pulled his Crow pipe hawk from his saddle bag and stuck it in his belt.
Jack waited an hour to let the three men get good and relaxed and then crawled into the high grass not fifteen yards from the camp. He quietly unsheathed his knife, reversed his grip and made several short, quick calls with his mouth that sounded like prairie dogs humping. At first the men paid no attention and then Jack increased the volume and then two heads popped up in unison. Jack smiled to himself. This was going to be fun.
“What in the hell is that?” one of the young pups exclaimed.
“Sounds like a horny prairie dog” Boss replied lazily, uninterested.
“Well they need to shut the hell up!” the kid replied, laying back down on his bedroll.
A few minutes passed and then Jack started up again, increasing the volume.
“Sonofabitch!” The kid yelled out as he got up and stormed toward Jack in the high grass with his pistol drawn.
“I’ll shut you up you little squeaking bastard!”
The kid came bounding through the grass like a pissed off bull elk and stopped within three feet of where Jack was crouched. Jack could now see the kid’s face clearly. He was no older than seventeen, tall and lanky with a baby face and large, scared eyes. Jack doubted he had ever killed a man in his life. Jack let him walk right by him and then in one swift motion came up behind him like a mountain lion springing a trap. With his left hand Jack covered the boy’s mouth and with his right brought his fourteen inch blade down in a plunging motion into his heart. The boy died with a soft gurgle and his eyes wide with horror as Jack gently set his body down in the tall grass. It had all taken less than ten seconds.
Wiping the blade on his pant leg, Jack then made a semi-circle around the camp and waited. When neither of the two men moved, Jack quickly walked over to the other young boy who was lying down on his bed roll with his back to him.
“Did you kill that noisy bastard Seth?” the boy asked with his back turned
“No, but something killed Seth” Jack whispered back, smiling like the devil himself.
As the boy jumped up in fear Jack closed the distance with a razor edged pipe hawk in one hand and a .50 caliber pistol in the other.
“Oh Christ” was all the boy could choke out as Jack brought the pipe hawk down into the boy’s skull with a wet splitting sound, the boy’s blood and brains spilling out into the dirt like thick, black oil.
In all the commotion Boss sprung to his feet and while he was cussing trying to cock his pistol Jack shot him clean through the right knee, sending him crashing down to the ground screaming like a banshee.
Jack casually strolled over and kicked the man’s pistol out of his grasp.
“You sorry bastard!” Boss yelled out in pain.
“Bushwhacking three innocent Christian men! You will burn in hell for this!” Boss spit in anger, his eyes like two red coals.
Jack stood there watching him squirm in agony for a long moment and then drew Annabelle from her sheath and walked over.
“Go ahead! slaughter me like you did those two innocent boys!” Boss spit through yellow, cracked teeth.
Jack kneeled down in front of Boss and in one quick jerk grabbed the man’s hair with his left hand, turning his face so it was inches from his.
“Innocent? You want to claim you and these boys were innocent Christian men? What kind of Christian men hunts and kills a father trying to protect his eight year old daughter from some sick bastard wanting to marry and bed her?” Jack stared at the man with pure hatred.
“The great prophet will deliver this world!” Boss cried out as he writhed on the ground laughing hysterically.
“This is for Celia and Jake Pearson.”
Jack then scalped the man in one quick motion with his knife, the scalp peeling off the man’s skull like ripe melon. Smiling, Jack then proceeded to stuff the bloody pulp of hair into the man’s mouth until he began to choke on it.
“Maybe that will shut you up for a few minutes.”
After gagging and retching for what seemed like forever, the man finally spit out his own scalp and began yelling in pain at the top of his lungs once again.
“Keep yelling like that and you’re gonna attract injuns, most likely Blackfeet, who will take pleasure in roasting you alive for sport.”
Jack shook his head in disgust as he turned and leashed the three horses to his and then gathered all the men’s weapons and stowed them on the trailing horses.
“Oh God! Please shoot me, please mister!” Boss pleaded and cried like a child as Jack mounted his horse and turned North.
Jack refused to look at the man as he rode out of the camp at a slow walk.
When Jack arrived back at the trading post that afternoon, Otis, Prudence and Celia were all waiting on the porch.
“My, my, where did you get those three fine horses?” Prudence asked, walking up with her eyes wide.
“Oh, The Good Lord just dropped them in my lap,” Jack replied with a smile.
Otis walked over and unsheathed one of the captured rifles and then glanced up at Jack with a smirk.
“The Good Lord is mysterious like that I reckon.” Otis replied as he began removing the saddles and feeding the horses fresh hay.
Jack walked over to Celia and kneeled down and gently touched her on the nose, making a funny face.
As Celia let out a long belly laugh at his silliness Jack smiled and a deep sense of satisfaction washed over him like he had never known in his life.
Home had finally found him.