(a work of fiction)
The barrel of the handgun looked as big as a sewer pipe. My brain was screaming, “Ohhh Shit! Let me outa here!” It may have been trying to crawl out of my ears. My feet were rooted to the floor and my knees bounced off one another trying to decide if they were going to be able to keep the rest of me from joining my feet. My vision narrowed to that sewer pipe full of darkness and the two wild eyes just above it. My ears focused on the gunman and all other sounds fled into the distance. I could hear his clothes rustle as he moved. I think I heard his knuckles pop as he pushed that big gun at me and screamed, “Gimme da money!”
I heard my mouth say, “Yeah sure.” and I felt my hands pop the cash drawer out without having to look at the register. My hands came up with fists full of ones and five’s. I held the money out to him.
“Inna Bag!” He screamed pushing the muzzle of his cannon at my face. “Put it inna bag! Quick! Hurry UP! Fuck-head!”
I was still staring at that sewer pipe. My hands worked furiously on their own -money sack, money sack,
“Get it All Fuck-head!” he screamed. My hands snatched the cash drawer out of the register and dropped it before scooping the big bills and checks out of the space below. -Money sack, Money Sack- My hands dropped the rolled coin in and shoved the sack across the counter.
“Is that ALL Fuck-head?” he screamed, waving that cannon so that my eyes had trouble following the end of the barrel.
My hands came up empty. “All.” my mouth agreed. My neck decided to join in and made my head nod.
“That’s all. Have a nice day.” My mouth said. My neck nodded my head furiously.
-What do you mean have a nice day?- My brain screamed. -This ass hole is gonna put a hole in us. Feet! Run!-
In slow motion I saw the eyes start to narrow and the finger begin to tighten. My brain checked out with a long scream and I saw my hands come up off the counter with the sack of money. The heavy rolls of coin gave it the weight of a weapon at the end of my arms and the arc was just right. The coins smacked into that sewer pipe and knocked it aside. As the sack hit the gun the bottom broke and it began to loose its contents, bills and checks flew out of the end of the bag like water spraying from a hose. A roll of quarters hit the gunman in the middle of the forehead and disintegrated in a ringing shower of silver. My body was moving to the right opposite the momentum of the money sack when the sewer pipe exploded and the heavy lead slug blew a quarter-sized hole in the wall behind me.
My feet and knees decided to join the rebellion of my arms and threw me over the counter at the gunman. The sack of money, still holding a couple of rolls of quarters came singing and flapping back to catch the gunman on the right side of his head. I saw the heavy end of the sack hit him and I heard his teeth come together with a loud clack. He collapsed as if someone had turned all of his bones to water.
All during this eternity my brain was screaming, “NOOOoooooo!” But my mouth was busy on its own. I heard my mouth call the gunman every name it knew. The gun went spinning away into the corner somewhere and my feet decided it was good to kick a man when he’s down.
When my feet were tired of kicking him my eyes searched for his gun. My brain was still screaming as my feet walked over to the gun and my hands picked it up from the floor. As I turned back with the gun in one hand the gunman suddenly jumped at me. From somewhere I heard the gun go off. The gunman stiffened and then collapsed a little. My other hand grabbed a hand full of jacket and held him up. I saw the terror in his eyes. My brain started screaming again as I felt my finger pull the trigger again, and again.
Each explosion sent a thrill up my arm and into my brain. As the light in his eyes died I came back together. I let him fall to the floor. The floor and wall behind him was drenched in his blood. I looked down and saw the smoke rising from the bloody barrel of the gun clenched in my hand. Smoke also leaked from the ruin of his stomach. The gun’s slide was locked back. I sat the gun on the counter and went outside to sit down on the curb.
The police arrived with their sirens screaming and winding up the night into tight little bundles that burst behind my eyes.
Two days later my feet took me into a gun shop and I watched as the rest of me selected and bought a used forty-five auto, two boxes of shells.
Later that week, I had to wait the three days, I was sitting in my car across the street from a liqueur store. In the dark. Waiting. It was like I knew what was going to happen.
As the car came to a stop in front of the store the night got lighter. I could see every detail as the driver slid out and walked to the door. He hesitated there with his hand on the door and quickly scanned the street. When he went in I slid out of my car.
Suddenly I felt very detached. It seemed as if I was watching myself lope across the street. I could see the robber as he screamed at the clerk. I felt like I was watching a movie as I stepped through the door. The gunman was so busy yelling at the clerk and the clerk was so mesmerized by his gun that neither of them noticed me until my gun touched the back of the robber’s head. Suddenly it got very quiet.
Inside my head my brain was whispering, kill him, kill him. I felt a tight grin on my face.
“You really fucked up.” My mouth said quietly.
The robber grinned, “And what you gonna do, Cop? Blow my head off?”
“I’m not a cop.” My mouth replied. His face went a shade whiter.
“I’m sorry, man. I didn’t know this was yo turf.” he said shakily.
“Not my turf. All my turf. It doesn’t matter to you. ‘Cause you’re just meat.” My finger began to take up the slack in the trigger. My brain’s litany was growing louder and louder. Kill him. Kill Him.
“Wai..” His last word was cut off as the forty-five exploded and his brains and blood painted the wall and the cigarette display. His body dropped twitching to the floor. The ejected shell casing tumbled through the air sparkling in the overhead lights. My free hand snaked up and caught it. The heat from firing it bit the palm of my hand as my fingers curled around the bright brass.
As I turned to go I looked at the clerk. His eyes were wide, the pupils dilated with fear. His face and red counter shirt were speckled with bits of blood and gray flecks of brain and off-white pieces of skull. He collapsed into the chair he kept there and I went back through the front door. I heard him retching as I walked away. I don’t remember the rest of that night.
The next morning the papers and the TV news went on endlessly about the vigilante. The clerk couldn’t provide the police with anything firm on the man who had killed his assailant.
The following week, I killed three more. The first was beating a man after taking his car. The second was robbing another store. The third was holding a young girl by the hair and threatening to kill her if she didn’t take all of her clothes off. By the time the third rescue had come from the barrel of my forty-five the press was evenly divided between calling me a madman and screaming at the police. The police had three dead felons, three very vocal survivors, three dented forty-five-caliber slugs, and not a clue.
That’s how it started. One night behind the counter staring at the end of my life in the hands of a stranger, the rest of my life walking out of the dark and making it end. The police wandered in circles trying to catch me. They never seemed serious about it. I killed three that first month, two the next and five in the third. By the time I had done ninety days, the papers were noting the difference in the crime rate. The mayor was soft peddling it and the cops were split between trying to catch me and making me a deputy. I was beginning to wonder if I was doing the right thing.
Then the Feds got into the act. The national news picked up the story after the sixth month. America’s Most Wanted played videotape from two of the convenience store robberies I ended. The first was my first night. The second was from a bad one that left the clerk dead. I was just a bit late. On the screen I watched myself walk in just seconds after the killer had blown the clerk’s head off. The video froze to allow the voice-over to say, “At this point the clerk is dead of a gunshot wound to the head. The clerk’s body is out of site behind the counter.” When they started the video again my image entered the door. I watched myself walk in and without saying a word I made it end.
The narrator continued, “The Vigilante shot the suspect without warning. His bullet killed the suspect immediately, without the benefit of trial, without due process. He murdered the suspect. His actions were no less murder than the killing of the store clerk. We have to bring this monster’s reign of terror to an end.”
Fortunately the video never showed my face clearly. I decided to always spend the time getting the tape.
I don’t remember standing with bowed head over the dead clerk. On the screen I stood and sobbed.
AMW screwed up by showing that part. Email and phone calls ran twenty to one in my favor that night.
People started calling in and confessing or giving bad tips. The Trib’s Op-ed renamed me "The Avenger” in what was supposed to be biting satire of police and the “gun-nuts” that thought vigilantism was any kind of cure.
Then the crime rate fell again.
An ultra conservative talking head started telling the cops and the public to leave me alone.
I stopped another carjack and a rape and chased some gang-bangers off a tourist that didn’t give up his wallet fast enough.
The tourist rolled onto his side and folded himself around his belly full of pain. As I checked him for injuries the lead gang-banger stepped out of the shadowy mouth of an alley.
“Hey! You!” he yelled, waving a chromed semi-auto around. “Yeh! You! You pretendin’ to be him ain’t ya!” I felt the civilian begin to tremble under my left hand. The 45 hung in my right, solid, predictable.
The Gang-banger waved his piece but was careful not to point it at me. I stood slowly.
“Yeh! What? You think I’m stupid? You think I don’t know he’s taller, bigger than you? You just a punk!”
He started to swing his piece toward me and my first round took him in the left eye. The back of his head and most of his brain spattered the punks behind him. Another banger stepped into the light with a mac-10 in each hand. Before he could raise them, my second round hit him in the chin. He was a little guy and most of his head disappeared into a red mist that rained down. His body collapsed and his twitching hands squeezed off three short bursts of nine-millimeter whizz-bangs down the alley behind him. The alley echoed the slap of their panicked retreat and I went back to Mr. Hawaiian shirt. He wasn’t hurt, a couple of bruises and a scraped knee. His wallet was in the leader’s pocket. I wiped the gore off it as best I could on the corpse’s wife-beater and held it out to him.
“Take the cash and just hand me the cards.” He said. In the distance a siren started to wind the night up into bright little balls of pain behind my eyes. I dropped the wallet at his feet and turned to go.
“Wait!, you are him, aren’t you.”
“No?” He said, his voice squeaked a little.
“No, I’m no super hero. I’m just doing what I have to. I have to make it end.”
“What? Make what end?” He asked, his face growing more concerned.
“This.” I said and kicked the corpse of the banger. “And that.” I said, thrusting the gun at the other dead banger. The cop car was definitely getting closer.
“Go that way.” I told him, pointing towards the intersection where I know the cops would be appearing shortly.
I turned and started away.
“I was looking for you.”
I turned back. “You were looking for me?” I asked.