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After the Revenge

After violently avenging the murder of his family, a man questions his own morality.

The question was whether I should kill him very slowly or just slowly. He was sitting on the ground badly injured after his fall. His back was propped up against the base of a large rock. I kept my revolver aimed at his chest. I was standing about ten feet away.

“Ya gotta be hubbie, right?” he asked. “Cause ya sure don’t look like no cop or ranger.”

“Yes,” I responded. “I’m the husband.”

“Yer a lucky man!” he said. “She was one hot lady! Woo-hoo! What was her name? Mary?”

Mary was my wife. We had been together for ten years, and we had a six year old son.

“Why did you do it?” I asked. “We didn’t even know you. Why?”

“Well, I’m not sure exactly what yer talkin’ about,” he said. “Are ya askin’ why I cut up yer pretty wife’s face? Are you askin’ about what I did to yer kid? Ya gotta be specific.”

My grip on the revolver grew tighter. He noticed.

“Ever killed anybody?” he asked.

“No,” I said.

“Gonna pop yer cherry on me?” he asked. “Good fer ya! Do it.”

“I’m thinking about it,” I said.

“Ya got balls. I’ll give ya that,” he continued. “Ta come lookin’ fer me like ya did. Yer just lucky I fell. I woulda spotted ya before ya ever got close. I’d be guttin’ ya right now while you was hangin’ from a tree.”

He pointed to a bone sticking out through the skin on his left leg.

“Damn thing hurts. Got a aspirin?” Then he laughed.

He was right. I was lucky. Or I had divine intervention. He was tall, muscular, an avid outdoorsman. The papers described him as an expert in firearms and killing. I was a high school art teacher that needed to lose thirty pounds and sometimes walked in the park. And the only weapon that I knew was my revolver. I had bought it and trained with it after a local crime spree so that I could protect my family.

He had fallen down a steep bluff, perhaps several hours before. He had the obvious compound fracture of the left leg, but his other leg was bleeding badly. It looked like the knee was dislocated. I saw his rifle on the ground about twenty yards away. He winced a little when he tried to breathe deeply. He probably had cracked or broken ribs too.

“Nice revolver,” he said as he looked at it. “Classic. Smith and Wesson? Double-action?”

“Yes,” I said. “I don’t have to cock it to fire it. Hair trigger when it’s cocked. And it is.”

It was still pointed at him, and my hand was trembling.

“Hey,” he said. “Shoot me or uncock the damn thing, will ya? That hand is shakin’ so bad ya might shoot me by mistake. Wouldn’t want that, would ya? Hell, maybe ya would.” He laughed again.

I pointed the revolver to the side and decocked it. Then I re-aimed it at his chest using my two-hand grip.

“How’d ya find me?” he asked.

“I monitored police radio,” I explained. “You’re all over the news. They said you might take off for this area. I just came here and listened to the scanner. Tactical frequencies. I heard the search parties.”

“How come the cops didn’t kick ya out?” he asked.

“It’s pretty rough country around here, and it’s a big area. It wasn’t too hard to avoid the police and get into the search zone unseen. I guess the rest was luck.”

He just sat there smiling.

“You ever stop smiling?” I asked. “You must be sick. You must be insane.”

“That’s right, buddy,” he said. “I need help! Lotsa help! I need head help! I need leg help! So how bout takin’ out yer phone and callin’ the cops and they can come ‘n get me!”

Then he pointed to his crotch.

“Lucky I don’t need no help here!” he said. “It works just fine! Always did! Like fer yer missy, Mary!”

“You really don’t deserve to live,” I said.

“No argument here!” he replied. “My Daddy always said the same thing! Shoot me! Course I am a unarmed, hurt man. Helpless. Would be in cold blood. Do it anyway! Then I’ll see ya in hell in a few years. I hear they got good bars there. We’ll have a beer and talk about old times. You bein’ single and free again you’ll have lots a stories to tell me! Damn, tell ya what! When we meet, I’ll buy ya the first drink! Promise!”

I was exhausted. I was running on hatred and adrenalin. It was time to decide what I was going to do.

“What ya do for a livin’?” he asked.

“I’m an art teacher,” I replied. “A high school art teacher.”

“Ya like the little boys too? Ya art guys usually like the little boys. I mean, I ain’t knockin’ it. I do too! Just makin’ a observation.”

That pushed me over the edge. I fell into the darkness. I moved in closer, to about six feet.

“What you gonna do? How come yer gettin’ so close?” he asked. He pointed to his crotch again. “Wanna come closer? Ya wanna kiss it? Suck it, maybe?”

I carefully aimed where he was pointing, cocked, and fired. His finger was gone and so was what he was pointing at.

“Yeeeow!” he screamed. “Damn! Wow! You ain’t kiddin’, are ya? I’ll be damned. Didn’t think ya had the balls.”

“Who doesn’t have then now?” I asked.

Then I aimed and fired a round into his left shoulder.

“Woo hoo!” he shouted. “I got me a mean mutha here!”

Then one in his right shoulder.

“Youuuch!” he screamed. “Yeah, I’ll be buyin’ the first round! We’ll meet in a bar! The first drink is on me!You just like me now, boy.”

He collapsed onto his side on the ground. I watched him for a minute or two. He was still breathing when I walked over and put the last three rounds in his head. He died smiling.

***************************
After the second hung jury the State gave up on prosecuting me. I was a free man. I actually became the local town hero. I maintained my notoriety as the years passed by and enjoyed the concomitant fringe benefits, including lots of free drinks at the local bars and many ladies who wanted to share a bed.

The pain of my loss never went away, but I learned to live with it. Well, at least to survive with it. I drank a lot. I smoked a lot. I did other bad stuff a lot. But I managed to show up and teach most days, and the town cut me some slack knowing my past history.

I became very withdrawn. About the only people that I talked to after work were my best friend, Terry, and my lawyer Hal whom I got go know well because of the trials. The bad dreams came and went. I often saw that face saying, “You just like me now, boy.” The years slowly passed.

And one day so did I. Twenty-five years were gone. I was sixty-eight, in a hospital bed, and dying. Terminal lung cancer. Aided and abetted by a quarter century of heavy smoking, drinking, snorting, whoring, and all the other good stuff. Both Terry and Hal were sitting in chairs at my bedside. We all knew that I didn’t have much time left.

“Are you in pain?” Terry asked. The monitor kept beeping and the IV kept dripping.

“Not physically,” I said. “The hospice care here is really good. God, those people are angels! Angels of mercy. Probably the last angels that I’ll ever see.”

Terry shook his head. Hal spoke up.

“You have to forgive yourself,” Hal said. “That man was pure evil! You did the world a favor by killing him. Hell, they found fourteen bodies buried on his property afterwards. God knows what he did to those people before he killed them!”

“I tortured a helpless human being and I killed him,” I said.

“You were the instrument through which justice was delivered!” Terry interjected.

“Ah! I was an agent of God, and not the Devil! A comforting thought,” I said.

“Maybe,” Hal opined. “Maybe you were. He wasn’t human. He might have looked human. He might have sounded human. But he wasn’t. The things he did disqualified him from membership in the human race!”

“An interesting argument,” I observed. “A behavioral definition of humanity. Something to ponder.”

“Look,” Terry said. “you’ve spent your life teaching kids about truth and beauty. The only violent thing you ever did was to avenge an act that demanded vengeance. That cried out for vengeance.”

“I could have handed him over to the cops and let the system deliver vengeance,” I said.

“And what then?” Terry said. “ We don’t have the death penalty anymore. If the cops got him he would have wound up in some institution at taxpayer’s expense. And he could have, heck probably would have eventually killed another inmate or some poor worker! You did nothing wrong. Don’t worry. You’ll see your angels again.”

“Want to know his last words to me?” I said. I knew that they did. I had never shared them with anyone, not even my lawyer. Both men leaned forward in their chairs.

“It was after I had shot him three times. He said that he and I were alike now. That we would meet in a bar in Hell one day. And that when we did, he would buy me the first drink.” My eyes got teary.

“Why are you crying?” Hal asked.

“Because,” Terry said, “the statement brings back memories. That’s how he met Mary. She bought him a drink.”

Hal turned to look at Terry.

“He and I were together in a bar,” Terry explained. “sitting in a booth. We were young. It was a wild night! Lot’s of hot girls dancing and strutting their stuff! Music blaring. Ah, those were the days. To be young again!”

We all smiled at that thought.

“Anyway,” Terry continued, “a waitress dressed in next to nothing came up and tapped him on the shoulder. She said someone wanted to buy him a drink. He turned and looked at the bar and there was Mary, waving and smiling. They got married three weeks later.”

Hal turned back and looked at me.

“I’m sorry,” Hal said. “I didn’t know.”

“No reason to be sorry,” I observed.

“Look,” Hal said, “I’ll say it again. All you did was get justice.”

“What I did is against the law,” I pointed out.

“The law and justice have nothing to do with one another!” Hal asserted. Justice is about truth and what’s right! The legal system is just about verdicts, what can be proven in courts according to some arbitrary set of rules. Criminal Justice System is a misnomer. It should just be called the Verdict System! What’s legal and what’s right are totally different things. I should know. I’m a lawyer! And so did the people who didn’t vote to convict you.”

“He’s right,” Terry said. “You’ve got to see that he’s right.”

“Well, maybe one day I’ll see the light!” I quipped. “And now you guys have to go. I need some rest. I’m really tired.”

Both men arose. Terry came over and patted my hand.

“See you tomorrow,” he said.

Hal waved good-bye.

“Tomorrow,” Hal said. “Afternoon. I have to be in court in the morning.”

The two headed for the door.

“Wait,” I said. “There’s something I have to say.”

The two men paused and looked back at me.

“Thank you. I love you both. Thank you for everything you’ve done through the years.”

The two were silent. Then Hal tapped Terry on the shoulder and said, “Let’s go.” They left. And then I died.

*******************************
I looked down at my body in the hospital bed. I saw the nurses run in. I heard the monitor alarm that sounds when you flat line. But I had a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ order in effect, so there was no frenetic rush of activity. A doctor eventually verified my death, and covered me with a sheet. It was actually very serene and peaceful.

And then I felt like I was just floating. I wasn’t happy; I wasn’t sad. I was just floating somewhere, going somewhere. Suddenly, as if I were in a movie, things started to fade in all around me. Streets. Buildings. Sidewalks, curbs, streetlights, and a sky. And then I heard music.

I was standing in an alleyway near a side entrance of some drinking establishment. I looked down at my hands and they were smooth and soft. I was young again!

I listened to the noises coming from inside. Laughter. Chatter. Singing. I opened the door and went in.

I looked around. It was a pretty hot scene that reminded me of my bachelor days. Guys coming on to girls. Girls coming on to guys and other girls. A lot of cleavage. A lot of skin showing.

I noticed a vacant booth, one of those with small seats and a narrow table made for just two. I figured no one would care if I used it so I sat down with my back to the bar.

It took about thirty seconds for a server to come over. She was wearing shorts two sizes smaller than mini and an almost nonexistent top. Someone cranked up the volume and the music got even louder.

She leaned towards me.

“What can I get ya, Hon?” she yelled over the din.

“A beer,” I yelled back over the noise. “Whatever you have on tap.”

The music grew even louder. The amp was cranked way up so the bass guitar beats literally made my chest pound. The place was packed so it was pretty warm in there.

Suddenly I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was the server. She leaned over and whispered in my ear.

“Hey, Hon,” she said. “somebody over there at the bar wants to buy you a drink.”

I turned around to look, and saw the familiar face smiling at me…..

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than storiesspace.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © © Lee Goldberg 2011, 2012, 2013. All Rights Reserved. Contact info: leegpoetry@gmail.com

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