2nd Place – September 2018

The Reckoning

by Gary Christenson

“Dad, two policemen delivered bad news.” John, my son, called three nights after my only granddaughter, Alice, failed to visit as she had promised. His voice broke and I heard sobs.
In my heart I knew what had happened. “Tell me.”
Between bouts of crying he explained. “They found my baby girl’s body. She had car trouble driving to see you, walked toward a roadhouse on the highway to use the phone, and ran into some bikers, bad people. The police said they were high on drugs, and they raped and killed her. Her injuries showed she fought them, but couldn’t survive against five huge men crazed on meth.”
The arteries in my throat pounded, my perpetual headache intensified, and my blood pressure spiked. I gripped the phone and squeaked out, “No, not our Alice!”
“I had to identify her body.” He broke down again. I heard choking sounds.
I pounded my fist into the wall by the phone. The heart ache hurt far worse than the pain in my hand after smashing the wall. “She was only eighteen.” My throat locked up for several moments. John remained silent. I asked him, “Did they get the bastards who did it?”
“The cops took five guys into custody, but they claim they’re innocent. They lawyered up with a high-priced shyster out of Dallas who represents their biker brotherhood. Their drug business is profitable, and they move a lot of merchandise so they can afford the best.” I heard contempt and resignation in his voice.
I asked, “You think they’ll go to trial?”
“Who knows with this legal system? They should execute the bastards.” His voice sounded like dry leaves blowing in the wind.
I waited for the rest of the story.
“Her funeral is in three days. Tammy and I hope you’ll feel up to it.” His voice broke when he said “funeral.”
After a few moments I said, “Yeah, I’ll be there. I’ll take my meds so I won’t cause a scene.”
“I’m sorry I had to give you bad news. We know how much you loved Alice.”
He hung up and I drank myself into oblivion. The following days were worse than usual.
Several weeks after the funeral the police released the five alleged murderers citing an improper search warrant. I wondered how much drug money the shyster paid the judge and the size of the shyster’s skim. I watched the television news and fumed.
“My clients were falsely accused of a heinous crime. Justice was served by releasing them.” The shyster pontificated from the Dallas courthouse steps into a dozen microphones. The video showed him acting smug, superior and despicable.
My head throbbed with pain and my hands shook with rage. I doubled over with gut pain and gobbled a handful of pain pills. The doc had told me months ago, “It’s just a matter of time.”
The next morning I hurt. After the pain pills took the edge off my ever-present misery, I decided to finish this while I still could. Pictures of the five killers were on-line. I printed them, memorized their faces and planned their reckoning.
Three days later I knew where they drank, their bikes, colors, and more than necessary about the drugs they distributed in a three-state area. On-line news stories confirmed Alice was the latest victim in a dozen or more rapes and deaths connected with them. Witnesses changed stories, died and disappeared, but they never testified.
The more I discovered, the more I hated these animals. I shadowed them for two more days and found a concealed location beside the highway where I observed their favorite roadhouse. The hunter in me took charge and ignored the pain. I smelled death in the air.
My son accepted what they did to his daughter as God’s will, but I’m built differently. I’ll balance the scales like we did in ‘Nam.
The poker game happened without me, but the other six players, all ex-military buddies, would testify I played in the game for over five hours, won fifty bucks, and left when the game finished.
Instead of playing poker, I waited about four hundred yards down the road from their favorite watering hole which was set back from an empty highway. The killers rushed inside after parking their Harleys in the front lot. Minutes later I drilled the closest bike with a .308 sniper round. Gasoline poured on the ground but didn’t ignite.
I blasted a second round into another Harley. The third blew a front tire with a loud bang. A black-clad figure emerged and yelled. His voice carried. Through my scope I saw his angry facial contortions.
The other four killers ran outside to examine their bikes, searched for the shooter and screamed obscenities.
From four hundred yards I can execute a head shot nine out of ten times. I shot a bullet into the forehead of the first. He dropped like a bag of cow manure. The second collapsed when I slammed a 145 grain slug into his wide-open mouth seconds later.
After seeing two of his buddies drop, the third killer ducked behind a Harley for cover. The others scrambled toward shelter inside the bar. I took one down with a shot to his chest as he ran and nailed the other as he charged toward the front door.
The last one stood and raised his hands. He waved a white handkerchief as a sign of surrender. I whispered, “You get the same consideration you gave my Alice.” I shot him between the eyes. He crumpled where he stood.
The five killers lay unmoving in the parking lot. I put two more rounds into the front door to discourage fellow drinkers. Minutes later I drove my truck down a dirt road toward home.
I hated to dump a good sniper rifle, but I wouldn’t need it again. The rifle sank to the bottom of a lake.
As expected, the cops arrived to question me the next day. “Mr. Cranston, we understand Alice Cranston was your granddaughter. We’re sorry for your loss.”
The older one paused and then attacked. “We charged five individuals with her murder, but Judge Johnson released them on a technicality. Someone killed them yesterday around four p.m. from a considerable distance. You served as a Marine sniper in ‘Nam. Is that correct?”
I stared at them with no expression and answered, “Yes.”
“And you’ve had a few scrapes with the law?”
“Ancient history.” I coughed up blood and spit into a tissue.
Both cops frowned and glanced at each other. “Where were you yesterday between three and five in the afternoon?”
“Playing in our regular poker game at a buddy’s house.” I smiled through the pain.
“We’ll need their names and addresses.” The senior cop’s beady eyes missed nothing.
Convincing him I played in the poker game on the day of retribution was as insignificant as a fart in a thunderstorm.
“Someone shot those bikers with a .308 round, a favorite of Marine snipers. May we see your rifle?” His words sounded polite but his eyes bored holes in my face.
“Sorry. I sold it at a gun show years ago. I have no use for a rifle these days.” I was certain he knew I lied.
They left with names and numbers jotted in their notebooks. I shut the door and swallowed several pain pills.
The next morning my gut hurt worse than usual. The blood in my stool looked like I had butchered a chicken in the toilet. It smelled worse than I felt. My check-out date was close.
I loaded a handgun and drove to Dallas to find the shyster attorney who had helped the killers escape prosecution for years. Those predators should have rotted in prison. Instead, he enabled them to terrorize and kill innocents like my beloved granddaughter. The shyster attorney was no better than the killers he protected.
An avenging spirit surged through my body. I would balance the scales of justice on my terms and perform a .45 caliber reckoning. His departure time was near.



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