Covered in writhing dreadlocks like Medusa’s snakes greeting dawn each time Hatchen Verochy shook his head, his denials felt too emphatic.
I kept my eyes locked on his as we dueled for supremacy jabbing each other with verbal interruptions. That Jacobs was the worst of suspects became pitifully obvious. There were worms of guilt that pinched his face, yanking small muscles that twitched the corners of his eyes, pulled at the edges of his mouth. Like snarls of silent rejection for each of my suggestions. Yet he skillfully ignored my prods, answering each with one of his own.
When I left him standing on his porch, fists planted on his hips, glaring, I knew at my receding back, I had exactly what I had when I found him an hour earlier. Nothing.
Verochy was an unrepentant pimp, about six feet tall, skinny like a starved rat, pale white flesh covered with street trash tats, blue eyes, blond hair, teeth too big for his mouth, and smelled like an unwashed dumpster.
He controlled underage girls using drugs, threats, and occasional violence. I, like local law enforcement, wanted him gone. Dead preferably.
The desire to lodge a soft tipped 9mm slug into the useless gray matter slopped between his ears, felt right and necessary. Not that it would’ve made any difference to his personality. And another shit would replace him or a worse bastard within a day.
I stopped when I opened the BMW roadster’s door and glanced over my shoulder just in time to see Verochy lift, aim and fire a semi-auto handgun in my direction. Looked like a Beretta, but I didn’t have time to examine it carefully.
First reaction was to drop, or dive to the ground, but the round arrived a microsecond before I heard the gun’s report. It tore through the muscles of my left shoulder with enough force to twist my torso. If he took a second shot, I’d given him the center of my back for a target.
He didn’t. Instead he said, “Consider that fair warning asshole. You come back looking for me bring an army. You’ll fucking need it.”
I was too busy trying to stop the blood to answer him, knowing by the flow that he likely nicked an artery, which gave me precious little time to reach a hospital.
I fumbled the cell, but managed to punch in 911, told them the problem and sat slowly on the edge of the driver’s seat trying to stay conscious, watching him walk past me without looking my way and continue around the corner.
The more the population grew here on the coast, the more it attracted men who wanted women when they were in town, and other bastards only too anxious to provide the flesh. And then there were the cowards who convinced the young they were the right ones.
Kidnap and kill after seduce and rape, I thought feeling my rage riding the edge of a razor, but it might’ve been consciousness fading quickly.
The ride to the ER was loud, with some woman working hard to pressing a needle into my arm. Bumps in the road made her job more difficult, and my arm feel like a practice target. She finally found a vein, and began dumping a saline solution into me, to replace the blood I lost, I supposed.
With a mask over my face, talking was out of the question, and every time I started to drift off, she said, “Stay with me sir. Can’t have you sleeping on me.”
Wouldn’t be that bad, I thought, but nodded weakly to let her know I could hear her.
I awoke to darkness, flickering lights and occasional voices. When I opened my eyes, Sarah stood a bit too close, but only said, “You fucking jerk.” Her green eyes filled with relief and I could only reach one hand for hers.
“Sorry,” I whispered when she took my hand and squeezed hard enough to rely several emotions. “I have to find her.”
“Thomas told me about Hatchen, said you went to talk to him. I thought you might shoot him not him you.” She brushed a strand of red hair out of her face, pushing it behind her ear.
“Wouldn’t make sense if he has her or knows who does.” I knew from the knit that moved her brow that she had just thought, If she isn’t dead already.
I refused to go anywhere near that thought. If my daughter was, dead, I would never find her remains. Cops gave up weeks, or maybe it was months ago with the usual, ‘we’ve run out of leads, have other cases we gotta deal with.’
I heard, except the obvious, she’s dead and gone.
Happy for the first time ever that I lived in a stand your ground state, I applied for a carry permit and bought the biggest fucking handgun I could find. A long barrel .44. Yeah like those old time “Dirty Harry” movies but meaner, and I had no inclination to hand out second chances. After I found her, I would deal with each person from the one who kidnapped her off the little kayak she had so desperately needed, to the one who held her now.
Combat trained, I knew how to make bodies disappear permanently, without a trace. I looked at my scarred hands, fingers thick with muscles and scar tissue, mentally compared them to Sarah’s and then my daughter’s.
Hands hold all our secrets, I thought, knowing damn well mine did. Ones I’d take to the grave, but not today apparently.
I gave her a squeeze. “I know the worst case, but you know who I am better than anyone. Should I, would I quit?”
She shook her head. “No but you shouldn’t die trying, dammit.”
“Hatchen had a chance to work with me. Now he has no chance but to talk.”
“After they release you,” she said firmly.
I nodded hiding the weak smile that would’ve really pissed her off.
Sarah was close to my age, thirty-seven, maybe an inch shorter then my five eleven, and loved gym time, weighing a healthy 145 to my 186. She had a couple black belts, and was the only woman I knew that I thought capable of kicking whatever ass needed it. She could handle any weapon I knew about.
She stood as if she read my thoughts and said, “See you in the morning.”
I felt her kiss on my cheek and desperately wished I could return it. “Soon darling,” I said softly and watched her face soften as she nodded.
“I know, just please be careful.” She turned and left and I fell asleep as the evening dose of whatever washed through my mind like a gentle tsunami of forgiveness.
I walked out the middle of the fourth night. They wanted me to stay another week, maybe longer. The air was mid-summer hot and humid, felt like a hug from an old friend who’d been missing for years.
My beachfront cottage was dark, the key under the fake rock where I left it, inside felt cool and empty. Showering took time while I avoided wetting the bandaging. Loading my .44 after a thorough cleaning and oiling smelled and felt complete. I dressed for the night including a long sleeve tee to put on at my arrival. Black is midnight’s friend.
Hatchen was smoking weed on his rear porch. I finished preparations, held the .44 slightly behind my left leg since I’m left-handed, always an advantage in a right-handed world. Before Hatchen finished the last pull on his joint, he felt the press of steel at the base of his neck.
“Sit and relax, you fuck,” I said. “Or I shoot you here,” I pressed the barrel harder, “and pieces of your head will be in the neighbor’s front yard.”
He grunted and ground out the joint. “What now?”
“You tell me where she is and I let you live.”
“You ain’t gonna fire off that cannon here. Every cop in town’ll here it.”
“I don’t give a fuck, but if it worries you…” I switched to a knife, letting the blade nick the flesh just below his fifth vertebrae. “A slice here will leave you paralyzed from the shoulders down. And it won’t make a fucking sound loud enough to attract bottle-nosed flies.” I slid the blade until blood ran down his back.
“Okay,” he spoke with real fear, but I’d dealt with madmen and their fear before. It’s usually bullshit. So I cut deeper and heard him gasp.
“Half inch an inch deeper is all I need. After that it’s softer, easier, and quicker.”
“Jesus fucking, I said okay. Last I heard she was with that traveling pimp show from over on twenty-third. The big black guy with the pink patchy skin on his back. Know him?”
“Know him. Watched him burn after he was doused with gas by his competition,” I said. “This turns out bullshit asshole and I’ll be back in the middle of the night, you’ll wake up needing a wheelchair and a tongue.”
I hit him with a blackjack and watched him sag to the porch floor out cold. God I wanted to kill him.
A trip to twenty-third would require heavy weapons and at least one partner.
I’ll see if Sarah’s got a job lined up, I thought and sent her a text.
Meet you there in thirty. She texted back to me.
I smiled and climbed in the car.
Her bike was rolling along 22nd street in the opposite direction. I waved her over and parked in a small, unused parking lot at the corner of 22nd and Main.
“We should walk over,” she said after cutting the motor, leaving a silence that made her words sound louder.
I watched her check the magazine from her 9 millimeter, and when satisfied, she jammed it back it, loaded a round.
I’d done mine previously, and patted it affectionately.
Both of her dressed in black gave us the ability to used shadows and darkened doorways for cover. That late no one was on the streets, and no lights were visible in any windows, but stealth usually prevails.
The pimp’s name was Dean Williams, and I saw him with a couple of his regulars sitting on the steps to his building. He was smoking, chatting, grinning. I heard voices in the distance, but felt that they were not Williams’ people. He wasn’t known for enjoying the company of more than two or three at the time.
I pulled my .44, and raised it, but didn’t pull the trigger when Saran tapped my shoulder.
She leaned in close and said, “Let me get closer to distract him. Then you take him out and I’ll get his posse when they react.”
I nodded and watched her strut along the sidewalk.
Dean saw her a moment later, stood and said, “What the fuck are you doing here white girl?”
She raised her left hand shoulder high. I pulled the trigger and watched the explosion of red, brains, and bone that replaced what was once the useless head of Dean Williams.
Sarah fired off two quick rounds and we were finished.
Moving quickly, she entered the building, knowing we had minutes before the cops arrived.
Deep in a corner of the basement, I located my daughter and five other young girls.
I couldn’t delay to respond to her words, but scooped her up and with Sarah got them all out and into my SUV before we heard sirens.
Thirty minutes later, we were at my farm, listening, watching, and I knew I had one more task that had to be completed before sunrise.
A man is only as good as the threat he keeps.
Two nights later, I stood behind Hatchen Verochy again. This time he knew I arrived. I had screwed a silencer onto the .44 and blew out his kneecaps as I stepped onto his walkway the moment I saw him.
Now he was flat out on his stomach with me kneeling on his spine. I counted down from the base of his skull. When I located the vertebrae I wanted, I jammed the knife in deep, wedged it side to side, and severed his spinal cord.
He could no longer feel the pain in his legs.
I rolled him over, dragged him so he sat with his back against the column supporting the porch. Squatting to look in his eyes, I said. “I’m leaving you your tongue. But if you use it to rat me out, my partner will come for it.”
I stood, stepped back. “Enjoy the rest of your sexless life asshole. They’ll put a tube on you so you can piss.”
Leaving him felt right as the night softly wrapped darkness around my shoulders like a tender reward for justice served completely.