I killed a man last night.
I’m not going to blame it on my upbringing, education, training, or socio-economic status. I’m going to blame it on the fact that he was an asshole, and he deserved it.
Yes, you heard me right – I killed him because the world will be a better place without him. Evil does exist. I didn’t rid the world of all of it by any means, just a little bit. You know that old saying about what is necessary for the triumph of evil?
Well… I believe it.
I’m not naïve or delusional. I know you can’t expect to end someone’s life, no matter how useless it might be, and expect to get away with it.
I know better than most how well our law enforcement works. For the most part, getting caught is a certainty.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m going to try like hell not to. I just accept that particular outcome as a distinct possibility.
I have a plan. I’ll never find redemption. I don’t need redemption.
I could settle for that.
I have a plan – stay alive and don’t get caught. In my particular case, they are, in fact, two different issues. My main concern is the Monsino family – they aren’t likely to overlook the death of their youngest son, even if it was a service to humanity. Getting pinched by the cops was… Well, what it was.
I laid down tracks in the wrong direction before this all started.
The trip to Italy was actually pretty pleasant, even if getting back into the United States with a ‘borrowed’ identity was a little tense. It took some fancy computer work and some spending to keep the paper trail alive, but, to the casual observer or law enforcement official, I was overseas when the crime happened.
Reversing the process was much simpler, by the way. I guess the U.S. government isn’t nearly as concerned with an Italian National leaving the country.
It still seemed like a good idea to change my venue for a bit. I knew who to call. A friend of a friend later, I had a business in Northwestern Kansas that was willing to give me a chance as a truck driver.
With a U-haul rented under a different friend’s name and my pickup tied on behind, I set out on the next phase of the plan.
You stand out when you try to hide. It’s basic psychology – we’re curious about what seems guarded or hidden. That’s why I went to work early to drink coffee and tell stories with the guys, showed up in church, and shopped at the local grocery store on Oak Street.
I did try to avoid the first woman that approached me. That was basic psychology, too. She was perfect – tall, with curly blond hair and a hint of her abs showing through the bright t-shirt she was wearing. You could tell she took care of herself.
Her boyfriend showed up to claim her not long after she’d stopped at my table at the café after work one night. He reminded me of Monsino in every way.
I wondered if he was half as savage.
I saw a lot of the country in those first weeks. It was good work. We ran about eighty hours a week helping farmers get their crops planted. I got to know the guys pretty well, and they got to know me, too.
I’d told them I had family problems, which wasn’t exactly untrue. They seemed to respect that – I’d learned each of their stories in return.
Honestly, I thought things were going well until the Sherriff knocked on my door Saturday night.
“Are you Sam Maxwell?” He asked when I opened the door.
He was a burly old guy with a graying short-boxed beard, tan uniform and cowboy hat. He looked like he came from a movie set in Texas in the seventies. “I am. I take you to be the Sheriff.”
“I am.” He extended his hand, and I shook it. “Walter Briggs.”
I tried hard not to let my voice crack. “What can I do for you, Sheriff?”
“A couple of things, really,” he said. “First, I need to talk to you about your pickup. County law says you need to license your vehicle in the county if you’re going to live here.”
I smiled knowingly. “I can do that. I’ve just been busy with planting season. I know – county needs the money.”
Briggs grinned a little. “They gotta pay me somehow.”
“I’ll get it Monday. It’s supposed to rain anyway,” I said.
“Fair enough,” Briggs said, shifting a little. “We ran a make on you to figure out the plate. Your jacket makes for interesting reading. I’m not sure what to make of it.”
“I just needed a change, Sheriff. It was a tough life.”
“Well, it looks like you’ve had at least one of those,” Briggs said. “Most of our emergency services are volunteer. I need you too volunteer, Sam. After I read your file, you stood out.”
New York license plates stand out when you’re anywhere except for New York. The black SUV with the tinted windows might as well have had a billboard over the top of it when I pulled into the station to get fuel for my semi. Part convenience store, restaurant, truckstop, and located at the intersection of two major highways, it was the activity center for this end of Kansas.
I avoided the place like the plague when I could, but it was the only diesel pump around. Keeping an eye out for the occupants of the SUV, I went about my business. I didn’t pay any attention when I heard another diesel engine rattle up behind me. After all, it was a truckstop.
“You look like you’ve messed with the wrong guy, and now you hope he doesn’t find you, Sam. You alright?”
Stunned, I turned around to see Sheriff Briggs pumping fuel into his Dodge.
“It’s just been a long week, Sheriff.”
“Season’s about over. You’re going to have some spare time soon,” Briggs said. “You thought any more about coming to work for me?”
“You really think I want to swim in blood, walk through fire, and dodge bullets for free?” I asked.
“I have doughnuts, too,” Sheriff Briggs said. “Besides, it doesn’t hurt to have the Sheriff on your side once you figure out you just fucked with the wrong guy.”
The black SUV swerved into my lane and I swerved into the ditch. It happened that fast – I don’t think it was a reflex built into truck drivers as much as it was a reflex built into human beings.
We were biologically wired to avoid killing other people.
The crash actually happened pretty slowly. I even had hopes of getting the truck back on the road again, but I knew it was over once the truck started to lean. It’d just rained and it was a heavy old truck, so hopefully –
When I opened my eyes or ‘came too’ or whatever it was, I realized I was in deep shit, and not because of the damage I had done to the semi.
“Maxwell, come on out and we’ll get this over with,” a man’s voice shouted in a distinct Italian accent.
Getting the seatbelt loose was easy, but kicking the windshield out took too long. The ground outside was slippery beneath my feet – I half rolled up the side of the ditch and into the cornfield.
I’d thought the bare soil might let me run, but my legs collapsed under me when I tried to get to my feet.
“You’re just going to die tired,” a second voice shouted from behind me. “And slowly, if you piss me off!”
I tried again and my knees held. I ran as hard as I could. Distance was time – if I could stretch this out, I had a chance.
Sheriff Briggs’ Dodge was wound as tight as it would go when he popped over the hill in front of me. The highway I was running beside was a busy one – someone had called the crash in.
He slowed a little, but didn’t stop when he passed me.
He sees them.
I /didn’t know what I was going to do, but I turned around anyway. There was no way I was going to leave anyone else to deal with what I started.
Briggs flew up beside their SUV and was out of his pickup on the passenger side with unbelievable speed and what appeared to be an assault rifle.
“Drop your weapons!” He shouted. “I am the County Sheriff and I will fire! Drop your weapons!”
Just as cut off as I was, they decided their only choice was to fight.
The exchange of gunfire was both louder and longer than I would have thought.
The silence was earsplitting.
There was nothing. There wasn’t a car on the road, a cow in the pasture or a bird in the sky. The two guys that chased me were sprawled on the ground. Brigg’s pickup looked like it had been driven through Baghdad but there was no activity around it.
I ran for Briggs as hard and fast as I’d run from the two guys that were now bleeding out in the cornfield. I didn’t care about getting caught, going to jail or winding up dead. I didn’t want anyone else to pay the price for what I had done.
I’d seen plenty, but I looked away from what was left of Briggs when I got around his pickup. I’d killed him – I just didn’t pull the trigger.
So… To save one good police officer, I’d killed another.
After Little Georgie Monsino’s death had been ruled accidental, I’d actually started to move past it. I had started to believe it was over.
I was wrong. It was just starting.
I pulled out my cell phone and dialed. I told the dispatcher what I’d seen, and I didn’t run.
I would never run again.