Benoît slipped through the double doors, top hat in the crook of his left arm, a long-barreled Ruger target pistol in his right hand. He didn’t bother to close the doors. He stepped from behind Meyers, startling Dr. DeMilnes who popped off two quick, wild shots, fainted and keeled over. Wick’s and Benoît’s response shots went where the Doctor had been standing and burrowed harmlessly into different volumes of a gilded “Literary Classics” book collection.

Benoît stuck the long-nosed Ruger in Meyers’ side, saying, “I’ll take the 357.”

Archie snort laughed, “Where the fuck you gonna put it, freak?”

“You’re right.” Benoît tossed the chrome cannon towards a corner, shot Archie in the left foot.

Da FUCK! You crazy or somethin you freak ass motherfucker? What the fuck you doin? Shit fuckin hurts, man, know what I’m sayin? Goddam…”

“You don’t shut it,” Benoît honked, repositioning the Ruger, “I’ll ruin the other half of a good pair of boots.”

Archie yelped, turned, hopped away on his good foot, squeezing his bad one with both hands. By the third hop his balance failed, and he twirled down in a slow-motion caricature of an ice skater going to a sit spin, stopped when his ass met the floor. Archie moaned. Rain spit intermittently against the tall windows. Outside, trees swayed, thunder rumbled.

Wichtikl snapped back from the shock of firing his gun, turned it Meyers’ direction, Benoît shot him in the right shoulder at the same time Marcia shot her prone husband in the heart, turned her pistol and shot Benoît in the right chest. He spluttered blood, looked up quizzically at Meyers. “Cavelli’s dead…” he wheeze-honked, grabbed Meyers’ jacket. “I wouldn’t a got paid so her… Her an the Doc… They were off the hook…” His hat fell from the crook of his arm, he handed Meyers his gun, sank to his knees, splutter croaked “Finish my business for me will ya…”  and fell on his face.

Archie dove for his gun, Wichtikl bent to pick his off the table, Meyers barked “Enough!” and put three quick shots from Benoît’s Ruger into the lamp beside Marcia, the desk in front of Wichtikl and the handle of Archie’s 357 that sent it skittering to a stop against the baseboard.

The silence hung heavy and still. After a moment Rifat stepped over, grabbed Archie by the belt and dragged him back, deposited him close to the face-down midget, who still emitted an occasional wet wheeze. Meyers nodded approval.

“I need a word with Mrs. DeMilnes. If Archie or Wick move much, rearrange their faces with the wrench.”

“What about him?” Rifat pointed to Benoît.

“If he moves very much, name a religion after him.”

Meyers walked across the room and Marcia offered no resistance to him collecting her pistol. “Where’d you get this?”

“A used appliance, record store and gas station outside Victoria, Texas. I was seventeen. The man had one of those crates… with peaches on it…” she stared at the hole in her husband’s chest. “The kind they sold at record stores to put albums in. It was full of guns. My boyfriend said, ‘pick one’.”

He shifted off saying, So it was a long time ago, opting instead for “Did you sign anything? Does anyone, friends, family, anyone, know you have it?”


“Your husband’s gun?”

“It’s legal. Registered.” She looked up into his face. “Upstanding citizens, you know. Licenses for everything…”

He picked up her ejected shell casings, pocketed them. “Are your prints on anything incriminating here? The oxy bags… anything? Could any of it get traced back to you?”


He pressed the muzzle of Benoît’s Ruger over the hole in Dr. DeMilnes’ chest, pulled the trigger. She jumped with her husband’s body.

“Go home. The way you came. When you get there, hose the mud off the little four-wheeler and leave it in the rain. Take a shower, wash your clothes. Wait till someone tells you your husband is dead. When they do, flip out. Take some valium, make yourself incapable of talking to anyone. When all this drug shit with him and Wichtikl breaks?” He pointed at Dr. DeMilnes’ carcass with the Ruger. “You’re as surprised as everyone else. Got it?”

“Okay. I…” She looked from her husband to Benoît, “I thought he was going to kill me…” back to her husband. “And thought he’d already paid for it…” back to Meyers. “What was I supposed to do?”

He let that one go.

“What about them?” She side armed a listless wave at the remaining players.

“Go home, Marcia.” He glanced out the window. “Before the rain gets serious.”


Meyers raised the Ruger to Wichtikl’s temple. “New gun, same message. Open the fucking safe.”

“I could say no. You’re going to kill us, regardless.”

“I’m not going to kill anyone, but you’ll wish I had if the safe isn’t open by the time I count to three. One…” He flattened Wicktikl’s hand against the tabletop, pressed the Ruger at the base of his right middle finger. “Two…”

“Boss?” Huntley stood in the doorway; his oversize dark green hooded rain poncho dripped into small puddles by his sock feet. “Rain’s hardly started and that back road’s already bad.” He took in the Doc, Benoît, the blood on Wichtikl’s suit, Archie’s bloody foot and hands. “Did I miss the party?”

“Happy accidents, mostly. This is intentional.” He pressed down on Wichtikl’s hand. “Thhh—” Wichtikl yanked his hand from under the Ruger’s muzzle, turned, hit a spot on the wall in the middle of a frame molding square with the heel of his fist. The square sprung open, revealing a wall safe.

“I’ll give you the damn combination…” Blood from Wichtikl’s shoulder ran down inside his suit coat, staining the sleeve before it dripped from his hand. He slumped, Meyers toed the desk chair toward him, pulled Wichtikl’s silk pocket square as he landed. “Sixteen…” Meyers used the pocket square between his fingers and the dial. Wichtikl murmured “Forty-five, thirty-seven—”

“Slow down.”

“Twenty… Six.”

The safe swung open. Meyers used the silk square to empty it, dealt the contents out on the table.

“You have what you want…” Wichtikl, shocky, despondent. “You said you wouldn’t kill us…”

“I’m a man of my word.” He wrapped the silk around Wichtikl’s 25. “In fact, as soon as I empty and wipe down your guns, you can have them back. My associate will take one bullet for each to the first prep stable out back. First one there wins. Huntley,” Meyers handed off the two rounds wrapped in the silk square.

“Damn. That’s gotta be fifty yards, and it’s a real turd floater out there now.”

“You afraid they won’t make it?”

“Fuck them,” he pulled his shoes out from under the poncho. “It’s these I’m worried about.”


“Not no way this be fuckin fair, know what I’m sayin. That freak ass Ben-wah motherfucker shot my foot. What kind a name is that, you know, Ben-fuckin wah? I can’t run no fifty fuckin yards, you know, my foot fucked up thisaway.”

“Wick’s lost a lot of blood. You want me to shoot you in the shoulder, even it up?”

“Fuck that an you an all this shit, motherfucker. I see my money on the table, you know. You sayin I gotta run fifty yards and kill Wicky, you know, an run back with a shot to fuck foot just to get my money? Then for sure, know what I’m sayin, I be back for it an I’ll kill you an everbody in this fuckin room, you know, bare fuckin handed if I have to.”

“So there’s no misunderstanding, Archie. Even if you make it back alive, none of that money will be waiting for you.”

“The fuck you sayin?”

“I believe he’s saying,” Wichtikl spoke in short, ground out bursts, “that he expects me… to win our race to the stables… kill you and bleed out… in the horseshit. Leaving this mess…” his eyes drifted to Dr. DeMilnes, over to Benoît the midget hit man. “For the police… to make up a story… from the pieces.”

“Well told,” Meyers said. “Huntley’s back. Car keys on the table, gentlemen. Here’s your guns. Let’s make our way to the back door.”


Archie leaned on Rifat, Wichtikl on Meyers, Huntley opened the conservatory doors.

Archie and Wichtikl let go of their support, leaned on opposite door jambs.

“Aren’t you going to fire a starting shot?”

“Too cliché, Wick. Like saying ‘May the best man win’ to you two clowns. Get ready…” Lightning exploded, lit up the field behind the house. “GO!”

Archie limped off at a decent pace. Wichtikl struggled, caught his balance, and headed straight for the lawn tractor. He made it to the tractor, his right side gone limp. He tried to swing up twice with his left arm, made it on the third try.

Archie looked over his shoulder through the sheeting rain, stopped, put Wichtikl’s move together and, dragging his left leg with his left hand, set up an intercept route. Black smoke belched from the tractor’s exhaust, and it lurched forward, the weighted aerator chewing up the field in the tractor’s wake. Archie discovered his intercept route was a fail halfway to the tractor and started a strange one-legged sideways hop, getting his free right arm into it like an upright sidestroke, pulling himself through the rain parallel to what he imagined the tractor’s path would be.

Wichtikl swung the wheel left-handed, headed for Archie, who kept adjusting his sidestroke hop to stay inside the tractor’s turning radius. Wichtikl kept the wheel cranked, Archie got closer and closer until he managed a one-legged leap, caught the wheel with his right hand, got pulled along dragging his legs until he pulled himself up, ripped the wet wheel loose from Wichtikl who flailed away with his good arm at Archie’s head, the tractor continuing its hard right circle under Archie’s weight.

Wichtikl relinquished the wheel altogether, leaned back in the tractor’s saddle and planted his right foot in Archie’s face. Archie, blood spurting from his nose, wrapped the foot in his armpit, wrenched it with his body weight to an ungodly angle, grabbed Wichtikl’s pants leg to claw his way onto the tractor.

Wichtikl stood, his pants slid down to the cockpit floor with Archie. He reached under the seat, came up with a short piece of chain swinging it wildly at Archie’s head. Archie launched himself between chain lashes, bloody head-butted Wichtikl in the groin, staggered him backward. Wichtikl lost the chain and with a desperate grasp from his good hand grabbed a fistful of Archie’s baby fro, dragging Archie with him over the back of the tractor.

If there were screams the storm drowned them out. The tractor slowed to a crawl, meandered across the field eventually coming to rest against a horse jump obstacle where it began to bury its slowly churning rear wheels in the rain softened ground.

I’m Offended #4

Political Pandering in the Wake of Disaster

Twenty-one people in Uvalde, Texas, are dead. Killed by a nutcase with a rifle.

Within half an hour, politicians of all stripes were using this moment of incredible grief and suffering to climb on their soapboxes, fire up their personal spotlights and make noise. Not for the victims. For themselves. “Talking points” on gun control. “Security plans.” Politics has no place photo bombing children in body bags being removed from a school.

If the research numbers are to be believed, there are more guns than people in the United States. Firearm manufacturing could stop tomorrow and there would be plenty of guns to go around. That conversation is a nonstarter.

Plans? Plans are only as good as their execution. That would seem like a bad word choice, but not properly executing a plan leads to, in this example, execution.

Way back in the late 70s I was on a crew that made OSHA safety movies for the petrochemical industry. How to purge tanks and vessels, lock out a pipeline, that kind of thing. Step-by-step actions that not properly executed would lead to, as a manager at the Shell refinery in Pasadena said, “Blowin’ half the damn county away.” You only have to be told once don’t move, don’t push any buttons on your gear, don’t touch anything because some idiot skipped a step and the whole refinery is knee deep in butane to understand the value of a properly executed plan.

Uvalde is a tragedy because of failure to execute several plans.

First – I don’t buy the propped open, not propped open whatever door stories. Bottom line in an elementary school security plan is if you close a door, make sure it’s locked. I know this as my ex son-in-law has been a big-city high school principal for years. Not only did he have armed police officers rotating as resource officers, he had his staff walk the halls checking doors. Getting into one of his schools took ID, a metal wanding, a valid reason to be there at all. It was easier to get into the Dallas courthouse than one of his schools. Security at schools should be as tight as it is at the IRS or the police station. We know there are idiots out there, with guns we can’t control, looking to do big harm. Why was the door in Uvalde even an issue? They had a plan. That, poorly executed, led to execution.

Second – WTF is up with the cops? Nineteen armed, supposedly trained, vest wearing officers of the law standing around with their thumbs in their asses and their minds in Arkansas doing nothing? Jesus. A handful of unarmed civilians went after armed airline hijackers. Not these people. Not a selfless hero gene among them. Clear the rooms in line of fire, kick the door down and shoot the motherfucker. Eliminate the threat. That’s the job. “Collateral” casualties aren’t an issue when he’s already shot damn near everyone in the room.

And the politicians? Look at me! I’m gun control! Look at me! I’m second amendment! Fuck all that. Guns, guns, guns are not the issue. We are way past that. Paying attention, following the plan and protecting our kids is key. If “they” can find seditionists and terrorists with social media bots, why not mass shooting whackos? They advertise. The Uvalde dude advertised. He told people who failed to notify the authorities. There are websites devoted to who killed the most in a mass shooting before they surrendered or went out in a blaze of statistical glory. Serial killers the same. Is it even understandable? No. But the signposts are there.

Should anyone have to wait two weeks, a month, however long, to buy an assault rifle? Who knows? Louisiana has a one year “cooling off” period to finalize a divorce. Maybe it wouldn’t kill us to wait for an assault rifle.

The truth is, if nut cases want to kill a bunch of people, they don’t need an assault rifle.

Or a bunch of politicians or actors grabbing some spotlight time riding the coattails of misery. That shit is beyond offensive, beyond justifiable. Talk, posturing, pandering won’t solve this one. There are too many guns out there. Taking a plan seriously, responsibly, is one step in the right direction toward protecting citizens, not debating guns, or gun rights, box office bankability or political futures.