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One Last One






One Last One



            At precisely 7:05 PM, Benton found a piece of street that he knew was going to be about as close to “home” as he figured he could get to.  The day had been long and draining, and his travels to get there even longer.  He rubbed his shoulders and elbows; his joints suffered more than they usually did.

            He wanted to blame the discomfort on the beads of rain that shot straight from the clouds and pelted his face in a direct onslaught.  Rainy weather always played Hell with his “Uncle Arthur”, as he liked to refer to it.  He’d gotten used to it over time.  Still, it was no less tolerable.  And when the rainy weather came calling to add that little something special?

            Nope.  Not tonight.  It was something else.

            He groaned, settled back against the wall, and sheltered under the plastic tarp as unassuming as he could.

            A trembling hand reached down to his tattered jacket pocket and found the flask of Jack, and a gentle smile came to his face.  Relief.  Relief for his joints.  Relief for his nerves.  He knew it was something that he shouldn’t be doing; Dr. Falsey had told him so on many occasions.  But to Benton, just because it was something that he shouldn’t be doing didn’t mean it was something he wouldn’t be doing.  He was rebellious like that.

            He brought the flask to his lips as he wrapped the tarp tighter around him, closed his eyes, and sipped, allowing the medicine to work unimpeded to the parts that needed it the most.  Jack was a two-requirement deal tonight.

            He needed relief.

            But he also needed courage so that he could play the part, because this was not going to be a usual or ordinary evening.

            This one was going to be personal.

            The gentle rain did nothing to stop the foot traffic, which was good.  The city was still busy with its usual activity, and this made Benton settle a bit, but not completely.  Nothing was unusual.  The pedestrians maintained the brisk city pace back and forth in front of him that the moment soon-to-come would require.  Across the street, the El platform was jammed with riders waiting on the 7:20.  Most of them were engrossed in the sad misdirection of whatever was on their cell phones, rather than paying attention to the closer world around them.  Good for Benton, too – the further they were away from understanding and reacting to what was going to take place in a few minutes, the cleaner and quicker Benton would be able to make this.

            And those others that weren’t engrossed in their phones? 

            Benton smirked.  They were about to get a hell of a show, he’d think to himself later.

            He hooded the tarp carefully so that he could still watch the humanity shuffle around him and still keep dry.  One last thing to do before springing, he thought.  One more reason why.  He exhaled deeply.

            The same hand that reached for the flask earlier now reached inside his jacket pocket and extracted two photographs, both of them bent and frayed with time and handling.  He didn’t really need the pictures, he thought, not really.  The memories of the day had been branded into his brain anyway, and they still smoldered.

            But still…a visual certainly didn’t hurt.  It was a tangible.  Something he could actually touch, feel.

            Seethe with.  Make a weapon out of.

            In one picture, Sarah was happy, joyful, full of life.  The day of her 33rd birthday had been the best.  Everyone that was anyone that should have been there was.

            The other picture?  Not so much.  Quite not so much.  It was taken shortly after she’d plowed into the ground from seven floors up.  It certainly did not portray her in her best light, needless to say.  And unlike her 33rd birthday, not a soul was around to see this one. 

            His fingers pinched the edges of the picture like he was trying to cut off the lifeblood that was keeping it alive.  He hated the goddamned picture.  But he needed it.  Someone else needed to see it.  Someone else would see it.  Then he could get rid of it, once and for all.

            The rain began to subside, and the steam had begun to rise from the street when the three of them turned the corner at Flatt and Excelsior, headed right in his direction, right on schedule.  Benton now began to feel his pulse pound in places he didn’t usually feel it because he knew the moment was upon him.  He stuffed the pictures back in his jacket pocket as the three approached, and drew the tarp up over him more to conceal, but not enough to obstruct.  Their slow, confident strides would give him time to observe, and then quickly decide.

            The one on the left was tall, thin, slow.  He’d be easier, Benton knew, comparing him to the one on the right—short, stocky, and quick.  This man always had been, and Benton would need to be quicker.

            But the one in the middle?

            The one in the middle…he was going to be the toughest.  People in wheelchairs didn’t usually make easy targets.  Especially when he had those two on either side of him.

            Benton let them pass by without either of them noticing or acknowledging he was a threat, much less there.

            His head that had been bent down now lifted.  To him, the street—the world—had gone still.  It was waiting on him to make the move.  It had come now, and Benton knew that he’d have no other opportunity ever.

            His eyes fluttered close for a brief moment, and his fists clenched long enough for him to utter one single, courage-inflating word:

            “Sarah…”

            In a flash, he was up and out, tossing the tarp aside and drawing his Glock-22, all in one smooth motion.  He raised it to the three of them, took a military stance with the gun firm, and yelled only one necessary word—“Stephen!!”

            It took Tall no time to wheel about and whip his own weapon off his belt and point it at Benton, but Benton was quicker.  He squeezed two rapid shots off and both struck true, one in Tall’s shoulder and the other in his midriff, taking him to the pavement of the street in a crumpled heap.

            Short reacted in no less time, and was met with no less wait.  The very moment when he got a bead on Benton’s forehead was the moment that a round ripped forward through his own from somewhere up above, knocking him off his feet and sending him down to the sidewalk, spread-eagle, his open eyes focused on some other not-of-this-world vision.

            Benton shook his head in shock and looked up to the roof of the building across the street and back a block.  Jameson was standing there in combat position, and when Benton gave him a wave and a thumbs-up, his weapon withdrew, and he threw Benton a wave of his own and quickly disappeared from sight.

            Stephen, meanwhile, stayed still in his wheelchair.

            Benton pointed the gun to the back of his head.

            “Put your hands out to the sides where I can see them, Stephen, and keep them there!” Benton ordered.  He then reached into his right pocket, and pulled out his radio mic.

            “All units, all units,” he squawked into it, “shots fired at Flatt and Excelsior.  Two suspects down.  Roll immediately to location, backup needed.”

            Benton wiped a trail of sweat off his forehead and kept his gun out in front of him, carefully stepping behind Stephen the entire way over to him, and then, finally, directly in front of him.

            Stephen slowly lifted his eyes to Benton, and locked on them.  Benton kept his gun pointed directly between Stephen’s with one hand.  After a few seconds, the other hand reached into his top jacket pocket and pulled out the pictures.  He handed them to his captive.

            “Look at these,” Benton ordered.

            Stephen stayed still, his gaze unflinching.

            Benton clenched his teeth.  “Take them and look at them!” he spat.

            The man had no choice.  As if testing a source for burning heat, he reached a hand up and accepted the pictures, broke eye contact, and stared at the photos.  Sitting in silence for a few minutes did not stop the nervous twitching that began the longer he looked into them.  His lips trembled, and before he could stop it, his heaving chest finally allowed the vomit that had been swirling in his stomach to gush out of his mouth in spasmodic globs.  It splashed over his pants and into a pool on the sidewalk; Stephen hung onto the arms of his chair and tried as best as he could to ride out an uncontrollable trembling.

            “Yeah,” Benton mumbled, “that’s what I thought.”

            “I didn’t—,” Stephen offered, but Benton cut him off.

            “Yes, you did.  You exactly did.  She was our friend, man.  But she was your wife.  She got too close to the drugs, didn’t she?  When you ended up like this, you ordered her out of the way.  Of course, you didn’t lay a hand on her.  You couldn’t.  So you had someone else do it.”

            Stephen shook his head back and forth, as if some demon melody filled his conscience with the devil’s music.

            “Yes, Stephen,” Benton assured him, “yes, you did.  It’s over.”

            He relaxed his shoulders when he heard Jameson’s footfalls slapping the pavement behind him.  Seconds thereafter, four marked units rolled up beside them in standard, containment positioning.  The area had become flooded with uniforms and detectives, and the usual crowd control and scene processing had begun.  Benton holstered his weapon as three officers presented themselves to tend to Stephen.

            Jameson clapped Benton softly on the shoulder as Benton watched Stephen be rolled away into custody.

            “Our work here is finished,” Jameson confirmed.  Benton did not acknowledge Jameson’s good natured attempt to diffuse the tension, and instead continued to watch Stephen be processed with unbelieving eyes.

            “So that’s it, huh, Cap?” Jameson asked him.  “Two days before you retire, and he’s your final take-down, wasn’t it?”

            Benton looked lost.  “Yes…I guess.”

            Jameson gave him a friendly shake.  “Well, you done good.”

            Then he changed the subject.  “Hey, Archie’s is two blocks over.  This scene should take no time to process with all the suits here.  What do you say afterward, once the report is filed and we’ve been debriefed that we head over there to catch a Labatt’s draft?  His are always cold.  After tonight, you look like you could use one last one.”

            Jameson had no idea what he’d just said to Benton, and in spite of himself, Benton smiled slightly in agreement.

            He nodded.  “Sure, okay.  One last one, it is.”


Mark Reynolds

Mark has been writing since the age of nine, when he wrote his first short story about how the Great Bear got into the sky. His first published work was the novel “Chasing the Northern Light”, published in October 2014. Most recently, one of Mark’s short stories was included in the Realm of Romance anthology, part of the Writers Unite! Currently, Mark is working diligently on a novella, and is planning his next novel. He lives in the Philadelphia suburbs with his wife Jennifer, his Havanese Max, and the two Conures Cleo and Ruby. When not writing, Mark listens to music and grows his collection by leaps and bounds.


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1 Comments

  1. What a wonderful story!! Thoroughly enjoyed reading this, Mr. Reynolds!! As always, I am in awe of your talent.

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