“Let ‘em swing.”
The judge drops his hand, the trapdoors are released, and the ropes tighten. It’s just another day in Santos Pereux. From the shade of the palm trees, I watch as the judge smiles wickedly.
“Today, we have a whole stable of rowdy folks to put down. Their crime, failure to comply with the guidelines issued forth by our beloved government.”
The next six are marched up to the nooses.
“Check out these yahoos.”
Across the beach, I watch Juanita Francesca. Tall, dark and beautiful, Juanita is the girl every man dreams of. Her skin is tanned by the sun, her lips full, and her hair is as black as Judge Stevedore’s heart.
Her father is one of the six on the block.
Stevedore is a man of averages. He is of average height, and average intelligence. There is nothing good or gracious about Stevedore, he takes what he wants.
The nooses are placed over the necks of the next victims. Juanita rushes to the gallows and throws herself at her father’s feet.
“Please, don’t kill my father. I will do anything to save his life. Please..”
Stevedore leers at Juanita.
“You mean you will marry me, IF I spare your father.”
“God help me. Yes, I will marry you.”
With a dramatic flourish, Stevedore drops his hand. The trapdoors release and the six, Juanita’s father included, drop to their death.
“No! You promised!”
Stevedore chuckles, and nods to his goons. They step forward and drag Juanita toward the judge’s chambers. I am partially camouflaged from view. My field of vision is unhindered.
“Something must be done to end this reign of terror. Despair hangs in the air, like swamp moss hangs off cedar trees.”
You must be wondering who I am and what my role in all this must be. I am Thomas Francesca. My father was just killed, my sister forced into a marriage which will be her ruination. Unless, I can stop Judge Stevedore.
I walk slowly back to my car. “Calm down, now is not the time to lose your cool. There will be time to grieve later.”
Years ago, I left home to protect my family. The Stevedore family has been a stain on Santos Pereux my whole life. At 18, I was given a choice, leave and never return or stay and watch my family be murdered. Now, my dad is dead and my sister might be better off dead.
“Excuse me, son. Do I know you?”
Behind me an old lady looks at me over horn rimmed glasses. Her eyes are filled with tears, her graying hair is in disarray.
“I don’t believe so, ma’am. My name is Thomas.”
“You’re Thomas Francesca, the brother of Juanita. You were exiled from this place by the hell spawned Stevedore family. I’m so sorry for your loss, son.”
“Thank you. Please don’t tell anyone that I am home. I don’t need Juanita to see me hung on the same gallows, my father died on.”
“Your secret is safe with me. I work for the Stevedore family. Would you like for me to get a message to Juanita?”
“No. I would rather her not know of my presence.”
Saying farewell, I drive to the warehouse and park my car. The sliding doors pull close after a five second delay. I walk to the table and sit down. My computer, printer, weapons and bug-out bag are the only things in the warehouse. I print off the blueprints to the Stevedore home, and judge’s chambers. The blueprints are enlarged, and I lay them beside a current graphic of Santos Pereux.
“The time has come for the Stevedore family to pay for the harm they have caused.”
Checking the graphic against the blueprints, I plot my entry. I check my weapons and magazines. My flak vest is loaded with 12 magazines, 3 stun grenades and a combat flashlight. The rifle hangs from a D-ring, my pistol is secured in my hip holster. Extra mags for my sidearm are attached to my belt. I turn off the lights in the warehouse and walk out into the darkness.
The Stevedore manse is the most massive home on Santos Pereux. Built in 1868, it has been upgraded throughout the years. The last upgrade was an escape tunnel, which runs from outside of the town limits into the library of the manse. The tunnel was built in 2007. It is monitored from the guard shack on the northeast quadrant of the property.
Four guard shacks are manned by former military personnel. My intention is not to kill the guards, but to incapacitate them. If one round is fired, the entire mission is scrubbed. From previous reconnaissance, I have the time of their radio checks, their patrol measures and shift change.
I sneak to the cliffs which are 10.5 feet above the tower. The towers are windowless, which gives me a clean line of fire from my sniper’s nest. I load my rifle with less-lethal rifle ammunition, and chamber a round.
Both guards step onto the balcony of the tower. I fire two consecutive shots, both guards fall to the floor unconscious. It will be half and hour before the next radio check. If all goes well, I will be out before any alarm is raised.
The maintenance hatch is never locked, the towers and guards are generally enough to ensure the safety of those in the manse. Generally. Tonight is different, the wolf is on the prowl.
I drop down into the tunnel, and make my way toward the mansion. “It all ends tonight.”
It’s 400 yards to the house, and a lone guard patrols the tunnel. The tunnel is dimly lit, and I step to the side. As he passes, I drive my rifle butt into his head. I encountered no one the rest of the way to the library.
Like a shadow, I entered the library. To my surprise, the room is empty. Down the hall, I can hear voices. The sound of my sister screaming for help makes my blood boil. Stevedore’s laughter sends chills down my spine.
“If your brother could see you now.”
I slip down the hall to where the hallway intersects with the ground level bedrooms. Weapon up, I clear the left side. No guards are present, I slide down the right.
Finally, I locate the guards. All four guards stand outside of a bedroom. Smirks line their faces, and jeers are called out. My sister’s voice comes from the room. I toss a stun grenade down the hall.
The stun grenade goes off, and all four guards hit the ground. The house is filled with silence, besides the moan of the guards. I clear the hall and enter the room where my sister’s voice had come from.
Stevedore stands in the room, a knife at the throat of Juanita. He pushes her into the center of the room.
“Hello, Thomas. Long time, no see. Looks like we are going to be family.”
“I don’t think so.”
Juanita whimpers as the knife digs deeper. A thin line of blood shows where the blade dug into her skin.
“Did you get to see your daddy hang? It was quite a performance by me.”
“Yeah, I caught it. Let my sister go.”
“Okay. Let’s settle this man to man. No blades, no guns.”
“Works for me.”
Stevedore gives Juanita a violent shove toward me and follows her flung body in an effort to get close. I side-step my sister, and as Stevedore draws close, I slam my palm into his throat.
He hits the floor like a sack of potatoes. I kneel beside him as he tries to catch his breath.
“Your whole family has been a stain on the soul of Santos Pereux. You killed my father, God only knows what you did to my sister. There is good news though. I’m not going to kill you. Instead, I am going to give you to the people of Santos Pereux. You may want to die now.”
I drag Stevedore out of the mansion and throw him down the steps. Juanita throws her arms around me and begins to cry.
“It’s okay, sister. There is only one thing left to do.”
I lift a bullhorn which one of the guards had in the foyer of the manse. “People of Santos Pereux, for too long we’ve suffered at the hands of the Stevedore family. The last heir lies before you. Do what you must to purge our island of their curse.”
Juanita and I walk down the steps as people gather around Stevedore. Clubs, hammers, and knives descend upon the last heir. A bright sun breaks the eastern horizon as a new day dawns.