Ned Watkins stared up from the ground, blood leaked from his mouth. He held his hands up to shield his face from more blows.
“Please,” he pleaded, “please, I remembered where they are. I’ll tell you what you wanted to know, just don’t kill me.”
Warren Fredericks stood over Ned. He swung the heavy, bloody chain around his left hand and smiled.
“You’ll tell me regardless, and you’d better not lie to me.”
“Just don’t kill me. I have a wife and children at home.”
“You should have thought of them before you and your homies decided to kill my friend.”
“They’re up in the mountains, they’ve a small cabin out near Widows Leap. You’re not going to kill me, right? Think of my children.”
“I am,” Warren said. He pulled his sidearm and shot Watkins in the face twice. “Why do they always spout off about the children? Like they care about innocent life. These same people wouldn’t help their neighbor or the homeless kids in major cities. He got what he deserved.”
Warren walked to his red Dodge Ram and took out his pick and shovel. He busted the hard rock into a man-sized hole and kicked Watkins body into it. He tossed in the chain and gun as well, then he covered up the body.
“One down, many more to go.”
He sat on the flatbed body and sipped some water. His hunt for Jacob’s killers led him to Ned Watkins. “None of this should’ve happened. Jacob was undeserving of death. They shouldn’t have raped his wife. Now, all I have left is revenge. Justice must prevail, whether the law wants to do its job or not.”
The law had failed to bring Jacob’s killers to justice. By God, Warren would not fail. He might fall, but he would not fail. He finished off his water and climbed into his truck. The old diesel engine rumbled to life, and Warren started back to town.
Thirty-five years ago:
“Welcome to first grade, kids. I am Mrs. Bird. Please take a seat and let me have your attention. I book no nonsense in my classroom. You see this ruler,” she held up a wooden ruler and showed the class, “if you disrupt my class, you will feel it on your palm. Understood?”
All the children nodded and muttered “yes ma’am.” Mrs. Bird turned to write on the chalkboard. Warren turned and stared at the boy next to him.
“She looks like a bird,” he said to the boy. The boy smiled and nodded.
“Uh-huh. Like a chicken.”
Warren clucked like a chicken. It came out a little louder than he or the boy expected. Warren’s face flushed red when Mrs. Bird turned and looked at the class. She picked up the ruler.
“Who did that?”
No one said a word. She walked to Warren’s desk and smacked the ruler down on the desktop. Warren looked at the floor.
“No one did it, hmmm? A chicken flew in here and clucked. Is that what you expected me to believe?”
The room was quiet. She turned and leaned down to Warren. “It was you, wasn’t it?”
“Wow. You’re just like your father. He was a waste of oxygen. I see the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Step up to my desk. Let’s see if we can’t cure that braveness of yours.”
Jacob watched as Mrs. Bird spoke to Warren. He was close enough to hear what was said. He raised his hand. Warren looked at him and shook his head no. Jacob put down his hand. Warren walked up to the desk and stood in front of his teacher.
“Give me your hand, cretin.”
Warren stuck out his hand, Mrs. Bird gripped his fingers and smacked the ruler against it until it filled with blood. The pain brought tears to his eyes, but Warren never cried out. His defiance seemed to enrage Mrs. Bird.
“Go sit down.”
He turned and walked back to his desk. His palm throbbed but he hadn’t cried out. He sat in his seat and noticed a note on his desk. Warren took it and stuck it in his pocket. The bell rang.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, children. You too, cretin.”
Warren smiled as he remembered his first day of school. He never stood out among his peers, but he wasn’t stupid. He was lazy. Warren never applied himself to his studies. Sure, he liked to read, math was okay if it was simple. He even journaled. His problem, if he had a problem, was distraction.
He drove into town. Monolith Springs, a town of 150,000 souls, was a den of thievery, villainy, and scumbags. Some good people lived here too. It was a haven for outlaws, wannabe rednecks, and racists of all stripes.
“Jacob never fit in here. He was too good for Monolith Springs.”