Getting back into the swing of things with a return to the Terribleminds Flash Fiction Challenges. This one is “The Random Title Jamboree“. After I rolled my trusty d20, I started on this. I hope you enjoy it.
He sat in the back of his dingy, run-down van. The metal seat wasn’t comfortable. It wasn’t made for long-term sit-downs. Yet he’d stayed there for most of an hour, the late afternoon sun coming through the windshield, staring at the hood in his hands.
There was a quote or a paraphrase that kept coming back to him, from when he’d seen The Godfather as a kid. “There are men in this world who go about demanding to be killed.” He’d seen them first hand. They wandered the streets of the city, hands eager for money or flesh or blood, eyes always alert for the next victim, the next fix. The police couldn’t catch them all. The law wouldn’t hold them all. Prisons failed, rehabilitation didn’t take, and all the while the victims and their families suffered.
Someone had to do something about those repeat-offending skate-on-a-technically thinking-they-will-never-get-caught motherfuckers.
How did his actions make him any different than them?
He looked up from the hood to the rack on the opposite wall of the van. It was one of those panel jobs, with no windows past the two doors up front down the entire length of both sides. The back windows were open but tinted; he could see out through the rear-view mirror but nobody could see in. Nobody could see the rack. Nobody could see the assault rifles, the shotguns, the pistols. He kept multiple weapons to be prepared, in case of damages, jams, or other mishaps. He didn’t want to be in a situation where he had someone at the end of a rifle with no recourse when something went wrong.
He didn’t want to be in a situation where someone caught sight of him and took revenge on his loved ones in response to his justice.
He looked back down at the hood. It could use a wash. It didn’t smell great. More than one criminal had bled on it. Darker spatters marked its black cloth, evidence of several close-range headshots and one incident where he’d beaten a man to death with a lead pipe after a rough struggle. It came with the territory; when you did this sort of thing, you were bound to run into a bad situation. Things got messy. What mattered was surviving.
It didn’t really matter that he didn’t talk to his ex-wife regularly. Nor did it matter that his visits with his kids were supervised. What mattered was that they were protected. Both from any retribution for what he did, and the nature of what he did itself. He stared at the hood for as long as he could stand, closing his eyes when the emotions welled up.
Why was the world like this? Why did it take monsters to hunt monsters? Why did he have to become one when his partner and sister died together in that car bomb? They’d been so happy. He’d loved seeing them together. He still went by their graves to remind himself what was at stake, what might happen if he wasn’t careful… It was just as much a ritual as putting on the hood.
Which he did. Smell and all, he needed it. His family needed it.
He turned his attention to the bins under the racks. The bins containing the bullets. The rifle ammunition, he bought in bulk, mostly because it was cheap that way. But the handgun ammunition, he crafted by hand. He picked up things from pawn shops – jewelry from broken families, heirlooms of dead parents, the evidence of crimes whose victims left their pain unspoken – and worked them into the bullets. Every one meant something. Every one was intended to bring peace. Every one silenced a voice held in an innocent person’s head.
He executed more than scumbags.
He inhaled deeply, galvanizing his nostrils against the smell of the hood and what was coming tonight. Slowly, methodically, he loaded two of his handguns, holstering each at his hips. He then loaded two extra magazines, one for each pistol, which went into the pouch behind his back. He opted for one of the shotguns, a pump-action number with a forward pistol grip, a sawn-down barrel, and a collapsing stock. Its sling went over his shoulder, followed by his hooded long coat. It was cold enough that nobody would question his fashion at a glance. And most of his walking would not be on public streets.
There was another city between the avenues and thoroughfares. One unseen by those who merely existed between their austere offices and boring homes. Like the rest of the city, most of the people there just wanted to find a better life; a measure of happiness that often seemed just out of reach. But in the shadows of the highrises were the people who didn’t just wait for that measure, nor sought it with their own resources – they were content to take what they wanted from those who could not defend themselves.
They needed to know there were consequences to their actions.
He felt the weight of the vest under his coat. He felt the weight of the weapons on his hips, from his shoulder. He felt the weight of the bullets in his heart.
An executioner’s work was rarely done. He was a monster who disposed of other monsters.
And one day, another monster would dispose of him.
Until then, he had bullets enough for every other monster he’d meet tonight.