The Long Road of Smoke

The Long Road of Smoke
Chapter 1

I felt the sweat trickling down the back of my neck as I laid among the rocks, the heat of the noonday sun was blistering and heat waves could be seen everywhere I looked. I did not move, I stayed still, as laid there looking down the barrel of my rifle, knowing soon either my quarry or I would move and the hunt would be over. It has taken to many years to get to this point to hurry, I had no were to go nor anything to get back to until I was through with this, this hunt that had become my life for two years, two years of my life that I can never get back, two years of living that had gone horribly wrong and had cost me a marriage.
It seems like it was yesterday this nightmare began, the memories haunt me each day, forever changing me from what I was to what I have now become.
The day started typically, I rose that morning to my wife cooking breakfast in the kitchen, smiling as always, helping have a good start to a busy day. She and I had started our Construction Company together after college, then once it was well secured and business going great, she decided to stay at home so we could start raising a family. Before much time had passed, we had four great kids and life seemed like it could not get any better.
I left that morning and arrived at the office for meeting that were planned latter in the day, my wife left latter around ten A.M. to pick up two of our children to take then to the dentist. My thoughts were interrupted for a moment as I thought I saw something move among the rock about three hundred yards away. Fighting the temptation to move I continued to wait, waiting for what had seemed forever to end.
Again, I began to be consumed with my thoughts. I cannot get that phone call from wife out of my mind, when she called me that morning. The terror in her voice, the screaming on the phone nor the sudden empty gut wrenching fear coming over me.

We are not rich by any means but we did well and lived very comfortably. Our whole life we had dreamed of owning a nice home, our own business and raising a family in a way that we did not have growing up. She, as I did as well, grew up just getting by and we wanted to do so much better. It took a long time and much hard work but we succeeded in all we had planned. We had dated sense the age of sixteen; known each other from first grade and we were as happy as two people could be.
All that is gone, gone from events that took place, gone from divorce, gone from not letting go of anger and retribution, gone from the lack of my ability to let go. It was now 1:00 P.M., and the sun is relentless, but the emotions inside me drive my will to remain in place and not move. Sooner or latter, this will end.
Whenever regret would creep in, I would settle my doubts about my actions by convincing myself that anyone would have done the same. That no man would let this go with out taking maters into his own hands. What had I become, what happened to my life and the man I used to be. What happened to laughter and joy, the expectation of another day with those things and people you love? They were replaced by a seething hatred, a determination to strike back, and a hunger to harm.

I can remember so clear driving home like a wild man, running into the house to my wife Cindy who was still in shock and horror, crying uncontrollably. I put my arm around her trying to get her to calm down as I picked up the phone to call the authorities. From that moment on, everything would change.

Chapter 2

We sat in the living room, Cindy was telling the police everything she new, saw and about the man. As she sat there telling the events as they unfolded, I felt my emotions changing from horror to anger. I felt an emotion creeping in that I have not felt since my service days. I spent four years in the service, but could only tell Cindy about two of those years. Secretes I would carry with me, never sharing with anyone due to what I was involved in. Entering into the service at eighteen, I started as everyone else but that changed two years later. My rank changed, my service changed and I changed, as my focus became narrow and distinct on what ever the task was.
During that last two years, regular uniforms were not always worn, as we would don whatever was needed for the situation. I remember the curious look on Cindy’s face as each time I got a call and would leave the house; I would leave my wallet and all I.D. behind. Somewhere along the line, I began to enjoy what I did; I began to crave it, looking at the enemy as targets, and hating them no matter who they were. Those who did wrong to others, to their own people, became welcome areas that I eagerly went into. We honored our call, protected our country, but for me it had become more than a job for I eagerly sought to eliminate wrong and make freedom more available to those in need and that is what I told myself. One day in a densely wooded area, we had tracked a group that for months been harassing a section of their people.
We had two locals for guides, one man in his forties and a younger in his early twenties. It took two days of walking and climbing to get where they were, and not trusting anyone, I kept my eyes on our guides. The night before we found them we had stopped to rest and to go over plans for our capture of who we sought, but in reality we all new there would be no capture as someone would move even if they actually did or not. As I sat running a rag over my weapon, I heard the young guide ask the older man just who were we and why did they have to guide us as we were not in any typical uniform? What made us different from them who had fought to protect themselves? The older man whispered to him that we were as smoke and that the ones we seek would not see another night.
I felt a knot in my stomach, for reality was telling me what I had become and it was not as I was raised. My father was a proud WWII vet and was thrilled when I joined the service. However, after only serving two years and getting out on a technicality now doing this, what would he think of me after spending two years doing this “service”? A man must be true to himself and I had been anything but. Once back home, that trip had proven to be my last as I gave up on the trips. I am extremely proud of our military and all branches of service, and I should have stayed in the service. I hid those emotions and eagerness telling myself they no longer existed and had forgotten them until now, but with what had been done to my family, a darkness was slowly creeping in. for the next five days the police and detectives worked their behinds off, until leads were found and followed. The person that had committed the crime wanted a $40,000 ransom, which we scratched together.
Ten days latter, a drop was to be made in return for our kids, and doing as the detectives had said, I placed the briefcase on a park bench and placed a piece of duct tape on it. Five minutes later a man dressed in jeans and a hooded sweater walked up and sat on the bench, consciously looking around then picking up the briefcase and started to walk off. Police came out of a white van parked near by and capture the man, pushing him to the ground and at gunpoint cuffing him. For the first time I saw his face and that dark emotion inside began to grow. How dare you invade my family I thought to myself, how dare you take my kids hostage. One hour later our kids were found, they were safe just scared, and no harm of any kind had come to them.
On the last day of the trial, I had managed to put my feelings at rest somewhat, knowing that this man would be put in prison where he belonged. When the jury had come back in, my wife and I as well as many sitting in the court was stunned beyond belief. The jury had come in but because of a miss-handled piece of evidence, his lawyer was asking for the charges to be dismissed. We watched in sheer horror as charges were dropped, the judge releasing him. Cindy started crying uncontrollably, her mother trying to comfort her; I stood there in shock, not believing what had happened. They led him past us, in what seemed like slow motion, and as he walked by ours eyes met, and this piece of human debris grinned at me. With out thinking or hesitation, I said so he could hear, I’m going to smoke you.

Chapter 3

After taking my family home, the next few days were spent recovering from the events that have taken place. But the whole time that I took care of my family, helping them to recover, I felt deep in my gut that hatred and urge for vengeance growing, beginning to be a consuming animal inside me. Two weeks after court was over and that piece of human debris had been let go, I made a phone call to an old friend who had certain abilities that can be very useful.
I have not spoken to Hank in years, but he and I had been friends in “service” and knew he would help. Explaining to him what had happened, he asked a question that, for a moment, I did not know the answer to. Very carefully he said to me, “How far do you want to take this Jimmie?”, and for a moment I said nothing. How far did I want to go? How much of a risk did I want to take? Did I really want to feel those emotions again? But the answer was given to Hank with no regret as I said to him, “To the smoke.”, and he knew what was meant for it was a term we had used before.
For days I heard nothing from him until a week later he called me and told me to meet him at a gas station on the other side of town. I pulled up into the parking lot of the station and he motioned for me to pull along side his truck. I turned around and backed in so our driver’s side windows would be side by side and rolled my window down. He held a cell phone to his ear as if he were talking on it and slipped me a small four inch square piece of paper. “That’s the latest address of the target, he was seen there yesterday.” Hank said. Looking at the paper it had an address that was forty miles from here in the city. Hank said the guy has friends that work with him, and with his finger made the motion like your pulling a trigger which means they are armed. He intertwined his fingers and pointed to fingers out to tell me that the man did not work alone and that they specialize in such activity.
Not looking at Hank, I nodded my head to say thanks and put the truck in drive to pull out when Hank said, “Hey, if you’re going to follow this through, do it right. These guys are not rookies, they have help, Phillip.”, and with that Hank drove off. I remembered Phillip; he worked with us years ago but sought money by what ever means necessary. He left us to deal arms and drugs, and disappeared from sight. Driving home, I thought about what Hank had said. This was a crew, who planned carefully and took their directions from a boss who lived away so as not to be connected with any activity, very smart.
After Cindy and the kids went to be, I went down to my basement and going behind a freezer, retrieved a locked metal box I had hidden there. Opening the box, I pulled out a 9mm and four clips, sticking them in my jacket. I walked upstairs and woke up Cindy, who knew my past, but trusted me to do what is right and know when I am determined. I told her I was going out for a while. Seeing the pistol in my belt, she asked what I was going to do, already knowing the answer. I told her to go back to sleep but as I reached the door she was behind me and grabbed my arm. “Don’t do this,” she said, “its not who you are anymore, think of your family!” “I am!” I told her, “I’m just going for a drive.”, but she knew I was lying and it was the first time I had ever laid to her.
I drove off, headed for the city and the address that Hank had given me. During the drive, I thought about my family, was I being fair to them, and was I doing this for me or had I convinced myself of such. For the next few miles I told myself I was right, that this is the right way to do things and that Cindy would approve when it was over. Now I was getting good at lying to myself, while the closer I got to the city, it seemed my heart rate increased. Once inside the city limits, I pulled over and stopped. What the hell was I doing? I can’t do this, its wrong, I need to turn around and go home. But reaching in my pocket, I felt the 9mm, and I stopped thinking. Cranking the truck back up, I drove into the city.

Chapter 4

There were very few people out on the street in the city; this is the slums, the dirty and bad part of town where good people never venture. I pulled up into a parking lot and stopped, taking a deep breath before getting out of the truck. I walked along the side walk passing an all night convenience store and past the lower forms of life that come out only at night. Streetwalkers, bums and hustlers, these are what seem to make up this part of the city. I continued to walk, looking for the address I had been given, looking for resolution to what I was feeling. Ahead of me was an old apartment building that is abandoned, this was it.
I stepped inside slowly, there were no lights on downstairs and it was easy to see that drug dealers and others had left their mark behind. I slipped back outside and started walking quietly around the building, checking the layout and noticed a light in a window on the far right side facing the ally. Easing down below the windows, I lifted up just enough to see in. two men I did not know were measuring white powder in to zip lock backs, cocaine, for either the street or a dealer. Trying to check around the room, I did not see the man I sought. I slipped back into the shadows to think. Maybe I should forget this and go home, not take a chance of ruining what we worked so hard to build. Nevertheless, I had convinced myself that what was done could not go unpunished, and if the courts could not do it, I would. I reached down and picked up a little dirt from the ground, putting some on my coat and pants, pulled part of my shirttail out and messed up my hair so it would appear I had been on the street.
I walked up to the door and knocked, thinking how stupid what I was doing is and that it would not work. One of the men opened the door slightly and I could tell, or feel, that the other person had a weapon standing on the other side, as they had no idea how I was. “Who are you!” he asked, as he looked around and behind me, cautious and suspicious of me. Hanks had told me from his recon that there was a local dealer named Zeek that worked part of the city, so I looked at him wide eyed and acting as if I was shaking some and said, “Zeek sent me for a pickup, said I was to get one K, but he only sent me with five bills, said to tell you he would have the rest delivered tomorrow.”. “Don’t know no Zeek now get the hell away!” he said. “Ok,” I replied, “but Zeek said he would get 5 K next week.” and I turned to act as if I was walking off. The man opened the door and yelled after me, “Hey, come in here, you got five bills with you?” I told him yes, as I walked to the door, noticing that the second man was now standing across the room with his arms folded, and I could see the muzzle of his weapon behind his elbow.
The one I had been talking to looked me over and told the other that Zeek must not be doing much if he got some ally junky doing his pickup, as they both stared at me. “Where’s the five bills.?” the other man asked. “Zeek said I need to check the batch first, said he don’t want no more cut stuff.” answering as I tried to look in need of a fix. The second man threw the wood chair he had his hand on backward, exclaiming in a foul language, “You tell Zeek we don’t cut nothing, and he can get his mix somewhere else!” The two started to argue about to sell or not and it gave me time to look around the room, to give me a layout for when I come back to find he that I sought.
Just as I was backing up to the door to make a run as the continued to argue, the other door opened, and the one who had changed my life and caused the profound hate building with in me walked in yelling at the other two because he could her them outside. As soon as he walked in, he stopped as he saw me, his face became blank and drawn as for a moment we starred eye to eye as my expression became calm and I could feel a familiar calmness come over me. “What’s he doing here!” he yelled at the two who were looking confused at their boss. I looked at him and it was as if time suddenly stood still and everything became motionless, as I slowly said to him with out thinking, “Light up…..”

Chapter 5

The man I was after grabbed the chair next to him and threw it at me as I lunged at him, the other two were grabbing bags of their drugs. “Go Mike!” one of them yelled as the one I was after headed for the door, not knowing if had had police on the way. From the corner of my eye, I saw one of them grab a pistol from his waist and swing his arm towards me and with out realizing it I felt the weapon in my hand jump as the bullet struck him in the temple. The other man that had grabbed some of the drugs ran back in the room firing wildly as again the weapon jumped in my hand, the first bullet striking him in the chest and the second just below his throat. In seconds, it was over and I stood there in the middle of that room starring at what had happened and what I had done. The first man shot lay dead by a wall and the second in the doorway giving one last gurgling breath.
I stood there shaking, stunned and felt sick to my stomach as reality sank in. hearing sirens in the distance, I ran out the door and into the ally, escaping down filthy back streets till I reached my truck. Getting in, I closed the door, sitting for what seemed an hour and not sure for a moment of what to do. I looked at my dashboard and at a photo of my wife and kids. Starring at their faces, thinking again about the ordeal they had gone through and slowly I felt the fear and disgust leave me and the anger return. Grabbing my cell phone, I called Hank and in words that we only knew, told him what had happened and that I felt somewhat disgusted with my self. “You can’t change what you are” he said, “The skills that you learned are part of you, like it or not. Now, do you stop or do we finish this.” Was this truly who I was? Was I this person now and just hide it for so long? How can a man become this, and is it possible that you can put your past behind you? I shook these thought off, and told Hank that the one I wanted, now knowing him as Mike, had ran.
Hank told me he had contacts that could find out where mike had gone, and that I should go home and let him do some looking. Home, which was becoming a strange sounding word now as what I knew as home had been corrupted by such people that now lay dead. I walked through the door of our house, went to the shower and washed the dirt off and once done somehow still felt dirty. Cindy got up and came to were I was, standing at the mirror starring at myself. She touched my arm and asked if I was ok, and I noticed her eyes were damp. I felt sick inside, seeing sadness in her eyes that I did not know if it was from what had taken place or if I had caused it with my actions tonight. “I’m doing what is right.” I said to her, still in my mind a little doubt.
“It’s over now, we can get back to our home life, the children need you right now.” said Cindy. I knew she was right but I could not get past the urge to see harm come to this man, to see him pay for his crime, for his intrusion into our lives. “It’s not over, he ran, ran like the trash he is. I can’t let our kids be afraid that he may one day come back, don’t you see? I have to end this, I have to protect you!” I said trying to explain.
I saw tears begin to well in her eyes as she said, “Don’t you understand? There is nothing you can do to erase what happened, you can’t change it! You have got to let it go before……”. “Before what?” I asked, “Before what? Before I become what I used to be? Before you give up on me? Or do you not care as much as I do!”

I knew when I said those words I had hurt her and dearly wished I could take them back as she ran out of the room crying. I walked into the bedroom where she lay crying, I knelt beside the bed and put my arms around her telling her how sorry I was. “You have to stop,” Cindy said through the tears, “You can’t ruin everything we have.” “Cindy,” I answered, “I am going to make sure that you and the kids are safe, and then we can go back to normal.” “What is normal for you,” she said with anger starting to show, “Is normal for you making sure you hurt who ever does you wrong! What if I did something to you, would you hurt me too?!” And with that she got up and left the bedroom. I sat there on the floor, angry and hurt, blaming all this on the one called Mike. Sitting there with hatred building when my cell phone rang. Picking it up, Hank was on and said, “Found him.”

Chapter 6

I changed clothes, into something I could work with, and went back down to my hidden place in the basement. I pulled out a small bag and put in it an extra pistol, ammo and a rifle I had brought back with me from a trip. I loaded my things along with a change of clothes into the truck then walked back into the house to leave a not for Cindy. What do I say and how do I word this? After a minute of starring at the paper, I wrote simply, “Forgive me, I love you, I will be back soon.”
Once I pulled out onto the highway I called Hank to find out where to meet him. He told me all he could do was give directions, he could not be seen and I understood that. We met at a filling station again, and he passed me the address as before, which was out in the country at some old farm house. Hank looked at me and said I need to go slow on this one, that Phillip is there. Phillip, hearing that name stopped me for a minute, as I knew he was trained the same as I was and getting through may not be easy. I drove on through the night, arriving at the farm around 11:00 P.M.
I parked my truck about a mile from the drive way and walked through the woods to the edge of the trees near the farm house. I lay on the ground and took out a small night scope to see the location. To the left of the house was a barn, there was a truck parked there and two men were loading crates on the back, I could hear them talking in the stillness of the night. The lights were on in the house, so staying to the shadows, I eased my way to the side of it. Inching my way, I crept close to the kitchen window. I took a small mirror out of my pocket and fixed it to the barrel of my pistol, then slowly lifted it up till I could see in the room. Only one man was in the kitchen and it wasn’t Mike or Phillip, so I slipped around to the next window, then the next. At the third window, I found the living room, and inside I saw Mike and another man sorting cash, and on a near by table was bags of cocaine.
Still no Phillip and that was a concern, for if he was here I should have seen him by now. Sitting on the ground, I made plans on what to do, as I was determined to go the full extent. I felt inside those old feelings again, my senses were coming back, and my plans were made. I reached into my pocket and pulled a silencer out and fixed it to the pistol barrel and made my way to the barn. Slipping through an old door in the back, I made my way slowly to near the truck the two men were loading. One sat one the tailgate smoking a cigarette and the other had just set a crate on the bed of the truck.
I needed to do this quickly as not to attract attention, so taking careful aim, I fired twice in rapid succession, first hitting the man smoking, then the other, both head shots. I left out of the same door I came in, making my way back to the house. Checking around, I still only counted three men, Mike and two others. Mike must have been wrong about Phillip, because I have yet to see him. I eased around to the back of the house where the kitchen is, gently checking the back door, it was unlocked.
Looking through the curtain on the door, the one in the kitchen was sleeping, sitting in a chair, so slowly opening the door; I stepped softly behind him and putting one hand across his mouth, made sure he slept forever. The living room appeared to be at the end of the hall way, so pistol at ready I went a step at a time till I was half way down the hallway. Stopping suddenly, I realized something was not right, something didn’t feel right, something was out of place. I decided to back track and leave out of the kitchen door, but as I took one step back I heard a foot step behind me, heard something swing through the air and felt metal hit my head. Somebody yelled, “Mike!”, as the room went black and I felt myself hitting the floor.

Chapter 7

Time disappeared, nothing seemed recognizable, and I could not see nor think. I could hear voices through the haze, sounded as if they echoed in hollow drums. Finally I began to open my eyes and yet could not move for my hands were tied as well as my feet, and I had been placed in a chair. I could see blurry images of men walking around but it was hard to focus, I could make out that Mike wanted to waste me, but Phillip, who evidently is the one who hit me, told him no. He told Mike that we were friends at one time and that this would make us square, and that by the time I came to they would be long gone.
I must have passed back out because when I opened my eyes again, it was dawn. The house was empty, and my head felt like it was exploding, and I still felt a little dizzy. Looking around, I tried to figure out how to get loose. Cindy could never know about this, she could never know what I have done or what had happened to me because it would be too much for her. On a table near me was a mason jar full of nails, so I began to rock the chair, front to back, and with each motion work my way to the table. Leaning the chair against the table, I was finally able to knock it over, breaking the mason jar on the floor.
I rocked the chair over till I fell side ways on the floor and inched my way to the broken pieces, turn till they were at my back. Searching with my fingers, I found a piece and began using it, sawing back and forth on the rope that had my hands tied. It had to be mid afternoon by the time I cut myself free and getting up from the floor I looked at my watch, 3:00 P.M., and I knew they were long gone and would not leave a trace. Finding a bathroom, I washed my face, looking into the mirror I starred at myself. I looked ragged, dirty, and there was a small bit of dried blood on the side of my head that I leaned over and washed off.
They left no weapons; they even took my pistol and the hidden one I kept in my coat. I walked out to the barn and saw the two I had shot the night before still laying there. They must have not checked them because the man who had sat on the tail gate still had his AR-15 on the ground beside him. Picking it up I checked it for ammo and searched the truck till I found four clips. I headed for the woods, making my way back to my truck where I had hidden it the night before and lucky they had not discovered it. I stashed the weapon behind the seat and found my cell phone.
I had five missed calls and four were from Cindy, the fifth from Hank. Cindy left a voice mail, so I called it; the message was all to clear. “Jimmie,” she said, “Where are you? Are you ok? Call me! Come home, stop this! I can’t take it, I can’t handle this, and I can’t deal with knowing you’re out there!” I told myself that once this was over she would understand, that she would forget it and all would be well, that I am doing the right thing. I called Hank, and when he answered he already knew what had happened but did not know I had been hurt.
Hank told me, “Listen, now you have seen Phillip, and he knows you’re after Mike. You’re lucky he called Mike off but you and I both know that won’t happen again. Use your head next time. You still want to go on?” I told him yes, it was to far now to stop, because if I didn’t finish the hunt I knew I would be hunted. Hank told me to go to a motel and that he would contact me with more when he found out. I called Cindy but didn’t get an answer, so I left a message telling her I’m fine and I would be home soon, that it’s almost over and it’s the right thing to do, trust me. Trust me, that seems odd to say when right now I don’t even trust myself and who I was again becoming.
I checked into an old motel, showered and changed clothes. From the truck I brought it the weapon I had found as well as a pistol I had under the seat and a double edged knife I kept in the glove compartment.
I must have fallen asleep, for a noise woke me up. I looked at my watch and it said 1:00 A.M. I laid my head back down and tried to sleep again but suddenly my eyes were wide open and my hand was on my pistol, I was not alone in the darkened room.

Chapter 8

I laid still, my eyes slightly open, with my hand on my pistol waiting for a sound to tell me where the intruder was. 10 minutes passed and not a sound, but I knew there was someone there, that someone was near me watching me. Suddenly I heard the drawer on the nightstand beside the bed budge, so I lunged from the bed blindly, hitting the intruder with my body knocking him over, both of us landing on the floor. I turned quickly kicking with my right foot and feeling it connect with his head. Reaching for where I thought his head would be, I wrapped my arm around his neck and put my pistol beside his head and thumb cocked so he could hear. “What do you want and who are you!” I yelled. A lamp turned on across the room and Hank was sitting in a chair, and I did not recognize the man who I held the gun to. “Let him go Jimmie, he is with me” Hank said calmly. I asked what they were doing sneaking in my room, as I let the man go. Hank said he was concerned that someone may be looking for me so he and the guy he called Tab came to make sure I was safe. Normally, I would never believe that, but Hank was the one person I trusted.
Hank and I had become close friends in our “service”, and he had taught me most of what I know and he had gotten me out of several close calls. I had learned to trust him, he had always been there when I needed him and he had been the lead man on several trips. He said that some of his “contacts” hinted that Phillip was sending someone to stop a problem and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to know I was now the problem. I had killed now four of his men and interrupted his drug operation at the farm house, costing him some cash. The hunter was now also the hunted it would seem. As he talked I got dressed, sleep was over, and suddenly he asked a question that stopped me in my tracks. Hank asked if I had talked to Cindy today and after telling no he said maybe I need to go check on her. I flew out the door leaving Hank and Tab behind, feeling fear in my gut.
How could I not think that they may try my home? My stupidity may have my family in danger and I never thought of it. I drove like a mad man, speeding though the night until I reached my street. I stopped my truck up the street and got out, making my way to my house. The lights were off as it was still dark, and seeing the front door was still locked I went around back. Thinking my fears was pointless I stepped softly up to the back door and felt sick when I saw it was open an inch. I dared not go in the door, not knowing what was on the other side, so I went to the basement door and opened it, slipping inside. Once inside the basement I stood still for a minute, letting my eyes adjust to the light, then quietly made my way up the stairs. Stopping at the top of the stairs, I reached in my back pocket and got my silencer again, fixing it to my pistol, not wanting to make noise that could be heard outside.
I stayed close to the wall, watching each step and checking around as I went. Maybe Cindy just forgot to close the door. As I neared the living room, in the shadows I saw a man crouched down by a front window, peering through the curtain, and I knew he was waiting for me to drive up. I could not get much closer for he may her me on our wooden floor, so stopping beside the stairs; I leaned my pistol on the banister and took careful aim. Taking a deep breath, I exhaled slowly and pulled the trigger, doing so saw blood splatter on the wall as the bullet hit him behind the right ear. I stayed there for a minute to see if there were any other sounds but there was none, so I headed up the stairs. Checking the kid’s rooms, they were not there so Cindy must have sent them to her mothers, so I eased down the hall to our bedroom.
I gently opened the door and my fears became true, for there stood another man holding my wife with a gun next to her head. I don’t know what came over me but the fear left me and I became calm, Cindy was of course hysterical and I told her it would be ok. The man said that he knew I would show up and commanded that I drop my gun. I asked him that if I drop my gun would he let my wife go. Smiling he assured me he would, but I already knew they were sent to kill me and he would never let her live. I put one hand behind my back, I told him please don’t hurt her, that I will put it down, he grabbed a hand full of her hair and cocked his pistol, telling me to throw it across the room. Cindy could not control herself, she was screaming and in sheer terror, but for some reason I had become very calm. I took the gun in my hand and told him I would throw it at his feet. Tossing the gun, the man swung his gun toward me, and I fell to my knees pulling another pistol from behind my back and fired at him, with the bullet hitting him in the left eye and exiting out of the back of his skull, as he fell back on the pillows of the bed.

Chapter 9

Cindy screamed louder than I have ever heard, she was in sheer terror at the blood and the body on the bed. I walked over to her and was going to put my arm around her, but she shoved me away, yelling for me to stay away from her. She screamed that she could not live like this and that she did not know who I was any longer. I desperately tried to talk to her but she was hysterical and would not come near me. Cindy began packing a suitcase and I asker her where she was going and all she would answer over and over is away from me. My wife left me that night, my hopes left me that night, and in some ways I think I died a little that night. It is true that what Mike had done began this horror, but my selfish behavior had cost me my family.
I called Hank and told him about the man in the room, he said he would send a “crew” to clean up, which means the body would disappear, never to be seen again. I also told him about Cindy, and how I felt and that I feel like giving up. Hank said, “It’s up to you Jimmie, it’s your call. However, boy you need to remember what has already been done, what you have already done. Just cause you want to stop, you better understand they won’t.” Hank was right and I knew it, I had started this and there was no way out, my life that I had come to know and love had come crashing down. I went out to the truck with a bag of clean clothes and the rest of the ammo I had stored. Sitting there, I convinced myself it was not my fault, because if Mike had not committed his crime he would be deserving punishment.
I drove into the night an empty person, void of love that I had known and void of the hope that life would return to normal. The only thing I could think of was causing harm to the man that began this nightmare, and Phillip if need be. Suddenly I stopped in the middle of the road, jumped out of the truck screaming at the top of my lungs and shooting my pistol wildly into the night. I sat on the road crying, thinking of Cindy and our kids, would they ever see me again, and would Cindy ever come back to me. I got back into the truck and drove to a nearby motel for rest, and climbing into the bed, closed my eyes until eight the next morning.
I must have slept very hard that night, for when I woke up my hands were tied and I could not move. A voice said, “Well good morning Jimmie, sleep well?” I knew that voice, it was Phillip. I tried to get free but couldn’t, angrily I asked him what he wanted as he sat in a chair near the bed. He sat there smiling as always, smoking a very strong and smelly Turkish cigarette. “The question is what do you want Jimmie?” Phillip replied, “You have been causing me a lot of trouble and I have a business partner who is getting impatient. I want you to know I was not in favor of the kidnapping, but Mike was working on a plan from my partner.” Phillip continued, “You need to understand Jimmie that sometimes you trust the wrong people. You don’t really think that your kids being kidnapped was just by chance do you? You’re being used boy to end a problem.” I am not sure what he was talking about but he got up out the chair laughing as I continued to try to free me hands.
“Tell you what Jimmie,” he said, “I will give you Mike, and I will set it up that he is alone. In return, you call off this hunt once you take him out. He is who you set out after anyway.” My mind kicked in gear at last, why was he so eager to turn one of his men over to me? Who was this partner and what end was he talking about? I didn’t for one minute believe him, Hank told me about the things Phillip was involved in. he said my kids were kidnapped on purpose but why, to pull me in somehow? “What if I don’t take your offer.” I asked him. “Then Jimmie I will make sure that you disappear. The only reason you alive right now in this room is out of respect for our past, but that is even now. There is a knife beside your bed to cut yourself free. Make the smart choice boy.” and with that he left. I cut myself loose and thought about what he said. Some of it made very little sense, but one thing was now for sure. I would get Mike but the anger I felt against Phillip now boiled over and I would not stop until he was confronted on my terms. Not wanting to make a mistake, I picked up my cell phone and called Hank, its time to smoke Mike.

Chapter 10

For a week I have stayed in a different hotel each night, I was to concerned that Phillip or one of his men would be looking for me. Hank had told me to wait for his call. The hours seemed long and tedious, time seemed to have no meaning and neither did life now. Waiting gave me too much time to think, to think about my family, about Cindy and how she had left me. I had no idea what was happening with our company but I knew she would be running it and it would be doing well; after all she majored in business and new how to make things work. Anger and depression were fast becoming close friends as time dragged on. I had just gotten back to my hotel when my cell phone rang; it was Hank, the only one I knew I could trust.
He told me Philip was keeping his word to me it appeared, as Mike was given the duty of moving a car tonight to a drop zone with a load of illegal weapons that Phillip claimed he had sold to a drug runner. What Mike did not know was the whole thing was a set up, that the man he worked for had turned him over, that he was now expendable. Hank told me his informants gave him the route, location and drop off point of the car, and that the only one that would be there was Mike. Mike was told to stay in the car till the drug runners came and to make the switch with them, cash for the guns, but I would be the only one that will be there. This was a cold hearted set up, but typical in this type of world, a world I had thought was long gone from me, but now again all to real.
That night I walked out of the hotel room, loaded my rifle and my pistol, and strapped on around my ankle a knife I used to carry on each “trip”. It seems that the past had caught up with me, as I stood there and looked in the driver’s side mirror at a face that had become unknown to me. I looked as if I had aged a few years in the last two months; my eyes seemed hollow and lifeless. I had become so used to smiling and laughing at the sheer happiness I had with my wife and kids and the life we had together. But now as I look at myself, all I could see was an empty man with no future, no laughter, only hatred and anger.
I closed the door to my truck and cranked it up, not knowing if I would see this hotel again and longing to see my home. I drove for the next two hours out of the city and headed to a distance area in the country. Looking at my watch, I had thirty minutes until Mike arrived as I parked my truck and went through the woods to the drop zone. Searching around, I found a place to lay that would be hidden from site yet give me a clear view and shot at where he would be. Up the road I could here a car approaching, so I steadied my rifle and put my finger on the trigger. As the car got closer, I began to think about what I was doing, this would be cold blooded murder if I handled it this way. To shoot him from hiding only ended a life, not give me the satisfaction of taking him one on one nor him knowing who was against him.
I slipped back off the place where I had laid and moved quickly to where I would be behind the car after he stopped and there I would wait. The car drove slowly past me and came to a stop, straining to see I could tell Mike was alone but I knew he would be well armed as he expected drug runners to arrive. He stepped out of the car looking around, and I could see a pistol holstered under his right arm. I slipped quietly through the tall grass around me and crouching down, eased up to the back of the car. I left me rifle behind and instead had my pistol in hand. Mike was leaning against the door of the car lighting a cigarette, and as he did so I moved up behind him in the soft sand throwing my arm around his neck firmly clutching his throat in the middle and placed my pistol barrel against his temple. He started to fight back until he heard the hammer cock back but as yet did not know who was behind him.
In a low voice I said to him, “Surprise Mike, looks like you’re not going to meet you connection, this time you’re not going to see a judge, and it’s just me.” Now Mike knew who I was and laughed, he said that he was glad it was me, because now he could get me out of the way. Suddenly he lurched and turned, escaping from my arm, he swung wildly at me, hitting my jaw and causing me to fire into the ground from the jolt. As I fell backwards, he jumped at me grabbing his pistol. We fought on the ground, as I tried to get the pistol from his hand, as mine had been knocked away. I struggled and retrieved the knife from its holster on my ankle as we traded punches on the ground.
We both jumped up off the ground and lunged at each other falling again against the car, he was fighting to get the pistol in position and I was struggling to prevent it. My hand with the knife broke loose from his grip and I drove it deep into him below his ribcage as I heard his pistol fire. The look on his face was of shock and panic, as five times I plunged the blade into him, feeling my hand now wet with his blood. We stood there for what seemed minutes motionless as his body suddenly began to loose its strength, and his legs buckled below him a he slumped to the ground. I backed up and looked at him, now lying dead on the ground, and I screamed out loud in anger at what he had done to my life, to me and to my family. He was dead and all the anger that had built up inside me vented in a ruthless rage as I screamed again. I turn to walk to my truck when I suddenly fell, as pain ran through my leg I realized that I had been shot.

Chapter 11

I lay on the ground in pain, the bullet had gone though the muscle of the leg and left an ugly wound as it exited. I ripped part of my shirt off and tied it around the wound trying to decide what to do next, I could not go to the hospital, and there would be questions. I felt in my pocket for my phone, I had to call Hank; he was the only one that could help. Dialing the phone, I reached hank and told him the events, he said he would be on his way but it would take an hour. I did not want to stay out in the open like this but neither could I walk, so seeing an area where there was a drop off in the bank of the road, I crawled to it and hid in the tall grass and weeds incase anyone came along.
I must have passed out or fallen asleep because the next thing I remembered was Hank trying to get me up. He helped me to my feet as we made it over to his truck. “Lets get you to the shack and fix that leg, you may be off it a couple of days.” he said. I told him that now that Mike was finished, maybe I could go back to my life, get Cindy and my family back, and live again. “You think it’s going to be that easy? Heck it maybe, I don’t know. But let’s get you in the shack and work on that leg.” Hank said as we pulled up to the place he called the shack. It was an old house hidden way in the hills, beyond the forests out to where the land became more open and rocky, barren stretched of earth and rock between areas of trees. The shack was built on a hill with an open view of the valley in front and a dense growth behind it that could be escaped to if needed.
I lay on the cot with my leg stretched out as Hank dressed the wound. I was luck, the bullet passed clean through. It would leave a scar but that would be all. I had lost blood and was weak, so Hank told me to take something for pain, some pills he had at the shack, and sleep. There was food in the refrigerator and he would be back tomorrow to check on me, but in the mean time he would go back to see what information he could find out after Mike was now out of the picture.
As Hank drove off I could feel the pill taking effect, so I laid back to rest. My mind was so confused now; the emotions and thoughts were getting tumbled together. Finally I had gotten the man who did so much harm to my family but along the way I lost the very thing I was trying to protect. Cindy and our kids were my life but my insane anger at Mike drove me to pursue him after the courts let him go. Why didn’t I listen to my wife when she told me to stop, by not listening I have now done things that I thought were long gone in my life. A part of me that I had forgotten had been brought back by one mans actions. Maybe if I talk to Cindy, let her know it’s done; perhaps we can move past the last few months and start life again. It would be good getting back home, back to my office at our company, and back to what I had come to know as happiness.
At some point, I fell asleep, till the next morning when sounds outside stirred me from dreams and thought of home. I heard Hanks voice, but who would he have brought with him? “I just checked on him, he’s still sacked out.” Hanks said, “It all went perfect. I told you we could clean up the mess Mike caused by bringing him in. I knew he wouldn’t be willing to help but if you mess with his family that would cause him to react. Now with Mike gone, we can move ahead with shipments with out him dealing behind our backs.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, the one person that I trusted had betrayed me, and had been involved the whole time. They used me to do their work, to get someone out of the way with out their hands involved. As I felt a rage starting to build, I heard a second voice. “The good thing about this is that to the buyers, we don’t appear as the guilty party, to them it’s just an outside hit, and we are clear with them.” It was Phillip.

So all this time Phillip and Hank had been partners. Mike had become a problem to them. As their drug and weapon business grew, he started cutting deals on his own and it caused a break down in their set up, making them look week to those they sold to. They set Mike up and convinced him that a new area would be a cash bonus, and that kidnapping would be easy backup cash for them. So they arranged for him to kidnap my kids, knowing that if he was set free, there was a chance that I may react to it and go after him.
I laid there feeling the rage rise within me, an unbridled anger. I may have been used, and I may have lost my family, but I would not let these to make a fool out of me.

Chapter 12

I looked around the cabin, trying not to make any noise. I looked for a gun, anything I could use against them. I knew now that it was over, they would kill me. By the old cook stove, I found a knife with a five-inch blade, it was not much but it would have to do. I hurried back to the cot I had laid on before they would know I was awake, and lay there until I found an opportunity. Before long, the door opened and someone walked in, as he walked around the corner of the room I saw it was Phillip, I acted as if I was still asleep. He was walking lightly, easing across the room, coming closer to the cot. I could hear him pull a pistol from a holster as he got closer, and as he got close to the cot, I heard him whisper, “My apologies Jimmie.” I could feel him leaning over the cot and heard him rest a hand near the head rail; suddenly I felt the cold metal of the gun touch the side of my head. With one motion, I grabbed his hand pushing the gun away and with my other hand drove the knife deep into his stomach, twisting the blade and pulling it up ward. I looked face to face with him into the shock that shown in his eyes, “No apology needed Phillip.” I said as I pushed him back to the floor, bloody knife in my hand, and thrust it deep into his throat.
I heard him gurgle as he died, and felt complete hate as I looked down at him. I bent down to get the pistol from his hand and as I did so, Hank kicked the door open and the sight caught him off guard. I reached for the pistol but Hank fired once into the room then ran from the door. With the gun in my hand, I ran outside but could not see him, and I knew that he would not leave but had gone into the woods to get a better place of attack. Going to my truck, I got my rifle from behind the seat, turning running towards the woods I yelled, “It’s you and me Hank.” Stopping near a large tree, I knelt down so I could look around for signs of him. “I trusted you Hank!” I yelled. “I called you my friend, asked for your help. But your no better than the ones we used to hunt down!” from way off to my left I heard him answer me. “You were a friend, boy!” he said, “You and I fought together. However, things change. You are the only one I knew could get the job done. Sorry about the family, but we had no choice! You could leave now boy and I won’t have to kill you! We can just end it!”
I did not answer him, and he knew my answer. I started tracking him, and it seemed he was heading for a clearing. I came to the edge of the woods and stopped to make sure he was not waiting for me, and looking through the brush, I could see him headed across a small opening, going to where the rocks are. I lifted my rifle and fired to fast, as the bullet hit a small boulder near him. He ducked behind it and fired one shot back wildly, hitting high in the trees. I stayed low and followed, making it to the rocks and boulder he had been at. Looking down towards the small valley, I saw him making his way among the rocks, I fired again, this time hitting near his left foot, and he took cover.
So here I am, and as I said the sun was beating down as I lay there, waiting for him to move. Time seemed to pass so slowly, I lay thinking about my wife and family, how much I still love them and wish I could see them. After what seemed like hours, I thought I heard sound. Looking towards where he had been hiding, I saw him trying to crawl to another location. I set my rifle on the rocks, taking careful aim and breathing out slowly, pulled the trigger. I saw dust jump from below him and saw his body jerk and lay motionless. I waited twenty minutes before moving to see if he showed any signs of life. After twenty minutes, he still laid there, no movement, no sound. Getting up from the rocks, I walked slowly down to him, caring my rifle ready to fire. As I got up to him, I saw blood under his belly as he lay face down. I pushed at his hip with my boot, and he did not react. I stood there a moment thinking, I had trusted this man, now he lays here dead at my hands. My life destroyed and family gone because of him. However, it was not all his fault, my stupidity cause my family to leave. I set the rifle down and bent down next to him to turn him over. When I grabbed his arm he jumped at me, he had been faking. He knocked me to the ground, and jumping on me, he pulled his pistol. I grabbed his hand and we rolled on the ground, reaching in my boot for my knife. We wrestled back and fourth as he drew back with his left fist and caught me hard on the chin. The pistol and knife were somewhere in the midst of this fight where only one would survive. Twice I heard his pistol fire during the fight, and it must have hit home for shortly I could feel him getting weaker. Suddenly, I found a good hold on my knife I drove it into his back as we wrestled. I felt his body jerk as I stabbed again. We rolled across the ground stopping on a place of rocks and sand as I heard his pistol fire twice more. Taking my knife, I stabbed him in the side, shoving it hard into him, and pulling sideways as I did. He began to slump, and his legs became week. He looked me in the eyes and called my name, and suddenly he was still.
Hank was dead, and I rolled off of him, completely exhausted from the fight. I laid there on the ground trying to catch my breath, amazed he took four shots and the stabbings. After resting for a few minutes, I put my hands under me to get up and noticed that the ground was wet below me and that I must be more exhausted than I thought because I did not have any strength in my legs. I fell back down and thoughts of my wife’s face and my kids began to flood my mind. I wondered where there were right now and missed them so much. I began feeling a burning in my side and in my lower chest, and feeling around, felt a cold shock come over me, as the realization that two of those shots fire from the pistol had hit me. I began to panic, I cannot die out here, I want my family, and I want to tell them how sorry I am how much I love them. I want to get our life going together again. I tried again to get up and coughed when I did, tasting blood in my mouth. How stupid I have been, I should have left it all alone. It could only be around two in the afternoon but it must be getting cloudy because the sky seemed to be getting darker and I was having trouble breathing. I heard my name called, and opening my eyes I saw Cindy standing there looking as beautiful as ever, with the wind blowing through her hair. She smiled at me but I was having trouble seeing her. I heard her say that she still loves me, and I tried to tell her that I……………………