Intrepid Stories: Justice

Intrepid City 0:1

JUSTICE
By Ryan M. Danks

Aaron Adams sprinted down the alley, police sirens at his back. He shifted the semi-automatic pistol into his left hand and pulled the door to the chop shop open.

“C’mon,” Aaron called behind him.

Mal’s breath came hard as he ran through the door. Inside the garage, he struggled to catch his breath while checking the ammunition in his pistol.

Aaron, his breathing as steady as if he had taken a brisk walk, looked out the door, then shut and locked it.

“They staked the place out. How did they know?” Mal straightened up and put his gun in his belt. “We need to get the hell outta here. Reggie and Danny won’t talk, but when the police get an I.D., they’ll come here.”

Mal nodded toward a sedan parked in front of the closed garage door. “Load it up; I’ll grab the keys.”

Aaron didn’t move. “They already know to come here.”

“What? How would they–” Mal turned to face Aaron, his eyes narrowing.

Aaron set his gun on a push cart and looked around the chop shop. No weapons within reach – except for their firearms. The concrete had been cleaned of the oily grease stains that usually covered it. It was just as he left it; just as he planned it. He looked at a desk on the side of the room, beneath the only window in the garage, and nodded to himself.

Mal drew his weapon and aimed it at Aaron. “You set this up?” Sunlight from the window glinted off the gun’s chrome finish.

“The dealership was never the job.” Aaron’s hands were a blur as he disarmed Mal and struck him in the face with his palm, sending the bigger man reeling. The gun clanked on the ground. Aaron ignored it and stepped toward Mal. “You were.”

Shaking his head, Mal recovered from the hit and adopted a rudimentary boxer’s stance. “I’m gonna–”

He was interrupted by a jab to the mouth. Aaron followed up the attack with a round kick to Mal’s knee, then went back up to the face with a right cross. His moves were fluid, practiced – a stark contrast to Mal’s street-learned brawling.

Mal hit the ground, blood trickling from a fat lip. He spotted the gun a few feet away and crawled for it, but Aaron kicked it away. Then he snapped his foot across Mal’s jaw, knocking him on his back.

The sounds of his opponent moaning in pain were sweet music to Aaron’s ears. He mounted Mal and began pounding away. The wet sound of flesh hitting flesh echoed throughout the chop shop.

Lost in the moment, Aaron kept at it. He knew he had won, and now was simply being cruel, but he didn’t care. He had waited too long for this. Even after Mal’s guard dropped –– when he was utterly defeated –– Aaron didn’t stop. His rage consumed him.

Mal reached a weak hand up to push his attacker back. Aaron trapped the arm with lightning fast hands and punched Mal one last time. Then he stood, blood dripping from his dark knuckles. 

Looking at his handiwork: the blood covered canvas of Mal’s face, Aaron decided that he wasn’t proud of it. He closed his eyes and took a deep, calming breath, taking a step back to let Mal roll on his side and spit blood and teeth onto the concrete.

“Why?” Mal said.

Mal’s broken voice was exactly how Aaron had imagined it. But hearing it for real frightened him. Was he becoming like Mal? Never.

“Two years ago, you tried to rob a store in East Lake, but a man stopped you. He told you there was a better way to make a living.”

Aaron grabbed a work rag that hung from the push cart he left his gun on and wiped Mal’s blood from his knuckles.

“He tried to help you. And for his trouble, you found him at a bus stop a week later and drove by with your friends; the same friends who are getting arrested right now.”

Aaron picked up his gun and wiped his fingerprints off of it.

“So,” Mal said, getting his knees under him so he could sit up. “I popped a few caps in a good Samaritan who didn’t know enough to keep out of business. Why the hell do you care?”

Aaron’s eyes narrowed. He wanted to hit Mal again. Kill him. “As your bullets tore up the bus stop, my father covered me and my mom with his body,” He lifted his shirt. A circular scar marred a wall of otherwise perfect abs.  “But he didn’t stop all of them.”

Mal’s mouth fell open. “Look, man. I–“

“His last words to me were to take care of my mother, but she succumbed to her gunshot wounds that same night.”

Still covering the grip of the gun with the towel, Aaron cocked the hammer back and looked down the front sights at Mal. “Since then, I’ve devoted every waking thought to taking you down, dreaming about what it would feel like to wipe you off the face of this planet.”

The metal door behind Aaron quaked as a fist pounded on its other side. “Police, open up!”

Mal looked from the door to Aaron, a glimmer of hope in his eye. “All they’ve got on us is attempted Grand Theft. You really want to go down for Murder One?”

Aaron grabbed Mal by the collar and stuck the gun in his eye. It would only take an instant to avenge his family and ensure the protection of any victims Mal might hurt in the future. He was a criminal of the worst sort. He deserved it – and Aaron deserved this. His hand shook with elation, and fear.

Then Mal whimpered, and Aaron was reminded of his humanity. He wasn’t the young man his father had demanded, with a stern hand and a warm smile, that he turn out to be. He yelled and threw the gun across the garage.

Mal sighed in relief, “Thank God.” But Aaron wasn’t done with him. He dragged Mal to the desk at the side of the room. Mal slipped in his blood as he struggled to get his feet under him.

The sound of a battering ram hitting the door shook the walls. The locked bent, but didn’t break.

Aaron slammed Mal against the side of the desk and pulled the top drawer open. Then he pulled Mal’s face up to his. “It was never about me.”

Aaron leaped onto the desk, slid the window open, and leaped out as the police knocked the door open.

Mal looked down at the open drawer. There were photos and material evidence of several crimes that he had committed over the last few months – since Aaron had joined the gang. It was enough evidence to put him away for a decade, maybe longer.

“No.” Defiance turned to a drawn out whine of despair as the police grabbed Mal’s arms and forced them behind his back. He struggled with all his broken might as they read him his rights.

Aaron walked into his apartment and dropped his keys next to a happy picture of his family. He picked the frame up and admired his parents.

“Justice,” he said, aware of the fact that he had almost gone too far. But this time was personal. Next time would be easier.

He put the picture back on the end table and looked at the wall in front of his couch. Most people would mount a television there, but Aaron had covered the wall with newspaper clippings and photographs, connected by relevance with colored strings. Other than the picture of his family, the “Wall of Crime” was the only form of decoration in the room.

Aaron pulled the cap off a marker and drew an X over a picture of “Malcolm ‘Mal’ Matthews.” Then he followed a string that led from Mal’s picture to a newspaper clipping with multiple strings branching from it, a small web of interconnected criminal activity. The article was titled: Gang War: East Lake Boys at Odds with The Shadow Mafia.

“Time for something a little more ambitious,” Aaron said, capping his marker.

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