Lone Wolf, A Fourth of July Short Story
"Getting shot sucks," I thought.
We were in Harpers at Carolina Place Mall, sitting a table for two in the back. She was having white wine and I was sipping my go to, a Jack Daniels Black with just a dash of ginger ale.
"You seem different tonight," Dr. Janson said. It was the Fourth of July and she was wearing a white long sleeve blouse, Lucky jeans and red cowboy boots. The blouse was open at the neck, the jeans tight in all the right places, and the boots were just cool,
"That's a good thing," I said. "Right?"
"Normally." Dr. Janson said. "Have you gained weight?"
"No, its probably the palm trees on this shirt," I said. "But thanks for asking."
She sipped her drink, I finished mine and looked around for the waiter. On the other hand, I thought, a guy who knows he is going to get shot probably ought not to dilute his blood stream with a bunch of alcohol.
"Your iPad talking to you again?" She asked.
I nodded and she settled back, waiting for me to tell it and I did. But not all of it.
"Black guy, skinny, I'd estimate six one, a hundred sixty." I said. "Imagine the casualties, carrying a handgun, two in fact and he starts at the Security office."
"Here? When?" Her head snapped around as if the guy had just showed up.
"Southpark Mall," I said. My first lie. "Next week." My second.
"That means you have time," she said. "you can alert the PD, set a trap and catch the guy?"
I nodded and the third lie was one of omission. I had tried it that way last week and the guy never showed. I'd used up all my favors as well as my credibility with the City of Pineville locals.
"Homeland Security. That's who I need on this," I said.
"You mean he's one of those lone wolf Jihadists?"
I nodded again and decided to quit counting the lies.
"What I'm really wondering is if I can change some of the future on these videos..."
"Can you change it all?" She finished my question, then answered it. "I have no idea."
That was the problem, neither did I.
Meanwhile at an apartment a couple of miles away:
Yassir Abu Durant, aka Jerome Mackey, would be described by his aunt Mabel to the media as a quiet young man, raised up in a Baptist home with nothing in his past to indicate any interest in Islam. She would leave out any mention of the time he had lived in Dearborn, Michigan.
According to Mabel, she never had heard the name "Yassir" and when pressed she claimed it was a lie perpetrated by the talking heads over at Fox News.
But the truth was that Jerome had always been troubled. His juvenile record had been sealed, his grades at his high school abysmal and if not for a run of incredible good luck he would have been charged with three counts of burglary and two car jackings as an adult.
It was an older woman at a mosque in Michigan who influenced Jerome to become interested in Islam and then later to be fascinated by the world of international jihad. Now twenty-one years old, with no job and no prospects, Jerome had come under the influence of a violent group on the Internet that provided him with weapons and orders to kill as many infidels as he could tonight.
Jerome put both Glock model 17s along with six loaded magazines into a black Adidas backpack, zipped it up and studied himself in his bedroom mirror. No one was home so he felt comfortable trying out his "Alah Akbar" victory yell. After three attempts he added his usual two word declarative statement that rhymed with brother trucker.
When he tried it that way he knew he had something new, exciting, and most of all newsworthy. He would be famous for the rest of his life as he had no intention of dying for Alah or anyone else. He knew he could excel in prison, no problem.
Jerome checked himself once more in the mirror, took the Koran from under his mattress and put it next to his laptop on the old dresser and wondered briefly what it might actually say.
He shrugged and headed out. He had a bus to catch and some jihad to do. This was a Fourth of July the infidels were going to remember.
Back at the mall:
We had our supper and I walked her out to her car as lightning flashed in the night sky. I stood awkwardly while she got in, backed out and waved as she drove away. If I survived, she was not going to be happy about the deceptions. I headed back to the mall, trying to clear my head.
Walking through the food court, I passed the Chick-fil-a on one side and the Japanese and Chinese spots on the other then hung a left into the entrance of the bathroom and Security area. I stopped at the water fountain and thought about the videos:
The first video had shown the man walking quickly out of the men's bathroom, a Glock in each hand. There were five high school cheerleaders gathered in the lounge area using their cell phones, drinking Starbucks, and having fun. He shot them all, then two security guys who popped out of their office and finally several shoppers who had been on the way down the hall. He yelled something that did not come through on my iPad and carefully placed both guns in front of him. Then he knelt and put his hands behind his head with his fingers interlaced and simply waited.
Two days after I tried to set up an arrest with the skeptical guys at the Pineville PD, a second video showed a different outcome. He stepped out of the bathroom and just like in the first video he was locked and Glocked. But this time I was right there standing in front of the girls, my gun up and ready. I hesitated and he fired...
I heard the cheerleaders around the corner in the lounge area laughing, their youthful exuberance soon to be silenced by a mad man.
It occurred to me then, and not for the first time, to simply walk into the bathroom and blast the guy. But I had watched a Navy Seal on a two hour special and the words of Rob O'Neill came back to me: "We're the good guys..."
The man from the video slipped by me. As he passed I saw he was wearing a backpack. He headed into the men's room. I took the gold retiree badge out of my back pocket, stepped around the corner and ordered the cheerleaders to leave. Most of them probably thought I was joking, but when I pulled my Kimber .45 and headed into the bathroom they all stampeded down the hall.
I fast checked the room.
One guy at the urinal.
No one at the sinks.
My suspect in the handicapped stall.
I ignored the guy at the urinal, took three steps toward the stall and bent to peek under the door. I saw the man's feet and the backpack lying flat and unopened.
The guy at the urinal saw me then and ran out. I slid my badge under the door.
"Don't even think about opening that pack," I yelled. "I know there are two loaded Glock handguns in there and what you planned to do with them. That ain't happening."
I saw a hand reach for the bag.
"Un huh," I said. "I'll put eight rounds through that door before you get the zipper open."
The hand snapped back as if it had touched a red hot wood stove.
"You crazy, man." The voice from behind the door was soft, almost apologetic.
"I'll make you a deal," I lowered my voice as well. "Kick the bag out here, I'll take it and walk away. Nobody gets hurt, everybody goes home."
"One of us leaves here in a body bag, and I don't think it will be me," I said.
Seconds passed like minutes while I wondered how much longer I had before the police or security showed up. Finally, he mumbled something I couldn't hear and kicked the badge out. It skidded past me on the floor.
"How do I know I can trust you to walk away?" The man asked.
"Have I ever lied to you before?"
He questioned the martial status of my mother but pushed the bag out just in front of the door with his shoe. As I grabbed for the bag, the door exploded open hitting me in the top of the head and sending me falling back. He ran by me, grabbing the backpack on his way out.
I heard three shots as I got on my feet and charged out of the bathroom. Rounding the corner, I saw three bullet holes in the door of the security office and turned to see the guy headed down the hall toward the food court.
People were screaming and running out in the mall as he stalked toward them.
"Halt," I yelled. "Police!" and as ridiculous as it sounded, the guy stopped in his tracks. He turned toward me.
He had only taken the time to get one Glock out of the backpack. He held it in his right hand and as he brought it up I settled into my Weaver stance and slid my finger onto the trigger.
Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the uniformed officer duck his head out of the security door to get a quick look down our way. He was pointing his gun at me. I couldn't shoot because people were still rushing behind the man with the Glock.
I watched as the perp turned his Glock sideways like the thugs in the movies do and got it up to shoulder height.
I realized I was standing in the exact spot I had been in when I was shot in the video. I exhaled, eased my finger off the trigger and lowered the gun.
The man grinned. It was ugly. He fired and the pain in my chest was immediate and excruciating. I thought I heard other shots as the floor rushed up at me.
Carolinas Medical Hospital, ER:
"You are, without a doubt," Dr. Janson said. "the biggest jerk in the world."
"You don't get out much do you?" I struggled to sit up on the gurney at the hospital. I wondered if the bandages wrapped around my torso that were supposed to support my bruised ribs made me look thinner. I painfully put my shirt back on and stuck my finger through the bullet hole in the lower left side. It had made a neat little hole in a palm tree trunk.
The vest that had saved my life lay on the floor with a shiny forty caliber bullet still embedded in it. The evidence tech would take that when he arrived.
"Thanks for helping me with the shirt," I said.
"Asshole." she said but a tiny smile played across her face.
Happy Fourth of July with Madison Rising:
First in this series:
- Target, A Short Story
An improbable revelation challenges a nameless retired police officer