A quick glance at the clock assured Todd he still had a few minutes before the school bus was due at the corner.
He hunched his shoulders to settle the straps of his new shoulder holster before cinching it to the final buckle hole. The holster hanging upside down beneath his left armpit lay against his side where it should give his arm plenty of freedom of movement. But it didn’t. Maybe if he lost some weight …. Oh, well. He had no problem carrying his weapon at his waist. It was comfortable, and that’s the way most people carried. He didn’t even know why he thought he might like the shoulder holster better. Probably that good-looking girl on the commercial with her hands all over the model wearing one. How could the guy have just stood there ignoring her like he did? Damn, she could have sold him on an ankle holster for his AR-15. Cringing at the thought of the bucks he had paid for it, he soothed his conscience with a promise to give it another try later when he had time to play around with the straps. Maybe after work. Anyway, it wasn’t as though he had to conceal the thing.
It was almost as much trouble shrugging out of it as it was putting it on. After putting it away in a bottom dresser drawer with an old revolver holster he no longer used, he slipped his pistol holster onto his belt, snugged the weapon into it and closed the safety snap. As he reached for the door, he snagged his backpack strap with his hand and headed for the bus stop.
As Todd boarded, Missus Rafferty eyed him the way she always did with the upperclassmen, like they were all a bunch of rapists, like if she didn’t watch them closely, they’d get some unsuspecting freshman girl in one of the back rows and ravish her before they rounded the first corner. He smiled at her like he always did, even including his standard wink, mainly because he knew it drove her crazy.
“Hey, Todd,” Roberto called from half way back. “Thought you were gonna use a shoulder rig.”
Todd raised his hand to Roberto, aka Doof. “Still thinkin’ about it.” He dropped his pack on the window seat of the empty row ahead of Doof and sat in the aisle seat.
“You oughta get a tie-down like mine,” Doof said, patting the blued Colt hugging his thigh. “Cuts draw time in half, man.”
Todd’s sneer was in fun, and Doof knew it. “Yeah, if I carried a single action and wanted to blow my toe off. My draw time is just fine, and I can get off three more with my Glock while you’re still reaching to cock for number two.”
This time it was Doof that sneered. “Yeah and walk ’em up the wall. Each one of mine is aimed and goes where I want it. One target, one bullet.”
“Hey, I only need one of mine to hit the X. The others are just insurance—to get the bad guy’s attention and keep him occupied jumping and dodging instead of aiming.”
The conversation on the bus devolved into shouted questions ranging from what chapter the test was on in history class and who would make a spare copy of notes from yesterday’s sex-ed lecture to how many days suspension Little Mikey faced for the sprayed-on art-work he had created in the girl’s locker room in the gym ... the usual stuff.
After the bus spewed its cargo onto the high school campus, Todd walked with Doof to the hallway lockers where he dumped the contents of his pack except for the book and binder for Business Math, his first class. He had just slung it by one strap over his shoulder when a sudden spate of shouting halted most of the talking in the crowded hallway.
“I told you to stay away from him! Remember? I warned you!”
Todd turned toward the voice and recognized Robert Rowes, another junior. He didn’t know much about Rowes, only that he was moody and liked to spit between his teeth. He also knew that Rowes had a girl that he was in the process of losing to another guy, a senior. It was the girl, a little beauty with dark hair named Ronnie that was the receiver of his present tirade.
“Did you think I was kidding when I told you you’d be sorry?”
“Bobby,” she started. “I told you I wanted to—”
“And I told you I didn’t care what you wanted! I didn’t want it! You’re mine! Can’t you get it through that thick head of yours? You’re mine! Mine until I say you’re not! Mine until I throw your ass out! Is that what you want? Huh? You want me to toss you away? ’Cause when I do, you ain’t gonna be good for anyone else after! ’Cause you’re gonna be dead! You hear me? Dead! Dead! Dead!”
Before Todd or anyone else in the hallway realized what Rowes was doing, the boy drew the weapon from his holster and accented each of his last three words with nine-millimeter hollow-points. The first two slammed into Ronnie’s chest like blows from a heavy hammer, slamming her back against those gathered behind and around her. The third round and the three more following it tore into the observers knocking them into yet others.
Screams and shouts replaced the pounding thunder of the shots that echoed through the hallway and added to the rumble of pounding feet as everyone tried to flee in every direction. Several tripped in the panic and were trampled.
Todd stood where shock had rooted him to the floor. Only when someone bumped him, knocking him sideways so that he lost his view of Rowes, did he regain his awareness. When he scrambled back to his feet, he saw Rowes turn and run through the door to his right, a door that went outside to the quad in the middle of the campus. He still had his gun, and he was crazy enough to just start shooting whoever was there. Todd had to stop him.
After all, that was the whole reason Todd, along with everyone else, carried, so he could stop a bad guy with a gun. That was why the law had been changed allowing anyone to carry, anywhere, at anytime. The more good guys with guns out there, the less chance the bad guys could create the havoc, suffering and heartbreak they had been allowed to do for so many years.
By the time Todd burst through the door, Rowes was fifty feet away and stuttering his steps, first one way then the other. His weapon was back in his holster and his hands fluttered like wind-blows leaves. He didn’t seem to know where he was or which way he wanted to go.
Todd closed to within twenty feet of Rowes and stopped. He drew and aimed. He took the time to debate with himself whether to fire without trying to take him alive. Maybe he’d let Rowes call it.
“Rowes!” he shouted.
Rowes spun and looked back at him. At the same time, a dozen or so other people in the quad, students and faculty, turned and looked. They must have heard the gunshots from the building behind Todd, because they all wore fear on wide-eyed faces and ducked for cover when they saw him.
Rowes ducked and took off running as he reached for his weapon.
“Yeah,” Todd muttered with a sneer. “Like I’m going to give you a chance to shoot me, too.”
Todd’s Glock bucked in his hand as he squeezed off four quick rounds. The first one looked like it hit Rowes, causing him to jerk sideways on his next step, but he hadn’t even gone down when the other three whizzed past him. One ricocheted off a concrete bench and whined off into the distance. One chipped bark from the limb of a crepe myrtle and buried itself in the wood. The last one hit Missus Lester, an English teacher that was due to retire at the end of the spring semester. A bright red rose suddenly bloomed in the middle of her white blouse and she toppled backwards.
Four people around her, a teacher, a custodian, and two other students, all convinced that the shooter from inside had emerged and was extending his rampage to the quad, drew their weapons and opened fire.
Rowes crouched with his arms folded over his head with his pistol still in his hand, and he peered out as a fusillade of lead tore into Todd.
Rowes gripped a hand over a line of red traced by Todd’s first bullet on the outside of his left biceps.A few drops of blood seeped between his fingers and ran slowly down his arm.He rose to his feet and gaped at the people around the quad.No one paid any attention to him, so he tucked his weapon back into his holster.While the shooters, all good guys with guns who had stopped a bad guy with a gun, gathered around the body on the ground, Rowes ejected a line of saliva through the gap in his front teeth and headed for the parking lot.ing here…
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