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Cycle of Vengeance

By Andrew1 All Rights Reserved ©

Thriller / Action


LAPD Detective Joseph Rodriguez has lived a life filled with violence. He has grown up under the shadow of an abusive father, served as a soldier ordered to commit genocide, and killed his own alcoholic brother in defense of an innocent. Death and violence were the only unchanging pillars of his life. Yet for the sake of what remains of his family, Joe hopes it will stay behind along with the trauma from his past. As usual, the world refuses to give him what he wants. After only a few years in the force, a string of gruesome murders begin to take place all around Detective Rodriguez, and there's no sign of it slowing. As more bodies pile up and more friends are struck down, it becomes apparent to Joe that some things and feelings won't stay buried in the past.

The Congressman's Son

Joe groaned softly for a moment before hushing himself silent. He turned over in the bed to check his surroundings. A naked woman he barely recognized was curled up within inches of his own tan and muscular body, blissfully asleep.

“Shit,” Joe muttered to himself. He gingerly slid away from his mysterious lover and slipped out of the sheets. Sifting through the web of clothes strewn all over the floor, Joe silently dressed himself and tip toed out of the bedroom. “Sweet dreams, whatever your name was,” he whispered under his breath as he fled.

The Police Station was about as chaotic as Joe remembered. The Valley Bureau never had a shortage of crimes, many of them violent, to deal with. With grace only a veteran officer could have had, Joe danced through the entire sea of officers, clerks, and secretaries all scrambling to file their paperwork and appear productive in front of the many surveillance cameras mounted on every other wall. He made it into the back, where Police Captain Christian Wall would have been waiting for him in his office with a new assignment.

“Who was it this time? And no, I’m not even gonna try asking for a name. Just hair color and race. Unless you were too wasted to remember even that,” Wall said.

“Blond, early twenties college student. I think she said something about a biology major,” Joe replied.

“Wow, you actually remembered what she did when she wasn’t fucking you. I should recommend you for a medal just for that,” Wall said with a laugh. He adjusted the boxy glasses perched over his pink and round face before pulling out a tablet computer.

“Save it Cap, I don’t need anything weighing me down while I do my job. What’s up?”

“Gang fight.”

“Really? You dragged me all the way from home to talk about shit that happens practically every few hours in the Valley?”

“No, I called to talk about something that doesn’t happen that often in gang fights.” Wall pulled up a screen on his tablet and laid it on the table for Joe to see. “A few hours ago, a few patrol officers found the body of Matthew Krump in a ditch covered in bullet wounds typical of a gang execution.”

“That name supposed to sound familiar to me?”

“No, but I’m sure you’ve at least heard of Connor Krump.” Realization rushed into Joe’s still slightly hungover head.

“The Congressman’s son. Well that’s just great.”

“He wants answers for why his supposedly Valedictorian, star college athlete son ended up getting killed in the frontlines of a gang war and he grilled all the Commissioners for top talent. Congratulations Detective Rodriguez, you just got handpicked by a Congressman to solve a murder that now actually matters to society.” Joe picked up the tablet and read through the case report. After several seconds, he turned the tablet screen off. He scowled slightly upon noticing his reflection and swiveled to walk out of Wall’s office.

“Hey Cap do me a favor.”

“Please don’t ask for another regulation break. I am sworn to uphold the law, not bend it open for my friends.”

“Aw, you called me your friend, I’m so touched. But no, I’m not asking for any stupid shit this time. Just make sure the next time I show up after spending the night with some chick that I don’t walk all the way through the station looking like a fucking clown.” Joe furiously rubbed a lipstick mark off his right cheek as he swung the door open.

“Deal,” Wall said with a mischievous laugh. “Not like you have a wife who’d yell at you for it anyway.”

“I’ll look for a wife after our first snowball fight in hell Wall.”

Joe easily spent more than half of his time at the station down in the chilly metallic autopsy room in the basement. He didn’t mind, he related with the dead better than the living anyway. The only other living soul inside was the coroner, who was examining a fresh corpse on the autopsy table.

“Joseph, I have no idea how you always show up right when I’m done with your case. Take a look, I left the report and bag on the table behind me,” the coroner said.

“It’s called reading the status report Matt,” Joe replied. “Anything interesting?”

“Define interesting. If you’re asking for a suspect you’re in luck. Evidence got a match for the bullets in the victim. Want me to call a SWAT team to pick up the perp?”

“SWAT team??”

“The perp lives deep in gang territory. Better safe than sorry.”

“Sure why not.”

“If you’re asking if this’ll make a good story though, come back next week. The perp literally made no attempt at all to cover his tracks. We have gun registrations, almost 100% ballistics match, and the suspect targeted a Congressman’s son of all people.”

“Well, it’s like the guy’s trying to get himself caught. Alright while you call SWAT I’m gonna go have a chat with the Congressman. Try to figure out as much about whatever shady shit that kid was up to.”

The Congressman practically galloped into the living room of his luxury suite with a prideful swagger. His clearly bleached blond hair and artificial tan stood in ugly contrast with the fresh painted walls of the hotel room.

“Congressman Krump, thanks for meeting with me.” Joe’s contempt was only masked by the tired, apathetic tone of his voice along with a completely neutral facial expression. He extended a hand to Krump. Either through sheer pride and audacity or through gracious ignorance, Krump kept a wide smile on his face and shook Joe’s hand.

“No problem. I just want to make sure the bastards who did this to my son are brought to justice.”

“Well actually we matched the bullets in your son’s body. We’re picking up the suspect now. I just wanted to meet with you to let you know that and to see if I can’t get a little background on your son’s gang activities.”

“Yes well I can’t say I know too much about what Matthew was doing the last few days, too many murderers and rapists running around the state these days. I just know he used to be a good kid.”

“Yeah, that’s what they all say,” Joe muttered under his breath. “Alright. Now where was he the week before he ended up in a ditch in the Valley?”

“He was up at the family retreat to take some time off from school. Of course the kid went of and got plastered partying too hard and I ended up having him driven back to his apartment in LA to cool off.”

“You… sent him back to LA while he was still heavily intoxicated?”

“Look, I didn’t let him drive, I couldn’t do that as a Congressman and definitely not as a father. I had some of my men drive him down and drop him off. Next thing I hear, he does something just as stupid and ends up dead in that ditch you found him in.” Krump leaned in closer as if to whisper something to Joe. “And just between you and me, it’s an election year, I couldn’t risk letting the kid cause an incident in my district and put me in a media circus ya know?”

“Right,” Joe whispered back.

“In any case, you caught the killer, I got some closure, and hopefully we can both have a good rest of the year. You know I hear you’re quite the folk hero down here in LA. With all the corruption scandals and prosecutions in the LAPD, you somehow slip past all the mudslinging and actually do a good job with good publicity. I respect that about you Detective. It’s why I wanted you on this case.”

“Thank you sir. Though to be honest considering how open and closed this case seems to be, especially with your testimony that your son was a troubled kid, I doubt even a corrupt slacker would have messed this up.”

“Still, nothing less than the best for family am I right? I’m a family man and I don’t believe in settling when it comes to those who matter most.”

“Right.” Joe stood up, putting away the phone he had been taking notes on. He shook the Congressman’s hand one more time before approaching the door. He’d scarcely made it out of the living room when he nearly bumped into a lanky blonde teenage girl. She’d kept her eyes down to the floor and didn’t notice when Joe nearly ran into her. “Excuse me.” Joe was about to keep walking.

“Ah detective, no need to be so stiff. That’s just my daughter Sarah. Sarah, say hi to the nice detective sweetie.” The demure girl lifted her head and smiled at Joe. Her expression was shy and timid, though Joe could hardly fault her for that given his own unshaven beard and imposing stature.

“Nice to meet you detective. Thank you for finding my brother’s killer.” Her voice was likewise soft and underwhelming in every way.

“It’s the least I can do. I’m sorry for your loss.” Joe shook the girl’s hand and continued on his way.

The sound of a small boy laughing and playing brought a smile to Joe’s face. He walked up to the front door of the house and let himself in.

“Joe! I thought you were at work,” a woman called out from the back.

“I am. But they already caught the guy and they told me to take a break. Figured I could use the time to see how you and Ethan were doing.” Joe slouched into the couch in the living room. The woman soon walked in from out back to see him. Her brown hair was unbound and fell messily all along her shoulders and her apron was covered in a multitude of different stains. Her face, in spite of it all, remained clear and shining.

“Don’t let him find you like that. The boy gets at least twice as hyper whenever Uncle Joe visits.”

“Eh I could literally fall asleep and he’d find a way to entertain himself rolling me around,” Joe retorted. “You should try it Mckayla, you might actually get some sleep everyday.”

“I’m way too skinny and bony for that to be anything but painful Joe!” The two of them laughed and Mckayla sat down next to Joe. Almost immediately after, the sound of light and fast footsteps came rumbling in.

“Uncle Joe!” A six year old boy coated in a visible layer of dirt rushed in and crashed into Joe’s lap.

“Aren’t you as energetic as ever kid,” Joe said. He straightened himself and lifted the boy onto his shoulders. “Oof, I don’t know how much longer I can keep carrying ya kid. You grow too fast.”

“Then you just have to grow too!” the boy said enthusiastically.

“Yeah, guess I’ve gotta try that.” Joe chuckled and swung the boy around in his arms several times before gently setting him down. “How was school Ethan?” Ethan’s seemingly unquenchable smile dissipated into a pout.

“It was boring. I hate school,” he whined.

“I know kid. But I also know you can take it. Wanna know why?”

“Why Uncle Joe?”

“Cause you’re a soldier, and soldiers can handle hard things.” A subtle smile slipped back onto Ethan’s face. As quickly as he came, the boy scampered off to more adventures in the backyard. Mckayla let out a sigh.

“Sometimes I wonder why I bother cleaning the house these days,” she said.

“Hey, my offer to pay for a maid or butler still stands,” Joe said.

“Yeah? You and what income?”

“Hey, you have any idea how easy it is to turn into a dirty cop with lined pockets in this city?” Joe said.

“I know you’re joking but at the same time you kind of worry me every time you say that.”

“I know.” Joe’s demeanor had flattened and he slumped down almost as soon as Ethan had ran out of sight. “But you know what? I’m done being worried or even mad about it. It’s just a fact. Most of the assholes in power are only in it for themselves and the ones that actually give a damn are too busy actually doing their jobs to keep climbing the career ladder.”

“You’re always such a pessimist Joe! How on earth are you gonna teach your kids to enjoy life?” Mckayla said with a laugh.

“Don’t have kids. See? Problem solved.”

“Hey, you’re not getting out of it that easy. I know Ethan mostly calls you Uncle Joe but anytime his friends or teachers ask what happened to his dad he just says you’re his new dad.”

“Course he would.” A bemused smile came over Joe’s face. “Hey I have a question.”

“Work related?”

“Of course.”

“And here I thought you were visiting just cause you missed me,” Mckayla said while shaking her head. “What’s up?”

“You have any kind of spike in gang related injuries and or deaths at the hospital two days ago?” Mckayla furrowed her eyebrows in confusion.

“No. I’d even go so far as to say it was more peaceful than usual. But what do I know? I’m just a nurse.” She shrugged and shook her head as if to shirk responsibility over her observations. “You should ask that cute receptionist in charge of medical records. I’m sure if you used your charm right she’d give you whatever you wanted.”

“That’s why I try going in through the back door whenever I can.”

“Oh? Is big bad Joey shy?”

“Just not interested.” Joe stood up. “Well I’d better get going. And let me know if something comes up at the hospital.”

“Can do Detective.”

“Way to finally make it Mark, you enjoy that extra long beauty nap?” Joe said when his partner stepped into the station. He was an unassuming man with thick black hair neatly brushed back over his head. His outfit was unassuming, consisting of a T shirt and black slacks. To the untrained eye, he was just a civilian walking in.

“Hey, you specifically said to take my time seeing as the perp wasn’t going anywhere,” Mark retorted. “But you’re not interested in just the perp who pulled the trigger are you?”

“There’s being good at your job, then there’s having a suspect with a full confession and a chest full of forensic evidence being handed to you on a silver platter. The guy even agreed to plead guilty without bothering to call for his own lawyer.”

“Yeah you’re right, if this was some crime show we’d have the worst ratings in town for such a bland story.”

“Mark I’m being serious. Something’s missing. The man’s a major leader of one of the big gangs in the Valley. It makes no sense for him to admit to killing someone, a Congressman’s son at that. That and I really didn’t feel good about the man himself. Something’s really off about Krump.”

“Well duh, you hate politicians. Of course you’re not gonna like him.” Mark took a seat at his work station right next to Joe.

“It’s not politicians Mark, it’s hypocrites. Seeing as pretty much every politician I’ve ever encountered is one, yeah I guess you could say I hate them. But Krump takes the cake.” He expanded his computer screen into a hologram so Mark could see. “Last year his daughter Sarah had three abortions, paid for out of his own pocket.”

“Oh come on Joe, don’t start getting all pro life preachy on me.”

“I’m not. But Krump does; the man’s one of the most outspoken conservative and pro life advocate in the House of Representatives. That’s what I mean by hating hypocrites. And you know what’s weirder? He said his son was getting into all the wrong crowds and he was the troublemaker.”

“What? That doesn’t sound right at all. I just talked with some of the students and professors he works with at UCLA, they all say he’s a model student.”

“Well on the bright side, if Krump’s a suspect for any related crime he isn’t very bright. I could tell just from the way he walks that he’s a proud and self centered idiot. And I highly doubt he’d make shit up about his son if he was innocent.”

“Well hey, like you said Joe, he’s a politician. Just cause he’s covering his ass with blatant lies doesn’t mean he killed anyone. Just means he’s a politician.”

“I know. But given our mutual hatred of politicians, let’s keep digging and see what else we can find on this bastard. What else are we gonna do if this case is as closed as they want us to think?”

The two detectives spent hours hunched over their computers, scrolling through hundreds of reports and surveillance clips. It wasn’t until Captain Wall stepped in that either of them even looked up from their screens.

“What are you two still doing here?” he said. They both looked up, yawning from exhaustion.

“What? I thought bosses were supposed to be happy when employees willingly worked overtime,” Joe said.

“Not when they have to get paid overtime.”

“Well I have to pay rent somehow. Besides, I think you’ll be interested in what we found. Matthew Krump wasn’t only not a party boy like the Congressman wanted us to think, he was completely sober. He was taking antidepressants for the past year and anyone taking as much prescription drugs as him would know better than to take it with alcohol.”

“Uh huh…” Wall said.

“It doesn’t make sense considering that Krump himself told me that he had to have someone else drive his son home cause he was, quote unquote, plastered partying too hard. Considering he showed up the very next morning dead in a ditch, I don’t think we can just ignore that he knew something about his son that he’d rather hide from the public.”

“You think the kid acted out wanting to get killed? I mean that could happen if he actually did take alcohol and messed up his antidepressants,” Wall said.

“Well if Matthew wanted to die why didn’t he take the simple route and just hang or shoot himself? Why go out of your way to get a gang execution? And why would Krump paint his son as a troublemaker if he could just pin any weird behavior on his depression? Talking about a poor son with emotional troubles would be an instant sympathy magnet with the press.”

“I don’t know, you ask me the guy’s the definition of a sleazy moron in office. If you two want, I can have the guy brought in first thing tomorrow morning for interrogation.”

“Thought the case was closed,” Mark said.

“Yeah, but the guy’s a Mexican gangster with a confession to murdering a Congressman’s son on tape. At this point you could probably get away with maiming and torturing him on tape and keep your jobs. I’m sure asking him a few more questions won’t ruffle up anyone’s feathers, at least no one I give a damn about.”

“I get the feeling he’s not really the one I want to beat up though,” Joe muttered.

“You know one of these days you’re gonna eat yourself to death if you don’t take another look at your diet,” Mark said as the waiter brought food to his and Joe’s table.

“Really? You’ve got an alcoholic, emotionally dysfunctional womanizer for a best friend and diet’s what you choose to lecture me on? You’re a funny guy Mckinney. Besides, I’m not that unhealthy. Protein’s good for you.” Joe picked up his utensils and carved out a thick portion of bloody, rare steak and jammed it into his mouth without any semblance of decorum or table manners.

“I know how to pick my battles is all little Joe.” Mark picked up a fork and began picking through his own plate, twirling it around while letting the white, creamy pasta coil into a ball. He put his left arm into his jacket and smiled a little to himself before letting his hand fall back onto his lap.

“The hell’s up with you? You’ve been giggling to yourself and checking your jacket pocket every five minutes since we got here.” Mark turned sheepish for a second. He looked around the restaurant and, after finding no interested ears near their table, leaned closer towards his friend.

“So this Saturday’s Lindsay’s and my 8 month anniversary,” he began.

“Oh god, this is gonna be good.”

“No no no, this isn’t like other months. See, it’s also gonna be the night I ask her to make it our engagement day!” Mark tried keeping his voice down to a whisper but the excitement made him loud enough for anyone walking close by to hear. He pulled out a small black box from his jacket pocket and showed Joe the diamond ring inside. Joe responded by nodding and smiling halfheartedly. “Oh come on, at least act excited.”

“Hey, I don’t have a problem with it. It’s just hard to get excited when you bring her up every other conversation we have outside of work.”

“Come on, this woman’s gonna be my wife! Of course I’m gonna talk about her a lot.”

“Hey Mark, I got some life advice for you. It shows up in war and buddy cop movies a lot these days. The guys that can’t shut up about their woman or family at all.” Joe pointed his index finger at Mark’s forehead imitating a gun. “They don’t come out alive very often.” He cocked his finger up in a shooting motion.

“Oh come on, and who are you to talk. You’re in bed with a new woman every single week without fail.”

“Keyword: new. I make sure not to go back more than once so I don’t get attached to anyone. And you’ll never hear me talk about them cause most of the time I’ll make a concerted effort not to even learn their names. Relationships have never ended well in my personal experience.”

“What about Mckayla? She seems to like you quite a bit and you know plenty about her.”

“The woman’s the mother of my nephew and my sister.”

“Sister-in law,” Mark corrected Joe. “And let’s be honest little Joe, if you hadn’t been shipped off to war she definitely would’ve gone for you over your brother.”

“What? You want me with a bullet in my head and remembered for being a domestic abuser? I think I’ll pass.”

“Joe, for goodness sake we both know you’d sooner step on a landmine than lay a finger on a woman like that.”

“Actually, I’ve beaten up plenty of female criminals,” Joe countered.

“You calling Mckayla a criminal?”

“What? No. But my point still stands.”

“I can’t win with you can I?” Mark said with a sigh.

“I’m positive if you’d seen my brother before when we were younger you’d have said the same thing about him. Believe me, I’m doing the world a service by staying the hell away from anything resembling a steady relationship.”

“Alright. Whatever man. Just promise me you’ll be a bit more upbeat when you’re giving the best man’s speech at my wedding.” Joe let out a laugh.

“Sure thing buddy. But don’t count on any chickens before a single egg has hatched.”

The suspect looked completely calm in spite of his circumstances. He was dressed in an orange jumpsuit and had both his arms and legs chained to the floor. His metal chair was as cold as the rest of the sterile room and the two detectives standing across from him had anything but friendly faces.

“What else do you want to hear from me? Your colleagues from earlier already recorded my confession,” he said with a thick Mexican accent.

“How about why you killed him Alejandro?” Mark said. Alejandro shrugged.

“He was some rich gringo messing with my turf. I couldn’t let the other gangs see a random outsider on my turf.”

“Did it occur to you that outsider was someone important? Like, a Congressman’s son?” Joe asked. Alejandro shook his head.

“Not at the moment, but now that I know I’m sure my street cred will go up.” Joe rolled his eyes and slammed his fists onto the metal table separating him from his suspect.

“There’s no way in hell you’re that stupid Alejandro. You know as well as anyone that you can’t just kill bystanders left and right lest we jump in and throw everyone you work with in jail. Yeah, you confessed and we have evidence showing you pulled the trigger but you have any idea how easy it would be for me to read your face or words wrong and start rounding up all your buddies still on the streets? You think I don’t know about your distributors on Parthenia street or your meeting place on Sepulveda? I don’t really want to spend that much energy busting your gang- another one will just replace it- but I really get pissed off when perps start lying to me. So unless you cut the bullshit and tell me why you really killed Matthew Krump I am going to go out there and hunt down every last motherfucker you’ve taken under your wing and trust me…” He slammed his gun on the table for Alejandro to see. “I have more than enough experience killing buildings full of people so don’t think I won’t do it all myself if I have to.” By now Alejandro’s face had gone pale and beads of sweat were gathering around his brow.

“I got paid okay?”

“Really? How much did they have to give you to make it worth your time in prison?” Mark said. Alejandro got paler. “What’s wrong tough guy? All I’m asking is how much money you made.”

“It wasn’t money was it? Who were they after huh? You clearly didn’t want me giving any of your friends a visit did you?” Joe said. “Who threatened your family?” A long, tense pause settled over the room. Mark and Joe kept their scrutinizing glares on Alejandro. The suspect tried averting his gaze but as seconds turned to minutes, he withered and closed his eyes.

“It was that bastard Krump’s henchmen!” he finally yelled. Joe and Mark exchanged looks. They were disgusted, but neither of their faces indicated any semblance of shock or surprise.

“He wanted you to kill his own son?” Mark said.

“Yes!” Alejandro’s face fell into complete dismay and fear. “Dammit. You two just couldn’t leave a simple case alone could you?” He looked down at his lap. “If you hated me so much why didn’t you just kill me?!” He raised his arms, revealing an improvised shiv, and thrust his head down towards it. Before either Mark or Alejandro could see what happened, Joe was on him, restraining his arms and prying the shiv away from the suspect’s face and kicking it away.

“The hell are you doing? I’m not letting you escape that easy!” he growled. He pinned Alejandro’s head to the table and gestured to Mark to frisk him. Mark came up moments later with two more sharp weapons in his hands.

“Amateurs, who taught those other guys how to search a guy? Michael J. Fox?” Mark muttered. Joe groaned slightly at his partner’s quip.

“Watch him. Make sure he doesn’t try anything stupid while I’m gone.”

“Where are you going?”

“Getting the real murderer. Krump’s scheduled to fly out tomorrow morning.”

Joe was fuming. He kept himself silent while walking down the hotel hallway but his clenched fists were shaking from barely concealed rage. He’d never needed an excuse to hate a given politician and now he had two. A soft but audible scream knocked Joe out of his internal monologue and turned his attention to the Congressman’s door. He pressed his ear against the door but heard no noise. After several seconds of listening, he sighed and straightened himself out to knock. Just as he raised a fist he heard the scream again, this time unmistakably from inside the hotel room. Joe took the opportunity and pulled out his gun, blasting the hinges off the door and charging into the suite. He quickly cleared the living room and rushed into the bedroom. In spite of his years of combat experience, Joe couldn’t help but freeze up and shudder at what he saw.

Sarah, the Congressman’s sixteen year old daughter, was lying on the floor with scarcely a silk bathrobe showing more than half her bare body to cover her. She kept her face down while her father, likewise barely dressed in anything more than a bathrobe, stood over the scene looking like a fugitive under a searchlight. Joe’s face contorted from shock to rage the instant the scene came together in his head.

“You have five seconds to explain yourself you sick fuck,” he growled, aiming his pistol right at Krump’s head.

“Hey look here detective who told you to nose around?” Krump said. Joe suppressed the urge to growl and briefly looked down at the girl.

“It’s alright. Go wait in the bedroom,” he said, as softly and smoothly as he could. The shell shocked girl flinched at the sound of Joe’s voice and scuttled out without making any eye contact. Her father tried going after her but Joe put his gun to his eyes to force him back.

“Eyes here. This is the only conversation you should be worried about,” Joe snarled, any trace of gentleness gone from his voice. “Now what the hell were you doing?”

“Now wait just a second detective. I know this looks bad but…”

“But what?”

“Alright, I don’t have to waste my time explaining myself to you. Where’s your warrant?” What little semblance of patience Joe had evaporated as Krump droned on. He lunged forward to cut him short and threw the chubby man into the bathroom mirror, smashing the glass. He grabbed his bruised and bloodied victim by the neck and backhanded him, leaving a visible purple bruise the size of a grapefruit on the left half of Krump’s face.

“There, now you look like the kind of person you are.” Joe kneed the Congressman in the gut and hurled him onto the floor. He put the muzzle of his gun right against his victim’s head. “Not only do you lie to citizens and detectives like me, you abused the trust your own son was supposed to have in you. You’re hideous, just like the rest of your kind.” By now any semblance of bravado was stripped off Krump’s usually smug face.

“I… I’m sorry I’ll tell you everything! I’ll talk I’ll talk just please don’t kill me.”

“Shut up. I already know enough. Your son saw you molesting his sister and when you worried he’d blab you had him drugged and killed.”

“I… I know. I’ll plead guilty, I’ll take whatever deal you give. Just please-” Joe punched Krump in the jaw to shut him up.

“I’m not giving you a deal filth. I’m sending you exactly where you belong. Now burn in hell!” He’d braced himself for the gunshot when another scream gave him pause.

“Don’t kill him!” Joe turned and saw Sarah, hunched over in fear yet forcing herself to stay standing on her two feet, peering inside. “Please. My brother’s already dead, please don’t kill my dad too.”

“This is the bastard that killed your brother.”

“And shooting him won’t bring him back.” The forcefulness of Sarah’s voice took Joe aback. “What you said about him’s true,” she said, visibly tensing in an effort to keep her composure together. “But I can’t stand the thought that someone else has to die because of another tragedy. When will it end? Do you have any idea who would come after you?”

“That’s none of your business!” Joe snapped. Anger was still glazed onto his eyes and his finger was still nestled against the trigger. “I know what I signed on for.”

“You signed on to protect innocent people! How can you protect people if you’re so full of hate that all you can think of is hurting others? Don’t you have anyone you care about?” Sarah’s question, especially the last one, shook Joe to the core and loosened his grip over the trigger. “I don’t want to see anyone else die here. That being said, I’ll corroborate your story and make sure you don’t get in trouble. My dad he…” Sarah shuddered, her self imposed dam of emotion beginning to crack. “I never wanted to tell anyone because I thought it would be better to hide it. But if it stops you from killing him, I’ll answer any personal or intrusive question you have.” The pleading glint of the girl’s eyes bore down uncomfortably on Joe’s conscience. He looked back down at her father’s crumpled face, almost goading himself to reignite his hate. Even so, the weight of Sarah’s gaze forced him to disengage. With an annoyed growl, he pistol whipped Krump on the head to knock him out and re holstered his weapon.

“You’re really annoying kid,” he mumbled under his breath. “Call the police. You don’t have to gloss over a damn detail. I deserve whatever they decide to do with me.”

“You know, I don’t know whether to be happy or pissed that they’re letting me off the hook completely just cause the media hates the guy,” Joe muttered. He looked out the window from the passenger side of his car. Several EMTs were carrying Congressman Krump’s unconscious body into an ambulance while a few police officers were interviewing Sarah.

“To be fair, the girl was willing to admit that your allegations were true and the rape kit we gave her backs the story up to. We have to wait for the techs to finish processing but after 10 years on the force, sometimes you just see it and know,” Mark said. He was sitting to the left of Joe in the driver’s seat.

“What kind of world are we living in now?” Joe mused. Mark raised an eyebrow. “A Congressman murdered his own son to cover up what could arguably be an equally galling crime, the policeman who was supposed to clean that mess up goes into a murderous rage and has to be lectured by a child, another one of that bastard’s victims no less. How bad does it have to get before a killer of countless innocent children and parents like me becomes an icon for a city?”

“Joe, you were a soldier. It’s not your fault what happened…”

“It was absolutely under my control,” Joe growled. “The boys and girls who went to Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kazakhstan, hell even Russia, those were soldiers. What they had us do in Venezuela… we weren’t soldiers. We were state sponsored mass murderers. And the blunt truth is it’s not like the movies. I don’t have flashbacks to dying kids or any of the countless fires I started when they fled into the jungle. I barely remember any of it at all and that’s what’s scary. I erased entire family trees in a single burst of flame or a volley of gunfire and yet, here I am still monstrous as ever without a regret in the world.”

“Joe, listen to yourself. Give yourself credit, I don’t think someone without regret would talk like you.”

“Krump would. He was raping his daughter and murdering his son yet I guarantee you when the dust settles and the press gallops in, he’ll wax poetic about how fallen he is and how noble his original goals were. Fucking hypocrite. And the part that pisses me off the most is… I do that all the time too.” Joe reached into his glove box and pulled out a half finished bottle of whisky. He pried the cap off and gulped a quarter of the bottle. “Thanks for driving my car. You sure you don’t want to keep it to drive yourself home?”

“It’s alright, I like riding the bus. People watching’s a hobby of mine anyway.” Mark started the car. “You got any fun plans for the weekend? Any more hot dates?”

“Nah, I need a break.”

“That’s what you said last week before you totally snagged those two chicks from CSUN.”

“First off, it was three, and it was spread out over three days. Second, I ran out of booze that week so I had to do something to distract myself.” Joe held up his quarter filled whiskey bottle. “I made sure I wouldn’t have that problem this week.”

“Whatever. Just promise me you’ll do something other than mope in your house all day.”

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