The Third Call

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Chapter 9

It wouldn’t have taken a genius to figure out from the lights flashing outside that there were more than a few dumbasses out there, guns drawn, waiting for something. If they came through the door, there was always the possibility he could get shot. He just hoped his brother would be able to reason with the sheriff from the county over and keep Lonnie under wraps. Then there was Bert, whom he could picture passed out cold. If there were a time for him to pull it together, it would be now.

“That was good thinking on your part, Tommy, letting Reine and Eva go,” Marcus started.

Tommy dragged his gaze back over to him, and he could see the anger simmering there. It was the kind of rage that built, and when it came out, it usually resembled fireworks.

“They weren’t hostages,” Tommy said. “Why is it that you don’t or can’t listen? Typical cop. You put a story together, and does it really matter if it’s true?”

The way he said it had Marcus reminding himself to tread carefully.

“See it from my point of view, Tommy. You had a gun. A little girl called in three times for help. She was terrified of you. The gun alone was a threat. I asked you to let them go, and there was every indication that they couldn’t leave. I asked you to put the gun down, and you wouldn’t. But it’s all moot now. They’ve left, so yes, it is just you and me here, Tommy, and you’ve cuffed me to a chair. It’s time to end this. The charges against you are bad, but it could be worse.”

Much worse, he thought, with him taking a bullet or dead.

Tommy just walked back into the kitchen and dumped the two bowls of soup into the sink. The gun was still on the counter. From the look of him, Marcus wondered when he had last brushed his hair.

“You know, the minute I saw Reine with her little girl in that camp, I knew they wouldn’t last,” Tommy said. “Not that anyone chooses to live on the street, but most folks there are doing their best. Shelter, food, and staying warm. Those are the kinds of the things we fought for, yet here we are in a country that won’t even look after its own. On the streets, you’re trying to figure out where to sleep, if you’ll be robbed in your sleep, or raped, or killed. Yeah, there’s bad people out there, but most watch out for each other. Then there’s the cops.”

The contempt was there in the way he said it, but at the same time, Marcus knew that cops didn’t willingly go in and move out and harass the homeless. It was always an order from the top, someone behind a desk, a politician, someone in charge.

“I saw her and her kid,” Tommy continued, “and I knew my dad’s place was here. I brought her and the kid, and I planned on leaving them, letting them stay. It’s a roof, at least. I’d get her some food and then leave, because I can’t afford to stay too long in one place. I know how to hide well. At least the army taught me one thing I can use, but that’s not saying much.”

He had his back to Marcus, then slowly turned around and faced him. “You know, there was a canine unit in my battalion, dogs that they train and use. They send the dogs in first, and most of the trainers are good. They love those dogs. But there was this one guy…everyone knew who he was, a captain. He never should have been in charge of that unit. He was given one of the dogs, a gorgeous sweet shepherd, Sadie. He was a mean son of a bitch. He’d beat that dog when she didn’t do what he expected.

“No one said anything, but I did, right to his face, and I got myself written up. He kept that dog chained, kicked her. No one had the balls to stand up and do anything. The other shift would treat her differently, but then she started to bite, turned mean. I knew why. Who wouldn’t be mean, when you expect to be hit or kicked? So I went there one night to check on her. I had submitted a request up the chain of command for the dog, because I wouldn’t be a good little soldier and do as I was told, but they said she belonged to the US Army, and the request was denied.

“She’d been beaten yet again. I found her in her kennel, bloody, whimpering. There was the captain, too, storming my way, yelling at me to get the fuck out of there, saying I’d find myself locked up and court marshaled. He warned me to stay away, and there I was, disobeying a direct order from him. He had all the power, everything on his side, and he wasn’t above using it.”

A sick feeling rose in Marcus’s chest. He didn’t like where this was going, and he didn’t think he wanted to hear Tommy say it.

“There was a chain lying right there,” Tommy said. “I could tell he had used it on the dog. Her blood was still on it. I was blinded with rage, so much that I couldn’t breathe past the tears burning my eyes. I don’t remember picking up the chain, but my hand was on it, and I just started swinging. I hit him over and over and over, again and again. He was on the ground, and blood splattered all over me. I would have killed him. Thought I’d killed him, too, as he lay there, bleeding and unmoving.

“I dropped the chain, and the only reason I knew he was still alive was the moan he made. I opened the kennel and lifted the dog out, and she whimpered, and I knew she was still alive. I carried her out of there and walked over to my car, and no one stopped me, but I passed more than a few who were shocked at how I looked. I put her in the back seat of my little compact and drove off that base and into town, just driving until I found a vet. The door was locked, but the veterinarian lived upstairs. He let me in. I carried her, trying not to hurt her any more. We laid her on a steel table in the exam room, and she died not long after.”

Marcus shut his eyes, that sick feeling welling in the pit of his stomach. He wanted to vomit. Kids and animals were the most vulnerable. As he opened his eyes, he took in Tommy, who was staring at the gun on the counter. He felt such empathy and fury at the same time, considering it wasn’t so black and white after all. He felt his anger.

“The vet said it was a blessing. He didn’t know how she was still alive when I brought her in. Her back was broken, her legs, the internal injuries…” He lifted his hand and stopped talking, and Marcus knew the man was numb, still in shock from something that was beyond cruel. He watched every motion Tommy made, the way he shook his head and balled his fists. “She was innocent. She didn’t have a choice, being a dog. Can you imagine…?”

He pulled in a deep breath and gave Marcus everything as he reached for the gun, and Marcus felt his heartbeat kick up. His heels were on the ground, ready to launch at him, chair and all. He didn’t know what Tommy was thinking or what he’d do.

“I can’t imagine, Tommy,” he said. “So is that what this is about, the charge of attempted murder?”

There it was, a smile that wasn’t a smile. “If you’re asking if I’m sorry, the only thing I’m sorry for is that I didn’t finish off that fucker. The wrong one lived.”

What could he say to reason with this man? He couldn’t justify for himself the kind of evil that lurked in some. “The law doesn’t always work,” he started, “but mostly it does. I understand that these are extenuating circumstances. Tommy, a judge would listen to this and take it into account…”

“You understand what, exactly? How a bunch of people can look the other way? Some said to report him, and others said to follow the chain of command. Others said they were working on it. Others said standing up to him would come back on me, and even if I got something to stick, it was just cruelty to animals, a few thousand bucks and a slap on the wrist. You forget who he is, how the military is. You don’t take on the military and win. How is that justice? He was a captain, a shitty one, but still above my pay grade. I was supposed to follow his orders or get totally fucked. But hey, look…” He gestured with his arms wide open, and Marcus took in the wild look in his eyes. He wondered now where he’d heard about the charges against him.

“You’ve been on the run a long time,” he said. “I empathize, Tommy, I really do, and I don’t think you’ve been given a fair shake in the matter. You’re right. That shouldn’t have happened, but it did. Whatever happens, you have to face up to it. I’ll do what I can to help. You have my word.”

He’d talk to Karen, his sister. She was a good lawyer. He knew the charges were pretty bad, though, considering Tommy had also been on the run. Then add in the gun he was holding, and the fact that he had trapped Marcus in there.

Tommy opened up the gun, and he was so close that Marcus could see the chamber was empty. Then he walked past him to the door.

The horror Marcus felt had him yanking at his wrists, trying to break free. “Tommy, do not do this! I swear to God, Tommy, there’s a way out of this. This isn’t over…”

He was still shouting as Tommy pulled open the door and gave him one last look. All Marcus could do was jerk on the chair, and somehow he was up, the chair lifting with him as he bent forward, but he was too slow. He watched as Tommy lifted the gun, stepped out of the cabin, and pointed it out.

Gunfire followed.

“No!” was all Marcus could get out as he leaped forward through the door—but he could see it was already too late.

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