It took me a few minutes to figure out where we were, but once I did we made for the elevator. I didn’t know when the men were supposed to get to the store, and the nice people who lived above it, but whenever it was it was too soon. We reached the store, and when I got there my heart sank. The door had been blown off its hinges, and the store interior was a wreck. I don’t know if that’s what the men meant to do, but I hoped that’s all it was. I had Nikolai’s bank account info, and that would be a small recompense for what the family had gone through. But it would help with this. I ran for the stairs in the back, and bounded up to the second floor when I heard the muffled screams. Terror, utter horror and fear. I sprinted for the last door on the right and threw the door open. I saw two men holding the girl, gagged and tied up. It was obvious what Nikolai had meant, and I immediately lost all control. I pulled my knife from my sleeve and jammed it into the first man’s skull. I couldn’t pull it out quickly enough, and the second man turned and pointed his gun at me. I grabbed the gun and twisted, the first gunshot going through the wall behind me. I hoped no one was behind there. I punched the masked man in the face, and kept punching. I followed him to the ground, sitting on top of him and punching him until I felt the man’s skull break beneath my fists. I knew I’d broken at least one knuckle, but the adrenaline kept the pain away temporarily. I looked up at the girl, who was being untied and helped up by Amy. I grabbed her, and pulled her close. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry I wasn’t fast enough to protect you. I should never have put you in a situation that made you so unsafe. I’m just glad you’re ok.”
I heard something I was dreading from the second that gun had fired: screams. Not just fear, but howls of pain. I turned out of the room and ran across to what I assumed was the parents’ bedroom. I threw open the door and saw a man holding his wife’s shaking body and calling for help. I called the emergency services number, for all the good it did in places like this. Medical care wasn’t exactly cutting edge. I saw the bullet wound; it was in her thigh. It had entered the outside and hit bone. She could still live, if there was a doctor. Amy got through to emergency services, who informed her that the nearest doctor was half a mile away, and that she’d need to bring the patient herself. I shook my head. I couldn’t carry her; she’d need to be in a vehicle at least. I pulled off my belt and tightened it around her thigh, a few inches above the wound, to cut off circulation. The bleeding slowed immensely, but I knew that if she didn’t get help soon she’d lose the leg, and probably still bleed out. I grabbed her and told Amy to bring the others. I carried the woman outside and down the stairs, and out into the street. I looked around for a vehicle, but the girl said that they didn’t have one.
“I can’t carry her half a mile! Where can I commandeer a vehicle?”
“Across the street, there. They use a truck for deliveries.”
Amy took off running across the street, when I turned to the girl; she seemed to be calm, considering the situation. She lost two brothers. Pain, suffering, death; they weren’t a stranger to her. My knuckles started aching; the adrenaline was wearing off, and I’d start feeling the pain for real in a minute.
“I suppose now is a good time. What’s your name? I’m Ryan. Ryan Darrow. I’m a Marshal.”
“I’m Jane. Aren’t all the Marshals dead? Or at least retired?”
“Yeah, we’re supposed to be. Hunting the man I’m after now was supposed to be my last job. We’ll see. Apparently I’m ‘obsessive.’ Whatever that’s supposed to mean. I’m just dedicated. Who says obsessive is a bad thing, anyway?”
“Well, you get to run around, killing bad guys that need killing and helping people. Sounds like a dream job to me.”
“Heh. Not even remotely, kid. I live on the road, I have few friends and more enemies than I can count. I’m always hunting someone, or dealing with the bureaucracy that comes with the job. Paperwork and all that. It’s not a glitz and glamor like this.”
“No, I guess not. But still, it could be worse, right? Like, you could be living here your whole life...”
I could see the pain in her eyes. It was the same pain I saw growing up in San Martelos, not only in my own eyes, but in the eyes of all the children who grew up knowing neither safety nor comfort. Amy, God bless her, was great; but she’d never be able to understand what it’s like. She’d never be able to identify with these kids. I could. And it burned me up.
“Hey. You want out of here? Your whole family?”
She looked up, her eyes somewhere between hope and disbelief. “Yeah. I’d do damn near anything.”
“Well, it just so happens that the Russian mob here has been beheaded, as it were. And I’ve transferred all the funds in their accounts into a single account based on Centauri Station. If you want out of here, you can fly your family there when your mom’s feeling better and from there you can live on any colony in the galaxy. Just do me a favor, and stay at least one sector away from Earth.”
Jane’s eyes filled with tears and she ran to her father, to tell him what I told her. About then Amy came around with the truck, and put Jane’s mother in the bed and climbed in with her. Jane’s father, Adam, climbed into the cab of the truck, while Jane climbed in the bed to help me keep her mother as still as possible. When we reached the doctor’s office, I jumped out and grabbed Jane’s mother, who Jane told me was named Caroline. Jane ran inside to find the doctor, who was giving a newborn its immunizations. He rushed out as I brought Caroline in, and helped me find a table to put her on. I told him he’d be paid well, and that he was to do whatever he could to save the woman and her leg, if possible. He looked at the wound, and told me it wasn’t as bad as it looked. I looked around at pictures on the wall; some of them were very old. I knew that any doctor who’d been around a place like this as long as he had would know his bullet wounds; if he said he could fix it, he could fix it. He pulled out a special magnet designed to remove bullets slowly and safely without causing further trauma, and then got to work sewing up the wound. He used a good old needle and thread, instead of a modern thermal cauterization device. He finished and pulled out what looked like morphine from a drawer, and stabbed it into Caroline’s leg. She’d feel good for quite a while with that. He stood up, cleaning up the mess and washing his hands. I walked over to him, and asked him to take a look at my hands if he had time. He looked at me, raising one eyebrow and removing the bandages from my knuckles.
I felt my face heat up; right or wrong, I felt terrible for what I did. I don’t usually have a problem with killing, but I’d already disabled the man. I only beat him to death because I hated him, and I was blinded by rage. Justified? Sure. I guess... I don’t know. “The man who did that, and tried to rape her daughter over there, just to send a message.”
The doctor shook his head, and saw the remorse on my face. He put his hand on my shoulder. “He deserved it.”
He pulled out a fairly modern-looking device, and passed it over my knuckles. Burned like hell, but they felt better. “What is that?” I asked.
“Stimulates bone repair.”
“Thanks. How much do you need?”
He looked in my eyes, studying me like a dissected frog. “You the one who killed the mobsters?”
“Yeah,” I said. “The boss is dead, and their organization lost all communications. They’ll be in trouble for a while. Won’t ever really be back to full strength, I don’t think. I sorta took all their money for the family there.”
The doctor just smiled. “I don’t do this for the riches. Can you get me medical supplies? That’d be more helpful.”
“I can. I have some connections.” I pointed at Amy. “She has a few more. You’ll get what you need.”
The doctor extended his hand. “Thank you, then. I appreciate it. Stay safe out there.”
“Thanks doc, I will.”
I looked back at Caroline, then quietly grabbed Amy’s arm and pulled her toward the door. Before we could get there, however, Jane was grabbing my hand.
“Hey. You can’t leave that quickly. I have to thank you. And ask you not to quit. I think the Marshals are great, and I wish I could be one someday. But until then, you can’t quit. If you do, they’ll shut down the Marshals for sure.”
I smiled, and shook my head. “Doesn’t matter. Marshals are gone. I’m the last one, and there’s no one else to work with me. If you want to make a difference when you grow up, join the military, or Security Section. They’ll always need good kids with great aim. Until then, though, stay out of trouble. And for God’s sake, stay the hell out of the Sol system. You’ll be better off for it.”
She looked me in the eyes, unsatisfied with my answer, but happy. I knew that through my own bad luck I’d helped her. If I could do that everywhere I went, maybe I would make the galaxy a better place. Maybe I wouldn’t. Who the hell knows? Who the hell cares? I just want to find my man and arrest him. Or kill him, if necessary. Most likely kill. He’s not the “give up easy” type. Jane jumped up and wrapper her arms around my neck, squeezing me as tightly as she could.
“I don’t care if you retire, or quit, or keep going. Just don’t die, do you hear?”
I looked at Amy, and we shared a smile. “Don’t worry, Jane. I can’t die. She told me I wasn’t allowed.”