Chapter 1

My name is Abraham Charles Easton. I prefer to be called either "Abe" or "Ace." I have never liked Abraham. I am six foot, two inches, tall and weigh two hundred ten pounds. Little of it is fat. I am twenty-nine years old. With a healthy head of black hair and dark eyes, I am told that I have a tendency to glower at people. I can smile but that's not my habit. I've seen too much that wasn't pleasant.

I am working on a Master's degree in Engineering at Auburn University though I'm a little old even for a grad student. The Christmas holidays start tomorrow and I have no place to go. That's not surprising.

I have no family and no girl. My parents and I were only children. They were killed in a traffic accident while I was overseas. I returned to find the house sold and the proceeds and their life insurance deposited in a trust account for me. My dad liked life insurance and both my parents were well-covered. The drunk who killed them had a good auto policy and the suit in my name was won for the maximum of his insurance coverage. The result was over a million dollars after expenses and fees. My savings added another hundred thousand to that number. I had veteran's benefits to cover my college. I was still in the reserve but had no other obligation.

Instead of renting, I bought a small farm west of the University and even west of but close to Notasulga. I had a truck and didn't mind the commute. I enjoyed traipsing in the woods that I owned. My neighbors were nice and minded their business. I did, too. I had my guns and, from habit, went armed. I also had the proper permits. I carried a pistol in my truck or on my person. In five years, it only came out once. That's where this story starts.

That last morning of classes, I pulled in at a convenience store that I frequented. I happened to be wearing an ankle holster when I went inside. I was pouring coffee into my mug when two men came in and loudly shouted, "Everyone raise your hands! Anybody starting trouble gets hurt!" They both had automatic pistols. I ducked down and put the pot and my mug on the floor. While kneeling, I pulled my little thirty-two caliber pistol from its holster.

I didn't like the odds but the old man at the register was a good guy and the two were waving their pistols in a threatening manner. I came by at this time everyday during the school year and he made sure the coffee was fresh. The old man had his hands up and had backed away from the register. We had talked. I knew he had served in 'Nam. I took aim and shouted, "Down! Drop the guns or I shoot!" The old man dropped to the floor. The two would be robbers turned their guns my way and died. As he fell, one got off a shot in my vague direction. I walked up and checked their bodies for any sign of life kicking their pistols away. I went to the register and laid my pistol on it with the safety set. I went over to the old man and helped him up. We waited for the police. He had hit the silent alarm when they first started trouble. He called and told them that all was now quiet and the robbers were dead thanks to a customer.

A police car came screaming up with lights and sirens in full action. Gun drawn, one policeman charged into the store followed more sedately by another. "Hands up!" We heard and obeyed. The quieter one of them knew Mister Donaldson and asked, "What happened?"

I interrupted. "Didn't your dispatch inform you that everything was over?" I was lowering my hands.

"Keep your hands up, wise guy!" His pistol was pointed at me.

Mister Donaldson said, "Leave him alone! He is a good customer and stopped the robbery!"

The first cop said, "We'll see." He looked at me. "In the meantime, you are under arrest for robbery." He grabbed my hands one at a time and cuffed me.

After being cuffed, I looked him in the eye. "Officer, there will be a reckoning just between you and me."

"Don't threaten me!"

"It's not a threat." I said it quietly.

The other officer had been checking the deceased robbers. He said, "Jones, what's going on?"

Mister Donaldson jumped in again. "This man," pointing at me, "stopped the robbery and then that young fool cuffed him."

"Jones, why is he in cuffs? Didn't Mister Donaldson tell you he was a good guy?"

"Yeah, but he was challenging me. I thought he might be armed and dangerous."

"Son, you need to learn who your friends are and 'not' make them into enemies." He sighed. "Release him and apologize."

He took the cuffs off me but said nothing. The older officer said, "Jones, are you trying to commit suicide?"

"What?"

"That man could have shoved your pistol up your ass without breaking a sweat even in cuffs." He looked at me. "Seals, Delta force, or special forces?"

I said, "Marine recon."

"Shit!" he said. "Jones, apologize very carefully and stand well out of the way." The older man wore sergeants' stripes.

"Uh, I'm sorry. It was a bad reaction."

I said, "No harm, no foul." I shook his hand and gave him a little squeeze. I saw a bit of pain cross his face.

The sergeant said, "What happened, Marine?"

I said, "Sarge, I was getting some coffee when those two showed up and shouted. I happened to have a thirty-two in a holster. I went to the floor and pulled it out. I told them to drop their guns. When they turned to shoot, I took them out. One of them got off a shot but hit nothing. They should have listened."

"Yeah, stupid people made stupid decisions." He shrugged. "Where is your pistol?"

"It's on the counter with the safety on."

He glanced over at it. "I'm guessing you have a license?"

"Yes, Sarge. It's in my wallet in the glove box along with my driver's license." I buy coffee for cash and wasn't planning to be in a shootout."

The sergeant gave a grim smile. "That's the breaks. Where were you going?"

"To Auburn for classes. I'm finishing my master's."

"When are you finished for the day?"

"About three."

"Okay, please get your wallet so I can check your license. Drop by at the department in Notasulga to make a formal statement and pick up your pistol. Thank you, Marine."

"Thank you, Sergeant."

I left after getting my wallet and showing my driver's license and surrendering my permit for verification. I went on to school and came by the police department office when I got out of class. The sergeant was there. "Good afternoon, Mister Easton. Thank you for coming by. The captain has a couple of questions and your pistol."

I pulled my wallet and replaced my concealed carry license. I knocked and entered, standing easily. The captain said, "Oh, Mister Easton. Thank you for coming in. There's your pistol. Those two had records. Unofficially, thank you for removing them. Sooner or later, they would have hurt someone. There will be no charges."

"Thank you, Sir. It was just a fortunate point in time, except for them."

"Would you be interested in teaching firearms for the department. We don't have anyone who is really good. You hit those two right between the eyes."

"Sir, I really should practice more. One shot was almost a millimeter off to the right."

"This would give you that chance and let you teach my men and women how to handle a pistol better and more safely." He smiled. "I can't pay much but you get all the pistol ammunition you want as well as a free place to shoot. Sergeant Moss says you could help us be better. Jones was nervous because he isn't that good with a pistol."

"He may not like my lessons."

The captain grimaced. "He would like dying even less. Moss says he still has no idea how close he came to dying this morning. He has the makings of a good man but needs experience and real confidence.

"You would be a member of the force with credentials as well."

I chuckled. "Okay, Captain. I'll give it a try."

He smiled. "I thought you would. Moss has the paperwork ready and will show you our range. Thanks, Marine." I came to attention and left the room.

I returned to the main room. Sergeant Moss did have the paperwork ready. I had to have two pictures made with the departmental camera. I would get a badge and identification. Moss then introduced me around to the officers in the patrol room. He said, "Let's ride out to the range." It was four blocks. He pulled in and we got out. We went inside and found two officers practicing. One was shooting standard targets. The other, a woman, was shooting a profile target that would turn showing a picture of a shooter. The two emptied their pistols locking them open. Both removed their muffs and looked around. The man saw Moss and straightened a little. Moss nodded at him. Moss said, "This is Jones' brother. Ray, this is the guy that your brother tried to commit suicide on this morning. He's Ace Easton." I grimaced.

He said, "Bill got himself reamed two brand new ones. Sarge got him first and then the Captain chewed what was left." I think he will be more careful next time."

"I'm glad I didn't hurt him. He was waving his pistol a bit carelessly." I shook hands with Ray Jones.

Moss said, "Ace, I want you to meet Cents. She is now the department's second best shooter. Cents, this is Ace Easton, our new firearms instructor. He took out the two this morning."

I shook hands with her, too. She was a tall woman in her late twenties. I said, "Cents?"

"Yeah, it's my nickname. The full name is Millicent Ingram."

"Watching your shooting, I think you're worth more than a few cents." I grinned as I held the handshake. She squeezed and I let her. She was a strong woman. Just as she thought she had me, I tightened on her until she whispered, "Enough!"

Moss said, "Now that that is out of your systems. Cents, he used a thirty-two at thirty-five feet with dead head shots."

Cents said, "You're a dangerous one. We'll have to try a match soon. I've been the best shot in the department since I got here. I'm not willing to concede that position to beginner's luck."

Moss started to look alarmed. I smiled slowly. "We'll have to play for worthwhile stakes then. When you lose, you will need to appreciate and remember the loss."

She said nothing but her hazel eyes were smoldering with anger. I suspected that she wasn't happy with my calm attitude. "We'll just have to see who loses, won't we."

I replied, "We will."

Moss took me back out to the car. He said, "You are pretty confident."

"Yes." After a very short pause, I added, "She has pretty eyes when she's angry." I smiled. "Let's go back. I do need to work up a schedule that fits my classes. My cat will be wondering where I am, too."

"Hmm. No dog but a cat?"

"Yeah, cats aren't trouble. He came with the farm. I have to leave for a few days some times."

Once back, we worked up a schedule starting after the first of the year. It was Wednesday. Cents came in and walked up to me. "How about Saturday?"

I said, "Are you asking me out on a date or for a match?"

She ground her teeth. "For a match." She didn't add "ass hole" but I could tell she was thinking it.

"How about thirteen hundred? That way, you can clean up and take me supper after you lose. I expect steak, medium rare, with all the trimmings and you in a mini-dress." I leered. "You do have at least one decently sexy dress, don't you?" Now, she was angry. She swung on me with an open palm. I let her start but stopped her hand six inches from my face. "You shouldn't telegraph your moves, Cents." I turned sideways just enough to force her knee to glance off the outside of my thigh instead of ruining my manhood.

The Captain walked over to us and said, "Is anything wrong here?"

I said, "No, Sir. Cents is so enamored of me that she wanted to hold my hand."

"Oh, that's good. Saturday should be interesting. Thirteen hundred, you say."

The next day, I found that we would shoot on the Lee County Combat Range. Moss told me and added, "It's a good range. Cents holds the second and third of the three top scores. She holds two forty-eights out of a fifty possible."

"That's some good shooting. It should be interesting. I wonder how good her legs are for Saturday night."

"You sure are confident. I hope it's not misplaced." All I did was smile. Saturday, there was a caravan over to the range from the department. Moss rode in my truck with me. He said, "Have you been to the range before?"

"Once."

"Oh. How'd you do?"

"Okay."

"Either you're over confident or this could be very interesting."

We all entered the range together. The range master was there and saluted me when I entered. "Top Sarge, it's good to see you again. You're in the match with Cents? What will she lose?"

"Hello, Gunny. It's good to see you, too. She has to wear a sexy dress and take me out for a steak dinner with all the trimmings."

"Interesting." He noticed the group. He now spoke loud enough for all to hear him. "You know she has scored two forty-eights on this course?"

"Yes, I have heard that."

"Okay. This should be entertaining." We would go one at a time and flipped for it. I won but said, "Ladies first." She went through the course and scored a forty-nine. I joined in the applause. "Very good." I said it sincerely.

It was my turn. This was my second time on the course and I shot another possible. I walked back to the rest as they applauded.

Cents said, "How many times have you shot this course?"

"Twice now, but unlike you, I haven't improved." She gasped. The range master collected his winnings from the spectators.

She said, "Ace, why did he salute you earlier?"

The range master said, "You don't know?" She shook her head. "Master Gunnery Sergeant Easton is a Medal of Honor recipient. They are always saluted even when not in uniform."

She whispered, "Shit!" She straightened slowly and came to attention. She gave me a formal salute which I returned. She relaxed. "You were just playing with me?"

"Yes. You were so much fun to play with and are easily good enough to challenge me."

She grinned. "Okay, when should I pick you up?"

I was still smiling. "How about seven? We could have nightcaps at my house." I paused. "As Sergeant Moss says, 'this could be interesting.'"

We drove back to Notasulga. Moss said, "I guess you made your point. Cents is very good but you are better. It was interesting." He grinned. "Tonight should be even more interesting."

I said, "Remember, she's still an amazingly good shot and she hasn't been in the service. I would be proud to have her beside me in a fire fight."

"Let's hope that never occurs."

"I agree, Sergeant."

We arrived and I gave Cents instructions to my farm and left. I washed up and put on some nice clothes including a sports coat. I fed my cat and sat back. She was five minutes early.

I invited her in. She looked lovely. She was wearing a tight, short black dress. She has great legs and a nice bust with a small waist in between the previously mentioned parts. With her heels, she was almost as tall as I.

I said, "You look great! Would you like a cocktail or wine before we go?"

"I prefer white wine, please."

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Romantic / Fiction / Violent /