I came to the conclusion many years ago that life sucks. I even managed to figure out the main reason this was an undeniable fact. Most people are ignorant, uncaring assholes whose only concern is themselves. If I sound bitter, it's because I am.
I suppose I should back my revelation up with some research for the non-believers. My name is Sam Robinson, and I'm forty-three at the time I'm writing this. I grew up in a typical middle class home and had what most would consider to be a great childhood. Hell, I did myself. I had great parents, for starters. They supported me in everything I did, and there was a lot of genuine love in our house. It was outside that was the problem.
I think my real education on the way things were began in high school. I was always a big kid. For some reason, the others my age thought that meant I was some kind of bully. That one was hard to figure out since I never caused any trouble. I only had two fights before I got to the ninth grade, and those were ones I hadn't started. My classmates kind of steered clear of me after that. It seemed that the only ones who wanted to be my friends were after something. It made life a little lonely, but I learned to deal with it.
Teachers even stereotyped me, especially when I started playing football. It seems being large also equated to stupid in their minds. I was a lot of things, but dumb was not one of them. My mom reamed out a few of them severely when they automatically assumed my grades were a result of cheating. Most of them quickly learned to keep their thoughts to themselves. My mom could get really vicious when it came to me being unjustly accused. Now if I really did cheat, that would've been an entirely different story! There's no way in hell I would even think of pissing my folks off like that. Disappointing them was unthinkable. Personal responsibility and doing what is right were the backbone of their philosophy of life.
I don't mean for it to sound like their weren't some exceptions. After all, exceptions prove the rule, right? My team mates included some of those. They were sorted into the same pigeonhole I was. Some deserved the distinction less than I did. There was the occasional teacher who understood, too. My metal shop teacher was the most influential, though there were a couple of others.
Mister Garner was also a big guy. In fact, he was huge. He could also work magic with almost any metal, and I found that I had the knack myself. He encouraged my ability constantly, and I did things I had trouble believing myself. I credit him for my chosen vocation later in life, but I'll get to that when the time comes.
As a football player I was good, but not great. I played the line both ways, and made all conference twice. It wouldn't be good enough for any kind of meaningful scholarship though. My grades were the same. I had a solid 3.5 G.P.A., but so did tons of other scholarship applicants. Since I refused to make my parents go into debt to fund my further education, I saw only one way to eventually get there. I joined the Navy.
My education on the facts of life continued. I signed up for the Seabees, but that wasn't where I landed. I don't recall volunteering for the SeALs, but that's where I ended up. It was a closely held secret to me. As far as the parents knew I was building and maintaining barracks and facilities in Afghanistan. That worried them enough. If I'd told them what I was really doing they'd have had a heart attack.
I did my time and then some before getting out of the service. Re-enlisting had been an easy decision to make at the time. I actually believed we were making a difference then. That was until the new administration came in and we were suddenly cast as the bad guys by our own government. I got out, got my degree, and set up shop as a sculptor and blacksmith in a small southern town.
At first, my blacksmith skills paid the rent. Even the replica weapons I made and the gunsmith work I did brought in more than the sculpture for a few years. Eventually, they started to sell. I was doing quite well when everything went to hell.
I knew the possibilities were good that I would be killed or wounded while I was in the service, but I thought my parents were safe. That wasn't the case. Some American cities can be more hazardous than the battlefield, and Chicago was one of them. I was called there from my sleepy southern retreat to bury the only two people I had ever loved.
It was a typical home invasion in the beginning, but dad never was one to cower in the corner. One of the things taken was his old .45, but there were three spent shell casings next to his chair in the living room. One of the thugs didn't walk away, and another was wounded. Unfortunately, there were five of them. Four did walk away, but one needed help doing it. They only had time for a quick "snatch and grab". My mom's jewelry box, dad's 1911, and mom's purse were the only things missing. Unless you counted their medicine. The police suspected drugs were the objective, since both of my parents were frequent customers at the drugstore. They weren't in the best of health, and were taking several medications.
When I got there for the funeral, something I considered even worse began. They caught the guys, and what I thought should be a simple trial began. It was anything but. The defense claimed that the murderer's confessions were tortured out of them, and they had enough on the officers in question to make the jury listen. It seems they had found others who claimed the same thing had happened to them. The officers denied it, but it didn't seem to matter. It didn't even matter that the asswipes who killed my parents were obviously guilty. I still can't understand how they were able to walk, but they did. I decided in that instant that they wouldn't be walking for long.
It would take some time, but I would see justice done. That's when I began to plan. I was the lone beneficiary and as soon as the will was probated, I sold their house. With that, my savings, and the proceeds from their life insurance, I began to look for a suitable place to move my business.
My occupation wasn't tied to any location, and the move wasn't hard to make. I hated leaving the home I'd made for myself and returning to the town I disliked so much, but it was necessary. Finding the perfect spot to locate my studio wasn't easy. There was some strict criteria involved, and few places matched it.
I found it after much research. There weren't many suitable places, and even less that were up for sale or lease. The warehouse I ended up with was structurally sound, but in serious need of renovation. It had a loft apartment, and a huge area to work in. That part was easy to find. It was my main objective that had been difficult. I wanted access to the old Chicago Tunnel Company's paths.
They had been abandoned long ago, but I had a use for them. What I had planned required more than a little secrecy, and easy access to these tunnels was imperative. The rest of the scheme involved a lot of work. Getting the forge installed and the necessary permits was tough. I didn't have enough money left for the required bribes to speed things up, and you couldn't take a shit in the city unless a union rep was there to flush for you. At least the lease was cheap.
I'd been busy with some reconnaissance while all of this was going on. I knew where my targets lived, their acquaintances, and their routines. Hell, I even bugged their houses and cars for fun. I had to take a short "business trip" before I opened my place. While the often mentioned "gun show loophole" was largely a figment of the gun grabber's imagination, there were ways to get unregistered weapons at these shows. It didn't involve paying admission, however. If you wanted to avoid a background check and residency requirements, you bought from individuals entering the show to sell their weapons. In many states, face to face transactions were perfectly legal. Three states later, I had all I thought I would need.
The costume shops were harder to locate, but every decent sized city had a few. I got the rest of my things there, except for the ones I picked up at Goodwill and K-Mart.
It took the better part of a year, but I was finally ready.
The first target was Terrance "T-Bone" McCall. According to the confession, he was the one who shot my defenseless mother as she tried to shield dad from further harm after he had already been hit. This one was special, and I decided to give it a personal touch.
The first thing I made in my forge was a ten inch Bowie knife. As soon as I was satisfied with the results, I destroyed the mold. All of my other weapons were hidden in the tunnels, except for one. I had a compact .40 caliber pistol in a holster behind my back, just in case. After dressing like a typical panhandler, I set out on my first mission.
It was almost too easy, even navigating the tunnels. The maps weren't too hard to find, and I'd copied mine at the main library. These guys acted like they owned the neighborhood, and maybe it was true. People were scared of them, and with good reason. The gangs practically ran the area they controlled.
I knew where my target would be walking when the time was right. The arm across his throat to keep him from yelling worked just fine as I dragged him into the alley. I was disturbed at how much I enjoyed the look of fear in his eyes just before I cut his throat when I said "This is for my mother, punk. You've been found guilty of murder, and the sentence is death."
After wiping my knife clean on his baggy-ass pants, I calmly strolled to the nearest access point. It's amazing how many of them there were if you knew where to look. The trick was in finding the ones you could get to. I steered away from the ones in occupied buildings, and covered my entry into the empty ones as best I could.
I arrived back at my studio just three hours after I'd left, and entered the basement through the door I had hidden behind some shelving. Balancing that bastard hadn't been a lot of fun. The shelves were full of metal stock, and weighed over a ton. Someone would have to actually know that door was there before they would suspect a thing. I hadn't known it myself until I'd inspected the place before I bought it. It didn't appear on any map I'd seen, but I knew it had to be close to the tunnel. This door must have been added at a later time, and made it the best choice.
My work for the evening was far from done. Burning the sweats, gloves, and shoes I had used until nothing but ash remained was easy, and melting the Bowie back down wasn't much harder. The metal was mixed with other stock, and formed into a rough sword. I had decided long ago that historical replicas would continue to be a steady source of income, and this would be the first I made here. The ashes were gradually flushed down the toilet. There weren't many, and it only took three tugs on the handle. Wearing those house shoes had been a good idea. No leather or plastic to deal with made it simpler.
As I contemplated my actions that day as I worked, I found that there was no regret. It certainly hadn't been the first time I'd killed someone, and most of the others hadn't done anything to me besides being on the wrong side. I knew no matter what I did, my parents would still be gone. I hoped they would rest easier knowing their murderers were in hell. After a thorough scrubbing, I went to sleep feeling prepared for the morning.
My opinion of the police was steadily decreasing. The knock on my door didn't occur until almost eleven the next day. It took a few minutes for me to get to the door. You didn't just set down a piece of metal in the middle of what you were doing. Not unless you wanted to start the process over, anyway.
I answered the door still wearing my leather apron and gloves. They acted mad until I explained the reason for the delay. After that, they seemed to understand. They even accepted my offer of a cup of coffee as I let them in.
They introduced themselves as detectives Tom Roberts and Sandy Denton, and asked if they could talk to me. When I replied that I didn't mind at all, the lady (detective Denton) asked where I was last evening.
"Right where I am now, ma'am", I replied. "working and trying to earn a buck or two. Why do you ask? Do I need a lawyer? I sure hope not, because I'm not exactly wealthy."
The guy stayed silent, but appeared to be looking around. I handed them their cups as detective Denton replied "You can get one if it makes you feel better, but we're not here to arrest you. We're just eliminating possibilities. If you feel you need a lawyer, ask at any time. If you do, we'll met with you and them at a later time. We're not here to harass you Mr. Robinson, just to ask you a couple of questions."
She sounded reasonable, so I agreed. Her first was "Were you alone last night?"
"Yes", I replied. "I live and work alone. I just moved in here and I don't know anyone in the neighborhood. I generally work all the time and don't get out much. Starting a new place is kind of tough."
"Are you aware that one of the suspects in your parent's deaths was murdered last night?"
My smile obviously surprised her, but I could see her and her partner trying to hold his in when I replied "No, but thank you for dropping by to give me that wonderful news. I can't say it surprises me however. People in their line of work face certain risks, do they not?"
Detective Roberts found his voice, and asked "What exactly do you do here? I'll admit to being kind of confused. We were under the assumption that you were some kind of sculptor or something, but this place looks more like you're a blacksmith."
I shrugged and answered "I am a sculptor, detective. However, I work mostly in metal. That's why you see me as you do. I also make replica weapons, hoping they'll keep me in beans and cornbread between the times I actually sell something more lucrative."
The woman perked up, and asked "Do you make knives?"
"I suppose I could", I answered. "They would hardly be worthwhile though. Too much effort for too little return. The smallest I had in mind would be daggers, such as were used in the middle ages. The sword I'm presently working on is actually the first weapon I've made here."
Roberts asked if I had any other large knives, and I shrugged "Only the ones in the kitchen, and not many of those. Dinner for one doesn't require the extensive use of utensils. I have all the ones that belonged to my folks, but mom didn't believe in having more than she needed to cook with. I think I have three knives of varying sizes, along with some steak and butter knives. Would you like to see them? From your questions, it seems like that's what was used on the murdering maggot. As I have nothing to hide, you're welcome to look at them."
They exchanged a glance, and detective Denton replied "I suppose we should, since we're here anyway."
I showed them to the kitchen, and opened the utensil drawer. I hadn't been kidding about what they'd find there. Mom never used more than one of anything, and only bought a replacement when the old ones were shot to hell. The only large knife in the drawer was almost at that point, and not very sharp. That was the one that detective Roberts looked at. I thought it was strange when he didn't use rubber gloves before picking it up and testing the blade, but maybe he realized it couldn't possibly be the one they were looking for.
As they were leaving, the woman asked the guy to wait for him outside. He gave her an odd look, but complied. I guess she was the one in charge. After he was gone, she turned to me and said "I really hope you aren't involved in this, Mr. Robinson. You seem like a nice guy, and I'd hate to have to arrest you. Don't think for a second that I won't though. No matter how much that scum deserved it, taking the law into your own hands is wrong."
"I'm just a struggling artist ma'am", I sighed. "I'm not some raving lunatic murderer. That said, I'm not only glad the guy is dead, I hope he suffered. I'd like to buy the person who did it a drink. In fact, I intend to raise a toast to them as soon as you leave."
She nodded, and left without saying more. I did what I had promised, and raised a glass to myself. She did worry me a bit though. Detective Denton seemed like a very dedicated cop. Cute, too. I just hoped she wasn't as smart as she was pretty.
When they were safely on their way, I began my next project. The combination I had in mind should work well. One of my purchases was a Savage 110 bolt action, in .30-06. It was in good shape, and had a wood stock. I had even sighted it in along with my other purchases at an outdoor range in Kentucky. That particular range had no supervision, and was open to the public. All the weapon lacked was what I was preparing to add. A silencer isn't difficult to make in a home workshop, especially if you know how. I did, and had it completed and fitted before the night was done. After cleaning up and putting the rifle away, I hit the sack.
I didn't use it for over a week. Instead, I worked my ass off crafting medieval weapons. As hard as I worked, only three were nearing completion. The long sword, short sword, and dagger were pretty nifty looking. When I began making this type of weapon, I had debated on how I would manage to sell them for months. I finally settled on an online auction. I wasn't sure if the beginning bid of one thousand dollars would draw much interest, but I wouldn't sell the long sword for less than that. I was very proud of it. My work had gained a loyal following over the past few years, and word of mouth had grown it somewhat. Perhaps it would sell.
The reason for waiting was to see if there was any indication that my visitors suspected me of any wrongdoing. When it became apparent they didn't, it was time to act. This one required some preparation. I scouted the next target for two more weeks to get his routine down, and my plan finalized.
On the night I put it into action, the conditions were perfect. It was a cloudy evening, but there was no chance of rain. With a crescent moon, it would be very dark. I settled into my prepared position at midnight, and only had to wait for an hour. Deshaun Tucker was only a little later than usual, and kept up his normal routine. Five minutes after he sat down at his kitchen table, the window was sporting a large hole. The glass breaking was the only noise, and no one seemed to notice.
My walk to an entrance was longer than I would've liked, but I didn't think anyone noticed me. If they had, they wouldn't have paid a lot of attention. A homeless guy pushing a loaded shopping cart down the sidewalk wasn't that unusual in this part of the city.
The cleanup was much the same as the last time, though disposing of the rifle took more work. The wood ended up as ashes, but the metal was destined to become part of my next sculpture. Once the clothes were disposed of and a lengthy shower was taken, I went to work on it. I guess I lost track of the time, because the knock on my door took me by surprise.
I must have looked strange when I opened it, judging by detective Denton's expression. I probably appeared as disheveled as I felt. As I waved her in, I apologized. "I probably look like shit, detective. Once I get into working, I sometimes go for days without stopping. What time is it, anyway?"
"Ten", she replied as she walked in. "When did you start?"
"Ten", I chuckled. "Ten last night. Just as I finished a dagger I was working on, I got an idea for a new piece. When that happens, I've learned not to fight it. I wouldn't have been able to sleep anyway. Once an idea hits, I have to begin."
She asked to see what I had finished, and I showed her. She raised an eyebrow and asked "Only these three things in a whole week?"
I looked at her like she was crazy, but held my temper. "Perhaps you should examine them more closely", I suggested. These aren't novelty store knock-offs, they're real."
She took me up on the offer, and I saw her expression change. "Whoa!", she blurted. "I see what you mean. Can I hold one of them?"
"Sure", I shrugged. "Please be careful though. They're very sharp."
She didn't touch the edges, but examined the workmanship. "How much does something like this cost?", she asked as she held up the largest sword.
"I hope to get at least twelve hundred for that one", I answered. "The short sword should bring at least nine, and the dagger two-fifty."
"Too rich for my blood", she sighed as she put it down. "It's beautiful though. My dad would love something like that, but I could never afford it on a cop's salary."
When she turned around, she had her serious cop look back. "Were you alone all night again?", she asked.
"Damn", I chuckled. "I was hoping it was a social call. Why, did something else happen?"
"Maybe", she replied. "Do you own any firearms?"
"Two", I stated. "Your co-workers recently returned my father's pistol and shotgun to me. Of course I had to store the .45 out of the city. I haven't been able to get a permit to keep it here thanks to your wonderful city government."
"No hunting rifles?"
"I don't hunt. Not since I was a teenager."
"But you are familiar with weapons, aren't you?"
"I was afraid you'd go there. You checked my service record, didn't you."
"Standard procedure", she apologized. "We had to."
"Yeah? Well just because I was in the service doesn't mean I'm John Rambo."
"Really?", she chortled. "Purple heart, bronze star, and a navy cross with one star? Sounds like Rambo was a piker!"
I turned away so she wouldn't see my expression and to regain some composure. It took some effort, but I finally faced her again. "Look", I sighed. "I got some shrapnel in my ass from a roadside bomb. The pinned a purple heart on it to make the boo-boo go away. Big deal. The others I would rather not discuss. Let's just say that I was doing my job, and leave it at that. Please? Those days are over, thank god. I'd just as soon forget them if it's all the same to you."
"But why? Aren't those medals for bravery?"
"Look, lady. Bravery is all well and good, but it didn't keep half of my team from getting killed. I'd trade that cross to have a drink with those guys one more time. The star that's attached to it cost two more lives. The bronze star only cost three wounded, but one of those lost both legs. Let me tell you a secret detective. Those medals don't mean I was brave. They don't mean shit. All they indicate was that I was in a position to be scared out of my gourd. So scared that I forgot about anything but killing people before they could kill me. I had two choices. Stand there with piss running down my leg and dying, or fighting back. That's not bravery, that's survival.
"So that's why you don't hunt? You don't like guns anymore?"
"I have nothing against guns. I think they are necessary. In fact, I think every home should have at least one, and that every person there should know how to use them. Less people would die like my parents if victims had a chance to defend themselves. As far as hunting goes, I don't care for the taste of venison. I also think hunting just to get a set of antlers is stupid. If I ever did go again, it would be for turkey or elk. If I hunted deer, I'd do what my dad did. He donated the meat to a food bank."
"So he had hunting rifles?"
"Not for years, as far as I know. I think he sold them to a cousin of mine around the time I enlisted. Are you insinuating something here?"
"No, just asking. You see, another of the alleged assailants was murdered last night. It appears the murder weapon was a .30-06 rifle of some sort, and you also earned expert as a marksman. Can you see why I'm curious?"
"That depends. Are you questioning my uncle Hal, or my cousins? They're much better shots than I am. Hell, half of my family is. That includes the women, by the way. Just last year, my cousin Judy nailed an eight pointer at two hundred yards with a .30-06. That was a heart shot, and with iron sights."
"Are you suggesting she might have killed DeShaun Tucker?"
"Was that who got killed? Too fucking bad for him. I'm not suggesting shit, detective. She wouldn't kill anyone unless someone she loved was in danger. She loved my parents. We all did. They were wonderful people. If any of us had been there, the outcome might have been a lot different. None of us were, and it's too late now."
"I'm sorry I upset you Mr. Robinson, but I have a job to do."
"I do too. Are we done here? I need to get some sleep to get back in the mood to work."
She left, and I worried more. If I didn't change tactics, it was going to get interesting. I pondered alternatives as I got ready for bed, and thought I had the beginnings of an idea.
That Idea took over a month to turn into a workable plan. Either the good detective wasn't so good, or her people were sloppy. The surveillance on my studio was very obvious. The fact that they were also keeping an eye on my remaining targets was only a bit harder to detect. If it hadn't been for my bolt hole, things would've been difficult.
Next on the list were the two I called the "can't and don't brothers". Cantrell English and Dontrell Davis were half-brothers. They had the same mother, but different fathers. They lived together, and had moved up from their home invasion days. Now they peddled everything from pot to heroin. They also liked to sample the merchandise, and both were hooked on heroin.
I was worried about this one. Taking both of them down at the same time was risky, and I hated risk. I also hated having to depend on the cops not being overly concerned with their welfare. Much of the month I waited was just to reassure myself that this was the case.
I also worked my ass off, and even managed to sell the weapons I had made. I had an offer for the completed sculpture that was reasonable, too. I would wait another week before I sold it, in case a higher bid came in.
The night before I put my plan into motion, I completed a new sword. This one was special, but it wasn't for sale. All I could do after putting it in its case was wait for the weather to cooperate. Hell, maybe the forecast would be right for a change. When I went to bed, it was almost five in the evening. After this crap was over, I would need to get my sleep cycle straightened out. Living like a vampire sucked, but it was necessary.
I woke at midnight, and turned on the weather channel. It was looking good. The front would roll in sometime after dark, and promised lots of heavy rain. The fact that there would barely be any moon at all ensured a very dark night. With the clouds and rain, it should be pitch black.
I spent the day rigging up my alibi. I thought the timers on the lights and television were a nice touch. If I was being watched, I'd give them something to see. My disguise and equipment got one final check, and then I fired up the forge. It wouldn't do to have my watchers think I wasn't working. The sculpture I was preparing to make already had a buyer. An insurance company in Kansas City had commissioned it. That had pleased me immensely, as it was the first one since my relocation.
I wrapped things up before midnight, and set my timers. The small backpack would be all I was taking except for a fresh knife and a silenced nine millimeter Beretta. I was hoping I wouldn't need either, especially the pistol. Looking for spent shell casings was a bitch.
The weather cooperated a little too much. At least I wouldn't have to worry about cops wandering around. A person practically needed a set of gills to breathe outside tonight.
After checking to be sure there was only one car watching their house, I moved in. The burglar bars and deadbolts didn't worry me much. Picking locks wasn't that hard if you knew what to do and had the tools.
The place was unlit and silent as I entered. The night vision goggles I picked up did the job well enough, and I was glad I'd bought them. I was also happy to see that the targets slept in separate rooms. It made things much simpler. Keeping the noise down as I gagged and tied them was still a bitch, but I got it done. I even managed to keep from leaving any telltale marks on the assholes.
Finding their stash was no problem, and neither was injecting them with enough of their product to cause a terminal overdose. I put them in the living room, and arranged things so it looked like an accident before packing my things up and retracing my steps. I even locked the door behind me and cleaned up my footprints as best I could. I didn't worry about the prints my shoes left in the mud. The size thirteens on my size ten feet were worn just for that purpose. I hoped the iron stock I carried in my backpack had helped, too.