LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF JACOB DANIELS
I, Jacob Morris Daniels, being of sound mind and body do declare this to be my last will and testament.
To my son, Adam, I leave my Mustang Convertible. You helped me rebuild the engine so it is rightfully yours. I also leave you, in trust, the money I set aside for your college fund to be given to you on the day you graduate college. Hopefully you’ll be smart enough to use it to pay off your student loans, and not blow it in Vegas as I probably would.
To my daughter, Lydia, I leave you Grim, our Doberman. You’re the one responsible for spoiling him so badly that he’s now a great big wimp, so he’s yours to care for. I also leave you a trust fund, like your brother’s, to be received when you graduate from college. Try not to spend it all on shoes as your mother probably would have.
To my brother, Simon, I leave my lazy-boy chair. I know you were pissed when I took it from Mom’s house after Dad died, so now it’s yours. Don’t ask what the stains are from; just have it cleaned . . . professionally.
To my Father-in-Law, Arthur, I leave you my bills. I told you not to start with me, now whose laughing last.
To my wife, Kara, I leave all my worldly possessions not named above. I also leave every memory of every day we spent together. My life was never as sweet as when we were together, and nothing pains me more than the loss of your presence. I hope you are able to understand the reasons for my actions, and why I truly had no other options.
As for why I did what I did, that will take some explaining.
It was late last evening when I was headed home from work at the factory that I encountered a pair of men I had never met before. I stopped at the Dunkin Donuts, as I do every night, (sorry dear I know that’s not on my diet, but I could have had worse vices) when an albino in a dark suit stepped out of a white van and approached me. He motioned for me to enter the van. After explaining to him in no uncertain terms that I was not interested in their company, I turned to head towards my ride (I believe you’ll find the Mustang still sitting in that parking lot, Adam), it was at this point I discovered he had a weapon, as I felt the barrel of a .22 pressing against the small of my back. Odds were against him killing me if he fired, but the prospect of being paralyzed from the waist down was enough to change my mind about having that chat. I may have felt differently if I had known what was in store for me.
The van was unbroken white, even the door handles had been spray painted white, it was at this moment I realized my new companion was wearing gloves, and that my fingerprints were probably the only ones on the freshly painted door. The albino ordered me to sit in the second row of bench-seats. In the back row was a male wearing, I swear to God, a trench coat with a fedora pulled low over his face. The albino sat in the front row never removing his eyes or pistol from my direction.
As the van drove away, piloted by a driver I could not see, but who I assumed was a
female, due to her scent, Fedora began to speak in a low, quiet tone, as if he were attempting to cover both his voice and accent. I will never forget a single word of this conversation.
“Lt. Daniels, you should be honored to be sitting here, for you were chosen out of many candidates for this holy mission.”
“I’m not honored,” I practically spat at him, doing my best not to show any response to the fact that he new my name and former rank, “And I’m not interested in any damn mission, holy or otherwise.”
“You’re interested is not required, only your obedience. Otherwise the consequences could be very painful for your lovely family.”
“You go near my family and I’ll murder every one of you, no matter where you go!” At this point I was shouting, albino’s hand had not wavered once.
“Good, good, that’s the spirit Lt. Daniels. Now you understand my motivation.”
“What are you talking about? I’ve never met you or your family.”
“On the contrary, sir, we met exactly three years ago tomorrow.”
I pretended not to know what he was talking about, but there was no way for me to forget the anniversary of the battle for Aqaba. I never told you this story, Kara, because its not one I’m very proud of, but considering its influence on these events, I figure you should know now. What had happened there is burned into the memory of every member of my unit.
We were one of the first National Guard units used in combat in Iraq. We were only in country a few weeks when we were ordered to assist a Marine unit in sweeping the village. As weekend warriors we had never trained for anything like this, we had always expected to be used on American soil, to assist Americans as need be. Now we were thousands of miles away from our homes and families, being asked to perform front line duties. There was supposed to be a group of insurgents in the village, presumed responsible for the roadside bomb that had killed two marines the week before. There was also supposed to be WMD’s in Iraq, it wouldn’t be the last time we were lied to. Those were the first American deaths either of our units had witnessed in this war, and they were unimaginably gruesome. Tempers were running hot, to say the least.
There had been a sandstorm the day before. Brutal winds pelting sand at twenty miles an hour, like a hail storm of shrapnel fired by the wroth desert god. The hum-vies looked like they had been through a pitched battle, tents had been knocked over causing multiple contusions and abrasions, scattering supplies across the ocean of sand.
We entered the village at dawn. The few citizens who were on the streets, making their way to work, or patrolling in patchwork uniforms, fled before us raising the alarm. The village itself was small, maybe two hundred buildings, nothing more than two or three stories tall. They were packed tightly together, alleyways were no more than five feet wide. The doorways were barely wide enough for one man to fit through, and the windows were just large enough to offer a sniper excellent protection.
Orders were to search and capture enemy combatants. We were ordered not to fire unless fired upon. This was delivered in the most serious of terms, our C.O. recognizing the high level of tension in the units. Men had been grumbling about revenge for days, describing in sickening detail the plans they had for dealing with those who had taken their brothers in arms.
We never found out who fired that first shot, or who yelled, but every American soldier began firing their weapons at whoever wasn’t wearing an American uniform. It was horrific, it was merciless, and it was barbaric. As far as I knew there were no survivors, and the official story made us sound far more justified than we were. I was confident I didn’t know this man, I was sure he was bluffing about having been in that village. No indigenous personnel had survived.
“You’ll have to be a little more specific than that, three years is a long time.” I could feel the hostility boring into my back, and the albino appeared hungry for the opportunity to do me harm.
“Liar! I know you better than I know my disfigured face, which you and the other soldiers are responsible for.”
“Honestly, I have no idea what you’re talking about, of course, I can’t see you…” I was hoping to gain some sort of advantage by making him alter his actions according to my manipulations. I was wrong, he wanted this moment.
“You want to see my face? Fine, turn around and look, look at your legacy of destruction.” I turned around and he took off his hat with his left hand, as he turned on the ceiling light with his right. I instantly knew who he was, and my face betrayed me. “So, you do remember me. Don’t turn away; see the results of your actions ‘defending freedom’.” The last phrase sounded like he was cursing my mother.
I couldn’t believe my eyes; I knew him, and I couldn’t believe he was alive. The right side of his face was indented, and his nose was flattened and pushed left. The worst of it though, were the burns across the top of his head, his cheeks, and chin where there had once been hair. I attempted to fall back on the official story, “You and your neighbors were harboring terrorists, and attacked us that day.”
“Terrorists! Who was a terrorist? We were farmers and families, none of us even new how to build a bomb, let alone had the desire to use one.” His eyes glowed from within their disfigured sockets, powered by raw hate, “was my five year old daughter a terrorist, or my seven year old son? Were you afraid they might tear down your nation with their toys and dolls? Were you afraid my wife would feed you to death? I was no terrorist before that day, but I am one now. I live in constant terror, the memory of my wife and children lying on the floor, bleeding to death, riddled with bullet holes. Not to mention the terror I see every time I look in the mirror and am reminded of your handiwork. I stood up merely to dive in front of my children and protect them, only to be repelled by the butt of your weapon in my face. I regained consciousness only to witness my son coughing up blood as the fire you set, to my home, engulfed us.”
“I neither set nor ordered the setting of fires. In fact I advised against it.” This was hazardous territory, I was dangerously close to revealing classified info, but I knew I was bargaining for my life.
“Bullshit! You did not stop it; you are as responsible as anyone else. If not for the actions of you and your comrades, my family would still be alive!” The truth of this stung me; I had thought these same thoughts many nights as I struggled to find sleep. Still, I could not afford to give up.
“One of your neighbors fired on us, that was how it began. If not for that, there’d have been no battle.”
“Battle!” He looked as if his head might explode, “What battle? You murdered 157 unarmed civilians that day! It was you who were the terrorists, you hypocrite. And there would have been no massacre,” He emphasized this word with particular disgust, “If you hadn’t invaded our country illegally, even by your own laws.”
“I’m not going to enter a chicken and egg argument with you. Is this why you brought me here, to reprimand me while driving aimlessly about the city?”
“There is nothing aimless about our journey, Lt. Daniels. Nothing at all.” Looking out the window I realized we were pulling up in front of Tommy Johnson’s house. You remember Tommy, Kara, he coached baseball when I pitched in high school; he’s a U.S. Senator now.
“What is so special about this spot?” I looked around as if I were lost. He laughed, derisively.
“Americans, you go around the world trumpeting the glory of democracy, and you don’t know the first thing about your own politicians. This is your Senator’s house, and there is his daughter coming home from whore practice, I believe you call it cheerleading,” This last he said with extreme disgust, as if girls in miniskirts with pom-poms were the reason for the fall of western civilization. “That’s Cindy Johnson, his daughter. She comes home at this time every day, remember that.”
“Just remember. Drive on to the next location.” The car began moving, I watched Cindy walk inside the house, talking on her cell phone, ignorant to the presence of predators only 100 feet away. My stomach began to twist and turn around itself.
“Look,” I stared directly at him, doing my best to look cold and dangerous, “I don’t know what you’re thinking, and I don’t really care, you’ll get nothing you want from me.” At this he just smiled.
“We’ll see.” Watching that monstrous face attempt to display joy caused real fear to enter my heart for the first time that evening. It would not be the last.
We rode on in silence for some time, the disfigured man in the back seat mumbling prayers in the direction of the rising moon while albino just stared at me with his unblinking red eyes, his pistol pointed at my crotch. When we finally slowed down, we were across the street from the local National Guard base, where I had served before mustering out after my time in Iraq. Apprehension built up in me, it was obvious these men had done a great deal of research. The source of his anger and the meticulousness of his planning, led me to believe that nothing good was ahead for me. In a distressingly calm voice he stated, “I believe you are familiar with this place, remember that as well.”
I tell you Kara, even in the heat of battle, I have never felt the impending sense of doom as I did at this moment. I would give anything to have been wrong. I wasn’t.
“What do you want with me?” I turned and demanded of my captor. He responded only with the demented, mutilated grin, relishing my suffering. We drove on.
The silence in the van gave weight to the air, I would have preferred electric shocks or beatings to the torture of not knowing what was about to happen. As I watched our progression through the neighborhoods, my sense of dread deepened. I knew where we were headed; the horror of his potential plans raced through my head, each scenario more frightening than the last. I was contemplating various plans of attack, when we pulled over a block from our house! Imagine, Kara, being trapped at gunpoint in a van with a madman bent on avenging the brutal loss of his entire family, only yards away from you and the children.
“I’m sure you recognize your house, Lt. Isn’t that your pretty little wife on the front porch eagerly awaiting the arrival of her warrior husband? Such a precious image isn’t it?”
I couldn’t move or speak; I was afraid that anything I did could set him off and seal your fate. I watched you sitting in you favorite spot, reading some romance novel, looking more beautiful than the day we met. My heart swelled with love, my mind raced with fear.
“Do not forget that I know where this is. Move on.” You looked up, but saw no clues to my presence or condition through the tinted windows of the van. All I could think of was jumping from the van and running to you screaming warnings, but I knew I would never make it out of the van alive. I feared for what fate that would then bring to you.
“What do you want of me?” I asked again.
“You’re country used you as a tool to destroy my life, now I shall use you as a tool for my revenge. I shall be more generous than your countrymen, however; I shall offer you a choice.”
“I will never do anything you ask of me; I will never be an agent of my nation’s enemy.”
“Don’t be so quick to decide, you haven’t heard your options yet,” he paused, relishing the agony of anticipation I was going through. “First, you can drive this van, with the bomb that is planted underneath, onto the compound of your base, park next to the barracks house, and detonate it. Or you can take the rifle we provide you with and kill the Senator’s daughter outside her house. Or you can choose to do something else, in which case my colorless friend here will have his way with your family until he feels like releasing them with death. I promise you, he has a very twisted imagination.
“You have until tomorrow at sundown to decide. You will remain in the motel we are headed for until you make your choice. We will be watching you; failure to head in the direction of either the base or the senator’s house will result in untold suffering for your family. As will failure to succeed. Their fate is entirely in your hands.”
The van pulled into the parking lot of the Motel Six, albino opened the door and motioned for me to step out. He followed behind me, again with the barrel in the small of my back. He guided me to the room on the end. Handing me a key, I was encouraged to open the door. I stepped inside and the door closed behind me. I stepped to the window and watched the albino get into a dilapidated white VW Rabbit and drive off. The van did not move.
I sat down on the bed to contemplate my fate. No amount of training can prepare someone for a moment like this. My mind was a whirlwind of thoughts, fears, plans, hopes, and prayers. I begged, pleaded, and struck deals with a God I had never worshipped or even fully believed in. At this moment though, I had more faith than a Hasidic Rabbi.
Looking around the room, I realized they had been careful to limit my options. The phone had been removed, as had the radio and the T.V. I opened the drawer of the nightstand and found the Bible I was expecting. The inside cover page displayed the Ten Commandments. I couldn’t draw my eyes away from the sixth; Thou shall not murder. Killing was never absolutely forbidden by the Torah, an act of defense resulting in death to prevent murder was considered acceptable. Who draws this line however, is war killing or murder? If it is the latter, then I am already guilty of murder a hundred times over. If not, then why? What difference is there between traveling thousands of miles to take lives in service of the political goals of one’s leader, and an individual striking another down for his wallet?
So many questions raced through my mind. Where had the albino gone? Were you and the kids safe?
What possible options did I have? I had no answers to any of these.
Staring into the mirror, I continued to contemplate my dilemma. Kill one innocent, kill many soldiers, or lose my family. Is there a difference between murdering one or many? Neither makes you less of a murderer. The soldiers have already accepted the potential of death, but they expect it to come in the line of duty, against enemies. Not in some meaningless explosion caused by one of their own.
What about the child? She was only one person, but she was completely innocent. She had nothing to do with any war in any way. Was it less heinous to take only one life? As my tormenter had pointed out, it would not affect only one life. Would anyone understand my argument afterwards? Would I?
If I refuse, or purposely fail, then I lose those most precious to me. I contemplated the faces of you, Kara, and Adam and Lydia. How could I allow harm to visit you? How could I look you in the eye if I did this horrific deed?
I stared at the rifle they had left in the room. One bullet; not enough to mount a counter offensive, but just enough to either succeed or fail. All that this bastard wanted was to torture me; he didn’t care at all what the result was.
It was this realization that caused me to understand what I must do. His pleasure was to come from my suffering. He hoped to make me live out the rest of my days dealing with awful, mind twisting events of this day. There was only one way to rob him of his victory.
At first, I resisted the concept. It went against everything I believed. I groped desperately for another solution. I envisioned myself rushing the van and fighting my enemy to the death, but there were so many ways that plan could fail. If I lost but didn’t die, you would suffer for my hubris. If I won, and he didn’t make some preplanned call, the result would be the same.
I cursed the politicians and generals who had sent me off to war. I cursed myself for volunteering for duty before there was a war. I cursed Saddam for not being a better steward of his nation. And I cursed God for not being a better steward of his creation.
How had this happened to me? All I wanted was some money for college. Now I was the front line of this war of ideas. I couldn’t escape the voice of that man. Despite the evil he was now committing, he had once been a man like me. Attempting to live his life and provide for his family, until we were caught in the middle of a conflict between two leaders run amuck. I couldn’t blame him for his hate, nor could I sympathize with his solution.
The incessant buzzing of the fluorescent lights is driving me crazy. I want to lash out at something, anything. I wish desperately for a solution other than the one I know is inescapable. There is none.
God forgive me. Kara, please forgive me, I can think of no other way to protect you.
All of my love to you and the kids,
Picking up the rifle and the solitary bullet laying on the nightstand, Jacob sits down on the edge of the bed. He watches himself in the mirror, a tear rolls down his cheek and drops to the floor. Jacob lays the rifle across his lap, the smell of garlic from the restaurant across the street caresses his nostrils, stirring memories of he and his wife having dinner for the first time in New York’s ‘Little Italy’. His right hand, holding the bullet, begins to shake as these images race across through his mind.
Regaining his composure, he calmly loads the tiny projectile into the chamber of the Smith and Wesson rifle. The click of the chamber sliding shut causing him to jump. Jacob quietly recites the Shima in Hebrew. Placing the butt of the rifle on the floor, the barrel under his chin, he begins to weep openly. Kicking off his shoe he places the large toe of his right foot in the trigger well. The cold steel against his foot sends a shiver up his spine. Silently praying for God to deliver his family, he pushes downward with his foot.
Sheriff Brown entered the motel room. His mind reeled at what he saw. There was blood, brains and hair scattered across the bed, headboard and wall. The body lying at the foot of the bed was notably missing these portions of its anatomy. The Sheriff nearly lost the Taco Bell he’d wolfed down only an hour before.
“I think he lost his head, J.D.” The deputy standing over the body, toothpick dangling from the corner of his mouth, smiled the smile of moron.
“You should seriously consider a career in comedy, Fred.”
“He-heh, thanks J.D.” The sheriff wasn’t actually joking; he wished this incompetent prick would consider any career other than this one. Actually, he wished he could fire him.
“Have you found anything, or have you just been honing you keen comic wit?”
“Oh, right, cut and dry suicide; there’s a note of some sort on the desk.”
The sheriff stepped over to the table, picked up the note and began to read. The look on his face changed from saddened, to intrigued, to horrified. He spun around and shouted at Fred, “Does he have i.d. on him?”
“Yeah, right here, it says…hey!”
“Give me that you imbecile!” Sheriff Brown grabbed the i.d. in one hand and his radio in the other and began issuing orders, “Andrew, grab Howard and head to 3584 Wedgewood Drive. Bring your shot guns. You are protecting the resident, Kara Daniels and her two kids. Be on the look out for an albino, a man with a burned face, and a women; they are to be considered armed and dangerous.”
“What’s going on J.D.?”
“Just haul ass, damn it!” Turning to Fred he demanded, “When were the shots heard?”
Fred looked confused, “I dunno, ‘bout an hour ago.”
“Shit! Stay here. No one enters this room, until I say otherwise, and touch nothing. I’m heading over to Tommy Johnson’s place.”
“The Senator? Why, what’s up, Chief?”
“Just shut up and follow orders for once.” Getting back on the radio, “Lissa, do you copy?”
“Contact the National Guard base and tell them to go on terror alert. Give them the description I gave Andy, and add to it a white van with tinted windows. Tell them this is a confirmed threat and I’ll explain later. Then call the high school and tell them to keep all of their students in the building.”
“My God, J.D., what’s happening?”
Sheriff Brown gritted his teeth so hard they nearly popped out of his mouth, “Just do it!” Why can’t anyone simply follow orders? En route to Senator Johnson’s he received word from his deputies at the residence.
“Sheriff, this is Howard, we’ve arrived at –kjzz, bzzkd- we found everyone –kjzz, bzzkd- What do you want us to do now?”
“Your message was garbled by static, Howard, repeat.”
“I said, we’re at the residence now, what do you want us to do?”
“What’s the condition of the family?”
“They’re scared by our presence, but otherwise alright. They keep asking about the husband, Jacob, apparently he never came home last night. Is that connected to us being here?”
“Just maintain your location, keep them away from the windows, and keep your eyes peeled for those people I described, a white van, or a beat up old white Rabbit.”
“A rabbit, seriously?”
“The car!” Unbelievable, he wasn’t entirely sure that his deputies weren’t more of a danger to the public than these terrorists.
“Oh, right, copy that.”
Sheriff Brown raced towards the Senator’s house. Rounding the corner he spotted a dented, rusted out old VW Rabbit parked across the street. As he steered towards it, the driver jumped out; an albino holding a .22 automatic handgun. He began firing in the sheriff’s direction as he ran across the street towards the Senator’s house. Sheriff Brown slammed on the brakes as shots ricocheted off the bullet proof windshield. The cruiser lost traction and slammed into the VW, Sheriff Brown’s head bounced off the side window as the air bag slammed into his face, breaking his nose. He sat there stunned for a moment while it deflated. The sound of more shots firing and glass breaking bought him round. Climbing out the passenger door, he drew his weapon and charged the albino standing outside the Senator’s now shattered bay window and firing at random into the house.
Hearing his approach the albino spun and took aim at the Sheriff. This time he was too slow however, as the Sheriff’s .45 delivered three mortal wounds to his ghostly form; 2 in the chest and 1 to the head. Falling to the ground, blood covered his face and chest, shockingly brilliant against his colorless flesh. He never made a sound.
At this moment, Sheriff Brown’s radio came alive.
“Sheriff, Sheriff we’re taking fire! There’s a crazy man outside the house unloading with a fuckin’ machine gun! The whole place is riddled with bullets! We need backup! Now!”
“Stay calm Andrew, you need to focus on protecting the family, get them onto another floor of the house. The basement if you can. Have Howard concentrate on returning fire. Keep that bastard busy, in one place, and don’t let him gain entry to the house!”
“Copy.” As Andrew clicked off, Lissa clicked on with new, even more terrifying news.
“Sheriff Brown, there are reports of an explosion at the base.”
“When, where?” She had never heard fear in his voice before. Operating in ignorance, his trepidation caused a million gruesome scenarios to roll across the mental stage.
“Ten minutes ago, sir. I was calling to deliver your warning; it took several attempts to receive a response. When I finally got hold of someone, all he could tell me was there had already been an attack. Then he ended contact to report to his superiors. What do I do sir?”
Sheriff J.D. Brown stood transfixed. Nothing had prepared him for this manner of crime. The warm blood flowed from his nose, across his upper lip and into his mouth, awaking him with a start from his daze. He wiped his sleeve across his face, raised the radio to his mouth, and in a dry, unemotional tone began to issue orders.
“Listen to me, Melissa, I need you to focus. The red folder above the radio has a list of emergency contacts. I want you to find the numbers for the Mayor, State Attorney General’s office, and the FBI in that order. Tell them there has been a terrorist attack on the Senator, the National Guard, and a civilian family. We need EMS and armed support immediately. Give the Feds our locations and then hang up without waiting for a response. Keep the airwaves clear of all non-emergency traffic. I’ll contact you when I need something else.”
The calm tone and ordered thinking of the Sheriff brought Lissa back under control, “Aye, sir, right away.”
“Good, I’m heading over to the Daniels’ residence.” Sheriff Brown confirmed the Albino’s lack of pulse, took his weapon. Quickly searching the house to assure himself that none of the residents where home, he returned to his squad car. Popping the trunk, he removed the issued shot gun and personal Uzi he always stored there. Despite the front end damage, the car was still operational. Throwing on his lights he crossed the twenty-three blocks to the Daniel’s residents in record time. He arrived on scene to find his deputies locked in a pitched battle with a lone gunman. He brazenly stood in the center of the yard, back placed against the apple tree planted in the center of the yard 150 years ago by Mordechi Daniels, over the grave of his childhood dog, a Shepard named Grover. Sheriff Brown shook these small town memories from his mind as he rolled out of the speeding car he sent careening into the tree. As the assailant, attempted to dodge the incoming vehicle by diving to his right, towards the house, Sheriff Brown let loose a flurry of bullets from the Uzi, catching him in the leg. A geyser of blood spurted into the air, striping the dark green lawn with lines of amber.
When he let out an agonized howl, the Sheriff noticed his face for the first time. The description Jacob had given in his will barely touched the surface of this man’s disfigurement. Completely absent of facial or cranial hair, his nose flattened against the left side of his face, and the skin; it had the appearance of an old leather jacket left crumpled in the corner for months at a time.
Through the tattered remains of the oak door came Howard, rifle cocked and aimed unerringly at the malformed assassin. Sheriff Brown drew his .45 with his right hand and wiped his bloodied nose with his left sleeve. The gunmen held his leg in both hands, rolling back and forth on the ground, weapon forgotten on the grass. He moaned and cried, occasional hollering “I’m sorry [female Iraqi name], I failed you.” Then he descended back into tears.
“Are there any injuries inside, Howard?”
Howard looked up, seeming to realize the Sheriff was actually present for the first time, “No, unless you count the furniture.” It was a poor attempt at humor, more a defense against dealing with the present situation. Sheriff Brown let it pass.
“Secure his weapon, then cuff the prick and lock him in the backseat of your squad, and take him to the hospital. Do not leave him alone or unrestrained. Have Andrew take the family down to the station; I’ll meet you when I’m able.”
“Where are you going?”
“This isn’t the only devastation in Claire Creek today.”
“Concentrate on the task at hand, you’ll know the rest sooner than you’d like.”
The pair of privates stood in the guard house by the gate to Fort Monroe. Believing today was no different than the last 500 days they’d spent standing this post in the unrelenting weather, they bantered back and forth about the sort of meaningless, mundane nothing that makes up our daily lives. As the white van, driven by a cute brunette in a black blouse and scarf approached, they had no reason to suspect malice. When she was 60 yards away and still hadn’t slowed down, despite the fact they were clearly in her way, they began to take notice. Unslinging rifles from their shoulders, they took aim, called for her to halt, and then opened fire. The third shot broke through the windshield and entered the skull of the driver directly between the eyes. Blood filled the cab, she collapsed forward causing the vehicle to careen off to the right and slam into the fence. The timer on the bomb ticked down to zero as the guards approached, weapons at the ready. The ensuing explosion tore a whole in the fence, dug a pit into the earth, set fire to the surrounding vegetation, and drilled shrapnel into the face and chest of the pair of approaching Guardsman. The dog tags had to be surgically removed from their flesh to officially confirm their identities.
By the time Sheriff Brown arrived, the fires had been extinguished, the bodies were bagged and removed, and the bomb squad was picking through the wreckage to determine if there was a secondary explosive. He pulled up alongside the gate, stepped out of his damaged squad car, and approached Colonel Hunau, the base commander.
“Sheriff. I understand you had some prior knowledge about this.” His tone was almost accusatory. Normally the Sheriff would get into the Colonel’s face about showing him the proper respect, but he simply had no energy for it today.
“You were contacted the moment we discovered the plot. I have one dead terrorist, one in custody, and one dead civilian. Actually he’s a retired Guardsman, a Lt. Daniels.”
“Jake is dead? What happened? He couldn’t be involved in this.”
Wordlessly, the Sheriff handed the suicide note to the Colonel. He read it without a sound. Turning to the Sheriff, he said, without variation in tone or emotion, “I want this man you have in custody.”
“He probably belongs to the FBI now, but we’ll sort that all out later. Right now he’s en route to the hospital to get my bullet removed from his leg.”
“You should have killed him.”
“If he hadn’t dove, I would have. I’m going to need that letter back.”
“We’re going to need this for our investigation, Sheriff.”
“Look Tom, I’m not going to argue with you. His wife still hasn’t been informed, and she just had a shoot out in the front yard, with the children inside. Now give me the letter. I’ll get you a photocopy later.” They stared at each other for a moment, and then the Colonel relented and handed the letter over.
“This is unbelievable. Did you ever expect to see this kind of shit in our back yard?” The Colonel surveyed the damage at his gate.
“No. It’s all so stupid. All this carnage, all for revenge.” The Sheriff agreed, shaking his head sadly.
“Can you think of reason that would justify murder?”
“I couldn’t when I protested Viet Nam, and I can’t now.” The last caused the Colonel to respond only with a steely glare. In his mind there was never going to be any correlation between the actions of U.S. soldiers, and the actions of her enemies. Sheriff Brown was sure, however, that the families of the Iraqis who died in the war were just as profoundly devastated as the families of these Americans would be when they were informed. “Murder by any other name would be just as evil, Colonel.”
“It’s not murder if you’re defending yourself, Sheriff.”
“If I shoot a robber in my house, that’s self defense, but if I chase him out into the street that’s murder. So how does traveling thousands of miles across the ocean to kill a man constitute self defense?”
“You’re over simplifying.”
“Am I? I don’t know. Right now, though, I’ve got to go tell a woman her husband just killed himself in order to prevent a terrorist attack. What’s more I have to tell her he failed. It doesn’t get any more complicated than that. Don’t worry, though, I’m sure you’ll get a nice little war out of this.”
“You think I like war? You think I enjoy seeing my boys lined up in rows of body bags? No one understands the consequences of wars better than the soldiers who have to fight them, Sheriff.”
“Maybe not, but maybe if you recognized that the loss of life on the other side of the line was equally as horrific we’d be fighting those wars a lot less often. After all, ‘Revenge is mine, sayeth the Lord.’”
“Being clever with words doesn’t make you right, Sheriff.”
“True, it’s not the words that make me right. We can continue this debate some other time. I’ve got a duty to perform now.”
“I know, I’ve got the same duty to perform myself.”
Sheriff Brown turned and walked back to his debilitated vehicle. He pulled away and headed back towards the station. Twenty minutes later he arrived to find the children in his office, and Mrs. Daniels yelling at his deputies, demanding answers. Upon seeing the Sheriff enter, she turned her anger on him.
“Are you going to tell me what the Hell is going on here? My home is riddled with bullets, my husband is missing, my family is locked up in here, and your dumb ass deputies won’t tell me a damn thing! Now I want some goddamn answers! Do you hear me Sheriff?”
Watching her scream at him, vibrant red hair falling across her angular face, all that the Sheriff could think about were those poor children watching through his office window. How was he going to explain this to them so that it made sense? He couldn’t even explain it to himself. “Yes, Mrs. Daniels, I understand. My deputies haven’t told you anything because they don’t know anything. This has been an insane day. Please, step into my conference room and I’ll explain.”
“What the fuck do I need to step anywhere for, if you have something to say, just friggin’ say it.”
“Please, trust me.”
“Fine, but this had better be good.”
Sheriff Brown sighed, unable to respond verbally. Closing the door behind him he turned to her, took a deep breath, and began, “Mrs. Daniels, there’s no easy way to say this other than to say it; this morning your husband’s body was found in the Motel Six on Glenwood Dr.”
“What do you mean his body?” She already knew what he meant, but couldn’t accept it.
“He’s dead, Mrs. Daniels, I’m sorry. If it’s any consolation, his death saved many lives.” Falling back into a chair, the look of shocked disbelief on her face dissolved into shock and terror. She covered her face with her hands as tears began to flow, and she let out a heart wrenching wail, the import of his words sinking in. It took several minutes before she was able to speak again.
“He left you a letter, explaining the situation. Know that those responsible are now dead or in jail thanks to your husband’s actions.”
As she read the letter he left her, tears flowed down her face. She sobbed, let the letter fall from her hands, sat back in the chair and stared into space. “This can’t be right, you must have the wrong Jacob Daniels, my husband would never be involved in this.” She looked up at the sheriff, trying desperately to cling to some faint hope. Silently he handed her the driver’s license he had taken from the motel room. Taking the I.D. in hand and staring at it intently she lost control. She collapsed in on herself, balling and shaking uncontrollably. There was nothing the Sheriff could do. Nothing he could say that would offer her any real comfort.
“I’m sorry for your loss, ma’am. He seemed to be a good man. I’ll leave you alone for awhile.” He then turned and silently left the room, closing the door behind him.
Awaiting him in the outer office was a pack of reporters shouting out questions all together so that no one voice could be discerned among the babble. The sheriff just looked at them and walked away. He went into the bathroom and locked the door, blocking out the din, trying to lock out the pain. He’d shot two men today. No matter how justified, he would never be the same. From this day forward, he is a killer.