Yesterday, on the phone, he told me to meet him at the old Park-n-Ride bus station on Scranton Street. Nobody ever goes there and I guess if I was a kidnapper, that’s where I’d do an exchange.

I felt a bit uneasy about this whole thing. The hair on my neck bristled and I looked in the back seat. Sitting there was a black Samsonite briefcase filled with what I hoped looked like a million dollars. As I felt my side, I could feel my gun sleeping quietly in my jacket pocket. I’d set it on safety ‘cause I didn’t think I’d be able to kill a man, even if it came to that. But then again…, I thought Naw, those where the old days. I’d lost faith in those skills a long time ago.

I twirled the light-anywhere match sticking out from between my teeth. I had run out of toothpicks earlier in the day and I enjoy the taste of mechanically processed wood. Makes me feel tough.

I was still a few minutes early so I got out of the car and went around to the back of my silver SUV to open the trunk. I keep a pocketknife in a little toolbox that sits next to the jack in a small compartment. I grabbed it and put it in my pocket. It was just one more weapon added the arsenal that only served to ease my mind. Of course, I once knew how to use all these weapons, but that was another time. I wasn’t the trained killer I used to be; right now I was just a man scared to death with the thought of never seeing my wife again.

As I closed the trunk, a rusty Buick La Sabre pulled up about fifty feet away. I opened the door to the back seat and grabbed the black Samsonite briefcase and started walking towards the man in the Buick. He got out of his car and yanked Sadie outside. Oh Man, he had a gun pointed at her head. My fists clenched and I nearly lost it. Keep your cool, old man, I told myself. You’d be next to nothing in a fistfight these days. I let my fingers uncurl. 

“You got the money?” he said.

In the gruffest voice I could muster, I said, “Yeah. Big bills.”

I unlocked the black Samsonite briefcase and popped it open to reveal a nice, clean, even collection of U.S. currency. He flicked away his cig butt. As I looked into Sadie’s eyes, I could see she was scared to death too. She’d probably been through a lot in the past few days. Oh how I loved her. If I could just pull this off without a hitch. The streetlight above us flickered and went out as we neared each other. I handed him the black Samsonite briefcase, and he pushed the girl to me.

“Come on baby, let’s go,” I said, trying my best to sound like I had the situation under control.

“What the…?” the man said, and I instantly knew he’d seen the ones beneath the top layer of hundred dollar bills. Before I could even react he pulled out a gun and shot at us twice. He hit me in the left arm and missed the second one.

“Get in the car, Sadie!” I yelled. If anything happened to her…

All of the sudden, my early years came back and instinct took over. I wasn’t scared to death anymore. Dang, I was pissed! I pulled out my gun and fired at him. With a precision that only comes with years of training, I hit him in the leg, hoping to cripple him. But he’d been too near his car. He jumped in and pulled out. I raised the gun a second time. I shot one single bullet towards the pavement. The bullet actually ricocheted off of the pavement and grazed the gas tank. He started to drive off, leaving a trail of gasoline, but I ran after him and took the match out of my mouth. As I struck it on the pavement it sounded like a snake from hell. A spark flew and the flame was birthed on the tip of the match. I dropped it into the stream of gas and raised my gun once more. I shot out his back tires with 3 bullets. With nowhere for him to go, he struggled to escape, but he just wasn’t fast enough. The fire raced towards the car and I smirked. That smirk was the last thing the poor guy saw as his final resting place exploded in a ball of flame. Tough luck, I thought.

This piece was cowritten and edited by Preston Landis and myself. The original idea was his and the whole thing is still being revised as I type this.

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Be Loved,
The Jack of Hearts