This is Issue #45 of Step by Step. This the third issue of Volume Eight.
Officer Drake Wilson stood by his truck which was resting by a lamppost next to an tall, stone commercial building. The cold had gotten stronger. He rubbed his hands, pulled them to his face, and breathed warmth upon them. He looked to the side where the fellow officer, Gary, sat behind the wheel. Drake looked sternly at him, wondering if he knew about the letter. In his thoughts, Drake was sweetly remembering about all the anthrax dust he had masterly drenched the letter with. It would be enough to kill a man like Gary, who was not a soldier, but just a follower of the cause; a disgraced follower who had decided to plan on making a call to the feds. Still in his thoughts, a wandering devil in the soulless town, Drake vividly imagined Gary going home tomorrow, reading the letter, and gasping so hard that he sucked up all the anthrax dust in one big gulp.
Drink up, another devil said.
"It's four in the morning." Gary said. "No sight of either one of them."
"I know," Drake said.
"They're probably hiding, in a house or something."
"Together, you think?"
"That Cleon kid did good and shot Lyle, he's dead. He'll be dead by sunrise, too much bloodless."
"He's unpredictable; he must know by now that we're trying to get rid of him and his friends."
"He does know, and knowing the nature of a city killer like him, he'll want to kill us. You do know that he's the reason why there's a black fellow in your morgue, right?"
"Yeah, of course. He's a cold-blooded killer, one who kills with no justification."
"That's why we're better than him," Drake said. "We're one with the bringer of dawn, Red Smith himself."
"Say, are you tired?"
"I never get tired anymore," Drake said. "I've grown used to this, being a part of the band every night. All night, sometimes. Unlike you."
"Hey, what are you trying to say?"
"Well, I ain't much tired either," Gary continued. "How about you get in shotgun and we'll take one more ride around town, before dawn breaks?"
"That doesn't sound none too bad," Drake said, adjusting the rifle on his back and the baton in his waistband. He was seriously packing heat tonight, and in addition with his adrenal, he was just one dangerous man. "Let's go."
"Let's go, I say."
Drake began to walk around the truck, towards the other seat. He soon caught the stench of something bad, something raw like the stench of Satan, for it was Carter Jameson, dead and all in the bed of the truck. "Damned crazed fool," Drake said. In the heat of the night, where the cold was strong in the middle of December, and when deep sleep has fallen on all the men, Drake soon became the fool, letting his guard down just then as a new beast roared to life nearby.
Both men had seconds before the truck tore into view just ahead of them.
"That must be Blaine," Gary said.
"He's driving that truck of his at the speed of light, not a dang care in the world."
"Maybe he's found one of them!"
The truck came into full view and was straight ahead of them now. "Wow," Drake said. And instead of slowing down, all the truck did was speed up, and was destined to crash into them. "Hey, stop!"
"What's gotten into him, why's he flooring it?"
"I'll be damned—" Drake managed to say before he saw the brash face of Lyle Jackson in the passenger seat of the truck. He saw also the super concentrated Dennis Johnson looking right at them, right at the truck which he was planning to hit. Still in terrified shock, both saw as Lyle stuck a fat revolver, that of Blaine's, out the window. Fear came upon Drake, making him tremble, which made all his bones shake. Then the truck passed before his face, swerving right, the Anarchistflag excitedly flapping in the bed and the hair on his flesh stood up.
"Oh hell," Gary shouted. "'I'll be damned my own self!"
A single gunshot rang out and ripped through the windshield, blowing open a hole in the passenger seat. Drake got a move on, getting his rifle, putting it up, and screaming as another gunshot was fired and flew clean past him, whizzing as it did. The truck narrowly missed crashing into the adjacent building and came to a thick halt. Through the gunsmoke, Drake saw Gary already shouting into his walkie, letting everybody on the band know about this assault, this attack on the cause. With one huge inhale of breath, Drake Wilson broke free from the cover of the truck with his rifle raised and fired a deafening shot at the two enemies, Lyle and Dennis.
He missed them. Then, their truck began to move. Dennis was trying to get it to start.
"Come out, come out with your hands up!" Drake shouted. "You can come out with your hands up, or you can come out dead!"
As if threatened by the mention of death, the truck awoke from its grogginess and Dennis floored the pedal again. Drake, without hesitation, fired another bullet at them as they tore southward down the street. The bullet, not one of instant fatal nature, struck one of the wheels and the truck came to a screeching slowdown, but Dennis wouldn't take his foot off the gas pedal and defiantly made the truck so hot that it was a smoking cloud as it continued along the road.
"We're doing fine," Dennis muttered. "We're doing just fine, Lyle."
"Dennis," Lyle said. "I want you to know that if I kill somebody, I did it to save one of our asses. You got that?"
"I sure do.
However, with luck on Drake's side, another bullet tore open a hole into another one of the truck's tires and the car spun out of control. Lyle, clutching the revolver tighter, braced for impact, and then the truck flipped over before his eyes, and a hot flash of fire rose up from the engine and passed over his face, searing it as he was himself thrown out of the car through the windshield. He couldn't believe it, for much of his thinking has ceased, and as he crashed into the road and into the cold outside, he realized that they had been shot down and were now much like wounded buffalo, awaiting their hunters.
"No," Lyle began to say. "This can't be, it can't be."
Then a mass wave of sirens exploded in all directions.
Lyle got up, picked up the revolver, and walked. He looked the truck over which had flipped onto its side, and saw no Dennis. Lyle, now more afraid than ever before, limped towards the burning truck, looking at it as if it was the burning bush, and then there was silence. It was a silence, one might say, that accompanies a lonely man who howls through the night from within his soul. "Not yet, no. This can't be happening, Dennis."
He threw himself at the truck and the side that he faced broke up into flames.
"Dennis," Lyle said. "Say something, man, tell me where you are!"
Nobody answered back and the fire started to grow to be hot as summer.
Hot as the fire back at Summercreek.
Lyle, eyes ablaze before the flames, mournfully stared at the wreck, for he was a slave to his senses. The hair on his neck was raised and he fearfully gulped, knowing now that he was alone among the hunters. He turned around and tore the revolver up. He saw two more trucks with two more blue and bloody red-stained flags where the two Officers were at the entrance. Behind him now, he sensed more than two trucks as the noise from them swelled closer. He looked at both his sides and saw an alley to his right.
With a lot of guilt, he stopped. Inhaled and then ran for the alley, which he got to before another shot was fired. He walked through the damp hollowness of the alley and arrived at a Dumpster and next to it was the head of some stairs which led upwards. He climbed up those, huffing and puffing as he did, expecting to be shot, but he never was spotted. He came to an ajar door about one story up, peered inside, and saw that nobody was home. It was a dark single room where the homeless would dwell, Lyle'd say.
"Oh hell. Oh God, oh my God, I was so careless."
Lyle walked inside, closed the door, and fell to his knees. He breathed out stress and took in relief, feeling better, much better. Maybe it was the cold which soothes all men when their blood gets to be too hot, boiling.
"I'm all right," Lyle said, looking himself over in the moonlight which jutted out through a single window in the room that was mildly covered with wooden planks. "But Dennis?" He got up, walking over to the window. The truck was there, almost totally on fire, and at seeing this, Lyle shook with fear with visions of his friend burning alive in his eyes which stung, yet had no tears. The last time Lyle had cried was not as Brock and Carter were beating him, but when his pastor had told him to get his act together after the funerals of both George and Sam, those two boys who he had slain just due to rumors.
"Sometimes," his pastor had said. "I just can't keep from crying."
Lyle Jackson moved away from the window and furthered examined the room. It was four feet long and six feet across with a little mattress, stained brown, near the window. The homeless joe who had lived here must have loved waking up to the sun in his face. That was a nice thought. On the wall, Lyle found some words etched into the red paint.
The trouble will soon be over.
Lyle gulped, for the fright and cold sweat on his face was too real. He read on;
Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. Indeed, revengers like the Smith family will collapse, they always will. I, Tom Gallenger, will make sure of that indeed.
At four thirty in the morning, with a revolver and four bullets inside, Lyle Jackson had fallen to his knees again in front of the mattress where Tom had been, looking down the barrel of the same revolver once more. In such distress, looking down the barrel tempted him with peace, and death never seemed to be so easy, while before it was the monster he had been running away from, yet now in pain, he sought it, say, he kissed the revolver and cocked it back, then became still, and the stillness washed over him as he realized that he was still alive. Still alive and for a reason.
He pried the revolver away from his face—and so, somebody screamed outside from within the burning truck.
|Step by Step: Act Five|
|Way Back ☢ Echo, Echo ☢ Banshee ☢ Balls-Up ☢ Not Day ☢ Midnight's King|
|Step by Step: Act Six|
|Only Dream ☢ Awake ☢ Sleeper ☢ All Cloud ☢ Under Skin ☢ Bates|
|Step by Step: Act Seven|
|Lay Under ☢ Raw ☢ Lost ☢ Bad Moon ☢ Monsters ☢ Prayers|
|Step by Step: Act Eight|
|Get ☢ Hit It ☢ Fast Lane ☢ Monday ☢ Passover ☢ Be-All and End-All|