Tina, my daughter, and Lora, my wife, were both in the living room. Lora was reading a book to Tina when I headed down to our “ big enough” basement, to hit the punching bag and practice my Kenpo karate. We had an ordinary house that hard working people purchased and lived in a common neighborhood that is never noticed, except by time.
Working the bag with my hands and feet, my T-shirt was drenched with sweat. The radio was hopping with my favorites; oldies but goodies and I was thirty minutes into my workout, when all hell broke loose. The anguish that followed, no man should endure.
Abruptly, I was deaf to the sounds my bag made as it bounced back to me and to the music. My eardrums were violently struck with what sounded like gunfire coming from the top of the stairs, from our living room! My heart plummeted; what the hell was going on? I sprinted up the wooden stairs, two at a time with one thought in mind, to protect my family. The terrifying noise quit as fast as it came, as I barged through the basement door. For some reason, I froze for a micro-second, my adrenalin pumping an unusual amount into my system. I could view our living room from across the small hallway. My throat tightened as needles pierced my eyes with pain, as my mind pictured what might have happened. The large picture window was shattered with countless holes. I regained my senses and ran into the room. My wife, Lora, and Tina, my gentle defenseless daughter, were on the floor—dead. Blood covered bodies; eyes staring at nothing. They lay like broken manikins. The dumbest of dumb could see that they were not among the living anymore. I fell to my knees, shaking, my stomach retching. I screamed until I couldn’t scream any more. Police showed up with guns, of course, after our world was destroyed.
I remained in a fog after that. People, things, seem tuned down like a TV set and unreal. Hospital, relatives, friends caring, wishing the best, funeral and then everything faded like an old black and white movie running at high speed. Everyone moving fast; almost comical. At one point, somewhere, the end of the tape ran off the spool and it snapped, into quiet darkness.
I am now in a house that used to be a home. Hell with work, I was living off Lora’s life insurance. We had insurance for each other; bitter joke, which I was cashing in on one. It made my insides cringe, to use the insurance money, but I couldn’t face life. Life, ha, it was an unarguable joke! It gives until your heart becomes interwoven with another and then it rips that part away, leaving a bloody, painful, and shredded area in your heart.
The month of May I just lay, ate, slept, not thinking; a dead zombie. The second month, I started working out everyday; like a drug that helped me to cope---to survive—why? I didn’t know. I walked the neighborhood watching other young families continue with their fragile lives. Your loved ones are as fragile as a balloon. An accidental prick against something rough and BAM! Your loved ones are gone forever. If only they knew how fragile, they would kiss and hug each other every chance they had.
It was at the start of the third month that I started thinking, really thinking. Why am I surviving? Why do I even care?
After working out, I sat in the stuffed chair and waited; my body still numb. What was I waiting for? In the evening, I’d got up and went through the ritual of eating and then back to my stuffed chair again, waiting for an epiphany and finally, after two weeks of sitting, the answer came. I wanted to do something to get back at scum like
those that killed my family. But what could I do? The police politely stated it was a drug deal gone bad. The papers had more detail: “Last night was the conclusion of a police stakeout that culminated in the capture of a well known drug dealer. His participation in illegal transfers of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of pure cocaine, headed for the streets…..” And so it read.
I started taking inventory of myself: Thirty, 5’4”, 145 pounds of muscular build from devotion to weight training. With my clothes on, I projected a picture of weakness. If you add my twenty years of training in my passion of Kenpo karate and a slightly above average mind, I thought, maybe….
While working out on techniques in the basement, the TV on the wall shelf was kicking out the afternoon news, when the face of the drug dealer, who got shot by the police, appeared on camera-- I almost lost it. He was across the street as police cars parked between him and my family. If it hadn’t been for his fully automatic weapon…I picked up a twenty pound dumbbell to throw, but thought better and dropped it. Those dealers had so much money it took the legal system forever to finally take him to trial; but it was happening. All the months of bullshit! The legal system knew he was guilty, but money was power. In other countries with real one day justice, they would drag the thug’s ass out in the street, kicking and crying like a girl and knock him to his knees. Then an officer would place the cold steel of a gun barrel against his throbbing temple. He would shake like a choir boy caught with his hand in the money box. He would hear the timid sound of the gun hammer being cocked and then the roar of a semi-jacketed hollow point bullet as it burst through the bony wall of his head and squeeze into his brain---or what passed for a brain.
What crime did my wife and daughter commit? None. I can still remember them……
My wife did her favorite thing on weekends which was gardening. After thirty minutes in the afternoon sun, she came in for a drink of water. Standing in the door way she looked like an angel. At 4’ 10” in height, she did look up to me.
I would give her a little hug sometimes and I could smell her scent, an earthly mix of her special body oils and the garden dirt. Her shiny brown eyes and shoulder length brunette hair which always seemed to get in her cute face, fascinated me. Her slight perpetual smile that wavered when it seemed we were going to have a disagreement; that hurt me to the point where I would quickly compromise and her smile would relax into its usual shape. “I love you more than eternity.” she would say at times. And I would reply, “And I love you more than eternity plus one.” Her smile widened some as warmth spread through both of us. Basically that’s how our marriage was for ten years; nothing rough, just getting along greatly.
Tina, whom I loved the day she was born as much as Lora. When she started to talk, she giggled a lot. When she asked questions, she’d say, “Tank Daddy”’ and I’d hug her and she’d giggle her wonderful giggle.
Justice? Maybe it was time I formulated my own justice.
For the next week I worked out for hours, everyday, turning thoughts over and over in my mind of how I could accomplish a true retribution. Then it hit me like a sobering right uppercut—Soldier of Fortune! I read magazine ads in the back pages where “special” people advertised for work—the adventurous kind and the hurting kind. I didn’t want an adventure, but I hastily ran upstairs and sitting down at my desk, I scratched out an ad that read:
Family Killed by drug dealers
Looking for work
Willing to take out trash, etc..
Trained in Martial Arts
Santa Maria, Cal. 93454
It was a balmy May day as I headed out the door to my local magazine store. As I was reaching for the door, I scanned my face in the wall mirror and was shocked; a stranger glared back. I…looked aged and my eyes were lost and searching. What the hell, I thought, and with a tightened lip and a bucket load of determination, I was gone.Let’s go searching....