Unlike Batista in the beginning, I found early on that Jeramiah had no reservations with regards to doing what needed to be done. If anything, it began the long journey of me attempting to give each of them fair and equal “dismemberment” time. I know. I know. First world problems!
CHANGING OF THE GUARD
If you ever need to gauge the measure of a man, watch him lose parts of his face and then continue to spend the rest of his life doing what he’d already done for years: attempting to rectify yours.
That’s John Batista, big nutshell and all. Always as strong as they came. Always adept to getting us in a position to put down as many pieces of shit as we could. But losing parts of one’s face in a barn on the outskirts of Hanson Falls is enough to set certain events in motion. I don’t know this for sure, and all told, it’s only speculation on my part, but in the aftermath of Harrison Garrett taking a blade to the left side of the detective’s face is when I notice the change.
It was subtle, too. And I could not blame the man. Not after everything he’d done for me.
We continued as we always had. For years, in fact. Until a handshake and words like cabin, fishing, and retirement are spoken over cheeseburgers and beer. What could I say? What do you say to a man who’d given so much of his life trying to right yours? There are no words. There were no words. There never could be. And Batista, he knew as much—the reason he went about things the way he did, I suppose. Here one day, gone the next.
A handshake. No words.
And like that, he was gone.
But the war moves forward, and even though John was no longer a part of it, Jeramiah had proven himself capable. He was different from Batista, but still the same in many respects. Truth be told, Jeramiah resembled his piece of shit father, right down to his blade of a nose. Slicked-back black hair atop small, beady eyes and I find myself looking to the past more times than I care to count. Jeramiah had money, too, and wasn’t afraid to use it in ways that helped the cause. If dismemberment came of it, hell, who the fuck was I to complain?
“Looks like someone’s still up,” Jeramiah says. The man in question being Bo Jones, forty-two, and released eight years into a life sentence that had been overturned by a system that is not only rigged, but a parody of an institution I once thought infallible. Thing was, during those eight years inside, Jones had continued to produce the stuff that put him inside, stones walls or not.
“It does. Might mean he’s waiting for us. Might mean he’s decided to turn over a new leaf,” I say, but don’t take my eyes from the house. Smaller than a mansion but still more than a house, it sat back from the road where we were parked, the double garage open and lit and looking more like eyes in the darkness than anything.
“Cautious. Right. I got it, Bishop. Whatever gets us to where we need to be.”
Not Batista, no. But like Batista.
Fuck it. Time to go to work.
I think what upset me most were the reruns of The Fresh Prince of Belair on the TV in the room where Jones and his guys sat shovelling nachos into their gobs. All of it, every bit, derived from the evil they created and the innocence they preyed upon. All told, the stuff of goddamn nightmares.
I take the front of the place, Jeramiah the back. Slow, I pass and then return to a bay window where the drapes had yet to be drawn. It’s here I watch as they laugh and eat, Bo Jones on the couch and two others, big men themselves, in armchairs to the right. Both of these men are bald, the heavier of the two having some type of art above his left ear. All around them all the amenities of would-be gangbangers: bongs and bling, game consoles and ashtrays, everything centered in front of the largest of big screens. It makes me think of money, and how much one of these would have cost, and then I’m back to how they made this occur and the reason I sometimes enjoy using a hammer instead of a gun.
I think of my sister. My mother. Of all the men, women, and children garbage like this use and discard.
I touch my hatchet. Raise my Glock. And watch Jeramiah slide in behind baldie with the tat.
Watch as the front of tat-man’s face disappears, only to be replaced with a thrust of blood and bone and lips. Watch as my own target jerks once, twice, and then slumps forward as the front of his wifebeater begins to drink.
Glass is falling and Bo is screaming but he remains in place on the couch as Jeramiah moves on him and I make my way through the portion of the bay window that isn’t so much a window anymore.
“Whatever you want, man! Whatever you guys want, it yours!” I’d like to say this was new, but no, just par for a very predictable course. Men like Jones either fronting for show or dropping the mask entirely and releasing all the things they strive to hide.
“I want the names of everyone who ran your little side business while you were inside. You do that, we’re well on our way to the type of situation which, if you’re looking at this as you should, would prove beneficial to all parties involved. Better still, it means you might keep your feet.”
To ensure our point is hammered home, Jeramiah asks the man to extend his arms; to rest them on the coffee table just in front of the couch. He doesn’t want to, stating as much, but as my own piece aimed at his head now proved, this was no longer the Bo Jones show, guest stars or otherwise. Smarter than I would have believed, Jones closes his eyes, and as Jeramiah brings up his own hatchet, it comes down just as fast, separating the man’s right hand from his arm at the wrist.
Suddenly, I can’t hear The Fresh Prince anymore, and Bo is beyond panic, his face all eyes. Holding out the shorter of his two arms in such a way that all the blood can do is arc out over the table in ropes.
“I’d think about shoving that thing up under your pit, m’man. Won’t stem things, no, but it’ll help.” Jeramiah has to repeat himself, but Jones finally understands what he’s being told. “Now, about those names my partner here was asking you for.”
Did he understand? Sure, he did. And after he gives up what we’d come for, Jeramiah goes to work, taking the man’s other hand first and the bottom part of his jaw second. In blood, above the man’s cooling corpse, he writes on the wall FOLLOW THE CHILDREN and then we make our way back to the van.
I think again: no, not Batista. But like Batista.
Christ, I was in this war yet.
BEAU JOHNSON lives in Canada with his wife and three boys. He has been published before, usually on the darker side of town. Such fine establishments might include Out of the Gutter Online, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and the Molotov Cocktail. Besides writing, Beau enjoys golfing, pushing off Boats and certain Giant Tigers.