Debbie Eccleton turned the canister in her hand. She had never held a weapon before. Kitchen knives, yes, but nothing with the sole purpose of causing harm.
“Best you can get legally, right there,” said James Ekins,owner of Ekins Armory. He watched his new customer, a slight smile of amusement at her awkwardness on his ruddy face. “Spray that in a man’s eyes and he’ll go down crying and whining.”
“Yes, ma’am. Police can get their hands on stronger stuff for crowds and what not, but that they’ll work just fine for you.”
Debbie hefted it, pointing it around. “Doesn’t seem like much.”
“You’d rather it weigh like a .44?”
“A gun, ma’am,” James said, not bothering to keep back his smile. “A big gun.”
“Don’t think I’m ready for that, huh?”
The store owner nodded.
“I press here, right?” Debbie asked, tapping the red button on top of the canister.
“Can I…can I see a .44 if I buy this mace?”
James stared a moment. “Sure. Don’t see why not.”
He unlocked the counter and set the gun down for Debbie tosee.
“How does it work?”
“Like so.” He opened the chamber and loaded the revolver. “Easy.The hard part is learning to aim and fire. I wouldn’t recommend this one for you, ma’am. Too much gun for—”
Debbie sprayed the mace into the store owner’s eyes. He dropped the loaded gun and fell behind the counter. His hand fumbled for the panic button, but tears blinded him. Debbie walked around the counter, picking up the gun along the way.
“Just take it,” James said, trying to scramble away and wipe his eyes clean at the same time. “Please. Register’s full. Take it all.”
“Is that what you said to them?” Debbie stomped the man’s knee. “What you said to those poor kids you hurt?”
“What?” He blinked through the agony to meet Debbie’s eyes. “I never—”
“Liar,” she yelled. “Maybe those idiots in court can sleep knowing you’re free, but it catches up to you now.”
Back against the wall, James held up both hands. “No.Listen, I’d never hurt—”
Debbie stumbled backward, surprised by the revolver’s power.Her smile started small. It spread as the light faded from the man’s eyes. She let the warmth wash over her. Never before in her quiet, anonymous life had she felt that her existence made any difference in the world.
She offered a silent thank you to the man on the phone.
He had needed help to set things right.
And now Debbie felt righteous.
He straightened the phone book. He made sure all ten crimes were written on strips of paper, measured to one by three inches, and placed inthe wooden box. He turned on the cell phone before aligning it ninety degrees to both book and box.
The phone book opened with a caress, pages whispering tohim. A smooth, tapering finger hovered above the names. Names in perfect order.He closed his eyes and drew small circles in the air. They widened, only to contract again. Breathing quickened, the hovering digit spinning a chaotic web. Done. The finger fell hard on the page.
The villain in the next morality play.
Again the pendulum of skin and bone chose a name.
Another heroine? The seated man chuckled as he added both names to his journal. Nothing at all wrong with a woman taking the lead twicein a row.
He picked up the wooden box, gave it three shakes, and reached in. With a contented sigh, he unfolded the stark white strip of paper.
The man applauded. A new crime. Would Charles be a white collar investment banker who led people to ruin, all the while evading punishment? Maybe a mafia thug fleecing the working people and using bribes on a corrupt police force?
A trembling hand reached for the cell phone. He screamed.The offending hand slammed against the table. Not allowed. Such a thing could spoil the show. Authority. Needed authority.
Hands steady now, he picked up the cell phone and dialed.
“Am I speaking to Laura Freidus?” he asked, voice strong and solid.
“You are,” Laura said. “Who’s calling?”
“I’m Special Agent Grammil with the F.B.I.”
“Yes, ma’am. I need your help.”
©2012 Devlin Giroux