The Jury Pool – Part 3

By V. J. Willis Jr.

   “Now what?”, asked Mary. “Well, we certainly can’t just play along with Al, if that’s really his name.” “Agreed”, said Mary. “ I’m not willing to fall into that black hole either. If we do it this time, there will be no end to it. But, what are we going to do? If we go to the police, we’ll end up in prison, and that’s assuming Al and his buddies don’t kill us first.” “I have a thought”, I said. ”I have a friend that might be able to offer some good advice. We were in the Air Force together and got each other out of a couple of bad spots over the years. He got his bachelor’s degree and joined the FBI. He’s the Special Agent in Charge in Houston.”

   “How is he going to help?, Mary asked quizzically. “Isn’t he going to have to arrest us when we tell him what we’ve done?” “Well, normally, yes.”, I conceded reluctantly. “But, we could always frame the situation to him as a hypothetical.” “Well, I guess that will be our best shot. I couldn’t live with myself if our actions led to some criminal scum getting off free and clear.”, Mary offered.

   That night I placed a call to Brad Jenkins. We relived a few old war stories for about twenty minutes. Then Brad said, “It’s been six months since we last talked, and I am usually the one who calls. What’s really on your mind, Mike?” “ I told him that Mary and I needed some advice for a couple of friends, and that we could meet him at his favorite restaurant, Boston Sea Party, our treat, the next day since it was a Saturday. Brad responded that it was about time that he met Mary, since I had often spoken of her.

   I called Mary right away and told her about the meeting. I could hear a sense of some relief that we could find ourselves one step closer to a solution. But, I wasn’t so convinced. Brad seemed just a bit too quick to agree to the meeting. I had that feeling of dread, like when you’re going to tell your dad that you wrecked the family car. Brad was a darn good field agent. I guess that’s what insured his rise to SAC in nearly record time. There was no doubt that he knew that it was Mary and I who needed the help. I suspect that my somewhat transparent ruse was only going to buy me a very limited  amount of time with Brad before Mary and I would have to come clean.

   I decided that I could use some comfort food. I’m a bit of an ice cream addict. While I had some in the freezer already, I decided that what I really needed was a banana split from my favorite dessert fast food drive in, “That’s what I like about Texas!” came to mind every time I thought about a quick trip to the spot with the red and white sign. I thoroughly enjoyed the banana split and got my usual chocolate dipped cone for the road.

   As I pulled into the driveway, I noticed a sliver of light peeking through a small crack in my front door. I knew I had locked it. I always do. I always rattled the door to be sure it was secured.

   I slowly pulled out the mid-sized Ruger nine-millimeter inside the armrest of my pickup. I grabbed my cell phone to call 911. As quick as a flash, I realized that it would be best if I checked out the situation first. I had a nagging feeling, causing a roar in the pit of my stomach, that I knew what this was all about. I suddenly reconsidered my decision about calling 911. Just as I reached my front door, I caught a scent of an expensive men’s cologne that seemed familiar. I looked down to dial 911, quickly pushing the buttons, but heard no ringing. I stole a quick glance and noticed no cell signal. Zero bars showed up on the screen.

   I heard a voice from inside my living room say, “I think you will find your phone disabled. Step inside and let’s have a chat. And please, for your own safety, come in gripping your weapon by the barrel.” The fact that I couldn’t see the man behind the voice meant that he couldn’t see me. So, how did he know I had a weapon. Chances were that he had an accomplice out of sight nearby. As I stepped inside, holding the Ruger by the barrel, I quickly scanned the room.

   Through the crack on the hinge side of the door, I noticed the shadow of a larger man. Sitting on my sofa was the one person that I least wanted to see just then. Al grinned, and I wanted to dive into his body and permanently wreck havoc on him so that grin would never show up on his face again. Before I could react, the man behind the door stepped out and grabbed my Ruger.

   As the coiled spring of tension settled in my body, I dropped my chin slightly and involuntarily began to vomit at the sight I saw next. On the carpet, between my sofa and the coffee table, was the mangled body of a neighborhood cat. I recognized it as the same one I had, on dozens of occasions, chased out of my yard for tracking cat prints all over my freshly washed truck. Granted, I don’t like cats, to say the least, but I would never have wished the fate I saw on my carpet on any animal. Its underside was cut from just behind its front legs to just before its back legs. Blood was puddled in such a large pool that it left no doubt that virtually  every drop had spilled out of the poor creature. Its guts were hanging out from the horrid wound. My heart went out to it.

   “I thought a short visit might be prudent tonight, just in case you had any doubts of our resolve, Mike. May I call you Mike?”, Al asked with a twisted grin. My anger was such that I felt like my head would explode from the massive influx of blood, brought on by more anger than I could ever remember. The rage left me speechless. Al used the opportunity to confidently raise himself off the sofa. “I trust we won’t need to make a similar visit to Mary?”

   Before I could force my mouth to form the words in my heart, I heard the front door close behind me with a thud like a thick book would make as you close it, and put it away for the next reading. Then and there, I decided to wait to tell Mary about the unwanted visit until the return trip to meet with Brad the next day. My only worry was, would she be able to tell something was wrong the next day on the way to Houston. (For the answer to that, we will have to wait for “The Jury Pool – Part 4”.)

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