Six deaths were the record prior. Clemmons had counted the current year’s deaths and they had eclipse the half dozen from a decade ago. The area was becoming more desperate. The blame was everywhere. Less jobs, weather, alcohol, even those born out of town, all took a fair share of the blame.
Walking the concrete path around the lake, Clemmons wanted to find his care. It had slowly been lost. So much happened in the city, but the lake in the center always pulled him. He hoped it would help him find the reasons to keep the faith that he was making a difference.
The Biblical Butcher was still on the loose, now there was an arsonist. The evidence was stacking against him. It was hard being dedicated when you see so little good as a result of your vigilance. It was a mile around the whole track. A mile of thought before he returned to his cruiser.
The names confronted him. All the city’s veterans were listed by the conflict they had fought. It made him drop his head and wonder, did those who fell know the difference they were making? The inspiring moment made him raise his head and smile. He may not see it but he had to believe he had made a difference, just like the names on the monument.
A second inspiration confronted the veteran officer. The morning sun was cresting the church across the street. He wondered if the watching the churches immediately after a murder would yield results. If the murderer was truly religious, he would feel a bit of guilt. That guilt may lead him to seek forgiveness. They could not ask the preachers and priests about confessions due to privacy restrictions, but they could see who was entering and exiting the churches.
There were more churches than there were officers so it would take a gamble. As much as Clemmons wished there would not be another murder, the killer was heavily invested in the role. More importantly evil never took a break. Someone seeking divine justice would never find an end of targets as long as there was greed, lust, and something to be gained through sin.
Ending the murders would define if there was truly a difference being made.
Harold was at home in his stool. His drinking partner’s face was flashed all over the muted television. He could not hide the fear in his mug no matter how many times he lifted it to his lips. Antonio was the only person that had been trusted with the entire plan. Being the mastermind, Harold felt he was making all the decisions for both men. Murders of others, were not in his plan or awareness. His apprentice had placed all their work into danger. Sienna, figuring out she was being used would be the ultimate problem this arrest would create. Harold was enjoying the trust she had placed in him. Things were progressing fast. Antonio’s arrest could be a setback.
Drinking every opportunity, he began to worry was not solving the problem. There was a real use for alcohol, to celebrate, or to relax. Harold used it to the extreme. Antonio had always been there to keep him in check. Now, he was unbound from any outside voice to activate his conscious. Slipping deeper and deeper into a pessimistic cloud that he had wasted the time invested on his revenge caused Harold to want more drink. Low level lighting did not help brighten his mood either. The corner bar was not exactly the best place to feel better. Despite knowing that fact, Harold always ran to its embrace whenever he felt threatened. Located on the edge of the industrial part of the city, and a part of the city that never seemed to benefit, no one in his circle of friends and family knew its location. Rough clientele and rowdy nights made the former factory worker think the police were not too aware of its location either.
Worn green felt adorned the top of the social highlight of the entire bar. Most conversations happened at the pool table. Sometimes for fun, sport, other times for money the table was the one place where patrons were not engrossed in their drinks and misery. Like many other things in this neighborhood, Harold assumed the owner started this business with dreams of creating a highlight to the area. Maybe a live band played blues on the stage at one point. Probably a local band at that, community was strong in this part of the city. Snydertown felt the wave of hurt from the economy before the rest of the city. The bar was just another victim of that.
Harold was a proud owner of alcohol stamina. The last decade of training allowed him to run up large tabs in places such as this. Where his liver could resist the poisoning effect of over consumption, his brain and judgment were never shielded. Even on mute the news was constantly covering Antonio’s story. Not hearing the words of the young preppy anchor, made his partner assume the worst. Hard times to his small revolution were ahead. Antonio was chosen because Harold felt he could manipulate him. There was no doubt the police who were more persuasive would be able to get all the information he held.
“Good riddance,” a drinking companion, due to location on the bar, uttered as he watched the news. It was apparent by his youth the young man had not been coming to the bar long. Rocking in his stool and slowly drinking the rum in his glass, it was becoming clear to Harold that the kid was probably there on a fake identification. No one really seemed to care. Not the bar tender, not the bouncer, no patron paid him any attention. Words that escaped his lips awakened Harold to his presence. This kid did not know his partner. Not even old enough to know what struggle was, Harold channeled all the rage that had been building into this kid. How could someone not old enough to lose his family, job, and now best friend even comprehend?
Once a frosted mug, the chilled exterior had now become glass sweat. It splashed the side of the young neighborhood kid cheek before impacting with a full force. A testament to fine craftsmanship, the mug did not break. Where the bottom rim struck along the cheek it had loosened a tooth. With no warning the young man was about to graduate from getting into a bar to his first bar fight. His head turned quickly to see Harold stumble off the bar stool.
Three observers became active participants when Harold started approaching the kid. Arms caught Harold and pulled him back. He had caused enough of a disturbance to their mood for the day. The bouncer made sure the assailant was not going anywhere. Pulling him slightly off balance and off his feet, Harold could not advance. Seeing a chance to take advantage of the situation the rookie bar fighter threw well placed punches into the man’s stomach. Growing up the youngest surrounded by older brothers, punching was a skill he gained for survival.
Harold doubled over at the hip to prevent his stomach from taking more shots. The jerking of muscles caused the bouncer to lose his grip. Harold fell to the ground, as the other two activated observers swarmed to the bouncer. “He wants to be here let the kid prove he deserves to be.”
Free of the obstacle Harold gained his footing. Spreading his legs into a boxing style stance, he faced off on the initial target. Harold was not a boxer but he had spent enough times drinking and watching fights. Confidence in his observations was boosted by the beers. Despite his wobbling and lack of a solid form, the drunk felt his stance was firm. To the other observers, he was the typical drunk who thought he was a golden glove fighter. “You can’t say anything about him. You are not the man he is, nor will you ever be.” Small amounts of spittle chased the slurred words.
Backed up to the green felt pool table the young man was not sure what to expect. He reached behind him and discovered the long cue. Grasping it in both hands he turned to Harold to show the drunk he was armed. Swinging to miss but showing he could reach the want to be boxer the kid wanted this over now. He was by himself as some of the patrons were enjoying the show. A beer and a fight were a pretty good evening.
Harold lunged as the pool stick swung. Catching and redirecting the average height, slightly overweight man in the jaw. Teeth were loosened as the kid returned the earlier favor. When Harold landed it was to the left of his initial target spot. Off balance as his feet met the ground Harold stumbled forward. His upper body carried by momentum bent his figure in half, exposing his back. The pool stick took full advantage of the easy target. A bit of extra weight did not provide enough protection as the stick hit his lower spine. Pain shot through him as he went to his knees. Hands collapsed to the floor preventing the fight’s initiator from falling prone. As his eyes lifted with his head Harold caught the break he needed.
A few feet in front of him under the table of a lady there was an empty beer bottle. Lurching his hand forward he wrapped his hand around the dark neck of the empty container. Harold regained his feet despite his world swirling from drink and pain. Stunned, the young kid stood there choking up his hands on the pool stick. Harold took the break and shattered the bottle in his hand against the ladies table. The pool stick was a good defense but the jagged shards of glass changed the dynamic of the fight. A dynamic of death was added and quickly calculated by the kid.
Harold moved closer slowly. As long as the kid did not swing the make shift club he was going to move closer. Being the prey the kid felt the closing of his stalker. Feet did not have awareness as the young man backed away slowly. Soon there was nowhere else to go. He had placed himself into the corner. There was no longer a place to run. That panic caused the kid to swing. He missed.
Broken glass directed by the drunk struck out into the kid’s hand. Drawing blood, a burning pain shot to each finger causing the stick to fall free. He was now defenseless. He was now pure prey. A shriek of pain revealed the youth in the developing voice. The clanking of wood against the dirty orange tile floor alerted everyone the end was imminent.
Harold glanced around the bar. Every set of eyes were placed upon him, weighing his heart. All the judging faces were easy to ignore, except the lone woman. He had not noticed her all evening but there she sat, pulling away his attention. Halfway staring at the events unfolding, her other half was focused on the paper she was writing upon. Harold knew he had seen her before but could not place where. The oddities of her presence and the choice of her quill pen should have been memorable. Even with the alcohol in his system she should had stood out. His arm extended to pin the young man into the corner. Despite his belief in not causing a death the broken glass in his hand went across the throat of the young kid. Instantly spraying along the arm Harold was using to pin the now lifeless body, the blood made its mark. Remorse ran quickly through the drunken man. At the moment part of him died along with the kid.
Fresh in its status as a corpse, the body hit the floor when a stunned Harold released it. Looking around at the faces who were just as stunned as he was, it became obvious, he had to get away. Ducking his head to avoid anyone else being able to see his features, he rushed toward the door. It was not hard to miss the absence of the woman taking notes. The blood spilled must have scared her away. It had definitely scared the one who caused it.
Crossing the threshold of the door, Harold entered a new world. Doubt his future would avoid blood was erased. Irony hit him, as he did not even have to kill the kid that opposed him. He was avenging a man’s reputation that he had opposed when it came to taking lives. Antonio had finally gotten his way. Harold would have to take lives. Blood would be drawn by his hand. He had to use better judgment next time to make sure it was justified.