They were cramming everything they could into the vehicles, when a screen-door slammed across the street.
Ben looked out from behind the Jeep and saw that two men had emerged from the house. He did not recognize them–and from the look on Matt’s face–they were not the neighbors.
While the two strangers made their way across the street, Ben had picked up on a threatening look in the shorter ones eyes. Being unsure of their intent, Ben let the rifle slide off his shoulder and drop into his hands.
“Hold up.” He yelled. “You guys move along…we’re on our way out.”
The shorter of the two, was carrying a shotgun by his side, and was walking with purpose. His buddy, a big guy, sauntered along beside him, with an aluminum baseball bat resting on his shoulder. Both were encumbered by the weight of the duffels they were lugging–and an overabundance of attitude.
The little one stopped at the edge of the lawn, dropped his bag, and rested the butt of the shotgun on his hip.
“Whatcha so uppity about pops?” He replied, as an alligator smile slinked across his smug face.
“I was jus’ comin’ over ta talk at the cutey over here.” He said staring hard at Melissa.
Matt stepped a little closer to her.
“We’re gonna need to see what’s in that gear you’re loadin’ up, beautiful.”
“You’d be doing yourself a favor if you’d pick that bag back up and move on.” Ben barked, as he brought the 30-06 to his shoulder and took aim from behind his open car door.
Shorty redirected his glare back to Ben and took a step onto the lawn.
Tires crunched through gravel, as a car rounded the corner onto their street. A single, “whoop” from the siren got everyone’s attention, but the officer lit the lights, for effect. The police sedan pulled up and skidded to a stop on the street, about twenty feet from Rocky and Bullwinkle. The external speaker crackled and then delivered,
“Set down the weapons.”
The man with the bat started to back away from his shotgun wielding buddy, but shotgun-man did not take his leer off Ben. In an instant, the man spun and brought the shotgun to bear on the police car.
Melissa had been burdened with an excess of compassion and empathy since birth. Her poor heart, an exposed nerve ending, had suffered a great deal in its short time.
She was hit by a concussion wave that rolled through the air and crashed against her like waves on the shore. It rolled over her so slowly, accompanied by a muffled B-O-O-M, like she was underwater. There was no other sound–everything slowed, like time was being stretched.
The crunch, when the windshield of the police car imploded, caused her to flinch.
The shock of the scene froze everyone, except bat-man, who took to running. That was more than he had signed on for.
Shorty was so fast. Before the reverberation of the first shot had passed, he had pulled back on the pump action and spun back toward them.
Matt lunged toward Melissa, but could not reach her in time. She was lost in thought, imagining the policeman’s children, and his wife–images of them shuffled past her mind’s eye.
It was like the crack of thunder, moments after lightning rips open black sky. You jump even though you know it’s coming.
Electricity hung in the air, causing small hairs on necks and arms to stand at attention.
Mehgan Donnelly could do nothing except look on in horror, her jaw slack and her little green eyes wide.
Shotgun-man tilted, ever so slowly, and then crumpled.
It was a perfect shot–center mass.
Ben had hunted paper with this rifle before, but never live game. The rifle had accompanied him on several hunting trips with buddies in the past, but they never actually shot anything. It was always more about getting away, having a few beers and hanging out with friends.
His prior life, however; something he had had to walk away from, had given him more than enough practice to knock down a stationary target.