For All Your Defensive Needs
The New Jack Hagee Story
by C.J. Henderson
......"There he goes!"
......"Don't just talk about
it--get him! Shoot him! Kill the bastard for Christ's sake."
......As distinctly as I could
hear their voices echoing through the trees, I could hear the
following shots even better. A lot better. That's when I started
to move. Let me tell you, all pretenses of stealth disappear
when people start aiming and pulling triggers. I could feel the
wind from their bullets whipping past me. It gave me speed I
didn't know I had. Thank God for small favors.
......I'm willing to admit things
did not look good. I was being chased by four armed men over
rocky, muddy, mostly unfamiliar terrain. They were burdened by
trying to get their rifles and shotguns through the heavy foliage.
I was burdened by trying to do the same with my own equipment
without leaving a trail they could follow.
......Getting through tangle
brush with a long bore weapon is always tricky. You either hold
it barrel-to-face, trigger-to-groin, or you move real slow. You
lose good shots or you lose ground or you end up getting your
weapon knocked out of your hands or back into your eye--whatever.
From what I could tell, two of the men following me were going
for good shots, keeping their weapons to the ready and doing
a slow stalk. The other two were crashing after me as fast as
......I heard one of the ones
who was going flat out with his weapon to the ready go down hard.
I've seen it before--men running scared through the trees, ramming
their own weapons into their chests, sides, faces because they
were in a panic or sometimes just a stupid hurry. The one behind
me had gone down screaming. The heights his choir tryout was
reaching made me think he might have broken some ribs.
......Good, I thought. First
goddamned smile I'd had all day.
......Never gloat, my old top
kick, Major Rice, used to say. It's bad for character and it's
bad for business.
......I should have listened.
In the split second it took me to relish the thought of the guy
rolling on the ground screaming like a stuck pig, I let my foot
come down on a slopping wet piece of rock-top moss. Bad move.
The moss tore away from the slick chunk of granite beneath it
and sent me flying.
......My first instinct was to
grab the camera bag hanging from my shoulder and curl myself
around it. If anything happened to what was inside it, even if
I did survive I would be back to square one with nothing to show
for my troubles--an idea I didn't relish.
......So, instead I took the
fall as best I could and prayed for some luck. Twigs tore into
my face, snapping from the pressure. Blood flicked up into my
eyes. My shoulder caught on another piece of granite sticking
up out of the ground. It was solid enough to stop my progress
which only meant that while my shoulder stayed where it was the
rest of my body kept travelling.
......I hit the ground badly.
My chin dug into the mud. My legs flipped up over me, crashing
down through a thorn bush, one breaking a low hanging branch.
The air rushed out of me with a whamming bang. I could hear the
loud wooooofffff of air running out of me, could hear
the gasps and coughs that followed. I prayed to God I was the
only one who could hear them.
......My mind begged my body
to shut up and control itself. It couldn't. Not immediately,
anyway. All the thinking part of my brain could do was hope no
one could hear me over the still screaming crybaby who'd wracked
himself up a minute before I did. At least, I thought, as I shut
my eyes against the automatic onrush of tears, he was making
a hell of a lot more noise than I was. It was grim satisfaction,
but as I lay on my back in the mud with the wind knocked out
of me and the taste of blood in my mouth, it was the only kind
......My name is Jack Hagee.
I'm a private detective working out of New York City. The way
things were looking then, I remember thinking maybe I should've
......It all started the day
I picked up Carmine Cecolini's VW bus from his widow, Marie.
Before he'd shuffled off his mortal coil, Carmine had been one
of the top freelance tails in the business. One of the reasons
for his success had been the remarkable equipment center he'd
put together. Carmine had been on the verge of joining up with
my agency when an explosion killed both him and Francis Whiting,
a young law student I'd used on occasion. I didn't feel anything
back then. I'd been too mad, too set on finding Carmine's murderer
to worry about anything else. Afterward, well ... afterward it
was too late for emotion. I helped make sure Marie and the kids
would have some money coming in. Then, I bought the van because
I knew Marie had no use for it whereas I certainly did.
......Carmine had built a hell
of a surveillance shop on wheels and I was happy to be the one
who got it, if not happy about how it came on the market. He'd
built a police scanner into the front dash along with CBs with
upper and lower sidebands which the cops use for communication
between units. A thousand other things were built in as well,
all within intelligent reach--note pads, cameras, a cellular
phone, handcuffs, metal detector, portable crime lab, camcorder,
flashlights, binoculars, first aid kit, electronic tracking equipment
and a ton of other stuff.
......He'd even put in a folding
bed, a chemical toilet, and a mini-refrigerator. It was, without
a doubt, the best piece of equipment like it in the business.
I'd given Marie the $47,000 she asked for it without batting
an eye. I knew it would be worth it in the long run.
......A few hours after handing
her the check I felt for sure fate was agreeing with me. No sooner
did I get back to the office than I found a message from Mike
Ogden, a claims adjuster I know over at Bigelow Mutual. He had
a surveillance assignment for me that promised to pay back a
nice piece of my recent investment, a fact that made me very
happy. He was sitting on an obvious case of compensation fraud.
His only problem was he couldn't prove it.
......Bigelow had been disputing
the workplace injuries claims of a Mr. Dennis Forenti for nearly
three years. Forenti had been working as an asphalt spreader
for an upstate construction company. He took a tumble off his
machine--an action most of the witnesses swore was his own fault.
That hadn't stopped him from suing his company for workman's
......When they went to court,
his claim was that his injuries were of such a severe nature
that he could no longer hold down his job, or any other job for
that matter. He listed it all--the inability to lift over thirty
pounds, constant migraines, blurred vision, back pain, neck pain,
trauma, anguish ... I was surprised he hadn't tried to claim
the fall had given him AIDS.
......The ultimate outcome was
that Bigelow was down to its last appeal. If they didn't come
into court with something better than they already had, they
were looking at paying out six to nine hundred a week to Forenti
until he hit retirement age. Or, as Ogden put it; "That's
about forty-two years in the future, Jack. How's ten grand sound
to rustle me up some proof that'll get us off clear?"
......"That's on top of
......"Right. Your daily
and expenses for taking the case ... I'll give you four days
on salary ... you cop the ten if you can snag something that'll
hold up in court."
......I told Ogden he was a gentleman
and a scholar and that I'd like to spend some more time dishing
up compliments to him, but that unfortunately I had to run out
and spoil the opportunistic plans of one Dennis Forenti. I could
feel Ogden's smile over the line. He faxed me a few pages of
pertinent information to get me started, promising a messenger
would arrive within the hour with everything else I would need,
including a good faith retainer to get me motivated.
......I told him the chance to
earn ten grand had me plenty motivated, but that I'd accept the
retainer because I wouldn't want to insult any of my good friends
at Bigelow. As soon as I hung up I got my partner on the phone,
told him to plan on taking over the operation of both our offices
for the next few days, then explained what had happened. I could
just imagine his smile putting Ogden's to shame. After that I
poured myself a cup of coffee, collected the pages I could hear
rattling out of the fax machine, and sat down for a study session.
It was, to say the least, illuminating.
......Dennis Forenti sounded
as typical as they come. A high school drop out who could only
get a job through friends and the upstate Democratic patronage
machine, he had a sheet that made for interesting reading. His
pre-adult list went from shop-lifting to school ground muggings.
After eighteen, he turned to other creative activities, like
cultivating marijuana as a cash crop, moving stolen car parts,
skirting the law to bring cigarettes, guns and fireworks into
the state for untaxed resale, and a host of others.
......Thanks to a half-brother
in the local assembly, he hadn't served any time yet. As Bigelow
had put it together, the only reason Forenti had taken the road
job was that his half-brother had arranged it as a keep-your-nose-clean
final favor. Forenti had managed to avoid the local law for the
time he was on the job and ever since. Which meant he'd either
actually wised up, or had at least decided to keep clean to avoid
blowing his case. Studying the packet Ogden's messenger brought
me didn't give me any indication that Forenti had brains enough
to actually wise up. Which, of course, gave me hope he would
be easy to put away.
......Or, as my mother used to
say about hope, foolish boy.
......Forenti lived on his share
of the family farm just outside of Dormansville. His parents
were both dead and their property had been divided amongst three
brothers and a sister two years earlier. The map Ogden sent me
showed part of the problem with catching our boy doing anything
he claimed he was physically incapable of. Forenti's property
was in the middle of the family land. That meant he was surrounded
by kin on all sides.
......With only one road leading
into the area, it meant an investigator was going to have to
cross a lot of private property to get to Forenti. Ogden's report
admitted that several attempts had already been made and that
all of the people sent in so far had been run off at gun point.
There was also little doubt that the clan wouldn't be expecting
another try in the last weeks before the final trial.
......Suddenly that bonus didn't
seem so firmly in hand. But then, since nobody ever gives anybody
something for nothing, I figured if I wanted it badly enough,
I'd get my ass in gear and go out and earn it. So I changed the
message on my answering machine, grabbed up Ogden's faxes and
my new set of car keys, and headed for the door.
......My strategy was fairly
simple. Since it was already late on a Friday afternoon, I decided
to get out of town before rush hour. I headed home, threw a bag
together, left word for my neighbor Elba to feed my dog Balto
and then hit the road. From there I figured I'd get a two-night
in a nearby motel, then see how close I could get during the
weekend. What should have been a four hour drive was dragged
out to almost seven thanks to a rain storm that started a half
hour out of the city and dogged me the entire way.
......Drying out in my motel
room, I balanced the idea that a weekday might be easier. If
any of the family had jobs, that would be one less set of eyes
to spot me. On the other hand, a stranger in the woods could
explain himself away as a goofy lost city geek a lot easier on
the weekend. Ogden's files didn't show the Forenti clan as one
that much believed in working for other people--or at all, for
that matter--so I decided to just jump in and see what happened.
......You'd think I'd learn.
......The next morning I had
breakfast at a roadside diner where they almost knew how to give
a person enough food, even if they didn't know how to prepare
it very well, and then headed off to see what I could accomplish.
I'd studied a map of the area the night before. My first couple
of hours of driving around helped focus my alternatives. I finally
decided to join a group of fishermen near the local lake.
......Parking seemed permissible
in a field off the main road simply because there were twelve
vehicles parked there already. My van wasn't going to draw any
undue attention sitting there with the others--not until dark,
anyway. That gave me a good ten, eleven hours of daylight to
hike through to Forenti's property, get a better idea of what
I was up against, and get back out.
......My best calculations made
it look like a five mile trek. Having to move through mountainous
woodland and open fields trying not to be spotted meant I would
have to figure on about three hours each way. Undaunted, the
sound of cash register bells still in my ears, I moved into the
back of the van and grabbed up what equipment I figured to need.
......Luckily I'd brought hiking
boots which would see me through whatever kind of mud might be
waiting. Trying to go as light as possible, I kept things to
a bare minimum--canteen, some jerky and a bag of unsalted nuts,
the video duffle, a rain pauncho just in case the cloudless sky
overhead was as big a lie as the day before's, and Carmine's
......The last was a cheaply
made survival knife modeled after the one carried by an adventure
movie character back in the eighties. Carmine had bought it in
a moment of weakness. It had a lousy blade on one side and an
almost useless saw-ridge on the other, but it was filled with
silly do-dads like a compass and other gimmicks which had made
it irresistible to him.
......Knowing it was quite possible
I might have to use whatever knife I took along for some real
hack work, I figured it best to take the worst one I owned and
just beat it into the ground. I also grabbed up a small box of
Slim Jims Carmine had left in the van. I chuckled as I noted
a Woolworth's sticker on the back of the Slim Jim package. It
made me wonder if Carmine did all his shopping there.
......As I packed the bag, I
thought back to eating Slim Jims as a kid. Back then they were
a really good snack. Nowadays, though, they're made with so much
grease they're hardly worth the eating. But, they're light and,
I figured, if I got desperate they might not be tasty but they
were still edible. Then, with that decided, I set off and made
my way into the forest.
......The trip was worse than
I thought. The day before's rain turned the ground into a humidity
magnet calling every fly, mosquito and gnat out in force. Sure,
the jungle tours I'd done had prepared me for such duty, but
nothing ever makes it enjoyable. I slogged up and down the mud
hills, slithered in and out of the trees, and basically had a
miserable time trying to find my way to Forenti's property without
......Obviously I was looking
for the most out-of-the-way route possible. The going was hellish
until I stumbled on a thin shallow that bottomed out and circled
the more treacherous terrain. I'd almost missed it due to a well-placed
length of camouflage netting. Interestingly enough, it turned
out my playmate and his family were still in the marijuana farming
business. They'd planted the shallow because, as best I could
tell, once they'd netted it over, it was impossible to see what
was growing in it unless you were standing directly in it.
......It made me laugh. I'd figured
from his rap sheet that he was probably still involved in something
shady, no matter how clean an appearance he'd been keeping up.
Finding a half acre of ganja on his property was no surprise.
Stopping to take a good sniff told me it was fairly low grade
weed. Then again, considering what a class act the Forenti clan
seemed to be, that wasn't much of a surprise either.
......I videoed the whole set-up,
figuring evidence of any kind of wrong-doing couldn't hurt. But
I kept my guard up, even after I found my way out of the crop
line and back into the forest, because the height and extreme
dryness of the crop told me the harvesting could begin at any
......Later, by the time I finally
traced the best route in, it was pretty much time to turn around
and head back out. I spent more of that night scraping off mud
and trying not to scratch bug bites than I care to remember.
Being able to snicker at Forenti's low grade grass took some
of the sting out of things.
......Sunday I simply repeated
my Saturday itinerary without the mistakes. Getting an earlier
start, I ate a larger breakfast faster, headed straight for the
fisherman's parking lot, doused myself in insect repellant, grabbed
the same supplies--including the untouched Slim Jims--and then
dodged straight back to the trail I'd marked the day before.
A lot less heat and humidity and far more cloud cover made for
a much better day.
......I was moving along the
boundary of Forenti's property by ten o'clock which had me feeling
pretty smart--a feeling not destined to last long. I found what
looked like a good scout hole--twenty feet of cliff wall to my
back, thick ground scrub for camouflage, and a clear shot of
the target's house and a good bit of his grounds. Unpacking the
camcorder again, I checked the range and then sat back to wait
for my target.
......He came into sight with
two other men after about forty-five minutes. I took some tape
of him standing around having a cigarette just to get warmed
up. Ogden had said that anytime Forenti had been seen off his
property he was the soul of pitifully slow movement--his every
public action a thing of agony. I figured if nothing else the
animated way he and his pals did even the simplest things might
make good viewing for the new jury.
......Then came the moment I'd
been waiting for, but couldn't believe had fallen into my lap
so quickly. Slapping his pals on the back he moved them over
toward an old Dodge flatbed parked next to his house. Before
I knew it, the three of them were jacking up the front end and
stripping off its tires. Forenti was changing the brake pads
on his truck just for me.
......Within an hour, I had tape
of him pumping a hand jack, wrenching off lug nuts, carrying
truck tires and moving around underneath the truck on his back.
The trio even obliged me by have a water fight with the hose,
slipping in the wet grass and knocking each other around like
......When they stopped for their
fifth cigarette break, I decided it was time to pack up. I figured
I could always come back if Ogden needed more, but I didn't like
pushing my luck anymore than I already had. Besides, I'd left
my cigarettes and lighter in the van so I wouldn't be tempted
to give myself away with a smoke trail. To be honest I was getting
tired of watching them have all the fun. I'd just finished packing
the camcorder away when all the good luck I'd been patting myself
on the back over finally ran out.
......"And who might you
......The voice came from above
me, down from atop the cliff I'd been using to shield my back.
Looking up, I saw a face I recognized from Ogden's files as one
of Forenti's brothers--Thomas, I thought. Whether I had his name
right or not, I knew the name of what he had in his hands. It
was an M16 fitted with what looked like a twenty round magazine.
From the way little Tommy was pointing it, I had a feeling he
wasn't about to believe anything I had to say.
......How? my mind demanded.
Unarmed, except for Carmine's Woolworth's special, caught in
the crosshairs by an opponent with the high ground. How had he
gotten up there without me hearing him? How did he know to get
up there in the first place? With no better defense in sight,
I screwed my friendliest "Oh, gosh" expression on my
face and waved, saying--
......And then dove into the
side brush as low and fast as I could. Shots tore into the ground
where I'd been standing. If my opponent had been a professional
I wouldn't have stood a chance. But, he was just a normal guy,
not used to the idea of killing people without at least knowing
he had some justification.
......I crawled as fast as I
could, smashing my way through the underbrush. Heavy slugs blasted
into the ground behind me, throwing clumps of soil and forest
growth in every direction. Voices started shouting somewhere
off in the distance. Not that I could understand anything they
were saying--not that I cared. I was too busy elbowing my way
through the bushes, crawling for my life with a camera bag bouncing
against the small of my back with every move.
......The explosions stopped
as suddenly as they started which I figured only meant my playmate
had emptied his clip. I spit a prayer over my shoulder and risked
rising up into a low crouch. Then I started running, heading
for the deepest cover I could remember. As I moved, I started
picking up snatches of what Tommy was yelling to the others.
......His shooting up the countryside
had made all of us a little deaf, but I finally caught on to
what had happened when he yelled, "The tracks in the back
field--the ones we found yesterday. The motherfucker's back!
We got him!"
......"Don't just talk about
it! Get him! Go on! Get the som'bitch!"
......Moron, I told myself. Goddamned
moron! No. These hicks won't check their crop. They won't notice
anyone's been through. Of course not.
......I couldn't believe I'd
been so stupid--couldn't believe I could start tripping up like
an amateur just because there was more money to be made if I
worked fast and careless. I'd known the second I'd stumbled onto
the Forenti family's inflation hedge that I should have backed
off and scrubbed the day's effort.
......Asshole, I cursed myself,
pushing to move faster. That's what he called you. An asshole.
Notice how well the word fits.
......I cursed myself a few more
times, trying to get it out of my system so I could start figuring
my way free of the mess I'd fallen into. A part of my brain started
taking stock of the situation. The Magoo on top of the cliff
face had tried twenty times to hit me, but hadn't. I've seen
guys run out of a battle with an arm blown off they hadn't even
realized was missing, but I was sure I hadn't taken any hits.
......Slowing a bit, I reeled
my mind in, forcing it to assess the situation. Beating down
the panic burst that had saved me, I looked for my best way out
of my fix. Not knowing how Magoo had found me narrowed my options.
It was certain he had stumbled across my tracks from yesterday.
If he'd been able to retrace them to their point of origin, then
he knew where I was parked. Heading back for the van could be
a big mistake.
......That meant I had to strike
out over unfamiliar territory in the hopes I could reach safe
ground before the Forenti clan could catch up to me. I slowed
down a bit more, trying to watch where I stepped. I had to avoid
muddy areas, avoid breaking any stems or branches. With the ground
so wet, I also had to be careful of leaving dull spots behind
me. As Major Rice used to say, "Step in the dew, they see
......Moving uphill, trying to
make only dry steps over a granite outcrop, I slowed to nothing
more than a fast walk. I was moving carefully from piece to piece,
trying to fade away into the forest. If the quartet behind me
headed back to their precious crop, or even straight to the meadow
parking lot, I had it made. All I needed was a bit of a head
start and I could stay ahead of them all day. Sadly, I wasn't
going to get it.
......Before I knew it, one of
them was screaming, "There he goes!"
......"Don't just talk about
it--get him! Shoot him! Kill the bastard for Christ's sake."
......That was when shots began
ringing out from more than one source and I started running like
a scared pig again. I heard their man go down, had my laugh at
his expense, and then went down myself. Laying on the ground,
more than slightly stunned, I fought with myself to get moving.
......Get up, Goddamnit!
my brain screamed at me. Get up--get up! At least make it a little
difficult for them to kill you.
......I forced myself up off
the ground, testing my legs one at a time before I tried to start
running. Bruised but not broken, I moved off again, forcing the
best speed I could manage. Subtlety was out the window. What
I needed was distance. I ran all out, pushing myself poundingly
hard. I could feel my head cooling as the wind chilled the sweat
building in my hair.
......Finally, after a solid
five minutes, I began to feel myself growing light-headed. Spotting
a small grouping of wide bottomed pines, I threw myself forward
and slid underneath the largest one. I lay there for a moment,
trying to get my breath back. I'd used up a vicious amount of
energy by that point. I had no choice--I had to rest and take
stock before I just ran in a circle, or worse, ran back into
the Forenti boys. Glancing at my watch, I gave myself ninety
......First I checked the camera
bag. The camcorder seemed in one piece. Pulling the canteen,
I treated myself to a long drink and a short head dousing. Then,
my hand closed around Carmine's Woolworth's special. In desperation
I unscrewed the pommel and emptied out its cache of treasures.
That turned out to be a good length of fishing line, two weights,
several fish hooks, a bit of sandpaper and two water-proof matches.
It wasn't much, but it did give me some ideas.
......My ninety seconds stretched
out into several extra minutes but I felt it was worth it. When
I was done tinkering with the stuff I'd gotten out of the handle
I gathered up the camera bag and all my new toys. Then, after
a careful inspection of the surrounding area, I moved out again.
......I had one advantage in
that three of my pursuers were in their street clothes. None
of them except Magoo was dressed for running around in the forest.
It gave me colors to watch for. After a while I spotted a lone
blur of white and blue moving off through the green. That was
the bald one in the T-shirt and bib overalls, which meant a shotgun.
Sliding carefully along an intercept angle, I kept one eye on
the blur, one eye on every other direction.
......As we drew closer, I saw
what I needed--a long, clear break in the trees. If I was going
to have a chance at Baldy, that was going to be it. Picking up
speed, I arrived at the stretch before he did. Unshouldering
the camera bag, I pulled free my canteen. Back under the pines
I'd packed it with dirt and then tied a three foot length of
fishing line to it. Now I got it spinning over my head, waiting,
watching for Baldy.
......He stuck the end of the
shotgun out first, then his head. I let go my bomb a split-second
before he showed himself. The canteen slammed into the side of
his face, knocking him sideways. He went down screaming. He also
went down hard. When he hit the ground his trigger finger tightened.
Both barrels let loose, bringing me the unexpected bonus of more
......Another brother staggered
into sight, then flopped down next to Baldy, grabbing at his
leg and his side. Since only his leg was bloody I thought maybe
he was the one that had taken the bad spill just before I did.
The pair of them were yelling so much I couldn't decide which
of them was screaming louder. My mind spent a split-second debating
trying for one of their weapons, but the sound of more rifle
fire changed my mind. A quick scan showed me Forenti and Magoo
as blurs of color coming through the trees.
......They had started shooting
as soon as they had a hint of me, which meant their shots had
been blocked by the forest. I started moving again before they
could get to the clearing. I could hear them questioning the
two on the ground--what happened, are you all right, can you
move, and so forth. They didn't know, they weren't, they couldn't,
et cetera. Eventually Dennis and Magoo just left them and moved
......In a way I was glad I'd
seen Magoo again. It gave me an idea. He was the one that had
trailed me from the marijuana field. Getting my bearings, I headed
back there, figuring that if the Forenti clan were as worried
about their crops as they seemed to be that might be the best
place to finish things. It took a bit of crawling and a lot of
dancing around the two brothers to make it back to the patch
without being seen. Actually, I'd needed more patience than anything
else--sitting on my hands, telling myself to keep still and wait
more than once when I sensed one or the other of them nearby.
Eventually I arrived back at the shallow where the crop was planted.
Lifting the edge of the camouflage netting, I rolled under and
moved to the middle of the patch.
......Some of the bushes had
reached upward over six feet already. I smashed a number of them
down and broke them up into campfire sized pieces. Once I had
a three foot tall pile, I hollowed out a rough hearth center
and prepared to start a fire. My hope was that if anything could
make the last two lose their cool it would be their precious
ganja burning down.
......Quickly I searched my person
for every scrap of paper I had. It wasn't much. The Slim Jim
box, the peanut bag, and a handful of dollar bills. Worse than
that, I only had the two matches. They weren't going to be enough
to light the entire pile. Although the marijuana had dried out
enough to burn, everything close to the ground was still too
wet from the day before to use as kindling. Then, desperation
gave me a strange idea.
......Grabbing up the Slim Jims,
I stuck them into the mud of the hearth one by one. Then, praying
I was right, I used the sandpaper to strike the two matches together
and tried to light the pyramid of greasy, processed meat. It
worked, the Slim Jims sputtered like miniature Roman candles.
In a minute they were sending flames several inches up into the
......I shoved the paper I had
into the marijuana in the path of the flames, shoved my money
back in my pocket, and then got back out of the shallow. Hiding
myself in between a thick pair of bushes, I sat back to wait
once more. My last weapon in my hands, I watched the gray violet
clouds climbing up through the netting, wondering how long it
would take the smell to reach the brothers.
......Not long. After only a
few minutes, I heard Magoo shouting.
......"Oh good fucking night--the
bastard done set fire to the damn back field!"
......In seconds Forenti and
his brother dodged out of the trees, heading for the shallow.
As they moved past me, I stepped out from the bushes, twirling
the last of the fishing line over me head. I'd tied the weights
to it, as well as several small rocks and the three fishing hooks.
Whipping it out, I got it around Magoo's chest.
......I gave it a sharp pull
back as it began to wrap around him. The fish hooks dug into
his chest and arm. He went down screaming. Before he could hit,
before Dennis could turn, I charged forward. My target was so
intent on trying to save his dope I was halfway to him before
he realized anything had happened to his brother. By the time
he began to turn I was only a yard away. He tried to raise his
shotgun but I threw myself at him, putting a fist into the side
of his head so hard I closed his left eye with the one punch.
Spinning away from him, I turned on Magoo and kicked, snapping
his chin back with my size twelves. His rifle spun out of his
......Then, whipping around again
I got my hands on Dennis. Knocking his shotgun out of his limp
grasp, I doubled him over with a solid gut hit. He went down
hacking and spitting. He didn't bother to get up, either. Actually,
after that none of them were any trouble. I tramped out the grease
fire in the shallow and then walked the two back to where their
brothers were still laid up holding their own guns on them to
keep them docile.
......After I got them back to
Dennis' house I sat them all down on the same couch and called
the state police, telling them to bring a couple of ambulances
and plenty of handcuffs. The troopers didn't have any trouble
finding the shallow--they just followed the smell of burnt dope
back through the trees. Later, as I gave the officer in charge
my statement, he got a good laugh out of the burning Slim Jims.
......I thought about that once
I was finally on my way home. I'd laughed at them before, too.
I'd laughed at Carmine's gimmick knife, as well, but it was the
knife and the Slim Jims that had saved my life.
......Bored and tired, I decided
enough was enough. As I continued to speed along the New York
State thruway I fumbled underneath the dash for the flask of
Jack Daniels I knew had to still be there. Sure enough, I found
it taped in place right where I'd remembered Carmine always kept
one. Breaking the seal, I threw back a healthy couple of inches.
Then, I toasted Carmine and did it again. The JD rolled down
my throat chasing away the taste of the fearful bile that had
dried there earlier.
......Feeling the warmth roll
around in my stomach, I smiled widely. And then suddenly, I was
laughing, flashing on every silly thing Carmine had ever done
or said, making me laugh all the harder. Finally, at the height
of it all, I hoisted the flask upward and toasted;
......"To Woolworth's ...
for all your defensive needs."
......Putting the flask to my
mouth again, I just let the smooth sour mash keep flowing until
it was three quarters empty. And then, my grief caught up to
me and I was at last able to mourn my friend, barely able to
keep the van on the road for the tears in my eyes and the pain
I could finally feel.
Copyright (c) 2002 by C.J. Henderson.
is the author of the Jack Hagee, P.I. short stories and novels.
Under the pseudonym of Robert Morgan, Henderson also writes about
supernatural private eye Teddy London,
and has worked in comics on such crime-related books as Batman:
Legends of the Dark Knight and Lady Justice. Recently,
has announced a string of graphic novels featuring Jack Hagee.
The pulp energy and pure physical thrust of the character
should translate well to the comics medium. The first issue should
be on sale at better comic book stores everywhere by the time
you read this.
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"And I'll tell you right out that I'm a man who likes talking
to a man who likes to talk."
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