Butcher baker, p.1
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       Butcher, Baker..., p.1

           Louis Sollert
Butcher, Baker...
Butcher, Baker...

  By Louis Sollert

  Copyright 2012 Louis Sollert

  Cover Design Copyright 2013 by DigitalDonna.com

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  ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

  Jimmy the Pig’s head filled the scope. He was peering through the upstairs middle bedroom window out into the pre-dawn darkness. Twelve seconds before he died, he spoke to someone out of sight. Eight seconds before he died, he nodded his head. Two seconds before he died, he turned away from the window. His head exploded like a melon dropped from a bridge.

  Half a mile away on a sandy hillside, Joseph Baker unscrewed the long silencer from the barrel of his rifle, detached the stock and removed the magazine. He dropped the components and the brass cartridge casing from the spent round into a small grey duffel bag, slung the bag over his shoulder and walked back over the hill to the dirt bike he’d left on the far side. He mounted the bike, kicked it over twice before it started and rode quietly away into the desert that stretched out between the high-end suburban enclave where Jimmy the Pig pretended to respectability and the Rincon Mountains that hemmed in Tucson on that side of town. The full moon was his only light.

  Jimmy was, or had been, a pimp. He ran a brothel on the far western boundary of town. He built and maintained his stable of girls (and a few boys) by getting young kids hooked and using more than they could pay for. Then he “suggested” that they pay their debt working for him. Angela had disappeared into Jimmy’s place almost a year ago. She’d only recently been found, bleached coyote-chewed bones at the bottom of an arroyo west of the brothel.

  The discovery had killed Joseph’s father.

  Killing Jimmy wouldn’t bring either of them back, but there was a sense of satisfaction in seeing that there would be no further victims of his vice and greed.

  There had been nothing inevitable about Jimmy the Pig’s death. Predictable, yes. Hubris and arrogance predictably combined in Jimmy’s character to prevent him from heeding the warning, but he had been warned. Twelve days before Jimmy’s death, Joseph, just after midnight, had penciled a two-inch “X” on the high-gloss ivory-painted trim of Jimmy’s front door. At seven eighteen, when Jimmy stepped outside to get his morning paper, Joseph had (from a different hill) fired at and hit the point where the two lines intersected. A moment later he’d snapped a long-lens digital photo that had both Jimmy and the perforated “X” in the frame.

  Jimmy had heard the “thwack” of the slug hitting the wood, but he’d dismissed it as a night insect thumping its way to its lair to wait out the heat of the day. Until the courier delivered the photograph later that afternoon, along with a warning to shut down the brothel and leave town within ten days. Jimmy’s reaction had been rage, then he’d chosen to discount the warning. When the eleventh day passed with no attempt on his life, he’d decided the whole thing was a bluff. The morning of the twelfth day he’d learned differently.

  A wave of nausea prompted Joseph Baker to stop his little dirt bike and get off until he’d emptied the contents of his stomach onto the hardpan of the desert. He dry-heaved for a few minutes until he managed to put the image of Jimmy’s exploding head out of his mind. He remounted the cycle and completed the slow trek across the moonlit desert towards the 4WD pickup he’d staged almost eight miles from Jimmy’s house.

  The drive back to his house, his father’s house until a few months ago, took forty-five minutes. Most of that time he thought of his sister. What had Angela’s last days been like? Joseph tortured himself with that thought during most of his waking hours. He’d hoped that killing Jimmy the Pig would give him peace, quiet the pain in his soul, the ache that took the place of his sister in his heart. But that night the nightmares were still there. Jimmy was dead. The brothel was not. A discreet phone call the next day revealed that one of Jimmy’s deputies had assumed control within a few hours. Not a single customer had been inconvenienced. Maybe he’d gone after the wrong target.

  Joseph wasn’t a soldier. He was an analyst for an insurance company. He’d taken up long-range target shooting as a hobby after having seen a live-fire demonstration of a Marine sniper on a visit to California three years earlier. The precision of shooting at and hitting a target from a thousand yards away satisfied him tremendously. He’d picked up a Belgian sniper rifle at a gun show and for more than two years he’d spent part of every weekend out in the open desert east of town perfecting his skill with it. At half a mile he could put eight out of ten 7.62 mm rounds in a 25 mm circle. Jimmy the Pig had been his first live target. He’d never even hunted deer or boar.

  “I thought I’d be done with it, that the pain would end.” Joseph was near to tears, almost pleading as he sat in the deeply padded chair in Dr. Wentzel’s consulting office. “But instead of being rid of the dreams, I’ve just added new ones of that fat pig’s head exploding.” A sob escaped him. “My sister’s bleached bones crying out to me for help, my dad with his wrists slashed, bleeding out in his hot tub and that pimp’s head opening up in slow motion and turning itself inside out.” Joseph paused. “When will it end?”

  “Joe, I warned you that this sort of direct action would probably complicate things.” Dr. Wentzel’s sonorous voice was tainted by unfamiliar stresses. “If I’d known you were still determined to take your revenge I’d have called the police.” He looked at Joseph until Joseph made eye contact. “I think we need to terminate the therapeutic relationship. I’m very uncomfortable with this.”

  Eight weeks ago Joseph had told Dr. Wentzel that he’d abandoned the vengeance fantasy he’d been cultivating. He’d lied. “Sure, I expected that. But I don’t know how I’m going to cope without you.” Dr. Wentzel wisely did not prompt him. “I don’t suppose,” he continued after a minute or so, “that you could refer me to anyone else.” It wasn’t really a question.

  “You’ve put me in an awkward position.”

  “I know. I’m not sorry, not really, but I do apologize.” Joseph looked at his hands. “Compromising you was not my goal.”

  Dr. Wentzel stood. The fifty minute session was over. Joseph rose and offered his hand. “Goodbye, Doc.” Hesitantly it was accepted. Joseph settled his bill with Dr. Wentzel’s receptionist and walked out into the baking heat of the late afternoon.

  Joseph Baker parked his pickup in the shadow of the canyon where he did most of his practice shooting. He’d cleaned and reassembled his rifle earlier in the evening, but he’d been unable to remount the scope. There wasn’t anything wrong with the scope, or the rifle. But every time Joseph picked it up, his hands had shaken. He was afraid of it. Afraid that if he put his eye to it, he’d see Jimmy’s head turning inside out again. He’d come to his practice ground to prepare for his assault on the brothel. Without his scope, he’d have to shoot from closer in. He’d driven by the place several times today and had a plan. If he could be accurate enough with the rifle’s iron sights at 250 yards, it would work. He paced off the distance from his target. After an hour he was sure he could do it.

  Seven hundred yards east of the brothel, in line with the last stretch of road that ran in front of it, Joseph lay prone behind a mound of sandy soil he’d pushed up to provide himself with a shooting platform. Two hundred yards in front of him the eastbound road turned due north, skirting a dry creek bed. The road was well lit, but there was no guardrail. It was two fifteen in the morning when he look
ed at his watch. Time to begin his assault.

  The first car to leave the brothel’s parking lot was a powder blue Chrysler 300. Forty yards before it reached the turn in the road there was a soft “phut,” the crack of splintering glass and, a few seconds later, the crunch and crackle of three thousand pounds of Detroit iron slamming into the sandy creek bed. This far out on the edge of town, no one but Joseph saw or heard it.

  Twelve minutes later a white Acura suffered the same fate, coming to rest thirty-five feet to the south of the Chrysler. Over the next forty minutes they were joined by two pickup trucks, a Honda minivan and a Ford Probe. Then Joseph heard sirens.

  He’d skipped a green Caddy because he’d been concerned about the monitoring system installed in some high-end GM vehicles. Possibly that second pickup had On-Star installed. It had been more than a ranch truck. Joseph broke down and packed his rifle, gathered up his brass, mounted his little dirt bike and rode off in search of his pickup. Five customers and one of the brothel’s employees had died. Word would get around.

  “...among the dead were Tucson city councilman Daniel Hernandez and Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Andrew B. Hessian, recently assigned to Davis-Montham AFB. No motive for the shootings has been given by the TPD.” Joseph switched off the television. He’d been so clever. No scope. No heads. He wasn’t even shooting at people, just at cars. He’d been sure he could finish his task and keep his victims’ faces out of his nightmares this way. But behind the talking head on the news there’d been a graphic, an array of six faces. Just the thought of seeing those faces in his dreams was enough to make Joseph ill. Six new faces: fathers, sons, husbands, brothers.

  For a week Joseph barely slept. His work suffered. On Friday he notified his boss and the H.R. department that he was taking a leave of absence. He surrendered his security badge, laptop and desk keys. He wasn’t sure he cared if he ever got them back. He retreated into his house and locked the door. He wasn’t entertaining visitors.

  “What are you doing, Joey?” His sister, dead now for almost a year, spoke to him as Joseph sat trembling at his kitchen table. Angela appeared to him not as the 22-year-old college student she’d been before Jimmy the Pig had lured her in, not as the emaciated, drug-wracked, almost subhuman creature she’d been just before she died, but as the spindly ten-year-old girl she’d been the year he’d left home to go to UCLA. He couldn’t, wouldn’t, sleep—the dreams terrified him. Even awake, though, they were creeping into his mind.

  “I don’t know, Tadpole,” Joseph used his favorite nickname. “I really don’t know.” He started to cry. He sobbed for a few minutes, fell asleep in his chair, woke up screaming. Angela was still there.

  “You were bad, Joey,” she said. “And you were never very good at being bad.” His sister cupped his face and brought it up. He was looking straight into eyes that couldn’t really be there. But it felt real. Whether it was fatigue or insanity or some sort of Twilight Zone encounter, Joseph didn’t know. “Remember the headlight?” She smiled.

  When Joseph had been twelve he and friends had been playing catch in the driveway when the baseball had gotten away from him and cracked the left headlight of his dad’s car. Joseph’s friends had talked him into keeping quiet about it and they had gotten away with it, especially when Joseph’s father, later that evening, had been in a minor accident with a city maintenance vehicle that had crunched that corner of the car.

  For two days Joseph had been moody and withdrawn. Finally he’d ridden his bicycle down to the Ford dealership, bought a new left headlight and presented it to his dad along with a confession as to what had happened. It had cost him forty-two dollars, eight of which he’d borrowed from his mother as an advance against his allowance. But he’d purged his guilt.

  “I can’t fix this one at the auto parts store, Angela,” Joseph said. “I can’t fix it at all.” He hung his head, unable to maintain eye contact even with this not-quite-real version of his sister. “What am I going to do?”

  “You know what you have to do,” she said. “You just don’t want to do it.” He nodded. “You can’t live like this.”

  The decision made, he gathered up what he needed. The rifle, the partially empty box of shells, the scope, his ballistic notes and put them all in his small duffel bag. He left his pickup behind and took the little dirt bike into town. It wasn’t street legal, but being stopped for a traffic ticket didn’t concern him. Downtown he left the bike leaned against a lamp post and walked into the city offices.

  “I need to speak to one of the assistant city prosecutors about the sniper killings,” he told the guard at the screening post as he laid his bag on the conveyor. As the x-ray monitor revealed the contents of the bag, the guard looked at Joseph and said, “I guess you do.”


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