One-Eighty: A Joe Hunter Short Story
‘I’ve heard that you know more than a hundred ways of killing a man with your bare hands, Hunter.’
‘I only need one at a time.’
‘True. But then again, you’d need your hands to do that.’
Some days you wake up feeling shitty and you know that things are just going to get worse. When your dreams are disturbed by the cold sensation of a gun shoved under your jaw by a bad man you can be forgiven for expecting the worst day of your life. For me, it was kind of run of the mill. My days are often filled with guns and bad men.
Malcolm Peck goes by the shortened name of Mal. He doesn’t ever confess his full name; he delights in telling people his name is short for malice.
Mal Peck is a bad man. He’s a white supremacist. A racist. The name Malice fits him like a glove.
His cousin Jason was a bad man, too. That was until I put a 9mm Parabellum in his skull. After that he was just dead.
Mal Peck showed me his machete. He used its rounded tip to measure the distance between my bound wrists and my thumbs.
‘I’m going to take your hands away from you,’ he said. ‘So you can’t go shooting anyone else. I promised Jason that.’
‘Like Jason’s going to care,’ I said. ‘He was a baby killer, Mal. Even you have to admit he got what he deserved.’
‘He was my blood. You think I care about some snot-nosed nigger outa the projects?’
Jacked on methamphetamine, Jason and his skinhead crew had been driving round the streets of Tampa in a souped up Chevrolet Impala taking pot shots at passersby. They weren’t indiscrete shots: they were all aimed at black kids. Jason had killed a seven-year-old boy as he walked home from Ben & Jerry’s with his eleven year old brother. Seven years old: it meant nothing to Jason Peck. The only thing that mattered was the colour of the boy’s skin.
The law couldn’t prove that Jason had fired the killing shot and he’d walked away. Maybe if he’d shown a little remorse then he’d have lived, but it was the way he’d laughed in the face of little George’s mother that had sealed his fate.
‘Do you know he begged for mercy before I shot him?’ I asked.
He didn’t rise to the bait, but my words had stung him. Mal rolled his bald head on his shoulders. Vertebra cracked like it was a prophecy.
‘I also promised Jason that I’d take off your head and bury it next to him,’ Mal said. Then he walked around the chair he’d tied me into, laying the cold edge of the machete against my throat. “Do you think one chop would do it?’
‘Someone as weak as you,’ I said, ’it’ll probably take a dozen attempts. Maybe you should ask one of your crew to do it for you.’
He laughed. ‘No, I think I can manage.’
‘Not usually your style, Mal,’ I reminded him.
‘I’ve killed men before,’ he told me.
‘But you prefer to watch others do it,’ I said. ‘When Jason was down on his knees begging for his life, he told me that you made him shoot the kid.’
‘I didn’t make him do nothin’.’
‘You gave him the gun. You were driving the car. It was your idea to go hunting. A seven year old child died because of you, Mal.’
‘ That wasn’t any child,’ Mal spat bitterly. ‘He was a goddamn drain on our good country. He needed putting down. I only wish that Jason had killed the other brother, too. Just like I told him to.’
Mal seemed to like the weight of the machete in his hands. He stood in front of me bouncing it on his palm. It made him feel like a big man. But he was nothing in my eyes.
‘The president of your good country is a black man, Mal,’ I said to him. ‘Time’s are changing. People are beginning to see sense. There’s no place in a good country for an animal like you.’
‘He’ll be dead within another year,’ Mal said. ‘People will see sense and shoot him dead, too.’
‘People just like you,’ I said. I shook my head at him. ‘But not you, Mal. You aren’t going to be around much longer.’
He lifted the machete.
‘I’ll be around longer than you,’ he said. But then he wasn’t so sure when he felt the barrel of a shotgun on the back of his skull.
‘Drop the knife, asshole,’ said my friend, Rink.
Mal rolled his eyes and muttered something under his breath. He dropped the machete and it clattered on the boards next to his feet. Rink allowed the Mossberg to dip, and then he caught Mal’s neck between his large fingers. He shoved Mal across the room, spun him around and slammed him up against a wall.
‘Move, punk, and I’ll make sure you hurt before you die,’ Rink told him.
Rink’s a big man like his Scottish father. He has the eyes of his Japanese mother. He is American through and through, a patriot, but he is still the type that Mal will instantly hate. He is also the type that Mal will instantly fear. He didn’t move.
Rink’s KA-BAR made short work of the ropes holding me in the chair.
‘You sons of bitches set me up...’ Mal’s face was as white as the sheets his forebears wore when they were murdering innocent people. Only the swastika tattoo on his forehead held any colour.
I looked across at Mal as I worked some blood back into my fingers. ‘You don’t think an asshole like you could’ve really walked into my house and taken me prisoner? I let you do it, Mal. I wanted to hear your confession.’
‘For what? So you could hand me over to the cops?’ He laughed. ‘You think I’m gonna admit anything to them?’
Walking towards him, I said, ‘No. It was so I can kill you in good conscience.’
Mal had heard tales about me. Some people believe I have over a hundred ways of killing a man with my bare hands. It’s a bit of an exaggeration, but like I told Mal, I only need one way at a time.
I clasped one hand on his jaw, the other at the back of his skull, and I wrenched his head a full one-eighty.
That’ll do it every time.