Being inspired, maybe – 86

A picture paints ... well, as many words as you like.  For instance:

And, then, the words:

I often wondered what it meant to go 'stir crazy,'.

I think it had something to with being in prison, locked away in solitary confinement, and, if it was, then I knew exactly what it was like.

I'd been locked away in this room for nearly two months, waiting to testify against a criminal that had, up until now, managed to 'remove' any obstacle in his path to remaining free to continue his illegal activities.

Not that I had any intention of ending up in what was the tightest, secure facility in the world.  It happened because Joe Latanzio, one of the most dangerous crime bosses, decided to kill someone in front of me.  Well, not exactly in front of me, but I did witness it, and I was able to very clearly identify him without ambiguity.  It had him arrested and sent to jail.

He knew there was a witness, but although he had a name, it was not mine, and it was untraceable.  That and the obscured photos that appeared in the papers also made it impossible for his cronies to find me.

All we had to worry about was whether one of the guards or the security detail would sell out to his family, who were offering a reward of up to a million dollars to spill the true identity of the witness. 


And, so far no one had, or at least that was what they were telling me.  There was no way of knowing because my current residence was impenetrable.  If it had, we'd only find out the day I had to go into court and testify.

That day was tomorrow.

It was like I was the criminal, waiting on death row, having to have that final meal before execution.

And living with the expectation that I was going to die.

Unfortunately, there were no guarantees, and the head on my security detail, Amy Childern, competent and successful at her job as her resume testified, couldn't rule out the possibility that there might be trouble.  All she would give me was her assurance she would do everything within her power to keep me alive.

But in having so much time to think about the ramifications of what testifying might be, I realized the court case wasn't the full extent of the problem, but once the trial was over I knew it would be the beginning of a life of looking over my shoulder.

Yes, there was the option of disappearing into the witsec ether, but that was never going to be the answer.  There would always be the temptation on the table from the defendant’s family who would never give looking for me, regardless of the outcome of the trial.

Put quite simply and based on what I had overheard from other members of my security detail, life as I'd known it, was over.

Not that my life amounted to very much before this happened.  I had no family, being orphaned very early in life, and bounced around the foster care system, so that there were no people I'd call parents.  And after a stint in the Army, I found myself at a loose end, unable to hold down a job, and just drifted, until I finished up in the wrong place at the wrong time

You know the sort. John Doe of no fixed address. That was me.  Except I had a name, or two, the current being Al Jones, and a photo that was deliberately diffused so that anyone looking at it would not recognize me in real life.

I also now had a social security number but that was only to make me appear a credible witness.  There was nothing to find other than a number and a name.

As Amy said, I'd come from nowhere and would be going back there once this notorious criminal was locked up. It was meant to be reassuring but it wasn't.

But despite any misgivings I might have right now, I'd made a commitment and would honor it.

Nobody expected they would make an attempt on my life in the hotel.

As far as they were aware no one knew I was there, but to an astute observer who knew something of the motivation behind keeping witnesses safe, there would be no mistaking the number of out of place personnel in the hotel, starting at the lobby.

And for those working for Latanzio, they’d had close to two months to check out every hotel in the city and there would be people working for him who knew the witness protection procedures.  After all, there had been four before me, found and murdered before they got to court.

Those were odds that would tell anyone that this was a lost cause.

My detail for this morning consisted of four, headed up by Amy who said she would stay with me.  Outside Larry was number 2 and would be with me too.  Jeff and Wes made up the rest of the team and were stationed below in the garage waiting with a bulletproof car.

I made a joke previously as to whether it would withstand a handheld rocket, and Amy chose to ignore it.  Perhaps she had not seen what one could do or believe that criminals could get their hands on one.

After breakfast where again the condemned man had a hearty meal, it was a half-hour wait before we moved.  It was tense inside the room.  And outside where Larry was stationed.

At the appropriate time, he was to knock, Amy would answer, and it would be the all-clear.

I was down to counting seconds.

When the time came and Larry knocked on the door we both jumped.  A look passed between us.  The time had come.  We were not expecting trouble.

Amy opened the door, not completely, but just ajar.

It was what saved her life.

A second later Larry came through the door to the accompaniment of several silenced rounds.

Two events happened in quick succession.

As Larry came through the door and falling forwards propelled by the shots, he managed to free his gun and throw it in my direction.

A man followed him, firing more rounds randomly, none hitting a target, while Amy, taking a few extra milliseconds to realize what was happening, drew her gun and started firing at the figure who just passed the edge of the door.

He was not going to be the only one.

As more bullets were fired into the room, a second gunman from outside the room must have seen his partner go down and pressed forward.  He saw me the same time I had the gun thrown to me aimed at him and I squeezed off three rounds and put him down.  I mentally thanked the Army for teaching me to shoot.  If only I had a military issue M16.

Silence fell over the scene.

Amy was trying to raise the other two in the team but they were not responding.  Nor was the lookout in the foyer.  The was a slight hint of panic in her tone, especially when she realized there was no time to raise the alarm by phone.  It was now a matter of how many gunmen Latanzio had hired.

I picked up the two guns from the now-dead gunmen and threw one to her.  "How many men did he sent the last time," I asked her.

She looked startled for a moment, then slipped back into battle mode.  "Six."

"Then let's hope he hasn't rewritten the playbook."

We didn't have time to check and see if Larry was OK, but the glance I got showed no sign of life.  I don't think, when he left for work this morning, he thought it might be his last day on this mortal earth.

I reached the door and closed it.  A second later several bullets slammed into it.  It was solid enough to withstand them.  Once shut, the door was locked and unless they had a key, they could not get in.
Amy nodded towards the connecting door to the room next door.  For the last week, she had been staying in it.  Now, it was one possible escape route.

The door handle rattled, and I heard a voice outside say, "it's locked."  They didn’t have a key.  For the moment.  Perhaps they should have frisked Larry first before killing him.

She walked backward slowly, gun raised and pointed at the door as I backed up in the same direction.  I went first, she followed, and the shut the door behind us.  Locked from her side, they would not get in, key or no key.

10 maybe 15 seconds later we heard the door next door open and then self-shut with a muffled bang.  Next, there was a voice, "where the hell are they?"

There would be two or more on lower floors cutting off our escape out of the building.  There was two next door.  We were out the door of the room next door, and ready to catch them when they realized we had escaped, and they had to exit the room.

When they did, an agonizing minute later, they were dead before they took two steps into the corridor.

Whoever planned this execution, didn't plan it very well.  Or maybe he didn't know that I would be comfortable around guns.  If I hadn’t, we'd both be dead by now.

Time to take a deep breath.  This was not over.

© Charles Heath 2020


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