The True Price of Vengeance

by Dustin Polk 2 years ago in fiction

What will make Jason REALLY understand the true price?

The True Price of Vengeance

Jason Almendale walks into the front door of a small, family-owned restaurant on a sunny Detroit afternoon and finds his usual seat, ordering his usual meal. “Good afternoon, Mary, lemme get the...” He’s interrupted by Mary’s voice. “The number four with no onions and a Pepsi? Gotcha Jason.” She laughs as she walks to the counter to put the order in. Jason’s mind begins to wander to all the things in life he hadn’t done, the things he and his brother Jackson always dreamed of doing. Ever since Jackson died, Jason had no motivation to do anything that even remotely reminded him of Jackson.

His thoughts are interrupted by the dinging of a bell and the arrival of his meal at the table. Mary senses something different about Jason, and sits down at the table with him. “You okay Jason? You’re acting kinda different.” He looks up from his food and replies, “Yeah Mary, I’m good. Thanks for asking. Just thinking about Jackson again.” Jason’s sentence trails off as he looks back down at his plate. Mary stands up and places her hand on his shoulder. “If you need me today, I get off at nine.” He gives her a nod of acknowledgement and continues staring at his plate.

After finishing his meal, Jason stands, places cash on the table, and leaves. He walks to the usual parking space and climbs in his truck. Upon turning the ignition, the engine roars to life and the radio comes on. His thoughts are immediately clouded by the sound of Jackson’s favorite song. He turns the volume down and lays his head on the steering wheel, arms outreached, and begins to sob. It seemed like everything that day was flooding Jason’s thoughts with Jackson. He quickly gathered himself, and began the fifteen minute drive home to his studio apartment. During the what seemed like endless trek, Jason sees a car accident. Not just any accident, but an accident that looked identical to the one his beloved brother had been killed in—the one he had walked away from. He stared sternly ahead and continued the drive, holding back immense tears all the while.

Soon after arriving at his complex’s parking lot, Jason jumps out of the truck and bounds up the stairs to the second floor. He fumbles with his keys trying to get inside as quickly as possible, knowing he is going to lose his composure any second to the immense anger and sadness building inside of him. The door flies open, and Jason drops to the floor in tears. He looks up to the ceiling, not sure whether or not to pray to a God he’s seen no evidence of. Through the doubt, he lowers his head and speaks from the heart. Every little bit of pain and misery he’s held back for the last eight months comes pouring out of his mind and soul in the form of sworn vengeance against the man who took Jackson’s life.

Jason rises from his knees and places his head against the wall. “Dang it, I miss you, Jackson. God...why couldn’t it have been me? Why was it my younger brother? Why? I NEED answers, if you’re really there.” But all he received was a silence in his apartment, and a silence in his mind. Not just the usual silence where one feels alone, but a peaceful silence. Once he’s collected himself, Jason walks to the fridge, grabs a beer, and sits on the couch. “I can do this...Jackson would want me to be the best I can.” Jason turns on the television, and flips the channel to the only baseball game that’s on. The Tigers are beating the Rays 7-3 in the bottom of the eighth. A small smile makes its way across his face. “Maybe the World Series is a possibility this year. Man, Jackson would love that.”

When the game had concluded, and the Tigers had claimed victory over the Tampa Bay Rays with a score of eleven to six, Jason decided to call Mary. She had been off for about forty minutes, so he dialed her number. “Hello?”, Mary answered, slightly surprised. “Hey Mary, you wanna come over and hang for a little bit? It’s uh...kinda lonely here and I’ve got pizza.” After a brief pause, Mary responded, “Yeah, I’ll be there in thirty. See ya, Jason.” and the call ended. Jason felt like a loser. He had attempted to sound smooth, and play it cool, but not only had he failed, now he had to order pizza and have it delivered before Mary got to his apartment.

Within twenty five minutes, Jason had pizza on the table, beer being chilled in the fridge, Netflix turned on, and blankets on the couch. Mary arrived, and when he opened the door, Jason’s eye widened. He’d never seen her outside of the diner, but he was definitely glad she was there. "Woah," Jason thought to himself. "Mary doesn’t even look like Mary anymore. She’s...beautiful.” He snaps out of his thought when Mary interrupts, “May I come in?” she says with a slight chuckle. Embarrassed, Jason opens the door and escorts her to the couch.

“What would you like to watch?” He asks. Mary gives him a flattered smile and says, “you know women are indecisive. You pick.” Jason ponders for a moment, and then types in the title of the scariest movie he could think of, in hopes she’d be in his arms, terrified, before the movie was over. However, Mary was tougher than he gave her credit for. The scenes that shook him to his core, she merely laughed at. And before they knew it, the movie was over. A whole 24-pack of Miller Lite was finished, and they were still sitting in the same positions on the couch.

“Did I really just waste two hours trying to think of a move to make? So stupid,” Jason thought to himself. His self criticism was abruptly halted when Mary asked, “So…you’ve never really told me much about Jackson.” The floor caught his eyes' attention before he could begin to answer. “Well,” Jason said, “Jackson was 2 years younger than me. We did everything together. Baseball in high school, double dates with girls, worked together, we were even on tour together as SEALs in Afghanistan twice. We had made these plans to do so many things before we settled down with families and became true adults. But all that got kinda...cut short.” Tears began streaming down Jason’s face.

Mary looked at Jason, not with pity, but with love. She wrapped him in a hug as the tears began to fall faster. “What all kinda stuff did you two plan to do?” She asked him. He looked up at her and said, “Well, we were gonna open our own business and he was supposed to move in with me sometime. We were gonna have our own gunsmithing business downtown and have a room dedicated as an office in our apartment. When he died, that dream died as well.” Mary began to cry as Jason continued, “We were also going to go skydiving, and hike the Grand Canyon, and spend a week or so down in the Florida Keys. Mom wanted all of us to go on a cruise to the Bahamas together, too.” A smile broke across his face as he said, “Jackson really hated boats and always talked mom out of that one.”

Mary laughed and hugged Jason again. For the few moments they shared in each others embrace, Jason’s world felt whole again. His heart, mind, and soul felt at ease for the first time since Jackson died. Mary chimes in, “It’s getting late. I should be heading home. But I assume I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon at the diner?” He laughs and nods his head. Jason walks her to the door and she leaves. He walks back to the couch and turns on ESPN to catch up on highlights, and smiles the largest smile in months.

All was well for a few weeks. Jason and Mary continued to hang out. He taught her a lot about the Tigers and she had become a die hard fan. However, one night when they were together, Jason’s phone rang. The number was unfamiliar, and created a lump in his throat when he answered. “Is Jason Almendale there?” the voice inquired. Jason replied, “This is he. Who is this?" slightly annoyed that whoever this was had just called him at nearly 10:30 PM on a Friday night. “This is Sergeant Dobbs from the Detroit Police Department. I need you to come to the station on Livernois Avenue immediately. You may bring whomever you choose, just hurry.” The call ended. Jason looked to Mary in the kitchen and requested she come with him urgently. She was confused, but decided to wait until she was in the truck before asking for any explanation.

Finally they arrived at the police station. Jason walked through the doors and up to the desk but was met by Sergeant Dobbs before he could ask where to go or who to see. “Are you Jason Almendale?” Dobbs asked. Jason looked at the slender figure placing his cigarette in the ashtray and replied, “Yes. Are you Sergeant Dobbs?” The man nodded. “Come with me.” Dobbs led Jason and Mary to what seemed to be an interrogation room down the hallway.

“I need you to be completely honest with me, Mr. Almendale. Do you know of anyone, anyone at all, who would have any reason to harm anyone in your immediate family?” Jason looked to Mary, then back to the Sergeant, and said, “No. Our family has never had any problems with anyone. Why? What happened?” Dobbs scribbles some notes on the pad in front of him on the desk, and meets Jason’s stare. “Well. I don’t believe in sugarcoating things. Your parents' home was broken into, and they were sadly killed during the robbery. The suspect, or suspects, took only jewelry and family heirlooms. We know this because of the note that read this." He passes the note to Jason, and he reads, "I told you Almendales I’d get revenge. Especially after the sentence. I warned you all and none of you believed me. Guess it’s too late to second guess now, isn’t it?"

Jason looks to the Sergeant with weakness and fear in his eyes. Almost as if he’s waiting to be told he’s on a television show where they prank unsuspecting people. The longer he stared into the Sergeant’s emotionless glare, he knew he wasn’t being pranked. Jason stood up, and goes to walk out of the interrogation room, but Mary grabs his shoulder. “Jason, do you know who that could be?” He turns and looks her deep in the eyes and quietly says, “I know exactly who it is. And I’m going to rid the earth of the scum he is.” He turns, and makes his way for the exit of the police station.

Upon hearing Jason’s plan, Sergeant Dobbs steps in front of him and calmly inquires what he plans to do. “Jason, where are you going and what do you plan to do there?” Jason gives the Sergeant a stern glare and says, “I’m going to the jerk’s house, and taking from him what he took from my brother and my parents—the only life he’s been given.” Dobbs grabs his shoulder and asks who, and Jason replies, “Harvey Xavier. The guy who was texting while driving and killed my younger brother and nearly me, and was sentenced to prison for it. The guy who got out early on good behavior because the evidence didn’t prove it was anything more than an accident. The guy who has exacted his revenge on my parents, and who is about to become the next digit in Detroit’s murder statistic.” Dobbs looks in shock, and quickly detains Jason. “Jason,” he says, “I can’t let you leave with intentions like that. If you know him, and where he lives, let us handle it.” Jason complies, but plans his own revenge in his head.

The entire journey back to his apartment, Jason doesn’t speak to Mary. The only break in the silence is the occasional murmur under his breath expressing his discomfort and anger. As they enter the parking lot of the complex, Mary looks to Jason and notices something different. Not just different, but almost terrifying. He has a crazed look in his eye that resembles an animal being caged ready to wreak havoc on the source of its anger should the restraints disappear. She worries, but trusts Jason’s judgement. “If you need me, don’t hesitate to call. I can be back here in a matter of minutes.” Without a word he exits the truck and begins his ascent up to his second floor apartment, and Mary walks slowly to her car. “Hey Mary,” he yells from the balcony, “thank you. It means a lot.” She smiles and places the key in the ignition, and watches Jason disappear into the dark doorway,

Jason knows Mary is unsuspecting of the sinister actions that are soon to take place. He doesn’t care, or see any wrong in his thoughts. He is blinded by pure rage and wants nothing more than to avenge his family. He stands at the counter in the kitchen, contemplating what aspect of his military training would be useful. Being a SEAL, he was a walking lethality, and had every intention to use his experience and knowledge to make Harvey Xavier’s last moments on earth a living recreation of the Hell he would experience shortly after.

Jason stood and walked to his bedroom and opened the closet. He stood quietly in front of the arsenal before him with a satisfied smirk on his otherwise emotionless face. He grabbed a knife out of a mahogany case on a shelf, still stained with the blood of an enemy he’d mercilessly killed in combat. Staring at the knife, his thoughts were directed to that moment, in the middle of the fight where he wasn’t sure if he’d be alive to see the end of it. Adrenaline pumping, survivalist instincts taking over where all logic and reason should have been present, and the final slice through the thin flesh of the enemy’s throat. His decision was made; he would take the knife and his trusted AR-15, and go to Xavier’s house that Sunday night. Jason had forty eight hours to plan his entrance, the homicide, the disposal, and the clean escape he hoped to make.

Saturday night rolled around and Mary hadn’t heard from or seen Jason since the night before, not even at the usual time he was at the diner. Once her shift at finished at nine o’clock, Mary drove to Jason’s apartment. She was surprised to see the door was cracked open and the lights were on. Sliding the door open she heard Jason talking to himself in his room. “Harvey Xavier, you’ll pay for what you did to my family. I put that on the God you believe in.” Mary couldn’t believe her ears. She closed his door, and knocked. He opened the door and was greeted with, “Jason. We need to talk.” She walked past him into the living room. “I heard what you said just now. What are you planning?” He looked to the floor ashamed, as if the rage had been replace by the logic he once possessed, “I was planning to steal from Harvey Xavier what he’s stolen from my family. I want vengeance.”

Mary followed Jason into his bedroom where he sat on his bed, and continued his stare to the floor. “Jason…” she said, placing her hand on his back, “let the justice system do its thing. It’s not your job.” He looked up and met her eyes and replied, “The last time I ‘let the justice system do its thing,’ he basically got away with murdering my little brother. And now he’s murdered my parents, so it’s definitely my job now. It’s not your fight, so stay out of it.”

Mary was shocked. Jason had never spoken to her that way before. She knew he was upset, furious even, but no matter how hard she tried Mary couldn’t seem to wrap her mind around the fact that Jason was hellbent on a murder mission to avenge his family. While Mary was wallowing in her own tears, Jason was busy loading his silenced AR-15 rifle and looking up Harvey Xavier in the Detroit phonebook. He’d take the trusted rifle, his blood stained knife, and a rusted metal pipe he’d had leftover from a contracting project he had helped a friend with. Hell awaited Harvey Xavier, and Jason was personally going to deliver his pathetic soul there.

Sunday night quickly approached, and Jason’s heart was pounding. The fifteen minute drive felt like hours. He was driving as such an excessive speed, he missed the exit and had to continue four miles to the next one. This added travel gave Jason enough time to go over the plan in his head one final time. The entrance, the homicide, the disposal, and the clean escape, the most important of which being the escape.

During the drive to Xavier’s rural residence, memories of Jason’s family replayed through his mind, solidifying his will to execute Harvey. The Christmas mornings waking up emerged first from his clouded thoughts; seeing his brother Jackson smiling at the gifts and the smell of the food his mother had prepared. Next up, the memories of Jackson and himself in the recruiting office, unsure of their future but sure it was side by side. Jason began to wipe tears from his eyes and assure himself crying was not the answer, but the emotions continued to pour into his mind like an ever flowing river.

Jackson’s graduation soon followed, the fishing trips, the senior week trip they went on, and then...the accident. Jason caught himself drifting into the oncoming lane and quickly corrected his path. The accident had happened over eight months ago, but the memory was vivid, and the emotional wounds were still gaping and raw. All he could hear was Jackson’s favorite song that was playing during the last moments of his life, and Jackson singing along to them terribly off key. Then, the screeching of tires, and the loud crash. The tears rained down harder and harder with every second as Jason’s speed increased. The deafening silence where his brother’s voice should have been, the sound of the radiator sizzling, Xavier’s voice asking, “Are you okay? Why is your brother not moving?! It was an accident, I swear, I looked down for only a second!” Jason came to and noticed the speedometer clocking him at 107 miles per hour. He slowed, and pulled off the road.

Exiting the truck, Jason walked over to the sign reading “Speed Limit 45” and punched it with what little strength he had left from gripping the steering wheel, leaving a massive dent. He dropped the tailgate, and sat there staring at the stars as if he was waiting for Jackson to call out to him. “Jackson? Why did you have to go? God, why couldn’t it have been me? I ask that a lot, but I still haven’t gotten an answer.” Once again, his inquiry was answered with silence, only this time, the silence was not peaceful. The silence he heard, and felt deep in his soul, was rage-inducing. Jason hopped down from the tailgate, closed it, and re-entered the truck and began to drive. His mind was made up, and no consequence could stop the pain Harvey Xavier would soon feel.

After an overly extensive drive, Jason pulled up Spencer Road to the driveway of Xavier’s large, tan townhouse. Harvey was home, and hadn’t been for long. The hood of his Mazda Miata was still warm and the lights of the house were on. Jason couldn’t be sure if Xavier’s children and wife were home, but at this point it was too late to turn back. Memories of his parents flooded his mind as he wiped away tears, gripping his rifle. “Should I knock and kill him at the door? Or should I enter quietly through a window and torture him?" Jason thought to himself. He decided on the latter of the two.

Surveying the house, Jason saw an open window on the second floor. No ladder, no lattice to climb, nothing but a bunch of pallets stacked neatly against the brick. He put on his construction gloves, and began ascending up the wooden pieces. While doing so, he heard the voice of two children. One was a young girl, and the other was a slightly older boy, no older than eleven. From what sounded like downstairs, Xavier’s voice bellowed through the home, and through Jason’s ears, “Honey? Get the kids to bed, I’ve got to be up early and can’t afford to be late again because I slept in. Can’t you do anything I ask?” The fury in Jason was building and he was nearing the end of his fuse.

“Why did I ever marry such a terrible man? Nothing’s changed since he got back from prison,” Xavier’s wife asked herself, unaware Jason was listening. “Sometimes I wish he’d just die so I wouldn’t have to divorce him. But either way, the kids would go through so much.” Her voice trailed off as she left the room, and Jason could finally peak over the windowsill to get a better understanding of his environment, a skill he had learned in the SEALs missions in Afghanistan all too well. Upon doing this, he slipped inside unnoticed and took temporary refuge in the open closet to the left, opposite the door, ditching his construction gloves out the window. On his back: the AR-15; in his pocket: a chloroform soaked bandana; on his side: the blood stained knife.

The room appeared to be a guest bedroom, as there were no clothes in the closet and the bed seemed to have been untouched for weeks. Jason withdrew his knife from its home, Jackson’s sheath, and tested its sharpness. Pleased with the result, he returned it to the leather casing attached to his belt. From his back left pocket, he drew the latex gloves he had brought to prevent leaving fingerprints on anything in the house.

Jason heard the voice of the children and wife retreating to what he imagined were their bedrooms. Harvey, however, was still downstairs yelling at the television. His voice echoed along the walls of the quiet halls. Jason’s fuse had reached its end. The death of Jackson, the murder of his parents, the disrespect to his wife—it was all overwhelming. Feeling his last string of sanity snap, Jason began the quiet journey to the first floor of the large home, seething with anger.

His first few steps were very cautious, fearing awakening the wife or children. Once Jason found the stairs to the base floor, he crept silently towards his target. Harvey stood up quickly and rushed towards the television and Jason froze in his tracks. He was nearly visible, and retreated up three stairs to avoid his cover being compromised. It sounded like Xavier was watching some sports broadcast and screaming his displeasure at the screen. Jason had become a human eruption at the sight of Harvey’s face.

Jason took the bandana off his head, and waited until Harvey departed to the kitchen, and walked slowly behind him. The sights were set, and it was now or never. Harvey entered the kitchen and walked to the bar where he poured another glass of whiskey. He stood there taking a drink while Jason slithered up behind him. The sweat on Jason’s brow dripped off, the pounding of his heart echoed through his ribcage and his mind. “It’s your time Harvey…” Jason thought to himself. “It’s time you go on a little trip.” Jason patiently waited for Harvey to place the glass on the counter, and forced it over Harvey’s mouth and nose to prevent any screams, and ensure unconsciousness. The fear in Xavier’s eyes deeply satisfied him. Jason knew Harvey had figured his fate.

Harvey struggled for a moment, but in his panicked state took many deep breaths and his entire body went limp in Jason’s arms. Jason walked him slowly out of the kitchen, and stealthily opened and exited the front door, and loaded Harvey into his truck and closed the tonneau cover. Next stop: an abandoned farmhouse roughly one hundred miles southwest in Grelton, Ohio.

The GPS marked the drive at just over an hour and forty minutes long. Jason’s hatred was still smoldering inside, and it only seemed to be growing by the minute. “I’ve got to do this,” he reassured himself. “It’s for my family. The family he murdered in cold blood. It’s my turn for vengeance...it’s my turn to make things even.” At the end of this thought, he realized his speed—85 in a 55 mile per hour zone, and then Jason saw the blue Michigan State Police Dodge Charger sitting on the side of the road. “Bless it,” he thought, as the officer pulled off the shoulder, turned on his emergency lights and quickly caught up to Jason. He contemplated running, but knew it would do no good. As long as Harvey Xavier did not regain consciousness and begin to panic Jason would be fine.

The truck slowly came to a stop on the shoulder, and the officer stepped out of his vehicle. Jason fumbled with his wallet trying to find his license, and rummaged through the center console for his registration and proof of insurance. The officer knocked on the glass, “Sir, can I get you to roll down your window for me?” Jason complied. “I’m Officer Richardson, badge number 6824 with the Michigan State Police, do you have any idea why I’ve stopped you tonight?” Jason could feel the sweat beading off his brow. “I noticed my speed and then saw you, so probably the eighty-five in the fifty-five. I just got distracted thinking about everything that’s been going on recently,” Jason said. “Yes sir, you’re correct. And I understand, but it’s still very important to be conscience of your driving. May I see your license, registration, and proof of insurance, sir?” Jason handed the papers to Richardson. “Alright sir, I’ll be back with you in a moment.”

Jason’s heart was pounding and his mind was racing. If Harvey Xavier came to, the officer would surely hear his screams or pounding on the tonneau cover. He reached his shaking hand down to the console and grabbed a bottle of water and took a sip. He could hardly swallow. “Wait…” Jason thought to himself, “I could just kill the cop as well so there’s absolutely no way he’d know anything.” This thought was quickly dismissed when Richardson approached his window again. “Alright sir, you’re all clear. All I saw was an old warning from when you were seventeen for speeding, which is no big deal. So I’m gonna let you go tonight, just drive safe and watch your speed.” Jason swallowed hard and nodded, trying his hardest to appear calm. “Sir… are you alright?”, Richardson inquired. “Yeah, just been thinking about my parents dying and it’s really freaking me out.” Jason answered, hoping it would end the conversation there. “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. You have a good night, sir,” instructed Richardson as he walked slowly back to his cruiser.

Jason let out a deep breath and wiped his face. “Phew. That was too close. He definitely thinks something weird is going on. But he didn’t say anything, so I guess I shouldn’t worry about it," Jason murmured to himself as he turned the key in the ignition and started the truck. He turned on his left indicator, and proceeded back onto the road, monitoring his speed carefully to avoid another confrontation with the law. Merely fifteen minutes into the drive and he’d already come close to being caught.

Aiming to focus purely on the drive and situation at hand, and less about the thought of getting caught, Jason turned up the volume on the radio. To his surprise, his favorite song was on and near its ending. He hummed the last few lines to himself and tapped the rhythm on his dashboard. “I've got this. Nothing else could go wrong. The wife and kids won't know he's missing until morning when they wake up. We're good…”

Jason began to get acclimated to his speed and slowly applied more pressure to the accelerator. He looked down to find his cruise control button and set it to 75 miles per hour. “Not too much over, but not suspiciously slow, either,” Jason mumbled to himself. He turned on the heat to get more comfortable and took a deep breath. With the long exhale, it seemed that the weight of the world was off his shoulders. “Turn left,” the GPS chimed and Jason nearly missed his turn. He jerked the wheel hard to the right to avoid having to travel an extra few miles.

Once on the exit and nearing an intersection, Jason’s phone rang. It was Mary. “He...Hello?” Jason answered nervously. “Hey, Jason...can we talk? Like do you have a minute?” Mary asked. In a slight panic he tried to sound calm, “Yeah, sure. I’m not busy.” He felt terrible for lying, and worse for omitting the fact that he was about to commit one of the most horrific murders in the history of Michigan. Mary answered, “Alright. Well...I’ve been meaning to talk to you about this. I don’t think you should do anything to that Harvey guy. It’s not your place, regardless of what he did to your family.” Jason began to fume. “Mary...I need you to stay out of this. I told you before, it’s not your fight. Can’t you leave it alone? Please? Dang," he said, continuing to focus on the situation at hand.

“Jason. What the hell is your issue? And just who do you think you’re speaking to like that?” Mary demanded an answer. “I—Uh—Dang.” And just like that, Jason hung up the phone and turned it on airplane mode. No one would really need him tonight, so it would be fine. Near instantly, Mary had typed a message venting her anger to Jason.

“I can’t believe you hung up on me. What the heck is going through your head? You’re acting so shady. More so than usual, and it’s getting old. Whatever you have planned for Harvey, you need to just drop it. If you don’t, you’re gonna regret it. You’ll be no better than he is and I KNOW you don’t wanna stoop to his level. It’s really not worth it, Jason. And can I ask this too...I’m going to regardless. What do you hope to accomplish by ‘avenging your family’ or whatever you think you’re gonna do? Just trying to fill a void in your life that you think you can’t live with? You know it’s not worth it. But you aren’t gonna listen to me, so I’m done. I refuse to be whatever this is with a man with murderous intentions. I’m sorry Jason.”

Mary hit send and waited for it to deliver—but it never did. She had no idea Jason’s phone was on airplane mode and it made her even angrier. She sat on her living room couch fuming, trying to get her mind off it all by watching television and making some popcorn. Nothing would get her mind off of Jason and the terrible choices he was going to make regardless of her, or Dobbs’ advice.

The guilt began to eat at Jason’s core. He felt so bad for hanging up on Mary like he did, after all, she was all he had left. Mary was the only person left alive who even remotely cared about him. So he decided to take his phone off airplane mode. Only one message came through, and it was Mary’s. Slowing to a stop at a red light, Jason read the message. His eyes flooded with tears yet again. It had become clear that now he didn’t have anyone. The car behind Jason honked because the light was green. Jason stomped on the accelerator and zoomed through the next intersection, back onto empty road. Fearing not being able to see from the tears, Jason pulled to the shoulder, and that’s when he heard it. Movement in the bed of the truck. Harvey Xavier was awake.

Jason exited the vehicle, and the movement stopped. The time had completely passed him by, nearly 4 hours had passed since the abduction and the chloroform had worn off. He reached forward and unlocked the tailgate, and as it opened, Harvey Xavier forced himself out and tackled Jason. Jason whipped out his blood-stained combat knife and plunged towards Xavier’s neck, but was unsuccessful. Harvey grabbed him by the wrist and the two rolled over. Xavier now on his back, fighting to keep the sharpened blade from piercing his skin, and Jason pushing with all the hatred he had built up over the last few months was fueling his adrenaline. Harvey shifted all his weight and the two fell on their sides, the knife flinging feet away. For a brief moment Jason stared deep into Harvey Xavier’s eyes. He seemed like just another human—until the memory of the note found in Jason’s parents house seeped into his mind, and reignited the inferno that was his hellbent anger. Jason quickly arose and swiftly kicked Harvey in the side of his head, knocking him unconscious once again, and proceeded to load him back into the bed of the truck.

Jason turned the key in the ignition, and turned on his GPS to see there was only fifteen minutes left of the drive until Jason repaid Xavier what he’d done to his family. He turned his phone's airplane mode off and received the text from Mary, which he did not open because he was driving. “She should know I don’t text and drive,” Jason thought to himself. “Does she think I’m stupid or something? Geez.” He shifted into drive, and pulled back onto the road, mindful of his actions to avoid another run in with law enforcement.

The fifteen minutes flew by with the radio playing in the background and Jason collecting himself before the murder. He still had refused to reply to Mary’s message, and he did not plan to until after he had completed what he came to do. Mary, however, had made the drive to Jason’s apartment and found a small slip of paper on his bed. “Grelton Elevator...Grelton, Ohio...1 hr 40 min...Sunday night…” She knew it to be Jason’s handwriting, and a swift chill danced down her spine. “Jason...no…” she murmured, and then ran down the hallway, out of the apartment and down the stairs to her car. Fearing she may be too late, she immediately phoned Sergeant Dobbs.

“Sergeant Dobbs...I know it’s late, but Jason is on his way to Grelton, Ohio to kill Harvey Xavier…” and the response he gave was not what Mary needed to hear, “Dear God. We have to move. Meet me at the police station ASAP, Mary.”

Jason pulled past the Grelton Elevator and decided it would be better to move down the road a little to the Little Turkeyfoot Creek. He pulled his truck onto the shoulder and stared forward for a moment thinking, “Fuck, I’m actually doing this. No one will ever know, I’m not worried. No one has any idea who Harvey is in this town. And when I’m finished...he won’t be identifiable anyway.” He exited the truck and looked around. Jason could see the tall silos from the Elevator and the many machines, five or six houses, and a used car lot. The town seemed dead. Looking at his phone, Jason saw it was 2:58 AM. No person would be awake, and no one would hear the screams. He decided to sit for a little while, and try to rest his mind, but he dozed off.

He was awoken by the sound of a deer splashing in the creek just feet from him. Jason pulled out his phone, and noticed that it was 4:24 AM. The sun would be up in a few hours and he still had to finish off his family’s executer. Little did he know, Mary and Sergeant Dobbs were on their way...their hour and forty minute drive was nearly up. He stood up, brushed off his now-ripped and muddy pants, and strolled to his truck, and opened the tailgate. There lay Harvey Xavier bleeding from his head, unresponsive, but still breathing. It was time.

He slowly pulled Xavier’s limp body from the bed of his truck, and dragged him down the creekside until he had counted 250 paces. “This’ll be far enough I guess,” Jason thought out loud. He dropped the body and reached for his pistol, withdrew it, but laid it on the ground, and grabbed his blood-stained knife. As it was nearing Harvey’s throat, he heard the screeching of tires and saw headlights aimed at his truck. Jason quickly took cover behind some tall grass in the field, and he could barely make out the figures. It was Mary and Sergeant Dobbs. “What the heck? Why are they out here...how did the find me?” Jason pondered. “Jason! Where are you?!” Mary’s question carried across the silent crop directly into Jason’s ears.

Sergeant Dobbs began shining his flashlight into the depths of the field closer and closer to Jason’s position. The light finally met Jason’s eyes. “Jason?! Jason! Come here! We need to talk!” Dobbs bellowed. “No! Go the hell away and take Mary with you! I intend on finishing what I came here to do,” replied Jason. His heart was pounding out of his chest, and Dobbs began to walk in his direction. “Jason. I know you’re upset but is murder really the answer?”, the Sergeant asked, hoping it would resonate in Jason’s mind. Dobbs continued, “I know he killed your family...but you found him. So let us take care of it… Don’t ruin your life! Don’t stoop to his level!”

The slight reminder of his family’s brutal murder triggered Jason’s anger to an entirely new level. He grabbed the knife and patiently awaited Sergeant Dobbs to approach him. When the Sergeant was merely feet from him, Jason’s sanity snapped and he lunged forward and sank the knife deep into the Sergeant’s abdomen. “I told you to leave it to me, and you didn’t listen. You got yourself into this mess, Sergeant. I’d love to see you get yourself out.” By the time, Mary had sprinted over and began trying to restrain Jason.

“You’re a lunatic, Jason! Why did you stab him? He’s only trying to help!” she belted. “Help? Are you joking? He’s the one who let my parents get murdered. He let that jerk Xavier off with ‘good behavior’ in the prison. He KNEW what Harvey was capable of...and he let it happen. Your friend Dobbs is just as much at fault as Harvey Xavier,” Jason replied, with a crazed look in his eyes. Mary backed away in fear from the man she loved, or what was left of him anyway.

During their argument, Sergeant Dobbs had managed to dial 911 on his cell phone and the dispatch heard Jason’s deranged reasoning. The woman on the line had informed Dobbs that there were two local sheriff units en route to their location, and the Sergeant heard her warn them, “Suspect is armed and dangerous. Wielding a knife, and capable of significant harm. Lethal force authorized.” Dobbs pleaded, “No, ma’am, he’s just confused. Lethal force isn’t necessary, I promise you!” But his cries were unheard. The dispatcher informed them that anyone dangerously wielding a weapon is a cause for lethal force.

Jason continued to argue with Mary over the legitimacy of his intentions. “I’m telling you for the last time, Mary. I’m getting vengeance for my family,” he explained angrily, “and you’re going to be next if you don’t go home and forget you ever saw this.” She stared deep into his eyes, “Jason, please. I’m begging you…” but he just walked away from her towards Harvey’s body, stared down and whispered, “You pathetic excuse of a man.” Jason kicked his body once more and began searching for his handgun. His plan for torture had been compromised, but the execution was still possible.

Seconds later, sirens wailed in the distance from the east and the west. Jason looked over to Dobbs, “And you called the cops too...you just didn’t learn, old man,” he said, disgusted. Jason walked over to Dobbs and thrust the knife through his chest, piercing his heart, causing him to bleed profusely, and grabbed Dobbs pistol. Mary saw this, and ran away terrified, to the safety of the sheriff deputies arriving on scene. The deputies ordered Jason’s hands up, but he opened fire on the officers. “Nobody is going to ruin my plan. Nobody!” he screamed as he emptied the magazine into the sheriff cruisers and nearly into the officers.

The whole world seemed to move in slow motion for a moment. The officers yelling their orders, Mary screaming something inaudible to Jason, and the sudden sensation of hot lead piercing through his left shoulder. Jason hit the ground, and saw a dark figure staring over him. “Harvey? Is that you?”, Jason inquired. In the background the police were ordering Harvey on the ground as well, screaming, “Drop the weapon and get on the ground too or we’ll fire!” Jason wiped the tears from his eyes and noticed Harvey holding his handgun. “Harvey...what are you doi—”

“You should’ve never come after me, Jason Almendale. They warned you.” The pistol fired one round straight through Jason’s head, and the officers fired their weapons. Harvey Xavier’s body slumped to the ground next to Jason, both lifeless. Jason had set out on a dangerous journey of vengeance, but only ended up paying the cost—the one thing he wished to steal from Harvey Xavier, that was stolen from his family, and now him—the precious gift of life.

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Dustin Polk

19 | South Carolina | US Soldier

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