A story of a middle age man, who saves three kidnapped children
| A HERO AT ANY AGE
A short story by
Why me? Thought Bill Savior as he watched the three traumatized adolescents and the two; damn! Now three abductors, the third entered the station through a decrepit side door not obvious to Bill from his hiding place. I am an out of shape fifty-something year old man who has evaded corporal conflict since being a Marine Sergeant in Vietnam, a thousand forgotten years ago. Nevertheless, Bill recognized that unless he unchained the memories of warfare, he suppressed for decades, the consequences would be horrendous.
His vision restricted by debris, which encompassed the entire station and concealed his location, Bill nonetheless was able to distinguish the three abducted girls were about ten to twelve years old. Each fair-skinned with elongated flaxen hair disheveled over their guiltless faces, struggled to release the tape used to compromise both their freedom and their spirit. Yet nothing was more poignant than the deafening sound of panic sweltering from their grief-stricken eyes. A sound Bill was too familiar with, from an episode of life, he fought to suppress.
Bill recalled stopping at the red light earlier that morning and, with indifference, observed the same young girls chatting while waiting for their school bus. He remembered the immaculate red van that pulled in front of the girls and blocked them from his view, a parent, or relative driving, he guessed. He thought nothing of the girls
disappearance when the van pulled away from the curb. Even when he noticed one of their book bags left behind, he attributed it to the absentmindedness of children in a world of their own.
Bill followed the van intent to return the bag when the parents dropped the girls off at school. Within a few blocks, however, Bill noticed the van's driver was a man and a larger man was in the passenger seat. Acceptable, he assumed, dads instead of moms no big deal, but where were the girls? He was positive it was the same van and continued to follow behind, expecting it to stop before long. Once more, he took for granted the children where laughing and teasing each other on the back seat, out of his view.
Following the van a few more miles, Bill concluded he had been trailing the wrong vehicle. After all, he had not seen one of the girls move about, and the driver and passenger never appeared interrupted by commotion, which would be the norm from three young girls giggling in the back seat. Bill decided to change direction toward his mundane job of twenty-three years at the town's pharmacy. After work, he would look in the book bag for a phone number and call the girl's parents to setup a convenient time to return the bag.
Changing lanes for the next right turn, Bill took a final glance at the van as it continued through the intersection. Not sure if his next decision was the result of instinct, or the sensation he experienced when he was sure he was right, even when the circumstances seemed otherwise. Something was wrong! Where were the girls? Bill felt anxious, and for reasons he could not explain, found himself resuming his path of following the van.
Bill maneuvered his car to follow from a safe distance to avoid detection, and ascertain its destination. Then, he would resolve his uncertainty by confirming the girls were not in the van. Bill was unprepared for the emotions his decision would set free - dark memories, hidden in the abyss of his mind.
Bill followed the van to a decaying railroad station located north of the town's derelict fishing piers. He watched the male passenger open a reconstructed garage door, which seemed inappropriate affixed to the crumbling foundation. As the van entered the portal, it was swallowed by darkness until it vanished from view, and the heavy doors crashed shut behind it, as if separating light from darkness, proclaiming finality.
Peering through the residue of what was once one of many station windows; Bill's worst fears were manifested when he sighted the three young girls inside. He struggled to twist through the corroded window frame and navigate a path through the broken glass and rusted metal covering the floor, until he found a suitable place to hide. A vantage point to monitor his enemy, the abducted girls, and contemplate his next move.
He watched the abductors' harmonized management of their captives, and suspected that unless he took action the girls would be loaded on a foreign freighter, or thrown in the back of a pervert's limousine, never to live out the innocence of their childhood. On the other hand, they might be raped, tortured, and murdered by their monstrous abductors. Bill refused to succumb to his strengthening trepidation. Yet, he had no idea how he was going to save the girls. He screwed up once already when he was powerless to call 911 because his cell phone battery was dead. Again! Dumb-ass.
All three kidnappers appeared professional, had weapons and were probably skilled at using them. As troublesome to Bill was that his mature and spongy physique did not provide him with the sense of self-confidence, he would need to act. He assumed if hand-to-hand fighting became necessary, he would find himself dead or stuffed head first into one of the oil drums bordering the young girls. Neither option appealing for him, nor the girls.
The melodious sound of a cell phone summoning its owner shattered Bill's forethought of the insurmountable odds he faced. For fear of revealing himself to the kidnappers, Bill was not able to broaden his view to determine which of his foes was talking. What he heard, however, amplified his apprehension. “Twenty minutes”, the kidnapper repeated into cell phone, after that he ended the brief conversation by saying; “We will have them ready, as agreed”.
Twenty-minutes! Bill repeated to himself. He had to do something soon, regardless of the consequences.
“Go to the van and retrieve the cargo we will take with us”, Bill heard one of the men tell another, “We will prepare our little virgins for their trip. If they are virgins", igniting artificial laughs from his two companions. Great! Bill thought. He knew his best opportunity would be to separate the three men and take them down one at a time.
Bill remembered where the kidnappers van was parked. To reach it required him to scramble across filthy glass and fallen beams he navigated earlier. He knew silence was essential, but secondary to whatever actions he had to take in the scant twenty minutes to save the girls. He hoped the kidnappers would attribute a negligible noise to the enormous rats running rampant throughout the dilapidated structure. He quickened his descent to the same window he used to enter the station. He told himself he must take the one kidnapper out of the equation at once, and if successful acquire his pistol.
Bill hoped shooting a pistol was similar to never forgetting how to ride a bicycle. After being inconspicuous for decades, would he remember how to gauge the lead ratio when firing a pistol at a moving target? Would squeezing and not pulling the trigger be apparent, or another thought provoking process impeding his reaction time when he engaged the kidnappers? Contrary to his on-going battle to suppress memories of war, Bill knew in order to save the girls; he would have to recall the techniques he employed as a Marine, a lifetime ago.
Reaching the window, Bill jumped the five feet to the ground without incident. Dodging the debris and fallen structural obstacles that hid the ground, he ran toward the side of the building where the kidnappers van was parked. He knew he had the element of surprise.
Twenty feet from the corner of the building, Bill stopped running and crept the final distance. He positioned himself on his stomach to peer around the corner and saw the van, but not the kidnapper. Damn, Bill thought, did they change plans while he was crawling toward the exit window? Within a few minutes, however, he saw the lone kidnapper walking to the van. Relieved, Bill still had no idea how he was going to take the guy down. Each alternative he considered sent shivers along his skin; they were options for a younger warrior, not a man who has spent so many years trying to forget the deeds of his youth.
Nonetheless, Bill knew what had to be done! He reached down to pick-up one of the corroded pipes proliferating the area. Perfect, he thought; it was about three inches in diameter and eighteen inches long. Easy to carry and control, allowing him to concentrate the impact to the back of the kidnappers head.
With stealth dexterity he considered long forgotten, Bill moved towards the back of the van and the kidnapper. Under combat conditions, he would have taken more time to reach his target, but with minutes ticking by, he did not have the pleasure of a methodical pursuit. An arms length behind the kidnapper he raised the pipe taking aim on the back of the kidnappers head. Bill knew knocking him out was not an option; he had to hit him hard enough to kill him.
As he started to swing the pipe toward the head of the unsuspecting kidnapper, he was shaken when the man turned, to see him and the descending weapon. Nevertheless, Bill did not stop the decent of his weapon and shattered the bastards face and skull. The sound of broken bone provided Bill the assurance at least one of the antagonists would no longer be a threat. He spared no time for remorse. Instead, he concentrated on eliminating the two other adversaries inside before their cohorts arrived.
Dragging the body from view, Bill knew the dead man's contorted expression, as he watched the pipe descending toward his skull, indicated he endured the same fear and helplessness he imposed on the children he seized from the sanctuary of their youthful innocence.
Move! Time is short, Bill's psyche bellowed. Move! Find the kidnappers gun. Move! Regardless of how fast he moved, Bill did not find a gun on the kidnapper or in the van. Damn it! Now what? He thought. Move! Move! Time is running out.
Entering the station through the door the one of the kidnappers used, Bill noticed only one of the kidnappers was guarding the girls. Where was the other one? Bill knew he had to quickly determine his whereabouts. He paused between two fallen boxes; it was time to listen. Listen; his emergent past repeated, the way he was trained to do to expose an enemy location. Listen, he repeated, to decipher the sounds of consistency, from the subtle sounds of transformation.
Sounds of consistency were evident.. The erratic inhalation of the sentinel kidnapper, smoking a musty cigar while guarding the abducted children. The unmistakable sound of trauma, emanating from the three frightened captives, to the repulsive clatter of rats preparing to swarm towards the scent of fear. Nevertheless, to find the absent kidnapper Bill needed to hear the sounds of subtle transformation. COM’ on, he whispered to himself, as if asking the unseen kidnapper to give away his position. COM’ on,! Com'on! Just one small sound, and I will find you. Com'on you Jackass, my time is running out!
As if responding to Bill's appeals, the missing kidnapper surrendered the revealing echo of subtle transformation, piercing the veil of consistency; to transform that which is unknown, to that which is known. For the second time the man cleared his throat. Bill translated the sound and knew the man's whereabouts. Move! Bill told himself, there had to be fewer than five minutes remaining before more of the enemy arrived, and squander the likelihood of him saving the children. Save the children at all costs, he repeated to himself, as he synchronized his mind and body to advance through the mass of debris, which flooded the deserted corridor.
Bill stopped his advance as he came upon the kidnapper, much closer than he anticipated. A scant yard or two to the rear of his second target, Bill was thankful he did not alert the man to his arrival. The kidnapper stood with his jeans dropped around his ankles, and his fat ass facing Bill. The person appeared pleased with himself for liberating a huge mound of crap, which Bill thought had to be equivalent to the capacity of a bull elephant.
His hair was black, matted and concealed his neck as it draped over his shoulders to the middle of his back. No taller than Bill's 5' 10” height, he seemed almost as wide. Bill was not sure if he had the power to take a man of his bulk down, but was aware there would be no rehearsal.
Bill glanced at the floor, not one damn pipe was in sight! He left his other weapon by the body outside, expecting to find comparable pipes as needed. Without a weapon, he was not sure what to do? Mere seconds separated him from the enemy, who if turned around would find humor in seeing Bill standing unarmed with a dim-witted look on his face. Bill was unsure, however, how long the humor would last before the guy stopped smiling and inserted a bullet or two into his head.
Having no time to spare, Bill surveyed the floor to select the best positions to place his feet when he darted to close the gap between him and the kidnapper. One chance, Bill told himself; one chance to save the girls, this time without a weapon. As if his mind exploded with knowledge, Bill remembered the one option he had. He had performed it in another life, yet never on such a big man.
As he began towards his target, positioning his feet to engage the floor locations he selected, Bill knew the element of surprise was essential. Within seconds, Bill was inches behind the unsuspecting kidnapper. Reminiscent of the power and speed of his younger years, Bill reached around the man's broad right shoulder and slammed the thumb side of his right hand up into the man's throat, triggering a loud gasp. At the same time Bill's left hand pushed down and forward on his adversaries huge ass, pushing the bottom portion of his body forward while wrenching the upper torso backwards with his right arm. The result was immediate; the man fell hard on his back with a thud. It worked!
Positioned on one knee behind the kidnappers head, Bill grasped his right hand with his left pulling the right hand tighter into the gasping man's throat. At the same time, he used his entire upper body to push the guy's head forward, over his clasped right hand, to close the passageway for air to enter the enemy's esophagus into his lungs. As Bill tightened his control, the kidnapper's unrelenting effort to breath forced his huge body to shake in the debris, spawning more noise than Bill wished to hear. He anticipated his final adversary must have heard the racket too, and come to investigate the source. Bill leveraged his body to push harder against the back of the man's head. Death was imminent, but Bill had to hasten its arrival.
Bill's concentration was disrupted by the rasping voice of the last kidnapper, yelling from the other room; “Jackson, what the hell is going on back there?” “Jackson, damn-it answer me now you fat bastard!" Bill felt the captive's huge body surrender to its unforeseen destiny. He released his stranglehold around his throat, and introduced the man's head to the concrete floor.
In all probability, no time remained and Bill expected the other abductors would arrive soon. He jerked the holster from the dead body to find it contained a loaded 357 Magnum, and more than a dozen bullets. He removed the gun and turned in the direction of the last kidnapper, who continued to yell questions to his defunct accomplice.
Bill moved toward the remaining captor and the enslaved girls. As he neared his target, he heard the kidnapper telling the girls to; “Shut-up, he was going to see what happened to Jackson, and if they made any noise he would put a bullet through each of their stupid heads!” Bill wanted to kill the bastard, but decided not in front of the girls. He retraced his steps and silently faded into the shadows, where he remained motionless, as he had done in ambushes, so many times before.
Bill decided to give the kidnapper no more than two minutes to locate his lifeless companion. Two minutes, he repeated. If exceeded, he would assault him regardless of his location, regardless of the consequences. Bill began to count; one-1000; two-1000; three-1000; but before long Bill's body tensed, alerting him to a disturbance in the space around him. He turned to see the kidnapper moving towards him. By the deliberation in his movements, Bill knew the man was also prepared to kill.
Even though he would have preferred to wait until his target was in front of his hiding place before executing him, time was something Bill did not have. From the shadows, and speaking only loud enough for the kidnapper to hear, Bill convincingly conveyed to him that Jackson and his sidekick were dead. Moreover, if he did not want to connect with them in the afterlife he had to put his gun on the ground! A little melodramatic Bill thought, but was confident the kidnapper got the idea.
Not sure where Bill was positioned the kidnapper salvaged his composure and answered into the shadows, as if he was the hunter giving the commands; “Hey man, I have no quarrel with you. I don't even know who you are.” Without waiting for a response he continued; “I promise you if you exit through the back door nothing will happen to you. I will even consider the deaths of my friends an accident, a win-win for you.” Bill sensed his target's nervousness, and answered him with deafening silence.
Cloaked in shadows, the kidnapper made it difficult for Bill to authenticate more than his silhouette. However, a silhouette was all Bill required. He was not interested in determining what the jack-off was wearing, where his accent originated, or what the bastard had to say. He knew the bastard was ruthless, which was all the relevant data necessary.
As the kidnapper strained to isolate his location, Bill recognized the twenty minutes were up, and more of the bad guys would be arriving. No time remaining Bill raised the 357 Magnum, aimed it toward the kidnapper's silhouette, and squeezed the trigger on the powerful handgun. Impact was immediate, forcing the kidnappers' body to smash back into the wall. Bill knew three things; the target never heard the bullet that hit him, he lived his last moments in terror, and he was dead. Bill verified the latter, leaving nothing to chance.
Bill ran to release the girls. The children were terrified, but he was able to convince them, he was on their side. Bill calculated by the time the other kidnappers arrived, and made sense of what happened, the girls and him would be gone.
That night, Bill sat alone in the comfort of his home watching news anchors try to explain the day’s events. In the background, as interviews took place with the children’s parents, he was glad to see the girls looked more relaxed than when he left them, earlier that day.
He continued to watch the pictures on tv, but no longer heard the voices. Instead, he recalled his contentment, as he watched the ecstatic expressions on the children's faces, when he reunited them with their families.
Bill smiled. He realized you can be a hero, at any age.