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Michael J Scott Books
What would you do to protect your kids? For Gerrold Smith, a widower whose children have been taken from him by the courts, the answer is to hold the city hostage. What starts as a random act of violence quickly escalates into terrorist activity, and as Gerrold discovers the city’s dark secret he must choose between saving his own children, or sacrificing them to save even more.
“What would you do to protect your kids?”
“Excuse me?” she said.
I looked away from the table, saw the wooden floor of the courtroom, still reflecting the late afternoon daylight that shone from the dirty windows set high in the concrete walls. Somewhere outside, the sun shone in a clear blue sky. Birds flew in lazy arcs, landing on wires, nesting in eaves or the tops of drainpipes—utterly oblivious to anything but the constant cycle of feeding, flying, and tending their young. They cared nothing for the questions this judge asked me. Elsewhere, people went to work or mowed lawns or did whatever it was they normally did in their own constant cycles. Maybe my story would be a blip on the evening news. A headline they’d skip over in tomorrow’s paper. Just another unfortunate who lost his way, ground up by the system we all somehow supported with our taxes and endured because it was too much trouble to think about how oppressive and life-sucking it had all become.
Unless it was your life that sucked.
Handcuffs bound my wrists in front of me, denying me the freedom of the nesting birds or oblivious people who lived without a care in the world. I wished I had the strength to rend the steel, vault over the courtroom barricade and shatter the window, flying into the freedom of the clear blue sky, but I didn’t. What with my kids held hostage by the CPS workers awaiting my sentence, I was chained down by more than the handcuffs on my wrists. There was nothing left for me now but to nod my head in understanding and agree with whatever decision this buzzard in a black robe doled out from her lofty perch, and accept the end of my life.
Because that’s what civilized people do.
What they don’t do is chamber a sabot round in a 12-gauge shotgun and aim that gun at the Sheriff’s deputies who come knocking on their door at eight o’clock in the morning, assisting a CPS worker in her legal duty to protect my children from their father.
I’m not a bad parent. I suppose if I can be faulted in anything, it would be in letting this whole thing escalate. It would’ve made more sense to simply comply with the initial order from the FDA and dump the milk that would help feed my family for the week. Thinking back upon it, I can see that this was where I made the fatal mistake. I assumed that I had a right to do what was in the best interests of my family. The truth is, I only had the right to do what was in my family’s best interests when the government-appointed bureaucrats who came knocking on my door that night agreed that it was in my family’s best interests. Regardless of the facts, regardless of the science, they expected me to tow the line, do as I was told. That’s what good citizens do. They don’t object. They don’t raise a fuss.
They don’t escalate.
“Mr. Smith?” said the judge. I looked away from the floor and met her eyes for the first time today. She cocked her head, birdlike, awaiting my response. I tried to smile politely, but it felt like my mouth wouldn’t work.
I cleared my throat and tried again. “I said, ‘What would you do to protect your kids?’”
Judge Julia Rawles shook her head. “I am sorry, Mr. Smith, but I am not the one standing for sentencing today. You are.”
“Apologies, your honor. The question was rhetorical. I have nothing further.”
She looked away from me then, as if I no longer merited her full attention. “Gerrold Smith, you are hereby remanded to Coxsackie Correctional Institution for a period not less than ten years, after which time you will be eligible for parole.”
She continued speaking, but I was looking out the window again. Ten years? In that time my children would grow up without their father, lost in the hell of the state’s foster care system—being raised into God-knows-what by God-knows-who.
Undoubtedly by someone who’d listen to the government’s so-called experts, and would pump my son up full of medicines and other questionable chemicals in an attempt to fix a problem easily resolved by a tall, frothing glass of raw milk. Exactly the same milk that those stupid pinheads from the FDA demanded I dump out on the ground. They didn’t care a bit about its healthful benefits. They didn’t care when I told them about how well Matt was doing since I took him off the government’s approved diet and started him on the regimen. They didn’t even bother listening when I informed them that he’d gained weight, gained energy, that his asthma was gone—or even that his whole outlook on life had improved.
To put it bluntly, they didn’t care about Matt at all. They only cared that I towed the line; that I kowtowed to the authority of the feds; that I scraped and groveled before the wisdom of my betters in Washington. When I realized that, I felt a surge of pure, black, frustrated rage bubble up from somewhere deep inside and come spewing out of my mouth like some freshly dug West Texas oil well.
That’s when I told them to get off my land, and if they ever came back, there’d be hell to pay.
If only I’d known then how downright prophetic that was.
They did come back. The very next day, in fact. Armed with deputies from the local Sheriff’s office, a slip of paper that said they had the authority to dump out my family’s milk supply, and a warrant for my arrest. Apparently I’d threatened them by saying there’d be hell to pay.
I remember looking at Deputy Mark Grier as he put the cuffs on me, reading the apology in his eyes. “Guess I shouldda said ‘please,’ huh?” I joked. He smiled, but didn’t take the cuffs off.
I guess I could’ve taken my licks and put it all behind me right then and there. That’s what a civilized man would do. But something in my gut—maybe that well of oily blackness that had gotten a taste of daylight the day before when telling off those feds—something just wouldn’t let it go. Couldn’t let it go.
The judge banged her gavel down, startling me from my reverie. I found myself suddenly aware of the rest of the courtroom. The polished oak of the empty jury box. The sturdy frame of the judge’s bench. Even the unfamiliar seal on the back wall of the court. It looked like a pair of scales that were supposed to represent justice. The national motto emblazoned in wooden letters on front of the judicial bench: In God We Trust. I wondered how much of it was true anymore.
An American flag hung forgotten in the corner. At one time, I’d sworn an oath to protect and defend that flag and the constitution it represents against all enemies both foreign and domestic. I served with honor in the United States Marine Corps many more years ago than I care to count. None of that seemed to matter right now, except maybe to me. Semper Fi.
I heard the sound of the bailiff approaching me from the right, crossing in front of the practically empty room to lead me to my sentence. My largely useless attorney, Bill Jefferson, shuffled some papers around in his briefcase, evidently preparing for his next case as diligently as he’d prepared for mine. In mere moments my life as I’d come to know it would be over, and my kids wouldn’t see their Daddy again till they were grown up and he was an old man.
I don’t remember deliberately sizing up the bailiff. He was a large man. Not quite as tall as me. Maybe a little rounder about the mid-section. The muscles on his arms strained against his shirt sleeves, and I wondered if he hadn’t chosen his shirt a size too small, if only to accent how big and strong he was. It was an intimidation tactic, the kind employed by small creatures to ward off dangerous predators—like a puffer fish, or a cat when threatened by the neighbor’s dog. I’d seen cobras do the same kind of thing, spreading out their hoods and rattling their tails, not because they meant to strike, but because they wanted to warn away some kind of threat.
I wondered if the bailiff thought of me the same way. In retrospect, I suppose he should have.
I can’t say that I planned what happened next. It might’ve been intuitive. Something along the lines of pure animal instinct—like a bear protecting her cubs. Truthfully, it was a bit of a blur. All I know is that the bailiff came close enough to me, reaching out to take my arm, and that was all it took.
In a second I slipped by his arm, body-checking him into the table even as I yanked his service revolver from its holster. After that, my training took over. Maybe it already had.