David Harry Moss
Johnny Vado hated guns. While drinking
his morning protein shake, he thought about his hatred of guns and thought about
that school shooting in Florida where 17 were massacred. That incident appalled
Vado, who struggled constantly to block from his mind how many he had killed in
his life. Maybe that many. Maybe 17.
Vado was a part-time construction
worker, a part time doorman at a strip club his cousin managed, and a
journeyman fighter, a light-heavyweight, 178 pounds. His record was eight wins,
two losses, one draw. He knew he’d never be a contender. He fought because he
liked it and to release aggressions, to purge himself of demons, or try to, by
training to exhaustion.
Wearing gray sweats, a maroon-colored wool
knit skull cap, and a gray hoodie, he left his cozy top-floor efficiency in a
three-story row house, bounded the stairs, and stepped outside into a curtain
of falling snow and a blast of cold air that quickly tinted his white flesh
Standing in the window of a four-story
apartment building across the street, Vado spotted a man wearing black,
watching him. Vado was sure the man held a gun, some sort of rifle. The man
backed away and disappeared when shadows swallowed him.
The time was 7 A.M., dark out, and
Vado wanted to do five miles on the dark streets and then head for the gym for
a workout. He had a fight coming up in two weeks.
Guns, thought Vado. Everyone had them,
everyone but him. The couple downstairs had five guns. He wondered what they
were so afraid of that they needed that much fire power.
The female cop in the second-floor
apartment in the row house where Vado lived had at least one gun. She was Vado’s
age, 26, good-looking.
“Knock on the door any time,” she told
He said, “Sure,” but he never did. He
didn’t want to get involved with her because of her gun.
The difference between Vado and almost
everyone who owned a gun was that he knew what it felt like to kill another
person. Squeezing a trigger is easy. Living with it afterwards is the difficult
Vado viewed the wintry landscape. Snow
glistened on the street and on the sidewalk like the smooth white satin that
lines a coffin. He started running. He would run past the weary-looking old
church, cut through a small, tree-filled park, past a string of shops and bars,
cut through the warehouse district, cross the railroad tracks, reach the river,
and hook back toward the elementary school and then return to his place.
Once home he’d shower and dress and leave
his apartment again and stop at the little diner for pancakes and sausage,
flirt with the pretty waitress.
“When are you going to ask me out?”
“Soon.” He was seeing someone else.
One at a time.
After breakfast he would make his way
to the gym, skip rope, sit-ups, pushups, hit the heavy bag until his arms
ached, build a good sweat, and then spar, revel in the sanctioned violence.
The Army, Vado had served in Iraq and
Afghanistan, made him a sniper, gave him a .50 caliber M24, sent him out to
kill. He was good at it. Killing.
“How many did you get today?” the Sergeant
Vado would frown, shake his head.
Shrug. “I don’t remember.”
“Don’t let it get to you. Forget that
they’re humans. They’re targets.”
“If you take some out you shouldn’t
have, only you will ever know.”
Vado would have sleepless nights
wondering if he might have killed an innocent, someone who wasn’t a threat to
He reached the river. The water looked
hard like iron. Smoky daylight had sponged away the dark of night. Snow fell in
soft easy lines.
He turned back. Running in the cold
and the snow had given him an adrenaline high. He felt strong.
Vado thought about the man wearing
black and standing in that window and holding a rifle. There was something
terrible about that, something unsettling. He thought about the times he
hunkered on a roof in a bombed-out building in Iraq, sighting in human prey. He
never wanted to see anyone with a gun ever.
Vado recrossed the railroad tracks and
passed again through the gloomy canyon of crypt-like warehouses before coming
to a large produce store, its brightly lit windows glowing like altar candles. He
wanted to quit running and go inside. He was hungry for a sweet juicy orange.
Instead, he crossed a busy street. A city
salt truck, black like a hearse, rumbled
by, leaving in the air from its
exhaust fumes a rotten egg-smelling cloud. He coughed and spit in the slush layering
the slick cobblestones and
plodded forward through a narrow alley, throwing punches at the
falling snow flakes as he ran.
Up ahead loomed the elementary school
and yellow buses splotched with mud disgorging students. Vado spotted the man
in black skulking across the street and going toward the school. Vado’s heart
froze like a lump of ice. He picked up the pace.
When the man in black reached the door
of the school the mass of students were already inside. A security guard raised
his arms to stop the man in black. Vado heard the security guard order in a
loud voice, “Hold it, you can’t go in there.”
The man in black nodded, pulled a
compact Sig Sauer MCX Rattler assault rifle from under a worn, dark bulky
overcoat, and shot the security guard. The man in black stepped over the body
and kicked open the door and rushed into the school.
Vado hurried to the dead security
guard, stepped through blood, lifted the security guard’s Glock from its
holster, and charged inside. His hand holding the security guard’s gun
Vado saw frightened students, kids, dozens
of them and a teacher huddled at the far end of the hall. In seconds they all
could be dead. On purpose, he had made noise kicking the door open. He wanted to
distract the shooter.
e wanted the
shooter to hear him.
The startled shooter forgot the
cowering students and the teacher and wheeled toward Vado. The MCX Rattler stuttered.
Tat Tat Tat Tat Tat. There came a distant scream of terror elicited by the tiny
voice of a student.
Vado got one shot off but one shot was
all he needed. Killing was his business.
The MCX Rattler clunked to the floor. The shooter listed toward Vado, seemed to
hang as if ropes were suspending him, and glared ahead through eyes as
unfeeling as granite.
Vado wanted to ask the shooter what
life had done to him to make him need to turn on society like this but before he
could ask, the shooter plunged forward like a drunk who had tripped on a curb.
Vado dropped the gun, slumped to the
floor, his chest burning, his vision blurred, his throat suddenly parched. He heard
the eerie, high pitched wail of police sirens. He felt his lips twist in a
rueful smile. Those kids and the teacher, they were all okay, scared but alive.
Johnny Vado noticed the form of a
water fountain rising from the floor like a tombstone. He was thirsty. He licked
his dry lips. He wondered if he’d get a drink of water before he died.
Harry Moss has had fiction published in print and
online. He writes in many genres--crime, horror, western,
romance--wherever the story idea seems to fit. He has held
several jobs and those
experiences are a valuable source for writing. Currently he lives in
Pittsburgh, where he is a ticket taker for the Pirates and Steelers,
but has also lived in Minneapolis and Phoenix.