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meanmamas.jpg
Art by Hillary Lyon 2019

Mean Mama

 

 

Tom Barker

 

 

 

Mean Mama, a cut-off 16-gauge double barrel shotgun loaded with double ought shot lay on the seat beside him.  Five crudely cut notches carved in what was left of the wood stock represented the dirtbags he sent to hell.  The weapon was lethal as was the cop they called Shotgun. Firing both barrels into a door at close range would leave nothing standing but the frame.  Blasting into a person at close range left a mass of dead matter cleaned up with hoses and sponges.  No ambulances or paramedics were needed.  The facts stood as they were: Cause of death--being criminal and stupid.  Bag and tag them.

The weapon was not department issued and required no range

qualification.  No one ever won an argument with Mean Mama and Shotgun Terry Kent. Mean Mama was a certified argument-ending man-killer.  It was butt-assed stupid and suicide to approach Shotgun with a gun in your hand or hesitate at a command he gave. There wasn’t time to pray before Mean Mama exploded into action.

 

The lean, tight-lipped 15-year veteran dirtbag exterminator had few soft tendencies and never smiled. Every year of his hard life was written on his face. The manhunter was a member of the police department's elite Anti-Crime Unit.  He caught bad guys—burglars, robbers, drug and weapons traffickers and other assorted dirtbags—straight up or face down.  He liked the "Jack-in-the box" assignments where he sat for hours in a cooler or backroom of a convenience store waiting for a doped-up gangbanger to come in with a gun in his hand and meet Mean Mama. He was violent to protect himself from violence.  All his kills were righteous kills.  So far, he had not killed any innocents. But several innocents soiled their pants when he was in action.  It was a dangerous job catching criminals in the act, but he was good at it. He dismissed his morbid talent by saying, "Most people don't see what they see, but I do. They don't see what is really there; I always do."

A lonely man, he danced with himself. No partners.  He didn’t want any distractions, he said.  Others said he worked by himself because he didn’t want any witnesses. 

Kent’s nickname ‘Shotgun’ followed him from the dense jungles of Nam where he used a pump-action 12-gauge shotgun loaded with double ought shot to send the VC to where ever they went when the Mean Mama vaporized them.  No mercy. Not then.  Not now.

This early Saturday morning, Shotgun Kent worked in plainclothes and in an unmarked car. He looked for burglars that plagued the closed businesses in the Valley View shopping area. Shotgun was in his normal pattern of driving in the fronts and rears of businesses looking for anything suspicious when the call went out.

“Alert, all cars in the area of Valley View and 31st Street.  Code 3--A rape victim is standing on the corner.  She says assailant is driving by her now. Give car numbers as you respond."

“Car 39, on the scene,” quickly came in.

Shotgun rolled up to the corner as officers Blake and Hill talked to a sobbing young girl about fourteen or fifteen.  She buried her face into the bulletproof vest the burly Blake wore.  Quickly looking up, she waved her arms and frantically punched her finger at a blue Toyota slowly driving by.

Hill pointed at the Toyota and yelled, “Shotgun, that’s him.  The rapist.  Get him.”

The Toyota picked up speed and drove toward the intersection.  Turning left the Toyota gained speed as Kent closed the gap. He pulled alongside the Toyota and quickly twisted the steering wheel, nudging the Toyota’s rear left panel.  A classic PIT maneuver.  Shotgun eased off and waited for the gutter-punk’s car to react.  The Toyota spun sideways, tires screeching as they grabbed for traction. Black smoke filled the air.

Sixteen-year old Gerry Williams, a high school quarterback and an A+ student, lost control of the unguided missile as expected.  The Toyota’s floating back end jumped over the curb. The sound of the back tires exploding echoed into the coffin-quiet grave-dark night.  Gerry’s thoughts spun out of control like the spinning car. Who is he?  Why did he wreck me?  Why are the police talking to Janie?  I went back to apologize and take her home.  Is he going to kill me?  What have I done?  Janie hates me. My dad's car is wrecked.

The glove compartment bounced open and daddy’s chrome .38 Detective Special flew out and landed on the seat.   Gerry picked it up as the car came to rest.  The Toyota stalled out as the car slammed against a metal light pole.  Oh Lord, is it over?

NO. It wasn’t over. It just started.

Shotgun Kent grabbed Mean Mama, opened his door and stepped into

the unfolding tragedy.  He was on a familiar stage with a routine script.  The scared, young boy unknowingly played his part in the dark drama.  The dazed teenager opened his door and slid into the killing zone unaware that the pistol was in his shaking hand.   Some mistakes you live through and some you don’t. Gerry was on the one-way road to perdition.

 

Shotgun saw the shiny weapon of death and raised Mean Mama into Firing position. The squawk box in Kent’s car erupted.

“Shotgun, don’t shoot him.  No rape. No rape. For God’s sake don’t shoot the kid.”

The Cavalry is coming.  Gerry is saved.  NO!  NO!  NO!  Shotgun Kent, the Avenging Angel of Death was too far from his car to hear the pleas for mercy.

          Sergeant Ben Rhodes rolled on the scene and found Shotgun leaning on the front of his car smoking a cigarette.  Mean Mama rested peacefully on the hood.  The boy lay splayed out in front of the wrecked Toyota on his stomach.

"God Almighty, Terry you killed an innocent kid.  The girl said they had a fight and he put her out.  Wasn’t no damn rape.  Lord have mercy, you killed a kid.”

"No, I didn't Ben.  I ain't killed nobody.  Go see for yourself,” Shotgun said, slowly taking a drag on his cigarette and watching the white smoke drift into the now peaceful night.

The sergeant approached the shaking youngster lying in the puddle of urine.

“Are you all right, young man? the sergeant asked.         

“Yes! Yes! Who’s the guy with that shotgun?” He asked.

“That’s Officer Terry “Shotgun” Kent.  And, you’re one lucky boy,” the sergeant added.

“Get up and get in my car.  We need to get you and that little girl home.”

As the young boy walked by Officer Terry Kent, he turned and said, “Thank you, Mr. Shotgun, for not killing me.”

Shotgun turned and locked eyes with the kid. “Sure kid, think nothing of it.”

 

Some say Officer Terry Kent was smiling when he went to the back of his car, unloaded Mean Mama and put the killing machine in his trunk.  Old heads don’t believe he smiled, that’s too much to believe.  Maybe not; but Officer Kent never carried Mean Mama again.  Why? There was never an explanation. Maybe the ghosts of those he killed caught up with him?  Veterans know the ghosts of those you kill come back in the quiet times and nightmares.  Was the horror of the jungle over for Terry Kent?  Not likely.  But it was better.


Following the Vietnam War, many veterans joined police departments experiencing the effects of the undisguised combat-related PTSD.  The protagonist of Tom Barker’s story was one of those victims. He has been a working police officer, a trainer of local and federal law enforcement officers, a college professor, and a college dean. He has written eighteen books and numerous articles. This submission is the first of a series of fictional short stories based on his life experiences.

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