SHOOTS AND LADDERS • by Dart Humeston

The light snow did not faze the sniper, who easily picked off the man who had just left the coffee shop a few hundred yards down the street. He saw the head snap back and the body fall over an empty outdoor table then tumble onto the sidewalk on his back. Dead.

Just as effortlessly he disassembled his rifle and inserted the pieces inside his altered overcoat. Cops would be checking street cameras for someone with a large bag, but both his hands would be free as he left the abandoned parking garage, bundled up against the cold.

Within an hour it would be dark and he would be home on the carpet playing with his small children.

It takes a special individual to be capable of murder in the afternoon and chutes and ladders in the evening. Jack Manners was special. Strong, tall, with friendly features that could turn to steel in a heartbeat. And a disposition that allowed him to internally justify killing people whom he felt no longer should walk the earth.


Jack Manners killed pedophiles.

At the dinner table with his wife Joan and their two small children, he laughed and chatted easily.

“What kind of day did you have?” Joan asked.

“Usual,” Jack replied, between mouthfuls of meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

“The flower shop did some great business this week. I think the arrangement Samantha created for the holidays is catching on.”

Jack Manners owned a florist shop.

His wife dabbed her younger daughter’s face with a napkin, commenting that she could not wait for the time when she could quit her job and split time between the children and the shop. Jack smiled, and told her it could be soon as the business just signed an agreement with an upscale hotel to supply daily flower arrangements.

“Really?” she asked.

“Really,” Jack replied.

Joan kissed her husband, and he returned the love.

Their two young daughters said “Eeeeeeww” together then broke out into giggles.

The next morning the parking garage was still swarming with crime scene technicians and police. The day was overcast, gray and cold. On the fourth level a cluster of detectives were talking. A tall thin woman with a firm face and elegant bone structure asked for a report.

“Nada,” Wayne Johnson reported. “No shell casings, footprints, fingerprints, not even a gum wrapper.”

“Are you sure we have the right location?” she asked.

“Yes, Lieutenant,” Johnson replied. “The experts say the shot came from here, but we are searching all of the floors just in case.”

“Parking garages don’t make for good crime scenes,” she said, wrapping her overcoat about her a little snugger. She was freezing, but wasn’t about to let the men know.

“Cameras?” she asked,

“None operational,” Garcia, the other detective, answered. “The big box electronics store closed eight months ago, as did the parking garage, so the property management cut off the cameras.”

“Damn,” the lieutenant said as she walked over to the wall and tried to look out toward the coffee shop.

“I can’t even see the shop from here,” she said. “How far is it?”

Garcia flipped through the pages of a small notebook.

“About 232 yards,” he said. Johnson whistled.

“What kind of perp are we talking about that can hit a target in the forehead at that range, in the snow no less?”

“I was a sniper in the Marines in Iraq,” Garcia replied. “Two tours. Used M40 mostly. This kind of shot isn’t difficult for a pro. A well-trained sniper could easily hit the target at 300 yards. Some could be accurate at 400 or more.”

“Really?” the lieutenant said, impressed. She stepped closer to a concrete post, hoping the maneuver would block some of the icy wind.

“Have the technicians start over from scratch. We have to find this guy.”

“C’mon, Lieutenant, they’ve been at it since last night. They aren’t going to find anything. This guy is a pro,” Johnson said.

“Besides, ” Garcia said, “the guy took out a suspected pedophile being investigated in the molestation of a dozen children. I say if we find the perp we give him a medal.”

That did not sit well with his boss. She walked up close to him and stared into his eyes before she slowly and clearly said, “Never, ever let me hear you say anything like that again.”

“I can’t promise that,” Garcia said, staring back. “He’s doing us a favor and you know it.”

“This is the fourth sniper attack in two years. This person is a cold-blooded murderer.”

“Not as much as me,” Garcia said. “I killed over a dozen Iraqis during the war.”

“That’s not the same,” she said.

“Yeah, you’re right, Lieutenant,” Garcia snapped back. “I don’t know anything about the people I killed. This guy knows he is killing child molesters and murderers.”

“Guys, come on, we are on the same team!” Johnson said, stepping between the two of them.

Garcia walked away.

“You okay, lieutenant?” Johnson asked.

“Yeah. I’m okay,” she said. “I just hope no one from the media ever hears Garcia talk like that.”

Johnson nodded and walked away while the lieutenant turned back to the edge and looked toward the cafe where the pedophile was shot. Automatically she reminded herself that she should refer to him as the alleged pedophile. Her face became stern and her shoulders tensed as she mentally blocked the images from her childhood. In this case, she didn’t feel the need to utilize the word “alleged”.

She turned from the wall and started walking down the parking garage, the cold wind blowing her overcoat behind her as she raised her cellphone to her ear and dialed her husband at the florist shop.

“Miss Manners Florist” Jack’s voice picked up right way.

“It’s me,” she said as she vanished down the ramp surrounded by concrete gray.

“Thank you,” she said quietly, tears gently rolling down her cheeks.

Dart Humeston is a university administrator and part-time instructor at Barry University. A former bank manager, he holds a graduate degree in Higher Education Administration and is married with one daughter, four cats and two birds.

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