Five

I hack Cantor’s class schedule, including his tennis practice. Zoe C will pick a spot to get his attention, which she insists will be easy.
“Chef, we’ve been at this for millennia, a girl knows how to get a man’s eye from age five, it’s in the genome.”
“Does it involve tiny shorts and a tight top?”
“Of course, and a bit of makeup, mysterious eyes, red ‘fuck me’ lips.”
“That would do it.”
“Thank you, I didn’t know you’d noticed.”
“I’ve seen you naked, besides, you’re perfectly aware of your…charms, any straight male over age ten is going to notice.”
She lowers he head and turns away, I catch the grin just before. Even pretty girls, even lesbian pretty girls, want someone else to confirm the self diagnosis.
Inspired, she goes to her room, I spot her a few minutes later catching sun by the pool with nothing on but her charms.
If she wasn’t a les, what would I do? What the flip do you think I would do?
Wrong.
I wouldn’t for the same reason I hire escorts. Variety with no commitment.
She suns for twenty, then in the pool for thirty, suns her backside another twenty. She’s careful about her skin, a little color is good, skin cancer is not. 
I’m relatively dark skinned for a Caucasian, my mother was Greek. Even though I’m just thirty two, both parents are deceased. During my startup years someone pulled a home invasion, left mom and dad with holes in their heads. They weren’t found for three days, a neighbor that frequently visited mom for coffee and gossip got curious when nobody answered the door or the phone. My mother would have told her if they were going out of town, someone to keep an eye on the house.
I had an apartment by then, didn’t know until the police came around. They took a stab at me as a suspect, family first, I was forgotten when my passport said I was in Japan. My father wasn’t the life insurance kind, their house, cars and personal belongings might have been six or seven hundred thousand, almost all of it in the house, and a retirement account with three fifty. Yes, I inherited, which took a while, then sell the house, pay the two hundred mortgage, liquidate the retirement account, dispose of the personals, sell the cars. I wound up with six fifty and change. Jump started my business because I could focus entirely on getting the app right. I wouldn’t have had my parents murdered for it in any case, they were good, ordinary middle class people, solid citizens, we didn’t have issues.
I wouldn’t forget what happened to them, so unnecessary. But there were no leads, no witnesses who could recall seeing anyone go in or come out. Just more senseless murder in America. Small consolation, but they weren’t beaten up, not tortured in any way, didn’t make it good, just less agonizing.
Perhaps my growing vigilante streak is the result of that incident simmering inside me, moving from the back burner to the front.
Zoe C comes inside, “Hitting the shower,” she says as she passes through to her corner of the place, a living area downstairs, her bed and bath up.
“Lunch in thirty, simple cold cuts, pickle, chips.”
“Good, I worked up an appetite, back in a bit.”
When she returns, I lay out sliced chipotle chicken breast, shredded cabbage and condiments. Olive oil mayo and Dijon mustard.
Zoe C, “Toast or not?”
“Toast.”
She sticks four slices of Sara Lee Golden Wheat in the toaster oven and punches the button. A Coke Sugar Free for both of us, we sit at the table and pit our sandwiches together.
Zoe C, “After I get his attention, get an invite to something, what happens?”
“Good question. When you accept, text me if it’s something immediate. Nothing if it’s to a frat party or some later meet up. I’ll track you on findmyiphone. It won’t ring, just locate.”
“Then what?”
“As I see it, we have two options, that is, after you turn him down on his first pass. That done, you act disoriented after the drink you don’t drink, he takes you wherever he takes you. I will be nearby. If he makes a move, you stick a bony knee hard in his groin, two or three if you can. Improvise if you don’t get him cleanly, you know the strikes.”
“Throat, eyes if it gets nasty. It will be okay, he thinks I’m out of it, there’s no reason to overpower me. I am my own element of surprise.”
“And I’m a second element of surprise if you need it.”
“I have him down, what then?”
If you’re in control, open the door to wherever you are and let me in. I won’t have to kick it in and make a lot of noise. If the door doesn’t open after a minute, I’m coming in anyway.”
“Is that too quick? No, never mind, he’s not going to wait around, it isn’t like we’re going to have a joint and chat first. Wait…is that right? Suppose we go to his place? I’m fine when I get there, he tries to slip me the drug at some point….”
“This is missing something, hang on,” I take another bite of my sandwich, chew and picture the scenario.
“The only reason he drugs you is because you turn him down for sex. That may be an assumption, maybe he does it because he likes it. But from what we know, if the girl gives it up voluntarily he doesn’t drug them. We have to go with that, which means more time will pass. You say no, he acts cool, he understands, you just met, sorry for rushing, that sort of thing.”
“Then he goes for plan D, as in drug.”
“Yeah. We need a way for you to let me know how it’s going. Or do we? He’s drugged girls before, you don’t need to play nice once you’re alone with him. Just take him down at the first opportunity. Suppose you have a text written to me, but not sent. At the moment of truth, you send, I’ll be steps away. I only wait thirty seconds, if you don’t open the door, I open it with attitude.”
“That’s good, he’s going to have the roofie on him or someplace close, evidence.”
“True, although we don’t need evidence, we aren’t calling the cops.”
“We aren’t?”
“No, that’s another he-said-she-said, nothing but complications. The drug stains him by implication, but he’s been there before and walked.”
“I see what you mean…that means we’re going to adjust his attitude,” she grins.
“We are, if you’re up to it, prosecutor, judge and jury, and his corrections officers. I’ll do the corrections if it troubles you.”
She gives me the death stare, “You aren’t having all the fun.”

Six

I went the extra mile, wired her up. Not when she first got his attention, that was when he left a class and was walking across one of the several plazas that dot the campus. He spotted a long legged, tight tummy sylph reading her Japanese text and strode up with his smarmy toothy smile, like a game show host except in shorts and a polo shirt. Loafers with no socks. She said later that she wanted to knee him in the balls just for the preppy display.
Zoe C listened to his patter, ooh’d and aah’d at the appropriate moments, giggled like an idiot, accepted his offer of coffee and suffered another half hour of his preening. They made a date. He offered to pick her up in his Porsche, which he inserted into the conversation by telling her about the time he got stopped for doing one twenty on the PCH and learned his lesson about responsible driving.
She suggested she meet him at his place for a drink, then either go to dinner or, even better, order in.
Chad’s man brain went straight to’ I’m getting the pussy’ mode, he said it was a splendid idea.
We’re chatting over wine and caviar, “So you have a date Friday evening.”
“Yep, I have a question. Do I go over relatively demure, or short skirt and platforms?”
“Pants, not tight jeans, anything you can move in, and a tight rayon pullover. Give him nothing to grab, no loose material. The pants can’t be helped, you need mobility, they can be snug but flexible…any better ideas? I don’t know from girl clothing.”
“Leggings under a short skirt.”
“Perfect. What about shoes? You need to be able to move, twist, shift quickly. Let’s look up something, I have an idea.”
I tap into Amazon, “This is it, steel toe sneakers, they look like sneakers, choose your color, what’s your shoe size?”
She shops the site, finds a pair in purple, we order them and pay for next day delivery.
She let herself get approached on Tuesday, now it’s Friday, date night.
I drop her off a block from his condo, drive the Hyundai around to the rear and park it, nose out. Zoe C waits until she sees me round the corner, then up the steps to knock on his door. 
I can see her, hear him, “Right on time, wow..nice outfit, like a hipster.”
“Thanks,” is all I hear, then the door closes. 
I don’t want to stand in front of his door, like I’m lurking. I lean against the waist high wall that borders both sides of the steps, diddle with my phone like every other zombie on the planet. There is a laundry/dry cleaner underneath his condo at street level to the right of his steps. To the left, which is only a closed door and a small shuttered window, could be a small apartment or a bomb factory.
Thirty seconds, just as I’m about to charge up the steps and take out the door, two college age girls come out of the left apartment. They natter away but don’t go anywhere. I turn my back to them and pretend to be texting. Come on, girls…I need to get moving and I do not need you to eyeball me breaking down Cantor’s door.
A car pulls up, Uber, finally. They get in, the car pulls away. I take two quick steps and my phone dings, a message from Zoe C.
“Door’s open.”
My shoulders drop, relieved. Up the steps at a normal pace, twist the knob, inside.
Cantor’s on the floor, doubled up and moaning. He doesn’t even know I’m there.
I flip him to his stomach, grab wrists and yank them behind his back, Zip tie, nice and tight.
I turn Zoe C, make a motion like I’m pulling something over my head. She goes to the kitchen and returns with a couple of plastic grocery bags, good enough. A strip of Gorilla Tape over his mouth, bags over his head loose, we aren’t going to suffocate him. I flip my position and zip tie his ankles twice. Grab him under the arms and lock my wrists around his chest, he isn’t small, but neither am I. Drag him to a chair and plop his ass on it.
He can’t say anything, Gorilla tape would keep his mouth shut for a hundred years and a day.
We loosely rehearsed what she will tell him, I’ve said nothing, a silent big guy is intimidating, even if he can’t see me, maybe more so because he can’t.
Zoe C, “Nod if you want to come out of this alive Chad.”
He startles a bit, processes what she said, nods, mumbling through the tape. His lips can’t move, it’s just throaty white noise.
“I’m here to deliver a message, are you ready to pay attention?”
The bags shift, like he’s cocked his head, no affirmative response. I break his nose with the heel of my hand. I’m wearing latex gloves only and punching is only a way to bruise knuckles. There’s a set of knuckle dusters in my pocket if I decide he needs something more. We let him moan for a bit, then I do punch him, just above his penis, a soft spot, very painful. Castor manages a gravel scrape scream that stays in his throat. We wait.
Zoe C, “I will ask once more, are your ready to pay attention?”
 A sluggish yes is the best he can manage.
“Better. Here’s the thing Roofie. Date rape is rape, and you’re guilty of several.”
A more vigorous shake ‘no.’
I take his crotch in my hand and start to squeeze, he tries to levitate off the chair, I squeeze hard.
Zoe C, “Try again.”
He’s silent for a bit, then a short nod ‘yes.’
“Honesty is the first step to recovery Roofie. The next steps may be a bit painful, withdrawal from addiction always is.”
I slip on the brass and break ribs, got him good, he starts to fall off the chair. I grab his throat and keep him stable. He bends over, stops, shudders, bad idea with broken ribs, eases himself upright. Two snapped fingers later, he passes out.
I look at Zoe C, “Ammonia.”
She goes to the kitchen, digs around under the sink and returns with a bottle. I open it and hold it under the bag. His head snaps up, a groan, I put the bottle on the floor.
Zoe C, “Final step Roofie.”
He actually shivers, anticipating more pain.
“I have a list of the girls who came forward and got shafted for their trouble. A hundred thousand to each girl. If others come forward when the news hits, you pay them too. Daddy’s rich, he can afford it. I’ve helpfully written your confession, ‘I raped women. I drugged them with Rohypnol. I am prepared to make a full confession.’ Now sign it.”
I hold the paper still on a book, put a pen in his hand.”
Zoe C, “I have your driver’s license, your signature better resemble the one on the license.”
He signs, it looks close enough. I take the pen and paper, date it and hand it to Zoe C.
She wraps up, “Don’t make me come for you again Roofie, next time will be much more trying, as in slow terminal, do you understand?”
The bag shakes with his nod.
She goes off for a minute, returns with a water bottle she’s shaking, hands it to me.
She’s found his Rohypnol caps and emptied a couple in the water. I pull the bag up under his nose and pull it tight, rip the tape off, it leaves his lips rough and red, blood drips from the lower lip. He opens up to say something, I push the bottle in his mouth and squeeze. Some washes out, most of it down his throat, he coughs and gags.
Zoe C, “Remember Roofie, never again.”
I put the rest of the drug on his lap, it’s still in the box and clearly says Rohypnol. Zoe C takes a photo.
I nod to Zoe C to exit, she does. I kick him off the chair, he lands hard. I cut the tie on his wrists and follow her out, strip off my gloves after I pull his door shut.
Zoe C is in the car, her gloves on her lap.
“Touch anything before you gloved up?”
“No, I was careful, wasn’t in thirty seconds before I clocked him..”
I pull away from the curb and we drive home.

Seven

A day passes, it’s morning, Zoe C, “Think it was newsworthy? I haven’t seen anything.”
I’m flipping through the LA Times online, click the local reports.
I read a headline on the right side, down under four other headlines, “Man reports home invasion and assault in Burbank.”
I click on it, read to Zoe C, “A man, name withheld, reported a home invasion that occurred yesterday. Police say he was drugged and assaulted, with a broken nose, two broken ribs and other injuries. Nothing was taken, it did not appear to be robbery or burglary. The victim said there were two men, but he didn’t see either. He reported being tied up with a plastic bag over his head and had no explanation for the attack.
Officer Larry Jenkins said, ‘These days gangs will assault citizens for no apparent reason other than it is seen as an initiation into the gang. Usually it happens right on the street, but not always, we suspect that’s what happened here. The victim was likely random. He is in the hospital and expected to make a full recovery. He wishes to remain anonymous. We expect to interview him more fully when his doctors feel he is capable.’
“That’s it. It’s our boy.”
Zoe C, “Why the story?”
“He’s not going to admit that a girl he invited to his condo kneed him in the nuts, several times, then an accomplice showed up and subjected him to grievous bodily harm. How’s he explain that? His story makes him an innocent victim. He’s counting on a miracle, that you won’t forward his confession to the cops, or that he can get out of California first. Neither makes sense, he’d be extradited and brought back.”
“And we’re going to fix that.”
“When do you want to enlighten Officer Jenkins?”
“I have the photo and the signed confession, it’s ready to hit his inbox, cc the LA times reporter.”
“Then do it.”
Chad’s life is going to get a whole lot messier. There are any number of ways to send anonymous emails. This one routes through Serbia, Japan, Malaysia and Columbia before it lands in the respective inboxes. If they bother with the tedious and time consuming track, the initial ISP is in Mexico. It dead ends there. 
Zoe C, “Done. I was fairly well disguised, maybe take my two courses online until this is resolved. Although Roofie probably wouldn’t recognize me if I stood in front of him”
“No, go to class as usual, he’s in the hospital and after the story breaks he is never going to be seen on campus again. My guess is, mommy and daddy will try to fly him home to Connecticut for his rehabilitation.”
“The cops going to let this go?”
“No, of course not. He’ll fight it, but they won’t let him leave the state. The DA will cut a deal if he pays his victims, they won’t want to spend hours evidence gathering and maybe years of bringing Cantor to trial. Daddy’s lawyers will require all charges be reduced or even dropped in return for victim compensation. The arrest will remain on his record, that’s public information. Chad is cooked, he won’t go to jail, but he’s still a pariah anywhere he goes.”
Zoe C, “I’m good with that, his nose won’t work well, and it’s possible his balls won’t work well either.”
“Right, I did him damage in the nether regions, over and above your knee, how many shots did you give him?”
“Three.”
“Might not work at all then. I’ll figure out dinner, go to class. What’s it today?”
“Statistics.”
“See you when?”
“After class I’m going to the language lab to practice Japanese, then to the grocery, be home for three-ish. Have any special items you want?”
“Nothing comes to mind, I’ll text you if I need anything.”
Zoe C goes off to school, I think about dinner, she won’t be home for lunch. Fish, grilled fish with lump crab, Meunière sauce. Check the pantry, type a text.
‘didn’t see list, need scallions, heavy cream, making grilled fish with Meunière sauce…I will get the fish and crabmeat…’ start to send then decide I’ll send it when I estimate she’s gotten to school, we talked about phones and driving. 
I found fat catfish filets, we like the dense white oil free texture and it holds up well on the grill. They rest in the refrigerator with the crab. Skipping lunch, I crank out laps in the pool, get a bit of sun, shower and nap, more like on the bed zoned out, not asleep, not awake. I hear the garage door roll up, look at the clock, three twenty.
Zoe C peeks in, I’m on the bed nude but it’s no big deal, she’ not into my boy stuff.
“Got your text, I’m going for a swim.”
“I’ll have tea ready when you’re done,” sit up and find casual yoga pants. Not the snug stuff women wear, these are loose, elastic waist and around the ankles. Slip on athletic socks and a t-shirt. I like them too big, sleeves hang to my elbows and the bottom below my butt.
Pad out to the kitchen and make a single serve coffee. Zoe C is back and forth in the pool, then out and on a recliner. She is quite lovely, tight and tan. I briefly wish I was a girl.
After a shower, she appears, we take tea outside, the sun is magically sinking and the thin strips of clouds are giving us a splendid yellow orange sunset over the Pacific. I conclude it’s good to be rich, as long as you aren’t an arrogant asshole about it.
We switch from tea to wine, I fire up the grill, the fish with just a bit of salt and pepper, the sauce is the seasoning. Avocado salad for a side, the filets are substantial and the sauce is rich. She brought home a couple of slices of cheesecake we’ve enjoyed before, the creamier kind with the standard sour cream topping.
“Glad you thought of the cheesecake, all we have is Godiva chocolate and a couple kinds of ice cream, cheesecake is better.”
“Please make that crumble again, the apple cherry, and crunchy top.”
“Sounds like a good weekend treat, I think I even have the ingredients already. I can check in the morning, time to grill. You want to set the table, salad is in the refrigerator. And open a bottle of…um…Sauvignon Blanc, doesn’t matter which one.”
Coat the grill with oil, helps keep the fish from sticking, fish cooks in a heartbeat, I flip it after three minutes to another section of grill. Take the platter inside, the crab is on just warm in the oven, pile it on the fish, the sauce in a serving dish.
Zoe C, “Splendid, good job Chef.”
“Arigato.”
“My Japanese is coming along thanks to practice at home, I’m not the best in class with kanji, but I’m tops in conversation.”
“If you can make your way through menus, directions, airports and ground level transportation, good enough, has been for me anyway.”
“I’m not writing the next great Japanese novel, or reading one in Japanese. The prof said if we can store a hundred kanji, we’re good, three hundred is excellent.”
“How are you feeling about our recent adventure?”
She smiles, “Probably better than I ought to, didn’t mind torturing him, wasn’t squeamish when you took over.”
“Even the amputations?”
“I looked at them like I’d look at a science experiment, I surprised myself, I was dispassionate, about his pain, about the blood.”
“Must be the meditation.”
“Either that or I’m a psychopath.”
“No, a psychopath wouldn’t go vigilante, he, or she, wouldn’t care what Cantor did to women. Admire it maybe, but no feeling for the victims.”
“Do you think…how shall I word it without sounding woo-woo? That there’s more there than we perceive? That escapes our conscious mind, maybe even the subconscious, that we just can’t get a handle on?”
“Must be. All kinds of animals see the world differently than we do. Dogs know hundreds of scents, birds see in infrared or ultraviolet. They migrate by magnetic resonance. Deep sea creatures do all sorts of magical sensory things. Certain corals all spurt eggs and sperm to make new corals at the exact same time, the entire reef has a shroud around it that looks like a shadow reef. How do they know?
Our perceived world is limited to our meager sense capacities. To see all of reality would likely overwhelm us, so the brain filters even the things we can sense.”
“Can we…what…develop skills, senses, beyond what we possess?”
“Only one way to know, try, and find out. Tibetan monks can sit in meditation for hours in freezing, even sub zero temperatures, other yogis can do other apparent impossibilities. I read Nisargadatta occasionally, an Indian guru, he claims that anything can be achieved with practice.”
We’ve finished fish and salad, “Want dessert now, or later?”
“Maybe you find us something to watch, I’ll clear up and we’ll have a Cognac with cheesecake later.”
I go out to turn off the grill, I let it run to burn off the leftover grease. Then to the couch to surf Netflix and Amazon. A Jennifer Lawrence movie.
“Ever see a movie called Winter’s Bone?”
My living area is one big space, the kitchen, the island, dining table on one side, chairs and couches on the other.
Zoe C, “Never heard of it.”
“I’ve heard of it, never seen it, looks interesting.”
“Crank it up, we’ll take a break later and have dessert.”

Eight

It’s a week later, Zoe C returns from class, “Cantor got out of the hospital and straight to a judge. His parents were prepared, he made bail and the stupid judge let him go home to Connecticut.”
“Look at it this way, he won’t be in California again. I never figured he’d get prison time, this is a pay and go away thing. Daddy coughs up settlements, everybody’s happy except Cantor. He’s missing two fingers, tennis is done for him. I expect they fixed his nose, or will soon, his ribs will heal. His balls are an open question, no way to know how much damage we caused.”
“I don’t need to think about his balls.”
I laugh, “No, neither do I.”
“Let’s do something productive, go to the range.”
“Can we do the desert? Find a spot to shoot in the open?”
“Even better. Barstow is a hundred fifty miles, all I-15 after the 101. Barstow is surrounded by wilderness and desert. Bound to be spots we can off road and shoot. Tell you what, we have the weekend, or do you have a friend coming over?”
“No, no dates.”
“Then we’ll go to Barstow, rent a couple of rooms. In the morning we’ll hunt around for a spot. We might even come across something before Barstow. You can Google the area along the way, find us a hotel too.”
We pack a few things, Glocks included, pile in the Hyundai. I’d like to take the NSX but we’ll need to off road and the Hyundai is 4WD.
Once we’re out of LA, it’s smooth sailing. Halfway there Zoe C has booked connecting rooms at the Ayres, a chain I’d never heard of. Twenty five miles out from Barstow, there’s a stretch of nothing. 
“There’s an exit up ahead, if it leads anywhere, and it must, it isn’t a town close to the interstate.”
I take the exit, we drive five miles, desert and scrub on both sides of the two lane blacktop.
“I’m going another five, just to make sure there’s more nothing.”
More nothing, I turn around, return halfway and drive off the road a half mile, with a few twists and turns around the scrub and boulders. Good enough. We didn’t bring anything to serve as targets, but we can fire away at rocks and bushes. The exercise is to empty the magazine as quickly as possible, then eject it and insert another, empty it using a different target with each shot. 
Zoe C, “We aren’t bad, at least from, what, thirty yards? And it’s more fun out here than in a closed range.”
“Agreed. Let’s get on to town.”
We collect the spent shells in a plastic bag, load up and return to the interstate. Half hour later and we’re at the hotel.
Zoe C, “Nice rooms anyway.”
“Typically corporate, which is good with me, not a fan of B&B or hip boutique hotels.”
Girls tend to unpack and put things away. I’m not a girl, I leave my stuff in the suitcase and stick my razor and deodorant in the bathroom.
“It’s nearly six, maybe find someplace Mexican, we passed the joints on the way in. I could knock back a drink about now.”
Zoe C fiddles with her phone, “Want a steak? Let’s see, they have chicken and pork ribs too, seafood.”
“All the seafood that comes into Barstow will be frozen, doesn’t matter, steak sounds good, what do you think?”
“I have my eye on a filet, just past rare, like you do at home.”
We head out to Idle Spurs, “I got you this,” hand her a driver’s license.
“I have a driver’s….oh cool, this one says I’m twenty two, thanks, how did you?”
“I know a guy, I used to be deep in the tech biz you may recall. I can get passable passports, but I’ve never needed a fake one. I don’t have any fake documents, just the one I gave you. It makes it simpler to order a glass of wine or a beer.”
“You’re corrupting my youth.”
“In that case, throw it away.”
She shoves it in her pocket, “Not a chance.”
We’re seated, it’s a fair sized place and the popular spots are outside, I prefer inside.
I ask for a double vodka, lots of ice with an olive. Zoe C has a beer, we skip appetizers and go for the filet for her, rib-eye for me. Entrees come with steamed vegetables and baked or garlic mashed potatoes, we get one of each.
I take a sip, that first chilled hit is always a delight.
“We going to the same place tomorrow? Seems more of a drive than necessary, must be something within five miles of here.”
“I’ve got an idea. Suppose I buy a piece of dirt, nothing developed. Land in the desert is practically free, no running water, no power. We’d want something with hills, set up targets at the base, bullets don’t go anyplace but in the dirt. No reason to fence it off, nothing to protect. We’d have to set up targets every time, the weather would play hell with them. In the summer it’s frying hot out here, but if we do fall to spring, that’s not an issue.”
“I’m up for it, I like shooting, maybe a rifle, something manageable at first.”
“Research them when we get home, I vaguely recall Ruger making serviceable twenty twos and three-oh-eights. Minimal recoil, cheap ammo.”
Flag the waiter, get a bottle of red. It shows up when the steaks do. I taste, it isn’t vinegar and it isn’t bad. I nod at the waiter, he pours two glasses and shuffles off.
Zoe C, “The wine is good, has heft,” she cuts a piece of steak and chews, “damn, almost like yours Chef.”
I try my rib-eye, surprisingly tender, the fat adds flavor, filet mignon is far more lean. We half the potatoes and share. Add sour cream, butter is soft and melts on contact. 
Zoe C, “Could you…shoot someone?”
“If I’m being assaulted, or I should say, about to be, sure.”
She has another hunk of steak, I chop off a piece of mine and put it on her plate.
“Want some of mine?”
“No, we have filet at home all the time, after this I might add rib-eye, see what you think.”
She tries it, “Oh yeah, you can put that in the rotation, it really is a different taste and texture.”
“What I thought.”
“So, you could shoot someone threatening you.”
“I’ve never done it, never had a reason to. Maybe I chicken out, but I doubt it. We practice Krav, some of the moves can kill. If I can twist a guy’s neck, I can shoot him.”
We work on our steaks and sides.
“Could you kill someone for money, somebody you didn’t know, like...an assassin?”
I think about it over a few bites of garlic mashed, “I don’t need money, don’t see the point. How about you, could you do it?”
She sips her wine, “It’s a fantasy, everyone likes the idea of the stone cold hitman. Like you said, the general idea is one thing, doing it is something else.”
“Okay, how about this. A woman comes to you, she’s getting her head caved in regularly by an abusive whatever, husband, boyfriend, her own father if she’s young and still at home for instance.”
“We fixed the rapist…but we didn’t kill him. I don’t know. I suppose each situation is different. Daddy is regularly raping her, he calls it something else, but it’s rape. Him, I could kill and not look back. Still, it’s hypothetical, actual… I’d need details.”
“Capturing an abuser, hauling him off someplace and altering his worldview has drawbacks. We came up with a plan for Cantor, it worked, but I wouldn’t want to have you out there as bait all the time. Things don’t always fall into place. If we off the target, it’s cleaner, more straightforward. Glock to the back of his head, pop, gone.”
She grins, “It do have a certain brutal simplicity.”
“Enough convivial dinner death talk, unless you want dessert, we’re done.”
“I’m good.”
“You drive to the hotel, I’m not soused, but I did have a double and wine.”
In the parking lot, we walk past two guys leaning on a pickup.
The bigger one, not as big as me but thick, beer belly type, with a stupid cowboy hat, “Hey there little lady, how’s about you and me go inside for a beer.”
His friend, smaller more wiry but maybe five eight, “Leave it Freddy, you’ve had enough beer, too much beer. See the dude with her? He ain’t small.”
Freddy, “Fuck him, I took out pukes bigger’n him.”
Friend, “Sorry mister, he’s had a dozen bottles.”
“No harm no foul.”
Freddy makes a life altering mistake, he reaches out and grabs Zoe C by the arm.
“Pal, that’s assault,” I look at Friend, “Better haul him home before he gets hurt.”
Freddy ignores me, “Les’ have a drink honey,” he pulls her arm.
I lean on the truck next to friend.
He looks at me, “You ain’t gonna do nothing?”
“I don’t need to do anything, you know where the emergency room is? We’re not from here.”
Friend is perplexed, “Emergen…”
Zoe C sticks a knee between Freddy’s legs. When he folds over she bends her arm and snaps her elbow under his chin. Freddy’s head slams against the truck. Zoe C raises her leg, heel cracks him hard just above the knee. There’s a satisfying crunch. Freddy sinks to the dirt.
Friend, “Yeah, I know where the emergency room is.”
“Let’s get him in the back of the truck.”
Friend and I take an arm each, Freddy howls, too bad, we haul him to the rear, drop the tailgate and flop his butt on it. I jump in the bed, grab his arms and slide him in, hop down and slam the gate closed.
“We aren’t pressing charges, now get him gone before she gets serious.”
Friend looks at Zoe C, “You did him a favor Miss, he gets loaded, his brain goes sideways. He does usually win the fight though.”
“Not this time.”
Friend looks at Freddy moaning in the truck, “Fer sure not this time.”
We wait until he drives off, don’t need him seeing our car. When his taillights disappear around a corner, we return to the hotel.

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