Occasionally I take a break from the chaos, murder and madness of my mysteries and legal thrillers and write just for fun. Prior to writing Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, Jake Savior was my comedy relief. I loved his witty attitude, and sense of moral justice. He was willing to kill for a price, but it was the freebies he really enjoyed. I knew I would never publish this book, but occasionally I look back and read what I’ve written and smile. Sometimes I add a new chapter just for fun. Have you ever read a book or watched a movie that was just, well, too far out there? Good Intentions was that for me. Good for a laugh, and brining an excellent character to mind, but not really marketable. Still, I’ll always be grateful to Good Intentions and the Jake Savior contained therein, as he inspired portions of Beyond A Reasonable Doubt. Working with the justice system I can totally understand his statement: “The courts seen fit to let a pedophile go--I didn't.” Poor Jake. Life was tough for a killer for hire, but death without his cigarettes was even worse.
You grow up poor you've got to wonder if God's got a sense of humor. All the crap life throws at you. And He gives you mothers. It's kind of like that guy Brandon Lee said in the movie The Crow--"Mother is the name for God on the lips and hearts of all children."
He got that right. My momma wasn't just a good woman. She was a Saint. Somehow she managed to raise four kids on a waitress' salary. And three of them turned out pretty good. Or would have. But that's another story.
Sometimes when I'm thinking about momma I have to wonder if she knew about God's sense of humor. She read us the good book every night, but she never said nothing about no sense of humor. Still, she had to know something. I mean, after three girls she got me. She had to figure God was up to something.
I’m Jake Savior, and yeah you might as well go ahead and laugh. Everybody else does. My clients are always telling me God's got a sense of humor. The people looking for me weren't looking for a savior. They were mostly searching the want ads for killer for hire. That's me. For the right price I put a lot of people out of other people's misery. Heck, I even done some for free. Some people deserve to die, and being the nice guy I am, I gladly obliged them.
But I'm digressing. Let's get back to God's sense of humor.
I'd had a pretty good day. Won a few bucks on the horse races. Did a little charity work by ridding the world of one more piece of garbage. The courts seen fit to let a pedophile go--I didn't. So I was feeling pretty good about myself, except I was out of cigarettes.
Now anyone that knows me knows I love a good smoke. Last count I was up to five packs a day. Momma always said those thing were going to kill me. Turns out she was right.
Only a die-hard smoker goes out at 2:00 a.m. for smokes. Especially since all the safe places close down early, leaving only a few gas stations and convenience stores open at that hour. Still, I was willing to take my chances. It was too damn cold for thieves to be out and I really, really wanted that last cigarette before I turned the lights out and called it a day.
You've probably already concluded that I'm a smart ass bastard that beats my own drum. Some people will smoke anything. Not me. I'm a strict Kentucky Red's Best smoker. Which means whether I liked it or not I was gonna have to hoof it over to Winchester Road at this time of night. Not everybody carried Red's Best.
Being the cautious person I am, I scouted the parking lot and looked inside for milling customers. No cars and only one customer at the counter. I quickly ascertained he was one of the good guys like me, needing that last deep drag to calm his nerves before he called it a night. Boy was I wrong. Wrong place, wrong time and wrong guy. Five minutes after I entered the door of the Shaky Seven Gas to Go bullets started flying.
I've always heard that your life passes before your eyes when you're dying. Trust me, that's all bull. My last vision was that pack of Red's Best I held in my hand, and my last thought was how good that cigarette was gonna taste as soon as I got outside. Of course, that wouldn't have surprised anyone who really knew me. It wasn't any big surprise to me. I was surprised though. Having listened to momma all those years and growing up with three sisters extolling virtues that I never needed or wanted, I was expecting either that bright light to take me to Heaven, or most likely in my case, a little fire and brimstone trail leading to Hell. That didn't happen either.
# # #
"God, I'd kill for a cigarette."
"You're kidding right?"
I glanced over at the convenience store clerk floating next to me as we both looked down at our bullet ridden bodies. I had to chuckle a little. That pack of Red's Best was still clutched tightly in my outstretched hand.
"Yeah, mom always said those things were gonna kill me. Guess she can say 'I told you so' now."
"So, what do we do now?"
"Beats the hell out of me," I stated turning to really look at the clerk. He was young, probably in his early twenties and looked like he was gonna cry any minute.
"Jake Savior," I stuck out a hand. I sure as hell didn't need someone blubbering all over me.
"Ronnie Smith," he stated, gaze still riveted to his body. "Mom's gonna be really pissed. I don't know how she's gonna pay the rent this month."
"Maybe she'll get lucky. Sue the store and get a million dollars."
Ronnie finally looked at me, took the hand I still had stuck out and shook it heartily. "Really? You think she can do that?"
Truth was I didn't know shit about civil lawsuits. Criminal law, yeah, I could advise you all day long on criminal law, but civil suits were a different animal with a whole new breed of greedy demons. Still, we were dead and what was he gonna do, sue me if I was wrong?
"Sure kid, happens every day."
"That would be nice."
"Hey, look, another late night smoker coming in." We watched as the guy entered the store, took one look at the blood and immediately jerked out a cell phone. A good Samaritan all the way. So what if he loaded up on a few cartons of cigarettes, a couple of gallons of milk, some bread and snacks and three cases of beer while he waited.
Sirens blared away and we watched as the local cops pulled up, followed by paramedics. The good Samaritan stayed just long enough to give a statement before hopping in his now loaded Toyota and hitting the road. He'd be celebrating tonight and nobody the wiser.
I watched as the paramedic leaned over my body, checked for a pulse and shook his head. "This one's dead."
"No, shit, Sherlock. I mean, really, there's a hole right between my eyes."
"Hey, Jake. . ."
"Where the heck are you going?" I yelled. Ronnie was slowly drifting backwards as if drawn by some unseen force. I headed in his direction only to find myself up against an invisible brick wall.
"Well, that sucks," I muttered, kicking the wall only to find another long held belief wasn't true. You could feel pain after death.
Being the naturally curious person I was, and since death so far had held a hell of a lot more surprises than life, I drifted back inside the store.
"We got a pulse."
The kid was still alive. Hallelujah. Hope he doesn't tell his mother about that million dollars. She might really be pissed then.
"Marty, you bag and tag that one when the coroners done."
I'd always had a lot of respect for guys like Marty. The things they had to deal with every day. Bet his friends called him the bag and tag guy. I really wanted to pat him on the back until the fat bastard leaned over and picked up my pack of Red's Best, stowing them in his front pocket. "Don't guess he'll be needing these anymore."
They all laughed. Laughed.
I hope you get lung cancer you son-of-a-bitch and die a long, slow, painful death.
I watched as they loaded the kid into the ambulance, lights flashing, sirens blasting. Might have been happy about that if the fat bastard hadn't chosen that moment to light up one of my Best's. Smoke drifted my way. A tantalizing aroma of pure Heaven.
"Hey, Marty, you got that body bag?"
I watched the red tip as it arced through the air, landing a few feet away. There was still half a cigarette left. Dumb bastard. You don't throw away half of one of Kentucky's best brands. You smoke it slowly, savoring the aroma and taste.
I spent the next five minutes trying to wrap my newly dead fingers around that cigarette. I could see it. Smell it. And if I closed my eyes, I could even taste it. But try as I might I couldn't pick the damn thing up.
Frustrated I sat back down on the curb, listening as the cops made jokes as they loaded my body into the wagon. It wasn't funny. Wasn't funny at all.
So the next time you're sitting around feeling sorry for yourself and you think life ain't fair, try dying at a late-night convenience store for a pack of cigarettes and then find out you've got to sit and watch some other lucky bastard enjoy them.
That's when it hit me. Yep, God's got a real sense of humor. At least if Ronnie was here I'd have somebody to share my misery with.
So this is hell. Stuck here in what I can only describe as grey matter to watch life pass me by, totally unable to intervene or enjoy even the simplest of things. That's what I was beginning to think. But that was before the kid. The kid changed everything and hell started looking pretty good to me.