Justice Begins Book 1: The First Executioner
A bloody scene on seemingly innocent people. Then a twist at the end.
A former U.S. Army truck rolled down the ragged expanse of the dirt road leading into the small valley. Within the vehicle were seven men, plus the driver. Everyone was armed.
Mick, the leader of the group, held an AR-10 rifle. It was the newest, most high-tech, and most expensive weapon in the vehicle. The men’s employers had made one available to each of them, but he alone had been able to afford it. Barely. Once the dirty work was done, though, and the rest of their promised fee paid out, he would more than recover his losses.
He patted the rifle’s barrel shroud. “This baby,” he said to the others over the sounds of sucking mud and gravel crunching beneath the wheels, “was invented only nine years ago. This particular gun is less than a year old. The design is nine, though. State-of-the-art. They’re distributing some version with a smaller cartridge back in America, so the pantywaist soldiers won’t have to carry anything heavy for too long.”
A couple of the other men laughed. They’d all been staring at the rifle with a mixture of curiosity and envy. Mick’s dig about others needing a lighter weapon had alleviated some of the tension. Of the other men, one had an American M1 carbine, two held old German MP40 submachine guns, which worked splendidly enough when they worked at all, and the remaining three had to settle for surplus SKS rifles of Soviet or Chinese manufacture. The driver had only a Smith & Wesson Model 10 revolver, the .38 Special.
On Atlantica—or, as some people had nicknamed it, Atlantis—the Cold War was far away and of little relevance. Elements of West and East mingled freely. Global politics was a distant second to survival.
“Hey,” the driver called. He was the sole man without a rifle or submachine gun, carrying only the .38 Special by his side. “We’re almost there. I recognize this arch from last time.
“About three hundred meters ahead, there’s a narrow choke point in the road before it opens up into the valley. I’ll park there to block off the road. None of them will be able to get out the way we came in. They’ll have to run off into the hills.”
Mick nodded. “Good. They better run.”
The Mongolian—no one could pronounce his name right, so they referred to him by nationality—piped up. “They have guards?” He checked the pocket of his jacket for his extra stripper clip of ammo.
A reedy-looking man named Kozlowski snorted. “Doubt it. Unless you count kneecap boys working for whoever runs the fuckin’ local brothel and poker circle.”
A few more chuckles went around.
The driver parked the truck at the mouth of the valley, as indicated. The men hopped down from the benches to stream out the back of the vehicle. Before them lay the dingy expanse of mud, grit, and spare parts that was their target.
It was a shantytown, a collection of sheds built on the spot by the cluster of workers or worker-wannabes who floated around through Atlantica’s underclass. Such people were useful, at times, to those who owned most of the island.
At other times—like now—they were simply an obstruction.
Many had retired to their pitiful homes as afternoon was waning toward evening, but a crowd of perhaps two dozen bedraggled men, women, and children was already outside. Another dozen emerged into the pitted alleys that served as their streets.
Mick stepped forward, waving, as the village chatter died down and all eyes turned to him and his men.
“Right,” he began, puffing up his chest and drawing himself up to his full height of six-foot-three, “none of you people are authorized to be here. You’re all a bunch of squatters. I hereby order you to disperse immediately. Find someplace else. This land is claimed.”
Faint sounds of alarm and whispers of concern went around among the motley assembly of laborers.
A woman, perhaps in her late twenties or so, put her hands on her hips. “No, we will not disperse. Who are you to kick us out of the homes we’ve built?” Her accent was maybe Swedish. It was hard to be sure. “No one claimed this land. Except us. If someone back in the city did, they sure did not tell us about it.”
Mick smiled. “We’re telling you now. Get out of here.”
His hand went to his waist, where he kept an old Colt single-action Army revolver in a new leather holster. In one smooth motion, he unfastened the strap and drew the gun, aiming it at the woman one-handed with his right thumb cocking back the hammer. She froze in place. Her mouth stayed open, but her protests had suddenly fallen silent.
The guy next to him on the right, holding his gun one-handed over his shoulder, snorted. “Jesus Christ, Mick, why you still carry one of those dusty ancient things? I knew a guy in Italy who got killed trying to reload one while the Germans was regrouping.”
Mick ignored him, focusing instead on the woman. “You got five seconds,” he informed her. “One…two…three…”
Another woman, older but similar-looking, appeared from behind a long makeshift fence of scrap wood and sheet metal. “Ingrid!” she cried and yammered something in whatever her native language was.
Ingrid turned and ran toward her mother. Mick was only at the count of four, but he fired anyway. The gun cracked and blasted dust from the ground near the younger woman’s feet. She screamed and dove through the air behind the fence.
“Smart lady,” Mick quipped. “Let’s see if everyone else has the same amount of…intelligence.”
Then someone appeared from behind a shack on the other side of the road—two young men. One of them was more like a boy, perhaps sixteen or so.
“Bastards!” one of them screamed. Both began hurling chunks of rock at the newcomers.
Kozlowski was closest to them. He was too slow in dodging. One of the rocks struck him in the arm, causing him to flinch. “Ow. Goddamn trash.” He raised his SKS and fired.
The air thundered with the gunshot’s report. The younger of the two boys fell backward, shrieking and spitting blood with a red hole in his chest. His brother fell to his knees beside him, sobbing. The small crowd gathered farther back in the shanty broke apart as screaming men and women scattered in all directions, seeking cover.
Mick glared at Kozlowski but didn’t bother to reprimand him. They’d all known there would probably be resistance and that they’d ultimately need to disperse the squatters with a little of the more forceful kind of persuasion.
“All right,” he announced to his men, “they’re going back in their homes like idiots instead of getting the hell out like we told them. Everyone open fire.” He returned his Colt to its holster and raised his AR-10.
Seven guns roared in unison, drowning out the lingering howls of the terrified workers. Semiautomatic rifle rounds punched holes through the thin layers of wood, scrap metal, and cloth that constituted the squatters’ homes. The two submachine guns, firing in full auto, sprayed rounds indiscriminately where children had played, and men and women had washed clothes and prepared meals not long ago.
The brother of the boy who’d taken a rifle slug through the chest twisted and bled, falling dead beside the younger boy under the barrage of an MP40. A woman in a hut not far from the fence where the first woman had ducked stumbled out of her house, holding hands to her bloodied stomach.
Screams penetrated the gaps in the noise, and a handful of the workers toward the rear of the village fled their shanties and clambered up the far hill. Since they were doing as instructed, the clearance crew ignored them.
The two men with submachine guns paused to reload, while those with rifles took slower, more carefully aimed potshots at anyone visible or randomly through the houses’ walls or windows.
Mick spent half his magazine perforating two of the larger houses. He anticipated that more people would try to flee soon, although fear would probably paralyze some and his men would have to drag them out of their shacks. He shouldered his rifle on its strap and pulled his revolver.
He waved toward the village. “Advance,” he ordered the others.
They moved in.
Then a gunshot rang out. Before anyone could ask who’d been in such a hurry to start shooting again, Mick’s head exploded. He went straight back in the air, legs kicking and his right hand dropping the pistol as blood showered the ground around him.
Kozlowski bellowed, “Jesus Christ! Nobody said they were armed!” He raised his SKS again and fired three rounds in the general direction from which the deadly counterattack had come.
At first, I didn’t know who to be rooting for. It looks like having all the weapons doesn’t give you all the power. Stick around because the second snippet of Justice Begins: The First Executioner drops tomorrow. If you’re already hooked then head over and pre-order it today. Releasing on all devices November 1st, 2021.