The cold of the night would soon arrive. Dillon raised his collar to keep some of the chilling breeze from hitting his neck. His breath was visible in the chill. For two hours he had stood waiting for the young thug to make his normal nocturnal appearance. Why was he late?

thumb_shadowsmoveThe stars twinkled into view as a light wisp of cloud slipped away opening an unobstructed patch of sky. Dillon moved a step further into the small stand of barren trees where the leafless branches created a latticework canopy overhead. Dried maple leaves crunched under foot. A lone dog barked in the distance. Traffic noise from the main road drowned out any sound he made before it reached the sidewalk.

He wished he had worn gloves. He shoved his hands into his pockets. His fingers found the cold hard steel of the stainless .38 snub-nosed revolver. He cradled it in his hand. Why was he late?

This had been a hard decision for Dillon. As he waited, he began to have second thoughts about his plan. The concept was simple enough: an eye for an eye…his life for her life. The difficulty was carrying out his decision. He was a cook. He was not even some fancy chef: he ran Dillon’s Carolina Style BBQ, a southern barbecue family restaurant. Dillon was no killer.

He and Ellie had been happy. The restaurant was doing well. The kids were grown. They were even planning to get away for a cruise. Nothing fancy, just a five-day cruise out of Miami, a long awaited and long overdue second honeymoon. That changed months ago when Tiko, as he was known on the streets, walked into the restaurant just before closing time.

The last customers had eaten and left. Dillon was out back cleaning the cookers. Ellie was wiping down the front counter when Tiko came inside. They never figured out what it was that set him off. Maybe he just didn’t understand what she was saying, but he opened fire, and put three bullets in her chest.

Dillon heard the shots, grabbed a baseball bat-sized piece of oak off the woodpile and ran for the door going into the dining area. They reached the door at almost the same time. Tiko raced through the door, the gun in his hand. Dillon swung the firewood with all the strength of his six foot two frame, catching Tiko in the chest. Tiko crashed against the rough wooden board and batten wall beside the door. The pistol fell from his hand. Dillon grabbed the gun and raced to Ellie, dialing 911 as he ran.

Ellie lay beside the counter in a spreading pool of dark red blood. Dillon grabbed her limp body in his strong thick arms and held her against him. He kissed her forehead and rocked back and forth as he whispered, “Hold on baby, don’t you die on me…don’t you die on me…don’t you die on me….”

His admonition was not enough. The EMTs pronounced her dead at the scene. Tiko managed to crawl half way across the parking lot before the police arrived. He suffered from a concussion, and four broken ribs, one which punctured his lung. After two weeks in the hospital, the court turned him loose. A technicality they said. Some procedural requirement that wasn’t followed and they let him go. All the evidence confirmed he was guilty, but one mistake and they dismissed the case. Dillon felt betrayed. Tiko had killed his wife. There was no doubt, and they let him just walk away.

Dillon’s son, Cliff, who already worked with him, took over running the restaurant. Dillon couldn’t stand to walk in the door. All he could see was the love of his life bleeding out on the tile floor. He stopped leaving the farm, going outside only to tend the hogs and their other animals. He stayed in the den, sitting in her rocking chair, the same chair where she had rocked and nursed all three children.

The kids came by to help, brought him food and tried to convince him to at least stay with them for awhile. He refused. He sat in the dark, often forgetting to eat, and went outside only to take care of the animals. He sat and stared at the empty room week after week until he made his decision. He had to kill the bastard who did this.

A sudden deep calm washed over him. He needed to get his affairs in order, and then he would kill the son of a bitch that killed his Ellie. What happened to him after that didn’t matter, but Tiko had to die. He accepted the eventuality of being caught and put in jail. The knowledge that Ellie would finally be avenged made all the consequences worthwhile. He picked up the phone and dialed his son.

“It’s dad. I just made a decision. I’m not coming back to the restaurant. You guys decide how you want to run it but don’t expect me to go inside it. I’ll have Preston draw up the papers transferring the restaurant and farm. I’ll stay out here and run the farm for awhile…don’t know how long….No buts, Cliff.” Dillon hung up the phone before his son could respond.

He dialed Preston’s cell phone. Preston had been Dillon’s lawyer and his lifelong friend. “It’s Dillon. I need to talk to you. I need you to figure out how to deal with all my assets if something happens to me….I will have you a list tomorrow. I want this done as quickly as possible…..All right, tomorrow at one.”

He closed his phone and went to get his pistol. He needed to practice.

Someone walking in his direction brought Dillon back to the present; however, the shape wasn’t right for Tiko. The person was too tall and didn’t walk with the same gait. Dillon leaned against a tree, trying to blend into the surrounding shadows. He stood rigid until the figure passed. Why was he late?

Dillon had spent the last three weeks shadowing him, where he went and what he did. Tonight he should be coming down this sidewalk around midnight. It was now after two. Where was he?

Dillon lost heart and moved forward but he saw a shadow in the distance. He froze and waited. The shadow developed form and definition. The person was short and walked spread-legged. The dark hooded jacket hung loosely over his shoulders. The shape and movement were right. Dillon slid his hand into his pocket and eased his fingers around the grooved wooden handle of the revolver. Gone was the calm of the last three weeks. His heart raced, but there was no fear. This was the excitement of sitting on his deer stand and seeing a trophy buck step into view. He could see the face…it was Tiko!

The hand with the pistol came out of his pocket. He was ready. He waited. Tiko was almost there. The shadow which was Dillon moved forward. Tiko saw him the instant before Dillon pulled the trigger. There was that flash of recognition on his face, and he knew that he was about to die. His muscles tensed. He started to react as the first bullet buried in his chest. It was followed by two more. Three bullets in his chest, just like Ellie. The reports echoed in the night. Nearby dogs, suddenly awakened, barked in alarm. Traffic noise droned away and the gunshots faded into the sounds of the night.

Dillon left the shadows, becoming a man again, and moved to Tiko. He checked for a gun and found an automatic in his belt. Dillon slid that into his pocket before hoisting the limp body over his shoulder. He threw the body in the truck, which he would wash down with bleach before the night was finished and drove to the farm.

Dillon carried Tiko into the concrete dressing house. Outside, it was a typical farm building. Inside stainless steel tables stood near the door and a giant ten by twenty foot shower stall covered the other end. Large metal hooks hung from a trolley system on the ceiling. Dillon hung Tiko on two of the hooks and, with practiced efficiency, gutted him. The entrails fell into the catch tub to be fed to the hogs as soon as he was finished here. “Corpus delicti: it a technically that means no body equals no murder,” Preston had told him.

Thirty minutes later the open wood-fired barbeque pit contained another carcass, quartered and covered with sauce. The flickering red and orange flames danced Dillon’s shadow across the wall.