I’ve been away for awhile so I got behind on the blog. So, the last story I posted was Escape to Paradise where Jenna was trying to get away from the evil boyfriend. Sometimes when I create a character I get a little attached to them. I liked my Jenna. While beaten down by her culture and her boyfriend, she had a little spark of spunk. While I want all my characters (at least the good ones) to have a happy outcome, that doesn’t always happen. I was hoping it would for Jenna. I left her sitting in a courtroom with a fire storm about to erupt all around her. I wanted to revisit her and find out what happened next. So I do what I always do. I sat down and thought about her and then let my mind wander. The story Good Shot just fell into place.
If you haven’t read Escape to Paradise, please go read it before Good Shot. This story will make more sense if you know the background. So refresh that mai tai and enjoy.
At 7 pm on a Thursday in April, there was a knock at Jenna’s door. She looked through her peephole and began smiling. It was Ryan. Ryan Bronski, her boyfriend. The man who had literally saved her life. The thought gave her a flashback to over a year ago when a similar knock was from a man intent on killing her. What a difference a year makes. That man, Dustin Randall, was in prison now, where he belonged. He would be there another thirty years paying for the pain and anguish he had put her through, including hiring his cousin to kill her. Without his malevolent presence in her life she had found she was able to flourish. She took yoga classes to find inner serenity. She returned to the ballroom and fell in love with dancing again. On a more practical note, she enrolled in a personal weapons safety class to learn to use her revolver reliably in case she had another emergency situation. Joyce said she had already disaster proofed her life.
“You’ve already had Dustin Randall in your life. What are the odds you could do any worse?” She kinda has a point, Jenna thought.
Still, Jenna didn’t want to take any chances. Her freedom was hard won. It had taken many weeks of meetings with a counselor to find and root out the reasons for her near non-existent self-esteem. Now she worked every day to prove to herself and to the world that she was indeed a worthwhile person. She was pretty and fun and smart and engaging and a generally nice human being. All the things that Dusty had convinced her she wasn’t.
The trial had been horrific. The Randalls hired a high-priced New York attorney to destroy her. He tried to make the trial about her through character assassination. Fortunately, the Randalls were guilty of so many crimes that even if she were the cheap harlot the attorney painted, there was still plenty of guilt to go around. Her attorney helped her through it all, even holding her hand and passing Kleenexes after each round of testimony. The Randall’s tacky ploy had backfired however. People knew the kind of person Jenna was and the kind of person Dusty was. The Randalls had pulled every string they could to get a new venue for the trial but the judge wouldn’t allow it. And everybody in a five county radius knew and hated the Randalls. It was payback time. Old Man Randall got life without parole. Dusty and Drew each got thirty years. The verdicts came down in December, solid guilty on every count, and Dusty spent the first of thirty Christmases at Odom Maximum Security Correctional Institute in rural eastern North Carolina.
Ryan Bronski had shown what a masterful attorney he was, besting the Randall’s hired gun at every turn. It was a coup for his small firm to work with the DA’s office to successfully bring down a local kingpin like Randall. She was so proud for him. And she was emotionally exhausted.
After the excitement of the holidays had passed, Ryan had asked her to meet him at Starbucks. He said he wanted to discuss something with her. She hoped it wasn’t some wrinkle in the law that would let Dusty get out of paying for his crimes. When she arrived at the coffee shop she thought she was early because Ryan didn’t appear to be there. Then she did a double take when he waved from a nearby table. Without his lawyer costume, as she thought of it, he looked so different. He was dressed comfortably in a polo shirt and faded jeans. The casual dress only accentuated his youthful appearance, reminding her that he was only thirty years old. She always told him that his brown suits make him look like an old man. When he smiled as she approached it lit up his entire face. She realized how attractive he was. She was surprised some high-powered lady attorney or legal secretary hadn’t already snapped him up.
He stood as she reached his table. Yes, his mama did teach him some manners, she mused.
“I took the liberty of ordering you a mocha latte, extra hazelnut. I hope you don’t mind,” he said.
Jenna was touched that he remembered what she liked, but then, they had shared much coffee over the course of the trial.
“Thanks.” Considering his casual dress, she began thinking maybe this wasn’t about the Randall case. But what else could it be, she wondered. We don’t exactly run in the same crowds.
After brief small talk about their health and the weather, Ryan got to the point.
“Jenna, I have to say that despite the unpleasantness of the trial, you have been a bright spot in my day for the past few months. I’ll miss that. It’s as if you’ve blossomed as you got out from under Dustin’s thumb. You’ve evolved into this wonderful, caring woman. You’ve become more independent, more sure of yourself and assertive. I like to think you’ve become the woman you were always meant to be. And watching that unfold has had a profound effect on me. I couldn’t say anything before because I was your attorney and it would have been unethical, but I can’t hide it any longer. I’ve grown fond of you and wondered if you would have dinner with me on Sunday?”
Jenna did not see this coming and hoped the shock didn’t show on her face. His face was open and vulnerable. She had never seen him look like this before. He was being totally guileless, putting his happiness in her hands.
“You mean, like a date?” she asked.
“Yes, like a date.”
She wasn’t sure how she wanted to respond. On the one hand he was someone she respected and looked up to. A man good and true. And he was a friend. He was also handsome and successful. What woman wouldn’t want to date a man like that? But would she have trouble seeing him as anything but her lawyer? And they came from such different worlds. She wasn’t as smart as his attorney friends and was afraid she might embarrass him. There would be complications.
She suddenly realized she had taken too long to answer. She could see his face falling and his confidence erode as he assumed she was trying to find a way out.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’ve put you on the spot. I shouldn’t have done that. Please forgive me.”
“No, it’s okay. I’d love to go out with you. I’m just concerned that we are from such different backgrounds.”
“Yes, we are. Maybe that’s part of the allure. But I want to explore this.”
“Well, that’s not only the nicest, but the only offer I’ve had all year, so I’ll take it.”
Ryan picked her up Sunday night and drove to a nice restaurant in Greensboro. Not just a Red Lobster or Chili’s or, god forbid, IHOP, which was the best she could hope for from Dusty. He was totally charming, steering clear of any lawyer talk, just exploring common interests and a little bit of gossip. He made her feel so very special. She couldn’t remember the last time she had such a fuss made over her. It was nice. He ordered wine with dinner. She didn’t know anything about wine, but the one glass she had was delicious. She realized she was a lightweight drinker when the one glass made her feel tingly. A cheap date, as Joyce would say.
She feared the good night kiss might be awkward, considering their relationship, but when he bent his head to hers at her door-step she was all in. Perhaps the wine had put her in a happy place, but his kiss set off the fireworks. She was definitely under his spell. She just drifted inside in a daze.
Ryan called her at work midmorning on Monday just to check in. He asked if it was okay to call her at work like this.
“Yeah, but if you do it more than once people might start talking. They know the trial is over. You know how people are.”
“Let them talk. I’m not ashamed. I hope you aren’t.”
“Of you? Of course not. You’re totally presentable.”
“I’m glad you feel that way, because I’m aiming to make people talk. I’d like to see you again. Friday night?”
“I have a dance lesson and then a studio function. You could come with me. Do you know any ballroom?”
“Let’s see, I can identify my left foot and my right foot. That’s about as far as I get.”
“Well, if we’re going to be a thing, you’re going to need to dance.” She immediately regretted saying it, fearing she had jumped the gun. Two dates did not constitute a ‘thing’.
“Oh my god, what have I gotten myself into?” he deadpanned. “Do you have time for a quick dinner between your lesson and function?”
They made plans and Friday night Jenna discovered that while Ryan’s dancing skills were dreadful, he was a quick study. By the end of the night had had the hang of a couple of dances.
“Looks like I’m getting my dance legs,” he said. “I can see why you love this so. The people who have been doing this awhile are amazing. Then there are the people like me.”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself. You did great.”
“You think so? Maybe I’ll have to call up and ask for the ‘Miss Mitzi Special’,” referring to the studio’s beginner program.
Of course, this led to more dates. Over the next few weeks she and Ryan saw more of each other than they did during the trial. He was smitten and it didn’t take Jenna long to find that she was well on her way, also. They did dinners, picnics with the symphony, street fairs, and dance functions, of course. She even took him to the firing range to practice shooting with her. He was impressed with her marksmanship.
And people did talk. She realized they were officially a couple when people at the office would begin a sentence with “You and Ryan…” as if they were a single person.
Perhaps the sweetest thing he did for her was when he invited her to the local American Bar Association dinner. He was receiving an award for his part in the Randall case. There was a band and general dancing after dinner. The band was good and played contemporary music but few people actually danced. Some people jumped around in what they called ‘free style’ dancing. After a few songs Ryan went up and spoke with the band. The band leader announced the next dance as a special request. Jenna was amazed when the band began a lovely waltz. She was even more amazed when Ryan held his hand to her and said, “May I?” The few people who had taken the floor quickly moved away as Ryan and Jenna showed off their waltz abilities. Ryan’s lessons had paid off and he was nearly as good as Jenna. Together they were perfect. At the end of the dance they got a standing ovation. Jenna blushed but was so pleased. All she could think was that she had found the perfect man.
All this went through her mind in a flash as she saw Ryan through the peephole. She opened the door saying, “Hey, babe.”
“Hey, sweetheart,” he answered, giving her a quick kiss. He usually didn’t come over without calling first and especially on a weeknight, so Jenna figured something was up.
“You need to sit down.” Now she knew it was bad. No good news ever began with those words.
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you need to know. Dustin has escaped from prison.”
“He what?” Jenna felt as if a rug had been pulled from under her and she was plummeting down. She was glad she was sitting.
“He was being transferred for something, I’m not clear on that yet, but a guard got too close without paying attention. He managed to grab the guard’s gun. He held the gun right against the guard’s head while he made the other guard unlock the cuffs on him and two other prisoners in the van. They split up. One of the prisoners was picked up pretty quickly. He told the police that Randall shot both guards point blank and was laughing while he did. One died. The other is in serious condition.”
“He’s just gone and lost his mind. I know he’s reckless and mean as a snake, but to kill someone like that, it’s just crazy.”
“He was planning to kill you Jenna. He’s been crazy for a long time.”
“Yeah, but at least he thought he had a reason to kill me. These poor guards were just doing their job.”
“Well, he’ll be caught, no question. And killing the guard will get him the needle. I hate it had to come at this price, but I’m not sorry he’s going down. He’s just a mad dog.”
“So they haven’t caught him yet?”
“No. And they think he’s heading this way. There’s only one reason he would come here. You.”
Once again, Jenna’s stomach dropped. Oh, no. Not again. She thought she was done with Dusty and the whole Randall clan. Ryan had urged her to file a civil suit against them. She stood to win a lot of money that way. But she would have none of it. She wanted nothing from the Randalls, especially their blood money. It came from their criminal schemes and she wouldn’t touch it. She wanted to be done with them permanently. And now Dusty was coming for her.
“They should have told both of us immediately after it happened but someone goofed. He escaped two days ago. He could have easily broken in your house and killed you by now. I want you to pack a bag and come with me. You can stay at my house until they catch him. I won’t be able to sleep a wink if I don’t know you’re safe.”
Jenna finally found her balance and decided to lighten the atmosphere.
“Why Mr. Bronski, are you asking me for a sleep over? Whatever will the neighbors think?”
“I don’t give a damn what anybody thinks. I just have to know that you’re safe. I’ve got a security system and the police have agreed to post a uniform outside my house. Please say you’ll come.”
“Alright. Let me get some things.” Her thoughts were interrupted when her cell phone began playing a tinny version of “Mama Mia”. It was the ringtone she had assigned to her mother.
“Looks like Mama’s heard,” she said. “Let me get that. She’s going to worry.”
“Hey, Mama,” she said after clicking the accept button.
“Hey baby,” said a deep rasping voice. “I’ve missed you.” She had been standing but suddenly collapsed onto the sofa. It was Dusty. And he had Mama’s phone.
“Dusty!” was all she could say. Ryan was immediately by her side. “What are you doing calling me on Mama’s phone? Where’s Mama? If you’ve hurt her I swear I’ll get you.”
“Now don’t go making promises you can’t keep, sweetheart. Don’t worry about your mama. She’s a tough old broad. I had to knock her around a bit to get her to cooperate. You Davenports are a stubborn set of bitches.”
“I’m calling the police right now,” she yelled into the phone.
“Now you don’t want to do that, baby. Right now your mama’s doing fine. A few bruises, some blood. Maybe some broken bones, I don’t know. I got excited and got into it. It’s been so long since I had the chance to really work over a woman. But if the police show up I’ll be long gone and all they’ll find is your mama with a butcher knife in her heart. Or maybe I’ll cut it out and take it with me.”
“Dusty, don’t you hurt my mama,” she couldn’t help crying as she said it. “Please.”
“Yeah, baby, I love it when you beg. Makes me hard. Oooh yeah.”
“What do you want?” she asked. “Mama ain’t done nothing to you. You want something from me. What?”
“Are you forgetting that you’re my girl? I heard you been whoring around with that lawyer that put me in prison. That ain’t something I can let my girl get by with. People might think I’m soft. No real man lets his woman whore around without teaching her a lesson. I think it’s time you and me had a talk.”
She couldn’t respond, only hyperventilate into the phone.
“You come on out to your mama’s house. When you get here, I’ll let her go and you and me can talk about your transgressions.” By ‘talk’ she knew he meant beat. He came close to putting her in the hospital after several of their discussions of her failings.
“Just you. Nobody else. I see anybody else but you and that butcher knife goes right into Mama’s heart.”
“How do I know you ain’t already killed her? Let me talk to Mama,” she demanded.
“So bossy. I see I’ll need to remind you how to address your lord and master. But I’m feeling kind. Hey, Mama. Say hi to your girl.” She could hear him move the phone away from himself. Then she heard Mama’s voice.”
“Don’t, baby. It’s a trap!”
“Shut up, bitch!” She heard a noise that sounded as if he had slapped Mama and a brief cry of pain. Jenna was a total wreck.
“It seems your mama’s feeling poorly. You better get on over here and take care of her. I’d say about ten minutes.” Then the phone went dead.
Ryan had his ear next to Jenna’s and heard the entire exchange.
“You need to call the police now,” he said.
“You heard what he said. He’ll kill Mama!”
“And if you go there, he’ll kill both of you.”
“You think I don’t know that! But I can’t turn my back on Mama. How will I live with myself if something happens to her and I didn’t even try to help her.?”
“The only way you can help her is to get the police involved. They can get her out alive. If you go in there, neither of you are coming out except in a body bag. He’s just as liable to kill himself, too.”
“I’ve got to go.”
“No. I won’t let you. It’s suicide.”
“Ryan Bronski, get the hell out of my way. You got no say over my life.”
“The hell I don’t. I’m in love with you. Don’t you realize that? What happens to you happens to me. I’ve got to have a say.”
“Well, I love you, too, but your timing sucks.”
Jenna pulled into the rutted path that led up to Mama’s house. It sat back across a bean field, about a hundred yards from the state road. As the car bounced along she noticed a blue Toyota sitting in front of the house. Probably the car Dusty stole when he escaped, she figured. She pulled up and mentally prepared herself for a moment before exiting the car. When she decided to come over, she knew Dusty planned to kill her and that he won’t let Mama go, either. He would probably kill her also. The only thing she was uncertain about was whether he would then light out for Mexico or just kill himself. He’d always been a bit of a drama queen. The murder-suicide is so his style, she thought.
Mama’s house was a turn of the century basic farm house. It had a wide front porch with a couple of rocking chairs, a rusted glider and swing. She had so many fond memories of family on this porch. Just one more thing Dusty is trying to spoil. He ruins everything he touches, she thought. She knocked on the door.
“It’s open,” came from inside.
She pushed the door open and walked into a sizeable living area. At the far side Mama was sitting in a dining room chair, tied and gagged. There were black bruises forming on her face and a trickle of blood from her nose and mouth. But all in all, she seemed to be in good condition. She had a murderous look in her eyes. Yep, Mama’s alright, she thought. For now.
Dusty was standing beside her mama. He had the prison guard’s handgun pointed at Mama’s head. She knew he wouldn’t use it yet. He wanted to make her suffer longer than a quick shooting would. He was sweating profusely even though it wasn’t hot inside. It just made him look all the crazier.
“Come on in, sweetheart. Join the party. We’ve been waiting for you.”
“Let Mama go, Dusty. You said if I came, you’d let her go. Here I am.”
“Yeah, funny thing about that. I can’t believe you actually fell for it. I don’t remember you being that stupid.” He laughed as if it were quite funny.
“Hey, you don’t talk about your fiancé like that,” he said in a warning tone.
“You’re not my fiancé Dustin Randall. You’re just a low life punk, a bully, a redneck son of a bitch.” It felt so good to get it out. The words she’d been longing to say to him. His face reddened. Yeah, the truth hurts, don’t it, she thought.
“Raise your hands. I want to make sure you ain’t got anything.” She did as she was told.
“Now pull out your pockets. You might have a knife or something in there.” Again, she complied.
“Good. Now get over here,” he indicated a chair near Mama’s. There was rope and duct tape on the floor beside it. “I’m gonna get you good and secured and then we can work on your manners.” His evil grin had returned. She realized the set up was the best she could hope for to use her plan. Mama was on her left and Dusty was clear of her. Acting scared she gave him a wide berth approaching the chair. This required her to keep her left side to him. He could not see her right hand. He didn’t see it creep to the back of her waist. He didn’t notice her pulling the revolver out of her waistband.
She stopped a good distance from the chair. Time to get the gun off Mama and work on Dusty.
“Go on. Get in the chair,” Dusty said.
“What? You heard me, bitch. Do as I say.”
“And I said no. I’m not playing your sick game. You’re just a yellow-bellied coward who gets off on hurting people who are smaller than you. You don’t have the balls to take on a real man. You’re just a pansy loser. I bet you’re somebody’s bitch in prison.” She laid it on thick. She wanted to get him really mad.
“You don’t want to test me, girl. Now move!” Dusty was getting red in the face.
“Nope. Ain’t doing it.”
“I said git!” Dusty swiveled the gun from Mama’s head to point at Jenna. Ok, good, Jenna thought. He’s not pointing it at Mama. Now to get him to lower the gun.
“Fuck you. Make me,” she taunted. Dusty’s eyes flew wide as he became enraged. He charged Jenna. He lowered the gun as he moved. Jenna had time to pull her revolver from behind her, take a quick aim at his groin and fire. The deafening blast made Mama squeak. Dusty went down fast. He quickly rolled into a fetal position grabbing his crotch and screaming. Ryan burst through the door, handgun in one hand and cell phone in the other. He had been waiting in the backseat of her car. He had already contacted the 911 operator. Help was on the way. He ran up and embraced Jenna and then they untied Mama. Thankfully, her wounds were only superficial.
When the first EMTs came in she directed them away from Dusty and toward Mama. Luckily for him there were two technicians so they split up. Poor Dusty was still screaming and bleeding profusely. The EMT had a devil of a time getting him out of the fetal position to strap him on a gurney. By the time they had him packed up the place was swarming with police. They didn’t bother to threaten Jenna. She was within her rights to use all force necessary when facing an armed convicted felon. And the Randalls no longer owned the county. Suddenly, all her steel shattered and she became a basket case. But Ryan was there to take care of her. Her precious Ryan.
A few days later Ryan gave her the official word on Dusty.
“He’s going to be tried for the murder of a prison police officer, among other things. The state is asking for the death penalty.
“Good. I hope they get it. Then he can sit alone in his cell for the next fifteen years, no one to visit him but his mama, and I hear she may be under indictment. They say that many death row inmates eventually go crazy from the boredom with no human contact and nothing to do but jerk off.”
“Well, ah, he won’t be doing that anymore either. Your shot actually severed his penis and shattered his balls. Ouch. He’s going to need a catheter to piss and there’s no chance of him diluting the quality of the gene pool ever again.”
Jenna thought again of her choice of where to shoot Dusty. Maybe what she did was over the top, but she wanted to hurt him. And she wanted to hurt him bad. He lived on his machismo so taking that away seemed her best option. But it was time to forget Dustin Randall and look to her own life again.
“So, Ryan. About that sleepover you
mentioned. Is that offer still on the table?”