What triggered my attention in the first place?
I think it was the huge, yellowish glasses he wore as protection. Or maybe it was the blue headphones that covered his ears. Could also have been how steadily he held his handgun, you know; with arms slightly bent, almost levelling with the shoulders, left hand supporting the right hand, head slightly tilted to the right. On the other hand I might have noticed the serious look upon his face, the concentration that had settled around his eyes and mouth, or maybe even how rigid his back was, and how firmly he had planted his feet to the ground. It could have been how every bullet hit the target so precisely.
It could have been everything about him.
He fired all his six bullets, before he quickly replaced the magazine in his Smith & Wesson, aimed and fired again. Then he let his arms drop, took off his headphones, and summoned the target. I took off my own headphones, and went over to him.
“You’re good,” I said. He turned around, removing his glasses, and by doing that, he revealed a couple of deep blue eyes. He laughed and ran his fingers through his golden hair.
“Well, I’ve kinda been doing this five times a week since I was 15.”
“23. That’s a lot of bullets,” he smiled, before he stuck out his hand towards me.
“Dean,” he said. I shook his hand; to my surprise, it was very soft. I had expected some harshness about them.
“Gail,” I answered, smiling back.
“Pleasure,” he winked, before he turned to the target. The black drawing of a male head and a torso was covered in twelve, distinguishable holes: four in the head, five in the chest and three in the stomach region. It was a sure kill.
“He’s dead,” he said, as though reading my thoughts. He smiled his pearly white smile again. He didn’t seem like the typical guy to be doing this; I had sort of imagined that the one who’d be giving me lectures in this “female self-protection”-project would be a middle-aged, huge, athletic guy with a shaved head and army-outfit, something like an officer, in other words.
Dean was the opposite. He was a slender guy, about 5’6 tall, blonde and blue-eyed, with a white T-shirt and jeans. He was exactly my age. And he even seemed nice – he made me feel calm about the whole thing. I had been nervous ever since my dad had bought me the handgun and signed me up for this project. My father was an old police officer – he wanted his daughter to be able to take care of herself, or as he so neatly put it: “She should be able to shoot any bastard who wanted to rape her”.
“So you want to learn the art of shooting, huh?” Dean asked; he sounded pleased with the fact that somebody actually had signed up for the project.
“My dad signed me up for it. He used to be a police officer,” I answered.
“Cool,” he said, and smiling, he added; “I like your dad then.”
I laughed, brushing some strands of hair that had escaped my ponytail behind my ears.
“What have you got?” he asked; nodding towards the case I carried my handgun in. “I hope it’s not one of those special designed pink lady-guns?” he added as a joke.
I smiled and shook my head as I opened the case, and took out my brand new Smith & Wesson Model 52, handing it to him.
“Don’t worry; it’s exactly the same as yours,” I pointed out.
“Oh, you’re right. What a coincidence,” he exclaimed gleefully, turning the handgun over and over in his hands. He had typical economist-hands, hands and fingers belonging to those who mostly tapped away on a computer. I had dated several economists, and they all had the same hands: soft, clean, quick and gentle. Dean had these sort of hands, and to my surprise, they seemed to fit well together with my Smith & Wesson. He examined it carefully and gently, but quickly.
“You and me will look a lot like James Bond and Lara Croft,” he joked, handing the gun back to me. I laughed again; I liked how he made me laugh.
“I hope I’ll be just as good as Lara Croft,” I said.
“No problem; you’ll be just as good as me, and that’ll be the same thing,” Dean winked, his self-esteem showing through his modesty for a fleeting moment.
The lesson passed very quickly, but during the very short hour, Dean had managed to teach me all the basics about my handgun, and he even made me try firing a few shots; I didn’t hit the target, but he said it was very good anyway – nobody ever hit the target the first time, he assured me. What was most important, he reckoned, was knowing how to operate the gun, and then knowing the right body placement, before actually doing the real shooting.
“You can’t just fire away,” he said, “that way you’ll never be able to protect yourself.”
By the end of the hour I had to admit to myself that he had very much swept me off my feet.
“So basically,” Dean said as he was walking me through the corridors of the warehouse and back to the parking lot, “I’ll see you every Friday, at seven o’ clock, right?”
“Right,” I nodded.
“Six times more from now.”
“And payment will happen on the very last lesson,” he added.
“Okay, no problem,” I said, before I stopped beside my car. “This one’s mine.” I said, taking the keys out of my pocket. He looked at me, smiling, squinting his eyes because they hadn’t adjusted yet to the bright light outside the warehouse.
“If everyone who’s signed up for this will be just like you, the rapists and burglars in town should start packing right away.”
“Oh, please,” I giggled.
“No, seriously,” he argued, “you’re really promising. My girlfriend hates everything that has to do with guns,” he added, shrugging.
I couldn’t quite explain the sudden a rush of jealousy that shot through my veins as he mentioned his girlfriend, but I felt it, very clear and without doubt or hesitation. I could have killed his girlfriend if I had seen her. Then the feeling of hatred started to scare me, and I shook my head.
“Hey, Gail – you okay?” Dean asked, slightly worried, seeing the expression I must have had upon my face.
“Uhm… Yeah – sure,” I stuttered, sensing the hate rippling out of my body, leaving me numb and frightened. “I’m fine, I’m just…I think I must be a little tired.” I said it, hoping it sounded genuine enough for him to not question it further.
“Okay – are you sure?” Dean asked again. He really sounded worried.
“Yes, don’t worry,” I said, more firmly, starting to unlock the door of my car. “I’m fine, I just need to rest a bit.” I got behind the wheels and closed the door. Dean leaned against the car, bending over and peering through the window. He looked closely at me with his bright blue eyes, and for a moment I thought he could see what I had been thinking.
“Okay then – take care,” he eventually said, smiling. “See you in a week.”
“In a week,” I repeated, smiling back at him.
I started the car and drove away, watching him turn in the mirror, and heading back for the warehouse. I slowed down as I passed the huge container with junk placed on the far end of the parking lot, parked my car behind it, and waited for him to finish for the day.
After a couple of hours of boredom and bad music on the radio, I saw Dean suddenly emerge from the warehouse, carrying his case containing his Smith & Wesson. A silver Chevrolet Trailblazer blinked with the lights as he unlocked the doors. Soon he had placed himself inside the car, out of sight – I ignited my own car and waited for him to drive away from the parking lot. He was off, and I followed him.
We drove for about 10 minutes – Dean seemed to live in town, not far from the warehouse, because soon he pulled off the road and parked his car in one of these parking lots reserved for those living in the apartments surrounding it. It was a really nice and clean neighbourhood. I stopped just out of sight and watched him lock the car, heading for one of the doors. I thought I could hear a faint whistling sound while he walked. Suddenly the door leading to number 14 opened, and a girl came out. She saw him, smiled and embraced him, before he gave her a kiss on the forehead.
So this was Dean’s girlfriend, the one who hated everything that had to do with guns… One should have thought that he, who was so fascinated with handguns, would have chosen somebody more like him. But then again, they seemed like birds of the same feather – the girl was almost just like him: slender and blonde. Her hair was slightly curly and reached just below her shoulders, and she was tiny and petite. She almost seemed too young for him, looking barely 18. Oh, well, maybe she was simply baby-faced. They looked good together anyhow. She wore a pink top and this minute pair of pink shorts, showing how sun kissed and model-like she was.
This was Barbie, and Barbie was a slut.
Dean and his girl disappeared inside, and I was left with the same feeling that I’d had the moment he told me he had a girlfriend: the sickening jealousy and the white-hot hatred. And this time it was intense. It was as though the feelings took shape into a human being, and this human being had a handgun, a Smith & Wesson Model 52, and it started firing away, with an aim to kill. It was insane. I was insane.
But not tonight, I thought, driving away from there – not tonight, but definitely later.
My head formed a very good plan the same night. I had been pacing the bedroom floor in my flat, playing with my handgun, sometimes aiming out of the window and sometimes at the mirror, at myself. As I sat down on the bed, staring at the S&W in my lap, an idea suddenly dropped into my head and stayed there, starting to look better and better the more I thought about it.
It was clean and simple.
I would go there, with my handgun of course, and I would wait for her. It would be on a Monday, while Dean was at the warehouse – I assumed he was there everyday, after all, this was his job, and this was his passion. Monday was also the day when the garbage would be picked up. I assumed that his girlfriend would eventually have to go out with the garbage, because with apartments like that, they all had to get rid of their junk in the same huge container. And what was so perfect: this would be picked up after midday, and not in the morning. Meaning she’d most likely go out with the garbage after Dean had left for the warehouse. I could just shoot her there, by the container, nobody would see us there, because the container was huge and the opening faced away from the apartments – I wouldn’t even have to get out of the car.
It was simple, clean – and perfect.
I decided I would have one more lesson with Dean, so I postponed my mission with a week. You know, just to make sure I could hit my target – and that I knew where to aim if I wanted an instant kill with one shot.
“Wow, Gail – you’re a natural!” Dean exclaimed the next Friday during our second lesson. He had told me to try shooting at the target, and this time, motivated by an almost alien drive, I shot and hit the black figure with all six bullets – two in the head, the rest in the chest and the stomach.
I took off my headphones and glasses and beamed happily at him. Dean took a quick look at my work.
“Damn, girl – I think you killed him! I doubt I need to give you any more lessons,” he added as a joke. I smiled widely.
“Oh, don’t let it be with only these two lessons – I bet you can teach me more.”
Dean winked at me, then showed his pearly whites. God, he was beautiful. And after I’d gotten rid of Barbie, he’d finally face the fact that I was the only girl for him.
“Can I ask you a question?” I said casually.
“Fire away,” he said.
“For an instant kill…where do you have to aim?”
Dean looked at me, frowning.
“Self-defence isn’t about killing. That’s what you should avoid, Gail.”
“Oh, I know,” I said quickly, nodding. “But I’m curious – besides we only shoot at torso and head here.” I folded my arms across my chest.
“We’ll advance to other targets later,” Dean said, shrugging, “these ones are just supposed to give you the feel of it.”
“Yes, you’ve already told me to aim elsewhere, I know,” I argued, “but you could tell me anyway so I know where I shouldn’t aim.”
My reasoning was absolutely absurd, and I knew it, but Dean seemed to be buying it nonetheless. He frowned for a few seconds, before he started pointing at the target.
“Well… The heart and the head obviously,” he said, gesticulating towards the target and the areas resembling the heart and the head. “What’s really effective is this area,” he pointed between the eyes of the target, “if you aim here, and hit, they’ll sink together like a sack of potatoes. Instant paralysis, instant kill.”
“Bang,” I said, smiling.
“That’s right: bang,” he repeated.
The Monday everything was about to happen approached faster than I had imagined, and soon it was Monday morning. I was up early – I had to get there as soon as possible so I wouldn’t miss anything. Of course, it could all fail, it was a great chance that it actually would fail, but I had to try – and if everything did screw up, I could always figure out something else. I had plenty of time. But not today – today I had to move fast.
I drove the same route as I had done the other day when following Dean, and parked neatly beside the huge container. I could see Dean’s car so he hadn’t left yet – it was eight o’ clock. I checked that my S&W safely rested beside me in the passenger seat, before I picked up the newspaper and started leafing through it, waiting for him to leave. After about half an hour or so, I heard the Chevy start up, and soon it cruised smoothly out of the parking lot. I caught a glimpse of Dean’s handsome face before he disappeared. Right, all I had to do now was wait some more.
It took Barbie a few hours to get out with the garbage.
I was nervous she wasn’t going to get out at all, and I was expecting the container to be emptied in just a short while. I started tapping on the wheel, as though forcing her to get out, like a mantra that would somehow lure her out of the apartment. I felt the drops of sweat on my forehead appear. I constantly kept checking the watch – it was 11:30 already.
Where on earth was she?
And as though some divine force answered my question, the door to number 14 opened, and Barbie emerged. This time she was wearing baby-blue trainers and a bright red T-shirt. She was carrying three bags of garbage and was heading towards the container and me. She was smiling a bit to herself, her blonde hair glistening in the sunlight.
She was gorgeous.
Four days later I was walking through the warehouse, on my way to Dean and my third lesson. I was feeling quite happy and calm. I looked lovingly down at the case containing my handgun, and smiled to myself.
As I walked inside the shooting-hall, with my headphones on, I was still smiling – I heard Dean in one of the boxes, shooting. I walked over there, almost expecting him to run towards me, declaring his love to me, and we would live happily ever after. I could hardly wait.
I was about to put on my headphones when the shooting stopped and somebody came out of the box. But it wasn’t Dean – it was somebody else. I took my headphones slowly off, staring at this somebody.
A guy, somewhere in his thirties, with short black hair and bushy eyebrows came towards me. His took out the empty magazine of his handgun – I didn’t know what kind of handgun it was, but it wasn’t a Smith & Wesson.
“Gail Johnson?” he asked with a very dark voice.
“Uhm… Yes…?” I answered, before I continued. “Where is Dean? He’s usually my tutor in this… Or have I made a mistake about the time…?” I looked at my watch, but I knew it was in vain, I knew I hadn’t made any mistakes.
“No, you’re right about the time, ma’m,” the man answered, and I suddenly sensed a sad tone in his voice.
He sighed heavily.
“Dean’s not having this lesson today,” he said.
“His sister, Sarah, was killed on Monday. Shot. Right between the eyes. She was taking out the garbage; right after Dean had left for work. They shared an apartment, you know.”
I felt the blood drain from my face so fast I thought I was going to faint.
“His…his sister…?” I stuttered, fumbling for something to hold on to, but nothing was inside of reach.
“Yeah, I know – it’s such a tragedy,” the guy said darkly. “Some trigger-happy scumbag must have waited for her, and shot her, in cold blood. She was only 18. God, I hope they catch the bastard.” He shook his head, before continuing. “Dean and Claire, his girlfriend, went to spend some time with his parents – I dunno for how long he’ll be gone.”