Three hours after he shot him, he had a breakfast at the Waffle House. It was four in the morning, still cold and wet. Jake finished off his glass of milk and slid it forward. “I shouldn’t have done that,” he said.
The worker smiled as he refilled Jake’s coffee. “I heard you can only hold a certain amount of milk before your body rejects it.”
Jake stood up and slid a ten-dollar bill across the counter. “I wasn’t talking about that,” he said and left.
Mike Landon was his name. The man he’d killed. Mike had touched his daughter thirty-five years earlier. He was found innocent. Jake had accepted it at the time, but no more. When he heard he’d done it again with another little girl and was found innocent, he went to Landon’s house with a shotgun. He kicked down the door. “Sit down,” he said as he stepped inside.
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“Who are you?”
“Do you remember Jacquelyn Owen?”
“What are you talking about?”
Jake lifted the gun and shot the ceiling. Landon shouted and lifted his hands. “What do you want?”
He lowered the gun. “Answer the questions, yes or no. You lie, you lose a leg. You lie twice, you lose two legs. You lie three times, you won’t care anymore. Do you remember Jacquelyn Owen?”
“I don’t know!”
“Yes or no, or it’s gone.”
“Do you remember Leona Jackson?”
“Blonde hair, glasses, twelve when you knew her.”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know or you don’t remember her?”
“I don’t know.”
Jake lifted the gun and shot the ceiling again.
“I don’t know!”
“Will a picture remind you?” Jake reached inside his jacket pocket and laid newspaper clippings and photos on the coffee table. He slid one forward. “This little girl. You were rumored to have violated this child. And these three.” He pointed. “One was my daughter.”
As Jake looked down, Landon dived forward and knocked the gun from his hands. Jake felt a sharp pain in his shoulder and warmness spread down his front as they both fell to the floor. He kicked Landon in the stomach and pushed him back, grabbing the gun with his free hand.
“I was found innocent!”
Jake aimed and shot. His hands and legs were shaking as he ran to the bathroom. He found peroxide and poured it on the knife wound in his shoulder. It bubbled and stung. He put his handkerchief on it and held it there as he left.
At noon the Washington County police came to his house.
“Mr. Owen?” said the officer.
“You know more than most people how the courts can get cases wrong.”
“The police can, too,” he said. “We got a report from an elderly woman that you were seen leaving Mike Landon’s house at around one o’clock after several gunshots this morning, and we’d like to clear that up. She didn’t have her glasses on.”
Jake opened his mouth to speak.
“And let me say before you answer, small time police also contaminate crime scenes every now and then. Sometimes we clear the bathroom sink before we can get solid finger prints or blood samples.”
“Do you want to take me?”
“Sometimes we can’t find who did it, and we give up.”
“Will you give up this one?”
“We already have,” he said as he tipped his hat and walked back to the car.
Jake watched him drive away and sat on the porch. His hands were shaking. He looked down at them and lowered his head and cried.