Retired Gunnery Sergeant Tyler Leon ‘Gunny Lee’ Wilson’s life has been on hold since the death of his wife. Then he finds himself involved in a shoot-out in his neighbor Arturo’s yard. Soon he is on a hunt for peace. Arturo and his enemy El Piná are hunting for treasure. Gunny’s wife’s BFF is on the hunt for love. What do you hunt?
Chapter Chapter 5
Even though it was Friday, a day Tyler had been taking off since Mary’s death because he just couldn’t deal with the crowd on Friday night, busiest night of the week, he had a routine he followed every morning except Sundays, day off or not. Whether he was at home or at his dad’s in Las Vegas.
Tyler had the same two choices for breakfast every day, predicated by how far he had run that morning. A light run, three miles in twenty minutes or less, meant cereal, chocolate Rice Krispies or Cheerios. Sometimes he would switch that up and go with Frosted Shredded Wheat or Raisin Bran, stuff his mom bought when he was a kid, eating and reminiscing. Run six miles or more, from thirty minutes to an hour, it was omelet with cheese and bell peppers and onions, sliced tomato on the side with a big glass of orange juice. Sad and boring like the rest of his routine life with Mary gone.
This morning it was eggs and he stood eating them at the kitchen window over the sink observing the street’s morning pattern; Al picking up the morning paper, his dress shirt still unbuttoned telling the world he didn’t enjoy wearing a suit for a living; couple of schoolgirls, Sharron and Karen and don’t call them ‘Sherry’ and ‘Karrey’ because at ten they were too old for nicknames heading off for school; there was Owen and Gavin, brothers but also BFFs, tooling down the sidewalk on bikes, the pride of their lives at the moment, on their way to school, too; Jennie at the door in curlers – Tyler always shocked to see a woman still using curlers this day and age – giving her husband walking to his car a hard stare that said she wasn’t getting any. The husband’s not careful, Arturo would jump in to give her all she missed.
Then Arturo right across the street coming out and doing the same thing he was doing, watching the world wake up, only doing it out in the open. Arturo in his crisp old-man slacks and comfortable short-sleeved linen shirt maybe came out to be noticed, although at times Tyler thought the man had a furtive look on his face, furtive being the only word he could find in his vocabulary; sneaky didn’t seem quite right. Like the man was checking for routines and faces out of place rather than enjoying the show like Tyler, and this particular morning looking a little more furtive than usual. More like a jackrabbit about to jump back into its burrow. Arturo tan, lean and short, about five-six but still taller than Mel Gibson, almost diminutive except for his broad shoulders, and he could still do back-flips from the side of the pool in his back yard, was definately the kind of guy that like to preen. Tyler Lee had watched the man doing his flips into the pool many times. The old man liked his martinis and grilling and showing off, and Lee didn’t turn down the occasional invite for a free steak. The old man cooked as well as he did back-flips. Arturo at the grill would be wearing shorts and one of those striped shirts like the Charlie Harper character on Two-and-a-Half Men , the show making big news when the actor playing the character started behaving like the misogynistic alcoholic drug addict. Art would probably identify with the Charlie character being a ladies man – he had more women over to his house than a pimp. In the afternoons by his pool sitting around with women, a couple of whom mowed his yard for him while Arturo watched them forma lawn chair, casual in his shorts. But here every morning dressed like a man ready to do business, smooth operator.
Then something broke the routine. Tyler couldn’t believe it, two big black Suburbans led by a Cadillac CTS Sport pulling up in front of Arturo’s house, six Suburban-like men clambered out of the trucks, all of them in black matching suits. Another big man got out this side of the Caddy, and two much smaller men he couldn’t see unloaded from the driver’s side.
Tyler sighed, turned and walked into the hall down to the end and opened his gun cabinet. He had four rifles and to the side of them hanging in a row top to bottom four pistols. He took his favorite, the M14 carbine with the shiny plaque embedded into the gun-butt that said, “To Gunny Lee – don’t miss.” His father’s rifle from The ‘Nam, as he had called the place. His father being a Leon, too, passing the name to his son a little different, knowing nobody in their right mind like being called ’Junior.’ Except straw-hat rednecks, maybe. He reached up and opened the hidden compartment above the weapons where he kept his ammo and took out a clip, already loaded, saw the six men in his mind, took the two other clips for the M14, all he had ready for that weapon. For good measure he took one of his M1911 Colt semi-automatic .45s and jammed it into his waist behind him. He kept it loaded, but would have to jack the slide to chamber a round.
He turned and walked back up the hall, slipping two clips into his right shorts pocket and then the other he slapped into the rifle and jacked a round in. He was back in front of the window in less than a minute from the time the men had disembarked from the truck with the M14 up and looking for targets.
Only Gunny Lee got his second surprise of the day; the targets he spotted on were the backs of the men standing in Aruturo’s yard, the old man standing on his porch relaxed, with his hands in his pockets. Maybe more resigned than relaxed, Gunny thought.
Arturo Zimmerman had been expecting this day for a long time, surprised every morning when what he was seeing this morning didn’t happen. The truth was this is what he came out every day for, not to see all the schmucks in their make-believe lives. Maybe he had gotten tired of waiting, the reason he had been careless at the store helping the lady in the car and making the news, getting flashed all over the Internet. No, that had been chance. He never gave a thought to the fact someone might record it on their phones – phones for cripe’s sake, like something out of The Jetsons when he was a kid.
No, he hadn’t meant to out himself. But he had been tired of the waiting, tired of the moving and running. Last night with Lauren had also made him realize the one thing he should have treasured and kept all those years ago he had been foolish beyond words to have given up. A selfish act, not noble. And foolish.
Well, it was all moot now, no matter how this went, the life he had been living was over.
When Tyler had gone to get his weapons he had been thinking the men were the goombas that had tried to shake him down the other night and had somehow stopped at the wrong house. Coming out of his home still dressed in his sweaty black t-shirt with the Marine emblem and cutoff black sweatpants, rifle in hand, walking towards the street, he saw these men weren’t wanna’-be mafioso. They were dark men, almost like native Americans. Seeing them get out of their vehicles he had thought at a glance they were some of the men who came into his restaurant the other night. No, they were darker, except the little one with blond hair going up to Arturo was not as broad as George, not fat but stocky bone and muscle. He was clearly in charge.
Then the little man was putting a pistol into Arturo’s face.
Tyler brought up his rifle and took a bead on the little man, but hesitated taking a shot, afraid of what might happen to Arturo, that pistol a foot from his head. Then there was movement to the left, Arturo’s front door opening, the person coming out getting all the men’s attention. Tyler saw the little man quickly aim on the new person, but then lowered it as the man was unsure what was going on, like the woman coming outside had said something unexpected to him. Tyler felt disappointment and a thrill at recognizing Lauren, but pushed all those thoughts aside, seizing the opportunity just like he would have if he was back in Iraq.
He put the first shot – taking the opening and seeing the men had some type of automatic weapons, the kind you saw in video games or carried by men in Iraq, up and pointed loosely at Art – going through the man’s back and right into the heart, the man furthest to his left, careful not to put his friends in a a crossfire. Not bad for twenty yards. It was better to go from left across the body; moving progressive shots to the right for a right handed shooter meant better accuracy. Still, Tyler’s next shot was high, taking the second target’s head off at the crown, again before any of the men had turned around. Damnit – a high round like that could deflect anywhere and he hadn’t wanted to expose the people on the porch to stray rounds. He hadn’t been to the range in a couple months. When Mary had passed, he was going almost daily after the funeral. Taking anger, frustration, grief out on paper targets until all that had passed. Tiring is what it had been. Must’ve have been what he needed because he was able to go back to work without snapping at the help or fire a new chef every other week, Mason one of the few to put up with his crap through all that.
The third shot was for the other little guy that had gotten out of the Caddy and stood behind the little man bracing Arturo. The woman had jumped back inside with the first gunshot, and Arturo had jumped on the man with the pistol, wrestling with him for it. The M14’s slug lifted the second little man off his feet, right out of his shoes and slammed him into the wall.
Gunny taking fire now, the men professionals that did not run at the sound of a rifle shot. Gunny had kept moving as he fired, now in the street moving to his left, trying to flank the men and keep them on his right, pushing them away from Arturo’s house and back towards the curb, taking out those first two on his left to give him the angle if he could take it, also forcing the men into a line shooting back at him so they couldn’t all return fire at once without hitting each other. Then there were their vehicles provding cover from some of the men.
He wanted to take out the next man furthest left, a few feet away from the little man whose ticket he’d just punched. But two of the men were firing back now with their automatics, forcing Tyler to drop to the ground as he finally stepped into Arturo’s yard and losing he cover of the vehicles. He took them out — one-two — emptying his clip. He rolled right, back into the street, the truck closest to him providing him cover now to get up and advance out of sight of the men, and a chance to drop the rifle’s empty magazine, snatch another clip from his shorts and slap it into his weapon.
Behind the truck with its tinted windows, Tyler couldn’t see much. He dropped back to the ground just as bullets began punching through the truck’s windows and exploding shards of glass everywhere. He spotted at least four sets of legs trying to flank around to the right. Tyler bolted back up and, hunkered low, circled the truck street-side to its hood before popping back up. A man just the other side of the hood turned his gun on Tyler too late, the Marine popping two rounds into him before the man could fire. He could hear the sound of bullets cracking the air around him and squatted back down.
A man climbed out of the back seat of the next truck and turned towards Tyler. He snapped a quick round at him, saw the door’s window shatter, the man jumping back inside the truck.
Then Tyler was spinning around, more on instinct than anything else, although he knew in the heat of combat instinct could be the subconscious reaction of sounds and smells and glimpses being processed by the mind. A man came around the back end of the truck he’d been using for cover and Tyler emptied the last of his clip into them. Then his subconscious mind was registering an engine revving and he spun back the other way just as the truck and the Caddy in front of it were peeling away.
Tyler pulled his pistol from behind him and fired and walked at the big truck as it sped away, fired and walked until his pistol was empty the vehicles turned into the next street and were out of sight, fighting the urge to throw the empty pistol, too.
Gunfire brought him out of his anger at letting the men get away, spinning him around, dropping the pistol – he had brought no spare clip for it – and digging for another clip for the rifle from his shorts. As the realization of what he was seeing took over his subconscious, he could see Arturo standing in the yard, a pistol smoking in his hands, another big hispanic dude face down on the ground in front of him.
Arturo said, “So much for the Marines saving the Army.”
“You serious? I took out what, six guys to your one?”
“Hey, it only takes one to do the deed.”
For all the man’s bravado, he could see Arturo was shaken, pale with that look of someone about to throw up. Tyler went ahead and reloaded his rifle, surveyed the scene as he walked towards Arturo, his hands shaking a little now as the adrenaline rush began to recede.
“Okay, you win, Army . Now, you want to tell me what that was all about?”