The Sniper by NT Franklin

The Sniper
by NT Franklin

A gang violently assaulted Andrea when she was 10; Rosa had to get her niece out of Lynn, Massachusetts to heal. Rosa had been caring for her twin sister Maria’s child, Andrea, for the past 5 years. Rosa was the good twin to Maria who was the bad twin. Maria had been in and out jail for drugs, prostitution, and was now serving a life sentence for a homicide that occurred during an armed robbery. With Andrea’s father never in the picture, she called his brother, Hiram.

“Family is family. What can I do?” asked Hiram over the phone. “For all summer? I don’t know much about kids or girls, but I know where she is now is not good for her. The farm’ll be good for her.”

With that, the deal was set. Bachelor-farmer Hiram and a troubled mixed-race 10-year-old girl were quite the pair in rural Maine. Hiram roughed in a bathroom off Andrea’s bedroom the next day. With Andrea’s help, it was finished in two days. The space was palatial compared to cramped city apartments so Andrea was pleased.

The Bloods and Crips turf war escalated in Lynn, so Andrea stayed on with Uncle Hiram and enrolled in middle school that fall. Andrea didn’t have any friends when she moved to the farm. She didn’t make many at school. Never seemed odd to Hiram. He lived his entire life in the same house on the farm and he kept company with few people.

“Hiram, how is she doing? Tell her I’ll be up on the bus this weekend. Is she making friends?” Rosa rapid fired over the phone.

“Seems okay. School bus will be here in a half hour, I’ll tell her.”

Andrea was fine with her Aunt visiting, but not excited about it. Rosa stayed on the couch, as Andrea did not want her staying in her room.

The next morning after breakfast, Andrea went out to play in the yard leaving Rosa and Hiram alone.

“Hiram, she’s adjusting but I’m not sure she’s healing.”

“She seems happy to me. Says she likes math and does computer stuff. I might have to buy one. But no, she’s never invited a school chum over. Is that important to do?”

“She’s blossoming, Hiram.”

“I know. I had a wife of a friend take her shopping for … things. You know, woman things.”

“Thank you Hiram,” Rosa said with a smile. “You’re a good brother-in-law.” These conversations and her Aunt’s visits continued through middle school with not much variation.

Hiram and Andrea delivered Rosa to the bus stop late Sunday afternoon; they didn’t speak on the ride back from the bus stop, as was their norm. Hiram entered the house about 5 minutes after Andrea did and found her standing in front of a cabinet staring.

“You like guns?” asked Hiram.

“I was just looking Uncle Hiram. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything.

“I asked, you like guns?”

“I don’t know, I’ve never held one,” answered Andrea.

“Bout time you did. I’ve seen you eyeballing the rifles in the gun cabinet. Can’t consider handling guns without knowing how to do it safely. I saw a sign for a hunter safety course at the high school. We could go. Besides, you gotta have the course to get a hunting license. Yours will be a junior license because you’re under 16. Class is Friday night and all day on Saturday. What do you say?”

“Really? Oh, Uncle Hiram, that is so nice. We can go into the woods together to hunt.”

“Yup. Might even show you how to reload ammo someday.”

Through high school, Andrea shot thousands of rounds through a Browning 308 and a takedown 308. Powerline shooting done hundreds and hundreds of yards across open fields honed her shooting skills. She made elevation and windage adjustment calculations in her head.

“I’ve been loading boat tails and changed the primer and powder load from what you have been using and I have tightened the grouping, Uncle Hiram.”

“Well done, Andrea. You must be the only girl that’s a whiz with a computer and knows that a bullet from a 308 drops 3 inches in 200 yards.”

“3.66 inches,” Andrea said smiling.

Andrea graduated near the top of her high school class. Not popular or unpopular, she was just another student in the class. She did well in college but struggled with the dorm situation. By the end of her freshman year, UMaine had moved her out of the shared room and into a single. The unusual action was in response to her difficulty getting along with roommates. Coming home weekends and summers to Uncle Hiram and the solace of the farm always recharged her batteries. Graduating UMaine with a computer science degree, she enlisted in the US Army with hopes of becoming a sniper.

It took over 3 years to get into the sniper program. Three more days and she would have completed the 7-week training. While the top marksman, she teetered on the cusp of washing out with each weekly psych eval. So close to finishing, she had hopes that she might fool them one more time, but she washed out of Army Sniper School. “Just wants to kill things, lacks empathy,” was written in her file. There were other things, but they didn’t matter to her. They were probably true, too.

Six months later her eight-year commitment was over and she received an honorable discharge from the US Army. Dreams shattered, Andrea headed straight to Uncle Hiram’s farm in Maine; it had always been her sanctuary.

“Well, my darling Andrea, you came home,” was Hiram’s greeting as she drove into the dooryard. “How long are you here for?”

“I don’t know Unc, maybe a while.” Hiram had seen that sadness in her eyes before.

“Supper at 5. Light’s out at 10.”

“I know the routine,” Andrea answered. A faint smile crossed her face.

“That’s my smile. Don’t be late or there won’t be any supper left,” Hiram teased. He wasn’t her father, but it didn’t matter to either one of them. He’d been in her life longer than he hadn’t, and was a stabilizing factor in her rocky life.

That worthless baby brother of his knocked up Andrea’s mother and left them both. Andrea was troubled, but still, she was family and was the only noteworthy accomplishment in his brother’s life, thought Hiram.

They talked less and less in the days that followed. One fewer conversation per day and they would not be talking at all. The more withdrawn Andrea became, the less Hiram knew what to do. The days went on with no change.

“Unc, you ever get tired of soup, bread, cheese, and tea for lunch?”

“Not in the last 25 years, so I figure, no.” Hiram stood up and meandered to the sink. Andrea knew that was a sign he wanted to talk. “It’s been almost a month. You thinkin’ about getting a job? Shouldn’t be hard. Everyone uses computers.”

“Yes, but I do more than just use them.”

“You keep telling me. I don’t understand it, but you keep trying. You thought about looking for a job?”

“I know. I’ll have one by the end of the month. Probably won’t be around here, though.

After several days, Andrea asked, “What if I change soup brands? Or maybe not even have soup for lunch? What would you think of that?”

Hiram smiled. Andrea was teasing him. With a task to occupy her, Andrea was brightening up. Later that afternoon, he saw her racing across the dooryard, almost, but not quite looking out of control.

“Unc! I got a job offer from a telecommunications company today. It is in Lynn. I start in two weeks.”

“I could stay with Auntie Rosa for a start. She said it was okay. She lives in the same place as always—The Marvin Project Housing.”

“You sure about that?”

“Her living in The Marvin Project Housing?” Andrea asked smiling.

“You know what I mean.”

“Unc, I’m a trained soldier,” Andrea said.

“Well, family would be nearby anyway. You’ve always been smart, I knew you could find a job in no time. Much as you brighten the place up here, you gotta get on with your life. I ain’t got much, but I’ve been fixin’ the panel van out back. Got it fixed up good and got it inspected today. Doesn’t look like much, but it’s solid and reliable. Take it with you to Mass. You can get tags down there. Sell it off when you’re ready for better car.”

“Unc, you didn’t have to do that.”

“Already done. Besides, it’s not much of a vehicle, but it’ll get you there. We have to go to the town office to get the bill of sale and the 14-day plates to keep you legal.”

Hiram stood looking at the ground rather than at the van loaded up with Andrea’s limited possessions. “You call when you get there and visit me soon, okay?” Hiram shouted as Andrea drove off. With a tear almost escaping, he managed to stay stoic until she was out of sight. I’m not sure she’s all right, I’m really not, Hiram thought.

Later that day, Hiram’s landline rang. “Hi, Unc. I made it safe and sound so you can stop worrying. I’m here with Auntie Rosa. And don’t you go and set a place for me like I know you do sometimes, okay? Here’s Auntie.” Andrea, handed the phone to her aunt.

“Hiram, Andrea’s fine like always. Don’t get yourself all worked up. She’s going to stay here. She starts her new job on Monday.”

The days turned into weeks. Rosa liked having family around but Andrea was a difficult person to get to know. “You’ve been there three months and ‘fine’ is all you ever tell me. Are you sure you’re okay?” asked Rosa.

“Auntie, the job’s going fine. It’s computer programing routing calls based on line demand. I work alone most of the time so I like it. I didn’t think you were interested in computer routing of data.”

“I’m not, but I’m interested in you,” said Rosa.

“I’m fine. Thank goodness, someone is knocking at the door. I’ll get it,” said Andrea jumping up.

“This isn’t over,” said Rosa.

Rosa’s closest friend and her daughter were at the door when Andrea opened it. “Mercedes, Isabella, what happened?” asked Andrea. No answer as mother and daughter went past Andrea to Rosa sitting on the couch.

Through sobs and wailing, Mercedes was finally able to get out, “They…my Isabella…”

Andrea sat and shifted uncomfortably in her chair and watched Mercedes and her daughter shake with fear. When there was a lull, she asked, “How old are you, Isabella?”

Through the sobbing, Isabella managed to say, “I’ll be 12 in two weeks.”

“Rosa, the gang assaulted my little girl.”

“It is a Bloods and Crips rite of passage. Rape a young girl. What colors were they wearing?” Andrea said in a deadpan tone. The older women shivered, and turned toward Andrea. Through clenched teeth, Andrea said, “it keeps the neighborhood in fear.”

“Red,” Isabella managed to sob out.

“Bloods,” was all Andrea said as the two older women walked across the hall with Isabella.

An hour later Rosa returned. “I don’t know what to do, Andrea. Isabella was raped. Nothing changes here.” Andrea did not respond, lost in her thoughts. She stared at the wall for another hour before speaking.”

“I hear you, Auntie. I’m very upset and have been thinking. It’s horrible, I know. Things need to change. Those gangs keep the neighborhood in fear. I need to head back to Uncle Hiram this weekend. I think the best when I am there.

Hiram looked out the window when he heard a vehicle coming into the dooryard.

“Hey Unc,” shouted Andrea as she exited the van. Hiram scurried to remove the place setting he always set for her.

“Just in time for lunch. Hungry?”

“As long as it is soup, bread, cheese, and tea.”

“You’re in luck. That’s the blue-plate special today.”

“I think I’ll head up to the powerline to do some shooting,” Andrea said after lunch while washing the dishes. “Still have that breakdown 308?”

“Sure do. You’re the only one that shoots it. I’ll give it to you to take home if you promise to visit once and a while.”

“Deal,” said Andrea smiling. That was easy. I thought it would be much harder to get that rifle from him, thought Andrea.

The weapon shot as accurately as ever with her custom-loaded rounds. She opened her backpack and pulled out a new oil filter, a tap, die, butane torch, and a hole saw. In less than 10 minutes, she made a passable silencer. The sound was muffled by about 30 decibels according to the app on her smartphone; the sound changed to a thud and no longer sounded like gunfire. The oil filter did not restrict the view through the high profile scope. After forty rounds, the silencer still was effective. She was in business.

“I only heard one shot. You call that shooting?”

“It shoots perfectly, no sense blowing off ammo,” Andrea said.

“That’s what it’s for. I need to go to town, you want to come?” asked Hiram.

“I’m tired. I think I’ll stay here and rest.”

As Uncle Hiram drove out, Andrea headed to his shop. With the drill press, she drilled a one-inch hole in the top of 5 oil filters. The wire-feed welder worked perfectly for making an adapter for an attachment of the gun muzzle to the threaded oil filter. The filters spun on perfectly. She reloaded 250 rounds with powder and primer customized to the weapon. It all fit neatly into her backpack.

She was all packed up and sitting like an angel at the table when Hiram returned from town. “I’m taking you out for supper. I know there is lots of food here, but please, let me treat you. I’m in a great mood and I want to share it with you.”

“Well, okay, if it isn’t too pricey.”

“Don’t you worry. I’m going to have dessert and coffee. I expect you to do the same. Besides, the diner can use the business.”

“Big city girl and her cash.”

“I slept better than I have in weeks,” Andrea said the next morning. “I’m a new woman.”

“You really okay?”

“Oh, yes. Solutions to the issues I have been dealing recently suddenly appeared.”

“Must be the good ol’ State of Maine country air. You can’t let work issues trouble you.”

“Ah…yeah,” Andrea said.

Hiram smiled at the inner peace he saw in Andrea, but something was not right. His uneasy feeling didn’t leave as he waved to her as she drove off.

Back in Lynn, the nondescript Chevy panel van was perfect for Andrea’s needs. She drove through gang neighborhoods unnoticed. Following a gang member wearing red to a central gathering house was not a challenge.

“Four eleven Estes Street; 12 vehicles visiting in the past three hours, always approaching from the North; passenger wearing red exits and spends 4 to 6 minutes inside the house; driver waiting in car,” Andrea muttered as she entered the latest visitor’s details in a notebook while looking through the back windows. Andrea smiled when a US Postal Service mail truck blocked her view. She climbed into the van’s driver seat and drove off.

Andrea repeated the routine at a central gathering house for the blue-clad Crips. These gangbangers are so cocky they think they’re invincible, thought Andrea.

Wearing gloves, Andrea put photocopies of a printer-produced letter into two envelopes. The delivery and return addresses were the same but reversed for each envelope. Applying double the postage needed, her plan was on schedule.

“You working Friday all night again?” asked Rosa.

“Yes Auntie, that’s just how some of these projects go.” Andrea left the office at 4 AM, dropped the envelopes into a USPS blue mailbox labelled ‘Local’ outside the post office, and headed out for an early breakfast.

Parked 80 yards in a line of sight from the Bloods’ gathering house, Andrea’s ‘nest’ was set. The rear bubble windows dropped down from the inside and storage racks served as rifle rests. Andrea set up and made herself comfortable on a stool in the back of the van. Right on schedule, a car arrived from the north and a passenger wearing red got out and entered the house.

Pfft.

The driver’s head exploded inside the car. Andrea couldn’t tell exactly where the shot hit through the blood spatter on the inside of the windshield. The silenced 308 sounded like a door slamming somewhere in the noisy neighborhood. Four minutes later, the passenger returned to the car and stopped. Andrea saw a look of bewilderment through her scope. As he bent over to peer through the passenger window, the top of his head blew off and he crumpled to the ground where his lifeless body pumped blood into the gutter. The pool was slowly heading downhill with the slope of the street.

“A half inch high–80 yards not 100,” murmured Andrea. She was ready to breakdown the rifle when a third gang member ran out of the house to the idling car. As he stood with his mouth agape, Andrea’s third shot blew a massive hole blew out of his center mass. Bloods bleeding out in the gutter, how symbolic. I planned on two, but I can’t turn that gift down, thought Andrea.

The police weren’t even on the way when she drove off five minutes later. This is the kind of area that nobody sees anything, thought Andrea. Later that morning, one Crips member was shot as he stood on the porch ogling girls that walked by the house.

An identical letter arrived at each gathering house later that day:

Bloods/Crips:

You are both getting the identical letter.

I shot some gang members today. No one will miss them.
The police will not put many resources into solving what
appears to be gang-on-gang shootings. They likely think
it is a good thing.

You have an opportunity to save your gang members. In
the dark web, there is an anonymous bitcoin auction: Bloods vs. Crips.
Bid on it. The gang that is the high bidder does not lose a
member next time. If I’m insulted because the bid is too low,
both lose. You have one week for this auction. That should
be enough time to get bitcoins set up. Chop, chop.

Yes, I’m extorting money from you. How does it feel?
Go ahead, complain to the Police. I’m sure they will
be sympathetic.

The Sniper

Back at the apartment building, Andrea was all smiles. “How are you doing today, Isabella?” asked Andrea.

“I’m getting better. Yesterday was a good day at school and today Mom and I are heading out for lunch and ice cream.”

“How nice. I had a good week and today is starting out super,” said Andrea smiling when she thought of the reaction the letters must be causing. “We’ll talk again when you get back from ice cream.”

The day was good for everyone. Isabella was a happy little girl after going out with her mom. The news was on in the background and only Rosa was watching. “A gang shoot out leaves four gang members dead,” came the reporter’s voice.

“Like that’s a loss,” said Rosa in response to the reporter on the TV. “Now they only need to shoot one hundred more.”

“Are there really that many gang members, Auntie?” asked Andrea.

“I don’t know, I know there are too many and four less is only a start. They make us fear the streets.”

“I know, Auntie; I know.”

Through the workweek, Andrea was looking forward to the weekend and her Friday outing with Isabella.

“Thanks so much, Andrea. Mom doesn’t take me out shopping. I had a great time,” Isabella said

“Food court dinner and window shopping at the mall, what could be better? I had a great week and wanted to share it with you. I haven’t told anyone, but a guy at work asked me out.”

“A date? When are you going out?”

“I told him I had plans this Friday and Saturday. A hot date with you tonight and some time to relax for myself tomorrow. Next Friday he is taking me to dinner.”

“Oh Andrea, that is soooo nice. Rosa worries about you not dating. She’ll be happy.”

“Well, that’s next week. For now, I need to get you back home to your mother before she thinks we have bought the entire mall. It’s been a long week and I need to call it a night too.

Saturday came and went with no bids on the auction. Monday Andrea printed out and photocopied new letters.

Bloods/Crips:

By now, you know I am not joking. You are each down
one more member each. My count is four Bloods and two Crips.

You might want to find someone to do bitcoins if you
don’t know how.

I suggest you get your bids in.

The Sniper

Andrea fingered the addressed envelopes while having a cup of coffee at a diner across from her office building. Patrons smiled back at her as they came and went. Her smile widened as she left the diner. Andrea parked her van near the border of Blood and Crips turf. Her line of sight was 70 yards and she was in position at 7 PM. Within an hour, there was a four-on-four face off. Primal bulls jockeying for position. She sighted up on the oldest Crips member and waited for separation.

“Pfft.” His chest blew open. Less than two seconds later, the oldest Blood member had a similar chest cavity. The remaining six members scattered as the pools of blood grew larger but stayed on their respective turf. The letters were dropped in mail slot at an apartment across from the restaurant where Andrea enjoyed a satisfying meal. She knew the police would have no leads.

“Same as before, Seargent; 308, boat tail hollow point, long distance, high impact, precise kill shot. That makes six shootings. This is not a gang shooting. A Blood and a Crips were shot together. I think we can rule out gang-on-gang violence. We have a vigilante,” the Detective said.

“Leak it to the media. Use the television station—they will have it out faster than the newspaper,” said the Seargent.

“Two more gang members were shot to death last night. This brings the total to six dead members of the Bloods or Crips street gang. Sources inside the Police Department say that all the shootings were the act of one shooter, and they don’t feel the shooter is one of the gang members,” The TV news reporter droned on.

“Another gang member dead,” said Rosa to Andrea.

“No, 2 more,” corrected Andrea.

“Shush, I want to hear this.”

“God may not be happy with me, but I am not sorry,” Rosa said.

“I doubt God will be offended,” said Andrea.

“You’ve been in high spirits, Andrea. I’m pleased to see that,” said Rosa.

“Maybe that’s because I have a date Friday night.”

“You mean with a man, not working all night?”

“Yes. Dinner, I’ll wear a dress and everything.”

What really made Andrea beam was the bitcoin deposits. The Bloods put in 50 bitcoins and the Crips 25. About 30 grand at the current exchange rate, a good start, thought Andrea.

The next day, Andrea was humming at work while she typed up a new message:

Bloods/Crips:

I wasn’t happy with the low bid, so I enforced a penalty.

There is a new auction up. Don’t irritate me.

The Sniper

Because the Crips didn’t put a very high price on their members, she picked off two parked in a car Monday evening. That made eight.

In less than 48 hours, the Crips deposited 100 bitcoins. The Bloods soon followed with 50 bitcoins. Okay, another 60 grand, we’re getting somewhere, thought Andrea. Now I can look forward to my date Friday night.

“Thanks for the lovely evening, Chad,” Andrea said as Chad was walking her up the stairs to the apartment.

“Can I see you again?” he asked.

“I’d like that. I’ll talk to you at work on Monday.” A peck on his cheek and she was into the apartment.

Isabella and Andrea’s weekend outings were something to look forward to for both of them. “Thanks for taking me to the Commons,” said Isabella. “Mom is afraid to come here.”

“That’s what Sundays are for. We’ll just mind our own business and we’ll be fine,” said Andrea. “Isn’t if fun just to walk around? Would you like to go inside Kimble’s Department Store over there?”

“Shopping? You don’t have to ask!”

“Wow, I’ve never been to the top floor. Housewares. I never knew there were that many sizes of plates.”

“Uh, plates…yes, there are a lot of them.” But Andrea was paying attention to an employee holding a pack of cigarettes punch 5938 into the keypad for the roof access door. She scanned the ceiling and saw no security cameras like she did on the floors with electronics and home goods.

When the two returned home, Rosa saw them in the hall and smiled. Back in her apartment, Rosa said, “It’s nice of you to take Isabella under your wing. Her mother really appreciates it. You are good influence on her. College smart, a good job, a strong woman.”

“She’s a good kid. I like her.”

“I have to tell you I was worried about you for a while, but you seem to be opening up and are much happier. Isabella isn’t the only one you like. Tell me about the young man last Friday. What’s with the peck on the cheek? Are you going to see him again?”

“Are you spying on me?”

“I don’t have to. Mercedes had her eye to the peephole all evening for you to return. I think she did that to keep Isabella from looking out. That little girl admires you.”

“Okay. He’s nice and yes, asked me out again.”

“We all know that from the conversation in the hall. We don’t know if you agreed.”

“Auntie! Really! I said yes. We’re going out to dinner on Friday. Maybe catch a movie. I’m sort of excited. It has been a long time since a man was interested in me.”

“Andrea. You have shut everyone out for years. You have only started opening up these past few weeks. When you take down the ‘Closed’ sign, men will ask you out.”

“Thanks for the tip.” Andrea smiled. She could hardly wait for Monday.

A dozen Bloods were hanging around the Commons just after dinner Monday evening. Andrea wore a poncho covering her backpack and went into Kimble’s Department Store. She proceeded up to housewares and then up to the roof when the floor was empty of employees and patrons. A tin can against the door served as a warning if a smoker came up. A pack was in her pocket, should the need for an excuse arise.

In rapid succession shooting from the cover of the roof, she picked off three Bloods sitting at a table in the park. Eleven. She thought.

She policed her brass, quickly knocked down her weapon and loaded it into her backpack, and was down the stairs and at the door peeking out the barely opened door before any police sirens sounded. The store floor was still empty so she moseyed out.

As Andrea ambled along the road parallel to Common Street, she heard police cars racing by with sirens. She climbed into her van and headed away from the hubbub.

“Hi Auntie.” Was the cheery greeting Andrea called out to Rosa.

“Well, someone is in a good mood. You thinking of your date with that young man?”

“Why yes, and you can call him Chad. I like where our relationship is heading.”

Over the next two months, Andrea and Chad were a happy couple. Chad was regularly invited to meals with Rosa, Mercedes, and Isabella. Rosa smiled at how Andrea beamed.

“Shush everyone, I want to hear the latest,” said Rosa

“In the case that continues to stymie police, two more gang members were shot, bringing the total to twenty-nine,” the TV reporter said. “And we have an exclusive interview with Jane Meyers. Here’s our street reporter live.”

“Mrs. Meyers, you say you know the sniper.”

“No, I have a message for him.”

“Let’s hear it.”

“This is my daughter’s apartment building. That’s the number up there–427–it’s on High Street. A drug dealer sits outside here every day. You can come and clean him out for me.”

“Uh, Mrs. Meyers, that’s not a message we should give.”

“It worked before. Last week I marched down to the drug dealer in front of my building and told him I knew the sniper and he would be the next target. The dealer left and I haven’t seen him since.”

“Uh…, back to the studio.”

“Wow, twenty-nine less gang members. A good start,” said Rosa.

“You are really beaming, Andrea. It is so nice to see you happy,” Rosa said.

“Wow, twenty-nine fewer gangbangers. That’s good,” said Andrea. And over a half a million dollars, thought Andrea.

By the end of the next month, the count was up to thirty-four, eighteen Bloods and sixteen Crips. Violence in the area lessened and most locals were glued to the evening news to see if the count grew.

“We have Mrs. Meyers live on location again,” said the TV reporter. Rosa no longer had to shush everyone as all were rapt.

“Mrs. Meyers, what do you have for us today?”

“I have these T-shirts–I’m wearing one.” The camera panned back to see the shirt.

“Mercedes, look. It says ‘Take Back the Streets’ and has the word ‘gang’ in the crosshairs. I need one of those,” said Rosa.

“These T-shirts are for sale in my building for $15. It is safe now to walk up to the building, so please come. All the profits go to a scholarship at the North Shore Community College for kids from Lynn.”

“Oh, mom, I have to get one,” said Isabella. Andrea smiled knowing that the police had no leads.

The lead detective was briefing the chief, “Still no leads, same gun, same caliber, same slug. I’m saying it’s the same shooter. One shot, one kill. The trajectory from the Commons shootings was from the roof of Kimble’s. That had to be a 300-yard shot. Three shots, less than five seconds, perfectly placed, no brass. The shooter is good. I’ll bet they’d outshoot our SWAT boys. Do we call in the FBI, Chief?”

“Hell no. I’m the envy of every police chief that deals with gang violence. They all would like to have a shooter cleaning out the trash with zero collateral damage. Let this ride. Keep working on it, but it’s not your highest priority. Got it?”

“I’ve got a hit and run accidental death that needs my attention.”

“Yes you do.”

The “Take Back the Streets” sniper became a local cult hero. There was a story every week with someone that knew him. The body count continued to mount. Bloods and Crips no longer came from Boston to ‘populate” the Lynn area. Everyone wore the T-shirts. Targets were getting harder for Andrea to find.

“I’m going to play over at Julie’s house, Mom,” Isabella said.

“Rosa, the kids can walk from building to building. Did you ever think you would see this day?” Mercedes asked.

“It’s wonderful.”

Everyone was at their appointed places in the apartment when the evening news came on.

The lead story was Mrs. Meyers broadcast live from the street. “Mrs. Meyers, there has been lots of bloodshed in the area. Do you condone it?”

“I can walk to the corner market. I say ‘Hi’ to the kids playing along the sidewalk. Everyone I talk to in the neighborhood is happy and feels safer than they can ever remember. There have been no stray bullets killing kids in houses, the drug dealers aren’t here. Ask me if I condone that.”

“Police report gang-related violence is down. What do you attribute that to, Mrs. Meyers?”

“I think it is about time that we ‘Take Back the Streets’ like the T-shirt says. It is high time criminals feared being on the streets instead of law-abiding citizens being in fear.”

“You go Sniper! We love you!”

“…Back to the Station.”

“That’s’ a nice story,” said Andrea. “Something that Uncle Hiram would approve of. He called yesterday; I think he misses me.”

“We need to go to Maine next weekend,” Andrea told Chad. On the drive to Maine, Chad asked Andrea about moving in together. He kept his eyes to the road and was squeezing the life out of the steering wheel, afraid to look at her in case she said no.

“I think I’m ready, too. Easy cowboy, keep the car on the road,” said Andrea as Chad nearly drove off the road.

“I was so nervous that you would say no.”

“I said yes. Now settle down. Uncle Hiram is very important to me and you be extra nice to him. He’s the father I never had; He’s not complex, but he has a good heart. We’ll have soup for lunch. Make sure you tell him you like soup.”

“I can do that. I do like soup.”

“Hiram, the soup was excellent. Did you make it?” Chad asked.

“Well, me and Progresso did, I guess. Glad you liked it. If a man doesn’t like soup, he’s no man for my Andrea,” Hiram joked.

“I’m impressed you raised her yourself. You did a fine job.”

“She was never any trouble. You best treat her like the most special woman on earth or you’ll have trouble from me.”

“Unc!”

“Sir, I know what a special woman she is. I feel lucky to be with her. I asked her to move in with me on the drive up.”

“What’d she say?”

“She said yes.”

“My Andrea judges character real good. If she said yes, you pass muster as far as I am concerned.”

“That was embarrassing,” Andrea said on the drive back to Lynn.

“I like him and I want him to know I respect you and want to do right by you,” said Chad.

Back in Lynn, Andrea had to find the new Bloods and the new Crips gathering house as she had cleaned out both of the old houses. She had over three quarter million in bitcoin in her account. With the increasing body count, her relationship with Chad blossomed. When the body count rose to forty-seven, Bloods and Crips were almost extinct in Lynn. During this time, her work productivity and responsibilities increased to levels outstripping her peers, and her job level. Executives on the top floor had noticed and there were rumors of a promotion.

The previous week Chad hoisted her backpack and commented on how heavy it was. Too close for comfort, Andrea moved it to a locked box inside her van. Chad, or anyone else, could never know.

With no gathering houses for the remaining Bloods or Crips members, she checked her scouting log and revisited neighborhoods where she had recorded targets. Ah, finally, two Crips at the far end of the long, quiet street. Andrea continued by them, went a block further, looped back, and parked about 250 yards away, fairly close to a small diner. She was quickly set up inside the van. Too easy. Thought Andrea. The taller Crips member collapsed as the 308 slug created a large chest cavity, the impact spun him 90 degrees. I should stop, but the other one is standing there with his mouth hanging open, thought Andrea. She couldn’t help it; she couldn’t stop herself as she sighted up on the still-living Crips member.

“Christ!” Andrea said as the police siren startled her. The cruiser went by so fast her van swayed side to side. “I’d been caught dead to rights if I touched that shot off,” Andrea said to herself. An undercover car emerged from between the buildings before the cruiser got to the victim. A trap. The police had been following the Crips members, thought Andrea. Two other squad cars arrived and immediately, the far end of the street was crawling with officers, weapons drawn, covering the buildings. They’re chasing the echo of the shot, thought Andrea.

“Coffee black, please,” Andrea said to the waitress at the diner.

“Sure, hon. Sorry you had to wait, I’ve been in the back on the phone with that worthless brother of mine. Didn’t think anyone was here. How long have you been waiting?”

“Before the excitement,” answered Andrea, ceasing the opportunity. “No problem.”

“Ambulance, too,” said the waitress looking out the window.

“What’s going on,” asked Andrea.

“I don’t know. Likely something gang related. But there hasn’t been much trouble since the sniper has been keeping us all safe. My worthless little brother wants to join the Bloods. I told him he end up in jail if he was lucky, or like his older brother, dead if he wasn’t.”

Local news led with the story that proceeds from T-shirts and local donations to the “Take Back the Streets” fund were steadily flowing in to the North Shore Community College. With a recent anonymous donation of bitcoins, the school was offering ten scholarships for full tuition to local Lynn students. The school would donate the books and fees. After that story aired, Andrea thought it was time for a vacation with Chad. Yes, that’s what I need; besides, I need to lay low for a while.

Andrea stormed around their apartment. She slammed the bedroom door shut and curled up on the bed in a fetal position.

“We had a wonderful vacation in the Bahamas, but that was two months ago,” Chad said. “You won’t take calls from Hiram. You won’t even answer Isabella’s calls. I don’t know what’s going on. You’ve become increasingly sullen and withdrawn since the Bahamas. Am I missing something?”

“No, you’re not missing anything and nothing is missing from you. I wonder if I’m missing something,” Andrea said.

“You must be worried about taking that promotion to Hartford. You’ve been downright nasty to me and everyone else. Right now, you’re not the Andrea I loved and moved in with. If you are acting this way at work, they may not want you…anywhere. You need to take that transfer, they won’t hold it forever. I will stay here. When my Andrea returns to her old form, I’ll move to Harford. I love you, but I can’t live with you when you are this way,” Chad said, shaking as he spoke.

Tears streaked Andrea’s face as she spoke, “I know. I can’t help the feeling that something is missing inside of me. I’ll let the office know tomorrow. I’ll have my van packed by tomorrow night. Promise me you will come.”

“Promise me you call me when you find what’s missing,” he said.

Andrea rented a two-bedroom apartment in a nice area of Hartford and Skyped with Chad every evening. “Work is going well and I’m trying to fit in but they have high expectations.”

“They should. You’re you. Stay there for the weekend. Get to know the area. I will need a local guide when I get there,” Chad said. But he wasn’t so sure he was coming.

“I’m staying down this weekend, too,” Andrea said to Chad while Skyping the next week. I drove around and checked the area out. You’ll like it here. There are nice parks.”

“You sound chipper. Last weekend did you some good. You keep getting happier and you’ll force me to get a driver’s license in another state,” Chad said.

Andrea turned the news on and listened to the lead story. The TV reporter read from the script, “Hartford Police report that a fourth gang shooting this month occurred over the weekend, bringing the total to two alleged Crips members and two alleged Bloods members. Police are withholding details on the active investigation, but sources inside the police report that these are not gang-on-gang shootings. As the story unfolds, we will bring the information to you.” She switched the TV off.

Finally, the call came that Chad was waiting for.

“I’m coming back to Lynn for the weekend.” Andrea told Chad. “I like it in Hartford and I feel I can be happy a long time. Start packing. I want you to come to Hartford to live with me.”

* * * * THE END * * * *
Copyright NT Franklin 2017

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