Criminal Justice

The ’67 Cadillac rocketed down the road through the middle of a desolate prairie and then skidded into the parking lot of a diner, kicking up a wall of dust. Zeke threw the car in park, left it running, and dashed inside. Whitney was placing a chicken fried steak in front of a lone customer from across the counter. Zeke rushed over to her, grabbed her wrist below the scars that ran up her forearm, and said, “Whitney, they figured out where Bo’s hiding. You gotta come with me. He’s in a dead zone in that canyon. No phone service, no nothing. Hell, he don’t even have electricity up there. If we don’t get to him first, he’s done.”

Whitney brushed back a cascade of long blonde hair covering her eyes and said, “Zeke, he doesn’t care about anything anymore. That’s why he’s up there. You know that. Besides, I don’t want to get mixed up with him again and lose what little I got left.”

The man at the counter began standing up. Zeke shoved him back in his chair, pulled out a pistol, and said, “You just sit right there, mister, and keep your mouth shut. This don’t concern you.” He turned back to Whitney and said, “Who are you kidding? You got nothing to lose. Let’s get outta here.”

Whitney glared at Zeke, but she knew he was right. She tore off her apron, threw it on the counter, and shouted, “Jerry, I gotta go! Can’t explain right now. I’ll call you tomorrow!” By the time Jerry came out of the kitchen and reached the front door, they had already sped off down the long, flat highway.

A few hours later, they were weaving through an endless series of winding mountain roads. They crested a 12,000-foot peak and took a side road that led them into a remote, thickly wooded valley, where they finally arrived at a tiny log cabin sitting alone in a clearing. Bo sat in a chair on the front porch with a shotgun across his lap.

As Zeke and Whitney walked cautiously toward the porch, Bo said, “I’m not going anywhere. Now, you two need to get back in that car and beat it. Especially you, Whitney. What the hell are you doing here anyway? Damn, Zeke. What were you thinking bringing her up here? Let me guess—they figured out where I am, and you think Goldilocks here is the only one who can talk some sense into me, right? You dumbass.”

Whitney said, “You killed the Granville kid because he raped your little sister, Bo, and you’re calling Zeke a dumbass?”

“So you claim, Whitney, so you claim,” Bo said. “But let’s just pretend for a second that what you say is true. Then so be it. I’d do it again a million times over. He walked out of court with a smile on his face. Somebody had to drop him. The Granvilles bought his freedom. They bought him a fancy coffin, too. He got what he deserved. They’ll never be able to pin it on me, either. That’s for sure.”

Zeke was about to say something, but Whitney murmured, “Wait, Zeke. Wait.” She walked to within three feet of Bo, pointed her finger at him, and whispered, “Don’t you talk to me about what anybody deserves. That Granville boy’s life wasn’t the only one you had a hand in taking.”

Bo stood up, pointed toward the ridge, and said, “They’re coming. It’s about time. Probably the Jacobsen brothers.” Zeke and Whitney turned around and saw a cloud of dust rising from the ridgeline several miles away. Bo said, “Zeke, stay here with Whitney. After you hear me fire my shotgun, wait a few minutes. If you hear any other gunshots, you two get in your Caddy and take the gravel road around the cabin and out of this valley in the opposite direction from where you came in. They won’t have a reason to follow you anyway. If you don’t hear anything for a while, then just wait for me. I’ll be back in a little bit.”

Bo jogged up the road toward the approaching dust cloud and crested a hill around a quarter of a mile from the cabin, then found a good hide position on a ridge by the side of the road. Here, he could look down from an angle at where the road bottomed out just thirty feet away. Soon, a Honda Accord came rolling over the hill very slowly. As Bo suspected, the Jacobsen brothers were the only two people in the car. He waited until the car reached the bottom of the hill. Then he shot out the right front tire.

The Honda veered into a ditch on the side of the road and stalled. Bo sprinted down the hill and smashed out the driver’s side window. He pointed his shotgun at the older brother in the driver’s seat and shouted, “Hands on your head! Now!” Once they had done so, Bo made them slowly give him their weapons. Then he told the older brother, “You. Open your mouth or I’ll bash your Chiclets right down your throat.” Bo shoved the barrel of the shotgun in the older brother’s mouth and said, “Now listen real careful, boys. We’re done with each other the minute I walk away. You two idiots are gonna go back to the Granville’s and tell them I was long gone by the time you got here. If you tell them anything else, you’ll wind up like the dead Granville kid. Got it?” They nodded. He pulled the shotgun out of the older brother’s mouth and said, “Some assassins you are. Now get lost.”

The sun had set by the time Bo got back to the cabin. Zeke asked him, “What are you gonna do now?”

“Go to California, with all the other criminals,” Bo responded.

“I’m not going with you,” Whitney said.

“Nobody asked you to,” Bo said.

“I mean it,” she said.

“Good for you. Do you want a prize or something?” he said.

Zeke shook his head, climbed into his Cadillac, and drove off down the gravel road to the west. Whitney and Bo stared at each other without saying a word. Then they got into Bo’s car and headed west, too. After driving for an hour, they parked on the side of the road and spent the rest of the night talking quietly to each other and looking at the stars, recapturing what they still remembered but would never really have again. They couldn’t change the past, but the present still counted for something.