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by Joseph H. Stryker

I watched her die five times that night. It was in high-definition and from multiple angles. I had come home to an empty house and a video of my wife being brutalized.

They wore masks. But I knew who they were, why they did it. I had testified against their monster of a master. I put him behind bars, and in doing so let loose something that couldn’t be contained. If you put away the devil, who keeps the demons at bay?

When the shock wore off I stopped the video, grabbed my gun and got in the car. There was a long drive ahead of me and the only thing to keep me company were the images replaying in my head and the stars up above. As I left the city limits the details became blurry and my mind went to hell.

Driving through the mountains and on the long winding dirt road which led to their property, I received several calls from my partner. I didn’t answer. He would’ve wanted to do it legally. I couldn’t risk that. I didn’t care they were crazy, I didn’t care they were kids when he got them.

The sun had begun to rise by the time I reached their ranch, little bits of light coming over the mountain tops. The first of the three was outside, drawing water from their well. I knew if I took them in, she would’ve been the one who got away with it. “She wasn’t in the video, she couldn’t have been responsible, she was as much a victim as your wife,” that’s what they’d say. I knew better. She had been the bait. My wife had seen the others in the paper, she wouldn’t have opened the door for them. But a golden haired hippie girl with big eyes? She would’ve opened the door for that.

I gave the bitch four bullets to the back, and one to the skull.

Then my presence was known to every bear in the woods, and of course the boys in the barn. They came running out hand in hand, holding the knives they used on my wife. They were brothers and lovers. Stolen from the hospital as babes, forced by their adopter to take part in sick rituals. No wonder they were fucked in the head.

I gave them quick deaths, not by choice. There aren’t a lot of options when you’ve got two psychos bearing down on you.

Next I found my wife in the barn. I covered her, cried for her, and tried to make her decent.

When my partner arrived he found me watching the barn burn. It was the only way I could put her to rest.

While no one with any sense questioned my actions, I had to be punished. They spared me execution, and instead I was given life. My trial came at a time when cops weren’t too popular: hell, I guess that’s all times. They wanted to make an example of me. Not that I minded, there was nothing left for me on the outside.

When I first went in I had a cellmate who wanted a rep, so he tried to kill the “pig without power,” as he put it. I turned his teeth to tallow and made his face forget what it looked like.

Now I’m sitting in solitary, seeing that video every time I close my eyes. I’d like to say I’m empty, that there’s nothing left in me, but that’s not true. The evil remains.

Joseph H. Stryker is a writer of lowbrow fiction, usually of the crime genre. Born in Laguna Hills, California, he now resides in Lake Elsinore, California, on the other side of the Santa Ana Mountains. His stories can be found on Near to the Knuckle, Shotgun Honey, and other websites.