and every­one knows everyone’s business.

There was crack here. Not the good wet kind. The hard, fiery ter­ri­ble sort that leaves you shorn.

She was eigh­teen. She was enjoy­ing the Fourth with her fam­ily, her mother and half-​​sisters and –broth­ers. She ran out­side her house, scream­ing, and the 9mm bul­let hit the back of her head and trav­eled through, a pop she never heard, a flare she never saw.

She thought her mother was being murdered.

She was.

She wanted to go into nurs­ing. Women she might have worked with in a few years held her as she died in the ER. She was wear­ing a white top and blue shorts, and the red was from her —

The red, it was from her.

They got him, as they often do, but they got him in a weird way, wan­der­ing dazed around the coun­try club. He didn’t have mem­ber­ship but he was white. He almost wan­dered away because he was white.

Almost got away.

He pled not guilty. He had five wit­nesses plac­ing him on the scene, and foot­prints, and his vic­tims’ blood on his cloth­ing. And he pled not guilty. The cheek, the arro­gance. But it’s a small town, and he came from money.

His bail was set at seven fig­ures, an unknown sum until then, and he sat and cooled and waited, and the money spoke.

Anger man­age­ment, the court was told, had been tak­ing its effect. He had been doing well. A change to a new pre­scrip­tion, that was all, a minor shift in his del­i­cately bal­anced psychochemicals.

He was found not, by rea­son of.

He was three times the age of the girl he had killed. Three times the chances he had so casu­ally negated.

It was the week­end, a cel­e­bra­tion. She would have been nine­teen. The sum­mer she had been denied unrolled in heat and swim­ming and kids play­ing in the pool.

I remem­bered being nine­teen. I cut off the top of my car and drove it around. People asked what I did when it rained, but it never rained. There was a girl, black-​​haired and coffee-​​eyed, who went with me in the car one day. As we drove her long hair flew about us in ran­dom dashes of silk. I wiped it from my mouth and eyes at each inter­sec­tion. The sun shone on us, and we laughed and smiled, and I loved her.

She was seventeen.

It’s a small town. We’re relaxed here, we are casual in our open accep­tance of Second Amendment rights. We are quin­tes­sen­tially, proudly American.

He was laugh­ing with some of the Good Old Boys, the men in their eight­ies who had bought and sold the town many times over, their sons in their six­ties, their grand­sons. They all knew each other. They belonged together.

It’s not a 1911. It’s a sub­com­pact Bersa, Argentine, and its recoil leaves a pinch on the web over my thumb. There is a rea­son Bersa named its model line Thunder, and stopped at .45. It scares my girl­friend because it is so pow­er­ful when it fires.

I went up to the grill and stood my place in line, and when he turned to me I put the fat lit­tle bar­rel under his jaw, and I saw his eyes.

It’s well made, its action smooth save for the odd feel of a double-​​rack as it ejects the spent shell and strips another into its cham­ber. My ears rang. It’s a loud lit­tle bastard.

I got my burger and sat down to eat.

Crack isn’t here any more, and eigh­teen year old girls walk the streets know­ing they are safe.

Like I told you, it’s a small town, and every­one knows everyone’s business.

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