The Sarah Pierce Story
She walked into the little desert gun shop with no idea what it was she was looking for. She had a mission - just no idea how to do what she had in mind.
"Can I help you?"
"I hope so. I need to learn how to shoot. Can you recommend someone?"
"I think so. What are you looking to use? Handgun? Rifle? Long range? Close in?"
"I don't know. I suppose I probably want to keep as much distance as possible between me and my, uh, target. Yeah, I'm not exactly a hunter, you know. I'm not going to be creeping up on anybody, uh, anyTHING."
"Well, then, you'll probably want a rifle. Something light and smaller caliber. High muzzle velocity."
Jake Bertrett was an ex-Marine who had been badly wounded on Guadalcanal. The VA treated every wound they could find. But the wounds inside his head were worse than those on his body. They denied the existence of the wounds they couldn't see; which left Jake Bertrett an angry and bitter man. This little gunshop was all he had in the world. That and the collection of 'special' firearms he kept in the cellar, the arms he and his compatriots would use when the Uprising came, and the State of Nevada exerted its right of Sovereignty and seceded. The Sons Of Nevada would make sure her veterans were well cared for and tended to. The revenue from the casinos that were popping up all over the state would supply the money to take care of the vets. They'd see to that.
"How much is a rifle like that going to cost?"
"I don't know. Depends on the piece. Could be a couple hundred, or more. Of course, the piece will depend on your ... target ... and your hunting ground."
"Okay. What about learning to shoot?"
"I'll teach you to shoot. I was a sniper when I was in the Marines. I've got a small range out back - I can teach you everything you need to know. How much you willin' to pay?"
She stared at him for a long moment, trying to size him up. Average height, very muscular build, head shaved and scarring visible on his arms and hands. But his clear blue eyes said 'pain' - and there was a haunted look there, a look she had seen in other people, other vets, those that had seen, and done, terrible things during the war. She didn't know why, but she knew, instinctively, that this was a man she could trust.
"Look, I have this gun I ... found. Would you want to buy it?"
"Let's see it."
She laid the gun on the counter.
"I know this piece. There isn't another one like it west of the Mississippi. It's got some nasty stories tied to it."
He picked it up, hefted it, pulled the hammer back and spun the cylinder.
"Yeah, I know this piece. Last guy that sold it got a grand for it. I'll give you five hundred."
"No. I don't want money for it. I can't sell it like that. I'll trade you. You get the gun. I get the benefit of your expertise. You teach me what you do. You teach me how to be a sniper."
Jake looked her over, mentally assessing the young woman he saw standing on the other side of his counter. A nice looking split. Big blue eyes. Very nice figure. Tits aren't too big, but anything over a mouthful is a waste, anyway, right? That IS what they say, right? There's a little waste there. Not too much. Just enough.
Not like I'm ever gonna get my hands on that.
"Only if you're willing to tell my why ... and only if you're willing to do exactly what I tell you to do, when I tell you to do it, without question. If you really want to learn how to be a sniper, you're going to work harder than you ever worked in your life. You're going to sweat. Your going to hurt. You're going to have to learn how to do things you never thought you could ever possibly do. Now let's start with why."
"Why ... how do I tell you about why ... I hardly understand myself. I met someone a couple of years ago. We had a brief 'thing'. We really meant nothing to each other, but all the same, he's been running around in my head ever since. Day before yesterday, out of the blue, he saved my life, and my son's and my Mom's. I'm pretty sure he didn't know what he was doing was going to get him killed .. but all the same, there's a part of me that wants to believe he would have done the same things, even if he did. I saw him die. I was there to see it happen and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Afterwards, after it was all over, I swore over his dead body that I would get even with the guys who killed him. I don't know who they all are, yet, but I'll find out. And I will get even. You're going to teach me how."
"I don't know darlin'. That's a pretty tall order. Plus you're asking me to get involved in murder. What makes you think I'd do something like that?"
"I'm not asking you to do anything but sell me a rifle and teach me how to use it. If anyone ever asks, you had no idea what I was up to."
"Okay, fine. Just how do you plan to find these guys you're after? You can't exactly put an ad in the paper, you know."
"I have a name. One name. And a face to go along with that name. After that, I'll just have to figure it out as I go along."
"What's the name?"
"Sully? Big bruiser with a busted nose?"
"Oh, Sister! You don't know who you're messin' with! Patrick Mallory Sullivan is the number two man in Vito Giamatti's 'family'. He's a made guy and he's as dangerous as they come. How the hell do you know Sully?"
"I worked in one of the casinos, in the money room. I used to see him every week or so. We'd chat. Sometimes we'd have coffee. He's the man who killed my friend."
"You saw Sully do a job? And you came here? Jesus H. Christ!! You tryin' to get me killed?"
"Sully doesn't know I saw him. In fact, he thinks The Kid got me out of town."
"The Kid? That white haired psycho fucker he sends around to lean on people? Wait a minute!! Just who did you see Sully kill?"
"The Kid. He's the one who had the gun."
"Jesus Christ." It slowly dawned on him. "Jesus H. Christ!! Come here. I have to show you something."
He walked over to shelves which lined one wall of the shop and picked up a small box. He opened the box and dumped the contents onto the counter.
"Okay, bullets. So what?"
"These are special 'bullets'. They're blanks. The bullet disintegrates when it's fired. I made them for Vito. Special order. To fit a .38 Special. Like this one. In fact, I think they were FOR this one. I think he bought these bullets just for your friend. The Kid was set up, darlin', and it's been in the works for a while. I know for a fact that this gun was sold to Vito two weeks ago. He ordered these bullets two days after he bought the gun. I don't know why they would have done The Kid, but it wasn't because of you - or at least, you're not the only reason. Maybe you just accelerated the process. But you! You come sailin' in here with the gun and a story about The Kid and Sully and I'm just supposed to teach you everything I know about shooting? Just who the hell are you, Sister?"
She leaned across the counter, and looked Jake square in the eye.
"Look. I don't fucking know!!! All I know is that somehow I got caught in the middle of something - I have no idea what!! - and The Kid was sent to kill me and he didn't do it because he knew me - at least I THINK that's why he didn't do it - and we all got in my car and went to the bus station and he dropped us there and left!! That's it!! Nobody knows I'm here - my Mom and my son are safe - nobody but you knows I saw anything at all and don't fuckin' call me SISTER my name is SARAH!!!"
They stood there, almost nose to nose, eyes locked.
"You got balls, Sister Sarah. I'll give you that. You got balls. You can call me Jake."
"One question though. When did you say you saw Sully do your friend?"
"Night before last. About 10 o'clock."
"That's funny. I haven't heard nothin' on the radio about anything like that. Usually a body laying somewhere gets the whole town goin'. I wonder what's goin' on here? I wonder if Vito got a lid on this."
"So how do you know this Vito Giamatti?"
"Business. Strictly business. Used to be I paid protection, but when he found out about my 'special skills', they stopped collecting from me and started paying me to do favors for them, from time to time. I don't have no choice, really. If I don't do the 'favors', I get my kneecaps busted - or worse."
"Favors? What kind of favors?"
"I make weapons. Specialized weapons and small explosive devices, that sort of thing. And don't look at me like that. I do what I have to do to survive. The government don't help me none. This shop is all I have. Their protection money was drivin' me out of business. That's what they do, ya know? They bleed ya until there's nothing left and then they take over your business and then they own it, legit. And you can't do nothin' about it. Anyway, I got caught planting a device under Giamatti's car, but instead of killin' me, he put me to work as their weapons factory."
"How many guys does Giamatti have working for him?"
"As far as I know, not counting him and Sully, and if The Kid is out, then there's nine, no ten ... ten guys."
"And you know all these guys?"
"Well, yeah .. I guess I do. I guess I've seen 'em all at one time or another."
She closed her eyes as it all came to her in a rush. I didn't know what I wanted to do. I didn't know who I wanted to do it to. And I didn't know how. Now I know what I have do - and he's going to teach me. He knows who I have to do it to. And he is going to supply me with my weapon.
"You know Jake, I get the feeling you and I are going to be working together. Or am I out of line? Does Giamatti and his family scare you? Are you willing to give up his business? Are you scared, Jake? Are you scared?"
She was right in front of his face again. Not yelling, this time.
"Don't do that. It ain't necessary and it won't work, anyway."
"What do you mean it won't work? You got a problem with girls?"
"No. IT won't work. I got chewed up pretty bad in the war. Caught a claymore mine head on. Almost cut me in half. Sometimes I wish it had."
"I'm sorry. Sorry, Jake. I ... I guess that was mean."
"Don't worry about it. And ya know? I'd love to get out from under Giamatti. I still lose a lot of business. Everybody knows those guys come around here and the regular people just kinda stay away. I have a small group of customers that stay with me - but most people just stay away. Yeah. I'd really like to get clear of Giamatti."
There was a reason that Jake Bertrett's gunshop was out in the desert, away from the city, away from people. Away from women. Most of the women he saw out here were grey and withered, dried out by the desert wind and sun. They didn't remind him of what he lost in the war. They didn't remind him of what he would never have again. What he had had but once in his life. Jake Bertrett was an angry and bitter man for good reason. And the presence of Sarah Pierce was not going to help.