Hunting the Devil Part 2

Joe made it down to the ground floor fairly quickly due to gravity, but he knew if it turned into a foot race he would lose.

He almost didn’t pass basic training at Parris Island because of his slow running speed. He could do push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, and everything else he was told to do—and do it well—except run.

During a company run on one particularly humid day, his senior drill instructor, an especially mean gunnery sergeant named Hardwick, asked him if he was running so slow he hoped the war would be over by the time he finished.

Joe stopped, looked the old Marine in the eye, and told him God didn’t make him to run away from battles but to end them by killing every Commie he could find.

Hardwick smiled at him, told him that was the best answer he had ever heard, then kicked him in the balls, and added five more miles to the run.

*****

Joe hit the street and looked to see if his quarry had emerged from the alley. If the kid was smart, he would’ve run deeper into the alley rather than towards the street.

The kid wasn’t smart.

He emerged from the alley about a second after Joe exited the building. His eyes locked onto Joe’s, and then they almost popped out of his head.

He took off at a dead run and Joe didn’t bother chasing him; he could tell the kid was too fast.

He saw a bodega just up ahead and ducked into it, searching the aisles for canned goods. He found just what he needed and lumbered back out, pausing long enough to throw a dollar at the startled owner.

By the time he exited the bodega, the kid was 100 yards away.

Be one hell of a throw, he thought.

*****

Throwing a grenade wasn’t just done with the arm like a baseball because it put too much strain on the shoulder; rather, the whole torso was used, allowing the grenade to be thrown further with less effort.

He reared back and put everything he could into a throw that would’ve made Hardwick say he wasn’t completely worthless—the highest praise that would ever come from the man.

*****

Emilio Carballo did not have a lot going for him. He was kind of small, not particularly good-looking, and had yet to lose his virginity because of his shyness around girls.

But he could run.

He saw the gigante gringo on the street and took off.

He reached the corner and spared a look back.

El Gigante hadn’t moved.

He grinned at the gringo and gave him the finger with both hands.

He was so busy mocking the gringo he never saw the can of peas launch into the air, tumbling end over end, until about a nanosecond before it hit him just above the left eyebrow.

He staggered forward two steps, his knees wobbling, before pitching face-first into the sidewalk.

*****

Joe reached the boy just as a crowd started to form around him, but they parted like the Red Sea when they saw him approach.

He checked the boy’s pulse—still alive—and slung him over his shoulder.

“Put him down, gringo,” said a voice behind him.

He turned to see three Hispanic boys in their teens approach him.

They were all wearing red jackets, and if Joe was still in the Marines he would’ve bet an entire month’s pay the jackets had a picture of the devil on the back.

One of them looked a little older and had a scar running down the left side of his face, just missing the eye. He probably thought it made him look tough.

“Did you hear me, gringo?” Scarface said.

He pulled out a switchblade and popped it open, and the other two followed suit.

Joe chuckled.

“You think I’m kidding?” Scarface said. “In that case, I’ll give you a smile—a permanent one.”

He drew a finger over his throat.

Joe chuckled again.

“Hate to burst your bubble, amigo, but I’ve had more dangerous things pointed at me by men more dangerous than you’ll ever be,” he said. “Now drop your little toothpicks and walk away before you get really hurt.”

“We Los Diablos, and we ain’t your amigos,” Scarface said. “I’m going to cut out your heart, drag you to Hell and then feed it El Diablo--and I’m going to make you watch.”

Joe couldn’t help it; he burst out laughing.

“Sorry, I don’t mean to…” he paused to let out another guffaw. “I’m sure that sounded really cool as you practiced it in the mirror, but now I’m serious. Walk away.”

Scarface charged at him instead, his knife held over his head, clearly intending to stab Joe in the chest.

It didn’t get within a yard of its target because Joe lashed out with his foot, catching Scarface right in the sternum and laying him out on the pavement.

He looked at the other two, and let his casual demeanor drop, letting them see what had helped keep him alive in Viet Nam.

“You two want some of this?” he said emptily. “If you do, then step up.”

They dropped their knives and ran.

He started to put the beast back in its cage, but then he had a thought.

He knew he was not a smart man, but he had learned during his service that sometimes it was a good idea to trick an enemy rather than fight them.

He knelt over Scarface, who was clutching his chest.

“Look at me,” he said. “Your amigo tried knocking over a shop run by the father of a friend of mine. My friend died over in Viet Nam, so I made a promise to look out for his dad.

“Now you go back to your little Girl Scout troop and tell them the next time they try messing with that shop, they’re not only going to be dealing with me but all of my friends who made it back—and I’m the nicest one of the bunch. Comprende?”

Scarface’s head rolled around a bit, and Joe took it as a nod of assent.

He made his way back to the truck, eager to use the radio—no, phone. He not only had to call David and tell what had happened but also had to call up a few friends for some help.

He wasn’t going to let some innocent shop owner get caught in the crossfire if he could help it.

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