Daddy's Tavern

Child Prey

By Curtis E.Gibson

Motion in the darkness. Car lights. His car.
I'm looking through a pair of night vision goggles, the good ones, with the GEN II Plus image intensifier. My ears are covered by head phones hooked to the parabolic ear outside the van.
He pulls into the driveway across the street and cuts the lights. Turns off his engine. Opens his door.
In the backseat, two girls. Bingo!
Young girls. Ten, twelve years old. Cute kids. Both Blonde. Frightened eyes, red from crying.
"Inside," he tells them in his policeman's voice.
The girls move toward the house, clinging to each other. Stiff. They slow, suspicious. Something's wrong. They stop.
"This ain't no police station," the tall girls says.
"This is just a substation," he tells her, his long arms herd them toward the door. "They'll send a squad car from downtown to pick you up. Move along now. Let's go."
They go inside.
I remove the head phones and goggles.
Three micro recorders start sending me pictures of the inside of the house across the street. Two micro tape recorders wait to be voice-activated.
I watch him on the monitors.
He pretends to be a police detective. He's not. His clothes and car are a disguise to fool the kids. His real name is Vincent Bauer. He hurts children.
I'm not a cop either. I gather evidence on people like Vincent Bauer.
My name is Wounded Bear. Comanche Indian. I've been told my name matches my size and disposition. I guess. Some say my black eyes are dead. Some say they see monsters in them. Maybe they do.
There are all kinds of monsters.
I've met mine.
Vincent Bauer doesn't live in that house across the street. He lives in a much nicer house, in another part of town. I've seen his kids. Nice, normal. Nice wife. Two dogs. They don't know he makes his money in child pornography.
My scanner beeps. His cordless phone. I won't even need the bugs. The number he is calling flashes across one of my monitors. I punch it into the keyboard. It kicks back an address in Omaha, Nebraska.
"It's me," he says.
"How many?' says the asthmatic on the other end.
"Boys or girls?"
A sigh. The asthmatic's.
"You'll like it," Vincent tells him. "Do you want me to leave the phone off the hook? You know, let you hear what's happening?"
"I'd like that," says the asthmatic. "But you'd better not. I've got customers in the viewing room. Drop it in the mail when you've finished. I'll be looking forward to getting it."
They hang up.
I watch the monitors. He walks over to the girls. They're sitting on the couch. Stiff. Knees drawn up. Hands in their laps. Deer in the headlights.
"Like I said," he tells them. "This is just a satellite substation. I was just on the phone to my commanding officer. He says it will be at least an hour before they get a female officer out here to pick you up. They want me to book you here, take your prints, all that stuff."
"Can't we just go home?" the short girl asks. "We won't ever do it again."
"Sorry," he says.
"My mom is gonna be worried," the tall girl says. "Can I call her?"
"When you get downtown," he tells her. "They'll let you make a call."
"No," he says, taking off his jacket, exposing his holstered gun.
The girls start crying. I see a momentary flash of delight in his eyes, then it's gone.
"Hey, now," he says, his voice becoming gentle, fatherly. "It's really no big deal. You kids just violated curfew. I'll book you here. In an hour they'll pick you up, take you downtown and call your folks. You won't spend the night in jail. Nothing like that. I'm just your neighborhood cop, not a monster."
He smiles at them, warm.
They smile back.
I watch him do the fingerprints. He's good. Acts like a cop. Kids trust cops. Kids have been taught to trust a lot of people.
While they wash the ink off their hands, he types out a phony police report. The tall girl says her name is Patricia. Her friends, she says, call her Patty. The shorter girl's name is Brittany. Shy. Talks in a whisper. Says they weren't doing anything wrong. Just going to the laundromat for a Pepsi.
He sets a video camera on a tripod. Films a few feet of them, for the record, he tells them. He hands each girl a green hospital gown and a brown paper bag.
"Go into the bathroom," he tells them. "Put your clothes into these bags. Take a shower. When you're finished, put on the gowns and come back out here."
The girls stare at him.
He takes the camcorder into the bathroom. Aims it at the shower stall and turns it on. No shower curtain. He comes back into the living room.
The girls haven't moved.
"Go on," he tells them. "Let's get this over with, okay? Then you can come back out here and watch TV until the female officer gets here. I could put on some rock and roll. You like rock and roll?"
The girls don't answer. They are looking at the camcorder in the bathroom.
"Don't worry about the camera," he says. "I'm required to show proof that you were alone in there. Lock the door if you want privacy. Just don't fool with the camera or you'll get me in trouble."
The girls believe him. They seem to relax. They go into the bathroom and close the door behind them.
They shower for his camera.
I watch him walk over to the stereo and turn it on. It's loud. Rock and roll.
He walks around like a happy kid, rubbing his hands together, rolling his hips to the music. He opens a long vial of white powder. Snorts a spoonful up his nose. Closes his eyes. Stiffles a sneeze.
The girls come out of the bathroom. Wet colts. They're calm, kidding each other about their gowns, nodding to the music on the stereo.
He is waiting for them. He slaps them. Hard. They fall to the floor. Hold reddened faces. Shake. Pedal away, wet feet slipping on the carpet.
He brings the camcorder out of the bathroom. Aims it at the girls. Puts on a black hood. Takes off his shirt.
I turn down the volume. The tapes I've made contain more than enough evidence to take Vincent Bauer off the street. I should start my paperwork. Gather my evidence. Leave. Stop watching the monitors.
He reaches for Patty. Grabs her hair. Pulls her off the floor. She hangs there, tiptoe-dancing.
He slaps her. I turn away. Eyes come back.
I watch Patty's pain. He likes it. Gone from mean to evil.
I look at Patty. Blue chill. She seems to be staring right into the camera at me. I close my eyes.
Memories come. I try to push them away. Another girl. Twenty-five years ago. Her name was Rachel. Her eyes were locked on mine, pleading with me to help her. There was nothing I could do. I was only seven years old.
Patty ugly-cries on the monitors.
Vincent's eyes. Happy, predator eyes. He's having such a good time. I feel my own scream coming. Push it down.
They say there's no cure for baby-raping, wet-eyed maggots like Vincent Bauer.
They're wrong, you know.
I open the black case at my feet. Build the weapon in eighteen seconds. It's loaded in twenty-five. New can of CO2.
Gloves on. I open the back door of the van.
Spotlight hits me in the eyes. I'm blind.
Cops, they say. Real ones. One in a patrol car, another in a tow truck. My van's been here eight days. They've come to tow it away.
They look in the van. Major interest.
I try to talk to them. They won't let me.
I point to the house. They throw me against the tow truck.
Rookies, taking control.
One cop walks to the van. The other shakes me down. His eyes widen when he sees the head of the weapon hanging from my neck. He turns to warn his partner. I double punch his temple. Lower him to the ground. The one at the van does a spin around grab for his gun. Pulls it out. Aims it at my chest. One of the girls scream. He looks at the house. I leap. Take him to the pavement. I get up. He doesn't.
I carry both of them to the tow truck. Prop them up inside. They look like they're waiting for someone. They'll be okay.
The girls.
I'm inside the house in less than thirty seconds.
Drop to the floor. Peek into the room.
A big ass is staring at me.
Hooded, naked, with a straw at his nose, Vincent Bauer is bent over, sucking at a pile of white powder on the coffee table. His big butt moves to the music. I ought to shoot him right now.
He snorts. A gag reflex. Almost coughs it up. Another snort. A swallow. He smiles. Shakes his head from side to side. Feels his power. Howls, "Come to Daddy, little girls."
The girls scream. I see them against the far wall. Bruised. Stiff statues. Going into shock. I might be too late for them.
The girls see me as I enter the room. Their swollen eyes follow me. A good sign. But first, I'll have to change the pecking order a little.
"Having fun, maggot?" I ask in my bear's voice.
His fish-belly body jerks like he's been ice-picked in both ribs. His black hood snaps around. Cocaine covers the nose section. Shame in his eyes. He giggles, embarrassed. Wants to say something. Wants to explain things. His lips move. No words come out.
I hold his eyes with mine. Let him see what's in there. I show him my open hands, but he's still in my eyes. He looks away. Comes back. Looks away. Feints right. Runs left. Fast. Piston legs, powered by fear and cocaine.
I chase him. Not too close. Let him run. Let the girl's see he's the rabbit now, not them.
Stereo speakers pump rhythm for his flight. I'm right behind him, taunting.
The girls watch us. Hands cover faces. Peeks between fingers. Fear-smiles of hope at the corner of their mouths.
He pulls ahead. Runs by the girls. Grabs Brittainy. Spins to face me.
I keep coming.
His hand finds her small throat. Squeezes. Hope melts from her face.
"No. No. No," he says to me, shaking his head.
I stop.
He giggles. In command.
Brittainy's eyes stare at me; dead now, like mine.
The Navy Seal's Stealth Airrow Gun rolls out in a modified Queen Ann Salute. I pull the trigger.
Silently, the stainless steel broad head travels across the room at 500 feet per second, punches a 1.3" diameter hole in his forehead, pulling behind it a feathered, 16" aluminum shaft. The arrow impales his hooded head to the wall, just above the coach. One leg jerking. He doesn't scream when his foot breaks against the coffee table.
Brittainy rolls into a ball. She stares at her stomach.
Patty shake-screams away from me.
"I'm a police office!" I shout the lie at them. "Get your clothes. Get dressed. Get out of here."
Patty stares at me, hands to her mouth, still screaming, no trust in her eyes. I can't blame her.
"Look out the window," I say, turning off the stereo. "There's my police car and a tow truck outside."
No trust.
"Go! Look out the window!"
Patty moves. Brittainy doesn't.
Patty screams from the window, "There is a police car out there, Brit. There really is."
Brittainy doesn't hear her. She's gone to a safe place in her mind.
I've been there. You usually come back.
"Get dressed," I tell Patty. "The two of you go sit in my squad car. Lock the doors. Wait there."
Sniffling, wiping at her nose and eyes, she watches me work.
I open Vincent Bauer's camcorder and pull out the cassette of the girls.
"What're you doing?" Patty asks.
"Making sure nobody ever sees this."
She goes to her friend and helps her. Quiet. Thinking.
I pick up the cordless phone. Hit redial. Two rings. The wheezing tells me it's the right number.
"It's me," I say.
"Doesn't sound like you." The asthmatic.
"Kid kicked me in the throat." I force a laugh.
"Have you finished it?"
"Yeah," I say. "Done."
"I'm looking forward to seeing it."
I hang up.
The girls are dressed. They're both staring at Vincent Bauer. Patty turns to me. Tries to read my eyes. Comes up empty.
"You ain't no cop," she says. "You ain't are you?"
I don't answer.
She puts an arm around Brittainy. Draws her in. Whispers soft, warm words. Walks her to the door. Turns to me. Tiny hand touches my arm.
"Thanks," she says.
I try to smile. It doesn't come.
They walk out the door, older.
I pull my surveillance equipment and store it in the van. I open a large manila envelope and stuff in one of the three tapes I've made, along with a stack of information on Vincent Bauer. Drop the envelope in the tow truck. The cop in the driver's seat is stirring.
I fire up the van. Patty waves to me from the police car. I pull alongside. She starts to say something. Doesn't. Lays back. Drops her eyes. Stares at her fingernails. She's learning.
I leave.
The soapy water at the car wash strips the dark blue tint from the van's white paint. I change the license plate. Add magnetic signs which say I'm a plumber.
Holiday Inn by the freeway. Check in. Open the cassette of the girls. Pull out the roll of film and let it uncoil into the bathroom sink. Plug the drain. Add sulfuric acid. Watch it boil. Take the empty cassette and pack it with Astrolite A-15 explosive. The firing mechanism is simple; when the video is played, the immediate area disappears.
I get the asthmatic's Omaha address from the computer. Make out a label and box up the cassette. Walk out front and drop it in the mailbox. He said he was looking forward to seeing it.
I dress in blue coveralls. Ponytail my hair. Joe Average. Sun feels good as I slow-walk to the van.
Wipe my feet. Leave it all behind.
Tap into the computer for my next assignment.
Louisville, Ky.
Never been there.