An excerpt from Blind Justice
General George Easton woke up covered in blood.
He tasted the coppery liquid on his tongue before he noticed it on his hands and arms. Glancing around, he tried to clear his thoughts and determine where he was. An exact copy of the Resolute desk rested in front of him, its top stained with dark red hand prints. He had commissioned the creation of the intricately-carved replica shortly after the Senate had affirmed his nomination for Commandant of the Marine Corps. The original Resolute desk sat in the Oval Office as a gift from Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B. Hayes, built from the timbers of the British Arctic Exploration ship Resolute. He had felt it fitting since his large white colonial home, located on the Marine Barracks at 8th and I in Washington DC, was truly the White House of his chosen profession, and this was a Marine’s equivalent to the Oval Office.
As Easton tried to stand, pain shot through his limbs. He had seen combat many times. He had watched men die, killed men himself. Training had conditioned him to keep his head in situations such as this, and his mind ticked off the possibilities as if reading from a checklist. He sniffed the air. There was no trace of smoke or gunfire, just the smell of old leather and fresh blood.
As he pushed himself up from his black leather chair, his feet slipped on the hardwood floor. His shoes left bloody smears on the dark wood as he stumbled forward and steadied himself against the side of his desk. And that was when he saw her crumpled body in the corner of his office.
He rushed forward, knocking over a lamp and chair, falling on his knees in front of the mangled body of his wife. Crawling forward, he took her lifeless form into his arms and cradled her like a child. He didn’t bother to check for a pulse. There was too much blood. Her face had been beaten into an unrecognizable pulp. His shaking arms pulled her close to his chest as he sobbed, the tears flowing down his cheeks and mixing with the blood.
The realization of what had happened came slowly at first, then thundered through his mind, flooding him with anger and guilt. In that moment, he knew exactly who had killed his wife and why.
“I’m sorry for your loss, General.”
The gravelly voice startled Easton, and he spun in the direction of the sound. A copper-skinned man with coal black hair stepped from the shadows. The nondescript tan camouflage fatigues of a soldier covered the man’s large frame, and the gleaming silver of a decorative Colt 1911 pistol stretched from his right fist. The General recognized it as his own gun that normally rested within a display case on the mantle-piece of his office.
Easton began to stand, but the other man aimed the weapon and said in a South American accent, “Please don’t move. I would hate to kill you before we’ve had a chance to speak, but I will. I’m sorry that it’s come to this, General. You were just trying to fulfill your duty, to do the right thing. But so am I.”
Easton clenched his teeth together so hard that pain shot through his jaw. His eyes scanned for anything to use as a weapon.
“Don’t get any ideas. Remember, you have four children and seven grandchildren to think of as well.”
“You stay the hell away from—”
The man stopped him with a raised hand and calmly said, “Please, General, let’s not make this any more painful than it needs to be. If I could get to you here, in a secure military facility within the heart of DC, do you think that I would have any problem snuffing out the lives of a few young couples in the suburbs. We’ll start with your oldest son, the lawyer, and his family. It’s his birthright, after all. Please understand that I don’t wish you or your loved ones harm, but don’t question my resolve. Where is Wyatt Randall?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Another man with the wiry frame and intense eyes of a special forces commando stepped in from the hallway. He held a dark Glock pistol.
The copper-skinned man said, “We know that’s not true. If you do the right thing now, this ends with you. No one else has to get hurt.” As he spoke, he circled Easton like a shark but stuck to the periphery of the room, away from the bloody crime scene. “A true military tactician realizes when it’s time to order the retreat and save the lives of his remaining forces rather than needlessly sending them all to their deaths. Think for a moment. Look at this situation objectively. There is no nobler death than a father sacrificing his own life for his children. But let’s say for a moment that you somehow overpower myself and my partner. What then? We’re not working alone. Our associates will still visit the homes of your children and grandchildren. You have no choice. There is no way out for you.”
Easton closed his eyes and hugged his wife tight against his body. Her warm blood soaked through his shirt and ran down his skin. Her hair still carried the scent of cinnamon from her favorite shampoo. “I don’t know where Randall is, but he’s supposed to meet me tomorrow morning at 8:30. In front of the Lincoln Memorial. He’s going to turn over all the evidence then.”
“And he hasn’t given you anything yet?”
“He’s showed me the files, but he kept them with him. As insurance.”
The copper-skinned man scratched at the black stubble covering his cheeks and narrowed his eyes. Then he retrieved a cell phone from his pocket, punched the keypad, and placed it to his ear. “Yes... kill the son.”
“No! I’m telling you the truth. Search my computer and my files. There’s nothing here.”
The man hesitated a second, searching Easton’s eyes. “Hold that order. If you don’t hear from me in five minutes, then kill him.” The phone snapped closed. “We’ve already searched your files. I don’t know that I believe you, but unfortunately, we’re out of a time. I’m sure you’ve guessed that we’re not going to leave you alive, but I am going to give you a choice about how you die. You can either do it yourself, or we can force you and simply make it look like a suicide. I’m not sure of your religious beliefs on the matter, so I wanted to give you the option.”
Easton glared at the man, his hatred overshadowing his fear. “How considerate of you.” Venom dripped from his words. He raised his hand, palm out. “Give me the damn gun.”
The man slid the decorative Colt .45 caliber 1911 across the floor. It spun to a halt against Easton’s foot inside the pool of red. Hesitating only a second, the highest ranking Marine in the United States picked up the weapon. The gun had been a gift from an Italian general whom Easton had worked with while in Naples and during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. He had never fired it. “What’s your name?”
The man cocked his head to the side. “Why do you ask?”
“I want to let the devil know to be on the lookout for you.”
“My name is Antonio de Almeida. But I’ve seen a glimpse of hell during my life, General, and I truly pray that you’re destined for a better place. You may have a moment to prepare your soul, if you need it.”
The General ignored Almeida. The man’s words about a father dying for his family being noble came back to his mind, but he didn’t feel noble. He felt fear and helplessness and failure. Only two years left on his four-year term as Commandant, and then they were going to retire to a farm in Tennessee. Forty-four years of marriage. More good years than bad. He stroked her hair and hoped that he would get to see her again on the other side.
Then he raised the gun to his temple and squeezed the trigger.