The Alphabet Challenge: “W” Story No. 1 of 3 — “Witness”

This is the 23rd round of The Alphabet Challenge mentioned in THIS<<link post. As a refresher, the Broxson twins, Gary and Perry, and I will each write one story for each letter of the alphabet. Meaning, a story whose title begins with the given letter. For this round, it’s the letter “W“.

Readers have two weeks from the date of publication to vote for their favorite story in the current round. Points will be assigned to each writer based on total votes received.

In each round, the story with the most votes gets three points. Second place gets two points, third place gets one point. In the case of a tie, the points for the tied rankings are added and then split equally among the writers who tied. At the end of the year, we tally up and crown the winner with the most points.

Long or short, each story will appear on its own post and the trio will be followed by a fourth post where readers can vote.

The writing challenge has no restrictions and the stories span a wide gamut of genres. The majority of the stories fall in the PG-rating range with a few perhaps pushing into the soft R-rating. Some readers might find a few of the stories disturbing because of the topics, language, and/or plot points, and if so, stop reading and move on.

Here we go. Presented anonymously, the first of three stories with titles beginning with the letter “W” as submitted by its author.

Witness

Copyright 2020 — (added after voting closes)

(2,830words – approx. reading time: about 11 minutes based on 265 WPM)

Lucia wiped her hands on the dishtowel as she walked to answer the doorbell. It wasn’t the kids as high school wasn’t out yet, and her husband was still in the office. She eyed the pepper spray canister hanging by the door as she partially opened the door.

The man on the other side of the security screen door wore an expensive suit and carried a briefcase. Probably in his 30s, he carried himself with a bit of arrogance, something Lucia found annoying.

“Ms. Guerrero?” the man asked. Lucia thought she heard a bit of an accent in his voice but couldn’t place it.

“Yes. And you are?”

“Roy Finley,” he replied. “I’m a lawyer, and I’m here to discuss your upcoming testimony.”

“Ah, yes,” Lucia replied. “Come in.”

“The District Attorney didn’t inform me you were coming,” Lucia said as she led him to the kitchen.

“I’m sorry,” Roy replied. “You misunderstand. I’m here on behalf of the accused.”

Lisa stopped by the stove and lowered the gas to a simmer before facing the man.

“I’m not sure I should be talking to you without someone from the DA Office present,” she replied.

“This is more of an unofficial call before tomorrow’s deposition hearing, and there’s nothing illegal about it.”

“Isn’t it unusual?”

“Let me be frank with you, Ms. Guerrero. My client is concerned that you might not remember the particulars of the incident you witnessed …”

“You mean the incident where your client stepped out of the limousine, shot a man point-blank twice in the chest and then once in the head after he dropped to the ground?” Lucia asked. “Is that the incident you’re referencing?”

“See, that’s what I mean about the particulars,” Roy continued. “I’m sure you’re aware the other three witnesses have all clarified their testimony regarding the events. It turns out you are the only remaining witness that’s sticking to the original account, mistaken as that might be.”

“Oh, I’m sure of what I saw. Griffin Hines has been in newspapers and the news, and he’s hard to mistake for anyone else. In fact, he winked at me as he got back in the limo. That image is firmly implanted in my brain,” Lucia replied.

“Hmm, yes. Is that a picture of your children, Ms. Guerrero? Renata and Karina, if I’m not mistaken,” Roy said, pointing at the picture stuck on the front of the fridge. “Beautiful girls … you must worry about them a lot.”

Lucia’s eyes narrowed, and just then, they heard the sound of the front door open.

“Mom! We’re home!” Renata yelled. “I’ll be in my room for a bit.”

They could hear her footsteps running upstairs as Karina entered the kitchen.

“Hello, Karina,” Roy said as he smiled broadly at her.

“… uh … hello,” she answered while giving her mom an inquisitive look.

“Well, Ms. Guerrero, I must be going,” Roy said. “You might want to consider how certain you are about what you saw. Good day.”

* * *

“He came to our house.”

Leon Guerrero sat next to Lucia and across from Detective Barber.

“That’s inexcusable. He made veiled threats directed at both my wife and my daughters; that’s criminal,” Leon said in a calm voice that belied his anger.

“Mr. Guerrero,” Det. Barber said, also in a calm tone masking his frustration. “For the third time, as your wife is not under a subpoena, attorneys for either side can speak to witnesses. Your wife could have refused to speak to him, but she invited him in. As for the threats, we are unable to act on implied threats since, if Ms. Guerrero’s account is correct, there were no direct threats made, and the language was ambiguous.”

Det. Barber paused and looked down at his hands. Calluses on his knuckles drew his attention, and for a moment, he seemed distant.

“Look,” he resumed, “I can serve notice that you refuse to meet with any member of the defense team under any circumstances. Other, of course, than tomorrow’s deposition.”

“What about the threats themselves, implied or not? Do we get any protection?” Lucia asked.

“I’m sorry,” Det. Barber replied. “You are right in making a formal report, and I can advise you — as I have — of steps you can take to minimize the danger, but unless you can present something more concrete, advice is all I can offer. Advice like you should all stay home until the deposition. Once your testimony is on record, there should be less danger to you or your family.”

“… if you discount retribution,” Leon said. “Is it true the other witnesses have recanted their stories?” 

“Unfortunately, yes,” Det. Barber replied. “I can’t tell you what to do, but I would understand if you decide against testifying to what you saw.”

“Oh, I’m testifying,” Lucia said. “Someone has to hold these thugs accountable, and if the State is willing to do their part, I’m willing to do mine.”

Det. Barber looked at Lucia’s determined face and nodded. “Great. I’ll file the report and see if I can make anything happen to help you out.”

As Det. Barber made his way down the front steps, he heard the door lock, including the bolt. Cold anger toward Roy Findley had him slam his car door closed with extra force, rocking the car. He looked back at the Guerrero’s house, at the drawn curtains, and swore aloud as he hit the steering wheel with the palm of his hand.

“Fuck!” He then hit the steering wheel three more times, with both palms, and each strike punctuated by more swearing.

“Fuck! FUCK! FUUUCK!”

He sat there for a few minutes thinking, and then came to a decision. Gripping the wheel, he turned on the car and sped off.

* * *

As Lucia was getting ready to attend the deposition, Leon called out to her.

“Hon, come listen to the news!”

Putting down the flat iron and making sure it wasn’t going to burn anything, she walked downstairs to find Leon and the girls in front of the TV.

“… the prominent local lawyer was found dead in his car early this morning in a vacant lot next to a Home Depot. Police have not released any details about the circumstances of his death, but Roy Findley had previously defended people rumored to be connected to the Irish Mob. We now turn to our reporter at the sce…”

Leon turned off the television just as the phone rang.

“Lucia speaking,” Lucia said, answering the phone. She listened in silence and then added, “I see. Thank you,” before ending the call.

“What’s going on?” Renata asked. 

“They postponed the deposition by a week until they can assign another defense attorney to the case,” Lucia answered.

* * *

Kane Gilbert didn’t like the circumstances of this assignment. He preferred working behind the scenes and, most of all, without being seen by the people he might have to kill. But, the boss had been explicit. He wanted the fear of God to permeate into all aspects of the Guerrero’s family life. His assignment was Leon Guerrero. His twin brother, Nolan, would be talking to the girls. He almost felt bad for them. Kane loved his brother but knew he was a dangerous psychopath.

Seeing Leon leave the office and come his way, Kane waited just outside the stairwell of the parking structure when Leon came through.

“Mr. Guerrero?”

Leon turned to the speaker, but all he saw was a large figure in the shadows.

“Who are you? What do you want?” Leon asked as he brought his briefcase to his chest and held it with both arms.

Kane smiled. Not that Leon could see it, but if he had, Kane knew Leon would have been terrified because Kane knew his smiles had that effect on people.

“I represent some people who would like you to rethink your life’s choices,” Kane said. He prided himself in keeping an even and calm voice as he found it more threatening than yelling at his victims.  “I’m here to help you find convincing arguments you can make to your wife regarding your and her safety.”

“Have you done something to her?” Leon asked.

“Lucia? No. She’s at home, I assume, waiting for Roberta and Karina.” Kane liked using proper names instead of just saying ‘the girls’; from experience, he knew it punctuated the threat and made it more real.

“What have you done with them?” Leon asked, an edge to his voice.

“Me? Nothing. My brother’s talking to them about decisions people make in their lives,” Kane said as he stepped from the shadows and let Leon look upon the burn scars on his face. “I, on the other hand, am here to speak to you about life’s dangers. Shall we go to your car and take a little ride?”

* * *

“Yes, I understand,” Det. Barber said for the umpteenth time. “They threatened you and the girls, and not implied threats, this time. Look, you and I both know what the threats are about, but they were cautious not to implicate Hines. I can have you come down to the station,” he turned to the girls to include them on the invitation, “and we can see if we can match the people who threatened you to known enforcers. From your description, I’m pretty sure I know who they are, but I can guarantee they will have witnesses placing them elsewhere at the time of the attack.”

Leon sat across from Barber and looked down at the bruise on his arm. The cut above the eye was superficial, but it stung, and it would probably leave a small scar. He wasn’t sure, but one of his ribs might have a hairline fracture. At least that’s what it felt like with every breath.

Leon looked over at Renata. She was holding a bag of ice against her elbow. Karina’s left side of the face was red and a little swollen, but she was otherwise unhurt.

“You’re telling me, again, that you can’t do anything about this?” Lucia asked.

“Look, I know this sucks,” Det. Barber said as he turned to Lucia. “I can probably have a squad car outside for a few days, but we’re short on personnel, and after a few days, they’re going to be pulled.”

Det. Barber took a deep breath before continuing. “Are you sure you still want to go through with this? I’m worried the next escalation might be … deadly.”

“Yes, I am,” Lucia replied. “But, we’re going to leave town until the deposition, and that should limit the threat.”

“Where will you go?”

“Friends of ours have a cabin up north. We can stay in touch in case the DA needs us or if there’s a change in plans, but otherwise, we’ll be out of sight until then.”

Det. Barber looked at the family in near disbelief. He’d known hardened criminals and even tough LEOs who would have called it quits. He shook his head and got up.

“When are you planning on leaving?” he asked.

“We’ll be out of here in a few hours. We just need to get a few things,” Leon replied.

“Stay safe, and let me know how you’re doing.”

And with that, Det. Barber headed out to his car.

“Damn it all to hell,” he said as he pulled away from the curb.

* * *

Griffin Hines was not a happy man. The man in front of him wasn’t happy. In fact, none of the four people in the room were happy.

“Let me get this straight,” Hines said. “Kane and Nolan are both dead?”

“Yes. Nolan was stabbed multiple times in the neck and chest. Kane’s skull was smashed to a pulp,” the man said.

“First Roy, and now the Gilbert brothers. Do we have any idea who’s doing this?” Hines asked.

“None,” one of the other men answered.

“I asked around,” he continued. “Because of the Italian names, I thought the Guerreros might be connected, but none of the Families even knows them.”

“Some vigilante?”

“Improbable. There are very few people who even knew what Roy and the Gilberts were going to do. Our contact says no one made any noise about it at his end.”

Hines pondered the situation as he paced.

“Someone on the inside?” he asked but was met with blank stares.

“Where’s the family now?” he asked.

“We tailed them to a lakeshore cabin up north,” the man said. “I have two men watching the place. They’re not going anywhere.”

“I’m going to take care of this personally,” Hines said.

“Do you think that’s wise?”

“I’m not planning on leaving any witnesses,” he replied. “Call our contact and have him meet us up there. I want to get answers before we clean things up.”

* * *

Leon, Lucia, and the girls looked at each other but didn’t move.

The sound of someone knocking on the door once again intruded on the silence.

Lucia nodded, and Leon went to the door. Opening it a crack, he saw Det. Barber and two other men.

“We have a problem,” Det. Barber said as he pushed the door open and made his way in, followed by the two men.

“A problem?” Leon asked as they spilled into the living room.

“You know the two men who attacked you and the girls? Well, they were both found dead.”

“That doesn’t sound like a problem,” Lucia answered.

“I need to know if you hired protection or if someone is helping you,” Det. Barber asked as the other two men looked into the other rooms before coming to stand next to the girls sitting on the sofa.

“We didn’t hire anyone,” Leon answered. “We thought you were helping us.”

“Well, there you would be monumentally wrong,” Griffin Hines said as he entered the room with two more men. All four men drew weapons and held them at their sides.

Lucia looked at Hines, then back at Det. Barber, who shrugged his shoulders as he stepped aside.

“Detective Barber has been my contact on the inside. I’m not very pleased with him right now because this could have been all avoided if he’d done his job and nudged you into recanting your witness statement.”

Hine smiled as he looked at Barber. “He did a marvelous job with the other witnesses,” he said before looking back at Lucia, “but you proved a tough — and principled — nut.”

No one spoke as Hines stepped up to the girls who recoiled and sunk back into the sofa.

“Such an unnecessary waste,” he said before continuing to stand in front of Lucia.

“But, what I want to know, and what you will tell me,” he said, “is what happened to my men.”

Smiling, he stared into Lucia’s eyes . . . and she winked.

It happened fast. The girls drew guns from the sofa and took out the four guards while Leon kicked Det. Barber in the solar plexus, relieved him of his weapon and shot him twice in the head.

Hines’s eyes went wide as the stiletto held under his chin began to draw blood as Lucia increased the upward pressure.

“You could have gone to jail nice and peaceful,” Lucia said, “but you made the same mistake Roy and the two thugs made. You threatened my girls. By the way, thanks for sending the thugs; it saved us the trouble of using our guns or buying some on the black market.”

“Wait!” Hines said, even as the pain was making it difficult to concentrate.

But Lucia didn’t. The last thing Hines saw was Lucia give him another wink.

* * *

As Lucia was getting ready to attend the deposition, Leon called out to her.

“Hon, come listen to the news!”

Putting down the flat iron and making sure it wasn’t going to burn anything, she walked downstairs to find Leon and the girls in front of the TV.

“… the suspected crime boss was found stabbed to death in what police describe as the scene of a massacre. Griffin Hines was out on two million dollars bail and awaiting trial for a murder he was alleged to have committed in broad daylight two months ago. Police have not released any details about his death but confirm one of their own was among the dead found at the scene. The cabin where they were found is bank-owned as it had gone into foreclosure six months ago.  We now turn to our reporter at the sce…”

Leon turned off the television just as the phone rang.

“Lucia speaking,” Lucia said, answering the phone. She listened in silence and then added, “I see. Thank you,” before ending the call.

“What’s going on?” Renata asked. 

“That was the DA. He said there’s not going to be a deposition or a trial.” Lucia answered.

“Can we have pizza for dinner?” Renata asked.

“Sure, why not?” Leon replied.

The End

If you’ve already read the other two stories and are ready to vote, click HERE<<<Link and you’ll be taken to the voting poll.

If you’ve not read the other two stories, they can be found at the following links:

The Weatherman <<Link

Wild Things <<Link

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