Genre Writing Challenge Round 02 — Perry Broxson

As mentioned, we’re starting a new challenge — the Genre Writing Challenge. Each round, the three writers — Perry, Gary, and me — will write a story on a given genre. The Twins decided the Second genre is Thriller.

For the record, thrillers can be almost any genre, so this was likely a poor choice on our part, especially since it’s difficult to define thriller as a completely different and standalone genre.

We’re again staggering the publication of the stories, which began with Gary’s story. It went live on Saturday. Today is Perry’s turn, and — FSM-willing — I’ll get one finished for Thursday.

Our usual disclaimer:

The writing challenge has no restrictions, and the stories span a wide gamut of genres. The majority of the stories fall in the PG range, with a few perhaps pushing into the R range. Those ratings are guidelines, but they are subjective. If you find a story disturbing because of the topics, language, and/or plot points, stop reading and move on to the next one. The same goes if you are not interested in finishing a story. It may seem like obvious advice, but these days many people go out of their way to experience outrage (and then complain about it).

So, without further ado, here’s Perry’s contribution to the Thriller genre.

Wait . . . first, the blurb:
A boy born of misfortune plots to slaughter those that bully him. Just before he pulls the trigger, another shooter commences. The boy becomes a hero when he shoots the shooter. He parlays his popularity into politics . . . creating Laws that mandate gun ownership! This can only end one way.

A Good Guy’s Tail

Copyright 2023 — Perry Broxson

(6,270 words – approx. reading time: about 24 minutes based on 265 WPM)

It was unfortunate that Victor was born with a birthmark on the left side of his face. More so, that he was born with a tail.

Of course his parents, Doug and Darlene Bishop, sought out doctors and remedies. But the costs were exorbitant and the prognoses poor. So they simply ignored the problems. 

I should take a moment to describe both of Victor’s conditions, given that these congenital maladies may prove to be the impetus for his homicidal proclivities. The birthmark was singularly horrific. It was as if a lazy assembly line worker in God’s Baby Factory spilled a quart of dark-purple paint on the scalp, ear, cheek, and neck of the child. And somehow, QC missed it.

People would often stare at it, thinking to divine its cryptographic message. Touched, some murmured, by angel or demon or God Himself . . . none were sure.

Succumbing to the onset of nausea, they quickly quit the endeavor, for the blot was Rorschachian, in that it revealed themselves to themselves.

The tail, though humorous to us, was even more embarrassing to unlucky Victor. If you’re envisioning a long, helpful prehensile tail that could serve as an additional appendage – to perhaps propel one through a jungle canopy or strangle a villain, prepare for disappointment. Think instead of a pale dill pickle, blunt and stubby. Its unaesthetic aspect was only exceeded by it uselessness. It could not wag on demand or wiggle adorably. Rather, it twitched. At inopportune times, it twitched. This involuntary tick was quite embarrassing to Victor, because it typically occurred when he was nervous . . . which compounded his nervousness and amplified his social anxiety.

Why two things? He asked God in the watches of the night. Maybe I could grow out my hair and wear turtlenecks to cover the birthmark . . . but you double-downed. You added insult to injury. Lemon juice to paper cuts. You spooned up another heaping helping of humiliation . . . just because . . . because you could.

God, like his parents and his peers, ignored him. Most peers, that is. Some select classmates of a particular sinister persuasion, made it their mission to tease and terrorize Victor Bishop. Sally O’Malley was the ringleader of this junta. She was his living antithesis: petite and pretty and anatomically perfect. She had sassy flaxen hair, dimples for days, and blue eyes so big and beautiful that they could have been cobalt marbles – shooters, the gamers call them.

Despite her outward beauty, Sally O was awful inside. Her heart . . . her heart was dark and devilish. She was unapologetically mean, calculatingly cruel. When she aimed her blue shooters at him and unloaded, he wilted, wishing that someday, some-sweet-day-please-Jesus, he could kill her.

Sometimes, when his bedroom was dark and the covers hid him away, he dozed and dreamed of Sally O. The dream had variations, but the core plot was inalterable. She would stand before him as an accused offender before a judge. He was always in a black robe behind an oak bench with silver gavel. In the dream, he wore a white powdered wig, like British barristers, and it completely covered his birthmark.

“How do you plead?” he would ask.

“Guilty,” she’d say. Then she’d wink a giant azure eye and add: “Guilty of having the hots for you.”

“Out of order,” he would say, “not germane to the proceedings.”

When he pounded his gavel, she would shiver and close her eyes and part her lips. After a moment she would say seductively: “Permission to approach the bench?”

He knew it was inappropriate, but he always allowed it. “You may.”

Sally O’Malley, wearing an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs, would slide behind the bench and raise his robe. She would tip her agate eyes up at him – her shooters. Then, with a wink, she’d proceed to go down on him. Except it wasn’t his penis in her mouth. It was his vestigial tail.

This odious denouement always caused him to scream and pee his sheets and switch on his nightlight.

Such was the final scene of this dream until he reached puberty. Just after his 13th birthday, an additional scene was added – a director’s cut, if you will. Instead of awaking in horror as Sally fellated his tail, he waited . . . waited . . . waited until the disgust of her oral act dawned on her, until the horror was stamped on her flawless face. She peeked up from under his robe, aghast at the act, her eyes and nose discharging all manners of fluids; her lips curled, her teeth poised and pointy, preparing to maul the imposter member.

In this new and improved dream, he did not cower or grovel. He raised his silver gavel above his wigged head and bashed the crown of her cranium. He did so until her brains slid out of the cup of her cracked skull and splashed onto the court floor.

At first the dream’s new ending horrified him. He’d wake up flushed, not screaming or peeing, but painfully aware of a grating erection. Some months later, he was given over to chronic nocturnal emissions.

This is when Victor Bishop decided to kill Sally O’Malley. And while he was at it, as many colluding students as his daddy’s handgun could muster.

For the next three years he plotted.


It was the Friday of the Homecoming Football game at St. Elmo High. Everything was going swimmingly. The bleachers were packed. The Crusaders were up a field goal at halftime. The marching band never sounded better. And Victor Bishop had a plan and a gun.

It was his father’s Gloc 19, Gen 3. It was small, only 5 inches high, 1-and-a-half inches wide. Easy to conceal in the pocket of his Crusaders’ hoodie. Best of all, the Gloc came with a high-capacity magazine.

Victor did the math. The Gloc held 15 rounds, plus one in the chamber. Sixteen! Hell, he could take out a dozen cheerleaders and a couple of teachers in the first salvo. Then, when everyone was panicking and running into each other, he could reload – ram the 16-round mag into the butt and give the crowd another round of cheer. The plan was to fire 31 of his 32 bullets, then put the last one in his ear . . . the ear on his left side . . . the side spoiled by God’s filthy fingerprint.

He’d wait, though. Patience was his friend . . . his only friend.

He’d wait until the halftime ceremonies, when Sally O would be declared Homecoming Queen. Of course she would. Good things happened to shitty people and shitty things happened to good people – Victor’s Law.

Using a bullhorn, Principal Roberts announced the final three couples from the Crusader logo on the 50-yard line. It was the usual suspects: Billy, Keesha, Darnell, Hannah, Chadwick and the perennially popular Sally O.

Parents, mostly fathers, swarmed the short stage, jamming cameras at the kids like they were Oscar nominees on the red carpet.

Sally first, Victor plotted. Right between those anime’ eyes. Then, when everyone was paralyzed with fear, he’d pick off the pretenders to her throne. After that, the randos got it.

Keesha and Darnell were announced as third-place finishers. It was no surprise to Victor. His school was racist. Keesha and Darnell were tokens . . . poultices for the troubled hearts of the white majority. The student body would no more elect blacks than they would . . . well, him.

He sidled beside a fat father with a sleek, state-of-the-art video camera. Hannah’s daddy, Deke Joslin, he observed. Rich prick that owned three Cadillac dealerships. A real jerk, he’d heard his father say. But that could’ve been because his dad could never afford one of Deke’s fancy cars.

Deke muscled himself into perfect position to capture the rapturous crowning of his princess, Hannah. Victor could hear him panting his daughter’s name: Han-nah, Han-nah, Han-nah.

What’s wrong with this guy? Victor wondered.

Principal Roberts ripped open the last envelope and read: “And the first place runners-up are Billy Smith and Hannah Joslin. I give you the St. Elmo’s homecoming king and queen: Chadwick Carlson and Sally O’Malley!”

Han-nah, Han-nah, Han-nah.

Victor positioned himself directly behind the fat panting man with the cool camera. It’s like he didn’t hear the announcement, Victor observed. He wanted to yell at him: “Hey, pal, your slutty daughter lost. She’s a first-place loser.”

But the Cadillac Man’s eye was affixed to the eyepiece of the video camera and he continued to hyperventilate: Han-nah, Han-nah, Han-nah.

Victor fingered the Gloc in his pocket. He was only 20 feet away from Sally O and her beau. If Cadillac Man kept his position, Victor strategized, he could squeeze off a half-dozen rounds before being noticed. My dreams . . . he swooned, sporting an erection . . . my dreams come true.


The band blared and confetti rained and the applause was thunderous. Now, Victor told himself. Now. Do it now while the noise is peaking and everyone is focused on Sally O and her beau.

He took a knee, just as he’d planned. He racked the shell and took aim at the gap between Sally O’s micro-bladed eyebrows.  

He held his breath as Principal Roberts placed the tiara on Sally’s head, careful of her coifed hairdo.

Sally was crying, he saw. Mascara and makeup and glitter – yes, glitter – were sluicing down her perfect face.

Her messy face reminded him of his dream – her snot and tears. Except, this time she was happy. They were tears of joy, of triumph, of . . .

. . . of celebration! Celebrating her domination of her peers. Celebrating her superiority. Celebrating her perfect skin and agate eyes. Celebrating the lamentation of her enemies. Celebrating herself.

These bilious thoughts rose in Victor’s chest, scorching his throat. He pictured a small red dot – an O – marring her forehead. His tail began to twitch. He squinted his left eye, steadied his shooting hand, held his breath, and started to squeeze the trigger.

A shot rang out.

It frightened him. Had he shot prematurely?

He touched the barrel of his Gloc. It wasn’t hot. He’d felt no recoil, nor did he smell smoke or powder.

People shrieked and clustered around the fallen Principal Roberts. Victor rose from his crouch and looked on as the moribund administrator bled out on the green gridiron.

Had he shot at and missed Sally O by a fucking-country mile? Was his father’s Gloc defective? The barrel bent? The bullet curved? He studied the gun, staring at it, stunned by the misfire.

Then a man shouted. His shouts were loud enough to dwarf the din within the football stadium.

“Han-nah! Han-nah! Han-NAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!”

It was the fat Cadillac dealer, Victor observed. Hannah daddy, Deke Joslin. He no longer had a sophisticated video camera in his hand. He had a gun.

He shot Principal Roberts, Victor deduced. Not me. I didn’t. I’m innocent. I haven’t shot anyone . . . yet.  

The Cadillac Man tore off his tie and ripped his shirt, like a grieving Hebrew. He bellowed and barked and swung the gun from coach to player to student to cheerleader to teacher. “Hannah is the Queen!” he shouted. “It’s rigged. No one voted for Sally. There’s no way Sally is prettier than my Hannah! The election is rigged!”

Victor took a step back when the wild man pointed the gun at him. He put his palms out and gibbered Psalms 23. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”

The Cadillac Man fired a round next to Victor’s ear, killing a referee that was frantically blowing his whistle.

“Sally is shit!” Deke screamed, his face maroon and his eyes black. “My Hannah is Queen! Hannah is Queeeeeeeen!”

That’s when the chaos quieted for Victor. He pictured Jesus, in his mother’s illustrated bible, stretching his hand forth from the bow of a fishing boat, calming the storm and stilling Jordan’s troubled waters. Victor’s senses sharpened. He could smell Cadillac Man’s cloying cologne, comingled with and sweat and blood and gunpowder.

“Stop it,” he ordered the madman. In truth, he would’ve been disappointed had Hannah’s father obeyed. Victor did not want Cadillac Man to stop it . . . did not want him to lay on his face and lace his fingers behind his head and surrender. No. He wanted the man to rant and rave and shoot his pistola like Yosemite Sam – just not at him.

Cadillac Man crashed the stage and attacked Sally O. He snatched the tiara off her head, unspooling her flaxen curls in long, languid coils. Wild-eyed, he called for his daughter, Hannah. Victor saw her, kneeling behind Billy, the other first-place loser, saying, “No Daddy, don’t.”

“Han-nah, Han-nah, Han-nah,” he panted through his slack, drooling mouth.

Old boy is on something, Victor deduced, taking a knee and resetting his shooting stance. As he crooked his finger over the crescent fang of the trigger, he felt his tail twitch.

Billy, a power forward on the varsity basketball team, took action. “Leave Hannah alone,” Billy demanded, slapping Deke with the heel of his hand.

The Cadillac Man did not flinch. He pushed the barrel of his handgun into Billy carnation like an iron nose smelling an aroma. He pulled the trigger twice and Billy slumped atop the cowering girl. Cadillac Man kicked the corpse for daring to touch his Queen. Then he sang sweetly:

Hannah Banana, Queen of my Heart

You are so kind, so pretty and smart.   

Hannah Banana, you light up my world

From cradle to crypt, you’re Daddy’s girl

That’s when Victor shot Deke Joslin in the back of the head. It wasn’t as gratifying as bashing Sally’s skull with a silver gavel, but it was a close runner-up.

It was Coach Barkley that witnessed Victor dispatch the madman. Coach would testify two years later when Hannah herself sued Victor in a civil trial for the wrongful death of her father. Coach would raise his right hand and take his oath and say: “That young man – Victor Bishop – he saved lives that day. Mine and most likely hers.”

Then he pointed at Hannah Joslin and grimaced, making the face of a man spitting a rancid chaw of tobacco.

Unsolicited, Coach continued. “Your father was coked up, Hannah – coked, crazy, and murderous. Ain’t but one thing gonna stop a bad guy with a gun – and that’s a good guy with a gun. And that good guy is sittin’ right there. Victor Bishop should be getting a medal, not a fucking lawsuit!”

The jury agreed and Victor was exonerated.

Also, Victor’s tail twitched when the judge gaveled to adjourn.


Seymour’s Subs named a sandwich after Victor. He called it the Victory and heaped meatballs and cheese on it. Between Seymour and his more intimate clients, he would confide that it was the Swiss cheese that really made the sandwich. Then he’d hold up a slice and poke his finger through a hole . . . and he’d laugh.

The Mayor gave Victor a giant key that unlocked nothing. The City Council named a road for him: Victor Way. It was a dead-end, but Victor appreciated it. He enjoyed his local celebrity status, yet still felt somehow second-rate.

It wasn’t until he agreed to do an interview on Fox News that things changed for young Victor. Despite the makeup and high collar, his birthmark beamed. During the Q and A, a Dermatologist from Hollywood, California called the show and asked him why he hadn’t had the birthmark removed. Victor stammered and blushed and eventually said, shucks, he came from modest means.

The host of the TV show, Hax Brently, took up the cause. He said it was a “dirty shame that dirty Illegals got free food stamps and that Prison Convicts got free sex-change surgeries . . . but this young man, Victor Bishop, a Good Guy with a gun, a True American Hero and the Embodiment of the Second Amendment, couldn’t get a damned spot removed.” 

Money poured in. There was more than enough cash for the blemish removal and skin graph. In fact, there was sufficient funds to have his tail snipped.

Victor, invigorated by his new body and public adoration, changed. His melancholy and malice gave way to hope and aspiration. He hit the gym and altered his diet and began reading extensively – his favorite book being: The Prince, by Machiavelli. He joined the local Toast Masters Gild and began speaking publically. At 23, he ran for City Council and won. At 27, he became Sheriff of Crowley County. At 31, he bested the same Mayor that had gifted him the useless key.

At 39, he wrote his memoir. It did not include the bullying that he suffered, the blemish, or his tail. It focused on his Christian upbringing, his conservative values, and of course, the graphic gun battle at St. Elmo High. The book, called Good Guy with a Gun, became an instant hit, a New York Time’s Bestseller.

He became nationally celebrated – appearing on talk shows and podcasts and radio. He even did a TED Talk. His story caught the attention of the NRA. “We need people like you,” said the President of the NRA. “We need Alpha males in government. Alpha males that aren’t afraid of the effete lefty elites. We need good guys with guns – men with balls and bullets.”

“Balls and Bullets,” Victor ruminated. “That could make a catchy campaign slogan.”

And so it was that Victor Bishop, would-be mass murderer, became Governor of his state. It was a brutal campaign. Victor vilified his closest opponent, exposing a brief dalliance he’d had 20-years prior, ruining the man’s marriage, estranging his children. Victor called a lady opponent a “horse-face donkey witch.” He spread rumors that the Libertarian candidate ran a pedophile ring. He caused a nationwide sensation when he brandished the Gloc, the gun he’d used to kill Deke Joslin, on the live set of the Tonight Show.

He won by a landslide.

In office, his first official act was to sign an Executive Order mandating that every able-bodied and sound-minded adult in his state were to own a gun. No religious exemptions. No waivers for pansies and pussies and pacifists. The gun had to be loaded and functional and readily assessable at all times. If not on one’s person, it must be within a 100-yard proximity – in your car, desk drawer, gym locker, etc.

He called the proclamation WRM-32. The letters stood for Well Regulated Militia – as was referenced in the founders’ 2nd Amendment. When asked by a female reporter in the Press gaggle about the number 32, Victor grinned and said, “You’re the muckrakers. Go rake the mud and find out.”

The female reporter, known as Sally O by her high school posse, was pleased that she was not recognized. She looked the Governor in the eyes and said, “I will do just that.”


Sally was a 41 and brunette now. She thought it made her look more serious, more professional. She could’ve gussied up and gone blond and grabbed an anchor chair on a local news station, or even a national outlet. But she found reporting other reporters’ reports to be vapid and unsatisfying. She loved and lived for investigative journalism. Or as the Good Guy Governor called it: Muckraking.

            Sally jumped into her Toyota Corolla and drove south, to her hometown of Crowley. It wasn’t easy leaving the hustle and bustle of the state’s capital. But there was some truth to the Sherlockian idiom about returning to the scene of the crime. Once in Crowley, she knocked on two doors. The first was that of Doug and Darlene Bishop, Victor’s parents. The next was Hannah Joslin – now, Hannah Gilmore, having married some two-dozen years prior.

            “You must be so proud of your son,” Sally said to Doug and Darlene. They looked to each other for support, as if asked a brainteaser. “The Governor – Victor Bishop,” she prompted.

            “Of course,” Doug said, with no consensus from Darlene. “So very proud.”

            “Great,” she said, clicking her mini-recorder. “Then you won’t mind talking about the incident at St. Elmo’s on Homecoming night 25 years ago.”

            She conducted a similar interview with Hannah Gilmore the following evening.

            “Hannah,” she said, hugging the chubby girl. “It’s been so long – too long. You look fabulous, by the way. How do you do it? Wait, let’s talk skin regimen later. First, tell me . . . how have you been? There was the death of your father. The trial. Then Victor Bishop’s book; his winning bid for Governor; his state-wide gun mandate. Life has been so trying for you. Tell me everything.”

            “Everything?” Hannah asked.

            Sally pulled a bottle of chilled chardonnay out of her purse and said, “Everything.”

            They sipped wine and smoked weed and reminisced until 2:00 in the morning. As Sally was leaving, Hannah hugged her and whispered everything. She then walked across the room and opened an armoire. She tugged on a dovetail drawer and removed the contents.

            “Everything,” she repeated, handing Sally her deceased father’s video camera. “It’s still in there. The tape.”


Over the next 6 months, Sally poured through old police records, reading reports on microfiche and hand-written tablets. The sheriff, a man twice beaten by Victor Bishop, was happy to comply with Sally’s requests. “Somethin’ fishy about that son-of-a-bitch,” he said. “How he happened to find that gun on the ground, just in time to stop Deke dead in his tracks.”

“Fishy for sure,” she said. “In his book, Victor claims that it was must have been an extra weapon that Deke dropped. His daughter, Hannah, says her father didn’t own a Gloc 19. But get this: Victor’s father, Doug Bishop, admitted to owning that specific model.”

“He did?” the sheriff asked.

“Yes,” Sally confided. “But when I asked to see it, he said it’d been stolen years ago.”

“He never reported it,” the sheriff said, scratching his head.

“Figures,” she said, then added: “By the way, did you hear the latest news on Victor Bishop?”

He laughed and shook his head sideways. “Down here in Crowley, we don’t exactly have a hotline to the Governor’s office.”

She blinked her oversized blue eyes and said, “He just announced his candidacy for President of the United States.”


Alone, in her parents’ guest room, Sally sifted and considered the evidence she’d gathered. She spread out photo prints she’d made at Kinko’s. There was the weapon Victor had used. An extra magazine. And all the ammo, scattered atop the sheriff’s desk. For no reason she could rationalize, she decided to count the bullets, to include the one spent shell casing.

. . . thirty, thirty-one, thirty-two.

She counted again. Thirty-two.

The number bugged her. It meant something . . . something to Victor Bishop, anyway. Meant enough for him to tag it to the name of his signature WRM-32 Gun Bill.

While ruminating on the cursed number, she powered up the sleek video camera that Hannah had given her – the one Deke Joslin had used. After some fumbling and fails, she managed the camera. She flipped open the playback screen and watched the horror of her Homecoming celebration.

She watched it again and again and again. Finally, she saw it.


Over the next year, she attempted to set up a sit-down one-on-one interview with Governor Bishop. “No,” she told his handlers, “it must be live.”

The handlers dismissed her, opting for softball interviews with Fox News hosts. It wasn’t until the day she showed up in another Press gaggle, her hair still stinking of peroxide, that she got noticed.

“You there,” the Governor pointed. “You have a question?”

She stood and batted her eyes and smiled. “Sally O from WRDO,” she said. “Governor, there have been rumors that” –

“Wait,” he said from the dais. “Sally O? Sally O’Malley from St. Elmo’s High School in Crowley County? That Sally O?”

She pushed her flaxen hair off her chest to show her cleavage. “The one and only,” she said. “I’ve got a couple of questions. Do you” –

“As I live and breathe,” he interrupted. “I haven’t seen you since . . . since a very long time.” Unbeknownst to the staff and reporters, his phantom tail began to twitch.

“Twenty-five years,” she said.

“We’ve got a lot of catching up to do,” he said, shaking his head in wonder.

She ramped up her courage. This was her shot. “I’ve pleaded with your campaign manager, Tony, to grant me 15 minutes with you. He said you said no.”

Victor looked over his shoulder at the young ginger man he’d hired to run his Presidential Election. “Tony, Tony, Tony . . . naughty Tony. If Sally O’Malley wants 15 minutes with me, she gets it. Make it happen, Tony.”


Tony called her a month later. “You bagged the Good Guy,” he said. “Congratulations. He typically doesn’t grant live interviews . . . but he asked for you by name, Miss Sally O’Malley. We really need to hype the narrative that it was YOU that he saved that fateful day a quarter century ago. His polls are a little flat. He could use a bump. We’ll fly in a Fox news’ crew and do it a week from Tuesday – here, in the Governor’s mansion. We’ll open up the lyceum and run it like a Town Hall meeting – prime time. That good for you?”

“Good for me,” she said, then hung up. “Good for me . . . not for thee.”


Tony, Victor’s Campaign Manager, did double-duty as the show’s hype man. As Victor and Sally were being mic-ed up on set, Tony called out to the crowd: “Okay, show ‘em to me, folks. Who’s packin’?”

The crowd of two-thousand waved their hands and handguns, whooping and whistling through their fingers.  

Victor got a last minute powdering on the left side of his face, masking the faint surgical scarring that rid him of his blemish. Upon the stately table that separated interviewer from interviewee, next to his water glass, he placed his Gloc 19 – the same good gun he’d used to kill a bad guy with a gun.

When Tony gave them the nod, Victor and Sally sat upright in their respective high-back Victorian chairs, ready to engage.  

 “Three, two, one,” Tony said, jutting his thumb. The house lights dimmed and the red lights illuminated atop three TV cameras.

The digital signs at the foot of the stage flashed: Applause!

The crowd of two-thousand complied enthusiastically.

Sally immediately reached out and shook Victor’s hand. “It’s an honor,” she said, taking control. “Thank you for this opportunity, Governor Bishop.” She giggled. “Sorry, it seems so surreal to call you Governor.”

“I know, right?” he said, shaking his head. “For those that don’t know, Sally and I were High School chums. Sally was very popular. Me? Not s’much.”

Sporadic laughter trickled from the audience. They seemed unsure whether it was rude to laugh at their favored son’s self-deprecation.

Sally seized the moment. She uncrossed her legs and showed Victor what could only be the white postage stamp of her panties. This tactic, she knew, would unbalance him – throw him off his robotic talking points.

“You’re a Good Guy but a tough guy,” she said, glancing at her notes. “You talk tough – as your gubernatorial opponents recently discovered – and you backed up your rhetoric by mandating the gun ownership law, known as WRM-32.”

He nodded solemnly, soaking in the patter of applause. “Guns took this country from savages, built this country, and protected this country. Guns guard our borders. Guns win our wars. Guns are instruments of Power, instruments of Peace. Brass and iron are the very bedrock of our Democracy.”

Sally paused as the applause light flashed and people rose to their feet.

“Guns,” she added, “also kill innocent people.”

Victor flinched, narrowing his eyes, unsure what she’d said. He squirmed, suddenly uncomfortable in the baroque chair.

She plowed on. “Back to the name calling. You’ve given your opponents many colorful, if not hurtful, nicknames. Tell me, have you ever been labeled with a hurtful nickname?”

He smiled bigly and showed his veneers. “Not that I recall, Sally.”

She looked past him, appealing to the crowd. “Well, we certainly had a few doozies for you in High School. Would you guys out there care to hear a few of the Good Governor’s nicknames?”

The audience took their cue from Victor Bishop. He seemed perfectly sanguine, relaxing into what was becoming something of a mild roast. “Shoot,” Victor said, sniffing.

She pulled a rolled-up scroll from her cleavage and wagged it at the audience like a doggy bone treat. “Here’s the list. Ready or not.”

He shifted in his seat and gulped from his water glass.

“Loser, queerbait, retard,” she read. “You know, the standards. But what you may not know, folks, is that your Good Guy Governor had a massive birthmark on his face. It was really gross. That, and a freakish condition known as spinal dysraphism. Do any of you know what that means? Anyone?”

“We should talk about policy,” Victor said through clenched teeth. “Once I’m elected President I will enact WRM-32 nationwide. Every able-bodied man and woman in America will”–

“It means,” Sally said, trampling his spiel, “that Icky Vicky had a tail. God as my witness. My boyfriend Corey Nardo told me. Said he saw it in the boys’ locker room. A tail.” Sally cocked her thumb up and said, “This long.”

The audience, as a body, doubled over and guffawed.

“America has become a soft, coddled country,” Victor forged onward, hand-waving her ridicule. “We need people with skin in the game. People with guns that are willing to stand up and” –

She opened the scroll and continued. “Blotch Boy, Stain Thing, Oil Spill, Buttplug, Ass Dick, Waggy, Pickle Butt, and my favorite: Rorschach.”

Victor had enough. He made the “cut” motion to Tony, but the cameras kept rolling.

“But that’s not why we’re here today,” Sally said, flashing her gams.

“No,” he said tersely. “It’s definitely not. I’ve given you your time . . . now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a state to run.”

She put her hand on his knee; somehow, the simple act stopped him from standing. “No, please wait. Just a couple more questions.” She dilated her giant eyes and he fell into the twin pools.

“Just a couple,” he agreed, checking his Rolex.

“That gun,” she said, looking down at the table, “the one you shot Deke Joslin with. Where did you get it?”

He frowned. “You didn’t read my bestselling book, Sally. Naughty, naughty. It’s right there, in the fourth chapter. Joslin must have had two gun. Not uncommon for mass murderers. This Gloc must have fallen from Mr. Joslin’s pocket as he prepared to shoot you and anyone else in range.”

“Deke Joslin did not own a Gloc 19,” she said.

“It was 25 years ago,” he snapped. “Records were shoddy. Who knows when or where he got it?”

“I think I know where it came from,” she said.

She thumbed the button on her mini-recorder. The tinny sound of Doug Bishop, Victor’s dad, issued forth. “I definitely had a Gloc 19. Third generation it was. Nice piece. Then one day it just disappeared.”

“Before or after the Homecoming shooting?” Sally’s recorded voice asked.

“Before. Definitely before.”

Victor looked over at ginger Tony in the wings. Tony twirled his finger and mouthed the word “live” so Victor continued. “Not sure what that’s got to do with the price of tea in China,” Victor chuckled.

“You stole your father’s gun,” she said flatly. “You planned to shoot me that evening, Victor. You had 32 bullets. 32. You were going to spray 31 bullets into the bodies of the people you hated, then save the last one – number 32 – for the person you hated the most. Yourself. You were ready to do it . . . then Deke pulled his gun and beat you to the punch.”

“Ridiculous,” he said, corkscrewing his face for affect. “Listen, this line of questioning is”–

“Buttplug,” she chirped.

“Not funny, Sally.”

She winked at the crowd and said, “Blotch Boy, Stain Thing, Pickle Butt,”

Victor stood and crossed his arms and shouted, “Not fucking funny, Sally.”

“We have video,” she said.

“Video of what?”

Sally pressed the button on a remote controller. The theater-sized screen blanched and blipped until an overexposed video appeared. “Memories, Victor,” she said. “It was Homecoming Day. A very special day. Of course there’s going to be a dozen doting parents shooting film . . . to include Hannah’s father, Deke. She gave it to me. She gave me Deke’s tape.”

“Tape? Tape of what?”

Sally didn’t say. She simply turned to the big screen and watched, along with two-thousand curious viewers.

The video was choppy and wobbly – not surprising, given Deke Joslin’s shaky state that day. Sally smiled as Deke’s paternal voice announced: “And here she is, my queen, Hannah Banana.”

Sally saw herself on stage, 25-years younger, standing between Darnell and Hannah, on the 50-yard line, oblivious to the impending mayhem. Two minutes into the video, a voice could be heard panting a girl’s name: Han-nah, Han-nah, Han-nah.

“Please,” Victor said. “I don’t want to relive this day. A man was killed. A bad man with a gun, but still one of God’s Children.”

“Ha!” Sally laughed sharply. Then she pointed a green laser dot at the big screen. “Check out the timestamp. At exactly 07:39.14, Deke Joslin drops the video camera so that he can retrieve his gun. His one and only gun – a Beretta 9000.”

“Seriously!” Victor shouted. “Can someone please stop this circus?”

Sally paused the video. “That’s you, Victor. Behind Deke Joslin. The camera caught you. Unlike you, the camera doesn’t lie.”

The crowd grumbled, seeing the boy that became the man they adored. Seeing him as a gross adolescent, dumpy and pimply and unctuous. Seeing the purple birthmark randomly splashed across the canvas of his face, like a Pollack painting.

She zoomed in on the blemish. “Rorschach. That’s what I called him. Mean? Maybe. But appropriate. There was something hypnotic about the blot . . . it pulled you in and”–

“Out!” Victor shouted. He snatched the Gloc off the glass table and waved it. “Get out of my mansion this minute or I’ll”–

“Shoot me?”

He snarled and called security. “Someone throw this crazy bitch out of here.”

As two State Troopers scrambled on to the stage, Sally played the tape. “Watch him, folks. Watch Victor. Three seconds before Deke pulls his weapon, Victor has already taken a knee, pulled his daddy’s gun, and is taking aim . . . at me.”

The crowd reared like spooked cattle. Their emotions pin-balled between shock and disbelief and anger. The anger came from dawning realization that they’d been duped, played by this huckster. And that their Good Guy was anything but.

Sally played the critical scene on a loop. “He kneels; he pulls the gun; he aims at me . . . then, after Deke freaks out . . . here . . . Victor pivots and shoots Deke in the back of the head. Not exactly the way you described it in your book, Vic.”

“Edited,” he cried. “Fake. You stupid rubes know that video can be faked . . . right?”

The crowd seemed to growl. “You’re the fake!” a lady cawed. Then the crowd picked up the chant: “You’re the fake! You’re the fake!”

Sally zoomed in further, focusing on the backside of the teenage killer’s pants. “See that? That twitch? That’s his tail wagging. That’s your Governor, folks. Right after he watched Deke Joslin shoot three people dead. His little pickle danced in his pants. That’s Victor Bishop. That’s Rorschach!”

Victor lost all semblance of civility. He screamed profanities at Sally, then at the audience, then at the frozen forty-foot image of his adolescent self.

Maddened by the truth, Victor dropped to one knee, mirroring his pixelated portrait. He cradled his gun in his shooting hand, stabilized it with his off hand, and aimed for the hairless gap between Sally O’s eyebrows.

“Don’t!” half the crowd crowed. “Do it!” the others countered.

Sally stood defiant, akimbo, daring the Governor to shoot her on live TV and piss away his political ambitions. With overweening bravado, she goaded him, using the laser to pinpoint the perfect kill-shot between her eyes. “Go ahead, Buttplug. Go ahead, Good Guy, make my” –

When he shot her, a perfect red circle branded her forehead. He emptied the clip into Sally O and she did die. As did he. As did the two-thousand audience members. As did the staff and security and film crew of the live Fox News production.

Victor shot Sally – neither of which was particularly good. Then a Good Guy in the crowd shot Victor. Another Good Guy in the crowd shot Victor’s shooter. That shooter was shot by a State Trooper, and so on and so on . . . until there was nothing but death and the pungent aroma of blood and gunpowder in the Governor’s lyceum.

Tony was the only survivor. He would go on to write his personal account of the tragedy. Recalling the pungent aroma of the day’s event, he titled the book: The Smell of Freedom.


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