Civic Duty

Jack clenched the steel bar so tight his knuckles whitened as he waited in the corner by the alley. He knew what his target looked like, knew he would be along shortly, knew what he wanted to do to him and knew he would enjoy it. It was the right thing to do.

Mr. Johnson had played Jack the CCTV clip of the man’s crime; a vicious assault that would go unpunished due to the inadmissibility of that same footage and a false alibi.

“We’ve let him go,” Mr. Johnson said. “We all know what he’s done, that he’ll undoubtedly go on to do far worse, but we’ve tied our own hands behind our backs and shoved our heads in the sand to hide from our shame.”

The man had brutally murdered an innocent passerby in broad daylight. He had thrown a cardboard box over an ordinary man’s head, pushed him to the ground and stabbed him repeatedly in the throat with a kitchen knife. Arterial blood spurted into the attacker’s face, highlighting his white teeth as he stood over his victim laughing.

“Society needs it’s members,” said Mr. Johnson. “And it helps those who are willing to do what it takes to join.”

Jack declined help finding the right tool for the job. He knew right away what he would use. He had an old set of Weider dumbbells. He took the weights off and wound the nuts on one end, so it had the deadly punch of a mace in his hand.

“This will be a good location,” said Mr. Johnson. “We can disable the cameras in the alley between these hours. But remember, we will truly not think any less of you if you decide at any point not to go through with this. We really do understand that this is not for everyone.”

“But I don’t get my name moved up the housing list if I don’t,” said Jack.

Mr. Johnson nodded. “I’m afraid so. Your name will remain on the list of course. It will always be on the list. Unfortunately, it’s a very long list.” He sighed, then smiled. “On a brighter note, I understand you are expecting a delivery from the stork soon.”

“Three months,” said Jack. “It’d be nice to bring her back into our own place by then.”

Mr. Johnson placed a hand on Jack’s shoulder. “Yes, it truly would.”

The steel felt good in Jack’s grip as he crouched in the appointed blind spot Mr. Johnson had found for him. The weasel walked this way on the way home to his luxurious flat. He was smaller than he looked in the CCTV, but it was definitely him.

He could have a knife in his pocket, but Jack was not scared. His club made him brave. His heart pumped faster and adrenaline tingled all over. Here he came.

Jack stepped out from the shadows blocking the weasel’s path. “I know what you did,” Jack said. “I saw the film.”

“Wha…?” The weasel’s mouth widened with his eyes, as he looked up at Jack’s raised arm and saw the steel mace fall.

Again and again, Jack brought his arm up and down into the fiend’s skull, that splintered and splattered and shattered, following the body down to the ground, and he didn’t stop until the steel chinked on concrete. Jack rose up and his mouth tasted salty, and he wiped with his hand and saw that it was blood. He was covered with the viscera of the weasel’s head, but he didn’t care. The taste of victory swelled his heaving chest. He looked up at the CCTV, glad it was as dead as the weasel. He grinned.

Mr. Johnson stopped the clip there, and Jack’s grinning face froze on screen having tasted his victim’s blood. Jill sat there frozen too. If she moved she feared she would throw up. Mr. Johnson nodded sagely and lowered his gaze so as not to embarrass her. He understood.

“Fiend,” Jill said. “Just… what are we coming to?”

“A world where this man walks free,” said Mr. Johnson. “Where he can live in a nice flat with heating and a view. That he thinks he deserves.”

“I know what you said, and I wish I could, I really do. I know it’d be the right to do too. I do know that.”

“And the rewards are great. For you and your family. A deserving family.”

“Yes, a flat we could call our own. With heating and a view.”

“There are also houses available. With gardens. Not much admittedly, but perhaps enough room to have a flower bed, plant some vegetables maybe, if you so desired. Or to just lie out on a sunny day.”

Jill smiled at the thought. “Sometimes, as much as our heart desires, there is a difference between what we want to do, and what we actually can do,” she said.

“It is so much easier for the compilers of the list if they know who is deserving of a place near the top,” Mr. Johnson said. “It is a sad fact we cannot house everyone, so the choices have to be made somehow. The bravest can appear the most deserving.”

“You misunderstand,” said Jill. “I’m just trying to be practical. That… thing, is so much bigger than me, so much stronger, and certainly more violent. I’m not sure I could… fulfill my obligation. Not without help.”

Mr. Johnson leaned forward, smiling as Jill stammered out her request.

“So, I was wondering,” she said. “Do you have a gun?”

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