I don’t write very many short stories, but I was recently contacted by a friend and author who asked me to produce this one for an online link to other Texas authors. It began as a simple story of my fictional Texas Ranger Sonny Hawke back when he was a young DPS officer. As the story evolved, I realized it was the perfect time to introduce new characters from an upcoming novel, Tucker and Harley Snow. That novel is set in the present, but here you get to see them while they were working together as undercover narcotics officers in the Dallas area. The interesting thing is those brothers are real, and are working with me on this work in progress that I hope to see in 2022. Unfortunately, the Sonny Hawke series ended with book four, Hawke’s Fury, but he will continue appear in upcoming short stories. Thanks for your support. Enjoy!
A Confluence in Time
by Reavis Z. Wortham
I roused up at the sound of my old daddy’s voice, wondering why he claimed it was sunny when the room was dim. As my wits returned, I realized I was in a hospital bed, hooked up to an IV and a flashing monitor.
Everything was fuzzy and I blinked to clear my eyes. My mouth was dry, and when I spoke, the sound was sticky, raspy. “What’s sunny?”
“I’s trying to wake you up.”
“Well, you did.” My eyes closed and it felt like I was floating on the surface of a stock pond. Sleep nearly took me under the surface again. “Can I get a drink?” A straw tapped my lips and I swallowed the sweetest water I’d ever tasted. I listened to him rustle as he sat back down near the head of the bed. “Why’m I in the hospital? Car wreck?”
He was silent for several beats. “You don’t remember, son?”
I dug around in my mental files for several seconds, but came up with nothing. “I was on patrol. Stopped for coffee.” I’m a State Trooper for the Texas Department of Public Safety. Most folks call us the Texas Highway Patrol.
A memory returned. “Where’s Kelly?”
“She’s been right here beside you for three days. Wouldn’t hardly move while they kept you sedated, but I finally sent her home to shower and get some sleep.”
“You sent her home so you could wake me up yourself.” That sounded like the Old Man, who’d served as a Texas Ranger for decades. Now retired, he spent most of his time aggravating me, instead of the bad guys.”
“Partly, but we’ve been trying to wake you up for the past twelve hours. You were on some pretty strong stuff and it takes a while to get out of your system.”
“So what happened?”
“You were shot, son.”
My breath hitched at the flood of memories that swept me away.
* * *
Stationed out of the DPS building on I-30 in Garland, I was a young officer patrolling the part of the interstate that stretched from Dallas on eastward through Mesquite and Garland, then across the Ray Hubbard Bridge and on into Rockwall. It was nearly nine in the evening when I pulled into the Stop and Go to get a cup of coffee in an effort to stay awake.
I hadn’t been sleeping good because I was going through the exam process for a transfer to the Rangers and my oral board was coming up in a couple of days. I’ve always been a good cop, and a better trooper, and always knew exactly what to do in all situations…so far… but for some reason the thought of sitting across from a panel of experienced Rangers had me as nervous as a cat in a doghouse.
My mind was elsewhere when I radioed in a Code 51 for a short break and stepped out of the truck. Even though I was distracted, I still noticed there were three vehicles parked in front of the store, and two more in the bays, getting gas. Old habits.
Two long-haired, bearded men in jeans and untucked shirts were standing beside a faded white Ford LTD, talking and drinking Cokes as their tank filled. Two gas bays over was a black-haired slender guy behind the wheel of a brand new 1990 Cutlass sedan with California plates, likely waiting for someone to pay the cashier in order to start the pump.
Or like me, someone getting coffee. I thought about a donut too, but resisted the urge to play into the stereotype.
I opened the glass door and stepped right into an armed robbery.
Millions of synapses fired as I processed an average-looking guy with a big nose and an even bigger revolver who was obviously a tweaker jacked up on meth. He had a terrified young woman folded over the counter with his left hand full of hair that was twisted up on the back of her neck. He was screaming like a banshee at the wide-eyed female cashier to hurry up and open the register.
The middle-aged black woman behind the counter full of impulse buys was frozen in fear, her hands so straight up in the air it would have been humorous in a television sitcom.
A second tweaker with a face full of typical sores and pimples from all the chemicals he’ sucked into his lungs was rounding the counter as I stepped inside. He charged the terrified cashier with still another big revolver stiff-armed out in front of him like a sword. Those guys obviously thought size matters. “Gimme that money and don’t you hit no damned alarms!”
There here was no way I could call for backup because things went sideways in a hurry. My first instinct was to run like a striped-ass baboon, but the oath I took, and the badge on my shirt, wouldn’t let me. I was committed to stop this, whether I wanted to or not.
All that registered in an instant as my hand gripped the butt of the Beretta M9 in my holster. It came level with the ease of practice and I lined the sights up on the tweaker holding the crying girl.
“Drop it now or I’ll shoot you where you stand!”
I’ll have to give it to Greasy Hair, he was fast on his feet. Probably knowing his buddy, the walking zombie, had his back, Greasy Hair yanked the young woman upright, spun around to put her between us. He jammed the six-inch muzzle against the back of her head.
“Stop there or I’ll blow her head off!”
Over the hostage’s cries and his shouts, I registered the distinct click of the hammer as he thumbed it back. From the corner of my eye, I saw Zombie slam the barrel of his pistol on top of the clerk’s head. The poor woman disappeared as her knees collapsed.
That move worked in my favor. I wouldn’t have two hostages to deal with. Zombie pointed his gun at me and dug around in the cash drawer with his left hand. He’d just become target number two.
The hammer on the Beretta was already back, an unconscious move on my part. That simple act lessens the tension on the trigger, making the first shot smoother and easier. I looked Greasy Hair in the eye and had something happen that I’d only experienced once in my life.
I was a kid at the Mesquite rodeo, watching the action from the stadium seats when I looked across the arena and saw a girl I’d been wanting to ask out. When I saw my future wife that night, I had the sensation of tunnel vision and mentally zoomed in on her, forgetting the people there and especially the guy with her.
That same sensation returned in the convenience store. It was as if I were looking down a telescope, blocking out everything around Greasy Hair except for his forehead. That’s what I fixated on. All through my life, I’ve been impulsive, and sometimes it paid off. Other times those impulses bollixed things up.
I needed to stop him right then and that forehead was the way to do it. This time my impulsiveness worked in my favor. I didn’t feel the trigger break, or even realize I’d pulled the trigger until a red hole appeared above Greasy Hair’s big nose. His head snapped back as a gout of gray matter and blood exploded from the back of his skull.
His hostage shrieked and dropped to the floor.
The report shocked Target Number Two, Zombie, who saw his buddy die in such a graphic way. I swung left, again lined up the sights and saw the culvert-sized muzzle of what I took to be a .44 magnum rising to my center mass. Three more cracks of thunder erupted from the Beretta. The slugs caught him in the chest. Already dead, his corpse stiffened and toppled sideways.
A sledgehammer hit me in the side and I went down, instinctively knowing I’d been shot. The impact knocked the breath out of me, but I twisted to look down the gum and snack aisle (why I registered the contents of those shelves I’ll never know). There was a third tweaker I’d missed, and he had a sawed-off shotgun held at waist level.
The only thing that saved me was my vest and the size of the shot he’d loaded into the little 20-gauge. Still not wanting to get hit with another load of shot from an ever closer range, and still on my side, I raised the semi-automatic with both hands. The Beretta roared until the slide locked back.
The stream of 9mm rounds punched half a dozen holes in the guy who fell at the same time the cooler’s doors behind him collapsed in a waterfall of glass.
Self-preservation and a good squirt of adrenaline gave me the impetus to thumb the empty magazine from the butt and slap a fresh one home. Blood poured from the side of my head and my right arm, but I still worked…for the moment.
My thumb sent the slide forward at the same time gunshots from the parking lot shattered the entrance doors and rounds buzzed over me like angry insects.
Dammit! Those guys I saw outside. This is like slapping a yellowjacket nest. They’re coming from everywhere.
The guy from the Cutlass was standing just off the sidewalk fifteen feet away, and aiming a nickel semi-automatic at me with both hands. My gun rose, and half a second before I could fire, a burst of gunfire from two different weapons hammered my already cotton-filled ears.
The ventilated driver dropped to the concrete like someone had pitched him out of an airplane. Somehow his pistol came up again and the gunfire continued as even more bullets plucked at the dead man’s clothes.
A couple of shots missed and pitted the concrete in tiny clouds of dust. The two bearded men rush forward, guns in hand, and shouting beautiful words.
“Police! We’re the police!”
I thought the thing was over. Suddenly exhausted, I reached up to feel a hole in the side of my head and warm blood. Laying back on the floor, I stared at the ceiling and heard a commotion behind the counter.
It was all I could do to turn my head and see the young woman who’d been held hostage slam a fist into the side of the salesclerk who fell back out of sight a second time. That gal hadn’t been a hostage, she was part of the robbery, playing the part to force the clerk to open the cash register.
The register drawer rattled as she snatched the cash. She vaulted the counter a second later and sprinted for the door. Glass crunched under her tennis shoes and I had just enough strength to reach out and cat her foot as she passed.
She yelped and fell face forward, sliding to a stop against the door frame. Cash fanned out as she used both hands to catch herself. One of the narcotics officers rush forward and the last thing I saw and heard was him flipping her over as she made a rude reference to his mother.
* * *
The Old Man watched my eyes as the events came flooding back. “So you remember, son?”
“I do now.” A jolt of pain shot made me grunt when I raised my hand to feel the thick bandage. “Am I hurt bad?”
“Naw. Lots of holes in your arm and side from those size six pellets. It was two of those pellets that cracked the side of your skull that had us all worried, but they say you’ll be fine. Be glad he wasn’t using number four buck.”
I swallowed again and studied the ceiling, thinking about my close call. “Who were those two that bailed me out? At first I thought they were the bad guys.”
“Undercover narcotics agents by name of Tucker and Harley Snow.”
“Brothers?” That was unheard of. The only way brothers could work together was through special dispensation from the governor.
“Brothers all right. They’d dropped a prisoner off at the Garland jail, and were on the way back to downtown Dallas when they had to stop for gas. They were in the right place at the right time.”
“I need to thank ‘em. What about the girl?”
The Old Man chuckled. “Believe it or not, they were out of L.A. Stole that Cutlass Supreme and hightailed it out of California. Seems like they owed a bunch of gangsters a lot of money for drugs, but the damndest thing about this whole deal is that she was the ringleader of the whole shebang. Her rap sheet’s a mile long. Everything from armed robbery, murder charges, drug charges, and prostitution. I reckon she’ll spend some time down in Huntsville.”
I paused, thinking. The drugs still weren’t letting go and I felt myself drifting. “Well, damn.”
“If I’ve been out for three days, I missed my interview with the Rangers.” My head swam and I felt that deep, dark well pulling at me. My eyelids grew heavy.
My dad, former Ranger Herman Hawke, grinned. “Your interview went just fine.”
I fought back to the surface. “How could that be?”
“Well, son, while you were laid up in La La Land, Major Chase Parker heard about your little incident. I ought not tell you this and let somebody else do it, but since I’m your daddy and all, and you’re gonna agree you haven’t heard anything, there’s something I’ve been busting to tell you.”
I closed my eyes, expecting to hear that I’d be a state trooper until retirement. Major Parker was the commander of the Texas Rangers, and if he decided to pull the plug on my application, there was nothing I could do about it.
“They’re giving you the DPS Medal of Valor, and Public Safety Director Rick Easterwood is putting you up for the IACP Police Officer of the Year award. I ‘magine you’ll get that one too. With all that recognition, Major Parker decided they’ll waive the oral part of your application and give you that Ranger badge you’ve been wanting.”
He built that crooked grin of his and nodded. “Congratulations. In a few days you can tell folks that you’re a Ranger.”
Those words echoed in my head as I slipped back into peaceful darkness for a nice long rest. Sonny Hawke, Texas Ranger.