Hack (as he was called by most who knew him well, Mike Hackett to everyone else) pulled his lifted black Wrangler into the driveway of the biggest and most opulent house in Driftwood, an exclusive community in Boca Raton. Walking past a Maserati, a BMW SUV, and a Range Rover (recently upgraded from a Nissan SUV) he made his way up the steps and to the door, ringing the bell.
A rotund, red-faced man in his late fifties in khaki shorts, stiff, new topsiders, a Tommy Bahama shirt half unbuttoned ensuring that his gold chains and mottled chest hair were clearly visible met him at the door but did not invite him in, only holding the door close to halfway open.
“Jimmy,” said Hack.
“James actually but Mr. Martin to you.”
“I’m here to pick up my son, Jimmy. Where’s his mother, my wife?”
As Hack asked this question, he caught a glimpse of Kristy walking down the staircase with Gage, his son, but they didn’t come directly to the door.
“Wait out here, the boy will be out shortly. And Kristy isn’t your wife anymore son.”
“Gage, Jimmy. The boy has a name. And have you seen divorce papers? I haven’t.”
Red face shut the door and Hack took a chair on the porch. A few minutes later the door opened and Kristy brought Gage out to his daddy.
“Daddy!” Gage exclaimed brightly as he ran straight for Hack.
Hack, being the good father that he was, sensed, in the microsecond of the moment in which their eyes first met, the melancholy shift to exuberance in his little boy's soul.
“Hey little buddy! I’m glad to see you. We are going to have a great weekend” Hack said as he embraced his son firmly, stood him in front of himself, then initiating their secret handshake (three squeezes for a silent “I love you”).
Hack took Gage’s bag from Kristy and threw it over his shoulder.
“Hey Mike. How are you? Gage has everything in his bag and—"
But Hack cut her off immediately, “Look at me.”
Kristy hesitated and kept her face angled slightly away and to the right so that Hack couldn’t see that there was a dark, half moon beneath her right eye.
“Look at me Kristy!”
Kristy turned and looked at Hack and the shiner was as clear as the Florida sky on a spring's noon.
“This is what you left for? This is what you expose our son to? For what? A bigger house, new car, and credit card with no limit? Jesus Kristy!”
“It’s nothing Mike. I fell.”
“You fell on a fist.”
“Really Mike, it was nothing. Just a little drinking and rough play.”
“Of course it was Mike. God… it isn’t a big deal!”
“It never only happens once Kristy. Never.”
“I am thinking of my son’s…our son’s future you know.”
“And I wasn’t? I'm not? And when did I ever treat his mother like this? Has he ever laid a hand on my son?”
“God no! You know I wouldn’t stand for that!”
“I don’t know what you’d do anymore Kristy. I don’t know you anymore.”
Hack dropped the shouldered bag to the deck, sat back down in the chair for a moment hands on his knees, drew a few deep breaths, then placed his increasingly red and tensing face into his hands. You could see it and feel it. It was in the air and when he removed his hands from his face and stood Kristy saw those eyes. Mike Hackett was a very good man but whenever he got those "crazy eyes" everyone who knew him understood that a form of hell was on the horizon. Not a hell born of malice or desire to do evil but, rather, an innate sense of justice that, once ignited, could often grow into full blaze. Righting a wrong became an overwhelming force swelling up within him much as a growing wave as it nears the shore such that he could not do otherwise than ride through the break.
“Take Gage and put him in the Jeep.”
“Mike, what are you—?”
“I am going to speak to the old man. Take Gage to the Jeep.”
Kristy knew enough about Hack to not try and deter him at this point but she also knew that he wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize seeing his son as he was already seeing him less since she and Gage had moved into their new home. So she walked Gage slowly down the big steps to the driveway and made their way to the Jeep. She was more worried about how James would take whatever was coming and sensed in her gut that it wouldn't bode well for her later once Hack was gone. But what could she do?
Hack banged on the door. “Jimmy!” “Jimmy!”
“What do you want boy and where is Kristy?”
“You like hitting women Jimmy?”
“To hell with you boy and get off my property! And don’t come back for that matter!”
“Jimmy, do you enjoy hitting women?”
“Get the fuck out. Now!”
“Or what, Jimmy, you going to hit me? I don’t think you’d enjoy that as much as hitting a woman.”
“I am going to get my phone, call the cops, and maybe even grab my gun and your ass better be gone from my property when I get back. Kristy! Kristy! Get back in goddamn house! Now!”
“Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy, hold on just a second,” Hack said in a rather calm voice as he reached into his back pocket, removed his phone, and dialed 911. “I’d like to report a case of domestic violence” and Hack provided the name of ‘Jimmy Martin’ as well as the address, hung up the phone and placed it back in his pocket.
“You shouldn’t have done that boy” James said with a conceited laugh as he turned to walk back into his house but Hack extended his tan, muscled arm and grabbed James by the back of the shirt, spun him around and put his right fist to Jimmy’s right eye with a reserved energy that still no less than sent James reeling back into the wall with enough force to knock off several pieces of stucco and pretentious decor.
“It’ll just be a little black for a few days Jimmy, like my wife’s eye. I didn't hit you hard.”
“You piece of shit! You have no idea what you’ve done! Don’t you know I can ruin you…crush you like a roach? You don’t know who you—"
But before James could get another word out, he found Hack’s hand around his throat and his body pinned up against the wall of his own home gasping for his next breath.
Hack looked him directly in the eye and as their eyes met it was eyes of calm fire into eyes of icy fear. In this moment, both men understood exactly what could happen next and just who was in control of this situation. It was not James and James was not used to that.
“Hit my wife again, ever touch my son, and I will kill you Jimmy. That is not a threat, no that is a commitment. I will kill you. Today, I am going to hurt you Jimmy. I am going to hurt you real bad but not kill you. Next time, I will kill you.”
Hack released James from his grip and James took in a few quick breaths but just couldn’t resist a retort, “You don’t threaten me boy I’ll make for goddamn sure that—“
But, before James could get the next word out, Hack struck with a right lead directly to the mouth, followed with a left cross to the nose knocking James back into the familiar wall and he continued pummeling him with fist and elbow in a flurry of hurt. James went out quickly but didn’t fall until Hack relented. It was all over too quick and Hack felt almost cheated.
Lying flat on his face with blood now pooling on the deck, Hack took both of James’s arms one at a time and spread them out so that, from above in the superior position, James looked like one of the thieves on the cross. Spotting a large, decorative stone doorstop a few feet away, Hack, uncertain with which hand James had struck Kristy (though he suspected it was the right), pulled the stop back over his head and smashed each of James hands three times with the improvised hammer, pulverizing the bones.
“You won’t hit anyone else for a while Jimmy.” Jimmy neither heard this nor felt the pain as he was still out cold. But he would feel it and he would feel it bad when he woke.
Hack stood, wiped his hands off on his jeans, and walked back toward the Jeep.
Kirsty was there, holding Gage. She had seen everything that had taken place though she never made a move nor spoke a word in protest. The police were now there and Kristy was speaking with them as Hack approached. Having already seen Kristy’s black eye and now the blood spatter on Hack’s hands and t-shirt, they slapped a pair of handcuffs on him and tossed him into the back of the cruiser. Kristy and Gage watched as they drove Hack away. The charge--