Just The Right Bullets
This morning there was a bullet by my pillow — a .357 Magnum round, about 160 grains give or take — not powerful enough to stop a tank, but plenty to crack an engine block or punch a hole through a man’s heart.
I didn’t ask to find this bullet, nor did the heavy-framed revolver sitting under my pillow ask to carry it.
Even so, the facts remain that I did find it, and that the gun will carry it, and both of us will walk these gin-soaked streets until we discover who it belongs to, until that poor sod lays bloody and broken and dying, never to understand what roll of the dice or spin of the cosmic wheel led us too him.
I hope I don’t know who he is, and if I do, I hope that whoever forgives souls like mine our sins, decides to finally let me burn.
As I lift the smooth, chilly scrap of copper and lead into my palm, some part of my brain I can’t touch — can barely feel — tells me where I must be, when I must be. It doesn’t mention who this bullet belongs to, but why would it? I’ll know when it’s ready for me to know.
Bullets are coy that way.
The first one I met, along with its gun, when I was still very young. My beard was a dusting of twisted, light-brown hairs that peppered my face at odd angles.
I was trouble — troubled, and one day I found myself staring at it, almost invisable, sitting at the back of six inches of steel — carried by a sweaty, vacant looking man with bad skin and worse teeth, who thought that it belonged to me.
When he pulled the trigger, the bullet refused, the gun clicked once — then a half-dozen times — before I wrestled it from his hands. When I turned the bullet on him, it flew straight to its mark, as only those who have found their true homes are want to do.
I think his last words were, “Thank you,” but I could be wrong.
I found more bullets after that, always where one would least expect to find them — at the bottom of a tumbler of Whisky, or balanced on the back of a crab scuttling its way down a sandy beach.
When I found a bullet this way, I couldn’t help from picking it up, and each time I did — I knew that very soon — maybe in a few hours, maybe a few days, someone was going to die.
The bullet would kill them.
And I would never know why.
They always knew why, and I guess that’s what matters.
The thing about bullets is that they have this way of getting what they want, and they always take care of their own, that’s why I wasn’t surprised when they decided to make me rich.
It all started when my beard had finally grown in. It was harshly cut, that I can’t deny, but it was dark and distinguished and it suited me.
The man, I would later find out, was a small time gangster with a larger than average nest egg. He killed and raped and robbed from the poor to give to himself. The bullet I carried ended his life on a Saturday afternoon in May. I found it while cleaning out the little gas stove in my dingy, downtown apartment.
At the time, the bullets that I met, wanted me to find them homes inside of people who even I thought deserved them. I was a young man. I was still trouble. I was poor. I was happy to oblige.
I barely felt anything when I pulled the trigger that time, and I felt less and less each time that I pulled it afterward, until I was very rich indeed.
Years passed in this way, and there came a time when I stopped finding bullets, and instead I married a woman who I loved and who loved me, and who made me happier than I’ve ever been.
We had a child, a daughter, I named her Annabella after a song I once heard.
Her eyes were a shocking green, so unlike her mother, so much like mine.
For a long while, longer than I deserved, Annabella was heart, my life, she taught me to feel. That, of course, was when I started finding bullets again.
This time, however, they wanted homes inside of people I couldn’t imagine deserved them.
One bullet wanted me to find a doctor, a woman who might have made a mistake once, but who — thanks to that bullet — would never be able to find redemption.
Another showed me to the house of a police officer who had accidentally killed a man while on patrol. He died on his front porch, crying out to me for forgiveness, as if somehow he knew why this senseless violence was being wrought on him.
It was the child, however, that broke me. The where and when and how of that bullet isn’t important. What is important is that I lost my wife, my fortune and my Annabella in the bargain.
They were still alive, but I no longer was.
Before this, thanks to my daughter, I had felt every squeeze of the trigger.
After, it was a long time before I felt anything at all.
I moved out with my heavy-framed revolver, and left them to find something better.
It was during this period that I discovered something odd. When a bullet found me, it always left a body, but never a scrap of evidence connecting me to it. I would read about these deaths, watch as my macabre little collection of corpses piled up in newspaper clippings and on television broadcasts, and wonder how I could possibly still be free. Why men in sharp suits with guns and bullets of their own hadn’t kicked in the door to my once again dingy apartment, and taken me away to pay for my crimes.
After years of thinking like this, the only reasons I could come up with were that the bullets took care of their own, and were jealous of other guns.
Still, I grew tired of waiting around to be hunted, so I decided to run.
I decided that if the bullets were going to find me anyway, I didn’t have to make it easy on them.
Once or twice, I even considered turning myself in, but I guess I was too much of a coward for that.
And who would believe me anyway? And how dangerous would it be for them if they did?
Bullets take care of their own.
Running helped for a while. For a while, I was free again.
Much later, there was an afternoon when I was walking down a long, black road. My beard had grown scraggly by then, knotted and damp from sweat. I looked like the sort of person who, when I was a rich man, I would have stared at and wondered how he could possibly have let himself go like that.
Now I knew.
It was on that road where I saw something familiar glittering in the scrubs and the dust. Something I thought had left me alone once and for all. It was a bullet, and it wanted to lead me back home.
I don’t know how many bodies it took to bring me back to my apartment, how many corpses stood between that afternoon and this morning. All I know is that there is a place that I need to be, and a person that I need to see, and that when I look into her eyes — eyes so much like mine — I will show her the bullet in the back of my gun.
My only hope is that the sound that greets me after I do, is a click.