Authors: Alexa Davis
book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places and incidents are
products of the writer's imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not
to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual
events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
© 2016 Alexa Davis
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, Mr. Russo is lying and he knows he
is lying," I said calmly as I sat back in my chair and watched the man
sitting across from me begin to fume. I could feel the studio lights beating
down on me as beads of sweat began to form on my forehead, but I wasn't about
to back down and let Russo have the advantage.
"Mr. Russo, how do
you respond to that?" the blonde news anchor asked as she turned away from
me. We'd been invited on the show to debate the need for improved weapons
safety reforms after yet another act of violence in a public place. Davis Russo
was the president of American Weapons Network, and I owned the company that was
on the verge of releasing technology that would make guns exponentially safer.
My invention of grip specific technology was not only revolutionary, but also a
threat to weapons industry profits because it would make it nearly impossible
for gun owners to sell weapons under the table and private sales were where all
the money lay.
"Callie, I believe
Mr. Redding is mistaken when he accuses me of lying," the man said as his
beady eyes darted back and forth, making him look like anything but honest. I
loathed Russo for his Wild West approach to gun ownership — no one was safe
unless everyone owned one. "My research shows that far fewer people are
injured in gun related accidents than Mr. Redding's leftist media figures
indicate. I believe that the vast majority of gun owners are responsible people
who are simply seeking to protect themselves and their families against
violence perpetrated by those who fail to follow the law. We need guns because
criminals, by definition, do not abide by the law. Like I've always said, if we
outlaw guns, then only outlaws will have guns."
"I don't think
that's what Mr. Redding is saying, Mr. Russo," Callie Mitchell
interjected. I wanted to hold my hand up and tell her to stop. I'd been down
this road with Russo many times over the past fifteen years and never once had
I seen him so much as blink when asked to listen to a rational argument in
favor of gun control.
"Callie, Mr. Russo
knows precisely what I'm saying since we do this same song and dance every few
months," I replied as I leaned forward and focused my gaze on the
newswoman leading the discussion. "The reality is that we don't actually
have any reliable figures related to gun violence in this country since the
enactment of the Dickey Amendment has meant that the CDC has not been allowed
to research or even gather information related to gun violence in this country
for almost two decades."
"Mr. Redding and I
do go round and round on this, but I think that Mr. Redding's position is much
more personal than mine, Callie," he said as a thin smile slowly snaked
across his face. "I think Mr. Redding's financial connection to the outcome
of this legislation has made him a somewhat unreliable participant in these
debates. I, on the other hand, have little or no financial investment in the
issue. I am simply a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment and believe that
all citizens have the right to own and carry firearms. My position is simply to
protect those rights."
I wanted to wipe the
smarmy grin off of Russo's face once and for all. I hated the man not only
because he was a loathsome individual, but also because I believed he was
personally responsible for the death of my parents and six other people.
His hateful rhetoric,
developed when he'd been clawing his way up the ladder at the AWN, had inspired
a fanatical following, and one of his true believers, a man with a history of
violence, had walked into a pawn shop in Baltimore and walked out with a gun
that same evening. He then followed my parents to the restaurant where they
were celebrating their thirtieth wedding anniversary and shot them point blank
as they'd left. The man, Warren Abraham, had slipped away unnoticed and shot
six more people at random before the police caught up with him. He had a list
of the victims in his coat pocket and had not resisted arrest; instead, he'd
repeated over and over again that he'd been, "ordered by God to rid the
earth of those who opposed his right to protect himself.” In a hearing later
that month, he had been deemed too mentally impaired to stand trial. He was now
locked up in a hospital on the outskirts of Baltimore where, every year, he was
examined to see if he'd become competent enough to be released. However, he
asserted that he'd only been following orders issued by his pastor who preached
the right of all citizens to protect themselves from a tyrannical government. His
preacher had been the Reverend Russo.
My mother's best friend
Maureen Warren, or Mo as I called her, had made sure that I'd been keep
entirely out of the spotlight during the media circus to the point that no one,
aside from close family and friends, recognized me as the son of the two
murdered people. She’d used her wealth and influence to shield me for most of
I'd been allowed to grow
up outside of the shadow of the killing, but it had affected every aspect of my
life. Davis Russo was not one of the people who'd been privy to information
about my life, but he often threatened to reveal things I'd rather he didn't. He
did this with everyone who threatened his power, so while I didn’t take it
personally, I was always poised to respond to his attacks.
"Callie, I believe
Mr. Russo is confusing his own culpability with his desire to project his guilt
onto me," I said, smiling warmly at the woman before turning and staring at
Russo straight in the eyes. "It is true that my financial motivation is
substantial, but I don't view profit as a negative consequence of pushing for
gun safety laws. I'm not preaching fear and exclusion; I'm focusing my energies
on something productive: legislation that will protect thousands of Americans
I watched Russo begin to
boil. I always enjoyed this part of the debate where I got to talk about the
good I was doing to try and keep people safe and Russo was rendered impotent
because to counter my points would mark him as the problem. I knew it and I
GRIPTech, has worked hard to design a line of touch sensitive technological
innovations called GripPlus that can be attached to any gun and render it
operable by only the persons programmed to use it," I said, leaning back
comfortably. I enjoyed talking about this because there was no way for Russo to
say anything negative about it without sounding like he actually wanted people
to be able to shoot one another. "We've found that the majority of
domestic accidents connected to guns could have been prevented if only the
rightful owner of the gun were able to operate it. This technology would make
it impossible for children to shoot each other if weapons are carelessly left
where they can be accessed."
"What about crimes,
Mr. Redding?" Callie asked. I could see she was fighting to hold back a
triumphant grin. Most news reporters in D.C. despised Davis Russo just as much
as I did. He was a rude and condescending man who lorded his power over
everyone and severely punished those who didn't bow down.
"I'm glad you asked,
Callie," I said as I turned and faced the camera. This was the point at
which I got to tell the viewing public what was really at stake. "Grip
technology would render stolen weapons impossible to use, and since approximately
twenty percent of all firearms used to commit crimes pass through a chain of
unregulated private transfers and sixty percent of weapons are simply stolen,
we feel that implementing grip technology would result in a drastic lowering of
crime over the long term."
"It would also add
an additional five hundred to a thousand dollars to the sale price of each
individual weapon, rendering it unaffordable for those in lower income
brackets," Russo sneered. "So, if I'm understanding Mr. Redding's
thesis, it's that he wants only billionaires such as himself to be able to
afford to buy guns."
"That's not at all
what I'm saying, Russo and you know it," I shot back. Russo always aimed
at class warfare to try and whittle down my points because he knew that otherwise,
he had no leg to stand on. "I'm saying get the guns out of the hands of
the criminals by locking usage into one person's prints – or in the case of our
GripPlus technology, you can program the grip for multiple person access."
"The reality is that
you don't want the common man to own a gun, do you?" Russo said. "You
hate poor people and you think they're too dumb to be able to own guns. Isn't
that right, Mr. Redding?"
afraid that we've run out of time, but I want to thank you both for being here
today," Callie said as she faced the camera and continued. "It's
obvious that we have a range of opinions about gun ownership in this country
and that the American people are divided on the issue. The question is how we
will find a way to compromise. Join us tomorrow night when dig deeper into the
issue and talk with researchers from the CDC who are advocating overturning the
Dickey Amendment and allowing the CDC to begin researching the epidemic of gun
violence in the United States."
We all paused, looking at
the camera as the director called cut and the lights came up. Callie looked at
me and gave me a sad smile as she shrugged.
"You aren't going to
win this one, Redding," Russo said as he waited for an assistant to remove
his mic. "The tide of public opinion is shifting toward individual rights
and away from your 'greater good' narrative. People are scared, and they don't
trust the government to protect them."
"I don't believe
that, Russo," I said as I nodded at the young assistant pulling my mic.
"People don't want their children shooting each other accidentally, nor do
they want criminals getting a hold of weapons. I have never understood why you
oppose the implementation of technology that would render both of those things
"I'm for individual
rights," he replied as he brushed a piece of lint from his lapel.
"Your own individual
rights, maybe," I said wryly. "You don't give a shit about anyone but
yourself, Russo. All of this is a ruse to fool people into supporting the
weapons manufacturing industry because they line your pockets with cash."
"Not all of us have
been so fortunate to inherit large sums of money," he said as he raised an
"That's a low blow,
even for a slime ball like you, Russo," I said through clenched teeth as I
fought to hold back the urge to punch his teeth into the back of his throat.
"Still, you've got
your money," he smiled. "The rest of us have to earn a living
"On the backs of
people who die," I said in a flat voice.
indeed," he replied as he stood up and turned to leave. Then he turned
back and added with a smile, "But liberty must occasionally be defended
with the blood of tyrants and patriots, don't you know?"
I clenched my fists at my
side and inhaled deeply as I watched him walk off the set. One of the
assistants patted me on the shoulder and said, "Man, I hate that guy. He's
such a douche." I flashed him a tense smile, exhaled, and then vowed once
again to find a way to bring Davis Russo to his knees.
, those two really hate each other, don't
they?" I said to Carl as I grabbed another slice of pizza from the box in
his desk and returned to my own. We were sitting in the deserted offices of the
on a Sunday
morning, eating cold pizza while watching Linc Redding and Davis Russo trying
to tear each other to shreds as they debated the necessity of gun control.
"Russo's such a
bottom feeder," Carl observed as he tried to shove an entire slice of
pizza into his mouth.
"Jesus, Jackson, pig
out much?" I said shaking my head as I took a less disgusting bite and
turned my attention back to the television screen on the wall. Our editor Frank
Beatty kept the television running twenty-four/seven as we tracked the news and
wrote about it. Many of my fellow reporters found it annoying to have it
running in the background, but I found it comforting and reassuring. After
years of tracking down stories in remote locations without the support of
anyone but a translator and maybe a guide and one too many close calls, I'd
come back to D.C. three months prior and taken a job as a features writer for
after Carl had
recommended me. I didn't really like the assignment as a general features
writer, but I needed time to think as I planned my next move, and this gave me
a little breathing room. It definitely wasn't anywhere near as challenging as
tracking down Boko Haram in Nigeria or covering the attempts by the Chinese to
build a super highway across the African continent, but it didn't require me to
work nights or weekends and I was able to catch up on so many of the things I'd
missed out on while I was overseas.
mrgap," Carl said with his mouth full of pizza.
"Dude, chew and
swallow, then talk," I told him, waving him off as I kept my eyes on the
screen. Carl Jackson was my work-husband: a top-notch political reporter with
an eye for bullshit like no one I'd ever met. We'd met when we'd both
freelanced for the
decade ago, and while our lives had gone in distinctly different directions,
we'd remained close thanks to the advent of technology. Carl didn't suffer
fools, but he did have an excellent sense of humor about them, and we enjoyed
making fun of the plethora of idiots that occupied offices on Capitol Hill. He
wrote about their congressional hijinks, while I wrote about the things their
wives were interested in, always icing the stories with a bit of the political
tidbits that Carl was unable to stick in his own stories. As a result of our
unholy alliance, pretty much everyone in Washington hated Carl, but they had no
idea who I was. However, they also recognized that he wielded a kind of power
that few other reporters had, so they laughed it off in public and swore
revenge in private.
"I said, look at
Russo's face," Carl said more clearly as he pointed at the screen.
"He's about to lose his shit on Redding!"
"What's the beef
between those two again?" I took a closer look at Linc Redding. I shivered
a bit as he turned and addressed the camera. His blue eyes radiated an
intensity that made me look away for a moment. When I looked back, he had
turned back towards Russo and was flashing a wry grin that made me chuckle.
Redding obviously hated Russo, but I couldn't remember why.
"Russo acts like
he’s got something on everyone," Carl tossed over his shoulder as he
grabbed another piece of pizza and tossed it on his plate. “But I think it’s a
guilty conscience that drives his nastiness.”
"Russo was the
pastor at the church where Warren Abraham claims he got the message from God to
kill people who opposed the second amendment," Carl said.
"Abraham is that
crazy they locked up for his shooting spree in Baltimore, right?" I recalled
as I grabbed my now-warm soda and unscrewed the bottle top.
"Yeah, that's the
one," he nodded before taking a human bite from his slice. "They
caught him on his way into D.C. to continue his spree, but they couldn’t
directly connect Russo to him outside of the fact that he was the pastor at his
up," I said shaking my head. "Where is he now?"
"Still locked up in
St. Elizabeth's, as far as I know," he said. "He gets a hearing every
year to see if he's sane or not. Why are you so interested in this?"
"No reason, just
curious," I said as I turned my attention back to Linc Redding. "He
looks kind of like a bro-ish frat boy, doesn't he?"
does!" Carl laughed. "That scruff is probably maintained by a team of
highly trained stylists that follow him everywhere and feed him peeled grapes
when they're not grooming him."
snorted. "What do you think he's worth?"
"Oh, I know what
he's worth," Carl replied as he grabbed his notebook and flipped back a
few pages. "As of last June, fifty billion."
Carl!" I whistled. "The boy is loaded! No wonder he looks so good;
he's got the cash to maintain it all."
"Yeah, imagine how
good I'd look if I had that kind of money," he said as he stood up and
strutted down the aisle between our desks. "I'd look like a damn
"Carl, face it. No
matter how much money you had, you'd still be a newsroom schlub, my
friend," I laughed. He shot me a dirty look as he sat back down at his
"You can really be a
bitch sometimes, Liv," he said as he grabbed the television remote and
turned down the sound before he turned his attention to the pile of papers on
his desk and began sorting through them. He quickly tossed sheet after sheet
into the recycle box under his desk before stopping suddenly. "Hey, look
at this, will you?"
"What is it?" I
asked as I took the paper from him and quickly scanned it. "Oh damn, is
this what I think it is?"
"If you think it is
the financial report on the
then yes, it is what you think it is," he said nodding.
"Damn, this looks
like we're bleeding," I said before handing the sheet back. "What the
"I do believe our
is in trouble,"
Carl remarked as he read the paper again and then tucked it into the folder he
kept locked in a drawer in his desk. "Perhaps we should be seeking
alternative employment options."
"That's kind of
fatalistic," I said. "What do you think is happening?"
"I'm not sure, but
if I had to ponder a guess, I'd say we're not writing the kinds of stories that
attract online attention and that advertisers are fleeing when they realize
they can't get exposure on our pages."
"It sounds like you
have a pretty damn good idea of what's going on," I said with a wry smile.
"I've been thinking
about it a lot lately." He tossed his pizza crust into the trash.
"This paper isn't moving with the times. We do things the old-fashioned
way and while that's been great, it's not generating revenue. We're going to
lose our jobs, you know."
"Aw, c'mon, Carl,
don't be a pessimist," I teased. Still, I understood his underlying
concern. Carl had a family, a mortgage,
in other words, he had a life that required a regular paycheck. I, on the other
hand, was a nomad. I lived in a studio apartment on Massachusetts Avenue where
I slept at night. As a freelancer, I'd grown accustomed to feast or famine, so
I'd learned to live on the famine wages and squirreled everything else away for
a rainy day. If the paper went under, Carl and I would be okay, but a lot of
the staff would not be and at his age, it would be unlikely that Frank would
find another managing editor position. I looked at Carl with sympathy and said,
"I know it's tough, but we'll find a way to keep this thing afloat. The
paper has been through worse times, right?"
"How the hell would
you know, Liv?" he said in an irritated tone. "You've been here less
than a month, and if things go south, you'll just pick up and go globetrotting
again. Footloose and fancy free!"
"Hey, I'm not
throwing in the towel," I protested. "I'm just saying that it's not
time to give up hope. We'll figure out something and it'll all be okay."
"I know, I
know," he sighed rubbing his forehead. “I've put twenty years into this
paper, Liv. This is my home. If this goes under, I can't just pick up and move
somewhere else. Besides, who will hire me? I'm past my shelf life for the
current reporting world. I'm a dinosaur."
"Knock it off,
Jackson," I said trying to lighten his mood, but what he was saying got
under my skin. I was still in my early thirties, but I, too, felt the younger
reporters nipping at my heels. They were young and hungry and they were willing
to do things that those of us who had discovered our mortality were no longer
willing to do. If the paper went under, I'd find another job, but it would be
more difficult that it had been before, and it would only continue to get
tougher. "Look, we're going to figure something out, okay? We'll land a
big story and put ourselves on the map. We'll do something. I promise."
he smiled weakly. "It'll all be fine tomorrow; I just get down
buddy," I nodded as I turned back toward my computer and began sifting
through the files I kept on my ideas for stories. As I looked at one after
another, I said over my shoulder, "But don't give up, we need to hold onto
The only response was the
clicking of Carl's keyboard and the low hum of the television on the