The Justice Cooperative
But even as he spoke them, the words sounded hollow. What could he do that he hadn’t already done?
And why should he think he could do any better the next time?
As he lay in bed that night, unable to sleep, he played back the scene yet one more time in his mind. It
had all happened so quickly. There had been no time to react. Before he was fully aware he was being
attacked, he’d been knocked out of the fight.
Unable to think of anything he could have done differently, he raged at the judge who would grant
early release to a wolf in human form, who’d already struck at least twice, and who was clearly a menace
to the community. But then, he realized, this really hadn’t changed things much. Grubbs’s sentence would
have been up in little more than a year anyway. He and Judith would have faced this problem sooner or
later. The day of reckoning had simply come earlier than they had expected.
Guns. Handguns. Shotguns. Long guns. Guns in glass display cases. Guns in wooden wall racks. More
guns than Tom had ever seen in his whole life.
He had clocked out at the end of the regular workday, passing up a usually-welcome chance to earn
some overtime. He stood just inside the door of the gun shop, uncertain about what to do next. So far as
he knew, his father had never owned a gun; had never even touched one since he came back from Korea.
His mother had forbidden him and his brothers to play with toy guns. But last night, he’d reluctantly
come to the conclusion he needed a gun.
He looked around the shop. In the back wall, behind the display cases, a doorway led into what looked
like some kind of workshop. On the display case on the side farthest from the door stood a cash register.
In the middle of the floor, between the display cases, stood display racks of things that were totally
unfamiliar to him. In the air there was a pungent scent, like some kind of solvent. It reminded him of the
smell of the cutting oil his machines used at the plant.
Tom approached the man standing behind the cash register. Tom thought, He looks too old to be just a
clerk. White hair. Bald spot. Bifocals. He must be the owner.
“Can I help you?” the proprietor asked.
“Uh, yes. I need a gun. Right away.”
The proprietor studied Tom for a moment. “I can sell you a gun. But not right away. There’s a seven-
day waiting period.”
“I guess I remember reading about a waiting period when they were debating it down in Capitol City,
but I forgot about it. Besides, I thought it was five days.”
“That’s five business days. Add in the weekend and it comes to seven days.”
“But I need a gun right now. A man who threatened my life got out of jail today.”
“Look,” the proprietor said. ”I don’t know you. For all I know, you’re one of those BAT-men who’s
always trying to trap me into an illegal sale, so they can take away my firearms dealer’s license or even
jail me. If your story is true, you have my sympathy, but I’m not going to break the law for you.”
“Batmen?” Tom said, a puzzled look on his face.
“The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. They have a ‘revenooer’ mentality. They
treat every gun shop like it was a moonshiner’s still-house. They’re always around here snooping through
my paperwork, looking for some kind of violation. If a customer so much as puts his name in the wrong
block on the form, and I don’t catch it, I can be fined or even lose my dealers’ license.
“Now, it sounds to me like you need help, even if you’ll have to wait. What kind of a gun do you want?”