Justice Lost (Darren Street #3)

Justice Lost (Darren Street #3)

Scott Pratt

At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst.




I looked around at the circle of empty chairs. There were two empty seats to my right and two to my left. I was back at Farragut High School outside Knoxville, Tennessee, in the classroom assigned for in-school detention. I’d been there several times in my youth for fighting, but this seemed more serious. The doors were made of iron bars, the walls were concrete block and painted Old Glory Blue, the same color as that on the American flag.

Hovering over me at the front of the class was Mrs. Judge, a woman I’d dealt with before. Her appearance had changed dramatically, though, since I’d last seen her. Her face was as gray as bone ash, and she was staring at me through tinted glasses that were as thick as the bottoms of old beer bottles and looked almost like goggles. She was wearing a red silk robe with a white lace collar. In her right hand, she held a set of pan mechanical balance scales, and in her left she carried a double-edged sword that looked, from where I was sitting, to be razor sharp. When she’d come into the room a few seconds earlier, she hadn’t walked like a normal human. She’d floated across the floor like a ghost.

I was trembling. There wasn’t much in the world that I feared, but this version of Mrs. Judge terrified me. She seemed to radiate power and danger, and I couldn’t escape the feeling that she could incinerate me with one blazing look from her eyes. And if she was quick with the sword—which I was certain she was—my head could be rolling across the floor at any second.

“Where are your friends, Mr. Street?” Mrs. Judge said in a slow, gravelly Southern accent.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said.

She raised her hands, the sword and scales gleaming, and fire began to swirl around my head.

“Don’t lie to me, Mr. Street. You know exactly what I’m talking about. Where are your four friends who are supposed to be sitting in these four seats?”

“They’re not my friends,” I said. I looked up at her hideous face and then back down at the floor.

“Do you dare trifle with me? I have no qualms about turning you to dust and blowing you to the far edges of the universe. You will speak the truth in this room.”

“I had to do something,” I said.

“You mean you had to take justice into your own hands. You had to become a vigilante.”

“Call it whatever you want. I’d do it again.”

“I want to hear you say it,” she said. “I want you to look at me and tell me exactly what you did.”

I forced myself to look at the face. It was the face of a person—no, an entity—that had been twisted and betrayed and misunderstood and beaten and defeated, yet stood defiantly and continued to fight.

“There is no such thing as justice, you know,” I said. “There are only random acts followed by revenge.”

“Tell me what you did!” Her voice was so forceful it nearly shattered my eardrums. “Confess! Right now! What did you do to the four men who should be sitting in these chairs?”

“I killed them,” I said. “All four of them. Are you happy? I shot Donnie Frazier and Tommy Beane in a bar in West Virginia. I blew them to hell. They didn’t have a chance. I helped hang the former federal prosecutor, Ben Clancy, in a barn up by Gatlinburg, and then I fed his sorry ass to a pen full of hungry pigs. And Big Pappy Donovan? He wanted to kill me. He actually wanted to have an old-fashioned duel in the mountains near Petros. He was crazy. He’d gone completely off the rails. So I met him and we had our duel. He lost, and then he wound up in the same pigpen as Ben Clancy.”

“And you got away with all four of the killings,” she said. “You faced no consequences from the laws of man.”

“I got away with the killings.”

“Do you feel no remorse for the taking of human lives?”

“None. Frazier and Beane murdered my mother. Clancy falsely convicted me of murder and sent me off to prison for two years. Big Pappy was a sociopath, if not a psychopath, who wanted to kill me. It was him or me.”

“What makes you think you get to make these choices?” she said. “What makes you think you have the power to decide who lives and who dies?”

Mrs. Judge was judging me, and I wasn’t having it. I didn’t know whether or not I was dreaming, but what I was feeling was very real to me. My fear was suddenly replaced by anger, and I gave no thought to what might happen to me for confronting this powerful force.

“What makes you think you have that same power?” I said. “You’re nothing but the product of the wealthy protecting themselves from the poor. You’re a hypocrite and a false idol, and as far as I’m concerned, you can take your hypocrisy and go straight to hell.”

I felt the air go out of the room and heard the metallic whoosh of her sword being raised into the air.

“Get on your knees,” Mrs. Judge said.

I looked up at her and stood.

“I don’t hit my knees for you or anybody else,” I said. “If you’re going to take my head, you’re going to do it while I’m standing.”

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