Justice Comes Calling
It was five am on June 15, 1930 and Frank McCall was driving from San Diego to his ranch in Valley Center. The Depression had been hard on him and his family, but it was hard on the entire country so Frank did not have any other choice except to roll up his sleeves and work twice as hard to survive. He was able to get two weeks of work on a fishing boat and the money that he earned would definitely help pay some overdue bills.
The ranch had been in his family for three generations and it was part of his heritage and responsibility to make sure that it made it to his children.
As he came over the ridge and into Bear Valley the sun was just coming over the horizon and its amber rays slowly turned to yellow as they spread across the valley floor.
Frank was mentally prioritizing how he was going to allocate the money and didn’t notice the truck parked alongside the road
or how it pulled out and followed him. When the truck speeded up and came up right behind him, Frank mistakenly assumed that it was just a delivery driver who was running late so he pulled over just before reaching a sharp turn in the narrow road to let him pass. When the truck got alongside it swerved to the right and knocked Frank’s vehicle over the edge and sent it careening down a ravine where it crashed into a boulder and exploded into flames.
Three months later, Jenny McCall was doing everything she could to keep her head above water since her father’s untimely death. It would have been tough enough if she only had to worry about herself and the ranch, but she was also responsible for Frank Junior, her younger brother who was fourteen years of age and her sister Mary who was ten. At the age of nineteen, Jenny felt like the weight of the world was resting on her shoulders and if she took one misstep or even rested she would be crushed by hostile elements. She took a shower and quickly got dressed, barely taking a few minutes to run a brush through her long blond hair or glance at her beautiful face in the mirror.
“Time to get up! Rise and shine!” Jenny yelled out as she ran down the stairs.
Two minutes later, Frank Jr. and Mary sleepily entered the kitchen, “Eat your breakfast and do your chores and get to school on time. I’ll finish up what you don’t get to,” Jenny said as she left through the back screen door.
Three men sitting on their horses watched from a hilltop as Jenny drove off, then dismounted and walked down to the pasture where ten cows and five horses were grazing peacefully. One of the men pulled out a pair of wire cutters and cut the fence while the other two men chased the livestock out.
Jenny was earning five dollars a day plus tips at Harold’s Café by working the breakfast and lunch rush and as soon as she walked through the door she began taking orders and bussing tables. There was a loud boom that shook the entire wooden structure and rattled the glasses and plates on the tables. A man called out, “summer lightning,” but when Jenny looked out the window, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
A quarter mile outside of town used to stand a large oak tree that was now split in two and smoking and from out of the haze stepped a man.
Frank Jr. saw the cut fence, “Jenny is not going to like this.”
Mary looked around then commented, “I wondered how far they wondered off.”
“We’d better go look for them,” Frank Jr. suggested.
“What about school?” Mary asked nervously, “we’ll get in trouble if we don’t go.”
“We’ll go late then tell the teacher what happened,” Frank replied.
Jenny didn’t even notice the young man sitting at the corner table, “How can I help you?”
The young man was in his mid-twenties and stood six feet tall with a slender build and bright blue eyes and an engaging smile, “How about a piece of pie…any recommendations?”
“The blueberry is freshly baked,” Jenny replied.
“That’s what I’ll have then, and a big glass of milk to go with it?” The young man said.
Jenny gestured with a turn of her head to a sign prominently posted on the wall; All Food And Drink To Be Paid In Advance, “nothing personal, we get a lot of drifters coming in and ordering without any money.”
The young man pulled out a fifty dollar bill and set it on the table, “No problem.”
Jenny had never seen a bill that large and she found herself staring at it, “pie is only fifteen cents and milk is only a dime.”
“I may want another slice,”
“You may want a couple hundred slices,” Jenny smiled and after she brought the young stranger a large slice of pie and big glass of milk, she watched him with great curiosity from the kitchen until Harold distracted her, “Hey Jenny, give me a hand.”
Jenny walked over to the back door and opened it for Harold who had an armful of boxes, but when she returned to her previous vantage position, the young stranger was nowhere to be seen so Jenny walked over to the table, and saw a note under the plate; Great service keep the change.
The young stranger walked to the edge of town where he saw men entering a warehouse so he followed them in. During the Depression, desperate men would do just about anything to survive and those fortunate few who had money and power could exploit that hopelessness for their own pleasure and financial advantage.
Rufus Tyrell was as ruthless as they came, a man in his early fifties who ruled the valley like it was his own personal kingdom and adhered to the distorted philosophy that anything that he wanted was his if he was strong enough to take it. Twenty one years ago, his wife Martha threatened to leave him because of his intolerable cruelty and he responded by beating her to death then burying her broken body in a canyon. When his three young sons; Malcom, Moses and Henry awakened to find that their mother was gone, Rufus told them, “your mother didn’t love you enough to stay, I’m the only one who cares about you, remember that.” Rufus Tyrell then proceeded to turn his impressionable sons into versions of himself; mean spirited bullies who preyed on the weak and defenseless.
The building was beginning to fill up and the young man found a seat on a wooden bleacher that faced a twenty by twenty foot fenced area. Rufus Tyrell owned the warehouse, managed the gambling and wrote the rules where fighters of various skills and different levels of desperation came to this makeshift arena. Some came to prove how tough they were, others were only there for the money. Rufus wanted the combatants to battle to the bitter end so it was one hundred dollars to winner and nothing to the loser and the rules were simple; no biting, no eye gouging and a man had ten seconds to rise after being knocked down, other than that, anything was allowed.
The young man watched five fights with disinterest as ten contestants went to the brink of death for the blood prize that Rufus Terrell dangled before them. The losers were often dragged out of the ring, unconscious, injured and covered with blood while the winners were not in much better condition, stumbling out and injured to a slightly lesser degree. Rufus enjoyed the gory spectacle, laughing and cheering every time a fighter suffered a crushing blow. It fed the evilness in his diseased soul, but what also stoked his depravity was having a fighter that instilled fear and terror in everyone because it represented a vital part of his reputation which was overwhelming strength through intimidation.
Big Ozzie was six foot eight inches tall with long red hair that framed his Neanderthal features of elongated skull, sloping forehead and oversized face, nose and mouth. His hands were the size of oven mitts, like big slabs of meat that turned to hardened steel when he made a fist. Big Ozzie’s arms were human pile drivers that could literally pound a man into the ground and his legs were so massive and solid that it seemed that nothing could knock him off his feet. When Big Ozzie entered the warehouse, men stood in awe and stepped aside when the creature that stretched the boundaries of the human species walked passed. Rufus Terrell proudly stood up and announced for all to hear, “I’ve got five thousand dollars to any man who can defeat Big Ozzie. I’m giving five to one odds too. Does anybody have the guts to take me up on my offer? ”
Rufus was sure that no one in the building was going to take him on his offer for he always had to bring in Big Ozzie’s opponents from all over the country.
The list of men who lived to regret their decision to enter the ring with the massive brute was expanding and those were the lucky ones because there were others who did not even survive. Rufus had made a lot of money betting on his undefeated fighter so he was completely caught off guard when a voice called out, “I’ll take that offer.”
Everybody turned toward the sound of the voice and saw the young man stepping down from the bleacher. At first they were astounded that this normal looking individual would get in the rink with Big Ozzie, but after their initial shock, they burst into laughter.
The young man calmly walked past Big Ozzie and approached Rufus Terrell, “I don’t want any misunderstandings, five thousand if I beat your man and five to one odds on bets.”
“That’s what I said,” Rufus laughed.
The young man pulled two thousand dollars from his pocket and set it before Rufus, “I’ll be expecting fifteen thousand when this is done.”
Rufus and his three sons were taken back by the bold arrogance of this young man and wondered if he was crazy, suicidal or both. What the hell, Rufus thought, this was going to be the easiest two thousand dollars that he ever made, “What’s your name, boy? We don’t want to bury you in an unmarked grave.”
“Chance, Chance Place,” The young man answered, “Maybe you’ll bury me next to your wife.”
Rufus didn’t know how to respond, who was this man and how did he know about his wife.
Malcolm Terrell stepped forward with his right hand on his holstered weapon, “watch your mouth, boy! Don’t mention my mother!”
“You pull that weapon and you’ll never use that arm again, boy, “Chance warned.
Rufus weakly placed his hand on his son’s shoulder, “Easy son, we don’t want to interfere with Big Ozzie’s fun,” not knowing what else to do, he yelled to Big Ozzie, “Kill him…kill him!”
Big Ozzie and Chance Place faced off against each other and Big Ozzie charged forward with every intent of destroying his smaller opponent quickly, Chance stepped aside and came up from behind the his massive adversary and drove fifteen powerful punches into his kidneys. Big Ozzie grimaced and turned around then swung with all his might, left hand, right hand, right, left, right left, but all that his punches could find were thin air as Chance ducked or stepped out of the way.
Chance slapped Big Ozzie over his ears and the big man brought his hands to block the blow and when he did Chance punched him ten times in the stomach with punches so quick that it was hard to see them making contact. Big Ozzie dropped his hands to protect his stomach and Chance slapped him over the ears again. When Ozzie’s hands came up, Chance punched low and when Ozzie blocked low, Chance slapped high. This process was repeated several times over until Chance kicked Big Ozzie’s legs out from under him and he fell to the floor.
“Chance leaned over the defeated brute and whispered, “Promise that you’ll walk away and never hurt another man and I’ll let you live.”
“Never,” Big Ozzie spit out a mouthful of blood in defiance and struggled to get to his feet so Chance took the heel of his hand and rammed Big Ozzie’s orbital bone through his brain.
A man came over and looked at the fallen body of Big Ozzie and shook his head to indicate that he was dead as the entire warehouse of hardened men stood dumfounded and speechless at what had just transpired. Chance left the ring and walked over to Rufus Tyrell, “you owe me fifteen thousand dollars.”
Rufus swallowed hard, “I don’t have that kind of money with me.”
Chance slapped Rufus across the face to humiliate him in public, “get it,” then left the warehouse before anybody could react. When Rufus finally composed himself, he screamed out, “GET OUT! EVERYBODY GET OUT!!”
The men quickly complied with the command while Chance sat outside and smiled. When Rufus and his three sons exited the building, “I’m going to the bank, you go home.”
“We’ll go with you,” Moses volunteered.
“If I wanted you to go with me, I would have told you so.” Rufus snapped back.
When Rufus Tyrell got to the bank, he counted his winning from the fights, still seething in anger that his fighter lost and the stranger embarrassed him in public. A hand reached out and took the money and when Rufus turned around, he saw that Chance Place was standing next to him, “What the hell!”
Chance quickly counted the money, “You still owe me nine thousand, I thought I’d save you the trouble of finding me, get the rest for me.”
Rufus instinctively reached for his weapon, but Chance grabbed it first, “I’ll hold this for you.”
Rufus looked at the young man and for a split second thought of disputing the issue, but felt a shiver run up his back so he turned around without argument and walked up to the teller.
Chance took a thin metal rod that was four inches in length from his pocket and inserted it in the barrel of the Colt 44 and when Rufus returned, Chance exchanged the weapon for the money.
“You got your money, now get out of town,” Rufus said with false bravado.
“When my business is done and not before,” Chance replied calmly and left the bank and when Rufus looked down, he noticed that his hands were trembling. Jenny finished her shift at the diner and was driving home, eager to tell her brother and sister about the fifty dollars that the young stranger had left her. When she got close to the family ranch she saw Frank Junior and Mary walking along the dirt road, “How come you’re not at school?”
Frank gestured at the pasture, “Somebody cut the fence again, we were out looking for the cows and horses.”
Jenny was sure that Rufus Tyrell was behind this latest act of vandalism for he had been trying to drive them off their land even before her father had died. The good news of the fifty dollars quickly paled in comparison to the loss of their animals so she never mentioned it. Jenny and her siblings searched for the livestock for several hours without success before returning home in frustration.
“Where could they have gone? Frank Junior sighed.
“We searched everywhere we could think of,” Jenny replied.
“We could go back out in the morning,” Mary suggested.
“You two go to school, I’ll go out by myself.”
There was a knock at the door and Jenny looked over to see the young stranger standing there, “Did you follow me?”
“Absolutely not, ma’am,” Chance replied, “I came across some livestock, do they belong to you?”
“How did you know where to bring them?” Jenny asked.
“Actually they were headed in this direction so I just followed along.”
Jenny walked over to the door and saw that the horses and cows were in the corral, “Are you telling me that they just walked back here on their own? That’s even crazier than someone leaving fifty dollars for a piece of pie.”
“Don’t forget there was a glass of milk too.”
“I was just getting ready to fix supper for my brother and sister; you’re welcome to join us, Mister…. Jenny offered.
“Chance Place…if it is no trouble, I’d like that.”
After dinner Jenny offered, “I don’t know if you have some place to go, but you’re welcome to stay the night. We have a small room in the barn, nothing fancy, but it’s clean.”
“That’s very kind of you,” Chance replied.
Jenny awakened just before sunrise and looked out the window to the pasture and saw a figure moving about so she grabbed her father’s rifle and went outside to investigate, expecting the worst, but when she got closer, she breathed a sigh of relief, “What are you doing?”
I thought I’d fix your fence before I left, I hope I didn’t disturb you, I tried to be quiet,” Chance smiled.
“You don’t have to do that,” when suddenly a thought crossed Jenny’s mind that she had to verbalize, “Why is it that I have this feeling that I won’t see you again?”
“Things will be alright from now on.”
Rufus Tyrell felt compelled to go to the canyon where he had buried his wife to check the gravesite even though he had not been back there in years. Not long after he left, Chance arrived at the sprawling Tyrell ranch and found Moses, Malcolm and Henry sitting out by the barn, “Do you want to know what happened to your mother?”
When Jenny entered the spare room in the barn, she saw a large envelope setting on a table and when she opened it, she stared in disbelief at fifteen thousand dollars. Rufus had almost finished digging up the skeletal remains of his wife when Chance and the Tyrell brothers arrived to see their father with the shovel in his hand. Chance walked over and took a locket off the neck of the skeleton, opened it and showed it to the three men. The small photo was of a young woman with three young boys.
“Your mother never left you, your father killed her when she tried to take you away” Chance said.
Rufus went berserk and screamed out, “WHO ARE YOU., WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME!”
Chance replied calmly, “I’m your son; your wife was pregnant with me when you beat her to death. Today would have been my twenty first birthday.”
Rufus Tyrell angrily pulled out his weapon and fired at Chance not realizing that barrel was blocked, the gun exploded and the bullet ricocheted through Rufus Tyrell’s brain, killing him instantly.
Chance turned to his brothers, “I got a message for you, Mom still hopes that you will turn out to be decent men and you won’t like it if you disappoint her. You know the McCall family, right?”
The three Tyrell brothers were trembling and nodded in unison, their emotions were fluctuating between terror stricken and total disbelief.
“The next message is from Frank McCall; now is your time to become good neighbors which means no more fence cutting and making their lives difficult or there will be hell to pay.” Chance hesitated for emphasis, “He means that literally.”
Suddenly that was a loud boom of thunder that shook the earth and a bright flash of lightning that temporarily blinded the Tyrell brothers and when they opened their eyes Chance was nowhere to be seen. When the smoky haze cleared, Frank McCall and Martha Tyrell were waiting for Chance at the fallen tree.
“Only time will tell if they listen,” Martha commented.
Chance answered, “I’ll be watching, mom.”
“I got a good feeling that everything is going to work out just fine,” Frank McCall smiled and the three figures slowly faded from view as the two separated sections of the large tree miraculously reconnected as if nothing had ever happened.
One angel was Heaven Sent for retribution. One man was Hell-bent for damnation.