What SHOTGUN is about




A FEW MILES north of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, in a wooded area near a dried out creek, a twenty-year-old youth by the name of Greg Simmons crouched in underbrush.  He was holding a fully automatic rifle.

A dark green Ford pulled to a stop on a narrow trail behind a grove of aspens.  In the front seat were two plainclothes police officers wearing flak jackets.  Sergeant John Vogler, fifty years old, athletic, tanned, and ruggedly handsome, was behind the wheel.  The other man, Dave Peters, also a sergeant, and looking a bit older and softer than the driver, was speaking into the police radio:  “We’re sure he’s between us.  Leave your vehicle with one man, and the rest of you come down the hill under cover of foliage.  Fan out and be ready.  Remember that he’s got a fully automatic weapon.”

A dozen SWAT troopers in camouflage fatigues and flak jackets, loaded down with enough artillery and gear to endanger the steadiness of the planet’s orbit around the sun, were grouped near a no-nonsense SWAT vehicle that looked like a Hummer decorated with oversized Christmas lights.  It was not a Hummer, however, but a Lenco.  The captain was speaking into his shoulder-fixed radio.  “Copy that.”

Peters’ voice, rendered metallic by the radio, instructed, “Okay, so tell your men not to shoot at anyone wearing a flak jacket who’s good looking and over forty.”

The captain, smiling slightly, replied, “I copy that, sir.  But under the circumstances we’ll have to go strictly by age and the flak jackets.”

“I’ll get you for that,” said the metallic voice.  “Okay, move it now, quietly, and let’s try to get through this without any men down.”

“Copy that,” said the captain.

Peters and Vogler climbed out of their unmarked car and gently closed the doors.  They opened the back doors and drew out automatic rifles with scopes.  Now it seemed that the slightly younger man, Vogler, was in control as he made hand motions to indicate that Peters was to move to one side while he himself would circle around to the other.  Peters moved away out of sight behind foliage and Vogler also began to head toward bush; but then, apparently on impulse, he turned back, opened the car trunk, revealing hunting paraphernalia including a shotgun and decoy ducks, and exchanged his rifle for an old double barreled shotgun of the kind that had the barrels side by side.

The SWAT team, Vogler, and Peters converged upon the fugitive from three sides; and this was made easier by the fact that the youth, knowing the trap was closing, moved from place to place twice, and not at all silently.

He looked rather handsome, wholesome, and, except for the deadly weapon in his hands, innocent.  His short, sandy hair matched a faint bridge of freckles over his nose and upper cheeks.  A blue, long-sleeved shirt was half out of his pants and he was sweating; but his face held an expression of calm and control.

Vogler, with his shotgun in a ready position more or less at hip level, rounded a clump of willows and came face to face with the crouching youth–who at once raised his automatic rifle toward the police officer.

Vogler blew him away with simultaneous fire from both barrels of his shotgun.



THE BEAUTIFUL redheaded female singer, in a calf-length, tight-waisted, full-skirted white dress, looked as though she had stepped out of the 1950s.  She was singing a Frank Loesser song from the 40s, and had her head thrown back and her mic held high as she belted out the last high note of On a Slow Boat to China.

But she was not in a forties or fifties nightclub; she was in the living room of a twenty-first century near-mansion, at John Vogler’s retirement party.

The large space was luxuriously furnished with dark wood, beige upholstery, and sparkling crystal that included glass-topped tables and ornate chandeliers, as well as with sparkling ladies in party dresses and many of the men in suits and ties.  Other men made at least some attempt at playing dress-up.  After all, John Vogler was fifty-five years old, and people that ancient were bound to like traditional suits and ties and other things from the years when they were young.  It seemed that every effort had been made to please him.  Most of the guests were standing about in little groups listening to the entertainers or chatting.

John himself was in brown dress pants and a beige tweed sport coat, but he wore no tie with his yellow shirt which was open at the collar.  He was tall, athletically built, and was apparently in good physical condition.  This included a full head of hair, dark other than that it was graying at the sides, and his well-formed face held a good natured look.

As, along with the rest, he stood applauding the singer, a soft looking little man was rapidly working his way through among people in the room, apparently looking for someone, his head swiveling and snapping this way and that like an owl’s.  Round, wire-rimmed glasses furthered the owl impression.  He had a camera hanging from his neck.  For a moment he stood still, then seemed to catch sight of who he was looking for and once more swooped forward through the crowd.

John Vogler had turned toward Sergeant Dave Peters, who was in suit and tie.  John said, “Still can’t believe this.”  Smiling, he looked around the room.  “And I’ve been told you’re the one who put it all together.”

The owl man arrived and came to a stop behind John.  Dave said, “Hi, Randy.”

“Hey,” said Randy.

John turned partly to face the newcomer.

Dave said, “John, this is Randy Mewford, head of the reporting department for the Rosewood Herald.  Randy, this is John Vogler, in case you didn’t know.”

Mewford said, “Well, I wasn’t quite sure and came to check it out.”  He extended a hand with the fingers spread.  John had to press them together to get a hold.  Randy carried on:  “What Dave means is that I’m the only reporter on the Herald.  I was wondering if I could have a short interview.”

“What about?” asked John.

“Well, if I got this straight, you’re celebrating your retirement from the police force here tonight, and tomorrow you’ll be moving to our little town.”


“In a town as small as Rosewood, when someone moves in, that’s news.  And when a former police officer, who’s been in the national news moves in, well, that’s front page stuff.”

Dave said, “Yeah, Randy did a story on me when I moved in there, so he might as well do one on you too….  I gotta go check the booze.”  He looked at Randy.  “You want me to bring you anything?”

“No, I’ll get something later.”

John said, to Randy, “Let’s go sit down.”  He turned away and Randy followed.

They sat across from each other at one of a number of small, round, glass-topped tables that were spaced along one side of the room, and Randy at once pulled a compact tape recorder out of an inside coat pocket and laid it on the table.  “Mind if I record this?  Beats takin’ notes by hand.”


Randy punched the start and record buttons.  “Well, as you may have guessed, I’d like a little brushing up on that Simmons case five years ago that put you in the spotlight.”

John said, “Fine.  I don’t know how much detail you want, but basically it was a simple matter.  Greg Simmons was convicted of murdering his mother, Sylvia, and his stepfather, Oscar Fedorick.  Apparently he killed them so he could inherit Fedorick’s fortune, about eight million, including all the holdings.  The conviction sparked a lot of controversy, and if Simmons had lived he might have appealed it, because there were a lot of unanswered questions, and his mother’s body was never found.  Some said she and her son planned Fedorick’s murder and pulled it off together, and that she then left the country and he was supposed to say that his mother committed the murder by herself.  And, in fact, he did say that.  It looked like the plan was that she would stay in hiding, waiting until her son turned twenty-one and collected the inheritance money.  But I think Greg killed ‘em both.  Anyhow, he escaped while being transferred from here to the pen….  We caught up to him….  I was the one who caught up to him….  He wouldn’t let himself be arrested.”

Randy said, “So you got him before he got you.  But why’d you use a shotgun?”

John said, “I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked that….  I was using my own car and had my old hunting shotgun in the trunk.  The kid was armed with a fully automatic weapon.  He had broken into a gun collector’s place.  Guess I was afraid of a sudden close encounter in the bush and thought the shotgun would give me the best chance in a case like that.  And that was exactly how it turned out.”

Randy said, “You got into a lot a’ shit over that.”

“Yeah, I felt bad about it too.  He was only twenty.  But then I think of that lead sprayer he was packin’….  Given the same situation, I’d probably do the same thing again.”

“So it wasn’t a regular issue shotgun you used, but your own private double-barreled model.  And you fired off both barrels at the same time.”

“You got that right,” said John.  “Like I said, it was my duck hunting shotgun.  But Simmons’ gun, a fully automatic M-16, had the equivalent of thirty barrels.”

“You married?”

“No.”  John pulled out a covered pocket watch and flipped open the lid, held the watch close to Randy.  In the lid was a head-and-shoulders photo of a pretty woman.  John said, “Even though she passed on many years ago, it still seems too recent for me to want to talk about it a whole lot….  She died from complications during a difficult pregnancy.  I lost the child too.  That would have been our first child, after hoping for one for a number of years.”  He closed the lid and put the watch back in his pocket.

“I’m sorry,” said Randy.  Looking nervous, he produced a pack of cigarettes and held it out to Vogler.

“I don’t smoke,” said John, “and I’m pretty sure the owner of this house doesn’t want any smoking indoors.”

Randy was already pulling a cigarette out for himself, but quickly put it back.  “Sorry,” he said, “I thought I saw a couple of people smoking when I came in.”

“That’s possible,” said John, looking around as though trying to catch the offenders.

“Well, since you’re moving so soon, tomorrow,” said the reporter as he put his cigarettes away, “I might talk to you some more in Rosewood on Monday.  So I’ll let you go on with your party.”

At that moment Dave Peters’ voice was heard over the PA system:  “Ladies and gentlemen, your attention, please.”  The middle part of one end of the room had been fitted with a low bandstand.  Peters stood on it at a mic.  Behind him were the band members, relaxing between numbers.  Dave continued, “Quiet please….  Thank you….  I hope you’re all having a good time.”  There was applause.  “I thought we should make it clear and official why we’re partying here tonight, since our reasons aren’t all the same.  Most of you are here to have a good time so you can get your minds off the sadness of losing John through his retirement from the force.  But I’m celebrating because my old buddy is going to be moving to the same little town that I’ve decided to live in, namely, Rosewood.  As most of you know, I’ve been stationed there.  Unfortunately John won’t be in law enforcement any longer, but who knows?–maybe I’ll be able to occasionally twist his arm into riding shotgun with me … if you’ll pardon that remark, I mean about riding shotgun.”  There was mild laughter from the crowd.  Dave continued, “Speaking of shotguns, the annual trapshooting tournament, that my little Rosewood has become famous for, is coming up in a few days.  So if you want to see Johnny in action, make sure you take a drive out there on the eighth, because I’ve talked him into entering….  But now, to the business at hand….  John, ol’ buddy, would you please come up here?”

John got out of his chair.  “See you later,” he told the reporter.  “I guess I have to go through with this, whatever it is.”

When he got up on the bandstand he was met by a young woman, probably not yet twenty, holding a wood and bronze plaque.  John knew her well, for she was the daughter of the Staff Sergeant; and, following in her dad’s footsteps, she was enrolled in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Academy in Regina.  Her dad was not here tonight, having had to attend a police-association conference in Toronto.

Looking at John shyly but with determination, the young woman said, “On behalf of all the officers of this police department, and their wives and families, and my dad, Staff Sergeant James Welkins, and his family, I wish to express our appreciation as worded on this plaque….  To Sergeant John Vogler, for twenty-one years of dedicated, heroic service in protecting the public.”

She handed John the plaque and then stood on her toes and kissed him on the cheek.  There was applause and a widespread battery of cameras flashed.

John, dividing his attention between Miss Welkins and everyone else in the room, began, “Thank you.  I really appreciate–”  He stopped in mid sentence, his eyes riveted to someone or something in the crowd.

He was focusing on a well-built, rather scantily dressed, fair-haired woman.  Her low-cut white top revealed plenty of scenic skin, and her skirt was a mini over fishnet stockings and stilt-heeled shoes.  For a moment she stared back at John, then turned and casually walked away behind some other people.

John looked disturbed although he was obviously trying not to show it.  He carried on with his little thank-you speech.  “I … yes, I very much appreciate this honor … and … there are many of you here tonight that I’ve much enjoyed working with, and others that I’ve enjoyed just as friends….  Come visit me….  Well, I’d sooner talk to each of you at closer range, so I’ll come down off a’ here.  Thanks again.”  John smiled and bowed slightly to acknowledge the applause, then stepped off the bandstand and walked straight and fast away from it.

Dave was talking to an older woman who exuded a strong impression of respectability.  John, carrying his plaque and looking angry, strode up to them.  To Dave he said, “I have to talk to you for a minute,” then, after a quick obligatory smile at the lady, he turned and left.

Dave told the woman, “Excuse me for a sec.”


Dave followed John toward a less crowded area of the room, where John brought them to a stop.  Turning sharply toward Dave, he asked, “You know there’s a whore in here?”

Dave, looking uneasy but trying to be flippant, said, “Well, you can’t expect every policewoman to have perfect morals.”

The edge to John’s voice grew sharper.  “I’m not talking about policewomen and you know it.”

“Well, it wasn’t my idea.  And I couldn’t stop it.  After all, Meebisher was willing to let us use his home, and he wanted … escort girls.”

“You mean there are more?”

“No … not yet, but they’re supposed to be coming later.”

“Oh, really,” said John, and his dark brown eyes seemed to flash more than light reflections from the room.  “And you and Meebisher thought I wouldn’t find out about this.  Did he have the rest of the girls shipped in from Calcutta so I wouldn’t recognize them?  He should know that I’ve arrested every whore in the city at least once….  I can’t believe this.  This is supposed to be my party, right?  And you know how I feel about that sorta stuff….  Well, you and Meebisher and the girls can carry on with your party.  It has nothing to do with me.  I’m gone.”  He turned to walk away, but Dave caught him by the arm.

“Hey, wait!….  All right.  She’s outa here.  I’ll have her out in a few seconds.  And I’ll see to it that the others don’t come.  I’ll tell Meebisher, and if he wants to kick us out, let him.  Okay?”

“Okay….  I think I’ll take a little walk outside and cool off.”

*     *     *

John was returning from his walk, nearing the front door of the mansion.  It opened and Dave and the prostitute burst out.  The mini-skirted lady of the night told Dave, loudly, “You know you’re in shit!  This whole thing was arranged by people who can squeeze your balls and make you say uncle!  You haven’t heard the last of this!”

Dave said, “Four more words outa you and you win a free ride to the station.”

The woman, whose face had lost a considerable amount of its natural beauty to anger, nevertheless apparently controlled herself enough to silently count her next words before or while she said them:  “Goodnight … you … bastard!”  Then she turned away sharply and left, striding past John toward the parked cars.

John came up to Dave and said, “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”  They turned to go back inside.  As they stepped through the doorway, Dave said, “I should have done it sooner….  I’ve got to go see if the food’s ready.”  He hurried away, leaving John behind.

As John carried on through the foyer, he saw Randy Mewford, the reporter, not far away, sitting on a stool in a corner of the small room, facing the corner like a kid being punished.  There were other people in the room, a couple of small groups standing and chatting.  Randy, on the stool, was hunched over and holding a cell phone to his ear.  Although he was speaking into it in a low voice, John was close enough behind him to hear every word over and above the room’s mild hubbub.

“Yeah,” Randy was saying, “he’s leaving for Rosewood tomorrow.”

John came to an abrupt stop in the doorway leading into the living room.

Mewford was obviously not aware of the proximity of the man he was talking about and continued, “Oh, no.  It was natural enough to question him about the Simmons case.  He doesn’t suspect anything.  Why should he?……….  He’s gonna be in the trapshooting tournament too, which’ll help to remind people that he knows how to use a shotgun……….  Yeah, I’ll be glad when this whole damn thing’s done with……….  Well, ex-cops aren’t stupid, so we’ll have to be real careful–he’s not the kind to go down easy……….  Yeah, all right.  See you tomorrow.”

John was already slipping away into the living room.  He moved in among the crowd, a thoughtful expression on his face.

Randy Mewford pocketed his phone and got up from the stool.  He entered the living room but then stood still looking straight ahead.  He saw John Vogler at some distance, standing there talking to another man.  Mewford put his camera to his eye and drew in Vogler with the zoom; the crosshairs of the lens lined up on Vogler’s temple.

“Phut,” said Randy softly, apparently imitating the sound of a shot fired through a silencer.

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One thought on “SHOTGUN

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