Sample Chapter

Militia Men

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DO YOU HAVE any regrets?

What a dumb question.

Regrets? Oh yeah, I’m drowning in them.

There’s no escape. This place is a deep, murky pool of regret and all you can do is tread water, wishing things had gone down differently, or yield to the pain and drown. Two choices. Two levels of hell.

“So many,” I answer in a tiny voice. “Too many.”

You seem tense.

She’s looking at my hands and I realize that I’m gripping the edges of the square sofa cushion so hard my knuckles are white and my fingernails are buried deep in the fabric, a faded cream. It’s an ugly couch, not well-suited for a shrink’s office because it’s not even long

enough to lie on. But nothing is what it should be here. Everything is a terrible version of itself. Especially me.

“Sorry,” I say, willing my fingers to unlatch. They slowly do.

What would you have done differently?

“Everything.” The word comes out sounding vaguely hopeful,

like the start of a confession. “I’d have done just about everything differently.”

I brave a faint smile. She writes something in her notes and it makes me gulp because I have to get out and she holds the key. I miss freedom and its quirks. I even miss the homeless people who pushed their shopping carts every day in front of my shop. I don’t think I’d shoo them away anymore if I was free. I’d get to know them … if I was truly alive again.

My heart beats a little faster. The first beads of sweat are forming.

All this treading water. I start squeezing the cushion again.

“I wouldn’t have gone to Portland that night. I wouldn’t have let him join.”

More scribbles in the pad on her lap. She says nothing, just lets the silence float there like an ambiguous cloud, one with the power to either bring rain or allow sunshine.

“I … I don’t want to talk about Sean anymore.”

It’s a plea, not a request. A numbered man in an orange jumpsuit doesn’t have much sway. Actually, he’s got none at all.

Her face remains a blank. A freshly painted wall with nothing hanging on it. She taps her pen, peers over the top of her reading glasses.

Why did you make the call, Robb?

I hesitate. Is this a trick question? She’s cocked her head, taking stock. Assessing. The air seems thick as pie.

“I was out of options,” I say finally. “Nothing I’d tried worked and

now she’s in the trunk. He’s in the passenger seat with the gun. … I had to do something.”

Uninvited tears are welling. My head hangs low. The words tear through me like 60-grit sandpaper.

“It wasn’t an act of courage. I was desperate, that’s all.”

Desperate for what?

“To stop him. To save her.” I look up, begging her to stop with my

eyes. “To save myself.”

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