“Well, Mr. Wenger,” I began, “a number of folks in the neighborhood feel like we’re getting short-changed by the city when it comes to sidewalk repair, repaving the streets, keeping up the park, and some other things like that. So we thought by forming a neighborhood association, we could not only generate some money to do some things independently but that we’d have a stronger voice at city hall to get some things done.
“I’m also gathering information as I can to assess the character of the neighborhood and what some of our needs might be.”
I continued, ready to jot down Wenger’s responses on the pad and clipboard that I was carrying, all designed to make it appear that I was really canvassing for a neighborhood association.
“How long have you lived here?”
“Uh, huh. And how many in your family?”
“Three. Me, my wife and son.”
“And how old is your son?”
“Ten. He’ll be eleven next April.”
“I may want to speak with your wife as well. Is she here today?”
“No, she’s staying with her mother for a few days and my son goes there after school.”
“I see. Any idea when I might be able to come back and speak with her?”
“Not really. You’d probably just have to call to try to catch her.”
“Okay. That’s fine. There’s really no hurry. I can speak with her any time.”
I kept peppering Wenger with questions to ease him into a sense that my real purpose there was what I had described. I also wanted to give him some time to look me over and to convince myself that he didn’t really know who I was. At no time did he seem to question why I was there or give any indication of recognition.
I found it somewhat difficult to imagine that here was a man who could so callously murder over two hundred people and not even know what his intended victim looked like. It certainly appeared that the beard I was sporting neither added to nor detracted from concealing my identity.
After about twenty minutes, I could sense that Wenger was getting somewhat restless, and the top page of my notepad was getting filled with things I had jotted down, so I made a move to terminate the conversation… and possibly Wenger.
“Well, I’ve taken more time than I promised, Mr. Wenger. Thanks for being so patient. We’ll send you an application for membership in the association in a few days and you can return it to us if you decide to join.”
We both stood and I started toward the doorway to the foyer, with Wenger close behind.
Just before reaching the doorway, I stopped and turned to face him, catching him somewhat off guard as he had not expected me to stop so abruptly.
“There’s just one more thing, Mr. Wenger,” I said, standing very close to him.
As the question barely escaped his lips, I swung my left arm and slapped him hard on the right side of his face. He was naturally startled and he reflexively turned his head to his left and I swiveled around to his back, throwing my right arm around his throat as I pulled myself up tight to his back and clasped my right hand with my left while forcing his head to his left against my right forearm, which was tight against the left side of his neck.
As he was a bit shorter than me, my move was quite easy, and immediately after he emitted a short “umph,” he went limp, his arms dangling helplessly at each side.
I took his weight as he crumpled, let him sink slowly to the floor, and followed him to my knees, maintaining the hold around his neck, but loosening it slightly.
The maneuver had cut off the blood circulation to his brain. It takes only seconds to render someone unconscious, but loosening the grip restores the blood flow and consciousness quickly returns, even if it leaves a person somewhat groggy.
As the lights came back on for Wenger, his hands instinctively rose to my arm, still on his throat. As they did so, I tightened my grip somewhat.
“Mitchell,” I started, “you can stay awake and I’ll ease the pressure or you can try to break this hold and you’ll be out again very quickly.”
His questions started in a torrent. “What the hell’s going on? Who are you? What do you want?”
“Easy, easy, Mitchell. You’ll have answers shortly.
“My name is Michael Tate. I think you’ve heard of me.”
His body stiffened and I could sense that he was about to intensify his struggle so I tightened my grip a bit more.
“I can tell by your reaction that you know who I am. What I don’t understand is why you chose to kill a whole planeload of people to get at me.”
“You killed my father, you son of a bitch!” he gasped in a muffled shout.
“Yes, I did. And I see that you profited handsomely by his death. But your father was blackmailing a friend of mine, a good and kind man who never did anything harmful to anyone. And your father had been blackmailing him for many years. It’s possible that your father gathered his wealth from a good many other people that he was also blackmailing. Had he stopped when asked, he wouldn’t have died in Cincinnati that day.”
“You had no right to kill him, damn you.”
“No one has a ‘right’ to kill another human being, Mitchell. Do you think you had a greater right to kill over two hundred to get back at me?”
He didn’t answer, just continued to struggle slightly. But my hold was firm and the fact that he was sitting on the floor gave him little leverage to do much.
“Look, Mitchell. We can end this right now. You can simply promise me that this is over. That your quest for revenge is finished. I’ll take your word, leave and you’ll never see me again.”
“I’ll follow you to your little homestead in Winchester,” he snarled. “I’ll kill you and everyone you know and I’ll burn your place to the ground, you son of a bitch.”
With his last expression of hate, I tightened my grip and felt him go limp again. Except this time I maintained the grip for a full two minutes before releasing.
He slumped to the floor.
I put two fingers to the side of his neck. No pulse. Mitchell Wenger was dead.
I sat on the floor for a short while holding the body of Wenger and all I could think was “damn, damn, damn.”