A Short Story of Hope: Finale

The tragic/hopeful tale of a public shooting survivor, begun here, now concludes with the final chapter of The Shooting of Amy Rose.

Chapter 8: A Pair of Fateful Decisions

‘It was, as they say, inevitable.

In less than a week, Brian’s star had fallen. A Twitter pole of over 8 million users ran against Brian Collins 3 to 1, with two thirds of those polled believing that he had acted in collusion with Joshua Udemy. The other third were quite certain that Brian was merely an innocent dupe of the conniving investor.

A circus of reporters met him outside the Supreme Court the following Wednesday. Despite their best efforts, none of them could siphon a statement from the creator of the ARD.

His mind fixated on the decision before him, Brian marched through the crowd like a man to the gallows. She said this would happen, he recalled. Now that it was here, now that he was facing a terrible fateful decision, Brian wished he had possessed the foresight to ask for guidance. Now he would be forced to choose between a noose and a millstone.

Time flowed all around him. Before he realized it, his lawyer was nudging him. It was time to take the stand.

He raised his right hand and made a vow. Whether it was to the sun, the moon, or the stars, he couldn’t have said. The judge spoke. An opposing lawyer asked him the only question America wanted to know:

“Did Joshua Udemy pay a man to take a gun into Barber High School in Florida?”

A powerful urge to condemn the man who had used him to make a fortune nearly forced Brian to spit out the word ‘YES’ but he bit his tongue instead.

To confess such a thing would be to undo everything he had accomplished. They would declare the Amy Rose Device as having been built with blood money. There was a good chance the ensuing uproar would conjure up another hack-job movement; some clever dick would gather people together, they would march and protest and utter hate-filled diatribes, blame the government and convince the authorities to remove the devices.

And once again innocent Americans would pay the price.

But if he lied, Brian would be protecting a despicable criminal, perjure himself, and shatter his sense of moral uprightness, which, without faith, was his life-preserver in an ocean of uncertainty.

As the lawyer demanded an answer, Brian closed his eyes and did something he had vowed never to do again: he prayed. There in the witness box, he silently prayed to a God he had forsaken. ‘O Lord, help me. I don’t know what to do here. Help me make the righteous decision.’

God is watching

Love others more than yourself, the lady had said. Was this what she meant?

“I’ll ask it one more time,” the lawyer barked. “Did Joshua Udemy orchestrate the attempted shooting of Barber High School in Florida?”

Brian looked up. His eyes were wet and his throat ached, but he knew what he must do. He opened his mouth and said, “No. He did not. If Joshua Udemy had any ties with the SQ9 gang, they were severed years ago. He met me several times throughout the week and on the day of the attempted assault of Barber High. I trust the man. There is no doubt in my mind that he had nothing whatsoever to do with the attempted attack in Florida.”

A murmur rippled through the courtroom.

The judge pounded his gavel.

Brian flinched at each echoing rap. When order had been restored, he was asked a few more questions, but he knew they were just fishing. Eventually he was dismissed. Other character witnesses for the defense were called up, and cross examined. But Brian’s job was done. He heard nothing further of the court proceedings; something had happened to him on the witness stand, and now his soul was in turmoil.

Eventually the jury returned with their verdict. Over at the defense table, Joshua Udemy smiled as he listened to it. He would keep his freedom and his blood money.

And innocent Americans would be safe.

It was a trade-off Brian felt he could live with. Motivated in equal parts by the answer he’d received to his prayer, and by a yearning to honor the memory of Amy Rose’s final words, Brian took a drive to the last place he wished to go.

Attica Correctional Facility is a fortress designed to keep its guests from experiencing the outside world. Concrete walls two feet thick rise to thirty feet. A tear gas system in the mess hall acts as a deterrent, and with hyper vigilant guards stationed everywhere within sight of each other, Brian felt a measured degree of safety, mingled with an appropriate level of terror, as he was led inside.

He kept his hands in his pockets (which had been emptied at the first gate), to keep them from shaking. The guard kept a watchful eye on Brian. Even while turning keys in locks, the burly black man cast glances out of the corner of his eye. If the guards were this vigilant with visitors, what must it be like to be housed here under their paranoid gaze every moment of your life?

Following seven or eight gates, and as many flinches, Brian was led into the glass partition booth room and told to wait.

Like the last time he was here, the room was empty.

The silence was absolute; he could hear the unadorned industrial clock ticking away behind him, counting down meaningless time. There was no breeze. The air conditioning unit was quiet and lackadaisical. As he sat there under this deprivation of life, Brian found it disturbingly easy to imagine the banality of existence here. In this place time lost all meaning. You were punished, but not through physical discipline or verbal abuse. Your punishment was utter and complete neglect. The world forgot about you, though perhaps not your crimes. He thought you must stop thinking about the outside world after a few months inside these hateful walls, and began to look inward, the only place left to look—other than at your Spartan cell.

And inside that tiny space, your sins awaited.

Under such conditions, who wouldn’t turn to God in repentance?

Brian looked back at the clock. It continued its clockwise motion, counting down to nothing. It began to seem ludicrous, a clock in a prison. As he thought on the events in court yesterday, and how the media would soon lose interest in trying to destroy faith in the ARD, Brian wondered if there was a chance Jimmy Rivers had been telling the truth.

Could a monster really ever repent?

More to the point of his visit today, Brian wondered if an innocent man could ever forgive a monster. He’d already protected one out of love for his fellow man. Would he forgive another out of love?

What love this time? Jimmy Rivers was no longer a threat to the innocent.

There was no need to protect the gunman.

And yet, there was his own heart to consider, and a yearning to honor his Amy Rose, who had so loved God as to dedicate her life to Him. Would it dishonor her memory to forgive the man who had killed her? Or would it disgrace her memory to harbor unforgiveness in his heart?

Once again he had a decision to make.

They leg the chained-up Jimmy Rivers into the room on the other side of the glass partitions. Brian dropped his hands; they’d been clasped together in silent prayer.

Lifting his eyes to meet those of his fiancé’s killer, Brian Collins inhaled deeply, paused, and then accepted his decision with peace in his heart.

The shooting of Amy Rose had led to the protection of countless innocents across the land. Though he would never have approved of her death, even for such a salvation as this, Brian had finally found a peace in her passing, and the forgiveness that he gave that day healed his relationship with the God who is watching.’