Die Hard

By Thomas J. Wolfenden

Several weeks ago, I was originally asked to write a guest-blog for Permuted Press to coincide with the upcoming release of my second novel, One Man’s War, and to be honest, after reading several of my fellow author’s blogs, I felt completely at a loss over the subject I’d write about.

I’d originally penned a short, snarky essay on pronunciations of words, and how over the years these pronunciations have somehow changed. I submitted it half-heartedly, as the topic was more tongue-in-cheek and really didn’t fit. I had so much going on, I really thought I couldn’t come up with a topic that my readers and fans, and prospective readers and fans would like.

That was until a few weeks ago, when I had a conversation with a fellow Permuted Press author I consider a very dear and close personal friend, who was picking my brain for ideas on an upcoming work they were about to start. Usually, I don’t discuss this stuff with every-day people, not because I’m bothered by it, but because I think that only others like me, who’ve gone through the same situations as me, would truly get it.

The question was presented to me rather straight and to the point.

“What’s the best way to kill someone quickly and silently?”

Well, to be completely honest, even after several years as a US Army Ranger, and over fifteen years in law enforcement, that’s not a really easy question to answer. To make it simpler, you can kill them quickly or silently, but rarely both.

As fiction authors, we all know the best ways to slay the bad guys in our nightmares. The vampire needs a good dose of direct sunlight and a wooden stake through the heart. The werewolf, you’d use the silver bullet. The demon needs the Exorcist, and of course, our old favorite, the Zombie… well, to slay the undead, one uses a baseball bat, hammer, axe, or crowbar, right?
Maybe, just maybe. But what if your adversary is just a plain old mortal man or woman? Surely, they’d be far easier to kill, right?
Well, I tossed around the question for a few minutes, and had to agree, that even though the US Army spent several years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to train me in a myriad of ways to bring mayhem and destruction on my fellow man, there really isn’t a whole lot of ways to kill someone quickly, let alone silently. Like I’d previously stated, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Why? Because as a species, we want to live, and no matter how weak a individual is in physical strength, when it comes down to brass tacks, that person is going to fight like a bastard to stay alive when attacked.
I’m from the generation of Rambo and The Terminator. Bad asses who can snap a man’s neck, killing him instantly, with just a quick grab to the jaw and head, and a rapid twist. Well. I’ve got some bad news for you. It doesn’t work like that in the real world. I tried it once while I was still in the Army in Central America. All I got for my trouble was a really pissed off Sandanista who fought me like a rabid badger and damn near killed me in the process.

Knives are another big thing in Hollywood. Cold Steel, the Silent Killer, right?

Unless you’re really good, have a thin, stiletto blade, and can get it placed just right into the base of the spine and into the brain stem, you’re going to have a fight on your hands.
And don’t even try to slit a throat. That little goodie from Hollywood is not only really, really, really messy, you, your victim, and everyone around you and your victim will be bathed in blood, and your intended victim will not die rapidly or at all quietly, and everyone around for at least a quarter mile will know about it right that minute.

It’s sometimes fun to write about this stuff, but art does not imitate reality. You watch a war film, and our hero takes aim with his rifle, and at three hundred yards, drops the German soldier with a well placed round from his trusty .30-06 M1 Garand rifle. The man is hit with the round; he grabs at the wound, and drops in a heap, dead, muttering “Och mien Gott!”

I’ve hunted whitetail deer all of my life in north central Pennsylvania. And I used a .30-06 rifle to take down deer. Only once in over twenty years of hunting did a deer just drop where I shot it. And it was a perfect heart-lung shot. Most, after I’ve hit them, have gone tear-assing through the woods at full tilt, and it took me hours to find my kill, if at all.

And this is an animal that weights roughly half that of a full-grown adult male.

I’m not saying it’s impossible. It’s far from it. It is, unlikely, or better yet, improbable. When you are inflicted with severe trauma, your body dumps loads of adrenalin into your system, making you able to do things you normally couldn’t do, all in a primeval instinct to stay alive and live another day. Unless the round hits you perfectly in the grape or right in the heart, it’s going to be a while before you bleed out.

Things aren’t so clear-cut a lot of times. Some people who go through some things shouldn’t be alive and talking about it. And some people get what appears to be barely a scratch, drop dead instantly.

I’ll give you two examples, that I learned firsthand, up-close-and-personal. I earned my Purple Heart on the third day of Operation Urgent Fury, or the Invasion of Grenada in October 1983.

On that day, going on thirty-three years ago, My Battle Buddy and I spied a Cuban soldier running into a concrete bunker type building. We gave chase, and on approach to the bunker, we straddled the open door. We both pulled hand grenades out, pulled the pins and lobbed them into the opening. A few seconds later, there was a loud double thump of them going off, and as the smoke drifted out of the doorway, I leaned in with my M60 machine gun and let loose a long thirty to forty round burst into the opening, my 7.62mm rounds bouncing and ricocheting all over the place, and, now that I look back at that stupid stunt, I’m damn luck not to have shot myself.

We got him good, you reckon?

Nope. And I was about to learn a very hard lesson.

I stood from a crouch, and as I stupidly silhouetted myself in the frame of the doorway, I heard the crack crack crack and saw the muzzle flash of my foe’s AK47. As soon as that happened, I was flat on the ground, face first, with a bullet in my right groin. I had dropped my weapon, and was in a lot of pain, but as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could just make out a figure sitting with his back against the wall, covered in blood, and raising his rifle again, looking right at me!

My heart felt like a jackhammer in my chest, but I still had the strength to pull out my holstered .45 pistol, and put one round in the guy’s melon.

This all transpired over a matter of probably a minute, but time stretched out, and seemed to last hours. But the fact of the matter was, here was a guy, who just had the shit shot out of him, had two grenades go off right on top of him, and he still had some fight left. And I wasn’t about to call it quits myself.

We both fought like rabid badgers because of that ever-present will to survive. It wasn’t pretty. It was down in the mud and the blood and the crud, and I never want to have to do that again.

Now flash forward to 1991. I was out of the Army and working as a cop in my hometown. After work one night, a friend and I decided to head to the local I-Hop restaurant for some quick food before calling it a night. I was off-duty but still was carrying my on-duty pistol, a S&W Model 19 .357 Magnum.

I was riding shotgun in my friend’s car, and we pulled into the parking lot not knowing we had been followed by carload of five guys out for blood. Apparently, earlier in the evening, someone in a car similar to my buddy’s car was in an altercation with a few of the guys in the car that pulled in behind us. Thinking we were them, as soon as we started to get out of our vehicle, we were set upon by the five guys, all armed with baseball bats and crowbars. (S P Durnin isn’t gonna like this part. Sorry, brother)

I was hit from behind four times, full force, right on the top of my melon with a very hard, heavy steel crowbar; forces so hard they fractured my skull in three places, knocking me unconscious, and I’d find out later when I woke up in ICU, lacerating my scalp badly enough I’d lost two pints of blood and required two-hundred, ninety seven sutures.

On top of that, I was stomped in the sides so badly all of my ribs on my left side were broken, and I was one huge bruise from my left hip to my armpit.

Me surviving that beating was pretty remarkable, but what was truly remarkable was that from the time of the first blow to the head, I was able to draw my holstered handgun, turn slightly, fire all six rounds at my assailant, striking him five times. Three times in the chest, once in the neck, and once in the face; my sixth round missed completely.

Even more amazing was the fact that this bastard lived. He survived what should have been fatal, almost point-blank shots to vital areas.

Along my long and checkered travels in my lifetime, I’ve seen some pretty horrific things mankind does to his fellow man. It isn’t pretty. I’ve seen hand axes buried four of five inches into a skull, and the victim was alive, lucid and talking. Same thing goes for knives in the head, rebar in the chest, self-inflicted gunshots that have you asking yourself dafuq did I just see? And the list goes on. I’m sure most soldiers, cops and EMS personnel could add to the list of stories to make it almost endless.

All that being said, let’s just thank what gods are out there that zombies are far easier to kill than mere mortals!

Please feel free to email me at lostinwv2005@gmail.com I make it a habit of personally answering each and every email I get. Oh, and also read my novels, One Man’s Island & One Man’s War!

And last, but certainly not least, check out my friends’ books; Roads Less Traveled series by C Dulaney, Keep Your Crowbar Handy by S. P. Durnin,  Z-Plan series by Mikhail Lerma, What Zombies Fear by Kirk Allmond, and anything by Sean T. Smith, Brian Parker and Bill Braddock.