Renald continued staring down at the empty black. Several minutes had passed since he had shot Karol and watching him fall down the side of the building, but it felt like an eternity since that moment.

"Goodbye…" Renald said. After a very long and awkward silence, he finally said, "…Karol."

Taking one last sigh of relief and savoring the feeling of the cold rain beating down on his head and flowing down his body, Renald slowly turned around and started walking back in the building. He slowly trotted into one of the elevators and pushed the button to take him to the bottom floor.

For some reason, he hardly felt any different after killing Karol. In fact, he almost seemed empty. It felt like his life suddenly had no purpose and no point. It was like the main storyline to his life had just ended, and everything else that was going to happen would just be fluff and filler.

As Renald walked out of the elevator, he took one last deep breath and walked outside the building. But as soon as he walked out of the building, he was greeted to a very unwelcome sight.

Upon walking out, Renald had an entire squad of officers standing around and pointing their guns at him.

"Don't move!" yelled one of the officers.

Seeing as how there were about thirteen officers ready to shoot him in an instant, Renald knew he had no hope of fighting all of them off. And even though he should've known what all this was about, he was drawing a total blank. That is, until he looked to the side and saw an ambulance getting loaded with the body of someone.

Renald immediately knew what was going on. He was being arrested for the slaying of Karol.

One of the officers immediately ran over to Renald and grabbed him by the back of the neck. "Get over here!" he yelled as he pulled Renald over to another officer and handcuffed the former hit man.

"Boy, are you in trouble, buddy," one of the officers said. "Killing a government official isn't gonna get you an easy sentence, I can tell ya that much."

Renald was instantly handcuffed and thrown into one of the cars. In no time, he was driven off to a small prison where he would be spending the night, and maybe even the next few nights until he got his hearing in court.

This entire time, Renald hardly thought anything. Yes, he was feeling upset that he was captured, and yes, he was even feeling a bit scared. But for some reason, it felt as if all the emotions in him had pretty much died when Karol did.

-

The government wasted no time giving Renald a trial. Since it was the death of a government official, everyone wanted a speedy turnout to see whether or not the former hit man would be found guilty and what his punishment would be.

Renald went into the trial not feeling any sympathy at all towards Karol or any of his family. He was the only one there who would actually testify, and not surprisingly, the prosecution didn't have much a hard time with him at all.

The prosecutor was a woman with curly red hair who was wearing too much lipstick. Her dark brown clothes matched the color of her eyes, and she looked hard core and proud to be the one who was prosecuting the assassin of Jahr Karol.

"Would you please state your name?" the prosecutor asked as Renald was forced to sit on the witness stand as his only means of defending himself. Her name was Tara Nickerson.

"Tom Renald."

Tara looked like she was going to enjoy picking Renald apart. "Were you in Karol's office on the night of the murder?"

Renald smirked. "Isn't that your job to prove that I was?"

Tara looked glad that he asked that question, and Renald immediately felt a little nervous.

"Maybe you don't know this, Mr. Renald, but that office…has security cameras."

"Ugh…I hate those things…" Renald thought to himself as he realized he was once again ruined by cameras.

"We have that video here, Mr. Renald," Tara said as she walked over to a television on the side of the courtroom and hit a button on a tape player. "Ladies and gentlemen, please direct your attention to this incident that was caught on camera."

Instantly a grainy and choppy black and white image started playing on the screen. It showed Karol in the bottom left corner, and just a few seconds later, it showed Renald walking in and pointing the gun to Karol's head. Due to the fact there was no sound, no one could tell what the two were talking about, although it was obvious they were having a conversation.

"Mr. Renald, that was you who ran into that building and pointed a gun at Mr. Karol. Do you deny it?"

"Objection!" screamed Renald's defense attorney, another woman in her mid sixties who looked about as attractive as a person who suffered from mass amounts of atomic radiation. "It's impossible to tell based on the quality of that picture that that man is indeed my client."

Tara slammed her hand down on the witness stand and stared at Renald right in the eye. "Do you deny that that was you in the video? Answer me."

Renald smirked. "Now why would that be me in there? I don't think I'd have any motive to go in there and kill Karol."

"I'm asking the questions, Mr. Renald," Tara said coldly. "And it's just a simple answer I want. Yes, or no."

Renald stammered for a little bit, but he then looked up at her and stared back with confidence. "No. It wasn't."

The audience in the courtroom started whispering a bit amongst itself until the Judge ordered everyone to be quiet. As soon as everything was back in order, the Judge gave permission for Ms. Nickerson to continue her questioning.

"So it wasn't you," she said, confirming what Renald just said. "In that case, how do you explain Karol getting killed?"

"He fell from a building," Renald answered proudly. "You and I both know it."

"Oh, really?" Tara asked. "Then how do you explain the gunshot wound in Mr. Karol's chest?"

Renald looked really serious. "How do you know that I was the one who shot him? Why would I have a motive to kill him in the first place?"

"We're not talking about your motive, Mr. Renald. We're trying to…"

"Objection!" screamed Renald's attorney again. "Your Honor, as you can see, my client has no known motive to kill Mr. Karol. If he didn't have a motive, he wouldn't do it. And…"

"We're talking about the video and the forensics here!" Tara yelled. "Whether or not he had a motive, all evidence points to your client being the murderer." She turned back to Renald and said, "That gunshot wound to the chest came before he fell."

"Yeah? And how do you know I was the one who shot him?"

Tara smiled and looked like she was ready to slam him. "All bullets leave distinct marks, Mr. Renald. And the bullet we extracted from Mr. Karol was carefully examined, and after studying its unique ballistic marks, it was determined that the bullet found in Karol's chest indeed came from your gun."

Renald's eyes widened and his teeth started gritting automatically. Now things were starting to look bad for him.

"What's more, it was determined from the size of the bullet wound that the gun was fired quite a distance away, so suicide would have been impossible."

Renald was starting to look really nervous, but he had to keep his cool a bit longer. "Yeah? Well, how do you know that I was the one who fired it?"

Tara snickered. "The fingerprints on the gun we confiscated were indeed your prints, Mr. Renald. And upon closer examination, it was determined that the gun had been fired around the time that Karol's autopsy report said he was killed."

Renald was really losing it now. He could hardly think of anything to say that he could use to defend himself. Yes, he did it, but he had to think of some way to convince everyone that he was innocent. Was it possible…

Renald didn't even realize it, but he was speechless for quite some time, and even his attorney couldn't find too many things to say that would help him out.

"Well, then, I think that's about settled," the Judge said. "I will allow some time for the jury to deliberate if there are no more arguments or things to say. We will come back in a little while once the jury has reached a verdict. Court is adjourned."

The Judge dismissed everyone in the court and they all filed out. Renald, however, was taken to a small room in the back and was told to sit tight until the verdict was read. That meant that he would probably have to wait for several hours before he was finally read the verdict. Normally, he'd be a bit scared, but now, he wasn't. And it was soon clear why…

As he was sitting on a single chair in a small room with one of the guards standing around and making sure everything was going in order, Renald was informed that he had a visitor. He looked up and saw that it was Sorel, who looked extremely upset with what happened.

"Renald, I told you to be careful!" he said sadly.

"Don't worry, kid," Renald said, doing his best to calm Sorel's nerves. He sounded surprisingly calm and cool.

"I told you not to call me ki…ah, whatever. Look, you realize you've got almost no hope of being declared innocent?"

"Yup."

"And you're all right with that?"

Renald laughed. "You're forgetting something, Sorel. I'm only nineteen years old, and the minimum age to be executed is twenty. I found that out when I was talking to that other guy who was going to defend us at the police station."

"But you could still wind up in jail for the rest of your life!" Sorel argued.

Renald scoffed. "Then I'd break out. You've seen me break out of a prison before. I'll be able to do it easily."

There was an awkward silence before Renald spoke up again. "By the way, were you in the courtroom?"

"Yeah. I was sitting towards the back and observing it all. You looked all right up there, but man, I'd like to smack that prosecutor lady. She's a real dip."

"Ah, whatever. She can't do anything to me."

Renald looked up and saw the genuine look of concern and worry on Sorel's face. Seeing that actually made Renald start smiling. "Look, don't worry about it, okay? I'm fine. Like I said, the worst that can happen is that I have to bust out of jail."

"But how are you going to get your life back on track after that? People will know you're an escaped convict and…"

"Ah, I'll worry about that then. Look, don't worry about me, all right? Just go and wait for the verdict to be read. I'll be all right."

"You sure?" Sorel asked.

"Just relax, man. Okay?"

Sorel smiled. "All right."

Sorel slowly reached his hand out and put in front of Renald. Renald stared at it for a few seconds until he put his hand out as well and gave Sorel a high five. They both smiled at each other before Sorel eventually walked out of the room.

-

The verdict was reached in less than an hour. Everyone was slowly filed back into the courtroom and was seated in their respective spots. The Judge seemed very ready to give out the verdict based on how the jury was looking.

"Has the jury reached a verdict?" the Judge asked.

"Yes, Your Honor," one of the jurors meekly said. He stood up and read from a piece of paper. "We find the defendant, Thomas Renald…guilty of first degree murder."

The entire courtroom didn't seem too surprised. Renald sat back hard in his chair and swallowed equally hard, although he still maintained himself.

"And the penalty?" the Judge asked.

"We, the jury, are requesting to impose the penalty of death upon Thomas Renald."

This caused everyone in the court room to start perking up and letting out their shock, especially Renald. He was outraged by this and saw that it wasn't even possible, and he was irritated even more that his attorney didn't seem to be doing anything about it.

"Wait!" Renald yelled amidst all the loud talking and whispers. "The minimum age allowed for the death penalty is twenty!"

The Judge eyed Renald very suspiciously. "And…?"

Renald slammed his hand down again. "And I'm only nineteen! You can't give me the death penalty!"

The Judge looked very irritated that he had to go through with this. "What is your date of birth, Mr. Renald?"

"W…what? I was born on the seventeenth of Ubels in 2019."

"Yes…and look at the court papers today and see what they're dated."

Renald looked down and carefully scanned them. He looked back up very sharply and said, "It says the twenty-fourth of Ubels, 2039, Your Honor."

"There. You see?" the Judge asked.

"See what? I was born the seventeenth and this is…"

Then Renald suddenly stopped, and it felt like everything else around him had suddenly stopped, too. For the first time in his life, he was genuinely afraid now. He looked scared, and he looked vulnerable. He had never felt like this before. His heart rate had entirely stopped.

"Noooooooooooo…" Renald whispered very softly to himself.

"You see? You turned twenty seven days ago, Mr. Renald. You're old enough." The Judge turned his attention back to the jury, leaving Renald completely speechless and horrified. "I concur with the verdict given by the jury and wish to impose the penalty of death upon Thomas Renald. I, the Judge, demand him to be put to the pendulum tomorrow at dawn."

The entire crowd started talking loudly as the Judge ended the court session. Renald just stared down, completely shocked and helpless after what had just happened. He couldn't believe it. It was over. He just couldn't believe it.

But he didn't have long to sit around and feel sorry for himself. Just moments later, a security guard came over and forced him out of his seat. Renald got up without much hesitation and was starting to be walked out of the courtroom.

As Renald was led out of the courtroom by the guard, Renald slowly turned around and looked towards the audience. Amidst the standing and scattering people, Renald could see Sorel standing there.

Sorel looked deeply saddened and hurt by the verdict. He was giving Renald a tragic face that seemed to be saying, "I warned you…"

Renald just did his best to not let the look get to him. After a brief pause, Renald called out to Sorel, "Sorel…take care of yourself."

That didn't make Sorel look any better, but he at least tried to smile and nodded. He didn't want to disappoint Renald and not grant him his last wish as his only friend.

Renald continued staring at his friend, knowing it would be the last time he ever saw him. As he stared off, he got a series of palm slaps on the arm, telling him to get moving.

Renald glumly looked down. Slowly, he was led out of the court room.

THE END.

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

There it is, the end of Before It's Too Late. I've enjoyed writing this a lot, and it became MUCH longer in the end than I thought it would be. Er…just thought I'd throw that out.

Thank you so much to all my reviewers, especially those who have stuck around for the whole thing. From the ones I got in the early stages of this, all the way up to the later chapters, you guys have given me great feedback and great tips. It's great to have you guys reading my work and taking the time to give me feedback. Thank you very much for all of it. You guys are the best.

Well, now time to launch into my obligatory explanation as to how I came up with the idea for the plot. Early thoughts for this story date back to January. It was around then when I decided I wanted to write a story that centered in on a hit man. I thought it would overall make a more interesting character to feature as the protagonist and it would give me a shot at making a different kind of hero.

For weeks, I toyed with the idea of whether or not I wanted to make the hit man eventually end up as a good guy or a bad guy. I thought about making him a bad guy a while in, but it was hard for me to really get too far with that, mostly because I lacked the most important thing to one of my stories: a plot.

It was probably around a month or so after deciding I wanted the main character to be a hit man before I finally got a good vibe for the plot. Before then, I was thinking about something that I would really need to get the plot rolling: the villain. I prefer to have villains who have ideals or intentions that can be presented in such a way that someone could almost think the bad guy was the good guy. In other words, give the villain a really good and justifiable motive.

Well, for the longest time, I couldn't come up with one, and it was taking me forever to think of an actual plot to this. Around this time, I was finishing up with the reposting of Camp Glaregon here, and I felt the need to come up with a plot fast so anyone who read Camp Glaregon and wanted more from me wouldn't have to wait.

Unfortunately, I wasn't getting anywhere fast, and I hardly got anywhere without having a villain and a scheme in mind. Then, one day, I got an idea from a place I didn't expect help from: History class.

My History teacher was giving a lecture on World War I and how one particular who signed the Treaty of Versailles was determined to prevent any future wars. When my teacher said, "He wanted to stop all wars," it just clicked. I thought to myself, "That's great! A guy trying to stop wars! That could be a justifiable motive." And it didn't take me long after that to say, "Well, to stop all huge wars, you'd have to destroy the most powerful countries…"

After that, I just started piecing everything together and tossing ideas around until it eventually came to what you just finished reading. It eventually ended up with Knemus not being the final enemy, but really Karol.

Of course, it took a lot of time to put all that together and make it into a story. Too much time for me, in fact. I'd say it took several weeks longer to outline this story than it should have, and I realized how slow outlining this story was going to take, so I instead tried to multitask and start on a shorter story that would tide any of my readers over until I eventually finished up this one. So, that led to me writing Strong to Save, and it's actually a good thing I wrote that, because I got a lot of feedback for that story that helped me out when writing this one.

Luckily, by the time Strong to Save was finished up, I was more than ready to start this. And that's pretty much the end of it. After months of thinking and tossing ideas aside and trying to come up with new ones, I was finally able to start working on this.

Enough about that; I'd say I've ranted on long enough. Time to finish up Before It's Too Late and move on to Everlasting, which already has a few chapters up. I encourage any reviews or feedback for it, so please don't hesitate to give me some.

Once again, thank you kindly to all my reviewers. You guys really keep me motivated to keep writing, and I thank you for that. I'll be sure to get around to your works, too.

But until then, here I am, ending Before It's Too Late. Thank you all for your reviews and patience reading it.

-Velkan the Impaler

Thursday, July 5, 2007, 12:32 p.m.