I’m looking at the flowers.
I know you want to know.
Or maybe you don’t.
Everyone loves that moment of exposition. Everyone wants to understand the puzzle pieces. Everyone wants that moment when Neo was told about the Matrix, and no one wants the fucking sequel.
After the reveal, everything else is just a sad old man with a projector screen offering promises he can’t keep.
Tell yourself it’s a Dorian Gray kind of situation. Tell yourself it’s a curse from a warlock. Tell yourself that I was bitten by a radioactive monkey from Sector 9.
Let me ask you, sunshine, does the reason matter that much when you get shit-canned? Does it matter that much when you or a loved one catches a stray bullet that was meant for some nearby asshat, or, even worse, intended for no one because some jerk-wad is stupid, drunk, irresponsible, mentally inept, or some combination of the above?
Maybe it does.
Maybe it doesn’t.
I’m keeping my profile as low as I can which is lower than you’d expect. I feel like Dr. Manhattan hiding in a fucking petting zoo.
The messages stopped coming, and I don’t know why.
The trail of dead bodies is stretching like a newly paved highway in the roadmap of my mind. Rivers of blood are raging beneath those roads with the same fury as the blood in my own veins.
Every blip of a siren, every abnormal shift in the shadows puts me on edge.
I’m not afraid of people coming for me. I know that cops and feds and countless others from the alphabet soup of agencies are trying to get me…now more than ever. I’m not afraid they’ll hurt me. I’m not afraid of what they’ll do to me.
I’m afraid of what I’ll do to them.
I’m afraid of what they’ll do to her.
The coin of reality is flipping in my mind when a man walks by and I see him pull his hand from his pocket to check the time. A card drops from his pocket.
Say what you will about Nemesis Nancy, but the fucker has cloak and dagger down to a science.
I snatch the card and make a retreat. I don’t need to be near civilians when I decide to read what it says. A location. Old and out of the way. A payphone…one of the few remaining in the city.
I’ll cut to the chase. Moriarity wants to meet.
It’s a little building out of the way on Sheridan. Low traffic. Non-descript. No guards, which both surprises me, and doesn’t.
Inside I find him at a table. No fun shadow tricks. No all-white villain suit with a brimmed hat. No cigar. No fat cat in his lap. He looks like someone who should be named Brad and says things like, “Oh, for sure, man…for sure…” with a cocksure smile and an upper-management haircut.
Before I can do much, he pulls up a tablet and angles it toward me so I can see inside the room. I can see the flowers in that old vase that I always thought looked so tacky. I see a small red dot appear and move around the room and then it’s gone.
Message clear. Guns and what-not. No shit…
“I know you already know this, but I find that some people, in the moment, care less about what they know and more about what they feel,” he sounds like a man who spends times making above-board deals in nice rooms with well-lacquered tables.
“So let’s get to it, sunshine…”
“Now see…that,” he says, “that’s an interesting phrase. Makes you come off like some cocky anti-hero type. Like it’s a little quip. A jab.”
“It’s always sloppiness, you know? That’s what gets everyone fucked up in the end. Those loose ends you didn’t tie. Those ones you let get away. You ever seen the movie Heat?”
“Whole thing turns to shit, and why? Because Waingro was a fucking cowboy who couldn’t keep his finger off a trigger? No. Because one idiot says, ‘Hey, cool it, slick.’ Every point from there is mere trajectory.”
“Cool story, Ebert. You gonna give me the ‘ol two thumbs treatment now?”
“What I want,” he says with a little sigh, “is for you to recognize your position and react accordingly.”
“You want Cerberus on a leash.”
“I want Cerberus back in hell where he belongs.”
“So dot that fucking i, Waingro.”
I hear the sound of where a bullet strikes. I feel a tightness in my chest. I feel a sharp pain creeping through my nerves an muscles.
“How hard do you want to make this on yourself?” he asks.
I wish I could tell you I had an answer.