A view into something that I'm working on.
I apologize in advance. XD
Michael hands me a cracked coffee mug filled with vodka as I sit down on the plastic covered couch. I take it, holding it in one hand and fiddling around with the tape deck in the other. It’s old fashioned, but I trust it more than the digital ones. I like looking at the amber tape, knowing that what I set out to get is embedded in there safe and sound. I need to know that what I’ve recorded is real, less I forget that I taped it in the first place. At home I have neat little rows of amber tape boxes, each labeled with a time and a date and a location. Hundreds of thousands of plastic boxes.
He notices my fiddling and laughs at me, lungs rattling in time with each head shake. “You still have that piece of crap? Going to tape me too, boy?”
“I have no desire to remember anything you have to say. If I had it my way you’d be dead already.”
“So why bother then?”
“You know why.” There is silence and it stretches out into several long minutes.
“Do you still hate me? I don’t blame you, though, all things considered,” He takes a noisy sip from his cup—a cracked plastic Dominos Pizza tumbler. The clear liquid drips out the side as he tips it back, running down his wrist and he curses, turning the cup around so the crack is towards me. He tries again and this time I watch his throat work around the hard swallow, Adam’s apple moving as he takes it down. “But I ain’t apologizing. I did what I needed to do, just like you’re going to do right now.”
My right hand is cold, and I put the drink down. “You never were much of a drinker.” He mutters, throwing back the contents of his plastic tumbler. The tape deck makes a mechanical snort and then hums. Its recording.
“Don’t have the stomach for it like you do. You’re the only person I know who can drink that shit.” He laughs, but doesn’t offer me anything else. I knew he wouldn’t. He never cared much for pleasantries. “You know… I never asked. How’d you get out anyway? I thought I put you down good.”
“You know that we aren’t here to talk about that, Michael.” Michael knows that means I don’t want to talk about it. Not now, and defiantly not with him. It took three years of nightmares and grieving to get over what he did to me. My chest still hurts from the bullets; I rattle when I breath.
“Then what are we here to talk about? This is it, isn’t it? The end? Let an old man do what he has to do.” He pulls a .9mm from behind a paisley pillow on the chair he’s sitting on and for a second I feel like I can’t catch my breath and I’m drowning. Michael slams the black piece on the coffee table between us like a gavel, trying to draw order to the conversation. He leaves it there, both the weapon and that particular line of conversation. I shake myself from scattered memories.
“John,” His voice comes out low and gravelly so he stops to clear his throat before starting again. “John, I don’t want to die.” It takes me by surprise and he must’ve noticed because he looks at me with that pig eat shit grin of his.
“Hell, I guess that goes without saying,” he continues, ice cracking as he pours himself a refill. This one disappears just as quickly as the first. “I mean, I haven’t met a lot of people but I assume that anyone with a lick of sanity in them wouldn’t actually want their life to end. Sometimes, though, fate doesn’t give you much of a choice. I’m cornered and I know that if it don’t happen now, it’s going to happen another day another way, and it won’t be as pretty. Trapped animals fight to the very end and when that’s not enough, they’ll chew off their own legs to escape; they’d rather bleed themselves to death than wait for the hunter to come back and finish them off.
“These days, I have only one good leg left. One good eye too, and my hearts not quite what it used to be. Hell, I’m pretty much on the way out already.”
“You look pretty good to me.” It isn’t a lie, either. Michael’s gotten grey, sure, but it blends in well with his thick blonde hair. There is an angry red scar still shiny and new stretching over the left side of his face. I put it there earlier that month when I ripped his face open with a tire iron. It suits him.
“It’s too late for flattery, John. I think its five years too late.”
“I was merely remarking. For benefit of the tape.” We both know it’s a lie and Michael laughs.
“John. I didn’t call you here because I gave a flying fuck about the regulations. I haven’t reported in for a regular debriefing since I left you to die in Cape Ann. I called you here because after everything is said and done I love you. Damn it… you’re my kid Johnny. And you’ve done good for yourself. I’m sorry, baby boy.”
Michael stops to steel himself, taking two deep breaths. He holds each for a count, body freezing as if he’s stopped time. I wonder if he really means it—sorry. It sounds too good to be true and if there’s anything working with Michael’s taught me its that if something sounds too good to be true it probably is.
“You didn’t call me here just to say that you’re sorry. You want something.” You always want something.
“You know me too well.” He sits back, hands folded in his lap, and looks at me good and hard. It makes my stomach churn and I feel like I might throw up. “I don’t want to die, John. I’m a coward. I mean, I’ve tried to do it myself but I can’t. That’s why I called you here. That’s why I asked them to send you. I want you to do it for me.”
“Michael, I can’t do that.” I can’t do it, either, I tell myself. My finger tips itch at the idea; I can’t do it, even if I want to. “You know that we have rules.”
“For fucking Christ’s sake, John--“ He grits his teeth, leaning forward. “I’m begging you. If you don’t do it, He will. He’s found me once already. He’ll find me again.” His eyes are wild, fear laden.
“Stop being a wimp son of a bitch for once in your life John. Do it. Kill me. I know you want to. If you don’t do it, you know who He’ll be after next, don’t you? I’ll let him know—every name, every address, every phone number. It’ll be a blood bath if you don’t fucking do it.”
My fingers twitch and he grins.
“I know how much you want to do it. I know how much you like killing, Johnny. You take right after your old man. So do it. Kill or be fucking killed, baby boy. Do it. Kill me. Do it, John. Do—"
It’s messy and warm and wet and I know that I shouldn’t have. My prints are all over the gun and the mug. My prints are all over everything. The bastard. I stand, careful not to touch anything else even though I know that it isn’t going to do any good.
Michael looks good like that, though. Head resting back against the chair, eyes rolled back into his skull. He looks damn good. I place my hand over his lips, the skin still warm, and I press a kiss to it. Good bye, old man. I’m sorry too. I taste his blood on my skin.
“You just sit tight, now, Michael. I have some calls I need to make.” I dial for Trevor and his crew-- specialists for this kind of situation. There is a click from the coffee table. The tape stops recording and there is an electric hiss as it starts to rewind.