And what exactly do I know? That’s a damn good question…More importantly, how the hell did I fall into this mess?
Turning away from the disheveled figure in the chair, I glanced through the skeleton of a nearby window bereft of frame, at the city’s skyline. The November dusk was approaching, coming faster every day now that autumn had started packing its bag for departure. The alpenglow radiated from the peaks of those man-made mountains of towering glass and steel, and the lofty cranes atop their crowns could be seen slowly furling, as flowers might do in preparation for a cold night. When the light hits them just right, those living landscapes create a surreal set of sharp contours that almost become three-dimensional temporarily, and their vividness can take your breath away, especially under the influence of a powerful drug (including adrenaline). As with times of great pleasure or distress, when you’ve gained or lost something of immense value (or when you’re interrogating a bleeding collaborator in trafficking human organs), time seems to slow down, and for just a moment, this different perspective can make you more acutely aware of the rapid traversal that is your speeding life. The comforting fabric of your everyday life is pulled away to expose that ensconced feeling of vulnerability, and you can feel the threaded broom of the Fates as they are slowly pushing the dust of all us living mortals under the rug, so that we may be reunited with the pile that is the rest of the past. It’s easy then to forget everything else with such overstimulation and pensive meandering…
And, yes, “meandering” is the right word, since it gets you nowhere. Wake up, dummy! Stop this intellectual masturbation that you call “writing poetry” and deal with the present situation! Jesus Christ…it’s not like your life is at risk or anything…
Even though I was reluctant to admit it, the admonishing voice and fierce buzzkill had a point. I wasn’t exactly a salesman by trade, but in this case, I had to deliver a convincing pitch in order to pull this one off. My theory could be nothing more than conjecture, but if I was going to turn this situation around, I had to believe it….otherwise, Joe wouldn’t. I might not be a general practitioner of deception, but I had lived under the same roof as one of its most fierce advocates: my father. His true medium had been forgery (and had possessed enough skill to gain a slight nod from Frank Abagnale), but he did regularly attempt to scam and hustle the general populace with the old-fashioned way of charming lies and tall tales. I wasn’t exactly proud of being the spawn of such a delinquent (especially when he would con a child out of their favorite baseball cards), but I had learned quite a bit about human nature by being present during the execution of his nefarious hobbies. If my father had taught me anything regarding the basics of fraud, you had to weave your web of lies with room to spare, so that you had enough space to wiggle around upon confrontation or any other vicissitude. So, I had a rudimentary game plan…I just hoped that it was enough.
“It’s over, Joe. I know about you and Captain Richie, how you’re good friends that go way back, how you’re working together to get some dirt on Mayor Dwek. I know all of it…”
Even though Joe was still a bit groggy from the sucker punch delivered by Octavio, he began to stir and become more aware with each accusation. He stiffened his back, regaining his usual good posture. Ever the actor, he always delivered his lines with poise. “Well, okay…that’s all true. I won’t deny it.” He shot a striking glance at Octavio before hitting a more acerbic tone. “You didn’t have to hit me to learn that, dummies!”
Octavio stared back without blinking. “Esso! Look at the balls on this guy!”
“…and I know about your operation,” I continued, regaining Joe’s attention. “How you and Captain Richie are looking to frame Mayor Dwek, so she can take the fall. Because the real people on top of this black market are you and Captain Richie.”
“Whoa, wait a minute,” shouted Joe tersely, shifting nervously in the chair. “Are you serious? You’re accusing us? Me…and Richie?!? Who is a police captain? Are you out of your flippin’ mind?”
Well, he told us that he didn’t believe in cursing, that it was the mark of someone who wasn’t professional…and even in a situation like now, he holds to it. Who would have thought, a kid from northern New Jersey who’s actually forsaken swearing?
“No, I’m not crazy. For a minute, though, I thought that I might be…but then I played the footage from my building’s DVR again…and again. Captain Richie and some of his boys in red suits, pulling dead bodies out of our locked boiler room. I made a few copies of it. Want me to share the one on Google Drive with you?”
Only accuse Captain Richie and claim that you got evidence on him, since he’s not here to say shit to the contrary. Leave Joe out of it, and now you’ve got plenty of wiggle room. Thanks, Dad.
On cue and proving that he had recollected his wits, Octavio contributed to my ruse by corroborating my claim. “Yep. Pete ain’t lyin’. I was there to see it for myself. You got some shitty friends, Joe…and then you try to get me to help you, knowing what you and your boy did to my aunt! You sick fuck…you’re lucky that I just punched you…that I don’t kill you right now!”
“Hold on a second!” roared Joe, pointing his finger at me (or one of me in his vision, judging by his eyes’ inability to focus just yet). “I would never do anything like that. And never would Ritchie…I think…But it definitely wasn’t me! And I want to see this proof for myself! For all I know, you’re working with Mayor Dwek to cut up these people!” He pointed at Octavio. “And you better not lay another hand on me, kid, or you’ll be in deep shit!”
Gotta stick with the lie. No going back now… I nodded. “Sure thing…we’ll go back together to the building so that you can see it for yourself…”
Our collective attention turned suddenly towards the open door of the musty room, from which broadcasted the low volume of two voices that were down the hall, angrily goading each other to move more quickly.
Shit…looks like we’re no longer alone…
Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.