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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The chance encounter (Prelude to Death at the fireplace)

    As soon as I entered the Kicking Mules joint, the smell of the food made my mouth water and the stomach grumbled demanding its share. A smoked filled dimly lit room greeted me and I could hardly see the crowd inside. The only light the room got was from the fireplace at one end and a few scattered bulbs hanging on the wooden pillars near the door. The fireplace light flickered and threw shadows all over throwing my mind in more turmoil than it was already. The crowd was soon forgotten and the tick tock of the clock was the only sound heard for awhile as I was lost in my own thoughts.

    After looking around a bit, I spotted Jane in one corner waiting for her food and drinks. Her hat and Uzi were lying on the table in front of her as she wiped the sweat of her forehead. The deep tan and wrinkled skin on a large built woman seemed to tell its own tale it seemed. She seemed to be in deep thought and I hesitated to speak as I neared her. Gathering my wits, I said “Good to see ya here my friend. So, how goes things in your end of the woods?””Alls well as can be” She said. Looking past her, I saw that she had come alone. All I could see was a dense forest cover across the street and the street was empty except for her and her armored truck. I told her that I was pleasantly surprised to see her as I had not seen anyone of my friends for many long years I ordered my drink, plate full of the daily special and started my hunt for a seat near Jane to plant my weary body on.

    I had known Jane since childhood, yet she was always the type that kept to herself and mingled only when she wanted to. Today was one of those days which reminded me of my childhood days when the fireside talks and camping trips used to last from dawn to dusk. Time flew by as the food was finished, drinks ordered and drained to the last drops and the food joint emptied out till there was no soul in sight yet it seemed like we had not caught up on our lost lives. The joint slowly started to shut down and we were forced to seek refuge upstairs in the bedroom.

    I had come here to forget my past and I had never expected anyone I knew to wander down this long forgotten road which had drawn me like a street light draws a moth many long years back. Time had moved on as I lost myself in one nameless town after another until I finally found some peace here from my troubled past. It seemed like everyone had forgotten about me as I grew up and went my own way, made new friends along the way. Coffee was offered and gladly taken as we exchanged stories of our travels around the country once more. Curiosity got the better of me and I had to ask how I was located even though I tried my best not to leave any trace behind. I was told how I was asked about in every bar, highway stops and any other places that served travelers. She met a dead end at every place until a few people after a bit of persuasion mentioned that they had seen me around these parts. Like a blood hound, she finally tracked me down to this place and it unlocked those memories that I thought I would never experience again. She told tall tales about her travels around the country just like old times and I told her of mine of this enchanting place which seemed like paradise on earth. The trail of blood and gore that was left behind become legendary and somehow she always evaded the long arm of the law.

    The old clock hanging on the wall down in the hallway boomed as the hand struck ten. It startled me out of the deep thought I was in and I only realized this by the fact that the juke box had stopped playing the same old songs I had heard for the last many years and the lights were shut off except for the place where we were lying on bed. The clothes were scattered all over the room. The little diversion turned minutes into hours. The bed sheets were soaked and I hunted for a new set before the maid came in the morning to chide us for making such a mess. I turned my head to look out the window. I saw that there it was partly cloudy sky; a full moon seemed to look down at the land as if looking for something. The star lit night made me wonder what my future holds.

    “You still awake?” I asked as I ran my fingers down her bare arm. Taking a deep breath, she shook her head she mumbled in the positive. Not able to find neither my pants nor shirt, I walked around the bed to stretch my legs hoping that the curtains were drawn and hoped to find my way back home before I fell asleep here. Looking out the door, I saw that the street lights showed empty streets and the town seemed deserted except for the few drunks who weaved through the roads and the stray dogs that were busy chasing a few cars that passed through the town main intersection woke me out of the half sleep daze I was in.

    Pulling up a chair next to the bed, “You know about it right?” I asked Jane. “Ayup. You know how small the town was. How could I miss it as it was the talk of the town. The phones were buzzing for many days. It’s shame ain’t it? ” She said after some thought. “What are ya going to do about it?” She asked. “Something soon. I reckon if I don’t wrap it up soon, I’ll meet the same fate as the one I deal to others. A botched up job which becomes public sends shivers down my spine. Death before dishonor.” Came back the reply in a whispered tone. There was turmoil in my mind as I looked over my shoulder and into the growing darkness thinking about the times I tried to lose myself in nameless towns and forget my past. I still feel hollow inside due to the failure and the fear of its discovery. I guess I’ll never be able to get another assignment nor respect amongst peers again.

    We went silent for awhile with each one of us lost in our own thoughts. The talk shifted to other things. There was something on her mind but she held it back. I let things be as my mind floated back to a bygone era which I seemed to have forgotten till now. I saw myself in my mind’s eye travelling down one interstate highway after another and before heading off to safe houses after another finishing off my targets and marking them up as kills in my diary. My sun burned gaunt face turned towards the window as the harsh winds that refused to die down swept through the mind. The creaking and swinging branches outside the window startled me out of the dark thoughts I had fallen into.

    The darting uncertain eyes soon acquired a spark in them like some decision had been made. Lifting the Uzi and aiming the muzzle at me, she calmly informed me that my time had come and error/omissions need to be corrected. With a gasp, I toppled backwards wide eyed and sweat started to soak my shirt. The eyes which was hard and gritty a moment ago suddenly turned into an evil glint as my lungs started to burn and the heart was pounding do hard that it felt like it was going to pop out. I felt intense pressure in my back, I shrieked out in pain as I felt my body shaking and my vision began to blur. After a moment, I crawled to my knees and finally stood up. Spreading and stretching the huge wings, I started to flap them till, I started to rise into the sky. Flapping my giant wings, I hung effortlessly hung in the room as I clenched and unclenched my heavily muscled hand and arm while I drew my flaming sword and swung it in an eight pattern for awhile. An evil glint appeared in my eye and I started to laugh hysterically and the manic laughter rang through the town.

    The power had come back as the house lights flickered on. The street lights flickered down below in the valley and all that could be seen were empty streets and the town seemed deserted except for the persistent stray dogs that were still preoccupied in chasing a few cars that passed through the town main intersection. The moon was rising higher and higher and sleep was overtaking me. The shadows were getting deeper and deeper and an unfinished business needed to be wrapped up. Throwing a blanket over Jane who had fallen asleep, I somehow managed to slip under the sheet and I fell asleep as soon as I turn off the light. A new day awaited and honor to be reclaimed.