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Detainee 717

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Chapter 12

“By the way, did you enjoy the parade while I was in Sandman’s?” Han’s eyes flick the rearview mirror lightly, like brushes on a cymbal. “I suppose not. I don’t much see the point to them, sir.”

“It’s like anything else,” the Diplomat tutors. “There is no point, other than whatever you say it is.”

Hans makes no reply.

An oak behind the Patterson Sober Living House spits a stream of ragged wings into the wind while the Diplomat, parked across the street, watches. Behind the house’s rooftop crows flap into evening’s lavender height; they toil to scale the sky, like something an eon ago exchanging fins for feet, crawling from sea to land, inaugurating a new species. Good, let them labor, the Diplomat thinks, recalling his dislike of flying things, birds or even winged insects, coveting their intrinsic capacity for flight. Men and women with nothing but a notion struggle to ascend and in the end give in, admit it’s easier to fall. This is not a matter of shame. One simply learns to fall as though flying, with dark-tinted exhilaration.

The halfway house in the blighted neighborhood cowers where it sits, bullwhipped by the tenants’ drug-haunted sense of repetitious doom. It is one of an odd scattering of residential homes that, like dice from a drunken hand, seems to have ricocheted off the base of an alley wall, coming to rest without reason or rhyme in what would otherwise be an unbroken industrial sprawl displaying the bleak horizontals and depleted verticals of prairie wasteland. The railroad tracks nearby are strewn with broken beer bottles, cigarette butts, empty KFC and Burger King bags – the detritus of tribes with no destination wandering through the night.

The Diplomat has a commitment to fulfill, an errand to pursue, though he could have easily given the assignment to Hans or to one of a hundred like him, hungering on the sidelines for the chance to prove that they are worthy, that even among the elite they stand haloed and singled out, touched by a divine finger, phosphorescent. Men and women with staggering talents and gifts, some fluent in two dozen languages, others with encyclopedic memories retentive as film, all with ramrod minds machined by pistons of thought. All waiting, wanting to serve, wanting to be used, eager to kill or be killed for a cause.

“All right, Hans. I’m afraid for the second time tonight you’ll have to amuse yourself while I take care of a little business,” the Diplomat says, getting out of the car.

“I’ll be right here, sir.”

He crosses the street carrying a briefcase and rings the doorbell. Impatiently he shifts his weight from his left to his right foot, feeling that it is not inappropriate to do so. From the other side of the door he hears a muffled pulse of laughter, either televised or produced by the residents. He knocks, pauses, then knocks again as someone from behind churlishly announces coming through, forcing the Diplomat to step aside.

Carrying his twenty-something years as though each were a universe weighted with the absence of wonder, the young man opens the door with his key and, slouching, world-weary, turns to face the Diplomat. “Who you looking for?”“I’m looking for Justin Aquino.”

“Dude, who the fuck is Justin Aquino?”

“That’s the man who runs this place.”

“I don’t know who the fuck that is, man. I’m new here and I never heard of no Justin Aquino. But there’s some old timers here might know.”

He flings the door open wide and wearily gestures the Diplomat inside. They walk into the living room, where two men sit on a dark ancient couch that sprawls like an sea lion on a rock. In front of the couch junk-food containers in a quarrel of Styrofoam squabble for space on the surface of the battered coffee table.

“Chuck, Washington,” the youth calls to the two on the couch, “ever heard of some guy, Justin Aquino?”

No one turns.

The Diplomat and the youth stand behind the couch’s sagging bulk, waiting.

Chuck and Washington in what appears to be a long-mired comfortable entrenchment are watching an old episode of The Sopranos on a 17-inch Mitsubishi television bolted down on a makeshift wrought-iron stand, itself bolted to the floor. Next to the couch is a barstool that a third man sits on, this one with an equatorial complexion and a swaggering broadness of bone, the heels of his unlaced workboots hooked over the bottom rung, legs agape and knees in awkward jackknife.

The youth is instantly absorbed by the scene on the television. “Fucking Tony Soprano,” he observes with dull admiration. The screen drips a lean light into the room’s darkness like an IV tubing solution into a coma patient’s arm.

When a commercial for American Express comes on, Chuck, the older white man wearing a T-shirt with an American flag on the front, finally turns, his face bloated in the bluish television tint, his eyes reptilian. “Aquino? Shit, there ain’t no orientals here.” He looks at his couch-mate to the right, a black man thin as the spine of a children’s book, his blue denim coveralls striated with wrinkles and splotched with kitchen-table stains. “You a oriental, Washington?”

“Sometimes,” Washington replies.

Chuck turns to his left and says to the barstooled Hispanic man whose name he intentionally mangles, “You a oriental, An-hill?”

“You mean a gay oriental?” Angel asks, idly palming his shaved head, “like the kind you dream about when I hear you at night in your room moaning don’t stop, papa-san?”

The youth standing next to the Diplomat sees Chuck beginning to turn toward him and says preemptively, “Dude, that’s old school racism. Number one, nobody really says oriental no more unless you’re my parents’ age. Which I guess you are. And B, Aquino ain’t exclusively a Asian name. There was an Aquino in my high school whiter than my balls.” Chuck punches out a grunt with a fist of laughter. “You ain’t white, you a mutt.”

“Don’t feel bad, Lenny,” Angel soothes the youth, “he just pissed cause nobody nowadays want to be white no more. It ain’t so cool being a white boy in the new millennium. It ain’t just taken for granted no more, white boy got to confirm his shit, prove it like anybody else.”

“Why don’t you suck my mama’s millennial white dick, An-hill?”

Angel responds without heat. “You flag-waving, pus-running puta. Give me some cancer.”

Chuck taps a Marlborough out of his pack, offers it to Angel, manufacturing a gentlemanly flourish. “That’s right. I’m proud to be a fucking American. I love this country and everything this country does. So what?”

Washington announces to no one in particular, tonelessly, “Guarantee you won’t find a halfway house with a more ignorant confederation of losers than this one right here.”

Angel angles himself toward the Diplomat. “Guess you got the wrong house. George Gray runs this place as far as I know, but he just left to go to an NA meeting.”

“I used to be a resident here a few years ago,” the Diplomat explains. “I suppose it makes sense Aquino moved on.”

“You look like you moved on and did all right for yourself,” Angel notes. “Just wanted to take a stroll down memory lane, did you?”

“Catch up on old times. I was in the neighborhood. And I don’t like to party alone. I had some powder, thought I’d share the wealth.” Jiggling his briefcase illustratively the Diplomat turns to leave. “Genuinely sorry for the intrusion.”

On the couch Chuck and Washington twist their necks around fully to size up the Diplomat, while Lenny’s gaze leaves the TV screen and focuses with a kind of sluggish interest on the briefcase. Angel is on his feet. “Powder?”

The lizard slits of Chuck’s eyes lengthen to first accommodate and then absorb a toe-to-head image of the Diplomat. “What’d you want with Aquino? What is he to you? Maybe I can help, mister …” Signaling a request for information, he lengthens the end of the word mister, the consonant an engine idling in a low throaty gear.

“Victor,” the Diplomat supplies. “As I said – we had some good times. We did a little partying here while we were trying to get back on our feet.”

For perhaps the first time in hours Chuck rises from the couch, goes to the window, pulls the curtain back slightly to peek outside. “That some kind of limo? What do you want with John? John’s everyday people. I know John, yeah. I know where he probably is. But I can’t just give out his vital information. He might not appreciate that.”

Of course there is no John Aquino. The Diplomat has unearthed him from a vast graveyard of invented personas buried beneath the years, names that never belonged to the living and have scattered their imaginary bones on the tip of his tongue, where they can be conveniently resurrected when needed, talked into being. Fleshless words, not even dead. If Chuck were an observant man, the Diplomat thinks, he would notice that my lips pursed before I could stop them when he lied to me … he halts his thinking, uneasy: typically his thoughts are not voiced in the first person. “It’s not so important that I need to track him down. I just stopped on a whim.”

Chuck returns to the couch’s sunken cushions, settling himself exactly into the egg of indentation deposited by his weight. “Why don’t you bring yourself over here and sit down, Victor. You say you got powder like it never occurred to you this is a half-way house, filled with half-way people.”

“Speak for yourself,” Angel says, genuinely irritated this time. “Who you calling half-way people?”

“Don’t be so sensitive, An-hill.” Chuck strafes the stubble on his jaw with his hand’s heel. “We are what we are. Is this a place for whole people? Hell no. If you were whole, you wouldn’t be here, right? Isn’t that right, Victor? There a rush? Take a five-minute load off. Talk to me. I’d like to have an intelligent conversation for a change. I’ll make a quick call to mister Aquino in a couple minutes if I can find his number around here.”

When the Diplomat sits on the couch and places the briefcase on the coffee table, opening the lid and shifting a stack of papers aside to reveal a cellophane bag filled with white powder, Washington rises.

“I don’t like the direction this is traveling in,” Washington says, walking out of the room.

“So don’t like it,” Chuck says, slingshoting the words. With a confidential air he explains to the Diplomat, “Holier than thou. Got religion now that’s he’s six months clean and sober. You know how it goes.”

“Choices,” the Diplomat comments. “They’re there to be made, aren’t they? I said I didn’t like to party alone and I meant it. How did you say you came to know Aquino?”

Chuck scratches the corner of his eye with a calloused index finger. “Who, Justin? Aquino gets around. You know how that bastard is. I get around, which you wouldn’t know, but I do.” He elaborates with a shrug. “We met from before.” Lenny sits on the couch next to the Diplomat. Angel is standing next to his stool, looking down at the briefcase. Washington returns, looks at the briefcase, leaves again.

“Look,” the Diplomat says. “I’m not here to lead anybody astray. I hit a bad streak in the market. Lost a lot of capital in the past month. This morning I managed to turn it around. Now I’m ready to celebrate.”

“And you don’t like to celebrate alone,” Chuck reminds him, rubbing his palms together with lusty enthusiasm. “Celebrating alone is no celebration at all. I can’t speak for anybody else, but it’s been a long time since I had anything to celebrate.”

“How long have you been clean and sober?” the Diplomat asks.

Chuck scrubs a Brillo pad of laughter over their ears. “Long enough for me to feel like a fucking Girl Scout. Hundred eighteen days.”

The Diplomat sweeps the mess on the table aside, Styrofoam scattering like tumbleweed. From the briefcase he removes the cellophane bag with its pregnancy of amber and places the parcel almost the size of a newborn’s fist on the table. “You report to a PO?” Next to the bag he places a handful of packages containing disposable diabetic needles.

“You got that right. Bob punk-ass Lewindowski.”

“If your parole officer is anything like mine was,” the Diplomat says, “every once in a while he hands you a little tube and tells you to fill it.”

Chuck is still rubbing his palms together, producing an avid and hungry friction that seems to carry contagion throughout the room, infecting Angel and Lenny’s eyes. “As a matter of fact I just saw him yesterday. The motherfucker random-piss-tested me. So it’s my guess I won’t have to worry about that for a while.”

“So. You’re a patriot, I see.” The Diplomat points at the flag on Chuck’s T-shirt.

“That’s right.”

“And why is that?”

“Yeah, puta. Answer the man’s question. Why is that?”

“Because this is the greatest country in the world, to put it simple. One of the few countries that honors personal freedom.”

“Yeah, you exercised your personal freedom and look where it landed you,” Angel says.

Chuck rolls the words off lightly. “So what. That’s what freedom is – freedom to fuck up. I mean, that’s not all it is … look, there was a saying a long time ago: love it or leave it. You know why I’ll back America, no matter what? Cause even when America’s wrong, it’s still right. Look at the rest of the world.“

“I’m glad to hear you feel that way.” The Diplomat is looking at Chuck but addresses the room in general. “I don’t know what your situation is, beyond what I’m seeing. The battles you fight. What you stand to lose or gain. What you can or can’t handle. I had hit bottom when I came here to Patterson. But when I left I still couldn’t get used to the idea that I would never again do what I had done before. So I decided there was no reason why I couldn’t learn how to do the things I enjoyed doing occasionally, if I could only learn to set limits. So I did learn. I’m making it sound easier than it was, but I learned.”

“You can use and stop when you want to?” Lenny’s eyes autopsy the briefcase’s contents, examining everything with a forensic attention to detail.

“I can,” the Diplomat says, “but I doubt anyone else in this room can make that claim.”

“Is that supposed to be like a challenge or something?” Perching himself once again on the barstool, Angel bristles with defiance. He extends his hands and flutters them in a representation of shivering fright, voicing a tremulous mock scary tone. “Ouuuuu.”

“Not at all. First of all, it’s a statistical reality. Second of all, just because I don’t believe in guilt doesn’t mean I’m exempt from it,” the Diplomat confesses. “That statement was my due diligence. Now I don’t have to feel like I’m responsible if what you decide to do of your own free will sends you into a tailspin for the next two years. You’ve been warned.” He turns to Chuck. “And to respond to your observation, yes, I knew I was walking into a half-way house with heroin in my briefcase. But I didn’t – and still don’t – give a shit. Because I’m a selfish twisted prick and it boils down to this: once every three or four months I reward myself and get high. I came to see if Justin Aquino wanted to join me. He’s long gone. Now the question becomes, does anybody else want to get high?”

“How do we know you ain’t a cop, and this a set up?”

“Yes. I’ve really got a lot to gain by staging a set up at the Patterson House and nabbing you all through entrappment. I would likely earn myself a commendation taking players of your caliber and importance off the streets.”

“Shit, we gonna commence the celebration or what?” Chuck demands.

Angel slaps his knees hard. “Let’s throw down, baby.”

Lenny hesitates, then decides, “Yeah, let’s go. I’ll worry about the consequences later.”

“Dangerous logic,” the Diplomat observes.

Lenny parrots the Diplomat’s earlier statement. “Choices. They’re there to be made, aren’t they?”

While on the table the Diplomat arranges paraphernalia neat and regimented as military body bags lined up on the tarmac, Washington appears once again, surveys the briefcase, the syringes, the heroin. “I don’t like the direction this thing is traveling in at all,” he says, but this time the statement carries no declarative weight and balloons with self-doubt; this time he does not depart. He embodies for the Diplomat the raw and wretched drama of conflicting elemental forces wrestling for supremacy in the coliseum of the human spirit. (At times, when the context is political, he uses the phrase “the human spirit” as he addresses groups of people, appears before crowds, before cameras; he finds that for many the phrase delivers considerable rhetorical and evocative impact. But he is keenly aware that his definition of human spirit would be one that most listeners would find disturbing.)

With athleticism and energy Angel hops off the stool, mutes the television’s volume with the remote, inserts a CD into a boombox resting on a pink-painted thrift store end table in the corner of the room. Dreamy borderless instrumental music and the Diplomat is surprised that Angel, whose personality tends toward serration, jutting edges and jagged recesses, has selected it.

“I don’t like needles,” the Diplomat confesses as he lifts a mound of powder the size of a hummingbird egg on the back of his fingernail to his nostril. He snorts sharply, once, and the snort has the barbaric efficiency of a descending guillotine blade; he then loosens his burgundy silk Cerrutti tie, leans back into the cushions with closed eyes as though he is descending, but slowly, slowly. Below the music a breath-arrested stratum of silence can be detected, profound, almost grim, like the silence in a courtroom before an irrevocable verdict is delivered. The others watch with ceremonial reverence, Lenny and Chuck on the couch motionless as statues, Angel throned on his barstool and sitting perfectly still, Washington standing frozen near the table in his stalemate of dread and desire. The Diplomat sits up slowly, parachuting somehow upward while leaning forward, and the others also move forward slightly, unaware that their bodies are now synchronized with their guest’s. As they unconsciously shadow his movements and gestures, they are imagining sensations building a bridge that begins in the bloodstream and extends to the far distant banks of heaven.

“The needles are for later,” the Diplomat specifies. “Try it my way for now.”

“Shit, why don’t we cut straight to the chase?” Chuck wants to know. “I like it the way some people like their booze – straight up. Why snort it when you can slam it?”

he Diplomat points out slowly, “Because it’s my pharmaceutical-grade China white heroin and I get to make the rules.” “Not a problem,” Chuck says, waving the white flags of his palms in surrender, smiling.

Thirty minutes later the energy level in the room stretches out in a broad placid meadow. Watching the others the Diplomat allows himself to set afloat a bubble of speculation: A parent with Alzheimer’s, Washington; a house repossessed, Angel; finances fallen to shambles, Lenny; last lingering dreams depleted, Chuck. But all their concerns and conditions are the flowers that fill the meadow, blooming, reaching maturity and gracefully dying in the time it takes to sigh, losing themselves petal by petal to the painless wind. The Diplomat knows everything that exists is held in the grip of time and that time has now relaxed its grip; he, too, feels as though he is gracefully receding. Lenny and Chuck have assumed positions of executive ease on the couch, reclining into the cushions; Angel is stretched out on his back next to the coffee table, while Washington paces idly about the room like a battery-operated mobile slowly rotating above an infant’s crib.

“I like to walk when I get high,” Washington confides. “I don’t know why. Seems like I just have to. It doesn’t matter where, as long as I’m walking.”

“Then walk to your heart’s content,” the Diplomat says allows with magnanimity, “while I prepare another round.”

No one has spoken for quite some time. It may be that there is nothing worth saying, nothing worth sharing. It may be that the shared consensus that makes communication possible has melted away, causing the social fabric in turn to unravel, and that as a result the aloneness that encapsulates each individual in the form of a human body creeps from background to foreground. Even Washington has stopped his meandering and has found a spot to embrace on the floor.

“Moving forward is what I suggest,” the Diplomat proposes, rousing himself. He picks up one of the four syringes that he prepared thirty minutes ago by swabbing the spoon with alcohol and placing the heroin in it, then using the syringe to draw in apprpoximately 75 units of water and squirting the water into the spoon. Heating the spoon with a lighter, dissolving the heroin, dropping the nugget of cotton in the mixture, the cotton expanding with the eagerness of a sponge, the needle penetrating the center of the cotton and the plunger pulled back, the syringe finally filled with heroin. Every eye epoxied with longing to every iota of the ritual’s evolution.

“We all do this for the rush,” the Diplomat says. “But that’s not enough for me. I’m addicted to risk.” The decision never to remove the mask it has taken him grueling seasons to fashion for himself and then fix firm to the abyss of his face; the decision never to engage in the oversimplifiction of reductive truth-telling, giving in to the banality that roams freely and pathetically through all flesh and blood and does so by way of territorializing the emotions – this sacred decision is countervailed by something that inhabits the heroin. Since it has happened he lets it continue to happen, knowing that it is no more than 10 seconds away from ending. Hans would not be amused and would make the unfortunate mistake of thinking that this glimpse placed in him a position of advantage. Papaver somniferum in Afghanistan, the bulb exudes milky latex when cut. Diacetylmorphine metabolized into 6-monoacetylmorphine, the psycho-active metabolite 6-MAM, then the brain painted in (5 alpha, 6 alpha) 7,8 didehydro-4,5 epoxy-17methylmorphinan-3,5diol. “For me, the bigger the risk, the bigger the rush. I enjoy high-risk games. Immensely. And anybody who decides to play a game with me gets this,” he says, holding up the syringe as though it were a trophy. Indeed, it is a trophy of sorts.

Although no lights are turned on occasional reflections glint along the two-inch barrel of the .38 Smith & Wesson with the chestnut-colored stock and flat blue finish, reflections spawned by flashes of light splashing randomly from the muted television. Soporific and gentle with harp-like arpeggiated passages, the music ebbs and flows dreamily about the room. The Diplomat sits on the couch, flanked by Chuck on the right, Angel on the left; Lenny and Washington sit on the floor on the other side of the coffee table.

“Do it,” Chuck encourages, lazily scratching his chest in the way that the Diplomat had once seen a gorilla named Harold scratching himself in the Los Angeles Zoo, with a torpor distilled from the boredom of a lush captivity and a shrewd malevolence that lived in the eyes’ pupils, the pupils holding a form of reasoning that was intricate even though it was not dependent upon language.

The Diplomat reaches forward and spins the gun on the table; it roulettes clunkily and after two full rotations comes to rest with the barrel pointed toward the middle of the couch – a mortality weather vane, the Diplomat reflects, pointing out the possible path of the bullet, the direction from which oblivion would gust into being as though propelled by wind.

“Me,” Chuck says, reaching.

“No, the barrel is closer to the middle of the couch,” the Diplomat insists. “That would be me.”

Angel’s head, bobbing on the yoyo of an opiated nod, snaps up. “That ain’t fair, vato,” he slurs. “You said the game was whoever the gun point at, they get the slam. The shit’s all yours anyways. We the ones should be playing, not you.”

“But this is the best part.” The Diplomat breaks the gun open as though cracking an egg and takes a single .38 cartridge from his shirt pocket, thumbing the cartridge into the cylinder, twirling the cylinder and snapping the gun shut. His chin resting on his knees, arms encircling his shins, Lenny says, “I don’t want to fucking die,” but his voice is without conviction and remote, sent down from distant clouds. “Dude, why can’t you just let us get loaded without all this drama.” The question is delivered without the customary inflections for curiosity.

“You just afraid,” Angel accuses quietly. “It ain’t no point in being afraid of something you can’t lie, laugh or fuck your way out of. That’s what death is, you know. You look it in the eyes, you never be afraid of it again. Not in the same way you was afraid of it before.”

“I’m not afraid of it,” Lenny states impassively.

An interval of silence wedged between seamless songs on the CD reels in the awareness that has been receding in the room. In this interval the Diplomat places the gun to his temple. When he was a teenager he had failed at anything requiring steadfastness and determination, an outcast from both the society cruelly imposed by his adolescent peers and the world that had been blueprinted for him by adults. He had not displayed even in fetal form any of the talents that would attain shape and into expression a few years later when he attended the university, talents which had therefore to him seemed to appear out of nowhere. It was truly a miracle of sorts, the miracle of latency. His adult self, his current self, could not explain how he had become who he was. But now the world conforms easily to the shape of his will and the determination that catalyzes his will is amply available to him. Gun pressed to temple, the Diplomat believes he will not die if he pulls the trigger, that the only way he can die is if he allows or wills death to take him. He pulls the trigger and, indeed, in the silence the dull click of the firing pin can be heard. Then the music starts again, conjuring opulent landscapes from figments and dreams. “I won’t take the hit,” he says, indicating one of the syringes on the table. “That leaves more for everyone else.”

A week ago the Diplomat received K13’s peculiar request, a requisition of sorts: he wanted a dead body delivered to the house above the lake on the night he abducted Salah Bhatti. The Diplomat did not ask K13 why he wanted the body; often asking questions put you at a disadvantage, shifted the locus of authority from the questioner to the questioned. After receiving the request the Diplomat had been on the verge of having one of his many subordinates obtain a john doe from the city morgue, but it occurred to him that that would be taking the easy way out; he could ill-afford to squander opportunities for self-renewal. With so many functionaries at his disposal the danger was that he would become ivory-towered, estranged from the real world, no longer capable of feeling the pulse and throb of the milieu he moved through.

He had decided to find a body himself. Twenty years ago he relied on his wits, on lightning-streak judgments and premonitions, and he had not only survived in this business, he thrived. Forced to sharpen the blade of his instincts against whatever blunt unbidden circumstance boldered his path, he remained edge-honed and nimble. He saw the opportunity to obtain the body as a return to his roots; he wanted to see if he could become once again an afterimage comprised of footwork and flash, a magician conjuring something from nothing.

He also decided to approach the situation wearing the straightjacket of a self-imposed condition to heighten the challenge’s degree of complexity; in this way he would be forced to put his improvisational skills and acumen to the test. He determined it would be necessary for the subject to willingly participate in his or her own demise. That this condition was completely arbitrary only heightened its value to the Diplomat. And it was this self-imposed mandate that led to the formulation of his plan, which he did not think about or attempt to perfect until he walked through the door of the Patterson Halfway House and was forced to confront the matter of the plan’s perfection on a moment by moment basis.

When the gun goes off, Washington is not in the room, having wandered through the front door in his hypnosis of walking. Angel, now sitting with his back against the wall and his head hanging as though the neck has been snapped, jerks upright when he hears the gunshot’s black staccato, his eyes flooding with wild rapids of panic, but then almost immediately allows his head to fall forward again. Only Chuck realizes what has happened. “Well, he said he wasn’t afraid to die. Least he had that going for him. But not much else. I guess none of us here got much going for us.” He pauses, his eyes closing. He speaks slowly with his eyes closed for some seconds before opening them in the middle of his sentence. Thus the eyes are somehow reminiscent of the comic and substandard synchronization between the movement of the actors’ lips and the final delivery of sound in certain low-budget martial arts movies. “Who said it, something about a halfway house being filled with half way people, somebody earlier said something like that …”

“You did.”

“Oh yeah, I did.” Another pause. “Why did you really come here? What’s going on?”

“I told you why.”

“I bet there ain’t no Justin Aquino.”

The Diplomat refuses to respond.

“What about him?” Chuck points lethargically at Lenny’s body on the other side of the coffee table.

“Just say he was engaged in unwise horseplay with a firearm.”

“That won’t work. What about fingerprints?”

The Diplomat puts the gun in the briefcase and closes it, slides the knot of his tie up, but leaves the heroin on the table.

“You’ve seen enough TV to know the answer to that dilemma. Wipe them off. Concoct a story you can all agree on.”

“What about the smack?” Chuck asks.

“Yours.”

“Why? That’s worth a fat chuck of change.”

“Consider it payment for hosting my little party.”

“What about the body?”

“Bury it,” the Diplomat suggests. “Or take it somewhere and dump it.”

“Nobody here’s got a car. Can you believe that? Grown men riding the fucking bus everywhere? You know who rides public transportation in this city? Old folks, losers and maids. At least help me bury the guy.”

“No,” the diplomat says. He studies Lenny’s body for a moment. “I’ll tell you what. I’ll get rid of it for you.”

“What’s really going on?”

“Why do you care?” the Diplomat says.

“Because I don’t get it.”

The Diplomat shrugs. “I’m leaving.”

“Take him. You’re right, what do I care?”

On his cell phone the Diplomat calls Hans, who walks through the open door almost before the cell phone can be returned to his pocket.

“Yes, sir?”

“Take him,” the Diplomat says to Hans, pointing at the body. “Put him in the trunk.” He turns to Chuck. “I take care of the body, you take care of the blood.”

“What the fuck?” Chuck says. “Who’s this clown?”

“Be careful,” Hans says to Chuck. Before lifting the body he places a plastic bag over Lenny’s head and shoulders to prevent the blood from dripping on his clothes, then scoops the body up in his arms and leaves. Chuck’s laughter is harsh as a Halogen spotlight slapping sight from the eyes. “What’d you do, rub a bottle? Your wish is this fucking guy’s command?”

The Diplomat walks through the door.

“Wait. What’s really going on?” Chuck cries out, sitting on the couch, waiting for the answer.

Next Chapter

Chapter 13


Article By: dglenn


Arts | Fiction | Novels


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