Thursday, 22 January 2015



"War can only be abolished through war, and in order to get rid of the gun it is necessary to take up the gun."


The bodyguard had already driven up to the end of the cul-de-sac.  Marty was in Richard’s room, ready to rush out at the first sign of trouble.

“He’s here?” Richard asked from the other end of the room near the door to the kitchen. “You want a cup?”

“No, no tea for me,” Marty answered.  A big dark man in a black jacket came out of the driver’s side.  His shoulders alone were about as wide as Richard’s whole backside.  He was almost twice the size of the darker haired friend of Ivan. “Jesus, that guy could be a football player,” he remarked, wondering if he should have hired him for himself instead.

“Really Marty?  A bodyguard agency?” Richard asked with a scoff. “Great way to keep a low profile.”   

“I know what I’m doing,” Marty snapped back, twisting his crouching body backward to face him. “At least my ideas don’t involve hiding in a park like a predator.”

“How much of your money did you spend on this?  What do you have now, a little more than a million?”

Marty shrugged.  He only had around six hundred thousand in cash now.  He put it all in his knapsack.  It was going to stay with him.  He just hoped they never got robbed. “A little less than a million.  Did you want me to support you or not?”

The kettle started whistling.  Marty turned himself around again to look out the window.  The bodyguard shook Tony’s hand, quickly glance about and then reached forward to take hold of his arm and lead him toward the passenger side of his tinted-windowed four-wheeler.

“Amazing what a bit of money can do,” Marty said as a slight smile crept onto his face.  The price tag was in the tens of thousands; forty thousand exactly.  The guard himself was half of that for two months and the other half was for Tony to pay for hotel rent, food and bets.  He was going to be in Niagara Falls replenishing his fortune.

“Marty?” Richard interrupted his thoughts of Tony sitting at a poker table with the giant dread-locked man with dark shades whispering in his ear. 

“Yeah, what?”

“You’re going to support me too?”

Marty raised his shoulders. “Do I have a choice?”

Richard said nothing as he poured himself a cup of boiling water from the kettle.  Marty returned his attention to the window.  The car had driven off.  He leaned over a bit, managing to catch sight of it turning onto Maria Street.  There was no sign of any other vehicle.  Marty wondered if the two Russians were telling the truth when they said they would wait three days before coming back.

“It wasn’t too hard to convince him, but it wasn’t an easy talk,” Marty said quietly, getting up from his discreet window peering position.

He remembered going down to talk to Tony.  Even though Marty was in a hurry he was able to start the conversation way off-base from the necessary topic. 

“I never got that,” he had replied to Tony’s explanation of why some races were naturally evil in fantasy stories.

“They’re more or less cannon fodder in everything, the orcs and other basic evil races.”

“Yeah, but it’s so unrealistic, I’ve always thought so,” Marty explained.  He leaned on Tony’s doorframe, keeping his head low as he always did in there. “I mean I guess Tolkien is mostly to blame since everything’s based on his writings anyway.”

“Yeah,” Tony agreed and nodded. “But you have to remember that most of Tolkien was based on European mythology and folklore in general to start with.”

“Yeah, that’s true, like frost giants, trolls and goblins.  They’re just wicked creatures.  I guess I like it when there’s some realism in a story even if it’s only fantasy,” Marty sighed, fully cognizant that his rambling was a stalling tactic.  He decided to cut to the chase, slowly bringing himself closer to Tony, crouching down to face across from him as the blind man sat on his bed. “Hey man, look, there’s something I need to tell you.  I don’t really have much time to tell you, but I can’t let you stay in this house any longer.”

Tony, who had been leaning his face on the top of his hands at the top of his walking stick, perked his head up. “Why?”

Marty shuddered, thinking of Tony’s reaction if he told him that he and Richard had accidentally (supposedly) killed their landlord and had what looked like mobsters on their trail.  Instead he opted for half the truth.

“I’ve done…well, see, I’ve done some bad things,” he started.  Unable to stop them, his eyes turned up to the window.  The window well was illuminated slightly, making the area dim and dank like an old pub.  A pile of pale dummy bodies with their dangling limbs sat on top of Ivan.  Marty recognized his face, that moustache now fainter, looking white like he had aged thirty years in death.  His face was white and cracked; eyes and jaw open in a frozen shriek.  Marty felt the beginning pangs of another black hole forming in his lower bowels.  The semi-preserved corpse of Ivan lay facing the basement room in a fetal position, hands now boney, clasped together like in prayer. 

“Mmm?” asked Tony, not seeming to notice his distress.

Marty slowly began to step closer to the window, keeping his own eyes on the glazed-over white lenses that glared back at him.  There were no pupils, he realized when he was right up to it, just what looked like pale marbles in his eye sockets.  Marty looked up to where the corner of the cinder block had split the top of his skull.  There was a single thick jagged line running down from it, like how the very end of an egg can have a single crack.  A few thick black lines ran down from the end of the line, likely blood that had caked over and then frozen.

And then Marty saw past Ivan's death-face and saw his own reflection.  His jaw had also dropped.  His stare became blurry, his eyes seemingly crossing on their own.

“Marty?” Tony asked.

He stepped back from the edge of the room, Ivan’s face in sight once more.  He had four silver fillings  in his mouth that Marty could see now.  His hair, it was soft, much lighter than he remembered it.

“Sorry,” he said to, finally turning away from the horrid sight.  For a brief second he felt envy for Tony. “Tony, I’m sorry.  I just—just we fucked up something.  Me and the others, the guys you were playing poker with.”

“What happened?  Are we talking illegal stuff?  I kind of figured something like that was going on.”

Marty nodded, forgetting who he was talking to.  A tear tried to leave his eye, but he pulled back, sniffling instead. “We did some stupid things, really stupid dumb things.  I don’t even know why.  We can’t stay here.  If you stay here whatever is following us will get you.” 

Tony said nothing, just stared into space.  Marty waited a moment, but when his friend just kept staring past him quietly he continued. “There’s got to be something you can do.  I mean, go to Niagara Falls and make some money.  We can’t go with you.  You’ll want to be away from us anyway, but you can hire someone, maybe a bodyguard, some big guy.  We’ll give you money.  I can give you around four hundred thousand or more maybe.”

Tony’s eyes shot open. “In Valen's name!” he shouted.

“Uh, yeah,” replied Marty, unsure of what he meant by that. “Well, you can have it.  The guy will probably accompany you to Niagara Falls if you give him fifty thou.”

“And how do I know he won’t just rob me and leave?”

“No, he won’t do that.  I’ll tell them you’re my father on the phone.  I’ll tell them you are going to Niagara Falls to make more money and that you’ll pay them more once it’s over.  I’ll give you my cell number and the number to the agency.  Call me if there are any problems.  I will make sure it’s the most professional agency we can get.  Trust me, money talks.”

“I know that,” said Tony even softer than usual. “And I’m always the one with the weak voice.”

“What do you mean?”

“I have nothing,” he said. “I always have nothing.”

“Not anymore.”

"No, I still have nothing." He wiped his eyes with the back of a hand and sighed heavily.

“Tony, you’re my friend.  I’m so sorry.  The things we did were before you were even here, most of them anyway.  I don’t do these things; normally I would never have done anything like these things.  I always stayed away from anything criminal and I grew up in Jane and Finch!   Of course, it was always easy for me to walk away.  I was a white guy in Canada, had two supportive parents making decent enough money, and had lots of financial support from my grandparents growing up.  My dad was a doctor.  I don’t know why we stayed in that area for so long either.  But the thing is, I’m a total nerd and yet I guess I hung out with some wrong people.” 

He thought of Jimmy and Spades, but also of Richard.  It all started with that, with Ivan’s killing.

“It came to it and I guess I should have known better,” he explained, noticing one tear slowly making its way down Tony’s left cheek.

The blind man sighed again. “It’s been so long since I lost my sight.  I always thought I could take care of myself.”

Marty lowered his head.

“I guess I just needed to realize that I can’t live alone,” he continued, starting on the verge of breaking into crying, each syllable seemed to take strength for him to stop from bawling. “I just can’t really look after myself.”

Instinctively Marty lunged forward to seize his shoulders, hugging him lightly.  His own eyes started to water.  He knew it was his fault that his friend was in this situation.  Instead of getting revenge on Harvey Franco and making money off Ivan’s antiques perhaps he should have spent more time with Tony.  Even with everything that he had done with the others, Tony was the only one that he unreservedly trusted.

“It can happen to anyone,” Marty said. “I can lose my vision someday, have my legs amputated, or just completely lose my mind.  I think that last one is the closest,” he laughed and cried. “I already lost it living here.”

Tony sighed, nodding.  Marty pulled off from him. “I’m not a good person,” he told him.

“No, that’s not true,” Tony replied, wiping his face with both hands.

“It is.  I’m maybe now chaotic neutral at best.”

Tony smiled. “No, you’re chaotic good, definitely not lawful though if you were doing things outside of the law.  A man who steals to feed his family, kills an unjust ruler," he paused a second. "In real life you can change alignments and you can change back.  In a campaign game it’s different.  You have penalties.”

“We have penalties here too,” said Marty, standing back up. “Only it’s not just me paying for it.  Tony, I’m really sorry this has to be done, but you can’t stay here.  Call me tomorrow and the day after, let me know you are okay.  If you need anything just tell me.  If anything goes wrong tell me.  I'll do everything to help make it right.  If there is one thing I can do right by you it’s this.”

Tony stood up, turning to face Marty firmly.  He smiled. “You have done right by me already.” He reached out.  Marty took his hand and they hugged again.

The bodyguard and Tony had left.  Marty stepped outside right after, just to have a look around for the black car.  Richard had tried to stop him, but Marty insisted he would only be a few minutes at most.  He stood there thinking about Tony, worrying if he had made the wrong choice. "I should be leaving soon.  No, I should be leaving now." He wondered if he should do as Richard had recommended and just ditch the other two.

“You leaving now too?” Spades voice came from behind him as he was standing at the end of the cul-de-sac staring over at Maria Street.

Marty turned to him.  He had a knapsack on. "Where you going?" he asked, trying not to show he was startled.
 “I’m going home to do some things before I get going.”

“So you’re skipping town?” Marty asked, wondering if Spades had taken his fair share of the money from Jimmy.  Marty and Richard had their share accounted for, but the rest of it was held by the other two upstairs. 


Marty reached to shake his hand, a bit disappointed that there was now no way the communal farming plan would be happening. “Good luck then.  What about Jimmy?”

“He says he’ll need a day to think about it,” Spades said shaking Marty's hand firmly, temporarily turning back to look at the second floor of the house. 

“I’m afraid we don’t have a day,” Marty said.

“What you mean?”

Marty shrugged, not knowing if he should tell him.

“Those Russian guys?”

“What Russian guys?” Marty pulled his hand back quickly.  Spades knew about them. “How?” he wondered.

“They came to me before I came back in,” Spades answered as if he had read his mind. “Two big guys.  They wanted me to tell them where the landlord was.  I told them I didn’t know what the fuck they were talking about.”

“You said that to them?”

“Hell yeah,” he laughed. “Who are these guys?”

“Friends of the landlord,” replied Marty.

“They were asking about you.  They asked me who the Jewish kid is.  I told them ‘what Jewish kid?’  Man, who’re you involved with?” He grinned. “Good luck dealing with those goons, dawg.  Seriously.”

“These guys hate me and my friend,” Marty answered, deciding to tell Spades only the bare skeleton of the story.  Marty remembered one of the first times when he had met Spades he had asked him personal questions that involved his crime dealings.  It was considered impolite. “We might be out of the house at least for a while to lay low from them.”

Spades nodded. “Good idea if you have another place to stay.  I can’t help with you that.  Fuck, I don’t envy you having to deal with this shit.”

Marty smiled. “I wouldn’t.”

“You strapped, or you need to get a piece?”

“Hm?” asked Marty, unsure if he knew what he was getting at.  Spades made one of his hands into the gun symbol.  Marty had guessed this was what he had meant. “I never really wanted a gun.”

“Same, haven’t carried one in years.  Don’t want to get caught strapped, but I can get you one and some ammo if you think you need it.  These guys probably got some guns, or at least can get them easy.  I can tell.”

Marty never wanted anything to do with firearms.  As a teenager he hated hearing about shootings of people his own age throughout the city.  He even knew a guy who was shot to death, not a close friend but a decent acquaintance he knew since he was in elementary school.  The guy was a nice guy, but got into the wrong crowd once he had reached sixteen. 
For some reason though, Marty said the opposite of what he would have always expected he would say.

“Get me one.”

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