The day is shit. It’s the type of day you wake up in the morning, praying, to whatever the hell deity you worship, that it will never come. We should all be so lucky. I own a small store downtown. I deal mainly electronics and the like. Nothing fancy, just enough to pay the bills. I got the place from my dad in his will. Had it revamped and used what little money I had and started the place. It may not sound like much, truthfully, it isn’t, however, I told you that story to tell you this one.
Turns out sometime last night some jackass kids decided it would be fun to break into my shop and walk off with three grand in merchandise, not including damages (a broken door and a cracked window). My entire stock of ipods ripped off on the whim of some little punk. Despite this, I’ve somehow managed to convince myself that I’d some how be giving into some greater evil if I closed the shop. Hell, it’s not like I had anything better to do anyway.
The shop is in moderate disarray. Not that it was much different than any other day, but I can still feel the difference, maybe it’s the knowing that something happened, or maybe it’s the breeze blowing in from the door. I’ve never been good at interpreting signs.
“Jesus Christ, I can’t believe it’s only ten thirty,” I murmured aloud, seemingly to no one. The store is vacant leaving feeling just as empty. I looked over at the boxes stacked across the walls, filled with restocks and this month’s ‘hot items’, just waiting to be placed on the shelf. “Maybe some other time.”
I walked over to the old water cooler, dancing over the trashed paper boxes that litter most of the store. The area around the water cooler is occupied with crushed, old paper cups, its white base littered with hard water stains and something resembling an old piece of gum. I grab a new cup from the counter next to the cooler and draw myself a glass of water.
“You seem tense, Roy.”
My shoulders tightened as the water spills down the front of my shirt. The asshole snuck up on me.
I turn towards the voice. “Excuse me?” I said, trying to muffle the irritation radiating from my voice.
The man was thin, dressed in a beige overcoat; his eyes were dark, accented by heavy bags under his eyes. His hair was long and brown. It hangs to his shoulders giving him the creepy, ambiguous stranger look.
“I said, you look tense,” he retorted.
“You said my name.” That’s me, Captain Obvious. “How did you know my name?”
“I know a lot of names, yours just happens to be among them,” he smiled.
Whatever this guy was up to I couldn’t let him get to me. You let creeps like him underneath your skin they tend to stay there. “So what can I do for you?”
“I’m afraid you misunderstand my presence. I’m here to help you.”
Great, he’s a wannabe intellectual. “What? Are you going to help me replace my windows?”
“No, I’ve come here to protect you.”
Okay, this guy is off his rocker. You know what? Why not, I’ll bite.
“Really?” I asked sarcastically. “Do I give off the impression I need protecting?”
“You’re toying with me, Roy.” He shot me a glare. “I don’t like being toyed with.”
This guy was getting pretty intense. I didn’t need this today of all days. “I don’t recall asking you to show up.”
“I’m here to help you before-” The man let out a muffled curse. “that.” He finished. He reached behind his back and withdrew a small piece of metal.
I could do nothing more than gawk. The man turned violently, knocking me onto the ground. He withdrew a single oversized pistol and quickly fired a single round through the front window of the shop. The reply sent dozens more piercing through my shop and into random overly priced pieces of technology.
“My goddamn store!” I screamed. Mr. Trenchcoat ignored me, firing off an additional five rounds. I could have sworn I heard a muffled scream behind the last one. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I asked, jumping to my feet and reaching for his free arm.
Mr. Trenchcoat dodged my grasp effortlessly, pushing me with his clenched fist; I was sent falling to the floor once again. “Don’t touch me!” he hissed. “Don’t you ever touch me!” The sound in his voice sent a sliver of fear down the nerves of my spine. Whatever the hell he was up to, he wasn’t taking it lightly.
Another array of gunfire sent me further into debt. This time Mr. Trenchcoat turned to me. “I need you to go into the furthest right corner of this building and tear away the floor.” His eyes had changed from angry to something resembling a look of seeming desperation.
One of those bullets must have stuck his brain. Was he really asking me to destroy my own store on his words alone? The creep must have been dumber than he looked. “You can’t be serious.” Mr. Trenchcoat tilted his gun onto my forehead. “Point taken.” Never argue with a man who has a gun.
Against my better judgment I crawled across the floor. World War III was unfolding right beside me and I was running errands for a man who has done nothing but give me chills since I met him a minute ago. I suppose some relationships take time.
I found a not-so-sharp box cutter lying next to one of the packages of merchandise. I began to dissect my two and a half dollar per square foot carpeting and unveil a less than attractive looking wood underlining.
The sound of my front door collapsing sends my attention back to Mr. Trenchcoat. A horde of men dressed in black come pouring through the entry way. Mr. Trenchcoat placed his pistol behind his back and pulled out a knife he had been hiding at his side. The first man never saw it coming. It penetrated his jugular and sent him crashing down in an instant. The others see it coming, but can only fire rounds into my ceiling as he drops each of them with the elegance of a man who knows the dance of death far too well. I look at the bodies as they drop onto the floor. The blood pooling into lakes around my carpet. This was quickly becoming a day that could only be measured with dollar signs. One of the men got a submachine gun into Mr. Trenchcoat’s abdomen and pulled the trigger before his blade could get to him. The bullets collide with violent thuds. I can hear his ribs cracking, he doesn’t even flinch. Mr. Trenchcoat jams the blade into the man’s jaw, leading it directly into his brain.
Who or what the hell is this man?
The man falls to the ground marking the end of the first wave the men. Shortly after that the sound of bullets begins resonate through my eardrums. Mr. Trenchcoat picks one of the men’s submachine guns and begins to open fire like Tony Montana.
Mr. Trenchcoat catches me looking at him, our eyes meet.
“What the hell do I do now?” I asked over the noise. The machine gun stops firing, he lets it fall to the floor. He looks at me like he just wandered into the ‘special’ section of downtown.
“Now you have to remove the wood!” he bellowed, firing another round.
“How the hell am I supposed to do that?”
“Just do it!”
Wow, this guy was as helpful as he was kind. I made a note to myself to kick him really hard when this is all done. Without the slightest clue as I how I was supposed to accomplish this, I scratched away at some of the sealant around the side of the wooden panel. A bullet whizzed past my head, causing my head to throb with pain. I had to work faster. The sooner this was done the sooner Mr. Trenchcoat would leave and I could call my insurance agent and try and explain why everything in my store is either riddled with bullets or covered in blood.
I’m not sure whether what happened next was a miracle of God or a failed plan of the devil. As I was trying to carve out a square large enough to figure out whatever the hell it was I was looking for, a hammer and nails came crashing down on me. Narrowly missing my head, the hammer crashed into my ring finger as the nails scattered across the floor. Without giving it much thought, I grabbed the hammer and began slamming away at the wood panel until it began to cave in. Through the hole I saw small leather pouch sitting idly, looking at me.
Well, I’ll be damned.
I grabbed the bag and screamed as loud as I could at my discovery, not realizing that all the commotion had settled down to the point where it was one man against another. One I recognized, the other was someone I had never seen before. He was large. Not fat, just huge. He looked like he could rip a moose in half just by thinking about it. He was dressed in Kevlar. My outburst had drawn the Mr. Big to turn his weapon towards me. Without the slightest hesitation Mr. Trenchcoat grabbed his firing arm and bent it in a direction I’ve never seen a human bend. The snap was overlapped with a thunderous scream from a man in a realm of pain that I can’t even begin to imagine.
Mr. Big took an unfocused swing towards Mr. Tranchcoat’s face. He stepped to the side sending Mr. Big flying off balance. Then a single round penetrated his skull.
There was an awkward silence. We stood staring, one eye on the man lying on the floor, the other focused on each other.
“That should be the end of them,” Mr. Trenchcoat said plainly.
“Good,” I sighed. “Now, do you want to tell me what the hell is going on?”
“I suppose it’s the least I could do. However, I have a request before that.” He looked at the pouch in my hand.
“Right,” I tossed it into his open palm. Mr. Trenchcoat opened the bag and grunted in confirmation of something. Another silence. “So…how about that explaination?” I asked.
“Of course,” he grinned. “What you have just encountered was in no uncertain terms a war.”
“Excuse me? A war?”
“Yes. One that has been raging since before your great-grandfather was a sparkle in his father’s eyes. One that you have, albeit inadvertently, become a part of.”
“What the hell are you talking about? Who’s war?”
His eyes shone a glossy tint of silver. “Mine.”
“Your war? You have got to be out of your gourd if you think I believe that.”
“It doesn’t matter what you think, the fact of the matter is truth doesn’t bend to belief.”
“So you’re telling me this has always been your war?”
”That would make you over a hundred and fifty year old. You don’t look-”
The man said nothing.
“Jesus Christ. I can’t believe this. Who were those guys and what the hell is in the pouch?”
“Those men were from Demetri Soldats.”
“The lord of organized crime?”
”The one and only.”
“What about the pouch?”
“These,” He took out a small brilliant red stone and ran through his fingers. “are my memories. It’s something I’ve been searching for, for quite some time, I’m afraid.”
I couldn’t believe this. How could I? The man was weird, hell he could just be some crazy military nut. “Who is going to pay for all of this?”
“You don’t have to worry about it Roy.” His voice became solemn.
It took me a second to realize that there was something hidden in his words.
“What are you getting at?”
“While we’ve been talking I’ve been making my decision.”
“You’ve just become a part of my world. There is no doubt that Demetri knows this. He will come after you and your family. He will torture you, trying to get any information he can from you, and in the end you would give it to him whether you wanted to or not.”
“What are you-”
“Sometimes there is a fate worse than death.”
First came the realization of the situation, followed closely by an awkward wave of something that can best be described as desperation.
“No…you…you can’t be-”
“I said I was here to protect you.”
“Please, don’t do what I think you’re going to do.”
He raised his gun to my forehead.
“And that’s what I’m going to do.”
The last thing I saw was his face followed by the sound of the gunshot. The image was there for only a second, but that was all it took. In his silver eyes I saw the future. Not in whole, but in part. The future would become something different. The future would become something I have never known. It was a world without me.
So now you know. Not overly complicated. In a period of eight and a half minutes my life changed from bad to worse. I suppose it’s just the way it is. So like I said, the day was shit.