Truth. Justice. Minesweeper.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Third excerpt:

Okay, so I missed my first assignment. It probably would have been lame and soulsucking anyway.

Still, never let it be said that I'm not up for anything lame or soulsucking. I called the temp agency back and reaffirmed my commitment to their intermittent supply of joe jobs, and they told me they'd call me. I then spent some quality time with the phone book, and noted down some other temp agencies, as well as other things that a young man in the city needs to know about--music stores, grocery stores, video stores, stuff like that.

I was still making notes when Ron came in. He put a box of donuts and a newspaper down on the couch next to me. "You need to eat more donuts," he said. "I've noticed you have a serious sprinkle deficiency."

"Thanks," I said, launching my face into a Boston creme.

He picked up a big envelope from the kitchen counter. It had already been torn open. "See this?"

"I saw it lying there. I didn't look at it. Why?"

"Carl dropped it off this morning. He's moving out."

"What, he's moving out moving out? Just like that?"

"His girlfriend got a big promotion, and she has to move to Atlanta. So he's going with her. He left us his keys, his pass and his next two months share of the rent. And that is that." Ron crammed half a donut in his mouth, opened the fridge, and took out a carton of milk. He hefted it. Empty. Frowning, he put it back and got a glass of water.

"Two months rent? Wow; he didn't have to do that. So he's already gone?"

"I guess. Hey, you did a thing for him last night, right?"

"Yeah," I said. "Why?"

"I was wondering if you had any idea what he did for a living. I lived with the guy for months--not that I saw him more than twice a week--and I still don't know anything about his job. He never said."

I shrugged. "He wouldn't tell me anything either. I mean, he said it wasn't illegal, but . . . I don't know. You never asked him?"

"Once," Ron said. "He kind of danced around it."

"Huh. How was work last night?"

He made a face. "A guy puked all over the bar. He was just standing there, perfectly ordinary, no reason to think I should have cut him off, and he goes into reverse right there on the bar. Everybody cleared out and I had to clean it up. I got about half the tips I'd normally get, and my cousin chewed me out about how the guy was obviously overserved."


"Yeah. Hey, listen, are you free Friday night?"

"I guess my socks can sort themselves. Why?"

"My friend Sean is having a party. You wanna come?"

"You know what? I really should. I should do that. I should go to that party."

"Sure you should."

"Because there will be women there, and I should go where women are."

"Yeah. 'Cause you don't know any women."

"I know some women."

"Not around here."

"No. So I should go to your friend's party. Sign me up."

"All right," Ron said, and flopped down on the other end of the couch. He pulled the sports section out of the paper, a donut out of the box, and started into both.

I took the front section. I was still new enough in Empire City that I felt no attachment to any of the local news stories, but I thought there might be some mention of the goings-on last night on First Street.

There it was, on page ten. No picture, and not many details, but there it was. And as I read the article, I felt like an idiot just about instantly.

According to the Empire City Moon, the cops had broken up a meeting of a bunch of drug lords and arrested everybody in sight. Guns were fired, grenades were handed and tears were gassed. No fatalities on either side. The police gave a big share of the credit to local superhero Greyghost, who was instrumental in finding out about the meeting in the first place and busting some heads to soften up the drug lords' security.

When I was thinking what it would be like to move to Empire City and forge a new life for myself and all that crap, I never considered superheroes. I mean, we didn't have them back in Keysbury; they only existed on the news.

Which I personally tuned out. I was never into the whole superhero deal. There were people in high school who were big fans, but I found it too much to keep track of. There were hundreds of them, and they were always changing their names and costumes and powers, and there was always some damn menace or other that we were supposed to worry about until they fixed it, and I couldn't imagine keeping any of it straight. So I forgot about it. I knew there were superheroes out there, and that they were supposed to be generally good to have around, but it didn't have anything to do with me.

And now here I am delivering a briefcase to one so that he can go beat up a bunch of drug guys. I didn't want to start freaking out in front of Ron, but my eyes glazed over for a second there. Carl sent me into the middle of a drug cartel! I could have gotten killed. The guy in the car who wanted to know what I was doing there--he could have killed me. What the hell, Greyghost almost twisted my head off for being late. I exhaled slowly and carefully.

Anyway, it was over.
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