It is ironic the previous day spent with me as carefree as possible only for the outside to shower me with depressing rain when today has not a cloud in the sky and I am on edge.
I wasn't able to properly digest the information fed by my father when first said. My mind wasn't functioning properly and it left me in confusion. A deliberate tactic by my father, no doubt. If he is anything like me then he wouldn't have enjoyed the confrontation that would've happened between us. He'd much rather explain the situation at his own pace and without interruption before leaving me a dazed mess left to put the pieces together once I come to my senses.
I understand now I had a family.
I always knew one existed for me but only until now it was in a purely detached intellectual sense.
The closest thing I ever had to a family, the Jones family, was hardly a family. I was nothing more than an experiment, an activity for them to pursue in their spare time. Should I cut the blue wire or the red wire, Frankie? For as long as I can remember, I have always felt alone. The sole person to have these restless desires, this brick-wall towering over me, but now I know this is not the case. I have a father.
I have a father who shot me in the chest, but a father nevertheless.
I have somebody that has some idea as to what I am going through. A familiar question begins to ring, showing no mercy. What happens now?
Am I expected to look past the fact my father left me with the problems I inherited from him without the merest of assistance? Cepheus is the only person who knows what it is I'm going through, and he shot me in the chest! Still, it would be foolish for me to ignore the guidance he can provide. Someone that can instruct me on how I'm supposed to deal with what is inside of me. He knows I can't survive without doing what I do. There are things that remain unbeknownst to him, however. I don't do what I do because I want justice to be served, but I have obtained necessity in there being a motive to the things I do.
I am not the epitome of evil, I am the embodiment of a virus beginning to spread like fire. What it means to be the hunter is self-explanatory, but there is a difference between hunting a deer and what I do. There's a reason man is proclaimed the most dangerous game, and that reason is the slightest mistake could mean the difference between the joy it can provide, and the suffering it can provoke. The simplest blemish in what I do can mean the difference between survival and a lethal injection.
Cepheus has an understanding of what I am going through unlike anyone else. Unfortunately, trusting him to have dispatched all the evidence linking us to the murder of Branden Cutler and his protection is something I cannot do. Blurriness waltzes around my memories of the night, stepping on the toes of vital pieces and sticking its tongue rudely as it does so. I am left to judge the happenings on the near concussion and shattered ribs I obtained.
The faint memories of nearly drowning in my own blood worry me as well.
For the year I've done the things I do, the possibility of being caught has felt impossible. The possibility of being caught has felt like a work of lunacy. I have the tendency to be reckless. Demonstrated with my first kill. But ultimately, what I do, I do well. I've never been bested in an altercation the way Cepheus pummeled me the previous night, leaving puddles of my own blood to be discovered. I cover myself from head to toe with attire, dismissing anything that could assist in tracking me down. This time around, I didn't have the chance to cover my tracks and I left a pile of breadcrumbs to my doorstep. Cepheus had the option of either making the evidence disappear or ignoring it. I'm left assuming it's the latter because the sound of bullets going off isn't something that can be ignored.
Cepheus couldn't have had enough time to erase all the evidence I left behind. He would have been left scurrying as he tried to relocate my lifeless corpse. I have to return to the rooftops, locate the bar, and try to uncover any mistakes Cepheus has made. This is something that will be tricky.
Branden Cutler made a reputation for himself as the town drunk. Hardly, the most popular individual around, and I hardly believe his bodyguards were approaching the top of the food chain, but three deaths DID occur. The “who” in this equation holds irrelevancy, because lifeless corpses resting in a heap of their own blood with bullets lodged in their skulls isn't something that 'just happens'. I don't expect to see the people of Who-ville, the tall and the small, hand-in-hand gathered, singing a tune for us all, but I do expect something.
I do believe enough of a fuss will be made I should browse with caution. It wouldn't be wishful thinking to believe that nobody reported the bodies and that there isn't a handful of policeman conveying the situation. No, it'd be the thinking of an absolute lunatic! It might be wishful thinking to believe the blood wasn't detected though. The blood that sprayed out of my head like a hose, that is. And wishful thinking is something I have to deal with. It's the only option for action I am provided, and I have to try.
It's strange to be indulged with a feeling of anxiety and with a feeling of wonder as to what is going to happen. The reason I had begun doing these things is because of restless feelings of helplessness and not knowing where I would end up. Dressing myself in a dark cape and murdering people has graced me with more than I could have ever asked for.
The dynamic began to become routine. I find people. I stalk people. I kill people. People die.
Surprisingly though, I didn't hate these rumbling feelings dancing around my psyche. It could be because I have fallen into such a rut as of late, and have not been posed anything that has required genuine and honest effort. I'll never forget the excitement I was jolted with during the encounter with Cepheus. Still, I can't continue to fumble around these scurrying thoughts, because it's just wasting time.
I need to see how much attention the masses have paid to the slaughtering Cepheus committed. I awoke from my drug-induced coma merely minutes ago, and without delay, the feelings of confusion drop upon me like an anvil over the head of a cartoon character. I found myself back in my bed, and staring up at the ceiling. This ceiling is mine. The fan above me spins around, and around, and around.
This made me start to think about yesterday, when I was with Cepheus, and the room did the very same. I look away from the fan and redirect my attention, if only because it's the only thing that keeps me from becoming nauseous.
Cepheus took me home after I lost consciousness the second time.
I am thankful Cepheus was kind enough to remove my getup as opposed to leaving me in the open for James to see. That would've been awkward, and it's not like I needed any more problems. I am even more thankful I was wearing clothes beneath the attire.
Cepheus didn't leave me as little as a note of how I should speak to him or how I could. He could have at least wrote an apology letter for driving bullets to my chest, sending me off the roof, and watching as I got my ass kicked. Instead, I am given no collection of paw-prints or clues answering the question of his whereabouts. If there's any to what he said about us being one in the same then he wouldn't want me coming to him, he'd want to have the control in the relationship.
I hear a noisy commotion happening outside my bedroom. The sound of an object dropping to the floor is audible soon after. I climb to my feet, flinging the covers off of me and leave them at the floor. I close my bedroom door and turn back, facing my room. I know I'll be having to leave soon, but it has to be inconspicuous. I look to the ground of my room, or at least what of it is visible. It's somewhat unkempt. After all, it hasn't exactly served as a number one priority for me in recent days. Speckles of dust in a couple places, I feel like a stranger to much of this apartment. Some people have pictures of loved ones on their walls, and some people have posters of their favorite band or movie. I have none of these things. None of it all really ever interested me too much. I like those things. Or, at least, I like some of them, but hardly enough to dedicate too much of my time.
I stare at the dark-green wall and it stares back at me. I find my eyes growing heavier, the grains left by the sandman making themselves known. Ah, is the young serial killer tuckered out? I rub my eyes, discarding myself of the remnants left behind by my slumber, doing it until it becomes more irritating than satisfactory. Once done, I look down to see my 'attire' for all of my 'activities' poking out from underneath my bed. And from the smidgen of sleeve that protrudes, several splotches of dirt and dried blood stain it. Once snatching a darkly colored backpack from my closet, I shove the suit into the sack and zip it shut. The backpack joins me, meanwhile, I opt to leave the two staffs hidden under my bed. After all, I wouldn't be able to squeeze them into the backpack and it's not as if I would be able to stealthily sneak them past James without detection.
Hey, Orion! Are those two wooden sticks in your pocket, or are you just really happy to see me?
The switch-blade resting in the pocket of my outfit will be sufficient enough to thwart any sort of shenanigans I might come across. I take a final breath of air, a breath of air that seems to summarize my feelings with simplicity and beauty. A breath of air I needed. I let it out from my lungs.
I open the door and head out closing it behind me, listening in to hear the click of the latch. Before me is the sound of sizzling eggs thrown in a pan handled by the egg-master general, James. His hair looks as if it is trying to run away from his head and looks greasier than the stuff in the pan. It also looks like it has been a while since he's shaved. Little whiskers poking out to complete his look. James' movie-star good-looks substituted by a stare of exhaustion.
It looks like he came close to having as chaotic of a night as I did.
“Um...,” I say, reminding him of the silver-tongued devil he shares an apartment with and continue by adding, “Hello,” so I can really nail in the idea.
Every once in a while, I find myself wishing I could go back and kill the inventor of small-talk.
“It's really nice of you to sleep all day while I am here slaving away,” James utters sarcastically, wrinkles in his eyes take away his youth. “Nah, I just woke up too, actually,” he clarifies, before I even have the chance to ponder on if he was serious or not. “I spent yesterday with mom, thinks she'll be able to get me a role in a film. Knows the director. It's just an indie flick, but at the very least, it could help get my name out there.” His rambles were vaguely coherent and fast-pace, like someone challenged him to spit out as many words as he could and they just so happened to string together into occasional sentences
Well, if the role is as a homeless man, I think you're a shoe-in.
“That's great, I hope everything works out,” I reply, before stepping onward in my endeavor to find safe passage out of the house.
“Wait, what happened to you?” James asks, concerned, his eyes focused on my black eye and the other bruises beneath my cheek.
“I, uh, I went to the bar after work and let's just say it was a more stressful day than I had signed up for,” I start. I stop for dramatic effect, kind-of like how Cepheus did, entirely for James' benefit. “I just needed to clear my head. I guess in my drunken stupor, I did something stupid. I must have got into a fight. I'd like to think I won and got the bruises as I was stumbling in a daze, but I doubt it.”
The lie came off well, at least in my expert opinion, but when I look up at James, he remains skeptical.
“What happened at work?” James asks curiously.
Well, Jamie-boy, my father shot me, sent me tumbling off a building, and then brought me to his house to do drugs. Thanks for asking...
“It's nothing, but I have to get going back to it, I'll probably be back in about an hour or to,” I reply.
“Short shift,” James comments.
“Just a little quick things I need to take care of.”
And that should have been that, but it unfortunately was not.
“Wait, before you go, while I was in Italina, my dad actually called.” He feigned surprise, but didn't give me enough to react. “He asked us whether we wanted to go hunting with him in Hardan for the weekend, and my mom says that she can arrange for another acting gig in Hardan, as well, so, uh, you wanna go?” James asks, kind-of nervously, requesting a reply from me that I didn't really wish to provide.
I look to the door leading outside the apartment then back at him, and realize there really isn't time for this. “Yeah, sure, but now I gotta go, I'll see you in a little bit though,” I respond before bolting out of the kitchen and heading out of the apartment, closing the front-door on my way out.
It's surprising to me that even with the many years James and I have spent with one another, James has still yet to realize I am far from being the chatty type.
I set out for my next destination, worrying not about a hunting trip or seeing James' father, but worrying more about the problem I have been faced with. The wind blows my hair with a whistling roar as I step outside. Continuing down the roadway and eventually meeting a sidewalk, I stare across the road with the many vehicles passing swiftly but not so fast that they look like mere blurs.
The road sparkles faintly with puddles of oil layering the streets and I am left succumb to much commotion from the raging cars driving to their destination, loudly. A restlessness starts to creep itself into my head. I tap my foot on the ground and fidget with my fingers like it's something new and unique instead of something I do often. The inactive moments aren't beneficial to me. The time trying to wave a taxi, more than anything, gives me time to think. I don't especially want to think though, and so, I try to wave off the flashes of momentary thought gracing my brain's humble abode, until finally, I find myself waving down a taxi.
The vehicle comes to a halt and ushers for me to enter. The driver has long, straight brown hair, with a dark-blue colored cap draped over his head. The hat has a Budweiser logo on the top. A taxi-driver wearing a hat advertising an alcoholic beverage strikes me as unsettling. He is dressed in a flannel shirt and wears a Cheshire grin. Something cheesy and over-the-top like you'd see in a movie, or a school year book photo.
“Where ya' headed, buddy?” The man asks with a smile from ear to ear.
“There's a bar that's not too far from here, you been there? One Step Back, I think it's called.”
“Ah, yeah, know the place, too rich for my blood. A bar, ain't far from that, has the prettiest ladies that I ever done saw. I tell you what, I remember this one time, this little number came up to me, you know, being all flirtatious,” I can't help but notice the aroma of cigarettes on his breath as he speaks. “Well, her boyfriend shows up and tried to pick a fight.” His voice is crackly, annoying, and sounds as if he is gargling marbles.
If I get my switch-blade out then I can kill him before anybody could stop me and still have time to make a run for it.
“Anyway, I ain't know how the fight ended, but I woke up with my eyebrows sliced off and his chick restin' on me, you know?”
I didn't know, but what I did know is that I wanted for this conversation to end.
“I'm going to meet somebody where I'm going. I'll check out that other bar next time that I go,” I interrupt at once.
“Alright, well, suit yourself, we'll be there in just a jiffy bit,” the man assures before I rest my face against the window of the car and begin to take in everything that has happened thus far over the last couple of days.
* * *
The minutes it took to get to the bar felt like days. The man had been apparently waiting for someone that looked eager enough for him to speak his life story to. In the theme of being honest, the man should consider himself lucky I didn't set him on fire, along with his bizarre collection of fingernail clippings that he just HAD to show me. About midway through, I started to wonder more often than once whether or not I should just jump out of the car and walk back home. If I can get through nearly half an hour with that jerk with a mouth, how much of a threat can a couple of measly cops be?
I step out of the taxi with a new lease on life and make way toward the bar. I didn't honestly know what to expect, but it seemed logical for there to be a couple pieces of tape telling me not to cross. Maybe there would even be a collection of vehicles scattered and parked around the lot. I brought my killing ensemble and can hopefully scavenge the area at night for potential evidence if it is deemed necessary. I feel the asphalt beneath my feet upon my arrival in the parking lot. But something isn't right.
The place seems unchanged.
A couple of vehicles are scattered and parked around the lot. They aren't police-cars, however. Not only are there not policeman browsing the area but I can't see any sign of change. I walk fourth to where the shooting occurred and see nothing.
I look around, making sure this is exactly where it had happened, and of course, it is.
But there is nothing at all.
I drop to my knees. Almost in disbelief of it all. I desperately wander, trying to find the merest of proof the incident even occurred, but to no avail.
What the hell happened!?
I climb to my feet, physically feeling the bewilderment on my face. Did Branden Cutler drink so much alcohol he actually dissolved? Is it possible I actually imagined the whole thing?
I bring my hands to my face and wipe off the patches of sweat, and can almost feel the knots form on my neck. Astonished and amazed, I walk into the bar, looking around with eagerness and confusion. I feel anxious as I gaze around, almost wanting to stumble across a wanted poster with my name on it. Anything to make sense out of it all.
The bar is messily placed about but I can count the amount of people inside with two hands alone. Several are watching football on a large flat-screen television on a wall, and some are throwing darts off to the side. The bartender, an older gentleman with a shaggy beard is looking at me, and I look back. Judging from his considerable gut, I can safely assume he has served many of the beers to himself.
“What will it be?” the bartender asks while cleaning out a glass cup with a washcloth. I wasn't actually paying a whole lot of attention to what he was doing, in truth, but I'm fairly certain that's all bartenders did when they weren't serving alcohol.
I looked around the bar for a moment, as if expecting to see Branden Cutler somewhere smiling at me, alive and well.
“I'll take a light beer, I can't overdo it too much, I'm meeting somebody. The guy's name is Branden Cutler, heard of him?” I speak with high hopes of getting every bit of information.
“Damn, I guess you don't pay very much attention to the news, eh?”
Dammit, the news, … maybe that would have been something worth watching.
“I just got here a couple of days ago, and haven't had a chance to watch the tube, why?”
“You two were close?” His stone-face painted a picture of severity.
“I really didn't know him all that well; we used to be neighbors back in the day. He randomly called me a couple of days ago asking me if I wanted to stop and have a drink with him.”
Honesty is the best policy.
“I'm sorry to say this, son. But I'm afraid that Branden was killed a few nights ago,” the man mutters with a somber voice.
“What do you mean killed, by who!? Was it an accident?” I ask, trying to sound as convincing as I could.
My lying has improved heavily since I started doing 'what I do,' I did a lot of practice by watching political figures on the news.
The man starts to hand me the beer with a look of sorrow in his eyes but I look at it with no intrigue. I make no move to take the beer from his hand. The man smiles weakly before placing the glass on the counter.
“I'm not sure about all the information. All I know is he and some other guys were found in the trunk of some guy's car, heard they were all three shot. The man was drunk off his ass, the cops pulled him over, he was swerving off and about the road, and his headlight was busted. The man claims he didn't even know the bodies were in the trunk,” the man stops for a second before continuing, looking down at the beer he had poured as if he needed me to drink it to help him feel better, “It's a damn shame, really. I'm sorry about Branden. He was a good guy.”
“No, he wasn't,” I clarify, throwing a couple of dollars on the counter and leaving the bar.
As I walk out of the bar, I find a smile start trying to distort my face and I have trouble fighting it off.
Cepheus did more than simply discard of evidence connecting us to the murder of Branden Cutler and his goons. He managed to frame somebody else for the act. A work of sheer brilliance. I hadn't believed in the abilities of Cepheus, and he responded by doing something I have never seen before. I am impressed beyond belief, but unfortunately for my weary prey, this clears my head.
The worries have vanished for the time being, there is nothing left to occupy my time away from them anymore. The only thing that is on my mind now is ripping apart whoever has the misfortune of being my adversary.