Other Side

“The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.”

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Patrick
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Other Side

Post by Patrick » Wed Mar 06, 2019 4:12 pm

In a moment
You will see my other side
When I'm confronted
My demeanor turns from Jekyll into Hyde



--

“So, don’t freak out, but… I got shot.”

Mai’s voice floats in from the background: “In the ass!”

I imagine Penny rolling her eyes. I can all but hear it in her response. “I did not. Do you need a refresher course in anatomy?”


It’s a jarring description for anyone to take in, especially over the phone at oh dark thirty in the morning. I remember leaping out of bed, trying to juggle the phone while pulling on clothes and dancing around the anxious behemoth of a dog who seemed intent on getting underfoot. By the end of the conversation, Penny convinced me not to come; I made her swear to me she was fine and that she’d call if she needed me.

In the end, I only agreed because I had the pressing need to do something about the growing fury boiling away in the pit of my stomach.

And so, armed with a gun and more than enough information to get me into trouble, I left the apartment to do something potentially stupid.

--

The sun came up in the time it took me to track down a lead, though it remained hidden behind a wall of heavy, pregnant clouds. I sat in a ratty old armchair next to the window I’d climbed through and watched the colors morph from the muted grey of morning to the much darker, angrier-looking graphite of a sky about to burst.

Sprawled out on the couch nearby was a man named Andrick Kardav, and I was waiting for him to wake up.

His buddy, Emon, sold him out for a hundred bucks. Loyalty, I’ve learned, is an unwonted hallmark that is sorely lacking, even among friends. Now, I’m sure the vaguely threatening demeanor of the gun-strapped stranger offering the money helped influence the decision, but ultimately greed won out. I expected as much from a trophy hunter.

That’s how I found Emon to begin with.

He was camped out at the Hunter’s Guild with a handful of others looking to cash in on the March Hunt. Sephina, the woman in charge, prompted a rather enlightening story-time when she warned a patron against being incautious, what with the rise of tree-hugger vigilantes running around the forest and all. Emon proceeded to run his mouth in great detail about his good friend who’d had some ‘wild shit’ go down the night before.

Talk about a stroke of luck.

Had he not gone on to call my girlfriend a crazy bitch for ‘getting in the way of the gun’, I might’ve dialed back the intimidation factor when I confronted him in the bathroom ten minutes later. But, you know, I don’t exactly take kindly to that sort of verbiage, especially where Penny’s concerned.

With the right key, you can open up just about any door, and it would seem that money is a universal prompt. All it took was a little pressure and some pecuniary motivation, and Emon was happy to throw Andrick under the bus.

Once I had a name, it was easy to track down residence and easier still to get inside. Everyone remembers to lock their doors, but they forget about the windows. Especially when you’re a few stories up.

Bet he remembers after today.

When I found him he was face down on his couch, bare torso bandaged up like a mummy to protect what must’ve been a huge gash on his back. I’d have to thank PJ for giving Andrick such a nice parting gift. It certainly made my plans for him easier, though I was still of a mind to shoot the fucker in the leg Eye For An Eye style.

I wanted that to shock me. I wanted to feel bad about entertaining the idea of hurting him, but I couldn’t find any empathy. There was only an intense discomfort inside me, the feeling that something was out of place. I recalled the memory of Phil asking me to punch him, and my being incapable of fulfilling that request. Not unwilling -- incapable. The idea of hurting someone who’s done nothing to deserve it sickens me. But vengeance? That seemed to be another story. Case in point: that demon bitch who tried killing Penny.

Or maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s Penny. The thought of losing her, of her even being hurt at all--it drives me to literal distraction. She’s everything perfect and good in my world and I’ll be damned if some asshat with a gun threatens that.

“Who the hell are you?”

Andrick’s groggy voice breaks me out of my reverie. Outside, I realize it’s been snowing for a while. The world is white. I tip my head a little to slant a look toward the couch where the man's struggling to sit up.

“How’d you get into my house?” The wound on his back must really hurt. It’s written all over his face. He’s already out of breath and still hasn’t even managed to swing both of his feet down to the floor.

“Oh,” I say, getting up from the chair. “Did you want some help?” Ignoring the flail of an arm meant to keep me at bay, I swoop in and yank the man to his feet. He yelps, gasping in pain. I drag him toward the chair I just vacated and shove him into it. “There you go, man.”

Tears pour down his face in silence. When he tries to get back up, I pull the gun from my holster and wave it at him like one might wag a finger in disapproval.

“Mmn. I think you should stay right there. Don’t you agree?” When he doesn’t respond, I give him a prompt. “This is the part where you say ‘yes’.” He glowers at me, though the effect is somewhat lost between the spasms of pain that keep flickering through his expression.

“Listen, the only money I keep in the house is in that bottom drawer over there.” Andrick jerks his chin toward a roll top desk somewhere behind me.

I plant myself on the end of the coffee table in front of him, elbows to knees. “You misunderstand why I’m here.” The audible click of the safety being switched off has an amusing effect on Andrick. He shrinks away from me, pressing his wound into the back of the chair. Some of the color drains from his face. Allowing the gravity of the situation to settle and expand, I take a moment to look around the room.

The pill bottle laying on the table behind me snags and holds my attention. I pass the gun into my left hand, reaching for the prescription with my right. A quick glance at the print-out taped to the cylinder tells me poor Andrick’s overdue for a dose. I slip the painkillers into my coat pocket, enjoying the way his eyes bug out of his head.

“I don’t want your money. I’m here to make sure you understand something.” Andrick’s expression becomes wary. As well it should. “Last night you shot my girlfriend.” I scratch my cheek, pretending to mull things over for a minute while I let him sweat. “I’m sure you understand the predicament this puts us in.”

“Look, I’m--I’m sorry, all right? It was an accident. She--”

He stops talking when my eyebrows try to climb into my hairline. “An accident? Really? ‘Cause the way I heard it, you were planning on finishing the job, and you only stopped because you got ambushed. Am I on the right track here?” I point the gun at his chest. Andrick’s chin trembles, but he finally manages a few jerky nods in response.

“That’s what I thought. You escaped with your life intact. Now… had you killed her, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Your body wouldn’t have left that couch until the coroner’s office carted it away. Lucky for you, she’s gonna be okay. But you’re gonna have to help me here, because I’m struggling a little. See, I think you got off easy. That little cut on your back isn’t exactly comparable to a gunshot, know what mean?”

I stand abruptly, startling Andrick into another spasmodic jerk away from me. Only this time I don’t let him ease away from the back of the chair. I crowd myself right into his personal space, putting my face in his while positioning the barrel of the gun against his chest, and press him slowly into the back of the chair. Andrick's last ounce of defiance diminishes as a warbling whimper bubbles out of his chest along with a fresh wave of tears.

“So here’s the deal,” I whisper icily. “You’re about to have a change of heart. Right here, right now. You’re going to discover a newfound appreciation for life, Andrick, and not just your own.”

“I’ll do whatever you want,” he gasps, choking on a sob.

I actually smile. “Good!” And then I point the gun at his leg and pull the trigger. The sound explodes like cannonfire between us. My ears are ringing, but I still hear Andrick when he screams. His body cringes as far away from the gun as possible on reflex.

Beneath the sour, acrid smell of spent propellant there is blood. But it’s not from anything I did. The bullet I aimed went exactly where I meant it to, just to one side of Andrick’s leg and into the chair. It ricocheted toward the floor at an angle and, if I heard it correctly, ended up somewhere on the other side of the room. The blood I smell is coming from the axe wound. My guess is he’s torn his stitches, resulting in blood soaked bandages. I push away from him in disgust to pace the floor in front of the chair.

“In case you were wondering if this was even loaded,” I say, flashing the gun at him again, but he’s not looking at me. He’s too busy being slumped across the arm of the chair in pain to bother. “Now you know. So here’s the thing you need to understand: If it were up to me, I’d shoot you.” Having had time to really think it over, I don’t think that’s true anymore. But Andrick doesn’t need to know that.

“You’re still alive for one reason, and one reason only. Your new job is to do everything within your power to convince your little hunting buddies that you’ve had a change of heart. You’ve seen the light, Andrick! Hunting is barbaric. You’re gonna stay away from the forest. Say it.”

“Hunting is barbaric,” he replies wearily.

“What happens if you don’t listen?”

“You shoot me.” His whisper is so quiet, I almost don’t hear him. So I kneel down by the chair before asking my next question.

“And what happens if you go anywhere near my girlfriend again?”

He doesn’t answer, but his eyes are wide with fear. I meet his gaze calmly. Sweat drips down his face; the guy really doesn’t look well. It’s possible he’s reached his limit for interaction, so I help him out by giving him the answer, nice and low, my lips pressed right up against his ear.

“I’ll kill you.”

That much was true. I really had no intention of keeping tabs on the guy once I left here, but I knew exactly how things would go down if I ever caught him near Penny.

Before I stand, I press the bottle of pills into his hand. “I’ll let you keep these as a sign of good faith that you’ll be touting the hell out of your brand new lifestyle.” Then I pat him on the back out of spite. “See you around, Andrick.”
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