The only problem was that I had no idea what was going to happen.
The coffee house was like any other -- wood-colored and soothing, even though the stuff they sold here was supposed to have the opposite effect. I bought some coffee myself -- even now, I can hear the disapproving tones of my father.
"...Now Peter, coffee does have a beneficial effect, but only if used properly, as with any herb or medicine -- but if you drink too much, you will only be doing damage to yourself..."
I take a sip, making a silent toast to my father. It was quite bitter... but not too bad. I sit back and wait.
Someone walks through the door, and I can't help but look at him. It's not like he was loud or obnoxious -- there was just something about him that got my attention. Maybe there was a strong aura about him. My father claims to see such things, though I never have. I was wishing that my father was here, just to hear what kind of assessment he would make of this man.
He could have been like any other bum -- long hair, a thick beard, travel stained clothes -- but I've also been around the block a time or two, and I'd also say he looked like a warrior. Yeah, that was it. The guy was a warrior who lives in the same world as my father, the Ancient, and every other weirdo who tries to turn the sane world into a crazy mess.
Not to say that I'm calling my dear father or the Ancient bad names, but the facts are that they live in another world, and usually bring trouble with them. I've just come to accept it, and I don't think I'd have it any other way.
The guy has taste at least. He went for black Kenyan AA. The poor kid working the coffee pots had to make a special trip to find the bag of Kenyan.
A few minutes later and he got his coffee, and sat down by himself. There *was* an aura about him -- dark and somber. It looked like he was either a veteran of some really nasty war, or maybe he was a private citizen doing some killing on the side. I wasn't sure which.
I decided to say something -- something that I'd say if I was on duty, "That's a big knife you're carrying." Try *humongous*. That was a step above a Bowie knife, and by the looks of it, it wasn't some decoration piece. I could see dried blood on the crossguard, and I couldn't help but wonder if that blood was human or not.
"It's a big world," he muttered, not wanting to talk to anyone.
I didn't care what he was in the mood for. "I was curious... which division are you from?" That seemed to startle him, until I showed him my badge -- it was a long shot, but I thought it was worth it. "I can spot 'em in a crowd every day."
He frowned, "Well, one outta two ain't bad -- I'm American though, not Canadian."
"Do you want to talk about it?" I asked. It was a reflexive question, as if I knew it was the right one to ask. Don't ask me why.
He frowned, "It's a long story..." He stopped himself sharply, "Ya don't wanna know -- don't let me ruin yer day."
I laughed pretty bitterly at that one, "My day is bad enough as it is. You can't make it any worse!"
Maybe he'd been searching for someone to talk to for such a long time. It didn't take much encouragement for him to start letting out the pressure that had been building up in his heart for so long.
"It was a normal job, ya know, just like any other. Go in, secure the place, let my partner work his magic -- job done. That's the way it'd worked for some five years. Maybe things were going so well that I got soft -- or maybe that's the card I drew.
"We were called to a run-down apartment in a seedy neighborhood -- a gang-infested hell hole, if ya ask me. I didn't much care for it, but that wasn't my job.
"I scoped out the perimeter, kept tabs on the guards and where they moved. Everythin' was a smooth go, just like any other. I used the butt of my shotgun to smash open the side door -- and it bashed in like a balsa-wood door. I musta caught everyone by surprise, 'cause they didn't have no time to react when I was waving my shotgun in their faces.
"Of course, these guys live in the real world, and they could see that it was ten people to one -- my partner hadn't counted on me hittin' armed resistance as soon as I had. My adrenaline was goin' so fast the only thing I knew was there were people there drawin' their guns. There was no way I coulda known what they looked like, what color shirts they were wearin', or even how many people there were.
"So, my adrenaline was goin' full-speed, and I started firing. Hell, it was them or me, and I figured I was the one who should be walkin' out in one piece. I'll tell you, if you haven't killed anyone with a shotgun -- don't. The sights 'I'll live with you for the rest of yer life. I couldn't get a good look o' their faces, but I could see the blood everywhere.
"I was packin' a semi-auto shotgun, so I was runnin' across the room, firin' rounds like crazy. It mighta seemed like it was forever, but it must've been only a few seconds 'til I blasted everyone to bits.
"That wasn't all that unusual. What was unusual was when the red haze lifted, and I got a good look at what I'd done, I found a weepin' widow wailin' by one of the dead guy's head. I don't even think she was a-scared o'dyin', 'cause she wasn't even lookin' at me.
"That's when everythin' sank into my head. What the hell was I doin'? I'd spilled a hell of a lot of blood, but I never saw the grievin' widows or wailin' children. Now I saw it. So I took off -- I didn't even go through with the paperwork."
//So that's it!// I thought, nodding. "There wasn't much you could have done about that. Like you said, your blood was pumping, and they were about to pump some lead into you."
He nodded absently, "I know that. I know there wasn't anythin' I could do -- but I can't help but feel pretty awful about it. I mean, she probably didn't even know what her husband was doin'. For all she knew, some murderin' thug just came in and killed her husband for no reason at all."
He sipped some more coffee, but his eyes didn't seem so bitter.
I put my hand on his, "Look -- I know how it is. I've been in a few tight spots myself. That's what we all go through -- it's the risk we take. And his family should have known about the risks the dead man was taking."
He nodded, "I know... I just couldn't accept it. All those deaths, and I never knew about the other side." He shook my hand. "Thanks a lot -- I guess I just needed to hear from somebody sane that I wasn't a murderer."
"No way," I smiled, "you're certainly not. A murderer has no remorse."
He nodded grimly, "I never thought of it that way, but I have a job to go t', so I'll bid ya a good day."
He left, and as he walked out the door, a lot of bits and pieces came together, and I had the sinking suspicion that I had just given a hitman a pep talk.
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