Thursday, February 2, 2006

the deciding incident

A month or more wasted in Northern Africa. Hot days spent in pointless conversation with the locals. Chilly nights spent in pointless research at the computer. I didn't sleep much, then. Kept my sweater on because I was cold. Let a bag of coffee beans sit on the kitchen counter because there was little point in putting it away. Caught up on my reading.

I kept a shotgun strapped to the underside of my desk, and a box of shells in the pen drawer. I was waiting for you to appear. Just one more time - I'd be ready. Four locks on the door and not one of them being used. Windows wide open to the crisp night air - and you, if you so desired. But I must have dozed off.

I awoke to smashing, glass tinkling, and found myself surrounded by a group of five masked men, one of which I had to guess was you. My own shotgun was pointed at my face. The box of shells had been spilled all over the floor.

"Do not move!" one of the figures yelled. I immediately detected a Farsi accent. "If you move, I will shoot you right in the face!"

I didn't move. "What's this about?" I asked. "Farhad! Jones!" he yelled over his shoulder. "Get what we come for and get out!"

The other four started to dismantle my flat. Gathering up great bunches of paper. Going through my books. One of the men started to take my computer case apart.

"Lagan," I said. "I knew you'd come."

He didn't say a word, but my talking seemed to excite the shotgun-wielding man a little.

"You! You shut up!"

I ignored him. "Didn't you find it a little strange that my door and windows were unlocked, Lagan?"

He hesitated. I actually saw him hesitate before ripping my hard drive out.

I felt the cold barrel of the shotgun push into my chin.

"You shut up your mouth right now or I will shoot it!"

"Come on, Artie. You must have known I'd have a plan."

He turned to me, and looked right into my eyes. It was him.

Before I could say another word, though, I felt one ton of steel across my chin. A deafening blast. Heat on my forehead. I could smell my own flesh burning. I heard it sizzle like a steak.

Chaos. I was on the floor.

"What did you do, man?" Arthur Lagan. Certainly.

Boots were stomping all around me, running, this way and that.

"I only wanted to strike him! Not shoot!"


Hands on my face. Fingers searching. Through my hair.

"He seems to be okay. Powder burns, maybe."

Warmth on my face. Trickling.

"But so much blood!"

More stomping. More running.

"A couple pellets may've made contact, that’s all."

The slamming of a door.

"Come on. We've got to get out of here."

That’s all.


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