[November Breaks] NOW | 32 | Noah

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MONDAY 11TH FEBRUARY 2019

“This car is actually not as ridiculous as I expected.” It really isn’t, and you look happy driving it, more at home in it than you ever looked in mine.

“You mean compared to what you expected when you literally told me to let someone talk me into something ridiculous?” You pat the steering wheel of the compact SUV affectionately and rev the engine with a smirk.

“Compared to what I expected when you threatened to choose something totally impractical.”

“Excuse me, that was not a threat. It was a prediction, albeit an inaccurate one. I even surprised myself. As impulse buys go, this isn’t bad. And it can live outside instead of having to be brought into its cosy stable every night and charged at the wall with a blanket over it.”

“I do not put a blanket over my car.”

“You would if no-one else would find out about it. You’re weird about your car, Noah.”

“I’m careful with it.” No-one else ever had an opinion about how I treat my car. No-one else ever witnessed that aspect of my life, though. You witness everything and you have a lot of opinions.

“You’re weird about it. Accept it.”

“Fine. I’m weird about it. Stop here.”

You park in the first empty space you see, get out and lock the car. Its lights flash a chirping goodbye. “Right,” you say, walking around to meet me, “if he’s not on his own, we give him back his wallet and leave?”

“Yeah. No point in complicating things. There’ll be others.” It’s late enough to be dark, but not late enough to be deserted. It doesn’t matter. We’re returning someone’s lost wallet. We are helpful. We are good people.

As luck or whatever morally void force is on our side would have it, he arrives at almost the same time as we do, walking up the other flight of concrete steps at the opposite end of the low rise block. We hang back a little while he unlocks the door, goes inside and turns on a light. There’s no-one else in there. Perfect.

You knock on his door and I stand just out of the way so you’re the only person he’ll see, at first anyway. He answers with no security chain. Everything is working in our favour.

You smile that incredible smile of yours. “Sorry to bother you, but are you John Morris?”

“Who’s asking?” He sounds suspicious already. He has cause to be, but probably not the cause he assumes.

“Great, it’s the right address. I found your wallet.”

John Morris holds out a hand and I step around into his line of sight, blocking any view from elsewhere of your foot now wedging open the door.

Your voice shifts gear and my heart swallows itself whole. “Open up. No fucking around. We’re going to come in and you’re going to keep your mouth shut.”

John Morris tries in vain to close the door, but your boot holds solid and you shoulder your way through. He momentarily falters, and it’s all we need. You push him back inside and I walk in calmly, as if we’ve been invited, closing the door gently behind me. You walk him backwards into the living room and through into the kitchen at the rear of the flat, where no-one passing by will see or hear anything.

You don’t even have a hand on him, and it’s beautiful. Your let-me-in smile has become something more coldly determined, and the steadiness of your breath holds the quiet threat of a ticking clock. This is resolute control, and death walks with measured steps, wearing the face of patience.

John Morris is terrified. “Did Izzy send you?”

It’s funny how often they make the wrong assumption about who sent you. These are the moments when you find out who a person has hurt more than anyone else in the world, who they’ve taken the most from, who they owe the most to. We aren’t here to restore any equilibrium though and no-one sent us. We’re here for ourselves.

You walk him back against the kitchen wall. “Why would Izzy send us?”

“I don’t… I mean… I didn’t…”

“You didn’t what?” You open a drawer with a gloved hand, close it, open another and take out a knife, swinging it elegantly and pointing it at his chest.

He looks at the knife and then back at you. “Whatever she said, I didn’t do it.”

You take a step closer and hold the edge of the blade almost touching his throat. “Are you sure?”

Not trying to move, take the knife off you, or fight in any way at all, he gestures towards me with a careful nod. “Why’s he not talking?”

You lean in a little closer, and your voice drops to a whisper. “Because I like talking. He’s here for something else.”

John Morris looks like reality just fired a warning shot at the back of his head. “OK, I’m sorry. All right? Tell Izzy I’m sorry. Tell her you scared the shit out of me and I’ve learned my lesson and I’ll never do it again. Tell her that was the last time, I promise. Please?”

You raise your voice to its regular level again, still comparatively low because that’s how you always speak. You make people stop what they’re doing and pay attention. You make them shut up and listen. “Have you got anything to drink? Anything strong?”

“You want a drink?”

“I didn’t say I wanted it. I asked if you have it.”

“There’s rum in the top cupboard, the one in the corner.”

I open the cupboard and take out an almost-full bottle of some corner shop poison that barely qualifies as rum.

You take half a step back and swing the knife around again, before holding the point over his heart. “Are you on any medication, John Morris?”

“What the..? Why?”

“Answer. The. Question.” You tap the blade against his chest to punctuate each word.

He swallows heavily. It’s the sound of someone doing their best not to vomit. “If you want drugs, they’re in the bathroom cabinet. Sleeping pills and painkillers. Strong ones. Lots of them. Take them. Please. Take them.”

You tilt your head from side to side and your neck cracks. I can’t remember if you did that when we met or if it’s another place where we’ve merged. “Lots of them. Good. Let’s go into the bathroom.”

He leads the way, your hand on his shoulder and the knife against his back. The bathroom is small, so you follow him in and I stand at the door.

“What are you going to do to me?” he asks, voice shaking.

“Nothing, technically,” you tell him. “Now, get those pills and take all of them. Every last one. Right now. Wash them down with water from the sink where we can see you.”

His eyes widen in realisation. “But that’ll kill me.”

“Probably. It might not, though.” Your lightning-strike smile is back and I want to freeze every part of this experience in my mind so I can walk through the memory over and over again forever. “Let’s find out.”

He panics and tries to run past you, avoiding the knife. You let him, because stabbing him is not part of the plan and it would be too much to clean up. He makes it to where I’m standing, but there’s no getting away. I catch him and hold him firmly by the face. “Either you take the pills yourself or I’ll break your jaw and force them down your throat. Those are your options.” I’m not going to break his jaw. It wouldn’t fit with the narrative we’re creating for whoever finds him. But he doesn’t know that.

He starts to cry and I have to fight not to roll my eyes because it would ruin the whole aesthetic. I grip his face harder. Not hard enough to bruise, but hard enough to hurt. “Take the pills, John.”

You open the mirrored cabinet above the sink, lift out three bottles with prescription labels, and hand them to him. “Do it. You never know. It might not be enough to kill you. Or we might let you go in time to get help. But you have to take them. Swallow like a good boy.”

He starts pleading, and it’s pathetic. It’s boring. People don’t realise how dull it is when they think they’re saying something you’ve never heard before. No-one begging for their life is ever particularly imaginative or original.

You sigh, the mask of patience slipping for only a fraction of a second, long enough to reveal the pure, dangerous core of your potential. “Take the pills or I’ll slit your fucking throat right here and you’ll never get to find out if we would’ve let you go in time if you’d done what you were told.”

Finally, he nods and cries and nods some more, then gulps down handfuls of pills and water from the sink between sobs. “OK. There. I’m sorry. Please. Tell Izzy I’ll never do it again. Just let me go. Please.” He’s a broken record. Maybe we’re doing Izzy a favour, but I don’t care and she’ll never know. Still, the result is the same. Everyone gets something out of this. Except for John Morris.

I open the bottle of rum and hold it out. “Here. Drink this. Slowly, so you don’t throw up the pills.”

“No, please—”

“Drink it,” you instruct, and your voice is stunning, captivating, everything. It melts me.

John Morris takes the rum and swallows it like someone well accustomed to consuming large quantities of cheap spirits. By the time he reaches the bottom of the bottle, he’s swaying on his feet and you only have to make one quick movement in his direction for him to fall backwards into the bath, cracking his head hard on the tap on his way down. As with Alan Gerrit, there is no physical contact. You don’t push him.

In the view of whoever finds him, this was an accident. During a suicide. Either twice the tragedy or no tragedy at all.

He lands in the empty tub with his chin pushed against his chest, compressing his airway. Even if he’s still breathing after the pills and the rum and the head injury, he won’t be for long. And this. This is what I’m here for.

You put the knife back in the kitchen and I kneel beside the bath and wait for John Morris’s heart to stop beneath my hand. When I stand up, the world is finally steady again. He isn’t breathing, but I am. I can.

You’re waiting for me, watching, and I memorise in as much detail as possible how I look in your eyes before we leave.