Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Grainery: Edge of Sanity

Part 3
He felt eyes on him but everyone managed to avoid his gaze when his eyes fell on them. He felt like a prized cockerspaniel at a dog show and he did not like that feeling very much. He walked into the area before the stalls of vendors selling illegal items and services better left unexplained. Some unsavory tyoes came in past him but they made no notice of him and headed to a man advertising dentistry services. Screams of pain told him this dentist practiced without painkillers and probably without a license. That waas when he saw three rather large men walking toward him with an intent that said he was going with them to talk to their boss. His old boss. He could also see that they wanted him to put up a fight so they could pay him his comeuppance. Instead of turning and running like a sane person would have been compelled to do, Scott let a smirk hit his mouth and he headed straight for them. With his hands out to the side to show he was not looking for trouble and would go with them. "Hey boys!" He said loudly enough that people finally turned to openly stare at him. His smirk grew larger, it paid to be gregarious in a tense situation. Confidence made people second guess you and that gave you time to act first. "Where is that old bastard at? I need to have a few words with ol' Riley about coming home."

His words had the desired effect a lot of people flinched including 2 of Riley's goon squad. The one that didn't flinch was an old general of Riley's and at one time he had answered to Scott. Now he seemed to be in charge. That was fitting. His name was Gregory and he made sure no one called him Greg.... he hated nicknames unless he was using a derogatory one for you. Gregory had never used one to Scott's face which showed a certain amount of respect and Scott had shown him the same by always using his correct name when speaking to him or about him. They had been as close to friends as anyone could be with someone who wanted your job and knew the only way to get it was with you ending up dead. Gregory's face broke into a smile that looked like a sneer. Probably because he was afraid Scott wanted his old job back and that meant trouble for him. Gregory was ruthless when he needed to be but he liked to appear gentlemanly. Scott wanted to assure him he didn't want the old job he had other ideas that had nothing to do with being a general for Riley but he knew until he said it in front Riley it would be like he never spoke.

"Scott.... you coming back is a surprise. I can not pretend to be happy to see you but your reappearance has greatly interested Riley and he wants to see you. Although I am not sure you are close enough to call him rude names any longer. It is of no consequence.... for now. Follow us, things have changed since you left. We would hate for the changes here to end in an unfortunate surprise for you." Gregory said with an implied edge to his tone.

"Gregory! So good to see you! Especially with such a warm greeting. It is like we are reunited tween girls at a slumber party." Scott spoke with a false tone of excitement. A tone Gregory recognized the true intent of. It was nothing more then a warning to Gregory to stop threatening and Scott's warnings were always backed up. He would hate to have to do anything to Gregory and he had just told him as much. A flash of an approving smile crossed Gregory's face before he reset the mask of indifference.

Gregory's men fell in behind them as the two old comrades took the others hand and began to walk into the market place. Scott could tell the two men who walked behind them were nervous.... apparently his reputation was still intact. He and Gregory did not speak as they walked a route that Scott knew by heart. Gregory had spoke the truth though... there were different faces lining the illegal marketplace. Faces that showed no sign of recognition for him either. In fact he did not see one familiar face among the vendors. He was suddenly on edge and glad that Riley wanted to speak to him. This would have been a different journey otherwise and it gave him time to contemplate what the changes meant to him without any confrontations.

They approached a building that looked slightly more permanent then the markets slapped together lean to appearance. It still gave off the feeling of a condemned hovel but compared to the others it was a palace. It was Riley's palace and it was a lot nicer on the inside then it appeared on the outside. Riley was fond of old Arabian tales and had modeled his room after something he had seen in one of those old movies. Scott had referred to it as the 'King and I' room when he used to go there to make his reports. It would have been ridiculous for anyone besides Riley to indulge in this way but it worked for him. Something about it just made sense. Gregory opened the door and pushed through the curtains behind the door allowing Scott to enter the audience chamber ahead of him. Which meant 3 guys behind him at the door and who knew how many in the room. It was dark and he waited until his eyes adjusted to the low light. He was going to be made to wait on Riley, he had seen this same technique used before. A person that was "in need of a lesson", according to Riley, would come into this dark room and wait with about 30 armed guards watching his every move. When Riley felt he had them where he wanted them he would come out and bring them back in line. Most people were so ready to get out of there alive that they would toe the line for a while. For any threat of force to work there had to actually be visible consequences to fear. Riley had gained control ruthlessly and people never knew if they would be the next "example" or if they would be allowed to leave. Scott felt his irritation begin to grow. He figured he could kill half of these guards before they took him and he also knew that a lot of them would flee if he started to fight. Of course Gregory wouldn't and he would either have to kill Gregory or Gregory would kill him. He respected Gregory too much to force that situation to come about and decided he would wait until they made a move against him. He of course could force Riley's hand if this lasted more then another minute. Riley was prideful and that could be used to force him to get on with things. This fear practice had always irritated Scott. He felt like it was a huge waste of time and would end up being the death of Riley one day. Perhaps today if this lasted too much longer.

Scott reflected on his agitation and the fact that his thoughts were filled with vengeance. He had never actually killed anyone, he had never needed to. He out thought people and add a few broken bones to that and people learned to toe the line a lot better then this theatrical dark room act. He could feel his ire rising and he knew why his fuse was so short and thoughts of slaughter coursed through his mind. The thing that was different was that he had experienced true happiness and hope and then had it snatched away. Gwen had changed his life and when she left it had been with Scott left broken. He needed something more then the life he had created with Gwen. Which explained why he was here, the legal world was too tame. He liked the edge of danger.... he always had. Even while he was with Gwen he had missed the danger but he had her and he was able to ignore those impulses. Without her he had been tempted to do stupid and daring things. He had even gotten a raise and a promotion for how he pursued an account for his company. It was not truly dangerous or anything but putting his career on the line had been a little thrilling. Except it had not been enough. So here he was in a dark room, in the underground. Waiting for a man who might be less then happy to see him again. Suddenly he was tired of waiting and reflecting on what lead him to this place. He decided to force the issue. "C'mon Riley! If you are too busy washing your hair I can always come back. I saw some crap for sell out there that I might actually want to take a second look at. You never know when you might need a baby alligator or a stuffed rabbit."

Riley laughed from behind the curtain. Then sounds came from that area as he seemed to be making his way into the room. He began speaking before he had even entered the room, "Damn Scott! You never change! 2 minutes of waiting and you start making fun of the marketplace and my hygiene habits. I hate to admit that I missed it." He entered the room then with a large smile on his face wearing a black suit, black tie and a shiny gold tie. The tie looked ridiculous, who besides Riley would have the guts to wear a gold tie? Scott smiled in spite of himself.

"Speaking of never change.... a gold tie Riley? Really? What is that all about? The rest of the outfit looks like you might be a character in a bad mob movie but the gold tie makes you look like a broke pimp!" Scott said before adding, "I missed your sense of style Riley. It is always so unique but still seems to work for you. No one else could pull that off but somehow it makes sense for you."

Riley's smile widened to reach his eyes. He had thought of Scott as a son. When Scott had left Riley had looked like his heart had broke. Scott liked this expression better but he knew he wasn't out of danger. Riley was clearly not sure what to do about Scott's return. Scott had to play this right.

"I got to say this is pretty gutsy of you Scott. And you know by gutsy I mean stupid." Riley's smile was gone. He looked at Scott for a while and Scott held his gaze. Riley was not going to do anything at this particular second, Scott knew it all the way to the core of his being. He just had to be patient and eventually Riley would make up his mind and Scott would have to react. "But it is good to see you."

Scott smiled at Riley but did not speak. Riley was still undecided as to what to do and rushing him into a decision at this point would be a mistake. That mistake would be fatal. Seeking danger was one thing but inviting death and making it dinner was another thing entirely. Riley sat down behind his desk, keeping his eyes on Scott. Scott's impatience was not a factor during this exchange. There was something tangible behind all this because he could watch Riley and evaluate his next move. At the moment he stood still and held his gaze waiting on Riley.

"I can't say I am suprised to see you. Well not completely, perhaps just a little surprised. I knew she would leave you and I knew you would be back but it took longer then I expected. Before you say something in response to my words that you might end up regretting for a few seconds before you enter darkness, let me tell you that I hoped I would be wrong and I find no joy in seeing you here. I do not enjoy seeing you so broken and I wish I had been wrong just this once." He paused and studied Scott for a minute, Scott stayed quiet and waited. "Of course knowing you would be back does not let me know what your intentions are. I am not sure what you want now and I am not sure if I can trust you if you want to come back. You have become a dangerous unreadable component to crop up. So I am trying to figure out what my next move is as I am sure you are aware. You have always been gifted with perception." Scott nodded at his words and Riley pursed his lips before continuing, as if not sure of how to phrase the next question. "So tell me why are you back here Scott? What do you expect to happen by coming here tonight?"

Scott met Riley's eyes for a minute before opening his mouth. "I am glad you asked that Riley...."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Heya Michael,
This is really getting interesting. Please keep going. :)
~ Betty