Fiction Series: Chuckle - Part 2
Three Weeks Earlier...
I walked slowly towards the exit. The messenger bag on my shoulder felt as if it weighed a ton. If I could just get home, I could- "Got a week off, huh?" Burke asked, smiling.
"Um, yeah," I said. The exit felt like a mile away.
"You sure could use it," he said. "You look exhausted."
"Yeah, it's been a busy month," I said. The prospect of being left alone with my thoughts for a week only makes me feel heavier.
"No side projects?" Burke asked. "I know you were plenty busy at first."
"Nah," I said. "I'm just tired. Could use the rest."
"Alright man, I won't hold you up," Burke said.
"Later," I said. I resumed walking towards the exit.
* * *
I awoke on the floor. The sun was almost down. My stomach grumbled angrily. I want Chinese. I sat up and grabbed the gun next to me. I stood and tucked it into my waistband. My phone began to ring as I grabbed my keys. It was Nick. "Yeah," I said.
"Hey man," Nick said. "You don't sound so good."
"Just tired," I said. "Just woke up."
"Uh huh," Nick said. His voice reeked of flat disbelief. I left my apartment and headed down the stairs. "Should Charlie or I come out there again?"
"Why?" I asked. I walked outside. The air was crisp, but the cold made me feel something.
"Why do you think?" Nick asked. "Have you been seeing-"
"I stopped," I said.
"And why?" Nick asked. "It was helping."
"Because it's a career risk," I said. "And a liability. I'm fine when I work."
"How is it a liability?" Nick asked; sounding annoyed.
"Think about the work we do," I said. "Think about what could happen if anyone in our line of employment saw a shrink."
"So your solution is to dive into your work," Nick said. "And then when you can't work?"
"I try to get more work."
"You're outside right now?"
"Yeah, it's nice out. Going for Chinese." I saw a group of guys obstructing the sidewalk as I walked down the block. They looked at me as I approached them. They didn't move.
"Well at least you're out."
"And you're eating."
"Hopefully, yeah." I got even closer to the group as they continued to keep their wall up. "I'm gonna have to call you back."
I walk down the street. The bag full of Chinese food is heavy in my hand. "So you don't mind?" Nick asks.
"You didn't ask last time," I say. "Not sure why you're asking now."
"Well, this is a different situation," he says.
"Like I said," I say, "I'm fine when I'm working. Outstanding, even."
"I honestly have entirely too much apartment."
"Maybe you should move?"
"I should, considering the circumstances."
"We seriously need to talk about your luck with women. Maybe you should switch to guys."
"Ha ha," I say flatly. "This one was close, though."
"Your ex before this one left you for Charlie," Nick chuckles. "And then the one before that..."
"Okay, let's move on," I say. I switch hands carrying the bag and put the phone to my other ear. There's a couple walking ahead of me. I think I spot a crouched figure moving behind the cars across the street.
"So, are you at least considering getting back into therapy?"
"You're committed to this, huh."
"Um, yeah? I know a guy who'll keep it quiet. He lost his license a while back. For pills though."
"I don't even know how to process this." I see someone creeping across the street for certain, with an Uzi; for certain. "Nick? I'm gonna have to call you back."
"Don't tell me you're walking through the 'hood again. I thought you were-"
"I'll call you back," I say quickly, dropping the phone and the food. "Get down!" I shout to the couple in front of me, pulling them to the ground as rapid gunfire erupts. They scream as bullets rip through cars near us. The gunfire stops briefly. With my left hand, I pull the Walther from my waistband and roll over, sitting up. There's a guy down the block with a handgun. I close one eye, taking careful aim, and squeeze the trigger four times. It bucked predictably with each trigger pull. He falls. I grab the fence next to me and hoist myself up; another guy in the street with a gun. I run a Mozambique Drill on him, and another armed figure across the street. I crouch next to a car and quickly change magazines as the guy with the Uzi resumes firing. I wait for him to reload. As he finishes, I stand and take aim, pulling the trigger six times. He falls as the Uzi flies from his hand into the street. Car alarms blare as I quickly walk around and check my work. Two separate car horns yell into the night, a beat apart. The couple remains on the ground, trembling. I tuck the Walther again as I check my food. Didn't spill a drop.
"Hello? Devin? Are you still alive?" Nick asks. I faintly hear his voice from the phone on the ground. I bend down to grab the phone, a carton of lo mein, and a pair of chopsticks.
"26 seconds," I say, opening the carton. "Damn, I'm good."
"Longest 26 seconds ever," Nick, says. "The fuck was that?" I hear sirens approaching from the distance.
"Um," I say. "I guess you'd call it unfinished business?" I lean against the fence and shovel food into my mouth.