Previous Chapters: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
I’ve got these pills I’m supposed to take but I don’t. They make me sleepy and give me headaches and I just don’t want to take them because I’m not sick.
I get the bottles every month in the mail from my doctor but they just stack up in the closet. My mother always asks me whether or not I’m taking them and I lie to her, say “yes, ma,” and leave it at that. She wants me to take my pills so I’ll be vulnerable to her, vulnerable to the machinations of her and her fellow ghouls. I don’t want that to happen, I can’t allow them to dull my perceptions, so I just smile and nod when the subject of my medication comes up.
But she’s no dummy, she knows I’m not taking them. She knows because they haven’t got me yet. When I take my pills it dulls everything, like there’s cottonwool around my head and I just can’t think straight. I know they’re out there but I can’t see them or hear them and that makes me paranoid as fuck. So before it gets too bad I stop taking them and soon I can hear their footsteps behind me as I walk through the neighborhood, and I find that oddly comforting because at least that way I can hear them coming.
I don’t think my dad heard them coming, which is why he’s dead. I don’t know exactly how he died but I imagine it happened in a similar fashion. They wanted him dead and they waited and waited and waited but he was too smart and too canny for them, until he finally let his guard down enough for them to slit his throat in the night and that was the last we ever heard of Pop.
In any event, the people who got to my dad are still out there and I know they’re still after me. If I had ever had the luxury to forget that, the One Eyed Man was back in my life to remind me of this fact.
So I began to formulate a plan.
My father was dead because of what he knew and what he had. There were hundreds of millions of dollars still out there, unclaimed, that belonged to him – belonged to me – and I had to figure out where it was before they did. Because if they did, I knew there wouldn’t be a place in the world I would be able to hide from them.
I felt sorry for Connie sometimes. There were times where I wanted to run away from her and never return, but I knew that at the end of the day I was important to her, deeply important in a way I couldn’t begin to understand. We had been friends from such an early age that it would simply be impossible to imagine life without her, for better or for worse. That probably goes a little way towards explaining why I’m such a goddamned chickenshit with her. I don’t want to marry her. I don’t really even know how we got engaged. But somehow it happened . . . and I can’t really explain that.
And I certainly can’t begin to explain it to her. I don’t want to hurt her because, ultimately, she’s going to be hurt enough by life before all is said and done. That’s just the facts.
Ultimately I suppose I was afraid. I didn’t want to let go of the life I was living, blissfully unaware of all these raging undercurrents beneath my feet, ignorant of the perfidy that sublimates us on a daily basis. I didn’t want to step out of the shell of college, where I felt relatively safe and secure, because I knew that I was going to be hurt, that the same people and the same forces that had wanted to hurt my dad were going to try and hurt me. I knew that the series of events which began with my father’s death and led eventually to those two planes falling into the World Trade Center could only end unhappily for me.
But I had a responsibility – to my father, to Connie, even to my mother as much as I hated to admit it. She was compromised, hidden away and demolished by their subterfuge and their hatred, but she was still my mother.
There were maps, maps and graphs and legends of all the places I needed to go and to see and to investigate, long charts of names and numbers relating back to the late 1800s. The same colonial forces that had thrown Africa into perfect disarray had also been working behind the scenes, slowly and confidently, in order to use this chaos to their greatest advantage.
My father was a mercenary in Angola – I’ve mentioned this. But I didn’t get into the part where my father was also smarter than his paymasters gave him credit for. He was a killer, yes, but he also kept his eyes open. It was no problem for him to see what the Company was really doing, to see that their covert activities were just masks for deeper machinations, masks atop of masks atop of masks. He was smart enough to see all the pieces as they fell into the tumblers, all the small clicks inside the lock that no one but a trained thief would be able to discern.
So that’s what ultimately killed him – the fact that he knew more than he should, and the fact that he had used this knowledge in ways he shouldn’t have. He was rich – very rich – and his wealth was a threat to the Powers because the fact that he had gotten his money in the way he did meant that he knew exactly how their little Ponzi scheme was supposed to happen. It made him the most dangerous man on the planet, and it also made him the most wanted.
And so he was killed. They cut his throat in the night and took his head clean off with a garrote, leaving it sitting in a chair on the opposite side of the room from his cot. There was a picture of me and my mother in a frame next to his cot, a picture taken when I was no more than two years old. I was the last thing he saw before he died.
Graduation is a quiet affair. I spend a lot of time packing my boxes and preparing for the trip home. I’m putting my books away with extra care because they might be in storage for a long time. They’re going to sit in the attic of my mother’s house until everything is over.
I was glad that I had been able to find this apartment, off the beaten track and without the necessity of a roommate. Many of my former dormmates had been forced into unpleasant circumstances because of the housing shortage, and I was incredibly lucky to be where I was. I realized this, but I didn’t really consider myself lucky. I considered myself bored.
So here was my crummy room – a few bookcases filled with books, a computer, a bed and a miniature refrigerator. Magazines and comic books and newspapers strewn across the shelves. There’s a bag of stale pot in the toe of an old workboot, pot I bought a long time ago but never really wanted to smoke. I don’t like smoking alone and I don’t like being around people.
I expected to feel some nostalgia, some sympathy for my past and my lost youth. I
just felt tired, tired and bored, as if it had been time to leave a long time ago. I had overstayed my welcome.
There was a pile of Chinese food cartons piled in the wastebasket near the door. I dislike Chinese food but it was close enough that I didn’t care. I didn’t have a kitchen and I didn’t want to use the kitchenette that I shared with three other apartments on my floor. I’m just funny like that.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about my dad. In the last few days I had been reminded of so many important things that I had seemingly allowed myself to forget. I was still just a callow, raw youth, a child alone in a world of men.
My landlord was in on it. I knew because my apartment was right above his. Late at night when it was quiet outside I could hear him talking on a secret radio with the men who killed my father. The voices on the other end of this radio are raspy and harsh, just like the sound of brambles brushing the concrete. These are the voices I can hear on a clear day when the wind is low, and I stop just in time to turn and see the hint of my pursuers.
There’s a sweet scent in the night air, like ginger and chamomile, and I know it’s them.
I’m packing my bags and going home. I have a notebook filled with maps and numbers and names and plans for my trip. I think they are very anxious to see where I’m going and what I’m going to do. They would kill for my notebooks.