Frank White, criminal lawyer, was hot, angry and alive. He stood outside the abandoned factory with his Mob, feeling the blood boil through his veins, his fists working restlessly. The last time he had felt like this was in high school, when some snotty nosed teenager had shagged his girlfriend. Frank had tracked that fucker down in the bathroom and beat him to a pulp. So much blood. Frank was expelled, but to his surprise, found he didn't mind. In fact, he didn't even mind losing his girlfriend. It was all worth it, all for that one, single moment of clarity, that one moment where he felt that he was himself, that he was truly living life for the first time. When he had smashed that fucker's nose and broke it.
And now, he had a new reason for blood. Some motherfucker had charged into his office, wearing only underpants, and crushed a banana into his eye. He had heard someone laughing in his face, some co-worker, whom he wasn't sure who, nor did he care, because he was feeling angry, furious, the first time in so many years, and that had gotten his blood boiled so very nicely that he wasn't sure he felt angry anymore. He didn't know how to place what he was feeling now, but if he had to attach a word to it, it would be primal. The hunt was on.
The three men he had brought with him were all Mob. He had said to Cain that he had informants in the Mob, but informants usually weren't enough to get what he wanted. Enforcers, employed by the right amount of money, were always reliable. Of course, the public never knew, but Frank had to keep up his image. His image. Right now his image meant jackshit.
'You sure he's in there?' Frank said.
One of the enforcers, a gold-toothed bearded man, nodded silently, tapping his nailed bat on the ground.
'Don't kill him,' Frank said. The men nodded, and the preamble was over. The four of them marched towards the entrance.
'One more thing,' Frank said. 'Some of the stuff in here's still live. Don't shoot anything dangerous, got it?'
He wasn't sure they heard. They were like him, beasts of boiling blood, conscious of nothing else but their prey.
I found myself learning many things with my father. How to stalk a deer, how to skin it, how to start a fire. It had been a long time - perhaps even the first time - that I had experienced something so different and so surreal. My home was in the concrete jungles in the city, but here, I felt out of my depth, bourne along helplessly by the roaring tides.
'Keep turning,' Dad snapped.
'Sorry,' I had allowed the spit turner to stray, and hastily corrected the mistake. The meat cooked silently under the night sky, until it turned a light brown.
'Cut it,' Dad ordered, handing me a large knife. I stuck it into the meat and began dividing it into small pieces, but wincing with every blow. My arms were still hurting from the day's tasks.
'Now, eat,' Dad said.
'Why?' I said, suddenly feeling rebellious.
'Because,' Dad said slowly, 'you need nourishment.'
'I've been doing nothing but live like a cavemen for the past four hours.'
'And is there something wrong with that?'
There was, and I opened my mouth to say it, but nothing came out. It was something hard to place, this feeling of reluctance, this resistance to the events around me.
'Just because this is your own mind,' Dad said, 'Does not mean you can control it.'
'Yes, I can,' I said. 'I can wake up right now, in my hotel room, eating breakfast.'
'And miss an educational experience?'
'I can do what I want, Dad.'
'When were you always like this, Desmond?' he replied, using my name for the first time. He was truly my father now, with that stern father's gaze, reproaching me.
'Always like what?'
'So...resistant. So...grumpy,' he lifted his head. 'Did Sasha have to put up with this?'
That stung, and I didn't expect that. I thought of standing up, and leaving, but the sting was still fresh, rooting me to the spot. My Dad acted like he didn't notice, chewing the deer meat quietly in his mouth. Some time later I reached for a piece and began chewing it as well.
Abruptly the sky, already so cloudy and black, parted in time for a bolt of lightning to streak across the sky. It was quickly accompanied by a piercing shatter of thunder.
I stopped in mid-chew. I could have sworn the sky was a clear blue seconds ago.
Mr Dad was already standing up. He grabbed a spear from the ground and began trudging away.
'What's going on?' I asked, standing as well.
'The bear,' he said over his shoulder.
She was lying on the bed, breathing softly, and fluttering her eyelids, not because she was sleepy, but because she couldn't find anything else to do with her eyelids. She was trapped in the bed, her wrists shackled by bandages. Denied her free will. Again.
Would he come, she wondered. He had come so many times, but would he visit her this time? She supposed he would, after all, he was a man of ritual, a man of undeviating purpose....hardly a man and all, she thought bitterly.
It was like a vicious cycle. She'd cut herself, he'd visit her, and that would make her want to cut herself again. Because that's what both disgusted her and frightened her at the same time, how such a man could be so perfect and yet be so imperfect, and if men like that existed in her world, she wouldn't want to live in it at all. She would talk to him and he would respond, and it was all so dull, so rehearsed, so devoid of any semblance of what they called love, that it was hardly a response at all. It was a ritual. And for her, a deadly one.
Someone knocked on her door, and she looked up, surprised - he would never visit this early - but it was only Frank Grey, her boss, and one she detested, which wasn't saying much, because she detested everyone in general.
'What's up, sugarplum,' Frank said, sliding up next to her bed, and setting down a cup of coffee next to her. 'You feeling okay?'
He was just hitting on her, and the both of them knew it. Desmond always had a quiet resentment for Frank, as he had for him, after all, both of them were fighting over the same woman, That is, if fighting was the correct word, because it wasn't. Fighting was a man punching the other man, not another tempered ritual full of pathetic smiles and silly eye movements. Another grievance for another day.
She grabbed the mug anyway. 'What do you want?'
He was studying her carefully. 'You know, you ought to smile more.'
'I wish I could.'
'There's plenty to smile about,' he said, somewhat unconvincingly.
'No there isn't.'
'Look...' he rubbed the back of his neck, uncomfortable from the deviation from his tough guy image. 'Er - the world's a happy place, alright? There's plenty of stuff to do and things. Life's fun to live.'
'Lots of things.'
'Why do you want to do them?'
She watched as he smiled, ready to say something, and observed his face as he realised he had nothing to say. What could he say? It was a damning question, an epic one, too big for him to discuss near a hospital bed. And in that one moment, one of the few instances where uncertainty showed on his face, she felt, for the first time in their lives, a flash of connection between them.
Frank was already settling on a mode of retreat, pointing to the cup of coffee. 'I made that myself. Special brew.'
She sipped it. It was surprisingly good.
'And you think this is going to make me feel better?'
'Hey,' he shrugged. 'The scientists say coffee gets you high. Or something like that. Maybe it'll perk you up.'
'I doubt it.'
'Don't be too hasty,' he wagged a manly finger at her, trying at a quip. 'Never underestimate the power of coffee.'