Frank was still carrying the phone when he reached the street. “Now which way?”
“Left three blocks to Harper and then two blocks up to Truman. I will call you again when you get there.” Evan Hand said.
“Got it,” Frank said and started walking, closing the phone. Time to think about all the mistakes he’d made: the fight with Bettie; the club blowing up. Now he was afraid of letting down two more people who were depending on him. Evan Hand couldn’t have been in the Well long, yet he obviously had a network of some kind and used it well. When did the fundamentalists creep in? How?
He made the turn onto Truman Avenue. Frank slowed a little and began looking around. Was it cameras, or would he be close? He hadn’t seen any floating Eyes around, so maybe it was more likely for Hand to be near. What else? Tracers? Bugs? If Evan Hand was ex-military he might have had the necessary training, the access to tech that would allow for all this. Too many questions, Frank thought. Keep focused on the immediate goal. The phone in his right hand rang. “Yes,” he said.
“2786 Truman. Third floor, go to the green door with an ‘M’ on it,” Hand said over the phone. “I’ll call you in ten minutes.” He closed the phone and Frank took the stairs in the building two at a time. He came to the third floor hall and stayed to the right, counting the letters on the doors as he slid along the wall carefully.
The door he was looking for was ajar, but Frank knocked on the doorjamb anyway. “Hello? Donovan? I’m Frank from Black Bettie’s.”
“Stay there!” Donovan called back. “How did you find me?” He was breathing heavily and knocked something over. “Father, of course. Is Tanya still alive?”
“Yes,” Frank said through the cracked door. “He’s holding her hostage, along with a good friend of mine. What’s this about?” He put a hand on the doorjamb. “Can I come in and we can talk face to face? Your dad’s got me on a clock here.”
More heavy breathing from inside.
“Donovan? You okay in there?”
“No, I’m hurt pretty bad. My head’s bleeding and won’t stop.”
“Let me help you. I used to be a cop Out There and I have some medical training. I can at least get you comfortable.” Frank pushed on the door until it creaked and he cringed.
There was a heavy thud and clatter. Frank burst through the door, his gun drawn and his old skills pushing him through the fog of eight years of atrophy. He found Donovan heaped on the floor of the apartment’s little kitchenette, blood pooling under his head, the man’s shirt soaked with ichor. Donovan’s pupils were enormous and unfocused, probably a heavy concussion. Along with the amount of blood already lost, it didn’t look good for the young man. “Donovan? Can you hear me?”
“Father,” Donovan said. “I’m sorry for all the trouble I’ve caused. I only wanted you to listen.”
“I’m listening now, son,” Frank said wincing a little as he knelt down beside Donovan. “Where did you put the ---“ Frank didn’t know what the young man had stolen from Evan Hand. How could he put this?
The wounded man tried to speak. The words were slow, quiet, leaking out of him. “Storage. B - basement here,” Donovan said. “Cold, father. ‘M cold. Can’t --- feel my --- ”
“It’s okay,” Frank said and touched him on the cheek. “You’ve been a good boy. You relax now. It’s okay.” The younger man was dead and Frank wiped away tears. The beating Donovan had taken at the hands of his father was terrible. How Christian was it to beat your child to death?
“He’s gone to a better place,” Evan Hand said from behind Frank.
“Ah,” Hand said pointing a gun at Frank. “You can just stay on the floor for a few minutes. Put your gun on my side of the boy’s body. Carefully, if you please.”
“Is this where I get an explanation?”
“Do you really need one? Your reputation in this cesspool is you were smart enough to put it all together on your own,” Hand said. “Perhaps it’s overrated.”
“Maybe so,” Frank said, “but why kill him? Weren’t you two working together?”
“A difference of opinion, though our goal was the same. He believed you scum could be saved in this life. As if the Lord would want you anywhere near the Silver City in your current state. He did not believe in the cleansing power of fire. All the souls I have saved with my bombs are with the Lord now.” Evan Hand leveled the gun at Frank. “In this life, in here? Dogs, the lot of you. Rabid dogs. He failed to see that and only destroyed targets that were empty, gave the warning in Utah. He was weak.”
“He was your son, your own flesh and blood.”
“We were not related by blood,” Hand said. “None of your business any way. You are no fit vessel to judge me. Stand up. We are going to the basement.”
Frank stood in full surrender and stepped over Donovan Grasp’s body. He shuffled out of the apartment and down the four flights of stairs to the storage basement, his gun lying next to a still-warm body.
The musty, dark storage area still showed signs of Donovan’s work in moving with footprints and scuffmarks in the dust. The large crate with its lid open was packed with dynamite and C4. On top were three two-foot long canisters emblazoned with a yellow and black three-bladed fan. “Good lord,” Frank said. “A dirty bomb?”
Evan Hand reached into the crate and pulled out a TV remote, put it in his pocket.
“You’ve done well, sinner,” Hand said. He pulled the hammer back on the pistol and Frank turned to face him. “I wish you peace, though I know you won’t have any in Hell.” Hand tightened his finger on the trigger.
Frank ducked and came up on Hand with a tight fist to the jaw, sending the zealot flying backward and the gun off to the left. Frank followed the punch with a kick to Hand’s solar plexus and another to his head. Huffing and puffing, Frank saw a trickle of blood at the corner of Hand’s mouth.
“Welcome to Hell yourself, you son of a bitch.”
They stood looking up at the evening sky. “Good reflexes, old man,” Marly Hansen said. “You got lucky.”
“It’s the training, boss, never quite goes away,” Frank said. “You might want to remember that for the future. Yes, I got lucky. He didn’t expect me to fight back.”
Evan Hand sat in the back seat of a police cruiser from Out There. There was a HazMat team removing the bomb materials and another detective coordinating the search for other bombs that Hand admitted were circling the center of the Well. “What’s going to happen to him?”
Hansen looked over her shoulder at the car. “Life in prison.” She looked back at Frank. “Things are changing. It’s better now: new president, new values. It’s not great, mind you, but it’s better than when you came here.” Hansen stepped very close to Frank, who didn’t shrink away from her. “If Bettie’s really gone, do you have anything keeping you here?”
Frank smiled. “Maybe I’ll see you Out There, Hansen. Thanks for your help here. It’s been good seeing you again.”
The duffel bag was borrowed, and it was light on his shoulder as he stood at the carnage that was once Black Bettie’s. The bricks and rubble were nothing to him now, and he had fond memories of the building that used to be. If things really were changing Out There, then maybe a place that catered to the sexual whims of the populace wouldn’t have to be hidden away and the patrons of such an establishment wouldn’t have to hide their faces in shame. Maybe it was finally time for adults to be adults.
“An excellent thought, Francis.”
“Thank you for coming to get me, Strangiato,” Frank said. “I guess that I should have known you read minds, too.”
“I cannot,” the large man with deep-set eyes said. “I read your body language and had inside information on your destination. It was not all that hard and I have, after all, years of experience in reading people.”
“We lost some good ones here.”
“Be that as it may, it’s no longer your concern.” Strangiato sighed. “Are you ready?”
“Good,” Strangiato said. “Your wife is eagerly anticipating your arrival and your new life. Come along, then.”
They walked a piece and found a train where it shouldn’t have been, on tracks that couldn’t exist. The passenger car was more a living room than anything else and Frank collapsed into a leather wingback chair. He finally closed his eyes and rested. The whistle blew.
©2010 By Jason Arnett.
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