Tales of the Plumber: Boxing Day
It was the 26th of December… Drinking his coffee and Bailey’s, Kodek ducked his head into the kitchen door from standing on the back door stoop. 11:47 pm. Well, thirteen minutes to boxing day.
Kodek took another sip of his spiked coffee and mused that the leisurely pace of the police forensics was likely due to the holidays but really, weren’t that somewhat used to people cracking their skulls of garden concrete after falling from drainpipes on snowy Christmas mornings?
Then again, maybe some of these “forensics” personnel were just plants from The Company sent to keep an eye on Kodek to see if he wasn’t still Looney Tunes.
He took another slurp from his cup and thought about Anna, sleeping upstairs again. Since he’d been released from Bedlam she’s been sleeping (talking pills) a lot, and he intended to speak with her about that after the holidays.
He also had his weird nagging scratch at the back of his brain – a scratch that filled his. Ind with half-hallucinatory thoughts of pregnancies (Anna), yellow waitresses and San Francisco.
Another slurp and the coffee was almost done, Kodek was seriously considering switching over to straight Bailey’s. Or something harder. He watched as the lead investigator, some fella named Bower or Beaumont or something, and as they went about “investigating” (and that fucking corpse was still lying in the snow, nearly 22 hours later – that couldn’t be official SOP, could it?) he noticed Beaumont steeling glances over in Kodek’s direction, and trying wholly unsuccessfully to make it look like he was not doing that at all.
Kodek recognized him without a doubt, though he was baffled as to why Beaumont might have figured he wouldn’t be recognized. At least, Kodek figured that’s what he figured, because, well, Beaumont was here in plain sight, wasn’t he?
Beaumont had been in that observation room along with the Bear of Berlin. Kodek had been strapped to a table with electrodes wired into his brain – his actual brain, not just suction-cupped to his forehead like you’d see in the films — the top of his skull bone-sawed off and placed somewhere to the side like a surgical room candy dish. Pretty fucking swell, and Kodek could see the cold observers because he was awake, he had to be awake, Beaumont, who looked like he was seventy-two although the Bear of Berlin had assured Kodek he was only in his thirties, some degenerative disposition, all standing over h on the observation level protected by that semi-circle of glass… Leering in, eyes down on Kodek as his brain lay strapped and connected to and electric mechanism of sorts-
Exposed brain, Kodek couldn’t feel anything as the tissue was prodded and tweezed and pulled at… No nerve endings in the brain, he’d been told. No pain, though he didn’t believe it until he was secured to the operating table with his mind exposed to the world…
Kodek reached up and scratched the remaining scar under the hairline just over his ears, an he took a big sip from his coffee mug – which was depressingly, completely empty now.
Knowing that even at this second Beaumont was watching him, he kept his own eyes averted and turned, stepped into the kitchen through the backyard door and went straight for the whiskey in the cupboard.
At he sink, he rinsed out the cup before pouring the whiskey into it, stopping near the half-full point despite the temptation to pour further. He took one long sip, set the mug down and shut his eyes. Thought and dream fragments, many of the horrifying sort, flashed through his mind as if they were being carried by a bullet-speed locomotive.
“Thinking about the hearts again?”
Kodek spun around at the words, his hand knocking his whiskey mug but not hard enough to send it twirling into the sink, thankfully.
“Or was it something else?” Beaumont (or was it Bower?) asked.
“I, ah…” Kodek started, then realized that he didn’t really have a handle on what it was he’d been thinking (flashing back on) at all.
“The hearts, then,” Beaumont smugly suggested.
“The hearts?” Kodek repeated lamely.
“The Jack of Hearts,” Beaumont said, “Clubs Queens in San Francisco.”
“You mean gays?”
“Gays, women, young women, older women, gay women, gay men. Sure. All of it. Tore their fucking hearts out and-”
“-Ate them,” Beaumont waited for a reaction. Kodek had a cool poker face. Beaumont should’ve figured as much, Kodek being The Company’s best hitman, but, well… It was Beaumont who was relatively new to this game. If he wasn’t careful, he might eventually be his own undoing. He wondered if across the chess board, the pieces were aware of what each of the others was doing. He felt this might’ve been impossible. And what piece was he in this, exactly? Like many of the other pieces, individually, each move was something of a catalyst for a reaction fringe other side, giving each man the false self-centered sense of purpose and hence keeping them in the belief that each of them were the cause of the game — in other words, the king.
Beaumont might have been the king of this game, in fact, but then, how many sub-games had been initiated since then? And to what end of this tournament?
“Did you know my wife bought me a chess board for Christmas?” Beaumont asked reflectively.
“How could I have known that?”
“Indeed,” Beaumont mused. “Perhaps in another life, of sorts.”
This last statement made Kodek think about blood and pregnancy again (Eating the hearts) — was that truth? The truth of another life, maybe.
Kodek had a sudden and insane notion of acquiring a job at the Metro newspaper, where he could start looking into the Jack of Hearts serial killer. And then a second sudden notion occurred to him: that action on that first notion might actually set the events into reality.
Or rather, this reality.
For the first time in four months Kodek wondered if he rally shouldn’t be back at Bedlam. If it wasn’t there that he really belonged…
“Am I insane? Really?”
Beaumont shook his head “Not really. At least, you weren’t”
“What do you mean, I wasn’t?”
“You didn’t have the disposition of insanity. You were, for all intents and purposes on a single plane of existence, quite sane. But the loss of time has some devastating effects on one’s mind-” Beaumont motioned to Kodek- “and body,” he motioned to himself. “You and I, Kodek, must find a way of correcting this before we both disintegrate.”
“The time-travelling,” Kodek prodded Beaumont to verbally confirm, for Kodek’s own ears, if not for his total comfort.
“Who said time-travelling?” Beaumont asked, teetering on the edge of annoyance. “I said simply, the loss of time. In fact, combating the loss of time was how this whole game began. But it turned into a battle that seems impossible to survive now, and a mere handful of narcissistic assholes, myself included, appear to have accomplished exactly the opposite of what we were trying to achieve… Instead of immortality, we have the degradation of flesh and mind. We can either try to stop this, reverse this, or hope for a completely new outcome by going down a new, uncharted path of exploration.”
“You’re just a narcissistic asshole, huh?” Kodek poked, knowing his was just some flimsy cover for a deeper, and likely far more sinister, aspect of this man’s motives.
“My friend, didn’t Brain tell you? I’m a modern writer.”
“And now you’re going to help me?”
Beaumont laughed. “My dear boy, we are not on the same team. We’re not in the same game, we’re not even on the same board.”
“The same board?”
Ignoring the question, Beaumont explained, “I might not be the king. But you, Kodek, are nothing more than a pawn. However…”
Kodek’s eyes flickered through the kitchen where, beyond, he could see the Bear of Berlin making his way up the stairs. To Anna, up there in her drug-induced sleep…
Kodek’s eyes flickered back to Beaumont while he tried to keep a calm control over his body. He was perfectly still, cool as a cucumber.
“At times, the pawn has won the game,” Beaumont finished. “If not the entire tournament.”
Just maybe not in this world.
“And in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”
*Authors’ note: Any mistakes are obviously the fault of the iPod and its auto-correct function. Cheers.