The door rattled to a halt behind Patrick, the creak drawing the hesitant eyes of every citizen permitted to be outside.
These same sullen eyes noticed the approach of a police vehicle and returned to the cement.
Lights were dim, the curfew was set, and the patrols were watching.
Patrick raised his hood and glanced up and down his narrow, dense street of uniform dark brick. Neon lights illuminated colorful patterns on windows advertising pastries. Always pastries.
Patrick geared to the right, descending, smiling as he smelled the scent of pastries wafting his way from a gentle-green lit corner shop. A rotund man working the dead pastry bar made eye contact but averted.
As though having found a lost kitten, a concealed figure ran up to Patrick, embraced him, and pulled him down a side-street, unlit, but undoubtedly under-surveillance.
The smile crunched to a glower and Patrick punched the friend across the nose. He stumbled to the moist stone and groaned.
“You will never be that excited to see me again,” Patrick warned, glancing in both directions to assure the street maintained its lack of civilians.
“I´m sorry, I´m sorry! I thought I was lost and I haven´t seen you in weeks.” He stayed on the ground, shaking his whiskered-head with self-disappointment.
“They warned me about you, the police, that you´d be frantic. Get yourself off the ground.”
The friend obeyed, continuing to shake his head, behavior typical of his drug-of-choice.
“You´re using right now?”
“I´m sorry, I´m sorry!”
Patrick´s smile returned. “Why would I care?” A pale, leathery hand pulled back the hood concealing his face, and the friend began to cower, eyes widening and respiration becoming panicked. He found himself staring at the hairless and scarred face of a man he once knew.
“What did they do to you?” In exasperation, the stranger felt each individual scar. “How can you see?”
A cackled laugh escaped Patrick, a laugh once deep and boisterous now dead.
“How do you think?”
“How much do you need?”
“All of it. The police want all of it. For me.”
The friend glanced away, and then dared to say, “They don´t want me to, Pat.”
The leathery hands slipped and coiled themselves around the friend´s veined neck and threatened to tighten. “I wouldn’t miss you. Your family wouldn’t miss you. She wouldn´t miss you. Now give me the damn drugs.”
“If you don´t kill me they will, Pat. They will.” As tears welled up in his friend´s eyes, Patrick felt a stir within his stomach, a palpitation of his heart, and he hated it.
A drop of moisture plunked to the stone from a fire escape above. The friend´s eyes altered their focus, directing fixedly into the eyes of Pat like a forlorn puppy before punishment. “You need to kill me.”
“The police, Pat. If I give you what you need, they’ll kill me. So you need to do it.”
Whirring past their alley, the flashing lights of a police car awoke Patrick from his brief stupor. “But I work for the police.” He knew that whoever was in that car was fully aware of their presence in the alley. This meeting was on record, planned. Then why did they make me conceal myself under this hood and jacket? Because I´m a monster. They don´t want me to scare anybody.
“I know you do, Pat, but think about it. Do they want you anymore?”
Patrick´s hands returned to his sides as he faltered backwards, running into the brick behind him. “But I…these scars, my eyes, everything I did for them, and they´re just going to get rid of me?”
Sound waves reverberated off the compacted walls as the gentle-green pastry shop owner slammed the door. Closure. At this time of night, the rotund man´s clacking heels and the plunking of moisture were all that could be heard and darkness all that could be seen as at last all neon nights were turned off.
“You’re sick, and you know that,” the friend muttered, his entire body now shaking. “You need these drugs to survive, and without them you´re useless.”
“Are they planning on killing me?” They´d have to, wouldn´t they, because I know them and I know the police, and I know how this city actually works.
Then he realized. “You were supposed to kill me tonight.”
“You know I’d never do that, Pat…”
“Don’t say that. You’ve killed more people than I have.” Patrick raised his hood again, to conceal himself once more while I thought. If the force really didn’t want him, where would he go? “If you fail and don´t kill me, they´ll get us both. We’re both dead men.”
Silence reached their alley, and combined with the pressing darkness, Patrick felt as though he were in his bed hiding under his covers once more, as he had been all last week, waiting for his next dose of drugs. I am weak.
“You can run, Pat, and you know how to fight, but I don´t. I´m gone and you know that. The drugs, they’ve ruined me, but they help you and you deserve them.” The friend´s voice was timid, wavering, his body continuing to tremble, the peak of his high. “I won´t feel it you know, if you do it right now.”
What a strange drug, that one, leaving you coherent but emblazoned in a world of feigned confidence and immortality if you weren’t taught how to use it. But I´m with the police, I know how to use it. “I’ll find out what they’re up to, Ryan, and I´ll fix things for you, I swear.” Patrick lifted himself off the moist stone and moved himself slowly towards his shivering friend.
“I know you will, that´s why I’m not worried. That´s why I couldn’t kill you. It´s you, it always has been.”
“And the drugs? Where will I find them?”
“There´s a note in my left pocket.”
Patrick slipped a deft, leathery finger into black denim jacket and removed a long, steel blade customary of the police force here in the walled-city. He almost said something, maybe last words for his friend, maybe an apology or a recollection, but the palpitations began again, and the dryness in his throat, and although he knew it was from withdrawal, he wondered if there wasn’t some sadness in there, so he chose to remain wordless.
A swift swipe drew the blood from his friends veined neck. A splutter of attempted words spilled from his mouth like the blood that followed it, and soon Ryan was on the stony ground, lifeless.
Then the police sirens began, and the blinding of the lights. His hand shaking, maybe from panic, but more likely from withdrawal, he desperately searched the left pocket for anything, clutching at every scrap as if a raccoon scrounging about. Then he found the hidden zipper, concealed in the pocket. When the note was free of its cage, Pat scurried away into the darkness, deeper into the alley.
Suddenly he found himself a fugitive, running from the very organization he had been working for for five years.
But he didn´t feel so terrible. This was his opportunity.